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Honouring the Global Indian Diaspora and their Contributions to India’s Growth

  • 09 Jan 2024

Introduction

Observed annually on 9th January, Pravasi Bharatiya Divas or the NRI Day is a celebration that reaches beyond the national boundaries and reflects the pulse of millions of Indians living abroad. It recognises the accomplishments and contributions of the Indian diaspora which is not limited to one country and is truly, what you call, global. The day provides a forum for discussion, cooperation, and introspection on the dynamic interaction that exists between India and its diaspora around the world.

In this blog, I will mention the history of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the essence of the Indian diaspora, the economic contributions especially in terms of Remittances, the cultural effect which is also the soft power and various government initiatives for the diaspora worldwide.

Historical Perspective

Every year, on January 9, India celebrates the contribution of its Overseas Indian Community, to the welfare and development of the nation. The inception of this day goes back to 2003, the year when it was first marked as a way to honour and recognise the contributions of the Indian diaspora. The Ministry of External Affairs is credited with establishing the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. The date, January 9, was selected as the celebration day of the “Greatest Pravasi”, Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India in 1915 from South Africa.

Since 2003, 17 conventions have taken place, in different cities across India, providing an opportunity for the Overseas Indian Community to connect with their homeland and the Government of India and vice versa. Since 2015, the PBD convention has been held every alternate year with a special theme for each conference. For the year 2023, the Venue of the PBD convention was Indore and the theme was “Diaspora: Reliable Partners for India’s Progress in Amrit Kaal”.

The Indian Diaspora

In simplest terms, the term Indian Diaspora refers to the people who are of Indian origin but have moved and settled elsewhere throughout the world. There is a tremendous diversity within this diaspora in terms of both their geographic locations (the countries they settled in) as well as the professions practised.

Statistics tell us that the Indian diaspora is the largest in the world. According to the UN's most recent data, which was released in the World Migration Report of 2022, India had the most number of citizens residing abroad in the world in 2020. As of the middle of the year, just about 17.9 million citizens were officially registered as residing abroad. The top three destinations for Indians are taken by UAE, the US and Saudi Arabia. The numbers clearly tell that India has overtaken both Mexico and Russia in two decades, with more than 10 million more Indians living abroad. In 2000, the number was 7.9 million.

Economic Contributions

Remittances are one important way that the Indian diaspora contributes to the economy. As per the World Migration Report, International remittances are financial or in-kind transfers made by migrants directly to families or communities in their countries of origin. Non-resident Indians, or NRIs, support their family and boost the economy of their home nation by sending money home. Remittances contribute almost 3% of India’s GDP. As per the World Bank, the total inward remittance of India stood at $68.9 billion in 2015. By 2020, the number increased to $83.2 billion. In 2023, India stood at the top in the remittance inflows at $125 billion.

Yet not just remittances, the Indian diaspora is present in all sectors: be it business, entrepreneurship, finance or banking. Many NRIs have made a name for themselves in various industries, and most importantly, they are leading in prominent roles in many International financial institutions today. Satya Nadella: the CEO of Microsoft, Sundar Pichai: the CEO of Alphabet Inc., Indra Nooyi: the former CEO of PepsiCo are all well-known names but the list is endless.

Cultural Influence

In addition to contributing to India's soft power internationally, the Indian diaspora has a major cultural impact. The global dispersion of the Indian diaspora contributes to a culturally diverse tapestry. Numerous mediums, including food, music, dance, art, and festivals, are used to represent it. Not only this, Indian customs are becoming more widely recognised and appreciated worldwide as a result of the fusion of Indian cultural aspects with regional cultures in many nations.

Bollywood, or the Indian film industry, has a sizable following across the world. Members of the Indian diaspora have been instrumental in marketing Bollywood stars and films abroad. Indian restaurants are flourishing in many nations, and Indian food has become incredibly popular all over the world. The unique flavours and spices of Indian cuisine are now appreciated throughout the world owing in part to the culinary influence brought by the Indian diaspora.

Around the world, Indian diaspora communities actively participate in traditional festivals and events including Navratri, Holi, and Diwali. It was only recently that Garba of Gujarat was recognised in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) of Humanity by UNESCO. Cultural institutions and organisations, founded by Indians abroad, actively promote Indian arts, education, and cross-cultural interchange worldwide. These organisations act as focal points for disseminating and conserving Indian cultural heritage.

Government Initiatives and Recognition

Over the years, the Ministry of External Affairs has launched various initiatives to connect Overseas Indians. The Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) Scheme is one such example. This scheme was launched at the convention of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, 2006, at Hyderabad. It allows all Persons of Indian Origin to register themselves as OCI, which means one can travel to India visa-free and that too, for lifelong.

Another interesting programme launched by MEA is the Know India Programme for Young Overseas Indians. This program is a three-week-long knowledge programme, with its primary focus on fostering a closer connection between Indian diaspora youth and their ancestral homeland by augmenting their understanding of India.

In addition, the Government of India confers the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, the highest Indian award to Overseas Indians or an organisation/institution by Overseas Indian Diaspora, for their contribution in various fields. The award is presented by the President of India. Some OCIs have also been conferred with Padma awards.

Future Prospects and Engagement

It is important to realise that there are various prospects in which the Indian diaspora could contribute to the development of our nation and in turn, can utilise various opportunities for mutually beneficial exchanges. For this purpose, a persistent emphasis must remain on networking regularly, fostering relationships, and encouraging collaboration.

In various areas, including Innovation and Technology, Business, Startups, Networking etc, the Indian Government and the Indian diaspora can collaborate, create and find new avenues of growth.

For instance, partnerships between experts from the Indian diaspora for R&D and various Indian Institutions can bring new research into perspective. Technology can leverage the distance barrier and a seamless engagement between OCIs and the Government can positively contribute to strengthening ties.

Conclusion

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas provides an opportunity to understand and appreciate the deep connection between India and its worldwide diaspora. It's an opportunity to use a vibrant platform to have discussions, to communicate and cooperate and have cultural exchanges but most importantly, to honour the accomplishments of various non-resident Indians. It reminds us that the tale of the Indian diaspora is one of rebounds, creativity, and solidarity. This narrative is one that keeps developing with every celebration, reinforcing the unbreakable bonds that unite India and its residents around the world.

Also, here's a note: If you are living in any part of the world, if you miss home, your family, and friends, if you are working every single day, and if you are a Pravasi Bharatiya, I extend my gratitude through this blog. Your contribution matters. Make India Proud.

References:

https://worldmigrationreport.iom.int/wmr-2022-interactive/

https://m.economictimes.com/nri/invest/how-nri-money-is-bolstering-indias-economy/articleshow/99318136.cms

https://www.statista.com/chart/30803/top-countries-of-origin-for-international-migrants/

https://www.businesstoday.in/latest/economy/story/india-tops-remittance-flows-at-usd-125-bn-in-2023-world-bank-410145-2023-12-20\

https://www.mea.gov.in/pravasi-bharatiya-divas.htm

https://pib.gov.in/newsite/printrelease.aspx?relid=169695

https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-updates/daily-news-analysis/the-indian-diaspora

https://worldmigrationreport.iom.int/

https://www.mea.gov.in/distinguished-lectures-detail.htm?855#:~:text=The%20five%20pillars%20of%20this,(Cultural%20and%20civilizational%20links).

https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1983133

https://m.economictimes.com/news/india/world-is-recognizing-new-india-says-s-jaishankar-while-addressing-indian-diaspora-in-bogota/articleshow/99780871.cms

https://www.mea.gov.in/overseas-citizenship-of-india-scheme.htm

https://kip.gov.in/

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