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COMMUNITY | News in Brief: September 2009

Obama Marks Indian Independence Day | GOPIO Elects New International Team | Healthy Families | Immigration Reform | Treatment Scholarships | ICC Annual Banquet | Letter from Congress

Obama Marks Indian Independence Day


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GOPIO Elects New International Team 


Members of the newly elected  GOPIO International team at the 20th anniversary convention (l-r): Noel Lal (Australia), Sunny Kulathakal (Bahrain), Dr. Thomas Abraham (outgoing chairman), Raj Loomba (U.K.), Lord Diljit Rana (Northern Ireland), Inder Singh (U.S.), Ashook Ramsaran (U.S.), Dr. Piyush Agrawal (U.S.), Amarinder Bajwa (Australia)

Lord Diljit Rana of the United Kingdom and a  member of the House of Lords was elected president of GOPIO International while Inder Singh who completed his term as the president/CEO of International was elevated to head the international body, according to a press release from GOPIO.  Guyana-born Ashook Ramsaran was elected executive vice president.

On August 22, 2009, during the 20th Anniversary Celebration and Convention 2009 at the Hotel Crowne Plaza La Guardia in New York, the result of the elections was announced. GOPIO chairman Inder Singh introduced new members of the world body team at the gala banquet on the evening of Aug. 22 at the World Fair Marina. The following members of the team were present at the event: Inder Singh, chairman (U.S.);  Lord Diljit Rana, president (Northern Ireland); Ashook Ramsaran, executive vice president (U.S.); Raj Loomba, vice president – Europe (U.K.); Dr. Piyush Agrawal, vice president – North America (U.S.); Harish Bajaj, vice president – Oceania (New Zealand); Noel Lal, Int’l Coordinator – Oceania (Australia); Sunny Kulathakal, Int’l Coordinator – Middle East (Bahrain); Dr. Mohan Gautam, chair, academic council (Netherlands); Sangeeta Ahuja, chair, health council (U.S.); Munish Gupta, chair, media council (India); J.P. Gautam, co-chair, media council (India); Dr. Vivian Rambihar, co-chair, health council (Canada); Haresh Panchal, co-chair, cultural council (U.S.).

GOPIO is a secular, non-partisan, not-for-profit, international organization based in the United States with chapters in various parts of the globe, representing the interests and aspirations of People of Indian Origin, and promoting awareness and understanding of issues of concern -- social, cultural, educational, economic, or political, to global NRI/PIO community. 

GOPIO can be contacted at GOPIO International, PO Box 560117, New York 11356
email at: gopio-intl@sbcglobal.net  or by telephone (818) 708-3885

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Healthy Families

The First 5 California State Commission approved a contribution of up to $81.4 million to the Healthy Families Program to cover health care costs for more than 200,000 infants and children at risk of losing coverage due to the state’s fiscal crisis. The funding, approved at a special commission meeting, will be used to cover children ages 0-5 through June 2010.

“In the current economy, now more than ever, families rely on affordable health care to keep their children healthy and safe,” said Kris Perry, executive director of First 5 California. “We encourage like-minded partners to come forward with assistance to ensure the program’s survival.”

The Healthy Families Program, administered by the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, provides low-cost medical insurance to more than 1.1 million low-income children in families not qualified for Medi-Cal. However, the program’s future has been uncertain after statewide budget cuts have left it facing a more than $190 million shortfall. 

“The availability of preventive care helps keep children out of emergency rooms and can even make a difference in how well they can perform in school,” said Dave Kears, First 5 California commission vice chair. “That’s why improving access to affordable children’s health care has always been a part of the core mission of First 5 California.”

Since voters passed Proposition 10 in 1998, First 5 California has spent millions on children’s health insurance – placing it among the largest and most stable funding sources of health coverage for children up to age 5 in California. 

More information at: www.first5california.com/parents.

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Immigration Reform

South Asian Americans Leading Together executive director Deepa Iyer Aug. 20 joined a White House meeting to discuss immigration reform, along with representatives from business, law enforcement, labor, interfaith groups, and immigrant rights organizations. The meeting included a briefing from Secretary Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security, moderated breakout sessions, and remarks by U.S. Barack President Obama.

During the meeting, Napolitano and Obama stated their commitment to comprehensive immigration reform at the legislative and administrative levels. Napolitano outlined several components that DHS considers to be crucial for immigration reform, such as continuing to enforce immigration laws while reviewing their effectiveness; establishing workable mechanisms for legalization and the citizenship process; increasing the efficiency of the immigration court system; and implementing a practical and sustainable system for future flows of immigrants and workers.

Iyer raised issues affecting the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, including family reunification, legalization, and the impact of local enforcement of immigration laws.  Iyer noted, "The leadership of the president and Secretary Napolitano on immigration is critical if we are to reach workable and humane policy solutions to our country's broken immigration system.  By providing a forum for immigrant rights advocates to share priorities and raise concerns with current immigration policies, (the) meeting represents a positive step. In the coming months, we hope that the administration maintains their commitment to immigration reform.

For further information about immigration reform and the impact on the South Asian community, contact SAALT at saalt@saalt.org or (301)  270-1855

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Treatment Scholarships

To mark its first anniversary, Anamika Recovery Center, a drug and alcohol treatment center designed for the South Asian community, is offering treatment scholarships for qualified individuals, CEO Subodh Karmarkar announced in a press release Aug. 18.

“It’s all about practicing the laws of Dharma and Karma — opening doors to recovery to those for whom treatment hasn’t been available,” he said.

Anamika, a residential facility in Anaheim Hills, Calif., is the first state-licensed, co-ed treatment facility in the country designed to meet the unique needs of the South Asian population. In May, Karmarkar was nominated by Sony Entertainment as their South Asian Personality of the Year for his work with Anamika.

While honored by the nomination, Karmarkar said he is most proud of the accomplishments at Anamika that directly impact those who are suffering the devastating effects of addiction. They include: Welcoming Cerritos, Calif., addiction specialist Dr. Stuart Finkelstein as Anamika’s medical director;  Partnering with La Palma Intercommunity Hospital, Lakewood Regional Medical Center, West Anaheim Medical Center and Los Alamitos Medical Center in providing care from de-tox to aftercare; Providing in-network care with Aetna, Caremore and HealthNet to augment treatment options.

A recovering alcoholic himself, Karmarkar recognized the need for a treatment center for South Asians after seeing the misconceptions that exist about addiction in that community. He hopes that bringing awareness that addiction is a treatable disease (Not a lack of willpower) will help break down the cultural barriers and stigma.

Anamika offers in-language cognitive behavioral therapy in an ethno-centric environment.

For more information on Anamika Recovery Center’s scholarships or treatment plans, call their confidential 24-hour hotline at 877-947-6237or visit www.anamikainc.com.

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ICC Annual Banquet

Padma Shri award winner and Bollywood playback singer Kavita Krishnamurthy will headline the Milpitas, Calif.-based ICC's sixth annual banquet entertainment

"Jai Ho"  Sept.19, according to an ICC announcement.

“Please join us for what has always proved to be a memorable and exciting event for all of our supporters and also our team,” an ICC announcement said.

This year's keynote speaker is Mark Templeton, CEO of Citrix Systems, Inc., Aneesh Chopra, U.S. President Barack Obama's chief technology officer, and Ro Khanna, deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Commerce Department are honoree guests.

Templeton is a passionate participant in many community and charitable organizations, and has received numerous leadership awards. Templeton is a sought after public speaker on trends and future of technology as well as the impact of education and curriculum on the technology industry.  He speaks frequently at industry events, think tanks, and Citrix partner conferences including Microsoft, IBM, HP, SAP, CSC and others.

As the nation's first chief technology officer, Aneesh Chopra is responsible for setting a tech agenda for the country to ensure its global competitiveness and for incorporating technology into government policy, programs and operations.

"The distinction of technology as a box unto itself as opposed to the opportunity to embed principles of technology innovation across a larger range of issues, like health care, energy and education, is probably the single biggest difference in how we are approaching this issue in the Obama administration," Chopra says.

Ro Khanna was sworn in as deputy assistant secretary for domestic operations of the United States and Foreign Commercial Service, International Trade Administration. Among his duties will be to lead trade missions to countries like India and China.

"I look forward to working to strengthen American competitiveness, increase exports, and create good-paying jobs here at home," he said in a statement.

In his new role, Khanna will oversee 109 U.S. Export Assistance Centers operating in 47 different states.

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Letter from Congress

Forty-one Members of the United States House of Representatives  wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently, urging him to permit Sikhs to join the U.S. military. The letter was the result of nearly a month of intense lobbying efforts by Sikh Coalition staff, McDermott, Will & Emery attorneys, volunteers and hundreds of community members across the nation. “Our hope is that the letter will reach the secretary's desk before he has made a decision about the case, so that his decision takes into account the broad-based support for Sikhs in the military,” the Sikh Coalition said in an announcement.

The letter tells the secretary: "We do not believe that any American should have to choose between his religion and service to our country, and urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure that . . . Sikhs that may wish to serve -are able to maintain their articles of faith."

It goes on to recognize the special role that Sikhs can play in the military. "Including Sikh Americans will enrich the military's understanding of diverse cultures, languages, and religions, thereby allowing us to fully appreciate not only the rich fabric of our own country but also the lands where we send our soldiers into harm's way."

Over the past month, the Sikh Coalition requested Sikhs from around the country to reach out to their local representatives, asking them to sign on. Over 1,300 took action by emailing or their Congress member.

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