'UK curry shops largest employers'
UN Under Secretary General Shashi Tharoor on Friday advocated the right to vote in India for people of Indian origin, saying the community was growing not only in clout but also financially.
"Persons of Indian origin not being given the right to vote is a shame," the noted novelist and a close aide of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the Third Pravasi Bharatiya Divas conference.
In an eloquent speech, peppered with anecdotes, Tharoor said the Indian diaspora was not only the richest community in the US, with annual incomes higher than the national average, but also the largest employer in Britain.
"In England, Indian curry shops employ more workers than the iron, steel, coal, shipping and mining industries combined," the London-born history graduate from St. Stephens College in New Delhi told the delegates at the plenary session.
"It shows the empire can strike back," he added, referring to the British, who once ruled India, but now have migrant entrepreneurs, politicians and knowledge workers from India who have been successful and have become well entrenched in the British society.
Talking about the past, Tharoor said there was a time when the acronym for non-resident Indian (NRI) either expanded to 'not really residents' or 'never relinquished India'.
"For too long it was felt that the country where Indians cannot succeed was India," he said. "This is clearly changing since the 1970s."
As an example, he said, the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) was as well respected in the US as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or the California Institute of Technology.
Tharoor, who secured a Ph.D from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in US, brushed aside remarks that the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas - India's annual event to connect with its diaspora - was a wasted affair.
"Sometimes the value of a conference lies in conferring," he said. According to him, the annual event, now in its third edition, made non-resident Indians and persons of Indian origin feel at home and share their values and concerns.
"We are not expecting any decisions. We want issues to be aired," he told reporters on the sidelines of the event.