Nisha Biswal, four other Indian-Amerians given Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Award

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee conferred Pravasi Bharatiya Samman awards and delivered the valedictory address on January 9.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi urges NRIs to get involved in India’s growth

Indian American diplomat Nisha Desai Biswal and Portugal Prime Minister Antonio Luis Santos da Costa, of Indian origin, are among the 30 awardees at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas announced on January 9. Costa and Biswal have been honored for public service and public affairs.

“Of the awardees, six are from the U.S., two each from Britain and the United Arab Emirates, and one each from 27 other countries the world over,” noted the statement. Five other Indian Americans sharing the honors with Biswal are Hari Babu Bindal for environmental engineering; Bharat Haridas Barai, Mahesh Mehta and Ramesh Shah for community service; and Sampatkumar Shivangi for community leadership.

President Pranab Mukherjee conferred Pravasi Bharatiya Samman awards and delivered the valedictory address January. 9. A youth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was also held Jan. 7.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar, Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javedkar, Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers H.N. Ananth Kumar and Niti Ayog CEO Amitabh Kant were among those addressing the plenary sessions.

As a senior Indian American diplomat, the 48-year-old Biswal, who hails from Gujarat, has been overseeing U.S. foreign policy and relations with 11 countries in the region from Bangladesh to Uzbekistan since Oct. 21, 2013. The 55-year-old Costa, a chief guest at the three-day 14th PBD (Non-Resident Indian Day) celebrations, is the son of Goan Orlanda da Costa.

“Costa, Nisha and others of the diaspora have been conferred the PBD 2017 awards for their outstanding contribution in diverse fields, including public service, community service, social service, business, education and arts and culture,” said the External Affairs Ministry in a statement on PBD Valedictory Day here.

Priti Patel and Neena Gill are the awardees from Britain for public service. Vasudev Shamdas Shroff and the India Social and Cultural Center from Abu Dhabi in the UAE are the winners for community service and philanthropy.

Two more organizations, the Antwerp Indian Association in Belgium and the Singapore Indian Association in Singapore, have been honored with the award for community service.

The other four winners for community service are Gorur Krishna Harinath (Australia), Naseer Ahamed Mohamed Zackiriah (Brunei), Nalinkumar Sumanlal Kothari (Djibouti) and Ariful Islam (Libya).

The other winners for public service are Pravind Kumar Jugunath (Mauritius) and Winston Chandarbhan Dookeran (Trinidad & Tobago). Raghunath Marie Antonin Manet (France) and Sandip Kumar Tagore (Japan) won awards for arts and culture.

Other awardees include Mukund Bhikhubhai Purohit (Canada) and Susheel Kumar Saraff (Thailand) for business; Vinod Chandra Patel (Fiji) for social service; Lael Anson E. Best (Israel) for medical science; Tan Sri Dato Muniandy Thambirajah (Malaysia) for education and community service; Raghavan Seetharaman (Qatar) for business management; Zeenat Musarrat Jafri (Saudi Arabia) for education, and Carani Balaraman Sanjeevi (Sweden) for medicine.

Over 5,400 delegates from across India attended the mega event, which commemorates the return of Mahatma Gandhi to India from South Africa on Jan. 9, 1915. Ten plenary sessions were scheduled to be held over three days on various topics, including two on startups and disruptive innovations, and investment opportunities in Karnataka.

Inaugurating the three-day mega event, Modi exhorted the diaspora to participate in the government’s flagship programs like Digital India, Make In India, Start-up India, Swacch Bharat (Clean India) and Namami Gange (Clean Ganga) for the country’s all-around development.

“The diaspora can contribute to India by sparing their time and energy on implementing our flagship programs and staying connected,” said Modi during a 40-minute special address in Hindi and English.

“Brain drain has been considered a loss for the country as Indians went abroad seeking jobs and better life. But for me and my government, such a movement is not a brain drain but brain gain as they can help us in the development,” noted Modi.

He urged PIOs to obtain Overseas Citizen of India cards by June 30. “We have extended the deadline to convert PIO cards into OCI cards to June 30 from Dec. 31, without penalty,” said Modi.

“NRIs and PIOs have made outstanding contributions. Among them are politicians of great stature, scientists of repute, outstanding doctors, brilliant educationists, economists, journalists, musicians, engineers, bankers and did I mention our well-known technology professionals,” added Modi.

“Overseas Indians have also made invaluable contribution to the Indian economy, including $69-billion-worth remittances in 2016. We are strengthening processes at our embassies and consulates to facilitate their easier travel to India,” said Modi, adding: “Efforts are also being made to provide maximum facilitation and ensure least inconvenience to even Indian citizens seeking economic opportunities abroad.”

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Born and educated in India, Ajay Ghosh came to the United States to pursue his higher studies in Journalism in 1997. After graduating with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the School of Journalism at Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, his life as a professional journalist began in the summer of 1999 in New York City. Starting as a reporter for India Post, he worked as the New York Bureau Chief of Indian Reporter and World News from 2000 to 2005. Having a Master’s Degree in Social Work, Ajay writes on social and other issues for