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News

NZ Indian body condemns Sri Lanka attacks

The Waitakere Indian Association has condemned the terrorist attack on the Christian brothers and sisters, celebrating the Easter services across Sri Lanka.

As the authorities continue to deal with what is an unprecedented and abhorrent event after years of turmoil in the country, Waitakere Indian Association stands and extends our sincere condolence to the Christian community. Our compassionate thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and those who have been traumatized by this cowardly act of terror.

Waitakere Indian Association stands with our Sri Lankan community in New Zealand during this tragic time. No act of terrorism will divide us.

News

Urdu doesnt belong to one religion – Shabana

“We usually hear people say that Hindi is the language of Hindus and Urdu is the language of Muslims. A language cannot belong to a religion,” Shabana Azmi told a packed audience at the Jaipur Literature Festival, while discussing the role of language and poetry in the cultural discourse of a nation.

“Urdu belongs to everyone,” the Bollywood actor said to an audience of all ages that appreciated the nuance of her comment with a spontaneous round of applause.

Shabana was emotional while talking about the legacy of her father – Kaifi Azmi – who used poetry to promote the equality of women – way back in the 1930s.

Shabana was speaking in a session titled “Jan Nisar and Kaifi” along with her lyricist and writer husband Javed Akhtar (son of writer Jan Nisar), and diplomat-turned-author Pavan K Varma, who has translated Kaifi Azmi’s work in English.

The conversation moved to the role of Urdu poets in the pre-independence era. It is interesting to note that many Urdu poets in the early 20th century were revolutionary poets. Of course, there were romantic poets too. But a few crossed the line or were seen to be doing both, as the ‘Progressive Writers’ Movement’ shaped up in the 1930s.

The famous freedom-slogan “Inquilab Zindabad” (Long Live the Revolution!”) which was first used by Bhagat Singh after bombing the Central Assembly in Delhi in 1929 and is since used in many Bollywood movies, was in fact conceived by Urdu poet Hasrat Mohani who has also famously written the legendary romantic song “Chupke chupke raat din” (sung by Jagjit Singh). 

“I always remember my father as a revolutionary writer,” Shabana said reflecting on her childhood. “Only when Pavan (Varma) translated (Kaifi’s work), I realized that his writing is romantic.”

Kaifi played a major role in the Progressive Writers’ Movement (in Urdu: Anjuman Tarraqi Pasand Mussanafin-e-Hind), which was started in London when a few Urdu writers met there. Then they came to India in 1935 and met writers here in Lucknow. The thought behind the movement was that let our writing not be just about romance but also about social issues.

“I feel this movement needs to be revived,” said Shabana.

Shabana and Javed are keen to preserve the legacy of their legendary fathers – Jan Nisar Akhtar and Kaifi Azmi –
by compiling their literature in two, separate anthologies.

News

KiwiBuild CEO resigns after weeks of absence

KiwiBuild chief, Stephen Barclay, has left the organisation after just five months in the job. According to reports, he was on leave since November 2018, while the government denied rumours about his resignation in December last year. He was hired in May to lead the government’s ambitious scheme to build 100,000 homes in a decade.

The resignation has caused strong criticism from the opposition party leaders.

The resignation does not bode well for KiwiBuild, which has already shown itself to be a much more difficult beast than Phil Twyford, or the government seem to anticipate, says National Party housing spokesperson Judith Collins said in a statement.

The Government’s flagship KiwiBuild programme is “in crisis” with head Stephen Barclay resigning, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Phil Twyford can’t even manage his own department – how can we expect him to plan and build 100,000 new houses?

“This is the danger of putting the Government in charge of a massive house building programme.

“Twyford must urgently move to cut planning red tape so that the private sector can take over and build the houses New Zealanders need.

“We have a housing crisis because regulation has made land artificially scarce and houses expensive.

“The latest manifestations are in Auckland and Wellington where students are paying to share beds and sleep in living rooms.

“KiwiBuild will not add to the housing supply and will not solve the housing crisis.

“The Government is simply buying existing private sector homes, placing a KiwiBuild logo on them, and adding a set of bureaucratic rules around who can buy them.

“Phil Twyford should be getting to the source of the housing crisis by tackling red tape, something he campaigned on in opposition.

“The Government was elected to solve the housing crisis. Nine months in, it is desperately failing.”

The government’s ambitious scheme of building homes came under fire when it was reported that some of the initial homes were not sold to “low-income” families, but to professionals like doctors and marketing managers.

News

Seven things to do at Jaipur LitFest

Jaipur Literature Festival

If you thought that the popular Jaipur Literature Festival is about interactive forums of writers and journalists engrossed in endless discussions on the world’s socio-economic and cultural issues, think again.

While the famous event on the literary calendar offers intellectual bonanza of author-sessions, there’s more to enjoy at this annual feast of art and culture.

Let’s look at the highlights of the events that historically draw crowds at the Jaipur Literature Festival and offer entertaining options for a diverse taste in Indian culture.

The Jaipur Music Stage

The Jaipur Music Stage, which runs in the evenings from 24 to 27 January as part of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, is your passport to go on an intense discovery of a world of music in the course of four exciting days.

The Festival Bazaar

At the Festival, during or in-between the sessions, take a stroll through a pulsating bazaar where artisans and designers display and sell a range of products: embroidered shawls, exquisite minakari jewellery, funky stationery, edgy gifts, chic couture, spiffy footwear and home décor.

Heritage Evenings

Each year the Festival celebrates Jaipur’s built and cultural heritage in a series of breathtaking events supported by Rajasthan Tourism. This year these will be at the Jawahar Kala Kendra and the Amber Fort.

Book-signing Sessions

If you are literary group and will do anything to stalk your favourite authors and queue up at dawn to buy their latest book as soon as it hits the stores, the Festival has special book-signing kiosks at all venues and you can get authors like Anita Nair, Anuradha Roy, Ben Okri, Colson Whitehead, Gulzar, Germaine Greer, Jeffery Archer, Shabana Azmi, Shashi Tharoor, Sohaila Abdulali to sign copies on the sidelines of their sessions.

The Delegate Experience

While the Festival is open to all, a special experience can be sought through curated Delegated Packages which give an opportunity for a close-up view of the Festival.

A Culinary Treat

The five days of festivities at the Festival also offer a chance to indulge in a delectable culinary affair.

Art at JLF

Whether you’re a fan of Marc Quinn, arguably one of the leading contemporary artists or have a soft spot for the various traditional art forms of India, or just want a stunning backdrop for that picture perfect moment, there’s plenty of art going around at the Festival.

News

Modi’s 10% quota masterstroke

In what could be described as an ‘elections masterstroke’, the Modi government has agreed to provide a 10% reservation in education and jobs for the economically weaker sections (EWS) among “general” category.

This quota will be in addition to the existing 50% reservation available in government jobs and educational institutions for back classes (the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes) – thus the total quota will now be 60% once the necessary amendment is made to the Indian constitution’s Articles 15 and 16. Currently, the constitution does not allow reservation on the basis of economic conditions.

So who will benefit from the new 10% quota?

It is expected to help people with an annual family income of Rs 8 lakh or less. While calculating the family income, all members of the family – the beneficiary, their parents and siblings below 18 years, and spouse and children below 18 years.

Who are not eligible for the quota

  • People who own houses bigger than 1,000 square foot.
  • Residents with annual family income exceeding Rs 8 lakh.
  • Those who own agricultural land above five acres.

The ruling BJP government is only a few weeks away from national elections, and this quota is expected to win the support of the general category of voters or the “upper caste” as many leading media reports have described the beneficiaries.

The NDA government kept the bill highly confidential, with only a handful of ministers aware of what was cooking, even as a bunch of bureaucrats burnt midnight’s oil to get the draft ready.

“Yes, in principle, quotas are wrong! But if they have to be provided then this probably is the best way to offer them,” says Auckland-based Prashant Belwalkar, who welcomes the new quota. “It is laughable when you hear Tejaswi Yadav saying the idea of the reservation was not to eliminate poverty but to remove the years of neglect of the lower caste! Then use the law which forbids discrimination on grounds of religion, caste, creed! Why have a reservation; if getting acceptance as an equal human being is all that was needed, then giving reservation was not going to solve it! Lets dump reservation then!”

News

India business – a missed opportunity for NZ

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key’s visit to India in 2016 yielded very little benefit for trade relations with India

No other Indian prime minister has worked so extensively in building international relations than Modi – and one of his primary agendas has been attracting trade and investments. While one could debate Modi’s success rate in his efforts in the past 4 years since he took office, notable is the fact that he has visited 59 countries on 41 foreign trips across six continents, including the visits to the United States to attend UN general assembly.

However, New Zealand is missing from the list. Of course, in 2016, the then New Zealand Prime Minister John Key met his Indian counterpart at Hyderabad House in New Delhi where the two statesmen agreed to improve trade dialogue, and improve ties to fight terrorism.

President Key appreciated India’s support for the former’s campaign for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The two prime ministers to continue to work on issues of mutual interest.

But there was little progress on improving trade between the two countries. Since then, New Zealand’s current prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, met Modi in Manilla in November 2017, where the two leaders were meeting for the first time, and invited each other to visit their respective countries.

They also discussed the possibility of improving relations. The other typical “conversation starters” were Bollywood movies shot in NZ, the Indian Diaspora living Down Under, Sir Edmund Hillary, and of course, cricket.

While it is too early to comment on this, given the past experience, not much can be expected to come further from this dialogue.

There are speculations that the Indian prime minister may visit New Zealand this year. But with the upcoming Lok Sabha elections just a few months away, this is unlikely. And even if he visits New Zealand, it is unlikely that any major decisions will be taken in a hurry.

The typical business sectors where both the countries could benefit from would be information technology – especially in the area of artificial intelligence where India has a talent pool, biotechnology where New Zealand has technical expertise, and of course, the entertainment industry with New Zealand’s known province in Computer Generated Imagery and special effects.

The question is, will the respective statesmen prioritize business interests over political and other priorities?

News

2019: Top Things to do in Auckland

Auckland’s lantern festival attracts local as well as international tourists

No matter the season, the lineup of events in Auckland in 2019 will have something for everyone.

As well as events, the number of hotels and other construction projects that will be completed in 2019 will excite many Aucklanders and visitors to Auckland.

Check out our top ten list of events and experiences taking place in 2019

The new year kicks off with a smack of cricket bats and whack of tennis rackets with both the Burger King Super Smash T20 and ASB Classic; space enthusiasts can go “Above and Beyond” with a new immersive aerospace exhibition at MOTAT; and theatre-lovers can venture into a whole new world with Disney’s Aladdin – The Musical.

It doesn’t stop there with an exciting array of sporting events, music events, exhibitions, theatrical shows, exciting hotel openings, and new tourism experiences all taking place throughout 2019, alongside Auckland’s annual calendar of events.

Auckland’s city centre is undergoing exciting transformation, which includes four world-class hotels opening in 2019 including the five-star SKYCITY Horizon and Park Hyatt; additionally, New Zealand’s largest property development, Commercial Bay, is on track to be finished by September.

The $1 billion project will bring together high-quality retail, food and beverage, its own luxury hotel and the new PwC Tower.

Another exciting prospect for 2019 is saying goodbye to the winter blues with a new and uniquely Auckland winter festival serving up a variety of different food and lighting events across the region in July.

With so many events and experiences to choose from all year long – alongside the region’s stunning natural playground, range of tourism activities and delicious food and beverage options – Auckland is the perfect destination for everyone, at any time of the year.

Here’s a sample of events we’re excited about in 2019:

1. Disney’s Aladdin – The Musical, The Civic, Queen St (3 January – 10 February)

One of the world’s most raved about musicals is finally hitting New Zealand shores! Aladdin: The Musical is based on the 1992 Disney animation Aladdin – sing-alongs from the audiences are expected.

2. Auckland Lantern Festival, Auckland Domain (14-17 February)

Celebrate Chinese New Year and the Festival’s 20th anniversary! More than 800 handmade Chinese lanterns will light up the Auckland Domain where you can enjoy the tastes of Asia, watch live music, dance, and martial arts performances; then top it all off with the spectacular fireworks finale. With free entry, it’s great weekend of fun for all ages.

3. Cirque du Soleil – KOOZA, Alexandra Park (15 February – 3 March)

The famous Cirque du Soleil is bringing another incredible show to New Zealand in 2019. KOOZA returns to its circus origins with a performance that focuses on stunning acrobatics and the art of clowning.

4. Baking school opening at Chelsea Bay, Birkenhead (early 2019)

Chelsea Bay, a sugar factory on Auckland’s North Shore, recently relaunched tours around its factory floor and opened a new cafe. In early 2019, they will offer adult and children’s baking lessons in the Edmonds Baking School, which is bound to be the source of many amateur bake-off competitions amongst work colleagues, friends and family.

5. Pasifika Festival, Western Springs Park (23-24 March)

Pack a picnic rug, and step into the relaxed but vibrant atmosphere that can only be Pasifika. Pasifika Festival is made up of 11 unique villages – each with their own performance stage and market setting – that showcase the cultures of 11 Pacific Island nations. Wander the market stalls for delicious food, plus traditional arts and crafts.

6. Park Hyatt Auckland, opening May

This will be the first Park Hyatt hotel in New Zealand. This exciting project is an exemplar of what the Wynyard Quarter revitalization is all about: quality design and builds at the highest sustainability standards and a site use that contributes to economic activity on the waterfront.

7. Commercial Bay, opening September

The Commercial Bay project is set to transform Auckland’s CBD and waterfront. The $1 billion project will bring together high-quality retail, food and beverage, its own luxury hotel and the new PwC Tower. Commercial Bay will be a great hub to grab a bite to eat, catch up with friends over a few drinks, and for treating yourself to a fabulous shopping spree.

8. Auckland Diwali Festival (October)

Celebrate our most vibrant Indian festival with food, entertainment, dancing and crafts. Diwali is an important and ancient Indian festival celebrated throughout India and in Indian communities around the world. The Auckland Diwali Festival brings Aucklanders and visitors of all ages and ethnic backgrounds together to celebrate and experience Indian culture in its many exciting forms.

9. International and domestic sporting events – throughout the year

Kick off the year in the sun at the ASB Classic watching tennis superstars from around the world, or from the stands at Eden Park for upcoming international and domestic cricket matches. Then later in the year, warm up your winter by cheering on your favourite netball, football and rugby teams. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for other local sporting events, including any announcements for the Auckland Tuatara – our local heroes of baseball!

10. Top international and local live music in Auckland – throughout the year

From international acts to music festivals and the best of home-grown artists, you can hear the best in Auckland. Check out Splore or St Jerome’s Laneway Festivals, or grab tickets to Lily Allen, Greta Van Fleet, Mumford & Sons, Six60, Florence + The Machine, Eagles, The Hollies, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Kiss, Don Giovanni presented by APO and much, much more!

News

Indian chef loses weight for a Navy career

While the New Year brings up many health-related resolutions, for a Hamilton (NZ) chef fond of unhealthy food, the fitness regime started a few months earlier, with his selection in the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Thirty-seven year old Ordinary Chef Sharfuddin Shaik credits his weight-loss to the five-week long training at Auckland’s Devonport Naval Base of RNZN which started in August.

The former chef at a restaurant bar in Hamilton admits to leading an unhealthy lifestyle. “I was a chef with bad eating habits,” Sharfuddin says. “A lot of deep-fried, greasy food.”

All that changed when he had passed the RNZN’s physical tests, but he had to overcome one more barrier – getting fit and losing weight.

After a rigerous training and strict Navy diet, he had lost nine kilograms and was very happy about it.

“My weight bothered me,” he says, as he looks forward to his training to be a chef in the RNZN. “In civilian life I was 82 to 84 kilograms. I would check it, and I knew what my body mass index (BMI) ideal should be. Now I’m 75kg. It makes me feel younger.”

He credits the physical training required of Basic Common Trainees, with 5km runs and swimming every second day, as well as the cross-country runs, physical evaluations, and marching.

“And it’s eating healthy food every day.”

His extra weight and the unaccustomed rigors caused him initial problems early in his training, with knee pain and minor injuries. But as he lost weight and got fitter, those issues faded.

“No pain, no gain,” he said.

He had always wanted to join the navy and when living in India applied to join that country’s navy. He had been watching documentaries of the 1999 Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan and was interested in the Indian Navy’s role.

“I applied when I was 21 but I failed my exams,” he said. “Twenty-one is also the upper age limit for applications in India.”

He came to New Zealand in 2007 and gained his citizenship in 2013 NZN chefs.

“I saw that there was no upper age limit – you just needed to pass the fitness and aptitude tests. So I applied in 2016, the processing took a year, and then I was here.”

He said his wife had been very encouraging about his move to the RNZN.

“In the first two weeks, everyone got homesick, but you bond as the days go by,” he said.

He is aware he is older than a lot of his classmates, and he knows if the weight goes back on, he won’t keep up.

“I’m very careful now and my fitness is comparable to the others. I want to stay at this level all the time.”

News

Jaipur LitFest to provide voice to prominent women

As India’s popular literary event matures into its 12th year, the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival is aiming to provide a platform for the issues of successful women in conversation.

Beginning 24 January, the cold lawns of Dinghi Palance in Jaipur will witness this five-day carnival of discussions and debates featuring successful Indian women who have overcome cultural and financial barriers, have fought the stereotypes and transformed the popular views in the mainstream psyche.

In a session titled ‘Mithali Raj: The Warrior Skipper of Indian Cricket’, the most popular woman cricketer in the cricket-crazy country will speak her heart out about her journey and more importantly the challenges she faced as recounted in her recently-released autobiography. The all-time leading run-scorer for India and Padma Shri awardee will expose gender stereotypes and skewed opportunities for women players and discusses the way forward for an environment that actually rewards grit and talent.

Similarly, Usha Uthup – with her unusual voice that has won millions of heats through her songs in 15 Indian and eight foreign languages will share her experiences in conversation with Sanjoy K. Roy in ‘I Believe in Music’, talking of what music means to her and her all-encompassing belief in its power.

In ‘Healed: Life Learnings from Manisha Koirala’, the cancer-survivor actor will share the highlights and lowlights of her career, relationships and her battle to overcome ovarian cancer. A candid session about the physical and emotional turbulence of her life post-diagnosis, the power of prayer, positive thinking and the long and intricate process of healing, this session will give the bare bones story of a dauntless journey and hard-won survival.

But the conversations are not just limited to sport and entertainment.

The stark and unadorned ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape’ will have Sohaila Abdulali share her heart-rending story of being gang-raped as a teenager more than 30 years later.

Similarly, journalist Abdulali will discuss her latest book, written from the point of view of a writer, counsellor and activist and a personal and professional testament that reaches out to victims and survivors. Abdulali throws light on the tortured silences around rape.

Priyamvada Natarajan, Professor at Yale and acclaimed author of Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos, will open the curtains through “map the heavens” across the cosmological discoveries of the past century. Her gift for making scientific theory accessible to audiences and her commitment to developing strategies to enhance numerical and scientific literacy make for easy learning.

Silicon Valley-based classics scholar Donna Zuckerberg re-appropriates the legacy of the ancient Greeks and Romans and repositions it in a larger context. In conversation with biographer Patrick French and writer Sharmila Sen in ‘Not All Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age’, she dismisses the myopic and sexist vision which colours the study of the classics and the unparalleled wisdom found in Ovid, Euripides, Marcus Aurelius. Her book is a grim account of misogyny, toxic white supremacy and some very flawed history proliferated online by the Alt-Right to muscle its way into the venerable study of antiquity.

News

Top honours for Indian-origin professor in NZ


New Zealand’s University of Canterbury Associate Professor Ekant Veer receives New Zealand tertiary teaching excellence honours

University of Canterbury Associate Professor Ekant Veer, from the College of Business & Law’s Management, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship department, has been awarded New Zealand tertiary teaching excellence honours in a ceremony at Parliament.

Associate Professor Veer received a Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching award from Ako Aotearoa National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence, presented at a parliamentary ceremony by the Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins. The award represents years of commitment and support for learners that go far beyond good teaching practice.

Associate Professor Veer says his passion for teaching is inspired by the work of his grandfather who, despite growing up in poverty in India, sought education and succeeded in law. His grandfather gave back to his village and adopted city of Muzaffarnagar by building schools that enabled thousands of Indian children – especially girls – to access education and escape poverty. 

He now teaches and fights for equity and fairness as a sign of respect for his grandfather’s work as an educational activist, he says.

“I teach because I am the product of education as a social elevator. Without education I would not be where I am,” Veer says.

He joined the University of Canterbury in 2010 from the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. He started out in business after his undergraduate studies at Waikato Business School, but soon returned to academia, realising that the greatest impact on his life had come from teachers, rather than business leaders.

Associate Professor Veer has a track record of teaching excellence, both in New Zealand and prior to that at the University of Bath.  He has previously been recognised with a UC Teaching Award and five Lecturer of the Year Awards from the UCSA since 2010. 

Last year he was presented with UC’s Teaching Medal for 2017. The Teaching Medal is awarded in recognition of an outstanding and sustained contribution to teaching at UC. The University’s highest award for teaching excellence is only awarded from time to time, and has been awarded 10 times in total.

News

Aucklander dies in Afghanistan

Dr Hashem Slaimankhel, a well-respected community leader from Auckland, lost his life in a suicide bomb blast in Afghanistan, which killed at least 95 people.

Dr Slaimankhel, who was a co-founder of Afghan Association of New Zealand, was on visiting his family in Afghanistan when a Taliban suicide bomber struck in Kabul.

Omar Slaimankhel, Dr Slaimankhel’s nephew and a professional rugby player told media that his uncle’s wife, son, and siblings have flown to Afghanistan to join other family members for the burial.

Dr Slaimankhel was one of the former board members of Auckland Regional Migrant Trust, and was “very active within various migrant communities,” said the Trust in a Facebook post. “Condolences to his family. It’s a great loss.”

 

 

Politics

India-US step up cooperation to combat terrorism

 

On his maiden visit to India in his current capacity, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the two discussed stepping up effective cooperation to combat terrorism in all its forms and promoting regional stability and security.

The India Prime Minister noted the firm upward trajectory in the bilateral strategic partnership following the positive and far-reaching talks with President Trump in June this year.

Modi shared the resolve expressed by Secretary Tillerson on taking further steps in the direction of accelerating and strengthening the content, pace and scope of the bilateral engagement. They affirmed that a strengthened India-US partnership is not just of mutual benefit to both countries, but has significant positive impact on the prospects for regional and global stability and prosperity.

In the context of President Trump’s new South Asia Policy, Prime Minister noted the commonality in the objectives of eradicating terrorism, terrorist infrastructure, safe havens, and support, while bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.

Earlier in the day, Secretary Tillerson also had detailed discussions with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.

News

JLF’s US edition gets great reception


Typically this time of the year, Boulder (USA) witnesses an odyssey of autumn colors with the cottonwoods, aspen and maples trees decorating the side walks with golden leaves. This time, however, it is witnessing a display of culture and literature with 70 eminent authors around the world descending for the third-edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) in Colorado.

India’s Ambassador to the United States, Navtej Sarna, joined in two sessions at the Main Boulder Public Library on 15 and 16 September. Sarna, is also the author of the novels “The Exile” and “We Weren’t Lovers Like That”, the short story collection “Winter Evenings”, and non-fiction works including “Indians at Herod’s Gate”, “Second Thoughts”, and “The Book of Nanak”. Sarna has served as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Ambassador to Israel, Secretary at India’s Foreign Office, and also as its longest-serving spokesperson.

Sarna spoke at the inaugural session Freedom to Dream, which was the theme of the Literature Festival. The session was underpinned by a provocative dialogue about diverse topics like migrating, poets, American dreams, globalism, nationalism, climate control, feminism and ancestral cultures.

Sarna explored the benefits of the growing interest in literature in India which is celebrating 70 years of independence. “We have come a long way. Where we once had few writers, we now have many and the journey of our literature’s outreach to the world is one of the most significant aspects of this journey as Indian writing has now been brought to the world. India is now a literary destination and a reading destination and the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival has led this growth.”

Sarna also participated in the session The Untrod Path: Writing Travel: Christina Lamb, John
Huston, Lori Erickson, Navtej Sarna and William Dalrymple. In a suddenly shrunken planet, the
conventions of travel writing are being challenged by more experiential insider accounts. Five
panelists speak of their very different approaches to recording and sharing their journeys with Irene Vilar.

“Descriptions of the peaceful and lavender filled gardens of the 800-year-old Indian hospice in
Jerusalem moved me to a much deeper understanding of this land and the people who call it holy.”
said Sarna in his exploration of his own father’s story, adding that “the barbed wire was rolled up many years ago but the virtual barrier between east and west Jerusalem still remains.”

During his final session – Second Thoughts: A Writer and a Diplomat, Sarna discussed his books on subjects as varied as romance, religion and history, in conversation with John Elliott.

“Sikh history is a young religion, just 500 years old. But it is replete with dramatic events in this period: a lot of the martial aspect, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of battles. All that together is a huge area waiting to be written about,” said Sarna.

News

Spicy performances come to NZ as part of Diwali Celebrations

International performers, the Kalika Kala Kendra dance group, will bring centuries-old traditions to life on the main stage at the 2017 Auckland Diwali Festival, being held in Auckland’s central city next month. This is the 16th year of the Auckland Diwali Festival, which will take place at Aotea Square and Queen Street from midday to 9pmon Saturday, 14 and Sunday, 15 October.

The free, family friendly festival showcases and celebrates traditional and contemporary Indian culture, including dance and music, food, fashion, arts and crafts, and street-theatre, ending with the famous Barfoot & Thompson fireworks finale.

The renowned Kalika Kala Kendra dancers, who will travel to Auckland from Ahmednagar in Maharashtra State, India to perform at Auckland Diwali Festival, were founded by Marathi film star and social activist Rajashree Nagarkar to provide girls in her nomadic community with a livelihood.

They are experts at the romantic folk dance style known as ‘lavani’ – a combination of traditional song and dance performed to the quick tempo beats of dholki, a percussion instrument.

While the origins of lavani date back to the 1560s, it wasn’t until the 1700s that the musical style came into prominence as a form of entertainment and morale booster for weary soldiers.

The dancers wear 9 metre long saris and heavy jewellery including a wide belt at the waist. Their ghungroos, or ankle bells, can weigh as much as 10-15kg.

Charmaine Ngarimu, Head of Major Events for Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), says Auckland is shaped by a rich ethnic mix of people and traditions.

“The Auckland Diwali Festival is an opportunity to celebrate and connect with local Indian communities. It’s a must do event in Auckland’s major event calendar, and the popularity of the festival continues to grow every year, attracting tens of thousands of people during the weekend.”

Asia New Zealand Foundation Executive Director Simon Draper says the Auckland Diwali Festival brings together many different Indian communities.

“This festival is an opportunity that gives these communities the chance to share their own special cultural traditions and foods with the wider Auckland community. We’re delighted to still be supporting this iconic event 15 years after it was first held.”

The Kalika Kala Kendra dance group will join more than 800 local performers,  including regular festival favourites BAD (Bhangra Auckland Da), Raunak Punjab Dee, and the Khottey Sikkey Dance Group, and the hotly contested Radio Tarana Bollywood Dance Competition and the Indian Weekender Mr and Ms. Diwali contest.

The Kalika Kala Kendra dance group is visiting New Zealand courtesy of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the High Commission of India and Air New Zealand.

News

Mahendra Sharma to lead Waitakere Indian Association

Mahendra Sharma has been appointed president of the Waitakere Indian Association at the association’s recent AGM meeting on 10 September in Auckland. All of the association’s new and existing Board members embody the spirit of community and bring talent, expertise and energy to the table, says says Sharma. “We are very fortunate to have them by our side as we continue to strengthen community in Waitakere.”

Speaking at the event, Minister for Community and Voluntary Sector, Alfred Ngaro, said that the Indian community has been contributing positively not only to the New Zealand economy but also culturally and events such as Holi and Diwali bring all Kiwis together to celebrate the great diversity in our country.

A new partnership was also signed between Waitakere Indian Association and Best Pacific Institute of Education. Speaking on behalf of Best Pacific Institute of Education, the Community Development Manager Li‘Ilolahia said, “Partnership with Waitakere Indian Association is a pivotal for the growth of education sector in West Auckland as the institute provides free education for various courses and the ethnic people can increase their skills by availing such opportunities provided by Best.”

The Trustees of Waitakere Indian Association also honoured five new life members who have not only contributed to the welfare of the Indian Diaspora in West Auckland but also to the community at large.

There are more than 180,000 Indians living in New Zealand and Hindi is the fourth largest spoken language.

Since its formation in 2000, Waitakere Indian Association has been working with various government agencies and local Indian associations in promoting, advocating and integrating the Indian Diaspora, culture and values with the Kiwi way of life.

News

Indian students earn NZ Excellence Awards

 

As many as 31 talented young university students from India have received a 2017 New Zealand Excellence Award, Education New Zealand (ENZ) announced today.

The students are pursuing undergraduate or postgraduate study in New Zealand in the fields of business, design or STEM related programmes (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

ENZ Chief Executive Grant McPherson says India is a core trade, economic, political and education partner for New Zealand, with two-way trade valued at around $2.5 billion.

“These top young scholars will further strengthen ties between our two countries, by contributing to a broader exchange of ideas in our universities, building our respective research capabilities, and enriching New Zealand culture.

“I congratulate these students on being selected by their university for these awards, and I hope they succeed in their studies and become lifelong ambassadors for New ZealandIndian students scholarship in New Zealand.”

Nineteen of the students received their awards in person at the annual India New Zealand Business Council (INZBC) Summit in Auckland today, which is focussed on education and technology opportunities. INZBC invited a delegation from India to take part in this summit.

The New Zealand Excellence Awards were established by New Zealand’s universities and Education New Zealand in 2016, to increase the number of talented Indian students studying in universities here. All eight of New Zealand’s universities are ranked in the top 450 in the QS world rankings.

This is the first round of the awards, and each scholarship has a value of NZD $5,000 towards the first year tuition fee. The scholarships will be awarded again in 2018, and applications are due to open on 1 September 2017.

Last year, more than 28,000 Indian students came to study in New Zealand, making India the second largest source of international students. Indian student enrolments at New Zealand universities are continuing to increase each year, reflecting a market trend towards higher level qualifications.

The full list of 2017 New Zealand Excellence Award winners has been published on the Study in New Zealand website here.

Entertainment News

India’s largest lit fest ends on a high

The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, advertised as the world’s largest free literary festival, attracted 2,45,000 footfalls over the five days ending 25 January – the highest ever in the festival’s eight-year history. The over-crowded festival compromised the quality of experience for many visitors who had to either share crowded standing space, or be disappointed as gates were closed for certain popular sessions.

This was no surprise as the festival saw a doubling of international visitors from 50 countries, according to an official statement, and a 40% increase in students attending the festival held at Diggi Palace in Jaipur.

While more than 300 authors (up from 240 in 2014), and 140 musicians participated, only a few authors dominated audience’s attention, while many struggled to attract enough numbers to their sessions. The crowds struggled to secure space even as 209 sessions were spread across 10 venues, including two new locations Amer Fort and Hawa Mahal. The festival also took some authors to schools in Jaipur, with 50 sessions taking place over two weeks.

– Electric sessions with Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and Sir. V.S. Naipaul rocked the festival on the fourth day

– 40% increase in students visiting the Festival, with average age of visitor being 21 years old
– Dates for next year announced as 21-25 January 2016
– Festival set to travel to London, UK and Boulder, USA later this year

The sessions that attracted the most cheer and crowd were by Nobel laureate Sir V.S.Naipaul, and by former President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. The two speakers drew the biggest audience at the Rajnigandha Front Lawns with 5,000 excited book-lovers per event. Another sweet-heart of the crowd was legenday Bollywood actor Waheeda Rehman who launched her book Conversations With Waheeda Rehman, written by Nasreen Munni Kabir.

Similar crowds were also attracted by Bollywood actor Sonam Kapoor who was in Jaipur to launch film critic Anupama Chopra’s new book: The Front Row: Conversations on Cinema.

Anupama Chopra and Sonam Kapoor

Other highlights over the five days included Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton, renowned travel writer Paul Theroux, Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi as well as leading novelists Sarah Waters, Kamila Shamsie, Amit Chaudhuri and Eimear McBride.

This year the Festival awarded three prizes, including the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, which was won by Jhumpa Lahiri, the Ojas Art Award which was presented to Bhajju Shyam and Venkat Raman Singh Shyam, as well as the Khushwant Singh Memorial Prize for Poetry which was awarded to poet Arundhathi Subramaniam for her work When God is a Traveller.

However, the highlight of the festival was its programme that brought together a plurality of speakers from across the political, social, religious, artistic, and national divide, to create a cultural forum for discussion.

The festival also championed freedom of creative expression with daily drawings from DNA newspaper’s Chief Cartoonist, Manjul – prompting discussion and debate over the rights and responsibility of writers and artists in the current climate.

The concluding debate of the festival was titled “Culture is the New Politics” featuring Suhel Seth, Rajiv Malhotra, Arshia Sattar and Shazia Ilmi. The audience were also polled on the debate during the event, with 55.7% agreeing that culture is the new politics.

Encouraged by this year’s success, the organizers have decided to add two further editions of JLF across the world: first at the Southbank Centre in London this May, and then a third JLF festival in Boulder, Colorado, US in the autumn. The international outposts of the JLF festivals will be produced by Teamwork Arts, in addition to the 21 other festivals they produce in 11 different countries each year.

“Another year over and the next one just begun,” says Namita Gokhale, author and co-Director of the festival. “My head is already teaming with ideas, themes, concepts for next year. 2016 will be our best yet!”

Not wishing to rest, William Dalrymple, author and co-Director of the festival, is looking forward to the next year. “We already have Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan, Noam Chomsky, A L Kennedy and Thomas Piketty confirmed for next year.”

Sanjoy Roy, Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, Producer of the Festival, said, “We have seen a record footfall across the five days.”

Business Immigration News

Top 3 reasons to give up citizenship

Many people around the world give up their citizenship for various reasons. Let’s look at the top reasons for giving up your citizenship and taking up citizenship of another country.

This article is not about a particular country’s citizenship such as US citizenship or UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, France or Singapore.

US citizenship passport

In this article, we will look at some of the countries where people are rapidly giving up their citizenship, and reasons for it.

Before that, let’s appreciate that the prospect of giving up citizenship divides people in two categories:

1. The emotional ones

2. The practical ones

The emotional ones: Many people I have spoken to are emotionally attached to their citizenship. It is a sign of their identity, or part of their identity. Giving up citizenship, is like renouncing your parents, one person told me. Another said, citizenship is a privilege. It is something to be proud of, and should not be traded for anything.

In the emotional category, there is one minority extreme – the disgruntled emotional. They are so politically fed up of their country that they would give up their citizenship at the first opportunity.

The practical ones: This article is largely about this type. These pragmatic wanderers would consider the pros and cons of giving up their current citizenship for a more favorable nationality. There’s little or no emotional bond with citizenship for these people.

Here we will not discuss the emotional reasons for keeping or renouncing citizenship.

Here, we will only consider reasons that practical people are considering for renouncing their citizenship.

1. Tax

This one applies to the US citizenship.

Americans are giving up their citizenship in record numbers. About 10 years ago, only 500 US citizens gave up their citizenship. In 2013, that number was SIX times as high – at 3000, according to International Tax Blog.

Why? Because the United States probably the only country in the world which taxes its citizens wherever they live in the world. So, a US citizen could be living in Italy for 20 years, and could still be expected to pay US tax on income earned outside the United States.

This is not the case for most countries. For example, if you are a Brit living in Canada, you will have to pay only Canadian tax, not UK tax. You will not be taxed twice. This is not the case for American citizens.

When the global economic recession peaked in 2008, the US administration decided to come down heavily on tax evaders. The US government wanted to crack down on Americans storing their wealth in Swiss bank accounts.

As a result, they wanted to know the overseas assets and bank account details of all American citizens.

While this was intended to stop tax evasion, the crack-down affected honest American bank-account holders too.

Many Americans have now started to renounce their American citizenship. In fact, the queue for renouncing the US citizenship in Switzerland is so long that there’s a waiting list, according to a media report.

It is felony under the US law if an American citizen living abroad fails to pay US tax on their income overseas. The US government has treaties with most countries for extradition of US citizens from other countries if they fail to pay tax to the US government.

Wait. It gets worse. There is the 2010 enactment of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

Under FATCA, many financial institutions outside the United States will need to report to the IRS (American tax department) the account details of the US citizens.

Uncle Sam has made it hard to escape the IRS.

Obviously, the easiest solution for many non-resident American citizens was to give up their American citizenship, rather than pay double tax.

2. Marriage and divorce

Most foreign nationals who marry an American citizen choose to take up American citizenship. In doing so, they renounce their existing citizenship. This is because the United States requires a person to go on oath ‘renouncing’ their original citizenship. However, the US administration does not explicitly seek the person to give up their original citizenship.

This is another reason why people give up their original citizenship and become “naturalised” citizens of the United States. If you were not born a US citizen, then you can acquire U.S. citizenship through naturalization.

For naturalization, you must be A. 18 years of age or older, and B. a permanent resident of America for five years. Spouses can apply for US citizenship after three years of marriage to a US citizen.

However, spouses may fall out and marriages may end. In such instances, a spouse may want to leave America. The US government allows naturalized citizens to retain American citizenship, even after they leave America and reclaim their original citizenship.

But a spouse may consider giving up US citizenship, so as to avoid paying taxes to the US tax department, on income earned outside the United States.

3. Travel

This is the third most common reason for giving up your existing citizenship.

Many people have a love for travel, and would be keen to make at least one overseas trip a year.

However, if you are a citizen of a country from Asia for example, you will need visa to visit most countries popular with tourists.

visafreePassport

But citizenship of certain countries give visa-free entry to most countries around the world. And if an avid traveller has a choice between keeping their original citizenship with limited visa-free entries, and choosing citizenship of a country that opens visa-free doors to more destinations, the choice becomes obvious.

The countries that offer visa-free entry to 170 countries or more, are:

  • The United Kingdom, Sweden and Finland. (visa-free entry to 173 countries)
  • The United States, Germany, Denmark and Luxembourg (172 countries)
  • Belgium, Italy and Netherlands (171 countries)
  • Canada, France, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Portugal and Spain (170 nations)
News Work Abroad

10 best NZ companies to work for

Jobs in New Zealand
Overland Footwear is the best company to work for in New Zealand. IBM Kenexa Best Workplaces in New Zealand survey reviewed 243 companies in New Zealand.

Overland was the overall winner as well as winner in the Large Companies category (those employing 400 to 749 staff) in 2013. This was the second year in a row that Overland secured the top position. Overland was a finalist in each of the eight years between 2005 and 2012.

Jobs in New Zealand

Mars NZ drives high engagement culture (Photo: Mars New Zealand)

In the Enterprise category (companies with more than 750 staff), Warehouse Stationery secured the top spot.

In the Medium-Large Workplace Category (150-399 employees), Mars New Zealand was named the best company to work for.

In the Small-Medium Workplace Category (50-149 employees), Giltrap Audi secured the top spot.

In the Small Workplace Category (20-49 employees), Kellog New Zealand got the top honours.

Flight Centre has been a finalist in 10 out of the last 11 years.

TOP 10 WORKPLACES IN NEW ZEALAND

  1. Overland Footwear, fashion footwear retailer
  2. Warehouse Stationery, stationery, technology, art and craft, copy and print, and office furniture retailer
  3. Mars New Zealand, FMCG food manufacturing
  4. Giltrap Audi, luxury car retailer
  5. Flight Centre, international travel agency
  6. VTNZ, vehicle testing and repairs
  7. FMG Advice and Insurance, insurance and financial advisors
  8. Leading Edge Communications, sales channel management company (primarily telecommunications)
  9. Southern Cross Health, health insurer provider
  10. Trade Me, online selling and auction site

What drives these companies?

Employee engagement and participation is the common theme among the companies that are most sought after by job seekers in New Zealand.

Sanchia Yonge, IBM’s GM Smarter Workforce for Australia and New Zealand says, “Year on year we’re seeing more businesses in New Zealand viewing participation as a critical tool to help determine the drivers of business performance.

“The Best Workplaces Survey uncovers the best New Zealand organisations that are creating a Smarter Workforce; one that attracts the best talent, understands their employees and empowers teams.”

News Property

Is NRI income from Indian assets taxable?

Mohit has a three-bedroom apartment in Noida which is rented out for Rs 35,000 a month. He also has a share in agriculture land that was once owned by his father and uncles. He gets income from the land too.

The rental income from the flat and from land is deposited in Mohit’s bank account in India.

Does Mohit need to pay tax on this income in India? Is income earned by NRIs on assets in India taxable?

NRI tax on property income in India

As per the Indian Income Tax Act 1961, all income earned or accrued from any asset in India is taxable in the country. Mohit will need to pay income tax on both – rental income from the flat as well as income from agriculture land.

It doesn’t matter whether the income is earned by a resident Indian or a non-resident Indian.

It is mandatory to file income tax returns if the total income earned in India exceeds Rs 200,000. Mohit’s income from the Noida flat alone is Rs 420,000. So he need to file the returns and pay tax.

Mohit’s income from agricultural land is exempt from tax. So he will not have to pay any tax on agricultural income. However, income from agricultural land will need to be declared in the income tax returns.

Because Mohit’s income is less than Rs 5 lakh, he can file his IT returns either in paper form or electronically. For those whose income exceeds Rs 5 lakh duriing 2013-14, cannot file paper returns. They will need to file their income tax returns electronically.

As per a directive issued by the Central Board for Direct Taxes (CBDT), all persons, whether resident Indians or NRIs, whose income exceed Rs 5 lakh per annum, will need to file their returns electronically. This rule is applicable from this financial year – 2014-15.

The due date for filing returns for 2013-14 financial year is 31 July 2014.

Do NRIs have to pay advance tax on income in India?

Any person, whether resident or NRI, whose tax liability is likely to exceed Rs 10,000 in any assessment year is required to pay advance tax.

Failing to pay advance tax will attract an interest of 1 percent per month.

Can I claim exemption for my income in India?

Yes, Indian government is kind to allow exemption for certain types of income, in a bid to encourage savings and investment.

The exempted income includes:

  • Dividends and long-term capital gains from equity shares and equity mutual fund
  • Interest received on the NRE and FCNR accounts
  • For rental properties, an ad hoc deduction of 30% of net annual value is excempt as repairs and maintenance expenses
  • For rental properties, mortgage interest is also exempt

What if I sell my apartment in India?

If the apartment is more than three years old, long term capital gains tax will be applied on it, unless you use the sale proceeds to buy another property (either land or house). The long term capital gains tax is quite heavy – 20 percent of the transaction amount.

Can I transfer house sale proceeds to US?

An NRI who sells his house/land in India may repatriate funds received from sale to the United States, as long as he has paid tax in India. Income from sale of immovable property attracts long term capital gains tax. So non resident Indian will need to pay the tax and obtain a certificate from a chartered accountant.

Who is an NRI as per income tax rules?

India’s tax department will consider you a non-resident Indian if:

  • You lived outside India for 182 days or more during the previous year.
  • You did not live in India for more than 60 days during the previous year; and again for a combined 365 days or more during the previous four years prior to the previous year.
I am a non-resident Indian (NRI) and have a piece of agricultural land and an apartment in India. I earn agriculture income and rental income from these two. Do I need to file income tax return? If yes, kindly advice on the procedure. Also, can an NRI buy agricultural or farmland in India?Read more at: http://www.livemint.com/Money/RnWrp4KRtUwM8iTL31p52L/Income-arising-from-Indian-assets-is-taxable-for-NRIs.html?utm_source=copy
I am a non-resident Indian (NRI) and have a piece of agricultural land and an apartment in India. I earn agriculture income and rental income from these two. Do I need to file income tax return? If yes, kindly advice on the procedure. Also, can an NRI buy agricultural or farmland in India?Read more at: http://www.livemint.com/Money/RnWrp4KRtUwM8iTL31p52L/Income-arising-from-Indian-assets-is-taxable-for-NRIs.html?utm_source=copy
I am a non-resident Indian (NRI) and have a piece of agricultural land and an apartment in India. I earn agriculture income and rental income from these two. Do I need to file income tax return? If yes, kindly advice on the procedure. Also, can an NRI buy agricultural or farmland in India?Read more at: http://www.livemint.com/Money/RnWrp4KRtUwM8iTL31p52L/Income-arising-from-Indian-assets-is-taxable-for-NRIs.html?utm_source=copy
I am a non-resident Indian (NRI) and have a piece of agricultural land and an apartment in India. I earn agriculture income and rental income from these two. Do I need to file income tax return? If yes, kindly advice on the procedure. Also, can an NRI buy agricultural or farmland in India?Read more at: http://www.livemint.com/Money/RnWrp4KRtUwM8iTL31p52L/Income-arising-from-Indian-assets-is-taxable-for-NRIs.html?utm_source=copy