Jan 5, 2009

Top 10 NRI Newsmakers of 2008

After the enthusiastic response to the first list of NRI newsmakers for 2007, here is the updated version before 2008 ends.

The selection is based on news value and the degree of interest and concern to NRIs.

Lord Swaraj Paul

A consistent NRI newsmaker for over three decades, he just made history by being installed Deputy Speaker in the House of Lords. He is the first Indian to sit on the woolsack, the traditional seat.

He has extensive investments in India for his multi-billion pound company Caparo Group. Conferred the Peerage in 1996 and honoured with the Padma Bhushan by India in 1983, 77-year-old Lord Paul is one of the most famous Indian origin entrepreneurs in Britain.

Sonal Shah

Appointed to the Transition Team of US president-elect Barrack Obama, she is a member of a three-person team to coordinate technology, innovation and government reform during the transition. She earlier headed the philanthropic department of Internet giant Google; and was vice president at Goldman, Sachs and Co and developed and implemented the firm's environmental strategy.

Shah, who raised funds for victims of the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat through the Vishwa Hindu Parishad-America, has denied any links to this organisation.

Vikram Pandit

The Citibank CEO shocked everyone with his sudden appointment to the world's biggest banking company. After a year, he is right in the eye of the global financial tsunami to save his bank and spearhead its recovery. He makes news with the US government's multi-billion dollar recovery package for his bank, job losses, restructuring and reviving an icon of the American financial sector.

Facing a difficult recovery, Pandit faces one of the toughest challenges ever seen in the banking industry.

Karpal Singh

A Malaysian-Indian veteran lawyer and human rights activist, he fought the general election as an opposition candidate for equal treatment of all Malays for government contracts, employment and appointments.

He has highlighted the woes of all underprivileged for 30 years and has been compared to Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

Sir Salman Rushdie

His long-time bestseller 'Midnight's Children' was, following a public vote, declared the Best of the Booker in the award's 40-year history.

Navanetham Pillay

A South African Indian judge, he was appointed for four years as the UN Human Rights Commissioner - a significant achievement for NRIs. Her grand-parents migrated from Tamil Nadu to South Africa as sugarcane indentured labourers in the late 1800s, and she became the first woman to start law practice in South Africa's Natal Province in 1968.

Pillay defended several anti-apartheid activists and successfully fought for the right of political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela.

Lakshmi Mittal

Lakshmi Mittal made some news for the wrong reasons this year. The world's largest steel maker after he took over Arcelor, Mittal has had to take tough decisions on staff sackings, respond to environmental concerns and acquisitions and mergers.

Mittal loses £16.7 b to credit crunch

On the positive side, he was honoured with Padma Vibhushan by India and the third Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award for heroes of entrepreneurial capitalism and free enterprise.

The Great Khali, Dilip Singh Rana

One of the largest athletes in the World Wrestling Entertainment and World Heavyweight Champion, Khali calls himself after the Hindu Goddess Kali.

This towering giant at seven feet three inches enjoyed a hero's welcome during his visit to India this year. He also landed up film contracts.

Anand Jon

He was convicted of rape after a glamorous career as the fashion designer to Hollywood stars. From Beverley Hills to prison wards, he made headlines with court proceedings when he was accused of luring young women and girls, as young as 14, to an apartment where he acted out sadistic fantasies.

The powerful, strident campaign for his innocence mounted by his sister Sanjana claims that he was framed

Dev Patel

Dev Patel... Dev who? Well, he is an 18-year actor in the new Hollywood hit 'Slumdog Millionaire'. Based on a novel 'Q&A' by Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup and crafted into a film by the acclaimed director Danny Boyle with music by A.R. Rehman, this film is ready to grab some awards at the next Oscars.

Patel plays Jamal, a slum child who becomes a national hero after he reaches the final question on India's TV show 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' Watch him! He could win the best supporting actor award.