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The decision to celebrate Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was taken in accordance with recommendations of the High Level Committee (HLC) on the Indian Diaspora set up by government of India under the chairmanship of L. M. Singhvi (L M Singhvi). The then Prime Minister of India, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee after receiving the report of the Committee at a public function at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on 8 January 2002, announced the “Pravasi Bharatiya Divas”(PBD) on 9 January that year. The day was chosen to mark the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to India in 1915.

The occasion is marked by special programs to recognise the contributions of NRI/PIO individuals of exceptional merit, felicitate NRI/PIO individuals who have made exceptional contributions in their chosen field/profession (Pravasi Bharatiya Samman (Hindi: NRI/PIO Award)) and provide a forum to discuss issues and concerns of people of the diaspora. The event has been organised every year since 2003, and is sponsored by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs and the CII (Confederation of Indian Industry), initially sponsored by FICCI.

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), the annual event for the Indian diaspora, was canceled for 2016. The format of the event, which is held between 7 and 9 January, has been changed as announced by the minister of external affairs and overseas Indian affairs Sushma Swaraj, in October 2015. As per the announcement, the event was being moved to different states every two years; a smaller event would be held in Delhi every alternate year.

The 2017 (15th, being 14th cancelled) Pravasi Bharatiya Divas will be held from 7–9 January 2017, in Bengaluru || Karnataka. Theme: “Redefining Engagement with the Indian Diaspora”. The Ministry of External Affairs, under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been effortlessly using digital modes to reach out to Indians abroad. The campaign Digital India is also playing a major role in bringing the success to Pravasi Bhartiya Divas. The plenary session ‘Leveraging Social Media for Diaspora Connect’ to be held on January 9, 2017, at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas will look at social media as a medium in connecting the Indian Diaspora.
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