||November 20, 2007
November 20, 2007A Publication of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO)
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DIWALI HONORED AND CELEBRATED BY VARIOUS GOVERNMENTS
NRIs/PIOs celebrated Diwali all over the world. Several Western governments recognized the celebrations with resolutions, programs in their parliaments and centers of power around the world.
US CONGRESS PASSES RESOLUTION HONORING DIWALI
The US House of Representatives has for the first time passed a resolution recognizing the "religious and historical significance" of Diwali. The House Resolution 747, passed by an overwhelming vote of 358 to 0 (with 66 members abstaining), "is the first time the US Congress has ever passed a resolution in honor of Diwali", said Joe Wilson, the co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans. The US Senate also passed a similar resolution honoring Diwali unanimously.
THE WHITE HOUSE CELEBRATES DIWALI
With the usual fanfare and gusto, Diwali was celebrated at The White House fifth year in a row at the ornate Indian Treaty Room on Wednesday, November 7, 2007 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 Noon.
The invocation for the event was offered by Dr. P. Jayaraman, a well-known scholar and poet of Hindi and Tamil and the Founding Executive Director of Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, New York. The chanting of the mantras and shlokas and a brief discourse on the relevance of Diwali Celebration in today's world were extremely timely.
The lighting of the Diya ceremony was conducted by Dr. Jayaraman, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Under Secretary Nicholas Burns, and Community Representatives Dr. Piyush C. Agrawal and Dr. Akshay Desai.
The festivities took place in the Indian Treaty Room of the White House and was attended by the Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns among others. Senior US officials praised the current state of relationship between both countries and are also hopeful for the potential in further growth over the years. The senior US officials are hopeful the civilian nuclear deal would come to fruition which will then have a bearing on other aspects of the Indo-US relations.
Special Assistant to the President Brian McCormack welcomed the guests and expressed his immense pleasure that this is the fifth time this event is being held at The White House. He invited the guests to enjoy this special occasion of Diwali celebrations at the White House.
President Bush in his massage said, "I send greetings to those celebrating Deepavali (Diwali), the Festival of Lights. Light is an enduring symbol of hope and holds deep, spiritual significance for people everywhere. During Diwali, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and many others in India and around the world will light lamps in celebration, symbolizing the victory of good over evil. This festival brings together family and friends and helps ensure rich traditions are passed on to future generations. Diwali is also an opportunity to celebrate the bonds of friendship between India and the United States. The lights of Diwali remind us to work together to build a brighter future for all. Laura and I send our best wishes for a happy Diwali. May the year ahead be filled with hope and blessings."
Diya Lighting Ceremony at the White House. From L. to R. Dr. Sampat Shivangi, Dr. Piyush Agrawal, Dr. P Jayaraman, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Dr. Akshay Desai
Secretary Paulson, who recently returned from a visit to India wondered aloud "What a great country India is!" and emphasized that India's "economy is extraordinary." During his discussions in India with leadership and the policy makers, he proposed to make Mumbai a "front office" financial center rather than a "back office" financial center and USA was willing to cooperate with India in this venture.
After commenting on the US-India Nuclear deal (see more details in the next story) and increasing cooperation between the two countries, Ambassador Burns in his concluding remarks offered some thoughts on the meaning of Diwali and the symbolic importance of the celebration. Diwali, he said, underscores much of what the United States and India have in common. He noted in particular that Diwali symbolizes the triumph of good over evil, and thus speaks to universal human hopes and values. He also emphasized the fact that there are different versions of the historical-religious events underlying Diwali. This underscores the importance of cultural pluralism, he explained, noting that an epic can have many versions, which are still part of the same story.
What was most interesting about his speech was that he briefly summarized the Ramayana and connected the historical belief of Ram's return to Ayodhya with the celebration of Diwali. He highlighted the importance of Diwali that the Bush Administration has placed on its celebration and the fact that it is being celebrated at the world's "Seat of Power - The White House" is an indication of commitment of USA to its Indian citizens. Indians are everywhere and therefore Diwali is celebrated everywhere.
The music befitting the occasion, Ganesh Vandana and Laxmi Vandana, was rendered by Pandita Tripti Mukherjee, Hindustani classical vocalist and illustrious disciple of Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj, accompanied by Bidisha Ghosh and Raje Shree Dave, and tabla player Aditya Banerjee.
About 200 guests were treated with delicious delicacies famous for the occasion. Sweets were distributed to the guests. It was indeed a festive occasion. Decorations were done by Jyoti Soni of Go Celebrations and Snacks were arranged by Kamal Arora of Moghul Catering, both of New Jersey.
The White House Diwali Celebration event for this year was coordinated by Vishal Amin, Associate Director in The White House Speechwriting Office and Asian and Pacific American Liaison and Dr. Piyush Agrawal, National Coordinator for USA of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO).
CANADIAN PARLIAMENT CELEBRATES DIWALI
On 1st November 2007 Pandit Roopnauth Sharma, the Hindu spiritual leader led a group of nine priests from Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, who all together chanted Vedic mantras at the parliament house. Celebrating Diwali at Canada's Parliament Hill, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said India's pluralistic and democratic traditions were an example for the world to follow. Traditional puja was performed at a colorful ceremony in Ottawa, in which besides Harper, Stephen Dion, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament and R.L. Narayan, the High Commissioner of India to Canada participated.
Over 500 Indo-Canadians dressed in their traditional attire from nine Indo-Canadian organizations participated in the function. This special ceremony was attended also by over 50 members of parliament, 20 Ambassadors and High Commissioners from different parts of world. The inaugural festival lamp was lighted by Harper. Harper commended India's cultural heritage and its commitment to linguistic, ethnic and spiritual pluralism.
"India has amassed a millennia-old history of linguistic, ethnic, and spiritual pluralism. Such diversity has, at times, posed significant challenges for India and complemented the country in successfully meeting the challenge," he said.
"India is making a determined effort to alleviate tensions and reconcile interests through its democratic institutions. Where far too many other countries have failed, India is succeeding," the Prime Minister said while celebrating the Hindu festival of lights last night.
Harper said that the world could learn lessons how India and Canada has fostered peaceful, prosperous, pluralistic society while eschewing the age-old conflicts that detract from them, and seeking a common future for the generations yet to come.
He said India was a model for Canada as a democratic country that brings together varied languages and cultures. "Today we are celebration one of our country's greatest strengths -- our commitment to pluralism."
Speaking on the occasion, Narayan said the festival celebrated the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance.
Deepak Obhrai, member of Parliament, said Diwali was not a festival of Hindus only but of humanity because it symbolized victory of truth over evil that was preached by every religion.
TRAFALGAR SQUARE IN LONDON LIGHTED FOR DIWALI
The historic Trafalgar Square in London came alive with the sights and sounds of India on Sunday as thousands of people gathered to witness the annual Diwali spectacle organized by the Mayor of London. For most of the time during the celebrations, the enthusiastic audience - both British Asians and hundreds of tourists - braved rain to enjoy Indian food and music. The event had a hybrid feel to it as east met west and Bollywood dances mixed with American hip-hop.
Prominent among the songs that people danced to were from films such as "Chak De India", "Dhoom" and "Bunty Aur Babli". Organizers put up 'diyas' (earthen lamps) and lanterns in the fountains in the square while some participating groups distributed red boxes of Indian sweets. The event, that included Indian dances such as garba and bharatnatyam, ran from midday Sunday until 8 pm.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone said: "Diwali is an important occasion for London's Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, and represents the power of good to triumph over evil, a theme that has relevance for all of London's communities, because it signifies the value of co-operation and mutual respect between peoples of differing faiths and backgrounds. On this joyous occasion, I wish everyone a happy and prosperous Diwali."
Trafalgar Square, in the heart of London, is one of the city's most vibrant open spaces dotted with statues and fountains. Home to the towering Nelson's Column that commemorates British victory in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, the square is rich in history and provides a platform for artistic performances and events.
JOHANNESBURG CELEBRATED DIWALI
South Africans from diverse backgrounds came together to celebrate Diwali in Johannesburg. There was dance, song and lots of feasting. The Newtown Diwali Festival 2007, hosted by the city of Johannesburg, showcased Indian song, music and dance. Famous Indo-fusion bands Strings and Skins and Friends, as well as the Johannesburg-based classical music and dance group Saptaswara, performed at the event.
A fashion show by local designers was one of the major attractions of the event. Threads in Time, an exhibition of textiles and crafts from India hosted by the consul-general of India, showcased the many rich and luxuriant weaving and textile traditions from around India. Nestle came on board and 14 women were selected to prepare Indian sweetmeats.
This year's festival also saw a wide variety of Indian traditional food and retail stalls, dance workshops, children's art workshops and the Lotus FM Bollywood Street Party, hosted by a full line-up of Lotus FM's most popular DJs.
The festival is the result of cooperation between corporate and the local government embracing the opportunity to build multicultural bridges and encourage grassroots participation across the various communities.
|INDIAN AMERICANS AND THE WHITE HOUSE HOPEFUL ON NUCLEAR DEAL
At the White House ceremony to celebrate Diwali, Indian Americans also exchanged their views with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns. When people asked him in India about his opinion on the US-India Civic Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, he categorically stated that it was in the interest of both countries: USA & India. He observed that there has never been such a close cooperation between India and USA as is now. Under the Bush Administration, the largest number of Indians has been appointed in the Government.
He also offered words of praise for the Indian-American community. Indian-Americans, he stated, have held onto their cultural heritage, but have nevertheless managed to integrate themselves into the fabric of American society, which in his view has been greatly enriched by the contributions of Indian culture.
Secretary Paulson stated that President Bush greatly values Indian-American relations, and noted the Bush Administration's strong view that the U.S.-India civil nuclear deal would promote the interests of both countries. He expressed hope that the deal would move forward while affirming the United States Government's respect for India's democratic processes. Notwithstanding the uncertain fate of the deal, he observed, relations between the United States and India have never been as good as they are today. In particular, Secretary Paulson noted considerable cooperation in areas such as agriculture, counterterrorism, and education. The Diwali function, he concluded, offered an opportune moment in which to renew the bonds between our two countries
Under Secretary Burns the chief US negotiator on the US-India Civic Nuclear Cooperation Agreement and a Senior Foreign Service Officer who has recently traveled to India eight times talking about US-India relations said, "How much we appreciate this US India friendship!" despite many differences of culture, religion and ethnicity. He fondly praised the Indian Community in USA and lauded its achievement. He noted that the Indian community is a "living bridge" between India and USA.
He refrained from commenting on the discussions going on in India on the nuclear deal, as it was an internal matter to be resolved by India. But he saw the US-India Civic Nuclear Cooperation Agreement as a "breaking the shield" phenomenon that has kept India outside of the Nuclear Community for so long. He predicted that the United States and India won't be allied on every issue, but will nevertheless forge a strong partnership in the coming years. He cited as an example the ongoing effort to conclude a civil-nuclear energy deal, which he believed to be in the best interests of both countries.
He noted that cooperative agreements like that would further promote more cooperation between the two countries in fields as varied as Space Exploration and Research to New Green Revolution in Agriculture resulting in more trade and investments.
|PRAVASI BHARATIYA DIVAS THEME ANNOUNCED - REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN
THEME - ENGAGING THE INDIAN DIASPORA FOR INDIA'S SOCIAL PROGRESS
The sixth PBD is also projected as a platform where issues of social concern of regional diaspora groups could be discussed in details. There will be parallel sessions of different regions - such as Gulf and the Middle East, Asia Pacific, Africa, USA etc - where there is significant Indian presence.
The Indian government will now seek the 25-million strong diaspora's help in the social development of the country, said Vayalar Ravi, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA). The sixth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), the annual conference of the non-resident Indians that will take place Jan 7-9, will focus on education, healthcare, empowerment of rural women and knowledge economy, the minister said.
"The focus will be on social areas and issues with special emphasis on women, including rural women," Minister Ravi said.
He said the focus of the last five PBDs had been to attract investment from the overseas Indians rather than their ideas and skills. "The investment or money has not been forthcoming. Therefore, we decided that we will not ask for any investment this year but seek partnership from NRIs for philanthropic projects."
The ministry has mooted the idea for establishing 'India Development Foundation' (IDF), which would be act like a "single window clearance system" to channel the investments - both small and large - ideas, skills and technology for around 6,000 rural blocks across the country.
"The potential investors - it could be anyone who wants to do something for his or her village or district - could approach the IDF and it would guide him to implement the plan without going through the red tapes," Ravi said.
The PBD, being organized jointly by MOIA and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), will focus on micro-finance institutions at the block level and the health sector. "After much thought and research, we found that these were the sectors that could attract a lot of interest from the NRI community," Ravi said.
A highlight of the PBD would be the 'market place' organised by the Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre (OIFC), where the potential investor and the Indian businessmen could meet and discuss to establish joint ventures.
"It will be a side event and will involve providing B2B partnerships and answering queries to overseas Indians by eminent knowledge partners of the OIFC. It will be a unique opportunity to find a one-stop shop for answering queries of overseas Indians especially in the real estate, wealth management and taxation," said a ministry official.
Parvasi Bharatiya Divas is the annual flagship event of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) which aims to connect more 25 Million Indians with India's Economic and Social development. The Ministry is organizing Sixth edition of the PBD on 8th -9th January, 2008 in New Delhi.
The online Registration for PBD-2008 is now open through the website www.pbdindia.org.
The ministry official in a communiqué has suggested to those who want participate to register early to avoid any inconvenience related to accommodation and other arrangement at a much later date.
|KNOW INDIA PROGRAM FOR NRI/PIO YOUTH
The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) has been organizing the Know India Program (KIP) in order to associate the younger generation of the Indian Diaspora closely with India. Seven such programs have been organized till now. The KIP provides a unique forum for students and younger professionals of Indian origin to share their views, expectations and experience to bond closely with contemporary India. The programs have been greatly appreciated by the participants.
The 8th Program in the series is being held from 26th December, 2007 - 18th January, 2008. The program will be organized in partnership with the Government of Tamil Nadu and with the logistical support of Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
The Program involving about 40 foreign participants of Indian origin consisting of professionals and students of the age group of 18-26 from various countries will commence from Tamil Nadu. Selected participants are to arrive in Chennai on 26th December. A variety of programs are being arranged in Tamil Nadu and Delhi, highlights of which are calls on dignitaries, visits to places of cultural, rural and industrial interest in both Tamil Nadu and Delhi. The participants will be brought to Delhi from Chennai where they will also participate in the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) to be held from 7-9 January, 2008 and visit Agra. They will return to their respective countries from Delhi on 18th January, 2008.
Broad guidelines for the Program are given below:
(i) The participant should have distinguished himself/herself in a particular field, should have abiding interest in India and links with India through parentage.
(ii) The participants should be in the age group of 18-26.
(iii) Applications for participation may be made in the attached pro-forma which should be complete in all respects including photographs and should be forwarded through the nearest Indian Mission/Consulate. Nominations from the Mission/Consulate have to reach this Ministry by 10th December, 2007. Nominations received after 10th December will not be accepted.
(iv) The participants will have to pay for their international travel costs from their respective countries and back. An amount equivalent to one-way fare by the cheapest class will be reimbursed to them by the Missions after ensuring proof of participation. The Ministry/State Government will bear the expenditure on internal travel, boarding, lodging etc. A per diem allowance of Rs.100/- per day will also be paid to the participants as out-of-pocket allowance.
(v) The participants should not have participated in any previous KIP.
For more information you may contact the nearest Indian Mission/Consulate, their websites and the MOIA website - www.moia.gov.in. Participants may also contact Director(DS)/Under Secretary (DS-I), directly at e-mails: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com respectively.
|US NANOTECHIES FORM THE INDUS NANOTECHNOLOGY ASSOCIAITON
Indian Americans are increasingly contributing to the new generation technologies and particularly in nanotechnology which is expected to transform our lives in a significant way. At a Nanotechnology and Nano-Bio Convergence conference organized in conjunction with CHEM SHOW 2007 at the Javits Convention Center in New York City, of the 14 invited speakers, seven of them were Indian Americans from academic, research, government and industry. The conference held on November 31st was organized by Dr. Thomas Abraham, President of Innovative Research and Products (iRAP), Inc., a Stamford, CT firm conducting industry and market analysis of new generation technologies.
Nanotechnology is being termed by many as the "next big thing" among the emerging technologies. Literally, "nano-" represents 0.000000001, or 10-9, an extremely small quantity with enormous implications for the miniaturization-driven technology of the twenty-first century. The US National Science Foundation has estimated the nanotechnology enabled market to reach $1 trillion by 2015.
The keynote speaker was Prof. P. Somasundaran, LaVon Duddleson Krumb Professor of Mineral Engineering and Director, NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Novel Surfactants, Columbia University, New York, NY who spoke on challenges in nanotechnology and opportunities for new materials. Other Indian American speakers included Dr. Brij Moudgil, Distinguished Professor and Alumni Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Director of Particle Engineering Research Center, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL; Prof. S.V. Babu, Distinguished University Professor and Director, Center for Advanced Materials Processing (CAMP), Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY; Dr. Shubhas Malgan, Deputy Director, Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories, Center for Devices and Radiological Health of the US Food and Drug Administration; Dr. Ganesh Skandan, CEO, NEI Corporation, Somerset, NJ; and Dr. Challa Kumar, Group Leader, Nanofabrication, Center for Advanced Microstructures and Devices, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA. Dr. Abraham also spoke on the emerging nanotechnology markets at the pre-conference workshop on October 30th.
With large number of Indian American professionals in the nanotechnology industry, a group of US Nanotechies have decided to form The Indus Nanotechnology Association (TINA), which will have not only entrepreneurs and businessmen, but also researchers, technologists and investors. Since the Nanotechnology along with related fields such as Nanomaterials, Nano-Bio Convergence, Nanoelectronics, Nanomedicine and other areas are growing leaps and bound, the Indian American group assembled at the conference felt that there are opportunities to organize this area for mutual benefits of its members.
US Nanotechies at the launch of The Indus Nanotechnology Association (TINA) in New York City. From L. to R.: Dr. Challa Kumar, Prof. Brij M. Moudgil, Dr. Thomas Abraham, Prof. P. Somasundaran, Dr. Ganesh Skandan and Prof. S.V. Babu
The new group will provide a platform for Indian origin nanotechnology researchers, technologists, entrepreneurs and investors to exchange ideas and provide networking opportunities among the nanotechnology professionals so as to advance the field and create new areas of business. It will also create interactive and cooperative efforts between nanotechnology professionals and entrepreneurs living outside India with their counterparts in India. The new group will organize international and regional meetings to promote new technologies and to provide opportunities for technology developers to meet with potential investors.
The group's initiators are: Dr. Abraham, Prof. Somasundaran, Prof. Moudgil, Prof. Babu, Dr. Skandan and Dr. Kumar. It will be coordinated by Dr. Abraham who can be reached at 203-569-7909 or E-mail: Indus.nanotech@Innoresearch.net.
UAE GOVT. OPENS HOTLINE FOR TROUBLED WORKERS
A hotline to help workers in trouble has been opened by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government, shortly after the cabinet's call for a review of construction workers' salaries and living and working conditions. The Permanent Committee of Labour Affairs (PCLA) has set up the hotline following a meeting with representatives of contracting companies whose workers were involved in labour demonstrations recently which had turned violent. Workers in trouble can call the number and seek assistance from PCLA officials.
Of the approximately 1.5 million Indians in the UAE, many are working as contract workers in this Gulf nation's booming construction industry.
"The (contracting) companies have responded positively and urged PCLA officials to pay regular visits to the labour accommodations and suggest improvements, if any," PCLA head and director of Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD) Brigadier Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri told the Khaleej Times. He said that the PCLA, in cooperation with the construction firms, planned to raise awareness about the committee and its role.
"We want the workers to recognise our logo and that officials bearing the PCLA logo on their uniforms are their well-wishers who will perform the role of a mediator between the workers and the employers," Al Marri said. He added that several PCLA officials have already been positioned in offices near labour camps in Al Quoz, Al Ghusais and Jebel Ali areas in Dubai to ensure that the officials are easily accessible in times of need.
Last month, around 4,000 workers of a local engineering firm took to the streets demanding better salaries, accommodation and transport services. The protest turned violent near the Jebel Ali port area near here, when police tried to stop the workers. Ninety Indians were among the 159 workers who were later charged with becoming violent during the protest. The UAE authorities are initiating strict action against them.
According to Al Marri, a special campaign would be launched through posters, pamphlets and documentary films, in cooperation with diplomatic missions, to make the workers aware of the role of the PCLA and its efforts to resolve their problems.
|LABOUR MP VAZ SAYS BRITISH JOB SLOGAN PROMOTES APARTHEID
A leading NRI Labour Member of Parliament in the UK has criticized Prime Minister Gordon Brown's slogan "British jobs for British workers," charging that it amounts to "employment apartheid."
MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said that Britain's treaty obligations meant the pledge could not be met and that it was "a false attempt to answer to right-wing propaganda."
Vaz said he was horrified at the rise in "racist comments." "I am concerned that ideas such as 'British jobs for British people' may only serve to worsen this situation," he said, pointing out that about 800,000 Britons were working abroad, only 300,000 fewer than the estimated 1.1 million migrants employed in this country.
Vaz, a former European Minister, set out his criticisms during a Commons debate on immigration policy. "I worry about this statement," he said, adding "It lacks credible arguments and some have suggested that it appears to amount to little more than employment apartheid.
"It assumes that foreign workers are somehow stealing jobs from UK workers, an idea for which there is absolutely no evidence. "It also raises the question -- how do you ensure jobs are going to British people and what do you classify as British.
GOPIO INTERNATIONAL AND CHAPTER NEWS
GOPIO SCHEDULES ITS ANNUAL MEETING IN NEW DELHI
GOPIO International is planning to hold its annual executive and general council meetings, followed by its conference starting on January 6 and concluding on January immediately preceding Pravasi Bharatiya Divas events of January 8 - 9, 2008.
The program schedule is as follows:
January 6, 2008: Executive and council meetings, country reports and seminars on Investment in Real Estate Properties in India and NRI Issues in Holding on to Real Estate Properties, followed by the GOPIO's Community Service Awards Banquet.
January 7, 2008: GOPIO Conference - Education Summit: Education for the Masses in India: Role of NRIs/PIOs.
For more information and details, contact: Inder Singh, President of GOPIO International at firstname.lastname@example.org.
GOPIO INVITES NOMINATIONS FOR ITS 2008 COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARDS
GOPIO International is planning to hold its annual Community Service Awards Banquet on January 6, 2008 in New Delhi preceding GOPIO's conference on January 7 and Pravasi Bharatiya Divas events of January 8 - 9, 2008. The GOPIO Community Service Awards (GOPIO CSA) are given for outstanding community service, public service and/or significant charitable or philanthropic contributions of benefit to the community.
Nominations of suitable qualified candidates are requested for consideration by GOPIO CSA Selection Committee. For details of GOPIO CSA criteria and format for submission of nominations, visit www.gopio.net/
Nominations are to be submitted by December 5, 2007 to the attention of Ashook Ramsaran, Secretary General of GOPIO International at email@example.com.
GOPIO-CT DIWALI MELA A GRAND SUCCESS
GOPIO Connecticut Chapter celebrated the Festival of Lights -- Diwali 2007 in Stamford on 3rd November at the University of Connecticut. The campus was festively decorated for the occasion. Coordinated by the Diwali Celebration Committee consisting of Louella D'Silva (Chair), Sara Tierno, Sushan Joshua and Angela Govila, it was a sold out event attended by almost 400 members of the community.
The evening started with children's activities including face painting, mehndi, magic show and games. The tiny tots stole the show and set the festive tone for the evening with their charming musical rendition of "Happy Diwali."
This was followed by Garba and Raas dance performances by the local youth. The Bollywood fusion and Bhangra dance groups had the audience tapping and shaking to their music and moves.
Sangeeta Ahuja, President of the GOPIO-CT chapter thanked every one for participating in the celebration and said "Diwali is a great time to recharge and renew friendships. It is also a good time to strengthen family values". She thanked the Prudential Financial and Kitchens of India who were the main sponsors of the event.
Celebration chairperson D'Silva said, "It was really nice to see so many people from our community come together to celebrate. We are happy that the event was sold out and hope to have a bigger venue next year. As our community in this area is growing, we need to organize events that involve the whole family."
Several vendors had their products for display. The event had a true feeling of a Diwali Mela. After a sumptuous dinner, the dance floor was packed with guests dancing to the beats of Bollywood until closing. This was the largest Diwali gathering in southern Fairfield County in recent memory. It was a wonderful way to celebrate the Diwali season in a safe and fun environment with the whole family.
GOPIO-CT Festival of Lights Organizers: From L. to R.: GOPIO Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham, Susan Joshua, Sara Tierno, Louella D'Silva, GOPIO-CT President Sangeeta Ahuja, Kathy Harrison of U.Conn and Angela Govila
GOPIO-CT also concluded a Mini Indian Film Festival on November 16-18 at the University CT auditorium. It was chaired by Rameela Patel.
On December 6th, GOPIO-CT is hosting its annual holiday party and dinner talk. The speaker is Dr. S.N. Sridhar, Professor of Linguistics and Chair of the Department of Asian and American Studies, and Chairman of Center for Indian Studies at Stony Brook University, Long Island. The topic is "India's Contribution to World Civilization." It will be held at Meera Restaurant in Stamford starting at 6.30 p.m.
Contact: GOPIO-CT President Sangeeta Ahuja firstname.lastname@example.org (203) 329-9744.
|INDIAN DOCTORS WIN LEGAL BATTLE IN U.K.
Indian doctors on HSMP (Highly Skilled Migrant Program) visas wishing to train or work in Britain won a major court ruling in their favor on November 9, 2007. The High Court's Friday ruling treating Indian and other international doctors on par with British and European Union doctors for purposes of employment is seen as the first legal rebuff to Prime Minister Gordon Brown's populist promise of "British jobs for British workers".
The court case revolved around a challenge to a Health Ministry guidance that would have compelled prospective employers - such as hospitals - to discriminate against non-European candidates, first by establishing that their skills were not found in Europe and then, if selected, to apply for work permits for them.
In a unanimous ruling, three judges of the Appeals Court called the Ministry guidance "illegal," sparking instant celebrations among campaigners of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) on Diwali day. "This is a great ruling. We are absolutely ecstatic, and feel exuberant," BAPIO's Dr. Sheethal Mathew said. "Our doctors from India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka will now be able to compete with European doctors on an equal footing. Employers cannot discriminate against us now," he said.
The ruling is expected to immediately benefit some 10-15,000 doctors of South Asian origin, who are living in Britain and have been eagerly awaiting the outcome of the case.
However, the campaigners lost a second challenge - against the British government's abrupt changes to the Highly Skilled Migrant Program last year. The BAPIO challenged the changes on the grounds that their members were not consulted. But Mathew said the BAPIO would not take any further legal action.
Amidst the cheer over the ruling, Indian doctors are also sounding a note of caution. The ruling removes a restriction to employment but they believe that doctors from India wishing to move to Britain should continue to think several times before doing so, for several reasons.
For one, the pool of employable people has grown exponentially due to higher numbers of overseas doctors clearing the mandatory pre-employment tests such as the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test.
Secondly, more numbers of British medical graduates are turning out every year due to higher investment in enlarging the student capacity in medical schools in the last 10 years. Many of them find it difficult to gain employment in the NHS.
|INDIAN AMERICANS WIN ASSEMBLY AND OTHER ELECTIONS
In the elections held early this month, New Jersey assembly Upendra Chivukula retained his assembly seat, winning it for fourth consecutive time. Chivukula is the Deputy Speaker of the New Jersey assembly and chair of the telecommunications and utilities committee, won on the Democrat ticket from the 17th district, which has a seven percent South Asian population.
Others who won the election are: Sudhanshu Prasad winning a seat to the Edison, New Jersey council, Rajiv Prasad retaining his seat in the Franklin township council and V.J. Pradhan winning from New York's Rockland County.
In the Edison city council elections, Sudhanshu Prasad, who practices internal medicine, won a seat to the New Jersey's Edison council in a township with a 30 percent Indian population.
In New York's Rockland County, three-time legislator V.J. Pradhan, a dentist, was returned unopposed.
INDIAN AMERICAN MENU KHATOR TO HEAD UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON
Indian-American Menu Khator has become the first person of Indian origin to be appointed as the head of the prestigious University of Houston (UH), which has more than 56,000 students on its rolls.
Khator, who was the sole finalist for the position, was unanimously appointed to be the next UH president during a special board meeting yesterday, the governing board for the University has confirmed. Khator, 52, is expected to assume the chancellor role by January.
"We have found an incredible person to lead this University and this system into 21st century," said Welcome W Wilson Sr, Chairman of UH Board Of Regents.
Khator, provost of University of South Florida (USF), will replace Jay Gogue, who left in March to become the president of Auburn University, his alma mater.
Born and raised in India in a small town of Uttar Pradesh to a family of lawyers, Khator came to the US as a teenager, the wife of a graduate student she met 10 days before their arranged marriage. She later followed him to USF, accepted a temporary faculty position there and began to climb the administrative ladder.
Khator's early interests were in education, but she could only finish her bachelors in India. She cried and went on a hunger strike after learning of her arranged marriage to a stranger, believing her dream of a master's degree had ended.
THREE HONORED BY INDIAN SENIORS GROUP
A GOPIO initiated group, the National Indo-American Association for Senior Citizens (NIAASC) at its eighth Annual General Body meeting and 14th full-day conference honored two distinguished Community leaders and one Indian-American organization for their commitment and service to the Indian American community, during a day-long event held at the Kerala Center in Elmont, NY on Saturday, October 27, 2007.
The three honorees were: Raj Razdan, Executive Director of Senior Citizens Program Inc. based in Atlanta, Georgia; India Association of Long Island (headed by Dr. Binod K. Verma), a 32-year old organization with senior program initiated in 2000 currently running at two sites; and Dr. S.N. Sridhar, chairman of Asian and Asian American Studies and Founder of Center for India Studies at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
The honorees were introduced to the audience by the three 2006 honorees, Ardaman Singh Madan, Jain Center of America, and Dr. Thomas Abraham. Dr. Sridhar as Keynote Speaker gave an excellent and comprehensive presentation on "India's Contributions to World Civilization" and he outlined them in all possible fields: Religion, Philosophy, Politics and Ethics, Arts and Architecture, Music, Dance and Cinema, Fashion and Cuisine, Science and Math, Technology, Medicine and Yoga, Town Planning, Literature and Linguistics, and Mythology.
The conference addressed Issues of Single Seniors facilitated by Dr. Ashwin Pandya, NIAASC President, with an eloquent presentation by Dr. Annie Koshi, Retired Professor of City University and NIAASC Board member. Their efforts along with those of Meena Modak have resulted in the creation of "Single Seniors of Indian Heritage Club." The other subject of the conference was "Retirement Housing for Seniors of Indian Origin - An Update" by Iggy Ignatius, Founder of Webpack. Mr. Ignatius had spoken on the same subject at NIAASC conference in April 2007 and he gave an update of his efforts in procuring land in New Jersey for a 70 units Bharat Vilas complex, as well as his productive meeting with the officials of Galloway Township. He also reflected on his meetings with various senior groups in California, Florida, and Washington D.C.
Rajeshwar Prasad, Conference Coordinator and Executive Director of NIAASC, pointed out that about a dozen organizations are represented at this event.
GOPIO SECRETARY GENERAL RAMSARAN HONORED BY ST. JOHN'S UNIVERSITY
St. John's University's Center on Caribbean and Latin American Studies (CLACS) honored Guyanese born Ashook Ramsaran for his extra-ordinary civic and humanitarian efforts, and presented a plaque of recognition to him at the President's Room at the campus in Queens, New York November 15, 2007. The event was a special luncheon attended by several prominent faculty members of various disciplines at St. John's University, as well as Ramsaran's family members, including his wife Camille, son Arnold and daughter-in-law Nadira. Also in attendance was Dr Jagat Motwani, Chairman of GOPIO's Academic Council, and Deo Gosine, board member of Indo-Caribbean Council.
The special tribute was in recognition of the contribution of time, talent and resources by Ashook Ramsaran in civic matters both at the local community level and globally as well. In addition to his responsibilities as president of Ramex, Inc., his own electronics design and manufacturing company in College Point, Queens, Ramsaran devotes substantial amounts of time on civic matters. He is the Secretary General of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO International), board member officer of Fresh Meadows Civic Association, advisory board member of St. John's University's Center on Caribbean and Latin American Studies (CLACS), and active in several other organizations. Dr Alina Camacho-Gingerich, Chair of Center on Caribbean and Latin American Studies (CLACS) at St. John's University, complimented Ramsaran and spoke of the excellent beneficial relationship between CLACS and Ashook Ramsaran.
Dr Camacho-Gingerich briefly described how Ramsaran works productively in collaboration with St. John's CLACS: To develop and coordinate global conferences on Indian Diaspora issues: "Coping In America: Caribbean East Indians in the USA" (1999); "Human Rights Experiences of Indians" (2004); In collaboration with New York City's Mayor Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) conference on "Caribbean East Indians in New York: The Journey Continues" (Event held as part of New York City Immigrant Week (April 16-20, 2007); and a conference on "Inter Ethnic Relationship and Common Areas for Collaboration for Mutual Benefits" to be held as part "of New York City Immigrant Week, April 14-18, 2008); "Regional Community Dialogue" in Guyana in conjunction with the 170th anniversary of Indian arrival in Guyana (May 3-5, 2008).
Ashook Ramsaran and Dr Alina Camacho-Gingerich of St. John's University.
It was also announced that The Ashook K. Ramsaran Scholarship has been established at St. John's University and funded by Ramsaran for deserving students in Caribbean and Latin American studies at St John's University in New York. Selection of recipients will be made by a committee consisting of Ramsaran and Chair of the Center on Caribbean and Latin American Studies (CLACS) at St. John's University.
FOUR INDIAN AMERICANS RECEIVE RHODES SCHOLARSHIP
Of the 32 Rhodes scholars selected this year, four are Indian Americans who will be studying at Oxford. Among the four, three are of Indian origin and one is an Indo-Caribbean American from Trinidad. Each will receive about $45,000 in funding per year for two or three years.Past Rhodes scholars from America who have studied at Oxford University include president Bill Clinton, the newly elected Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and the eminent surgeon and bestselling writer Atul Gawande.
The four PIOs are Ishanaa N. Rambachan, Pravin S. Rajan(who's a Marine training to go to Iraq and Afghanistan), Shayak Sarkarand Deep J. Shah.
Ishanaa N. Rambachan, Apple Valley, Minnesota, the daughter of PIO parents from Trinidad, is a senior at St. Olaf College where she majors in political science and economics. Ishanaa is chair of the student senate and active in college and Twin Cities political organizations. She has strong interests in international development and has studied or worked in Turkey, Egypt, and with an NGO in microcredit and women's empowerment in India. She has written about discrimination against the Hindu diaspora and about caste abuses in India. She plans to do the M.Phil. in development studies at Oxford.
Pravin S. Rajan, Albuquerque,New Mexico, graduated from Georgetown University in 2007 with majors in science, technology and international relations. He served as class marshall and as president of the student body. He has written an article on "Muslim Brotherhood" that has been accepted for publication and has researched terrorist movements in 20 countries. He is now a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps and will enter training to become a Marine Infantry Officer in Iraq. In the winter, he will work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan. Pravin plans to do a D.Phil. in international relations at Oxford.
Shayak Sarkar, Edinburg, Texas, received his B.A. in applied mathematics at Harvard in June, where he also graduated with a master's in statistics. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior and won a prize for his thesis on America's homeless children. He is interested in applying his analytic skills in mathematics, statistics and economics to the problems of poverty, and especially affordable housing and education reform. Already very active in community service, Shayak intends to do a doctorate in evidence-based social work at Oxford. Shayak Sarkar, who has served as the treasurer of the Phillips Brooks House, the centre for service and activism at Harvard and managed an annual budget of over $1 million and also served as a director of the only student-run homeless shelter in America.
Deep J. Shah, Duluth, Georgia, is a senior at the University of Georgia where he majors in international affairs and biology. A Truman Scholar with a perfect academic record across a wide range of disciplines, Deep has publications in both public policy and biochemistry. He founded the University's first student think tank, has done research in primate neuroanatomy relating to Parkinson's disease, and has served as an intern in the U. S. Senate, New York City hospitals, and at a children's clinic in Costa Rica. He has also been active in community service organizations. He plans to do the M.Sc. in global health science at Oxford.
COLUMBIA ENGINEERING ALUMNI GROUP RECOGNIZES VIJAY SAMANT
Vijay Samant, President and CEO of Vical Incorporated has been recognized by Columbia Engineering Alumni Association at its annual dinner with The Crossed Hammers Award on November 12th at Columbia Low Memorial Library. The Award was instituted by the alumni association to recognize exceptional, distinguished, and long-standing service to the association. Samant graduated from Columbia in 1977 with a Masters degree in Chemical Engineering. Before joining Vical, Samant worked at Merck.
FOUR INDIAN AMERICANS RECEIVE MARSHALL SCHOLARSHIPS
Four Indian Americans have been selected to Marshal Scholarship for 2007. The scholarships were founded by an Act of British Parliament in 1953 and commemorate the humane ideals of the European Recovery Programme (Marshall Plan). They are funded by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and administered by the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission in the UK (for which the Association of Commonwealth Universities provides the Secretariat). The selection process in the US is managed by the British Council, on behalf of the British Embassy in Washington DC, and the regional Consulates-General in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco
Among the forty recipients this year, the following are the Indian American winners, with their current affiliation, the school they plant to join in UK and the filed they plan to pursue.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
University of Cambridge, Computer Science
University of Georgia
London School of Economics and Political Science, Development Studies
Johns Hopkins University
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Public Health
Michigan State University
School of Oriental and African Studies, Social Anthropology
|NEWS OF INTEREST TO NRIs AND PIOs AROUND THE WORLD
RULING PNM PARTY RE-ELECTED IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
The ruling People's National Movement (PNM) party of Prime Minister Patrick Manning was re-elected to power at the November 5, 2007 national elections in Trinidad and Tobago. While the PNM secured the majority 26 of the 41 seats, the opposition United National Congress Alliance (UNC-A) with former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday won 15. Opposition party Congress Of the People (COP) headed by Winston Dookeran did not win any seats although it secured a respectable percentage of the votes primarily from potential UNC-A voters. Former Attorney General Ramesh L. Maharaj teamed up with UNC-A and former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday. Mr. Maharaj also won the seat he contested.
GOPIO International President Inder Singh sent a note of congratulations to Prime Minister Patrick Manning on the PNM's victory and stressed " the importance of the democratic process and the peaceful participation of the people of Trinidad and Tobago in that process."
Prime Minister Patrick Manning was sworn in as Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, on Wednesday November 7, 2007, at Woodford Square, Port of Spain, before an audience of dignitaries, other specially invited guests, and members of the public. In his address, Prime Minister Manning gave the assurance that ''in word and deed, mine will continue to be an administration for all in T&T.'' He also urged citizens: ''Let us go forward as the family of T&T.''
Trinidad and Tobago is an island nation in the Caribbean with a significant population of PIOs who are the descendants of indentured laborers who were brought from India to work on the sugar plantations and most have remained to make it their home.
SONUMANIA OVER GERMANY
With outstanding performances during his first tour to Germany ever, singer Sonu Niigaam raised a "Sonumania". With "Simply Sonu" the artist toured the German cities of Offenbach (near Frankfurt), Essen and Hamburg from 26th to 29th October, 2007. Well known as one of India's leading Bollywood playback singers, in particular as the voice of Shah Rukh Khan, his fans in Germany could not wait to see the star singer live on stage.
Though Sonu's voice is recognized from various movie soundtracks and solo albums in Germany, listening to him live was more than anyone would have expected. Germany was curious to see the face behind Shah Rukh's voice. Sonu Niigaam did not just emerge as a brilliant singer with an amazing voice, but presented a remarkable portfolio from classical Indian to modern rock songs.
|GOPIO LIFE MEMBERSHIP AND CHAPTER FORMATION
GOPIO is a non-partisan, non-sectarian global organization with chapters in several countries, actively promoting the interests of people of Indian origin worldwide by monitoring and addressing current critical issues of concern, and by enhancing cooperation and communication between groups of Indians living in various countries.
GOPIO Individual Life membership is open to all who believe in the mission of GOPIO. The one- time fee is $5,000 for Platinum Life Membership, $2,500 for Gold Life Membership and $1,500 Silver Life Membership and half the amount for each category for those from developing countries and India.
GOPIO is looking forward to opening chapters in all major cities of the world so as to network people of Indian origin all over the world. If you do not have chapter in your city, please visit GOPIO website (www.gopio.net) and get details of chapter initiation (visit http://www.gopio.net/chapter_initiative.htm). Process involves sending a letter of intent to start a chapter by a committee of five people or more. For more information, contact:
GOPIO President - Inder Singh, Tarzana, California, USA, Tel: 818-708-3885, E-mail: email@example.com
GOPIO Executive Vice President - Lord Daljit Rana, UK, Tel: +44 28-9807-8787, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
GOPIO Secretary General - Ashook Ramsaran, Fresh Meadows, New York City, Tel: 718/939-8194, E-mail: email@example.com
To become a Life member of GOPIO, visit http://www.gopio.net/membership_form.htm, print and fill up the form and send it with a check to: GOPIO, P.O. Box 1413, Stamford, CT 06904, USA.
GOPIO welcomes the following new Life Member:
Uka Solanki, Los Angeles, California
Chief Editor: Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman, GOPIO (Stamford, CT, USA)
Editors: Ashook Ramsaran, GOPIO General Secretary (New York, USA); and Munish Gupta, GOPIO Media Chair (Los Angeles, Calif)
Webmasters: Prashant Gupta (Gurgaon, Haryana, India) and Abu Thomas (New Rochelle, NY, USA)
Contributors of this issue: Inder Singh (USA), Sangeeta Ahuja (USA) and Dr. Piyush Agrawal.
GOPIO NEWS welcomes NRI/PIO related stories from all over the world. Be a volunteer correspondent or reporter. Contact Dr. Thomas Abraham, Tel: 203-329-8010, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit GOPIO's Official site at www.gopio.net or www.gopio.com