Interview: K Mohandas

Interview with K Mohandas
Secretary, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs

“Investment in India now will be prudent”

In less than a year’s time, K Mohandas, secretary, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, has quietly, but definitively, turned things around. A Ministry where the top bureaucracy was conspicuous by its lack of connect with the overseas Indians until his arrival, now has a purposeful air about it. Much of the credit for bringing about a fresh dynamism must go to Mohandas. Seeing him work, somehow one gets a feeling that his favourite phrase could well be, “response delayed, is response denied.” The lack of clutter on his desk is a sign of the clarity that marks his style. He spoke to Editor Sayantan Chakravarty on various issues relating to NRIs and PIOs
On the climate of insecurity in India following the attack on Mumbai and how it could affect the confidence of the overseas Indian community…
Security is always a concern but it might not be proper to assume that there is a sense of insecurity. Chennai will see more participation from the overseas Indian community in the forthcoming Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (2009 January). A sense of requirement of enhanced security is there in everybody’s mind. The test match between India and England could be held in Chennai soon after the attacks. So, we are doing what it takes to make things secure.

On sustaining reasonable participation at the PBDs year after year…
Sustaining participation needs efforts. The idea is not to make the programmes repetitive. To create further interests, art, handicraft and other exhibits have been structured for the PBD in Chennai. Optional tours will add value to the programmes. Participants, unlike in previous years, will now be getting greater free time for interaction among themselves. 

On rethinking the dates for the PBD…
The event itself needs to be linked to January 9, the officially declared date for the PBD. How the event is to be structured in future is something on which there is no decision as of now. We’ll decide on the structuring soon.

The OIFC had an investment meet in Muscat, Oman. It was well received. The meet was attended by a large number of top CEOs and professionals of Indian origin. The OIFC is doing further follow-up on this

On the project to raise a heritage structure in Kolkata from where thousands of indentured workers left the shores of India in the 19th and early 20th centuries…
The proposal is still live. Proposals for obtaining the piece of land for such a structure are under consideration. We are pursuing with the state Government.

On how the Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre has moved forward in the past one year or so…
The OIFC had an investment meet in Muscat, Oman. It was well received. The meet was attended by a large number of top CEOs and professionals of Indian origin. The OIFC is doing further follow-up on this. Subsequently, I made a visit to UAE and again interacted with businessmen and professionals at various places like Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. It was noticed that there is considerable interest in investment in India. This is a time when interest rates in banks are low and, therefore, investing in infrastructure projects might be prudent because by the time the projects are completed the wheels of economic cycle would have turned positive.
There is lots of confidence now in the Indian financial system, impact of which has been negligible compared to impact on banks and financial institutions in rest of the world.
There is keenness in these places for definite investment-oriented meets. OIFC would be undertaking meets in these places as well as other places. OIFC would also be taking along representatives from state Governments and also its knowledge partners so that prospective investors can be given advice as well as facilitation.

On building knowledge networks with the Indian diaspora…
We are structuring a diaspora knowledge programme that will be unveiled at the PBD.

On providing greater educational opportunities for children of overseas Indians to study in India…
The NRI-PIO University is expected to commence its academic session in certain disciplines in 2010, at a new campus to be built in Bangalore by the Manipal group. At the moment the Government provides scholarships to 100 overseas Indian students for undergraduate studies in India.

On the new Global Council for overseas Indians…
This council has just been set up. It is chaired by the Prime Minister of India. There will be 20 very prominent overseas Indians as members. The Minister for External Affairs, the Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, the Finance Minister and the union finance secretary will be its permanent invitees. The secretary, MOIA, will be the member secretary.

January 2009

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