Following the untimely loss of its Chairman Ramesh Patel to coronavirus, the Federation of Indian Associations -NYNJCT (FIA-Tri-state), held its first internal meeting July 2, 2020, to elect a slate of new office bearers.
In a meeting at the Spotswood, New Jersey office, top members discussed the future of the venerated organization for more than 3 hours, and elected Ankur Vaidya, one of Patel’s protégés, to replace him.
The meeting was called by FIA President Anil Bansal, in concurrence with the majority of the Board of Trustees and was held under the supervision of independent counsels, a press release from the organization, said.
Attendees included Bansal, Secretary Parveen Bansal, and 14 out of the 16 current Board members, keeping in mind the regulations governing large gatherings during Covid-19, and the need for social distancing.
The primary purpose of the meeting was to address the inter-organizational review and brainstorm how to serve the community better in these testing times.
Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir S. Parikh, a long- time FIA veteran, and Padma Shri H. R. Shah, were chosen as senior advisors. Both Parikh and Shah will take the role of nurturing, overseeing and advising the newly appointed Chairman.
“FIA is no longer an organization. We started it 50 years ago. Today, it is an institution,” said Dr. Parikh, who was the president of the organization back in 2005 on its 25th anniversary, when the signature India Day Parade featured four Bollywood stars participating with other high officials. Dr. Parikh has also been the Great Grand Sponsor of the Parade since 1993. At least 140 organizations are represented under FIA’s leadership, Dr. Parikh noted. “Its goal is to showcase India’s culture, heritage and way of life to our younger generations and to the American mainstream,” he said. “I assure that I will do whatever is possible to make FIA bigger and better, and international,” Dr. Parikh said, adding, “I wish the new office holders, Ankur Vaidya, Bipin Patel, Jayesh Patel, as well as President Anil Bansal, and all the trustees the very best in this endeavor.”
Vaidya is the youngest member of the Board and the youngest to be chosen as its chairman.
We want to stick to what Ramesh Patel started. I want to continue his vision and legacy -expansion of the organization to multiple states, and making it a pan-Indian organization representing the diversity of the diaspora,” Vaidya told Desi Talk. “Over the next five years, we want to focus on growing the organization all along the East Coast, to the north till Boston, and also in Washington, D.C., and consolidate them so that when the name of FIA is mentioned, everyone will know that it is an body to be noticed and reckoned with.”
Vaidya is joined by Bipin Patel, as vice chairman and Jayesh Patel as the general secretary.
The current Board also consists stalwart supporters like Ram Gadhavi, Chandrakant Trivedi, Prabir Roy, Dr. Parvin Pandhi, Andy Bhatia, Srujal Parikh, Anand Patel, Dipak Patel and Kanubhai Chauhan.
Long-time veteran community leader, Albert Jasani, of Royal Albert’s Palace, was chosen as the Unifying-Unity Trustee of the group, along with Yash Paul Soi as Emeritus Vice Chairman for FIA’s Golden Jubilee Year.
“The new leadership is young. We are all getting old. We need vibrant young leader who can take the organization to new heights,” Gadhavi told Desi Talk. “This organization has a lot more growing to do. We want the FIA to represent people from all over India, and to pay more attention to social, cultural, and religious issues and problems,” Gadhavi said, adding, “I see Ankur as a dynamic person who can provide that leadership.”
Anil Bansal told Desi Talk he was very excited by the choices made for leading FIA-Tri-state.
“Rameshbhai was the ‘iron man’ of the organization. He was fully committed to grooming Ankur to be the next leader. So I am happy that there was literally a unanimous decision in order to take FIA to new heights and to a new generation,” Anil Bansal said.
“The best part of all this is the guidance and maturity of other trustees is there. It’s going to be an incredible team. I am looking at it as more of a professional, corporate image for FIA. More inclusiveness and people will be happy to see the interaction with a wider diaspora,” Anil Bansal emphasized.
Vaidya said the FIA wanted to work even more closely than before with the Indian Consulate and the Indian Embassy in Washington.
“So far its been a grassroots organization. Now we want to have more activity on political education and political engagement, with lawmakers, with influencers,” Vaidya said. He also envisions a ‘Community Center’ which would provide FIA with its own space to conduct functions. “A place where families and children could go and have the cultural environment they want – for a community which is reaching two million people and more, not to have ‘club’ sort of place would be a shame,” Vaidya added.
Ramesh Patel also dreamed of holding the Golden Jubilee of FIA. “We feel that fulfilling his dream in 2021-2022 will be the ultimate tribute we can pay Kaka – Rameshji,” Vaidya said.
Vaidya praised the senior leaders of the organization like Dr. Parikh and Shah, as well as Gadhavi, saying they provided direction and expertise and are always making sure the organization is moving in the right direction.
“This is a voluntary organization. One gives time, money, effort, sacrificing time with family, to do its work. Then it has to be for the good,” Vaidya added.