GOPIO’s accomplishments are many and wide ranging. Some noteworthy achievements during the last few years include the following:
PIO Card, Overseas Indian Citizenship and Ministry for Overseas Indians
In the first convention in 1989, a resolution was unanimously approved demanding dual citizenship. The demand has been met with the grant of PIO/OCI card. GOPIO also championed the effort to establish a separate ministry for overseas Indians and subsequently the Government of India established the Ministry of Overseas Indians Affairs (MOIA). GOPIO was the first to take up these issues of interest to the global Indian community with Government of India by passing resolutions and relentlessly pursuing with various ministries beginning in 1989.
Fiji Indian Human Right Issue
In 2000, Fiji’s first ethnic Indian prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, was illegally ousted from power and replaced by indigenous Fijian Laisenia Qarase as the prime minister. GOPIO internationalized the issue, took up the cause and assured all help to the Indo Fijian activists. GOPIO delegation met the United Nations Human Rights Commission on the Fiji Issue in July 2000. GOPIO became the beacon of hope and chief advocacy group for the PIO issues.
Rejection of Nomination of Mr. Sitiveni Rabuka as Fiji’s Amb. to USA
In 2004, the Government of Fiji nominated Mr. Sitiveni Rabuka, a former coup leader who later became Prime Minister, to be Fiji’s ambassador to the United States. GOPIO appealed to the US President and US Secretary of State for the rejection of the nomination of Mr. Rabuka who was responsible to overthrow the legitimate government of Fiji, violated the human rights of the elected officials and ruthlessly destroyed what people of Fiji had worked so hard to build. That nomination was not accepted and Mr. Rabuka never became ambassador of Fiji to the United States.
Uniform Admission Fee for Visiting Historical Monuments
The NRI/PIO visitors have been paying higher admission fee for visiting museums and historical monuments in India. GOPIO has been pursuing with Government of India (GOI) to charge NRIs/PIOs the same admission fee as charged from local people in India. In January 2006, GOPIO officials met Minister George Fernandes and Minister Prithviraj Chavan and argued for the establishment of uniform rate for all. GOPIO achieved the goal as GOI decided in February 2006 to charge a uniform admission fee from all visitors, be they Indians, NRIs or foreigners.
Change in Trinity Award in Trinidad and Tobago
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago (TnT) has been giving Trinity awards to their highly accomplished and successful people annually. However, the award insignia contained “cross” symbol, which the Hindu and Muslim nominees were reluctant to accept. GOPIO objected to the “cross” symbol in the award emblem and instituted a parallel award, which received appreciation from the Hindu and Muslim population but criticism from TnT government. A few years, the government formed a committee to design a new insignia without the “cross” symbol.
Protest Rally at United Nations for Rule of Law in Trinidad &
GOPIO organized and held a huge rally on July 31, 2006 in front of the UNO in New York to protest the arbitrary decision of the Gov’t of Trinidad and Tobago (TnT) against Chief Justice Sharma to bring attention to illegal steps by the Government to force Justice Sharma out from office without due process and in violation of the constitution of the country. The protest received tremendous local and international coverage and attention, and the TnT Government relented in its illegal pursuit of Chief Justice Sharma. Encouraged by GOPIO’s successful protest rally in New York, several groups joined together for subsequent protest marches in Trinidad.
Peace March against Attack on Indians in Germany
GOPIO Berlin held a silent Peace March to protest against the tragic attack on eight Indians who were injured in a racist assault at a community fair in Mügeln near the city of Leipzig in Eastern Germany on the night of 18th/19th of August 2007. A group of about 50 racist Germans chased the Indians who were mostly outdoor market merchants in the region, and shouted slurs such as “foreigners out”. As many as 70 police officers were called to disperse the attackers and restore order. Two of the injured Indians were hospitalized. Four assailants and two policemen were also injured in the incident.
The Peace marchers carried flowers as a symbol of peace, respect, love and harmony instead of posters, banners, drums, or loudspeakers. GOPIO Berlin chapter president Barjinder Sodhi presented a memorandum to the duty officer of German Chancellor Mrs. Dr. Angela Merkel. The memorandum included many demands including, prompt completion of investigation of the race riots by the Government investigating agency, and punishing the guilty as per law of the land; and taking steps to ensure safety of immigrants from India. In February 2009, a German court convicted and gave varying terms of punishment to the guilty.
US-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement
The US-India civil nuclear cooperation deal involved agreement for transfer of nuclear technology and material from the United States to India, initiated during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US in July 2005 and re-affirmed during President George Bush’s visit to India in March 2006. The agreement required approval of the US Congress for which the Indian American community played a proactive role in ensuring the passage of the bills introduced in the Congress.
Some US law makers openly supported the agreement while many prominent US lawmakers conspicuously stayed silent on the issue. It was a major mobilization effort by the Indian American community to convince the US law makers to vote in favor of the passage of the bill. GOPIO, in its part, mobilized the Indian American communities and organized town house meetings with elected officials in many constituencies. GOPIO Vice President for North America, Dr. Piyush Agrawal, worked actively with pro-India members of the US Congress and Indian American community activists to ensure the passage of the landmark civilian nuclear agreement.
Voting Rights for NRIs
In 2004 convention (also in 2005 and 2006), GOPIO passed resolutions asking GOI to allow NRIs to vote in the elections in India through absentee ballot. The bill, seeking to amend the People’s Representation Act was passed in 2010. The new law allows an NRI to enroll in the voter’s list and vote if he/she is present in the constituency on the polling day. There are around 11 million NRIs, 2.1 million from Kerala alone who now have such right. The amendment is partial victory for GOPIO which demanded voting by postal ballot which is a practical solution of a reasonable demand of NRIs. Several countries have found postal ballot as the practical solution. India should also find ways to empower their own citizens abroad.
Diaspora Courses at Universities in India
GOPIO Academic Council Chair Dr. Jagat Motwani collaborated with some universities in India to introduce courses relating to Diaspora. He convinced Prof. Adeshpal Singh of North Gujarat University who organized several international conferences on various subjects concerning the Diaspora. Dr. Motwani also collaborated with Prof. Neerja Arun who arranged a meeting with the then GOPIO President Inder Singh, Dr. Motwani and the vice chancellor of Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, who now has introduced M.A. and Ph.D. programs in Indian Diaspora and special courses for NRIs