Interactions with Australia’s High Commissioner to India

Sydney/11 October, 2017


Australian High Commissioner to India (New Delhi), Ms Harinder Sidhu, is in Australia presently.  She is here for the mid term consultations with the Government and various stakeholders. As part of these consultations, she met a select group of Indian Australian community representatives  These reps included people from various segments and faiths. 

An hour-long session in the DIBP offices in Parramatta gave an opportunity for all of us to understand and raise relevant issues. 

From Federation of Indian Associations of NSW (FIAN), Abhijeet Martand and I participated. Mr SK Verma participated  on behalf of the Consulate General of India in Sydney. 

We emphasized the role of Indian Australian community as the bridge between India and Australia and their usefulness in enhancing the relations between Australia and India. I pointed out how we (community) took up the matters during students’ troubles in 2009-10 and helped counter “Australia is racist” campaign by Indian media.  I reiterated that then Australian Government did not utilize the community meaningfully in countering the campaign by Indian media. 

Some wanted to be listed with the Govt agencies for people to contact them when needing help, but we expressed our strong view that no such listing etc should be done without involvement of, and vetting by, the Government agencies because some “leaders” are known to exploit our own people. 

The issue involving the visa for priests was raised. It was mentioned that the standard of English requirement is onerous and excessive.  I pointed out that the matter was also raised in the Q & A session with DIBP Assistant Minister, Alex Hawke, in a recent meeting organized by FIAN, and that it will be better if we work together and raise the matter with the Minister directory. The High Commissioner agreed that the matter is in the policy domain and will better be dealt with the Government. We have a plan to organize a meeting involving key stakeholders and then meet the DIBP Assistant Minister. 

Dr Yadu Singh 

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“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

Farrukh Dhondy’s advice to Indian Australians and Indian students is inappropriate.

Dr Yadu Singhhttp://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/09/17/2688266.htm

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/world/indians-abroad/Dont-break-the-law-Australian-PM-warns-Indian-students/articleshow/5021162.cms

Mr Farrukh Dhondy is a UK-based writer/editor of Indian background. He was interviewed by the ABC AM team today [see the link above].

He is advising students and Indian Australians to retaliate and take law into our hands. Any sane person would see the futility of his argument. How are we going to achieve what we want if we go the direction recommended by him?

His advice to us and Indian students in Australia is totally inappropriate. It may even be crazy and irrational. It is not going to solve the problems.

I give following arguments against his advice:

1. Indians are a small population on numerical strength and can not be expected to win the retaliation game.

2. Indians are not going to become idiots like those thugs who bashed 3 Indians in Epping, Melbourne.

3. Students have come here to study, not to fight in retaliation which would cause more and serious troubles for them.

4. Taking law into our hands will itself be illegal and may end up sending us to jail.

5. Taking law into our hands will destroy any goodwill, Indian Australians have from the general Australian community.

6. Taking law into our hands will be totally counter-productive.

We reject his suggestions as irresponsible, insane, impractical and inappropriate.

We do have to understand the difference between retaliation and self-defence.

We have to find solutions to these problems within the systems of Australia and within the Laws of Australia.

Prime Minister Mr Kevin Rudd is right in advising the students to not take laws into their hands [see the link above].

I would categorise Mr Dhondy’s comments as ill-advised statements.

He does not live in Australia and would not know the situation in Australia.

We are parts of Australian society and we have to find solutions to the troubles in co-operation with other constituents of Australian society.

Let me re-state that the overwhelming majority of Australians are excellent citizens. They are as frustrated and angry with a miniscule fraction of our people who are racist and do not hesitate to harm others because of the race reasons. To me and other decent Australians, this tiny minority does not qualify to be called “Human”.

Mr Dhondy, please butt out from Australian troubles and issues. You are inflaming the situation.

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/17th Sept, 2009

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Looking for an “INDIAN”:The informant will be rewarded!

I received this interesting email from a GP friend. I found it thought provoking. Have a read!

The email goes like………

 

AN AMERICAN VISITED  INDIA AND WENT BACK TO  AMERICA
WHERE HE MET HIS INDIAN FRIEND WHO ASKED HIM
HOW DID U FIND MY COUNTRY???
THE AMERICAN SAID IT IS A GREAT COUNTRY
WITH SOLID ANCIENT HISTORY
AND IMMENSELY RICH WITH NATURAL RESOURCES.

THE INDIAN FRIEND THEN ASKED ….
HOW DID U FIND INDIANS ???

INDIANS??
WHO INDIANS??
I DIDNT FIND OR MEET A SINGLE INDIAN
THERE IN  INDIA …
WHAT NONSENSE???
WHO ELSE CAN U MEET IN  INDIA THEN???

THE AMERICAN SAID …
IN  KASHMIR I MET A KASHMIRI–
IN  PUNJAB A PANJABI…
IN BIHAR,MAHARASTRA,  BENGAL ,TAMILNADU
I MET A BIHARI,MARATHI, BENGALI,TAMILIAN…
THEN I MET
A MUSLIM,
A CHRISTIAN,
A JAIN,
A BUDDHIST
AND MANY MANY MANY MORE
BUT NOT A SINGLE INDIAN DID I MEET
…………………………………………………………..
FIGHT BACK –
ALWAYS SAY 
“WE ARE INDIANS”

The email does describe how many of us act in our day-to-day interactions.

Is it not the time we become Indians FIRST before being a Maharastrian, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati, Keralite, Tamil, Kannada, UP Wala, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh or anything else?

The tendency to divide us based on our regional or religious identities is not a great thing.

We are all Indians and that identity must be actively and assertively promoted by all of us. This is more true for our leaders whether they are in India or Australia.

Dr Yadu Singh/Bowral/12th Sept, 2009

* I am attending a conference in Bowral, NSW.

OCI Card: A story of an Emeritus Professor of Medicine from USA!

 This email was sent to me by Rajesh Pandey who is a great guy from our community. He is based in Sydney. The behaviour of the Indian officials with this Professor from USA made me sad. It also raised concerns/questions about OCI cards. I hope we can hear from the Indian Consulate, Sydney about the OCI card and its usefulness.

I reproduce the content of the email.

This email reads as……..
Indian Immigration!
 
Horror Of Dual Citizenship With India
 
   
 
MY DUAL CITIZENSHIP WOES:
MY RECENT EXPERIENCE WITH THE IMMIGRATION DEPARTMENT
AT THE KOLKATA AIRPORT AND THE LESSONS I LEARNT
 

My advice to all my friends who hold an OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) Card and those who aspire to get one.
 
I am an American citizen.  I also carry an OCI card (Overseas Citizen of India) since 2007. 
On Saturday, June 20, 2009 , I arrived at the Kolkata Netaji Subhas Airport from Detroit via Singapore , by Singapore Airlines (SQ 516) at 10:30 P.M.
 
I presented myself to an Immigration Officer  ( Mr. Biswas ) for immigration clearance.  I gave him my American passport and my OCI card.  He demanded to see my visa from the Indian consular office.  Unfortunately, that visa was attached to my old passport and I did not bring it with me.
I explained to him that I am sorry I forgot to bring my old passport but since I do possess a valid OCI Card that would automatically mean that I do also possess a permanent (life long) visa for India and there are proofs that I have traveled multiple times to India after I had received my OCI card. 
 
Mr. Biswas detained me for two hours inside the airport   and then he told me that he is going to allow me to stay in India for 72 hours and asked me to report to the Foreign Relations Regional Officer (FRRO) in the city within 72 hours.  He kept my passport.  During all that time I had no opportunity either to approach his OC (Officer in Charge) although I asked for it, or to contact my relatives who came to the airport to receive me and were waiting outside and had no idea why I was being held back or if I have even arrived.
 
Forgetting to bring my old passport was my own fault but I ‘forgot’ to bring it partly because I knew I have my OCI Card with me and I thought, that means something, I really believed that I am a citizen of India too.  Why would a citizen also need a visa to enter his own country?   I thought I have a dual citizenship for both the USA and India . Other wise, what is the difference between an ordinary foreigner and the OCI Card holder?
Next day was a Sunday, I called a friend in Ann Arbor who went into my house, got my old passport and sent me the scanned copy of my old passport and a copy of my permanent visa by e-mail. 
 
So, on Monday I went to see Mr. Bibhas Talukdar , the FRRO.  He hardly looked at the documents (the scanned visa) that I had with me he simply asked me to get my old passport by courier mail within another seven days.  He appeared gleeful telling me that it is only out of  “pity” that he is allowing me to stay in India for seven more days.  He was totally unimpressed by either my status as a Professor Emeritus of the University of Michigan or my age (70+)
 
I called my friend in Ann Arbor again who then sent my old passport by FedEx.  Three days later the passport arrived.  Since I had to leave Kolkata for prescheduled visit to Bangalore , my niece took it to Mr. Talukdar . But due to lack of communication between the FRRO office and the airport immigration department my passport had not arrived at the city office even after 9 days.  My niece had to go to the FRRO’s office three times once waiting until 6 P.M. still they did not have my passport.  They only promised: “it will come soon”. At last,  12 days after my arrival, my niece got my passport.
 
From this painful and anxiety provoking experience I have learned a few valuable lessons:
 
1.    The loud talk about “Dual Citizenship” for Indian Americans is just a political hoax.
 
2.    The OCI card just does not have any value.  It is just a piece of expensive junk. You still need a visa every time you travel to India whether or not you possess an OCI card.  Only difference is that for the high price of getting an OCI card you will get a “life long ” visa.  A 10-year visa is much cheaper.
 
3.    When coming to India always consider yourself a foreigner and bring your visa with you, there will be no exceptions. Your OCI card is not a visa substitute.
 
4.     In fact, you will probably be treated worse than an ordinary foreigner arriving without a valid visa.  Because a foreigner especially a white Caucasian will at least be treated with courtesy and probably offered a temporary visa if there is no reason to deny it, but not you.
 
Please feel free to forward this mail to any of your friends who may befit from my experience.  Especially feel free to forward this to any influential politician or civil servant in India that you may know.
 
Sujit K. Pandit M.D.,Professor Emeritus, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Michigan

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I have sent a copy of this email to Indian Consulate, Sydney. They may consider about enlightening Indian Australians re the value of the OCI cards. There are OCI card holders in Australia and they would be interested in this matter.

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/11th Sept, 2009

Dr Yadu Singh, Sydney, Australia

Welcome to my site!

Let me introduce myself. I am a cardiologist and live in Sydney, Australia.  I am also a Physician or Internal Medicine specialist with MD. I obtained my basic medical degrees and training [MBBS and MD]  from the prestigious institutions in India. My specialist training as a cardiologist was in Australia which led to FRACP [Fellow of The Royal Australasian College of Physicians].  I work in Sydney, NSW.

In addition to being a doctor, I have a keen interest in any matter which has anything to do with Australia, India and Indian-Australians. I consider myself well-informed about what is happening in Australia, India and the World. I love my community. I am in the community work and leadership because I enjoy doing it and wish the best for the community. It is definitely not due to any personal benefit.

This Blog is not about medicine. This is all about my political views on variety of issues. I urge you to not drag my profession while debating with me on political/social views. I am not a member of any political party. I am a keen observer of politics, however. I am a social/political commentator too.

Australia is my home since 1991. I live in Australia physically, mentally and socially. Australia is my “Karm Bhumi or Place of work”, but India will always remain my “Matra Bhumi or Birth place”, with a significant emotional bonding, and a place deep inside my heart. I love Australia and India both. I support Australian cricket team in every match except when they play with the Indian team. When that happens, I become neutral and rejoice with either winning team! [Just kidding!].

I identify myself as an Australian when choosing between Australian and any other identity as I share my value system with Australian value system and Australia is my home. When dealing with regions, religions or languages from India, I am an “Indian” first and anything else second. I love India dearly as it is the place of my birth, but I love Australia no less because it is a great country and it has given me so much. I have no doubt that Australia is a great place to live and work, and Australians are fantastic people. Australia has my total loyalty!

Unlike some, I do not believe that Australia is a racist nation, although I recognise that there are some people who hold racist views, just like any other country of the world. Such people are a tiny minority. Vast majority of Australian people, like any other country, are fair-minded people and are not racist. Systems, rules, Laws, regulations and Governments in Australia are not based on racism or racist agenda.

I wish to see Indian-Australians to be well-integrated among themselves and within Australian general community, both socially and politically. I want to see Indian Australians in the state and federal parliaments. I will never support an Indian Australian politician however if he/she is not a good person and if there is a better alternative candidate in the contest, irrespective of race, religion or gender of that candidate.

I am a strong advocate of good Australia-India relations. I want to see these relations go to newer heights.

I am comfortable with people who have integrity and decency, irrespective of their race, religion, gender or political views, but  I detest those who exploit vulnerable people like students and new immigrants. I am not a fan of those who do not have any idea or understanding of “conflict of interest”.

I am a strong believer and a supporter of the multiculturalism and Multicultural Australia. To put it simply, multiculturalism to me is about freedom to practise and enjoy my own culture, enjoy other cultures, let others enjoy their own cultures and to integrate with the general Australian culture, ethos  and values, which must always remain supreme. I believe in integration, not segregation. I like good and decent people from all sections of the Australian society, irrespective of their race, religion, beliefs, culture or political persuasion.

I have been active  in the community over the years. Details of my community work can be found here.  http://tinyurl.com/7opu4tv

ABC Radio National Video about me is here. https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fradionational%2Fvideos%2F10154646233077378%2F&show_text=0&width=560

ABC Radio National Audio “How one immigrant fell in love with Australia” is here: http://ab.co/2f9zQfe

ABC article is here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-25/indian-doctors-immigration-experience-he-learnt-about-a-fair-go/7960734

I encourage you to go through my Blog posts and make comments, if necessary. I want to network with you and encourage you to join me via Twitter, Facebook or  this Blog.

I recognise that you may not agree with every thing I say, have said, do, or have done. Irrespective of that, I encourage you to join me in debating on these matters, provided you have something positive to contribute. I am reasonably open-minded and have learnt to see merits in a well-argued point of view. I value your views, as long as you identify yourself while making your comments. I respect even those views which are not aligned with mine, provided they are advancing a debate on a topic. I believe that diversity of views and opinions is a positive thing for the community.

I am keen to network with people from wide spectrum of fields, using face to face interactions and social media.

I can  be reached via Email  dryadusingh@gmail.com, Twitter  www.twitter.com/dryadusingh, Facebook www.facebook.com/dryadusingh and Linkedin http://au.linkedin.com/pub/yadu-singh/52/581/864.  

Thank you for visiting my site.

With best regards

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/Australia

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(Edited 9 November, 2016)