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College Pt. bizman honored for community involvement

After Fresh Meadows immigrant Ashook Ramsaran got a degree in electronic engineering and opened up his own business in College Point manufacturing intercoms, he began reflecting on his experiences as an Indian from Guyana and thinking of ways to contribute to his community.

Last month Ramsaran, 56, now the recording secretary for the Fresh Meadows Home Owners’ Civic Association and the secretary general of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin, an international organization for Indians living outside of India, was honored by the City Council for his contribution as an immigrant.

“A great city is only as great as those persons who give exemplary service to their communities,” said City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan), who presented a city council citation to Ramsaran at a ceremony in City Hall on Dec. 10. “In Ashook Ramsaran we have an outstanding citizen, one who is worthy of the esteem of both the community and the great city of New York.”

Ramsaran’s great grandparents lived in India before moving to Guyana, where Ramsaran was born.

When Ramsaran was 19, he came to Flushing from Guyana and studied electronic engineering at Brooklyn Polytech, where he graduated with a master’s degree.

Ramsaran eventually opened up Ramex, a business at 18-30 129th St. in College Point that manufactures intercoms for health care and transportation systems. The company now employs 17 people.

Five years ago Ramsaran moved to Fresh Meadows with his wife after his children were grown.

Ramsaran said he was always eager to become involved in the overall community as rather than as an ethnic minority with limited interests.

“My emphasis in life is on how to quickly adapt and assimilate and become part of the mainstream,” Ramsaran said in a recent interview. “My emphasis is not to isolate and segment any kind of community group. It’s how to bring them into the mainstream.”

As recording secretary for the Fresh Meadows civic association for the past five years, Ramsaran has been active in preserving the interests of the neighborhood. For example, he has tried to make sure that buildings conform to neighborhood zoning codes, and he has pointed out hazardous intersections in the neighborhood that needed stop lights.

“He’s someone who has come here and specifically made a difference,” said a spokeswoman for Miller. “He’s someone who has been called to the attention of his district office for doing significant work.”

As recording secretary for GOPIO, an organization with chapters in 22 countries, Ramsaran has helped bring human rights violations against Indians living outside of India to the attention of the United Nations and various human rights watch agencies.

For example, Ramsaran wrote letters to U.N. officials and human rights workers to bring awareness about the plight of Indians in Guyana, who were brutally attacked by members of a former ruling party on Jan. 12, 1998 for being of Indian origin, according to GOPIO.

In addition, Indians in Fiji were victimized after their elected government was overthrown in 2000, and similar discrimination against Indians has occurred in Uganda and Trinidad, said Ramsaran.

Ramsaran is working on organizing a full-day conference at St. John’s University on March 20 to analyze, discuss and respond to human rights violations of Indians outside of India.

There are about 200,000 Indians from Guyana living in Queens, mostly in Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park, Jamaica, Queens Village and Hollis, said Ramsaran.

There are about 500,000 Indians living in New York City, he added. Many Indians came from Guyana because U.S. immigration policy was more relaxed for Guyanese than for Indians from other countries.

About 46 percent of Guyanese are of Indian descent, said Ramsaran.

In addition to dealing with human rights violations, GOPIO also encourages Indians living outside of India to invest in businesses because the organization believes that businesses can improve people’s lives.

Ramsaran said this year he plans to visit his native country, where he has not been since 1982.

“The U.S. affords all of us, regardless of where we’ve come from, a platform of opportunity where we can look back and address some of the issues similar to us,” said Ramsaran. “As you get older, you start to look back to where you came from and think, ‘what can I do to make a contribution?’”

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, ext. 155.

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