(The IST): Three years ago, in November 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Australia amid great fanfare. Mr. Ram Madhav from the RSS reportedly established Indian Australian Community Foundation (IACF) to host Mr. Modi. The IACF was formed with active and exclusive role for the members of Hindu Council of Australia (HCA). Hindu Council of Australia president, Dr Nihal Agar, was made IACF President.
From what people saw, Mr Yateender Gupta (from the inner circle of HCA), Mr Rahul Jethi (from the inner circle of HCA and then convenor of OFBJP), Mr Ramyavaram (Hindu Swamsevak Sangh HSS), Mr Sanjeev Bhakri (HCA secretary) and Mr Balesh Dhankar (HCA and OFBJP) were the key members of this group and were involved in various activities including funds collections. Indian Australian community leaders and groups had hardly any role and there was no consultation with them.
The IACF collected funds and sponsorships from various businesses and reportedly also collected funds from various community organisations in the name of PM Modi and the PMO ostensibly for hosting the event in the All Phones Arena, the site for the Modi speech. The Stadium reportedly finally did not charge for the venue. Apparently, that money should have been with the IACF but no one is responding to the repeated queries put forward by The IST.
It was also announced by the IACF chief Dr. Nihal Agar at a community meeting at that time that once PM Modi returns to India, the IACF will be disbanded. But in March 2015, four months later, the Facebook page of Prime Minister Modi revealed that Dr. Agar along with OFBJP Australia head Balesh Singh Dhankar met Mr. Modi in New Delhi in the capacity of IACF chief and office bearer. Still, there is no clear indication if the IACF has been disbanded or not. The information about IACF is opaque, if not non-existent.
The questionnaire was sent to several IACF members. None except Mr. Yateender Gupta responded. Mr. Gupta advised that he was just an accountant and under Australian rules, he is not supposed to reveal any details of the account except to the clients. However, we were not enquiring about any individual in private capacity rather in interest of the community that has paid to the public fund. In order to maintain the principle of probity in public life we had demanded transparency in usage of community funds in the best interest of Indian Australians.
The mystery deepens with the absence of any information forthcoming. Is it to hide facts from the public who invested in the welcome of Mr Modi in one or the other way or is there something more sinister in all this? There are rumours that Adani funded this event too.
To inform the community, The IST asked following questions from members of IACF, including President Dr. Nihal Agar, then OFBJP convenor Mr Rahul Jethi, who was involved in collection of funds, Accountant Mr. Yateender Gupta, OFBJP President and Media coordinator Mr. Balesh Singh Dhankar, members of the inner core group Mr. Ramyavaran and Mr Sanjeev Bhakri:
- Is IACF still in operation or has it been disbanded/closed?
- How much funds were collected for the purpose of hosting PM Modi’s Sydney meeting?
- How much of those funds were spent for PM Modi’s meeting?
- How much money was left and what happened to that money?
- Who were the signatories and authorised persons to operate IACF funds?
- Since IACF was formed on behalf of community organisations, that had to join IACF to enable their members to get the tickets for the PM Modi’s meeting, have you/your team informed community/community organisations about these details?
- Do you accept that it is essential for groups like IACF to follow principles of transparency and proper governance?
None of the above queries has been answered. It is a matter of serious concern that an organisation involved in arranging the public meeting of Prime Minister of India in Sydney would avoid answering reasonable and valid queries. Community people and groups are concerned about lack of transparency and proper governance by IACF, which collected funds from people, but would not be prepared to be accountable to Indian Australians.
This is a serious disservice to Indian Australians and is bringing the name of Prime Minister of India in bad light. Community deserves answers to these questions. If these answers are not forthcoming soon, then the next option might be to seek them through Right to Information Act (RTI Act) and Freedom of Information (FOI) mechanisms.