New Delhi : A total of 36,000 Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards have been issued to Indians living abroad till the end of 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said.
Citing the steps taken by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for the welfare of overseas Indians in the 'Report to the People 2004-07' released Tuesday to mark its third anniversary in power, it said that overseas Indians have been granted parity with non-resident Indians (NRIs) in respect of facilities in economic, financial and educational fields, with some exceptions.
They had also been given lifelong multi-purpose multi-entry visas and exemption from registration with local authorities.
"Till 2006, over 78,000 online applications had been filed and over 36,000 overseas citizenship registration certificates had been granted," it stated.
The OCI scheme was formally launched by the prime minister at the 4th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the annual conclave of the Indian diaspora, held in Hyderabad January 2006.
Among other steps the government has taken for the welfare of overseas Indians, the report says, is the introduction of a bill in parliament to permit Indian citizens outside India who are absent in their ordinary place of residence to get themselves registered in the electoral rolls of the constituency of the place of residence.
For the welfare of Indian workers abroad, the report cited the agreements India has entered into with countries in Europe and the Gulf.
"A Social Security Agreement has been entered into with Belgium, exempting overseas Indians on short-term contracts of up to five years from payment of social security contributions and providing for export of social security benefits for those on long-term contract, after they relocate to India on retirement," it stated, adding that the government has initiated the process for entering into similar agreements with other countries like the Netherlands, Sweden and France.
The report also mentioned the labour welfare pacts India has entered into with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait, countries with a sizeable number of Indian workers.
These pacts, according to the report, would facilitate recruitment of manpower, prohibit changes in terms and conditions of employment contracts to the detriment of workers, lay down the procedure for authentication for employment contract, place responsibility on employers to arrange the work permits, and protect workers who are otherwise not covered under local labour laws.
Similar agreements are also being planned with other Gulf countries, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Oman, as well as with Malaysia.
The report also stated that the UPA government has approved a policy framework for setting up a university for children of NRIs and persons of Indian origin (PIOs).
The annual report, the third such released since the UPA government came to power in May 2006, is an attempt at bringing accountability to governance.