KOCHI (TIP): Prime Minister, Dr. Mamohan Singh declared his government’s unequivocal commitment to deepen the connection of expatriate Indians with their country of origin and advance their interests. “While honoring their achievements, we will also seek to facilitate their travel, business and education and make it easier for them to be a part of life of India, enjoy due rights and participate in India’s economic development,” he said while inaugurating the 11th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas here on Tuesday, January 8.
The Prime Minister said that the challenges to achieve an annual growth rate of 8% as set out in the 12th Plan were enormous, adding that “We will require enormous resources, reforms in policies and institutions, new models of public private partnership and community participation and innovation-driven science and technology.” Apart from the focus on rural areas, there is an urgent need to pay greater attention to our expanding cities and towns, the Prime Minister said, for which, new approaches would be needed to address challenges in areas like infrastructure, education, energy, water and agriculture.
The Prime Minister observed that across India, there are also countless inspirational stories of innovation, enterprise and leadership by citizens and communities that are transforming lives and generating hope for millions of our citizens. “There is now a surge of expectation from an increasingly empowered and articulate public, for more responsive, transparent, participative, clean and efficient governance. The Government is determined to turn any setback into an opportunity to improve legal and regulatory frameworks. I have no doubt that the energy and the passions of our citizens, particularly our youth, will be a force of positive change in our country,” he declared.
He invited the overseas Indian community to be a strong and vital partner and participant in India’s social and economic development. “Whether you wish to invest or share your knowledge, technology and skills, whether your enterprise takes you to the cities or your compassion brings you to a remote village, I assure you of our continuing effort to support your endeavors,” Dr. Singh said. The Prime Minister assured the Indian expatriate community that their safety and security was uppermost in the government’s mind. “We derive comfort from the assurances that we have received from governments in the countries of your residence that they will do everything for your safety and security.
We recognize that the primary responsibility rests with the host countries, but when needed, as was the case last year in Libya, our government will provide prompt and necessary assistance.” “Apart from physical safety, we are also concerned with the social and emotional well-being of our overseas brethren. We have therefore launched an insurance scheme for workers, established welfare funds in our embassies for distressed Indians, and created mechanisms to help vulnerable women abroad,” he pointed out. He said that the protection and promotion of the rights and interests of Indian businesses, professionals and workers abroad is also a key task for our Missions in various countries.
India’s Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements and Social Security Agreements with a number of countries play an important role in this regard. On the occasion, the Prime Minister released a stamp on ‘Gadar Movement’ and two publications, namely, ‘India Supports’ and ‘Handbook for Emigrants’. Mr. Rajkeswur Purryag, President of Mauritius, the Chief Guest at this year’s Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, declared, amid huge applause, that “We take pride in the rise of India… we share common values, a common heritage and we are grateful to India for its selfless support to Mauritius in its social and economic development process.”
The Indian Diaspora, he said, needed to capitalize on India’s growth story and seek active partnerships with Indian companies is areas such as science & technology, education and other hard and soft infrastructure sectors. Mauritius, he said, offered a great opportunity for Indian companies to reach out to the entire African market, now dubbed as the continent of the century. The President of Mauritius also pledged his country’s support for India’s permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council Mr. Vayalar Ravi, Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, announced that the emigration system was being amended to keep in step with the needs all concerned with the process of emigration.
“We have worked on a law in this regard and we hope to finalize it soon,” he said. Mr. Ravi announced that the merger of the OCI and PIO cards would soon be done to create a single OCI card. He said that his Ministry had widened the scope of the Indian Community Welfare Fund to include payment of penalties to release Indian nationals who are in prisons for no fault of their; support to local overseas Indian associations to establish Overseas Indian Community Centers and support to start and run overseas Indian community-based student welfare centers.
Mr. Oommen Chandy, Chief Minister of Kerala, in his address, pointed out that he expected the Planning Commission, Government of India, to respond positively to his suggestion to formulate a Centrally-sponsored scheme to supplement the efforts of the State Government in the rehabilitation of returning migrants. Some of the major concerns still being faced by Indian expatriates in their host countries, especially in the Gulf, related to issues of job security, reasonable living conditions and legal protection for the unskilled and semi-skilled workers. These, Mr. Chandy said, needed to be addressed by the Union Government.