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Revisiting Vegasdesi 2019

The new decade is underway on a noteworthy note for this online publication with the first writeup on living well and enjoying the golden years of one’s adulthood by a guest author, commentator, community activist and intellectual Sulekh Jain, Ph.D. 

With 2019 behind us, vegasdesi looks back at the last years’ significant news items.  2019 was a major milestone and the busiest for vegasdesi.com.  In 2019, this online publication completed 15 years of continuous publication without any funding support of any kind.  This was a significant milestone not only for this publication but for any publication, print or on-line, to continue providing the quality first-hand unbiased news, commentaries, and information to the community.

The major highlights of 2019 included a Presidential Scholar; unsurpassed academic achievements of South Asian students; community generosity; criminal activities including murder, conspiracy to distribute drugs, etc.; unethical Physicians; board room revolt at the Hindu Mandir; political activism and more. 

To recap 2019, the editor has selected some of the significant news stories and other published items impacting the growing South Asian community in Southern Nevada.  

Here’s the brief synopsis of a look back 2019…

Community Events…

On the positive note, Friends of India, under the new leadership of Mahendra Mehta, has experienced a renewed interest in community events.  2019 saw a significant increase in attendance at the colorful Holi picnic and Diwali celebrations.  The Hindu Mandir experienced a continuous momentum at their annual Dusshera festivities.  Nearly 2,000 spectators crowded the Mandir grounds for the annual Dusshera Mela.  

The annual Indian Food Festival has become a must-attend event for the community at large.  With an attendance of over 7,000, 2019 saw continued popularity of the largest Indian community event organized by the Gurudwara Baba Deep Singh.  The annual mela brings in the community to shop and devour on Indian street-food delicacies, along with the continuous entertainment till late evening.

Religious Issues…

The turmoil and a break-in at the Hindu Temple and Jain Center of Las Vegas was the top news in 2019.  The temple break-in was reported to the Metro followed by the mass resignation by the members of the Executive Committee and the Chairman of the Temple.  The whole episode led to severe infighting among the Board members.  The Board took an awfully long time to respond to the reported break-in and the resignation on the Executive Committee.  The relentless attacks are still continuing with multiple lawyers trying to settle the acrimonious battle among the parties involved.  

On a positive note, the Dusshera Mela at the temple grounds saw a significant increase in attendance and an increase in single-day revenue for the Mandir.

The past year saw the continuation of construction for the major expansion of Gurudwara Baba Deep Singh Ji. The ground was broken to build a new religious facility for the growing Sikh community.  “The plan is to finish and inaugurate the new facility in April 2020,” said Karamjit Singh Lubana, Secretary of the Gurudwara Baba Deep Singh Ji.  On the other side of town, Guru Nanak Gurudwara attracted over 400 attendees to celebrate Vaisakhi at the Gurudwara grounds.  The local ISKCON temple continues to experience the growing attendance at its year-round religious events.

Hindu leader Rajan Zed of Reno was busy crisscrossing the country performing opening ceremonies with Hindu prayers and invocations from the ancient Sanskrit scriptures at the State of Maine Senate and HouseNew Mexico Senate & House and Nevada State Senate and Assembly.  Moreover, Zed continued his crusade around the world to fight companies belittling Hinduism while promoting their products.

Generosity…

2019 saw an immense increase in generosity by a few members of the local community.  During the year, Paul Padda Law committed $100,000 to the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada.  At the same time, the firm has donated a copious amount to one of the most challenging local high school.  Additionally, the firm donated gas cards to federal employees during the federal government shutdown. 

Swadeep Nigam donated a copious amount to continue with an academic scholarship named after his father, Professor R.S. Nigam and administered by the conservative think tank Nevada Policy Research Institute.

In other news, Ram Singh donated $50,000 to the Hindu Temple of Las Vegas and became a member of the exclusive club of the Board of Trustees.  Indian Musical Group led by Subramaniam Vaikuntam hosted a musical evening program to raise much needed financial support for the victims of Pulwama, Kashmir terrorist attack.  The community generosity continued when the local chapter of the EKAL Vidyalaya raised funds for over 200 schools along with funding a bus with computers onboard.  Ms. Girija Vijay, founder of the local EKAL chapter inaugurated the bus during her recent trip to New Delhi, India. 

Criminal Activities…

The growing South Asian community saw its’ share of growing criminal deeds.  The major news of 2019 was a murder committed by a mental disturbed Indian American Ramanjeet Singh.  Singh was sentenced to life in prison with a possibility of parole after twenty years.  In a long exasperating dispute, Mukund Vasa was forced by the court to pay his debts. Mohammad Muner was charged with possession of contraband cigarettes totaling more than 10,000 which borne no evidence of the payment of applicable state or local taxes. 

Las Vegas resident Vivek plead guilty in a conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs.  During the search of his home, Vivek led federal agents to a stash of drugs located in his master bedroom.  The agents recovered over 160 grams of cocaine along with a 9mm pistol and over $34,000 in cash. Saad Ahmed sentenced to prison for trafficking counterfeit electronics.

Habitual con-artist Mandeep Singh continued his quest for vulnerable Indians and surprisingly he found one outside the Sams Club.   Joseph, son of a prominent Indian American was charged with possession of a controlled substance. Cardiologist Dr. Devendra Patel, M.D., was sentenced to three years in prison for the unlawful distribution of opioids. Two Indian-American employees at the DMV were named in the bribery scandal.  It’s never a good idea not to pay the debt especially if the debt is used for a European vacation.  American Express sued Azam Hakim for the unpaid debt totaling over $165,000. In a dispute over the real estate financing, Gopal of India Market sued Ajay Dayal’s Quantified Investment.

Professionals…

MGM Resorts International announced award-winning diversity, inclusion and sustainability leader Jyoti Chopra as its Senior Vice President, Chief Diversity and Sustainability Officer. UNLV brought in Abbas Badani as a Senior Director of Integrated Graphic Services.  Rakitha Perera was named second-place winner of the UNLV Classified Employee of the Year. 

Many of the physicians from the South Asian community were disciplined or are under investigation by the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners for numerous reasons including but not limited to malpractice, failure to meet the standard of care, unprofessional conduct, and or inadequate medical records.  Some of the Physicians who were sued by their patients for medical malpractice are still involved in legal court battles.  The partial list includes Dr. Asher ShahzadDr. Priya ChibDr. Devendra Patel, and Dr. Roger Ramesh Mehta. Some of the complaints are still open while others have reached a settlement with the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners.  The medical malpractice lawsuit was filed against Dr. Yogesh Patel.  US Department of Labor investigated Dr. Dhaval Shah for not paying overtime wages to employees.

2019 saw increase enforcement by authorities to crack down on medical fraud. Nevada Heart and Vascular Center agreed to pay $2.5 million in a settlement involving a Medicare kickback scheme.  

On the positive side, Dr. Ashley Sarasan is working diligently to improve geriatric care in Southern Nevada. Dr. Parvesh Kumar Vice-Dean of Research at the UNLV School of Medicine raised over $26 million in various grants for the on-going research projects at the School of Medicine.  At the same time, UMC Governing Board approved an $8.51 Million multi-year contract with Dr. Meena Vohra.

Politics…

2019 saw an increased awareness and political activism among the members of the local South Asian community.  Fayyaz Raja, a long-time political activist and a former Vice-Chairman of the Clark County Democratic Party announced his candidacy for the Clark County Commissioner.  Additionally, Raja became the President of SAPNA – South Asian Political Network Alliance.  With support from Nevada State Democratic Party leaders, the three year Las Vegas resident Radhika Kunnel announced her candidacy for an open Nevada State Assembly seat – District 2.  The local political non-profit advocacy organization SAPNA – South Asian Political Network Alliance continued its luncheons with Southern Nevada’s elected leaders.

The Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden hired a local political activist Divya Narala as a Political Director for Nevada, while Devaki Dave moved from Texas to assist with Pete Buttigieg’s Nevada campaign.  Milan Chatterjee was named Community Relations Director of the Clark County Republican Party.

At a political event organized by Ms. Girija Vijay, the Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard brought her message to the Las Vegas Indian-American community.

2020 politicking has started and through the end of September 30th, 2019, the local Indian/Pakistani American political donors have donated over $69,000 to the Congressional and Presidential candidates.  

Community Service…

With community service in mind, eight members of the community applied to the newly formed Asian American Pacific Islanders Community Commission.  The four members from the community were appointed Commissioner to the newly formed Commission.  

As an active supporter of the Jewish causes, Milan Chatterjee testified in support of the Jewish Holocaust Museum in Nevada.  UNLV Professor Soumya Upadhyay continued with his commitment to improving health care in Southern Nevada.

Youth…

Throughout the past year, the younger generation excelled in their pursuit of excellence through academics.  Northwest Career and Tech Academy Senior Ananya Sahiba Dewan was named a Presidential Scholar for 2019. Clark High School’s Saran & Reddy brothers were busy finding real-life solutions to issues impacting the communities worldwide and for that, they won the 2019 International Conrad Challenge Competition. Ehsaan Vakil won second place in the US History Bee competition.

In a remarkable academic achievement of South Asian American community youth, the National Merit Scholarship Corp announced Vidhush Ramakrishnan and Sam Mehdi from Las Vegas a recipient of College-Sponsored National Merit Scholarship winners, while three Indian American students were named National Merit $2,500 scholarship winners.

For the first time in the history of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, twenty South Asian students were named semi-finalists in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship.

In conclusion…

2019 saw countless achievements of growing, prosperous and well educated South Asian community, while at the same time few members of the community, including wealthy professionals, were involved with unethical and criminal activities. 

Vegasdesi.com, the only publication of its’ kind in Southern Nevada, will continue with the fair dissemination and unbiased flow of information impacting our community.  Thanks to all the readers and supporters for making vegasdesi.com a successful news and information channel for Southern Nevada’s growing South Asian community. 

The biggest shift for this publication, after 15 years of continuous publishing, came in 2019 in the form of requesting the readers and community to donate to vegasdesi to continue the unmatched work this publication is continuing for the past 15 years.

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