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President Kalam ensures NRIs feel 'at home'

Pankaj Upadhyaya in New Delhi | January 11, 2004 19:59 IST

A Non-Resident Indian on Sunday asked President A P J Abdul Kalam what his biggest passion in life is. The President replied: "To see 1 billion people smile."

The question cropped up at an impromptu interaction on the lawns of Moghul Garden at Rashtrapati Bhavan where the President hosted an 'at home' for over 1,500 delegates attending the 2nd Pravasi Bharatiya Divas fete.

Welcoming the guests, the President in his usual outgoing style said: "I am very happy to meet you all. You have come from all corners of the world, and India is happy to have you here."

The President was constantly cheered by the diaspora with some repeatedly breaking the security cordon to get close to him. Later, they queued up to present him with mementos and get autographs.

"We have a dream. You have a dream. But first you must perform your duties for your adopted country as best as you can… that is very important," the President told them.

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Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2004

The statement came as a whiff of fresh air after three days of aggressive wooing of NRIs/PIO by every ministry and every state.

"But remember you have an umbilical connection with India. Take care of your family back in India and you will make us all Indians happy," he told the diaspora.

Urging the Pravasi Bharatiyas to share their vision and experience with India, President Kalam said: "India is a country of over 1 billion people. Over 260 million people live below the poverty line. We have a mission and you can be part of it: We want to make India prosperous, happy and safe by 2020."

The President did not flinch from fielding difficult questions.

A delegate asked: "We are talking about 2020, but can India deal with corruption by 2010?"
President Kalam answered: "Corruption? I tell you, you frame any number of laws and corruption will not go away. There are only three people who can stop corruption – a father, a mother and the primary school teacher."

When a delegate asked what his vision for the women is, the President said the Indian government is pressing with education and political reservations for women. "When women are educated, small families are born, right?" he said.

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Read about: Assembly Election 2003 | Attack on Parliament

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