A new programme is set to put youngsters of Punjabi origin in touch with their ancestry. Athira Suresh attended the launch
Connect with Your Roots, an initiative that aims to foster emotional and cultural links between youngsters of Punjabi origin and their heritage, was launched by Captain Amarinder Singh, the Chief Minister of the Indian State of Punjab, at the High Commission of India in London on 13 September, in the presence of various dignitaries.
Set to be funded by the Punjab government, the scheme targets 16 to 22-year-olds from the Punjabi diaspora community who have never been to Punjab before, giving them an opportunity to discover realities about the state and allowing them to visit the places where their parents and grandparents were born or spent their early years.
The programme will select fifteen youngsters from around the world once every two months. Those selected will stay in Punjab for two weeks and visit tourist attractions such as the Golden Temple, the Indo-Pak border at Wagah, Jallianwala Bagh and the Bhagat Singh memorial, among others. They will be introduced to traditional delicacies from around the state and will also have the chance to interact with their counterparts at universities in Punjab. The Chief Minister said that the Punjab government will cover all the youngsters’ expenses whilst they are in Punjab.
Captain Singh expressed a firm belief that connecting with their roots would help these young people in the long-term. From his own experiences while interacting with youngsters from the Punjabi diaspora, he felt that most of them were not fully aware of the ground realities in India and were largely misinformed about India in general and Punjab in particular. These wrong impressions needed to be corrected, said the Chief Minister, and he was confident that this would happen when the youngsters gained first-hand experience while visiting the state.
The Indian High Commission will be responsible for promoting the programme to the Punjabi community in the UK. In the initial period, only young people belonging to UK’s Punjabi diaspora community will be chosen for the scheme, though it will gradually spread to countries that boast strong Punjabi diaspora communities, including the US, Canada and European countries such as Italy and Germany.
Connect with Your Roots is expected to start as early as October this year. The initiative is the first of its kind by any state government in India, said Captain Singh, and he planned to advise the Indian government to incorporate similar schemes for other diaspora communities.