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200 Indian-origin people in top leadership positions in governments of 15 countries: Indiaspora report

Washington, DC: More than 200 Indian-origin people occupy leadership positions in as many as 15 countries, including the US and the UK, building a legacy for future generations, according to a first-of-its-kind list by a US-based organization working among the Indian diaspora.

The 2021 Indiaspora Government Leaders List, which was released on Monday, had drawn from government websites and other publicly-available resources to prepare the report to showcase the achievements of the community leaders across different sectors.

It said that more than 200 leaders of Indian heritage have ascended to the highest echelons of public service in 15 countries across the globe, with over 60 of them holding Cabinet positions.

“It is a huge source of pride to have the first woman and first person of color as the Vice President of the world’s oldest democracy be someone of Indian heritage. We wanted to use this seminal moment on Presidents’ Day to highlight a host of others in the diaspora who also are in public service,” said Indiaspora founder M R Rangaswami, a Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur and investor.

He was referring to Kamala Harris, the first woman Vice President of the United States.

“These leaders are building a legacy for future generations, and one that extends beyond our community to all of the constituents and communities that they serve,” Rangaswami said in a statement.

The list also includes diplomats, legislators, heads of central banks and senior civil servants from countries with significant histories of diaspora migration, such as Australia, Canada, Singapore, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“It is an honou to be included on the 2021 Indiaspora Government Leaders List. As the longest-serving Indian-American member of Congress, I am proud to be a leader in the Indian-American community, which has become an integral part of American life and society,” said Congressman Ami Bera, Chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia.

With more than 32 million people of Indian-origin or (PIOs) globally, according to India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Indians are the largest diaspora population in the world.

The officials on the 2021 Indiaspora Government Leaders List collectively represent more than 587 million constituents, and their countries account for an estimated $ 28 trillion in GDP, demonstrating the impact these leaders are having globally, Indiaspora said in a statement.

“It truly is inspiring to note the remarkable contribution that government leaders of Indian heritage have made to advance the societies that they now represent.

“For a sizable segment of the population, it is government policy addressing social injustices that lead to a transformative path of sustainable socio-economic progress,” said Rosy Akbar, Fiji’s Minister of Education, Heritage, and Arts.

The list includes immigrants from India, as well as professionals born in countries such as Singapore, South Africa, England, Canada and the US.

“As a proud Indo-Canadian, it is an honor to be included in the 2021 Indiaspora Government Leaders List alongside an accomplished and diverse group of leaders from the India diaspora,” said Senator Ratna Omidvar.

“I am eternally proud of my Indian heritage but also being Canadian. Canada has given me its protection and its opportunities, and in return, I am committed to making it a better place so that it continues to be a land of protection and opportunity for future Canadians,” he said.

While some of the officials are part of their country’s first wave of immigration, arriving as refugees or for economic opportunities, others serving in their governments are part of subsequent waves of diaspora, who came for educational opportunities, or are of subsequent generations, Indiaspora said.

“It is inspiring to see the number of Indian diaspora who are entering the public arena,” said Indiaspora Board Member Arun Kumar, chairman and CEO at KPMG India, who served as Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Obama administration.

“Having had the opportunity to serve, I can speak to what a memorable and fulfilling experience it was. Above all, it was a meaningful way to give back. My hope is that this cohort of leaders will set an example for even more of the Indian diaspora to aspire to public service,” Kumar added.  

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Latest News New York

HungerMitao honors Rakesh Bhargava as Ambassador of Year 2020

New York: Food Bank For New York City’s HungerMitao celebrated volunteers and mobilized the Indian American community recently at its “Evening of Gratitude and Awards.” Community leaders and volunteers were joined by Consul General Randhir Jaiswal, actor Omi Vaidya, and Virtual Arts for Humanity for a night of celebration and advocacy.

The awardees were honored for their commitment and efforts through HungerMitao to end hunger in the city. Aaliya Malhotra and Ria Laddha were celebrated as Young Changemakers and Rakesh Bhargava for being a true Ambassador. The HungerMitao Spirit of the Community Award across the Feeding America network went to Indiaspora.

In his acceptance message, Rakesh Bhargava quoted his spiritual master Gurudev, “Live your life by way of learning, earning, and returning.”  He added: “We all must give back to the communities we live in and help the needy. I chose to accept this not for an individual recognition but to support a larger issue – hunger that pervades our society.  One of the richest nations on earth wastes more than 40% of food it produces yet millions are deprived of food.”

Bhargava also requested Food Bank to focus on healthy food. Research has shown that a plant-based diet is healthier and can reduce or eliminate many diseases that are killing Americans in large numbers.

Food Bank’s HungerMitao was created to mobilize New York’s Indian American community around its mission to end hunger, from raising awareness to providing meals for those in need. Since its inception, HungerMitao has helped Food Bank distribute more than 4 million meals to New York’s low-income families.

Accompanied by wife, Meenu, Rakesh Bhargava accepted the award virtually. (Screengrab from video)
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International Latest News

At 18 M India has world’s largest Diaspora: UN Population Report

India has the world’s largest diaspora with about 18 million people born there now living abroad, according to John Wilmoth, the director of UN’s Population Division at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Presenting the International Migration Report 2020, he said that the US was the top host country for migrants with 51 million of them or 18 per cent of the world’s total living there.

The report said that between 2000 and 2020, the size of the migrant population abroad grew for nearly all countries and areas of the world with India experiencing the largest gain of nearly 10 million during that period, going from third place in 2000 for the number of migrants to the first spot in 2020.

The report takes a broad view of migrants, including also students and those going abroad for family reunions in the definition.

Explaining the phenomenon of the migration from India, UN’s Population Affairs Officer Clare Menozzi said: “The Indian diaspora is one of the most vibrant dynamic world… It’s present in all continents, in all regions.”

The Indian diaspora is diverse, “comprised predominantly of persons who are workers but also students, and people who have moved for family reasons,” she said.

The contingent of India-born migrants born in the Gulf countries are playing a central role in the economic prosperity of those countries, Menozzi said.

“They’re also widely present in Northern America and Canada, the US and UK and Australia,” she said.

“And if you look for example at the US, I know from the education statistics of some of the persons who are born in India, they have often a very high educational attainment some tertiary or even post-doc(toral), and so forth.”

She said that there is “a common misperception that migration is a reaction to lack of opportunity.”

While that may be true in some contexts, “it’s also the sign of dynamism, the fact of a person, an individual makes a choice to pursue opportunities”, according to Menozzi.

There is also a change in how people go abroad.

“The notion that a person would migrate and then forever leave their countries is no longer the case. Most migrants actually now have an experience of moving abroad but then they return, they would go abroad to study, and then bring back some of the knowledge that they find abroad,” Menozzi added.

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Latest News USA

NYIFF call for submissions

The New York Indian Film Festival, presented by the Indo-American Arts Council, Inc. celebrates alternative, independent cinema from the global Indian community.

The festival provides filmmakers, actors, and industry professionals a platform to showcase their work, as well as creates an environment where filmmakers may exchange ideas with one another, and interact with discerning and diverse audiences, journalists, and aficionados.
Filmmakers are invited for submissions for the 21th Annual New York Indian Film Festival to be held in June 2021.

Submitted works must satisfy any one of the eligibility criteria below:

Indian films: Films produced and directed in India. Filmmakers working in all Indian regional languages, and those working on animation and children’s films are encouraged to apply; Indian Diaspora films: Films that feature the work of filmmakers, actors, writers, directors et al of Indian heritage; Indian inspired films: Films made by Non-Indians that feature significant Indian content, inspiration, subject matter.
In addition to the above, Entrants must fully comply with the Entry Rules & Regulations, including all deadlines, film length, entry material and other requirements outlined below.

Premiere Status: Only films that have not premiered in New York, or the Tri-State Area will remain in consideration.

Language: Non-English language works must have English subtitles at the time submitted. Dialogue lists will not be accepted.

The digital material has to be submitted via FilmFreeway or to nyiff@iaac.us in prescribed format.

The last date is Feb 15. 

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Latest News New York

FIA conferred Pravasi Bharatiya Samman for service to community

The Federation of Indian Associations of New York, New Jersey & Connecticut (FIA-Tristate), was conferred with the prestigious recognition of the Pravasi Bhartiya Samman on the 16th Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) held on Jan.9t, 2021. 

The Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award is the highest honor conferred on a non-resident Indian, Person of Indian Origin; or an organization or institution established and run by non-resident Indians or Persons of Indian Origin, who have made significant contribution in better understanding of India abroad, support India’s causes and concerns in a tangible way, community work abroad, welfare of local Indian community, philanthropic and charitable work, etc. During the PBD convention, select eminent Indian diaspora members are awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards in the presence of President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind. 

The 16th edition of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi on Jan. 9 in New Delhi. The theme of the convention, aimed at encouraging Indian diaspora to be part of socio-economic development in India, was “Contributing to Aatmanirbhar Bharat.”

“We are very proud, humbled and thankful to be the recipient of the Pravasi Bhartiya Samman,” President Anil Bansal said.  “It is the recognition of hard and selfless work of so many people in the FIA family. This award is for the exceptional and meritorious contribution to India, the Indians for social and humanitarian causes.  We at FIA have been totally dedicated to serving the interest of India and Indian diaspora in the USA. I have no doubt that under the new leadership of Ankur Vaidya, we will expand our footprint and activities immensely in future. This award certainly gives us the encouragement and incentive to reach for the stars. Thanks India, our motherland and Jai Hind.”

“It is truly a moment of pride for FIA and for me to witness this prestigious recognition bestowed upon FIA,” Chairman Ankur Vaidya said. “I take this opportunity to thank the founders and patriarchs, some of them are on our board who dedicated a lifetime in serving the community through the organization and when told of the news had tears of joy. The timing has a cryptic hint in it having lost Ramesh Patel to COVID when we had already rolled our sleeves to prepare for the golden jubilee grandeur celebration, we still continued and faced the worst times in history, we managed with the motivated team and Ramesh Patel’s spirit and soul to show us light and inspiration, the magic worked.  I know he would be ecstatic. A big thank you to Rohit Korat, Srujal Parikh, and Alok Kumar for their contribution to make this FIA dream a reality.  Anil Bansal’s presidency has created history and full credit to him, his executive team and a big thank you and salute to the diplomatic community who took the message of our work back to the motherland.  This is only the beginning and bigger and better things are coming, stay tuned… God bless the USA and Bharat Mata ki Jai!”

Despite the pandemic impact including on its fundraising activities, FIA continued with the challenges faced to serve and uplift the community in these unprecedented times. Among the unique initiatives were assistance to first responders which included serving meals in local hospitals and to NYPD, including front line heroes, hot meals in the International Diwali Soup Kitchen Drive in the US and India, bi-weekly Diaspora newsletter which will complete one year in January 2021; historic flag hoisting ceremony at Times Square on India’s Independence Day, accommodation assistance in partnership with the Consulate General of India in New York to students from India who were stranded in the US due to COVID-19 travel ban; OCI & visa Town Hall; and several other events on the hybrid as well as exclusive virtual platforms. For its work during the pandemic, the FIA, along with its core members, was recognized as COVID Heroes by Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams.

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Latest News New York

NY Consulate felicitates former FIA presidents Srujal Parikh, Alok Kumar

FIA Board of Trustee member Srujal Parikh and past president Alok Kumar have been recognized by the Government of India with an award in observation of Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas (PBD), Jan. 9. The award was presented at a ceremony held at the Consulate General of India in New York on January 9, 2021. 

Parikh and Kumar were honored with the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award for their leadership and contributions to community service, as well as being a friend of the Consulate. 

Since 2003, the Government of India has been celebrating Pravasi Bharatiya Divas on Jan. 9 to recognize the contribution of the overseas Indian community toward the development of India as well as their contributions to their adopted country. The day commemorates the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to Ahmedabad on Jan. 9, 2015.

This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a virtual celebration was held on a small scale in New Delhi. “It’s great honor to receive this prestigious recognition along with my fraternity brother Alok Kumar,” Parikh said. Noting that the award is in recognition of their “community service with partnership with the Consulate,” Parikh converted his gratitude to Consul General of India in New York, Randhir Jaiswal; Deputy Consul General, Shatrughna Sinha, as well as Mr. Vijay Krishna, “for this recognition.” Parikh also thanked FIA Chairman Ankur Vaidya for “trusting me and inspiring me for community work,” the FIA family, as well as his wife and his family for their support.

(Images provided)

Parikh began his journey with the FIA 12 years ago as a volunteer. He was elected the president in 2018. Under his leadership, the organization celebrated the 72nd Independence Day of India. The theme of the parade that year was “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam –World is one family.” Parikh says his journey with FIA for the last 12 years, from being a volunteer to a member of the Board of Trustees has been a great one, “bringing great memories.” He says he is “proud to be part of an amazing team of FIA. Looking forward to the next challenge and working for the community to bring the FIA to the next level.” 

“It is an amazing experience when an organization gets recognized and at the same time a member of the organization also gets recognized,” said Kumar. “Thank you, Consul General Shri Randhir Jaiswal, and DCG Shri Shatrughna Sinha. A sincere thanks to all the community members who never forget his/her origin, who always cherish their origin and keep always motherland in heart. God bless America and Vande Mataram.”

Kumar is the Managing Director and founding partner of United Business Solutions, Inc. (UBSols Inc), a prominent New Jersey-based IT Consulting firm. He currently resides in Old Bridge, NJ with his wife Mona, and their daughter, Garima. An entrepreneur by profession and a community servant by heart, Kumar has been involved and associated with various social organizations in New Jersey such as the Federation of Indian Associations (NY, NJ & CT), where he served as its president in 2019 and is currently an executive member of FIA and the Bihar Jharkhand Association of North America (BJANA). Previously, he has also held various executive positions at the Indian Business Association (IBA), South Asian Community Outreach (SACO). He holds a master’s degree in Computer Science. 

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Latest News USA

Indian-origin Raj Chouhan elected Speaker of Canada’s British Columbia province

Toronto: Raj Chouhan, an Indian-origin legislator in Canada, has been elected as the Speaker of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly, becoming first from the community to occupy the post, according to a media report.

Chouhan, who has represented Burnaby-Edmonds constituency five times in the British Columbia legislature, has served as Deputy Speaker in the previous government and would be replacing retiring Darryl Plecas as Speaker, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) News reported on Monday.

Punjab-born Chouhan immigrated to Canada in 1973 and started working on a farm.

He was greatly impacted by the plight of other immigrant workers and the wide disparity between the rich and poor in a prosperous country. This contributed to his ongoing advocacy for community and social justice for workers, the report said, citing Chouhan’s biography.

‘I am truly grateful to have been entrusted with this role by all members of the legislative assembly,’ Chouhan was quoted as saying in the report.

‘As a proud member of the Indo-Canadian community, I am tremendously proud of this historic occasion and honored to continue my public service in this new role,’ he added.

Chouhan’s selection was the first order of business Monday as British Columbia politicians returned to the legislature for a brief session after the October election that gave the New Democratic Party (NDP) a majority government.

Former NDP cabinet minister Moe Sihota called Chouhan’s selection ‘a historic day for British Columbia.’ ‘We are in awe of Raj’s accomplishment and what it says about ethnic communities in general, and the degree with which we are beginning to take our place in society,’ Sihota said on CBC Radio. 

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Latest News New York

GOPIO and IMPACT to celebrate historic win of Indian Americans in Nov elections

Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) chapters (Manhattan, New York, Central New York, Connecticut, Central Jersey and Virginia) in collaboration with Indian American Impact Fund (IMPACT) are hosting a celebration to honor Indian Americans who won as Representatives and Senators at the recent election to the State Houses in the USA. It will be a Zoom meeting on Friday, Nov. 20th starting at 7.00 p.m. (New York, EST). The opening speaker will be IMPACT co-founder Deepak Raj and will be moderated by former Kansas State Representative Raj Goyle, another Co-Founder of the IMPACT. The proceedings will be streamed live through Facebook and YouTube. The winners will share their campaign experience in winning the election and what they hope to achieve in their new term as legislators.

GOPIO chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham, the main coordinator of the event, emphasized the need for Indian Diaspora to come together and help elect more Diaspora candidates at the elections. The event is to celebrate and thank for the hard work by all those who have been elected.

“As a broad based community organization, we at GOPIO want to provide a bipartisan platform to bring all statewide Indian American elected lawmakers and we are hoping that this would motivate more Indian Americans to join the political leadership process especially young Indian Americans,” said Dr. Thomas Abraham.

One can join the zoom at www.zoom.com and use the Meeting ID: 709 536 8686, Passcode: gopio.

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Latest News New York

11 Indian students arrested for trying to illegally remain in US

Washington, DCFederal law enforcement agencies have arrested 15 students, including 11 from India, on charges of fraudulently staying inside the country.

These students were arrested Wednesday from various locations in Boston, Washington, Houston, Ft. Lauderdale, Newark, Nashville, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. In addition to 11 Indian nationals, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement also arrested two Libyans, one Senegalese and one Bangladeshi national.

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, the arrests were made as a result of Operation OPTical Illusion, a law enforcement operation targeting non-immigrant students who fraudulently used the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program to remain in the US.

OPT enables non-immigrant students to work in the US in positions related to their field of study for up to one year, with an additional 24 months if the student participates in Science, Engineering, Technology, and Mathematics(STEM) optional practical training.

ICE said these students claimed to be employed by companies that do not exist.

“This is just another example of the Trump Administration not only putting America first but making sure the laws of the immigration system are enforced,” said Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli.

“Every instance of fraud is a job an American worker could have had, and with so many Americans looking for work this crime is even more unacceptable,” he said.

“ICE has a system of checks in place to mitigate fraud and is committed to protecting national security by ensuring that students, visitors, and schools comply with US immigration laws,” said ICE Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Tony Pham.

“These latest arrests demonstrate that the agency is actively targeting individuals who try to exploit the student visa system,” he added.

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