Tapping Overseas Indians
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Indian diaspora
In News: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while inaugurating the 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas convention described NRIs as India’s brand ambassadors and said they were the symbols of the country’s capabilities. For the first time, the three-day-long convention is being organised from January 21 to 23 instead of January 9 to allow participants to visit the Kumbh mela in Prayagraj and attend the Republic Day parade in the national capital.
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Convention is the flagship event of the Government and provides an important platform to engage and connect with the overseas Diaspora.
- The theme of PBD 2019 is “Role of Indian Diaspora in building a New India.”
- The day also commemorates return of father of nation Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa in Mumbai (then Bombay) on January 9, 1915. The day is celebrated to mark contribution of overseas Indian community to the development of India.
- The day was formally established in 2003.
- It is sponsored by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and the Ministry of DoNER
Our diaspora has a lot to offer
India must realise that its NRIs can act as a crucial force in its development, and leverage its potential. A recent UN report says that India now has the largest ‘diaspora’ in the world, with more than 16 million persons of Indian origin living abroad. This Non Resident Indian (NRI) pool represents a little over 1 per cent of India’s population but is a crucial cog in the wheel of India’s development.
How does the Indian diaspora benefit India? The biggest way is through regular remittances. According to a World Bank report released in April, India was the largest remittance-receiving country in the world, with an estimated $69 billion in 2015. This amounts to a whopping 3.4 per cent of India’s GDP, an amazing multiplier because just 1 per cent of the citizenry, which does not even live in the country, contributes more than three times its fair share to the nation’s wealth.
Disasters and Diaspora
In a globalised world, the international dimensions of disaster response and recovery, and the significant policy role played by the diaspora can be critical. For example, in Kerala, the migrant community and diaspora moved swiftly to organise an Internet-driven response. By sharing and re-sharing vital information on affected regions and people, supplies, and precautionary measures (on social media platforms), they were instrumental in expanding the flow of information that would later be used by politicians, private and military rescue operations, and relief workers.
Successful diaspora groups are among the largest contributors to the CMDRF. They are invaluable in mobilising resources, talent, and knowledge which will be integral in rebuilding the State. Diaspora communities will also inevitably shape political and economic responses to a disaster. The linking of social capital between diaspora, civil society organisations, advocacy groups and government institutions, although necessary during rehabilitation, is bound to lead to unanticipated and undesirable outcomes.
Stimulating the economy
There are other advantages which diaspora populations bring that are harder to measure. When they visit India, they tend to spend more lavishly than the locals, thereby helping economic activity. NRIs are more prone to donating to domestic charities because of the strong cultural and emotional feelings that they nurse. They bring technical and domain expertise to domestic startups and often act as angel investors. Diaspora Indian faculty abroad volunteer time and resources to help faculty on Indian campuses improve the quality of education — as in the case of member institutions of the Indo Universal Collaboration of Engineering Education.
Indian Government needs to…
With a little commitment and some creative thinking, the government could double or even treble the already substantial economic value of diaspora contributions by carefully designing a set of policies to exploit the talent, industriousness and patriotism of those living abroad.
- India can show that it is serious about managing its relationship with the NRIs by opening a separate Minister-of-State level department for NRI administration – similar to the Veterans’ Administration in the US. This department would act as the NRI voice across various Indian government agencies and promote engagement with NRIs to help India’s larger cause.
- The government should launch various win-win schemes to make it more attractive for its diaspora to step up participation in India’s development. India should formalise a rotation program wherein top NRI scientists, engineers, doctors, managers and professionals serve Indian public sector organizations for a brief period, lending their expertise. This kind of lateral induction of senior staff can do wonders to both host and contributing personnel as was evidenced by the tenure of Dr. Rajan at the RBI. Many NRIs would be willing to serve for no compensation if living expenses, travel and accommodations are paid for.
- India should aggressively court NRIs to invest in India — especially for projects which focus on rural development — by offering attractive interest rates on deposits. If just 25 per cent of the diaspora population invests the maximum amount, this could bring in $400 billion in new remittances to India.
Connecting the dots:
- Indian Diaspora is India’s asset in disguise. Elaorate with suitable examples
- The Indian diaspora is not only clustered in the developed west but also in other parts of the world that include Africa, Latin America, South East and West Asia. It is unfortunate though that their interests and problems have not been central to Indian diplomacy and their presence not viewed in the same potential terms as their counterparts in the developed west. Do you agree? Substantiate.
- Analyze the role of the Indian Diaspora in India’s soft power diplomacy.
- To view the diaspora only through the looking glass of remittances and financial flows is to take a myopic view. Not all expatriates need to be investors and their development impact measured only in terms of financial contributions to the home country is to miss the larger picture. Comment.