The two-day convention of Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) in Bangalore, India struck the right note in articulating the problems faced by the Diaspora. PIOs/NRIs from over 60 countries who gathered in Bangalore under the shadow of demonetization had the opportunity to exchange views on the diverse issues dogging Pravasis. Speaker after speaker mentioned the problem of cash crunch following the demonetization of Rs.1000 and 500 notes.
Through several sessions GOPIO managed to put across to the government the difficulties faced by NRIs/PIOs due to note ban. A resolution passed by GOPIO specifically requested the government to make the exchange of demonetized notes held by NRIs trouble-free.
Another issue that figured prominently in the discussions was the inadequate representation of GOPIO in the PBD event. GOPIO President Niraj Baxi and Global Ambassador Sunny Kulathakal aired GOPIO’s disappointment over the development. Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar who inaugurated the two-day convention promised to look into the complaint.
The idea ‘GOPIO Means Business’ got a boost in Bengaluru, brightening the prospect of broadening the business linkages of the Diaspora with the Motherland. Two sessions on start-ups while touching on the emerging scenario in the fastest growing sector, explored the possibilities of partnerships and investments by NRIs. The participants got a thorough briefing on the impending launch of GOPIO International Chamber of Commerce (GICC).
Minister M. J. Akbar inaugurated the convention on January 5. Addressing the gathering, Akbar appreciated the role of non-resident Indians (NRIs) and person of Indian origin (PIO) in strengthening relations between India and other countries. “India will have its first-ever strategic discussion with UAE on January 20 and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, will be our guest at the Republic Day,” he said.
The external affairs ministry will soon launch portals to help Indians who are travelling abroad in search of jobs, he said. On demonetization, Akbar said, “A single, historic move by the Prime Minister has converted black money into white and this will now be used for the nation’s development.” Highlighting the significant role that global Indians had played in strengthening international relations, Akbar said, “Once, we had the song, ‘Mera jota hai Japani’. India no longer buys shoes from Japan. We are, in fact, in talks with Japan to build high-speed railway corridors. Nor is India buying Lal Topis (Red hats) from Russia. Instead, we are strengthening our defense, space and nuclear ties with Russia, besides becoming a major defense partner for America. This has materialized largely because of the global Indians in these countries,” Akbar said. He also referred to the bilateral agreements signed with Gulf countries to ensure a better deal for Indian workers. In this connection, he lauded the initiatives taken by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to solve problems faced by Indians abroad.
Thomas Abraham, chairman of the organization, raised the issue of provisions for NRIs to exchange old currency. “We are thankful that the deadline has been extended to June 30. However, notes can be exchanged only in certain branches of the Reserve Bank of India. For a few thousand rupees, people cannot travel to a different city.” To ensure that the money does not go waste, he requested the government to make provisions for NRIs to exchange notes in other banks.
President of GOPIO Niraj Baxi told Akbar that the body had played a vital role in helping the government formulate the idea of PBD. “We have requested the government to allow our members to speak on this occasion, since we will be able to present the problems faced by the Diaspora in a more convincing manner,” Baxi added. Akbar said that he had received a complaint in this regard, and would look into the same.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar MP, in his keynote address, said that non-residential Indians (NRIs) were a powerful asset to the country. “The process of institutionalizing the NRI and PIO communities is a long one. Many problems they are faced with today are very old. However, the principle of ‘leaving no Indian behind’, which the Centre has espoused is starting to yield results,” Chandrasekhar added.
Justice Gopala Gowda too called for empowering the Indian Diaspora, which, he said, would, in turn bolster the country. Raj Purohit, MLA and Chief Whip of the BJP in Maharashtra, used the occasion to praise demonetization which he described as a fight against corruption. He wanted the expatriate Indian community to back the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his efforts to transform India through various programs like Make in India and Swach Bharat.
Describing himself as a soldier for the GOPIO, motivational speaker and author Shiv Khera stressed the relevance and importance of the three P skills – people skills, persuasive skills and prioritizing skills. Khera opined that the reservation policy in the country had outlived its utility and needed to change. “Reservation should not be based on caste, but education and economy. GOPIO should work with the government, and press for these changes,” said Khera.
On January, 6 there were different sessions devoted multiple topics of interest to the Diaspora. Sessions on women empowerment, social Indian with focus on rural India, underprivileged, GOPIO Chamber of Commerce, Start-up India and Startup pitchathon saw interesting presentations.
The winner of the Pichathon was Siddartha Goel from Bengaluru. At the valedictory function, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah presented the GOPIO community service awards to six eminent NRIs who have excelled in their professions and/or contributed substantially to the cause of Indian community and society at large. They are Dr. Abraham M George (USA and India), Chandu Patel (USA), Naliandra (Jay) Naidu (Durban, South Africa), Dr. Ram Buxani (Dubai), Dr. George Cherian (Bahrain) and Vinod Patel (Fiji). A special recognition Pravasi Mitra Award was presented to Karnataka Police DGP Om Prakash for his service excellence in helping and recovering money of NRI’s cheated by a real estate developer in Bengaluru.
While appreciating GOPIO’s role in promoting the interests of Pravasis, the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah urged Non-Resident Indians to build schools and hospitals in their native states. He also referred to the new NRI policy unveiled by Karnataka government that aims to help residents from the state working abroad. Arathi Krishna, Deputy Chairman, NRI Forum of Karnataka Government extended all support to GOPIO convention.
GOPIO Convention passed resolutions including one on Demonetization in which NRIs/PIOs are left with over Rs. 15,000 crores of old currencies in small amounts at an average of Rs. 5000 per person. GOPIO resolution calls upon the Government of India to provide the NRIs and PIOs an opportunity similar to the one given to Indian nationals; that is, allowing them to deposit up to Rs. 250,000.00 of Indian currency in either the Reserve Bank of India or the State Bank of India or any bank where the NRIs keep their NRO account.
Both evenings, during the convention, had superb cultural programs students of Monisha Arts and other artists and put together by Monisha Arts director Sreedevi Unni. The meeting ended with an outing and a luncheon at a farm at the outskirts of Bengaluru.
The convention was hosted by GOPIO-Bengaluru Chapter and under the direction of GOPIO Global Ambassador Sunny Kulathakal with support from Convention Convener Dr. J. Alexander, GOPIO International Coordinator Shaji Baby John and GOPIO- Bengaluru Secretary George Varghese. Mr. Rajesh Johny served as the Chairman of Conference Program Committee.
Photo left: from l. to r.: Minister M.J. Akbar, Maharashtra Assembly chief Whip Raj Purohit, MLA, Justic Gopala Gowda, GOPIO Intl Coordinator Issac John, GOPIO Life Member Manu Kumar and GOPIO Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham
Photo left: GOPIO Convention – Karnataka DGP Om Prakash is presented Pravasi Mitra Award for his service to the NRI community settled in Bangalore