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November19, 2009
A Publication of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO)
Issue:  November19,2009
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Inder Singh, Chairman of Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) shares his views about Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and various issues concerning the overseas Indian community 

What does Pravasi Bharatiya Divas mean to NRIs and PIOs?
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBDs) is a major effort by the government to reconnect NRIs/PIOs with the land of their forefathers.

How successful has been the PBDs in bridging the gaps between the Indians residing here and abroad?
For the last few years, over 1000 people from various parts of the world spend their own time and money to participate in the annual PBD event which has provided a platform for Deshvasis and Pravasis to network among themselves and build relationships. Along with the main PBD organized by Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), many states take advantage of the home-coming of the Pravasis and organize their own similar gatherings to attract them to their states. In fact, some of the state events are becoming more popular as Pravasis can easily relate to people and places in their home states which also offer free participation for the attendees.   

What does the Diasporic community need from India and vice-versa?
India’s bureaucracy moves at a snail’s speed. Policy announcements made at PBD raise hopes among the Diaspora but take years to implement and hence lead to disappointment. Issues that are of concern to the diaspora go unaddressed in spite of repeated requests and resolutions.
Many NRIs have inherited property and several NRIs/PIOs have purchased properties but they have unresolved property related issues e.g. illegal occupation of land/flats/apartments/houses by unscrupulous persons, delayed handing over of the promised flats/apartments by builders/realtors/property dealers, delay in the settlement of related court cases etc. In spite of repeated demands for changes in property related laws, setting up of fast track courts, etc. to address the problems facing NRIs/PIOs, Indian Government has not done anything so far.
This year, MOIA has put up this hot issue for discussion as one of the PBD seminars on Jan 7, 2010. It is hoped that the deliberations at the seminar can lead to some concrete steps in resolving the property related issues of the NRIs.

How does GOPIO channelize NRI interests in India?
Since its inception, GOPIO has been promoting awareness and understanding of NRI issues and concerns -- social, cultural, educational, economic, or political. GOPIO also provides an active and well recognized platform for discussion and deliberation to the worldwide Indian Diaspora and to further advance that objective, GOPIO has been at the forefront to network the globally spread overseas Indian community by regularly organizing conferences in various parts of the world and establishing chapters in various countries. During the last six years alone, GOPIO has organized twelve international conferences. These GOPIO conferences and conventions help bring the Indian Diaspora closer to mother India and strengthen the inherent bonds of history, heritage, culture and tradition. After all, the destiny of India's Diaspora, in many ways, is intertwined inextricably with India.

Since its inception in 2003, Pravasi Bharatiya Divas has taken a number of decisions keeping the Diasporic community in mind. Explain the baggage of bouquets and brickbats which the Government is carrying.
MOIA has taken many far reaching decisions benefitting the overseas Indians. Overseas Citizenship of India (OIC) scheme, establishment of Indian Facilitation Center, PIO university, formation of Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council of PIOs, Internship program for Indian youth, Scholarship program for university education for PIO children and bilateral social security agreements with various foreign governments are just a few of the many laudable schemes and programs which have been implemented.
But many demands of the NRI community still need the attention of the government. One such demand pertains to their right to vote in an election. Many countries provide opportunities for their overseas citizens to participate in the election process of their countries. India is yet to establish a mechanism to provide such an opportunity for its citizens numbering about 9.2 million of the 25 million Indian Diaspora. Thus India is depriving all these citizens from the exercise of their rights to vote in elections held for state and central offices. GOPIO has been urging the Government of India to allow NRIs to exercise their right to cast the absentee vote and to initiate a process of providing voting rights, through a constitutional amendment if necessary, to Indian citizens living outside India.

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Chairman of the Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), Dr. Yesu Persaud, has been awarded his second honorary degree in just over a year.

This time, the businessman has been bestowed a Degree of Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) by the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago.

In July 2008, the University of Warwick awarded a Degree of Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) to Dr Persaud. Dr Persaud was among five prominent others who were conferred Honorary Degrees by UWI on October 31.

The proceedings included a cocktail reception held especially for the five persons to be awarded Doctorates. At this reception each of the five persons were presented with a ring made of gold with an amethyst stone with the initials UWI.

Dr Persaud has been hailed for his business contributions to Guyana and the region.He was the brain behind the formation of Guyana’s first indigenous private sector bank, Demerara Bank Limited, which opened in 1994.

He also holds numerous positions in other organisations. He is the Chairman of Trust Company (Guyana) Limited, and Guyana Unit Trust — a mutual fund — and was the man behind Diamond Fire and General Insurance Company. But perhaps one of the more notable was the formation of the Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED) which at a critical juncture of Guyana’s history in 1985, provided an opening for small enterprises to gain access to finance. IPED has been hailed as a major success story in Guyana and by 2005, had funded over 35,000 businesses with over 50,000 loans.

He is also one of the founding members of the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), which was established in New York in 1989. In addition to being Vice President of GOPIO International, he is also Vice President of GOPIO’s Caribbean Chapter.

He has been serving as the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Chile for many years. In 1981, he was awarded the Golden Arrow of Achievement, a national honour, for the expansion of the distilling industry in Guyana. In 1983, he received the Cacique’s Crown of Honour for developing many new industries.

He also bagged the Gandhi Organisation Plaque and other awards for his contribution to the Hindu Dharma, and the list goes on.

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