As many as six Indian-Americans, including two medical doctors and a scientist, were honored with the 2017 Pravasi Bharatiya honor by President Pranab Mukherjee during the 2017 PBD convention In Bengalaru last week.
The six honorees were Dr. Sampatkumar Shidramapa Shivangi, a Mississippi-based physician who served as advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Service from 2005 till 2008; Dr. Bharat Haridas Barai, an oncologist based in Indiana; Orlando-based polymer scientist Mahesh Mehta who is the former president of Vishwa Hindu Parishad America; environmental engineer Hari Babu Bindal; Washington D.C.-based Nisha Desai Biswal, outgoing assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs in the Department of State, and financial consultant Ramesh Shah.
While Biswal was honored for Public Affairs, Shivangi was honored for community leadership. Barai, Mehta and Shah were given the honor for community service. Bindal was recognized for environmental engineering.
Asked how it felt to receive the honor from President Mukherjee, Shivangi described it as a proud moment for himself and his family. “It was a great honor to receive Pravasi Bharatiya Samman award by the President of India January 9 in Bangalore. It was specialty a proud moment for me to receive this award in my home state of Karnataka,” Shivangi told News India Times in a brief email interview.
“I am grateful and humbled by my recognition for whatever little contributions I may have made in enhancing relations between India and the U.S.A. The award commemorates the community leadership to the cause of my motherland and USA,” Shivangi a top fundraiser for the Republican Party, said. “It is a New Year’s gift, I and my family are delighted to receive it,” he said.
In her acceptance speech after receiving the honor from Mukherjee at the valedictory event, Biswal, outlined her own efforts at improving the India-U.S. relationship during the Obama administration. “I have sought to deepen the ties. I have kept the interests of my country, U.S. and also worked for India. The wonderful thing is that the interests of two countries converge. Both believe in freedom, democracy, tolerance and pluralism. In the laws that govern our countries, etched in our very souls,” she was quoted as saying by the Economic Times newspaper.
“Seeds for the chemistry between Barack Obama and Narendra Modi were sown much earlier. Obama had the cultural influences of his Indian-origin roommate in college, while Modi, as a young boy, travelled across the towns and cities of the U.S. It led to a truly global partnership,” she said.
The ministry of external affairs had considered a total of 178 nominations for the 30 awards. An 11-member jury-cum-awards committee, with the vice-president as chairman and external affairs as vice-chairman as well as nine other distinguished members from various walks of life, considered the nominations for the PBD Awards, 2017.
The awards were instituted in 2003, and seek to recognize members of the Indian Diaspora for their work and contributions.