3,000 likely to attend the convention

Tuesday 06th January 2015 10:53 EST

Around 3,000 people belonging to the Indian diaspora are expected to attend the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) which is being held from January 7th to 9th at Gandhinagar in Gujarat. The government's key programmes, including ‘Make in India’, will be highlighted during the event.

The annual PBD is being held in Gandhinagar to mark the centenary of the return of the “sarva sreshtha pravasi Bharatiya” or foremost Indian diaspora member, Mahatma Gandhi to India from South Africa, said India's external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj who is also the minister for Overseas Indian Affairs.

The chief guest of the 13th PBD would be Guyana President Donald Ramotar. PBD is the world's largest annual gathering of people of Indian origin aimed at enhancing networking and reinforcing commercial linkages. There are 25 million people of Indian origin residing outside India.

The 13th convention would be “different” from earlier PBDs, said Swaraj. It would be hosting some special events, including a special session for the diaspora youth and also four special sessions. These are to deal with the concerns of diaspora living in the Gulf countries, for those living in Francophone countries, a session for countries where the descendants of Indian indentured labour live and another session to address concerns of the associations of Indian diaspora, the minister said. Gujarat is the partner country for the event. Asked if West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who is at loggerheads with the BJP, was invited, Swaraj said that she had sent letters of invitation to all chief ministers, and so far ten had confirmed they would be attending. Finance minister Arun Jaitey and commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman would be addressing the session between the 10 chief ministers and NRI businesspersons, she said.

Swaraj also denied the suggestion that the decision to host the event in Gujarat this time was taken after the new government came into power.

She added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had four years ago, while he was chief minister of Gujarat, proposed hosting PBD in Gujarat in 2015 and had written about it to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. To another question, she said the ministry is working to merge the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards with the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cards and ensure lifelong visa to the holders. On a proposal to grant voting rights to NRIs, Swaraj said that they were examining several suggestions, including having electronic voting machines placed in embassies during elections, allowing proxy voting or having the diaspora member to come home to vote.

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