Mahatma Gandhi in University of NSW [UNSW], Sydney:a proud moment for India and Indian Australians.

 

I was a witness to a great and proud moment which happened in University of New South Wales [UNSW], Sydney today. NSW Minister, The Hon Eric Roozendaal MLC, UNSW VC, Professor Frederick G Hilmer AO, and Indian Consul General, Mr Amit Dasgupta inaugurated a bust of Mahatma Gandhi. It is situated in the grounds in front of the UNSW library. Speeches were made on the relevance of Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings. He was described as a man of peace, non-violence and wisdom. Two quotes which I liked most go like “An eye for an eye will render the world blind” and “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

In a grand yet simple ceremony, three students from Indian community were also awarded for their achievements in UNSW.

I remember vividly that Mr Gambhir Watts of Bhavan Australia has been working on a project to get Gandhi Ji’s statue in Sydney for a while  but this project achieved a significant momentum after our energetic and “can do” Consul General, Mr Dasgupta joined the Indian Consulate in march last year. Thanks and gratitude is owed to both these gentlemen. Mr Dasgupta has indeed made us proud.

CG spoke about his visit to UNSW last year when Indian students’ issues were at its peak. He had a very productive discussion with UNSW. It was then that a decision was made to install The Gandhi bust in UNSW. CG had also donated hundreds of books on Mahatma Gandhi and India to UNSW library as gifts from India and people of India. CG, Mr Dasgupta was praised for his work in this regards.

Apart from the Minister, CG and UNSW VC, this ceremony was also attended by other UNSW  officials,  Gambhir Watts, AIBC chairman [Mr Dipen Rughani], Harry Walia, Abbas Alvi, Nihal Agar, Rohitas Batta, Aruna Chandrala, Raj Datta, Neville Roach, Mrs Roach, Mala Mehta, N Saha, myself and many others.

Media was represented by Pawan Luthra [Indian Link], Aparna Vats [Voice of India] and Harmohan Walia [Hindi Gaurav].

It was a very pleasant atmosphere with beautiful music, drinks and finger food which were served after the inauguration.

This venue should become an important place for occasions like Gandhi Jayanti [Birth day celebration] on 2nd October. Inauguration of Gandhi Ji’s Bust should remind people about the principles and achievements of this great soul. It should also remind people that results can be achieved without violence, a message the whole world needs to listen more often today than any other time.

I can’t describe how proud I was today.

Jai Ho!

Yadu Singh/Sydney/1st Sept, 2010

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A Blog & a brilliant editorial on Visa Capping Bill 2010:a must read!

Yadu Singh dryadusingh

http://tinyurl.com/2b8zvkz Visa capping bill 2010 is a disgrace-says this Blog.

I am enclosing an editorial  by Pawan Luthra, Editor, Indian Link newspaper. He has written a very pertinent and a brilliant piece on this matter. Thank you, Pawan.

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“The Visa capping issue

… is becoming the international students’ worst nightmare, says PAWAN LUTHRA

Minister Chris Evans could have the power to effectively order potential migration applications to be declared null and void if the Migration Amendment (Visa Capping) Bill is passed. This means that applicants will not be given a chance to appeal this decision and will have to leave the country within 28 days. With the Coalition remaining quiet on this and a minimal fuss from the Greens, chances of this becoming law are strong. Those most affected are potential migrants, a number of whom are students who may have studied in Australia for over two years. They have contributed thousands of dollars to the Australian economy, been model guests in this country and, in the future, could do Australia proud.

But now they’re becoming victims this game of politics masterminded by the Labor government which has been caught flat footed from the events in the student community since the past year. It is a transparent tactic of the Labor government, seeking to deflect focus from its refugee policies. It is easier to lay blame for the expansion of the student and migration market on the Howard government, rather than work to capture this special resource of talent already existing in the country. Caught within this political crossfire are the hopes and aspirations of thousands who have been waiting for over two years to have their visa applications processed and who now may have jobs, partners, children and other assets. They may have to abandon all this, as the possibility of being thrown out of the country within 28 days of Minister Evans decision imminently looms.

The Migration Amendment (Visa Capping) Bill 2010 would enable the minister to cap the number of visas issued in a given year to applicants with “specified characteristics.” This could include chefs or hairdressers or any other occupation. Once the designated annual cap is reached – which could conceivably be set at zero – all outstanding visa applications with the same characteristics will be terminated. So its wasted dollars for someone who has spent thousands in getting their health checks, skills assessed and qualifications recognised. Yes, the visa application fee will be refunded, but all other costs will be borne by the applicant. This does not include the cost of education which the applicant may have embarked upon in Australia with a dream of applying for residence based on the general intent of the laws at that time.

What the Labor government is doing isn’t wrong, but the sentiment is indeed immoral.

As depicted in the famous Australian movie, The Castle, Daryl Kerrigan fought a property development company which wanted to acquire his house to extend the airport. In the climax, the barrister representing Kerrigan said that it was not a house which the property developer was acquiring; it was a home of dreams and memories. Similarly, a migration application can be terminated abruptly and without notice, but it is at the priceless cost of destroying the dreams and ambitions of thousands of potential migrants. It is a heartrending sight and their despair is palpable.

Now is the time for community leaders to speak up and fight for the rights of these students. Public statements and petitions have been made by well intentioned individuals; but it is time that our Indian associations take this cause forward, in a test of true and vocal leadership. Visa capping in its current form is wrong and this message needs to be sent, loud and clear, to Canberra and the Rudd government.”

Editorial by Pawan Luthra

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Similarly, Anuj Kulshrestha, Editor, Hindi Gaurav, has written a great piece on this matter. He has included comments from some of the leaders from “Friends of International students” with his write-up. Thank you, Anuj.

http://www.hindigaurav.com/community-news-0-65

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Indian Sub-Continent Times [ http://www.theistimes.com/mr-evans-its-democracy-not-anarchy/ ] has written a great article on this issue too. Thank you, Ashok Kumar.

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Please click www.fairgo4internationalstudents.org/ and support the petition against this Bill.

“United we win, divided we lose”.

Regards

Yadu Singh/Sydney/28th June, 2010

http://www.twitter.com/dryadusingh

Australia India Day [celebrating Australia Day and Indian Republic Day] function:Report

Report

Australia India Day Function

[Celebrating Australia Day and Indian Republic Day]

Held on the 24th Jan, 2010 [6-11PM]

Venue – Ryde Civic Centre, Ryde NSW 2112

 

Australia India Day Function Council celebrated its first Australia / India Republic Day at the Ryde Civic Centre, Ryde on the 24th January 2012.  The program was an astounding success with more than 500 prominent Indians, representatives from over 20 Indian Associations, and star-studded politicians from both the Labor and Liberal parties from State and Federal level attending this event. 

The celebration started with the singing of Indian and Australian anthems, followed by entre which was followed by the first part of the entertainment programme. The guests were welcomed by Harish Velji and the MC was Dr Yadu Singh. Vote of thanks was given by Ms Shubha Kumar.  

At no time in the past 20 years, any function organized by any Indian Association/s had such massive response for such events.  The only limiting factor in getting more numbers to attend the event has been the capacity of the Ryde Civic Centre function hall. 

One of the major aspects contributing to the success of this program was the enormous representation from both the Labor and Liberal parties. ALP took 2 tables and Liberals took 1 table in our function. More than 40 political leaders and party workers from both sides attended the event.  Prominent people from the political leadership included: 

Hon Ms Maxine Mckew [Parliamentary secretary, Fed Gov & representing Prime Minister of Australia], Hon Mr Joe Hockey [Shadow Treasurer, Fed Parliament & representing Hon Tony Abbott, Leader of Opposition in Fed Parliament],Hon Mr David Borger [NSW Minister], Hon Mr Peter Primrose [NSW minister], Hon Ms Barbara Perry [NSW minister & representing NSW Premier], Ms Angela D’amore [Parliamentary secretary, NSW], Hon Mr Laurie Ferguson [Parliamentary secretary, Fed Gov], Mr David Clarke MLC [Shadow Parliamentary secretary & representing Mr Barry O’Farrell, Leader of Opposition, NSW], Mr Phillip Ruddock [Shadow Cabinet secretary, Fed Parliament], Mr Greg Smith [Shadow Attorney General, NSW], Hon Ms Amanda Fazio [President, Upper House of NSW], Hon Ms Tanya Gadiel [Deputy speaker of NSW parliament], Mr Chris Hayes MP, Mr Michael Richardson MP and Mr Shaoquett Moselmane MLC.

Clr Mark Adler – Canterbury Council, Clr Tony Hay – Hills Shire, Clr Barbara Burton – Hills Shire, Clr Vaseekaran Rajdurai – Holroyd Council, Clr Bill Whelan, Hawkesbury Council, and Crl Trent Zimmerman, North Sydney Council also attended this function.

Hon Mr Amit Dasgupta, Consul General of India, Sydney and Mr Gautam Roy, Consul from the Indian Consulate, Sydney also graced this function with their presence.

In a highly emotional and charged up speech, Mr David Clarke [representing Mr Barry O’Farrell] from the Australian Liberal Party, said that if his child goes to India he is sure the parents in India would treat him as their son and look after him.  On a similar manner, he urged that the Australian Moms and Dads to treat the Indian students as their own sons and look after them.  He went on and paid tributes to India and its traditions by saying that ‘India practices what it preaches. 

Ms Barbara Perry [representing the Premier of NSW] spoke eloquently about the contribution of Indian Australians and declared that violence against Indian/international students will not be tolerated. She said that students are very welcome in NSW. She was dressed in Indian attire which people appreciated with enthusiastic applause. She spoke about the interest of NSW premier and Gov in working actively with the Indian Australians.

Hon Joe Hockey, speaking at the function, said the Liberal party is fully committed to its policy of supplying Uranium to India.  Dr Yadu Singh, while responding to Hon Joe Hockey’s speech encouraged the Labor party to consider similar policy and implement it as early as possible. He explained that the issue of NPT is not relevant in case of India after India has been given an India-specific exemption from NPT by the NSG [Nuclear Suppliers’ Group] in Vienna last year.

Ms Maxine Mckew also spoke very highly of India, Indian Australians and multi-culturalism in Australia. She also explained that India and Australia have a great relations and it will get even better despite some hiccups. She was very impressed with the enthusiastic participation of women Indian Australians in this function. Her speech generated a thunderous applause from the audience. 

All the speakers from both the major parties spoke highly of India, Indian traditions, Indian sports – in particular Cricket, and the Indian political landscape, which stood the test of times for more than 62 years since securing independence from the British rule in 1947. All speakers were enthusiastically applauded by the audience.  

The event was also graced by Mr Amit Dasgupta, the Consul General of India.  Speaking on the occasion the Consul General touched on two fundamental issues.  On the issues related to the Indian students the Consul General paid glowing tributes to the NSW Police force and the political landscape of NSW for containing the student issues in NSW.  As a clear indication to vindicate this matter the Consul General said that out of the 1340 attacks on Indian students in 2009, only 13 such attacks occurred in the state of NSW and South Australia – the States which fall under the jurisdiction of Mr Amit Dasgupta.  He further stated that these statistics do not however condone the vast majority of attacks on Indian students that occurred and still occurring in other States.  He urged that the law enforcement agencies and the political parties should work closely in this direction and ensure safety of the Indian overseas students 

On a second major issue, the Consul General spoke about exploitation of the Indian students by Indian business – in particular the food/restaurant industry whereby the restaurant owners pay less than the wages stipulated under the labor law.  He insisted that all business owners must do ethical business.  He further went on to say that ‘I will not attend any function where he is not assured of suppliers to that function follow ethical standards in conducting their businesses’.  The entire hall including all the politicians from both major parties echoed with a big applause. 

The overwhelming response to this event is an indication of the ‘changing times’ and ‘changing outlook’  to the leadership and responsiveness to the current issues and challenges being faced by various sections of the Indian migrant and student community living in the State of New South Wales.  

Surely the representation of more than 40 students from the International Student community is an indication that they want to hear from the leadership and also from the large number of politicians on their views and actions proposed to be taken to address their issues. The Chief of VETAB [Ms Margaret Willis] and her assistant, Mr Shona Tannock and Mr Robert Redfern, Commander, Parramatta Police command [representing NSW Police Commissioner] were present as our guests. Ms Willis’ and Mr Redfern’s presence was meant to send out the message that quality of training and safety of students are 2 key issues in relations with Indian students.

It is noteworthy that students had paid at a very subsidized rate and all others including the organizers, except a very small numbers of VIP guests, had bought the tickets for their participation in the function.

The representation from more than 20 Indian Associations is a clear indication which shows they are bewildered with the current policies and practices, and financial management of our current top associations and leaders. The one fundamental reason for this large support stems from the fact that they found a new leadership in the AIDFC which can respond to the current issues and make representations at both Australian and Indian Government levels with a solid and united voice.   Some of the major Indian organizations who supported the event included the India Club, The Sydney Sangat, Australian Punjabi Business Association, Australian Indian Business Congress, Punjab For Ever, The Australian Tamil Association Inc (ATA), Hindi Samaj and the Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Association (AMU) in addition to others.  

ACR International Tours and Travels added spice to the event by offering one return air ticket through Singapore Airlines for auction.  The auction added nice A$1,000 to the much badly needed money for the ‘benevolent fund project’. Mr Navneet Chaugar was the winner of this ticket. For the raffle draw which helped us collect about $750, the Good Guys offered a Plasma 26 inch TV which was won by Councilor Bill Whelan of the Hawkesbury City Council.  Congratulations to the winners! 

Media-both Indian and Australian, were represented with Indian Link, The Indian, Punjab Times, Hamare Rang [Pakistani] and most importantly, Channel 9 team present in the function. This was the very first time that Channel 9 crew was present in an Indian function.

Many other ethnic community leaders also graced the occasion with their presence.

The Future – the AIDFC Benevolent Fund

AIDFC has made a number of public announcements at the function to the community as a part of its commitment for the future.  Prominent among them is the creation and implementation of the AIDFC’s Benevolent Fund.  We are committed to get this fund going and make a significant contribution to the well being the Indian migrant and student community, our fellow Australian community and finally to our mother country – India.   

Finally we promise you that we will provide you a solid leadership and will representation at various levels.  We will have clean governance in all matters of the AIDFC management – in particular finance management. We will adopt an ‘open book’ approach in all these areas.  Consideration will be given to broaden the current AIDFC to include more Associations, individual members and businesses.  The community will be getting more frequent updates in the coming weeks and months! 

Ghungurus Group of Shalini Patel was the provider of the entertainment programme which was of 50 minutes duration and had the mix of Bhangra and Bollywood songs/dances. Every one enjoyed it tremendously.

Catering was done by Billu Group with great food, dessert and wines.

This function was so well attended and so well done that it has become a matter for the discussion among Indian Australians and the political eaders in NSW and Canberra.

This function has now become the talk of the town.
 
 JAI HO! 

Dr Yadu Singh

President

Australia India Day Function Council (AIDFC)

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Email: singhyadu@gmail.com

31st Jan, 2010

Indian student commits suicide in Australia:Who is accountable and what has to be done to prevent such incidents?

I was extremely saddened to hear the news of an Indian student who had committed suicide in Melbourne recently.

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/indian-student-commits-suicide-in-australia/519725/

Mr Gurjinder Singh was a student of La Trobe University, doing accounting. He was in Australia only for 3 months. From the newspaper reports, I read that he was depressed about not finding a job in Australia. As we know, international students are allowed to work for 20 hours a week.

He was in his early 20s.

I have been thinking about him ever since I heard about his death. I feel for him and his situations before he committed suicide. I feel for the grief and loss for his parents in India. I have been trying to analyse what went in his mind before he came to this extreme point and took his life.

What happened here? How can a person become so severely depressed within so short time after arriving in Australia? Why his flat-mates and class-mates did not know about his situation? Why nothing could be done to prevent this tragedy?

Obviously, a lot of people failed here in averting a tragedy of this nature.

As I see it, following things come to my mind;

1. his classmates failed in their responsibility by not noticing his situation and turmoil and doing something about it,

2. his flat mates failed in their responsibility by again not noticing his situation and turmoil and doing something about it,

3. his University’s support system also could not do much to prevent this tragedy [may be they did what was needed to done but we are not aware of it],

4. his close relatives could not do anything to prevent his death. A young man felt this desperate and committed suicide and close relatives did not have a clue of his situation! Was this young man pushed into coming to Australia and had lots of expectation from his relatives but he was not helped with the essential things ie money which he needed to succeed in Australia?,

5. the education agents in India who did not inform him about the situation and ground realities re the jobs and the required money for his tuition etc,

6. his University system which could not prevent such a devastating tragedy by informing him at the orientation time about the health matters/systems including the psychological health issues which he could have accessed . There are help lines available which are very useful and are known to prevent suicides.  I recognise that his University might have informed him about all this at the time of orientation but he did not use the information. He could have gone to a GP. He had access to the health system in Australia as all students are required to have a health insurance. Alas, nothing of these happened!

7. I am sorry to say this but this young man also failed himself and his parents by taking this extreme step when he could have done many things to get him out of his situation. This could have been about calling help lines, speaking with his class mates/flat mates, speaking with counsellors, speaking with his parents and even returning to India if things were not going to change. Every thing would have been preferrable to the extreme step of committing suicide. A degree from a Uni in Australia and a possible PR in Australia are nothing when we compare them with the “Life”. By saying this, I am not minimising the grief/sadness which his near and dears ones are going through right now. I have a great deal of empathy with every one who is going through this grief but…….

 Life is always full of challenges and we need to face the challenges rather than taking the self-harm steps. Most times, we can deal with them ourselves but some times, we would need help from others and we must seek it from them.

Parents and students must be aware of the possibility that a job may not be available in Australia. Arrangements for ongoing living expenses and tuition fees must be made before travelling to Australia. Aus Gov authorities in the relevant Embassy/High Commission must make it amply clear that students can work for upto 20hours/week but jobs in Australia can not be the main or the only source of funding the expenses during their stay in Australia.

To be honest with you, I believe that students should not come to Australia if they do not have a capability to arrange funding for their fees and living expenses without a job in Australia.

Depression is a common problem and people from all age groups, ethnicity and circumstances can suffer from depression. Indians are no exception. It is eminently treatable. No body needs to suffer without the help, support and treatment for it. We of course need to let others know what is going on inside us. Many a times, others would not know about the turmoil inside if we do not seek help, talk about it or let them know what is going on inside us. 

 Unfortunately, there is a stigma attached to the mental health issues and anecdotally, this may be more true in the Indian community.

In this regard, I admire the courage which was shown by Jeff Kennett [former Vic Premier], Andrew Robb [Liberal Front Bencher] and Geoff Gallop [ former premier of Western Australia] when they came out with their depression and sought help.

To prevent any loss of life in this manner, we all must show compassion and look after our friends, class mates, flat mates, relatives or any one whom we know if we find that they are having difficulties in these matters. We need to talk with our close ones and share with them the difficulties we are experiencing.

It does not help and it is not correct if we point a finger of blame, to the premier of Victoria, Mr John Brumby by making him responsible for this suicide as has been done by a non-student “leader” in Melbourne. This is ridiculous. This “leader” is talking nonsense and is playing useless politics. He should be ashamed of himself.

A very sad situation has happened and we all including the Gov agencies need to think about the preventive measures which must be in place to avert such deaths, knowing that International students are under lots of pressure, do not have the traditional support mechanism for them in Australia and some of them may not be able to cope with the circumstances. Schools, TAFE and Universities must review their orientation systems to make sure there is information on health including mental health issues in their orientation programmes.

The education providers must have a system of “student co-ordinators” who should have a close interaction with the students. Pastoral care is a service which is extremely essential in relation to International students.

 State Governments must ensure that the education providers in their territories do have enough information on these matters in these programmes and have adequate pastoral care mechanism.

Indian associations must review what they can do to help Indian students when they are having difficulties in dealing with the situations/circumstances in Australia.

There is a significant role for the media in India and in Australia to take up the issue of mental health among International students. Many of them go through a very difficult environment. As Indian students do access the ethnic Indian media in Australia regularly, it can and should do a significant job by making people aware of the mental health and help system available in Australia. Kumud Merani [SBS Radio], Pawan Luthra [Indian Link], Rohit Revo [The Indian] and Dinesh Malhotra [Bharat Times] have the instrument which can be very effective in this regard. After all, we do have the great systems like LIFE LINE and BEYOND BLUE in Australia but this may not be known to our students.

We all have to work together to save lives of those who are going through a difficult time in their lives!

We all need to work together in all sorts of manners to help our students!

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/23rd Sept, 2009.