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Merger of PIO and OCI cards becomes a distressing task for embassies abroad

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

The merger of Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) schemes, as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has become a cause of headache for the Indian embassies situated abroad.

As reported by an English newspaper, a top Home Ministry official said that the ministry has now “advised” the Foreign Ministry that the PIO card holders should get their cards converted to machine friendly OCI cards at a nominal fee, as the existing PIO document, which is a paper document, will not be compatible with the card reading machines to be installed at Indian airports.

“We have advised that PIO cardholders to apply and get their cards changed to OCI at the respective embassies so that they do not face any difficulty as authorities in different countries or Indian immigration ports may be confused regarding the PIO-OCI merger,” the top ministry official said.

Earlier in January 2015, the Union Home Ministry had notified that all existing PIO card holders shall be deemed to be OCI card holders, and that there would be only one OCI card with enhanced benefits. But it was not specified whether the cards will need to be changed or not.

Due to lack of clarity on the issue, the embassies have been overburdened with complaints. As per the report, Foreign Ministry officials are now alleging that the lack of homework on part of the Home Ministry has led to serious implementation issues regarding the PIO-OCI merger.

“We may issue FAQs (frequently asked questions) soon to clear the air,” the top home ministry official told The Economic Times.

The official reportedly said that the Home Ministry has scrapped its earlier order that said all PIOs must convert their cards to OCI within three months and the deadline of April 9 has been extended indefinitely.

But the confusion still prevails at Indian embassies abroad. ET reported that the Indian embassy in Germany says that with effect from April 9, 2015, it is “mandatory” for all PIO card holders to have OCI cards. However, the Indian embassy in UK says transfer of PIO card to OCI card is “optional” and existing PIO cards are valid for life for travel to India where an endorsement could be made in the existing PIO cards at the first immigration point of India.

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)