Is it practical to confer equal rights to the Indian Diaspora?

Diaspora Population

Man is a social animal and has been wandering about since time immemorial. Despite settling down and indulging in the occupations of farming and cattle rearing, the prehistoric man continued to venture far beyond his home, traveling across continents, crossing rivers and seas, and conquering newer places. These migrations often occurred in groups, i.e., they were mass migrations. As time passed, and man became more and more advanced, he started to associate with nations and started feeling a sense of belongingness to his nation. Man, however, continued to move and settle beyond his own nation.

Despite not geographically associating with his country anymore, people continued to associate with their countries of origin. Such people, who do not live in their country and migrate in masses from their indigenous countries are known as a diaspora. A diaspora population is one that has moved away from its country of origin and however, continues to be closely associated with the same

Indians who can trace their origins to India, are of Indian descent or are of Indian birth and have migrated from India and are living and working in different countries from the Indian diaspora. The Indian diaspora is also the largest in the world, at 17.5 million, according to the United Nations. It contributes to 6.4% of the global migrant populace. The Indian diaspora may live abroad temporarily or permanently and comprises of the Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs), and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs). The largest migrant Indian population lives in the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and Saudi Arabia. Indians contribute hugely to the sectors of healthcare, engineering, information technology, etc. in these countries. 

Rights presently available to Resident Indian Citizens and to the Indian Diaspora 

The Indian Constitution guarantees certain fundamental rights to Indians. These are the rights that can be legally enforced in a court of law and are paramount. Any law made in India has to conform to these fundamental rights and cannot be a violation of these. The State’s Directive Principles of State policy are the guidelines which the legislature follows while framing laws, however, no law can be in contravention to the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India as has been ruled in the case of the State of Madras vs. Champakam Dorairajan

Currently, the Constitution makes available rights to NRIs, OCIs, and PIOs, albeit in varying degrees. 

For Non-Resident Indians

  • They have equal protection before that law and the same rights as Indian citizens with a few exceptions
  • They are given all the Fundamental Rights in the Constitution. They also have voting rights and the right to contest an election.
  • They are exempted from paying tax on income earned abroad provided it is duly taxed in the nation where it is earned.
  • They need prior approval from the RBI to purchase agricultural or farmland.
  • They do not need a visa to enter India.

For Overseas Citizens of India

  • They are guaranteed equality of opportunity in matters of public employment under Article 16 of the Constitution of India.
  • OCIs also have voting rights under Section 16 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950.
  • They can also contest elections for the post of the President under Article 58 and for the Vice-President under Article 66.
  • They can also apply for the post of a Judge of the Supreme Court (Art. 124) and High Court (Art. 217). 
  • OCIs do not need visas to enter India anymore.
  • However, OCIs are not eligible to conduct research work in India without the permission of the Indian Mission (unlike NRIs who have no such restrictions) and OCIs can not acquire agricultural land in India, whereas NRIs can.

For Persons of Indian Origin

  • As such class of people possesses citizenship and passport of another country they are treated as foreigners. 
  • PIOs do not have voting rights, the right to buy property, the right to be a member of the Legislative assemblies, etc.

Need to bring in Equality in Rights to the Indian Diaspora


In the year 2015, the government announced a merger for the OCI and PIO cardholders, that would essentially bring PIOs under the ambit of OCI. The instructions for this merger did not carry with them a lot of clarity, and created a lot of confusion initially, however, now PIO-OCI cards have been merged. 

Despite the apparent disparity of rights conferred upon the Indian diaspora, the community has played and continues to play an important role in the development and betterment of India. Let us not forget our rich history, when Indians abroad relentlessly supported the Ghadar Party and in turn the Indian freedom struggle. Even in the post-Independence period, the diaspora was an important player which helped shape India’s present. As they live abroad for most of the time, they also act as unofficial ambassadors of our country in their country of usual residence. Influence from more liberal and prosperous countries by our own people can serve as a very progressive way to plan the future course of action for our country. When we divide rights, especially political rights, we are in a way blocking the influx of these much-needed recommendations. 

Most of the diaspora has moved abroad due to their high qualifications and liberal mindsets, which, unfortunately, fail to find much scope in India. With the current crackdown on dissent and the numerous comedians being arrested for sedition, there seems to be only one way to gather global attention to the issues being faced by the modern Indian. In trying to escape the shackles of conservatism and breaking free from the traditions of extreme tolerance towards tyranny that has acted as a hindrance to our development, we need to ensure that our voices are heard.

As it is, the diaspora has continuously contributed to India with philanthropies, donations, establishing offices here, and sending back feedback from abroad. There are innumerable examples of things that can be improved within the country. These have continued for years, and the most realistic solutions can be found in collaboration with the diaspora, who can give their valuable inputs to the resident Indian community. These suggestions can range from energy solutions to political solutions. 


The government needs to amend laws in consultation with the learned Indian diaspora abroad. Only when we grant them more political power, the power to vote, the power to contest elections, and the power to be a member of the legislative assemblies, will be able to involve them to improve our country. Raising the scope of rights will also increase the faith and love that the diaspora possesses for India, which will encourage them to contribute even more enthusiastically to India.

When the situation is optimal, with a good ratio of input from the diaspora population, there is also a possibility of lesser brain drain from India. India will incorporate things and policies that make the West seem so lucrative to the youth and create a perfect environment for growth, development, and inclusive modernization within India itself. In practicality, conferring equal rights to the diaspora population will only serve as a win-win situation.

Editor’s Note
The author of this article talks about conferring equal rights to the diaspora population of India. The author briefly explains the rights guaranteed in the constitution related to the Indian diaspora population (NRIs, OCIs, PIOs). The author then describes the need to bring inequality in rights to the Indian diaspora which will encourage more faith and bring in more contributions for the benefit of all.

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