Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted the Indian American diaspora at a community event in Washington, DC June 25, a day before he met President Donald Trump. (Facebook photo)

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Modi lauded the contribution of overseas Indians who remit nearly $70 billion a year to India. He had also said honest people are happy with demonetization. However, honest PIOs are not happy with his empty promises. Thousands of honest PIOs are left with legally owned banned notes which cannot be exchanged because his government is treating OCIs as second rate citizens although the OCI cards promise equal treatment with NRIs in economic and financial fields. Only NRIs (Indian citizens) not present in India during Nov. 9 to Dec. 30, 2016, were allowed to exchange their old notes until June 30, 2017.

On June 7, 2017,The trio were arrested under Section 7 of the Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act, 2017, which entails a six-month imprisonment. The trio were arrested under Section 7 of the Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act, 2017, which entails a six-month imprisonment. The trio were arrested under Section 7 of the Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act, 2017, which entails a six-month imprisonment. The trio were arrested under Section 7 of the Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act, 2017, which entails a six-month imprisonment.  a resident trio holding banned notes was arrested in Gujarat under Section 7 of the Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act, 2017. Under the act, enacted in February 2017, possession of more than 10 pieces of old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes by any person is a criminal offense, attracting a fine of Rs 10,000 or 5 times the cash held, whichever is higher. The Indian government has suddenly turned many innocent Indians abroad holding more than 10 SBNs into potential criminals for no fault on their part. In the act, there is no direction for the SBNs legally held by PIOs. This is grave injustice or an oversight by bureaucrats. Also, under the act, no suit or legal proceeding is allowed against the government or RBI.

As per the RBI press release dated Nov. 8, 2016, “Any person who is unable to exchange or deposit the specified banknotes in their bank accounts on or before December 30, 2016 shall be given an opportunity to do so at specified offices of the Reserve Bank or such other facility until a later date as may be specified by the Reserve Bank.” Modi in his address on Nov. 8 had made the same promise. These promises are now superseded by the new act which ignores PIOs/OCIs. This is grave injustice.

I had planned my recent trip to India based on earlier promises. As an OCI, I was denied being able to exchange my SBNs as I am not an Indian citizen. I complained to PMO, RBI, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of External Affairs with no avail. PMO and Ministry of Finance forwarded my complaints to RBI. RBI said that as per the new act enacted by the government the facility was available only to NRIs holding Indian passports. The Ministry of External Affairs said the matter did not pertain to their ministry (although the ministry has a division called Overseas Indian Affairs). How will the Indian diaspora trust GoI on any future promises?

We had hoped Modi would have addressed this issue during his recent visit to the United States. Of some 30 million Indian diaspora, if we assume one million have uncashed SBNs with them at an average of Rs. 10,000 per person, then they hold an estimated 1,000 crore rupees (about $150 million) which is of no value now for no fault on their part. Who is responsible for this?

Manilal J. Savla

Englishtown, New Jersey

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