Bringing an end to the largest ever Prabasi Bharatiya Divas held on the occasion of the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India from South Africa, the Vice President of India Mohammad Hamid Ansari on Friday said that the main challenge before India is to maintain and strengthen the linkages between the next generation of Pravasis and their counterparts in India.
Delivering the valedictory address on the final day of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) at the Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar, Ansari said, “India today is on the cusp of change, in the process of actualising the expectations of its vast population for a better life. India aspires for a better place in the comity of nations. Both of these require rapid economic development, accompanied by better educational, health and social parameters…”
He felt that in this endeavour, an important role can be and must be played by the overseas Indians. Ansari also asserted at the same time, “What then is the challenge before us in this task of linking India more closely with its overseas community? In my view, it is to maintain and strengthen the linkages between the next generation of Pravasis and their counterparts in India. It is essential that the new generations at both ends continue and strengthen this mutually beneficial bond.”
In this regard, the Vice President felt, the Youth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas,organised on January 7, “is a good step in the right direction.” Beyond these emotional bonds, however, lay an economic imperative, as Ansari highlighted, “NRI remittances, principally from those who are short-term residents abroad and need to sustain families back home, constitute an important element in our balance of payments. They also help propel in varying degrees economic activity in their home states.”
Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards were conferred to fifteen distinguished personalities on the occasion, including Microsoft Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Satya Nadella. Nadella, however, remained absent from the function.
Terming the institution of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas as an occasion of bonding, Ansari further said that the continuing liberalisation of the Indian economy, and the most recent policy initiatives taken or proposed by the government, are expected to galvanise the involvement of the overseas Indians in the many fields of economic activity. While the political leaders on the dais might be all praises for the PBD, the diaspora participants, however, did not seem to be very impressed.
For that matter, New Jersey-based event managers Sangeeta Malik and Kajol Bishnoi had almost decided to fly back the next day. So did California-based businessman G Randhawa. While the event management professionals from New Jersey were attending the convention for the first time, Randhawa was attending his fourth. Interestingly, Malik and Bishnoi were part of the event management team that had organised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s public address at Madison Square Garden in New York.
At that time, they were promised a one-to-one meeting with the Prime Minister as a part of the event management, which incidentally never happened. Thus, with Modi as the Prime Minister hosting the PBD this time, the duo has been attracted to attend the same. However, having arrived here, they found the event management to be very disorganised, with irregular transport facilities.
This after making advance payments of Rs 17,000 to one of the event organisers, and shelling out Rs 27,000 for a two night stay at a city hotel, the duo strongly felt it was not value for their money. “The events, conferences and exhibitions were far apart, and hence difficult to attend most of them. Plus, as diaspora delegates we were expecting to meet officials, which we could not either,” said Malik.
Randhawa, who has been attending the event for the last four years, felt that while the event keeps growing in stature, the real issues of the diaspora are hardly addressed. “It is more of a dais-to-audience interaction,” he says. Dinesh Vaishnav, executive secretary of Tanzania Asian Development Association, claimed that the last PBD held in Delhi was the most professional. “The B2B meetings were scheduled at half-an-hour intervals between each other, and hence could not attend many of them,” Vaishnav said. Another delegate, a lawyer from London, Kaizad Cassad said that he had to actually cancel one of his B2B meetings because of this chaos. He wished everything was at a single venue. At the end, however, with largest number of registrations (around 4,000 delegates) for this PBD, the interest level amongst the diaspora regarding the new government is obviously high. Most said that they are hoping the new government would meet their expectations, and would address the issues faced by the diaspora.