The three-day Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, attended by around 4,000 diaspora members, came to an end with the conferment of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman awards by Vice President Hamid Ansari to 15 prominent diaspora members.
Those recipients of the Samman, the highest honour conferred on overseas Indians, were Guyanese President Donald Rabindernauth Ramaotar; Mala Mehta from Australia; Kamaljeet Bakshi from New Zealand; Ashraf Palarakunnummal and Bharatkumar Jayantilal Shah from UAE; Essop Esoop Goolam from South Africa; Rajmal M. Parakh from Oman; Justice Doraikannu Karunakaran from Seychelles; Sanjaya Rajaram from Mexico; Lord Raj Loomba and Nathu Ram Puri from Britain; Mahendra Nanji Mehta from Uganda and Nandini Tandon and Kamlesh Lulla from the US.
Lisa Singh from Australia, who could not receive the award last year, received the Samman, while A. Satyanarayana Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, who was named for the award was not present.
Ansari congratulated the awardees and said India is grateful for their contributions to society.
Terming then “deserving recipients of this recognition”, he said: “Through their exemplary work, they have also proved to be outstanding envoys of peace, friendship and cooperation between India and countries of their residence.”
Ansari said that overseas Indians are “in virtually every country and region of the world”, and recited an Urdu phrase to describe their ubiquitous presence: “Jidhar dekhta hoon faqat tu hi tu hai (wherever I look I see only you)”.
He said the overseas Indians, ranging from blue collars workers to doctors, engineers, IT professionals and business persons, have multiple identities but “a common denominator is their emotional bond to India, and to its cultural legacy.
“They cherish it, individually and collectively, and so do we here. The institution of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is an occasion of bonding,” he said.
Ansari said that the NRI remittances comprise an important element in India’s balance of payments and the “continuing liberalisation of the Indian economy, and the most recent policy initiatives taken or proposed by the government are expected to galvanise the involvement of the overseas Indians in the many fields of economic activity”.
Noting that relationships “are not a one-way street”, the vice president said that “the Overseas Indians have expectations aimed at facilitating and intensifying their involvement with India”.
“The government of India, and the state governments, have acknowledged the validity of these sentiments and taken or initiated steps to attract, assist and promote a deeper and multifaceted relationship, which is mutually beneficial and long lasting. We in India attach highest importance to issues of interest and concern to the overseas Indians,” he said.
He said that the diaspora can play an important role in the development of India with their knowledge and resources and their experience of other lands where similar efforts were pursued successfully.
Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Sushma Swaraj, in her speech, said that the Narendra Modi government “has been specially proactive in nurturing the bonds” with the diaspora.
“The diaspora is close to Prime Minister Modi’s heart. Wherever he has gone, he has made a passionate appeal to NRIs and PIOs to be partners in India’s ongoing journey of development and national resurgence. We believe in infusing a new energy and vitality into this lasting relationship between India and its diaspora,” she said.
She said that the Modi government “has only one mission: to re-make India into a great nation, a mission in which every Indian and equally every overseas Indian has a vital stake. It will be a perfect fit, a confluence of dreams and interests, and I have no doubt that with such interlinking and intermeshing, both India and the adopted countries of overseas Indians will benefit enormously”.