New Delhi
South Africa : Dasarath Chetty

INTERVIEW WITH Dasarath Chetty
President, GOPIO, South Africa

“The GOPIO can play a unifying role within South Africa”

Professor Dasarath Chetty is the new president of the GOPIO chapter of South Africa. He is also Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Kwa Zulu Natal in South Africa and president of Child Welfare, South Africa, a capacity in which he spoke at a session on philanthropy at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Chennai. Just after his presentation he shared his thoughts on a range of subjects with Editor Sayantan Chakravarty

Jean Regis Ramasamy
Journalist

 

On the split in the GOPIO…
There is no doubt in my mind that the GOPIO must be an inclusive body. It must be totally representative of the Indian diaspora. As President of the GOPIO South Africa chapter I’d like to engage with the leadership of GOPIO International to facilitate talks that lead to a merger. The split reflects very badly on such a diaspora body. I’m not aware of the basis of the separation, it happened a while back.

On the way forward in the GOPIO…
Within the GOPIO itself there needs to be succession planning in terms of leadership. As a leadership we need to look at GOPIO as an organization where we can create an institutional infrastructure, then leave. South Africa as you know has been historically divided by apartheid. There has been stereotyping, therefore, the role of the GOPIO is also to contribute to the process of nation building. We are proud of our Indian-ness, at the same time we are South Africans. We love curry. We love Bollywood. But our homeland is South Africa. We remain South African, and we have a responsibility to contribute to South Africa.

More on unification…
The GOPIO can also play a unifying role within South Africa. It can be a uniting force for bringing the African National Congress, the Inkatha Freedom Party and the Democratic Alliance, all on to one platform. Every Indian has a common objective in South Africa that needs to be met. It is important that the Indian diaspora is careful before identifying with any one political party. GOPIO does not have any political agenda. GOPIO can be adept at preparing proposals in a manner that enables benefits to come the way of the Indian community without necessarily having to align with any one political group.

On lack of funding for Indian institutions of culture in South Africa…
We in the GOPIO in South Africa will restore clear Indian interests. Sustenance of our history is important. That there has been a decline in funding is true for all institutions. There has been no deliberate targeting by way of budget cuts for Indian interest institutions alone, this has been an across-the-country phenomenon.

On ties with India…
We in South Africa need to position ourselves as old immigrants. We are descendants of indentured labour, they left for South Africa at a time when opportunities were limited in India. To strengthen ties, many more scholarships, bursaries collaborative arrangements need to be in place. There is a whole range of initiatives that can take place, we would like to cement links with India.


There is no doubt in my mind that the GOPIO must be an inclusive body. It must be totally representative of the Indian diaspora. As President of the GOPIO South Africa chapter I’d like to engage with the leadership of GOPIO International to facilitate talks that lead to a merger

On what the declaration of Bhowanipore depot as a heritage property means to old immigrants…
My forefathers left from Madras, but many others left from Calcutta. Emotionally this is very rewarding. This can set the ball rolling for a good deal of tourism, it can be promoted with good marketing. The place can serve as a living museum, something that can also connect diaspora to the present day. It can have movies, documentaries and photographs.

Your experience at the PBD…
It is an extremely worthwhile event. It is a great place to share ideas, and for getting a glimpse of the global circumstances of the Indian diaspora. We learn from each other, we network, which is rather useful. For someone like me, the benefit was direct as I could meet several PIO vice chancellors and pro vice chancellors from around the world. The event is enjoyable, there is style and finesse. .


February 2009


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