PCS Chicago’s Indian Passport Surrender Certificate Camp a Huge Success

Palatine, IL: Punjabi Cultural Society of Chicago in conjunction with the Sikh Religious Society of Chicago Palatine organized an Indian passport surrender certificate camp on Sunday March 13, 2011, at SRS Palatine Gurdwara, 1280 Winnetka St., Palatine, IL 60067, from 10 AM to 4 PM. Ten officials from the consulate of India Chicago office led by Honorable Consul Vishvas Sapkal and many PCS & SRS volunteers joined hands to manage the applicant crowd logistics, and processing of the documents to issue the surrender certificates right there and then. The services were free and open to all.

More than 400 surrender certificates were issued. Some applicants had to go back due to incomplete documents. More than 500 people with families started lining up early and the Gurudwara was crowded with anxious applicants. For some of them it was their first time to a Gurudwara (a Sikh place of worship) where one has to remove their shoes and cover their head and no tobacco products are allowed on their person.

“We were overwhelmed but deeply pleased with such a tremendous response from the Indian American community at-large, and we are so glad that PCS has been of service to them. It was open to all and everyone is always welcome in a Gurudwara no matter who he or she is,” said Dr. Amarjit Singh PCS Chairperson for 2011.

“The Sikh traditional Langar and tea were available all day long for all visitors to partake. Langar (free community kitchen vegetarian meal) in a Gurudwara is where everyone, irrespective of their gender, caste, color, class, religion, wealth, or social status,” said Sukhdev Kaur Ghuman executive secretary of Sikh Religious Society. There were question and answer sessions before and after the camp where Consul Vishvas Sapkal addressed the audience and answered PIO / OCI related questions and cleared up many doubts and misunderstandings that many community members had.

“For Indian origin persons, OCI card is better as you get several benefits with it and you are being treated par with NRIs except political rights and you cannot purchase agricultural and plantation land”. It’s a lifelong visa to enter India along with other benefits. OCI card is not a dual citizenship, there is no such thing as a dual citizenship with India. Children born to Indian origin parents are also eligible to apply for the OCI card if their parents are eligible for OCI card,” said Consul Vishvas Sapkal, “naturalized foreigners of Indian origin should acquire surrender certificate as it is as per the Passport Act of 1967. Once you acquire foreign citizenship, within three months period you need to renounce your Indian citizenship as per the act. This is to stop abuse of old Indian Passports after changing the citizenship as well as for security of all,” he added.

Indian passport surrender certificate is a requirement in the process to get PIO/OCI cards as well, and to receive any Indian consular services in the future for those who have renounced their Indian citizenship. Those who have a “cancelled” stamp on their latest Indian passport are not required to have the surrender certificate, but are advised to carry a photocopy of the cancelled old Indian passport. This was the consulate’s 15th and last surrender certificate camp, because now the PIO/OCI and surrender certificate services, (just like the visa to India), have been outsourced to Travisa.

The event was organized by Balwinder Singh Girn, Dr. Amarjit Singh, Baljit Singh Sidhu, Parminder Singh Ghotra, Surinder Singh Sangha, Pardeep Singh Deol, Gurmit Singh Dhillon, Arvinder Singh Gakhal, Jatinder Singh Sangha, Harwinder Paul Singh Lail,Sukhmel Singh Atwal, Amarjit Kaur Atwal, Sunny Kular, Ronny Kular, Onkar Singh Sangha, Mohinderjit Singh Saini, Bhinder Singh Pamma, Yadwinder Singh Grewal, Jasbir Singh Palia, Nimrata Kaur Singh, Amarjeet Singh, Anju Gakhal, Harpreet Kaur Mehta, Surjit Singh Mehta, Kanwar Singh Mehta, Devinder Kaur Deol, Vick Singh, Jaspal Singh Saini, Rishpal Singh, Ankit Multani, Satwant Singh Atal, Harkirat Singh Sandhu, Sukhdev Kaur Ghuman, Surinder Singh Bhatia, and Rajinder Singh Mago.

The event was managed by Mr. Rajinder Singh Mago and the team of volunteer-devotees of Gurudwara. Adequate arrangements were made to provide the fresh hot tea for more than 300 families present to receive the various types of passport and visa assistance. True to the tradition of ‘Langar’ (free community kitchen), everyone was served free lunch at all times between 11 a.m. and past 3 p.m.

Members of Punjabi Cultural Society of Chicago and Sikh Religious Society worked very had throughout the event. Many thank to Mr. Rajinder Singh Mago and the team their efforts in disseminating the information about this event, among the Indian community. This greatly helped all the families to arrange the needed documents for meeting with the Consulate staff.

Suresh Bodiwala, chairman of Asian Media USA had an opportunity to talk to Satish Chander Vice president of Indian Community Niles Township about perception of entire event, “Having sacrificed their day off on Sunday, all the Consulate staff members lead by Mr. Vishvas Sapkal, the Consul, were very helpful and treated all the applicants in a very efficient and courteous manner. Even in case of various problem situations, the Consulate staff members provided the resolution in a very professional and patient manner. They ensured that all the attendees of this event were provided the needed help in a complete manner. Despite the prolonged hours, no body was turned away. By their sincere efforts, the Consulate team saved over 10,000 man-hours by saving the community members from having to go to the Consulate office in Chicago on week days. “I offer my sincere thanks to the entire Consulate team including Mr. N.C. Chauhan, Mr. Sharad Shukla, Mrs. Chaudhary, Ms. Renuka Jain, Ms. Nilima, Ms. Manju, Ms. Surabhi, Mr. Rajan, Mr. Mukund, and Mr. Sabu” said by Satish Chander Vice president of Indian Community Niles Township

PCS’s next event is to save lives, an all day “Blood Donation Drive” in the spirit of Vaisakhi, on Sunday April 10, 2011, 9 am to 3 pm, at Palatine Gurudwara, 1280 Winnetka St., Palatine, IL.

PCS will hold its flagship annual event “Rangla Punjab 2011” Punjabi variety cultural program to celebrate Vaisakhi festival on Saturday April 23, 2011, 7 pm, at Copernicus Theater (formerly Gateway Theater) at 5216 W. Lawrence Avenue Chicago. Bhangra teams from University of Illinois Chicago, University of Iowa, and University of Chicago, along with many other community groups from Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana will showcase their best performances of Bhangra, Gidha, musical songs and hilarious skits. For ticket information please call PCS Chicago.

The Punjabi Cultural Society of Chicago is a not-for-profit community service organization devoted to promoting Punjabi culture, language, performing arts, education, good citizenship, healthy life style, and sports in the metropolitan Chicago area. For further information please contact: Punjabi Cultural Society of Chicago, P.O. Box 1244, Palatine, IL 60078, Ph: 847-359-5727, Fax: 847-359-1107, E-mail to nfo@PCSChicago.org, PCS website www.PCSChicago.org

Photographs and Press release by: Asian Media USA

Suresh Bodiwala
Asian Media USA
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