EXCLUSIVE: Things change, we must move on; I was at farmers protest, now thankful to Modi: US Sikh Dhaliwal on Pravasi honour

Speaking exclusively to The New Indian at the 17th edition of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, he said, “I really thank the Indian government and PM Modi for this honour he has given us and we are really delighted for it.”

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By: Urvashi Khona
Updated: 10 January, 2023 7:19 pm IST

More than a year after he was denied entry into India for organising langar for farmer’s agitating against the now repealed three farm’s law, US-based billionaire Darshan Singh Dhaliwal on Tuesday was given the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in the Business and Community Service category in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. PBS is the highest honour conferred on overseas Indians. Dhaliwal is one among 27 other recipients.

Speaking exclusively to The New Indian at the 17th edition of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, he said, “I really thank the Indian government and PM Modi for this honour he has given us and we are really delighted for it.”

On the question of what has changed in the last one year between him and the Indian government he said, “Things change. A year ago I was sent back for helping the farmers and today I am being honoured with the highest award for pravasi in India. Things never stay the same, they move.”

Clarifying his stand on the Farm bill Dhaliwal said, “I was neither supporting the laws, nor was I against it. I was putting up a langar which is part of my religion. This kind of service I have been doing all my life. When the tsunami hit, I took a train full of goods from Punjab to Tamil Nadu. I stayed there for two months along with 500 people helping people.”

Dhaliwal ran into trouble with Indian authorities in 2021 for running a “langar” (community kitchen) to feed agitating farmers at the Singhu border near Delhi. He arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on October 23, 2021, but was denied entry by the immigration officials who questioned him for long hours. Back then he was asked to return from the airport, apparently for supporting the farmer’s protests.

Dhaliwal moved to Milwaukee in the US in 1972 from Rakhra village near Patiala, Punjab. He owns the biggest chain of gas stations in the US. He will be given the honour along with 26 NRIs during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas to be held in Indore from January 8 to 10.

Dhaliwal ran into trouble with Indian authorities in 2021 for running a “langar” (community kitchen) to feed agitating farmers at the Singhu border near Delhi. He arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on October 23, 2021, but was denied entry by the immigration officials who questioned him for long hours. Back then he was asked to return from the airport, apparently for supporting the farmer’s protests.

The 17th edition of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Convention is being held at Indore in Madhya Pradesh between January 8-10. The awards were conferred by the President during the valedictory session of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations.

The theme of this year’s PBD is Diaspora – reliable partners for India’s progress in Amrtikal. “In line with the Prime Minister’s vision of creating an Atma Nirbhar bharat, Diaspora to play key role in the growth trajectory of India in the next 25 years,” Sayeed said

This PBD is being organised in its physical form after four years due to Covid restrictions. PBD is held every two years. Presidents of Guyana and Suriname are the chief guests as these countries have a considerable Indian population.

PM Modi repealed the farm’s law in November 2021 following a massive agitation chiefly by farmers of Punjab and Haryana as they feared if the laws were implemented it would lead to the abolishment of the minimum support price (MSP) guaranteed by the government on essential crops, and make them vulnerable to the business interests of big corporations

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