Indians living abroad have accomplished a great deal, but not all are success stories that leave you inspired. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, there were issues of various kinds faced by Indian diaspora living abroad. From legal problems to immigration and employment to exploitation, Indians living abroad have faced a fair share of problems and litigations - often left with no solution. On many occasions, the Indian government and Indian missions abroad have rose to the occasion, but the contributions made by some influential NRIs cannot go completely unnoticed. Now, there's an initiative to unite Indian diaspora for the noble cause of helping distressed nationals living abroad.
Former Indian diplomat Dr Dnyaneshwar Mulay (IFS '83), who is the NHRC human rights commission member, is spearheading an initiative of "Rescuing Every Distressed Indian Overseas", hence REDIO. While Mulay is the founder and chief patron of REDIO in the US, NY-based social activist Prem Bhandari will serve as the chairman.
Mulay came up with the idea of REDIO on April 14, 2016, during a meeting with Prem Bhandari, who organised the Jaipur foot USA artificial limb fitment camp in MHOW to commemorate 125th birth anniversary of Dr BR Ambedkar. The idea was to spread the access to justice for every Indian, which was pursued by Ambedkar in his life.
REDIO initiative was launched on the occasion of Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas. January 9 was chosen as the day to celebrate this occasion since, in 1915, Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest Pravasi, had returned to India from South Africa, on this day, and led the country's Freedom Struggle which changed the lives of Indians forever.
"Greetings to everyone, especially the Indian diaspora on Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas. Our diaspora has distinguished itself all over the world and has excelled in different spheres. At the same time, they have remained connected to their roots. We are proud of their accomplishments," PM Narendra Modi said, greeting everyone on the occasion.
REDIO — Helping Indians globally
In the short run, REDIO is expected to help distressed Indians in any part of the world. But the long-term goal is to build synergy among all the Indians who are spread globally so they gain social, political and cultural strength wherever they are. While Indians are doing extremely well in abroad countries, they still face various issues, ranging from discrimination to abuse depending on the residing country. This can dramatically change when over 30 million overseas Indians decide to come together and help each other in a structured manner.
It is important for our diaspora to work as a support group since our diaspora is spread in over 150 countries. They certainly can afford to stand by other Indians who are less privileged. This will provide an interesting dimension to grievance redressal. The government has been doing extraordinary work in helping overseas Indians who are in distress. The civil society, too, can contribute in its own way as there is a space for it to come forward and complement the government's efforts wherever required," Mulay told International Business Times, while speaking about the inception of REDIO.
REDIO's aim is to have a support group for distressed Indians in every country, which is known to everyone and is helping people on a voluntary basis. There is a huge response to such an initiative under the current structure in more than 20 countries. Highlighting the role of Prem Bhandari, who is leading such efforts in the US and different parts of the world for more than a decade, Mulay said there are people in Thailand, Kenya, China and Japan who are productively working for the distressed Indians.
"We have contacted number of prominent people involved in community services from across the globe and now we have advisors in over 20 countries," Mulay, the former Secretary in the Union Ministry for External Affairs, said.
Mulay was instrumental in spearheading various initiatives of outreach to the Indian diaspora during his time at the Consul General of India, NY. He worked in Ministries of Finance, Commerce, External Affairs and Cabinet Secretariat. Besides creating a strong framework to help Indians stranded in overseas countries, Mulay was also responsible for opening 450 new passport offices in the country between 2016-19 period.
"Mulay played a crucial role in driving major passport reforms in India," Prem Bhandari, who has been helping distressed Indians for more than a decade, said calling Mulay the "Passport man of India." Some of his notable achievements are:
- Passports now require only three documents: Aadhar, Voter and PAN Card. In the past, 16 documents were required.
- Passport process simplified for divorcees, single parents, children from orphanages and Sadhus who write Guru's name as Father.
- Hundreds of passport camps organised throughout the country.
- Indian Community Welfare Fund revamped to make it useful for every distress situations abroad for Indian Citizens.
Speaking about REDIO, his latest initiative to help the distress Indian diaspora in different parts of the world, Mulay said that "such a holistic structure at a civil society level was never thought of before. In that sense, it will harness the unexplored and unexploited goodwill that India has abroad in the form of Indian diaspora. It will be a new and creative idea that will help Indians overseas when they face problems of any kind."
At the event, Dnyaneshwar Mulay honoured New York-based 17-year-old Rajasthani expatriate Nikhil Mehta, who is the Chief Youth Coordinator of Jaipur Foot in the United States, by giving him 2021 Innovation Award. Nikhil Mehta was instrumental in life-saving initiatives like "Oxygen on Wheels" amid COVID-19 pandemic.
Prem Bhandari also welcomed senior journalist and communications professional Danish Manzoor, who will be the REDIO's Advisor for communication and outreach.
An honour to be a part of mission Rescuing-Every-Distressed-Indian-Overseas (REDIO)??— Danish Manzoor (@TellDM) January 9, 2022
A novel initiative spearheaded by former diplomat, imitable @navnirmiti & led in U.S by philanthropist @PremBhandariNYC
Let’s all aim to ensure that no fellow-Indian suffers while overseas https://t.co/8ke9IWnIKQ