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NRIs may vote in next general elections, says Manmohan

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Lord Khalid Hameed of Hampstead (second from right), Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi (left), and CII president Venu Srinivasan at the inaugural session of 8th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in New Delhi on Friday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Lord Khalid Hameed of Hampstead (second from right), Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi (left), and CII president Venu Srinivasan at the inaugural session of 8th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in New Delhi on Friday.

Special Correspondent

Also, why not return home to join politics and public life?

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday expressed the hope that Indians living abroad would be able to vote in the next general elections.

Responding to the frequent plea for voting rights to non-resident Indians (NRIs), most recently made by members of his Global Advisory Council of Overseas Indians, Dr. Singh termed the desire legitimate.

“We are working on this issue and I sincerely hope that they will get a chance to vote by the time of the next regular general elections. In fact, I would go a step further and ask why more overseas Indians should not return home to join politics and public life as they are increasingly doing in business and academia,” he said inaugurating the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas here.

Dr. Singh took on board several familiar grievances expressed by NRIs, including the slow pace of decision-making, and also reminded them of their obligations to the motherland.

Taking a dig at overseas Indians being not only good savers but also “somewhat conservative investors,” Dr. Singh said they should move away from parking their savings in bank deposits. “Foreign direct investment in India by overseas Indians is low and far short of potential. I would urge overseas Indians to take a careful look at long-term investment opportunities now on the horizon in our country.”

The Prime Minister was alive to the frustration among NRIs when things did not work faster or when well-formulated plans and policies were not implemented as well as they ought to be.

“It is probably true that India is a slow-moving elephant but it is equally true that with each step forward it leaves behind a deep imprint. There is a price that we pay in trying to carry all sections of our people along in national development. This is the only way we know to accommodate the enormous diversity of opinions and interests in our country. It is also this characteristic that makes our democracy so vibrant,” he said.

“But, underlying the Indian system is an inherent political and economic resilience that gives the country and its institutions strength and buoyancy. As a result, while the world faced an unprecedented economic and financial crisis last year, the Indian economy weathered the crisis quite well. India hopes to achieve this year a growth rate of around 7 per cent and was optimistic of achieving and sustaining an annual growth rate of nine to 10 per cent in a couple of years.”

The Prime Minister sought the Indian diaspora’s assistance in expanding access to education, health care and economic opportunities for the deprived sections.

Also, efforts must be made to connect the second generation overseas Indians with their ancestral heritage, and involve them actively in India’s march forward.

With about 40 per cent of the total remittances of over $50 billion in 2007-2008 coming from skilled and semi-skilled Indian workers, their security as well as that of students abroad was the government’s priority, Dr. Singh said.

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