New Delhi: The 9th
edition of India's annual convention to connect with its
25-million-strong diaspora in 130 countries kicked off here Friday
with a fervent appeal to them to return to their roots, a land of
new opportunities, and share the fruits together.
Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi led the Indian
government in welcoming professionals and entrepreneurs in
virtually every field - from healthcare and education to research
and commerce - to participate in and benefit from India's
"I urge all of you to participate and discover areas of common
interest and engagement. I especially call on our young overseas
Indians to participate with enthusiasm," Ravi told the estimated
1,500 delegates from 51 countries here for the event.
Human Resource Development Minister Kapil also called for
collaboration from the Indian diaspora, especially in building the
education sector and that was so crucial to ensure the country
reaches its true potential.
"The most important collaboration in education will be from the
Indian diaspora that had gone away to look for opportunities and
can come back now to this land of new opportunities," he said.
According to Sibal, India plans to increase the gross enrollment
ratio of children going to college from 12 percent now to 30
percent by 2020. To cater to this growing number of youth pursuing
higher studies, 1,000 more universities and 45,000 colleges were
"This is a mind boggling challenge."
Sibal said the government has opened up the entire higher
education sector, adding that the Foreign Universities Bill to
allow institutions from overseas to set up their hubs in India was
also pending in parliament. "We hope to get it passed soon."
Formally called the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the three-day event
will also be addressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday
and President Pratibha Patil will honour some dozen eminent people
of Indian origin for their contributions in various field Sunday.
The focus this year is on the eight northeastern states -
Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland,
Tripura and Sikkim. The speakers include several ministers and
chief ministers. New Zealand Governor-General Anand Satyanand is
the chief guest.
Tech evangelist Sam Pitroda in his address asked overseas Indians
to invest in broadband since a huge opportunity existed in the
country given the government's goal of reaching it to each of its
626,000 villages with other applications for inclusive growth.
Some 100,000 village panchayats already have broadband in India
that not only ensures faster communications but also allows
applications like tele-medicine, timely weather forecasts and
remote consultations on crops, soil, nutrients and marketing.
"Innovations must reach millions of socially-backward sections in
the society. For that, re-engineering processes are needed to
create new jobs, new products and new services," said Pitroda, who
is also the prime minister's advisor on innovation.
The Chicago-based technocrat-entrepreneur said the Indian
government will be spending as much as $100 billion on education
during the 12th Five Year Plan starting fiscal 2012, against $70
billion in the current plan period.
"We have to liberalise the education system. What we did to the
economy in 1991 needs to be done to education now," he said.
"There is a huge opportunity for private investment in this
sector. There is opportunity for locals as well as diaspora."