Chalo India tourism initiative aims to bring millions of diaspora community members to their homeland

Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually addresses the Chalo India event in California. Photo by Ritu Jha

Ritu Jha–

The Indian consulate in San Francisco on March 7 launched its ‘Chalo India’ campaign in Milpitas, California, to promote tourism among the diaspora. “Chalo India Global Diaspora campaign is being launched to involve all the members of the Indian community abroad,” Consul General of India in San Francisco, Dr. K. Srikar Reddy told the Indian diaspora at the event.

“We have close to 30 million Indian diaspora all over the world and 5 million community members in the US. The objective of the campaign is to generate people’s involvement and each one of you will be serving as ambassadors of the Incredible India campaign to promote India’s tourism industry. PM Modi has called upon all Indians to become part of the campaign to make India a developed country by 2047.”

He added, “Tourism in India is lagging despite good landscapes, history, culture, art, crafts, and music. We are still unable to attract more international tourists. In 2019, India attracted around 10.7 million tourists, which came down drastically due to Covid. Now, we have achieved around 70% of the pre-Covid level but India is receiving only 2% in terms of tourist spending, which is around $20 billion.”

Dr Reddy said that he wanted to urge members of the Indian diaspora to act as Incredible India campaign ambassadors so that each Indian member living abroad can bring five non-Indians to India thereby giving a boost to Indian tourism. “The contributions of those Indian diaspora members who send more people to India will be recognized during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in India and some awards will also be given to them in collaboration with the private sector,” Reddy told indica.

Attendees at the Chalo India event. Photo by Ritu Jha

The consulate plans to host similar tourism-promotional events. “This is one such tourism promotion event. We would like to do more business promotion events in the future.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India has reportedly launched multiple projects related to the tourism sector worth more than ₹1400 crore, and the ‘Dekho Apna Desh People’s Choice Tourist Destination Poll’ and ‘Chalo India Global Diaspora Campaign’.

“Whether you bring dollars, and pounds does not matter but each of you should send at least 5 non-Indian families to India. Encourage your families and friends. I urge you to spend 5-10% of your travel budget on buying local produce. This will help strengthen the economy, expand the tourism industry, and generate employment,” said Modi through a recorded speech.

He added his next mission is “Wed in India” and urged Indians to avoid hosting weddings abroad. “People should host weddings in India. If people feel like coming to J&K and hosting weddings. Book accommodations, stay here for 3-4 days, and spend lavishly so that people of Jammu and Kashmir also get their livelihood,” Modi added.

Lalit Mathur, who initiated “sister city” ties between Fremont in California and Jaipur in India told indica, “Jaipur and Fremont became sister cities in 1992. We organized a huge parade in Fremont to commemorate the historic development. The initiative was meant to start people-to-people communication. I traveled to India, went to Jaipur, and met the governor and the chief minister of Rajasthan. There were many people from Jaipur including the mayor who attended the parade. The next year, in 1993, we took a delegation to India, to Jaipur and we met the then chief minister and other dignitaries. A big reception was hosted by the Jaipur Maharaja.”

Lena Kannappan, another attendee, said, “The Chalo India initiative is a great move. It’s going to benefit India in so many different ways. For the diaspora youth to understand and see the culture is a significant objective. They will see this new India and it will be mutually beneficial.”

Prof Anurag Mairal

Dr. Anurag Mairal, Adjunct Professor of Medicine and the Director of Global Outreach Programs at Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign, Stanford University, is focused on building bridges between the student community in the US and India. “Last year I took 20 scholars from Stanford to visit India, and I’m taking them again this December. All 20 of them said they are very impressed by what India is doing, and they’re going to return and work in India for an India-US partnership.”

Dr. Romesh Japra, founder of FOG and Federation of Indian Americans of Northern California (FIA) welcomed the Chalo India campaign. “This initiative is huge, not only for India but for us as global diaspora members as well. If India looks good, we all look good. And it’s not going to only help our roots, our Bharat, but also all the global Indians living in America or any other country. Our children and grandchildren are going to always remember their roots.”

Arjun Batra

Arjun Batra, councilmember of the San José City Council for District 10, said: “I’ve been promoting Indian culture ever since I’ve been a council member. We have celebrated every major cultural event and India’s Independence Day in the city of San Jose. On the occasion of Diwali, we had our tower, 18 stories high with the Indian flag, for one week on the occasion of Diwali, and Independence Day. By taking people to India, their destination, we will be exposing them to our culture and the understanding to live in peace with everybody else because Indian culture teaches us diversity and living in peace with other people.”

Tara Shreekrishnan, candidate from California Assembly district 26 who will fight November general election said, “In my district, about half the population is Asian American, and about half are immigrants with their children, like my family members are immigrants from Kerala. Events like this help connect us to where we came from and promote tourism economic growth, and involvement.”

Ajay Bhutoria

Ajay Bhutoria, community leader, said that relationship has been built by “each of you” at diverse levels like business to business, industry to industry, and people to people.

“Bay Area folks frequently have their family weddings in Rajasthan or different parts of India,” he said. “Whether it’s the backwaters of Kerala, beautiful places in Srinagar, Assam, and all the Jyotirlinga temples across the country, or the Ram temple in Ayodhya, India is a beautiful country and we should connect our friends in the US to our country and show them our culture. Yoga has become a major part of the life of every American out here.”

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