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.”
Thousands of students took to the streets of Australia and other Asia-Pacific countries Friday to kick off a global strike demanding world leaders gathering for a U.N. Climate Action Summit adopt urgent measures to stop an environmental catastrophe.
“We didn’t light it, but we’re trying to fight it,” read one sign carried by a student in Sydney, as social media posts showed huge demonstrations around the country including outback towns like Alice Springs.
“The oceans are rising and so are we,” read another sign held by a protester wearing school uniform in Melbourne.
Similar protests, inspired by the 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, are planned in some 150 countries Friday. The aim is for students and others from around the world to speak in one voice about the impending effects of climate change on the planet.
“Soon the sun will rise on Friday the 20th of September 2019. Good luck Australia, The Philippines, Japan and all the Pacific Islands. You go first!” Thunberg posted Thursday on Instagram.
By early afternoon, the Sydney protesters were overflowing out of a 34-hectare (84-acre) open space in the city. Similar crowds were reported in Brisbane and other state capitals.
Danielle Porepilliasana, a Sydney high school student, had a blunt message for politicians like Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who told parliament Thursday that students should stay in class.
“World leaders from everywhere are telling us that students need to be at school doing work,” she said, wearing anti-coal earrings. “I’d like to see them at their parliaments doing their jobs for once.”
Thunberg has galvanized young people around the world since she started protesting alone with a sign outside the Swedish parliament building in August 2018. Over the past year, young people in other communities have staged scattered strikes in solidarity with her Fridays for Future movement.
In conjunction with the U.N. summit this week, organizers on Friday will hold coordinated strikes around the world for a third time, with Thunberg spearheading a march and rally in New York, home of U.N. headquarters.
In a show of support, New York City education officials will excuse the absences of any of its 1.1 million public school students who want to participate.
Demonstrators will gather in Lower Manhattan at noon and march about a mile to Battery Park at the edge of the financial district for a rally featuring speeches and music.
Thunberg, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in March, sailed to New York from England aboard a zero-carbon-emissions vessel to partake in the U.N. summit.
It brings together world leaders to discuss climate change mitigation strategies, such as transitioning to renewable energy sources from fossil fuels.
Global warming caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels has already led to droughts and heat waves, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and floods, scientists say.
Carbon emissions climbed to a record high last year, despite a warning from the U.N.-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October that output of the gases must be slashed over the next 12 years to stabilize the climate.
Organizers said the demonstrations would take different forms, but all aim to promote awareness of climate change and demand political action to curb contributing factors to climate change, namely carbon emissions.
Demonstrators in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, planned to dance on the beach in a celebratory pledge to protect their natural heritage. Protesters in Istanbul were heading to a public park for a climate festival with concerts and workshops scheduled throughout the day.
On Wednesday, Thunberg appeared before several committees of the U.S. Congress to testify about the next generation’s view on climate change. In lieu of testimony, she submitted a 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that urged rapid, unprecedented changes in the way people live to keep temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees C by 2030.
“I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take action,” she said. (VOA)