MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi becomes the first Indian-born New Zealander to receive the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2015 held at Gandhinagar. The award recognises exceptional and meritorious contributions by recipients in their chosen field. Recipients are chosen by the India’s Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs and presented with the awards on India’s Non-Resident Indian Day, Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.

The three-day Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, attended by around 4,000 diaspora members, came to an end with the conferment of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman awards by Vice President Hamid Ansari to 15 prominent diaspora members.

Those recipients of the ‘samman’, the highest honour conferred on overseas Indians, were Guyanese President Donald Rabindernauth Ramaotar; Mala Mehta from Australia; Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi from New Zealand; Ashraf Palarakunnummal and Bharatkumar Jayantilal Shah from UAE; Essop Esoop Goolam from South Africa; Rajmal M Parakh from Oman; Justice Doraikannu Karunakaran from Seychelles; Sanjaya Rajaram from Mexico; Lord Raj Loomba and Nathu Ram Puri from Britain; Mahendra Nanji Mehta from Uganda and Nandini Tandon and Kamlesh Lulla from the US.

Lisa Singh from Australia, who could not receive the award last year, received the ‘samman’, while A Satyanarayana Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, who was named for the award was not present.

Ansari congratulated the awardees and said India is grateful for their contributions to society.

Terming them "deserving recipients of this recognition", he said, "Through their exemplary work, they have also proved to be outstanding envoys of peace, friendship and cooperation between India and countries of their residence."

Ansari said that overseas Indians are "in virtually every country and region of the world", and recited an Urdu phrase to describe their ubiquitous presence: "Jidhar dekhta hoon faqat tu hi tu hai (wherever I look I see only you)".

He said that the diaspora can play an important role in the development of India with their knowledge and resources and their experience of other lands where similar efforts were pursued successfully.

Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Sushma Swaraj, in her speech, said that the Narendra Modi government "has been specially proactive in nurturing the bonds" with the diaspora.

"The diaspora is close to Prime Minister Modi's heart. Wherever he has gone, he has made a passionate appeal to NRIs and PIOs to be partners in India's ongoing journey of development and national resurgence. We believe in infusing a new energy and vitality into this lasting relationship between India and its diaspora," she said.

New Zealand’s List MP, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi is honoured to receive the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award. “It is a great honour to receive the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award. In accepting this award, I would like to acknowledge the contribution of all New Zealanders of Indian origin to Kiwi culture, communities, and the economy,” Bakshi said.

“As the first Indian-born New Zealander to receive this award, I am deeply humbled and thankful for all the support I have received.”

Bakshi was awarded for his services to the community in New Zealand and for building a positive profile of people of Indian origin in New Zealand and the South Pacific.

Bakshi was the First inductee to the Kiwi-Indian Hall of Fame which has now become synonymous with the highest Indian honour in New Zealand. A brand which is the hallmark of Indian Weekender recognizes and honours imminent personalities in the Kiwi-Indian community for their contribution, that enriches not just the community but also society at large.

The award was presented to him by none other than the Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key. Bakshi’s recognition by the Government of India clearly indicates the authenticity and the strength of the selection process behind the Kiwi-Indian Hall of Fame award. Giri Gupta, Managing Director of Indian Weekender, congratulating Bakshi, stated that “it is a matter of great honour that a diplomat of the Kiwi-Indian Hall of Fame is recognized on an international platform like the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. This just goes to show our futuristic vision and our policy of think globally – act locally.”

In the current National-led Government, Bakshi is the deputy chairperson of Law and Order Select Committee. He is also a member of the Commerce Committee. In the last two terms of the National Government, Bakshi was member of the Commerce Committee and Government Administration Committee from 2011–2014, and the Justice and Electoral Committee and Government Select Committees 2008-2011.

He was born and raised in the capital state of India, Delhi, where he gained a degree in Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Delhi in 1985, following high-schooling at Guru Harkishan Public School.

He began his career in commerce by joining his family freight business and worked his way up to being a successful marketing manager. Having a prosperous 29 years business experience in India as well as in New Zealand, he acquired expertise in diverse fields such as fashion and property industry.

Bakshi moved to New Zealand in the year 2001, where he and his wife, Irvinder Kaur considered the rising opportunities in the country that well acted as a catalyst for their business growth and also gave a strong foundation to their two sons, Gawan and Rijak’s education. It’s a decision they always stood by.
Having a political background, he developed a profound interest in the supporting field while helping his father in various election campaigns. He has been active both in business as well as the Indian community since then. Apart from supporting the Kiwis, he has also represented the South-East Asian Communities. Recognizing shared values and principles, he became actively involved in the National Party shortly after moving to New Zealand.

“I feel privileged to be an MP for National Party that is working hard to secure a brighter future for all New Zealanders, recognizes potential, and rewards hard work.”

Bakshi told Indian Weekender that he was mesmerized by the sheer presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He stated that “it was an honour to meet him and to invite him to New Zealand”. Bakshi also took this opportunity to meet with other ministers and dignitaries present at the event.

Earlier recipients of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award from New Zealand include Sir Anand Satyanand and Judge Ajit Swaran Singh, the reigning Kiwi-Indian Hall of Fame inductee.