Philanthropy in India is new mantra of NRIs
Wed, Jan 16 10:46 AM
New Delhi, Jan 16 - Adopting a village in rural Punjab or building houses for the impoverished in the hinterlands of India - a new philanthropic mantra has fired the imagination of Indians living abroad, says Harinder Takhar, the first Indian origin minister in Canada's biggest province Ontario.
'NRIs are now really interested in doing something more meaningful and lasting for the country they left behind,' Takhar, the minister of small business and entrepreneurship in Ontario, told in an interview here.
'NRIs can contribute in a positive way to the socio-economic transformation of India. We are now thinking in terms of giving concrete shape to some of these ideas like adopting a village or building schools,' said Takhar, who had come here to attend the sixth conclave of overseas Indians last week.
'The Punjab government has come out with many ideas and suggestions like building schools, hospitals or gurdwaras in a 50-50 partnership. We are open to these ideas,' he said.
Takhar, a 50-something businessman who migrated to Canada from Punjab in the early 1970s, is, however, not in favour of centralised funds to channelise the philanthropic impulse of Indians abroad.
'Large centralised funds entail huge administrative costs. Moreover, we are not sure whether money is being used for intended beneficiaries,' said Takhar, who also served as a minister of transport in the Ontario government.
'If it is done individually, they (contributors) can relate to these projects better. They can see the change happening with their own eyes,' he said.
Takhar is impressed by the winds of change sweeping the country he left behind and the transformation in its image as a rising power in the world.
'India is on way to becoming an economic power and is seen increasingly as an economic giant with its economy growing at around 10 percent every year. The world is now realising that India is the place to be in.
'For NRIs, it's a big moment. There is a resurgent pride in India and all things Indian.'
Economic ties between India and Canada, however, remain much below potential with bilateral trade at just about $4 billion, Takhar said, stressing that both the countries need to do more to cash in on new opportunities.
'We need to promote Canada as a top investment destination. It has a conducive business environment and is home to world-class companies. Some of the big Indian companies like Tatas, Aditya Birla Group and Ranbaxy are already there,' he said.
'What stands in the way is the lack of sufficient information about opportunities in both the countries. We need to make Canadian companies more aware of the huge opportunities in India,' he said.
Takhar also made a strong pitch for the entry of Canadian carmakers in India's burgeoning automobile sector.
Ontario is the leader in the automobile sector in North America, but a downturn in the US economy has hit this sector in Canada, with car manufacturers announcing job cuts. The Indian market is becoming more attractive to Canadian companies, he said.
An invitation to attend the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, as the jamboree of overseas Indians is called, is a chance to go back to the roots and replenish old values that sustain the spectacular success of overseas Indians in their adopted countries, he said.
'NRIs are extremely hardworking and passionate about what they are doing. They want to pay back and make a lasting contribution to the country they left behind years ago,' he said.
'Functions like Pravasi Divas help promote an active dialogue between the diaspora and India. It gives NRIs a sense of what is happening in India and what the government is trying to achieve.
'Indians abroad can bring their skills and expertise to benefit India,' he added.