Ritu Jha –
More than 400 people – elected officials, entrepreneurs, academics, community leaders and law enforcement personnel – took part in the 70th Republic Day Celebration hosted by the Indian Consulate in San Francisco January 26 at the India Community Center in Milpitas, California.
The police officers were a precautionary measure, standing in the parking lot to address any possible protest, as it happened outside the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC, where the pro-Khalistan Sikhs for Justice had done.
“There were chances of a protest that did not happen, so we are here,” an officer told indica.
Meanwhile, the new consul general of India in San Francisco Ambassador Sanjay Kumar Panda, in his speech, lauded the contribution of Indian Americans such as Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen’s work to aid trade in technology, and Ganpatbhai Patel, for contributions in literature and education. Both were conferred Padma Shri awards, while John Chambers, USIBC Board Chairman and Executive Chairman, Cisco Systems, and a big advocate for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was conferred the Padma Bhushan.
Panda went on: “As a major hub for education, technology and innovation California has a natural connect with India. The main actors comprise the Indian diaspora. And with the scale of their achievement and success, in their adopted country, they make their country of origin proud.
“We in India are proud of our close friendship with the United States. That has evolved over the years in the global and strategic partnership. The continuing high-level exchanges across diverse spheres reflects not only our strategic convergence but also the importance attached to the nurturing this relationship. Today our two countries are on the threshold of the qualitative transformation in our bilateral engagement across a broad spectrum. California has a very special role in this as the India-US story unfolds.”
In his 10-minute speech, Panda also highlighted the challenges the country has faced.
“We have to eliminate poverty in the shortest possible time, secure jobs for millions of our youth, ensuring strength and justice and improve government capacity to deliver and increase citizen participation and governance,” he said.
“Our dreams have to be achieved in a global environment of uncertainty on the economy, political security and climate. Today our youth dreams their future and transforms national boundaries,” he said, going on to speak about India’s upcoming election: “the world’s largest electoral exercise.”
He pointed out that Indians born in the new millennium will be exercising their franchise for the first time during this election.
Panda said the Indian diaspora based in Silicon Valley should also be part of India’s growth story.
“By sharing time, resources, technological know-how and innovation initiative they can contribute substantively in solving some key challenges India faces, including those related to urban infrastructure and access to health, education, energy and water,” he said.
“It’s an amazing community,” Panda told indica. “I knew about the size and contributions and achievers but the kind of culture and tradition. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Panda’s wife, Minati, told indica, “It’s really nice and I am thrilled to see so many people.”
Venktesh Shukla, General Partner at Monta Vista Capital told indica that the best thing that has happened in India is that the government there has recognized that startups are the biggest job-creation machines and the key to transforming India in terms of both wealth and jobs.
“[Modi’s] launch of Startup India really captures the imagination of the young generation in India,” he said. “There are some hiccups along the way and I hope that the government addresses those… Someone has to tell a bureaucracy, it’s [startups are] a new thing and you cannot [use] filters to look at modern realities.”
Sanjay Malhotra, an associate professor (Research) of Radiation Oncology at Stanford, told indica, “On its 70th anniversary, I think India is emerging as a leading economic power, being a democratic country where more than 50 percent of the population is under 30.”
He acknowledged that there are challenges.
“We are not a two-party democracy and we have multiple parties and there is freedom,” he said, adding that things move at a different pace there but are moving in the right direction.
Asked about the coming general election, he said, “We are in the US. All we care is that whosoever come to the power should take care of the country and … the people. We are happy to support [India] as best as we can.”