Diaspora Centre Welcomes Overseas Indians
From Brain Drain to Brain Gain:
New Diaspora Centre in New Delhi Welcomes Overseas Indians
Text and Photos by Kul Bhushan
All of the 27-million-strong Indian Diaspora living in over 150 countries can now visit a new home in New Delhi: Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra (Overseas Indian Centre). Located in the diplomatic enclave, Chanakyapuri, this spanking state-of-the -art complex can be very helpful for visiting Indians. They can get search their roots, obtain investment advice, book domestic travel, attend NRI events in a huge auditorium, hold business meetings in seminar rooms, enjoy a meal at a smart restaurant and even spend a night in one of the 24 guest rooms.
Draped with Indian art and culture, this centre welcomes you with a huge colourful mural at the entrance showing birds of many countries where Indians have migrated. Every open space showcases displays of paintings, statues and artifacts from every state of India. The atrium has a meditative Zen garden with a huge globe topped by a Yoga figure in Lotus Pose celebrating India’s contribution to global yoga movement. Visible from all sides with more figures, the globe projects the world wide Diaspora.
A highlight is a modern museum on Mahatma Gandhi, the most famous overseas Indian to return home and fight for India’s freedom. No wonder, Prime Minister inaugurated it on 2 October, Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday this year. He said, “Gandhi ji had left India but the call of the nation brought him back.”
PM Modi further said the Indian diaspora should be looked at, not just in terms of its numbers, but also in terms of its strength. He said that for years, the term ‘brain drain’ has been popular. But if we look anew at the diaspora as our strength, we can convert it to ‘brain gain’.
This permanent exhibition pays tribute to the father of the nation with huge photos, murals, photos and exhibits about the life of Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa and India. With lots of elbow room, the star attraction is an old printing press from South Africa with copies of Gandhi’s farewell letter.
The library is a valuable repository of material about the Indian Diaspora including books about India and other countries written by overseas Indians in different languages. A good start has been made with books sent by Indian missions abroad; and more will be added, said Dr. O. N. Chaubey, the librarian. With an emphasis on extensive digital reference material, the library provides access to researchers, journals and scholars.
One of the first conferences at the centre was held by PIOCCI on the sidelines of the BRICKS summit that brought together country coordinators from Brick countries to discuss investment in India, said Mr. Vanlal Huma, the centre’s director. No less than two cabinet meetings have been held in this centre in the very first month. This enabled all ministers to tour the centre later on. Inquiries for bookings are flowing in, he said. The ultra-modern 500-seat auditorium and multi-purpose conference and meeting rooms are major attractions.
It took around 12 years to inaugurate it. In January 2004, during the second Pravasi Bhartiya Divas, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced that the Government will set up the Pravasi Bhartiya Kendra in New Delhi. The foundation stone was laid seven years later by the then Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in January, 2011 and construction started in April, 2013.
Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra located at the heart of Chanakyapuri, the capital’s diplomatic enclave, at 15A, Dr. Rizal Marg. This is a sparkling tribute to the overseas Indian community; and commemorates their migration to over 150 countries. While visiting this centre’s exhibition and library, the overseas Indians can experience the challenges they faced abroad, their achievements and contributions.
1. MURAL – Tree of Life at the main entrance presents many national birds from many countries inhabited by the Indian Diaspora. Like branches of a tree it signifies, ‘We grow in different directions bur roots remain one’.
2. YOGA – The atrium has a meditative Zen garden with a huge globe topped by a Yoga figure in Lotus Pose celebrating India’s contribution to global yoga movement.
3. Gandhi Show – The entrance to the modern exhibition on the life and contribution of Mahatma Gandhi.
4. M to G – Mural shows a map of Indian Ocean crossed by Mohandas Gandhi to South Africa and his return as a freedom fighter to morph into Mahatma Gandhi.
5. Press – The antique printing press in working condition used by Gandhi in South Africa; Anshu Luthera prints Gandhi’s farewell letter before coming to India.
6. Library Shelf – Focus on overseas Indians, the library has books, magazines and digital material by and on overseas Indians.
7. Library Anita – It consultant Anita Malik holds a directory of overseas Indians in the library.
8. Librarian – Correspondent Kul Bhushan( left) presents three directories of overseas Indians to Anita Mailk, IT consultant, (Centre) and Dr. O. N. Chaubey, Chief Librarian (right).