NEW DELHI (TIP): The 12th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas concluded on January 9 with President Pranab Mukherjee hailing the contribution of Non-Resident Indians in the growth and development of the country. “The government will continue to actively engage with the overseas Indian community and explore all possible avenues to make them valued partners in building a strong and prosperous India,” Mukherjee said at the concluding ceremony of the three-day meet. The President also gave away “PBD Samman Awards” to 13 eminent NRIs and organisations for their outstanding contribution to the country of their residence as well as to India.
Those awarded included Ela Gandhi, grand daughter of Mahatma Gandhi. She was conferred with the honour of enhancing India’s image and promoting ties with South Africa. Mukherjee announced that a Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra would be set up in Delhi to serve as a centre to commemorate contributions of the Indian diaspora. Earlier, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh formally launched the 12th edition of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas on January 8, asking the Indian diaspora not to be unduly concerned about the future of Indian economy and social challenges. There was no reason to despair about the country’s present or worry about the future as the country was heading into better times, he said, addressing nearly 1,000 Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) from across the world.
Observing that the country’s economy had done well over the past decade, the Prime Minister noted that in the last nine years since 2004, India had averaged a healthy growth rate of 7.9 per cent per annum. “There has been no doubt about a slow-down in the recent past, and we will probably end this year at the same level as last year with five per cent,” he said adding a number of international as well as domestic factors have contributed to this situation. However, it was once again clear that rich and the affluent NRIs from the West are seen at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas only at the inaugural and closing ceremonies and do not actively participate in regular sessions.
As soon as the hour-long inaugural function was over, most delegates left the venue apparently to do networking or sight-seeing. The half-empty halls during the sessions on “India’s Growth and Development Agenda” and “India’s Soft Power” in which key senior government functionaries like Law Minister Kapil Sibal and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid participated, bore testimony to the fact that the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is becoming more of a ‘tamasha’ than a businesslike meet. Few delegates took the trouble of even visiting the stalls set up by some state governments and public undertakings at the venue. The theme of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas this year is “Engaging Diaspora-Connecting across Generations” with focus on the young generation.
President Pranab Mukherjee will address the concluding function tomorrow and give away “Pravasi Bharatiya Samman” to 15 eminent personalities. Addressing the session on “India’s Soft Power”, British entrepreneur Karan Bilimoria spoke about the remarkable performance of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the recent Assembly elections in Delhi. “This (India) is where the real democracy is…where a party can start from nothing and in one year win a state election,” he said. Bilimoria said the evidence of India’s soft power could be gauged from the fact that there were some 10,000 Indian restaurants in Britain. Some of the delegates from the US were unhappy over the treatment meted out to Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade.