January 2014 \ Cover Story \ COVER STORY: Newsmakers
Overseas Indians Newsmakers 2013

By Sayantan Chakravarty

To make a selection of impactful overseas Indians from a community that throws up champions time and again is never an easy task, and always a tough ask for editorial desks. Overseas Indian newsmakers in our list come from Malaysia, U.K., U.S.A., Canada, and the tiny French Caribbean Island of Guadeloupe. Each one selected is an outstanding individual, and has made highly impactful contributions to their communities and economies. In some ways, their life itself becomes a message to the rest of the world, a message that excellence is a state of mind. By their unwavering attention to what they pursue, through their relentless drive to be the change they wish to see in the world, these overseas Indians make us all believe that the sun truly does not set on the Indian Empire, in the broadest sense of the term.

 Tan Sri Datuk Dr Mohan Swami

Chairman, Board of Governors, Perdana University

Together with Johns Hopkins, he established the Johns Hopkins Dr. Mohan Swami Institute of International Medical Education (SIIME), which promotes medical education globally. PUGSOM (Perdana University Graduate School of Medicine) is Malaysia’s first American-style, graduate entry medical school, founded in 2010 in collaboration with the world renowned Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (JHUSOM). The school features Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s innovative 4-year “Genes to Society” curriculum. Graduates of this programme are awarded the Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree from Perdana University in collaboration with JHUSOM. PUGSOM students benefit from a world-class faculty supplemented by visiting adjunct faculty from Johns Hopkins and other prestigious universities. Tan Sri Datuk Dr Mohan Swami’s philosophy in life is to “live in this world and yet be above it.”

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Dr Rami Ranger, MBE, FRSA

Chairman, Sun Mark Limited

Dr Rami Ranger, MBE, FRSA is a British Indian businessman who has set an outstanding record that will be difficult to emulate. In the capacity of Chairman, Sun Mark Ltd., he has been conferred the Queens Award for Enterprise for five years in a row. No other firm in Britain has ever achieved this, let alone a firm owned by an NRI. Overall, the honours and recognition by the Queen that he’s received number 7. Over the past nearly one decade his firm has grown in double digits, which taking into account recession in Europe and Britain, is highly commendable. The company today markets a variety of products in over 110 countries. More recently, he has been recognized as the Director of the Year (2012) by the Institute of Directors, U.K. It is a prestigious professional recognition by fellow directors in Britain. Considering that he started out from a shed with two pound as capital, his achievements are quite staggering.

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Dr Renu Khator

President, University of Houston

Dr Renu Khator, a member of the Indian Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council on Overseas Indians, has taken UH to greater heights since she became president five years ago. In 2013, total lab space on campus has grown to almost 1 million square feet. The number of undergraduate chemistry and biology lab sections has doubled. Number of students in STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and math—has increased by 26 per cent at the undergraduate level and 35 per cent at the graduate level. More than 11,000 students are enrolled in degrees that serve and shape the healthcare industry and 40 per cent of sponsored research from basic and allied sciences, to social sciences and humanities, is in the area of health.

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Dr Jayesh Shah

President, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin

Dr Jayesh Shah became the youngest ever president of this prestigious organization in 2013 (see interview on page 24). He has worked with AAPI for more than 15 years, initially getting involved with the institution’s local chapter in Texas, his home state. AAPI represents 100,000 physicians of Indian origin in the USA. It also represents 20 per cent of students in US medical schools that are of Indian origin. It is the largest ethnic medical organization of a diaspora, globally, influencing important issues such as graduate medical education, physician work force and shaping healthcare delivery in the US. The 165 alumni, subspecialty and regional organizations are the backbone of the AAPI. His vision is to work together with all Indian physicians all over the world with a common goal—to bring accessible and innovative health care.

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Ms Jonita Gandhi

Singer

Jonita Gandhi is a Canadian resident and an NRI. She moved to Canada with her parents, when just nine months old (see interview on page 34). She grew up in Toronto. It is her great passion for Indian music that has brought the youthful and pretty singer to India. She made her Bollywood debut with one of the highest grossing movies—Chennai Express—in 2013. She has a complete western accent and is trained in English classical music at the Ontario Conservatory of Music. But it was her candlelight cover of Bollywood songs that turned a rage on YouTube, recording over 2 million views in less than a year. Her passion for Bollywood music is what makes Jonita one of the few singers from outside India to have made it on their own in the Indian film and music industry.

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Mr Inder Singh

Chairman, GOPIO International

His initiative and relentless pursuit for the centennial commemoration of the Gadar Movement resulted in the release of a commemorative stamp by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Kochi in 2013. It also led to the announcement on the upgradation of the Gadar Memorial Hall in San Francisco to a functional library and museum. Mr. Singh has co-authored The Gadar Heroics, a book on the Gadar Movement and Gadarites that was published in June 2013, and writes regularly about the Indian diaspora and, in particular, the Indian-American diaspora. Mr. Singh has built several Indian community organizations over the last 40 years and has served the Indian-American community at the local, national (US-wide) and international levels.

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Dr Kunal Saha

President, People for Better Treatment

Columbus, Ohio-based Dr Kunal Saha tirelessly pursued the case of his wife, Anuradha, who died due to reckless medical practices at Kolkata’s AMRI. During a 15-year-period of litigation through various levels, culminating in a landmark judgment of the Supreme Court in 2013, Dr Saha maintained that the doctors used wrong drugs, prescribed excessive doses and did not provide minimal supportive therapy. Additional tests could have prevented her death. He also said doctors in India are generally reluctant to discuss the drugs they use, their side-effects and the treatment protocol with the family or the patient, even though they are legally and morally bound to provide a complete picture to the patient and duty bound to obtain “informed consent”. The AMRI was asked to pay Rs 5.9 crore to Dr Saha. Three doctors were asked to pay Rs 25 lakh. With interest, the overall amount is about Rs 11 crore.

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Mr Michel Narayninsamy

President, GOPIO, Guadeloupe

In 2013, Mr Michel Narayninsamy, President of GOPIO Guadeloupe successfully led a campaign to have a memorial installed in favour of 34 Indian men and one Indian woman who had been left to die inside the prisons in Ilet A Cabraits in the 19th century. The prison area was called a House for Correction. Today, the area has been declared a conserved territory, and it receives very few visitors. This story was kept a carefully-guarded secret for well over a hundred years by French authorities in the Caribbean Island. The Indians were sent to the Ilet A Cabraits because they had wanted to return home, and did not wish to remain indentured and work under severely testing conditions in Guadeloupe. Most of the Indians who were taken by the French to work the sugarcane economy of the Caribbean islands hailed from Puducherry, Karaikal, Mahe, Yanam and Chandernagore. They helped prosper France’s economy.




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