Captain Amarinder Singh, the Chief Minister of Punjab, has launched a new 'Connect With Your Roots' scheme for young Global Indians to gain first-hand experience of the state. Captain Amarinder Singh used the UK as the base to kick-start his dream project for Punjabi-origin students based overseas to reconnect with their roots in their ancestral land and interact with their counterparts in Punjabi universities. Connect With Your Roots, targeted at 16 to 22-year-olds who have never visited India, will involve the state government organising two-week-long tours of Punjab for groups of 15 students every other month. “It is our desire through this initiative that the generation of youngsters who have only heard stories about Punjab or seen it on television get to really know Punjab and what we call Punjabiyat,” said Singh, at a special launch event attended by British Punjabi students at the Indian High Commission in London recently. “There is a lot of misinformation that is spread through some of the coverage on TV. We want that people should come to know the ground reality and for Punjabis to be able to reconnect with their roots,” he said. The senior Congress leader said the programme for each tour will be tailor-made for each group and involve coach tours of all the major historic sites of state such as the Golden Temple, Jallianwala Bagh and Wagah Border. Each tour will have the flexibility to accommodate different inputs and allow participants to visit their own ancestral towns and villages. “And, don′t think this is a political trip. Anyone with an alliance with any party is welcome to visit anywhere and speak to whoever they wish. We want you to know the real Punjab, with all its strengths and shortcomings,” the chief minister said. After its global launch in the UK, the Connect With Your Roots programme will open up to the Punjabi diaspora in European countries like Germany and Italy and also the US and Canada. The Punjab government plans to coordinate around six such tours every year, which will be timed according to the academic calendar in every country as well as India's festival calendar. The first tour is expected to kick off by November 2017. Singh also highlighted Punjab as an increasingly investor-friendly destination and said that the state′s industrial base was being revived. “Anyone interested in putting up an industry in Punjab is assured a single-window clearance within four days. We are also in talks with the state chief justice to organise special courts for NRIs where matters can be heard on a day-to-day basis,” he said. The latest programme has been inspired by his own government's thinking as well as the desire of the government of India that young people should come to Punjab and interact with various sources, including students, to find out the strengths and failures of the state. It would provide them with a platform to connect with their history and culture, and know their ancestral roots better. Assuring them that it was not his government's intention to take them for a political ride, Singh has urged youngsters to come and interact freely with any democratic party in India and arrive at their own conclusions about the country, and then go back and apprise others of the reality. This little partnership would be of mutual benefit, he said, adding that “you can help India prosper and we will, in turn, help you prosper in your adopted countries”. The state government wants these visitors to express their views about the state and what could be done to further improve things.
The scheme is aimed at creating the true voice of Punjab which will link up with the state government's developmental efforts, particularly schemes aimed at around 9 million unemployed youth, where the diaspora can also contribute to Punjab's path to progress. In the first phase, the new Connect with Your Roots programme will cover Canada, US, Australia and the European Union (EU), besides the UK, which requires the applicant to bear the expenses for to and fro travel from India, while boarding, lodging, local travel and sightseeing expenses will be borne by the government of Punjab. Publicity material will be supplied to the Embassies/High Commissions in the countries/regions selected. Besides a home-stay programme in a village for three days, the initiative would include visits to old monuments and the chance to savour traditional delicacies at famous food joints in Patiala, Amritsar, Ludhiana and other places of their interest. The new programme is designed to complement another state government programme - Friends of Punjab: The Chief Minister's Garima Gram Yojna - seeking to connect with “the millions of NRI Punjabis who have made foreign soils their homes and contributed to the progress of countries around the world with their hard work and dedicated commitment”. This programme seeks to encourage them to connect with their roots and invites them to support the government's rural development initiatives through matching financial assistance. Punjab is hopeful that the success of these schemes targeted at Global Indians could lead to other states in India setting up their own versions. *Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org