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View from India: Convert the brain drain into brain gain

January 9, 1915 is remembered as the day when Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation and the greatest Pravasi, returned to India from South Africa to lead India’s freedom struggle and change the lives of Indians forever.

Pravasi translates as diaspora in English. So it’s only appropriate that January 9 is earmarked as Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) to mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community towards the development of India. Incidentally the Indian diaspora is the second largest in the world, with a spread across around 185 countries.

The Ministry of External Affairs has organised flagship PBD conventions every year since 2003. This time Bangalore, the IT capital of India, has been host to the three-day event (January 7–9), which was attended by delegates from 72 countries.

Dr Antonio Costa, Prime Minister of the Republic of Portugal, was the Chief Guest of the occasion, and was welcomed by Narendra Modi the Prime Minister of India. In his official website, Narendra Modi states that areas of infrastructure, waste and water management, solar and wind energy and innovation offer opportunities to build strong commercial ties between the two economies.

“Our experiences of creating an ecosystem for start-ups could be an exciting area of bilateral engagement. It offers unique possibilities for building a rewarding partnership between our young business entrepreneurs that creates both value and wealth for both our societies,” the PM said in his speech.

There’s also an attempt to convert the brain drain to brain gain. Vajra, the acronym for Visiting Adjunct Joint Research Faculty, is a scheme that is envisioned to contribute to the nation's growth in science and technology. Notwithstanding that, in an effort to encourage Indian youth who seek employment overseas, a skill development programme titled Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojna will soon be launched. This programme will cover various aspects including soft skills and cultural nuances so that Indian individuals don’t feel out-of-place when they work and live in an unknown place abroad.

During the PBD event, the 'Youth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas' was inaugurated in order to connect with the youth, the new generation of Pravasis growing up all over the world.

The PM acknowledged the fact that 30 million overseas Indians contribute $69 billion a year to India. Clearly the diaspora is being urged to invest in India. This explains why People of Indian Origin (PIO) card-holders are being urged to convert their cards to Overseas Citizens of India (OCI). To facilitate smooth operations, the airports in the country will have special immigration counters for NRIs and PIOs.

It’s not just the PM but even Siddaramaiah, the chief minister (CM) of Karnataka, has opened out channels for overseas Indians to invest in Karnataka. The strategy has been appropriately timed. When preparations were in full swing for hosting PBD, the CM announced the NRI Policy of Karnataka to tap the potential of non-resident Kannadigas (NRKs) for the all-round development and growth of Karnataka. That’s understandable because Karnataka is the fourth largest global technology cluster. It is among the leading states in attracting investment and driving growth of the Indian economy.

Besides the policy, there are other highlights. The Karnataka Industrial Policy 2014-19 offers location and investment based attractive package of incentives and concessions. Likewise the other policies on Aerospace & Defence, Textiles, SEZ, IT- BT, ESDM, Tourism and Agri business offer a host of encouragement incentives and concessions for investments in these areas.

Karnataka has already begun to encourage technology innovators, entrepreneurs and start-ups through its idea2POC initiative.

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