The current global economic slowdown will be a major focal theme at the forthcoming 'Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD)', the Centre's unique convention to engage the Indian Diaspora, which is being held for the first time in Chennai from January 7-9, 2009.
Announcing this at a press conference here today, the Union Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, Mr Vayalar Ravi, said that the interactive forum will be an ideal platform to "get the opinion" of NRIs' on steps that need to be taken to reverse the economic slowdown, besides that of economic and management experts like Dr CK Prahalad.
Last year the PBD was in Delhi, noted Mr Ravi, whose Ministry is organizing the event's seventh edition in Chennai in association with the Tamil Nadu Government and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh will inaugurate the three-day convention on January 8 and the President, Mrs Pratibha Singh Patil will address its valedictory on January 9. The conclave to be addressed by a galaxy of speakers, with over 1500 delegates to participate from 40 countries, will have four plenary sessions, he said.
As Chennai is hosting the meet, it would be of added significance to the Tamil-speaking NRIs' and People of Indian Origin (PIO), said Mr. Ravi, adding, a wide range of other issues like preservation of the language and culture of Indian origin people abroad, would be discussed.
As many as 12 Chief Ministers of various Indian States including Tamil Nadu's Mr M Karunanidhi will make presentations on the investment opportunities in their respective States, Mr Ravi said jointly with the State Minister for Higher Education, Dr K Ponmudi and the CII Director General, Mr Chandrajit Banerjee.
Mr Ravi was optimistic that the activities of the India Development Foundation (IDF), an ambitious initiative to canalize the investments of NRIs' into social, educational and women's empowerment projects in their respective villages in India without having to go through the hassles of RBI guidelines, would get kick-started soon, as "we have already registered the non-profitable trust for the purpose." States would also be partners in this project besides 'credible NGOs' being selected for implementation.
The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has sanctioned one University for the PIOs', for their children to get good, affordable education, Mr Ravi said to a query. The go-ahead has been given to the 'Manipal Education Trust' to start the first PIO University in Bengaluru in the South. "They have already started working on it and the courses will commence from the next academic year," said Mr Ravi, adding, there was no proposal now to grant dual citizenship status to PIOs'.
Govt going the whole hog to get abducted Simon back safely:
Mr Ravi, who earlier had a one-hour meeting with the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Mr M Karunanidhi at his Gopalapuram residence here, responding to the latter's concerns on the abduction in Afghanistan of a cook, Simon from Villupuram district, assured that the Centre "will do everything possible" to bring back Simon safely.
Stating that the Ministry of External Affairs was dealing with the issue through the Indian Embassy there and the Government of Afghanistan, Mr Ravi said in the interests of Simon's safety, the GOI's strategy to secure his release could not be revealed.
The Government was aware of the 'Sunday deadline' laid down by the militants, but "negotiations are going on well and we are trying through all channels," Mr Ravi said. The Centre also knew that Simon was kidnapped as early as October 13, but "we did not want to give it any publicity," the Union Minister added.