By Neeraj Nanda
MELBOURNE, 25 November 2020: The Australia India Institute (AII) affiliated with the University of Melbourne, has been received a funding boost of $ 400,000 over the next four years from the Australia India Social and Charitable Ventures Limited, through Mr. T. Janardhana Rao OAM and his family.
The financial support will go towards the development of Indian studies and engagement at the University. The funding will also help to provide scholarships to assist students from India, or of Indian heritage, who are facing financial hardship.
Talking to South Asia Times (SAT), Mr. Janardhan Rao disclosed the money makes provision for two scholarships of $ 30,000 each for five years in Indian Studies and assisting Indian students in need of support. The 82 years old Dr. Rao, a prominent surgeon, and India’s former Hon. Consul in Melbourne for many years told SAT he decided to take this step as not many came for help from the Trust in the last two years and his health was not the best.
” My main aim through this donation is to promote Australia-India relations,” he said.
Director and CEO of the Australia India Institute and Professor of Geography at the University of Melbourne, Craig Jeffrey, thanked Mr. Rao and his family noting that the funding provides an opportunity for the University to grow its expertise in the area of India-focussed research.
“This important gift will greatly enhance the efforts of the Institute and the University of Melbourne to develop the study of India and engage with the Indian diaspora. We are extremely grateful to Mr. Rao and his family for their generosity and vision,” Professor Jeffrey said.
Speaking on behalf of his father Mr. T Janardhana Rao OAM and the Australia India Social and Charitable Ventures Limited, businessman Harish Rao said the Indian community in Victoria has grown from less than 100 families in 1968 to over 300,000 people of Indian origin now.
Mr. Rao emphasized that it is critical the wider Australian community is able to enhance their engagement with the Indian diaspora, and it is equally important for the Indian diaspora to further integrate into mainstream Australian society.
“India and Australia have a tremendous amount in common. We want to highlight the opportunities that exist in the Australia-India relationship, from education, business, and commerce through to culture, the arts, and sport. It is our hope that this gift and the work of the Australia India Institute will support this important goal,” Mr. Rao said.
The Australia India Institute has proposed the following breakdown of how the grant will be used:
1. To allocate $40,000 per year to the development of India teaching and engagement. In Years 1 and 2 this funding would be devoted to exploring the development of Indian Studies at the university, including the initiation of a Hindi program on campus ($40,000 per year to fund the development of program and subject materials, cross-faculty engagement, and a business plan). The University of Melbourne had an India Studies department and program until 1990. Rebuilding this activity would serve as a major form of national leadership since there is no substantial India Studies program in Australia at present.
2. To allocate $30,000 per year to develop scholarships to assist students facing financial hardship to study at the University of Melbourne, with a particular focus on students who are Indian citizens. Decisions about the nature of these scholarships, and how they are named, would be made in consultation with a representative of AISCV and the University of Melbourne.
3. To allocate $25,000 a year to develop a program of business engagement and establish a strategic alliance with the Australia India Chamber of Commerce (AICC) with a particular pivot to developing an India-Australia Free Trade Agreement. These monies will be allocated to support the Aii’s further engagement with AICC.
4. In addition, a further $5,000 of discretionary income will be provided each year.
In 2012, Dr. Jana Rao published his memories A Surgeon & Consul General-A Migrant Experience. As India’s Hon. Consul in those days he charged a fee for Consular services which he was supposed to keep. But he kept all that money in an account which later became the Australia India Social and Charitable Ventures Limited.
Dr. Rao lives in Melbourne with his wife.