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A belated effort

A belated effort
Highlights

India has the second largest diaspora, 25 million-strong and next only to China, spread across the globe. The initiative to woo the émigré Indians and get them to look at the land of their roots has also been next only to China. Many more Chinese plough back their earnings and profits, even if they may not necessarily agree with the political system there.

A new feature at 2015 Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was making Mahatma Gandhi the ‘mascot’ in that a hundred years of his return from South Africa were celebrated. But it is no more than a symbolism. The world recognises Gandhi as an Indian

India has the second largest diaspora, 25 million-strong and next only to China, spread across the globe. The initiative to woo the émigré Indians and get them to look at the land of their roots has also been next only to China. Many more Chinese plough back their earnings and profits, even if they may not necessarily agree with the political system there.

India’s Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, begun since 2003 with the latest edition being just over in Gandhinagar, is a belated effort. Although the government has termed it “unmatched in terms of scale, grandeur and in terms of the numbers who participated,” it needs both applauding and assessing. A new feature at 2015 Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was making Mahatma Gandhi the ‘mascot’ in that a hundred years of his return from South Africa were celebrated. But it is no more than a symbol- ism.

The world recognises Gandhi as an Indian. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election cam- paign last year and his rallies in New York and Melbourne during his foreign visits have gener- ated a new interest in India, especially among the diaspora. Not surprising Satya Nadella’s success in the US was honoured along with the British, Lord Raj Loomba and Nat Puri.

Indeed, the In- dian ‘techie’ who went to Silicon Valley and New Jersey has found a premier place among the Pravasis. While this is welcome, India needs to look at its earlier ‘pravasis,’ the indentured labour that went to build roads and railways, to tea and rubber plantations and made Southeast Asia, East Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean its home.

The earlier Pravasi Bharatiya conclaves were not about fete-ing them. The first PIO/OCI cards did not include them. When the inden- tured labour tried to come back to India they were not welcomed back with open arms. There was no Pravasi Bharatiya Divas hoopla organized for them.

After some initial enthusiasm, the number of delegates to the Pravasi conclave from these regions has dwindled over the years. New Delhi needs to look at them more intently. The ‘pravasi’ should not all be about attracting foreign in- vestments, a welcome move, though, has become competitive and is joined by various states. Uttar Pradesh skipped the national event and plans to launch its own.

Above all, the ‘pravasi’ in the Gulf region is a significant success story that has meant billions in remittances being ploughed to families back home. They form a significant part of the present-day Indian economy. It is heartening that among those honoured with Pravasi Samman, a first, was a community worker Ashraf Palarkunnummal of UAE.

His is an individual initiative, without insti- tutional support, in helping to send many bodies of Indians who died back to their home. The states that received these dead bodies, but are competing to woo foreign investors should have recognised Ashraf ’s effort earlier and not want for that being done at a Pravasi conclave.

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