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English Translation of External Affairs Minister speech during Inaugural session of PIO Parliamentarians’ Conference (January 09, 2018)

January 09, 2018

Respected Prime Minister,
My both Minister of State colleagues from my ministry, Gen V K Singh and Mr. M J Akbar,
Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha, Shri Thambidurai,
Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha, Shri P J Kurien,
Our Foreign Secretary, Dr. S Jaishankar,
Secretary of OIA division, Mr. Dnyaneshwar Mulay,
All the PIO MPs and Mayors present in this auditorium who have come here on our invitation,
Present here MP’s from the Indian Parliament,

And my dear brothers and sisters present in the auditorium,

First of all I heartily welcome you all at this unique event.

Hindi speech is simultaneously being translated in English. If you use your earphones you would be able to listen to the English translation of my and the Prime Minister’s speech.

Friends, I termed this event as unique because Pravasi Bharatiya Divas has been celebrated since 2003. During AtalJi's government it was decided that we should devote one day of the year to our overseas Indians.

So the question arose which day it should be, which day should be chosen, the one thing that came to the fore was that Mahatma Gandhi, who was our greatest expatriate,the most prominent migrant, returned to India from South Africa on January 9, hence this particular date should be dedicated to the diaspora and given the name of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.

It was started during Atal Ji’s government and since 2003 till now, no such event has been organized in which only the people representatives of Indian origin have been invited. These thoughts have taken shape from the desire of our Prime Minister.

While we were reviewing the event, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas2017 with the Prime Minister ,during one of our discussions he questioned if it was possible that only MP’s of Indian origin be invited to our event?

In our later discussions with the officers,after the Prime Minister left, we thought of initiating the idea at the very moment and inviting the ministers the ensuing year itself.

This scnerio took place in the year 2017 when the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was celebrated in Bangalore, so we decided that the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas of 2018 will be celebrated only for PIO Parliamentarians and Mayors. And the preparations were started hereby, we asked our HOMs to provide the list of current sitting MPs and Mayors in their respective countries.

And I am glad to tell you Prime Minister Sir that it turned out to be such an enthusiastic response, 141 people confirmed, 139 will be attending, 5 of them are stuck as their flights are yet to arrive but at this very moment 134 of them are present here from 24 nations out of 28.

And I would like to appreciate one more thing Prime Minister Sir, look into their spirits, when they were on their way to India the weather in New York and other places was so bad that many flights were diverted, some didn’t take off altogether. So we thought that most of them will go back but the enthusiasm of coming to India was so strong,that they went through all the inconveniences,rested at airports, and after having suffered all the inconveniences they have finally reached India and are present in this auditorium in front of you. I express special gratitude to these people who have come here even after so many inconveniences.

Prime Minister Sir, we have planned two plenary sessions. The theme of first session is, "PIO Parliamentarians – Journey of Struggle to Parliament.” As you know most of them are from Girmitiya countries. Some of our friends here might be wondering, we know about Caribbean, we know about Celac and ASEAN but what is this Girmitiya thing?

Let me tell them that Girmitiya are those people who went to abroad as indentured labourers under an agreement. They didn’t know how to pronounce ‘agreement’ as it was a difficult English word, they were Bhojpuri and Awadhi speaking people so they modified it to Girmit for their ease of pronouncing it.

When they would meet, they would ask each other, have you come after girmit, and hence a new class was born i.e. Girmitiya.

So all such people who went to so many countries like Mauritius, Fiji, Suriname, Trinidad &Tobago, Guyana, after an agreement, they all became a new class in itself called Girmitiya. A very famous poet in Mauritius, Shri AbhimanyuAnat, has even written a poem, "I am the son of a Girmitiya.”

So they started addressing each other by the name of Girmitiya.Most of them have come from Girmitiya countries,so keeping them in mind we kept this theme, ‘Journey of Struggle to the Parliament' because when they went from here ,they did not only have to struggle but went through enough torture.

Prime Minister Sir, during those times Mahatma Gandhi visited Mauritius and there he had asked SeewoosagurRamgoolam Ji if you wish to live in this country with self-respect, then adopt two things, teach your children and raise political consciousness in them, start taking part in the politics.

And they adhered to those two core principles advised by Gandhi Ji and it is the result of that ,that today the third generation of those bonded labourers have now become the rulers and are sitting here in front of us. Today, both the earlier and the current Prime Minister of the same Mauritius are of Indian origin and MPs from Mauritius are also of Indian origin.

We know that people who contest elections have to face difficulties, even here we have to struggle to win elections, but you people had two obstacles, there will be some people who have been nominated but their struggle is not less, unless you create your identity in that country, the rulers of that country will not nominate you, they have their own struggle and those people whose ancestors went as indentured labourers had a different kind of struggle altogether. We would like to hear the story of that journey, from struggle to the parliament.This is the theme of the first session.

The theme of our second plenary is "Resurgent India- Role of PIO Parliamentarians.”

I would like to acknowledge in front of everyone that today, India’s dominance in the world is growing, if its biggest credit goes to someone, it is the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi.

Today India,as a country,is deciding the global agenda. When the Prime Minister went to the G-20 summit, he brought up the issue of black money to the center stage and did not only talk about it but also acted upon it by making bold decisions like Demonetization and GSTand proved the world that we do what we say.

When he went to Hamburg,he gave an 11-point formula on how to fight terrorism. He worked with the United Nations to include things like poverty alleviation in the list of Sustainable Development Goals. There are so many things in the Global Agenda which have been initiated by our Prime Minister. I can talk about the International Solar Alliance or the International Yoga Day, have been so many initiatives by India. But in this emerging India, as parliamentarians, what role you have played and what role you can play,is the theme of our second plenary session.

So in the first session, we will know about your past and in the second session your present shall come to us. What is your roadmap for the future, what role you could play to make this emerging India more prominent in the world? Our today's conference will be based on the combination of these two things.

I once again welcome you all from the bottom of my heart and I thank the Prime Minister for accepting our invitation, although it was his idea only.

The presiding officers of both our houses are here, our Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha is here and our Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha is also present here, I specially thank them for their gracious presence.

Today, our whole day will be dedicated to our overseas Indians. After the opening session, the first thematic session will be held, which will be followed by the lunch and after that the second thematic session will be held.After that our Vice-President, who is also the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, will be delivering a speech during the conclusion ceremony.

We wanted that the presiding officers of both our houses could attend this conference. Madam speaker is not present here, as she is on a visit to Seychelles and therefore expressed her inability to come.

Once again,I am very grateful and I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart.


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