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February - March 2007


Honouring Entrepreneurism among Indians Overseas

by Krishan Ralleigh

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh while inaugurating the jamboree held in New Delhi to celebrate ‘Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2007’ acknowledged the crucial role played by the Indian American community in getting the legislation passed by the US Congress. He urged Indian overseas to ontribute in the rapid development of the Home country through investments in the financial, cultural and educational fields. “India’s growth process creates enormous opportunities for promoting cross border flows of trade, capital and technology. I would like overseas Indian communities to take full advantage of these exciting opportunities that are now on the horizon. I would like you to reach out and invest in New India”, said Dr. Manmohan Singh in his address.

In similar vein, the two other prominent ministers, External affairs minister, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee and the Finance minister P. Chidambaram sought the support of India diaspora in building a new India. Said Mr. Pranab Mukerjee, “Indian community abroad can be an important partner in the emergence of India. We need investments in areas like infrastructure, agriculture, education, drinking water and health. The exertise, experience and capital of our friends from overseas can help balance economic development of the country. Therefore it is essential that the states lagging behind carry out needed reforms so that they can attract investments which are important for growth and poverty alleviation.”

Giving a particular example, Mr Mukherjee said “There is a large infrastructure deficit in the country. Our ports for example, still take much longer time to make a turnaround than some of our neighbouring countries. The sector needs aggressive investments through FDI. There is definitely a scope for investment in this sector from our friends overseas.”

The Finance minister Mr. P. Chidambaram said, “Come and invest in India. There will emerge checks and balances to ensure that your investment doesn’t go awry.” Mr. Chidambaram urged the Indians overseas, “not to think of investing in India only on an immediate term: but long-term investments spanning over a period of 10-15 years, which would ensure enough returns for the investor and the country.”

Marvellous!! What more could one ask from the Prime minister and two of his prominent cabinet ministers? At last, they have acknowledged the influence and power of the Indian overseas, spelt out their responsibilities; and exhorted them to do their bit for the mother country.

Will it be too much to ask these three top leaders of the Government of India whether they have ever paid heed to the grievances, the expectations and aspirations of the 25 million Indian diaspora, whose 1500 delegates were present in the Indian Capital?

They were, sadly, a captive audience most pleased with the honour bestowed on a few of them? Their complaints, if registered at all, are rarely addressed seriously. Their expectations are termed as unrealistic; and their aspirations are, at best, ignored; and at worst, laughed at.

There were many delegates among the 1,500 who enumerated the ills of the Indian governing classes to whosoever was prepared to listen to them. The Indian media, however, largely ignored them. India’s Establishment, the triumvirate of caste-ridden politician, bungling and corrupt bureaucrat and unscrupulous and dishonest businessman, endeavoured to assuage their rancour by inviting them to wine and dine in four-star hotels and bestowing some pseudo honours. Corruption for most of them has become a way of life. Politics of reservations and family nepotism has replaced merit and hard work.

Somehow, the Government of India, during the week, managed to circumvent the crucial decisions regarding dual citisenship.

To the Indians overseas, especially to those who left India after 26 january 1950, it is crucial that dual citizenship (with full right) is granted as it is granted to his fellow British or Americn citizens who may also be citizens of Australia, South Africa, Pakistan or Israel in addition to being British or American.

Persons of Indian origin who held Indian passport and left India for sudies abroad or for economic reasons, have a right to full dual citizenship; and should be granted so without any further delay, if the Government of India is sincere in its desire to harness the entrepreneurism of overseas Indians in the colossal task of India’s all-round development.Why are Indians overseas who are willing to invest in property, business, healthcare and infrastructure not entitled to their political rights in their own motherland? After all, another five to six million enlightened voters could possibly not upset the applecart of Indian politics.

Or may be they can! That is why Indian politician, bureaucrat or businessman is so weary of the Indian overseas who is accustomed to the culture of clean politics, high degree of professional integrity, valuing entrepreneurship and straight dealing in business.

Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Mr. Vayalar Ravi recently announced that the government was actively pursuing a proposal to allow overseas Indian doctors to practise medicine in India. What a hollow gesture! Almost an insult. Will a teacher of Indian origin, holding a postgraduate degree from a British University be allowed to teach in India? Or even for that one will have to take permission of Mr. Arjan Singh, minister for Human Resources.

Indians overseas, once given full citizenship, will help promote equal opportunity for all with due regard for merit and endeavour to destroy corruption, nepotism and favouritism. They will not stand for reservations to a particular caste or religion. They will promote one civil law for all citizens of India. For, this is what they have learnt living in a modern developed western society. These are the ethoes of a developed polity. The Editor of The Times of India recently wrote, “If India needs to globalise in order to survive, then the diaspora can be its bridge.”

India has a lot to gain by taking advantage of this bridge. It has to learn to think big to become big. Granting full citizenship to Indians overeseas is only a small but an important step towards that goal.

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