Visiting Punjab-A great Experience
Visitor from Canada to the Punjab should register with the Canadain High Commission in New Delhi or his office in Chandigarh. That way, in case of any natural disaster or emergency they can easily get in touch with them and their families in Canada.
Surrey, Vancouver, March 22, 2012
A visit to India in general and Punjab in particular is always a very refreshing experience. Mine was no exception. During my seven weeks of stay there, every day was full of excitement. Of course, the elections in five of India’s provinces dominated the headlines. During these few weeks I found myself fully immersed in the political going ons. As a neutral observer of politics in India, I found it fascinating to learn about various political parties, their maneuverings, campaigns and so on. Unfortunately, the election in Punjab was over within a few days of my arrival there. As such, it was mostly quiet on the political front there till March 6. However, the election in U.P, India’s largest province, with 403 legislative seats, was of keen interest everywhere. In addition to the elections, another notable feature that is very visible especially in the Punjab is the impact of NRIs in the state.
It wasn’t long ago that the words NRIs mainly referred to people of Indian origin living in the U.K., U.S.A and Canada. However, now the picture has changed completely. Now the NRIs are from all over. This includes the Middle East, Europe, New Zealand, Australia and many other countries. Go to any village in the Punjab and you will find that from nearly every household at least one person has gone abroad. Consequently, they have made a huge impact almost in every area of the state. Take for example the real estate and property business. NRIs are the proud owners of some of the most elegant hotels, restaurants, Marriage Palaces, mansions and other prime real estate throughout the state. Even in small villages and towns, beautiful newly constructed mansions/kothis belong mostly to NRIs.
Then, there are a lot of businesses such as jewellery, clothing and others who rely heavily on the business brought by NRIs. This is more so during the wedding season from October to March, when the whole state of Punjab is flooded with NRIs. In my own experience, I found a lot of friends and acquaintances I would come across at weddings or in various villages, towns and cities. At times. It was like an NRI reunion. In order to discuss some of the issues facing NRIs I met Kamaljit Singh Hayre, President of the NRI Sabha Punjab in Jalandhar. Kamaljit is a very close friend of a relative of mine. He is very well versed in issues facing NRIs .In our meeting Kamaljit mentioned that considerable progress has been made in facilitating life for NRIs during their stay in India. However, a lot more still needs to be done. Kamaljit mentioned that the NRI Sabha is committed to making life a lot easier for NRIs.
During my visit to Chandigarh I had an opportunity to visit some of my close friends there. This city hasn’t been spared the growth taking place all around it. However, still this model town has its own charm. I was very thankful to Canadian Consul General in Chandigarh, Scott Slasser for seeing me at a very short notice. I found Scott to be a very pleasant and friendly host. We briefly discussed some of the issues facing potential immigrants to Canada. It was more like an information seeking meeting on my part. Mr. Slasser mentioned that often visitors to Punjab don’t register with his office. He emphasized that it is in their own interest that any visitor from Canada to the Punjab should register with the Canadain High Commission in New Delhi or his office in Chandigarh. That way, in case of any natural disaster or emergency they can easily get in touch with them and their families in Canada. The registration can be done on line: www.travel.gc.ca, by phone: 91-172-0505-0300. Or by filling in a form.
Another positive program that Mr. Slasser has going for Canadians is the monthly get-togethers. It is like an open house for Canadians visiting Punjab. It is a social hosted by the Canadian Consul General on second Thursday of every month beginning at 5:30 PM at the Chandigarh Consulate. All you need is your Canadian passport to gain entry. Mr. Slasser and his staff must be commended for this excellent gesture of goodwill.
On the whole, this latest trip of mine has not only been educational but also a socially enjoyable one. It is always a treat to visit the place where one was born and raised. It has its own charm and place in ones life.
(Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist)