The global Indian family has its annual get together - the Fifth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) - Jan 7-9, 2007 in New Delhi. Around 2,000 non-resident Indians (NRIs) and People of Indian Origin (PIOs) from over 70 countries attend this jamboree to hobnob with 1,200 Indian delegates and renew their links with their motherland.
They listen to Indian leaders and captains of business and industry, are bombarded by brochures from many companies, entertained by eminent artistes and folk groups while relishing delectable Indian cuisine.
An exhibition of Indian goods and services targeted at NRIs and PIOs will be mounted for them. They take great interest in who gets the NRI awards from the Indian government for which many NRIs social leaders lobby Indian envoys abroad.
The participating NRIs hope that they will get more chances to express their views and opinions in the coming PBD than merely listen to what the Indian leaders and captains of industry have to tell them. The persistent complaint of NRIs at these events is that they hardly get a opportunity to voice their concerns in the plenary discussions. Groups devoted to NRI problems in different countries/regions are of special interest to them.
Like the previous four events, the coming one will have a serious theme to discuss: Rooting for the Roots - Meeting India's Development Challenges. Associated themes are: How to get US $1.5 Trillion of Capital Investment, The Resource Hurdle for Development and Leveraging Technology for Development.
It all boils to down to facing the basic reality of India today. Growing at over 8 percent a year, India is the biggest democratic economy in the world. Its industry is growing at a healthy pace. Export of Indian goods is rising in the face of tough competition globally. IT services are scooping in billions, earning India the title of 'back office of the world'.
Its basic strength is the ever-expanding domestic market. On a wild bull run, its stock market climbs to new records every few months. Real estate is booming like there is no tomorrow. Its foreign exchange reserves have crossed $160 billion. The list of Indian billionaires keeps getting longer and longer.
At the same time, in all this prosperity, Indian farmers are committing suicides. India cannot create enough jobs for all who enter the job market every year. Most damning of all, India has the highest number of poor people for any country. People living below the poverty line, defined as earning one dollar a day, number 300-350 million. They need schools, clinics, credit, roads, jobs and unemployment benefits.
Its creaking infrastructure - roads, ports, airports, railways et al - must be modernized and fast. Better living standards are needed for the poor. This is the greatest challenge facing India today. In abstract economic terms and polite political statements, these issues will be raised at PBD and NRIs urged to contribute their bit. Beyond the designer garments and sweet repartee, the song and dance, the finger licking delicacies, these enduring concerns of progress and poverty will emerge time and again for discussion.
The coming event will be organized by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII). More global in its outlook than other apex bodies of commerce and industry, CII is pro-active to connect Indian business with global business. These activities include meeting government leaders, decision makers, interacting with counterpart organizations, multilateral and academic institutions and other policy-making bodies.
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