Pravasi Bharatiya Divas proves to be a platform for 30 millions overseas Indians to trace their roots in India and also actively join hands in the development of the country of their ancestors
R Guruprasad from Bengaluru
The Government of India's ambitious Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) held from January 7 to 9 in Bengaluru turned out to be an excellent forum for the Government to connect with the Indian Diaspora. In fact, it also provided an opportunity to many Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) to trace their roots.
Inaugurating the programme on January 8, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi said there were over 30 million Overseas Indians living abroad. Their footprint is all over the world. But, Indians abroad are valued not just for their strength in numbers. They are respected for the contributions they make—to India and to the societies and countries where they live. In foreign lands and communities across the globe, irrespective of the path they take, and the goals they pursue, the Indian Diaspora represents the best of Indian culture, ethos and values. Their hard-work, discipline, law-abiding and peace loving nature are role models for other immigrant communities abroad. NRIs’ and PIOs’ have made outstanding contributions to their chosen fields. Among them, there are politicians of stature, scientists of repute, outstanding doctors, brilliant educationists, economists, musicians, famous philanthropists, journalists, bankers, engineers and lawyers.
Chief Guest of the programme was Portuguese Prime Minister Dr Antonio Costa, who has his roots in Goa and Suriname's vice-president Michael Ashwin Adhin, whose ancestors had migrated from Uttar Pradesh. “Our response to the needs of the Indian nationals overseas is defined by accessibility, sensitivity, speed and promptness. 24 by 7, helplines by Indian Embassies, ‘Open House’ meetings with the Indian nationals; consular camps; twitter seva for passport services; and use of social media platforms for immediate access; are some of the measures that we have put in place to convey a clear message that we are there for you when you need us. The security of Indian nationals abroad is of utmost importance to us. Our aim is that for every Indian abroad, home should never be far away. We have a special bond with the Indian Diaspora, which is living in the Girmitiya countries – who are deeply and emotionally attached with their places of origin. We are aware of difficulties faced by the PIOs from these countries in obtaining an OCI Card if they moved abroad four or five generations ago. We acknowledge their concerns and have made efforts to address these issues,” the PM said adding that his government was glad to announce that starting with Mauritius, they were working to put in place new procedures and documentation
requirements so that the descendants of Girmitiyas from this country could become eligible for OCI Cards. The Government of India was also committed to address similar difficulties of PIOs in Fiji, Reunion Islands, Suriname, Guyana and other Caribbean States.
Union Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Vijay Goel said the Government has embarked on the mission of building a united, strong and modern India – “Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat”, following the principle of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”. He said the Government was emphasisising on promoting enterprise and innovations, in order to unleash the youth energy and to put India on the path of high rate of economic growth and employment generation. ‘Startup India’ campaign has been launched and a very liberal and attractive policy regime, comprising of tax and non-tax incentives, has been created to promote start-ups in India.
Minister of State for External Affairs Gen (Dr) V K Singh (Retd) said the Scholarship Programme for Diaspora Children enables Diaspora youth to pursue Undergraduate courses in Indian Universities and Institutes. This programme has recently been revamped and extended from 44 to 66 countries; and the number of scholarships has also been increased. A portal has been set up to enable online application and processing. “By 2020, the average age in India will be 29 making it the world’s youngest country with 64 per cent of the population in the working age group. The Prime Minister’s vision will make India the skill capital of the world by 2022. Whatever your chosen field of endeavour, you will encounter many Indians in your peer group. If you have the relevant talent, relevant skill-set and are willing to partner with us, there is a world of opportunity for you. Cross-fertilisation of ideas can also bring rich rewards to your host country. Living far from home as students is challenging. We must make it easier for students to focus on excellence– whether they are Indian students abroad, or NRI students or other foreign students in India,” he said.
President Shri Pranab Mukherjee in his valedictory speech and conferment of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman said Pravasi Bharatiya Divas has been a flagship event for the engagement of the government with the Diaspora spread across the world. This Convention does not only provide an interface between the government and the Indian Diaspora. It also provides an excellent opportunity for both the Government of India and the State Governments to showcase policies, initiatives and achievements in various sectors and invite the Diaspora to contribute and give back to the country of their origin.
The President hoped that the Indian Diaspora spread across the world will remain foremost emissaries of the unfolding Indian story. He said as people exposed to the best of western technology and yet having their civilisational moorings in the ageless and eternal ethos of India, they are doubly blessed.
The synergy of the West and the East that they represent provides them with a unique position and opportunity that involves sharing knowledge between their home land and their adopted countries. While they showcase India to their host countries, they also bring along the cultural heritage of their adopted lands to India. To his mind, nothing could exemplify our belief of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam’ more than this.