Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me immense pleasure to be present here for the tenth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. As you know, this annual get together of the great Indian family from all over the world, commemorates the return of Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest of all Pravasi Bharatiyas, to India after a successful struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Today, the 9th of January, is the 97th anniversary of this epochal event, which led to a successful non-violent struggle for independence in India, and also inspired other countries languishing under colonial rule.
The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is a celebration of Indians living abroad. It is an occasion to welcome them to the land of their ancestors, to the country of their origin, to interact with them and re-acquaint ourselves with each other. You may be living in different parts of the world, but what binds us together is that we all spring from the same source. This creates a deep affinity.
The footprints of the Indian Diaspora are wide-spread and its presence felt in every continent. The Indian overseas community is not only large, but is becoming increasingly influential in the economic, professional and political fields, in the countries in which they are now living. We are proud of their accomplishments.
It is an honour and a privilege to have with us today Her Excellency Smt. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago; that she has become the first woman Prime Minister of her country, is an achievement that the world-wide Indian community applauds, and I thank her for coming all the way to be with us. I would also like to congratulate all the winners of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards. It is an extremely distinguished list and we are honoured by the presence of the awardees at this function.
Numerous languages and a variety of customs and traditions have together created a vibrant Indian culture. Its impact is evident in many countries across the world and, in this the Overseas Indian community has played an important role. The cultural vitality of the global Indian is so powerful, that some Indian scholars have even begun to redefine their own identity in terms of your cultural achievements. Take the example of the great Indo-Trini culture of Trinidad and Tobago, which has been created and nurtured over the years. It impresses all with its strength and beauty. Its impact has also been felt in India.
Overseas Indians, who number over 27 million, are symbols of India in their adopted countries. They have done extremely well in their chosen fields and have done us proud. We always look forward to meeting with them and learning from their rich experiences. The theme of this year's Conference, "Global Indian: Inclusive Growth" is very apt in terms of co-operation of our overseas Indian community that we need, to bring about great inclusiveness to India's growth story. I am given to understand that over the last two days, you have deliberated in detail on how you can contribute to the development of your ancestral homeland. You have discussed several ideas regarding partnerships in health, social entrepreneurship in water, investment and Research and Development in solar energy, and issues of youth connectivity.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the last few decades, India has lifted tens of millions of its people out of abject poverty. We are in a position to feed our population better, to educate our people better and to widen their economic choices. We still have a very long way to go. Health, education and skill development were key areas of the strategy of inclusive development in India's 11th Plan, and they will continue to be focus areas in the 12th Plan. We must ensure that these sectors receive adequate resources and to ensure that resources are spent to achieve maximum efficiency in terms of outcomes. We also need to harness private investment in these areas at a time of economic uncertainty and profound change in the world. We will continue to actively engage with the overseas Indian community as partners in the development and progress of India.
In this Century, human society faces the daunting yet inspiring task of forging "sustainability," in all its activities, so that while meeting current human needs, the requirements of future generations are also safeguarded. It is a great challenge. You all can play a decisive role with the knowledge and experience you have gained as academics or scholars, scientists and technologists, professionals or businessmen.
We deeply cherish our relationship with the Indian Diaspora. The Government of India is keenly interested in the well-being of the people of Indian origin living overseas. The year gone by saw major development in West Asia and North Africa. This is a region of great importance to India, because of our traditional warm ties with these nations, and also because a large number of Indian nationals live there. The Government of India had to evacuate about 19,000 Indian nationals from Libya and Yemen. The Government sent special aircraft and ships to these countries to bring back Indian citizens free of cost. Similarly, special flights were flown out of Egypt for more than 700 Indian tourists and Indian nationals working with various companies there.
I am delighted to note that the Indian Community Welfare Fund, originally established in 18 countries to provide timely succor to overseas Indians in distress, has now been extended to all Indian Missions. I would like to congratulate the Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, Shri Vayalar Ravi and his Ministry, for their keen concern for the welfare of Overseas Indians.
I also appreciate the Know India Programme, which is an endeavour to maintain links with the Diaspora youth. It brings groups of young overseas people of Indian origin to India, with a view to promote awareness on different facets of life here and the progress made by India in various fields. I have had the occasion to meet some of the groups coming under this Programme, and in my interaction with them, I have spoken about their abiding links with the country of their origin - India. We must continue to promote greater exchanges between the youth as an important aspect of forging linkages and maintaining the tradition of close bonds.
With these words, I wish all present here a Very Happy New Year! I wish all of you great success, progress and prosperity. We are meeting in Jaipur, a beautiful city also called the 'Pink city'. It attracts a large number of tourists. I hope that the delegates to this Conference will be able to go around the city.