By Indranil Halder
On 29th of August, 2022, looking out to the Victorian Parliament and the passing tram on Spring St, Melbourne, I enjoyed my egg Benedict with salmon at The Windsor Hotel. I felt certain pride of India completing 75 years of independence. I ask myself : What was India like for my parents? How are we celebrating 75th Indian independence in Australia? What does this celebration means for me ?
My parent’s India:
My father celebrated his 83rd birthday( 8/08/1939) few week prior, was born in several thousand of years old Indian civilised society that was frequently invaded, drained of 45 trillion dollars by Britain and was riddled with infectious diseases, partitions and wars.Tens of millions lost their lives. He grew up with over 800 million people under poverty line. India was no longer the richest destination for global traders and Bengal was no longer its richest province. Designation – third world country. Indian population was feed with borrowed wheat from Russia. India’s precious gemstones lost its attractions, just like the real heroes of Indian independence movement.
In the newly independent India, my father worked for ONGC (India’s largest oil and gas exploration and production company and worth two trillion Indian rupees,2020) digging oil in Sibsagar, Assam and later armed with his ambitions, MBA and entrepreneurial mindset, did a startup with HUME pipe manufacturing units across the Indian state of West Bengal. My mother on the other hand was India’s Jadavpur University graduate who became a Rs200 monthly salaried principal for a refugee girls school with a strong determination to educate disadvantaged and indigenous women for the future.
While they stayed back in India,many millions left for United States and United Kingdom in the 1970s. India withstood the drainage of brains and creative people. The country remained chaotic with crumbling infrastructures, beurocrtic red taps and severely lacked technological advancements(other than aerospace and defence). No forigen investments came to India either. It’s globally recognised and highly sorted handloom industry barely survived the trauma of neglect. In Bengal, sudden surge in labour power saw unimaginable disruption to industries with companies such as IISCO Steel Plant of Steel Authority of India Limited. And TATA Consultancy group along with Infosys and Wipro, didn’t exist to support global IT development. In 1994, I left for Australia as an international student, never to return to hear Jubin Mehta as conductor in New Delhi. And India started its much needed economic reforms.
In 2022, as celebration continued for India’s 75th independence as a nation, Australian Government, business associations and Indian Embassy has generously engaged themselves in the celebration.
In Parramatta, dressed in my Indian diamond and red coral ring and a jacket pin highlighting undivided India, I attend the biggest celebrations of 75 years of Indian Independence. A dinner organised by
Little India Harris Park Business Association Inc. and Sydney Connexions. Over 500 guests attended. Most of whom represented the strong Western Sydney Indian population and owners of SME businesses.
I also attended the 15th of August ceremonial event at the Indian consulate office , Sydney with my invited guest Palash Nandy( chief executive of Legrand Australia & New Zealand). Followed by Charkha (spinning wheel) and Kargha (loom) exhibition organised by Powerhouse Museum featuring over 100 rare textile items from India. At the gathering, Margaret Beasley, Governor of NSW highlighted one of the greatest contributions of India to the world, Chess.
Australia India Business Council also organised an International Business Summit, a celebratory Gala Dinner (where Australian foreign minster Penny Wong said Jai Hind and former secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Varghese highlighted India as land of investment opportunities), CEO Round Table, Panel Discussion, Keynote Speaker Series and Business Workshops at the Four Season. The summit also showcased Indigenous Business Engagement and Pathways, Startups & Innovation Pathways, Youth led Indian Diaspora and Businesses Pathways and Women led Businesses & Entrepreneurship Pathways. Missing was the discussion on MedTec, Med manufacting and Vaccines (even though the first vaccine arrived in Australia was from Calcutta Medical Collage, Kolkata, India).
Other than the summit highlights, in Sydney, Poornima Menon celebrated India’s significant milestone with promotion of Indian Handloom weaves and Sonia Gandhi from Gandhi Creation hosted India Australia Business and Community Alliance (IABCA) events to strengthen India Australia bilateral relationship and Natasha Oberoi kept the supply of in-house wines from Victorian winery for Oberoi hotels going for the rising Indian middle class.
In Victoria’s capital, Melbourne, a grand celebration was also hosted by Australia India Chamber of Commerce(AICC) to encourage Australian business to take a business plunge in India( a land of single window clearances, ease of doing businesses and huge pool of future ready talent (who are committed, Intelligent and energetic as workforce)). And use of case studies on companies such as SAGE at AICC forum was a great way to learn about successful business venture by Australian companies. It highlighted great ways to understand and cross pollinate ideas on infractions, transport and smart cities between Australia and India. The AICC gala dinner became a perfect platform for cricketer Ricky Ponting to promote his Ponting wine for successful penetration into the Indian market and Jubin Mehta (who received awarded Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in recognition of his eminent service to the Australia-India bilateral relationship in the field Classical music and Philanthropy and I got to attend the concert where he conducted the Australian World Orchestra’s Concert at Sydney Opera House) was the guest of honour. At the event Neeraj Das, the Managing Director of ElecSome & Ojas Group(hydrogen upcycling, solar and wind) said, “Though Australia-India diplomatic relation was incepted in 1941, 2022 is the historic year of the Australia India Economic Co-Operation and Trade Agreement (ECTA).”
Meaning of the celebration for me:
Sitting by the window at The Windsor Hotel for my morning breakfast, I was delighted to read that India overtook monarch less United Kingdom as the fifth largest economy and Kolkata school, South Point High School launched its own nano satellite to train its students in space science and the school’s former student Abhijit Banerjee wearing a dhoti accepted noble prize (economics) in Sweden. In Australia, seven companies are today run by Indian CEOs such as Link’s Vivek Bhatia, Newcrest’s Sandeep Biswas and Orica’s Sanjeev Gandhi to name a few.
It is true that India in present time, has a stronger global presence from textile to education (Smart Skills and Edu-Tech), tourism to entertainment and aerospace to cybersecurity. With India electing the first indigenous woman Droupadi Murmu (Santhal) as the President, acknowledging Netaji Subash Chandra Bose as the real liberator of India as the nation installed his statue at Kartavya Path near the National War Memorial , New Delhi and Indian women are working for IT global sectors.
Books such as India’s global rise, “Our Time Has Come: How India is Making Its Place in the World,”by Alyssa Ayres is celebrating India’s global position.
Recently, four Indian federal ministers visited Australia for critical minerals, education and culture and tourism for stronger bilateral engagements between the two nations. It is reflected by Victoria’s Hon Ted Baillieu AO when he stated at the AICC gathering , “India is young. Ambition . Aspiration. Dynamic.” For me rise of India is simply inevitable and all I can do is to keep encouraging more Indian footprints in Australia and across the globe. It is definitely true that India is taking its rightful place in global stage due to the hard work of my parent and their generation and not because it was the land of legendary myth of Presta John(King of India), Cinnamon and Kohinoor diamond.