AV 03rd February 2024

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FIRST & FOREMOST ASIAN WEEKLY IN EUROPE India’s 75th Republic Day celebrated in the UK with grandeur

“Harrow East is my home and I want to make it a better place”



Indian teen Namya Joshi's impactful journey in tech education



3 - 9 FEBRUARY 2024

Cricket beyond limits: India hosts England in pathbreaking T20i trophy SEE PAGE - 32

Let noble thoughts come to us from every side

photo credit: shutterstock


While the investigation on top universities in UK recruiting international students on lower grades for more revenue focuses on agents, it is the students who are the real victims, Asian Voice reports.

VOL 52 - ISSUE 38

Republic Day 2024

Showcasing India's military power and ‘Nari Shakti’

Shefali Saxena In a recent report published by The Times said that some of the top universities in the UK are allowing admission of foreign students with lower grades into their prestigious courses in return for extra fees. While normally British students need top grades to get into these courses, international students can get away with much lower grades, sometimes as low as C in their exams. These universities allegedly use secret routes to recruit these students, who pay higher fees than British students.

Despite the cold and thick layer of fog covering the national capital, a large number of people gathered at Kartavya Path as President Droupadi Murmu led the processions for India's 75th Republic Day. The event showcased culture, diversity, military strength, women's empowerment, and the vision of a developed India.

Continued on page 02

Continued on page 17

India celebrates 75th Republic day with pride





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Education or Exploitation? Continued from page 1 Representatives from these universities were reportedly caught on camera discussing "back door" routes used to admit international students. They allegedly admitted that these routes were not publicised in the UK as British students wouldn't accept them. universities These reportedly pay millions to agents who recruit wealthy foreign students for such courses, and some even have offices on campus. The above-mentioned special routes, called International Foundation and International Year One, allow foreign students to gain entry to a degree course with much lower grades than normal. They claim to help students catch up with their British counterparts, but they are easier to pass, and exams are considered ‘just as formalities’. These routes are so popular that universities often advertise their courses in other countries and use recruitment agencies too. Around 15 top universities offer these routes and some accept students with as little as a single D grade at A-level or five C grades at GCSE. Some universities even outsource recruitment to companies, who help students get into these courses against a hefty fee. Whether the universities are making money or not, it is imperative to figure out whether the lesser-known subjects for which international students pay hefty amounts are being considered options by home students or not. "The UK is home to some of the best universities in the world and studying for a degree can be immensely rewarding; but too many young people are being sold a false dream and end up doing a poor-quality course at the taxpayers' expense that doesn't offer the prospect of a decent job at the end of it," PM Sunak said last year. Universities have largely struggled to fill these seats in particular subjects post-Covid. But, the biggest group of

International students sitting at an university campus

international students who deserve empathy are victims of scams where they pay higher fees to agents for top universities. Not knowing or evaluating the post-study lucrative result of the course, innocent students come and struggle in the UK. They cannot work for more than 20 hours a week as per rule, and they struggle to make ends meet. More importantly, they not just face language barriers but also witness cultural shocks and eventually barriers where they don’t fit in, because many of them do not speak English fluently. Sometimes they don’t even have food to eat! Supporting this aftermath, Charan Singh Sekhon MBE, Founder and Chairman SEVA Trust UK told Asian Voice, “SEVA Trust UK team has been supporting Indian & other International students since Covid-19 pandemic started. Throughout Covid-19 years, we supported over 750 international students by providing them with free staple food & hot meals, helping with university fee and rental queries, liaising with universities about student issues, issuing hardship funds in exceptional situations and many other support initiatives. “SEVA Trust is run by all unpaid volunteers and we operate without a single paid staff. We were the first charity in England to launch ‘adopt a student’ initiative where we connect an international student with a local family who comes from a similar cultural background. For example, an international student from Gujarat will be connected to a family from a Gujarati background. This helps students to have local support, guidance and

social interactions whilst they are far away from their own families. “Student challenges continue after Covid. During 2023 we supported over 35 students with a wide range of matters including food needs and fee and accommodation issues and our work continues.” Recruitment agents also play a significant role in this process admit that the main reason universities offer these routes is “to make more money”. Therefore, amidst growing concerns about fairness and falling academic standards, universities have come forward to all types of educational backgrounds and systems. However, critics argue that these routes disadvantage British students and damage the reputation and standard of UK universities. Who is the target? International students who choose to come to the UK are mainly of three types. Some come from wealthy families, who have studied abroad for generations and it’s rather symbolic or family tradition for them to study abroad. They mostly return home after their course completion and are not fussed about the degree they study or the universities they choose to go to. Then there are some international students who do not make the cut in prestigious institutes in India such as IIT and IIMs, due to fierce competition and capacity. They in turn choose to come abroad provided their family can afford the tuition fees through bank loans or otherwise. Some of them take up courses only after researching well so that they cater to their interest and ambition. These pupils often land jobs in the UK after completion of their degrees. The third category of students are mainly the vic-

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domestic students.” Starting January 2024, foreign postgraduate students enrolled in nonresearch courses will no longer be able to bring family members to the United Kingdom (UK). Previously, under the umbrella of the dependant visa, international students were allowed to bring their family members, including spouses to the UK, who could in turn work and support the family in the UK. These new restrictions only impact international students at the postgraduate level. Undergraduate stu-

MBE, Chief Executive of Universities UK told the newsweekly in a statement: “International students are a key part of the success story that is UK higher education. The Sunday Times story fails to distinguish between entry requirements for International Foundation Years and full degrees. International Foundation Years are designed to prepare students to apply for full degree programmes. They do not guarantee entry to them. They are designed for students who come from

An international student working in a coffee shop

dents in the UK were already prohibited from bringing dependants with them. In response to the article published in the Sunday Times on 27 January 2024, a Russell Group spokesperson told Asian Voice: "Foundation year programmes have long proved to be effective pathways to university for both international and UK students. Most of our members also run foundation courses specifically for UK students, with similar entry requirements, designed to support students from underrepresented groups to access higher education and bridge the gap between different educational backgrounds. Entry to main degree programmes from these courses is not guaranteed. The latest UCAS data shows domestic student numbers at Russell Group universities are rising faster than international student numbers. International students are an important part of our student body, bringing diverse perspectives that enrich the learning environment. Revenue from international students is reinvested into high-quality teaching and learning to benefit all students”. Responding to the allegation, Vivienne Stern

different education systems where, in many cases, students might have completed 12 rather than 13 years of education. We entirely agree that the entry requirements for international and domestic students to full degree programmes should be equivalent. It is essential that the integrity of entry routes be protected. However, it must also be understood that entry routes for international students will reflect the diverse countries and education backgrounds that these students come from and that some will need bridging courses to enable them to progress to UK degrees.” In a short survey for this story, Asian Voice learned that many international students who pursue courses abroad aren’t able to utilise the knowledge or skills they acquire in their careers after all. While the investigation puts agents under a spotlight, it is only pragmatic to assess that they offer courses that the universities anyway have available. So the yoke of this revenue generation also rests equally upon the institutions, not just the agents who lure international students into signing up for courses that may not benefit them at all.

AstraZeneca poised for up to £100mn State aid for vaccine investment

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tims who suffer the most. This category involves ‘desperate’ students who are just looking to get out of their village or town, and often the only motivating reason is money. Some do not even pass their degrees. They take admissions in any available course that an agent is selling but fail to evaluate the merit of thd degree or course. Some run out of money mid-course and are seen to be reaching out to the diaspora for work and support, while others are vulnerable with dependant families who think it is easy to land job upon arriving in the UK. Sometimes their language proficiency is not up to scratch and they face immense struggle to stay alive without any monetary support from family. They often face discrimination and ostracisation from locals for failing to integrate, due to lack of manners and heavy language or cultural barriers. Mugdha, a 20-year-old undergraduate student in London told the newsweekly, “As an Indian student, studying abroad has always been something I have looked forward to as a child and getting good grades was non-negotiable. A lot of students have been taking the money route to get into reputed universities. As a student who has the zeal to learn and thrive, I feel some people have different reasons for coming abroad but not only attain education therefore for the sake of that, they often end up making money a dominant factor and get through great universities. But in my opinion, I strongly believe that marks are not everything that takes you a long way, but it is the zeal to keep learning and thriving.” Universities defend their position Nitish Jain, Founder and President of the S P Jain Group (S P Jain London School of Management) explained to Asian Voice, “Top universities are compelled to take fee-paying international students for the sake of revenue. However, the deeper issue is the fee cap on domestic students which has not been raised for a decade despite a steep increase in costs. This needs to be corrected through government funding or fees being raised for

The UK government is reportedly in talks with AstraZeneca to secure a significant investment in the life sciences sector, possibly involving a state aid package totalling tens of millions of pounds. This potential deal comes after AstraZeneca's CEO, Sir Pascal Soriot, opted for Ireland over the UK for a new $360 million

factory last year, citing Britain's "discouraging tax rate." Ministers anticipate that AstraZeneca will formally apply for financial support to expand its operations at Speke near Liverpool in the coming weeks. Some government officials believe the company may seek as much as £100 million in support. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

has identified life sciences as one of the key sectors for the economy, allocating £520 million in the Autumn Statement to enhance resilience for future health emergencies and capitalize on the UK's research and development strengths. Approximately £1 billion in public support for the life sciences sector is said to be available.

The plans are not finalized, and AstraZeneca might still consider expanding at other sites, including its Macclesfield manufacturing base. AstraZeneca declined to comment on the matter. AstraZeneca established a vaccines and immune therapies unit after collaborating with the University of Oxford to develop a COVID19 vaccine.





3 - 9 February 2024

The ball is in whose court? Britain is a few months away from its much-anticipated General Elections in 2024. The Evening Standard suggests that Sir Keir Starmer has opened up a record 13-point lead over Rishi Sunak in terms of who Britons think is the “most capable Prime Minister”, according to a new poll. The exclusive Ipsos survey for the Standard gives Labour a commanding 22-point edge over the Conservatives. Nearly half - 49 per cent - said they would back Sir Keir’s party if an election were held tomorrow, compared to 27 per cent for the Tories. In the Labour versus Tory war, while Tories are rushing to India to close the impending Free Trade Agreement deal, rumour has it that the Labour party delegates along with Sir Starmer are set to visit India to strengthen ties and ‘reset’ the relationship should they come to power. As Britain grapples with a cost-of-living crisis, over 475,000 self-employed individuals expect to miss the January 31st deadline for tax returns, where HM Revenue and Customs data reveals that 3.8 million people haven't filed returns for the 22/23 tax year, with an expected total of 12.1 million returns. Concerns about financial repercussions and complex calculations contribute to the struggle, especially among men aged 25-34. UK universities allegedly exploit international students

for revenue despite lower academic standards, offering post-study visas. Tuition fees for home students remain stagnant. Merit is a current concern, yet, international students contribute economically regardless of grades, yet face visa and employment obstacles, often returning home. UK degrees don't assure British jobs. Home Office reforms, like limiting care worker family migration and raising skilled worker salary requirements, are scheduled from March 11 to April 11. Back in India, there have been some alarming cases of student suicides who couldn’t feel confident enough to score a decent rank in the nation’s top entrance exams. The status is not any more promising within the cream institutions like IIT, where student suicides are not new to the media. The government faces significant challenges ahead, including addressing the cost of living, inheritance taxes, and private school fees. Ethnic minorities shoulder much of the operational and moral burdens, providing essential services and charity work. Britain's diversity and multiculturalism are strengths, but the nation must address its challenges proactively. The ball is in Britain’s court.

AI, deepfakes and Trump's comeback in 2024? New technology carries the dual promise of prosperity and the fear of being left behind. While some technologies like online education courses have generated more excitement than tangible economic growth in emerging economies, the primary beneficiaries have been Western early adopters and startups in San Francisco, along with the "magnificent seven" tech giants, including Microsoft, which have collectively added an astounding $4.6 trillion to their market value since ChatGPT's launch in November 2022. However, artificial intelligence (AI) holds the potential to transform lives in the developing world as well. As AI becomes more prevalent, it has the capacity to enhance productivity and narrow disparities in human capital at an accelerated pace. Rather than being passive recipients of AI, people in developing nations can actively shape it to meet their specific needs. What is most exhilarating is that AI has the potential to elevate income levels in these regions, not just in the West. Beyond the Western world, the global South is also making significant strides with the aid of AI. India's outsourcing industry faces potential disruption as generative AI takes on back-office tasks. However, the country boasts a thriving startup ecosystem, a vast pool of tech developers, and a government eager to enhance its digital infrastructure using AI. Generative AI tools like ChatGPT are already making an impact in Indian classrooms, with nearly 60% of educators leveraging them for interactive learning, innovative testing methods, and time-saving class preparations. A senior expert from a US technology-focused nonprofit believes India has the essential elements for AI success, including talent and strong academic institutions, but

emphasises the need for improvements in hardware and collaboration with partners like the US on regulatory frameworks. The 2024 election season is marked by widespread use of AI-powered tools that are accessible and cost-effective, but there are concerns about misuse. President Joe Biden is the latest target of AI misinformation, with a digitally altered audio message circulating urging people not to vote in the New Hampshire primary. A US survey found that 81% of voters felt deepfakes influenced their decisions, with 36% admitting to changing their votes due to manipulated content. The global surge in online deepfake videos, up by 550% in 2023, is a concerning trend, with over 500,000 instances reported on social media. The Republican Party and Trump campaign disassociated from deepfake calls. Donald Trump won the New Hampshire primary, but the nomination isn't a guarantee. AI is blamed for manipulating the media. A Trump win in the South Carolina primary on February 24 would deal a nearly irreversible blow to Nikki Haley’s presidential ambitions for now. Trump’s nomination is assured, but it doesn’t guarantee an Oval Office return. Recent polls show him and Biden in a dead heat, or a one- to two-point difference. Though, in the unpredictable landscape of American politics, Trump’s resurgence raises anticipation for a fierce contest, promising twists and turns as the presidential race unfolds. Whether he can maintain this momentum and emerge victorious in November remains to be seen. The battleground is set, and the clash between Trump and Biden promises to be a compelling spectacle.

An eventful week for India The previous week was marked by significant events, commencing with the consecration of the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple on Monday, a momentous occasion of cultural and religious importance. The week concluded with the celebration of Republic Day on Friday, a symbol of national pride and unity. Additionally, the weekend witnessed a political power play in Bihar politics, adding a dynamic political dimension to the concluding days of the week. While the politics in the country has been all about divide and rule, with Hindus and Muslims being pitted against each other the most, the celebration of the consecration of the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple took place on Monday with unwavering support from all diverse sects of the nation. In a heartening example of communal unity, Muslim women in Bareilly crafted a handmade dress for Ram Lalla, utilising the brocade work of Bareilly to promote harmony. Additionally, during the initial collection of funds for the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, members of the Muslim community contributed ₹5,100 in Uttar Pradesh's Faizabad. Dr Abdul Qadir Khan, principal of Mohammad Hasan PG College in Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh, stood out as a prominent Muslim donor, contributing 1.11 lakh and emphasising the importance of unity between the Hindu and Muslim communities. Now, it’s time for the grand mosque, promised to be built at its rightful place, to soon see realisation as the construction starts in May. With the hope to make a fresh start after a bloody, decades-long dispute, both the Hindu and Muslim communities are eagerly anticipating the construction. On Friday, President Droupadi Murmu led the nation in commemorating the 75th Republic Day by unfurling the national flag at Kartavya Path in the capital. The parade commenced with ‘Aavaahan,’ a band performance featuring over 100 women artists playing various percussion instruments, symbolising Nari Shakti.

The chief guest at the Republic Day parade, French President Emmanuel Macron, expressed an 'ambitious' goal of welcoming 30,000 Indian students to French universities by 2030, affirming his determination to achieve this target. President Macron also engaged in discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, focusing on strengthening strategic cooperation in security, trade, defence, and clean energy. The Indian High Commission in the UK also celebrated India’s 75th Republic Day on a grand scale. The High Commissioner of India, HE Vikram Doraiswami took the audience through a recap of India’s growth and highlighted how the UK-India partnership has been panning out. Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Alex Chalk KC MP, the Chief Guest, shared his enthusiasm for his teaching years in India. Reflecting on his experiences three to five years ago, he emphasised the lasting impact of the warmth, generosity, and energy of the people he encountered. To perfectly end a week filled with high energy, the Indian political landscape saw Nitish Kumar parting ways with the INDI Alliance. The Bihar Chief Minister resigned from his post to be sworn in as the Chief Minister again for the ninth time, in partnership with the NDA. Samrat Choudhary and Vijay Kumar Sinha, Nitish’s sworn enemies, took oath as Deputy Chief Ministers. The Chief Minister seems to be reaching new lows with his consistent flip-flops. He has switched political alliances numerous times, often without substantial justification, driven more by a quest for power than any principled reasoning. With Nitish exiting the INDI Alliance, the collective opposition group seems to be disintegrating fast, already having snapped in Maharashtra, Bengal, Punjab and now Bihar over the last few weeks. From the looks of it, what was forming up to be a strong opposition for the NDA and its partners in 2023, has faded into a façade in the very first month of 2024.

Thought for the week "Success is a journey not a destination." — Ben Sweetland

Political Sketchbook Alpesh Patel

Indian Republic – You’re Welcome World 26 January. On this day in 1950, the Constitution of India came into effect, transforming India into a newly formed republic. It matters because one in six of humanity sleeps under the rights and duties afforded by that Constitution. This event completed the country's transition towards becoming an independent republic, a journey that began with its independence from British rule in 1947. The Constitution of India, drafted by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, is notable for its comprehensive and inclusive nature, establishing the framework for a secular, democratic, and sovereign state. The practice, as with all nations is imperfect, but implementation evidenced by minority faiths reaching the Premiership and Presidency time again, and a woman PM before any major Western country, suggests there is much to learn about a harmonious society. Indian secularism, unlike Western notions is neither that there is one over-arching faith (eg Church of England) under the protection of the Head of State, or the separation of religion and State (USA), but all faiths are equal under the law. This week's inauguration for instance of a Temple, was the result of decades of legal dispute with the Supreme Court, the arbiter. The nation despite being predominantly Hindu (80%) or perhaps because of it, chose against a theocratic constitution or one ruled by a novel alien Western culture (the Communist manifesto). She chose against totalitarianism, military rule or dictatorship. But opened herself to the uncertainties of a democracy. For a country of such strength (her economy is larger than the UK) she has only fought a war outside her own borders, rather than to defend them, once - the humanitarian refugee crisis in East Pakistan which the UN called a genocide. She went in under her PM to end the genocide. And with swift resolve. She instead of war gave the world non-violence as a means of political force and Mahatma Gandhi. His statue stands in Parliament Square, London, between the Supreme Court and Parliament. Winston Churchill's statue is within a lathi throw of Gandhi's statue. The supremacy of law is natural to an Indian population, having originated with Ashoka centuries ago. Unsurprisingly a nation not a century old, yet millennia old, with growing economic might, returning to once again the second largest economy in the world soon, is finding an ever confident voice on the world stage. The world's media is still coming to terms with it. She remains friends with all important Western nations, especially the US, UK, Japan, EU and every country in the Middle East simultaneously. This year, her descendants will fight democratic elections in the United Kingdom and the United States to be Head of Government there. And lest we forget, her volunteer Army fought with the Allies for righteousness in two world wars. You're welcome, world. Asian Voice is published by

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3 - 9 February 2024

Government bans disposable vapes The government has announced plans to ban disposable vapes as part of efforts to address the increasing number of young people taking up vaping. Additionally, measures will be implemented to curb the marketing of vapes to children and to tackle underage sales. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak indicated that adults seeking alternatives to smoking would still have access to options like vapes under the proposed regulations. The ban is expected to be applicable across the entire UK. While it is already illegal to sell vapes to individuals under 18, the government emphasises that disposable vapes, often presented in smaller, more vibrant packaging than refillable alternatives, are a

Rishi Sunak

significant factor contributing to the surge in youth vaping. Statistics from the Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) charity reveal that 7.6% of 11 to 17-yearolds now vape regularly or occasionally, an increase from 4.1% in 2020. Prime Minister Sunak, in announcing the plans, asserted the need for "strong

action" to eradicate vaping among children, expressing concerns about potential addiction and the yet unclear long-term health impacts. While the UK Vaping Industry Association acknowledged the role of vapes in assisting millions of adults in quitting cigarettes, it cautioned that the proposals could heighten risks by encouraging the black market. Mr. Sunak suggested that the proposed measures strike a balance between restricting access for children and maintaining access for adult smokers seeking to quit. Although vaping is considered significantly less harmful than smoking, the long-term risks remain uncertain, as per information from the NHS.

Home Office reveals new visa wage criteria The Home Secretary announced on Tuesday that new minimum wage thresholds for foreign worker visas would be implemented "within weeks." Last year, the Government outlined plans to tighten immigration rules, including raising the minimum wage for visa eligibility. The Home Office revealed specific changes: - Restrictions on care workers bringing family members will be enforced from March 11. - Care providers sponsoring migrants must register with the Care Quality Commission, starting on the same date. - The minimum salary for Skilled Worker Visas will increase from £26,200 to £38,700, effective from April 4.

The minimum income threshold for family visa dependents will rise gradually, starting on April 11. From this date, workers need to earn at least £29,000 annually to bring family from abroad, up from £18,600. Home Secretary James Cleverly said: "I’ve been clear that migration is too high and we must get back to sustainable levels. It is a firm approach, but a fair one, and gives those affected time to prepare whilst ensuring that migration comes down. "The British people want to see action, not words. We are delivering the change we promised and which they expect, lifting pressure on public services and protecting British workers with the utmost urgency."

James Cleverly

Recent figures suggest the UK population may reach nearly 74 million by 2036, with net migration contributing around six million. The Office for National Statistics predicts an additional one million people aged 85 and over in the next 15 years, assuming longterm net international migration of 315,000 annually from mid-2028.

Spanish judge acquits British teen in bomb hoax found, Verma was arrested upon landing and spent the night in jail, as per police statements at the time. Judge Jose Manuel Fernandez Aditya Verma with mother Prieto concluded flight, leading to a fighter jet that the comments did not escorting the plane. constitute an offence since Aditya Verma, who was they were made in "a strictly 18 at the time, posted a private environment," and photo in a six-member priVerma could not have anticvate chat with the comipated the message being ment: "On the way to blow intercepted. up a plane, I am a member of The trial did not clarify the Taliban" before departhow British services gained ing from London's Gatwick access to Verma's private airport to the holiday island messages, the judge highof Menorca, according to his lighted. He suggested that court testimony. Verma, of another member of the chat Indian origin, stated that the might have informed the comment was made within police, but if that were the the context of ongoing case, that individual should remarks in the chat about face charges, not Verma. his features and skin tone. Prosecutors had sought The message was intera fine of 22,500 euros cepted by British security ($24,500) for Verma and services, who alerted the requested that he pay Spanish Air Force. 94,800 euros in damages to Subsequently, a Eurofighter the Spanish defence minjet was scrambled to accomistry for the expenses associpany the plane. Although no ated with deploying the explosives or weapons were fighter jet. Source: X

A Spanish judge on Thursday absolved a 19year-old Briton of all charges in a trial related to a Taliban bomb hoax he shared with five friends before boarding a 2022

April to bring council tax increase woes Millions of households are poised to face significant increases in council tax, potentially reaching around £100 in the upcoming Spring, as local authorities grapple with a funding crisis. from the Officials Levelling Up Department have reportedly informed leaders of local authorities that they anticipate applying the maximum 4.99% increase to council tax bills in April, amounting to a £2 billion financial manoeuvre. These increases could result in an additional £100 for a typical band D property bill

in England, as per reports by the Guardian. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt granted cash-strapped local authorities the ability to raise council tax by up to 5% without requiring a referendum during his inaugural Autumn Statement in 2022. A Mirror investigation last year found that three-quarters (76%) of local authorities planned to implement the maximum 5% hike. This development occurs concurrently with Chancellor Rishi Sunak contemplating pre-election cuts to income tax, potentially

funded by further reductions in public services and welfare. However, economist David Phillips from the Institute for Fiscal Studies expressed concerns that these hikes would disproportionately impact the poorest families, as council tax constitutes a larger portion of their monthly expenditures. Phillips remarked, "Increasing council tax while cutting most direct taxes – for example, national insurance, income tax, and especially capital gains tax and inheritance tax – would be regressive."

‘Fake taxi’ drug dealers sentenced to 220+ years In June 2020, when police responded to reports of shotgun fire on Cable Street, little did they know it marked the commencement of an investigation into a sophisticated multimillion-pound 'fake taxi' drug operation. Despite being one of the economically disadvantaged areas in London, Whitechapel is grappling with a severe drug crisis, where the distressing sight of rough sleepers punctuates the streets, and support services claim to be at a breaking point. For the predominant Bengali community seeking refuge from persecution to reside in the shadow of Canary Wharf's financial landmarks, economic prosperity remains elusive. During the sentencing of the final group of 42 drug dealers implicated in Operation Babaco, a comprehensive police effort, Judge Sandy Canavan reminded them that the

majority of the Bengali community in Tower Hamlets abides by the law. In her characteristic blunt manner, she emphasised that the motivation for their actions was solely the allure of easy money. The investigation revealed the extent of the drug network's operations, spanning from London to Brighton to Hampshire, with Detective Inspector Damian Hill describing the quantities involved as 'staggering.' A 'conservative' estimate pointed to the sale of 31kg of cocaine and 40kg of cannabis over four years,

carrying a street value well exceeding £3 million. DC Megan Bushell, a dedicated officer, invested three years in dismantling the network. The initial shotgun incident led to two arrests and the seizure of multiple phones. However, it took nine months for analysts to access the devices, revealing evidence of a vast drugs conspiracy. The investigation uncovered multiple WhatsApp groups running 14 drug lines, where different dealers engaged in fierce competition to outsell each other.

NHS abuse scandal exposes rape of mental health patients The NHS-run mental health hospitals in the UK have been rocked by a "national scandal" of sexual abuse, with tens of thousands of sexual assaults and incidents reported over the last five years, according to an investigation by The Independent and Sky News. The shocking findings, brought to light by a podcast titled Patient 11, reveal that almost 20,000 reports of sexual incidents occurred in over half of NHS mental health trusts. Disturbingly, the data suggests that only a small

fraction of these incidents—less than 5%— were referred to the police. The revelations include at least 19,899 sexual incidents reported in over 30 NHS trusts from 2019 to November 2023, encompassing both staff assaulting patients and patients assaulting other patients. The figures also highlight 800 allegations of rape and serious assaults on women. Despite the prohibition of mixed-sex wards a decade ago, they continue to be used in NHS mental health care,

resulting in over 500 reports of sexual assault since 2019. Furthermore, only six out of 50 hospitals were able to demonstrate compliance with NHS standards designed to protect patients from sexual harm. Dr Lade Smith, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, described the findings as "horrendous," while shadow health secretary Wes Streeting characterised it as a "wake-up call" for the government.





3 - 9 February 2024

Covid jab reaction fears led to dad’s brain tumour diagnosis A West Midlands dad was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer following health concerns surrounding the Covid jab. Shaf Ahmed from Birmingham was treated for a suspected stroke after episodes of pins and needles, focal seizures, and speech loss in April 2021. After test results came back clear, whilst awaiting discharge, the 39-year-old was rushed for a CT scan after a consultant overheard Shaf telling a ward nurse that he had a COVID jab weeks earlier. He was diagnosed with a grade 3 anaplastic astrocytoma and given three to five years to live. Shaf, who works as an engineer at Jaguar Land Rover, said: “My brain cancer diagnosis only came about because the health team was concerned I was suffering with side effects of the COVID

jab. Before that, they seemed to have no desire to scan me. “It was like a sucker punch when I was given the news that I had brain cancer and I was so scared I’d never get to meet my unborn son.” He had an operation followed by radiotherapy and a year of chemotherapy, during which time he and his wife Mirriam welcomed their second child, Zidan. In August 2023, Shaf was told his tumour had recurred this time inoperable. Despite more chemotherapy, yesterday (2 January), Shaf was once again dealt a devastating blow that his cancer had grown. The father-of-two is seeking private treatment overseas in a bid to have more time with his young family.

Extradition -denied couple convicted of smuggling cocaine A married couple of Indian origin, previously accused of a double murder in Gujarat and whose extradition was denied Arti Dhiand Kavaljitsinh Raijada by UK courts, dures from their employhas been convicted of smugment at Heathrow, used a gling £57 million (Rs 600 cover load of metal toolboxes crore) worth of cocaine from to smuggle the drugs. After London to Sydney and their arrest, the NCA found money laundering. significant amounts of cash Arti Dhir (59) from and gold-plated silver bars at Gurdaspur, Punjab, and her their home. The NCA will husband Kavaljitsinh Raijada now proceed to strip them of (35) from Keshod, Gujarat, their illegally gained assets. were found guilty of exportThe couple was previing 514 kg of cocaine to ously sought for extradition Australia through their front by India in 2019 for their company, Viefly Freight alleged involvement in a Services. The National Crime double murder in Gujarat, Agency (NCA) traced the where they were accused of couple's involvement after plotting the killing of Gopal the Australian Border Force Sejani and his brother-inintercepted the cocaine in law Harsukhbhai 2021. Despite their denial of Chaganbhai Kardani to charges, the jury at claim insurance proceeds. Southwark Crown Court The extradition request was convicted them of 12 counts denied by UK courts, citing of exportation and 18 counts concerns about potential life of money laundering. imprisonment without early The couple, with knowlrelease. edge of airport freight proce-

Leeds sitarist Jasdeep Singh Degun shortlisted for RPS Awards Leeds-born sitarist and composer Jasdeep Singh Degun has been shortlisted for two Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) Awards: the Instrumentalist Award and the Large-Scale Composition Award. Celebrating classical music and musicians nationwide, and billed by The Sunday Times as the ‘biggest night in UK classical music’, the RPS Awards shine a light on brilliant musical individuals, groups and initiatives inspiring communities across the UK.

Jasdeep Singh Degun

As a sitarist, Jasdeep has been shortlisted for the RPS Instrumentalist Award, alongside cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson

and pianist Pavel Kolesnikov. As composer, co-music director and soloist, his highly acclaimed opera

Orpheus, commissioned by Opera North in partnership with South Asian Arts-UK, has been nominated for the Large-Scale Composition Award. Jasdeep said: I'm thrilled to be nominated at this year’s RPS Awards. I see all of these awards as a spotlight on the wonderful Indian classical musicians in this country. I am very thankful to my teacher Ustad Dharambir Singh and the numerous individuals and organisations that have supported me over the years.”

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aims to make the entire day off-peak for tube and TfL trains. The initiative is not only intended to encourage more Londoners to use public transport but also to support the struggling hospitality industry. With fewer people commuting, businesses such as pubs, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs have faced significant challenges, experiencing closures at a rate of one per day.

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3 - 9 February 2024

UK's global corruption MP urges government perception hits record low aid for South Asian language education Gareth Thomas MP has called on the government to allocate resources for the development and teaching of South Asian languages, including Gujarati, Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi, Tamil, and Hindi. Thomas highlighted that the limited understanding of South Asian languages in the UK hinders the full potential of cultural and business ties between the UK and South Asia. Currently, the responsibility of preserving and teaching South Asian languages falls largely on the diaspora community, primarily through places of worship and weekend schools. While acknowledging these community efforts, the MP emphasised the need for substantial government support to strengthen language education initiatives. Thomas compared the allocation of resources to other languages like Mandarin and Latin, which have received targeted government support. He stressed the urgency for similar

Gareth Thomas

assistance towards South Asian languages, noting that no direct funding has been allocated for the teaching of Punjabi, Bengali, Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu, Sinhalese, Tamil, Pashto, and Dari in the past five years under the Conservative government. The neglect is reflected in the significant reduction of students opting for South Asian languages at the GCSE level between 2013 and 2023, with a decline of 42% in Gujarati, 58% in Bengali, and 16% in Urdu enrollments during this period.

NHS observatory initiates plan to tackle disparities The NHS Race and Health Observatory has launched a learning and action network aimed at addressing significant disparities in maternal, perinatal, and neonatal health outcomes for women from black, Asian, and ethnic minority backgrounds. Data reveals disproportionately higher rates of maternal and baby deaths among black and Asian women compared to their white counterparts. Black British mothers face up to four times higher risks of death during pregnancy or within six weeks postchildbirth compared to white mothers. Mothers of mixed ethnicity experience a threefold increase in the risk of pregnancyrelated mortality, while women of Asian ethnicity face a twofold higher risk than white mothers. In partnership with the Institute for Healthcare

Improvement and supported by the Health Foundation, the program will study gaps in severe maternal morbidity, perinatal mortality, and neonatal morbidity between women of different ethnic groups, running until June 2025. Nine NHS trusts and integrated care systems across England will participate in the initiative, blending quality improvement and anti-racism principles to bring about clinical transformation and promote system-wide change. Through action, learning, and coaching sessions, participants will utilise quality improvement methods, examine policies, processes, and workforce metrics, exchange insights and case studies, and listen to the experiences of mothers, parents, pregnant women, and others.

Sadiq Khan calls out 'scandal' as Thames sewage fivefold The amount of sewage the network, discharged into the prompted Mayor Thames in 2023 was Sadiq Khan to nearly five times higher express his conthan the previous year, cerns. Khan as disclosed recently. addressed a letter to the new Thames Between April and Water CEO, Chris December 2023, Weston, stating that Thames Water released Sadiq Khan "the state of our sewage into London's rivers is an appalling advert for waterways for a total of 6,590 privatisation." He emphasised hours, 11 minutes, and 54 secthe significance of London's onds. Notably, within just six rivers in the lives of the city's days, from December 25 to residents, calling attention to December 31, 2023, sewage was the need for urgent action. discharged across the Thames In response, Thames Water Water network for 128 hours highlighted that 2022 was a and 12 minutes, equivalent to 18 drought year, indicating that its hours every day. sewage treatment works were These statistics, derived less impacted compared to the from City Hall's analysis of pubwet weather conditions experilicly available Thames Water enced in 2023. data monitoring 118 sites across

The United Kingdom has reached its lowest-ever position in Transparency International's corruption perceptions index, falling from 18th in 2022 to 20th in 2023 out of 181 countries. This is the lowest ranking since the research methodology was revised in 2012. The report suggests that, according to expert opinions, the UK is perceived as more corrupt than Uruguay and Hong Kong. The decline in ranking is attributed to concerns regarding potential corruption in the allocation of PPE contracts during the pandemic. The UK had consistently been ranked among the eighth to 11th most transparent countries globally from 2012 to 2021 but dropped to 18th

in 2022 and joint-20th in 2023. The chief executive of Transparency International UK, Daniel Bruce, emphasised that these findings should serve as a "wake-up call for the government." The corruption perceptions index score for the UK was 71 out of 100, representing the lowest score ever recorded and a decrease of two points from 2022 and nine points from 2018. The research indicates that the UK has witnessed the most significant five-year decline among Western European countries. The scoring is based on data from eight independent sources, including the Economist Intelligence Unit and the World Economic Forum.

Home Secretary Cleverly: UK, India can prevent global conflict Describing the UK-India relationship as a potent force for positive change, British Home Secretary James Cleverly highlighted the significance of collaborative efforts between the two nations for global peace. Speaking at the India Global Forum’s 6th annual UK-India Parliamentary Lunch held at the House of Lords last week, Cleverly emphasised the substantial intellectual capabilities of India, stressing its expanding influence. He stated, "Whether addressing potential future pandemics, dealing with non-communicable diseases, or navigating the challenges and opportunities of AI, financial services, or sustainable agriculture, I find it hard to imagine any sector where coordination and cooperation between the UK and India would not contribute positively to the world." Against the backdrop of significant global conflicts and in the wake of the first visit by an Indian Defence Minister to Britain in 22 years, the Home Secretary underscored the essential role of the partnership in preventing conflicts from spreading. Cleverly noted the significance of the visit, stating, "In a turbulent world and a potentially turbulent region,

James Cleverly

having strong and longstanding partners, as we do with India, closely coordinating on security and the preservation of peace is incredibly important." Expressing hope for collaboration between the UK and India in demonstrating a shared commitment to democracy and a willingness to defend common values, Cleverly stressed the importance of preventing conflicts from escalating and affecting other parts of the world. Co-hosted by the Indian High Commission to the UK and Lord Jitesh Gadhia, the UKIndia Parliamentary Lunch brought together influential figures from the realms of politics, business, and finance for a seated lunch at the House of Lords, celebrating the growing ties between the two democracies.

Police shoot trespasser wielding crossbows, sword, and knife Videos captured scenes of fear and chaos as a man wearing body armour and armed with two crossbows, a sword, and a knife entered a property in south London, leading to his being shot dead by the police. The Metropolitan police responded to a call from individuals inside the home at 4:55 am reporting a man attempting to break in at Bywater Place, Southwark. The man in his 30s was threatening harm to those inside the property.

The nature of the relationship between the man and the individuals inside is under investigation. The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) stated that the deceased man was known to at least one of the occupants at the address. The police watchdog is investigating the shooting, and an array of weapons, including crossbows, a knife, a sword, and a hatchet, was reportedly recovered from the scene.

in brief SUNAK'S PRIVATE JET DONOR FACES FRAUD ALLEGATIONS A wealthy donor, who financed private jet travel for Rishi Sunak, is now confronting a second civil court case, alleging fraudulent activity in a £15.8 million share sale, according to my findings. In the recent High Court proceedings involving sleep expert Akhil Tripathi, a major United Arab Emirates investment entity accuses Tripathi of engaging in a share sale with "fraudulent intent." The accusation revolves around Tripathi's claim that he was selling the company's shares on behalf of a "friend," whereas he was representing his sister. Tripathi is already entangled in a legal dispute regarding his conduct as co-founder and chief executive of Signifier Medical Technologies (SMT). The Prime Minister is now under scrutiny from the Labour Party due to a £38,500 donation from Mr Tripathi, which facilitated private jet flights for Mr Sunak and his team to Conservative Party events in the past April.

MILLIONS FACE 'POSTCODE LOTTERY' FOR FREE NHS EARWAX REMOVAL The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) has warned that almost 10 million people in England can no longer access free earwax removal on the NHS, leading to a “postcode lottery” of care. The RNID stated that patients could be left with “painful and distressing symptoms,” forcing many to pay up to £100 for private procedures or risk worsening hearing. The report revealed that less than half of local health bodies are offering earwax removal in certain areas, despite there being "no medical reason" to remove the service. Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommend providing earwax removal services in GP surgeries or local ear care services.

MAN CONVICTED IN MURDER OVER REJECTED RELATIONSHIP A man has been convicted of the murder of a woman he shared a house with after he brutally attacked her. Sheldon Rodrigues, 30, of Willenhall Road, Hayes, was found guilty of the murder of 39-year-old Stephanie Hansen following the conclusion of a trial at the Old Bailey on Tuesday, 23 January. Rodrigues was remanded in custody ahead of sentencing on Friday, 8 March. The court heard that Rodrigues and Stephanie had known each other since 2015 and lived together in 2022. Rodrigues wanted a romantic relationship, but Stephanie only wanted to be friends. His behaviour became threatening and obsessive after Stephanie started dating someone else. Rodrigues sent threatening messages, installed spy equipment in their house, and listened to their conversations while abroad. On December 10, Rodrigues followed Stephanie’s boyfriend and sent threats. On December 30, he attacked Stephanie brutally. Rodrigues was charged with Stephanie’s murder.

OFCOM SUGGESTS ROYAL MAIL SHIFT TO THRICEWEEKLY DELIVERY Ofcom has proposed potential reforms for Royal Mail, suggesting a reduction in postal deliveries to three days a week, aiming to save up to £650 million annually. The report warns that the universal postal service may become "unsustainable" without reform. The options presented include reducing the letter delivery service to five days or even three days a week. According to Ofcom, a five-day service could save £100 million to £200 million, while a three-day service could save £400 million to £650 million for Royal Mail. However, changes in the law would be required for implementation, and the government has expressed reluctance to scrap Saturday deliveries.





3 - 9 February 2024

PM names towns tsar to lead regeneration Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has designated Adam Hawksbee, the deputy director of the think tank Onward, as the interim chair to oversee the newly established Towns Unit. This unit is tasked with supervising the government's £1.1 billion plan for town regeneration. Adam Hawksbee will play a key role in implementing the government's Long-Term Plan for Towns, which involves allocating funding to projects in 55 towns across the country. Each of these towns will receive a 10-year endowment-style fund with £20 million in funding, aimed at supporting and executing long-term projects that address local priorities.

Adam Hawksbee

These projects may include revitalizing high streets, safeguarding local heritage, and addressing issues related to anti-social behaviour. The Towns Unit, under Hawksbee's guidance, will work to assist local leaders in developing proposals, fostering additional investment from businesses, and ensuring that Towns Boards evolve into enduring institutions that effectively serve their communities.

Police funding plan paused amid election concerns The implementation of a long-planned new funding formula for the police has been delayed due to concerns among ministers that it might lead to spending cuts for some local services ahead of the upcoming general election. The Prime Minister's office and the Treasury have reportedly requested the Home Office to halt ongoing efforts to develop the new funding formula, raising doubts about whether it will be introduced before the anticipated general election later this year. The current formula for funding local police services, established in 2006, is widely seen as outdated and in need of revision. The Treasury had previously informed the Public

Accounts Committee in December that a new funding formula would be implemented "as soon as practicable," with plans to publish a consultation in Winter 2023. However, recent intervention by Downing Street has paused the long-term work on the new formula due to concerns that it could result in financial losses for certain police services, potentially providing opposition parties with an opportunity to criticize Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for planning police cuts ahead of the election. Downing Street and the Treasury reportedly want to ensure that no police service faces financial setbacks as a result of changes to the funding formula.

10,000+ NHS pharmacies begin treat common conditions Patients in England will be able to get treatment for seven common conditions at their high street pharmacy from today without needing to see a GP, as part of a major transformation in the way the NHS delivers care. More than nine in ten community pharmacies in England – 10,265 in total will be offering the groundbreaking initiative, with the health service making it easier and more convenient for people to access care. Highly trained pharmacists will be able to assess and treat patients for sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women (under the age of 65) without the need for a GP appointment or prescription. The major expansion of pharmacy services will give the public more choice in where and how they access care, aiming to free up 10 million GP appointments a

year. The scheme is part of the NHS and government’s primary care access recovery plan, which is committed to making accessing healthcare easier for millions of people. It builds on the successful expansion of the contraceptive pill service in December 2023, with more than 5,300 pharmacies [5,367] in England now offering women the chance to get a supply of oral contraception over the counter from their pharmacy without needing to first see their GP. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, said: “Community pharmacies already do a tremendous job at treating minor conditions and with the Pharmacy First service – backed by £645 million we’re determined to go further and unlock their full potential to deliver routine care.” In future, the NHS expects almost half a million women a year to receive their contraception from their high street pharmacist.

British military chief urges 'citizen army' to be ready The head of the Army, General Sir Patrick Sanders, has advocated for the establishment of a "citizen army" in Britain to undergo training and be equipped in anticipation of a potential land war. However, he emphasised that even this measure would be insufficient, pointing to allies in eastern and northern Europe actively laying the groundwork for national mobilisation. During a speech at the International Armoured Vehicles conference in west London on Wednesday, General Sir Patrick highlighted that increasing Army numbers in preparation for potential conflicts should be a comprehensive "whole-of-nation

undertaking." These remarks are interpreted as a cautionary message, suggesting that British citizens may need to be prepared for a call-up to the armed forces if NATO engages in a conflict with Russia. This perspective aligns with Defence Secretary Grant Shapps' recent statement that the world is transitioning "from a post-war to pre-war world," emphasising the necessity for the UK's entire defence system to be prepared to safeguard the homeland. General Sir Patrick has previously advocated for enhanced readiness of Britain's armed forces in times of conflict.

Tata Steel considers additional UK investments The Port Talbot steelworks is gearing up to defend its decision to reduce the workforce at the south Wales plant, and hint at the potential for creating additional jobs in the UK in the future during testimony to MPs this week. Earlier this month, the Indian conglomerate Tata confirmed its intention to shut down two blast furnaces at Port Talbot, resulting in the elimination of up to 2,800 jobs, with an additional 300 potential redundancies at another site in Llanwern. Criticism has been directed at the company and the government from MPs and unions, contending that jobs could have been

preserved with increased investment and state support. Tata Steel’s global chief executive, TV Narendran, and its UK chief executive, Rajesh Nair, are set to appear before MPs on the Welsh affairs committee on Wednesday to address the impact of the company’s decision on the local community, Wales’ economy, and the future of the UK steel sector. The closure of the blast furnaces, alongside a similar decision by Chinese-owned British Steel in Scunthorpe, has raised concerns among MPs as it would leave the UK unable to produce primary steel directly from iron ore.





3 - 9 February 2024

British Asian Trust leads consortium to launch LiftEd Millions of children across India are set to benefit from LiftEd, an initiative to foster learning and innovation in Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN). The British Asian Trust has convened a powerful consortium of private companies, charities and educational organisations to launch LiftEd, supporting the learning of four million children in India over five years. The Indian government has identified FLN, the ability to read and understand basic text and solve basic mathematical problems as an ‘urgent and necessary prerequisite to learning’. LiftEd is supporting this notion with a budget of up to $20 million funded by a total of 26 partners including Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Reliance Foundation and Standard Chartered Bank.

LiftEd aims to make a lasting impact on current and future generations of students by: · Working with state governments and schools training educators to improve learning for students between grades 1-3. · Using a technologybased EdTech Accelerator to develop digital solutions to help students from lowcommunities income with at-home learning.

Founder’s Day celebrated by Bhavan Candida Connolly The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, London, held its annual Founder’s Day celebrations over the weekend of 27 and 28 January 2024.

Founder’s Day at The Bhavan was a very special experience for performers and audience alike. At this event, 68 students received their Diploma (Grade 5)and Post Diploma (Grade 8) certificates; showing their progress from beginners to this accomplished level taught by the committed and longstanding teachers of The Bhavan.

It is a truly remarkable achievement for the past 50 years, that every year there is this turnover of newly educated British youth. The Chief Guest for the first day was Deepak

Choudhary, Minister (Coordination), High Commission of India, London. On the second day Aparna Nathan KC, Barrister and Senior Tax Lawyer, and member of The Bhavan’s Education Committee graced as Chief Guest. Mithila Sharma from Arts Council England was too in attendance.

LiftEd follows the British Asian Trust’s $11 million Quality Education India Development Impact Bond (QEI DIB) launched in 2018, the Trust's first social finance programme in South Asia, closely supported by the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). The QEI DIB was the largest education impact bond in the world at the time and improved the learning for 200,000 students across

Indian Heritage Centre UK celebrates Sankranti Utsav in Wales A Sankranti Utsav (festival) was organised by the Indian Heritage Centre UK on 20 January 2024 at Stanwell School, Penarth, Cardiff. The event was kick started by a welcome speech from the Founder and CEO of Indian Heritage Centre UK, Adv Tripti Megeri. Rt Hon First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford congratulated and appreciated the IHC team’s efforts and added that “Wales is proud to welcome people from different cultures, faiths and

backgrounds and we want them all to call Wales their home. We are a Nation of

New Appointment! His Highness, the Amir of the State of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has recently received the credentials of six new Ambassadors to his country. Neerav Patel, who has been appointed as His Majesty King Charles III’s Ambassador to the State of Qatar, is one among the six. Mr Patel who will take up his appointment in February 2024, succeeds Jonathan Wilks CMG, who will be soon retiring from the Diplomatic Service. Neerav Yogesh Sadhuram Patel is the grandson of Late Sadhuram Patel and Kapilaben Patel (Bhadran, Gujarat, India) who lived in Musoma in mid 1950s. Sadhuram worked with Haripradad Brahmbhatt, Suryakant M Patel and Mzee DC Patel accountant in C M Rao's Musoma Emporium in old Hindu Union Building.

India by 2.5x during a fouryear period. The British Asian Trust also has an ongoing Skill Impact Bond (SIB) in India addressing the significant gaps in creating a skilled and meaningfully employed workforce in the country. Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive, of British Asian Trust, said, " LiftEd builds on our expertise and learnings from previous successes, particularly the award-winning Quality Education India Development Impact Bond (QEI DIB), which culminated in 2022 with excellent learning outcomes for 200,000 children in India. Now, with LiftEd, we are working with partners to create an opportunity to make an even deeper impact for 4 million children, solidifying their foundational learning skills and setting them up for success later in life!”

Neerav Patel

Can you help your friend cover up? Rohit Vadhwana


e often encounter situations requiring discreet handling, for personal or professional reasons. Imagine you were supposed to be somewhere at a specific time but neglected to note it in your diary, necessitating a tactful explanation. Or consider a scenario where a colleague mistakenly sends an email to the wrong recipient, catching your boss's attention, and now you're tasked with devising a plausible excuse to mitigate potential repercussions. The stakes can sometimes be even higher, with outcomes ranging from job loss, marital discord, to legal consequences. If a friend in such a dire predicament seeks your assistance, would you be prepared to intervene? The dilemma here is multifaceted, as aiding one party necessarily results in deceiving another, potentially causing harm. When contemplating your decision to cover up for someone, it's crucial to weigh the potential loss to the individual involved against the potential harm to others. If the impact appears manageable and your involvement minimal, you might consider stepping in. While trivial mischiefs can occasionally be overlooked, the real test lies in confronting ethically, socially, or legally questionable situations. It's crucial to consider the nature of the error: Is this a one-time lapse in judgment or a pattern of behavior? Can you counsel your friend to prevent future repetition of transgressions? Are you shielding a mere oversight or an intentional deceit? Try to achieve an equilibrium and exercise caution not to cross ethical boundaries in such scenarios. Habitual offenders may not benefit from such cover up in the long run, rendering your assistance counterproductive. However, those genuinely remorseful and caught in unfortunate circumstances without significant fault may warrant consideration. Before deciding to cover for someone, reflect on these considerations and choose wisely. (Expressed opinions are personal)

SEWA UK Rickshaw Run 2023 Rt Hon First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford addressing the guests

Sanctuary. The Welsh government is committed to promoting diversity and is working on its ambitious anti-racist Wales action plan". The other guests who graced the occasion were His Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of South Glamorgan Meredith and the High Sheriff of Mid Glamorgan Prof. Jean White CBE, Councillor Ramesh Patel, Councillor Tom Aditya and Councillor Jasmine Chaudhary. Kushi Shetty spoke on the significance of the Sankranti festival and the event was anchored by Dr Byrappa, Dr Sunil Pulapaka, Riya Kale and Shivani Kothegal. Audience was treated to cultural programmes including Bharatanatyam and Bollywood dance performances and 90's Bollywood songs.

December 2023 witnessed an exhilarating and unforgettable adventure as the Rickshaw Run, organised by SEWA International UK, took 108 self-funded participants on an epic journey across challenging terrains.

on an epic journey across diverse landscapes. Teams participating in the event were encouraged to raise funds to build the Deen Dayal Research Institute Dental Hospital in Aroghyadham in Chitrakoot

Having raised over £620,000 so far with many donations still coming in, the Rickshaw Run 2023 challenged conventional norms of travel as teams embarked

championed by SEWA UK, turning the adventure into a meaningful philanthropic endeavour which will reach out to over 500 surrounding villages.





3 - 9 February 2024

Leading developers Westcombe Group Will Sir Starmer finally ‘reset’ UK-India relations? open its Hampton by Hilton Old Street Hotel


estcombe Group, a prominent Asian-owned property developer in the UK, has today opened its £13 million Hampton by Hilton Hotel in Old Street. Situated in the vibrant heart of Shoreditch, East London, this project was carried out in collaboration between Hilton and Acre Hotels, Westcombe Group's hospitality arm.

Westcombe Group expanded its expertise in the hospitality sector during the construction of the hotel, collaborating with Hampton by Hilton for the first time. As a distinguished commercial developer, Westcombe has established successful franchise relationships with various leading hotel brands. The completion of today marks the culmination of years of construction, a process that presented unique challenges for the Group's expert construction teams. The project involved an unconventional double basement design, with excavations reaching depths of 5m and 10m. This intricate task demanded innovative problem-solving to ensure an abundance of natural light reached the basements, which house meeting rooms, a gym, guest rooms, and other cutting-edge facilities. The Group also adapted innovative secant piling, overlapping layers of material to ensure maximum water tightness and prevent leaks in the basement. In keeping with the Westcombe Group’s commitment to heritage and its experience with listed buildings, the development was completed while paying close attention to the needs of the surrounding area and its residents. As well as ensuring that the design did not detract from the character of the area, the Group undertook regular vibration and data level monitoring to ensure that the hotel, located in the Underwood conservation area, did not disturb existing buildings or nearby Northern Line tunnels. Environmental concerns were at the heart of the build, which uses harvested rainwater in its systems and has a BREEAM rating of ‘Excellent’, attesting to the high standard of sustainable construction overseen by the Group during the hotel’s development and its operation. Kamal Pankhania, CEO of Westcombe Group said: “I’m proud to see the hotel open and taking in guests to enjoy our hard work. As with any large-scale build in central London, it is not without its challenges, but we’re experts in dealing with sites like Old Street, and I want to thank all of our team who have made it a success. We are confident that Kamal Pankhania, the hotel will serve its cusChief Executive Officer, tomers and the local commuWestcombe Group nity well. We’re delighted to have worked with as established a brand as Hampton by Hilton, and look forward to building more hotels with them in the future.” Graham Dodd, managing director, development, UK & Ireland at Hilton, said, “We are delighted to partner with Westcombe Group on their first Hilton-branded hotel development, delivering a high-quality London hotel in this fantastic location. We very much look forward to welcoming our first guests to the hotel.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has surged ahead of PM Rishi Sunak by a recordbreaking 13 points in a recent poll assessing the public's perception of the most capable Prime Minister in the UK. Conducted by Ipsos exclusively for the Standard, the poll paints a commanding picture for Labour, with the party enjoying a formidable 22-point lead over the Conservatives. The survey reveals that if an election were held tomorrow, nearly half of respondents (49%) would support Sir Keir's party, compared to just 27% for the Tories. In terms of capability, 39% of respondents favoured Sir Keir for the role of Prime Minister, marking a four-point increase since October, while only 26% backed Sunak, signalling a five-point decline. Despite Prime Minister Sunak's ambitions for a General Election in the latter half of the year, Tory hopes hinge on economic improvements resonating with voters. However, Ipsos' Economic Optimism Index shows only marginal improvement, with 24% expecting better eco-

Sir Keir Starmer

nomic conditions in the next year, up five points from November. Moreover, dissatisfaction with Sunak persists, with 66% expressing dissatisfaction, though Labour's Sir Keir also faces criticism, with 48% dissatisfied. While Tory strategists interpret these findings as evidence of Sir Keir's failure to solidify support, voter attitudes appear to be firming up, challenging the notion of Labour's lead being easily swayed. The electorate's decisive stance is evident, with 48% having already made up their minds on party allegiance, up from 42% in December. Labour's popularity has surged by eight points since December, now standing at 49%, while the Tories saw a

modest increase of three points, reaching 27%. However, smaller parties like the Liberal Democrats and Reform UK have faced setbacks, with dwindling support. Labour frames the upcoming election as an opportunity for renewal, a sentiment echoed by 69% of respondents who believe it's time for a change. Key issues dominating voter concerns include healthcare, inflation, the economy, immigration, and education. As the political landscape continues to evolve, Labour's ascendancy underscores a growing appetite for change among voters, setting the stage for a potentially transformative electoral landscape in the UK. What is more interesting to note are the rumours that are doing rounds that the Labour Party will be visiting India sometime soon shortly and that Sir Starmer will be a part of the delegation. He has time and again reiterated his stance to ‘reset’ India-UK relations with the Labour Party, and should they come to power, there are an array of policies, inheritance taxes

and private school fee revisions waiting to be reassessed. Reset or not, meanwhile, the Tories are reportedly set to lock the UK-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India. Reports suggest that a delegation of the UK team is in India, closing the FTA in its final stage. A majority of the issues in the proposed FTA between India and the UK are either finalised or at an advanced stage of talks, said one of the two persons mentioned above. Both of them declined to be identified. “Both sides are hoping to conclude the negotiations soon," this person said, adding that the negotiations with the UK were heading in the right direction. The UK’s delegation of about a dozen members includes highranking government officials to resolve some sticky issues in the final deliberations, this person added. Nevertheless, it’ll be interesting to see the aftermath and renewal of ties across the globe as the UK, the US and India are all set to witness their much-awaited general elections in 2024.

Victim of the Post Office Scandal, guilty? A former investigator from the Post Office still believes that a man cleared of stealing money using a computer system called Horizon was actually guilty. The investigator, Raymond Grant, had to go to a special meeting to talk about what happened. He said he had other important things to do at his new job, like helping homeless people. He also said he didn't have enough time to write down everything he knew about the case. Even though a court said the man was innocent, Grant still thinks he did something wrong.

The man accused of stealing money, William Quarm, died without knowing he'd been cleared. He was accused of taking money from the post office he ran to help his failing shop. Grant was part of the team that accused Quarm. But now, Grant says the Post Office didn't do things right when they took Quarm to court. They didn't check all the evidence properly, and they didn't have the right people making decisions. Quarm admitted to taking money in 2010 to avoid going to jail. He died two years later.

The investigation into what happened with Horizon started last year. It's gotten a lot of attention, especially after a TV show talked about it. Many post office owners were accused of stealing because of problems with the computer system. Kevin Hollinrake, a government official, thinks the company that made the system, Fujitsu, should pay a lot of money to make up for what happened. Victims of the decadesold Post Office scandal branded the UK's worst miscarriage of justice, will finally receive compensation for

Young view drink and drugs as defence against rape charge Researchers have found that over half of young adults believe being drunk or high is a sufficient defence against a rape charge, revealing misconceptions about sexual offences and consent. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) officials highlighted the need for further efforts to dispel false beliefs about rape and enhance understanding of consent, especially among young people. The research, involving 3,000 UK adults, disclosed that only 46% of those aged between 18 and 24 were aware that being intoxicated by alcohol or drugs does not constitute a defence in a rape allegation. While over 70% of respondents across the survey correctly understood that being under the influence of substances doesn't absolve legal responsibility for rape, officials from the CPS described the prevalence of "false assumptions and misconceptions about sexual offences" as particularly striking. Focus groups involv-

ing different sexes and ages revealed that only women aged 35-65 unanimously agreed with the statement that people "should not have to modify their behaviour to avoid rape." The report also noted that some participants held fixed ideas about the identity of potential rapists, not recognizing that they could be anyone from friends and neighbours to brothers, fathers, sons, or partners. Andrea Simon, director of the campaign group End Violence Against Women Coalition, expressed concern about the misconceptions around rape and sexual offenses, labelling them as a significant barrier to justice. Simon highlighted the worrying regression in attitudes among young people compared to older generations, attributing it in part to the unchecked spread of online misogyny, which she argued is fuelling sympathy for perpetrators and perpetuating misconceptions about sexual violence.

their lost years, reputations, and health. Over 700 subpostmasters suffered due to a technical glitch, leading to wrongful convictions. While the offer is welcomed, emotional scars remain. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's pledge to clear their names comes too late for some. Tragically, 4 have taken their own lives, and 33 have passed away. Families endure the legacy, with children facing the stigma of their parents' wrongful convictions. For many, the trauma persists, awaiting compensation for a crime they never committed.

Indian student loses life to unexplained seizures An international student Yashwanth Kolishetty passed away on January 25 2024, after a devastating battle with unexplained seizures, at ICU Unit of The Royal London Hospital. The 29year-old belonged to Hyderabad. He came to London to pursue a master’s degree and wanted to later settle in the UK, with his wife and kids. He landed on January 22, 2024 morning and was admitted to the hospital on the night of the same day with severe seizures. Now, efforts are underway to help repatriate his body back to India.





3 - 9 February 2024

Ram Rajya, what next?

Miles of smiles

It is common knowledge that Hinduism, the world’s oldest, earliest religion, is one of culturally the richest, most moderate and most friendly religions in the world without parallel. That is why India has become a multi-cultural, multi-faith, peace-loving nation, the biggest and most successful democracy the world has ever seen and experienced. It is all to do with Hinduism. So the tremendous worldwide interest in the opening ceremony of Rama’s temple in Ayodhya has not come as a surprise to most of us, the only surprise is that it took so long to reach the summit, engross the world, and give the world Lord Rama’s blessings. Perhaps previous dominant political parties, like Congress, were more involved in family politics, false secularism and less on serving Mother India. Fortunately,the BJP came to power at the right time, under the right leadership of Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. They laid the foundation, so Modi, the best administrator and orator could take it over with a flourishing economy and unmatched loyalty and dedication above the call of duty. He is an unmatched incorruptible politician in the mould of Chanakya, who gave India the greatest king in Asoka, and spread Buddhism throughout the old world. Some elderly politicians tried to block Modi’s progress, blaming him for the Gujarat riots, as if Modi was responsible for the death of some three hundred pilgrims burnt alive, trapped in a sealed railway compartment that lead to Gujarat riots. Then there is hardly any honesty, decency and faithfulness among Indian politicians. It used to be so common for the winning party but without the overall majority to induce, to poach and bribe MPs from the opposition. Fortunately, India is blessed with people of the highest calibre, practically in every field, whether it is religion, politics, finance or any other field. Unfortunately, India was ruled by foreign powers, invited and abated by traitors among our ruling class, tin pot Maharajas and traitor politicians like Jaisinh who all sold their souls to the devil. The second most popular deity, especially in the West is the one and only Lord Krishna who was put on the world stage when the Beatles, semi-God themselves, became Lord Krishna’s disciple and donated the vast mansion in Watford to build a temple complex, the biggest and most popular religious complex in the West, only second to the Vatican. This is my popular place to visit on Sundays in the summer, like Lord Krishna’s Vrindavan where he grew up and enjoyed the freedom to roam herding his cattle. The Watford complex serves mouth-watering dinners, mostly sponsored by devotees to honour their departed friends and family members. Perhaps it is time to honour Lord Krishna with a similar Complex, perhaps in London, by turning the present Watford temple with some one hundred acres of farmland, into a religious wonderland, with lakes, cow sheds, a religious school and an entertaining slot that could become, in time the second most popular religious attractions, after the Vatican in Rome, attracting pilgrims from all over the world, including India. Bhupendra M. Gandhi

On recent bargain-hunting expeditions, I have been taken abackby beaming smiles fromshopkeepers, accompanied by: "How are youtoday, sir? Is everything OK?" It seems that soaring prices are keeping customersaway, hence the charm offensive launched by worried shopkeepersdesperate to stay in business. They are obviously trying to be like their fellow United States counterpartswhere shopkeepers tell departing customers to "have a nice day!" andas they are exiting the shopkeeper yells: "MISSING YOU ALREADY!" No doubt about it, these are tough times and everyone is feeling the pinch.

All for Green Revolution Recently I came across a report about the declining bird population in the USA and Canada. This report has clearly pointed to factors like deforestation and ecological/food chain crises. International media houses should come forward to highlight such serious yet interesting ecological matters from time to time in the best interests of all. Just interestingly enough during my childhood, I along with my friends had often been in search of beautiful birds in our surroundings in areas like Korkai, Tuticorin, Tiruchendur, and Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu and we had then nurtured the natural penchant and love of such bird species. Naturally, my native areas like Korkai, Tiruchendur, and Tirunelveli have been able to give shelter to numerous beautiful birds around in terms of big trees, canals, and the river Thamirabarani.Countries should take urgent steps to create more natural habitats and plant more trees in order to accelerate the bird population on the world stage. I often see the news of the young climate change activist Greta Thunberg. The fact that she has been raising her voice for green causes and climate change awareness has just started inspiring many countries and people worldwide.I remember her talking and being interviewed on TV recently. As a little student, her speech and responsibility for the climate issues have been just overwhelming and more interesting. Kudos to her and my best wishes on her climate change mission. Such interesting things and responsible persons should be encouraged to the greatest extent possible on the international stage.I, as a person, had been encouraged by such inspiring stories and great people in my native areas like Korkai, Tiruchendur, Marthandam, Tirunelveli, Tuticorin, Nagercoil and Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. Just sincerely enough, I have been pitching for good and beautiful changes on the social front, starting from my places like Korkai, and Kanyakumari besides having been a big supporter of agricultural activities that in fact, have been involving my friends and family in Korkai. P. Senthil Saravana Durai

Rudy Otter

World Cancer Day World Cancer Day is a global healthcare event for the awareness of cancer, which has been commemorated on the 4th of February every year for the past 24 years with the aim of spreading awareness and educating people about its detection, treatment, and prevention. On this day, people from various international and local organisations all over the world unite to raise awareness about cancer and the need for better screening, diagnostic tools, earlier diagnosis and advanced treatment options. The disease has many myths and they have to bebroken. Jubel D'Cruz

Ram Temple dream fulfilled After centuries of waiting and sacrifice, our dreams have been fulfilled. Let us pray Ram temple doesn't start a Mahabharat again. Anything which unites is strength and that which divides is weakness. May this temple be a beacon of peace, where differences and conflicts cease. TS Karthik

London maps 100-day whooping cough surge with 87 cases Instances of a highly transmissible illness, commonly referred to as the '100-day cough,' are rapidly increasing in London in 2024. The infectious bacterial disease, more widely recognized as whooping cough, is spreading easily. As outlined on the NHS website, adults with whooping cough may experience symptoms such as sore ribs, hernias, mild ear infections, or even urinary incontinence during coughing episodes. In children, whooping cough can pose more significant risks, leading to complications like dehydration, respiratory issues, pneumonia, or seizures. In the initial three weeks of 2024, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has recorded 87 suspected cases of whooping cough in London. An interactive map below illustrates the distribution of suspected cases across the UK. The most efficient method to prevent whooping cough is through complete vaccination. However, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) issued a warning last year, revealing that the uptake of the maternal whooping cough vaccine had reached its lowest level in seven years.

Senior doctors in England reject pay deal Senior doctors in England have narrowly voted against a pay deal, which, if accepted, would have put an end to months of disruptive strike action, according to the British Medical Association (BMA). This decision represents a setback for the government, and ongoDr Vishal Sharma ing strikes by doctors are adding strain to the already burdened National Health Service (NHS). With over 7 million patients on waiting lists for treatment, the NHS faces increased pressure, resulting in numerous cancelled appointments and procedures. The rejection of the pay offer by doctors could impede Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's efforts to fulfil a key pledge of reducing waiting lists ahead of an anticipated election later this year. The vote saw 51.1% of doctors against the proposed pay deal, as reported by the BMA. Dr Vishal Sharma, the chair of the BMA consultants committee, stated that consultants believe the current offer falls short in addressing the ongoing dispute and resolving the recruitment and retention crisis for senior doctors. Despite the narrow rejection, the consultants committee is providing the government with an opportunity to improve the offer.


Kapil Dudakia


Rama Rajya in the 21st Century Ragupathi Raghav rajaram Patheethapaavanasitaram Sundar vigrahameghashyam Ganga Thulasi shaalighram Bhadhragireeshwarsitaram Bhakta Jana priyasitaram Jaanaki ramanasitaram Jaya jaya Raghava sitaram This is the true original lyrics of the world famous bhajan, ‘Ragupathi Raghav rajaram’. We should never allow the richness and the spiritual purity of our heritage be tarnished in the name of interfaith relations, or on the ‘altar’ of cultural diversity. Every writer and commentator have already covered the greatest event of the millennium, the inauguration of Shree Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. Therefore, don’t worry, I shall not report the same again. As a Hindu this should be a time for reflection. A time when we ask some hard questions of ourselves. So let me be the fly in the ointment. And whilst many will wish to have their heads deep in the sands of ‘I did not know’, or ‘what could I have done?’. Maybe it’s time to wake ourselves up from the slumber that is akin to that of Kumbhakarna. One can go into the past and rake up a lot of hurt and misadventure, so let’s put that to one side for a while. On 22nd January 2024, PM Modi set Bharat on a new course of self-realisation, and one of self-discovery of who we are as a people. With that comes huge responsibilities on all of us, especially Hindus and those of Indic faiths in Bharat. One cannot prostrate to Prabhu Ram one day, and then be on the side of the ‘Rākshasas’ on other days just to get your selfish greed fulfilled. There was a time when some people could claim ignorance since the advent of social media and mass communication was not with us. However, let us be clear that excuse does not hold true now. Therefore, why would any Indian, and by that,I mean any Indian (of all faiths and all backgrounds) not vote for a party like the BJP? After all, there is only one party in India that for the first time is putting the nation first and embarking on a path of restoring the greatness of Bharat and its historical ancient Sanatani spiritual traditions. Bharat has always welcomed and protected people of other faiths. Zoroastrians came to Bharat for their own protection after their motherland was invaded by Islamists. They came in large number as far back as 1400 years ago. Since then, this minority faith community has lived in Bharat without fear, in peace and in total security. In Bharat, we know them as Parsis, who have become the backbone of Mumbai and places in Gujarat. The Jewish community arrived in Bharat as far back as 75CE. Of course, these numbers increased thereafter when they faced persecution in Iraq and other middle eastern nations. So much so, they became known as Baghdadi Jews. Again, the Jewish community made Bharat their home, they integrated in the life and work of the nation whilst still maintaining their unique identity. When Bharat was cut into pieces by the British, it was done on religious lines. On one side, India, it was for everyone who wanted to live with the ideals of Bharat. On the other side it was Muslims who wanted their own Islamic state called Pakistan. It is therefore astonishing that India with one of the largest Muslim populations in the world, finds that many Muslims still vote for parties that undermine the nation. Why? Why on earth would any Muslim in India wish to vote for any party that undermines their nation? Their very future is in ensuring a peaceful thriving successful and forward-looking Bharat. Every faith in India works for India, only some members of one community, the Muslim community, endeavour to undermine the nation. Why? Bharat is an ancient land of Sanatan Dharma. Every inch of this land is Hindu. Therefore, the thousands of Mosques that have been built on the sites of Hindu Mandirs, desecrated and destroyed by Islamists of past, should be vacated. The time has come for the Muslim community to step up to the mark. They should unilaterally declare that all mosques on such contested lands will immediately cease. By so doing, they send a signal to the whole nation that they are Bharatiya first. That nation comes first. That there must be a reckoning of past transgressions by the Islamists to foster in an age of Bhartiya unity. Rama Rajya in the 21st Century is not about a Hindu Rashtra alone. It is about a nation that thrives on the principles of Shree Ram, but as applied to the nation and its citizens in the 21stCentury. Rama Rajya protects every citizen, regardless of their faith, of their background, of their heritage, of their language, or of their ancestry. But for it to work, every citizen must perform their personal responsibilities properly. Prabhu Shree Ram is back in Ayodhya, now it’s time to bring back those moral and ethical standards of Rama Rajya for the whole nation. Jai Shri Ram, Jai Siya Ram.





3 - 9 February 2024

Election Voice

Anusha Singh


rimesh Patel is the UK Labour's parliamentary candidate for Harrow East. He has previously served many years as a local school governor in Harrow East at Bentley Wood High School and is an experienced local Harrow councillor from 2014 to 2022 winning two consecutive elections. In an interview with Asian Voice, he discusses his candidacy, the Labour Party and his plans for his constituency. hat inspired your decision to join politics and run for the position of parliamentary candidate for Harrow East for the Labour Party, especially considering the party’s increasing support of the anti-India rhetoric? For me, politics is about service, to your local community and your country. Harrow East is my home and I want to make it a better place for everyone, giving back to the community that has given me so much. The Conservatives have let Harrow East down and it’s time for a fresh start. Of course, the chance to be the first-ever Hindu MP of Indian and Gujarati descent would be a great honour, especially given the large Indian community in Harrow. The relationship between India and the Labour Party under Sir Keir Starmer has been reset. Modern India will be very important to a future Labour government. As Keir said at the India Global Forum last year, this is a changed Labour Party which sees India a major success story and why the party is increasing representation of British Indians at all levels, including those such as myself in Harrow and Rajesh Agrawal in Leicester standing for Parliament. ow do you plan to actively engage with the residents of Harrow East and address their concerns? Since being selected as the Labour Party’s Harrow East parliamentary candidate last year, I have spoken to thousands of residents about their concerns, whether on their doorsteps or at countless community events and key themes have clearly emerged. Firstly, the Tory cost of living crisis is causing great pain to many, whether that’s record high prices and tax burdens, runaway inflation, or spiralling mortgage and rental costs. The Tories have no answer to these problems, they only add to them. They’ve had 14 years to do some-



helping to protect key community services and deliver for Harrow residents. hat specific policies or initiatives do you propose to ensure the success of Harrow’s youth? We need proper investment in our schools and colleges, excellent standards of teaching and access to quality extra-curricular activities for all. Both myself and the Labour Party are committed to breaking down the barriers to opportunity for every child in Harrow East. I want to ensure we expand Harrow’s high-quality education, employment opportunities and training roles so that as many young people as possible are on the journey to good prospects in the next 10 years. This also means working hard to ensure a sustained rise in young people’s school outcomes and ensuring that we build young people’s life skills. We must also reform childcare and early years support so that children throughout Harrow East have the best start in life. We’ve already set out our fully funded pledge for free breakfast clubs for all state primary school children, which will give them the best start to every day. arrow especially has a strong Indian community. Do you think the Labour party will be able to strongly support your and the community’s voice? British Indians contribute so much to the UK, especially in the fields of healthcare and business. I chose to stand for the Labour Party here in Harrow because I passionately believe that the Labour Party is best placed to fix the mess created by the Conservatives. I am a proud British East African Indian Hindu and for me the Labour Party is best placed to represent the interests of Harrow East’s diverse communities, especially the Indian community. Labour is the party of aspiration, the party that will ensure your children can access the best quality schools, the party that will make sure your businesses can thrive and the party that will fix our NHS. In contrast, the Conservatives continue to serve only narrow interests, decimating public services and taking decisions that have destroyed our economy and wrecked prospects, with high inflation, a record high tax burden and slashing investment in key services. The Conservatives have let the country down. The Conservatives have let Harrow East down. Only Labour with secure Britain’s future.


Primesh Patel

thing and yet they have done nothing to help the people of Harrow East. ow do you envision using your background in the health & social care sector to address healthcare-related issues in Harrow East? My first job after leaving school was at my local NHS hospital and I’m really proud to have worked in the health and social care sector for nearly two decades. The creation of the NHS was, in my opinion, one of the Labour Party’s greatest achievements but it faces significant ongoing challenges as a result of 14 years of Tory government. Record waiting lists, chronic underfunding and outrageously long wait times at Northwick Park’s A&E department are a major concern for all of us in Harrow East. The Conservatives nationally, backed by local Tory MPs, are dismantling our health service and are content to see the NHS run into the ground. As our local MP, I would help a future Labour government invest in our local NHS, bring down waiting lists and help create an NHS that is fit for the future. Harrow East deserves no less. an you share specific achievements or initiatives you undertook during your tenure that had a positive impact on the community? A big part of being a local councillor, and arguably the most important, is dealing with casework for residents raising a variety of issues that they need help with, ranging from help with complex social care issues to help with the improving the local environment. In the local area that I was a councillor for, I was particularly proud to have transformed play and recreation facilities in a local park for young people and to also have successfully installed festive lights for the first time which continue to be used for Christmas, Diwali and other festive occasions. It was difficult with the central Tory government having constantly cut so much funding for Harrow meaning that tough decisions had to be taken, but I always prided myself on




Shoplifting rates surge amid UK's cost of living crisis: Urgent call for protection of shopworkers law Shoplifting incidents across England and Wales have surged by a troubling 32%, alarming both authorities and retail workers' trade union Usdaw. This concerning rise comes amidst the backdrop of a rising cost of living crisis, putting additional strain on already struggling households. The statistics, reflecting the 12 months leading up to September 2023, reveal a worrying trend of persistent quarterly increases following a significant drop during the pandemic. Usdaw's interim survey results shed light on the harsh reality faced by shopworkers, with 60% of violence, threats, and abuse incidents traced back to shoplifting and armed robbery triggers. Paddy Lillis, General Secretary of Usdaw, underscores the gravity of the situation, emphasizing that shoplifting is far from a victimless crime. He highlights the profound impact on shopworkers, extending beyond mere theft to encompass anxiety, fear, and even physical harm. The lack of government action in addressing

Source: Flickr

“Harrow East is my home and I want to make it a better place”

this epidemic of retail crime is a glaring concern, with calls for urgent legislative measures to safeguard shopworkers. Despite the absence of such measures in the government's current legislative agenda, Labour has pledged to intervene, seeking to amend existing laws to provide greater protection for shopworkers. The need for a robust protection of shopworkers law, akin to Scotland's existing legislation, is underscored as a crucial step towards curbing abuse and violence against retail staff. Additionally, Labour's proposed measures, including bolstering

police presence, imposing respect orders for repeat offenders, and eliminating the threshold for investigating and prosecuting shop theft, offer a promising path forward. As the debate continues, it remains imperative to address the root causes driving shoplifting incidents, including socioeconomic pressures exacerbated by the cost of living crisis. In a landscape where every penny counts, it's essential to prioritise the safety and well-being of those on the front lines of retail, ensuring they are adequately protected in the face of escalating challenges.





3 - 9 February 2024

Alok Sharma Tory MP Clarke calls for ousting Sunak as PM criticises government's On Tuesday (23), Simon Clarke, a senior Tory MP, expressed concerns about the party's leadership, openly advocating for a change in the prime ministerial role. Clarke believes that under Rishi Sunak's leadership, the party is on a trajectory towards a significant defeat in the upcoming election later this year, predicting a potential "massacre" for the governing party. This comes in the wake of Sunak's recent push for his Rwanda immigration plan, which garnered criticism from some within his party's right-wing for not being stringent enough. While some welcomed Clarke's words, there was sharp criticism from certain quarters on the right wing. Opponents argued that it is not the right time for another leadership contest, especially considering the Tories have

oil and gas bill

Simon Clarke

ousted three prime ministers in less than 5 years. Rishi Sunak, who has been in power since 2022, has urged the party to unite before the upcoming election, expected in the second half of the year. He believes that the party's deep divisions and years of internal strife are negatively impacting its standing in opinion polls.

UK orders review of NHS trust treating killer The UK government has mandated a review of the mental health services that treated Valdo Calocane, the individual responsible for the killing of Grace O’Malley Kumar. Grace, a 19-year-old from an Irish family, was among three victims in the Nottingham incident. Triple killer Valdo Calocane was a patient at the scandal-ridden Highbury Hospital in Nottinghamshire, where over 30 staff members have been suspended for alleged mistreatment of patients and falsification of records, according to leaked emails reported by The Independent. Health Secretary Victoria Atkins stated that the review aims to provide "further answers" to the families affected by the tragic events. Grace, along

with fellow student Barnaby Webber and school caretaker Ian Coates, lost their lives in June 2023. Calocane was sentenced to a hospital order for manslaughter by diminished responsibility, reflecting his paranoid schizophrenia diagnosis. The families have raised concerns about the care provided to Calocane leading up to the tragic incident on June 13, 2023. An independent mental health homicide review by NHS England will now investigate any failings by the NHS trust in the case. Calocane suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and was officially under the care of Nottinghamshire Healthcare Foundation Trust during periods of discharge.

UK heading towards burnout The increasing number of UK employees requiring time off work due to mental health issues has raised concerns, with Mental Health UK warning of the potential for widespread burnout. Chief of Mental Health UK, Brian Dow, pointed to global issues such as climate change and the rise of artificial intelligence as contributing factors to feelings of despair and mental fatigue. The concerns were highlighted in a survey revealing that over one-third of adults experienced intense workplace pressure in the past year. A

YouGov survey of 2,060 adults, including 1,132 employed individuals, found that 35% reported facing high or extreme pressure at work. Additionally, 20% had taken leave in the past year due to stress-induced poor mental health. Dow expressed worries about the UK heading towards becoming a "burnt-out nation," attributing the trend to various complex causes of work-related mental health issues. He emphasised that while public perceptions evolved, external factors contribute to stress, anxiety, and a sense of hopelessness.

Alok Sharma, former business secretary and president of the Cop26 climate talks, has expressed concerns about the UK government's new oil and gas bill. The bill, recently passing its second reading in the Commons, has raised alarms as Sharma contends that it fails to reduce household energy costs or create employment. He argues that it contradicts the UK's commitment to phasing out fossil fuels, going against the warnings of climate experts. The bill, passed with 293 votes for and 211 against, faced no opposition from Tory MPs, although Sharma chose to abstain. It mandates the North Sea Transition Authority to conduct annual calls for new offshore oil and gas license applications. This move has drawn criticism, especially in light of warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, emphasising that issuing new oil and gas licenses conflicts with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industri-

Alok Sharma

al levels. The legislation also appears to contradict promises made by UK ministers at the Cop28 conference, where a commitment to phasing out oil and gas production was declared. Alok Sharma has raised concerns about the inconsistency between the UK's climate commitments and the current legislative actions, highlighting a contradiction in Minister Graham Stuart's stance at the Cop28 conference. Stuart had emphasised the need for an unabated phase-out of fossil fuels to achieve climate goals.

Culture Secretary: BBC can't prosecute license fee non-payment Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer has expressed her belief that the BBC should not have the authority to pursue criminal prosecutions against viewers for non-payment of the TV licence fee. She emphasised that a thorough examination of the broadcaster's powers would be conducted during its next charter review. The spotlight on convictions for nonpayment comes after the Post Office wrongly convicted hundreds of branch managers for false accounting, fraud, and theft. Frazer stated on Times Radio that she finds it inappropriate for the BBC to possess criminal tools for prosecutions, particularly for vulnerable individuals. The

TV licence fee, funding the national broadcaster, is scheduled to increase by £10.50 to £169.50 annually in April. In December, Frazer announced a review of the BBC's long-term funding options, exploring ways to enhance its commercial income. Additionally, Frazer revealed the extension of regulator Ofcom's remit to cover the BBC's news website as part of a mid-term review of its charter, set to expire at the end of 2027. She highlighted the growing trend of audiences consuming content online and the expectation for consistent standards of impartiality across the BBC's various platforms.

A gang using aliases inspired by films and TV shows has been sentenced for orchestrating a cold-calling Ponzi scheme that defrauded victims of £1 million. Scammers Sujanthan Sotheeswaran (35), Darren Peck (43), and Denis Deegan (49) employed fake identities based on TV series such as Suits, The Riot Club, and Hart to Hart to deceive victims. Operating under the guise of 'brokers' for a company initially named Choice Option, later rebranded as Blue Crest Capital

Source: City of London Police

Gang guilty in £1m Ponzi investment fraud

Sujanthan Sotheeswaran

Options, they aggressively cold-called individuals, pressuring them to invest in a managed account scheme, as

stated by the City of London Police. Financial records reveal that Sotheeswaran, Peck, and Deegan were among the topearning 20 percent of staff. They directly received payments from investors who were cold-called and coerced by the brokers into participating in the scheme. Investors were falsely informed that they lacked the authority to independently conduct trades, and only the brokers could execute trades. The investment involved

depositing funds with the company, which claimed to trade on the binary options market, promising profits for both investors and the company. Investors were assured of a fixed monthly return and an overall profit after 12 months. However, the Choice Option trading platform lacked a connection to a banking system, placing investors' funds entirely at the discretion of the defendants. The trial revealed that the investment proposal was, in reality, a Ponzi scheme.

in brief MPS REVIEW PLAN TO CAP GROUND RENT MPs have accused freehold property owners in England and Wales of establishing a "rentier structure," alleging the imposition of "exorbitant" ground rents without providing adequate services. Labour MP Barry Gardiner dismissed the idea that capping ground rent would necessitate using pension funds to sustain the housing market as "nonsense." In a parliamentary hearing, Jack Spearman, head of leasehold at the Residential Freehold Association, opposed housing secretary Michael Gove's plans to cap ground rents on existing leases. The proposed bill aims to simplify and reduce costs for leaseholders seeking lease extensions and acquiring freeholds. It also suggests a ban on leaseholds for newly constructed houses, excluding flats, in England and Wales.

15-YEAR-OLD CHARGED WITH KILLING IN BIRMINGHAM A 15-year-old boy has been charged with murder by West Midlands police following a fatal stabbing incident in Birmingham's city centre. The victim, Muhammad Hassam Ali, 17, was found critically wounded in Victoria Square on Saturday (20). Despite being rushed to the hospital, Ali succumbed to his injuries later that day. The identity of the accused youth is protected by legal restrictions on revealing the names of minors. He is set to appear before Birmingham magistrates court on Thursday, as confirmed by West Midlands police. Another 15-year-old boy related to the case has been conditionally released on police bail.

TORY MP ADVOCATES EXTENDING BBC IMPARTIALITY REFORMS Conservative MP John Penrose has urged the government's media impartiality reforms to extend beyond just the BBC's online services and address the "double standard" in regulating bias across various media forms. The government recently announced reforms, extending Ofcom oversight to parts of the BBC's online public services, particularly the BBC News website, to hold the BBC more robustly accountable. As audiences increasingly access news and content online, the reforms aim to ensure a fair and balanced media landscape. Ofcom will also gain a new legally binding responsibility to review more of the BBC's complaints decisions.

MILLIONS MUST DOUBLE INCOME TO ESCAPE POVERTY A new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) reveals that six million people in the UK would need to more than double their income to escape poverty. The UK poverty report indicates that one in five people in the UK (22%) were in poverty in 2021-22, including over four million children. The report highlights that it has been 20 years, involving six prime ministers, since there was a sustained fall in poverty. The JRF continues to call on the government to introduce an 'essentials guarantee' into Universal Credit to ensure that the basic rate covers essentials such as food and energy.





3 - 9 February 2024

Sudha and Narayana Murthy's uncommon story in the spotlight

Indian teen Namya Joshi's

Chitra Banerjee agree, they are unfailDivakaruni, the ingly supportive of each author of acclaimed other's dreams and probooks like “The Forest jects. of Illusions”, “The How did you approach Forest of researching and narratEnchantments” and ing the various dynamic “Independence” is all periods in Sudha and set to release her first Narayana Murthy's non-fiction book “An lives? Uncommon Love: The Apart from regular Early Life of Sudha research through third and Narayana Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni party sources, I sat Murthy”. down and asked them to tell me stories about these days. What did The book tells the love story of they remember? What did they two brilliant individuals from diffeel? Which incidents went deep ferent backgrounds who overcame into them and changed them? I life’s challenges to create a strong also spoke to their siblings and partnership that has lasted for over their children. These five decades: the formed the core of serious, idealistic this dynamic period. and brilliant Balancing a career, Narayana Murthy motherhood, and and the pragmatic, being a "start-up cheerful and comwife" is no small petent Sudha. feat. What insights In an interview did you gain into with Asian Voice, Sudha Murty’s expethe author discussriences, navigating es all things about these roles? her new book and what went on What I learned behind putting the and appreciated is story of the that Sudha is at once Murthys together. idealistic and pragWhat inspired you matic. She always to delve into the had a vision and a early years of goal, but she adjustSudha and Narayana Murthy's ed to her circumstances. One of lives for your upcoming book? her sayings that I loved was, "How much masala I have, that much The publisher approached me sambar I make!" to write this biography. I have What aspects of Sudha and known the Murthy’s for many Narayana Murthy's entrepreneuriyears, and I felt this book about al journey surprised you the most their early life, challenges and during your research? heartwarming personal stories, would inspire many readers. What surprised me most was What was the research process for that Sudha was actually a better the book like? What is the most engineer and mathematician than intriguing aspect about Sudha and Murthy was—and he admits it Narayana Murthy's relationship freely. It was she who created the that compelled you to share their mathematical model that enabled story with readers? him to win his first contract with MICO. The research process, which Can you tease one aspect or took about two years, involved moment from the book that reademail questions and answers, ers can look forward to? many Zoom meetings, and finally, quite a few days when I went and I think readers will be charmed lived in Bangalore with the by their romantic episodes while Murthys. The most intriguing they were dating, and how Murthy, aspect of their relationship is that who is usually such a stickler for though they are very different rules, broke several of them for from each other and often disSudha's sake!

First Carnatic musician in King’s birthday honours Source: Jyotsna Srikanth/ Facebook

On December 12, 2023, at Windsor Castle, UK, His Majesty King Charles III, the King of the United Kingdom, conferred the distinguished Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) upon acclaimed vioJyotsna meeting King Charles III linist Jyotsna Srikanth As a British citizen, Jyotsna had as part of his birthday honours list. the honour of meeting the late Recognized for her exceptional Queen Elizabeth a few years ago contributions to music on a global during her performance at level, this acknowledgement, the Buckingham Palace for the inauUK's third-highest civilian award, guration of the Commonwealth marks a significant achievement Heads Meeting. Prior to this, she for Jyotsna. Originating from showcased her talent for the Bengaluru, she proudly holds the British Parliament in the presence distinction of being the first of MPs and the then-British Prime Carnatic musician to receive this Minister. Her performances have esteemed accolade, celebrated for garnered praise from the UK press her versatility and collaborations and music enthusiasts. across various musical genres.

impactful journey in tech education H N C Anusha Singh

amya Joshi, a 16-year-old tech prodigy hailing from Ludhiana, Punjab, India, has emerged as a remarkable figure in the realm of education. Recognised as the official Minecraft Student Ambassador by Microsoft, Namya has been instrumental in training thousands of teachers and students globally in utilising Minecraft and Python as educational tools. Driven by her personal mantra #EachOneTeachTen, Namya has dedicated the past five years to conducting free-ofcost coding workshops. Her impact extends to over 15,000 teachers and young individuals, with a particular focus on empowering girls in India and around the world. As an advocate for spreading knowledge, she encourages other young people to establish their coding clubs. Namya's endeavours go beyond education; she actively employs game-based learning with STEM to address and raise awareness about social issues. Through her innovative approach, she strives to provide solutions to the challenges humanity faces. She recently presented the keynote address at the world’s biggest EdTech conference - Bett UK 2024 at London’s ExCel Centre. In an interview with Asian Voice, she details her approach towards AI learning, experiences, challenges and more. ow did the idea of leveraging AI and data analytics for game-based learning come about? The realisation of traditional education's shortcomings and the desire to provide individualised, interesting learning opportunities led to the creation of Individual Learning. I came up with the concept of game-based learning after using Minecraft personally and saw how serious teaching might be with it. Seeing classmates lose interest in traditional lessons, I turned a history lesson into a Minecraft game, and I was really successful. This led to an initiative to democratise the method and train educators throughout the world in gamebased learning. The success stories and positive impact on student engagement further fuelled the vision for Individual Learning. This journey aligns with my belief in the transformative power of play in education, empowering learners globally. Individual Learning stands as a testament to the belief that innovative, gamebased approaches can revolutionise education and provide students with meaningful and enjoyable learning experiences.


ow has your background and upbringing influenced your approach to education and technology? Growing up in a family immersed in the IT industry, my upbringing fostered an early familiarity with technology. My parents' influence sparked my interest in the intersection of education and technology. The creative learning environment they provided, involving games, storytelling, and various activities, instilled a belief in the

Namya Joshi

power of play for effective learning. Supported by mentors and teachers, my global exposure through experiences like the BETT conference and an internship in Finland broadened my perspective. My School, Sat Paul Mittal School in India, has been instrumental in shaping my perspective and nurturing my intellectual curiosity. These experiences cultivated my entrepreneurial spirit. My commitment to gender equality in technology is rooted in the observation of gender disparities. Overall, my background has shaped an innovative, globally aware, and socially conscious approach to leveraging technology for educational empowerment. ow does AI play a role in tailoring educational experiences for individual students, and what challenges have you encountered in implementing this approach on a larger scale? By examining unique learning styles, preferences, and advancements, artificial intelligence (AI) plays a critical part in customising educational experiences. Artificial intelligence (AI) can optimise each student's learning experience by providing specific material, modifying difficulty levels, and providing focused feedback through adaptive learning systems. Concerns about data privacy, maintaining equitable representation across a range of populations, and closing the digital gap are obstacles to scaling this strategy. AI-driven education implementation calls for a strong infrastructure, teacher preparation, and ongoing improvement to meet changing pedagogical requirements. Finding a way to reconcile curriculum goals that are standardised with


personalisation is still a problem, as is getting technology used in some educational environments and getting broad acceptability. an you elaborate on the role of game-based lesson plans in supporting social-emotional development, and how they contribute to a more holistic learning environment? Game-based lesson plans foster social-emotional development by creating engaging, collaborative environments. It helps students to work on teamwork, communication, and empathy as they navigate challenges together. Key factors behind game-based learning approach: No. 1. Engagement: Games capture and hold the player's attention, making them highly motivated to learn and progress. No 2. Experiential Learning: Playing games helps in decisionmaking, experiencing consequences, and learning from their actions. This experiential learning can be particularly effective for developing socialemotional skills. No.3. Immediate Feedback: Immediate feedback allows for continuous learning and improvement. Game-based lesson plans foster a dynamic, inclusive environment where students develop emotional resilience, interpersonal skills, and a deeper understanding of both themselves and others by incorporating play into the learning process. This contributes to a holistic learning environment that goes beyond traditional academic achievement. s a young entrepreneur and innovator, what advice do you have for other young individuals aspiring to make a difference in the tech and education sectors? Embrace your passion and curiosity. Identify a problem or gap in the tech or education sectors, and innovate solutions. Stay resilient; challenges are growth opportunities. Network with mentors and like-minded individuals, and continuously learn about emerging technologies. Prioritise impact over profit, focusing on positive change. Share your knowledge, collaborate, and stay humble in your journey. Strive for a balanced life, nurturing wellbeing alongside professional goals. Be adaptable and open to evolving ideas. Ultimately, let purpose drive your endeavours; making a difference requires a genuine commitment to improving the world through technology and education.






3 - 9 February 2024

photo credit Aoife Foxley

Artist in Residence following his work as composer, co-music director and soloist on the acclaimed cross-cultural opera Orpheus, while Abel Selaocoe, a 2020 Resonance recipient, composed the popular Leeds As You Are soundwalk as part of LEEDS 2023 Year of Culture. Expressing herself after being awarded the residen-

photo credit Hark1karan

Working in genres from folk, jazz and soul to electronic club and improvisation, and rooted in traditional music, Asian artists, Balraj Samrai and Satnam Galsian have joined Ellen Beth Abdi, Rory A Green and Jonas Jones as the latest artists to be awarded an Opera North Resonance residency starting later this month.

Balraj Samrai

Satnam Galsian

Resonance offers time, space, and resources to professional music-makers from the Global Majority, working in any genre and based in the north of England. It seeks to develop talent by enabling them to take their work in new directions, to experiment with collaborators and fresh ideas, and to try out the results in front of audiences. Each artist spends a week in Leeds, with the sole remit of exploring a project of their choice in workshops and work-in-progress performances. Marking its seventh year in 2024, the scheme already boasts an impressive legacy: several alumni, including Testament and Hannabiell Sanders, have gone on to secure major commissions, sitarist Jasdeep Singh Degun is Opera North’s current

cy, Satnam said, "I am extremely pleased to have been awarded one of the Opera North Resonance residencies as it means that I will have the time, space and funding to research and develop my project idea, and to collaborate with other creatives to bring it to fruition." Balraj on the other hand expressed, "Being awarded an Opera North Residency means a great deal as I'll be able to dedicate a week to experimentation and exploration of my creative ideas involving electronic production, vocals, south Asian percussion and beyond." This year’s lead artists are set to use their musical talents to explore issues such as social justice, race, identity, gender, migration and how the past continues to impact the present.

Ambika Mod to lead Netflix's 'One Day' series offering glimpses into the evolving relationship between Emma and Dexter across the decades. Viewers will be privy to their shared Source: @ambikamod/X

The beloved romantic novel "One Day," which rapidly became a bestseller in 2009, is poised for a small-screen adaptation on Netflix.

Mental health struggles and stereotypes faced by Muslim men highlighted Anusha Singh credit to Phizzical Productions

Two Asians among five awarded with Opera North Resonance residencies


hizzical Productions, a leading South Asian arts company, has unveiled the impressive cast and creative team for the UK tour of the Olivier Award-nominated play, "10 Nights." Featuring Azan Ahmed in the lead role of Yasser, this emotionally resonant and humorous production chronicles one man's spiritual journey of self-discovery and faith. The impactful play seeks to emphasise the need for open conversations not only about men's mental health but also about the detrimental stereotypes often imposed on Muslim men. The tour is scheduled to run at various locations from February 7 to March 2. Speaking to Asian Voice, Azan Ahmed talks about the play, preparation and the mental health struggles of men in the Muslim community. hich aspects of your character and the play struck a chord with you, influencing your decision to assume the role and be a part of the play? The first thing that attracted me to this role and this play was the script. The script treats Muslim men with care and heart, and that was something new for me. Additionally, the challenge of doing a one-man show was both exciting and scary for me as it's not easy to keep people interested for a long time. I


Azan Ahmed

play the character Yasser, and I feel a connection with him. We're both Brown and Muslim men in Britain. Yasser feels like he doesn't belong, and that's something I've felt too. The play explores his struggles and how he deals with loss. He struggles with asking for help, and that's something many of us go through. Sometimes, we're too proud to admit we need help. Yasser also questions if he's a good Muslim, which is something I've done too. The play beautifully explores these questions. It's a Muslim story, but you don't have to be Muslim to enjoy it. Many individuals carry burdens like anger and fear of judgment, and this play unravels those emotions on stage. The first step is getting people to the theatre, regardless of their background. hat is the USP of the play and what do you hope that the audience take away from it? I truly believe this script is unique because it shows British Muslim men on stage. Even though they are


all played by one character, it feels genuine and truthful. What makes this play special is that it's not just serious—it's also really funny and witty. The play explores themes of faith, fractures, and failures, and there's a lot that people can relate to. This play addresses issues, especially related to mental health in the diaspora. One of the strengths is that the characters openly confront these issues, breaking the silence within our community. As for my hopes for what the audience takes away from the play, I have two. First, I hope they leave feeling hopeful for positive changes in their own lives and the lives of the characters. Second, I really hope people have a good time and a good laugh. We all carry heavy hearts with everything happening in the world, like the troubles in Palestine, Sudan, and Congo. Everyone deserves a break, and this play brings that joy and laughter. ould you elaborate on your preparation process for the role? The key is to make everything in the play look and feel natural, so that when people watch it, they feel like the characters are real human beings. When preparing for this role, especially with themes like mental health, I did a lot of research. There are specific mental health conditions discussed in the play and I looked into testimonies from people who've experi-


enced those conditions. I read articles, watched YouTube videos, and talked to people in my life who've been through similar struggles. I wanted to understand not just the facts but also what it feels like to be in their shoes. There are many great resources on mental health available today, and I tapped into them. Physically, preparing to play seven different men required changing my entire gym routine. With characters talking to each other on stage, our movement director, Hamza, played a crucial role in rehearsals. It's like being surgical and precise to make sure each character's movements, tension, and presence are clear to the audience, yet keeping them real and not like caricatures. hat message would you like to convey to men within the Muslim community grappling with mental health challenges and stereotypes? The first thing I want to say is that you're not alone. Consider coming to see "Conflict and Community." The most important action I recommend is to talk. If you find it hard to talk to people, start by talking to Allah. If you can't talk to your family or friends, or if you feel like you don't have those people in your life, try reaching out to someone. Building that bridge, even if it's just a small step, is a win.


World-renowned Violinist leads concert celebrating BCU’s unique relationship with India Royal Birmingham Conservatoire at Birmingham City University (BCU) is celebrating the success of last night's concert which showcased one of the world’s greatest musicians fusing Indian and Western classical music. The event, held on Wednesday evening, celebrated BCU's unique relationship with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the Consulate General of India, Birmingham. The perfor-

Ustad Johar Ali Khan

mance was led by the internationally acclaimed Indian

Violinist Ustad Johar Ali, who dazzled an audience of Indian and local dignitaries, including the Deputy Lord Lieutenant and the Lord Mayor of Birmingham Chaman Lal, in Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s (RBC) iconic Bradshaw Hall. He demonstrated his amazing versatility by duetting with the RBC’s IndoJazz Ensemble despite only a few hours of rehearsal time together. BCU ViceChancellor David Mba

described Ustad Johar Ali’s performance as a “delight,” adding that the event marked a key milestone in the University’s fast-growing links with India. Ustad Johar Ali will spend several months in Birmingham as part of his role as Chair of the ICCR. During his time in the city, Ustad Johar Ali will work with RBC students and staff to engage with musicians and community groups from across the West Midlands.

Shruti Haasan to star in Indo-UK film 'Chennai Story' Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall in “One Day”

British actress Ambika Mod, acclaimed for her portrayal of Shruti Acharya in the BBC drama "This is Going to Hurt," takes on the role of Emma, an idealistic English student from a modest background. The cast also includes Joely Richardson and Eleanor Tomlinson from "Poldark,"

hopes, dreams, conflicts, missed chances, and heartaches. Produced by Drama Republic, Universal International Studios, and Focus Features, "One Day" is set to be a 15-episode series, premiering on Netflix just in time for Valentine’s Day on February 8, 2024.

Actress Shruti Haasan is set to take the lead in "Chennai Story," an upcoming IndoUK co-production directed by BAFTA-winning filmmaker Philip John. The film, co-produced by Guru Films (India), Ripple World Pictures (UK), and ie ie Productions (Wales), is based on Timeri N Murari’s bestselling novel, "The Arrangements of Love." Described as an

English film with elements of Tamil and Welsh, "Chennai Story" delves into themes of love, self-expression, and acceptance, according to a press release. The coming-of-age romantic comedy is set against the picturesque backdrops of Wales and India, with Haasan playing Anu, a spirited private detective. Expressing her enthusiasm for the project, Haasan,

Shruti Hasan

who hails from Chennai, remarked, "A story showcasing the diversity and uniqueness of Chennai is so

special to me. Collaborating with Phil is something I’m excited to experience. Telling global and rooted stories through international collaboration is what making cinema is all about." Philip John, renowned for works like "Moon Dogs" and the series "Being Human," expressed his excitement about collaborating with Haasan for this project.





3 - 9 February 2024

in brief YOUNG DRIVERS RESORT TO FRAUD FOR SAVINGS The soaring costs of car insurance, reaching record highs, may entice more young individuals to engage in fraud, warns the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB). Recent data indicates that average policy quotes for 17 to 24year-olds have reached close to £3,000. The IFB specifically cautions against "fronting," a fraudulent practice where an individual is added to a policy as a named driver when they should have their own policy to save money. Engaging in fronting can lead to the invalidation of the insurance policy and potential criminal convictions. One common practice contributing to this is adding young drivers to their parents' policies as named drivers, even if they are the primary drivers of the vehicle. An IFB survey from the previous year revealed that a quarter of 18 to 24year-olds considered it acceptable to provide false information on an insurance application to save money, although many may be aware that fronting is illegal.

SCHOOLS FACING DECLINING DEMAND Decreasing demand for school places throughout London is expected to significantly impact the future of education provision in the capital, according to a new report. The report from the cross-party group London Councils cautions that, as the decline in demand is anticipated to exacerbate in various areas, school leaders and local authorities will confront challenging decisions regarding the consolidation and closure of certain schools. In addition, London's schools will be compelled to make challenging choices to maintain balanced budgets, such as streamlining the curriculum, offering fewer after-school clubs, or reducing the number of teaching and support staff. The report predicts a decline in demand for 7,904 places across the capital in Reception and Year 7 by the academic year 2027-28, roughly equivalent to 262 classes.

LABOUR CONSIDERS WEALTH TAX FOR PUBLIC SERVICE BOOST Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock has suggested that a wealth tax on highvalue assets could be considered by the Labour Party as a means of generating funds for public services. Despite Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves being cautious about increasing income tax or reversing recent national insurance cuts, Kinnock believes there are alternative avenues for the party to explore for revenue. While Labour has not officially confirmed its tax plans and is expected to do so after the spring Budget, there are indications that the party is mindful of the impact of tax and spending proposals on voter sentiments, recalling the 1992 election when concerns over such plans played a role in Labour's defeat. There are reports that Labour might reconsider its pledge to allocate £28 billion for a green investment plan, with critics arguing that it would necessitate higher taxes. Kinnock expressed support for such a move, as long as Labour continues to advocate for borrowing to invest.

Concern about mental health among South Asians A new poll by NHS England has found that over 3 in 5 (64%) South Asians have felt concerned about their mental health in the last year*. In fact, over 2 in 5 (42%) of those asked, said that they have experienced depression, and just under 3 in 10 (29%) have experienced generalised anxiety disorder. However, the responses also reveal that just under two thirds (65%) of South Asians who have accessed professional help for an anxiety disorder or depression said they saw an improvement in their mental health**. The NHS is encouraging anyone struggling with feelings of depression, or anxiety such as excessive worry, panic attacks, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress, or obsessions and compulsions, to seek help through NHS Talking Therapies services. These are effective, confidential and free treatments delivered by trained clinicians, online, on the phone, or in person. Talking Therapies can offer the oppor-

Ummar Sadique, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist

tunity to discuss your difficulties with someone who you don’t know, providing a welcome outlet for many people. Ummar Sadique, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, says: “As an NHS accredited Talking Therapist, I notice that men from the community are far less likely to seek help from therapy than women are. I think it’s an ingrained part of our culture, but it’s something I’d really like to see changing. With Talking Therapies you have the opportunity to talk to someone completely independent, and in

confidence, so you don’t have to be embarrassed about opening up. There are more people using the service than you may think.” Following some traumatic experiences in her life, Harmeet referred herself for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) through NHS Talking Therapies. She has since gone back to the service several times and regularly uses the methods that she has learned from it, to help her with day-to-day challenges. Harmeet says: “Talking Therapies helped pull me out of the dark hole I found myself in. By reaching out for help, especially to someone who is independent and totally non-judgmental, I was able to share what felt heavy and release the weight I had been carrying. I can’t shout about it enough – my mental health is better than ever before.” You don’t need to have a diagnosed mental health problem to refer yourself to an NHS

Talking Therapies service, and you can choose whether to refer yourself online, or to ask your GP to refer you. For those whose first language is not English, talking therapies can be delivered through multi-lingual therapists or through confidential interpreters. The service is available for anyone over 18 who is registered with a GP. Kiran Bal, HICBT Therapist, says: “If you think you may be struggling with depression or anxiety, NHS Talking Therapies may be able to help, it’s a free and confidential service. Talking therapies is tailored to your specific needs, and you can either refer yourself to the service or discuss it with your GP first – whichever feels more comfortable for you.I have seen firsthand the benefits of this service for many of my patients” Your GP can refer you for NHS Talking Therapies, or you can refer yourself online at nhs.uk/talk

450,000 to miss self-assessment tax return deadline More than 475,000 selfemployed people believe they will miss the January 31st deadline for completing self-assessment tax returns and paying any money owed, new research* from Handelsbanken Wealth & Asset Management shows. Data from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said that as of January 23rd, around 3.8 million people were yet to file their returns for the 22/23 tax year and that it is expecting 12.1 million returns to be filed in total, along with any money owed. With just over a week to go, 8.3 million online returns had been received. Handelsbanken Wealth & Asset Management’s research shows substantial numbers of self-employed workers struggle with completing self-assessment returns, with around 475,000 admitting they have missed the deadline in the past. 22% say they are worried about the financial consequences of making a mistake when filing, or the financial repercussions of missing the

deadline. Around 10% say completing self-assessment returns is challenging because of their lack of financial knowledge, and one in 12 (8%) say completing returns is tough because calculating their income is complex. The group most likely to miss the deadline is men aged 25-34, with 16% saying they are likely to file their return late. The rising number of selfassessment returns reflects changes in the way people are employed, the study also showed. Over half (54%) of the working adults surveyed describe themselves as PAYE employee with no additional income, 27% as fully retired, while nearly a fifth (19%) – or 6.1 million people – have some form of selfemployed income. Around one in 10 (9%) are self-employed with one or more sources of income. Council tax hikes loom over UK households amid funding crisis The looming spectre of council tax hikes casts a shadow

over millions of households across the UK, adding to the financial burden brought on by the rising cost of living. Levelling Up Department projections suggest an imminent 4.99% increase in council tax bills, amounting to a substantial £100 surge for the average band D property in England. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's allowance for local authorities to implement up to a 5% council tax increase without referendum only exacerbates the strain on already stretched budgets. The move, coupled with potential pre-election cuts to income tax, threatens to disproportionately impact the most vulnerable segments of society. Amid warnings of a funding crisis plaguing local councils, emergency measures, including a £500 million package, have been unveiled by Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove. However, critics argue that these short-term solutions

offer little respite in the face of deep-seated financial woes. Seeking warmth amid winter's chill: assessing UK's 'warm spaces' initiative As winter's icy grip tightens, many across the UK find themselves grappling with the challenge of staying warm amidst skyrocketing energy costs. In response, an initiative aimed at providing free warm spaces has gained traction, offering a lifeline to those in need. Analysing data from 2,500 participating locations, experts have identified key regions offering accessible warm spaces, providing respite from the cold. North Yorkshire leads the pack with 56 locations, followed closely by Bolton and Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole. As households navigate the challenges posed by the cost of living crisis, initiatives like these offer a glimmer of hope, embodying the spirit of resilience and solidarity in the face of adversity.

Rishi Sunak's wife's firm poised for government funds

UK ministers warn of intelligence threat due to China

A computing company, 2015, Infosys has partially owned by secured at least £66 Akshata Murty, is in line million in public conto receive substantial govtracts. ernment funding. Murty holds approximately 39 milInfosys, an India-based lion shares in Infosys, firm run by Ms Murty's currently valued at family, has been included Akshata Murty around £610 million. in the "approved list" of The Cabinet Office stated suppliers for public sector contracts exceeding £750 million. The that ministers are not involved in company is part of a £250 million the evaluation or selection of bidcontract with NHS Shared ders. This development comes Business Services for "intelligent amid accusations of the automation" and is among 62 Conservative Party attempting to potential suppliers for contracts manipulate the next election. The totalling up to £562.5 million from Tories are pushing for changes to the Financial Conduct Authority the Electoral Commission, drawfor IT services. ing criticism from the agency These contracts fall under overseeing voting, which likened "framework agreements," allow- the situation to "one team telling ing public bodies to directly the umpire how to enforce the award contracts without addi- rules of the game." Critics argue that ministers tional tendering. While no already implemented awards have been granted, have Infosys could potentially receive changes that favour them in elecmillions in taxpayer money. Since tions.

Senior Members of Nigel Inkster, Parliament are warning the former deputy that the "golden era" of head of MI6, added relations between to these concerns, Britain and China dursuggesting that ing David Cameron's British spy agencies leadership has left the lack the necessary UK unprepared for the expertise to effecsecurity threat posed by tively counter the Beijing. significant threat Sir Iain Duncan Smith posed by China's Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former leader of the intelligence services. He attributConservative party, expressed ed this deficiency, in part, to the concern that the close ties forged UK government's pursuit of closduring Cameron's tenure have er ties with Beijing, citing the made the UK overly susceptible "golden era" rhetoric in 2015 as a to Beijing's influence. He noted contributing factor. The warnings from these that other countries, especially the United States, were surprised senior figures highlight the perby the way the UK approached its ceived security vulnerabilities relationship with China. stemming from the historical According to Smith, this has approach to UK-China relations, resulted in a situation where the raising questions about the Foreign Office is reluctant to take nation's preparedness to address a strong stance against China, the evolving challenges posed by exhibiting a "cultural cringe" that China's influence and intelligence activities. hinders proactive measures.





3 - 9 February 2024

Rupanjana Dutta


he Indian High Commission in the UK celebrated India’s 75th Republic Day in a grand scale on Friday 26 January in London. In the morning there was a flag hoisting ceremony outside India House at Aldwych which was attended by Bollywood actor Boman Irani along with 300 people from the diaspora. In the evening a lavish reception was hosted at Guild Hall in the City which saw presence of around 600 guests, mostly from the diaspora. In attendance was Peers, MPs and Councillors as well as celebrities such as Hapreet Kaur Chandi MBE,

Boman Irani. The High Commissioner of India, HE Vikram Doraiswami addressing the audience took them through a recap of India’s growth since the republic was born in 1950s up to all the recent bilateral visits including by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to G20 in Delhi and that of Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to the UK. He also paid a special homage to the Britain’s Indian community for being the living bridge between UK and India. After a short video showcased from the Republic day parade in New Delhi on Friday morning, Lord Chancellor and

three to five years ago, which continued to influence me today. But what stays with me principally is the warmth, the generosity, and the sheer energy of the people I've met and spent time with, in India, as well as I should say, their enthusiasm for a celebration and what a delight it was to see just now the celebrations of

times. It's a moment to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and diversity that makes India greater than the sum of its parts. But perhaps most importantly, it is a moment to celebrate the principles that underpin your success, sovereignty, justice, liberty, democracy, as set out in your constitution, which came into effect


celebrated in the UK with grandeur

I had the opportunity to address the Bar Council of India conference in Devon. And there I spoke about those things that bind our two nations together the living bridge between us. It was an honour to meet distinattendees, guished including the Garba performance to mark its recent Honourable Prime tag of UNESCO's intangible cultural Minister Modi, the heritage of humanity Minister for Law and services sector… Justice and the Chief Justice “We have great partnerof India, and to hear from ships in renewables, green prominent members of the hydrogen, as well as a new Indian legal fraternity on UK India pensions and the importance of interna-

Harpreet Kaur Chandi MBE (Polar Preet) with members of His Majesty's Armed Forces and other guests

Guests attending the Republic day reception at Guild Hall

more popularly known as Polar Preet (a British physiotherapist and His Majesty's Army medical officer who completed a solo expedition across Antartica to the South Pole) as well as Bollywood actor

Secretary of State for Justice Alex Chalk KC MP who was the Chief Guest, enthusiastically spoke about his teaching years in India. He said, “So many memories of my experiences working as a teacher that

Chief Guest Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Alex Chalk KC MP addressing guests as Indian High Commissioner HE Vikram Doraiswami looks on

Actor Boman Irani addressing the diaspora outside India House

the parade in New Delhi...” Elaborating on the importance of India as a Republic, he said, “India's potential really is out of this world. Republic Day is a moment to recognise those who contributed and continue to contribute to those

on this day several years ago. I am reliably informed that it is the most expansive written national constitution in the world, and that somehow fields fit in the world's largest democracy.” The Minister went on to say, “Just a few months ago,

tional collaboration. As Justice Secretary (and up recently a barrister), I work with the growing legal links between our two nations. 1000s of Indian lawyers already make an enormous contribution to the UK legal sector. Ours is the second largest legal sector in the world, Indian lawyers are making a vital contribution. They are part and parcel of our success, and I look forward to strengthening those links in future working together as India forges a global outward facing legal

insurance partnership. And that's before one goes on to consider the military in relationship as well. And our relationship grows ever stronger under the UK, India 2030 roadmap with negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that will I hope soon create even more new exciting trade and investment opportunities for the United Kingdom and India…” Cultural programmes followed by dinner concluded the evening.

MPs criticise compensation scheme as a 'sham'

HE Vikram Doraiswami, the High Commissioner of India to the UK laying a flower wreath at the Gandhi statue in Tavistock Square to mark Gandhi Martry’s Day

ABPL’s New Year’s Reception Gujarat Samachar and Asian Voice held a New Year’s Reception at Sangat Centre, Harrow on 29 January 2024 to express gratitude to well-wishers and readers. A detailed report of the event will be published in the upcoming issue.

Here is a photo from the event: From Left to Right: Navin Shah CBE, Primesh Patel, Susan Hall AM, Cllr Anjana Patel, Mayoress Vaishali Shah, Mayor of Welwyn Hatfield Cllr Pankit Shah, Pranav Vora CEO Aum Care, Mayor of Harrow Cllr Ramji Chauhan, CB Patel, Chinu Kishore, Mayor of Ealing Cllr Hitesh Tailor, Krishna Pujara, Smita Joshi, Pooja Raval, Mahesh Gadhvi, Krupesh Hirani AM, Abbas Merali, Mahesh Liloriya.

Lord Kulveer Ranger, Lord Meghnad Desai, HE Vikram Doraiswami, Bob Blackman MP, Valerie Vaz MP, Indian Deputy High Commissioner Sujit Ghosh with others at the Gandhi statue in Parliament Square

UK steel production hits lowest since Great Depression Steel production in Britain has reached its lowest point in nearly a century, registering output levels not seen since the Great Depression. According to UK Steel, the industry body, the country's furnaces produced only 5.6 million tonnes last year. This marks a 6% decline from the 2022 output, which itself represented a 17% decrease from the previous year. Presently, Britain's steel production is less than half of what it was in 2014 and amounts to less than a fifth of the record high, surpassing 28 million tonnes in 1970 The last instance of steel

production reaching such depths in Britain was during the years 1931 and 1932, amid the global economic downturn of the Great Depression. This trend reversed sharply later in the decade as Britain rearmed in anticipation of the looming Second World War. UK Steel attributes this decline to subdued demand within the struggling British economy and the impact of inexpensive imports from China and other parts of Asia. Approximately 40% of the steel demand in the British economy is now met by foreign suppliers.

A compensation scheme established in response to banking scandals has been criticised by MPs who claim it is a "PR exercise for banks." The Business Banking Resolution Service, designed to provide redress for small companies, has reportedly settled for less than £2 million, despite incurring costs exceeding £40 million to set up and operate. Members of the Treasury select committee raised concerns about whether the service, intended to address grievances of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), was deliberately structured to

exclude companies from compensation. Acting chairman John Baron expressed deep frustration within the SME community, describing the system as failing. Mark Grimshaw, the chief executive of the service, defended its performance within the established eligibility criteria, acknowledging their narrow scope. However, critics, including Baron, argued that businesses perceived the scheme, which incurred costs of £23 million to set up and a total of £42.4 million until 2022, as allowing banks to "mark their own homework."

London museum to loan back looted 'crown jewels' The UK is reportedly planning to loan back a collection of Asante Gold, taken from Ghana over a century ago. The Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) and the British Museum will each lend 17 and 15 items, respectively, under three-year loan agreements, with the possibility of extension, to be displayed at the Manhyia Palace Museum in Kumasi, the capital of the Asante region. This exhibition aims to commemorate the Asantehene's silver jubilee.

Tristram Hunt, the V&A's director, likened the gold items taken from the court of the Asante King to "our Crown Jewels." Most of the items to be loaned were acquired during 19th-century conflicts between the UK and the Asante, including a sword of state, gold badges worn by officials responsible for purifying the king's soul, and a gold peace pipe. Among the items is a ceremonial cap adorned with gold ornaments, worn by senior courtiers during coronations and major festivals.





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Showcasing India's military power and ‘Nari Shakti’ Continued from page 1 These celebrations took place in New Delhi, with French President Emmanuel Macron as the Chief Guest. This year's Republic Day celebrations in India showcased the nation's cultural vibrancy with the participation of over 13,000 special guests from diverse backgrounds, promoting the idea of "jan bhagidari" (people's participation). A significant highlight of the parade was the central role played by 13,000 women, symbolising national strength and vibrancy. In a historic moment, the parade was led by more than 100 women artists who performed traditional Indian music, including instruments like Sankh, Naadswaram, and Nagada. This unique musical prelude marked the beginning of the parade festivities. The Republic Day parade featured several notable moments, including the debut of an allwomen Tri-Service contingent marching along the Kartavya Path. Women pilots also captivated the audience with a remarkable Flypast, symbolizing the strength of women. Additionally, the contingents from the Central Armed Police Forces exclusively consisted of women personnel.

PM Narendra Modi at Republic Day celebrations at Kartavya Path

BSF women Dare Devils perform during parade

Meghalya tableau showcases cherry blossoms and lilacs

The parade commenced at 10:30 a.m. with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the National War Memorial, where he paid his respects to the fallen heroes by laying a wreath. Notably, the President of India and her French counterpart were accompanied by the President's bodyguard, known as 'Rashtrapati ke angrakshak,' which is the most senior Regiment of the Indian Army. The two Presidents arrived in a traditional buggy, reviving a practice that had been dormant for 40 years. As the crowd patiently awaited the break of dawn, Major Saumya Shukla ASC had the honour of unfurling India's National Flag. This momentous occasion was followed by the rendition of the National Anthem, accompanied by a resounding 21-gun salute delivered using indigenous 105-mm Indian Field Guns. Adding to the spectacle, four Mi-17 IV helicopters from the 105 Helicopter Unit showered flower petals upon the audience gathered at Kartavya Path. Subsequently, the parade officially began with

Gujarat's R-Day tableau on Dhordo tourism village

CA Pithawalla (retd), Colonel D Sreeram Kumar and Lt. Col Jas Ram Singh (retd). The Param Vir Chakra is awarded for the most conspicuous act of bravery and self-sacrifice in the face of the enemy, while the Ashok Chakra is awarded for similar acts of valour and self-sacrifice but, other than, in the face of the enemy. A historic moment unfolded as the French Air and Space Force

during the parade. Alongside them, more than 15 state tableaux and 8 displays from various ministries, defence, and other departments

added to the grandeur of the event. Among these, Meghalaya and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research presented visually captivating displays featuring cherry blossoms and lilacs, respectively. Arunachal Pradesh's tableau focused on its "Bugun Community Reserve," a biodiversity hotspot within the state. What stood out was the prominent role of women in all the tableaux, including the Indian Space Research Organisation's portrayal of the Chandrayan-3 mission and the significant contributions made by women scientists. Among the grand showcase of mechanised columns and missile systems, were the march-past by marching contingents — the Madras Regiment, The Grenadiers, the Rajputana Rifles, the Sikh Regiment, and the Kumaon Regiment. In a vibrant display of "nari shakti" (women's power), approximately 1,500 female dancers graced the occasion by performing 30 diverse folk dances. These captivating performances encompassed dance forms such as Kuchipudi, Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Satriya, Mohiniyattam, Manipuri, and more. The parade ended with the flypast in the sky, with different formations like — Arjan, Netra, Varuna, Bheem, Trishul and Vijay — which was formed by Rafale.

‘Beating Retreat’ marks culmination of R-Day celebrations As the sun began to set, the Raisina Hills resonated with captivating Indian melodies performed by military and paramilitary bands, marking the celebration of the 'Beating Retreat' ceremony in the heart of the national capital.

All Indian tunes played during Beating Retreat ceremony CRPF women's Band and Contingent shine at Republic Day

the President taking the salute. The parade was under the command of Parade Commander Lieutenant General Bhavnish Kumar, General Officer Commanding, Delhi Area, a second-generation Army officer. Major General Sumit Mehta, Chief of Staff, HQ Delhi Area, served as the Parade Second-in-Command. The highest gallantry awards presented this year included, Param Vir Chakra winners — Subedar Major (Honorary Captain), Yogendra Singh Yadav (retd) and Subedar Major Sanjay Kumar (retd), and Ashok Chakra winners Major General

participated in the flypast over Kartavya Path, marking the firstever foreign country to join this aerial display. Two French Rafale aircraft and one A330 MRTT graced the skies. Notably, the French regiment was the pioneer in presenting a marching contingent at the parade in 2016. The Air Force tableau conveyed the concept of "atma nirbharta" (self-reliance) and featured an illustration of an IAF C-295 transport aircraft, operated by two women aircrew. A notable first occurred as the Delhi Police proudly showcased their allwomen contingent

'Beating Retreat' is a time-honoured military tradition with roots dating back to the era when troops would conclude their activities at sunset. The rhythmic drum beats harken back to those days when soldiers, stationed in towns and cities, were called back to their quarters in the evening. The ceremony evokes a sense of nostalgia for bygone times and serves as the grand finale of the Republic Day celebrations. During the event, the music bands of the Army, Navy, Indian Air Force, and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) enthralled the audience with 31 captivating and foottapping tunes. The ceremony began after President and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Droupadi Murmu, arrived in a traditional colonial era horse-drawn buggy. The triservice chiefs welcomed the President. Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, several Union Ministers, senior officials among the general public were present at the ceremony. It all began with the massed band’s ‘Shankhnaad’ tune, followed by enthralling tunes such as ‘Veer Bharat’, ‘Sangam Dur’, ‘Deshon ka Sartaj Bharat’, ‘Bhagirathi’, and ‘Arjuna’ by pipes and drums band. The public clapped to every beat, while some recorded the moment. The event ended with the ever-popular tune of ‘Sare Jahan se Acha.’ The public sang the national anthem, and the Tricolour flag was taken down.





3 - 9 February 2024

Dear Financial Voice Reader, Alpesh Patel OBE

With a massive 55% return on their pensions for many in 2023 because the Nasdaq index was up that much, can this continue. Of course a lot depends on AI. 10 Reasons the AI Boom Will Benefit the Stock Market in 2024 1. Enhanced Market Analysis and Prediction AI technologies have significantly improved market analysis and prediction capabilities. By processing vast amounts of data, AI can identify trends and patterns that might be invisible to human analysts, leading to more informed investment decisions. 2. Automation in Trading The integration of AI in trading algorithms has enabled more efficient and faster transactions. This automation reduces human error and speeds up market reactions, potentially increasing market liquidity and efficiency. 3. Improved Financial Services AI has revolutionized financial services, offering personalized investment advice and enhancing customer service. This has increased the appeal of investment products to a broader range of investors, potentially driving market growth. 4. Expansion of AI-Driven Industries Industries that heavily utilize AI, like tech, healthcare, and finance, are likely to experience growth, positively impacting their stock valuations and attracting more investors to the market. 5. Enhanced Risk Management AI's predictive capabilities help in better assessing and managing risks. By identifying potential market downturns or company-specific risks earlier, investors can make more informed decisions. 6. Cost Reduction for Companies AI can streamline operations and reduce costs for companies across various sectors. This increased efficiency can lead to higher profit margins and, consequently, higher stock prices. 7. Global Market Accessibility AI tools have made it easier for investors worldwide to access different markets, increasing global investment flows and market interconnectedness. 8. Innovation and Competitive Advantage Companies that effectively implement AI can gain a significant competitive advantage, potentially leading to superior performance and higher stock valuations. 9. Data-Driven Decision Making The vast amount of data processed by AI allows companies to make more informed and strategic decisions, potentially leading to better business outcomes and investor confidence. 10. Positive Consumer Sentiment The excitement and optimism around AI technologies can fuel positive consumer sentiment, attracting more retail investors to the market and potentially driving up stock prices. 10 Reasons for Caution Regarding Stocks in 2024 and the AI Boom 1. Over-Reliance on Technology An over-reliance on AI for market predictions and trading could lead to a disconnect from fundamental analysis, possibly resulting in misguided investment strategies. 2. Potential for AI Failures or Errors AI systems are not infallible and can make errors, especially when faced with unprecedented market conditions. These errors could lead to significant financial losses. 3. Market Overvaluation The excitement surrounding AI could lead to overvaluation of AI-centric stocks, creating market bubbles that might burst, causing substantial market corrections. 4. Cybersecurity Risks Increased reliance on AI and digital technologies elevates the risk of cybersecurity breaches, which can have severe financial implications for companies and investors. 5. Regulatory Uncertainties As AI technology evolves, so does the need for regulatory frameworks. Uncertainties in regulation can lead to market volatility and impact investor confidence. 6. Job Displacement Concerns AI's role in automating jobs could lead to socioeconomic issues, such as increased unemployment, potentially affecting consumer spending and economic growth. 7. Ethical and Privacy Concerns The use of AI raises ethical and privacy concerns, which could lead to public backlash against companies and sectors heavily utilizing AI, impacting their stock performance. 8. Global Economic Conditions External factors, such as geopolitical tensions or economic downturns, can overshadow the positive impacts of the AI boom on the stock market. 9. Market Saturation As more companies invest in AI, the market could become saturated, reducing the competitive advantage and profit margins of AI-driven companies. 10. Technological Disparities The unequal distribution of AI advancements across sectors and regions could lead to imbalances in the market, affecting overall market stability. So for both my industry of asset management and the stock market as a whole, I remain cautiously optimistic.

TCS extends deal with UK's Aviva for 15 years Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has extended its partnership with Aviva, the UK's leading insurance, wealth, and retirement provider, in a 15-year agreement aimed at enhancing Aviva's UK life business and improving customer experience. The deal involves expanding the end-to-end policy administration and servicing to cover over 5.5 million policies, managed by Diligenta, TCS's FCA-regulated subsidiary in the UK. TCS will deploy its BaNCS platform to facilitate the

extension of enhanced customer experience and servicing. The collaboration focuses on digitization, simplification, and adhering to New Consumer Duty Principles

for good customer service. “Extending this strategic partnership will improve how we serve our customers, further simplify our operations and support our growth ambitions. It will allow us to rationalize our systems and improve efficiency, bringing significant benefits for our customers and the business,” said Doug Brown, CEO Insurance, Wealth & Retirement, Aviva. TCS BFSI Platforms, a

SaaS-first platform, plays a key role in powering the digital ecosystem for life, pensions/annuities, property/ casualty, and health insurance providers. This extension of the partnership builds on the successful transformation of Aviva's customer experience through digitization and simplification. The extension of its partnership with Aviva aligns with TCS's strategic focus on digital transformation and customer-centric approaches in the BFSI sector.

J.P. Morgan promotes Raghavan to sole investment bank head in executive reshuffle J.P. Morgan announced a significant restructuring within its corporate and investment bank, appointing Vis Raghavan as the exclusive head of its global deal making unit. This move comes alongside broader changes at the Wall Street institution, positioning potential successors to CEO Jamie Dimon. Raghavan, who currently serves as CEO of J.P.Morgan's Europe, Middle East, and Africa operations, steps into the role of sole head of investment banking,

Vis Raghavan

while his co-head, Jim Casey, transitions to a new, yet unspecified position within the organisation. Raghavan's elevation coincides with J.P. Morgan's restructuring of its corporate

and investment bank, which involves the dissolution of its current framework in favour of a larger commercial and investment bank. This expanded entity will encompass various functions including dealmaking, commercial banking, corporate banking, sales and trading, as well as payments and securities services. Jennifer Piepszak, formerly co-CEO of J.P. Morgan's consumer bank, and Troy Rohrbaugh, head of markets, have been appointed as co-leads of this

London's £1 million homes decline amid falling prices The number of "property millionaires," individuals owning homes valued at over £1 million, witnessed a four percent decline in 2023, according to Savills. Last year, a total of 12,280 homes transitioned out of the £1 million plus category, reflecting an average six percent decrease in house prices across the capital. However, London retained 330,668 houses whose owners are part of the property millionaires club. London experienced the smallest reduction in the count of £1 million plus houses compared to other regions in the UK. Notably, there are still 30,750 more million-pound-plus houses in London than there were in 2019. Presently, London holds just under half of the houses valued at over seven figures in the UK, as house prices surged in the regions. Among the top

ten boroughs with the highest-priced home sales of 2023, eight are located in London. In 2023, Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster, Camden, Hammersmith & Fulham, and Richmond Upon Thames recorded the highest number of houses sold for over £1 million. Within prime central London, Kensington & Chelsea saw 1,600 seven-figure homes sold, and Westminster saw 1,554. Some of these transactions might have represented relative bargains, as numerous affluent owners reduced their asking prices significantly last year to entice buyers in a sluggish market. Recent research from Hamptons revealed that individuals who purchased a house in London in the last 20 years and sold in 2023 garnered £204,190 more than their initial purchase prices.

National insurance cut of £1000 boosts paychecks across Britain Millions of workers across the UK will experience a boost in their take-home pay this January, as their wages are deposited into their bank accounts. With today marking payday for many, households with dual average earners can anticipate nearly £1,000 annually from the Chancellor's significant personal tax reduction. This move follows the government's commitment to economic priorities, with the National Insurance rate cut by 2p, dropping from 12% to 10%, as announced during the Autumn Statement. Implemented swiftly after the announcement, this reduction, exceeding 15%, translates to savings of £450 this year for the average salaried worker earning £35,400. Millions of people working different jobs across hundreds of industries will now be better off. To a pub landlord that’s £418 a year, a bus driver £328, a nurse £527. A teacher will pay £635 less in National Insurance contributions this year. Amidst the challenges posed by the aftermath of Covid-19 and global unrest, including conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, today marks the implementation of a historic National Insurance Contributions (NICs) cut by the government. Over the past year, inflation has decreased by half, the economy has rebounded faster than anticipated from the pandemic, and debt reduction is progressing as planned. The government remains steadfast in its commitment to its strategy, aiming to cultivate a robust economy that values hard work, celebrates ambition, and fosters aspirations.

newly formed unit. Meanwhile, Marianne Lake assumes the role of sole head of consumer banking, while Marc Badrichani, cohead of J.P. Morgan's markets and securities services business, is departing from the bank. Under Dimon's leadership, J.P. Morgan has promoted numerous senior executives, positioning several internal candidates as potential successors for when he eventually steps down from his current position.

UK's domestic car industry rebounds with £24bn boost The UK car industry has made a remarkable comeback, securing £24 billion in investment pledges last year, surpassing the total for the previous seven years, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Following a period of reduced spending due to Brexit uncertainty and government instability, the sector has become "investible" again, with major announcements from Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover, Tata, and BMW. The positive outlook is supported by SMMT figures revealing that vehicle production exceeded 1 million for the first time since 2019, experiencing a 17% rise driven by a recovery in the car market and robust exports to Europe. Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of the SMMT, declared, "We are back in the game." The return of relative political stability after the tumultuous period from 2016 to 2022 enabled manufacturers with UK plants to make significant spending decisions. SMMT calculations indicate that between 2016 and 2022, a total of £17 billion was invested in the sector, while last year's figure reached £23.7 billion, with notable contributions from JLR (£15 billion) and Nissan (£2 billion). Despite fierce competition from other European countries, the UK succeeded in attracting these investments, primarily from existing factory owners. The rejuvenation of the UK car industry signals a promising shift, marking a robust comeback from previous challenges.





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Ola CEO's Krutrim secures $50 million, becomes India's first AI unicorn Krutrim, the AI startup cofounded by OLA CEO Bhavish Aggarwal, has attained unicorn status with a significant $50 million funding round. Led by Matrix Partners India and other prominent investors, this investment values Krutrim at a remarkable $1 billion, marking India's first AI unicorn. Despite launching its language model just a month ago, Krutrim, whose name translates to "artificial" in Sanskrit, is not limiting itself to language models. The startup is deeply engaged in the

Bhavish Aggarwal

development of data centers and aims to manufacture servers and supercomputers tailored for the AI ecosystem. Krutrim recently announced the successful completion of its inaugural funding round on

LinkedIn, marking a historic milestone for the company and a notable accomplishment for India's tech sector.Bhavish Aggarwal, the Founder of Krutrim, expressed his enthusiasm for building

India's complete AI computing stack, stating, "India has to build its own AI, and at Krutrim, we are fully committed towards building the country’s first complete AI computing stack." Leveraging a dataset of over 2 trillion tokens, with a specific emphasis on Indian data, Krutrim drives generative AI applications across diverse Indian languages. The company's linguistic expertise extends to conversational AI assistants proficient in comprehending and conversing fluently in multiple Indian languages.

India and France finalise roadmap for defense industry India and France have finalised a Defense Industrial Roadmap aimed at collaborating on the codevelopment, co-designing, and co-production of various defense items, with an emphasis on meeting the requirements of third countries as well, stated foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra. Additionally, the two nations have agreed on a roadmap for the defense aspects of the space sector during the summit between President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Jaipur. The two leaders engaged in detailed discussions on defense

industrial partnership, with a significant focus on the defense aspect of space sector partnership. It was emphasized that NewSpace India Ltd (NSIL), the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and Arianespace have concluded a Memorandum

of Understanding (MoU) for satellite launches during the summit. Tata Group and Airbus Helicopters agreed on an industrial partnership for H125 helicopters with a significant indigenous and localisation component. During a special briefing held here following the

Republic Day celebrations, where Macron served as the chief guest, the foreign secretary highlighted that discussions on defense partnership, among other topics, centered on the joint development of a combat engine, the aircraft acquisition of Rafale M fighters, and the construction of Scorpeneclass submarines. The two sides have also agreed on health sector cooperation and five-year Schengen visa for MA alumni in France among other issues. An agreement was signed between the two countries' ministries of health on healthcare cooperation, education, training, and research, Kwatra said.

India’s rice export rates 41% in India still rely on biomass for cooking, reach record high on emit 340mn tonnes CO2 limited supplies India's rice export rates soared to unprecedented levels this week, driven by restricted supplies and consistent demand from Asian and African purchasers. The 5 per cent broken parboiled variety was quoted at $533-$542 per ton, marking an increase from last week's $525-$535. This surge can be attributed to reduced availability caused by government paddy procurement and ongoing rice milling for the new season, as reported by a news agency. Nitin Gupta, senior vice president of Olam Agri India, explained, "Supplies in the market are limited since the government's paddy buying is leaving little for private players." India's rice output is forecasted to decrease this fiscal year, marking the first decline in eight years, which has raised concerns about potential export restrictions to manage food prices ahead of elections. Meanwhile, Vietnam's 5 percent broken rice was

offered at $630 per metric ton, a decrease from $653 the previous week. Traders are anticipating stronger supplies from the upcoming winter-spring harvest in the Mekong Delta, according to the report. Thailand witnessed a slight drop in prices for 5 percent broken rice to $663$665 per ton, attributed to a weakening baht. However, domestic activity and a new order for 0.5 million tonnes from Indonesia provided support to prices, as reported by a Bangkokbased trader. Meanwhile, rice prices in Bangladesh remained high despite good yields and record reserves, prompting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to issue orders against rice hoarders.

A recent report by the Centre for Science and Environment stated that 41% of Indians still rely on wood, cow dung, or other biomass for cooking fuel, contributing to around 340 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Despite the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana's efforts to expand access to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), the transition to clean cooking in households has not been guaranteed for those benefiting from the scheme. Globally, around 2.4 billion people, including 500 million in India, still lack access to clean cooking solutions, impacting the economy, public health, and the environment. Indoor air pollution from wood-based cooking causes approximately three million premature deaths annually worldwide, with 0.6 million occurring in India alone, according to the report. Although the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MOPNG) claims that the country's household LPG "coverage" stands at 99.8 per cent, the National Family

Health Survey conducted in 201921 (NFHS-5) shows that 41 per cent of the population still cooks on biomass, it said. "CSE's own calculations have found that this 41 per cent cumulatively emits — when it cooks on wood, cow dung or other biomass around 340 million tonnes of CO2 (carbon dioxide) into the environment every year, which is about 13 per cent of India's national GHG emissions," the report said.

Tata teams up with France's Airbus to manufacture helicopters in India Tata Group and Airbus have partnered to inaugurate India's inaugural private Final Assembly Line (FAL) for helicopters, a significant advancement for the country's 'Make in India' initiative. The FAL will assemble Airbus' renowned H125 helicopter from its civil range. This collaboration marks a notable milestone, as it signifies the private sector's pioneering initiative in establishing a helicopter manufacturing facility in India. The establishment of the FAL is in line with the government's 'Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India) initiative, which aims to foster indigenous manufacturing capabilities. This partnership further strengthens the existing collaboration between Tata and Airbus, who are already

engaged in the production of the C-295 transport aircraft in the state of Gujarat. Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL), a subsidiary of the Tata Group, will be leading the charge in setting up this facility in collaboration with Airbus Helicopters. The announcement of this venture coincided with the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to India as the Chief Guest for the Republic Day celebrations on January 26. During Macron's state visit, discussions also revolved around potential collaboration in the defense sector, with talks of French engine maker Safran potentially assisting in the production of fighter jet engines in India, as confirmed by an official to the media.

ONGC gets Petroleum Ministry’s nod for green energy subsidiary The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has greenlit the establishment of a subsidiary company under Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) dedicated to green energy and gas ventures. The newly formed company will focus on various sectors including green hydrogen, hydrogen blending, renewable energy (solar, wind, and hybrid), biofuels, biogas, and LNG. Following the board meeting, the proposed name for the company is "ONGC Green Limited," pending approval from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India. “In continuation of our filing dated 13.02.2021, it is hereby updated that the Company has received approval from the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) on 05.12.2023 for the formation of a wholly-owned subsidiary company,” the outcome of

the meeting read. “The wholly-owned subsidiary company shall be engaged into the business of value-chains of energy business viz. Green Hydrogen, Hydrogen blending, Renewable Energy (Solar, Wind and Hybrid etc.), Bio-fuels/ Bio-gas business and LNG,” it added. During the meeting, the Board also granted its inprinciple approval for the establishment of a Joint Venture Company (JVC) with NTPC Green Energy Limited. The JVC will focus on Offshore Wind Energy and other Renewable Energy ventures. India made a significant commitment at COP26 in 2021 with its ambitious "Panchamrit" pledge, aiming to achieve 500 GW of non-fossil electricity capacity, generate half of all energy needs from renewables, and reduce emissions by 1 billion tonnes by 2030.

India targets $5 trillion GDP, 3rd largest economy in 3 years: Finance Ministry The finance ministry stated that India is expected to become the third-largest economy in the world with a GDP of $ 5 trillion in the next three years and touch $ 7 trillion by 2030 on the back of continued reforms. By 2030, this figure is expected to soar to $7 trillion, driven by ongoing reforms. A decade ago, India held the 10th position globally, with a GDP of $1.9 trillion. Despite challenges like the pandemic and inherited economic imbalances, the country has ascended to the 5th position, with an estimated GDP of $3.7 trillion in the fiscal year 2024, as per the ministry's January 2024 economic review.

"This ten-year journey is marked by several reforms, both substantive and incremental, which have significantly contributed to the country's economic progress," it said. The ministry also noted that these reforms have bolstered India's economic resilience, providing a crucial buffer against unforeseen global shocks in the future. The ministry said that in the next three years, India is expected to become the third-largest economy in the world, with a GDP of $ 5 trillion. "The government has, however, set a higher goal of becoming a 'developed country' by 2047. With the journey of reforms continuing, this goal is achievable," it said.





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in brief Man detained for threatening visitors at Canada gurdwara Canadian authorities are investigating a threat to Sikh worshipers with two large bladed weapons at a gurdwara in British Columbia province. The incident happened at Penticton city during a Monday evening service at the gurdwara, newspapers reported. A 23-year-old man was allegedly threatening other visitors while aggressively swinging two large bladed weapons, the report said, quoting the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). While nobody was injured

in the incident, one person was taken into custody and was later released. An investigation is ongoing, the report said. The temple statement said that it was “an unruly group of non-society members inside the temple.”

Vivek Saini, an MBA student in Georgia's Lithonia, was a part-time clerk at a convenience store that sheltered Julian Faulkner - a homeless drug-addict. He had shown kindness to a homeless man. The day he stopped helping him, he killed him brutally. Mr Saini had helped the man by giving him chips, water and even a jacket for warmth. On January 16, the 25-yearold refused to give Faulkner free food and the refusal allegedly led to the fatal attack. He was attacked while he

ly angry with her children for not visiting her, even when she was sick. Allegedly, the story has ignited online discussions about family dynamics and inheritance practices in China. "How disappointed and heartbroken she must have been to make the decision not to leave anything to her children," one user wrote. "Well done. If my daughter treats me poorly in the future, I will also leave my house to others," another said. Meanwhile, this is not the first-time pets have been the beneficiary of a generous inheritance. In 2020, a wealthy businessman in Tennessee left $US5 million to his eight-yearold border collie, Lulu.

A New York City jury awarded $83.3m to E Jean Carroll in her defamation trial against Donald Trump. Carroll will receive $18.3m in compensatory damages and $65m in punitive retribution. The former president is paying Carroll compensatory damages of $18.3m – $11m to fund a reputational repair campaign. The $7.3m is for the emotional harm caused by Trump’s 2019 public statements. Carroll and her legal team were beaming as they left court in a black SUV. They did not answer questions immediately after court let out. Moments after the decision was announced, Trump decried it as “absolutely ridiculous” on Truth Social, and said he would be filing an appeal. “I fully dis-

First WHO Director appointed from Bangladesh Saima Wazed was confirmed as the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for South-East Asia by the WHO Executive Board in Geneva, Switzerland. After taking oath as the new Regional Director, Wazed in her acceptance speech at the WHO Executive Board said, ”I would like to thank the Member States for the trust they have placed in me. There is a lot of work to be done, and I am extremely pleased to be starting this journey at this moment with all of you. I am excited for all that we can, and will, do together in the coming

Saima Wazed

years.” Wazed begins a five-year term on 1 February 2024. She is the first from Bangladesh and the second woman Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia Region. She was nominated as the next Regional Director in a vote by the Regional Committee for South-East Asia on 1

November 2023 in New Delhi, India. Emphasising on her priorities, the new Regional Director said, “The first of these is a strong focus on mental health….a longneglected area. It is time to turn the tide against the silent illness of mental health which impacts every aspect of the lives affected. I will work towards ensuring relative parity between physical and mental health in our healthcare systems.” Wazed emphasised on partnerships, collaboration and financing that’s transparent, sustainable, and provides adequate return on investment.

Canada confirms that India is co-operating over the murder of Sikh separatist India is cooperating with Canada and bilateral ties are improving after tensions spiked over the murder of a Sikh separatist leader in British Columbia, a top Canadian official has told. Diplomatic relations soured after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year said Canada was "actively pursuing credible allegations" that Indian agents were potentially linked to the June 2023 murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen. India has denied any formal government role in Nijjar's murder. "I wouldn't describe them (the Indians) as not cooperating. I think we've made

was leaving for home. A chilling CCTV footage of the incident showed the accused repeatedly hitting Mr Saini with a hammer. The accused was seen mercilessly striking Mr Saini, nearly 50 times, on the head and face with the hammer. He kept hitting his lifeless body on the floor.

Trump loses defamation, ordered to pay $83.3m

$2.8m fortune left by women for her pets In China, an older woman has decided to leave her $2.8 million fortune to her cats and dogs rather than her adult children, citing their lack of visits during her old age. Identified as Ms Liu from Shanghai, she changed her will because she felt neglected by her adult children, while her pets provided her with 'companionship and comfort'. The inheritance is now under the administration of a local veterinary clinic due to legal constraints that prohibit direct bequests to animals in China. Ms Liu expressed a desire to leave her entire estate to her pets, but this is not legally permissible in the country. Additionally, she was reported-

Indian MBA student killed in USA

advancements in that relationship," Jody Thomas, Trudeau's national security adviser told. Canada has been pressing India to cooperate in its investigation of Nijjar's killing. Last November, U.S. authorities said they had thwarted a plot to kill a Sikh separatist in the United States. "The information that they (the Americans) revealed supported our position and our assertions with India, and India is working with us ... far more closely to resolve this," Thomas has told. Trudeau said in December he sensed a change in New Delhi's tone with Ottawa after the US case.

agree with both verdicts, and will be appealing this whole Biden Directed Witch Hunt focused on me and the Republican Party,” Trump wrote. “Our Legal System is out of control, and being used as a Political Weapon. They have taken away all First Amendment Rights. THIS IS NOT AMERICA!” The Manhattan federal court decision comes less than one year after Carroll won $5m in her sexual abuse and defamation trial against Trump. This sum stems from Carroll’s rape claim against the president in a June 2019 New York magazine article. The publication ran an excerpt of her then-forthcoming book, What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal.

Pakistan ex-PM Imran Khan sentenced to 10 years jail in state secrets case A Pakistan court has sentenced former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his close aide, former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, to 10 years in jail in a case related to the leaking of state secrets. The special court, convened within a prison in Rawalpindi, announced the verdict in the cypher case, involving a diplomatic cable that Khan alleges supports his claim of a conspiracy behind his removal from power in 2022. The court, operating under the Official Secrets Act, found Khan guilty of misusing the confidential cable sent by a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States. Despite Khan's repeated denial of the charge, asserting that the document contains evidence of a plot orchestrated by his political adversaries and the influential military, aided by the US administration, both Washington and the Pakistani army dismiss the allegation. Khan was Pakistan’s premier from August 2018 to April 2022 when he lost a vote of confidence in the parliament. He has been in jail since August last year, facing trial in multiple cases. The sentencing against the country’s main opposition leader comes about a week before the general elections, scheduled on February 8. Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari, a spokesperson for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, told media the PTI will challenge the court’s decision. “This was pretty much a writing on the wall,” he said, adding that the trial was held in an “unlawful manner”.

SRI LANKA TO REGULATE ONLINE CONTENT Sri Lanka's Parliament swiftly approved a new bill aimed at overseeing online content, drawing condemnation from both rights organisations and opposition figures who argue that the government is attempting to suppress dissent and curb freedom of expression ahead of this year's parliamentary and presidential elections. The measure was passed by a 108-62 vote, the speaker announced. According to the Online Safety Bill, individuals who produce content considered "illegal" by a five-member commission will face imprisonment. Additionally, the bill places responsibility on companies like Google, Facebook, and X to be accountable for the content shared on their platforms.

UKRAINIAN-BORN MODEL CROWNED MISS JAPAN SPARKS DEBATE With tears welling in her eyes, Ukrainian-born model Carolina Shiino gratefully embraced the title of Miss Japan 2024. At 26 years old, Shiino defied conventional expectations of a Miss Japan winner, yet graciously thanked both the judges and audience in flawless Japanese. As reported by the media, Shiino was born in Ukraine but relocated to Nagoya, a bustling city in Japan, at the age of 5. In 2022, Shiino acquired Japanese citizenship through naturalisation, making her the first citizen to clinch the Miss Japan pageant title. Additionally, at the age of 26, she holds the distinction of being the oldest woman to achieve this honour. Reactions to Shiino's victory have been varied, both domestically and internationally.

47 JOURNALISTS JAILED IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA A recent report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) depicts a grim scenario for sub-Saharan Africa. The count of imprisoned journalists has surged from 31 in 2022 to 47 by December 1, 2023. CPJ identifies Eritrea as a leading perpetrator of press freedom violations in Africa, with 16 journalists currently detained. The country holds the seventh position globally for the longest-standing cases of imprisoned journalists without any charges. As per the report, the count of imprisoned Ethiopian journalists mirrors the difficult media landscape in the East African nation. Meanwhile, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala remains confined in a communal cell within the infamous Makala prison in Kinshasa. CPJ voices apprehension regarding the insufficient global awareness surrounding the plight of Tshiamala, a correspondent for Jeune Afrique and Reuters, along with all other journalists held in African prison.

TWO GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS IN CALIFORNIA TO INTRODUCE HINDI LANGUAGE In a groundbreaking move for California, two public schools in the Silicon Valley will incorporate Hindi as a world language into their curriculum. The choice to offer Hindi as an elective subject has been embraced by the sizable Indian American population in Fremont, who have advocated for their children to have the opportunity to learn Hindi in educational settings. Fremont has one of the highest concentrations of Indian Americans in California. On January 17, the Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) Board voted 4-1 to initiate a pilot program introducing Hindi into the curriculum at Horner Middle School and Irvington High School for the upcoming 20242025 academic year, commencing in August. Indian Americans constitute 65 percent of the student body at Horner Middle School and Irvington High Schools. Across the district, there are a total of 29 elementary school campuses, five middle school campuses, and five high school campuses.





3 - 9 February 2024

in brief KENYAN CULT LEADER AND 94 OTHERS CHARGED WITH MANSLAUGHTER Paul Mackenzie, a self-proclaimed Kenyan pastor, along with his wife and 93 other individuals, faced charges of manslaughter at the Mombasa law court. All defendants pleaded not guilty to the 238 counts of manslaughter reportedly occurring between January 2021 and February 2023. A total of 429 members, including children, of Mackenzie's Good News International Church died. Dozens of shallow graves containing bodies were unearthed on an 800-acre ranch situated in the secluded Shakahola Forest area within the coastal county of Kilifi. The discovery came to light after authorities rescued 15 emaciated church members who revealed to investigators that Mackenzie had ordered them to fast until death, anticipating the world's end. Autopsies conducted on several bodies recovered from the graves revealed causes of death including starvation, strangulation, and suffocation.

CHINA WARNS STUDENTS AMID AIRPORT HARASSMENT REPORTS The Chinese embassy in the United States advised Chinese students against using Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), citing reports of harassment, interrogations, and denied entry despite possessing all necessary documents. China has also lodged a formal complaint with the US. The embassy noted that the individuals under investigation included those with valid documentation who were either returning to the US after vacationing in China, traveling to the US, attending a conference in the US, or beginning their first semester in the country. A release by the Chinese embassy stated that the citizens were subjected to interrogation, their electronic devices were inspected and some people were even isolated for around 10 hours and prohibited from speaking with anyone.

FRENCH FARMERS PLAN PARIS TRACTOR PROTEST French Interior Ministry deploys security as farmers protest near Paris as angry farmers threatened to head toward the capital, hours after climate activists hurled soup at the glass protecting the “Mona Lisa” painting at the Louvre Museum. French farmers demand higher pay, less bureaucracy, and protection from cheap imports. Speaking after an emergency meeting, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 15,000 police officers are being deployed, mostly in the Paris region. Darmanin said he ordered security forces to “prevent any blockade” of Rungis International Market — which supplies the capital and surrounding region with much of its fresh food — and the Paris airports as well as to ban any convoy of farmers from entering the capital and any other big city. He said that helicopters will monitor convoys of tractors.

IRAN LAUNCHES THREE SATELLITES INTO SPACE Iran has announced the successful launch of three satellites into space, utilising its Simorgh rocket, as reported by the state-run IRNA news agency. This development marks the latest advancement in Iran's space program, which the West perceives as contributing to the enhancement of its ballistic missile capabilities. The satellites, named Mahda, Kayhan-2, and Hatef-1, were identified by Iran's state TV as part of the launch. The Mahda satellite is designated as a research satellite, while Kayhan and Hatef are nanosatellites with a focus on global positioning and communication, according to their descriptions. Iranian state television aired footage of the Simorgh rocket's nighttime launch. Expert analysis of the footage indicates that the launch occurred at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Iran's rural Semnan province. “The roar of the Simorgh (rocket) resonated in our country’s sky and infinite space," said Abbas Rasooli, a state TV reporter, in the footage.

Trump is all set for rematch with Biden in general election Donald Trump emerged victorious in the New Hampshire primary, securing the Republican presidential nomination by defeating his last opponent, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. While Haley may not be ready to concede, Trump's win signals the inevitable end to the nomination race. Despite falling short of the predicted 20-point margin, his triumph solidifies his position as the frontrunner. As the race progresses, Trump's dominance in the Republican Party becomes more evident, setting the stage for a potential rematch with Democratic candidate President Joe Biden in November's general election. Trump's overwhelming victory in Iowa and the favorable upcoming states in the Republican primary calendar suggest his path to the nomination will soon become unstoppable. It's increasingly clear that, as polls have indicated for months, the Republican Party remains firmly under Donald Trump's leadership. His base's loyalty is unwa-

Joe Biden & Donald Trump

vering, through dramas both legal and political. His brand of conservative populism is in step with his party's voters, as is his focus on issues like immigration, crime and energy. Shree Pathak, Healthcare Professional from Washington DC said, “Trump victory is expected to emphasises conservative values, potentially leading to polices favouring limited government intervention, tax cuts, and deregulation. However, many critics also argue that Trump win might exacerbation of income inequality.”

“Trump is hugely focusing on the mission to make America great again who capitalises on perceived shortcomings of the Biden administration, particularly in handling international conflicts and inflation. His promise to end wars resonates with voters disenchanted with the current state of affairs. This can be one of the reasons why voters are putting their faith on him, “she added. Talking about the Trump’s culture war narratives , Shilpa Thaker, Retired Analyst from New Jersey (USA) said, “Trump

"Apologise to PM Modi": Maldives opposition leader to president Muizzu Qasim Ibrahim, a leader of the Maldives Jumhooree Party (JP), has called on Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu to issue a formal apology to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian public. The call for an apology follows clashes in the Maldivian Parliament, where opposition lawmakers and pro-government MPs clashed over the approval of four cabinet members. In response, the main opposition MDP, holding a parliamentary majority, has announced plans to submit a motion for the impeachment of the President. "Regarding any country, especially a neighbouring one, we shouldn't speak in a way that affects the relationship. We have an obligation to our state that must be considered. President Solih did consider this obligation and issued a Presidential Decree banning the "India Out" campaign. Now, Yameen (former president Abdulla Yameen) is questioning why Muizzu, who participated with him in the India Out Campaign, has not nullified the Presidential Decree," he

said. He added, "The Decree should not be nullified, as it would only result in a loss to the nation. That cannot be done. I would tell Muizzu that it shouldn't be done. Also, I call on President Muizzu to formally apologise to the Indian government and Prime Minister Modi regarding his remarks after the China trip." In a decree signed last year, then Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih declared the opposition's 'India Out' campaign as a "threat to national security." This decree authorized security agencies to remove campaign banners and provided constitutional grounds for action against opposition parties. Led by former President Abdulla Yameen of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), the opposition had been advocating the 'India Out' campaign for over a year, alleging without evidence that the presence of Indian military officers in the island nation's territory violated Maldives' sovereignty.

Alcohol shops to open in Saudi first time after 1952 Saudi Arabia has said it will open a shop in Riyadh selling alcohol to a select band of non-Muslim expats, the first to open in more than 70 years. The clientele will be limited to diplomatic staff, who have for years imported booze in sealed official packages known as diplomatic pouches. Saudi officials said the shop would counter "the illicit trade of alcohol". Prohibition has been law since 1952, after one of King Abdulaziz's sons drunkenly shot dead a British diplomat. The new store will be located in Riyadh's Diplomatic Quarter west of the city centre, according to a document seen by the AFP and Reuters news agencies. Patrons will be limited to 240 "points" of alcohol per month. One litre of spirits will be worth six points, one litre of wine three points and one litre of beer one point. There are also no suggestions that the clientele will

be widened to "ordinary" foreigners in the kingdom without diplomatic privileges, who officially have no access to alcohol. While alcohol will become part of Riyadh life, drinkers would be wise to be mindful of where they drink and how they behave afterwards. Under current Saudi law, penalties for consumption or possession of alcohol can include fines, jail time, public flogging and deportation for unauthorised foreigners.

strategically engages in a “us versus them” narrative, tapping into conservative sentiments on issues such as abortion, immigration, gender rights and homosexuality. However, with all that people still support Trump over Biden. Even many Republicans such as Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy dropped out the race and support Trump.” Recently, Former US President Donald Trump has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize after his name was put forward by Republican congresswoman Claudia Tenney, citing "historic" Abraham Accords treaty that was signed during his presidency. Tenney emphasised Trump's pivotal role in brokering the deal signed in September 2020 between Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. This agreement aimed to normalize their ties and address ongoing tensions in the Middle East between Arab countries and Israel. Subsequently, similar agreements were signed by Morocco and Sudan.

Indian student found dead, day after his mother sought help to trace him Neel Acharya, an Indian student enroled at Purdue University in the US, was discovered deceased hours after his mother reported him missing. The Tippecanoe County Coroner's Office received a call around 11:30 am on Sunday regarding a potential deceased individual at 500 Allison Road in West Lafayette. Upon investigation, authorities found the body of a "college-aged male" on Purdue's campus. The student was identified as Neel Acharya, a double major in computer science and data science at the John Martinson Honours College of Purdue University. Neel's mother Gaury Acharya, had appealed in a post on X about his missing. The Consulate General of India in Chicago replied to her post, saying, "Consulate is in touch with Purdue University authorities and also with Neel's family. Consulate will extend all possible support and help."

4 Indians drowned in Australia In a heart breaking tragedy in Australia: 4 Indians lost their lives in a drowning incident at Phillip Island, Victoria. Deepest condolences to families of the victims. @cgimelbourne team is in touch with friends of the deceased for all necessary assistance,” the Indian High Commission said in a social media post on X Emergency services received distress calls at approximately 3:30 pm on January 24, reporting four individuals in distress in the water. The rescue teams found three women and a man unresponsive after being pulled from the water. Despite immediate and intensive efforts to revive them through CPR, three of the individuals were pronounced dead at the scene, police said. The victims include a man and two women in their 20s, and a woman in her 40s, all part of an extended family group.





3 - 9 February 2024

Nitish Kumar sworn in as Bihar CM with the support of BJP The Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, resigned from his position and ended the alliance with the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance). Following this, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national general secretary Vinod Tawde announced that a BJP-NDA government would be established in the state in partnership with the Janata Dal (United). However, within the hours of resign, Nitish Kumar took oath as the chief minister for a record ninth time. Kumar convened a meeting of JD(U) leaders at his official residence in the state capital Patna, where he announced his request to the governor for the dissolution of the

government in the state. Additionally, he declared plans to form a government with the BJP at 5:00 pm (local time). Meanwhile, during the legislative party meeting, JD(U) MLAs unanimously approved the proposal to establish the government in alliance with the BJP and other NDA

allies. BJP’s Samrat Chaudhary has been elected as the leader of the legislative party, while Vijay Sinha, who was Leader of Opposition in the Bihar assembly, has been elected as the deputy leader. “Samrat Choudhary and Vijay Kumar Sinha have

been elected as leader and deputy leader of the party, legislative respectively. Most certainly, they will be our deputy CMs,” BJP leader and former Bihar Deputy CM, Tarkishore Prasad told reporters, as quoted by media. Later, Bihar BJP Sumit spokesperson Shashank said, “Samrat Choudhary and Vijay Sinha to be the Deputy Chief Ministers of Bihar.” According to various media reports quoting officials, Choudhary and Sinha are expected to be appointed as deputy chief ministers, while Kumar is set to resume his role as chief minister.

Tiruchi student is world topper in ACCA paper Vasanth Karthick Bharath, a final-year B Com (Honours) student at St Joseph’s College in Tiruchi, achieved the highest worldwide score of 90 in the Audit and Assurance paper of the examination conducted by the UK-based Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). Among 25 students from his college who participated in the exam, Bharath's outstanding performance stood out. The exam, originally scheduled to take place in Chennai in early December, was cancelled due

Vasanth Karthick Bharath

to Cyclone Michaung, affecting candidates from over 170 countries. “Writing the exam was a real adventure, because I came to know of the cancellation shortly before I

left for the centre. Though there is an option for answering the exam remotely, I had opted for Chennai because I felt I could perform better in a hall with other students. My father and I were stuck in the hotel as there were no trains and cabs available. It took us two days to return to Tiruchi. Fortunately ACCA rescheduled the exam, and I sat for it online a week later at home,” Mr Bharath told the media. Mr Bharath has excelled in papers on Financial Reporting and Financial

Management, achieving high scores. The Audit and Assurance paper marks the final part of the advanced diploma level in the ACCA curriculum, which consists of a total of 13 papers. Undergraduate students typically undertake nine papers, while postgraduates tackle four. As Mr Bharath's B Com curriculum aligns with the ACCA's requirements, he is exempt from the first six papers. For his outstanding achievement, he will be awarded a cash prize of £200 and a merit certificate by ACCA.

Indian Navy rescues Sri Lankan vessel hijacked by Somali pirates In collaboration with the Seychelles Defence Forces and the Sri Lanka Navy, the Indian Navy intercepted and rescued a Sri Lankan fishing vessel hijacked by Somali pirates, stated the Navy. Three pirates surrendered to the Seychelles Coast Guard, ensuring the safety of all six crew members, while the vessel is being escorted to Mahe in Seychelles. On January 27, a hijacking incident occurred aboard the Sri Lankan-flagged multi-day fishing trawler Lorenzo Putha 04, approximately 955 nautical miles east of Mogadishu, Somalia. Three pirates boarded and hijacked the fishing trawler. Responding swiftly, the Navy deployed INS Sharda on January 28 and tasked HALE Sea Guardian with locating and intercepting the hijacked fishing vessel. “Additionally, efficient operational coordination and information sharing through the Sri Lanka and Seychelles international liaison officers at the Information Fusion Centre, Indian Ocean Region, New Delhi , resulted in the interception of the hijacked fishing vessel by SCGS Topaz in Seychelles Exclusive Economic Zone on 29 January,” the Navy said in a statement. This is the Navy’s third successful anti-piracy operation in the last three days. Earlier, the Navy successfully rescued 19 Pakistani nationals from 11 Somali pirates who had hijacked the fishing vessel Al Naeemi. Additionally, the INS Sumitra intervened in a piracy attempt on the Iranian-flagged fishing vessel FV Iman, securing the safe release of its 17 crew members. These incidents add to a series of recent maritime events, including piracy and attacks on commercial vessels, in the Arabian Sea since December last year. Notably, last week, the Marlin Luanda, an oil tanker flying the Marshall Islands flag, was targeted in a missile attack.

Blow to Farooq Abdullah as several National Conference leaders join BJP in J&K

Soren emerges in Ranchi amid 'missing' buzz as ED seizes cash, car Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren's absence sparked controversy, with the opposition BJP claiming he was "missing" and erecting posters to that effect. The ruling JMM retaliated sharply. Soren reappeared around 2 pm and attended a meeting with his MLAs in Ranchi. The drama unfolded following an Enforcement Directorate visit to Soren's South Delhi residence in connection with a money laundering case, during which Rs 36 lakh in cash, a BMW SUV, and incriminating documents were reportedly seized. Soren, meanwhile, wrote an email to the ED, agreeing to record his statement before the agency on January 31 at 1 pm at his residence. He called the agency’s insistence on recording a statement on or before January 31 “politically motivated”.

Soren’s party, the JMM, has said that the “sudden” visit by the ED at his official residence was an insult to the honour and respect of a CM as well as to the 3.5 crore people of the state. “Have constitutional institutions like ED become puppets in the hands of BJP? Will governments be formed or fallen in the states now through these agencies? Can the central government do anything to the state chief ministers when they visit the country’s capital? Will now the Chief Ministers of different states of the country have to remain limited to their respective limits?” the party said. Before Soren's appearance in Ranchi, the opposition BJP claimed he was "missing." BJP state chief Babulal Marandi shared a "missing" poster for the CM, offering a reward of Rs 11,000 for information leading to his return.

Hemant Soren's wife as CM if he's arrested: Sources Sources within Hemant Soren's Jharkhand Mukti Morcha Party suggest that if the Chief Minister is arrested following his questioning by the Enforcement Directorate in an alleged money laundering case, his wife Kalpana Soren may step in to fill his role. The possibility of his arrest arises after he provides his statement to the agency. Mr Soren, say sources, made the announcement at a meeting of the MLAs of the ruling alliance this evening. The MLAs have agreed since preservation of the government is crucial at this point. "We, all the MLAs of the alliance, of Congress, are fully supporting the Chief Minister," Banna Gupta, the state's health minister who belongs to the Congress, told reporters.

‘Dead' man rings kin in Andhra as police send his 'burned body' for postmortem A family from Veerampalem village in Andhra Pradesh's Rangampet Mandal received a shocking call from their relative, whom they believed to have been burned to death. This revelation came as the police sent what was thought to be his 'body' for post-mortem. The incident unfolded on January 26 when locals discovered a charred body in an agricultural field in East Godavari district. They identified the owner of the land, Ketamalla Pusaiah, as the victim and informed the police.

While the authorities launched a manhunt for the perpetrators, Pusaiah's relatives were informed of the incident. However, during the post-mortem, Pusaiah's kin received a call from him, leaving everyone stunned. Shocked by the turn of events, Pusaiah's relatives rushed to his location with the police and found him injured. Pusaiah recounted the harrowing experience, explaining that he had witnessed three men burning a body in his field on the night of January 25.

When he intervened, they assaulted him and later abandoned him at an unknown location. Managing to seek help from a passerby, he contacted his family before losing consciousness. Upon their arrival, he regained consciousness and was taken to the hospital for treatment. The Rangampet police have filed a case and initiated an investigation into both the incident and the identity of the deceased. They are also pursuing leads to apprehend the suspects involved in the crime, based on Pusaiah's statement.

Farooq Abdullah

Key National Conference leaders, including its Kathua district president, defected to the BJP, dealing a blow to the Farooq Abdullah-led party in the Jammu region. Supporters and district office bearers also switched allegiance to the BJP, joining at the party's headquarters in Jammu. Ravinder Raina, the BJP's Jammu and Kashmir unit chief, and other leaders welcomed the new members. Raina emphasised the BJP's dedication to the welfare of all people, regardless of region or religion. "The BJP's contributions and achievements in health care, education, infrastructure building and socio-economic development are historic," Rain said. He also praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership, attributing the nation's unity and progress to his "dedicated efforts". Senior BJP leader Devinder Singh Rana emphasized the party's inclusive approach, welcoming new members with warmth and camaraderie. Sanjeev Khajuria, formerly with the National Conference, praised the Modi government's welfare schemes for their grassroots impact and lauded the prime minister's global leadership. At another event, former deputy chief minister and senior BJP leader Kavinder Gupta urged party workers to bolster grassroots support for upcoming elections. Addressing a gathering where many women joined the party, Gupta reaffirmed the BJP's commitment to serving the people of Jammu and Kashmir and emphasised the need to engage with voters, especially women and youth, to counter opposition narratives. Senior leader Rekha Mahajan welcomed the new members and urged them to work with dedication to strengthen the BJP's base at the booth level.





3 - 9 February 2024

Foundation stone laid for Waymade Nursing College at Bhaikaka University T

he foundation stone laying ceremony for “Waymade Nursing College” was held on 24th January 2024 at the premises of Bhaikaka University, Karamsad. Shri Bhikhubhai Patel and Shri Vijay Patel, London, (UK) and their wives Smt. Shashi Patel and Smt. Smita Patel performed the bhoomi pujan.

The function was graced by the dignitaries Shri Atul Patel, Chairman Charotar Arogya Mandal, Shri Jagrut Bhatt, Hon Secretary, Charutar Mandal, Shri Arogya Bhikhubhai Patel, Chairman, Charutar Vidya Mandal, Dr Utpala Kharod, Provost, Bhaikaka University, Dr Harish Desai, Registrar, Bhaikaka University, Dr Jyoti Tiwari, Controller of Academics, Principals of Constituent of Bhaikaka Institutions University, Dr Jitesh Desai, Medical Superintendent, Shree Krishna Hospital. The family members of Bhikhubhai and Vijaybhai and the staff of Bhaikaka University were also present during the occasion. Shri Atul Patel announced that the forthcoming Waymade Nursing College would be possi-

Vijaybhai and Bhikhubhai Patel performing Bhoomi Pujan

ble mainly due to the generous contribution of Rs 7.75 crore from Shri Bhikhubhai Patel and Shri Vijaybhai Patel. He added that currently, the Nursing

level. There is a high demand of students to seek admission in nursing, hence the management decided to expand the infras-

Vijaybhai Patel performing a ritual with his wife Smitaben

Bhikhubhai Patel with his wife Shashiben

College has the capacity to enrol 40 students at the graduate

tructure. The new building will be spread over 25000 square feet

Padma Awards 2024: 132 winners of India’s second highest civilian awards The Union government unveiled the list of recipients of the Padma Awards 2024, the country's secondhighest civilian honour. These prestigious awards, bestowed by the Government of India, acknowledge outstanding contributions across diverse fields. The awards are presented in three categories: Padma Vibhushan for exceptional and distinguished service, Padma Bhushan for distinguished service of a higher order, and Padma Shri for distinguished service. They aim to acknowledge achieve-

Atulbhai Patel (Chairman) and Jagrutbhai Bhatt (Secretary)- Charutar Arogya Mandal, Yogendrabhai Patel- MD, Coramandel Ltd, dignitaries of Anoopam mission and other distinguished guests with Vijaybhai and Bhikhubhai Patel

ments across all fields or disciplines involving an element of public service. Recipients are selected based on recommendations from the Padma Awards Committee, formed annually by the Prime Minister. This year, the government chose to confer the Padma Vibhushan on five distinguished individuals, Padma Bhushan on 17 recipients, and Padma Shri on 110 individuals, totaling 132 awards. These accolades recognize their outstanding contributions across diverse fields. Padma Vibhushan was

conferred to Shri Konidela Chiranjeevi in art from Andhra Pradesh, Ms Padma Subrahmanyam in art from Tamil Nadu, Shri M Venkaiah Naidu in Public Affairs from Andhra Pradesh and many others. Shri Mithun Chakraborty, Ms Usha Uthup and many other dignitaries were honoured with Padma Bhushan. Among the 110 Padma Shri awardees named by the government this year, there are 34 “unsung heroes” of whom more than one-third are tribals or those who have worked for tribal welfare.

Baroda-crafted Sitar finds place in New York's Metropolitan Museum A strikingly red sitar, meticulously crafted by artisans in Vadodara six decades ago, has found its place in the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The sitar, commissioned in 1960 by the parents of renowned sitar artist Hasu Patel, 81, who made her debut at the age of 10, now graces one of the most renowned art museums globally, and among the most frequented in America. A pupil of the esteemed Ustad Vilayat Khan, Patel recently bestowed her prized sitar upon the museum for meticulous preservation. Before gaining recognition in the US as a performer, educator, and composer, Patel achieved a significant milestone as the first woman to earn a music degree with a gold medal from MS University's Faculty of Performing Arts.

Crafted by Somabhai Mistry, representing the second generation of the renowned Babulal C Mistry family, the sitar stands as a testament to the family's enduring legacy in preserving the tradition of crafting Indian stringed instruments for over 150 years. As a child, I used to frequently visit the workshop, sit at its entrance eagerly waiting to know the progress of the sitar that Somabhai was making for me," Hasu Patel, who used this instrument for more than 50 years, told media from the US. Patel said she insisted that the sitar should be red polished so that it stands out from the other male performers. She along with her children Dr Mehool Patel and Dr Alpana Grover gifted the sitar to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

with the capacity to enrol 80 students. Shri Bhikhubhai Patel stated that there is a high demand for nurses on a global scale. He said, “We decided to donate for the establishment of a nursing college as more students can benefit through education”. Shri Vijaybhai Patel admired the transparency of Charutar Arogya Mandal and said that earlier we donated to set up a Critical Care Centre. The Critical Care Centre did not turn away a single COVID-19 patient and provided treatment to more than 9000 patients during the pandemic. The Patel brothers draw inspiration from their mother,

Shanta, who serves as the cornerstone of their charitable endeavors. According to Vijaybhai, their ability to contribute generously to societal welfare is attributed to her grace. Shanta's influence and blessings form the bedrock of their philanthropic initiatives. Under the Shanta Foundation, they engage in various service activities in her honour and are committed to continuing these efforts. Today, they commemorated the laying of the foundation stone for the Waymed Nursing College, for which they have donated Rs 7.5 crore thus far. Additionally, they express readiness to provide further financial support if required.

Gyanvapi case: ASI confirms pre-existing Hindu temple The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), commissioned by the Varanasi district court in July 2023 to conduct a scientific survey of the Gyanvapi mosque complex, has determined that "a Hindu temple existed before the construction of the current structure" at the location. Hindu claimants allege that the mosque was erected on the grounds of the original Kashi Vishwanath temple following its demolition in the 17th century. The ASI, assigned to determine whether the mosque was "built over a pre-existing structure of a Hindu temple," presented its report to the court last month in a sealed envelope.

The court distributed copies of the report to both Hindu and Muslim litigants involved in the dispute over the site. The report stated: “Based on scientific studies/survey carried out, study of architectural remains, exposed features and artefacts, inscriptions, art and sculptures, it can be said that there existed a Hindu temple prior to the construction of the existing structure.” “The Arabic-Persian inscription found inside a room mentions that the mosque was built in the 20th regnal year of Aurangzeb (1667-77). Hence, the pre-existing structure appears to have been

destroyed in the 17th century, during the reign of Aurangzeb and part of it was modified and reused in the existing structure,” it stated. “Existing architectural remains, decorated mouldings, on the walls, karnaratha and prati-ratha of central chamber, a large decorated entrance gate, with Torana on the eastern wall of the western chamber, a small entrance with mutilated image of lalatabimba, birds and animals carved for decoration in and outside suggest that the western wall is remaining part of a Hindu temple. Based on art and architecture, this preexisting structure can be identified as a Hindu temple.”

Gujarat man detained for bomb hoax at Goa airport Goa Police detained an air passenger traveling from Goa to Gujarat after he allegedly caused panic at the Manohar International Airport in Mopa by claiming to have a bomb during security checks, officials stated. Following a thorough security inspection, authorities deemed the threat 'non-specific' or a 'hoax'. The flyer has been identified as Vimal Prajapati, 38, hailing from Ahmedabad city, the police said. Police reported that the

security manager of a private airline filed a complaint, stating that at 6:19 am during the check-in for SpiceJet flight SG512 from Goa to Ahmedabad, a passenger named Prajapati informed the staff at the check-in counter that he was carrying a bomb. Despite questioning from the counter staff about restricted items in his baggage, the passenger reiterated that he was carrying a bomb. “The passenger was travelling in a group of four peo-

ple. The accused person was detained for questioning. After the incident, CISF officials and the Bomb Detection Disposal Squad (BDDS) cordoned off the area and carried out an antisabotage check. All the baggage of the passengers was screened. No suspicious item was found. The Bomb Threat Assessment Committee (BTAC) committee declared the threat as ‘non specific’. The accused person was detained for questioning,” said a police officer.





3 - 9 February 2024

in brief


Tailor's daughter shines in basketball at Khelo India Youth Games Three city girls from Tamil Nadu were overjoyed to secure the gold medal at the sixth edition of the Khelo India Youth Games. Among them, M Tejashri, a Class XII student from Selvapuram and daughter of a tailor, has been motivating young girls to pursue sports with her inspiring story. said, “All Tejashri matches were held in hometown. My family members and friends watched me play and encouraged me. It was a memorable experience.” Tejashri’s journey to basketball glory would not have been possible were it not for the countless struggles and sacrifices made by Sathiyavani, her single mother, for over a decade. Speaking to media Sathiyavani said, “When Tejashri was 7-years-old, my husband separated from us. My father was the only support for us, but he also passed away two years ago. I went through several financial struggles to raise her. I had to take care of Tejashri’s every need, including ensuring that she had a good diet and proper coaching, because she was

into sports. I do tailoring day and night and sleep only for five hours to meet the expenses.” When Tejashri was in Class VI, she joined athletics coaching at Nehru stadium in the city and trained there for three months. “After that, I wasn’t able to take her for training both in the mornings and evenings, on a daily basis. So I instead put her in the CCMA government girls higher secondary school, so she can train with their basketball team. She studied there till Calss XI and was able to simultaneously concentrate on her game as well,” Sathiyavani added. Tejashri currently attends PSGR Krishnammal Higher Secondary School for Girls. She expressed gratitude towards the Coimbatore District Basketball Association (CDBA) and her coaches for their support, which enabled her selection to represent Tamil Nadu at the national youth games. Additionally, she received a central government scholarship that assists with her expenses, providing relief to her mother.

Kerala governor protests roadside as SFI waves black flags Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan exited his vehicle and staged a sit-in protest in front of a roadside shop, calling for the arrest of SFI activists who had demonstrated against him in Nilamel, Kollam. He took a chair from the shop on the busy MC Road in Kollam and sat by the side of the road, demanding action against the agitators. “I don’t mind black flags being waved but agitators are attacking my car,” alleged the Governor. In televised footage, a visibly irate Khan confronted police officers, accompanied by his officials and a sizable crowd of locals. The official Kerala Governor's handle on X platform shared that the Union Home Ministry had upgraded Khan's security to Z+ level. Meanwhile, members of the ruling CPI(M)'s student organisation, the Student Federation of India (SFI), staged a black flag protest against the Governor as he traveled to a nearby function in Kottarakkara. The Governor came out of his official car in Kollam, chased SFI protestors, and sat on the roadside as a sign of protest. He said that a failed police system brought in such a crisis. In early January, a parallel incident occurred as SFI activists brandished black flags at Khan during his road journey from Kochi to Thodupuzha.


Kejriwal alleges AAP MLAs offered Rs 25 crore by BJP The Aam Aadmi Party only 7 MLAs so far (AAP) has accused the and all of them Bharatiya Janata Party have refused," he (BJP) of launching added. "Operation Lotus 2.0" The Delhi to destabilise the Chief Minister elected Delhi stated that this government. AAP means, "I am not Arvind Kejriwal chief and Delhi Chief being arrested to Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged that investigate any liquor scam, but they certain party MLAs were offered are conspiring to topple the Aam bribes to defect, aiming to undermine Aadmi Party government in Delhi." his government's strength. "In the last nine years, they have hatched many conspiracies to topple Taking to X, Kejriwal wrote, our government. But they did not "Recently, they (BJP) have contacted have any success. God and the people our 7 MLAs from Delhi and said-We always supported us. All our MLAs are will arrest Kejriwal after a few days. also strongly united. This time also, After that, we will break the MLAs. these people will fail in their nefarious Talks have been held with 21 MLAs. intentions," the Delhi CM said. Talking to others as well. After that, The Delhi Chief Minister we will topple the Aam Aadmi Party emphasised in his statement that the government in Delhi. You also come, BJP is aware of the significant work we will give you Rs 25 crore and get undertaken by the AAP government you to contest the elections on BJP for the people of Delhi. Despite facing ticket." numerous hurdles orchestrated by the "Although they claim that they BJP, the AAP administration in Delhi have contacted 21 MLAs, but as per has achieved considerable progress. our information, they have contacted

Punjab police arrest influencer Bhana Sidhu before his bail A social media influencer from Punjab, set to be released on bail, was arrested on January 21 in connection with a snatching case filed against him the previous month. This move prompted accusations that he was being targeted by the police due to his criticism of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government. Kaka Sidhu, also known as Bhana Singh Sidhu, had been in judicial custody following his arrest in an extortion case. He was accused of blackmailing a woman who operates a travel agency in Ludhiana's Model Town area and demanding Rs 10,000 from her. Just before his scheduled release, Punjab Police detained him in connection with a snatching case registered against him the previous year. Sidhu was remanded to police custody until January 29. On January 20, the Patiala Sadar police charged Sidhu with various offenses, including theft, following a complaint by Patiala resident Tejpreet. Tejpreet reported that on December 21, 2023, he was attacked and robbed of his gold chain by individuals in a car while returning to Patiala. He claimed to have recognised Sidhu among them. Sidhu, a close associate of gangster-turned-activist Lakha Sidhana, alleged that he was subjected to torture while in police custody. Sidhana claimed that Sidhu had been falsely implicated in cases due to his criticism of the Punjab CM and his government. Sidhana, who unsuccessfully contested the 2022 Assembly elections from Maur, voiced his support for Sidhu.


Mamata government denies permission to Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Bengal to humiliate Congress: BJP The BJP criticised the Congress, alleging that the Mamata Banerjee government has refused permission for Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in West Bengal as a tactic to embarrass the grand-old party. The BJP's remarks followed West Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury's statement that they were encountering obstacles in obtaining permission for organising certain public gatherings in the state as part of the yatra. In a post on X, BJP coincharge for West Bengal and IT department head Amit

Mamata Banerjee

Malviya said, "Mamata Banerjee's decision to deny Rahul Gandhi's Yatra permission is like the last nail in the coffin of I.N.D.I. Alliance." "The decision is intended to

humiliate the Congress... But it is interesting to see the Congress suffer from stockholm syndrome and continue to plead Mamata Banerjee to join the Yatra for just 5 minutes," he added. Malviya alleged that Banerjee is "nervous" and resorting to such actions with the aim of enabling the Trinamool Congress (TMC) to contest all Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal to "maintain relevance after the results." "The excuse that it has been

done in view of exams is a sham. There is no such compulsion because exams start on February 2 and the Yatra was to enter Siliguri region on January 28," he said. Banerjee's declaration that her party will contest the Lok Sabha polls "alone" in the state unsettled the Congress and caused political waves in the Indian political landscape. Seatsharing negotiations between the Congress and the TMC derailed after the latter accused the former of presenting unreasonable demands without recognising the prevailing circumstances.

DRUGS MADE AS ‘FOOD PRODUCTS’ IN HARYANA ARE BEING SOLD IN TELANGANA The Telangana Drugs Control Administration (DCA) confiscated items falsely marketed as "food products" or "nutraceuticals." Among them were capsules containing Pregabalin + Methylcobalamin, a medication prescribed for treating peripheral neuropathy. Manufactured under a food license at Akshar Molecules in Haryana, the product was illegally marketed by Elion Health Care Pvt Ltd in Telangana as a food item or nutraceutical, under the brand name "eneuron-P." Based on intelligence, DCA officials on 23 January raided the premises of Elion Health Care at Tarnaka in Secunderabad. Pregabalin + methylcobalamin capsules, containing 75 mg of pregabalin and 750 mcg of methylcobalamin, is a “drug” as per the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.

CHENNAI’S 'LAST JEW' FIGHTS FOR PLACE IN INDIA’S HISTORY Davvid Levi asserts himself as the final Jew to have resided in the southern Indian city of Chennai. According to government records, Mr Levi's family was documented as the last Jewish household in the city, which serves as the capital of Tamil Nadu state. However, media sources were unable to verify if Mr Levi and his wife were the last two Jews documented in Tamil Nadu according to India's census. Mr Levi departed from India in 2020 due to "security reasons" following a property dispute, and he currently resides in Germany with his family. The Levi family, with Portuguese roots, has resided in Chennai for over 10 generations, during the time when the city was part of the Madras province under British rule. For years, Mr Levi has been documenting the history of his family and other Jews who once lived in Chennai on his Facebook page. But he now wants to scale up the mission to preserve his family's past.

PUNJAB DSP, JAWANS WILL GET PRESIDENT'S GALLANTRY MEDAL Punjab DSP Bikram Brar and four SPG jawans of the Anti Gangster Task Force (AGTF) will be awarded the President's Gallantry Medal for their bravery during the encounter with Mannu Kussa and Jagroop Roopa, linked to Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala. Notably, this will be DSP Bikram Brar's fourth President's medal, while AGTF chief ADGP Promod Ban is set to receive the President's Medal for Distinguished Service..

DARJEELING HIMALAYAN RAILWAY RECORDS HISTORIC REVENUE IN 2023 The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), a world heritage site, has achieved it’s highestever revenue in its 143-year history. Sabyasachi De, the chief public relations officer of Northeast Frontier Railway, announced that the DHR generated ₹15.28 crore in earnings from April to December 2023. “The earnings of the DHR for the past 10 months in the current fiscal are Rs 17.3 crore, surpassing all previous earning records. This has been achieved because of the introduction of several innovative new services, including joy ride services,” De said. An official source in DHR said that during this period, 1.46 lakh persons had boarded the trains compared to 1.25 lakh passengers during the corresponding period in 2022. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway obtained UNESCO World Heritage status in December 1999. One of its most sought-after offerings is the joy ride service covering the Darjeeling-Ghoom-Darjeeling route, spanning 16km.





3 - 9 February 2024

USA-based hotelier Jigarbhai Patel honoured with Danbhaskar Award Jigarbhai Ashokbhai Patel, a native of Palaj and now a USA-based renowned hotelier and generous donor, who donated Rs 1 crore for the Charusat Campus, was conferred with the Danbhaskar Award at the Charusat Campus on January 25 2024, under the initiative of Sri Charotar Moti Sattavis Patidar Kelavani Mandal. On this occasion, in Charusat Hospital by the donor's family Shri Dahyabhai Phulabhai Patel and Late Shri Ishwarbhai Phulabhai Patel Department of Dental Care was named and the plaque was unveiled along with lamp lighting. The ceremony was presided over by Shri Surendrabhai Patel, President of kelavani mandal & Charusat, Shri Naginbhai Patel, President of Matrusansha and CHRF, secretaty of MatrushansaKelavani mandal-CHRF Dr M C Patel, Vice

Shri Surendrabhai Patel, President of Kelavani Mandal & Charusat, Shri Naginbhai Patel, President of Matrusansha and CHRF, Secretaty of Matrushansa-Kelavani Mandal-CHRF Dr. M.C. Patel, Vice President Mr. C. A. Patel, Vice President Mr. Ashokbhai Patel, Trustee of Kelvani Mandal Virendrabhai Patel and other dignitaries honouring Jigarbhai Patel

President Mr C A Patel, Vice President Mr Ashokbhai Patel, Trustee of Kelvani Mandal Virendrabhai Patel, Donor Manubhai P d Patel, Trustee Vishnubhai Patel, Joint secretary Mrs Madhuben Patel, Treasurer Mr Girishbhai C Patel, Provost Dr R V Upadhyay, Registrar Dr Atul Patel were present. In the beginning of the event, Virendrabhai Patel welcomed the invited guests and dignitaries by delivering the welcome address. Girishbhai C Patel intro-

President appoints educationist Satnam Singh Sandhu to Rajya Sabha President Droupadi Murmu has appointed educationist Satnam Singh Sandhu, founder of Chandigarh University (CU), as a member of the Rajya Sabha. Vice president and Rajya Sabha chairman Jagdeep Dhankar welcomed Sandhu to the Upper House. “I welcome the nomination of Shri Satnam Singh Sandhu Ji to the Rajya Sabha. His rich work in community service and his passion towards education, innovation and learning will be big sources of strength for the Rajya Sabha. I wish him the very best for his tenure,” Dhankar said on X. Sandhu, hailing from a farming background, established the Chandigarh Group of Colleges (CGC) at Landran, Mohali in 2001, followed by the founding of Chandigarh University in 2012. "He is renowned for his philanthropic endeavors, actively engaging in community initiatives to enhance health, wellness, and foster communal harmony through his two NGOs, the Indian Minorities Foundation and New India Development (NID) Foundation," a source familiar with the matter revealed. Under the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution of India, the President has the authority to nominate 12 members to the Rajya Sabha for a six-year term, recognizing their contributions to arts, literature, science, and social services.

India nominates 'Maratha Military Landscape' for UNESCO World Heritage List The Ministry of Culture has announced India's nomination of the 'Maratha Military Landscape' for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List for the 2024-25 cycle. This nomination comprises a total of 12 components. According to the official statement from the Culture Ministry, the 'Maratha Military Landscapes' symbolize an exceptional fortification and military system conceptualized by the Maratha rulers, offering insight into India's rich history. The nomination includes twelve components: Salher Fort, Shivneri Fort, Lohgad, Khanderi Fort, Raigad, Rajgad, Pratapgad, Suvarnadurg, Panhala Fort, Vijaydurg, and Sindhudurg in Maharashtra, along with Gingee Fort in Tamil Nadu, as stated by officials from the ministry. These components are spread across varied geographical and physiographic regions, showcasing the strategic military prowess of the Maratha rulers in ancient India. The 'Maratha Military Landscapes of India', which developed between 17th and 19th centuries, "represent an extraordinary fortification and military system envisioned by the Maratha rulers", the statement said.

duced the donor Jigarbhai Patel and the guests. Ashokbhai Patel gave detailed information about the various medical services available in the hospital from the establishment of the four institutions of Charusat. About the Danbhaskar Award, the editor of 'Samajgosthi' Dr Sharadbhai Patel gave the speech It is worth mentioning that till now, with the support of more than 2000 donors, in Funds of over Rs. 200 crores have

been received. In which Includes 50 unique donors who have donated Rs 1 crore and above. As per the tradition of Kelavani Mandal, they are honoured with 'Daanbhaskar' award and felicitation. This is the 34th 'Daanbhaskar' award ceremony. Mr Naginbhai Patel said that the samaj was established in 1895 is making continuous progress today and hoped that the donors will continue to support the development of the organisation in the future.

Baba Ramdev's Vrikshasana wax statue unveiled by Madame Tussauds Madame Tussauds honoured yoga guru Baba Ramdev with a wax statue in New York, depicting him in the Vrikshasana pose. The unveiling ceremony took place in Delhi, attended by Baba Ramdev himself, marking a tribute to yoga, ayurveda, and India's cultural heritage. Baba Ramdev expressed his gratitude, stating that it showcases the recognition of not just icons from Bollywood, Hollywood, and politics, but also spiritual leaders. During the event, Baba Ramdev performed a traditional ritual by applying a 'tika' on the forehead of his wax impression. His wax statue will be displayed at the museum in Times Square, Manhattan, joining the ranks of other distinguished Indian personalities. "With world's top 200 icons, Madame Tussauds has given a saint this honour. I am very thankful and consider this honour as a pride moment for 'Sanatan' culture," yoga guru Ramdev said on his wax statue at ‘Madame Tussauds New York’ in Delhi. According to reports, Ramdev collaborated with a 20member team at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in London in 2018, providing them with his photographs and measurements for the creation of his wax statue. He later shared images from the museum on Twitter, featuring poses like the vrikshasan (standing on one leg), which closely resemble the stance of his wax figure.

Hyderabad makes history as US smashes visa records in India In 2023, Hyderabad joined Mumbai, New Delhi, and Chennai as one of the top four student visa processing centers globally, as the US Consular team in India achieved unprecedented visa records. Visa demand across all categories surged dramatically, with applications increasing by an impressive 60% compared to 2022. Hyderabad played a sig-

nificant role in this surge, contributing substantially to India’s representation, with one in every 10 US visa applicants originating from the country. The US consular team issued over 140,000 student visas in 2023, marking the third consecutive year of record-breaking issuance. Consequently, Indian students now represent the largest group of

international graduate students in the United States, constituting over a quarter of the one million foreign students studying in the country. Maintaining a focus on employment visas, Consular Team India streamlined processes by consolidating most petition-based visa processing in Chennai and Hyderabad. The strategic

initiative led to the streamlined processing of more than 380,000 employment visas for Indians and their families in 2023, significantly reducing appointment wait times. Looking forward to 2024, a pilot program will allow eligible H1B holders to renew their visas within the United States, further enhancing the process for this category.




3 - 9 February 2024

A learning trip! O

ne of the most effective ways to learn a new language is to travel to your desired country and fully immerse yourself in the language of locals. With 2024 in full swing, people are undoubtedly beginning to prep their travel plans for the year ahead. Whether it’s a city break or a six month backpacking trip, you may want to use your upcoming getaway as a chance to naturally pick up the language you are currently learning or intend to learn. With this in mind, the language experts at Preply (https://preply.com/) have revealed seven fun and creative ways in which travellers can pick up another language while on their explorations:

1. Take part in icebreaker games with locals Once you’ve arrived at your destination, the next step is to pluck up the courage and strike up conversations with locals. To make getting to know each other less of a task, why not suggest engaging in some icebreaker activities? If you’re sharing a room with others in a hostel, this would be ideal. There are plenty of language learning games and activities out there that can help you pick up another language, and also make friends at the same time. For example, games such as charades and bingo require players to answer in the language they are learning, and this will enable them to build their vocabulary.

2. Go on an outdoor adventure The problem with tourist hotspots is that you are bound to run into people who speak your mother tongue, and this can hinder your language-learning experience. On the other hand, exploring the outskirts of a city and going on more of an outdoor adventure will give you a chance to integrate with locals and learn from them. When it comes to exploring an area as well, don’t be afraid to get lost, as this will give you a chance to practise asking for directions in the language you’re learning.

Adventures of trekking through mountains

and get to know the lyrics to enable you to pick up some more words.

4. Eat the local delicacies Who knew you could also use your love for food to aid your language development? Exploring local cuisine is a vital part of immersing yourself in the culture your country has to offer. Trying native dishes not only allows you to enjoy new delicacies, but also offers you a chance to practise your language skills with restaurant staff and vendors.

Book Review

Trying local tea in Marrakesh, Morocco

5. Join clubs and classes Similarly, if you have various day-to-day hobbies, use these as opportunities to develop your language skills by joining available classes. From cooking to dance, being part of such classes will allow you to become more

6. Watch, read and listen in another language Checking if your favourite TV series or podcast is available in the language you’re learning, or if your beloved books have been translated into it, would be another effective way of picking up a language. Doing this makes the whole learning process seem less of a chore, as you are still educating yourself while keeping up with the Kardashians.

7. Journal

3. Learn the local songs If your city has a thriving nightlife, then get those dancing shoes on and shake those hips to the music played in bars and clubs. When coming across a song that you like, it might be a good idea to Shazam the track

disciplined to the language you’re learning as you’ll be following directions.

Enjoying the street performance in Naples, Italy

To stay motivated on your languagelearning journey, take the time to reflect on your progress and the interactions you’ve engaged in by keeping a journal. Keeping a journal will also allow you to reflect on the progress you’ve made and enable you to celebrate your individual successes.

"The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters"


The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters" by Balli Kaur Jaswal is a captivating novel that offers a profound exploration of South Asian culture, the immigrant experience, and the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood. Jaswal's narrative weaves an intricate tapestry of emotions, conflicts, and revelations as it follows the journey of three British-born Punjabi sisters who embark on a pilgrimage to their ancestral homeland in India. At its core, the novel delves deep into the complexities of South Asian identity, particularly from the perspective of secondgeneration immigrants. The sisters, Rajni, Jezmeen, and Shirina, each grapple with their own struggles and aspirations, which are significantly shaped by their dual heritage. Rajni, the responsible eldest sister, Jezmeen, the struggling middle sister trying to find her place in the world, and Shirina, the compliant youngest, embarking on an arranged marriage - their characters reflect the diverse ways in which South Asian women navigate their identities in a Western context. Jaswal brilliantly captures the nuances of the immigrant experience, shedding light on the cultural and generational clashes that

often arise within diasporic families. The sisters' journey to India is not just a physical one but also a metaphorical exploration of their roots and individual identities. The pilgrimage, initially intended to fulfil their late mother's last wish, becomes a transformative journey of self-discovery, understanding, and reconciliation. The narrative is interspersed with

poignant reflections on the immigrant dilemma – the constant balancing act between preserving one's cultural heritage and assimilating into a new society. Jaswal doesn't shy away from addressing sensitive topics such as the pressures of arranged marriages, societal expectations, and the quest for individual freedom. These themes resonate profoundly with anyone familiar with the South Asian diaspora's dynamics. Moreover, "The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters" is a story about familial love and the complexities of sisterly relationships. The sisters, despite their differences and occasional conflicts, come together in a journey that celebrates the strength and resilience of women. Jaswal's storytelling is both humorous and heartfelt, making the novel a delightful yet thoughtprovoking read. In summary, Balli Kaur Jaswal’s novel is a remarkable piece that beautifully captures the essence of the South Asian immigrant experience. It's a story that resonates with anyone who has navigated the complexities of cultural identity, familial duty, and the pursuit of personal dreams. The Shergill sisters' journey is one of love, laughter, tears, and the unending quest for self-discovery, making it a must-read for those seeking a deeper understanding of the diasporic life.






3 - 9 February 2024

Forgiveness Psychologist Mamta Saha


oday, I’m going to share how you can learn to forgive. Forgiveness gives you the gift of feelinglighter and upbeat. My tips are practical, thought provoking and proven to be successful. I encourage you to save, share and cut this out so you can always look back at it to remind yourself of these powerful tools.

Many of my clients struggle with letting go of painful conversations and situations from the past. This causes them to feel heavy, upset, resentful, and angry. They keep reciting situation in their mind repeatedly, replaying what happened and often thinking about what they could’ve done differently - if they were able to go back in time. As we know, it is impossible to go backwards in time and this leave us with one positive opportunity and gift which is to forgive and move forward. When I work with these challenges, sadness and angerareoften the first emotions to unravel and unpack. This is because for so many the pain was felt over a long period of time, like one too many paper cuts to the heart. In this state a client can feel stuck and find it hard tomove forward. At this point we also explore some truths such as: forgiveness is not a weakness; forgiveness is for you – not the person who caused you harm. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you cannot change and have boundaries – it means that you get to choose your approach and way forward. Forgiveness gives you your life back. To forgive we must loosen our grip and make a choice to let go of what we are holding onto. In my practice, the focus is on guiding clients to acknowledge and embrace their fears and self-doubt in a secure environment. The goal is to facilitate a journey of reconnecting with their genuine selves, leading them to a place of self-appreciation and the establishment of positive self-care rituals. This process ultimately centres around forgiveness and acceptance. If you find your mind drifting to thoughts about situations and people that you can’t forgive, choose to think truthful more positive thoughts about yourself instead. Look in the mirror and repeat some affirmations (I created some that you can buy on my website). Your brain will believe whatever you tell it, so be kind and when you make a commitment to do this you enhance the self-love you feel. If anger still arises (which it may), allow it to be there and then release those thoughts by using your affirmations to acknowledge the loving truth about yourself. Let me reassure you that holding onto anger about a situation is it is perfectly normal, and you also have the choices of forgiveness available to. When you access that loving kindness for yourself you can then begin to let go and forgive. This mindset helps you heal, feel confident and move forward in peace. If you, your family,community, or business need support inworking through this then reach out and explore some workshops and coaching. I’d also love to know how you get on, email me: mamta@mamtasaha.com. Follow me on Linked in: Mamta Saha and IG: Saha_Mamta. Download my free e-book: www.mamtasaha.com. Sending you all the love that you truly deserve.

Unlock sinus relief with Manuka honey Manuka honey is often touted as a possible solution for sinus problems, thanks to its reputed antibacterial qualities. Some believe that regular consumption of Manuka honey, particularly when added to warm water or herbal tea, could help ease sinus congestion and discomfort. Health Views Disclaimer: The information provided is for general knowledge only and not a substitute for professional medical advice.

Research finds how viral infections interact with human bodies A new longitudinal study of symptomatic, asymptomatic, and mild illnesses conducted by Columbia University researchers gives information on how our bodies respond to viral respiratory infections at the molecular level. They describe the finding of a gene expression profile that may distinguish between asymptomatic and symptomatic illnesses and positive asymptomatic persons from negative individuals. The study presents a complex picture of how several common respiratory viruses interact with the human body and each other and with common respiratory bacteria. The results are available as an interactive web tool for scientists to generate and test new

hypotheses. They are described in a new peerreviewed article in the journal PLOS Biology. Study co-first author Marta Galanti, PhD, an associate research scientist in environmental health sciences at Columbia University School of Public Health, “The repeated emergences of influenza and coronavirus pandemic outbreaks have emphasized the need for a better under-

standing of hostpathogen interactions in respiratory infections.” Study co-senior author Jeffrey Shaman, PhD, professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia Mailman and Interim Dean of the Columbia Climate School, said, “Identifying the main biological pathways by which viruses interact with our bodies is key for developing therapeutic tools, such as antivirals or vaccines, as well as for better identifying individuals at risk, both for seasonal respiratory viruses and emerging pandemic threats.” Over 19 months, 214 volunteers enrolled in the

Virome of Manhattan study provided nasal swab samples, which were analyzed by molecular testing (RNAseq and qPCR) along with daily individual reports of symptoms and demographic information. Rhinoviruses and coronaviruses caused the majority of the infections. Only eight percent of positive samples contained evidence of multiple viral coinfections (one case was positive for five different viruses). The study found that influenza leads to greater changes in gene expression than other viruses, such as coronavirus or rhinovirus. Their findings also suggest a possible link between repeat exposure to pathogens and host responses.

Five ways doomscrolling is impacting your mental health In the digital age, where information is readily available, staying informed has become a double-edged sword. Doomscrolling, the act of endlessly scrolling through news and content on social media, has become an alarming trend with significant consequences for mental health. This constant exposure to information can affect our well-being in various ways. This article'll explore five ways doomscrolling impacts your mental health. Increased anxiety and stress: Constant exposure to news stories or content can lead to heightened levels of anxiety and stress. The

human brain is naturally wired to react strongly to negative stimuli, and doomscrolling bombards us with a constant stream of alarming information. This can trigger the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, leading to persistent feelings of anxiety and unease. Sleep disruptions: Exposure to negative content right before bedtime can interfere with the ability to

Include fibre in your winter diet with these easy tricks As the winter season sets in, it's essential to prioritize a nutrient-rich diet to maintain optimal health. One crucial component that often gets overlooked is dietary fibre. Fibre not only aids in digestion but also helps regulate blood sugar levels and supports heart health. Fortunately, numerous delicious ways to incorporate fibre into your winter diet ensure a balance of nutrition and flavour. Good gut health can positively affect all body functions, including brain health. Warm up with fibre-rich soups Beans and lentils are excellent sources of both soluble and insoluble fibre. Consider incorporating kidney beans, chickpeas, or lentils into your favourite soups for a hearty and nutritious meal. Not only do they provide a substantial fibre boost, but they also add a delightful texture and depth of flavour. Colourful roasted vegetables Roasting winter vegetables intensifies their natural

flavours and enhances their fibre content. Vegetables like Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, carrots, and broccoli are rich in fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Toss them in olive oil, sprinkle some herbs and spices, and roast them to perfection for a delicious and fibre-rich side dish. Whole grain goodness with Quinoa Swap refined grains for whole grains to increase your fibre intake in winter. Quinoa, in particular, is a versatile and nutrientdense option. It's not only a great source of fibre but also contains essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Use quinoa as a base for salads, stir-fries, or a side dish to complement your favourite winter meals. Fibre-rich winter fruits While summer brings abundant fresh fruits, winter offers an array of fibrerich options. Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits are packed with vitamin C and provide a good dose of dietary fibre.

unwind and relax. The blue light emitted by screens can also disrupt the production of melatonin, a hormone crucial for regulating sleep, leading to difficulties falling asleep and poor sleep quality. Distressed mood: Consuming a steady diet of content can directly impact one's mood and emotional well-being. A constant barrage of negative information can create a pervasive despair and helplessness, overshadowing positive aspects of life. Fear of missing out: Constantly seeing others' achievements or seemingly

perfect lives can create unrealistic expectations and contribute to dissatisfaction with one's life. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and a pervasive fear of missing out (FOMO). Reduced productivity and concentration: Constantly checking for updates and engaging with content can create a cycle of distraction, making it challenging to focus on work, school, or other important responsibilities. The constant influx of distressing information can also impair cognitive function, affecting memory and decisionmaking.

Bacterial meningitis can cause neurological damage in children: Study According to a recent epidemiological study conducted by the Karolinska Institutet that was published in the top medical journal JAMA Network Open, one in every three children with bacterial meningitis has irreparable neurological abnormalities due to the infection. For the first time, experts have identified the long-term health repercussions of bacterial meningitis. The infection is treated with antibiotics, which typically causes irreparable neurological damage. “When children are affected, the whole family is affected. If a three-year-old child has impaired cognition, a motor disability, impaired or lost vision or hearing, it has a major impact. These are lifelong disabilities that become a major burden for both the individual and society, as those affected need health care support for the rest of their lives,” said Federico Iovino, associate professor in Medical Microbiology at the Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, and one of the authors of the current study. Researchers analysed data from the Swedish quality register on bacterial meningitis between 1987 and 2021, and compared just over 3500 people who contracted bacterial meningitis as children with just over 32,000 matched controls from the general population. The results show that those diagnosed with bacterial meningitis consistently have a higher prevalence of neurological disabilities such as cognitive impairment, seizures, visual or hearing impairment, motor impairment, behavioural disorders, or structural damage to the head. Federico Iovino said, “This shows that even if the bacterial infection is cured, many people suffer from neurological impairment afterwards.” With the long-term effects of bacterial meningitis identified, Federico and his colleagues will now move forward with their research.





3 - 9 February 2024

‘Oppenheimer’ Filmfare Awards 2024: leads BAFTA Celeb couple Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor nominees bag Best Actress and Actor award C A hristopher Nolan's "Oppenheimer," a film depicting the development of the atomic bomb, leads this year's BAFTA nominations with 13 nods. Competing for best film alongside "Oppenheimer" are "Killers of the Flower Moon," "Poor Things," "Anatomy of a Fall," and "The Holdovers." "Poor Things" follows closely behind "Oppenheimer" with 11 nominations.

In the best director category, Nolan, Triet and Payne were nominated alongside Bradley Cooper for “Maestro,” his biopic of Leonard Bernstein; Jonathan Glazer for “The Zone of Interest,” a movie about dayto-day life at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust; and Andrew Haigh for “All of Us Strangers,” an acclaimed British film about a lonely gay writer. Greta Gerwig's blockbuster "Barbie," centered around the doll's self-discovery journey, missed out on nominations for best movie or best director. However, Margot Robbie, the film's lead actress, earned a nomination for best lead actress. Robbie will contend for the prize alongside other notable actresses such as Emma Stone ("Poor Things"), Carey Mulligan ("Maestro"), and Fantasia Barrino ("The Color Purple"). Lily Gladstone, who this month became the first Indigenous person to win a Golden Globe for best actress for her performance in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” was not nominated for a BAFTA.

t the 69th edition of the Filmfare Awards held in Gujarat, power couple Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt stole the spotlight, earning top honours for their performances in films released the previous year. Ranbir Kapoor was awarded the Best Actor in a Leading Role (Male) for his portrayal in Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s controversial film "Animal," while Alia Bhatt secured the coveted trophy for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Female) for her performance in Karan Johar’s romantic family drama "Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani." Vidhu Vinod Chopra was recognised as the Best Director, with his biographical drama 12th Fail being crowned Best Film, triumphing over Animal, Atlee Kumar’s Jawan, Amit Rai’s OMG 2, Siddharth Anand’s Pathaan and Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani.

Meanwhile, Devashish Makhija's thriller "Joram" claimed the Filmfare award for Best Film (Critics’ Choice), while Vikrant Massey (for "12th Fail"), Rani Mukerji (for "Mrs. Chatterjee Vs Norway"), and Shefali Shah (for "Three Of Us") were honoured with the prestigious Black Lady for their outstanding performances, as recognised by critics. Additionally, director David Dhawan received the lifetime achievement award. Adding to the glamour of the event,

the Kapoor sisters Kareena and Karisma adorned sarees for their red carpet appearances. Kareena stunned in a gorgeous red saree, while her older sibling Karisma opted for a vibrant multi-colored saree. Actresses Sara Ali Khan, Janhvi Kapoor, Mrunal Thakur, Nargis Fakhri, Shefali Shah, among others, also graced the event. Sara Ali Khan and Janhvi Kapoor coordinated in black attire, while Mrunal Thakur dazzled in a shimmery gown. Nargis Fakhri exuded glamour in a gold ensemble.

Animal star Triptii Dimri, who gained millions of followers post her performance in the film, walked the red carpet in a beautiful evening gown. Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani's Jamini AKA Shabana Azmi wore a lovely saree to the event. Filmmaker-producer Karan Johar, actor Ayushmann Khurrana, and TV host Maniesh Paul hosted the event, which was characterised by glamorous red-carpet appearances, captivating performances, and inspiring moments of victory.

Oscar Nominations 2024: ‘Oppenheimer’ dominates with 13 nods, ‘Poor Things’ follows with 11 “

Oppenheimer,” a sprawling examination of the dawn of the Atomic Age, kicked off the race for the 96th Academy Awards , earning 13 nominations. It was followed closely behind by “Poor Things,” a feminist fantasy set in a steampunk world of mutants and male chauvinist pigs, which earned 11 nominations. Both “Oppenheimer” and “Killers of the Flower Moon,” drawn from painful chapters of American history, were recognised at a moment of political unrest and division in the country, which seemed to give their dark subject matter an added resonance. "Oppenheimer," "Barbie," and "Killers of the Flower Moon" secured nominations for best picture, alongside "Poor Things," "American

Fiction," "Anatomy of a Fall," "The Holdovers," "Maestro," "Past Lives," and "The Zone of Interest." Notably, three of the best picture contenders—"Barbie," "Anatomy of a Fall," and "Past

Lives"—were directed by women, marking a first. However, only Justine Triet earned a best director nomination among them. In 2023, "Barbie" emerged as the year's biggest hit, breaking records as the highestgrossing film directed by a woman. Greta Gerwig's feminist fantasia not only painted movie theaters pink but also sparked a continuous stream of thoughtprovoking articles. Despite receiving eight Academy Awards nominations, including best picture, "Barbie" was overshadowed at the box office by its unexpected double-feature partner, "Oppenheimer." And when the Academy Awards passed over Gerwig for best director and Margot Robbie for best actress, many saw some of the same patriarchy parodied in "Barbie" at work. Many celebrities and political people came in support with Oscar nominations against Barbie.





3 - 9 February 2024


Irrfan (1967-2020): A Retrospective

announces her music career


ctor Parineeti Chopra announced that she is officially entering into music as a singer. The actress, who has a background in classical music, has signed up with Entertainment Consultant LLP, a renowned entertainment company affiliated with TM Ventures Pvt Ltd and TM Talent Management. Announcing on Instagram last week, Parineeti wrote, “Music, to me, has always been my happy place. I’ve watched countless musicians worldwide performing on the stage and now it’s finally my time to be a part of that world.” She added, “I feel so lucky, blessed and stressed about starting off a whole


5A - Foundation for Contemporary Culture recently celebrated the late actor Irrfan: the actor whose face penned a million stories.

January’s Cinema House was a celebration and exploration of the actor’s malleable artistry –charted through three chapters: films of his early years, films that re-defined the idea of love, and films that featured his breakout roles. The schedule included Q&A and screening of some of his best works like The Lunchbox by Ritesh Batra, The Warrior by Asif Kapadia, Book Reading | Aur Kuchh Panne Kore Rah Gaye: Irrfan by Ajay Brahmatmaj, Paan Singh Tomar by Tigmanshu Dhulia, Qissa: The Tale of a Lonely Ghost by Anup Singh, Qarib Qarib Singlle by Tanuja Chandra, Book Reading | Irrfan: A Life in Movies by Shubra Gupta, The Namesake by Mira Nair, Piku by Shoojit Sircar, Talvar by Meghna Gulzar and Maqbool by Vishal Bhardwaj. His wife Sutapa Sikdar and elder son Babil Khan attended all the screenings and Q&As. During the screening of The Lunchbox where Irrfan plays Saajan Fernandes who falls in love with a woman he’s never seen, the woman who provides him with his lunchbox, accidentally. Sutapa and producer Guneet Monga Kapoor shared anecdotes of his work and his grandeur in Indian cinema, especially the simplicity of the film. Guneet spoke about how on many occasions Irrfan saved the day. During their screening at the Toronto Film Festival, when the DCP of the film failed to run due to technical glitches, Irrfan and Ritesh Batra (director) put up a one-hour Stand-Up comic show to entertain an audience of about 4000 people until the technical glitch was fixed. Actor Nimrat Kaur who starred opposite Irrfan in the film, never shared screen space with him - yet she reminisced how encouraging he was and how mesmerised she was to know that the script was led by Irrfan. His camaraderie with Nawazuddin Siddiqui was unforgettable and Monga Kapoor also spoke about how she met Irrfan for the first time at an airport where she came to fetch his passport - so that she could get him a visa for the Cannes Film Festival. In a house full show of the film 11 years later, Irrfan in retrospect remained the most revered and iconic hero of our times.

Amitabh Bachchan addresses the Bollywood vs South cinema debate


eteran star Amitabh Bachchan has pitched in on the Bollywood vs South Indian discussion. The 81year-old addressed students at the Symbiosis Film Festival in Pune, speaking about the criticism the film industry receives and the advantages and disadvantages of technological advancement in cinema. He said, “Many times, the film industry comes under a lot of criticism and all kinds of accusations that you are responsible for changing the morals of the country and changing the attitude of the people. I’m sure that you know Jaya (Bachchan), who has studied formally at the Institute (FTII), would endorse the fact that stories and films are made from experiences that we noticed in nature, in the world, in everyday life, and that is what becomes our inspiration.” Bachchan also recalled how his late father, noted poet and writer Harivansh Rai Bachchan. He said his father loved the poetic justice aspect of cinema. “Cinema in itself has its power. During the last years of my father’s life, every evening, he would watch a film on television

on cassette. Many times, the films that he saw were repeated. I asked him every evening, ‘You have watched the film, don’t you get bored? What do you find in Hindi cinema? He said, ‘I’d get to see poetic justice in three hours. You and I will not get to see poetic justice in a lifetime.’ And that is the learning that cinema gives to all.” Talking about the Bollywood and South Indian movie industry divide, Bachchan said it is incorrect to say that South cinema is doing better than the Hindi film industry. He said, “Regional cinema has been doing very well. But when we talk to them, they say they are making the same kind of films that we do in Hindi. They just change the dressing so that they look beautiful. A lot of the people I've met said, 'We are remaking your old films, there’s Deewar, Shakti and Sholay somewhere in all our stories.' Malayalam and some of the Tamil cinema is authentic and aesthetic. This whole idea of pointing fingers at a particular region and saying that unki aachi chal rahi hai, humari nahi (they are better than us) is not right.”

new chapter in my life and I honestly can’t describe how excited I am to embark on this musical journey. A journey that gives me the opportunity to have two careers at once! How fun (and chaotic). So here’s to embracing the unknown and facing all my fears and kicking off my singing debut.” Parineeti said she is excited to collaborate with Entertainment Consultant for her singing ventures. She wrote, “We’ve got some amazing things in store for you all this year. I hope you’re as excited for this as I am.” On the work front, the actress will appear next in filmmaker Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Amar Singh Chamkila,’ which is based on the life of the iconic music star of Punjab from the 1980s. The film also stars Diljit Dosanjh in the titular role, and Parineeti has lent her voice to the movie’s soundtrack.

Can’t ask people for work: Nawazuddin Siddiqui O

ne of the most acclaimed actors in the Hindi film industry, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, recently opened up about his love for acting in a YouTube interview on Unfiltered by Samdish. He said he would never ask for work and would rather sell his belongings to fund his projects.

Nawaz said, “If a day like that comes when I have no work, I don’t even have the strength to go and ask for it. I can’t come to you and say, ‘Give me work.’ I will sell my house, my shoes and everything and make a film on my own. I am so confident about that. I can’t do that in my life. Acting is important, but acting in films is not. I will do it on the streets, trains or bus.” He detailed it is not demeaning to him to ask for work, instead he would rather not ask. In the same interview, Nawaz also shared when he had a stammering problem and how it created insecurity. He said, “When I am really angry, the stammering comes back. It went away in 2005 and 2006. Maybe it was there because of insecurity, and then when I achieved some things in life, it went away.” On the work front, Nawaz recently made his Bollywood debut with Sailesh Kolanu’s ‘Saindhav.’ He plays Vikas Malik, an unhinged businessman in the Venkatesh Daggubati-starrer. He has ‘Section 108’ in the pipeline. The movie stars Arbaaz Khan and Regina Cassandra.





3 - 9 February 2024

Ilaiyaraaja's Niharika Konidela opens up on daughter her divorce, ex-husband reacts Bhavatharini A dies of cancer at 47 N ational award-winning singer and daughter of veteran composer Ilaiyaraaja, Bhavatharini, 47, passed away last week after a long battle with cancer. She was in Sri Lanka, reportedly undergoing treatment. Condolences for the family have been pouring in from fans and celebrities. Last week, veteran actor Kamal Haasan took to X and tweeted about his “brother” Ilaiyaraaja. Loosely translated, he wrote in Tamil, “Mind blown. I don't know what to do with my dear brother Ilayaraja. I grab his hands mentally. Pavadarini's demise is something that cannot be tolerated or accepted. My brother Ilayaraja should not lose heart in this greatness. My heartfelt condolences to the family of Bhavadharini.”

ctor Niharika Konidela has finally opened up about her divorce for the first time on a podcast with her friend, Nikhil Vijayendra Simha. She spoke about how being married and divorced changed her for better or worse. She said, “I am at a stage in life where I want to focus on myself, I also want to be there for my parents” she said. She added that she has always been dependent on her parents and didn’t know how to function otherwise. “You can’t be dependent on the wrong person,” she said, adding, “I’ve been divorced for almost two years now, only I know how much it hurt me.” She further added that while she was used to people trolling her online, it hurt her to see them talking about her family in a bad light. Niharika said, “I am thankful I have a father like Nagababu who said he doesn’t care what anyone thinks and that I’m the best thing to happen to him, I deserve to be happy. My divorce has shown me the value of family.” The actress did however state that the split meant she ‘cried a lot,’ but it was also a ‘lesson not to trust people.’ She said, “Everyone gets married hoping it’s for a lifetime, but things weren’t what I expected. I am only 30, I haven’t closed off my heart to love. But first, I want to be independent and work on myself before committing to a relationship. For now, I’m single.” Niharika and Chaitanya JV tied the knot in a fairytale wedding in Udaipur on December 9, 2020. However, rumours of their split started doing rounds after a year of marriage, and the couple confirmed on their Instagram handles in July

2023 that they have split ways. While Chaitanya wasn’t invited on the podcast, he left a comment on Nikhil’s Instagram pot about the podcast, addressing the interviewer. He wrote, “You should stop trying to use the reach and platform to indirectly try and attach tags of victim and cause with respect to the marriage. This is the second time this is happening. The pain of things not working out and the process and ordeal of healing is the same for both the ends. (sic)” He added, “The concept of not talking about the divorce, and especially just one side of it, is there to not interfere or rupture that healing again for either of the people involved. Talking about the pain in aftermath and healing is fine, that will help people. In the future instead of an indirect implication of history and fit in words like trust, what will be advised is to have all the parties involved and run through the timeline if you are that keen on knowing and making public aware. (sic)”

Sandeep Reddy Vanga congratulates Chiranjeevi for Padma Vibhushan

Actor Silambarasan TR wrote on X, “The voice that forever lives in the heart of people for its innocence and love! You were a pure soul! Gone too soon! I pray to God to give strength to the family of Illayaraja sir and my brother @thisisysr at this moment! Rest in peace Bhavatharini.” “Shocked and saddened #RIPBhavatharini Heartfelt condolences to the family and friends,” said Anirudh Ravichander. Chinmayi posted, “Bhavatharini Ilayaraja was one of the nicest people I knew. Safe travels, lovely girl. I wish and pray for strength to Raja sir, Karthik Raja and Yuvan Shankar Raja. This is so heartbreaking.” Director Bharathiraja wrote in Tamil, “How will I console my friend. Bhavatharini's death is an irreplaceable loss to our family.” Actor Soori shared, “The death of sister Bavatarini who sings with a honey voice is tragic! An unbearable grief for any father! I don't know what to say... My deepest condolences to the musician and his family.” Bhavatharini made her debut as a singer in Prabhu Deva's ‘Raasaiya.’ She sang many tracks for films and albums, mainly under her father and brothers. She also collaborated with Deva and Sirpy on songs.

Jim Sarbh set to debut in south cinema with Sekhar Kammula’s next


ational Award-winning director Sekhar Kammula’s yet-to-betitled multi-starrer has launched in Hyderabad earlier this month. The project will see Dhanush, Nagarjuna, and Rashmika Mandanna in the lead roles. Makers have currently dubbed the project #DNS, after the male leads and director’s names. Also, in an exciting addition to the case, Jim Sarbh will make his south debut with the film. Makers shared the news on X recently, writing, “A master of his craft @jimSarbh is now immersed in the enchanting universe of #DNS. Brace yourself for his masterclass performance.” While no information on his character and role has been shared yet, media reports suggest that while he doesn’t play the villain, he does play a “crucial role” in the film. The film is produced by Sunil Narang and Puskur Ram Mohan Rao under Tree Venkateshwara Cinemas, and Sonali Narang presents it. Niketh Bommi has been roped in for cinematography, and the makers are yet to announce the rest of the cast and crew. While the team remains tight-lipped about the storyline, the shooting resumed earlier this month. Dhanush has shot for some crucial scenes so far and the makers have a schedule planned for this month and next. The film will be released in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi. On the work front, Jim was last seen in the 2023 film Rani Mukerjee-starrer ‘Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway’ and Season 2 of ‘Made in Heaven.’


hiranjeevi was recently conferred the prestigious Padma Vibhushan at the Padma Awards 2024. A recent picture has surfaced online where Animal director Sandeep Reddy Vanga and ‘Dasara’ director Srikanth Odela visited Chiranjeevi’s house to congratulate the veteran actor. In the picture that made its away to X, Chiranjeevi is seen in a grey shirt and trousers, while Sandeep and Srikanth sat in front of him on the couch and were seen conversing. Reacting to the picture, a fan commented, “Sandeep just narrate a story and work with him, we want this collaboration!” Another said, “Wow, Sandeep Reddy Vanga and Chiranjeevi in the same room, what a deadly combination that

would be if they work together?” Chiranjeevi had earlier released a video message thanking fans and wellwishers for their love and support after he was conferred with Padma Vibhushan. He said in a video message, “I am really overwhelmed, humbled, and grateful. It is only the unconditional love of the audience, my friends, my blood brothers, and sisters. I owe this life and moment to you. I have always tried to express my gratitude in the ways I can. But, nothing can be ever enough. On-screen, in the last 45 years of my career, I have tried to entertain you with the best of my abilities. I tried to help the needy by taking part in relevant social and humanity causes.”






3 - 9 February 2024

I can do a Bollywood film if given the opportunity: Park Min-young K

orean star Park Min-Young is popular among K-dramaa fans. In the Studio Dragon-produced show ‘Marry My Husband,’ she stars alongside Na In-woo, Lee Yi-kyung, and Song Ha-yoon, portraying King Ji-won, who gets a second chance at life after being murdered by her husband while counting her last days as a cancer patient. In a recent interview with IndiaToday.in, Park shared her thoughts on what she would do with a second chance at life. The Korean star also highlighted three shows she considers milestones in her career and expressed interest in doing a Bollywood project. When asked what she would like to

do if she gets a second go at life, Min-young said, “I just want to fix the bad, build on thae good, and love myself more.” Knowan for her roles in romantic-comedies, the actress is now ready to take on some more challenging roles. “I’d like to do something with physical action before I get too old, because I’ve done a lot of romance.” When asked about India and Bollywood movies, she expressed that she is also open to working in a film in India. “I often think of Bollywood movies as musicals. I think it's great that they have their own specificity and uniqueness. I can do a Bollywood film if given the opportunity,” she signed off.

Bengali actor Sreela Majumdar dies at 65 N

oted Bengali actor Sreela Majumdar passed away in her Kolkata residence over the weekend, as announced by her family. She was 65 and had suffered from cancer for the past three years. Condoling her death, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called her a powerful actor who played outstanding roles in several significant Indian films. She added, “It is a big loss for Bengal film industry and we shall miss her stellar presence. My condolences to her family.” Sreela worked with prominent director Mrinal Sen in several films. Her portrayal of characters in Mrinal Sen's ‘Ekdin Pratidin’ (And Quiet Rolls the Dawn, 1980),

‘Kharij’ (The Case is Closed, 1982) and ‘Akaler Sandhane’ (In Search of Famine; 1981), have been critically acclaimed. She also worked in some films in Bollywood. Some of her notable work include Shyam Benegal's ‘Mandi’ (Market Place, 1983), Prakash Jha’s ‘Damul’ (Bonded Until Death, 1985) and Utpalendu Chakraborty's ‘Chokh’ (Eye, 1983). Sreela was also known for her sensitive voice dubbing for Aishwarya Rai in the film ‘Chokher Bali’ (A Passion Play, 2003) which was directed by Rituparno Ghosh. She was last seen in ‘Palan’ by Kaushik Ganguly, a sequel to ‘Ekdin Pratidin.’ The film received wide critical acclamation last year. She is survived by her husband and son.

Dev Patel plays action hero in first trailer of ‘Monkey Man’


ollywood studio Universal Pictures unveiled the official trailer of ‘Monkey Man,’ featuring well-choreographed and spectacular fight and chase sequences. Inspired by the legend of Lord Hanuman, the film is set in Mumbai and features the ‘Lion’ star Dev Patel as a man on a quest for vengeance against the corrupt leaders who murdered his mother and continue to systemically victimise the poor and powerless. Patel plays Kid, an anonymous young man who ekes out a meagre living in an underground fight club, where night after night, wearing a gorilla mask, he is beaten bloody by more popular fighters for cash. The trailer sees Patel fighting in a ring, engaging in hand-to-hand combat with Sikandar Kher, and taking on multiple criminals. ‘Monkey Man’ also stars

popular Indian actors Sobhita Dhulipala, Vipin Sharma, Ashwini Kalsekar, Adithi Kalkunte, Pitobash and Makarand Deshpande, along with Sharlto Copley. The film is produced by Patel, Jomon Thomas, Oscarwinning filmmaker Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, Ian Cooper, Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee, Christine Haebler, and Anjay Nagpal. Patel has developed the movie from his original story. He wrote the screenplay along with Paul Angunawela and John Collee.


opular brand The Jonas Brothers, consisting of Nick, Joe and Kevin, enthralled thousands of desi fans with their debut performance on Saturday. The band performed for one-and-a-half hours at the Mahalaxmi Race Course in South Mumbai on the first day of the second edition of Lollapalooza India. Referring to the elaborative pre-wedding ceremony of his wedding with Priyanka Chopra in 2018, Nick quipped on stage, “This is our very first time performing in India. The sangeet doesn’t count.” He also spoke about his “special connection” event. She wrote, “My heart thanked the audience and with India. “We, as a family, have Thank you Mumbai.” promised to return. “We shall a deep, deep connection with the Before the Jonas Brothers percome back and do this again country.” Nick said as the crowd formed their final track, ‘Leave sometime very soon. We have started chanting, “jiju, jiju.” Before You Love Me,’ Nick one more for you.” “Thank you for having us and we will make the most excitable night ever.” Before the trio hit the stage, a peppy track, ‘Gallan Goodiyaan’ from Priyanka and Ranveer Singh-starrer The Jonas Brothers played a hit set on the first day of the 2015 film ‘Dil Dhadakne Lollapalooza fest over the weekend, delivering one banger after Do,’ was played to set the another. However, Nick surprised his desi fans with a performance of mood for the night. ‘Maan Mere Jaan’ with Indian singer King. Dressed in a floral cotton The Jonas Brothers beltshirt and beige pants, Nick sang his portion of the song he recorded last ed out a medley of soft and year. peppy songs, including ‘Celebrate,’ ‘Sucker,’ ‘What a Fans of the singers loved Nick's sweet surprise. “OMG, OMG, he did Man Gotta Do,’ ‘Close,’ and it!!!! Maan Meri Jaan,” wrote a fan on Instagram. “OMFGG!!!! Nick Jonas ‘Jealous’ among others, dursinging Tu Maan Meri Jaan featuring KING at #LollaIndia!! SERVEEEE,” ing their set. Nick thanked wrote another fan. “I'm crying right now. THANK YOU,” commented a fans for being “incredible” fan. all day long. “Two incredible nights at Lollapalooza. This Earlier on Saturday, Nick had shared a video on social media, crowd is incredible not just teasing a few surprises for his fans attending the fest. now, but all day long. If you have been here all day, make Lollapalooza, the two-day gig, was held from January 27 to January some noise and if you are 28 at the Mahalaxmi Race Course in Mumbai. going to be here all day, The festival featured performances by Sting, Halsey, modern dance make some noise.” Priyanka thanked music duo Jungle, English rock band Royal Blood, American rapper Mumbai for welcoming her JPEGMAFIA, Italian EDM artist Meduza, French house DJ Malaa, and husband with chants of the unique blend of psychedelic and pop music from Caribou. “jiju” as he performed for Performers also included Anoushka Shankar, The Raghu Dixit the first time in India at the Project and When Chai Met Toast, as well as The Karan Kanchan ongoing Lollapalooza festival. She took to her Experience, Parvaaz, Prabh Deep, Dualist Inquiry, Komorebi, Parekh & Instagram Stories on Singh, Skrat, Kamakshi Khanna, JBABE, Chrms, Dewdrops, Shashwat Sunday to share a video of Bulusu, Jatayu, Monophonik, Sublime Sound, Stalvart John, Long the crowd chanting during Distances and Megan Murray. Nick’s performance at the

Nick Jonas sings ‘Maan Meri Jaan’ with King



3 - 9 February 2024

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Cricket beyond limits: India hosts England in pathbreaking T20i trophy Anusha Singh and Subhasini Naicker A physical disability Cricket T20i Trophy 2024 has been announced between hosts India and England. The two teams will contest five T20i matches sponsored by FINOLEX Industries Limited along with its CSR partner, the Mukul Madhav Foundation (MMF). England’s Physically Disabled Cricket Association (EPDCA) embarked on its first-ever tour of India starting January 28 till February 6, marking a historic moment in the sport’s history. Under the aegis of the Differently Abled Cricket Council of India (DCCI) supported by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the series is being played in Ahmedabad (Gujarat). Creating a platform for differently-abled individuals Speaking to Asian Voice about the representation of differentlyabled individuals, the Captain of the Indian physically disabled cricket team, Vikrant Keni pursued cricket despite initial doubts. He said, “As we represent India on the cricket field, we carry the responsibility of upholding this legacy of inspiring others. We aim to create a platform for differentlyabled individuals, ensuring they too have the opportunity to pursue and fulfil their cricketing dreams. “We want to extend an invitation to all disabled individuals with a passion for cricket to join us. The success of many Indians in the Paralympics demonstrates our potential, and we urge others to step forward, fight for their dignity, and embrace the spirit of cricket.” Indian player, Ravindra Sante said, “I've encountered hardships while living with a physical disability, yet I refuse to be deterred. Just like my favourite player Yuvraj, I'm determined to showcase my cricketing skills and prove that disabilities don't limit our abilities. Our goal is to inspire others by demonstrating that even with disabilities, we can excel on the cricket field and play just like any other player.” Vice-Captain of the team Wasim Iqbal said, “Despite becoming disabled, my passion for cricket remains unwavering. I'm

(L-R): Andreas Brown, James Norton and Captain Callum Flynn

proud of BCCI's support for DCCI, representing various forms of Differently-Abled Cricket. Our goal is to excel in these formats, paving the way for future generations and creating opportunities in Differently-Abled Cricket.” Indian Cricket player, Majid Ah Magray said, “Despite being disabled, I never once doubted my ability to play cricket, thanks to the unwavering support and encouragement from my father. When I see other disabled individuals on the cricket ground, I don't see them as any less capable; I see them as fellow players, driven by the same love for the game.” Advocating Cricket’s inclusion in the Paralympics Speaking about Cricket’s inclusion in Paralympics, Captain Keni said, “India's remarkable performance in the Paralympics reflects a transformative shift, with disabled athletes now outshining their counterparts in the Olympics. This newfound recognition signifies progress and inclusivity for disabled athletes. Including cricket could create job opportunities and address financial needs. It is our collective goal to advocate for cricket's inclusion in the Paralympics, benefiting not only cricketers but also those involved in football.” “The absence of cricket in the Paralympics stands out as a notable gap. Its inclusion could profoundly impact India, where the disability rate is 36%, potentially transforming the lives of millions. With cricket's entry into the Paralympics, opportunities for disabled individuals would

significantly increase, offering a new avenue for empowerment and inclusivity. This pivotal step would not only elevate the status of disabled athletes but also inspire societal change, ushering in a brighter future for all,” added Vice Captain Iqbal. India’s enthusiasm a tremendous source of motivation England’s team also spoke to Asian Voice about playing in India and the challenges and enthusiasm it brings. Captain Callum Flynn said, “Training during the winter in England presents its challenges making outdoor sessions impractical and restricting our preparation to indoor facilities.” Talking about Cricket fever in India and if it is a daunting aspect, he said, “The enthusiasm for cricket in India serves as a tremendous source of motivation for us. We're aware of the passion they have for the sport, which only fuels our determination further. We are, however, eagerly anticipating the opportunity to overcome these obstacles and clinch victory, aiming to bring home the trophy.” Andreas Brown, another player from the team added, “For us, playing in different conditions generates more excitement and interest among viewers. It presents a good challenge and offers a unique experience, which both fans and spectators view as a positive aspect of our game. We don't approach it with fear, but rather as an opportunity for growth and adaptation.” England player, James Norton said, “As a squad, we feel

Jadeja and Rahul ruled out of second Test against England Ravindra Jadeja and KL Rahul will miss the second Test against England, set to commence on February 2 in Visakhapatnam. Jadeja sustained a hamstring injury during the fourth day of the first Test in Hyderabad, while Rahul reported discomfort in his right quadriceps, as confirmed by the BCCI. In their absence, India has included Sarfaraz Khan, Saurabh Kumar, and Washington Sundar in the squad. Saurabh Kumar, a left-arm spinner from Uttar Pradesh with 290 first-class wickets at an average of 24.41, has previously been part of the India Test squad but is yet to make his debut, having been selected for the tour of Bangladesh in December 2022. He joins the squad in stellar form, having

clinched a five-wicket haul in the second innings of India A's recent victory against England Lions. Additionally, Sarfaraz showcased his batting prowess with a remarkable 161 runs off 160 balls in the same match. Ollie Pope and Tom Hartley orchestrated England's impressive comeback, securing a thrilling 28-run victory against India in the opening Test at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. Despite India's initial dominance with a 190-run lead, Pope's magnificent 196 and Hartley's debut 7-62 restricted India to 202 all out in their chase of 231. Rohit Sharma top-scored for India with 39 in the second innings, but efforts by Ravichandran Ashwin and Srikar Bharat to extend the match fell short.

(L-R) : Vice-Captain Wasim Iqbal, Captain Vikrant Keni, Ravindra Sante and Majid Ah Magray

exceptionally prepared for the challenge that lies ahead in India. Historically, coming here presents one of the toughest tests for any England team, as demonstrated by both the men's and women's sides in the past. However, we've dedicated ourselves to rigorous

training and preparation over the past few months. Supported by an outstanding team of staff, we've honed our skills and mindset to ensure we're in peak condition and are filled with anticipation and eagerness to take this challenge on.”

Finolex Pipes & Fittings and Mukul Madhav Foundation announce Title Sponsorship for physical disability T20i Trophy 2024 Finolex Industries Limited, a leading player in the Indian PVC pipes and fittings industry, and its CSR partner, the Mukul Madhav Foundation proudly announce Title Sponsorship for the upcoming physical disability Cricket T20i Trophy 2024. England's Physically Disabled Cricket Association (EPDCA) embarked on its first-ever India tour from 28 January 2024 to 6 February 2024 marking a historic moment in the sport’s history. Under the aegis of Differently Abled Cricket Council of India (DCCI) supported by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the five match T20i series will be played in Ahmedabad with the finals in the main Narendra Modi Cricket Stadium. This strategic partnership is driven by DCCI and EPDCA with a shared commitment to champion inclusivity. By leveraging the power of sports, the two organisations aim to eradicate stigmas surrounding disability and foster an atmosphere of equitable society. To this effect, team India will be proudly wearing the jersey kit sponsored by MMF and Finolex Industries who have come together to wholeheartedly support these endeavours. Ritu Prakash Chhabria, Managing Trustee of the Mukul Madhav Foundation & CSR Committee Chairperson of Finolex Industries, stated: "I take this opportunity to thank Shri Jay Shah, Secretary, BCCI, for giving us the opportunity to partner with this crucial cause. We are thrilled to be the sponsors for physical disability T20i Trophy 2024 – a tournament which is in line with our mission to create a barrier-free world where individuals with disabilities can thrive as well as prosper. Mukul Madhav Foundation is at the forefront of disability rehabilitation and empowerment, with a rich history of positively impacting the lives of over 9,000 individuals with disabilities. As we all know, sports has the transformative power to shatter stereotypes and embrace our brothers and sisters with disability in our day-to-day lives. I believe that this tour will be a catalyst for positive change, paving the way for a more inclusive society."

India’s Bopanna becomes oldest to win Grand Slam Four years ago, Rohan won his maiden men’s Bopanna was on the edge doubles Grand Slam title about his future in alongside Australian partner professional tennis. A Davis Matthew Ebden, with a 7-6 Cup veteran, mixed doubles (0), 7-5 win over the Italian Grand Slam champion, and pair of Simone Bolelli and former doubles World No.3, Andrea Vavassori. Bopanna’s career was on the As he clinched the title Rohan Bopanna and Matthew Ebden downslide as a string of with a simple putaway physical issues had wiped out the cartilage in overhead volley, Bopanna fell to the ground both his knees as he entered his forties. before indulging in a roaring chest bump, now the duo’s signature, a reaction out of The emotions behind his four-year journey place with the Indian’s usually calm and – from being on the cusp of retirement to his mild-mannered persona. At 43, he is now the late-career upswing thanks to a revitalising oldest men’s player to win a Grand Slam title fitness regimen and unlikely perfect in the Open Era. Earlier this week, he had partnership – were encapsulated in his also ensured that he will become the oldest reaction to becoming a history-maker at the World No.1 in tennis history. Australian Open. The 43-year-old from Coorg

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