The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, PBD, is a wonderful opportunity indeed to meet fellow overseas Indians from many different countries, but it needs to be re-structured so that it provides more opportunity and facilities for overseas Indians to interact with resident Indians. After attending the 2014 event, Sinna Mani, who has attended every one of the past 12 such conferences, made this comment during the course of an interaction we had with him.
Mani has worked as a community leader for 45 years, and is the founder president of the British Organisation for People of Indian Origin (BOPIO). He is a former Mayor of the London Borough of Lewisham, and a former member of the Investment Regulatory Authority in the UK. A successful businessman in the media industry, a community leader for 45 years, and a campaign motivator for President Obama, Mani now works for promoting human rights and fighting the caste system in India. A British citizen originally from Tamil Nadu, Mani said that the first event in 2003 generated a great deal of interest from overseas Indians and over 4,000 attended. This year the figure is just over 700. What has gone wrong, he asks.
“The event needs more aggressive promotion in countries with large Indian immigrants. Special target groups of overseas Indians like investors, businessmen, professionals, community leaders and others should be identified and enticed to come for this conference. Before they arrive, they should know what they can expect from their participation, and which speakers would be of the greatest interest to them. When they leave, they should go with substantial projects, ideas, contacts and information.
“The PBD has too many speeches by political non-entities, and even the Prime Minister and the President did not make any new announcements about granting facilities to overseas Indians, but went on the highlight the progress made by India in the last decade, which were more of election speeches. Instead of such one-way speeches, we need more of a two-way dialogue,” he averred.
According to Sinna Mani, a few more sessions need to be included with NRI participation where they can provide their feedback, highlight their concerns and problems, and get advice on how to proceed with their projects. “We do not come to watch cultural shows for two nights. Did we spend thousands of Pounds and about a week of our time to come and watch these cultural shows that we could easily watch in our host-countries ? The airfare, accommodation and other expenses all add up to a sizeable sum, if we factor business class, if not first class, travel by most overseas Indians to come for this event. Thus, the PBD needs to be re-structured purposefully for solid results for all participants. Its outcome must have substance for NRIs,” he said.
Mani, a former member of the Investment Regulatory Authority in the UK, is currently involved in investment projects worth nearly 450 million US Dollars. “Indo-British trade could be many times more, if more cooperation, opportunities and facilities are made available to SMEs in India and these are linked to British companies. Indian SMEs need to be helped to participate in the trade exhibition held for the PBD – at the moment, it is mostly state governments, public sector companies, banks, and big corporates that are on exhibiting.”