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Government considering remittance gateway for diaspora
Ramananda Sengupta in Hyderabad | January 06, 2006 22:46 IST
Last Updated: January 06, 2006 23:53 IST
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy on Friday said while his state will welcome any investments from the Indian Diaspora, it was more important to work out ways to address common issues that affected both India and Indians abroad.
Dr Reddy was addressing journalists on the eve of the fourth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which begins in Hyderabad on January 7.
While Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh will inaugurate the event on Saturday, President APJ Abdul Kalam will give away the Pravasi awards on the Monday.
"It is our endeavor to make this event an eventful one so that people from all over the country are given a chance to meet our brethren who have done so well for themselves abroad," Union Minister of State for Overseas Indians Oscar Fernandes said.
He referred to former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's comments about brain drain soon after assuming office: 'It is not brain drain, it is a reservoir.'
Asserting that India gets the highest remittances from its diaspora -- the highest in the world -- Fernandes said the government was considering 'a remittance gateway for our diaspora.'
"We are also looking at partnerships, and the American Association of Physicians of Indian origin, which comprises 17 per cent of doctors in the US, has agreed to enter into an MoU with Andhra Pradesh," he said.
"People all over the world are speaking of two destinations, India and China. These two nations are going to determine the economics of the world in the coming decades," Fernandes added.
Lauding the Andhra government for its support and co-operation in hosting the event, Secretary in the Ministry of Overseas Indians S Krishna Kumar said, "It [the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas] started off as an event to generate goodwill and the initial emphasis was on coming together. But the other dimension to this is working together. This is the spirit, where we see each other as partners. Last year, the President, instead of just presenting the awards, made a PowerPoint presentation, titled 'Your prosperity is our happiness.'
"We are happy that our overseas Indians have succeeded. There are also some 4 to 5 million workers, who are also part of the diaspora. A large chunk of the $21.7 billion that came in last year was from the savings of these people.
"We have tried to address each section of the diaspora. This time, there will be nine plenary sessions, six parallel sessions, three panel discussions and two round tables. This is to get a sense of the needs of the diaspora, and respond to that in a meaningful way, and then build on the partnership. The state governments will be made stakeholder partners in the event," he said.
Stressing that it was not just about investments or remittances, Kumar said, "There may be a Laxmi Mittal who invests $10 million in a steel plant, but the Andhra Pradesh chief minister has just concluded a successful deal with Adidas, which will invest Rs 500 crores (approximately $112.7 million) in his state over the next three years. So this kind of investment is already coming in."
(At the end of the press conference, Dr Reddy signed the MoU before the journalists, and declared that it will bring jobs to some 40,000 people, most of them women.)
"But more than that," asked Kumar, "if we look at India 20 years from now, if we believe that we will be the third largest economy by 2030, what will be the disapora then? What will be the relationship between India and the disapora? How can we partner each other to make this happen five years earlier, by 2025?"
Kumar added that this year, there will also be a session for the first time on gender related issues. "The issues of NRIs who marry Indians and desert them and of women who work in the gulf and are exploited…"
"The ministry's mandate is to bring these issues together and see how we can work to resolve them. The idea being that at the end of the event, we have a meaningful set of issues, an agenda, an action plan... a partnership programme that we can take forward. For instance, the AAPI related project. The state government will discuss how the health program can be taken forward."
In the question and answer session that followed, Fernandes admitted that the number of delegates had declined from the initial 3000 or more that had attended the first Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Delhi, and said a part of it could be due to security concerns.
He added that chief ministers of 12 states, including Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, were attending the conference.
On the concluding day, President Kalam will honour some 15 members of the Indian Diaspora.
While the names are yet to be officially announced, it is believed that Newsweek International magazine editor Fareed Zakaria, Mauritius Vice President Raouf Bundhun, and the Manila-based chief of the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction Pratima Kale are among those on the list.
Fernandes declined comment on whether Sudhir Parekh, a prominent US doctor who has declared that he will be honored, was actually on the list.
Parekh's name has stirred a controversy because of his reported links with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
"We will not make it a political issue," Fernandes said when quizzed on the issue.