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Relief Donations are Solicited as CGI Focuses Efforts

Indian Consul General Anupam Ray explains the difference between the two relief funds establish to rebuild Houston and the region

Indian Consul General Anupam Ray explains the difference between the two relief funds establish to rebuild Houston and the region

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: At the behest of some prominent members of the Indian community, the Consul General of India Anupam Ray helped to hastily convene a meeting of leaders of different organizations to help focus their attention on raising funds for the relief and rebuilding efforts underway in the Bayou City.

Over 70 people came to the event held at the Indian Consulate on Scotland Street of Memorial Drive near downtown, many spending over two hours to fight the dense grid-lock traffic which is an aftermath of the street closures on the city’s westside. Several turned back after encountering bumper-to-bumper traffic all along the way.

Those who were able to attend heard Ray explain the two funds set up to help support the rebuilding effort in South and Southeast Texas: the Mayor’s Fund for Hurricane Harvey Relief and the Rebuild Texas Fund by Governor Abbott. Both funds will allow members of the Indian community to identify and track their contribution by writing the code Diaspora or Indian Diaspora on their checks or credit card, wire transfer or online receipts. In addition, those wishing to become signatories to the appeal to attract others to donate can do so by having their name added to the list of individuals, organizations and companies which have already done so.

Many of the almost 70 people who attended the fund raising discussion offered their take on the subject and how much they would contribute.

Many of the almost 70 people who attended the fund raising discussion offered their take on the subject and how much they would contribute.

“Our purpose at the Consulate is to work for the interest of India and Indians here,” clarified Ray as he opened the program. “It is not to take any sides in what is purely an American effort, but we have been asked by two prominent people, and have agreed, to help focus the community’s efforts in fund raising.” He indicated the CGI’s desire was to help build a strong “Indian brand” in the region and added that the Indian Government would make a contribution too. In passing, Ray mentioned that the Government of Israel has donated $1 million for the relief effort but slated it only to people of Jewish heritage.

He revealed that one of them is local businessman and ardent philanthropist Vijay Gorodia and the other wishes to remain anonymous. Both have agreed to match every contribution, dollar-for-dollar. Ray also stated that the three Indian oil companies with offices here – GAIL, Oil India and ONGC had committed to contributing $10K each. Also, Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Computers, has declared he will match whatever amount is given to the Governor’s Fund.

Ray opened the floor to those who wished to speak and the leaders of different organizations came forward to add their voice of support and pledge donations. Ash Shah, President of Pratham pledged $10K or 10 per cent of whatever is raised at the Pratham Holiday event and that its leadership will combine to donate another $10K as well as promote the funds nationally. IACF President-elect Mahesh Wadhwa pledged $100K, with $25K coming from current president Vanitha Pothuri. Arun Verma of Sri Sita Ram Foundation pledged $10K.

Others like Sanjay Ram, on the METRO Board remembered how the Indian community has grown from raising $100K after Tropical Storm Allison to the goal of $1,000,000 for this disaster. Ramesh Shah of Ekal Vidalaya said “we are together going to make a big difference”. Jagdip Ahluwalia of the Indo American Chamber of Commerce said the Chamber would help businesses re-establish. India house pledged to raise $50K for each fund.

Gitesh Desia of SEVA International noted how much work the group had done to rescue  people. Murthy Divakaruni, a community activist, gave a goal of having everyone of the community donate $10 and that would total the target of $1M. Tahir Rizvi spoke about opening hearts and wallets. Vinod Shah said the AAPI will donate a substantial check in October. Vijay Pallod of Star Pipes said they would give $125K and support both funds.

This reporter reminded everyone that the Indian community had prospered over the past 5 decades in the Bayou City and that was the reason why so many cultural and religious institutions had been built. “But there are many from our community who are hurting now and it is the turn of the rest of us to help them, not to become a statistic in a large fund.”

Continuing on, he urged everyone to give to an Indian Community Relief Fund and pointed out that SEVA International had the skill sets to handle disaster relief efforts, He noted that there was a prime institution that needed our immediate help – the Anjali Performing Arts Center which has taught hundreds of girls to dance – which had been badly damaged by the floods. He urged the engineering and financial experts in the community to come up with better ideas to handle these floods. And finally, he lamented why there had not been more community buildings that did not open to become shelters.

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