New York City, N.Y. – June 27, 2016 – With the theme “Strengthening Connections between India and Indian Diaspora through Business,” GOPIO International, Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (www.gopio.net), is held its 27th Anniversary Celebrations and GOPIO Biennial Convention 2016 in New York, USA at the Marriott LaGuardia Hotel with evening banquet held at World’s Fair Marina on June 24-25, 2016. Over 200 delegates from 20 countries participated. GOPIO’s New York Area Coordinator Lal Motwani served as the Convener along with Dr. Asha Samant, Kenny Desai, Shelly Nichani, Nohar singh and Jayant Baxi as Co-Conveners.
The convention was inaugurated at the World’s Fair Marina on June 24th evening by welcome remarks by Convention Convener Lal Motwani and by GOPIO President Niraj Baxi and at a welcome dinner. The chief Guest was Guyana Prime Minister and First Vice President Moses V. Nagamootoo, a freedom fighter for Guyana. PM Nagamootto invited the Indian Diaspora community to consider Guyana as a destination for investment and business and spoke on many incentives Guyana could offer. India’s Consul General in New York Ambassador Riva Das Ganguly Das representing Govt. of India, delivered the inaugural address in which she noted the role played by GOPIO in launching and building a worldwide movement as a united force for the Indian Diaspora. The evening program ended with classical and semi-classical dances performed by students of Pandit Satya Narayana Charka.
On Saturday June 25, a full day GOPIO conference was held at the New York LaGuardia Marriott Hotel from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. There were 9 sessions to deliberate on the Global Indian Diaspora; evaluate GOPIO’s progress in 27 years; network, exchange ideas, and connect with PIO/NRI delegates from around the world. The conference, organized by Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman, Conference Committee and Founder President, GOPIO International, consisted of an inaugural plenary session with keynote speaker Raj Jaswa, former President of TiE Silicon Valley and director and trustee of TiE International, Serial technology entrepreneur, and an Adjunct Professor at several Universities in India. This was followed by two track conference sessions, (1) Business and Technology ventures and opportunities and (2) Social, Political, Gender and Health challenges.
- Make in India – Diaspora role
- Major Issues of Indian Diaspora
- Indian Diaspora Promoting Medical and Pharmaceutical Industries
- Diaspora Indian Women Forum – Empowering Diaspora Indian Women
- Diaspora in Hospitality and Convenience Foods
- Diaspora Writers Form
- Promoting Diaspora Entrepreneurship, Technology and Business
- Health and Wellness of the Indian Diaspora
The conference ended with a concluding presentations session from the Session Chairs, namely, Prakash Shah, Dr. Rajeev Mehta, Nitin Shah, Dr. Neerja Arun Gupta, Viresh Sharma, Sudha Parekh, Dr. Asha Samant, Jagdish Lodhia and Ram Gadhavi. Several resolutions were presented by a committee headed by Dr. Rajeev Mehta. Resolutions for the conference session were added to these, and will be sent to Govt. of Indian and other government agencies.
The 27th Anniversary celebrations concluded with a Grand Finale Banquet and Recognition of Businesses and Entrepreneurs with Social Responsibility at the World’s Fair Marina. The honorees were Lord Diljit Rana of Belfast (Northern Ireland, UK), Raj Jaswa of Silicon Valley and TV Asia Chairman H.R. Shah. Dr. Sudhir Parikh, Chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media and Prof. Indrajit Singh Saluja were honored with Media Awards for their contribution and support of the community.
The Chief Guest was Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards, KNH, OBE, known as Viv Richards, a former West Indian cricketer, regarded as one of the greatest batsmen of all time. He was joined in the evening by Antigua & Barmuda Minister Trade, Industry, Commerce, Sports and National Festivals Mr. E.P. Chet Greene. The banquet ended with a Bolliwood performances put together by Dharmatma Saran of India Festival Committee and Anita Bhat of Miss India-CT.
With gratitude, GOPIO acknowledged support of Platinum sponsors Embassy National Bank, State Bank of India, Labidco Port Services Ltd; Gold sponsors Dr. Asha Samant and Kenny Desai; and Silver sponsors Bank of Baroda, Adani North America, S.S. White Technologies Inc. and Dr. Praveen Chopra.
Resolutions passed at the GOPIO Convention in New York (USA) on June 25, 2016
- Voting rights for Indian citizens living outside India
The 9 million strong Non Resident Indians (NRIs) i.e. Indian citizens living outside India, have been building India’s image and enthusiastically contributing to the economic development, should be allowed to exercise their right of franchise as enshrined in the Constitution of India.
The Election Commission of India should finalize the procedure for electronic voting before the next general election in India takes place.
- Rajya Sabha seats for Non-Resident Indians (NRIs)
NRIs are an important factor in promoting India’s interest, in shaping relations between the “home” and the “host” countries and in helping steer a dynamic shift in India’s economic and political advantage in world affairs. However, 10 million NRIs who are citizens of India, have no representation in the decision making process of the country of their citizenship.
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 community.
- Pro-active Role for Indian Missions to Reach Out and Help Indian Citizens Needing Emergency Assistance
Indian Missions abroad must actively help Indians who need consular services in emergency situations.
- Engaging NRIs/PIOs for Educational, Health and Social Causes
Many NRIs want to support their alma maters; set up schools and colleges in their villages and towns, and support social and environmental causes. However, they face major hurdles.
The clearance process through the Home Ministry is very time consuming and needs to be streamlined and made more efficient.
- Protection of Real Estate and Business Investments as well as Inherited assets
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 and businesses refuse to honor their agreements to pay the rents or vacate the premises, honor contracts, etc. The PIO/NRIs find themselves helpless in protecting their investments and inheritance. Moreover, when the NRIs/PIOs make a trip to India to attend hearings, most of the times they find that hearings are postponed by either the court or the litigant based in India.
We want the Govt. to enact legislation to designate Fast Track Courts for NRIs/PIOs for the speedy settlement of their property, business, inheritance and other legal issues in India.
We also call upon the Government of India to enact another legislation to provide Title Insurance to ensure that their ownership in real estate is protected against forged signatures on the deed and for any such fraudulent transfer of their properties.
- Discriminative Admission Fee Rates for PIOs and OCI Card Holders
The discriminatory higher fee for foreigners at monuments, hotels & all such places includes Indians who are now citizens of other countries. These are the same people who have been sending over 70 Billion dollars to India, act as the soft power for India abroad and also serve as a huge economic strength. About five 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. However, it is yet to be implemented.
GOPIO urges the government to implement uniform entrance fee throughout India including monuments under the jurisdiction of the states.
- Taxing of NRIs/PIOs Social Security Benefits in India
Many NRIs/PIOs are moving back to India to be closer to their families. Once they settle back in India, their social security benefits (which are generally tax free in the developed countries (income comes below the tax bracket) are taxed according to the Indian tax rules.
We strongly feel that those who are getting their social security benefits from outside India should receive tax parity similar to Indian retirees and request the Finance Ministry to change the rules. Of course, such person’s Indian income must be taxed as per the rules.
- Expand Know India Program
The Know India program has been very successful but is limited to only about 100 students.
It must be expanded to bring a couple of thousands of young people every year including a separate program with GOPIO International If the need arises, community groups in developed countries be asked to sponsor youngsters for this program so that govt. alone does not spend on its expenses.
- Set Up for Involvement with Ministries of Commerce, Science and Technology, Power, Rural Development, Tourism
These ministries should have separate NRI/PIO Advisory Committee which should meet on a regular basis to seek ways to involve NRIs/PIOs in developmental activities related to the individual ministries.
- Such advisory committee existed informally in a couple of ministries before.
- Set up NRI Ministry or NRI Coordination Office with all state governments
Some states take advantage of the home-coming of the Pravasis and organize their own PBD like programs to attract them to their states (since the Pravasis can easily relate to people and places in their home states). States such as Kerala, Gujarat, and UP have already set up direct communication channels with NRIs from their states. Other states are requested to establish direct contacts with NRIs from their respective State.
About GOPIO International
GOPIO – Global Organization of People of Indian Origin
GOPIO is a non-partisan, not-for-profit, secular organization. GOPIO’s volunteers are committed to enhancing cooperation and communication between NRIs/PIOs, building bonds, friendships, alliances, and the camaraderie of citizens and colleagues alike. GOPIO volunteers believe that when they help network the global Indian community, they facilitate making tomorrow a better world for the Indian Diaspora.