STATEMENTS FROM GOPIO
OFFICERS AT THE PRAVASI BHARATIYA DIVAS – 2007, NEW YORK
SESSION – ENGAGING
THE DISPORA FOR EDUCATION AND HEALTH SERVICES FOR THE MASSES
Question to Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman, Global
Organization of People of Indian Origin
As the Chairman of GOPIO, you represent one of the
largest collective voices of NRI’s in the US. What in your opinion is the
largest issue faced by the Indian community and what is a collaborative
solution that we can work towards with the Government of India, specifically the Ministry of
Overseas Indian Affairs.
There are number
issues we can talk about, where we need collaborative solutions with Govt. of
India. I will limit to a few points.
community numbering over 3 million people has done quite well economically and
in education. Last year’s Merrill Lunch survey showed that over 10% Indian
Americans are millionaires. That are over 300,000 -400,000 millionaires amongst
us, although a survey by South Asian Council for Social Services in New York
City has shown that there are pockets of our community struggling to manage
with their minimum wage jobs and lack of medical insurance coverage. But
overall the community has done quite well. Although, we are the second fastest
growing immigrant group, we are yet to achieve the political and social
standing consummate with our economic strength. For the Indian American
community to be successful and influential, our second and third generations
have to identify with our community and be part of the larger Diaspora.
Although they do attend our temples, churches, Mosques or Gurudwaras or
participate in Garba and Bhangra Blow Out, as Americans, born and brought up
here, their attachment to India
is limited. This is where a collaborative effort from MOIA and Indian community
groups can help bring them closer to India. Since the PBD was initiated
in 2003, groups of youngsters have been brought to India during that time and other
intervals, as late as early this month in a program called “Know India
Program.” I propose that this program be expanded as well as initiate other
programs. Increase the number of programs in Indian colleges for
semesters away, help institutions such as American India Foundation and
Indicorps to expand their activities and develop an extensive program for
Indian American medical students to spend a few months during their summer
vacation. I am sure AAPI and British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin
(BAPIO) and other Diaspora medical groups should be brought in to launch such
massive programs. Currently, all these programs combined may be limited less
than a couple of thousand students compared to about half million strong high school and college going Indian American students. We need
to cultivate future generations so that we can create more successful Indian
American social entrepreneurs such as Dr. Abraham George or Dr. Bahuleyan who took
personal commitments to make a change in the education and health services to
the masses in India by contributing as much as $20 million of their own savings
and spending full time now to implement these causes. I also bring this,
because my own daughter went to Hoduras with a medical team from New York
University School of Medicine to help in a clinic in a remote place. If there
was a program in India,
I would have asked her to go over there. Such programs will help our new
generations to realize their global civic responsibility. Cultivating them when
they are young will expand the Indian Diaspora base and helps the larger Indian
American community to seek their help in mobilizing community and India related
causes such as immigration, discrimination and in the recent legislative issues
such as US-India Nuclear Deal. I hope that MOIA and OIFC will help to launch
several new programs for the new generations growing outside India.
I would like to
take a few minutes to talk about some other areas where we need cooperation and
remedial steps from Govt. of India.
Overall I don’t see
any pressing issue of the Indian community where Govt. of India has to be
involved. In fact, we do have many national, regional and service organizations
who are very dynamic to take up such local issues as
legalization of illegal immigrants numbering as much as 300,000 Indian people
in the US,
discrimination, occasional civil and human rights violations. In fact, rather than taking anything from
India, we want to give to India whether in education and health services
for the masses, investments or infrastructure development in India, to support
charitable and philanthropic causes in India. For us to be effective and for massive
participation, I propose the following steps from Govt. of India.
- Simplification in Foreign Contribution Regulation Act
(FCRA) and charitable donation of
goods by NRI NGOs for India’s
developmental and educational activities. The current procedures of India’s
Ministry of Home Affairs and the agency handling FCRA clearances were
unnecessarily long, time-consuming, secretive, bureaucratic and
costly, thereby discouraging necessary development and educational
aid flows to the motherland. The simplification
of rules, regulations and procedures relating to FCRA so as
to expedite FCRA approvals through a streamlined fast track mechanism
for acceptance of funds by the applicant organizations and their affiliates,
branches, and subsidiaries in India. The new rules and procedures should
lead to a quick, duty-free, hassle-free, and friendly release of goods to
the intended nonprofit beneficiary/recipient person, institution,
organization or government body such as schools and colleges, clinics and
- Set Up NRI
Advisory Committees Ministries of Education, Health in the Central and
State Levels These ministries should have separate NRI/PIO Advisory
Committee which should meet on a regular basis to seek ways to involve
NRIs/PIOs. Such advisory committee existed informally in Finance and
Commerce Ministries before. If you make a commitment, regular meetings
could take place with members in India assembled in a conference
room and those from outside joining them in a teleconference. Our Diaspora
groups would help in identifying right candidates who would take interest
in such advisory committees.
- NRIs TO BE
APPOINTED TO THE DISTRICT DEVELOPMENT BOARD
feel that in the each of the 600 plus districts board should have one NRI who
should be above party politics. Although most of the district development funds
come from govt. agencies, NRI representative could identify certain specific
needs of the district especially in the education and health services and mobilize
resources from NRIs and Diaspora organizations from outside.
- Set Up NRI
Ministry or NRI Coordination Office with all state governments - Many
states such as Kerala, Gujarat, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh have such set ups
already. This will help each of the states to reach out their NRIs living
all over the world and help to channel the resources to their respective
NRI/PIO NGOs Involved in Educational and Health Areas - Support
activities of organizations such as Pratham, American Indian Foundations, Asha for Education, AAPI Charitable Foundation,
regional medical groups such as AKMG and Karnataka Medical College
Associations. There are alumni association of most of the established
Indian medical colleges in North America and UK. MOIA officials must
interact with these groups whenever they meet. For massive participation
of these groups in healthcare and education, I suggest that MOIA identify
community volunteers who may be appointed as liaison with such groups in
different regions of North America and UK starting with major cities.
These groups need to be motivated to do more in education and health
service for the places they come from or for a program providing health
services to the poor from their own medical schools.
- Helping Govt.
Run and Non-Profit Health Service Providers - Looking back at the
telecom revolution initiated by Mr. Sam Pitroda in the 1980s, it was a
huge success, not only in providing wider and better services and reach
out to the larger population of our country, it
also provided jobs 100s of 1000s of people. If we look at another success
story, NRI remittance to any remote place in India
can be done in a matter of day by a joint venture of Western
Union and Indian Postal Service, with a small service fee of
only $10. Similar to thee success stories, we need to develop a new idea
where NRIs are somehow involved in the remotest village in India in
health care and education for the masses. NRIs and PIOs have the resources
and the willingness to help. We need to motivate them and make it easy for
them to be involved. May be the Overseas Indian Facilitation Center (OIFC)
take up this challenges and pool resources from Central and state
Governments as well as from the non-profits and private agencies to make
this happen. In this regard I want to mention a program from the Kerala Center, where one committee member
supports a few Aganvadi pre-schools in Kerala. If we provide the
information of the need to a large number of NRI organizations and
individuals to directly get involved in the education and health service
activities of the places they come from, they would get involved.
Networking Coordinators - MOIA may appoint NRI/PIO Education and
Health Service Coordinators who can identify the needs in India and
find the appropriate funding agencies and/or individuals among the
- IDENTIFY AND
RECOGNIZE NRIs/PIOs AND ORGANIZATIONS WHO HAVE DONE OUTSTANDING WORK IN
PROMOTING EDUCATION AND HEALTH SERVICE FOR MASSES – Individuals and
organizations providing exemplary services should be considered for Padma
and Pravasi Summan. Recognizing such people as role models for our
community go a long way in motivating others to initiate and get involved
in these projects.
- MEDICAL AND
EDUCATION SUMMIT - Once in two years, MOIA in cooperation with
Ministries of health and education in the central and state levels should
host separate educational and medical summit for all service providers and
NRI support organizations. This will help all these organizations to share
their experiences and bring out issues they face in implementation.
Organizations such as GOPIO, AAAPI, BAPIO, NFIA and AIF could help to
organize such summits.
CELEBRITIES TO PROMOTE THE MOVEMENT - As a proactive effort, our
senior political leaders and leading personalities such as former
president Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam should be requested to help in promoting
this movement of involving NRIs and PIOs in India’s development and in
delivering education and health services to the masses.
PUBLICATION AND WEBSITE - MOIA website should be a source of
information. It needs to be updated every day with happenings in the
Diaspora. The MOIA publication, Overseas Indian is an excellent
publication and should carry in depth and breadth of the Diaspora activities
especially those success stories in education and health services by the
NRIs and Diaspora organizations.
- NEED TO SET UP
OBJECTIVE BASED CELLS IN MOIA SPECIFIC TO INDIA DEVELOPMENT – (a) Services
to the broad based NRI/PIO Organizations, GOPIO, NFIA, TiE, AAPI, AAHOA,
Engineers Asso., British Indian Medical Council, Indian Associations
around the world, India/NRI/PIO Chambers of Commerce. (b) Services to
language based organizations, FOKANA, FOGANA, Federation of Tamil Asso.,
World Malayalee Council, Intl Punjabi society, TANA, ATA, Brihan
Maharashtra Mandal, National Bengali Conference, etc. (c) Services to
NRI/PIO foundations and individuals to get involved in educational,
charitable and social services in India. Help groups such as Pratham, Asha
for Education, CRY, Share and Care, Care and Share, George Foundation,
Sehgal Foundation, American India Foundation, AAPI Foundation, NFIA
Foundation, Children of Hope and many others.
global citizens have done a great job in building good image for their
Motherland in their respective countries. NRI/PIOs have worked behind the scene
to create interest among companies to take interest in India. Similar to what China has accomplished to become powerful
country in the world with the help of its Diaspora, Indian Diaspora is also
contributing to make India
a powerful country. In the last 250 years, three successful diasporas were the
British, Jewish and lastly in the last 20 years, the Chinese. The Indian
Diaspora is emerging now as the newest successful Diaspora and I am very
optimistic that India
and its Diaspora work closely for mutual benefits.
STATEMENT BY GOPIO PRESIDENT
INDER SINGH ON NRI/PIO ISSUES AT THE INTERACTIVE SESSION
RAJYA SABHA SEATS FOR NON-RESIDENT INDIANS (NRIs)
There are about 9 million
Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) living outside India, who constitute an important
force and represent a tremendous resource in intellectual, technical,
scientific, professional, economic, trade, and entrepreneurial excellence with
high potential and interest to contribute to the well-being and prosperity of
their motherland. They have emerged as an important factor in promoting India's interest, in shaping relations between
the "home" and the "host" countries and in steering a
dynamic shift in India's
economic and political advantage in the world affairs. However, they have no
representation in the decision making process of the country of which they are
citizen of. We urge the Government of India to nominate a few prominent NRIs as
members of the Rajya Sabha (the Upper House of Parliament) so as to reinforce
and further integrate the bonds between India and the overseas Indian
VOTING RIGHTS FOR INDIAN CITIZENS LIVING
Most of the countries provide
opportunities for their citizens living outside their countries to participate
in the election process of their countries.
More than 40% of the Indians living outside India
are still citizens of India
has yet to establish a mechanism to provide an opportunity for its citizens
numbering about 9 million.
Resident Indians (NRIs) who have been building India’s
image and enthusiastically contributing to the economic development of India,
should be allowed to exercise their right of franchise as enshrined in the
Constitution of India and should be able to vote in an election, particularly for
the election of Members of India’s Parliament.
GOPIO urges the Government of
India to take appropriate steps to initiate amendment to the current procedure
to enable Indian citizens living outside India to vote in the election.
PROTECTION OF REAL ESTATE INVESTMENTS
PIOs & NRIs have substantial
investments in the residential and commercial real estate in India and the investment is rapidly
on the increase. However, the practices and the laws in India do not provide enough relief
to the investors when the tenants refuse to honor their agreements to pay the
rents or vacate the premises. The PIO/NRI investors find themselves helpless in
protecting their investments.
The NRIs/PIOs, in order to seek
justice, take the cases to the courts where they stay for a considerable long
time causing more frustration as they cannot stay in India until the case is settled.
Considering the plight of Punjabi
he Punjab government has decided to set up fast-track courts
for the speedy settlement of property cases involving NRIs/PIOs. The Government
will also amend the Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act and the East Punjab
Urban Rent Restriction Act, which would save NRIs/PIOs from land grabs and
GOPIO urges the Government of
India to get laws similar to the ones in Punjab
passed in other states as well.
POLITICAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS OF
In some countries with large
NRI/PIO population, there are instances of extraordinary level of infringement
of human and political rights including racial discrimination and
unconstitutional means to suppress rights of the persons of Indian origin.
GOPIO urges Govt. of India to evolve an effective and comprehensive policy and
take proactive stand in accordance with the UN Charter on Human Rights, where
ever and whenever such violations occur.
There have been numerous cases
about the spousal abuses where unsuspecting young ladies from India got married to overseas males
and then are tortured in various ways. GOPIO has been urging the Government of
India to protect its citizens from being abused for quite some time. We are
glad that the Government of India is creating a mechanism to help these abused and
However, we have also heard of
many cases of misuse of Anti-Dowry Law (IPC - 498a) by unscrupulous women to extort money and harass their
husband's family. The gender based law may have been enacted with good intent
but when such laws grossly violate the liberty and dignity of an average man
and his family members, we urge modification of the
law to eliminate the element of harassment in its application.
IMPLEMENTATION OF UNIFORM ENTRANCE FEE FOR
About two years ago, the prime
minister of India, through a press release, made entrance fee to monuments and the archeological sites such as Taj Mahal,
uniform for all -- citizens of India, NRIs/PIOs and the foreign visitors. GOPIO
urges the government to implement uniform entrance fee throughout India
including monuments under the jurisdiction of the states.
REHABILITATION OF POOR INDIAN WORKERS FROM GULF STATES
& OTHER COUNTRIES
There are many Indian workers in
the Gulf States who have been cheated through
"mistaken belief" of good jobs in the Gulf States. The employers in the Gulf States have abused
and harassed these poor Indian workers by taking advantage of their
helplessness to the extent that some of them have landed in Jails. Many
helpless workers neither get any legal help nor they own resources (in fact,
some of them even mortgaged their houses in India
to pay for the travels to the Gulf
GOPIO urges the Government of
India to take measures to help in the rehabilitation of these poor workers
through financial and legal assistance.
STATEMENT FROM GOPIO SECRETARY
GENERAL ASHOOK RAMSARAN AT THE INTERACTIVE SESSION
Hon. Minister Vayalar Ravi, Hon
Secretary Nirmal Singh, Ambassador T.P. Sreenivasan, Consul General Neelam Deo,
distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
Firstly, I express my thanks to
MOIA for allowing me to make these few remarks. I wish more time would have
been accorded because the topic of ISSUES AND CONCERNS OF THE CARIBBEAN PIO
COMMUNITY is dynamic and becoming ever more important.
My name is Ashook Ramsaran,
born in Guyana as a third
generation PIO, now residing in the USA. I am the Secretary General of
GOPIO International, founding director of Guyanese East Indian Civic
Association and director of the Global Indian Diaspora Foundation, as well very
active in several New York City
civic and community associations and groups, including New York City Board of
Because of my background from the
Caribbean region, active involvement and
current extent of community and PIO activities, I believe I am qualified to
speak with some measure of knowledge and experience on this subject. I make
this presentation as an advocate of Caribbean PIOs in the Caribbean and North America.
Caribbean PIOs are predominantly
the descendants of indentured laborers who were brought from India starting
in 1834 and they are scattered in many countries large and small. Their
population range from 500 in the smallest to 500,000 in the largest country.
They speak English, Dutch, French and even Spanish, with Suriname PIOs fluent
in Hindi – even calling themselves Hindustanis. They all live among many other
ethnic groups, predominantly the descendents of slaves from Africa.
It takes an enormous amount of everyday resilience, determination,
understanding and perseverance to cope and live peacefully in those societies.
It is not an easy thing and all Caribbean PIOs can vouch for that.
Unlike NRIs, Caribbean PIOs take
pride in national identity and promote national loyalty, being 3rd
and 4th generation citizens. For them dual citizenship with India is
not of interest – in fact, it is a distraction and an issue of contention that
can be used by other ethnic groups to further alienate Caribbean PIOs in their
own countries. Only a very few have acquired PIO cards fur business and travel.
But, of course, Indian movies are the key to connectivity and are cherished.
The contributions of Caribbean
PIOs are many and cover a varied spectrum: Kanhai and Kalicharran of cricket;
Nobel writer Naipual; Jagan, Panday and Jagdeo of political renown;
international legal experst Luckhoo, Ramphal and Ramsahoye; scientists,
entertainers, business entrepreneurs, airlines, manufacturing, and many, many
others in various other disciplines.
The following is a summary of the
primary issues and concerns of the Caribbean PIOs, not necessarily in order of
The need to retain the inherent bond with India and the
ability to be able to trace one’s roots back to their ancestral villages. I
have made the proposal to MOIA for a global database and would like to pursue
that to completion.
Need to be accorded a sense of belonging, be given
recognition as PIOs and be given equal access to take shelter under the same
Global Indian Diaspora umbrella.
Bring more awareness to Indians so that the NRI-PIO
divide can be reduced.
Continue the effort to establish the PIO memorial in Calcutta.
Establish Caribbean PIO historical museum and Cultural Center that can preserve and promote the
history of Caribbean PIOs
Increase the number of exchanges with India in
Academic, Cultural and Technical disciplines.
Keep a watchful eye on the treatment of Caribbean PIOs,
especially infringement of rights and seek prompt redress from the respective
governments and international agencies, using India’s clout as influence.
Recommend that India
establish a conflict resolution task force to promptly respond to related
issues – help to Caribbean PIOs as well as to India’s international stature.
Increase in Indian investments and bi-lateral trade so
that entire economies can benefit at the time as Caribbean PIOs do – and India as well.
Need to be more inclusive in PBD sessions planning.
Support a regional network of Caribbean PIOs which is
in progress now: a regional conference in Guyana (May 2008 -- 170th
IAD); completion of the Caribbean PIOs handbook that I have undertaken to do
with some others.
Give due consideration to Caribbean PIO countries as
viable and lucrative platforms for Indian business expansion.
I trust I have been able to
provide some insight to you and bring more awareness of Caribbean PIOs and
their interests and concerns.