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Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Opens Today
Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The seventh edition of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which opens here on Wednesday, could see the plight of Indian workers abroad being discussed. While the annual conclave of people of Indian origin is a networking opportunity for participants and a chance for state governments to attract investment, many feel it should also accord priority to discussing rehabilitation of those returning to their homeland.

With several Indian workers being laid off in the Gulf countries as well as in other nations, the ministry of overseas Indian affairs may not find the meet a joyful occasion. Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are bound to see reverse migration in the coming days, and this could be a cause for concern, despite the nothing-to-worry-about attitude of Indian diplomats.

Estimates of non-resident Indians across the world vary from a modest 15 million to more than 40 million. The total Indian diaspora, including those of Indian origin but holding foreign passports, is estimated to be double that number.

"This is a time when Gulf countries are feeling the pinch of the global slowdown. Participants should focus on measures aimed at bringing relief to non-resident Indians affected by the economic recession rather than on issues such as identity cards for People of Indian Origin (PIO),'' said Abu Dhabi-based B R Shetty, a business entrepreneur and philanthropist, who is a delegate at the conference. "This is the time NRIs should chip in and invest in their motherland and create job opportunities to tide over the crisis.''

V Narayanan, chairman of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), said: "These are trying times, but we should not forget that India is better placed than many Western countries during this period of recession. India continues to be confident and is emerging."

A look east' policy is very important for the government, according to Narayanan, who noted that this year's meeting had added significance due to the economic situation. Anantha Subramaniam from Malaysia said: "Unless the participants take a realistic view of various issues and focus on priorities to be debated, it will be a meaningless three-day affair.''

Dr Bernard D' Sami, coordinator of Chennai-based Arunodhaya Migrant Initiatives, said the annual meet always aimed at attracting investment from overseas Indians, but hardly took note of the plight of Indian workers. "Has any of these forums tried to better the plight of Indian workers abroad? There are horror stories about Indian workers in the gulf and Malaysia, but most of them go unreported," he said.



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