The Indian government is to go ahead with the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which honours the Indian diaspora, despite last week's attacks in Mumbai.
Indian Diaspora Day to go ahead as planned despite Mumbai attacks
ABU DHABI// The Indian government is to go ahead with the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which honours the Indian diaspora, despite last week's attacks in Mumbai. The celebrations bring together people of Indian heritage from around the world. UAE-based Indians will be among those eligible for recognition when the event is held in Chennai from Jan 7 to 9, although officials declined yesterday to name nominees. The gathering is to launch initiatives to bring Indians who are overseas closer to home. They will include the Indian Development Foundation, a philanthropy registry that will help people of Indian origin who want to help their communities connect with government-approved non-governmental organisations. The Manipal Group, which runs medical and engineering institutions, will establish a university in Bangalore by 2010 that will take half its annual input from Indian students from abroad. K Mohandas, secretary at the ministry of overseas Indian affairs, said such initiatives would increase interaction between people of Indian origin, non-resident Indians and those in the country. "We are trying to build partnerships to encourage investments," he said. Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which has been held since 2003, focuses partly on recognising Indians who have made extraordinary contributions to their communities, and those who hold positions of eminence in their fields and have enhanced the relationship of their country of residence with India. Indians from the UAE who have been recognised by the Indian government in the past for their work in both the UAE and India include: Syed Salahuddin, the managing director of the ETA Ascon Star Group; Yusuf Ali, managing director of the Emke Group; and B R Shetty, managing director of the NMC group. Last year K Kumar, convener of the Indian Community Welfare Association in Dubai, was honoured. The event is attended by the prime minister and president of India. Last year 1,500 representatives from 43 countries took part. This year, there have been doubts about attendance in light of the Mumbai attacks. "Of course, there will be heightened security measures," Mr Mohandas said. He said the gathering would also focus on immigration and attempts to improve the quality of recruitment from India by "developing the skills of future migrants". The government is changing legal procedures to make recruitment agents more accountable and punish offenders with possible jail terms. "We are trying to centralise the process and trying to ensure that recruiting is a professional activity where there is no exploitation or cheating. We are committed to fighting illegal migration," Mr Mohandas said. Once the laws are changed, recruitment agents will be able to charge workers using their services fees equalling one month's wages. The official ceiling for agents' fees is currently Dh218 (US$59), but some charge more than Dh7,000. firstname.lastname@example.org