LSTV Insights – 13th Paravasi Bhartiya Divas
To connect India to its vast overseas diaspora and bring their knowledge, expertise and skills on a common platform, the PBD Convention – the flagship event of Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), Government of India is organized from 7th-9th January every year since 2003.
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) is celebrated on 9th January every year to mark the contribution of Overseas Indian community in the development of India. January 9 was chosen as the day to celebrate this occasion since it was on this day in 1915 that Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest Pravasi, returned to India from South Africa, led India’s freedom struggle and changed the lives of Indians forever.
This year it is century of Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India and it is being held in Gandhinagar, Gujrat.
Indian diaspora is 2nd largest in world and is financially and politically powerful. In USA, while India residents form less than 1% of total population, their representation in top class educational institutes in 13%. Indians in USA on average earn around $ 90000 per year which is far above total average income which is $ 50000. Further, they are politically influential too. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is hopefully running for Presidential elections and there is huge number of Indians in Parliaments in different democratic countries.
Indian Diaspora can help India in achieving its strategic foreign policy goals. They are ambassadors of Indian culture and enjoy high degree of faith and trust of other ethnic people. Their importance can be gauged from the fact that, in pursuance of sanctions imposed on India after 1998 nuclear tests, Indian diaspora’s role was instrumental in reconciliation between west and India.
In Paravasi Divas (organized by FICCI) daily problems of paravasis in context of India and role that Indian government can play are considered. Further, they are appealed to contribute in development of Indian and this time special focus is on make them aware of flagship programs such as Namami Gange, Swacchh Bharat Campaign, Urban Planning and Make in India etc.
NRIs have important role in Economic Stability of the country. Repatriations by them forms significant part of our current account balance, which finances our imports to some extent. Last year, when CAD was out of control RBI eased rules for deposits by NRIs (FCNR swap against FDIs more than 3 years) this increased inflows and brought India out of crisis.
However for last many years, there have been attempts only on getting money from NRIs without much focus on their active participation in the local economy. Also, Investments have been much limited to big ticket industrialists like Lakshmi Mittal, Anil Agrawal and Lord Swaraj Paul. But, they can also connect with Indian small scale industry and enable them access to overseas markets. They can help them innovate and diversify to new products. For this to happen institutional arrangements like these are must.
India has only in last decade recognized potential of its diaspora when this event was institutionalized in 2003. After this, separate Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs was created. In whole 20th century, they were largely ignored by Indian government. In contrast china from very beginning shielded their diaspora and it has been using then as leverage in its foreign policy. Even now it has been seen that Indian govt. was mute spectator when Indian’s were being racially attacked in Australia and Indian labor is being captively held and mistreated in Middle East.
Persons of Indian Origin are different from NRIs. These people are children of indentured labor who moved to different places in past and they have special emotional attachment to India. They still have special corner for India. These people form substantial part of populations in Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana etc. They were often complaining that Indian government turned blind eye on them. Since 2005, Fiji was up in flames and Indian community was being targeted there. But it was only now that Indian PM visited Fiji and instilled confidence in PIOs there. This was first PM visit after Indira Gandhi’s.
This year by new government policy distinction between NRIs and PIOs has been done away with upto much extent. They are now allowed Visa on Arrival. Earlier there was limit for PIOs certificate which was to be renewed after 15 years. This has been removed resulting into lifelong visa for PIOs.
Next step is that of allowing Dual citizen ship to these people. This will allow them to vote in Indian Elections. This can change electoral outcomes significantly. Depending upon to which all people it is extended. This was also part election manifesto in 2004 elections. It is to be seen how things turn up now.
Ten Indian states, including the non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) states of Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Nagaland, are participating. The BJP states are Gujarat, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Maharashtra.
This divas will be followed by Vibrant Gujrat Summit and is expected to supplement its purpose. This summit has been iconic and source of much investment in Gujrat. Some other states like Punjab, Haryana, M.P. and now West Bengal has also been organizing such events. But in order to reap benefits states need to put their house in order first and make environment conducive for business. States need to organize their own Paravasi Divas events too.