Venkat Raman –
Politics, differences in approach to common issues and inability or unwillingness to address problems are among the factors that threaten to polarise the Indian community in New Zealand – at least in Auckland.
A meeting hosted by New Zealand Indian Central Association (NZICA) at Mahatma Gandhi Centre in Auckland’s Eden Terrace on Sunday, September 11, 2016, failed to achieve its main objective of assessing the concerns of various participating Indian associations as discussions drifted towards the need or otherwise of forming a ‘Federation of Indian Associations,’ to encompass all ‘like-minded Indians.’
Such a Federation, according to some, is essential to strengthen the Indian voice in national polity and make a meaningful contribution to the social fabric of New Zealand.
Dr Anil Channa and Veer Khar, both senior members of the community who have held offices in Indian associations, notably the Manukau Indian Association, were of the view that such a Federation would be on the lines of ‘United Indians’ formed in 2009, initially as a Committee to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Indian Republic (in January 2010) but later to take a more concrete shape.
They were of the view that the rules of NZICA were too rigid to permit the wider participation of Indian community organisations and that the Federation idea would be an effective way to unification.
Those averse to the Federal idea said that it would only lead to the creation of another body that would actually divide the community further.
This Reporter said that as the premier and the oldest Indian association in New Zealand, NZICA should act on recent developments that have damaged the image of the Indian community in New Zealand. This includes exploitation of Indian migrant workers and students (both largely by employers of Indian origin) and the increasing incidence of students from India submitting fake documents leading to their deportation. Compounding this problem is the charge that some education institutions involving Indian agents and managers or owners of educational institutions not complying with regulatory discipline and standards, he said.
New Political Party
The formation of a new political party by a group of Indians in recent weeks is also being seen as ‘unnecessary’ by its opponents. Almost all political parties have criticised this move as ‘racist’ and restrictive.
The general election due in 2017 would decide if the new party has public support but in the interim there are no broad policy issues that aim to tackle such vital sectors as the economy, fiscal management, education, health and immigration.
The NZICA meeting was hosted by President Bhikhu Bana with Secretary Prakash Biradar and Wider Community Forum Chairman and former NZICA President Paul Singh Bains. National MP Dr Parmjeet Parmar was the Guest of Honour at the meeting which had the noble objective of striking a common ground but the outcome turned out to be somewhat different.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar, Bhikhu Bhana, Paul Bains Singh, Prakash Biradar and Harshad Patel at the NZICA meeting
(From right) Dr Anil Channa, Veer Khar, Naveen Prakash, Sandeep Agarwal and Alkesh Sharma represented various Indian organisations at the meeting