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Pravasi awards rigged, say NRIs

They urge President APJ Kalam to order an investigation into the selection process, reports Kumkum Chadha.

india Updated: Jan 19, 2007 13:30 IST

The curtain is barely down on the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas — the government's annual jamboree for overseas Indians — and the guests are grumbling about what a poor show it has been.

Indian communities in the state of Illinois and the Federation of Indian Associations (FIA), Chicago, say the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman – the awards for overseas Indians who have helped enhance the country's image – were rigged. They have now urged President APJ Kalam to order an investigation into the selection process.

FIA president Babu Patel said he would write to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee about the "humiliation" of the Indian Diaspora at the hands of the government. Speaking to HT, Patel said a proper evaluation would have been possible only after back-up information from the community. He alleged that the government ignored the groundwork done by prominent Indians to get the Indo-US nuclear deal through.

The FIA, an umbrella of 25 Indian organisations, has also alleged that Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi nominated his friends for the Pravasi awards, including Dr M Anirudhan in the medical category.

But Ravi said he had "nothing to do" with the selection process which was handled by a committee headed by Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. He, however, confirmed that Anirudhan was a friend of his. "I have known him since 1980 and as an MP, stayed with him in Chicago," Ravi told HT. He said some American Indians had personally canvassed for the awards in violation of the selection process.

It is also alleged that recommendations made by the Indian embassy in the US were ignored. Chicago's Consul General Arun Kumar, it is learnt, had recommended Dr Bharat H Barai and Raghu Nayak for their work on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.

Dr Barai told HT from Chicago that Ravi has "cleverly bypassed the merit selection process and substituted the merit list with names of his own friends".

The government is also on the mat for keeping major opposition parties and leaders out of the summit. LM Singhvi, who had conceived the idea of a Pravasi Diwas, and JC Sharma, who put together the first two Pravasi events, were not invited. Singhvi said, "I was not invited. It is a strange commentary on the politicisation of the event."

Conceding the slip-up, Ravi said the invitations were indeed sent but they were sent late: "I was ill for a week and the invitations were delayed." Ravi said he had personally written to BJP's LK Advani to chair one of the sessions.

Email Kumkum Chadha: kumkum@hindustantimes.com