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Is the new governor of RBI not an Indian? – resolved

indian currency note for five rupees

The Millenium Post mentions that India's new governor is a US citizen. His profile on Wikipedia mentions his nationality as American, with an Overseas Citizenship of India. Other stray profiles mention his nationality as only American, while he has spoken of himself as an Indian in a speech. Others have vouched for his Indian citizenship without providing sources. (more about these and other sources below post).
google search profile for Raghuram Govind RajanThis, in my view is a very serious allegation, as India does not allow non-citizens in government office (though this would hardly be the first violation even if true). When we speak of the governor of the Reserve Bank of India, then I believe it is important that there be clarity. According to the Millenium Post and Wikipedia, he is what is called an Overseas Citizen Indian and American citizen. This automatically means he is not a citizen of India. There is no confusion about it. India does not allow dual citizenship and any Indian voluntarily taking citizenship in another country ceases to be a citizen of India. Here is what the Citizenship Act, 1955 says:

Termination of citizenship.- (1) Any citizen of India who by naturalization, registration otherwise voluntarily acquires, or has at any time between the 26th January, 1950 and the commencement of this Act, voluntarily acquired the citizenship of another country shall, upon such acquisition or, as the case may be, such commencement, cease to be a citizen of India:

The American Embassy page understands this very clearly too [emphasis mine].

 An OCI card is similar to a U.S. "green card" in that a holder can travel to and from India indefinitely, work in India, study in India, and own property in India (except for certain agricultural and plantation properties). An OCI card holder, however, does not receive an Indian passport, cannot vote in Indian elections, and is not eligible for Indian government employment.

If true, it is really unclear how not only did Raghuram Rajan hold the position of CEA, he is now to be the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. This is completely unrelated to his competence and about the laws of India. I am no lawyer, but the Citizenship Act seems quite clear on this.

Conferment of rights on overseas citizen of India states [emphasis mine]

Apart from the benefits and privileges available to an Overseas Citizens of India as enumerated above, such a citizen would also be entitled to other rights which the Central Government would specify and which would be notified in the official Gazette from time to time. However, there are certain sector such as public employment, voting rights etc where the rights would not be available to overseas citizens.

An overseas citizen of India shall not be entitled to the rights conferred on a citizen of India -

  1. under article 16 of the Constitution with regard to equality of opportunity in matters of public employment;

  2. under article 58 of the Constitution for election as President;

  3. under article 66 of the Constitution for election of Vice-President;

  4. under article 124 of the Constitution for appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court;

  5. under article 217 of the Constitution for appointment as a Judge of the High Court;

  6. under section 16 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 in regard to registration as a voter;

  7. under sections 3 and 4 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 with regard to the eligibility for being a member of the House of the People or of the Council of States, as the case may be;

  8. under sections 5, 5A and 6 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 with regard to the eligibility for being a member of the Legislative Assembly or a Legislative Council, as the case may be, of a State;

  9. for appointment to public services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of any State except for appointment in such services and posts as the Central Government may by special order in that behalf specify.

Additionally, there are concerns about conflict of interest. The same article in Millenium Post mentions:

‘Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has approved the appointment of Dr Raghuram Rajan as RBI Governor for a term of three years,’ the government said in a release. A section of observers has criticised Rajan’s appointment. They point out that he is not only a US citizen but also that several positions he has held or holds — IMF chief economist, visiting professor to the World Bank and US Federal Reserve Board — could not have been without the backing of the American government. This factor, they fear, may induce him to act more in favour of US than Indian interests. There are also fear relating to Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), which has made huge investments in the US shale gas industry and has also applied with the RBI for a bank licence. They fear that if RIL does, in fact, get this licence, there would emerge a connection between the US shale gas industry and the Indian financial sector. This would be detrimental to India’s national interests, they point out.

There is a certain ugliness to positions of power in a democracy being held by non-citizens. There is an inherent colonization in the governor of the Reserve Bank of India being ineligible to vote because he has CHOSEN the citizenship of another country.

This is something that needs to be clarified, and fast. If the Millenium Post is wrong, then it should issue a correction. If it does not issue a correction, the correct facts should at least be put on record. If Millenium Post is accurate, then the government should explain why a foreigner will lead our economy - no matter how good he is, and why the country was not informed if an exception was made to its laws and the reasons for it. Either way, this should be made clear.

It is entirely possible that someone at Millenium Post did a lazy job and picked up wrong data from the Wikipedia, but still the fact remains that they have quoted sources (without naming, so could be invented). Wikipedia, being editable by anyone is not the most reliable source of facts. However, the term Overseas Citizen of India is quite specific and had to come from somewhere even if the source is not mentioned. Not to mention the fact that Raghuram Rajan would hardly be unaware of his own details on his profile page. While not impossible, I find it tough to believe that a researcher who has his own page on Wikipedia is not interested in its contents or their accuracy enough to set the record straight on basic facts.

Other relatively smaller (and possibly inaccurate) profiles on the internet too mention his nationality as American. News of his appointment to the IMF in 2003 was reported as the first appointment of a person of "Indian Origin" to the IMF, when normal language use would simply say first Indian to be appointed to the IMF.

Bloomberg mentions him having an Indian passport, but another person (also without sources) speaks of Indian government having given him a diplomatic passport, which may not be the same thing.

Raghuram Rajan has referred to himself as an Indian, but that does not exclude his being a US citizen. Particularly if he is an OCI and sees this as the dual citizenship that he had advocated (but Indian law doesn't support). So referring to himself as Indian may
Raghuram Rajans profile stating his nationality as American with <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>Indian</strong> ethnicity not mean he isn't a US citizen.

I think part of the confusion may be from the term "American economist of Indian nationality" and similar, where "American" may refer to his area of expertise rather than citizenship. He does seem to have done most of his work about America AND lives there.

I have written to both Raghuram Rajan and Millenium Post for clarifications, but have received no replies from either. I will update this post if/when I get them. Raghuram Rajan himself clarifying the confusion would probably be best.

Even if he is an Indian citizen, it is important that such doubts don't exist about the governor of the Reserve Bank of India, particularly when the ambiguity seems to have resulted in a non-existent nationality that implies his role is against Indian law. Clarifications will help set the record straight everywhere and be overall good on this front.


Note: There seems to be a school of thought that thinks we are lucky to have him  and we should not look for laws to exclude him. I am of the belief that the government breaking laws is among the worst things for a democracy. If he is that important, an exception should be made or law fixed and on record.

Note 2: I am no economist, but I am not able to understand the hype over needing to have this man at all costs in the RBI to save our economy or something like that. He has been advising the Finance Ministry with all his profound wisdom for a year. The Finance Ministry controls the RBI. If his influence on the Finance Ministry has coincided with the kind of sliding line on the GDP graphs, I can't imagine what he will do in the RBI with someone else controlling him. He's hardly likely to get "freedom" anyway. Also, most of his work seems to study America, and India is a vastly different economy. Not to mention that he appears to primarily be a researcher, and his experience in bureaucratic knowledge is unclear. It appears his first gig in hands on running an economy will be the third largest economy in the world. That is one hell of a test drive. I repeat, I am not an economist, only pointing out that his influence is already present, not something new we will get and so far the results are not visible.


Update: Murli Manohar Joshi raised the question of how a foreigner could be appointed as governor of India in the Parliament. Raghuram Rajan is said to have provided the Speaker with a copy of his Indian passport which will be forwarded to Murli Manohar Joshi to set the record straight. I think this is important and thank you Mr. Joshi for bringing this up, however awkward it may be.

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Founder at Aam Janata
Vidyut has a keen interest in mass psychology and using it as a lens to understand contemporary politics, social inequality and other dynamics of power within the country. She is also into Linux and internet applications and servers and has sees technology as an important area India lacks security in.

9 thoughts on “Is the new governor of RBI not an Indian? – resolved

  1. Adv. Anil Aickara

    Read the article. It is in disguise a supporting argument in favour of the government who acted without due care. India had so many eminent personalities other than this dual citizenship claimant. In your article you yourself agree that he is having a US citizenship, and also carries wordings which means Indian law never permits dual citizenship.

    There is no reason how you come to the conclusion that he can be considered as an Indian citizen, except that he may be of Indian origin. Raghuram Rajan is a US citizen and he should not be appointed as RBI governor. He cannot keep an Indian passport at present, and it is violation of laws.

  2. Vinny JAck

    Simply providing a copy of his Indian passport will not prove that he is an Indian citizen. Before he became a US citizen, he must have had an Indian passport just like all Indian immigrants. After he acquired his US Citizenship, he simply did not surrender his Indian passport to the nearest US Embassy. India is quite liberal about non-surrender of Indian passports upon acquiring a new nationality.
    The right thing to do at this point is for Raguharam Rajan to say it in writing and in a press conference that he does not hold any other citizenship except Indian Citizenship. The US Embassy can be asked to state whether or not Mr. Rajan is a US Citizen!!!

  3. Mandar Jog

    """for appointment to public services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of any State except for appointment in such services and posts as the Central Government may by special order in that behalf specify."""

    This suggests that it is within the purview of the Central Government to make this appoint irrespective of his citizenship.

    The conflict of interest re:his American interests is a genuine concern. Good oversight and scrutiny can fix that, if otherwise he is the most qualified candidate for the job.

    The RIL connection to him is tenuous. It is not beyond RIL to attempt to influence high officials regardless of citizenship.

  4. Vishal Darshan

    Doesn't really matter. High time India junked all the insularity and paranoia and integrated better into the world. If the best available brain for a job is foreign, so be it! This is a positions that reaquires professional competence of very high order and attracts intense scrutiny of all actions. So even a foreigner on the job won't be able to go against the nation's interests. Currently, the Governor of Bank of England is a Canadian. Bank of Israel has an American as the current Governor and a Mexican is likely to succeed him.

  5. AyodhyaPrasad Tripathi

    RBI is fraud. Its currency note bears a fraudulent promise, “I promise to pay the bearer the sum of ??? rupees”But what is the value of Rupee? Therefore, a Governor whether a foreigner or Indian ought to cheat the bearer of currency note. I suggest Vidyut, Fight to evaluate rupee first.

  6. AyodhyaPrasad Tripathi

    RBI is fraud. It promises on her currency note, "I promise to pay the bearer the sum of '???' Rupees". But what is the value of Rupee? When Vidyut have no problem with this fraudulent promise, she has no right to oppose Rajan. The situation, as it stands, is that Whether a Governor is Indian or foreign, he is bound to cheat the currency holder i.e. common person.

  7. Pp

    The author appears to be an ignorant shit stirrer with absolutely no know whatsoever of Oic govt appoint etc. quotes Wikipedia as a source perhaps not aware that Wikipedia can be changed by anyone.

    1. Vidyut

      The commenter seems to be a semi-literate "better about US than US" fan who is too ignorant to notice that while Wikipedia is mentioned, the source quoted is a Delhi based newspaper, which cannot really be changed by anyone. While newspapers often get news wrong, it has to be proved wrong, not just imagined wrong.


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