Once again this year, controversy has erupted around the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, the annual awards conferred by the Indian government on eminent overseas Indians.This time, according to Indian media reports, the Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi is accused of circumventing the award’s committee and replacing all the recommendations of the Indian Embassy in the United States with his own nominees. The Hindustan Times reported that Ravi confirmed to the newspaper that one of the awardees was a personal friend, at whose home he frequently stays in Chicago, although he insisted that he was not involved in the selection process, which is baffling, considering that his ministry vets the candidates and he serves on the committee that ratifies the final list.While it is difficult to ascertain the validity of the allegations making the grapevine and the Indian media, as officials are unusually tightlipped, the griping grows ever louder every year, creating an unseemly spectacle at the annual proceedings in January celebrating overseas Indians.In previous years, the awards have been bestowed upon such overseas Indian stalwarts as Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth of Mauritius, President Bharat Jadeo of Guyana, former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday of Trinidad & Tobago, the late U.S. astronaut Kalpana Chawla, Fijian golfer Vijay Singh, British novelist Vikram Singh, United Nations diplomat Shashi Tharoor, reputed British scholar Bhikhu Parekh and Hollywood film director Manoj Night Shyamalan, among others. It is inspiring to celebrate the diverse accomplishments of these overseas Indians in the arts, sciences, literature, politics, business, etc.At the same time, especially in recent years, the awardees have included several lightweights with marginal achievements, at best. Increasingly, it seems, there is ferocious lobbying for these awards, most intense, it appears, in the United States. This is a demeaning and unhealthy practice; surely anyone who campaigns for these awards is too small-minded to be worthy of it.This year, four of the 15 awardees hailed from the United States. Indeed, ever since the awards were instituted in 2003, almost a quarter of the 67 recipients have been Indian American, which is almost three times their proportion in the overseas Indian population. While no one is arguing for geographic quotas, it bears recognition that the Indian settlement in the United States is relatively recent, whereas the Indian communities have been entrenched in Africa, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia for almost two centuries and parts of the Middle East and Europe for 50 years.Given the heights so many overseas Indians have scaled, it is difficult to see the merits of conferring these awards – intended to honor exceptional and meritorious contributions by overseas Indians in their fields – on modestly successful overseas Indian entrepreneurs or physicians, unless they are recognized trend blazers in their sectors, professions or regions.The number of these awards has also proliferated – from 10 in the first year to 12 in the second and now 15 each in the past three years – perhaps to accommodate the frenetic demand for them among aspirants. It might be healthy to reduce the number of these awards, at least in the short term, both to elevate their stature and also to tamp down on the unseemly lobbying. The nomination and selection process needs to be revamped. Under the current system, names are submitted by Indian embassies in different parts of the world to an internal committee in the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. It short-lists the candidates for final approval by a committee comprising of the vice president and the ministers of overseas Indian, external, and home affairs, as well as the principal secretary to the prime minister.This all-government process is limiting in scope as well as fraught with the potential for politicization and influence peddling. The nomination process should be expanded to attract a broader range of candidates and a mix of prominent governmental officials and independent individuals should conduct the vetting and final selection.Only a more transparent process can restore any semblance of credibility to these awards. In the alternate, it would be far better to get rid of them than perpetuate this embarrassing and divisive farce. Related Items
AdvertisementBengaluru, 17 August 2018: The first-ever FIBA-recognised basketball league in India, 3×3 Pro Basketball League (3BL) conducted coaching clinics for young students at various sports in Bengaluru to increase awareness about the sport. Timajh Parker-Rivera, Chethan Suresh (Bangalore Machas) and Eban Hyams (Hyderabad Ballers) visited students from the NGO, Aata Odanaata at Fort High School. Children from ATSIY Basketball Academy had a surprise in store at NGEF Playground for them when Inderbir Singh Gill & Kiran Shastri (Delhi Hoopers) showed up to give them a lesson on basketball. Euro School students were starstruck when they had a chance to meet and interact with Leandro Souza de Lima (Ahmedabad Wingers) and Naiel Smith (Goa Snipers) during the clinics organized by 3BL. At Soundarya School, the hoopsters educated students about 3×3 basketball and then inaugurated the Sizzlers Cup 2018, which is a National Level Inter-School Basketball Championship.Since 3×3 basketball has been recognized as Olympic sport, 3BL has been making extensive efforts to popularise the sport amongst Indian audiences. The rounds are organized at high-engagement places like malls so that the game is easily accessible for audiences. To develop the sport at grassroots level, the students get to meet the basketball players who educate them about the sport and increase their awareness and interest in it.3×3 basketball is a short-format fast-paced sport which is played in 144 countries worldwide. 3BL is the first professional 3×3 basketball league in India and it includes international as well as local players from all over. 3BL provides an opportunity to basketball players in India to compete at international platforms such as the FIBA 3×3 World Tour. Chart leader, Delhi Hoopers, represented India at the FIBA 3×3 World Tour for the first time in Utsunomiya, Japan last month. The top two teams after the final round in Mumbai on 25th and 26th August will get slots at the FIBA 3×3 World Tour Masters Hyderabad in September as well.Speaking about the initiative in Bengaluru, Yoshiya Kato, Chairman, 3BL said, “Indian basketball players in 3BL have shown us the potential they have to lead their country to an Olympic medal in 2020. By undertaking such initiatives, we want to ensure that the next generation of basketball players gets inspired and is an even stronger force to be reckoned with.”Rohit Bakshi, League Commissioner, 3BL said, “The response to our coaching clinics has been absolutely fantastic. Students are excited to meet professional players and learn more about this fast-paced sport. The style is easily adaptable and entertaining, especially for children and our players enjoy teaching them about it. We want kids to see basketball as a viable career option and inspire them to follow their passion for this sport.” Advertisement
This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.In late spring of 2011, I became a freelancer. By early December of 2011, I’d returned to cubicle life. Some may deem that a failure. But rejoining the full-time workforce was, hands down, the right decision. Still, I never forgot what succeeding as a business owner would take. I thought, “Someday, this will be my career path.”Fast forward eight years and that someday is today. (Technically speaking, someday was in January.) This time around, I’ve devoted countless hours to learning the art of self-employment. The investment has spared me from mistakes small and large.But no learning plan accounts for everything. Transitioning from 12 years in corporate settings to a solo venture requires adjustment. Over the past six months, the most interesting lessons have been the ones I never saw coming.Lesson #1: Use a real alarm clock and keep your phone out of reachFull-timers assume that the greatest thing about freelancing is waking up whenever you want. I submit it’s also the worst.Starting the day with no set schedule is one thing. But staying awake in bed for an hour every morning because I wouldn’t put my phone down created a real problem. My late starts often left me working past dinner and sacrificing evenings. After a few months, I knew nothing would change until I fell asleep and woke up away from my phone.In the recesses of my closet I found a 15-year-old LED alarm clock. I plugged it in, replaced the back-up 9 volt, and never looked back. My phone charges on a dresser out of arm’s reach but close enough to answer an emergency call. As a bonus, I’m reading before bed again and falling asleep sooner.Lesson #2: You don’t need every piece of tech imaginableIn my younger and more vulnerable years, I read a bit of personal finance advice that stuck. The writer suggested to delay luxury purchases for two months. At that point, the desire is either long gone or has steadily grown.Investing in a semi-professional microphone for podcasting seemed absolutely necessary not long ago. I had zero bookings to interview on a podcast, let alone solid plans to start my own.Within a few weeks the urge passed. As of today, I’m happily microphone- and podcast-less. That’s not to say I haven’t upgraded my office setup. After impatiently waiting the full two months, I pulled the trigger on a 32″ UHD 4K monitor. The time I’ve saved no longer toggling between multiple windows more than covers the cost. In my book, that’s money well spent.Lesson #3: When it’s your business, strong passwords matterAll my login credentials lived in an offline spreadsheet. Four, maybe five, passwords comprised my heavy rotation.Miraculously, I’ve lived to tell the tale of poor password habits unscathed. Before self-employment, using strong passwords and managing them properly wasn’t a goal. It was a happy accident. But going solo involves signing up for numerous sites you’ll want to separate from your personal life. Login credentials relate directly to your bread and butter. You’ll want to ensure that they’re as secure as possible.For me, that meant finally using a password management system. Once all these new business logins were securely stored in one place, I reset all my weak passwords. Now I have peace of mind after years of intermittent worry. Plus, never having to remember credentials is priceless. Everything’s right there whether I’m on my computer or phone.Lesson #4: If the conventional wisdom doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t98% of the advice I’ve received in my professional life has been spot on. Incorporating this constructive feedback isn’t easy, but it’s given me an edge. Then there’s the remaining 2%. It’s rarely flat-out wrong. In fact, peers you admire may swear by it. But something’s off. Maybe it doesn’t reflect your personality or goals.Doubting popular, proven consensus feels wrong when you’re new to the game. If a recommendation genuinely doesn’t work or feel right to you, don’t force it. Ditch it.My moment of defiance came early. Many freelancers take strong measures to limit calls with clients or prospects. I get it. We’re all busy, and the last thing the world needs is yet another pointless meeting.I’m not volunteering for calls, but I’m more than willing to chat. One-on-one conversation comes naturally to me. It’s how I’ve forged strong business relationships, some of which have blossomed into lasting friendships.Yes, it’s arguably not the best use of my time. Some calls have ended up going absolutely nowhere. The truth is I don’t care. Maybe I’ll think differently once I have a larger client roster with projects booked out months in advance. Until then, I’ll gladly make time to talk.Lesson #5: Errands are your friendDuring my corporate days, I changed into PJs within two minutes of coming home. Going anywhere after work was a drag. Why people socialized on weeknights baffled me. Now I relish evening grocery store runs or mid-day walks to Walgreens for a few necessities. My online shopping for household staples is non-existent.Getting out of the house is a privilege, not a chore. To keep from falling victim to hermitude, find small tasks you could use Postmates for but prefer doing in the real world.Every day I step out for a walk around the block. (Even during Chicago winters, there’s plenty of snow to shovel or ice to salt.) On the rare occasion I have something to mail, I drop it in a collection box five blocks away.It’s not much, and that’s the point. A few extra errands and walks strike the right balance for me. It keeps me a little engaged with the community outside my four walls.Lesson #6: Routines take time and experimentation to nailMy schedule is far from set. Or far from where I thought it would be by now. I figured I’d find my groove within a couple months. In reality, I stopped observing the “no meetings hours” I’d set on my calendar within two weeks of adding them.If you’re not willing to reschedule a meeting request that interferes with blocked time, your calendar isn’t a calendar. It’s a recommendation. Your schedule won’t work until you take it seriously. You can become rigid, adhering to your regimen no matter what. Or you can question why it’s not working and try something new.Keeping my time organized and predictable felt like the key to success. In reality, continuously adjusting what’s not working is more important. In this case, growth trumps consistency.It turns out many solo business owners take a year or 18 months to find their rhythm. I’m giving myself some leeway. And I’m always trying new approaches to budgeting my time.In conclusionThis second foray into self-employment has been worlds different. Instead of signing an offer letter six months in, I’m growing my business and helping fellow freelancers.My planned learning will never stop. But in all honesty, I’m more eager to see what unexpected lessons come next.Jesse Butts is a writer, marketing consultant, and founder of Calque Marketing. You can find him at www.jessebutts.com … just as soon as he gets around to building it. Until then, feel free to connect on LinkedIn.