New Delhi: Pravasi Bhartiya Divas—the country’s annual event to connect with its diaspora—began on Friday with the government asking overseas Indians to invest in sectors like health and education and in the north-east where the country needs massive investments.
In his inaugural speech, Overseas Indian Affairs minister Vayalar Ravi invited the 25-million strong diaspora to be part of the “India growth story” and take the country forward in diverse sectors.
Addressing the session, HRD minister Kapil Sibal said the education sector needs about $150 billion of investment in the next ten years and sought active cooperation of the diaspora in building quality education infrastructure in the country.
“India is a land of opportunity today. We cannot sustain the economic growth rate unless we have quality educational infrastructure and empower our youths. We invite you to invest in the educational sector where we need massive investment,” Sibal said.
He said the government was in the process of introducing various bills in Parliament as part of educational reforms. In this context, he said the obstruction by opposition is delaying the process and criticised them.
“I hope the bills will be passed soon. In democracy, one way to defeat the government is to bring a no confidence motion against it. If you cannot defeat the government through a no confidence motion, then you do not have the luxury of stopping business of Parliament,” he said.
Inviting the diaspora for deeper two-way engagement in the sector, he said, “I think new frontiers of knowledge will be discovered in India through investment and greater carrying of knowledge.”
He said government is bringing the Foreign Education Bill to encourage foreign investment and hopes to pass it soon.
Sibal said the government plans to increase the gross enrollment ratio of children reaching college from 12 to 30% by 2020 and to cater to this increase in number of children reaching higher educational institutes, 1,000 more universities and 45,000 more colleges were needed.
“This is a mind boggling challenge,” he said.
Addressing the session on health sector, minister of State for Health Dinesh Trivedi suggested that all those present should come together and prepare a roadmap for investment in health sector.
Nearly 1,500 overseas Indians from 51 countries, including top businessmen, economists and scientists, are participating in the three-day conclave being organised by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will address the ninth edition of the conclave tomorrow while President Pratibha Patil will deliver the valedictory address on Sunday.
Addressing the gathering, Overseas Ministry secretary Didar Singh invited the diaspora to invest in the north-eastern region.
Union Ministers, including Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, External Affairs minister S M Krishna, HRD minister Kapil Sibal, Road Transport minister Kamal Nath and Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad will also address the diaspora.
Chief ministers of Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana and all the Northeastern states are expected to attend the event where they will interact with the diaspora individually.
Ravi had earlier said that during the previous Pravasi Bhartiya Divas last year, the Prime Minister had promised that Indian passport holders living abroad could get voting rights and that promise has been “almost” fulfilled.
The Parliament has already passed the Representation of People (Amendment) Bill, 2010 to allow NRIs to exercise their franchise in Indian elections.
“The Election Commission is now in the process of finalising modalities for enrolment of names of Indian passport holders living abroad. I hope the modalities will be finalised at the earliest,” he said.
Ministers from various countries including Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago will also come to participate in the event.
Ravi has said Government would try its best to project the Northeastern states as an attractive investment destination to the diaspora community.
The conclave will also have a plenary session on “Engaging Young Overseas Indians”, besides two other session on education and health care services.