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Stage set for Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas

The Govt expects over 1,500 overseas delegates to attend the event beginning this Sunday, reports Srinand Jha.

india Updated: Jan 06, 2007 02:48 IST

The list of overseas delegates has shrunk, but the event has gained popularity on the domestic circuit. There is always a mad rush for obtaining free entry passes. Each year, freebies outnumber the delegates.

Welcome to the three-day Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas conference that begins on Sunday.

From over 2,000 overseas delegates for the first annual conference in 2003, the number dropped to 900 last year. This year's meet may be no different, although Minister of Overseas Affairs Vayalar Ravi expects it to touch 1,500.

Yet the question remains: Is the event just another carnival?

A Goldman Sachs report in 2003 had projected India's emergence as the third largest economic power with a per capita income 35 times its current levels in 2050.

Four years later, investments from overseas Indians — estimated at 25 million in 130 countries spread over five continents — has been only 9.15 per cent of India's Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), which is around $4 billion. In contrast, expatriate Chinese are estimated to have contributed half of the country's $48 billion in FDI.

The Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas is an annual event that coincides with the date of Mahatma Gandhi's return to India after a two-decade stint abroad on January 9. But the Mahatma is conspicuously missing from the pictures, posters and buntings.

And expatriate Indians perhaps view the ministry of overseas affairs as just a complaints cell. They also claim that they have been "misled and cheated" by the Indian government on the "dual citizenship" issue.

Besides, the Overseas Indian Citizenship Cards issued to People of Indian Origin (PIOs), they charge, are not worth the paper on which they have been printed.

The government will have to respond to these issues at this conference as well.

Problems and issues remain, admitted Ravi, but added that investment should not be an index for judging the success of the meet.

Tarun Das, chief mentor of CII, which is co-sponsoring the event, echoed Ravi. Vivek Bharti, national policy adviser to FICCI, which co-sponsored the first three Pravasi conferences, said providing a platform for promoting the concept of a global Indian family was itself a huge achievement.

The setting up of an Overseas Indian facilitation centre for promoting business-to-business partnerships apart from defining the contours of a "Diaspora Knowledge Network" (for enabling the leveraging of technology for social development) are among the major concepts that will be discussed at the conference.

Evolving the mechanism for associating overseas Indians in future planning and development of India will be the subject for another plenary.