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Why The Govt. Didn’t Let My Brother And His Chinese Wife Settle In India For A Long Time

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By Writu Bose:

I was high on happiness when Shameek, my elder brother, finally decided to get hitched with Stella. Luckily, so was the rest of my family (as expected). No one raised brows, there were no disapprovals regarding Stella’s oriental identity. So, the announcement of the wedding was soon made official and it was readily followed by a grand 4-day long gala.

It was only around the 5th day, that we began to learn why her Chinese identity mattered so much. I was idly scrolling down the set of rules and regulations online to understand how Stella could apply for a PIO card (Person of Indian Origin card) for longer and visa-less stays in India. For those who don’t know, PIO card  a form of identification, issued to a person of Indian origin, who holds a passport of another country and also to a spouse of a citizen of India. Simply put, PIO card is more like a permanent residential permit without voting rights.

Now, there was a distinct double-standard in the PIO policies that stood tall and it only took me a quick glance at Google to figure that out. The PIO card is given to citizens of certain countries and not to the specified rest, like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka (excluding Iranian nationals of Indian origin). In case of spouses, the rules state, that all spouses of Indian citizens are eligible to apply for a PIO card, but in practice, spouses from South Asian backgrounds are excluded without even showing any reason.

Stella fell under the last category and this was a lot of odd information for a rather unprepared enterprise. As I dug deeper into the web I figured that there were around 150 Indian Chinese families who were on the same page as Stella and Shameek. “If the government considers every Chinese spouse as a security threat, this is simply discriminatory.” one of the families stated.

It is true. Some of India’s neighbouring countries have always been at the receiving end of the systematic discrimination for years. While first-world countries bring about economic changes in India through trading or investments in the form of FDI, countries in the neighbouring region remain crucial due to number of transnational organised crime. International relations have been affected by it since the 1970s. And so, it has significantly been influencing India’s security policies for decades now.

Cross border drugs, weapons and human trafficking, issues linking terrorist activities, intellectual property theft, cybercrime are some transnational threats that are here to stay. So, it is understood why our national security policies are made so firm and rigid. However, it is unfair that some countries do not have an option but to bear the brunt while others retain and relish their privileged positions.

Without a PIO card, like many other families, Stella and Shameek were not able to settle in India, and that is nothing but unfortunate. “China has emerged to be one of India’s biggest trading partners in recent times. So we only hope that it improves the relationship between the two countries and soon impacts the ‘discriminatory laws’ that denies us the right to live at home,” my brother stated.

His prayers were answered when our Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the merger of PIO card and OCI (Overseas Citizens of India) card in the beginning of last year. With the merger the PIO category has now been withdrawn completely and the OCI card eligibility criteria has opened up embracing new guidelines for OCI card applicants. Now foreign spouses of Indian citizens or OCI Card holders are be eligible for an OCI Card after two years of marriage. Moreover, the OCI category is now open to citizens of Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, Iran, Nepal, and Sri Lanka who were previously banned from the scheme.

It is indeed a great relief for many of us whose families were divided due to the exclusion policies that the state nurtured. However this development has failed to address the entire picture since “Pakistan and Bangladesh nationals remain ineligible to apply for an OCI Card, most likely due to continuing political tensions between the countries”. As a result,  many couples out there have resorted to taking shelter in other countries where such cross border couples are welcome.

These transnational threats and political quandaries are real and the implications of India’s security protocols are much wider across the board than we imagine. All the more reason why Government of India’s efforts in trying to dissolve the discrimination should be heavily applauded. But it is saddening to see how some people are still subject to discrimination. We only hope now that our government soon introduces a policy that includes Pakistan and Bangladesh nationals and welcomes a more unbiased solution to this problem.

Editor’s note: The article was updated on June 22 after new information regarding a merger between PIO and OCI was discovered.

Featured image shared by Writu Bose.

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  1. amit pundir

    thanks for sharing this information,it helped me a lot.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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