The Indian High Commission has on the occasion of 74th Indian Independence Day acknowledged and felicitated nine individuals and organisations for their exceptional contributions towards stranded Indian nationals and temporary migrant workers out of resources during the first Alert Level 4 lockdown in the country.
The names were announced and presented certificates at the Independence Day celebration event under Alert Level 2 in at Bharat Bhawan in Wellington on Saturday, August 15.
Prominent charitable organisations such as BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, Supreme Sikh Society of New Zealand, Ekta Foundation, Jeet Suchdev of Bhartiya samaj Charitable trust, along with noted individuals within community such as Mahesh Ranchhod, Monty Patel, Prithipal Singh Basra, , and Dr Vikas Sethi from Prana Health were amongst those who received the certificate of appreciation.
During the national lockdown in New Zealand earlier this year, approximately, 3000 Indian nationals, who had come to NZ for tourism, visiting their families, for business, and temporary workers were left stranded without many financial resources to support themselves.
The issues then ranged from running out of money to pay necessary living expenses and bills, people having medical conditions and ran out of their prescriptions, there a few bereavements, the mortal remains of whom had to be sent back home (India), and many were desperate to be able to return to their homes and families.
In such times, the High Commission of India assured to help the needy with essentials, accommodation, food up until a repatriation flight was organised to take those stranded nationals back home.
In this endeavour, several Indian community organisations and individuals came forward offering money, food, shelter, medicines, and some even to transport essentials to the doors of the needy individuals and families.
“Many volunteered to deliver food, medicines and other essentials to their doorsteps, doctors offered their services free of charge, and It was a collective victory of the human spirit,” Indian High Commissioner Muktesh Pardeshi said at the felicitation ceremony in Wellington last weekend.
“It is obviously not possible for us to name all those who came forward to help, but we have identified nine organisations and individuals, the ‘Navratnas’, who rendered yeoman’s service to the stranded Indians and we recognise their contribution by way of ‘Certificates of Appreciation’,” Mr Pardeshi added.
The recipients were:
BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha
BAPS Swaminarayan has always been proactive in helping the communities, and apart from providing spiritual succour in these stressful times (lockdown), they gave 50 kits of food items and other basic needs to High Commission of India for distribution in the Wellington area and 100 kits to our Honorary Consul in Auckland for distribution in the larger Auckland area.
Ekta NZ has been at the forefront in helping the homeless and the deprived with community kitchens, distribution of clothes and in so many other ways. They closely coordinated with High Commission of India in reaching out and helping stranded Indians in the larger Wellington area.
President of Bhartiya Samaj Charitable Trust from Auckland has been the voice of ethnic senior citizens for more than two decades. During the first lockdown, he provided every possible assistance to HCI and Consulate in Auckland with the stranded Indians and while seeing them off from Auckland airport.
Mahesh Ranchhod comes from a family with a long history of philanthropy, which firmly believes in giving back to society. A flourishing businessman who came together with Honorary Consul in Auckland to provide food and other basic needs to the stranded community.
Honorary Consul of India, Bhav Dhillon led the mission in Auckland dedicating not just his time and but also resources, directing and coordinating relief efforts including arranging food items, bringing community organisations and individuals together, managing volunteers and distributing food bags to needy individuals.
Owner of a chain of restaurants and food processing businesses in the Wellington area, Monty Patel when came across the news that foodbanks in the region were running low on supplies- he came forward and donated 22 tonnes of rice worth around hundreds of thousands of dollars, which have been finding their way to the people in need through various charities.
Lack of accommodation was one of the biggest challenges that the stranded Indian nationals faced. A prominent Auckland hotelier came forward and opened the doors of his motels and gave shelter to the stranded Indians for weeks that included meals for both individuals and families living there.
Supreme Sikh Society of New Zealand
The Supreme Sikh Society of New Zealand embodied this teaching of serving humanity as they distributed thousands of food packets not only to the stranded Indians but to all those in need in the community, spread from Auckland to several small cities and towns in North Island.
Dr Vikas Sethi
As per the SOPs for international travel in these Covid times, passengers had to undergo medical screening before they could board the Vande Bharat Mission led Air India flights back home. Dr Vikas Sethi and his colleagues from Prana Health came forward and helped the High Commission of India in meeting this vital requirement and offered free medical services to many stranded Indians travelling back home.