Aziz Haniffa/Rediff.com and George Joseph report from Washington, DC and New York ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit.
Thanks to the perseverance of Dallas-based Indian-American community activist Sante Chary, the United States Senate unanimously adopted Senate Resolution 571 that officially designates September 30, 2014, as US-India Partnership Day.
Chary camped out on Capitol Hill for over a week, pacing the corridors of the US Senate offices and urging members of the bipartisan Senate India Caucus -- the largest country-specific caucus in the US Senate -- to offer a symbolic gesture in recognition of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US and his summit with President Obama at the White House.
Chary, a health-care entrepreneur and a longtime adviser to the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, spent hours in the offices of the Senate India Caucus co-chairs, Democrat Mark Warner and Republican John Cornyn, working with their aides in drafting the resolution.
The resolution was accepted by the Caucus and almost immediately sent to the full Senate for passage before the lawmakers left town.
"I deeply appreciate the remarkable participation of the Indian-American community in our Senate India Caucus," Senator Warner told Rediff.com
"The US-India Partnership Day resolution marks an exciting moment in our countries' relationship," Senator Warner added. "Having the prime minister from the world's largest democracy visit with leaders from the world's oldest democracy is not only symbolically significant, it is also a prime opportunity to make progress on priorities for the relationship."
"Pushing for a great Indo-US strategic partnership has been my passion for over 20 years," Chary, who chaired the US-India Partnership Day Initiative, told Rediff.com "I firmly believe the Indian-American community can be an invaluable asset and catalyst in making this happen."
"I hope the US India Partnership Day will bring more attention to this important relationship," Chary said.
Why Modi will speak at the Global Citizen Festival
'A man whose words carry such a significant slice of humanity is to be respected, and so with such a stage the fact he will be speaking about something as simple as a toilet shows the earnestness with which he regards improving access to sanitation.' George Joseph/Rediff.com reports from New York.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's slogan for toilets for every family in India by 2019 has caught the attention of the Global Poverty Project in New York City, which is organising the Global Citizen Festival at Central Park in New York on Saturday, September 27.
Though the Indian-American community is focused on the reception for Prime Minister Modi at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, he is scheduled to speak at the Global Citizen Festival, a movement to end extreme poverty.
Several national leaders including Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will attend the event and speak about their commitments to end extreme poverty by 2030.
"We live in societies where it's easy to take our toilets for granted, but life can be hard without them. Lack of access to a toilet makes it harder to stay clean and healthy, and make lives of women difficult," said Somanjana Chatterjee, an activist associated with the group.
"That's why we are promoting crucial action showing support for Prime Minister Modi's work to get a toilet into every Indian home by 2019. He famously said he would prioritise building toilets before temples. We are happy to announce that Modi is to give a message to the world for support and help to deal with these burning issues," she said.
'A man whose words carry such a significant slice of humanity is to be respected, and so with such a stage the fact he will be speaking about something as simple as a toilet shows the earnestness with which he regards improving access to sanitation,' activists Michael Sheldrick and William Cuming wrote.
They also noted the harmful effects of using open places as toilets pointing out that almost 60 per cent of people doing this live in India. Ending this practice will have effects on health as well as economy, they argued.
Several world leaders will join a star-studded line up of musicians, celebrity hosts including Hugh Jackman and Jessica Alba, and 60,000 Global Citizens on the Great Lawn of Central Park, the organisers said.
Image: A woman washes clothes outside her home at a slum in New Delhi. Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters
'It is not over till it is over'
If you are attending the New York reception for Prime Minister Modi at the MSG, some suggestions from Indian American Community Foundation President Dr Bharat Barai. George Joseph/Rediff.com reports from New York.
Dr Bharat Barai, president, Indian American Community Foundation, which is organising the reception for Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Madison Square Garden on September 28, says preparations are in the final stage.
"It is not over till it is over," Dr Barai said. "Last minute glitches are possible at such a massive event, in spite of all precautions. But we have tried our best."
The security inside the MSG will be handled by three agencies -- the United States Secret Service, the prime minister's Special Protection Group and the MSG security staff.
"The incredible demand to be a part of Indian-American history in greeting Prime Minister Modi has pushed us to find more ways to let the community participate," IACF Spokesperson Anand Shah said.
"That is why we decided to broadcast the event at Times Square, stream it online and provide English subtitles and audio translation -- ensuring that as many people as possible can be part of what promises to be one of the largest-ever gatherings to hear a foreign leader speak on American soil," Shah added.
The IACF is helping student groups and community organisers arrange viewing parties in their local areas.
Dr Barai has a few suggestions for attendees:
- Have breakfast before entering the MSG even though food is available at the MSG for purchase.
- Once cleared at the security check point, proceed to the designated area rather than standing in the way.
- Behave in a dignified way.
- Don't bring bags, food or other things except cell phones, which should be kept on vibration mode.
Ladies may bring a clutch purse with a cell phone and other personal things.
- Arrive early as the security check may take long considering the massive numbers of guests.
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