Prime Minister Narendra Modi today addressed participants at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. He talked about the steps taken by his government for Indians abroad, and efforts to change India's perception in the world.
"I welcome you. Come, and contribute with your experience and knowledge," he said. "From inclusive growth to rural development, there is significant work to be done. We need your contribution."
This is the 13th edition of the event which brings together people of Indian origin from around the world. About 4,000 non-resident Indians from 58 countries have registered to attend this year.
On Tuesday, on the eve of the three-day event, the government promulgated an ordinance to merge the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) schemes, by which PIOs will also get life-long Indian visa. Earlier only OCI members had lifetime visas.
The decision to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 was taken after feedback from PIOs, who often complained of visits to local police stations and stringent visa norms that debarred them from buying property in India. It will also do away with the clause which says foreigners who marry Indians must stay in India continuously for a year before they can get citizenship. The amendment will give foreigners a relief of 30 days in a year when they can travel outside the country.
Modi also talked about making visa regulations easier, which was a cumbersome process earlier. Citizens of 43 countries will now get visa on arrival, and be able to apply online. "I have fulfilled the promises I had made," said Modi, referring to his speeches in New York and Sydney to the Indian diaspora.
I know the problems you faced. That is why visa on arrival facilities are being made available for several nations: PM @narendramodi— PMO India (@PMOIndia) January 8, 2015
Modi also invoked Mahatma Gandhi, and reminded the audience that this event commemorates Gandhi's journey back to India from South Africa where he was a lawyer and fought against apartheid.
The more the entire world gets to know about Mahatma Gandhi, it will be better. It has the strength to guide everyone: PM @narendramodi— PMO India (@PMOIndia) January 8, 2015
The three-day conclave is being held at the Mahatma Mandir complex in Gandhinagar to mark the centenary of India's, 'Sarva Sreshtha Pravasi Bharatiya', Mahatma Gandhi's return from South Africa to India.