What Indians in Australia expect from the Modi Govt

 

 
 
 

The new government should be proactive in considering the interests and welfare of the Indian community down under.

It is not a hyperbole to say that a new era has dawned in India with the swearing-in of the Modi Government on Monday, 26 May, 2014.

A decisive, “can do” leader, Sri Narendra Modi, is the Prime Minister. Indians, not just in India but around the world, are confident that things will change for the better and the Indian economy will grow rapidly.

People have expectations from the new government. While people have a wide variety of expectations, which they want the Modi Govt to deliver, there are some common themes in their expectations. Based on my interactions with many Indians in Australia, and based on my own thinking, there are a few things that people expect the new government to consider.

Prime Minister’s visit to Australia: There has not been any state visit by an Indian PM to Australia after the late Shri Rajiv Gandhi’s visit in 1980s. PM Modi should accept the invitation from Australia to schedule a state visit to Australia this year itself. Several Australian PMs have already visited India, but a reciprocal visit by an Indian PM is yet to happen. There should be time for the PM to interact with the community in at least one, but preferably two, major cities. The G20 summit is scheduled to happen in Brisbane on November 15 and 16, 2014. This will be a perfect opportunity for the Indian PM’s long overdue official visit to Australia too.

Genuine dual citizenship: This has been discussed and debated for long. There is an almost universal demand that overseas Indians be given a right to hold genuine dual citizenship with voting and property rights, if the country of their citizenship has no issue with this and if there are no security issues with granting dual citizenship to any particular overseas Indian. After all, Australia, USA, UK, NZ and many other developed as well as developing countries already offer this facility.

Visa on arrival for Australian citizens: Australian citizens, like many others including New Zealanders, should get the same visa-free arrival facilities in India. If this is not the case at present, it should be implemented without further delay.

Black money in overseas banks: Genuine, proactive and effective steps should be taken to tackle this menace and bring the money back to India within 12 months. No favour should be given to anyone irrespective of who they are or what connections they have. The decision to constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) for this purpose is good.

Effective anti-corruption body: A group of 10-15 people from civil society including judges, eminent jurists and overseas Indians (if possible) should be asked to review the Lok Pal Act, passed by the Lok Sabha earlier in the year, and suggest steps to rectify weakness to make it an effective corruption fighting body. This should be completed in the next 12 months.

The PM’s global Overseas Indians Advisory body: The PM should revamp his Global Advisory Body, constituted by the previous PM. People in it should be those who have significant presence and influence in their countries. The habit of Indian diplomats recommending non-descript and non-influential people for this body should eliminated.

Country specific Overseas Indian Advisory body: Countries with significant overseas Indian population (Australia is certainly one such country) should have an advisory body of not more than 10 people, which can be used for consultations and other advisory purposes, not only by the local GOI authorities/agencies, but also the relevant authorities/agencies in India.

Annual dialogue between Indian and Australian leaders: PMs, Foreign Affairs Ministers and Defence Ministers should hold annual meeting/dialogue, with venues for such meeting/dialogue alternating between India and Australia.

Free Trade Agreement (FTA): The pace of the discussions and negotiations should be accelerated so that FTA can be concluded by the end of 2015.

Bilateral Nuclear Trade negotiations: The pace of the discussions and negotiations should be accelerated with the goal to conclude it by the 30 June, 2015.

Bilateral and multi-lateral defence exercises between India and Australia: India and Australia should work actively to enhance their defence & strategic relations bilaterally and multilaterally in the pattern agreed prior to the 2007 Rudd Govt in Australia.

Hindi teachings in Australian Universities: To increase India’s soft power and increase the numbers of India-literate Australians, India should consider funding such teaching courses in some select Universities in Australia.

Facilitations of Australian Universities and TAFE to have campuses in India: Many Australian institutions are ranked quite highly in various world Universities ranking systems. Collaborations in this field should be actively facilitated and encouraged, following a pragmatic and win-win module.

Indian Consulate in Brisbane: Queensland is an important state for Indian investment. Indian business houses like the Adani group have an important and a significant presence in this state. It is important to have an Indian Consulate in Brisbane.

India House or Indian Cultural Centre in major capital cities: The Indian community has grown significantly in Australia. It is increasingly felt that such centres are required, at least in Sydney and Melbourne. While some funding will be raised locally, a significant part of the funds should come from Indian Govt. Govt of India (GOI) Funds, if any, allocated for something of this nature to be established in the Indian Consulate premises in Sydney CBD should be reviewed and re-allocated for a centre of this nature in areas like Parramatta or Blacktown, where the Indian community has a substantial presence. Sydney CBD is not a practical or appropriate site for an Indian Cultural Centre.

Overseas Indians’ property in India: Many overseas Indians are seeing that their properties are illegally occupied and face threats to their safety when they visit India. Court cases go on for extended periods of time. IPC should be amended to tackle this menace.

Interactions between GOI agencies and Indian Australian community: It is often felt that GOI authorities in Australia do not interact with people sufficiently, thus leading to a communication gap. It is a common experience that there is a significant gap between what we expect and what is delivered. Steps should be implemented to improve the situation.

Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs visit to Australia: With approx. 500,000 people of Indian heritage in Australia, a biennial visit of Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs (The Hon Sushma Swaraj) or her deputy, The Hon Gen (Retd) V K Singh, should be included in the official GOI travel calendar. This will help facilitate interactions with the community and facilitate Overseas Indians’ investment in India.

Streamlined grievance redressal mechanism for Overseas Indians: Overseas Indian Affairs ministry has often not been very helpful and help has often not come in a timely fashion due to excessive bureaucratic influences. This should be reviewed and streamlined.

Exchanges between Academicians and civil Society leaders: We need regular bilateral exchange visits of academics, journalists, leaders and civil society leaders. This will help improve relations between the two countries. The scope and numbers should be increased.

This is our wish list, which we believe is doable, not difficult and will provide multiple benefits to various stake-holders, including India.

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/13th June, 2014

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This was originally published in Indian Sun News magazine, Sydney on 10th June, 2014.  http://www.theindiansun.com.au/top-story/indians-australia-expect-modi-govt/

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The best place to be born in is Switzerland. Australia is the next best!

The Economist Intelligence Unit [a sister concern of the The Economist] has published its research, outlining the relative positions of various countries in regards to the best place to be born in.

They used 11 criteria, some of which were subjective but many were objective.

Switzerland is the best place to be born in. Australia is the next best place with only 0.1 point behind Switzerland. Scandinavian counties follow Australia in the list.

India is 66th but Sri Lanka is ahead of India. Pakistan and Bangladesh are further down in the list.

Here is the list in 2012.

                                                                                                                                                                                                             .

More details are here: http://www.economist.com/news/21566430-where-be-born-2013-lottery-life?fsrc=scn/tw/te/tr/thelotteryoflife

Australia is a great country with relatively less crime and higher quality of life. Medicare system, guaranteeing good medical treatment for all Australians, rule of law and relatively clean governance all contribute to this country being a great place to live, work and bring the family up.

It is the responsibility of all Australians to do everything to keep Australia stay as a great place!

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/29th Nov, 2012

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Visa on Arrival in India for many countries including NZ, but not for Australia!

Visa on Arrival in India for many countries including NZ, but not for Australia!

See the update on Tourist Visa on arrival (TVoA), enabled by Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) post of 28th Nov, 2014. 

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Ministry of External Affairs [MEA], Govt of India has decided to offer Visa on Arrival in India for citizens of 3 more countries-France, Russia and Germany. It already had a policy like this for 11 countries-New Zealand, Finland, Luxembourg, Japan, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Vietnam, The Philippines and Myanmar.

It is a good step as it should hopefully make it easier for tourists to go to India. India wants to double the tourist numbers in next 2-3 yrs. There is much work in progress on infrastructure involving tourism as well. India has so many attractions for people to visit it. It is not called “Incredible India” for no reason!

A lot of work has been done in Indian airports and facilities have improved significantly. Indian diaspora will keep visiting India for family and business reasons.

What is missing from the list is the names of countries like USA, Canada, UK, Scandinavia and Australia. India considers the risk of inimical actions by visitors from any country before that country is included in the Visa on Arrival list.  It is a well-known fact that there are people in USA, Canada and UK, who have been involved, and are still involved in anti-India activities. US citizen, David Headley was in the news only recently.  They will obviously be not welcome in India.

Australia is, I think, not in that category. There have been increasing numbers of Australians visiting India. It should be encouraged. While people of Indian heritage in Australia can apply for OCI [Overseas Citizen of India] cards which entitle them to travel to India without Visa for many years, but not every PIO [person of Indian Origin] has yet gone for an OCI card. My understanding is that a significant proportion of Indians do not have OCI cards. Visa on Arrival, if allowed for Australian citizens, will help such people, and of course non-Indian Australians.

If NZ can be in this list, I would have thought Australia can easily be in that list too.

India has clarified that they are not looking for reciprocal Visa on arrival facilities for Indian citizens in any country before including such country for Visa on arrival facility.

Australia qualifies for inclusion in the list also because both countries have good relations, which have become even better, after Australia’s ruling party decided to sell Uranium to India in Dec 2011.

My suggestion to Indian diplomats in Australia-High Commissioner of India and Consul Generals, is to lobby with MEA to include Australia for the Visa on Arrival facility. I also think that leaders from Indian Australian community should also lobby with Indian diplomats and Indian Govt to include Australia in this list.

Yadu Singh/Sydney/11th May, 2011

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Finally, Amitabh Bachchan accepts the Honorary Doctorate from Queensland University of Technology!

Amitabh Bachchan

Image via Wikipedia

We remember very well that Bollywood super star, Amitabh Bachchan had declined to accept the Honorary Doctorate from Queensland University of Technology [QUT] in 2009, when students’ unrest was at its peak in Australia. At that time, a segment of Indian media was running a campaign, calling each and every incident involving Indian students a racist attack.

Living in Australia, we knew that “racism” was not the sole motive or the reason for those attacks. We tried to counter the vicious campaign by Indian media but had only limited success.

Hearing about the news that Amitabh Ji had declined to accept the Doctorate, we made an appeal to him to visit Australia, accept the Doctorate, and see for himself that Australia is not a bad country, unlike the image Indian media had created. That did not work either.

See my previous Blog: https://yadusingh.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/amitabh-bachchan-ji-we-need-your-assistance/

We are pleased that he has now accepted the Doctorate and is travelling to Brisbane to receive it on 20th October, 2011. He is currently in Sydney, shooting for the Hollywood film, The Great Gatsby [directed by Baz Luhrmann], which also has Leonardo Di Caprio, Tobey Maguire and Joel Egerton in the starring roles.

Amitabh Ji, congrats for the honour!

I did not think he was right to reject that honour then, but there was nothing anybody could do, due to madness in Indian media. He has obviously analysed everything now, and agreed to accept the honour. Happy to see this happen, and say “Der Ayad Durust Ayad”! [देर आयद दुरुस्त आयद <===> BETTER LATE THAN NEVER].

Amit Ji, please enjoy your stay in Australia, and enjoy this beautiful country!

I am certain that you would find Australia a great place, and Australians to be friendly people.

You have a great number of fans in Sydney, who would love to meet you, before you return to India. Hope, you will find time to meet them. 

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/18th October, 2011

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NSW should take adantage of Visa changes for overseas students and market itself aggressively.

Minister Chris Bowen [Minister for Immigration and Citizenship] and Senator Chris Evans [Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations] have unveiled The Knight report and announced new changes in Visa rules for international students. These changes have been hailed by the key players in the International Education industry.

Bowen-Evans-Knight-Media-release

http://www.immi.gov.au/students/knight/

http://www.smh.com.au/national/postgraduate-education/overseas-students-get-easier-entry-working-visas-20110922-1kncv.html

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/international-student-visa-changes-biased-towards-unis-tafe/story-e6frgcjx-1226144429513

http://www.couriermail.com.au/ipad/visa-change-to-help-foreign-students/story-fn6ck4a4-1226143636337

These changes are likely to lift the number of overseas students coming to Australia and will give a boost to the economy. This is a good news. International education is worth $18 billion nationally. Everything needs to be done to take it to a bigger level, while ensuring that the system is not rorted again. We do not want “Visa factories” again. These changes are likely to encourage genuine students, wishing to pursue education in Australia.

The main changes are;

  • Fast Visa approval process for bachelor or higher degree University courses
  • Less onerous criterion for financial support
  • Changes in the risk assessment criterion
  • 2-4 years guaranteed work Visa after finishing a bachelor degree or higher Uni courses
  • Australian International Education will be able to compete with UK, USA and Canada more effectively

The work visa is a master stroke. This allows people to work without any restrictions. I have no doubt that it will make Australia a very attractive place for International education.

Indeed, universities have been given some preference in the new system, largely because they are the places for higher and quality education. These changes will help TAFE too but unlikely to help the private institutions which had mushroomed previously, and many brought bad reputation to the industry and Australia due to poor quality education and exploitation of students. These fly by night operators and shonky providers had done enormous harm to this sector.

Quality control and monitoring of providers would be the key to keep Australia in the fore front. University sector gets about 25% of its budget from overseas students. This dependence on overseas students should not be allowed to dilute the standards of education in the universities.

These Visa rules will be reviewed periodically by the Education Visa Consultative Committee [EVCC] which will recommend changes as and when needed.

These are welcome changes and should help the growth of the industry. Michael Knight, Ex NSW Minister and the author of the report, has done a good job.

Finally, NSW Govt should do every thing to promote its universities to the overseas market, especially China and India, by removing the apprehension about safety issues, working towards some system for accommodation support in the beginning, and establishing a system which will deal with exploitation of students. The bogey of racism and racist attacks which some overseas media had reported without real basis can be tackled effectively. NSW delegation is visiting India in November. In addition to every thing else, it should obviously also have a focus on this sector. Nothing will assure Indian parents better if they hear from Indian Australians of high standing that Australia is a safe place to study, live and work. I believe that the $5 billion international education industry in NSW can easily grow to a higher level, if key players work smartly and effectively. Victoria is the number one destination for these students currently, but it could easily be NSW. After all, overseas students will come to NSW as a prefered destination, as it is a fantastic place with beautiful cities, beaches, renowned universities and multiculturalism in its DNA. This will happen definitely, provided NSW has been marketed smartly in the key markets.

Yadu Singh/Sydney/23rd September, 2011

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Related articles

About Delhi CommonWealth Games [CWG] 2010.

Obviously, there is a lot of media coverage in Australia about Delhi Commonwealth Games [Delhi CWG] which will start on 3rd October, 2010.  Both, Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph have coverage on this today.   ABC also had coverage on this yesterday. 

Dani Samuels [Discus champion] has decided to withdraw from the Games but I was very pleased and indeed, encouraged to read that our swimmers and divers [Alex Croak, Matthew Mitcham and Geoff Huegill] have declared their intention to go to the Games. They made this very clear via a Blog [  http://tinyurl.com/273cb7k ].  I also know that the Sports Minister, Senator Mark Arbib will also be going to Delhi.  I say “good on you” to participate in the Games in Delhi. 

I know that some sports authorities from certain countries including New Zealand have made a lot of alarmist comments about the Delhi CWG which seems to be creating panic and hysteria against the Delhi Games.   A firing at a tourist bus near a mosque a couple of days ago has of course fuelled  concerns about the security around the Games. A few building work problems, which have been characterised as minor by Indian officials, have received prominent reporting in the media.

Having come from New Delhi myself where I lived for several years, I do believe that some of the comments in the media are actually very unhelpful because they are creating hysteria against the Delhi CWG.    Something similar was floating around in the media about Athens Olympic Games only a couple of years ago.  Despite that, Athens Games were greatly successful. Similar concerns were raised in the media against South African soccer world cup but they were all proven to be incorrect.

My belief is that India would be able to deliver a successful Delhi CWG.  My belief is based on following: 

 The firing on the tourist bus a couple of days ago happened in the old part of Delhi which is grossly congested and has narrow lanes.  That part is not particularly safe even in the best of times.  I do not think we would have the same situation in the Games arena or the places where sports people will be staying. Games are not happening in Old Delhi. Of course, it is important for all people including sports people to be mindful of the security environment before they venture out to areas which are generally a “no go” area in any city anywhere in the world.  I myself would not go to Old Delhi unless it is extremely necessary.  

 The Games facilities will be ready by the time the games start on 3rd October 2010.  They still have 10 days before the commencement of games. Only minor work, mostly cleaning, is yet to be done. The athletes village will be up and running with all the facilities by the time the games start.  The organisers and workers are working round the clock to get things done within days.  It is of course disappointing,  and to some extent embarrassing for us as Indian Australians to see the delay in getting the facilities ready.  Unfortunately, Delhi had 60-70% more monsoon rains this year which of course has added to problems but all stadia are already ready.  I have seen the photographs and comments of this fact. 

 India has had terrorist attacks and they have mostly originated and been masterminded from across the border.  Just like London, Bali, New York or Madrid, New Delhi will not be immune to a terrorist attack.  Having said that, I do not believe there is a very high chance (contrary to the claims in various media outlets) of a terrorist attack during the Games. I argue that the chance of a terrorist attack is minimal.  The reason for this is the fact that India has conducted IPL games without any untoward  incident for a couple of years.    In IPL games, there were many non-Indian players.  The Indian security apparatus including Indian army will provide a fool proof security for the venues and places where the games will be conducted.  People should not forget that India holds two big national events every year, namely the grand parade on the Independence Day (15th August) and Republic Day (26th January) when the whole political leadership including Prime Minister is present in the Parade venue, without any incident.  India can provide guaranteed security for a demarcated place or places but like any country in the world, it can never guarantee every place from terrorism. Sports arenas and athletes village will be demarcated places and Indian security apparatus is fully capable to do its job to protect them.

There have been concerns raised about Dengue fever in Delhi.  These concerns have created an unnecessary alarm.  Delhi is not the only city in the world which has Dengue fever.  Dengue fever is a problem in congested places such as slums or shanty towns but I do not believe sports people will be visiting or staying in those places.  The athletes village will, I believe, not have the situation where sports people will be  impacted by Dengue fever. Of course, they have to follow the advice about avoiding mosquito bite which will be given to them  by their own medical advisors as a matter of course. I and my family visit Delhi every year and have never suffered from Dengue fever. Preventive measures, of course, are crucial for every visitor.

There is a tendency in the international media to hype up and often exaggerate the issues in India which tends to create an unnecessary alarm among those who are going there.   The issues are there but they are not insurmountable. India will prove the alarm creators wrong and will hold a successful CWG.

Undoubtedly, India should have been ready with the construction and building works at least three months before, but this did not happen, leading to  much embarrassment for everyone including India as a nation and Indians all over the world.  There is a culture in India which we often call “Chalta Hai” which basically means that everything will be alright even when it does not appear to be the case. Before the D day comes, we create unnecessary chaos but  however still deliver the outcome.  This culture needs to change with some significant speed. We need to start following targets in a timely fashion. We need to start delivering outcomes in a planned and timely manner. 

There is no doubt that the credibility of India and Indian Government is on the line but having known India so well and having spoken with high ranking officials from the Government, I believe that India will deliver a very successful CWG. 

Jai Ho to Delhi  CWG 2010 and Jai Ho to all the participants in these Games!

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/22nd Sept, 2010

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Australia, the most charitable nation in the World!

Charities Aid Foundation [CAF] has ranked Australia the most charitable nation. We have a tie with our neighbour, NZ for the top spot. I am not surprised with it as I have seen the charitable nature of Australians from every sphere of life. I have seen it during Victorian Bush fires and Asian Tsunami disaster. I have lived in NZ too for a short time and saw how helpful Kiwis were. Kiwis were also found to be the most honest people in another survey.

CAF’s World giving Index 2010 is an interesting read. Australia/NZ  are both number 1, Canada/Ireland 3rd, Switzerland/USA 5th, UK/Sri Lanka 8th, Lao People’s Democratic Republic 11th, India 134th and China 147th out of the total 153 countries.  

In Australia, this survey found that 70% people give money, 38% time and 64% help strangers. Corresponding numbers for NZ are 68%, 41% and 63% respectively.

In contrast, these numbers are disappointingly low 14%, 12%, and 30% for India. For China, the numbers are even worse at 11%, 4% and 28% respectively.

I was pleasantly surprised to see these numbers for Sri Lanka which has 58%, 52% and 50% under the same categories. Well done Sri Lanka!

I would have expected India and China to be better than what CAF table shows. I don’t know whether this is due to fact that they have a lot of poverty there and they are developing economies. I don’t know whether there are other factors for their low score. May be, Indians and Chinese will take note of this score and do better from now. If Lao People’s Democratic Republic can be at 11th spot, then surely, India and China can be at that spot too, if not better.

http://www.cafonline.org/pdf/0882A_WorldGivingReport_Interactive_070910.pdf

As far as I am concerned and just like other Australians, I take part in charitable activities and contribute generously, whenever possible. I encourage every one to support charities. We never know when we might ourselves be in difficulties and need help.

Yadu Singh/Sydney/10th September, 2010