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Graft in India a worrying factor for diaspora too, says NRI

By Ranjana Narayan, New Delhi, Jan 7 : India's biggest problem is corruption, which is a factor worrying its diaspora too, says Udeshwar Kumar Singh from Britain. He runs website bihariconnect.com to connect with Biharis worldwide, including those transported to Trinidad and Tobago as indentured labour in the 19th century.


Udeshwar Singh, a delegate from Britain to the 12th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), the world's largest annual gathering of people of Indian origin that began here Tuesday, said he would be contesting the 2014 general elections from Bihar's Siwan district this year.

"I will be contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Siwan," Udeshwar Singh told IANS. He migrated to Britain 15 years ago, and has not surrendered his Indian passport, he added.

Udeshwar Singh, who claims to be a social worker for the Indian community, says his website is meant for the "25 crore Biharis who have migrated abroad right from 1844 onwards - the first people from Girmitya".

It's a reference to the Hindi word "Girmit", or the contract each Indian indentured labourer had to sign to get aboard the vessel that would take them across the oceans to then British-controlled Fiji and the West Indies.

Udeshwar Singh also runs centres in Dubai and Oman to help Bihari labourers there.

"I have connections with the Indian High Commission there and my representative goes to enquire from the Biharis about any problems they are facing. I have a dedicated solicitor there who tackles their problems," he said.

The website bihariconnect.com, which says 'Proud to be Bihari', is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 2013 and run by volunteers currently living in India, Britain, the UAE and Mauritius.

Its aims: to "promote Bhojpuri language and culture; connect people of Bihari origin whose ancestors moved as indentured labourers from Bihar to Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Surinam, Jamaica, Reunion, Fiji and other parts of the world, and support and network with NRI Biharis who are working in the Gulf region".

Udeshwar Singh says he was an avid supporter of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar earlier, but now he has shifted loyalties to Gujarat Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

"Nitish Kumar is not delivering on his promises," said Udeshwar, who is also vice-president of the Bhojpuri Film & TV Welfare Association.

He feels the "brains and ability to work of Biharis" is immense and it has not been tapped enough.

"The biggest problem in India is corruption," said the activist Bihari, adding that is an issue the diaspora is concerned about too.

On the new anti-corruption focussed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which trounced the ruling Congress in the Delhi elections and has now formed a government in Delhi state, Udeshwar Singh said, "I would like to observe the party a little more before I make up my mind."

The Jan 7-9 Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in New Delhi is aimed at enhancing networking and reinforcing commercial linkages among the diaspora. There are 25 million people of Indian origin residing outside India.

(Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at ranjana.n@ians.in)

--IANS (Posted on 07-01-2014)

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