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Archive for March, 2006

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Taran Khan
Thursday, March 23, 2006 22:25 IST

KABUL: Sweating slightly in a room overheated for the Kabul spring, twenty-five-year-old Umesh Aryal dreams of chapattis. Light and piping hot, just like his mother in Thane makes them. “The first time I saw their naans, I got scared. They’re so huge!” he laughs.

Umesh is one of the fifty-odd Indians who staff the upmarket Safi Landmark Hotel in Kabul, one of the gleaming new structures mushrooming across the Afghan landscape. “Six of us came together from Mumbai,” says Umesh. “We had hoped to be placed in the Dubai branch of the hotel.” Instead, they ended up sharing a dormitory in Kabul.

The arrangement is fairly typical for Afghanistan’s fledgling hospitality industry. Faced with a shortage of Afghan staff capable of running a large hotel, employers prefer to ‘import’ trained Indian labour, settling them in compounds like the one Umesh lives in. Packages usually include food, accommodation and transport to workplace. Salaries vary over rank; Umesh makes $300 a month, most of which he manages to save. Indians form the largest percentage of the foreign workforce in luxury hotels here.

“In my experience, whenever people here need to start something new, they get in Indians. Once procedures are up and running, they may ask us to leave. And being Indians, we will go quietly,” laughs Mr Bakshi, a Delhi resident and section manager at the five-star Kabul Serena.

For Umesh’s friends, the change in pace from their Mumbai “fast life” has been dramatic. “When people meet here, they spend at least ten minutes greeting each other before getting down to the main business,” says Umesh. “In Mumbai people finish their conversations and move on in that time.” Excursions by the boys have included a visit to an open-air market, catching an old Sanjay Dutt film in a bombed out theatre and Republic Day celebrations at the Indian embassy. Forty-year old Kulkarni, a Thane resident and father figure of the group, has also visited a local temple of a Hindu goddess reputed to be an incarnation of Vaishno Devi.

These encounters with Kabul city, however, have been rare and infrequent. The tendency is to spend off-duty hours behind the compound walls. “There is always an element of risk. Kidnappings happen all the time, even from our area,” says Kulkarni.

It is this feeling that prompts Vandana, a Mumbai resident and staffer at the Kabul Serena, to take a security guard along even when she goes shopping. She has braved Kabul’s arctic winters, loneliness and bomb blasts. “Things have improved a lot now,” she says. “Malls and eating places coming up all over the city. Now the streets are lit up, people are out with their families and women are more relaxed about wearing the scarf.”

Vandana is counting the days to her return to India but admits she will miss Kabul. “It’s not like other places where you can be just a tourist. Here you see bullet marks on the walls, kids with limbs blown off. It really makes you think.”

Umesh and his friends, meanwhile, are discussing the opening of a new branch of their hotel in Herat. “I’m not sure if I want to go there,” he says, “Probably they will get some more people from India to run it”.

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By Gurpreet Singh, SSNews
Mar 4, 2006, 15:57

Meet Singh and his family, the first Sikh refugee family from Afghanistan succeed in getting Indian citizenship after a decade long wait. Today Meet Singh has an identity of his own and there is a place that he can call home. Meet Singh along with his other family members-wife Balwant Kaur, son Surjit Singh took the oath of allegiance India in New Delhi recently. Now as Indians they can work in the formal sector and travel freely abroad but the most important thing is that they now, once again, belong somewhere.

SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar has welcomed the decision. He said that after citizenship of Meet Singh family, Indian citizenship through naturalization has raised the hopes of several Hindu and Sikh refugees from Afghanistan living in New Delhi. He said that sincere efforts should be made conferring Indian citizenship to Sikh refugees from Afghanistan.

Meet Singh and his family members had fled Kabul when the Afghan civil war engulfed their home and life. The journey from Kabul to New Delhi was not that easy for Meet Singh family. The family of Meet Singh, who was an Afghan police sergeant, worked very hard to make both ends meet. They adjusted themselves in a new environment and learnt new skills.

His wife Balwant Kaur used to get some work in New Delhi and she used to stitch clothes at home. The family member feel that process was very long and it took 12 years in Delhi naturalization was the logical step and they had to face even some corrupt officials as no one used to work until they were paid some money bribe. These of these tactics, they process was delayed as comparative to other countries.

Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal) president and former Member Parliamentary Prem Singh Chandumajra demanded strict action against corrupt officials, who was putting hindrance in genuine work of these people. While appreciating the role of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHUR), the former MP said that UNHUR tries to smoothen the naturalization process from where to go and whom to approach. He said that it even fills up the naturalization form for those interested in acquiring Indian citizenship. He said that UNHUR has recognized refugees who are interested in becoming Indian citizens through the process of naturalization. He said UNHUR even pay the fees and follow up their cases at different point of the application process.

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Suchi Yadav
CNN-IBN
Posted Saturday , February 25, 2006 at 16:59

New Delhi: After a decade long wait Meet Singh and his family are going to make history. They are the first Sikh refugee family from Afghanistan to be conferred Indian citizenship.

He along with wife Balwant Kaur and son Surjeet took the oath of allegiance to India in New Delhi, which reads “I bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India”.

Meet Singh and his family getting the Indian citizenship through naturalisation has raised the hopes of more than 8,000 Hindu and Sikh refugees from Afghanistan living in Delhi.

They had fled Kabul in 1992 when the Afghan civil war engulfed their home and life.

Living in Delhi wasn’t easy for the man who was a Afghan police sergeant and the early years were tough.

They had to adjust in a new environment and learn new skills.

“Yehan per thoda bahut kaam ker lete the. Hum khud bhi thoda bahut kaam karte the. Hum silai ka kaam karte the ghar per se (We used to get some work here. I used to stitch clothes at home to make both ends meet),” Balwant Kaur says.

After 12 years in Delhi naturalization was the logical step but the process was long and often corrupt.

“Apply karne ke liye jis office mein jao to koi apni marji se nahe karta kuch. 50-100 rupai dene per hi kaam hota tha (When we went to apply in the ofice no one used to work untill they were paid Rs 50 or Rs 100 as the bribe),” Meet says.

Singh said that is why there is a delay and adds that his friends living in London say that there the process is very fast.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) tries to smoothen the naturalization process from where to go and whom to approach.

It even fills up the naturalisation form for those interested in acquiring Indian citizenship.

“UNHCR has recognised refugees who are interested in becoming Indian citizens through the process of naturalisation. We pay the fees and follow up their cases at different point of the application process,” Nayana Bose says.

Today Meet Singh has an identity of his own and there is a place that he can call home.

The journey from Kabul to New Delhi was not that easy for this Sikh Afghan refugee family.

Now as Indians they can work in the formal sector and travel freely abroad but the most important thing is that they now, once again, belong somewhere.

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