We want to do something for India, say young PIOs


New Delhi : From a Caribbean lilt to a Texan twang to a sing-song French-laced drawl – their accents vary sharply, but the 34 young participants of the Indian government’s Know India Programme all expressed their views in one voice – they wanted to “do something” for India.

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The programme is an internship for youngsters of Indian origin to come to India and go on a three-week journey across the country. As Tamil Nadu was their host state government, they landed in Chennai to start their programme on Nov 26, 2007.

The maximum number of participants, who were between 18 to 26 years, was from South Africa and the US, followed by Trinidad and Tobago, Malaysia, Israel, Reunion Islands, Fiji. Besides, there were also participants from Canada, New Zealand, Britain, the Netherlands, Mauritius and Guyana.

They did the usual sight-seeing rounds to Mahabalipuram, Fort St. George, Santhome Basilica, Ooty, Thanjavur, Puducherry, the Taj Mahal and the National Museum here, interspersed with visits to villages – Mauzpur in Haryana and Kannanthangal and Nangalathur in Tamil Nadu.

The last day of the programme Wednesday saw a morning meeting with President Pratibha Patil, a discussion with Minister for Youth and Sports Affairs Mani Shankar Aiyar, and an interaction with Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi.

They discussed with President Patil their experiences and also took a tour of Rashtrapati Bhawan, the presidential palace with more than 350 rooms.

At meeting with Ravi, many said the experience of staying in the villages was their “favourite part” of the trip.

Fiji’s Vanisha Mishra was passionate to “do something” in the rural areas. “We usually just go and talk. It would be so much better to maybe spend more time and see any ideas that we suggest being implemented,” she asserted, as her fellow travellers nodded their assent from across the table.

The minister was also keen to know from the participants how to improve the programme.

“Perhaps, after this programme, the government could help us do more in-depth volunteering work in rural areas for our summer terms,” said a participant from Britain.

Ravi said that while the villages did not have as visible development as in urban areas, the government’s rural improvement programmes will raise the standards in various sectors from education to health.

“In the end, I have one sentence to tell you – Come back again,” he said, urging them all to apply for the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card, which will allow them lifelong visa-free travel to India.