Pravasi Bharatiya Divas – Non-Resident Indians Day

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                        “Loyalty to the Motherland is worth more than money.”

By Zile Singh

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) or the Non-Resident Indians Day is celebrated on January 9 every   year by the Republic of India and her Missions Abroad to mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community (Diaspora) towards the development of India and their achievements in the countries of their new residence.  It also provides a platform to the overseas Indian community to engage with the government and people of the land of their ancestors for mutually beneficial activities.  Individuals of exceptional merit are honoured with the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award.  The day commemorates the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to Mumbai on January 9, 1915.The Government of India decided for the first time in 2003 to celebrate Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (Non-Resident Indians Day) from January 7-9 every year to recognize the contribution of Mahatma Gandhi as well as the Non-Resident Indians for earning a good name for India. In 2015, Government of India decided to celebrate the Day on a biennial, instead of on annual basis.  This year

The Indian Consulate, Vancouver celebrated the Day by organizing a virtual conference on the theme “Strengthening Indo-Canadian Relationship: Role of Diaspora Leaders” on January 10.   The participants were: Raj Chouhan, Speaker, BC Legislative Assembly; Ranj Pillai, Minister, Yukon; Prasad Panda, Minister, Alberta; Randeep Sarai, MP, BC; Jinny Sims, MLA BC and Gary Grewal, MLA, Saskatchewan. In his opening remarks the Consul General highlighted the importance and the role of Diaspora in developing strong ties between India and Canada. This year’s PBD has an immense significance  as it has coincided with 75th Anniversary of “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav”.All the Speakers briefed about their personal as well as the respective provincial governments and the federal government’s keenness to upgrade their efforts to collaborate for mutual benefits in every possible field. An important aspect touched upon was that more inter-parliamentary discussions be held to learn from each other to strengthen the democratic institutions for the benefit of the common man. The discussion ended on a happy note that there is an immense potential to enhance Indo-Canadian economic and trade relations in the near future. One Speaker, of course in a low tone, mentioned about bureaucratic barriers also.

Leaving aside the migration of Indians as indentured labourers in different countries over the globe,the voluntary migration from India startedsometimes in the late 19tth century.  In addition to the African and European Continents, the North American continent also remained a major attraction for Indians to migrate. In the Indo-Canadian context, there is a long history of this treacherous journey of migration from the banks of Ganga, Yamuna, Sutlej, Krishna, Kavery (Cauvery) and Godavari to the banks of Fraser (BC) and the Don and Humber rivers (Ontario) in Canada.

Canada has a history of peaceful co-existence and progressive ideology of international peace and cooperation. According to the Global Peace Index 2021, the ranking of Canada is 6th.Iceland, New Zealand, Austria, Portugal and Denmark are on the top. Similarly, India’s claim to be an ancient peace-loving country having given several proponents of non-violence and peace -loving personalities like Gandhi, the Buddha and Mahavira deserves recognition.  

Canada, as a multicultural country and an upholder of a high standard of democracy and human rights, gave equal opportunities to the Indian immigrants to flourish by dint of their honest and hard work. Initially the immigrants faced the scourge of racism. However, time is the great healer. With a relentless struggle, the Indian Diaspora carved out a niche in Canadian society in almost all walks of life, whether it is politics, business, language, entertainment, media, charity, fundraising, blood donation and volunteerism. These achievements have certainly made Canada as well as India proud of these immigrants.  What anexcellent example that the Prime Minister of Canada could genuinely boasted once of having more Members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers of Indian originof a particular communitythan the Indian Parliament and the Indian Cabinet have.  So far, the following Indo-Canadians have been awarded the PBD Samman: Vasdev Chanchlani, Ms. Lata Pada, Dave S. Hayer and Ujjal Dosanjh.

On this occasion when we are celebrating this auspicious day and highlighting our successes, it is our duty to introspect our shortcomings as well. For several years the involvement of some members of the Indo-Canadiancommunity in various unlawful incidents is a matter of concern.   This needs an attention. About two years back, one of the Punjabi intellectuals, in the penultimate paragraph of his column in The Link newspaper has penned down his pain as follows: “The worst thing is that many, who come from decent families, are taking a life of crime such as joining gangs, becoming drug pushers, engaging in human trafficking and becoming prostitutes.  This is seen more in Canada which is the biggest destination for the Punjabi youth.” Of late, a societal divide between two prominent communities is on the rise.

 India, as a mother country, expects her sons and daughters to take with them a good legacy instead of a   bad one.    The notion that “India is the home of a lost cause as far as the Sikhs are concerned” has to be wiped out from the minds of the pseudo-activists sitting outside. Every Non-Resident Indian, irrespective of his region and religionis apermanent Ambassador of India.  His good deed brings fame and an undesirable deed, a bad name to India.

PBD and Mahatma Gandhi are synonyms. “Every life is a journey, regardless of whether you stay in one place, live like a global nomad, or end up being something in between.” -Ranjani Rao.