With the theme ‘Role of Indian Diaspora in Building a New India’ the 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas concluded with the message that India is changing and everybody should take note of it
The spirit of ‘How is the Josh’….and ‘Josh is very high’ prevailed all along at the 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Sammelan at Varanasi and also later at Prayagraj Kumbh and the Republic Day at Rajpath in Delhi. The theme of the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas 2019 was “Role of Indian Diaspora in Building a New India”. Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) Convention is the flagship event of the Government of India and it was started in 2003 during the tenure of Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee as Prime Minister.
From left Haryana CM Manohar Lal, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik and UP CM Yogi Adityanath at the PBD in Varanasi
The first day of the three-day meet was dedicated to the Youth Pravasis and the host state of Uttar Pradesh. The meet was kicked off in the right spirit by the speech and eloquent observation by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. “Our Diaspora has dramatically changed the world’s perception on Indians and has kindled a new wave of appreciation for this land which has produced and exported so many achievers. The benchmark for success, which the Pravasi community has set, is a motivation for us in India,” Smt Swaraj said.
A group photograph of the 15th PBD Sammelan participants
The Norwegian lawmaker Himanshu Gulati (30) attended the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas this year along with his parents – two original residents from Delhi and medicos who had left India 40 years back and settled in Norway. “Norway is a resource rich country no doubt, but the richness the youth of India represents is unique,” said Gulati amid thunderous applause from the large gathering.
MP from New Zealand Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi urged the External Affairs Minister to consider the issue of ‘dual citizenship’ for Indian Diaspora. He also suggested that a norm should be developed under which NRIs can be nominated to the Rajya Sabha so that the intelligentsia from this overwhelming section can also participate in the process of law making in India. The Sammelan was set on the right footing – from the day one itself. Interestingly, however, throughout the conference and plenary sessions were discussions and debates on various issues, the high spirit of ‘love’ for India prevailed highly among the participants.
Anil Sooklal, an overseas Indian participant at this year’s event, said: “The PBD 2019 would go a long way in re-establishing and strengthening the level of cooperative work being done by India and South Africa together. We are glad to know South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has been invited to be Chief Guest at the Republic Day function in Delhi this year. This shows the importance India attaches to South Africa and this also makes the role of overseas Indians in South Africa important,” he said. Sooklal was one of the recipients of Pravasi Bharatiya Samman for his contributions in promoting relations between India and South Africa.
A special Pravasi Bharatiya Express train brought scores of Pravasi Indians to the national capital New Delhi. The visiting overseas Indians and people of Indian origin witnessed the majestic Republic Day Parade at Rajpath as part of special arrangements made in connection with the 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations.
The visit to Prayagraj for Kumbh holy dip and participation at the world’s largest congregation was organised by the Ministry of External Affairs as part of this year’s Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations. The Indian Railways played its part running three special trains. Gen. VK Singh showed an unprecedented and unique gesture by flagging off the first special train ‘Humsafar’ and also travelled with them over night. En route Prayagraj to Delhi, Minister of State for External Affairs met the visiting NRIs, went into all the compartments, interacted with them and posed for selfies. “The General Sahab has shown unique gesture and hence we arranged this special salutation for him. He entered each of the coaches and posed for selfies, asked about our trip, about our health. We just feel humble and touched,” said Lalji Kurji Patel, president of Overseas Friends of BJP Mauritius Chapter.
Talking to a group of select journalists, Gen Singh said: “The big message of the Pravasi Diwas celebrations in Varanasi and overseas Indians participating in Kumbh mela this year is simple and short – that India is changing and if you all should take note of it”.
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi remains one of the most popular icons in contemporary setting especially for overseas Indians. This was proved more than once during his speech. But the serious cerebral work came to light when Prime Minister spoke about corruption and his fight against the menace.
Speaking in his Parliamentary constituency, Shri Modi signalled clearly that corruption menace would be one of the major election issues in the run up to the much awaited parliamentary polls. He made optimum use of the mega global stage cited quotes from Congress leader Rajiv Gandhi to target Congress on corruption. Even at later stage after Rajiv Gandhi, the grand old party stood as mute spectator and did nothing to stop the loot.
“Afsos yeh raha ki baad mein 10-15 saal ke shashan mein bhi is loot ko band karney ka prayas nahi kia gaya (It is a matter of deep regret that even 10-15 years of Congress rule after Rajiv Gandhi, no attempt was made to stop loot of the government funds),” Shri Modi said. Since the time of Rajiv Gandhi, who was voted out in November 1989, Congress ruled between 1991 and 1996 under PV Narasimha Rao and also between 2004 and 2014 under Dr Manmohan Singh.
Between 1996 and 1998, Congress party had extended outside support to the UF governments headed by HD Deve Gowda and IK Gujral. “Earlier, the middle class continued paying taxes sincerely but the loot of 85 per cent also prevailed, but this has been stopped 100 per cent now,” the Prime Minister Shri Modi said.
As this correspondent interacted with the visiting delegates on Prime Minister’s speech, Indian origin Kenyan Minister Sunjeev Kaur Birdi said she was ‘impressed’ with Shri Modi’s reference to fight against graft. “I was very impressed when Shri Modi spoke about the issue of corruption corruption is a world-wide phenomenon and also because the NDA dispensation has “implemented something that was required” to fight corruption in India.
“India has changed,” she echoed the sentiment of many overseas delegates and maintained: “…..they must visit the country to see a Badla Hua India”. Ms Birdi said what impressed her most was Prime Minister Modi’s observation that the Direct to Bank Transfer scheme has helped the government to save a staggeringly high amount of Rs 4.9 lakh crore.
The reference was to Shri Narendra Modi’s speech that nearly 85 per cent of government money used to go wasted due to pilferage and corruption menace as was stated by late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi; but the NDA regime’s initiatives and use of technology has helped curb the menace. Shri Modi also had said that during last four-and-a-half years, the government has disbursed Rs 5,78,000 crore directly to bank accounts of beneficiaries for various schemes.
The Prime Minister also had mentioned that seven crore fraudulent beneficiaries who existed only on papers but contributed immensely in nation’s infamous corruption tale. These fake claimants have been identified by his government, Prime Minister said.