Venkat Raman –
Tuesday is one of the busiest in the ‘Out of Parliament Office’ of National List MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, especially when Parliament is not in session and the lawmaker is in Auckland.
Rahul Chopra is the lone member of his staff at the office located on Kolmar Road in the South Auckland suburb of Papatoetoe.
Mr Bakshi has been Member of Parliament since November 2008 and over the years, his office has become a popular destination for member of the public, international students and occasionally tourists seeking his assistance on a number of matters.
New Zealand has well-established systems and procedures for addressing and redressing complaints, and MPs know the limits up to which they can stretch their position, beyond which all they can do is to refer issues to the higher-ups.
On July 7, 2015, a young man, known to the Police and to the MP, walked into the office and was received with courtesy by Mr Chopra. The visitor, an international student from India, did not show any sign of what he was up to until he poured a can of petrol over himself and threatened to immolate.
In what was to follow as the most anxious and nervous two hours, Mr Chopra tried to convince the young man not to torch himself and that his problems could be properly addressed.
“Rahul showed patience, understanding and goodwill and did his best not to aggravate the situation. I sensed something was wrong when I called him at his office,” Mr Bakshi told us later.
The Police arrived on the scene, took the young man away and admitted him at the Middlemore Hospital where his mental health was assessed. We have been told of the reasons for his suicide attempt but we understand they relate to his education and employment.
His father has arrived from Punjab, India to look after the youngster.
This incident has thrown open the larger, more frustrating question, “Are our MPs and their staff safe in an increasingly volatile society?”
There are more questions that follow: “What if someone actually carries out such threats? How can incidents such as those witnessed in other government offices be prevented? Do we have the financial and human resources to protect our public servants?”
On the other side of the equation, there is also a need to access the way in which we allow international students without providing them proper information and security.
According to some observers, Export Education has become a farce and for many, a moneymaking racket. Is it time for us to heed the warning of New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters and stop the deluge of international students and concentrate on quality intake?
Indian Newslink will analyse these issues in its next issue (August 1, 2015). Please send your views to firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Caption: 1. Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi 2. Rahul Chopra