PM says NRIs may be given opportunity to vote in election

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New Delhi, Jan 8 (ANI): Inaugurating the eighth edition of the 'Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas', Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh said the Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) may soon vote in the elections and the process may start as early as the next general elections.

Dr. Singh said, "It gives me very great pleasure to join you at the inauguration of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2010. Every year on this day we celebrate and honour the contribution of the overseas Indians is making for the development of their spiritual and ancestral home. We are immensely proud of the achievements of our diaspora."

"Your achievements have made a great contribution in changing the image of India to the world at large. Let me therefore join Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs and the Chief Minister of Delhi to welcome you to New Delhi and wish you a very happy New Year," he added.

Dr. Singh further said, "This year we have the great honour and privilege of having the distinguished Lord Khalid Hameed as our Chief Guest. Lord Khalid Hameed epitomizes the spirit of the global Indian. He is not only a very distinguished professional and entrepreneur in the field of medicine and healthcare but he is also an active leader in community services, including most importantly those that promote inter-faith harmony."

"Yesterday, we held the first meeting of the Prime Minister's Global Advisory Council of Overseas Indians. Some of the best and brightest men and women working in different parts of the world in various fields happen to be people of Indian origin. This is a tremendous knowledge pool and we would like the Council to reflect on where India should be heading in the next 20 years and what we should do in government, in business, in education and in arts and culture and in promoting inter-faith harmony to get where we ought to be 20 years from now," he added.

Dr. Singh said, "The year gone by was an eventful year for India. We undertook the largest democratic exercise in the world during the general elections that were held in May 2009. These elections reinforced the values of pluralism, tolerance and secularism that are a defining ethic of Indians, whether living in India or abroad."

"I recognize the legitimate desire of Indians living abroad to exercise their franchise and to have a say in who governs India. We are working on this issue and I sincerely hope that they will get a chance to vote by the time of the next regular general elections. In fact, I would go a step further and ask why more overseas Indians should not return home to join politics and public life as they are increasingly doing in business and academia," he added.

Dr. Singh said, "It is probably true that we are a slow moving elephant but it is equally true that with each step forward we leave behind a deep imprint. There is a price that we pay in trying to carry all sections of our people along in national development. It is perhaps a price worth paying. Each citizen should feel that his or her voice is heard and have a sense of participation in national development."

"During the year gone by, the world faced an unprecedented economic and financial crisis. But the Indian economy weathered the crisis quite well. We were affected but no so much as many other countries. We hope to achieve this year a growth rate of around 7%, which is one of the fastest in the world. We are equally optimistic that we can return to and sustain an annual growth rate of 9-10% in a couple of years," he added.

Dr. Singh said, " Indian industry is rapidly developing a global orientation. Many Indian companies are transforming themselves into multinational corporations with global brand names. As Indian industry steps outward, the Indian diaspora could do more to inter-link Indian industry with global markets. They could reinforce the improving brand image of India. "

"The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has also established the 'Indian Community Welfare Fund' in 18 countries in which there is a significant overseas Indian workforce. These funds support 'on-site' welfare measures including food, shelter, repatriation assistance and emergency relief to overseas Indians in distress," he added.

The eighth edition of the 'Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas' began here on Thursday.

President Pratibha Patil will deliver her valedictory address on January 9.

'Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas' is India's flagship annual event that aims to connect with its diaspora spread around the globe and it focuses on boosting investment and sharing of expertise.

The three-day event will witness the participation of around 1500 delegates from over 150 countries including top businessmen, economists, entrepreneurs and scientists.

Around fifteen Chief Ministers and several Union Ministers are also expected to take part in the event.

The eighth edition has been planned with a different approach giving the delegates an opportunity to interact with Union Ministers and Chief Ministers, who are expected to take part in the event. (ANI)

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