With the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas Convention just a month away, preparations are on full swing at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre at Darling Harbour, Sydney.
Consul General of India in Sydney Arun Kumar Goel talks to Shveata Singh Chandel about the idea behind PBD.
How is the community involved in PBD?
For the Regional PBD in Sydney, scheduled to be held in November, we have decided to have a national-level committee as well as state-level committees all through Australia. The intention is to not only spread the word about PBD with their help through the local community organisations, but also have greater reach within Australia and neighbouring countries.
The state-level committees have identified local dignitaries to be invited, artists whose services could be availed and reinforced our sponsorship efforts. Their views have also gone a long way in finalizing the themes of various breakout sessions.
The PBD Sydney convention will host around 1000 delegates. How are we including the remaining half a million NRIs in Australia?
We are aiming for an attendance of approximately 1000 delegates at the Regional PBD in November. It is, of course, too optimistic to expect every one of the half a million Indian Origin population in Australia to be able to spare the time to attend the convention in person.
However, we plan on publicising the event’s proceedings, perhaps even on Youtube.
What are the main topics of discussion at the Convention that will affect the future of the Indian community in Australia?
The aim of the convention is to afford an opportunity to participants to not only network, but also share and exchange views on a whole range of topics like bilateral business opportunities in services, resources, skills, infrastructure, higher education, primary commodities, etc. We want to encourage youth dialogue, sharing of experiences – the Indian diaspora in the Pacific, honour success stories, celebrate scientists and academics, women in business, and more.
Who are the dignitaries coming from India?
We expect participation from minister and senior officials of the Government of India Ministers, as also industry bodies like Confederation of Indian Industries.
As this is a self-funded event, what are the sources of revenue? How affordable will it be for people to attend the function?
An event like the Regional PBD is a self-funded initiative unlike the main PBD, which is organised in India every year by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. To meet our costs, a number of leading companies, banks, businesses have been requested to financially sponsor the event.
With the money raised, we expect to heavily subsidise the participation cost of the delegates.
Have the PBDs in New York, Singapore, Toronto and other cities resulted in any fruitful liaisons, activities, business networking or government to government relationship with the help of the local NRIs?
So far, 11 PBD conventions have been held in India since 2003. The Sydney PBD will be the seventh regional convention to be held outside India.
The decisions/deliberations of earlier conventions are taken into account by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs and result in certain initiatives intended to help NRIs in their interactions with the home country as also sort out their problems. For example, the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) has been created by levying a fee of US$ 2/- on every visa/consular service – to provide a corpus to meet emergency expenses related to deaths abroad/assistance to women, etc.
Can you mention some successful NRI ventures that have come about as a result of PBDs?
PBD conventions provide the largest platform to PIOs and NRIs for exchange of views and networking on matters of common interest.
Among the decisions taken by the Government of India as a result of wider consultations held at these conventions, are formulation of the Overseas Citizenship of India Scheme, establishment of Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre, conceptualizing of Pravasi Bhartiya Kendra, formation of Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council of People of Indian origin, setting up of the India Development Foundation, enabling professionals holding Overseas Citizens of India cards to practice in India in accordance with the provisions of relevant acts, providing for voting rights to non-resident Indians, launching of the Global Indian Network of Knowledge (Global-INK), etc.
Mr Sanghvi, part of a high level committee of the PBD travelled worldwide to get ideas from NRIs on what they need. While he was in Sydney, people had raised grievances about losing ancestral property in India because of their absence from the country. Is the Ministry for Overseas Indian Affairs aware of such issues and has it helped people stuck in such situations?
Yes, one of the major concerns of PIOs/NRIs is the difficulty in holding onto ancestral property in India and cutting the delays in their interactions with the concerned government departments. The MOIA, as also state governments, are seized of this matter and certain initiatives have been announced.
As CG are you aware of any other grievances that NRIs may have here for which they approach you?
There are increasing instances of domestic violence/harassment being faced by NRI women – seeking assistance from the Consulate. Moreover, for any other issues, which the community wants to bring to my attention, I am always available.
Anything you’d like to say to the community members in relation to this PBD Sydney convention?
We expect the Indian community organisations to help generate a momentum which could result in greater participation and registering for the convention.