UP to engage with Girmitiyas in development initiatives

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Agra, Jan 5 (IANS) The Uttar Pradesh government would soon be engaging with ‘Girmitiyas’, the labourers from the state who were taken to Fiji during 1833-1916 to work on sugarcane plantations for economic and social initiatives in the state.

It was agreed upon on the second day of the UP Pravasi Diwas being held in the Taj city of Agra.

Basdeo Panday, former prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, narrated a captivating short story of a small but priceless piece of land that belonged to his great grandmother and was inherited by him, as a reminder of the Girmitiyas’ struggle on foreign soil.

That land of 16 acres, he said, reminded him of his Indian roots and his connection with the Girmitiyas.

To honour those women Girmitiyas, who played a major role in keeping the Indian culture still alive, Panday said he took the initiative to promote education of girl child.

J. Goburdhun, high commissioner of Mauritius to India, said connecting the non-resident Indians with their motherland was very necessary, adding that there was so much to learn from the ancient technologies like usage of cow products in farming and cooking at that time was ripe to start the reconnect with the Indian diaspora.

He said people in India should be encouraged to use zero budget natural farming ways to grow better and sustainable crops.

He also presented the delegates on stage with books related to scientific yet natural ways of farming.

Goburdhun’s connection with his motherland was evident from his interest to promote Bhojpuri language.

Rajindre Tewari, country president, Global Organisation of People of Indian-Origin (GOPIO), The Netherlands, while speaking on the occasion strongly supported the Uttar Pradesh government’s initiatives like issuing NRI cards and conducting cultural exchange programmes to connect NRIs with their roots.

Kapil Kumar, director, Indira Gandhi Centre for Freedom Struggle Studies and chairperson, Faculty of History, School of Social Sciences, IGNOU, New Delhi, narrated the story of Trinidad’s Temple in the Sea — a marvellous story of a Girmitiya named Sewdass Sadhu who withstood tides, breezes and slavery to construct a monument that stands as a symbol of undying human spirit.

Kumar proposed a few policies to the Uttar Pradesh government for the betterment of the descendants of Girmitiyas.

He asked the government to recognise the children of Person of Indian Origin (PIO) studying in Indian institutes as Indians and treat them equally in terms of fee structure and other facilities.

He also asked to include a chapter on Girmitiyas in the school textbooks of Uttar Pradesh and to increase the number of direct flights from India to Fiji and Caribbean.

Sanjiv Saran, principal secretary, NRI Department, on the occasion said it was indeed an honour for Uttar Pradesh Pravasi Diwas to conduct a session on Girmitiyas who are actually the crusaders of Indian culture and tradition.

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