Bengaluru, January 8, 2017
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that, irrespective of their background and profession, the welfare of all Indians abroad was his government's top priority and, for this, it was strengthening the entire eco-system of its administrative arrangements.
Modi thanks overseas Indian community for supporting demonetisation
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that, irrespective of their background and profession, the welfare of all Indians abroad was his government's top priority and, for this, it was strengthening the entire eco-system of its administrative arrangements.
"Whether it is on loss of their passports, need for legal advice, medical assistance, shelter, or even transportation of mortal remains to India, I have directed all Indian embassies to be proactive to address problems of Indian nationals abroad," he said in his inaugural address at the 14th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) Convention here.
Portugal Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who traces his roots to Goa, is the chief guest at the convention, a global gathering of the Indian diaspora, while Suriname Vice-President Michael Ashwin Adhin is also attending the event.
Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah were also present at the inaugural session.
"Our response to the needs of the Indian nationals overseas is defined by accessibility, sensitivity, speed and promptness. 24 by 7 help-lines by Indian Embassies; ‘Open House’ meetings with Indian nationals; consular camps; twitter seva for passport services; and use of social media platforms for immediate access; are some of the measures that we have put in place to convey a clear message that we are there for you when you need us," Mr. Modi said.
He said the security of Indian nationals abroad was of utmost importance to the government.
"In situations of distress faced by Indian nationals, we have reached out to ensure their safety, rescue and repatriation.
Our External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj ji, has particularly been proactive and prompt in reaching out to distressed Indians abroad using social media," he said.
He recalled that, under Operation ‘Sankat Mochan’ in July 2016, India had evacuated over one hundred and fifty Indian nationals from South Sudan within 48 hours.
"For those workers who seek economic opportunities abroad, our effort is to provide maximum facilitation and ensure least inconvenience," he said, adding that the Government had streamlined its systems and taken several measures to safeguard emigration of Indian workers.
Mr. Modi said there are over 30 million Overseas Indians living abroad. Their hard-work, discipline, law-abiding and peace loving nature are role models for other immigrant communities abroad, he said.
"For my government and for me personally, engagement with the overseas Indian community has been a key area of priority. I have met and spoken to hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters during my travels abroad – in USA, UK, Australia, South Africa, UAE, Qatar, Singapore, Fiji, China, Japan, South Korea, Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles, Malaysia as a result of our sustained and systematic outreach, there is new energy, keen desire and strong drive among Indian Diaspora to connect more extensively and deeply with India’s social and economic transformation," he said.
The Prime Minister said that the remittance of close to $ 69 billion annually by overseas Indians made an invaluable contribution to the Indian economy.
He said non-resident Indians (NRIs) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) had made outstanding contributions to their chosen fields.
"Among them, there are politicians of stature, scientists of repute, outstanding doctors, brilliant educationists, economists, musicians, famous philanthropists, journalists, bankers, engineers and lawyers. And, sorry, did I mention our well known Information Technology professionals?
"Tomorrow, 30 overseas Indians will receive from the President, the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards, which recognize contributions made by them in various fields, both in India and abroad," he said.
Mr. Modi said about six lakh emigrants had been granted Emigration Clearance online for overseas employment through registered recruitment agents. Online registration of foreign employers on e-Migrate portal had been made mandatory, he said.
"And, the grievances, complaints and petitions of the Indian migrant workers continue to be addressed online through e-Migrate and MADAD platforms. We are also taking strict action against illegal recruitment agents in India. Prosecution sanctions by CBI or State Police against illegal agents; and increase in the amount of Bank Guarantee deposited by the recruiting agents from Rs.20 lakhs to Rs.50 lakhs; are some of the steps in this direction.
"To ensure that the migrating Indian workers enjoy better economic opportunities, we will shortly launch a skill development program - the Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana - targeted at Indian youth who seek overseas employment," he said.
Mr. Modi said India had a special bond with the Indian Diaspora living in the girmitiya countries – who are deeply and emotionally attached with their place of origin.
"We are aware of difficulties faced by Persons of Indian Origin from these countries in obtaining an OCI Card if they moved abroad four or five generations ago. We acknowledge their concerns and have made efforts to address these issues.
"I am glad to announce that starting with Mauritius, we are working to put in place new procedures and documentation requirements so that the descendants of Girmitiyas from this country could become eligible for OCI Cards.
"We remain committed to addressing similar difficulties of PIOs in Fiji, Reunion Islands, Suriname, Guyana and other Caribbean States. Like my request at the last Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, I would again encourage all PIO Card holders to convert their PIO Cards to OCI Cards," hesaid.
He announced that the deadline for such conversion had been extended from 31 December 2016, until June 30, 2017 without any penalty.
"From first of January this year, beginning with airports in Delhi and Bengaluru, we have also set up special counters at immigration points in our airports for OCI Card holders," he said.
Mr. Modi noted that, today, there were about 7 lakh Indian students pursuing academic programmes abroad.
He said the Department of Science and Technology was launching Visiting Adjunct Joint Research Faculty or VAJRA scheme which enables NRIs and overseas scientific community to participate and contribute to research and development in India. Under the scheme an overseas Indian can work for one to three months in an institution in India on "good terms".
"It is my firm belief that connect between India and overseas Indians should be sustained and enriching for both," Mr. Modi said, recalling that, to meet this goal, in October last year, he had inaugurated the Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra in New Delhi, which is dedicated to the overseas Indian community.
"We want it to become a symbol of the global migration experiences, struggles, achievements and aspirations of the Indian Diaspora. I am confident that the Kendra will become another important platform for crystallizing ongoing efforts of the government to redefine its engagement with the overseas Indian community," he said.
Mr. Modi said that, to provide youth of Indian origin an opportunity to visit their motherland and reconnect with their Indian roots, culture, and heritage, the Government had expanded the Government’s Know India Programme, under which, for the first time, six groups of young overseas Indians are visiting India this year.
"I am very happy to know that 160 of these young overseas Indians are here today to participate in the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. A special welcome to the young Pravasis – I hope that on returning to your respective countries, you will remain connected with us, wherever you are, and visit India again and again.
"Last year, the first edition of the online quiz for young overseas Indians called Bharat ko Jaano saw participation of more than 5000 young NRIs and PIOs. In the second edition this year, I hope to see the participation of at least fifty thousand young overseas Indians," he said.
"Will you please help me in this mission? Will you please help me in this mission? Are you ready to work with me? Then why we can stop at fifty thousand," he said.
Mr. Modi said investments by PIOs on non-repatriation basis; and by companies, trusts and partnerships owned by them, are now deemed to be domestic investment at par with investments made by resident Indians.
"There are some amongst you who would like to contribute in business and investments. Others may feel more comfortable supporting through contributions made to Swachh Bharat, Namami Gange and others. Some others may feel motivated to spare their valuable time and effort in volunteering in India, helping the under-privileged or contributing to capacity building programs in various sectors.
"We welcome all your efforts that seek to strengthen India’s partnership with the overseas Indian community. I also invite you to visit the exhibition in the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Convention which gives you a glimpse of some of the flagship programs that we have been implementing and see how you can partner with us," he said.
Mr. Modi also spoke about the steps taken by his Government against corruption and black money. "Black money and corruption slowly destroys our politics, our country, society and administration. It is unfortunate that some political worshippers of black money have been trying to portray our efforts as anti-people," he said.
He thanked overseas Indians for the support they had extended to his efforts and policies against black money and corruption.
"Finally, I would like to say that as Indians, we have a common heritage that brings us all together. And, no matter where we may be around the globe, it is in that common bond that we are strong," he said.