For those of us who grew up in India or attended Indian schools abroad 26th January was an amazing day, a day filled with the promise of sleeping in extra (after attending the 7 am flag hoisting ceremony of course) and playing with our friends and if it landed on a Friday that was ‘Sone pe suhaga!’
Now that I’m all grown up I’ve been trying to get a deeper understanding of what this day stands for. We all know Republic Day is celebrated because of the Indian constitution. The constitution is what gives us the freedom of speech, expression, movement and the right to quality to practice any religion, profession and marry whom we want. The constitution came into force on January 26, 1950, about two and a half year after attaining independence from the British Raj. But do you know that even after the British left, their rules stayed? Not just theirs, countries that did not rule us also made a mark on Independent India by influencing our constitution. Countries like Canada, the USA, Australia and Ireland to name a few have impacted our constitution and are responsible for how our rights as Indian Citizens work.
Speaking of Indian citizens, a friend of mine recently traded in her Indian citizenship for another. Her new passport is one of the strongest in the world and she can spontaneously travel to most countries without visa hassles like the rest of us. And yet she was unhappy. Why? Because she was giving up a part of her and she could no longer go to her motherland without a visa. And that is the rule as per our constitution.
This law might seem unfair, especially compared to countries that allow their citizens to hold two passports. But in our case, it had to be done to give equal rights to all Indians overlooking caste, cultural and creed, an issue, which was made worse by the British ‘divide and conquer’ strategy. Which is ironical since this rule of allegiance to a single Union in our constitution was adopted from them.
I come across an insane number of people who think India allows dual citizenship. As a matter of fact, it does not, so those of you who have a Hong Kong passport, technically you seized to be an Indian citizen the minute you gave up your passport.
If you are still wondering why people think India has dual citizenship it’s because they often mistake it for the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI), which gives financial benefits but takes away your right to vote.
I come across an insane number of people who think India allows dual citizenship. As a matter of fact it does not, so those of you who have a Hong Kong passport, technically you seized to be an Indian citizen the minute you gave up your passport.
To vote you have to be an Indian citizen or at least a non-resident one. Most of us here are Non-Residing Indian’s (NRI), due to which we have more rights that OCI’s but obviously less than our fellow Indians back home. For instance, we are allowed to vote but we have to go to India to do it. In many countries, non-resident citizens send in their ballots online, via email or just by going over to their respective consulates. Luckily India passed a bill in the Lok Sabha to grant overseas Indians proxy voting for the first time in the 2019 elections provided the bill passes through the Rajya Sabha next month.Besides voting, there are other laws that affect the NRIs. In the technical sense, the term NRI is only applicable as per the tax laws, exempting long term non-residents from paying income tax, a benefit ecstatically looked at. But on the other hand, did you know Non-Resident Indians are ineligible to file applications under the Right to Information Act?
Besides voting there are other laws that affect the NRIs. In the technical sense the term NRI is only applicable as per the tax laws, exempting long term non-residents from paying income tax, a benefit ecstatically looked at. But on the other hand did you know Non-Resident Indians are ineligible to file applications under the Right to Information Act?
While NRI’s enjoy the benefits of tax free NRE and NRO accounts to remit money from abroad, they cannot start a Limited company in India without a resident on board nor can they buy agricultural or farm land. This is in accordance with FEMA, the Foreign Exchange Management Act, which applies to all investments made by NRIs.
As NRI’s based in Hong Kong, you might also find it interesting to know that there are some Asian influences on our constitution as well. For example our judicial system takes the ‘procedure established by law’ act from Japan, which means procedure laid down by statute or procedure prescribed by the law of the state.
This goes to show how our constitution is an amalgamation of laws from around the world knotted together with the Indian psyche to govern the diverse population of India, making it the longest one in the world. In 2015, November 26 was declared as ‘Constitution Day’ because the constitution was actually adopted on November 26, 1949 but came into effect two months later.
70 years later here we are, and we have to realise that India is Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and rights we enjoy because of our constitution is not something that comes easy to everyone around the world. It is okay to complain about the laws we dislike, but it’s also important to appreciate the good ones. I leave you with this quote from Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the Chairman of the constitution drafting committee, “Law and order are the medicine of the body politic, and when the body politic gets sick, medicine must be administered.”
Happy Republic Day and Jai Hind!
Komal R. Lakhani
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