(The IST News Desk)
The Indian Sub-Continent Times (The IST) published a report about a fund raiser by United Indian Associations (UIA), after seeking clarifications from the then UIA President, Mr John Kennedy. He did not respond to The IST queries. http://www.theistimes.com/funds-collection-goes-awry-thanks-to-uia/
After receiving further calls and queries from many people, enquiring about this fund raiser, The IST sent a few more queries to the current UIA president, Mr Sreeni Pillamarri, and the committee members. The IST still did not receive any response, but a few Telugu community members forwarded UIA press release from a Telugu Whatsapp group, where UIA had posted its press release. UIA Statement Page 1 UIA Statement Page 2 UIA did not have courtesy to send their press release to The IST directly, even though they mentioned The IST report in their press release.
UIA admitted in this press release that the family of Late Mr Ramachandran Gunasekaran did not need funds. UIA agreed to refund the money to the donors, but only if claimed within 2 weeks. If donors did not claim the money, UIA will hold this money with themselves. They talked about the creation of a benevolent fund. There are many issues in this press release.
- When UIA is acknowledging The IST report about their fund raising in their press release, nothing should have prevented them to respond to the queries from The IST directly.
- UIA has still not responded to the basic query as to why did they collect funds without establishing the need for this fund raising. In the Whatsapp group created by the community to collaborate in assisting the family of the deceased, people requested everyone to establish the need for financial assistance first before embarking on fund raising, which UIA ignored in their great hurry to collect funds from the community.
- The IST has copies of the posts in the above-mentioned Whatsapp group. It has a copy of what Mr Rajesh Venkatramaiah from Sewa Australia wrote to Mr John Kennedy (a copy is attached).
- . It is clear that Sewa Australia did not want their Logo in UIA flyer, which UIA disseminated to the community via various platforms. Even the picture of the deceased was used in one of the flyers.
- UIA press release mentioned Sewa Australia and Abhijeet Martand’s fund raising and questioned why The IST did not scrutinise them. From the Whatsapp messages, it is apparent that Sewa Australia did not wish to raise funds and that Mr Martand disclosed fund raising of $800, which he committed to refund, as he knew the donors. The IST firmly believes, as do many community members, that money going into Sewa Australia account and the account associated with Mr Martand must be refunded to the donors. The IST understands that Sewa Australia and Martand are small players in these fund raisings. The UIA in the Press release also ignored, in a hurry to claim some glory for itself and its former President, that there were some 40-50 members from the community organisations and associations who visited the family and offered condolences and assistance. This can’t be ignored.
- The financial assistance from Government of India (GOI) to transport the mortal remains of an Indian citizen, as for any other financial assistance programme from GOI, is offered to those who genuinely need the assistance, based on their financial situation. It is known that GOI has arranged this assistance to many families, which needed this help. It would not make any sense to offer financial assistance for transportation of the mortal remains when the family of the deceased do not need this assistance.
- UIA must do everything, including putting ads in Indian newspapers and social media to inform donors to facilitate refund of this money. Two weeks is not a sufficient period. Refund process must remain open until all monies have been refunded.
- UIA’s proposed Benevolent fund is a complex matter. They had announced a benevolent fund around 2010, when they were supposed to deposit $5000 into that fund. Also, they announced $2 from each ticket sold for their Fair in Olympic Park that year would be going to the benevolent fund. UIA needs to explain the status of their previous benevolent fund.
- Since the money raised by UIA for the family of the deceased was not needed, there is no justification for this money to stay with UIA. There are better and more accountable platforms where this money can be housed.
- There are other issues with this fund raising, which include absence of DGR certificate with UIA and UIA’s lack of relevant authority to raise public charity money. This could well be a matter for complaint to the relevant Government agencies, if the money raised in UIA fund raiser is not dealt with in an appropriate and transparent fashion.
The IST understands that there is substantial concern and disquiet about the whole affair. UIA should act immediately to redress the issues.