Pravasi Bharatiya Divas seminars discuss NRI issues

Roughly 1,400 delegates from different parts of the world are taking part in the 11th edition.

By Denisha Sahadevan

KOCHI, India: Roughly 1,400 delegates from different parts of the world are taking part in the 11th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which began at Le Meridien here Monday, with a series of seminars on issues that affect the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) community.

The main theme this year is “Engaging Diaspora – The Indian Growth Story.” The event was officially inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday.

Speaking at the first event on Monday, a seminar on Indians in the Gulf countries, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said he would bring the problems faced by NRIs in those countries to the attention of “the Prime Minister and my Cabinet colleagues for expeditious redressal.”

Ravi and Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who was a keynote speaker, released two studies related to Indians abroad — the “India Migration Report 2013” and “Connecting with Indian Diaspora.”

In his speech,  Chandy thanked expatriate Keralites for their contribution to the state’s economy. Kerala receives Rs. 60,000 crores (roughly $11 billion) in remittance annually, which is roughly 20 percent of its GDP.

The panelists, who included several top central and top officials, as well as Indian diplomats in the Gulf region, discussed a number of issues that are impacting the NRIs such as repatriation, labor mobility, partnership agreements in the Gulf region and relief and rehabilitation of the Indian nationals, who have been affected by recent uprisings.

Delegates from the Gulf area, who also spoke on the occasion, listed various grievances they face in India, which included their inability to obtain a ration card in the country.

There were also seminars on tourism, science and skill development on the first day.

The tourism panel, which was addressed by Alkesh Patel, the President of Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), explored how India can boost tourism. Besides discussing emerging opportunities in the medical and eco-friendly tourism, the session also deliberated on the various opportunities the Indian Diaspora has in terms of the investment and engagement with the tourism sector in India.

On the issue of medical tourism, the panel discussed bringing the NRI businessmen — who have done very well in countries such as the United States in various sectors — to India to start businesses here.

The seminar on skill development discussed the gap identification and the infrastructure required for skill development. The panelists pointed out that, with an increase in both blue and white collar jobs in several countries, it is necessary to identify the gaps the Indian migrant workers could fill. This would result in an entire industry for training and developing the professional skills of Indian workers and professionals.

The seminar on science discussed the potential the pure sciences presented through its multidimensional forms. The panelists debated various challenges involved in developing the pure sciences and its commercialization for enhancing India’s competiveness at the global level.

One of the highlights of the day was a performance by Geeta Chandran and her Natya Vriksha dance company, which was sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

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