Our Bureau

Hyderabad, Jan. 9

THE President, Mr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, has urged non-resident Indians (NRIs) to participate in India's rural transformation through joint initiatives.

With 70 per cent of the people living in rural areas, the contribution of NRIs in bringing about a change is vital.

"During the remaining part of my tenure, I will focus on issues like healthcare, rural connectivity, education, which are urgently needed to develop rural India," he said.

Delivering the valedictory address at the three-day Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, here on Monday, the President said creation of a national grid was essential.

The grid should consist of a knowledge focus, healthcare, e-governance, PURA (providing urban amenities in rural areas) and Integrated Village Knowledge Centres.

The President said it was time for the NRIs to pay their debt to their motherland.

An integrated effort would lead to societal transformation, he said citing the example of the rural development work by the Byrraju Foundation in Bhimavaram in coastal Andhra.

The President presented the Pravasi Bhartiya Samman Award (the highest recognition for NRIs) to Dr Sudhir Parikh for his contributions towards community services.

Dr Parikh, who now heads the Federation of Indian Association (FIA), New York, is a reputed allergy physician. He has played an active role in creating the India-caucus in American Congress and `Friends of India' club in its Senate, read a citation.

The award, however, raised a protest from three NRIs, claiming to be members of the Coalition Against Genocide (which also opposed the visit of Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, to the US, after Gujarat riots, on the reported invitation of Dr Parikh), who expressed their opposition, before being taken off from the auditorium.

The President also presented awards and decorations to 15 NRIs in different fields.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 10, 2006)
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