Connecting with Suriname, Guyana through diaspora

Posted on 9th Feb 2015 04:28 pm by mohit kumar

New Delhi, Feb 8 (IANS) Helping upgrade a much-needed mortuary, sending a Ramlila troupe to exchange ideas with the local troupes there or providing expertise in renewable energy - India is actively engaging with its large diaspora in the small and distant countries of Suriname and Guyana in meaningful ways.

Suriname, which has a 37 percent population comprising Hindustani people, descendants of the Indians, mostly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, who went to the South American nation as indentured labour in the 19th century, celebrates Dussehra and Diwali with gusto.

Its over 27 percent Hindu population has kept alive the Ramlila tradition of enactment of the epic Ramayana that was prevalent in India over 150 years ago. Now as part of reengaging with the Indian diaspora, numbering over 250,000, India is planning to send a Ramlila team to Suriname, off the North Atlantic Ocean, while a troupe from that country is to also come to India.

The Ramlila tradition practised in Suriname is believed to be the same that the Indians took with them over 150 years ago, and has not changed, an official source told IANS.

India is also helping the diaspora in Suriname in its efforts to trace their Indian roots through exchange of archival material.

The Indians - numbering around 38,000 - who left the Indian shores in batches in the late 19th and early 20th century to work in the fields of the former Dutch colony have their records of when they arrived, from where in then colonial India.

But with the Indian states having undergone reorganization after Independence and the names of many districts and areas changed, India is providing archival material about the country over the years to help the diaspora to trace where they came from.

"This is an important part of reconnecting with the diaspora," the source told IANS.

India is also providing three Chetak helicopters to Suriname, with the choppers being assembled by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd in that country and the Surinamese pilots trained in India.

India, which has offered a $50 million Line of Credit to Suriname, has also offered agricultural pumps.

In another small but "high impact" measure of reaching out, India is upgrading the mortuary at the S'Lands Hospital, in Paramaribo. The Rs.2 crore project will help upgrade the existing cold storage capacity at the hospital, and also serve another hospital, the source added.

"This is the kind of high impact engagement that touches directly - provides the human touch," another official added.

India and Suriname held the fifth Joint Commission Meeting in January this year.

The meeting was co-chaired by Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh, and Suriname's Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston G. Lackin. Education Minister Ashwin Adhin was also present. The two sides discussed providing more scholarships to students from Suriname.

In neighbouring Guyana in the Caribbean, whose President Donald Ramotar was the chief guest at the 13th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, in January, India is providing expertise in the field of renewable energy.

In Guyana, the Indian origin populace, called East Indians, number over 43 percent of the population of over 700,000.

India is to set up a rice husk gasification pilot project. The project, to be funded by India, will be replicated if it proves successful. The pilot project, by India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, will take off before April.

President Ramotar, during his India visit, toured sugar factories in Valsad in Gujarat and was reported to be very impressed. He is keen to set up the kind of sugar cooperatives that he saw in India back in Guyana.

He has also sought Indian expertise to make optimal use of the sugar factories in his country so that the bagasse from crushing sugarcane, one of the main agricultural produce, can be used for generating energy, sources told IANS.

India is providing four exclusive Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC) slots for sugar technology expertise, the source added.

India has also provided $60 million Line of Credit to Guyana out of which $50 mn is to be used for the East Bank Demerara Road expansion project and $10mn to assist in the acquisition of an ocean ferry vessel.

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