Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar, the convention venue in Gujarat’s capital, is all decked up to welcome the Indian diaspora, who are arriving in hundreds from countries across the world, for the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), the annual bonding jamboree hosted by India for its natives abroad.
The PBD is being held in Gandhinagar Jan 7-9 to mark the centenary of the return to the country of India’s “sarva sreshtha pravasi Bharatiya” or foremost Indian diaspora member, Mahatma Gandhi, from South Africa, on that day “to change her destiny”.
The chief guest of the 13th PBD would be Guyana President Donald Ramotar, who is also to be presented the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, the highest honour conferred on overseas Indians and people of Indian origin (PIOs).
South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane is also attending the PBD as part of the commemoratory events to mark Mahatma Gandhi’s return from South Africa 100 years ago.
PBD is the world’s largest annual gathering of people of Indian origin aimed at enhancing networking and reinforcing commercial linkages. There are an estimated 25 million people of Indian origin residing outside India.
India is also the single largest recipient of remittances from abroad at $70 billion,
The bridges on Sabarmati river and Riverfront in Ahmedabad and Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar have been festooned with decorative electrical lighting and the twin cities spruced up to welcome the delegates. Around 3,000 Indian diaspora delegates are expected to attend, officials said.
With the PBD to be followed by the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2015 on Jan 11-13, each being attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi accompanied by world leaders from political and business circles, a tight security net has been thrown across the Gandhinagar as well as Ahmedabad, 27 km away, where too some of the diaspora events will be held.
The event kicks off Wednesday with the Youth PBD, which is to be inaugurated by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is also minister for Overseas Indian Affairs. Gujarat-origin US astronaut Sunita Williams is expected to attend the Youth PBD.
After the inauguration, a plenary session on ‘Bharat ko Jano’ and ‘Bharat ko Mano’ will be held and there will be a talk on ‘Thoughts of Gandhi in 21st century referring to youths’.
During the ‘Bharat ko Jano’ (Know India) session, the diaspora youth would be told about India’s age old culture, traditions and hospitality, while at the ‘Bharat ko Mano’ session the youth would be told about modern India and its innovations, like Mangalyaan or the Mars mission, about India’s missile technology and expertise in IT, Sushma Swaraj said.
Prime Minister Modi will inaugurate the official part of the two-day session Jan 8.
The PBD would be hosting some special events, including four special sessions – on issues of Labour and Employment in Gulf countries, a session on Girmitiyas, session on the Francophone diaspora, and Role of Indian Diaspora Organisations.
The session on Girmitiyas would see the participation of Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) countries, where Indian origin people – the descendants of Indian indentured labour – live, like Suriname, Mauritius and Guyana.
The session on Indians in the Gulf countries, where over seven million Indians live and work, would be participated by Indian envoys of six countries from the region. It would help the Indian expatriates voice their concerns about labour and employment.
The session on Francophone diaspora would see members from Mauritius, Reunion Island and Guadeloupe among others air their concerns.
The fourth session on Indian diaspora organisations would see representatives of diaspora organisations like Tamil, Telugu and Punjabi organisations of various countries coming together.
Gujarat is the partner country for the event. Ten Indian states, including the non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) states of Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Nagaland, are participating. The BJP states are Gujarat, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Maharashtra.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitey and Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman would address the session between the chief ministers and NRI businesspersons during which the Modi government’s Make in India, Swachch Bharat, Skill India, Clean Ganga projects and Tourism would be highlighted and the diaspora invited to participate in the projects.
Vice President Hamid Ansari would be present at the closing ceremony Jan 9 and present the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman awards.
Gujarat being the host state for the first time would fete the delegates at a dinner and a cultural evening on Jan 8 on the banks of the Kankaria Lake, Ahmedabad, and the following day on the Sabarmati riverfront.