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The Journey through the Years 2005:

The tsunami tragedy that struck Indonesia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Seychelles and Maldives on Boxing Day last year claimed more than 200,000 lives and dampened the Christmas spirit throughout the world, more so in New Zealand.

Various communities and organisations moved quickly to provide relief to the victims and New Zealanders opened their hearts and wallets to ease their pain.

The Government of India rejected foreign help and used its own resources to provide relief to the victims of the tsunami.

The Indian Government moved to protect women from falling prey to marriage scams, a move that received widespread support. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh told delegates attending the inaugural session of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Hyderabad that Indian workers employed overseas had helped the country’s foreign reserves to go beyond $US 130 billion.

He announced the enforcement of Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) scheme.

A Hudson Report said that by the middle of this century, one in four New Zealanders would be over the age of 65. Such a trend would affect our health services and employment opportunities.

The immigration industry was poised for a major shake-up, as the Government promised to introduce a licensing regime to regulate the activities of immigration consultants.

High Handed High Commission

The Indian High Commission in Wellington received mounting criticism for delays in processing visa applications and inability of many callers to access the diplomatic mission’s staff. Many said the officials were rude and unhelpful.

Indian Newslink received scores of complaints but failed to get High Commissioner Harish Dogra to relent from his unhelpful approach. This led to an open confrontation with this Newspaper taking up the cause of the people. The problem lingered throughout the year, with Prime Minister Helen Clark, Foreign Minister Winston Peters and Immigration Minister David Cunliffe unwilling to intervene for fear of causing a diplomatic incident.

Radio Tarana gained a place of distinction with increasing and impressive listenership in the Greater Auckland area. It also claimed 5% share of the commercial with 39,000 listeners in June 2004.

Musharraf on State visit

The three-day State visit of General Pervez Musharraf to New Zealand along with a delegation of officials was the highlight of the year. We covered extensively his talks, press conferences and other events

The Government relaxed its immigration rules to enable Indian IT specialists, software programmers, systems analysts and hardware engineers gain points for their work experience. There were promises that other categories would be added in due course.

Muslim women giving evidence in court wearing burqa created a storm of protests across the country. In a case involving sisters Fuazya Salim and Feraiba Razamjoo, the Presiding Judge ruled, “Authorising the giving of evidence from beneath of what is effectively a hood or mask would be such a major departure from accepted process and the values of a free democratic society as to seriously risk bringing the court into disrepute”. The ruling appeased the Muslim community but left others demanding that immigrants observed the basic tenets of New Zealand law.

Sikh community Chief Singh Sahib Jogindar Singh Vedanti of Sri Akal Takhat based in Amritsar announced that Sikhs around the world would be obliged to observe a new code of conduct. The code meant that members of the community should conduct marriages in Gurdwars and not hotels and restaurants.

Prime Minister Helen Clark announced September 17 2005 as the date of the General Election. Indian Newslink and Radio Tarana launched their fourth and final opinion poll, which revealed strong support from the Indian Community for her Party and Government.

Indian Newslink produced its 100th issue recounting the period 1999-2005 and claiming 100 reasons to celebrate this feat.

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