Desi comic characters are global. MARVEL Introduces Indian Hero as Part of Globe-Trotting CHAMPIONS #1 Relaunch

Marvel Comics’ Champions has broadened its focus in recent months, going from outer space to Weirdworld. The series is being relaunched in January to recruit from all of those places.

Writer Jim Zub is relaunching Champions on January 2, and will be joined by his long-time Wayward partner Steven Cummings. Their new Champions line-up is made up of 14 heroes – five founders from the previous run, but also some surprise additions.

According to Zub,

Qureshi Gupta is an East Indian boy from Delhi whose codename is Pinpoint. He loves hip hop music and eating vada. He creates teleportation portals that can take people around the world in the blink of an eye. He joined the Forums (the online chat group where young heroes stay in touch with each other that was first established in Secret Warriors) and lurked there for weeks, nervous about getting involved until he saw Ms. Marvel’s call to action.

Credit: Steven Cummings (Marvel Comics)

Zub adds in an interview

“Pinpoint is an East-Indian boy, 15 years old. He’s relatively short and thin. His hair is crackling with the same green energy we see around the portal he’s summoned. His eyes have no irises when he uses his powers. His superhero outfit should include form-fitting pants and a kurta shirt with a modern cut and collar to it.”

I wanted Pinpoint’s outfit to mix Indian clothing with an iconic symbol for teleportation/focus. It’s the kind of costume a 15-year old could pull together on his own but also comfortable and not going to inhibit him in combat.

 

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Fake call center scam – U.S court sentences 21 people of Indian Origin to 20 years in prison

The United States Department of Justice (link) on Friday announced that a court in Texas had sentenced 21 members of an India-based fake call center and money laundering scam to varying terms of imprisonment. Three others were sentenced earlier this year.

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“The stiff sentences imposed this week represent the culmination of the first-ever large scale, multi-jurisdiction prosecution targeting the India call center scam industry,” said Attorney General Sessions.  “This case represents one of the most significant victories to date in our continuing efforts to combat elder fraud and the victimization of the most vulnerable members of the U.S. public.  The transnational criminal ring of fraudsters and money launderers who conspired to bilk older Americans, legal immigrants and many others out of their life savings through their lies, threats and financial schemes must recognize that all resources at the Department’s disposal will be deployed to shut down these telefraud schemes, put those responsible in jail, and bring a measure of justice to the victims.”

“This type of fraud is sickening,” said U.S. Attorney Patrick.  “However, after years of investigation and incredible hard work by multiple agents and attorneys, these con artists are finally headed to prison. Their cruel tactics preyed on some very vulnerable people, thereby stealing millions from them. These sentences should send a strong message that we will follow the trail no matter how difficult and seek justice for those victimized by these types of transnational schemes. We will simply not stand by and allow criminals to use the names of legitimate government agencies to enrich themselves by victimizing others.”

This news of white-collar crime by Non Resident gang was covered by other Indian newspapers after Press Trust of India highlighted it “Over 20 Indian-Origin People Sentenced In Massive US Call Centre Scam”

Prem Watsa named ‘NRI Of the Year’

Prem Watsa, founder of Fairfax Financial Holdings, was conferred the Special Jury ‘NRI of the Year Award’ at the fifth edition of Times NOW & ICICI BankNSE -1.67 % NRI of the Year Awards 2018. Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri was presented with the ‘Global Indian Icon’ award. The Times Network and ICICI Bank awards were hosted in Mumbai on Friday.

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One of India’s top recognition platforms, The NRI of the Year Awards salute the spirit of global Indians who have made a mark for themselves worldwide. “Over the course of five editions, NRI of the Year, our flagship property has emerged as the most distinctive and coveted awards platform, instituted to recognise the achievements of the global Indians. It is an important component of our engagement with the Indian diaspora as a media group representing a nation with a global agenda,” said MK Anand MD, Times Network. Kiren Rijiju, minister of state for home affairs, was the chief guest for the function.

Read rest of the article in Economic TimesEconomic Times

Prem Watsa has a sizable investment in Blackberry (According to bloomberg)

“The reason we put a lot of money in [BlackBerry] was because of [CEO] John Chen. John Chen is an outstanding executive — long track record. And I met him just like that in San Francisco. And he had a terrific turnaround at a company called Sybase. And then he says, you know, I bought every BlackBerry that existed and I really don’t want this company to go down. So I said, would you look at perhaps joining the company, and he said, ‘I’ve got to talk to my wife. If she says yes, I will.’ And she said yes and he joined us. If he hadn’t come, we likely wouldn’t have put [in] any money.”

Update on PPF account for NRIs – You can continue with PPF account now

The Indian government recently announced that Public Provident Fund (PPF) accounts had to be closed when a person became a Non Resident Indian (NRI). 

A few months ago in October, the government announced that if a resident, who opened an account under this scheme, and subsequently becomes a non-resident during the currency of the maturity period, the account shall be deemed to be closed with effect from the day he becomes a non-resident.

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On February 23, 2018, the government’s Department of Economic Affairs (DEA)  released an office memo  keeping its earlier notification in abeyance (or temporarily dismissed). The earlier notification was regarding the NRI’s PPF account released on October 2, 2017. According to the recent memo

Subject: Public Provident Fund (PPF) accounts held by Non Resident-regarding.

The undersigned is directed to refer to this Department’s notification GSR No.
1237(E) dated 03.10.2017 regarding amendment in PPF Scheme, 1968. As per the said
notification, if a resident who opened an account under this scheme, subsequently
becomes a non-resident during the currency of the maturity period, the account shall be
deemed to be closed with effect from the day he becomes a non-resident.

2. It has now been decided to keep the said notification in abeyance till the further
order in this regard.

Man seeking Non Resident Indian (NRI) bride duped

One frequently hears of NRI brides and women seeking NRI alliances being duped by unscrupulous men. In a strange twist.

According to media reports, Sadar police in Ludhiana (Punjab) have registered a case  against a Non Resident Indian (NRI) woman’s family, for allegedly duping a Ludhiana resident of Rs 5.50 lakh on the pretext of marrying him and and sending him abroad.

Image result for indian police cartoon

Krishan Kumar Khatri had placed a matrimonial advertisement the local newspaper calling for alliances for his daughter who is settled in Australia.  After initial conversations, the  bride’s family asked the family of Kulwinder Singh, the prospective groom for 90,000 Australian dollars. They agreed to take the money in three installments, and were paid Rs 1/2 million rupees as the initial installment. After receiving that money, the bride’s family ended all connection with the prospective groom and his family.

The father of Kulwinder complained to the local police, who registered a case under Section 420 (cheating) of the IPC against Mr. Khatri. The investigating officer from Sadar police station, ASI Ravinder Kumar, confirmed that although the ‘negotiations’ had taken place a few years ago, the family filed a complaint only in 2016. A case was registered recently after the initial investigation was completed.


 

In another unrelated news – Matrimonial website fraud: Mumbai schoolteacher claims Rs 11.5 lakh cheating by ‘NRI’

 

Feel good story: NRI couple’s generous act for visually-impaired kids

Here is a feel good story about a Non Resident Indian (NRI) couple giving back to their homeland from The Hindu:

Students of the Nalgonda Blind School, run by the Development and Welfare Association of the Blind, had special visitors dropping into its campus on Tuesday.

An NRI doctor-couple G. Aruna Devi and Gopal Reddy gifted the school dual desk benches for students, a solar power set-up and a refrigerator, all together valued at ₹20 lakh.

Moved by the students’ needs, the couple assured they would direct organisations that could help out the school as part of their corporate social responsibility.

Nalgonda MLA Komatireddy Venkat Reddy, who interacted with the students, shared memories of a visually-impaired friend, telling that strong will helped him achieve success in life.

District Collector Gaurav Uppal said the government was considering undertaking development work at the school.


 

You may also be interested in GaramChai.com’s Charity section 

The original NRIs and OCIs : One hundred years since servitude

The digirati in online forums like Quora, Rediff frequently wonder about ‘the first’ Non-Resident-Indians, Overseas Citizen of India and the original Indian diaspora. An interesting article in the Economist magazine “One hundred years since servitude”  traces the history of Indians migrating overseas a century ago.

Article and image credit: The Economist, Sep 2nd 2017

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DOOKHEE GUNGAH, born of Indian migrants, began life in 1867 in a shed in Mauritius and worked as a child cutting sugar cane. By his death in 1944, he was one of the island’s richest businessmen. He is a notable example of how some indentured labourers prospered against the odds.

Between the 1830s and 1917 around 2m migrants signed up for ten-year terms (later cut to five) in European colonies (see chart on next page). Most were from India, with smaller shares from China, South-East Asia and elsewhere. Some “coolies” were fleeing poverty and hunger; others were coerced or deceived. In British colonies from 1834, and in French and Dutch ones from later, they replaced freed African slaves on sugar and coffee plantations.

“Slavery under a different name” is how The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society described the indenture system in 1839. It had a point. Many migrants died en route, and at first plantation owners, used to slaves, treated their new workers hardly any better. But conditions gradually improved. When the Indian Legislative Council finally ended indenture, a century ago, it did so because of pressure from Indian nationalists and declining profitability, rather than from humanitarian concerns.

The indentured labourers’ fortunes varied from place to place, according to their numbers, who else lived there, and laws about land tenure and race. But a shared post-colonial identity is now emerging, combining pride in India’s economic rise, religious and cultural traditions—and, increasingly, commemoration of their ancestors’ struggles to establish themselves.

Indo-Mauritians are among the richest and most politically powerful of those descendants. As a British colony, Mauritius took the greatest share of indentured migrants: some 450,000. Their descendants are now two-thirds of the island’s 1.26m inhabitants. Many of the largest businesses are owned by Franco-Mauritians whose ancestors dated from the earlier French colonisation, though they make up just 2% of the population. But Indo-Mauritians dominate the public sector.

Local legend has it that Dookhee (pictured with family, third man from left, around 1912) owed his meteoric rise to finding buried treasure. The true story, says his great-grandson, Swetam Gungah, is that “whatever little he had, he would put it aside.” Unlike slaves, indentured labourers were paid, and since most were unable to leave their plantations, they spent little. Aged 21 Dookhee bought land and started growing sugar cane. “He was savvy enough to diversify. He planted an orchard, started a bakery and much more,” says Mr Gungah. When the price of sugar plummeted in the 1880s most plantation-owners went broke. Dookhee got richer. Other former indentured labourers were also able to buy broke colonists out. By 1933 Indo-Mauritians owned almost two-fifths of all land planted with sugar cane.

Land also gave indentured labourers a start in South Africa, where many were granted plots after their servitude. Koshir Kassie’s great-grandfather arrived in the province of Natal and worked on a plantation and then in a gold mine. He saved enough to pay his employer to end his contract early, and bought land. But under apartheid many Indian South Africans, including Mr Kassie’s family, were forced off their land and into Indian townships. “After indenture, Indians built themselves up,” says Mr Kassie. “Then came apartheid and they had to start again.”

Many managed to rebuild. Today, Indian South Africans’ average income is three times higher than that of black South Africans, and they are nearly twice as likely to have finished high school. But these days they are politically marginalised. In the first democratic elections, in 1994, two-thirds voted for the National Party, which had previously defended apartheid. Those with less education particularly resent South Africa’s new system of racial preferences in jobs and education for blacks.

Seeds in fertile ground

Indentured labourers in Trinidad and Guyana (formerly British Guiana) were also granted land. That was less generous than it seems: much of it was ill-suited to growing sugar cane. The Indians, however, discovered it was perfect for rice. Many prospered. But in both places, though people of Indian origin are the largest ethnic group (35% and 40% respectively), they have struggled to gain the level of influence that Indo-Mauritians have.

In Mauritius the departing British colonists regarded Indians as the heirs to power. In Trinidad, however, the mantle was passed to Afro-Trinidadians, who were settled decades before the indentured labourers arrived. Politics and the public sector operated through a patronage system, which kept Afro-Trinidadians in charge. Even after independence in 1962, Indo-Trinidadians were largely excluded from government and public-sector jobs.

Today, politics is still divided on ethnic lines, with the People’s National Movement supported by Afro-Trinidadians and the People’s Partnership coalition supported by Indo-Trinidadians. But socially, the groups are mingling more—and increasingly intermarrying. Nearly a quarter of the population identifies as mixed-race.

In Guyana ethnic divisions cut much deeper. Compared with Trinidad, its sheer size meant ethnic groups formed more segregated communities. A fragile inter-ethnic harmony, nonetheless, prevailed for the first half of the 20th century. That ended in 1964, when a pre-election conflict broke out between the largely Afro-Guyanese People’s National Congress and the largely Indo-Guyanese People’s Progressive Party. “I had Hindu friends, African, Portuguese, Chinese friends,” says Khalil Ali, a Muslim Indo-Guyanese novelist, of growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. “Then suddenly my black friends stopped speaking to me and I stopped speaking to them.” The resulting violence led to hundreds of deaths and thousands fleeing abroad.

Ethnic divisions persisted after independence in 1966, and were worsened by economic hardship. Even as Trinidad boomed because of oil, disastrous left-wing policies reduced resource-rich Guyana to one of South America’s poorest countries. But in 2015 a multi-racial coalition came to power, promising unity. Although change is slow—the government is still mostly Afro-Guyanese and Mr Ali says Indo-Guyanese who joined the coalition have been called traitors—elections in 2020 offer another glimmer of hope. Younger Guyanese are further distanced from the events of the 1960s. The mixed-race population, now around 20%, is growing.

Indentured workers’ descendants have done least well where their ancestors could not own land, as in Fiji. Its indigenous population resented the new arrivals, and the British made promises about land ownership to their tribal chiefs. Many Indo-Fijians became tenant farmers, and for part of the 20th century did quite well, says Crispin Bates, who leads a project funded by the British Arts and Humanities Research Council entitled “Becoming Coolies”. But when their leases came to an end, starting in the 1980s, their status declined.

Sporadic attempts to improve their position after independence in 1970 ended with a coup in 1987. A new constitution reserved majorities for ethnic Fijians in both houses of parliament. Over 10,000 Indo-Fijians left the island as a result. Two further coups centred on their rights. Finally, in 2013 Indo-Fijians were given equal status in the constitution. And, in 2014, in free elections, Frank Bainimarama (who led the most recent coup, in 2006) won with an anti-racist message. His task is considerable: though land has been made easier to lease, holdings by ethnic Fijians still cannot be sold. Indo-Fijians are still excluded—and ethnic Fijians are newly aggrieved. Anti-Indian sentiment is rampant.

Pride and prejudice

In most places that took indentured labourers, racial animus persists. Their arrival was “a real trauma” for indigenous and former-slave populations, says Mr Bates. In Trinidad and Guyana “coolie” is used as a slur (and the Indo-Guyanese and Indo-Trinidadians have plenty of racist terms for their compatriots of African origin). In Fiji and the French Caribbean “z’Indiens” are stereotyped as money-grubbing, and mocked in expressions such as “faib con an coolie” (“weak as a coolie” in Guadeloupian creole). In the 1970s a Fijian politician, Sakesai Butadroka, said in parliament that “people of Indian origin” should be “repatriated back to India”. As recently as 2014 a popular song by the Zulu band, AmaCde, called on black South Africans to confront Indians and “send them home”.

 

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Strangers in strange lands, indentured labourers and their descendants preserved some traditions, from caste practices to recipes. From the 1880s the Arya Samaj, a religious group, attempted to reinstate Hindu culture in the diaspora—which rallied, in turn, behind Gandhi’s Indian nationalist movement in the 1920s and 1930s. During periods of ethnic strife in the 20th century hyphenated-Indian communities turned inwards for self-protection.

In recent years, though, a new kind of “Indian pride” has begun to take form. Mauritius has had strong links with India since post-independence tax and trade deals. But of a recent visit to Mauritius, Ashutosh Kumar, the author of a new book about indenture, “Coolies of the Empire”, says “the way Mauritians were discussing Indian politics: it was like I was back home in India.” In Trinidad, which got its first Indo-Trinidadian prime minister in 1995, there is “a new sense of Indian cultural pride”, says Andil Gosine, an Indo-Trinidadian academic in Canada. “When I go back now I see loads of people wearing saris, which they wouldn’t have done before.”

This cultural revivalism is, to some extent, the work of Hindu nationalists, particularly the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council). It has recently devoted more attention to the diaspora—and stirred up tensions between Hindus and Muslims. More is due to India’s rise as an economic power. Diaspora Indians are seeking to “bask in the reflected glory of their motherland”, says Mr Kumar.

Khal Torabully, a Mauritian poet of mixed Indian descent, has coined the word “coolitude” for a new identity, which mixes heritage from India and the other sending countries with a century of history in racially diverse former colonies. Acknowledging their ancestors’ servitude as part of that can be uncomfortable. Indian South Africans are “proud to be Indian”, says Mr Kassie, but “don’t like to talk about indenture much”. Mr Gosine recalls his grandfather describing his own grandfather: “A Brahmin, riding around the plantation on a horse, dressed all in white. But then my grandmother chipped in: ‘What on earth are you talking about?’”

Making sense of displacement and difference, struggle and success, is also a work in progress for host countries. But some have started to weave the history of indentured labourers into their national narratives. In 2006 Aapravasi Ghat, where they first arrived in Mauritius, was recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site. In the same year the Indian Caribbean Museum opened in Waterloo, Trinidad. Last year the 1860 Indian Museum, dedicated to indenture, opened in Durban. “We still have a lot of problems to think of ourselves as Mauritians,” says Mr Torabully. “But remembering indenture, just as we remember slavery, is at the heart of that identity.”

You may also be interested in GaramChai.com section on Indian Statistics