Dubai: Many Indian expatriates in the UAE welcomed India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s proposal to issue Aadhaar cards to non-resident Indians (NRIs) upon arrival in India without having to wait for the mandatory 180-stay in the country.
The proposal was made during the announcement of the Union Budget 2019 on Friday, the minister’s first budget speech to parliament.
The Aadhaar card is a national identity card issued to Indian residents. NRIs, however, have not been able to secure the card since its introduction due to the pre-requisite of a six-month mandatory stay in India.
K.V. Shamsudeen, chairman of the Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust, thanked the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for heeding his request for the past five years. “NRIs are struggling in the absence of Adhaar for land registration, to get PAN [permanent account number] card, children’s admission, to get SIM cards for mobile phones, to get new driving licence and renew it. NRIs will be now very happy because they can do all these things if they can have the Aadhaar card easily,” Shamsudeen told Gulf News.
He, however, requested for the Aadhaar cards to be made available even at diplomatic missions considering the biometric data needed for the card are the same as for passport.
“I appeal to the government to provide Aadhaar application processing and delivering facility in all diplomatic missions. Presently, the passport is issued though the Indian network with biometric identification so the processing of Aadhaar will also be possible in the same network,” he said, adding this will also benefit NRIs living in the United States, Canada, Australia, and other countries.
For Ali Asgar Taheri, the Bohra Community liaison officer, the proposal is a step in the right direction that will greatly benefit NRIs. “Shorter waiting time is always good for any community. I still do not have my Aadhaar card because it’s too much of a hassle. We cannot stay for 180 days in India just to get the card. Now that it can be issued at a shorter time, I’m very happy. The next time I go home, I’ll definitely get it,” Taheri told Gulf News.
Issuing Aadhaar cards to NRIs will open more doors for them in the future, so believes Kesar Kothari, founder chairman of RBPG (Rajasthan Business and Professional Group) and chairman of Elfit Group of Companies.
“I am very excited to know that the government of India is going to issue Aadhaar cards to NRIs, which is a unique identity for all Indians. It is a gateway to many schemes for Indians from which all NRIs were hitherto deprived. Now with the Aadhaar card, it will be very convenient for NRIs to obtain basic facilities like sim cards. I do feel that it will allow us to participate in Indian elections in the near future,” Kothari said.
As for some residents’ concerns that the card could be used for surveillance or breach of privacy, Kothari said these fears are far-fetched.
Another NRI, advocate Hashik Thaikandy, OICC global secretary and legal consultant, believes that the proposal is a good step but it is “nothing new”. He hoped the government would instead focus on more pressing concerns.
“If we’re Indian citizens, we can apply for the Aadhaar card in Akshaya Kendra in particular districts. This is similar to Tasheel here. So this is not a big thing. There are many other pending concerns before the government — such as reducing airfares during the peak travel season, or the airport in Kerala to allow foreign airlines and others. These were not at all discussed in this budget nor considered by this government,” he said.