Mumbai Mirror / January 09 / 2006 Modi’s men have grabbed NRI awards — allege delegates at the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas // Hyderabad: The Pravasi Samman awards, to be presented by President A P J Kalam on Monday to 15 Indians settled abroad for their outstanding contribution to India, has got mired in a controversy at the ongoing Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Hyderabad
While the official list of the award winners was yet to be disclosed some NRI delegates alleged that the awards were being given to those with political clout in India. The name that has ruffled most feathers is that of Dr Sudhir Parekh, known as a close aide of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Dr Parekh heads the Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) and told this paper that he has been investing in India in sectors like healthcare and education (see box for Dr Parekh’s interview).
The controversy started when a section of the press reported that Dr Parekh had organised Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, but the latter’s visa was rejected. Incidentally, Iftekhar Shareef, who was among the two Indians awarded the Overseas Citizen of India certification on Saturday by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is the vice-president of the FIA. Shareef told Mumbai Mirror that he was a close friend of Dr Sudhir Parekh and Narendra Modi and a well-known person among the Gujarati community in Chicago, where he is based. “But, I think I was chosen to be given OCI as I hail from Andhra Pradesh and the venue of PBD was Hyderabad ,” he said.
When Mumbai Mirror spoke to Modi about the controversy, all he said was, “Yeh aap award dene aur lene wale se puchiye (ask the person giving and receiving the award)”. When queried about his name surfacing in the controversy, he did not respond. The delegates, however, were miffed at the selection of the awardees. “Pravasi Samman should be given to those who have done something for the nation and not those who have done well for themselves,” said Dr Srinivas Rao, who is based in New York. The MOIA, however, denied there was any controversy.
Oscar Fernandes, Union Minister of State for Overseas Indian Affairs, told this newspaper that the award was being given to those who had fulfilled the criteria of having contributed significantly to the Indian society. The list of the award winners, he said, would be out by evening.