Community must acknowledge and address problems

Professor Sekhar speaking at the New Zealand Indian Diaspora Convention in Auckland on July 26, watched by (from left) Dr Edwina Pio, Sunil Kaushal, Sir Anand Satyanand, Judith Collins, Ravi Thapar and Professor Kate Kearins.

Members of the Indian community must acknowledge that there are burning problems and challenges confronting them and must find ways and means of solving them, with the help of support agencies and law-enforcement bodies, a Conference was told.

A bold statement to the effect that people of Indian origin in general shy away from even admitting the enormity of tasks that confront them and the poverty of their contributions to solving them sparked a heated debate but at the end of it, there was consensus that bottling emotions would not help anyone, least of all the perpetrators and victims.

Wellington based Education & Research Consultant and Wellington Chapter President of the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) Dr Puspha Wood fired the first solo at the first-ever ‘New Zealand Indian Diaspora Convention’ organised by the Wellington based New Zealand India Research Institute (NZIRI) at the AUT University Business School on Saturday, July 26.

Former Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand, Ethnic Affairs Minister Judith Collins, Indian High Commissioner Ravi Thapar, AUT Faculty of Business & Law Deputy Dean Professor Kate Kearins, AUT Professor of Diversity and NZIRI Director Dr Edwina Pio, ANZ Bank Head of India Segment India and New Zealand Business Council Chairman Sunil Kaushal and Victoria University Professor of History and NZIRI Director Dr Sekhar Bandyopadhyay were among the main speakers at the inaugural session.

Biggest challenge

Dr Wood said that the biggest challenge faced by Indians (from various parts of the world) is realisation of the fact that we have some issues as a community and the time to ignore them has well and truly passed.

“In my view, first of all, we need to acknowledge that the issues are real, and face the reality of domestic abuse and elder abuse in our society. We then need to explore the solutions and be prepared to put them in place,” she said.

She was speaking on the ‘Opportunities and Challenges for Indians in New Zealand,’ with Ashok Darji (Auckland Indian Association President), Rajinder Bedi (Auckland Sikh Society Joint Secretary), Naena Chhima (Former Chair of the Wellington Indian Association Mahila Samaj) and Anne Degia-Pala (Founder-Director of EthNix Links and Advocacy Network) as other members of the panel.

Dr Wood said, “It is time for some soul-searching as individuals and collectively as Indians and that ‘we should remember who we are, where we come from and what our core values are.”

Sharing experiences

Sir Anand traced his family roots from India to Fiji and from Fiji to New Zealand, saying that the Indian Diaspora in many parts of the world has retained the ‘Indian Connection.’ He cited the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas held from January 7 to 9 in India every year as an event that recognised the importance of bringing together people of Indian origin as a part of its continuous and conscientious engagement with them.

“The challenge is not just to maintain records but to share them with others,” he said.

Colourful Cultures

According to Ms Collins, Ethnic communities in general and the Indian Diaspora in particular have added colour and excitement to the social fabric of New Zealand.

“The Indian connection, which is now being strengthened through such efforts as seeking a Free Trade Agreement and award of Sports Scholarships, in not new but dates back to the 19th Century when new settlers arrived in New Zealand. We have grown to be an inclusive and tolerant society promoting Human Rights,” she said.

The Indian Model

Indian High Commissioner Ravi Thapar spoke of ‘Spiritual Excellence’ in India and the country’s belief in the concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (The Whole World is a Family) and called on New Zealand to follow the ‘Indian Model.’

“The Indian Model’ is not designed to monopolise but promote strategic partnerships with friendly countries. New Zealand is not doing justice to itself. Bilateral relationship is more than agricultural exports,” he said.

Migration of Indians

The Academic Panel comprising Dr Todd Nachowitz (Waikato University), Dr Jacqueline Leckie (Otago University), Dr Pio and Dr Richard Bedford produced the most impressive session, with the speakers outlining the migrant process of Indian population since the late 19th century.

“Immigration statistics can be confusing and must be properly interpreted. It is wrong to assume that all those listed as ‘long term arrivals are permanent residents,” he said.

Business to Business

The Business Panel generated heat as a few panellists spoke of the need to regulate international students seeking jobs, the Free Trade Agreement with India in troubled waters and the significance of business-to-business relationship.

While the international student issue has been discussed in next issue, please read our Editorial ‘FTA with India in troubled waters’ under Viewlink.

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