The umpteen number of Indian associations and the Embassy registration

IIK Staff Reporter
Saturday, October 20, 2018

India is the largest democratic country in the world. We have freedom for all, literally for anything! We can form groups and sectors on anything and everything. Let it be a political group, religious groups, regional groups, friends’ groups, even terrorist groups! We have seen everything. So what is bothering the Indian Embassy outside the country, which is governed by the Ministry of External Affairs of India? The recent hot topic here is about the de-registration of several Indian associations from the Indian embassy’s official list. Since we are so used to treating democracy back in India as freedom to indulge in anything, it is worth analyzing what is preventing the embassy to allow similar ‘freedom’ to our mushrooming associations here? What is the rationale behind the latest move by the embassy, which is known for being the fountainhead for leading and guiding healthy community activity, to slim down the numbers as well as issuing elaborate guidelines to the associations?

We the expatriates are living here far away from our home. It is true that a majority of them don’t have any relatives here. Majorities are married bachelors - a new term we found only in Kuwait. They are unable to take their family with them for so many reasons and living a bachelor’s life here. In any emergencies, who is there to support them? Here comes one important aspect of various associations. He or She may be the member of one or the other associations. They make friends within the association. It may be from their same State back home, or same language or same religion or social background etc depending on the type of association he is associated with. For an expatriate, this is definitely a solace far away from home. And this externally visible utility of these associations has an underlying concept called socio-cultural cohesion and affinity. They are expected to provide a platform to members and their families to come together to maintain their traditions and social values in a faraway land from home. But what are these associations really up to? How many of these are actually serving their members the way they are supposed to? Is the embassy which has always stood by the Indian community and keeps providing guidance and support without which hundreds of thousands of our less fortunate workers, domestic care givers etc would be facing great hardships, not aware of the cultural needs of the community? We believe that this is an important issue that calls for close scrutiny.

Many of the associations are doing wonderful job for the fellow countrymen. Many are helping others in case of emergencies, even by arranging jobs for the jobless. Many of the death cases in Kuwait where the individuals, who don’t have any relatives here in Kuwait, and met with the unfortunate end to their lives here, some associations are dedicated their whole volunteers to help such cases with the help of the Embassy and official authorities here. We are quite familiar with the untiring efforts of some associations, with the support of the Community Welfare and the Labour wings of the embassy, have been extending incredible help to the people in distress including those unfortunate domestic workers to get justice. The way some associations rose to the occasion during the recent amnesty, working shoulder-to-shoulder with embassy, and sent back home over twenty thousand of those having residency issues, is an outstanding feat! But what about the others?

What purpose are many of the other associations serving – community’s or their own political aspirations? Socio-cultural or narrow personal leadership ambitions? Are they bringing the community together or dividing them on District/Village/Municipality basis? Do we really have to replicate the administrative units in Kerala or Telangana etc here in Kuwait as well? What about the rules and laws of the land? Every country, big or small, has full sovereign rights on their internal and external matters to make sure that the country is safe, stable and secure. Same is the case with Kuwait. Every resident is legally bound to obey the rules and regulations of the country they are living. But are our associations really respecting the sensitivities of the host country which has allowed the Indian expatriates to be the largest and trust us for our respect for law? Doesn’t the Indian embassy, as the official representative of the Government of India, take responsibility for ensuring that the Indian associations in Kuwait act with sense of responsibility?

The usual way of functioning of many associations is that they will have many get-togethers, to add more members to their association to collect fees, conduct some annual functions where they bring celebrity singers or dancers from India, and spend some money on charity to support some deserving cases. If it is the common structure of most associations here, except a few who are formed for a specific purpose, then do we really need these many associations? While some of the associations are giving wonderful support for the community, we cannot ignore that many others which are formed purely for some personal benefits or agendas. It is not uncommon here that if an individual lost the prime position in one association, they form themselves a rebel group within the association and eventually split the association into two. Or in some cases, they form group of people from his own village or panchayat or even the college he studied and form some other association! Are they serving the purpose for the community? In many cases it will become a prestige issue to make their annual event more colorful than the other group. If one group is bringing a famous celebrity from India by paying 5 lakh or 10 lakhs, the other will bring a more famous celebrity by paying 10 or 15 lakh! Is this some business promotion exercise or a Marketing strategy? Can we call this a community welfare or socio-cultural activity? Who is suffering in the end? isn’t it the deserving poor countrymen who is supposed to get the help in the form of charity from these groups?

There are another class of silent sufferers too! The growth in the number of Indian associations in Kuwait is turning out to be a concern for the business establishments also. With an intention to support the charity activities, these firms profusely accept the request for sponsorship from these associations. The office bearers of the associations are well aware of those firms who are open handed and generous towards their sponsorship request and those who don’t even look at them. This makes the situation worse for those firms who generally don’t refuse the request. I knows many of these firms who suffer silently but maintain dignity! Hats off to them, but also urge them that they should speak up and stop the abuse by the irresponsible associations and their office-bearers from bringing disrespect to the very concept of associations!

September and Octobers are the most dangerous months for us as large number of associations want to celebrate "Onam festival" in Kuwait, senior official of one of the leading business establishment told IndiansinKuwait.com. This year, due to the flood in Kerala, we got some relief from this Onam season but the Christmas season is coming up, he added. Is he right? The associations need financial assistance for organizing any event here. As the number of associations increasing, the sponsorship request also will increase. In most of the cases, these requests are going to the same business houses – the generous ones. They will be forced to spend more as the number of associations increases. Once a business personality told that once a group came to him for sponsorship, but after a few months, the same group came separately on behalf of two different associations as they split and formed two separate groups! The sad part is most of the associations are formed just because somebody or the other want to be the president or secretary so that they can promote themselves for their personal benefits. Of course they will do some charity for the name sake. Rampant fund-raising without accountability has become a norm in Kuwait with many associations.

It is in this context we believe that the recent move by the Indian embassy to bring down the number of associations is a step in the right direction. Earlier there were around 300 Indian associations registered with the Indian Embassy. The number of unregistered ones were even much more than this. Many are registering with Embassy only for the president to be in the lime light rather than doing any community work with the help of embassy. At present the number is drastically reduced to 70s. We hope that this is a work in progress! Recently embassy issued a new guidelines which make it clear that large number of associations does not necessarily mean quality of community activity or service or welfare! If the number is restricted, the quality, transparency and accountability of the associations will be in a better position. At the same time, it is good to know that the embassy has kept the doors open for discussions to all serious associations. The list are being updated regularly. The embassy also seems to be flexible on the minimum number of members as associations like the one from Assam or Tulukoota do figure on the list!! This is a welcome gesture as such communities which are small in size in Kuwait need embassy’s support and recognition!

There is a famous joke that each panchayat and villages in Kerala have associations in Kuwait. Isn’t it we who are the members of these associations to decide whether we really need these many associations here? Isn’t it our responsibility to identify the right one and discard the rest? The first step towards change is awareness.

Express your comment on this article

 
Murali
Sunday, October 21, 2018
There are many associations which are doing genuine works.

K Jeyakumar
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Good Article ..Really appreciate the efforts of the author who has touched almost all the issues with such associations.

The one I liked most is ''There are another class of silent sufferers too! The growth in the number of Indian associations in Kuwait is turning out to be a concern for the business establishments also''

Very True - Sponsorship is a really a head ache for most of the companies and honestly it doesnot add any single OFFICIAL, LEGAL and ETHICAL business value to any company except for some Travels and Food restaurants in bringing more customers to them .. Most of the clients from Public sector (irrespective of them whether they are in the committee or not) misuse their power in getting sponsorship from Private companies which is not ethical and I think few public sector companies have already started taken action on controlling such issues .

Grammar Police
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Many more of the associations that currently have registration really do not have any right to exist.

Absolutely right move by Indian Embassy

Grammar Police
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Wow IIK, you really thought this is such a burning issue and valid so as to make an article about it.

IF you are really about freedom of expression, do not block my comment.

I disagree. Indian embassy did not ban you from having an opinion. It is that you are operating in a country that is not really the Indian soil. And most of the associations, including the ones that are still given permission by the embassy do not really deserve to exist. In the sense that if Kuwait is really strict about imposing it, they would all be rendered illegal.

So the Indian embassy is absolutely right and perhaps must even really up the standards and requirements of the associations to exist.

By the way it is all about Individual Freedom or personal freedom, there is nothing called ''group freedom'' or ''association freedom''.

Indians haven''t grown to acknowledge individual/personal freedom yet, they cannot thing beyond their community or group.

So grow up!

SKS
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Superb .... You are absolutely right.

Murukan
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Very true. I always think why so many associations here. Good steps by the embassy. Let the associations be limited and focus on quality community activities instead of quantity..

Another thing, we should not give importance to the individuals like president and secretaries. They should give importance to the association as a whole. Then this can be controlled, I feel.

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