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External Affairs Minister hits out hard at sceptical PIOs

Responding to remarks, Sinha said: "Nobody is stopping NRI's from doing good work in India," writes Vijaya Sharma.

india Updated: Jan 10, 2004 22:44 IST

In a hard-hitting response to some provocative remarks at the Bharatiya Pravasi Divas, External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha said: "Nobody is stopping NRI's from coming to India and doing good work here. India will reform with their help and assistance. We are in it together and will move ahead together."

Sinha pointed out the case of Sukhi Turner from New Zealand who plans to invest in Moga, her native village in Punjab.

Sinha's outburst, which turned the interactive session at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas almost into a response to one person's comments, was a rejoinder to an US NRI Suresh Chaudhry's comment: "Sending a man to the moon and having $100 million dollars in forex does not address the main problem poverty and issues like AIDs in India. What are you doing for them? Why give 100 million dollars to Iraq, to Afghanistan when they hijacked our plane?

To such remarks, Sinha spelt out his message loud and clear: "We don't have to solve all our problems before we can start helping others. India will go and help others. We don't need to be ashamed of this. We are proud of this."

"Those who hijacked our plane were not the people of Afghanistan. Those who did are today no longer in power in Afghanistan.

The first day of the second Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Delhi saw an audience extremely vibrant and eager to speak out. The session was on Productive Engangement with the Diaspora and they complained, they suggested, and criticised with passion. Sukhi Turner, responding to a fellow delegate, emphasised: "Don't point the finger always to the Govt. We must take the initiative. We must make sure all Indians get the opportunity we got when we went overseas."

Defending Vajpayee's comments on India's planned moon mission and $100 million in India's forex kitty,the External Affairs Minister said: "When the Prime Minister talks, he will talk of problems and achievments also.

For those who talk of India's poverty, perhaps you stay too far away and do not know of what is being done. Let me give you one specific example: In the last five years, we have brought down the level of those below the poverty line from 36 per cent to 26 per cent. Let there be no doubt. India is committed to eradicating poverty. India is a large country and it is not an easy task. Please bear with India.

"Democracy means accountability every minute and when I say this I say it with responsibility."

Addressing concerns on giving political rights to those NRIs who have dual citizenship, Sinha said: "In 1988, we introduced the PIO card. In a short period of just five years after that, we have the dual citizenship act. We have come a long way. On granting political rights to NRIs, that issue has to be debated in the country."

What the audience had to say:

I was much impressed with the PM's speech. But I don't agree with him. Sending people to the moon and 100 billion dollars does not address the main problem. We have a 100 million people below the poverty line,the second highest number of AIDS affected - what is the Indian govt doing for them? Why give 100m dollars to Iraq and Afghanistan when the people their have hijacked our plane? Why tell the diaspora not to help. Don't say we don't need your help. Ask us to help
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Suresh Chaudhry, USA


The connection with the diaspora that the Govt is trying to make should be more a people to people one rather than just at the Govt level. I would like to see a people's reprsentative sitting up there with the Govt officials in the panel. People's representation at the Divas is woefully missing.
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Amarjit Singh, Virginia, USA

India in last fifty years has not given clean air and water to its people. We are not here for the glamour and glitter of the show. We NRIs are here for an alliance to give better facilities for the people. Outside this building, India is still a primitive society.
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Shailja, Sydney, Australia


We Indians request the media not to portray India in negative terms.


We were very ashamed when the Parliament was attacked and India did nothing.

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Mahendra Chopra, London

I am the seventh generation Indian in Seychelles. Why can we not get the double passport? I come to India every six months and spend money here? Please get the double passport system for us also.
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Rama Pillai, Seychelles


To Hillary Clinton's remark that probably every Indian is a worker at the gas station, I would like to say that it is to his credit that he is working productively and earning his livelihood.


Also, let us have a diaspora day in all Indian embassies to establish the India-diaspora connect and for those who have not been able to attend the Divas.
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Sunil Prasad, Brussels

I would request all High Commissioners and Indian diplomats abroad to publish the history of Indians in those countries.
A website is also needed to keep NRIs updated on latest developments.
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Mahendra Chand, Ohio, USA

I think the NRI would be keen to invest in social areas. I am considering investing in my village Moga in Punjab. NRIs should not always point a finger at the Govt. We must take the initiative. That is productive engagement. We must make sure all Indians get the opportunity we got when we went overseas.
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Sukhi Turner, New Zealand

Not a single woman on the panel. Why? Next year make sure there is a woman up there.
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Varsha Vyas, UK

First Published: Jan 10, 2004 12:58 IST