Nisha Desai Biswal gives acceptance speech on behalf of awardees.
Veteran community activist Dr. Sampatkumar Shivangi; close confidante of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the organizer of Modi’s historic appearance at Madison Square Garden in 2014, Dr. Bharat Barai; and the founder and former president of Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, Dr. Mahesh Mehta, apart from US diplomat Nisha Desai Biswal, are among the six Indian American awardees of the 2017 Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards (PBSA).
The other two Indian Americans among the 30 Indian-origin recipients who received their award from the President of India, Dr. Pranab Mukherjee, in Bengaluru, on Monday, are: community activist Ramesh Shah and environmental engineer Hari Babu Bindal.
The PBSA is the highest honor conferred on overseas Indians.
The awardees were chosen by an 11-member jury-cum-awards committee. The Vice-President of India as Chairman and External Affairs of India as Vice-Chairman and 9 other distinguished members from various walks of life, considered the nominations for the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards 2017 and unanimously recommended 30 nominees. Nisha Desai Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State, US Department of State, delivered the acceptance speech on behalf of the awardees.
Dr. Shivangi, a staunch Republican, is renowned in the US for having a street in Mississippi named after him, in recognition of his service to the community.
The ‘Dr Sampat Shivangi Lane’ was formally named by Gov. Phil Bryant, who also reappointed him for a second seven-year term to the Board of Mississippi’s department of Mental Health.
In 2014, Shivangi was appointed as the Chairman of the Mississippi department of Mental Health, making him the first Asian American to occupy the top health post in Mississippi. From 2005-2008, Shivangi served as the Advisor to the US Secretary of Health and Human Services. He is the founding president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian-origin in Mississippi and is the past president and chair of the India Association of Mississippi.
Dr. Bharat Barai is the medical director of oncology at Methodist Hospitals, in Indiana. He has also received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, for his distinguished services as an immigrant in the US, while exemplifying the values of the American way of life.
Barai is perhaps the only Indian American who has Modi’s ear and is considered among his close coterie of loyal advisors. He’s a philanthropist: he treats uninsured patients and works with drug companies to reduce their cost of medication.
Dr. Mahesh Mehta is arguably the biggest promoter of Hindutva in the US, and is considered to be close to Modi, too. He’s the founder and former President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America. He has been instrumental in starting several important organizations in the US, and serving on their boards and committees, including Friends of India Society International, India Development and Relief Fund, Hindu Student Council, Hindu Heritage Foundation of America, India Quality Group, and the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of America.
Other notable Indian-origin individuals who were conferred the award are: Portugal Prime Minister Antonio Luis Santos da Costa, and Priti Patel, Member of Parliament, UK.
The list of 30 awardees, with their country-origin and award category:
- Dr. Gorur Krishna Harinath Australia Community Service
- Rajasekharan Pillai Valavoor Kizhakkathil Bahrain Business
- Antwerp Indian Association Belgium Community Service
- Nazeer Ahamed Mohamed Zackiriah Brunei Community Service
- Mukund Bhikhubhai Purohit Canada Business
- Nalinkumar Sumanlal Kothari Djibouti Community Service
- Vinod Chandra Patel Fiji Social Service
- Raghunath Marie Antonin Manet France Arts & Culture
- Dr. Lael Anson E. Best Israel Medical Science
- Dr. Sandip Kumar Tagore Japan Arts & Culture
- Ariful Islam Libya Community Service
- Tan Sri Dato Dr. Muniandy Thambirajah Malaysia Education and Community
- Hon’ble Pravind Kumar Jugnauth Mauritius Public Service
- H.E. Mr. Antonio Luis Santos da Costa Portugal Public Service
- Dr. Raghavan Seetharaman Qatar Business Management
- Zeenat Musarrat Jafri Saudi Arabia Education
- Singapore Indian Association Singapore Community Service
- Dr. Carani Balaraman Sanjeevi Sweden Medicine
- Susheel Kumar Saraff Thailand Business
- Winston Chandarbhan Dookeran Trinidad & Tobago Public Service
- Vasudev Shamdas Shroff United Arab Emirates Community Service
- India Social and Cultural Centre, Abu Dhabi United Arab Emirates Philanthropy and Community Service
- Rt. Hon’ble Priti Patel United Kingdom Public Service
- Neena Gill United Kingdom Public Service
- Hari Babu Bindal USA Environmental Engineering
- Dr. Bharat Haridas Barai USA Community Service
- Nisha Desai Biswal USA Public Affairs
- Dr. Mahesh Mehta USA Community Service
- Ramesh Shah USA Community Service
- Dr. Sampatkumar Shidramapa Shivangi USA Community Leadership.