Britain’s longest serving Indian-origin MP Keith Vaz has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggesting measures for addressing concerns of Indian diaspora in the UK affected by the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.
The Indian government’s withdrawal of the notes from circulation means NRIs and British Indians with rupees brought back to the UK would be required to fly to India to exchange their currency before the December 30 deadline.
“The Indian government should be commended on this bold and courageous policy, and I completely understand why they have taken these steps. However, the rupee recall has inadvertently caused concern and distress to many members of the Indian diaspora community who live abroad who fear they will be unable to exchange their currency by the deadline in December,” Vaz said.
Summarising his suggestions, the senior Labour party MP noted: “I have therefore written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a three-point plan to address the concerns of the diaspora. The first priority is to extend the deadline to after the summer holidays in 2017.
“It would also be practical and beneficial for British Indians to be able to exchange this currency in UK banks, and until this issue has been addressed I have asked that a Special Envoy to the diaspora is appointed to the High Commission in London.
“Concerns have also been raised that the money withdrawn by UK citizens on holiday in India for the cricket is now unusable, and addressing this issue now will prevent them from being frustrated and unsatisfied with their experience in India.”
The letter to Modi dated November 23 was sent a day after his meeting with Acting High Commissioner of India to the UK, Dinesh Patnaik, over the issue.
It highlights concerns of nearly 30,000 Indian-origin people living in his constituency of Leicester East alone.
On the same day, Vaz also wrote to Bank of England governor Mark Carney urging him to look into making an exception so that people with the demonitised notes can deposit them at UK branches of Indian banks.
“Could you advise me on whether an exception could be made for British Indians to exchange their currency in the UK, and whether you have been in contact with Indian banks operating in the UK on this issue,” he said in his letter.