Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2017

PIOs feted for their services

Her son was three years old when she realised that there was no school she could send him to. British and American schools were too expensive and she didn’t want to send him to a local school. That prompted Zeenat Jafri to start the second Indian school in Saudi Arabia — International Indian School — in 1982 with her husband.

She was among the 30 people feted for her achievement on Monday during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, when the Pravasi Samman Awards were given away by President Pranab Mukherjee.

The 64-year-old MBA graduate from Bhopal, who was given the award for her contribution to the field of education, said she started the school from her house, gradually scaling it up to now educate 12,000 people.

Was it difficult for a woman to break into the field in Saudi Arabia? “I got a lot of support from the Indian embassy and my husband. I particularly want girls to study. I get angry when I hear of them being married off too early,” she said.

Another person of Indian origin who was recognised with the award was Ariful Islam, coordinator and nodal point in the Embassy of India in Libya. The electrical engineer relocated from India to Libya in 1980 following a pact between the two nations. He has seen his adopted country go through the worst of times, but continues to live there alone, though his family has moved back to Aligarh. “I have spent half my life there. We have successfully rescued many Indians,” he said.

Recalling chilling experiences over the last few years, Mr. Islam said, “In 2011, I saw people running on the streets like it was a world war. We evacuated 3,000 Indians then. The second instance was in 2013, when the IS started making its presence felt,” he said. The most recent episode he was involved was in the rescue of three abducted Indians from the IS in a dramatic operation in 2016 from the deep Libyan deserts.

Among the organisations that were awarded were the Singapore Indian Association in the category of community service.

The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas saw double the number of awardees as it was being held after an interval of two years. Among the other prominent winners of the award were Portugal Prime Minister Antonio Luis Santos da Costa, Labour Member of the European Parliament representing the West Midlands Neena Gill, British politician Priti Patel and Mauritius Minister of Finance and Economic Development Pravind Kumar Jugnauth.

Building bridges

Nisha Desai Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs in the United States Department of State, who was also among the 30 awardees, said persons of Indian origin, who were building bridges and connecting in an “increasingly divided world,” had become Prime Ministers and Vice-Presidents and Member of Parliaments in their countries, but still retained strong ties with India. Earlier accused of “betraying their countries,” they had now become leaders in public life, industry and academia, she said.

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Printable version | Oct 14, 2021 8:48:15 AM |

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