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Badal govt flatters NRIs with Punjabi privilege cards

Gautam Dheer Chandigarh,Jan 4, 2013 DHNS: 1:33 IST

State woos them with discounts at schools, jewellery shops, priority treatment at some hospitals

As the Punjabi diaspora increasingly assumes eminence back home, the Badal government has come out with latest sop to woo non-resident Indians by offering them Punjabi privilege cards.

These cards will not only allow NRIs access to a host of facilities, but also promise them discounts at various shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, schools and jewellery shops in the state.

In addition, NRIs will also get preferential treatment at designated hospitals, and that too at reduced prices.

Keeping in view that the Punjabi diaspora has long been crucial to the state’s development, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal will unveil a new policy to deal with a wide range of issues concerning overseas Punjabis at a two-day NRI samellan beginning on Friday.

It is being held after a gap of four years.NRI’s have been urged to register themselves online to avail card facility by January 5.

Punjabi people living abroad have contributed to state by pitching in huge amounts of foreign currency for philanthropic work, development projects and better civic amenities in their home towns.

A state government interactive website-cum-helpline for them is underway, principal secretary NRI affairs S S Channi told Deccan Herald. The NRIs’ can post a query or a complaint using it, Badal said.

Special police stations

An NRI commission has already been set up to address their issues. Special police stations for them are also in place, NRI affairs minister Bikram Singh Majithia said.

The government has brought incrucial legislation, including laws dealing with fast track eviction of encroached property. It also wants to more NRIs to participate in the electoral process in the state.

During the Assembly elections in January last year, the election commission had asked them to register themselves as voters.

Strangely, out of an estimated 14 million Punjabi diaspora, only 47 peoplegot themselves registered as voters. NRIs feel the facility needs to be extended to postal ballot.

The Punjabi diaspora has high stakes in property with a sizable proportion in home villages. But NRI properties have been subjects of property disputes as they are also an easy target for the land mafia.

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