All set to be elected to the US House of Representatives in the November 8 Congressional elections, Indian American Shri Thanedar has said that he would work on universal health care, human rights and immigration issues in the US Congress next year.
A businessman-turned-politician, Thanedar (67), has lived a rags-to-riches story. After losing his father, Thanedar worked as a janitor to support his studies and family, before working as a scientist at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai, India. A proud Maharashtrian, Thanedar grew up in Belgaum in Karnataka.
Thanedar came to the US in hopes of becoming a successful businessman and now wants to serve the community he lives with. He is the Democratic party’s nominee from the 13th Congressional District of Michigan. Having won the primaries, he is all set to be elected as it is a Democratic stronghold.
“Thirty percent of my district is at or below poverty line. Working class people and their families have struggled and Covid was especially hard on this community. We had a lot of loss of lives because not every American has healthcare,” he said.
Indian-origin teen deliberately crashes truck into a White House barrier; says he wanted to kill President Biden
No agreement yet on debt ceiling, but Biden, McCarthy say they're optimistic after meeting
“Twenty-six million people are out of healthcare coverage. And one of my priorities is to have every American covered under healthcare, what we call Medicare for all. Every person, regardless of his or her income level, should get healthcare. I believe it is a fundamental human right and every person has a right to get adequate medical, physical healthcare, as well as mental health services,” Thanedar told PTI in an interview.
Congresswoman Rashida Talib is currently representing the 13th Congressional District, but because of redistricting, she has moved to the neighbouring constituency. The 13th Congressional District now has 45 per cent African Americans, another 45 percent White Americans and the rest are Hispanic Americans and some Asian Americans.
“My goal is that regardless of a person’s ability to afford, a Medicare for all is what should be our goal. This means that we eliminate the insurance companies. The government pays for the healthcare system, and we separate healthcare from employment,” he said.
Thanedar currently represents the 3rd district in the Michigan House and had an unsuccessful bid for the state’s governor in 2018.
Having arrived in the US with just USD 20, Thanedar said he has achieved the American dream.
“I’ve achieved the American dream. But what I noticed is that the American dream is not accessible to many people, especially in urban areas, in the black and brown communities. So, my motivation was to enter public service. I feel that I’ve been blessed, I have done well for my family, and it’s time for me to give back.
“This country that I immigrated to has given me so much, and I felt that I cannot continue accumulating wealth. It is time for me to give up my business and enter public service so I can give back,” he said.
With that thought in mind, Thanedar said he sold his business.
“I took about USD 1.5 million of that proceeds and distributed evenly to all of my employees. Then I decided to run for governor because I felt that that the position will allow me to make maximum impact in improving the quality of life of all Michigan residents,” he said about his 2018 bid which he lost.
Thanedar said he received overwhelming support from Indian Americans from across the country. “It is just a matter of what the community feels because I happen to be the first Indian American to be elected as a member of Congress from the state of Michigan,” he said.
Thanedar said the country is still experiencing a lot of racial divide and racism.
“Generations of racism have deprived people of opportunities to access the American dream,” he said.
Responding to a question on India-US relationship, Thanedar said America needs to have a strong relationship with other democratic countries.
“We need to protect our democracy across the world, whether it is India, or whether it is Israel,” he said.
Israel is also an ally of the US and that democracy is surrounded by a lot of adverse countries.
“We need to protect democratic Israel, we need to protect democratic India, and we need to ensure that human rights are respected all across the world. And that will be my focus in terms of foreign relations,” Thanedar said.
Thanedar said he often travels to India, but has not been there since the Covid outbreak. He also wrote a book in Marathi, which has been a bestseller having more than 50 editions.
“It is more of an autobiography. I wrote my life story of struggles… not only growing up in poverty, but also having lost my first wife when our children were four and eight years old. We lost her to mental health illness. Since then, I have focused on the need for people to have (access) to physical health as well as mental health services,” he said.