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Economy to dominate Pravasi Bharatiya Divas

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi | January 05, 2009 15:05 IST

The state of the economy is likely to dominate the seventh annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas events to be held in Chennai from January 7 to 9.

Vayalar Ravi, Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, told rediff.com that the ongoing economic meltdown has affected the Diaspora and could even impact the number of people participating in the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations. He, however, averred that such an impact could be marginal.

"We are not getting any alarming reports so far," the minister said, adding that at least 1,200 prominent NRIs are expected to attend to celebrations.

The event, to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on January 7, has been built on the theme of 'Engaging the Diaspora: The way forward'.

Ravi pointed out that the plenary session, traditionally, is the key event at PBDs, and this time it is scheduled to debate the question of India as an emerging power, and the Diaspora factor, with the likes of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee; Malaysia Indian Congress president Samy Vellu Sangalimuthu; Network India chairman from Singapore Satpal Khattar; and prominent Indian thought leaders from the United States like Shashi Tharoor, Sam Pitroda and Sugata Bose participating.

Another key session is the one that reflects the concerns of the Diaspora, especially in light of the current economic crisis, to be chaired by Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister T K A Nair.

Participants include Minister of Commerce and Industry Kamal Nath; management guru C K Prahlad; and Indian economist Shankar Acharya; and State Bank of India [Get Quote] Chairman O P Bhatt.

The economy theme is further reinforced through sessions on trade and investment. Further, on day two of the three-day event, delegates will meet and interact with chief ministers like Gujarat's Narendra Modi, New Delhi's Sheila Dixit, Kerala's V S Achuthanandan, Tamil Nadu's M Karunanidhi and Andhra Pradesh's Y S Rajashekar Reddy. Another session will feature Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Deputy Chairman of India's Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia alongside various chief ministers.

Among the six concurrent sessions is one on 'Increased interaction with Diaspora women' with Minister of State for Women and Children Renuka Chaudhary, Member of Parliament from Tamil Nadu Kanimozhi, Justice Mohini Murugesan from South Africa, and others participating.

The usual clutch of Bollywood superstars will be missing from the event, as the PBD organisers decided that the fees being asked by the stars were too steep for these stringent times. Three-time national award winner Kamal Haasan is expected to keynote a session on the preservation of language and culture, which will be chaired by N Ram, editor-in-chief of The Hindu newspaper, and also feature Union Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar.

"PBD is a platform for Indians living abroad since generations to get together and to share their experiences of life in different countries," Ravi said.

Among the prominent NRIS who will attend this year's PBD are South African politician Amichand Rajbansi; Zimbabwe's Justice A M Ebrahim; former Fijian prime minister Mahendra Chaudhary; Thailand's director of the Board of Trade Satish Sehgal; Canadian politician Deepak Obhrai; and Global Organization of People of Indian Origin's Secretary General Ashok Ramsaran.

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