Bengaluru: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday addressed the 14th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Bengaluru. Addressing the event, PM Modi urged the People of Indian Origin (PIO) to convert their cards into OCI (Overseas Indian Citizens) cards, reiterating the government’s decision to extend the deadline for these card conversions from December 31 last year to June 30, without any penalty.
“From January 1 this year, beginning with Delhi and Bengaluru, we have set up special counters at immigration points for OCI cardholders. We want it to become a symbol of global migration, achievements and aspirations of the diaspora,” he said.
Observing that there are over 30 million overseas Indians living abroad, the PM said: “The NRIs and PIOs have made outstanding contributions to their chosen fields. They are role models for immigrants from other backgrounds and countries … They take our values and culture wherever they go. The Indian diaspora have contributed their best towards progress in that country,” Modi said.
He said the overseas Indians contribute 69 billion dollars annually in remittances to the Indian economy.
The PM also said that the government is working to put in place procedures for making descendants of the indentured labour living in Fiji and other countries eligible for OCI cards.
“Starting with Mauritius, we are working to put in place procedures so that descendants of Girmitiyas could become eligible for OCI Cards. We remain committed to addressing similar difficulties of PIOs in Fiji, Reunion Islands, Suriname, Guyana and other Caribbean States,” PM Modi said.
Girmityas are descendents of indentured Indian labourers who were brought to Fiji to work on sugarcane plantations in mid-1800s.
PM Modi also said that his government was taking steps to convert brain drain into brain gain.
“When people spoke of brain drain, it was believed that the brighter people went abroad seeking employment opportunities … but I was asking people that whoever are left behind in India, are they dumb? It is our endeavour to convert that brain drain into brain gain,” he said.
He also said the government will launch skill development programme, Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojna, for Indian youth who seek employment overseas.