More people from the northeast should travel abroad in search of opportunities and send back remittances to invest and develop the economy in their region, participants at a seminar in New Delhi on diaspora emphasised Friday.
The panel discussion on "diaspora role models" from the northeast was organised as part of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), which began Friday.
With a special focus on the northeast in 2011, the PBD is being held in partnership with the ministry for development of the northeastern region and the state governments of the eight northeastern states - Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh.
"A person who migrates from Kerala or Gujarat will send back money to help his state, not for the north-east. It's a fact. So, we have to encourage people to improve their skills by increasing remittances," said Pralab Barua, a non-resident Indian banker who lived abroad for over 20 years before returning to India.
According to A. Didar Singh, the Overseas Indian Affairs ministry secreatry, the total amount of remittances to India in 2009 were recorded at $15 billion.
"This money essentially goes to the state government... In Kerala, remittances account for 14 percent of state gross budget, while for Punjab, it's eight percent. In north-eastern states, it's zero, or at least near negligible," Didar Singh said.
The senior government officer said there had to be "a system of regular, circular migration." He pointed out that the ministry had started a new skills initiative programme for targeting the healthcare and hospitality sectors.
This was supported by Lakshmikanta Laikangbam, a Manipuri Information Technology professional based in the US, who is also member of the North American Manipuri Association.
"Now, there is a huge demand for nurses in US, with the baby boomer generation reaching retirement age and living in nursing homes," said Laikangbam.
Assam-born Walid Saleh, who had left India in 1963, has been a passionate advocate of 'giving back' to his community, as well as the need for northeast youth to go abroad if they do not get enough opportunities in India.
"In the line of 'brain drain', I believe there is also 'brain loss' when young persons are not able to reach their potential due to lack of opportunities of going abroad. On the flip side, there is 'brain circulation', if people go abroad, come back and invest in their community, not just with money, but also with knowledge," said Saleh.