“It gives me immense pleasure to be present here amidst you on this historical occasion of the First PIO-Parliamentary Conference. This is also a special occasion to pay high respects to our ancestors, remember their sacrifices, acknowledge their struggle and celebrate successes and achievements of their descendants. We commemorated the 100 years of abolition of indentured labour last year so that the history of suffering and cruelty will not be repeated again.
As you know, country of your ancestral roots is the largest democracy in the world. It gives us a wonderful feeling that PIO-law makers across the continents are here today with us.
India has the second largest diaspora in the world estimated at over 31 million (3.1 crore) spread across the globe whose ancestral roots can be traced to traders, indentured labourers, political deportees, business entrepreneurs among others. Far away from their homes, our Girmitiya brothers and sisters underwent a prolonged period of trial and tribulations, indignities and physical and mental sufferings. Long journeys in ships were extremely difficult and painful. Despite all these suffering and challenges, the evolution of diaspora is remarkable.
Today, there is not a patch of foreign land which is not inhabited by Indians and glows with traces and influence of our multi-layered culture. We are proud of our rich Diaspora, spread over many countries and across continents, who stand out for their innate ability to assimilate and yet maintain their distinct identity.
Overseas Indians are not just content with tried and tested professions and vocations; many of them have successfully carved a career in politics, government, and diplomacy. In many countries, such as Mauritius, Fiji, Trinidad & Tobago and Portugal, PIOs have become heads of state and government. This year, to mark the return of Mahatma Gandhiji, the greatest Pravasi on the earth, to India in 1915, we are celebrating the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas with the PIO Members of Parliament and Mayors from around 23 countries, and I warmly welcome you and thank you for finding time to be here with us.
Hon’ble Members of Parliament and Mayors, you are from different countries and regions and may be professing different professions in addition to your political career, but there is one vital spiritual bond that unites you – it is the sense of organic connection to this ancestral land, the deep-rooted sense of Indian-ness that is civilizational and predates nation states.
The essence of Indianness is, in my view, the global vision, the holistic vision and harmonious vision. We have believed that the whole world is one family. We believe that life has to be viewed as an integrated whole. We believe that harmony and peace are at the heart of sustainable development. It is this unique world view we have collectively inherited. It is this world view that has inspired all Indians over the last two thousand years. This is the message which is probably more relevant than ever in today’s world.
We must combat the disruptive forces of terrorism that are impeding development. All of us must recognise terrorism as a threat to humanity and take concerted action to curb it. Unfortunately, some people are clothing terror in the garb of religion but, in fact, terrorism has no basis in any religion of the world. I urge each of our countries and the United Nations to build a global consensus against terror in all its forms so that we can focus our energies and resources on the welfare of our peoples.
The presence of such a large number of elected representatives of Indian origin in legislatures of such a large number of countries from across the world goes beyond the symbolism of the expanding horizons of the influence of India in the global scheme of things. In my considered view, it is a clear reflection of the strength of the Indian values of inclusivity and assimilation, nurtured and consolidated over the centuries since ancient times.
This land of ours had assimilated in its fold over the centuries, a large variety of people who came here for a variety of reasons including for learning, commerce and trade, religious propagation and even invaders. Every such encounter had further enriched the syncretic nature of our traditional values and ethos. The inhabitants of the motherland of India and those who have their roots here can be genuinely proud of such time tested values which constitute the principle of unity of mankind.
When we talk of Indian Nationalism, we refer to the pride that is associated with such inclusive humanism, which is native to this land. Some deviant words and deeds of some misguided persons can in no way dent the quality and strength of the core values of our motherland.
While we take pride in our spirit of nationalism, that unites the people of different social and religious hues cohabiting on our mother land, Persons of Indian origin living in a large number of other countries, imbibe and uphold the ethos and values of those countries. This is yet another clear manifestation of the spirit of ‘assimilation’ which is at the heart of our core human values. This first conference of Persons of Indian Origin Parliamentarians is a certain celebration of this spirit of assimilation which is the bed rock of Indian values. It is because of this spirit of assimilation that all of you have been able to get accepted in the countries of your adoption and could rise to the level of being the law makers for the people with whom you chose to live. I heartily congratulate all of you for keeping the flag of Indian values fly high all across the globe.
The Indian diaspora has contributed enormously to strengthening India’s cultural, literary, political and economic bonds across the world. India sees in you an important bridge with the countries where you are living. You are also instrumental in building the people to people ties.
Friends, I am happy to know that in recognition of Diaspora’s contribution to the development of India and to connect young diaspora to their ancestral roots, several flagship programmes have been taken by Government of India. Foremost among them are Know India Programme, Bharat Ko Janiye Quiz and Scholarship Programme for Diaspora Children.
I also feel happy to share with you that in the face of hostile conditions, Government of India successfully evacuated from war-torn countries over 90,000 overseas Indian nationals, including foreign nationals from nearly 45 countries under operations Rahat and Sankat Mochan. It reassured the overseas Indian community that wherever they may be, if they face problem, the Indian government is there for them.
I congratulate External Affairs Minister and her team on such rescue operations undertaken successfully by Government of India for the safety of overseas Indian nationals.
Friends, there were different forces of history and circumstances that forced and prompted our people to leave India and settle abroad. The time and the world have since changed. Today, the role and stature of India, has been growing and our nation has been scaling up in the ladder of the Comity of Nations. Resurgent India is a power – economic and military- to reckon with internationally. India is a land of opportunity today.
Government of India has taken a series of steps towards economic reforms and to improve the business environment. The jump in India’s ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report, from 142 to 100, in three years, is a result of this. There are many flagship programs launched by Government of India where diaspora can actively participate and be an integral part of growth story of India. There are some amongst you who would like to contribute in business and investments. Others may feel more comfortable supporting through contributions made to Swachh Bharat, Namami Gange and other flagship programmes. Some others may feel motivated to spare their valuable time and effort in volunteering in India, helping the under-privileged or contributing to capacity building programs in various sectors.
There are many and diverse opportunities for contributing to your motherland and being a part of its exciting growth story. Be it “Make in India”, “Start up India”, “Digital India” or “Swachh India”; all these programs provide ample opportunities for you to participate, contribute and benefit.
We have a story of squirrel in Ramayana. when the whole army of the Sugriva was busy making a bridge over the sea to reach Lanka, then a small squirrel in the field watched the whole scene. It thought that it should also contribute towards the construction of the bridge. But there were obstacles. The squirrel was too small even to carry little quantities of sand or stone. An idea stuck to its mind. It went to the sea and had a dip. Came back to the sand and rolled over. Again with the sand all over its body, went back to the sea and had dip. The squirrel tirelessly continued its work till the construction of the bridge was completed.
So, it was an idea and sense of duty that dawned on the Squirrel, which became an agent of change. Friends, we want your ideas, best practices, richness of your experience and expertise to shape the contours of New resurgent global India.
Friends, I am confident that your participation in this Conference has contributed in strengthening your attachment with your place of domicile and your connect with the land of your ancestors.
The themes deliberated upon today held during the course of the day are timely, relevant and inspiring.
With this, I take this opportunity to congratulate the External Affairs Minister for her initiative in successfully hosting the first PIO –Parliamentary Conference and wish you all a happy, healthy, prosperous and enriching New Year. I also wish you a safe journey back to your respective countries.
शुभास्ते पंथान: सन्तु !
May your paths be auspicious,
and may 2018 bring happiness in your life.
Let me end with a quotation, a prayer for peace from our ancient scriptures, a prayer that probably can inspire each one of us to make our planet a better place to live in.
“May we hear with our ears what is good,
May we see with our eyes what is beautiful,
May we dedicate our lives to promote goodness, with strong bodies and steady minds.”