A Prime Minister Down Under
by Karthik Subramanian on 21 Nov 2014 1 Comment

Acknowledging the traditional owners of Australia, paying respects to the Indigenous Aboriginal Australians, their ancestors past and present, Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened his speech in front of about 17000 people in All Phones Arena in Sydney Olympic Park grounds. It was easy to justify The Rock Star reception, as described by The Sydney Morning Herald, that he received. This was a PM chosen BY the people, OF the people and he was FOR the people.


Archaic laws distrusting people are and were being removed, he said. The government should have the trust of over a billion of its citizens; trust is the platform of his governance. The colonial days of mistrust and exploitation belong to a bygone era. Citing an example, the illogical requirement of attested copies of certificates for job applications was replaced with self-certified ones, and originals were verified during interview.


Hailing the community for the spectacular event and their presence on a working day, he lauded the egalitarianism of the Australian community where people are treated with respect and dignity irrespective of their position and work. Emphasizing the common bonds of Commonwealth, democracy and cricket, Mr Narendra Modi stressed the need for closer ties and cooperation between the two nations. Noting the gap of nearly three decades between Prime Ministerial visits down under, Mr Modi promised to have Australia at “the centre of our thoughts and not at the periphery of our vision”.


The frustration at the inability to open a bank account by a poor peasant in India or the phone being answered by Indian consular offices abroad, the bureaucratic antipathy to the common man could soon be a thing of the past for most Indians as the Prime Minister has a pulse on these irritants; he announced plans for quicker visas and the merging of Persons of Indian Origin and Overseas Citizens of India status. Perhaps for the first time in the history of India, there is a time-bound commitment to deliverables from the civil service.


A vision for growth has to be buoyed by supporting development in infrastructure, services, cleanliness. The Prime Minister assured congenial development plans to support investment and investors, citing the example of providing a golf course for the recreation of investors in the midst of a local environment of village games with sticks. Valuing Railways as the backbone of the economy, Mr Modi stressed the benefits of sound, safe and comfortable rail system which would directly enhance tourism, develop local employment, sustain a host of small entrepreneurs, besides providing innumerable indirect benefits. He wasn’t loath to providing 100% FDI in Railways, he mentioned. The Prime Minister looked forward to an era of mutual cooperation between India and Australia on all aspects of trade, resources, tourism and combating terrorism.


The dazzling reception for the Prime Minister was hosted by Indian Australian Community Foundation, a conglomeration of unpaid volunteers. Over two hundred Indian organisations came under this umbrella, contributing their expertise, labour and resources to organise the reception. Most if not all volunteers were employed by day and had to do most of the coordination by night, some having taken a month’s leave, paid or unpaid, to do justice to the celebration. The event running into millions of dollars was funded by community and business partnerships and donations.


The festive atmosphere happened on a working Monday, the fun-filled evening started with inviting the Prime Minister with traditional Poorna Kumbam and a welcome to the country by Elders of the Australian Aboriginal community. Amidst Indian classical dance, in the roar of the jam-packed arena, one could see a plethora of colours, Indian tri colour, colourful sarees, ghagra, the most notable being the one from the Tibetan Community waving their flag and sign “Thank you India,” acknowledging the greatness of Mother India in providing shelter to millions of Tibetans exiled from their lands since the 1950’s.


The success of the occasion was a the culmination of weeks of hard work by thousands of people from many different walks of life, who normally would not have been interested in politics, but such is the charisma of the man that he inspires such hope and a vision of a better India.


The question most Indians were asked was “why is there so much of excitement and festivity for a PMs Visit, would any other PM have received such a welcome”? Well, the Prime Minister came with the spirit of the traditional Indian belief of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the whole world is one family), celebrating democracy and the people who elected him. The reception was a fitting reciprocal gesture.


The author was present at the Sydney Olympic Grounds

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