The sixth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), the annual conclave of the Indian diaspora, will focus on the increasing cases of exploitation of Indian women after getting married overseas as well as on overseas Indian workers at its Jan 8-9 meet in New Delhi.
Announcing this at a press conference in New Delhi on Friday, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said: "The issue of women, especially of Indian women getting exploited after getting married overseas, will be a key focus of PBD 2008."
With the theme 'Engaging the Diaspora: The Way Forward', PBD 2008 will have five plenary sessions covering areas like investment, infrastructure, trade and business opportunities, and diaspora philanthropy, and eight working sessions on issues like knowledge economy, women empowerment and culture.
Ravi said that a working session on women's empowerment would discuss at length the issue of women getting married overseas. "We are roping in NGOs from countries like the UK on this issue."
Ravi said that chief ministers of seven states, including Delhi's Sheila Dikshit, Gujarat's Narendra Modi, Orissa's Naveen Patnaik, West Bengal's Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Jharkhand's Madhu Koda are expected to attend the event.
"We are inviting the chief ministers to interact with overseas Indians. We are providing a platform to the chief ministers so that they can highlight the investment and partnership opportunities in their states," he said.
Ravi also said that three important initiatives announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his inaugural speech at PBD 2007 - on a PIO (person of Indian origin) university, a Council for Overseas Employment Opportunities, and an Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre (OIFC) - have been fulfilled.
"I am happy to report to you that my ministry has fulfilled all these three commitments. In PBD 2008, the prime minister will be launching an overseas Indian resource centre, a helpline for emigrant workers... The Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra model will be constructed for the benefit of NRIs. He is expected to announce measures for the welfare of NRIs at PBD 2008," Ravi said.
On the OIFC, a one-stop shop launched last year to help overseas Indians invest in India, the minister said that the central government had been receiving a large number of queries, which have been responded to within 24 hours.
This year, Mauritius Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam, a PIO, will be the chief guest.
Twelve cabinet ministers including Pranab Mukherjee, Kamal Nath, Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, Praful Patel and Renuka Chaudhary will address delegates at PBD 2008.
Malaysia's Minister for Works S Samy Vellu, Canada's Minister for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Harinder Thakar, Fiji's Minister for Finance Mahendra Chaudhry, Trinidad & Tobago's former prime minister Basdeo Pandey and Mauritius's Foreign Minister Madan Mulidhar Dullo will also be in attendance.
Other prominent overseas Indians scheduled to address the event include House of Lords member Lord Karan Bilimoria, president of Indus Attorneys Anu Peshawaria, chairman of Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) Thomas Abraham and deputy mayor of Durban Councillor Logie Naidoo.
According to Ravi, this year around 1,200 delegates from 43 countries are expected to attend. Already 800 registrations have been made, including 138 from Malaysia, 125 from the US, 120 from Mauritius, 70 from elsewhere in Africa, 68 from Europe and 60 from the Gulf.