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India to host next mini-diaspora conclave in Toronto: Vayalar Ravi

Wednesday January 12, 2011 03:12:32 PM, Arvind Padmanabhan, IANS

New Delhi: Toronto is the venue for India's next mini-Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in June to connect with its 27 million-strong diaspora in over 150 countries. It would focus on the aspirations of the new generation of Indian youth worldwide and the universal cultural draw of Bollywood, said Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi.

"We want youth among our vast diaspora to have the same bonding with India that their parents and grandparents have. That's why we will focus on reaching out to them at our next mini-Pravasi Bharatiya Divas," the minister said.

This apart, Bollwood -- not just films but the stars, actors, songs -- also has a very large fan following. It is an important component of our soft power. So Bollywood will also feature very prominently at the event, Ravi told IANS in an interview at his residence.

The minister, who oversaw the successful conclusion of the three-day annual diaspora conclave Jan 7-9, said Toronto was chosen as the next venue since Canada also has a vast Indian community estimated at around one million.

Also this Indian community in Canada is politically visible, successful, hard working and enterprising. "By holding the event in Canada, we can also reach out to our people in the Caribbean, again a very vibrant community."

The previous mini-conclaves were held in New York, Singapore, The Hague and Durban.

Ravi also made it clear that India holds events like these not for attracting investment from people of Indian origin and non-resident Indians. "It is more to promote our bonding, culture, and thank them for their contributions," he said.

"If you look at foreign investment made by our diaspora, it is just 1.3 percent of total inflows. Yes, our non-resident Indian community remitted $54 billion last year - the largest for any country. But that is not the point," he said.

"What we are trying to convey is that India today is a land of new opportunities and our diaspora has a lot to gain by becoming our partner in progress and our ambassadors. Contributions can be in any field - health, education, industry."

Referring to demands made by non-resident Indians for voting rights, Ravi said legislative process had concluded and the law ministry was pushing it forward. He hoped the Election Commission will make it happen by next general election.

"But let us be clear," Ravi told IANS. "Only non-resident Indians will be able to vote and they can vote when they are in India. The constituency can be the same as on their passports. We have some ideas and we will reach a decision soon."

The minister said he was particularly happy that this year's convention in New Delhi had focussed on the eight northeastern states and further that youth from there participated with enthusiasm and in large numbers.

"Focus on the northeast was a major achievement, a lot of personal satisfaction for me," said Ravi, referring to the spotlight on Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim.

People got to know the potential in northeast. "We have now opened the doors for our children and youth from there to go abroad for education, jobs. All these are efforts to mainstream our people from the northeast."

(Arvind Padmanabhan can be contacted at








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