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Ahmedabad Mayor Visits Atlanta

April 2008
Ahmedabad Mayor Visits Atlanta

When Amit Shah, the mayor of Ahmedabad arrived in Atlanta on March 12th, his first reaction was that both Ahmedabad and Atlanta are most suited to enter into a Sister City relationship because of numerous similarities, especially the influence of Gandhi Center of Ahmedabad and the King Center of Atlanta towards civil rights and civil liberties.

Mayor Shah was leading a delegation consisting of Mrs. Madhuben Patel, Chairperson of the Standing Committee of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, Capt. Dilip Mahajan, Deputy Commissioner, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, and Sanjeev Mehta, Convener, Indian Council of Young Political Leaders (ICYPL) to attend the two day conference titled, “Greener Cities: Public Transit & Green Space Policies” (March 12-14).

The conference was organized by CIFAL (a French acronym that means “International Training Centre for Local Authorities”) and Atlanta Sister Cities Commission, and supported by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce (MACC). At the Conference, attended by over 18 countries, Commissioner Mahajan made an impressive presentation on Ahmedabad’s Bus Rapid Transport System Project and Sabarmati Riverfront Development project.

The Mayor of Atlanta, Shirley Franklin, who had recently returned from the tour of Ahmedabad in February 2008, co-hosted a Banquet at the Atrium of the City Hall in downtown Atlanta. Thanking the audience, Mayor Shah took the opportunity to recognize and present the members of the Atlanta-Ahmedabad Sister City Exchange Committee members (AASCEC), Jitu Patel (Chair) and Co-Chairs, Dr. Prateen Desai, Vasav Mehta, Ashwin Patel, Vinod Patel, Subash Razdan, Dhiru Shah, and Dr. J.J. Shah with citations (made of crystal from Ahmedabad) for being the true ambassadors in strengthening the socio-cultural-economic ties between Ahmedabad and Atlanta as members of AASCEC. This visit also witnessed signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for “sharing best practices for Energy and Environment” by the two Mayors respectively.

The drive for a Sister City relationship with Atlanta was initially launched in 1991 by the National Federation of Indian American Associations, NFIA, in 1991, in a letter to the then Mayor of Atlanta, Maynard Jackson. Recently in 2007 under the facilitation by the former Honorary Consul General of India, Ken Cutshaw and with assistance from Greg Pridgeon, Claire McLeveighn, and Viren Mayani of the Mayor of Atlanta’s office, the Indian American community almost unanimously, approved Ahmedabad at a Public hearing at the Global Mall over the two other choices of Hyderabad and Bangalore. Subsequently, a Committee called the AASCEC was organized under the chairmanship of Jitu Patel, the founding president of the Gujarati Samaj of Atlanta, to continue the exchange between the City of Atlanta and the City of Ahmedabad. Under his leadership, which was ably supported by the Gujarati Samaj of Atlanta and its President Vinod Patel, a formal application was submitted by the office of the Mayor of Ahmedabad for the Sister City relationship with the City of Atlanta. Both cities are presently awaiting approval.

Over the following days, the Ahmedabad delegation visited the Gandhi Statue and the King Center at the Martin Luther King Historic Site; the Temples of metro Atlanta (Shakti Mandir, the Hindu Temple in Riverdale, and the new BAPS Swaminarayan Temple in Lilburn), Luncheon reception at the Sardar Bhavan by the Gujarati Samaj of Atlanta; visit to the City Hall of Lilburn hosted by Mayor Diana Preston and fruitful meetings with the Indian American community leaders, media, politicians, and professionals.

On Friday March 14, at the MLK Historic District, the CEO of the King Center, Hon. Isaac Farris co-hosted a luncheon with the Gandhi Foundation of USA and the National Park Service. Mayor Shah congratulated the Indian American community for keeping alive the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, who was an inspiration to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mayor Shah hoped to see a meaningful exchange of scholars and leaders of peace and non-violence between the King Center and the Gandhi Center for a lasting Gandhi-King peace connection. He also announced a donation of a large sized charkha (a spinning wheel that Gandhi utilized to promote village industries—as both a practical and symbolic gesture of economic freedom from the British) for display at the Gandhi Room at the Freedom Hall.

The visiting delegation then laid wreaths at the crypts of late Martin Luther King Jr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King. Mayor Shah garlanded the life size statue of Gandhi.

In the afternoon, the Ahmedabad mayor called on the Mayor of Lilburn, Diana Preston, in her office at the City Hall in Lilburn to exchange greetings. Mayor Preston also handed over the symbolic key to the city of Lilburn to Mayor Amit Shah and declared him as an honorary citizen of Lilburn. Ritesh Desai of Georgia Indo American Chamber of Commerce (GIACC) coordinated the visit to Lilburn City Hall.

In the evening, AASCEC organized a glitzy dinner reception for the Ahmedabad delegation at a packed banquet hall of Ashiana Restaurant in the Global Mall, Norcross. The dinner was attended by leaders from various Atlanta based Indian American organizations, Atlanta Sister Cities Commission, officials from the Mayor of Atlanta office, business and Chamber of Commerce leaders and many other dignitaries.

The guest speakers at the Dinner, Teri Simmons, Chair, Atlanta City Sister Cities Commission; Dr. Augustine O. Esogbue, Chair of the New Sister Cities Committee of the Atlanta Sister Cities Commission; Craig Lesser, Managing Director of Mckenna Long & Aldridge and former Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development; and Hon. Mayor of Lilburn, Diana Preston, welcomed the development of this potential twining between Ahmedabad and Atlanta.

While Teri Simmons underscored the importance of the Sister City relationship, Dr. Esogbue, acknowledging that the application by Ahmedabad was impressive, discussed at length about the process of approval of sister cities and the time frame thereof. Mayor Shah spoke about the progress being made by the city of Ahmedabad in the areas of transportation, education, green (environmentally sound) development, trade and industry. He felt that both Atlanta and Ahmedabad will benefit by twinning the two cities in many respects, particularly in trade, industry, education and cultural activities. Mr. Ashwin Patel, Co-Chair of AASCEC proposed the vote of thanks to the guests and the sponsors, especially Mr. Shiv Agarwal of Global Mall for his support.

On Saturday March 15th, the Gujarati Samaj of Atlanta held a reception luncheon for the Ahmedabad delegation at their Saradar Bhavan Hall which was well attended by the leaders of the Gujarati community as well as other Indian American community and religious organizations. Mr. Amit Shah, Mayor of Ahmedabad talked about the welfare activities of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation in education and health. Navin Patel, President of Gujarati Samaj, Dr. Mukesh Patel Chair of the Samaj and the former President Amit Shah welcomed the guests with the traditional Gujarati hospitality. Earlier, in the morning, Ahmedabad delegation toured the majestic Swaminarayan Temple, meeting the resident swamis.

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