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As Govt Lifts Cap on Fees for NRIs, Windfall Awaits Medical Colleges
The government has quietly cut a deal with private medical colleges to lift the ceiling on what they can charge NRI students. Now, the colleges can also increase the number of seats for NRIs from 20 per cent to 25 per cent of their total intake.
In exchange, the colleges have agreed to let the government defer yet again the implementation of a 2006 law that lays down a procedure to determine fees.
As a result of this hush-hush pact, the Karnataka Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Determination of Fee) Act, 2006, will go into sleep mode again.
The NRI quota in undergraduate and post-graduate medical courses fetches huge revenue for private medical colleges. If the government implements the Act, the NRI quota in private colleges would have to be frozen at 15 per cent of all seats available.
With the latest pact, that number has gone up by 5 per cent over and above what the colleges were allowed in 2014-15. A top Medical Education Department official confirmed this to Express.
How Much Then?
The present cost of an NRI seat for an MBBS course ranges between `1 crore and `1.5 crore. For post-graduate courses, a candidate pays between `2 crore and `4 crore. These rates will go up.
The rates are negotiable, and the number of candidates willing to pay such amounts is high.A meeting on April 1, chaired by Medical Education Minister Dr Sharan Prakash Patil, had decided to continue with the existing fee structure and seat-sharing matrix. “If the state implements the 2006 Act, the quota for NRIs would be restricted to 15 per cent. The colleges have pressured the state. Who wants to lose the NRI revenue?” said a former principal secretary to the Medical Education Department.
The rules governing the NRI quota are lax. The 2006 Act says an NRI means a candidate of Indian origin who has studied Class 12 outside India. “There is nobody to oversee the process. Anyone can get a seat just by submitting a letter to the effect that the student is an NRI,” the former principal secretary explained. “The only thing that matters in money.”
The college managements benefit from the agreement. Also, as Express has reported, the proceedings of the April 1 meeting say the fees for medical and dental courses, both UG and PG, have been increased by 10 per cent, but the hike actually works out to 45 per cent for medical and 30 per cent for dental seats.
UG Added by Mistake: Minister: Medical Education Minister Dr Sharan Prakash Patil, who chaired a meeting with college managements on April 1, told Express the issue “is still not finalised”.
He said the meeting was about post-graduate seats and the word ‘undergraduate’ had crept in by mistake into the proceedings.
Student associations are outraged. “It is an anti-student move. The fee for MBBS was `38,000 and they have hiked it to `55,000, which is steep,” an All India Democratic Student Organisation representative said.
Source : New Indian Express
E-visa Facility Extended to 31 More Countries
The government is set to give a major push to the e-tourist visa scheme by extending it to 31 more countries and allowing foreign tourists to avail of the facility at seven more airports by June 15.
Among the countries that will benefit from the latest extension are the United Kingdom, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Malaysia, Tanzania and Argentina.
The airports to be added to the existing list of nine where foreign citizens from eligible countries can land with an e-tourist visa are Jaipur, Amritsar, Gaya, Lucknow, Trichy, Varanasi and Ahmedabad. The airports have been chosen due to the large number of foreign tourists they receive on account of their proximity to major tourist spots.
The e-visa scheme presently covers 45 countries and can be availed across nine international airports. With the expansion of the scheme by June, the list will go up to 76 countries and 16 airports.
Among the countries whose citizens will now be eligible for e-visas are Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Belgium, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Hungary, Ireland, Jamaica, Malaysia, Malta, Mongolia, Mozambique, the Netherlands, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Surinam, Sweden, Tanzania, East Timor, Turks & Caicos Islands, the UK, Uruguay and Venezuela. Finance minister Arun Jaitley had in the Budget 2015-16 proposed extension of e-visa scheme to 150 countries.
Atmosphere of Trust in Our Nation,’ Says PM Modi in Toronto: Highlights
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the Indian Diaspora in Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum today. PM Modi was given a ceremonial welcome earlier in Canada’s capital Ottawa. This is the last leg of PM Modi’s 3-nation tour, which included France and Germany.
Here are the highlights:
- * Namaskar
- * I thank the Canadian people for the welcome they have given me.
- * I want to thank the PM of Canada and the people of this Nation. Canada has welcomed me with immense enthusiasm.
- * But this honour isn’t for Narendra Modi but for the 125 crore people of India.
- * Narendra Modi was not the reason Indians made a mark here, You (Indians in Canada) are the reason Indians have made a mark here.
- * I have come to Toronto earlier. No one knew me then but even then I was showered with love.
- *Reached here last night, will leave tomorrow. But I will never forget Canada’s love for me.
- *India + Canada, can you image the strength this partnership has?
- *My experience of working with Canada has always been very good right from the time when I was the Chief Minister in Gujarat. Canada partnered with Gujarat in 2003.
- * All natural resources India needs can be provided by Canada. Potash needed for fertilizers in India comes from Canada.
- * The decisions we have taken today have been taken in a friendly atmosphere. Our association is going to be very long and a fruitful one.
- * 10 months back the government in India changed, now I can say ethos of the people has changed.
- * PM Modi refers to a Bollywood song: Dekh tere sansaar ki halat kya hogayee bhagwan, kitna badal gaya insan (See what the world has become O God, see what the human has become).
- * There was a time when a bank official wont even look up from his work when you went to the bank. Insaan badal gaya, bank wale bhi badle (Humans have changed and so have the bank officials)
- * I congratulate them for opening 14 crore bank accounts – that is thrice the population of Canada and that too in 100 days.
- * Not that only the Government has changed. ‘Jan Man‘ has changed.
- * We say Jan Gana Man Adhinayak — that Jan Man has changed.
- * Jinko gandagi karni thi, gandagi kar ke chaley gaye, hum safai karke jayengey.
- * There is a new atmosphere of trust in our nation.
- * India is a large country and it will take time to clean. The problem is old and it will take time but you can see there is a change in the people.
- *Whatever is happening is not due to Modi but it is due to the people of India.
- * 4 lakh people have given up their gas subsidies, jan man badla hai (the collective spirit of the people)…no official order, no law…
- * President Kalam used to talk about a “positive column” in newspapers, today it is finally happening: (cites example of a newspaper editor who wrote to him to say they had implemented a policy of doing only positive news once a week).
- * Development is the solution to all our problems. India has the strength, need opportunity.
- * India is a young country – that is our biggest resource.
- * 80 crore youth, 80 crore dreams, 160 crore strong hands. What can we not achieve?
- * In all developed nations, the populations are ageing fast. When they need young workforce, by 2030, they will look towards India.
- * Earlier India was known as ‘Scam India’, we want it should be known for ‘Skill India’.
- * Do not want to be “job seekers”, we want to be “job creators”. That is what we aim to do with skill development.
- * We need to instill dignity of labour. Till it becomes our nature, we will not be able to do with pride what the world expects of us.
- * No dearth of talent in India. We are the first country to reach Mars in its first attempt.
- * Our Mars mission cost less than what it takes to make a Hollywood film… Our cost worked out to less than an autorickshaw ride in any Indian city at Rs. 7 per kilometre.
- * We want to encourage youth to make innovations that help the world.
- * AIM – Atal Innovation Mission is a program we have developed to take the youth ahead.
- * The nation of Gandhi that has never been an aggressor, we used to go begging (bhatakna) for reactors.
- * No one wanted to give us nuclear reactors, thinking what if we make bombs. Ironically people who make bombs are not stopped.
- * Now we have an agreement with a French company and it’ll be made in India. We need Uranium for the reactors and that we will get from Canada.
- * Saffron is a colour of energy. We have to have an energy revolution in India (part of PM Modi’s 4-coloured revolution).
- * India always spoke of MegaWatts, for the first time we are talking about GigaWatts — 175 GigaWatts of renewable energy.
- * In 2012-13, the government used to buy LED bulbs for Rs. 350 each; we buy one LED bulb for Rs. 85. Is this not honesty and transparency?
- * The second is White Revolution – animal husbandry.
- * The third is Green Revolution — how to improve agricultural productivity – we have started a soil health card program. We are looking at per drop more crop.
- * The fourth is Blue revolution — clean blue skies, skies free of environmental dangers…
- * OCI and PIO have been merged; OCI cards will be given for a lifetime now instead of just 15 years.
- * e-migrate portal has been started to meet complaints and online applications, no need to go to immigraton offices.
- * 17,000 people rescued from West Asia- in times of crisis we do not see the colour of anyone’s passport. We do everything possible for people.
- * You’ll now get Indian visas for 10 years.
Indian Prime Minister Modi arrives in Ottawa for start of landmark visit
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was met by Conservative MPs and fans from Ottawa’s Indo-Canadian community Tuesday evening as he began a landmark visit that will take him to three Canadian cities.
After arriving at the Ottawa airport around 6 pm, Mr. Modi shook hands on the tarmac with Defence Minister Jason Kenney, International Trade Minister Ed Fast and several other Conservative MPs. He greeted members of Ottawa’s Indo-Canadian community, who snapped photos of him on their phones and leaned over barriers to get a better look at the famous politician.
Mr. Modi’s visit to Canada comes after stops in Germany and France, where he worked to boost trade and promote a “Make in India” campaign that’s aimed at convincing more companies to establish manufacturing plants in India. While in Canada, Mr. Modi will deliver a speech to nearly 10,000 Indo-Canadians, meet with the heads of pension funds and banks, and attend an official dinner with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
His trip to Canada this week marks the first bilateral visit by an Indian prime minister in more than 40 years. He will be accompanied during stops in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is eager to court the 1.2 million people of Indian origin in Canada ahead of the next federal election.
Mr. Modi has a rock star-like status among some Indo-Canadians, who will pack into Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum on Wednesday night for a chance to hear him speak. However, the Indian politician is also a controversial figure who has been criticized for his handling of religious divisions in India and whose presence in Canada is expected to attract protesters.
Mr. Modi has no public events scheduled for Tuesday night after he leaves the Ottawa airport, according to an itinerary from Mr. Harper’s office, which was sent to journalists on Tuesday afternoon.
He will meet with Governor-General David Johnston at Rideau Hall on Wednesday morning, and then travel to Parliament Hill a formal welcoming ceremony with Mr. Harper. The two leaders will hold a 40 minute meeting in Mr. Harper’s office before addressing the Indian and Canadian media at 11 a.m.
After a working lunch in Ottawa, Mr. Harper and Mr. Modi will fly to Toronto, according to the itinerary from the Prime Minister’s Office. They are expected to address a crowd of nearly 10,000 people at Ricoh Coliseum on Wednesday night, a key event that will give both leaders an opportunity to reach out to the Indian diaspora community.
While Mr. Modi is expected to hold meetings with the heads of pension funds, insurance companies and banks on Thursday morning in Toronto, those events are not included in the official itinerary provided by the prime minister’s office.
He will also visit an Air India memorial in Etobicoke on Thursday morning, along with Mr. Harper and his wife, Laureen Harper, the itinerary says. He is expected to depart for Vancouver in the early afternoon and will stop at the Gurdwara Khalsa Diwan, a Sikh place of worship in Vancouver, and a Hindu temple in Surrey.
Mr. Modi will also attend an official dinner with Mr. Harper at the Pinnacle Vancouver Harbourfront Hotel.
Some members of the Indo-Canadian community say they plan to protest Mr. Modi at many of his public events. An organization called Sikhs for Justice has called for Mr. Modi to be prosecuted for torture and genocide over his alleged role in religious riots that broke out in Gujarat while he was that state’s chief minister. The group says it also expects to see protesters call for a referendum on independence in India’s Punjab state, which has a large Sikh population.
A second group, the World Sikh Organization, says it has no plans to protest but hopes Mr. Harper will raise concerns about violence against religious minorities in India, including recent attacks against Christians in that country.
Source : The Globe and Mail
Fix Time for NRI Voting Rights Legislation: Supreme Court
The Supreme Court, today, said that it cannot order legislature to make or amend a law within a particular time frame and granted eight weeks time to the Centre to effect changes in statutes for extending voting rights to NRIs through postal ballots.
However, the Election Commission (EC), which found it feasible to give voting rights to NRIs, did not favour extending same benefit to migrants in the country.
“Scheme of the Representation of People Act is that a person can be enrolled only at the place where he is ordinarily resident, the question of any person migrating to a different place from his native place, enrolling himself in the electoral roll of his native place does not arise,” the poll panel said in an affidavit.
During hearing today, Additional Solicitor General PL Narasimha, appearing for the Centre, sought some more time for making changes in the statue for extending voting rights to Non Resident Indians (NRIs), saying that certain amendments are required to be carried out and the Law Ministry is working on them after considering the recommendations of the poll panel on the issue.
“We believe in the statement of the Additional Solicitor General…We cannot ask the legislature to finish it in a time frame,” a bench comprising Chief Justice HL Dattu and Justice Arun Mishra said, adding, “In case of difficulty, you (Centre) can come back to us”.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for one of the petitioners, sought early amendment in the law and said that in Kerala, 70 per cent persons are NRIs and they be given this right as they contribute so much to the country.
The court is hearing a batch of petitions filed by Nagender Chindam, who is the Chairman of London-based Pravasi Bharat organization and other NRIs including Shamsheer VP on the issue.
The PILs have said that 114 countries have adopted external voting and among them are 20 Asian countries. It said the external voting could be held by setting up polling booths at diplomatic missions, or by postal, proxy or electronic voting.
Earlier, the Centre had told the apex court that the EC’s recommendation to extend voting rights to NRIs through postal ballots have been accepted in letter and spirit and now the law has to be changed accordingly.
Earlier, the court had sought the poll panel’s response on a similar plea seeking voting rights of migrants who have left their constituencies for jobs.
The poll panel, in its recent affidavit, opposed it and said that persons, migrating from their native places, cease to be residents of that place and they cannot cast vote in elections in that constituency.
A person would not become a voter of his native place just because of owning a house there and migrants must register themselves at the place where they reside, it said.
“Such person has to get himself enrolled in the electoral roll of the new place where he is ordinarily resident and he can then vote in such new place,” it said.
“A person shall not be deemed to be ordinarily resident in a constituency on the ground only that he owns or is in possession of a dwelling house therein. The qualification for being resident at a given place is not fulfilled merely because a person owns a house at that place,” the affidavit said.
On November 14 last year, the court had asked the Centre to make its stand clear on the EC’s proposal for allowing NRIs to cast their votes through proxy voting and e-ballots in polls in India.
The apex court had granted time to the government to respond to the proposal prepared by a 12-member committee led by Vinod Zutshi, Deputy Election Commissioner, for ‘Exploring Feasibility of Alternative Options for Voting by Overseas Electors’.
In the report, the committee has said it is of the view that e-postal ballot, where blank postal ballot is transferred electronically to NRIs and returned by post, can be employed after validation of the process and pilot implementation in one or two constituencies.
The report further said the process can be scaled up for Parliamentary elections, if found feasible, practicable and meeting the objectives of free and fair polls.
The committee comprising officials from the EC, Law Ministry and Ministry of External Affairs had gathered opinion from all sections before submitting a report to the apex court.
The poll panel had contended that the move to allow NRIs to use proxy voting on the lines of defence personnel and e-ballot facility will require changes in the law and a legislative framework.
NRI Deposits to State Crosses Rs 1-trillion Mark
One in six rupees in foreign exchange deposits in the country’s banks is in Kerala, making it the state with the largest amount of NRI deposits.
Out of the total NRI deposits of Rs 6,04,873.5 crore (Rs 6.04 trillion) in Indian banks, the foreign exchange deposits in Kerala alone constituted Rs 1,04,573.76 crore (Rs 1.04 trillion) at the end of December 2014. This is the first time NRI deposits to Kerala crossed the Rs 1-trillion mark.
The NRI deposits in Gujarat, which has a comparitively larger number of people placed in better jobs (or doing business) in developed countries like the US and Canada, are much less. At the end of December 2014, the NRI deposits in Gujarat banks stood at Rs 49,722 crore, a decline of Rs 9,890 crore from the September 2014 figure of Rs 59,612 crore.
Surprisingly, the NRI deposits in the banks in Kerala rose by Rs 7,107.72 crore from Rs 97,466.04 crore in September 2014, notwithstanding the fact that several hundreds of Keralites had returned from the war-torn countries, including Iraq, Libya and Yemen, in the last several months. From March 2014, there has been an increase of Rs 10,690.24 crore in NRI deposits in Kerala.
According to S Irudaya Rajan, professor at the Centre for Development Studies in Thiruvananthapuram and author of publications on labour migration from Kerala to the Gulf, the NRIs from Gujarat and Punjab do not send money to their native place, while expatriates from Kerala diligently send money back home as the families are dependent on them for daily expenses. “Most of the NRIs from Gujarat and Punjab are settled in countries like the US, Canada and Australia. Perhaps, they may be making investments in India, but that is reflected as business investment,” he explained. It is reckoned that there are about 1.6 million expatriates from Kerala living across the world, mostly in West Asia.
In addition to the NRI deposits, there are remittances coming to Kerala through various foreign exchange money transfer companies such as UAE Exchange, Western Union and commercial banks. “A large section of the people doing lowskilled jobs in the Gulf also sends money back home through their friends and relatives. There is no data on such money coming into the state,” Rajan pointed out.
“The high rate being charged for sending money is forcing them to do such an exercise,” he said. As per the World Bank’s Migration and Development Brief, India, with the world’s largest emigrant stock of 14 million people, attracted about $71 billion (Rs 39,050 crore) in remittances in 2014. A major chunk of this amount came to Kerala, though there are no official figures available.
The G20, at its meeting in Australia in November last year, had decided to bring down the cost of remittances to 5 per cent from as high as 10 per cent in some countries.
M V George, of UAE Exchange, said the cost of transaction was much less than 5 per cent. “We charge per transaction and not based on the amount,” he said. According to World Bank, the average cost of sending money from the UAE, which has the highest number of employed Keralites, was 2.91 per cent in the January-March 2015 period. The cost of money transfer from Saudi Arabia, which also has a large number of Keralites employed there, is 4.88 per cent. “It’s high time the banks conduct ed a study to find out the exact volume of remittance made to Kerala and the cost involved,” said Rajan.
Source: New Indian Express
Abu Dhabi-based NRI girl wins ‘MasterChef India 4’
Elated over her win, Nikita Gandhi found the news of her victory hard to assimilate, but she made an emotional point at the finale.
Born in Ahmedabad, the young and vibrant food aficionado was chosen as the winner on the basis of viewers’ votes. She pipped Mumbai’s Neha Shah, who walked away with a prize money of Rs.10 lakh (Rs.1 million) and a trip for two to London; and the show’s second runner up, Hyderabad-based Bhakti Arora was given Rs.500,000.
Elated over her win, Gandhi found the news of her victory hard to assimilate, but she made an emotional point at the finale.
“These four to five months here (in India) thanks to ‘MasterChef…’ have made me realise that India is truly my home,” she said, and even thanked channel Star Plus and the show’s three judges—Sanjeev Kapoor, Vikas Khanna and Ranveer Brar—for giving her “a huge platform to portray my culinary talent”.
The trio of judges announced Gandhi as the winner at the finale, calling her a consistent performer throughout the season.
The grand finale featured lively performances by Gurmeet Chaudhary and Debina Bonnerjee, and “MasterChef India 3” winner Ripudaman Handa along with Shivang.
Bollywood actors Kangana Ranaut and R. Madhavan, co-stars of “Tanu Weds Manu Returns”, took part in a pani-puri making competition on the show.
The entertainment value of the show was further enhanced by a performance of the three finalists, and even the judges performed on a special song composed specially for “MasterChef India 4” by themselves.
The finale also saw actress Preity Zinta, choreographer Marzi Pestonji and author Chetan Bhagat, judges of the forthcoming reality show “Nach Baliye”, paying a visit on the set of “MasterChef India 4”.
Besides this, the eliminated contestants also came back on the show for the one last time and were seen cheering the three finalists. Raghu Ram hosted the show and kept the audiences entertained.
NRI Samba Natarajan appointed CEO of digital division of Singtel in Singapore
An NRI has been appointed as the chief executive officer of the digital division of Singapore-based telecom giant Singtel.
Samba Natarajan, 49, has been appointed the chief executive officer of Group Digital Life, Singtel. Natarajan is currently the Managing Director of Digital Enterprise.
Group Digital Life is a division of Singtel that focusses on digital marketing, regional premium video, and advanced analytics.
Natarajan will build on Singtel’s innovation capabilities to capture digital opportunities in both consumer and enterprise segments, it said.
Natarajan holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electrical Engineering from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in Pilani, a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, and an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
He has also worked for Citibank.
Singtel has also announced a number of other appointments, promoting Lim Cheng Cheng from Deputy Group Chief Financial Officer to Group CFO, and the current Group CFO Jeann Low taking on the role of Group Chief Corporate Officer.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Auerbach, the current CEO Group Digital Life, will relinquish his executive role but remains associated with the Group as Chairman of HOOQ and Director of Amobee.
Announcing the appointments, Singtel said it is sharpening its digital business strategy to accelerate its transformation for growth and competitiveness.
NRI Electorate Eagerly Awaits Government Plan on NRI voting
On April 13, it is a time of hope and perhaps realization of a long struggle for Nagender Chindam who has tirelessly campaigned for e-voting rights for NRIs.
With the government supporting this stand in the Supreme Court, the Indian political scenario is set for a landmark change.
A hearing in the Supreme Court is scheduled in this matter on April 13, where the apex body will examine the feasibility of this fact.
The original petition in this case was filed by Nagender Chindam, who is the chairman of Pravasi Bharat.
“This is a huge step ahead for the nation and millions of NRIs who wanted to be heard during the election process. Now we are hoping that the government comes out with a formidable plan to ensure NRI e voting in practice,” said Chindam.
The government, in the previous hearing informed the Supreme Court that it accepted the Election Commission’s (EC) view that the option of voting through proxy or an e-postal ballot system could be considered for NRIs who want to cast their vote during elections in India.
It also added that the proposal was accepted by the government in letter and spirit and that a committee had been set up to devise the modalities of its implementation.
Earlier, an EC panel had recommended allowing voting for the NRIs through proxy and e-postal ballot. The poll panel had ruled out the possibility of allowing NRIs to vote through the Internet or at diplomatic missions abroad for the time being.
In a report submitted to the Supreme Court, the EC had said,”The option of voting through proxy appointed by overseas elector as well as “e-postal ballot, where blank postal ballot paper is transferred electronically to the NRI and returned by post can be considered.”
The EC report was submitted by a committee formed to look into the issue following a Supreme Court order.According to the EC, the e-postal ballot system has almost no risk of manipulation, rigging or violation of secrecy.
The EC had said the system can be initially tried in “one or two constituencies in elections to the legislative Assemblies”.
It added that the system can then be “scaled up to more Assembly elections and finally Parliamentary elections if found feasible, practicable and meeting the objectives of free and fair.
Source :Business Standard