It is indeed a pleasure
for me to be present amongst you on the occasion of the valedictory
session of the Pravasi Bhartiya Sammelan. On this historic day 102 years
ago, the greatest Pravasi Bhartiya of all times Mahatma Gandhi returned
to India from South Africa.
2. We gather here today to recalibrate and reaffirm our roots even as we
take pride in and gain sustenance from our adopted countries. One of the
largest community of expatriates amounting to about 31.7 millions, the
Pravasi Bhartiya stands out for his innate ability to assimilate and yet
maintain his identity. In doing so, you have contributed immensely to
your adopted lands through your dedication and hard work.
3. There are many amongst you who have made notable contributions in the
fields of high technology, business, politics, art & culture and sports
to mention, a few. On behalf of the Government of India, it was indeed
an honour for me to have conferred the Pravasi Bhartiya Samman on 30
members of the Diaspora just a while back. I congratulate each one of
you for your contributions to your counties of origin and India.
4. Friends, We are here today to celebrate your successes and
achievements. You have been the frontline envoys of Indian culture since
long and I hope that you will remain the foremost emissaries of the
unfolding Indian story. As a people exposed to the best of western
technology and yet having their civilisational moorings in the ageless
and eternal ethos of India, you are doubly blessed. The synergy of the
west and the east that you represent, provides you with a unique
position and opportunity that involves sharing knowledge between your
home land and your adopted countries. While you showcase India to your
host countries, you also bring along the cultural heritage of your
adopted lands to India. To my mind, nothing could exemplify our belief
of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam’ more than this.
5. Many of you having achieved material abundance, are actively involved
in the pursuit of higher callings of spiritualism and happiness. For us
in India, this has to be a parallel exercise and I am sure that you
could play a guiding role in this sphere. As we continue to strive
successfully in achieving our due and deserving place amongst the Comity
of Nations on economic and strategic indices, our ancient strengths in
the realm of the sublime and the subtle should continue to remain in
5. Dear Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Pravasi Bhartiya Divas has been a flagship event for the engagement
of the government with the Diaspora spread across the world. I am happy
to know that Indian Embassies and High Commissions abroad are
celebrating the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas today, with the members of
Indian Diaspora in their respective countries.
6. This Convention does not only provide an interface between the
government and the Indian Diaspora. It also provides an excellent
opportunity for both the Government of India and the State Governments
to showcase policies, initiatives and achievements in various sectors
and invite the Diaspora to contribute and give back to the country of
7. Friends, we have amongst us several eminent personalities from the
Indian Diaspora who are in leadership positions across the Globe. His
Excellency Dr Antonio Costa, the Prime Minister of Portugal who is with
us today, has his roots in Goa. His presence here is a source of
inspiration for us, and for the Indian Diaspora across the world. We are
delighted that he could participate as Chief Guest in the Pravasi
Bharatiya Sammelan. India's relations with Portugal have been and
continue to stay warm and friendly with close political, security,
cultural and most importantly people-to-people ties.
8. I am also glad that one of the youngest Indian Diaspora leaders, the
Vice President of Suriname Mr. Michael Ashwin Adhin is here with us
today. India enjoys close and friendly relations with Suriname,
reinforced by cultural and people to people contact. The Indian Diaspora
migrated to Suriname nearly 142 years ago. More than 2,30,000 persons of
Indian-origin living in Suriname have made a significant contribution in
all walks of life in that country.
9. Distinguished Friends, while we celebrate achievements and successes,
I want to draw attention towards several NRI’s who are temporary
migrants in the Gulf region and South East Asia. They are Indian
citizens who migrate for employment as low-skilled and semi-skilled
labour. They toil hard day and night, and save to send the fruits of
their labour as remittances to India, to maintain their families back
home. These remittances are the largest by any Diaspora, at 12% of the
total global remittances, amounting to $69 billion in 2015.
10. Many of them are likely to return to India, but while they live
abroad, all of them are vulnerable in many ways owing to the fact that
they do not enjoy the privileges of citizenship in their host country.
This is especially true of people working in areas of strife and
conflict, with their security and physical well being on the line. In
this regard, it is with satisfaction that I note the role played by
their mother country in assuaging their concerns. In swift and
coordinated operations involving multiple Ministries and Organizations,
we have been able to bring back thousands of fellow countrymen from
strife torn Nations. I congratulate our dynamic External Affairs
Minister Sushma Swarajji and MOS VK Singh for the initiatives of the
Ministry of External Affairs in this regard.
11. With regards to these temporary migrants going abroad in search of
employments, it will also be prudent that attention is paid towards
their skill up-gradation. Establishing linkages between the Government
of India’s skilling programmes and the skill gap that exists amongst the
migrant workforce will go a long way in enhancing their employability as
well as earnings.
12. Friends, Over the past couple of years, we have introduced several
initiatives aimed at smart solutions. In 2014, we launched the e-Migrate
platform for efficiency and transparency in the recruitment of
"Emigration Check Required" (ECR) category of Indian workers. Such
initiatives will surely help in protecting the rights of our workers
proceeding abroad and ensure accountability of recruitment agents in
India and their foreign employers.
13. As far as the vulnerabilities of expat Indians are concerned, I
would also like to flag the concerns of women & girls in India marrying
into NRI families. Even as the government and its agencies deal with
this issue, the concerns of this particular section can be most
effectively addressed by the local Community Organisations. I take this
opportunity to call upon the Indian Community Organisations abroad –
many of whom have been awarded today, to continue complimenting the
government’s efforts by working in tandem.
14. Distinguished Guests, occasions such as this provide us with an
opportunity to reaffirm our continued engagement with each other. At the
same time, they also call for reorientation and rejuvenation in our
areas of engagement. The government is implementing certain schemes for
the youth who were born and brought up abroad. In this regard “The Know
India Programme” is a flagship initiative under which such youth can
visit India to rediscover their heritage and culture and get acquainted
with contemporary India.
15. Similarly, the occasion calls for highlighting sectors in India that
need your active support and engagement. We have a young population
which needs to be equipped with the professional and technical education
of the highest standards. The Indian Diaspora may consider participation
in programmes such as GIAN - Global Initiative of Academic Networks,
under which they can visit India for short term academic assignments
with institutions of higher learning, including IITs and IIMs. They can
also avail the fellowships and scholarship programmes offered by the
Department of Science & Technology and Biotechnology, to explore avenues
for joint research and development. Through such collaborations, our
Institutions, Entrepreneurs and Innovators can enrich our education
sector and skilling efforts.
16. Similarly for you, the opportunities for contributing to your
motherland and being a part of its exciting growth story, are many and
varied. Be it “Make in India”, “Start up India”, “Digital India” or
“Swachh India”; all these programs provide ample opportunities for you
to participate, contribute and benefit.
17. Friends, I am confident that your attachment with your place of
origin and your connect with the nation have been strengthened, through
your participation in the Pravasi Bharatiya Convention. I once again
exhort all of you present here, to become a part of the evolving Indian
story, which is a wonderful story of 1.3 billion people of great
diversity with underlying unity living under one system, one
constitution and one flag.
18. I was also particularly happy to release the book of speeches by the
Prime Minister on foreign policy today. His speeches tell the story of
the emerging India, an India which is moving ahead, leaving behind the
baggage of history and looking at the world with optimism.
19. In the end, I conclude by again congratulating all the recipients of
the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman. I also wish you all a happy, prosperous
and enriching year ahead.