AV 10th February 2024

Page 1

FIRST & FOREMOST ASIAN WEEKLY IN EUROPE BBC called out for biased reporting on Ram Janmabhoomi SEE PAGE - 07

Mahant Swami Maharaj arrives in Abu Dhabi for historic mandir inauguration



10 - 16 FEBRUARY 2024

VOL 52 - ISSUE 39


Cancer diagnosis for King Charles III Source: @RoyalFamily/X

Let noble thoughts come to us from every side

King Charles III


Labour party’s Race Equality Act can stop the politics of division Anusha Singh Ganga arti in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India

2020 and 2021 were strange years. The world stopped moving overnight, with growing anxieties over cancellations and refunds with tourism figures collapsing to 406 million from 1.46 billion in 2019. It has taken three years for the world to reset, though airports, ground staff and air traffic control systems are still struggling, but people have started to feel confident to book holidays ahead. The Daily Telegraph reported that WTO’s figures indicate international travellers reached nearly 1 billion in 2022, so it is most likely that 2024 will be marked as the biggest year for travel that world has ever witnessed. According to WTO’s recent published data, numbers on international travellers departing from Germany, Italy, the US and the UK are up by 10% compared to the same period pre-pandemic in 2019. Continued on page 14

The Labour Party has unveiled ambitious plans for a draft Race Equality Act, which would extend the right to equal pay to black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) workers, mirroring the existing protections for women. This proposal aims to address longstanding inequalities in the workplace by phasing in the legal right and allowing time for employers to adjust their practices. Back pay would only be available from the time the law changes. Continued on page 11





10 - 16 February 2024

Buckingham Palace has disclosed that King Charles has received a diagnosis of cancer and has commenced treatment, rendering him unable to fulfil public duties for the foreseeable future. Although specific details about the type of cancer remain undisclosed, it has been confirmed not to be prostate cancer. The condition was identified during the 75-year-old monarch's recent medical attention for a benign enlarged prostate at the London Clinic. Despite this health setback, the palace assures that the king maintains a positive outlook toward his treatment. He has initiated regular outpatient sessions as of Monday, necessitating the postponement of public engagements. Nonetheless, King Charles will continue to fulfil his constitutional responsibilities as head of state, managing paperwork, attending to his red boxes, and conducting private meetings. Following the announcement, both Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer have extended their well wishes to the King. Sunak expressed his hopes for "His Majesty's full and speedy

Photo courtesy: British Asian Trust

Cancer diagnosis for King Charles III

King Charles III with Lord Jitesh Gadhia at Buckingham Palace in 2022 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the arrival of British Asians from Uganda to the UK

recovery" in a message shared on X, previously known as Twitter. The Conservative leader confidently stated, "I have no doubt he'll be back to full strength in no time, and I know the whole country will be wishing him well." In a separate tweet, the Labour leader conveyed his party's sentiments, saying, "On behalf of the Labour Party, I wish His Majesty all the very best for his recovery." Sir Keir further emphasised, "We look forward to seeing him return to swift full health." India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has joined global leaders to wish a speedy recovery to King

Charles. "I join the people of India in wishing speedy recovery and good health to His Majesty King Charles III," he said in a post on X. The Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry also recently had a short reunion with his father, the King, after flying overnight from California to visit him following the diagnosis. With King Charles’s health challenge and uncertainty about his return to full public duty, the palace machinery will activate. As he begins treatment, royal duties will continue, albeit with adjustments. Other working royals are anticipated to fill in for him during this period.

Rishi Sunak shares insight into family life Rishi Sunak recently opened up about his childhood experiences with racism, revealing how his parents were determined to help him assimilate by sending him for extra drama lessons to eradicate any trace of an accent. In an interview with ITV News, Sunak shared, “You are conscious of being different. It’s hard not to be, right, and obviously, I experienced racism as a kid.” Sunak recounted the pain of hearing derogatory remarks aimed at his younger siblings, emphasising how racism "stings" and "hurts in a way that other things don’t." He expressed hope that his children wouldn't encounter similar challenges. Reflecting on his Indian

heritage, Sunak mentioned that his parents prioritised fitting in and viewed accents as potential barriers. He shared his mother's insistence on proper speech, recalling, “One of the things my mum was obsessed with was that we didn’t speak with accents and we would speak properly. So she was keen for us to try to do some extra drama.” Regarding racism, Sunak affirmed its unequivocal unacceptability, especially as he interacts with world leaders, noting that many look to the UK as an example of addressing such issues. Sunak admitted to never imagining an ethnic minority prime minister during his youth due to the absence of role models. However, he underscored the importance

FINANCIAL A SERVICES MORTGAGES Residential Buy to Let Remortgages

PROTECTION Life Insurance Critical Illness Income Protection

Please conta act:

Dinesh S Shonchhatra Mortgage Ad dviser

Call: 020 8424 C 4 8686 / 07956 810647 77 High Street, Wealdston ne, Harrow, HA3 5DQ mortgage@majorestate.co om ~ majorestate.com

Rishi Sunak

of representation and breaking barriers. The program followed Sunak through key constituencies, offering glimpses into his family life and revisiting Southampton, where he spent his formative years. In a candid interview with Piers Morgan on TalkTV, the Prime Minister discussed his family life at No10 with his wife, Akshata Murty, and their daughters, Krishna and Anoushka. He admitted that it's "probably not very cool" for his daughters to have the Prime Minister as their father. Acknowledging the unique circumstances of living in Downing Street, he shared that while they appreciate the historic surroundings, they are happier when he is less occupied with official duties. He humorously referred to the time when he was "between jobs" - transitioning from his role as Chancellor to replacing Liz Truss as Prime Minister - as a period when they perhaps enjoyed his presence more.

Thinktank warns of UK vulnerability via Irish 'backdoor' A report by an influential think tank has raised concerns about a potential "backdoor" threat to Britain's security stemming from Russian, Chinese, and Iranian presence in the Republic of Ireland. Accusing Dublin of "freeloading" in European defence matters, the report suggests that the UK needs to expand its air and naval presence in Northern Ireland to counter the growing Russian threat on its western flank. Former defence secretaries Michael Fallon and George Robertson, endors-

ing the Policy Exchange report, emphasise the risk posed by a Russian doctrine targeting undersea networks and pipelines, as well as the presence of Russian warships in the region. The report also highlights concerns about Russian intelligence operations in Ireland and its vulnerability to cyberattacks, pointing out the unusually large Russian diplomatic presence in Dublin. The embassy's size, with 30 staff members in 2022, is noted as disproportionately large compared to other European

states with closer ties to Russia at the time. Furthermore, the report mentions Russian attempts to expand the embassy, which were thwarted in 2020 when the Irish government revoked planning permission, citing potential harm to the state's security and defence. Additionally, the report underscores China's growing significance due to its rapid technological advancements and global influence, adding another layer to the security concerns faced by both the UK and Ireland.

UK minister under fire for offering Infosys special access The opposition has accused a Conservative minister of providing Indian IT giant Infosys, in which UK PM Rishi Sunak’s wife holds shares, with "VIP access" to Britain. Shadow Paymaster General Jonathan Ashworth of the Labour and Co-operative Party, speaking to the Sunday Mirror, remarked, "The public will wonder why an outfit so personally close to Rishi Sunak appears to have been granted this VIP access. There are serious questions to answer." Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper echoed the sentiment, emphasising the need for full transparency in government dealings with a company so closely connected to the Prime Minister. The Sunday Mirror obtained details of a meeting

Daisy Cooper

Jonathan Ashworth

between UK Investment Minister Lord Dominic Johnson and Infosys at the company's Bengaluru headquarters in April 2023 through freedom of information requests. During a fourday trip to India, Johnson met with Infosys, one of only 10 firms selected for a faceto-face meeting with the peer. Infosys is currently com-

peting for public contracts valued at £750 million in the UK. According to meeting notes disclosed by the Sunday Mirror, Johnson expressed a desire to see a larger Infosys presence in the UK and offered to assist in facilitating that growth. He also affirmed the government's commitment to maintaining engagement with Infosys at a ministerial level.

NHS 'Doctor Drips' suspended for Covid IV sales An NHS doctor, known as "Dr Drips," has been suspended after selling purported "quack remedies" under this moniker, claiming they could protect against Covid. Dr Nimra Arshad, 29, marketed IV infusions on Instagram, asserting their efficacy in treating various conditions such as anaemia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. Operating during a period of lockdown and rampant online misinformation, Dr Arshad, a locum junior doctor at The Poplars health facility in West Yorkshire, promoted her IV treatments as immune system boosters, weight loss aids, performance enhancers, and fatigue relievers for pregnant women. Despite her claims

Dr Nimra Arshad

and self-promotion as a "GMC certified doctor," concerns were raised regarding the efficacy of her treatments and social media posts, prompting a report to the General Medical Council (GMC) in March 2021. During the inquiry, Prof Kevin O’Shaughnessy, an emeritus professor in clinical pharmacology at Cambridge University,

scrutinised 18 dubious posts on Dr Arshad’s "Dr Drips" page, accusing her of exploiting the pandemic for personal gain. Dr Arshad attributed the controversial messages to a hired social media content creator who sourced information from Google and American websites. Despite no reported harm to patients, Dr Arshad was found guilty of serious professional misconduct by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service and suspended from medical practice for three months. The panel determined that she knowingly allowed the publication of four fake posts. Furthermore, Dr Arshad's company, Dr Drips, was dissolved in 2022, and her business Instagram page was subsequently removed.





10 - 16 February 2024

Prayers and promises On Monday evening, the nation was shaken by with the news of King Charles’ cancer diagnosis. In one of his first engagements as the Monarch in 2022, he had joined 450 guests at Buckingham Palace to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the arrival of British Asians from Uganda to the UK. Prince Harry, forgot about family feuds and flew down to London to be with his father on Tuesday 6 February. Prince William is already looking after his wife Kate, who is recovering from an abdominal surgery, is now quickly required to fill in his father’s shoes to complete some of the necessary royal engagements. Princess Ann, after some cancellations of her royal duties on Tuesday morning, went back to work for an investiture ceremony, while Princess Beatrice was seen visiting the King with her husband. Though the Buckingham Palace has maintained silence on the kind of cancer affecting the King, the Monarch is expected to remain in rest, till he is fit enough to restart royal engagements. Queen Camilla, 76, remains steadfast next to the King, has been a champion of Cancer awareness even before the King was diagnosed with it, and has carried out 233 royal engagements last year. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told BBC Radio 5 Live that he was saddened by the news but No 10 was in normal contact with the Monarch and his cancer was “caught

early”. Mr Sunak added, "He'll just be in our thoughts and our prayers - many families around the country listening to this will have been touched by the same thing and they know what it means to everyone." Asian Voice wishes the King a speedy recovery. In the meantime, there has been political storm building around Britain’s asylum seekers, as an Afghan refugee, who was denied asylum a few times, doused a mother and two children with a corrosive chemical last week in Clapham. The Met Police have announced a £20,000 award to anyone who has information about the perpetrator Abdul Ezedi. They believe there are people who know of the man's whereabouts but have not come forward and have warned that anyone assisting the Afghan asylum seeker faces arrest. Debates have reopened regarding who should be granted asylum in the UK and the relevance of the Rwanda bill. Though former Home Secretaries Suella Braverman and Priti Patel have called out alleged involvement of ‘churches’ in aiding ‘bogus’ asylum claims, Britain cannot shrug off the consequences of sending troops to wars in countries such as Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan etc, creating vulnerable situations, that have displaced thousands of citizens, now homeless and seeking refugee in the UK.

Pakistan's uncertain fate and elections Pakistan goes to the polls for the National and Provincial Assemblies on 8 February, the first since 2018. The country’s Election Commission announced on 1 February that elections will go ahead despite a few terrorism incidents in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces. However, with the country grappling with an economic crisis, inflation running at almost 30 per cent and a weak currency, it is navigating a recovery path under a $3 billion International Monetary Fund bailout. Pakistan’s political parties are mainly funded by wealthy candidates and donors from within the country and abroad, but uncertainty over the election date has affected this funding. Amid allegations of military interference and a crackdown on Imran Khan's PTI party, and despite being incarcerated, Imran Khan remains a popular figure. Though he is barred from contesting elections and his party lost the electoral symbol, Nawaz Sharif aims for a fourth term. He has never completed his five-year tenure, while Bilawal Bhutto Zardari seeks a return to power for the PPP. Maryam Nawaz, Nawaz Sharif's daughter, is being prepared to continue his political legacy. These key players shape Pakistan's political landscape. The next Pakistani Prime Minister will face many challenges, starting from economic woes to security issues. They are closely watched by India, China and the US. A report from the US think tanks highlighted the complex dynamics of repression, militancy, and military influence in Pakistan's electoral landscape. Relations with India remain tense, with little hope for normalisation due to the influence of hardline generals.

Additionally, an Indian embassy employee's arrest in Moscow for alleged spying for Pakistan's ISI has added to the diplomatic tension. China has supported Pakistan's claims of Indian involvement in the killings of Pakistanis, garnering attention. China has consistently supported Pakistan, offering financial assistance and backing their claims against India, while the US has considered India as an economic opportunity but believed Pakistan is a challenge. China remains Pakistan's steadfast supporter, driven by its competition with India. This comes amidst tensions escalating in the Middle East, as global economies are preparing for potential repercussions. Over the past four months, the region has experienced various localised conflicts, attacks, and flashpoints, contributing to the overall instability in the Middle East. After Iran conducted attacks in the Pakistani province of Balochistan, Islamabad responded with a series of military strikes on separatist militant hideouts inside Iran. Meanwhile, Israel has announced the intensification of its operations against Hamas in southern Gaza, while Palestine reports the death toll in Gaza surpassing 24,000 after the Hamas attack killed over 1,200 in Israel. The US has launched a fresh round of strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen after Washington re-designated the Iran-backed rebels as a "terrorist" entity due to their attacks on ships in the Red Sea. As general elections are scheduled in up to 40 nations, they simultaneously find themselves preparing for potential conflicts and heightened tensions, adding another layer of complexity to the political landscape.

An interim budget exuding confidence for the BJP As national elections approach in India, the government announced an interim budget last week, aligning mostly with expectations while introducing a few surprises for both investors and rural voters. This final budget serves as a crucial opportunity for the incumbent administration to make promises and unveil projects to the voters. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman emphasised five key principles known as 'Disha Nirdashak': promoting social justice as an effective governance model, focusing on the welfare of the poor, youth, women, and farmers; prioritising infrastructure development, utilising technology to enhance productivity, and establishing a high-power committee to address challenges stemming from demographic changes. One important thing to notice about this budget is that there are no direct incentives for the voters to attract them to re-elect the Modi government. This is very different from the previous approaches of the interim budgets, even the one presented by the BJP in 2019 itself. While previous interim budgets have had a whole lot to offer with new schemes and policies benefiting farmers, women and businesses, Sitharaman stuck to the real essence of an interim budget and kept it simple. She did make it a point to highlight the various achievements of the country under Narendra Modi’s leadership reminding us that India is the fastest-growing economy in the G20 and has marked a growth 7 per cent GDP growth in the last three years. Private businesses and railways are set to gain significantly from this budget. Unlike in previous budgets, the focus has shifted away from the agricultural sector. For the railways, there are plans to implement three major economic railway corridor programs: energy, mineral, and cement corridors, port connectivity corridors, and high-traffic den-

sity corridors. Additionally, 40,000 regular rail carriages will be upgraded to meet Vande Bharat standards, improving safety, convenience, and comfort for passengers. The Minister also mentioned a reduction in corporate tax rates for existing domestic companies from 30% to 22%, and for certain new manufacturing companies to 15%. Furthermore, a fund of Rs 1 lakh crore will be established with a fifty-year interest-free loan, providing longterm financing, or refinancing with low or no interest rates. The unchanged tax slabs also favour the citizens, both residents and non-resident Indians. All of these announcements are definitely going to attract voters as the BJP very subtly advertises itself. While the previous interim budget was all about the farmers with the launch of the PM-KISAN scheme and various other aids for the agriculture sector, there were no major schemes or policies announced this time. However, there were some reductions. Sitharaman decreased the food subsidy and the fertilizer subsidy while maintaining capital expenditure. A thorough examination of these changes, coupled with the unchanged tax brackets, highlights the shifting dynamics within the Indian economy and politics. Balancing the need for growth and careful spending without upsetting voters, Sitharaman has focused the budget spotlight on the government’s achievements in the past ten years rather than giving out goodies. The budget shows that the country is at a dominant place when it comes to our place in the global forum. It also appears to convey that the Narendra Modi government has accrued sufficient political capital, liberating it from the need to lavish incentives on voters.

Thought for the week The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. -Eleanor Roosevelt

Political Sketchbook Alpesh Patel

Wishing the King Well The recent news about the King being diagnosed with cancer has profoundly impacted not only the nation but also the international community. It's a moment that brings to light the deeply human aspect behind the regal façade, reminding us all of the vulnerabilities that bind us irrespective of status or position. At the heart of the overwhelming support for the King is a testament to our shared humanity. Illness, especially of such a serious nature, is a universal equalizer that underscores our inherent vulnerability. The King's diagnosis has elicited a spontaneous outpouring of well-wishes and prayers from people of all walks of life, reflecting a commonality of human experience that often goes unacknowledged in the stratified society. But from Prince to pauper, what of the children in Gaza, or Syria, Iraq, the Israelis in the news and the new famine in Ethiopia? We, other than the most bitter and extreme, wish them all well, we are as helpless to do more than pray. Unless we are the King’s physician or the commander of Hamas, or the UK International Development Minister. In the United Kingdom, a country marked by its rich tapestry of cultures and faiths, the response to the King's illness has been notably unified. This unity is particularly remarkable given the country's current sociopolitical climate, which is often characterized by division and debate over issues ranging from Brexit to social policies. Yet, in this moment of adversity, the public, political figures, and media outlets have set aside their differences to stand in solidarity with the monarchy. It is a reminder, there will always be minorities with extreme views, but they are not he one’s to be given airtime or focus. Unless you’re a media outlet obsessed with ‘fair and balanced’ in which case doubtless you will do broadcasts from anti-monarchists at the same time. The support for the King transcends political affiliations and social classes, illustrating the monarchy's role as a unifying symbol in British society. It is a clear demonstration of the deep respect and affection that the people hold for the King, who has dedicated much of his life to public service and environmental advocacy. This collective rallying around the King in his time of need reaffirms the monarchy's relevance in contemporary Britain, serving as a source of stability and continuity amidst change. The international reaction has similarly been one of compassion and solidarity, with leaders and citizens from around the world sending their well-wishes. This global outpouring of support underscores the universal values of empathy and kindness that transcend national borders and political divides. It also highlights the King's international stature and the respect he commands on the world stage, both as a head of state and as a proponent of global environmental and social causes. The response from various faith communities within the UK has been particularly poignant. Religious leaders and followers across the spectrum have offered prayers and messages of hope, showcasing the powerful role that faith can play in providing comfort and fostering unity in times of crisis. This ecumenical support not only reflects the multicultural and multi-faith fabric of British society but also the capacity for faith to bring people together in compassion and empathy. As President of the India League and Chairman of the City Hindus Network, I am proud to be able to speak for those organisations and the membership to offer our well wishes to the King. Asian Voice is published by

Asian Business Publications Ltd Harrow Business Centre, 429-433 Pinner Road, North Harrow, Middlesex, HA1 4HN Tel: 020 7749 4080 • Fax: 020 7749 4081 Email: aveditorial@abplgroup.com Website: www.abplgroup.com INDIA OFFICE

Bureau Chief: Nilesh Parmar (BPO) AB Publication (India) Pvt. Ltd. 207 Shalibhadra Complex, Opp. Jain Derasar, Nr. Nehru Nagar Circle, Ambawadi, Ahmedabad-380 015. Tel: +91 79 4601 2649 Email: gs_ahd@abplgroup.com © Asian Business Publications





10 - 16 February 2024

History made in Sinn Fein Michelle O’Neill made history as she was elected Northern Ireland’s first Republican first minister. Sinn Fein’s vice-president pledged to work with unionists to build a better future as the power-sharing institutions returned after a two-year collapse caused by the Democratic Unionist Party’s walkout over postBrexit trade rules. Emma Little-Pengelly of the DUP becomes deputy first minister, sharing equal power and responsibility. However, Sinn Fein's position as the largest political party in the 2022 assembly election granted it the top role for the first time in 103 years of devolution. The DUP, the largest unionist party, agreed to the recall of the political institutions after striking a deal

Michelle O’Neill

with the UK government. This agreement, according to Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, effectively removed the Irish Sea trade border. In her address to the assembly, O’Neill emphasised that the restoration of the institutions marked a “moment of equality and progress.” She expressed a commitment to collabora-

tion, stating, “It is a new opportunity to work and grow together, confident that wherever we come from, whatever our aspirations, we can and must build our future together.” O’Neill also conveyed her condolences for all lives lost during the conflict. Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, hailed the return of power-sharing at Stormont as a “great day,” while Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar expressed anticipation for collaboration on North-South issues. Among the new ministers' priorities will be addressing the budget crisis affecting public services. The government has proposed a £3.3 billion package, including £600 million to settle public sector pay claims.

Rishi Sunak has acknowledged that the government has fallen short of its goal to reduce NHS waiting lists, despite it being one of his key pledges. In an interview with Piers Morgan on TalkTV, the prime minister conceded that "we have not made enough progress," noting that the number of treatments awaiting commencement was higher than when he initially made the promise at the beginning of the previous year. Sunak highlighted the government's significant investment in the NHS but also pointed out the impact of industrial action, citing a nearly 100,000 decrease in the waiting list in November following a month without strikes. Recent figures from NHS England revealed that in

Source: X

Sunak acknowledges failure to address NHS waiting lists

Rishi Sunak | Piers Morgan

November 2023, 7.61 million treatments were awaiting completion, relating to 6.39 million patients. Although this marked a decline from October's figures, waiting lists remained higher than when Sunak made his pledge. When the commitment was made at the beginning of the prior year, waiting lists stood at 7.21 million. The Liberal Democrats

highlighted the mental health toll of prolonged waits for GP and hospital appointments, citing a survey by the Office for National Statistics. The survey found that nearly a quarter of adults reported worsened mental health due to extended wait times, with 18% reporting adverse effects on their physical health.

British Punjabi doctor heads global bowel cancer vaccine trial Dr Tony Dhillon, a British Indian doctor whose grandfather immigrated from a Punjab village to work in a "Brylcreem" factory, is now at the forefront of the first international trial for a groundbreaking vaccine aimed at combating bowel cancer. Born in Maidenhead, Dr Dhillon, 53, is a consultant medical oncologist at Royal Surrey NHS Hospital Trust and a senior lecturer in oncology. His paternal grandfather made the journey to the UK from Surja village in the Jalandhar district during the early 1950s. Over the past five years, Dr Dhillon has collaborated with Professor Tim Price in Australia on the development of the vaccine. "This vaccine is targeted at a specific subtype of bowel cancer, applicable to approxi-

mately 15% of patients," he explained. The vaccine regimen involves administering three doses, spaced two weeks apart, prior to surgery to activate the immune system for cancer eradication. "We anticipate that by the time patients undergo surgery, there will be minimal cancer remaining, and in some cases, it may be entirely eliminated. We need to conduct trials to validate this, and that's what we're about to embark on," he stated. The vaccine, developed by Imugene, a clinical-stage immuno-oncology company in Australia, will undergo a phase 2 trial involving 44 patients across 10 centres in the UK and Australia, expected to span one year. Dr Dhillon also expressed optimism about the vaccine's potential applicability

Convicted sex offender believed to be dead or in hiding Detectives searching for chemical attack suspect Abdul Ezedi now believe he is either being sheltered from capture or has met with an unfortunate fate. As the manhunt entered its sixth day on Tuesday, investigators have scoured hundreds of hours of CCTV footage without any sign of Ezedi since last Wednesday evening. Metropolitan Police have been relentlessly pursuing the Afghan refugee since a mother and her two young daughters suffered injuries from a corrosive alkaline substance thrown at them in Clapham, south London. The 31-year-old woman, who has a connection to Ezedi, remains sedated and faces the possibility of losing sight in her right eye. A £20,000 reward has been offered for any information leading to Ezedi's apprehension. Detectives are now exploring the possibility that he may be receiving assistance from an accomplice or may have met with an untimely demise. While a 22-year-old man was detained on suspicion of aiding an offender, he

Suella Braverman

Priti Patel

was subsequently released on bail. However, there is no indication that he made any premeditated plans to flee. The latest confirmed sighting was at 9:47 p.m. in Allhallows Lane near Southwark Bridge shortly after the assault. Commander Jon Savell emphasised that investigators are maintaining an open-minded approach to Ezedi's whereabouts or circumstances. The former Conservative Party members voiced their concerns in the Sunday Telegraph following the highly publicised case. Ms. Braverman,

now serving as a backbench MP, disclosed that during her tenure in Cabinet, she became aware of churches across the country allegedly facilitating what she described as "industrialscale bogus asylum claims." Dame Priti, who served as Home Secretary from 2019 to 2022, reiterated the sentiments and cited the case of Emad Jamil Al Swealmeen, the perpetrator of the Liverpool Women’s Hospital bombing. Al Swealmeen had been formally confirmed at Liverpool Cathedral in 2017, yet he went on to detonate a car bomb at the hospital in 2021.

High Court challenges Home Office on visa mistreatment The Home Office is confronting a High Court challenge regarding the alleged mistreatment of individuals applying to renew and extend their visas. The Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex & London (RAMFEL) has initiated a judicial review contesting the Government’s treatment of hundreds of thousands of individuals holding the immigration status known as "3C leave." This status is automatically granted to those seeking to extend their visas, ensuring the protection of their

rights, including the right to work, while their applications are under consideration. However, RAMFEL asserts that the Government fails to provide individuals on 3C leave with proof of their immigration status. Consequently, they endure a period of uncertainty regarding their status, rights, and entitlements while awaiting the outcome of their renewal applications. The charity argues that delays in processing applications, exacerbated by the Home Office's reallocation of resources to address

the asylum backlog, have led to some applications taking at least a year to be resolved. Reports from RAMFEL indicate that its clients have experienced wrongful suspension from work, cessation of disability benefits, and jeopardised education opportunities. In 2022, RAMFEL found that 17% of individuals on 3C leave suffered significant detriment, and it estimates that as many as 40,000 people each year could face wrongful suspension from work under these circumstances.

NHS misses targets but retains £1.4 billion Dr Tony Dhillon

to other cancer types in future trials. Reflecting on his family's immigration history, Dr Dhillon shared that his grandfather initially settled in Southall before relocating to Maidenhead to work in the Brylcreem factory. His father joined him in the early 1960s, while his mother arrived from Bilga, Jalandhar district, in 1967 to marry his father. Both of Dr. Dhillon's parents also worked in factories.

The Telegraph has revealed that the NHS failed to meet targets associated with £1 billion of taxpayer funding but was nonetheless permitted to retain the money. Despite the health service's failure to meet the targets linked to the majority of the £1.4 billion funding pot allocated for reducing the Covid backlog last year, ministers allowed the NHS to keep the entire amount. Gareth Davies, the head of the National Audit Office (NAO), responsible for overseeing public spending, declined to fully endorse the Department of Health's

Gareth Davies

annual accounts for 2022-23, providing only a "qualified" approval. Labour criticised the Conservatives for their handling of the health service, suggesting that patients and taxpayers would be puzzled by the fact that the allocated

funds did not result in the additional operations they were intended to finance. This revelation is likely to exacerbate concerns among Tory MPs about potential public discontent regarding the party's management of the NHS. As of November 2023, overall NHS waiting lists had reached a record high of 7.6 million individuals. A YouGov poll conducted last month indicated that only 11% of the public currently believe that the Conservatives are the best party to manage the health service, down from 26% in 2019.





10 - 16 February 2024

Indian extradited from UK for selling drugs on dark web An Indian national has been extradited from the UK after pleading guilty for operating a global dark web enterprise to sell “deadly and dangerous drugs to communities across America” and agreed to forfeit approximately $150 million (£118m) in cryptocurrency. According to court documents, Banmeet Singh – originally from Haldwani in India’s Uttarakhand state, created vendor marketing sites on dark web marketplaces to sell controlled substances, including fentanyl, LSD, ecstasy, Xanax, ketamine and Tramadol, the US Department of Justice said. Customers ordered controlled substances from Singh using vendor sites and evaded detection by paying with cryptocurrency. Singh then personally shipped or arranged the shipment of

Banmeet Singh

the drugs from Europe to America through US mail or other shipping service. Over the course of the conspiracy, Singh moved hundreds of kilograms of controlled substances throughout the US and established a multimilliondollar drug enterprise which laundered millions of dollars of drug proceeds into cryptocurrency accounts, which ultimately became worth approximately $150 million (£118m).

Business Secretary suggests new directions for the Post Office Business secretary Kemi Badenoch has said that she had sacked the chairman of the Post Office amid tensions over the scandal of hundreds of sub postmasters wrongly convicted of theft due to faulty accounting software. A Television drama in early January that told the story of the sub postmasters’ ordeal and their ongoing battle to clear their names and secure compensation shocked the nation. The strong public reaction prompted Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to announce in parliament that his government would legislate to ensure the victims of what has been called Britain’s biggest miscarriage of justice were “swiftly exonerated and compensated”. “We had a conversation and it was agreed that it was better that the Post Office had new leadership going

Kemi Badenoch

forward,” Badenoch told Sky News, confirming that she had removed Post Office chief Henry Staunton. There has been intense criticism of previous Post Office chief Paula Vennells and others who are accused of allowing the prosecutions to continue even after problems with the software were known about. Staunton, appointed in December 2022, was not at the helm during the installation of the faulty Horizon software or the subsequent legal cases.

Former British Gurkha soldiers demand equal perks and pensions Nepal’s deputy Prime Minister Purna Khadka has appealed for a favourable response from the UK regarding the demands of Gurkha soldiers who retired from the British Army before 1997 and are seeking equal perks and pensions comparable to those of their British counterparts. Khadka, who is also the defence minister, pressed for the demand at a meeting with the UK’s chief of the general staff, General Patrick Sanders, who is visiting the Himalayan nation. Sanders called on Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and met Khadka and Foreign Minister NP Saud. Khadka urged Sanders to address the concerns of Gurkha soldiers who retired from the British Army before

1997 and demand equal perks and pensions on par with their British counterparts, according to foreign ministry sources. He talked about the long-standing bilateral ties between Nepal and the UK that have extended to the people-to-people level. The deputy prime minister also pointed out that the two countries share similar values in democracy, human rights, the rule of law and independence, human values, and dignity. The Nepalese Gurkhas have been part of the British Army for nearly 200 years. There are currently over 4,000 Gurkhas employed in the Brigade of Gurkhas across many trades, according to the British Army website.

Increase in poverty rates hits British Asians badly Many British Asian families are badly affected as poverty has increased in the UK to around pre-pandemic levels, a new report has said. The UK Poverty 2024 report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said Asian households also have higher rates of child poverty, very deep poverty and

persistent poverty. According to the report, around half of people in Pakistani (51 per cent) and Bangladeshi households (53 per cent) and around four in 10 people in households headed by someone from an Asian background (39 per cent), excluding Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or

Chinese, were in poverty between 2019 and 2020 and 2021 and 2022. Many households from black African backgrounds (42 per cent) were also in poverty during the period. Current levels of poverty are around 50 per cent higher than they were in the 1970s, the report

warned. The report also said that around 3.8 million people, including one million children, experienced destitution, where they could not afford the most basic physical needs to stay warm, dry, clean and fed, in 2022. These figures have more than doubled since 2017.

Britain’s population to hit 70m in 2026 Sunak is under pressure to cut immigration as new figures indicate Britain must construct 156,000 homes annually to accommodate the influx. The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) predict that net migration will add an additional 6.1 million people to the UK population by 2036. The country’s

population could surpass 70 million by 2026 driven by both immigration and natural growth. The ONS projections also prompt concerns about an earlier than expected milestone, a decade sooner than previously anticipated. The Centre for Policy Studies warns that this surge in population will necessitate

the construction of 5.7 million homes from 2021 to 2036. Approximately 41 per cent of this demand, roughly 2.3 million homes, is attributed to net migration. This exceeds the government’s target of 300,000 homes annually, requiring an average of 382,000 homes yearly, a 60 per cent increase over the cur-

rent rate. In response to the mounting crisis, the government has unveiled measures to reduce immigration by 300,000 annually. These include a ban on foreign care workers bringing relatives and an increase in the minimum salary threshold for skilled worker visas.





10 - 16 February 2024

ABPL Group hosts New Year reception to express gratitude for the community’s support over past five decades


o celebrate the last five decades of undivided support and loyalty from patrons, advertisers, readers and well-wishers of Asian Voice and Gujarat Samachar, ABPL Group under the leadership of Chairman CB Patel hosted a New Year reception at the Sangat Centre, Harrow on 29 January 2024. Addressing the guests, CB Patel, who is also the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Asian Voice and Gujarat Samachar said, “Thank you very much for all your support and prayers. In the UK, there are only 2 million Indians (out of a population of 70 million), and they gave us the first Prime Minister of Indian origin. Today the Ambassador of the UK to Qatar is a British Indian- Neerav Patel, who has roots in my village Bhadran, Gujarat. His grandfather was my friend. While travelling in India for the last 21 days I went to many places. London has been my home for 58 years and I owe everything to this country, but I will never forget India- my Janmabhoomi (country of birth). We are the ‘living bridge’ between this country and India. “Therefore, we have a responsibility. Gujarat Samachar and Asian Voice became big by serving the community. They are not just newspapers. We have faced many challenges over the years, but with the backing of people present here like Rameshbhai Kansagra, and many other dear advertisers and readers, we have been able to sustain our continued Seva and Gyan

Smita Joshi-Comperer for the evening

Dinesh Shonchhatra, Mamta Tolia, Meenaben Jasani, Mayor of Harrow Ramji Chauhan, Nitinbhai Jasani, CB Patel, Cllr Anjana Patel, Ketan Adani, Hasmitaben Doshi

emphasises duty as dharma. Our caretakers in the Aum Care work with a profound sense of responsibility, empathy and understanding, serving the adults with care, beyond just day-to-day assistance. Tailoring our services to meet everyone not only provides them with physical assistance but also emotional support. Our caretakers always approach with selfless dedication and humility. With all your support and collaboration with the local councils together we can create a committed and connected community.” The Rt Hon Keith Vaz, former Leicester East MP and Minister of State of the UK for Europe and North America said, “Who else than CB could bring together political leaders and representatives from the opposite sides like Susan Hall, and Krupesh Hirani along with all our great philanthropists of our community like Ramesh Kansagra, Vinu Bhattessa and peo-

is to stop the ULEZ expansion. Safety on our streets is another point of concern. We desperately need to reform the police and get them back on the beat solving crimes.” Loknath Mishra, MD and CEO of ICICI UK said, “I met CB about 5 years back. I noticed that he was walking faster than me. Even six months back when we were together, I had to make efforts to catch up with him. He is a wonderful person having a charm to hold on the entire community. He takes people under his wings.”

and because of his motivation, I came. Thank you so much.” Kanti Nagda MBE, CEO of Sangat Centre welcoming the guests said, “It’s my pleasure to welcome you all to the Sangat Centre. It’s a registered charity, we provide advice and guidance on immigration, welfare benefits, housing, matrimony etc. We take the cases to the tribunal, the high court. In short, we are a mini citizens advice bureau. “Serving the community is not an easy task. We introduced the Warm Bank project and provided a

LtoR: Primesh Patel, Navin Shah CBE, Vinu Bhattessa OBE, Susan Hall AM, Mayoress Vaishali Shah, Mayor of Welwyn Hatfield Cllr Pankit Shah, Pranav Vora-CEO Aum Care, Mayoress Meena Chauhan, Mayor of Harrow Cllr Ramji Chauhan, Mayor of Ealing Cllr Hitesh Tailor, Chinu Kishore, Smita Joshi, CB Patel, Nirav Patel-Director Aum Care, Krishna Pujara, Mahesh Gadhvi, Krupesh Hirani AM, Abbas Merali

Pranav Vora, CEO of Aum Care

Mayor of Harrow Ramjibhai Chauhan

Loknath Mishra MD & CEO of ICICI Bank UK

Mayor of Walwyn Hatfield Pankit Shah

Kantibhai Nagda MBE

Susan Hall

Chinu Kishore performed a folk dance

Yagna for the last five decades. Without your support and encouragement, we wouldn't be where we are today.” Speaking about the historical importance of the reception venue, CB said, “Sangat Centre serves the community. They don’t receive any grants from the government yet are the pillars of the community. I especially want to recall the selfless services of Bhanuben Kantibhai Nagda and Anilaben Shah. Another motivational presence I want to especially mention is Hasmitaben Doshi, Hall Secretary of Navnat Centre. She is here with the message that life must go on, despite challenges. After the sad demise of her husband Dr Vinodrai, this is her very first public event. A special thanks to compere and life coach Smita Joshi, who helped us to connect with ourselves.” Pranav Vora, CEO of Aum Care UK Ltd said, “Aum is a symbol of peace and Gita is a value which teaches us compassion and selfless service. In the Gita, Lord Krishna

Mayor of Ealing Hitesh Tailor

Rocky Bhai presenting melodious songs

Rt Hon Keith Vaz

ple who served so well in Harrow like Navin Shah, Kanti Nagda. This is the unique quality of CB Patel.” He further added, “CB you have supported all in public life no matter which party they belong to. I first came to him when I was 25 years of age. I was standing as a MP from Richmond, he supported me. I have never dreamt that in my lifetime we would have a Prime Minister of Indian origin. Isn't it amazing? Incredible changes, the Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary of Asian origin. Now everyone knows Narendra Modi, but in the past when not everyone did, CB was with him when nobody else was! “I think we are lucky to have him around with the newspapers, supporting the community. He taught me the first words of Gujarati- ‘Tamne Shu Taklif Che?’ (what are your problems). And said these are the only words you need to hear in Leicester. I asked CB, what if they have ‘Taklifs’ (problems), and he said you will sort

them out.” The Mayor of Harrow Cllr Ramji Bhai Chauhan said, “It's so good to be with all of you. CB always promotes young people. He makes sure that young people come to the front line and help the community as much as they can. “My charity RITA Foundation provides therapeutic activities via an easy-to-use interactive touchscreen device. It offers therapeutic support to older individuals and people living with dementia. I invite you all to support it.” Susan Hall, Conservative candidate for Mayor of London said, “I am pleased to be a part of this gettogether. I have heard about CB for so many years and I know how wonderful he is. The community loves the newspaper. We make sure that we can do the best for the people wherever they are. We are elected to do our best for the residents whatever the party is. This is what I want to do. “If I am selected as the Mayor of London, the first thing I will do

Mayor of Ealing Cllr Hitesh Tailor said, “CB has always been very supportive. I am first ever the Gujarati Mayor of Ealing. I was honoured that the Jalaram Mandir was able to host the service and helped to organise a magnificent spiritually uplifting service. Asian Voice and Gujarat Samachar are the newspapers always there for the community.” Mayor of Welwyn Hatfield Cllr Pankit Shah said, “My heartfelt appreciation to CB Patel. A pleasure to be here. I am the first Indian Mayor of my city in the history of the last 150 years. I wasn't born here; I came as a student here 20 years ago. “Hatfield Food Bank is part of the Trussell Trust network of food banks, providing emergency food and support to people in crisis in the Hatfield area.” Navnat Hall Secretary Hasmitaben Doshi said, “Today I have come out of my house for the first time, after the sad demise of my husband. CB encouraged me

warm and safe space for people to escape the cold but also offered a range of activities to promote social interaction and mental wellbeing. During Covid-19, to overcome the detrimental effect of loneliness and isolation we provided access to digital technology and supported 29 people by providing iPads and taught them how to use them to have more meaningful activities and engage socially as well as have improved outcomes for their health needs. It is a testament to the power of collective action and the impact that small acts of kindness can have on people’s lives.” An award-winning author, certified yoga teacher and life coach Smita Joshi was the compere of the event. Rockybhai presented melodious songs and Chinu Kishore, founder of Luiporia Nasoni, Secretary of NEICCUK, and Cultural Secretary of the United Assam Association of UK presented a wonderful folk dance. A vote of thanks was given by Group Editor Mahesh Liloriya. (Photo courtesy: Raj D Bakrania, PrMediapix)





10 - 16 February 2024

BBC called out for biased reporting on Ram Janmabhoomi UK Member of Parliament Bob Blackman expressed concern over what he perceives as biased reporting by the British media, particularly the BBC, regarding the opening of the Ram Mandir. Speaking in the UK parliament on Friday, Blackman highlighted the significance of the consecration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, as a moment of great joy for Hindus worldwide. Blackman criticised the BBC's coverage, noting that it emphasised the site as the location of a mosque's destruction while neglecting its history as a temple for over 2000 years prior to that event. He also mentioned that Muslims were allocated a five-acre site nearby to build a mosque. The MP called on other parliament members to support a debate in government time concerning the impartiality of the BBC and its alleged failure to provide accurate coverage of global events. The criticism of BBC’s

Bob Blackman

coverage of the monumental event was seen across the diaspora as many wrote letters to the outfit expressing their displeasure. National Council of Gujarati Organisations(NCGO) UK in their letter to BBC wrote“We are extremely disappointed and outraged at the BBC's egregiously biased reporting on Ram Mandir in the past few weeks. We are fully aware of the BBC's history of biased reporting on India, and it's high time that the corporation acknowledges India's remarkable progress as a democratic country that has made tremendous strides in science and technology.”

“The corporation must accept its responsibility and take corrective measures to maintain its credibility and integrity. We urge the BBC to take our request seriously and provide fair and impartial news coverage of India. We will not tolerate any further biased reporting on India, and we will take all necessary steps to ensure that the BBC is held accountable for its actions”, the letter further read.” Responding to the many complaints about the coverage, BBC responded, “We believe that to be a fair and accurate account of what happened. We also mentioned that “many Hindus believe the Babri mosque was built by Muslim invaders on the ruins of a temple where the Hindu god (Ram) was born” and we provided more context, reporting on the 2019 Indian Supreme Court judgement which gave the disputed land to Hindus, who form 80% of India’s population.” “We do not agree that the

article was demeaning to Hindus. Quoting Mr Modi who said it was a “historic occasion”, we reported on the ceremony and on the celebrations in India and in other countries too.” Asian Voice columnist Kapil Dudkia, in this week’s Kapil’s Khichdi, called out BBC to be a bogus broadcasting corporation and its biased reporting of India. He writes, “Over the past two decades it has become increasingly clear that the BBC has failed in its primary duty of being an independent national broadcaster...” “BBC has failed in its duty by exhibiting a bias against various groups. The Jewish community has already provided you with ample evidence of how the BBC has shown its bias against them. Similarly, there is now incontestable evidence that the BBC has become a bastion for those politically on the left, and those who subscribe to what is known as ‘woke’ and/or ‘politically correct’ narratives.”

Calls for PCC resignation over skirt comment Cheshire's Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) is under pressure to step down after making controversial remarks about schoolgirls' attire during a discussion on violence against women. Despite apologising for his comments, local Labour MPs and council leaders have called for John Dwyer’s resignation, citing concerns about victim blaming and setting a poor example for law enforcement and the community. The county's

police and crime panel has said it considers the matter closed following his apology. A formal complaint against Mr Dwyer emerged following a meeting with the Culcheth and Glazebury Parish Council in November. The remarks were reportedly made in response to a question regarding a survey conducted by an organisation aiming to address stereotypes of individuals affected by crime, violence, abuse, and

John Dwyer

trauma. Mr Dwyer is said to have commented: "I notice school girls in my area are all wearing very short skirts and this did not happen in the

1960s." The complainant, who has not been named, said Mr Dwyer’s words came across as victim blaming and misogynistic, and were met with shock in the meeting room. In their complaint, they stated: “Given his senior position of influence over policing in Cheshire, making such a statement certainly does not fill me with confidence that women and girls in Cheshire feel able to report their experiences to the police.”

NHS dental recovery Home Office denies plan to offer millions visas for migrant health workers' kids more appointments Millions of NHS dental appointments are set to become more accessible and faster for patients across England, thanks to a new initiative. Backed by £200 million in government funding, the plan aims to provide easier access to dental care. NHS dentists will receive a 'new patient' payment ranging from £15 to £50, catering to around a million individuals who haven't seen an NHS dentist in two years or more. With this plan, up to 2.5 million additional NHS dental appointments could be facilitated in the next year, including approximately 1.5 million extra treatments. The initiative also emphasises prevention and good oral health in young children, alongside efforts to expand the dental workforce.

Additionally, the government will introduce the 'Smile For Life' program, offering guidance to parents and parents-to-be on baby gums and milk teeth care. The aim is to instil tooth brushing as a regular part of children's routines by the time they start school. To address shortages in underserved areas, approximately 240 dentists will receive one-off payments of up to £20,000 for working in these regions for up to three years. Furthermore, the public will have access to information about NHS dental practices accepting new patients via the NHS website and app. A marketing campaign will also be launched to encourage individuals who haven't seen a dentist in two years to seek treatment, promoting increased appointment availability.

An investigation by the media has uncovered a systematic pattern within the Home Office of denying visas to young children seeking to join their mothers in the UK, despite clear evidence that these women serve as their primary caregivers. This policy, deemed discriminatory and inhumane, has resulted in the rejection of numerous visa applications for children of migrant single mothers, many of whom work in vital sectors such as the NHS or social care. These mothers, hailing from countries like Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, South Africa, and India, were forced to leave their children – some as young as two – in the care of relatives or friends while they pursued opportunities in the UK. Despite assurances from

their employers, who cited immigration rules permitting healthcare workers to bring immediate family members, their children's visa applications were ultimately denied. In refusal letters seen by the Observer, the Home Office questioned why the children could not stay permanently with their grandparents or other relatives. In other cases, it said there was no reason why they could not go to live with their fathers, even though their mothers had sole custody or the fathers had not seen the children for years. Many of the letters, addressed directly to the children, conclude: “It was your mother’s personal decision to depart for the UK and you have not provided sufficient evidence to grant your visa on serious or compelling grounds.”

Issa brother looks to sell Asda stake The rift between billionaire brothers, Zuber and Mohsin Issa, who co-own Asda, intensified recently with reports emerging that Zuber is considering selling his 22.5% stake in the debt-laden supermarket chain. Zuber, 51, is reportedly exploring this option three years after acquiring the stake in a highly leveraged £6.8 billion deal alongside his brother Mohsin and private equity group TDR Capital. The situation escalated further following revelations in the Daily Mail about Mohsin, 52, being engaged in an extramarital affair with a high-flying accountant who was previously associated with Asda's auditors. This development has caused turmoil within the Issa family, leading to Mohsin leaving his wife of 30 years and relocating from the family compound near Blackburn to a nearby mansion. Zuber's reported desire to sell his stake in Asda stems from his intention to focus on EG Group, the petrol forecourt retailer co-owned by both brothers and TDR, which he founded in 2001. Zuber is allegedly seeking a minimum of £500 million for his Asda stake, although any sale would require approval from Mohsin and TDR. The

current status of discussions regarding the stake sale remains uncertain. The potential sale of Zuber's stake adds to the existing uncertainty surrounding Asda, the UK's third-largest supermarket chain, which has been grappling with a loss of market share to discounters like Aldi and Lidl. Mohsin has been overseeing Asda's operations from Leeds since 2021 in the absence of a chief executive. However, his lack of experience in food retailing and his inability to address fundamental questions about Asda's finances have drawn criticism from MPs investigating the debt-driven takeover. The situation is further complicated by the personal relationship between Mohsin Issa and a former partner at Big Four accountancy firm EY, where she specialized in tax. Although there is confirmation of the relationship, it is clarified that she was not involved in the Asda account and did not hold an audit partnership. Mohsin and his partner have requested privacy for themselves and their families. Despite these developments, Asda denies any existence of a feud between the two brothers.





10 - 16 February 2024

Nitin Mehta MBE at 70! Nitin Mehta whose letters and articles have appeared in Asian Voice and Gujarat Samachar over the last 40 years celebrated his 70th birthday recently. Born in Kisumu, Kenya on 1 January 1954 Nitin is a well-known figure for his passion for animal rights and promotion of a vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. Nitin has taught Gujarati language for 20 years from 1974 to 1994. In 1991 he formed the Jain Animal Sanctuary which supports all those loving and caring for animals. To date over £400,000 has been distributed to animal sanctuaries here in the UK, India and other countries. Nitin has also served on many civic bodies. He has served as a Governor for Croydon College for eight years, been on the board of directors of Compassion in World Farming as well as sat on a Committee which was formed to investigate the riots that took place in Croydon. Nitin has received many awards. He is proud to have received the Sanskar Garima

Nitin and wife Pratibha

award in 2006 from Gujarat Samachar for promoting Gujarati language and Vegetarianism. Nitin was on the first committee that was formed to save the Hare Krishna Mandir in Watford from closing down. He helped in finding a place for BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Croydon around 5 years ago and was instrumental in helping to establish the Krishna Avanti School in Croydon around the same time. For 39 years he has organised a Christmas lunch for the community to promote friendship and to introduce British friends to the delights of Indian vegan food.

Indian students in the UK celebrate ‘Pran Pratishtha’ ceremony at Sri Ram Mandir in Ayodhya Indian students from several universities in East London, gathered at the Radha Krishna Mandir, Stratford, on Sunday 28 January to host a Satnarayan Katha and Priti Bhojan for temple devotees to mark the ‘Pran Pratishtha’ ceremony in Sri Ram Mandir in Ayodhya on 22 January.

them, the students from India revealed what the ‘Pran Pratishtha’ signified for them and why they chose Radha Krishna Mandir as a venue for the celebration. Group leader Rithik said, “We as a group of friends are visiting Radha Krishna mandir for the past

They also helped in the preparing and serving of the food. Temple elders were astonished and delighted in equal measures at the pride and generosity with which young students from Bharat celebrated, in a foreign country, the iconic event of the temple opening. In conversation with

years and this is the place that got us new connections in life. On the inauguration of Shri Ram Mandir in Ayodhya we decided to organise a Satyanarayan katha on behalf of our family and all the friends, for achievements of all the Hindu community and their sacrifices…”

Embracing Basant Panchami, celebrations across the UK Preparations are in full swing for the vibrant festival of Basant Panchami, also known as Saraswati Puja, which heralds the onset of spring. Celebrated on the fifth day of the bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha) in the Hindu month of Magha, Basant Panchami falls on Wednesday, February 14, 2024, this year. Basant Panchami is chiefly devoted to Saraswati, the Hindu deity associated with knowledge, music, and the arts. Followers engage in prayer, seeking her blessings for wisdom, creativity, and academic achievement. Yellow flowers, representing the lively colours of spring, embellish homes and educational establishments. Meanwhile, children revel in the festival's spirit by flying vibrant kites, infusing the skies with joyful exuberance. Significance of Basant Panchami Basant Panchami, heralding the onset of spring in the Hindu calendar, signifies renewal, new beginnings, and fertility. Hindus eagerly

embrace the warmer temperatures, blossoming flora, and the resurgence of life postwinter. The festival's vibrant yellow hue mirrors the flourishing mustard fields and the general jubilation of the season. Dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, the Hindu patroness of knowledge,

music, arts, and wisdom, Basant Panchami holds a special place in hearts and minds. On this sacred occasion, Hindus rise early to bathe and observe a daylong fast. They then proceed to worship the idol of Goddess Saraswati, adorning her with flowers and garlands. Offerings of fruits and sweets are presented to the deity, while students place their books and instruments in the puja area to seek her blessings. Following the prayers, devotees conclude their fast by partaking in prasad, the blessed food offering. Organisations across the UK participate in the festivities Various organisations across the UK are gearing up to celebrate Saraswati Puja with enthusiasm and grandeur. In Harrow, Heritage Bengal Global has scheduled its event for 18th February 2024, from 2:00 PM to 8:00 PM. PRAYASH UK,

located at 13 High St, Staines, will be celebrating on the same day around 2:30 PM. Meanwhile, the Watford Saraswati Puja Committee has organised their event for 10th February 2024, running from 11 AM to 9:30 PM. In Reading, two distinct celebrations for Saraswati Puja are Sanskriti lined up. Organisation extended an invitation for their event on 10th February 2024, starting at 1:30 PM. Meanwhile, The Bengal Cultural Society has scheduled their gathering for 17th February 2024, running from 1:30 PM to 7:30 PM. The Sanatan Bengali Association in North London will host their event on 10th February 2024, commencing around 6:00 PM. Essex Indians from Billericay will be observing Saraswati Puja and International Mother Language Day on 18th February 2024, between 4:00 PM to 10:00 PM. Lastly, BengaliHeart in New Maiden will hold their Puja on 18th February 2024, starting at 11:30AM.

Navigating life's seas Rohit Vadhwana


he saying that ships are not built to dock at the harbours points towards the desirability to take risks in life. Human beings are not born to just live an adventurous life since that's not what they are made for. While the ship may be safe at the harbour, that's not the purpose of its being built. Similarly, we are born to discover new avenues in life, and so must do it. This has been a simple yet powerful motivational line, most of us have come across. However, there are two points: One, ships do not sail in monsoons, as there are dangers of storms. And two, all ships are not ocean going ships. These two limitations are not restrictive but guiding factors not only for the ships we are talking about but also for the human beings. We cannot take blindfolded risks knowing fully well that its stormy time, it's not safe to take actions. Therefore, there is no need to make a movement when there is no good time. Similarly, each individual is built for different purposes, just like river sailing boats and ocean going ships. Everyone should try to achieve the purpose they are made for. Trying to follow a ship in the ocean when you are built for a river is not an adventure but a suicide. Hence, when we chart the unpredictable waters of life, it is wise to be a calculative adventeror. Depending on the capabilities, keeping horizon in mind, sail through the waters and achieve the goals you are made for. Without limiting your potential, without breaking your limits, but truly comparable to your purposes and capacities. However, without trying, without leaving the harbour you will certainly not sail, not reach the new continents. Do not take safe harbours when there is time to take risks. All the ships have captains who sail them through the waters to take them to desired destinations. They are all time guided by the compass to maintain the direction. So is life. We are the captains of our life and have to be guided by an accurate compass and wisdom. Unguided ships do not reach destinations. Unskilled captains may sink the ships. Beware of rash decisions in life, do not ignore the importance of being skilled enough to captain your life.

(Expressed opinions are personal)

anuman Hindu Temple, London organised a 3-daypuja starting from Saturday 20 to Monday 22 January 2024 to celebrate the ‘pran pratishtha’ ceremony at Sri Ayodhya Ram Mandir. Hundreds of devotees joined and recited Sri Ram Tarak mantra “Sri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram”, participated in the puja, Havan, recited Hanuman Chalisa followed by lighting of diyas (earthen lamps).


Sama Veda priest Pavan Datta’s final ‘Aarti' as the 3day-puja concluded at the Hanuman Hindu Temple

Experts advise raising the UK state pension age to 71 Research into the effects of increasing life expectancy and declining birth rates on the state pension system indicates that the retirement age for middle-aged workers in the UK may need to rise to 71. While the current pension age of 66 is slated to increase to 67 by 2028 and to 68 by 2044, experts suggest that individuals born after April 1970 may have to work until 71 before quali-

fying for their pension. This projection could be further heightened due to a significant number of workers leaving the workforce prematurely, primarily due to preventable health issues. Les Mayhew, associate head of global research at the International Longevity Centre and author of the report State Pension Age and Demographic Change, said: “In the UK, state pen-

sion age would need to be 70 or 71 compared with 66 now, to maintain the status quo of the number of workers per state pensioner. “But if you bring preventable ill health into the equation, that would have to increase even more,” added Mayhew, who is also professor of statistics at Bayes Business School and has advised the government on rises to the state pension age multiple times as a

senior civil servant and in his current roles. In England and Wales, only half of adults are free of disabilities and capable of working by the age of 70. This shrinking pool of ablebodied workers, coupled with a sizable economically inactive population, diminishes the tax revenue available for pension funding and exacerbates labour shortages, leading to additional challenges.

Devotees praying after lighting diyas at the Hanuman Hindu Temple to celebrate the 'Pran Pratishtha' ceremony in Sri Ayodhya Ram Mandir





10 - 16 February 2024

UK AT 71 IN CORRUPTION INDEX, INDIA 93RD The UK is at 71st position in the global corruption index out of 180 countries. India has slipped to the 93rd position, down from its 85th position last year. The position of the UK is at a historic low this year. The country also witnessed a significant decline among upper-middle and high-income economies since 2018. India shares the 93rd position with countries such as the Maldives, Kazakhstan, and Lesotho, according to the Global Corruption Perception Index 2023 released by Transparency International. Despite the drop in rank, India’s score only decreased by one point from the previous year, settling at 39 on a scale ranging from zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). Denmark continues to lead the index with a score of 90, maintaining its top position for the sixth consecutive year. Following closely, Finland and New Zealand secured the second and third ranks with scores of 87 and 85, respectively.

DEATH SENTENCE TO TWO BRITISH TEENS FOR KILLING TRANSGENDER Two British teens were sentenced to life imprisonment recently for the “sadistic” knife murder of a 16-year-old transgender girl, an incident that shocked the nation. Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe, both 16, killed Brianna Ghey in Warrington, northwest England, in February last year, in what the judge called a planned “frenzied and ferocious” assault. Ghey was stabbed 28 times in the head, neck, back, and chest after believing she was going to meet a friend. Her body was discovered by dog walkers in a park. Jenkinson and Ratcliffe were just 15 at the time. The judge ruled that Jenkinson must serve a minimum of 22 years before being considered for release, while Ratcliffe must serve at least 20 years.

SIKH TURBANS PROVED TO BE A PROTECTION FOR HEAD Wearing Sikh turbans greatly reduced the risk of skull fractures in areas covered with a thick layer of fabric, compared to bare heads, new research studying how turbans might mitigate impacts to the head during cycling incidents has found. In several countries, including the UK, India, some Canadian states, New Zealand, and Thailand, Sikhs draping turbans on their heads are legally exempt from wearing motorcycle helmets and hard hats. The research also observed that the wrapping/draping style of the turban greatly affected the risk of head injury. The Dastaar turban style was found to perform the best in cushioning shocks to the front of the head, while the Dumalla turban style was the most effective in protecting the side of the head from impact. Researchers from the Imperial College, London, and Sikh Scientists Network said the findings allowed them to make evidence-based recommendations so that Sikhs wearing turbans, and thus exempt from wearing protective headgear, might benefit from the best head protection possible. They compared the performance of various turban styles by performing crash tests on dummy heads.

Home Office denies visas for migrant health workers' kids An investigation by the media has uncovered a systematic pattern within the Home Office of denying visas to young children seeking to join their mothers in the UK, despite clear evidence that these women serve as their primary caregivers. This policy, deemed discriminatory and inhumane, has resulted in the rejection of numerous visa applications for children of migrant single mothers, many of whom work in vital sectors such as the NHS or social care. These mothers, hailing from countries like Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, South Africa, and India, were forced to leave their children – some as young as two – in the care of relatives or friends while they pursued opportunities in the UK. Despite assurances from their employers, who cited immigration rules permitting healthcare workers to bring immediate family members, their children's visa applications were ultimately denied. In refusal letters seen by the Observer, the Home Office questioned why the children could not stay permanently with their grandparents or other relatives. In other cases, it said there was no reason why they could not go to live with their fathers, even though their mothers had sole custody or the fathers had not seen the children for years. Many of the letters, addressed directly to the children, conclude: “It was your mother’s personal decision to depart for the UK and you have not provided sufficient evidence to grant your visa on serious or compelling grounds.”

UK visa renewal delays may compromise rights Tens of thousands of individuals residing lawfully in the UK, including foreign nationals, are facing potential denial of their rights to employment, study, and benefits due to delays in visa document processing by the Home Office. This issue has prompted a judicial review against the government, initiated by the charity Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex & London (Ramfel). Ramfel estimates that a significant number of individuals are experiencing adverse consequences, such as suspension from work or other forms of detriment while awaiting visa extensions. Foreign nationals who are legally in the UK on “leave to remain” have to renew their status every few years and, while they wait for a decision, they are put on “3C leave”. This is meant to protect the rights they have to work, study or claim benefits but it leaves them without a physical document confirming their status – something many employers insist on seeing. While the government asserts that employers have been instructed not to discriminate against individuals on 3C leave, the reality indicates that many are still being denied their rights. The Home Office's lack of data publication on the number of individuals on 3C leave complicates the situation. Additionally, the stated guideline for leave-to-remain applicants to receive a decision within eight weeks often does not align with practical outcomes.

Leeds drug ring busted, £1m cash stash leads to jail time Police discovered two safes They searched his flat containing nearly £1 million in and found over £329,000 cash hidden at a house in of cash, along with Beeston, Leeds, after the heroin and cocaine, owner reported an arson £224,000 worth of watchattack. Hamid Ali, 61, claimed es. Further searches his home on Town Street had uncovered more than been set on fire and damaged £200,000 in cash along by gunshots. with more class A drugs, including some in a large During investigations, the trunk in the living room safes were found underneath labelled "drugs". In addithe tiled floor of an outbuildHamid Ali tion to the cash, authoriing where a dog was kept. A ties discovered a money-counting machine, locksmith was called to open the safes, scales, gloves, and other equipment related revealing a large sum of cash, with one safe to drug dealing at the residence. Fingerprints containing 365 bundles of notes and the linked Damien Ali and Hamid Ali to the other filled with numerous bundles of notes address, leading to charges of drug dealing in carrier bags. Hamid Ali and his son against them. Meanwhile, Alan Vessey was Damien Ali were arrested after their fingersentenced to five years and eight months in prints were found on a carrier bag from one prison for possessing heroin and cocaine of the safes. Additionally, a label with the with intent to supply, as well as possession of address of 53-year-old Alan Vessey was discriminal property. covered among the evidence. Source: West Yorkshire Police

in brief

Birmingham EV driver faces £3.5k clean air charges Mohammed Afzal, an electric car driver, is taking legal action against Birmingham City Council, claiming he was wrongly charged approximately £3,500 in Clean Air Zone fees due to mistaken identity. Despite providing evidence refuting the fines, Afzal alleges that the council persisted in demanding payment and even dispatched bailiffs to his residence. Mr Afzal, who operates a law firm within the zone, explained that the dispute originated over three months ago when charges were mistakenly attributed to someone sharing his name. Concerned about potential visits from debt collectors and the impact on his young son, Afzal remains unsettled by the situation.

He showed the media what he called threatening letters and text messages from companies hired by the council to collect debts. "I have called today with the intention of removing goods," one letter from an enforcement agent read. "If you do not contact me immediately, I will be required to return to complete my actions and goods may be removed in your absence." The charges, made up of penalty notices and associated fees, could have implications for his credit score, potentially impacting his business and personal finances. Mr Afzal said: "It may be that in some parallel universe run by Birmingham City Council I am the driver of the 2008 Toyota Auris but certainly not on Planet Earth."





10- 16 February 2024

Plot to oust PM Rishi Sunak

Is Indian Cricket in the doldrums?

After the initial euphoria amongst the Indian community regarding Rishi Sunak, a Hindu, becoming the PM of Britain it seems like this momentous event has been forgotten. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that Rishi Sunak becoming the PM of the UK is one of the greatest events in modern history. The fight for the independence of India from British colonial rule was so intense and so difficult that the freedom fightersof the time from Gandhiji, Sardar Patel, Subash Chandra Bose, Veer Savarkar, Bhagat Singh, Sri Aurobindo, Dr Radhakrishna, Lala Lajpat Rai and countless others would not have ever imagined that a Hindu would be a Prime Minister of a country which was a global power and supremely confident of its racial superiority. And yet, within 75 years of India's independence, we have a Hindu running the old colonial world power. As much as PM Modi of India, PM Rishi Sunak is a symbol of Hindu renaissance. Both these figures as well as Hindus in powerful positions in the corporate world or politics on a global level have instilled a spirit of Juggad in the Indian people! . Anything is possible for descendants of Mother India all over the world! It is therefore necessary for the Indian community to vocally support Rishi Sunak at every opportunity. Some forces are trying hard to undermine him and want him out. Around £40,000 was paid by a secretive group YouGov, to conduct a poll on the outcome of the next election forecasting Labour’s victory with a massive majority. The poll was initiated by Lord Frost and he had refused to say where the money came from to pay for the poll. The plan was to call for the resignation of Rishi by highlighting the results of the poll. The conspiracy was that the poll findings and the Rwanda rebellion would bring about a coup in the parliamentary Conservative party and unseat Rishi Sunak. However, the plan failed spectacularly as no one backed Sir Simon Clarke, a supporter of the last short-lived PM Liz Truss who called for a change of leadership. Rishi Sunak has proved himself to be a outstanding leader who has stabilised the economy, brought inflation undercontrol. He has successfully reduced the refugees coming from Albania. Under his leadership, the export of live animals is to be banned. Animals like cattle, sheep and horses were exported by ship to Middle Eastern countries. He has famously brought back former PM David Cameron, a strong anti- Brexiter to the cabinet. The PM has ambitious plans to overhaul the NHS and to cut taxes.He has a rare ability to handle difficult issues with aplomb. He has a Chutzpah and is not scared of making bold decisions.

It seems India’s invincibility in cricket, one of the top teams in the world, has come to an abrupt end. India is practically unbeatable at home, losing only four test matches in the last ten years. The depleted touring England team were afraid of a whitewash in five test series. But to everyone’s surprise, they comfortably beat India in the first test after giving India nearly two hundred runs lead in the first innings. This was the most comprehensive defeat for any team in the test match arena! Yes, injuries to top players like Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya and K. L. Rahul did play some part in the downfall of the Indian team. But abstaining due to personal reasons, like Virat Kohli, the world’s top batsman who opted out for the first two tests and this is not the first time, has done more harm to the Indian team than any other reason. It is a great honour to be selected to play for one’s own country. I do not imagine players like Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and their likes would opt out for personal reasons when they are fully fit to play. It seems these players who are treated like semi Gods, lack the patriotism one needs to succeed at the top level. One would indeed be surprised how much they earn, mainly from sponsorship. Most of these top players have assets exceeding $100 million and top earner is, as you may have imagined, is Sachin Tendulkar, a devoted and loyal player who would never let his team down. Selectors must sort out devoted and loyal players from opportunist and selfish ones who are only there to milk the system and desert the team in their hour of need. At the time of writing, the second test is interestingly poised with England batting last. It could go either way but in Bang Bang Bumrah, India has a lethal, match-winning bowler. But there is too much hope and expectation on one shoulder. It should always be a team effort. One trend I have noticed is that India falls flat in the second innings, even after taking some two hundred runs lead in the first innings, first test; they somehow contrive a defeat from a winning position. Could it be a lack of physical fitness? Does tiredness come in that affects their performance later on in the match? If so, the team Captain and Manager must sort it out, and introduce a plan to improve their fitness, in consultation with the coach and the medical team. India always had a team captain who was polite, friendly and played according to rules. Unfortunately, that is not the same with other teams, especially Australia. Who could forget the body-line Ashes series when England brow-beat Australia with bodyline bowling, especially targeted at Don Bradman England could not get him out under legal and cricketing rules. That created an unprecedented political row that threatened the break-up of the Commonwealth. Australians, who like to win at any cost, fair or foul, are experts at squabbling, their close fielders trying to destroy their opponent batsmen’s concentration by continuously chatting, so often their unsavoury remarks directed at their opponents. Fortunately, firm actions by teams like India, South Africa and New Zealand put paid to this unsavoury practice for good. Cricket is a gentlemen’s game, played with dignity, pride and honour! A friendly but firm and dedicated Captain who would stand up to bullies, at the test level is a necessity and as far as I can recall, India had only one such Captain in Sarave Ganguly who stood up against a naive empire and gave Sachin Tendulkar out LBW when the ball hit his helmet, for obvious reasons. Ganguly immediately demanded the removal of the empire. When the Australian board refused to oblige, he took the team off the field and threatened to abandon the tour and go home. Needless to say, he won the argument and the empire involved was removed from the list of approved empires for good! I wonder whether there is a player like Ganguly in the present team who could take over. My hope was on Ravindra Jadeja but he did not shine when last appointed Captain. He is world’s number one allrounder, more needed as a player than a Captain. Bhupendra M. Gandhi

Nitin Mehta

Advani's "RamRajya” wins Bharat Ratna With his tireless dedication and a lifetime's commitment, from Ayodhya's Ram, a journey did commence, bridging hearts, transcending all fences, uniting one and all. Advani, a true leader, with conviction and zest,with humility and grace, has carried forward the flame, uplifting our heritage, and honouring Ram's name. Bharat Ratna is a well-deserved tribute not only to former deputy PM LK Advani but all those who sacrificed their lives. TS Karthik

World Diabetes Day There are already around 35 million people living with diabetes in India and there are high chances that this number will increase significantly in the coming years.The government and healthcare organisations are putting forth efforts to raise awareness and improve access to low-cost diabetes care, but we still have a long way to go when it comes to dealing with the problem. World Diabetes Day is celebrated on November 14, the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, who co-discovered insulin along with Charles Best in 1922.World Diabetes Day is the world's largest diabetes awareness campaign reaching a global audience of over 1 billion people in more than 160 countries. Jubel D'Cruz

MPs urge urgent UK heatwave plan for safety A cross-party committee of MPs has issued a stark warning, emphasising the urgent need for a comprehensive plan to prevent the potentially catastrophic consequences of heatwaves in the UK. According to their report, over 4,500 people succumbed to heatwaves in 2022 alone, a figure that could skyrocket to 10,000 annually by 2050 if decisive action is not taken. Describing heat waves as "silent killers," the MPs underscored the detrimental impact on health.

In addition to physical health risks, the report highlighted the adverse effects on mental well-being, with a twofold increase in suicide risk during temperature spikes and significant economic losses due to disrupted sleep patterns caused by hot nights, amounting to a staggering £60bn per year in lost productivity. The alarming trend of rising temperatures, exemplified by the UK's first-ever recorded temperature above 40°C in 2022 and 2023 marking the hottest year globally,

underscores the pressing need for immediate action. Scientists have attributed the increasing frequency and intensity of heatwaves to the climate crisis, leaving no room for doubt about the urgent need for intervention. Recommendations include the expansion of green spaces, provision of fans in homes, and the implementation of measures such as window shutters and white-painted roofs to mitigate the heat's impact.


Kapil Dudakia


Bogus Broadcasting Corporation? Open Letter to OFCOM: Chief Executive,Ofcom, 2a Southwark Bridge Road, London. SE11 9HA. Email: Dawes.M@Ofcom.org.uk, ChiefExecutive@ofcom.org.uk Dear Dame Melanie Dawes,

I write to you as a British Citizen, and as a Hindu of Indian Origin. Over the past two decades it has become increasingly clear that the BBC has failed in its primary duty of being an independent national broadcaster. Today there isn’t a day that goes by when we do not hear of yet another horror story of a BBC employee who intentionally exhibits their bias against some group in our society. It is not in the scope of this letter to give you chapter and verse, though should you be so inclined to receive a much more detailed report, then I am more than happy to present this to the OFCOM board. Let me remind you of your duty of care to the British public. Under article 1.13 of your own charter it states, ‘Ofcom may launch investigations on its own initiative as well as investigate complaints’. For the former to take place, one assumes your office is monitoring the media and where you see the dereliction of duty of care by any media provider, you step in. i.e. The charter gives this responsibility to you specifically so you may act on an issue of national interest, even if there have been none or few complaints. I should also remind you of the duty of care placed on the BBC. The BBC's mission is set out in itsCharter, and it states, “to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain”. It is my contention that the BBC has failed in its duty by exhibiting a bias against various groups. The Jewish community has already provided you with ample evidence of how the BBC has shown its bias against them. Similarly, there is now incontestable evidence that the BBC has become a bastion for those politically on the left, andthose who subscribe to what is known as ‘woke’ and/or ‘politically correct’ narratives. I now wish to add to this the clear anti-India and antiHindu rhetoric that has been gathering pace within the BBC. So much so that at the grassroots many people consider the BBC as the ‘Bogus Broadcasting Corporation’. A present-day example relates to its recent coverage of the inauguration of the Shri Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, India. This has been the event of the past 500 years. It is steeped in history, often history that is very painful to every Hindu. The narrative followed by the BBC was to present Hindus who had in effect destroyed a Muslim Mosque in order to build a Hindu Mandir. This was a flagrant lie. A total misrepresentation of history and a distortion of fact to appease to the Islamists. The facts were simple enough to present: a. The Muslim emperor Babur destroyed a Hindu mandir and built a Mosque (Babri Masjid) in its place. This act of ethnocide was enacted to subjugate Hindus. b. It is fact that KK Muhammad, a Muslim archaeologist,confirmed in his research findings that there was overwhelming evidence to show that a Hindu Mandir once stood where the mosque was built. c. It is fact that the highest court in the land concluded that the desecration that took place historically on the site must now be righted and gave permission for the new Shri Ram Mandir to be built. The world rejoiced since a wrong of history was finally righted. However, anyone following the BBC coverage would have thought otherwise. As I have already said, there are many examples of the BBC acting in a manner that many describe as anti-India and anti-Hindu. Is the BBC institutionally racist? Does it deploy its resources to undermine certain communities? Does the BBC undermine the human rights of Hindus (and one could add, Jews, Sikhs, Jains etc)? People are now concluding that the answer is a firm yes. I believe the time has come for OFCOM to rise to the responsibility the British public have allocated to it. It is time for OFCOM to be proactive and protect the British public from biased broadcasting done at the taxpayers’ expense. I ask you to instigate such an investigation into the work of the BBC. Is it really the British Broadcasting Corporation? Or is it as the public feel, the BogusBroadcasting Corporation? In my view it has failed to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain. I hope OFCOM will not fail the British Public now.





10 - 16 February 2024

Shadow Ministers visit India for bilateral talk Source: @DrSJaishankar/X


ndia’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held meetings with British Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy and Shadow Secretary of State for Business and Trade Jonathan Reynolds on Tuesday. The delegation, that went quietly without much press coverage, was one of the first to India in many years, especially after Narendra Modi was elected as India’s Prime Minister. The discussions centred around bilateral cooperation between India and the UK, as well as key regional and global developments. Among the topics covered was the significance of enhancing mobility in skills and talent to bolster bilateral cooperation, alongside

David Lammy, Dr S Jaishankar and Jonathan Reynolds

ongoing negotiations for an India-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Additionally, the leaders exchanged perspectives on significant global issues such as the Indo-Pacific region, developments in West Asia, and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The visit served to strengthen the

longstanding historical ties between India and the UK, injecting fresh momentum into bilateral cooperation across various sectors. This comes against the backdrop of advancements in the India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and Roadmap 2030.

Labour party’s Race Equality Act can stop the politics of division Continued from page 1 In addition to covering BAME workers, this legislation would also protect disabled individuals, ensuring that claims of unequal pay based on ethnicity and disability are treated with the same rigor as those for gender equality. The proposed act underscores Labour's

Dr Shabna Begum

Minister rates Tories' Ofsted score as 'good' Education Secretary Gillian Keegan refrained from awarding Rishi Sunak's government the highest marks using Ofsted's grading scheme during a recent radio interview. Instead, she rated the government's performance as "good," emphasising that while they were not "outstanding," they were performing better than "requires improvement" or "inadequate." Speaking on the Nick Ferrari at Breakfast show on LBC, Keegan acknowledged the government's achievements, highlighting the increase in the

Gillian Keegan

percentage of schools rated as good or outstanding from

68% to 89%. However, she noted that many of the government's accomplishments were not widely recognised. When pressed to assign a specific rating from Ofsted's classifications, Keegan settled on "good," stating that the government was "delivering" but stopping short of awarding the top grade. Despite expressing confidence in the provision of 15-hours childcare for two-year-olds starting in April, Keegan refrained from guaranteeing the government's childcare pledge would be met on time, citing factors beyond her control.

New data reveals record 2.8 million long-term sick New figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that the number of individuals dealing with long-term sickness in the UK has reached a new record high, while the employment rate is lower than previously reported. The revised data indicates that the UK's economic inactivity rate is higher than initially believed, primarily driven by long-term sickness and lengthy waiting lists for medical treatment. The number of people coping

with chronic health conditions now stands at around 2.8 million, up from the initial estimate of 2.6 million. These adjustments in the ONS's figures stem from updated population statistics, indicating a faster-thananticipated growth in the UK population. Additionally, upcoming changes in how the ONS compiles its monthly labour market data aim to enhance response rates, which have been declining since 2022. The reweighted labour force sur-

vey by the ONS reveals that despite population growth, the employment rate has decreased, dropping to 75 per cent in the three months leading up to November, compared to the initial estimate of 75.7 per cent. Moreover, the ONS suggests that the unemployment rate, a crucial metric monitored by the Bank of England, may have been lower at 3.9 per cent instead of the previously reported 4.2 per cent during the same period.

British Hindus frustrated by visa delays for priests An increasing number of British Hindus are expressing concerns about the prolonged delays in obtaining visas for religious workers, leading to the closure of several temples and disruptions in religious services. These challenges have drawn criticism towards Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government, particularly considering his own Hindu heritage. Delays in the Tier-5 religious worker visa process have reportedly hampered temples' ability to recruit and retain priests. As a result, approximately 50 out of 500 tem-

ples across Britain have been forced to close, impacting religious ceremonies and community services. With an estimated 2 million Hindus in Britain, priests play a crucial role in various religious functions, including temple services, housewarmings, and weddings. The visa delays are causing significant inconvenience and upheaval in their religious practices. Criticism has been directed at Sunak’s government for its handling of the issue. Sunil Sharma, assistant priest at the Laxminarayan

Temple in Birmingham, expressed disappointment, stating, “As a Hindu, Rishi Sunak should understand our problems. However, the government has thus far failed to address them adequately.” The collective temple group has brought the issue to the attention of the relevant authorities, prompting Labour MP Gareth Thomas to call on the government to accelerate the processing of Tier-5 visas. Furthermore, there is a growing demand to extend the duration of these visas from two to three years.

Labour party leader Keir Starmer

commitment to promoting fairness and justice for all members of society. Moreover, Labour pledges to appoint a Windrush commissioner to oversee the compensation scheme, addressing concerns over its slow implementation. This commissioner would advocate for the Windrush generation and their families, ensuring their voices are heard as they seek redress for past injustices. Party leader Keir Starmer has previously pledged a Race Equality Act and established a taskforce chaired by Baroness Doreen Lawrence. “Racism is actually sewn into the very fabric of the system itself” Reacting to this plan of action, Dr Shabna Begum, Interim CEO of the Runnymede Trust said: “Labour’s Race Equality Act signals a much-needed pivot from the years of regressive and harmful policies we have seen under successive governments. We welcome many of the commitments including those that address discrimination in the workplace, the lack of representation in our school curricula, as well as the promise to enact the principle of dual discrimination - finally recognising the interactive ways that discrimination can operate. “However, the plans announced today fall short of addressing the formidable scale of inequalities that shape the experiences and opportunities of people of colour. Committing to address structural racial inequality needs to understand that racism

doesn’t simply arise when the system fails - but that racism is actually sewn into the very fabric of the system itself. Labour must use the Race Equality Act as a platform to commit to an ambitious, crossgovernmental appr-oach supported with sustained investment addressing the unacceptable - and in some cases worsening, disparities in health, housing, wealth and policing, faced by so many communities of colour. “As we set out in ‘Our priorities for racial justice in Britain’, meaningful progress is entirely possible, and in a period where the collision of crises from the Covid-19 pandemic to the cost-ofliving crisis has battered minority ethnic and working-class communities, we urge the Labour Party to see the Race Equality Act as a precursor to a much more ambitious programme, one that rejects the politics of division, unlocks the strength of Britain’s diverse communities and works to create the conditions for everyone to prosper, not just because it is good for economic growth - but because it is the right thing to do.” Pharmacist Raj Aggarwal winner of the Race Equality Award said, “I wholeheartedly support the changes to the Race Equality Act. Pay equality on the grounds of race and disability should have been introduced at the same time as gender pay equality, so it's about time. In addition, I'm now working with the Royal Navy to improve its diversity and equality.” Race disparity exists beyond the workplace

Raj Aggarwal OBE

While the Race Equality Act seems like a smooth sailing ship theoretically, walking the talk might not come as easy. Over the past decade, inequality has increased, particularly affecting BAME families who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and the cost of living crisis. Additionally, they have borne the brunt of cuts to essential services such as the NHS, education, and the criminal justice system. Analysis conducted by the TUC reveals a significant increase in the number of black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) workers in insecure employment, which more than doubled from 360,200 in 2011 to 836,300 in 2022. The ongoing cost of living crisis has disproportionately affected people of colour, who were already facing higher levels of poverty. According to the Runnymede Trust, individuals from minority ethnic backgrounds are 2.5 times more likely to experience poverty compared to their white counterparts (see story p5). To further worsen the issue, data from the census demonstrates that black individuals are nearly three times as likely as white individuals to reside in social housing. Moreover, households from minority ethnic backgrounds are more prone to homelessness or living in substandard, overcrowded, or inadequate housing conditions. The existing racial discrepancies cannot be dealt with by simple workplace policies as these problems are not limited to the workplace. It also doesn’t help that while the Labour is formulating a plan to address racial disparities for the BAME community, the party has shown no interest in engaging with Indian diaspora, one of the communities it aims to assist. Despite the broad reach of ethnic newspapers, Labour appears to avoid interactions with Asian newspapers such as ours, the best equipped to send their message to the diaspora.





CREDIT Alexis Chabala

10 - 16 February 2024

East meets West with

“Bhangra Nation” Anusha Singh "Bhangra Nation – A New Musical" is an exhilarating and vibrant production centred around competitive Bhangra dancing. Scheduled to run at Birmingham Rep from February 17 to March 16, 2024. The show unfolds the dynamic story of Mary and Preeti's Bhangra team qualifying for the USA nationals. As they embark on individual journeys, each determined to dance to their unique rhythm, the musical weaves together competitive Bhangra with various Indian and Western dance forms. This brash, intoxicating, and joyous musical comedy offers a contemporary exploration of the world of competitive Bhangra, creating a captivating fusion of cultures. Rujuta Vaidya, a prominent Bollywood choreographer associated with the musical promises a powerful and pulsating experience for the audience, shedding light on her choreography, experience and other aspects.

Iván Fernández González (Billy) & Jena Pandya (Mary)


ow did you get involved with 'Bhangra: The Musical'? What drew you to this particular project? I was actually in New York, engrossed in various film and TV projects when the writers approached me with this project. They had learned about my work, and a connection was established. This is the first time I have delved into musical theatre, and while the genre incorporates Bollywood elements to a certain level, but not to the extent of the full-fledged productions on West End or Broadway. They approached me with the script, which I found absolutely captivating, and I eagerly agreed to be part of this groundbreaking project that holds significant importance for the South Asian community. s the musical all about Bhangra or have you incorporated other Indian and Western dance forms to create a unique choreography? The dance is a great representation of the actual tone of the whole show, embodying a hybrid blend of various forms. With a backdrop rooted in the collegiate punk rock community in America, our show encompasses a diverse range of dance styles, including hip-hop, con-


Sohm Kapila (Rekha), Rujata Vaidya (Choreographer) and Jena Pandya (Mary). Credit Craig Sugden

temporary, Bollywood, tutting, and more. This diversity mirrors the essence of the show, centred around the representation of different identities. And you can see that translates across in the dance forms. The show has a flavour of ABCD(Anybody Can Dance) meets Pitch Perfect. It's definitely a fun, young show, where two teams do go head-to-head with each other. A remarkable aspect of our show is the introduction of Indian styles into the musical theatre format on this grand scale. It's an incredible blessing, and I feel a profound responsibility to our community to do justice to this endeavour. hat has your experience working with a diverse cast been like? This marks my debut working in the UK, as most of my previous work has been in America and India. The UK experience has


been remarkable, and I must say, the cast is not only exceptionally talented but also beautiful inside out. There's a fascinating hybridity within the cast, with many members being of mixed race—individuals embodying both South Asian and other backgrounds. This diversity within the cast aligns seamlessly with the essence of the show, reflecting its themes of identity and cultural amalgamation. Much like the show's characters, our cast represents the complexity of identity in a world where various cultures coexist. This shared experience makes the show even more special, as it touches on moments that everyone can relate to—a universal exploration of self, amidst diverse cultures and backgrounds. hat are some challenges you are facing as you rehearse for this musical? Our most significant


challenge actually revolved around the casting process. This show demands a unique set of skills, often referred to as a "triple threat" in musical theatre— requiring proficiency in singing, dancing, and acting. However, our production goes beyond the conventional musical theatre styles, incorporating a diverse range of dance forms, it's more like a quadruple or quintuple threat, demanding a versatile set of skills. Finding individuals with the ability to sing, dance, and act at a high level, while also being adept in Western dance styles, presented a unique set of challenges in assembling the right cast for the production. ow do you hope this musical will resonate with the audience? I aspire for audiences to embrace the message that each of us is a unique individual, and in the spectrum of life, there's no definitive right or wrong, no strict black or white—only shades of grey. Everyone has their place, and it's crucial to recognise that being one way doesn't make you right, just as being another way doesn't make you wrong. Our uniqueness is a collective beauty, a harmony of blending the old with the new, whether in mindset, tradition, style, individuality, or personal growth.


Tamara Harvey and Daniel Evans

Thompson, Samantha Spiro, Alfred Enoch, John Douglas Thompson, Will Keen, Juliet Rylance, and Luke Thallon leading the casts of Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Pericles, Othello, and Hamlet, respectively.

The new work in the season includes a co-production of Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia with Emma Rice’s Wise Children; the European pre-

miere of Sanaz Toossi’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play English; a new project from the team behind The Jungle, Kyoto; a new adaptation of The Red Shoes; and David Edgar’s The New Real. The lineup also features Tinuke Craig directing Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s comedy of manners, The School for Scandal, and Daniel Evans returning to the RSC stage in the title role of Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II, directed by Daniel Raggett. Credit- Seamus Ryan

The newly appointed CoArtistic Directors of the RSC, Daniel Evans and Tamara Harvey, have unveiled their inaugural season, featuring a diverse lineup of productions across all four theatres at the Company's Stratford-uponAvon home. This season marks a significant milestone for the RSC, with a total of eight Shakespeare plays, three world premieres, a European premiere, a UK premiere, two major revivals, and two visiting productions scheduled. The Shakespeare plays will showcase the talents of artists such a Luke

Credit- Seamus Ryan

Daniel Evans, Tamara Harvey debut RSC season announced

Oddball Motion Pictures wraps three UK films Oddball Motion Pictures, a renowned independent production house based in London, celebrated a significant milestone on February 6th, 2024. With over 12 years of international film production experience, the company marked the completion of shooting schedules for three films in the United Kingdom. Among the stars headlining the productions are Abhinay Berde, Pooja Katurde, and Komal Thacker, who brought their talent to the forefront in the Marathi-Gujarati films "Goodluck (Marathi)" and "Varta re Varta (Gujarati)."

Award-winning actors Vikram Gokhale and Suhasini Mulay, premiered to packed houses in Maharashtra on February 2nd, 2024. The teaser and trailer for the film collectively amassed over 1 million views on YouTube. All films produced by Oddball Motion Pictures are slated for theatrical release in the United Kingdom in the coming weeks. Additionally, the company is currently co-producing the Tamil film "Adhirshtasaali" starring R Madhavan and the web series "Kanneda" featuring Parmish Verma. With a strong presence

The production house boasts a successful track record, with its previous film "Footfairy" premiering directly on television to critical acclaim and securing the No. 2 spot on Netflix. Notable past projects included the award-winning short film "Qafas" and the romantic comedy "Behen Hogi Teri," which garnered millions of views on social media. The latest release, the Marathi feature film "Sur Lagu De," starring National

in the United Kingdom, Oddball Motion Pictures has collaborated on various high-profile projects as production partners under its affiliate company Indo-UK Film Company. These projects include blockbuster hits such as "Expendables 4," "Bridgerton," and "83," among others. The company's extensive experience also includes involvement in notable films like "Azhar," "Ek Villain," and "Ragini MMS 2" as executive and line producers.

Charli XCX teases new track 'Von Dutch’ Charli XCX fans, the British singersongwriter recently treated her followers to a sneak peek of her latest track, 'Von Dutch'. Taking to TikTok, she shared a brief 20-second snippet of the song, featuring empowering lyrics set against a vibrant and energetic musical backdrop. "I'm bored here's the new song :)" she captioned the TikTok post, along with a playful nod to her decision to stay with her current record label. Since the launch of her last album, Crash, in 2022, Charli has delighted fans with a string of successful singles, including 'Speed Drive' featured on the Barbie film soundtrack, and

Charli XCX

'In The City', a collaboration with Sam Smith and her fiancé, George Daniel of The 1975. Speculation suggests that 'Von Dutch' might serve as the lead single for her highly anticipated sixth studio album, although specific details about the album remain shrouded in mystery.





10 - 16 February 2024

“Our leadership team must reflect the demographic diversity” - Sandeep Mahal’s take on art and diversity



Gender gap in attitudes towards feminism among youth A recent study conducted in the UK by academics from King’s College London’s Policy Institute and Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, in partnership with Ipsos UK, sheds light on the gender gap in attitudes toward feminism and gender equality, particularly among young people. Surveying over 3,700 individuals above the age of 16, the study delved into opinions and beliefs surrounding feminism, gender equality, and perceived genderbased barriers. One of the key findings highlighted a significant gender disparity, especially evident among young respondents. The study revealed that nearly half of the participants believed it is currently more challenging to be a woman than a man, with only 14% holding the opposite view. However, when broken down by gender and age, stark differences emerged. Among those aged 16 to 29, 68% of women felt it was harder to be a woman, compared to only 35% of men who shared this sentiment. Looking ahead, about one in six participants anticipated that in twenty years, it would be tougher to be a man than a woman. Notably, men aged 16 to 29 were nearly twice as likely to hold this belief, with almost a

fifth expressing that it would be "much harder" to be a man in the future. Conversely, around half of women in this age group predicted it would be more challenging to be a woman. The study highlighted that this youngest cohort displayed the most significant gender-based divergence in their views on the future. Regarding feminism's societal impact, over four in 10 respondents believed it has brought more good than harm, while only 12% perceived it as having caused more harm than good. Notably, among those aged 16 to 29, a higher percentage of women (46%) than men held the view that feminism has been beneficial to society. Conversely, a larger proportion of young men (16%) felt that feminism has had a negative impact, compared to their female counterparts (9%). “This is a new and unusual generational pattern – normally, it tends to be the case that younger generations are consistently more comfortable with emerging social norms, as they grew up with these as a natural part of their lives,” commented Professor Bobby Duffry, Director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London.


offering 25,000 tickets at £25 or less across the season, as well as £10 tickets for children and young people under the age of 25. hat advice would you offer to career women juggling multiple responsibilities? My advice would be to set boundaries and practice self-compassion. It's important to establish clear boundaries to prevent overworking and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Identify where you can be flexible with these boundaries and where you need to remain firm. Additionally, practising selfcompassion is essential for overall well-being. This includes engaging in activities that help you rest, recuperate, and rejuvenate. For me, this involves indulging in activities like getting a massage, spending a weekend at a spa with friends, or simply reading fiction, especially stories that resonate with my South Asian heritage. Taking care of both my mind and body is crucial for maintaining balance and avoiding burnout. As International Women's Day approaches, I'm reminded of the importance of supporting and championing each other as women. I've been fortunate to learn from many incredible women throughout my life, and their generosity and support have been invaluable. Together, we can uplift and empower one another, making us all stronger in the process.


Watford Women's revival spurred by positional changes Watford Women have experienced a significant turnaround in their recent Championship games, thanks in part to two consecutive clean sheets. This change in fortunes coincides with a shift in formation and positional adjustments for some players. Notably, Harley Bennett, who typically played in the centre of defence, took up the role of right wing-back in the last two matches, contributing to a 2-0 victory against Durham and another 2-0 win against Birmingham. The tactical reshuffle seemed to pay off, as Watford Women climbed off the bottom of the table with their recent victories. Michelle Agyemang also made an

Source: Watford Football Club

andeep Mahal comes from a humble background where her parents immigrated from Punjab, and settled in Derby finding employment opportunities in the foundries, where they worked tireless labour-intensive shifts. Growing up, she was immersed in a tight-knit South Asian community comprised of immigrant families and despite financial limitations, this upbringing had a huge impact on her. In November of 2023, Sandeep along with Vicky Cheetham, took up the role of interim co-executive director at the Royal Shakespeare Society (RSC). Sandeep, in an interview with Asian Voice, talks about her new role, vision, and more. ow are you and Vicky Cheetham collaborating as Interim Co-Executive Directors, and what strengths, according to you, do each of you bring to the role? I would say it's a truly positive collaboration. I'm a huge fan of coleadership, and being a co-leader during this period of renewal and transformation is truly exciting. When I was considering the role of interim Executive Director, I felt in my heart that I could excel in it and that I would relish the role. But Vicky and I both made an active choice that we only want to work part-time. Given the scale, the complexity of the company, it necessitated two people to lead it because it's a complex organisa-

this new era of the RSC and enable artists from across the globe to create their best work. ow are you working towards ensuring diversity and inclusivity in both the organisational structure and the productions presented by the RSC? It's something I'm incredibly passionate about, and it informs my goals for this interim role. I see the interim period as passing on responsibility from one leader to another in the organisation, preparing for the transition to a new permanent leader. What I'm passing on aligns with my passion. Throughout my career in the arts, I've been driven by spreading the sheer creative joy and power of stories as a catalyst for change. My motivation has always been a blend of social ambition and artistic vision, aiming to create a more inclusive world where diverse stories and talents, particularly South Asian ones, are not just accepted but actively sought after. Amplifying diverse stories and talents has been a consistent theme in my work, and I'm thrilled to continue that in this role at this company, especially as we embark on an exciting new chapter at the RSC. Considering the diverse classrooms we see today, our goal is to ensure that Shakespeare's works are accessible to all children and young people, regardless of their background. That's why we've launched new ticket initiatives,

Source: Watford Football Club


arts sector, bring a unique perspective and strength to the team. hat are your priorities that you plan to focus on in this directorship? We have a short window of time to make a meaningful impact, so we must use it wisely. Our focus is on working closely with the artistic directors and the senior team to shape a new vision and Sandeep Mahal and Vicky Cheetham strategy for the RSC. We are clear about the RSC's tion. purpose: through the stories of There are things that appealed Shakespeare and other artists, we to me that I thought I could do aim to deepen our understanding brilliantly, but other things felt too of each other and the world, while big or emotionally very taxing. It bringing joy to people's lives. was going to take two leaders to We want to build a new RSC achieve that kind of breath to lead that is inclusive, diverse, welcomus to address some of the complexing, and impactful in society. This ity of the challenges as well as the means producing high-quality propotential that I see in the RSC. grams that are accessible and proWith two of us, it feels like we have vide value for money, especially in broader shoulders, and two heads these tough economic times. We are always better than one. I'm also want to strengthen the relaconstantly learning from Vicky tionship between South Asian every single day. communities and Shakespeare, It's crucial to me that our leadmaking his works more relevant ership team reflects the demoand resonant to them. Another prigraphic diversity of the UK, particority is nurturing the next generaularly considering the significant tion of theatre professionals, from Black and Asian communities. actors to costume makers to techHaving a leadership team that mirnicians. We have an apprenticeship rors the national demographic fosprogram to broaden diversity in ters openness, acceptance, and valthese roles, recognising that diverues diversity of thought. I like to sity is present among young peothink that individuals like me, who ple. Ultimately, we aim to support have been underrepresented in the Credit-Simon Hadley (c) RSC

Anusha Singh

Harley Bennett

Michelle Agyemang

impact, scoring both goals in the win against Birmingham after her return from injury. In the past, Watford Women have shown their ability to compete at a footballing level in the Championship. However, they have sometimes struggled against

physically stronger opponents. The recent improvements, evident in the back-to-back wins and clean sheets, suggest that the team has addressed this weakness and is now performing more solidly both defensively and offensively.

Deepa Mehta to helm thriller based in British era Calcutta Renowned for her work on acclaimed films like Fire and Midnight’s Children, Deepa Mehta is gearing up to direct her next project. Entitled Troilokya, this thrilling film centres around an Indian woman characterised as a serial killer. Backed by pan-Asian film company Through The Lens Entertainment and India’s Open Air Films, Troilokya is situated in 19th century Calcutta during the era of British rule, where a female prostitute embarks on an unprecedented killing spree. Pursued for over a decade by Detective

Juhi Chaturvedi of Priyonath Mukhopadhyay, Piku and October the narrative unfolds fame, promises to against the backdrop of a bring depth and gripping cat-and-mouse complexity to the chase. narrative. Reflecting on the film, Scheduled to Mehta shared, “The chalcommence filming lenge of portraying a serial in August and murderess as a protagonist September, is what intrigues me most Troilokya will capabout Troilokya. 'Is it possiture a variety of ble to evoke empathy for Deepa Mehta locations in India this child bride turned and Thailand, promising audiences prostitute turned killer?' is a quesa visually captivating and emotiontion I grapple with. And the answer ally resonant cinematic experiis always a resounding 'yes.'” The ence. screenplay, penned by screenwriter





10 - 16 February 2024

THE BIGGEST YEAR EVER FOR TRAVEL Continued from page 1 The Chinese, Koreans and Australians travellers are down by almost 29% though the reasons are unknown. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, international tourism reportedly ended at 88% of the pre pandemic level in the end of 2023. By the end of 2024 the recovery is estimated to be full, especially in Asia, according to an article printed by the ET Travel. India has seen a meteoric growth in pilgrimages and religious tourism in 2023, with Varanasi, Haridwar, Amritsar and Tirupati temples seeing a record number of visitors. In 2024, with opening of the Ayodhya Temple on 22 January, this is estimated to grow further. According to data shared with Asian Voice, India has issued a total of 4,29,19,995 visas in the last 10 years, and there has been 2.6% growth from 2017 till January 2024. Despite the geo-political tensions and conflicts as well as challenges like inflation, shortage of staff, increasing oil prices, the Middle East countries are set to benefit from tourism visa changes, as well as African nations such as Kenya and Rwanda. In Europe, with Paris hosting the Summer Olympics this year, the continent is also expected to be a driving force in international tourism, especially as Romania and Bulgaria join the Schengen area. While wedding tourism is predicted to soar by 21% in 2024, people are suffering from cost-of-living crisis with less disposable cash than before. They are there-

fore looking at holidays close to home, or holiday packages including cruises. The other factors affecting decisions include environmental concerns as some cities like Venice are reaching saturation points. In 2020 and 21 cruise holidays took a hit, as Covid-19 spread like wildfire. But in 2023 31.5 million people were estimated to have taken cruise holidays. Estimations now show 36 million people will embark on cruise holidays in 2024, higher than the 2019 level, though the growth is quite slow. This year is poised to be a landmark year for cruise vacations and cruise operators and travel agents have reported a surge in bookings, indicating a strong resurgence in the industry. One of the driving factors behind the popularity of cruises in 2024 is their affordability compared to land-based alternatives. Despite nearing pre-pandemic occupancy levels, cruise operators are still offering competitive pricing, making cruises an attractive option for travellers seeking value and adventure. Leading cruise lines like MSC, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean are set to introduce new cruise itineraries and experiences, further enhancing the appeal of cruising for travellers worldwide. Asian Voice has a special feature this week (see page 15-17) talking about how cruise tourism plays a vital role in supporting local economies and communities in port destinations worldwide. Indian tourism booming According to a report

published by CNBC, India tourism sector is booming. States like Kerala, Rajasthan and Goa have always had a regular inflow of international and domestic tourists, but with Sr Ram Mandir in Ayodhya opening, the Indian tourism industry is expected to see a 50-100 million more people this year. Pre-pandemic, especially in 2019, India saw 10.93 million foreign tourists, and 6.43 million between January and September in 2023 according to the Press Information Bureau. India is reportedly set to be the fourth largest global spender on travel by 2030, with travel and tourism to surge by more than 170% from $150 billion in 2019 to $410 billion according to shared by data Booking.com, the CBNC reported. India’s improving air and road connectivity has made travel easier. The current budget presented by Nirmala Sitharaman has also made considerable inclusions to railways introducing more Vande Bharat and NAMO trains as well as Metro services. The budget also allocates resources for tourism projects in the islands, including Lakshadweep. The Atal Setu – India’s longest sea bridge covering 21.8 kms was opened in January 2024, while there has been unparalleled service by Indian hospitality sectors, especially by top star hotels such as Taj, Oberoi, ITC, Leela, Lalit etc. Sustainable tourism in India India is also trying to include sustainability into the mainstream tourism

sector. The Travel weekly reported that ‘Travel for LiFE’ initiative aims to reportedly "create more resilient, inclusive, carbonneutral and resource-efficient tourism". The campaign was unveiled at World Travel Market as tourism representatives met many UK tour operators to build contacts and discuss further regarding options. India’s tourism secretary V Vidyavathi reportedly said, “The ‘Travel for LiFE’ programme will encourage tourists to take simple actions that result in conservation of the environment, biodiversity, improvement in the local economy and preservation of the socio- cultural integrity of the local communities. “It aims to create mindful and deliberate utilisation of resources by the stakeholders in the tourism value chain.” Travel and Tour World reported that Visit Britain took its first mission in three years to India in 2023. VisitBritain CEO Patricia Yates expressed delight in hosting the flagship trade event in India, emphasising its timely and nature. She valuable reportedly said, “India is one of our most important inbound visitor markets, also boasting strong airline connectivity including to regional destinations and we know there is pent up demand for travel. Working with the travel trade in India is crucial to ensuring they are ready to sell Britain, as well as broadening travel itineraries to encourage visitors to explore further and stay longer.”

Iranian regime celebrates closure of UK Persian TV network The closure of the UK's prominent Persian TV network, Manoto TV, was marked by the Iranian regime. The station, known for its critical coverage of the regime, shut down due to financial challenges. Despite warnings of threats to dissidents in the UK, the station's closure proceeded as it failed to secure necessary

investment after venture capitalists withdrew their funding. Recent reports from the media indicate that British counterterror police have been actively visiting Iranian dissidents over the past two weeks to alert them to a heightened risk of violence and kidnapping. Additionally, the government announced sanctions

against seven individuals allegedly linked to Tehran's schemes within the UK. MI5 and the police have accused Tehran of orchestrating over a dozen assassination and kidnapping plots in Britain targeting dissidents and media organisations within the past two years. In response to the closure of Manoto TV, a lead-

ing Persian network critical of the regime, Iranian news outlets reportedly celebrated its demise. Amwaj Media reported that Fars News Agency accused Manoto of receiving substantial funding from "Zionist lobbies" to produce programs against Iran, although no evidence was provided to substantiate these claims.

Recovered gems from the British Museum heist showcased Stolen artefacts from the British Museum will be showcased in an exhibition titled Rediscovering Gems, starting February 15. Among the highlights are ten gemstones recovered following the theft of approximately 2,000 items from the museum. Sir Mark Jones, the interim director of the museum, noted, "Until last year, it might have been challenging to garner public interest in a display of engraved gems."

Sir Mark Jones

“But the truth is that these are stunning objects with a fascinating history.” The ten gemstones were

among the 350 stolen items that have been recovered since the British Museum theft was publicly reported in August 2023. A further 300 have also been identified. The stolen objects included in the exhibition were fakes of classical jewellery. “It partly explains why they were originally

considered unworthy of being registered in the museum’s collection and therefore vulnerable to theft,” Jones said. Among the stolen items were approximately 2,000 artefacts comprising gold jewellery, gems, and semiprecious stones, spanning from the 15th century BC to the 19th century AD. The theft was initially discovered when Ittai Gradel, an antiquities dealer, grew suspicious of around 70 objects he had purchased online.

Ministers boost pharmacy authority in NHS revamp To alleviate pressure on GP surgeries, patients will now be directed to visit high street chemists for ailments like ear infections and sore throats. A new scheme will enable patients to obtain antibiotics without the need for a doctor's consultation, aiming to expedite treatment and save up to ten million GP appointments. The plan, initially disclosed by The Times over a year ago, has been implemented following efforts by health authorities to address concerns among physicians regarding antibiotic overuse. NHS England has developed flowcharts to assist pharmacists in determining the necessity of prescribing antibiotics. Over 90% of community pharmacies in England, totaling 10,265, have

enrolled in the £645 million Pharmacy First initiative. In a communication sent to GPs and pharmacies, NHS England stated that the scheme "will empower community pharmacists to manage patient care without requiring them to visit their general practice." This will save up to ten million general practice team appointments a year and help patients access quicker and more convenient care”. Women will be able to get a supply of contraceptive pills over the counter at 5,367 pharmacies in England, without needing to see their GP. Pharmacies will carry out 2.5 million blood pressure checks a year by spring 2025, preventing an estimated 1,350 heart attacks and strokes in the first year.

Global energy talks postponed until 2025 by Tories Britain has postponed a global summit on energy security, originally planned to prevent price shocks following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, until 2025. Claire Coutinho, the energy secretary, made the decision, casting uncertainty on the summit's future, according to sources. Participants who were anticipating the conference expressed frustration over the lack of information regarding the event, initially touted as a chance to "rewire the global energy system." Critics of the decision to postpone the summit argued that discussions on energy security are now

Clair Coutinho

more pressing than ever. Originally announced by former energy secretary Grant Shapps in August and promised in the King's Speech in November, the conference was slated for the spring. However, Coutinho cited challenges in convening world leaders, particularly with many countries holding elections this year.

Grant Shapps: UK, US strikes on Yemen not escalations Defence Secretary Grant Shapps clarified that the recent strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen do not represent an escalation of the conflict, as per the Ministry of Defence. RAF Typhoon jets conducted strikes on three sites on Saturday night, part of the third wave of coordinated attacks by the UK and US forces on the Iran-backed group. The strikes occurred after the US targeted sites in Syria and Iraq on Friday, prompted by a lethal attack on a US military base. On Saturday, a coalition of eight countries conducted air strikes on 36 Houthi targets across 13 locations in Yemen. The Houthis have been targeting ships they claim are associated with Israel and the West along the Red Sea trade route, prompting UK Prime Minister Rishi

Sunak to condemn these attacks as "unacceptable" and emphasize the duty to protect innocent lives and maintain freedom of navigation. Shapps emphasized that the recent strikes aimed to safeguard innocent lives and ensure freedom of navigation rather than escalate hostilities. He expressed confidence that these strikes further diminished the capabilities of the Houthis. The UK and US-led attacks received support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. In a joint statement, these nations cited ongoing attacks on ships in the Red Sea as the rationale for their actions, specifically targeting sites associated with weapons storage, missile systems, air defence, and radars.





10 - 16 February 2024

Ahoy! Cruise calling Often referred to as "floating vacations," cruising has transformed into a dynamic and diverse sector within the travel industry. It offers travellers an unparalleled mix of luxury, adventure, and convenience while exploring some of the world's most enchanting destinations. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the global cruise industry welcomed 29.7 million passengers, generated jobs for 1.8 million individuals worldwide, and contributed over $154 billion to the global economy. From sun-soaked Caribbean islands to the historic cities lining the Danube River in Europe, cruise tourism presents a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in diverse cultures, landscapes, and cuisines all in one seamless journey. One of the most enticing aspects of cruise tourism is its all-inclusive nature. With accommodations, dining, entertainment, and transportation bundled into a single package, travellers can relax and enjoy onboard amenities and activities without the hassle of planning each aspect of their trip individually. Whether it's basking in the sun by the pool with a tropical cocktail, savouring gourmet cuisine crafted by top chefs, or taking in a Broadway-style show in the

Subhasini Naicker

evening, cruise ships cater to every taste and interest. Moreover, cruise tourism caters to a diverse range of travellers, from families seeking adventure to couples looking for romance and relaxation. With dedicated kids' clubs, adult-only retreats, and a wide array of onboard activities and shore excursions, cruise lines ensure that every guest has a memorable and fulfilling experience tailored to their preferences. Beyond the onboard amenities, cruise tourism provides unparalleled access to some of the world's most iconic and remote destinations. Whether it's exploring ancient ruins in the Mediterranean, snorkelling in the crystalline waters of the South Pacific, or marvel-

ling at the breathtaking beauty of Alaska's glaciers, cruise itineraries offer a wealth of destinations and experiences to satisfy every traveller's bucket list. Additionally, cruise tourism plays a vital role in supporting local economies and communities in port destinations worldwide. From small island nations to bustling coastal cities, ports of call benefit from the influx of tourism dollars, bolstering local businesses, artisans, and cultural heritage sites. Despite challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, cruise tourism remains resilient, adapting to changing circumstances and implementing rigorous health and safety protocols to ensure the well-being of passengers and crew. As the industry continues to rebound and evolve, cruise tourism promises to remain a popular choice for travellers seeking unforgettable adventures and memories on the high seas.

2024: The year of cruises This year is poised to be a landmark year for cruise vacations, with travelers from all income brackets and budget ranges showing unprecedented interest in booking voyages, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. Cruise operators and travel agents have reported a surge in bookings, indicating a strong resurgence in the industry. One of the driving factors behind the popularity of cruises in 2024 is their affordability compared to land-based alternatives. Despite nearing prepandemic occupancy levels, cruise operators are still offering competitive pricing, making cruises an attractive option for travellers seeking value and adventure. Across the board, the entire cruise industry is gearing up for an exciting year in 2024, marked by significant milestones and new offerings. Leading cruise lines like MSC, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean are set to introduce new cruise itineraries and experiences, further enhancing the appeal of cruising for travellers worldwide. Vas Jesani, a travel expert and founder of Crystal Blue Travels, spoke to Asian Voice, sharing some statistics. She said, “The

Life and work on the high seas: A glimpse into the world of cruise ship careers

travel industry is currently experiencing a significant trend in cruising. In 2024, approximately 35.7 million passengers are expected to embark on cruises, compared to 31.5 million in 2023, indicating a steady growth in the industry. This surge in demand has led to the construction and launch of numerous new ships. “In 2024 alone, 14 new ships are set to debut, spanning both river and ocean cruises. Among these, notable vessels include the Royal Caribbean's "Utopia of the Seas," which is slated for a grand launch in June or July, promising to be one of the largest ships to grace the seas. These offerings cater to a diverse range of preferences, from high-end luxury to family-friendly experiences. “As for destinations, Antarctic and Alaska have emerged as popular choices for 2024, offering travellers the chance to explore breathtaking landscapes and wildlife. River cruises in Europe and India, particularly along the Ganges and Douro rivers, provide serene and culturally enriching experiences.” About the appeal of Cruises, she said, “One of the most appealing aspects of cruising is the conve-

Vas Jesani

nience of waking up to new adventures each day, visiting destinations they may not typically venture to. Moreover, modern cruise ships are equipped with an array of amenities, resembling floating hotels with endless entertainment options. From game shows to theatre productions, water slides, and round-theclock dining, there is never a dull moment on board.” Furthermore, she discusses the current trends in the cruise industry, including a focus on sustainability. Ships are now designed with environmentally friendly features, such as batterypowered engines, reducing their ecological footprint. Additionally, there is a growing emphasis on catering to diverse dietary requirements, including gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options.

Imagine a world where your office moves from one breathtaking destination to another, where the deep blue sea is your constant backdrop, and where your coworkers come from all corners of the globe. This is the reality for those who choose a career on cruise ships, a profession that offers a truly one-of-a-kind experience. Working on a cruise ship is more than just a job; it's a lifestyle that blends the thrill of travel with the demands of hospitality and service. Cruise ship employees are the backbone of an industry that transports millions of passengers to

collaboration exemplifies the strength and value of diversity onboard.” Unique travel opportunities on the cruise Speaking about travel experiences, Portrait photographer on the cruise ship, Ms Riya Bhaskarwar said, “Everyday, it’s a new port and new destination! As of now, I am in the Caribbean Sea. There are so many beautiful islands. The crystal-clear water and white sand make it look so serene. Only my eyes can capture such beauty. It's difficult to capture the surreal landscapes on my camera.” Mr Shetty said, “I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been paid to explore the world, having visited 57

Prashant Shetty with his crew members

idyllic islands, historic cities, and exotic locales. They ensure that every voyage is a seamless and unforgettable experience for guests. From the moment you step onboard, you enter a world of diversity, where cultures converge and friendships are formed. The camaraderie among crew members is a unique bond as they navigate the challenges of life at sea together. While the destinations change with each cruise, the sense of adventure remains constant. Talking about the team dynamics and cultural experiences, former assistant chef and baker on Norwegian Cruise Line, Mr Prashant Shetty said, “On average, cruise ships like RCL, Carnival Cruise Line, and others boast a diverse workforce comprising 50 to 60 nationalities. From Filipinos, Indonesians, Indians, Malaysians, and Japanese to various South Asian ethnicities, as well as Europeans, South Americans, Americans, and Canadians, it's a melting pot of cultures. Despite our diverse backgrounds, the beauty lies in our unity as one team under one roof. With the shared goal of serving thousands of passengers, teamwork is crucial for success. This seamless

Riya Bhaskarwar

ing on a still platform to a cruise ship was a significant change for me. The sensation of the ship rocking initially made me feel like I was sailing along with it. Carrying out tasks during those first ten minutes was challenging as I adjusted to the movement. Working on a cruise ship also meant encountering diverse weather conditions, from freezing temperatures in Alaska to scorching heat on Caribbean islands. Despite the challenges, it's been an adventurous journey that I've thoroughly enjoyed.” Ms Bhaskarwar said, “The most enjoyable thing about working on a cruise ship is that you get

Prashant (Right) baked cake with his colleague on the occasion of Independence Day

countries and completed a full circumnavigation of the Earth. From Mumbai to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and beyond, my journey included a highlight at the Panama Canal, a marvel of engineering. Before its construction, ships had to navigate the entire South American continent to reach destinations like Miami or Panama. The canal's significance lies in its ability to merge the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, effectively reducing travel time and avoiding treacherous routes around South America. This feat of engineering, with its intricate system of gates, is truly a wonder of the modern world.” Thrills of the job with weather woes Speaking about working on cruise ships, Mr Shetty said, “I have 15 years of experience in the cruise industry. Transitioning from work-

to travel to so many different countries or places. Every day, you are at a new place. I get to meet people from different ethnicities, be they my colleagues or passengers. Moreover, many people get to know us Indians and what we are capable of. I get to photograph new people every day, which I have always dreamt of.” “It's crucial for us crew to prioritise our health by eating well and sticking to regular meal times. Being away from home means we're responsible for our own well-being. With weather constantly changing from sunny days to heavy rain, maintaining a healthy diet is key to staying strong. Avoiding food served outside on ports helps ensure we stay in top shape while navigating through diverse climates,” she added.





10 - 16 February 2024

Discovering the all-age appeal of cruising Anusha Singh The perception that cruises are primarily for youngsters is a common stereotype that overlooks the broad appeal and diverse offerings of these maritime adventures. In reality, cruises cater to a wide range of age groups, making them an ideal experience for travellers of all generations. For starters, modern cruise ships are designed to accommodate the needs and preferences of passengers spanning various age demographics. One of the key advantages of cruising is its ability to provide something for everyone, regardless of age or interests. Whether you're seeking relaxation and rejuvenation, cultural exploration, or thrilling adventures, there are tailored experiences available onboard and at each port of call. Moreover, cruises offer a unique opportunity for multi-generational travel, allowing families to come together and create lasting memories in a hassle-free environment. Grandparents, parents, and children can bond over shared experiences, embark on exciting adventures, and celebrate special occasions while enjoying the comforts and conveniences of a floating resort. Asian Voice found voices from within the community that reiterate the flexibility, luxury and charm of cruises. Excitement follows initial apprehension For Bharat Vaswani, his first cruise experience brought about a lot of excitement but also a lot of apprehension. “I was wrong though, as it was one of the best experiences I have had. The cruise, staff, food and entertainment were topclass. We have all experienced beach holidays, and yet travelling by water is a completely different and exhilarating experience”, he said.

Bharat enjoyed the food, atmosphere and the activities on board. Describing his experience, he said, “Like with any large resort, it took us a few days to get accustomed and meet people. Of course, some areas do get crowded but once you get used to that, it gets much more fun and relaxing. The daily entertainment was good too, with clean pools and large shopping area which was unexpected. Daily activities, especially in the ocean, were well managed and I was quite surprised to find myself participating in quite a few of these activities.” For people considering taking a Cruise, he says that if one is comfortable at the sea, then it definitely is a must-have experience. It is very important to research the options, and look at the routes, the cruise companies and amenities and activities. “View the cruise as an experience; the towns and cities along the way are truly a bonus!”, he says. Venturing out is where the true cruise magic unfolds Dr A Jagannathan and his wife Dr Buvaneswari went on a cruise for the first time in 2020 for their college reunion. Talking about onboard activities and amenities, Dr A Jagannathan said, “ We enjoyed a variety of programs, ranging from dance and music performances to fun games. “Throughout the journey, there are a total of 781 unique programs, and in case you happen to miss any, they were repeated for your convenience. There were dedicated programs and activities designed to keep children entertained throughout the journey. The cruise experience offers an affordable five-day getaway complete with various amenities. However, additional charges may apply for excursions, such as bus or train transportation to specific

Dr A Jagannathan and his wife Dr Buvaneswari on cruise

adventure filled with moments that will stay with you forever.” A multicultural environment with people of all ages, cultures, and nationalities Deepa Sugathan’s family absolutely loves the experience, especially her son who participated in the different kids' clubs available. Contrary to the misconception that cruising is primarily for elderly people, On board- Deepa, husband Mathew she found the and son Ryan (2015) atmosphere to be destinations.” diverse and inclusive. “It Detailing her was a multicultural experience, Dr Buvaneswari environment with people of said, “Going on a cruise ship all ages, cultures, and is a unique and captivating nationalities”, she said. experience. It transports Describing her first you to a different world experience, she recalls, “The altogether. Our first cruise first time we went on a adventure was nothing cruise was for a Christmas short of extraordinary, cruise, and it was truly where we met our old magical. The highlight was batchmates who came there when Santa made a with their family. dramatic entrance onto the “While it's tempting to cruise ship on Christmas stay within the confines of Day, with screens displaying your cabin, venturing out is his arrival. It left a lasting where the true cruise magic impression on my son, who unfolds. Stepping outside asked if we could make it a your room, you're yearly tradition.” enveloped by the vastness Describing her of the ocean, and it's then experience, she said, “We that you truly begin to opted for freestyle cruising, immerse yourself in the which offers a mix of cruise experience. The formal, flexible, and lively sensation of being out at experiences and each day, sea, surrounded by the we chose how we wanted to endless expanse of water, is spend our time. It provided something that words can the perfect balance of hardly capture. It's an relaxation and adventure,

making every moment onboard memorable. Both my boys are sports enthusiasts, so they particularly enjoyed the sports clubs and deck adventures. “In the evenings, when we wanted to unwind and enjoy some adult time, our son would be happily engaged in the kids' club. Jyotsna Shah (second from left) The onboard childcare was with family on cruise definitely a highlight of the cruise for me. The entertainment options were diverse, catering to different tastes. As someone who loves Western musicals, I particularly enjoyed some of the shows, such as "Mamma Mia!" and "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," along with live comedy clubs. There truly was something Deepa and Ryan by their cruise (2015) for everyone cleanliness and top-notch to enjoy.” service. Despite initial An unforgettable journey concerns about spending so filled with wonderful many days at sea, once the memories journey began, we were Jyotsna Shah believes immersed in countless that cruising is a fantastic activities, entertainment, experience, catering to and visits to different places. people of all ages and It was truly an enjoyable interests. Whether you enjoy experience that I swimming, relaxing at the recommend to everyone. spa, participating in “On our cruise, there activities, or watching shows were only a few vegetarians, in the auditorium, there's including myself and my something for everyone on friends. However, the crew board. The entertainment went above and beyond to programs are varied and accommodate our dietary cater to different age groups, preferences, providing us ensuring that everyone has a with exceptional hospitality. great time. Initially, we had some Describing her apprehensions, but as we experience she said, “During experienced the cruise, we my last cruise, which was a realised that it was an family trip after Covid, we unforgettable journey filled embarked from Barcelona with wonderful memories. and visited various Having good company destinations such as Italy certainly enhances the and France. The cruise ship experience, making it even was well-equipped, with a more enjoyable.” large crew ensuring

River cruise, a captivating way of exploration River cruising offers a serene and captivating mode of travel, allowing you to unwind while taking in the dynamic landscapes along waterways. Rivers trace back to the origins of civilisation, serving as vital trade routes and giving rise to some of the world's most vibrant cities. From renowned destinations like Paris, Amsterdam, and Budapest to charming hamlets waiting to be explored, rivers offer seamless access to a diverse array of experiences. Whether you're drawn to cosmopolitan hubs such as Berlin, Lisbon, Prague, Vienna, Moscow, Cairo, or Beijing, a river cruise promises easy

exploration of these captivating destinations. Choosing a river cruise offers a delightful blend of relaxation, cultural exploration and scenic beauty. VIVA Cruise is a river cruise that offers guests remarkable river cruises

across Europe’s most popular destinations – with a laid-back atmosphere and high-quality food and wine. The operator was the first in Europe to offer cruises all year round. A VIVA spokesperson told Asian Voice that river cruises,

including VIVA, offer a variety of dining options on board, afternoon and evening entertainment (including high-tea and music performances) and a diverse offering of shore excursions – from fun sightseeing tours to cooking

classes. Some ships also have a spa and wellness area and a gym for those who want to take care of themselves while on board. About the best time for enjoying these cruises, the spokesperson said, “ Any time of the year is great to

enjoy a river cruise – and there are river cruises for every occasion.” Themed cruises including wellness itineraries and shorter city trips are also available. Other popular cruise types include river cruises, party cruises, ocean cruises, expedition cruises, luxury cruises, etc. VIVA Cruises offers pleasant cruises on Europe’s greatest rivers, including the Danube, Elbe, Moselle, Rhine, Rhône and Seine – and on the Douro from 2025. The Danube is always a very popular choice for many travellers, who can visit beautiful cities including Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest.





10 - 16 February 2024

World's largest cruise ship unveiled:

'Icon of the Seas' Royal Caribbean's 'Icon of the Seas' isn't merely a cruise ship; it's a floating marvel, showcasing human ingenuity and representing the epitome of modern luxury travel. Departing from Miami on its inaugural voyage, this colossal vessel embodies the essence of a bustling city, redefining standards within the cruise industry. Crafted over 900 days at a shipyard in Turku, Finland, the 'Icon' stands as a symbol of grandeur, surpassing the height of the Eiffel Tower. Spanning 20 decks, the ship sprawls across an area nearly equivalent to four city blocks, providing accommodations for over 5,600 passengers, with a maximum capacity reaching up to 7,600, accompanied by a dedicated crew of 2,350. The 'Icon' is a floating paradise, boasting seven swimming pools, including a massive 40,000-gallon "lake," six exhilarating water slides, a charming carousel, and the largest ice

arena at sea. With over 40 diverse dining venues and bars, the ship caters to every culinary desire, promising a gastronomic journey as fulfilling as the voyage itself. Adding to the vibrant atmosphere are 50 musicians and comedians, accompanied by a 16-piece orchestra, presenting a diverse array of cultural and artistic performances. The 'Icon' marks a significant move towards sustainable cruising with its use of eco-friendly Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), despite sparking debates over potential methane leaks. Equipped

with a cutting-edge reverse osmosis system, the ship generates nearly all its fresh water sustainably. The 'Icon of the Seas' generated unprecedented demand, setting records for Royal Caribbean with its highest booking day and week in history, indicating overwhelming anticipation from the public. While environmental groups raise concerns about methane emissions, Royal Caribbean emphasises the ship's 24% improvement in carbon efficiency over global shipping regulations, showcasing a commitment to luxury and responsibility.

Tips and tricks to avoid sea sickness at cruise Cruises offer thrilling adventures, but seasickness can put a damper on the experience. If you tend to get motion sick in cars or planes, you may face similar discomfort on a cruise ship. However, with some strategic planning, you can still enjoy your cruise without worry. Here are some tips to help you prepare for your first cruise: Opt for the Right Cabin: Selecting the appropriate cabin location can minimise the effects of seasickness. Aim for a mid-ship stateroom on a lower or middle deck, as these areas tend to experience less movement. A balcony cabin provides quick access to fresh air, which can be beneficial. Avoid cabins near the ship's edges or on higher decks, as these areas may experience more movement. Selecting a stable cabin location can help alleviate seasickness symptoms. Choose a Cruise with More Port Stops: Look for cruise itineraries that include frequent port visits and fewer days spent entirely at sea. Shorter cruise durations, typically lasting 2 to 5 nights, may be preferable for first-time cruisers prone to motion sickness. Break up the journey and reduce the chances of experiencing seasickness, balancing time at sea. Pack Motion Sickness Medication: Motion sickness medications like Dramamine and Bonine are

readily available on most cruise ships. To ensure effectiveness, start taking them 1-2 days before boarding. Remember to follow dosage instructions carefully and consult your doctor beforehand, especially if you're trying a new medication. For a natural alternative, consider using SeaBands, which apply gentle pressure to acupressure points on the wrist. This pressure helps maintain balance and can alleviate seasickness symptoms. Wearing Sea-Bands while onboard can provide relief without the use of medication. Focus on the Horizon: Spending time on deck and focusing on the horizon can help alleviate seasickness. Observing the horizon can help reorient your senses and restore equilibrium. Resist the urge to retreat to your cabin. Avoid looking down or at screens for extended periods, and concentrate on your breath to stay calm. Reading or using electronic devices while onboard may exacerbate motion sickness. Take breaks and gaze out at the horizon regularly.

Additionally, moderate your alcohol intake to minimise potential triggers for imbalance. Choose a Large, Modern Ship: Opt for a modern cruise ship, typically weighing between 60,000 to 200,000 tons, as they offer better stability. These larger vessels are designed to minimise rocking motion, reducing the likelihood of seasickness. Prioritise booking on ships known for their stability and advanced stabilisation systems. Choosing the Right Cruise Line: Research cruise lines that offer routes with calmer waters, such as Alaskan or Caribbean cruises during non-hurricane seasons. Avoid itineraries in regions known for rough seas or unpredictable currents, as these conditions increase the likelihood of seasickness. Selecting a cruise line and itinerary wisely can help minimise motion-related discomfort and ensure a more enjoyable experience at sea. By following these tips and prioritising your wellbeing, you can enjoy a memorable and comfortable cruise vacation.

The Ultimate Guide to planning your first cruise vacation P

lanning your first cruise vacation is an exciting endeavour that promises relaxation, exploration, and unforgettable memories. Whether you're dreaming of sailing through turquoise waters in the Caribbean, exploring historic European ports, or witnessing the stunning landscapes of Alaska, a cruise offers a unique way to travel. To ensure your maiden voyage is smooth sailing from start to finish, we've put together the ultimate guide for first-time cruisers. From choosing the right cruise line to packing essentials and making the most of your time ashore, let's set sail on your journey to cruise vacation success. 1. Choosing the perfect cruise: Start by choosing your dream destination carefully. Cruise lines provide voyages to a vast array of locales across the globe, so consider your interests, preferred climate, and travel aspirations. After determining your destination, think about the duration of your journey at sea. Whether you prefer a quick weekend getaway or an extended voyage spanning several weeks, there are options available to suit your timeframe. Next, explore various cruise lines to find one that matches your preferences. Some specialise in family-friendly experiences, while others focus on luxury or adventure travel. Take the time to read reviews and evaluate onboard amenities, dining choices, and entertainment offerings before making your decision. 2. Planning your itinerary: After reviewing the itinerary to determine the cruise's ports of call, delve into researching the

attractions and activities available at each destination. This will help you prioritise your shore excursions and make the most of your time ashore. Additionally, consider extending your vacation by adding pre- or post-cruise stays in the embarkation and debarkation cities. This provides an opportunity to further explore these cities and enhance your overall travel experience. 3. Booking your cruise: When making your booking decisions, weigh the pros and cons of booking well in advance versus taking advantage of last-minute deals. Each option offers its own benefits. Once you've decided on your booking strategy, select your cabin category based on your budget and preferences. Cabin options vary from cosy interior rooms to lavish suites complete with balconies, ensuring there's an option to suit every taste and financial plan. 4. Preparing for departure: Before embarking on your cruise adventure, make sure you have all essential documents in order, including a valid passport, necessary visas, and cruise-related paperwork. Additionally, consider investing in travel insurance to safeguard against unexpected events. To streamline your packing process, create a checklist

that covers clothing for various occasions, toiletries, and any specific items needed for excursions. 5. Navigating life onboard: Get acquainted with the layout of the ship to locate dining venues, entertainment areas, and onboard activities. Take time to explore the diverse dining options available, ranging from formal dining rooms to specialty restaurants and casual buffets. Cruise ships offer a wide array of activities, from fitness classes to Broadway-style shows. Plan ahead to make the most of your onboard adventures. 6. Making the most of shore excursions: Research and book shore excursions in advance to guarantee your place on popular tours. While exploring ports of call, immerse yourself in the local culture by sampling regional cuisine, browsing for souvenirs, and interacting with locals. 7. Staying safe and healthy: Prioritise your safety by attending the mandatory safety drill and familiarising yourself with emergency procedures. Keep your belongings secure throughout the cruise. Additionally, adhere to health guidelines such as practising regular hand hygiene to ensure a healthy and enjoyable voyage.

Exploring the romance and drama aboard cruise ships in film Cruise ships have always held a special allure, captivating both travellers and filmmakers with their promise of luxury, adventure, and romance on the open seas. From classic ocean liners to modern floating resorts, these vessels serve as the perfect backdrop for cinematic storytelling, spanning genres from romantic comedies to thrilling dramas. One iconic portrayal of cruise ship life comes from the beloved television series "The Love Boat" (1977-1987), set aboard the Pacific Princess. Each episode follows the romantic and comedic escapades of passengers and crew, capturing the allure of life at sea. In the classic musical comedy "Gentlemen Prefer

Blondes," Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell embark on a transatlantic cruise to Paris, leading to glamorous and comedic adventures that epitomise the excitement of shipboard romance. Meanwhile, films like "Like Father" offer a modern take on cruise ship dramas, as characters navigate per-

sonal crises and unexpected connections aboard a prepaid honeymoon cruise. Bollywood has also explored the allure of cruise ships in films like "Dil Dhadakne Do" and "Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai," adding an exotic backdrop to tales of love and adventure. And who can forget the iconic Titanic pose, immortalised by passengers on real and fictional cruise ships alike, symbolising the timeless romance and drama that unfolds on the high seas. In the world of cinema, cruise ships provide the ultimate setting for tales of love, adventure, and selfdiscovery, captivating audiences with their endless possibilities and unforgettable journeys.





10 - 16 February 2024

Dear Financial Voice Reader, Alpesh Patel OBE

I received the loveliest email this week, “Hi, Hope you’re enjoying your working holiday! I just wanted to say again all your content is much appreciated. Please see photo of my eldest’s son’s junior ISA valuation! Amazing - I wouldn’t have achieved this so quickly without all your teachings! He’s only 11 - if only he knew how lucky he is to have savings of this much at this age! My youngest is 8 and his is not far behind a 6 figure valuation too! Thanks again. Have a safe journey back” The lady concerned happens to be British Indian. Her son’s Junior ISA in the screenshot she sent me is at £100,000. As you can imagine I am over the moon, from here on my travels. It got me thinking about all the people emailing me recently about their kids and their own pensions too. For young individuals entering the workforce, the prospect of a workplace pension is both a comfort and a conundrum. The primary concern lies in the pension's ability to perform over the long haul. I get emails from people fearful, rightly, their workplace pension will deliver mediocre results as I have told them to check their pension and they’ve seen it! Embracing financial education early on is crucial; understanding market dynamics and investment principles can demystify the process, enabling more informed decisionmaking. This way the young professional can look at a SIPP and in due course do it themselves as the Government intended people to do with their SIPPs. The Dilemma of the Cash-rich Professional Busy professionals, despite their substantial earnings, face the daunting reality of pensions that fail to reflect their hard work and financial input. The disillusionment with low returns, often exacerbated by advisors' conservative strategies, is a growing concern. For those disillusioned with traditional pension returns, looking into self-managed investment options could be a game-changer. Platforms offering direct access to global markets, including US equities known for their robust performance, could significantly alter the retirement savings landscape. Taking control of your future is critical. Business owners in their 40s often find themselves in a precarious position, caught between growing their enterprise and ensuring their pension pot is sufficient for retirement. The frustration with IFAs delivering meager returns of 4-5% annually is a common grievance. Again, direct investment in high-growth sectors or geographies could mitigate these concerns. Business owners have the unique advantage of leveraging their entrepreneurial acumen to identify and invest in opportunities that offer higher yields than traditional pension funds. The Pre-retirement Anxiety Individuals in their 50s with substantial pension savings are nonetheless plagued by the fear of not reaching the coveted £1m mark by retirement. This anxiety is compounded by the stagnation experienced when following conventional investment advice. This demographic should consider taking charge if they feel confident and knowledgeable (see below), possibly allocating a portion of their pension to higher-risk, higherreward assets – I mean the Microsoft type not some tiny AIM stock. The problem is an IFA is more likely to flog you a UK small cap fund ever suggest the types of mega companies making big returns. A recurring theme across all demographics is the frustration with traditional financial advice, which often results in conservative, underperforming investments. The excitement surrounding market anomalies, like the Nasdaq's 55% surge or Meta's 30% single-day jump in 2023, contrasts sharply with the reality of many pension portfolios. The key to navigating this disappointment is education and empowerment. Investors need to become financially literate, understanding not just the basics of investing but also the nuances of market trends and investment strategies. I created my Campaign for a Million to teach a million people globally how to make an extra million across their lifetimes in their portfolios. The son of the lady who emailed me, with whom I started this column, is a classic example of someone who will make that goal.

Water bills surge 6% in April amid sewage outcry From April 1, the average household water and sewerage bill in England and Wales will see a 6 per cent increase, as confirmed by the water industry. Water UK stated that companies would invest a record £14.4 billion, aiming to enhance supply security and "significantly reduce" sewage levels in rivers and seas. Despite these assurances, the Consumer Council for Water expressed the view that firms should use profits to assist those struggling to pay their bills. Labour criticised water bosses for receiving substantial bonuses while passing the financial burden onto consumers. The price hike follows public outrage over sewage spills and regulatory concerns about water firms paying dividends to shareholders amid the cost of living crisis.

UK house prices exceed forecasts, rise again House prices in the UK experienced modest growth of 0.2 per cent between October and November, as reported by mortgage provider Nationwide. This follows a 0.9 per cent expansion in the previous month and a marginal rise in September. Contrary to economists' expectations of a 0.4 per cent fall, the data suggests a stabilising trend in the housing market. The Nationwide house price index is a timely indicator of the property market, influencing the wider economy through house-

related spending. Official data on November prices is set to be published in January. Bank of England figures earlier in the week revealed an unexpected three-month high in mortgage approvals in October. The recent

Nationwide data indicates a potential easing in the housing market, which has experienced a slide in prices and sales since the summer of 2022. Market expectations have shifted from anticipating a peak Bank of England interest rate of 6 per cent to now widely expecting borrowing costs to remain at the current level of 5.25 per cent, with potential rate cuts from next year. The average

house price in November was £258,600, down from a peak of £273,500 in August last year. In a separate development, the Office for National Statistics revised upwards the annual rate of UK rental prices in October from 6.1 per cent to 8.4 per cent, the highest since data collection began in 2016. The new methodology for calculating rental price growth indicated a 10 per cent increase in London in the year to October, compared to a previous estimate of 6.8 per cent.

Bank of England keeps interest rate at 5.25 per cent For the fourth consecutive meeting, Bank of England has maintained interest rates at 5.25 per cent. The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) disclosed a 6-3 majority vote in favour of keeping rates steady, consistent with many economists' predictions. Notably, this marks the first instance in over three years that any MPC member has voted for a rate cut, resulting in the committee's first three-way split since

2008. Following this decision, there has been a shift in forecasts, with Capital Economics suggesting the possibility of the first cut in the upcoming decision on March 21. While the Bank

had raised the base rate 14 times between 2021 and last summer to combat inflation, it has maintained stability recently as inflation subsided. widely The anticipated vote to hold rates aligns with most forecasters' expectations, with a majority anticipating the first cut to occur in May or June this year. The decision coincides with the recent

Companies going bust reach 30-year peak Last year saw a 30-year high in the number of companies going bust in England and Wales, with over 25,000 company insolvencies registered in 2023. This marks the highest figure since 1993, attributed to the challenges posed by rising costs and interest rates for businesses. Factors such as increased energy bills and the cost of living crisis impacting consumer spending contributed to financial distress for many firms. The figures reveal that one in 186 active companies faced insolvency in 2023. Scotland and Northern Ireland also recorded their highest numbers of company insolvencies since 2012 and 2019, respectively, although different bankruptcy laws apply to these nations compared to England and Wales. Julie Palmer, a partner at insolvency specialist Begbies Traynor, described the situation as a "perfect storm for financial distress," citing elevated interest rates, infla-

tion, weak consumer confidence, and rising input costs. The Insolvency Service's data indicates a 9% increase in the number of companies voluntarily closing (creditors' voluntary liquidations or CVLs) to 20,577, the highest since records began in 1960. Companies forced to close, known as compulsory liquidations, surged by 44% to 2,827. Despite the record number of insolvencies, the rate of insolvencies relative to the total number of registered companies in the UK was still lower than the peak rate during the 2008-09 recession. The challenging business environment in 2023 led to high-profile collapses, such as retailer Wilko, resulting in the loss of over 12,000 jobs. Experts suggest that this year could also pose challenges for UK businesses, indicating a potential continuation of economic uncertainties and financial pressures.

Half a million JLR drivers likely to get compensation If a legal claim against Jaguar Land Rover is successful, around 500,000 drivers and motorists associated with the luxury car brand might be entitled to compensation payouts, potentially reaching up to £16,000. The £3 billion court action has been initiated by law firm Milberg LLP, alleging that Jaguar Land Rover installed faulty diesel particulate filters (DPFs) in several popular vehicle models. The law firm contends that these flawed DPFs negatively impact the car's performance, leading to costly repairs and posing "potentially serious" safety risks for owners. According to the claim, cars equipped with a defective DPF sys-

tem necessitate more frequent servicing than initially promised at the time of purchase. Individuals who purchased their cars—whether new or preowned—after July 1, 2018, may be eligible to participate in the case. Successful participants could potentially receive compensation payouts ranging from £3,000 to £16,000. Milberg LLP bases its estimated payouts on Consumer Protection law, which stipulates that motorists may recover between 25% and 75% of their vehicle's price, depending on the severity of the "misleading or aggressive practice or the difference between the market price of the product at the time of sale, and the price paid."

choice by the US Federal Reserve to keep interest rates at a 12-year high. In the accompanying notes to its decision, the Bank highlighted a "relatively sharp" decline in headline inflation, along with services inflation and wage growth falling more than anticipated. However, it cautioned about "material risks" from developments in the Middle East and shipping disruption in the Red Sea.

Bank of Scotland agrees for compensation over mortgages Bank of Scotland, a part of Lloyds Banking Group, has reached an out-ofcourt settlement with a law firm representing 160 current and former customers in a case involving "unfair" mortgages. The settlement gives hope to numerous individuals burdened with substantial debts. The legal dispute revolves around "shared appreciation mortgages" sold to Bank of Scotland customers in 1997 and 1998. These mortgages, which have faced criticism for their impact on borrowers, particularly in terms of leaving them owing significantly more than the originally borrowed sum, have been a source of financial distress for many.

UK growth boosted as state fund ups pension investment A new state fund, the "Growth Fund," is set to be launched within the next 18 months, investing hundreds of millions of pounds from pension fund assets into British growth companies. The British Business Bank, the government's economic development agency, anticipates that the Growth Fund could deploy approximately £600 million annually from pension savings into fast-growing companies. This initiative is part of efforts, including the chancellor's Mansion House reforms, to encourage British institutions to allocate more funds to productive investments in the UK. The fund is expected to pool pension fund money to invest alongside existing and new programs run by the British Business Bank. Additionally, the agency is encouraging proposals from pension funds to establish new private sector investment vehicles, with potential government co-investment.





10 - 16 February 2024

IMF raises India’s growth forecast to 6.7% for FY24 The IMF in its latest World Economic Outlook has revised upward India's growth forecasts, projecting a 6.5% expansion for the upcoming financial year and 6.7% for the current fiscal year ending in March. These figures, while optimistic, fall short of the government's projections. Nevertheless, India is poised to maintain its status as the fastestgrowing major economy. “India is one of the emerging market economies that is doing better… The upward revision is on account of strong growth, driven by a spending push. The difference (with the government estimate) is on account of a second half growth slowdown,” IMF chief economist Pierre-

Olivier Gourinchas said. The WEO said that growth reflected the resilience in domestic demand. The official estimates for the current fiscal year indicate a GDP growth of 7.3%, with the finance ministry anticipating a further expansion of over 7% in the following year. Initially, the IMF had forecasted a GDP growth of 6% for the current fiscal year,

which was revised up to 6.3% in October prior to the latest update. Forecast for the global economy is also better than earlier, with growth projected at 3.1% in 2024, 0.2 percentage point higher than October due to more resilience in the US and several developing countries, as well as fiscal support in China. “The clouds are beginning to part. The global economy begins the final descent towards a soft landing, with inflation declining steadily and growth holding up. But the pace of expansion remains slow, and turbulence may lie ahead,” IMF chief economist wrote in a blog.

GST collections in India touch £17.21 bn in January Preliminary figures released by the finance ministry indicate a 9.3% increase in Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections, reaching £17.21 billion in January. These collections, reflecting transactions from December, mark the second-highest since the introduction of GST in July 2017 and the third instance of surpassing the £17 billion threshold. The ministry anticipates even higher figures as complete data is yet to be compiled, with collections recorded until evening contributing to the overall tally. GST collections have remained robust, and there are expectations of an upward revision in the

revised estimates for the current financial year, to be presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. “The GST collections are in line with the other macroeconomic parameters, which indicate a significant uplift in economic activities, with even the IMF upgrading the growth forecast to 6.7% for FY 202324. The same collection trajectory in the next two

months will ensure that the tax collection targets for the year are comfortably surpassed,” said MS Mani, partner at Deloitte. A part of the jump in collections in January may be on account of completion of audits and investigations related to earlier years, said analysts. “This consistent upward trend, evident in surpassing key milestones, reflects the effectiveness of improved tax administration and heightened taxpayer compliance. Overall, these positive indicators pave the way for continued economic expansion,” said Saurabh Agarwal, tax partner at consulting firm EY.

Tata Motors Q3 net more than doubles to £714.5 mn Smashing street estimates, Tata Motors’s Q3FY24 profit more than doubled to £714.5 million, benefiting from the strength of its UK luxury car business, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). It had posted a profit of £304.3 million in the yearago period, which was the company’s first profit in two years. Revenue totalled over £10.9 billion, up 25%. Operating profit, a yardstick for underlying business performance, increased about 150% to £833.4 million. Expenses climbed 21% to £10.4 billion, Tata Motors said. This week, the company’s market cap surpassed that of Maruti Suzuki, making it India’s most valuable automobile player.

industrial growth and huge increase in heavy vehicles for transportation of goods, challenges will become even more formidable going forward. This partnership with INOXCVA shall help ATGL in furthering phased transition of long-haul heavy vehicles, buses currently using HSD/diesel to LNG, thereby helping with over 30% reduction in CO2 and GHG emissions. ATGL will also fast-track setting up of LNG stations across the country for boosting the confidence of fleet operators to embrace LNG as transportation fuel."

A report by real estate consultancy Knight Frank revealed that Mumbai and Bengaluru were among the top 10 cities in the AsiaPacific region with the highest increase in residential prices in the second half of 2023. Additionally, the National Capital Region (NCR) ranked 11th out of 25 countries in the region. Bengaluru experienced a 7.1% year-on-year rise in home prices, securing the eighth position, while Mumbai followed closely with a 7% increase, placing it at ninth. Meanwhile, NCR witnessed a 6% Y-o-Y growth, positioning it at 11th. Remarkably, Mumbai, NCR, and Bengaluru collectively accounted for 60% of the total sales volume across India in 2023. "In 2023, residential property demand in India's major cities has surged to its

commercial vehicles rose 66% to £175.1 million. Tata Motors’ management expects its Q4FY24 performance to better on account of new launches and improving supplies at JLR. The company’s net automotive debt at the end of Dec 31, 2023 stood at £2.92 billion.

Brand Guardianship Index ranks Ambani second globally Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Limited, has been ranked first among all the Indians and second globally in the Brand Guardianship Index 2024 compiled by Brand Finance. The Brand Guardianship Index is a global recognition of CEOs, who are building business value in a sustainable manner by balancing the needs of all stakeholders employees, investors, and the wider society. This year Ambani was ranked at the first position in Brand Guardianship Index 2024 among the 'Diversified' conglomerates. Ambani was ranked ahead of global majors like Satya Nadella of Microsoft,

Adani Total Gas partners Mumbai, Bengaluru in with INOX India to boost top 10 cities with highest India's LNG ecosystem home price rise in APAC Adani Total Gas Ltd (ATGL), India's leading city gas distribution company, and INOX India Ltd (INOXCVA), a global leader in cryogenic liquid storage and distribution, have entered into a mutual support agreement to bolster the country's Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) ecosystem. As per the agreement, ATGL and INOXCVA will serve as "preferred partners" for each other, collaborating on the provision of LNG and Compressed Natural Gas (LCNG) equipment and services. Speaking on the collaboration, Suresh P Manglani, Executive Director & CEO, ATGL said, “Air pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are on the rise. With the ongoing rapid

Operating profit of JLR zoomed 156% to £688.1 million on account of higher realisations, favourable volumes and reduced chip costs. Operating profit of non-JLR vehicles or Tata and other brands of passenger cars increased 44% to £27.8 million in Q3FY24, while that of Tata

highest level in a decade, despite the increase in mortgage rates and property prices," said Shishir Baijal, chairman and managing director, Knight Frank India. In the region, Singapore saw the highest price rise of 13.7 per cent. It was followed by 12.8 per cent in Perth and 12.1 per cent in Brisbane. "Notable performers such as Singapore, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Manila, Delhi, and Bengaluru have benefited from factors like the wealth effect, demand exceeding supply, and optimistic economic growth prospects," said Kevin Coppel, managing director at Knight Frank Asia-Pacific.

Mukesh Ambani

Google's Sundar Pichai, Apple's Tim Cook and Tesla's Elon Musk, as well as fellow Indians such as N Chandrasekaran of Tata Group and Anish Shah of Mahindra Group, among many others. Brand Finance's survey gave Mukesh Ambani a BGI score of 80.3, just below 81.6 of Huateng Ma of China-

based Tencent. Recently, Jio' - a relatively new brand was recognized as the strongest brand from India in the latest report 'Global 500 - 2024' published by Brand Finance, ahead of multi-decade-old Indian brands like LIC and SBI. Jio had topped India's strong brands in Brand Finance's 2023 rankings as well.

Government to lease out 1 mn tonne crude oil reserve capacity The Indian government has opted to lease out approximately 1 million tonnes of empty strategic crude oil storage capacity to both Indian and international firms instead of using public funds to fill the available space in the caverns. LR Jain, Managing Director of India Strategic Petroleum Reserves (ISPRL), revealed this decision. Initially, £500 mn was earmarked for FY24 to fill the vacant capacity in the underground caverns. However, the allocation was reduced to zero in the Interim Budget for FY25. ISPRL, a petroleum ministry undertaking, has constructed underground crude oil storage facilities in Visakhapatnam, Mangalore and Padur (Karnataka) to store a total of 5.33 million

tonnes for India's emergency needs. ADNOC has leased 1.25 million tonnes at Padur and 0.75 million tonnes at Mangalore out of the total available capacities. ISPRL filled 1.25 million tonnes at Padur, leaving 0.75 million tonnes vacant in Mangalore and 0.25 million tonnes in Visakhapatnam. The empty capacity will be leased out, with ISPRL planning to invite expressions of interest soon, as stated by Jain at the India Energy Week in Goa.





10 - 16 February 2024

in brief

Mahant Swami Maharaj arrives in Abu Dhabi for historic mandir inauguration ABU DHABI: Global Hindu spiritual leader, Mahant Swami Maharaj, arrived in Abu Dhabi on February 5, as a state guest for the historic inauguration of the first traditional Hindu stone temple in the Middle East, the BAPS Hindu Mandir. Located in the Abu Mureikhah district, this magnificent structure symbolises the enduring friendship between India and the UAE, showcasing cultural harmony and collaboration. The project has been made possible through the generosity of the UAE government and its rulers. In 2015, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, donated 13.5 acres of land for the construction of the Mandir. Subsequently, during the UAE Government's Year of Tolerance in January 2019, an additional 13.5 acres of land was allocated, bringing the total gifted land for the Mandir to 27 acres. Upon arrival at the airport, His Holiness was warmly greeted by His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance for the UAE. His Excellency said to His Holiness, “Welcome to the UAE. Our nation is blessed with your presence. We are touched by your kindness and we feel your prayers.” In response, Mahant Swami Maharaj warmly replied, “We are touched by your love and respect. The leaders of the UAE are great, good, and large-hearted.”

reserved for national holidays and welcoming dignitaries. His Holiness is the spiritual leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), an international Hindu fellowship associated with the United Nations, inspiring millions worldwide with his virtues of devotion, humility, and service. The inauguration of the iconic Mandir will be celebrated Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahyan to Mahant Swami Maharaj_ through the 'Festival of 'Welcome to the UAE. Our nation is blessed with your presence. We Harmony' – a series of proare touched by your kindness and we feel your prayers' grammes and community As a state guest, Mahant Swami Maharaj events aimed at strengthening faith, prowas welcomed with honourific Arabic tradimoting community service, and fostering tions, including a performance of the Alharmony among people of all ages and backAyyala, a traditional cultural dance typically grounds. The festival will feature the grand inauguration ceremony of the Mandir on Wednesday, February 14, with esteemed dignitaries, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in attendance. For the event webcast, visit www.mandir.ae or livepuja.baps.org. Puja Darshan timings are at 2:15 am (GMT) on the following dates: February 8, 9, 13, 16, 17, 18, 19, 22, 23, 24, and 25, 2024. Evening Sabha timings are at 5 pm (GMT) on February 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 21, 2024. On February 14, 2024, the consecration ceremony will commence at 3:45 am (GMT), followed by the People of all ages jubilantly welcoming His Holiness dedication assembly starting at 12:30 pm Mahant Swami Maharaj as he arrives at the BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi (GMT).

China’s warship expelled, Indian submarine welcomed in Lanka COLOMBO: After shutting its ports to the Chinese submarine and research vessel, Sri Lanka on February 3 welcomed Indian Navy submarine INS Karanj ahead of its Independence Day. It marks a diplomatic win for India. But the threat of Chinese submarine docking in the Indian backyard is far from over as Beijing constructs a sprawling naval base in Bangladesh. The Sri Lankan Navy made this announcement, adding that while the submarine is in the island country, it will participate in a submarine awareness program, and the submarine crew will be exploring tourist attractions in the country. The submarine is a Kalvari-class dieselelectric submarine based on the French

Scorpene class submarines. It is designed by the French naval group DCNS and manufactured by Mazagon Dock Limited in Mumbai. “INS Karanj is a 67.5m long submarine with a crew of 53, and it is commanded by Commander Arunabh,” the Sri Lankan navy said in an announcement. The submarine will depart from the Sri Lankan port on

Imran, wife get 7-year jail for unlawful marriage ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani court sentenced ex-prime minister Imran Khan and his wife, Bushra Bibi, to seven years’ imprisonment each for an unIslamic and illegal marriage. The trial was conducted by senior civil judge Qudratullah inside Rawlapindi’s Adiala jail, where the 71-year-old Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) founder has been jailed. Imran and Bibi were also each fined Rs 500,000 (Pakistani rupees). It was Imran’s third conviction this week and comes ahead of national elections on Thursday. Imran and his party have been barred from contesting it. The PTI has fielded candidates as independents on oath that they will rejoin the party after being elected. Earlier this week, Imran was awarded a 10-year sentence in the cipher case linked to the alleged leaking of state secrets, and 14 years’ imprisonment in

the Toshakhana (treasure house) case for illegally selling state gifts. The unlawful marriage, or “iddat” case, was filed by Bushra’s previous husband, Khawar Maneka, in Nov last year, around the time when Imran’s other legal troubles began to mount. Ahead of filing the petition, Maneka was released on bail in a graft case. According to him, Imran had married Bushra before she had completed the iddat period, a concept in Islam and Pakistani law that requires a woman to wait for three menstrual cycles, or three lunar months, whichever is longer, following a divorce or the death of her husband before remarrying. Maneka termed their marriage “neither legal nor Islamic as it was solemnised without observing iddat period and both of them established illicit relations with each other”.

February 5. The Indian submarine’s port call comes in the backdrop of Sri Lanka, sitting on the tip of the Indian Ocean region, putting a year-long moratorium on foreign research vessels from operating in its waters. The moratorium that began on January 1 is seen as a big diplomatic and strategic victory for India that has raised alarm over the Chinese research vessels surveying the vast swathes of the IOR under the pretext of conducting scientific tests. The data gathered through these tests is invaluable for the Chinese submarines seeking to navigate the shallow waters of Malacca Strait and through the East IOR, causing much consternation to India.

Fresh charge sheet against Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus DHAKA: Bangladesh's anticorruption agency has filed a fresh charge sheet against Nobel laureate economist Muhammad Yunus, following his recent bail in a case related to labor law violations. The Anti-Corruption Commission alleges that Yunus, aged 83, along with 13 others, misappropriated approximately $2.29 million from the Grameen Telecom Workers’ Profit Participation Fund. Yunus, who founded Grameen Telecom as a nonprofit organisation, currently serves as its chairman. Among the co-defendants are directors, the managing director, and leaders of the employees' trade union. “We have filed the charge sheet against him (Yunus) and 13 others before the Metropolitan Senior Special Judge’s Court of Dhaka,” an ACC spokesman told reporters. The court has set March 3 for an

INDIAN ORIGIN MAN FOUND DEAD IN NEW ZEALAND A 28-year-old Indian-origin man died under mysterious circumstances in Dunedin, New Zealand. According to the New Zealand Herald, Gurjit Singh, who lived in New Zealand since 2015, was found dead covered in blood and glass outside his home. His body was discovered by a friend, who had been concerned over his welfare. Initially, police were treating his death as "unexplained", but following a postmortem, which revealed multiple stab wounds by a sharp instrument, cops confirmed his death was a homicide investigation. Gurjit Singh was a Chorus technician who was renting a brick house in Hillary St, in Liberton. He got married six months ago, and his wife was about to join him as her flight was scheduled for February 6, the outlet reported.

PROPANE TANKS BURST AFTER FIRE AT US GURDWARA SITE Multiple propane tanks exploded after a fire broke out at a building site inside the complex of California’s largest Sikh temple. Flames damaged a room that holds religious classes, but no injuries were reported in the incident that took place at the Gurdwara Sacramento Sikh Society. Emergency crew was called and worshipers were immediately evacuated, said Metro fire battalion chief Parker Wilbourn. The building’s attic burned down, leaving behind a gutted frame and causing a partial roof collapse, a local newspaper reported. At least two vehicles got destroyed.

64 KILLED IN CHILE FOREST FIRE Firefighters wrestled with massive forest fires that broke out in central Chile two days earlier, as officials extended curfews in cities most heavily affected by the blazes and said at least 64 people were killed. The fires have been burning with the highest intensity around the city of Vina del Mar, where a famous botanical garden founded in 1931 was destroyed by the flames on Sunday. At least 1,600 people were left without homes. Several neighbourhoods on the eastern edge of Vina del Mar have been devoured by flames and smoke, trapping some people in their homes. Officials said 200 people have been reported missing in Vina del Mar and the surrounding area.

3 KILLED, 300 INJURED IN KENYA GAS EXPLOSION A huge gas blast in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, has killed at least three people and injured nearly 300. A lorry carrying gas cylinders exploded in Embakasi district, "igniting a huge ball of fire", an official said. Housing, businesses and cars were damaged, with video showing a huge blaze raging close to blocks of flats. An investigation has started and Kenya's deputy president has said those responsible will be held accountable. A child was among those who died, according Embakasi police chief Wesley Kimeto, who added that the death toll could rise. Some 271 people were taken to hospital, according to the authorities, including at least 25 children.

Muhammad Yunus


indictment hearing of the case. Law minister Anisul Huq rejected allegations of harassing Yunus, saying the government did not fabricate any false cases against him. Law minister Anisul Huq rejected allegations of harassing Yunus, saying the government did not fabricate any false cases against him. “Yunus was warned and advised to prevent these violations, but he ignored them. So, the labour department filed a lawsuit,” Huq said.

Kenyan authorities proscribed the church of a religious leader who ordered his followers to starve themselves and their children to death so that they could go to heaven, as an organised criminal group. Paul Mackenzie, head of the Good News International Church, is currently facing charges of murder, child torture, and “terrorism” after last April’s discovery of hundreds of bodies of his followers who had starved to death on his instructions. In an official gazette document, the Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki declared the church an “organised criminal group”, paving the way for further investigation and possible prosecution of members deemed to have aided Mackenzie.





10 - 16 February 2024

in brief INDIAN STUDENT BRUTALLY ATTACKED BY ROBBERS IN CHICAGO A student from Hyderabad was left seriously injured after an attack by four robbers in Chicago. The victim, identified as Syed Mazahir Ali, is a resident of Langar Houz who had gone to the US to pursue a Master's degree. He is a student at Indiana Wesleyan University. In a video recording, Ali can be seen bleeding profusely as he details the horrific attack. This news comes in the wake of multiple attacks on Indian-origin students in America. Ali said that he was attacked by four men while he was returning home with a packet of food in his hand. The CCTV footage of the incident reveals that Ali was chased by three of his attackers near his house on Campbell Avenue.

COSMONAUT SETS RECORD FOR MOST TIME IN SPACE Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko set a world record for total time spent in space, surpassing his compatriot Gennady Padalka who logged over 878 days in orbit, Russia’s space corporation said. Kononenko is expected to reach a total of 1,000 days in space on June 5 and by Sept he will have clocked 1,110 days. “I fly into space to do my favourite thing, not to set records,” Kononenko said inside International Space Station (ISS). “I am proud of all my achievements, but I am more proud that the record for the total duration of human stay in space is still held by a Russian cosmonaut.” He took the top spot from Padalka, who accumulated a total of 878 days, 11 hours, 29 minutes and 48 seconds.

MALAYSIA'S NEW KING OWNS FLEET OF JETS, PRIVATE ARMY Johor Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar was sworn in as Malaysia's new king. He took the oath of office in a ceremony held at the national palace in the country's capital Kuala Lumpur. The ceremony was witnessed by other royal families, prime minister Anwar Ibrahim and cabinet members. Malaysia has a unique system of monarchy under which the heads of Malaysia's nine royal families take turns to be the king, every five years. Ibrahim has succeeded Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, who is returning to lead his home state of Pahang having completed his five-year tenure as the king. The 65-year-old Ibrahim is a billionaire who has an extensive business empire ranging from real estate to telecoms and power plants.

ONE ARRESTED FOR THREATENING BIDEN, MUSK A Tesla employee from Minnesota was arrested for allegedly threatening to kill US President Joe Biden and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, confirmed Tesla Police. Justin McCauley, 31, who had tweeted that he was "planning to kill" Biden, Musk, X, and Tesla, was charged with felony terroristic threats. According to a report, court documents state that McCauley's wife called Police when he declared that he was leaving for Texas and would never return. She informed authorities he had left his cell phone unattended so it couldn't be tracked.

MAN ATTACKS 3 IN PARIS TRAIN STATION A man armed with a knife and a hammer wounded three people in an early morning attack at the bustling Gare de Lyon train station in Paris, another nerve-rattling security incident in the Olympics host city before the Summer Games open in six months. The 31-year-old man, carrying residency papers from Italy and medicines suggesting he was undergoing treatment, was quickly taken into police custody following the attack. Millions of passengers ride the hub’s highspeed and commuter trains. “This individual appears to suffer from psychiatric troubles,” said Laurent Nunez, the Paris police chief who is also in charge of the massive security operation for the July 26-August 11 Olympic Games.

Another Indian student found dead in US, 3rd such case within a week NEW YORK: Another Indian student in the United States named Shreyas Reddy has been found dead in Cincinnati, Ohio, making it the third such case within a week. The cause of his death, however, remains unknown. According to reports, Reddy was a student at the Linder School of Business. The Indian Consulate in New York has expressed regret over the incident and said that it is in touch with his family and is extending all possible assistance

to them. "Deeply saddened by the unfortunate demise of Shreyas Reddy Benigeri, a student of Indian origin in Ohio. Police investigation is underway. At this stage, foul play is not suspected. The Consulate continues to remain in touch with the family and is extending all possible assistance to them," the Indian Consulate in New York stated in a post. Notably, this is the third death of an Indian student with-

in a span of a week, after Vivek Saini and Neel Acharya. On January 30, Acharya, a student at Purdue University, was confirmed dead, according to the Tippecanoe County Coroner. According to the Tippecanoe County Coroner's Office, officials were called around to 500 Allison Road in West Lafayette for a possible dead body. Upon arrival, a "college-aged male" was found deceased on Purdue's campus. On January 29, another

Canada probes firing at Nijjar aide’s home, radicals blame India OTTAWA: Canadian police reached home and the bullets are investigating an also hit the inside walls and overnight shooting at the his six-year-old son had a residence of Sikh activist narrow escape. Sarbjeet Singh, a close assoAddressing a press conciate of the pro-Khalistan ference at Guru Nanak Sikh chief of banned Khalistan Gurdwara in Surrey, where Tiger Force, Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead in the Nijjar, who was shot dead in parking lot, Moninder Singh Surrey, Canada, on June 18 alleged, “We feel that his tarlast year. geting is from the Indian side and he was being folNijjar’s killing led to a Hardeep Singh Nijjar lowed for the last several diplomatic row between months. There also was surveillance outside India and Canada after PM Justin Trudeau his house. Sarabjeet had also informed the said he suspected Indian govt involvement. A police authorities about this.” Gurdwara Council spokesperson in Canada’s Sarbjeet is associated with the Khalistan British Columbia province, Moninder Singh, movement, including the Khalistan referenblamed India for the shooting at Sarbjeet dum organised by Sikhs for Justice, which is Singh’s house. He said two gunmen fired at proscribed in India. Sarbjeet’s house barely 10 minutes after he

Indian American doctor found not guilty of committing lewd acts BOSTON: An Indian American doctor from Boston was found not guilty of committing lewd acts next to a teenage girl on a plane. Dr Sudipta Mohanty was freed from the charges after a three-day trial in Boston federal court. The 33-year-old's attorneys revealed that nobody among the cabin crew or the passengers sitting next to Mohanty saw anything unlawful going on. According to reports, Mohanty said that “the accusation and trial have been incredibly difficult for himself and his family for a crime he didn't commit. “My fiancé was sitting next to me on that flight, and neither of us can understand why this happened to us,” he revealed in a statement. Mohanty, who had been indicted on one count of lewd, indecent, and obscene acts on an aircraft, opted for a bench trial. This means his acquittal was handed down by a judge rather than a jury. “I have dedicated my life to caring for others as a physician, and it has been heartbreaking to step away while I dealt with these false accusations,” his state-

ment added. The alleged incident took place in May 2022 when Mohanty was aboard a Hawaiian Airlines flight bound for Boston from Honolulu. He was accompanied by a female companion. The 14-year-old girl who accused Mohanty of performing obscene acts while she was seated next to him was travelling along with her grandparents. Midway through the flight, the girl alleged that she saw Mohanty's leg bouncing underneath a blanket, which covered him up to his neck, the investigators said. She further claimed that after some time, the blanket fell on the floor, and she saw that Mohanty was masturbating. Following the alleged events, the minor shifted to an empty seat in a different row, the prosecutors added. After the flight landed in Boston, the girl narrated the alleged incident to her family members, following which, the police were notified. US attorney Joshua Levy expressed his disappointment over the verdict, however, he said that he respects the court's judgment.

Canada multiplex pulls Indian films after drive-by shooting ONTARIO: A Canadian chain of multiplexes has pulled a major Indian film from its theatres after they were violently targeted by unidentified persons. The agency Canadian Press cited a spokesperson for Cineplex as saying the chain was ceasing its screenings of the Malayalam movie 'Malaikottai Vaaliban' due to circumstances beyond their control. That announcement came a day after York Regional Police (YRP) said that it was investigating “drive-by shootings at movie theatres” in the cities of Richmond Hill and Vaughan, both in the Greater Toronto Area or GTA. In a release, YRP said on January 24, police responded to a theatre in Richmond

Hill “after an employee arrived for work and found the windows had been shot at.” The same day, police also “responded to a similar call” in Vaughan. This is the second time recently that screenings of an Indian film have been disrupted. On December 5, hundreds of moviegoers attending screenings of Hindi films at three different cinema locations in the GTA had to be evacuated following an unidentified substance being sprayed within the theatres. These incidents occurred at multiplexes in Toronto, Vaughan and Brampton. Whether it was the same film being screened or different Hindi films was not revealed by law enforcement.

Indian student was brutally killed with repeated blows from a hammer by a homeless man inside a store in Lithonia, Georgia, US. A video of the incident went viral on social media, but the date of the incident can't be confirmed. The man seen attacking Saini is reportedly a homeless person. A person familiar with the case said that police authorities acted firmly on the visual evidence of the case, and arrests were made promptly.

Nikki Haley mocks Trump and Biden in hilarious ‘grumpy old men’ ad NEW YORK: Nikki Haley, the Republican presidential hopeful, has launched a new offensive against her potential rivals in the 2024 race, Donald Trump from her own party and Joe Biden from the Democrats. She has unveiled a series of political ads that mock their age. The ads, which have the theme of ‘Grumpy Old Men,’ are part of Haley’s explicit strategy to target the age factor of the two men who are likely to be the nominees of their respective parties for the presidency. The ads have titles such as Stumbling Seniors, Basement Buddies and Profligate Pols, according to the New York Times. Haley, who served as the governor of South Carolina and the US ambassador to the United Nations, also posted an image on X that shows a modified version of the movie poster of the 1993 comedy Grumpy Old Men, starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. She replaced the actors’ faces with those of Biden and Trump. Haley’s aim is to draw attention to the fact that Trump, 77, and Biden, 81, are the oldest candidates ever to seek re-election to the White House.

Biden wins first primary in South Carolina SOUTH CAROLINA: President Joe Biden won the South Carolina primary, giving him the kind of emphatic result he no doubt envisioned when he made the state the first contest on the Democrats’ presidential nominating calendar. The election gives Biden the first set of delegates required to claim the Democratic nomination at the party’s convention in Aug. Biden vowed that South Carolina would once again send him to the White House. “The people of South Carolina have spoken again, and I have no doubt that you have set us on the path to winning the presidency again - and making Donald Trump a loser again,” Biden said in a statement released by his campaign. Biden won an overwhelming majority of South Carolina Democrats, more than 96% with 80% of the vote counted - dominating every county with more than 95% of the vote, including in heavily Black areas. His campaign had wanted South Carolina to prove that the party’s base - particularly Black voters - remain devoted to Biden and would turn out for him in large numbers. Black voters are critical to Biden’s success in battleground states, but transposing South Carolina’s results in Feb to Nov voting in Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia is a tricky proposition, given that Saturday’s primary was viewed by most observers - correctly, as it turned out - as noncompetitive.





10 - 16 February 2024

NDA will get over 400 seats in Lok Sabha poll, asserts PM Modi Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed confidence, asserting that he anticipates a landslide victory in May's elections. He stated that the BJP alone is expected to secure more than 370 seats, ensuring a two-thirds majority, while the NDA is projected to surpass the 400 mark. Responding to the debate on the motion of thanks to the President's address, Modi confidently declared, "While I refrain from predicting specific numbers, it's certain that the BJP will exceed 370 seats, and the NDA's total will surpass 400." A total of 370 seats would mark the highest tally for a single party since

combined tally reached 353. The PM’s claim, during his last major speech in the current Lok Sabha, marked the first time he had embraced “iss baar char sau (400) paar” Narendra Modi chant of the cadre the 1984 election, when the which has gathered Congress capitalised on a momentum following the sympathy wave following growing disarray in the the assassination of Indira rival INDIA bloc and Gandhi. This score would because of BJP steadily fall just one short of the enlisting the support of record set by the Congress regional allies, the latest under the leadership of being Nitish Kumar's JD(U). India's first Prime Minister, Modi focused on the Jawaharlal Nehru, in the state of the opposition second general election of camp, saying it had failed to 1957. In the 2019 general gel. “Somebody is going election, the BJP secured around posing as a motor 303 seats, while the NDA's mechanic. He must be

learning how to fix the alignment. But he has failed to get the opposition’s alignment right,” he said in a thinly-disguised jibe at Rahul Gandhi and his latest yatra. Congress faced the brunt of Prime Minister Modi's criticism, as he remarked that the party's opposition pessimism would not only confine it to the opposition benches but also potentially relegate it to the visitors' gallery. Modi also alluded to indications suggesting that Sonia Gandhi may transition to the Rajya Sabha, potentially relinquishing the family stronghold of the Rae Bareli seat.

ED moves court against Kejriwal for repeatedly ignoring summons The Enforcement Directorate has approached a special court in Delhi, seeking compliance from Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal regarding multiple summonses issued to him. These summonses pertain to the agency's investigation into the Delhi liquor scam, where the AAP government's excise policy is alleged to have been manipulated to benefit a group of liquor traders, resulting in significant losses to the exchequer. The court has set a hearing date for February 7, as per sources.

Following Kejriwal's failure to appear before the agency despite five the summonses, Enforcement Directorate has lodged a fresh complaint under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) at the local court. Additional Solicitor General SV Raju represented the agency in seeking directions for the Delhi CM to cooperate with questioning by the ED. In its plea before the additional chief metropolitan magistrate Divya Malhotra, ED flagged to the court “non-

attendance in compliance of Section 50 of PMLA received (by the CM) by way of assignment” which can be checked. After a brief hearing on the complaint filed by ED, the judge posted the matter for hearing on February 7. Kejriwal has already skipped five summonses issued to him, dubbing them as illegal on grounds that he was not an accused in the case. The plea in the court against the Delhi CM marked a switch of tack on part of ED which last week arrested Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren after the

He has called for the withdrawal by March 15 of the troops stationed to provide support for military equipment given to the Maldives by New Delhi and assist in humanitarian activities in the region. The first set of Indian troops will leave by March 10 and the rest by May 10, the Maldives said, citing an agreement reached at a high-level meeting in the Indian capital on a range of issues concerning bilateral cooperation. India's foreign ministry said the two countries "agreed on a set of mutually workable solutions to enable continued operation of Indian aviation platforms" that provide humanitarian services to Maldives.

Arvind Kejriwal

latter refused to respond to corruption charges. According to Enforcement Directorate officials and independent legal experts, Kejriwal's failure to respond to summonses could be interpreted as evasive behavior, indicating a lack of cooperation with the investigation.

The ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the troop pullout, and its statement did not mention a timeframe. India says the soldiers, who include a dozen medical personnel, provide help with humanitarian aid and medical evacuations for the residents of the country's remote islands. New Delhi has given Male two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft, which are mostly used for marine surveillance, search and rescue operations and medical evacuations. The Indian troops manage those operations. The next bilateral meeting will be in Male in the last week of February, the Maldives foreign ministry said.

India, UAE to take economic ties to next level during PM Modi's Abu Dhabi visit India and the UAE are poised to deepen their economic integration with the signing of a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan during a significant visit to Abu Dhabi and Dubai on February 13-14. The UAE stands as the third-largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) into India and ranks as India's seventh-largest trade partner. Although the Modi government has maintained secrecy surrounding the visit, it is understood that the Prime Minister's trip to the UAE will mark a milestone. India already has a

comprehensive economic partnership agreement with Abu Dhabi since February 2022. Putting the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) into perspective, the treaty was approved by the Modi cabinet on February 1, making the UAE the only country with which India has both a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and a BIT. Notably, countries like South Korea, Japan, and Singapore have a CEPA with India but lack a BIT. In addition to inaugurating the BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi and launching a Bharat Mart for Indian MSMEs to trade in Dubai, Prime

The new Champai Soren-led Mahagathbandhan govt in Jharkhand aced its first test in the 82-member assembly on Monday by garnering 47 votes in a confidence motion that also saw jailed ex-CM Hemant Soren being escorted to the House by ED amid loud cheers and slogans. BJP contributed 25 of the 29 votes Champai Soren against the motion, while three came from AJSU Party and one from Kamlesh Singh of NCP. BJP's Sindri MLA Indrajit Mahto couldn’t vote because of illness, and Independent MLA Amit Yadav didn’t turn up. Another Independent, Saryu Roy, abstained from voting, as did a JMM legislator. As is the custom, speaker Ravindra Nath Mahto didn’t vote, while the Gandey seat is currently vacant after the recent resignation of JMM’s Sarfaraz Ahmed. Those who voted in support of the coalition govt led by “Kolhan Tiger” Champai included 29 from JMM, 16 from Congress, Satyanand Bhokta of RJD, Pradeep Yadav of JVMP, Vinod Singh of CPI (ML) and Anglo-Indian nominee Glen Joseph Galstaun. Prior to the confidence motion being moved, governor C P Radhakrishnan read out what he said were “achievements of the Hemant Soren government”, only to be disrupted by a din caused from the treasury benches. Slogans like “Jail ka faatak tutega, Hemant Soren chhutega” reverberated through the hall in support of the ex-CM, who was allowed to vote on the orders of a PMLA court.

India has 718 snow leopards in the Himalayan region

India to replace troops in Maldives with civilians by May India will remove its troops in the Maldives by May, the Maldivian Foreign Ministry said, as the two countries seek agreement on a pullout that has strained ties. The roughly 80 soldiers stationed in the Indian Ocean archipelago will be replaced by civilians, officials from both countries said. As global powers jostle for influence in the Indo-Pacific region, India and China have wooed the Maldives, which has traditionally been close to neighbour India. New Delhi's ties with Male have under strain since Mohamed Muizzu was elected president of the Maldives last year, pledging to end the country's "India First" policy.

Champai Soren wins Jharkhand trust vote 47-29

Minister Modi's agenda includes several other significant items. He is slated to be the keynote speaker at the government summit in Dubai, underscoring the importance of the visit. PM Modi will have a separate engagement with Sheikh Rashid A Maktoum in Dubai apart from his bilateral engagement with President MBZ. PM Modi shares a close relationship with President MBZ, who surprised everyone when he spoke at the Vibrant Gujarat event this year as the UAE ruler hardly ever addresses any global event including G-20 in India or COP 28 in UAE.

In the expansive Himalayas, the elusive snow leopards, adorned in grey-white fur, are a rare sight. With a population numbering just 718, they inhabit two Union Territories and four states within the Himalayan region. India, among 12 countries hosting these majestic creatures, may harbor one-sixth to oneninth of the global population of these revered "Ghosts of the Mountains." Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav disclosed the findings of India's inaugural scientific assessment of snow leopard

populations. The assessment revealed Ladakh as the territory with the highest count of snow leopards (477), followed by Uttarakhand (124), Himachal Pradesh (51), Arunachal Pradesh (36), Sikkim (21), and Jammu and Kashmir (9). Spearheaded by the Wildlife Institute of India in Dehradun, with collaboration from all snow leopard range states and two conservation partners, the Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysuru, and WWF-India, this marks India's pioneering endeavor in Snow Leopard Population Assessment.

Young artist Ayaan inspires globally amid DMD battle Ayaan, a 12-year-old from Gujarat, India, has captured hearts worldwide with his inspiring journey. Despite being diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) at age eight, his passion for art has flourished. Ayaan's exceptional talent has garnered him a UNESCO Heritage Artist title and accolades, showcasing his love for history and global conflicts. Through his art, he raises awareness about DMD, uniting communities across borders. Despite the rarity of his disease and the limited availability of treatment options, Ayaan's family, hailing from a modest middle-class background, persisted in their efforts to ensure his medical care. The treatment, Vitilipso, sourced from a UK-based company, provided a ray of hope. Their journey was marked by the unwavering

support of countless individuals and communities across India, especially in Gujarat. A substantial amount of approximately Rs 2.5 to 3 crore as funds were raised. This remarkable achievement has covered the expenses for Ayaan's first year of treatment, resulting in significant improvements in his condition. Ayaan's remarkable artistic talent, honoured with a UNESCO award, reflects his passion for history and global conflicts. His art transcends borders, raising awareness about DMD worldwide. To support his ongoing treatment and showcase his talent, his parents have organized an art exhibition in Mumbai. It's not just a display of his skills but a call for community support, urging donations to aid in his fight against DMD.





10 - 16 February 2024

Modi govt confers Bharat Ratna on veteran BJP leader Advani The Modi government recently conferred India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, BJP veteran and former Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani. This gesture is viewed as a token of gratitude to the saffron stalwart, who played a pivotal role in transforming the BJP into a major political force. Advani's strategic decisions and effective opposition to ideological opponents have been instrumental in shaping the party's trajectory. Prime Minister Modi's announcement of the decision, made on X, came shortly after the 'Pran Pratistha' ceremony of Ram Lalla in Ayodhya. This event marked the culmination of a movement that Advani, as BJP president, passionately sup-

share that Shri L K Advani Ji will be conferred the Bharat Ratna. One of the most respected statesmen of our times, his contribution to the development of India is monumental. His is a life that started from working at the grassroots to serving the nation as our Deputy Prime Minister,” Modi L K Advani said. ported. His pledge of the “Advani Ji’s decadesparty's backing and subselong service in public life has quent rath yatra played a sigbeen marked by an unwanificant role in galvanising vering commitment to support for the construction transparency and integrity, of the temple in Ayodhya. setting an exemplary stanAdditionally, Advani's leaddard in political ethics. He ership solidified the BJP's has made unparallelled position as a credible alterefforts towards furthering native to "secular" parties. national unity and cultural “I am very happy to resurgence,” he said.

No new taxes proposed in Gujarat’s £33.2 bn budget Gujarat Finance Minister Kanu Desai presented a surplus Budget of £33.24 billion for 2024-25, prioritizing nutrition, health, and education. Among significant announcements, Desai revealed plans to upgrade seven municipalities Navsari, Gandhidham, Morbi, Vapi, Anand, and Mehsana into municipal corporations, expanding the state's urban footprint from its current 50 per cent. Currently, Gujarat hosts eight municipal corporations. Desai emphasised the need for these new municipal corporations to enhance town management, given that the state's urban population is projected to reach 75 per cent by 2047. This move will increase the number of municipal corporations in

the Saurashtra-Kutch region to seven. Notably, Porbandar, despite having a higher population than Surendranagar, Gandhidham, and Morbi, will remain a municipality. While not imposing any new taxes, the Budget proposed tax relief to the tune of £75.4 million. Another relief announced was on stamp duty being paid by members of credit cooperative societies on getting loan. The Budget allocated maximum

provision for the education It also department. announced a new scholarship scheme – Namo Saraswati – to promote school students from low and middle income households studying science and technology. The Budget allocated £ 2 billion for the health and family welfare department, which is 32 per cent more than the current year’s allocation.

Shooter Maharashtra MLA booked India guns for 12 more 'eyes in sky' under SC/ST Act Amid escalating tensions within the BJPSena alliance, BJP MLA Ganpat Gaikwad, arrested for firing at Kalyan Shiv Sena chief Mahesh Gaikwad, is now facing charges under the SC/ST Atrocities Act for allegedly using caste slurs before the altercation. The confrontation between the MLA and Sena activist from the Shinde camp was reportedly sparked by a land dispute. According to police sources, Madhumati Jadhav, who filed the complaint, had been in contention with Ganpat over ownership of a 5-acre plot in Dwarli village in Kalyan for several years. Additionally, a separate FIR has been lodged against 40 BJP workers for violating prohibitory orders by assembling outside an Ulhasnagar

surgery. “He is currently in the ICU and has been placed on a ventilator.” He mentioned that Gaikwad was receiving proper medical care and treatment as advised by doctors, emphasising Ganpat Gaikwad & Mahesh Gaikwad that the police are court while the MLA was conducting a comprehensive being produced and raising investigation. According to slogans. Gatherings in police sources, the altercaUlhasnagar have been protion between Ganpat and hibited due to escalating Mahesh occurred when the tensions resulting from the latter was approached by shooting incident. Madhumati Jadhav's family Mahesh Gaikwad’s confor assistance in a land disdition remains critical but pute. Allegedly, Mahesh and stable, said Thane guardian his supporters vandalized minister Shambhuraj Desai, the plot in question. This act who visited him in hospital. prompted Ganpat’s son, Thane guardian minister Vaibhav, to approach Hill Shambhuraj Desai told Line police to lodge an FIR, reporters that Sena activist which subsequently led to Mahesh Gaikwad who was the firing in the senior shot by BJP MLA Ganpat inspector’s cabin in the Gaikwad had undergone a Ulhasnagar police station.

UCC bill tabled in Uttarakhand sparks fresh debate The introduction of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) bill in the Uttarakhand Assembly has sparked a fervent debate, with All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) legislator Aminul Islam from Assam raising concerns regarding the bill's purported universality. Referring to the exemption given to Scheduled Tribes in the bill, Islam questioned the essence of a uniform code if certain communities were excluded. Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami presented the bill in the House as treasury benches welcomed its tabling with thumping of desks and chants of "Jai Sri Ram" and "Vande Mataram". Once it becomes an act, Uttarakhand will become

the first state in the country after Independence to adopt the UCC. Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahali of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) cautioned against the imposition of uniformity in personal laws. “As far as UCC is concerned, we are of the opinion that uniformity cannot be brought in each and every law and if you exempt any community from this UCC, how can it be called a uniform code?” Mahali asked rhetorically. “There was no need for any such uniform civil code. After the draft is presented before the Assembly, our legal team study this and then the further course of action will be decided,” he added.

Before the bill was tabled in Uttarakhand Assembly, there were protests inside the House by opposition members who said they were not given time to study its provisions. "It seems the government wants to pass the bill without a debate in violation of the legislative traditions," Leader of Opposition Yashpal Arya said. BJP leaders, however, were jubilant over the tabling of the bill, with former Uttarakhand CM Tirath Singh Rawat accusing detractors of misleading the public and obstructing progress. Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Saugata Roy said that the BJP can do so in states ruled by their party but it will not be possible in West Bengal.

India is accelerating efforts to develop and deploy advanced indigenous airborne earlywarning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, also known as "eyes in the sky," to enhance surveillance and detection capabilities along the China and Pakistan borders. These aircraft will also aid in directing friendly fighters during air combat engagements with enemy jets. The DRDO-IAF collaboration is actively advancing programs to develop six Mark-1A and six Mark-2 versions of the Netra AEW&C aircraft. Three of these aircraft were previously built and inducted starting from February 2017. Sources indicate that the Ministry of Defence will consider the acceptance of necessity (AoN) for the six Mark-1A aircraft next week. These aircraft will be equipped with active electronically scanned array

antenna-based radars, electronic and signal intelligence systems, and will be mounted on Brazilian Embraer jets at an estimated cost of around £900 million. “These six AEW&C aircraft will be like the first three Embraer-145 jet-based Netra, which have 240-degree radar coverage. But there will be better software and more advanced technologies like new gallium nitride-based TR (transmit/receive) modules for the radars,” a source said. Developmental work on the six Mark-2 aircraft is progressing rapidly. These aircraft will feature larger and more advanced versions of the AEW&C radars and sensors. They are set to be mounted on second-hand Airbus-321 planes purchased from Air India. The project is already in an advanced stage, with an estimated cost of Rs 10,990 crore.

Narayan Seva Sansthan distributes over 602 modular limbs in Kenya


arayan Seva Sansthan, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving humanity, organized free camps in various cities across Kenya and provided over 602 Narayan Modular limbs to amputees. The camps, held in Nairobi, Kisumu, Kissi, Meru and Mombasa and a number of amputees received life-changing prosthetic limbs. These initiatives were made possible through collaboration with esteemed partners, including Lord Mahavir Swami Followers (Nairobi), Pride Enterprises Ltd, Nemchand Kachra & late Zaverchand Ramji Gudka & Family (Kisumu), Visa Oshwal Community (Kissi), Hindu Samaj Meru, and Mombasa Cement. Suryakant Challa (President NSS Kenya Chapter) coordinated the camps and arrangements for the team of medical experts and support staff from Udaipur, India headquarter of NSS India who travelled to Kenya. The camps not only distributed modular limbs but also facilitated the measurement of over 750 prosthetic devices to ensure a perfect fit for each recipient in the next series of camps to be conducted in April. One of the highlights of the event was the presence of Dr. Ida Odinga, wife of Raila Odinga, Former Prime Minister of Kenya, who attended the camp in Kisumu. Prashant Agarwal, President of Narayan Seva Sansthan, expressed his gratitude and commitment to the cause, stating, "These camps mark another milestone in our mis-

sion to empower amputees. Narayan Seva Sansthan is dedicated to providing free and high-quality prosthetic limbs to those in need. We are grateful for the support of our partners and volunteers who make these initiatives possible." Over the last three years, the Sansthan has organized 12 camps, distributing more than 1,500 modular limbs to individuals across various regions. Ravish Kavdia, heading the camps, said that the Sansthan is serving humanity by providing medical, educational, and rehabilitation services to the differently-abled and economically disadvantaged individuals.





10 - 16 February 2024

in brief


Court bars non-Hindus from entering Tamil Nadu temples MADURAI: The Madras High Court directed the Tamil Nadu HR&CE department to install boards in all Hindu temples stating non-Hindus were not permitted beyond the 'Kodimaram' (flagpole) area in the respective shrines and said Hindus also have fundamental right to profess and practice their religion. Justice S Srimathy of the HC's Madurai Bench gave the judgment while hearing a plea from D Senthilkumar, who sought directions to the respondents to permit Hindus alone to the Arulmigu Palani Dhandayuthapani Swamy temple and its sub temples. He also wanted that display boards to that effect in all entrances be set up. The famous Lord Murugan temple is located in Palani in Dindigul district. The respondents were the Tamil Nadu government, represented by Principal Secretary, Department of Tourism, Culture and Religious Endowments, The Commissioner, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department (HR&CE) and the Executive Officer of the Palani temple. The HR&CE department administers Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu.

Admitting the petition, the court directed the respondents to install boards indicating "non-Hindus are not allowed inside temple after Kodimaram" in the entrance of the temples, near the flagpole and at prominent places in the shrine. "The respondents are directed not to allow the non-Hindus who do not believe in Hindu religion. If any Non-Hindu claims to visit particular deity in the temple, then the respondents shall obtain undertaking from the said non-Hindu that he is having faith in the deity and he would follow the customs and practices of Hindu religion and also abide by the temple customs and on such undertaking the said non-Hindu may be allowed to visit the temple," the court ruled.

Governor sends back 15 PFI MEN GET DEATH BJP NETA’S MURDER ordinance on 60% use of AFOR court in Kerala’s Mavelikkara awarded death sentence to 15 persons associated with the Kannada in signboards now banned Popular Front of India (PFI) for BENGALURU: Karnataka Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot has sent back an ordinance mandating 60 per cent use of Kannada in signboards of businesses and establishments to the state government. This was revealed by Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar. "We (the government) approved an ordinance on signboards. The Governor has sent it back saying it should be passed in the Assembly. He could have given his assent now. Giving protection and respect to Kannada is our government's commitment," Shivakumar said. However, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the Governor has sent the ordinance back to the government, and wants a bill to be placed before the Legislature and passed, considering that the Legislature session is round the corner. The Karnataka Cabinet had on January 5, given its approval to an ordinance to amend the Kannada Language Comprehensive Development Act that mandates 60 per cent use of the state's language in signages. As of now, the law requires the use of Kannada language in the upper half of signboards, displaying the names of businesses. The government had decided to take the ordinance route in the wake of violent protests by pro-Kannada organisations targeting businesses and establishments in Bengaluru for not giving prominence to Kannada.


Supreme Court slams presiding officer's conduct in Chandigarh mayoral poll NEW DELHI: Days after the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) approached the Supreme Court alleging “cheating" in the results of Chandigarh mayoral polls, the apex court slammed the conduct of the presiding officer and called it a “mockery of democracy." The Supreme Court directed the administration that all ballot papers and videos related to the Chandigarh mayoral polls must be handed over to the registrar of Punjab and Haryana High Court. The Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud-led bench which included Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra observed that the returning officer Anil Masih must be prosecuted as he was clearly seen defacing the ballot papers on video. "It is obvious that he has defaced the ballot papers, he needs to be prosecuted. Why is he looking at the camera. Mr Solicitor, this is a mockery of democracy and murdering democracy. We are appalled. Is this behaviour of a returning officer. Wherever there is cross at bottom, he does

not touch it and when it is at the top he alters it, please tell returning officer that Supreme Court is watching him," Bar and Bench quoted Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud as saying. The apex court ordered that the February 7 meeting of Chandigarh municipal corporation must be deferred until further instructions. The Supreme Court's strict observations come as AAP alleged that the returning officer defaced the ballot papers to declare its votes invalid and announced BJP candidate Manoj Sonkar as the winner of the election. The AAP and Congress were fighting the Chandigarh mayoral election in an alliance and had a comfortable majority of 20 votes in a 35-member House. The BJP had 15 votes- 14 from councilors and one from MP Kirron Kher. But, after the elections, the BJP candidate was declared the winner with 16 votes while 8 votes of the AAP-Congress alliance were declared invalid.

Punjab governor resigns, Day after meeting Shah CHANDIGARH: Punjab governor Banwarilal Purohit, who also serves as Chandigarh UT administrator, submitted his resignation to President Droupadi Murmu, citing personal reasons. Purohit’s resignation comes a day after his meeting with home minister Amit Shah in New Delhi. Shah’s office had shared a picture of the meeting. This follows BJP’s victory in Chandigarh mayoral elections on Jan 30, which sparked allegations of rigging from INDIA bloc, comprising AAP and Congress, prompting them to approach Punjab and Haryana HC. Purohit assumed office in Sept 2021. His tenure of less than three years saw frequent clashes with Bhagwant Mann-led AAP govt over various issues. His relationship with Mann soured after the CM accused him of “ridiculing” the office of the governor, leading to verbal exchanges between the two.Purohit also expressed dissatisfaction with Mann’s refusal to remove a “tainted” minister. The governor’s visits to border villages and objections to certain assembly sessions added to the friction. The govt also criticised him for not approving five bills passed by the assembly last year.

the murder of BJP’s OBC morcha state secretary Ranjith Sreenivasan in Alappuzha more than two years ago. The 15 men were convicted on Jan 20, but only 14 of them were present in the court when additional sessions judge V G Sreedevi pronounced the verdict, as one convict was in hospital. Sreenivasan was attacked and killed at his home on Dec 19, 2021 in front of his family, just hours after SDPI leader KS Shan was murdered by a gang in Alappuzha. SDPI is believed to be PFI’s political arm, but had escaped the ban imposed by the Centre on PFI and its affiliated outfits in Sept 2022.

JD(S) LIKELY TO CONTEST 4 LS SEATS IN KARNATAKA BJP and Janata Dal (Secular), which announced their alliance for Lok Sabha elections in Karnataka last Sept, are reportedly on the verge of finalising the seat-sharing arrangement. According to sources, BJP is set to contest 24 of the 28 seats, while JD(S) is likely to field candidates in 4 constituencies. Despite the brewing anticipation, leaders of both parties remain tight-lipped about the details, with plans to make it official after the elections are formally announced. The sources revealed that the seats allocated to JD(S) include Mandya, Hassan, Kolar and Chikkaballapur. Initially, the party had expressed interest in contesting from Tumkur and Bangalore Rural, apart from Mandya, Hassan and Chikkaballapur, they added. All four seats that sources say have gone in the JD (S) quota, are Vokkaliga strongholds.

AAP MAY FIELD 5 PUNJAB MINISTERS FOR LOK SABHA POLL As the ruling party begins exercise to strategise for the upcoming Lok Sabha poll, it is likely to fall back on “personality-based politics”. With elections to the Lok Sabha expected to be announced within a month, the Aam Aadmi Party proposes to bring in prominent faces of the party to jump in the fray. The party is “actively considering” the names of five sitting ministers who will throw their hats in the political arena as the party prepares to contest the poll independently in Punjab. Though no one within the party is willing to go on record, sources said that the names of five ministers are under consideration for being named as candidates for Amritsar, Patiala, Sangrur, Bathinda and Faridkot Lok Sabha seats. The ministers represent Assembly constituencies that are part of the Lok Sabha constituencies from where they will fight.


MAMATA SKIPS ‘ONE NATION, ONE ELECTION’ Budget session begins in Bengal without governor's speech MEET IN DELHI KOLKATA: The Budget minister in Mamata Banerjee's the issue inside the House. followed," said a source in the session of the Bengal Assembly started on Monday without the conventional speech by governor C V Ananda Bose amid apprehensions of a fresh round of confrontation between the Mamata Banerjee government and Raj Bhavan. Multiple officials and senior legislators claimed in recent memory this was the first time that a Budget session in the Bengal Assembly started without a speech by the governor. "It is conventional that every Budget session starts with the governor's speech. This year the convention was not

Assembly. Though the office of Bose did not release any statement on it, multiple sources confirmed that Raj Bhavan was contemplating "action" for the breach in convention. "No budget session can begin without the speech of the governor and it did not happen earlier. Raj Bhavan is observing the developments and contemplating its further course of action," said a source in Raj Bhavan. Speaker Biman Banerjee, when asked about the reason behind starting the Budget session without the governor's speech, said he would speak on

"Whatever I have to say about the governor's speech, will say inside the House," he told mediapersons. Several veteran Trinamool legislators claimed that the governor's speech was not necessary because the previous session had been adjourned sine die and the House was only reconvened on Monday. "There is no controversy or questions over the governor's speech as the session was a continuation of the earlier session. If an ongoing session was not dissolved, then there is no question of starting it with the speech," said Manas Bhuniya, a senior MLA and

cabinet. However, a senior official at Raj Bhavan raised the question of how the state government can present two Budgets in a financial year if the Budget session was a continuation of the previous one. The official said: "We have two questions. First, if it is a fresh Budget session, then how it was started without the governor's speech? Second, if it was a continuation of its earlier session, then how the state government can pass two budgets in a year?" "The government is yet to send the Budget copy to governor," he added.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who was scheduled to fly to Delhi on Monday to attend a meeting on 'One Nation One Election' on Tuesday, cancelled her trip at the last moment citing the state budget. Meanwhile, Suvendu Adhikari, BJP legislator and leader of the opposition in the state legislative assembly, who met finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday, hinted that the centre could send a team to West Bengal to probe into allegations that the state administration was using funds under the 15th finance commission to pay electricity bills of state government buildings. “I have cancelled my Delhi trip because the state budget is scheduled on February 8. Today we held a cabinet meeting to discuss budget-related issues. As I have just two days in hand and it is an emergency situation, I have cancelled in the trip,” she said.





10 - 16 February 2024

Sitharaman shuns sweeteners, focuses on fiscal fitness in budget Budgets, particularly the pre-poll vote on account version, have traditionally been utilised to convey politically charged messages through tax proposals and welfare programs. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also conveyed a strong message, despite refraining from echoing Prime Minister Modi's "we'll be back" remark. It wasn't solely her assertion that "we anticipate that our government, owing to its remarkable achievements, will once again receive a resounding mandate from the people"; the absence of concessions or giveaways underscored that this was more than just a hopeful declaration. Classically, a ‘vote on account’ was meant to be

Nirmala Sitharaman

just that – an account of receipts and expenditure and to seek parliamentary sanction for funds to keep the wheels of govt running till a full-fledged budget was presented after elections. The FM said as much: “In keeping with convention, I do not propose to make any changes relating to taxa-

tion…” Modi has long derided the culture of freebies or revdis, as he calls them. Rather than make the kind of populist announcements that have characterised the last several interim budgets, Sitharaman’s 56-minute speech focused on show overtures in the form of tax sweeteners as well as sops. The budget, marking her sixth consecutive presentation equalling Morarji Desai's tenure underscores the NDA's confidence, having governed for a decade, in securing a third term in the upcoming LS polls. It follows a day

after the government highlighted its key accomplishments and outlined its assumed approach for the next term. Achievements cited included “housing-for-all”, har ghar jal, electricity-forall, cooking gas-for-all, bank accounts and financial services-for-all sche mes “in record time”. The free foodgrain scheme was also part of the list of Modi govt’s “pro-poor” programmes. This, the FM said, showed that while social justice was “mostly a political slogan” for earlier govts, under Modi, it was “an effective and necessa ry governance model”. Covering all eligible people was true social justice and genuine secularism, she asserted.

11 killed, over 100 hurt in cracker factory blast in MP At least 11 people were killed and over 100 others reportedly injured in the explosion at a firecracker factory in Madhya Pradesh's Bairagarh village in Harda district. Sources said that the magnitude of the blast was so huge that it engulfed more than 50 homes near the factory. It is also reported that there was a large quantity of gunpowder inside the factory, which led to the explosion. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Mohan Yadav has expressed grief over the incident and said that the guilty behind this blast will not be spared at any cost. He

said that the state government will take strict action against the culprits. "The incident is heartwrenching. In view of the seriousness of this incident, I have postponed the night stay programme of Aharwada village of

Chhindwara district. We will not spare the culprits of the arson. The state government will take strict action against the culprits," the CM wrote on his X account. Yadav has also instructed the burn units of Indore and Bhopal Medical colleges to prepare in advance for the incoming patients. Also, a green corridor has also been made from Harda to Bhopal so that the victims can be swiftly taken to the hospitals for treatment.

More than 35 ambulances have been sent from various districts to Harda to cope with any emergency at the blast site. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced Rs 200,000 compensation to the family of each deceased and Rs 50,000 to injured people. He also expressed his condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones in the explosion. President Droupadi Murmu also expressed grief over the incident and expressed condolences to the bereaved families.

Temple razed, mosque built Govt asks Indians to leave at Mathura temple complex, Rakhine state in Myanmar India issued the first advidirect implications for the says ASI in RTI reply security of the country. sory for its citizens in The remarks by exterMyanmar following a sharp

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), in response to an RTI query, has revealed information derived from historical records found in a 1920 gazette regarding the Mathura's Krishna Janmabhoomi temple complex. According to the ASI, an excerpt from the November 1920 gazette states: "Portions of Katra mound which are not in the possession of nazul tenants on which formerly stood a temple of Keshavdev which was dismantled and the site utilised for the mosque of Aurangzeb...". Ajay Pratap Singh, a resident of Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh, filed the RTI seeking specific information about the dismantling of the Keshavdev temple, which is claimed to be part of the Krishna Janmabhoomi temple complex. The response to the RTI came from the office of the superintending archaeologist of the ASI, Agra circle. This confirmation is being viewed as a significant

development by those advocating for the removal of the Shahi Idgah mosque from the site. Advocate Mahendra Pratap Singh, president of Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi Mukti Nyas, said that “he will place the key piece of evidence before Allahabad HC and SC”. “On basis of historical evidence, we had in our petition mentioned that Aurangzeb issued a decree in 1670 CE to demolish the temple of Keshavdev in Mathura. Following that, Shahi Idgah Mosque was built there. Now ASI in reply to the RTI query has attested the information. We’ll put forward the ASI reply in the HC during the next hearing on Feb22,” Singh said

downturn in the security situation, asking citizens to immediately leave Rakhine state. Rakhine state is among the areas where armed ethnic groups have registered significant successes against Myanmar’s junta since three powerful organisations launched an offensive last October. “In view of the deteriorating security situation, disruption of means of telecommunications, including landlines, and severe scarcity of essential commodities, all Indian citizens are advised not to travel to the Rakhine state of Myanmar,” said the advisory issued by the external affairs ministry. “Those Indian citizens who are already in Rakhine state are advised to leave the state immediately,” the advisory said. Last week, India had expressed concern at the violence and instability in Myanmar on the third anniversary of the 2021 coup by the junta and said developments there have

nal affairs ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal came hours after Myanmar’s military rulers extended a state of emergency that has been in place since the coup that ousted the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

Shringar Gauri puja resumes in Gyanvapi cellar after 30 years Vedic chants and prayer bells echoed in Gyanvapi Masjid's southern cellar after 30 years. Varanasi district judge Ajaya Krishna Vishvesha permitted a priestly family to resume worship of Hindu deities there. Apart from the plaintiff's family members and a priest from Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust, senior district officials, police, and Vedic scholar Ganeshwar Shastri Dravid were present during the post-midnight puja. Elaborate morning rituals, deity offerings (bhog), and afternoon aarti ensued -rituals once diligently performed by the Vyas family until the cellar's closure by the state administration in December 1993. As evening aarti commenced, a sizable queue of devotees had formed outside the basement, eager for a glimpse of the presiding deity through a small window. However, the administration restricted entry to only members of Shailendra Vyas's family and the designated priest, Om Prakash Mishra. In compliance with the district judge's order, a gate has been installed after creating a passage in the steel barricading of the Gyanvapi mosque,” said Varanasi district magistrate S Rajalingam, appointed receiver of the southern cellar. HC refuses to stay puja Meanwhile, Allahabad high court did not give any immediate relief to the Gyanvapi Masjid committee that had challenged the order of the Varanasi court allowing Hindu prayers in the southern cellar of the mosque. Justice Rohit Ranjan Agrawal passed the order while hearing an appeal filed by the Anjuman Intizamia Masajid Committee (AIMC) which looks after the affairs of the Gyanvapi mosque - against the Varanasi district court’s order.

Indian embassy staffer ‘spying’ for ISI arrested in UP A Moscow-based Indian embassy staffer visiting his native Hapur for a wedding in the family was arrested by UP's Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) on charges of spying for Pakistan’s ISI. Satendra Siwal (27), whom MEA deputed to the Russian capital as a security assistant in 2021, confessed to his involvement in “antiIndia activities” during his interrogation in Meerut after being detained the previous evening, ATS officials said. He was remanded in judicial custody for 14 days. Siwal’s arrest was based on an anonymous tip-off received by ATS. “ISI handlers have been trying to lure MEA employees with money and extract classified

information, including about Indian military installations. Siwal is one of them,” ADGP (ATS) Mohit Agarwal said. After verifying the information through technical & physical surveillance, Siwal was taken for questioning to ATS's field unit in Meerut. The accused allegedly passed on classified information related to the Indian Army and foreign and defence ministries to the ISI. Siwal was employed as a multitasking staff in the MEA. It’s not clear yet if Siwal was working only for money or if he was honeytrapped by the ISI, like several low-level staff in the past in the Indian mission in Islamabad.

India to fence entire 1,643 km-long Myanmar border Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the government has decided to construct a fence along the entire 1643-kilometer-long Indo-Myanmar border to facilitate better surveillance. In his post on X, Amit Shah said the the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government is committed to building impenetrable borders. “It has decided to construct a fence along the entire 1643-kilometer-long Indo-Myanmar border. To facilitate better surveillance, a patrol track along the border will also be paved,” he said. “Out of the total border length, a 10 km stretch in Moreh, Manipur, has already been fenced. Furthermore, two pilot projects of fencing through a Hybrid

Surveillance System (HSS) are under execution. They will fence a stretch of one km each in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. Additionally, fence works covering approximately 20 km in Manipur have also been approved, and Amit Shah the work will start soon,” he added. The India-Myanmar border stretches 1,643 km across Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh. The Free Movement Regime (FMR) permits tribal residents within 16 km of the border to travel up to 16 km into the other country without a visa. Each member of the hill tribes, whether an Indian or Myanmar citizen, can cross with a border pass valid for a year, staying up to two weeks.

26 Valentine's Day




10 - 16 February 2024

A magical February experience awaits

Express your love with thoughtful tokens


his February, the focus isn't solely on Valentine's Day but also on the half-term break, offering a wonderful opportunity for both romantic celebrations and family bonding. Whether spending quality time with loved ones or enjoying a special outing with a partner, Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole offer an abundance of winter wildlife, creative crafts, and captivating trails, ensuring an unforgettable experience for everyone involved. With 15 miles of stunning coastline to explore for free and a plethora of activities and adventures tailored to entertain and delight all ages, there's no better time to plan your short break. Bournemouth: When in Bournemouth, immerse yourself in art at the Russell Cotes Art Gallery and Museum while the little ones embark on an exciting trail through this historic house, uncovering hidden treasures from February 10th to 18th. You can also enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Lower Gardens, pausing at the Hedgehog Park Café for a comforting hot chocolate, then head to Rock Reef at the end of Bournemouth Pier for an exhilarating challenge to see who can climb the highest. Glide across the ice at the Cool Coast Ice Rink in the Bournemouth International Centre or explore the archaeologically renowned Hengistbury Head. Begin your journey at the Visitor Centre for a glimpse into history, then embark on a scenic walk over the headland and onto the

Highcliffe Castle, Christchurch

renowned Mudeford Spit. Christchurch: Families can delight in half-price admission to Highcliffe Castle on Valentine's Day, with interactive stained glass activities for little ones and fairy tale activities from February 11th to 15th. Step into a magical world of bubbles at the Red House Museum on February 15th,

Hengistbury Head, Bournemouth

where you'll learn bubble tricks, play games, and immerse yourself in this enchanting workshop. Poole: In Poole, embark on a winter wildlife adventure at Upton Country Park on February 14th, with

experts on hand to guide you through minibeast hunting, bird counts, crafts, and more. From February 10th to 18th, solve riddles leading to hidden activities around the park—a perfect outing for you and your four-legged friends! Head to Poole Park and challenge your family to a round of crazy golf, followed by a visit to the adventure playground. Then, treat yourselves to a refreshing ice cream from one of the park's eateries. Hop aboard a City Cruises boat and marvel at breathtaking views of Brownsea Island, Sandbanks, Studland Bay, and more as you cruise around the harbour. With such a diverse array of activities during the February half-term, you're truly spoiled for choice. For more information on activities and events taking place throughout the week, visit BCP Council's tourism web pages.

Romantic dining at Indian restaurants As Valentine's Day approaches, many couples are searching for the perfect way to celebrate their love and create lasting memories. Indian restaurants provide a unique and flavorful option for those looking to enjoy a romantic evening. With their exotic spices, rich flavours, and cosy ambiance, Indian eateries offer an ideal setting to express affection and appreciation for your partner. On the occasion of Valentine's Day 2024, Babur, the renowned gourmet Indian restaurant, has meticulously curated a limited edition set menu to enchant diners with a memorable culinary experience. Featuring a sumptuous three-course meal complemented by a delightful welcome drink, this exclusive menu caters to both non-vegetarian and vegetarian preferences, ensuring that every guest's palate is tantalised with exquisite flavours and textures. From the vibrant heart of London, Yaatra Restaurant invites guests to embark on a culinary journey like no other with their exclusive five-course meal, available from February 12th to 17th, 2024. Crafted with precision and passion by Executive Chef Amit Bagyal and Head Chef Velino Goes. For vegetarians, the Tandoori roast cauliflower steak, accompanied by pickled mushroom and red curry sauce, takes centre stage as the showstopper, offering a harmonious

blend of flavours and textures. For dessert, they are offering rose panna cotta, adorned with raspberry and lemon verbena. Non-vegetarian options are also available, ensuring that every guest's culinary preferences are catered to with the same level of care and creativity. For a special Valentine’s Day treat, Gunpowder restaurant offers a delectable Wild Mushroom and Truffle Puff paired with Chapter 1 Gunpowder Sparkling. This exclusive pairing promises a delightful blend of flavours and aromas to enhance your dining experience and create cherished moments of romance. Indulge in a spicy culinary experience at one of Vivek Singh’s modern Indian restaurants—The Cinnamon Club (Westminster), Cinnamon Kitchen City, and Battersea, and Cinnamon Bazaar (Covent Garden)—

Wild Mushroom and Truffle Puff from Gunpowder restaurant

Chefs at Babur restaurant

on February 14, 2024. Treat your loved one to a menu of decadent Indian dishes bursting with flavor, complemented by a glass of Francoise Monay Rosé Champagne. Sample dishes include pan-seared Scottish scallops with pickled radish and mango coconut chutney, crab and kokum crust with Keralan seafood bisque and lemon rice, and gulab jamun cheesecake with passionfruit sauce. Not an Indian restaurant but you can experience luxury and romance with the launch of a special Valentine's Afternoon Tea at the prestigious 5 * Great Scotland Yard Hotel, in collaboration with Floris London. Available from February 12th to 18th, 2024, this sumptuous offering curated by head pastry chef Veronica Garrido Martinez promises to captivate the senses with an array of delectable treats, creating unforgettable moments of romance.


alentine's Day, celebrated worldwide as a day of love and romance, inspires individuals to express their affection for their significant others in memorable ways. One of the most cherished traditions of this holiday is the exchange of gifts, symbolising appreciation, admiration, and devotion. The act of gift-giving on Valentine's Day is an opportunity to deepen emotional connections and create lasting memories. Whether you're celebrating a new romance, a longstanding partnership, or cherished friendships, there is no shortage of meaningful gifts to express your sentiments and make this Valentine's Day truly unforgettable. In this guide, we will explore a diverse range of gift ideas, each carefully selected to convey love and admiration on this special day. 1. Personalised jewellery: Nothing says "I love you" like a piece of personalised jewellery. Consider gifting a necklace with a pendant engraved with your partner's initials or a bracelet adorned with both of your initials intertwined. For your Galentine, opt for a friendship bracelet customised with a heartfelt message or a birthstone necklace symbolising your enduring bond. 2. Romantic getaway: Treat your Valentine to a romantic getaway where you can escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and create cherished memories together. Plan a weekend retreat to a cosy cabin in the mountains or book a luxury beach resort for a relaxing seaside escape. For your Galentine, consider organising a girls' trip to a charming bed and breakfast or a vibrant city known for its shopping and nightlife. 3. Handwritten love letters: In a digital age, there's something incredibly romantic about a handwritten love letter. Take the time to pour your heart out on paper and express your deepest feelings for your Valentine or Galentine. Share fond memories, express gratitude for their presence in your life, and let them know how much they mean to you. 4. Customised photo album: Compile your favourite memories together in a beautifully customised photo album or scrapbook. Include photographs from special moments you've shared, such as vacations, celebrations, and spontaneous adventures. Add handwritten notes and captions to accompany each photo, reflecting on the joy and love you've experienced together. 5. Spa day experience: Treat your loved one to a day of pampering and relaxation with a luxurious spa day experience. Book a couple's massage for you and your Valentine to enjoy together, followed by access to the spa's amenities such as saunas, hot tubs, and relaxation lounges. For your Galentine, organise a spa day outing with facials, manicures, and pedicures, allowing you both to unwind and rejuvenate while bonding over shared experiences. 6. Subscription box: Sign your Valentine or Galentine up for a subscription box tailored to their interests and passions. Whether they're a bookworm, a beauty enthusiast, a fitness fanatic, or a foodie, there's a subscription box out there to cater to their preferences. Choose a monthly delivery of books, skincare products, workout gear, or gourmet snacks to show them that you care about their happiness and well-being all year round. 7. Out of box idea: Ditching the conventional gifts in favour of heartfelt and unique gestures is a testament to your deep connection. Consider timeless and exquisite items like limited-edition Valentinethemed leather photo albums or journals. Alternatively, opt for a special accessory like a sustainable, vibrant pink and red umbrella, adding a touch of uniqueness to your Valentine's Day celebration.





10 - 16 February 2024

How to Protect yourself in toxic relationships Psychologist Mamta Saha


ps and downs are a natural part of all relationships, if you feel more miserable and drained than happy after spending time with certain people, it may be something else. It can be tricky to see red flags in challenging relationships and even trickier to find a way out of that space. These red flags are not exclusive to romantic relationships, they can also be found in platonic friendships and amongst family members, near and far. Pay attention to the faces and names of people that come to your mind. It can be deeply upsetting to be around negative vibrations especially if you are a sensitive person and sometimes you may feel as if you have no way to escape them. In this week’s article I will share what you can do to protect yourself if you find yourself dealing with toxic people in such situations. 1. First things first: Eating a good diet, getting quality sleep, and staying active goes a longway in reducing the tension that makes your body feel tight. It might sound simple but taking care of your physical body plays a large part in taking care of your mental health. The healthier you are the more intuitive you get. 2. Staying connected: This is a big one. Missing your family and friends can really take a toll on your mental health, so it’s important to stay connected with loved ones. Get together for dinner, a movie night, or just a chat. Be around people who give you unconditional positive regard. 3. Set Boundaries: It is impossible to fulfil all of life's obligations and take care of yourself as well; setting boundaries and learning to say "no" to those things that are not essential will allow you to carve out some time for safeguarding your mental health. For a short while, think about where you might be overly generous with your time and energy and take a step back to observe which relationships are not reciprocal and take action to adjust them for the better. 4. Value yourself: Treat yourself with kindness and respect and avoiding self-criticism. You are a valuable person just because you exist. No matter what mistakes you have made, you are still a worthy person. Use mistakes and past experiences as teachers, not as a measure of your self-worth. Make your mental health a priority. Manage your energy when supporting others and use your intuition as a guide. For a video on managing guilt when setting boundaries visit saha_mamta on IG 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.

Harness the healing power of honey for mouth ulcers Discover the natural remedy hiding in your pantry! Honey isn't just for sweetening your tea; it's also a potent cure for pesky mouth ulcers. By applying honey directly to the affected areas, you can take advantage of its antimicrobial properties to speed up the healing process and shield against infections. Remember to reapply regularly throughout the day for maximum effectiveness. Say goodbye to mouth discomfort with the soothing touch of honey. Health Views Disclaimer: The information provided is for general knowledge only and not a substitute for professional medical advice.

Can walking backward help you improve fitness and lose weight? Walking is a commonly recommended way to get exercise that has several health benefits and can aid with weight loss. For instance, a 2023 meta-analysis indicated that walking 2,337 steps daily could decrease a person’s risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and 4,000 steps could lower the chances of all-cause mortality. “Movement is healthy for a person,” says Dr. Peter Morelli, MD, a pediatric cardiologist and medical director of the Fit Kids for Life Program at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. In addition to Morelli, Healthline spoke with two certified personal trainers who discussed walking backward, why it’s trending, the potential benefits,

and how to do it safely. “Walking backward is generally exactly as it sounds,” says Rebecca Stewart. Coaches and physical therapists have used backward training as a means for cross-training and rehabilitation. Potential benefits of walking backward Typically, taking steps back (figuratively speaking) has a negative connotation. Yet, walking backward stands out to professionals

for another reason that has nothing to do with its friendliness: It could have some benefits, primarily because of the additional muscles you need to engage in order to perform the movement. Experts share that benefits of walking can include improvements in: Strength; Cardiopulmonary fitness and health; Posture; Balance; Coordination; Pain, specifically in the back and knee Mobility; Mental well-being; Focus and cognition. Walking backward puts more emphasis on the quads than walking forward. Strengthening [quad] muscles can lead to better overall leg strength and can

be especially helpful for people recovering from certain types of knee injuries. The quads aren’t the only ones getting a workout. Your calves and ankle muscles get a better workout, too, as they work harder to stabilize your steps. Your core muscles, including your abs and lower back, are more actively involved in keeping you balanced and upright. Mental benefits Walking backward is also different from walking forward because it requires more mental energy. Research published in 2019 also indicated that backward locomotions like backward walking could boost a person’s recall function.

Tomato juice can kill typhoid Some simple ways fever bacteria, finds new study to reduce risk of Tomatoes are among the most available and affordable vegetables that provides a range of health benefits due to their antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. In a recent study, scientists delved deeper into the health benefits of tomato juice: it can combat Salmonella Typhi and other harmful bacteria affecting digestive and urinary tract health. The researchers revealed that tomato juice could kill the bacteria called Salmonella Typhi, a lethal human-specific pathogen that is responsible for typhoid fever. Dr Jeongmin Song, Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Cornell University and the principal investigator of the study, expressed the primary objective: "Our main goal in this study was to determine the antibacterial properties of tomatoes and tomato juice against enteric pathogens, including Salmonella

Typhi, and identify the specific qualities that make them effective." Tomato juice can combat Salmonella Typhi and other harmful bacteria affecting digestive and urinary tract health. Subsequently, the research team delved into the tomato's genome to identify antimicrobial peptides involved in the process. These peptides, small proteins, were found to disrupt the bacterial membrane, which is crucial for the pathogen's integrity. Among four potential antimicrobial peptides, two were identified as effective against Salmonella Typhi. The researchers evaluated the efficacy of tomato juice against various enteric pathogens threatening digestive and urinary tract health. The discovery indicates that tomato juice efficiently eliminates Salmonella Typhi, including its hypervirulent variants, and other harmful bacteria affecting digestive and urinary tract health.

Eating 3 servings of kimchi daily linked to lower risk of obesity Eating up to three daily servings of kimchi could reduce men’s risk of obesity. Also, radish kimchi is associated with a lower prevalence of abdominal obesity in both men and women, according to a new study. Researchers looked at data from the Health Examinees (HEXA) study, which included 115,726 participants (36,756 men, 78,970 women who were 51 years old, on average). HEXA examines environmental and genetic risk factors for chronic health conditions among Korean adults over 40. Participants answered a 106-item food frequency questionnaire, sharing how frequently they ate certain foods, from never to 3 times a day. Height, weight and waist circumference were also measured. Results showed consuming as many as 3 daily servings of total kimchi was associated with an 11% lower prevalence of obesity compared with less than 1 daily serving. For men, 3 or more daily servings of baechu kimchi was linked to a 10% decreased prevalence of obesity and a 10% decreased prevalence of abdomi-

nal obesity compared to 1 serving. For women, 2 to 3 daily servings of baechu kimchi (napa cabbage kimchi) was linked to an 8% decreased prevalence of obesity, whereas 1 to 2 servings each day was linked with a 6% lower prevalence of abdominal obesity. In addition, consuming belowaverage quantities of kkakdugi kimchi (cubed radish kimchi) was associated with approximately a 9% lower likelihood of obesity in both men and women. “This is an observational study, so it doesn’t show that eating kimchi causes a reduction in obesity risk,” Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert and coauthor of Sugar Shock, said.

heart disease

There are many ways to reduce your risk of heart disease, including exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and keeping a healthy weight. New research has found that more than half of US adults don’t know heart disease is the leading cause of death. Fifty- one per cent of respondents in a 2023 survey conducted on behalf of the American Heart Association did not identify heart disease as the leading cause of death in the US. Only 49% of people named heart disease as the leading cause of death. Meanwhile, 16% said they didn’t know the leading cause, and 18% listed cancer as the top cause of death. Health experts say the following are some simple ways you can help reduce your risk. Know your risk: Knowing your risk can be an important first step in reducing it. Dr. Norman Lepor, cardiologist and director of the National Heart Institute, says physicians will look at several factors to determine your heart disease risk – and you might like to consider these, too. Your cholesterol levels, family history, and other risk factors like hypertension, diabetes, and smoking can all impact your heart disease risk. Eat a healthy diet: It probably won’t come as much of a surprise that eating well can reduce your risk of heart disease. “A heart-healthy diet consists of whole and unprocessed foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables,” says Dr. Rohit Vuppuluri, a double-board certified interventional cardiologist. Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity is a strong risk factor for heart disease as it increases other heart health risk factors. “High blood pressure and high bad cholesterol (LDL) go hand-inhand and are both commonly seen in obese patients,” explains Vuppuluri. “Type 2 diabetes is also seen in obese patients due to increased insulin resistance.” Exercise regularly: Physical activity is vital for maintaining and improving cardiovascular health. In fact, in a 2023 study, regular physical exercise was significantly linked with reduced risks of all-cause mortality and recurrent vascular events in patients with heart disease.





10 - 16 February 2024

Shilpa Shetty makes OTT debut in Rohit Shetty’s ‘Indian Police Force’ A

Akshay Kumar to reunite with Priyadarshan after 14 years P

riyadarshan and Suneel Darshan would always be recognized as the two directors who were the gamechangers in Akshay Kumar’s career. Priyan’s 'Hera Pheri' and Suneel Darshan’s 'Jaanwar' were the two films that put Akshay on the path to stardom.

After 14 years, the super-prolific director Priyadarshan is all set to team up with his favourite Hindi actor Akshay Kumar again. Confirming the same Priyan said, “It’s been a while since Akshay and I worked together. The last film we did together was 'Khatta Meetha' in 2010. There were several projects we discussed after that, but nothing concrete happened until now.” Giving details about his new project with Akshay, Priyan said, “It will be in the comicfantasy genre. Somehow, Hindi audiences don’t like me to do serious films. Whenever I tried, as in Tezz, Khatta Meetha or Rangrezz it didn’t click. So, comedy it is. Akshay and I hope to recreate the mirthful magic of Hera Pheri and Bhool Bhulaiya.” The Akshay-Priyadarshan comedy will be produced by Ekta Kapoor. It starts shooting in September.

ctor Shilpa Shetty recently made her OTT debut with Rohit Shetty’s ‘Indian Police Force’ and was immensely loved for her portrayal of a cop named Tara Shetty. She shares in a media interaction, “I am just happy that people loved Tara Shetty as a character. I have received a lot of love. It’s a huge compliment that it’s the most watched show and has reached a lot of people. It was great to kick ass with a tough character like that and to make other women happy. They were so happy to see me in a character like that, a strong cop role. I feel extremely privileged and proud, and humbled at the same time.” When asked if people could expect to see her in other cop roles in the future, she said, “I have literally kept my entire diary empty right now. I have to finish with KD - The Devil and now I will decide on what I want to take on next. I want it to be a clean slate,” She adds, “For the last two years I have worked so hard, I now just need to balance it with my kids and make sure that I am also responsible enough as an artist to not let down my audience. I really want to

vet the scripts that have come to me, some really interesting projects, but now I will zero in only in sometime.” Shilpa was recently honoured with the Champions of Change 2023 award. Calling it a “compliment,” she said, “It’s very sweet to acknowledge somebody’s journey and I feel championing a cause is a big thing. For me, it’s health and wellness and I always champion that cause wholeheartedly. As an artist, your job is not restricted to just cinema, you need to have an extension to your personality and I did that in wellness and health purely out of passion. To be recognised and receive an honour like that is very kind of them.” The actress feels there is an onus on her shoulders of being responsible as a celebrity. “It’s about shouldering not just the glamour but also a certain sense of playing a catalyst in some good cause so that people can take a leaf from that. Why just be aspirational only in the aspect of being starry? I want people to look up to me for the stuff I can do beyond my work. I think that we are blessed as artists to be in that special position or be recognised and we must leverage that means to good causes.”

Director Vanga stunned by Ranveer’s overwhelming reaction to ‘Animal’


andeep Reddy Vanga’s recent release ‘Animal,’ featuring Ranbir Kapoor in the lead, continues to be a subject of discussion among audiences. In a recent interview, he revealed that his conversation with actor Ranveer Singh profoundly impacted him after the film’s release. In an interview, he said, “I got the most overwhelming response from Ranveer Singh. Main khud soch mein padh gaya aisa response mila tha Ranveer Singh se (I was in disbelief at the response from

Ranveer). He spoke to me for almost 40 minutes on the phone, and he sent such a lengthy message that I had read three-four times. I can’t explain how I felt after reading his message. Bahut maza aaya message padhke (I enjoyed his messages). He wrote a lot of things about ‘Animal’ that made me realise these things are also there in the film.” Interestingly, Ranveer was considered first for the lead role in Vanga’s debut Hindi film ‘Kabir Singh,’ a remake of the Telugu blockbuster ‘Arjun Reddy.’ However, Ranveer turned down the offer, citing the film is too “dark” for him. In an earlier interview, Sandeep explained, “I was continuously getting calls from Mumbai to do the remake. First, it was pitched to Ranveer Singh. I wanted to do it with him. But finally, he decided he will not do it, because it was too dark for him at that time.” Shahid Kapoor ultimately took on the role, and despite the movie’s perceived misogynistic role, ‘Kabir Singh’ emerged as a box office success.

Poonam Pandey says 'didn't die of cervical cancer', day after 'death' post P

oonam Pandey, model and reality TV star, announced that she hasn't died of cervical cancer. Her announcement on Instagram came a day after the model's manager announced that she had died of cervical cancer. "I am alive. I didn't die of cervical cancer. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the hundreds and thousands of women who have lost their lives due to cervical cancer." "I am sorry caused this tear and I am sorry to those I have

hurt. My intention: to shock everyone into the conversation that we are not talking enough about cervical cancer," she said in another post. She said that her "death" post was an effort to initiate a conversation and spread awareness about cervical cancer.

"Unlike some other cancers, Cervical Cancer is entirely preventable. The key lies in the HPV vaccine and early detection tests. We have the means to ensure no one loses their life to this disease," she said. The model is being heavily criticised by social media users for "faking her death" to spread awareness about the disease. Poonam's team had put out a statement saying that the model died of cervical cancer. The announcement had shocked everyone in the entertainment industry. The reactions ranged from disbelief to scepticism as many had seen the model at an event in Goa three days ago.





10 - 16 February 2024

Amitabh Bachchan pens emotional note for 'most deserving' son


eteran actor Amitabh Bachchan penned an emotional note for his son Abhishek Bachchan after his recent release ‘Ghoomer’ won three awards. He took to Instagram and shared the movie poster featuring the junior Bachchan and actress Saiyami Kher.

Virat and Anushka expecting their second child F

ormer South Africa captain AB de Villiers said that he checked on Virat Kohli after the India batter withdrew from the first two Tests of the ongoing 5-match series between India and England. AB de Villiers told his fans and followers that Virat Kohli is doing fine and has been spending time with his family, adding that Kohli and Anushka Sharma were expecting the birth of their second child. AB de Villiers lauded the gesture from Virat, saying family is priority and that the superstar cricketer can't be judged for taking a break to be with his close ones during this phase of his life. Virat withdrew from the first two Tests of the series against England, citing personal reasons and the BCCI, in an detailed statement, urged fans and media not to speculate the reasons for Kohli's decision. The Indian cricket board said that Kohli discussed the call with captain Rohti Sharma and the team management before pulling out of the first two matches of the much-followed Test series. "All I know is he is fine. He is spending a bit of time with his family, that is the reason he is missing the first two Test matches. I am not going to confirm anything else. I cannot wait to see him back. He is fine, he is doing well," AB de Villiers said in his YouTube show. Virat and Anushka tied the knot in 2017. The star couple celebrated the third birthday of Vamika, their daughter, in January this year. Notably, Virat had prioritised family in 2021 as the then captain had returned home after the first of a 4-Test series to be with his wife during the birth of their first child.

His note read, “My prayers my admiration and love to you Abhishek .. you make me so proud .. most deserving .. not just this, but many more past present and future.” Fans and industry members reacted to the post, including Abhishek who posted hands emojis. Helmed by R Balki, the movie stars Abhishek, Saiyami, Angad Bedi and Shabana Azmi in the lead roles. Released on August 18 last year, the film features Abhishek as a coach whose life takes an unexpected turn when he crosses paths with a paraplegic sportsperson, played by Saiyami. Their journey together unfolds against societal challenges and personal struggles. On the work front, Amitabh will be next seen in the sci-fi action thriller film ‘Kalki 2898 AD’ alongside Deepika Padukone and Prabhas. He also has a courtroom drama film ‘Section 84’ in the pipeline.


he Bombay High Court rejected a petition by actor Kangana Ranaut seeking a stay on trial arising from a defamation complaint filed against her by lyricist Javed Akhtar. Bombay HC dismissed a writ petition filed by Kangana in the defamation case filed by Javed in 2020. She had also sought for the case to be clubbed with the cross-compliant, which she subsequently filed against him.

Not a gimmick, has to serve a purpose: AR Rahman on using AI in music


Vikrant Massey reveals what Vidhu Vinod Chopra told him before ‘12th Fail’ release


ctor Vikrant Massey is currently basking in the success of his latest release ‘12th Fail.’ In a recent interaction on the movie completing 100 days at the box office, Vikrant reveals how director Vidhu Vinod Chopra told him he is still relatively unknown in the industry despite working for a decade. Vikrant shared, “I truly believe that 12th Fail was a restart moment of my career. I would be honest when sir (Vidhu Vinod Chopra) approached me to play the role of Manoj, he told me, ‘Tujhe koi nahin janta... bahut saare log tujhe nahin jante iske bawajood tu kaam kar raha hai itne salo se (Nobody knows you… a lot of people do not know you even then you have been working in the industry for so many years)’.” He added, “So yes, it was a restart moment for me to work with such a great director, and that too on a big story. I had to go back and unlearn so many things. I

Kangana’s plea in Javed Akhtar defamation case rejected

learnt so much by working in 12th Fail. I was with sir for 2.5 years on the sets of the 12th Fail. He made me learn so much. Every day you wake up, there is a restart moment.” Vikrant and Vidhu, co-star Medha Shankar and the ‘12th Fail’ team celebrated 100 days of the movie running in cinemas. ‘12th Fail’ revolves around UPSC aspirants and is based on real-life experiences. Based on a novel by Anurag Pathak talks about the struggles of millions of students who attempt the UPSC entrance exam.

usic maestro AR Rahman recently recreated the voices of late singers Bamba Bakya and Shah Hameed for a new track using artificial intelligence software. Happy with the controversial technology, he said it allowed him to bring back the voices of his friends and past collaborators of many songs. He said that the use of technology cannot be “gimmicky” and should be done with proper permissions. Rahman said in an interview, “(You should do it) Only when you really need it and only when you can do it. It should be half-baked. It is not a gimmick, it’s an effect and has to serve the purpose.” Bakya and Hameed are credited as playback singers for the track ‘Thimiri Yezhuda’ in ‘Lal Salaam,’ directed by Rajinikanth’s daughter Aishwarya Rajinikanth. The film is scheduled to be released in theatres on February 9. The Academy Award-winning musician said when he and his team decided to use AI, they knew it was important to have the consent of the singers’ families. Rahman said, “We went to the families, asked permission, and they were overwhelmed and the compensation was given. These are all personality assets which they’ve given to the family. It’s their right to say yes or no. In this case, they said yes and we used it. There’s nothing objectionable for me because we took the legit permission.” The 57-year-old is aware of the debate surrounding artificial intelligence, with the common fear being that it may lead to job losses in different industries. He cautioned that people in leadership positions should be careful about the ethical use of technology.

According to a media report, Justice Prakash Naik passed the order and held that the proceedings could not be stayed or clubbed since Kangana had never contended that the cases were crosscases. Notwithstanding the same, Javed Akhtar’s complaint was filed first. He was quoted in the report as saying, “At this stage the relief sought in the petition cannot be granted. Earlier it was never contended by the petitioner (Kangana) that both cases are cross cases.” While Akhtar’s defamation case against the actress is ongoing before the Magistrate, Kangana’s complaint against him was stayed by the Sessions Court. In her writ petition, the actor had said that both cases had their genesis in a meeting in 2016, therefore they should be tried together. In 2020, Javed filed a complaint against Kangana after she had accused him of threatening her in an interview after calling her to his home amid her ugly fight with actor Hrithik Roshan over their alleged affair. She had then filed a counter-complaint against Javed for alleged “extortion and criminal intimidation.” She said in her complaint that following her public dispute with her ‘Krrish 3’ co-star, Hrithik, the lyricist had called her and her sister Rangoon to his house with “malafide intentions and ulterior motives and then criminally intimidated and threatened” her.





10 - 16 February 2024

Rashmika Mandanna opens up on her reaction to her deepfake video L

ast year in November, a deepfake video of Rashmika Mandanna went viral on the internet. The Delhi Police claimed to have arrested the main culprit last week. The actor has opened up about her experience and why she spoke about the issue in a new interview. Detailing how she felt about the incident, Rashmika said, “So many times this happens, and you speak about it, and someone is like, ‘But you chose this job!’ Or you know, ‘This is how it’s going to be.’ ‘Like, why are you talking about it now?’ In my head, the only thing I was thinking about was that if this happened to me in college, I wouldn’t have anyone to come and support me. Because something in our culture is that what our society thinks of us is supposed to be us. Like we have to be the way and react how society wants us to, you know, think and react, right?” She added, "So imagine some girl in her college had to go through the same thing. And I am like, dude, I am really scared for them. And if I am speaking about

it, so there's at least like 41 million people who know that, okay, there's something called the deepfake. And this is not right. There's something that is affecting emotions and causing stress in people in general. So I think bringing out that awareness was important to me.” Earlier, when the creator of the video was arrested, Rashmika expressed her gratitude to the police and also shared a message with her fans. "Girls and boys - if your image is used or morphed anywhere without your consent. It is wrong! And I hope this is a reminder that you are surrounded by people who will support you and action will be taken! (White heart emoji)." she wrote. Rashmika was last seen in Sandeep Reddy Vanga's ‘Animal.’ The film also starred Ranbir Kapoor, Bobby Deol, and Anil Kapoor in the lead roles. Rashmika will be seen in ‘Pushpa 2.’ She also has ‘Chaava’ in the pipeline, which is all set to hit theatres on December 6, 2024.

Chiranjeevi not excited on receiving the Padma Vibhushan V

eteran actor ing. This sets a Chiranjeevi was great precedent and serves as an recently felicitated by acknowledgment Telangana Chief and huge encourMinister Revanth Reddy, agement for the days after it was Padma Awardees announced that he from Telugu states. would be honoured with @TelanganaCMO.” the Padma Vibhushan. On the eve of At the event, an this year's Republic emotional Chiranjeevi Day, Chiranjeevi revealed that though he was conferred told his family he “felt Padma Vibhushan. He had expressed good” about the his gratitude for honours, he “was much the love and affechappier after receiving tion of his fans and the Padma Bhushan people. "After hearaward.” ing this news, I In his speech, the became speechless. actor said, “People in I'm really overmy house asked me whelmed. I am how I felt after receivhumbled and grateing the Padma ful for this honour. Vibhushan, and I said I It's only the unconfelt good. But, truth be ditional and invaluable love of the people, told, I was much happier after receiving audiences, fans, my blood brothers and the Padma Bhushan award. After so many blood sisters that allowed me to reach years, I was awarded the Padma here. I owe my life and this moment to Vibhushan and I was not at all excited. you. I always try to express my gratitude Sure, I was happy and I knew that I had to in ways that I can, though I know I can acknowledge this award with dignity and never do enough," he had said. respect, and I did that.” On the work front, the actor began The actor also said, “But it was truly shooting for his upcoming film the support that I got after receiving the ‘Vishwambhara.’ award that made my heart fill with joy. So many people came forward to congratulate me. From people in the cinema industry, people from various organizations and associations to ctor Thalapathy Vijay, who the politicians seated here at announced his foray into this event. It is the love that politics, has now issued a was showered upon me in this last week or so that gave statement thanking people me so much more happiness for their support. In his than actually receiving the statement, he wrote, award.” “Greetings to all. I Taking to his X account, profusely thank from the Chiranjeevi posted, “My bottom of my heart hearty thanks to the Govt of respected leaders of Telangana, Hon’ble Chief Minister @revanth_anumula various political parties, beloved film fraternity garu, Dy. CM Shri friends, affectionate @Bhatti_Mallu garu & Hon’ble ministers for warmly brothers, sisters, and felicitating me along with mothers of Tamil Nadu, my Shri @MVenkaiahNaidu garu dearest and always encouraging and all the wonderful media friends, last but not the least, ‘Padma’ Awardees this morn-

Dulquer Salmaan unveils Lucky Baskhar poster A

ctor Dulquer Salmaan, who recently completed 12 years in the industry, had a special surprise for his fans. He shared the first look if his upcoming project, titled ‘Lucky Baskhar.’ Venky Atluri will helm the Telugu film. Dulquer shared the first-look poster of the film on his X account. The poster featured the actor donning a different avatar in spectacles, looking directly at the camera with a serious look. The poster also had designs of 100 rupee notes stacked in the corners and lying around, as his character is seen taking a walk around the mess. Details about the film are kept under wraps. The project is financed by Sithara Entertainment in collaboration with Fortune Four Cinemas. In the caption, Dulquer wrote, “Celebrating twelve years of my magical journey in Cinema, here’s presenting the

first look of our very ambitious #LuckyBaskhar (fire emoticon) Lucky Baskhar First Look. Story unfolds in Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil & Hindi at the theatres near you, soon!” Reacting to the first look, a fan commented, "The detailing in this first look poster is just captivating." A second fan said, "Can't wait for this movie, best conceptual poster I have seen in a long time." A comment also read, "Best wishes! This looks so interesting.” On the work front, Dulquer will also be seen in ‘Soorarai Pottru’ director Sudha Kongara's next film with Suriya, tentatively titled ‘Suriya 43.’ It also stars Vijay Varma and Nazriya Fahadh. ‘Suriya 43’ will mark Dulquer and Nazriya's reunion ten years after Anjali Menon's 2014 Malayalam coming-of-age romantic comedy ‘Bangalore Days.’

Thalapathy Vijay announces political party


my huge pillar of support ‘En Nenjil Kudiyirukkum Thozargal’ (my followers who live in my heart) for wishing me on my new political journey for the welfare and victory of Tamil Nadu.” Vijay announced the name of his political party, Tamizhaga Vetri Kazhagam, last week. He added that he will quit cinema after his current commitments end and said he will pursue fulltime politics and his party will contest in the 2026 Tamil Nadu assembly election.

In his long official statement, Vijay said that though his fan club, Vijay Makkal Iyakkam, has been doing social work for many years, there is a need for political power to do the same in a fullfledged manner. The statement read, “You all are well aware of the political situation of Tamil Nadu. On one side, we have a dysfunctional administration and corrupt political culture, and on the other, we have divisive politics that aims to divide people along the lines of caste, creed, and religion. Both impede our progress.” “Politics is not just another career for me. It is a sacred people’s work. I have been preparing myself for it for a long time. Politics is not a hobby for me. That is my deepest desire. I want to fully involve myself in it,” he continued. Vijay is currently filming his next, ‘GOAT.’ He also has ‘Thalapathy 69’ in the pipeline.






10 - 16 February 2024

First look of Bhansali’s ‘Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar’ revealed T

he first look of filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s highly-anticipated Netflix series, ‘Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar,’ is out. Last week, the cast and makers dropped the first look and it is just as grand and dramatic as is expected from the director.

With ‘Heeramandi,’ Bhansali brings his majestic signature flair to stories of love and betrayal in the lives of courtesans in preindependence India. The series explores the cultural reality of Heeramandi, a dazzling district, through the stories of courtesans and their patrons set against the tumultuous backdrop of the Indian freedom struggle of the 1940s. The series stars Manisha Koirala, Sonakshi Sinha, Aditi Rao Hydari, Richa Chadha, Sharmin Segal, and Sanjeeda Sheikh in the lead roles. The official streaming date of the show is still awaited. However, the series is expected to drop on Netflix in 2024. Sharing the first look on Instagram, Netflix India wrote in the caption, “Here’s your first look at legendary Indian creator Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s first series EVER: Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar!” In a recent statement, the makers described the show as 'a mix of love, betrayal, succession, and politics in the kothas (house of courtesans)'. They said, “Heeramandi promises Sanjay Leela Bhansali's signature style of larger-than-life stories, intricate and soulful characters, and rippling dynamics of a world rife with conflict during a defining time period for India. Like all of the auteur's creations, Heeramandi will have unique compositions and music that linger with the audience, just like his stories.”

Pak actor Adnan Siddiqui calls ‘Fighter’ a flop show


akistani actor Adnan Siddiqui took a dig at the recently released Indian action film ‘Fighter,’ which was earlier branded as antiPakistan by some Pakistani celebs. Adnan took to X to respond to ‘Fighter’s box office numbers. The film grossed over £25 million worldwide in its opening week, but its business at the domestic box office crashed on its first Monday in theatres. Adnan wrote, “A lesson to heed for Fighter team after your flop show: Do not insult your audience’s intelligence. They can discern agendas. Let entertainment be free from unnecessary politics.” Previously, reacting to the movie trailer, the actor had tweeted, “Once celebrated for love, Bollywood now crafts hate-filled narratives, portraying us as villains. Despite our love for your films, it’s disheartening. Art transcends

boundaries; let’s use it to promote love and peace. Two nations, victims of politics, deserve better.” This is not the first time the actor, who starred in the 2017

Hindi film ‘Mom,’ alongside Sridevi, has spoken up against Indian movies. Last year, he criticised Siddharth Malhotra’s ‘Mission Majnu,’ for its “misrepresentation” of Pakistanis. He called the movie “distasteful” and “factually incorrect,” and slammed it for “poor story, poorer execution, poorest research.”

GRAMMY AWARD FOR Shankar Mahadevan, Zakir Hussain's band Shakti The Grammy Award for Best Global Music Album in 2024 was clinched by Shakti, a fusion music ensemble composed of tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain and vocalist Shankar Mahadevan, for their remarkable work, "This Moment." Alongside Hussain and Mahadevan, the album prominently features founding member guitarist John McLaughlin, as well as violinist Ganesh Rajagopalan and percussionist Selvaganesh Vinayakram.

Shakti’s “This Moment”, the group’s first studio album in more than 45 years, was released to critical acclaim in June 2023.The Recording Academy, which conducts the Grammy Awards, made the announcement on its X page. “Congrats Best Global Music Album winner ‘This Moment’ Shakti. #GRAMMYs,” the post read. Mahadevan, who took the stage alongside Rajagopalan and Selvaganesh, gave a shout-out to McLaughlin and Hussain. While McLaughlin gave the ceremony a miss, Hussain was backstage as he had won another Grammy.“We miss you John ji. Zakir Hussain, he just had another Grammy today. Thank you boys, God, family, friends and India. We are proud of you, India,” said Mahadevan in the speech, dedicating the win to his wife Sangeeta. Rajagopalan

thanked the Recording Academy for the recognition. Zakir Hussain won two more Grammys at the event: one for best global music performance for ‘Pashto’ and the other for best contemporary instrumental album for ‘As We Speak’ alongside American banjo player Bela Fleck and American bassist Edgar Meyer, featuring Indian flute player Rakesh Chaurasia, nephew of legendary flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia. The wins are being celebrated online by notable Indian figures, including composer Ricky Kej who posted on X, formerly Twitter: “This is truly India's year at the Grammys!!! Wowww … Rakesh Chaurasia, Shankar Mahadevan, Ganesh Rajagopalan, Selvaganesh Vinayakram and Ustad Zakir Hussain … India is truly shining!! Thrilled!!!! Six

Indians win in a single year.” Last year, Shakti concluded its journey with a final performance at a commemorative 50th anniversary showcase hosted at London's Hammersmith Apollo. 'Asian Voice' covered the event and published a review titled "Emotional Audience Bids Farewell to Shakti with Standing Ovation at Their Final London Show" on July 8, 2023. At the 2024 Grammys, women dominated the night, with Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, SZA, and Miley Cyrus snagging major awards. Swift made history with her fourth Album of the Year win for "Midnights." Cyrus earned her first-ever Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance with "Flowers." Eilish's "What Was I Made For?" from Barbie won Best Song of the Year and Best Song Written for Visual Media. SZA led with nine nominations and took home three awards. Victoria Monét secured Best New Artist and Best R&B Album.

Nick Jonas parties with brother-in-law Siddharth in Mumbai S

inger Nick Jonas recently visited India for his first-ever concert with his brothers, Kevin Jonas and Joe Jonas. Photos from the event and the after-party were shared online by his wife and actress Priyanka Chopra’s friends. Screenwriter, author, producer, and actor Mushtaq Shiekh shared a group photo as he took a selfie with Nick, his brothers, Priyanka’s brother Siddharth Chopra and his rumoured girlfriend Neelam Upadhyaya, Srishti Behl, Mubina Rattonsey and Tarun Mansukhani, among others. Mushtaq wrote along with the photo, “Blast Alert! Our epic ‘Adda’ turned global this time, and oh boy, did

Lollapalooza deliver the perfect excuse for a reunion! With us scattered like stars in the sky, snatching a day or two every few moons is our kind of treasure hunt. This round, with Nick flying solo to Mumbai (PeeCee, you were the

missing sparkle in our glitter bomb), we did dive headfirst into a day drenched in music, madness, and a splash of celebration.” “The concert was just the beginning – the after-party and next-day chill vibes were the cherries on top! From the electrifying beats at the concert to the after-party vibes, and unwinding with lunch the next day – we made the most of our time,” he added. Mushtaq concluded, “Though @priyankachopra was missed, video calls and technology bridged the miles, keeping FOMO at bay. Here’s to the memories, the laughs, and the mushy selfies that seal our bond. Non-stop banter, ‘wholesome’ gossip, board games which we ‘spiced’ up to make them more exciting, food coma & promises of “bahut jald” reunions. Till next time, friends- keep the spirit, lose the distance!”



10 - 16 February 2024

AsianVoiceNews AsianVoiceNewsweekly

India beat England in 2nd test, level series Indian bowlers won an engrossing battle against England's firebrand batting for a series-levelling 106-run victory in the second Test at Visakhapatnam on Monday, blunting 'Bazball' with their resilience in a roller-coaster contest. England began day four at 67 for one, chasing a record target of 399. They were bowled out for 292 in the extended afternoon session. The visiting team's noholds-barred approach, which has largely been successful, did not work on this occasion as India picked up nine wickets over the course of two sessions to bounce back in the fivematch series. The third Test will be played in Rajkot from February 15. Only Zak Crawley's (73 off 132 balls) strategy worked before

the collective efforts of Jasprit Bumrah (3/46), R Ashwin (3/71), Axar Patel (1/75), and Kuldeep Yadav (1/60) yielded the desired results for the hosts, who were under pressure going into day four. Bumrah picked up the Player of the Match honours for his overall haul of nine wickets in the game, ahead of young opener Yashasvi Jaiswal, who

India blank Pakistan 4-0 in Davis Cup The Indian Davis Cup team capped a historic visit to Pakistan after 60 years by sealing their place in World Group I as they blanked Pakistan 4-0 with Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni recording a comfortable victory and Niki Poonacha making a winning debut, in Islamabad on Sunday. Taking the court with a 2-0 lead in the pocket, Bhambri and Myneni subdued the home team of Muzammil Murtaza and Aqeel Khan 6-2, 7-6 (5) in the doubles rubber to extend India’s dominance of Pakistan in the tournament. Aqeel replaced Barkat Ullah in the side. The idea was to have an experienced player for the do-or-die match, the defeat in which would have clinched India the tie. However, Bhambri and bigserving Myneni did not put a foot wrong in the match in

which they were not troubled by their rivals much. The gulf in quality in the two teams was apparent. Myneni’s big serves were too hot to handle for the home team. Myneni hardly lost a point on his serve and was also superb at the net also. The Indian players’ returns were also better as several times Bhambri sent down winners between the two Pakistani players. The 28-year-old Poonacha was then asked to play the dead fourth rubber against Muhammad Shoaib, who he beat 6-3 6-4. The fifth match was not played.

Second string Indian team to tour Zimbabwe in July A second string Indian team will tour Zimbabwe for a five-match T20I series starting July 6, the country's cricket board announced. The series that will be held immediately after the conclusion of the marquee T20 World Cup in the USA and the West Indies on June 29, is unlikely to feature any top Indian players as it has been the case during previous tours of the African nation over the years. The five matches will be held at the Harare Sports Club on, July 6, 7, 10, 13 and 14. "Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced that Zimbabwe will host India for a five-match Twenty20 International (T20I) series in July. The series is scheduled to take place from 6 to 14 July 2024 in Harare," ZC stated in a release. The confirmation of this tour comes after productive discussions between ZC and the BCCI, with the primary objective of fortifying bilateral ties and fostering a spirit of collaboration between the two cricketing boards.

scored a crucial 209-run knock in India's first innings. "He (Bumrah) is a champion player for us," reiterated captain Rohit Sharma. After James Anderson claimed that India were nervous while batting in the second innings and did not know a safe target to counter 'Bazball', England walked the talk on Monday and went ballistic.

"Coming into this last innings, (we) had full belief in ourselves that we'll chase it down," England skipper Ben Stokes said at the end of the game. His team would have been better served taking a cue from Crawley, who saw out an intense morning spell from Bumrah before going for his strokes. But Ben Foakes (36) and Tom Hartley (36) frustrated the visitors with a 55-run partnership for the eighth wicket. Crawley, by far the best batter on show, was adjudged LBW off Kuldeep with a close DRS call. On the sixth ball of his first over, Kuldeep got one to turn back in from the middle stump. It seemed the ball was going down the leg, but DRS showed that it was hitting the leg stump.

Jay Shah reappointed as ACC president Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) secretary Jay Shah was appointed as the president of the Asian Cricket Council for a third consecutive term. Jay's extension was proposed by the Sri Lanka Cricket president Shammi Silva for the second time and the nomination was unanimously backed by all the members of the ACC at its annual general meeting in Bali. Jay initially assumed the role in January 2021, succeeding Bangladesh Cricket Board president Nazmul Hassan. Under Jay’s leadership, the ACC successfully organised the Asia Cup in T20 format in 2022 and in ODI format in 2023. “I am grateful to the ACC Board for their continued trust. We must remain committed to ensuring the all-round

Jay Shah

development of the sport with a special focus on regions where it is still in its infancy. The ACC is committed to nurturing cricket across Asia,” Jay said in a statement. “Under Jay’s guidance, the ACC has been instrumental in unearthing and promoting new talent in cricketing powerhouses like Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka,” Silva said. Pankaj Khimji, chairman of Oman Cricket and vice-president of the ACC, also extended congratulations.

Sports ministry warns wrestling federation of legal action Coming down heavily on suspended Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Sanjay Singh for making “baseless and mischievous” claims, the sports ministry warned the WFI of legal action after the body defied the government’s orders and went ahead with the conduct of the unsanctioned and unrecognised senior National championships in Pune. The ministry fired a fresh salvo following Singh’s statement that around 700 wrestlers would participate in the Nationals from January 29-31 and claimed that all affiliated state units of the WFI would enter their teams for participation. This despite the fact that the national body was suspended by the ministry on December 24 for violating its own constitution and provisions of the national sports code. “…Certain claims are being made by you pertaining to the recognition of the currently undersuspension executive committee of the WFI and about the competitions being held by you in Pune are being made, which are again

in brief UDAY SAHARAN AND SACHIN DHAS SEAL U19 WORLD CUP FINAL BERTH FOR INDIA Defending champions India faced their biggest challenge when South Africa speedsters sent them four down for just 32 runs in 11.2 overs in the U19 World Cup semifinal match at the Willowmoore Park in Benoni. However, riding on a record 171-run stand for the fifth wicket, between captain Uday Saharan and Sachin Dhas, the five-time champions scripted a miraculous come-from-behind win. India, with their twowicket victory, reached their fifth straight final and now await the result of the semifinal match between Australia and Pakistan. India found themselves in deep water early in the chase of 245 as the defending champions went four down in just 68 deliveries. Kwena Maphaka bowled a practically unplayable delivery to dismiss India opener Adarsh Singh in the first ball of the innings. Tristan Luus then had India's highest run-getter Musheer Khan dismissed. Tristan returned in the final over of the powerplay to remove Arshin Kulkarni and Priyanshu Moliya in the 12th over. Saharan was a mere spectator at the crease to three of India's first four dismissals. He struggled equally against the formidable South African pace unit, managing only 4 off 17 balls at the time of Moliya's dismissal. Saharan combined with Dhas, who led the charge in the partnership by keeping the run rate on track as the pair stitched an incredible 171-run stand, the highest-ever for India for the fifth wicket in U19 World Cups. From 32 for four, India revived to stand 41 runs away from victory in 47 balls with the Saharan and Dhas smashing 16 boundaries and a maximum between themselves before Maphaka handed another tricky period to India. He struck twice in three overs to dismiss Dhas and Aravelly Avanish while Murugan Abhishek was run out as India went seven down with still 17 required to win. However, Saharan maintained composure, absorbed the pressure and paced his innings accordingly alongside the tail.

INDIA A DRUB ENGLAND LIONS BY 134 RUNS India A spinners turned the knife into England Lions batting line-up to give their side a commanding 134-run victory on the fourth day of the third and final unofficial ‘Test’ in Ahmedabad on Sunday. Chasing an improbable 403, the Lions were bundled out for 268 in their second innings as India A bagged the three-match series 2-0. Mumbai left-arm spinner Shams Mulani (5/60) and Madhya Pradesh off-spinner Saransh Jain (3/50) grabbed eight wickets among them as England crumbled after resuming from overnight 83 for two. England Lions opener Alex Lees, who started the day from 41, completed his fifty and looked good for more. But his stay was cut short when Mulani trapped him in front of the wickets for 55.

PHYSICALLY DISABLED TEAM CLINCH SERIES absolutely baseless and mischievous. It is once again informed that any championships or competitions organised by the suspended EC members of WFI will be treated as unsanctioned and unrecognised competitions and that only the IOA-appointed adhoc committee would be authorised to conduct the national wrestling championships,” the ministry said. “In light of the above, you are hereby strongly advised to desist from making any further unsubstantiated claims regarding the status of the WFI, ” the letter added.

The Indian Physical Disability Cricket Team showcased their prowess, sealing a 3-1 series win against England in a captivating encounter at Ahmedabad on Saturday. Ravindra Sante was the Man of the Match. A third-wicket partnership of 50 between skipper Vikrant Keni and Lokesh Marghade helped India reach a competitive total. Marghade and Keni made 21 and 28 respectively while Sante’s unbeaten 30, guided India to 150/5 in 20 overs. In response, England were bowled out for 131. Sante’s early dismissal of opener Alex (run out) and two more wickets derailed the chase. The series is organised by the DifferentlyAbled Cricket Council of India (DCCI) with the support of BCCI and Svayam, India’s leading accessibility organisation.

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.