In a free-wheeling chat with Chandran Iyer on the sidelines of GOPIO meet in Jaipur, its President Ashook Ramsaran says PBD should focus more on global issues
International President of Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin ( GOPIO) Ashook Ramsaran is a well- known name among the Indian diaspora. He was honoured last year at the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas ( PBD) for his remarkable work towards the benefit of the Indian community in the US. Guyanese-born Ashook is also the President and CEO of Ramex Inc, an electronics manufacturing enterprise in College Point, New York. His company remained listed among the Top 100 Indian Owned Businesses in the USA for 10 consecutive years.
An ardent advocate of universal human rights, he was given special recognition by St. John’s University and a scholarship has also been set up in his name for Caribbean and Latin America studies.
Ramsaran has worked hard and long to bring about recognition by the Government of India for those who left India from 1834 – 1920 as indentured laborers. He spearheaded the Kolkota Memorial project which was inaugurated soon after the Pravasi convention ended. He was also honoured a an “Outstanding Immigrant” by New York City Council. He was previously GOPIO’s Executive Vice President and Secretary General. He was unanimously elected President of GOPIO International on Nove 19,2011 at GOPIO’s Convention 2011. He has written extensively on issues of interest concerning PIO’s in the global Indian diaspora.
Excerpts from the Interview:
There are nearly six million NRIs and PIOs all over the world. How sensitive do you think is the Indian government to their problems?
That is a very loaded question that you have asked. The issue is very big and there are many problems. I can say the government has become more sensitive because of the Diaspora’s effect on India and its economy.
How effective are the events like Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in sensitizing the government and creating awareness about the problems of the daispora?
It is a good start. It started in 2003 and started taking up the issues of NRIs and PIOs. But slowly it is going off the track . It has diverged and become more and more Indo-centric. This needs to be shifted and brought back and align it to the issue of diaspora.
What do you mean by Indo-centric. When issues are discussed in PBD, isn’t the diaspora mainly interested in Indo-Centric issues?
No. When I say Indo -centric I mean most of the issues are India – based. The diaspora has interest outside of India ,that sometimes are not related to India such as Human Rights issue, social issues, political issues, regional issue and racial issues. They may not be related to what is happening in India and hence such issues should be given more prominence in the events like the PBD.
There was a news that GOPIO has decided to collaborate with the Overseas Felicitation Centre. Could you elaborate what exactly is GOPIO planning to achieve through this collaboration?
Collaboration is very simple. OIFC facilitates business enterprises . It has been providing investment know-how and business facilitation services to the NRIs. But it is a two way street and not one way. They facilitate business investment in India and we are using them to make the Indians aware of what business opportunities lies overseas.
A section of NRI’s and PIOs want duel citizenship. What is the stand of GOPIO?
Duel citizenship is only useful for those countries which have reciprocal treaty with India. But in other countries which have smaller diaspora of Indian population we could have the issue of split loyalty or misconstrued loyalty. So we have to be careful .
When you say ” other countries” are you referring to ones like Pakistan, Bangladesh etc?
No I wouldn’t like to name any country specifically.
What is GOPIO’s stand on voting rights for NRI’s and PIO’s?
GOPIO is only pressing for voting rights for the NRI’s. If I am a citizen of India who is living outside India and I have property and family in India . Then I have a right to know and participate in what is happening here.
What is the government’s stand on that matter. Is it receptive for the suggestions?
That is being debated right now.
But I believe even here there are some resistance from some quarters in India on account of security issues?
I don’t see any reasons why there should be any resistance on this matter.
Banking frauds is a big problem for the NRI and PIOs. Several instances have come to light where frauds have been committed by middlemen who with the help of forged power of attorney on behalf of the NRI’s and PIOs lure the banks with deposits and take loans. Is something being done to curb such frauds?
That is an internal problem of India. We are pushing the government all the time to have more strict enforcements to protect NRI’s , their assets and their investments. We want that to happen. We hope the Government of India takes care of that issue.
What is being done to safeguard the interest of women who marry NRIs? There has been several cases of NRIs and PIOs cheating Indian women?
This is definitely a problem. We are concerned about this and we hope such frauds do not take place. But we do not have any clear idea as to how to prevent such problems.
Many pensioners including retired defence personnel who are settled abroad are facing problems in getting their pension. Has GOPIO taken up the matter?
We have not addressed that yet. It is something that we are hearing about. But it is not on a big scale.