Madison Square Garden, New York. Allphones Arena, Sydney. After dazzling and ravishing NRIs in high visibility rock-star like shows in foreign lands, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to turn on all his charm to serenade over 3,000 NRIs and PIOs on home turf in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. On January 8, Mr Modi is expected to perform a new improvisation of his ‘Song of NRIs’ and will seek to enlist them as proactive stakeholders in the reignited India growth story.
Celebrating Mahatma’s homecoming
The annual jamboree of overseas Indians looks set to have a new shine next year as India toasts the centenary of the homecoming of Mahatma Gandhi, the most famous NRI, and seek to leverage myriad talents and resources of expat Indians for the larger project of national resurgence. The Modi government, which has made a proactive engagement with the 25-million strong Indian diaspora scattered across countries and continents a key feature of its foreign policy, is bursting with ideas to put its own stamp over the 13th edition of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) that will be held in Gandhinagar January 7-9.
Style and Substance
As this is the first PBD of the Modi government, it will be high on style and dazzle as well as substance. What imparts the 2015 PBD a special resonance is its intersection with the historic moment of Gandhi’s return from South Africa to India on January 9, 2015, with the gleam of freedom and national rebirth in his eyes. Gandhi returned and liberated his country, but millions of persons of Indian origin chose to stay back to fecundate their adopted foreign lands with hard work, talent and enterprise and eventually morphed into bridge-builders between India and a large swathe of the world where the sun never sets on the sons and daughters of India. Held for the first time in 2003 during the BJP-led NDA government, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, or PBD as it is called, was conceived to celebrate multifarious achievements of overseas Indians and to recreate the organic umbilical link that ties them to their homelands.
Unveiling the multi-hued programme and ambitious ideas that will underpin the forthcoming PBD, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, also Minister for Overseas Affairs, has struck an upbeat note. There will be several firsts, the minister told a hall full of journalist on a foggy and chilly winter morning in Delhi. This time round, the opening day will be focused on young NRIs, with two special sessions on ‘Bharat Ko Jano’ (Know India – it will focus on reconnecting with culture of the original homeland) and ‘Bharat Ko Mano’ (Recognise India – it will highlight innovations done by Indians down the ages). The NRI youths will also get to interact freely with young men and women from the four key universities in Gujarat. Holding a youth NRI fest is a laudable idea, and could provide the much-needed youthful sparkle to the diaspora fest which had begun to look jaded and predictable – a mere occasion for networking, high-spirited schmoozing and khana-peena (feasting and drinking), as a cynical journalist remarked.
Keen that the PBD is not seen as a schmooze-fest, the new government has injected a slew of innovative ideas into the meet. This will be reflected in the four special sessions which will deal with the concerns of the 7 million-strong Indian diaspora living in the Gulf countries; Indian expats in Francophone countries; countries where the descendants of Indian indentured labour, called girmitiyas, live; and another session to address concerns of diverse associations of Indian diaspora. This focus on specific regions and special concerns is refreshing and will hopefully bring more concentrated thinking into the talk-fest, which had tended to be diffuse in the past.
Another important feature of the forthcoming PBD will be its emphasis on promoting the culture of cooperative federalism. The government has invited chief ministers of all states, including those ruled by the opposition parties. So far, 10 chief ministers have confirmed, including three from the non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) states of Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Nagaland, the minister informed.
With over 3,000 overseas Indians in attendance, the government is determined to rope them in spurring the success of its defining projects of national renewal, including the Make in India initiative, Swachch Bharat (Clean India), Skill India, and Clean Ganga projects. Officials dealing with these flagship campaigns will be making focused presentations in the hope that the expat Indians are attracted enough to contribute their bit in bringing them to fruition.
In the age of visuals, the PBD promises to be a captivating show. It will be a 3D performance in ways more than one. Celebrating Mahatma Gandhi’s historic salt march, a new high-tech museum built inside a giant salt mound will illumine the father of the nation in a 3D image. This life-size, 3D hologram of the Mahatma will hopefully be more than a show-stealer and inspire all to meditate on his luminous thoughts that lit up India’s journey to independence. Prime Minister Modi, on his part, will have his own 3D mantra of Democracy, Demographic Dividend and Demand, with which he charmed the rapturous crowds at Madison Square Garden in New York on a bright Sunday morning.
Get ready for the 3D show in Gandhinagar.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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