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Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh inaugurates PRAVASI BHARATIYA DIVAS

New Delhi
January 08, 2008

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, inaugurated the Sixth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, here today. Speaking at the occasion, Dr. Singh said that the idea of India transcends the narrow barriers of religion, language, caste or class, both within and outside the Indian nation. The Prime Minister announced the launch of an ‘Overseas Workers Resource Center’ (OWRC) which will provide all relevant information and assistance to potential migrant workers. He also announced the establishment of Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council of People of Indian Origin. The security and welfare of Indian residents living abroad is a top priority of our diplomatic missions, the Prime Minister said. 

Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s address on the occasion:- 

“Let me begin by wishing each one of you a very happy new year. Even though Delhi is right now cold, I assure you that a very warm welcome awaits you in this land of your ancestors. 

The Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas is a very special day for each one of us. Each of you represents the idea of India in different parts of the world. Like I had said last year, we are one family and the whole world is our home. The invisible thread that binds us together and bonds us with Mother India is our common ‘Indianness’. 

Each year we have the honour and privilege of having an eminent Pravasi as our Chief Guest. This year we have the distinguished Dr. Navin Chandra Ramagoolam, the Honourable Prime Minister of Mauritius as the Chief Guest. The people of India and Mauritius have deep emotional links - civilizational, cultural and many other. Mauritius is a very special friend of India. We take great pride in the achievements of the people of Mauritius to which the Prime Minister and his great father have made a very notable contribution. Dr. Ramagoolam is a great friend of India and a very dear personal friend. It is indeed my pleasure to extend a very warm welcome to him and to his gracious wife. 

As we begin the year 2008, we look back at the year gone by with some satisfaction. It has been a good year for the Indian economy, for our working people and for our entrepreneurs. The conditions are today favourable to achieve and sustain nine to ten percent growth rates - which is our objective over the 11th Five Year Plan period. The growth process now underway will transform our economy to emerge as a major powerhouse of the evolving global world.

At the heart of the development effort is the imperative to transform the quality of life of all our people and give them access to good health, education and economic opportunity. This is the essence of the thinking that defines our 11th Five Year Plan. I have dubbed it as India’s “Education Plan”. 

In focusing on education, as an instrument of empowerment, we are inspired by the example of the Indian diaspora. After all, what other capital did most of your forefathers have when they left the shores of India? It is by investing in your capabilities that you have empowered yourself and earned a name and fame for you and the country of your origin. This is how I wish to see India empower itself through education and through access to human knowledge. 

We in India take pride in the achievements of the people of Indian origin in diverse fields of human endeavour in different parts of the world. I am particularly happy at the strides made by women of Indian origin abroad. Indra Nooyi, Sunita Williams, Kalpana Chawla and Jhumpa Lahiri are role models for our society seeking to give our women a rightful place. 

The ambitious growth rate that we seek to achieve will require determined efforts to raise our savings and investment rates. The bulk of resources for India’s development must come from home. But, it is our sincere desire to create a framework which will provide profitable opportunities for overseas Indians to invest in India’s development. It is also our sincere desire to benefit from the vast reservoir of technological, managerial and entrepreneurial skills represented by overseas Indian communities. We seek to encourage in every possible way our links and our relations with overseas communities of Indian origin. 

It is therefore appropriate that the theme of this year’s Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is ‘Engaging the Diaspora: The way forward’. I welcome all of you to be active partners in this exciting journey of India’s progress and prosperity. 

India seeks to become a knowledge based economy and is fast emerging as an education hub. A key initiative on education that I had mentioned last year was a proposal to establish a PIO University in India for the benefit of children of overseas Indians from across the world. 

I am happy to inform you that the government has approved the basic policy framework for this university. This university will be established in a public-private partnership with active participation of credible overseas Indian Trusts or Societies. The University will have the autonomy and flexibility in the disciplines that it offers and in its academic governance. The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has through a due diligence process short listed a few of the proposals and a final decision is expected to be taken soon. I am confident the work on the university will commence this year. 

An important constituent of the overseas Indian community is the Overseas Indian Worker. Estimated at about five million they are mostly based in the Gulf and in South East Asia. They play an important role in India’s economy. All of you know that India is the largest recipient of remittances from its overseas community – estimated at about US $ 26 billion in 2006. What is less known is the fact that close to fifty percent of this money comes from the Indian workers in the Gulf. We are indeed very grateful to them for this very handsome contribution to India’s development. 

The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has started a nation-wide skill upgradation training programme for potential migrant workers. The scheme targets training of nearly two lakh emigrant workers over the 11th five year plan. This will help create a strong cadre of highly skilled workers who will then be best placed to fill the large labour supply gaps emerging in the western world. 

I am very happy to announce today the launch of an ‘Overseas Workers Resource Center’ (OWRC) which will provide all relevant information and assistance to potential migrant workers, and also operate a multi-lingual help line for grievance redressal and interventions for overseas workers in distress. This is a pioneering effort and I hope this center will in the long run expand the scope of services to promote legal migration. 

You will be happy to know that the government has approved the setting up of the ‘Council for the Promotion of Overseas Employment’ to serve as a strategic ‘Think –Tank’. 

Last year I had spoken of the need for a single window facilitation for overseas Indians to provide a host of advisory services. You will be happy to know that the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has established the ‘Overseas Indian Facilitation Center’ (OIFC), which is a not for profit trust in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry. 

Diaspora philanthropy is not a new phenomenon. Apart from making contributions at times of national calamity, like earthquakes and tsunami, many of you are already engaged in various development initiatives in India. Philanthropy is an ideal area where a number of new partnerships can be built, existing ones strengthened and the range and reach scaled up. 

To give impetus to these partnerships, a proposal to promote an ‘India Development Foundation’, as an autonomous not-for-profit Trust, is being examined by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. This foundation will serve as a credible institutional mechanism to direct overseas Indian philanthropic propensities into human development efforts in India.

The Foundation will assist overseas Indians to contribute to the cause of education, health and rural development in their erstwhile home villages, districts or states. It will also partner with credible NGO’s and philanthropic organisations actively engaged in social development, thus providing a strong public-private partnership bridge between overseas Indians and their target beneficiaries. 

In this increasingly inter-dependent and inter-connected world, overseas Indians are becoming ‘Global Citizens’. The overarching idea of a shared culture and shared values bonds all of us together. The Indian Diaspora is a pluralistic community just as India is. It holds within its fold people of different languages, faiths and regions. I call this multi-cultural identity, Indianness. The idea of India transcends the narrow barriers of religion, language, caste or class, both within and outside the Indian nation.

What then do our common cultural values stand for? Throughout history Indian culture has been a living example of pluralism, of assimilation, of tolerance, of inclusiveness and the eternal values of truth and non-violence. It is these values of Indianness that unite us both in ideology and in practice. That is what makes us globally Indian. It is these values that we must uphold to the world in all that we do.

This gathering of the Pravasi Bharatiyas has, therefore, truly a global relevance. We can show our troubled, divided, embattled world a new pathway of living together inspired by our modern idea of “Unity in Diversity”. 

This message is especially relevant today as we see growing violence in many parts of the world where our communities are settled. 

The security and welfare of Indian residents living abroad is a top priority of our diplomatic missions. I urge community leaders to develop better liaison and coordination with our missions to better serve our non-resident communities. It is through such engagement that the embassies will become more responsive to the needs of overseas Indians. 

There is a clear recognition in India of the growing clout and influence of Indian communities in their adopted homes. The Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs has initiated a programme of interaction with Parliamentarians of Indian origin, whom I had the privilege to meet some months back. I had a lively discussion with them on their hopes and aspirations for their constituencies and I was struck by their enthusiasm for promoting better, closer links with India through innovative local efforts. 

I wish to record our special gratitude to the Indian community in the United States of America for the efforts made by them in mobilising support of the political leadership in that country for Indo-US cooperation in civilian nuclear energy. 

I have decided to establish a Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council of People of Indian Origin. This Council would comprise of people of Indian origin from a variety of disciplines who are recognized as leaders in their respective fields, not only in their country of residence but globally as well. The Council would serve as a high level platform for the Prime Minister to draw upon the experience, knowledge and wisdom of the best Indian minds wherever they may be based. 

I would like this gathering, therefore, to inspire our people, inspire people of Indian origin, inspire our region and our neighbours, inspire the world to learn to live together in peace and harmony despite our many diversities. I wish you well in your noble endeavours.”