Hundreds of Indian expatriates wearing traditional dress gathered at diplomatic missions yesterday with tricolour flags in hand to listen to their president's speech on the nation's 65th Independence Day.
'Every Indian feels proud today'
ABU DHABI // Hundreds of Indian expatriates wearing traditional dress gathered at diplomatic missions yesterday with tricolour flags in hand to listen to their president's speech on the nation's 65th Independence Day.
Businessmen and labourers took an hour off work to attend flag-hoisting ceremonies and cultural programmes organised at the embassy in Abu Dhabi and the consulate in Dubai, where they were reminded about the progress the country has made and the challenges it faces.
"Corruption is a cancer affecting our nation's political, economic, cultural and social life," said Ambassador M K Lokesh, reading from President Pratibha Patil's address to the 1.2 billion Indian citizens around the world.
Expatriates said the occasion was not only a time to reminisce over the country's successes but also to tackle pressing issues.
In 2010, India ranked 87 out of 178 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, where countries are ranked according to the perception of corruption in the public sector.
A 2008 study concluded that over 22,000 households living below the poverty line paid about Rs9,000 million (US$192m) in bribes to access basic services.
"It's high time we voice our concerns against corruption, as we have taken too much for too long," said Vikas Makhija, who has lived in the capital for three years. "However, I do not support the fast campaign that has started in India to achieve it."
Mr Makhija said the problem should be addressed by electing better representatives to the government.
"The common man must also not succumb to corruption to get their work done."
Patriotic fervour was heightened when schoolchildren performed songs like Chodo Kal Ki Baatein (Forget the Past) and Sur Mile Mera Tumhare (One Tune).
Aparna Suresh, a South Indian who has lived in the capital for 15 years, said she did not want her children to feel disconnected from the country's culture.
"Every Indian feels proud today," she said.
"The children must be involved so that they develop a feeling of patriotism as well."
Blue-collar workers also joined in the celebrations. "I wanted to see the flag hoisting," said Anthony Jacob, who has worked as a taxi driver in Dubai for 17 years. "I usually don't get time off but this year, for the first time, I decided to come," said Mr Jacob, who said he would carry the Indian flag in his taxi all day.
In Dubai, the Indian Consulate launched its Facebook page. The Indian consul general, Sanjay Verma, encouraged expatriates to post queries and feedback, promising quick responses - but only if comments were positive.
The ambassador ended the event with a request to expatriates to uphold the reputation built by the community.
"The Indian community plays a very important role here and we need to live up to the positive image and continue to work hard."