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Return to the roots

The PBD is an ideal forum for committed young Indians from the diaspora to contribute to the country?s development initiatives, writes SS Mehta.

india Updated: Jan 10, 2007 03:19 IST
SS Mehta

The Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas, now in its fifth edition, is an initiative of the Indian government to engage with the Indian diaspora in order to develop a new level of relationship. The single-most critical mission that pravasis  can engage in is raising the threshold of knowledge and productivity levels of those ‘left behind’, as Struggling India calls to Shining India for progress. India faces many challenges in its drive to achieve ‘inclusive growth’. More than ever before, partnership with the diaspora is now possible because, contrary to the oft-heard slogan of ‘demographic dividend’, India is passing through a unique phase of a ‘Double Demographic Dividend’.

The first dividend is India’s young demographic profile, which is familiar to all. The second dividend is the desire of talented pravasis  to return to their roots. They now find that they are capable of contributing to their homeland in many ways. They enrich their contributions with expertise and help raise the thresholds of technology, skill and innovation in their place
of origin.

This, coupled with the pravasis’  entrepreneurial acumen, has the potential to lay the foundation for future generations to sustain this contribution and build an edifice of modern India as it blazes a trail in the 21st century.

To that end, the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas was well-timed and has grown to be a credible initiative. The Indian diaspora is about 25-million strong. This year’s conclave, organised jointly by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs and the Confederation of Indian Industry, was aimed at building a synergy between resident Indians and the Indian diaspora. The theme, ‘Rooting for the Roots’, was woven through every session of the three-day event, where more than 1,200 delegates from all parts of the globe, belonging to various parts of India, participated. This year’s edition was aimed at bringing the knowledge, expertise and experience of the overseas Indian community to India and integrating it into India’s development process. Each session was designed to focus on India’s development challenges, and the possibilities of partnership with the diaspora.

In the recent past, the Indian diaspora has displayed its capabilities in science and technology, medicine, life sciences, information technology and a host of other disciplines. The list of accomplished citizens with Indian roots is endless. These men and women have relentlessly sought  excellence and have built a positive image of India. Whether it is Indra Nooyi, Kalpana Chawla, Sunita Williams, Sam Pitroda, LN Mittal or Rohinton Mistry — they have all struggled and blazed their way through unfamiliar environments. Their achievements are rooted in their commitment to be at the top of their chosen spheres of activity. The new generation of Indians abroad has substantial contributions to its credit. Sabeer Bhatia and Vikram Akula are exemplary individuals who have engaged with Indian enterprise to develop new paradigms of development.

India is enjoying high visibility now. It is appropriate to share priorities and partner with the diaspora, and take advantage of their acumen and experience to help develop a social ecosystem that is both sustainable and inclusive. It is in this exercise that the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas becomes a valuable initiative. The pravasis constitute the 2 per cent  who need to partner with India’s 20 per cent (middle-class and growing) to help raise the quality of life of the remaining population, whose progress is arrested at various developmental levels.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s observation at the inaugural plenary of the event — laying emphasis upon the need for ‘branches’ and deeper ‘roots’ — is a useful reminder of the role pravasis can play. They are ambassadors of Indian values of unity in diversity, representing the confluence of civilisations that India is, its mindset of tolerance and universal peace. Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy of non-violent means to an end may have lost some of its sheen, but like all things immortal, its value in a globalising world is now greater than ever before.

Finally, it is time for all to respond to the clarion call for inclusive growth. It is, therefore, appropriate that all Indians, at home and abroad, do their bit and join all stakeholders in building a modern India, which occupies its rightful place in the comity of nations.

Lt Gen SS Mehta is Director-General, CII

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