Self before service new mantra of CIAA

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By Ashok Kumar:

Several years ago the then Consul General of India in Sydney expressed the desire that the small splinter groups of associations should unite and serve the community better. At his call the United Indian Associations and Federation of Indian Associations of Australia (FAIA) held a meeting in the presence of the Indian media and agreed to unite. After a few days, they not only parted ways even before the formation of a united association but also the FAIA dismissed its president, Dr.A.M Babu due to ego clashes. This was the single most misjudgement by FAIA and today it exist only in name and has no members to justify its federation status. Many in the community say that FAIA has had its use by date many years ago.

Since then, no worthwhile attempt has been made towards this direction. Recently, a former President of Federation of Indian Association of Victoria, Mr. Vasan Srinivasan has “formed” a Confederation of Indian Associations of Australia (CIAA) “with the blessings of the High Commissioner of India, a claim that is unlikely to be true.” He tried to rope in the Consul Generals as well. But, the diplomats have no jurisdiction on such matters. Several people in the community had protested against the role of Diplomats in community politics. He claims to have discussions with all the associations in the states and territories. Even this claim appears to be not true and may just be spin doctoring.

In NSW the community leaders are not aware of any such move or if at all there was any, it did not go beyond a dinner organised by Mr. Srinivasan, in which the Consul General in Sydney was present only to promote Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) but reportedly walked off mid way. Mr Srinivasan’s dinner diplomacy continues and  he has invited to Canberra next week, some ‘handpicked and insignificant’ leaders or men who have not served the community.

Who is this Vasan Srinivasan? According to The Indian Sub-continent Times (IST)’s research on him, he has a dubious past. He is a Real Estate Developer and a Lobbyist, he is accused of sitting on his position even after the expiry of his term of two years and extended to four years not calling for elections to his association and misusing the association facilities for promoting his personal businesses, (The IST has documentary evidence of this claim). Besides, there are complaints against him by his own association members who have demanded an enquiry into his false claims of holding positions in the Government bodies. His infamous past has preceded him before he could influence others.

The IST contacted various community members and leaders by e mail in Victoria and NSW, the largest state in the country. Almost all of them have responded with negative remarks.

Mr. Ravi Bhatia, President of Australia India Business Council, Victoria, former National Vice Chairman of AIBC and founder/former CEO of Primus Telecom/iPRIMUS , also participated in four Victorian Super Trade Missions to India has categorically denied  any consultation in this regard taking place. “There has been zero consultation in Melbourne,” he said in a reply e mail.

Chairman and President of India Club, Mr. Akshaya Kumar and Mrs. Shubha Kumar, respectively, too have denied being contacted or had discussion on the subject with anyone.  Leave alone discussions, they are totally unaware of the existence of such an organisation.

“I would like to express my deduced opinion and bring to attention that several self styled groups are operating that claim to represent the Indian community but consist mostly of handpicked individuals and splinter organisations. It keeps coming up regularly in discussions that integrity and performance of these groups is marred by dominance of certain self seeking individuals long in their structures and by their alleged corrupt practices. It is noticed that many individuals do not even participate or mix in community affairs but appear only in functions with prominent politicians. It is a general belief that these groups/organizations repeatedly hurt reputation of Indian community,” said Akshaye.

Mr. Gurdeep Singh, Hornsby Councillor, said,” I am aware that Mr Srinivasan visited Sydney a few months ago and the idea to have such a national body was tossed around at a dinner meeting organised by him.

Interestingly, the Consul General of India of the time, who was an invitee to the said meeting, left the meeting midway. However, I am not aware of any further community consultation on this matter since then.”

Dr. Gurdip Aurora, a reputed medical practitioner and President Australia India Society of Victoria (AISV), in his reply said he was not part of any consultation on the matter.

The President of the United Indian Associations (UIA) Mr. John Kennedy in a straightforward remark said, “I was not part of the meeting that was held in Sydney few months ago. I did get an invitation to attend the current meeting to be held on Canberra but I am not interested in dividing the community therefore, not attending this meeting. I have voiced my concern personally to them.”

Dave Passi, Secretary of UIA also said he has not been contacted by anyone. And, he (Mr. Vasan ) should cancel the dinner meeting until all important people have been consulted. But in another email he said, “Yes! Once we know the objective is to form a viable body to look after the interests of the community not few disgruntled individuals who look for some fake leadership. We are not united yet at state level and someone from other state all of sudden claims to be the custodian of the whole nation of Indians. We need more interaction before we can do that.
Many people talk of uniting but ending up making another organisation. The problem is that we have too many people around trying to getting into the shoes of leadership.”

Mr. Pravin Gupta, an influential community member and IIT-trained professional, also said that there has been no contact or discussion on the subject with anyone. But later, in his e mail he mentioned to have got in touch with Mr. Srinivasan and who admitted that he does not have any support from the leaders.

Dr. Yadu Singh, President of Indian Australian Association of NSW when asked about the dinner meeting said,” I am not part of any consultation with this so-called national group. Our association, Indaus Inc;  has decided in its AGM in Nov 2013, to not deal with this group and Vasan Srinivasan, because we do not believe they are credible people or their interest is to serve our community. Those who are associated with him from NSW are not credible either and do not have any support in NSW. Literally, nobody of substance from NSW is with them.

It is my firm belief that this group is being formed to help promote political ambitions of certain individual, without any concern or purpose for Indian Australian community. We reject them as leaders for Indian Australian community.

After Indaus Inc refused to support this group, two individuals from NSW, who are associated with this group, but do not have any credibility as leaders or support in NSW, have been working actively to destabilise our group on behalf of their master in Melbourne.

I do not think the Minister Mr. Kevin Andrews should associate in any shape or form with this so called national association, because it is being formed with the selfish purpose to help political aspirations of Mr Vasan Srinivasan. It has nothing to do with the broader interests of our community, and certainly, it does not have support in the community.”

Active community member Chidanand Puttarevanna in his reply email said, “From all information I have, CIAA is a platform to promote political aspirations of Mr Vasan Srinivasan. It does not have any credibility. It appears to be a South Indian club (which does not have significant support even in this community), for which Mr Srinivasan has picked people like Anagan Babu , only because of his South Indian background. They are not known for their leadership or support in the community. It is a complete joke. I have spoken with my friends and they all had a hearty laugh when they heard about people in CIAA. It is about time that they are told off by our community for this stunt.”

E mail was also sent to Mr. Stanley D’Cruz, Mr. Anagan Babu, Mr. Vish Vishwanathan and others with reminders, but there has been no response from them till today.

In the light of above reactions from the various organisations and community leaders, it is clear that Mr. Srinivasan does not have any support in NSW and his support in Victoria is also questionable.

Seeing this, a reasonable person cannot be blamed if he or she thinks about a similar situation in regards to Mr.Srinivasan’s support in other states and territories.

Seeing the email invitation and the people who have been invited, it is clear that Mr. Srinivasan wants to invite only his handpicked friends who, unfortunately do not have any credibility as leaders or support in the community. Mr. Stanley D’Cruz, Mr. Anagan Babu and Mr. Vish Viswanathan, named by Mr. Srinivasan in his email, belong to a particular regional section of the community and do not represent the large spectrum of Indian Australian community.

This raises a serious question not only about Mr. Srinivasan’s credibility in the community but also purpose behind this association.

It has been a well known practice that people form associations with the purpose of self interest and then get those associations launched by or in the presence of political leaders for gaining some credibility which they may not deserve. This is a well trodden game about which political leaders should be aware and avoid themselves falling into the trap.

There may be justification for consolidation or networking for community associations but this should be guided by sincerity of the purpose, focussing on community interest, not personal agenda and self interest of any individual or group. The success of any such efforts can only be guaranteed if there have been substantial debates and discussions among various associations, leaders and key members of growing India Australian community. One thing which will surely not work is spin doctoring and any attempt—direct or indirect—to form or use associations for political interest or agenda.

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Ashok Kumar

Ashok Kumar is an accomplished journalist with over 38 years of experience in the profession in various capacities. He was a sub-editor in Patriot and later Chief Sub-editor in The Hindustan Times, New Delhi. He has several published articles and reports in Patriot and HT. Published reports in The Blacktown Sun in Sydney. He had also been a tutor in journalism in the University of Western Sydney. He is currently Editor at The
Indian Sub-continent Times, Sydney.

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