Session Report

Plenary Session I: Catalyst for realising India’s development vision: India Development Foundation for Overseas Indians (IDF-OI)

Chair:

  • Mr M J Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs, Government of India

Session Coordinator:

  •   Ms Vani Rao, Joint Secretary (OIA-II), Ministry of External Affairs and CEO, IDF-OI

Panelists:

  • Mr Balesh Dhankar, BI Strategy Manager, Toyota Motor Corporation, Australia
  • Shri Arun Kankani, Executive Vice President, Sewa International Inc, USA
  • Shri Rameshchandra Shah, Founder & Chairman, Ekal Vidhyala, USA
  • Prof. Sree Sreenath, Professor at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland OH
  • Shri Yusuff Ali, Chairman & MD, Lulu Group of Industries, UAE
  • Shri Hari Kiran Vadlamani, Founder, Cause First Ventures Pvt.Ltd, Singapore
  • Shri Krishnakumar Taori, Group MD, Hasan Juma Backer Trading & Contracting Company, Oman
  • Shri Susheel Saraff, Chairman, Saraff Group of Companies, Thailand
  • Dr. Vijay Chauthaiwale, Head of BJPs Foreign & Overseas Friends cell, India

The Context:

The session on “Catalyst for realising India’s development vision: India Development Foundation for Overseas Indians (IDF-OI)” aimed at facilitating philanthropy by Overseas Indians to social and development projects in India. Overseas Indians have a keen desire to reconnect with their roots in India; and to give back to the country of origin in whichever way they can. Government’s flagship programmes Swachh Bharat Mission and the Clean Ganga Mission have struck a deep emotional chord among the Indian Diaspora who want to participate in these programmes through philanthropic contributions, their expertise, and participate in India’s ongoing social and development efforts.

India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians (IDF-OI) was set up by the Government of India in 2008 as a not-for-profit Trust. It is exempt from provisions of Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010 and can facilitate Overseas Indian philanthropy into social and developmental projects in India. The Trust, chaired by the Minister for External Affairs, receives regular guidance from the Board of Trustees, which comprises prominent Indians and Overseas Indians, who are active in philanthropy. The Fourth Board meeting in May 2015 revised the mandate of IDF-OI to promote for funding by Overseas Indians, projects related to flagship programmes – Swachh Bharat and Clean Ganga Mission, and social and development projects identified by State Governments. 

As part of PBD Conferences 2016 held in New Delhi on 27 February 2016, experts from the Diaspora, and policy makers based in India discussed ‘India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians: Diaspora Contributing to India’s Social and Development Efforts’. The PBD Conference in New Delhi was chaired by Minister of External Affairs, Smt Sushma Swaraj and focused on the need to channelise the desire of the Diaspora to give back to projects in India, including in their own State. The panel examined the role of India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians (IDF-OI). Panel recommendations were taken into consideration by IDF-OI and most were implemented during March 2016 to January 2017.

The Plenary Session in PBD 2017, on “Catalyst for realising India’s development vision: India Development Foundation for Overseas Indians (IDF-OI)” was chaired by Minister of State for External Affairs, Government of India, Shri M.J Akbar and co-chaired by Secretary (CPV & OIA), Ministry of External Affairs, Shri Dnyaneshwar M. Mulay. Other participants in the Plenary Session included the Overseas Indian and resident Indian domain experts who had participated in the PBD conference in February 2016. (List is given at the end of the report).

Key Recommendations & Action Taken:

Ms Vani Rao, Joint Secretary (OIA-II), Ministry of External Affairs and CEO, IDF-OI gave a presentation about the key recommendations of the PBD Conference on the same subject which was held in February 2016 in New Delhi. She highlighted some key aspects of IDF-OI such as:

  • IDF-OI does not charge any administrative cost from the contributions received.
  • Acknowledgement is given to contributors at project site.
  • Regular updates/ reports are sent to the contributors with actual site photographs. IDF-OI can facilitate visits to project sites for the contributors on request.
  • Projects have been implemented by IDF-OI in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Punjab (till Dec, 2016).
  • IDF-OI will implement six more projects in Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal, in the upcoming months.

Some other recommendations were:

  • Strong branding and outreach are essential to make IDF-OI into an effective platform for Diaspora philanthropy.
  • There must be a deeper connect with credible Indian social organisations.
  • IDF-OI must be linked to specific Diaspora programmes such as “Know India”.
  • ‘Nodal Officers’ have to be identified for IDF-OI in Indian Missions & Posts.
  • There has to be strong Online branding and communication about the achievements of IDF-OI, to build credibility and visibility.
  • IDF-OI should be reaching out to second generation Indians and enabling them to engage and contribute.
  • Setting up a transparent project monitoring and fund utilisation mechanism.
  • Creating a customised strategy to attract and channelize varying amounts of contributions including a scheme of tax and CSR acknowledgement.

The presentation was concluded with the following Report about Action Taken by IDF-OI on the recommendations suggested at the PBD Conference on 26 Feb, 2016:

Brand Differentiation for IDF-OI: The focus is on ‘connecting to India’ with funding being a byproduct. In 2017-18, IDF-OI will consider facilitating volunteering opportunities for Overseas Indians.

  • Strategy: IDF-OI’s outreach strategy involves connecting with the Overseas Indian community, especially younger members, through social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter). Regular project updates are also posted on all the social media platforms. IDF-OI has also launched an Online Payment Gateway for ease of transfer of money and connecting with the small donors. PayPal is also being considered for the same for instant contributions. IDF-OI also maintains a database of Overseas Indian Associations, professional associations and prominent Overseas Indians.
  • Brand Ambassadors: IDF-OI has created a short promotional film for outreach and some prominent NRIs/PIOs who have contributed are the brand ambassadors for IDF-OI.
  • IDF-OI promotes itself at global platform through Google Hangouts Sessions and through sharing regular updates about IDF-OI’s activities with Indian Associations abroad and the Embassies/Consulates. Celebration of ‘ÍDF-OI Day’ is to be considered by the Board in 2017-18.
  • Tax Exemption: IDF-OI has proposed to connect with reputable local organizations overseas who have tax exemption.

Plenary & Q&A:

Mr M J Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs, Government of India, said the Government is keen to usher in “Stability of Prosperity”.  Stating that “charity begins at home”, Mr Akbar said the IDF-OI is a vehicle to contribute to improving the life of “fellow citizens who were less fortunate than us”.

Mr Dnyaneshwar M Mulay, Secretary (CPV&OIA), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, said, the Ministry has selected over 100 projects, after consultations with the State Governments in areas of sanitation, education, women’s empowerment, sustainable livelihood and healthcare, to which the Overseas Indian can contribute. Furthermore, he added that Overseas Indians can also extend their support to Government’s flagship initiatives like Swachh Bharat Mission and Clean Ganga Mission by sending philanthropic contributions through IDF-OI.

During the Q&A session, Overseas Indians enquired about how they can promote and propagate information about IDF-OI in their respective countries. To this, the panel responded that awareness can be created through Indian associations abroad during local conferences and events. They also stressed on importance of social media for creating awareness about IDF-OI.

Overseas Indians also inquired how NRIs can contribute their professional expertise, and not just money to the Government for social development projects through IDF-OI. Responding to the question, Shri Mulay said that the current objectives of IDF-OI are to create capital assets i.e. structures that live, rather than voluntary activities. He also added that Overseas Indians may take up voluntary activities without Government’s permission and approach many organizations who take up such activities.

Queries about sustainability and longevity of the projects were also raised by Overseas Indians. Shri Mulay said that, ‘MEA does not directly take responsibility of sustainability of the project as these are implemented by State Govts.’ He further added that if anyone wishes to contribute for maintenance, they can do so. However, IDF-OI ensures sustainability through signing a MoU with the State Government, which is the Implementing Agency, to ensure maintenance of the facility created for a reasonable period of time.

At the end of the session, IDF-OI received two on the spot contributions from Overseas Indians: Rs. 20 lakhs from Shri S. Gunda (USA), originally belonging to Yendlapalle Village in Suryapet District, Telangana and Rs. 17 lakhs (25,000 US$) from Shri Ashok Maggo (USA) for projects in Ambala, Haryana. 

Participants:

  • Shri M.J. Akbar, Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs (Chair)
  • Shri Dnyaneshwar M Mulay, Secretary (OIA and CPV), Ministry of External Affairs
  • Ms Vani Rao, Joint Secretary (OIA-II), Ministry of External Affairs and CEO, IDF-OI (Session Coordinator)
  • Mr Balesh Dhankar, BI Strategy Manager, Toyota Motor Corporation, Australia
  • Shri Arun Kankani, Executive Vice President, Sewa International Inc, USA
  • Shri Rameshchandra Shah, Founder & Chairman, Ekal Vidhyala, USA
  • Prof. Sree Sreenath, Professor at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland OH
  • Shri Yusuff Ali, Chairman & MD, Lulu Group of Industries, UAE
  • Shri Hari Kiran Vadlamani, Founder, Cause First Ventures Pvt.Ltd, Singapore
  • Shri Krishnakumar Taori, Group MD, Hasan Juma Backer Trading & Contracting Company, Oman
  • Shri Susheel Saraff, Chairman, Saraff Group of Companies, Thailand
  • Dr. Vijay Chauthaiwale, Head of BJPs Foreign & Overseas Friends cell, India

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE PLENARY SESSION

  • Organise IDF-OI outreach events abroad
  • Promote IDF-OI at all events organised by Indian Embassies and Consulates
  • Liaison with Overseas Indian Association for promotion of IDF-OI at local events organised by Associations 
  • Volunteering opportunities to Overseas Indian wanting to contribute time & expertise
  • Extensive use of social media to build credibility of IDF-OI
  • Exemption from 80 G for contribution received from Overseas Indians

 

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