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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Indian Australians:are we relevant in Australia & its systems?

There are about 300000 people of Indian heritage in Australia. About 100000 Indian students are in Australia too. Our numbers are probably more if we take Indian people from Fiji, Malaysia, South Africa and other countries into account. Basically, we have a significant mass of people from Indian background in Australia.

We are nicely represented in Medicine, law, teaching, accounting, IT and banking but not so in the higher level of administration and politics. Talking about the politics, there is not even a single person from Indian heritage in the state parliament or Federal parliament. This is not going to change in the near future either. This is so despite several of us in the major political parties, usually as cheer squad members.

Is it so because people with questionable calibre are in the political parties and such people do not have what a leader must have- the capacity to lead or is it because political parties are happy to take support from us but not willing to give us a share in the power? There are merits in both arguments.

I for one believe that we will not get what we should unless we do certain things. We have to “arrive” at the scene. We have to become politically active and smarter. We have to participate in the process, rather than just being happy with some photographs with  the ministers. We have to become demanding.

To achieve something in the political arena, we have to identify people among us who can lead. We have to unite our community too. “Unite our community” does not mean ghettoing ourselves however as we are very much a part of the broad Australian community. We have to achieve many things as part of Australian community.

Someone can ask  whether it is important that we have one or more Indians in the political power. It is really not that important if you think about it superficially. It is however important when you think about it more deeply. We are part of Australian community and must be part of Australian political systems. Politics affects us from all the angles and we need to participate in it.  If we participate in it, then we must get our share in the power too. Remember the ultimate justification for us to be in the political power. This is what we say “why not?”.

You may not agree with me but that is my view. I welcome your view point.

We will achieve many things in this country and be more relevant in the processes here if we;

1. join political parties in bigger numbers

2. participate in the political processes and are willing to take leadership roles in the systems/parties

3. become more supportive of right type of people from any community but do not hold it against a person if that person is from our community. We need to rise above our region/language based identities and take our “Indian” identity.

4. unite our own community which has hundreds of associations, often in the same community.

5. we persuade assertively/actively those “leaders’ who have been in their positions for years without any real productivity or outcome, to move aside.

6. work for a genuine umbrella group/organisation which can represent all of us. The constitution, membership, agenda and leadership of such group/organisation should be transparent and dynamic with potential for required changes to fit with the prevailing circumstances. United Indian Associations [UIA] falls sort of these goals significantly. UIA can however reform itself if it is honest to its published goals. The Jury is out whether UIA can reform itself though. I have seen two examples recently which do not give me lot of hope however. High Commissioner of India had a meeting with Indian community leaders in Canberra last Wedbnesday. Everybody who is anybody in our community from all over Australia was there but no body from top 3 of UIA office bearers [President, Vice president and secretary] was there. Similarly, in the meeting with NSW Premier yesterday, neither the president was there nor the vice president. UIA secretary was there but the person who “spoke on behalf of UIA” was Raj Natarajan who is not in UIA executive committee [EC] currently. This is indicative of a dysfunctional organisation. This is sad but true that UIA is not able to lead us. Our community needs lot more than what UIA is able to deliver. It is the capacity issue. UIA  needs to shape up or ship out! Oh yes, UIA leaders need to keep in their mind that they are not particularly popular in our community and they can’t blame any one else except themselves for this situation. UIA leaders, please remember that our community needs lot more than a “MELA” [fair] to show as the output from UIA. I ask you to lead all of us but do you have what you need to have to lead us? We need the honest answers! I do not believe in criticising for sake of criticising only. To prove this, we are willing to help you and work with you with all the integrity and honesty, recognising that our community does not need one more association as we already have too many.

7. do everything to enhance the reputation of our community. Indian Australians have had a great reputation but it has been damaged recently. Some from our own community were exploiting Indian international students in all sorts of ways. Some of them did facilitate false work experience certificates, pay below-award wages, take bribes for work certificates and even arrange false IELTS certificates after taking some money. Some students have come to Australia, not to study but to have PR at any cost, often using fraud/false certificates. We need to demand the cleaning of rorts/scams and punishment for those who are involved in these rorts/scams.

8. have the Indian ethnic media which is committed to the restoration of our image. Publishing good reports or the photographs of such people [rorters/scammers] for whatever reason-friendship or advertisement dollars- should not happen.

9. network effectively among ourselves and other relevant people when it comes to the core issues in regards to our community. Uranium sale to India, more time in SBS TV/radio for India/Indian culture based on our numbers, statue of Mahatma Gandhi in a prominent place in Sydney, reception of the Indian community of NSW by the Premier of NSW as is the case for Chinese community of NSW and culturally appropriate/conducive nursing homes for our seniors are some issues which I can mention but there are many more.

10. learn to respect/support our people and shun the so called “Tall Poppy Syndrome” when we find that one of us is doing well. We should not have any problem if Neville Roach gets nominated to be a member of Indian PM’s Global advisory council or Susai Benjamin gets nomination for a membership in Multicultural advisory council of Immigration minister or Dr Yadu Singh gets interviewed by all the newspapers/TV stations on students’ issues. We need to curb our envy and not start attempting coups against our own people. I was disgusted to see hundreds of people, claiming leadership role on students’ issues during the peak of students’ trouble, forgetting that they were the ones who were exploiting these students. Even the “CHORs” [thieves] and looters from our community became leaders. Such below-standard people only made our work more difficult and gave us lots of anguish even when we were doing things for students without any personal benefit or conflict of interest. Thankfully, they have all disappeared. I did not see them in the meeting with NSW Premier yesterday. I was happy to note their absence, partly because they are good for nothing but more importantly, we are able to do lot more for our people without their insincere/harmful meddling. I would be meeeting VETAB/Ministry of education, NSW Gov on Thursday, 5th Nov in reference to Flying school students [School guys and students will be there too] and then chief of the NSW task force next week.

I am exhorting the Indian Australians to think over the issues we have and do introspection about where we are and where we are headed to as a community.

We need to work as a team if we want to achieve anything for any one we claim to serve for. Having said that, such team can not and will not have these “CHORs” [thieves] though.

I am ready and many of my friends are too but I am asking a question, “are you ready too?”

Yadu Singh/Sydney/03-11-09

“OCI card holders should not need a Visa for India”:Says Dr Sujit Pandit and I agree.

Prof Sujit Pandit has sent me an email, suggesting that Indians living overseas should demand a rule change in India. This is about the OCI cards. An OCI card holder should not need to have a separate Visa for India.

Here is his email. The word USA should be substituted with Australia, NZ, UK or relevant countries.

Let us send this demand to our High Commissions, Consulates, Minister Mr SM Krishna [MEA], Minister Mr Shashi Tharoor [MEA] and Minister Mr Vayalar Ravi [NRI affairs].

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/21st Sept 2009

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Dr Pandit’s email……

Sujit Pandit to me 

Our goal is to make travel to India less stressful and a matter of joy. The current OCI (Overseas Citizen of India)/PIO (Person of Indian Origin)  rules are irrational and confusing that often cause hardship to the travelers.

The bureaucrats and politicians do not like to change any rules unless there is overwhelming pressure from the public.  So, if you would like to change the ambiguous OCI/PIO rules please write to the Indian ambassador to the USA, the Consular General of India, the Prime Minister of India, the Minister of External affairs, The Home Minister and other civil servants and politicians in India.   You may also write to the various Indian media and the Indian action, social and political groups.  Please ask your friends to do the same.
If you want to write only a short paragraph then write the following or something like this:

‘When an individual has a US Passport and an OCI card, production of a Visa should not be insisted upon, because the evidence of a valid visa is implicit in the OCI card, which may be deemed to be a certification higher than the Visa itself.’
If you want to send a more elaborate explanation then send them my story:
 From:
Sujit Pandit M.D.
2680 Lowell Road
Ann Arbor MI 48103