Four Indian Americans were among the 28 people who received the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman award from Indian President Ram Nath Kovind on January 23, as a part of the three-day Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, an annual summit for non-resident Indians, held in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
The Indian American recipients of the award this year are: Gita Gopinath, Chandra Shekhar Mishra, Gitesh Jayantilal Desai and Dr. Kiran Chhottubhai Patel.
Gopinath is a Harvard professor and the new chief economist of the International Monetary Fund.
“Gita is one of the world’s outstanding economists, with impeccable academic credentials, a proven track record of intellectual leadership, and extensive international experience,” IMF managing director Christine Lagarde had said in a press statement last October.
Mishra is a senior scientist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, who was honored for his efforts in expanding the scientific and technology relationship between the U.S. and India, and was credited in establishing a strategic partnership between the two countries in the areas of Superconducting Radio Frequency accelerator development for energy, medicine, environment and particle physics applications, according to his LinkedIn profile.
In 2015, Mishra got an agreement signed between the U.S. Department of Energy and the Indian Department of Atomic Energy which enabled DAE to make $200-400 million contributions to projects at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and enables the U.S. high technology industry to sell hardware to India, while protecting its intellectual property.
Desai is a structural engineer and the president of SEWA International’s Houston, Texas chapter, which led humanitarian rescue efforts during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
According to Connect Gujarat, Desai was responsible for mobilizing 1,250 volunteers and directly rescuing 687 victims, despite losing the ground floor of his own home, to massive flooding.
Desai has also organized relief efforts following several earthquakes in India and has established new chapters of Ekal Vidyalaya in Texas.
He has also had leading roles on developing liquefied natural gas plants, as well as nuclear and fossil fuel plants, and has urged the U.S. to export LNG to India to further the diplomatic relationship.
Patel is a physician from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and is the chairman of Freedom Health and Optimum Care.
He and his wife Pallavi Patel have established a foundation through which they made the largest-ever Indian American philanthropic contribution of $200 million to Nova Scotia University to develop a new campus in Clearwater, Florida.
According to a statement released by the Ministry of External Affairs, the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award is given to NRIs and persons of Indian origin who have made significant contributions in: promoting a better understanding of India; supporting India’s causes and concerns in a tangible way; building closer links between India, the overseas Indian community and their country of residence; social and humanitarian causes in India or abroad, including philanthropic or charitable work; eminence in one’s field or outstanding work, which has enhanced India’s prestige in the country of residence; or eminence in skills which has enhanced India’s prestige in that country.