Investigation sought into Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards amid allegations of nepotism & policy violation
“Padma Shri” asked for prominent American chaplain Zed
Some organizations have demanded an immediate thorough investigation into the awarding of this year’s prestigious “Pravasi Bharatiya Samman (PBS) Awards”, alleging nepotism and policy violation among other charges.
Dharam Loonaa, a journalist and President of Prayer and Peace Circle, in faxes today to India’s President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Lok Sabha Speaker, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, and Bharatiya Janata Party President Rajnath Singh, alleging disregard of official guidelines by Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), said that highly deserving candidate, prominent chaplain and Indo-American leader Rajan Zed, has been totally ignored in the PBS Awards, which were given at New Delhi on January nine.
Besides extensive inquiry into the granting of this year’s PBS Awards, as a measure of remedy, Government of India should award Rajan Zed with a “Padma Shri” award, Loonaa stressed. Other organizations and individuals who joined Loonaa on this issue, included India Heritage Panel; Society of Community Journalists; Lila D. Sharma, Secretary of International Trade Front; Ashok Singhi, leader of Indian Media Centre; Friends of Rajan Zed; etc.
He said that by not awarding Zed, MOIA has made a mockery of PBS Awards, which are considered most prestigious awards for overseas Indians. Official guidelines in this regard were not completely followed and Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the flagship event of MOIA, smells of favouritism and unfairness. On the other hand, b y honoring such a great soul like Rajan Zed on Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, MOIA in fact would have been honoring itself, he added.
Loonaa disclosed that they would inspect documents, records, memos, e-mails, logbooks, computer and electronic data, etc., of MOIA and other bodies related to PBS Awards under Right to Information Act to find the truth.
Rajan Zed was the first to read prayer from ancient Sanskrit scriptures in United States Senate in Washington DC on July 12 last in its 218 years history. He was also the first to read such history making prayers in Nevada State Assembly, Nevada State Senate and California State Senate in 2007. He is scheduled to read such historic prayers in Colorado State Senate and New Mexico State Senate towards the end of this month and Washington State Senate next month.
Zed was one among the “Seven Notable Achievers of 2007”, compiled by distinguished Indo-American magazine “Khabar”, published from Georgia (USA). He was included in the list of top ten newsmakers of 2007, published by another prestigious Indo-American English monthly from California (USA), “India Currents”. “India Abroad”, English weekly from New York, listed him as one of the “Newsmakers of 2007” in its recent issue. “Reno Magazine”, an acclaimed magazine of Nevada, in its annual special issue, declared Mr. Zed as one of the Best, saying that, “We’re lucky to have such a progressive and visionary force in our midst.”
Loonaa argued that Zed made outstanding contributions on most of the requisites suggested in the official guidelines for PBS Awards published on the MOIA website, like contribution towards better understanding abroad of India, contribution towards the welfare of diaspora, contribution in social and humanitarian causes, contribution in building closer links between India and its diaspora in the cultural field, eminence in one’s field for outstanding work which has enhanced India’s prestige in the country of residence, etc.
Recently a Christian bishop joined others in the call for “Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award” for Hindu chaplain Zed. Right Reverend Gene Savoy Jr., Head Bishop of International Community of Christ, Church of the Second Advent, in a letter to Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, recommending this award for Mr. Zed, said, ” – Mr. Zed believes that lasting peace can be achieved by sharing different perspectives with respect, tolerance, compassion, mercy, and love, and acts accordingly in the region. He helps bringing the faiths/communities together to promote partnership, cooperation, conversation, and compassion – ”
Various other organizations and individuals in USA and India also asked for PBS Award for Zed. Michael Poehlman, police chief of the City of Reno, in a letter to the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, strongly recommended Mr. Zed for this Award, saying, “Mr. Rajan Zed has helped bring communities together in order to promote compassion, cooperation, community service, and partnership through interfaith dialog. It is an honor to put his name forward for your distinguished Award.”
Nevada Clergy Association, composed of priests/pastors/ministers/etc. of various religions/denominations, strongly recommending Mr. Zed for this Award, wrote, ” – He (Zed) goes beyond his own faith tradition to serve the larger community of various religions and works to bring all the religious traditions together for common causes of social and economic development, freedom and human rights, peace-making and peace-keeping, etc. He creates an atmosphere of mutual understanding and mutual trust, which makes the dialogue between various traditions very smooth and effective…”.
Rajan Zed was recently given Award of Excellence by Hindu Sangathan Committee of New York in recognition of “selfless and invaluable service”. Nevada Clergy Association, drawn from various religions, gave a reception in honor of Mr. Zed in Reno where he was garlanded and presented a certificate. City of Reno issued him a proclamation, declaring July 05, 2007 “as a day to recognize Rajan Zed” during the City Council meeting and presented him with a plaque, while Reno Police Chief, Michael Poehlman, gave him “Chief’s Certificate of Commendation” to recognize his good works in “promoting peace and tranquility for all, regardless of race or faith” and to commend him for continuing his work in promoting interfaith dialogue. Sri Siva Vishnu Temple of Lanham, Maryland, invited and honored Mr. Zed on July 12 evening after he delivered the historic first Indian opening prayer in United States Senate in Washington DC. Unity Church of Today of Minden (Nevada) honored Mr. Zed during their Sunday service where the Minister, Larry Schneider, presented him a commendation certificate for the work Mr. Zed has done to bring various communities together. Prestigious Truckee Meadows Community College of Nevada recently honored him with a plaque. Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada honored him for “his courage and his vision of world community”, where he was presented with a plaque, which described Mr. Zed as “A voice of religious tolerance in our community.” Washoe County of Nevada, in a “Resolution of Accomplishment”, recognized and commended Mr. Zed, besides other things, for his dedication to the citizens of the County. Various other organizations in United States and India are planning to honor him.
In a remarkable interfaith gesture, Mr. Zed recently addressed the congregation of Unitarian Universalist Church of Northern Nevada, Unity Church of Today of Minden (Nevada), Reno Sikh Temple and Annual Ramadan Dialog and Friendship Dinner of Sierra Foundation. He has been invited to address Annual Diocesan Conference of Catholic Diocese of Reno this month.
Loonaa further said that there was no match to Zed among overseas Indians in promoting ancient Indian heritage and culture abroad, interfaith dialogue, and peace; restoring a sense of belonging and self-esteem among Indians; and his services to the sick/hospitalized and other community. After Swami Vivekananda, he was the first Indian to have a significant and impressive impact on the American public on the subject of Indian culture, India Heritage Panel said in its endorsement of Zed.