New Delhi, Jan 7 The 9th edition of India's annual convention to connect with its 25-million-strong diaspora in 130 countries kicked off here on Friday with a fervent appeal to them to return to their roots, a land of new opportunities, and share the fruits together.
Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi led the Indian government in welcoming professionals and entrepreneurs in virtually every field - from healthcare and education to research and commerce - to participate in and benefit from India's progress.
"I urge all of you to participate and discover areas of common interest and engagement. I especially call on our young overseas Indians to participate with enthusiasm," Ravi told the estimated 1,500 delegates from 51 countries here for the event.
Human Resource Development Minister Kapil also called for collaboration from the Indian diaspora, especially in building the education sector and that was so crucial to ensure the country reaches its true potential.
"The most important collaboration in education will be from the Indian diaspora that had gone away to look for opportunities and can come back now to this land of new opportunities," he said.
According to Sibal, India plans to increase the gross enrollment ratio of children going to college from 12 percent now to 30 percent by 2020. To cater to this growing number of youth pursuing higher studies, 1,000 more universities and 45,000 colleges were needed.
"This is a mind boggling challenge."
Sibal said the government has opened up the entire higher education sector, adding that the Foreign Universities Bill to allow institutions from overseas to set up their hubs in India was also pending in parliament. "We hope to get it passed soon."
Formally called the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the three-day event will also be addressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday and President Pratibha Patil will honour some dozen eminent people of Indian origin for their contributions in various field Sunday.
The focus this year is on the eight northeastern states - Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim. The speakers include several ministers and chief ministers. New Zealand Governor-General Anand Satyanand is the chief guest.
Tech evangelist Sam Pitroda in his address asked overseas Indians to invest in broadband since a huge opportunity existed in the country given the government's goal of reaching it to each of its 626,000 villages with other applications for inclusive growth.
Some 100,000 village panchayats already have broadband in India that not only ensures faster communications but also allows applications like tele-medicine, timely weather forecasts and remote consultations on crops, soil, nutrients and marketing.
"Innovations must reach millions of socially-backward sections in the society. For that, re-engineering processes are needed to create new jobs, new products and new services," said Pitroda, who is also the prime minister's advisor on innovation.
The Chicago-based technocrat-entrepreneur said the Indian government will be spending as much as $100 billion on education during the 12th Five Year Plan starting fiscal 2012, against $70 billion in the current plan period.
"We have to liberalise the education system. What we did to the economy in 1991 needs to be done to education now," he said. "There is a huge opportunity for private investment in this sector. There is opportunity for locals as well as diaspora."