Desi Talk - page 4

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December 26, 2014
NATIONAL AFFAIRS
– that’s all you need to know
By Ela Dutt
ajiv Shah, administrator
of U.S. Agency for
International
Development, the high-
est post held by an
Indian-American in the Obama
administration, is quitting after
managing and directing the mas-
sive agency that oversees aid to
foreign countries. President
Obama praised Shah, 41, as a
driving force behind the transfor-
mation of USAID and Secretary of
State John Kerry called him an
outstanding leader. In a statement
Shah said he would be leaving in
mid-February.
“For the past five years, Raj
Shah has been at the center of my
Administration’s efforts to
advance our global development
agenda as the Administrator of the
U.S. Agency for International
Development,” President Obama
said in a statement released Dec.
16.While his task has been far
from easy tackling natural disas-
ters, epidemics, and famine,
Obama said, his immigrant
upbringing defined his character.
“… Raj, the son of proud
Indian immigrants, has embodied
America’s finest values by proac-
tively advancing our development
priorities, including ending global
poverty, championing food securi-
ty, promoting health and nutri-
tion, expanding access to energy
sources, and supporting political
and economic reform in closed
societies,” Obama said.
The USAID has more than
10,000 staff in 70 countries.
Secretary John Kerry praised
Shah as “an outstanding
Administrator, a creative innova-
tor, and a dynamic leader,” who
had made a “dramatic” mark on
the agency and transformed it
into a more entrepreneurial, more
modern, and more nimble organi-
zation that has helped strengthen
democracies and battle extreme
poverty. Kerry also praised Shah’s
extraordinary work during the
earthquake in Haiti in 2010.
He also praised Shah for his
‘fresh thinking” and ability to be
an agent of change fromwithin
the agency, bringing about a para-
digm shift toward innovation,
investment and partnerships with
new stakeholders including the
private sector and non-govern-
mental organizations, founda-
tions, and faith-based communi-
ties.
“I have been blessed & honored
to serve with @USAID heroes. As I
step down, more confident than
ever in our mission,” Shah tweet-
ed. In an extended statement on
the USAID website, Shah thanked
President Obama for giving him
the opportunity to lead the
agency and said he would be step-
ping down in mid-February. The
President’s call to end extreme
poverty, Shah said, was a clarion
call to reenergize the agency and
make its work part of the national
security agenda.
“In the years since, we have
seized upon this challenge,
advancing a newmodel of devel-
opment that harnesses the power
of business and innovation to
achieve this goal,” Shah said,
fighting hunger under the Feed
the Future initiative; increasing
child survival; expanding access to
energy, responding to disasters;
and advancing national security
priorities. The U.S. Global
Development Lab created under
Shah’s watch has brought together
entrepreneurs, scientists, engi-
neers and students to come up
with innovated ways to deal with
issues.
From an agency that had been
relegated to the background, the
USAID under Shah, expanded and
became an integral part of the
administration’s outreach efforts.
A graduate of the University of
Michigan, the University of
Pennsylvania Medical School, and
theWharton School of Business,
Shah had an illustrious career
even before heading USAID.
Previously, he served as undersec-
retary and chief scientist in the
U.S. Department of Agriculture,
where he created the National
Institute for Food and Agriculture.
Prior to joining the Obama
Administration, he led the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation efforts
in global health, agriculture, and
financial services, including the
creation of the International
Finance Facility for
Immunization.
Shah was awarded the
Distinguished Service Award by
former Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton. He has served as aWorld
Economic ForumYoung Global
Leader, and was named to
Fortune’s 40 Under 40. He lives in
Washington, D.C. with his wife
ShivamMallick Shah and three
children. ShivamMallick Shah is a
senior advisor at the non-profit
education reform organization
America Achieves.
R
USAID Chief Rajiv Shah Set to Resign
Rajiv Shah
By Ela Dutt
A
s an 11-year old youngster
Vanita Gupta experienced
but probably did not fully
understand a brand of virulent
race baiting she and her family
members experienced in an
eatery in London, U.K. Skinheads
verbally abused them and then
hurled fries and other food items,
forcing them to leave in fear and
disgust. That incident played a big
part inVanita Gupta’s decision to
make fighting for justice her life’s
work.
On Oct. 15, when Attorney
General Eric Holder appointed
Gupta, 39, as Principal Deputy
Assistant Attorney General and
Acting Assistant Attorney General
for the Civil Rights Division, he
said he knew she would hit the
ground running.
Gupta was still a wet-behind-
the-ears attorney in 2001 when
she zeroed in on what she saw as
a suspicious series of drug busts
in a small town inWest Texas
where a third of the black popula-
tion had been convicted of drug
charges. As an NAACP Legal
Defense Fund lawyer, Gupta
earned her stripes getting most of
the convictions overturned on
grounds that the testimony of one
policeman was not credible. Gov.
Rick Perry pardoned the remain-
ing mostly poor black men of
Tulia, TX.
The road fromTulia to the
Justice Department may have
been challenging for the daughter
of Kamla and Rajiv L. Gupta, for-
mer chairman and CEO, Rohm
and Haas. But the resolve to bring
justice has never wavered accord-
ing to those who know Gupta.
In an interview with Rediff.com
in 2004, Gupta recalled her par-
ents had been worried about their
daughter, a young South Asian
woman, going into the heart of
the South, to Tulia, especially in
the post 9/11 environment.
But once she got there, family
members of the black defendants
and some white residents
embraced her and helped her.
And that has been Gupta’s modus
operandi through her career – gar-
nering community support in
achieving her goals. It is not sur-
prising that President Obama is
reportedly planning to nominate
Gupta to take over that position
permanently.
When she came into office Oct.
20 this year Gupta landed at the
center of some of the most impor-
tant cases being handled by the
Justice Department, viz., the Aug.
9 shooting death of African
American teen Michael Brown in
Ferguson, Missouri, at the hands
of white police officer Darren
Wilson; and the death of 42 year
old Eric Garner, allegedly from a
chokehold administered by a
white police officer in NewYork
City.
When grand juries in both
instances refused to indict the
white police officer they sparked
not just nationwide protests that
continue to this day but also
raised questions about the credi-
bility of the grand jury system.
As the author of past reports on
police misconduct, she also con-
fronted ongoing investigations by
the Justice Department into law
enforcement excesses in various
parts of the country.
“Vanita has spent her entire
career working to ensure that our
nation lives up to its promise of
equal justice for all,” said Attorney
General Holder announcing her
appointment. “Even as she has
done trailblazing work as a civil
rights lawyer, Vanita is also known
as a unifier and consensus
builder. She has a knack for
bridging differences and building
coalitions to drive progress,”
Holder added.
She even has support from
unlikely sources. The former head
of the National Rifle Association
David Keene told theWashington
Post Gupta had a “collaborative”
approach. “Vanita is a very good
person,” Keene told the Post,
adding, “I’ve worked with her on
criminal justice reform issues.
Most of the Obama administra-
tion people have been so ideologi-
cally driven that they won’t talk to
people who disagree with them.
Vanita is someone who works
with everyone. She both listens to
and works with people from all
perspectives to accomplish real
good.”
Grover Norquist, president of
Americans for Tax Reform, told
the Post Gupta was good to work
with. “She’s been open to working
with conservatives on good policy.
She has played a strong role in the
left-right cooperation in criminal
justice issues,” Norquist told the
Post. Gupta worked for many
years as deputy legal director at
the ACLU and director of ACLU’s
Center for Justice. She has earned
a reputation for working with law
enforcement, departments of cor-
rections and seemingly, across
political ideologues to advance
policing and criminal justice
reforms. She was instrumental in
bringing out a report on the mili-
tarization of U.S. police depart-
ments which caught nationwide
attention.
Within the two months since
heading the Civil Rights Division,
Gupta has made some landmark
announcement, among them a
settlement with the Albuquerque
police department on correcting
excessive use of force; conducting
an investigation into the
Cleveland police department’s use
of excessive force. She also has to
deal with voter ID laws in Texas
and North Carolina which the
Justice Department has character-
ized as unconstitutional.
In a Dec. 4 speech at a press
conference to announce the
Cleveland Division of Police inves-
tigative findings, Gupta said there
was reasonable cause to believe
that Cleveland Police “engage in a
pattern or practice of unreason-
able force in violation of the
Fourth Amendment,” and that
this “systemic” abuse was in the
face of “Police’s failure to imple-
ment effective and rigorous
accountability systems.”
Gupta drew attention to events
in Ferguson and NewYork as well
as the shooting of a 12 year old
boy by a white police officer in
Cleveland just days before her
press conference.
“These events have spawned a
national conversation about
police practices, community-
police trust, and public safety,”
she said adding that she remained
optimistic and hopeful that thing
would change.
The intensely partisan environ-
ment inside the Beltway and the
deep racial divide nationally,
threaten Gupta’s ability to retain
the support of the right and the
left that she has enjoyed so far. As
she leads the Civil Rights Division
in investigations of racially
charged cases like Ferguson,
Missouri and Staten Island, N.Y., it
remains to be seen if she will
come out on the other side as the
dispassionate listener and just
doer that was her persona these
many years.
Civil Rights Chief in Eye of National Storm Over Racial Justice
“For the past five
years, Raj Shah has
been at the center of
my Administration’s
efforts to advance our
global development
agenda as the
Administrator of the
U.S. Agency for
International
Development”
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