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Sydney invites Indian Diaspora for dialogue

The ‘Pravasi Bharatiya Divas’ initiative, now 10 years in operation, has seen thousands of people of Indian origin connect with their roots in a programme supported by the Indian Government.

A Report commissioned shortly after 2000 revealed that there were 25 million people who themselves had migrated from India or whose parents and grandparents may have done so.

It was thought that these people might wish to refashion contact on sentimental grounds, or for reasons of wanting to tour India, of investment, or of providing money in a philanthropic way towards projects or organisations within India.

Gandhian move

First in 2003, and in each year thereafter, the Indian Government has produced a three-day event centred on January 9, the day that Mahatma Gandhi returned to India in 1915, after two decades of study in UK and working in South Africa.

He had undertaken successful community action in South Africa in the interests of the Indian community there and his ideas of non-violent non-cooperation with the government was viewed with favour by those seeking to gain freedom from the colonial government applied from UK.

‘Pravasi’ is a word, which has a number of meanings in Hindustani: migrant, bird of passage, expatriate and visitor.

All of these words may be said to have applied to Gandhi as he landed in Mumbai to begin the ‘Satyagraha Movement’ in the land of his birth in a journey towards independence that would take another 30 years.

Symbol of change

This became a symbol of a policy that would change the position of India towards those who had left the country as venture capitalists, migrant workers or indentured labourers or for other reasons.

The first 50 years after independence had seen India needing to remain inwardly focused to achieve self-sufficiency and forward movement.

Significant advancement was recorded in the 1990s in many fields including agriculture, manufacturing and a turnaround in financial fortunes, unleashing a new confidence that caused the political leaders to look outwards and to seek advantage from connecting with overseas trends in all sorts of things.

Instead of being a client state of more wealthy and powerful nations, India fashioned itself into a player at the same tables.

The study of Indians abroad also revealed a great many who had themselves succeeded in business and other achievements in the countries they had taken up residence. It was thought that many of these looked back towards India in ways that were encouraging.

Engaging mix

Hence, the three-day events, which provided a mixture of cultural events, speeches and displays describing the current India and its successes and of opportunities for meetings of people of like minds whether from Government or business or the community.

The first occasions were provided in New Delhi with numbers of 2000 and more from all over the world in attendance. The potential was then seen of repeating the events (named Pravasi Bharatiya Divas) in other centres.

So, as the decade has gone by, PBDs have been successfully conducted in Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh), Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Kochi (Kerala), Mumbai (Maharashtra) and Jaipur (Rajasthan) as well as returning each other year to New Delhi.

Regional meets

It is not possible or convenient for everyone to make a substantial journey to India and attention has therefore turned to promoting the same kind of event in places where there is access to many other people of Indian origin.

Thus, cities such as Vancouver, Cape Town and Singapore have brought off successful ventures, paving the way in 2013 for another Pravasi to be held in Sydney at the beginning of next month.

This first South Pacific or Oceania Pravasi will be of interest to more than 400,000 people of Indian origin living in Australia but also to more than 100,000 in New Zealand and 300,000 in Fiji.

The programme will be rolled out in succeeding weeks and will involve personalities from India joining those from each of the three countries in a celebration of who they are and where they came from and a liking of Indian elements be it food, design, music, dance, fabric, manufactured products, language and literature.

All these developments have been reviewed and refocused on a regular basis by the Indian government with the development of a specific Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs and a number of advisory committees and boards from whom opinions are sought and in many cases acted upon.

Sir Anand Satyanand is former Governor General of New Zealand. He is Chairman of the Commonwealth Foundation (London) and Member of the Board of Governors of the Indian Development Foundation for Overseas Indians’ of the Indian Government, in addition to his roles as Member and Chairman of a number of New Zealand Government agencies and boards. He is seen in this picture receiving the ‘Bharatiya Pravasi Samman Award’ from the then Indian President Pratibha Patil, watched by Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi at the PBD held in Delhi on January 11, 2011, where he was the Chief Guest.

Regional Pravasi Divas in Australia

November 10 to 12, 2013

Sydney Exhibition and Convention Centre

Details & Registration: www.pbdsydney2013.com.au


As we went to press with this issue, we collected the following information (edited) from the website of the Indian High Commission based in Wellington.

The Overseas Indian Affairs Ministry of Indian Government and the Indian High Commission in Canberra will host the 2013 Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) Convention in Sydney.

Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi will lead the Indian participation at the Convention. Overseas Indian Affairs Ministry Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, the Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre and Indian Partner-States will also participate in the event. Speakers will include leaders from Government, Business, Academia, media and civil society groups. The three-day Convention is expected to attract more than 1000 people from various States and Territories of Australia and neighbouring countries.

The Convention will be held under the central theme, ‘Connecting for a Shared Future: The Indian Diaspora, India & the Pacific.’

People from all States and Territories of Australia and from neighbouring countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Fiji and the Pacific Islands are expected to participate in the Regional PBD Sydney.

This Convention is not only for the Indian community, but also for all persons who are interested in connecting with India’s growing relationship with Australia and other Pacific countries.

The Confederation of Indian Industry, the Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre and the Australia India Business Council are among the major supporters.

The programme feature discussions on different aspects of India’s relationship with Australia and countries of the region including resources, energy, infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing, services, skills and education, languages, women in business, youth, media and culture.

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