Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Amit Dasgupta bids farewell

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Consul General of India (Sydney) finishes his term. PAWAN LUTHRA reports

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A small but influential group of NSW Parliamentarians and community members gathered to bid adieu to Indian Consul General Amit Dasgupta at the NSW Parliament House Jubilee Room. With wall to wall books and photographs depicting the story behind the establishment of the colony of New South Wales, Amit Dasgupta, well known for his love of all things literary, would have appreciated this unique combination of history and politics all coming together as he is one of the few Indian diplomats to be farewelled in such a public manner at the NSW Parliament House.

Those in attendance included Minister for Citizenship Victor Dominello, Member for Hornsby Matt Keane, Chairperson of Community Relations Commission Stepan Kerkyasharian, Chair of the Multicultural Business Advisory Panel Nihal Gupta, UIA President Amarjinder Bajwa, Bawa Jagdev OAM from the Sikh Council, Mala Mehta OAM from the Hindi school, Shubha Kumar from India Club and other leading community members.

Speaking on the occasion Nihal Gupta, Chair of the Multicultural Business Advisory Panel, spoke about the passion which Amit Dasgupta brought to his job, extolling his virtues of a global citizen. “He is an amazing person – an author, a diplomat, a terrific chess player, a fantastic chef, a man who is loyal, intelligent, wise and dependable. The NSW government has got to love him and appreciate the qualities he brought to his job”, Gupta told all.

Taking the role of Matt Preston, Nihal Gupta presented Amit Dasgupta with the ‘Indo NSW Master Chef award’.

Victor Dominello also spoke about the special bond which he shared with Amit Dasgupta and about his leadership as Consul General of India in NSW. “He is a provocative speaker and a true leader”, Dominello said. Keeping in line with these sentiments, Stepan Kerkyasharian also reminded all that  Amit Dasgupta took up his appointment at the same moment that public controversy erupted over a spate of alleged attacks on Indian overseas students in Melbourne and Sydney and as how from the beginning, Mr Dasgupta responded with candour, dedication and energy. “He went wherever he was needed, sometimes at short notice, and spoke always with great authority. His swift and decisive action, working in close cooperation with the CRC, played a significant role in demolishing the controversy within days,” Stepan said.

Making his last public speech at the Parliament House, Amit Dasgupta himself spoke about the challenges of those days and how it became important to separate the information from the misinformation which was around both within the local Indian community, the Australian community and in India . Answering a question raised earlier in the evening of “why we do what we do”, he said that his personal way of tackling this was to get a deeper understanding of what his own core values are and then as to what is the right thing to do.

“Once you have clarity on this, then it is easy to do what you have to do,” he said.

For the local Indian community, he urged them to mix more with mainstream Australia and enjoy the multiculturalism of Australia .

It will not be an understatement that the three years that Amit Dasgupta has been the Consul General in NSW have been tumultuous years for the local Indian community. With screaming headlines and frenzied media reports of attacks against Indian students, street marches by Indian students in Harris Park grabbing front page news, it was a baptism of fire for the newly arrived diplomat. In an interview with Indian Link Radio and this newspaper, one year into his term, Amit Dasgupta discussed his desired accomplishments upon completion of his tenure. In 2010, he had wanted to increase trade between India and Australia . Two other tasks he had set for himself included setting up an International Students’ Centre and offering travel concessions for students. He also wanted to increase community awareness of Indian establishments underpaying Indian students. “I also want the Indian associations to work together on community based matters and for the Indian community to take itself seriously,” he had said in his 2010 interview.

Looking back, while trade has increased between NSW and India , the rest of the vision still needs time to be completed. The community has more robust organisations, often competing for political and public patronage; the Indian student revenue, albeit declining due to low numbers, has still to convince the successive NSW governments to offer travel concessions. There is however greater respect for all things Indian at various universities such as Macquarie, Sydney and New South Wales with the establishment of various chairs to understand and promote India . For Amit Dasgupta, a diplomat well known for his love of things academic, these would be the cherished achievements of his tenure in Australia .

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