New community civic-engagement group Voice of Indian-American Voters launches
VIA Voters is a new community group launched with the goal of increasing the civic engagement of Indian-Americans in the Chicago region and nationally. The founding members of the group are prominent business persons and community members Sanjjeev Singh, Dr. Anuja Gupta and Dr. Bharat Barai.
According to the founder, they felt there was a need for a nonpartisan platform that promoted the civic engagement of the Indian-Americans at the local and national levels.
The top goals of the group include seeking a better level of engagement with elected officials, creating a more informed voter base and increasing the participation of Indian-Americans in the election process.
The VIA Voters was officially launched at the Waterford Banquets in Elmhurst on Sunday, Jan. 13.
Several community business persons, leaders and the media attended this event.
"In our businesses, we often need to interact with elected public officials and a big goal for me to initiate such a cause was to seek a better level of engagement with them," said Dr. Anuja Gupta.
Dr. Gupta is a physician and real estate developer of Verandah Retirement Community. She is also an active community leader, having founded the Womens Empowerment Campaign Chicago, a networking and empowerment platform for Indian women in the Chicago area.
"Indian-Americans are the most successful minority in the country, yet currently we do not get the attention we deserve from elected officials because there is no significant powerful group," said Sanjjeev Singh, president of ASAR America Inc., a technology company based in Naperville.
The participation of Indian-Americans in the election process is sadly much below the national average.
"As a community we need to be more involved in the voting process. The time has come to engage more seriously in our civic responsibility in keeping with our economic and social success," added Dr. Bharat Barai.
Dr. Barai is a practicing oncologist and president of Prime Partners Inc., based in Indiana. Barai is widely regarded as the pillar of the Indian community and played a prominent role in many high-level community events including the World Hindu Congress, the Federation of Indian Associations among others.
The Leadership Council of the group includes prominent citizens and community leaders of local organizations, including Gulzar Singh, president of Pan Oceanic Inc.; Nimish Jani, Schaumburg Township trustee; Kanti S. Patel, president of Gujarat Cultural Society; Vidya Joshi, secretary of Bruhan Mumbai Maharashtra; Syed Hussaini, vice president of commercial loans at Wintrust Bank; Khaja Moinuddin, Hanover Township trustee; Ulka Nagarkar, member of Maharashtra Mandal; Girish Kapur, member of United Punjabi Association; Shree Guruswamy, member of Chicago Andhra Association; Vandana Jhingan of TV Asia; Keerthi Ravoorie, member of the Indian-American Democratic Organization; as well as Savi Singh, Deepti Suri, Dr. Rahul Deepankar, Dr. Kamal Patel, Sapan Shah, Gladson Varghese, and Ashfaq Syed.
"Being more engaged in the election of public officials is essential to the continued success of our community," said Syed Hussaini.
Hussaini also belongs to other boards of Muslim members who are active in the local community.
"As Indians we value certain lifestyles of higher education, marriage, family and entrepreneurship. We want to promote those values by electing candidates who represent them," said Sapan Shah, a physician and attorney who recently ran for state representative from Des Plaines. "As a community we can promote the values which led to our success as immigrants to this country," he added.
The Leadership Council of the group has 26 active community leaders who feel passionate about the cause.
The group intends to organize seminars and debates of public office candidates to create a more informed voter base, create a national list of Indian-Americans and start local chapters in other cities that have a sizable Indian population like New Jersey, New York, Dallas, Los Angeles. The inaugural event of the group is a reception of the Chicago mayoral candidates for the Indian-American community. The event is planned for Sunday, Feb. 10, at Taft High School in Chicago.
The event will be moderated by Ravi Baichwal, ABC-TV Network's Prime News anchor.
Front-running candidates in the Chicago mayor's race have been invited including Toni Preckwinkle, Gery Chico, Garry McCarthy, Susana Mendoza and Paul Vallas. VIA Voters expects 500 guests to attend the event including business persons, community leaders and the media.