Diaspora Organizations: Bridging Distances, Unlocking Opportunities

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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, 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 14thPBD 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 III(i)

This session on “Diaspora Organizations: Bridging Distances, Unlocking Opportunities” aims at reviewing the roles and effectiveness of Diaspora Community Organisations in handling issues of Overseas Indians and developing a roadmap.

As part of the year-long PBD Conferences held during 2016, an exclusive panel on “Diaspora Organizations: Bridging Distances, Unlocking Opportunities” was organised on 12th November 2016 in New Delhi. The panel was attended by domain experts from the Indian diaspora, office bearers from community organisations and senior officers from the Ministry of External Affairs.

Hon’ble MoS, Gen V.K. Singh (Retd) highlighted the influential role played by Indian Diaspora and Diaspora Community Organizations. He added that they contribute to the wellbeing of overseas Indian community as well as ensure good relationship between India and the host countries. He also highlighted the various measures taken by Indian government in recent years to address the specific needs of the overseas Indians.

Some important recommendations made by the participants include:

  • Funds are required for capital expenditure and empowering and strengthening the community organisations to carry out various activities such as construction of buildings, schools, shelter homes, hospitals, libraries, social and community functions.
  • An updated database of overseas Indians should be prepared, which will be useful to disseminate the information at one click including social media. It would also enable profiling of Indian community.
  • Dissemination of information through video messages and app: Dissemination of information about Government initiatives or programmes through brief video messages, Twitter could be more effective.
  • Toll free 24x7 helpline number: This would enable overseas Indians to reach out to Mission/Post for assistance including property disputes in India, marriage disputes, distress call, to gather information about GoI initiatives, etc. 
  • Consultative Groups: A Consultative Group should be created at the level of Ambassador/High Commissioner/Consul General to interact with core group of community organizations to expedite pace of decisions on important community-related issues.
  • Training and Outreach Programme: Skilled and unskilled workers should be properly trained to understand the nature and demand of the jobs in the host country. Information booklets should be given to Indians going abroad. The Indian Mission should initiate more outreach to connect with the community. Diaspora Community Organisations can be made nodal points to reach out to wider community.
  • Involvement of NGOs in community welfare: To enhance the base of activities, panellists recommended involvement of NGOs in  community welfare.
  • Streamlining of Missions websites: There is a need to streamline information provided in the websites of Indian Missions.
  • Legal services and rehabilitation: Creation of joint legal mechanism for addressing marital disputes with host country assisting  vulnerable groups who are stranded due to legal battles; and rehabilitation for Diaspora who return to India after losing jobs etc.
  • Separate programmes to develop emotional bonds: Emotional bond with India among the young PIO generation is getting weaker. Special programmes should be developed keeping especially for fourth/fifth generation of Indian Diaspora.
  • Bilateral relations: Community organisations can play a pivotal role in developing bilateral ties.  Indian Missions should be made aware about the strength of Indian Diaspora abroad and Indian Government officials at the Missions should project the positive aspects of Government's flagship programmes through greater involvement of the Indian community.

The recommendations of the PBD Conference were submitted to the Ministry for consideration.

The Plenary session in PBD 2017 will discuss the above recommendations and focus on role of diaspora in addressing Diaspora issues, policy initiatives, creating awareness about government initiatives, etc.

Some of the important issues for discussion in the session include:

  • Connecting diaspora organisations and Missions with Overseas Indians to address various social, cultural, economic, psychological, safety, and security challenges and concerns faced by them in host countries.
  • Addressing the problems faced by vulnerable sections
  • Developing uniformity and brining diverse and large number of diaspora organisations under one umbrella
  • Regular updation of diaspora organisations database and their coordinates
  • Establishing a channel of communication with diaspora organisations and government through social media, outreach programmes and other programmes
  • Exploring innovative funding opportunities
  • Engaging diaspora in building bilateral relations with host countries