Impressions on the 9th PBD

At the 9th edition of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, Sir Anand Satyanand, Governor General of New Zealand was the chief guest. This continued the tradition in the PBDs of inviting the descendants of indentured workers as chief guests (barring 2010). The PBD had some well-structured plenary sessions and several interesting parallel sessions which were well attended. The overall attendance, though, continued to remain more or less same. It begs the question about the timing of the event, many an NRI and PIO interviewed earlier by this magazine have said that it would be easier for them to attend in the month of December. By the first week of January the majority overseas Indians are back in their countries, and this could be preventing a larger participation at the event. The next PBD (2012) will be held in the Pink City of Jaipur. Here are some glimpses from this year, including snapshots of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awardees
The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) concluded its 9th edition on January 9. Over time, the learning curves at the PBD for both organizers, and other stakeholders have been many. Thankfully, some of it is getting implemented, while, as with any other event, there is always room for improving things.

One of the key areas that needs to be looked into is in the numbers attending. It remains a curious fact that the first PBD drew the largest numbers of registered delegates, and the subsequent PBD events have seen falling numbers. In 2011, the numbers were slightly higher than in 2010, but still there has been no significant increase. Several NRIs spoken to by this magazine, as well as a former secretary at the MOIA, are of the view that the main PBD should be held in December, while the Samman Awards can be separately given on January 9, the date when 96 years ago M.K. Gandhi returned from South Africa to India. It is commonly known that the maximum number of NRIs are present in India in December, and only 10 per cent remain in India after that, since the overwhelming majority have to go back to their businesses, jobs, academic institutions in their countries of domicile by the first week of January. Thus, only a limited few remain that can think of attending the PBD.

Let’s take a look at the things that worked. This time PBD saw for the first time a link seminar with overseas Indian youth. The lineup of speakers was impressive, and the event was done in coordination with the GYIPS (Global Young Indian Professionals and Students), and the MOIA’s institutional partners, CII (Confederation of Indian Industry). The young global Indians attending the Know India Programme (KIP) were also involved. Overall, the seminar showed that the Government is keen to inject freshness in its interactions with the younger overseas Indians. There was also a session dedicated to the Indian youth of the world at the main PBD, this one was chaired by Canadian MP Ruby Dhalla (see separate interview).

A session on engaging with the PIOs moderated by High Commissioner Malay Mishra and chaired by Union Minister of State for External Affairs Ms Preenet Kaur was very well attended. The panel of speakers included Malaysian Minister Subramaniam and his mentor Samy Vellu, a former minister himself, Ashook Ramsaran of the GOPIO International, Minister Rajeshwar Jeetah of Mauritius. The PBD Chief Guest Sir Anand Satyanand, the Governor General of New Zealand, attended the session that drew a packed audience. HC Mishra has been posted in Trinidad, and had earlier been with the MOIA’s diaspora division, and took it upon himself the Government’s sustained efforts at strengthening ties with the descendants of the older diaspora, mainly indentured workers. It was good precursor to what followed on January 11, when Union Ministers Vayalar Ravi and Mamata Banerjee unveiled a plaque at the Kolkata port in memory of indentured workers.

The Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards generated less controversy as the awardees were selected by an independent body.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lights the lamp to inaugurate the 9th PBD in New Delhi. At left is the chief guest from New Zealand Sir Anand Satyanand, Governor General, descendant of indentured workers who went to Fiji. Also seen Ministers Vayalar Ravi and B.K. Handique and Secretary Didar Singh
A snapshot of PBSA recipients in January 2011 President of India Pratibha Patil
Sir Anand Satyanand Minister Ravi
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Minister for Road Transport and Highways Kamal Nath
Minister for Mines and for DONER B.K. Handique Minister Jitin Prasada Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas
PM’s adviser Sam Pitroda

February 2011

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