As India prepares to celebrate her 75th Independence Day on August 15, 2022, Chief Sanjay Jain, president, Indian Cultural Association, Nigeria, speaks to OBINNA EMELIKE on the celebration, its importance, current development in his country, the Indo-Nigerian relations, among other related issues. Excerpts:
How do you feel as an Indian, as the nation marks her independence tomorrow?
I feel proud of being an Indian. Yes, we are completing 75 years of our independence on August 15, 2022. The government of India has announced this occasion as ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ (The celebrations of the elixir of our independence).
This is a very momentous occasion for any nation. The government of India has encouraged its citizens, whether in India or abroad, to hoist the flag from August 13-15, 2022, at offices, houses or any other place. Every Indian is excited to celebrate this Independence Day.
How does the Indian community here feel about the independence celebration, is there any special way you are celebrating the event?
Like I said earlier, every Indian on the entire globe is excited for this celebration when India is completing its 75 years of independence. So, as in Nigeria, we Indians are happy and from the Indian Cultural Association, which is the apex body of Indians in Nigeria, we are planning to celebrate 2 events.
On August 14, 2022, we are celebrating ‘Musical & Recognition Evening’ on the similar lines of the government of India organising such an event in New Delhi.
On August 15th, we shall hoist the flag at our centre. Both the events will be celebrated with great pomp and enthusiasm.
It is certainly a new dawn in India as a woman takes on the mantle of political leadership. What can you say about the development?
Actually, in India we were always trying to encourage women to take up leadership roles whether it is in the political field or any other field. Even, a certain number of seats in the parliament are reserved and earmarked for the women candidates only.
We are proud to mention here that the persuasion and encouragement done towards women have resulted in today’s situation where we see that women are coming up in various fields and sectors of the society and that too in very prominent positions.
As a person did you see the change to a female leadership in India coming?
Definitely yes, and the way it has happened has already been explained in the earlier answer.
What role has the Indian community in Nigeria played in the developments in India?
The Indian community in Nigeria has contributed in many ways towards the present day of India. The biggest contribution I would like to mention here is that each Indian is a brand ambassador in Nigeria for his country – viz. India. We are, by our actions, by our contributions towards the good causes in Nigeria, are building a good image about Indian and Indians. I would say that is the biggest contribution to the present day achievements in India. Apart from that, there are many other fields and segments, where this kind of contribution is apparent.
Are you hopeful or pessimistic about the socio-political state of things in India?
I am highly optimistic and therefore highly hopeful on India’s socio – political state. There are concrete reasons behind that. India is a vast country with a huge population of 1.3 billion people. The social system is very strong and takes care of multi ethnicities existing in various states of India. People are there for each other whenever need arises. As far as the political system is concerned, it is also very strong and promising. India is the largest democracy in the world and has shown the world how to manage such kinds of democracies. By and large, the parliamentarians are cognizant of the needs of their respective areas and therefore, are able to keep the populace satisfied and grow the country very well. So, since both the segments are doing very well, the socio-political state is very good.
When was the last time you visited and what was your impression of the lifestyle in your country?
I travelled last month to India and I can say with conviction that the growth engine is running at the top speed. If you have seen the World Bank data, you will see that today India is the fastest growing economy. If you see the GDP chart for all the major economies of the world, India is ranking second after Saudi Arabia. All other giants, like the USA, UK, Germany, among others are much behind us.
Having said that, I would say that the growth is reflected in the daily lifestyle of its people also. I have observed that the purchasing power of people has increased and their standard of living levels have risen considerably. I can see big malls and all famous brands coming to India and making themselves available for the Indian populace. That is an indirect sign of changing lifestyle in India.
In what ways can the Indians in Nigeria continue to be part of the bigger picture of India?
Every Indian who is coming to Nigeria for his/her work has a good base in India at the same time; in the form of their families/homes/other establishments. India is deep in their spirits and they always think about retiring there. Our association – Indian cultural Association always celebrates the Indian festivals in Nigeria thereby allowing them to be part of those festivals and feel like home away from home. Visits by our government ministers and our High Commissioner and their meeting with the Indians staying over here also pull them within the broad framework of Indianness. So, all in all, they are always part of the bigger picture of India even here.
What socio-cultural ties do you think still bind India and Nigeria together?
These days are of national importance, and when celebrated, they remind us about the sacrifices and great work done by our freedom fighters. That reminds us that our leaders worked hard to get independence. This situation is similar for both the countries. Though Nigeria got independence in 1960 and India in 1947, both got independence from the same regime. So, when this day is celebrated, we see some similarities in each other. We Indians, who are staying here, are part of the celebrations of Nigerian Independence day, and we feel some bonds between the two nations, and between their people. Even on Indian Independence Day, lots of our Nigerian brethren attend the ceremony and feel the similar bond. These celebrations make the socio-cultural ties stronger.
What is your opinion, suggestions and prayer for Nigeria as the 2023 election approaches?
Nigeria is also a big democracy. I have full faith in their electoral system. I hear that the party primaries have already taken place and the presidential candidates are final. I am sure that, as usual, there will be a fair election and the most popular candidate will emerge as the winner. Looking at the impressive credentials of both the candidates, I am sure, whoever wins, will take the country forward and grow it effectively.