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Home > News > Report

PBD: Get-together turning to business meet

Amberish K Diwanji in Mumbai | January 05, 2005 22:10 IST
Last Updated: January 06, 2005 15:00 IST


Unlike the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations of the previous years, which were viewed mostly as cultural shows with song and dance, this year's edition will focus on investment and business.

The first two editions of PBD addressed the demand for dual citizenship, an emotional need felt by overseas Indians. With dual citizenship now a reality, the focus is shifting to creating and sustaining long-term linkages in a more structured manner through the medium of investments.

"The whole world is investing in India and making money. Why not overseas Indians," asks Minister for Overseas Indians Affairs Jagdish Tytler.

In fact, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry is the co-host of the event, slated to be held on January 7 to 9 in Mumbai, along with the Government of India.

That Mumbai is the financial capital of the country would not be lost on those looking for symbolisms. Secondly, this is the first time it is being hosted outside Delhi.

President A P J Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of the Opposition L K Advani and Finance Minister P Chidambaram will address the gathering during the event, which is being held in the shadow of the ongoing relief work for tsunami-affected people in India and Southeast Asia.

"If the event had been an Indian event, we would have certainly postponed it. But this is an event involving overseas Indians from some 70-80 countries, who have purchased their tickets well in advance and made hotel reservations," Tytler said adding that crores had already been spent on preparations for the three-day event.

"We will get those attending to donate generously for the disaster relief," he told rediff.com.

This PBD will also see a special session on youngsters. Some 500 young People of Indian Origin (PIO) will be taken on a two-month tour of the country to help them see the real India. "These young Indians will go back and become our ambassadors," said Tytler.

His ministry's scope has been much expanded after an initial tussle with the ministry of external affairs, which saw him as an intruder on its turf. Now the Overseas Indians Ministry will look at investments from Indians abroad.

A common complaint of NRIs is that they do not know whom to approach (for undertaking any project in India). "Now, my ministry will oversee all such efforts, including a part of the implementation of projects started by overseas Indians," Tytler told rediff.com.

One of the first areas that he plans to get involved in is to stop the 'marriage' of Indian women to NRIs who simply disappear after the wedding. Such scam marriages, especially in Punjab and Gujarat, have played havoc with women's lives. The latter live alone in India since their husbands refuse to take them abroad.

Recently, Tytler said he was setting up community forums where the antecedents of men seeking brides in India would be examined. It is a private community effort. Also, all marriages to overseas Indians will be registered so that divorce can be granted more easily than is the case at present.

Another area of focus will be the working and living conditions of Indians abroad.

"We have stories of how unscrupulous agents cheat people and send them abroad to work in difficult conditions. The victims find it difficult to come back to India because they often don't have money. My ministry is going to help such Indians," the minister declared.

Tytler said his ministry's role is to look at the gamut of problems faced by Indians abroad, including that of descendants of those who immigrated centuries ago.

"The descendants want to trace their roots. Earlier, they didn't know whom to approach. Now we are there to help them, and you'd be surprised at how people preserve records of their ancestors who went abroad as labourers and whose descendants are now presidents and prime ministers," he said.

The minister says with the third PBD, what was just a get together so far will now acquire focus and meaning, especially in getting overseas Indians to invest in their native country.

He would like the current overseas Indians to invest as massively in India as the overseas Chinese have done in China. And that is going to be his message to the delegates in Mumbai.



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