Thursday, July 6, 2017

DAV Reunion 2017: A Salute to our Visionary Girmitiyas - the Indentured Labourers to Fiji.

Thakur Ranjit Singh

There are over 100 secondary schools in Fiji, and only a handful minority have done a school reunion. And they mostly comprise of high decile (higher income of parents, upper class, brighter lots) from Suva Grammar, Xavier College and few other high profile schools. But a salute to a rural low decile school for poorer students with poor school results, rejected by others. Yes, former students of DAV College, Ba, Fiji have been able to do this - and internationally. Indeed, this feat is a salute to Girmitiyas. They were ordinary people who did extraordinary things in extraordinary times.

This can also be said of third and fourth generation Girmitiya children as they gathered in Auckland for another reunion –an international one. The first one was in Burnaby (Vancouver) Canada in 2015, and this one was in Auckland on 13 May, 2017. (And the next one will be in Ba, Fiji in 2019)

The night of 13 May, 2017 at Skipton Hall in Mangere, South Auckland was a complete different atmosphere. The hall had seen so many wedding, log geet, bhajan competitions, Ram Lila, Ramayan Sammelan, Girmit Remembrance, but this night was different. Talking about Girmit Remembrance, yes, it was a night to meet long departed friends, school mates, like in the legend of Krishna-Sudama. And indeed it was a salute to Girmitiyas, who ensured their off-springs had education facilities which the British colonisers did not provide for children of Girmitiyas, to keep them enslaved in cane farms. But we salute Arya Samaj, Muslim league, Sangam, Sanatan, Khalsa and so on, as our Girmitiyas of different faiths had vision for their children and invested in education.

THE NIGHT OF DAV STUDENTS, TAKING AN INTERNATIONAL FLAVOUR: 2015 in Vancouver, Canada, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand, 2019 to be in Ba/Lautoka-Fiji, 2021 - Brisbane, Australia (proposed)
That was the vision which saw so many former students from an Arya Samaj run school to meet and honour those pioneers who ensured we came out of slavery. Surya Deep Singh, son of Late Jaswant Singh who was a DAV School Manager for many years was a fitting person to give tribute to those with a vision. Earlier, President Thakur Ranjit Singh welcomed all to the event, especially those from overseas and out of Auckland. We had former students from USA, (Sacramento), Canada (Vancouver, Kitimat), Australia (Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane), Wellington and of course, Fiji. The former students saluted DAV College, Ba, which catered for students from poorer rural farming area with poorer results and turned them into responsible citizens. This was echoed by Raymond Raj, who attended from the farthest place in Kitimat, BC, Canada, who said that anybody could make cream into butter, but we salute DAV College which took butter-milk (maatha) and at times ‘Phata doodh” (bitter-milk) and turned it into butter. It was evident during DAV reunion night.

It was not only a night for speeches, dance drink and food. It was also a night where tribute was paid to those teachers and students who have passed away. An emotion-packed tribute video presentation was shown as a tribute to those DAV family who have left us. It brought tears into eyes of many present there, especially those whose loved ones had passed away.

Former principal, Mahendra Pratap, posthumously recognised and awarded.
Former Principal, Ajai Singh, also posthumously recognised and awarded. Another former Principal, Shri Manna Narayan was also recognised.
It was also a night to recognise and present posthumous awards to families of great DAVians who have passed away. The award was an "an acknowledgement, recognition and appreciation of contributions made towards enhancing the name of D.A.V. through personal contributions and excelling in being an honour to our school." Former principals, Mahendra Pratap, Ajai Singh and Shri Manna Narayan were recognised and Babu Ram Mohan, Bimal Chand Maharaj and Deo Mani were students who were recognised.

The night was not only for students, but also teachers who were respected, honoured and called on stage. Former teacher and now a Hindu priest in Brisbane, Master Sanat Kumar Pandey, spoke for the teachers, and spoke about the pride they see in seeing their plants giving out fruits of success.

THE NIGHT FOR STUDENTS AND ALSO FOR TEACHERS: DAV Teachers were also recognised, appreciated and respected in this night for the former students. Pictured are some of the teachers present in the Reunion night.
Apart from giving out posthumous awards, former students with outstanding contributions were also recognised. These were given to Rajneel Prasad Singh for academic excellence in school, Tarun Bala for excellence in sports (soccer), Raymond Ramendra Raj for inspiration and community services, Surya Deep Singh for leadership, Rajendra Prasad for literary excellence, Gaffar Ahmed for leadership, politics and community services and Sadasivan Naicker for exemplary community leadership and volunteering spirit. Details of both categories of these awards, respective citations and photos are on Facebook page of “D.A.V. College, Ba, Fiji Reunion.”

Former Teacher, Bal Ram, presenting DAV Recognition Award to Gaffar Ahmed, former Fiji Parliamentarian, for  leadership, politics and community services. 
This was a meeting of students from 1953 to 1990 and later years and hence included people of all ages – going up to seventy and others younger in their 40s. To ensure that all grouping got enough times to have their say, they were divided in four categories: 1980 to later years, 1975 to1980, 1970 to 1975 and 1953 to 1969. Students came on stage and were able to walk down memory lane, and tell some funny stories and memories of their class mates.

A very sumptuous meal was served, and people enjoyed themselves to their heart’s content with free alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and, of course, no Fiji function is complete without unlimited supply of grog. As the President, your truly, Thakur Ranjit Singh was blessed with the knowledge, teachings and guidance that our DAV teachers gave to former students. That produced a well-oiled organising committee for DAV Reunion. Mahendra Singh as Secretary, Muni Ratnam Krishna as Treasurer, and the headquarters/secretariat and management support provided by Purshottam Krishna. His accounting office at Puhinui Road was our meeting place. We also were blessed with expertise of Bikal Tahal, Sanit Lal, Tarun Bala, Chandrika Prasad and most important, our women-brigade - Naari Shakti. They were Sneh Lata Pratap, Manjula Prasad and Meena Khan. We also had support of volunteers, Ashok Kumar (two of them) and a former DAV teacher, Navtej Singh.

THE EXECUTIVES: From left-Thakur Ranjit Singh (President), Tarun Bala, Bikal Tahal, Snel Lata Pratap, Manjula Prasad, Sanit Lal, Meena Khan, Purshottam Krishna, Mahendra Singh (Secretary), Chandrika Prasad
What this DAV Reunion in Auckland proved, apart from our other talents, is that DAV really provides exemplary all-rounded education which not only taught us how to earn a living, but also, HOW TO LIVE. Former students of very different years and ages could get together and organise an event that many thought was not possible. When we started, we were very apprehensive about the interest and support we would get. But by final date, we had to halt ticket sales because we had a “house-full” situation. And it has developed so much interest in DAV that I have received numerous requests for people to join our site: “DAV COLLEGE, BA, FIJI, REUNION”, and still continuing

A MEMORABLE EVENT: Different groups got together to click-on the memories they will cherish for the rest of their life.
Please read on, I have not finished. What stole the show was the last item from the class of 1973. The DAV couples from DAV Lovers Hall of Fame, Sadasivan and Sarita Naicker, Thakur Ranjit and Shashi Kala Singh, and Sant Lal Sharma (with spouse) took the stage for a joint-dance on the evergreen Dilip Kumar-Vaijayanti Mala haunting number. “Ure jab jab julfein teri…” from film Naya Daur of 1957 when many were not even born or were babies. It prompted dancing and all were cheering the trio couple. And with that began the dancing portion of the night where people took the dance floor and danced the remainder of the night away. And it turned out into a memorable night.

Indeed, those who missed, are kicking themselves, and thanks to photographer, Meenal Pratap, the photos are on Facebook and has been talk of the town. Bigger and greater event is planned for 2019 in home ground in Fiji, which is planned to stretch for 3 days. 

Some of the big-guns: From left-Sant Sharma (Vancouver), Sadasivan Naicker (Suva), Raymond Raj (Kitimat, Canada), Surya Deep Singh (Melbourne), Pundit Sanat Pandey (Brisbane) and Thakur Ranjit Singh (Auckland).

As our tribute video showed, life is unpredictable - but the show has to go on. And very appropriately, our theme was: Suno, jiyo, muskurao, khush raho-Kal ho na ho. And, as our theme says - listen, live, smile, be happy, as there may be no tomorrow. Sing and dance today - tomorrow another loved one may leave us…. 

And with this to inspire us, we look forward to the next biennial (once every 2 years) mother of all reunions in Fiji in the weekend of 20 July, 2019.

We again salute the Girmitiya who were ordinary people who did extraordinary things in extraordinary times. And one extra-ordinary thing they did was to have vision to provide us education in schools like DAV –and that gave us a memory to relish. See you in 2019.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is the President of DAV College, Ba, Fiji Ex-Students Association, Auckland which organised the 2017 reunion. He is a journalist and media commentator and runs his blog site, FIJI PUNDIT.]

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Does New Zealand support a "terrorist" country?

             Thakur Ranjit

People of NZ need to be aware that since 2013, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has partnered with the New Zealand Electoral Commission to provide support and capacity development to the Fiji Electoral Commission (FEC) and Fijian Elections Office (FEO). Very commendable and appreciated.

Reportedly New Zealand support included provision of $NZ950, 000 ($F1.4 million) to design and implement the Election Management System (EMS), including the purchase of associated hardware and other services. So far so good.

The problem is with the originating country to whom a supposedly transparent tendering process awarded the tender to – Pakistan.

Pakistan has never been a shining and glorifying example of fair elections or democracy. But even that is not the issue. The real issue is that NZ funded tender was given to Pakistan's National Database Registration Authority (NADRA), which appears to have questionable credentials, like the country it comes from. NADRA had come under fire from political parties in Fiji because of reports their officials allegedly accepted bribes in return for producing fake IDs, some of which were made for suspected terrorists.

According to Fiji Times of 24 June, 2017, the following response from an unnamed New Zealand High Commission spokesperson was provided:

"The ministry (MFAT) is aware of the claims relating to the company selected by Fijian Elections Office to supply the system. However, we are confident that the EMS (Election Management System) has been delivered in line with the contract process and that New Zealand funding has been used appropriately and for the intended purpose. 

Under the contract between MFAT and the Fiji Elections Office, the procurement of the system was undertaken by the Fiji Elections Office under Fiji Government procurement rules.
This included a requirement that the Fijian Elections Office undertake appropriate due diligence of the supplier and the system as part of its procurement process." (Good, Kiwis know how to cover their butts).

According to reports from Fiji’s Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem, NADRA beat five other companies for the tender, which was awarded based on the assessment by the tender board and an evaluation committee. Saneem assured that a terrorism financing search was also carried out and it was all clear. But he failed to say who the other five tenderers were, and who cleared the so-called terrorism financing search. Neither do we know which other countries the tender came from - NZ? Australia? Britain? India? Does Pakistan have a High Commission in Fiji?

It would appear New Zealand Government which financed this project gave approval, cleared and sanctioned, that all was clear. They owe a duty of care to people of Fiji that since the financing came from them, the selection followed the rules, transparency and accountability of a First World New Zealand rather than a Third World Fiji. 

On assurance of a Fiji Government audit, Fiji’s Labour Party Leader (FLP) Mahendra Chaudhry said a government audit would not address the issue and the NADRA contract should be terminated. He reportedly said the FLP was worried about fake IDs being used to vote in Fijian elections and of the possible manipulation of the system to rig the election.

The reason why I brought this subject in New Zealand is that our taxpayers funded this project and supposedly New Zealand Government sanctioned the selection and choice of this Pakistani company. And I, as a citizen of both Fiji and New Zealand, would hold NZ Government accountable, should the doubts hold true about this Pakistani choice.

This was my comment in Facebook discussion on this subject:

“What surprises me is that a country which is more of a military dictatorship and lesser of a successful democracy is the one where this election system was found and awarded. I wonder whether they have ever participated in any credible elections in our living memory. I wonder whether this system will be as defective as Pakistan's democracy. In Hindi, they say, bandar ka jaane adrak ke swaad, A near English translation is: “Casting pearls before swine.” Since when did Pakistanis become experts in free, clean elections and democracy? 

Before I am accused of any phobia, let me clarify two issues: 1) India has more Muslims than Pakistan and 2) When Indians were brought as Indentured labourers to Fiji between 1879 and 1916, Pakistan did not exist.”

This decision by Fiji and New Zealand would also confuse rational thinkers in light of what is taking place in Gulf in the Muslim world. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is in turmoil because some member states have accused Qatar of supporting terrorism. 

Despite intense American efforts in the Middle East, bin Laden was not found or captured until 2011, when American intelligence learned he was living in Abbottabad, Pakistan. On 2 May 2011 a team of Navy SEALS, acting on orders from President Barack Obama, attacked bin Laden’s compound and killed him. Osama bin Laden’s body was taken by the U.S. forces and buried at sea later that day. PAKISTAN HAD BEEN SHELTERING HIM.
Pakistan has also come under radar of international community of doing this. Does the master-mind of 9/11 terrorist attack, Osama bin Laden’s name ring a bell? Bin Laden was not found or captured until 2011, when American intelligence learned he was sheltered in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where USA directed a surgical attack to kill him on 2 May 2011. 

Narendra Modi, Indian PM has openly accused Pakistan of promoting and harbouring criminals, especially in relation to Taj Hotel terrorist attack and other acts of terrorism in India directly linked to Pakistan. Even USA is aware of this.

What surprises me is that despite all these, New Zealand and Fiji Governments are supporting and sanctioning a supposedly terrorist nation when Gulf Council Cooperation (GCC) is under threat of breaking because of opposition to countries supporting terrorism and terrorists. 

My duty was to inform New Zealand people of the dealings by MFAT in the Pacific, and should anything go wrong in Fiji, do not say you were not warned. It is upon Opposition parties in New Zealand to seek proper answers from MFAT and Foreign Affairs Minister Hon Gerry Brownlee and seek clarification, transparency and truth, unlike the Tape Gate 2 in Clutha!

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a Kiwi-Fijian journalist who runs blog FIJI PUNDIT, and is based in Auckland.]

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Does John Key really deserve a Knighthood?

                                               Thakur Ranjit Singh

When I was an auditor with Coopers and Lybrand Accountants in Fiji in 1980s (as they were then known), an audit training session still rings fresh in mind after some four decades: THERE IS NOTHING LIKE A FREE LUNCH!.

We were warned never to take favours from clients we audit, as we get obligated and it clouds and bring into question our neutral and impartial judgement. Hence all those tasked with responsibility of exercising neutrality and impartiality need to maintain that arms-length dealings. In addition, they should not only be neutral and impartial, but also seen as such. 

Sir John Key: Yes, I got it, no, not the pony tail, but a Knighthood!

A living example comes to mind when this was NOT done. John Key, in his premature and surprise resignation, handed the leadership on a platter to his deputy, Bill English. This was despite Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman and Former lawyer Judith Collins, minister for corrections and police, who has long been touted for the top job, throwing in their hats for tussle of leadership in the National Party. Under the name of party unity, any opposition to Key’s choice was crushed, democracy was stifled and hence Bill English got the job - thanks to John Key.

Therefore, English was expected to reciprocate (return) the favour. And he did that so soon, that the ink on Key’s resignation letter had hardly dried, and than he got the Knighthood. The message here is that the Knighthood was the price Bill English had to pay for that lunch of National Leadership, which after all, was not free.

You will not read this anywhere in the mainstream or side stream media, because the publishers will sack the journalist who says what I have said, as media is to promote business and make money - to hell with bitter truth, as it will affect advertising dollars from rich people and rich businesses National Party represents. 

I am also slightly expedient, as I may annoy so many. Therefore, instead of saying anything more directly, I present to you views of normal everyday Kiwis as they have expressed in NZ Herald letters section, under their name. Here they are:

Arthur Moore from Pakuranga writes: “I see our ex-Prime Minister who spent millions of taxpayer dollars trying to erase our connection with Great Britain from our flag is happy to accept a knighthood from the Queen.”(NZH, 06.06.17)

Stan Jones of Hamilton writes:”….John Key gets a foreign title for eight years of an “aw, shucks”, do-nothing Government interested in making a buck. As a consequence, we still have to deal with homeless people in a housing crisis, waterways so polluted any contact risks infection and increasing inequality of wealth and opportunity in life…”(NZH 07.06.17)

Peter Jamieson of Titirangi writes:”….Being very well paid for doing just an average job, while running up a massive debt. Well done, Sir. I do not know who to cheer for the most, Sir John Key or Sir Russell Coutts?” (NZH 07.06.17)

And finally, David Little from Whangarei takes the cake with a well-summed up analysis:

“Arise “Sir “John. Our past PM is a charismatic man. He has been a good ambassador for New Zealand. I look back on his eight years in charge and ask what his achievements are? Yes, he has been a steady hand at the helm, mostly hands off. He has presided over an economy performed better than most, no thanks to him but more to inheriting a low-debt situation. The economy was also boosted by China buying up commodities on a massive scale, raising prices paid. Nature also played its hand through earthquake destruction resulting in re-insurers’ insurance money flowing in from offshore. His Government’s open immigration policy played its positive and negative part. Yes, the economy is booming, mostly fuelled by the construction industry. However, most of his achievements, as with most politicians, are self-serving. 1)His tax cut for the wealthy; 2) His reverting top honours to Sir, Dame; 3) His dropping of inheritance tax, allowing wealth to be passed on tax-free; 4) A failed attempt to change our flag. His real legacy is a deeply divided have/have not society with the main beneficiaries being the wealthy and home-owning baby boomer generation. For this he receives a knighthood?” (NZH 11.06.17)

I have a close friend, a die-hard National supporter, and we have had quite a few left and right political arguments over a grog (kava) basin. He would be annoyed with this article, as he believes National under Key provided us economic development. But development for whom? Rich became richer, house speculators had a field day and became millionaires overnight and the gap in haves and have-nots increased. On the other hand, poverty and homelessness escalated and we have acute crime, housing, health and social problems. The damning UNICEF report has been buried by the mainstream (read right wing) media.

Both of us are drivers and both of us have bought houses in West Auckland over a decade ago. Now this friend, the National supporter, can he ever imagine his son being able to buy a house on his own? His son was once a youth MP for now Deputy Prime Minister, Paula Bennett. Now, how many of these National youth MPs can afford to buy houses? Thanks to a National Government which has been propping up economy through unbridled migration, and under them, we have uncontrolled house-speculation, enriching the rich and denying poorer first-home buyers a house. Why should the son blindly support the same party his father supports - the party, which was sleeping on the job while a full generation have been displaced from opportunity to buy a house? And who bears the strain on housing and infrastructure from uncontrolled migration?

Robert Muldoon would be known as a PM who ‘stole’ the superannuation and denied the older generation the comforts of a healthy retirement. John Key will be known as a PM, who brought back honours system, and gained a Knighthood personally for his efforts.

That is the reason why the new generation need to go blindly in the next election and vote for a change. The slogan for the next election should be: THE DEVIL WE DO NOT KNOW (THE NEW GOVERNMENT) IS BETTER THAN THE DEVIL WE KNOW  (NATIONAL GOVERNMENT.)

All those stuck in traffic jams, all those robbed and affected by escalating crime because of gaping inequality, all the homeless because of government’s cut on social housing, the generation denied home ownership in their lifetime, all those hunting houses to rent because the speculators have them empty as “house-banks’, and a country with economic development benefitting the rich only, with little trickling-down effect – PLEASE STAND UP, AND GET ANGRY. IT IS YOUR TIME TO EMULATE WHAT THEY DID IN USA, (TRUMP ELECTION), THE BREXIT, THE FRENCH ELECTION AND A BRUISING ELECTION RESULT AGAINST TERESA MAY’S CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT IN UK.

Show your anger in New Zealand, AND VOTE FOR A CHANGE

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a media commentator at his blog site FIJI PUNDIT. He is based in Auckland, New Zealand]

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Do you understand Hindi News: The Purpose of Language is communication

Thakur Ranjit Singh

In absence of any watchdog to put a scrutiny of those who are supposed to watch us, Indian Media Watch – New Zealand has been established and fulfilling that role, being watchdog on Indian media which hitherto assumed they were beyond reproach. They watch others but they are also being watched – we have already successfully taken one to Advertising Standard Authority (ASA), and would not hesitate to do that again where they are seen to breach any rules and regulations. But it is also to critically view their effectiveness of otherwise. This is one such action, which is being repeated, as I had previously pulled Radio Tarana for use of language that goes over our head. Here I go again.

I have much respect for Radio Tarana and its efforts in teaching us the knowledge of Hindi language and difficult vocabulary, but it appears to be ineffective and done improperly.

I also have much respect for Nitya Nand Sundar, its part-time newsreader, and I presume the one who translates Hindi news from English language. I also praise his efforts to make us aware of Tulsidas level of Hindi Language. However the purpose of any language is communication – ability to pass the message that is understood.

My issue as an average Radio Tarana listener is: How much of your 7pm news on Radio Tarana on Sunday 18 June, 2017 was understood by the normal common mortal listeners of the station?
As a test, I request the news item to be replayed to Robert Khan, Satend Sharma, Shalen Sharma, Shalend Shandil, Pawan Rekha, and other Indo-Fijians and also Indians at Radio Tarana, and ask them what they understood, translate it to English language and whether they understood all the words and Hindi vocabulary used in the Hindi news item.

Why I raise it now is that I had raised it previously, and had raised the same issues I am raising now- inability of Hindi listeners to understand their high level of Hindi. I had recommended that I have no issue with use on non-understandable difficult Hindi vocabs, as long as they also explain them in simple Hindi or give English equivalents, so we can understand what is spoken. And this becomes a good education process as well. Currently it goes to waste. “Samm Ling”- (as used in Hindi news) -what creature is that? I asked some Pundits, and they also could not tell, so how do you expect FIJI PUNDIT to understand it.

I hope this will be taken in the spirit it is given – to take it as a constructive criticism which is the objective on Indian Media Watch New Zealand. It is the duty of this site to help raise awareness on media-related issues with a view to bringing in improvements.

Some Hindi vocabulary, among others, used in Radio Tarana Hindi  news in the past, without any use of English equivalents are as follows: sthai sachiu (permanent secretary), prashasnic karyawahi (disciplinary action) sakratmak (optimism), vyahan chaalak (vehicle/car driver), loktantra (democracy), pramukhta (mainly), prathmikta (priority) and the master-piece earlier mentioned, samm ling (gay/lesbian). An average Indo-Fijian, and even many Kiwi Indians may find difficulty or inability to comprehend news items if such words are used.

Yes, teach us Hindi via Radio, but by telling English equivalent as well, please.

[About the author: Thakur Ranjit Singh runs blog site FIJI PUNDIT and also has Facebook site-Indian Media Watchdog-New Zealand (among others), which keeps scrutiny of media issues in Indian media in New Zealand. He is a post-graduate scholar in Communication (journalism) with honours from AUT, Auckland.]

Saturday, May 6, 2017


High decile schools in Fiji like Suva Grammar and Xavier College have been known to have marked their reunion publicly and internationally. But for a relatively lower decile school like D.A.V. College, in Ba, this was a difficult call. (The decile rating is meant to represent the income of parents attending the school. Decile 1 represents lowest income. Decile 10 represents highest income.)

Organising Committee and supporters of DAV Ex Students Association of Auckland, who are venturing on creating history to organise the first international  DAV Reunion in Auckland where we expect former students from Fiji, Australia, Canada and USA and, of course those from New Zealand to attend. IN THE PHOTO: Sitting (L-R Thakur Ranjit Singh (President), Mahendra Singh (Secretary), Muni Ratnam Krishna ( Treasurer). Standing (L-R) Chandrika Prasad, Manju Prasad, Purshottam Krishna ( Secretariat /Manager),  Sneh Pratap, Tarun Bala, Ashok Kumar and Sanit Lal. [Missing- Bikal Tahal, Meena Khan]

The other schools apart from having children of relatively better-off parents also tended to have the cream of students, the brightest and smartest. Schools like D.A.V and others were there to provide services to mostly children of poorer cane-farmer parents, and yours truly, Thakur was also one of them.

That is more the reason why we need to salute so-called lower decile schools in Fiji for moulding the poorer and lower level of students. Anybody can take creamy milk and make butter out of it. But it takes big courage to take butter-milk (maatha) and re-make it into butter. School like DAV has been doing just that and this is an excuse to pay back that gratitude by remembering those fond days.

That is what schools like DAV (includes schools like Sangam, Khalsa, Muslim, Sanatan) needs to have special salute for serving the community of poorer people and poorer students. Despite that, the friendship taught in legends like Krishna-Sudama always live on. It has been a desire of students of 1970-1973 to have a reunion, and this ambition has been burning for over a decade. The idea of planning this was ignited by my visits to USA and Canada beginning in 1998, where I always went to meet my DAV mates like Bimal Chand Sharma, Deo Mani and Ajay Kumar in Sacramento and Stockton, USA and Sant Lal in Canada. This friendship ignited the smouldering wish of DAV Reunion. The advent of Facebook made this task easier. Sant Lal, with Kushwa Singh, Latchman Rao and others were able to hold the first Reunion in Burnaby, Vancouver, Canada. From there it was decided to move this further, with continuation of DAV reunion.


A historic meeting in Surrey, Vancouver, Canada took place on 5 April, 2015 when we decided to launch an international DAV Ex-students Association, and carry the dream of hosting DAV Reunions around the world. This inauguration meeting was attended by Thakur Ranjit Singh, Sant Lal Sharma, Raymond Raj, Jiten Singh and Bimal Charan, at whose house this meeting was held.

It was resolved in this meeting:

1) To hold the current D.A.V. Reunion in Auckland, New Zealand in May 2017

2) To appoint international co-ordinators: They were: Raymond Raj (Canada), Deo Mani (USA) -now with his passing away Sant Lal Sharma is responsible for USA), Sadasivan Naicker (Fiji), Sanat Pandey (Australia) and yours truly Thakur Ranjit Singh (New Zealand).

At inaugurating DAV. formalisation meeting with (from left) Raymond RajJiten SinghThakur Ranjit Singh and Sant Sharma at Surrey, BC , Canada on 5 April, 2015. This was at Bimal Charan's place, who is the photographer.
3) It was resolved to hold Biennial (every two years) events around the world. The second to be in Auckland in 2017, the third to be in Fiji in 2019 and the next one in Brisbane in 2021.

Fiji Co-ordinator, Sadasivan Naicker has expressed interest to hold next DAV Reunion in Fiji (of course in Ba) in and around June/July 2019. This will be further confirmed in the DAV BA Reunion in Auckland on 13 May, 2017. Former Ba Mayor, and now Minister Pravin Kumar (Bala) has promised to lend support to Ba reunion. People need to be reminded that Ba businessman, Vinod Patel is amongst the first lot of DAV students of 1953


We have allocated time for teachers and students to have their say, and present stories, items, jokes and walking down memory lane. At least confirmed attendance of teachers are Bal Ram, Sanat Pandey, Lata and Surya Deep Singh, who are former students as well as former teachers. We also expect Bookkeeping teacher Jai Ram (a lawyer now) of Sydney and Ramendra Mani (Bookkeeping teacher) of Auckland.

Students have four categories of presentations: 1980 to later years, 1975-1980, 1970-1974 and Class of 1953-1969. There is special recognition for some DAV Students for special achievements, and some former principals will be recognised posthumously. Some teachers and students will be acknowledged, recognised and appreciated for their contributions made towards enhancing the name of D.A.V. through their personal contributions and excelling in being an honour to our school.

The programme begins with address by the President and acknowledging Arya Samaj of Fiji in general, and that of Ba in particular for having the vision for providing such an educational institution that built our lives. A well-kept secret is a ten-minute tribute-“Sharadhajali ke doh phool” –a tribute video presentation in memory of teachers and students who have passed away.

Still not too late. Former students wishing to attend are to contact our people named herein, and make an effort to attend this memeorable event.Add caption

With a very sumptuous meal, free supply of juice, kava and drinks, with music of yester-years, it is billed as a memorable night to remember all the past memories. Long-time friends will meet and talk, laugh, and cry over their past life, missed opportunities and what they found and lost. Special mention will be made of those lovers who found their partners in the school and are still married. And race is on for the highest number of DAV siblings (brothers and sister who attended DAV). While I will have three of us present, Purshottam Krishna, head of our Secretariat has thrown in a challenge with at least four of his brothers attending. And you have to come to experience this

But what we hope to see is a memorable night of DAVians, not to be missed by former DAV Students. Those who wish to reserve their tickets still have a chance of contacting our Secretariat at  immediately, for limited tickets. Also, check Facebook timeline of: DAV COLLEGE, BA FIJI REUNION. Hoping to see you there.

[About the Author: Ranjit Singh, as Thakur was known in school, was at DAV from 1970-1973 inclusive. He is the president of DAV College, Ba Fiji Reunion 2017, and also runs his blog site, FIJI PUNDIT.  he is a journalist and is a media commentator.]

Thursday, April 20, 2017

When Auckland Council forces us to drink water from its toilets…water, water everywhere….

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Auckland Council appear to be promoting this culture, with their planning of Council facilities bereft of any human, health, hygienic or public-need considerations.
You do not have free drinking water at almost all its railway and bus stations, unless, of course, you DRINK FROM ITS PUBLIC TOILETS.
The bigger irony is that Western Springs Lakeside Park which is built on the site of former Auckland Reservoir, which provided water to early settlers, is as dry as Sahara Desert. None of its fountains have running water. If you are thirsty in the park – DRINK FROM ITS TOILETS.
Another irony is that the $28 million dollar Otahuhu bus and rail station which opened last year (October, 2016) and which has won an award, still has no free drinking facilities – YOU HAVE TO DRINK FROM ITS TOILETS.
We just hope Auckland Council gets planners who are more visionary. But who listens in a heartless UNCONTROLLED organisation. 
Hope they can learn something from Fiji….read on.

The recent deluge and flood in Auckland did not only sink parts of New Lynn, but also sank the credibility of advisers of Auckland Mayor Phil Goff. He was made to apologise for Act of God, blaming the downpour on climate change.

We had a similar deluge and issues in Suva, Fiji some fourteen years ago, and I was at Suva City Council then. If I was an advisor to Phil Goff, I would have drafted the following release for him, similar to what I had done for Suva’s Mayor:

Any municipality makes facilities for normal functioning in normal situations.. Men-made facilities are rarely capable of handling catastrophe brought by extreme Act of God like floods, cyclones and Tsunami.

What happened on Sunday 12th March 2017, in Auckland was no exception. Metservice advised that parts of Auckland received over 60mm of rain in an hour that day. This is phenomenal, in fact unhistorical rainfall. A month’s average rain fell in a day, most of it in one hour when the soil was already heavily saturated from previous continuous rain. To make it worse, the timing was not in our favour. While I have been assured by my contractors that most drainage and waterways were periodically checked, the seasonal autumn foliage compounded the problem. Geographic make-up of Auckland also contributed, being on same level as sea and hence cannot drain away so much deluge in such a short time. In such a situation, the earth just topped up with water which could not be drained fast enough, as no systems are made for that amount of water in such a short time in such low topography. 

In a layman’s language, our infrastructure provides six inches of drainage, while the rain we got was double that. No system can answer that call of nature (excuse the pun) from open skies. Hence, our system just could not cope.” 

No beating around the bush, no apologies for which you were not responsible and no scape-goats. Just plain facts. House guttering could not cope, they were overflowing, same thing happened with the City’s drainage system. So, why the Mayor has to blame it on the controversial subject of climate change?

Now, still on WATER - what I really wanted to say, before this distraction.
If an Extra Terrestrial (like Steven Spielberg’s ET), which survives on clean water, with clean habits, accidently landed in Auckland, it would not survive. If it were to travel by Auckland’s public transport via train and bus, it would “thirst’ (starve) to death.

This is because Auckland Council intends bus and train-station users to drink from its dirty environment of toilets. People are forced to drink from toilets, as no separate hygienic free water is available at any of Auckland’s bus and train stations (except two).

Water ..water everywhere, not a single drop to drink. Western Springs Lakeside Park, which is built on former Auckland reservoir, has no free drinking water, unless you drink from its toilets. This drinking fountains has been dry now for some years now, and the other fountain has also gone dry. perhaps nobody cares, nobody knows, and nobody will do nyhting about it.
Jokes and sarcasm aside, let us face reality from an observant terrestrial. You travel on a train or a bus network from Waitakere Station in West Auckland to Pukekohe via Papakura (including Sylvia Park network) in South, with an empty water bottle, you will find no place to fill it or drink free water, except in Auckland toilets. Same thing applies if you travel on Northern Busway, from Albany Station to all stations to Britomart. In Britomart, you had to go a floor down, but two months ago, somebody saw light, and has one fountain on ground floor after recent renovations. New Lynn also has a low-pressured lone drinking fountain. That is the sum total in Auckland- JUST TWO. Not even the most recent multi-million dollar showpiece at Otahuhu Station (or Panmure) has a drinking fountain. Just recently, Auckland Transport (AT) spent hundreds of thousand dollars beautifying fascia of all its Busway Stations – but no relief for those looking for clean free water. 

Ha Ha Ha. The new $28m Otahuhu bus and train station, whicc opened in October, 2016, also has no drinking fountains-UNLESS YOU DRINK FROM ITS TOILETS. Ironically this staion has just being given an award. The judges said the design team expertly wove together "multiple cultural and historic narratives." Perhaps one of them is the new Kiwi culture of drinking from public toilets!
Auckland, as a supposedly most liveable city needs to live up to that name. Health and well-being of its citizens is it prime priorities. Free water contributes a great deal to healthy bodies. Tens of thousands of school children use these facilities, and are encouraged to buy frizzy and sugary drinks instead of free water supply in a country overflowing with so much water. Ironically NZ does not blink an eye-lid to give free supply to overseas companies who profit on our natural resources. Yet our city is unable to give it for free to its ratepayers and people using its facilities. Some stations sell Coke products and supposedly healthy glutton and fat free products, but fail to provide healthiest essential product for life -WATER. Does Auckland Council have shares in Coke? Or water bottling companies which sell its products at twice the price of petrol?

Another laughing matter-while Auckland Council does not provide free water, it makes money by allowing Coca Cola to sell 'unhealthy " drinks, and also water , at almost double the price of petrol. I wonder is Auckland Council has shares in Coke Company, or one of the water bottling companies.

I suggest Phil Goff to do as legendary ‘Phantom” (from Phantom comics) used to walk the streets in a disguised form. Change your appearance, ride on your motorbike, thirsty and with an empty water bottle, see where you can have free fill or drink of water, from a water fountain, and not from a toilet. Travel to major stations like Swanson, Henderson, Sylvia Park, Otahuhu, Papakura, Manurewa, Pukekohe, Middlemore, Papatoetoe, and all Northern Busway stations. And then he will recall the deluge of 12 March 2017, and exclaim: “Water Water everywhere, not a single drop for the Mayor (unless he drinks from the toilet). Now where are our City planners…Hope they are not sunk in the sinkhole at New Lynn?”

Northern Busway has been hailed as pride for public transport inititive. Its stations: Albany, Costellation, Sunnynook and , Akoranga - none has any drinking fountains -UNLESS YOU DRINK FROM THEIR PUBLIC TOILETS.
I suggest Phil Goff also send some highly paid Auckland City planners on a junket to Fiji to see how we do it in a Third World Country. All our municipality markets and bus stations throughout Fiji have separate pipes and free water for its thirsty citizens (not in toilets). Fiji may be poor, but its decision-makers have a heart, and compassion for the people who pay their salaries. And yes, if that ET lands in Fiji, it will survive through our public transport network, as we do make our people to drink from toilets. And then Auckland Council can copy Fiji and provide separate free drinking water, and not make us to drink from Auckland toilets, as they do now!

[About the Author-Thakur Ranjit Singh manages blog site FIJI PUNDIT and also manages the Facebook Page- “Auckland Council WATCH”, where he raises pertinent issues relating to Auckland Council, hoping somebody, some day, will take notice.]

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

When Auckland Council Fuels Traffic Jams - with Truck-loads of Rubbish

Thakur Ranjit Singh

How many times have you been held up in traffic on a busy time rush hour on a State Highway, on a suburban bus route, main or trunk road, or near a school during opening or closing times? And later you realised the “avoidable jam” was created, and made worse by Auckland Council rubbish trucks. They seem to have a habit of collecting rubbish on busy roads during rush-hour. This appears to be an everyday happening now.

As a bus driver who starts quite early with school runs, I almost encounter this on a regular basis. And this has been confirmed by fellow bus-drivers as well. But the last chain of incidents took me to the edges of my tolerance. It was just before 7 am on a Friday morning, when we all were rushing to work. Lo and behold!, on State Highway 16 between Soljans Cafe and Brigham Creek Road roundabout (near Kumeu) in West Auckland, a Council truck was collecting rubbish from the busy road, holding traffic.

Traffic is forced to dodge rubbish collection trucks at busy school times in or around school zones. Such collection near schools need to be done only between lull in traffic. This gives them six hours, so why they need to create undue congestion at and around 8 am? Auckland Council surely needs proper planning and co-ordination.
Then an hour later, just around 8am on a busy Albany Highway just past the junction of Upper Harbour Drive in North Shore, I met another similar truck holding traffic while collecting rubbish. Then I proceeded up Sunset Road, (Unsworth Heights) in North Shore, which is also a trunk route for morning commuters, feeding into many schools. The same scenario, another hold up.

And this is not confined to mornings. I have also seen them on busy Taharoto Road and Northcote Road in Takapuna, Auckland in afternoon as well. I also encountered them during peak school time around 8am on Belmont Drive and Nile Road, which is just a stones throw away from three large schools in the area in Takapuna – Westlake Boys, Westlake Girls and Carmel College. School buses and school traffic have to dodge and squeeze through these nuisance on narrow roads.

This is Nile Road in Foresthill, Northshore. It is a stones throw away from four schools: Westlake Boys, Westlake Girls, Carmel College and Foresthill School. Yet on a Wedneday morning at 8.34 am, when buses and cars are busy in this area on this narrow road, Auckland Council Rubbish truck (right) was collecting rubbish. Note a school bus was forced to pass on the wrong side of the road at the traffic island, creating hazard.
The “golden mile” in Takapuna has following seven schools:  St Joseph Catholic School, Rosmini College, Takapuna Normal Intermediate, Carmel College, Westlake Girls, Westlake Boys and Foresthill School. Some 2km stretch of road linking Foresthill Road, Wairau Road, Taharoto Road and Fred Thomas Drive, among them have these seven schools, adding to thousands of vehicular traffic during school opening and closing times. The last thing we need is uncoordinated and poorly planned-rubbish collection during busy times in and around these schools. I as a regular bus driver around these schools have encountered these trucks causing unnecessary traffic jams in morning and afternoons on a regular basis. This is what has prompted me to raise this issue.

Similar is the story around other areas of Auckland. Many have encountered these, but have not bothered to raise it as they see raising any issue with Auckland Council like whipping a dead horse. My site Auckland Council WATCH will take all concerns to the Council, and will send these articles links to ALL Auckland Councillors. I hope, as Chairpersons of various committees, they can pull up non-performing Managers to coordinate and plan their activities in respective portfolios in such a way that pose little disruptions to the City.

Why do rubbish colection trucks have to crowd up busy areas and around schools in mornings and afternoons? Why are parents and buses forced to squeeze between these hazards and cause hazard to other road users? Do you need to be a rocket scientist to plan rubbish collection schedule?
Auckland City is huge, with large residential and commercial areas. Therefore, Auckland Council needs to get its act together and identify and create critical areas 500m to 1km near schools, on Highways, bus routes and busy school or city traffic routes. They need to create a no-go zone for rubbish collection or any other Council activities between 6 -9am and 3-6pm, which disrupts traffic. They have six hours in a day when they can attend to such busy traffic areas, between 9 am and 3 pm.


Auckland Council need to review their rubbish collection as follows:
- Create red zones near schools, on bus routes, on highways, busy trunk routes and roads feeding to schools. Rubbish in these areas should ONLY BE COLLECTED BETWEEN 9-3pm.

- They should create Green Zone in secluded parts of the respective collection zones, not contributing to any traffic chaos. They can service these areas in rush hour of 6-9am and 3-6pm.

- They should create orange zones in areas bordering the two, and apply discretion to fill their schedules.

You do not need a rocket scientist to plan activities in such a way as to have a win-win situation, without disrupting traffic. And Auckland Council has many highly paid officials to do this.

I hope common sense will prevail, and Auckland Council staff would start earning their pay.

[About the Author; Thakur Ranjit Singh does what most qualified ethnic migrants do when they are not accepted in their qualified job market – drive. Thakur has Masters in Communication (MCS) with honours from AUT. He tried to join Auckland Council in its Media and Communications team. However, he was seen unsuitable to colour a White  media and communications departmentf from an ethnic journalist who studied on Pacific Island Media Association (PIMA) Scholarship to add colour to a relatively "White" NZ media scene. He is a part-time bus driver, and knows Auckland extensively. Seeing the barriers to a White Media, he runs his blog, FIJI PUNDIT and is active on social media. Other observations of Auckland Council are to come later.]