The Indian Government recognises the importance of overseas Indians who contribute towards the development of India. Every year, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebration takes place. This year, the official event was held at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.
The objective of the event is to strengthen the engagement of the overseas Indian community, reconnect them with their heritage and celebrate their achievements.
Locally, the Consulate General of India Melbourne hosted Pravasi Bharatiya Divas on 9 January.
The Indian Government is keen to reconnect with second, third and fourth generation people who have Indian roots.
The audience was given information about a lot of programmes and initiatives that the Indian Government runs for the diaspora.
A program called the ‘Know India Programme’ is a three-week orientation activity to encourage diaspora youth aged between 18 and 30 inclusive to visit India and meet members of the community and Government.
The objective of the program is to provide a unique forum for students and young professionals of Indian origin to visit India, share their views, expectations and experiences and to develop closer bonds with contemporary India. The Indian Government will fund up to 90% of the airfare and support the visitor with accommodation and other expenses.
In addition, several other initiatives exist:
* There is a 24/7 Tourist Helpline that is available in 12 languages. Contact toll-free, 1800-11-1363.
* The MADAD Portal provides users of consular services to report grievances and track the progress of any issues that they have. This portal is useful for students.
* The Indian Government offers short-term stay e-Visas with a quick turnaround time of 3 business days. The entire process is online and can be accessed at www.indianvisaonline.gov.in. Be sure to select this website, because there are many other scam websites.
* The Indian Community Welfare Fund exists for distressed people who are experiencing severe problems.
* The Indian Customs Traveller Guide, which is available from all mobile app stores, provides useful information for travellers regarding customs and baggage related matters.
* The Overseas Indian Youth Club, which is relevant for those who have participated in the ‘Know India Programme’, encourages the youth to stay connected and collaborate.
A guest speaker, Dr Anil Asthana, gastroenterologist and hepatologist at the Melbourne Digestive Centre, spoke about his visit to Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra, New Delhi, in December 2017. The two-day conference aimed to encourage overseas Indians and foreigners with an interest in India to voice their opinion about how to raise a strong awareness about India to the world, and have them connect with India.
Born and raised in the UK, Dr Asthana understood the importance of his identity and knew that his roots derived from India. Recognising the importance of integration over segregation and dilution, he explained that he associated freely with the locals in UK and continued to speak in Hindi at home.
He did not wish to segregate himself from the British community and he also did not want to dilute his linguistic ability with English alone. Instead, he integrated with British society and still maintained his ability to converse with Indian locals.
Using this analogy, he encouraged the Indian Government to integrate with other communities across the globe and make it easier for them to access opportunities in business, property, start-ups, trade, etc. This will help to remove any fear associated with interacting with India.
At the conference, in summary, Dr Asthana recommended the following:
* Investing in property information seminars to make it easy for foreigners to understand the process.
* An Indian directory for people and businesses, so that people can support each other and build ties for the betterment of Australia and India.
* Channels for overseas people to teach in India and share their skills and resources.
* Cultural visas to encourage people to visit India for cultural and religious purposes.
* Develop cartoons and movies in English that simply and clearly explains Indian culture and history for everyone globally, young and old, to see.
The Consulate urged Victorians to share this information with others and take advantage of the schemes. The Indian Government welcomes feedback and encourages people to participate and share their views to improve India’s reception in Australia.