The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas has become a platform for strategic partnership with the Diaspora, according to Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, Vaylar Ravi at the conclusion of the annual meeting in New Delhi. For the Diasporia, the PBD is the opportunity to meet and quiz Indian leaders and officials.
Among the seven parallel state sessions, the Gujarat session was most in demand with the non-resident delegates, raising pertinent queries about investment opportunities and facilities available to overseas investors. But the changing image of Bihar as a state on the path of progress and development had created an animated buzz among the delegates about the Bihar session.
Addressing a packed audience, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi sought to explain the kind of facilities that Bihar had to offer. The state government had undertaken several projects to increase power generation capacity to 20,000 MW.
"In five years, we hope to become self-dependent in power sector. There will be electricity for every household in the state in the next five years" Modi said. The state government had also taken several initiatives to liberalise business norms for attracting investment in infrastructure sector, and it planned to hold an NRI meeting by the end of the year, he added.
A lively discussion followed Modi's address, but he was taken aback by a question from Dr Sarita Boodhoo of Mauritius. A scholar of Bhojpuri who has written several books in the language, Dr Boodhoo said that she had visited Patna and had been deeply anguished at neglect of the Bhojpuri language.
The Bhojpuri Academy was in a poor shape, she said, with dusty, neglected papers lying around. The Bhojpuri Academy needed more trained staff and better equipment for the benefit of scholars and other visitors, she said.
Dr Boodhoo, author of the book Bhojpuri Traditions in Mauritius went on to add that she had also found that the popular folk singer, Vindhyavasini's records and documents were in a shambles as her ancestral home was in a dilapidated condition. The singer's folk songs and semi-classical music was still popular, but no attention was being given to preserve this valuable oral heritage of Bhojpuri language, according the writer from Mauritius.
The Mauritius government was planning to make Bhojpuri an optional language at school level in Mauritius. It was a part of the government's plan to encourage the use of maternal languages during teaching that Bhojpuri would be introduced in schools. Dr Boodhoo, who is a member of the technical committee for planning the Mauritius school curriculum, said she was pained to see the neglect of the noble language in its own home.
Modi responded saying that Dr Boodhoo had brought this matter to his notice and he would look into it. But the issue resonated with several people of Bihari origin present at the conference. Prashant Kumar, a delegate from California, US said that it was very sad that Bhojpuri language was not getting the attention that it deserved.
The Bhojpuri Association of North America had urged Bhojpuri speakers to observe February 21 as International Mother Language Day in their respective countries and regions. UNESCO was placing a greater thrust on retaining the mother tongue or maternal languages. "We are losing our heritage in the race to be seen as modern and progressive." There are Bhojpuri speakers in most regions of the world; it was a global language, Prashant Kumar added.
Apart from India, Nepal and Mauritius, Bhojpuri is also spoken in Guyana, Suriname, Fiji, and Trinidad and Tobago. In Mauritius Bhojpuri was beginning to lose ground to Hindi and Creole language. Though most people of Indian origin speak some Bhojpuri in Mauritius, the younger generation is getting more fluent in Hindi because of the influence of the popular Hindi film industry.
Bhojpuri language got a fillip in Mauritius after Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar visited the island nation in 2007 on a tour to foster the cultural and emotional links between Bihar and Mauritius. People of Indian descent form about 70 per cent of the population of Mauritius, and a sizeable number of their ancestors hailed from Bihar.
The birth anniversary of Sir Seewsagar Ramgolam, the first prime minister of Mauritius, is marked with a state function in Patna every year. The Mauritius leader's father had migrated from a Bihar village in 1871.
The Bihar government set up the Bihar Roots Foundation to help connect people of Bihar origin in different parts of the world to the land of their ancestors and preserve their ancestral language, Bhojpuri. But it needs to do more to preserve the language and its heritage in Bihar, according to Bhojpuri speakers like Dr Sarita Boodhoo.