Towards the closing of the biennial mega diaspora event organised by the Indian government as part of it’s diaspora outreach – the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2017 – a galaxy of achievers who have contributed in no small measure to the prestige and dignity of the Indian Diaspora community worldwide were honoured with the highest award instituted by the Indian government for the ‘Pravasis’ – or the Diaspora, the ‘Pravasi Bharatiya Samman’ awards. Amoung the pathbreaking individuals who were felicitated with the bestowal of this award were some institutions as well – essentially Indian Diaspora Collectives – who have proven to be a boon to community members. We feature them in this piece for your reading pleasure …
THE ANTWERP INDIAN ASSOCIATION, BELGIUM
President Pranab Mukerjee awarded the Antwerp Indian Association, a diaspora community collective based out of the belgian capital, with the 2017 Pravasi Bharatiya Saaman for excellence in the field of community service. The AIA was formed in 1979, and the first members of the Association were diamond traders. The Antwerp Indian Association comprises of influential members of the Indian Community in Belgium who play an important role in the activities of the local Government both in Antwerp and in the rest of Belgium. Members of the Association have made a name for themselves in the economy and within the local Belgian Communities. This has in fact enabled them to act as a bridge integrating interests of the Indian Community in Belgium with local interests. Several members of the Association have liaised effectively with the local Belgian community and authorities to promote welfare related interests of Indians in Belgium. The Association has facilitated formulation of the ‘collective’ opinion of the large Indian Community by first bringing the entire community under its ambit, and then by providing effective leadership that is emphatic to the cause of India and Indians in Belgium. It has ably assisted in promoting a spirit of unity and harmony amongst Indians in Belgium as well as enhancing friendship and engagement with the local Belgian Community. The Association has also been involved with social and humanitarian causes in India and abroad, in philanthropic and charitable work, and in promoting outstanding contributions that have enhanced India’s prestige in the country of residence.
INDIA SOCIAL & CULTRAL CENTRE, ABU DHABI
Another Indian Diaspora Institution that was felicatated with the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award by the President of India was the India Social & Cultural Centre, at Abu Dhabi. Also for its contribution in the domain of Community Services. The ISC Abu Dhabi is a premier socio-cultural organisation and the apex body of the registered Indian associations in the capital city of Abu Dhabi. The genesis of ISC may be traced to the Unity Club that took shape in 1967 from the shared vision of a band of pioneering Indians to create a centre for social and cultural activities, and a link to the cultural roots and memories of their homeland. With the benevolence and magnanimity of His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the father of the UAE, the Unity Club was metamorphosed into the India Social and Cultural Centre, an institution with a brand new identity, intent on serving the Indian community. Located in Abu Dhabi, the emerging land of opportunities, ISC has grown from strength to strength and has today become a home away from home for the Indian Diaspora, serving as a venue for members and their families for a wide range of social, cultural, literary, educational and recreational activities.
SINGAPORE INDIA ASSOCIATION
One of Singapore’s oldest sporting clubs for Indians has been conferred with the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award during PBD 2017. The Singapore Indian Association, aka IA, formed in 1923, has a hoary past. It’s foundation stone was laid by India’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, on the 17th of June, 1950. Jawed Ashraf, the High Commissioner of India to Singapore, during his visit to the Club recently, said: “When I look at the history of the Singapore Indian Association, and the work it has done here and the work it continues to do, its contribution cannot simply be measured by the award …” Ashraf also spoke about the club’s illustrious sporting history in cricket, hockey, football and other sports. The PBSA recognises significant contributions in various fields, such as creating better understanding of India abroad, support for India’s causes and concerns in a tangible way, and building closer links between India, the overseas Indian community and their country of residence. The recognition is also for contributions to social and humanitarian causes in India or abroad, welfare of the local Indian community, philanthropic and charitable work, eminence in one’s field or outstanding work which has enhanced India’s prestige in the country of residence or eminence in skills that have enhanced India’s prestige in that country for non-professional workers. Singapore has 9.2 percent Indians in its population of 5.78 million, more than 6,000-registered businesses across various economic sectors and a strong expatriate community of professionals and blue-colour workers who call Singapore their home away from India.