Resource Centre for overseas Indians: PM

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New Delhi, Jan 8: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today announced the launch of an ''Overseas Workers Resource Center'' (OWRC) to provide assistance to potential migrant workers and a PM's Global Advisory Council of People of Indian Origin that will draw upon the knowledge and experience of Indians settled across the world.

OWRC would also operate a multi-lingual help line for grievance redressal and interventions for overseas workers in distress. ''This is a pioneering effort and I hope this center will in the long run expand the scope of services to promote legal migration,'' Dr Singh said in his inaugural address at the two-day Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.

He said the advisory council would comprise of people of Indian origin from a variety of disciplines who were recognized as leaders in their respective fields, not only in their country of residence but globally as well.

The Council would serve as a high level platform for the Prime Minister to draw upon the experience and knowledge of the best Indian minds wherever they may be based, Dr Singh said.

The government had also approved the setting up of the ''Council for the Promotion of Overseas Employment'' to serve as a strategic 'Think Tank,' he said.

Recalling that he had last year spoken of the need for a single window facilitation for overseas Indians to provide a host of advisory services, he said the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs had established the 'Overseas Indian Facilitation Center" (OIFC), a not for profit trust in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry.

Acknowledging the Diaspora philanthropy, he said that apart from making contributions at times of national calamity like earthquakes and the tsunami, many of them were already engaged in various development initiatives.

Philanthropy was an ideal area where a number of new partnerships can be built, existing ones strengthened and the range and reach scaled up, he pointed out.

To give impetus to these partnerships, a proposal to promote an 'India Development Foundation", as an autonomous not-for-profit Trust, was being examined by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs.

The foundation would serve as a credible institutional mechanism to direct overseas Indian philanthropic propensities into human development efforts in India.

The Foundation would assist overseas Indians to contribute to the cause of education, health and rural development in their home village, district or state.

It would also partner with credible NGO"s and philanthropic organisations actively engaged in social development, thus providing a strong public-private partnership bridge between overseas Indians and their target beneficiaries.

Mauritius Prime Minister Navin Ramagoolam is the chief guest at the divas. The inaugural function was addressed by Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and CII President Sunil Mittal.

The Prime Minister said 2007 has been a good year for the Indian economy, the working people and entrepreneurs. The conditions were today favourable to achieve and sustain nine to ten percent growth rates, the objective of the 11th Plan period. The growth process now underway would transform the country's economy to emerge as a major powerhouse of the globalised world.

At the heart of the development effort was the imperative to transform the quality of life of all citizens and give them access to health, education and economic opportunity.

This was the essence of the thinking that defines the 11th Five Year Plan. I have dubbed it India"s Education Plan.

In focusing on education, as an instrument of empowerment, India was inspired by the example of the Indian diaspora. ''After all, what other capital did most of your forefathers have when they left the shores of India? It is by investing in your capabilities that you have empowered yourselves. This is how I wish to see India empower itself.'' People in India were proud of the achievements of the people of Indian origin in diverse fields of human endeavour in different parts of the world.

''I am particularly happy at the strides made by our women. Indra Nooyi, Sunita Williams, Kalpana Chawla and Jhumpa Lahiri are role models for our society seeking to give women a rightful place.

The ambitious growth rate that India was seeking to achieve would require determined efforts to raise our savings and investment rates. The bulk of resources for India"s development must come from home.

However, it was his government's sincere desire to create a framework which would provide profitable opportunities for overseas Indians to invest in India"s development.

''It is also our sincere desire to benefit from the vast reservoir of technological, managerial and entrepreneurial skills represented by overseas Indian communities. We seek to encourage in every possible way our links and relations with overseas communities of Indian origin.'' It was therefore appropriate that the theme of this year"s Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was 'Engaging the Diaspora: The way forward,' he said.

Dr Singh said India was a knowledge based economy and was fast emerging as an education hub. A key initiative on education that he had announced last year was a proposal to establish a PIO University in India for the benefit of children of overseas Indians from across the world. ''I am happy to inform you that the government has approved the policy framework for this university. This university will be established in a public-private partnership with active participation of credible overseas Indian Trusts or Societies.'' The University would have the autonomy and flexibility in the disciplines that it would offer and in its academic governance.

The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs had through a due diligence process short listed a few of the proposals and a final decision was expected to be taken soon. ''I am confident the work on the university will commence this year.'' Pointing out India was the largest recipient of remittances from its overseas community estimated at about 26 billion dollars in 2006. What was less known was the fact that close to 50 per cent of this came from the Indian workers in the Gulf.

The Prime Minister said the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs had started a nation-wide skill up-gradation training programme for potential migrant workers. The scheme targetted training of nearly two lakh emigrant workers over the 11th plan period.

This would help create a strong cadre of highly skilled workers who would then be best placed to fill the large labour supply gaps emerging in the western world.


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