CHICAGO (TIP): Inaugurating the 17th biennial convention of the National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA), Consul General of India, Ms. Mukta Dutta Tomar, on Friday October 12, 2012 welcomed the delegates from all over the United States to Chicago and said that this town is a remarkable place where Swami Vivekananda made his extraordinary speech to the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions. “Almost 120 years later, his words still hold true, promoting tolerance and universal acceptance,” she continued, “I hope you will take a little time to visit the Art Institute and renew your connections to that historic event.” The Consul General then went on to pay a glowing tribute to the Indian American community and said that the people of India origin have proved themselves in a tough global competitive environment through their innovative, dynamic, pioneering qualities, as they continue to produce new generation of talented individuals, good corporate and social citizens and enterprising and creative professionals.
Studies support that over 3 million immigrants from India living in the US are one of the most remarkable concentration of Indians, she noted. Seventy percent of them over the age of 25 are college graduates, 67% over the age of 16 are professionals and the median income of Indian household is over $90,000, the highest among all ethnic groups in the United States. A joint UC Berkeley-Duke University study revealed that Indian American immigrants have founded more engineering and technology companies from 1995 to 2005 than immigrants from UK, China, Taiwan and Japan combined.
Tomar also addressed the growing ties between India and the United States. “The partnership between the two countries is based on shared values of democracy, pluralism, and rule of law. The relations have widened in scope and encompass cooperation in areas like economy and trade, defense and security, education, science and technology, civil nuclear energy, space technology, clean energy, environment and health.”
The inauguration ceremony started with a welcome remarks by Convention Convener Sohan Joshi and NFIA President Lal Motwani. Congressman Joe Walsh (D-8th District of Illinois) also addressed the delegates saying that he was very happy to be there. “I have fallen in love with India and people of Indian origin in my district.” His brief remarks were followed by a colorful cultural program of dances and music. Lal Motwani, president of NFIA and Sohan Joshi, the convener of the gathering also made brief remarks.
The next day was filled with intellectually stimulating seminars. The day was organized into 10 sessions including two plenary sessions. The first plenary session was titled “Indian American Making an Impact in America” with Dr. Ann Lata Kalayil, an Obama appointee as GSA Administrator for Great Lakes Region as the keynote speaker and Anju Bhargava, a member of White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership as speaker. Dr. Kalayil spoke about her experience growing as a second generation Indian American kid, taking interest in political process and that how she made it to the current position as GSA administrator and called upon the new generation to get involved in public service. Ms. Bhargava spoke on many avenues of involvement for the community in faith-based and neighborhood partnership. In a second plenary session, Dr. Sid Gautam, Professor of Financial Economics; Director, Center for Entrepreneurship, Methodist University, Fayetteville, NC spoke on the Innovative DNA of the Indian Diaspora.
There were eight other conference sessions which dealt with Honoring the Pioneers – Celebrating 100th Anniversary Gadar Movement (organized by GOPIO International); New Tax Rules in the US and India affecting the Community – Foreign Income Reporting, FBAR, OVDI, Avoid Double Taxation and New NRI Taxes in India; Indian Americans Making Impact in the Society; Taking Care of Our Own – Services to the Community; Indian American Senior Citizens – Mobilizing Services; Community’s Success in Political Involvement; Indian Americans Making Impact in India’s Development; Indian American Youth and Young Professionals Achieving Success. In addition, an Indian delegate Dr. Sudha Gopalakrishnan, Executive Director of SAHAPEDIA made a special presentation on An Open encyclopedia on Indian Culture and Heritage.
There was a spirited discussion on the political involvement of the community and the success it has achieved in this area. Toby Chaudhary, a political activist from Washington DC, urged the audience to wake up and participate in the mainstream politics.
“The conference sessions were very well attended and the speakers brought many issues and prospects of the Indian American community including many community groups sharing exchanging their experiences in serving the community,’ said the conference chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham, who is also the founder president of NFIA.
A gala banquet was held on Saturday evening and Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown and Secretary of State Jesse White made remarks at the event. The six individual award winners were: Harkrishana Majumdar and Dr. Najma Sultana for their involvement in community service; Nitin Shah in the field of hospitality and financing; Sid Gautam for promoting entrepreneurship; Rathna Kumar for her excellence in performing arts and Dr. Hemant Patel for his service to medicine and organizational leadership.
Three organizations, Sahara TV, India Abroad, the oldest Indian American weekly, and Indo-American Centre of Chicago, an organization that focuses on assisting South Asian immigrants as they adjust to life in the United States, were also recognized for their exemplary achievements.
Sunday morning was devoted to the business of the organization, revision of bylaws, and elections were held for the president and the board followed by a lunch.
.The delegates parted company to take their flights back to their home States, after making new friends, collecting a bunch of business cards, and carrying fond memories of their stay in Chicago.