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Lokvani At The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas

Chitra Parayath
02/19/2003

The three days that brought together and united about 2500 Indians living in about 65 countries were magical for many reasons. Honoring and acknowledging the presence of the Indian diaspora and it's achievements, the Indian government sent out a distinct message to its NRIs. India needs you all, not just your wealth but the wealth of your experience and your participation.

Delegates from USA brushed shoulders with compatriates from Martinique. Fijian delegates broke bread with representatives from Peru, Switzerland, Benin. Connections were made at the conference which will perhaps remail forever fresh for some. Networking with the government and and with each other every delegate took home a little bit of India.

The government which awarded Pravasi Bharatiya Samman to Anerood Jugnauth (Mauritius), Fatma Meer (South Africa), Hari N. Harilela (Hong Kong, PRC), Kanakbhai Khemji (Oman), Manilal Chanderia (Kenya), Navneet Dholakia (U.K.), Rajat Gupta (U.S.) Shridath Ramphal (Guyana), Samy Velu (Malaysia) and Ujjal Dosanjh (Canada) announced that the awards have now been institutionalized and would be an annual feature.

Mr. Vajpayee announced a ``compulsory insurance scheme'' for the Indian workers migrating to the Persian Gulf. ``Parliament is already considering a Bill to establish a welfare fund for overseas Indian workers. To meet the educational needs of their children, we plan to reserve a certain portion of seats in our academic institutions.''

The Indian government is well aware that Indians are the largest minority group in Britain and have the highest income among Britain's minority groups. In the USA, Indian Americans have a median income 50% higher than the national average. The foreign direct investment by the 55 million Chinese who live abroad is about $60 billion compared to the 1 billion by the overseas Indians. In a hope to bridge the gap the government hopes to woo investors with new schemes.

Finance Minister Jaswant Singh announced a substantial easing of overseas investment rules for both the private sector and individuals. The limit on mutual fund investments in overseas stock exchanges was doubled, to $1 billion.

Said Fiji's former prime minister, Mahendra P. Chaudhry, who is of Indian origin "We must guard against this conference focusing too much on how India can build a relationship with those in the affluent sector of the diaspora, with little concern for those members of the diaspora who are suffering and whose rights are under assault."

While Mr. V S Naipual asked India to stop blaming the British for everything, Mr. Amarteya Sen encouraged India to remember its long history of interaction with other civilizations and not to retreat into cultural isolationism.

It was an eye opening experience for this reporter to be present at the first ever Pravasi divas. Despite minor hassles and inconveniences, the government did succeed in turning the attention of the world on the Indian diaspora and it's journey home.



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The Prime Minister with the recipients of the Pravasi Bharatiya Awards

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