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Melbourne marks the new version of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas this year

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Pravasi Bharatiya Divas

by Anubhuti Madan Singh

Melbourne: In an attempt to make the two-day Pravasi Bharatiya Divas more efficient, the event was held in Melbourne on February 21. The event was earlier held in different cities of India featuring discussions on important topics and concerns of the Indian diaspora.

Felicitation of exceptional works by people of Indian origin living abroad is also done.

However, from this year onwards the Indian government experimented with a new format. Many felt the old arrangements weren’t giving the expected results and that issues raised by the Indian diaspora weren’t being addressed to satisfaction.

Henceforth, every alternate year PBD will be held in New Delhi, India with all the associated pageantry, while every other year it will be celebrated on a small scale in India and individually at all the embassies and missions across the world. This new format is aimed at the inclusion of a larger audience while the issues raised in each individual centre will be collated and forwarded to the Indian government for resolution.

The Consulate General of India in Melbourne marked its version of PBD 2016 on 21 February. The event kicked off with a welcome note from Manika Jain, Consul General of India. This was followed by a moderator-driven group discussion with six speakers: Dr Rajkumar, Mr Vasan Srinivasan, Dr Ravi Bhatia, Mr Srinivasan, Dr Manjula Datta O’Connor, and Prof Suresh Bhargava.

Vasan Srinivasan spoke about the sanitation project in India and about the potential for creating an app to collect funding from the NRI community and making sure it reaches the right places in India.

Mr Srinivasan highlighted the issues being faced by Indian exporters of jewellery and diamonds since there is still no Free Trade Agreement between India and Australia.

Dr Ravi Bhatia talked about how the government is making is easier to “Make in India”. Dr Manjula O’Connor talked about the role of welfare and the steps being taken to improve the status of women. Prof Suresh Bhargava touched upon the importance of education for the growth of Indians.

This was a short session and audience inclusion was limited. The speakers were asked to stick to their scripts which left very little room for an open discussion and Q&A.

“The session could have been delivered more innovatively,” said Ajit Singh, Founder, Oorja Foundation. “There could have been more audience inclusion instead of lecture-style presentations. Only a few skills were discussed and many other topics like tourism weren’t even covered by any speakers. There was no youth involvement and only group leaders were present.”

The general purpose of the event was to highlight current projects initiated by the government in India and explore how the Indian diaspora can contribute to their progress.

Prabhat Sangwan, Consul Officer said, “This new format for PBD is intended to include a larger audience who weren’t making it to the event being held in India each year. Each embassy or mission will collate the major points of discussion and hand it over to the Indian Government.” However, she noted, they were certainly expecting a bigger turnout for this event.

Consul General of India, Melbourne, Manika Jain said, “It was very encouraging to hear what the speakers had to say. The ideas are in the nascent stages but there is a lot of enthusiasm by the Indian diaspora here. They (NRIs) want to give back to India.”

Jain is optimistic about the future of PBD. “This new model will be more beneficial as more people will be able to contribute with their ideas,” she said. Though the turnout was low this time around, she expressed hopes that next year there will be greater awareness and participation.

There were a plethora of topics but only a few were discussed. Some were very specific to particular industries so it wasn’t relevant to everyone present. For a more insightful discussion, perhaps only a couple of themes could have been shortlisted prior to the event.

“It was a great initiative and a commendable effort by the consulate for holding this event,” said another attendee Sunny Chandra. He added, “There should be more such events and Indian business leaders should be invited which seemed to be missing today.”

Molina Asthana, Principal Solicitor, Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office pointed out, “There was no diversity in the speakers (with only one female to five male speakers), or amongst the audience either.”

The event could have been better advertised for a bigger turnout.

The Melbourne Indian community is vibrant and has already established itself as one that the Australian government and its various agencies pay close attention to.  There is much that the community can offer to the Indian government as well, and the desire is always there to contribute to the homeland. Here’s hoping the PBD becomes a more effective platform next time round.

(The article was first published in indialink.com.au)

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NRIs Cheered for PM Modi

He profusely praised Prime Minister Modi for his all-round developmental plans and policies

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Indian, Diaspora, PM
The US President Donald Trump himself flew in to jazz up the occasion.

BY SALIL GEWALI

Americans’ love for the Indians and Indians’ love for America was fully on display at Howdy Modi’s event in Houston last Sunday. The US President Donald Trump himself flew in to jazz up the occasion. He profusely praised Prime Minister Modi for his all-round developmental plans and policies. He further widened PM Modi’s chest by calling him a fatherly figure of India, and also a crowd puller like Elvis Presley. President Trump very well knows how to talk shop. However, Trump sincerely hopes that the event will help strengthen the relation of the two nations, and much more than ever before. PM.

A huge crowd of 50 thousand roaring and cheering for Modi is something which President Trump thought his “presence” would top up the Howdy Modi’s cake which will equally nourish both. Not surprisingly, Modi began his speech by saying — “I have the honour to introduce you to my family”, pointedly aiming at the entire leaders and influential capitalists in the USA who employ the “cream” of the entire Indian population. On the other hand, President Trump clearly expressed his “pride” having the core “strength of Indian” in America. PM Modi is seemingly looking to exploit India’s strength in America and build new India in every possible way. This is probably his new dream. The passion of event pitched up so high that euphoric Modi impulsively yelled – “Abki Baar Trump Sarkar”. This must have caused heartburn to many people, and more to those running for the 2020 Presidential election.

Indian, Diaspora, PM
Americans’ love for the Indians and Indians’ love for America was fully on display at Howdy Modi’s event in Houston last Sunday.

To organize an event of this magnitude involves a lot of managerial skills and concerted efforts. Everything came off perfectly well in Houston — undoubtedly, due to the synergies of the efforts of dedicated NRIs and a huge amount of monetary contributions that generous diaspora had pitched in. What is very obvious is the people were emotionally involved to make the event grand, some were tied down for the past three months. Here why people love PM Modi so much is, in fact, no small thing though we just pass off – no matter which political party he belongs to. One believes he is the only leader who receives such kind of welcome and hospitality wherever he visits. This in fact should make other world leaders think seriously why Modi is so much idolized by the masses. Whether it has logical basis or not. No exaggeration, what it all that attracts people to him is something to be made a case study. If nothing, Modi’s simplicity, his inborn humility, uprightness, and incorruptible aptitudes must be the prime reasons that fascinate the right-thinking people.

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Here what really surprises us is that the man with righteous principle and integrity also has a huge number of sworn enemies. Those enemies are totally blind and deaf to Modi’s virtues. No amount of Modi’s sacrifices for the country make them happy and appreciative. They hold forth thousands of faults in Modi while never hesitating to appreciate and stand for the corruptible oddballs as their leaders. They also tend to look upon those unscrupulous persons for their inspiration — maybe for knowledge and moral too, lol! This is nothing but the sickness of this civilization. One sees this as one of the worst maladies of modern times.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali