NEW DELHI January 11, 2011: Eleven Overseas Indians were recognized for their distinguished contributions at the 2nd India Empire NRI Awards Night at The Ramada Plaza on Monday, January 10, 2011. Those recognized are:
Mr Anirudh Suri (Most Promising Overseas Young Indian) from the USA, Mrs Anjum Amirtham and Mr Arun Amirtham (Cultural Leadership in European Region) from Switzerland, Mr Ashok Gupta from the UAE (Business Leadership in the Gulf Region), Drs Rajindre Tewari (Community Leadership in European Region), Mr Umesh Chandra from Australia (Community Leadership in the Asia-Pacific Region), Dr Priyamvada Natarajan from the USA (Excellence in Sciences), Professor Lael Anson Best from Israel (Excellence in Medical Sciences), Mr Suraj Sadan from Canada (Promotion of Peace Through Art), Dr R. Sri Ram from U.K. (Excellence in Philanthropy), Dr Surujrattan Rambachan from Trinidad and Tobago (Community Leadership in the Caribbean Region).
The awards were presented by Minister of State for Corporate Affairs, Mr Salman Khurshid, the grandson of India’s third President, Dr Zakir Hussain. He said that he felt proud to be in the midst of the distinguished awardees and other overseas Indians. In an eloquent speech, he reflected on the growing image of India, and the great role that the Indian diaspora had to play in shaping this image. Mr Khurshid mentioned that while it was true that India needed the diaspora to share its wealth with India, it was also true that India needed “the mind” of the diaspora more, implying that the wealth of experience and knowledge was also very important and crucial to India’s march forward.
The Editor and Publisher of INDIA EMPIRE Mr Sayantan Chakravarty spoke about the growing clout of the diaspora, and India’s serious engagement policies with the 25 million strong Overseas Indians. He mentioned that it was a challenge for the Government to deal with the expectations of two different diasporas----one comprising the newer immigrants, and the other being the descendants of indentured workers that migrated 100-170 years ago. He said the expectations of these two diaspora groups were markedly different. While one was looking to invest intellectually and economically, the other was looking to invest emotionally and keep its culture and roots intact over generations.
He said that the magazine was committed to recognize the wealth of talent among overseas Indians, and the excellence, purpose and achievement that was visible within this community.
The citations of the awardees are as under:
Mr Anirudh Suri is a graduate student at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government as well as the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. In 2009, he became a founder member of the organization called Global Young Indian Professionals and Students (GYIPS). The aim of GYIPS is to connect Young Overseas Indians with India in a manner that allows them to play an effective role in Governance through internships and fellowship programmes of the Indian Government. Many of GYIPS’ over 1,100 members are alumni of reputed institutions like Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Wharton, London School of Economics, the IITs and the IIMs. Out of hundreds of other overseas Indian bodies, the Government of India has quickly realized the worth of GYIPS in order to reach out to the young Indian diaspora and recently GYIPS was partnered by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs in a prestigious Link Seminar to PBD 2011.
Mrs Anjum Amirtham and Mr Arun Amirtham from Switzerland have become the perfect Cultural Ambassadors for India. For three years in a row, starting in 2008, they have conducted the INDIA INDIA Festival in Zurich. Last year over 250,000 people visited the festival from different parts of Europe. The novelty of the festival is that it is held at the Zurich central station which is well connected to every major European capital city. People can get off at the station and easily walk into the sound and colours of Indian classical and folk dance, the beats of Bollywood, the fragrance of delicate Indian cuisine, the drapes of colourful and exquisite textiles and the taste of munchy savouries. The couple has already started work on India India 2011 in order to take it to the next level and remind us of the days of Festival of India in Europe.
Mr Ashok K Gupta is the Chief Executive of Bank of Baroda, GCC Operations. This means he heads the bank’s growth and expansion plans for six nations---i.e. UAE, where he is based, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Prior to his present posting, he was the Deputy Head of the International Operations of the Bank and was instrumental in expanding Bank of Baroda in 10 countries. To his credit, in the last 3.5 years, the Bank’s customer base has increased from 50,000 to 200,000, its business has increased 4.5 times and the number of offices has doubled. He has been supportive of a very large number of Indian corporate / small and medium enterprises to establish their businesses in the UAE. This has helped in increasing bilateral trade. In 2010, a business weekly ranked him 40th in a list of 100 powerful NRIs in the Gulf who have influenced society in the Gulf and Middle Eastern Countries.
Drs Rajindre Tewari is head of the Holland chapter of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO). In that capacity he has played a crucial role in the successful organization of the first Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) in Europe that was held at The Hague, Holland. The GOPIO was a main organizer of the event and partnered the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs in bringing in 700 people from all across Europe to attend the convention. The event was attended by leading Overseas Indian figures in Europe and the City of Hague was a partner at the event. He has also successfully developed financial projects that are helping bridge relations between the estimated 200,000 Indo-Surinamese population in Holland and India. His forefathers emigrated to what was then Dutch Guyana (present day Suriname) and later his family migrated to Holland.
Mr Umesh Chandra has acted as a bridge between Indian students who’ve gone to study in Australia and the local Australian population. On behalf of Multicultural Affairs Queensland, he has been trying to sensitize both sides effectively in order to prevent racial acts that were a feature in Australia throughout 2009 and 2010. Since his appointment, Umesh Chandra has successfully handled several cases of Indian students who may have been treated unfairly. He has been instrumental in organizing several safety seminars together with the Queensland Police Service for the benefit of Indian students, a much needed community effort that has built confidence among the Indian student community.
Dr Priyamvada Natarajan has played a stellar role in astrophysics, and is one of the world’s leading scientists in that field. As a professor at the departments of Astronomy and Physics at Yale University, she works on understanding and explaining how black holes in space grow and evolve. She is currently on a Guggenheim Fellowship. Last year she was a JILA Fellow at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She will be wrapping up the academic year in May-June 2011 with a fellowship at the Rockfeller Bellagio Centre. As an undergraduate, she won a rare scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She subsequently went to Cambridge University to pursue her doctorate in theoretical astrophysics. She was the recipient of India Abroad Foundation’s Face of the Future Award in 2009.
Professor Lael Anson Best, a Mumbai-born OCI card holder, is the Chief at the Department of Thoracic Surgery as well as the Chief of Surgery at the famous Rambam Health Care Campus at Haifa, Israel, one of the best institutions in the world. One of his referants for the Award is Noble Prize winner, Professor Aaron Ciechanover. Professor Best is the recipient of numerous distinctions and recognitions, including the Outstanding Award for Excellence for First Place in Government Service Commission in the State of Israel presented by the Prime Minister of Israel in 2001, and the Noah Moses Prize presented by the President of Israel, also in 2001.
Mr Suraj Sadan has promoted Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of Peace through art. At a time when the world is beset with terrorism and ethnic conflicts, he is doing his bid to bring harmony. In 2006, Mr Sadan set up the Mahatma Gandhi International Foundation, a not-for-profit institution, in Montreal, Canada. Mr Sadan’s mission is encourage younger generations to become familiar with the work of Gandhi. The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has recognized his efforts and has provided him space to display his paintings at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, year after year----the only one in his profession who has been permitted thus.
Dr R. Sri Ram, London-based, set up The Wings of Hope Children’s Charity recently. But it has been able to quickly make a difference to the lives of poor children and their families who are in a debt trap. The charity helps out by providing free of cost education to those who have the least access to it. The Wings of Hope supports a school in Nemilicherry in Chennai. The school offers quality education to around 360 children, from kindergarten to Class 10. There are 12 classes, with an average size of 30 children per class. The school has a staff of 17 teachers. In Malawi in Africa, The Wings of Hope funds the House of Hope, which offers support to almost 600 children and young adults from the ages of 3 to 20 who have been orphaned because their parents have died of AIDS.
Dr Surujrattan Rambachan is Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. He is a member of the coalition Government led by the first Indian origin woman Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. He has been a community leader since the 1960s. In 1969, Diwali was celebrated at the University of West Indies campus for the very time. It was a time when racial tensions ran high in his country. In the 1980s, he remained his country’s ambassador to four Latin American countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. In the 1990s, he became a Minister of Tourism. In the 21st century he became a Mayor for six years. As Mayor he developed Shanti Tiram, The Shore of Peace, a pilgrimage site where both Hindus and non-Hindus are burnt by the pyre method. He was worked tirelessly for the cause of disabled, orphaned and abused children.