The two-day NRI Sammelan, organised by the Punjab government, will begin at the Virasat-e-Khalsa complex in Anandpur Sahib on Friday. The state government is expected to use the opportunity to list its achievements before non-resident Indians (NRIs), particularly Punjabis, who have made a name for themselves in foreign lands. The event will conclude in Jalandhar on Saturday.
Most of those who are attending Friday's session are politicians, ministers and elected representatives from countries such as US and Canada. Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal is likely to talk about achievements of the SAD-BJP government in Punjab, while deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal would talk about steps taken by the state government for the welfare of Punjabi-origin NRIs. The programme would begin with an address by NRI affairs minister Bikram Singh Majithia.
"This is the second NRI Sammelan organised by the current SAD-BJP government (the first was held in January 2013). Though similar sammelans were organised earlier, it's only since last year that NRIs' issues are being taken up seriously," said SS Channny principal secretary of the Punjab government's department dealing with NRI issues.
Channy said the government had set up an NRI wing, separate police stations to deal with cases and complaints related to NRIs, and fast-track courts to expedite justice.
"The government would count its achievements. If not 100%, we have achieved a lot. We will take suggestions from prominent NRIs attending the seminar about the shortcomings in services given by us," Channy added.
On the first day, delegates will be present only on invitation; the second day of the sammelan at Jalandhar would be an open house.
The state government would seek support from NRIs for the development of their native villages. The state has introduced the Mera Pind Meri Scheme, under which Punjabi-origin NRIs would have to contribute 25%, while the rest would be provided by the state government.
Afghan Sikh MP denied visa
Dr Anarkali Kaur Honaryar, Afghanistan's lone Sikh MP, has reportedly been refused visa for visiting Punjab. The Indian high commission in Afghanistan is said to have not given any reason for denial of visa.
"Honaryar has travelled to Punjab in the past. It is disappointing that she has been denied visa," an official of the Punjab government said.
Minister of state for external affairs Preneet Kaur told HT on the phone that she could not comment on what had happened in Afghanistan. "I need to look into the matter," she added. Dr Sham Lal Bhatija, adviser to the Afghan President, is also not coming for the sammelan, state government officials confirmed.
Druglord Jagdish Bhola's allegations against revenue and NRI affairs minister Bikram Singh Majithia are likely to cast a cloud on the NRI Sammelan. Sources said top government functionaries were involved in a damage-control exercise to ensure that there was no impact on the sammelan. Bhola had on Monday claimed that Majithia was the mastermind of the drug racket.
Anandpur Sahib: The Punjab government and the Rupnagar district administration have made elaborate arrangements for the delegate session of the NRI Sammelan.
About 111 delegates from various countries, including the US, Canada, UK, Pakistan and Afghanistan, have confirmed their participation in the sammelan so far. The delegates include 36 political personalities, 11 heads of gurdwaras and 64 other personalities. The delegates would also pay obeisance at Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib and have a round of Virasat-e-Khalsa.