Tharman: Best way to integrate 'is to take a real interest in others'

DPM Tharman addresses Sinda event for business leaders who are Indian expats and new citizens

DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam (right) receiving a cheque from Mr Girija Pande, head of Sinda's Indian Business Leaders' Roundtable.
DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam (right) receiving a cheque from Mr Girija Pande, head of Sinda's Indian Business Leaders' Roundtable. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Integrating into society involves many dimensions, and the most meaningful way is to take a genuine interest in another person's life, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said last night at a fund-raising event for business leaders who are Indian expatriates and new citizens.

This is because doing so helps to enrich each other's lives and creates a better society.

Mr Tharman said: "It is good for those who are well-off to contribute back some. It's even better when you take an interest in individuals in the society you are in and understand that society as well as possible.

"And we do it because we create a better society. But we also do it because we find that it is so much more enriching for ourselves as citizens, as members of that society, because at the end of the day, we are what we are because of what we are together."

Mr Tharman, who is also Finance Minister and chairman of self-help group Sinda's board of trustees, was speaking to 200 guests of the Indian Business Leaders' Roundtable (IBR) at M Hotel in Tanjong Pagar.

While the event was to raise funds, Mr Tharman noted that donating money and other gifts is one of three ways for the successful and well-off to integrate into society.

The second way is to understand the society "in all its complexities and in its full texture". And the third way is to be personally involved in improving the society.

To get involved, he suggested that one could help an employee who has family problems, or join an established body like Sinda - Singapore Indian Development Association - or get together with other individuals to organise a community project.

Set up by Sinda in 2011, IBR has 89 members, who are top executives mainly in consulting, and banking and finance. Membership is by invitation only.

Apex Avalon Consulting executive chairman Girija Pande heads the roundtable, and council members include DBS Group chief executive Piyush Gupta and Unilever chief operating officer Harish Manwani.

The group has raised $500,000 for Sinda, including last night's $307,000 to pay for Sinda's subscription to an online maths-teaching tool for use in its tuition programmes.

The event featured a performance by violinist Dr L. Subramaniam and his wife and singer Kavita Krishnamurthy.

Madam Devyani Vaishampayan, 50, who arrived in Singapore three years ago, is one IBR member who sees the importance of giving back to the community to integrate. "If you don't give, you don't get," said the global human resource director of a global engineering company.

She was originally from Mumbai but lived in Britain for 15 years. She is also on the executive council of the Singapore Association of the Deaf. More can be done to make people aware of ways they can contribute, she added.

Mr Pande said that when he became a trustee of Sinda four years ago, he saw the plight of single mothers in the Indian community, and also low-income families who could not afford tuition for their children or bus fares.

On a growing gap between the very rich, newly arrived Indians and needy Indian Singaporeans, he said: "If unchecked, this disparity could create tensions, as in any society."

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