Celebration at global Indian family may be recast

Himalayan News Service

Mumbai, January 2:

As the countdown has begun for the reunion of the global Indian family here, celebration is likely to be tempered by the loss of thousands of lives by the killer tsunami in India and other Asian countries. While the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is aimed at bringing the diaspora closer to the land of origin, the reunion will seek to take the Indian bonhomie further to addressing issues in the aftermath of the destruction caused by the tsunami.

The third three-day long Pravasi Bharatiya Divas-2005 is being organised from January 7 to January 9 jointly by the ministry of overseas Indian affairs and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). The mammoth exercise involving the Indian diaspora — estimated to be over 20 million, second only to the Chinese — is for the first time set to move out of New Delhi to the country’s financial and entertainment capital.

Overseas Indians from around 70 countries are expected to lead large delegations to Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, said the organisers, adding over 1,500 delegates have already confirmed their participation. “We had finalised a host of important topics, covering economic, social and cultural fields, for deliberations at the event this year,” said Vivek Bharati, senior advisor to the FICCI, one of India’s leading industry lobby groups.

“But in the wake of the tsunami tragedy we have decided to introduce a special session on disaster management. This will mainly focus on how India and its diaspora can work together in disaster management,” Bharati said, “The deliberation will look at a sustainable mechanism that can be put in place to deal with a disaster of this magnitude.”

According to Bharati, the organisers have received ‘numerous feedbacks’ from overseas Indians on roles they can play to mitigate the sufferings of the tsunami victims.

Indian president A P J Abdul Kalam and prime minister Manmohan Singh will address the conclave of non-residents Indians (NRIs). Suriname vice-president Jules Ajodhia will be chief guest of the conclave and will address the inaugural session with Kalam and Manmohan Singh. Sectoral issues will be discussed at parallel sessions on education, science and technology, healthcare, rural development, ethnic media and entertainment, non-resident Indians in Gulf, finance, and culture and tourism.

Some leading diaspora personalities who have confirmed their participation are cabinet ministers Samy Vellu of Malaysia, Shashi Tharoor, Amitabha Ghosh and Vijay Amritraj.

Bharati said the event would focus on the overseas Indian youth and the concerns and aspirations of NRIs in the Gulf. More than three million Indians, mostly blue-collar workers, are based in the Gulf. A majority work as contract employees sans any job security, are poor and lack any savings or options in India. On the possibility of Indian diaspora enhancing investments in their land of origin, the FICCI official said, “India’s image as a business destination has improved in the last few years. Against this backdrop, we are upbeat about the role of the diaspora in the country’s overall development.”

Overseas Indians are spread over 110 countries in five continents and have an estimated combined income of $160 billion, equal to nearly 35 per cent of India’s gross domestic product.