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US: NRIs seek voting rights

A Correspondent | October 21, 2008 23:03 IST

The voting rights of Indian citizens living outside India and representations for non-resident Indians in federal and state legislatures of India were among the topics discussed at a reception to former Indian minister and governor M M Jacob in New York. The event was jointly organised by the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin and the Indian-American Kerala [Images] Centre.

Jacob, who was the governor of Meghalaya, has been serving as an advisor to GOPIO, since it was formed in 1989 in New York, according to Dr Thomas Abraham, who chaired the interactive meeting held at Kerala Center in Elmont, New York. Jacob was on a private visit to the United States.

'With a large number of Indian citizens living outside India, it is time the Indian parliament adopts a constitutional amendment to give representation for NRIs inĀ  the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies,' said E M Stephen, founder of the Kerala Center and life member of GOPIO.

Jacob suggested that GOPIO ask the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs to recommend a constitutional amendment for direct appointment of NRIs to both houses of the Indian parliament and legislative assemblies. The voting rights for Indian citizens living outside India can be accomplished by creating a few constituencies for NRIs through an amendment, he said.

Representatives of several organizations participated in the deliberations. In his welcome address, Kerala Center president Jose Chummar complimented Jacob on his commitment to help NRI communities.

Jacob expressed happiness at the clearance of US-India nuclear deal by the Nuclear Suppliers Group. India can now meet its energy needs only through all different energy sources including hydroelectric, thermal, nuclear and the non-conventional energy sources such as wind mill and solar power, he said.

Earlier, GOPIO's Connecticut chapter, in coordination with the Connecticut Development Authority, sponsored a finance workshop, and the Kerala Center celebrated India's Independence Day and Onam.

The theme of the workshop held at Hampton Inn and Suites in Stamford, Connecticut, was 'How to Finance and Sustain a Business and Professional Practice.' Bhom Banta was program chairman and Dr Abraham moderated the proceedings.

'The Indian-American community is the second fastest growing group in Connecticut after the Hispanic community and has been contributing to Connecticut's economy in engineering and sciences, information technology, health sciences and hospitality industry,' Dr Abraham said.

'While the Indian-American community has been involved in growing small- and medium-sized businesses, the community is also playing an increasing role as a conduit for investment from India, which is one of the fastest growing economies in the world,' he added.

CDA President Marie C O'Brien spoke on the opportunities for small business in the state and CDA's vision and commitment to small business, while CDA executive director Antonio Roberto talked about its programs for economic development and small business. Other speakers included CDA senior vice president John Lobon, Dr Fred MeKinney, president of Connecticut Minority Supplier Development Council and Yvonne Davis, president of Davis Communications and a consultant to CDA. GOPIO-CT president Sangeeta Ahuja welcomed the gathering.

The Onam celebration at Kerala Center featured traditional Kerala dances and music along with Bhangra and other Indian dances. P K Prakash, consul at the NY Indian consulate, was the chief guest. "With the enormous growth of the Indian community in the U S, and New York in particular, the Kerala Center has served to promote the civic and other social service activities among the Indian-American community,' he said. Dr Abraham delivered the Independence Day message.

A highlight was the depiction of the annual visit of King Mahabali, the legendary king. He was received with Thalappoli and chenda melam (beating of drums) and other musical accompaniments.

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