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‘Yogi’, first ever Japanese Indian origin politician for Padma Awards

Dr.Tausif Malik

Yogendra Puranik, fondly known as ‘Yogi’, has emerged as a trailblazing figure in Japan, making history with a series of pioneering achievements. His dedicated efforts and selfless contributions to various sectors have earned him a nomination for the prestigious Padma Awards 2024, recognizing his outstanding work in the field of social welfare.

Hailing from a modest background, Yogi has shattered conventional norms to achieve remarkable feats. His journey commenced with an unprecedented feat, as he became the first-ever India-born Asian-origin Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) to be elected through general elections in Japan. This milestone marked a significant breakthrough for the Indian diaspora in the country.

Moreover, Yogi scripted his name in the annals of history as the first foreign-origin public-school Principal and the inaugural Indian-origin Gazetted Officer (General Manager rank) in Japan. These accomplishments not only reflect his exceptional leadership but also his commitment to fostering cross-cultural integration.

One of Yogi’s pivotal endeavors involves his active participation in the US-Japan Young Political Leaders Programme 2021, where he represented Japan as part of a select assembly member delegation. His involvement underscores his dedication to strengthening international relations and promoting dialogue between nations.

Yogi’s impact resonates far beyond political boundaries. His presence in Japanese media, including television, newspapers, and magazines, has garnered widespread attention. Since 2008, his profound social initiatives have been highlighted on Japanese national television, with his one-hour solo interviews and documentaries showcased on multiple occasions. Notably, the acclaimed national broadcaster NHK featured his one-hour documentary in March 2023, airing it nationally a remarkable seven times.

As a visionary educator, Yogi has spearheaded the establishment of voluntary Japanese language classes for the Indian community in Japan, collaborating with local Japanese volunteers since 2007. His engagement extends to lectures delivered at ministries, universities, schools, and corporations, impacting thousands with his insightful discussions on themes such as ‘Know India Know Indians’ and ‘Inclusion’. His extensive contributions include over 50 lectures at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

In recognition of his exceptional leadership, Yogi was appointed as the principal of the esteemed Tsuchiura First high school by the government of Ibaraki prefecture in Japan. He was also entrusted with the architectural design of the IT systems for the educational department, reaffirming his multifaceted expertise.

Yogi’s journey to success has been marked by resilience and relentless pursuit of knowledge. Despite his humble beginnings, he has achieved multiple educational qualifications, including two Japanese government merit scholarships in the late 1990s. His commitment to continuous learning extended to studying and researching in France through a scholarship focused on Strategic Project Management.

As a committed community leader, Yogi has consistently extended his support to those in need, despite his demanding schedule. His involvement ranges from addressing issues related to social, cultural, political, educational, entrepreneurial, and professional realms. Notably, his role in providing assistance during the 2011 Great Eastern Japan earthquake and the subsequent COVID-19 pandemic has earned him widespread admiration, fostering trust among Indian, Japanese, and other nationals in Japan.

Recognizing the need for unity and support, Yogi played a pivotal role in forming the All-Japan Association of Indians (AJAI) in 2017. Serving as its first President, he orchestrated a collaborative platform that offers invaluable assistance to the Indian community across Japan, addressing a myriad of challenges spanning from healthcare to funeral services. AJAI’s annual One-India Festival, organized in collaboration with state-wise Indian associations, stands as a testament to Yogi’s commitment to cultural exchange and community bonding.

Yogi’s passion for promoting Indian culture finds expression in his establishment of the Edogawa India Culture Centre (EICC) in Tokyo, Japan. Through this unique center, he facilitates weekly classes on Yoga, Indian music, languages, and Shloka chanting, nurturing cross-cultural understanding. Additionally, Yogi has curated over 150 live concerts of Indian traditional music and dances, showcasing an array of performances by Indian, Japanese, and international musicians.

Having transformed barriers into stepping stones, Yogi embodies the spirit of resilience and community service. His indomitable dedication to empowering the immigrant community in Japan has earned him the affectionate title of ‘The Dependable Person’ among the Indian community. His role as a beacon of leadership and an advocate for inclusivity extends to individuals of various backgrounds, making him a true symbol of unity and progress.

In recognition of his extraordinary contributions, Yogi has received numerous accolades and honors. His journey continues to inspire, earning him the respect and admiration of individuals in Japan and beyond. Yogi’s legacy serves as a testament to the transformative power of dedication and altruism, positioning him as a deserving nominee for the prestigious Padma Awards 2024.

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