Kochi, Jan 11 (IANS) As the 11th edition of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) came to a close here, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi and Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had reasons to pat themselves on the back with hopes of increasing diaspora investments.
"Yes, the mood among the delegates was very enthusiastic. Kerala will be the biggest beneficiary, as many people are keen to pump in money here," business magnate M.K. Yusuf Ali, who has emerged as brand ambassador of Kerala in the Middle East and is recognised widely as one of the most popular and successful businessmen from the state, told IANS.
His priority remained completing ongoing projects in the state, Ali added.
A pleased Ravi said after curtains were drawn on the PBD here Wednesday:
"I am extremely delighted that this edition saw the biggest ever participation of delegates. More than 2,300 delegates arrived, and all issues concerning the diaspora were brought under the scanner."
Chandy had moved his office to Kochi, over 200 km from state capital Thiruvananthapuram to be at the venue of the conference right through.
"I think we did a good job to showcase the immense potential of our state. Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pranab Mukherjee spoke at length to the delegates, urging them to look to Kerala as a probable place for investment," Chandy said.
Ravi tried hard to dispel the impression that has come about over a number of years that Kerala is rife with trade union activity and hostile to enterprise.
"Both Chandy and I have been involved in trade union activities for long. But today, the first thing that happens when a labour dispute appears impending is for employees to come up with suggestions. Instead of going on strike, there is a dialogue and all concerned, including the minister, sit across the table. Things can be resolved and this is the biggest indication that Kerala has changed and there have been no industrial disputes at all," Ravi said.
Chandy spent time with steel baron Lakshmi Mittal and convinced him that he should consider Kerala for future investments. Mittal has indicated that he would keep Kerala in mind while planning his future ventures.
For US-based hotel baron Sant Singh Chatwal, the event came as a reminder to invest even more in Kerala. Five years ago, he had invested Rs.200 crore in a hotel in the state capital. This time, he wants to put in Rs.300 crore in a plush resort, again in Thiruvananthapuram.
For Chandy, the conference would register as a huge success if his Air Kerala dream project takes wing.
"We have asked for relaxation in rules so as to operate flights to the Middle East directly, without having to operate in the domestic sector. If that is not possible, we are willing to take stakes in Air India Express," Chandy said, explaining the plans of the state government.
(Sanu George can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org