Even as the protests over the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act have brought India to a standstill, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had issued a notification, allowing only religious minorities from Pakistan and Bangladesh to open NRO (non-resident ordinary) accounts in India way back in March, 2018.
The notification was first issued in March, 2018, after a nod from the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of Economic Affairs, following which it was made mandatory for banks to mention the religion of a person from Pakistan and Bangladesh for opening an account in India. There was no such restriction prior to that.
The RBI had introduced an amendment to the FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management) regulations on November 09, 2018, for opening an NRO account by those belonging to religious minorities from these countries. Under the new rules, all financial institutions were asked to add a new column in 'know your customer' (KYC) forms under which they had to specify religion of a customer from these two countries if he/she wanted to open an NRO account.
This was done following demands from various sections, allowing religious minorities from India's neighbourhood countries to open an NRO account at par with similar accounts held by all NRIs (non-resident Indians).
For such religious minorities to possess an NRO account, they needed to have long-term visa, a place of residence and business in India.
An NRO account is a savings or current account held in India that helps NRIs manage income earned in India.
As per the RBI's notification under the Foreign Exchange Management (Deposit) (Amendment) Regulations, 2018, a person being a citizen of Bangladesh or Pakistan, belonging to minority communities namely Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who is residing in India and has been granted a long-term visa is allowed to open an NRO account.
"The said NRO account shall be converted to a resident account once the person becomes a citizen of India within the meaning of the Citizenship Act, 1955. Such accounts can be opened by Authorised Dealersonly," says the Schedule 3 of the Fema (Deposit) regulations.
The notification says the account would be opened for six months and can be renewed after every six months, subject to the condition that the individual holds a valid visa and residential permit.
There rule does not mention anything regarding minorities from Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Tibet. It also exclude atheists from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
India's major cities are facing unrest due to widespread protests for the past one week after the BJP-ruled government at the Centre was able to pass the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act. So far, a total of 11 people have lost lives due to the protests against the Act, which allows citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis, who entered India before 2015 after facing religious persecution in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Several people and opposition parties are demanding rollback ofthe law, citing threat to India's democratic values.
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