Connecting Contemporary India to Diaspora in Girmitiya Countries: Link to past for a shared future

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Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) is celebrated on 9 January every year to strengthen the engagement of the overseas Indian community with the Government, reconnect them with their roots and celebrate their achievements and contributions. PBD is celebrated on January 9 as it was on this day in 1915 that Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest Pravasi, returned to India from South Africa to lead India’s freedom struggle.

 
In 2015 the Government of India revised the format of PBD and re-energized its engagement with the Indian Diaspora to enable sustained and more substantive engagement. Following the review, the PBD Convention will be held once in two years in a city outside Delhi. In the intervening year, smaller, outcome-based PBD Conferences will be organized in New Delhi on issues of concern to the Indian Diaspora. It was decided that Indian Missions and Consulates will also celebrate PBD every year.

Through the first series of PBD Conferences which commenced in February 2016 the Government is proactively engaging with the Overseas Indians in an issue-based dialogue.

As a run up to PBD 2017, 10 PBD Conferences (panel discussions) have been held in 2016 on issues of importance to the Indian Diaspora. Domain experts from the Diaspora, and stakeholders and policy makers based in India have been invited for day-long deliberations on various topics. Their recommendations have been submitted to the Government of India for consideration. At the 14th PBD Convention in January 2017, each PBD Conference will present their recommendations, and the Action Taken Report to PBD delegates for their suggestions and comments.

The 14th PBD Convention January 2017:

PBD 2017 which will focus on the theme “Redefining engagement with the Indian Diaspora” will

 

  • Provide a platform for connecting with the Diaspora.
  • Address issues of concern to the Indian Diaspora and seek their insights and suggestions.
  • Deepen engagement with the young Diaspora and reconnect them with their roots.

Background for Plenary Session V

This Session on “Connecting Contemporary India to Diaspora in Girmitiya Countries: Link to past for a shared future” will discuss ways to develop the ‘India Connect’ - linking with the Diaspora as a strategic asset.

Under the PBD 2016 Conference titled “Connecting Contemporary India to Diaspora in Girmitiya Countries: Link to past for a shared future” organised on 23rd August 2016, in New Delhi attended by domain experts from the diaspora, stakeholders and policy makers identified a range of areas to engage with Indian Diaspora in the Girmitiya countries (Mauritius, Fiji, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago).

Some important recommendations made by the participants were:

  • MEA to take the lead in the efforts towards research and documentation of the history of Girmitiyas and supportive role to be played by Ministries of HRD and Culture
  • An alternative certification could be worked out that could be used as proof during the application process for OCI ( Overseas Indian Citizen) cards
  • Problems in the documentation process were highlighted and the suggestion was to digitise records at the earliest; GOI could help in ongoing project which is led by Mauritius with focus on inter-linking the data-bases of all 53 countries of the commonwealth
  • In order to authenticate  the documentary records, a Life Memory recording (LMR) could be used to record Girmitiyas stories
  • Build a narrative showcasing the achievements and strengths of the Girmitiyas to build a sense of security among the Indian origin people in these countries
  • Work in transfer of knowledge and skills in IT;  training of youth; cooperation in sports like cricket and hockey; cultural exchange; e-medicine; visit of Indian-origin sports personalities, scientists  and politicians to the PBD; Organizing an event on the Indian languages on the sidelines of the PBD event
  • Establish academic linkages with the Girmitiya countries
  • Establish PIO village in southern, central or eastern part of India
  • A common “whos’ who” directory for all Girmitiya countries with information on eminent persons in the field of politics, education and others.
  • A common documentary on the Girmitiyas of all Girmitiya countries which could be in the form of a series
  • Establish a Diaspora TV/ radio channel
  • Build a joint Diaspora plaque in the ports of arrival or ports of departure to commemorate the journey of the Girmitiyas; Apravasi Ghat in Mauritius should be duplicated in all Girmitiya countries
  • Departments of Diaspora Studies could be started in various Universities
  • Compilation of books by various Indian-origin authors on Girmitiyas in the Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra (PBK) and a Research scholar could be appointed in the PBK; PBK to be a one-stop shop for all Indian-origin people and it should be duplicated in other Indian cities

The recommendations of the PBD Conference were submitted for consideration and follow up.

The Plenary session in PBD 2017 will focus on opportunities to connect Overseas Indians in Girmitiya countries with India and its culture and heritage. It will address recording research and documenting the achievements and contributions of Overseas Indian in Girmitiya countries. It will identify ways to engage Overseas Indians in the social and development efforts of India especially the second generation youths.

The session will discuss and understand the culture and society of Girmitiyas to integrate the Diaspora with the local communities. It will promote Indian arts, culture, Yoga with the help of missions in Girmitiya countries amongst many others.

Some of the key areas of discussion include the following:

  • Connecting Diasporas in the Girmitiya countries
  • Documenting history and migration by building knowledge infrastructure
  • Role of Indian Missions and Consulates in engaging the Diasporas
  • Connecting the second generation youths
  • Building platforms to connect and exchange in education, skills, sports, politics, etc.