The Government of India’s apparent move to “shift” the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) celebration this year to NRIs living abroad, instead of making it a big annual event on January 9 in Delhi, as was the tradition, is failing to get necessary response from Indian diaspora, if what happened in Melbourne, Australia, is any indication.
Organized by the Indian Consulate General of India in Melbourne, it is learnt that just about couple of dozen non-resident Indians (NRIs) out of the “target population” of over a lakh in Victoria Province attended the function. Melbourne is the capital of Victoria.
Held on February 21, one of those who attended the “event” called it a “completely lacklustre” affair, adding, “This is just a reflection of the fact that people abroad are losing interest in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to promote his flagship programmes such as Make in India and Clean India.”
The event, said this participant, was held at the Indian consulate in Melbourne in order to “take ideas about Modi’s Make in India, Clean India and other policies, but it flopped as the total attendance was 20-25, including 4-5 panelists and the consulate staff.”
The event was organized by two NRI companies and was addressed by Manika Jain, Indian consul in Melbourne. Other penalists, who spoke on the occasion, were Vasan Srinivasan, Ravi Bhatia, Dr S Bhargawa, Dr Raj Kumar, and Dinesh Malhotra.
A letter to NRIs in Melbourne, sent by the Consulate General of India, said that the Government of India “contributions of Indian Diaspora Associations (IDAs) to its developmental initiatives and flagship projects.”
It added, “On this occasion IDAs are encouraged to put forward their creative ideas, viewpoints and reasoning for expeditious implementation of the Government of India flagship projects.”
“IDAs are also encouraged to come up and declare their creative contributions with draft details of contributions in cash, kind and intellectual inputs”, it added.
Asking Indian diaspora to “come to this event and read your written text of your creative ideas and viewpoints, and “declare your input contributions to Government of India flagship projects, if any”, it made the event open to all NRIs.
“If you wish to come with your friends, please let us know their names and native places in India. The prior information is necessary for logistical and security arrangements”, the invitation said, adding, “Also if you can circulate this event in the community also, it will be highly appreciated.”
Things reportedly did not go well elsewhere in the world elsewhere. For instance, at the High Commission of India in Sri Lanka, which celebrated Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) this year at the Indian Cultural Centre, Colombo, just about 50 NRI “prominent members” attended the event.
This was despite the fact that Minister for National Co-existence, Dialogue and Official Languages of Sri Lanka Mano Ganesan was the Chief Guest on the occasion, with YK Sinha, High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka, speaking the “contribution” made by Indian Diaspora towards nation building in India and in their adopted countries.
While PBD events were similarly organized elsewhere in the world as well, including all major capitals such as Washington CD and London, suspension of the big event was a big surprise to policy makers as well as NRIs.
“PBD has sanctity attached to it because it marks the anniversary of the return of Mahatma Gandhi to India from South Africa”, The event as a part of the Indian’s government’s outreach towards global Indians,” reportedly said R Dayakar, a retired Indian foreign service officer.
Munish Gupta, coordinator, Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) International, reportedly said, “The cancellation of the PBD in 2016 for the first time after so many years is a big disappointment”, adding, it would slow down efforts to begin “a new chapter in India’s dialogue with the diaspora.”