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PM to confer Overseas citizenship

15 outstanding members of Diaspora will also be honoured by the Prez.

india Updated: Jan 02, 2006 15:28 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will award the first set of Overseas Indian citizenship in Hyderabad on January 7 when he opens the fourth annual event to connect with India's 25 million Diaspora in over 110 countries.

Fifteen outstanding members of the Diaspora will also be honoured by President APJ Abdul Kalam at the concluding event of the three-day Pravasi Bharatiya Divas that is expected to attract some 1,500 delegates from overseas, the organisers said.

The citizenship is not open to citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Also, the applicants should have migrated from India after January 26, 1950. The overseas citizens cannot take part in Indian elections.

Ahmed Kathrada, the prominent anti-apartheid leader of Indian origin in South Africa and an associate of Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela, is the chief guest at the event being organised by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs.

"By connecting with the overseas Indians at deeper levels and harnessing their talent for the reconstruction of India, we can make the 21st century as Indian century," Manmohan Singh said in a special message for the event.

"As a brain bank outside India, the overseas Indians are better placed to invest their human and material resources in India and contribute to the resurgence of their motherland as a major player in the world."

The event -- which will include cultural programmes, gala dinners with cuisines from various states and interactive seminars with experts -- will also give an opportunity to the delegates to engage with chief ministers of 14 states.

"The state government participation has been improved, made more effective for this Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. High-level delegations from several states will participate," Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Oscar Fernandes said.

Another attraction this year is a 10-minute grand fireworks and a film-based show in which regional stars like Chiranjeevi, Mammootty, Rajnikanth and Kamal Haasan will share the dais with their Bollywood counterparts.

"This time we have a plenary session on the theme of culture. We hope to work closely with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and use their resources in the outreach efforts of the ministry," Fernandes said.

"Our effort is to make Pravasi Bharatiya Divas a business-oriented conference. Many partnership ideas will be discussed at various sessions and taken forward," said S Krishna Kumar, Overseas Indian Affairs Secretary.

At the event, the Prime Minister will release a monthly newsletter titled 'Overseas Indian' in English and 'Pravasi Bharatiya' in Hindi, Telugu, Gujarati and Malayalam, Krishna Kumar said.

"Friends have to keep in touch. Not everyone can and need to do so via phone, email or website. The printed word is still a powerful means of communication, particularly between a multi-lingual, multi-cultural country and its diaspora."

According to Fernandes, the three-day event will also have a session to help the members of the diaspora trace their routes, titled 'Commemorating the Diaspora.'

"A large section of the Indian diaspora -- particularly those whose forefathers migrated as indentured labour to the Caribbean, Mauritius and Fiji -- have evinced a keen interest in tracing their roots in India," the minister added.

Prior to the event, three teams from the ministry visited regions with a high concentration of the diaspora. The first, led by Fernandes, went to the Gulf countries, Thailand and Malaysia, the second to Africa and the third to the US and Europe.

"In my recent visits to several countries having large Overseas Indian population such as the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Singapore, I found great interest to participate in Pravasi Bharatiya Divas," Fernandes said.

First Published: Jan 01, 2006 13:30 IST