Persona non-grata status for NRIs in PPF, NSC: A baffling rule even as we welcome them with Pravasi Divas

The government notification halting freshly-minted non-resident Indians (NRIs) on their tracks insofar as their post office investments are concerned is baffling to say the least.

It is true the post office rules allow only Indian residents to open these accounts and schemes but the Narendra Modi government, which prides on challenging status quo and shibboleths, must have woken up to the regressive nature of these rules and made wholesome changes. The moot question is: Why in the first place stop NRIs from opening these accounts? Instead of challenging this rule caught in a time warp, the government has moved ahead and applied it with full force in a bureaucratic, hidebound spirit.

The move is at odds with the Modi government’s undiluted and unadulterated love for NRIs. It is wooing them to join the Indian mainstream by casting their votes and is examining the possibility of allowing them to vote from the comfort of their foreign abodes instead of having to time their Indian visits to coincide with the hustings so as to be able to vote in India.

The Start-up India initiative of the Indian government also appeals to NRIs to warm up to the idea of homecoming to fire up the Indian economy. Against this backdrop, it is foolish and churlish to halt them on their tracks when it comes to their post office savings.

 Persona non-grata status for NRIs in PPF, NSC: A baffling rule even as we welcome them with Pravasi Divas

Representational image. PTI

NRI remittances have been the mainstay of Indian foreign exchange inflows on current account. In fact it has been at the forefront by constantly surging and peaking at around $80 billion levels a couple of ago till world-wide recession halted the juggernaut. NRI remittances have two hues---remittances to their near and dear ones and remittances into their own NRI savings bank accounts, NRE and NRO, as well as into their other investment accounts including recurring deposits. Why cavil at NRIs feathering their own nests, as it were, even while being indulgent with their money for family and friends? An NRI like any other individual should also save and invest for himself. With interest rates in the negative region in the Euro zone and near zero region in American markets, NRIs flock Indian investment avenues. It would be churlish to turn them away on the basis of archaic rules.

An NRI can invest in Indian real estate as indeed in most other avenues but not in post office schemes. This defies commonsense, logic and comprehension. To ask NRIs to wind up their post office schemes midway through is as cruel as asking them to sell their immovable properties in India as soon as they wear their NRI status on their sleeves and passports. Thank goodness, the latter is not the case.

The loss to post offices would be the gain of banks because banks mercifully are not loath to dealing with NRIs except perhaps when it comes to PPF accounts that are operated by select banks like State Bank of India and Punjab National Bank as well in addition to post offices. Post offices are struggling to stay relevant with couriers and emails putting them out of business in their bread and butter segment so much so that they are rediscovering themselves as financial services providers in the new avatar as a post office bank. If seamless money transfer from abroad to Indian post offices is a problem, it should be overcome instead of throwing the baby with the bathwater. There is no reason why India Post should not set up branches in predominant NRI centers like Dubai and Silicon Valley, California.

The Indian government conducts an annual winter event that goes by the name Pravasi Diwas in honor of NRIs who have arguably done the nation proud. Let their recent persona non-grata status not rankle the NRIs and become the sore point in the upcoming NRI jamboree. States like Kerala with a sizable NRI population should take the lead in impressing upon the government the need to welcome NRI money with open arms instead of being selective.

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Updated Date: Oct 31, 2017 16:26:23 IST