Speech by Hon’ble Lok Sabha Speaker at the Indian community Reception hosted by the High Commissioner of India during the visit of Indian Parliamentary Delegation to Mauritius (9 June 2017)
Hon. Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius
H.E. Mr. Paramasivum Pillay Vayappory, Vice President of Mauritius
Hon’ble Ministers of the Government of Mauritius,
Hon’ble Leader of the Opposition,
Hon’ble Members of the National Assembly,
Esteemed members of the Indian diaspora,
Hon’ble Members of Parliament from India,
High CommissionerAbhay Thakur, Dr. Smt. SurabhiThakur,
Secretary General Lok Sabha and members of my delegation,
Members of the media,
It is always a pleasure to meet the Indian diaspora as it gives an opportunity to understand the people who made a home away from home. Mauritius has an amalgamation of cultures to its credit. Although we have Indian diaspora spread all over the world, the diaspora in Mauritius is unique and distinct as almost 70 percent of its population is of Indian descent. The first group of Indians who arrived on this island way back in the 18th Century, were artisans. From then till this day, a strong feeling of nostalgia for India exists among the diaspora here. Life is such that man moves in search of greener pastures. Such is the attachment to your native roots that the blossoming of Indian culture here is fascinating. It also offers an insight into people’s capacity to adjust in their new environments and surroundings when they migrate to foreign shores in search of better opportunities.
Friends, you are aware that India is a huge country with diversified ethnic groups, cultures and geography. The early settlers in Mauritius came from different parts of India. A large section of our diaspora came as indentured labour from the Hindi belt, particularly Bhojpuri speakers, apart from Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Urdu and other tongues. No wonder, Bhojpuri culture is still distinctively visible in the life of the island. Commonly used Bhojpuri words, with local flavor, have become a part of the vocabulary among sections of society here. The screening of films in Hindi and Bhojpuri, and strong presence of Hindi and Bhojpuri theatre and music are evidence to their popularity in the cultural scene. It was at Mauritius initiative, supported by India, that Bhojpuri ‘GeetGowai’ was recognized as an intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO in December 2016.
Many of our brethren from other communities, who came to Mauritius as free passengers even before the arrival of indentured labour, have preserved their culture to this day. The Jhakri dance form of Maharashtra or the Ramabhajanam of the Telugu people or the vibrant Tamil temples or the legacy of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan are all thriving in Mauritius today. At the same time, notwithstanding the large number of Indian origin people, Mauritius is equally a multi-cultural society with a strong influence of the French/Creole culture, which the modern day citizenry of this country is deeply attached to. I applaud successive generations of the wise leadership of Mauritius, who have successfully promoted diversity in this beautiful rainbow nation, and yet maintained a unique Mauritian identity and special connect with India.
It is interesting to note that the World Hindi Sammelan was held twice in Mauritius and it will again be held again in Mauritius, for a third time, in 2018. The World Hindi Secretariat has been functioning in Mauritius since 2008. An Urdu Conference was held here last year and Sir Syed’s bicentenary will be celebrated next month. The Indira Gandhi Centre for Indian Culture is a hub of Indian culture in Mauritius, holding classes in various disciplines like Yoga, Hindustani music, Kathak and Tabla for the youth here. A cultural exchange programme signed in 2015 and hosting a Festival of India since 2015 in collaboration with the Ministry of Arts and Culture of Mauritius have strengthened the cultural connect with India. The Mahatma Gandhi Institute, established in 1970, hosts the Indian Council of Cultural Relations sponsored Chairs in Indian Philosophy and in Hindi. The Rabindranth Tagore Institute established in 2000 as a Centre of Studies for Indian Culture and Tradition also helps in maintaining an active socio-cultural atmosphere, thereby adding vitality to the people-to-people contacts. I am happy that Yoga and traditional Indian systems of health (AYUSH) have become popular here. Government of Mauritius has recently approved a Chair of AYUSH studies. Education is another key sector in which we are working together. India currently provides nearly 100 scholarships to Mauritian students every year for degree courses in its universities through the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, and another 200 ITEC slots for training and capacity building through short-term professional courses.
Building upon the solid foundations of our historical, cultural and civilizational connect, we are working together in many areas to elevate our bilateral ties to a higher level of cooperation and understanding. Under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we have entered into a new era of bilateral cooperation with a whole new range of projects. GOI is currently providing assistance to Mauritius for ten projects of national importance, namely the Metro Express, a new ENT Hospital, a new Supreme Court building, supply of E-tablets to primary schoolchildren, Social Housing, Project Trident for new headquarters of the National Coast Guard, infrastructure development of the Outer Island of Agalega, a Petroleum bunkering hub at Albion, a new building of the World Hindi Secretariat and a Civil Services College. A new Line of Credit of USD 500 million was announced during Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth’s recent visit to India, which will be used for financing the next lot of national priority projects.
In facilitating all these activities, the High Commission of India here plays a vital role. I commend the High Commissioner and his staff for their laudable efforts in making all these projects and programmes possible. The role of the High Commission here is even more significant as Mauritius has a large chunk of people of Indian origin. A special dispensation for Mauritius in our OCI card scheme was announced by the Government of India in January 2017. We have today seen for ourselves the very positive response to it among the Mauritian people. The good work by the Indian Mission in Mauritius is visible and commendable.
Friends, it is through the sheer dint of hard work that the Indian diaspora has built this beautiful nation of Mauritius, a heaven on earth. The mainly agrarian economy has transformed into a strong diversified economy today. It has one of the highest per capita incomes in Africa with a growing presence in financial, industrial and tourism sectors. Your success is a matter of deep pride for India. Your success is also a testament to the courage and perseverance of your ancestors. And with your continued support, I have no doubt that our ties will continue to grow from strength to strength in the years ahead.
Both our countries share similar values of democracy, human rights, rule of law and fundamental freedoms. Our economic and cultural rights have grown stronger over the years. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, while addressing the Mauritian Parliament in 2015, had remarked that he sees Mauritius as a leader of the Indian Ocean Community and as a bridge to Africa. I am happy to notice that Mauritius is marching in that direction with lot of hard work and sincerity.
With these words, on my behalf and on behalf of my delegation, I thank Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, all our distinguished guests and esteemed members of the Indian diaspora, who have graced today’s event with their presence. I also thank High Commissioner Abhay Thakur and Smt. SurabhiThakur for hosting this reception today. I thank you all for the warmth shown to us. And, in conclusion, I would like to quote the inscription at the Apravasi Ghat named ‘The Unknown Immigrant’, which sums up everything that you all strived for. It touched me deeply and I cannot resist the temptation to quote it here!
History turning a blind eye bore him not witness
History standing mute told not his full story
He who had first watered this land with his sweat
And turned stone into green fields of gold
The first immigrant, He son of this land
He was mine, he was yours, he was our very own.
9 June 2017