Conversations in Mumbai are usually about the elections these days – be it at roadside food stalls or in the boardrooms of India’s financial capital.
The stakes, after all, are high: following a period of robust growth, the country’s economy has slowed considerably in the past few years – largely because of (depending on who you talk to) the global crisis, policy paralysis, corruption and such. Inflation too is a massive concern.
The need of the hour, most agree, is a secular, stable and investment-friendly government that helps create prosperity for India’s multitude, and not just for a few seen close to the powerful.
That in essence is also the main topic of discussion some 2000kms to the west of the city – for non-resident Indians in Dubai, a fast growing regional financial hub.
Back in the 70s and 80s, hordes of Indians left the country in search of better opportunities – many of whom came to the oil-producing Middle East countries. The tech boom of the 90s provided them another global opening, though by then economic reforms at home were also taking effect – helping drive growth and creating more and better-paying jobs in the next decade.
Many Indians still look abroad for livelihood, but have increasingly channelled a big chunk of their earnings back home in search of returns. And why not? Even global investors are happily betting on the country’s future.
India topped the global list for remittances in 2013 – receiving some $70 billion, according to a World Bank report last week, underscoring its importance as an important source of foreign exchange. To be sure, remittances last year were “more than the $65 billion earned from the country’s flagship software services exports,” the World Bank noted.
That the country has been among the leading recipients of remittances over the past few years is not surprising, given that some 25 million Indians (variously classified) live abroad and, in several cases, continue to have strong familial ties back home.
The importance of Indians living overseas and their contribution to the country has been recognised on various platforms – such as the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which has been held every year since 2003 to “mark the contribution of Overseas Indian community in the development of India,” according to the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs.
The ministry says these conventions facilitate the overseas Indian community to engage with the government and people for “mutually beneficial activities”. Simply put, Indians living overseas are increasingly participating more actively back home.
But they – the millions of NRIs – still can’t vote from foreign locations and choose a government of their liking in the country’s general elections.