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Pravasi Bharatiya Divas: Saluting the Diaspora and Their Achievements

It is not a secret that the Indian Diaspora is present in almost all parts of the world and what is noteworthy is how they have contributed to nation building in their adopted countries. It is also commendable how this community has contributed to India’s growth and development in every possible domain. The Government of India celebrates January 9 as Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. The date commemorates the return of Father of India Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to India on 9 January 1915. 

The celebrations in 2015 were special as it marked the 100th year of Mahatma’s homecoming.

Bringing non-resident Indians together and close to their roots creates a bond and more so for those second and third generation Indians born and brought up abroad. Non-Residents settled abroad is not just a story of success but also of hard work, grit, resilience and patience. By bringing them together, it’s also an acknowledgement of their achievements in their adopted home countries.

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was first celebrated in 2003, after the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee accepted the recommendations of the High-Level Committee on the Diaspora under the chairmanship of LM Singhvi. Till 2015, this event was celebrated annually, post that it is celebrated biennially. 

While the Pravasi Bharatiya Convention is held in New Delhi, the Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Convention is organized in overseas cities.

These events are theme based, bringing leaders, policymakers, subject matters experts, investors, artists and more together. The platform also allows Pravasi Indians to interact with fellow Indians and with Pravasis from other countries. 

The theme, held last year was “Contributing to Aatmanirbhar Bharat.” Because of the pandemic, the event was virtually organized, and was inaugurated by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. Suriname President Chandrikapersad Santokhi was the chief guest and delivered the keynote address. 

Prior to that, 15 other leaders from different countries served as the chief guest and spoke at the events.

In his 2021 address, the Indian Prime Minister especially thanked Non-Resident Indian doctors and medical workers for their efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. He also congratulated the community who reached out to everyone through langar services in Gurudwaras and temples during such a trying time. The Non residents also contributed to the PM Cares Fund which was helpful in strengthening India’s health infrastructure.

This formal connection between overseas Indians, NRIs with India has created an emotional bond. Not to mention their contribution to India’s development. It has also started a series of reforms, legal, financial and more to include them into the Indian growth story. Social media platforms have just brought them closer to Indians.    

Pravasi Indians through state specific programmes are also contributing to India’s startup ecosystem. 

It may be noted that ethnic Indians comprise about 6.4% of the world’s expat population. Remittances by non-resident Indians is very significant to India’s growth story. According to a World Bank estimate, Indian remittances stand at USD 79 billion. Followed by Chinese remittances at USD 67 billion and Mexican remittances at USD 36 billion. In 2018, NRIs contribution to Indian GDP was close to 3.4%.

According to a Ministry of External Affairs report, there are as many as 30,995,729 NRIs and Person of Indian Origin (PIOs) in 2018.

Migrant Indians have diversified their knowledge by learning about others’ history and culture, professionally worked in the best institutions and companies, contributed to the education and healthcare sector abroad and are always keen to share with their motherland.

NRIs and PIOs are also generous with charity work and have opened response teams and donated money whenever any natural disaster struck India. 

As we recuperate and revive from the pandemic, it is all the more important to help each other in crisis times. This Pravasi Bharatiya Divas should be a reminder for all of us to stay connected and reach out to each other when a crisis strikes.