Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday lauded the Indian diaspora across the world as he addressed people at the 14th Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas 2017 in Bengaluru.
"There was once a discussion about brain drain. And I told people at that time: Are only foolish people left here?" Modi said. "Today, I can say with a lot of confidence: The present government's initiative changed brain drain to brain gain," he added.
"In foreign lands and communities across the globe, the Indian diaspora represents the best of Indian culture, ethos and values," said the prime minister, adding that the hard work, discipline and peace-loving nature of Indians abroad made them role models for other communities.
"You have various objectives and paths. But within all of us, there is only one dream: Bharatiyata," he said. "Indians have brought about development wherever they have been. They have established a connection with whichever place they have gone to," he added.
"For my government and for me personally, engagement with overseas Indians has been a key area of priority. I have met many Indians in US, UK, Australia, South Africa, UAE, Qatar, China, Japan, South Korea," said Modi.
"As a result of sustained and systematic outreach, there is a strong drive among the Indian diaspora to connect more extensively and deeply with India's social and economic transformation. They are co-travellers in the development of the nation," he said.
"NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) and PIOs (Persons of Indian Origin) have made outstanding contributions to their chosen fields. Among them, there are politicians of stature, scientists of repute, outstanding doctors, brilliant educationists, economists, musicians, bankers, engineers and lawyers. Did I mention our well-known IT professionals?" said the prime minister.
Modi also said that the central government was committed to the safety of Indians abroad.
"The welfare and safety of all Indians abroad is our top priority. For this, we are strengthening the entire ecosystem of our administrative arrangements," he said.
"Whether it is loss of passports, need for legal advice, medical advice, shelter or even transportation of mortal remains to India, I have directed all Indian embassies to be proactive to address problems of Indians abroad," he said. "Our response to overseas Indians' needs is based on accessibility, sensibility, speed and promptness. 24x7 helplines with Indians embassies, open house meetings with Indian nationals and use of social media platforms for immediate access are some of the measures we have put in place," he added.
"We do not see the colour of the passport. We only see the blood relations," he said.
Praising External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for her commitment to her duties, Modi said, "Our External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj ji has been prompt in reaching out to distressed Indians abroad."
"Through the Sankat Mochan programme in July 2016, we repatriated over 150 Indian nationals from South Sudan. In the last two years, we facilitated the repatration of over 90,000 Indian nationals from nearly 54 countries. Through the Indian community welfare fund, we assisted over 80,000 Indian nationals abroad," said the prime minister.
"For every Indian abroad, home should never be far away," he said.
"We have taken several steps to safeguard immigration of Indian workers abroad. Online registration for foreign employers on e-migrants portal has been made mandatory...Grievances of migrant workers continue to be addressed online...We are taking strict action against illegal recruitment agents in India," he added.
He also said that starting with Mauritius, his government was working to put in place procedures so that descendants of various Indian communities could become eligible for OCI cards, by addressing the difficulties of PIOs in Fiji, Reunion Islands, Suriname, Guyana and other Caribbean states.
"For the migrant Indian workers, a skill development programme called Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana will be launched, targeted at Indians who seek overseas employment," he said.
The prime minister also urged PIOs to convert their PIO cards to Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards.
"I would again encourage PIO card holders to convert their PIO cards to OCI cards. I am happy to announce that we have extended the deadline for this from 31 December to 30 June without any penalty," he said.
"It is my firm belief that connect between India and overseas Indians ahould be sustained and enriching for both. In October last year, I had the honour of inaugurating the Pravasi Bharti Kendra in new delhi. This Kendra is dedicated to the overseas community. I am sure it will become a symbol of the global progress, struggles and achievements of the Indian diaspora," Modi said.
"We want close ties with the young overseas Indians. To provide the young overseas Indians to visit their motherland and reconnenct, we have launched Know India Programme, through which six groups of young overseas Indians are visiting India," he added.
"India is moving fast towards development. One definition of FDI is FDI and second is First Develop India," Modi said, encouraging Indians abroad to invest in India.
The prime minister also took a dig at Opposition leaders criticising the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.
"We took a massive step against corruption and black money. Black money and corruption were slowly making the politics of our country hollow. It is unfortunate that there are those in politics who worship black money. They try to portray our efforts are anti-people," he said. "But I thank you (overseas Indians) for the dedication which you have shown to the fight against black money," he added.
Updated Date: Jan 08, 2017 12:58:10 IST