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Friday, Jan 02, 2004

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Disgruntled diaspora

B. S. Raghavan

THE Ministry of External Affairs and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry are jointly organising the second Pravasi Bharathiya Divas on January 9-11 at New Delhi with the usual pomp and circumstance.

The significance of January 9 is that it was on that date in 1915 that Gandhi returned to India from South Africa to launch the historic struggle to throw off the British yoke.

Enlivening the various sessions of the diaspora divas will be heavyweights in every walk of life, including the Prime Minister, Mr A. B. Vajpayee who will be inaugurating the grand assemblage. No effort or expense will be spared to make it a glittering show, for India's diaspora is good at this sort of thing.

It is also good at finding all kinds of things wrong in India. Talk to an average expatriate: Within minutes, he will be expatiating on India's inefficiencies, delays and hassles, while making ready allowances for those of his country of adoption.

Instead of making the most of the opportunities, within the admitted, and certainly avoidable, deficiencies and rigidities of the political, social, infrastructural and managerial ethos, the Indian diaspora is prone to trot them out as excuses for not contributing to the maximum possible extent to the realisation of India's full potential.

If everything is to be held out on a platter, or has to be perfect or ideal, where is the need for leadership, ingenuity or innovation?

The NRIs and Indian Americans will do well to reflect on their own failings coming in the way of their effectively implementing a constructive and comprehensive strategy to fulfil the needs and expectations of their country of origin in terms of overall development and building up of human capital.

The Indian diaspora's share of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the total cumulative FDI approved since 1991 is only 3.78 per cent, although it constitutes 9.5 per cent of the actual inflows. Look at China.

Of the FDI it attracts, 87 per cent comes mostly from overseas Chinese and from within countries of Asia such as Korea, Thailand, Taiwan province, Singapore and Hong Kong, and only 13 per cent from the US, European Union and Japan.

One can only hope that the Pravasi Bharathiya Divas will not just be a forum for delivering lectures to India and Indians on the verities, values and virtues of life, but an occasion to draw up a menu of concrete and practical measures to discharge the diaspora's debt to India and pass on to its people a part of the fruits of the good life it is enjoying elsewhere.

The exhortation of John Kennedy to Americans applies to Indian diaspora also: Ask not what India can do for you, ask what you can do for India!

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