Hard-working old guard retain AHIA management


By Neena Badhwar

GREvillea Room at the Wentworth Community Centre was grey with people, albeit with a thin smattering of youthful colours, around 212 in all, from a total of 510 registered members of Australian Hindi Indian Association (AHIA), one of the oldest community associations in Sydney, gathered together to elect their new committee for the next term.

The scene was reminiscent of the last week’s turmoil in the Liberal Party that deposed a prime minister, similar intensity, canvassing at the doors, sometimes even heated, a rarity that had never inflicted AHIA elections in the past. In fact, the executive positions in the management committee used to go begging in the bygone years as there were never enough volunteers to arrange the tables and chairs and clean up after an event.

The outgoing secretary Jagdish Dua had to shout at the top of his voice to keep decorum, sometimes plead and cajole to keep the meeting going but some members wanted answers why the membership list and contacts could not be shared, accountability of funds and several other trivial issues like the papers of the association van and unnecessary interjections from the floor.

The outgoing president Tilak Kalra explained that the member list could not be shared due to privacy issues and that the association’s financial matters were all audited and presented with the regular minutes.

The challenge for a new management committee was spearheaded by Sukhdev Jaiswal who promised a new vigour for AHIA, discounts for members, being more active on government grants and assisting senior members with technology literacy.

Col Virander Sahni presented himself as the 2IC of the challengers, was more vocal in his demands for procedures and protocols, and needed to be constantly reminded of time constraints if the elections were to proceed.

At several stages as people walked to the stage at random, it appeared that the chaos in the house will disrupt the election process. But serving snacks by volunteers to sitting members provided a timely distraction and they came later to distribute voting forms. Although it was a simple how-to-vote procedure and sufficiently explained that members had a choice to vote for either Team A or B or to vote for individual members, but not both which would make the vote invalid, there was confusion.

There were many invalid votes in the end, some 68 of them, but Dr Bhasin won overwhelmingly by 99 votes to Jaiswal’s team’s 49. Several procedural objections were raised on the discrepancies of people who signed in and the actual number of votes received. Mr Dua asked to be guided by the floor whether to accept the results as they were and they voted by raising their hands in a large majority to go with the results.

The elected executive team comprises five ladies and four men, as the balance, pleasantly, has tilted in favour of the fairer sex. Some of the women such as Preeti Thadani, Sudha Ramdev and Meeta Sharma form the younger blood which is what AHIA desperately needs.

AHIA is not a seniors’ association solely, rather an Indian association, a social platform to mix, mingle and form strong bonds and friendships. In my opinion, also, it is not a Hindi association in a narrow sense, rather a Hindi-speaking association. It remains, however, as the only association that is most loyal to Hindi language. Their Sandesh newsletter edited by dedicated editor Santram Bajaj is ample evidence of the love for Hindi language, yet the association at large truly representing multicultural Australia and its unity in diversity.

The winning team obviously needs to listen to its members who almost today tried to break that unity.

The executive chosen is: Dr. Yash Bashin President, Rajinder Channa Vice President, Kali Gupta Secretary, Vipen Dogra Treasurer, Members: Sushma Ahluwalia , Preeti Thadani, Sarita Sachdev, Meeta Sharma and Sudha Ramdev.


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