NEW YORK — The Consulate General of India in New York recognized members of the Indian American community on the occasion of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, Jan. 9. Over 175 people braved sub-zero temperatures early in the morning to attend the event.
The highlight of the morning was a live telecast of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebration in New Delhi. Eight different locations including New York were connected live to New Delhi where S. Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs, delivered the keynote address. He was accompanied by V. Murleedharan, Union Minister of State for External and Parliamentary Affairs and Vijay Thakur Singh, Secretary East, Ministry of External Affairs.
A question and answer session followed Jaishankar’s address, where each location was permitted to ask two questions.
Since 2003, the Government of India has been celebrating Pravasi Bharatiya Divas on Jan. 9 to recognize the contribution of the overseas Indian community toward the development of India as well as their contributions to their adopted country. The day commemorates the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to Ahmedabad on Jan. 9, 2015.
Every other year, the Indian government holds a Pravasi Bharatiya Divas convention to honor members of the diaspora community around the world. Last year, the PBD convention was held in Varanasi.
This year, the celebration was held on a small scale in New Delhi.
Jaishankar began his address by remembering his predecessor, the late Sushma Swaraj, for whom the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was “a particularly special occasion.” He continued: “I would like to begin by recognizing her unique contribution and tireless work for the Indian diaspora and those working and traveling abroad. We all miss her very much.”
Lauding the 3.1 million strong diaspora for their success in science, creative arts, technology, medicine, enterprise, engineering or in spreading Indian values, traditions, habits and soft power, Jaishankar said the “members of the diaspora have achieved great success in different walks of life and by doing so, define both India’s capabilities and branding.” He said the Indians settled abroad, have, “each in their own way, like drops of water coming together, have created a vast reservoir of goodwill for India.”
Taking about the diaspora community’s active participation in the politics of their respective countries of residence, Jaishankar said: “In recent times what has been particularly notable is that the deep-seated Indian democratic belief is today being expressed by the diaspora in the societies where they live. Three Prime Ministers — Leo Varadkar of Ireland, Antonio Costa of Portugal and Pravind Jugnauth of Mauritius — are the source of great pride for all of us. This enrichment of pluralistic politics is also visible in a large number of legislators at the national and local levels, ranging from Canada, U.S. and UK to Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania.”
Just like the Indian society, Jaishankar said the diaspora too is “a synthesis of the old and the new.” He said the diaspora has “kept alive our roots, identities, heritage and the very way of life.” And they have “maintained the physical linkage and emotional attachment to the land of their origin.”
In order to further nurture the bond, Jaishankar identified four broad categories: Making it easier to travel to India by reforming passport, visa and OCI scheme; striving to make it more secure to work, travel and live abroad; being the first and immediate responder to those in distress situations, whether they are travelers who have lost documents, students in difficulty, women in stress situations or workers who need support: and keeping the bonds between India and the new generation of the diaspora.
Following Jaishankar’s address, Sandeep Chakravorty, Consul General of India in New York, recognized 21 individuals for their contributions in the field of politics, social work and service to the community.
Those recognized were State Representative Niraj Antani, who is serving his third term in the Ohio House of Representatives; attorney Sanjay Chaubey; cardiologist Dr. Avinash Gupta; social and political activist Manish Ingle; Dr. Neeta Jain, Democratic district leader in New York’s 25th Assembly District; social activist Ramkrishna Kasarla; Sushma Kotahwala, past president of the Association of Indians in America; broadcast journalist Renee Mehrra; Lal Motwani, past chairman of the National Federation of Indian American Associations; Mohan Nannapaneni, founder and volunteer, Team Aid Inc.; Jitendra Muchhal, Friends of MP - NY NJ; entrepreneur and social activist Harinder Singh Panesar; Minesh Patel; Vivek Patel, who raised over $1 million for victims of Pulwama attack through a Facebook fundraiser; Daniel Rajaiah, former director of external affairs, Office of the Mayor, Cincinnati; Jitesh Rohatgi of the Indian American PAC of Lehigh Valley; Jagdish Sewhani, president, American India Public Affairs Committee; Nikhil Shah of India Association Rhode Island; Dr. Prasad Srinivasan, former Connecticut State Representative and former gubernatorial candidate; Ankur Vaidya, member, Board of Trustee, Federation of Indian Associations and social activist Nitin Vyas.