GLOBAL ORGANIZATION OF PEOPLE OF INDIAN ORIGIN (GOPIO)
P.O. Box 1413
Stamford, CT 06904, USA
Tel: 203-329-8010, Fax: 203-322-2233
GOPIO HOLDS CONVENTION, ELECTS OFFICERS
The Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) organized its Convention-2004 in New Delhi on January 7th and 8th in conjunction with Pravasi Bharatiys Divas. The program was held at the Federation House in New Delhi. Attended by over 300 delegates from 28 countries, the convention theme was "India and NRIs/PIOs - Role, Relationship and Responsibility."
The program started with the Executive Council Meeting on Jan. 7th. The outgoing president Dr. Thomas Abraham presented the state of the GOPIO and reported that the GOPIO has now reached to 22 countries with over 30 chapters. At the meeting chaired by GOPIO Chairman Ram Lakhina, GOPIO Secretary General Ashook Ramsaran provided a list of activities for the past three years, which included the Third Global Indian Entrepreneurs Conference held in New York in 2002, regional convention in Europe, participation in UN Conference Against Racism in South Africa n 2001, opening up several new chapters and taking up issues of the community including dual nationality and human rights violations. President-Elect Inder Singh took over as the president with a new GOPIO team elected as follows: Chairman - Dr. Thomas Abraham (USA), Exec. Vice President - Yesu Persaud (Guyana), European Regional VP - Jasbir Sachar (UK), Business Council Chairman - Dwarkesh Shah (German), Cultural Council chairman - Dharmatma Saran (USA).
The convention was officially inaugurated on Jan. 7th evening with the following dignitaries as speakers: N.D. Tiwari (former union minister and Chief Minister of Uttranchal), Dr. Karan Singh MP; Basdeo Panday MP (Former Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, Trinidad and Tobago).
The cultural evening and GOPIO Cultural Council was inaugurated by Panday and Ambassador Bhishma Agnihotri respectively. GOPIO has set up a Cultural Council to promote artists of Indian origin. Toward this goal, GOPIO Cultural Council will host details of artists in a website who would like to perform in countries with large NRI/PIO population. NRIs/PIOs artists as well as artists from India are encouraged to publicize their trips abroad through GOPIO Cultural Council Bulletin Board. One could send in details to firstname.lastname@example.org. Details of artists will be compiled at GOPIO website so that NRI/PIO groups in different countries can get access to their information including planned trips for the future.
The conference session on Jan. 8th started with an opening session addressed by the High Level Indian Diaspora Committee Chairman Dr. L.M. Singhvi as keynote speaker. It was followed by three sessions as follows:
(1) NRIs/PIOs Role in Business, Technology and Investments
(2) Indian Identity, Cultural Link, Rights Violations of NRIs/PIOs Outside India
(3) NRI/PIO Role in Building India's Image Outside and Involvement of NRIs/PIOs in Philanthropic, Developmental and Educational Activities in India
Each session had a keynote address followed a panel discussion. The keynote addresses were delivered by Minister of State for External Affairs Digvijay Singh, Indian Ambassador-at-large Bhishma Agnihotri and Development Alternatives president Dr. Ashok Khosla. The convention concluded with an Awards Banquet held at the Claridges Hotel where GOPIO honored seven persons of Indian origin for their outstanding services to the Indian community. The awardees were Dr. P. Jayaraman (Executive director, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, New York, USA), V. Ram (social activist and educationist, Indonesia), Raj Loomba (community activist and educationist, London), Sunny Kulathakal (community activist and publisher of Who's Who in the Gulf, Bahrain, Middle East), Pritha Singh (Indo-Guyanese, founder of Rajkumari Cultural Center), Narend Singh (Minister of Education, Culture, Sports and Recreation in the provincial government of Natal, South Africa) and K. Sital (community activist, social worker and publisher). GOPIO also presented an award to ICICI Bank for their continued services to NRIs/PIOs with the award being accepted by Mr. P. Gopakumar, Head of ICICI Bank NRI Services. US Congressman Gregory Meeks of Queens was also honored as a friend of India and NRIs/PIOs. Other dignitaries present at the Awards Banquet included former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral, Lord Navnit Dholakia (Chairman, Liberal Democrat Party in London) and Tarlochan Singh (Chairman, National Commission on Minorities). Former Trinidad PM Basdeo Panday was admitted in the GOPIO fold as an Honorary Patron of GOPIO.
GOPIO passed several resolutions at its concluding conference session as follows:
1. DUAL NATIONALITY
GOPIO international is delighted that Govt. of India has accepted the long felt demand of NRI's for Granting of Dual Nationality. GOPIO Intl., wishes to convey its appreciation and thanks to Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpai and his Govt. for taking this very important decision that will go a long way in strengthening further bonds between India and her Diaspora.
2. A NEW MINISTRY FOR OVERSEAS INDIANS
WHEREAS, people of Indian origin have been making tremendous contribution to India's development by bringing new technologies and businesses, by investing in core sectors of the economy, by contributing to India's foreign exchange reserve, by helping in areas of education, health and charitable activities. WHEREAS, the NRIs/PIOs have been instrumental in building a good image of India outside; WHEREAS, thousands of NRI/PIO individuals and organizations have been participating in the charitable and developmental activities of India; GOPIO URGES the Government of India to establish a Ministry of Overseas Indians similar to the Ministry of Overseas Chinese in China, so as to facilitate all NRI/PIO related issues and activities through this ministry.
3. RAJYA SABHA SEATS FOR NRIs
WHEREAS, people of Indian origin living outside India represent a tremendous resource in intellectual, technical, scientific, professional, economic, trade, and entrepreneurial skills with high potential and interest to contribute to the well-being and prosperity of their motherland, GOPIO URGES and Indian cabinet to appoint a few prominent NRIs (who are India citizens) as Rajya Sabha members so as to reinforce the bonds between India and the overseas NRI/PIO community.
4. VOTING RIGHTS FOR INDIAN CITIZENS LIVING OUTSIDE INDIA
WHEREAS, about 30% of the Indians living outside India are still citizens of India;
WHERAS, most of the countries provide opportunities for their citizens living outside their countries to participate in the election process of their countries
WHEREAS India is yet to establish a mechanism to provide such an opportunity for it's citizens numbering about 6 million.
GOPIO urges Government of India to initiate the process of providing voting rights, through a constitutional amendment, to Indian citizens living outside India.
5. POLITICAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS OF NRIs/PIOs
WHEREAS in some countries with large NRI/PIO population, there are instances of extraordinary levels of violations of political and human rights, GOPIO urges Govt. of India to take proactive stand in accordance with the UN Charter on Human Rights, where ever and whenever such violations occur.
6. RESTORE "NOT ORDINARILY A RESIDENT (NOR)" STATUS FROM TWO YEARS TO NINE ON GLOBAL TAX OF RETURNING NRIs/PIOS
WHEREAS GOPIO urges that the NOR global tax (under section-6-6) exemption of two years be restored back to the original nine years, that was there before the change brought on by the Finance Bill 2003. Even earlier Finance Minister had withdrawn a very similar change in 1998. Whereas GOPIO continues to feel Government is justified taxing any and all incomes generated within India by returning NRIs/PIOs, the tax exemption on global income should be reverted back to the nine-year period. This would encourage greater cooperation of 22 million NRIs/PIOs, who form a considerable national resource of global network for India's growth and development.
7. HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS OF FIJIAN INDIANS BY THE QUARASE GOVERNMENT
WHEREAS GOPIO stands for full restoration of citizenship rights of our PIO brothers and sisters in Fiji.
WHEREAS GOPIO urges the government of India to hold off granting Fiji government permission to start a High Commission in New Delhi in February 2004 until the finalization of the multiparty cabinet case and the clearing up of the constitutionality of the Quarase government. Any hasty decision will amount to Human Rights violation of 44% of the Fijian population that is of Indian origin.
8. GOPIO RESULTION ON THE FUNCTIONING OF INIDIAN DIPLOMATIC MISSIONS
WHEREAS it be resolved that the Indian diplomatic missions and its officials shall promote the harmony among PIOs and PIO-business community in their adopted country and shall not indulge in any activity that creates division and destructive atmosphere among PIOs/NRIs.
Photo 3 - GOPIO Executive Council Meeting. From L. to R.: GOPIO Exec. VP Yesu Persaud (Guyana), Incoming President Inder Singh (USA), Outgoing Chairman Ram Lakhina (Netherlands), Incoming Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham (USA), and GOPIO Secretary General Ashook Ramsaran.
Photo 5 - Inauguration of GOPIO Convention 2004 - From L. to R.: GOPIO New Delhi President K.N. Gupta, Dr. Thomas Abraham, Dr. Karan Singh, Inder Singh, Ashok Malhotra, Uttrachal CM N.D. Tiwari, Ram Lakhina and Jagdish Makwana.