Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) and Indian Diaspora

On the occasion of the 17th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas convention, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that Indians living abroad are “brand ambassadors” for the country on foreign soil. “Diaspora: Reliable Partners for India’s Progress in Amrit Kaal,” is the theme of the PBD Convention.

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD)

  • PBD is a memorial day observed on 9 January 2003 to recognize the contribution of the overseas Indian community to India’s development.
  • The day commemorates Mahatma Gandhi’s return from South Africa to Mumbai on January 9, 1915.
  • It was founded in 2000 and is supported by the Ministry of External Affairs.

History of the Indian ex-pat

  • Thousands of Indians were shipped to those countries in the 19th and early 20th centuries to work on plantations in British colonies that were reeling from a labor crisis following the abolition of slavery in 1833-34.
  • Nearly 20 lakh Indians went to Singapore and Malaysia to work in farms as part of the second wave of migration.
  • In the aftermath of the oil boom, the third and fourth waves saw professionals flock to western countries and workers flock to the Gulf and west Asian countries.

Numbers and geographical spread

  • Overseas, there are 4.7 crore Indians. NRIs, PIOs, OCIs, and students are all included in the total.
  • Excluding students, the total number is 3.22 crore, which includes 1.87 crore PIOs and 1.35 crore NRIs.
  • According to the World Migration Report prepared by the International Organization for Migration under the United Nations, India has the world’s largest emigrant population.
  • It is the world’s leading origin country, followed by Mexico, Russia, and China.

India’s Diaspora Engagement: A Policy Perspective

  • Many of the contemporary diaspora policy themes have their roots in the approach of the Indian national movement prior to independence.
  • During the 1950s and 1960s nationalist backlash against Indian communities in Africa and Asia, Delhi deliberately distanced itself from the diasporic communities.
  • As India turned inward, Delhi became concerned about the “brain drain,” as many well-educated Indians sought opportunities elsewhere.
  • Only in the late 1980s did Delhi begin to reconsider its approach to the diaspora.

Change in recent years

  • PM Rajiv Gandhi was the first to recognize the potential role of the diaspora in advancing national development and strengthening India’s ties with the United States.
  • The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas began to be celebrated in 2000, which resulted in the formation of a separate Ministry for Overseas Indians under Prime Minister AB Vajpayee.
  • Other innovative initiatives were launched, such as the Know India Programme (KIP) and the Study India Programme (SIP).
  • These have included youth living abroad and the Tracing the Roots Scheme, which has allowed some Indians to trace their ancestors back to India.

Most recent initiatives

  • India has been guided by the four Cs: Connect, Contribute, Celebrate, and Care.
  • There is a Diaspora Welfare Officer on staff.
  • The authorities have ensured that all grievances are resolved completely through the E-Migration Portal, Madad Portal, and CPGRAMS.

Several policy initiatives

  • NRI seats are reserved in all medical, engineering, and other professional schools.
  • The right to vote: The provision in the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill 2017 would allow non-resident Indians (NRIs) to participate in the electoral process through ‘proxy voting’.
  • KIP (Know India Program): It is a flagship Diaspora engagement initiative that reconnects Indian-origin youth (18-30 years old) with their Indian roots and reimagines contemporary India.
  • Minimum Referral Wages (MRW): A number of policies were announced with the goal of protecting the welfare and interests of Indians living abroad, such as the 2014 Minimum Referral Wages (MRW).
  • Easing the passport process: Over the last three years, Head Post Offices have been converted into passport centres, allowing thousands more people to apply for a passport.

Challenges faced by Diaspora

  • Racism has resulted in an increase in hate speech and crimes against Indians by locals, as has communalism, which has been emboldened by the election of nationalist and ultra-nationalist governments in many countries.
  • Fear of losing jobs and educational opportunities to outsiders has resulted in stricter visa rules in many countries, including the United States, Australia, and others.
  • Terrorism: The sectarian crisis, increased terrorist activities, and war in Middle Eastern countries (Yemen, Oman, Libya, Syria, and others) make our diaspora vulnerable to attacks.
  • Political polarization: Since the change of government and some extreme right-wing factionists, many Indians abroad have turned against India.
  • Anti-national tendencies: India has struggled with negative campaigning and foreign funding for separatist movements such as the Khalistan movement.

Way ahead

  • Since 2014, India has been viewed more favorably by the rest of the world, and the diaspora can help to reinforce these perceptions.
  • To address the recurring challenges of supporting citizens abroad, India requires both additional resources and improved systems.
  • The diaspora can step up and act as Indian ‘ambassadors,’ as a country or its missions abroad relying solely on press releases to change public opinion is insufficient and ineffective.
  • The diaspora can provide the necessary strategic impetus, making it all the more important to realize their full potential.
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