Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas

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A backgrounder

Written by Rishika Singh, January 10, 2023: The Indian Express

Why is Pravasi Bharatiya Day celebrated?

A High-Level Committee on Indian Diaspora, headed by jurist and Parliamentarian LM Singhvi, had recommended in January 2002 that the government must renew and strengthen linkages of overseas Indians to their place of origin, and with each other.

The committee recommended that a Pravasi Bharatiya Bhavan should be set up to emerge as the focal point for networking between India and its overseas Indian community; and as a suitable place which to commemorate the stories of the Indian Diaspora. The idea of a day to have the government recognise the community flowed from this, and was held in 2003.

January 9 was selected as it was the date when Mahatma Gandhi returned to India from South Africa in 1915. Over the years, he has often been described as the first non-resident Indian of the most famous NRI by various politicians, including PM Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. Since 2015, the centenary year of Gandhi’s return, the format was revised for the meeting to be held once every two years. Since the pandemic, this will be the first in-person meeting.

This year’s theme is “Diaspora: Reliable partners for India’s progress in Amrit Kaal”. Over 3,500 diaspora members from nearly 70 different countries have registered for the PBD Convention, according to its press release. The Special Guest of Honour is Suriname President Chandrikapersad Santokhi and the Chief Guest is Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of Guyana.

The Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award

An award called The Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award is given out as part of the programme. According to the official website, “It is the highest honour conferred on a Non-Resident Indian, Person of Indian Origin; or an organisation or institution established and run by them.”

The award is to commemorate the contribution of the Indian diaspora to create a better understanding of India abroad, support India’s causes and work for the welfare of the local Indian community.

“A jury-cum-awards committee, with (the) Vice President as the chairman and External Affairs Minister as the vice-chair and other distinguished members from various walks of life considered the nominations…and unanimously selected the awardees,” the Ministry of External Affairs stated in a release.

This year, it will be awarded by President Droupadi Murmu to 27 people based in countries such as Australia, Ethiopia, Israel, Japan and more. The Chief Guest of the event and the President of Guyana, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, will also be awarded.

Also on the list of awardees is Dr Darshan Singh Dhaliwal, a US-based NRI who was sent back from Delhi’s IGI Airport on the night of October 23-24, 2021, over his alleged involvement in organising a langar for protesting farmers at Delhi borders against the three farm laws. He told The Indian Express he was “very honoured and excited” to receive the award.

What is planned for the 2023 Pravasi Bharatiya Day?

A Commemorative Postal Stamp ‘Surakshit Jaayen, Prashikshit Jaayen’ will be released to underline the importance of safe, legal, orderly and skilled migration. A first-ever digital Exhibition for the event, on the theme “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav – Contribution of Diaspora in Indian Freedom Struggle” will be held. For this, the Prime Minister will inaugurate a temporary museum in Indore.

There will also be five thematic Plenary sessions:

  • First Plenary on ‘Role of Diaspora Youth in Innovations and new Technologies’, chaired by Minister of Youth Affairs & Sports, Anurag Thakur.
  • Second Plenary on ‘Role of Indian Diaspora in promoting Indian Healthcare Eco-system in Amrit Kaal: Vision @2047’, chaired by Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya and co-chaired by Minister of State for External Affairs, Dr. Rajkumar Ranjan Singh.
  • Third Plenary on ‘Leveraging the soft power of India – Goodwill through craft, cuisine & creativity’, chaired by Minister of State for External Affairs, Meenakshi Lekhi.
  • Fourth Plenary on ‘Enabling global mobility of Indian workforce – Role of Indian Diaspora’, chaired by Minister of Education, Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Dharmendra Pradhan.
  • Fifth Plenary on ‘Harnessing the potential of diaspora entrepreneurs towards an inclusive approach to nation building’, chaired by Minister of Finance, Nirmala Sitharaman.
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