Session Report

Plenary Session V: Diaspora organisations: Bridging distances, unlocking opportunities

Chair:

  • Gen (Dr) V.K. Singh (Retd), Minister of State for External Affairs Government of India

Special Guest:

  • Dr Ruby Dhalla, Canada

Session Coordinator:

  • Mr Munu Mahawar, Joint Secretary (AMS), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India

Panelists:

  • Mr Sanjiv Aiyar, Founder & CEO, ApKar Consulting, Singapore
  • Mr Sanjeev Bhakri, Secretary, Clean Mission Australia
  • Ms Raj Chaudhury, Founder & Chief Operating Officer SEWA-AIFW, USA
  • Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale, Head of BJP’s Foreign & Overseas Friends Cell, India
  • Dr Oudaye Narain Gangoo, President, Arya Sabha USA
  • Mr Manu Goyal, Head, Sales Operations, Financial Navigator
  • Mr Girish Kumar, President, Indian Cultural Centre, Qatar
  • Mr Umesh Kumar, President, India Canada Association, Ottawa, Canada
  • Mr Mihir Meghani, Co-founder and Board Member, Hindu American Foundation, USA
  • Mr Sridhara Mysore, Transcultural Clinician, New Zealand
  • Ms Krishna Pujara, Chief Executive, Saheli, London
  • Mr Y A Rahim, Advocate, Al Rawi Printing Press LLC, Sharjah, UAE
  • Dr Dew Sharman, Member of Parliament of Suriname
  • Mr Deoroop Teemal, Owner & Manager, Teem Engineering Systems Limited, Trinidad & Tobago
  • Mr Ashwin Trikamjee, Practicing Attorney & Executive Consultant, Durban Law Firm, South Africa

The Context

Diaspora organisations are bridges that connect the Indian Diaspora with India. From community service like helping new arrivals settle in a foreign land to collaborating with Indian Missions in India’s growth story, Diaspora organisations have an important role in facilitating India’s engagement with the Indian community abroad. They are also an instrument to realise the full potential of cooperation between India and the host countries of the Diaspora. They could also contribute in furthering the bilateral ties. Hence, it is critically important to empower the Diaspora organisations and provide them with all necessary support. The session aimed at understanding the role of Diaspora organisations as well as their partnerships with India.

Recommendations & Action Taken

A PBD Conference titled “Diaspora organisations: Bridging distances, unlocking opportunities” was held on 12th November 2016 in New Delhi under the chairmanship of Gen. (Dr) V.K. Singh (Retd.), Minister of State for External Affairs, and Mr M.J. Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs, Government of India. The conference was attended by eminent personalities from the US, Canada, Australia, Mauritius, the UK, South Africa, New Zealand, Singapore, Trinidad & Tobago, Qatar, the UAE and Suriname.

Mr Munu Mahawar, Joint Secretary (AMS), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, presented the key recommendations of the Conference, action taken by the Government and other challenges that need to be addressed.

The PBD 2016 Conference recommended the following:

  • Facilitate regular interaction between Diaspora organisations and Indian Missions.
  • Form consultative groups at the Indian Missions at the level of Ambassador/Consul General with representation of the main Diaspora organisations.
  • Explore funding options for supporting the work of Diaspora organisations.
  • Regularly update the Diaspora database.
  • Enhance the outreach to Diaspora through use of social media.
  • Set up a 24x7 helpline for grievance redressal.
  • Undertake specific welfare measures such as conducting pre-departure training programme for individuals migrating abroad for work; establish branches of Indian universities abroad; provide scholarships to the Indian Diaspora.

Actions taken by the Government with regard to the recommendations:

  • Most Indian Missions have already formed or initiated the formation of consultative groups.
  • Most Indian Missions have updated their Diaspora database.
  • A 24x7 helpline is in place in most countries.
  • Ministry of External Affairs would be revising the guidelines for the use of Indian Community Welfare Fund to enable increase in funds and coverage.

Plenary Session & Q&A

Mr Mahawar, during the course of his presentation, stated that Diaspora organisations could be effective instruments for Government of India to connect more deeply with the Diaspora community. The Diaspora organisations could also build awareness of the key initiatives of Government of India among the Diaspora as well as encourage them to contribute to the Government programmes and become a part of India’s growth story.

The Diaspora organisations have played an important role in projecting India’s potential and the Indian missions should work more closely with the Diaspora to further propagate Government of India’s vision and mission, he said.

With reference to the recommendations made at the 2016 PBD Conference, Government has initiated steps to enhance the outreach by updating the Diaspora database and make effective use of IT solutions; establish 24x7 helplines in several countries; launch the Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana for skill development; and engage with the young Diaspora.

Some of the issues and challenges that still needed to be addressed are: to bring the diverse Diaspora organisations under one umbrella and to facilitate their engagement with Indian Missions and Posts; innovative funding opportunities; and, greater participation of the Diaspora in Government of India programmes.

Gen. (Dr) V.K Singh (Retd), Minister of State for External Affairs, Government of India stated that the fundamental aim of the Diaspora organisations should be to work diligently for the welfare of the NRI community. He urged the Diaspora organisations to work in collaboration with Government of India’s mission to fulfil bigger goals. The Diaspora organisations should also work towards strengthening relations between India and their respective home countries.

Dr Ruby Dhalla said that the 30 million Indian Diaspora spread over 130 countries have gone through many struggles and hardships to establish themselves in their respective fields. Praising the efforts of Government of India to establish deeper relations with Diaspora organisations, she asked the Diaspora to work towards bridging the gap between India and their respective home countries. Diaspora organisations have risen out of situations like women suffering abuses, international students facing challenges abroad, individuals facing discrimination at their workplace, and they should continue to work together towards the betterment of their community. She also proposed that the Diaspora should be engaged in ‘Diaspora diplomacy’ to strengthen the relations between the Diaspora organisations and the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.

In the course of the discussion, a suggestion was made for creating a digital platform for exchange of ideas, best practices and experiences among Diaspora organisations. Addressing a question on resolving social issues of NRIs like poverty, unemployment, difficulty in re-settlement, drugs and alcohol abuse, the experts on the panel referred to social work being done by many Diaspora organisations in countries like the US and the UK.

Participants

  1. Gen (Dr) V.K. Singh (Retd), Minister of State for External Affairs, Government of India (Chair)
  2. Dr Ruby Dhalla, Canada (Special Guest)
  3. Mr Munu Mahawar, Joint Secretary (AMS), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India (Session Coordinator)
  4. Mr Dnyaneshwar M Mulay, Secretary (CPV&OIA), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India
  5. Mr Manish Gupta, Joint Secretary (OIA1), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India
  6. Dr Deepak Mittal, Joint Secretary (CPV), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India
  7. Ms Vani Rao, Joint Secretary (OIA2), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India
  8. Mr Sanjiv Aiyar, Founder & CEO, ApKar Consulting, Singapore
  9. Mr Sanjeev Bhakri, Secretary, Clean Mission, Australia
  10. Ms Raj Chaudhury, Founder & Chief Operating Officer SEWA-AIFW, USA
  11. Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale, Head of BJP’s Foreign & Overseas Friends Cell, India
  12. Dr Oudaye Narain Gangoo, President, Arya Sabha USA
  13. Mr Manu Goyal, Head, Sales Operations, Financial Navigator
  14. Mr Girish Kumar, President, Indian Cultural Centre, Qatar
  15. Mr Umesh Kumar, President, India Canada Association, Ottawa, Canada
  16. Mr Mihir Meghani, Co-founder and Board Member, Hindu American Foundation, USA
  17. Mr Sridhara Mysore, Transcultural Clinician, New Zealand
  18. Ms Krishna Pujara, Chief Executive, Saheli, London
  19. Mr Y A Rahim, Advocate, Al Rawi Printing Press LLC, Sharjah, UAE
  20. Dr Dew Sharman, Member of Parliament of Suriname
  21. Mr Deoroop Teemal, Owner & Manager, Teem Engineering Systems Limited, Trinidad & Tobago
  22. Mr Ashwin Trikamjee, Practicing Attorney & Executive Consultant, Durban Law Firm, South Africa

Key Recommendations of the Plenary Session

In the interactive session with PBD delegates following suggestions and recommendations were made:

  • Explore ways of bringing the diverse and large number of Diaspora organisations under one umbrella for better coordination.
  • Create a digital platform for exchange of ideas, best practices and experiences among Diaspora organisations.
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