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States woo NRIs/PIO in contrasting styles

Tara Shankar Sahay/Onkar Singh in New Delhi | January 11, 2004 22:37 IST

Pravasi Bharatis on Sunday got an idea of the manner in which states were being run when they attended functions to showcase the achievements of states followed by appeals for investments.

One of these functions was organised by the government of Gujarat. Chief Minister Narendra Modi's absence was made up by his cabinet colleagues Anil Patel and Ashok Bhatt who made an impassioned appeal to non-resident Gujaratis (NRGs) to invest in the state and help the state register rapid economic development.

The two ministers addressed NRGs on the theme 'Leveraging the Diaspora' on the last day of the three-day Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations in Delhi.

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Patel, the industry minister, drew applause from the sizeable NRG gathering when he said, "Gujarat has to take a leading role in helping India become a developed nation by the year 2020."

He said that NRGs, who had thrived in educational, medical or social welfare fields, could help out in the development of the state.

For one, they could import technology from abroad and use them in companies based in the state. Secondly, they could invest in small and medium-sized companies. Others could adopt educational institutions, schools and villages in the state.

If India is poised for economic growth at the rate of 10 per cent, 'the smart Gujarati could grow by 20-25 per cent' owing to the conducive culture in the state. The NRGs could help make this possible by contributing their management capabilities, marketing skills and connections in the US and abroad.

However, he made some concession to the natural tendency of the bureaucracy to create hurdles. "There will be hiccups. Things may not be as smooth and as fast as you expect. (But) You will have to work with the system."

State Law Minister Ashok Bhatt painted a rather optimistic economic picture of the state. "I assure you that the next time you come here, Kutch region would have development similar to that of Singapore."

He said many NRGs had been astounded to see water in the parched Sabarmati River even during the summer months. "I told them they are seeing Narmada waters in the Sabarmati," Bhatt said referring to the river-linkage project in the state.

Earlier, former FICCI chief S K Birla outlined Gujarat's rapid economic development and pointed out that it is India's second most developed state after Maharashtra. He, however, accused the media of presenting a distorted picture of the state, confusing and causing concern among NRGs.

In contrast was the function organised by the government of Madhya Pradesh. To begin with, the venue was located in a dingy corner of Hall no 4 on the first floor of Vigyan Bhavan.

There did not appear any effort to ensure maximum participation because there were more officials than delegates in the venue, which had a seating capacity of only 40-odd persons.

Chief Minister Uma Bharti was slated to be the chief guest at the event. However, like her Gujarat counterpart, she too skipped the event to be present at the Bharatiya Janata Party's national executive meet in Hyderabad.

Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry secretary general Amit Mitra, who tries to put in an appearance at every such function, also sent in his deputy after coming to know that the chief minister would not turn up.

Vik Saksena from the United States was wondering why the few NRIs who were in attendance had taken the trouble when even the state's industry minister did not think it fit to grace the occasion.

The Punjab government's seminar, in Hall E of Vigyan Bhavan, was a better-organised affair. Among those who on the dais was New Zealand-based Sukhi Turner who Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had honoured with the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas Samman.

The NRIs had animated discussions with the state government officials on various problems they faced and ways to sort them out. Former Indian High Commissioner to London and chairman of the PBD organising committee L M Singhvi found a captive audience to share his experiences with for over 45 minutes.

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