Indian Australians as part of “Team Australia”!

Sydney, Thursday, 2014

Australian ParliamentPrime Minister, Tony Abbott, has rightly said recently that there is no point to migrate if people are not willing to put Australia, its interests, its values and its people first! Indian Parliament

He further said ‘You don’t migrate to this country unless you want to join our team, calling it “Team Australia”. He praised migrants for choosing to migrate to Australia, and exhorted them (migrants) to be proud of their heritage and culture.

I agree with him. I do not believe there would be many sensible people who will disagree with him.

Australia is a successful multicultural nation, just like The United States of America. Australia is our home, and we are very proud of Australia.

There is one little difference between Australia and USA, which has become quite important lately.

During 2009, when Indian students issues in Australia had saturation coverage in India, and India-Australia relations suffered, the then Federal Govt in Canberra did not deal with the issues in the most efficient way. Indian media calling Australia a racist country was not tackled properly and promptly. Australia depended solely on its diplomats to tackle it, instead of also utilising the Indian Australian community to help the Govt in dealing with it. It was well known that most of Indian Australian community did not share the views of Indian media. My friends and I made it very clear to Indian Govt and Indian media that we did not agree with their description of Australia as a racist nation. I took part in a debate “Ïs Australia a racist country?” with Daily Telegraph journalist, David Penberthy, televised in Sunrise programme of Channel 7, and wrote a Blog post “who is racist-Australia or Indian media?” https://yadusingh.wordpress.com/2010/01/10/who-is-racist-australia-or-indian-media/  Both were quite popular.

Many believe that The Rudd Govt officials should have utilized Indian Australian community prominently in dealing with exaggerated and imbalanced reporting against Australia in Indian media. They believe that things would have been easier to deal with if Indian Australians were also part of Australian Govt’s strategy to deal with it. After all, it would have been much more easier and effective if Indian media had dealt with Indian Australians here in Australia as well as in India, and heard that their description of Australia was not entirely correct.

Thankfully, things have moved on and relations between Australia and India are on the upswing. Australia and India have just concluded Uranium trade deal negotiations, and an agreement in this regard is likely to be signed when Prime Minister Tony Abbott visits New Delhi early next month.

Australia does have some people from Indian heritage in its diplomatic staff, but they are very small in numbers. Australia has not utilized the Indian Australian community in its outreach to India generally, even when this community is getting bigger by the day. Approx 500,000 people in Australia have Indian heritage. Former NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell, used to rely on just one person of Indian heritage, who is his personal friend, but unfortunately did not have much to do with either India or Indian Australian community. Mr O’Farrell could have done better and taken a leaf from his counterparts from Victoria, who did, and do, include members of Victorian Indian Australian community whenever they go to India with Trade delegations. New NSW Premier, Mike Baird, has not been to India yet. Let us see, and in fact hope, whether he will be different from his predecessor in this regard.

If you compare all this with what USA is doing with similar visits to India currently, you will see that Indian Americans form prominent parts of such delegations.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/For-India-outreach-US-brings-into-play-Indian-Americans/articleshow/39785133.cms

Nisha Desai Biswal, Arun Kumar and Puneet Talwar, who are all Assistant Secretaries and are of Indian heritage, accompanied US Secretary of State, John Kerry, Commerce Secretary, Penny Pritzker and Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel respectively during their recent visits to India. Their presence certainly created quite a good amount of goodwill  and conducive atmosphere.

United States’ Presidential delegations to India have always included prominent Indian American businessmen and community leaders. This has not been the case with Australian delegations of similar nature.

It’s about time that Australian Govt leaders follow the examples set by their American counterparts, because not only it is a smart policy, but  it is lalso likely to accelerate the growth of Australia-India relations.

In addition, and as a bonus, it is also going to create a feeling that Indian Australian community is a vital part of “Team Australia”, with many potential electoral benefits to the ruling party in the area like Western suburbs of Sydney and elsewhere! 

Dr Yadu Singh

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13th amendment of Sri Lankan Constitution is the framework which can help heal the divide in Sri Lanka!

Sydney, 26th Aug, 2014

Sri Lanka FlagSri Lanka is a friendly country to India. India has many commonalities with Sri Lanka MapSri Lanka. Both major ethnic groups-Singhalese and Tamil- have their origins in India. Sri Lanka has a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India.

Until 2009, it had a ferocious and violent civil war, killing thousands from both sides. After a series of battles, Sri Lankan Army was able to defeat LTTE in 2009. There are allegations that upto 40,000 civilians were killed in the final weeks of this war. Sri Lankan Army and LTTE both have been blamed for killing innocent civilians. UNO has an ongoing enquiry on Human Rights violation in Sri Lanka.

LTTE was a ruthless secessionist group, which invented “Suicide bombings”. Former Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, was assassinated by its cadre in Tamil Nadu in 1991. LTTE had had many chances to achieve reasonable autonomy for Tamils in Northern Sri Lanka, but it mismanaged the campaign, focusing on a maximalist position of Tamil Eelam.

The situation is totally different today. While Sri Lankan Army has defeated LTTE and removed LTTE from the scene, reasonable aspirations of Tamil Sri Lankans can not, and should not, be ignored. Their desire and aspiration to have a right for equality, dignity, justice and self respect can not be ignored or suppressed.

It is in the interest of Sri Lanka too that it deals with these aspirations from one segment of its own people pragmatically and fully. It is indeed in the long term interest of Sri Lanka to do things which will reassure its Tamil people.

Mahinda RajapaksaIt is in this context that 13th Amendment to Sri Lankan Constitution is worth revisiting. This amendment was enacted in 1987, following India-Sri Lanka Accord (Rajiv Gandhi- JR Jayewardene Accord). It created 9 Provincial Councils. Even though the amendmentRajiv Gandhi JR Jayewardene did not provide sufficient powers to elected legislators, ministers and Chief Ministers, it did give some powers to them. It was by no means a great amendment at all because it gave far too much powers to State Governors, appointed by the President. There is some demand from some ruling parties, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa (Defence Secretary) to repeal 13th Amendment . I believe this is a wrong step. If anything, the provisions of this Amendment for devolution of powers to Provincial Councils need to be strengthened, not diluted or repealed, which is what Sri Lanka seems to be heading to.

Because of what the Chief Minister of Northern & Eastern Provincial Council, Annamalai Varadraja Perumal did in March 1990 (he declared Independence of Tamil Eelam), Sri Lankan Govt will be concerned about any extra power to Provincial Councils. I do not believe this concern has any basis, after LTTE has been defeated and removed from the equation. Times and equations have completely changed. There is no chance of anything like what Mr Perumal did in 1990 happening in Sri Lanka anymore.

Sri Lankan Tamils constitute close to 11.2 % of Sri Lankan population. Indian Tamils, who were taken to Sri Lanka by The British Govt in 19th century constitute another 4.2%.  Their grievances need to be looked at rationally and pragmatically.

I believe that not only 13th Amendment should be used to implement devolution of powers to Provincial Councils, the amendment itself should be further modified and strengthened  to give more powers, including Land and Police powers to Provincial Councils.

There is nothing wrong with a federal structure of governance with defined powers to Central Govt and State Govts. Education, Health, Police and Land powers should be with States and obviously, the Defence, Foreign affairs, Communication and others should be in the domain of Federal Govt.

India is a classical example of a federal Governance, where States and Union Govt have delineation of powers and responsibilities in the State, Union and combined lists, set out in the Constitution.

USA is another example of Federal Governance with well defined powers and responsibilities between Union (Federal Govt) Govt and State Govts.

India, as a friendly nation to Sri Lanka, is encouraging Sri Lanka to do everything to devolve powers to State Councils. This was, after all, what is part of India-Sri Lanka Accord 1987.

This was, again, reiterated by Indian Foreign Affairs Minister, Smt Sushma Swaraj and Indian Prime Minister, Sri Narendra Modi a few days ago, when visiting Tamil National Alliance (TNA) delegation, led by TNA MP, R. Sampanthan met them in New Delhi.

I do believe, as do many others, that there is no case for the repeal of 13th Amendment, which, if executed, will cause nothing but further alienation of minorities, which will not help long term interests of Sri Lanka. In contrast, there are many advantages if Sri Lanka implements genuine devolution of powers & responsibilities to elected Provincial Councils on the lines of federal governance in India and USA.

Dr Yadu Singh

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India of my deams:What it should be but is not?

India is a country which has >1 Billion people, >400 million middle class, rapidly growing economy, increasing quality of life for at least the middle and upper classes and is being increasingly accepted as a global player. It received an India-specific NSG exemption for nuclear trade at IAEA, Vienna last year without signing NPT and despite the efforts from China to stall this exemption. It is one of the candidates for the UNSC permanent seats. Previously, India used to be bracketed with Pakistan but now it is with China. India and China are two countries which are mentioned as the engine heads for the global economy. These are not small achievements. We should be proud about this all.

Having said that, we should not be satisfied until India becomes the country with the highest/top GDP growth, economy, political/strategic/military strength, quality of life and a place in UNSC permanent membership.

We should become a caring society whose citizens are well-mannered, utmost moral and universally regarded as decent citizens. It would be difficult but not impossible.

India would have been at a much higher position if we did not have to deal with several deficiencies/problems which have become even worse. These issues have continued to drag us down from the growth path and our destiny.

If we want to be truly a global player, we have to deal with these issues/problems.

I will outline what I think are the issues which need to be dealt with;

1. Corruption: It has become a python which is strangulating all aspects of our national life. It is very common among the bureaucrats and politicians. LOK AYUKT, Independent Commission against Corruption and Courts would have to be given wide-spread powers to deal with this problem effectively and expeditiously.

2. Lack of accountability: No body seems to understand the concept of accountability. An engineer can pass a bridge which was built with substandard material and which collapses, killing hundreds of people with hardly any penalty for the engineer. A politician can mis-spend money on parks/statues etc when people are starving and no body can effectively question that politician today in India. A doctor and lawyer do poor jobs and unlike western countries, they are not held accountable in India. We have to learn the concept of accountability and practise it.

3. Ignorance of rights and obligations concept: We may know what our rights are but not many are willing to follow the concept of obligation which goes hand in hand with the rights. Public education via mass media is required.

4. Education: We may have millions with BA, BSc or PhD but often their knowledge is confined to books only. Practical and real education is lacking. If we are indeed educated, why will we allow the criminals to win the elections and why do we vote for a candidate based on the caste/religion? Our education system and curriculum need to be reviewed. significantly increased investment must be made to improve the standards in the schools and universities. It is shameful to see that no Indian Uni is in the top 100 World Universities.

5. Poverty: We have massive poverty and see poor people everywhere. Why have we not created the employment for our people by providing practical/vocational training? Why have we not created a proper welfare system for those who can’t find employment or can’t do any job due to physical/mental incapacity? The answers are obvious.

6. Health System: We have two classes of health system. Rich people can go to private hospitals and can get the world class treatment but poor people have nothing except some vitamins and third class antibiotics from the public hospitals. They are left to die at these public hospitals. Govt needs to invest in Public health. The concept of hygiene and preventive health needs to be promoted in our day to day work, life and business. We have to reduce the maternal and infant mortality.

6. Police: Our police is behaving as if India is still ruled by the British. They have no respect for the people and often, they behave as the criminals. Why the police is not able to be a professional force with associated requirements in crime prevention, investigation and prosecution? No wonder, custodial deaths are far too common. Major changes are needed urgently. National/State police commissions with involvement of relevant people including the public are needed to review what needs to be done to make our police force a good force.

7. Manners, etiquette, and public behaviour: Rudeness, arrogance and discourteous behaviour is far too common. If we can be  model citizens when out of India, why we can not be similar when in India? Urinating/defecating openly and spitting are just few examples which must be stopped soon. Public education via schools and mass media is needed. Penalty regime like Singapore will have to be thought about.

8. Public servants or the masters of public: Bureaucrats behave as if they are our kings/queens rather than public servants. Drastic changes are needed in their work, attitudes and behaviours.

9. Politicians: We have openly corrupt politicians and many are criminals. We should not allow any one who has been convicted of a set of defined crimes to contest election. Elections rules must be reviewed and revised.

10. Reservation: Reservation was brought in 1947 for 15 years but it has become permanent. Sons of IAS and ministers are getting the benefits of reservation even in IITs, medical institutions and judiciary. Caste based reservation must be stopped and people from disadvantaged parts of the society irrespective of the caste should be given help to improve themselves but there should be no reservation in either qualifying exams, jobs or promotions.

11. Judiciary:Trials can go on for decades before any judgement is delivered. Justice has to be delivered quickly. We would need more courts and judges to deal with this problem. No case can go on in one court for more than 1-2 years.

12. Government leaders:  Ministers should be appointed because they are capable, not because of any other reason. A foreign minister should be the one who can deal with the intricacies of foreign affairs and a finance minister should be the one who has concepts of finance management. Politicians and ministers should know that there is something called retirement. Either they retire themselves after 70 yrs or political parties should not select them after this age.

13. Public mentality and attitude: “Chalta Hai” attitude is harmful. “Muft Khori” is not helpful. We need to have the concepts of self-worth, self-esteem and nationalism instilled in us with the help of curriculum and mass media. Pan-Indian identity should be promoted and encouraged in preference to region, caste and religion based identity.

14. Compulsory English and computer education: Every student must be taught English along with a local language. English has remained the link language and Bollywood films has taken care of Hindi. Similarly, every student must have a minimum standard in computer/internet use and familiarity.

15. Civic sense and moral education: While our GDP/economy has grown, the civic sense and moral standards have fallen. You would see that rubbish is thrown out on the streets from the homes. No body lets the elderly get out from the buses/trains easily and helps them in doing so.  People do not care who falls as long as they get in the buses/trains. Profits and selfish gains are everything for a significant proportion of our population. Proper emphasis on Civic sense and moral behaviour must be given from the formative years.

16. Human rights and value of Life:We have the National Human Right Commission [NHRC] and similar ones in the state but we still have serious violation of human rights in India. “Life” has hardly any value. A doctor and a hospital will often refuse to treat a critically injured person only because they have not lodged a FIR. In the process, critically important time is wasted, leading to preventable fatal outcomes. An intense and massive mass media campaign on human rights and values will have to be commenced.  NHRC will need to be given more powers to investigate, prosecute and punish the culprits which often are the bureaucrats and police authorities.

17. Aged care: It is not uncommon that people do not care for their elders in India these days. This is not universal by any means but not uncommon either. The State must take initiatives to ensure that elderly people are able to live with dignity. Lok Sabha had recently passed an act which has provisions to protect elderly people from abuse from their relatives.

18. Naxalism:When the state is not doing what it must do, we see the births and growth of extra-Gov forces. Multi-pronged strategies need to be adopted in controlling this menace.

19. Terrorism: India will face this problem for long time because it is not likely anytime soon to have a good relationship with Pakistan. We need to remove our “soft image” and become ruthless in eliminating the terrorist elements. It does not serve a great purpose to keep a convicted terrorist in Tihar Jail for years when even supreme court has rejected the appeal. President of India must not keep the mercy appeals pending indefinitely.

20. Effective foreign policy: While we set our house in order effectively, we need to have a good foreign policy which is able to adapt itself with the changing scenario around us and far afield. It should be managed by those who are the most competent to run the Foreign affairs. We need to learn from China in  these matters and need to study how it has befriended Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Mal Dives and Burma, often at our cost.

There is a need for a “Commission for national development”which should be entrusted with the job of finding out the priorities for the nation building and national development.

We may not like to admit it but we will need to study with full seriousness, the ways and methods which China adopted in achieving what it has in the last 30 years.

Having said all what I have said, it still remains a fact that nothing would be achieved until we, the people of India, change ourselves in regards to who we are, what is our self worth, what are our rights & obligations, what type of politicians and Gov we want to have, where we want to go, and where our country ought to be going. It is us that must change the most.

I will keep thinking on these topics and will keep updating this write-up. I look forward to your views.

Yadu Singh/Sydney/13-10-09

Committee’s Strategies for Indian Students’ Issues in Australia

No doubt, our students have several significant issues and these issues have been raised with Governmental and Police authorities here. We are very confident about serious actions in these matters. There is no choice here because the International education industry in Australia worth $16 Billion [about $2-3 Billion from Indian students] is at risk if prompt actions are not implemented.

As you may know, a community committee has been formed in consultation with Indian Consul General, Sydney to help tackle these issues. The committee members are Harry Walia, Vish Viswanathan, Stanley D’Cruz, Shubha Kumar and Yadu Singh [Coordinator].Following is a brief description of issues and proposed action plans by the committee.

These issues are;

1.                     Safety and Security:

 

Brief Details:

Several cases of robbery & bashings of Indian Students in Sydney.

 

Proposed Action Plan

 

  • Educate students to REPORT the incidents to NSW Police. Reporting does not affect their VISA.
  • Lobby with Councils for a better lighting around Railway stations, car parks and  alleys etc
  • Lobby with the local councils for the installation of CCTV for surveillance of crimes
  • Liaison with NSW Police re under-cover policing, more visibility and patrolling in hot-spots
  • Educate the students  to be street-smart and be aware of their  surroundings
  • Employers have a duty of care and must arrange them to be dropped off at their apartments if it is beyond 10 PM
  • Explore the issues involving “Work-cover” matters in case of injury/assaults

 

2.                     Accommodation for Indian Students

 

Brief Details:

No assistance on arrival. Many students forced to share crowded apartments and Poor treatment by rental agents

 

Proposed Action Plan

 

  • Lobby with authorities re the provision of 3-6 months accommodation which must be organised by education providers at the market cost

 

  • Lobby with Immigration regarding  this requirement [Visa must not be issued unless accommodation confirmed]

 

3.                     Quality of training:

 

Brief details:

 

Many students are exposed to poor quality of training by educational service providers & shady, shonky or bogus institutions.

 

Proposed action plan:

 

  • Accreditation authorities/bodies to audit the quality of training randomly and frequently
  • Lobby with respective Govt. Agencies to take proper actions on proved cases
  • Surveys from the present/past students re the quality issues [anonymously]
  • Effective and prompt action by DEEWR/ACPET re alternate placement in schools/institutions or refund of the tuition fees if the educational provider goes out of business

 

4.                     Exploitation of Indian students:

 

Brief details:

 

Indian students are exposed to exploitation of all kinds & bullying in part time employment or by educational service providers. They are getting below-award wages in many cases. Some Indian employers are also involved in this type of exploitation.

 

Proposed action plan:

 

  • To advise & educate students about their RIGHTS in Australia
  • To educate them re the appropriate agencies to deal with such matters
  • To encourage/facilitate genuine students’ associations which are largely run by students themselves, not business people with hidden agenda and purposes.

 

  • Indian community leaders to understand the “conflict of interests” concept when taking the leadership role in students’ matters. They must stay out from a leadership role if they are involved with any business involving students [schools or consultancy].   
  • To lobby for establishing an  overseas Students’ Ombudsman

 

5.                              Health Cover, other appropriate insurance matters and  emergency insurance:

 

Brief details:

 

Lack of proper/current Insurances and coverage by some students, particularly when they are on bridging Visa

 

Proposed Action plan:

 

  • Pre arrival Information package-in India
  • Lobby with government agencies re the need for the medical cover and emergency including death insurance.
  • Proper medical insurance including death insurance must be a condition for the Visa and such cover must be current at all times during the stay in Australia

 

6.                Social issues:

 

Brief details: poor communication, insufficient participation in local community events & meetings and poor public behaviour in many cases

 

Proposed action plan

 

  • Communication/education through community Radio, TV, newspapers and website.
  • Encourage participation of students in community events
  • Accept that we are the ambassadors of India
  • Know what is expected in every situation.
  • Encouraging and promoting “when in Rome, do as Romans do” policy for our students
  • www.indianstudents.net.au will be launched very soon with info on Australian rules/regulations, Australian ways, expected behaviour and rights/obligations [There is now sufficient information in these matters in High Commission of India, Canberra and Australian Gov websites]

 

7. Brief details: Indian students are unaware how to deal with emergency situations

 

Proposed action plan:

 

  • To provide information packages on service providers and counselling services
  • Look into possibility of a Community Helpline for non-emergency matters
  • Set up a website and link it to the Indian High Commission/CGI

 

8.   Develop the Indian media leadership group for students’ and community issues. This would give an opportunity to exchange views, form strategies and execute them effectively. India Media group will help in dissemination of the information. We recognise that we need a good relation with Indian and Australian media to be able to do an effective advocacy of Indian students’ issues with various Gov agencies and relevant stake-holders.

 

9.   To set up an INDIAN Students’ Emergency assistance and BENOVALENT FUND

 

10. To seek actively sincere and genuine community members and students for the continuation of the outlined tasks. Most times, Indian community members are aware about the exploiters from our own community. We must take it as our social/community responsibility to do a social boycott of such exploiters. We believe that exploitation of Indian students by Indian community members is the lowest of low and a despicable behaviour.

 

11.  To lobby for some transport concession.It is available all over Australia except NSW and Vic. It would encourage more use of public transport which might also reduce the assaults/robberies of students.

 

12.  To bridge the gap between Indian students and established Indian Australians by reaching out to Indian students, inviting them to social gatherings, mentoring them and providing help whenever practicable/possible.

 

 

 

 

Dr Yadu Singh

Co-ordinator

singhyadu@gmail.com

 

**PS: 29/8/09

[1]. The above mentioned committee had prepared its report and forwarded its recommendations to the relevant authorities.

[2]. After completing its job, the committee had dissolved itself at the end of June 2009 and communicated its decision to the Consul General on 1/7/09.

[3]. This report is being published with the purpose of making the community aware of its contents.