Kiwi-Indian MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi is shinning like a star in the ongoing Pravasi Bhartiya Divas celebrations, currently underway in Varanasi, by making some bold political noise around issues of importance for the majority of Indian diasporic community all around the world.

Mr Bakshi is currently visiting India to participate in the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas celebrations – the biggest conglomeration of the global Indian diaspora – as a Guest of Honour of the Government of India along with prominent global lawmakers US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, PM of Mauritius Pravind Jugnauth and Norway Lawmaker Himanshu Gulati.

Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh, Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Guest of Honour Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi Member of Parliament from New Zealand, Special Guest Himanshu Gulati Member of Parliament from Norway at lamp lighting inaugural ceremony of PBD 2019 in Varanasi. Photo courtesy: PBD Convention. 

Inaugurating the Youth Pravasi Bhartiya Divas on Monday, January 21, Mr Bakshi lighted the lamp and shared the stage with India’s Minister for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Aditya Nath and Union Minister for State Gen. V. K. Singh and Rajyavardha Rathore.

Demand for dual citizenship for the diaspora

However, it was during his speech that Mr Bakshi struck instant-chord with not only the members of the diaspora and the Indian-origin global lawmakers attending the event but also those far and beyond, by calling the government of India to offer dual citizenship or visa-free status.

Echoing similar sentiments, a parliamentarian from Malaysia, Karupaiya AL Mustami, also said that the diaspora should be given free visas to help their next generation remain connected with the mother country in the same manner as they have done so far.

Expectedly, there were many takers and supporters for Mr Bakshi’s insistence for a visa-waiver for all people of Indian-origin, including the local media, which reported extensively on the sentiments overflowing on the very first day of the official event.

One of the visiting delegates was quoted in local media saying “Most people come here to visit temples or for medical treatment. Free visas will boost medical tourism and help Indian community living abroad.”

It is important to note that the manner in which India connects with its diaspora had changed significantly in the last couple of decades especially offering them special Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card that facilitates visa-free travel back to the homeland.

Indeed, if the demand, otherwise felt by many, but put-up on a bigger scale by Mr Bakshi, eventually finds its way through the power corridors in New Delhi, then it can radically revolutionize the way India engages with its 31 million strong global diasporas.

Putting forward demand for Rajya Sabha seat for NRI’s

Mr Bakshi further gave words to a long-felt and expressed demand (especially by Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin, GOPIO) for dedicated seats in Rajya Sabha – the upper house of the Indian parliament – to represent exclusively Non-Resident Indians (NRI) living overseas.

It is important to note that around 10 million Non-Resident Indians (who are citizens of India) lives overseas for work or business without direct participation in the Indian political process.

Mr Bakshi backed up the long-felt sentiments in his speech at the highest level reunion between India and its distant living children.

Speaking to The Indian Weekender, Mr Bakshi said, “As India continues to grow, its global relationships with persons of Indian origin have also grown.”

Guest of Honour Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi Member of Parliament from New Zealand addressing Indian diaspora at PBD 2019 in Varanasi.  (Image: PBD Convention)

“Based on our relationship with our country of birth, I urged the Government of India to consider seats in the upper house of Indian Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and for dual citizenship for persons of India origin (PIO’s),” Mr Bakshi said.