By Paras Ramoutar
Port-of-Spain (Trinidad) : The Indian diaspora which amounts to 40 percent of the 1.3 million people in Trinidad and Tobago have been urged, "to keep your cultural identity and religious faith" by a visiting Indian minister.
Making this plea was Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi in an address here marking the 162nd anniversary of the arrival of Indians from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to work on the sugar and cocoa plantations.
"The Indian community is doing very well and integrated with the community here. The Indian community is part and parcel of the Trinidad society," he said.
Ravi said that the Indian diaspora was part of the building process since their arrival.
He also announced two major Indian business ventures in T&T. Firstly, the long-awaited Bank of Baroda will come on stream at the end of July, and also the establishment of the Essar Steel Caribbean Limited with an investment of $1.8 billion.
Ravi said that the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs was a recent attachment to the Indian government and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated that it was designed "to look after the affairs of Indian people living abroad."
The minister pointed out that the Indian government has introduced a 15-year visa for people of Indian origin, which allows persons to stay continuously for six months in India, which can be extended.
Ravi noted that the Indian government was planning "to collaborate to find the roots of the families of people of Indian origin, as this information can be used to help people who want to visit India."
The Indian government, he said, has been encouraging investments in Caribbean countries,especially T&T because, "the environment is conducive."
Ravi met and held discussions with Prime Minister Patrick Manning, Minister of Trade and Industry Kenneth Valley, Minister of Public Administration and Energy Lenny Saith and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar. He also paid a courtesy call on President George Maxwell Richards.
Ravi and his team also visited the Siewdass Sadhu Temple by the sea, which was built by an indentured immigrant, and also the Dattaroyea Yoga Temple, which features a 95-foor Hanuman Murti, the tallest structure out of India.