Moody’s Projects India to Lead Asia-Pacific Economic Growth in 2024

India is set to retain its position as the fastest-growing economy in the Asia-Pacific region in 2024, according to Moody’s Ratings. This growth will be driven by continued domestic momentum established in the previous year.

Moody’s released a report titled “Credit Conditions – Asia-Pacific H2 2024 Credit Outlook,” highlighting that Indonesia, the Philippines, and India have shown remarkable growth in the first half of 2024. These countries are expected to exceed their pre-COVID growth rates due to increasing exports, strong local demand, and significant government infrastructure spending.

The report emphasizes India’s sustained growth trajectory, stating, “India will remain the region’s fastest-growing economy, sustaining last year’s domestically driven momentum. We anticipate policy continuity after the general election, and a continued focus on infrastructure development and encouragement of private sector investment.”

India, along with ASEAN economies, is expected to benefit from stronger portfolio inflows, spurred by solid corporate credit metrics and attractive valuations.

Moody’s recently forecasted that India’s economy will grow by 6.8 percent in the current year and 6.5 percent in 2025, driven by robust economic expansion and policy stability following the elections.

In 2023, India’s real GDP grew by 7.7 percent, up from 6.5 percent in 2022, fueled by substantial government capital spending and a thriving manufacturing sector.

Modi Sworn in for Historic Third Term as Prime Minister, Unveils Extensive Cabinet Lineup

Narendra Modi was sworn in today for his third consecutive term as Prime Minister, matching the feat of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, with three electoral victories. The ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan drew crowds, with Modi clad in a traditional white kurta and blue waistcoat, ascending the steps amidst a display of honor guards. Immediately following him were key Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) figures Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah, and Nitin Gadkari.

While the event saw the presence of leaders from neighboring South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka, notable absences included top officials from China and Pakistan, India’s regional rivals.

Modi’s new cabinet comprises 30 Cabinet Ministers, 5 Ministers of State with Independent Charge, and 36 Ministers of State, reflecting a diverse array of talent and experience. This expansive team aims to tackle the multifaceted challenges facing the nation.

In the recent elections, Modi’s BJP secured 240 seats, falling short of a majority in the 543-member lower house. However, with the support of allies, particularly within the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), they managed to surpass the 272-seat majority threshold, securing a total of 293 seats.

The swearing-in ceremony witnessed the oath-taking of several prominent figures:

– Rajnath Singh

– Amit Shah

– Nitin Gadkari

– JP Nadda

– Shivraj Singh Chouhan

– Nirmala Sitharaman

– S Jaishankar

– Manohar Lal Khattar

– HD Kumaraswamy

– Piyush Goyal

– Dharmendra Pradhan

– Jitan Ram Manjhi

– Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh

– Sarbananda Sonowal

– Dr Virendra Kumar

– Kinjarapu Ram Mohan Naidu

– Pralhad Joshi

– Jual Oram

– Giriraj Singh

– Ashwini Vaishnaw

– Jyotiraditya Scindia

– Bhupender Yadav

– Gajendra Singh Shekhawat

– Annapurna Devi

– Kiren Rijiju

– Hardeep Singh Puri

– Mansukh Mandaviya

– G Kishan Reddy

– Chirag Paswan

– CR Patil

Additionally, those taking oath as Ministers of State with Independent Charge include:

– Rao Inderjit Singh

– Jitendra Singh

– Arjun Ram Meghwal

– Prataprao Ganpatrao Jadhav

– Jayant Chaudhary

Furthermore, the Ministers of State are:

– Jitin Prasada

– Shripad Naik

– Pankaj Chaudhary

– Krishan Pal Gurjar

– Ramdas Athawale

– Ram Nath Thakur

– Nityanand Rai

– Anupriya Patel

– V Somanna

– Dr Chandra Sekhar Pemmasani

– SP Singh Baghel

– Shobha Karandlaje

– Kirti Vardhan Singh

– BL Verma

– Shantanu Thakur

– Suresh Gopi

– L Murugan

– Ajay Tamta

– Bandi Sanjay Kumar

– Kamlesh Paswan

– Bhagirath Chaudhary

– Satish Chandra Dubey

– Sanjay Seth

– Ravneet Singh Bittu

– Durga Das Uikey

– Raksha Khadse

– Sukanta Majumdar

– Savitri Thakur

– Tokhan Sahu

– Rajbhushan Chaudhary

– Bhupathiraju Srinivasa Varma

– Harsh Malhotra

– Nimuben Jayantibhai Bambhaniya

– Murlidhar Mohol

– George Kurian

– Pabitra Margherita

This extensive lineup reflects a diverse mix of leaders committed to serving the nation under Modi’s leadership, setting the stage for a dynamic and ambitious governance agenda ahead.

President of India Allocates Portfolios Among Union Council of Ministers

In a significant reshuffling of the Union Council of Ministers, the President of India, following the advice of the Prime Minister, has directed the allocation of portfolios among the members of the cabinet. The official announcement, released by the President’s Secretariat, outlines the responsibilities assigned to each minister, reflecting a strategic approach to governance and administration.

Prime Minister’s Responsibilities:

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will continue to hold the positions of:

  • Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions
  • Department of Atomic Energy
  • Department of Space
  • All important policy issues
  • All other portfolios not allocated to any Minister

President of India Allocates Portfolios Among Union Council of Ministers 1

Cabinet Ministers:

  1. Shri Raj Nath Singh – Minister of Defence
  2. Shri Amit Shah – Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Cooperation
  3. Shri Nitin Jairam Gadkari – Minister of Road Transport and Highways
  4. Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda – Minister of Health and Family Welfare, and Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers
  5. Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan – Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, and Minister of Rural Development
  6. Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman – Minister of Finance, and Minister of Corporate Affairs
  7. Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar – Minister of External Affairs
  8. Shri Manohar Lal – Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs, and Minister of Power
  9. Shri H. D. Kumaraswamy – Minister of Heavy Industries, and Minister of Steel
  10. Shri Piyush Goyal – Minister of Commerce and Industry
  11. Shri Dharmendra Pradhan – Minister of Education
  12. Shri Jitan Ram Manjhi – Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises
  13. Shri Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh – Minister of Panchayati Raj, and Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying
  14. Shri Sarbananda Sonowal – Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways
  15. Dr. Virendra Kumar – Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment
  16. Shri Kinjarapu Rammohan Naidu – Minister of Civil Aviation
  17. Shri Pralhad Joshi – Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, and Minister of New and Renewable Energy
  18. Shri Jual Oram – Minister of Tribal Affairs
  19. Shri Giriraj Singh – Minister of Textiles
  20. Shri Ashwini Vaishnaw – Minister of Railways, Minister of Information and Broadcasting, and Minister of Electronics and Information Technology
  21. Shri Jyotiraditya M. Scindia – Minister of Communications, and Minister of Development of North Eastern Region
  22. Shri Bhupender Yadav – Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change
  23. Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat – Minister of Culture, and Minister of Tourism
  24. Smt. Annpurna Devi – Minister of Women and Child Development
  25. Shri Kiren Rijiju – Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, and Minister of Minority Affairs
  26. Shri Hardeep Singh Puri – Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas
  27. Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya – Minister of Labour and Employment, and Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports
  28. Shri G. Kishan Reddy – Minister of Coal, and Minister of Mines
  29. Shri Chirag Paswan – Minister of Food Processing Industries
  30. Shri C R Patil – Minister of Jal Shakti

President of India Allocates Portfolios Among Union Council of Ministers 2

Ministers of State (Independent Charge):

  1. Rao Inderjit Singh – Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation; Ministry of Planning; Ministry of Culture
  2. Dr. Jitendra Singh – Ministry of Science and Technology; Ministry of Earth Sciences; Prime Minister’s Office; Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions; Department of Atomic Energy; Department of Space
  3. Shri Arjun Ram Meghwal – Ministry of Law and Justice; Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs
  4. Shri Jadhav Prataprao Ganpatrao – Ministry of Ayush; Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
  5. Shri Jayant Chaudhary – Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship; Ministry of Education

Ministers of State:

The complete list of Ministers of State includes 36 officials, each assisting with multiple portfolios. Some key appointments include:

  1. Shri Jitin Prasada – Minister of State in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Minister of State in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology
  2. Shri Shripad Yesso Naik – Minister of State in the Ministry of Power, Minister of State in the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy
  3. Shri Pankaj Chaudhary – Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance
  4. Shri Krishan Pal – Minister of State in the Ministry of Cooperation
  5. Shri Ramdas Athawale – Minister of State in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment
  6. Shri Ram Nath Thakur – Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare
  7. Shri Nityanand Rai – Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs
  8. Smt. Anupriya Patel – Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Minister of State in the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers
  9. Shri V. Somanna – Minister of State in the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Minister of State in the Ministry of Railways
  10. Dr. Chandra Sekhar Pemmasani – Minister of State in the Ministry of Rural Development, Minister of State in the Ministry of Communications
  11. Prof. S. P. Singh Baghel – Minister of State in the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Minister of State in the Ministry of Panchayati Raj
  12. Sushri Sobha Karandlaje – Minister of State in the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Employment
  13. Shri Kirtivardhan Singh – Minister of State in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs
  14. Shri B. L. Verma – Minister of State in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Minister of State in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment
  15. Shri Shantanu Thakur – Minister of State in the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways
  16. Shri Suresh Gopi – Minister of State in the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism
  17. Dr. L. Murugan – Minister of State in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Minister of State in the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs
  18. Shri Ajay Tamta – Minister of State in the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways
  19. Shri Bandi Sanjay Kumar – Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs
  20. Shri Kamlesh Paswan – Minister of State in the Ministry of Rural Development
  21. Shri Bhagirath Choudhary – Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare
  22. Shri Satish Chandra Dubey – Minister of State in the Ministry of Coal, Minister of State in the Ministry of Mines
  23. Shri Sanjay Seth – Minister of State in the Ministry of Defence
  24. Shri Ravneet Singh – Minister of State in the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Minister of State in the Ministry of Railways
  25. Shri Durgadas Uikey – Minister of State in the Ministry of Tribal Affairs
  26. Smt. Raksha Nikhil Khadse – Minister of State in the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports
  27. Shri Sukanta Majumdar – Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Minister of State in the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region
  28. Smt. Savitri Thakur – Minister of State in the Ministry of Women and Child Development
  29. Shri Tokhan Sahu – Minister of State in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs
  30. Shri Raj Bhushan Choudhary – Minister of State in the Ministry of Jal Shakti
  31. Shri Bhupathi Raju Srinivasa Varma – Minister of State in the Ministry of Heavy Industries, Minister of State in the Ministry of Steel
  32. Shri Harsh Malhotra – Minister of State in the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Minister of State in the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways
  33. Smt. Nimuben Jayantibhai Bambhaniya – Minister of State in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
  34. Shri Murlidhar Mohol – Minister of State in the Ministry of Cooperation, Minister of State in the Ministry of Civil Aviation
  35. Shri George Kurian – Minister of State in the Ministry of Minority Affairs, Minister of State in the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying
  36. Shri Pabitra Margherita – Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs, Minister of State in the Ministry of Textiles

This comprehensive allocation of portfolios underscores the government’s commitment to addressing diverse aspects of governance and ensuring effective management across various sectors. The reshuffle aims to bring in a balanced mix of experienced and new leaders, fostering a robust administrative framework to drive the nation’s development agenda forward.

India’s Unfinished Journey: A Post-Colonial Quest for Major Power Status from Nehru to Modi

A Post-Colonial Quest

The pursuit of recognition is an intrinsic human trait, and this collective yearning is mirrored in a state’s quest for major-power status. In “The Unfinished Quest: India’s Search for Major Power Status from Nehru to Modi” (“The Quest”) by T.V. Paul, a professor of International Relations at McGill University, the journey of post-colonial India towards global recognition as a major power is thoroughly examined.

Throughout history, states have sought status recognition, traditionally tied to military might. T.V. Paul notes, “Victory in great power wars was the most prominent mechanism through which a state gained or lost status that had already been conferred on it.” This understanding of power was dominant during times when European nations, believing their languages and knowledge systems superior, pursued widespread colonization in Asia and Africa.

Colonization

Colonization entailed not just political domination but also religious and racial superiority. Paul emphasizes, “Closeness to the Christian religious establishments was the key element in nineteenth-century Europe, based on the ideas of ‘standards of civilization.’” The colonizers’ zeal to establish Christian supremacy in their colonies was a byproduct of their power dynamics.

Following World War II and especially after the USSR’s collapse in 1991, the criteria for power and status recognition expanded beyond military prowess to include economic strength, knowledge, and skills.

“The Quest” is a thorough exploration of India’s ongoing journey to significant global status. The book provides a detailed analysis of India’s political, economic, and strategic ambitions since its 1947 independence. Paul asserts, “No leader since the Nehru era has fundamentally reduced India’s hard-power asset acquisition.”

Hard Power Resources

Paul identifies ten critical components in a nation’s quest for major power status, termed “comprehensive national power capability.” These include four ‘hard-power resources’—military, economy, technology/knowledge, and demographics—and six ‘soft-power resources’—normative position, leadership in international institutions, culture, state capacity, strategy and diplomacy, and effective national leadership. He traces India’s trajectory from the early days under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to current leader Narendra Modi, weaving in internal political dynamics, economic growth, and strategic decisions.

When Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul visited India in 1988 for his book “India: A Million Mutinies Now,” he encountered an India overshadowed by “pietistic Gandhian gloom.” Naipaul noted, “The talk among the talkers in the towns was of degeneracy, a falling away from the standards of earlier times.” This pervasive gloom reflected nearly four decades of unsuccessful Nehruvian socialism.

A Wounded Nation Rises

Centuries of Islamic and British colonization had transformed a historically prosperous and entrepreneurial society into one that was defeated and despondent. Today, however, optimism is sweeping across India. In a post-COVID world marked by inflation, rising food and energy prices, and prolonged conflicts in Europe and the Middle East, Indians are hopeful and eager to restore India’s pre-colonial economic and civilizational prominence.

Economic liberalization in the 1990s, initiated by Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, opened up India’s foreign investment markets. Although there were initial successes, economic progress faced hurdles. India’s international status has significantly advanced with nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998 and recent Moon and Mars missions.

An Outsider’s Perspective

Despite these achievements, Paul concludes that India’s major power status remains elusive, with an uncertain future. “The Quest” stands out as an academic work but is presented from an outsider’s perspective. During colonial times, non-native Western scholars began to control the intellectual discourse about India. This tradition continues, as illustrated by the critiques from homegrown Marxist/Leftist scholars detailed in Arun Shourie’s book “Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud.”

Paul mentions “caste” and “Hindutva” in “The Quest” but does not provide a framework for assessing India’s status quest on these parameters. Historically, “jati” (caste) has been part of Indian society, which has remained prosperous and knowledge-producing. The term ‘Hindutva’ is often used to demonize India’s assertive Hindu majority, as Vishwa Adluri and Joydeep Bagchee argue, “raises the spectre of Hindutva to scare off critics.”

India’s Statecraft

Paul critiques the “religious-nationalist coloration” in naming India’s weapons systems with “Sanskrit/Hindu mythological terms,” while overlooking ‘panchsheela,’ misspelled as ‘panschila’ in his book. He also refers to India’s “founding fathers,” although India is a civilizational nation not founded by a group of men in 1947.

Notably, Paul’s work omits significant concepts like Dharma and Kautilya. Dharma, the core Hindu philosophy of righteous deeds, underpins Hindu cosmology. Kautilya, a 4th-century BCE Indian scholar, is known for the Arthashastra, a foundational text on statecraft. Arshid Iqbal Dar states, “Kautilya’s realism is there in the DNA of India’s strategic culture and has been the default strategy for South Asia.” Yet, “The Quest” lacks references to these critical elements.

Overall, “The Quest” is an excellent academic examination of India’s journey, though it is presented through a 19th/20th-century colonial-Western narrative that overlooks native perspectives.

Election Results Spark Unusual Reactions: Modi Secures Third Term, Opposition Rejoices with Unexpected Gains

The results of India’s general election announced on Tuesday have sparked an unusual reaction: while the winners seem restrained, the runners-up are celebrating. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has secured a historic third term with over 290 seats in the 543-member parliament. However, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alone did not achieve the 272 seats needed to form the government, casting him as a diminished leader.

The outcome is seen as a significant comeback for the opposition INDIA alliance and its leader, Rahul Gandhi of the Congress party. Although the alliance won just over 230 seats and lacks the numbers to form a government, they have not conceded more than 24 hours after the vote counting began. “It’s an extraordinary story,” political analyst Rashid Kidwai told the BBC. “The result is surprising. The opposition has managed to pull off the unexpected.”

A jubilant Congress party declared the verdict “a moral and political defeat for Mr Modi,” whose BJP had heavily campaigned on his name and record. On Tuesday evening, Gandhi said in a press conference that “the country has unanimously sent a message to Mr Modi and [Home Minister] Amit Shah that we do not want you.”

This enthusiasm has a backdrop. Going into the election, the opposition seemed disorganized, and the Congress-led INDIA bloc, comprising more than two dozen regional parties, appeared on the brink of collapse. Experts doubted its ability to challenge Modi, who seemed unstoppable at the time. As the election approached, the opposition faced significant challenges: party leaders were raided by government agencies, two chief ministers were jailed, and Congress bank accounts were frozen by income-tax authorities.

Kidwai credits the opposition’s performance largely to Rahul Gandhi, the often-criticized scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. “He’s a fifth-generation dynast and came with a lot of historical baggage,” Kidwai explains. “The mainstream media in India was very hostile to him and social media didn’t take him seriously. He was targeted and projected as a non-serious politician who took too many holidays.” Nonetheless, Gandhi worked hard to change this perception, especially during his Bharat Jodo Yatra and Nyay March, where he met millions of people across the country, boosting his stature and gaining support.

Despite his efforts, Gandhi was not initially perceived as a threat to Modi. Last year, a court in Gujarat convicted Gandhi of defamation, resulting in his expulsion from parliament and a ban on contesting elections—until the Supreme Court suspended his conviction. Political analyst and author Ajoy Bose believes the BJP’s tactics to intimidate the opposition backfired. “The BJP got a bit arrogant and complacent. But their shock and awe tactics to intimidate the opposition worked against the BJP and led to the formation of the INDIA bloc.”

Bose suggests that many parties feared being wiped out and saw echoes of the Emergency era in the government’s functioning. India has “a history of competitive democracy,” he says, and there was a sense among the people of “disquiet and discomfort about the country turning into a one-party dictatorship.”

The results indicate that the BJP faced strong resistance in several opposition-ruled states. In Tamil Nadu, the ruling DMK party won all 39 seats, keeping the BJP out. In West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee limited the BJP to 12 seats, down from 18 in 2019. In Maharashtra, the BJP won only nine seats, compared to 23 in 2019, with its then-ally Shiv Sena winning an additional 18.

The biggest setback for Modi and the BJP came from Uttar Pradesh (UP). “Akhilesh Yadav and his Samajwadi Party (SP) is the biggest success story of this election,” says Bose. A clever alliance with Rahul Gandhi resulted in the SP winning 43 of the state’s 80 seats, reducing the BJP’s tally to 33, a significant drop from 62 seats in 2019 and 71 in 2014.

Modi had dismissed Gandhi and Yadav as “a pair of boys” whose alliance had “flopped” in the past. However, the election results proved otherwise. “A key takeaway from the election,” Bose notes, “is that the grand new Ram temple in Ayodhya city wasn’t enough for the BJP to win.” Despite the party banking on the Ram Mandir temple, the BJP candidate lost in the Faizabad constituency where it is located.

Abhishek Yadav, an SP youth-wing leader and prominent campaigner, told the BBC they initially believed the temple would help the BJP win. However, they noticed growing resentment against the BJP as large crowds gathered at their rallies. “Until early April, [the] election in the state had seemed like a one-sided contest with the odds stacked against us,” he said. But dissatisfaction over job shortages, high food and fuel prices, and changes in army recruitment became evident, rallying anti-BJP voters to the INDIA alliance.

Kidwai notes that despite the opposition’s strong performance, it was a missed opportunity as they failed to fully understand voter sentiments and capitalize on discontent with Modi’s government. “They spoke about joblessness, rural economic distress and were able to win over many voters – but there were lots of gaps in their strategy,” he says. “The NDA’s third term has come only because of weaknesses in the INDIA bloc. They could have forged alliances in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha and that would have made their tally stronger.”

With the NDA and Modi back in power, Kidwai argues that INDIA needs to institutionalize its alliance, and Gandhi, “the chief architect of the alliance,” must lead from the front. “It’s unlikely that the government will stop going after the opposition. But it also can’t be business as usual for the government. They cannot continue with their politics of vendetta; it will have to be toned down.”

He adds that the opposition’s strength in parliament could restore functional ties, emphasizing the need for coalition politics, with Congress leading the way. “The Gandhis consider themselves as trustees of power, not power-wielders. But now the time has come to change. Rahul Gandhi has to take on the mantle of leadership and lead.”

Indian Elections: Is BJP Paying For Its Overconfidence?

There is little doubt in the minds of many today that this election is turning. It will not be the cakewalk that the BJP imagined it would be for the party. Seeking a third straight term, which was only recently seen as a given, is no more an easy task. There are many numbers being tossed, but almost all of them bring the BJP to and below the magic figure of 272. The only question that is being asked is how much can the party go down from that half-way mark required to form a government.

All indicators point to the ruling party taking heavy losses this time. What looked like rock-solid confidence has evaporated almost overnight. One clear indicator is that there is no talk anywhere in the BJP circles of a “char sau paar” (past the 400-mark) that was the hallmark of the BJP campaign as it began this run.  Yet, it is good to add a cautionary note. There are still five phases of voting left and a month to counting-day itself. Anything can happen. The election will need careful monitoring and is all set to becoming a thriller.

Voter turnout in the first two phases of the election has been lower than expected. There are many ways to read this. One is the view that since the BJP put in so much effort in declaring right at the beginning that there is virtually no contest, and the message was sent out with the full force of its rather rich, well-funded campaign and machinery, the BJP voters were less than enthused and decided – what is the point in working since the end result is given? The other is the weather – the summer has been unusually hot this time. The third is that the BJP itself has not been able to move its cadres, one reason being that the election was declared as won before the first vote was cast, and the second and more important one being the influx of all kinds and varieties of non-BJP workers who have joined the ranks on their own accord or have been lured/forced to move to the BJP.

The odd mix of “Intruders” versus cadres Is In part causing a mismatch of chemistry, and so building a sense of despondency within the committed workers who now feel excluded from the party they have worked in and for over a number of years. The last reason could be despondency among a broader section of the electorate, and if this is the cause, then the lower turnout could go any way in terms of influencing the results.

Bad news for BJP

But as the week drew to a close, there was more bad news for the BJP. On one hand, Rahul Gandhi was virtually on fire, demanding that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologise to every girl and woman in the country for seeking votes for Prajwal Revanna, a “mass rapist”, and further saying that votes for Revanna would strengthen Modi. That was at an election rally in support of the BJP’s new ally, the JD(S), where the prime minister made as clear an appeal as he could in support of JD(S) candidates, including Revanna, who is the grandson of the former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda. Revanna fled to Germany the day after polling ended in his constituency of Hassan in Karnataka on April 26, just as tapes of his advances and assaults against women were leaked. The BJP has not been able to respond to the questions on support for Revanna, which particularly exposed the prime minister himself, given that it has emerged that the party was warned well in advance of Revanna’s conduct and the allegations against him, and went ahead with endorsing his candidature.

On the other hand, bad news for the BJP also came from the failed attempt to stir up a controversy over allegations that the Congress wanted to redistribute wealth, or take it from the middle class and give it, as the BJP alleged, to minorities.  This blatant and desperate attempt to bring in religion into an issue that has more to do with rising inequality, which has been highlighted by Rahul Gandhi, backfired with a laughable protest march by a section of students from Galgotias University, which claims to be NAAC Grade A+ with more than 300 national and international awards. Students in the protest march could barely read the placards against the Congress and knew nothing about the issues they said they had gathered to protest against! This deplorable display has not only highlighted the state of higher education, but the wages of a system under which fake news is fed and spread right from the very top of the political order, with students asking no questions and learning with no interest or curiosity. The university website begins with this headline: “Excellence is what we strive to achieve”.

In many ways, the BJP is suffering from the impact of its own over confidence, and its liberal use of communalism to get over the slide that it appears to be facing now. As Modi himself goes to the extreme in his attacks on the Congress (he claimed that the Congress manifesto “has the stamp of the Muslim League”), the party seems not to have calculated that there will be some price to pay for its role in the electoral bonds, the arrest of opposition leaders like Arvind Kejriwal and its attempt to get power at any cost, like it did in Maharashtra. Maharashtra is one state where the Opposition is getting huge traction.

Boast backfiring?

The story of how the BJP collected Rs.8,000 crores via the electoral bonds, revealed by the force of the Supreme Court, has led to the widespread view that the party is at its core corrupt. The “BJP washing machine” that cleans up the corrupt the moment they shift sides and join the BJP has also cost the party in terms of its image and standing, even among loyalists. The boast that it will get more than 400 seats has backfired because it has led to fears that this mandate would endanger the Constitution, with the BJP then in a position to trifle with some of the basic guarantees, like reservations. Further, there is also the huge fear of an impending dictatorial style being embedded into the nation’s democratic fabric should Modi get a third straight term.

All in all, the issues on the agenda are very different from the issues that the BJP thought would be on the agenda. The finals could go down to the wire and there will be many lessons learned once the votes are counted and the results are declared.

(The writer is the Managing Editor of The Billion Press. Views are personal. By special arrangement with The Billion Press)

Read more at: https://www.southasiamonitor.org/spotlight/indian-elections-bjp-paying-its-overconfidence

Stars and Citizens Alike Cast Their Votes in Mumbai as India’s Marathon Election Continues

In the midst of the world’s largest democratic exercise, celebrities, industrialists, and politicians turned out to vote in Mumbai, India’s financial powerhouse, as part of a weeks-long national election. This election will decide if Prime Minister Narendra Modi will secure another five-year term.

Polling took place on Monday across six constituencies in Mumbai, Maharashtra, and in 43 other constituencies nationwide. Millions of voters made their way to the polling booths to decide the leadership of the world’s most populous country.

In India’s wealthiest city, which also serves as the heart of Bollywood, numerous celebrities were photographed casting their votes, proudly displaying their ink-stained index fingers as proof of participation. Shah Rukh Khan, known as the “King of Bollywood,” was seen exiting a polling station in Mumbai with his family, including his wife Gauri, daughter Suhana, and sons Aryan and Abram. Another prominent Bollywood actor, Amitabh Bachchan, also voted at a booth in the Andheri suburb.

“As responsible Indian citizens we must exercise our right to vote this Monday in Maharashtra,” Khan wrote on X over the weekend. “Let’s carry out our duty as Indians and vote keeping our country’s best interests in mind. Go forth Promote, our right to Vote.”

Other notable figures, such as film stars Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh, who are expecting their first child, were also seen voting. Billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani, along with his wife Nita and son Akash, made their appearance at the polling stations as well.

Actor Akshay Kumar expressed his aspirations for India after casting his vote. “I voted… India should vote for what they deem is right…I think voter turnout will be good,” he said to local reporters, displaying his ink-stained finger.

Despite the star-studded turnout, voter participation in Maharashtra was relatively low, with only 54% turnout on Monday, and between 47-55% across Mumbai’s six constituencies, according to the Election Commission. In contrast, the northeastern state of West Bengal saw around 73% of eligible voters casting their ballots.

The main political players in Mumbai include Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the opposition Indian National Congress, and two rival factions of Shiv Sena, a local ultranationalist party with a significant influence in Mumbai politics.

Mumbai, home to more than 12 million people, is often compared to New York and is known as the “city of dreams,” where countless migrants from across India come in search of fortune and purpose. The city is a striking mix of extreme wealth and poverty, with skyscrapers standing next to slum dwellings and impoverished children begging at the windows of luxurious cars.

While many wealthy and famous individuals were seen voting, numerous migrant workers in the city were left out of the process. India’s election rules require voters to cast their ballots in their home constituencies, which means that those working outside their home state must travel back to vote. For many low-income, out-of-state workers, particularly those in the informal sector, the financial burden of traveling home is too great.

Mumbai voters have significant concerns about rising inflation and are seeking improvements in education and employment opportunities. Sachin Chaudhary, a 34-year-old grocer, previously told CNN, “The change I want to see is, things should become less costly,” emphasizing the need for better job prospects.

As India undertakes its massive democratic election, Mumbai’s participation showcased both the glitz of its celebrities and the struggles of its common citizens, all aiming for a better future under their chosen leadership.

GOPIO Congratulates President-Elect Joe Biden And Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris

The Indian American community whole heartedly welcomes the Biden/Harris win at the election and the congratulates President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris.  “The Indian American community was elated when Vice President Biden selected Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate and it was a great honor and prestige for the Indian American community,” said Dr. thomas Abraham, Chairman of GOPIO.  

In spite of close Trump-Modi relation, a very high percentage of the community went with Biden-Harris ticket. In fact, in this close election, community votes have helped Biden to win the election.

“Although many Trump supporters raised doubts about support for India in a Biden Administration, I don’t expect much changes in US policy towards India since both countries have become close partners in many political and economic aspects,” said Dr. Abraham.

Currently, India is a big buyer of America’s military ware. Both countries have common interest to fight terrorism. Economically, both countries have invested in each other. Politically the most important factor is that India has bipartisan support among the US House Representatives and the Senators of both political parties.

One major outcome of the Indian American community support will be a large number of political appointments by the Biden Administration, even some cabinet level appointments.

“There are a large number of bright and highly qualified candidates from the Indian American community who could be brought in to work for the new administration since the country has many serious problems to tackle, i.e. the pandemic and the economic slowdown,” Dr. Abraham added.

GOPIO looks forward to work closely with the Biden administration GOPIO is a non-partisan, not-for-profit, secular organization with Individual Life Members and over 100 chapters in 35 countries. GOPIO’s volunteers are committed to enhancing cooperation and communication between NRIs/PIOs and the local communities, 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 and the countries they live in.

In 2018, Government Restrictions on Religion Reach Highest Level Globally in More Than a Decade

In 2018, the global median level of government restrictions on religion – that is, laws, policies and actions by officials that impinge on religious beliefs and practices – continued to climb, reaching an all-time high since Pew Research Center began tracking these trends in 2007.

The year-over-year increase from 2017 to 2018 was relatively modest, but it contributed to a substantial rise in government restrictions on religion over more than a decade. In 2007, the first year of the study, the global median score on the Government Restrictions Index (a 10-point scale based on 20 indicators) was 1.8. After some fluctuation in the early years, the median score has risen steadily since 2011 and now stands at 2.9 for 2018, the most recent full year for which data is available.

The increase in government restrictions reflects a wide variety of events around the world, including a rise from 2017 to 2018 in the number of governments using force – such as detentions and physical abuse – to coerce religious groups.

The total number of countries with “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions has been mounting as well. Most recently, that number climbed from 52 countries (26% of the 198 countries and territories included in the study) in 2017 to 56 countries (28%) in 2018. The latest figures are close to the 2012 peak in the top two tiers of the Government Restrictions Index.

As of 2018, most of the 56 countries with high or very high levels of government restrictions on religion are in the Asia-Pacific region (25 countries, or half of all countries in that region) or the Middle East-North Africa region (18 countries, or 90% of all countries in the region).

Rising government restrictions in the Asia-Pacific region

Out of the five regions examined in the study, the Middle East and North Africa continued to have the highest median level of government restrictions in 2018 (6.2 out of 10). However, Asia and the Pacific had the largest increase in its median government restrictions score, rising from 3.8 in 2017 to 4.4 in 2018, partly because a greater number of governments in the region used force against religious groups, including property damage, detention, displacement, abuse and killings.

In total, 31 out of 50 countries (62%) in Asia and the Pacific experienced government use of force related to religion, up from 26 countries (52%) in 2017. The increase was concentrated in the category of “low levels” of government use of force (between one and nine incidents during the year). In 2018, 10 Asia-Pacific countries fell into this category, up from five the previous year..

In Armenia, for example, a prominent member of the Baha’i faith was detained on religious grounds, according to members of the community.1 And in the Philippines, three United Methodist Church missionaries were forced to leave the country or faced issues with visa renewals after they were involved in investigating human rights violations on a fact-finding mission.

 But the region also saw several instances of widespread use of government force against religious groups. In Burma (Myanmar), large-scale displacement of religious minorities continued. During the course of the year, more than 14,500 Rohingya Muslims were reported by Human Rights Watch to have fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape abuses, and at least 4,500 Rohingya were stuck in a border area known as “no-man’s land,” where they were harassed by Burmese officials trying to get them to cross to Bangladesh.3 In addition, fighting between the Burmese military and armed ethnic organizations in the states of Kachin and Shan led to the displacement of other religious minorities, mostly Christians.

Meanwhile, in Uzbekistan, it is estimated that at least 1,500 Muslim religious prisoners remained in prison on charges of religious extremism or membership in banned groups. Some countries in the Asia-Pacific region saw all-time highs in their overall government restrictions scores. This includes China, which continued to have the highest score on the Government Restrictions Index (GRI) out of all 198 countries and territories in the study. China has been near the top of the list of most restrictive governments in each year since the inception of the study, and in 2018 it reached a new peak in its score (9.3 out of 10).

The Chinese government restricts religion in a variety of ways, including banning entire religious groups (such as the Falun Gong movement and several Christian groups), prohibiting certain religious practices, raiding places of worship and detaining and torturing individuals.6 In 2018, the government continued a detention campaign against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslims in Xinjiang province, holding at least 800,000 (and possibly up to 2 million) in detention facilities “designed to erase religious and ethnic identities,” according to the U.S. State Department.

Tajikistan also stands out with a GRI score of 7.9, an all-time high for that country. In 2018, the Tajik government amended its religion law, increasing control over religious education domestically and over those who travel abroad for religious education. The amendment also requires religious groups to report their activities to authorities and requires state approval for appointing imams. Throughout the year, the Tajik government continued to deny minority religious groups, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, official recognition. In January, Jehovah’s Witnesses reported that more than a dozen members were interrogated by police and pressured to renounce their faith.

 While these are examples of countries with “very high” government restrictions on religion in Asia and the Pacific, there also are several notable countries in the “high” category that experienced an increase in their scores. India, for example, reached a new peak in its GRI score in 2018, scoring 5.9 out of 10 on the index, while Thailand also experienced an all-time high (5.4).

In India, anti-conversion laws affected minority religious groups. For example, in the state of Uttar Pradesh in September, police charged 271 Christians with attempting to convert people by drugging them and “spreading lies about Hinduism.” Furthermore, throughout the year, politicians made comments targeting religious minorities. In December, the Shiv Sena Party, which holds seats in parliament, published an editorial calling for measures such as mandatory family planning for Muslims to limit their population growth. And law enforcement officials were involved in cases against religious minorities: In Jammu and Kashmir, four police personnel, among others, were arrested in connection with the kidnapping, rape and killing of an 8-year-old girl from a nomadic Muslim family, reportedly to push her community out of the area.

In Thailand, as part of broader immigration raids in 2018, the government arrested hundreds of immigrants who allegedly did not have legal status, including religious minorities from other countries who were seeking asylum or refugee status. Among the detainees were Christians and Ahmadi Muslims from Pakistan as well as Christian Montagnards from Vietnam. During the year, Thai authorities also detained six leading Buddhist monks, a move that the government said was an effort to curb corruption but that some observers called a politically motivated attempt to assert control over temples. Government restrictions on religion in other regions

While Asia and the Pacific had the largest increases in their Government Restrictions Index scores, the Middle East and North Africa still had the highest median level of government restrictions, with a score of 6.2 on the GRI – up from 6.0 in 2017, more than double the global median (2.9), and at its highest point since the aftermath of the Arab Spring in 2012.

As in Asia, the rise in GRI scores in the Middle East and North Africa was partly due to more governments using force against religious groups. All but one country in the region had reports of government use of force related to religion in 2018, although many were at the lowest level (between one and nine incidents). In Jordan, for example, a media personality and an editor employed at his website were detained and charged with “sectarian incitement and causing religious strife” for posting on Facebook a cartoon of a Turkish chef sprinkling salt at Jesus’ Last Supper.

But government force against religious groups was much more widespread in some countries in the region. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, more than 300 Shiite Muslims remained in prison in the country’s Eastern Province, where the government has arrested more than 1,000 Shiites since 2011 in connection with protests for greater rights.

Aside from Asia-Pacific and the Middle East-North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa was the only other region to experience an increase in its median level of government restrictions in 2018 (from 2.6 to 2.7), reaching a new high following a steady rise in recent years. While government use of force against religious groups decreased in the region, both harassment of religious groups and physical violence against minority groups went up.

More than eight-in-ten countries in the sub-Saharan region (40 out of 48) experienced some form of government harassment of religious groups, and 14 countries (29%) had reports of governments using physical coercion against religious minorities. In Mozambique, for example, the government arbitrarily detained men, women and children who appeared to be Muslim in response to violent attacks on civilians and security forces by an insurgent group. According to media and local organizations, the government response to the attacks was “heavy-handed.”13

Europe experienced a small decline in its median level of government restrictions, falling from 2.9 in 2017 to 2.8 in 2018, although government use of force increased slightly (see Chapter 3 for details). The median level of government restrictions in the Americas, meanwhile, remained stable between 2017 and 2018, as the region continued to experience the lowest levels of government restrictions compared with all other regions. Social hostilities involving religion declined slightly in 2018.

This is the 11th annual report in this continuing study, which looks not only at government restrictions on religion but also at social hostilities involving religion – that is, acts of religion-related hostility by private individuals, organizations or groups in society.

The new analysis finds that globally, social hostilities declined slightly in 2018 after hitting an all-time high the prior year. The median score on the Social Hostilities Index (a 10-point scale based on 13 measures of social hostilities involving religion) fell from 2.1 in 2017 to 2.0 in 2018. This small decline was partly due to fewer reports of incidents in which some religious groups (usually of a majority faith in a particular country) attempted to prevent other religious groups (usually of minority faiths) from operating. There also were fewer reports of individuals being assaulted or displaced from their homes for religious expression that goes against the majority faith in a country.

The number of countries with “high” or “very high” levels of social hostilities involving religion also declined slightly from 56 (28% of all 198 countries and territories in the study) to 53 (27%). This includes 16 European countries (36% of all countries in Europe), 14 in the Asia-Pacific region (28% of all Asia-Pacific countries) and 11 in the Middle East and North Africa (55% of MENA countries).

Taken together, in 2018, 40% of the world’s countries (80 countries overall) had “high” or “very high” levels of overall restrictions on religion — reflecting either government actions or hostile acts by private individuals, organizations or social groups – down slightly from 42% (83 countries) in 2017. This remains close to the 11-year peak that was reached in 2012, when 43% (85 countries) had high or very high levels of overall restrictions. By this combined measure, as of 2018, all 20 countries in the Middle East-North Africa region have high overall restrictions on religion, as do more than half of Asia-Pacific countries (27 countries, or 54% of the region) and more than a third of countries in Europe (17 countries, 38%).

In this report, for the first time, Pew Research Center combined its data on government restrictions and social hostilities involving religion with a classification of regime types, based on the Democracy Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit.14 Researchers did this to discern whether there is a link between different models of government and levels of restrictions on religion – in other words, whether restrictions on religion tend to be more or less common in countries with full or partial democracies than in those with authoritarian regimes.

The analysis finds a strong association between authoritarianism and government restrictions on religion. While there are many exceptions to this pattern, authoritarian regimes are much more common among the countries with very high government restrictions on religion – roughly two-thirds of these countries (65%) are classified as authoritarian. Among countries with low government restrictions on religion, meanwhile, just 7% are authoritarian.

There is less of a clear pattern when it comes to social hostilities involving religion. There are no countries classified by the Economist Intelligence Unit as full democracies that have very high levels of social hostilities involving religion (just as there are no full democracies with very high levels of government restrictions involving religion). At the same time, there are many authoritarian countries with low levels of social hostilities involving religion, suggesting that in some cases, a government may restrict religion through laws and actions by state authorities while limiting religious hostilities among its citizens.

When looking at countries with very high government restrictions on religion, Pew Research Center found that of the 26 countries in this category whose regimes were scored by the EIU on its Democracy Index in 2018, 17 (65%) were classified as authoritarian, three were hybrid regimes (12%) and three were flawed democracies (12%). There were no countries with very high government restrictions that were full democracies.16 The three countries with very high government restrictions that were classified as flawed democracies – Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore – all are regionally clustered in Southeast Asia.

Of the 30 countries with high government restrictions on religion, there were 12 authoritarian states (40%), 11 hybrid regimes (37%) and six flawed democracies (20%), according to the EIU Democracy Index. One full democracy, Denmark, also was in this category. In 2018, Denmark fell into the high government restrictions category for the first time, with its score driven partly by a ban on face coverings, which included Islamic burqas and niqabs, that went into effect that year.

At the other end of the spectrum, among the 74 countries with low government restrictions, just five were classified as authoritarian (7%), 13 were hybrid regimes (18%), 27 were flawed democracies (36%) and seven were full democracies (9%). The countries with low government restrictions on religion that were also classified as authoritarian by the Democracy Index are all in sub-Saharan Africa: Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Republic of the Congo, Swaziland and Togo. There was no Democracy Index classification of regime type for 22 countries with low government restrictions.

 

In terms of social hostilities involving religion, the picture is more mixed – which makes sense given that social hostilities look at actions by private individuals or social groups and do not directly originate from government actions.

Among the 10 countries with very high levels of social hostilities, there were four authoritarian states, three hybrid regimes and three flawed democracies – India, Israel and Sri Lanka. Again, like countries with very high government restrictions, there were no full democracies with very high levels of social hostilities.

Among the 43 countries with high levels of social hostilities, nine were classified as authoritarian (21%), 14 were hybrid regimes (33%), 13 were flawed democracies (30%) and five were full democracies (12%).

The five countries categorized as full democracies with high levels of social hostilities are all in Europe – Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom – and all had reports of anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic incidents. In Switzerland, for instance, Muslim groups reported growing anti-Muslim sentiments due to negative coverage by the media and hostile discourse on Islam by right-leaning political parties. During the year, for instance, a journalist who had initiated a local ban on face coverings handed out a “Swiss Stop Islam Award” of about $2,000 USD to three recipients.

Among the 81 countries with low levels of social hostilities in 2018, there were 24 with no data on regime types (mostly small island nations the Democracy Index does not cover). Those with data are most commonly classified as flawed democracies (26 countries, or 32% of the 81 countries with low social hostilities).

But, strikingly, 17 countries (21%) with low social hostilities involving religion were classified as authoritarian – including countries like Eritrea and Kazakhstan, which have very high government restrictions on religion. In addition, several other authoritarian states with very high government restrictions on religion – such as China, Iran and Uzbekistan – have only moderate levels of social hostilities involving religion. In these cases, high levels of government control over religion may lead to fewer hostilities by nongovernment actors.

AAPI Congratulates President-Elect Biden & Vice President-Elect Harris

Chicago, Il: November 8th, 2020) “We want to express our sincere congratulations and best wishes to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their historic winning of the 2020 Presidential elections,” Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalgadda, President of AAPI said here today. Describing these as “critical times” for the nation, Dr. Jonnalagadda said, “We the members of the medical fraternity are encouraged by President –Elect Biden’s plans to create a Federal COVID Task Force and his pledge to set up a Pandemic Testing Board to “produce and distribute tens of millions of tests.”
 
In her congratulatory note, Dr. Sajani Shah, Chair of AAPI BOT, while wishing the new Administration the very best as he prepares to assume office on January 20th, 2021, praised Biden for pledging “to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify; who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States.”
 
Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President-Elect of AAPI, in a message lauded Biden and Harris, who has “made history by being elected to be the first ever woman to become the Vice President of the United States.” Referring to her Indian origins, Dr. Gotimukula described the election of Kamala Harris as “Inspiring and is of immense pride for all Indian-Americans.”
 
While expressing appreciation to Biden for wanting to set up a nationwide contact-tracing program and call on governors to impose mask-wearing mandates, which is an effective way of containing the spread of the virus, Dr. Ravi Kolli, Vice President of AAPI, said, “It’s heartening that our own esteemed AAPI member, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the former Surgeon General of the US is being considered to be the co-chair of the Presidential Panel on COVID.”
 
The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 continues to climb and is likely to worsen as colder temperatures drive Americans indoors and case counts go up. ““We wish the new administration under Biden Presidency success in all of its endeavors to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and get our economy back on track. We at AAPI will continue to work hard to provide the best of care to all those who need,” said, Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Secretary of AAPI said.
 
There are about 80,000 practicing Indian American physicians who are at the forefront of fighting COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. In addition, there are around 40,000 medical students, residents, and fellows of Indian origin in this country who are supporting many of the hospitals affected by the pandemic. “Physicians of Indian Origin have been in the front lines during the pandemic risking their lives everyday, and we look forward to continue to serve nation under the new Presidency led by Biden,” said Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Treasurer of AAPI.
  
Describing the numerous efforts by AAPI, Dr. Jonnalagadda said, “AAPI as an organization has helped and is continuing to help the communities during COVID-19 pandemic. AAPI has written letters to the current president’s office for universal masking, social distancing and to lockdown the country or to have ‘shelter in place’ during the initial phase of the pandemic to prevent spread of the disease. AAPI has raised funds to buy personal protective equipment and donated to several AAPI chapters across the country. The organization conducted close to 100 webinars to educate doctors and community members about CVOID-19.”
 
While offering fullest cooperation to the Biden administration, Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda said,  “The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (APPI) the largest ethnic medical organization in the country has taken several proactive steps in educating their members and the general public about the disease, the preventive steps that needs to be taken at this time and most importantly, they are using all their contacts and resources at the hospital administrative and government level to facilitate treatment protocols to be in place at the various hospitals around the country.” For more information on AAPI, please visit: www.aapiusa.org
 
 

A Little Bit Pregnant!!

An American Citizen asks “personal character or the national policy of the president that matters most?”  May be both are important, when you think about American President. There is no politics involved, only intriguing concerns disturb the fragile minds of common man elsewhere. While the presidential election votes were being counted, for long a strong  group alleges that there is widespread fake votes dumped. It might have happened or not, nowadays even God does not know.

In this country, where we boast that we have zero tolerance for most things and we are perfect to land the missile exactly on the Captain’s head on a moving submarine, how come we are unable to declare our voting system fool-proof?

Even on most of the TV channel discussions, we heard a consoling remark that President Trump is lost, because of his character and language. May be true. Trump is not an eloquent orator, nor he is a seasoned politician. Americans knew it four years back; and chose him as president of the nation. We know his achievements out balance his failures. That is why he got only 46.1% of popular votes winning over Hillary Clinton, whereas he could gather almost 47.5% during his so called “defeat” in 2020.

An average American can only succumb to his wild thoughts that Trump’s leadership during the last four years were not a total collapse, but overall a peaceful, warfree, safe term for the country. (Except for the Covid pandemic and his tough attitudes with some dubious countries and global organizations).

Sincere to the history of America, we had good presidents comparatively. I have heard much about John F Kennedy and Bill Clinton, who were much adored for their “sense, sensibility and sensitivity”. Exceptionally they were even sensuously emancipated by womenfolk for they were handsomevor glamourous. During voting period, that too matters, because there was abundant hatred towards Trump by our womenfolk. There is absolutely no discrimination gender wise when hate grows faster than cancer, among voters; Trump proved that. But the magnifying glass glows the stains on those faces of those well accepted presidents, even now. Can we tell our children that any of these Presidents as role models?. The good old George Washington or Abraham Lincoln were exceptional, technology and social media were then nil to expose them otherwise.

Coming back to the track of the topic, character of the President of a nation is of utmost importance. Deligently that itself won’t lead the nation to be safer or prosperous. Proper policies to simplify the economic burden of the citizen, and securely pushing the nation healthier, stronger and economically prosperous can only be achieved with smart political polices. Economists approve the latter part of President. trump’s rating good enough; and they have no interest of analyzing the personal, racist, a misogynist, and timid habits of the Presidents.

“We call on all relevant authorities to ensure tabulation of votes and resolution of complaints is undertaken in a transparent and credible manner,” USState Secretary Mike Pompeo said. Still, his suggestion the election’s outcome was still unclear came as  many key leaders around the world are already congratulating the President-elect Joe Biden on his projected victory.

We remember that during  2000 we took about 37 days to ensure the counting of votes. We have gone far ahead during the last 20 years. We need to count all legal votes, and abandon all suspiciously illegal votes. That ensuring that acceptance of legitimate election results are essential for any fledgling democracy.

Off late, we hear that Georgia State is venturing for a recount of the 2020 votes. That escalated the suspicion that something is slushy there with the voting. If we are good enough to reveal some intentional malpractices in that state, it is evident that the system is malignantor corrupted.

If the investigation into election fraud finds NO evidence of wrong doing; then so-be-it, Biden wins. But voters need to know that it was a fair and honest election and their vote counted. All illegal votes need to be removed from the totals. If observation of vote counting was prohibited, then there needs to be a recount with total transparency, no excuses. And Let none declare  “there was very little fraud so it won’t make a difference”. That is like being “a little bit pregnant”. We have to check everything even if it takes months. We need to be faithful to the voters and model to other nations. We are either pregnant, or not ; there is no situation called – ” a little bit pregnant”.

(By Dr. Mathew Joys, Las Vegas)

When Power Is Transferred In The United States, Advantages And Disadvantages To Indians

President Trump, who came to power with a big bang, is bidding farewell to the White House, turning to the culmination of even more horrific controversies. One week of global attention was the first week of November, after 9/11, when Trump’s defeat was widely viewed. The success and achievement of history was the glorious victory of Kamala Harris, whom we are proud to be of Indian descent. It is said that in the US presidential election, the Vice Presidential candidate is generally ignored. But this is the first time in American history that a woman has become vice president. Despite all the controversy, this is a record success and achievement, and Indians are thrilled to have an Indian descent to prove that women in America are not inferior to men in any way. The United States was not mature enough to induct a woman president of the United States, that is what Hillary Clinton called out to the world when she lost to Trump; even if  if it landed a woman on the moon on a rocket. Kamala Harris’ success is an inspiration to future generations, proving that immigrants in particular can reach any level in the United States, and to motivate the children of Indians to think and get into politics. The success of Kamala Harris is exciting. (Racism, racism, sectarianism and gender should not be mentioned anymore!). I agree with my friend’s neutral opinion that “Trump was a president who always wanted America to be number one in the world, who was a non-professional politician, a non-intellectual, a conservative.” As for the United States, it was during the Trump administration that the Islamic State, which has been at the forefront of the world by carrying out terrorist attacks around the world, has dismantled the financial resources of Al Qaeda extremist groups. It is also noteworthy that in the last four years, the United States has not invaded or waged a war. He also withdrew troops from Iraq and Afghanistan as he had promised (there is now only a small group in those countries to train indigenous troops). India cannot forget Trump’s support. Because Prime Minister Modi and President Trump were friends. The stories were never disappointing for India. Even there  was a Keralite man at the helm of Trump’s election campaign (not to mention he rowed back if we got nothing to blame). For the past years, President Trump has been a powerful ruler who has knocked down the global threat posed by “growing Chinese imperialism.”He also dared to engage in a trade war with China and send a strong message to Chinese imperialist ambitions that threaten border countries, including India, by deploying naval forces, including in the China Sea. It should be added that former US presidents, including Richard Nixon, sent the Seventh Fleet here before to intimidate India. Throughout history, the foreign policy adopted by the United States has been in favor of China and Pakistan.It was only during Trump’s presidency that the United States took a “U-turn” and took a completely pro-India stance. It is the US support that has given India the energy to retaliate against Chinese imperialism who crossed the Indian border and attacked Indian troops on the same coin. In the recent past, he has signed a number of military and non – military agreements with India, not only ignoring Pakistan, but also suspending US financial aid to Pakistan, citing its pro – terrorist stance. ” The media and hostile nations, which never acknowledge his atrocities and patriotism, continue to accuse him of being a clown. As my friend pointed out, whatever shortcomings he had, some Indian progressives may admit, it may be due to ignorance, or the extreme of unbridled greed, even enjoying all the benefits in America. An excerpt from the Chanakya Sutra reads: “Whether the idol is of stone, metal or wood; the belief that God is present in it is important. The intensity of faith is the measure of blessing.” Likewise, whether the President of the United States is a Republican or a Democrat, that position has its own dignity and superiority over other nations, and the standard of governance should be the measuring yard  Let time pass. As President-elect Joe Biden inspired the American people in his first speech, he stated, “Hereafter, No more Red State, no Blue State; only United States.”(By Dr. Matthew Joys, Las Vegas)

All 4 Indian Americans Re-elected to US Congress

In an impressive show, all the four Indian-American Democratic lawmakers — Dr. Ami Bera, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna and Raja Krishnamoorthi — have been re-elected to the US House of Representatives during the elections held on November 3rd, 2020.

In recent years, the fast growing Indian-American community has emerged as a force to reckon with for the first time in the history of the US presidential election. Both the Democrat and the Republican campaigns had initiated several measures to woo the approximately 1.8 million members of the community who have emerged as a critical voting bloc in the battleground states of Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

Meanwhile, in one of the most-watched races of the 2020 election, Indian American Sara Gideon of Maine narrowly lost to Republican incumbent Sen. Susan Collins and failed to flip the seat from red to blue as Democrats struggled to gain control of the Senate. Mainers largely consider themselves Independents. But on Nov. 3 evening, Gideon secured 46 percent of the votes — 338,617 votes — to Collins’ 51 percent: 407,884 votes.

“I have always worked hard to find our shared goals. That doesn’t stop. In fact, it’s more important now. We have to work together to build a better future,” said Gideon, focusing on prioritizing an economy that builds good jobs for working class people, and tackling climate change. “I’m proud of the campaign we ran,” said the candidate.

Democrats flipped two Senate seats on election night: in former red state Arizona, astronaut Mark Kelley beat out incumbent Martha McSally. In Colorado, John Hickenlooper, the state’s former governor, defeated Republican incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner. Republicans flipped one Senate seat, as Tommy Tuberville in Alabama defeated Democrat Doug Jones.

In House races, Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat from California serving the 17th Congressional District in Northern California’s East Bay, handily beat Republican challenger Ritesh Tandon to gain a third term in the House. The incumbent won 74 percent — 125,258 votes — while Tandon amassed 26 percent of the vote: 43,775.

“I am so honored and humbled by the overwhelming victory,” Khanna told India-West. “I am proud to represent our community and look forward to working to help bring people together after this divisive chapter in our nation’s history,” he said.

Democrat physician Ami Bera, the longest-serving Indian American in the House, won his re-election bid for California’s CD 7 seat — which represents portions of Sacramento — against former U.S. Air Force pilot, Republican Buzz Patterson. Bera won by 61 percent, 116,437 votes, while Patterson received 39 percent.

“It’s been an honor to represent the people of California’s 7th Congressional District and I am grateful for the trust voters have placed in me once again,” Bera said in a statement Nov. 3 night. “We face many difficult challenges ahead, including ending this pandemic, ensuring affordable and quality health care for every American, and growing our economy for working families,” he said.

“However, we can rise to the occasion and meet these challenges head on, as we’ve done generation after generation before. It will take hard work, empathy, and working across party lines to build compromise. I promise that I will continue to be a leader that puts people over politics to make government work for the people of Sacramento County,” said Bera, who won his 5th term.

Democrat Rishi Kumar failed to win his bid against fellow Democrat Anna Eshoo, who has represented California’s 18th Congressional District — in portions of the Silicon Valley — since 1993. Eshoo won with just under two-thirds of the vote, more than 65 percent, while Kumar received 34 percent, more than 79,000 votes.

Another newcomer, physician Hiral Tipirneni, a Democrat, failed to beat Republican incumbent David Schweikert in Arizona. The red state delivered one of the few surprises of election night, turning blue for the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket. In a virtual press conference Nov. 4 morning, Tipirneni acknowledged that the race was too close to call. She thanked voters for showing up in record numbers and for encouraging family and friends to vote.

“This is exactly where we wanted to be at this point in the race. This is a trajectory that will lead to victory,” she said. “We know we’ve done very well with Independents and cross-over votes, but we will wait to declare victory until every ballot is counted.

In Washington state, Rep. Pramila Jayapal overwhelmingly won her bid for re-election, capturing almost 85 percent: 344,541 votes. “Wow, we did it decisively! Thank you #WA07. I am humbled, grateful and ready to serve again. Our path to truly build a more just and equitable country is long. But we are bold, progressive & unafraid, and if we believe in the possible & organize, we WILL win,” tweeted Jayapal, who was running for her third term in the House.

In Illinois, Democrat Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi also handily won his re-election bid against Libertarian Preston Nelson. Krishnamoorthi won with almost 71 percent of the vote: 146,495 votes. “I am honored that my constituents have elected me to represent them in Congress for another two years, and I am tremendously grateful to all my supporters who helped make my re-election possible,” Krishnamoorthi said in a statement Nov. 3 evening.

“Today, our country faces enormous and unprecedented economic and public health challenges. No matter who controls the White House or the Senate in January, I am committed to doing whatever it takes to bring the country together to implement common-sense solutions that move our country and our people forward.”

China Is Talking Point At High-Level Indo-US Meet

Coming at a sensitive time with the US Presidential election just a week away and while India is still entangled in border tensions with China, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and secretary of defense Mark Esper arrived in New Delhi on Monday for the Indo-US 2+2 talks, expected to focus on the Indo-Pacific security and the threat posed by China.

Pompeo’s pit stops in Asia include Indian-Ocean nations of Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and Indonesia, which is in a dispute with China in the South China Sea. Also, next month India hosts the Malabar naval exercise, which would see the forces of all Quad nations — US, India, Japan and Australia — participate for the first time in 13 years.

Security cooperation between India and the US would be on the agenda too. The two countries have made significant progress towards concluding the last foundational defence cooperation agreement, the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement, the Times of India reports. The agreement will allow for expanded geospatial information sharing between the armed forces of the two countries.

The upcoming presidential election in the US is not expected to cast a shadow over the talks since both the Democrats and Republicans emphasise close relations with India. Some even argue Donald Trump’s challenger Joe Biden would be better for India. (Related news: Biden slammed Trump for his “filthy” air comment on India)

Pompeo could assuage India’s concerns over the new sanctions on Iran affecting New Delhi’s interest, specifically the Chabahar port. The Trump administration has informed New Delhi that sale of agricultural commodities, food, medicine and medical devices to Iran, is permitted, the Indian Express reports. Waivers granted for reconstruction and development of Afghanistan, too, remain valid. This holds significance as India sees Chabahar — despite the slow progress — as a reliable gateway to Afghanistan.

Despite a firestorm of positive signals fired off by officials from both sides in an attempt to lighten the atmosphere before this year’s ministerial meeting, such as the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA), Chinese observers pointed out that even upgraded military cooperation with the US will not put India on the same level to confront China, nor will it change the fact that Washington and New Delhi always have their own interests at heart. It will not determine how long the India-US honeymoon will last.  

It is significant that during Prime Minister Modi and President Obama’s final meeting in the White House in 2016, the United States elevates India to a major defense partner, a status no other country holds. An expansion of the ten-year defense agreement renewed in 2015, the designation, which became law in August 2018, means that India will enjoy some of the benefits of being a U.S. treaty ally, such as access to defense technology, though the alliance is not a formal one. In a speech before Congress a day later, Modi celebrated his country’s growing diplomatic and economic ties with the United States. Two months later, the United States and India signed an agreement on deeper military cooperation after nearly a decade of negotiations.

In 2018, during a “two-plus-two” dialogue in New Delhi, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis sign an agreement with Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) gives India access to advanced communication technology used in U.S. defense equipment and allows real-time information sharing between the two countries’ militaries. The agreement had been under negotiation for nearly a decade.

British Columbia Elects 8 Indo-Canadians to Assembly

Eight Indo-Canadians were elected to the 87-member Assembly of Canada’s British Columbia province. There were 27 Indian-origin candidates in the fray in the elections held on Saturday.

All eight winners belong to the ruling New Democratic Party which secured an absolute majority with 55 seats in the 87-member House.

Three of the Indo-Canadian winners are women.

Noted human rights lawyer Aman Singh created history by becoming the first turbaned Sikh MLA in British Columbia even though the province was the first to elect a Punjabi (Moe Sihota) as an MLA in 1986 and a Sikh (Ujjal Dosanjh) as Premier in 2001.

Singh caused a major upset by beating former journalist Jas Johal of the opposition Liberal Party in Richmond-Queensborough.

Most of Indo-Canadian victories came in the Indian-dominated city of Surrey on the outskirts of Vancouver.

Prominent winners include Labour Minister Harry Bains, Deputy Speaker Raj Chouhan, former minister Jinny Sims and parliamentary secretaries Jagrup Brar and Ravi Kahlon.

Bains retained his seat of Surrey-Newton by beating fellow Punjabi Paul Boparai of the Liberal Party.

Bains, who comes from Hardaspur village near Jalandhar, has won this seat since 2005.

Deputy Speaker Raj Chouhan also retained his seat of Burnaby-Edmonds by beating Tript Atwal of the Liberal Party and Iqbal Parekh of the Green Party. Chouhan came to Canada from Punjab as a student in 1973.

Jagrup Brar of the ruling party also retained his seat of Surrey-Fleetwood by trouncing fellow Punjabi Garry Thind of the Liberal Party.

A former Indian basketball player, Brar has now won this seat five times since 2004.

The fifth Indo-Canadian man to win is Ravi Kahlon of the ruling NDP who beat Almora-born Neema Manral of the Green Party and Jet Sunner (Jatinder) of the Liberal Party.

Among the women winners, Jinny Sims (Joginder Kaur) beat fellow Punjabi Dr Gulzar Cheema in the Surrey-Panorama constituency. Born at Pabwan village near Jalandhar, Sims came to Canada at the age of nine.

Rachna Singh of the ruling party retained her Surrey-Green Timbers seat by beating Dilraj Atwal of the Liberal Party.

Nikki Sharma of the ruling NDP won in Vancouver-Hastings.

Indian-origins make up about 10 per cent of the British Columbia population of five million. (IANS)

Arrest of Fr. Stan Lourdswamy Condemned Worldwide

Major opposition parties in India and the United Nations backed an octogenarian Jesuit priest, jailed for alleged charges of sedition and links with Maoist rebels and demanded his immediate release.

The leaders of the Congress, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Communist Party of India, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), and the Nationalist Congress Party slammed the arrest of 84-year-old activist Father Stan Swamy on Oct. 21. The party leaders also expressed solidarity with the “genuine” work the priest had done among the oppressed tribal people and other marginalized groups.

The sickly priest was arrested at his residence in Ranchi, capital of eastern Jharkhand state, on Oct. 8 night on the grounds of being party to a conspiracy that led to violence at Bhima Koregaon, in western state of Maharashtra, on Jan. 1, 2018, in which one person was killed and several others injured.

The priest denied the allegation and said he had not even visited Bhima Koregaon in his entire life. In a video message before his arrest, he said the National Investigation Agency, the federal agency tasked with combating terror activities, implicated him by manipulating documents in the case for his relentless fight against the exploitation of tribals and other oppressed mainly in Jharkhand.

The priest is among the 16 activists who are now in judicial custody for their opposition to the policies of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party-led federal government and also the erstwhile BJP government in Jharkhand.  Civil rights group People’s Union for Civil Liberties had arranged the virtual press conference in solidarity with Father Stan and others facing trial for the alleged sedition charges.

Chief Minister of Jharkhand Hemant Soren in his message accused the federal government of trying to silence the voices of marginalized communities.” In a video message, he said, “under the present government, unity, integrity and democratic structures were under attack.”

He also slammed the federal government for “silencing the voices of those speaking for the Adivasis, Dalits and other marginalized groups.” He also deplored the way the government weakened various constitutional offices to advance its hidden agenda.

The BJP is accused of working to turn India into a Hindu theocratic and dictatorial country.

The arrest of someone like Father Swamy crossed all limits, the chief minister said. “He is someone who has been working in Jharkhand for years, in the remote faraway villages, wandering in the jungles, just so that the Adivasis, Dalits and minority populations here could be reached. This is extremely disappointing. Fr Stan (Swamy) is also suffering from many diseases,” Soren said.

“The way Stan Swamy has been arrested today, it could happen to any of us tomorrow – or it could even escalate further to people being killed,” Soren said.

Shashi Tharoor, a former federal minister and senior Congress leader, said Father Swamy deserves “respect and support,” not a jail term. Tharoor said he was convinced that “no Jesuit will indulge in any violence or entice anyone towards violence. This must stop. I appeal to the government to be fair and at least grant him bail. We stand in solidarity with Fr Stan,” he said.

They also demanded repeal of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), under which the priest and other activists are arrested. Leaders such as Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of CPI-M and K Kanimozhi K leader of DMK urged the public to break their silence over the government’s attacks on the rights of the people.

“Every law that this government passed had taken away the rights of the people. It’s time to break the silence,” Kanimozhi exhorted. Calling for repeal of UAPA, Yechury said, “it is prone to gross misuse.” He also said the federal government was working in such a way that it wants to pave the way for a “fascistic, intolerant and authoritarian Hindutva nation.” The Centre, he alleged, is using central agencies to undermine the Constitution, while shielding the real perpetrators of violence.

On Oct. 20 the United Nations too questioned the arrest of Father Stan as well as the human rights record of India. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet issued a statement urging the Indian government to safeguard the rights of human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations.

“More than 1,500 people have reportedly been arrested in relation to the protests, with many charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, a law which has also been widely criticized for its lack of conformity with international human rights standards”, the statement said.

“Most recently, the 83-year-old Catholic priest Stan Swamy, a long-standing activist engaged in defending the rights of marginalized groups, was charged and reportedly remains in detention, despite his poor health”, it noted.

Bachelet urged the Indian government to ensure that “no one else is detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly – and to do its utmost, in law and policy, to protect India’s robust civil society.”

India, however, reacted to the UN strongly saying violations of the law cannot be condoned under the pretext of human rights and a more informed view of the matter was expected of the UN body.

UN Empresses dismayed at restrictions on Human Rights, NGOs and arrests of activists in India

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday appealed to the Government of India to safeguard the rights of human rights defenders and NGOs, and their ability to carry out their crucial work on behalf of the many groups they represent. Bachelet expressed regret at the tightening of space for human rights NGOs in particular, including by the application of vaguely worded laws that constrain NGOs’ activities and restrict foreign funding.

“India has long had a strong civil society, which has been at the forefront of groundbreaking human rights advocacy within the country and globally,” the High Commissioner said. “But I am concerned that vaguely defined laws are increasingly being used to stifle these voices.”

Bachelet cited as worrying the use of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), which a number of UN human rights bodies* have also expressed concern is vaguely worded and overbroad in its objective. The Act prohibits the receipt of foreign funds “for any activities prejudicial to the public interest.”

The Act, which was adopted in 2010 and was amended last month, has had a detrimental impact on the right to freedom of association and expression of human rights NGOs, and as a result on their ability to serve as effective advocates to protect and promote human rights in India. It is expected that the new amendments will create even more administrative and practical hurdles for such advocacy-based NGOs. Most recently, Amnesty International was compelled to close its offices in India after its bank accounts were frozen over alleged violation of the FCRA.

“The FCRA has been invoked over the years to justify an array of highly intrusive measures, ranging from official raids on NGO offices and freezing of bank accounts, to suspension or cancellation of registration, including of civil society organizations that have engaged with UN human rights bodies,” Bachelet said.

“I am concerned that such actions based on the grounds of vaguely defined ‘public interest’ leave this law open to abuse, and that it is indeed actually being used to deter or punish NGOs for human rights reporting and advocacy that the authorities perceive as critical in nature. Constructive criticism is the lifeblood of democracy. Even if the authorities find it uncomfortable, it should never be criminalized or outlawed in this way.”

The UN Human Rights Committee – which oversees implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which India is a party – has found** that when a State invokes national security and protection of public order as a reason to restrict the right to freedom of association, the State party must show the specific nature of the threat or risks posed, and limit its responses to those necessary and proportionate to address such threat or risks.

Activists and human rights defenders have also come under mounting pressure in recent months, particularly because of their engagement in mass protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act that took place across the country earlier this year. More than 1,500 people have reportedly been arrested in relation to the protests, with many charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act – a law which has also been widely criticized for its lack of conformity with international human rights standards.

Charges have also been filed under this law against a number of individuals in connection with demonstrations that date back to 2018. Most recently, the 83-year-old Catholic priest Stan Swamy, a long-standing activist engaged in defending the rights of marginalized groups, was charged and reportedly remains in detention, despite his poor health.

“I urge the Government to ensure that no one else is detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly – and to do its utmost, in law and policy, to protect India’s robust civil society,” the High Commissioner said. “I also urge the authorities to carefully review the FCRA for its compliance with international human rights standards and to release people charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for simply exercising basic human rights that India is obligated to protect.”

Earlier this year, in a welcome development for advocacy-based NGOs, India’s Supreme Court significantly narrowed the definition of what constitutes a “political activity” under the FCRA. “I encourage India’s national institutions to strengthen the social and legal protections that enable civil society to function freely and contribute to progress,” the High Commissioner said.

Bachelet said the UN Human Rights Office would continue to closely engage with the Government of India on issues relating to the promotion and protection of human rights, and will also continue to monitor developments that positively and negatively affect civic space and fundamental rights and freedoms.

Covid-19 deaths in India may have exceeded 2.5 million: What expert panel says about lockdown, festivals

The government-appointed panel which studied the mathematical progression of Covid-19 numbers in the country said only 30 per cent of the population has developed immunity so far. The Centre had appointed a 10-member committee, headed by NITI Aayog member VK Paul, to study the mathematical progression of Covid-19 virus in India. The committee submitted its report on a day Union health minister Harsh Vardhan admitted community transmission of Covid-19 in certain pockets of a limited number of states in the country.

The study sheds light on where India stands in its fight against Covid-19 and what lies ahead.

  1. India may see an exponential increase of 26 lakh cases in a month because of the festival season if precautions are not followed.
  2. Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal are still seeing a rise in the number of cases, while elsewhere the pandemic has stabilised.
  3. A second wave of coronavirus can’t be ruled out in winter.
  4. Local lockdown are not effective now, but had there been no lockdown in March-April, India’s total deaths could have exceeded 25 lakh in August. The death toll now stands at 1.14 lakh.
  5. Only 30 per cent of the population has developed immunity so far.
  6. India reached the peak of Covid-19 in September and is now on the downward slope.
  7. The crisis is likely to be over by February 2021. By that time, there could be 10.5 million cases.
  8. Migrants didn’t make much difference to the number of overall infections.
  9. We have to be careful in the coming months also because of pollution on north India.
  10. The curve is flattened and early lockdown bolstered by better-equipped health care system helped in flattening the curve.

Fr. Stan Lourduswamy Arrested By Indian Authorities On Hooked Up Charges

“The arrest of Fr Stan Lourduswamy, 83, is a violation of human rights,” said Rev. J. Felix Raj, a fellow Jesuit of Indian Origin. “We are distressed and troubled. We express our deep concern over the arrest and demand his immediate release considering his age.”

A special court in Mumbai has placed Jesuit Fr. Stan Swamy, a tribal rights activist, in judicial custody until Oct. 23 amid protests in many parts of the country. The priest, whose birth name is Stanislaus Lourdusamy, is accused of being party to a conspiracy that led to a violent clash in Bhima Korega on Jan. 1, 2018. One person was killed and several others injured.

Officials of the National Investigation Agency, which probes terrorism-linked activities, arrested the 83-year-old priest Oct. 8 at his residence at Bagaicha, a Jesuit social work center in the outskirts of the Ranchi, reported ucanews.com. Officials arrested him for alleged links to outlawed Maoist rebels, which the Jesuits and Indian rights activists say are trumped-up charges.

“We are consulting lawyers to move the appropriate court for his bail,” said Jesuit Fr. Davis Solomon, a colleague of Swamy. A statement from the Jesuits’ Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat noted that, two days before his arrest, Swamy released a video explaining his fight for tribal land rights. He said he had been interrogated by police for 15 hours over five days this summer.

“What is happening to me is not something unique happening to me alone. It is a broader process that is taking place all over the country,” Swamy said in the video. “We are all aware how prominent intellectuals, lawyers, writers, poets, activists, students, leaders, they are all put into jail because they have expressed their dissent or raised questions about the ruling powers of India.”

Fr. Stan Swamy is a Jesuit of the Jamshedpur province of the Jesuit Order. A Tamilian by birth, he joined the Jesuits and committed his entire life for the uplift of the tribals and Dalits in India, particularly in Jharkhand. Arrested in Ranchi on October 8 and taken to Mumbai the next morning, he has been sent to judicial custody till October 23.

In a statement issued here, Archbishop Felix Machado, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, (CBCI), said, “CBCI expresses its deep sorrow and anguish on the arrest of Fr Stan Swamy from his residence by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), accusing him of being related to the Bhima –Koregaon incident.” Arrested in Ranchi on October 8 and taken to Mumbai the next morning, he has been sent to judicial custody till October 23.

Fr Stan Swamy has spent a major portion of his life giving yeoman service to the tribals and the downtrodden in the state of Jharkhand. According to our reports Fr. Stan has for decades been working to protect the rights of the Adivasis, especially their land rights. This could have worked against the interests of certain people. When questioned during the months of July- August 2020 by authorities, Fr Stan Swamy has fully cooperated with Investigating Agencies and has provided detailed statements, claiming to be innocent in the case.

Archbishop Felix Machado said, “It is difficult to comprehend the plight of an octogenarian with several morbidities, like Fr Stan Swamy to have to undergo such difficulties during this pandemic in which even a normal healthy person would hesitate to travel or would never travel risking one’s life.”

The CBCI makes a strong appeal to the concerned authorities to immediately release Fr Stan Swamy and to permit him to go to his residence. The Catholic Community has always been lauded by all as body of loyal, law abiding and service minded citizens of Mother India. The community has always been contributing to nation building and continues to collaborate with the government in working for the common good of all Indians and the progress of our nation. We earnestly urge that the rights, duties and privileges of all citizens are duly safeguarded, and peace and harmony prevail among all.

 Fr Stan Swamy is the 16th person to be arrested in the case, in which people have been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the anti-terror law UAPA. The NIA had been interrogating him and had questioned him for 15 hours during a span of five days before the arrest.

“Now they want me to go to Mumbai…, I have said that I won’t go,” Fr Stan Swamy had said before his arrest, citing his advanced age and the pandemic. I have never been to Bhima Koregaon for which I am being made an accused,” he said. He added that he had asked for questioning through videoconference and hoped that better “human sense” would prevail.

Fr Stan Swamy said he was part of the process and, in a way, happy to be so because he was not a “silent spectator”. “I am ready to pay the price, whatever be it,” he said. Fr Stan Swamy has often raised his voice against alleged police excesses in Jharkhand, and what he describes as the government’s failure to properly implement the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution in the state.

The Fifth Schedule stipulates that a “Tribes Advisory Council (TAC)”, composed solely of members from the Adivasi community, advise governors of tribal-inhabited states on their well-being and development. Fr Stan Swamy has claimed that none of the governors — the discretionary heads of these councils — has ever reached out to the Adivasis to understand and work on their problems.

He has also taken exception to how the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), 1996, has been “neatly ignored” and “deliberately… left unimplemented in all the nine states” with a tribal population. The Act, according to him, was the first to recognise the fact that the Adivasi communities in India have had a rich social and cultural tradition of self-governance through the gram sabha.

In 2017, he mobilised the Adivasis to fight for the rights granted to them under PESA, and this lead to the Pathalgadi movement. Fr Stan Swamy and many others were booked for alleged sedition for the movement under the state’s erstwhile BJP government, but the cases have been revoked under the current JMM-Congress dispensation.

Fr Stan Swamy has also been a vocal advocate for the release of undertrials. He says they have been unfairly lodged in jails and labelled Maoists. In 2010, he published a book about this, titled Jail Mein Band Qaidiyon ka Sach (The truth of undertrials).”

 The Catholic Church has expressed gratitude “to all people of goodwill, people from all walks of life, belonging to all religions, and all institutions that have come out in an overwhelming support for Fr Stan Swamy’s immediate release and safe return to his residence.” 

 

2nd Quad Ministerial Meeting Held

The Australian and Japanese foreign ministers, the Indian external affairs minister, and the U.S. secretary of state met in Tokyo on October 6 for the second ministerial of the Quadrilateral, or “Quad.” While the Quad ministers did not release a joint statement, AustraliaIndiaJapan, and the U.S. did issue readouts. They provide a sense of the agenda, as well as where there is — and is not — overlap. The separate readouts also give some additional details. For instance, the Japanese one noted that North Korea and the South China Sea came up for discussion; the Australian and Indian ones mentioned the delivery of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines; and Canberra’s document highlighted the subject of critical minerals.

In their readouts as well as their opening statements, each Quad country also outlined its vision of the kind of Indo-Pacific it would like to see. All four also emphasized the importance of working with other like-minded partners (even beyond the Association for Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN). Japan mentioned European partners, in particular. As expected, no announcement was made about including Australia in the U.S.-India-Japan MALABAR maritime exercise, but Indian official sources indicated that an announcement would be made before the exercise in November.

While most of the countries did not explicitly mention China, there were various implicit references to it. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the exception, mentioning the Chinese Communist Party in particular. The lack of consensus on whether or not — and how — to mention China might be one reason why the countries did not release a joint statement. Nonetheless, in a subsequent press availability, American officials made clear that China was discussed. They also indicated that Beijing’s behavior vis-à-vis Australia, India, and Japan over the last few months — rather than the Trump administration’s urging — increased their enthusiasm for the Quad.

The 2020 ministerial was the first standalone meeting of the Quad — previous minister-level and working-level meetings have taken place on the sidelines of other summits. The readouts of the four countries noted the importance of regularizing the ministerial, as well as continuing working-level and subject experts’ meetings. The visit to Tokyo also provided an opportunity for Minister Marise Payne, Minister S. Jaishankar, and Secretary Pompeo to meet with new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, as well as for the four countries to have bilateral meetings with each other.

India Donates 1.8 Million N95 Masks to Philadelphia for Frontline Workers

India has donated 1.8 million N95 masks to Philadelphia, the largest city in the US state of Pennsylvania, to help in its fight against COVID-19, setting another example of a robust Indo-US partnership in the health sector.

The city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has received a donation of 1.8 million N95 masks from India to help in its fight against COVID-19, according to a PTI report, adding it is another example of a robust Indo-U.S. partnership in the health sector. The donation came after Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney made a request to India for supply of masks to be used by the city’s frontline healthcare workers.

The move comes after the Mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, made a request to India for supply of masks to be used by the city’s frontline workers.  “Philadelphia receives 1.8 million N95 masks from India to aid their fight against COVID-19,” India’s Ambassador to the U.S. Taranjit Singh Sandhu tweeted Oct. 9. “Another example of the robust India-US reliable partnership in the health sector!” he added.

Philadelphia is the sixth-most populous US city. The move is also an indication of India’s capabilities in manufacturing Personal protective equipment (PPE) not only for domestic use, but also exports, officials said.  India had also supplied hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug which is seen as a possible cure for COVID-19, to the US at the request of President Donald Trump.

During GOPIO-CT Event, Rep. Jim Himes Says, “Joe Biden Administration Will Continue To Offer Mediation Between India And China”

Describing the current situation on Indo-China border as very serious, US Congressman Jim Himes, a Democrat from the state of Connecticut, said, if elected to power the Joe Biden Administration will continue to offer mediation between India and China. Rep. Himes was addressing an interactive session via Zoom, organized by the GOPIO-CT Chapter on Thursday, October 8th, 2020. He called for serious and significant dialogue between two Asian giants, Rep. Himes referred to the efforts by the Trump administration to mediate between India and China, and he hoped that both the nations “accept the offer to mediate by the US Administration.”  Every year, GOPIO-CT has had an interactive session with Rep. Jim Himes. This year, because of the Pandemic, it had to be done on a Zoom session. The program started with a welcome by GOPIO-CT President Ashok Nichani who said that Rep. Himes is a great supporter of GOPIO and the Indian community.

In his opening remarks, GOPIO International Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham, sought clarification from the Democratic Party Congressman on “US-India Relations in a Democrat Administration especially policy on India-China Border Clashes.”

 Calling on both the counties to be “careful with each other” in their approach and not to escalate the situation between the Two Nuclear Nations, referring to the US efforts to engage both the nations, Rep. Himes said, “This is an important opportunity for both the nations to address” and resolve the border tensions. Referring to Joe Biden as someone, whose strength is in Foreign Policy, the Congressman said, “The Joe Biden Administration will continue to offer mediation” between India and China. 

Dr. Thomas Abraham initiated the discussion by raising the “H1 and H4 visa issues and what you expect in Biden Administration, if he wins the election, especially for the need to clear the backlogs of pending Immigration numbers for our community.” Responding to these concerns that were shared in a series of questions by GOPIO leaders on the Immigration issues, Dr. Abraham described the immigration policy of the Trump administration and the current situation as “messy”, Rep. Himes referred to the numerous Presidential orders being challenged in Courts. He hoped that there will be a change, which will be a reversal in status and get back to a comprehensive immigration reform. Referring to the Trump policy on denying work visas to spouses of H1B visa holders, Rep. Himes asked, “What good is it that if the spouses of the H1B visa holders cannot work under H4 visas?’

On the Green Card back log, Rep. Himes said, attracting skilled laborers is “central to our economy.” On a question, regarding the discussions about the Country-based quota not being used and unused visas could be used to allow Green Cards to other qualified individuals who are caught in the backlog for Green Card approval, Rep. Himes was unsure if the Biden Administration will embrace the policy.

 Rep. Himes called for new dialogue between the two major parties to create a comprehensive new immigration policy that addresses the needs of the nation and millions who are awaiting a solution to the challenges. Rep. Himes wanted the nation to reflect and clarify the values behind creating a comprehensive immigration policy. While criticizing the Trump regime’s policy of favoring the people of higher income groups while offering visas, Rep. Himes said, “The  Biden Administration will be more open to immigration” which is more compassionate and understanding of the needs of the nation and those of the immigrants.

 On another question regarding voter suppression, Rep. Himes said, “If you want to vote in the state of Connecticut, there is no requirement for Voter ID.” He urged all sections of the society to work to ensuring “peaceful elections.”  Pointing to a state law, that does not allow political activity within 75 feet of any polling place, he said, “Any propaganda will be a violation and will be prosecuted.” Describing the residents of CT as law abiding citizens, Rep. Himes said, “I do not anticipate any significant problems in CT. However, the situation is different in other states like Wisconsin.”

Rep. Himes serves on the US Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, a forum in which Members of Congress can address the issues central to our relationship with this important South Asian nation. By promoting dialogue on issues of interest to the Indian-American community, the Caucus strives to strengthen bilateral relations between the United States and India, promote trade with India, enhance economic development in India and the United States, increase anti-terrorism cooperation.

On the ongoing Covid-19 emergency, Rep. Himes said, “the impact of Covid has been contained in my constituency by good behavior of all of my constituents. The numbers in the state of CT are good, because we did not get into politics. Hope the situation continues to improve.” Referring to the Congressional Bill passed that had offered substantial relief for small businesses, Congressman Himes pointed to the challenges in passing a new Covid Bill that the Congress Bill offers $2.2 Trillion, Rep. Himes criticized the Republican-led Senate and President Trump. “Once again, President Trump has called off negotiations, which is not good for the President and for the nation.

Rep. Himes also sought suggestions from GOPIO-CT participants on Kashmir issue. On that, Dr. Abraham categorically said that people in India whole heartedly supported the steps taken by Modi administration to make Kashmir people full participants like other citizens of India and complimented Prime Minister Modi for the new initiatives in education and development of Kashmir.

GOPIO-CT Trustee Joseph Simon concluded the meeting by thanking the organizers and Congressman Jim Himes for being gracious with his time and addressing the many issues of interest to the Indian community so directly and openly.

Over the last 14 years, GOPIO-CT, a chapter of GOPIO International has become an active and dynamic organization hosting interactive sessions with policy makers and academicians, community events, youth mentoring and networking workshops, and working with other area organizations to help create a better future. GOPIO-CT – Global Organization of People of Indian Origin – serves as a non-partisan, secular, civic and community service organization – promoting awareness of Indian culture, customs and contributions of PIOs through community programs, forums, events and youth activities. It seeks to strengthen partnerships and create an ongoing dialogue with local communities. 

Protest in New Jersey over the Hathras gang rape and killing of Dalit Girl

The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, organized a massive protest in New Jersey on October 10, 2020, over the gang rape and killing of a Dalit girl in Hathras, in the Indian State of Uttar Pradesh. 

The hasty and forceful cremation of the victim’s body by the Uttar Pradesh police has sent shock waves across India and indeed around the world. The inhumanity of the crime was amplified by the brazenness of the state government’s attempt to shield the perpetrators. The indifference shown to the value of human life by those in positions of power was the focus of the ire and outrage by protesters at the rally.

The protest was organized by the New Jersey unit of IAMC, and was supported by members of other civil society groups such as Hindus for Human Rights, India Civil Watch, Sadhana, Students Against Hindutva Ideology, Muslims for Progressive Values, MANAVI, Dalit Solidarity Forum and Global Indian Progressive Alliance among others.  

“The Hindu nationalist government in India protects perpetrators of brutal sexual crimes against Dalit women, because it doesn’t treat Dalits as equal citizens,” said Mr. Minhaj M Khan, President of the New Jersey chapter of the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) at the rally on Saturday. He was addressing a large gathering of peaceful protesters from New Jersey and New York. The protestors; key demand was justice for the 19-year-old Dalit girl who was gang raped on September 14, 2020, by four men belonging to the influential upper caste Thakurs in Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh. The victim died two weeks later in a hospital in Delhi, after suffering paralysis due to severe injuries to her spinal cord, leading to national and international outrage and protests. 

“Dalit lives do not matter under India’s Hindu nationalist government and the state of Uttar Pradesh has only acted in a manner consistent with the national government’s repressive policies towards Dalits and religious minorities. Not only did the state’s chief minister Adityanath deny that the girl was raped, he refused a dignified death to her, and protected the culprits because they are from the same upper caste as him,” he said.  

Jawad Khan, the national General Secretary of IAMC, highlighted the fact that according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau more than 500 Dalit women were raped in Uttar Pradesh under Adityanath regime in 2019 alone. In 2018 almost 3000 Dalit women were raped in UP of whom 871 were minors. On an average 8 Dalit women are raped everyday in India.

“Adityanath is not capable of serving people in accordance with the Constitution. He protected the culprits of the gang rape and instead hired a public relations firm to push a narrative that the gang rape in Hathras, was a conspiracy of ‘outsiders’,” Mr. Khan said while addressing the protesters who wore masks, raising placards in their hands. They raised slogans against India’s Hindu nationalist government as well as Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath of Uttar Pradesh. Yogi Adityanath has been known to run private militias with a criminal record that goes back several decades. 

“The unfortunate reality is that under the administration of Modi government, members of upper caste and of those who believe in the neo-Nazi ideology of Hindutva, are more equal than others. We are here to demand that the Indian state ensure justice to the family of the victim, in not only this case but in all other cases of sexual violence against Dalit women,” said Mr. Sheik, a board member of IAMC. 

Dr. Murli Natarajan from India Civil Watch International, condemned the gang rape in Hathras and said that the “brutality that happened in Hathras, was yet another in a very long series of moral horrors perpetrated against Dalits by caste-supremacist patriarchs.”

“We condemn their brazen denial of the rape, their cowardly cover-up of the frequency of rapes, their shameless glorification of the rapists, their bigoted denigration of rape victims, and their denial to the family of the right to grieve with dignity,” he added.

A representative of Dalit Solidarity forum in the USA, said that the protest was an expression of condemnation of “the rapid increase in the unacceptable social condition of Dalit women unable to defend rights to our own bodies and self-respect. We are repeatedly devalued, raped and mutilated.”

Nilab Nusrat, a representative from Hindus for Human Rights, said “I can’t stay silent when a 19-year-old girl is getting gang-raped and killed and the rapists are not brought to justice because they are members of the upper caste.”

IAMC is dedicated to promoting the common values of pluralism, tolerance, and respect for human rights that form the basis of the world’s two largest secular democracies – the United States and India. (Courtesy: Indian American Muslim Council)

Indian Overseas Congress, USA Condemns The Rape And Murder Of Manisha Valmiki Of Hathras, U.P

Indian Overseas Congress, USA joins millions of non-resident Indians across the globe in condemning the horrific rape and murder of Manisha Valmiki of Hathras, U.P. The barbarity and the bestiality involved in the killing show the depraved and criminal mindsets of those who perpetrated such heinous acts against a Dalit woman who is from the lowest rung of India’s caste system. The ghastly way this woman was raped and murdered has indeed shaken the nation to its core and terrorized the people of conscience across the world. 
 The victim, who belonged to the Dalit community, was raped by four  men on September 14 in the heartland state of Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district. The woman’s family told local media that they found her naked, bleeding, and paralyzed with a split tongue and broken spine in a field outside her home. On Tuesday, she died two weeks later after battling severe injuries in a hospital in New Delhi.

To add insult to injury, the police barricaded her family members & locals inside the house and forcibly burned the body. The family was not allowed to see their daughter for one last time and say good-bye. As it has been said by Yogendra Yadav, “even criminals are allowed dignified cremation. Here is a rape victim being cremated by police at 2.30 AM without family members”.

“Mr. Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, it is your party which is in power. Given your supremacy within the party in U.P. and the centralized control you exercise, you more than anyone else have to be held responsible for this terrifying state of affairs,” said George Abraham, Vice-Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA. Your past statement, such as ‘women not capable of being left alone and their energy should be regulated, lest it becomes worthless and destructive,” is not only despicable but misogynistic and chauvinistic.

“while you have ordered an inquiry, Mr. Chief Minister, you haven’t taken any steps to cure this rape culture in your state or shown any resolve to change the social, political, and administrative conditions under which such anti-Dalit hatred is bred,” said Mohinder Singh Gilzian, President of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA. Your continuing inaction in this regard will gain you the title as the Chief administrator of the notorious Rape State in India,” Mr. Gilzian added.

“It is indeed the growing culture of violence emanating out of the wrong-headed sense of ultra-nationalism and majoritarian arrogance that is polarizing the communities and dividing the nation.  We call upon the Modi Government to stop paying lip service with slogans like “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” and provide true leadership in bringing perpetrators of this pervasive rape and abuse of women culture across the country to justice regardless of their party affiliations and oust any government officials who remains stumbling blocks to that effort” the statement added. 

Babri Masjid Demolition A Criminal Act And CBI Court Verdict Must Be Challenged NAPM Condemns The Criminal Neglect Of The Prosecution In The Case And Complete Denial Of The Findings Of The Liberhan Commission

National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)   is shocked and dismayed at the verdict of the CBI Special Court in acquitting all 32 persons accused of being responsible for the demolition of Babri masjid on December 6, 1992. For reasons best known to it, the CBI led a weak prosecution based upon defective evidence, even though the Liberhan Commission after its detailed investigation (1992-2009) pointed to the involvement of senior RSS and BJP leaders, including L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti. It is indeed sad commentary for  our democracy that active participants in a movement such as this often say one thing inside Court and the exact opposite outside it and yet go scot-free. The Judgement running in to 2,300 pages then goes at length to say that there was no active conspiracy, it’s a mockery of the rule of law.

The verdict does nothing to remedy the illegality of the demolition, which was recognized by the Supreme Court in its Ayodhya Verdict on November 9, 2019, but on the other hand has encouraged claims for demolition of other mosques, leading inevitably to increasing discord, hate and violence in society. Further, the verdict trivializes Supreme Court’s comment that the Babri masjid demolition was “an egregious violation of rule of law”.

Prima facie, it appears that the Prosecution not only failed to do its job but also willfully worked in favour of pleasing its political masters, since on record, in front of Liberhan Commission, Uma Bharti, one of the co-accused had taken responsibility for her role in the demolition of the mosque. There is enough evidence visual and written in public domain from the times where their speeches, actions and everything has been recorded.  Photographs of leading lights who were leading the Ramjanmabhoomi movement and were on stage near the site of the demolition celebrating the fall of the mosque are a case in point. All right thinking citizens are therefore dismayed at the decision that they had no role in the demolition of the Babri Masjid.  NAPM condemns this decision of the CBI court and demands that this be challenged in the High court.

The verdict has shocked everyone, though given the state of affairs and continued miscarriage of justice in recent times, it has not come as a surprise to many. This completely falls in the current pattern where students activists, professors, lawyers, journalists, human rights activists and critics of the regime are being arrested on false charges, and conspiracies are being established on WhatsApp chats and social media posts, case being Bhima Koregaon Conspiracy and Delhi Riots Conspiracy. The judicial system has always been seen as the last recourse of common people in the face of a rapacious executive and a complicit legislature, which are destroying the social fabric of our nation. Unfortunately, judiciary is abdicating its responsibility.

We urge that the Supreme Court takes suo moto note of this verdict and brings the perpetrators to justice. The demolition of Babri mosque was a body blow to the secular fabric of the nation and a criminal act. And it is with deep sorrow that we note that the Ram Mandir will be built on the back of demolition, violence and miscarriage of justice.

We the People, who have faith in the Constitution of India, are being constantly failed by its three pillars, and all public servants. In the face of failing democracy, we still believe and trust that the Judiciary at all levels will yet rise above the political pressures that it faces, and display its independence. We expect it to stand tall with courage and belief in the power of truth, to uphold justice without fear or favour, and honour their Constitutional oath to serve the People of India.

Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM); Dr. Sunilam, Adv. Aradhna Bhargava, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti; Rajkumar Sinha, Chutka Parmaanu Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM, Madhya Pradesh;

Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), National Campaign for People’s Right to Information; Kavita Srivastava, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL); Kailash Meena NAPM Rajasthan;

Prafulla Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan; Lingraj Azad, Samajwadi Jan Parishad & Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, Manorama, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti; Lingaraj Pradhan, Satya banchor, Anant, Kalyan Anand, Arun Jena, Trilochan Punji, Lakshimipriya Mohanty and Balakrishna Sand, Manas Patnaik, NAPM Odisha;

Sandeep Pandey (Socialist Party of India); Richa Singh & Rambeti (Sangatin Kisaan Mazdoor Sangathan, Sitapur); Rajeev Yadav & Masihuddin bhai (Rihai Manch, Lucknow & Azamgadh); Arundhati Dhuru & Zainab Khatun (Mahila Yuva Adhikar Manch, Lucknow), Suresh Rathaur (MNREGA Mazdoor Union, Varanasi);  Arvind Murti & Altamas Ansari (Inquilabi Kamgaar Union, Mau), Jagriti Rahi (Vision Sansthan, Varanasi); Satish Singh (Sarvodayi Vikas Samiti, Varanasi); Nakul Singh Sawney (Chal Chitra Abhiyan, Muzaffarnagar); NAPM Uttar Pradesh

  1. Chennaiah,Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union-APVVU, Ramakrishnam Raju,United Forum for RTI and NAPM, Chakri (Samalochana), Balu Gadi, Bapji Juvvala, NAPM Andhra Pradesh;

Jeevan Kumar & Syed Bilal (Human Rights Forum), P. Shankar (Dalit Bahujan Front), Vissa Kiran Kumar & Kondal (Rythu Swarajya Vedika), Ravi Kanneganti (Rythu JAC), Ashalatha (MAKAAM), Krishna (Telangana Vidyavantula Vedika-TVV), M. Venkatayya (Telangana Vyavasaya Vruttidarula Union-TVVU), Meera Sanghamitra, Rajesh Serupally, NAPM Telangana;

Sister Celia, Domestic Workers Union; Maj Gen (Retd) S.G.Vombatkere, NAPM, Nawaz, Dwiji, Nalini, Madhu Bhushan and Mamatha Yajaman, NAPM Karnataka

Gabriele Dietrich, Penn Urimay Iyakkam, Madurai; Geetha Ramakrishnan, Unorganised Sector Workers Federation; Suthanthiran, Suthanthiran, Lenin & Arul Doss, NAPM Tamilnadu;

Vilayodi Venugopal, CR Neelakandan, Prof. Kusumam Joseph, Sharath Cheloor, Vijayaraghavan Cheliya, Majeendran, Magline, NAPM, Kerala;

Dayamani Barla, Aadivasi-Moolnivasi Astivtva Raksha Samiti; Basant Hetamsaria, Aloka Kujur, Dr. Leo A. Singh, Afzal Anish, Sushma Biruli, Durga Nayak, Jipal Murmu, Priti Ranjan Dash, Ashok Verma, NAPM Jharkhand;

Anand Mazgaonkar, Swati Desai, Krishnakant, Parth, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti; Nita Mahadev, Mudita, Lok Samiti; Dev Desai, Mujahid Nafees, Ramesh Tadvi, Aziz Minat and Bharat Jambucha, NAPM Gujarat;

Vimal Bhai, Matu Jan sangathan; Jabar Singh, Uma, NAPM, Uttarakhand;

Manshi Asher and Himshi Singh, Himdhara, NAPM Himachal Pradesh

Eric Pinto, Abhijeet, Tania Devaiah and Francesca, NAPM Goa

Gautam Bandopadhyay, Nadi Ghati Morcha; Kaladas Dahariya, RELAA, Alok Shukla, Shalini Gera, NAPM Chhattisgarh;

Samar Bagchi, Amitava Mitra, Binayak Sen, Sujato Bhadro, Pradip Chatterjee, Pasarul Alam, Amitava Mitra, Tapas Das, Tahomina Mandal, Pabitra Mandal, Kazi Md. Sherif, Biswajit Basak, Ayesha Khatun, Rupak Mukherjee, Milan Das, Asit Roy, Mita Bhatta, Yasin, Matiur Rahman, Baiwajit Basa, NAPM West Bengal;

Suniti SR, Sanjay M G, Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagwe, Mukta Srivastava, Yuvraj Gatkal, Geetanjali Chavan, Bilal Khan, Jameela, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan; Chetan Salve, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Pervin Jehangir, NAPM Maharashtra;

Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmatgar, J S Walia, NAPM Haryana;

Guruwant Singh, Narbinder Singh, NAPM Punjab;

Kamayani Swami, Ashish Ranjan, Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan; Mahendra Yadav, Kosi Navnirman Manch; Sister Dorothy, Aashray Abhiyan, NAPM Bihar;

Rajendra Ravi, NAPM; Bhupender Singh Rawat, Jan Sangharsh Vahini; Anjali Bharadwaj and Amrita Johri, Satark Nagrik Sangathan;  Sanjeev Kumar, Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch; Anita Kapoor, Delhi Shahri Mahila Kaamgaar Union; Sunita Rani, National Domestic Workers Union; Nanhu Prasad, National Cyclist Union; Madhuresh Kumar, Priya Pillai, Aryaman Jain, Divyansh Khurana, Evita Das; Anil TV, Delhi Solidarity Group, MJ Vijayan (PIPFPD)        

Seeking Greater Role For India, Modi Questions Relevance Of United Nations

Articulating an inclusive vision for the world and India’s role in manifesting it, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) how long India would be kept out of the top UN decision-making bodies. He assured the world of the adequate supply of vaccines and highlighted India’s contribution to UN peacekeeping mission and its non-exclusive foreign policy, making the case for India playing a leading role in the UN.

In his address to the 75th United Nations General Assembly on September 26, 2020, the Indian Prime Minister said the problems and solutions of the world in 1945 were quite different from today. “Today we are in a completely different era,” he said, asking if the character of an institution from those times is even relevant today. He said the UN enjoyed “unparalleled” respect in India but Indians were concerned whether the reform process would “ever reach its logical conclusion.”

Modi questioned the relevance of the United Nations to meet 21st Century challenges with a 19th Century structure that did not include India as a permanent member of the Security Council, and made a call to arms for nations to work for all humanity in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Modi posed the question of “Whether the character of the institution, constituted in the prevailing circumstances of 1945, is relevant even today?”

Despite several “stellar achievements” Modi in effect, argued that the UN had failed to stem the tide of terrorism and civil wars despite avoiding a ‘third world war’. And as for the pandemic, Modi slammed the international institution, asking, “Where is the United Nations in this joint fight against the pandemic? Where is its effective response?”

His answer: “Reform in the responses, in the processes, and in the very character of the United Nations is the need of the hour.” India has been waiting for the long-pending promised reforms which are supported by the United States and virtually all nations. “For how long will India be kept out of the decision-making structures of the United Nations?” Modi demanded, noting that this is the largest democracy in the world with more than 18% of its population, “which was a leading global economy for centuries and also one which has endured hundreds of years of foreign rule.”

In his speech, Modi noted that even during these very difficult times of the raging pandemic, the pharmaceutical industry of India has sent essential medicines to more than 150 countries. As the largest vaccine producing country of the world, “I want to give one more assurance to the global community today. India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all humanity in fighting this crisis.”

India is now in phase 3 of clinical trials and Modi promised to help all the countries trying to enhance their cold chain and storage capacities for the delivery of the vaccines. Modi contended that India had never been a power-hungry nation through history. “When we were strong, we were never a threat to the world, when we were weak, we never become a burden on the world. Your Excellency, How long would a country have to wait particularly when the transformational changes happening in that country affect a large part of the world?” Modi questioned.

Drawing attention to India’s standard view of the world as one (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam), Modi detailed the contributions his country had made in the last 75 years of the UN, including 50 peacekeeping missions where India has lost the most number of peacekeeping personnel.

He attributed numerous initiatives India jumpstarted and which were adopted by the UN including ‘International Day of Non-Violence,’ ‘International Day of Yoga,’ the initiatives of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and the International Solar Alliance, among them.

He articulated India’s strategic priorities like ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’ and the ‘Act East Policy’, taking a swipe at China’s power moves in the region including in the South China Sea, he mentioned the Indo-Pacific region’s security and growth, going on to say that India helped nations not with a “malafide intent” at the cost of making a partner “dependent or hapless.”

“We must congratulate him for his firm, decisive approach to China,” Parikh said referring to Modi’s comments on following the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific region. India’s experiences at development, Modi said, would help many countries who are trying to progress.

He claimed that during his administration over the last 4 years, India had succeeded in bringing more than 400 million people into the formal financial sector, provided toilet facilities to 600 million people; and within 2-3 years, provided more than 500 million people access to free health care services. He also dwelt on progress toward a ‘digital’ India, mentioned the water supply initiative as well as the goal to achieve a tuberculosis-free nation, empowerment of women, and ensuring the rights of transgender people.

“Prime Minister Modi has eloquently made a case for India’s inclusion (in the Security Council),” said Anju Bhargava, a management consultant, formerly in the Obama administration’s inaugural Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnership, as well as founder of Hindu American Seva Communities. “He has presented India’s strength from the ancient past to the present as well as pointed to the future. Despite its challenges India has tremendous strength and can play a significant role on the world stage in the future,” Bhargava added.

“In the changed circumstances of the post-pandemic era, we are moving forward with the vision of a “Self-reliant India”. A Self-reliant India will also be a Force Multiplier for the Global Economy,” Modi declared, concluding with a poignant hope that the UN would remain relevant in the brave new world.

Amnesty International Halts Work In India, Citing ‘Witch-Hunt’ By Modi Government

Citing a “reprisal” by the Indian government against its human rights work, Amnesty International said Tuesday that it had to lay off staff and halt operations in India. In a statement, the watchdog accused India’s Hindu nationalist government of “an incessant witch-hunt” against human rights organizations that have revealed wrongdoing by Indian authorities in recent years. Amnesty International’s latest investigations in India have focused on alleged human rights abuses in India’s only Muslim-majority region, Kashmir, as well as on alleged misconduct by Indian police in last February’s Delhi riots that killed dozens of mostly Muslim civilians. The group said its work in India has come to “a grinding halt” after it learned on Sept. 10 that the Indian government froze its bank accounts. “For a movement that has done nothing but raise its voices against injustice, this latest attack is akin to freezing dissent,” Avinash Kumar, executive director of Amnesty International India, said in the statement. Later Tuesday, the Indian government issued a statement calling Amnesty International’s claims “unfortunate, exaggerated and far from the truth.” It accuses Amnesty International of illegally routing money to India through its U.K. branch for several years. “All the glossy statements about humanitarian work and speaking truth to power are nothing but a ploy to divert attention from their activities which were in clear contravention of laid down Indian laws,” the government said. This is not the first time Indian authorities have taken action against Amnesty International. In 2016, they charged the group with sedition for holding an event in the southern city of Bengaluru, related to Kashmir. In 2018, Indian authorities raided Amnesty International’s Delhi office and froze its bank accounts. They have long accused the group of violating rules on foreign funding, including as far back as 2009, before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party won power nationally. Amnesty International denies any wrongdoing. It has temporarily shut its India operations and then resumed them several times in the past. Amid fears of rising authoritarianism around the world, Tuesday’s events put India in the same category as Russia, where Amnesty International says its Moscow office was seized by the Russian government in 2016. The group’s local director in Turkey has also faced detention and trial. In September, Amnesty International USA submitted a statement to the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, accusing Indian authorities of harassing journalists during the pandemic, violating Kashmiris’ rights and failing to investigate abuses by Delhi police. The acting secretary-general of Amnesty International’s worldwide operations, Julie Verhaar, issued a separate statement calling the closure of its India operations an “egregious and shameful act by the Indian Government.” “However, this does not mark the end of our firm commitment to, and engagement in, the struggle for human rights in India,” Verhaar was quoted as saying. “We will be working resolutely to determine how Amnesty International can continue to play our part within the human rights movement in India for years to come.” (NPR producer Sushmita Pathak contributed to this report)

AAPI Plans Mini Convention in Chicago From September 26th – 27th

 “It’s very great joy that I want to invite you all to come and be part of the MINI Convention and the Fall Governing Body Meeting of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) to be held from September 26th to 27th, 2020 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel, Chicago, IL,” Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President, AAPI, announced here today.

With Corona Virus impacting every aspect of life around the world, posing several challenges in carrying out with numerous plans and programs for AAPI in 2020, Dr. Suresh Reddy, the 36th President of AAPI, has been right on task and has devoted the past one year leading AAPI to stability and greater heights. The deadly pandemic, COVID-19 that has been instrumental in the lockdown of almost all major programs and activities around the world, could not lockdown the creative minds of AAPI leaders.

“Basically organized as the “Volunteers Recognition Ceremony” to honor all those hundreds of volunteers of AAPI. Who have worked hard during the year 2019-20, especially during the COVID Pandemic. All the volunteers have raised the bar of AAPI and we salute their generosity and admire their sacrifices,” Dr. Suresh Reddy said. A special feature of the Convention will be honoring the hundreds of Volunteers who have dedicated their time, energy and efforts in the past one year for the success the many initiatives under the leadership of the outgoing President of AAPI.

“Taking the lockdown and the social distancing as a challenge, the organizing committee of the AAPI Mini Convention has come up with the plan to have a unique Convention with Physical Distancing; Universal Masking; Bonfire; Total Outdoor Setting and Fireworks,” said Dr. Sajani Shah, Chairwoman of AAPI. “Strict Covid precautions as per CDC, state and federal regulations will be observed throughout the convention, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of every participating delegate,” she assured all the participants.  

Chief Guests at the Mini Convention include, Consulate General of India in Chicago, Hon Amit Kumar and Dr. Srinath Reddy, President of Public Health Foundation of India. Under the leadership of Dr. Vemuri S. Murthy, Chair of AAPI Webinar CME Committee, during the CMEs, eminent and world renowned experts in their respective areas of expertise will share their knowledge and wisdom, enlightening the delegates with new advances in their field of practice.

Physician Wellness: Stress and Burnout will be the topic addressed by Dr. Lucky Jain, Professor and Chair at Emory University School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics& Chief Academic Officer, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta; and, Dr. Rohit Kumar Vasa, an Attending Neonatologist at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, Chicago, Chair of Pediatrics and Neonatology Site Leader, Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, Chicago.

CME on “A Global Health Topic: Learnings for India’s Health System” will feature Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India and will be moderated by Dr. Navin C. Nanda, Distinguished Professor of Medicine & Cardiovascular Disease at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL; and, Dr. T.S. Ravi Kumar, President, AIIMS, Mangalagiri, AP, India and a Member of WHO Global Patient Safety Experts Curriculum Committee.

The session on Surgical Management of Intracerebral Hemorrhage will be led by Dr. Joseph C. Serrone, Assistant Professor, Neurosurgery and Radiology at Loyola University Medical Center & Neurosurgeon, Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Administration Hospital in Maywood, Illinois; and, Dr. Suresh Reddy, Associate Professor of Radiology at Loyola University Medical Center & Chief of Radiology, Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Administration Hospital in Maywood, Illinois.

“The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin Mini Convention offers an exciting venue to interact with leading physicians, health professionals, academicians, and scientists of Indian origin,” Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President-Elect of AAPI, said. “The physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country will convene and participate in the scholarly exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and to encourage legislative priorities in the coming year,” she added.

“The Mini Convention is forum to network, share knowledge and thoughts, and thus, enrich one another, and rededicate for the health and wellbeing of all the peoples of the world,” Dr. Ravi Kolli, Vice President of AAPI, said, “The Convention also features and will honor the “Best Mask; Best Obesity; and, Best Monument Picture,” he added. 

A dedicated pool of Physicians led by Dr. Meher Medavaram, Convention, Cahir, has been working hard to make the convention a memorable experience for all.

Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Secretary of AAPI said. “The Mehfil/AAPI Talent Show will provide a perfect setting for the AAPI delegates to display their talents. The extravaganza mouthwatering ethnic cuisine with every day “Theme Menus” with variety of display of best of the culinary art will be a treat for the young and the old.”

“The convention offers a variety of ways to reach physicians and their families. It provides access to hundreds of health professionals who are leaders and decision-makers regarding new products and services, as wells as to national and international health policy advisors,” Dr. Satish Kathula, Treasurer of AAPI, says.

Given that a physician of Indian origin sees every 7th patient in this country and every 5th patient in rural and inner cities across the nation, the reach and influence of AAPI members goes well beyond the Convention.

Physicians of Indian Origin in the United States are reputed to be leading health care providers, holding crucial positions in various hospitals and health care facilities around the nation and the world. Known to be a leading ethnic medical organization that represents nearly 100,000 physicians and fellows of Indian Origin in the US, and being their voice and providing a forum to its members to collectively work together to meet their diverse needs, AAPI members are proud to contribute to the wellbeing of their motherland India, and their adopted land, the United States.

Representing the interests of the over 100,000 physicians of Indian origin, leaders of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic organization of physicians, for 38 years, AAPI Convention has provided a venue for medical education programs and symposia with world renowned physicians on the cutting edge of medicine.

“Physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country and internationally will convene and participate in the scholarly exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and to encourage legislative priorities in the coming year. We look forward to meeting with you all in Chicago!” said Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda.  For more details, and sponsorship opportunities, please visit:  www.aapiconvention.org   and www.aapiusa.org

India’s Parliament Regulates Foreign Funding Rules

The Lower House of the Indian Parliament has approved a Bill by approving that drastically changes The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020 on Sunday, September 20th. The Bill is aimed at making rules governing the foreign funding of non-government organizations (NGOs) more stringent and also mandating Aadhaar for all office bearers of these organizations.

The bill also seeks to bar government employees and judges from receiving foreign funds, and to prevent recipients from transferring funds to other organizations or individuals. The new bill also gives sweeping powers to the Centre to suspend the licence of any NGO, which could previously be suspended for 180 days under the original law, by an additional 180 days. And it reduces the amount of funds received that can be spent on administrative expenses to 20% from the previous 50%.

The 1976 Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act was replaced by the 2010 Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, which was passed to “regulate the acceptance and utilization of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality by certain individuals or associations or companies and to prohibit acceptance and utilization of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activities detrimental to the national interest and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”[5]

Section 3(1) of the 2010 Act listed persons and entities barred from accepting foreign contributions, including candidates for election, members of any legislature, political parties or party officeholders, organizations of a political nature, and associations or companies engaged in the production or broadcast of audio news, audiovisual news, or current affairs programs.[6] No person or resident in India, and no citizen of India resident outside the country, is allowed to accept any foreign contribution or acquire or agree to acquire any currency from a foreign source on behalf of any political party, any person referred to in Section 3(1), or both. Delivery of currency from a foreign source is also prohibited under the Act.

The amendment (2020) passed this week by the Parliament seeks to make specific changes to the FCRA law, first introduced in 2010 by the UPA government and whose rules were amended in 2012, 2015 and 2019. The law provides the framework under which organizations in India can receive and utilise grants from foreign sources. This primarily affects the non-profit sector in India, comprising a wide range of organisations – NGOs that implement development projects, research organisations, civil society activists, etc.

Governments have argued that the receipt and use of foreign grant funds need to be regulated to ensure that they are not used to hurt the national interest. Nobody denies that there should be greater transparency when it comes to activities that are funded by foreign sources.

The Bill says the amendment is required to enhance transparency and accountability in the receipt and utilization of foreign contributions worth thousands of crores of rupees every year and facilitating the “genuine” non-governmental organizations or associations who are working for the welfare of society. But is it too much to hope that the government will see NGOs and civil society organisations as genuine partners in India’s development journey? As demonstrated during the ongoing pandemic and the migrant workers’ crisis, NGOs and activists routinely make up for gaps in government programmers, by reaching the unreached, supplementing the quality and quantity of services provided, and speaking for those whose voices are marginalized.

Restraining non-profit organizations is equal to restraining democracy itself. But several elements of the FCRA rules and their vague definitions of national interest makes it hard to believe that the government sees this sector as an ally. The government has used the FCRA as an instrument for harassment of political rivals or activist organizations such as Amnesty International. Starting from environmental activism to religious activities – a wide range of organizations have come under the scanner of government authorities in recent years.

14 US Senators write to US Secretary of State Pompeo on designating India as CPC

The “Coalition to Stop Genocide in India”, a broad coalition of Indian American and US-based civil rights organizations and activists, today welcomed a letter written by fourteen US Senators to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressing that US law requires the US Government to consider a federal commission’s recommendations that some countries be designated as a Countries of Particular Concern (CPC), which is the US Government’s official term for countries that are the world’s worst offenders of religious freedom.

 

The bipartisan letter was signed by ten Republican senators and four Democratic senators and sent to Secretary Pompeo this month. Should the US government decide not to accept the recommendations made by the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a federal commission, the letter requires the State Department to inform US Congress of its reasons within 30 days of making that determination.

 

Last year, the US designated nine countries, including China, North Korea, Burma, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, as CPC on the basis of USCIRF recommendations. In April this year, the USCIRF recommended adding nine more countries, including India, to this list.

 

CSGI has repeatedly called for the inclusion of India in the list of countries of particular concern, and has urged the State Department to accept USCIRF’s recommendations in this regard, given the escalating levels of persecution against religious minorities in India.

 

“Our nation was founded on the principle that all people have a right to freely practice the faith of their choice, without fear of persecution by their government or any other actors,” the bipartisan letter to Secretary Pompeo said. “As the leader of the free world, it is vital that the United States model and promote this crucial human right and our values to the rest of the world as a fundamental part of our foreign policy objectives.”

 

The Senators wrote that to accomplish that goal, “we must first publicly highlight abuse, persecution and discrimination experienced by people and groups of faith around the world.”

 

“We are encouraged to see the pressure from Congress to designate India a Country of Particular Concern. The US should always lead with its values and hold our friends accountable when they miss the mark on religious freedom,” said Matias Perttula, Advocacy Director, International Christian Concern. “The Modi government must move away from its radical agenda and secure the rights and liberties of all religious minorities in India as is guaranteed in its constitution.”

 

Added Ahsan Khan, National President, IAMC: “The Senators’ letter to Secretary Pompeo shows that there is a strong bipartisan Congressional support for holding India accountable for its escalating violence against its principal minorities, the Muslims and the Christians. The US Government must designate India as CPC.”

 

The Senators who have signed the letter are James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Chris Coons (D-Delaware), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Tim Scott (R-South Carolina), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada), Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), Steve Daines (R-Montana), Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia).

 

“Both the State Department and USCIRF play important roles in sustaining the United States’ leadership in religious freedom across the globe, including through their annual reports,” the letter said. “These reports are invaluable for Members of Congress, other governments, and civil society groups, and help hold bad actors accountable.”

 

Reports by USCIRF and the State Department “enable the international community to identify atrocities, encourage progress and develop solutions,” the letter said.

 

The letter has also been sent to US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback.

 

The Coalition to Stop Genocide has urged Secretary Pompeo not only to accept the USCIRF’s recommendation that India be designated as CPC “for engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA),” but also to move quickly to impose “targeted sanctions” against Indian agencies and officials “responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ assets and/ or barring their entry into the United States.”

 

The “Coalition to Stop Genocide in India” is committed to safeguard peace, pluralism and social justice in India by ensuring that American institutions and discourse continues to highlight human rights abuses and religious freedom violations in India.

Swami Agnivesh Leaves Behind A Lasting Legacy of Social Activism and Education

Swami Agnivesh, a great Indian secular Sannysin and social activist for the down trodden, has just passed away at the age of 80. The social activist and Arya Samaj leader died at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences in New Delhi  on Friday, September 11th, 20202. He was suffering from liver cirrhosis and was critically ill. As per reports, the social activist had been on the ventilator support since Tuesday after suffering multiple organ failure. “On September 11, his condition deteriorated and he went into cardiac arrest at 6 pm. Resuscitation was attempted but the stalwart passed away at 6:30 pm. ILBS joins the country in mourning the loss of this beloved leader,” the hospital said in a statement.

Swami Agnivesh was born Vepa Shyam Rao on September 21, 1939 in a Brahmin family at Srikakulam in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. He lost his father at the age of four. Agnivesh grew up following traditional Hindu rituals. While attending college in Kolkata, he discovered the Arya Samaj movement, which emphasizes the ancient Vedas, the oldest scriptures in Hinduism, over later traditions. It “was all very universal, very transformative,” he said. The monk’s spiritual life feeds his political and social rebellion – each one a long process of transformation.

What he called his “inner evolution” continued as he taught at Kolkata’s St. Xavier’s College, where he worked alongside Jesuits. “I was very critical of Christian missionaries. I’d accuse them of trying to convert our poor tribal people and try to instigate a Christian state here,” he says. Yet his views shifted as he got a glimpse of their simple way of life: “A small bed. Minimal eating.”

He became a monk, and was seen, clothed head-to-toe in saffron, is a truly eclectic figure – clothed and steeped in tradition, yet defiant of it in many ways. “The priest is a follower and the prophet is a rebel and revolutionary,” Agnivesh showed by his own life’s example. “That’s what attracted me to this path – the prophet and the revolutionary character.” Earlier in life, Agnivesh served as lecturer in management at St Xavier’s College in Kolkata and for a while practiced law as a junior to Sabyasachi Mukherji who later became the Chief Justice of India.

As Swami Agnivesh, the global chief of the breakaway denomination of the Arya Samaj, the man from Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh fought for more than half a century to reclaim the sanctity and honor of the bhagwa, or ochre-saffron of the ascetic, from charlatans and political opportunists who had used it successfully to propel religious nationalism to power in India. He challenged them on their turf, and defeated them more often than not. They learnt not to confront him face to face, even if they continued to occasionally nip at his heels, or, in later days, troll him in paid packs.

It was in Haryana he discovered a modern form of slavery – the phenomenon of bonded labor. He was best known for his Bonded Labor Liberation Front, he had founded in 1981 and served as its President (2004–2014) and had campaigned against bonded labor. This writer had the privilege of working with the Bandhua Mukti Morcha and had worked in educating the children in Stone Mines on the outskirts of Delhi, bordering Haryana state in India in the 198s. Swami Agnivesh was an active and leading member of the National Fishermen’s Forum, where this writer had the opportunity to work with the fisher people across India, fighting for their rights as traditional fishermen against the exploitation through deep sea fishing by international ships.

Swami Agniveshs was elected to the Haryana Assembly in 1977, serving as the state’s education minister for a couple of years, before resigning in protest against the Haryana government’s inaction against police who had opened fire at workers protesting bonded labor.

The 80-year-old activist founded a political party, Arya Sabha, that was based on the principles of the Arya Samaj in 1970. Swami Agnivesh was also an advocate for dialogue between religions. Much of his activism has focused on tolerance, at a time when there is fear both inside and outside India that religious freedom is diminishing sharply, particularly for Muslims.

In May, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom designated India a country “of particular concern,” noting “government action … created a culture of impunity for nationwide campaigns of harassment and violence against religious minorities.” For years, Agnivesh has led efforts to defuse tension after Hindu-Muslim clashes, and denounce leadership he considers responsible for failing to halt attacks – including that of current Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

He was involved with several social movements including Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption’s campaign in 2011 to implement the Jan Lokpal Bill. The Arya Samaj leader had extensively worked in various areas of social activism including campaigns against female foeticide and the emancipation of women. Even as he was part of peace initiatives in Kashmir and with the Maoists, Agnivesh was no stranger to controversy. Once an integral part of the Anna Hazare-led anti corruption crusade, Agnivesh left the movement after a video surfaced allegedly showing him speaking to a Minister from the Congress government.

In July 2018 Swami Agnivesh was brutally assaulted, allegedly by BJP Yuva Morcha workers chanting “Jai Sri Ram”, in Jharkhand’s Pakur, where he was supporting tribal communities’ protest against land acquisition by the state. The BJP, which was in power in Jharkhand at the time, condemned it and insisted the attackers weren’t associated with the party, but added it was not a surprise given “Swami Agnivesh’s ‘track record'”.

International wards and honorary positions sat easy on his frame. He had been the international chair of one of the United Nation’s committees on Modern Forms of Slavery.

Condoling his demise, lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan alleged that his liver got damaged after he was attacked by ‘a BJP/RSS lynch mob two years ago in  Jharkhand.’ Prasanth Bhushan described Agnivesh’s death as “a huge tragedy” and added that the ascetic as “a true warrior for humanity and tolerance. Among the bravest that I knew… willing to take huge risks for public good.”

“The demise of Swami Agnivesh is a huge tragedy. A true warrior for humanity&tolerance. Among the bravest that I knew, willing to take huge risks for public good.Was brutalised in Jharkhand by a BJP/RSS lynch mob 2 yrs ago. Liver got damaged. RIP Agnivesh ji (sic),” Bhushan said on Twitter.

James Kottoor, editor of ccv, stated, “Yes, he was a Sannyasin, not for flaunting saffron robes like the RSS-Sank fraternity, but  totally against their narrow nationalist Hindutva agenda, and fighting against it all the time.”

Veteran actress Shaban Azmi expressed grief over the death of Swami Agnivesh. “Very saddened by the passing away of #Swami Agnivesh due to multi-organ failure. Influenced by Liberation Theology he worked to rescue and rehabilitate bonded laborers and was a force to reckon with in the eighties. RIP (sic),” she tweeted.

“I am shocked and saddened by his passing. A man of vigour and conviction, he never looked, sounded or behaved his age! The country is diminished by his passing & I mourn with the millions whose rights he fought to uphold. Om Shanti,” Shashi Tharoor said.

“My deep condolences upon the passing away of veteran Arya Samaj leader, crusader against bonded labor and my old friend Swami Agniveshji. May the departed soul rest in peace,” Kailash Satyarthi, who won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for his campaigns against child labor, said.

(Picture Caption: After having recovered from being attacked in Jharkhand in 2018, Swami Agnivesh met with Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto, activist John Dayal and Father Felix of the Catholic Archdiocese Commission for Interfaith Dialogue. Credit: John Dayal via Facebook)

Over 3/4th of Indian-Americans Support Joe Biden Over President Trump

President Donald Trump has gained some ground in the Indian-American community, but still an overwhelming majority of Indian-Americans would vote for Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket in the US presidential elections, which is scheduled on Nov. 3, 2020.

A national online survey of Indian-Americans, conducted by the IndUS Business Journal and its sister publication, INDIA New England News, showed that if the elections were held today, 76.31 percent Indian-Americans will vote for Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden for president and his running mate Kamala Harris for vice president; and 20.83 percent will vote for Republican Party candidate President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Libertarian Party Candidate Jo Jorgensen received support of only 0.56 percent Indian-Americans, and 2.22 percent did not choose any candidate. The online poll was conducted during Aug. 31-Sept. 7, 2020 after the national conventions of both Democratic and Republican parties.

“Despite President Trump’s failure to design a successful strategy to deal with COVID-19 pandemic and growing civil rights and racial tensions, he has gained some ground among Indian-American voters as compared with four years ago,” said Upendra Mishra, Publisher of IndUS Business Journal, INDIA New England News and the Boston Real Estate Times.

In 2016 elections, only 14.89 percent Indian-Americans had said they would vote for Trump in a similar poll. At that time, 79.43 percent Indian-Americans had expressed support for the then Democratic Party Candidate Hillary Clinton.

The survey also revealed that 49.01 percent Indian-Americans are registered as an Independent while 42.72 percent as a Democrat and 3.64 percent as a Republican. Four years ago, 46.43 percent Indian-Americans were registered as independent, 38.57 percent as a Democrat and five percent as a Republican.

“The close relationship between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Trump has electrified some Hindu-leaning Indian-Americans to support President Trump, but an overwhelming majority of secular Indian-Americans support Democratic Biden-Harris ticket,” added Mr. Mishra.

Mr. Mishra added that the minority group of Indian-Americans that support Trump believe that Trump is a better friend of India and that they support Trump because he is good for India. For the vast majority Indian-Americans who support Biden, the main reason is that Biden is good for the United States; India is also a priority for them, but the main focus is on the issues at home in the United States.

Here are some comments from the survey participants:

“President Trump is bad for the idea of Democracy across the world. He has systematically destroyed the stature of the American President.”

“We have to get rid of all the Republican scums and the vile president ASAP.”

“Democrats do not have a strong candidate as good and caliber as Donald Trump. Though President Trump has few weaknesses, he has been targeted from Day 1 of his presidency to destroy his plans by biased media, democrats, investigation after investigation proving nothing of any serious issues with Trump, though President Trump carried out whatever he promised and fulfilled in action most of his election promises. He is really for people’ welfare though as any politicians, he may have some self promotion & self interest agendas, but not to the level his opposition has been blaming. I think, as he promises for next 4 years, he will bring all manufacturing back into the US from China and will soon find a vaccine for the COVID-19. His presidency for next 4 years will be good for the economy than Biden who has no real plan for the economy. I do not like to pay higher tax under Biden’s presidency as he said he will raise tax.”

“As Indian Americans we should not be voting for Donald Trump, point blank period. Just because Donald Trump is friendly with Modi (another fascist and supremacist) does not mean he stands for the interests of Indians in America. As it is, his policies don’t even help most Indians in India, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

India Overtakes Brazil As Country With Second-Highest Number Of Covid-19 Cases

India has surpassed Brazil as the country with the second-highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases after reporting a fresh daily high of 90,802 new infections on Monday.

India’s total number of cases now stands at 4,204,613, according to the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. In comparison, Brazil has confirmed 4,137,521 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

India is the world’s second most populous nation, home to more than 1.3 billion people — more than six times the population of Brazil.

The United States remains the country with the highest number of recorded cases. As of Sunday night, the US had reported 6,275,643 cases, according to JHU.

Low death rate: As of Monday, India had recorded 71,642 virus-related deaths, far below the US at nearly 189,000 deaths and Brazil’s more than 126,000 fatalities.

India’s death rate of five virus-related fatalities per 100,000 people is lower than more than 80 countries and territories, according to JHU data.

For comparison, the US death rate is 58 per 100,000 people, while Brazil’s is 60 per 100,000 people, according to JHU.

Reopening: The rapid rise in infections in India comes after the government announced a new phase of reopening last week. Subway trains will be allowed to run for the first time in months from September 7 while gatherings of up to 100 people will be permitted at sports, entertainment, cultural and religious events outside of hotspot areas from September 21.

Schools and colleges will remain closed until the end of September.

India is now adding more daily cases than the US and Brazil combined; on cumulative cases, India is second only to the US. This has coincided with the faster spread of infections in rural India. The case count in the worst-hit states have continued to rise, save for Bihar, where the number has fallen to less than 2,000 from the peak of over 4,000 last month. In Tamil Nadu, the tally has curiously hovered around 5,500, neither rising nor declining by any considerable margin. In fact, Tamil Nadu’s standard deviation of cases, at around 4%, has been the lowest among all major states. Delhi appears to be experiencing a second wave.

The rise in active cases is also outpacing recoveries. Some states such as Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, though, have been recording more recoveries in recent weeks.

The rural surge is a particular concern. According to a recent report by the State Bank of India (SBI), 26 of the 50 worst affected districts for new cases in August were rural. The worst-hit rural areas are in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Rajasthan.

 

Also: The number of districts with less than 1,000 cases has fallen, while those reporting between 5,000 to 10,000 cases have risen from July.

The Centre has now opted to coordinate directly with chief medical officers and administrative officials of the worst-hit districts to identify the loopholes in the strategy, as against addressing the health secretaries of the states, reports The Indian Express. 

Fundamental Impulses That Underlie It In A Rapidly Changing International Environment

Harsh Vardhan Shringla, India’s Foreign Secretary’s lecture last week was a broad overview of Indian foreign policy. He described the fundamental impulses that underlie it in a rapidly changing international environment. He also spoke about its contemporary challenges and direction.

The Foreign Secretary pointed out that the current pandemic has affected every facet of India’s national life and its external policies. It has been an enormous economic shock. It is also likely to have serious geopolitical repercussions.

The pandemic has exposed the deficiencies of globalization. The Foreign Secretary said that India is an advocate of globalization that is human-centric. He also spoke about the Prime Minister’s vision of “Atmanirbhar Bharat.” Atmanirbharta is not about inward-looking withdrawal from a globalized world. Instead, it aims to strengthen India’s position as a prime participant in global supply chains and as a major player in global trade and innovation.

The Foreign Secretary said that India is committed to multilateralism. He referred to India’s forthcoming tenure as a non- permanent member of the UN Security Council. He also referred to India’s forthcoming presidencies of G-20, BRICS and SCO. These are testimony to India’s enhanced global standing, providing India an opportunity to project its priorities and participate in generating global solutions.

India’s first priority remains its neighborhood. It’s Neighborhood First policy reflects this central focus.. India’s engagements with ASEAN countries under Act East and with the Indian Ocean Region in line with Security and Growth for All in Region (SAGAR) vision have also strengthened. India’s Think West outreach to West Asian countries, and its engagements with African countries have intensified.

Terrorism continues to remain a growing threat, while non-traditional challenges in space, cyber-space and biological domains are complicating the security landscape. India takes its development partnerships very seriously. It is committed to working its partners in the spirit of sabka saath, sabka vikas.

During the pandemic, India established that it was a responsible member of the international community through its actions in supplying drugs such as Hydroxychloroquine and Paracetamol. These are investments it has made in the future. It has built on its reputation as the “pharmacy of the world.”

He drew attention to the fact that serving the diaspora and Indians abroad is one of India’s highest priorities. More than 1.2 million Indians have returned home to India under the Vande Bharat Mission, the largest repatriation exercise of this nature undertaken in recent history. 

India Returns to Venice Film Fest Competition After Nearly Two Decades with Screening of ‘The Disciple’

A film about an Indian classical musician’s struggle to balance his career dreams and life in contemporary Mumbai this week returns India to the main competition at the Venice Film Festival for the first time in nearly two decades.

Writer-director Chaitanya Tamhane’s “The Disciple” is among the 18 films selected for competition at the festival, which opened Sept. 2. The last Indian film in the competition was “Monsoon Wedding” by Mira Nair, which in 2001 won the festival’s top prize, the Golden Lion.Tamhane spent four years researching, filming and editing “The Disciple,” which follows a would-be classical music vocalist who struggles to balance his craft’s centuries-old traditions with contemporary Mumbai.

His film is slated to premiere Sept. 4 and despite travel restrictions and precautions due to the coronavirus pandemic, Tamhane plans to be there.

“It’s been my dream, in a way to, you know, (to) be in competition at the festival,” he said. “You know, there would be no bigger high than presenting the film in person at Venice.”

“I started off almost like a journalist, you know, attending concerts, interviewing musicians and hanging out in these spaces that they inhabit. So it took me two years to do the research, travel around the country and write the script,” Tamhane, 33, said in an interview last month.

“Indian classical musicians — there is a general perception that they are very serious and, you know, and they are very sort of solemn and somber. And once you start hanging out with them, once you start kind of talking to them, you realize that they’re just as normal, as ordinary as all of us,” he said. “And they’re also in their respective field facing the same kind of issues, the same kind of problems that, you know, a journalist would be facing or an athlete would be facing.”

“It was a process for me to arrive at that realization,” he said.As with his 2014 debut feature, “Court,” which takes a swipe at the Indian legal system through the trial of an aging folk singer, “The Disciple” reflects his concerns about society.

“‘Court’ was a lot more observational, a lot more objective. ‘The Disciple’, I would say, is a lot more subjective,” he said. “A lot of my observations about society and people, you know, do kind of seep into the script. And I feel not just me, everybody should be socially conscious and not be insular and live in a bubble, and react and engage with what’s happening around us.”

“Court” won Best Film in the Orizzonti section that runs parallel to the main Venice Film Festival competition. It also won Tamhane the Lion of the Future award given to best first films.Tamhane said he can relate to people swimming against the tide.

“I kind of think that I am on the fringe, you know, of the mainstream film industry in India, which is so dominant,” he said.At 19, he took a jab at his homeland’s film industry with his documentary “Four Step Plan,” which addressed plagiarism in Indian films.

“So when something is so popular, so dominant as an entire machinery, how do you survive? How do you find your own voice? How do you do something that’s not going to have, say, as big an audience and never going to make as much money or gain as much popularity? So then how do you keep going? How do you find your audience,” he said.

Those themes also run through “The Disciple.” Tamhane said he doesn’t take for granted that he’ll be able to continue to make movies.

“I may not get to make the kind of things that I want to make is a constant fear in my mind,” he said. “Even when I was shooting this film every single day, I would remind myself that, you know, I’ve been blessed, I’m privileged that I’m getting to do this. And this might not be the case in a few years.” 

Tribute to Pranab Mukherjee: A man of independent mind and steely resolve.

It was in the Fall of 2007; Smt. Sonia Gandhi led a delegation to the United Nations. The occasion was the extraordinary General Assembly session to launch the International day of non-violence on October 2, Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. The delegation included senior Congress leaders such as Dr. Karan Singh, Vayalar Ravi, Anand Sharma along with late Pranab Mukherjee. Prior to the U.N. General Assembly session, Indian National Overseas Congress (renamed in 2018 as Indian Overseas Congress, USA), gave a thumping reception to Sonia Gandhi and the delegation at the Marriott Hotel in Times Square, where a few thousand people attended.

Before the meeting was called to order, at the reception room adjacent to the auditorium, prominent figures from the local Diaspora were rubbing shoulders and taking photographs and were busily engaged in chit-chats. However, one leader was sitting alone in the corner isolated from all the hoopla surrounding him. He was none other than Pranab Mukherjee, the Minister of External Affairs of India.  As the General Secretary of the organization, I wondered why he was not interacting with people and walked up to him to inquire how he was doing.  His security detail then told me that he would like to be left alone.

I have no explanation for his reaction then. But the more I thought about it; I concluded that he was not your conventional politician but someone who has elevated the level of engagement with people to find tangible solutions to the pressing issues of the time. He appeared to be disinterested in meaningless conversation or insincere overtures. News reports have revealed that he disliked socializing in the Delhi circuit and listed that he had attended just one private dinner in Delhi – hosted by Sibal.   Mukherjee was never a mass leader but derived much of his political clout in his association with Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, and P.V. Narasimha Rao.

Addressing the Diaspora during that visit, Mukherjee said that ‘the future of India and that of the Indian community appear to be intrinsically intertwined”. He then paused for a few seconds and wondered out loud, “When I look at you and meet fellow Indians from different parts of the world, I often ask myself, what is it in us that we are able to adapt ourselves so easily to different societies, traditions, and cultures? Why is it possible for Indians to make different places their home and make themselves liked and admired?  Then he answered his own question by saying, “While I do not always look at antiquity to seek answers to the riddles of contemporary times, I am convinced that many of the answers to the success of Indians at home and abroad lie in our history and culture.”

True to its creed, he was a Master of History and purveyor of our culture and traditions. All those who know him closely talk about history’s anecdotes he was fond of creating and retelling. From being an Assistant Professor in Vidyanagar college, Kolkata to the President of India, his remarkable journey was that of an intellectual and a scholar with a passion for politics and great loyalty to the Congress Party.During the UPA-1, Manmohan Singh Government signed the historic US-Indo Civil Nuclear Agreement with the United States. It soon became a contentious issue for Democrats, and the Bush Administration sought help from all avenues for its ratification. INOC, under the leadership of Dr. Surinder Malhotra at that time, joined the campaign engaging in advocacy and promotion to make the passage of the agreement in the Senate a reality. The deal was an important milestone in cementing the strategic relationship between the two democracies that would pave the way for closer cooperation in the areas of National Security and Trade. Pranab Mukherjee played a pivotal role in the agreement’s passing, but for the Left front, which was a coalition partner in the UPA-1, threatened to pull down the Government. A task force set up under the leadership of Mukherjee took charge of the situation, effectively troubleshooting the issues leading up to its passage in the Parliament. Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, in his message of condolences stated that “As Minister of External Affairs and Defense, he championed the landmark US-India Civil Nuclear agreement, a foundation of the US-India strategic partnership, and signed the Defense Framework agreement to enable the US-India security relationship we witness today. Few Indian statesmen played a more vital role in preparing India for the mantle of global leadership in the 21st century.”

There is no doubt that Mukherjee’s acceptance of an invitation by RSS at their convention had stunned the Congress party and many in the leadership. Congress leaders, including his own daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee, expressed displeasure at the former President’s visiting the RSS headquarters in Nagpur. He went there anyway and called the RSS founder K.B. Hedgewar as a ‘great son of India’ to the anguish of millions who regard him as a polarizing figure in Indian history. It is quite difficult to fathom that the former President could not have been aware of the Hindutva ideologue’s views that contradicted the very ‘idea of India’ that was planted and nurtured by Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru.

However, to his credit, Mukherjee has given a speech at the RSS meet that reiterated his faith in the country and its constitution. He said, “I want to share some truths I have internalized in 50 years of my political life. The soul of India resides in pluralism. We derive our strength from tolerance. We accept and respect our pluralism. We celebrate our diversity. Any attempt at defining our nationhood in terms of dogmas and identities of religion, region, hatred, and intolerance will only lead to dilution of our national identity. India’s nationhood is not one language, one religion, and it is perennial universalism of 1.3 billion people who use more than 122 languages and 1600 dialects, practice seven major religions and belong to three major ethnic groups, live under one system, one flag, and one identity of being Bharathiya.”

Pranab Mukherjee was his own man with an independent mind and a steely resolve. Coming from a flicker of a lamp in a small Bengali village to chandeliers of Delhi, his immense contribution to modern India’s development will never be forgotten. Moreover, Mukherjee’s 5’3″ physical frame undoubtedly towered over most of his contemporaries, whether it is upholding timeless principles or proposing much-needed solutions to the nation’s serious Domestic and International problems.  In his last address to the nation as the President of India,  he said, “For the past fifty years of my public life, my sacred text has been the constitution of India, my temple has been the Parliament of India, my passion has been the service of the people of India.” That summarizes a great legacy at its best! Farewell, Pranab Da. (The writer is a former Chief Technology Officer of the United Nations and the Vice-Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA)

UN Secretary General Says, India Can Be ‘Global Superpower’ In Fighting Climate Change

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday asked India to end its reliance on polluting, financially volatile and costly fossil fuels and invest in clean, economically resilient solar power. Addressing TERI’s Darbari Seth Memorial Lecture virtually from New York due to Covid-19 restrictions, the UN chief asked all G20 countries, including India, to invest in a clean, green transition. “Today, as we endure the twin crises of Covid-19 and climate change, this effort has never been more important. “Worldwide, the pandemic has exposed systemic fragilities and inequalities that threaten the basis of sustainable development. A rapidly heating world threatens even more disruption and exposes even further our world’s deep and damaging imbalances. “Today’s young climate activists understand this. They understand climate justice. They know that the countries most affected by climate change have done the least to contribute to it,” he said in his lecture titled ‘The rise of renewables: Shining a light on a sustainable future’. “As we look to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, we must commit to doing better. That means transforming our economic, energy and health systems — to save lives, create stable, inclusive economies and stave off the existential threat of climate change. I want to talk to you today about how to bring that vision to life — and about India’s role in that vital effort,” said the UN Secretary-General.He said that India has all the ingredients for exerting the leadership at home and abroad envisioned by Darbari Seth, who co-founded TERI. “The drivers are poverty alleviation and universal energy access — two of India’s top priorities. Scaling up clean energy, particularly solar, is the recipe for solving both, he said.Investments in renewable energy, clean transport and energy efficiency during the recovery from the pandemic could extend electricity access to 270 million people worldwide — fully a third of the people that currently lack it. These same investments could help create nine million jobs annually over the next three years. Investments in renewable energy generate three times more jobs than investments in polluting fossil fuels. With the Covid-19 pandemic threatening to push many people back into poverty, such job creation is an opportunity that can’t be missed. Praising India, he said it is already pushing ahead in this direction.Since 2015, the number of people working in renewable energy in India has increased five-fold.Last year, the country’s spending on solar energy surpassed spending on coal-fired power generation for the first time. India has also made significant progress towards universal access to electricity. Yet despite an access rate of 95 per cent, 64 million Indians are still without access today. There is still work to do, and opportunities to be grasped. Clean energy and closing the energy access gap are good business. They are the ticket to growth and prosperity, he said. Yet, in India, subsidies for fossil fuels are still some seven times more than subsidies for clean energy. Continued support for fossil fuels in so many places around the world is deeply troubling. “I have asked all G20 countries, including India, to invest in a clean, green transition as they recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. This means ending fossil fuel subsidies, placing a price on carbon pollution and committing to no new coal after 2020,” said Guterres. “In their domestic stimulus and investment plans in response to Covid-19, countries such as the South Korea, the UK, and Germany, as well as the European Union, are speeding up the decarbonisation of their economies. “They are shifting from unsustainable fossil fuels to clean and efficient renewables, and investing in energy storage solutions, such as green hydrogen. And it is not just developed economies stepping up,” the UN Secretary-General said. “Many in the developing world are leading by example — countries such as Nigeria, which has recently reformed its fossil fuel subsidy framework. While I am encouraged by these positive signals, I am also increasingly concerned about several negative trends,” he said. Recent research on G20 recovery packages shows that twice as much recovery money has been spent on fossil fuels as clean energy. “In some cases, we are seeing countries doubling down on domestic coal and opening up coal auctions. This strategy will only lead to further economic contraction and damaging health consequences,” Guterres warned. “We have never had more evidence that pollution from fossil fuels and coal emissions severely damages human health and leads to much higher healthcare system costs. Outdoor air pollution, largely driven by high-emitting energy and transport sources, leads to damaging pulmonary diseases — asthma, pneumonia and lung cancer,” he said. Quoting scientific studies, he said this year researchers in the US concluded that people living in regions with high levels of air pollution are more likely to die from Covid-19. If fossil fuel emissions were eliminated, overall life expectancy could rise by more than 20 months, avoiding 5.5 million deaths per year worldwide. Investing in fossil fuels means more deaths and illness and rising healthcare costs. It is, simply put, a human disaster and bad economics, he said. “Not least, because the cost of renewables has fallen so much that it is already cheaper to build new renewable energy capacity than to continue operating 39 per cent of the world’s existing coal capacity. This share of uncompetitive coal plants will rapidly increase to 60 per cent in 2022. In India, 50 per cent of coal will be uncompetitive in 2022, reaching 85 per cent by 2025,” Guterres said. This is why the world’s largest investors are increasingly abandoning coal, he added. Urging all countries, especially the G20 countries, to commit to carbon neutrality before 2050 and to submit — well before COP26 — more ambitious nationally determined contributions, Guterres asked India to be at the helm of the ambitious leadership. Applauding India’s decision to take forward the International Solar Alliance in the form of One Sun, One World, One Grid, he said he was inspired by the Indian government’s decision to raise its target of renewable energy capacity from the initial 2015 goal of 175 gigawatts to 500 gigawatts by 2030. 

Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President of AAPI, Proposes US-Israel-India Health Dialogue

The COVID-19 Pandemic continues to impact the world as never before with millions around the world being affected. India and the United States lead the world chart with some of the highest number of cases being impacted and several hundreds losing their lives.

Collaboration and sharing of knowledge and expertise among the nations of the world is key to combating the virus and finding solutions to contain the spread and heal those who are affected. In this context, a Virtual Panel Discussion on “Can 30 Seconds Save the World? Israeli-Indian Cooperation to develop a rapid test for COVID-19” was held on August 26th.

 Dr. Sudhir Parikh, Chairman, Parikh Media Worldwide moderated a panel discussion, which was cosponsored by the Indian and Israeli Consulates in New York, American Jewish Committee, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, Parikh Media Worldwide, ITV Gold and the Hindu-Jewish Coalition. New York based Consul Generals Israel Nitzan (Israel) and Randhir Jaiswal (India) gave opening remarks as the cohosts of the program along with Rabbi David Levy of AJC New Jersey. Dr. Parikh gave the audience of over 150 guests which included Panama’s Health Minister.

In his remarks, Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) called for a joint US-Israel-India Health dialogue with Israeli physicians from reputed hospitals to study and identify as to how with significantly limited resources, Israel is able to provide quality healthcare to all of its citizens. Dr. Jonnalagadda provided a brief on AAPI’s role and several initiatives it has undertaken in fighting COVID-19 in the US and India. “AAPI members are putting their best efforts to help our patients, especially those impacted by COVID,” he said. “Several of our physicians have been affected in this pandemic. We are continuing our efforts to make AAPI a more dynamic and  vibrant organization playing a meaningful and relevant part in advocating health policies and practices that best serve the interests of all patients  and  promoting the  physician’s role   as  the  leaders of the  team based health care delivery.”

He recalled of the AAPI’s mission to Israel and Jordan in 2019, and hoped “to work with our close friend Nissim B Reuben to ensure that we take such a mission annually to Israel in cooperation with AJC where we will call on the Israeli PM, Foreign Minister as well as Indian & US Ambassadors in Israel, enabling series of dialogue and discussions between India, Israel and the United States.

Dr. Jagdish Gupta, AAPI Mid-Atlantic Director and a member of AAPI’s BOT, in his remarks highlighted that his alma mater the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) which hosted the large mission of Israeli COVID-19 experts on its premises earlier this month led by Ambassador Ron Malka, who has been playing a significant role in fighting COVID-19 in India. Dr. Gupta hopes to see Israel-India Medical Cooperation between healthcare institutions such as AIIMS as well as other leading private sector hospitals such as Apollo, Medanta, Zydus etc. He Dr. Gupta, in his capacity as the President of the AIIMS Alumni in the US, oferred whole hearted support from the Alumni Group in future Israel-India medical cooperation initiatives.Dr. Jonnalagadda and Dr. Gupta were referring to an Israeli team, led by a “high ranking” research and development (R&D) defense officials, were in Delhi recently with a multi-pronged mission, codenamed “Operation Breathing Space” to work with Indian authorities on the coronavirus (COVID-19) response.

Amongst the plans for the team, which were coordinated by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), and Indian Ministry of Defense (MOD) and the Ministry of Health, were four different kinds of rapid tests, which are jointly developed after trials on Indian COVID-19 patients, as well as high-tech equipment to minimize exposure of medical staff to the virus, advanced respirators and special sanitizers developed in Israel.“What they all have in common is the ability to detect the presence of the virus in the body quickly — usually within minutes. Developing diagnostic capabilities is a goal for the State of Israel and of many additional countries around the world. It is the most effective way to cut off ‘chains of infection’, prevent prolonged quarantine and enable the reopening of the global economy,” a media report on the Israeli mission to India said.

“If even one of the tests proves to be effective in testing for coronavirus in 30-40 seconds, this could be a game changer for the whole world and how we behave, at least until we have a vaccine,” Israeli Ambassador Ron Malka, who flew to Delhi by the special flight from Tel Aviv with the team and medical equipment aid, had said. “Imagine how much easier it will be to operate flights, schedule conferences and meetings, if we can test so easily and quickly,” he explained.

In his remarks, Ambassador Dr. Ron Malka gave an impressive overview of India-Israel relations. Besides the recent mega COVID-19 mission, he mentioned that Israel recently signed a mega water management agreement with Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state.

Dr. Sudhir Parikh provided an overview of the growth of Indo-Israeli relationship going back to 1950 when India recognized Israel. With tireless efforts from Indian American community, including Dr. Sudhir Parikh, Dr. Bharat Barai and several other Indian-American leaders nationwide, India formally established diplomatic relationship in 1991.

Dr. Parikh thanked his close friend Nissim B Reuben for inviting him and his colleagues Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda and Dr. Jagdish Gupta to be part of the panel. Both the Parikh and Reuben families are personally known to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who fondly calls Nissim India’s Rashtradoot – Goodwill Ambassador to the Jewish World. Since 2002, Nissim has had a significant role to play through his work at AJC building robust Jewish & Indian diaspora relations jointly advocating for close ties between the US, India & Israel in the strategic, economic, tech & cultural areas including organizing Hanukkah receptions in his Indian-Jewish tradition at the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC and Consulates in New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Houston.

Dr. Parikh offered Ambassador Ron Malka assistance in the process of enabling a similar regular exchange of experts in the health sector between India & Israel. He commended both PMs Narendra Modi and Benjamin Netanyahu, their scientific advisors & Ambassadors Ron Malka and Sanjeev Singla for their role in spearheading the robust India-Israel ties mentioning that the large Israeli delegation setting up a two weeks COVID testing camp in Delhi under Ambassador Malka’s leadership as an example.

As Secretary of the Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (GAPIO) both Dr. Sudhir Parikh and American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) President Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda enthusiastically offered to advocate with the US administration and congress the importance of forging closer cooperation in the health and disaster management sector between the US, India and Israel.

Israel has set up 29 Centers of Excellence across India to help Indian farmers learn the best Israeli expertise in Agriculture to benefit Indian farmers. This is a huge help as 60% of the Indian economy is still dependent on Agriculture. Dr. Parikh suggested to Ambassador Ron Malka, that “with assistance from the Indian & Jewish diaspora communities, we would like Israel to be able to set up similar Centers of Health Cooperation across India.” He offered whole hearted support from GAPIO & AAPI for this endeavor bringing in our own USAID into the loop from the US.

Andrew Gross, Director, New-Jersey—Israel Commission from the New Jersey Governor’s office gave closing remarks offering Governor Phil Murphy’s robust support to partnership initiatives between New Jersey, Israel and India in all areas especially in the health, biomedical and biotech sectors.Nissim B. Reuben, Assistant Director, Asia Pacific Institute (API) and American Jewish Committee (AJC)  said, “I am honored to represent AJC every year and address on the US-India-Israel partnership at the AAPI Legislative Day on Capitol Hill. “We are looking forward to working with Nissim & AJC on taking an AAPI Leadership Mission to Israel and helping in the process of establishing Israeli Medical Centers of Excellence in India,” Dr. Jonnalagadda added. For more details on AAPI and its many programs and events, please visit: www.aapiusa.org 

Greater Sacramento Indian Americans Celebrate India Day

Over five thousand people, who used to come every year from the Greater Sacramento area and further away in the California-USA, to witness the India Day celebrations organized by Indian Association of Sacramento (IAS) for the past15 years. This year, India Day Celebrations event which was scheduled to be held August 15th, 2020 but canceled by “IAS”, in the interest of public safety due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the United States, Indian-American organizations celebrate their motherland’s Independence annually at numerous venues, with parades, and other functions. This year, all in-person events are obviously out of question due to Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing measures in place. Many celebrated them online, thanks to new online meeting technologies.  On Aug 15th, 2020 at 5PM, IAS unfurled the Indian tricolor flag in the lawn area in front of California State Capitol. On the same day at 4PM, IAS conducted a car parade at State Capitol, Sacramento with approximately 50 cars. Satheesh Nagaraja, Co-lead of parade decorated his car with colorful Indian flags and led the car parade. Other Indian-American participants decorated their respective cars with tricolor flags and rallied around the State Capitol for about 30 mins. According to IAS President Shivesh Sinha, “It will be the first time ever that India’s tricolor will be unfurled at the iconic CA State Capital venue in all its glory. On this very special day when our mother country is celebrating her 74th birthday, I wish you a very happy Indian Independence Day”.  “This year’s Independence Day will mark a new chapter in IAS’s history, organizing India Day car parade, and an online India Day event to celebrate India’s Independence Day,” organizers said. IAS Board of Trustee Dr Bhavin Parikh said with the unfurling of the tricolour at CA State Capitol Building, history has been created. A large number of people, dressed in traditional Indian clothes and wearing masks, joined the celebration at the Lawn in front of CA State Capitol building. Waving the Indian and American flags, the people shouted slogans of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Jai Hind’.  The Indian national anthem was sung by the crowd. The crowd erupted in huge cheers and applause as the Indian tricolour flag was raised in front of CA State Capital, alongside the American flag, commenting that it was indeed a proud and historic moment for all.  IAS vice president Bhaskar Vempati said it was a historic moment for the Indian community that the tricolour was unfurled for the first time in front of CA State Capitol. “It is indeed a proud moment for all of us,” he said.   Several participants in the car parade commented, “The India Day Parade is very much in line with the CA-American Story”, “There’s other parades and events like Memorial Day, Martin Luther King Day, Cesar Chavez Day… The India Day Car Parade is one more colorful piece that makes up the mosaic of CA-Indian American life”, “It is a grand car parade, good for our people, culture and community. It is not feasible in this age of coronavirus to have a large crowd, Thanks to IAS for conducting this parade peacefully”. Paresh Sinha, Lead of India Day parade thanked everyone who participated in the car parade beating the heavy day time temperatures in Sacramento.  Later that day on 15th, at 6PM hundreds of members of the Indian-American community-based in Greater Sacramento & across the world participated in the IAS Virtual India Day Celebrations live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube.  They all were mesmerized by watching colorful rich Indian cultural performances for about 3 hrs non-stop and congratulated the cultural show participants. Deputy Consul General of India at San Francisco’s Indian Consulate, Mr Rajesh Naik attended IAS India Day virtually and wished Sacramento Indian Community on the occasion of 74th Independence Day. Naik spoke about the services provided by the consulate and how they are trying to help people to make it easier for them to get what they need. Mr Rajesh Naik, who took charge at the consulate in late August, is a career diplomat from the 2010 batch of the Indian Foreign Service.  IAS thanked everyone for supporting IAS’s new way of celebrating India Day during COVID-19 pandemic.  For those who missed the IAS India Day event, IAS encourages them to enjoy the event records using these links. Facebook link:  https://www.facebook.com/IndiaDaySacramento/live/ Youtube link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jw1IrJrZJKE  Established in 2005, Indian Association of Sacramento is one of the largest umbrella organizations in the Indian community. Since 2006, the IAS has been organizing India Day annually, which showcases India’s cultural heritage and history. Since its inception, IAS raised over $160,000 funds for helping out several non-profits in and out of the USA. This year IAS raised $12,000 funds and assisted needy people living in Greater Sacramento with face masks, meals, groceries, medical and school supplies. IAS marketing representative Venkat Nagam suggested the readers visit the IAS website: http://www.iassac.org/ for more information about IAS and it’s events/activities spread throughout the year.   

World Sikh Parliament Held

The World Sikh Parliament members from twenty-six countries deliberated over a conference call on the issue of the Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal issue.  Water is the source of life. India’s Supreme Court is preparing to deliver yet another deadly blow to Punjab’s riparian rights over its own crucially important river waters. Mobilizing efforts worldwide, the World Sikh Parliament, with its partners, will challenge the decision both within the Indian subcontinent and internationally. As per International Riparian law, the state of Panjab has the first right over its waters. For decades Panjab is being robbed of their territorial waters. Hence, the common Panjabi speaking man must raise their voice, protecting themselves from being deprived of the waters and the revenue from the shared waters.

The following are the conclusions that the World Sikh Parliament reached upon:-

1. The SYL Canal issue is dear to all people living in Panjab. It’s a matter of right to their life. Hence, the World Sikh Parliament will work with civil society organizations to address this as a legal challenge within the National courts of India.

2. The World Sikh Parliament will work to bring awareness of this issue across schools, universities, colleges and will agitate peacefully.

3. The World Sikh Parliament will take forward the SYL canal issue as an international campaign. This will be a part of its broader ongoing movement to educate on the right for self-determination while pointing out that international law’s prescription on self-determination (1966 Covenants on Human Rights) states:

“All peoples have the right of self-determination …All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources … In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence”.

 

Brief History

 

The history of this dispute dates back to before the days of the partition. In 1955, Rajasthan was allocated the majority share of water without any cost. After India and Pakistan’s formation, both the countries signed the Indus Waters Treaty in 1960, hence, settling for the unrestricted use of three rivers —Beas, Ravi, and Sutlej.

The creation of Haryana in 1966 from the old (undivided) Punjab brought in the problem of giving Haryana its river waters. Punjab opposed sharing the Ravi and Beas’ waters with Haryana on riparian grounds, arguing that it had no water to spare. The Supreme Court (SC) of India, in January 2002, directed Punjab to continue digging for the SYL canal, ordering the canal to be functional within a year. The state of Punjab challenged and sought a review of this order. The SC dismissed the review in March 2002. On July 28, 2020, the SC had directed the chief ministers of both the states to settle the dispute by way of talks within three weeks.  No resolution has been achieved as of yet. The latest Supreme Court action focusses to take even more water away to Haryana (on which it has already ruled against Punjab), but will not address the core issue of riparian rights or even deal at all with the bulk of the disputed water which is being taken by Rajasthan. This will leave India’s breadbasket, Panjab, arid and barren, directly impacting more than 30 million people. 

In a landmark judgment delivered in 2018 about the Cauvery water dispute, the Supreme Court has already made its position clear; it sees rivers as a ‘national asset,’ which ultimately New Delhi will control. As such, Punjabis of all political persuasions have no prospect of a just outcome from the Indian judiciary or the central government. The terrible Indo-Sikh conflict of the 1980s and 1990s erupted from the resistance of the building of the SYL canal. The BJP lead fundamentalist government is again heading towards this direction, leaving no choice for Panjab’s people then to agitate.  Himmat Singh, the coordinator of the World Sikh Parliament, conducted the meeting.

Emoroy Museum Presents Transcendent Deities of India

What does it mean to see and be seen by the divine? What does it mean to see the divine in new ways? These are the questions underlying Transcendent Deities of India: The Everyday Occurrence of the Divine, an exhibition of more than 70 works of art by Raja Ravi Varma, Manjari Sharma, and Abhishek Singh. 

For Hindus in India, images of gods and goddesses are an integral part of religious practice. These images inspire worshippers and artists alike, populating the art of the region for thousands of years and demonstrating their power through hundreds of millions of daily encounters as part of rituals at temples, shrines, and other settings within India and the broader diaspora. 

Transcendent Deities of India explores the visual communion between human and divine. Through prints, photographs, graphic art, paintings, and illustrations, Varma, Sharma, and Singh offer modern and contemporary interpretations of traditional imagery that position Hindu gods and goddesses within viewers’ frame of reference, ensuring their seamless applicability in new eras. 

Vishnu, the preserver, comes to earth in times of distress in order to maintain the cosmic order. Dr. Harshita Kamath, Koppaka Assistant Professor in Telugu Culture, Literature, and History, will discuss the conception of Vishnu in the Hindu pantheon and his role illustrated by the works in the exhibition Transcendent Deities: The Everyday Occurrence of the Divine and the Carlos’s permanent collection

Proof Bakeshop, whose sour cherry scones are a beloved feature of AntiquiTEA programs at the Carlos, has provided a recipe from pastry chef Mike Carmody, so you can make them at home, and have them warm from the oven when the program begins.

Of the hundreds of Hindu deities, the elephant-headed god Ganesha  is among the most beloved. Known as the “Lord of New Beginnings” and the “Remover of Obstacles,” his familiar image can be found near the entrance of Hindu homes, temples, shops, restaurants, and even on the dashboard of cars both in India and here in the United States.

This is a part of the South Asian collections of Emory’s Michael C. Carlos Museum which represent living religious traditions that originated in India thousands of years ago and spread throughout Asia and around the globe. As the third- and fourth-largest religions in the world, Buddhism and Hinduism have millions of followers, not only in Asia, but here in the United States, and even in Atlanta.

“The Everyday Occurrence of the Divine,” a collection of artwork from India on Hindu Dieties is on display at the famous Emoroy Museum from January 18 – October 18, 2020. To learn more about the Carlos Museum’s collection of Hindu art and how it is used in religious practice, visit Odyssey Online South Asia, an interactive resource.   Click here to watch Manjari Sharma’s artist talk about her Darshan series. 

Indian Overseas Congress, USA, seeks dismissal of Ankhi Das, FACEBOOK content Chief in India

Indian Overseas Congress, USA, an advocacy group that promotes democracy, freedom, and equal justice in India, condemns the FACEBOOK management for its election-year interference, content bias, and suppression of free expression by Indian citizens to help the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), that is in power.

The Wall Street Journal dated August 14, 2020, wrote a story on how FACEBOOK’s blatant bias and dubious practices in India in favor of the Modi government is having an impact on the social media as regards its citizen’s right to express their opinions in public. These revelations shine a light on how major business houses that include Ambani’s Jio platform and Tech companies in Silicon Valley are heavily invested in India’s current politics and interferes in its communal faultlines.

“It is quite unfortunate that a company founded in a free society undermines the very essence of that philosophy in a sister democracy in the world and that too in favor of a political party that demonstrated its disdain for pluralism, democracy and freedom of religion, “ said George Abraham, Vice-Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA.

It has been reported that Ms. Ankhi Das, the content manager in charge of FACEBOOK in India, is said to have told her colleagues “punishing violations by politicians from the @narendramodi party would damage the company’s business prospects in the country.” Reuters reported that a handful of employees had written a letter asking FACEBOOK to denounce “anti-Muslim” bigotry” from BJP politicians that Ankit Das said to have protected.      
       “Congress party valiantly fought for freedom and independence and the dignity of every Indian for the last 74 years, and it is regrettable to see that India’s democracy has now been undermined by a profit-making company such as FACEBOOK,” said Mohinder Singh, president of the IOC, USA.

It is a well-known fact that India is the largest market for FACEBOOK and WhatsApp, and these companies have a huge responsibility in managing the content without bias and bigotry. However, they have chosen the side of those that incite violence and encourage instability that has led to destruction of lives and property. Facebook shoulders a heavy responsibility for what has transpired.     

IOC, USA, supports the proposal by the AICC asking Facebook to set up a panel to investigate the blatant bias regarding BJP-RSS and punish those who have engaged in such dubious practices. As a first step, Ankhi Das, who is the content manager for FACEBOOK in India, should be relieved of her duties and be investigated for her connection to a political party since her actions have tainted the company’s reputation as an independent arbiter of opposing viewpoints.

Facebook says will purge hateful posts by public figures in India

Facing intense political heat in India over its alleged role in favouring the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on its platform, social networking giant Facebook on Friday clarified its position, saying it has removed and will continue to remove content posted by public figures in India which violate its community standards.Ajit Mohan, Vice President and Managing Director, Facebook India, said in a statement that Facebook has always been an open, transparent and non-partisan platform where people can express themselves freely.

“Over the last few days, we have been accused of bias in the way we enforce our policies. We take the allegations of bias incredibly seriously, and want to make it clear that we denounce hate and bigotry in any form,” Mohan said.

He was referring to the controversy generated after a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report claimed that Facebook’s content regulation policies favoured the BJP.

The WSJ report sparked a widespread debate in India, raising serious questions over Facebook’s content regulation practices.

The report claimed that Facebook India’s Public Policy Head Ankhi Das had told staff members that punishing violations by BJP politicians would damage the company’s business prospects.

Mohan said the policies at Facebook are “ever-evolving to take into account the local sensitivities, especially in a multicultural society such as India”.

“An example is the inclusion of caste as a protected characteristic in our global hate speech policy in 2018,” Mohan said.

The Facebook India chief said that the employees represent a varied political spectrum who have either served in many administrations or have political experience and take immense pride in being active contributors to public service.

“Despite hailing from diverse political affiliations and backgrounds, they perform their respective duties and interpret our policies in a fair and non-partisan way. The decisions around content escalations are not made unilaterally by just one person; rather, they are inclusive of views from different teams and disciplines within the company,” he elaborated.

Amid the debate, BJP’s IT cell chief Amit Malviya has claimed that Mohan worked with the Planning Commission during the UPA era.

According to Mohan, there is no place for hate speech on Facebook but they need to do more.

“We know this work is never over, which is why we will continue to invest in our efforts to combat hate speech on our services. We welcome the opportunity to engage with all parties — political or otherwise — who want to understand our content policies and enforcement more,” he said, adding that Facebook’s commitment to India and its people is unwavering.

The Congress has demanded that Facebook should order a high-level inquiry into its leadership team and their operations in a time-bound manner, and publish and make transparent all instances of hate speech since 2014 that were allowed on the platform. “Facebook India should appoint a new team so that the investigation is not influenced,” said Congress leader K.C. Venugopal in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Biden Commits To Strengthen Indo-US Ties, Vows To Fight Terror, Stop Chinese Threats

Joe Biden, who will be the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, will give “high priority to” strengthening India-US relations including on counter-terrorism and for ensuring China can’t threaten its neighbors, according to his campaign.

A document, “Joe Biden’s Agenda for the Indian American Community,” issued by his campaign on August 15th, while outlining his stand on issues of interest to those citizens said that Biden will introduce several immigration reforms that could benefit Indians, who face decades-long backlogs, and modernize the H1-B and other work-based visas for highly qualified professionals.

The document said, “No common global challenge can be solved without India and the United States working as responsible partners. Biden believes there can be no tolerance for terrorism in South Asia – cross-border or otherwise,” the agenda said.

“A Biden administration will also work with India to support a rules-based and stable Indo-Pacific region in which no country, including China, is able to threaten its neighbours with impunity,” it added.

Unlike communal appeals to Muslims and Jewish people in religion-specific documents, there were no such Biden agendas for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhist and Jains but only a general document directed at Indian Americans.

The Democratic Party’s list of religious leaders who will be saying the opening prayers and giving the blessings at its convention sessions has only members of various Christian sects, the Jewish faith and Islam.

On bilateral relations with India, the Agenda for Indian American Communities noted that when Biden was the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2007, he had said, “My dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States.”

“Biden will deliver on his long-standing belief that India and the United States are natural partners, and a Biden administration will place a high priority on continuing to strengthen the US-India relationship,” it said.

It added, “Together, we will continue strengthening India’s defence and capabilities as a counter-terrorism partner, improving health systems and pandemic response, and deepening cooperation in areas such as higher education, space exploration, and humanitarian relief.”

On issues directly impacting Indian Americans, the agenda said that “Biden will ensure that South Asian Americans are represented in his administration, starting with his vice presidential nominee, Senator Kamala Harris, whose mother emigrated from India.”

On immigration, the agenda said that reforms that while supporting family-based immigration, increase the number of green cards for those qualifying based on employment, subject to “macroeconomic conditions,” the agenda said. These reforms will cut the decades-long waits for visas, it said.

Any recent PhDs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields would be exempt from the limits on the number of green cards, it said. Biden will also support reforming the the H1-B and other employment-based visa systems to “protect wages and workers,” the agenda said without providing further details.

It said that Biden will support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants from India, who it said numbered 500,000. Trump has proposed ending green cards for extended family members beyond the nuclear family, while introducing a merit-based system of immigration.

Biden’s agenda said the work visas procedures for religious workers like priests and imams would be streamlined. The Biden agenda offered direct federal protection for places of religious worship like temples, gurdwaras and mosques so that they don’t have to depend on donations to ensure their safety.The document mentioned the 2012 White supremacist attack on a Wisconsin gurdwara in which seven people were killed while he was vice president and the 2019 “horrific act of vandalism” against a Hindu temple in which a murti or sacred image was defaced, window broken and xenophobic messages painted.

It said that “we cannot leave our faith-based organizations to rely on donations and internal fundraising efforts to guard against deadly attacks” and said that Biden would “ensure that places of worship have access to robust and direct security support from the federal government.”

The agenda accused Trump of encouraging and emboldening prejudice and hatred dangerously. “Indian Americans of all backgrounds — Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Jain, and others — have been subjected to bullying and xenophobic attacks and need now, more than ever, a reassurance that our leaders in Washington will have their backs,” the agenda said.

The agenda directed towards Indian Americans offered that “Biden will rescind Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ on day one,” even though the restrictions by the Trump administration does not apply to all Muslims, but to citizens of all faiths from certain countries where there are problems with screening visa applicants. India is not among those countries and there are no blanket bans on Indian Muslims.

The Agenda for Indian American Communities was silent on the Kashmir issue and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which had been raised in his Agenda for Muslim American Communities. In contrast, the document for Indian Americans was silent on the persecution or infringement of the rights of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians in Muslim countries, whom the CAA sought to protect.However, responding to the attack on a gurdwara in Afghanistan, had said in May, “I stand with the Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan seeking safety for their families and the freedom to practice their faiths.” He had urged the Department of State to give them emergency refuge. A Biden administration would priorities fighting hate crimes, “confront White nationalist terrorism” and increase penalties for hate crimes occurring in places of worship like “gurudwaras, mandirs, temples, and mosques.”

In Emotionally Integrated India Offers The Best Defense Against Both Internal And External Threats And Challenges

As we move closer to celebrate the 75 years of our independence, our motto should be — perform or perish. This applies to all individuals and institutions. Realise your strength, build on them and create a united, prosperous India.

The adjective “august” means respected and impressive, something special. The month of August has special significance in the history of modern India. The freedom struggle came to fruition on August 15, 1947. Five years prior to that, the Quit India movement was launched with a clarion call to “do or die” by Mahatma Gandhi on August 8. On the fifth of this month, construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya commenced. These events were a culmination of long-drawn struggles that offer certain lessons for the present and the future.

India’s independence was not just about the end of colonial British rule. It was also bringing down curtains on the dark age of about 1,000 years that began with the invasion of Mahmud Ghazni in 1001. It was the period when India’s inherent weaknesses were exploited by a regular stream of invaders, traders and colonialists. The socio-cultural-economic landscape of our country was brutally battered and exploited, enfeebling the masses.

The invaders had a free run coming in and looting at will. The lack of a sense of belonging to each other and the missing unity of action and purpose among the myriad rulers of the day made the country a soft target. Solo campaigns of brave resistance by the likes of Prithviraj Chauhan, Maharana Pratap, Chhatrapathi Shivaji, Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, Veerapandya Kattabomman, Alluri Sitarama Raju were not adequate. Moreover, there were Mir Jaffers all through. A divided nation suffered from disgrace and dismemberment. Once rich, India was reduced to an ocean of poverty and backwardness.

During this long dark period, India lost its soul and inner strength. The people began to rediscover themselves as British colonial exploitation became evident. The freedom struggle brought the people together in the quest to shape their own destiny. It was rightly called the Indian National Movement as emotive nationhood gained currency. The follies of a long period of disunity were too stark to be ignored. Finally, the Indian nation was born on August 15, 1947. It is hence appropriate to say that the hard-fought independence was the liberation of our country from the dark age of centuries marked by lack of social cohesion and the glue of nationhood.

The Quit India movement was the most defining moment of our freedom struggle. The Quit India Resolution adopted on August 8, 1942, stressed that “…the immediate ending of British rule in India is an urgent necessity for both the sake of India and for the success of the United Nations. The continuation of that rule is degrading and enfeebling India making her progressively less capable of defending herself and contributing to the cause of world freedom.”

A few hours later on the same day, in his Quit India speech, Gandhi roared with a clarion call to the people to “do or die”. The apostle of peace and non-violence who lent a moral and mass dimension to the freedom struggle, using such language had rattled the British who were already reeling under the crippling impacts of the World War-II. Why did Gandhiji say so?

Since his return to India in 1915, Gandhiji steered the freedom struggle on a new path using the “force of truth” as a weapon to open the eyes of the British to the need for letting Indians govern themselves. His approach found resonance across the globe with British coming under pressure even from their war-time allies to mend their colonial ways. For long, Gandhiji engaged the British in negotiations, seeking to prevail on them. India was declared as a party to the Second World War without even consulting the leaders of the freedom struggle and the people. This incensed Gandhiji and others.

Fearing a Japanese invasion from the east and under pressure from the allies to gain the support of Indians for the war efforts, the Cripps Mission was sent to India. But it failed as it fell short of the demand for immediate independence for the country. Gandhiji who had a good measure of the mind of the British, their trickery of divide and rule and shifting goalposts, decided that it was the time to strike. The three words he used urging the masses to “do or die’’ had the fullest contextual justification and fired the imagination of the people. The then Viceroy Linlithgow unleashed violence to quell the movement, but it lasted for two years.

The freedom struggle was marked by different streams of thought and action. To start with, moderates like Dadabhai Naoroji and Pherozeshah Mehta took to petitioning the British for incremental improvements. Assertive nationalists like Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal believed in bold action. Revolutionaries like Khudiram Bose, Chandrasekhar Azad, and Bhagat Singh took to armed resistance. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose revived the INA and sought Japanese help to evict the British from India. It was, however, Mahatma Gandhi who emerged as the voice of the freedom struggle for over 30 years.

Though territorially not integrated, the people had been in different kingdoms and provinces over the centuries, they were bound by shared cultural norms and values. Temples were key instruments of such cultural homogeneity. The foreign invaders were bent on destroying this cultural fabric. Major temples were attacked, looted and destroyed, resulting in sacrilege.

Mahmud Ghazni attacked the famous Somnath temple umpteen times during 1001-25. It took over 925 years to rebuild and restore it. It took about 500 years to start construction of the Ram temple. Such is the price paid for being divided for too long.

Some apologists of colonialism have sought to portray British rule as beneficial to India. Nothing is farther from the truth. All the initiatives of the British were guided by their commercial and administrative interests. The noted economist Utsa Patnaik, based on nearly two centuries of data on tax and trade, estimated that Britain drained about $45 trillion during 1765-1938 in different ways. This was 17 times the GDP of the UK. Indians were fleeced to support the advancement of the UK. During the 200 years of colonial rule, there was almost no increase in per capita income; during the last half of the 19th century, income in India dropped by half; the average life expectancy dropped by a fifth during 1870-1920. India would have emerged as an economic powerhouse if its revenues were invested within the country.

The humiliating experiences of the last millennium should guide us. The first lesson is — united we stand, divided we fall. An emotionally integrated India offers the best defence against both internal and external threats and challenges. We need to knit an India based on the principles of democratic-righteous governance that upholds equality of all and equal opportunities for all. We need to empower every Indian with the necessary tools to realise his or her fullest potential. A strong sense of Indianness that supersedes all other identities and a deep commitment to national interest should guide our actions.

In the present global order, it is the economic power that enables a nation to have its say. We need to fully harness our economic potential. For this, we need to scale new heights in scientific, technological, industrial and human resource development domains. The effective functioning of the legislatures, judiciary and the executive should be ensured by removing all the impediments.

As we move closer to celebrate the 75 years of our independence, our motto should be — perform or perish. This applies to all individuals and institutions. Realise your strength, build on them and create a united, prosperous India.

India is a constructive, dependable actor globally, writes Harsh Vardhan Shringla

Covid-19 continues to exact a heavy toll worldwide. In India too, positive cases are rising. However, our effective domestic response has led to a significant improvement in our recovery rate, which is now 68.78%. The case fatality rate at 2.01% remains one of the lowest in the world.

High recovery and low-fatality outcomes can be attributed to proactive measures taken to deal with the outbreak from its early stages. We started screening Covid-19 cases a full 13 days before the first case was detected in India. We implemented full lockdown on the 55th day of the outbreak when we had only around 600 cases. Our public health response has been appreciated by the World Health Organization (WHO). The government took rapid steps to augment health infrastructure. As Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi noted, India now has over 11,000 Covid-19 facilities and 1.1 million isolation beds. We have ramped up testing to over half-a-million tests a day, to be scaled up to a million.

India’s response has not been confined to meeting our domestic requirements. We have been significantly engaged with the international community in providing the leadership that the global situation demanded. As a responsible stakeholder in global health supply chains, we ensured timely access to essential drugs and medical items for over 150 countries, while meeting our own domestic requirements. We reaffirmed our position as the first responder to humanitarian crises in the region by deploying medical teams to help Maldives, Mauritius, Comoros and Kuwait deal with the pandemic. India also dispatched naval assets to the Maldives, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros and Seychelles to deliver assistance. This demonstrated our strong commitment to the PM’s vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).

From being a net importer of Covid-19-related medical items, we have emerged as a net exporter. Today, we are manufacturing over 500,000 personal protective equipment (PPE) kits and over 300,000 N-95 masks every day. Our system has shown the necessary adaptability and agility to significantly ramp up production to go beyond our domestic requirements.

The repatriation of Indian nationals stranded abroad and the evacuation of foreigners from India to their home countries have been among the most successful aspects of our response. In the initial days, the ministry of external affairs had promptly set up a Covid cell and a 24×7 control room to assist Indian citizens abroad. The PM had also personally directed our heads of missions to extend all possible assistance to our nationals stranded abroad. Subsequently, the Vande Bharat mission, launched to repatriate our nationals stranded overseas, has been the largest exercise of its kind ever undertaken by the government and has demonstrated our capacity to effectively carry out complex humanitarian missions. Over one million Indians have returned under the Vande Bharat mission so far through flights, across land borders and on naval ships. We have been able to bring home Indian nationals from distant locations, and also facilitated the return of Bhutanese and Nepalese nationals stranded in third countries to their homes on Vande Bharat flights.

Rigorous screening of returnees by our diplomatic missions has ensured that the proportion of positive cases remains extremely small (less than 0.2%). Testing on arrival by the health ministry and state governments has helped detect these cases. The mission just doesn’t end with the arrival of our nationals. We are also mapping their skills on arrival to link them with companies for job opportunities.

There has also been no let-up in our diplomatic outreach during the pandemic. We have initiated and been part of several important conversations globally. Our Neighborhood First policy was on full display when the PM hosted a video conference of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) leaders early in the crisis — our first such engagement on Covid-19. He announced a series of measures to deal with the pandemic, including the creation of a Covid-19 emergency fund with a commitment of $10 million from India. We have also called for a better multilateral response to global crises in the future. The PM has, on several occasions, including in the G-20 and Non-aligned Movement virtual summits, proposed the reform of multilateral cooperation by bringing people to the centre of our efforts. Our own initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure are prime examples of this approach. The decision of the G-20 on debt service suspension for developing countries, which India fully supported, reflects this people-centric approach. At the virtual Global Vaccine Summit, the PM highlighted how India’s contribution to the global response in terms of sharing medicines was guided by our philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbkum. The PM also hosted the first virtual bilateral summit with Australia, which was followed by the India-European Union summit. In addition, the PM has spoken to his counterparts from 61 countries during this period. The external affairs minister has spoken to foreign ministers from 77 countries. We have kept open channels of virtual communication to strengthen partnerships and deal with situations that require diplomatic engagement.

We have been constantly adjusting, adapting and innovating to deal with the changed reality, particularly in our engagement with the world. And in the process, we have been successful in elevating India’s profile as a constructive and dependable actor on the global stage.

Indian Americans Lead In COVID-19 Responses

These are difficult and extremely challenging times. The life across the world has changed for ever. The COVI-a9 pandemic has affected the lives of everyone as no other single factor has touched did, including wars, natural calamities and famine since the beginning of the human civilization.

People from every walk of walk of life have risen to the occasion: from children to adults, professionals and lay people, leaders of the world to ordinary citizens have done their part to combat and minimize the sufferings of the people impacted by the deadly pandemic.  

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Indian-Americans in this country are one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups with one of the highest household incomes of any community. The numerous initiatives by several groups from the Indian Diaspora show they are committed to providing sustained long-term relief during the pandemic and serve as a model and inspiration for individuals and communities across the globe.

They rallied through cultural, religious, and social service organizations, not just to support their own members, but to gather resources including masks, funds for buying protective equipment, food distribution to frontline workers and the needy, as well as help organizations in India during the pandemic. These include small and large groups in local communities and towns and cities, mandirs, gurdwaras, mosques, professional organizations like the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, AAPI, and numerous others. The relief efforts were undertaken across age-groups, involving the young and the old.

A 2020 Indian Diaspora in Action: Tracking the Indian American Response to COVID-19, a report detailing the philanthropic impact of the diaspora on COVID-19 relief., has chronicled the great contributions of Indian Americans in the past few months, since the pandemic has impacted almost every aspect of people’s lives. The report released July 30, 2020, tracks 58 out of the hundreds of organizations and actions taken in the Indian-American community to support COVID-19 relief efforts.

Prepared by Indiaspora, a nonprofit organization of global Indian diaspora leaders from various backgrounds and professions, the report has highlighted the tremendous outpouring of support for both the U.S. and India, which has been witnessed across the board from helping to provide meals to migrant workers in India, personal protective equipment to frontline healthcare workers, education through e-learning and healthcare, the organization said in a statement.

The report details the actions of 58 non-profit organizations re-purposing their efforts in response to the pandemic and illustrates the power of the Indian Diaspora community. “Never before have we witnessed such a united all-out community relief effort amongst the diaspora. One of the most unique aspects we witnessed was the efforts by the next generation of philanthropists through their incredible volunteer efforts,” said Gabrielle Trippe, Indiaspora Philanthropy Initiatives Manager.

Under the leadership of Dr. Suresh Reddy, past President of AAPI, AAPI became the first major organization to call for ‘universal masking’. AAPI provided free masks to thousands of health care workers. In addition to offering education through its multiple zoom sessions on various aspects of Covid and on ways to combat the pandemic, AAPI members honored more than 10,000 nurses in over 100 hospitals across more than 40 states by sponsoring lunches for them during the Nurses Week. AAPI has also stood against racial discrimination. “We are proud to say that for all our Doctors ‘all lives matter,’” Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalgadda, current President of AAPI said.

Another notable group that has been at the forefront of the response since the onset of the pandemic is the India Philanthropy Alliance (IPA). IPA is a coalition of twelve development and humanitarian organizations working together to mobilize resources and build alliances to benefit India. Charmain of India Philanthropy Alliance Deepak Raj stated, “It is an honor to  lead such a remarkable group of organizations coming together in a historic response to support those most in need during these incredibly challenging times.”

 “We feel it is our dharma, or duty, to help others during this time,” said Arun Kankani, President at Sewa International, USA, whose nonprofit has been providing on-the-ground relief, and also began a COVID-19 plasma registry to help physicians treat patients with respiratory failure from COVID-19. “When we saw so many affected, we didn’t feel like we had a choice in the matter.”

Indiaspora is proud to note that several of these organizations were founded by Indiaspora members. These organizations include: 360Plus, Arogya World, Achieving Women Equity Foundation, Freedom Employability Academy, Indian American Council’s Hunger Mitao, and WISH Foundation.

Rehan Mehmood, director of health services at the South Asian Council for Social Services, delivering a bag of food to a client in Queens, observing COVID-19 social distancing rules. A California-based non-profit organization says the philanthropic impact of the Indian diaspora on COVID-19 disaster relief displays of the power of this community.

“We feel it is our dharma, or duty, to help others during this time,” Arun Kankani, president at Sewa International, USA, is quoted saying in the Indiaspora press release. Sewa International USA,  not only provides on-the-ground relief, it also began a COVID-19 plasma registry to help physicians treat patients with respiratory failure from COVID-19. “When we saw so many affected, we didn’t feel like we had a choice in the matter.”

One of the groups that has been at the forefront of the response since the onset of the pandemic, Indiaspora said, is the India Philanthropy Alliance. The IPA is a coalition of twelve development and humanitarian organizations working together to mobilize resources and build alliances to benefit India.

“The tremendous outpouring of support for both the U.S. and India has been witnessed across the board from helping to provide meals to migrant workers in India, personal protective equipment to frontline healthcare workers, education through e-learning and healthcare,” says the press release, tracking the work done by 58 non-profit organizations which redirected their effort to pandemic relief and rehabilitation.

“Never before have we witnessed such a united all-out community relief effort amongst the diaspora. One of the most unique aspects we witnessed was the efforts by the next generation of philanthropists through their incredible volunteer efforts,” Indiaspora Philanthropy Initiatives Manager. Gabrielle Trippe, is quoted saying in the press release.

Indiaspora said several of the IPA participating organizations were  founded by Indiaspora members, among them, 360Plus, Arogya World, Achieving Women Equity Foundation, Freedom Employability Academy, Indian American Council’s Hunger Mitao, and WISH Foundation. Indiaspora said it also recently completed a giving campaign to fight hunger, ChaloGive for COVID-19, targeted at food insecurity issues, and its fundraising campaign raised more than $1.18 million and provided more than 8 million meals through partner organizations Feeding America in the U.S. and Goonj in India.

Indian Americans More Active in 2020 Election Cycle

Indian Americans are a sliver of the nation’s population and a growing political force. Indian Americans represent just over 1% of the U.S. population. In recent years, they have grown increasingly politically active, donating more to candidates and running for office. Reflecting the community’s leftward tilt, two-thirds of the more than $3 million donated throughout the 2020 election cycle has gone to Democrats, according to a Times analysis of fundraising reports released July 15.

Indian Americans have also donated more than $1 million to committees supporting President Trump. The incumbent has the benefit of being able to accept six-figure checks into a joint fundraising committee with the national and state Republican parties. The Democratic candidates are limited to donations of up to $2,800 for the primary and $2,800 for the general election.

On the Democratic side, they are largely split among three candidates who have ties to their community: Sen. Kamala Harris of California, whose mother was born in India; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a practicing Hindu; and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who counts a large Indian American population among his constituents. They are only a few of the many candidates who seek and find support amon the wealthy Indian American groups supporting bothe the major parties in the 2020 election cycle.

An Indian-American political group has planned to spend $10 million for the 2020 elections aimed at helping more members of the community win political office from Congress down to school boards, a media report said.

“This is a pivotal moment for our community and our country,” The American Bazaar reported on Wednesday citing advocacy group Impact’s new executive director, Neil Makhija, a public interest lawyer son of Indian immigrants, as saying.

The group’s efforts would be focused on recruiting, training and supporting candidates, and though it is not explicitly aligned with Democrats the group’s “values certainly lean that way”, he told the media.

“After significant gains in previous election cycles, Indian-Americans are poised to assert our emerging power by electing more Indian-American candidates at every level of government, and by supporting excellent candidates of all backgrounds who share our ideals of inclusivity, equity, and civil rights,” Makhija added.

According to the research firm CRW Strategy, over three-quarters of Indian-American voters supported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Makhija said they were also likely to support presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden this November. In a nod to the community’s growing political clout, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is running an ad in Hindi, the main Indian language.

The lone Indian American Senator Kamala Harris, who has emerged as a leading contender to be Biden’s running mate welcomed the Impact announcement. “I’m excited about the Indian-American community’s growing engagement in the political process — not just as an Indian-American, but as someone who believes the more Americans of all ethnicities and backgrounds feel ownership in our democracy, the stronger our democracy will be,” Harris was quoted as saying in the American Bazaar report.

“As Impact moves to its next phase of leadership, I look forward to being joined in the Capitol by even more Indian Americans to move our country forward for everyone,” she said

A leading Indian-American political organization has hired a new executive director as it heads into the Nov. 3, 2020 elections with the goal of further boosting the community’s presence in public offices up and down the ballot. IMPACT announced the hiring of Neil Makhija, a public interest lawyer, law school professor and former candidate for Pennsylvania state legislature in 2016, as its head July 28, 2020. The organization also announced a $10 million commitment to support Indian American candidates nationwide, as well as plans to create a new program to identify, elevate, and support Indian American elected officials running for higher office.

Indian-Americans traditionally tend to vote Democratic, as do most other minority, newly immigrant communities, including the Jewish community. They feel more comfortable in the politics of inclusion and diversity advocated by the Democrats, in contrast with the majoritarian Republican approach. However, many Indian-Americans, once they have flourished economically, become Republican supporters, attracted by its espousal of lower taxes. Eventually, according to post poll data, around 80% of Indian-American votes went to the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

If Sen. Kamala Harris is presidential candidate Joe Biden’s choice for vice president, or even just for Biden’s candidacy, Makhija said he was looking to hold a national event “to galvanize the community and show we are there.” The Indian-American community has seen what can happen when they have representation.

“We’ve seen what our leaders can do and the huge inspiration they are. People like (Congressmen) Raja Krishnamoorthi in the Intelligence and Oversight committees; Ro Khanna as Senator Sander’s campaign manager… People have more role models to look up to,” he said.

In 2020, more opportunities are before Indian-Americans, such as those running for statewide offices, Srinivas Preston Kulkarni running for the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas District 22; Sara Gideon, speaker of the Maine lower house, who is challenging long time Republican incumbent Susan Collins; Nina Ahmad vying for Auditor General of Pennsylvania; and Ronnie Chatterjee in the running for Treasurer of North Carolina. “These are tough races and we want to get behind these candidates and get the people behind them,” Makhija said.

All of these developments have come less than 75 years since South Asians began emigrating to the U.S., and 55 years after the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended discriminatory quotas and opened the doors to Asian immigrants, IMPACT noted.

“I’m excited about the Indian-American community’s growing engagement in the political process — not just as an Indian American, but as someone who believes the more Americans of all ethnicities and backgrounds feel ownership in our democracy, the stronger our democracy will be,” Sen. Harris is quoted saying in the IMPACT press release.  “As IMPACT moves to its next phase of leadership, I look forward to being joined in the Capitol by even more Indian Americans to move our country forward for everyone,” Harris added.

“This is a pivotal moment for our community and our country,” said Makhija. “After significant gains in previous election cycles, Indian Americans are poised to assert our emerging power by electing more Indian American candidates at every level of government, and by supporting excellent candidates of all backgrounds who share our ideals of inclusivity, equity, and civil rights.”

 “We’ve seen Indian American engagement grow from a community on the margins of American politics to a burgeoning force,” said investor Deepak Raj and Raj Goyle, co-founders of IMPACT. “We’re thrilled to have Neil lead IMPACT into the next chapter of growth and scaling Indian American political power.”

A veteran community leader, Dr. Sampat Shivangi has been recently appointed to Donald J Trump for President Inc Coalition Advisory Board. “I am honored that President Donald Trump
appointed  me as a member to his top board “ Donald J Trump for President,Inc Coalition Advisory Board,” said Dr. Shivangi. “It has been added honor as I am already elected as a National delegate for the upcoming Republican Party Convention which will be virtual this time due to pandemic. I am proud to serve as a National delegate for the fifth time consecutively a unique distinction for an INDIAN American to be delegate at President George W Bush convention in New York in 2004, Senator John McCain in Minneapolis in 2008, Governor Romney in 2012 in Tampa Fl, and 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio to nominate President Donald J Trump. President Trump has been great friend of India a first President to attend Prime Minister Modiji HowdyModi rally in Houston, Tx and his visit to India to show his solidarity with INDIA and people of India.”“By organizing to win elected office, Indian-Americans are infusing politics with new experiences, ideas, and global connections,” said Nikil Saval, State Senator-elect in Philadelphia and the first Indian American elected to the Pennsylvania legislature. “Though our history in the United States dates to the early 20th century, and the first Indian-American elected to Congress (Dalip Singh Saund) served in the 1950s, the last decade has seen our ranks grow up and down the ballot,” Saval noted, adding, “I’m thrilled to see IMPACT expand its efforts to improve Indian-American representation, as part of a broader fight to bring more people of color to bear on the American politics.”

Tamil Nadu Government Acquires Jayalalithaa’s House For Memorial

As part of the plan to convert Veda Nilayam, residence of late Chief Minister and AIADMK General Secretary J. Jayalalithaa, into a memorial, the Tamil Nadu government has deposited Rs 67.9 crore as the purchase price with the city civil court.

Tamil Nadu’s late Chief Minister and AIADMK General Secretary J. Jayalalithaa had over 4 kg of gold items and over 600 kg of silver articles, apart from other items, in her residence Veda Nilayam, as per the Ordinance issued to take it over for a memorial.

According to the Ordinance, a total of 32,721 moveable properties were found in Jayalalithaa’s residence that include 14 gold items weighing a total of 4.372 kg, 867 silver items weighing 601.424 kg, 11 televisions, 10 refrigerators, 38 air conditioners, 29 telephones/mobile phones, 653 documents like court papers, licences, and IT statements, furniture, mementos, kitchen utensils, dress materials, pooja items and others.

A devoted reader, Jayalalithaa also had 8,376 books as part of her movable properties.
As part of the plan to convert Veda Nilayam into a memorial, the Tamil Nadu government recently announced that it had deposited Rs 67.9 crore as the purchase price with the city civil court.

The Chennai district administration, made public the acquisition and declared that the property was encumbrance-free and vested with the state government. The Rs 67.9 crore included the Rs 36.8 crore income and wealth tax dues and the compensation to the two legal heirs of Jayalalithaa — J. Deepak and J. Deepa.

The Chennai district administration, here on Saturday, made public the acquisition and declared that the property was encumbrance-free and vested with the state government. The Rs 67.9 crore, included the Rs 36.8 crore income and wealth tax dues and the compensation to the two legal heirs of Jayalalithaa — J. Deepak and J. Deepa.
The Madras High Court had recently held that Deepa and Deepak were the legal heirs of Jayalalithaa. They, however, are against the government decision to convert the home into a memorial. According to the government, the legal heirs can move the court to get their share of compensation. Speaking to a television channel, Deepa said she would continue her fight for the possession of Veda Nilayalam.

Bloody Partition of India: An eyewitness account

Yash Pal Lakra has made his peace with a painful past, but the memories refuse to go away.  Yash, now a retired surgeon in the US, was only eight years old when the Indian subcontinent was sliced into two nations – India and Pakistan. Overnight, the prosperous Lakras went from a life of affluence to being homeless and penniless. They were stripped of everything – wealth, property, status, their very sanctuary and life as they knew it in their small village of Bopalwala, in Sialkot, a district in present day Pakistan.

The partition of India has been labelled as the “biggest mass migration in human history” with the Hindus fleeing from Pakistan and Muslims fleeing India. The catastrophic event uprooted fifteen million people and killed over a million. Simply because they happened to be a Hindu or a Muslim.

The atrocities inflicted on innocent people as they crossed the border in the scorching summer of 1947 is well archived. Survivors, grown men today, break down and cry as they recall this period of troubled history. Not only is it a black blot on humanity but it is paradoxical because the violence was based on religion – the very religions that tell us to love each other, live in peace and abstain from harming anyone
.
His voice trembles as he revisits the traumatic experience: the stench of mutilated bodies, the cold fear of being butchered by angry mobs, the ordeal of walking for miles on an empty stomach or the humiliation of begging for food. He grieves as he evokes his father’s struggles to keep his daughters’ honor safe in the mayhem, or his pregnant mother’s parched lips pleading for water. Memories flood his mind and he often pauses to compose himself. The sensitive eight-year-old mind saw death and deprivation in all its grotesqueness and their ghosts still haunt him.

The grief has lessened, and some wounds have healed but the why-of-it-all continues to trouble him. He questions how neighbors, who co-existed peacefully for generations and fought shoulder to shoulder against the British for independence, could turn into blood thirsty monsters, all in the space of a few months. What drove mobs to go on killing sprees?  What stroked the fires of such hatred against those praying to a different God?

Was it an outlet for the pent-up anguish and fear? A reaction to the past few months? A survival instinct or were they victims of circumstances? He speculates that it may have been a combination of all these reasons.

The nightmare began around June 1947 – a few months before independence. Yash’s father Niranjan Das returned from a business trip in Lahore with troubling news of the escalating hostilities between Hindus and Muslims. Hindu homes were being looted and burned, their women raped and abducted. An uneasy fear descended on the household.

The Lakras were residents of Bopalwala, a farming community with a population of about eight to ten thousand people. Hindus occupied the central part of the village, the Sikhs lived in another section of the village while the Muslims lived on the fringes.

A prosperous and highly respected family, they had the distinction of being one of the two richest families in the village. Their ancestral house was the highest in the village and was used by the Indian army as an Observatory Post during World War 2. They ran a flourishing textile shop and a manufacturing unit that fabricated shells for locks and galvanized metal sheets to make buckets and boxes. While his grandfather lived in the imposing ancestral house, Yash’s family lived a few houses away in a sprawling four-bedroom house with a huge verandah that jutted out and covered the narrow street.

On 15 August 1947, India and Pakistan attained dominion status. Yash remembers the moment vividly. His mother Shanti Devi was cooking lunch when his sister came running in to announce India’s freedom from the British. There was jubilation at the news, but the family did not own a radio and so had little inkling of the inflamed tensions brewing beyond their village.

Before too long, trouble reached Bopalwala. In a matter of days, the gulf between Muslims and Hindus widened: Hindus would refer to Gandhi as Mahatma which translates into “Great soul” while Muslims used the denigrating term “Maha tamma” – denoting a “greedy man.” Fears were further fanned when a Sikh man was lynched by a Muslim mob. When his son went to the Kazi (the Urdu title for the head of police) to file a complaint, he was also knifed. The simmering tensions drove a wedge of distrust between the two communities and the Lakras went as far as terminating all their Muslim employees. The galvanized iron sheets used to make buckets were now employed to make body vests to protect family members from attacks by knives and swords.

The situation deteriorated so rapidly that Hindus began to feel unsafe after dark, even in the confines of their own homes. Prominent Hindu families congregated at the Arya Samaj building every night seeking safety in numbers.

Yash remembers those long, dark nights when even the clouds eclipsed the light of the moon. The Arya Samaj building was a one storied corner house. Huge cauldrons of boiling water were kept ready to be tipped over in case the Muslims attacked or climbed the building. Heaped trays of ground red chilli powder were stocked to fling into the enemy’s eyes. Women huddled in the center, rocking their babies to sleep, sharing their fears with each other in hushed whispers. Men took turns standing guard all night patrolling the walls of the house. This continued for a few days until the Hindus realized that these makeshift devices were not going to save them from frenzied mobs.

This feeling of being unwanted led to the exodus of many families to India. The Lakras were divided here. Yash’s grandfather Labha Mal refused to leave the village but Niranjan Das decided to migrate to India with his family. They would later learn that after their departure for India, an angry mob entered Labha Mal’s house with sticks and swords. A neighbor intervened and persuaded the goons to spare his grandfather’s life in exchange for money. Soon after this, the senior Lakra hired a horse carriage to take him and his wife to the nearest railway station to board the next train for India.

Before Niranjan Das left for India, he needed to gather their money and jewelry from their safe deposit box in Sialkot.  The Lakras had transferred their money to the city a few months ago believing it would be safer there than the village.

The keys to the safe deposit box were stored in a little alcove next to another bunch of keys which a relative who had fled to India had given them for safe keeping.  His father described the keys he needed and Yash’s eldest sister brought them and handed them to her father. Accompanied by an army escort, Niranjan Das departed for Sialkot.

At the locker, Niranjan Das inserted the key into the keyhole but it did not turn. He tried again and again, his trembling fingers now desperately twisting the key to force the safe open, but the door would not budge. His horror can only be imagined when he realized that he had the wrong set of keys in his hand. So vivid are Yash’s memories of the sound of his father slapping his sister, tears streaming down her face, the despondency on his father’s face as he paced agitatedly in the dawning realization that there was no time to make another run to the safe. To this day, the Lakras have no idea what has happened to the considerable wealth they left behind.

Each new day presented a different challenge. The army truck had room for only nine members of the family of eleven. It was decided that Niranjan Das would take his full-term pregnant wife, the daughters as their “honor” had to be protected and the younger children with him. Yash and his older brother would follow later.

In late August, a military truck drew up in front of their house. It was a teary separation – his mother wept inconsolably as she clung to her sons. His father locked the house with a heavy heart, the family turned to look at it one last time and boarded the truck. The two little boys stood forlornly and watched the taillights of the truck slowly disappear.

They moved in with their grandfather but a few days later, an army truck pulled up again at the door. It transpired that Yash’s father pleaded with the camp officer in charge of the food supplies to allow his two sons to come with them to India. As the camp was running low on food, the officer agreed in exchange for food grains. The price for each boy was one bag of wheat.

The Lakras stayed at the army headquarters and for the first time in their lives, slept on the bare floor. Every morning they would rise, eat a sparse breakfast, pack their meager belongings and leave for the station in the hope that a train would arrive. Their desperation to leave intensified when a bomb exploded near them one day. After several days, a train finally arrived to take the Hindus and Sikhs to Dera Baba Nanak, the first station across the border on the Indian side.

During this historic train journey, the young Yash would witness unimaginable depths of savagery and hatred. He would see the remainders of a stomach-turning carnage, a beheading and survive a harrowing walk on the bridge of a gushing river. He would replay these scenes with stinging clarity all his life.

While travelling on the train from Dera Baba Nanak to Amritsar, Yash recalls being seated next to six Sikhs. A little into the journey, one of the Sikhs had a niggling doubt that the man sitting opposite them in the garb of a Hindu Pandit was not really who he claimed to be. They pulled the alarm chain to stop the train, dragged him out and disrobed hm. He was circumcised.  Incensed, one of the Sikhs drew out his sword and swung it at the man. The man ducked and the blade snipped a few strands of hair. With the second swing, the sword found its mark and to Yash’s traumatic horror, the man’s head separated from its owner.
The splatter of blood on the ground, the streaks on the sword and the eruption of gleeful cheers that accompanied this grisly act is imprinted in Yash’s mind. He remembers cheering from his seat, but today the cold-blooded killing evokes feelings of shame, remorse and revulsion.

In another incident, the Lakras were waiting at the Dera Nanak Station to go to Amritsar when a rumor spread that a train carrying Muslims to Pakistan was arriving shortly. Hindus and the Sikhs instantly armed themselves with swords and sticks to massacre the unsuspecting passengers with frenzied cries of “Har har Mahadev and “Jo Bole so Nihal.” As the train  chugged into the station, the mounting anticipation of killing the Muslims and the bloodthirsty slogans grew fiercer and louder. The train slowly screeched to a halt. One by one, the people on the platform dropped their swords and fell silent. In an act of providence, the train was completely empty. Strangely enough, Yash sensed a palpable relief among the crowd that the slaughter had been avoided.

The constant fear of being butchered also hung heavily. In one instance, the train taking them from Sialkot to India suddenly came to a standstill on the outskirts of Jasar, a city in Pakistan. Outside, the silence was broken only by the piercing sound of the train’s whistle. As they peered through the windows, the overpowering stench of dead bodies was the first to hit them. Yash  still remembers the bile rising in his throat as he saw flies feasting on  hundreds of rotting corpses, hacked limbs strewn around, bodies slashed with swords and stabbed with knives, crusted splotches of blood, an open suitcase, a copper utensil, a shoe, and clothes littered on both sides of the tracks. The previous train had been slaughtered by the nearby Muslim villages and the whistle was a signal for them. As the minutes slowly ticked by, everyone feverishly began reciting their prayers. A few agonizing minutes later, the train lurched and inched forward. The relief was dizzying as it was nothing short of a miracle. Their savior was an English guard who had cocked his gun at the driver to restart the train.

The passage to India was filled with more ordeals. It was the monsoon season and the rivers were swollen with rain. The train clattered its way over a bridge across the river Ravi and stopped right in the middle of the bridge. An Indian flag and a Pakistan flag marked the borders and the passengers had to disembark here. There was no station, no platform – just the railroad bridge fenced by metal columns and a flooded river beneath them. Solid ground was half a mile away. The lashing rains made the bridge slippery and dangerous and gaps of one and a half foot between the slippers on the bridge compounded the danger. A misstep would plunge them to their deaths in the swirling waters below.

Yash eased down the steps and held his mother’s hand tightly as they both jumped from one slipper to the other bracing themselves with the bridge’s columns. His mother was carrying his baby sister in her other arm and they were all soaked to their skin. His teeth chattered from the cold until a kind neighbor wrapped him in a blanket that became soaked in minutes. In the chaos, they were separated from their father.  Wearily, they made it to the bank of the river and spent the whole night in the open – stranded, wet and hungry. The next morning, they walked for nine miles to the Dera Baba Nanak railway station to catch the train to Amritsar, but every step was pure torture. Yash recollects his mother crying and begging for scraps of food for her children.

In the first week of September, the Lakras reached Amritsar where the famished family was fed some dal (lentils), roti (pita bread) and kheer or rice pudding. They were eating after three days and to this day, Yash can relive the taste of that kheer.

In one sense, the Lakras were fortunate that they had all made it safely to India including the grandparents but the task of starting from scratch was just beginning. The family made their way to Ludhiana hoping to stay with an aunt but were clearly unwelcome there. They left after a day for Naini Allahabad to seek help from another aunt. By this time, their money had dwindled to nothing. The family found shelter in Naini Allahabad but it meant living in the cow shed with the animals for several months.

Niranjan Das’s attempts to run a provision store did not fare well. A much-needed break came in the form of an uncle who worked for the Steel Authority of India. He helped Yash’s father obtain a permit to manufacture steel and the family moved back to Ludhiana.

Despite starting their own business, the Lakras struggled to make ends meet for years. They lived in cramped housing, food was carefully rationed, and Yash says he and his siblings ran around in tattered clothes and grimy faces. In the process, he contracted every infectious disease possible. The children were enrolled in a government school and struggled to cope in an alien culture, language and surroundings. There was little money and Yash remembers wearing cheap footwear that did little to protect his feet from the scorching pavements in summer. The stress of providing for the family of twelve also took its toll on his father’s health.

The one thing that pulled the family out of the mire of poverty, Yash believes, was his father’s insistence on education for all his children. Each one of his siblings did well in their respective careers and Yash himself went on to become a surgeon. He made his way to the United States in 1968 and established a thriving medical practice in Pontiac, Michigan for forty-five years before retiring in 2010.

At 81, what angers Yash the most is the futility of the suffering that millions of people had to endure on both sides of the border. He holds leaders like Gandhi and Nehru responsible for not foreseeing the consequences of the partition and the scale of the tragedy. Their naïve belief that people would leave on amicable terms was fundamentally flawed. The trauma, he believes, could have been easily avoided, had they taken timely and decisive action by mobilizing the army early and making adequate arrangements for an orderly evacuation.

In his more pensive moods, the memories of deprivation weigh him down, but one hurts more than others: the day Yash showed his father his fifteen business suits. Overwhelmed with emotion, his father clung to him and cried for a long time.

In 2012, Yash Pal Lakra took a trip back to Bopalwala in Pakistan. His grandfather’s imposing house had been divided into four sections. He met its current occupants who were warm and hospitable. The house he grew up in was in a dilapidated state as the owner lives in Saudi Arabia. The name of the house “Ram Bhavan” had been completely obliterated, much like their lives when they left their ancestral village in 1947.

“There has never been a better time to invest in India:” PM Modi Tells During Keynote Address at the India Ideas Summit

“There has never been a better time to invest in India,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while delivered a keynote address at the India Ideas Summit on July 22nd, 2020, hosted by the US-India Business Council (USIBC). In the virtual summit, which brought together senior officials from the Government of India and the United States to set the post-pandemic economic recovery agenda, PM Modi invited US businesses to invest in various economic sectors of India.

“Global economic resilience can be achieved by stronger domestic economic capacities,”  Modi said, while pointing that “India is contributing towards a prosperous and resilient world through the clarion call of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat.’” Describing India as the emerging land of opportunities, Modi said, India-US partnership can play an important role in helping the world bounce back faster after the pandemic.

The theme for this year’s Summit was ‘Building a Better Future’. Prime Minister congratulated USIBC on its 45th anniversary this year. He thanked the USIBC leadership for their commitment to advancing India-US economic partnership.

Modi talked about the need to place the poor and the vulnerable at the core of growth agenda. He underlined that ‘Ease of Living’ is as important as ‘Ease of Business’. He said that the pandemic has reminded us of the importance of resilience of the global economy against external shocks, which can be achieved by stronger domestic economic capacities.

India offers a perfect combination of openness, opportunities and options Prime Minister said that there is global optimism towards India because it offers a perfect combination of openness, opportunities and options. He noted that in the last six years, efforts have been undertaken to make our economy more open and reform oriented, adding that reforms have ensured competitiveness, enhanced transparency, expanded digitization, greater innovation and more policy stability.

Citing a recent report, Prime Minister said that there are more rural internet users than urban internet users. Hailing India as a land of opportunities, he said there are about half a billion active internet users in the country now, while there are over half a billion more people who are being connected. He also mentioned opportunities in the frontier technologies of 5G, Big Data analytics, Quantum Computing, Block-chain and Internet of Things.

Extensive opportunities to invest across sectors Prime Minister underlined that there are extensive opportunities to invest in a variety of sectors in India. He talked about the historic reforms recently undertaken in the agriculture sector and said that there are opportunities to invest in areas including agriculture inputs and machinery, agriculture supply chain, food processing sector, fisheries and organic produce.

Noting that the healthcare sector in India is growing faster than 22% every year and the progress of Indian companies in production of medical-technology, tele-medicine and diagnostics, he said that now is the best time to expand investment in Indian healthcare sector. Prime Minister listed several other sectors which offer tremendous opportunities to invest, viz. the energy sector; infrastructure creation including building houses, roads, highways and ports; civil aviation, wherein top private Indian airlines plan to include over a thousand new aircrafts over the coming decade, thus opening up opportunity for any investor who chooses to set up manufacturing facilities in India, and also through setting up of Maintenance Repair and Operations facilities.

He mentioned that India is raising the FDI cap for investment in defence sector to 74%, two defence corridors have been established to encourage production of defense equipment and platforms, and added that special incentives are offered for private and foreign investors. He also mentioned pathbreaking reforms being undertaken in the space sector.

Inviting investment in finance and insurance, Prime Minister said that India has raised the FDI cap for investment in insurance to 49% and 100% FDI is permitted for investment in insurance intermediaries. He noted that there are large untapped opportunities for increasing insurance cover in health, agriculture, business and life insurance.

Rising investments in India Prime Minister talked about India’s rise in Ease of Doing Business rankings of the World Bank. He underlined that each year, India is reaching record highs in FDI, adding that FDI inflows in India in 2019-20 were 74 billion dollars, which is an increase of 20% over the previous year.

He highlighted that even during the pandemic, India has attracted foreign investment of more than 20 billion dollars between April and July this year. Best time to invest in India Prime Minister said that India has what is needed to power the global economic recovery. He noted that India’s rise means a rise in trade opportunities with a nation that can be trusted, a rise in global integration with increasing openness, a rise in competitiveness with access to a market which offers scale, and a rise in returns on investment with the availability of skilled human resources.

Stating USA and India as natural partners, he said this partnership can play an important role in helping the world bounce back faster after the pandemic. Reaching out to the American investors, he said that there has never been a better time to invest in India.

“This year’s summit, “Building a Better Future,” featured a series of conversations that explore how U.S.-India partnerships — and the governments, businesses and institutions that sustain them — have been instrumental to combating the health and economic challenges of COVID-19,” said Nisha Biswal, President of USIBC. “We’ve also focused on how the U.S.-India corridor can leverage post-pandemic opportunities to support a more secure and sustainable world. The 2020 conference brings together thought leaders to discuss shared challenges in areas like geopolitics, inclusive economic growth and job creation, supply chain integrity, the digital divide and resilient infrastructure development.”

‘Gang’ in Bollywood is Working Against A R Rahman, Not Letting Him Curate Music For Hindi Films

World renowned Oscar-winning music composer AR Rahman says that a ‘gang’ of people in the Hindi film industry is preventing him from making music for the Hindi movie audience. The highly talented musician has composed music for thousands of songs in Hindi and other regional languages, including the songs for Sushant Singh Rajput’s last film Dil Bechara that streamed on Disney+Hotstar recently.

In his latest interview with Radio Mirchi recently, Rahman said that when director Mukesh Chhabra came to him for the music of Dil Bechara, he told him that many people had asked to not approach him and that was when he realised that even though he wants to work for the Hindi audience, a few people in the industry are not happy about it. Also Read – SSR Case: PM Modi ‘Acknowledges’ Subramanian Swamy’s Letter Requesting For a CBI Inquiry

Rahman was quoted saying, “I don’t say no to good movies, but I think there is a gang, which, due to misunderstandings, is spreading some false rumors. When Mukesh Chhabra came to me, I gave him four songs in two days. He told me, ‘Sir, how many people said don’t go, don’t go to him (AR Rahman) and they told me stories after stories.’ I heard that, and I realized, yeah okay, now I understand why I am doing less (work in Hindi films) and why the good movies are not coming to me. I am doing dark movies, because there is a whole gang working against me, without them knowing that they are doing harm.”

The celebrated musician added that he doesn’t mind it because he believes in the power of destiny. The legendary music composer said that he wants everyone to know that he’s happy to create music for Hindi films and filmmakers should not hesitate before approaching him. Also Read – Dil Bechara Movie News: AR Rahman Mentions ‘Memories of Sushant’ as Film’s Soundtrack Released last week.

“People are expecting me to do stuff, but there is another gang of people preventing that from happening. It is fine, because I believe in destiny, and I believe that everything comes from God. So, I am taking my movies and doing my other stuff. But all of you are welcome to come to me. Make beautiful movies, and you are welcome to come to me,” he explained.

Rahman’s account of groupism in Bollywood supports the narrative that irrespective of the talent of any artist in the industry, a select few allegedly powerful people in the Hindi film industry control fates of artists. The ace music composer has been winning acclaim for his latest score in Sushant Singh Rajput’s last film Dil Bechara, directed by Mukesh Chhabra. Rahman realized the lack of offers from Bollywood when Chhabra approached him and narrated allegedly false “stories” about him that have been circulating in the industry.

Reposting a tweet shared by filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, Rahman stated that he believes in peace and that is the time to maneuver on. The celebrated musician stated that all the things comes again however not the time that’s spent in doing frivolous issues.

Kapur had shared a chunk of reports that quoted Rahman’s assertion about not getting quite a lot of work within the Hindi movie business. Whereas sharing the identical on Twitter, he wrote, “Misplaced Cash comes again, fame comes again, however the wasted prime time of our lives won’t ever come again. Peace! Lets transfer on. We have now larger issues to do.

Recently, Rahman and filmmaker Shekhar Kapur have joined hands with life coach Shayamal Vallabhjee to create awareness on mental health and promote positive mental wellbeing. After the demise of Sushant Singh Rajput, many celebs have come forward and spoke at length about mental health and their battles with depression. Talking about the same, South Africa based sports scientist Vallabhjee said in a statement about his show In Pursuit of Balance. AR Rahman, who has composed hundreds of songs in several languages in a career spanning three decades, recently co-wrote and produced the film 99 Songs, for which he has also designed the original score. He has won the National Awards six times while he has twice won at the Oscars and the Grammys (all four for his work on 2008’s film Slumdog Millionaire).

Top Technologist Simplifies Ventilator By Inventing An Affordable Design

Ravinder Pal Singh, shies away from attention, despite the fact that he’s one of the world’s most sought out experts in the field of Artificial Intelligence, Innovation and Robotics. Ravinder Pal Singh (Ravi), is an award winning Technologist, Rescue Pilot and Angel Investor with several patents. As an inventor, engineer, investor, highly sought global speaker and storyteller, his body of work focuses on making a difference within acute constraints of culture and cash, mostly via commodity technology. Ravi’s latest invention is arguably the world’s most affordable ventilator and what has fuelled him, in his own words, is – “Fear of human contact is not sustainable for civilization. Everyone has to contribute to overcome this fatigue and fatality of fear”.
 
His latest visionary creation is a blueprint to help humanity in the fight for survival against one of the most challenging health crises in the recent past. The impact of COVID-19 has prompted a reluctant but much needed change. According to Ravi, the cost of life should not come at the price of lifestyle. Intent for compassion has to translate into actual actions by everyone and everywhere and every day.
 
Disparity and imbalance take resources away from most people to live a basic life, so a minority can afford an expensive (lavish) lifestyle, and this is no longer sustainable. Secondly, the world, till now, has been driven by collaboration of conflict (potential of war) and/or economics (fiscal prudence), which should be changed towards collaboration to survive, keeping health as a priority. Healthcare infrastructures across countries needs to be revisited and global uniformity has to be established.
 
Thirdly, how we design our lives – places where we live, places where we work, places where we interact – should all change. The glorification of creating mega cities is no longer sustainable. In fact, the history of the demise of past civilizations has a commonality of 4 factors — A combination of an epidemic plus population movements plus the pressure urbanization put on rural lifestyles as well as climate change. There is still merit in non-political Gandhian theories based on – De-centralization and Micro Markets, Rural development (ideal cluster of villages), Self-sufficiency while living harmoniously with nature and a greater equity or “distributive justice via creating institutions than solely profit driven businesses.
 
The inspiration for Ravi’s latest invention came from his own experience at the frontlines. The world faces a severe and acute public health emergency due to the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic. It is a stark truth that COVID-19 can require patients to be on ventilators for significant periods of time and that hospitals can only accommodate a finite number of patients at once. Ventilator shortages are an unfortunate reality as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to worsen globally.
 
Ventilators are expensive pieces of machinery to maintain, store and operate. They also require ongoing monitoring by health-care professionals. To solve the above situation, Ravi has invented and prototyped an affordable ventilator for all, using a minimalistic design which can be easily operated by anyone. The key design element is the ability to build it quickly for mass production so governments around the world can encourage existing industrial setups and start-ups to manufacture them locally to help save lives.
 
Ravi was baffled with the thought of why one would require an engineering degree to design, produce and manufacture a ventilator.  He has built two different working prototypes on common platform design.
 
The first version is the simplest and is an extremely portable ventilator, one which is intuitive, can be used by anyone and fundamentally takes air from the atmosphere, extracts oxygen, controls pressure and pushes the output to the lungs. The second one is an advanced version of this particular ventilator.
 
It is on a similar design platform which converges artificial intelligence with electrical, mechanical, electronics and instrumentation,  with the capability to supply pure oxygen. It has self calibration capabilities, a machine learning algorithm to adjust the air flow according to the needs and the resistive nature of the lungs of any patient. Both of them are based on common platform design thinking and that’s the real beauty of his patented design and platform thinking. The reason to work and produce outcomes has become purified through the stark reality of death. Driving Ravi’s imagination and the core to all of his inventions is the burning desire to create a meaningful body of work through compassion oriented design and architectural forms.
 
Ravinder Pal Singh (Ravi) is a Harvard Alumni and Award Winning Engineer with over several hundred Global Recognitions and Patents. His body of work, mostly 1st in the world, is making a difference within acute constraints of culture and cash via commodity technology. He has been acknowledged as one of the world’s top 10 Robotics Designers, #1 Artificial Intelligence Leaders in Asia and featured as one of the world’s top 25 CIOs. Ravi is currently employed as the Chief Innovation and Information Officer at Tata Singapore Airlines (Vistara). Ravi is the advisor to a board of nine enterprises where incubation and differentiation is a core necessity and challenge. He sits on the advisory council of three global research firms where he contributes in predicting practical future automation use cases and respective technologies.email: [email protected]: www.ravinps.com
 

Apple Starts Making First Flagship Iphone In Chennai, India

In a major major boost to the Indian government’s Made in India initiative, Apple has started manufacturing one of its flagship devices, the iPhone 11, in Chennai’s Foxconn plant. Notably, this is the first time Apple has manufactured a top-of-the-line model in India, reports ET. Prior to this, the Cupertino-based tech giant had started assembling the iPhone XR in the country’s Foxconn plant. Apple manufacturer Foxconn has started building iPhone 11 units in a facility near Chennai in India, TechCrunch reported, the first time Apple has made one of its top-tier phones in that country.  Apple has manufactured lower-priced iPhone models in India since 2017, and reportedly has been considering moving production of its more premium models there for some time.

India was the second-biggest smartphone market in the world in 2019, ahead of the US and second only to China. According to TechCrunch, Apple plans to scale up production in India, which would in turn reduce how much it depends on China, where most of its iPhones are currently made. And while Apple tops the premium smartphone market in India, it has only about a 1 percent share of the total smartphone market there. The iPhone’s price puts it out of reach for many consumers in India.

By selling locally-made devices in India, Apple would be able to avoid a 20 percent import duty that India imposes on foreign-made electronics. It’s not clear whether the devices are being manufactured for sale within India only, or for the broader worldwide market.

The local assembly of Apple iPhones would be beneficial for buyers in many ways. The Made in India units won’t cost as much as the imported devices as the company will not have to pay a 20 percent tax that is required to import the smartphones from its global manufacturing facilities. The ET report states that the production of the iPhone 11 will be done in phases and one of Apple’s largest suppliers, Foxconn will make an investment of 1 billion dollars to expand its plant in Tamil Nadu over the next couple of years. Apple currently has three major suppliers for its iPhone models Foxconn, Wistron, and Pegatron. And not just Foxconn, Pegatron too has plans to invest big in India.

“We are fully pushing ahead with the next steps there (in India), and maybe in a few months’ time, we can reveal on our website the next steps and report back to everyone. We’ll have a further investment there,” Liu Young-Way, Chairman of Foxconn, has said during the company’s Annual General Meeting held in June 2020. Now coming back to the Apple iPhone 11, it is one of the most popular Apple smartphones in India. Cheapest in the iPhone 11 series, the Apple iPhone 11 sells in India for Rs 68,300 for the 64GB variant, whereas the 128GB variant is priced at Rs 73,600 and iPhone 11 256GB costs Rs 84,100 in India. Earlier this year, Apple had increased the price of its iPhone by over 5 percent due to an increase in customs duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Coronavirus is preventable, not treatable till vaccine found BY FAKIR BALAJI

With no sign of the pandemic flattening the curve, as evident from the daily surge in positive cases across the country, Bengaluru-based eminent pediatric cardiologist Vijayalakshmi I. Balekundri said Coronavirus is preventable but not treatable till its vaccine is found.
In an exclusive interview to IANS, the Bengaluru Medical College and Research Institute Emeritus Professor said the only way to avoid getting infected is to wear mask, wash hands and maintain physical distance because prevention is better than cure till a vaccine is found to treat the deadly disease. Excerpts:
Q: Why and how different is Covid-19 from other viruses?
A: Corona viruses are not a living organism like bacteria or fungus. They are non-living large, lipid capsule enveloped and positive-stranded RNA viruses. Like other viruses, the novel Coronavirus tries to burrow into a cell and turns it into a virus-replicating factory. If it succeeds, it can produce an infection in throat, respiratory system, heart, brain, blood vessels and in all the 100 trillion cells in a human body.
The type of cells a virus targets and how it enters them depends on how it is built. The genetically engineered Coronavirus is virulent, spreads from human to human without a vector and enters the body through nose, throat and eyes as an airborne infection. It affects vital organs and cells in the body through blood vessels.
The novel Coronavirus gets its family name from a telltale series of spikes — tens or even hundreds of them — that circle its blob-like core as a crown or corona. Studying its cousins which cause SARS and MERS, virologists know that the spikes interact with receptors on cells like keys in locks, enabling the virus to enter body cells.
As the Corona virus that spread from Wuhan in China is mutant, efforts are on the world over to develop a vaccine that can treat its 11 mutations so far.
Covid-19 is a mutant in a clever disguise! Like sugar (carbohydrate molecule) dots outside the spike, it dots outside human cells. The carbohydrate camouflage makes the virus difficult for the human immune system to recognise it initially.
Each spike is made up of three identical proteins twisted and they have to open to gain access into a cell. We need to find a method to prevent these tiny invaders, which are 1,000 times smaller than our body cells they infect.
Q: How the new Coronavirus enters human cells?
A: To infect a human host, the virus gains entry into an individual’s cells, uses their machinery to replicate, spill out of them and spread to other cells. The tiny molecular key on SARS-CoV-2 gives the virus entry into the cell. This key is called a spike protein.
The structure of coronavirus is like a key and receptors on cells are like a lock. Theoretically, they provide an entry point to a thief (virus) into a house (body cells) through a lock (receptors).
Q: How to prevent the virus from spreading further although it has infected lakhs the world over during the last 6 months and threatens to attack more till a vaccine is discovered?
A: First of all, we should understand the Coronavirus structure, method of its spread, mechanism to replicate and organs it damages, whom all it affects the most, how to contain it and myths about it.
The virus can be prevented transmitting from person to person, entering body and replicating in cells by wearing mask, washing hands repeatedly, keeping 4-6 feet distance from others, toilet hygiene and avoid travelling.
As Covid-19 is an air born droplet infection, millions of its viruses are thrown out in small droplet forms at 166km per hour speed when an infected person sneezes. When a person coughs, many larger droplets with billions of the virus are thrown out at 100km per hour from mouth.
Larger droplets fall on a person’s face standing even at three feet or on objects around. Hence, wearing mask is mandatory for everyone.
The three-layer surgical masks doctors and nurses wear are not enough to protect them from Coronavirus. They need N95 or N99 masks with 7 layers to prevent the virus infecting them. Face protection shields are better for all healthcare warriors.
As N95 or N99 masks are costly and meant for medical staff, citizens can wear a home-made cloth mask. They should be changed every 4-6 hours after dipping them in antiseptic solution for 15 minutes, washed and dried in sunlight, as ultraviolet rays sterilise them.
Those who ignored wearing mask and not maintained physical distance were the most infected by the pandemic, as evident from the whopping number of cases in all countries the world over, including the US, Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa, Peru, Mexico, Chile, the UK and Iran.
Social distancing has to be maintained as a person standing even 3 feet of an infected being is sprayed with millions of viruses, as smaller droplets float in the air up to 33 feet.
If an infected person is in an enclosure like an office, mall, community hall or party hall, the virus spreads to everyone present, as it happened in South Korea, where a single infected lady from Wuhan spread it 900 people in a church.
Hence, large gatherings in grounds, religious places, movie halls, malls, schools, colleges, stadiums and markets have been banned to prevent the virus spread.
Repeated hand wash is also compulsory for infected as well as non-infected persons to prevent the virus spread.
The fat covering (lipid capsule) over the Coronavirus gets destroyed in soap water and sugar (carbohydrate) molecule that helps to disguise gets dissolved in water. By rubbing hands, the thorns (spikes) on the surface get damaged making it impossible for the virus to stick or enter body cells as key to the lock.
Toilet hygiene is most important as the virus shred from 22-feet long small intestine can contaminate toilets. Stool and farts contain billions of coronaviruses and can infect anyone using common toilets. While community toilets were sealed in cities like Seattle in the US, open defecation is banned in India.
The reason for avoid travelling is that an estimated 4.5-lakh infected people travelled from China to the US, especially New York, spreading the Coronavirus. Travelling increases transmission of the infection.
Going out of house unnecessarily to market or visiting relatives and friends, especially by a infected person can trigger community transmission, which is the most dangerous phase of the virus, as it will double or treble the cases, making it impossible for any government or healthcare system to contain it.
Senior citizens and elders with comorbid conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, bronchial asthma, cancer, kidney diseases and other chronic debilitating diseases with immune compromised state should stay at home till the virus is found to treat it, as mortality in them is very high.
Q: What are signs and symptoms of Corona infection and how fatal it is?
A: If a person is not able to smell anything or taste sugar or salt and is having fever with a bitter tongue, he or she should immediately take a Covid test, as they are signs or symptoms of Corona infection. If the test shows positive, it indicates that the virus has entered the body through nose, eyes or mouth into cells of mucus membrane and replicated inside the body cells.The patient will have mild fever, body ache, throat irritation and dry cough for 3-4 days without sense of smell and taste. The virus enters lungs or stomach through nose or throat and causes viral pneumonia, abdominal pain and loose motions from 5-7th day.
The virus replicate in lung cells leading to breathlessness, fatigue and drop in saturation from 8-10th day. At this stage, steroid inhalations or nasal spray are useful. An x-ray will show the damaged lungs while pulse oxymeter indicates drop in oxygen saturation.
As the virus spreads from lungs to heart, brain, kidney and all blood vessels by 14th day, it causes multi-organ failure and eventual death.
Q: How quarantine helps in preventing or treating the virus?
A: Those coming from hot spots like Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi to Karnataka have to undergo 14-day quarantine, including a week institutional and a week at home because they may not show the symptoms on arrival but develop after 3-4 days. If they test positive, they are shifted to a designated hospital for treatment. If they are asymptomatic, they get quarantined at home or a Covid care centre to recover. (IANS)

Nature study identifies 21 existing drugs that could treat COVID-19

Multiple drugs improve the activity of remdesivir, a current standard-of-care treatment for COVID-19 A Nature study authored by a global team of scientists and led by Sumit Chanda, Ph.D., professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, has identified 21 existing drugs that stop the replication of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The scientists analyzed one of the world’s largest collections of known drugs for their ability to block the replication of SARS-CoV-2, and reported 100 molecules with confirmed antiviral activity in laboratory tests. Of these, 21 drugs were determined to be effective at concentrations that could be safely achieved in patients. Notably, four of these compounds were found to work synergistically with remdesivir, a current standard-of-care treatment for COVID-19.  “Remdesivir has proven successful at shortening the recovery time for patients in the hospital, but the drug doesn’t work for everyone who receives it. That’s not good enough,” says Chanda, director of the Immunity and Pathogenesis Program at Sanford Burnham Prebys and senior author of the study. “As infection rates continue to rise in America and around the world, the urgency remains to find affordable, effective, and readily available drugs that can complement the use of remdesivir, as well as drugs that could be given prophylactically or at the first sign of infection on an outpatient basis.” Extensive testing conducted  In the study, the research team performed extensive testing and validation studies, including evaluating the drugs on human lung biopsies that were infected with the virus, evaluating the drugs for synergies with remdesivir, and establishing dose-response relationships between the drugs and antiviral activity. Of the 21 drugs that were effective at blocking viral replication, the scientists found: 13 have previously entered clinical trials for other indications and are effective at concentrations, or doses, that could potentially be safely achieved in COVID-19 patients. Two are already FDA approved: astemizole (allergies), clofazamine (leprosy), and remdesivir has received Emergency Use Authorization from the agency (COVID-19). Four worked synergistically with remdesivir, including the chloroquine derivative hanfangchin A (tetrandrine), an antimalarial drug that has reached Phase 3 clinical trials.  “This study significantly expands the possible therapeutic options for COVID-19 patients, especially since many of the molecules already have clinical safety data in humans,” says Chanda. “This report provides the scientific community with a larger arsenal of potential weapons that may help bring the ongoing global pandemic to heel.”  The researchers are currently testing all 21 compounds in small animal models and “mini lungs,” or lung organoids, that mimic human tissue. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to discuss a clinical trial(s) evaluating the drugs as treatments for COVID-19. “Based on our current analysis, clofazimine, hanfangchin A, apilimod and ONO 5334 represent the best near-term options for an effective COVID-19 treatment,” says Chanda. “While some of these drugs are currently in clinical trials for COVID-19, we believe it’s important to pursue additional drug candidates so we have multiple therapeutic options if SARS-CoV-2 becomes drug resistant.” Screening one of the world’s largest drug libraries The drugs were first identified by high-throughput screening of more than 12,000 drugs from the ReFRAME drug repurposing collection—the most comprehensive drug repurposing collection of compounds that have been approved by the FDA for other diseases or that have been tested extensively for human safety. Arnab Chatterjee, Ph.D., vice president of medicinal chemistry at Calibr and co-author on the paper, says ReFRAME was established to tackle areas of urgent unmet medical need, especially neglected tropical diseases. “We realized early in the COVID-19 pandemic that ReFRAME would be an invaluable resource for screening for drugs to repurpose against the novel coronavirus,” says Chatterjee.  The drug screen was completed as rapidly as possible due to Chanda’s partnership with the scientist who discovered the first SARS virus, Kwok-Yung Yuen, M.D., chair of Infectious Diseases at the University of Hong Kong; and Shuofeng Yuan, Ph.D., assistant research professor in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, who had access to the SARS-CoV-2 virus in February 2020.  About the ReFrame library  ReFRAME was created by Calibr, the drug discovery division of Scripps Research, under the leadership of President Peter Shultz, Ph.D., with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It has been distributed broadly to nonprofit collaborators and used to identify repurposing opportunities for a range of disease, including tuberculosis, a parasite called Cryptosporidium and fibrosis.  A global team  The first authors of the study are Laura Riva, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow in the Chanda lab at Sanford Burnham Prebys; and Shuofeng Yuan at the University of Hong Kong, who contributed equally to the study. Additional study authors include Xin Yin, Laura Martin-Sancho, Naoko Matsunaga, Lars Pache, Paul De Jesus, Kristina Herbert, Peter Teriete, Yuan Pu, Courtney Nguyen and Andrey Rubanov of Sanford Burnham Prebys; Jasper Fuk-Woo Chan, Jianli Cao, Vincent Poon, Ko-Yung Sit and Kwok-Yung Yuen of the University of Hong Kong; Sebastian Burgstaller-Muehlbacher, Andrew Su, Mitchell V. Hull, Tu-Trinh Nguyen, Peter G. Schultz and Arnab K. Chatterjee of Scripps Research; Max Chang and Christopher Benner of UC San Diego School of Medicine; Luis Martinez-Sobrido, Wen-Chun Liu, Lisa Miorin, Kris M. White, Jeffrey R. Johnson, Randy Albrecht, Angela Choi, Raveen Rathnasinghe, Michael Schotsaert, Marion Dejosez, Thomas P. Zwaka and Adolfo Garcia-Sastre of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; Ren Sun of UCLA; Kuoyuan Cheng of the National Cancer Institute and the University of Maryland; Eytan Ruppin of the National Cancer Institute; Mackenzie E. Chapman, Emma K. Lendy and Andrew D. Mesecar of Purdue University; and Richard J. Glynne of Inception Therapeutics.

Dr. Babu Prasad, A Retired Anesthesiologist Donates $1M To St. John’s NICU

Dr. Babu Prasad’s recent $1 million donation to the HSHS St. John’s Foundation for the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) at St. John’s Children’s Hospital is his love letter to the hospital and community. “I am giving back to a hospital, a community and a country that I dearly love,” Prasad said Thursday at a press conference at the hospital. “Springfield is a beautiful city and a wonderful place to live. I gave this contribution because I want Springfield to continue to grow, to bring new jobs here and to build upon the excellent medical community and medical services that we all enjoy. “Children are our future, so I wanted to direct my gift to the neonatal intensive care unit to give the babies a healthy start to their lives.” Dr. Babu Prasad came to the United States in 1971 after graduating from medical school in India with no money. But Prasad became a successful anesthesiologist, including an 18-year stay at HSHS St. John’s Hospital, where he retired in 2004. Prasad joined St. John’s in 1986. He still works two weeks per month at Interventional Pain Management Specialist in Carterville, Ill. In October, St. John’s began a $19 million renovation and expansion of the NICU to provide single-family patient rooms for premature and critically-ill infants.The project will more than double the size of the NICU, taking it from 15,000 square feet to 36,500. It will open in February. Each year, approximately 2,000 babies are born at St. John’s Children’s Hospital. The NICU cares for about 700 babies annually from a 35-county area. “Dr. Prasad’s gift is a beautiful testament as to who he is as a person,” said Beverly Neisler, chief development officer for the HSHS St. John’s Foundation. “He is a generous and kind man who has built a successful life through his hard work, dedication and determination.“Today, St. John’s and our most vulnerable patients are benefiting from his generosity. It’s a wonderful day for St. John’s Children’s. “He means so much to all of us.” Neisler said Prasad has been “a consistent donor” of the NICU. “He wanted to make a difference for Springfield and he wanted to make a difference for St. John’s,” Neisler added. “He has a real heart for babies and we’re delighted that he does.” “Donors, like Dr. Prasad, make all the difference by giving so generously to provide exceptional care and comfort to our most vulnerable patients,” said E.J. Kuiper, president and chief executive officer of HSHS Illinois. Dr. Beau Batton, director of newborn services at St. John’s Children’s, pointed out that the hospital was one of the first in the state to have a unit dedicated to the exclusive care of premature babies. “The NICU renovation, made possible through generous contributions, like of those of Dr. Prasad, will allow St. John’s to remain in the forefront of innovative, high quality care,” Batton said. Prasad called coming to the U.S. nearly 50 years “a golden opportunity. “It felt like heaven,” he added. “There was no comparison to India in the 1970s.” Prasad passed an exam given by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) that granted him a residency in the U.S. “It was the first time I saw TV,” said Prasad, who was 24 when he came to the U.S. Prasad first worked in Canton, Ohio, before moving to the University of Illinois Chicago, where he completed his anesthesiology residency. He practiced for 10 years in Alabama before coming to Springfield. Prasad has three children, including two daughters who followed him into medicine, and six grandchildren. “I was so pleased this project came up and I was able to do it,” Prasad said. “Those who can afford it have to step in and contribute. “I was amazed. This place looks beautiful. Springfield has the best medical community in the country.”

Skypass Foundation Charters U.S. Airline To Repatriate Indian Citizens During Pandemic

The Skypass Foundation, part of the Dallas-based Skypass Group of Companies, chartered a United Airlines plane Wednesday to repatriate more than 150 Indian citizens stranded in the U.S. because of the pandemic. The one-way flight took off in the evening from Newark Airport in New Jersey heading to the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi.
 
Priority was given to seniors and families with young children who needed to return to India for urgent medical treatment or death emergencies and to those with expired U.S. visas. Other Indian citizens eligible to travel, based on the Embassy of India’s rules and regulations, were also on the flight.”The Skypass Group has served the South Asian community for more than three decades,” said Founder & CEO Victor Abraham. “While we have been deeply impacted during this pandemic, our mission has always been to transport passengers back to their homes so that they can be reunited with their families, especially during these turbulent times.”

On July 4th, another private charter flight (Etihad Airways) transported 300 passengers from Chicago to Mumbai. Employees and their families of some of the top global technology and professional services companies were on that flight, which was the first passenger charter plane approved to repatriate stranded citizens from the U.S. to India.

The Skypass Foundation, as part of its mission & humanitarian activities complementing its efforts to provide resources, education and support to those impacted by major medical challenges, has led both these efforts. The Foundation collaborated with both public and private sector agencies in the U.S. and India to accomplish these undertakings. 

Indian couple sues USCIS for work permit delays

An Indian couple waiting in a years-long backlog for a green card has initiated a lawsuit against the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) over delays in sending approved printed work permits, a media report said.
Filed in Ohio federal court on Wednesday, the lawsuit on behalf of Ranjitha Subramanya, claims that the USCIS is arbitrarily refusing to print work permit cards after approving them, leaving visa-holders unable to show their American employers that they are authorized to work in the US, the American Bazaar said in the report on Friday.
Subramanya, an Indian citizen came to the US on an H-1B specialty occupation visa to work at Nationwide Insurance.
She later changed her status to an H-4 visa, reserved for spouses of H-1B holders, through her husband’s H-1B visa, which is valid through June 2023, according to the lawsuit.
According to Subramanya’s lawyer, Robert H. Cohen, her husband, also an Indian citizen, has an approved green card petition, but the couple is stuck in a green card backlog.
Subramanya applied to extend her H-4 work permit in December 2019, and USCIS approved the request in April. Typically, the printed card is issued within a few days of the approval, the suit says.
However, despite multiple calls and requests to the agency, Subramanya still didn’t have her printed card by June, when her previous work permit expired, the American Bazaar report quoted the lawsuit as saying.
She was forced to leave her job then, and her employer has told her that she will be terminated permanently if she does not have her work permit by August.
Cohen told the media that the lawsuit was “born out of extreme frustration”.
“We’ve made every effort that we could, but USCIS is not a user-friendly agency anymore,” he was quoted as saying. “We had just reached the end of what we could do short of filing a lawsuit.”
The suit also argues that USCIS is depriving foreign workers of the work permits they are legally owed in violation of their constitutional rights, and alleges that the agency is sitting on a backlog of at least 75,000 unprinted employment authorization documents, or EADs.
The current production backlog is roughly 115,000 green cards and employment authorization documents, CNN reported citing a USCIS spokesperson, with the oldest pending card order in the queue from July 6.
Earlier, a group of 174 Indian nationals, including seven minors, has filed a lawsuit against the recent presidential proclamation on H-1B that would prevent them from entering the United States or a visa would not be issued to them.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson at the US District Court in the District of Columbia issued summonses on Wednesday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F Wolf, along with Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia.
The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court on Tuesday last week. “The proclamation 10052’s H-1B/H-4 visa ban hurts the United States’ economy, separates families and defies the Congress. While the two former points render it unseemly, the latter point renders it unlawful,” said the lawsuit filed by lawyer Wasden Banias on behalf of the 174 Indian national
The lawsuit seeks an order declaring the presidential proclamation restriction on issuing new H-1B or H4 visas or admitting new H-1B or H-4 visa holders as unlawful. It also urges the court to compel the Department of State to issue decisions on pending requests for H-1B and H-4 visas.
In his presidential proclamation on June 22, Trump temporarily suspended issuing of H-1B work visas till the end of the year.
“In the administration of our nation’s immigration system, we must remain mindful of the impact of foreign workers on the United States labor market, particularly in the current extraordinary environment of high domestic unemployment and depressed demand for labor,” said the proclamation issued by Trump.
 

Why the Trump administration’s anti-immigration policies are the United States’ loss and the rest of the world’s gain By Britta Glennonn, an Assistant Professor at the Wharton School of Business – University of Pennsylvania

On June 22, the Trump administration announced expansive new bans on worker visas—in addition to an extension of restrictions on new green cards–under the premise of protecting American jobs and spurring economic recovery in the United States. But the announcement—which is only one in the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to block legal immigration, beginning with the “Buy American Hire American” executive order in 2017—is likely to have precisely the opposite effect: sending jobs, innovation, investment, and economic growth abroad instead.
1. These actions will motivate companies to move jobs out of the U.S.
Prominent American companies like Duolingo and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) have already announced that, rather than rescinding offers to those affected by the new visa rules, they will simply move those jobs to Canada or elsewhere. And they are not outliers, nor is this without precedent. In a recent paper, I show that U.S. multinational companies have already offshored tens of thousands of jobs and opened new foreign affiliates in response to H-1B visa restrictions much less severe than those being implemented now. The countries that benefited the most at the time—and are likely to benefit once again now—were China, India, and Canada. I find that U.S. multinational companies particularly increased employment in those three locations in response to the growing constraints of the H-1B visa cap, even as U.S.-based employment at the same firms remained flat. That response is likely to be amplified under the much more restrictive regime being put into place now, particularly as remote work becomes more common. In other words, rather than going to Americans, those jobs are likely to go to another country.
2. Entrepreneurial immigrants will start businesses outside of the U.S.
Nearly half of all Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their childrenA quarter of all new firms are created by immigrantsResearch shows that not only are immigrants 80 percent more likely than Americans to start new firms, but that the higher propensity to start new firms applies to all firm sizes. As a result, immigrants act more as “job creators” than “job takers;” immigrant-founder firms create 42 percent more jobs than native-founder firms. So, if immigrants originally destined for the U.S. instead choose to go to Canada—for example—instead, they also create new jobs for Canadians, rather than for Americans.
3. Investors will seek investment opportunities elsewhere.
Jobs are not all that will go to other countries as a result of these expansive visa bans. Foreign investment is tightly linked to immigration; even ancestral links from immigration a century ago continue to drive foreign investment today. Innovation is also tightly linked to immigration. Immigrants patent at double the native rate, increase firm patenting, and enhance the innovativeness of native scientists by introducing new and complementary knowledge and ideas. History provides a clear example of what happens to American innovation when immigration flows are restricted; immigration quotas in the 1920s caused a significant decline in American innovation—at least in part because Americans were actually less innovative without immigrants around. Furthermore, Israeli science benefited when at least some scientists moved there instead. Halting immigration will not only reduce innovation and investment in the U.S., but will likely send that innovation and investment to countries that welcome foreign talent with open arms.
President Trump’s order to block hundreds of thousands of immigrants from working in the U.S. will not improve unemployment for American citizens. It will not aid economic recovery. Instead, it will send jobs, innovation, and investment—and hence economic growth—to those countries who are not so shortsighted as to ban the very people who are instrumental in ensuring America’s future economic prosperity.

Green Card Wait Time for Indians Could Increase to 450 Years

The wait time for green cards for Indian professionals stuck in the “awful, hellish green card backlog” could go up from the current 195 years to 450 years in ten years without a comprehensive reform of the immigration system, a Republican senator has warned.
Senator Mike Lee said July 22: “By the time we stretch this (backlogs) out to 2030, the 195-year backlog I mentioned a moment ago would be extended out to a 400- to 450-year backlog.”
He said that for those filing for green cards “in 2020, the wait for an EB2 green card is not, in fact, 20 to 30 years for an Indian national. What is it, then? Is it 30? Is it 40, 50, 60? No, it is much longer than that. It is 195 years. This means that someone from India entering the backlog today would have to wait 195 years to receive an EB3 green card.”
EB2 green cards – the permanent immigration visa leading to citizenship – are for those with advanced degrees and EB3 for skilled and professional workers.
The annual green card quota for India and most countries is about 26,000.
Lee gave these wait times while opposing a Democratic bill that would protect the children of those on H1-B and other employment visas who are waiting for their green cards from being deported when they turn 21.
He said that with such long wait times, the children would not be able to qualify for green cards in their lifetimes and, instead, a comprehensive reform is needed.
When children turn 21, they are no longer considered dependents and will lose their visa status based on their parents’ visas as well as their claim to a green card, and the Protect Children of Immigrant Workers Act proposed by Democrat Senator Dick Durbin seeks to remedy this.
While the cause of children who came to the U.S. illegally has a lot of political support, the children who came in legally but reached adulthood has been under the radar and Durbin’s bill proposes a parallel remedy.
Durbin said that without increasing the total number of green cards, it would not be possible to deal with the huge backlogs and the decades-long wait times.
He said, “Just do the math; 140,000 EB (employment) visas and 226,000 family visas per year and 5 million people waiting. If you think you can solve this without changing the number of green cards, you can’t.”
He said that Lee told him that many Republicans opposed increasing the number of green cards that can be issued in a year.
Durbin’s bill would also allow H1-B visa-holders to file early for green cards, freeing them to switch jobs without being held down by the employers who sponsored them for the visa.
One of the compromises offered in Durbin’s bill is to restrict H1-B visas for outsourcing companies.
It would prohibit a company from hiring additional H-1B workers in the future if the company’s workforce is more than 50 employees and more than 50 percent of those are temporary workers.
He said that eight of the top ten companies getting H1-B visas were outsourcing companies. Defending his opposition to Durbin’s bill, Lee said that the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act he and Democratic Senator Kamala Harris have proposed would protect children, protects widows and widowers of H1-B visa-holders, while expediting green cards for all high-skilled immigrants.
A version of the bill that would lift national quotas to allow Indian applicants for green cards to get access to more immigration visas has been passed by the House of Representatives, but has been blocked by Durbin and two Republicans.
Durbin has said that lifting the national quota restrictions would only increase the wait times for other countries unless the number of green cards is increased.

One in Five People in India Jobless after Covid Lockdown

After the easing of the Covid lockdown in the country, one out of five people has been rendered jobless, as per the IANS-CVoter Covid-19 Tracker conducted among a sample size of 1,723. According to the survey, 21.57 percent of people have either completely laid off work or are out of work. The survey also indicated that 25.92 percent of people are still working under regulations and safety measures with same income or salary while 7.09 percent people are working from home without having any cut in salary. The central government had imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 25, while the process of unlocking was started from June 1. This survey was done from June 24 to July 22, focusing on the status of the main wage earner of the family. According to the survey, income of 8.33 percent people have decreased but they are working under regulations and safety measures, while 8 percent people who are working from home also faced salary cuts or decrease in income. The survey also indicated that 6.12 percent people in the country are left with no income after the lockdown was eased, while 1.20 percent people are still working but not getting any salary. The current survey findings and projections are based on CVoter daily tracking poll conducted among 18+ adults statewide.

PM Modi delivers keynote address at United Nations Economic and Social Council session

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi delivered a keynote address virtually at this year’s High-Level Segment of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) session on Friday, 17th July 2020 at the United Nations in New York. This was the first address by PM to the broader UN membership since India’s overwhelming election as a non-permanent member of the Security Council on 17th June, for the term 2021-22.
The theme of the High-Level Segment of the ECOSOC this year is “Multilateralism after COVID19: What kind of UN do we need at the 75th anniversary”.
Coinciding with the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the UN, this theme also resonates with India’s priority for its forthcoming membership of theUN Security Council. Prime Minister reiterated India’s call for a ‘reformed multilateralism’ in a post-COVID-19 world, which reflects the realities of the contemporary world.
In his address, PM recalled India’s long association with the ECOSOC and the UN’s developmental work, including for the Sustainable Development Goals. He noted that India’s developmental motto of ‘SabkaSaath, SabkaVikaas, Sabka Vishwas’ resonates with the core SDG principle of leaving no one behind.
Prime Minister pointed out that India’s success in improving the socio-economic indicators of its vast populationhas a significant impact on global SDG targets.He spoke about India’s commitment to also support other developing countries in meeting their SDG targets.
He spoke about India’s ongoing development efforts, including for improving access to sanitation through the “Swacch Bharat Abhiyan”, empowering women, ensuring financial inclusion, and expanding availability of housing and healthcare through flagship schemes such as the “Housing for All” programme and the “Ayushman Bharat” scheme.
Prime Minister also highlighted India’s focus on environmental sustainability and bio-diversity conservation, and recalled India’s leading role in the establishment of the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.
Speaking about India’s role in its region as a first responder, Prime Minister recalled the support provided by the Indian government and Indian pharma companies for ensuring medicine supplies to different countries, and for coordinating a joint response strategy among SAARC countries.
This was the second time that Prime Minister addressed the ECOSOC. He had earlier delivered the keynote address at the 70thanniversary of the ECOSOC in January 2016.
This year we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. It is an occasion to recognise the UN’s many contributions to human progress. It is also an opportunity to assess the UN’s role and relevance in today’s World: PM @narendramodi

Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda Led AAPI Team Commits to Take AAPI to Newer Heights

(Chicago, IL: July 20th, 2020) A new Executive Committee led by Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, as the 37th President of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) assumed charge of this nearly four decades old organization representing the nearly 80,000 Indian American Physicians and Fellows, during the first ever Virtual Change of Guard Ceremony on Saturday, July 11, 2020.

Others who constitute the Executive Committee include, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President-Elect; Dr. Ravi Kolli, Vice President, Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Secretary of AAPI; Dr. Satish Kathula,  Treasurer of AAPI, Dr. Sajani Shah, Chair of AAPI’s BOT; Dr. Ami Baxi, YPS President; Dr. Kinjal Solanki, MSRF President; and Dr. Surendra Purohit, Chair of AAPI Charitable Foundation.

“I will work to make AAPI stronger, more vibrant, united, transparent, politically engaged, ensuring active participation of young physicians, increasing membership, and enabling that AAPI’s voice is heard in the corridors of power,” Dr. Jonnalagadda, announced immediately after being administered the oath of office.

 

Dr. Jonnalgadda has vowed to take the nearly four decades old organization to the next level and “bring all the AAPI Chapters, Regions, Members of the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees to work cohesively and unitedly for the success of AAPI and the realization of its noble mission.”  He wants to increase AAPI membership by offering more benefits and opportunities for mem­bers. 

The new team will lead AAPI the largest ethnic Medical Organization in the United States, in the year 2020-2021, serving the interests of the Indian American physicians in the US and in many ways contributing to the shaping of the healthcare delivery in the US for the past 37 years. “AAPI must be responsive to its members, supportive of the leadership and a true advocate for our mission,” he said.

Dr. Jonnalagadda, born in a family of Physicians, aspired to be physicians and dedicate their lives for the greater good of humanity. “I am committed to serving the community and help the needy. That gives me the greatest satisfaction in life,” he said modesty.  Ambitious and wanting to achieve greater things in life, Dr. Jonnalagadda has numerous achievements in life. He currently serves as the President of the Medical Staff at the Hospital. And now, “being elected as the President of AAPI is greatest achievement of my life,”

Dr. Anupama Yeluru Gotimukula, President-Elect, AAPI, who will be the President of AAPI in the year 2021-22, says, “We are going through a deadly pandemic now. AAPI members are putting their best efforts to help our patients, especially those impacted by COVID. Several of our physicians have been affected in this pandemic. Our healthcare heroes are putting their lives on frontline  and working in every possible way to eradicate COVID-19, through preventive efforts, clinical, therapeutic and research trials, doing philanthropic services and many more other activities to help the community! 

Dr. Gotimukula, a resident of San Antonio, TX, is a board certified Pediatric Anesthesiologist and is affiliated with Christus Santa Rosa Health System-San Antonio, and has been in practice in San Antonio for nearly 13 years. After graduating with distinction from Kakatiya Medical College, NTR Univ of Health Sciences, she completed her Residency from University of Miami, Fellowship in Pediatric Anesthesiology from University of Michigan.

Beginning her long association with AAPI as a volunteer at one of the Governing Body Meetings in San Antonio in 2009, which motivated her to become a life member of AAPI. Inspired by the great works being done by AAPI, she started the leadership track at local level as Treasurer of TIPSSW chapter. Her passion, dedication, leadership and people skills made her  President of Texas Indo-American Physician Society (TIPSSW Chapter) and had served as the Treasurer of AAPI Convention in San Antonio ( 2014) which was the stepping stone to Anupama to serve several  leadership roles in AAPI. Dr. Gotimukula served as Regional Director of AAPI for 2 years, served as the IT Chair and later on, she was elected as the Treasurer of AAPI  in 2017, Secretary (2018), Vice President (2019) with huge majority and is currently serving as President-Elect. 

With a vision to make AAPI financially strong, Dr. Gotimukula was instrumental in creating $250,000 Endowment Fund for operations in 2020, with a goal to reach $2.5 Million in the next five years. Another area, she wants to focus is to offer CMEs & Educational & Leadership Seminars for Members,  to help build a healthier community & address the common ailments in the community through AAPI “YouTube Channel” and provide education to the larger community on health related issues.

In addition, Dr. Gotiumukula wants to provide Educational Projects in India by forming a Medical Student Council in India and help mentor them to get the best medical education in India and abroad. Organized Medicine on Healthcare Reforms by being proactive in collaboration with AMA and other similar organizations, ensuring Policy Changes in Healthcare delivery . Philanthropy by regularly organizing Medical Mission Service trips, serving the needy in the most rural areas in  India and other countries, are some of the other interests , Dr. Gotimukula wants to undertake while serving in leadership roles at AAPI. “We dedicate our professional expertise and services to both India (Janmabhoomi) and the United States, (Karmabhoomi).”

While dedicating her talents, skills, and experiences for the AAPI family, which she has come to call as her own, Dr. Gotimukula says, “I am looking  forward to get the best wishes & blessings from our members in my pursuit to lead this prestigious organization and do the best to our physician community and save the human race.”

Dr. Ravi Kolli, Vice President of AAPI is a Board Certified Psychiatrist with additional qualifications in Addiction, Geriatric and Forensic Psychiatry, and serves as Psychiatric Medical Director of Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Services. A former Clinical Asst. Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh and West Virginia University, Dr. Kolli had served as the Secretary of AAPI 2019-20, Regional Director of AAPI 2017-18, Past President of Pittsburgh Chapter of AAPI (TAPI), Past President of Rangaraya Medical College Alumni of North America and as the Past President of Association of Telugu Medical Graduates in USA

“In my role as the Vice President of AAPI, I will be working closely with President and President Elect of AAPI to make AAPI a more dynamic and  vibrant organization playing a meaningful and relevant part in advocating health policies and practices that best serve the interests of all patients  and  promoting the  physician’s role   as  the  leaders of the  team based health care delivery,” Dr. Kolli says. 

As the Chair of Membership Committee, Dr. Kolli “Will diligently work to recruit new members to AAPI, especially the younger physicians and recent graduates. I will also be promoting the mission and vision of AAPI by working closely with AAPI’s 120 + patron Chapters to align all of our goals and activities and also bring in new Chapters into AAPI fold. 

A Psychiatrist by profession, Dr Kolli wants to “focus on battling the stigma of mental illness and  access to quality mental health care broadly. I will be forming liaison with mental health professionals in India and  globally and bring awareness of various biopsychosocial therapeutic options  to promote wellness and recovery from mental illness and substance use disorders.  We will also actively promote physician wellness and self care to address the challenges of physician burnout and suicide.” 

For Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Secretary of AAPI, it’s been a very long journey with AAPI, from being an ordinary member to a Regional Leader, Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees (BOT) and now being elected as the national Secretary of AAPI that he calls as his second family and has come to adore.  “Since my membership to AAPI In 1997, for more than two decades I have been a dedicated foot soldier for the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin,” Dr. Amit Chakrabarty is a Consultant Urologist, Poplar Bluff Urology, Past Chairman of Urologic Clinics of North Alabama P.C., and the Director of Center for Continence and Female Pelvic Health.

“It’s my belief that being an elected official of this noble organization, I will continue to give my heart and soul to make AAPI a more vibrant, united, transparent, politically engaged, ensuring active participation of young physicians, increasing membership, and enabling that AAPI’s voice is heard in the corridors of power,” Dr. Chakrabarty, a multi-talented physician says.

Dr. Chakrabarty wants to “Recognize the role of Young Physicians in AAPI, making AAPI financially sound, lobbying on Capitol Hill on policies important to AAPI, continuing partnership in health care education across the globe, making AAPI a global health leader, be part of the decision-making process of WHO and UN on health policies, are only some of the many goals I have for AAPI.”

Dr. Chkrabarty is “blessed to have imbibed the values of giving, leading, and being passionate about what I am committed to do, from my parents. My wife and children have encouraged me to take time off from work and family, devoting my talents and skills for the realization of the mission of AAPI. I have diverse experience and skills to achieve each of these goals, and I am committed to move AAPI forward by serving as AAPI’s National Secretary.”

Dr. Satheesh Kathula, the newly elected Treasurer of AAPI is a board certified hematologist and oncologist from Dayton, Ohio. Practicing Medicine for nearly two decades, Dr. Kathula is a clinical professor of medicine at Wright State University- Boonshoft school of medicine, Dayton, Ohio. He graduated from Siddhartha Medical College, Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, India in 1992. He has been actively involved in community service locally, nationally and internationally for the last 18 years. He has been awarded with the “Man of the year-2018, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’”

Dr. Kathula has served in numerous capacities, before being elected as the Treasurer of AAPI-2020-21. He had served as the Chair, IT Committee- 2019-20; Editor, Enewsletter-2019-20; a member of AAPI’s Board of Trustees- 2014-17; and Regional Director- 2012-14, in addition t several roles at the local and regional level.  He has served as the President and founding member of Association of Indian Physicians from Ohio; President, Miami Valley Association of Physicians of Indian Origin; President, ATMGUSA; and has worked with Ohio State Medical Association on various issues.

A recipient of several Community Service/Awards, Dr. Kathula says, “As a treasurer, I will keep custody of all accounts, receipts and disbursements, and make them transparent. Will work to make AAPI financially stronger and viable. I will work to strengthen Indo-US relations.”

At the national level, Dr. Kathula wants to “Make AAPI a mainstream organization and work on issues affecting physicians including physician shortage, burnout, and credentialing, while leveraging the strength of 100,000 doctors at legislative level.” Another area, he wants to work is to “Encourage and engage next generation/young physicians in AAPI activities. While working closely with other physician organizations such as AMA.”

In all of his efforts leading AAPI, Dr. Jonnalagadda wants to work with his executive committee and all branches of AAPI membership in a congenial and non-competitive manner, focusing on the noble mission of this prestigious organization. His experiences in organizing conferences and meetings which help to bring members together and attract new members is vital to the success of the organization.

With the changing trends and statistics in healthcare, both in India and US, we are refocusing our mission and vision, AAPI would like to make a positive meaningful impact on the healthcare delivery system both in the US and in India.

AAPI will continue to be an active player in crafting the delivery of healthcare in the most efficient manner in the United States and India. “We will strive for equity in healthcare delivery globally.” Dr. Jonnalagadda is confident that with the blessings of elders, and the strong support from the total membership of AAPI and his family, he will be able to take AAPI to stability, unity, growth and greater achievements.”

American Hindus Against Defamation Urges School Children to be Educated on Swastikas

American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD) an initiative of World Hindu Council of America (VHPA), has issued the following statement on NY State Senate Bill SS 6648: NY State Senate Bill SS 6648 sponsored by Senator Todd Kaminsky (D) 9TH SENATE DISTRICT and co-sponsored by Senators Joseph Addabbo Jr (D) 15TH SENATE DISTRICT, Alessandra Biaggi (D, WF) 34TH SENATE DISTRICT, John Brooks (D) 8TH SENATE DISTRICT, and David Carlucci (D) 38TH SENATE DISTRICT has a stated purpose to require that the New York school children be educated regarding the meaning of swastikas and nooses as symbols of hatred and intolerance.

Ajay Shah, Convenor of American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD), an initiative of World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) said that, “the proposed NY State Sentate Bill SS 6648 requiring instruction regarding symbols of hate to be incorporated into the curricula for grades six through twelve perpetuate ignorance and promotes HinduPhobia in schools across New York state. AHAD pledges to work with other Hindu organizations to ensure that this legislation is modified to remove the references to Swastika.”

American Jewish Committee (AJC) working with the VHPA and other Hindu organizations in Washington, DC has produced a brochure titled, “Understanding Swastika, Use and Abuse of a sacred symbol.” The AJC brochure quotes, the following from Declaration of the Second Hindu-Jewish Leadership Summit, held in February 2008, Jerusalem, “The Svastika is an ancient and greatly auspicious symbol of the Hindu tradition. It is inscribed on Hindu temples, ritual altars, entrances, and even account books.

A distorted version of this sacred symbol was misappropriated by the Third Reich in Germany, and abused as an emblem under which heinous crimes were perpetrated against humanity, particularly the Jewish people. The participants recognize that this symbol is, and has been sacred to Hindus for millennia, long before its misappropriation.” Shah said, “We believe that this brochure in itself is sufficient to remove Swastika from the purported purpose of this legislation.” Swastika is considered one of the most sacred symbols by religious traditions that evolved in India (dharmic traditions), including Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh faiths. The history of the Swastika is over 10,000 years old. It has appeared in several civilizations all throughout the world. From Greece and Rome to the Druids and Celts.

Today, the Swastika is an integral part of many cultures including India and East Asian cultures that adhere to Buddhism. It has regularly been donned on Hindu homes, businesses, temples, and other objects. Hindu families gather round to place it in front of their homes for good luck and protection. Unfortunately, 10,000 years of a symbol of wellbeing was desecrated by the monstrous regime of Nazi Germany, in the first half of the 20th century. Hitler perverted a symbol of goodness to fuel his agenda of hate. Utsav Chakrabarty,

World Hindu Council of America Director of Advocacy and Awareness said, “We acknowledge the horrid way the swastika has been misused and misinterpreted. Even though Hitler never used the word “Swastika”, and instead used the same symbol, calling it Hakenkreuz, for the past 70 years, the Swastika continues to remain a vilified and maligned symbol. This must be corrected. Instead of censoring the symbol, we must celebrate the positive history of it. We must reclaim it from Hitler and the followers of his hateful ideology. This wrong must be righted.”
 
To label the Swastika as a symbol of hate would be a grave insult to 1.8 billion Hindus and Buddhists around the world. It would be a grave insult to over 300,000 Hindu New Yorkers who come from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, and contribute immensely to the community and economy. Today’s political climate demonstrates the importance of diversity and celebrating ones’ heritage. Maligning this ancient heritage would be a step backwards in promoting interfaith harmony and would lead to increase in hate crimes and Hinduphobia. AHAD demands that the meaning and significance of Swastika be included in the educational curriculum so that the hate crimes against Hindus are not perpetuated.

(AHAD) is the first and the most prominent Hindu organization against defamation in the USA. An initiative of World Hindu Council of America (VHPA), AHAD has been actively monitoring mass media, products, public places etc. to ensure respectful and accurate representation of Hindu dharma, culture, images and icons. Active since 1997, hundreds of thousands of Hindus have participated in various advocacy activities led by AHAD.
World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) is the most prominent organization of Hindus in the USA. Founded in 1970, it has chapters across the country. VHPA runs educational programs for Hindu children and youth in addition to community service (Seva) activities, and initiatives such as Hindu Mandir Executives’ Conference (HMEC), Hindu Womens’ Network, American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD), Hindu Policy Research and Advocacy Collective USA (HinduPACT).

TK Mathew Announces Candidacy For Tax Collector

TK Mathew, a 20-year veteran businessman who’s lived in Hillsborough County since 1991, has announced his candidacy for Hillsborough County Tax Collector. Mr. Mathew believes that those who live in Hillsborough County pay for top-quality service and they deserve to get it. His years in the private sector have prepared him to take the Hillsborough county tax collector’s services to the next phase, with high efficiency and high quality in every aspect of the office’s operations around the county, making the Hillsborough County Tax Collector’s office, “the most modern, fast and efficient agency in the United States.”
In addition to his experience in the private sector, Mr. Mathew spent four years working for Mr. Belden in the Hillsborough county tax collector’s office. Because of this, he understands the challenges confronting both sides of the tax collection process. This crucial experience has given him a unique perspective and motivated him to enter the tax collector’s race with the hope of streamlining services and processes so that individuals, business owners, and the county are all better off.
Hillsborough County is growing rapidly, and we need to address new challenges and expand our service accordingly. Mr. Mathew would like to bring the latest technology available to our office so we can serve our citizens better and faster. He hopes to work with other agencies within the Hillsborough county government, to include if possible, opening satellite offices in underserved areas in Hillsborough County. He also intends to provide Hillsborough county’s almost 100,000 veterans, first responders, and law enforcement officers with expedited service as a thank you for their service to our nation and citizens.
In pursuit of this goal, Mr. Mathew has set forth a plan that includes opening more neighborhood locations to serve Hillsborough County taxpayers. In addition, he plans on hiring enough well qualified and trained representatives so that wait times are minimized and quality customer service becomes a greater priority.
Along with increasing the number of service locations and well qualified personnel, Mr. Mathew has made known his intention of restructuring the salary of all Tax Collector Office employees in order to increase employee retention and workplace quality. This will lead to greater customer service and customer satisfaction. “The Tax Collector’s office is spending millions in training new employees – and they’re leaving within short periods of time because of better paying jobs and other benefits offered by private sector employers. We need to pay them a fair wage for the work they’re doing because it’s important work. I would like to offer a better salary & benefits package which is equal to or better than the private sector employers for similar work because our employees deserve it and our citizens deserves quality customer service too,” he says.
Mr. Belden has said, “If it’s not broken, improve upon it.” This is TK Mathew’s motto as he enters the race for Hillsborough County Tax Collector. He believes that we have a good system in place that can be improved by increasing efficiency with newer technology and taking advantage of the existing resources with better management and training. He fully plans on taking the foundation we built up and improving upon it in every way possible to save money and save time for every single taxpayer in Hillsborough County.

Drive East 2020: Sanctuary Indian Dance and Music Festival August 9 – 16, 2020

Celebrating eight highly acclaimed New York seasons, Drive East’s ninth season will live stream to your living room in its first ever, fully virtual, global experience from August 9-16, 2020. From bharatanatyam to hindustani ghazals, kuchipudi to kathakali, and veena to sarod, there is something for everyone in this one-of-a-kind experience of Indian classical arts. Featuring seasoned artists alongside undiscovered gems from New York City, San Francisco, Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi, Assam and Kolkata, this year, Drive East offers the unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the unification of music and dance styles across cultures right from your home in this virtual, week-long movement.

“This year, Drive East pays a special homage to the importance of art & storytelling traditions: a universal sanctuary for expression and human connection. We wanted to draw connections from those traditions to what is going on in our world today.” says Co-Director, Sridhar Shanmugam. “With the world changing in drastic ways, Drive East 2020 is also about the importance of having access to these timeless art forms now, more than ever. The artists we have curated from around the world are grappling with what sanctuary means, both artistically and politically,” says Navatman Co-Director Sahasra Sambamoorthi.
“We want to examine just how the Indian classical arts can play a role in giving voice and safe spaces for expression during times of crisis,” adds Sambamoorthi.“ “This is also the first year we will be broadcasting the concerts in 4K UHD, giving patrons a completely different experience than some of the live streams happening now” continues Shanmugam. “Viewers will be able to tune in from all over the world, meet their favorite artists, engage with new exclusive content, and access a live theater experience through multiple angles and surround sound. We are calling back the temporal experience of art – these streams will not be accessible outside the scheduled concert times.”
Some of the highlights include Delhi-based Rama Vaidyanathan premiering “Back to the Stage” with collaborator and daughter Dakshina Vaidyanathan; their past duets have been described by the New York Times as “two sides of a coin.” Los Angeles-based Aditya Prakash (carnatic vocalist who has toured worldwide with Ravi Shankar, Anoushka Shankar, Karsh Kale, and Akram Khan) looks at what it means to foreign in the universal language of music. New York-based Hidayat Khan (a 7th generation sitar player hailing from a prestigious lineage of artists) presents an emotional exploration of what sitar can evoke. New Jersey-based Ramya Ramnarayan (with facial expressions that “rivets our attention” according to the New York Times) creates new bharatanatyam work on the bias of colorism in South Asian communities.
San Francisco-based Ganesh Vasudeva and Dancers perform a bharatanatyam interpretation of the famed Yann Martel novel, Life of Pi. Mesma Belsare (described by the New York Times as “a tour de force…a true act of transcendence…”) performs “What is Justice?” by choreographer Maya Kulkarni in response to the political upheaval going on right now. Chennai-based Ashwath Narayanan (named “Outstanding Vocalist” in the prestigious Music Academy in 2017, Chennai, and tours worldwide) examines caste privilege within classical music and curates a list of composers from different religious backgrounds.
A number of rare arts are featured at Drive East this year, including Anwesa Mahanta (awarded the Yuva Puruskar by the Sangeet Natak Akademi in 2014) presenting sattriya dance from the state of Assam, rarely seen in NYC or SF, Los Angeles-based Vijayalakshmi presenting mohiniyattam dance from the state of Kerala, with only a few California-based practitioners, and the sarangi by Delhi-based Kamal Sabri. The week also includes the performance of rarely-heard carnatic saxophone by Oakland-based Prasant Radhakrishnan.
Additional artists and performers for Drive East are: violin-duet by VV Subrahmanyam & VVS Murari (Chennai), live music and bharatanatyam dance by Navatman Dance Company (New York), a carnatic choir performance by Navatman Music Collective (New York), a hindustani vocal concert by Sandip Battacharjee (Kolkata), and a kathak concert by Jayeeta Dutta (Bangalore). Talk back sessions are interspersed throughout the week, highlighting the growth of Indian arts over the decades – particularly of note is the talk back session where artists and others in the field will discuss the the way politics shape or influence their art, in depth interviews with a number of artists, and talk of how the worldwide lockdown has changed the way they practice and perform their work.
Drive East is produced through Navatman, Inc. and supported in part by the Dance/NYC Coronavirus Dance Relief Fund. Drive East is also made possible by local partnerships with Nava Dance Theatre (San Francisco), Eyakkam Dance Company (Dallas), and a collaboration with technology company, APEtech. ABOUT NAVATMAN, INC. Navatman, Inc., led by Co- Artistic Directors Sridhar Shanmugam and Sahasra Sambamoorthi, is a performing arts organization that empowers the individual to nurture his or her personal evolution through interactions with the Indian classical arts. Founded with an eye towards creating a home for the Indian classical performing arts in NYC, Navatman is best known for our Manhattan based and now online classes, critically acclaimed productions, dynamic dance company, stellar music ensemble, and Drive East – a week long collaborative festival celebrating our mission.
Co-Director Sridhar Shanmugam received training at the Kalakshetra School of Dance — one of the most prestigious schools of dance in India — and his later training in Rangoli painting, modern and post-modern dance, acting, choreography, stage lighting, theatre and stage technique. For many years he toured internationally as the legendary dancer choreographer Chandralekha’s primary male artist and later worked with such famous artists as Pina Bausch, Suzanna Linke, Philip Glass and countless others, earning awards and accolades from the governments of India, Great Britain and Italy. He has taught extensively and conducted workshops at several leading institutions including Columbia University, New York University and the Brooklyn Museum of Arts. He maintains relationships with many of the top arts foundations such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center by serving on their boards and panels.
As choreographer, teacher, dancer and director, Co-Director Sahasra Sambamoorthi’s experience being born and raised in the diaspora only serves to widen her ability to connect with both Indian and non-Indian audiences. She has earned accolades and scholarships from the New Jersey State Council of the Arts Folk Arts Apprenticeship, and is seen by many as a trailblazer forging a new understanding of South Asian arts in the United States.

Bipasha Basu Believes In Self Love And Self Appreciation

Bollywood actor, Bipasha Basu believes in self love and self appreciation, going by her new social media post. The actress took to her verified Instagram profile and posted a picture of herself in a grey and black low-waist saree, paired with a bandeau blouse. “Self Appreciation Post #loveyourself #throwback,” she captioned the image. Bipasha’s husband and actor Karan Singh Grover dropped a romantic message from his verified account in the comment section. He gushed: “This is me appreciating yourself.” Recently, Bipasha shared that she is missing the energy and exuberance of performing in front of a live audience. She took to her verified Instagram account, where she shared a throwback picture of herself performing on stage. She said she cannot wait for it to happen soon. Bipasha and Karan, who worked together in the film “Alone”, tied the knot in April 2015. On the work front, the two will be seen sharing screen space in the upcoming film “Aadat”. Bipasha Basu took to Instagram to share a stunning monochrome picture from her modelling days. Sharing it, she said: “Looking at You.” In the picture, Bipasha is wrapped in a flowing gossamer white fabric, that obviously flatters her beautiful frame. The picture has been shot by the beachside. Among those who responded to her post was husband Karan Singh Grover, who asked: “Who me?” and later dropped a bunch of heart eyes emojis. Actor Neelan Kothari Soni too left red heart emojis in the comments section. Bipasha’s fans were full of praise for the actor writing “Awesome”, “Stunning” and “Nice” in the comments section. Another fan wrote: “I will die from your beauty.” While another fan responded, “Those legs could make nations fall!” Bipasha was in news recently when she reacted to Hindustan Unilever’s decision to drop “fair” from its products and had said she has been associated by the word “dusky” since childhood. She had written: “From the time I was growing up I heard this always, ‘Bonnie is darker than Soni.She is little dusky na?’ Even though my mother is a dusky beauty and I look a lot like her. I never knew why that would be a discussion by distant relatives when I was a kid. Soon at 15/ 16 I started modelling and then I won the supermodel contest … all newspapers read … dusky girl from Kolkata is the winner.I wondered again why Dusky is my first adjective?” She had added how her skin colour followed her to her modelling in New York and later in the Hindi film industry. She has continued, “Then I went to New York and Paris to work as a model and I realised my skin colour was exotic there and I got more work and attention because of it. Another discovery of mine:) Once I came back into India and film offers started… and finally I did my first film and from an absolute Ajnabee to Hindi film industry …I suddenly was accepted and loved. But the adjective stayed which I started liking and loving by then.DUSKY girl wows the audiences in her debut film.” Bipasha’s post had found favor with a lot of her fans and industry colleagues. Many like Neelam Kothari, Sophie Chowdry and Hrithik Roshan’s former sister-in-law Farah Ali Khan appreciated her honesty.

Passenger Flights From US To India To Resume July 23

The government of India has agreed to allow U.S. air carriers to resume passenger services in the U.S.-India market starting July 23, the U.S. Transportation Department said on Friday. The Indian government, citing the coronavirus, had banned all scheduled services, prompting the U.S. Transportation Department in June to accuse India of engaging in “unfair and discriminatory practices” on charter air carriers serving India. The Transportation Department said it was withdrawing an order it had issued requiring Indian air carriers to apply for authorization prior to conducting charter flights, and said it had approved an Air India application for passenger charter flights between the United States and India. A group representing major U.S. airlines and the Indian Embassy in Washington did not immediately comment on Friday. India‘s Ministry of Civil Aviation said on Twitter it was moving to “further expand our international civil aviation operations” and arrangements from some flights “with US, UAE, France & Germany are being put in place while similar arrangements are also being worked out with several other countries.” “Under this arrangement,” it added, “airlines from the concerned countries will be able to operate flights from & to India along with Indian carriers.” The U.S. Transportation Department order was set to take effect next week. The Trump administration said in June it wanted “to restore a level playing field for U.S. airlines” under the U.S.-India Air Transport Agreement. The Indian government had banned all scheduled services and failed to approve U.S. carriers for charter operations, it added. The U.S. government said in June that Air India had been operating “repatriation” charter flights between India and the United States in both directions since May 7.

FIA Officers Administered Oath of Office Virtually By Consul General Randhir Kumar Jaiswal

The new Board of Trustees of the Federation of Indian Association of NY, NJ, CT (FIA Tristate) led by Chairman Ankur Vai was sworn-in in a virtual oath ceremony by the new Consul General of India in New York, Randhir Kumar Jaiswal, barely a few hours after he arrived in New York on on July 19, 2020.

Vaidya is joined by Bipin Patel, as vice chairman and Jayesh Patel as the general secretary.  The current Board also consists of distinguished community stalwarts including Rambhai Gadhavi, Chandrakant Trivedi, Prabir Roy, Dr. Parvin Pandhi, Andy Bhatia, Srujal Parikh, Anand Patel, Dipak Patel and Kanubhai Chauhan. Longtime veteran community leader, Albert Jasani of Royal Alberts Palace serves as the Unifying-Unity Trustee of the group, along with Yash Paul Soi as Emeritus Vice Chairman for FIA’s Golden Jubilee Year.

Speaking as a newly sworn-in Chairman, Vaidya welcomed the new Consul General, announced his brief accomplishments and expressed his surprise and gratitude for Jaiswal to hit the ground running and sending a positive message to the Indian American community.

Prior to being appointed the Consul General of India in New York, Jaiswal was the Joint Secretary-cum-Social Secretary to the President of India Ramnath Kovind. A 1998 Indian Foreign Service officer, Jaiswal headed the foreign affairs office of the Rashtrapati Bhavan and advised the President on India’s foreign policy. Prior to that he served as the Consul General of India in Johannesburg in South Africa. He has also worked as a Counselor at India’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.

During a special meeting attended by FIA President Anil Bansal, Secretary Parveen Bansal, and 14 out of the 16 current Board members, immediately after the sudden passing away of its long time Chairman of the Board, Ramesh Patel, Mr. Vaidya was elected Chairman of FIA, the largest Indian American organization. Established in 1970, the FIA of the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut is one of the largest umbrella organizations in the Indian community. It represents over 500,000 strong and vibrant Asian-Indians who provide significant grass root support.

Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda Takes Oath As President of AAPI During Virtual “Change of Guard” Ceremony – Dr. Jonnalagadda Commits To Make AAPI Stronger, More Vibrant, And United

(Chicago, IL: July 12th, 2020)“I will work to make AAPI stronger, more vibrant, united, transparent, politically engaged, ensuring active participation of young physicians, increasing membership, and enabling that AAPI’s voice is heard in the corridors of power,” Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, immediately after assuming office as the  37th President of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) said on Saturday, July 11, 2020. Honorable Consul General of India in Atlanta, Swati Kulkarni introduced Dr. Jonnalagadda and offered her best wishes to the President of AAPI during the 1st ever Virtual Change of Guard Ceremony that was live cast on social media platforms around the world. In her address, she praised Dr. Jonnalagdda for his leadership and contributions  to the society. Describing AAPI as a world leader in Medical Education and Healthcare Delivery, Dr. Kulkarni urged AAPI to be more politically active. Along with the new President, a new executive committee members took oath. They included, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President-Elect; Dr. Ravi Kolli, Vice President, Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Secretary of AAPI; Dr. Satish Kathula,  Treasurer of AAPI, Dr. Sajani Shah, Chair of AAPI’s BOT; Dr. Ami Baxi, YPS President; Dr. Kinjal Solanki, MSRF President; and Dr. Surendra Purohit, Chair of AAPI Charitable Foundation. In his acceptance speech, Dr. Jonnalgadda has vowed to take the nearly four decades old organization to the next level and “bring all the AAPI Chapters, Regions, Members of the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees to work cohesively and unitedly for the success of AAPI and the realization of its noble mission.”  He wants to increase AAPI membership by offering more benefits and opportunities for mem­bers.  “AAPI has given me so much — networking, advocacy, and education — and I am honored to serve this noble organization.  I sincerely appreciate the trust you placed in me as the President of AAPI, and I am deeply committed to continue to work for you,” declared Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, the new President of AAPI. Dr. Jonnalagadda will lead AAPI as its President in the year 2020-2021, the largest Medical Organization in the United States, representing the interests of the over 100,000 physicians and Fellows of Indian origin in the United States, serving the interests of the Indian American physicians in the US and in many ways contributing to the shaping of the healthcare delivery in the US for the past 39 years. “AAPI must be responsive to its members, supportive of the leadership and a true advocate for our mission,” he said. Dr. Suresh Reddy, the out going President of AAPI through a video, presented some of the major accomplishments of his presidency under unique circumstances. Expressing gratitude to the AAPI fraternity for entrusting the role of leading AAPI, Dr. Reddy said, AAPI is stronger and is in safe hands, as he passed on the traditional gavel and the coat to the new President of AAPI.   Dr. Seema Arora, the out going Chair of AAPI Board of Trustees, shared her experiences while working with a dedicated Team of AAPI leaders, contributing to strengthen AAPI and help AAPI reach greater heights. Dr. Sajani Shah, the very first to be a second generation physician of Indian origin, assumed charge as the Chair of AAPI Board of Trustees. In her inaugural address, she promised to work with the entire AAPI Body, and help AAPI realize its mission. In his opening remarks, Hon. Amit Kumar, Consul General of India in Chicago and the Chief Guest at the event praised the contributions of Indian American Physicians. He lauded the efforts of AAPI especially during the COVID pandemic. He urged AAPI to collaborate in pharma sector and Ayushmaan Bharat as well as in telehealth related issues providing guidelines in collaboration with the MCA of India. While lauding g Dr. Reddy for his great accomplishments during the year of pandemic, Mr. Kumar offered his best wishes to the incoming President of AAPI, Dr. Jonnalagadda and Team. Dr. Stella Gandhi, the outgoing President of YPS, Dr. Pooja Kinkhbwala, the outgoing president of MSRF, Dr. Chander Kapasi, the outgoing president of AAPI CF were others who had addressed the audience.   A visual presentation of the history of “Change of Guard” took the AAPI members down the lane through its 37 tears of great historical growth under AAPI leaders. Earlier the event began with an Inter-Faith Prayer and Meditation, led by leaders of various Faiths and parying for several AAPI leaders who have been critically ill due to the pandemic and those who have lost their lives.   Dr. Jonnalagadda was born in a family of Physicians. His dad was a Professor at a Medical College in India and his mother was a Teacher. He and his siblings aspired to be physicians and dedicate their lives for the greater good of humanity. “I am committed to serving the community and help the needy. That gives me the greatest satisfaction in life,” he said modesty.  Ambitious and wanting to achieve greater things in life, Dr. Jonnalagadda has numerous achievements in life. He currently serves as the President of the Medical Staff at the Hospital. And now, “being elected as the President of AAPI is greatest achievement of my life,” As the President of AAPI, the dynamic physician from the state of Andhra Pradesh, wants to “develop a committee to work with children of AAPI members who are interested in medical school, to educate on choosing a school and gaining acceptance; Develop a committee to work with medical residents who are potential AAPI members, to educate on contract negotiation, patient communication, and practice management; Develop a committee to work with AAPI medical students, and to provide proctorship to improve their selection of medical residencies.” Dr. Jonnalagadda wants to emphasize the importance of Legislative Agenda both here in the US and overseas, benefitting the physicians and the people AAPI is committed to serve. According to him, “The growing clout of the physicians of Indian origin in the United States is seen everywhere as several physicians of Indian origin hold critical positions in the healthcare, academic, research and administration across the nation.” He is actively involved with the Indian community and member at large of the Asian Indian Alliance, which actively participates in a bipartisan way to support and fund electoral candidates.His vision for AAPI is to increase the awareness of APPI globally and help its voice heard in the corridors of power.  “I would like to see us lobby the US Congress and create an AAPI PAC and advocate for an increase in the number of available Residency Positions and Green Cards to Indian American Physicians so as to help alleviate the shortage of Doctors in the US.” .  A Board-Certified Gastroenterologist/Transplant Hepatologist, working in Douglas, GA, Dr. Jonnalagadda is a former Assistant Professor at the Medical College of Georgia. He was the President of Coffee Regional Medical Staff 2018, and had served as the Director of Medical Association of Georgia Board from 2016 onwards. He had served as the President of Georgia Association of Physicians of Indian Heritage 2007-2008, and was the past Chair of Board of Trustees, GAPI. He was the Chairman of the Medical Association of Georgia, IMG Section, and was a Graduate, Georgia Physicians Leadership Academy (advocacy training).   “AAPI and the Charitable Foundation has several programs in India. Under my leadership with the pioneering efforts of Dr. Surender Purohit, Chairman of AAPI CF, we will be able to initiate several more program benefitting our motherland, India,” Dr. Jonnalagadda said. Dr. Jonnalagdda expressed gratitude to his predecessor, Dr. Suresh Reddy and Dr. Anupama Gotimukula and the current Team for initiating the AAPI Endowment Fund, which he plans to strengthen during his presidency, making AAPI financially viable and stronger in the years to come.In all of his efforts, Dr. Jonnalagadda wants to work with his executive committee and all branches of AAPI membership in a congenial and non-competitive manner, focusing on the noble mission of this prestigious organization. His experiences in organizing conferences and meetings which help to bring members together and attract new members is vital to the success of the organization. Dr. Jonnalagadda is committed to upholding and further augment the ideals for which AAPI stands. “I am confident that my experience, work ethic and firsthand experience in organizing Conventions and fundraisers are best suited to carry on the responsibilities and lead this noble organization to new heights.”AAPI represents more than 100,000 physicians and fellows of Indian Origin in the US, and being their voice and providing a forum to its members to collectively work together to meet their diverse needs, is a major challenge. With the changing trends and statistics in healthcare, both in India and US, we are refocusing our mission and vision, AAPI would like to make a positive meaningful impact on the healthcare delivery system both in the US and in India. AAPI will continue to be an active player in crafting the delivery of healthcare in the most efficient manner in the United States and India. “We will strive for equity in healthcare delivery globally.” Dr. Jonnalagadda is confident that with the blessings of elders, and the strong support from the total membership of AAPI and his family, he will be able to take AAPI to stability, unity, growth and greater achievements.”

Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple will be run by the Indian royal family: SC Royal dynasty wins right to run the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple – one of the world’s richest places of worship

India’s Supreme Court on Monday upheld the right of a former royal dynasty to run the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala, one of the world’s richest places of worship, after the state government tried to take it over when the family patriarch died. The historic Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala, India. The temple which is more than 260 years old recently came into the spotlight after gold coins and precious

When one of the vaults of the towering centuries-old Hindu temple in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala state was opened in 2011, it was found to hold diamonds by the sackful along with tonnes of gold coins and jewellery – a hoard estimated at more than $20 Billion.

Several Hindu temples in India have wealth running to the billions of dollars as devotees give gold and other precious objects as gifts to spiritual or religious institutions that run hospitals, schools and colleges.

“We allow the appeal of the royal family of Travancore. Death does not effect Shebaitship (management and maintenance of the deity) of the Travancore Family,” justices UU Lalit and Indu Malhotra said in their order. The Supreme Court upheld the right of the erstwhile royal family of Travancore as the custodian of the properties belonging to the deity of Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, overruling a 2011 Kerala High Court judgment that the state government take control of the temple and its vast riches. The SC had in 2011 stayed the High Court ruling and ordered an assessment of the temple’s wealth. Following this, jewellery, coins and precious stones with a nominal value of Rs 1 lakh crore were discovered after one of the six kallaras, or vaults, was opened to public audit for the first time. The history: The centuries-old temple complex is an eclectic mix of Dravidian and classic Kerala architecture. Its definite age is not known — perhaps 6th or even 3rd century — but the structure we see today is the result of a renovation undertaken during the reign of Anizhom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, between 1729 and 1758 CE. In 1750, the king surrendered his kingdom and the wealth to the deity. After India became a republic, the administration of the temple was vested in a trust under a 1949 agreement of the accession between the then ruler, Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, and Govt of India. About the vaults: The temple has six vaults. Four of these are periodically opened as per rituals. Vaults A and B are said to have not been opened for centuries. In 2011, the SC ordered they be for “making an inventory of the articles and then closed”. Vault A was opened, but the royal family opposed the opening of Vault B, saying it would disturb the spiritual energy and bring ill-fortune.About the rights: In 2007, a lawsuit by devotees alleged mismanagement by the trust and challenged the right of Utradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma, the younger brother of Chithira Thirunal, who died in 1991. In 2011, Kerala High Court ruled that the state has the administrative right over the temple since the 26th amendment of the constitution, 1971, had abolished privy purses and privileges of erstwhile rulers of princely states. The apex court’s latest ruling said the royal family’s shebaitship survives the death of the ruler. But it directed the formation of a committee, with Thiruvananthapuram district judge as the chairperson, to administer the temple. A nominee of the trustee (the family), the chief priest, a nominee of the state and a nominee of the Union ministry of culture would be the other members. An advisory committee headed by a retired High Court judge will also be set up. SC did not rule on the vaults, leaving the decision to the committees.

“Unconventional year during unconventional times,” Dr. Suresh Reddy Describes his Presidency of AAPI “My three promises for the year of working in unison with the other arms of AAPI, long- term planning and financial stability have been achieved”

(Chicago, IL: July 12th, 2020) Healthcare has come to occupy center stage in recent times, especially in the past few months with the spread of Corona Virus. Physicians of Indian Origin in the United States have been playing a unique and critical care combating the deadly virus.Leading an organization that represents more than 100,000 physicians and Fellows of Indian Origin in the US, and being their voice and providing a forum to its members to collectively work together to meet their diverse needs, is a major challenge. Dr. Suresh Reddy, president of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) has been right on task and has devoted the past one year leading AAPI to stability and greater heights. “As the year ends, my three promises for the year of working in unison with the other arms of AAPI, long- term planning and financial stability have been achieved,” Dr. Reddy, the young, energetic and talented out going president of AAPI, informed members of this noble organization as he passed on the gavel to his successor, Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda during a Virtual Change of Guard Ceremony held on July 11th, 2020. The pandemic had put a dent on several plans and activities Dr. Reddy and his team had on their agenda. However, he turned the challenge into an opportunity to enhance the agenda of AAPI. My term as president of AAPI will be noted as an “unconventional year during unconventional times,” Dr. Reddy told the AAPI members, as he enumerated several programs he and his Team had accomplished in the past few months. AAPI’s primary focus is education. The pandemic helped realize this mission of AAPI. “Never in the history of AAPI had so many educational programs been organized. Never had so many specialists shared knowledge so actively with the participation of thousands of Doctors from across the nation.” “I am humbled and honored for this opportunity bestowed on me to serve as the President of this esteemed organization,” Dr. Reddy said. “The current Executive Committee has been in office for the most eventful one year. As I look back to the past one year since we assumed office, leading AAPI, I am extremely happy to state that we have kept our promise.” Dr. Suresh Reddy said. “In my inaugural address, I had promised “to align all the energies to make AAPI an enormous force, committing to take the more than three decades old organization to the new heights and bring all the AAPI Chapters, Regions, Members of the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees to work cohesively and unitedly for the success of AAPI and the realization of its noble mission, bringing in increased dignity, decency, professionalism and eliteness into the organization, and thus elevate the already existing stand.” Some of the goals Dr. Reddy and his Team had set before them included: Make AAPI financially robust and increase our endowments enormously so we can focus on our mission of: Education, Mentoring, Research, Charity, and Service. “In the one year we have been in Office, we have worked hard to realize the goals we have set for ourselves, taking AAPI to greater heights,” Dr. Reddy proudly announced here. Giving credit to AAPI, Dr. Reddy said, “I have realized that AAPI has given me more than I have given AAPI in return.” Describing how his life had changed forever as he came to be associated with AAPI, Dr. Reddy said, “After a life that was based on planning, suddenly something called “AAPI” came along out of nowhere. I accidentally stumbled upon it.
Now I realize that the best things in life you happen to stumble onto. No plan, no heads up. Every important thing in life until then had followed a plan. But with AAPI, I unknowingly fell into its path and could never leave the path. Stumbling was the best thing I ever did. And I have never looked back.”
Dr. Reddy said, he is grateful for the priceless “comraderies, connections and convictions that came with my association with AAPI. Working with many physicians motivated me to be a better physician myself. I understood the higher meaning of being a physician, especially even more now in the time COVID. AAPI has in fact become my second family. All the emotions that characterize a family like love, connections, conflicts and challenges are also a part of AAPI.”

“For the first time, we have started an endowment for AAPI with an initial establishment of quarter million dollars, the returns of which will be used to run the AAPI office. We have also transferred $ 100,000 for the incoming team to work on their goals and mission. This will help the future Presidents focus on the goals and missions of AAPI rather than spend time on fund raising.”

It has been a learning curve for Dr. Reddy as he took on the challenges of leading AAPI. “My time with AAPI has shown me that leadership is a balancing act. I took every role I played in AAPI very seriously. I am proud to say that over the years, I have been involved in various projects that were meaningful.” Under Dr. Reddy’s leadership, AAPI has been actively involved In community awareness programs like Obesity prevention, sharing medical knowledge at the Global Health Summit, team building activities such as the Share a Blanket program, medical education programs such as CPR training, social networking programs including 3 trips to the continent of Antarctica, morale building programs like mentoring a future medical student, India heritage programs like Independence Day celebrations.

His foresight and leadership was appreciated as AAPI became the first major organization to call for ‘universal masking’. AAPI provided free masks to thousands of health care workers. AAPI members have honored more than 10,000 nurses in over 100 hospitals across more than 40 states by sponsoring lunches for them during the Nurses Week. AAPI has also stood against racial discrimination. “We are proud to say that for all our Doctors ‘all lives matter,’” he added.

It was the first time ever, a sitting Prime Minister of India addressed an AAPI event, when Shri Narendra Modi spoke at the Summer Summit organized by AAPI. AAPI Leaders presented a Memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi Offering to play a critical role in Implementation of Ayushman Bharat, during his visit with President Donald Trump in Houston.AAPI joined hands with IRC to train 500,000 lay people in CPR during the month of October to celebrate the World Restart A Heart (WRAH) day. AAPI has been in the forefront condemning Gun Violence, and has offered support to AMA’s Stance, calling upon the US and state governments to make common-sense reforms, supported by the American public to protect innocent lives. Dr. Reddy thanked “some senior mentors and friends for this idea. For two weeks we have celebrated the Summer Summit “Closing in on COVID” in lieu of an annual convention.
I have to say some amazing ideas have come forth during this online summit and I bet these changes and online ways of doing business will be a thing of the future.”

Dr. Reddy expressed gratitude to both his “friends and my critics and my supposed archrivals too! Because of them I worked even harder and put extra thought into every decision I made. Thank you for making me take better decisions.”  “Among several many, I give special thanks to my mentors and advisors, Drs. Jagan Kakarala, Ranga Reddy, Sanku Rao, Jayesh Shah Ravi Jahagirdar and Ajay Lodha and many other senior mentors. My additional thanks to Dr. Sudhir Parikh, Dr. Prem Reddy, Dr. Bharat Barai, Dr. Lokesh Edara, Dr. Vemuri Murthy, Dr. Dwaraknath Reddy, Dr. Srini Gangasani, Dr. Anil Tibrewal and many others. My love to my wife Leela and son Rohun, for letting me take this bumpy ride of AAPI, for last 10 years, at the expense of my family time,” Dr. Reddy said in an emotionally filled farewell address.

 “I am grateful to the AAPI members and leaders who have entrusted me with the task of leading AAPI,” said, Dr. Reddy, who along with Dr. Seema Arora, as the Chair of BOT; Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President-Elect of AAPI; Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Vice President;  Dr. Vijay Kolli, Secretary; Dr. Raj Bhayani, Treasurer of AAPI;  Dr. Stella Gandhi, President of Young Physician Section;  and, Dr. Pooja Kinkhabwala, President of Medical Student and Resident Section and the entire BOT and all the Regional and Local Chapters of AAPI. He wished the very best to the new leadership of AAPI under Dr. Jonnalagadda as the President and Dr. Sajani Shah as the Chair of BOT.

Summarizing the year past and the years ahead, Dr. Reddy said, “We still have a few challenges and many more opportunities. AAPI has faced some turbulence from time to time and we have overcome those and we have come out stronger.”

Will the Indian-American Candidate in Maine Deliver US Senate Majority to Democratic Party?

With the rising popularity of an Indian-American candidate for the U.S. Senate from Maine, Sara Gideon, against long time US Senate incumbent Susan Collins, a Republican, the odds of the Democratic Party taking back Senate Majority in November has become stronger.  The Maine Democratic Party primary is on July 14, 2020 and Gideon is expected to sail through and will face off against a formidable GOP Senator this November 3. An early July poll by RealCearPolitics which called the seat a “toss-up” showed Gideon 2.5 points ahead of Collins. The Cook Political Report has also called the race a “toss-up.” A report in Forbes list Collins among the “most vulnerable” Senators. The New York Times ran a telling headline on July 7th about this heated race – “Hemmed In by the Pandemic, Collins Battles for Survival in Maine.” The Times also called it “the toughest re-election race of her (Collins’) career.” Made even more so because the Republican Party’s control of the Senate rests on her win this November. Currently speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, Gideon, 48, has garnered endorsements from influential groups like Emily’s List, and most recently, the Maine AFL-CIO which represents some 160 plus unions across Maine. In endorsing the Indian-American, one of the groups under the Maine AFL-CIO, The Iron Workers Local 7, tweeted, “We are proud to endorse Sara Gideon for US Senate because we’ve worked together to raise wages on construction jobs, promote worker training and apprenticeship, and build an economy that works for all us, not just the wealthy few.” When the influential organization Emily’s List endorsed Gideon for the Senate seat from Maine, it described her as “A proven leader and dedicated public servant.” Gideon , the daughter of an Indian-American father and Armenian mother, has positioned herself to defeat Sen. Collins, by building a varied support base and raising millions of dollars. She is expected to sail through the July 14, Democratic primary in her state. In every re-election to her state House of Representatives since she was first elected in 2012, Gideon has garnered more than 65 percent of the popular vote. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency carried a report July 9, 2020, with the headline, “Sara Gideon could flip Susan Collins’ Senate seat blue. She’s building a wide base of Jewish support to do so.” Collins, a four-term incumbent, has long been seen as a moderate Republican, but some of her votes over the last year, including the support for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and for President Trump during the impeachment trial have put her in the crosshairs of many moderates in Maine. “Sara is a champion for Maine working families, and she has an outstanding record of achieving results,” Emily’s List said. “She has passed landmark legislation to help families gain financial independence, and under divided government she worked tirelessly to pass bills that that both lifted Maine families out of poverty and increased the number of higher-skilled workers to grow Maine’s economy,” it said, adding, “Let’s show this champion for Maine working families our full support to help her flip this seat from red to blue — and let’s take back the Senate.” Federal Election Commission filings show that as of June 24, 2020, Gideon had total contributions of $22,158,023, of which an overwhelming majority, $21,813,536 was in individual contributions. Her cash on hand by end of June was $5,494,743. Sen. Collins was a few million short of her rival with total contributions by the same date at $15,169,062, and individual contributions at $12,266, 69. However, her cash on hand was neck-and-neck at $5,006,945.

Dr. Sampat Shivangi Elected Delegate For GOP Convention In Florida

Dr. Sampat Shivangi, a physician, an influential Indian-American community leader, a Member of the National Advisory Council, National Mental Health Center, SAMSHA, Washington, DC, Chair of Mississippi State Board of Mental Health, and a veteran leader of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) , has been elected as a Republican delegate for the fifth consecutive term to the party’s convention that would formally nominate US President Donald Trump as its candidate for the November presidential elections. The Republican National Convention (RNC) in Jacksonville, Florida is scheduled to be held from August 24 to August 27. “It is a great honor to be a part of this historic convention to re-nominate and re-elect Trump for another four years,” he said. “Under President Trump, the United States has made unprecedented progress. Until, we were hit by coronavirus, the US economy was at an all time best. And to top it all, under President Trump, India and Indian-Americans have the best ever friend in the White House,” Dr Shivangi, the national president of Indian-American Forum for Political Education and a long-time Republican leader, said. A conservative life-long member of the Republican Party, Dr. Shivangi is the founding member of the Republican Indian Council and the Republican Indian National Council, which aim to work to help and assist in promoting President Elect Trump’s agenda and support his advocacy in the coming months. Dr. Shivangi is the National President of Indian American Forum for Political Education, one of the oldest Indian American Associations. Over the past three decades, he has lobbied for several Bills in the US Congress on behalf of India through his enormous contacts with US Senators and Congressmen. Dr. Shivangi is a champion of women’s health and mental health whose work has been recognized nationwide. Dr. Shivangi has worked enthusiastically in promoting India Civil Nuclear Treaty and recently the US India Defense Treaty that was passed in US Congress and signed by President Obama. Dr. Sampat Shivangi, an obstetrician/gynecologist, has been elected by a US state Republican Party as a full delegate to the National Convention. He is one of the top fund-raisers in Mississippi state for the Republican Party. Besides being a politician by choice, the medical practitioner is also the first Indian to be on the American Medical Association. Dr. Shivangi has actively involved in several philanthropic activities, serving with Blind foundation of MS, Diabetic, Cancer and Heart Associations of America. Dr. Shivangi has been carrying on several philanthropic works in India including Primary & Middle Schools, Cultural Center, IMA Centers that he opened and helped to obtain the first ever US Congressional grant to AAPI to study Diabetes Mellitus amongst Indian Americans. The Indian-American physician was first elected as a delegate at the Republican convention in New York City in 2004, to nominate President George W Bush. In 2008, he was elected as a Republican delegate at Minneapolis to nominate John McCain and in 2012 at Tampa, to nominate Mitt Romney. In 2016, Dr. Shivangi attended the RNC convention in Cleveland, Ohio as a delegate to nominate and elect the current president, Donald Trump. “This is my fifth time to be part of the RNC delegation to nominate and help to elect our next president of USA,” Dr. Shivangi said. “This convention and the upcoming presidential election is going to be historic for our nation, possibly for India and to the whole world. I am glad that I can contribute a little, to my beliefs in nation building,” he said in a statement.

2020 Indiaspora Recognizes 58 Executives of Indian Heritage Leading Global Corporations

Indiaspora, a nonprofit organization of global Indian diaspora leaders from various backgrounds and professions, released their inaugural list honoring executives of the Indian diaspora who are leading the largest global corporations in 2020. Drawing from the latest editions of Fortune and Forbes U.S. and global lists, the Indiaspora Business Leaders List includes 58 executives serving at the helm of their respective companies as Chief Executive Officer, President, or Chairman of the Board. Under their leadership, these companies collectively employ more than 3.6 million worldwide and account for a combined USD $1 trillion in revenue and $4 trillion in market capitalization. Headquartered across 11 different countries including the U.S., Canada, England, and Singapore, these companies have delivered annualized returns of 23 percent during the tenure of these executives, outperforming the S&P 500 by 10 percent. “This inaugural list shares so many shining examples of the quintessential immigrant story,” said Indiaspora Board member Rajan Navani, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Jetline Group of Companies. “Hardworking, enterprising, and innovative, these executives have achieved the highest success in their respective fields, often drawing on their Indian heritage to help guide and ground them along the way. No doubt they will inspire generations to come.” The list includes immigrants from India as well as professionals born in countries such as Uganda, Ethiopia, England, and the U.S. “I’m amazed to see how far we’ve come in terms of representation in business,” said Raj Gupta, former CEO of Fortune 300 company Rohm and Haas, and one of the first executives of the Indian diaspora to join the ranks of corporate leadership along with pioneers such as Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo and Dinesh Paliwal of Harman International. “There used to be only a handful of us leading corporations. Now that we are reaching prominence, I am eager to see how the next generation leaves its own legacy.” Mr. Gupta, an Indiaspora member, serves as Chairman of two companies on the Business Leaders List, Aptiv and Avantor.

Agents for Change and Inclusion

“It is gratifying to see the growing impact of individuals from the Indian community on business on a global scale,” said Indiaspora Board Member Arun Kumar, Chairman and CEO at KPMG India, who also served as Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Obama administration. “I have had the opportunity to work with several of the individuals on our 2020 Business Leaders List in a professional and personal capacity, and can attest to their dynamism as leaders not only of their companies, but also for the larger diaspora community. In addition, many of them bring a remarkable sensitivity to issues relating to social change.” Many of these diaspora executives have led their companies in advancing social change by addressing racial injustice, climate and sustainability justice, and the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 through policy and financial commitments. For example: · Tech industry leader Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet, has announced new goals for racial equity, including improving leadership representation of underrepresented groups at Google, and an “economic opportunity package” for the Black community. · Many of the leaders’ companies have created or contributed funds in response to COVID-19, with monetary and humanitarian aid totaling more than $400 million. · More than a dozen leaders have aligned their companies’ business practices to meet United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and are members of the UN Global Compact. “It’s inspiring to see so many leaders of Indian heritage playing a significant role in business and in society,” said Ajay Banga, President and CEO of Mastercard. “Our culture and our values are a common starting point. But it’s what we do with the opportunities presented to us that make a difference. When we lean into our diverse experiences to deal with challenges like the pandemic or racial injustice, we can have an even greater impact on the lives of those around us.” The Indiaspora Business Leaders List also calls attention to the presence of a glass ceiling that women, including Indian women, still face. Out of 1,000 companies represented on the Fortune 500 list, only 61 have women CEOs; the Indiaspora List has a marginally higher percentage of women, yet includes only five women out of the 58 leaders. “It’s an honor to join so many outstanding leaders on this year’s Indiaspora Business Leaders list, each of whom is making a meaningful impact within their industry,” said Reshma Kewalramani, M.D., CEO and President of Vertex Pharmaceuticals. “As a physician and CEO dedicated to creating transformative medicines that improve the lives of people with serious diseases, I believe deeply in the critical role a diverse and inclusive culture plays in being able to achieve that mission at Vertex. We are committed to developing the next generation of leaders from all backgrounds, and I look forward to some of those names showing up on this list and others like it in the years to come.”

About the Indiaspora Business Leaders List

The following lists were used to identify honorees: Fortune 500 (which features 1,000 companies), Forbes Global 2000, Fortune Global 500 and the Forbes Largest Private U.S. Companies.

2020 Indiaspora Business Leaders List
Rank First Name Last Name Company Title Revenue (B)
1 Sundar Pichai Alphabet Chief Executive Officer $166.30
2 Satya Nadella Microsoft Chief Executive Officer $138.60
3 Arvind Krishna IBM Chief Executive Officer $76.50
4 Lakshmi Mittal ArcelorMittal CEO, Chairman $70.50
5 Raj Subramaniam FedEx President, CEO $69.70
6 Vivek Sankaran Albertsons President, CEO $62.46
7 Vasant Narasimhan Novartis Chief Executive Officer $48.60
8 Punit Renjen Deloitte Global Chief Executive Officer $46.20
9 Bharat Masrani TD Bank CEO, Group President $44.80
10 Mike Mohan Best Buy President, CEO $43.60
11 Bob Patel LyondellBasell Industries Chief Executive Officer $37.40
12 Rajeev Suri Nokia Chief Executive Officer $25.80
13 Revathi Advaithi Flex Chief Executive Officer $25.00
14 Sunny Verghese Olam International Group Chief Executive Officer $24.20
15 Prem Watsa Fairfax Financial Chief Executive Officer $20.70
16 Sanjay Mehrotra Micron Technology CEO, President $19.60
17 Saum Sutaria Tenet Healthcare President, CEO $18.50
18 Ajay Banga Mastercard CEO, Chairman-elect, President $17.00
19 Ivan Menezes Diageo Chief Executive Officer $16.80
20 Laxman Narasimhan Reckitt Benckiser Group Chief Executive Officer $16.40
21 Sonia Syngal Gap Inc. Chief Executive Officer $16.40
22 Siva Sivaram Western Digital President $16.10
23 Kevin Lobo Stryker Chief Executive Officer $15.00
24 Piyush Gupta DBS Group Chief Executive Officer $14.50
25 Raj Gupta Aptiv Chairman of the Board $14.40
25 Raj Gupta Avantor Chairman of the Board $6.04
26 Bob Pragada Jacobs Engineering Co-President, CEO $13.00
27 Shantanu Narayen Adobe Chairman, CEO, & President $11.60
28 Rajiv Malik Mylan President $11.50
29 Aloke Lohia Indorama Ventures Group Chief Executive Officer $11.40
30 Sri Prakash Lohia Indorama Ventures Chairman of the Board $11.40
31 Niraj Shah Wayfair Co-Chairman, President & CEO $9.10
32 Ravi Saligram Newell Brands CEO, President $8.90
33 Milind Pant Amway Chief Executive Officer $8.40
34 George Kurian NetApp President, CEO $5.60
35 Steve Sanghi Microchip Technology CEO, Chairman $5.30
36 Sumit Singh Chewy Chief Executive Officer $4.80
37 Reshma Kewalramani Vertex Pharmaceuticals Chief Executive Officer $4.80
38 Rahul Kanwar SS&C Technologies Holdings President, CEO $4.70
39 Gary Bhojwani CNO Financial Group Chief Executive Officer $3.90
40 Sandeep Biswas Newcrest Mining Chief Executive Officer $3.80
41 Samir Kapuria NortonLifeLock President $3.70
42 Sean Aggarwal Lyft Chairman of the Board $3.62
43 Francis deSouza Illumina CEO, President $3.60
44 Aneel Bhusri Workday Chief Executive Officer $3.60
45 Rajiv Prasad Hyster-Yale Group CEO, President $3.29*
46 Rakesh Sachdev Regal Beloit Director, Chairman of the Board $3.24
47 Dinesh Lathi Tailored Brands CEO, President $3.00
48 Aman Bhutani GoDaddy Chief Executive Officer $2.99
49 Prahlad Singh PerkinElmer CEO, President $2.88
50 Anant Bhalla American Equity Investment CEO, President $2.60
51 Jayshree Ullal Arista Networks CEO, President $2.40
52 Anirudh Devgan Cadence Design President $2.40
53 Nikesh Arora Palo Alto Networks CEO, Chairman $2.27
54 Sundaram Nagarajan Nordson CEO, President $2.25
55 Sharmistha Dubey Match Group Chief Executive Officer $2.10
56 Naren Gursahaney ServiceMaster Chairman of the Board, Interim CEO $2.08
57 Sumit Roy Realty Income CEO, President $1.50
58 Ajei Gopal Ansys CEO, President $1.50
 Note: Raj Gupta appears twice on this list as the Chairman of two different companies.
* This is the revenue for Hyster-Yale Materials Handling, Inc. Hyster-Yale Group is HYMH’s operating company

Carnegie Corp Honors Indian Americans Raj Chetty, Siddhartha Mukherjee as ‘Great Immigrants’

Carnegie Corporation of New York released its annual list of Great Immigrants, honoring 38 naturalized citizens, including two Indian Americans, who have enriched and strengthened the nation and democracy through their contributions and actions.Each Fourth of July since 2006, the philanthropic foundation has invited Americans to celebrate these exemplary individuals by participating in its online tribute, “Great Immigrants, Great Americans,” the corporation said in a news release.This year, the corporation is highlighting the work of millions of immigrants who are playing an essential role in the global health crisis as COVID-19 responders.Among the group were Raj Chetty, professor of economics at Harvard University; and Siddhartha Mukherjee, author and physician.A third of the honorees are helping the recovery by serving as nurses and doctors, as well as scientists who are striving to find effective treatments and a vaccine, the release said.The corporation also honored clergy and community leaders who are providing food and vital services to those in need.Overall, the 2020 Great Immigrants represent 35 countries of origin and a wide range of contributions to American life, from human rights and computer science to art, business, education, health care, journalism, music, politics, religion, research and sports, it said.Among the COVID-19 responders:Chetty launched a real-time data tracker to measure the economic impact of the pandemic and assisted decision-makers as they implemented new public policies.Mukherjee, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, used his communication skills to educate the public and build awareness about COVID-19 through forums and his widely read essays.Born in New Delhi, India, Chetty came to the United States at the age of 9 with his sister, his mother, a pediatrics professor who almost wasn’t given the opportunity to attend college, and his father, an economics professor who grew up in a family of modest means.For Chetty, the American dream unfolded like the ideal: he earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University at 23, joining the faculties at U.C. Berkeley and then Stanford University before going on to become one of the youngest professors to be granted tenure in Harvard’s history. His groundbreaking research has earned him numerous honors.The big data research that has made Chetty one of the world’s best-known economists has laid bare the gap between that idealistic American dream and — for many — the disheartening reality.In addition to his position as the William A. Ackman Professor of Economics at Harvard University, Chetty directs Opportunity Insights, a research lab that aims to identify barriers to economic and social mobility and develop scalable policy solutions to overcome them, it added.Most recently, Chetty helped launch a resource to monitor the real-time economic impact of COVID-19 on people, businesses, and communities across the United States.Mukherjee is a noted biologist, oncologist, and the author of several acclaimed books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (2010).Since 2009, he has served on the faculty of Columbia University, where he is associate professor of medicine and a practicing physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, it added.Mukherjee and his team at Columbia research the biology of normal and malignant blood development, focusing on diseases such as leukemia.During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mukherjee has used his gifts as a science communicator to educate the public about the virus through essays, in media interviews, at public forums, and via his social media accounts, Carnegie said.Mukherjee has stressed the importance of following guidelines to social distance, to wear masks, and to self-isolate when necessary.In May, Mukherjee was selected by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to serve on the 15-member blue-ribbon commission focusing on improving telehealth and broadband access in response to the public health crisis, the bio said.

Neelam Shah, Naggena Ohri named 2020 National Students of the Year

Neelam Shah of Mechanicsville, Maryland and Naggena Ohri of Leonardtown, Maryland have been named the 2020 National Students of the Year by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). Together their team, Fly4aCure, raised over $450,000 in seven weeks for LLS, according to a press release. Shah and Ohri campaigned for their cause and hosted Rhythm 2020, a multicultural showcase in their local community of St. Mary’s County. The girls had 180 performers and drew over 700 people in their music and dance program held on Saturday, February 22, 2020. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is a non-profit organization whose mission is to cure blood cancers and also improve the quality of life of patients and their families. Every three minutes someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer; LLS has invested more than a $1 billion in research aimed at helping these patients live longer healthier lives. Since 1960 there has been an 87% increase in survival rates of childhood leukemia. The organization’s work not only benefits those with blood cancers; 40% of new cancer therapies approved from 2010-2015 were first approved for blood cancer pts. Now these new therapies are being used to treat breast, kidney, liver, lung cancers, as well as arthritis and diabetes. Shah and Ohri participated in the Students of the Year program (SOY), a campaign run by LLS as team members in 2018.  Team Fly4acure discovered this program online when researching LLS and the impact it has in the lives of families affected by blood cancer. “We were amazed to see that there was something specifically targeted towards high school students to make a difference,” said Shah. This campaign takes highly motivated high school students who are interested in leadership, volunteerism, and philanthropy and allows them to make a difference in the lives of those affected by blood cancers. It’s a 7-week campaign where teams from all over the country compete to raise the most funds for LLS, and whoever raises the most money regionally and nationally is announced the winner. The Students of the Year Program in 2018 mobilized over 600 high school students to raise awareness of blood cancers. In total, these young men and women raised over 13 million dollars for blood cancer research.  This year, Maryland SOY 2020 alone raised over $900,000 and National SOY raised $30,000,000. Rhythm 2020 was a multicultural showcase of acts from all around the world performed by local high school students. Shah and Ohri, as dancers themselves, performed a semi-classical Indian dance as the final production. In addition to Rhythm, Shah and Ohri had the opportunity to perform their dance and speak about their campaign to raise awareness at the AAPI Governing Body Meeting in Long Island and the Greater Washington AAPI Heart Gala, both in February. The duo were helped by their Presenting Sponsor, AAPI, which with the generosity of its members were able to donate $100,000 to the campaign. AAPI was honored at the Maryland LLS Gala on March 7, 2020 in Baltimore. Dr. Suresh Reddy, Dr. Gautam Sammadar, Dr. Naresh Parikh, and Dr. Raj Bhayani were relentless in their support of Team Fly4aCure and LLS. Two years ago, Shah brother, Samir, and cousin Saar similarly won the title of National Students of the Year for LLS in 2018. They had raised $413,000 with the help of AAPI. They created Team Fly4acure, and Neelam and Naggena were able to continue their legacy of philanthropy, the release said. Shah’s connection to LLS is a personal one, as her father, Dr. Amish Shah, was diagnosed with Primary Mediastinal B Cell Lymphoma when she was 10. Now in remission, the entire family is grateful for the support and research breakthroughs that led to his recovery. Both Samir and Neelam have grown up with AAPI. Their grandfather, Dr. Vinod K. Shah, served as AAPI President in 2009-2010 and is very active in the group. Their grandparents, parents, uncles, and aunts are all AAPI members, as well. Shah, currently a junior in high school, plans to follow in the footsteps of her grandparents, parents and brother in pursuing a career in medicine. She will be a third generation AAPI member. She is grateful for the opportunity that LLS has provided and blown away by the generosity of her Indian and AAPI family.

Yoga Will Improve Reproductive, Sexual Health

Yoga is an ancient method of relaxation, exercise, and healing that has gained a wide following across the world. It rejuvenates the mind, body and soul. It may come as no surprise, then, that yoga may also serve to enhance sexual function. According to a study published online in The Journal of Sexual Medicine (Nov 12, 2009), regular yoga practice improves several aspects of sexual function in women, including desire, arousal, orgasm, and overall satisfaction, points out Dr Arockia Virgin Fernando, Fertility Specialist, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Cloudnine Group of Hospitals. The expert shares some benefits of yoga on sex life and during pregnancy. Benefits of Yoga on your Sex life More and more people are discovering the benefits of practicing yoga, from building strength to relieving stress. 40 percent of women with fertility related issues have anxiety, stress or both. Yoga and mindfulness exercises like deep breathing helps in reducing the cortisol levels in our blood which is a marker for stress. High levels of cortisol damages the fine balance between the hormones which control the brain, heart and reproductive system. Many fertility groups who conduct support group meetings to help the anxious couples trying to conceive- have included yoga in their program. It can improve your sex life. Here’s how: Yoga can target your sexual zones. Many forms of yoga refer to the root lock “Mula Bandha,” which is the root of the spine, the pelvic floor, the perineum. Bringing awareness to these areas in a yoga class will help you be more in touch with them overall and can help you enjoy having sex more. In the challenging physical postures such as downward dog, chatarunga, supta konasana and plow pose, engaging Mula Bandha actually helps lift the pelvic-floor muscles, which increases core strength, which then functions to support and protect the spine. Engaging Mula Bandha can help with balance in postures such as warrior 3 and crow pose. You’ll feel better in your skin: Yoga is a series of physical exercises and postures that are geared toward improving one’s flexibility, strength and balance. A regular practice helps to strengthen, and tone your body, and all of these will make you feel better about yourself. Improved self-thoughts about your appearance will boost your body confidence and self-esteem. All of these will help you boost your personal life. Yoga helps reduce stress and anxiety: By transferring focus and attention to breathing and the body, yoga can help to lower anxiety and release physical tension. Lower stress levels at the end of the day can lead to feeling better about being with your partner. If you are not worried about other things and feel mentally balanced, you are more likely to want and be able to give to your significant other. It will allow you to relax and enjoy sex, which makes it even better. The calming, toning practice can be a wonderful escape from the stressors of daily life, while increasing your flexibility and strength to boot. This will also bring increased relationship satisfaction along with improvements in sex life and intimacy levels. It brings overall satisfaction, better communication and trust among couples along with the overall reduction in stress and anxiety. Yoga can increase the beta endorphin hormone release from the brain which gives a sense of well-being, improve immunity and prevents infections in turn increasing our reproductive health. With better hormone balance, there is increased sexual desire and reproductive function, also an increase in sperm production. Regular yoga practice may improve the interaction between the brain and the reproductive system in both men and women. There are many positive and negative feedback systems in our reproductive endocrinology and even a subtle imbalance disrupts the whole system.With better hormone balance, there is increased sexual desire and reproductive function, also an increase in sperm production. Yoga indirectly improves the reproductive health by improving immunity and thereby decreasing infections which damages the vaginal, tubal and uterine bacterial flora and thus preventing pregnancy. It increases the success rates of Assisted Reproductive Technologies like In vitro Fertilisation and Intra uterine Insemination by reducing the stress levels; thereby improving ovulation and sperm production. Women with high levels of stress biomarkers like cortisol have less chance of conceiving during ovulation and also an increased risk of miscarriage. Therefore Yoga can play a major role in these people. Breathing, meditation, asanas can reduce pain levels in people suffering from painful periods and pain during sexual intercourse, thus in turn increasing the odds of conception. The beginners should focus on breathing and poses which are comfortable. Above all it is safe. The key is to start slow. Benefits of Yoga during pregnancy Yoga helps you in dealing with the symptoms of pregnancy like morning sickness and mood swings, ensuring smoother and easier delivery, and faster recovery after childbirth. So, if you want to make your pregnancy and childbirth a peaceful and easy journey, you must go for a prenatal yoga class during and after your pregnancy. Look for a prenatal yoga programme where you are comfortable with the activities, style, and the yoga class environment. Always remember doing “Lamaze” which is a simple breathing yoga techniques, it always encourages you to be active throughout your pregnancy and increases your sense of wellbeing. All the exercises should be started pre pregnancy so as to have the best result during pregnancy. Do not start exercise for the first time in the first trimester except the breathing exercises under the supervision and consultation of your gynaecologist/ fertility expert. (IANS)

Rahman: Composing music doesn’t have any formula

Oscar and Grammy-winning Indian composer AR Rahman feels composing music is a thing of the heart, and the whole album of “Dil Bechara” has been carefully curated and is filled with memories of late actor Sushant Singh Rajput. The entire music album of “Dil Bechara” is done by Rahman. “Composing music doesn’t have any formula, it is a thing of the heart. When I write songs, I let them breathe for some time and then present it to the director,” Rahman said. “It was a great experience collaborating with Mukesh Chhabra on this film; his enthusiasm is infectious. This whole album is carefully curated because the film has so much heart, and now, memories of Sushant. It was a pleasure to work with lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya on this soundtrack of love. The songs are eclectic and feature an amazing lineup of India’s top singers and musicians. I hope you will like the album,” he added. The entire music album of the film was released on Friday. The soundtrack to “Dil Bechara” comprises a diverse mix of songs. The film’s title track, sung by Rahman, is a vibrant celebration of life’s ups and downs; “Maskhari” is a lighthearted song about friendship, features Sunidhi Chauhan and Hriday Gattani on the vocals. There’s also Shreya Ghoshal and Mohit Chauhan’s “Taare gin”, “Khulke Jeena Ka” (an adaptation of Rahman’s unreleased Tamil track “Kannil oru thali”). “Main tumhara” is sung by Jonita Gandhi and Hriday Gattani. “Dil Bechara” is the official remake of 2014 Hollywood romantic drama “The Fault In Our Stars”, based on John Green’s popular novel of the same name. Budding actress Sanjana Sanghi stars opposite Sushant in the film. Casting director Mukesh Chhabra is making his directorial debut with the film. Talking about the music of the film, Mukesh said: “Befitting the story of the film, its music album is an emotional rollercoaster of romance, friendship and the odds pitted against two young people in love. Having A.R. Rahman aboard for the music of my directorial debut is a dream come true. What’s amazing about the genius of Rahman in this album is that it beautifies the narrative and takes it forward. I can only hope that the listeners enjoy it.” Sushant’s last film “Dil Bechara” will premiere on the OTT platform Disney+ Hotstar on July 24. (IANS)

Making Straws From Coconut Leaves

Thatched roofs, woven bags, brooms and even toothpicks — there are innumerable uses for coconut leaves as a natural alternative to other products.

And this Bengaluru-based English Professor’s innovation from coconut leaves can potentially eradicate one of the biggest environmental hazards — plastic straws.

According to this 2018, India Today report, India creates 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste every single year of which only 9 per cent of it has been recycled.

Saji Varghese, 51, an associate professor at the Department of English, Christ University, Bengaluru first came across the thought of making straws out of coconut leaves when he noticed several dry coconut leaves lying on the campus ground.

‘Each year a coconut tree naturally loses upto six of its leaves. From the results of a study I carried on the same subject, I found out that in many rural areas in our country, these leaves are simply burnt due to the difficulty in its disposal. That’s when I decided to create an eco-friendly product out of it in 2017,’ Saji explains.

In just two years, he developed unique coconut leaf straws that sell at a Rs 3-10/straw. He claims to have received orders for more than 20 million straws from over 10 countries since he introduced the product in the market.

The straws received a patent in 2018 and are now sold under the brand name, Sunbird Straws.
 
From The Coconut Tree To Your Drink

Saji has conducted various experiments and extensive research on several biodegradable materials at the campus incubation centre at the university, due to his interest in the area. With the support of the college, he even launched a start-up named ‘Blessing Palms’ to promote these biodegradable and eco-friendly innovations.

‘When I first wanted to make the straw, I started out by steaming the leaves to clean them and that’s when I noticed the natural wax from these leaves was coming out on its own. We can use this natural wax to make the straws anti-fungal and hydrophobic (water repellant),’ he explains.
In October 2017, he came out with a single layer coconut leaf straw as the first sample. But by 2018, with the help of a team comprising students from Christ University and design engineers who helped developed in-house machinery for large scale production, Saji created coconut leaf straws that ranged from 3mm to 13mm.

Chirag MG, who is a stakeholder in the company and is also a student of the University says, ‘We tested the straws with all kinds of beverages, from water and sodas to milkshakes and even bubble tea. The straws are 4-8 inches in length and have a shelf life of six months making them ideal for restaurants and hotels.’

‘The coconut leaves undergo a three-step cleaning process which we follow with scraping and rolling. All this is done by the in-house machinery so that the straw is hygienic. Besides this, we use a food-grade adhesive for glue, making it free of chemicals,’ says Saji.
 
Empowering Rural Women

Initially, the college funded his innovation but soon several corporates like Accenture and HCL in association with Ahmedabad-based Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India helped with the funding to take the project forward.

‘One of the key visions of the company was to support rural communities and since we primarily source our raw materials from rural coastal areas, we decided to provide employment opportunities to the women in these areas. As part of this initiative, we set up production units in Madurai, Kasargod and Tuticorin and currently have around 18 women who are employed under the company,’ he says.

‘What motivated me to join the venture was Saji Sir’s urge to solve everyday problems. It not only helps in solving environmental problems but also ensures the empowerment of rural communities,’ says Chirag. ‘In the coming three months, we plan on starting atleast 20 more production units and employ around 200 women across villages in India,’ he adds.
 
Going Global With Coconut Straws

Sandeep U, who has been working with the team since its inception in 2017 says, ‘We entered the Climate Launchpad Award in the Netherlands and won the award for Best Innovation for Social Impact against 45 competing countries. This automatically pushed us into the international market and soon we started receiving orders from countries like Malaysia, the USA, UK, Germany, Australia, and the Philippines.’

Several hotel chains like JW Marriot have also approached the company to place bulk orders.
Neena Gupta, 32, an entrepreneur based in the United States who has been buying these straws for over a year shares, ‘I fell in love with these straws when I first used them. They are so durable and don’t get soggy like paper straws. I was surprised that they were single-use. I’ve used many natural straws but these by far are the best that I’ve come across. And the fact that they are made from agri-waste makes me so happy to know that valuable resources are not being over-utilised.’

Ankur Vaidya Appointed FIA-NY NJ CT Chairman

The Federation of Indian Association of NY, NJ, CT (FIA-Tri-state), held its first internal meeting at its offices in Spotswood, N.J., since the COVID-19 pandemic,  and after losing the Chairman of the Board, Ramesh Patel. The meeting was called by FIA President Anil Bansal, in concurrence with the majority of the Board of Trustees and was held under the supervision of independent counsels.
Attendees included President of FIA, Anil Bansal, Secretary Parveen Bansal, and 14 out of the 16 current Board members.
Ankur Vaidya Appointed FIA-NY NJ CT ChairmanThe primary purpose of the meeting was to address the inter-organizational review and brainstorm ways to point the organization in the right trajectory towards serving the community in these testing times.
Members of the Board also conducted an inter-board shuffling, selecting a new body to fill the vacuum left by the Chairman Ramesh Pate’s demise.
Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir S. Parikh, a long time FIA veteran, and Padma Shri H. R. Shah, were chosen as senior advisors. Both Parikh and Shah will  take the role of nurturing, overseeing and advising the newly appointed Chairman, Ankur Vaidya, the youngest member of the Board and the youngest to be chosen as its chairman.
Vaidya is joined by Bipin Patel, as vice chairman and Jayesh Patel as the general secretary.  The current Board also consists of distinguished community stalwarts including Rambhai Gadhavi, Chandrakant Trivedi, Prabir Roy, Dr. Parvin Pandhi, Andy Bhatia, Srujal Parikh, Anand Patel, Dipak Patel and Kanubhai Chauhan. Longtime veteran community leader, Albert Jasani, of Royal Alberts Palace, was chosen as the Unifying-Unity Trustee of the group, along with Yash Paul Soi as Emeritus Vice Chairman for FIA’s Golden Jubilee Year.

Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda To Lead AAPI To Be Stronger, More Vibrant, And United

“I will work to make AAPI stronger, more vibrant, united, transparent, politically engaged, ensuring active participation of young physicians, increasing membership, and enabling that AAPI’s voice is heard in the corridors of power,” Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, who will assume charge as the 37th President of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) said here today.

Dr. Jonnalagadda, who will be administered the oath of office as the President of AAPI at the 1st ever Virtual Oath ceremony on July 11th, 2020, has vowed to take the nearly four decades old organization to the next level and “bring all the AAPI Chapters, Regions, Members of the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees to work cohesively and unitedly for the success of AAPI and the realization of its noble mission.”  He wants to increase AAPI membership by offering more benefits and opportunities for mem­bers.

Dr. Jonnalagadda will lead AAPI as its President in the year 2020-2021, the largest Medical Organization in the United States, representing the interests of the over 100,000 physicians and Fellows of Indian origin in the United States, serving the interests of the Indian American physicians in the US and in many ways contributing to the shaping of the healthcare delivery in the US for the past 39 years. “AAPI must be responsive to its members, supportive of the leadership and a true advocate for our mission,” he said.

As a very compassionate, goal oriented and with strong leadership skills, Dr. Jonnalagadda will be assisted by an executive committee consisting of Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President-Elect; Dr. Ravi Kolli, Vice President, Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Secretary of AAPI; Dr. Satish Kathula,  Treasurer of AAPI, and Sajani Shah, Chair of AAPI’s BOT.

“AAPI has given me so much — networking, advocacy, and education — and I am honored to serve this noble organization.  I sincerely appreciate the trust you placed in me as the President of AAPI, and I am deeply committed to continue to work for you,” declared Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, the new President of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI).

He was born in a family of Physicians. Dr. Jonnalagadda’s dad was a Professor at a Medical College in India and his mother was a Teacher. He and his siblings aspired to be physicians and dedicate their lives for the greater good of humanity. “I am committed to serving the community and help the needy. That gives me the greatest satisfaction in life,” he says with modesty.

Ambitious and wanting to achieve greater things in life, Dr. Jonnalagadda has numerous achievements in life. He currently serves as the President of the Medical Staff at the Hospital. And now, being elected as the President of AAPI is greatest achievement of my life,”

AAPI has been able to serve as a platform in helping young physicians coming from India to seek residencies and help them in settlement and get jobs. Knowing that AAPI’s growth lies with the younger generation, Dr. Jonnalagadda has made it his priority to support and promote YPS and MSRF, the future of AAPI.

As the President of AAPI, the dynamic physician from the state of Andhra Pradesh, wants to “develop a committee to work with children of AAPI members who are interested in medical school, to educate on choosing a school and gaining acceptance; Develop a committee to work with medical residents who are potential AAPI members, to educate on contract negotiation, patient communication, and practice management; Develop a committee to work with AAPI medical students, and to provide proctorship to improve their selection of medical residencies.”

In his address to the Young Physicians Section (YPS) recently, Dr. Jonnalagadda told them, “I am so delighted and proud to be part of this great event and see you, the young physicians of Indian origin today, who are the hope and life, igniting a bright future for AAPI and for the healthcare delivery in the US. As you are aware, Indian Americans continue to come in large numbers and join this noble profession. That gives us hope and strength that the future of the healthcare is in good, safe and effective hands.”

In order for us to help and support the youngsters who want to pursue Medicine and want to succeed in their dreams to be successful healthcare professionals, “I envisage a plan for young aspiring physicians of Indian origin,” he had told them. “I want to launch a program that will, Educate the Residents from India on ways to negotiate contract with insurance companies and Medical Institutions; Identify Centers/Areas across the US for Clinical Observership Program for aspiring young physicians; and, help Youth who want to pursue medicine as their career, guide them with the skills for participating in interviews and ways to succeed in school. This is the first time ever AAPI is embarking on this new initiative and I am excited to be able to take this to the next level”

Dr. Jonnalagadda wants to emphasize the importance of Legislative Agenda both here in the US and overseas, benefitting the physicians and the people AAPI is committed to serve. According to him, “The growing clout of the physicians of Indian origin in the United States is seen everywhere as several physicians of Indian origin hold critical positions in the healthcare, academic, research and administration across the nation.” He is actively involved with the Indian community and member at large of the Asian Indian Alliance, which actively participates in a bipartisan way to support and fund electoral candidates.

His vision for AAPI is to increase the awareness of APPI globally and help its voice heard in the corridors of power.  “I would like to see us lobby the US Congress and create an AAPI PAC and advocate for an increase in the number of available Residency Positions and Green Cards to Indian American Physicians so as to help alleviate the shortage of Doctors in the US.”

As a dedicated member and leader of AAPI for over a decade, Dr. Jonnalagadda rose through the ranks due to his hard work and dedication. He had served as the national Treasurer, Secretary and Vice President of AAPI from 2016 onwards. He was elected and had served as a member of the Board of Trustees, AAPI in 2014-2015, and had served as the Regional Director, AAPI South Region from 2011-2013.

Dr. Jonnalagadda was the Chair, AAPI Awards Committee in 2015, and had served as the Alumni Chair, Atlanta AAPI Convention in 2006. His leadership and commitment were much appreciated when he had served as the Convener of AAPI 2012 Fundraiser, and helped AAPI raise $150,000, and in the 2013 Fundraiser, he had helped AAPI raise $120,000 in Atlanta. In 2016, he had helped in AAPI 2016 Fundraiser through his efforts in Atlanta raise funds for Hurricane Harvey.

A Board-Certified Gastroenterologist/Transplant Hepatologist, working in Douglas, GA, Dr. Jonnalagadda is a former Assistant Professor at the Medical College of Georgia. He was the President of Coffee Regional Medical Staff 2018, and had served as the Director of Medical Association of Georgia Board from 2016 onwards. He had served as the President of Georgia Association of Physicians of Indian Heritage 2007-2008, and was the past Chair of Board of Trustees, GAPI. He was the Chairman of the Medical Association of Georgia, IMG Section, and was a Graduate, Georgia Physicians Leadership Academy (advocacy training).

One of the major objectives of founding AAPI was to offer a platform and opportunities for members to give back to their mother land and the adopted nation. Realizing this, the new President believes AAPI members will be provided with opportunities to support charitable activities in India and in the United States and increase our impact both in Indian and the US.

Endowed with the desire to give back to his motherland and lead AAPI to identify and invest in the delivery of cost effective, efficient and advanced medical care in India, Dr. Jonnalagadda says, “AAPI does a lot of work in India. The Global Healthcare Summit 2021 planned to be held in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, will be a great way of achieving our objectives for mother India.”

“AAPI and the Charitable Foundation has several programs in India. Under my leadership with the pioneering efforts of Dr. Surender Purohit, Chairman of AAPI CF, we will be able to initiate several more program benefitting our motherland, India,” Dr. Jonnalagadda said.

According to him, the GHS will serve as a sounding board for many health care leaders to freely exchange ideas, and help resolve challenges that are addressed during the very effective CEO Forums usually chaired by high ranking officials and leading CEOs. This will help in attracting investments, advanced training, and setting up hospitals, medical institutions, etc. AAPI GHS will continue the International Research Competition, EP, Cardiology, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Gastroenterology, Obesity, Liver Disease Awareness, CPR with the Indian Society of Anesthesiologists, and other workshops that will help in training several India based physicians.  Finally, the women’s forum under the banner of women’s leadership forum will serve as an inspiration for aspiring female leaders to see and hear from their role models.

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed huge challenges before the new executive Team. Dr. Jonnalagadda is confident that he will be able to carry on his agenda for the new year including the Trip to Japan and the Global Healthcare Summit. Utilizing the new technology, he wants to organize monthly online CMEs through Zoom and regular motivational Lectures for physicians.

Financial stability is an important area, where Dr. Jonnalagadda wants to focus on as President, and promises “to make sincere efforts in making AAPI financially stronger by increasing fund raising activities.”

He is grateful to his predecessor, Dr. Suresh Reddy and Dr. Anupama Gotimukula and the current Team for initiating the AAPI Endowment Fund, which he plans to strengthen during his presidency, making AAPI financially viable and stronger in the years to come.

Dr. Jonnalagadda is committed to upholding and further augment the ideals for which AAPI stands. “I am confident that my experience, work ethic and firsthand experience in organizing Conventions and fundraisers are best suited to carry on the responsibilities and lead this noble organization to new heights.”

Dr. Jonnalagadda is married to Dr. Umamaheswari, who comes from a family of physicians. The couple have one child, Veeraeen, who is a Medical School student.

In all of his efforts, Dr. Jonnalagadda wants to work with his executive committee and all branches of AAPI membership in a congenial and non-competitive manner, focusing on the noble mission of this prestigious organization. His experiences in organizing conferences and meetings which help to bring members together and attract new members is vital to the success of the organization.

AAPI represents more than 100,000 physicians and fellows of Indian Origin in the US, and being their voice and providing a forum to its members to collectively work together to meet their diverse needs, is a major challenge.

With the changing trends and statistics in healthcare, both in India and US, we are refocusing our mission and vision, AAPI would like to make a positive meaningful impact on the healthcare delivery system both in the US and in India.

AAPI will continue to be an active player in crafting the delivery of healthcare in the most efficient manner in the United States and India. “We will strive for equity in healthcare delivery globally.” Dr. Jonnalagadda is confident that with the blessings of elders, and the strong support from the total membership of AAPI and his family, he will be able to take AAPI to stability, unity, growth and greater achievements.”

21-year-old Meera Mehta, volunteer with Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care honoured with The Diana Award from UK

21-year-old young COVID-19 warrior from India, Meera Mehta, volunteering with the global non-profit Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care, has been recognised with The Diana Award – the most prestigious accolade a young person aged 9-25 years can receive for their social action or humanitarian work. Established in memory of Princess Diana of Wales, the Award is given out by The Diana Award charity and has the support of both her sons, The Duke of Cambridge and The Duke of Sussex.

Inspired by the vision and guidance of her spiritual mentor Pujya Gurudevshri Rakeshbhai, founder of Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care, Meera was nurtured with a desire to serve selflessly since a young age. For the benevolent initiatives of Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care, she has been dedicatedly raising funds to uplift the underprivileged sections since the past 10 years.

“Make compassion your nature, not hobby, habit or mood.” – Pujya Gurudevshri Rakeshbhai

Since a tender age of six, Pujya Gurudevshri Rakeshbhai inspired Meera to volunteer for various projects undertaken by Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care, for the remote communities of South Gujarat, India.  Talking about how through this holistic experience, deep virtues of empathy and compassion were sown within her, Meera shares, “I will always remember the day at the first tribal camp I visited. When I gave a tribal child a gift, Pujya Gurudevshri Rakeshbhai encouraged me to say thank you to that child and told me that it is a privilege to be able to serve the less fortunate.” Thus, implementing this teaching, she began raising enormous funds for many benevolent initiatives of Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care including the health and education projects, including tertiary healthcare for a rural charity hospital, a Science college for the tribal students, primary and secondary education for indigenous communities, an ICU unit for new-born, and a skill development program for rural women.

“What Pujya Gurudevshri taught me changed my entire perspective towards fundraising. While I continue to actively raise funds, I am also studying hard to become a doctor,

and help tribal children in more ways than one.” – Meera Mehta 

As a true changemaker, she has inspired and inducted numerous youngsters to volunteer and raise funds effectively. In fact, Meera was also selected as an ‘Inspirational Change Agent’ at the Mumbai Marathon 2019, alongside the eminent boxer Mary Kom, for her impactful fundraising endeavors. Across her 10-year journey, she has raised over Rs. 1.5 crore, garnering massive support from corporates, celebrities and organisations.  In addition to several awards and accolades won for fundraising, Meera was also presented the ‘Youth Leader 2015’ award by The Global Education & Leadership Foundation, India for her unique social impact project ‘Poster to Shelter’.

Meera continues to work for the greater good through several endeavours of Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care across 5 continents focused on the welfare of mankind, animals, and the environment. Even amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, she continues to display an extraordinary passion to serve by actively contributing to Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care’s 360-degree COVID-19 Relief Initiatives. These relief activities provide essential resources to front liners, healthcare professionals, daily wagers, and stray animals. Owing to its Mission Statement “Realise one’s True Self and Serve Others Selflessly”, 2500 volunteers are selflessly working in over 50 cities across the world, distinctly catering to each community’s personal needs amidst this crisis.

Having raised over Rs. 33 lakhs to support vulnerable communities during the pandemic, Meera has been instrumental in sponsoring 2 buses for migrant workers to return to their hometown in Bihar, providing over lakhs of meals for daily wagers and support to thousands frontline workers with PPE Kits, masks etc. For Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care’s recent initiative for proving migrants’ workers leaving in Mumbai for their hometown with nutritious meal for their journey, encouraged Meera to prepare handmade meals too.  Meera aims to raise Rs. 50 lakhs to support Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care’s extensive Covid relief work, that committedly provides safety and sufficiency to lakhs across the globe.

“We congratulate all our new Diana Award recipients who are changemakers for their generation. We know by receiving this honour they will inspire more young people to get involved in their communities and begin their own journey as active citizens.” -Tessy Ojo, CEO of The Diana Award.

 With inspiration from her mentor Pujya Guru

21-year-old young COVID-19 warrior from India, Meera Mehta, volunteering with the global non-profit Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care, has been recognised with The Diana Award – the most prestigious accolade a young person aged 9-25 years can receive for their social action or humanitarian work. Established in memory of Princess Diana of Wales, the Award is given out by The Diana Award charity and has the support of both her sons, The Duke of Cambridge and The Duke of Sussex.

Inspired by the vision and guidance of her spiritual mentor Pujya Gurudevshri Rakeshbhai, founder of Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care, Meera was nurtured with a desire to serve selflessly since a young age. For the benevolent initiatives of Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care, she has been dedicatedly raising funds to uplift the underprivileged sections since the past 10 years.

“Make compassion your nature, not hobby, habit or mood.” – Pujya Gurudevshri Rakeshbhai

Since a tender age of six, Pujya Gurudevshri Rakeshbhai inspired Meera to volunteer for various projects undertaken by Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care, for the remote communities of South Gujarat, India.  Talking about how through this holistic experience, deep virtues of empathy and compassion were sown within her, Meera shares, “I will always remember the day at the first tribal camp I visited. When I gave a tribal child a gift, Pujya Gurudevshri Rakeshbhai encouraged me to say thank you to that child and told me that it is a privilege to be able to serve the less fortunate.” Thus, implementing this teaching, she began raising enormous funds for many benevolent initiatives of Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care including the health and education projects, including tertiary healthcare for a rural charity hospital, a Science college for the tribal students, primary and secondary education for indigenous communities, an ICU unit for new-born, and a skill development program for rural women.

“What Pujya Gurudevshri taught me changed my entire perspective towards fundraising. While I continue to actively raise funds, I am also studying hard to become a doctor,

and help tribal children in more ways than one.” – Meera Mehta 

As a true changemaker, she has inspired and inducted numerous youngsters to volunteer and raise funds effectively. In fact, Meera was also selected as an ‘Inspirational Change Agent’ at the Mumbai Marathon 2019, alongside the eminent boxer Mary Kom, for her impactful fundraising endeavors. Across her 10-year journey, she has raised over Rs. 1.5 crore, garnering massive support from corporates, celebrities and organisations.  In addition to several awards and accolades won for fundraising, Meera was also presented the ‘Youth Leader 2015’ award by The Global Education & Leadership Foundation, India for her unique social impact project ‘Poster to Shelter’.

Meera continues to work for the greater good through several endeavours of Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care across 5 continents focused on the welfare of mankind, animals, and the environment. Even amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, she continues to display an extraordinary passion to serve by actively contributing to Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care’s 360-degree COVID-19 Relief Initiatives. These relief activities provide essential resources to front liners, healthcare professionals, daily wagers, and stray animals. Owing to its Mission Statement “Realise one’s True Self and Serve Others Selflessly”, 2500 volunteers are selflessly working in over 50 cities across the world, distinctly catering to each community’s personal needs amidst this crisis.

Having raised over Rs. 33 lakhs to support vulnerable communities during the pandemic, Meera has been instrumental in sponsoring 2 buses for migrant workers to return to their hometown in Bihar, providing over lakhs of meals for daily wagers and support to thousands frontline workers with PPE Kits, masks etc. For Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care’s recent initiative for proving migrants’ workers leaving in Mumbai for their hometown with nutritious meal for their journey, encouraged Meera to prepare handmade meals too.  Meera aims to raise Rs. 50 lakhs to support Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care’s extensive Covid relief work, that committedly provides safety and sufficiency to lakhs across the globe.

“We congratulate all our new Diana Award recipients who are changemakers for their generation. We know by receiving this honour they will inspire more young people to get involved in their communities and begin their own journey as active citizens.” -Tessy Ojo, CEO of The Diana Award. 

With inspiration from her mentor Pujya Gurudevshri, coupled with the passion of volunteers at Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care, Meera Mehta strives to take mighty strides in creating hope and happiness in the lives of thousands.

devshri, coupled with the passion of volunteers at Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care, Meera Mehta strives to take mighty strides in creating hope and happiness in the lives of thousands.

Modi Warns China of Expansionism, As Beijing Urges Caution

The enemies of India have seen the fire and fury of our forces,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said during his surprise visit to Leh, Ladakh, to interact with the Army, Air Force and ITBP personnel stationed at Nimu. “The age of expansionism is over; we are now in an age of development and open competition,” the PM said. “History is rife with examples of countries that had adopted an expansionist attitude and threatened world peace but were eventually either destroyed or had to beat an ignominious retreat,” he added. Modi also visited the soldiers injured during the clash with Chinese troops at the Galwan Valley on June 15 at the military hospital. Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew on Friday into the northern border region where Indian and Chinese troops are locked in a stand-off, and said the military stood ready to defend his country. His comments prompted Beijing to call for restraint at the tense border area in the northern Himalayan region of Ladakh. Modi, making his first trip to the Ladakh region since the Indian army lost 20 soldiers in a clash with Chinese soldiers last month, said his country’s commitment to peace should not be seen as a sign of weakness. “Today India is becoming stronger, be it in naval might, air power, space power and the strength of our army. Modernization of weapons and upgradation of infrastructure has enhanced our defense capabilities multifold,” he said in a speech to soldiers near Leh, the regional capital. India says Chinese troops have intruded across the Line of Actual Control, or the ceasefire line separating the two armies in the high altitude Ladakh region, and the clash on June 15 occurred because Chinese troops sought to erect defenses on India‘s side of the de facto border. China says the whole of the Galwan valley where the clash occurred is its territory and that it was frontline Indian troops that had breached the border, which is not demarcated. China’s foreign ministry said on Friday the two countries were holding talks to reduce tensions. Spokesman Zhao Lijian, responding to a question about Modi’s visit to the border region, said both sides were in communications through diplomatic and military channels to ease the situation. “In these circumstances, neither side should take actions that might complicate the border situation,” he said at a daily news briefing in Beijing. The most serious crisis on the India-China border in years has erupted while Beijing is embroiled in disputes over the South China Sea, Taiwan and its tightening grip over Hong Kong, which have all fanned fears of an expansionist policy. In a separate development, India‘s power ministry stipulated that Indian companies will need government permission to import power supply equipment and components from China, amid rising military tensions between the two countries. In Beijing, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry said “artificially setting up barriers” for trade “not only violates WTO rules, but also hurts India’s interests”. He was responding to a question on union minister Nitin Gadkari’s statement about blocking Chinese firms from highway projects. “China will take all necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights of Chinese businesses,” he added. He said the two countries should work to meet the “consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries and uphold overall bilateral relations”. “India should avoid a strategic miscalculation with regard to China.” Chinese embassy in India, in a tweet, said the accusation of “expansionism” is “groundless”. “China has demarcated boundary with 12 of its 14 neighboring countries through peaceful negotiations, turning land borders into bonds of friendly cooperation. It’s groundless to view China as ‘expansionist’, exaggerate and fabricate its disputes with neighbors,” the tweet said. A sign of China’s expansionist agenda is clear as the Chinese spokesperson criticized Japan (on Senkaku islands), the Philippines (Paracel Islands), Australia (on an APSI report on China) and the United States at the same press briefing. China also conflicts with Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia in the South China Sea.

Choreographer Who Made Bollywood Sparkle, Saroj Khan Is No More

‘Masterji’ to the stars, Legendary Bollywood choreographer Saroj Khan died of a cardiac arrest at the age of 71 on Friday, July 3rd, 2020. Admitted to Mumbai’s Guru Nanak Hospital since June 17 after she complained of trouble in breathing, she tested negative for Covid-19. Her funeral took place on Friday morning in Malad.

Fondly called ‘Masterji’ by stars whom she choreographed, Saroj directed over 2,000 songs in her long and storied career. Born as Nirmala Nagpal, she started her career as a child artiste and graduated to a backup dancer in the ’50s, working with choreographer B Sohanlal. She rose from the ranks, and was the first woman to become chief choreographer, before it was a thing, in Bollywood.

Saroj Khan was born in that place, the 1st of 6 kids. She recalled dancing with shadows there as a toddler, fascinated even then by what would grow to be her contacting. To complement the family’s profits, her father managed to get her operate in Mumbai’s booming movie sector as a little one actress at the age of three, below the title Saroj.

She experienced little roles in a amount of movies in advance of starting to be a qualifications dancer at the age of 10, showing up in the basic “Howrah Bridge,” starring the actress Madhubala.

On the eve of the Diwali vacation, Ms. Khan labored up the braveness to check with the matinee star Shashi Kapoor for enable. “I had just finished one song with him, I was the group dancer,” she mentioned. “I went to him and told him, tomorrow is Diwali and I have nothing at home. I will get paid only after a week. He said, ‘I have 200 rupees right now, please take it.’ I’ll never forget it, that money helped me so much.”

Khan never ever formally experienced as a dancer. Most classical dancers devote several years learning below a instructor in advance of they at any time conduct in general public, but with a household to enable help, that was not an choice for Ms. Khan.

Although nonetheless a younger woman, she turned an assistant to the choreographer B. Sohanlal, doing work with him on some of the most important movies of the . He taught her the basic principles of kathak, a classical Indian dance.

“When he started teaching me, I realized that I can’t keep a posture, I don’t know how to do this,” she recalled in the documentary. “He made me work very hard, I had to remain in the same posture for hours at a , but he turned me into a good dancer.”

Her first break as an independent choreographer came with Geeta Mera Naam (1974) and she would taste fame with the song Hawa Hawai from Mr. India (1987). Her collaboration with Sridevi on other projects like Chandni (think Nau Nau Choodiyan) and Nagina (Main Teri Dushman) further boosted her profile.

But it was her collaboration with Madhuri Dixit that transformed the careers of both the artistes, beginning with Ek Do Teen (Tezaab), and then Tamma Tamma Loge (Thanedaar), Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai (Khalnayak) and Dhak Dhak Karne Laga (Beta).

Saroj was also the one who gave Shah Rukh Khan his iconic open arms pose, in Baazigar. Other standout choreographies included Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast (Mohra), Nimbooda (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam) and Radha Kaise Na Jale (Lagaan). Her last film was Kalank (2019), where she choreographed Tabaah Ho Gaye, picturised on Madhuri. She also won National Awards for choreographing Dola Re Dola (Devdas), all the songs of Tamil film Sringaram, and Yeh Ishq Haaye (Jab We Met). Saroj was also the very first recipient of the Filmfare Award for Best Choreography, when the category was introduced in 1989. With 8 wins, she holds the record of most awards in this category. Bollywood stars have mourned the death of the legendary Khan. Shekar Kapoor tweeted: “She defined a generation of heroines. Certainly #MrIndia would not have been same film without #SarojKhan. You had to see her dance as she rehearsed with SriDevi. She was messmerizing. And what energy! You could shoot all night, yet she smiled and danced constantly fresh.” Madhuri Dixit said, “I’m devastated by the loss of my friend and guru, Saroj Khan. Will always be grateful for her work in helping me reach my full potential in dance. The world has lost an amazingly talented person. I will miss you. My sincere condolences to the family. #RIPSarojji.” Akshay Kumar tweeted: “Woke up to the sad news that legendary choreographer #SarojKhan ji is no more. She made dance look easy almost like anybody can dance, a huge loss for the industry. May her soul rest in peace.”

Modi Praises The Achievements And Contributions Of The Indian-Origin Physicians, While Addressing AAPI’s First Ever Virtual Summit

(Chicago, IL: June 28th, 2020): “I am proud of the achievements and contributions of the Indian-origin physicians across the world in the battle against COVID-19,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the Chief Guest at first ever Virtual Global Summit of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) on Saturday, June 27th.

In his brief remarks, Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPI thanked Prime Minister Modi for his leadership of India and making India a word leader. The First Ever Virtual Summer Summit by the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) is being held from June 16thth to 28th, 2020.

During his address on Indo-US Relationship During the Pandemic and the Role of AAPI, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told members of the  powerful and the largest ethnic Medical Association in the United States, “I have closely followed your contributions, sacrificing your life to save that of others. Some of have done the ultimate sacrifice of giving up youir own lives at the service of others. Your will be remembered for forever.”

Acknowledging the sacrifices of Indian Origin physicians, Modi said, “I want to express my sincere gratitude for being the warriors who are committed to save the lives of so many during the pandemic.”

The Prime Minister said that due to lockdown, many initiatives taken by the Government and a people driven fight, India is much better placed than many other nations and India’s recovery rate is rising. Due to this the severity of the virus is less than anticipated.

Modi Praises The Achievements And Contributions Of The Indian-Origin Physicians, While Addressing AAPI’s First Ever Virtual SummitPrime Minister Modi shared with AAPI statistics of various countries. Modi said India had performed much better in the fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). “As against the death rate of 350 individuals per million in the US and over 600 per million in European nations like the UK, Italy and Spain, the rate of fatalities in India is less than 12,” he said.

India defied the fears of the world’s topmost experts in this regard, according to Modi. He said that lakhs of villages, home to 85 crore people, remain almost untouched  by Coronavirus. The prime minister attributed this to the support from the people of the country. “Rural parts of the country have largely remained untouched from this pandemic,” he said.

India’s fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic is driven by its people, Modi said, attributing the “success” against the pandemic to the implementation the nationwide lockdown in its initial phase.

Without people’s cooperation, Modi said, the success would not have been possible in the world’s second-highest populated country — with high density, where social gathering is a norm of life, large religious and political gatherings are regular, and large-scale interstate migration, India has been able to save the lives of thousands and lakhs of its citizens because of the timely lockdown, he told AAPI members.

Modi said COVID-19 had been used as an opportunity to work towards making the country self-reliant. Modi said the COVID-19 pandemic had been used as an opportunity to improve the healthcare facilities. “For instance, at the start of the coronavirus, there was only one COVID-19 testing lab. Now there are 1,000, he said.

The prime minister underlined that India, which imported most of its personnel protection equipment (PPE) kits at the start of the pandemic, was now almost self-reliant and in a position to export them. The country is making more than 30 lakh N95 masks per week. More than 50,000 new ventilators are being made available to the healthcare sector, all made inside the country, he added. “Stay safe and well and continue to contribute to health of the world. Stay healthier and stronger,” he told AAPI members.

Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu was introduced by Dr. Seema Arora, Chair of AAPI’s Board of Trustees, as “one of the most experienced Indian diplomats on US affairs, having served in the Indian Mission in Washington DC in various capacities and at the Permanent Mission of India to United Nations, New York.”

Calling the Indian American Physicians as the “real heroes” Ambassador Sandhu “You are the real heroes who have risked your lives and have been out to assist others.” There is a widespread recognition of their contributions in the US, he added. “Lawmakers in the US appreciate your contributions. AAPI members have greatly contributed risking their own lives.”

Expressing his deepest condolences to AAPI and the families of those Physicins, who had lost their lives, the Indian Envoy thanked AAPI for “your support to the Indian Embassy helping Indian students stranded here due to the pandemic. Your online Health Desk has helped many Indians in the US affected by the pandemic.”

Praising AAPI for the several charitable works in India, Ambassador Sandhu, said, “India and the US are strategic partners” and pointed to collaboration between the two nations on cutting edge medical research in healthcare sector and science. With inexpensive medical supply to 127 countries, India has become “a reliable partner in global supply chain of all healthcare needs.”

Representing the interests of the over 100,000 physicians of Indian origin, AAPI members serve every 7th patient in the United States and every 5th patient in rural and inner cities across the nation. Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, will assume as the incoming President of AAPI on July 12th along with Dr. Sajani Shah, Chair, AAPI’s BOT; and his Executive Committee consisting of Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President-Elect, Dr. Ravi Kolli, Vice President, Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Secretary, and Dr. Satish Kathula, Treasurer of AAPI. For more details,please visit:   www.aapiusa.org

India elected to United Nations Security Council with overwhelming majority

India has been elected to the United Nations Security Council with an overwhelming majority of 184 votes on Wednesday, June 17th, 2002 for a term extending to another years. Though India ran unopposed from Asia, eight countries apparently did not vote for India in the secret ballot in which 192 of the 193 member nations participated. “India’s presence in the Security Council will help bring to the world our ethos that the world is one family — Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,” India’s Permanent Representative T.S. Tirumurti said.
India will serve its eighth two-year term as a non-permanent member without veto powers, even as it pursues on a parallel track UN reforms aimed at getting a permanent seat. India will replace Indonesia, whose term ends at the end of the year, on the Council and join Vietnam as one of the two non-permanent Asian members. Running unopposed for the seat for Latin American and Caribbean countries, Mexico won with 187 votes.
The highly prized election victory comes to India against the backdrop of the conflict in Ladakh with China, whom it will join on the Council in January. New Delhi won the Asia Pacific seat on the highest decision-making body of the UN with the unanimous support of the countries in the 55-member group, with China and Pakistan, at least openly, conceding support in face of overwhelming backing for India from the others.
The ten non-permanent Security Council seats are distributed among five regional groups and elections are held every year for the five that fall vacant on alternate years.
But there were contested elections for the three other seats. Canada was routed in its bid for one of the two seats allotted to the group made up of West European countries and others like Canada and Australia that do not fit in elsewhere.
In a setback to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who personally campaigned hard for the seat, it received only 108 votes. Norway with 130 votes and Ireland with 128 were elected to the two seats. Neither Kenya nor Djibouti received a two-thirds majority and a runoff is to be held later.
Kenya, which received 113 votes for the African seat had the endorsement of the continent’s countries, while Djibouti which counted on a rift between the Arab and Non-Arab nations in the group received 78 votes.
After the vote, Tirumurti acknowledged the victory and said in a video statement, “We are confident in the COVID and post-COVID world, India will continue to provide leadership and a new orientation for a reformed multilateral system. Our election to the United Security Council is a testament to Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi’s vision and his inspiring global leadership.” he said. In a campaign document unveiled by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in New Delhi, India laid out a “5S” approach of Samman (Respect), Samvad (Dialogue), Sahyog (Cooperation) Shanti (Peace) and Samriddi (Prosperity) for its service on the Council.
The document setting out India’s agenda said that a reformed multilateralism is a must for the post-COVID19 era. Besides fighting terrorism, a priority for India, which historically the largest contributor peacekeeping operations, that the document listed was streamlining UN peacekeeping to “ensure greater clarity, direction, and professionalism.”
While addressing the abuse of technology by terrorists, the document said that technology must be promoted with “a human touch” and India will promote partnerships to harness it to reduce human suffering and build resilient communities. “India will become a member of the Security Council at a critical juncture,” Tirumurti said.
India will step into a Council Chamber paralyzed by the polarization of its veto-wielding permanent members that almost harks back to the Cold War era.
It will have to deftly deal with intractable issues like the Syrian civil war with international dimensions, Ukraine’s disputes with Russia, the US — or President Donald Trump’s — obsession with Iran or its fallout and Yemen where the UN has not been able to act because of the standoff between the West and Russia and China.
But at least when China tries to bring up the Kashmir issue in the Council as it has done twice recently, India will be right there. In elections held simultaneously, Volkan Bozkir, a Turkish diplomat and politician who ran unopposed, was chosen president of the next session of the General Assembly that starts in September.
Eighteen countries that ran unopposed for as many seats on the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) were also elected. India’s last term on the Security Council was in 2011-12 and Hardeep Singh Puri, who was then India’s Permanent Representative and is now a minister, immediately afterwards planned to bid for its next term not wanting a long gap like the 19 years since the previous 1991-92 tenure.
Intense diplomacy by him and his successor, Asoke Mukerji, sealed India’s bid for the 2021-22 term. Afghanistan had initially expressed interest in running for the 2021-22 term but did not pursue it, leaving the field for India.

India-China Clash In Ladakh Region

The deadly clash between Indian and Chinese troops has officials from both sides blaming each other for the violence that erupted amid a seven-week long military stand-off at their

disputed border.

At least 20 Indian soldiers have died after a “violent face-off” with Chinese troops along the countries’ de facto border in the Himalayas late Monday, the Indian army announced.  Indian media say there are 35 Chinese casualties but Beijing has not confirmed if any of its troops were killed or injured.

The incident occurred during a “de-escalation process” underway in the Galwan Valley in the disputed Aksai Chin-Ladakh area, where a large troop build-up has reportedly been taking place for weeks now on both sides of the border, before senior military commanders began talks earlier this month.

The current stand-off is reported to have been triggered by India’s construction of a road in the Galwan Valley, its latest project in years of infrastructure build-up by both sides in the border region.

On June 6, after a videoconference between diplomats, top generals from both sides

met in Chushul-Moldo, in the eastern part of Ladakh. Details of the four-hour discussion were few and far between but the comments made after that were reassuring. In the days that followed, the Indian establishment indicated through leaks to the media that troops from both sides would disengage in some areas while officials would continue talks to ease the situation.

The fighting occurred in the precipitous, rocky terrain of the Galwan Valley. Indian media say soldiers engaged in direct hand-to-hand combat, with some “beaten to death”. During the fight, one newspaper reported, others fell or were pushed into a river.

Indian forces appear to have been massively outnumbered by Chinese troops. A senior Indian military official told the BBC there were 55 Indians versus 300 Chinese, who he described as “the Death Squad”.

“They hit our boys on the head with metal batons wrapped in barbed wire. Our boys fought with bare hands,” the officer, who did not want to be named, said. His account, which could not be verified, tallies with other reports in the Indian media detailing the savagery of the combat.

The Indian army had earlier said three soldiers had died, but added on Tuesday that a further 17 troops “who were critically injured in the line of duty at the standoff location and exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain have succumbed to their injuries.” The deaths are the first military casualties along the two countries’ disputed border for more than 45 years.

India’s Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said China tried to erect a structure inside Indian territory, while China’s Wang Yi said Indian troops attacked first. Senior military officials from both sides are currently meeting to defuse the situation, the statement added.

“India and China have been discussing through military and diplomatic channels the de-escalation of the situation in the border area in Eastern Ladakh,” said India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava on Tuesday. He said senior commanders had “agreed on a process for such de-escalation” during a “productive meeting” on Saturday, June 6, and ground commanders had met regarding the implementation.

“While it was our expectation that this would unfold smoothly, the Chinese side departed from the consensus to respect the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Galwan Valley,” he said in the statement.

“Both sides suffered casualties that could have been avoided had the agreement at the higher level been scrupulously followed by the Chinese side,” he added. “Given its responsible approach to border management, India is very clear that all its activities are always within the Indian side of the LAC. We expect the same of the Chinese side. We remain firmly convinced of the need for the maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas and the resolution of differences through dialogue. At the same time, we are also strongly committed to ensuring India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Earlier Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the Indian deaths “will not be in vain” and that India would be “proud that our soldiers died fighting the Chinese” in the clash in the Ladakh region on Monday.

Addressing the confrontation for the first time in a televised address on Wednesday, he said: “India wants peace but when provoked, India is capable of giving a fitting reply, be it any kind of situation.”

An Indian government statement following the phone conversation said that Chinese troops had tried to put up a structure on the Indian side of the de facto border, the Line of Actual Control (LAC), in the strategically important Galwan Valley.

It described this as “premeditated and planned action that was directly responsible for the resulting violence and casualties” and urged China to “take corrective steps”. The statement concluded that neither side would take action to escalate matters.

Meanwhile a Chinese statement quoted Mr Wang as saying: “China again expresses strong protest to India and demands the Indian side launches a thorough investigation… and stop all provocative actions to ensure the same things do not happen again. Both sides should resolve the dispute through dialogue, and keep the border safe and tranquil,” he added.

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) released a statement Tuesday night calling on the Indian army to immediately stop what it described as “provocative actions” and to “resolve the issue through the correct track of dialogue and talks.”

“The sovereignty of the Galwan Valley region has always belonged to China,” Zhang Shuili, the spokesman of the Western Theater said in a statement on China’s Ministry of Defense website. “Indian troops violated its commitment, crossed the borderline for illegal activities and deliberately launched provocative attacks.” Zhang added that the “serious physical conflict between the two sides” had “resulted in casualties.”

The clash has provoked protests in India, with people burning Chinese flags.  China has not confirmed how many of its personnel died or were injured. The BBC’s Robin Brant in Beijing says that China has never given contemporaneous confirmation on military deaths outside of peacekeeping duties.

This is not the first time the two nuclear-armed neighbors have fought without conventional firearms on the border. India and China have a history of face-offs and overlapping territorial claims along the more than 3,440km (2,100 mile), poorly drawn LAC separating the two sides.

The prime minister did say: “India wants peace but, if instigated, it is capable of giving a befitting reply.” But this is seen as aimed more at his political rivals and supporters domestically, rather than as a warning to Beijing. China is not Pakistan and memories of the humiliating defeat in the 1962 war are all too real for any misadventure.

How tense is the area?

The LAC is poorly demarcated. The presence of rivers, lakes and snowcaps means the line can shift. The soldiers either side – representing two of the world’s largest armies – come face-to-face at many points. Border patrols have often bumped into each other, resulting in occasional scuffles.

The two nuclear-armed neighbours have never agreed on the length of the border or how to demarcate it. The dispute dates back to when the British ruled India – a 1914 conference with the governments of Tibet and China set a boundary, known as the McMahon line, but this was never recognized by china. Beijing claims about 90,000 square kilometres of territory, comprising almost all of India’s Arunachal Pradesh state.

In 1959, when India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru went to Beijing, he questioned the boundaries shown on official Chinese maps, prompting Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai to reply that his government did not accept the colonial frontier.

In 1962, Chinese troops swarmed the disputed frontier with India during a row over the border’s demarcation. It sparked a four-week war that left thousands dead on the Indian side before China’s forces withdrew.

Beijing retained Aksai Chin, a strategic corridor linking Tibet to western China. India still claims the entire Aksai Chin region as its own, as well as the nearby China-controlled Shaksgam valley in northern Kashmir.

Another flashpoint has been Nathu La, a high mountain pass in India’s northeastern Sikkim state that is sandwiched between Bhutan, Chinese-ruled Tibet and Nepal.

During a series of clashes in 1967, which included the exchange of artillery fire, New Delhi said some 80 Indian soldiers died and counted up to 400 Chinese casualties.

In 1975, shots were reportedly fired across the official border at Tulung La in Arunachal Pradesh. Four Indian soldiers were ambushed and their deaths marked the last time anyone was known to have been killed in the long-running dispute until now. Then, Delhi blamed Beijing for crossing into Indian territory, a claim dismissed by China.

Three years ago, India and China had a months-long high-altitude stand-off in Bhutan’s

Doklam region after the Indian side sent troops to stop China constructing a road in the area.

The Doklam plateau is strategically significant as it gives China access to the so-called “chicken’s neck” – a thin strip of land connecting India’s northeastern states with the rest of the country.

It is claimed by both China and Bhutan, an ally of India. The issue was resolved after talks. In 2018, India said Chinese troops advanced around 300-400 metres inside the Demchok area and pitched five tents. Three were later removed after talks between the two armies.

The last firing on the border happened in 1975 when four Indian soldiers were killed in a remote pass in the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. The clash was variously described by former diplomats as an ambush and an accident. But no bullets have been fired since.

At the root of this is a 1996 bilateral agreement that says “neither side shall open fire… conduct blast operations or hunt with guns or explosives within two kilometres of the Line of Actual Control”.

But there have been tense confrontations along the border in recent weeks. In May Indian and Chinese soldiers exchanged physical blows on the border at Pangong Lake, also in Ladakh, and in the north-eastern Indian state of Sikkim hundreds of miles to the east.

India has accused China of sending thousands of troops into Ladakh’s Galwan Valley and says China occupies 38,000 sq km (14,700 sq miles) of its territory. Several rounds of talks in the last three decades have failed to resolve the boundary disputes. India also disputes part of Kashmir – an ethnically diverse Himalayan region covering about 140,000 sq km – with Pakistan.

There are several reasons why tensions are rising again now – but competing strategic goals lie at the root. The two countries have devoted extensive money and manpower to building roads, bridges, rail links and air fields along the disputed border.

Both India and China see each other’s construction efforts as calculated moves to gain a tactical advantage, and tensions often flare up when either announces a major project.

“We have not had casualties on the Line of Actual Control for at least 45 years,” said Happymon Jacob, an associate professor and political analyst at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. “This is perhaps a game-changer. This is perhaps the beginning of the end of the rapport that India has enjoyed with China for 45 years.”

India Eases Travel Restrictions For Certain Foreigners, OCI Card Holders

OCI card holders who wish to come to India on account of family emergencies like critical medical conditions of immediate family members or death have also been granted permission to travel to India.

The Home Ministry on Friday eased restrictions on entry of foreign nationals into the country norms, allowing a larger number of Overseas Citizen of India cardholders and foreign nationals related to OCI cardholders or citizens to enter India.
The specific categories who have been issued permit to travel to India include minors who the OCI Card and whose parents are Indian nationals.
OCI card holders who wish to come to India on account of family emergencies like critical medical conditions of immediate family members or death have also been granted permission to travel to India.
Government has also allowed married couples, where one spouse is an OCI card holder and the other is an Indian national, to enter the country.
Students who are OCI card holders, where at least one of their parents is an Indian citizen or an OCI card holder, can also travel to India.

Trump Wants India To Be Part Of Expanded G-7

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accepted President Trump’s invitation to attend the G-7 meet as a guest, and has also welcomed Trump’s proposal to include India in an expanded G-7.

The G-7 nations include the United States, Britain, France, Japan, Germany, Italy and Canada, and the European Union.

With the planned expansion, it’s unsure as to how the endgame is going to be. Trump is looking at “G-10 or G-11” with India, South Korea, Australia and Russia as additional members. The math is clear; it should become the G-11. Why G-10? Russia. It was kicked out of the group in 2014 (when G-8 became G-7) for annexing Crimea and it remains in the doghouse for most G-7 heads, who don’t share Trump’s enthusiasm for Russia.

But this uncertainty alone should not cast doubts on Trump’s plans for G-7 overhaul. Negotiators had looked at competing numbers for the 1997-99 expansion as well, but had settled on the smaller number to keep it manageable. India made it to that group.

The endgame is unclear, as it was then. Trump is looking at “G-10 or G-11” with India, South Korea, Australia and Russia as additional members. The math is clear; it should become the G-11. Why G-10? Russia. It was kicked out of the group in 2014 (when G-8 became G-7) for annexing Crimea and it remains in the doghouse for most G-7 heads, who don’t share Trump’s enthusiasm for Russia.

But this uncertainty alone should not cast doubts on Trump’s plans for G-7 overhaul. Negotiators had looked at competing numbers for the 1997-99 expansion as well, but had settled on the smaller number to keep it manageable. India made it to that group.

There was a clear need for a broader platform in 1997 to address challenges to global financial stability due to the widening economic crisis in Asian countries. And the G-20 provided an answer. The forum played an effective role after the 2008 crisis.

Trump’s expansion plan, on the other hand, is not well-thought-out. It does not appear to be about the coronavirus pandemic, the worst health crisis faced by the world in 100 years. If he believed in multilateralism to deal with it or prevent the next, he would have continued to fund the World Health Organization and forced to change it from within.

There was a clear need for a broader platform in 1997 to address challenges to global financial stability due to the widening economic crisis in Asian countries. And the G-20 provided an answer. The forum played an effective role after the 2008 crisis.

Trump’s expansion plan, on the other hand, is not well-thought-out. It does not appear to be about the coronavirus pandemic, the worst health crisis faced by the world in 100 years. If he believed in multilateralism to deal with it or prevent the next, he would have continued to fund the World Health Organization and forced to change it from within.

President Bill Clinton had broached the need for broadening the Group of Seven nations, called the G-7, in the wake of the Asian economic crisis of 1997. And that led to the launch of the G-20 in 1999, a group of 19 countries and the European Union. Today,  President Donald Trump, has called for expanding the same body, G-7, on the basis that it is “very outdated.”

It was unclear whether Trump’s desire to invite the additional countries was a bid to permanently expand the G7. On several previous occasions, he suggested Russia be added, given what he called Moscow’s global strategic importance.

Russia was expelled from what was then the G8 in 2014 when Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, was U.S. president, after Moscow annexed the Crimea region from Ukraine. Russia still holds the territory, and various G7 governments have rebuffed previous calls from Trump to readmit Moscow.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday he would postpone a Group of Seven summit he had hoped to hold next month until September or later and expand the list of invitees to include Australia, Russia, South Korea and India.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One during his return to Washington from Cape Canaveral in Florida, Trump said the G7, which groups the world’s most advanced economies, was a “very outdated group of countries” in its current format.

“I’m postponing it because I don’t feel that as a G7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world,” Trump said. Most European countries offered no immediate comment on the proposal, with a spokesman for the German government saying Berlin was “waiting for further information”.

The decision to postpone the G7 summit is a retreat for Trump, who had sought to host the group of major industrialized countries in Washington as a demonstration that the United States was returning to normal after the coronavirus epidemic, which has killed more than 113,000 Americans to date. Trump had canceled an in-person G7 meeting scheduled for March as the virus spread, but had recently sought to revive it.

French President Emmanuel Macron backed the idea of an in-person meeting, according to the White House. But Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to endorse it, saying there were too many health-related questions. This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she could not attend.

South Korea is aware of Trump’s invitation and will discuss the matter with the United States, a government official in Seoul told Reuters on Sunday. It’s also not about the economic crisis that has accompanied the pandemic.

All Trump cares about, at this time, is his re-election prospects. That’s why German chancellor Angela Merkel, the sharpest of politicians in the western world, who has made it a practice to not visit the United States in election years, is skipping the summit, although, to be sure, she has other reasons.

Q&A With David BarunKumar Thomas: Helping Indian Women During COVID-19

Since 2005, India Nirman Sangh has worked toward women’s development in the villages and hills in and around the Kodaikanal and Palani towns of Tamil Nadu. India Nirman Sangh has distributed basic grocery packs to 2000 women and their families while running a tailoring centre producing free masks. INS is also providing basic income support to those in utmost need. The organization is led by David BarunKumar Thomas, who serves the non-profit as a volunteer.

 

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

 

Q: How did you get into this line of work?

Thomas: I was working for IBM. When I was 45, I decided to leave that job and go back to a place close to where I was born and do something that I found more interesting, which was working with people. In 2004 I started an organization that worked among the poor, particularly women, and helped them organize into groups to start small businesses, send children to school, and improve their standards of living. Part of our strategy includes distributing microloans, but we also go beyond that with organizing and education.We now have 4,000 women who are a part of the group, and the members of the organization work among them. For the last two years we have also started to work among farmers. Farming in the area is becoming unprofitable, so we are working to bring new technology and methods to improve farming’s profitability, all while remaining organic and environmentally sustainable.

Q: How has your organization assisted with the COVID response effort?

Thomas: We have distributed groceries to more than 2000 poor women in the Kodaikanal and Palani Blocks of Dindigul District in Tamil Nadu. In addition, we have given monetary assistance to 42 of the poorest families in this area. We have also produced more than 2000 reusable masks at our tailoring centre in Kodaikanal and distributed them free to the poor.

We have located poor migrants from Nepal in Kodaikanal and have given them food, groceries and monetary assistance. We have also helped a group of 15 LGBT community members with groceries in Palani.

Q:  How does diversity of faith and caste impact your organization’s work?

Thomas: The organization is secular, but about 80 percent of the women we work with are Hindus, 10 percent are Muslims, and 10 percent are Christians. We respect the beliefs of all with whom we work.  The people in this area belong to a variety of castes, mainly the lower castes, so roughly about 40 percent of the people we work with belong to the most depressed castes. We make it a point not to bring caste into the equation. Society is still divided along caste lines, but we make everybody sit together, eat together, and keep telling them in various ways that caste should not be important.

Q: Is there also government relief aid, and is it reaching the neediest?

Thomas: The government here is giving free rations to people, and that covers roughly about 95 percent of the people in this area. They get rice, lentils, and sugar. It’s not really enough for a family to live on, but it does prevent complete starvation. In the North it’s not as good, but here they are giving rations to almost everybody. As a supplement, our group has distributed lentils, sugar, tea, and rice to 2,000 people, and this week we are in the process of distributing wheat flour and a form of pasta and spices. For that, we have used all the funds that we had … which came from those regularly supporting our organization. We like to concentrate on the 2,000 who are very, very poor and who have no family members earning income. We would also like to expand to help others who are not quite so badly off, but who are still very poor. We could very much use additional funding.

Q:  What gives you hope?

Thomas: How much poor people help each other. They share a lot more than people who are [financially] better off. They have a very informed support system among the very poor. They share the little they have. You see this happening all the time. That’s what really keeps people from starvation; the poor helping the poor. That is something Gandhi used to admire a lot and which we see at times like this.

India Opens Up Even As Coronavirus Case Spreads

Nearly two months after the unplanned and abrupt lockdown of the country by Modi government, putting millions of immigrant workers and the poor stranded on the streets without food and shelter, India is cautiously opening up its economy and the lifting the lockdown in phases.

More states opened up and crowds of commuters trickled onto the roads in many of India’s cities on Monday as a three-phase plan to lift the nationwide coronavirus lockdown began despite an upward trend in new infections.

Businesses and shops reopened in many states and the railways announced 200 more special passenger trains. Some states also opened their borders, allowing vehicular traffic.

India reported more than 8,000 new cases of the coronavirus in a single day, another record high that topped the deadliest week in the country.

Confirmed infections have risen to 182,143, with 5,164 fatalities, including 193 in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said Sunday.

Overall, more than 60% of the virus fatalities have been reported from only two states — Maharashtra, the financial hub, and Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The new cases are largely concentrated in six Indian states, including the capital New Delhi.

India implemented the lockdown — one of the world’s strictest — on March 25, ordering everyone to stay inside, except for emergencies and essential services, leading to a sudden halt to the economy. The lockdown was brutally devastating for daily laborers and migrant workers, who fled cities on foot for their family homes in the countryside. The country’s unemployment rate rose to 23.48% in May, according to official data released this week.

Public health experts have criticized the Modi government’s handling of the outbreak. A joint statement by the Indian Public Health Association, Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine and Indian Association of Epidemiologists, which was sent to Modi’s office on May 25, said it was “unrealistic” to eliminate the virus at a time when “community transmission is already well-established.”

The coastal state of Maharashtra, home to the financial hub of Mumbai and Bollywood, allowed the resumption of film production with some restrictions in place. In New Delhi, the capital, authorities announced the reopening of all industries and salons, while keeping the borders sealed until June 8 to try to prevent a spike in new virus cases.

Although social distancing and the wearing of masks in public are still mandatory across India, some people were seen forgoing both in many places. Others violated lockdown rules. In Prayagraj, a city in northern India’s Uttar Pradesh state, hundreds of Hindu devotees took a dip in the sacred Ganges river even though congregations at religious venues remain barred.

But as India eases more restrictions, it continues to report a rise in infections. India on Monday climbed to the seventh spot in countries worst hit by the virus, passing Germany and France, as its confirmed cases rose to more than 190,000, including over 5,400 deaths.

The first phase of the easing of the lockdown, called Unlock 1, will restrict curbs to containment zones — areas that have been isolated due to coronavirus outbreaks. It gives states more power to decide and strategize lockdown implementations locally.

More than 60% of the country’s virus fatalities have been reported in only two states — Maharashtra and neighboring Gujarat. The new cases are largely concentrated in six states, including New Delhi.

Critics fear that the lockdown, which started over two months ago, is being eased too soon. There are concerns that the virus may be spreading through India’s villages as millions of jobless migrant workers return home from big cities.

The real number of coronavirus patients in the country is likely much higher than the official numbers show, as India is among the countries testing the lowest proportion of its population: With just over 1.1 million tests conducted in a country of 1.3 billion, that’s only about 800 tests per million inhabitants, according to data website worldmeters.info.

The U.S., by comparison, has tested about 21,000 per million residents, and America is nowhere near the leader in that regard.Experts warn that the pandemic has yet to peak in India, and many states have begun to identify more high-risk zones where coronavirus lockdowns will continue until June 30. But restaurants, malls and religious venues are permitted to reopen elsewhere on June 8.

In a radio address to the nation on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi cautioned citizens and asked them to remain vigilant.

“Becoming careless or lackadaisical cannot be an option,” he said. Modi’s government has stressed that restrictions are being eased to focus on promoting economic activity, which has been severely hit by the lockdown.

A Border Clash Between The World’s Biggest Nations. What Could Go Wrong?

By Adam Taylor (Courtesy The Washington Post)

China’s ongoing border clash with India may seem remote, but it has global impact. Reports say thousands of troops moved into the disputed area 14,000 feet up in the Himalayas after skirmishes broke out on May 5 near Pangong Lake in Ladakh and then on May 9 in North Sikkim, leaving more than 100 soldiers injured.

Amid the global coronavirus pandemic, assessing exactly what is happening in this dispute between the two most populated countries on Earth is difficult. Much of the border region is closed to the press, so reporters have to rely on statements and leaks.

Many accounts suggest that aggressive Chinese patrols in the area known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC) were to blame – or, in what may not necessarily be a contradiction, that Indian construction in the region had been interpreted as an aggressive challenge to Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure project.

Ultimately, India and China’s border problems are not new – it’s the circumstances surrounding them that have changed. Both Beijing and Delhi are led by governments in the thrall of nationalistic ambition. The pandemic has further pushed many nations into pro- or anti-China positions, camps that were already forming amid a global trade war that has lasted years.

The United States, locked in its own squabble with China, has voiced terse support for India’s position and offered to mediate. Hu Xijin, the outspoken editor of China’s party paper the Global Times, seized on the conflicting messages, mocking President Trump and arguing that the United States “seems to be the beneficiary of China-India border tension.”

India and China’s relationship is based on their status as two giant, wary neighbors. They share a 2,167-mile-long border. Together, their populations are around 2.7 billion, more than a third of the world. Both have achieved rapid economic development in recent decades and increased their territorial ambitions. Both have nuclear weapons.

India was among the first democracies to recognize the People’s Republic of China in 1950, but border disputes between the two increased as Beijing took control of Tibet. In 1962, they fought a month-long war on the Himalayan border, with China inflicting serious casualties on India before withdrawing to the LAC.

There were skirmishes over the border for years. In 1988, after one incident in the Sumdorong Chu Valley in Arunachal Pradesh, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi traveled to Beijing to meet his counterpart Deng Xiaoping. The two nations, both undergoing a wave of economic development just as the Soviet Union began to collapse, put aside their differences out of pragmatism.

Now, that pragmatism is being tested. China, whose economic development has dwarfed India’s, has a gross domestic product of roughly $14 trillion, compared to India’s less than $2.7 trillion. “While India has risen as an economy and a global power in the past three decades, its relative strength to China has in fact greatly declined,” Sumit Ganguly and Manjeet S. Pardesi wrote in Foreign Policy.

China’s close relationship with Pakistan, an unequal partner in the Belt and Road project, and lingering disagreement over Tibet have soured relations with India further. The tension between the two nations spilled over in 2017 in the Doklam area of the Himalayas after Indian troops moved in to prevent the Chinese military from building a road into territory claimed by Bhutan, an ally of India.

Over two months, the two powers flooded the area with military personnel. The threats, especially those from China, were apoplectic. “India will suffer worse losses than 1962 if it incites border clash,” the Global Times wrote.

The Doklam dispute ultimately fizzled out. Both sides withdrew troops in late August of that year and issued vague remarks about a resolution. Exactly what was decided behind the scenes was unclear, though reports that China had halted construction of the motorway suggested that Beijing had backed down.

Some Indian analysts have suggested that the current situation will end similarly, pointing to a number of conciliatory messages from Chinese officials. “We should never let differences overshadow our relations. We should resolve differences through communication,” China’s ambassador to India, Sun Weidong, said Wednesday.

But another inconclusive end to a standoff will fail to address the root of the problem. The Indian government has claimed that the Chinese military crossed into Indian territory 1,025 times between 2016 and 2018 (the Chinese government has not released comparable figures).

India and China are both in the throes of aggressive nationalist movements, each displaying their own brand of “wolf warrior” foreign policy. Under President Xi Jinping, China has moved from subtle pushes to strong shoves to bring the city of Hong Kong under Beijing’s sovereignty, while also applying pressure in the South China Sea and against Taiwan.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi entered his second term in power bent on changing many norms of Indian policy. The long-disputed territory of Kashmir has been under lockdown for months, while last year India and Pakistan were drawn into their most serious military escalation in decades. Reuters reported this week that Modi’s plans to build 66 key roads by the Chinese border, including one to a new air base, had probably drawn Beijing’s anger.

In the past, this might have remained a bilateral dispute. But now, anything that involves China seems to involve the United States too. The Hindustan Times reported Wednesday that Trump’s offer to mediate was “part of [a] growing anti-China juggernaut.” Under such a juggernaut, ambiguity may not exist.

Indian government allows OCI cardholders to travel back to India

Giving a major relief to the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders stranded abroad, the Ministry of Home affairs on Friday relaxed the visa and travel restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 lockdown for certain categories.

The MHA Spokesperson in a tweet said, “Relaxing visa and travel restrictions imposed in wake of COVID-19, certain categories of OCI cardholders stranded abroad have been permitted to come to India.”

The MHA in a detailed notification said that the categories now eligible to return to India for minor children born to Indian nationals abroad and holding OCI cards, OCI cardholders who wish to come to India on account of family emergencies, such as a death in the family, couples where one spouse is an OCI cardholder and the other is an Indian national, and they have a permanent residence in India and University students who are OCI cardholders (but are not minors) and whose parents are Indian citizens living in India.

The MHA also said that travel restrictions imposed on May 7 would not apply to any aircraft, ship, train or any other vehicle deployed for bringing back the above-mentioned categories of OCI cardholders who are stranded abroad.

The decision comes in the wake of several complaints raised by the Indians stranded abroad. The OCI card is issued to people of Indian origin, allowing them visa-free travel in most cases.

Over 23,000 Indians, who had been stranded abroad after the lockdown was imposed in March, have been repatriated from dozens of countries under the government’s “Vande Bharat Mission”.

The government has deployed Air India passenger jets and Indian Navy warships to the United States, Europe, the Gulf region, Australia and several countries in Southeast Asia, as well as neighbouring nations like Nepal and Bangladesh, to bring back Indian citizens.

On Thursday the government said the “Vande Bharat Mission”, whose second phase was to end today, had been extended to June 13, with nearly 50 countries being covered. (IANS)

India bars travel by Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card holders

India has kept in abeyance multiple-entry, life-long visas given to Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card holders till international travel remains suspended, the Ministry of Home Affairs said on Tuesday.

The order, however, said that card holders who are already in India can stay in the country for any length of time.

The ministry said that it has issued an order “specifying that the right of multiple entry life-long visa facility for visiting India for any purpose granted to persons registered as OCI cardholders would continue to be kept in abeyance till the prohibition on international air travel of passengers from/to India is lifted by the Government of India”.

“Any foreign national holding an OCI card who intends to travel to India for compelling reasons during this period would have to contact the nearest Indian Mission,” it said.

Further, in case of persons holding OCI card who are already in India, the OCI card shall remain valid for their stay in India for any length of time.

All existing visas granted to foreigners — except those belonging to diplomatic, official, UN international organisations, employment and project categories — shall remain suspended till prohibition on international air travel of passengers from and to India is lifted by the government, the order said. (IANS)

The Finance Ministry on Friday announced relief to those who have been facing difficulty with the status of their residency in India under the provisions of the Income Tax Act, due to lockdown and suspension of international flights.

Owing to outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19), several NRIs and foreign visitors have been forced to prolong their stay in India. This has changed the status of their residency having implications on their taxability in India.

The Finance Ministry has now decided not to include extended stay of foreign visitors and NRIs in India due to lockdown in determining their residential status.

Considering various representations received from people who had to prolong their stay in India due to lockdown and suspension of international flights, expressing concerns that they will be required to file tax returns as Indian residents, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday allowed discounting of prolonged stay period in India for the purpose of determining residency status, a government statement said.

The Finance Ministry further stated that as the lockdown continues during the financial year 2020-21 and it is not yet clear as to when international flight operations would resume, a circular excluding the period of stay of these individuals up to the date of normalisation of international flight operations, for determination of the residential status for the financial year 2020-21 shall be issued after the flights are resumed.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) issued a necessary circular to this effect. The circular makes it clear that any period of stay in India post March 22 to March 31 will not be included for calculation of number of days required to determine residency status for tax purpose. Also, visitors who had to be quarantined for a period even before March 22 will also get relief.

Even if an individual has departed on an evacuation flight on or before March 31, 2020, his period of stay in India from March 22 to his date of departure shall not be taken into account.

It may be noted that there are number of individuals who had come on a visit to India during the previous year 2019-20 for a particular duration and intended to leave India before the end of the previous financial year for maintaining their status as non-resident or not ordinary resident in India.

The status of an individual whether he is resident in India or a non-resident or not ordinarily resident, is dependent, inter-alia, on the period for which the person is in India during a year. (IANS)

CHINA’S HIDDEN AGENDA: WINNING OPPORTUNITY FOR INDIA

Globally, we are running the risk of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, uncontrolled.

President Trump during a recent coronavirus task force briefing said, “If it was a mistake, a mistake is a mistake. But if they were knowingly responsible, yeah, I mean, then sure there should be consequences.” This strong and vehement announcement is viewed by the international defense experts as “the threat by the US President against China is not just an emotional expression, repercussions may follow.”

Meanwhile Karma News web channel has warned in detail that the world is going to turn topsy-turvy due to the once-in-a-century Covid-19 pandemic which has engulfed the whole human race. As per their narrative in the social media, the US and Allies may wage a shadow  economic war against China.

According to Fox News, China lied from the very beginning of this virus, covering up the origins and severity. They manipulated the WHO to spread misinformation about the human-to-human transmissions. Hence Rep. Andy Barr of Kentucky is proceeding to pass a resolution to establish a  bipartisan select committee to probe China’s conduct and hold it accountable.

Once the Coronavirus is contained, China can expect the reward for their malicious acts if proven. Experts from world over validate this warning. European countries are also questioning China for a clear-cut answer on how the virus started spreading from Wuhan. Australia is also demanding an answer blaming China for the deaths in their country due to COVID-19. Only Russia is keeping quiet.

It seems, if needed, superpowers will dare to stand shoulder to shoulder with an unprecedented level of cooperation to teach a lesson to China, their common enemy for erasing so many human lives from the earth already. Meanwhile, many nations angrily rejected China’s preliminary explanation that the coronavirus might have originated and spread through bats. US had its initial investigations exposing the fact that there are no such varieties of bats in or around Wuhan province. Recently, a report from China confirmed that a lady working in Wuhan Institute of Virology got infected and then infected her boyfriend. So the strong suspicion is that the world is dealing with a man-made virus. If true that this evil virus escaped from their lab, China has created a monster which may bite back, leading to the fall of the Great Wall!

Nobel Prize winner Japan’s professor of physiology Dr. Tasuku Honjo created a sensation when he claimed that coronavirus is not natural. Only an artificial virus can spread to different countries with cold or hot climate simultaneously.

Even if not true that the virus escaped from their lab, China won’t be spared, as they failed to disclose the attack of a deadly virus early enough, or not alarming the world about its dangerous transmissibility. Instead, their evil minds seem to have conspired to export it worldwide through infected patients. Hence, it appears intentional and China may face heavy bouts and punches, as tweeted by the US President; while the global death toll has crossed 240,000.

European countries like U.K., Germany, France, Italy and Spain are sharpening their arsenals. US has umpteen reasons to declare an open war with China. Australia wants China to answer for each Covid fatality in their country. They affirm that the anti-democratic policies of the Iron Curtain Communist dictatorship caused this havoc, which would not have originated from a socialist democratic system.

China still says they are in the investigating process, and the world is keenly awaiting their report. America, on the other hand, is expediting the investigation, and the report will instigate a drastic action against China.

The war if initiated against China will of a different kind never seen before, and act quicker than the epidemic itself. China will be opposed by all affected nations rallying behind the super powers. China will then be unable to export even a single pin or paper clip to any foreign country, clipping China’s wings as a superpower.

Gulf countries may stop exporting crude oil and gas to China. Chinese people will then find life horrible due to oil scarcity. Its almost 80% of economy will collapse. Chinese passport holders will be shunned everywhere.

The biological war that China seems to have waged will be retaliated by the world in the form of economic warfare. Maybe the recent exports of gloves and masks from China will be their last piece of international trade.  The imposed restrictions and prohibitions the world over may shrink China to a mere skeleton of its present self. That is what the world wishes to see in the post-Corona war. We may see a new world without China. But for now this is only a projection.

Now let us look at what the changed world means for India. The immediate impact will be noticed in attempts by companies of relocating most of their manufacturing units from China to India, where the labor cost is also cheap. Countries and corporates will turn to Indian sources and resources to produce all things as per their requirements, for which they will push enough economic assistance to India with immediate effect. Yes, this is where India has the golden opportunity to emerge as the new superforce.

Only Pakistan and China will be jealous of the fast growth of Indian economy in the near future  while the rest of the world entrusts their utmost faith in India. Ours is a clean history of never inducing any war against any country, nor will we cheat anyone for selfish reasons.

Will India rise to the occasion in a new world without China? For that to happen it has to demonstrate high quality fidelity in their contracts and delivering better products than China did so far? The Indian government and industrial houses need to better focus their resources to take the challenge – that is an imperative necessity to make India export oriented.

Though we have cheap labor, high intelligence and infrastructure, we have fallen short in exports in many instances. Indian exports of agricultural products like black pepper, cardamom and other spices have gone down due to adulterated supplies. Even in USA, we have heard instances poor quality garments and damaged zippers on signature products, and rusty containers imported from India.

Indian government has earlier launched the very ambitious scheme of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and ministries concerned have to initiate speedy steps to reduce bureaucratic hurdles and red-tape delays for which the country has been notorious but on the amend. Now that India is going to be the center of attraction, and if we need to emerge as the most favored nation in the world, we need to be  trustworthy and high quality-conscious in every aspect of the international trade orders we are likely to get soon from many big economies.

Once exports are boosted, India’s domestic economic downturn will be mitigated instantly. The federal government and its departments concerned should gear up to motivate organizations to produce high quality products to export and earn precious foreign exchange. We need to modify the framework of export incentives in the form of duty exemptions and remission schemes to serve the interests of exporters as well as the commitments India is going to undertake. Time is coming close to see the world filled with ‘guaranteed Made in India products’.

We may need lot of imports too. The Duty Exemption Scheme helps exporters import duty-free inputs required for manufacturing export products.

Of late media is abuzz with the encouraging news that many leading mobile phone manufacturers and automobile companies have already commenced discussions with Indian officials.

The Indian government should get ready to reap the fruits of the opportunity knocking at our door that unexpectedly the world may entrust in us on the other side of the Covid pandemic. We can ‘Make India Great’ – Welcome to incredible India!

Dr Mathew Joys is Las Vegas based Kerala origin Journalist and Columnist in various media and a published author. He is currently Executive Editor of Jaihind Vartha, Associate Editor of Expressherald and MalayaliFM and Vice Chairman of Indo American Press Club

India’s global stature has gone up; Modi has shown the world in successfully fighting coronavirus

Thanks to the legendary administrative acumen of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his visionary leadership, at their best display during the current coronavirus pandemic crisis, India’s global stature has gone up.

The deadly coronavirus pandemic, which was first spotted in Wuhan city of China in November, has so far killed more than 183,000 people globally and infected another 2.6 million, has emerged as the deadliest public health challenge in more than a century.

In the past few months, economies of countries, which have the world’s best health care facilities, have per capita income much more than India are falling apart like a pack of cards. The number of people to have died due to coronavirus in these countries is shocking, to say the least, and not been seen since the Spanish flu of 1918-1920.

The United States which is the global leader in health care facilities, medical research and availability of resources, has emerged as the global hotspot of COVID-19. The number of Americans to have died because of coronavirus is fast approaching 50,000; an unbelievable figure for us till a few months ago. More than 8.5 lakh people have been tested positive with coronavirus.

 And notably, New York, which is global financial capital and is the best in America’s health care facilities is its epicenter. More than 17,000 people have lost their lives and 2.5 lakhs have been tested positive. Let’s look at numbers of some of the other top five countries hit by coronavirus.

In Italy, more than 25,000 people have died and 187,000 infected; in Spain over 21,000 have died and more than two lakhs infected; and France over 21,000 have died and 119,000 have been infected. In United Kingdom, where its Prime Minister Borris Johnson had to be taken to ICU, more than 18,000 have died and 1.3 lakhs have been infected.

Well, it’s for these countries to ponder upon their fight against coronavirus, and review post-COVID 19 as to what went wrong and how this shocking loss of lives could have been prevented.

No doubt, we are in the middle of this pandemic and we still have a long way to go, before this could be brought under control, India by any standard, so far, has performed much better than others. A country of 130 billion people living in one of the highest densely populated areas of the world, with a poor basic health care infrastructure and facilities including a low number of per capita availability of beds and doctors, the thus far low infection rate (a little over 20,000 by April 23) and 652 deaths, is nothing but remarkable.

Sitting thousands of miles away in New York, under stay-at-home order for the past several weeks, I feel proud of my country and the leadership that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his “Team India” has shown in this fight against invisible coronavirus. One of the key reasons for this, I believe is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team acted early and decisively.

Team India, under Prime Minister Modi has been acting at a lightning speed. It was on January 7 that China identified coronavirus as the causative agent. A day later on January 8, the Union Ministry of Health held its first joint monitoring mission meeting and within 10 days on January 17, India started screening of all passengers coming from China.

By the end of the month, the government had identified and activated to test for coronavirus and established quarantine centers. Remember, at this point the rest of the world was very unfamiliar with the dangers that COVID 19 poses to humanity. In the first week of February, India started evacuation of its citizens from other countries and on February 3, Prime Minister constituted and chaired a meeting of empowered group of Ministers on COVID-19, which issued the travel advisory against China. States were taken into confidence and a strong monitoring mechanism was established. The list goes on.

India’s relatively low figure is basically attributable to the very basic principle that the Prime Minister acted on: prevention is better than cure. Being part of New York, where I have been witness to deaths of more than 17,000 people, I wish the authorities here would have thought on those lines. I wish, both the State Government and the City Mayor would have enforced a strong locked-down, as India has enforced nationwide. If India a country of 130 million people can do it, why cannot New York. The difference here is leadership and preventive action.

In the crucial first few weeks in New York, the leaders here were busy in war of words because of their political differences.

In India, Prime Minister Modi brought the entire country together. For the first time probably in decades, or seen normally under war like situations, Chief Ministers from opposition parties joined his call of action. He successfully formed “Team India.” As the first phase of three-week nationwide lockdown was about to end, it was the opposition ruled State Government which started talking about its extension.

And at the regional and global level too, Prime Minister Modi took the initiative and leadership role in this fight against humanity. He convened a video conference of SAARC leaders and took the initiative of setting op a regional fund with an initial contribution of USD 10 million to help South Asian countries. He encouraged the same within the G-20 group. Soon Saudi Arabia, which holds the current presidency of the group, organized the video conferencing.

And as word spread that hydroxychloroquine is effective in treatment in early COVID-19 patients, India under Modi started flying plane loads of this malaria drug to countries across the world. So far more than 80 countries, including the United States have received this key India made drug. India is in the forefront of this wart against humanity.

Today, India is seen as a country, which not only takes cares of its citizens, its neighbors but also the rest of the humanity to the best of its ability. This is what “Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam” is all about, which is the guiding philosophy for Prime Minister’s foreign policy.

(Jagdish Sewhani is President of The American India Public Affairs Committee. He is a resident of New York for past several decades)

Life in the era of COVID-19

Chicago IL: It has been a topsy-turvy start to the third decade of this century. COVID-19 has brought with it many disruptions. Coronavirus has significantly changed the contours of professional life. These days, home is the new office. The Internet is the new meeting room.

For the time being, office breaks with colleagues are history. I have also been adapting to these changes. Most meetings, be it with minister colleagues, officials and world leaders, are now via video conferencing.

In order to get ground level feedback from various stakeholders, there have been videoconference meetings with several sections of society. There were extensive interactions with NGOs, civil society groups and community organisations. There was an interaction with Radio Jockeys too. Besides that, I have been making numerous phone calls daily, taking feedback from different sections of society.

One is seeing the ways through which people are continuing their work in these times. There are a few creative videos by our film stars conveying a relevant message of staying home. Our singers did an online concert. Chess players played chess digitally and through that contributed to the fight against COVID-19. Quite innovative!

The work place is getting Digital First. And, why not?
After all, the most transformational impact of Technology often happens in the lives of the poor. It is technology that demolishes bureaucratic hierarchies, eliminates middlemen and accelerates welfare measures.

Let me give you an example.

Life in the era of COVID-19When we got the opportunity to serve in 2014, we started connecting Indians, especially the poor with their Jan Dhan Account, Aadhar & Mobile number. This seemingly simple connection has not only stopped corruption and rent seeking that was going on for decades, but has also enabled the Government to transfer money at the click of a button. This click of a button has replaced multiple levels of hierarchies on the file and also weeks of delay.

India has perhaps the largest such infrastructure in the world. This infrastructure has helped us tremendously in transferring money directly and immediately to the poor and needy, benefiting crores of families, during the COVID-19 situation.

Another case in point is the education sector. There are many outstanding professionals already innovating in this sector. Invigorating technology in this sector has its benefits. The Government of India has also undertaken efforts such as the DIKSHA Portal, to help teachers and boost e-learning. There is SWAYAM, aimed at improving access, equity and quality of education. E-Pathshala, which is available in many languages, enables access to various e-books and such learning material.

Today, the world is in pursuit of new business models. India, a youthful nation known for its innovative zeal can take the lead in providing a new work culture. I envision this new business and work culture being redefined on the following vowels. I call them- vowels of the new normal- because like vowels in the English language, these would become essential ingredients of any business model in the post-COVID world.

Adaptability:

The need of the hour is to think of business and lifestyle models that are easily adaptable.
Doing so would mean that even in a time of crisis, our offices, businesses and commerce could get moving faster, ensuring loss of life does not occur.

Embracing digital payments is a prime example of adaptability. Shop owners big and small should invest in digital tools that keep commerce connected, especially in times of crisis. India is already witnessing an encouraging surge in digital transactions.
Another example is telemedicine. We are already seeing several consultations without actually going to the clinic or hospital. Again, this is a positive sign. Can we think of business models to help further telemedicine across the world?

Efficiency:

Perhaps, this is the time to think of reimagining what we refer to as being efficient.
Efficiency cannot only be about- how much time was spent in the office.
We should perhaps think of models where productivity and efficiency matter more than appearance of effort.
The emphasis should be on completing a task in the specified time frame.

Inclusivity:

Life in the era of COVID-19Let us develop business models that attach primacy to care for the poor, the most vulnerable as well as our planet.
We have made major progress in combating climate change. Mother Nature has demonstrated to us her magnificence, showing us how quickly it can flourish when human activity is slower. There is a significant future in developing technologies and practices that reduce our impact on the planet. Do more with less.
COVID-19 has made us realise the need to work on health solutions at low cost and large scale. We can become a guiding light for global efforts to ensure the health and well being of humanity.
We should invest in innovations to make sure our farmers have access to information, machinery, and markets no matter what the situation, that our citizens have access to essential goods.

Opportunity:

Every crisis brings with it an opportunity. COVID-19 is no different.
Let us evaluate what might be the new opportunities/growth areas that would emerge now.
Rather than playing catch up, India must be ahead of the curve in the post-COVID world. Let us think about how our people, our skills sets, our core capabilities can be used in doing so.

Universalism:

COVID-19 does not see race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or border before striking.
Our response and conduct thereafter should attach primacy to unity and brotherhood.
We are in this together.

Unlike previous moments in history, when countries or societies faced off against each other, today we are together facing a common challenge. The future will be about togetherness and resilience.

The next big ideas from India should find global relevance and application. They should have the ability to drive a positive change not merely for India but for the entire humankind.
Logistics was previously only seen through the prism of physical infrastructure – roads, warehouses, ports. But logistical experts these days can control global supply chains through the comfort of their own homes.

India, with the right blend of the physical and the virtual can emerge as the global nerve centre of complex modern multinational supply chains in the post COVID-19 world. Let us rise to that occasion and seize this opportunity.

I urge you all to think about this and contribute to the discourse.
he shift from BYOD to WFH brings new challenges to balance the official and personal. Whatever be the case, devote time to fitness and exercising.

Try Yoga as a means to improve physical and mental wellbeing.
Traditional medicine systems of India are known to help keep the body fit. The Ayush Ministry has come out with a protocol that would help in staying healthy. Have a look at these as well.

Lastly, and importantly, please download Aarogya Setu Mobile App. This is a futuristic App that leverages technology to help contain the possible spread of COVID-19.

Photographs and Press release by: Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi

The Future of India-U.S. Relations: Trump Versus Biden

As the coronavirus pandemic dominates global news in the United States, progress toward the next presidential election scheduled to be held on Nov. 3 moves slowly forward. President Donald Trump had no real opposition in the Republican party and is running for re-election. And it has now become apparent that former Vice President Joe Biden will be his opponent as the Democratic candidate for president.

What would a Trump victory bode for the future of U.S.-India relations? What would a Biden victory bode? Let me answer each of those questions in turn.

Given the love fests of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston, Texas, in which Trump participated in September of 2019, and Trump’s ‘Namaste Trump’ event hosted by Modi in India in February of this year, it might be assumed that the future for U.S.-India relations is a splendid one. This would be an incorrect assumption.

Both of these events were more symbolic than substantive. Trump’s participation in them undoubtedly helped to persuade some – perhaps many – Indian American Modi supporters who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 to cast their ballots for Trump in 2020. Trump’s campaign team took steps to ensure this by holding an event at his Mar-a-Lago resort in which a group of prominent Indian Americans announced their plans to work for his re-election and to mobilize Indian Americans on his behalf.

To understand the future potential of India’s relations with the U.S. with Trump as president, however, it is necessary to look beyond these political moves and to examine the present state of those relations and Trump’s personal style.

In a word, the best way to characterize the current relations between the U.S. and India is “functional.” The relationship was relatively good for the first two years of Trump’s presidency. In fact, near the end of 2018, Alice Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, was quoted in the media as saying: “This has been a landmark year for U.S.-India ties as we build out stronger relationships across the board.”

Then, in 2019, the relations went off the track in the first half of the year after the U.S. and India got into a tit-for-tat tariff war after the U.S. terminated India’s Generalized System of Preferences which allowed India to send certain goods to the U.S. duty-free. There have been continuing efforts to structure a “modest” trade deal since then. It was thought there might be some type of deal done in September of 2019 while Modi was in the U.S. by year’s end, and then during Trump’s India visit. But, as of today, there is still no deal.

This inability to get any meaningful trade agreement in place speaks volumes about India’s potential future relations with India with Trump as president. So, too does Trump’s style.

Trump’s campaign slogans this time around are “Keep America Great” and “Promises Made, Promises Kept.” Trump is not a policy wonk and most of his effort will go toward “America First.” This involves making the U.S. more isolated by withdrawing from international agreements, restructuring trade agreements, emphasizing building walls to stop immigrants at the border, using tariffs to block trade with countries who are taking away American jobs, and confronting businesses who are allegedly stealing American trade secrets.

This perspective suggests what India can expect for its relations with the U.S. if it has to deal with Trump for a second term as president. The relations will stay functional at best. As I have said before, that’s because the words partnership, cooperation and collaboration are not in Trump’s vocabulary. Nationalism, isolationism and protectionism are.

Joe Biden stands in stark contrast to President Trump both professionally and personally. Biden is a strategic thinker and doer with a solid eight-year track record of leadership experience as vice-president in forging alliances that have made a difference around the world and he has also been a long-standing friend of India.

He was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading advocate for the Congressional passage of the Indo-US civic nuclear deal in 2005.

At a dinner convened 10 years later in 2015 by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Vice President Biden discussed the tremendous joint progress that had been made by the two countries in the past and declared, “We are on the cusp of a sea change decade.”

Early in his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president in July of 2019, in laying out his foreign policy vision, Biden stated that the U.S. had to reach out to India and other Asian partners to strengthen ties with them. The items on Biden’s foreign policy agenda for strengthening which are of importance for India include climate change, nuclear proliferation and cyberwarfare.

During his vice presidency, Biden worked side by side with President Barack Obama to do things that would contribute to achieving Obama’s vision stated in 2010 of India and America being “indispensable partners in meeting the challenges of our time.” In 2020, those challenges are even greater than they were a decade ago.

That is why it is so essential that India and the U.S. develop a strategic relationship that enables them to become those indispensable partners. That can happen if Biden assumes the presidency on January 20, 2021. It cannot happen if Donald Trump remains as president for a second term.

The results of this upcoming election in the U.S. matter greatly for the future of the United States. They matter greatly for the future of India-U.S. relations as well. Time and the American electorate will tell what that future will be.

(Frank F. Islam is an Indian American entrepreneur, civic and thought leader based in Washington, DC. The views expressed here are personal.)

Fascinating story of the connection between Hydroxychloroquine, British India, Srirangapatna and Gin & Tonic

As most of us are already aware, Hydroxychloroquine has taken the world by storm. Every newspaper is talking about it, and all countries are requesting India to supply it.

Now, a curious person might wonder why and how this chemical composition is so deeply entrenched in India, and is there any history behind it.

Well, there is an interesting history behind it which goes all the way to Tipu Sultan’s defeat. In 1799, when Tipu was defeated by the British, the whole of Mysore Kingdom with Srirangapatnam as Tipu’s capital, came under British control. For the next few days, the British soldiers had a great time celebrating their victory, but within weeks, many started feeling sick due to Malaria, because Srirangapatnam was a highly marshy area with severe mosquito trouble.

The local Indian population had over the centuries, developed self immunity, and also all the spicy food habits helped to an extent. Whereas the British soldiers and officers who were suddenly exposed to harsh Indian conditions, started bearing the brunt.

To quickly overcome the mosquito menace, the British Army immediately shifted their station from Srirangapatnam to Bangalore (by establishing the Bangalore Cantonment region), which was a welcome change, especially due to cool weather, which the Brits were gavely missing ever since they had left their shores. But the malaria problem still persisted because Bangalore was also no exception to mosquitoes.

Around the same time, European scientists had discovered a chemical composition called “Quinine” which could be used to treat malaria, and was slowly gaining prominence, but it was yet to be extensively tested at large scale. This malaria crisis among British Army came at an opportune time, and thus Quinine was imported in bulk by the Army and distributed to all their soldiers, who were instructed to take regular dosages (even to healthy soldiers) so that they could build immunity. This was followed up in all other British stations throughout India, because every region in India had malaria problem to some extent.

But there was a small problem. Although sick soldiers quickly recovered, many more soldiers who were exposed to harsh conditions of tropical India continued to become sick, because it was later found that they were not taking dosages of Quinine. Why? Because it was very bitter!! So, by avoiding the bitter Quinine, British soldiers stationed in India were lagging behind on their immunity, thereby making themselves vulnerable to Malaria in the tropical regions of India.

That’s when all the top British officers and scientists started experimenting ways to persuade their soldiers to strictly take these dosages, and during their experiments,  they found that the bitter Quinine mixed with Juniper based liquor, actually turned somewhat into a sweet flavor. That’s because the molecular structure of the final solution was such that it would almost completely curtail the bitterness of Quinine.

That juniper based liquor was Gin. And the Gin mixed with Quinine was called “Gin & Tonic”, which immediately became an instant hit among British soldiers.

The same British soldiers who were ready to even risk their lives but couldn’t stand the bitterness of Quinine,  started swearing by it daily when they mixed it with Gin. In fact, the Army even started issuing few bottles of Gin along with “tonic water” (Quinine) as part of their monthly ration, so that soldiers could themselves prepare Gin & Tonic and consume them everyday to build immunity.

To cater to the growing demand of gin & other forms of liquor among British soldiers, the British East India company built several local breweries in and around Bengaluru, which could then be transported to all other parts of India. And that’s how, due to innumerable breweries and liquor distillation factories, Bengaluru had already become the pub capital of India way back during British times itself.  Eventually, most of these breweries were purchased from British organizations after Indian independence, by none other than Vittal Mallya (Vijay Mallya’s father), who then led the consortium under the group named United Breweries headquartered in Bengaluru.

Coming back to the topic, that’s how Gin & Tonic became a popular cocktail and is still a popular drink even today. The Quinine, which was called Tonic (without gin), was widely prescribed by Doctors as well, for patients who needed cure for fever or any infection. Whenever someone in a typical Indian village fell sick, the most common advice given by his neighbors was “Visit the doctor and get some tonic”. Over time, the tonic word was so overused that  became a reference to any medicine in general. So, that’s how the word “Tonic”, became a colloquial word  for “Western medicine” in India.

Over the years, Quinine was developed further into many of its variants and derivatives and widely prescribed by Indian doctors. One such descendent of Quinine, called Hydroxychloroquine, eventually became the standardized cure for malaria because it has relatively lesser side effects compared to its predecessors, and is now suddenly the most sought after drug in the world today.

And that’s how, a simple peek into the history of Hydroxychloroquine takes us all the way back to Tipu’s defeat, mosquito menace, liquor rationing, colorful cocktails, tonics and medicinal cures.]

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