In the last session of Parliament, Rajya Sabha member Syed Zafar Islam asked the Modi government the details of recent developments in ensuring strong links with overseas Indian community.
According to a UN report, the largest numbers of migrants from India are living in UAE (3.5 million), US (2.7 million) and Saudi Arabia (2.5 million).
India has the largest transnational population in the world. It has the most migrants abroad — 18 million, which is a significant number and another feature which is very interesting about the Indian migrant population is that they’re really distributed all over the globe.
And if we talk of Overseas Indians (citizens of other countries but linkage with India by birth or birth of their parents and grandparents), the number comes to be 32100340.
The Modi-government has done the following over the last seven years in strengthening the links between India and its Diaspora.
Since 2014, several new initiatives have been taken and old programmes have been revamped by the Government for interaction of overseas Indians with India in the fields of Culture, Education and Trade. The initiatives taken by the Government are as below:
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) is the flagship event of the Government to reconnect and deepen engagement with the diaspora. The 16th PBD was organized on 9th January, 2021 in virtual mode for the first time due to Covid-19 restrictions on the theme “Contributing to Aatmanirbhar Bharat”. The 16th PBD Convention was preceded by five PBD Conferences on themes of culture, economy, media, GCC region, and youth to engage with diaspora experts and deliberate on the issues relevant to them.
Under a new initiative since 2015, theme-based PBD Conferences are held on topics of interest to our diaspora with participation from overseas diaspora experts, policy makers and stakeholders. PBD Conferences are also held on regional basis. The recommendations of the diaspora are evaluated for implementation.
The Know India Programme (KIP) is an initiative to reconnect young persons of Indian-origin with their roots and give them an exposure to various aspects of Indian life, cultural heritage, art and contemporary India. The Government has initiated a special Know India Programme titled “Pravasi Teerth Darshan Yojana” for the people of Indian Origin (PIOs) in the age group of 45-60 years to connect them to the spiritual and religious aspects of India.
The 1st PIO-Parliamentarian Conference was held in 2018 in New Delhi, with an aim to strengthen the engagement with the Overseas Indians and was attended by 137 sitting PIO Parliamentarians and Mayors from 24 countries.
The Scholarship Programme for Diaspora Children (SPDC) was launched to make higher education in Indian Universities/Institutions accessible to diaspora children and promote India as a centre for higher studies. It was revamped to provide upto 150 scholarships with scholarship amount of US$ 4000 per student per annum. 50 of the scholarships are given to the children of Indians working in Gulf. SPDC is also extended to wards of Indians living in Nepal.
Ministry of External Affairs supports the diaspora to organise cultural events under the Promotion of Cultural Ties with Diaspora (PCTD) scheme with an aim to showcase Indian culture and new initiatives and developments of modern India.
Indian Council for Cultural Relations operates 37 Cultural Centres overseas and imparts courses in Indian culture, language, yoga and arts. Other Ministries are also engaged with the diaspora, in coordination with MEA. Ministry of Culture gives grant-in-aid to lndo Foreign Friendship Cultural Societies for organizing cultural programmes and activities abroad, Ministry of Science and Technology operates Visiting Advanced Joint Research (VAJRA) Faculty Scheme programme for collaboration with diaspora scholars, Department of Education has Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) in Higher Education programme and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had organised VAIBHAV Summit for R&D collaboration for engagement with diaspora.
Prime Minister and other Ministers visit and interact with the Indian Community and also with the CEOs and other prominent personalities of the diaspora, which has helped in developing strong links with overseas Indian community.
An online digital portal, the Global Pravasi Rishta Portal (RISHTA), was launched in December 2020 to act as a dynamic communication platform between the diaspora, the Ministry and Missions abroad. The portal is intended to help in dissemination of information and share various schemes and programmes of the Government with Indian Diaspora.
In response to the challenges posed by COVID pandemic, the Government actively focused on addressing the distress faced by stranded Indians abroad. Over 60 lakh Indians from more than 103 countries have returned to India under the aegis of the Vande Bharat Mission. The provision of medical supplies, food items and health professionals from India were made to several countries, including the Gulf. Efforts are also being made to help renew livelihoods of our people abroad through air travel arrangements and engaging with foreign governments to enable Indians to return for work and study.
The Ministry of External Affairs holds regular interactions with the State Governments to discuss Indian Community and Labour issues. With the efforts of Government of India, NRI departments have been set up in several States. The Government has been organizing MEA-State Government outreach events under the banner “Videsh Sampark” to address issues pertaining to welfare and protection of Indian citizens abroad and brief the State Government about Ministry’s initiatives, including those pertaining to welfare of the overseas Indian community and curbing illegal migration. Six Outreach Events have been organized in partnership with the State Governments of Telangana, Maharashtra, Kerala, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.
Awareness Generation and Training of Trainers (TOT) Workshops have been conducted in many States such as Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Kerala, Rajasthan, Punjab, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal to sensitize participants about the benefits of safe, orderly and regular migration and welfare and protection measures of the Government for the migrant workers. These workshops were also aimed at capacity building of States to enable them to take the Pre-Departure Orientation Training (PDOT) programmes at the grass-root level in the major labour sending districts. PDOT programmes are conducted at 30 centres in 12 States and have now gone online, thus reaching out to a wider community. The Videsh Bhavans are offering the services of Passport, POE, ICCR and Pre-Departure Orientation Training (PDOT) programmes under one single roof.