Thursday, 03 January 2008 19:00 GFP Columnist - Dr. Stephen Gill
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The government of India has dedicated the 9th of January to celebrate the overseas compatriots. The story goes back to the BJP (Bhartiya Janta Party) Government that was defeated in 2004 general elections. When in power, the BJP Government approached the Indians abroad, using the word NRIS (non-resident Indians) to seek their help to save India from bankruptcy.

They played on their nationalistic sentiments to motivate them to play a major role in the economic landscape of India. The BJP Government and other Hindu nationalist parties were already collecting funds from the nationalists abroad for political activities, including their elections.

Encouraged by the initial results, the Government of BJP set up a Committee in September 2000 under Dr. L.M. Singhvi, an M.P., to woo all twenty-two million of its overseas Indians. The Committee asked NRIS to suggest ways to develop their meaningful relations with India. The real motive was to find out ways to attract their money. The 9th of January was set aside to observe Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (India Day for the overseas Indians) every year. That is the day when Gandhi returned to India from Africa to lead India?s freedom movement. The word NRIS was gradually replaced with Diaspora.

Every year, mostly business and other rich people of Indian origin, attend this day to shake hands with the ministers and other high profile Government officials. On this day, some overseas Indians, who have the means to buy tickets, are invited to lecture and dine with ministers. Several minor groups with affiliations with the same committee that makes arrangements to celebrate this day, connected directly or indirectly with the Government of India, have sprung up and also hold gatherings to recognize overseas Indians with pieces of paper, called awards, for which invitees pay handsome amounts. What connection these organizations have with the government and where those monies go is a mystery. As far as writers and artists are concerned, they are usually ignored, because from the point of investment and purchase of those awards they are unusable cars and old cows.

The word Diaspora has been hijacked by politician for their own ends. They also have hijacked the name of Mahatma Gandhi. Every knowledgeable citizen of India knows that the BJP, the political wing of the Rashtrirya Sewek Sung (RSS), does not think much of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation. Nathuram Godse, the assassin of the father of the nation, was associated with the RSS. The RSS and its affiliates distributed sweets the day Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead by its own person. The policies of the RSS and its affiliates are just opposite to the policies of Gandhi. NRIS and words like Diaspora were cleverly used to attract the money of overseas Indians.

There are several highly qualified Indians who preferred to stay within the country even when they had the chance to go abroad. What these unsung heroes receive from the Government of India for their sacrifices, is obvious. University professors, who give their lives to serve the goddess of education and art, do not live in as stimulating atmosphere as their counterparts in Canada or the United States. These professors, writers, artists and others are doing their work silently. Under the present situation, there will never be a celebrated day for them like Pervasis Bhartiya Divas because they are not in a position to invest in the industries, though they shape the future of India.

The overseas Indians are being used like cars that have the ability to transport sick people to hospitals or the cows that give milk. When cars are of no use, they are discarded as junk, and when cows get old, everybody knows what happen to them. That is what the overseas Indians are to the government that has set aside areas for them to build gracious bungalows and every protection is given them in every form as long as their money keeps flowing into the country. They can obtain loans and get special visas to make their journey easy, flexible and hassle-free.

There are Indians, almost twice the population of Canada, who still live on about forty rupees, a dollar, a day. The call centres of computer related services in metropolis of India have drug related and other problems. Their employees are not permanent. Corruption is rampant in most departments. The condition of women and children has not improved much.

In spite of all these ploys, ?the NRIS have provided less then 10% of a far smaller total for India.? (The economist,2003, Jan. 25, vol. 366, p.44-45). This strategy helped the BJP Government to some extent. In 2007 elections, this strategy has helped widely the Modi Government in Gujrat, where any investor will think several times before investing. Modi, called the Hitler of India, approached the Indian nationalists abroad and has been able to bring some prosperity to his riot-ridden state.

Based on this prosperity, the nationalist party of the Hindus has come back to power with an absolute majority. That is what Hitler did who received funds from the Germans abroad to remain in power. However, on the national level, the BJP government was not able to do as much as it possibly could. Even the present national government has not been able to do considerably better than the BJP Government. Whereas the story of China is largely a success, the story of India is largely disappointing in milking its cows.

The story of disappointment is due to corruption and the insecure climate of India. Millions of overseas Indians will prove important national assets if the government of India will woo them in a secular way. The BJP Government who initiated this project was not secular in its philosophy and practice. During the BJP Government, two high commissioners in Ottawa, their spokespersons, represented the narrow ideology of the nationalist government in India. This may be the case also in other important democracies of the world during the BJP rule.

A transparent government does not have to employ means to attract foreign capital by hijacking when transparent means are available. India is the land of Goatma and Gandhi, the apostles of peace. Peace is the legitimate child of non-violence and tolerance that are the outcome of democracy. Investors expect peace and security in a country that can be assured by democratic institutions. India will attract more capital if it is made a more peaceful nation where its artists, writers, poets and intellectuals can also live comfortably in a state that is secular constitutionally and in practice.

Where there is peace there is prosperity. India needs the teachings of Goatma and Gandhi also. The followers of Goatma had been the first who went abroad with the olive branch of peace, not to seek the El Dorado of green pastures. For his teachings and practice, Mahatma Gandhi is one of them who are respected much more abroad than he is in India. His name should not be associated with a mythical interpretation of Indian Diaspora to attract the god of gold.

Moreover, the Government of India should clearly announce if it has ties with the groups that sell awards. Also, it should let everyone know about the money that is collected on this day through these awards and other means.

Pravasi Bhartiya Divas Image Courtesy of the Government of Indian Affairs and the Government of India.



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