Dubai: The 16th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (NRI Day) on Saturday ended up in disappointment for Indian expats in the UAE with no Pravasi Bharatiya Samman (NRI) Award being conferred to any individual or organisation here.
With more than 3.4 million Indian expats forming the largest expatriate group here, the UAE’s Indian diaspora had got three awards in the last edition of the biennial convention.
There was high expectation among the community members that at least one social worker or community organisation from here would be conferred the award this year also. However, not a single person or organisation out of around 25 nominations that were submitted from the UAE was considered for the award.
Indian President Ram Nath Kovind, in whose presence the names of the 30 awardees were announced in the virtual event, lauded the diaspora’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Members of the Indian diaspora in several countries came together for ensuring critical medical supplies, helping stranded students, caring for the elderly, raising funds and providing meals to the vulnerable,” he said, while delivering the valedictory keynote address of PBD.
However, the nominations of the organisations and individuals, who have been active in social work, did not find any place among the winners.
Some of the community members expressed their disappointment that the entire expat population has been neglected while the government honoured the extraordinary efforts of the diaspora members.
E.P. Johnson, president of the Indian Association, Sharjah, said Indian social workers and community organisations in the UAE are great examples of social work. “The Indian community in UAE had offered the maximum support to the government when there were floods and when the pandemic struck in the past couple of years. Neglecting all of their efforts is like neglecting the entire Indian community here. Unfortunately, this has happened when a jury member is from the UAE itself,” he added.
Echoing similar sentiments, Roop Sidhu, general secretary of Indian Association of Ajman said: “I would like to congratulate all the winners from other countries. But, it is surprising and disappointing to see nobody from here got any recognition.”
Another social worker, Naseer Vatanappally said: “We are not doing social work for this award. But such recognitions will definitely show the government’s appreciation for our efforts. It will motivate social workers and voluntary organisations.” He said not honouring anyone from the UAE “gives an impression that nobody is doing any community service for Indians here.”
“Anyhow, the spirit of the social workers and community organisations in serving the society will remain unchanged no matter whether we are awarded or not,” he added.
Another Indian expat Srikanth Chittarvu said: “At least one social worker or a community organisation from the UAE should have been given an award as an appreciation to the entire community. When the leaders seek investment from the UAE, they should also acknowledge the great community service rendered by the people here.”
However, Puthur Rahman, president of the UAE Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre National Committee said the efforts of the social workers and organisations in the UAE during the pandemic would not have been considered by the jury this year since the nominations for the award had to be submitted by mid-March.
“All major community services related to the COVID pandemic happened after that. So, I believe the government would appreciate the efforts of the community groups and volunteers in the UAE in the next edition of the awards,” he said.