The Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) will pressure the Indian government to amend property laws to protect the interests of NRIs at its annual conference here this week.
The biggest and oldest body of the Indian diaspora will hold its two-day conference at the Crown Plaza Hotel near LaGuardia airport Aug 21-22.
It will be opened by Oversees Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi. The 20th annual conference will also be attended by Frank Wisner, former US ambassador to India.
"Though our main theme is 'People of Indian Origin: Strengthening Global Connections', our thrust this year is to put fresh pressure on the Indian government to change property ownership laws for NRIs," outgoing GOPIO president Inder Singh told IANS.
"How can we wholeheartedly involve ourselves in India's development if someone steals our investments and properties in our absence? The current Indian laws are so outmoded that they are not even fit for Indians, let alone the diaspora," Singh said.
"We are 25 million in strength and pumping billions into India. And don't forget that it was the NRIs who ushered in the IT revolution in India to set it on the path to greatness.
"India should realise that we matter a lot in its aspirations to become a superpower," he said.
Apart from Vayalar Ravi and Frank Wisner, the conference will also be attended by Basdeo Pandey, former prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Logie Naidoo, mayor of Durban in South Africa, and Lord Daljit Rana from Britain.
GOPIO counts the institution of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and People of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizenship of Indian (OCI) cards as its biggest achievements in its two-decade history.
"We mooted these proposals to the Indian government at our very first conference in 1989. Finally, when the Vajpayee government set up the L.M. Singhvi panel to discuss the issue, we worked with it. We also proposed that prominent Indians abroad be recognized each year for their services to India,'' said Singh.
He said GOPIO also worked with other Indian bodies in the US to put pressure on Congressmen and Senators to vote in favour of the nuclear deal bill last year.
Singh said their future agenda is to turn GOPIO into "the Rotary Club of the Indian diaspora at the local level in their adopted countries".