Friday, January 09, 2015

Modi compares his efforts to "rejuvenate" India with Gandhi on arrival as NRI hundred years ago

By Satyakam Mehta
It was an occasion for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to pat himself, going so far as to compare his claimed efforts to infuse a life into India with what Mahatma Gandhi had initiated exactly a century ago as "a non-resident Indian (NRI)". Modi inaugurated the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas (PBD) by exhorting the NRIs and People of Indian Origin (PIO) to join India’s new growth story, which he believed had only one parallel – of what Mahatma Gandhi began doing on his return from South Africa to set foot on his home soil on January 8, 1915.
That was the only reason, he told NRIs, his government had decided to “make things easy” for the NRIs and PIOs. The announcement for the life-time visa, he said, was basically aimed at this. "A pravasi bharatiya (Gandhi) returned to India 100 years ago on this day to provide a new pathway to the country. Now, I welcome you all here as apravasi Gujarati to this great land,” Modi said amidst applause, soon after he formally set off the annual PBD at the Mahatma Mandir convention centre in Gujarat state’s capital, Gandhinagar.
Modi’s subtle refrain, that India is being noticed “now as never before”, was unmistakable. “I just made a suggestion to the United Nations that there should be an International Yoga Day and within a record 100 days this was ratified with as many as 177 of 193 UN-member countries seconding it. No proposal has ever been passed in the UN’s history till a minimum two years, but this was cleared in less than 100 days. That is how the world now looks at India,” Modi patted himself on the back. “The world is now waking up to India,” he averred.
Besides a lifetime visa for the diaspora, Modi said, the “irritating rule” for every PIO card holder to mark attendance at a police station once a week has been done away with. “All this reflects the present government’s concern for Indians overseas,” Modi insisted, adding, “Visa on arrival has been introduced, while documentation work is being made online to prevent the running and rushing to embassies.” And to smoothen out things more, “a Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra will be set up in Delhi.” 
Also unmistakable was his frequent usage of the word “now” during his long speech, which his NRIs appeared to hear attentively. He likened India to be standing on a threshold of a new life, as it was when Gandhi shaped the direction of India’s freedom struggle a century ago and put it on a growth pedestal. He underlined, “Opportunities await you now in India. India has risen with a new strength now and the world looks at it with new hope.”
Making a subtle attack on his political opponents, especially the previous UPA government Modi said, the PBD event was first promulgated by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2003 when it got “enormous response, but later few bothered”. He added, “I always attended all these events since I understood always that the NRIs and PIOs could be key drivers of India’s growth and vice-a-versa. They may be staying in different countries but their yearning for India is indomitable, they get filled with tears and reach out with all resources at their hand”.
Suggesting that India was on a “new trajectory now”, he said, “It was now up to NRIs and PIOs spread across 200 countries to emerge as strong drivers to the country’s growth. I say India exists in all these countries and the hearts of those staying there always reaches out back home.”

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