India has, for quite a while now, been cognizant of the myriad benefits accruable from engaging with its Diaspora worldwide, who by far constitute the largest diaspora population in the world – with an estimated 16 million people from India holding Indian passports living outside their country in 2015, according to a latest UN survey on international migrant trends. Apart from these ‘NRIs,’ if we also include people of Indian origin who had left Indian shores in earlier waves of migration over the last few centuries like the PIOs and OCIs, the figure notch up an even larger number – an estimated 30 million people worldwide.
The then PM Atal Behari Vajpayee had set the ball rolling with the creation of a “new” Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, and instituting an annual ‘Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas’ to act as a platform linking our Diaspora with their roots. From then till now, much water has proverbially flown under the bridge – and after the NDA came back to power after a decade-long haitus under the helmsmanship of Narendra Modi in 2014 – our diaspora connect strategy underwent a change. The MOIA has once again been merged back into the Ministry of External Affairs, and the PBD today takes place once every two years while in the interregnum between two PBDs, individual states have been encouraged to host their own investor summits and NRI outreach programmes. So much so that nary a month goes by without some state or the other hosting a flagship event in their yearly calenders. A welcome trend indeed, which we have chosen to feature in this issue, covering state-level pravasi events that took place recently. These include Haryana, Gujarat, UP, Bengal, AP and Karnataka.
Vibrant Gujarat: ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ is the name given to a biennial investors’ summit held by the government of Gujarat, aimed at bringing together business leaders, investors, corporations, thought leaders, policy and opinion makers. The summit strives to be a platform to understand and explore business opportunities in the State of Gujarat. Having successfully organized seven constructive summits, Gujarat, as part of its journey towards sustainable long-term growth and inclusive development, had organized the 8th edition of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit from the 10th to 13th of January 2017, at Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar. The central focus was “Sustainable Economic and Social Development”. The Summit brought together Heads of States and Governments, Ministers, Leaders of the Corporate World, Senior Policy Makers, Heads of International Institutions and Academia from around the world to further the cause of development and promote cooperation. A total of over 25K MoUs were declared to have been signed by different players. Out of these, 75% were from MSME sector, and the remaining from the large-scale sector and for strategic and technological partnerships. However, the total worth of MOUs signed was not declared as of our going to print.
Pravasi Haryana Divas: The Government of Haryana celebrated its Golden Jubilee year starting from November 1, 2016. As part of the celebrations, a ‘Pravasi Haryana Divas (PHD)’ was organised on the 11th of January 2017, at Gurugram (aka Gurgaon), India’s millenium city. Urging NRIs to come and invest in Haryana, CM Khattar assured them land, hassle-free clearances, adequate power and the necessary environment to do business. The objective of the PHD was to recognize achievements of NRIs and to harness their energies in the future development of the state. This initiative included organising sectoral sessions, technical presentations, cultural eves and one-to-one business meetings in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Haryana had earlier as well successfully organised ‘the Happening Haryana Investors Summit 2016,’ in march last year, where the state was showcased as a ‘Preferred Investment Destination’. A overwhelming response from diaspora bore testimony to investors’ interest in Haryana. Ashok Mago, Padma Shri & Pravasi Bhartiya Samman Awardee, Chairman and CEO of Mago & Associates – a Dallas based business and investment consulting company, was among the prime speakers at the PHD event.
UP NRI Diwas: Continuing its efforts to attract more offshore Indians to invest in Uttar Pradesh and to recognise and honour Diaspora from Uttar Pradesh who have done well abroad in various walks of life, not to mention those who have contributed to the development of UP, the State government had decided to celebrate this day. The second edition of Uttar Pradesh NRI day was recently held in Lucknow, during the first week of January 2017. Prominent industrial organisations such as FICCI, CII, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Assocham India were the key alliance partners for the event. Importantly, Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state by population, is making a massive push to involve people of UP origin living all across the world in the state’s development through its NRI Department, and the xgovernment has tried to showcase the state’s bonding with NRIs through such events. “We invite NRIs who have their roots in Uttar Pradesh to invest in the state. We wish to take their help in development of the state, particularly in the health, education and infrastructure sectors,” says Madhukar Jaitley, Advisor to the UP NRI department.
Biswa Banga Banijya Sammelan: Though not a truly NRI summit in its proper literary sense, Bengal did invite NRIs to contribute into the Bangla growth story during its outreach summit. “Bengal has truly emerged as an investment destination and the presence of so many business leaders here speaks for itself,” said our president Shri Pranab Mukherjee, while inaugurating the event. In fact, wooing the NRIs was one of the prime goals of the WB Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as early as in 2009, when merely a week into her job as the new CM, she urged bengali NRIs to invest in West Bengal – saying she was trying her best to break the nexus between the party and the administration to assure good governance.
Others states are not too far behind – while some like Andhra Pradesh, like Gujarat, have been playing this game for many years now, others are joining the bandwagon thick and fast. Assam’s CM Sarbananda Sonowal was seen this PBD courting NRI investments, while CMs of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Puducherry are all at it too, competing for the diaspora pie-in-the-sky. Various states, for diverse factors hold a tremendous allure to prospective global investors, our own NRIs among them. These states are all formulating policies promising privileges and speedy services to woo the money of their own respective diaspora. Here’s to hoping that all this will translate to credible efforts and actions, and concrete work and businesses sprouting on the ground to benefit diverse populaces in our states.