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NRI Suicide in Kerala over Red Tape Highlights Returning Expat Problems July 16, 2019 10:39

The recent suicide by a Non-Resident Indian (NRI) businessman in Kerala has highlighted the stumbling blocks faced by Indian expats returning home after working abroad for many years. From corruption to self-serving political parties and politicians, there are various matters in question in India that make lives of returning NRIs on edge. NRI Sajen Parayil who committed suicide in Kerala’s Kannur district in June had worked in Nigeria for many years before making up his mind to go back to his home state with a purpose to begin construction business.                         (Image source from: The News Minute) However, he struggled to beat the red-tape in the state and did not get an occupancy certificate for a convention center on which he spent a whopping INR 180 million, nearly all his savings after his stint in Nigeria. His efforts didn’t stop. The hapless person made 19 visits to the Anthoor Municipality to seek permission but each time he was sent back by the officials. According to reports, he has turned down approvals because of infighting within the political party that controlled the municipality. Sajen’s suicide triggered massive uproar in Kerala’s state assembly suspending four employees of the municipality. Besides, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan assured the Assembly that things will be sorted out before long. The project was then given the necessary approvals. Some observers blamed Kerala state’s miserable ease of business ranking for the tragedy while others thought it revealed a systemic problem. Overall, about 270,924 Indian expatriates returned home from Gulf countries in 2018 maximum number being from the United Arab Emirates, as per the latest figures mentioned in Parliament by former Indian Minister for State for External Affairs VK Singh in 2018.                         (Image source from: Sputnik International) Last year, about 91,995 workers returned to India. The figure touched a high of 154,957 in 2017 while the number of returnees in 2016 was 88,647. Saudi Arabia was another country from where Indian workers returned in large numbers owing to the imposition of levies on the workers and ban on the recruiting of foreign workers in certain trades and professions due to dip in oil prices and following the policy of providing more jobs to its citizens. In the year 2018, Saudi Arabia, to provide more jobs to its citizens, imposed a ban on foreign workers including Indian expatriates from working in outlets selling watches, eyeglasses, medical equipment, electrical appliances and electronics, car spare parts, building materials, carpets, automobiles and motorcycles, furniture and ready-made office materials, ready-made garments, children’s clothes and men’s wear, household utensils and pastries. Earlier, these jobs were mostly done by Indian and South Asian expatriates. Due to the policies and escalation in cost of living, a record number of 151,611 Indian workers returned from Saudi Arabia in 2017 followed by 79,666 people next year. Proper assistance is also provided by the Indian government to get these workers home. But then, India’s state governments, which is so far struggling to provide basic amenities to people already living in their state, feel to be challenging to now invest time and money to deal with the expat returnees. The returnees as such are regrettably forced to adapt to the realities of a hard Indian life very quickly with little state help. Appealing Life Story of Indian Expats Mohd. Shakeel, a trained barber who once worked on the outskirts of Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia before returning to India, earned INR 70,000 to INR 80,000 which was enough for him and to send back remittances back home. However, a government levy on foreign workers was increased to SRA 200 (INR 3682) in 2018 which ate into Shakeel’s savings and had a huge impact on his living situation in Saudi Arabia.                         (Image source from: www.connectedtoindia.com) Left with no choice, he returned to India in 2018. In the absence of any governmental support, he spared no effort to eke out a living and then found work at a barbershop at Allahabad (now Prayagraj) where he earns just INR 8,000 to INR 10,000 per month. Mukhtar Ahmad was a catalog designer making different types of readymade garments for the last 25 years in Saudi Arabia. Though initially, he made a decent living nevertheless things turned resentful in the past few years. He had to pay his sponsor each month irrespective of profit or loss. The introduction of levies on foreign workers was also a financial jolt for him. He also returned to India in 2018. However, he is not fully settled and managing his affairs with the savings he made during the times spent in Saudi Arabia. By Sowmya Sangam

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Family Holiday Turns Fatal: Indian Man Slips at Turner Falls in Oklahoma, Drowns July 08, 2019 05:42

A holiday with family turned deadly for an Indian American man after he slipped and fell into the waterfall on Friday at Turner Falls in Oklahoma.According to reports, the deceased, identified as Nune Suresh hailing from Ongole in Andhra Pradesh, was on a holiday with his family when the mishap took place. A diving team was brought in to locate and retrieve his body. While he was rushed to a hospital, he was declared brought dead.Media reports state that Suresh had completed his education at SSN College and had settled in Dallas working with a software company. He is survived by his wife, a daughter, and a son.“Suresh slipped and fell into Turner Falls, Oklahoma and died today. His wife and two children have to move back to India along with Suresh’s body for the funeral. Please help his family in moving back to India. Your donations will help his wife Rupa, a housewife, in raising their kids, aged 12 and 8-years old,” a fundraiser on GoFundMe states.So far, the fundraiser has managed to raise $64,888 of its $100,000 goal after 1,571 people donated in a single day.Suresh’s family in India is making all efforts to expedite the return of his wife and children to India. His mother was reported to be inconsolable. Telugu associations in the United States have also stepped in to help.This was also reported to be the second such incident that took place at the same spot as another woman had died at the waterfall on Wednesday after she slipped and fell.By Sowmya Sangam

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Indian Origin Man in the UK Sues Cheating Wife After Discovering He Is Not the Father of Their Son July 05, 2019 05:29

An Indian origin man in the United Kingdom, the son of an alleged arms dealer who is under the scanner in India, has sued his estranged wife after discovering that he is not the father of their eight-year-old son. The UK citizen, a businessman by profession, wants his wife to return “every penny” that he has spent in bringing up the child. He also wants to be compensated for “distress” and wants his wife to reveal the name of the boy’s father, UK newspaper Daily Mail reported. Details of the case emerged Tuesday in a ruling published by a judge who had analyzed evidence during the latest round of litigation. Justice Cohen indicated that he would make a decision after another round of hearing. Cohen also said the man was “devastated” to learn about the boy while observing that the woman was “full of remorse”. The man had earlier got into a legal tiff with his wife in connection with a bribery scandal. The father of the businessman also figures in the CBI’s confidential list of ‘Undesirable Contact Men’, the tag given to people suspected of manipulating government contracts. By Sowmya Sangam

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Auli Wedding Row: NRI Gupta Brothers Fined Rs 2.5 Lakh for Littering, Open Defecation July 01, 2019 06:52

South Africa-based Gupta family has been slapped with a penalty of Rs 2.5 lakh for scattering waste material in Auli, Uttarakhand where the weddings of their sons were held early this week, an official said on Saturday. "We have imposed a fine of Rs 2.5 lakh on the Gupta brothers," SP Nautiyal, Executive Officer of the Joshimath municipality, said. While the Rs 1.5 lakh penalty is for scattering garbage, Rs 1 lakh penalty is for defecating in the open. A copy of the challan has also been sent to the event management firm, which made arrangements for the weddings, he said. Besides, the municipality is as well preparing a bill of Rs 8.14 lakh for accumulating the garbage left behind after the weddings that were held amid environmental concerns. The Gupta brothers have thus far deposited Rs 5.54 lakh with the municipality which also includes Rs 54,000 as of user charges. After the grand weddings, the Joshimath municipality has up to now collected 306 quintals of waste material from the marriage site with the municipality pressing 3-4 trucks every day to collect the waste. According to officials, they would be able to clean the entire site by Sunday.                       (Image source from: The Financial Express) In the meantime, the issue of refund of the Rs 3 crore security deposited by the Gupta brothers with the Chamoli district administration will be decided on July 8 by the Uttarakhand High Court. As per the high court orders, a group of 13 officials from the Forest Department, the State Pollution Control Board, the Chamoli District Administration, the Uttarakhand Jal Sansthan, the Revenue Department, and the Public Works Department monitored and videographed the wedding.                       (Image source from: Newzz) Top officials said they did not come across any harm to the flora and fauna of Auli. Since the court barred the use of helicopters in Auli, the choppers landed in Ravigram near the Joshimath helipad from where the guests were taken to the wedding venue in cars. The court had also fixed the number of invitees at 150. Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Trivendra Singh Rawat and yoga guru Baba Ramdev were among the VIPs (Very Important Persons) who blessed the newlywed couples. A large number of Bollywood stars, including Katrina Kaif, performed at the weddings. CM Rawat had defended the marriages saying environmental issues were not justified and Auli could be developed as a big tourist destination. By Sowmya Sangam

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Indian American Teen Avi Gupta Wins $100k in Teen Jeopardy Contest June 29, 2019 06:14

The 17-year-old IndianAmerican has won the 2019 Teen Jeopardy contest taking the $100,000 prize in America's most-watched individual quiz show. Avi Gupta's victory televised on Friday marks a near-clean sweep of popular student contests in the past year by IndianAmericans. He is from Portland, Oregon, and completed high school recently, although he was still a high schooler when the program was pre-recorded several weeks ago. He beat out three other IndianAmerican teens in the contest, which featured a total of 15 students. During the show, he told the host, Alex Trebek, that people questioned the value of accumulating a trove of trivia when they could be googled. But he said that building a wide range of knowledge was important because arguments and ideas can be built only on facts. (Video Source: Jeopardy!) The 2018 College Jeopardy, which also carried a prize of $100,000, was won by Dhruv Gaur. The 2019 National Geography Bee, which tests knowledge of geography, was won by Nihar Janga. In the 2019 National Spelling Bee last month seven of the eight co-winners were of Indian descent. In the previous 10 years, only IndianAmericans had been winners. IndianAmericans have made their mark in science contests also. Although there were no winners among them, 16 of the 30 finalists in the nation's top contest, the Regeneron National Science Talent Search, were on Indian descent. In the Broadcom Masters science contest for middle school students, eight of the 30 finalists were IndianAmericans. By Sowmya Sangam

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After Expending Rs 200 Cr for Wedding in Uttarakhand, NRI Gupta Family Will Pay Rs 54k for Clearing Dump June 25, 2019 12:51

South Africa-based controversial Indian Gupta family has deposited Rs 54,000 with the Municipal Corporation in Uttarakhand in India and also agreed to pay the entire cost of cleaning up after their mega Rs 200 crore wedding functions left the town of Auli with major waste management problems. The Municipality has deployed 20 workers to clear the waste lying around in the area. The High Court has likewise directed the Pollution Control Board and District Administration to submit a report by July 7 on the harm caused to the environment due to the waste material. The next hearing in the matter is scheduled for July 8. "The Gupta family had deposited Rs 54,000 as of user charge. Over 150 quintal waste has been cleaned up till now. After the cleaning work is complete the total bill of all the expenses, including manual labour and vehicles, will be sent to them. The family has agreed to pay the entire bill and also provide a vehicle to the Municipality," said Shailendra Panwar, Municipality President.  (Image Source: The Economic Times) The wedding ceremony of Suryakanth, son of Ajay Gupta took place in Auli in Uttarakhand from June 18 to 20, while the wedding ceremony of Atul Gupta's son Shashank was held from June 20 to 22. (Image Source: The Economic Times) Earlier, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed stating the extensive wedding preparations were damaging the environment. Many celebrities, including chief ministers, B-Town stars like Katrina Kaif, yoga guru Baba Ramdev had attended the wedding. A two-hour yoga session was also conducted by yoga guru at the wedding. Choppers were hired to ferry the guests. Almost all the resorts and hotels were booked and flowers were imported from Switzerland for the two high-profile marriages. By Sowmya Sangam

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Meet Pranav, Who Has Set up Tea Stalls in London to Give Unemployed Refugees Means of Livelihood June 24, 2019 05:08

The lack of employment has been quite hard-hitting for both the refugees and immigrants who migrated to different parts of Europe. From a deficiency of jobs for the migrants to a proper way of living, everything was compromised upon while they were not given any opportunity to make it on their own. Pranav, an Indian origin resident in London, came across a hard-hitting news story about three years ago, when the crisis had reached its hilt. The story was about a 12-year-old Iraqi boy who was asked by the interviewer what he thought about going back to his homeland, Iraq, to which the boy said, “I'm not happy as I know I'll die, but I have to go back with my family.” This interview certainly changed Pranav's life and how.                       (Image source from: MensXP.com) Pranav is a Delhi-born businessman and an owner of London-based tea company Chaigram (now NEMI). His social enterprise employs refugees, who work for Chaigram and help run the tea-stalls across London food markets, festivals and various events. Chaigram helps refugees who find it difficult to find jobs, earn a steady income by employing them full-time. "Ours is a platform where the refugees can improve their English skills, regain confidence and work on skills required to enter the United Kingdom job market. We also employ them within our business to perform commercial roles including sales and marketing, events, packaging, and distribution. We are solely impact driven and re-invest more than 50 percent of our profits back into our enterprise to help us achieve our social-impact goals," Pranav said in an interview with Better India. Pranav, a resident of London for seven years now, felt that people who had migrated to the UK needed to be recognized with a lot more civility and respect needed an incoming source of income and equal opportunities.                       (Image source from: MensXP.com) After reading up about the Iraqi family who was forced to move back to their country from Europe, he was deeply disturbed and thought about doing something to make a difference. He understood that for the refugees, getting an asylum claim acceptance wasn't the end of their difficult journey. It was mostly acceptance in the society that they struggled with and Pranav took no time in creating a viable space for them. After deeply researching about the refugee crisis in Europe, Pranav with his savings opened up an organization that would help refugees keep their identity and his only totem to run the initiative was 'chai'. He banked on his love and knowledge of chai and opened 'Chaigram'. He partnered with 'Groundwork London', an organization that works towards providing sustainable employment, and began an initiative to give refugees jobs and other skills. Currently, the organization has provided work to about 18 refugees, who work in packaging and distribution along with more commercial roles like sales, marketing and handling events. Apart from that, the people working with Pranav also learn English language skills, so they can converse better. The refugees employed currently are from Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Pakistan, and Eritrea. Chaigram possess stalls in two London markets and supplies tea to about 20 cafes. Chaigram sells Masala Chai, Chai Lattes, Iced Tea, along with selling loose tea blends, that are packed and blended by refugees. By Sowmya Sangam

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Renowned Indian Origin Writer Ahmed Essop Dies at 88 in South Africa June 13, 2019 06:24

Former educationist of Indian origin and renowned author, Ahmed Essop, has died in South Africa, a close family friend said. He was 88. "The literary giant left us after being admitted to hospital a few days earlier," said Aslam Khota. Essop was buried on Tuesday in his hometown of Lenasia, predominantly an Indian township south of Johannesburg. Born in India in 1931, Essop emigrated to South Africa as a child. (Image Source: Facebook/mariza.breytenbach) He acquired several degrees and taught at a number of high schools as a lecturer, and at a teacher training institution, where he was loved for his approach to popularizing English literature, especially Shakespeare. Most of his 13 published works focused on the role of the Indian community in South African society, often highlighting the challenges the community faced under the draconian apartheid-era minority white government. This led to him being barred from teaching. One of Essop's early books, 'The Hajji and Other Stories' won the coveted Olive Schreiner Prize from the English Academy of Southern Africa in 1979. It was later turned into a film. In 2018, Essop received the Lifetime Achievement Literary Award at the annual South Africa Literary Awards. "In his hands, words behaved as if he were a magical craftsman," fellow Indianorigin wordsmith Yusuf Garda said in a tribute to Essop. "We honor you, Ahmed Essop, as a man of letters and literature, and as a Master of the English language in South Africa," Garda added. By Sowmya Sangam

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UK-Based 11-Year-Old Indian Girl Scores Top Marks in Mensa Test June 07, 2019 13:16

The 11-year-old Indian origin girl has achieved the top score in a Mensa IQ test. On May 16, Jiya Vaducha appeared for the Mensa test at Birbeck in the University of London and scored 162 marks. She can now join the global high IQ society. The girl said that she was the youngest in the room when she attended the Mensa exam. Mensa is the world's largest and oldest high IQ society. It has members from more than 100 countries currently.The Times of India quoted her as saying, "It was hard but not too hard. Some questions were difficult, others were not. I was really surprised with my results." World-renowned physicist Albert Einstein was among members of the Mensa society. Earlier this week, an 11-year-old Iranian school girl, Tara Sharifi, a student in UK's Aylesbury High School, had also scored 162 points after appearing for the exam at Oxford.The Mensa test is split into two sets of question papers for testing different types of IQ. Cattell IIIB includes verbal reasoning, while Culture Fair features diagrams and images. Jiya secured 162 in the Cattell IIIB Scale, bringing her in the top one percent in Britain. In the Culture Fair Scale, she came in the top three percent with a score of 131 points. Jiya whose parents are from Gujarat was born in the UK and lives in Pinner, the London borough of Harrow.Jiya's mother Bijal is an accountant while her father Jignesh is a software entrepreneur. The parents are elated at the result of their daughter. Jignesh who is from Navi Mumbai went to the UK as a student in 2002. Bijal who is from Kandivli joined him in 2005. Jignesh said that while the family knew Jiya would do well in the test, they did not expect her to get the top result. Jignesh said, "We hope she will do something meaningful with her life."To gain a Mensa membership, one has to gain a score within the top two percent on either paper. Children above the age of 10 and half years can sit for the Mensa test. The United Kingdom has 22,700 Mensa members while there are 1,500 in India. Anyone can appear for Mensa exams. There are centers around the country.By Sowmya Sangam

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Indian Origin Jeweler Awarded for Bravery During Robbery in Birmingham June 06, 2019 09:46

An Indian origin jeweler has been honored with a bravery award after helping police arrest the robbers who bound and gagged him at his jewelry store in Birmingham has been honored with a bravery award.Chouhan Pal was presented with the West Midlands Police Chief Constable's Good Citizen's Award early this week for his handling of the attack on his Dubai Jewelers shop, during which he was hit, bound with ties and had sticky tape put over his mouth."Despite being assaulted, you displayed courage and took the risk to set the alarm off and trap the offenders inside the building with you," Chief Constable Dave Thompson told Pal, in his 50s."Your quick-thinking actions and bravery allowed three offenders who had committed a robbery in the jeweler's shop you own to be detained and arrested," he said.In April last year, during the raid, three robbers had made their way into the store using fake security industry identification tags claiming they needed to carry out CCTV checks. Chouhan straight off managed to hit an alarm with his shoulder, trapping the gang in the shop and setting off a smoke cloak.When the robbers demanded the keys to the front door, he gave them the keys to a holding area by the front door and then used the automatic release to trap them there.A passer-by heard their cries for help and let the men out, thinking there was a fire. However, police arrived in no time and the passers-by and Chouhan helped them detain the gang.All the three robberies went on to admit burglary at Birmingham Crown Court and were jailed for 14, 12 and nine-and-a-half years respectively in July last year.By Sowmya Sangam

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Meet Durga Sura, an NRI Striving to Serve Water for Stray Animals and Birds This Harsh Summer June 03, 2019 07:39

A Non-Resident Indian from Canada has come for the three-month vacation to Visakhapatnam in India and is doing her bit for the care of stray animals and birds. Moved by the plight of stray animals and birds during intense summer, Durga Sura is distributing the cement bowls at various places in the city with a provision to store five liters of water. She is even visiting schools to sensitize them on the need to take care of stray animals. “I am an animal and nature lover. I have so far distributed 80 water bowls naming it as Kittu Animal Welfare Water Bowl. I had taken up similar activity in Chennai earlier. In the future, I want to float an NGO to spare my free time along with my like-minded friends,” she told The Hindu. After graduating in engineering, Durga did Masters in Business Administration from Warwick Business School, United Kingdom. She later started a business in Canada under the name ‘PourGreen’, which aims at providing eco-friendly plastic alternatives to save marine life. Her family members are active participants in animal welfare and take care of three stray dogs at their home. “We are all aware that hundreds of stray animals, as well as birds, die due to scorching heat and lack of access to clean drinking water,” she pointed out. The bowls are placed near the curry points and juice shops, which are frequented by stray animals in search of leftover stuff. “We are trying to motivate the street vendors and kiosks to provide a place for the water bowls near their premises. We are educating and encouraging the people to fill water in them to help these innocent creatures to survive,” she stated. Besides, the family also regularly feed stray animals and provide timely medical treatment whenever required. By Sowmya Sangam

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Indian Origin Man Jailed for 29 Months in UK for Stalking Woman for 18 Months May 17, 2019 05:47

An Indian origin man in the United Kingdom has been jailed for 29 months for stalking a woman for 18 months after she accompanied him just once in a store in London. The 28-year-old Rohit Sharma was jailed at Isleworth Crown Court in London on Wednesday after pleading guilty to harassment, stalking, and failing to appear in court. "Stalking and harassment have a devastating impact on the lives of those targeted. There is an intrusion into the victim's life, and they are left to feel vulnerable, distressed and threatened," said Detective Constable Nicola Kerry from the Metropolitan Police West Area Command Unit, who led the investigation."Sharma was incessant in his pursuit of his victim. He would phone her up to 40 times a day and use around 15 different numbers to contact her, making it near impossible to block his calls, and would also get friends and relatives to contact her on his behalf," she said.The man started stalking his victim, aged in her 20s, after she served him in a shop in Wembley, north-west London, in November 2017. After that short interaction, Sharma came back later that same day with his father and asked her to marry him.Though the victim changed jobs four days later, Sharma found out where she worked and managed to obtain her phone number.His troublesome behavior intensified and he bombarded the victim with multiple messages via text, phone, and social media, the Met Police said.In February 2018, Sharma was issued with a harassment warning after the victim reported him to police. However, the court was told that this did not deter him and his stalking and harassment continued. The victim continued to receive up to 40 calls a day and continually watching her at her workplace.Sharma was charged with harassment in July 2018 but after being bailed from the court he continued to pursue his victim. He even failed to attend a court hearing in November 2018 and was circulated as wanted by police."Sharma's stalking continued persistently to such a point that the victim quit her job and moved away from the area in an attempt to get away from him. However, this only seemed to fuel his campaign and he systematically began contacting people who knew the victim, trying to find out where she had gone," the Met Police said.Sharma was arrested in April 2019 after intelligence linked him to an address in Wembley. He was subsequently charged and, due to the weight of evidence against him, was left with little option but to plead guilty at court.In a statement, the unnamed victim said: "This whole experience has completely shattered my nerves, I have gone from being a confident young woman to constantly feeling scared and on edge. I have no desire to socialize or meet new people, which has really taken its toll and ruined the university experience I had always envisioned."I cannot understand why this male became so obsessed with me. It is so unfair and completely undeserved. I just want him to realize what he has done and to know that he cannot do this to me or anyone else. I now want to move on knowing that he is locked away and cannot harm or hurt anyone else as he has done to me.""The victim has been left devastated by Sharma's actions and I can only hope that his imprisonment offers some form of respite for her. She has shown immense bravery in reporting him to police and supporting this court case," added detective constable Kerry.Sharma was sentenced to 22-months imprisonment for stalking, one month for failing to appear at court, and six months for harassment. Sharma will be deported back to India at the end of his sentence.By Sowmya Sangam

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