They’ve been away. Some of them, for generations. But they never allowed their roots to get lost in oblivion. Whichever part of the world they made their home, they ensured that they continued to make their country of origin proud. And, the nation acknowledged. By bestowing its highest state award for overseas Indians on them.Like the previous eleven years, this year too the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas concluded in a stately ceremony … with the President of India awarding and acknowledging the contribution of these exceptional people of Indian origin spread across the globe – from the Middle to the Far East, from the Northern hemisphere to the Southern hemisphere, and from the developed to the developing nations.The list of awardees this year spans the worlds of business, statesmanship, education, healthcare, international relations, freedom movement, spreading humanitarianism, et al. The winners, this year, are:
Mr. Bikas Chandra Sanyal
Honoured for his contributions in the field of education and culture and for enhancing India’s image abroad, a mild-mannered Mr. Sanyal is a renowned educationist in France. He has an enviable record of contribution in the field of higher education and culture. Besides having served the cause of different institutions in USA, UK and UNESCO, he’s also served in an advisory capacity on problems of higher education management in 77 countries of the world.
Mr. Kurian Varghese
A confident, yet gentle overseas Indian businessman, Mr. Varghese owns many companies – both, in the Gulf countries as well as India – in diverse fields such as construction, hospitality, healthcare, and education. He has contributed large sums of monies to charities in Bahrain and India – charities which are involved in providing shelter to the homeless and conducting marriages. He has been recognised for his contribution in the field of business for enhancing India’s image abroad.
Mr. Vasdev Chanchlani
A suave entrepreneur and philanthropist based in Canada, Mr Chanchlani has been spearheading the effort that shaped Canada’s India centric policy changes. His initiatives revolve around education, research, and public policy formulation. He has been recognised for his contributions in the field of community service, promoting Indian culture and heritage and fostering stronger ties between India and Canada.
The Ramakrishna Mission
Serving the community in Fiji since 1937, the Ramakrishna Mission has been engaging in educational and charitable activities right from it’s inception. The mission has contributed to promoting human values, harmony, peace and non-violence. The mission has also always been recognised for providing relief and rehabilitation during natural disasters. The mission has been conferred with this award for its commitment to community service, philanthropic activities and for enhancing India’s prestige abroad. This award was received on behalf of the mission by Tadananda Swamy.
Ms. Ela Gandhi
Dignity-personified, Ms. Gandhi is the grand daughter of our Father of the Nation – Mahatma Gandhi. She has earlier been bestowed with the Padma Bhushan in 2007. This time round, she has been awarded for her contributions in the field of public service and enhancing India’s image and promoting better ties between India and South Africa. She has played a stellar role in helping the Late Mr. Nelson Mandela in ending the apartheid regime in South Africa. Besides being a member of parliament from 1994 to 2004 in South Africa, she has also published 2 books on Mahatma Gandhi.
Dr. Parthasarathy Chiramel Pillai
Bringing India and the USA closer and contributing hugely to the field of science has brought this award to Dr. Pillai. He has 34 years of teaching and scientific research experience in academics and government. He has to his credit over 75 research papers. He has played a significant role in educational-political activity in United States.
Mr. Shihabudeen Vava Kunju
This pleasant, long-haired and moustached gentleman has been recognised for his contributions in the field of community service and promoting better ties between India and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He has been known to selflessly work in resolution of labour disputes, repatriation of destitute Indian nationals, handling death cases and arranging shelter for the sick and disabled. For his labours, he has been appreciated and awarded by various organisations in India and abroad.
Dr. Shamsheer Vayalil Parambath
Awarded for promoting better understanding of India in the United Arab Emirates, and for significant contribution in the field of healthcare, Dr. Parambath has created a successful business empire that also concerns itself with community welfare and social responsibility. His integrated healthcare group, operating in the UAE, Oman and India, has benefitted many communities across Middle East, India and North Africa.
Mr. Shailesh Lakhman Vara
Public service and promoting ties between India and the UK has fetched Mr. Vara this award. He was a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England & Wales. He got elected to the British parliament in 2010 and became the first Indian origin Govt. minister for the conservative party. A proper gentleman with finesse, Mr. Vara has advised the former and current Prime Ministers of the UK as well as leaders of the Conservative Party.
Mr. Sasindran Muthuvel
He has been recognised for his contribution in the field of public service. He is the first member of Parliament of Indian origin in Papua New Guinea. He is known for his stated vision of equitable distribution of wealth; universal access to safe drinking water; free and fair education; and empowerment of rural people through skill-development, with an intent to equal employment opportunity creation.
Ms. Renu Khator
For someone whose dreams of higher education were almost dashed when her parents arranged her marriage at an early age of 18, Ms. Khator has done remarkably well in rising to the rank of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Houston, Texas, USA. For her contributions in the field of education and enhancing India’s prestige abroad, this award has been conferred on her. She is one of the first persons of Indian origin to head a higher education system and a research university in America. She is also a member of the PM’s Global Advisory Council for Overseas Indians.