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India Needs You, Modi Tells Indian Diaspora
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India offers huge opportunities to Indians settled overseas as the country has "risen" with new strength, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday, seeking greater engagement with the people of Indian origin.
The world is looking at India with great expectations and what the country needs is confidence and capability, Modi said, speaking at the 13th Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) in Gandhinagar.
Describing the Indian diaspora as "great capital" for the country, the Prime Minister appealed to the community of 25 million people living in 200 countries to help transform the nation, PTI reported.
"I am convinced that people of Indian origin are our capital and strength," he said.
"If we focus on this segment, we can create a lot of respect for the country globally," Modi added.
The US, Britain, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, and Fiji have a significant number of citizens with their roots in India. North America, Europe and the Middle East host a large non-resident Indian (NRI) population, which sends billions of dollars in remittances to India each year.
Making it clear that it is not only the "pound Sterling and the dollars" that the government is interested in, Modi asked the diaspora to help in transforming India.
"Those who want to work, there is a lot you can do," he said, citing the example of a young girl of Indian origin born in an African nation and settled in Canada, who stayed in Kutch, Gujarat, for months to help with the post-earthquake rehabilitation work in 2001.
PIO And OCI Cards
Referring to the merging of the PIO and OCI cards through a recent ordinance and extending visa on arrival facilities for dozens of countries, Modi said his government has fulfilled the promises made to the Indian overseas community.
"There used to be a time when you left your beloved country to explore opportunities in different parts of the world... Now I want to assure you that lot many possibilities are awaiting you as time is changing rapidly and India has risen with new strength," Modi told 4,000 members of the diaspora gathered at the Gujarat congress.
Modi had promised during his address in September at Madison Square Garden in New York to merge the Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) schemes.
The government on Tuesday promulgated an ordinance to club the two schemes into one which will benefit PIOs and give them benefits like life-long visa and exemption from appearing at police stations.
"Now you will no longer have to run to embassies and present yourself before police every week. Today, the authorities know how we value your pride," Modi said.
He said the Pravasi Bhartiya Kendra in New Delhi will also become operational soon.
Investing In India
Modi's pitch has a harder economic aspect too, as the diaspora holds investments of more than $100 billion in India.
Young, foreign-educated Indians came back in droves at the turn of the millennium and poured in funds as the economy took off with a roar, but the flow has dried up as growth sputtered in the past few years. Modi is keen to reverse that trend.
Officials said they are also assisting citizenship efforts by those whose ancestors left India centuries ago, shipped by British rulers to distant corners of the globe as indentured labourers.
On Wednesday, President Pranab Mukherjee approved an executive order to ease the way for those whose families left India as many as four generations ago, as well as their spouses, to get lifetime visas and own property in India.
Last year, overseas Indians greeted Modi with a rockstar welcome and stadium rallies on his state visits to the United States and Australia.
The energetic leader's popularity has already won over some high-profile individuals, including Arvind Panagariya and Arvind Subramanian, two of the world's top economists, who recently joined his government after long careers in the United States.
President of Guyana Donald R. Ramotar, South Africa's International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel attended the event.
|Sushma Swaraj and Anandiben Patel inaugurate a trade show at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. (PTI)|
'Come, Connect, Celebrate'
Swaraj on Wednesday appealed to the Indian diaspora to contribute to the country's transformation as envisioned by Modi through investments, especially in initiatives such as "Make in India" and "Swachch Bharat".
Speaking at the inauguration of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, Swaraj said the government is taking steps to ensure that investing and doing business in India for them becomes simpler and easier.
"Over the next few years, foreign investment is necessary ... We want you, the young Pravasis, to contribute to the development of India. We want you to participate in the vision that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has for the India's future. We have launched several initiatives that has the potential to transform India," Swaraj said.
"Come, connect, celebrate and contribute for transforming India," she added.
A mega exhibition was inaugurated by Swaraj, who said the exposition showcases India's capability and achievements.
"This grand exhibition of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas showcases our country's capability. It would open the eyes of all those people across the world who still believe that India is a backward country," she said.
A trade show has also been organised along with the exhibition by the Gujarat Government. While PBD will end on January 9, the trade show would remain open till January 13, coinciding with the January 11-13 Vibrant Gujarat Summit.
Swaraj pointed out that then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee started PBD in 2003, the same year when Modi organised the first-ever Vibrant Gujarat Summit as Chief Minister.
The theme of this year's PBD, which coincides with the 100th anniversary of arrival of the Father of Nation to the country from South Africa, revolves around Mahatma Gandhi's contribution to the society.
However, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and a critic of Modi, declined an invitation to attend the event citing prior commitments.
Reflecting on the relevance of Mahatma Gandhi, Union Minister V.K. Singh said the "strategic politician" succeeded in getting everybody together, and appealed to the youth to rise above prejudices and consider religion as a "binding force" for the nation.
The former army chief described Gandhi as a "strategic politician" for using "ahimsa" (non-violence) as a tool to take on the might of the British.
'Statue of Unity'
To help realise the dream of constructing the "Statue of Unity", a US-based medical practitioner of Indian origin has started a fund raising campaign aiming to collect $250,000 for the project devoted to Sardar Patel.
Indrajit J. Patel has deployed a novel idea to help reach the target through selling silver coins with Modi's face on it.
Patel, who heads an umbrella body of 33 diaspora associations in Chicago, started the campaign by unveiling the coin on Wednesday.
In October last year, the Gujarat government had issued a work order to engineering firm Larsen and Turbo (L&T) to construct the 182-metre tall statue of Sardar Patel. The entire cost of the project is around Rs 2,979 crore.
The "State of Unity" would be double the size of New York's "State of Liberty" (93 metres).
Uttar Pradesh Upset
The Uttar Pradesh government has lodged a protest with the Gujarat government over the removal of around 60 "UP Rising" posters and hoardings put up on the route from Ahmadabad airport to Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas venue.
The ruling Samajwadi Party dubbed the move as "undemocratic, illegal and unjustified".
"Hoardings highlighting development of the state (UP) are being removed. It seems Gujarat administration is afraid that details of development in UP will expose Gujarat model of development tom-tommed by BJP," Samajwadi spokesman Rajendra Chowdhury said.