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Issue: VII-2 March 17, 2008
GOPIO NEWS
March 17, 2008
A Publication of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO)
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In This Issue
GOPIO PASSES RESOLUTIONS AT GOPIO CONVENTION-2008 ON NRI/PIO ISSUES
INDIAN GUEWST WORKERS DEFRAUDED IN THE US - LAWSUIT FILED
MOIA ANNOUNCES SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAMME-2008 FOR DISPORA CHILDREN
CONFERENCE ON INDIAN DIASPORA HELD IN CHANDIGARH
INDIA RURAL DEVELOPMENT ACTION PROGRAM CONFERENCE SCHEDULED FOR MAY 3-4 IN CHICAGO, USA
AUSTRALIA TO ENTER GOPIO MAP
GOPIO INTERNATIONAL AND CHAPTER NEWS
NRIs/PIOs ACHIEVE
NEWS OF INTEREST TO NRIs and PIOs
GOPIO LIFE MEMBERSHIP AND CHAPTER FORMATION
EDITORIAL BOARD
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GOPIO PASSESS RESOLUTIONS AT GOPIO CONVENTION-2008 ON NRI/PIO ISSUES
 

At the concluding session of its successful convention, the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) passed several resolutions. There were 25 resolutions presented to the conferees. Of these, a set of 10 resolutions was selected to be presented to the Government of India. GOPIO President Inder Singh and Resolution Committee Chairman Dr. Piyush Agrawal presented and discussed these resolutions with Minister Prithviraj Chavan in the Office of the Prime Minister on Sunday, January 20, 2008. On January 21st, they presented and discussedthe same set of 10 resolutions to Mr. Nirmal Singh, then Secretary to Government of India's Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (Refer to detailed text of these resolutions at

http://www.gopio.net/resolutions/PCA_GOPIO_Resolutions_FINAL_011708.doc). A summary of these resolutions are provided below:

 

Resolution 1

CONSULAR SERVICES NEED MORE SUPPORT & REORGANIZATION

 

WHEREAS it is a great news that the strength of Indian Diaspora has reached close to 25 million, the need for Consular Services at the Indian Missions abroad has increased tremendously; and,

WHEREAS the staffing at the Consular Services overseas has not kept pace with the increased demand for services; and,

WHEREAS the advances in the technology are not being used to the fullest extent; and,

WHEREAS there exists a model at the Indian Mission in UK   where the Consular Services are handled directly under the Office of Community Affairs with greater efficiency & productivity;

 

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Government of India take appropriate steps to increase the staff at the Consulates, the technology be used to the fullest extent and consideration be given to the organizational structure used at the Indian Mission in UK to further improve the quality of Consular Services at other missions.

 

Resolution 2

USE OF HONORARY CONSULS TO INCREASE EFFICIENCY

 

WHEREAS in many circumstances it has been very useful to use the services of Honorary Consuls; and

WHEREAS  it is possible that in certain cases, for example Atlanta & Hawaii the operation may not have been productive and efficient in providing services to NRIs & PIOs, but these Honorary Consuls have provided a valuable service; and,

WHEREAS the demand for consular services is increasing on an ongoing basis;

 

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that additional Offices of Honorary Consuls be established

 

Resolution 3

STREAMLINE THE FOREIGN CONTRIBUTION REGULATION ACT (FCRA) & CUSTOMS CLEARANCES

 

WHEREAS the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) is cognizant of the concern of Government of India to keep an eye on the inflow of foreign funds that might be used for activities not in the best interests of India; and,

WHEREAS the Indian Diaspora's interest in the welfare & development of India is so full of passion, commitment and the desire of serving their motherland that FCRA has become quite a hindrance; and

WHEREAS quite often in the exercise of authority, overzealous officers make it so difficult that even genuine cases languish in files for such a long time that it becomes quite disheartening and discouraging thus depriving India & the Diaspora of their desire of bringing the two together;

 

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Government of India take necessary steps to streamline the process in a way that encourages the genuine foreign contribution from the Indian Diaspora for well-meaning educational & social projects.

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Government of India streamline the Customs Clearance procedures so the beneficiary organizations do not suffer unnecessarily.

 

Resolution 4

REGISTRATION FEE SURCHAGES & ADDITIONAL FEE FOR LATE REGISTRATION AT PBDs

 

WHEREAS the NRIs & PIOs are delighted to participate in the PBDs  and do not mind paying a Registration Fee of $200; but there is an irritant attached to it and that is the surcharge charged by the GOI contractors for clearing the Charge Cards Payments over this amount; and,

WHEREAS legitimate business concerns routinely absorb this surcharge as an expense of doing business; and

WHEREAS the PBD organizers put a surcharge of additional $50.00 for registration after a certain date that has already passed by the time the PBD Organizers send the info to the Indian Missions Abroad and to the NRIs & PIOs which creates a very poor image of India; in fact, there should be an "early-bird" discount for those who register early; and,

WHEREAS several participants have complained that charges vary by a few dollars due to exchange rates and they fail to understand that  if the fee is fixed in dollars, why exchange rates should even be considered; and,

WHEREAS the NRIs & PIOs  fully realize that this small amount of surcharge or additional fee imposed for a late registration would neither make them poor nor make the GOI any richer than she already is; 

 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that GOI seriously consider this small and insignificant problem that servers only as an irritant to the participants and tarnishes the image of PBDs.

 

Resolution 5

MOIA TO BE THE CENTRAL CLEARING HOUSE

 

WHEREAS the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs is providing excellent services to the Indian Diaspora; and.

WHEREAS the NRIs and PIOs have a great desire to serve education of the children in India through their financial and technical resources in various fields; and

WHEREAS there is no mechanism in India as a single point of contact to assist various well thought out projects to be supported by the Indian Diaspora

 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that GOPIO urge that the Ministry of Overseas Indians be the single point of contact and work with various governmental agencies to facilitate NRIs & PIOs investments in education and other fields.

 

Resolution 6

EIGHTY-THIRD CONSITUTIONAL AMENDMEND

 

WHEREAS it is a great news to learn that the India's constitution was amended (Eighty -third Amendment) to make education a fundamental right for school age (6-14 years) children; and,

WHEREAS a notification was to be issued by the Central Government to make this amendment effective; and,

WHEREAS the participant in the GOPIO Conference on Mass Education believe that issuance of such a directive will be immensely useful for the welfare of the school age children in India.

 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that GOPIO request the Government of India to issue a directive to make the Eighty-Third Amendment effective as early as possible

 

Resolution 7

DISPARITIES AMONG VARIOUS STATES FOR LAND USE & TITLE TRANSFER REGISTRATION FEE

 

WHEREAS Education is a State subject, Central Government has a stake in education, specially in higher education,  to make the Indian citizenry of the highest quality in the world workplace; and,

WHEREAS in several states, there are institutions of higher education in the rural areas where the cost of land is relatively cheaper and NRI/PIO investors would like to fund educational projects in such rural areas and specially for girls; and,

WHEREAS some of the state governments interested in increasing their revenue rather than building the future of country and the next generation charge very heavy Registration Fee for the transfer of the title, quite often as much as four times of the cost of land acquisition;

 

THEREFORE, be it RESOLVED that GOPIO request the Central Government to look into this matter and to formulate a policy that would encourage NRIs & PIOs to invest in the education industry specially in the non-profit sector and direct the states accordingly

 

Resolution 8

INVESTMENTS IN PROPERTIES & DISPUTES

 

WHEREAS many NRIs/PIOs are keeping their emotional ties alive to their motherland by maintaining their hereditary property; and

WHEREAS NRIs/PIOs are committed to contribute financially and otherwise to the growth and progress of India; and,

WHEREAS many NRIs/PIOs have substantially invested and/ or arte in the process of investing in residential and commercial real estates; and,

WHEREAS there has been a growing number of scams against NRIs/PIOs hereditary,

Residential and Commercial properties: and,

WHEREAS due to growing property scam NRIs/PIOs are being greatly discouraged to invest in India; and,

WHEREAS one of the main reasons for these growing scams against NRIs/PIOs is that the NRIs/PIOs are at a great disadvantage to contest property issues in courts in India -due to the length of the time (15-20 years) it takes, and/or due to the fact that in both civil and criminal cases NRIs/PIOs need to be present on many occasions before the court.

 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that GOPIO urge the Government of India to enact legislation to designate Fast Track Courts for NRIs/PIOs for the speedy settlement (at a stretch in ten, twenty, or thirty days) of their property issues.

 

Resolution 9

MARRIAGE ABUSES

 

WHEREAS there have been numerous cases about the spousal abuses especially in cases of unsuspecting young ladies from India who got married to overseas males and then have been tortured in various ways; and,

WHEREAS 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 deserted brides.

HOWEVER, GOPIO has 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, the voice must be raised

 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that GOPIO urges modification of the law to eliminate the element of harassment in its application.

 

Resolution 10

GOPIO INITIATED VOLUNTARY SERVICES

 

WHEREAS GOPIO membership is extremely pleased to learn about the KNOW INDIA PROGRAM (KIP) initiated by the GOI; and,

WHEREAS GOPIO would like to do its part by encouraging the younger generation of NRIs & PIOs around the world to do some volunteer work in India  especially in rural areas; and,

WHEREAS it would be necessary to work out details of such a noble project;

 

THEREFORE, GOPIO urges the GOI to establish a 9-member committee (5 GOI nominees & 4 GOPIO nominees) to create an action plan so this program could be initiated.

                              
INDIAN GUEST WORKERS DEFRAUDED IN THE US - LAWSUIT FILED
 

Hundreds of guest workers from India, lured by false promises of permanent U.S. residency, paid tens of thousands of dollars each to obtain temporary jobs at Gulf Coast shipyards only to find themselves forced into involuntary servitude and living in overcrowded, guarded labor camps, according to a class action lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

 

The lawsuit charges that Signal International LLC and a network of recruiters and labor brokers engineered a scheme to defraud the workers and force them to work against their will in Signal facilities in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and Orange, Texas. Several of the workers were illegally detained by company security guards during a pre-dawn raid of their quarters after they began organizing other workers to complain about abuses they faced.

 

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the complaint claims defendants engaged in forced labor, human trafficking, fraud, racketeering and civil rights violations. Signal is a marine and fabrication company with shipyards in Mississippi and Texas. It is a subcontractor for global defense company Northrop Grumman Corp.

 

After Hurricane Katrina scattered its workforce, Signal used the federal H-2B guest worker program to import employees to work as welders, pipe fitters, ship fitters and in other positions. Hundreds of Indian men mortgaged their futures in late 2006 to pay recruiters as much as $20,000 for travel, visa and other fees after they were told it would lead to good jobs, green cards and permanent U.S. residency.

 

Many of the workers gave up other jobs and sold their houses, family farms, jewelry and other valuables to come up with the money. Some took out high-interest loans. Many were also told that for an extra $1,500-per person fee, they could bring their families to live in the United States.

 

When the men arrived in early 2007, they discovered they wouldn't receive the green cards as promised but only 10-month, H-2B guest worker visas. They were forced to pay $1,050 a month to live in crowded company housing in isolated, fenced labor camps where as many as 24 men shared a trailer with only two toilets. When they tried to find their own housing, Signal officials told them they would still have the rent deducted from their paychecks.

 

The camps were miles from the nearest shopping areas, places of worship and residential neighborhoods. With the exception of rare occasions, such as Christmas, visitors were not allowed into the camps, which were enclosed by fences. Company employees regularly searched the workers' belongings.

 

"This company and its recruiters exploited foreign workers who legally entered the country under the belief that they were going to be able to live the American dream," said Mary Bauer, director of the SPLC's Immigrant Justice Project. "Instead, they found themselves chained to an abusive employer, forced to live in a substandard labor camp and threatened with ruin if they tried to stand up for their rights. This case illustrates everything that's wrong with our guest worker program."

 

When the workers complained about the conditions, they faced were threatened with deportation.

 

By March 9, 2007, the workers had started organizing. Signal responded with an early-morning raid by armed guards on the labor camp in Pascagoula, Miss. Three of the organizers were locked in a room for hours. They were told they would be fired and deported.

 

Sabulal Vijayan, who sold his wife's jewelry and borrowed from friends to build a better life in America, slit his wrist in desperation. He recovered after being hospitalized. The incident prompted hundreds of workers to strike. Signal fired the organizers.

 

On March 6, 100 of the workers in Pascagoula reported themselves to the U.S. Department of Justice as victims of and witnesses to human trafficking. They demanded federal prosecution of Signal.

 

"These workers endured horrific conditions no company would dream of forcing their local workers to endure," said Kristi Graunke, the SPLC attorney leading the case. "Yet, there are companies that believe they can get away with treating guestworkers like animals and denying their rights because they are a captive workforce."

 

This litigation arose out of a broader organizing campaign spearheaded by the Alliance for Guest Workers for Dignity, a project of the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice. The legal team also includes Tushar Sheth of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and New Orleans attorney Tracie L. Washington of the Louisiana Justice Institute.

 

The 82-page complaint claims the defendants violated their rights besides violating nine federal laws. It claims they violated Trafficking Victims Protection Act by having both forced labor and trafficking. They also claim violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Klu Klux Klan Act of 1871, fraud, breach of contract, violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and false imprisonment, assault and batter and infliction of emotional harm.

 

In India, the government suspended licenses of two Mumbai-based recruiting firms hiring Indian workers for Signal International, accused of ill-treating workers in Mississippi. Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, Vayalar Ravi said, "Licenses of Dewan Consultants and S Mansur & Company have been suspended. The report of Indian ambassador in the US is expected in two days time". 

 

The Ministry has issued show-cause notices to both the firms, asking, "why action should not be taken against them for charging money from innocent people to illegally send them abroad to work in inhuman conditions and also for enticing them with the promise of green cards", sources said.

 

In the meanwhile, the plight of Indian workers in Mississippi has caught the eye of American politicians. George Miller, a respected US Congressman who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, has sought information from the Bush administration on allegations that several hundred Indians working in shipyards in Mississippi and Texas have been subjected to torture and human trafficking.

 

In a letter sent on Tuesday to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, Congressman Miller requested copies of reports from departmental investigations of Signal International, the workers' employer.

 

A delegation of Indian guest workers from the Alliance of Guest workers for Dignity has demanded a meeting with Indian Ambassador to the United States Ronen Sen. The delegation handed over the letter to diplomats K.P. Pillai and Alok Pandey, dispatched to New Orleans by Ambassador Sen.
MOIA ANNOUNCES SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAMME-2008 FOR DIASPORA CHILDREN
 

The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs had introduced a Scholarship Programme for Diaspora Children (SPDC) in 2006, to assist Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) and Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in pursuing Under Graduate courses in Higher and Technical fields in India. Under this Programme, 67 PIO/NRI students were granted scholarship during the academic year 2006-07 while 81 students were granted scholarship in the following academic year.

 

The Scholarship Programme for Diaspora Children - 2008 has been announced.  The following are the highlights of the SPDC-2008: 

 

        100 scholarships are being offered for Undergraduate courses in disciplines including Engineering/Architecture/ Technology, Humanities/ Liberal Arts, Commerce, Management - BBA/BBM, Journalism, Hotel Management, Agriculture/Animal Husbandry, Sciences, Law etc.

        The Programme is open only to PIOs/NRIs from the specified 40 countries having a larger concentration of Indian Diaspora.

        50% of the scholarship would be reserved for PIOs. However, in the event of non-availability of suitable PIO candidates, the unfilled slots could be assigned to NRI candidates.

        NRI candidates would be eligible for the grant of scholarship only if their total family income does not exceed an amount equivalent to US $ One thousand and five hundred (US $ 1, 500).

        Children of NRIs should have pursued at least three years of education inclusive of 11th & 12th or equivalent (not beyond), in a foreign country during the last six years, and have passed the qualifying examination abroad.

        The last date for receipt of duly filled in prescribed application form by Ed.CIL is 4th April 2008.

        Candidates would be selected on the basis of a common entrance test to be conducted by Ed.CIL on 18th May, 2008 at your Mission/Post. Exact timings would be intimated by Ed.CIL. The candidates would also have to fulfill the entire criterion prescribed for the purpose.

        The amount of scholarship admissible would be 75% of Institutional Economic Cost (IEC) or US $ three thousand six hundred (US $ 3,600), whichever is less. IEC includes Tuition fee, Hostel fee & other institutional charges.

 

For more information about the scholarship, contact the nearest Indian Embassy, High Commission or the Consulate.

CONFERENCE ON INDIAN DIASPORA HELD IN CHANDIGARH

A conference on Indian Diaspora with focus on Punjab washeld last Januaryin Chandigarh by the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID). Speakers included academicians, Diaspora members, NGOs and the Government officials came to speak and made presentations. The speakers lauded the pioneering spirit of the Punjabi community that has left some indelible footprints in every continent of the world. It was moderated by CRRID's Director General Rashpal Malhotra and retired ambassador P.S. Sahai, principal adviser and the force behind the organization of the conference. Both Governors of Punjab and Haryana came to address the conference.

 

GOPIO President Inder Singh being recognized 

Photo Above: GOPIO President Inder Singh being recognized by Ounjab Governor General (Retd.) S.F. Rodrigues. To his left is Ambassador P.S. Sahai.
 

The conference had participants from all over the world, the sessions were engaging, the  papers and presentations ranged from subjects such as illegal migration to failed NRI marriages, socio-economic status of immigrants, knowledge sharing, education, healthcare and the role of media, art and literature in connecting the Diaspora. GOPIO had two speakers - President Inder Singh (USA) presented a paper on the Indian American Diaspora and GOPIO Academic Council Co-Chair Professor Mohan Gautam (The Netherlands) spoke on the Indian Diaspora in Benelux countries. Also, GOPIO Advisor Ambassador J.C. Sharma, and GOPIO Academic Council Co-Chair Prof. Chandrasekhar Bhatt of Hyderabad University, each chaired a session at the conference.

INDIA RURAL DEVELOPMENT ACTION PROGRAM CONFERENCE SCHEDULED FOR MAY 3-4 IN CHICAGO, USA
 

A group of Indian American activists is coordinating and sponsoring the India Rural Development Action Program Conference in Chicago, Illinois the weekend of May 3rd and 4th, 2008. The primary purpose of the Conference is to develop concrete action programs for water development, healthcare, primary education and economic development of rural Indian villages. It is a follow-up to the December 2007 Rural India Learning Journey undertaken by 24 Indian Americans.

 

The Learning Journey, to rural areas in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, gave the participants a first-hand look at how the villagers of India are faring compared to the rapid progress of the upper and middle-class in the cities of India. Most of the areas visited fell within rain shadow regions in which livelihood is primarily agricultural and heavily dependent on scanty, seasonal rainfall. All of the villages suffer from acute shortages of drinking water and water for growing crops, as well as all of the other infrastructural deficiencies attendant upon poverty.

 

The experience, while certainly eye-opening, was perhaps unexpectedly a positive one. According to Ram Narayanan, coordinator of the sponsoring enterprise, U.S.-India Friendship, "Some of India's dynamic social entrepreneurs, otherwise known as NGOs (Non-Government Organizations), are already in action lending a helping hand to transform rural India. Many villagers themselves, in particular the women, are also pulling themselves up, making heroic efforts to conserve rain water resources, and improve their livelihood in all aspects." "What we saw and experienced," stated Narayanan, "gave us renewed hope that rural India is NOT a basket case. Still a lot, lot more needs to be done."

 

During the May 3rd and 4th Conference, participants in the Learning Journey will share their experiences and discuss the work of credible NGOs already making strides in developing rural India. Most importantly, however, they plan to formulate specific project possibilities and encourage others to participate in future Learning Journeys to different Indian states in 2008 and 2009.


The venue isClub House Inn and Suites, 630 Pasquinelli Dr, Westmont, IL 60559; (630) 920-2200. For details about the Chicago conference, visit www.usindiafriendship.com
or contact Ram Narayanan at 716-875-9976, E-mail:

ramn_wins@roadrunner.com.
AUSTRALIA TO ENTER GOPIO MAP

The Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) will have chapters in all important cities in Australia. GOPIO Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham visited several cities in Australia including Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra and Perth and addressed meetings of Indian community leaders and activists in February and March.

 

Currently with an Indian population of about 250,000 people including a sizable number of Indo-Fijians, Australia has one of the fastest growing Indian communities after United States and Canada. It has the third largest Indian student population, as much as over 40,000 students studying at Australian universities and colleges.

 

At all the meetings, Dr. Abraham spoke on the topic "NRIs/PIOs and India - Engaging for Mutual Benefits," followed by intense discussion on what NRIs/PIOs can do for India and what India should do for NRIs/PIOs. Dr. Abraham further spoke on GOPIO history and accomplishments followed by how GOPIO global network has been benefiting the Indian communities to coordinate issues of larger interest. Although the initial mission of GOPO was to network people of Indian origin (PIOs) and non-resident Indians (NRIs) especially in human rights violations, the group has a larger mission in pooling the communities' resources to benefit India and countries with larger Indian populations as well as in networking the communities on global scale.

 

The Brisbane meeting was organized by Federation of Indian Communities of Queensland (FICQ) at the Sitar Restaurant on February 21st evening. The function was facilitated by Umesh Chandra, secretary of FICQ and publisher of Brisbane Indian Times. Chandra opened the proceedings of the night followed by a welcome speech by FICQ President Dr. Ashim Majumdar. Following Dr. Abraham's presentation, the floor was opened to questions and answers, which proved to be a very popular segment. An Australian businessman Ray Hollis, Director of HDC International also spoke on his first hand experience of India during his recent visit. The meeting was attended by NRIs and Indo-Fijians.

 
Photo below: Indian community meeting in Melbourne for GOPIO Initiation at the Indian Consulate. Seated in the front are: Dr. Revati Subramanian, Dr. Thomas Abraham, FIAV President Shabbir Wahid and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan President Gambhir Watts

 GOPIO Chapter initiation meetings in Australia

Photo above: Meeting with the Indian community representatives in Brisbane with GOPIO Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham and FICQ President Dr. Ashim Majumdar
 

The Melbourne meeting was organized by the Federation of Indian Associations of Victoria (FIAV) on February 23rd at the Indian Consulate. The meeting was facilitated by Consul Anil Kumar Gupta of the Indian Consulate. FIAV President Shabbir Wahid welcomed the gathering. Another luncheon meeting on February 25th was organized by a young entrepreneur Karan Narula where Indian Consul General Anita Nayar was the chief guest.

 

Sydney area has the largest Indian community population. The meeting on February 27th was organized by GOPIO Regional Coordinator Noel Lal and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan President Gambhir Watts. It was facilitated by Mr. Mahavir Arya at a community center. Representative of various Indian community groups including the United Indian Associations and the Indo-Fijian community attended this meeting.

 

The community meeting in Canberra was held at the Hindu Temple and was organized by Mr. N.K. Aggarwal on February 28th.

 

Perth has a smaller Indian community compared to other cities, but growing faster because of the mineral and natural gas boom. The Perth community meeting was organized by India's Honorary Consul Sushma Paul.

 

GOPIO plans to start chapters in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Those interested to join the chapter efforts may contact the following people:

 

A community meeting in Sydney is scheduled for March 19th at 7 p.m. at the Hindu Village Community Center. Contact: Noel Lal, Tel: +61-0413990184, E-mail: spe@spengineering.com.au

or Gambhir Watts: +61-0413881881, E-mail: president@bhavanaustralia.org

 

In Melbourne, contact Karan Narula at +61-0400307799, E-mail: karann@mercantilepacific.com

 

In Brisbane, contact Umesh Chandra at +61-0421388465, E-mail: admin@globenetrealty.net.au or Sunil Gurram at +61 0401087790,E-mail: s.gurram@doorstepcapital.com
 
 
GOPIO INTERNATIONAL AND CHAPTER NEWS

 

 

GOPIO-CT ORGANIZES NETWORKING PROGRAMS AND SUPPORTS YALE'S PROOF OF THE PUDDING SINGING GROUP'S INDIA TRIP

 

On February 15th, GOPIO-CT organized networking wine and cheese reception to introduce GOPIO to new members. The platform was also used to honor GOPIO founder and current chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham who received Bharatvanshi Gaurav Award from former Vice President of India Shri Bhairon Singh Sekhawat and Pravasi Bharatiya Samman from Indian President Pratibha Patil on January 9th. The chief guest was Congressman Christopher Shays, who praised Dr. Abraham for his contribution to the local community and for helping in to improve US-India relations.

 
Photo below: GOPIO-CT celebrates Pravasi Bharatiya Samman and Bharatvanshi Gaurav Awards for GOPIO Founder and Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham. From L. to R.: Viresh Sharma, Dr. Abraham, Bhom Banta, GOPIO-CT President Sangeeta Ahuja and Congressman Christopher Shays of Connecticut's 4th District.

GOPIO-CT Celebrates PBD Samman for Abraham and Yale singing group
Photo above: Yale University's Proof of the Pudding singers before they left on a trip to India recently. GOPIO-CT provided some funds to support this group for their maiden trip.
 

Proof of the Pudding (Proof) is an all-female singing group of 16 Yale undergraduate students. Founded in 1975, Proof has been performing for audiences worldwide.  A student-run and self-funded organization, Proof has produced several successful albums.

 

"This spring, we are incredibly excited to make our first trip to India, a fabulous destination to which most of the girls have not previous visited.  We're counting down the days till our tour at the end of March; everyone is incredibly excited! We are going to be in India from March 9 to March 18, stopping in Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai," said Lita Tondon.

 

"It is a pleasure to support this talented and enthusiastic group of young ladies. All of us at GOPIO-CT wish them well and hope they have a safe and fun-filled trip," said Sangeeta Ahuja, president of GOPIO-CT.

 

GOPIO-CT is a non-partisan, secular, civic and community service organization that seeks to strengthen partnerships and create an ongoing dialogue with the local communities. It helps promote awareness of Indian culture and customs through community programs, forums and events. 

 

Contact: GOPIO-CT President Sangeeta Ahuja at 203-329-9744, E-mail: sangeetaahuja@aol.com

 

GOPIO-NEW YORK AND OTHER COMMUNITY GROUPS TO HOST FORMER PRESIDENT KALAM

 

Over 30 Indian community groups in the New York metro area including GOPIO-New York, the National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA) and the Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have joined hands to host former President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at the Hindu Temple Community Center in Flushing, New York on Tuesday, March 25th at 6.30 p.m. The coordinators are: George Abraham, B. Aravindakshan and Lal Motwani. For more information and entry passes, contact Lal Motwani at 718-470-1026 or E-mail: Lmotwani@nyc.rr.com.

 

GOPIO INSTALLS NEWLY ELECTED GOPIO-TRINIDAD CHAPTER OFFICERS

 

The newly elected executives of GOPIO-Trinidad Chapter were formally installed at a very prominent event held on the evening of Friday, February 29, 2008 at the HCU World Select Gem Convention Centre in Freeport, Trinidad. The event was very well attended by over 300 that included high ranking officials of the government and opposition parties as well as foreign representatives, well wishers, the press and the general public.

 

The feature speaker was the Indian High Commissioner Jagjit Singh Sapra. Newly elected executive officers of GOPIO Trinidad and Tobago were inaugurated by GOPIO Secretary General Ashook Ramsaran and GOPIO's Caribbean Region Vice- President Ambassador Krishna Nandoe. Entertainment for the evening was provided by the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Cultural Cooperation. The new officers are:President Deosaran Bisnath; Vice President Reuben Girdhar-Niranjan: Secretary Rajnie Ramlakhan; Asst. Secretary Sacha Mahabal; Auditor Davindra Singh; Directors Pandit Jaganath Seeram Maharaj, Doolarchan Hanoomansingh, and Niranjan Bhaggan.

 

Indian High Commissioner Sapra delivered the keynote address and praised GOPIO's community. Minister Lenny Saithin the Prime Minister's Office congratulated the newly elected officials of GOPIO of Trinidad and Tobago and extended greetings from Prime Minister Patrick Manning. Albert Ramdin, Assistant Secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS) remarked that GOPIO's effort on local and international levels are quite admirable. Contributing remarks were made by Deosaran Bisnath, newly elected President of GOPIO of Trinidad and Tobago chapter; Ashook Ramsaran, General Secretary of GOPIO International; Ambassador Mr. Krishna Nandoe, Caribbean Region Vice- President of GOPIO International; Mr Yesu Persaud, a founding member of GOPIO and currently Chairman of Guyana; Mr Basdeo Panday, Leader of the Opposition Party. Also in attendance was Suriname's Ambassador to Trinidad and TobagoFidelia Graande-Galon; as well as Ramesh L. Maharaj, Parliamentary Whip. Prominent civic and religious leaders were also in attendance.

 

GOPIO of Trinidad and Tobago recognized the contributions of the following persons who have made significant contributions in various segments of the society: Ramdath Jagessar; Rev. Ralph R. Umraw; Phoolo Dhany-Maharaj; Zahir Baksh; Pundit Capildeo Maharaj and Valene Maharaj. The awards were presented by High Commissioner Sapra and assisted by Ashook Ramsaran.

 

Earlier on that day, GOPIO's representatives were interviewed on television: Ashook Ramsaran, General Secretary of GOPIO International and Mr Yesu Persaud, Chairman of Guyana, were on Gayelle TV. Deosaran Bisnath, President of GOPIO Trinidad & Tobago and Ambassador Mr. Krishna Nandoe, Caribbean Region Vice- President of GOPIO International, were on CNC3 Television. The GOPIO delegation of Ramsaran, Nandoe, Persaud and Bisnath re-iterated GOPIO's "non-political and secular" position and stressed the need for collaborative community efforts to address issues of interest and concern in the community, while "maintaining and strengthening national unity and national loyalty".

 

At a meeting with Minister of CultureDonna Cox, Deosaran Bisnath elaborated on some of the community programs being planned by GOPIO T&T. These include educational seminars on alcohol abuse, diabetes and education. MinisterCox welcomed the efforts and offered the support of the Ministry of Culture.

 

The meeting with India's High Commissioner Sapra was held in the office of the High Commissioner and attended by the delegation of Ramsaran, Nandoe, Persaud and Bisnath. Discussions included GOPIO's request to increase the number of scholarships, promoting "Get To Know India" program and including GOPIO Trinidad & Tobago in the selection process. Sapra also elaborated on future collaboration with trade exhibitions and business conference. 

 

A full press conference was held at City Hall. Members of the press met with the delegation of Ramsaran, Nandoe, Persaud and Bisnath, and posed questions relating to GOPIO Trinidad & Tobago, GOPIO International and how the chapter plans to work with others in its efforts to address community issues, working in close collaboration with other civic groups.

 

The GOPIO delegation of Ramsaran, Nandoe, Persaud and Bisnath then met with Prime Minister Patrick Manning. While Ramsaran and others in the GOPIO delegation re-iterated GOPIO's position of being non-political and secular, Prime Minister Manning welcomed the change in the executives of GOPIO Trinidad & Tobago.

 
Photo below: GOPIO-T&T Chapter President Deosaran Bisnath, GOPIO Secretary General Ashook Ramsaran and T&T Prime Minister Patrick Manning.

GOPIO-Trinidad & Tobago celebrates - new officers inducted

Photo above: GOPIO officials meet Indian Ambassador T&T Jagjit Singh Sapra. From L. to R. Ramsaran, Bisnath, High Commissioner Sapra, GOPIO-Guyana Chairman Yesu Persaud and GOPIO Regional VP Krishna Nandoe.
 

The following day on March 1, Ramsaran met with Indian High Commissioner to Suriname Ashok Sharma, in transit in Trinidad on

Amb Sharma's way to St Lucia. Their discussion centered on establishing more GOPIO chapters to further strengthen the GOPIO network in the Caribbean Region. These include Barbados and Lt Lucia for which Sharma has jurisdiction as India's High Commissioner.

 

Contact: Deosaran Bisnath, President,GOPIO Trinidad & Tobago, P.O. BOX 2286, Chaguanas, Trinidad & Tobago, Tel: 687-7529, E-mail: GopioTT@gmail.com

 

GOPIO UPPER NEW YORK CHAPTERS PLANS COMMUNITY EVENTS

 

Satruhan Sukdeo, President of the newly established GOPIO of Upper New York Chapter, announced two community events to be held in the coming months: Commemoration of 170th Anniversary of Indian Arrival Day in Guyana on May 11, 2008 in Bronx, New York. Invited VIPs include Guyana's Ambassador to the USA Beni Karran, and Guyana's Consul General in New York Brentnold Evans. A commemorative Indian Arrival Day brochure would be issued with pertinent information on Indian Arrivals in Guyana and a historical perspective of the initial and subsequent journeys.

 

GOPIO of Upper New York Chapter has also initiated a golf outing scheduled for June 11, 2008 at the Dunwoodie Golf Course. The theme will be "Remembering Sewsankar 'Papwa' Seegolum" and proceeds will be used for funding GOPIO of Upper New York Chapter community activities.

 

To register for these events for more information, contact: Satruhan Sukdeo at 917-747-9523  E-mail: satsukdeo@aol.com

NRIs/PIOs ACHIEVE
 
INDIAN AMERICAN NEUROSURGEON CONTRIBUTES $1 MILLION TO A COLLEGE

 

Michigan based Indian American neurosurgeonDr. Harish Rawal has contributed $1 million to a local college towards improving facilities and supporting needy students. Dr. Rawal who practices in Jackson, announced the donation in December for the Jackson Community College (JCC) to help pay for its newly renovated allied health and nursing classrooms and an endowed scholarship for supporting financially backward students. The donation, one of the largest in the college's history, will rename the new facility the Rawal Centre for Health Professions.

 

Rawal graduated from the B. J. Medical College, Ahmedabad, and then moved to Chicago to do surgical residency before moving to Jackson 28 years ago. He founded the Great Lakes Brain & Spine Institute soon after.

 

Rawal, whose father died when he was only nine, said he might have been born into poverty but his family in India was rich with the spirit of giving, grace and charity. "Sharing what you have should be a priority when you're blessed," he said.

 

In September last, Rawal and his wife, Sudha, had donated $50,000 to Jackson High School for a scholarship in memory of his mother. There is also a high school in his mother's name and a college in his father's name in India.

 

INDO-CANADIAN GETS NEW ROLE IN CANADIAN PARLIAMENT

 

Deepak Obhrai, currently holding the position of parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, has also been appointed parliamentary secretary to the minister of international cooperation. Obhrai is the highest-ranking Indian in the cabinet of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

 

INDIAN AMERICAN DR. VENKAYYA TO HEAD HEALTH DIVISION AT GATES FOUNDATION

 

Indian American Dr. Rajeev Venkayya has been named by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as director of its Global Health Delivery, one of the five teams in the Global Health Program of the world's largest charity. The foundation has also named an Indian to the advisory panel of their program.

 

Venkayya was till recently a special assistant to President George W Bush and a senior director for bio-defence on the White House Homeland Security Council.He will oversee the foundation's efforts to help expand the availability of effective vaccines, drugs and other health solutions in the developing world. Venkayya will also head preparations for delivery of future health solutions, the Gates foundation said in a statement.

 

Venkayya said after the nomination: "Every year, millions in poor countries die from preventable causes because they do not receive basic health services taken for granted in rich countries. I look forward to working with the foundation's grantees and partners to address this critical challenge."

 

Venkayya has a degree in medicine from Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine and is a former coordinator of the US government medical and public health efforts, including preparations for a potential influenza pandemic.

 

He is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, in the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine. Previously, he was co-director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit and director of the High-Risk Asthma Clinic at San Francisco General Hospital.

 

The foundation has also named Sujatha Rao, additional secretary and director general of the National AIDS Control Organization under the Indian ministry of health and family welfare, as an advisor on the panel of five.

 

With an asset trust endowment of close to $39 billion and $3 billion it doles out each year, the biggest goal the Gates foundation has set for itself is to find a vaccine to prevent AIDS. They also want to eradicate malaria, spark an agricultural revolution in Africa and ensure that every child in the US has an access to quality education.Bill Gates has decided to work full time at the foundation after stepping down from hands-on management at Microsoft later this year. His wife Melinda is also boosting the amount of time she devotes to the projects of the charity.

 

PRESIDENT BUSH NOMINATES NEIL PATEL AS ASSISTAN SECRETARY

 

President George W Bush has nominated Indian American Neil Suryakant Patel to the position of Assistant Secretary for Communications Information at the Department of Commerce. Bush has sent the nomination to the Senate as Neil needs Senate confirmation before he starts working at his new position. Neil is currently working as Assistant to the Vice President for Domestic and Economic Policy. In the past, he has served as Staff Secretary to the Vice President.


OHIO STATE REP. JAY GOYAL NAMES RANKING MEMBER OF A COMMITTEE

 

 

Ohio State Representative Jay Goyal (D-Mansfield) this week was named Ranking Member of the Ohio House Ways and Means Committee, which is   the standing committee responsible for all bills which require a change in tax law, property foreclosures and other issues such as Homestead Exemption expansion. The Committee hears testimony, amends bills and reports to the House of Representatives on its work.

 

As Ranking Member, Rep. Goyal will serve as the lead voice on the Committee for the House Democratic Caucus.

 

"I am humbled and honored to accept this great responsibility," Rep. Goyal said. "It emboldens my love of public service and the good I feel I can contribute to move Ohio forward. I will not take this position lightly; I plan to use my new standing to fight for the causes that matter to our working families so that they can live better lives."

 

Jay Goyal is a rising young legislator who is working hard to ensure that his constituents are represented well," Governor Ted Strickland said. "This appointment speaks to his effectiveness in serving his residents and the people of Ohio to the best of his ability."

 

Bobby Jindal, 36, was sworn in as Louisiana's governor last month, and the event has been covered across the world. He's the nation's youngest governor, the first whose parents are from India and the state's first nonwhite chief executive since since reconstruction.

 

INDIAN AMERICAN STUDENT SHIVANI SUD WINS $100,000 INTEL SCHOLARSHIP

 

Durham, North Carolina high school student Shivani Sud, won the top award of a $100,000 scholarship from the Intel Foundation. Shivani developed a model that analyzed the specific "molecular signatures" of tumors from patients with stage II colon cancer and then used this information to identify those at higher risk for tumor recurrence and proposed potentially effective drugs for treatment.

 

Shivani used gene expression profiles to link multiple genetic events that characterize various tumor types and created her model using two public data sets containing 125 patient samples coupling it with clinical data to plot statistically significant survival curves, and used her model to identify drugs that may be effective in treating stage II colon cancer.

 

Shivani began her research years ago, in labs at Temple and Duke Universities and the National Institutes of Health. Her most recent project uses genetic information to predict recurrence in colon cancer patients who have been treated, and to identify the most effective drugs for those patients.

 

Shivani became interested in cancer research as a child, when a family member was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  In addition to taking several national and international honors for science, she has participated in other work, such as volunteering at the Durham Rescue Mission homeless shelter and learning classical Indian dance.

 

Eight Indo American high school seniors were among forty high school seniors named finalists in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search 2008. Each finalist received at least $5,000 in scholarships and a new laptop.

 

The finalists displayed their research at the National Academy of Sciences and met in Washington, DC for a rigorous judging process, meetings and interactions with national leaders and leading scientists.

 

INDIAN AMERICAN'S TEAM CRACKS VITAL BIOLOGICAL PUZZLE

 

A team of scientists led by Indian American Suresh Subramani says it has cracked a vital biological puzzle that may hold the key to everything from ageing to cancer.The puzzle has to do with authphagy, or "self-eating" - the process by which nucleated (eukaryotic) cells keep themselves healthy. All eukaryotic cells dispose of bacteria, viruses, damaged organelles and other non-essential components through this self-eating process.

 

Subramani, of the University of California, said the "key player" in this process is a protein known as Atg30, which controls the degradation of cells.Findings of the study, published in the latest issue of the journal Developmental Cell, is important because it allows scientists to control some aspects of cellular autophagy.This, in turn, could help illuminate its role in ageing, immunity, neuro-degeneration and even cancer.Autophagy was first described about 40 years ago, but has only recently become a topic of interest in cell biology because it helps maintain the balance among synthesis, degradation and recycling.

 

"For the first time, we can use a protein to control the (self-eating) process," Subramani said. "It's an important step in understanding the workings of cells."

 

MONTEGRO APPOINTS DR. JANIS DARBARI AS HON. CONSUL GENERAL FOR INDIA

 

Dr Janice Darbari, daughter of a founding GOPIO life member Prof. Shatrugan Darbari, has been appointed Honorary Consul General for Republic of Montenegro in New Delhi. Dr Darbari was also appointed as the Special Emissary of the Republic of Macedonia to India in 1993. She also played key role in establishing formal diplomatic relationship with Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia in 1995

 

The Republic of Montenegro honored Dr Darbari as Honorary Consul General - Head of Mission for the Republic of Montenegro in India in 2007. Subsequently, the Indian government recognized Darbari as the Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Montenegro in New Delhi with immediate effect from January 1, 2008. Montenegro declared its independence from Serbia in a referendum on May 21, 2006.

 

INDO-CANADIANS WIN BIG IN ALBERTA ELECTION

 

A record five Indo-Canadians have won the March 3 assembly elections in the Canadian Province Alberta. It included a Sikh student of law. The winners have pledged to promote relations between Canada and India.

 

There were tremendous opportunities for business in the fields of oil and gas between Alberta and India, the newly elected Indo-Canadian legislators said in their victory speech. The five, including University of Windsor law student Manmeet Bhullar, said they were committed to promoting ties between India and Alberta.


Other Indo-Canadians who won the elections were Naresh Darshan Kang, Naresh Bharadwaj, Peter Sandhu and Raj Sherman. Three of the five law makers were elected from the city of Edmonton while two were elected from Calgary. About 40,000 Indo-Canadians live in Calgary and Edmonton. In the outgoing assembly, only one Indo Canadian was elected law maker.

 

Manmeet Bhullar and Raj Sherman have been appointed parliamentary assistants; Bhullar for advanced education and technology while Sherman for health and wellness. Bhullar (27), who is the youngest parliamentary assistant, has been an adviser to federal Cabinet Minister Jim Prentice and the Prime Minister's Office on issues affecting Alberta and the territories.  His emotional victory speech included a thank you to his parents who moved to Canada in 1970 "for instilling me with this desire to serve."

 

There are about 80,000 Indo-Canadians in oil-rich Alberta. Canada has ten provinces and other two which have Indo American law makers are Ontario with four MLAs and Vancouver with seven.

 

PROF. AMAR BOSE INDUCTED IN US INVENTOR'S HALL OF FAME

 

Amar Bose, a pioneer in modern acoustics who is known for the high-end audio products bearing his name, has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in the US, which has previously honored Thomas Edison, Graham Bell and the Wright Brothers.

 

Born in the US to a Bengali father and a German mother, Bose's name is in the 2008 list of 18 inventors to be honored, 11 of them posthumously, by the Ohio-based Hall of Fame in May.

 

The citation released last month for the 78-year-old, who founded the Bose Corporation in 1964, says: "Bose has introduced a variety of products through his company, including the 901 Direct/Reflecting speaker system, customized sound systems for automobiles, and active noise-reducing headphone."

 

The Hall of Fame was founded in 1973 by the US Patent and Trademark Office and the National Council of Intellectual Property Law Associations.

 

Bose, who holds over two dozen patents, earned his Bachelor, Master and Doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he was faculty from 1956 till 2001. His research at MIT led to the development of new, patented technologies. With those patents, he founded Bose Corporation in Framingham, Massachusetts. The company's first product, designed to recreate the rich sounds of live musical performances, was the 901 speakers.

Bose Corporation, since acclaimed internationally for groundbreaking products, develops and manufactures audio equipment, including speakers, amplifiers, headphones and sound systems for luxury cars.

 

With annual revenue close to $1.8 billion, the privately held company ploughs back part of the profits into advancement in non-audio areas such as research on cold fusion and developing automotive suspension systems. The company employs nearly 8,000 people in its Framingham headquarters and elsewhere, and has over 150 stores of its own, including in India.

NEWS OF INTEREST TO NRIs AND PIOs AROUND THE WORLD
 

MALAYSIAN INDIAN CONGRESS SUFFERS ELECTION LOSSES

 

Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), headed by president Samy Vellu suffered heavy losses in the recent parliamentary elections in the country. He had nine members in the outgoing parliament but only one-third won the elections. Besides Minister of Works Vellu, other heavy weight party leaders who were defeated include deputy president G Palanivel, vice-president S Sothinathan, Youth chief S A Vigneswaran and Women's wing chief P Komala Devi. Samy Vellu has been party chief for about thirty years and has been elected nine times from the same constituency. 

 

MIC also suffered heavy losses at state level, winning only six out of 19 seats in different states. The ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN) also suffered losses in the general elections. It lost its two-third majority but has succeeded in forming the government by getting simple majority. MIC has been a powerful party and has represented the Malaysian Indian community under the leadership of Samy Vellu. It still is presumed to be a good platform for the Indian community as it is an integral part of the ruling coalition.

 

Malaysian Indians are reported to have voted in favor of the opposition parties which  have won 82 seats as compared to 19 in the outgoing parliament. One of the opposition parties, DAP is headed by a Malaysian Indian Karpal Singh who has Malay and Chinese as members, and has gained quite a few seats both in the country's parliamentas well as in the state legislatures. Hindraf attorney M. Manoharan who is detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA), has won a state seat in Selangor on a DAP ticket.

 

NEW LAWS TO BAR COMMONWEALTH MIGRATION OF NEW DOCTORS TO UK - NO EFFECT TO THOSE ALREADY IN UK

 

Doctors from India and other Commonwealth countries will be barred from coming to the UK for training and subsequent recruitment in the National Health Service under the new immigration rules coming into force from February 29, a move welcomed by physicians in Britain.

 

But "Indian doctors can come for service jobs", Ramesh Mehta, President of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), said. Mehta said the new Home Office rules make it clear to international medical graduates (IMGS) currently overseas who are planning to come to the UK that it would be difficult for them to obtain post-graduate training here. But the rights of those IMGS who are already in the UK will be protected.


"We have been lobbying both the Home Office and the Department of Health for the last 5 years asking them to take action to limit the number of international graduates entering the UK. This is necessary since there are limited places for post-graduate training. This is in the best interests of both UK doctors and IMGS," he said.


The change which was announced early this month imposes a condition on Tier 1 (General) Migrants and Highly Skilled Migrants prohibiting them from taking a post as a doctor in training. The new rules, coming into effect on February 29, will not impact on recruitment until 2009. Those who currently have leave to remain in the UK as a Highly Skilled Migrant and Postgraduate doctors or dentists who are seeking leave to remain as a Tier 1 (General) Migrant will be exempt from the new rules. "The International doctors will still be able to come and work in UK in non-training jobs," Mehta said.

 

HINDI TO BE TAUGHT IN SCHOOLS IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

 

Hindi will be taught in primary and secondary schools in Trinidad and Tobago.  Satnarayan Maharaj, secretary general of Trinidad and Tobago's Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), a major Hindu organization, has announced that his organization has developed a Hindi curriculum to be used in its 60 primary and secondary institutions.

 

"We have also developed Hindi cards in order to give the boost that Hindi needs in Trinidad and Tobago," he said at the annual World Hindi Day celebrations in Port of Spain.  Maharaj said the SDMS would put all its resources into enhancing the teaching of Hindi. Maharaj pointed out that in its 175 mandirs or temples scattered across the country, Hindi is used in all its prayers with interpretations.

 

PAKISTANI AMERICAN GUILTY OF CUTTING SIKH'S HAIR IN THE US

 

An 18-year-old Pakistani American has been convicted of hate crime against a Sikh student in a New York school. Depending on whether he is treated as a youthful offender or an adult, Umair Ahmed can face up to four years in prison for cutting 15-year-old Harpal Vacher's hair with a pair of scissors after threatening him on May 24, 2007.


A New York jury, after two-and-a-half days of deliberations, found Ahmed guilty of second-degree menacing as a hate crime, second-degree coercion as a hate crime, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and third-degree harassment. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 11. The incident reportedly took place after a spat between Ahmed and the victim.

 

NRIs IN SAUDI ARABIA TO EDUCATE POOR IN INDIA

 

NRIs in Saudi Arabia have launched a new forum to promote education and literacy among the poor and the underprivileged in India, particularly in Bihar and Jharkhand.  The Association for Humanitarian Services and Solidarity (AHSAS) will focus on assisting poor students and checking dropouts by helping them continue with their studies.

 

"AHSAS is committed to serve the underprivileged people in India in general and people living in the eastern states of Bihar and Jharkhand in particular," AHSAS president Wakil Ahmed said at the launch ceremony.

 

There are over 1.7 million Indians in Saudi Arabia and over 100,000 of them are from Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. 

 

The forum has started off with three programs. The first is to sponsor teachers in a school, which the forum said would be expanded to cover more schools. The second is to sponsor needy and underprivileged students in Bihar and Jharkhand and the third is to provide scholarships to meritorious students in the rural areas of Bihar.

 

AUSTRALIA ORDERS PROBE INTO HANEEF EPISODE

 

Australia's Labor government has launched a judicial inquiry into the handling of a failed terrorism case against Mohammed Haneef last year. Former New South Wales Supreme Court justice John Clarke will carry out a review of the case.

 

Attorney-General Robert McClelland said Haneef will be asked to give evidence at the inquiry and Clarke has offered to travel to India to meet him. The report is due by September end.

 

McClelland told the media that the agencies involved in Haneef's case have admitted to failures. He said, "What we want to ensure is that they are functioning at their absolute best both individually and collectively."

 

The 27-year-old doctor from India was charged with recklessly providing support to a terrorist organization by giving his mobile phone SIM card to his cousin Sabeel Ahmed, one of the men accused in the botched British bomb attacks in July 2007.

Former immigration minister Kevin Andrews cancelled Haneef's work visa, just hours after a magistrate granted him bail July 16, 2007, ensuring his continued incarceration.

 

The charges against Haneef were dropped and the former Gold Coast registrar returned home to Bangalore last year.  Immigration Minister Chris Evans had reinstated his visa in December 2007 after the Labor government came to power.

 

McClelland said the Haneef case had undermined public confidence in Australia's anti-terror laws, and the inquiry would ensure security agencies learned any necessary lessons.

 

NEW STUDY CREDITS INDIAN WORKERS AS THE LARGEST EXPATRIATE COMMUNITY IN UAE

 

Indians form the largest number of foreign labor force in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), accounting for 42.5 percent of the total number of workers in the country, according to a new study.

 

The study, conducted by Agency for Developing Human Resources and Recruiting UAE Nationals (Tanmia) found that 75 percent of the expatriate labor force in the UAE is from Asian countries and a majority of them is from India. While Arabic-speaking people from other Middle Eastern nations account for 13.8 percent of the total workforce, expatriates from other countries make up 18.2 percent.

 

The study, carried out by Ahmed Shahib Al Dhahiri, vice-chairman of UAE's Federal National Council (FNC), found that an influx of foreign workers into the UAE pushed the country's population to 5.6 million by the end of 2006 from 4.1 million in 2005. Local Emiratis number only 866,779, falling from 21.9 percent in 2005 to 15.4 percent of the total population.

 

TRINIDAD BORN PIO BALKRISHNA NAIPAUL'S NEW BOOK RELEASED

 

Trinidad born PIO Balkrishna Naipaul has published another of his good works in literature, this one recently released titled "The Other Side of The House". Bhasyam G. Iyengar of the New York Times wrote that "The Other Side of The House" is a compelling story about a young man in pursuit of an education. This is Balkrishna Naipaul's fifth book in seven years, and like his trilogy this is a big book - 500 pages. "It is a compelling read, especially when compared to the major works of the giants from the Caribbean", said Churaumanie Bissundyal, "and as with his earlier works, his prose is fluid, poetic, and musical" The National Library of Trinidad and Tobago will be launching the book on April 1, 2008.

 

"The Other Side of The House" will be available from Canadian bookstores and from Global Publications in Canada, and from bookstores in the U.S.A and from Xlibris, a partner of Random House U.S.A.

 

CONFERENCE ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE ERA OF GLOBALIZATION HELD

 

There are approximately 80 million tribal communities in India. A three Day International Conference on HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE ERA OF GLOBALIZATION AND THE TRIBAL COMMUNITY OF INDIA was organised by the Ranchi Uiversity, Jharkhand in India on February 26 - 28, 2008.

 

GOPIO Academic Co-Chair Prof. M. K. Gautam was a chief keynote speaker and he spoke about the contribution of 250.000 tribals who emigrated during the 1930-1916 as indentured labourers to Fiji, Mauritius, the Caribbean and African countries. They were known as Hill Coolies and recruited by Arkatis from Chota Nagpur parts of Bihar, Bengal, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. Prof Gautam discussed their arrival in the different colonies and how they mixed up with other emigrants and lived as Pravasi Indians. While their histories have not been fully documented, in the era of globalization their contribution should not be neglected.

 

ACUTE DOLLAR SHORTAGE IN INDIA

 

Indian Foreign exchange dealers have been facing a shortfall of American dollars of about $200 million every day for the past month. The banks have run out of dollars to lend to corporations. One of the reasons for the shortage of dollars is the low interest rate resulting in the slowdown of inflow of NRI deposits and another obvious reasons is the sharp rise in oil prices leading to more dollar payments.

 

The dealers have started blaming the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the finance ministry's policy of curbing dollar inflows for the systemic shortages.

 

INDIA BACKS DOWN ON MINIMUM WAGE FOR INDIANS IN BAHRAIN

 

The Indian Government, with a view to reduce exploitation, had proposed a compulsory 100 Bahraini-dinar ($265) per month for Indian unskilled workers. However, there were widespread protests from contractors and theminimum wage proposal was scrapped. The proposal, if implemented, would have banned Indian workers from migrating to Bahrain without contracts that met minimum wage requirements.

 

The minimum wage proposal which was to be implemented from March 1 had resulted in a string of protests by Indian workers who also wanted salary increases in line with the new minimum wage. However, companies which already had valid contracts were not willing to increase the salaries. Bahrain's Labor Ministry is reported to have said that Bahrain's employers are not bound to honor minimum wage law of the Indian government. 

GOPIO LIFE MEMBERSHIP AND CHAPTER FORMATION
 

GOPIO is a non-partisan, non-sectarian global organization with chapters in several countries, actively promoting the interests of people of Indian origin worldwide by monitoring and addressing current critical issues of concern, and by enhancing cooperation and communication between groups of Indians living in various countries.

 

GOPIO Individual Life membership is open to all who believe in the mission of GOPIO. The one- time fee is $5,000 for Platinum Life Membership, $2,500 for Gold Life Membership and $1,500 Silver Life Membership and half the amount for each category for those from developing countries and India.

 

GOPIO is looking forward to opening chapters in all major cities of the world so as to network people of Indian origin all over the world. If you do not have chapter in your city, please visit GOPIO website (www.gopio.net

) and get details of chapter initiation (visit http://www.gopio.net/chapter_initiative.htm). Process involves sending a letter of intent to start a chapter by a committee of five people or more.  For more information, contact:

 

GOPIO President - Inder Singh, Tarzana, California, USA, Tel: 818-708-3885, E-mail: gopio-intl@sbcglobal.net

GOPIO Executive Vice President - Lord Daljit Rana, UK, Tel:  +44 28-9807-8787, Email: dsrana@andrashouse.co.uk

GOPIO Secretary General - Ashook Ramsaran, Fresh Meadows, New York City, Tel: 718/939-8194, E-mail: ramsaran@aol.com

 

 

NEW LIFE MEMBER

 

GOPIO welcomes its new GOLD Life member, Dr. Ashok K. Chauhan, Founder President,
Ritnand Balved Education Foundation (RBEF)
and Founder and Chairman of Amity University, Noida, near New Delhi.

 

To become a Life member of GOPIO, visit http://www.gopio.net/membership_form.htm, print and fill up the form and send it with a check to: GOPIO, P.O. Box 1413, Stamford, CT 06904, USA.

EDITORIAL BOARD

 

Chief Editor: Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman, GOPIO (Stamford, CT, USA)

Editors: Ashook Ramsaran, GOPIO General Secretary (New York, USA); and Munish Gupta, GOPIO Media Chair (Los Angeles, Calif)

Webmasters: Prashant Gupta (Gurgaon, Haryana, India) and Abu Thomas (New Rochelle, NY, USA)

Contributors of this issue:Inder Singh (USA), Dr. Piyush Agrawal (USA), Deosaran Bisnath (Trinidad & Tobago), Gambhir Watts (Australia) andSangeeta Ahuja (USA)

 

GOPIO NEWS welcomes NRI/PIO related stories from all over the world. Be a volunteer correspondent or reporter. Contact Dr. Thomas Abraham, Tel: 203-329-8010, E-mail: gopio@optonline.net

 

Visit GOPIO's Official site at www.gopio.net or www.gopio.com