Dr. Zulekha Daud, founder and chairperson of Zulekha Healthcare Group, receives the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award from Indian President Ramnath Kovind in 2019. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: The Indian Consulate in Dubai will on Saturday celebrate the 16th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), the Non-Resident Indians’ (NRI) Day Convention, which will be held virtually for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The flagship event of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) provides it with a platform to engage and connect with the overseas Indians.

The biennial jamboree of NRIs held in different cities in India used to be attended by several Indian expats from the UAE in the past editions. Due to the pandemic, the Indian mission in Dubai has limited its celebrations by hosting a virtual session of the daylong event that will be inaugurated by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The theme of the PBD Convention 2021 is “Contributing to Aatmanirbhar Bharat (Self-Reliant India).”

Keynote address

The inaugural session will feature a keynote address by the chief guest Chandrikapersad Santokhi, President of the Republic of Suriname. The winners of the online Bharat ko Janiye (Know India) Quiz for the youth will also be announced.

The event marking the PBD at the consulate would be held from 9.30am till 11.30am on Saturday, Neeraj Agrawal, consul (Press, Information and Culture) at the consulate told Gulf News.

The inaugural session will be followed by two plenary sessions, which will be live-streamed by the consulate in the presence of diplomats and a group of prominent Indian expats who have been invited to attend the programme, said Agrawal.

“The first plenary on Role of Diaspora in Aatmanirbhar Bharat, will feature addresses by External Affairs Minister and Commerce and Industry Minister while the second plenary session on “Facing Post COVID Challenges — Scenario in Health, Economy, Social and International Relations,” will be addressed by the Minister of Health and Minister of State for External Affairs. Both Plenaries will feature panel discussions inviting eminent diaspora experts,” the MEA said in a statement.

Agrawal said the consulate would also hold an in-house discussion with the community members present by maintaining social distancing norms to prevent the stead of COVID-19.

Prestigious award for expats

The finale would be the valedictory session to be attended by the President of India Ram Nath Kovind. He will announce the names of the winners of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards for 2020-21. These awards are conferred to select Indian diaspora members to recognise their achievements and honour their contributions to various fields, both in India and abroad.

Some of the prominent Indian expats in the UAE have previously won the highest honour conferred on Indians living abroad. In the last PBD in 2019, Dr. Zulekha Daud, founder and chairperson of Zulekha Healthcare Group, Surender Singh Kandhari, chairman of Dubai’s Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) and social worker Girish Pant were conferred with the award.

Agrawal said a good number of nominations for the award had been submitted by various expats in the UAE this time.

On Friday a Youth PBD was celebrated virtually on the theme “Bringing together Young Achievers from India and Indian Diaspora.” It was anchored by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. The Special Guest for the event was Priyanca Radhakrishnan, the recently elected Indian-origin Minister for Community and Voluntary Sector of New Zealand.

The PBD events are live webcast on the PBD India website and MEA India’s YouTube channel. The consulate will also live-stream the events on its social media channels.

Since 2003, India has been observing January 9 as Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) to celebrate the Indian diaspora across the world. The day commemorates the return of India’s Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi, who was an expat in South Africa, to Mumbai in 1915.