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Fresh Bill to Allow Proxy Voting to NRIs June 24, 2019 05:30

The Indian union cabinet will take a call Monday to introduce a fresh bill in parliament to extend the facility of proxy voting to Indians abroad after the similar bill has lapsed following the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha last month. According to sources, the union cabinet will consider introducing the bill in parliament, which proposes that Indians abroad, who are entitled to casting vote in India, can appoint a proxy voter on their behalf. At present, overseas Indians are permitted to cast their votes in constituencies they are enrolled. The Bill seeks to give them the option of proxy voting, which is currently available to service personnel only. There are about 3.10 crore Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) living in different countries across the world, according to estimates of the Ministry of External Affairs. Back in 2015, an expert committee of the Election Commission, working on the issue, forwarded the legal framework to the Ministry of Law and Justice to amend the electoral laws to allow the overseas Indians to use proxy voting. An unofficial data with the Election Commission shows that only 10,000 to 12,000 overseas voters have exercised their franchise owing to the reason that they do not want to spend foreign currency to come to India and vote. The bill said the necessary provision of coming to India to cast ballot caused hardship for overseas electors. Amendment bill’s another provision, according to the provisions in the electoral law, relates to the spouses of service voters. Currently, an army man’s wife is eligible to be enrolled as a service voter, but a woman army officer’s husband is not. The bill proposes to replace the word ‘wife’ with ‘spouse’, hence making the provision gender-neutral. Members of the central armed police forces, armed forces, employees of the center posted outside India, and personnel of state police forces posted outside their state are eligible to be enrolled as service voters. By Sowmya Sangam

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Indian American Population Grew by 38 Percent Between 2010-2017: Report June 19, 2019 06:32

The population of Indian origin people in the United States is growing gradually year by year. Between 2010 and 2017, the population of Indians in America grew by 38 percent, a South Asian advocacy group has said in its latest demographic report. Distinctly the stringent rules by Trump administration are not affecting the Indian’s dream to settle in the U.S.   The South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) in its snapshot, which is based primarily on Census 2010 and the 2017 American Community Survey, said that the population of Indian Americans in 2017 with multiple ethnicities was recorded as 44,03,363, an increase of 38.3 percent from 31,83,063 in 2010. Immigrant Population The report said that there are at least 630,000 Indians who are undocumented, a 72 percent increase since 2010, which is attributed to Indian immigrants overstaying a visa. In 2016, about 250,000 Indians overstayed their visa thus becoming undocumented, it said. In general, the population of American residents tracing their roots to South Asia grew by 40 percent. In real terms, it increased to 5.4 million in 2017 from 3.5 million in 2010, SAALT said. Since 2010, followed by Indian (38 percent), the Nepali community grew by 206.6 percent, Bhutanese (38 percent), Pakistani (33 percent), Bangladeshi (26 percent) and Sri Lankan populations (15 percent). Currently, there are at least 4,300 active recipients of South Asian Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). As of August 2018, there are close to 2,550 active Indian DACA recipients. Of the overall 20,000 DACA eligible Indians, only 13 percent have applied and received DACA. There are 1,300 DACA recipients from Pakistan, 470 from Bangladesh, 120 from Sri Lanka, and 60 from Nepal, SAALT said. According to a report by the immigrant population density of the country, the undocumented Bangladeshi immigrants live in New York (19,000); Michigan (4,000); Virginia (3,000); and California (2,000). South Asians Living in Poverty According to the report, income inequality has been reported to be the greatest among Asian Americans. Among approximately five million South Asians in the United States, nearly one percent live in poverty. Besides, the South Asians seeking asylum in the United States over the last 10 years has been in a rise, SAALT said. Since 2017, 3,010 South Asians have been detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Between October 2014 and April 2018, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol arrested 17,119 South Asians through border and interior enforcement, it said. According to SAALT, since 1997, more than 1.7 million dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders have received H-4 visas. In 2017, 136,000 individuals received H-4 status. Nearly 86 percent of H-4 visa holders are from South Asian countries. In 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) granted work authorization to certain H-4 visa holders. As of December 2017, approximately 127,000 visa holders were approved for H-4 EAD, the report said. Of the approximately five million South Asians in the U.S., nearly 472,000 or 10 percent of them are living in poverty, the report said. Among South Asian Americans, Pakistanis (15.8 percent), Nepalis (23.9 percent), Bangladeshis (24.2 percent), and Bhutanese (33.3 percent) had the highest poverty rates, it said. Out of all Asian American groups, Bangladeshi and Nepali communities have the lowest median household incomes, earning USD 49,800 and USD 43,500 respectively, it said. Nearly 61 percent of non-citizen Bangladeshi American families receive public benefits for at least one of the four federal programs including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programand Medicaid/CHIP, 48 percent of non-citizen Pakistani families and 11 percent of non-citizen Indian families also receive public benefits, the report said. In the lead up to the 2020 elections, South Asians are turning out to be an increasingly powerful segment of the American electorate, SAALT said. According to the Current Population Survey (CPS), 49.9 percent of voting-age, Asian American citizens cast a ballot in 2016. In the last decade, the number of Asian American voters has virtually doubled from about two million voters in 2001 to 5 million voters in 2016. Of these, followed by Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, Indians account for more than 1.5 million, SAALT added. By Sowmya Sangam

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Three Indian Origin Women on Forbes List of America’s Richest Self-Made Women June 07, 2019 10:51

Forbes ranking of America’s 80 richest self-made women has been released and three Indian origin women made their way into the esteemed list. President and Chief Executive Officer of computer networking firm, Arista Networks Jayshree Ullal; co-founder of IT consulting and outsourcing firm Syntel Neerja Sethi; and Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of streaming data technology company Confluent Neha Narkhede, are named in the Forbes list of 'America’s Richest Self-Made Women 2019'. The list has been topped by Diane Hendricks, who chairs ABC Supply, one of the largest wholesale distributors of roofing, siding, and windows in America. The 72-year old has a net worth of USD 7 billion. Born in London and raised in India, Ullal, who has been ranked 18th in the list, has a net worth of USD 1.4 billion. The 58-year-old owns about 5 percent of Arista's stock. "She is now one of America's wealthiest female executives," Forbes said.                       (Image source from: Facebook/jullal) Sethi ranked 23rd, co-founded Syntel with her husband, Bharat Desai in 1980 in their apartment in Troy, Michigan with an initial investment of just USD 2,000. Her current net worth is one billion dollars. French IT firm Atos SE bought Syntel for USD 3.4 billion in October 2018 and Sethi, 64, got an estimated USD 510 million for her stake.                        (Image source from: Facebook/neerja.sethi.376) Narkhede is ranked 60th on the list with a net worth of USD 360 million. Confluent, which is currently valued at USD 2.5 billion, counts Goldman Sachs, Netflix, and Uber as customers. As a LinkedIn software engineer, Narkhede, 34, helped develop Apache Kafka to handle the networking site's huge influx of data, and in 2014, she and two LinkedIn colleagues founded Confluent to build tools for companies using Apache Kafka, which became open source in 2011, Forbes said.                       (Image source from: Facebook/neha.narkhede) The list also includes media mogul Oprah Winfrey ranked 10, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer (12), reality TV star Kylie Jenner (23), fashion designer Tory Burch (29), pop stars Rihanna (37) and Madonna (39), singer Beyonce (51), author Danielle Steel (56), TV show Ellen DeGeneres (63) and tennis star Serena Williams on the 80th spot. Forbes said more women are creating new businesses and amassing fortunes than ever before, leading it to expand its ranking of the nation’s wealthiest self-made women to 80 ceiling crashers, one third more than a year ago. "Each of these overachievers has blazed her own trail," it said. List members range in age from 21 to 92 and are worth a combined USD 81.3 billion. The minimum net worth to make Forbes' fifth annual ranking of these women is USD 225 million. A record 25 are billionaires, one more than last year. Nearly half, or 38, live in California, followed by New York with 9. Nineteen were born outside of the United States, in countries spanning Burma to Barbados. By Sowmya Sangam

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This is How Desis Abroad kept Close Tab on Indian General Election Results May 24, 2019 12:39

Entire India on Thursday was tied up to television sets and phones with the Lok Sabha election results being declared. But, what caught attention is Indians abroad having the very excitement and curiosity. Indians living outside the country - in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand - have booked halls and other venues to live stream the result. The Non-Resident Indians in Melbourne gathered at a local restaurant - Desi Chatka Indian Street Food - to watch the screening and have discussions while sipping masala tea.Talking to TOI, one of the NRIs Maninder Singh Virk, said: “This place (Victoria) is a hub of NRIs and I am sure that the organizers will have to host a lot of regulars, as people are very excited to be a part of the event.” #ElectionResults2019: Bharatiya Janata Party supporters in Australia's Sydney and Melbourne celebrate as trends show party leading on 292 seats. pic.twitter.com/WphGVy1KeP — ANI (@ANI) May 23, 2019 Whereas in New Zealand, news portals Indian News, Apnu Gujarat, and Apna Bharat have booked Balmoral Community Hall in Auckland for the live screening and served refreshments to the attendees. Besides, screenings also took place in London and the U.S. (at Woodbury 10 Theatre in Minneapolis).NRIs from Orlando organized an event called 'Vijay Sankalp' at Park Square Homes offering food, beverage, and other entertainment.By Sowmya Sangam

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Indian National Congress Kick-Starts ‘NRI Bus’ to Counter BJP May 02, 2019 08:46

The Indian Overseas Congress in a bid to counter the massive outreach program by volunteers from Overseas Friends of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday kick-started a ‘Non-Resident Indian (NRI) Campaign Bus’ from Delhi amid the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. The 45-seater customized bus was flagged off by IOC chairman Sam Pitroda outside the All India Congress Committee headquarters in Delhi. The bus, which will carry IOC leaders and members, will criss-cross Punjab, Haryana and the constituencies of other North Indian states which will go to polls in the remaining three phases of Lok Sabha elections, according to sources. “This bus is an idea of the NRIs, working in all over the world, who have their origin in Punjab and Haryana. They have their friends, relatives, and forefathers. They have an emotional connect with their home land. They will go to village after village carrying the message of the Congress party. They will reach out to a large number of people, convince the people to vote for the grand old party in this election,” said Sam Pitroda while speaking to DNA. -Sangam Sowmya    

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Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams to Soon Take up Hindu Sanatana Dharma Classes to NRI Children April 27, 2019 05:05

Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), an independent trust which manages the world famous Tirumala Venkateswara Temple at Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh in India, on the request of scores of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) announced that it will soon be taking up classes on Hindu Sanatana Dharma to the children of NRIs, said Tirupati Joint Executive Officer Sri B.Lakshmikantham.During a recent visit to Abu Dhabi, the JEO received numerous requests from NRIs in Middle East state to train their children in Sanatana Dharma. Sanatana Dharma is the term used to denote the “eternal” or absolute set of duties or religiously ordained practices incumbent upon all Hindus, regardless of class, caste, or a section. Lakshmikantham addressing the media said: “So we are chalking out some action plan on this. In the months of June, July we will send our expert scholars to foreign countries to train our NRI children in tenets of Hindu Dharma, Chaturveda, Ramayana and Mahabharata epics.”The JEO also said he will try his best to solve the issues pertaining to all 48 temples present across the country under the umbrella of TTD by visiting all of them.The temple is visited by about 50,000 to 100,000 pilgrims daily, taking the count to 30 to 40 million people annually on average, while on special occasions and festivals, the number of pilgrims shoots up to 500,000, making it the most-visited holy place in the world.By Sowmya Sangam

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National Commission for Women Chief to Hold Meetings with Women Abandoned by NRI Husbands April 24, 2019 05:50

As the cases of NRI husbands abandoning wives is increasing gradually, the Indian government is making an effort to curb this. In such a bid, the National Commission for Women will hold walk-in meetings every week with women who have been abandoned by their NRI husbands to hear their grievances.National Commission for Women chairperson Rekha Sharma said the meetings would be held every Monday from 3-4 pm to hear the grievances of the complainants who are suffering in cases of NRI marriages.The meetings would help in ensuring that their matter is heard in person and all assistance required is provided promptly, she added.The NCW is a nodal agency appointed by the Women and Child Development Ministry to look into the matter of NRI husbands absconding and abandoning their wives.By Sowmya Sangam

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OCI Card Holders Can Now Write Entrance Exams for Professional Courses in Karnataka April 17, 2019 04:24

In a piece of good news for OCI card holders longing to study in Karnataka, the state High Court has ruled that Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card holders can now write entrance exams to professional courses in the state under the general quota. The OCI holders who were once considered to be non-resident Indians and fell under NRI quota for college admissions will now be considered the same as with citizens of India for state entrance exams, judgment ruled. Several students holding OCI cards approached the court challenging the notion that they were not eligible for general quota seats under Karnataka’s Common Entrance Test (CET). A petition had been filed by Pranav V Deshpande along with other OCI card-holding students. In addition to medical and dental courses, individuals with an OCI can now write entrance exams to professional courses, as well as engineering.The judgment was delivered by Justice Krishna S Dixit who also annulled the inclusion of OCI cardholders in the same category as NRIs.Citing that an amendment to the Karnataka Professional Educational Institutions act made in 2017 which does not include ‘Overseas Citizens of India or Overseas Citizens of India Cardholders within the definition of Non-resident Indians,’ the court made a judgment that OCI holders be considered on par with citizens of India."A Writ of Declaration issues to the effect that, the impugned Rule 5 of the Karnataka Selection of Candidates for Admission to Government Seats in Professional Educational Institution Rules, 2006, to the extent it prescribes Indian Citizenship, is not enforceable against the Overseas Citizens of India Cardholders," the court order further reads.The CET or Common Entrance Test was started in 1994 as a criterion to permit students to set foot in a number of professional courses under the government quota. These courses include seats in Dental, Medical, Indian Systems of Medicine and Homoeopathy, Engineering and Architecture courses, among others.By Sowmya Sangam

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Indian Diaspora ‘Frustrated’ at Restricted Voting Rights in Indian Elections: Survey April 10, 2019 10:16

Non-Resident Indians were recently turned down from voting online or proxy voting at Lok Sabha elections starting April 11. A survey found for that reason, NRIs across the United Kingdom and Europe are feeling “frustrated” at only being allowed to vote in the Indian elections by traveling back their constituency to cast their vote. The survey, conducted by UK-based Indian diaspora think tank Bridge India, found that the large number of NRIs are overwhelmingly in favor of being able to vote through their local consulates or embassies. “Less than 6 percent were happy with the status quo, while 61 percent said they should be allowed to instead vote at their local consulate or embassy and 17 percent said they should be allowed to appoint a proxy to cast their vote for them,” Bridge India said in a statement on Monday. "More than 60 percent also strongly agreed with the statement that Indians should be allowed dual citizenship, which is currently not allowed,” it noted. The survey received over 350 responses over the last month, with one-third of the respondents identifying as NRIs and two-thirds as Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs). From among the respondents, 20 percent identified themselves as left of center on the political spectrum, 22 percent as centrist and 29 percent as for the right of center. Bridge India will release the complete results of its wider Indian diaspora survey later in the year. The survey's interim results coincided with the non-profit think tank's “Countdown to the Indian General Elections: What should we expect?” event at the Henry Jackson Society in London on Monday. The panelists at the event, which included strategists and authors, analyzed the importance of the 2019 Indian General Election and their likely impact on India-UK relations. “If it is a BJP-led government, India-UK relations would move forward along the lines of the November 2015 visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when a joint statement on closer political and security cooperation was struck… in the case of a Congress-led government, it would be a case of starting from ground zero,” said Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, Senior Fellow for South Asia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). “Some of the big successes of the bilateral relationship, such as Masala Bonds, as the UK seeks out global partners in a post-Brexit context will benefit from continuity in government [in India],” added Pratik Dattani, Managing Director, EPG Economic and Strategy Consulting. -Sangam Sowmya  

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Villagers in Punjab Relying More on NRIs for Development Than on Politicians April 08, 2019 07:31

It’s election time in India and most of the village residents in and around the country rely on political party leaders to change their fates but the villages in Jagraon at Punjab are not waiting for big announcements on development from politicians but instead expecting NRIs to change the face of their villages. The villagers were quoted saying: “The NRIs are more important than political leaders for us.”Chamkaur Singh, a farmer from Chakkar village in Punjab which is known for work done by NRIs, says, “For us, the family of NRI Late Ajmer Singh Sidhu is more significant than politicians who come to seek votes and make tall promises at the time of polls. They have provided money for the best sewerage system, wider roads, NRI guest house, Panchayat Ghar, clean water supply and the Sher-e-Punjab Sports Academy.” Since the village is known for its NRI-aided infrastructure, the politicians only make a perfunctory visit here, say villagers. Chakkar has over 100 NRI families. At Kamalpura village, a group of villagers has collected Rs 35 lakh - a bulk of it from NRIs and their kin. “We have to collect money for the Rs 6-crore advanced sewerage system being constructed with the help of Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal… If we wait for government funds, we may have to wait for 70 years, but this way we expect to get the money in next few years,” said Kamalpura village head Sukhwinder Singh, “NRIs are like the government for us as they do so much for the village,” he added.The NRIs say that they owe it to the villages they belong to. “We are not concerned about what the government or elected representatives do for our village. We love the village we were born in. The money is the least we can provide for its development,” said Amarjit Singh, an NRI from the village who runs a transport business in England. He and his brothers recently contributed Rs 11 lakh and can be credited with starting a private college for girls which has made a difference to female students in 15 villages of Jagraon, Dakha, Raikot and Barnala areas. “With the active participation and contribution by NRIs, we have set up a Kaddon Nishkam Sewa Society for the development of village. We can spend as per our wish for the development of the village and the cost of work turns out to be lower than government projects,” village sarpanch Parminder Singh pointed out.Gurdip Singh, who lives in Canada, said he wanted to make his village to have good infrastructure and to help the needy.“With some help from NRIs, we have got marriages of many poor girls solemnized. Also with the contribution of the NRIs, we spend on the poor patients who are unable to afford costly treatment,” said Davinder Singh, sarpanch of Chankoian Khurd village.By Sowmya Sangam

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NRIs In Sydney To Hold A Discussion On Significance To Support PM Modi March 30, 2019 08:53

The Indian origins in Sydney are organizing a programme on Sunday where the participants will discuss why it is important to support Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he leads the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) into general elections in April. The venue is iconic Sydney Opera House, located in the bay of Sydney Harbour. As the first phase of polling on April 11 draws near, programs to reinforce the ruling party’s efforts to retain power will be organized in several locations outside India. “The difference between 2014 and now is that earlier these programs were conducted extempore, and now it is more systematic since we have strengthened our support system in over 30 countries. The PM’s interactions with the diaspora itself has given the exercise a fresh impetus,” said Vijay Chauthaiwale, in charge of the BJP’s foreign affairs department. The party is counting on supporters in countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Denmark, Malaysia and across the Gulf region. Jay Shah, an information technology (IT) professional who is part of the Overseas Friends of BJP in Australia, said at least three programs will be organized in Australia over the weekend to muster support for Modi and his policies. He said issues of “national security, the development record of the Modi government and the foreign policy initiatives” have had a clear resonance on the ground. The BJP’s campaign is also being shored up by the vast network of volunteers associated with the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, the overseas arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). BJP is not the only party relying on Indian diaspora to create a favorable atmosphere for it. Parties like Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal, and Aam Admi Party also bank on the Non-Resident Indian pool for raising money and manpower to strengthen campaigns. While there is no data either with the parties or the Election Commission on how many NRIs turn up to vote, 71,735 Indians abroad are registered as voters with the Election Commission, of which 66,866 are men, 4,849 women and 20 belong to the third gender. By Sowmya Sangam  

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Grim Response from Telugu NRIs for Lok Sabha Elections March 22, 2019 04:57

Despite potent dissemination regarding the NRI voting is put into effect, the Telangana State Election Commission is receiving a lukewarm response from natives of Telangana putting down roots in foreign parts.The Telangana election office received just 585 applications from non-resident Indians hailing from Telangana. The received applications additionally required to be scrutinized prior to deciding on how many of them are entitled to be given voter ID cards and the final eligible number would be proclaimed on March 25. In the voters' list published by the Telangana Chief Electoral Officer Dr. Rajat Kumar on February 22, the total number of voters stood at 2.95 crores in Telangana, out of which the Overseas/ NRI voters are at a very low of 1,122. Of the total 1.31 crore population of NRIs across the world, a good number of them belong to both Telugu states. However, the very less NRI voters' number is an indication of how reluctant is the Indian diaspora to cast their franchise in elections. According to Prakash Kapila, a Telugu NRI from New Jersey, the timing of 2019 elections (in mid-April) proved to be a big dampener. "Majority of NRI families from the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia don't prefer to come in hot summer here because it will be quite difficult for families to adjust to the high temperatures. The distance is so long from India that we have to travel with the whole family and the travel expenses itself cost Rs 3 to Rs 4 lakh (for to and fro tickets from the U.S.)," he said. Prakash said: “If NRIs are allowed to vote in Indian embassies in various countries instead of physically present condition, a big change could be seen. Almost all eligible NRI voters would prefer to cast their vote in elections without fail, he stressed.” Prakash added that some of his friends went all the way from the U.S. to Telangana in last winter as the assembly elections were held on December 7, which was very convenient for families to get acclimatized to the weather at that time. As of now, overseas Indians have to register as voters, come to India, go to their constituency with the original passport issued to them when they had gone abroad and cast their vote.By Sowmya Sangam

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