India an opportunity waiting for you, PM Narendra Modi tells PIOs

New Delhi(PTI): A dose of Gandhi, mixed with emotions and a promise of opportunity is what prime minister Narendra Modi gave to nearly 2,500 persons of Indian origin (PIOs) taking part in the 13th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) in Gandhinagar on Thursday. Appreciating the PIOs and NRIs for making India ‘global’, Modi asked them to contribute towards India’s growth.

“A hundred years ago, a pravasi Indian came back to India. Today, exactly after 100 years, a pravasi Gujarati is welcoming you,” Modi said in Hindi at the inaugural Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, referring to Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India from South Africa on January 9, 1915.

Modi said that the Mahatma’s thoughts continue to inspire the world. He mentioned how October 2, the Mahatma’s birth anniversary, is celebrated in Mauritius with greater rigour than it is done in India. The prime minister – wearing an off-white kurta-pyjama and his trademark sleeveless jacket – was welcomed with whistles and loud cheers by the delegates as he arrived at the Mahatma Mandir, the venue of the PBD’s inaugural ceremony. Before reaching the main venue, he inaugurated Dandi Kutir, the salt-mound-shaped Gandhi museum situated in the same complex.

The prime minister appreciated the role played by PIOs the world over in increasing the country’s stature. “Indians are present in more than 200 countries across the world. It is because of you that India is global. I can confidently say that even if there is a single NRI in any country, India is alive and present in that part of the world. I believe that Indians settled abroad are huge assets who can help in further strengthening India’s position,” he said.

Exhorting PIOs and NRIs to come back and contribute to India’s growth, Modi said, “There was a time when you left your country, family and friends in search of opportunity, or to gain knowledge and exposure. Our ancestors went abroad for opportunities. Today, I assure you that opportunities are waiting for you in India.”

The prime minister said that time had changed and the world was looking at India with hope and optimism. “The richest and the poorest nations in the world have their eyes on India. They feel they can work shoulder-to-shoulder with India. It’s an opportunity we must make the most of,” he added.

There were no new announcements for the Indian diaspora, but Modi told them that his government had fulfilled whatever he had promised. “Issuing of life-long visas to PIO card holders has been approved. The rule of PIO card holders being required to visit a police station once in a week has been removed. The merger of PIO and OCI schemes has been approved. PIOs from 43 countries now get visa on arrival. The electronic travel authorisation is also being issued. Very soon, Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra in Delhi start functioning,” he said.

The prime minister asked NRIs to contribute to various projects his government had announced, especially the Namami Gange (Clean Ganga) project. “Not only are there religious, spiritual and environmental aspects of cleaning the Ganga, but it will also help in economic uplift of 40 per cent of the country’s population which lives in states from where the Ganga passes,” he said.

Earlier, South Africa’s minister for international relations, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the guest of honour at the PBD, spoke about the strong relation between India and South Africa, and how the two countries could play a key role in shaping world policies.

Guyanese president Donald Ramotar, the chief guest at the function, recalled how India’s independence from British Rule, had inspired his countrymen to fight for freedom.