New Delhi, Jan 8 : "The security and welfare of Indian residents living abroad is a top priority of our diplomatic missions, said Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh while inaugurating the Sixth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), here today.
"I urge community leaders to develop better liaison and coordination with our missions to better serve our non-resident communities. It is through such engagement that the embassies will become more responsive to the needs of overseas Indians," Dr. Singh said.
Lauding the role of overseas Indian workers, numbering five million and remitting half of all transfers in 2006, Dr. Singh launched the OWRC helpline, a toll-free number that will provide assistance and grievance redressal to workers abroad.
"A nationwide skill upgradation programme will skill two lakh workers for overseas jobs. The Council for the Promotion of Overseas Employment has also been approved," he said.
Dr. Singh also announced the establishment of the Prime Minister's Global Advisory Council of People of Indian Origin. The Council will serve as a high level platform for the Prime Minister to draw upon the experience, knowledge and wisdom of the best Indian minds wherever they may be based.
The Prime Minister said the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has started a nation-wide skill upgradation training programme for potential migrant workers.
"The scheme targets training of nearly two lakh emigrant workers over the 11th five year plan. This will help create a strong cadre of highly skilled workers who will then be best placed to fill the large labour supply gaps emerging in the western world," he said.
Speaking on the theme of this year's PBD - - 'Engaging the Diaspora: The way forward', - - he said that Diaspora philanthropy is not a new phenomenon.
"Philanthropy is an ideal area where a number of new partnerships can be built, existing ones strengthened and the range and reach scaled up," he added.
To give impetus to these partnerships, he further added that a proposal to promote an 'India Development Foundation', as an autonomous not-for-profit Trust, is being examined by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs.
"This foundation will serve as a credible institutional mechanism to direct overseas Indian philanthropic propensities into human development efforts in India," he said.
Dr. Singh also said the foundation will assist overseas Indians to contribute to the cause of education, health and rural development in their erstwhile home villages, districts or states.
"It will 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," he added.
In this increasingly inter-dependent and inter-connected world, he said that overseas Indians are becoming 'Global Citizens'.
"The Indian Diaspora is a pluralistic community just as India is. It holds within its fold people of different languages, faiths and regions. I call this multi-cultural identity, Indianness. The idea of India transcends the narrow barriers of religion, language, caste or class, both within and outside the Indian nation," he said.
Dr. Singh said, "The idea of India transcends the narrow barriers of religion, language, caste or class, both within and outside the Indian nation."
On economic growth, Dr. Singh said that the conditions are today favourable to achieve and sustain a nine to ten percent growth rate - which is our objective over the 11th Five Year Plan period.
"The growth process now underway will transform our economy to emerge as a major powerhouse of the evolving global world," he added.
The Prime Minister mentioned that India seeks to become a knowledge based economy and is fast emerging as an education hub.
A key initiative on education that he had mentioned last year was a proposal to establish a PIO University in India for the benefit of children of overseas Indians from across the world.
"The government has approved the basic 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," he said.
Dr. Singh later said, "I wish to record our special gratitude to the Indian community in the United States of America for the efforts made by them in mobilising support of the political leadership in that country for Indo-US cooperation in civilian nuclear energy."
Mauritius Prime Minister Dr. Navin Ramagoolam was the Chief Guest at the function paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi who personified the theme of the Divas.
"Mauritius had been deeply influenced by India in its emancipation struggle, in which his father had been involved, and Mauritian Indians are proud of their heritage. Many institutions have been set up in the country named after Indian leaders, and the World Hindi Center is headquartered in Mauritius," Dr. Navin said.
"It is a matter of pride for us that the India of our hopes is finally emerging," he added.