Wellington, January 26,2024
The tricolour was hoisted at the Indian High Commission in Wellington today to mark India’s 75th Republic Day.
High Commissioner of India to New Zealand Neeta Bhushan unfurled the Indian flag which was followed by the national anthem, sung by members of the diaspora who thronged the High Commission premises.
The guests then took their seats in the auditorium to hear High Commissioner Bhushan read out the address to the nation by President of India Droupadi Murmu, which was delivered on the eve of Republic Day.
The Indian President referenced the G20 Summit held in New Delhi, under India’s presidency, and described it as “an unprecedented achievement.” The big takeaway from the event, President Murmu noted, was that citizens “are participants in strategic and diplomatic matters that shape their future.” The G20 Summit saw India emerge as the voice of the Global South.
India moved closer to achieving gender equality when Parliament passed the historic Women’s Reservation Bill, the President observed.
India became the first nation to land on the south pole of the Moon, and was on track to study the sun and “space mysteries like black holes.” Preparations for India’s first human spaceflight programme “are proceeding smoothly.”
High Commissioner Bhushan quoted President Murmu as saying India’s GDP growth rate “has remained the highest among major economies in recent years, and we have all reasons to believe that this extraordinary performance will continue in the year 2024 and beyond.”
But economic growth also drove welfare, with schemes to provide “free food to the weaker sections of society during the pandemic days.” Those measures continued beyond that crisis as the government “has decided to provide free foodgrains to over 81 crore people for five years,” making this the “biggest welfare initiative of its kind in history,” the President said.
The Government of India was focused on increasing the ease of living for all citizens – “from the availability of safe and adequate drinking water at home to the security of having one’s own home.”
The President said the National Education Policy gave “adequate thrust to bridge the digital divide and create a uniform educational structure for the benefit of the underprivileged children.”
The President acknowledged the role of sportspersons in raising India’s profile on the international stage. India made history with a record haul of 107 medals at the Asian Games held last year, coupled with 111 medals at the Asian Para-games. Women made a substantial contribution to the national medals tally.
The President cited the “series of humanitarian tragedies on a large scale” around the world, leading to great human suffering. India propagated non-violence as a means to achieve peace.
India was also ahead in promoting renewable sources of energy and taking “a leadership position in global climate action.”
In closing, President Murmu stressed the need to provide growth opportunities for youth, and described teachers as the architects of the nation’s future. She saluted the role of India’s farmers, labourers and uniformed personnel.
After reading the Indian President’s address to the nation, High Commissioner Bhushan proceeded to felicitate dignitaries of the Indian diaspora for their achievements in various fields of endeavour.
The dignitaries were invited to the stage by the MC, Ishanth Ghulyani. The dignitaries included Superintendent of Police Rakesh Naidoo, Wellington Indian Association (WIA) President Manisha Morar, New Zealand Indian Central Association (NZICA) member Hansaben Dhanji, Wellington Fiji Association Founding Member Prem Singh, Nrityabhinaya Creative Director Anuradha Ramkumar, Educationist Sunita Narayan and UNESCO-linked Vanisa Dhiru.
The cultural programme that followed featured song and dance performances from students of the Wellington Hindi School, Swaratmika School, Natraj School of Dance, Shivam Dance Academy, and a patriotic hymn sung by Yudhishtar.
A highlight on the occasion was a traditional folk dance recital by a Rajasthani dance troupe sent by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), New Delhi.
Venu Menon is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Wellington