Island News

A life-changing experience

Written By : SHRATIKA NAIDU. Setting foot on New Delhi, India for the first time in the winter season was a lifetime experience. Although the temperatures read four degree Celsius,
04 Feb 2011 12:00

image Written By : SHRATIKA NAIDU. Setting foot on New Delhi, India for the first time in the winter season was a lifetime experience.
Although the temperatures read four degree Celsius, I felt a great warmth and love for the country, remembering my forefathers who left India and headed to Fiji to escape poverty.
Many Indians in Fiji would love to visit their motherland, India and have an experience of the present living lifestyle.
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), the flag event of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), is one event that brings together the overseas Indian community over a three-day period from January 7 to 9 every year.
This year the 9th PBD was held at the Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi, India.
It was organised by the MOIA, in partnership with the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region along with the eight North Eastern States and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
This incomparable initiative began in 2003 to develop a resilient bond between India and its diverse Diaspora.
Themed ‘Engaging the global Indians’, the main focus of PBD for this year was Diaspora youth.
The conference is organised annually around January 9 to commemorate the return of Mahathma Gandhi from South Africa on January 9, 1915 to India.
This convention brought together thousands of journalists, delegates and people of Indian origin from all over the world. It was like a home-coming for many Indians.
The PBD convention provides a platform for exchange of views and networking to overseas Indians on matters of common interest and concern to them.
They also help the government of India to better understand and appreciate the expectations of the overseas Indian community from the land of their ancestors and more importantly, acknowledge the important role played by them in India’s efforts to acquire its rightful place in the community of nations.
Two pre-conference seminars on education and health care were proposed to offer new opportunities to the Indian Diaspora to take part in these sectors in India. Many government ministers at the convention talked about what India was like and revealed some of the development plans in the pipeline.
These include extending the Delhi Airport for domestic airlines, improving road condition, providing assistance to poor families to improve their living standard and suggesting ways to make sure that all children including females have access to education. In keeping with the established practice, the Prime Minister of India, Doctor Manmohan Singh inaugurated the convention.
On the third day a plenary session was organised to engage young Indians living overseas. The cabinet ministers in India frequently highlighted their focus on connecting with young Indians overseas on matters of interest and concern to the Diaspora.
The government of India believes that in a few years time the population of India will be made up of youths.
To maintain the standard and create development in India the government is requesting that young overseas Indians return to their motherland and invest their talent and skills.
There have been an increased number of youths emigrating from India for better opportunities.
This is one of the reasons that the Ministry of Overseas Indian organised a conference to send the message to Indian youths across the world to contribute to the development of India.
The conference ended with the presentation of Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards by the President of India, Pratibha Patil.Fifteen distinguished non-Indian residents received the special awards and among the recipients was the Governor General of New Zealand, Sir Anand Satyanand.
His parents were originally from Fiji but migrated to New Zealand for job opportunities where Sir Satyanand was born and raised.
The President Mrs Patil, during her valedictory address, said her government appreciated the efforts of the Diaspora Indians in the world by helping build the lives of the people.
She also mentioned that India was a land of new opportunities and encouraged people around the world to come and experience it.If I were to describe India in one word I would say ‘Incredible’.
It is a place where one can find everything from modern buildings, transportation of all kinds, people of all races, challenging sporting activities, traffic, poor people begging on the streets, historic heritage and variety of tantalizing dishes.
The food in India is commendable because it provides a unique taste of traditional Indian food.
One thing that caught my attention during my stay was the increasing number of poor people who lived on the main streets and under the terminals.
Families live under temporary wooden shelters, cook food near the roads and hang their clothes to dry on the fence, washed with water only.
Mothers and children walk amid the congested traffic without fear, begging for food and money.
Tears flowed as I witnessed first-hand the conditions that these people have to endure. Poverty is something that I alone cannot work to erase.
They say it is a universal issue and one cannot justify that poverty alone exists in India or anywhere else for that matter.
According to Indian ministers, the increase population and cost of living have driven many to poverty in India.
The government of India has been providing special assistance for these unfortunate people through district councillors. However, no one really knows if the funds provided have been put into good use. The government ministers also discussed ways to narrow the growing rate of population female literacy at the PBD convention. The government now intends to make sure that every female in India have equal access to education just as the men do.
Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said that every human being on this earth has a right to education and should not be deprived of it.
My five-day visit to India has been a learning experience and I can honestly say that Fiji is the best country in the world. Although some people live in poverty in Fiji, it is not unbearable. The poor in India eat food that is covered in dust and drink untreated water.
The Government of Fiji, the social welfare department or religious organisation offer reliable help to the poor in Fiji to some extent.
In India, the poor have no one to go to and seek help. Everyone is busy building their own lives.
The lifestyle trend in India, according to some people on the streets of New Delhi has become, the rich get richer while the poor people remain poor.
To survive in India, some do every little job available like selling peanuts, sweet potato, popcorn, balloons, flowers, magazines or sweep the streets.
Some residents in Fiji might regard this as small paid jobs, but in India the poor think otherwise as they make every effort to earn an honest living and provide food for family.
Personally, I feel that the Fiji Government should think about the young generation in Fiji who are migrating for greener pastures.
Fiji is a beautiful country and is incorporated with friendly people.
We have the necessary needs available and we have a reason to invest in Fiji. However, many do not realise this fact until they have seen the real world.
Being the youngest journalist and adjusting to the winter was challenging and the challenge has been worthwhile and fulfilling.
I wish to thank the Fiji Sun for giving me the opportunity to attend the conference.
I would also like to thank the members of Indian High Commission, Vinod Kumar, Kamal Mishra, Ajay Sharma and the government of India for the accommodation, travelling expenses and chosing journalists from the Fiji Sun, for the past two years, to attend the conference.
Not only has my visit to India equipped me with information about the world, it has taught me to be thankful to God for providing me with the things I need to live my life.

*Ms Shratika Naidu is our reporter based in Labasa. She was invited by the High Commission of India to attend this year’s Pravasi Bhartiya Divas in India.

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