Ninety years add respect to Umbrella Association

New Zealand Indian Central Association creates vistas for integration

Venkat Raman –

Constructive engagement with the government of the day on issues affecting the Indian community including discussions on Closer Economic Relationship with India, immigration, double taxation, education and other matters have brought respect and credibility to the New Zealand Indian Central Association (NZICA).

Visit to India

The New Zealand government recognised the Association as the single most important representative of the Indian community, the proof of which was inclusion of its President Bhikhu Bhana in the delegation that accompanied Prime Minister John Key to India from October 24 to 28, 2016.

This Anniversary Special carries two articles written by Mr Bhana outlining his experiences and impressions about the visit – the second official visit of Mr Key to India over the past five years.

It is a matter of pride that Mr Bhana was among a chosen few to be invited to lunch with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 26, 2016, during which he invited the leader to visit New Zealand.

Increasing relevance

The fact that the government, political parties and others listen to the opinions channeled through NZICA demonstrates a number of factors, the most significant of which are (a) the increasing size of the population of Indians in New Zealand and (b) the realisation of the significant contributions made by the Indian community to the growth and progress of the economy, the society and the country. Added to this is the maturity and expertise of NZICA as a credible organisation to represent the interests of the community.

That the Association has become more active, accountable and transparent is reflected in the increasing number of reports carried by Indian Newslink over the past 17 years. These reports keep our readers informed of the steps being taken by NZICA to table issues of concern to the New Zealand Government and the Indian High Commission and promote the wellbeing of the community.

Useful meetings

Officials of the Association convene meetings regularly with Ministers, Members of Parliament, Indian High Commissioner, officials of the Indian High Commission, other government agencies and non-government organisations in Auckland, Wellington and other cities to discuss issues of importance and concern. These meetings are indicative of the responsibilities that they take with seriousness as the umbrella organisation accounting for various segments of the community.

Inexplicable diversity

What is so special about an organisation such as the NZICA? Is it not just another association like so many that proliferate in this country?

Indians understand their own complexity better than others do. They are a nation of people with such inexplicable diversity – of language, culture, custom, cuisine and even politics – that there can be no single organisation to represent them.

We are like a chariot that is pulled by 23 or more horses in different directions. Which is why, there is a need for a strong and able charioteer who could deftly handle such mammoth horsepower and channel it towards a common destination.

It is only an organisation like the NZICA that can create synergy among the multifarious segments of the Indian community and work towards a common purpose. In a sense, it reflects the Indian polity itself: a governing body at the centre, letting a plethora of bodies (associations based on region, language and culture) function as independent entities and yet integrating them into a harmonious whole.

The NZICA has not yet achieved such integration, but has demonstrated the will to do so and is moving forward with the right attitude.

Active nonagenarian

NZICA marked its 90th anniversary recently with a series of activities, the most impressive among which was a ceremony held on June 26, 2016 to honour three Centenarians and 17 nonagenarians.

The meeting was organised by the Auckland Indian Association and officials of NZICA were among the active participants. More than 350 men and women attended the solemn occasion to pay tributes to the vision and service of the elders to the society, pray for their continued good health and wellbeing and seek their blessings for sustaining a world that has room for love, compassion and community spirit.

Key greets ‘tonners’

The three Centenarians honoured were Jerambhai Ravjibhai and his wife Gangaben Ravjibhai, who marked 81 years as husband and wife, perhaps a global record and Gajaraben Merai, who recently celebrated their 100th birthday.

Jerambhai and his wife reached the ‘tender’ age of 100 respectively in May and June this year. All three of them received special letters of commendation from Prime Minister John Key.

Some of the nonagenarians are in the pink of their health, enjoying their retired lives with their extended families, one of them accounting for 105 children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Many recounted their early days in India and New Zealand and their association with Mahatma Gandhi and his Freedom Movement in India. One 94-year-old man said he goes for regular walks and drives his own car.

The certificates and letters of commendations were presented to the recipients by Members of Parliament Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Dr Parmjeet Parmar (National), Phil Goff (former Labour MP and now Auckland Mayor) and Mahesh Bindra (New Zealand First).

Following is the full list of Indians honoured at the Ceremony:

Jerambhai Ravjibhai (100 years), Gangaben Jerambhai Ravjibhai (100), Gajaraben Merai (100), Maganbhai Fakir (98), Ramiben Parshottam (97), Dahiben Magan Iswar (96), Bhanabhai Sukha Dandikar (95), Nandiben Chhiba Patel (95), Naranbhai Chhiba Patel (95), Narbdaben Makanji Raniga (94), Lalitaben Jelal Natali (94), Chhimiben Vallabh Daya (93), Chandulal Nathubhai (92), Sonaben Govindbhai Patel (92), Soma Devi Joshi (92), Kamlaben Lalbhai Patel (91), Chhaganbhai Budhia (91), Babubhai Mavjibhai Patel (91), Maniben Naran (90) and Govindbhai Kanji (90).

Competent leaders

NZICA has had hundreds of capable men and women at its helm, each of them sporting leadership qualities in his or her own way. The institution came into being at a time when the Indian population was not only negligible but also marginalised under a system fraught by racism and discrimination.

It has remained a unified body representing the larger Indian community. Its past leaders deserve our salutations – especially those who functioned under difficult circumstances.

Increasing relevance

NZICA honoured Sir Edmund Hillary with Honorary Membership on June 7, 2007 at his Remuera residence

As the Indian community continues to grow, we will see Indians exercising greater influence in every sphere of activity – in business, politics, community work and more. As these engagements grow, the importance of NZICA will also grow.

Just how well the Association will cope with the existing and emerging challenges will depend on its ability to continuously seek orderliness in its affairs and remain relevant to the country and more importantly to the community.

NZICA has become a major player in the New Zealand society.

We will continue to support and report its activities to our readers.

Far from being an organisation of nonchalance, the leadership of this apex Indian body has been actively pursuing the interests of the Indian community, although not all regional associations have become its members. Organisations catering to Indians of Fijian origin attend some meetings of NZICA but have thus far refrained from becoming a part of the umbrella.

This is one of the challenges that the organisation must address successfully.

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