Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee gave away Pravasi Bharatiya Samman awards to ten prominent Non-Resident Indians for excellence in various fields.
The first recipient of the prestigious award was Sir Anerood Jugnauth, Prime Minister of Mauritius. An advocate by profession Sir Anerood was first elected to the Mauritian Parliament in 1963.
Former Premier of British Columbia (Canada) Ujjal Dosanjh; British Member of Parliament Lord Navnit Dholakia; McKinsey Managing Director Rajat Gupta; well-known freedom fighter from South Africa Fatima Mir; Kanakshi Gokaldas Khimji, a businessman whose family has settled down in Oman for the last 300 years; Malaysian Works Minister S Samy; former Commonwealth Secretary-General Sir Shridath Ramphal; businessman from Kenya Manu Chandaria; and Bob Naroomal Harilela, a businessman from Hong Kong were the other awardees.
Sir Anerood was one of the founder members of the Mauritius Socialist Movement. He served as the leader of the Opposition in the Mauritian Parliament from 1976 to 1982.
He became the prime minister of Mauritius in 1982 after his party won the elections, in alliance with Left wing parties.
The august audience reserved the biggest applause for Nazir Mohammad from Oman, one of the eldest original migrants to leave the shores of India way back in 1912. Clad in a lungi and an simple shirt, he was honoured by Vajpayee, who draped a shawl around him.
Yet, there were some who thought that they should have been included in the list of the awardees.
A notable omission from the list of the prominent NRIs was the name of Mahendra Choudhry, former prime minister of Fiji. It is learnt that his name was backed by the Delhi Study Group headed by Vijay Jolly, a close associate of Vijay Goel, minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office.
His name, however, was dropped at the last minute as India does not wish to displease the current Fijian government.