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Home > Business > Pravasi Bharatiya Divas

Of Jaswant's jest and Nobel signs

Josy Joseph in New Delhi | January 10, 2003 20:16 IST

The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas barely resembled an emotional journey as it wound through the second day of the celebrations on Friday.

More and more angry faces were visible, agitated at seeing poignant speeches turn into sermons

The irritation was evident when, after Finance Minister Jaswant Singh ended his speech, several Non-Resident Indians got up and started shouting that nobody was willing to listen to them.

Poornima Warrier, CEO of Glimpse of India, walked onto the stage and said, "We are pravasis and are not even allowed to speak."

Several others shouted from amidst the large gathering as they grew restless with each passing session.

Jaswant's jest

Finance Minister Jaswant Singh could not shed his usual no-nonsense and stiff mien. But, some of his one-liners had the pravasis in splits.

Announcing 100 per cent depreciation, tax holiday and every other imaginable concession for NRI projects in desalination of water, Singh sighed and said with a deadpan face: "I don't think I can give any more than that."

While pointing out that he had departed from the written text of his speech, Singh said: "I believe the finance minister ought not to speak too much because it is a dangerous activity." Singh definitely is one politician who prefers to speak less.

He wound up with a call to the NRIs, "I invite you to join in this great adventure, which is the resurgent India on the move."

'A waste of time'

Several NRIs from Europe and other distant lands felt that their trip was turning out to be waste of time and money.

They were restless and complained that they had been forced to spend money and come to India by Indian ambassadors in their country.

"Once we landed here, we are just sitting and listening," a delegate from the Netherlands said.

M Harwani and his wife, two delegates from Denmark, were upset over the entire affair.

When they landed in New Delhi, after much persuasion from the Indian Ambassador in Denmark, their name was missing from the list of pravasis. And now for over two days, they ‘have been listening, listening, and listening.'

They vowed never to attend any other Pravasi meet.

Nobel signs

Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani came prepared to share the stage with Nobel laureate Sir V S Naipaul, whose Beyond Belief was released in Hindi at the function by Advani. The deputy prime minister carried with him the English original from his personal collection and ensured that Naipaul signed the copy.

Pamphlets. More pamphlets

There were more pamphlets than delegates at the sprawling campus, housing the prestigious meet. It was not just the corporates that vied for attention.

Invitations and gifts too

Other entities contested too. The youth wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party distributed letters to all the delegates inviting them to the International Youth Conference on Terrorism to be held in New Delhi in February.

Then there were those who offered investment opportunities to the NRIs. The ICICI Bank legend was prominently visible. As was that of the US-based Secular Group. There was an invitation from Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, calling NRIs to attend the state's special session.

Also distributed free was a Bhagvad Gita.

Hic! Hic! Hurray!

Yesu Persaud, chairman of the Demerara Distillers Ltd, a Guyana-based group with interests in Africa and Europe, pleasantly surprised the audience when he announced his group's foray into India. The group unveils a venture in Andhra Pradesh on January 16.


B T Rajagopalu, a senior member of the Malaysian government, like most of his compatriots in New Delhi was very disappointed.

He claimed that even Malaysian rural areas would have better chairs than those provided at the meeting venue. His compatriot Munianty Pachappeu, an architect, said he was very disappointed at the way the function was organised, especially the question and answer session with Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani.

He asked if democracy meant stampeding to meet the deputy prime minister. "This is not how it happens in Malaysia. I think it is something about Indian culture."

What was apparent, he said, was that the organizers were not interested in improving.

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas

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