Funding cuts hurt Indian community associations

A growing number of Indian community organisations and individuals are beginning to question the rationale of the Auckland Council spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in organising Diwali and other festivals at their expense.

Many Indian associations say that they have had to seek alternate sources of funding their activities after the Council refused to reconsider its decision over funding cuts.

Selective approach

Auckland Council is the organiser of ‘Diwali 2014’ through its wholly-owned undertaking Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED). It appears to take a selective approach to the Indian media and excludes many community leaders from its formal ceremonies.

Indian Newslink understands that while the Auckland Council continues to spend large sums of money in organising the Diwali Festival, community organisations either have been denied funding or left to suffer huge cuts.

Prior to going to printers with this issue, we have taken up the matter with Mayor Len Brown and hope to receive an explanation before our next (November 15, 2014) issue moves into production.

A disturbing irony

Speaking at the Waitakere Diwali organised by the Waitakere Indian Association (WIA) at the Trusts Stadium in Henderson on October 18, Radio Tarana Managing Director Robert Khan spoke of the irony of poverty amidst plenty and vice-versa.

“The Auckland Council has cut back its funding for Waitakere Diwali and yet the organisers have shown initiative in putting together such a spectacular show. It is a pity that an association and an event that is run and organised entirely by volunteers have experienced such unfair cuts. Radio Tarana is aware of its community responsibilities and hence has been associated with WIA since its establishment in 2000. We will continue to support such programmes,” he said.

Mr Khan said that WIA President and the members of his Executive and Organising Committees have been running from pillar to post to ensure that paucity of funds do not interfere with the quality and extent of its Diwali programme.

Unfair treatment

“My heart goes out to these people for their selfless work. How can the Council justify such massive cuts in its funding? Where is the corporate responsibility toward communities and the people?” he asked Mr Brown who was the Chief Guest at the formal ceremony.

Mr Brown said that he was not aware of the cuts but promised to investigate the matter.

“However, we are under huge pressure to keep Auckland going with rising infrastructure costs, building roads and getting people between places through an efficient transport system. All these cost money,” he said.

But Mr Brown’s comments may not find comfort with the community.

Many have asked about the rationale behind the funding cuts, questioning the need for the lavish, Council-organised Diwali festivals.

“While associations conduct events through volunteers, the Council employs people at huge salaries to organise its Festival. It is time to question these activities,” they said.

Mr Khan took up the issue again on October 19, 2014 at the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau where Radio Tarana had organised its ‘Manukau Diwali’ with Bollywood megastar Dharmendra as a special guest.

Private initiative

“This is totally a private initiative. There is no funding from the Council or any other government organisation. We have organised this event for the community. Dharmendra is here from Mumbai as our guest because we want our people to celebrate Diwali together in the spirit of harmony,” he said.

Our Diwali Reports appearing on Pages 28 and 29 of this issue highlight the social and community responsibility of commercial organisations in marking Diwali with their staff, customers and the resident communities.

As we had mentioned in our reports, Radio Tarana organises community festivals at major venues, entry to which is free for all, providing photo opportunity with Bollywood celebrities.

Unwanted commercialism

Hindu Council of New Zealand Inc President Vinod Kumar said that it was time that Hindus reclaimed Diwali because Government bodies have commercialised Diwali, taking away its religious and social values.

“We must stop this trend before it goes out of control,” he said.

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