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FIRST & FOREMOST ASIAN WEEKLY IN EUROPE Community concerned about “forced cremations”

British Hindus demand justice for minorities in Pakistan



Alok Sharma made President of COP26

Former Gujarat CM Madhavsinh Solanki is no more



Let noble thoughts come to us from every side


16 - 22 JANUARY 2021 - VOL 49 ISSUE 36

ACCELERATE THE VACCINE ROLL OUT Parliamentarians and medical chiefs concerned about insufficient financial, medical, emotional and mental support to the GPs, community pharmacists at the vaccination campaign

inside: Indian American Raj Iyer named chief information officer of US Army SEE PAGE - 22

Priyanka Chopra Jonas, the truly Indian-Global superstar


Indian Supreme Court puts three farm laws on hold

Priyanka Mehta & Rupanjana Dutta

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has rolled out an ambitious vaccination drive to bring the UK out of the “worst point” of the pandemic as it emerged that 1 in 30 Londoners were infected with Covid-19. The government has therefore, called for all hands-on deck including the GPs, community pharmacists and NHS doctors in ensuring that 15 million Britons in the top four priority groups are vaccinated in the next five weeks and that all adults are vaccinated by Autumn this year. While healthcare professionals have welcomed the government’s mass vaccination strategy, they worry around the lack of clarity in the timelines around vaccination of doctors. Most fundamentally, they are concerned if these medics are provided with sufficient financial, emotional Continued on page 6 and mental support to not burn out in the process..

The Supreme Court on Tuesday put on hold the implementation of the three farming laws and announced the setting up of a committee of experts, purportedly to suggest if any changes were needed in the enactments which are being opposed by the farming community. A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, however, said during the hearing that the suspension cannot be indefinite or for an empty purpose. The bench said it will make it clear in the detailed order to be passed that the land of farmers cannot be sold under the new law. “We have the power to suspend the legislation. But the suspension of legislation must not be for an empty purpose. Continued on page 23

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16 - 22 January 2021

with Keith Vaz

Vice chancellor cautions against lowering entry requirements

Dhruvesh Ranpura Dhruvesh Ranpura was born in Kenya, Nairobi in 1994 and moved to the UK in 2000. He grew up in Leicester, before going to study at the University of Manchester. Here, he attained a degree in Economics. He now works as a Cyber Security Consultant with an array of experience within the Risk and Technology Space at BCS Consulting. His other professional experiences include an internship with St James Place in Hong Kong. Dhruvesh, is now the Co-Founder of a new UK based start-up, tuck. tuck. is a rewards mobile application designed to help small businesses acquire customers by offering rewards through cashback.


Which place, or city or country do you most feel at home in? The answer to this of course has to be Leicester. Nothing beats home cooked food, a hug from Nani and watching a Bollywood film on a Saturday night. I now work and live in London, but I look forward to coming home on weekends and seeing family and friends. What are your proudest achievements?


can do for you. What is the best aspect about your current role? Now within tuck. My role is to build networks with potential investors to help fuel the growth of the company. Additionally, I am responsible for reaching out to Senior Executives from corporate firms to on board them as advisors. Times are really exciting! And the worst?


This is definitely the fact that we are in another lockdown. Prior to the lockdown, I was able to visit small business owners to explain the value tuck. will bring to them. However, with another lockdown I am unable to go and see the great work they are doing first hand. What are your long-term goals?

This is a tough question. But my proudest achievement must be the creation of tuck. COVID-19 has been tough and small businesses are closing down rapidly. I hope with tuck. I can help keep these businesses alive and give them the visibility they truly deserve. What inspires you?

My biggest inspiration is understanding the achievements of my parents. Like many parents in the Asian community, They came to the UK with nothing, but have extremely hard to provide me and my sisters a better life. What has been biggest obstacle in your career? Life has its obstacles but my biggest one is probably trying to explain the help tuck. can provide to small business owners. As a new platform relaying our message can sometimes get lost. But the key is to try and explain we are here to help them get through these difficult times. Who has been the biggest influence on your career to date? I would say this is Sundar Pichai the CEO of Google. Seeing someone from the South Asian community run one of the largest businesses in the world is a prime example of what hard work and dedication






Good health, good wealth and saving a few small businesses along the way! No but really, continuing to grow in my career and take tuck. as far as we can. We are rapidly growing, and I hope to continue this into 2021 and beyond. If you were Prime Minister, what one aspect would you change? I, like the rest of the country appreciate the value the NHS and public sector bring to our lives. I would provide extra funding for them to continue the great they have been doing. They are essential to keeping our country going. If you were marooned on a desert island, which historical figure would you like to spend your time with and why? Martin Luther King - I have a dream. He supported a movement that is close to my heart. I truly believe in equality and he was at the forefront of this.



Daughter pleads people to abide by lockdown rules On 4th January, a daughter who watched her mother die from coronavirus next to her in hospital pleaded with people to follow lockdown rules and observe due precautions. Anabel Sharma described the death of her 76-year-old mother Maria Rico, as "heartbreaking" while releasing their final photograph in their bid to raise awareness around the gravity of coronavirus. Mrs Sharma, from Whitwick, said her mother had died about half-an-hour after her mask was taken off. Mrs Sharma and her mother were admitted to Leicester Royal Infirmary on the same day in October. The 49-year-old daughter who is herself battling from the infection spoke to the BBC, and said, "My mum

Maria Rico and Anabel Sharma

asked them to take her mask off and they said, 'Once we take this off, that will be it. You won't have very long'. She said, 'Yes, I know that but I've had enough.’ We had about five minutes with her when she was able to speak, then she lost consciousness. She told us she wasn't afraid to die, that she was ready. She told me I had to fight hard because I had the children at home. We held her hand until her very last breath. It brings me

comfort to know that we were able to be with her and I know it brought my mum comfort as well." Mrs Sharma said she believed one of her sons caught coronavirus at school and it then "ravaged through" the family at a "frightening" speed. I would ask people to follow all the precautions and think of others," she said. Her funeral was livestreamed to Mrs Sharma, who was still in hospital.

A vice-chancellor has cautioned universities against lowering entry requirements for A-level students as they attempt to ward of the disruption caused by coronavirus pandemic. Professor Nishan Canagarajah from the University of Leicester has warned that lowering entry grades required will not benefit the students in the long run as they can potentially struggle without "basic knowledge" when they arrive. His warnings appear after Birmingham and Surrey universities announced recent plans to reduce entry requirements by one grade for most courses in 2021. Most recently, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson also announced that GCSE, AS and A-level exams in England will not go ahead this summer as planned and they will be replaced by teacher assessments instead. The debate around opening and closing of the schools in a bid to stem the increase in infections has also been a massive point of concern for both the parents

and their children. But uncertainty and lack of clarity around examinations and the grading process had resulted in massive chaos last year following which the government was forced to make a U-turn and replace Ofqual’s algorithmic assessment with Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs) instead. Now, in his interview with the PA news agency, Professor Canagarajah has advised that universities should consider the contextual information provided by schools in applications and offer transition support to bridge gaps in their academics. The University of Leicester has said it will not lower entry requirements for 2021, but it will trust teachers' judgments as they know their students best. The institution will review schools’ submissions about the challenges that the students have faced due to Covid-19 alongside their applications. Prof Canagarajah told PA, “What we need to do is to make sure they have the right knowledge to come into one of the universities

and that’s what we’re trying to do. The key thing we want to ensure is that our admissions process is fair and put the students first. And the second priority is that when they come to university, they should be able to benefit from the university education. So just lowering the grades and bringing them in doesn’t solve the problem, because they may still struggle without the basic knowledge.” Leicester will offer transition support to Alevel students to ensure they are fully supported and ready to start university in the autumn. The UCAS application deadline for the majority of courses has been extended until January 29.

Asylum seeker uses false identity to live in the UK An asylum seeker who was refused permission to stay in the UK has reportedly used false identity documents to live, work and rent a house in Leicester, it has emerged. 33-year-old Areiwan Hamaseid assumed the identity of another person who was legitimately allowed to remain indefinitely, and after 10 years of living illegally in the country, he is married and has a son. He pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing false identity documents with improper intent, namely a Home Office indefinite leave immigration document and a forklift driving licence, the Leicester Crown Court heard. The Leicester Mercury reported that the sentencing, Judge Philip Head said, "You came to this country unlawfully in 2007 and your application for asylum was refused in 2008, with an appeal rejected in 2011. You then made a decision to remain in this country and in order to do so it appears you, some years ago, equipped yourself with two false documents. "You'd identified a real person who had the right to be in this country and deliberately used that name on those documents. Thousands of people abroad loyally abide by the system

for getting lawful entry to this country and to work here. You have cheated all of those who correctly use the system. "You also used Leicester Crown Court another person's mentation." real name to open a bank The court heard that account in order to get Hamaseid had been paying work, which you wouldn't income tax in the same false otherwise have been name while working for a allowed to do. You used that well-known transport comfalse identity to obtain a pany. home rental agreement. I'm Sukdev Garcha, mitigattold your partner is unwell ing, said the defendant felt and you now have a child. he was in a situation where Those who use false docuhe "either tried to get a job ments must be taught to (using the false documents) think twice before they do or turned to crime. this and it's necessary to Hamaseid was jailed for a send out a public message total of 42 weeks. about the use of false docu-

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16 - 22 January 2021

Complicit in conflict The UK’s high moral ground on preaching democracy across the world is insufferable. Particularly if it fails to ascertain the same is replicated in her domestic and international policy framework. The world watched in horror as the US Capitol got ravaged by a bunch of hard right-wing white supremacists whose skin colour ensured they were privileged to walk away scot-free despite the mayhem they caused. While Donald Trump gloated in the knowledge that he had cultivated a certain following to stage the worst political theatrical in American history, as he half-heartedly urged his “followers” to go home. The world leaders including those in the UK suddenly woke up from their slumber as they took digs at the US President and his “incendiary remarks”. As Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey scrambled to delete Trump’s social media accounts, British Home Secretary chose the o to opportunism to mend the Tories’ relationship with the incoming Biden administration. Swapping the diplomatic tact with a vicious blame game, Priti Patel said, “His [Trump’s] comments directly led to the violence and so far, he has failed to condemn that violence – and that is completely wrong. His comments helped to fuel that violence and he didn’t do anything to de-escalate that whatsoever. The fact of the matter is, that they are now transitioning to a new president, to a president-elect. The prime minister has already been in touch with Joe Biden and certainly congratulated him. I think on that basis alone we move forward with one of our greatest allies in the world.” Perhaps, Priti Patel was keyed up in ironing out differences at her own Home Office last year when Mr. Trump had ordered for the “shooting” to start “when the looting started”. Why else would the British Home Secretary have then maintained silence against Mr. Trump but condemned the “thuggery” of the protestors at the Black Lives Matter protests?

It is an age-old British strategy to consistently sit on the fence in matters of international relations. One would arrive at similar conclusions if the UK’s votes at the P5 council assembly and decisions are tracked. There was an era when neutrality worked in Britain’s favour as it wielded the power to change course in the world with its “first-world country” status. But, post-Brexit, the UK is smart in recognising that it does not have the same leverage in getting Free Trade Agreements signed with countries outside of the EU. Indian Parliamentarian, Shashi Tharoor, recently explained that the UK cannot exercise benefits with the lost colonial power status and that it must treat countries such as India on an equal plank. While the Tories have reset their relationship with India’s Modi government, the resistance and reprimand of the Labour Party is concerning. The same Labour leadership is reportedly sending a “delegate” to President-elect Biden’s inauguration ceremony, an unprecedented decision in British history. The British administration has buckled up in distancing themselves from the Trump administration as they take high moral ground in supporting the utopian centrist ideology. But, what does the sudden flip indicate about the UK’s convenient yet lazy politicking? It does not end with the appeasement of the incoming American administration. Perhaps, someone in the Tory Government should see the curve ahead of the bend and caution against their engagement with their Chinese counterpart. While on the face of it the UK supports the Uighur Muslims, offering citizens of Hong Kong BNO passports. The UK had the opportunity to burnish China’s election at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). But the British administration continues to only issue conciliatory statements in solidarity with the Uighurs.

Farming laws are meant for Indians More than 100 MPs and Peers have signed a letter to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking him to raise the concerns of protesting farmers outside Delhi, and the “brute force” used against them. The letter, dated 5 January, notes that many constituents, especially those with links to Punjab or India, “were horrified to see footage of water cannon, tear gas and brute force being used against hundreds of thousands of peacefully protesting farmers.” The letter criticised Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary for not raising these issues with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit. With Prime Minister Boris Johnson's trip now cancelled to India, the letter further said, “Given the urgency of this matter, could you please confirm that you will definitely convey to the Indian Prime Minister the heart-felt anxieties of our constituents, our hopes for a speedy resolution, and also for the democratic human right of citizens to peacefully protest?” They also asked Mr. Johnson to clarify his own understanding of the issue, as he seemed to confuse it with an IndiaPakistan matter when Tan Dhesi raised it in Parliament last month. An Early Day Motion (EDM) has been submitted in UK Parliament about Criminalisation of Dissent in India. The decision by India’s highest court on Tuesday to temporarily suspend the implementation of new farming laws appeared unlikely to end the week-long showdown choking New Delhi. But protesting farmers declared the suspension a politically motivated “trick” to ease the pressure on the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially as Republic Day celebrations are nearing. The farmers said they will not only continue their sit-ins around New Delhi, but they will go ahead with a large tractor march inside the capital later this month.

The court has also asked the Centre to file an affidavit on its claim that some banned organisations including 'Khalistanis' have infiltrated the ongoing farmers’ protest. The protests here have been supported largely by Labour MPs, many of whom are well-known for their regular ‘antiIndia’ sentiments. Appeasing constituents will actually benefit no one other than themselves in their vote banks, though they have no power over Indian laws or its people. Some people protesting in the UK, often flouting Covid lockdown rules themselves, will not be going to India to stand by the farmers. Some of them have never been to the country nor have any idea how modern India works. In fact, many of them even want UK Census to call them Sikhs instead 'of Indian-heritage’. The fact remains, in 2018, 900 farmers in Punjab committed suicide. It clearly shows that agricultural reforms are necessary. A peaceful resolution of the issue is important. In the middle of a pandemic, large gatherings are injurious to everyone's health. Yet people tend to break laws and carry on. There have been several rounds of negotiations between the farmers’ union representatives and the Indian government, and these are still ongoing. The new farm laws are not made without consultations, as popularly believed. Yes police restraint is important, especially in the light of using water cannons, but Indian police only retaliated when reportedly their barricades were breached. It is heart-warming to see young children participating in these protests even in the UK. It has also become a talking point in some UK schools, with many Sikh children bringing the protest online using #istandwithfarmers. But the other face of the protest is very conveniently hidden while politicising the subject. It is imperative to see the wood behind the tree.

No place for racial abuse in sports Cricket is a religion in India and it has gifted world class cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev. But it is surprising that even in the 21st century Indians are being discriminated on the basis of their skin colour. The racism raised its ugly head at the just concluded Sydney Test match between India and Australia, distracting from some riveting cricket that saw Team India secure a fighting draw. On Saturday, Indian pacers Mohammad Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah were abused by spectators following which Team India lodged an official complaint with ICC. Later things boiled over on Sunday when Siraj was constantly abused by a section of the crowd. This saw play being halted, police being called in and six people – who had called Siraj and Bumrah “brown dogs” – being ejected from the stadium. This isn’t the first time that racism has marred cricket in Australia, with Indian players like Ravichandran Ashwin attesting to being victims of racial slurs on previous tours Down Under. But such racism cannot be allowed to pass anymore and far too long racial abuse has been tolerated in sport on the ground that players and spectators were carried away in the heat of the moment as passions run high. But racist speech at one place can beget similar deplorable behaviour elsewhere. In Australia, racism has also been a problem during football matches, while European football continues to grapple with this issue on a regular basis. The same is true of American football where structural racism has burdened black athletes for decades. But today many coloured athletes are using their sporting platforms to directly confront biases both within and outside sport. From American football’s Colin Kaepernick to tennis’s Naomi Osaka, athletes are no longer

willing to overlook prejudice. Coming back to racist spectators, perhaps it will be a good idea to penalise home teams for rowdy fans by having them play behind closed doors. Cricket once stood up against apartheid South Africa. It must now adopt a zero tolerance policy towards racism. If someone racially abuses another individual on the streets of Sydney, he or she can be prosecuted under New South Wales law. So why should it be different in a sports venue? If a person is just banned from a particular venue and let off with a rebuke or a fine, he would turn into a repeat offender and do so again at another venue or in the same venue a year later. And some even brag about what they have ‘achieved’. In sum, they are criminals and criminals need to be dealt with an iron hand using the powers provided by the law of the land. While it is the responsibility of the player in question to immediately bring this to the notice of the umpire or the referee, it is also the responsibility of everyone present in the stadium to pull up the offender and subject him to shame. It has to be a collective movement and not simply left to the officials and administrators. India captain Virat Kohli, himself the victim of racial abuse in Australia, tweeted: “The incident needs to be looked at with absolute urgency and seriousness and strict action against offenders should set things straight for once.” An Indian official said they face racial abuse at airports, while leaving the hotel, inside the stadium, on the streets - somewhere you’re going to get it. It’s nobody’s fault that some nameless, insensitive and vile human is going to let his or her tongue loose. But it’ll happen and there’s no running away from it. That’s a fact, he added.

A day wasted on others is not wasted on one’s self. – Charles Dickens

Alpesh Patel

Abuse of Children Comes in Many Forms A Tweet from an MP caught my eye this week. The Labour MP is obsessed with India. It had a child hanging out of a Mercedes wearing all blue with a placard that he supports Farmers in India. A child. My problem with this is that politicians in Britain can’t spin. Oh, it’s not about not supporting farmers – French, Indian, or from wherever – albeit as a vegan Hindu don’t expect much support for cow farmers from me. Look, if you want to spin the case for Khaliland (think Daesh for ISIS), a theocracy (because we need another one of those in the world, hey, model it on Iran why don’t you), carved out of a Constitutionally liberal secular democracy like India then consider these points: 1. No don’t tell me it is relevant to UK constituents because they own land in India. Really? You sure you want to go public with that to HMRC? Since the Empire ended I didn’t realise so many Britain’s own so much land in India. 2. And the word on the streets of Punjab where my wife’s family are, right now, and losing lives to Covid – well let’s just say I can’t publish what people there think about Khaliland and the religious zealots and fanatics who want it in Britain – they sure as heck don’t want it in India. Let me be clear – I don’t like religious fanatics who want theocracies. 3. Don’t use children. Don’t indoctrinate them with your political agenda. Don’t try to fool British people – they don’t care for such tactics – as the PM said in Parliament, “it’s a bilateral issue with Pakistan and India”. Got it. 4. Any organisation proscribed under British terrorism legislation should not and must not be supported. Simple. Stop making apologies for those terrorism organisations, that they should not have been proscribed as terrorist. 5. Covid is a crisis. Focus on this country right now. When everything is dandy, then obsess again about your wet dream theocracy. 6. Don’t bring journalists from the BBC into it, pressuring them to publish articles about children supporting their heritage when they hold political placards about farmers. It’s a jobloser in breach of BBC guidelines and the complaints go in through this link: ke-a-complaint/#/Complaint against those journalist for conflict of interest, impartiality and bringing the BBC into disrepute. 7. Keep religion and children out of politics. Those that do not are fanatics. Extremists building a generation of future fundamentalists. Want to debate me? Don’t send your anonymous lacky organisations on Twitter with no names – send me an MP. Don’t do cowardly hash-tags. You’re not Donald Trump. Bring me an MP to debate me – if you dare. I stand for liberalism, secularism, democracy and my arguments and debate will demolish you. I stand for British values. Don’t harm my country – either of them. Asian Voice is published by Asian Business Publications Ltd Unit- 7, Karma Yoga House, 12 Hoxton Market, (Off Coronet Street) London N1 6HW. Tel: 020 7749 4080 • Fax: 020 7749 4081 Email: Website: 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 2646 5960 © Asian Business Publications Email:

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16 -22 January 2021

Hindu wins religious discrimination case against Royal Mail On Wednesday 6th January, a former Hindu manager with Royal Mail who was mistaken for a Muslim won his fight against religious discrimination at workplace. Mathan Shunmugaraja has been awarded nearly £230,000 after a tribunal concluded that he had been subjected to harassment and workplace discrimination. Mathan was reportedly called a “sly dog” by one of his colleague and was embroiled in a dispute with another over the use of a room in which he was mistaken for a Muslim. The tribunal also heard that after Mathan took time off work because of anxiety, one of his bosses threatened to stop his sick pay

Mathan of British Indian origin, reportedly began working for Royal Mail in Cardiff in August 2007 and by 2017 was earning £32,000 a year. His colleague called him “a sly dog” and insisted that the slur did not have racial connotations but the tribunal accepted the term “dog” and the phrase “sly dog” would be perceived as an insult in many cultures and could have racial connotations. It said: “The tribunal finds it was reasonable for the claimant to be so offended, given that the term is regarded as being highly offensive in many cultures.” Meanwhile, Mathan was particularly upset that the comment had been made in front of his line manager but no further

action was taken against the colleague. He began using a space known as the “quiet room” that a Christian colleague used for praying. In August 2017 the colleague reacted angrily when he realised that he was using it as a meeting room. He got his religion wrong, saying he would not have used a Muslim prayer room for the meeting. The tribunal concluded this amounted to religious discrimination. The tribunal said: “The

claimant loved his job, was clearly performing at a very good level and had every expectation that he would continue to progress his career at Royal Mail until his retirement.” Royal Mail was ordered to pay £229,000, which includes compensation for lost and future earnings and for injury to feelings. In a statement to The Guardian, a spokesperson for The Royal Mail said, “Royal Mail is disappointed by this decision. We are now carefully reviewing the findings. Royal Mail takes its equality and diversity obligations very seriously and is committed to a workplace free of discrimination and harassment, where our colleagues feel respected and able to thrive.”

Lawyer reportedly attacked after call for investigation A former chief prosecutor and a leading lawyer calling for an investigation into Dominic Cummings’ Covid-19 lockdown breach has been forced to move after attacks on his home, it has emerged. Nazir Afzal has urged police to reopen the investigation into Dominic Cummings’ trip to Durham during the height of the Covid-19 lockdown. He has reportedly also asked the Metropolitan force to launch an inquiry into claims the former adviser flouted regulations by leaving his home to drive to the North East while family members had coronavirus symptoms. Now, if recent reports are to be believed then “a brick was thrown through the window of his family home in Manchester”

Nazir Afzal

and his car was “slashed” outside his home. In his statement to The Guardian, he said, “My family felt scared. I don’t blame Dominic Cummings. All I know is that in 25 years prosecuting some of the most organised criminals in the country, nobody has attacked my home. Yet suddenly someone starting attacking me and my family and we’ve

Dominic Cummings

had to move house. It has made me more committed to delivering justice, not just in the Cummings case, but for anybody for feels they are not being listened to. More than 3,000 people have crowdfunded the campaign to get Cummings prosecuted, and thousands more have messaged me to say ‘you’re doing this for me’. This is about restoring trust.”

Lawyers for Nazir Afzal have also reportedly written to police urging officers to investigate further and asked the Crown Prosecution Service to play a 'proactive role' in considering relevant evidence. In their letter to Durham Police, they wrote, "We understand you have undertaken a short, narrow investigation into three matters and given your views on whether they constituted a breach of the regulation. "However, it appears not all of the relevant evidence relating to those matters has been gathered. Further, a number of other alleged breaches of the regulations which occurred in Durham do not appear to have been investigated at all."

Samir Patel appointed Comic Relief’s new CEO Comic Relief has appointed a leading expert in digital and creative innovation with over 20 years of experience in the industry as their new Chief Executive. Samir Patel is expected to join the charity from Blue State where he is the Head of Insights and Innovation and part of the senior management team leading Blue State in Europe. He will be overtaking from the current interim Chief Executive, Ruth Davison who had introduced funding to tackle racial inequalities exacerbated by Covid-19. Commenting on Samir’s appointment, Comic Relief Chair, Eric Salama, said, “The world needs Comic Relief more than ever before. To be able to achieve our goals, alongside our relationship with our partners and the BBC, we need to become

digital in everything we do – from the content we create, to the way we engage with the UK public and the way we partner with organisations we fund. We also need to continue our growth and development to remain a brand our staff and our partners are proud to be associated with. “Samir has impressed us with what he has achieved, the way he conducts himself and his vision for Comic Relief. I am delighted that Samir is joining us to help deliver even greater impact and success. At the same time, I would like to pay tribute to Ruth Davison for the way that she has led the organisation through a tumultuous year and for her major achievements with Sport Relief and The Big Night In and I wish her every success in her future.”

Samir Patel

Samir has overseen major brand updates, helped charities innovate in fundraising, and has led digital initiatives to engage and mobilise communities for high profile global NGO’s, charities and commercial organisations including Oxfam, Google, Co-op, Amnesty International and the UN’s Refugee Agency. He brings a wealth of creative

film and storytelling experience, and is a strong advocate of equity, diversity and inclusion. Samir has been a member of a number of high-profile steering groups focusing on equality and sustainability and has worked with UN Live to develop new ways to engage young change-makers. In a statement Samir Patel said, “It is an honour to join the talented and passionate team there. This brilliant charity inhabits a special place in the UK's consciousnesses and is truly a unique, powerful force, using humour and entertainment for good. Digital innovation, strategy and storytelling are all part of my DNA and I look forward to learning and evolving with the organisation to elevate the charity’s vital work to even greater heights.”

Public inquiry into Manchester Arena bombing halted Public inquiry into the Manchester Arena bombing will not resume as planned due to the coronavirus lockdown it has been ruled. Sir John Saunders has decided to pause the hearings considering the impact of the latest Covid-19 restrictions on the inquiry. Virtual hearings, restricted attendance at the in-person hearings besides others are being considered as possible alternatives. The inquiry was paused briefly in October after court staff at Manchester Magistrates' Court tested positive for Covid-19. Salman Abedi murdered 22 people,

including children, when he detonated a bomb in a large foyer filling with people after an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017. The inquiry is looking at whether the attack could have been prevented, what happened on 22 May 2017, the security arrangements around the arena, the emergency response to the bombing and the radicalisation of bomber Abedi.


PC Stuart Ward

West Midlands Police has appointed their first football hate crime officer who will help and support others who face discrimination. PC Stuart Ward will work to help "stamp out rising abuse against footballers and fans which has become increasingly prevalent online," the force has reported. His role, thought to be that of the first dedicated hate crime officer based in a football unit, will include investigating complaints of hate crime linked to football, monitoring online interactions and working with the region’s clubs. Stuart was the victim of racism as a young footballer himself so understands the emotional impact of abuse. It means he can provide support to victims while knowing what they’re going through. The 34-year-old said, “I’m mixed race and growing up I was racially abused. I remember being 11-years-old and playing football for a junior side. It came from another player and the thing that stuck with me was how no-one did anything about it, other than my mum who stopped the game and took me off the pitch. “There were parents, match officials, the other players - who were old enough to know right from wrong - who didn’t challenge the comments or support me. So, having sadly been subjected to discrimination I know the feelings and the impact it can have on you. I feel I’m in a position where I can offer help and support, while looking to take action against those involved."

MURDER INVESTIGATION INTO THE DEATH OF A RESTAURANT OWNER A murder investigation has been launched examining the death of a restaurant owner in Manchester. 53-year-old Nowab Miah, from Hyde, Tameside, who had dedicated his life to helping children in Bangladesh was delivering food earlier last week when he was knocked down in Romiley, Stockport. Police continue to question a 14-year-old boy on suspicion of robbery. According to Greater Manchester Police there may have been others involved and "a number of lines of inquiry" were continuing while detectives continue to try to trace Mr Miah's silver Mercedes following the incident. Police believe it was stolen before hitting the victim shortly afterwards. Son of the owner of Marple Spice restaurant, said "Me and my family ask that you keep us in your prayers and allow my family to come to terms with this loss.” The restaurant's Facebook page read, "We have been overwhelmed by the love and support shown by the local community. Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers during this truly difficult time." The restaurant said it had closed temporarily "as we mourn the death of our owner, colleague and dear friend". A fundraising page set up in memory of Mr Miah has raised almost £7,000 within 18 hours. Posting on the GoFundMe page, Jane Normie said: "As a community we are all so saddened to hear that a precious life has been lost. "Donations will be used towards fulfilling the wishes of the gentleman, who especially wanted to help the children of Bangladesh."



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16 - 22 January 2021

ACCELERATE THE VACCINE ROLL OUT Continued from page 1 British Medical Association (BMA) council chair Chaand Nagpaul has called on the Government to give urgent priority of vaccination to frontline staff to protect an already depleted workforce and to help prevent the NHS becoming overwhelmed. Dr Nagpaul said, “There are almost 27,000 patients with Covid-19 being treated in hospitals in England – an increase of more than 50 per cent since Christmas Day. Hospitals are becoming like warzones, and healthcare workers are the exhausted foot soldiers on the frontline. GPs are similarly pushed to the limit delivering a mass vaccination programme in the community. All of these workers are at constant risk of becoming infected, yet they are, beyond all doubt, the most important cog in the Covid-19 ‘care machine’. “If they fall ill with the virus and cannot work, there would be no care, no medical procedures and no patients getting better and going home from hospital where they may then need GP care, who are also at huge risk and working often 18-hour days.” Shortage of vaccines in GP-led hubs The Government has begun its vaccination programme with two vaccines now approved for use in the UK but the approach to protecting healthcare staff has been left at a local level and the BMA has warned that the results have been “ad hoc and chaotic”. The BMA is also concerned that the slow pace of vaccination is leading to very significant staff absences because they either have the virus or are self-isolating. Frontline medical staff treating Covid patients at Greater Manchester hospitals have been told they must wait 11 weeks for their second doses of the Pfizer vaccine. For weeks BMA has been calling on the NHS to prioritise health workers particularly as reports surfaced about black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) doctors once again being left at the fringe and forgotten. Some of these doctors have spoken up about how NHS admin staff were prioritised over those working at Covid-19 wards making them more susceptible to the new strain of the virus which is 70% more transmissible. A row has broken out over delays in offering the Covid-19 vaccine to GPs who are in the frontline of patient care as thousands of people test positive for the virus. Their concerns appear after as a key tool in the HSE’s Covid-19 vaccine plan has suffered a setback after a new online system to allow GPs to register to get the jab for themselves failed to get up and running. Whereas, other GPs are still struggling to secure sufficient vaccine supplies as many doctors have described the large vaccine hubs as “white elephants” as bulk of the supplies get diverted to these hubs as opposed to the GPs. Professor Azeem Majeed, head of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, has consistently insisted that the funding and vaccines used to set up the new sites “should have gone to general practices and pharmacies, which have well-established systems for administering vaccine programmes.” He said, “Currently, there is a shortage of vaccines in many GPled hubs, leading to a stop-start vaccination programme for many sites. We need a guaranteed timetable for

delivery of vaccines to these sites. If given the vaccines, GP and pharmacy sites can rapidly vaccinate at-risk groups. We have had too many examples from the government of wasted investment in our Covid-19 response. This includes large sums spent on substandard PPE, NHS Test and Trace, and Nightingale hospitals. Let’s not keep on making the same mistakes. Invest in NHS primary care.” Sir John Bell, regius chair of medicine at the University of Oxford, told The Times that stubborn NHS bureaucrats were “standing in the way” of a high-speed mass inoculation programme that could prevent many further deaths. NHS sparking panic But there has also been a great deal of confusion particularly among the elderly after more than 130,000 letters were sent to the over-80s. These letters failed to make clarify that anyone who preferred not to travel to a super-centre could still receive the vaccine at a later date via their GP. The messages caused distress to elderly and vulnerable people who believed they would miss out on a vaccination unless they travelled up to 40 miles from their homes. The original letters, seen by The Telegraph, told pensioners, "You are able to book your free NHS coronavirus vaccine now" and pro-

Shital Patel

Councillor Krupesh

vided a link to an NHS website allowing them to book at their nearest super-centre. They further added, "You may also be contacted by your local NHS services. If you have, you can choose to either book your vaccination appointments through your local NHS services or using the details in this letter." Support of community pharmacists In the meantime, the government believes that pharmacies especially the community pharmacies have a quintessential role in creating awareness around the significance of coronavirus vaccine. They are particularly important for their inter-personal relationships within the community can remove all stigma and taboo attached with the vaccine and thus, break through the cultural barriers among the BAME communities. According to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC),

pharmacy trade bodies are already in talks with the government about “using more community pharmacies” in the national Covid-19 vaccination effort. In a statement, the PSNC said the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England have agreed to work with community pharmacy bodies “on plans to ensure that community pharmacies are used to maximum effect in the Covid-19 vaccination programme”. It said, “All parties agree on the benefits of using more community pharmacies in the national vaccination effort, recognising that, for some patients, pharmacies will offer a convenient setting in which to be vaccinated in due course.” Commenting on the significance of community pharmacies, National Pharmacy Association chair, Andrew Lane, said, “Pharmacies can play a significant role in the Covid-19 vaccination programme, and we’re well equipped to get started immediately. “We have been on the health service frontline throughout the pandemic and now we want to join this latest, decisive, battle against this deadly virus. The vast majority of pharmacies provide flu vaccinations, so there are thousands of potential local pharmacy sites for vaccinating against Covid, capable

Onkar Sahota

Dr. Chaand Nagpaul

of protecting millions of people within weeks. We are bound to ask, what on earth is stopping the NHS from mobilising more pharmacies for this vital task? Pharmacists want to help, they are already trained for giving vaccines, and people are crying out for convenient local access to the vaccine. It’s surely a nobrainer that pharmacies should be supported to take part in this urgent national effort. “The process for signing-up to give vaccines needs to be as agile as the workforce and should allow pharmacy teams to come on board rapidly. Approval of the OxfordAstra Zeneca vaccine, for which storage is easier, means that many more pharmacies are now capable of offering vaccinations.” Parliamentarians and council leaders have also raised similar concerns around the safety of the frontline doctors, especially those who are being treated with leftover

Fake NHS vaccine message

doses of the vaccine. Some have even proposed that councils in London should be given dedicated funding to run multi-lingual campaigns aimed at targeting vaccine hesitancy in their communities. Shital Patel, area manager for South West England Independent Pharmacies said, “Logistics of the Pfizer vaccine is very complicated. It needs come under special storage condition. We need to be reconstituted and observe the patient for 15 mins and 975 minimum in 3 days due to the storage restrictions. Only very few pharmacies got selected and we weren’t one of those. “Astra Zeneca is almost like a flu jab. It does not need to be stored under special conditions; patients don’t have to wait for 15 mins. People are walking into high street pharmacies asking why haven’t we rolled out the vaccines yet? There is a lack of awareness for sure because there are many phone calls asking when they would receive vaccines. “If pharmacies can do flu jabs, apart from the trainings, what is taking so long for the government? We are qualified, systems are set up, with guidance we can vaccinate easily. We still haven’t heard anything. “There is a possibility some GPs would be reluctant for us to do the Covid vaccination and there may be a shortage of stock, hence the delay. But while you are waiting, it surely isn’t about who does it but it's about the patient care and their choice between a GP and high street pharmacy." Temples, mosques and churches offer support In the meantime, community organisations and faith leaders have also pitched in creating awareness among the ethnic minority communities about the importance of being vaccinated and in following the social distancing guidelines. The NHS has been given permission to use a leisure centre in Harrow as a Covid-19 vaccine site to support the rollout over the next year. Tweeting about the vaccination of his grandmother, Councillor Krupesh Hirani wrote, “Just arrived home after taking my 97-year-old grandmother for her second dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. Thank you to Brent Council for making it a seamless process and Neasden Temple volunteers who are helping coordinate at the Wembley Centre for Health and Care.” Sheetal Davda, also tweeted, “Huge thanks to the wonderful NHS staff and BAPS volunteers at Neasden Temple for their efforts in vaccinating the vulnerable which included my dad today. Truly uplifting and humbling to see the kind, professional and speedy work to protect our communities.” Fake NHS vaccine message Fraudsters are scamming vulnerable and isolated people with

bogus text messages about the coronavirus vaccine in an attempt to steal bank details. This comes after last lockdown saw many people falling prey to door to door selling counterfeit scammers or some pretending to be officials who have come for testing. Trading standards officers have warned that the scam text message mostly tells people that the recipients are “eligible to apply for your vaccine" with a link to a bogus NHS website, which in turn asks for card details or bank details for crucial ‘verification’.The warning comes the same day as MPs heard that Covid is leading some people into the net of pension fraudsters. The NHS has reiterated that they will never ask for your personal details or payment for vaccination. Assembly member concerned about frontline staff being given left-over vaccines Labour’s London Assembly Health Spokesperson, Dr Onkar Sahota AM, has said if the problem is not “urgently and robustly addressed”, it would throw a “huge spanner in the works” of the national vaccination programme. In his letter to the Health Secretary, he asked what strategy the Government has had in place to tackle misinformation surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine and encourage take-up in BAME communities. This follows a survey published in November by the London Assembly Health Committee which found that a quarter of Londoners would decide against getting the vaccine. A separate poll commissioned by the Royal Society for Public Health in December, found that only 57% of respondents from BAME backgrounds were likely to accept the vaccine, compared to 79% of white respondents. “Our research from City Hall shows that a quarter of Londoners could refuse the vaccine, and this figure is higher when you look at BAME communities. If not quickly and robustly addressed, the scale of this problem could throw a huge spanner in the works of the national vaccination programme. “As we saw during the initial lockdown period, councils played a vital role in amplifying and targeting multi-lingual public health messaging in their communities. With extra, dedicated funding they could significantly boost local campaigns to tackle vaccine hesitancy. “I am also pressing the Health Secretary for his reassurances that there will be a tighter strategy in place to vaccinate frontline staff going forward. It simply isn’t good enough that so many of our heroic NHS workers are having to rely on leftover doses and ad hoc appointments to protect themselves, their patients and families from the virus”.


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16 - 22 January 2021

in brief HARPERFICTION ENCOURAGES ETHNIC MINORITIES FOR KILLING IT HarperFiction has launched Killing It: The Killer Reads Competition for Undiscovered Writers which aims to open the door for crime authors looking for a way into the publishing industry. The competition, is encouraging submissions from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) writers in particular, is offering three winners editorial reports from HarperFiction crime editors on their full manuscripts. Entrants are asked to send the first 10,000 words of their fiction crime, thriller or suspense novel and the book needs to be complete or near complete by April to enter, as full scripts may be called in. They must also include a short synopsis of up to 500 words and a short paragraph about themselves, sending it to by 7th April 2021. An optional opening sentence is also provided for those who might be just getting started: “The body was lying in the snow, covered in a smattering of dead leaves.” The judging panel will feature HarperFiction editorial director Phoebe Morgan, commissioning editor Kathryn Cheshire, assistant editor Sophie Churcher, and crime reviewer and journalist Ayo Onatade.

MY COVID-19 TESTING EXPERIENCE Kalpana Patel on 8 January got sore throat and lost her voice. Fearing the worst, her family advised that she needed a Covid-19 test. Speaking about her experience, trying to help others like herself, Mrs Patel said, “My daughter booked a test for us on 10 January 2:30pm for a drive-in test at Heathrow staff car park. We reached there at 2pm. At the entrance two people checked our papers outside the car. We were asked not to open our window. They then asked us if we could do the test ourselves? When I explained we are coming for the first time, they sent us to the testing station nearby. A woman came out from a cabin and took the test papers first. She checked the details and came back with swabs. My husband opened his window. She first took nose sample and then throat sample and then proceeded to take my samples from my window. It took us only fifteen minutes. “We applaud the government’s initiatives for providing the best facilities and all the efforts by NHS. We got our test results last night and we have tested negative.”

Heart failure doubles the risk of patients dying from Covid-19 Patients who suffer from acute heart failure nearly double their risk of dying if they get Covid19, according to research published by ESC Heart Failure, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). The small, single centre study highlights the need for patients with heart failure to take extra precautions to avoid catching Covid-19. Study lead investigator Dr Amardeep Dastidar, a consultant interventional cardiologist at North Bristol NHS Trust and Bristol Heart Institute, UK said, “Our results support prioritising heart failure patients for Covid19 vaccination once it is available. “In the meantime, heart failure patients of all ages should be considered a high-risk group and be advised to maintain social distance and wear a face mask to prevent infection.” Heart failure refers to progressive weakening of the heart’s pump function with symptoms of breathlessness, ankle swelling and fatigue. Sudden and severe worsening of symptoms is called acute heart failure – this is a medical emergency and requires admission to hospital for intravenous medica-

tion and intensive monitoring. This study examined referral rates for acute heart failure during the pandemic and 30-day mortality. The analysis included 283 patients with acute heart failure admitted to the cardiology department of North Bristol NHS Trust. Two-thirds of the patients had chronic heart failure and presented with an acute deterioration. The date of the first UK coronavirus death, 2 March 2020, was the cut-off to define two groups: before-Covid (7 January to 2 March; eight weeks) and after-Covid (3 March to 27 April; eight weeks, i.e. during the pandemic). There was a substantial, but statistically non-significant, drop in admissions for acute heart failure during the pandemic. A total of 164 patients were admitted in the eight weeks before-Covid compared to 119 patients after-Covid – a 27% reduction. “This finding may reflect public concerns about social distancing at the start of the national lockdown, delayed reporting of symptoms, and anxiety regarding hospital attendance,” said Dr. Dastidar.

Dr Amardeep Dastidar

“In support of these explanations, our data demonstrate an increase in referrals during the later weeks of lockdown in line with UK media reports encouraging patients to seek medical attention if needed.” The 30-day mortality rate of patients with acute heart failure nearly doubled during the pandemic. Some 11% of patients in the before-Covid group died within 30 days compared to 21% of the after-Covid group. The researchers examined what factors may have been responsible for the higher death rate during the pandemic. Older age and admission during the pandemic were linked with death after adjusting for other factors that could influence the relationship. When patients with a positive Covid test were

removed from the analysis, there was no difference in mortality between the before- and after-Covid groups – indicating that patients with both acute heart failure and Covid had a poorer prognosis. Dr Dastidar, who has his roots in Kolkata, India, added, “This may suggest a direct interaction or susceptibility to worse outcomes for acute heart failure patients with superimposed Covid infection. “It is noteworthy that our region had very low rates of Covid infection during the study and yet a connection with higher mortality was still apparent.” He also pointed out that routine testing for Covid-19 infection was not in place at the time of the study. He said: “It would be informative to review more recent admissions when Covid testing was more widely implemented to further support our findings. As this was a single centre study, it would be valuable to confirm the findings in a countrywide analysis. Additionally, we are keen to review longer term data to look for patterns of prognosis at later stages in this patient population.”

Following JCVI recommendation and vaccination prioritsation Healthcare professionals have been flagging concerns about the safety of the frontline doctors and NHS staff from the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds as the first wave of coronavirus in the UK demonstrated the disproportionate impact of the virus on those from minority backgrounds. Besides, urging that sufficient and adequate Personal and Protective Equipment is provided to those at the frontlines, some organisations have also raised concerns about how BAME doctors are neglected in the Government's vaccination strategy. Responding to these criticisms, Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and NHS medical director for primary care, said, “The NHS is following the JCVI recommendation that priority is given to frontline staff at highest risk. Healthcare providers have been undertaking staff risk assessments throughout the pan-

demic to identify these individuals, and these are based on a combination of where they work and what their individual risk factors are. Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff make up around a fifth of the NHS workforce and have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, so it’s crucial they take up the offer of a vaccine when offered. “The NHS is experienced in vaccinating hundreds of thousands of staff quickly and safely – we do it every year for the flu vaccine – and we’re working hard to ensure that 100% of eligible staff have the opportunity to take it up over the coming weeks and months. “The decision from the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers to have a longer timeframe between first and second dose will allow us to get the maximum benefit for the most people in the shortest possible time and will help save even more lives. Both vaccines give

high levels of protection from the first dose alone so it really is worthwhile getting it as Dr Nikita Kanani soon as possible. “The government has now published its vaccination delivery plan. It is a huge challenge, but NHS staff are doing an incredible job to deliver what it is the largest vaccination programme in our history, at the same time as continuing to be there for everyone who needs care. Those staff have worked incredibly hard during the pandemic and it’s been tough physically and emotionally, but what people are saying to me is that the vaccine offers hope of a better future, and that’s what is motivating them to carry on and make sure everyone who would benefit is offered this vital protection.”

Over 100 MPs and peers express concern about India’s protesting farmers Labour MP for Slough recently tweeted that more than 100 MPs and peers from various parties in had written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressing their concern over the farmers’ protest in India. Tan Dhesi has been leading a campaign in favour of the protests by the Indian farmers against the Indian government’s proposed farm laws. In his letter dated January 5th, Dhesi asks Johnson, in no uncertain terms, to take up the matter of the farmers’ agitation and the police action on them with Prime Minister Narendra Modi whenever they meet next. It is understood to be sent after the British government

Tan Dhesi

announced that Johnson would not be travelling to India as chief guest of the Republic Day functions so as to be able to oversee the response to the coronavirus situation in the UK. The “current

deadlock” that Dhesi has tweeted about refers to rounds of talks between farmers’ unions and the Centre. The letter noted, “Many constituents, especially those emanating from Punjab and other parts of India, were horrified to see the use of water cannons, tear gas and brute force being used on hundreds of thousands of peacefully protesting farmers. The issue has so galvanised the Indian diaspora community, especially those of a Punjabi or Sikh background, and others who have land or links to farming in India, that tens of thousands engaged in global protests, including in towns and cities across the UK.”




16 - 22 January 2021

Community concerned about “forced cremations” Local Muslim organisations and parliamentarians have raised concerns around reports of “forced cremation of Muslims” in Sri Lanka. The Muslim Council of Britain, the UK’s largest institution for Muslims in the country has agreed to take unprecedented action and issue a complaint to the United Nations. This complaint will be led by a team of expert lawyers with the aim of getting the Sri Lankan Government to reverse its cremation policy. It has been reported that around 100 Muslim bodies have been cremated, including a 20-day old baby. The consequences of the Sri Lankan Government's actions have had a devastating impact on Sri Lankan Muslim families within the UK and abroad. The MCB had earlier set up a Task Force headed by Assistant Secretary-General, Zara Mohammed, and made up of Sri Lankan representative bodies, lawyers, medical experts, and senior community leaders. The Task Force is established in response to the ongoing forced cremations' policy by the Sri Lankan Government of Covid-19 deceased and the remit of this work includes International coordination, legal remedies, community, engagement, and medical response. The expert medical panel appointed by the

Sri Lankan Ministry of Health has issued its revised guidance on the current ‘compulsory cremation’ policy of Covid-19 deceased. The MCB SecretaryGeneral, Harun Khan said, “We welcome the expert panel’s revised guidance which allows for burials and is in line with the World Health Organisations recommendation. This is a positive step and we urge the Sri Lankan Government to reverse the policy of com-

pulsory cremation.” The MCB is actively supporting the rights of minority groups in Sri Lanka to bury their deceased. The policy of compulsory cremations without good reason is

Afzal Khan

Harun Khan

a violation of international law. Following the negative decision by the Supreme Court, to allow burials, the MCB recently instructed leading human rights law firm, Bindmans LLP, to bring this matter to the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Committee for resolution. A few weeks ago, the MCB had threatened legal action over Muslims (and Christians) in Sri Lanka being denied the opportunity to bury family members according to religious tradition. The SL government has mandated cremations for all victims of Covid-19. Now the issue is being taken up by Labour MP for Manchester Gorton. Afzal Khan has written to the Sri

Lankan High Commissioner urging for an end to “senseless destruction” and for the government to “avoid further abuses” following the mass protests in Jaffna where authorities destroyed a Mullivaikal memorial commemorating the deaths of tens of thousands of Tamils killed during the armed conflict. In his letter he also flagged up concerns over the denial of Muslim burial rights noting that such rights “are an integral and vital aspect of the exercise of freedoms” highlighting that despite World Health Organisation guidelines permitting burials and pleas from human rights organisations, “the Sri Lankan government has not responded”. The letter noted, “The Muslim community has joined their Tamil brothers and sisters in protest over the government’s actions”.

Meadow Garth officially renamed ‘Pramukh Swami Road’ On Monday 11th January, the eastern section of Meadow Garth in northwest London, the home of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir – popularly known as ‘Neasden Temple’ – had been officially renamed ‘Pramukh Swami Road’ in honour of the temple’s inspirer, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj. The local Hindu fellowship began its longstanding relationship with Meadow Garth forty years ago in 1980 with a small temple located opposite the existing complex. Pramukh Swami Maharaj inaugurated a much larger mandir on Meadow Garth in August 1995, which became the first

traditional Hindu temple of its kind in Europe and, at the time, the largest outside of India. Commenting on the recognition of the services rendered by BAPS, Girish

Patel, a volunteer at the Mandir, said, “This Mandir is a gift from Pramukh Swami Maharaj bequeathed not only to the people of this community, but for people across the UK and the world.

We are truly humbled that part of Meadow Garth has been renamed to pay tribute to his selfless life. He blessed and inspired countless lives during his many visits to the Mandir, and we pray that the lasting legacy of the Mandir and the renaming of the road will continue to inspire generations to come.” For 25 years now, Neasden Temple has served as a place of worship, a hub of learning, harmony and community service, and an internationally acclaimed attraction. To date, it has received over 10.5 million visitors from more than 120 countries. In Britain, it has become an integral part of

Going back to basics Rohit Vadhwana We are going back to basics. And it is helpful for us, human being, the society and the ecosystem. You might have noticed the fashion of pastel colour clothes is becoming popular. You might have noticed people turning vegan and avoiding animal products. Even many people are now tired of too much technology and are turning to simple living - back to basics. The popularity of yoga and naturopathy is proof that we want to go back to our roots. It feels like a traveller who after globe galloping returns home and feels that home is the best place on the planet. After eating all delicacies and cuisines in the best of the restaurants for a week or two, one asks for simple dal and roti at home and relishes the test. Such a tendency, nostalgic feeling and everlasting love for the simple things is what we can call the basic way of living life. One can go too far in any field, but the beginning and base always remain important. This back to basics has become even more important in our lives when we are passing through the pandemic situation. What we are missing the most is our simple way of living life. We are not able to walk out freely, without fear. We had always promoted and appreciated human touch, in a literal sense. All cultures and societies had traditions where a human being would touch another to express and convey love and emotions. It may be a simple handshake or a warm hug. But now, those basics are missing in our society. Grandparents cannot hold in hugging their grandchildren. Two lovers cannot hold in hands. Unless living under a roof, or living in the safest zone where the pandemic has not affected lives, a simple expression of love is not possible. In this situation, we are missing and yet wanting to go to the basic way of living our lives. Some people may remember the Back to Basics campaign launched by former British Prime Minister John Major. He had made a nostalgic appeal to traditional values such as "neighbourliness, decency, courtesy". He had, in his speech, emphasised that it is time to return to those old core values, time to get back to basics, to self-discipline and respect for the law, to consideration for others, to accepting responsibility for yourself and your family and not shuffling off on other people and the state. Even the current British prime minister has appealed people to walk to work or ride a bicycle instead of taking a cab or driving a car. Simple living and healthy living is promoted vigorously. So, are we up to embrace the basics in our lives? Have we realised and accepted that we don't need much to be contended in life, except for two or three simple meals, a shelter and very minimum facilities. It is not only about survival but also for satisfaction and sustainability that we need to go back to basics. The earlier we realise, the better it will be. (Expressed opinions are personal.) the religious landscape while in London it has been woven into the social fabric of the local community. The decision to name the eastern section of Meadow Garth to Pramukh Swami Road was formally approved by the Brent Cabinet on 12 October 2020. The Council acknowledged the Mandir’s position as an “international landmark” in Brent, as well as its contribution to the borough. This change also recognises the Mandir’s partnership with the community which has

recently been illustrated through the delivery of more than 50,000 hot meals for the vulnerable during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the current provision of facilities to help deliver local Covid-19 antigen testing. Dr Mayank Shah, a trustee of the Temple, added, “All of us at Neasden Temple would like to offer our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the Brent Cabinet and people of the borough in supporting this much-welcomed change.”

Peer raises concern about increase in domestic violence A house of Lords peer has raised his concerns about the increase in domestic violence as Britain continues to battle through the third national lockdown. British Indian NGOs and charities had already sought support during the first national lockdown seeking financial support especially for victims from ethnic minority backgrounds many who face cultural barriers around language and asylum.

Now, Lord Dholakia while speaking during a debate on the Domestic Abuse Bill has raised his concerns about how instances of domestic abuse are appropriately tackled. Welcoming new legislation, that is, designed to increase awareness of domestic abuse and one which provides strengthened support for victims with an effective justice system, Lord Dholakia warned about the prevalence of domestic abuse which increased in

the first lockdown. Added to this, as a multi-cultural society, he made a plea to recognise that domestic violence is often perpetrated in communities with different cultural practises. He said, “We need to ensure that local authorities and other agencies are aware of specific and special issues affecting some members of our communities.” He also pointed out another ugly feature of life in our society –

online facilitated child sexual abuse and exploitation that he strongly condemned, as he noted how problems such as gambling also added to worsening domestic abuse. He said, “Very few such problems are reflected publicly, and sadly, individuals suffer in silence. Further issues surrounding domestic violence include, the question of marriages which lack legal status in this country. Authorities must be aware of the need for public educa-

Lord Navnit Dholakia

tion on such matters and ensure, probation and social services are adequately staffed and trained to recognise such practises in our communities.”




16 - 22 January 2021

in brief CRIMINALS NOT TO BE RELEASED WITHOUT BAIL RESTRICTIONS The Home Secretary is expected to stop potentially dangerous criminal suspects including rapists from being released into the community without bail restrictions. Priti Patel will scrap Priti Patel the presumption against releasing suspected offenders on pre-charge bail introduced by former prime minister Theresa May and implemented in 2017 under new laws to be unveiled this month. Police will instead be expected to use bail in cases where it is “necessary and proportionate”, including those in which there are risks to victims, witnesses and the public, and where it could prevent reoffending. Priti Patel will also increase the period for which criminal suspects can be bailed from 28 days to up to 90, if reports by The Telegraph are to be believed. This will allow police and prosecutors more time to gather evidence for any prosecution before they have to be released. The announcements appear as Freedom of Information figures show that the number of criminal suspects released while still under investigation rose from 6,464 in 2016 to 97,473 in 2019. Commenting on the subject, a Home Office source told The Telegraph, “We want officers to use bail more and to take into greater consideration the victims and impact any decision will have on them. It is putting victims and any other people who may be affected at the heart of the bail process.”

Labour denied Sikh leader his peerage over “extremist links” On Sunday 10th January it was reported that the Labour leader reportedly scrapped plans to give peerage to a leading Sikh independence supporter amid concerns over his alleged “extremist” links. Following his decision, Keir Starmer is reportedly facing calls to explain his decision after friends of senior public official Dabinderjit Singh Sidhu insisted it was “complete nonsense” to say he was a fanatic, The Daily Mail reported. Sir Keir is also being urged to say whether he had bowed to warnings that the Indian government would be furious to see Mr Singh receive the honour. Singh was expected to be one of six new Labour peers announced just before Christmas. But reports note that his nomination was withdrawn on the day of the announcement. Despite Sir Starmer’s withdrawal the House of Lords Appointments Commission,

Sir Keir Starmer Dabinderjit Singh

which vets peerages on security service advice, had already approved the nomination. 55-year-old Mr Singh, who is a senior official at the National Audit Office, faced reports in 2008 that he had been a member of the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) which was banned in the UK in 2001 amid Home Office warnings its members were a threat to national security. In 2007, he had reportedly spoken at a Trafalgar Square rally at which another

Mayor in conflict with London Assembly The Mayor of London is reportedly facing heat over hiring 6,000 new police officers by March, as the Mayoralty runs scare on funds due to the impact of Covid-19. In the meantime, Metropolitan Police budget has a projected £1bn black hole over the next three years.

PARENTS THREATENED OVER UNIFORM CHOICES On Tuesday 12th January it was reported that the parents of a Muslim girl who refused to wear a knee-length skirt to school are being threatened with possible court action. 12-year-old Siham Hamud had worn an ankle-length skirt to school for years but according to The Times, she was last month told that it was incorrect school uniform. According to her father, Idris Hamud, Siham had been sent home every day last month and told to come back wearing the correct uniform but she refused because it was “against her religious beliefs”. Uxbridge High School, in Hillingdon, west London, states that girls should wear black trousers or a black pleated skirt from official uniform suppliers. But the family have registered their protests stating that the pleated skirt falls above the knee. The school sent Mr Hamud and his wife, Salma Yusuf, 44, a letter last month. It noted, “Siham’s absence is being recorded as unauthorised. Unauthorised absence may result in a fine being issued or legal action being taken against the adults who have parental responsibility or day-to-day care of your child. Legal action can be in the form of a penalty notice or a summons to the magistrates’ court. I must ask that you support the school and your daughter by ensuring that she attends school in full school uniform with immediate effect.” Speaking to The Times, Siham, said: “It feels like bullying because of what I believe. I hope they’ll change their rules so that girls like me wear long skirts to school.” Mr Hamud, an athletics coach, said: “I don’t know why her skirt has suddenly become an issue. She’s always been a bright girl, one of the top in her class, and she loved school — and they just keep sending her home. Siham makes her own decisions about her religion, and I can’t make her wear clothes she doesn’t want to wear, so neither should the school.”

speaker praised terrorism and at which the banners of a separate banned Sikh terror group – Babbar Khalsa – were on open display. That group was implicated in the bombing of an Air India plane off the coast of Ireland with the death of all 329 crew and passengers. The Sikh Federation in a statement had earlier said, “Our understanding is Keir Starmer recommended Dabinderjit to fill one of the nominations given to the Labour Party by the prime

minister. The House of Lords' appointments commission carried out all the necessary checks and concluded weeks ago [that] Dabinderjit was of good standing in the community and had no concerns on his past conduct that would call into question his appointment to the House of Lords as a Labour peer. “Dabinderjit’s name then went to the prime minister and Buckingham Palace for the formal sign-off. The Formal signoff had been obtained and the only matter outstanding was a public announcement,” it added.

Sadiq Khan

The London Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee has asked Sadiq Khan to explain why he is pushing on with the recruiting push in his 2020-21 budget, which would push the Met severely into the red if the government does not provide more funding. The extra police in the mayor’s budget are a part of Boris Johnson’s drive to recruit 20,000 more police across England and Wales by 2022-23. The London Assembly report states that the Mayor had no “credible plan B” to pay for the new officers if government funding is not made available. A spokesperson for Sadiq Khan said the claims from the committee were “disingenuous”. Speaking to City AM, they said, “Both the mayor and the Met Commissioner believe London needs 6,000 additional police officers to tackle violent crime in the capital – yet the government’s short-termist approach to funding not only makes it difficult to budget for next year and beyond, but hampers our efforts to tackle crime in London. The reality is the Met recruited its full allocation of 1,369 this year and will soon begin the recruitment of the same number of officers next year. “We desperately need government to invest in our police after a decade of damaging cuts and with the city in the midst of a global pandemic, but the government has instead chosen to shift even more of the burden onto London taxpayers through an above-inflation council tax rise.” The Mayor has asked the Metropolitan police to make savings of £25m over the next year, after the Covid-19 crisis created a black hole in City Hall’s budget. This shortfall in

the Met’s budget is projected to increase substantially each year over the next three years, before reaching £455.3m in 2023-24. The Mayor has also been urged to take action to help homeowners in the capital living in buildings with potentially dangerous cladding. Another report published by the London Assembly has warned that home-

owners in cladded blocks need additional support. London Assembly members have called for Mr Khan to establish a service to provide legal and mental health support to residents affected by the cladding crisis. They said London residents were at particular risk because many high-rise properties are overcrowded.




16 - 22 January 2021

Ban not enough

Is Covid-19 shutdown effective?

It was really interesting to read an article “Ban on unhealthy food and drinks not enough to combat obesity” by Dr Partha Kar. He has rightly mentioned that Type II diabetes is linked to obesity which reduces the survival chances from infection like Coronavirus. In fact, it adversely impacts the immune system which will reduce the capacity to fight against diseases. The government is taking steps, but they seem to be superficial and not attacking the problem with full force to address and eliminate the root cause of the issue. Restrictions on the advertisements, ban to put the products near the check-out points or to restrict offers like buy one get one free etc are some of the measures, but the impact will not be very significant. Sugar taxation or charging more taxes on unhealthy foods with a huge amount of salt and sugar will generate more revenue for the government and make the product slightly dearer but will not address the real issue. As Dr Kar mentioned stigma around diabetes needs to be removed and the same should be discussed openly. Religious leaders, honourable doctors and influential people of society can play a vital role here. I think, the government should be strict in telling the food manufacturers that any product beyond a certain level of sugar and salt should not be produced and sold in the country after a specific date. Around 1 year may be given to the companies to modify the recipes and to amend the production process to reflect the proposed changes. Sugary drinks should be banned unless the manufactures accept to have a certain sugar level decided by the government. It is time to be decisive and take concrete steps instead of just debating on the issue. If we want to save NHS for long, strict decisions must be taken and implemented. Since NHS is funded by the taxpayers’ money, it is the responsibility of every citizen to make sure that the money is spent wisely and not wasted on some careless people who disregard the implications of having too much sugar intake.

Covid-19 is playing havoc with our lives, on social, educational and economic fronts, thousands losing their jobs and government borrowing billions, with overall debt touching some three trillion. Not many people can grasp gravity of three trillion debts! Yet Chancellor announcing more and more support to business, industry and on personal level without raising an extra penny from super rich people, like premiership footballers most of them earn one million pound a month. Then there are directors, bosses and speculators who play the market and make a ton without leaving their comfortable seats! So how come this once mighty nation who ruled one third of the world has become so inapt at fighting Covid-19. Even China who gave the world this disease has now managed to fight and control to such an extent that life is almost normal. So what is behind China’s success at controlling Covid-19? The answer is simple. It is dedication, discipline, observing rules and regulations that leaves no room for complicity or any doubt in the minds of public that China means business, to conquer this dreadful disease at any cost! Here people and politicians are too relaxed, flexible and selfish, believing that they will get away with minimum trouble if they break the law and rightly so. Demonstrations involving thousands of people were common in summer, for one cause or another. Environment, air pollution, tree felling, and Black Lives Matter were few of many causes people were protested against. While all these are noble causes worth fighting for but at right time and right manner, not putting our lives at risk, causing inconvenience to dedicated workers caring for the venerable, patient missing their hospital appointments. Some sixty people broke into church on New Year’s Eve in east London, breaking all rules, yet only three were fined £200 and no one £10,000! Why not every adult who attended this illegal event! I wonder how many people fined £10,000 have paid up or brought before the court! I would not be surprised if the figure is minuscule!

Hitesh Hingu London

Bhupendra M. Gandhi By email

Covid-19 in 2020

Makar Sankranti Many readers of Asian Voice and Gujarat Samachar may not be aware that every year on January 14 falls the very holy festival for Hindus. Makar Sankranti and many Orthodox Christians around the world celebrate New Year as per Georgian calendar and they celebrate Christmas on January 7 or near every year and visit a church to pray or reflect on their inner thoughts up to the Orthodox Christmas Day. The festival of Makar Sankranti is considered to be extremely auspicious because it marks the first day of sun’s transition into the sun sign Capricorn or Makar. The festival is observed each year and is dedicated to the Sun God. Some prepare Khichdi as an offering on the day to the deity and also offer the Lord rice, lentils and haldi and seek blessings for a prosperous harvest year ahead. Khichdi is then served to all the devotees and others as Prasad or blessings from God. In Gujarat and many parts of India people celebrate on the famous kite flying festival on this day. People of all age and gender from dawn to dusk go on terrace or roof and enjoy flying kites. They then eat tasty foods including Jalebis and Fafdas and enjoy listening to music especially Hindi songs. Women also cook healthy grains “Gugri” and feed the cows and get blessings. Now people also go to restaurants and other places and celebrate the festival in a non-traditional way. Also, India’s Republic day is around the corner. Hence, we convey our best wishes to all Indians living in India and abroad. Jai Hind. Suresh and Bhavna Patel Markham, Canada

Covid-19, the global virus has changed 2020 that we were not prepared for. We never thought that the year will prove as depressive, tough, hard, simply different from the recent years of our lives. In 2020, we all have learnt so many things, attitude and foremost our weakness. The year has also added some new words in our vocabulary such as lockdown, quarantine, social distancing, social isolation and so on for the very first time in our life.Like every coin has two sides, Covid-19 also has its own such as it exposes our strengths as well as our weaknesses.The Coronavirus outbreak has rendered many people jobless, while some are distressed and not able to go out to earn their livelihood. During such a hard time, we have a responsibility to donate generously. However, keeping in mind social distancing norms and the fear of contracting the virus, many people are confused regarding how to make donations. It was a cause of concern for me about how to make donations safely with the ever-increasing Corona cases in India. This is where digital financial services and their ability to disburse donations come into play. Platforms have enabled privileged members of the society to help many deserving people. These innovative and convenient digital payment services give us a user-friendly platform through which we can donate from the very comfort of our homes. Jubel D'Cruz, Mumbai, India

Death in Bollywood

Previous six rounds of talk have failed to resolve the impasse. The centre has refused to repeal the laws and has instead suggested amendments. The farmers are adamant on a complete rollback. The group of farmers mainly from Punjab and Haryana are going too far to demoralise the centre seemingly for vested interest and politicalagenda. It is absurd for them to undermine the integrity of the likes of Ambani and Adani in matters whose contributions to the nation are phenomenal. The prolonged agitation is not only causing disruption, intimidation, hardship to the general public going about their daily business but also damage to the economy and racerelations. In this difficult scenario, the farmers and the well-wishers in favour of the farm laws must stage a counter-protest in their state in solidarity with the centre. In no way, the centre should give in to the unscrupulous agenda of the opposition and their cronies behind the protest for the greater good of the nation.

I watched the first episode of the BBC 2 documentary Death in Bollywood on actor Jiah Khan’s death, and it left me sad for a mother who lost her daughter. I did not know that Jiah’s mother, Rabia Amin was an actress. Jiah, born as Nafisa, had committed suicide on 3 June in 2013 at the age of 25. Across three episodes the documentary reportedly explores the investigation into her death, and Rabia’s attempts to have the actress’s ex-boyfriend Sooraj Pancholi, who denies involvement, charged with her murder. A letter was found by her bedside, that was perhaps unread by Sooraj. No one knows if it was meant to be a suicide note or a farewell letter by Nafisa to her boyfriend. Time will reveal the truth, or will it? We don’t know. Even Sushant Singh Rajput’s death left behind so many unanswered questions. Being a mother of two, listening to Jiah’s mother and sisters talk about Jiah has been heart wrenching. I am awaiting the second episode to air next week at 9pm on Monday.

Niranjan Vasant By email

Kala Sen By email

Indian Farmers Protest

KHICHADI Follow me on Twitter: @kk_OEG Kapil’s

Persecution of Minorities in Pakistan Kapil Dudakia In a groundbreaking move, the Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB), the Hindu Council UK (HCUK), the National Council of Hindu Temples (NCHT), Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh and Vishwa Hindu Parishad came together to write a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to take note of, and to seek a full blown inquiry into the persecution of minorities in Pakistan. In their letter to the PM, the group said, ‘We ask you Prime Minister to set up a Governmental Inquiry into this issue and to ask all good democracies around the world, via the United Nations, to replicate a similar type of inquiry. The mass murder, genocide, and the persecution of minorities in Pakistan must be stopped.’. Of course being Hindu organisations their prime objective is to get the global fraternity to look at Pakistan and how it is persecuting Hindus. However, Pakistan is notorious for persecuting Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Shias, Ahmadis, and the people of Baloch. Since 1947, successive Pakistani governments have systematically implemented a policy of decimating people of any faith who are not Sunni Muslims. This is a nation that is built on hatred and fear. Their own spineless pedigree puts them in the same bracket as genocidal dictators of the past like Hitler, Stalin, Jozef Tiso, Döme Sztójay, Yahya Khan to name but a few. By any measure, it has become evidently clear to anyone who sees truth for what it is, that the percentage of Hindus in Pakistan has been decimated since 1947. According to Farahnaz Ispahani (former Member of Parliament of Pakistan) in her article titled ‘Cleansing Pakistan of Minorities’ she stated, ‘At the time of partition in 1947, almost 23 percent of Pakistan’s population was comprised of non-Muslim citizens. Today, the proportion of non-Muslims has declined to approximately 3 percent.’. To date no international organisation has dared to ask the key question, ‘where have all the Hindus gone?’. So whilst Pakistan continues its reign of terror on its own citizens, guess what? On Tuesday 12th January, some mad British MPs will hold a general debate on the persecution of Muslims, Christians and other minority groups in India. Yes, you read that correctly. When you have such madness is it any wonder that the terrorist state of Pakistan, and its paid puppets around the world, can enter into such pretentious debates. It’s a bit like the Nazis holding a debate on the persecution of Germans in France and Britain! What next, ‘how China is promoting good interfaith dialogue by their ‘special’ treatment of the Uighurs?’. Fortunately, most British MPs are not so stupid. Those who are tend also to be Labour MPs. I can understand why. After all, their very survival depends on the Pakistani vote bank. The letter from Hindu organisations comes at the right time. It reminds the Government to look into the real persecution of minorities that is taking place in Pakistan. The world knows of this yet has found many ways of ignoring it. At the UN it seems the more barbaric the leadership of a nation, the greater the possibility that they will be promoted to their ’Human Rights’ Council! The one constant truth in all of this being that the upholders of adharma will rejoice in their minor victories, but the Dharmic forces will always prevail in the end.Think about it, after some 1500 years of Islamic brutality and Christian enslavement, India and the people of Bharat not only survived, today under the stewardship of PM Modi, they are beginning to right the wrongs of the past. It will take time, but the process has started, and it is this that terrifies the Islamists and the Marxists. I came across this: “No matter how hard Evil tries, it can never quite match up to the power of Good, because Evil is ultimately self-destructive. Evil may set out to corrupt others, but in the process corrupts itself.” We are grateful to all letter writers for more and more versatile letters well within word limit. Please keep contributing as always. If you are new, then write to Rupanjana at - AV


UK 11


16 - 22 January 2021

Alok Sharma made President of COP26 On Friday 8th January, prime minister Boris Johnson announced that Alok Sharma will now be delegated as the full-time President of Cop26 and lead preparations for the climate conference in Glasgow this November. Indian origin minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Sharma will now undertake the Cop26 role permanently, with Kwasi Kwarteng taking the business brief. Cop26 which was initially scheduled for last November and got delayed owing to the coronavirus pandemic is expected to gather representatives from nearly 200 countries. The government believes the event would be the largest summit the United Kingdom has ever hosted. Sharma’s role will be based in the Cabinet Office, and he will continue as a full member of cabinet, also leading on UK plans to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Amber Rudd, who as energy and climate secretary led the UK delegation to the Paris climate talks in 2015, reportedly said that Sharma needed to devote “100% of his time, energy and persuasion to make it a success”. There has been further speculation around a cabinet reshuffle but at the time, it does not look likely considering the gravity of the coronavirus situation, with changes expected to be delayed to summer or autumn. Sharma said: “The biggest challenge of our time is climate change and we need to work together to

deliver a cleaner, greener world and build back better for present and future generations. Through the UK’s presidency of Cop26 we have a unique opportunity, working with friends and partners around the world, to deliver on this goal. Given the vital importance of tackling climate change I am delighted to have been asked by the prime minister to dedicate all my energies to this urgent task.” Prince Charles urges Indian businesses to pledge support for Earth Charter In the meantime, on Monday 11th January Prince Charles made a special appeal to businesses in India as he urged them to sign up to a new green charter. He launched this charter as a roadmap to 2030 for companies to move towards an ambitious and sustainable future. The Terra Carta or Earth Charter, at the One Planet Summit hosted by France was launched by the Prince of Wales in January last year at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos. The Charter is part of the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) and in his appeal to Indian businesses he said, “As one of the world’s largest economies,

India and its organisations have a crucial role to play as we address our climate and biodiversity crisis. I hope that businesses across India sign up to the Terra Carta to play their part in putting nature, people and planet at the heart of global value creation. “Today, I am making an urgent appeal to leaders, from all sectors and from around the world to give their support to this ‘Terra Carta’ – to bring prosperity into harmony with nature, people and planet over the coming decade. I can only encourage, in particular, those in industry and finance to provide practical leadership to this common project, as only they are able to mobilise the innovation, scale and resources that are required to transform our global economy. “The ‘Terra Carta' offers the basis of a recovery plan that puts nature, people and planet at the heart of global value creation – one that will harness the precious, irreplaceable power of nature combined with the transformative innovation and resources of the private sector.” Indian solar energy firm ReNew Power is among the two dozen international companies which have already signed up to the charter. Other businesses reportedly include AstraZeneca, Unilever, Bank of America, EY and BP. The Terra Carta, designed on the lines of the Magna Carta royal charter of rights dating

Ruchi Ghanashyam

Alok Sharma

back to the 13th century, follows the Prince’s call for a “Marshall-like Plan for Nature, People and Planet” during Climate Week in September 2020. The Terra Carta outlines 10 areas for action and comprises of nearly 100 actions for business as the basis of a recovery plan that puts nature, people and planet at the heart of global value creation. The new charter aims to encourage and provide a framework for each actor to accelerate their respective transition journeys. It is based on a series of recommendations developed over a year of Prince Charles convening “coalitions of the willing” among global business leaders across industries in almost every sector, challenging them to identify ways to set our planet on a fundamentally more sustainable trajectory. Together, they have developed a charter of ambitious, but practical action aimed at building a truly sustainable future. The Terra Carta further aims to unlock the "catalytic potential" of consumer demand, and to drive investment into solutions (nature-based and engineered) that address the climate and biodiversity crises.

Sub postmasters to file lawsuit against the Post Office On 10th January, it emerged that dozens of sub-postmasters were preparing to launch lawsuits for against the Post Office in what is often referred to as the “greatest miscarriage of justice”. According to Financial Times, six sub-postmasters cleared their names last month when Southwark Crown Court quashed their convictions for fraud and false accounting. Now, additional 47 sub-postmasters are expected to be heard in March with the Court of Appeal likely to decide whether to overturn their convictions. The Post Office had accused hundreds of postmasters of theft over charges of missing money despite substantial evidence noting the failings of the Horizon computer and IT system. They were accused of theft as they were considered to be the only authority with control of their Horizon account. Hundreds of them were fired, termi-

nated, or wrongfully convicted. Some were even imprisoned while some died of suicide. Many sub-postmasters were forced to repay thousands of pounds to cover the alleged shortfalls, while others faced bankruptcy or even prison sentences. The Post Office had earlier last year stated that it would not contest 44 out of the 47 appeals due to be heard in March, which have been referred by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

This makes it more likely that Court of Appeal judges will overturn the convictions. If acquitted, the subpostmasters plan to immediately launch their own High Court civil lawsuits for malicious prosecution against the Post Office. A malicious prosecution lawsuit is usually brought by individuals who have been acquitted who must demonstrate that the prosecution was brought without reasonable cause and maliciously. After more than 900 prosecutions, when 550 sub-postmasters raised civil actions against the Post Office, £57.75mn was awarded as financial compensation. But after deduction of all the overheads the postmasters had just £11m. Now, the Post Office has assured that all the postmasters will be entitled to claim civil compensation because their convictions are being overturned and will be compensated as quickly as possible. Yet, the amount is unknown.

Dismantling structural inequality and racism On Tuesday 12th January, the U.K.’s Inclusive Cinema project launched a guide for improving the cinema experiences of ethnically diverse audiences and staff. This is expected to challenge institutions to follow through in

their actions on their Black Lives Matter and antiracism statements from 2020. “Dismantling Structural Inequality in Your Cinema,” was commissioned from artist and

freelancer Sadia Pineda Hameed, and is cited by its writer as “the last toolkit that cinemas should need.” The toolkit examines the role of cinemas in the context of systemic injustice and focuses on preventing

Khatta Meetha - Sweet and Sour Week

harm towards people of colour. Inclusive Cinema is a U.K.-wide project funded by the BFI Film Audience Network. The project is overseen by Toki Allison, BFI Film Audience Network access officer

Over the last couple of days, I have been debating with myself over the subject for this week’s column. Having written about the pandemic and not wanting to seem obsessed with our current shared misfortune, I wondered how can we remain unaffected by the raging fire that’s threatening to overwhelm the NHS in the UK or that has forced South Africa into another strict lockdown or reports of new strains of the coronavirus being found. There is a new lockdown in China too. Some may not sympathise with China as the place where the coronavirus first manifested itself or for China’s failure to sound the alarm and prevent the global spread of the virus that eventually caused a pandemic. The virus does not distinguish between victims. We sympathise with affected people everywhere and convey best wishes for good health to all. Developments in Washington this past few days grabbed headlines. Out of control mob of unruly people, making an assault on the hallowed institution of democracy, engaging in violence that led to the death of more than one person, invading the dignity and privacy of high offices, were some of the unbelievable scenes that exploded through the media in front of a shocked and astounded globe since 6th January. The mob wanted to reverse the verdict of the people, delivered in the recently held elections in USA. As I write, the Democrats are working on the second impeachment of President Trump under whose watch this happened. Even if swift and appropriate action is taken against the culprits of the violence, the long-term damage to US reputation and standing, would need hard work to recover. USA built its democratic values through decades of hard work and commitment. We all remember the definition of democracy given by President Abraham Lincoln - a government of the people, by the people and for the people. There can be no simpler way to explain what democracy means. Democracy is a system of government that is not only chosen by the people, but one that is accountable to the people and governs in the people’s name for the benefit of the people. How did a country devoted to this lofty ideal manage to reach this low point? Many columns have been written on this subject and much is circulating through the electronic and social media. It is reassuring that President elect Joe Biden has underlined the values that USA stands for. All people committed to democracy and freedom, wish to see the beacon of democracy upheld. India is the world’s largest democracy. While laying the foundation stone of a new Parliament building in New Delhi, PM Modi described democracy in India as a “value, a way of living and the soul of the nation’s life”. The US is often said to be the oldest democracy with its written constitution and over 200 years of continuous democracy. The UK has a credible claim as the world’s oldest democracy; it is responsible for establishing many of the democratic principles that we know today, especially through the Magna Carta. Countries like Isle of Man, San Marino and Iceland also have old and established democracies. Ancient Greeks are supposed to be the originators of the term: the Greek word ‘demos’ meaning ‘people’ and ‘kratos’ for ‘strength’. India has known the concept of democracy through the independent ‘republics’, ‘sanghas’ and ‘ganas’ that existed as early as the 6th century B.C. The Licchavi Republic is best known amongst them. As I write on 12 January, I pay a tribute to Swami Vivekananda on his birth anniversary. He took Hinduism and Indian culture to Western societies. Nehru Centre in London has organised an online conversation with author, historian and journalist Hindol Sengupta which can be viewed at that will explain ‘The Universal Appeal of Swami Vivekananda’. Let me close with congratulations to the all women team of Air India pilots who set a proud record by flying the longest flight from San Fransisco to Bengaluru over the North Pole, covering a distance of around 16,000 km. (Mrs Ruchi Ghanashyam is the former High Commissioner of India to the UK. With a career in Indian Foreign Service for over 38 years, she has been posted in many countries including Ghana, before arriving in the UK. She was only the second woman High Commissioner to the UK since India’s independence and during her tenure, she witnessed a number of significant developments in the UK-India relations).




16 - 22 January 2021

SCRUTATOR’S Crocodile park to come up near Statue of Unity Gujarat's first crocodile park is set to come up near the Statue of Unity (SoU) site. The Sardar Patel Zoological Park, known as Jungle Safari, in Kevadia has decided to build a crocodile park in its premises. Located next to the towering statue, this safari is home to several wild animals and exotic birds. “Design for the park is ready and we have invited bids for the project. Once completed, the crocodile park will be one of our major attractions,” said Dr Ram Ratan Nala, director, Sardar Patel Zoological Park. The park enclosure will ensure safety of the crocodiles and give them enough space to swim around without getting into territorial conflicts. “The park is being divided into two parts. One zone will be for public viewing of crocodiles while the other section will be for rescued crocodiles,” Nala said. The authorities are also planning to set up a facility to treat the injured crocodiles rescued from water bodies and then releasing them back in their natural abode. To be built at the cost of Rs 98,00,000, the park spread over 5,500 sq m land is expected to be completed within next six months. The Jungle Safari has nearly 350 exotic animals and birds, including capuchin monkeys, lama, alpaca, squirrel monkey, giraffe, zebras, lion and tiger. (The Times of India) Villagers ask bank to release money for man's last rites When a 60-year-old daily wage earner with no relative died at his home in rural Patna, his neighbours carried his body to his bank and kept it there for three hours. Since he had no money in his house to pay for his last rites, villagers demanded the bank to pay a part of the Rs 118,000 that the deceased had in his account. While going through the deceased Mahesh Yadav’s belongings, the residents found his passbook. According to Shahjahanpur police station SHO Amrendra Kumar, the villagers wanted the bank to disburse at least Rs 20,000 from Mahesh’s account. The SHO said the matter was raised at the general manager’s level for a solution and it was only after that the branch released money that the villagers relented. (Agency) Bollywood designer comes out as transwoman Swapnil Shinde, the 39-year-

old Bollywood fashion designer, has reborn as Saisha Shinde, the transwoman. Shinde was known for dressing Bollywood actors such as Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif, Kareena Kapoor and Sunny Leone. “All through school and college, while the boys tormented me because I was different, the internal pain was far worse. I felt suffocated living a reality that I knew wasn’t mine, yet one that I had to stage every day because of societal expectations and norms. It was only in my early 20s at NIFT where I found the courage to accept my truth; I truly bloomed,” Shinde wrote, adding she spent the next few years “believing that I was attracted to men because I was gay, but it was only six years ago that I finally accepted to myself, and today that I accept to you. I’m not a gay man. I am a Transwoman.” However, shedding apprehensions and transitioning to her dreams of an appearance to match her identity as a woman was “never black and white,” she

underlines. “One morning after a chat with my therapist I decided to go with my decision to live as a woman in full swing,” she gushes. (The Times of India) India to soon have aero-sports like skydiving India is planning to allow aero-sports like skydiving soon. Among the activities being considered under this sports are gliding, ballooning, hang gliding, paragliding, para-motoring, aero modelling and of course skydiving, said a senior official. The aviation ministry is working on India’s first national aerosports policy (NASP) to develop this in the country. “Aero-sports create significant opportunities for growth of tourism, employment generation and interest in aviation activities. A growth-oriented NASP may help attract investments in latest aerosports technology, infrastructure and best practices. With a view to prepare the draft NASP 2021, it has been decided to constitute a committee,” says an aviation ministry order. Aviation minister HS Puri said: “Held extensive discussions with party colleague Rajiv Pratap Rudy on developing aerosports in India. (The ministry) has already formed a committee to recommend a policy framework for this.” (Agency) Dialysis centre for pet dogs A doctor's family in Surat has decided to set up a dialysis centre. According to the Chauhan family, this facility will initially

pets in the state. Fees will be taken from pet owners who can afford to pay money while stray dogs will be given dialysis for free,” said Dr Mahendra Chauhan, an ophthalmic surgeon who runs Keshvi Charitable Trust. Chauhan, his wife Binodini, a fetal medicine specialist and daughter Keshvi, a general practitioner, are setting up Leo Dialysis Facility in the memory of Leo, their 12-year-old Dachshund that died of renal failure in 2016. (The Times of India) Train runs over four promising graduates The lives of four promising young men- an MBA postgraduate, a pharmacy student and two ITI graduates - were cut short by a train doing a trial run on tracks that had been unused for over two) years in Uttarakhand. The youths were not from well-to-do families and their parents had to struggle to educate them. Mayur (23), Vishal (24), Praveen (22) and Happy (22) used to meet at the abandoned railway tracks in Jamalpur Kalan often, talking about government job openings and preparations for those openings. Last week, around 6.30 pm, while they were engaged in discussions about their plans for the future, the train sped through the tracks, crushing them. “The train didn’t sound a horn, there are no walls around the tracks. Two big villages are right next to it, but there was nothing to indicate a train would suddenly run,” said Vineet Chauhan, corporator of Sitapur village, where all four were from. Later, the angry locals blocked the tracks for three hours. (Agency) Air India’s all-women pilots team creates history A team of four women pilots created history by flying Air India’s longest direct route flight over the North Pole and covering

treat cats and dogs and is expected to become operational by the end of this month. “Pet owners from the state currently have to travel all the way to Mumbai or Chennai for the dialysis facility and they end up spending Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 per trip. Now they can treat their

a distance of about 16,000 km. The direct flight between San Francisco-Bengaluru landed at Kempegowda International Airport on Monday morning. The flight departed from San Francisco on January 9. After landing at Bengaluru airport, Captain Zoya Aggarwal said, “Today, we created world history by not only flying over the North Pole but also by having all women pilots who successfully did it. We are extremely happy and proud to be part of it. This route has saved 10 tonnes of fuel,” Captain Zoya said. Shivani Manhas, another pilot who operated Air India’s inaugural San Francisco-Bengaluru flight said, “It was an exciting experience since it was never done before. It took almost 17 hours to reach here.” Lauding the women pilots, Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri tweeted, “In a moment to cherish and celebrate, women professionals of Indian civil aviation create history. Heartiest Congratulations to Captain Zoya Aggarwal, Captain Papagari Thanmai, Capt Akansha Sonaware and Capt Shivani for flying over North Pole to land in Bengaluru from San Francisco.” (Agency) 1,771 lightning deaths in FY20 India has recorded 1,771 deaths due to lightning between April 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020, despite the fact that the country has 82 lightning detectors, apps that deliver alert notifications for upcoming incidents, and the IMD can relay immediate lightning forecasts for the next three hours. According to experts, the problem is the last mile delivery of the warning. The report hopes to address this gap by providing extensive state-wise data on lightning strikes,

fatalities and patterns. The maximum number of lightning deaths, 293, was reported in Uttar Pradesh, followed by 248 in Madhya Pradesh, 221 in Bihar, 200 in Odisha, and 172 in Jharkhand. However, the number of deaths reduced by about 25% from 2018. The report, compiled based on numbers as received from state governments, media and volunteers, and as part of ‘The Lightning Resilient India Campaign’ launched in April 2019, is a joint initiative by Climate Resilient Observing Systems Promotion Council (CROPC), India Meteorological Department, Ministry of Earth Science, GoI, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, India Meteorological Society and World Vision India. (Agency) Pilot sacked for offensive tweets on PM Modi GoAir sacked a senior pilot

for putting out “derogatory tweets” on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 7. The captain, whose tweets had led to an uproar on social media, was made to apologise as per the airline’s policy. In a statement, GoAir said: “We have zero tolerance policy and it is mandatory for all GoAir employees to comply with the company’s employment rules, regulations and policies, including social media behaviour. The airline does not associate itself with personal views expressed by any individual or an employee. GoAir has terminated the services of the captain with immediate effect.” The sacked captain also apologised on social media. “I apologise for my tweets about the prime minister and other offensive tweets, which may have hurt sentiments of anyone associated. I convey that GoAir is not associated with any of my tweets directly or indirectly as they were personal views. I take full responsibility for my actions and would like to apologise for my mistakes and willingly accept the consequences,” the pilot tweeted. (The Times of India)


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16 - 22 January 2021

in brief in brief MOTHER TWEETS PHOTO OF INADEQUATE FOOD HAMPER An angry mother has tweeted a photo of what she claims is an inadequate food hamper to replace free school meals for her child. In the image, the hamper contains a loaf of bread, a bag of pasta, one can of baked beans, some cheese, three apples, two carrots, one tomato, two baked potatoes, two bananas, two malt loaf snacks and three snack size tubes of fromage frais. Her image has been shared more than 18,000 times on Twitter - including by footballer Marcus Rashford, who had campaigned to ensure families were supplied with food during lockdown - and who called it "unacceptable". The mother said the parcel had been issued by Chartwells, a private company contracted by the Department for Education, instead of £30 worth of vouchers. "I could do more with £30 to be honest," she wrote, adding that she estimated the total value of the goods to be £5.22. Manchester United star Rashford tweeted that he had been in touch with Chartwells and that the firm was having a meeting with the Department for Education today. He posted that "once food is supplied to the school network, schools have the autonomy over how the hampers are distributed", and that the problem appeared to have been made worse by the latest lockdown. He wrote, "One thing that is clear is that there was very little communication with the suppliers that a national lockdown was coming," "We MUST do better. Children shouldn't be going hungry on the basis that we aren't communicating or being transparent with plans. That is unacceptable."


Roo Rawal

On 7th January it was reported that a postman who was unfairly sacked by Royal Mail for urinating in public has won nearly £40,000 after a tribunal heard “there is not a post person alive” who has not had to. Roo Rawal was dismissed from Royal Mail's Watford depot for gross misconduct after a member of the public filmed him relieving himself in a lay-by after getting caught short while driving his delivery van. The veteran postman reportedly named at least 12 colleagues who had also urinated in public and not been fired - with some doing so in people's gardens. According to The Daily Mail, one postman even told the hearing, “There was not a post person alive, man or woman, who [...] had not been caught short [...] and had to urinate in public.” Now Mr Rawal has been awarded £37,720 in compensation after Royal Mail was judged to have dismissed him unfairly.

Government announces business measures over human rights abuses in Xinjiang On Tuesday 12th January, the Foreign Secretary announced a series of measures to help ensure that British organisations, whether public or private sector, are not complicit in, nor profiting from, the human rights violations in Xinjiang. Evidence of gross human rights violations including extra-judicial detention and forced labour has been growing, including proof from the Chinese authorities' own government documents. The UK Government has repeatedly called on China to end these practices, and uphold its national laws and international obligations. The Home Secretary Priti Patel said, "Britain will always stand up for those suffering dreadful human rights abuses and today we are bringing forward measures which will help protect the minority populations in Xinjiang. “Businesses and public bodies must be more vigilant than ever before and ensure they are not inadvertently allowing forced labour in their supply chains." The UK Government is thus, announcing a review into which UK products can be exported to Xinjiang and the introduction of financial penalties for businesses that do not comply with the Modern Slavery Act. Further measures include increasing support for UK public bodies to exclude businesses complicit in human rights violations from their supply chains. Together these measures will help UK organisations ensure that they

Priti Patel

are not contributing to the abuse of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, “The evidence of the scale and severity of the human rights violations being perpetrated in Xinjiang against the Uyghur Muslims is now far reaching. Today we are announcing a range of new measures to send a clear message that these violations of human rights are unacceptable, and to safeguard UK businesses and public bodies from any involvement or linkage with them. “This package will help make sure that no British organisations, Government or private sector, deliberately or inadvertently, profit from or contribute to the human rights violations against the Uyghurs or other minorities in Xinjiang.” Coordinated international action is needed to address the risk of forced labour entering global supply chains, and the UK is working closely with its partners on this issue. Today, Canada will make a parallel announcement of measures to help ensure Canadian businesses are not complicit in forced labour in Xinjiang.

Dominic Raab

The Trade Secretary Liz Truss said, "These new measures demonstrate that we will not turn a blind eye nor tolerate complicity in the human rights abuses taking place in Xinjiang. Forced labour, anywhere in the world, is unacceptable. This Government wants to work with businesses to support responsible practices, and ensure British consumers are not unwittingly buying products that support the cruelty we are witnessing against the Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang." The measures include: • A review of export controls as they apply to Xinjiang to ensure the Government is doing all it can to prevent the exports of goods that may contribute to human rights abuses in the region. This review will determine which additional specific products will be subject to export controls in future. • The introduction of financial penalties for organisations who fail to meet their statutory obligations to publish annual modern slavery statements, under the Modern Slavery Act. • New, robust and detailed

guidance to UK business setting out the specific risks faced by companies with links to Xinjiang and underlining the challenges of effective due diligence there. • The Government will provide guidance and support for all UK public bodies to use public procurement rules to exclude suppliers where there is sufficient evidence of human rights violations in supply chains. Compliance will be mandatory for central government, non-departmental bodies and executive agencies. • A Minister led campaign of business engagement to reinforce the need for UK businesses to take action to address the risk. The UK, working with partners including Canada, has led international action to hold China to account for their actions in Xinjiang, supported research which has built the evidence base for action, and urged UK business to conduct robust due diligence to ensure its supply chains are free of forced labour. The UK has led international joint statements on Xinjiang in the UN General Assembly Third Committee and the UN Human Rights Council, including bringing forward the latest statement which was supported by 39 countries, together with Germany, in October last year. The UK was also the first country to require companies by law to report on modern slavery in their supply chains. Canada and the UK’s approach will help to defend the rights of Uyghurs.

“Toxic” police units sacked for racist and sexist conversations A misconduct panel reported that three members of a "toxic" police unit had been sacked for gross misconduct after their "offensive" conversations were secretly bugged. The devices reportedly picked up "homophobic, racist and sexist" conversations in the offices of Hampshire's Serious and Organised Crime Unit in Basingstoke in 2018, the BBC reported. Two other officers would have been sacked but had already left the force. The misconduct hearing was told in the

24 days the office was bugged following concerns raised by a whistleblower - there was "enough profanity, casual sexism and racism to last a lifetime". Det Sgt Oliver Lage, Det Sgt Gregory Willcox and PC James Oldfield have been dismissed while retired Det Insp Tim Ireson and former PC Craig Bannerman were the two who had previously left the force. Trainee Det Con Andrew Ferguson, who sent colleagues a fake pornographic image of members of the royal family, has been given a final written warning.

Imposing the sanctions, panel chairman John Bassett said the conduct had been "shameful". He said police officers could not "pick and choose the standards they will abide by" in order to create more "cohesive" teams.

Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney said the force's internal investigation had revealed a "catalogue of sexist, racist, homophobic and ableist language and commentary that has rightly shocked us all". She said, "These officers have failed to deliver on the promise they made to uphold fundamental human rights and accord equal respect to all people. They have undermined the trust and confidence of our communities and damaged the reputations of their colleagues."

Report predicts decline in London population A recent report has analysed that London’s population is expected to decline for the first time in more than 30 years. Combined with economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, immigration and Brexit, the city can see a massive drop in the number of people currently living there. According to the accountancy firm PwC, the number of people living in the capital could fall by more than 300,000 this year, from a record level of about 9 million in 2020, to as low as 8.7 million. This would end decades of growth with the first annual drop since 1988. The forecast

arrives at a time when the city and town centres have been a ghost front with the Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently stressing that he is “desperate” for these centres to revive and re-open. A boom in work from home culture during the pandemic has also encouraged growing numbers of people to consider moving elsewhere. Other drivers include a smaller number of graduates moving to London with international students remaining sceptical of pursuing their academic career in the UK amid the discovery of a new strain of the virus. Fewer job opportunities in the capital and

lower international migration to the city as a result of the pandemic and Brexit have also contributed significantly. Net EU migration to the UK as a whole has fallen since the 2016 Brexit vote, and could turn negative in 2021 – meaning more people leave the UK for the EU than arrive from it – for the first time since the early 1990s, according to PwC forecasts. Commenting on the subject, Hannah Audino, an economist at PwC, said a sustained decline in London’s population would have wide-ranging consequences for the capital’s economy, house prices and transport

network, but that it was too early to know for certain whether Covid-19 and Brexit would have a long-term impact. She said, “It depends on the extent to which remote working truly does become the new normal into the long term. A lot of people really miss the office environment, so once social distancing measures are fully history, in five to 10 years’ time, maybe people will go back more to city living,”




16 - 22 January 2021

‘Don't believe everything Dr Google tells you’ Shefali Saxena Nutrition has been one of the most imperative talking points during the Covid-19 pandemic. With a 360 degree change in lifestyle, working conditions, mental stress and pandmeic woes, nutrition strategy became paramount. Asian Voice spoke exclusively to Azmina Govindji RD, author of Vegan Savvy: The Expert's Guide to Nutrition on a Plant-based Diet. After her post-graduation in Nutrition and Dietetics at King’s College London, Azmina worked in a clinical setting within the NHS and then spent eight years as Chief Dietitian and Head of Diet Information Services to Diabetes UK. She was responsible for policies on national dietary recommendations for people with diabetes, and can still remember debating the latest research with esteemed academics such as the late Professor David Southgate and Dr Mike Lean. What according to you should Asian women keep in mind while building their nutrition strategy? Be discerning! You may be lured into a new diet or an amazing way to improve your nutrition but I suggest you check the credentials of the author and the source of your information. Look out for RD or RNutr after the name of the author, and you can trust sources like the BDA, NHS, Diabetes UK, British Heart Foundation and similar authoritative organisations. Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be regulated by law, and are governed by an ethical code to ensure that they always

work to the highest standard. They will have RD after their name. Be realistic. It may be tempting to boost your diet with lots of new eating strategies but you're more likely to maintain changes in the long term if they fit with your current lifestyle and food preferences. So take on a small step at a time and build from there. Focus on your end goal. What is your aim? Do you want to lose weight? Improve your immunity? Balance your blood glucose or cholesterol levels? Having clarity on your goal can make you better equipped to find solutions that are appropriate to your needs. In times when people are bound to stay home, do you think we need to adapt to a new way of eating, more importantly, nutrition? My top tips: No one specific nutrient, food or diet can prevent us catching Covid-19 or any other viral infection. However we do know that a range of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals in the diet can act together to support normal immune function. Keep it varied: If you eat a wide range of healthy foods, you have a better chance of keeping in good physical and mental health. Household dried food staples like rice, pasta, grains, beans and lentils can make simple nutritious meals by providing protein and fibre. Staying at home might have left you feeling tired and lethargic. Foods rich in iron such as lean red meat, quinoa and kid-




Don't believe everything Dr Google tells you. Celebrities have stylists, beauticians, personal instructors - as well as air-brushing - to make them look as good as they do. There are real (sometimes long-term) problems associated with bad food and diet advice. (More on the answer to Q1 above).

Azmina Govindji

ney beans can help you to feel more energised. Eat regular meals and drink plenty of fluids. If you’re feeling low or tired, reach for some water, sugar-free squash, sparkling waters, vegetable smoothie, low fat milk or sugar-free flavoured water. Support your immune system with vitamin D. Your body makes vitamin D when exposed to UVB rays of the sun. In winter months, take a daily supplement of 10micrograms of vitamin D. South Asians with dark skin are less able to make vitamin D than someone with paler skin - speak to your GP about whether you need a higher dose of vitamin D. If you are at home with children when the schools are closed, try out some simple recipes to make together. If your kids have had a hand in preparing a meal, they may be more likely to eat what's on their plate!


In the age of information explosion where Googling symptoms, and diets can be detrimental to a person's health, how'd you suggest one must gather primary information about nutrition?

As an expert in nutrition, what has been your biggest learning in the evolution of nutrition? Nutrition is an evolving science and we need to respect the changes in recommendations when new knowledge comes to light. More and more evidence is pointing to the value of eating more plant-based foods. Meat, fish, eggs and dairy are nutritious and important foods, but cutting down our portions sizes of animal-based foods and eating more plant-based foods such as whole grains, beans, lentils, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds has been associated with good long-term health. This is relatively easy for Asian communities where foods like dal and beans are popular staples. A diet rich in whole plant-based foods can help to manage blood glucose levels in diabetes as whole foods like beans, lentils, nuts, and vegetables are typically low in glycaemic index and high in fibre. These foods can also help you to manage blood cholesterol level and help you towards achieving your 5-a-day fruit and vegetable recommendations. Studies have suggested that people on vegan diets tend to have a lower BMI, which can help to reduce your risks of long term conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Mothers make tough and responsible choices during the national lockdown In the first week of the new year 2021 when the number of daily cases surpassed the 60,000 mark, the UK went into its third national lockdown. It was thought that one in 50 people in private households in England had the virus that week - rising to one in 30 in London. At a Downing Street news conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he would not guarantee that all children would be back in school before the summer holidays but insisted he was full of "optimism and fundamental hope" that things would be different in the spring. Asian Voice reached out to a few mothers to know how they are coping with this lockdown. Nishma Gosrani OBE told Asian Voice about how she is managing her time at home with kids. She said, “Similar to the previous lockdown - (albeit this time my son has started school and his school has set up structured classes). We have created a small group of families we’re close with and are sharing pools of resources, whether it's meal plans, activity schedules or feedback.” “The nature of this crisis requires that we find safe and responsible ways to help each other while upholding our responsibilities at work and at home. Lean on other parents (virtually) to share responsibility, looking out especially for those that might need extra help.” “I believe it’s very important to accept that things are not going to run completely smoothly and we aren’t going to be our 100% productive selves. But with tempered expectations, a flexible approach and resourcefulness, we’ll all be amazed at how we can

adapt.” “With any luck, we’ll emerge from this crisis even stronger and more collaborative: a modern take on an ageold approach to parenting albeit exhausted! There is no doubt that it is even tougher Dr Pragya Agarwal this time round!” While Gosrani and her kids have adapted well to the change in circumstances, the story varies from household to household, mother to mother. Behavioural scientist, author and speaker Dr Pragya Agarwal’s daughter was to be home for Christmas but little did anyone anticipate that a national lockdown would follow. Speaking to Asian Voice, Dr Agarwal said, “Our eldest lives in London, and hasn't been back home to the north-west where we live since June 2020. She was due to be home for Christmas but then Tier 4 was suddenly imposed. It was devastating for us, as she was likely to be all alone since all her housemates were rushing back home before the regulations came into force at midnight. But she made a sensible decision to follow the rules, and adhere to safety regulations and we respected it no matter how heart-broken we all were to not have her home for Christmas for the very first time.” Dr Agarwal is also a mother to 4 year-old twins and it has been extremely tough for her to have them home and homeschool

them while also continuing with her very highpressured job. In this context, she said, “I am an author, speaker and consultant and have been working non-stop, doing remote talks, fin- Nishma Gosrani OBE ishing my latest book, writing articles, while keeping them occupied, finding activities for them, doing phonics, numbers and reading. It is stressful, and there is also a lot of guilt when I have to leave them in front of the TV for a meeting or an urgent deadline. They miss their friends, and are bored because of their usual routine being disrupted. The school has sent recordings and printouts but there is no live engagement and so it is really up to us as parents to keep the learning going and reinforce what they had already learnt. We are focussing more on experiential learning but that takes up a lot of active engagement and time, of course. I work with them on my shoulders, on my knees, climbing onto my chair, and with them running around my office. I've had to adapt to this since last year and find ways to create headspace even when I can't even hear myself think. I know that the lockdown is extremely crucial to stay safe, and to keep others safe, but at the same time it hasn't been easy and I worry about the toll it is taking on my children's and my mental health.”


MenoHealth UK is running weekly Meno Classes to support and empower women to navigate through Menopause. Their official Twitter handle said: “So many women don't even realise they're menopausal. We're passionate about bringing women together to talk about #menopause & support one another. We offer weekly #MenoClasses to support & empower women to take control of #menopause.” MenoClass is the first of its kind in the UK to offer support, education and exercise to help you to take control of menopause. Each session includes 15 minutes discussion on topics such as weight gain, HRT, lost libido, confidence crisis and busting menopause myths. Talking, sharing and supporting each other helps everyone to realise – it’s not just me then! This is followed by 45 minutes of fabulous fitness routines to great music which will help you to improve fitness, muscle tone, bone health and body confidence. Each exercise can be done at one of three levels (1, 2, or 3 flames) depending on how hot you want to get. There’s no complex choreography, yet the routines ensure you get a full workout for heart health, some impact for boosting bones, mat work for core strength and muscle tone, balance work and stretches to keep aches and pains at bay, followed by a mindful cool down. For more information you can log on to

FULLY-FUNDED PLACES ON MASTERS DEGREE COURSES AT STIRLING’S INSTITUTE OF AQUACULTURE FOR SOUTH ASIAN WOMEN A number of fully-funded places on masters degree courses at Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture are being offered to women from Southeast Asia.The offer is part of a new scholarship programme that has been launched by The British Council in partnership with the University of Stirling. Applications are invited by women who wish to pursue a postgraduate degree within the Institute of Aquaculture, who can demonstrate their need for financial support and who wish to inspire future generations of women to pursue careers in the aquaculture industry. Citizens of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are encouraged to apply. The scholarship covers the full costs associated with study at the University of Stirling including: Tuition fees, up to 12 months monthly stipend at the rate of £1,116 p/month to cover costs of living, including accommodation, IELTs exam fee (for scholars without a valid test of English), up to 3-month online pre-sessional English course if required, return economy-class travel from home country to UK (this will not reimburse costs of fares for dependants), study-related costs, such as essential travel, materials, equipment, thesis printing etc, visa and insurance / NHS surcharge costs, ad hoc costs (heavy baggage allowance, etc.). If the scholar is a mother and widowed, divorced or a single parent, the bursary should also cover a child allowance of at least £465 per month for the first child, if they are accompanied by their child and are living at the same address in the UK.





16 - 22 January 2021

British Hindus demand justice for minorities in Pakistan Rupanjana Dutta British Hindus have raised the plight of minorities in Pakistan, highlighting the burning of an old temple in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province last month. A letter that has been signed by Hindu leaders under the initiative of Trupti Patel, President of the Hindu Forum of Britain was sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson seeking urgent action to pursue the Prime Minister of Pakistan to stop this ‘rampant persecution of Hindus in Pakistan’. The joint letter sent to 10 Downing Street on 9 January 2021, issued by the British Hindu umbrella organisations has been signed by Trupti Patel, President of the Hindu Forum of Britain, Dhiraj Shah, President of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, Rajnish Kashyap, General Secretary of the Hindu Council UK, Arun Thakar, President of the National Council of Hindu Temples UK and Tribhuvan Jotangia, President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The letter was sent after a temple in Terri village in Karak district of Pakistan was attacked even after Hindu community there received a formal permission from local authorities to renovate its decade-old structure. The mob burnt down the newly constructed temple as well as the old structure. The letter to PM Johnson highlights the heart-breaking incident on 30 December 2020, when the temple was destroyed by the mob consisting of “thousands of fanatics led by clerics”. Trupti Patel from Hindu Forum of Britain told Asian Voice exclusively, “We have witnessed in our lifetime the total decimation and persecution of minorities in Pakistan. Every successive Pakistani Government has indulged in some form of persecution that has affected Hindus as well as Christians, Buddhists and Sikhs. These horrendous abuses have hitherto gone unchallenged. It is

time for the world to wake up to this brutality and we ask our Prime Minister to take a leading role in setting up a far-reaching inquiry to assess the level of human rights violations. The minorities in Pakistan are vanishing rapidly, they need our help.” The letter (produced in full below) said, “We the representatives of the national umbrella bodies for Hindus in the UK would like to seek urgent action to demand that the Prime Minister of Pakistan does everything possible to stop the rampant persecution of Hindus in Pakistan… in the recent past the situation for minorities like Hindus in Pakistan is getting extremely perilous. “We ask you Prime Minister to set up a Governmental Inquiry into this issue and to ask all good democracies around the world, via the United Nations, to replicate a similar type of inquiry. The mass murder, genocide and persecution of minorities in Pakistan must be stopped…” It also talked about how the vast majority of UK and international news organisations failed to cover this ‘religiously motivated hate crime’. The letter further pointed out the scandalous opinions of high-profile figures in Pakistan, who resisted building of a Hindu temple in Islamabad, which further resulted in an anti-Hindu ‘hysteria’. Rajnish Kashyap from Hindu Council UK said, “The recent destruction of a Hindu temple is the one example of long list of terrorising and victimisation of Hindus and other minorities in Pakistan. There are grotesque minority issues in Pakistan which has been ignored by the west. So, we want Prime Minister Boris Johnson to demand action and accountability from the Pakistan Government.” The signatories of this letter have also asked for a meeting with the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street to discuss the matter further.

The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP Prime Minister Office of the Prime Minister 10 Downing Street London SW1A 2AA 9th January 2021 Dear Prime Minister, Re: Persecution of Minorities in Pakistan We the representatives of the national umbrella bodies for Hindus in the UK should like to seek your urgent action to demand that the Prime Minister of Pakistan does everything possible to stop the rampant persecution of Hindus in Pakistan. We are sure that you must have already been made aware of this issue given it has been on-going for many yearsnow. However, in the recent past the situation for minorities like Hindus in Pakistan is getting dangerously perilous. The following we trust will give you a flavour of the atrocities committed in Pakistan, often at the behest of the Pakistani Government. Last week a Hindu temple was burned down and destroyed by a mob consisting of thousands of fanatics led by Muslim clerics in the Khyber region of Pakistan. The vast majority of UK and International news organisations failed to cover this religiously motivated hate crime. Sadly, this can clearly be seen from recent events in Pakistan - such as the destruction of a Hindu temple, the recent orchestrated mass public opposition to the building of a Hindu temple in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, as well as recent high-profile cases of the abduction and forced conversions of Hindu girls. This is just the tip of what we believe to be the systematic mass scale anti-Hindu agenda, fed by anti-Hindu sentiments openly promoted by Islamic clerics. For example, these sentiments have been displayed more recently by various high-profile Islamic figures in Pakistan, such as the late Islamic extremist Khadim Rizvi. He voiced his opposition to the building of a Hindu temple in Pakistan's capital and galvanised anti-Hindu hysteria. You must also be aware that such views in Pakistan have existed science 1947 and well before the current Kashmir dispute and also well before tensions arose over the Babri Mosque affair. Unlike India's Muslims who number more than 200 million and increasing and make up some 15% of the population - Pakistan's Hindu minority in comparison has been decimated since 1947. A once thriving Hindu community pre-1947 has been systematically reduced by state sponsored actors. At the rate this decimation is taking place, it won't take long before there are no Hindus in Pakistan. This systematic targeting is of course not only against Hindus, but the Christian community also stands testament to the same persecution. We ask you Prime Minister to set up a Governmental Inquiry into this issue and to ask all good democracies around the world, via the United Nations, to replicate a similar type of inquiry. The mass murder, genocide, and the persecution of minorities in Pakistan must be stopped. We stand ready to meet you to discuss this urgent matter as soon as possible and await your positive response. Please accept our thanks in anticipation. Yours sincerely, • Mrs Trupti Patel, President - Hindu Forum of Britain • Mr Dhiraj Shah, President - Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh • Mr Rajnish Kashyap, General Secretary - Hindu Council UK • Mr Arun Thakar, President - National Council of Hindu Temples UK • Dr Tribhuvan Jotangia, President - Vishawa Hindu Parishad

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 16 Subhash V Thakrar, BCom FCA FRSA Former Chair, London Chamber of Commerce and Founder Chair, Charity Clarity With 2021 ushering in, it is always a good time to reflect on the past and plan for the future. This may include making a new year's resolution. Usually, these tend to be about physical fitness or diets. May be this time, we can think about our happiness and peace of mind. Mental happiness is far more than short term external pleasures. It always fascinates me that a book or scripture written over 5000 years ago still has relevance in our present lives. As I read the Bhagavad Gita, I find that it always offers solutions to many issues of life. Chapter 16 provides the answers to what our new year's resolutions should be. This chapter clearly distinguishes the characteristics of The Devine which are all the good qualities we must aspire to have and those of the Demoniacal that we should avoid. There are 26 characteristics that we should work to have in us which make our character more divine. Here is checklist for you to tick to. 1. Fearlessness. This comes with strong faith 2. Purity of heart or free from immorality 3. Steadfastness or firmness in knowledge 4. Yoga 5. Alms giving. Learn to give to others 6. Control of the senses 7. Sacrifice our time for meditation and prayers 8. Study of scriptures 9. Austerity or controlling ourselves 10. Straightforwardness 11. Harmlessness 12. Truth 13. Absence of anger 14. Renunciation 15. Peacefulness 16. Absence of crookedness 17. Compassion towards beings 18. Uncovetousness or not being greedy and wanting to possess 19. Gentleness 20. Modesty or not being too proud 21. Absence of fickleness or being firm in decisions 22. Vigour or physical and mentally strong 23. Forgiveness 24. Fortitude or mental strength to encounter danger 25. Absence of hatred 26. Absence of pride Hypocrisy, arrogance, self conceit, harshness and also anger and ignorance belong to one born in a demoniacal state. We need to cultivate the divine qualities in us and shed the demoniacal. All this applies even now as it did thousands of years ago. We should learn to close our mental gates to passion, anger and greed. We can cultivate a change in our character. First, we need to check and find where we are now and which qualities we need to strengthen. The above list will help for that. The method to inculcate the missing quality in our lives is by making it a mantra in our daily meditation. For example, if truthfulness is our weakness , we can develop a mantra: I am a truthful soul and repeating it three or four times when meditating. Over time this quality will come into our conscious and then from there it will manifest in to our actions. Our actions are extension of our character. I wish the readers of Asian Voice and Gujarat Samachar a fabulous 2021.

Magic of slicing in half An English magician Percy Thomas Tibbles, 100 years ago, sawed through a sealed wooden box that contained a woman. This became one of the best-known magic tricks. In 1956, P C Sorcar, the greatest magician in Indian history, was also seen doing the same on television. In front of thousands of viewers, he sliced her in half. When the BBC show had ended, they were inundated with phone calls. The next day, he made the front page of national media and became a household name in England. On Sunday 17 January, The Magic Circle will mark the centenary of sawing someone in half, an illusion believed to be as iconic as pulling a rabbit out of a hat. For more information see:

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16 - 22 January 2021

Indian-owned bike brand trebles sales thanks to UK's cycling boom Manchester bike brand Insync has reported a trebling of sales during 2020 – and has revealed plans to double the figure in 2021. The brand sold more than 50,000 bikes in retail in the year to November 2020, a 200 per cent increase on the previous year. Insync’s head of business Gopal Krishan said the uptick in sales has been driven by surge in the demand for bikes as a healthier form of commuting and exercise during the Covid pandemic. The lockdown in 2020 saw cycling increase by as much as 300pc according to Cycling Industry News with interest also being encouraged by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s investment of £2bn in a cycling and walking strategy. In another boost to Insync, when Mr Johnson announced the strategy in August he rode one of Insync’s Viking bikes at a press call. Mr Krishan pointed out that women’s hybrid and mountain bikes and children’s bikes in the affordable range of £350-£500 experienced unprecedented levels of demand and the business is now looking to expand its offering. He said, “We are delighted with the success we have achieved during 2020, which

Pankaj M Munjal, HMC chairman and managing director

reflects the soaring popularity of cycling as a pastime for the whole family. We now plan to double the sales in 2021 with a focus on a premium range of bikes and new range e-bikes, launched as part of our new partnership with the German ebike manufacturer HNF GmbH, which is also a Hero International company and will bring German precision research and development to the UK.” Mr Krishan said sales from independent bike dealers have contributed significantly to the growth, with the business increasing its network of shops from 300 to 385 during the year. He added that the aim was to grow the IBD network to 600 and urged sellers

struggling for stock to get in touch. He also added that the recruitment of IBDs as a volume driver has been supported, in part, by the company’s ability to quickly scale up manufacturing post-Covid due to its manufacturing capability in India and Sri Lanka. Hero Motors Group Chairman and Managing Director, Pankaj Munjal said, “Both Hero International companies, Insync and HNF, have a common unique value proposition. Where most of our competitors are struggling with supplies, the partnership with HMC allows seamless backward integration and uninterrupted supplies for bikes and e-bikes even

in this high demand period. Since HMC has also set up component manufacturing in house, the dependence on external suppliers is component reduced.” Insync is owned by Hero International – the European bike and e-bike arm of Hero Motors Company (HMC). HMC, headquartered in India with a $1.2 billion asset base, is the world’s largest integrated manufacturer of bicycles with an automotive vertical supplying highprecision component to premium European and Japanese automotive OEMs. Hero International also owns HNF GmbH – a leading premium German e-bike brand.

in brief in brief BOOKS TO COMMEMORATE INDIA @ 75 Pippa Rann Books & Media are launching a series of books to commemorate the 75th anniversary of India’s independence. The first of the books that is commissioned is a collection of the best contemporary poems that in some way reflect the events, personalities, themes, challenges or achievements of India since its independence in 1947. The commission for the book has been awarded to the internationally recognised poet and anthologist, Sudeep Sen. Sudeep Sen’s works have been translated into over 25 languages. He is the editorial director of Aark Arts, editor of Atlas, and currently the inaugural artist-in-residence at the Museo Camera. Sen is the first Asian honoured to deliver the Derek Walcott Lecture and read at the Nobel Laureate Festival. The Government of India awarded him the senior fellowship for “outstanding persons in the field of culture and literature.”


UK court to deliver Nirav Modi extradition judgement next month Diamond merchant Nirav Modi’s extradition judgement will be delivered at the Westminster Magistrates Court on 25 February 2021. District Judge Samuel Gooze announced that after a two-day hearing on 7 and 8 January this year. Prior to that, Mr Modi will appear for his remand hearing on 5 February from Wandsworth prison via videolink. The final submission hearing last week heard how Mr Modi was responsible for overseeing a ‘ponzi-like scheme’ that led to an enormous fraud costing Punjab National Bank (PNB) around £1.2 million (approx. US $2mn). Mr Modi, 49, who appeared by a videolink from Wandworth prison wore a casual dark suit and displayed his long salt and pepper unkempt beard, often closing his eyes like he was

meditating. CPS Barrister Helen Malcolm QC arguing on behalf of India via videolink said, “The simple and stark fact is that Nirav Modi used his three partnership companies to acquire billions of dollars-worth of credit which was entirely unsecured, and letters of undertaking (LoUs) were issued for wholly bogus trade…While the defence claims this is a mere commercial dispute, there is a plethora of evidence to point to a ‘ponzi-like’ scheme where new LoUs were used to repay old ones.” Ms Malcolm’s arguments repeated the claims by a former employee who by previous video evidence stated to have received death threats from Mr Modi and the dummy directors who were allegedly forced to flee India to avoid CBI and ED

investigations. On the first day of this twoday hearing, Mr Modi’s defence team led by Claire Montgomery QC alleged Mr Modi would not receive a fair trial in India. She quoted reported statements by Indian ministers and two former Indian judges Abhay Thipsay and Markandey Katju. She also said Arthur Road jail in Mumbai did not have the required arrangements or plans to deal with Mr Modi’s delicate mental health issues, including risk of suicide, and urged the Westminster Magistrates Court to dismiss India’s extradition request. She also said that Mr Modi did not have enough funds or assistance in India to help him with private medical care for his mental health, if the government failed to provide it and criticised Barack 12 at Arthur

Nirav Modi

Road Jail as a steel caged ‘sweat shop’, dark and infested with rats, without any provision for daily fresh air. Mental health and risk of suicide were the main grounds on which the court last week had also blocked WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition to the US.

The name Jay Sean is hot on everyone's lips after his 2019 and 2020 resurgence off the back of the Regard Remix of 'Ride It' and a huge collaboration with Guru Randhawa on 'Surma Surma'. He also reunited with his old buddy Rishi Rish last year to storm music charts worldwide with 'Nakhre' and now he returns with the release of the eagerly awaited 'M3'. The final chapter in his critically acclaimed mixtape series 'The Mistress', M3 boasts production from super hitmakers such as Khaled Rohaim. Jay Sean said, "The Mistress was my passion project. I wanted it to feel like a movie where every song told the next part of the story, so much so that you couldn’t skip a song. I followed it up with Mistress 2 and both became not only my favourite bodies of work but also fan favourites. So much so that I almost didn’t write M3 because I didn’t want to ruin it. But the fans needed to know how the story ends so I wrote it for them. I put the mistress to bed once and for all."

'Realising Africa’s Potential' - A viral presentation Last week over 1800 people across UK, USA, Canada and India joined a virtual webinar outlining opportunities from realising Africa’s potential. The webinar hosted by the Lohana Community North London, through their business network group – LINK – featured Lord Dolar Popat, the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy for Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo to give listeners an exclusive and informative presentation on what the African subcontinent

has to offer. The debate was chaired and moderated by Sanjay C Rughani and Jeet Rughani, and followed a panel discussion with leading African industrialist, Mayur Madhvani (Joint Managing Director of the Madhvani Group), Vimal Shah (CEO of Bidco) and Ken Giami (CEO and Editor of African Leadership Magazine). A number of African dignitaries attended the presentation including the Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Marie Ndejka. The

aim of the presentation was to unleash and empower a new generation of entrepreneurs to invest in new emerging markets such as Africa. Speaking during the presentation Lord Popat said, “now that we are finally free of the directives of Brussels, this is the time to engage with new markets as we venture out as a truly global Britain. Whilst Global Britain is a fine idea – it should not just be a slogan. We must behave like a business and create a new path.” Mayur Madhvani’s

Group has had a substantial presence in East Africa over 100 years and is one of the largest private sector businesses, contributing up to 9% of Uganda’s GDP. Mayur instilled confidence to the viewers on how to take up the many opportunities that the continent has to offer. Vimal Shah – one of East Africa’s leading manufacturers of edible oils and food and beverage, stressed the need to change the percep-

tion of Africa, “When we talk about Africa…it means different things to different people. Perception is different, reality is different. Now is the time to wake up to Africa’s potential.” Lord Popat outlined a

number of Government schemes and initiatives available to support British people to invest and export to Africa. The presentation was well received by the community and has spurred on a new group of entrepreneurs to explore these new markets post Brexit. Following the success of the application, the Lohana Community hope to host seminar presentations in other emerging markets in the future.





16 - 22 January 2021

in brief DR AMIT PATEL’S BOOK KIKA & ME SHORTLISTED FOR BARBELLION PRIZE 2020 Author, diversity & accessibility consultant and disability activist Dr Amit Patel’s book Kika & Me has been shortlisted for the Barbellion Prize 2020. The Barbellion Prize is a book prize DR AMIT PATEL dedicated to the furtherance of ill and disabled voices in writing. Dr Patel tweeted about it and said: “I'm thrilled to say that my book 'Kika & Me' is shortlisted for the @BarbellionPrize. Thank you to each & every one of you that has bought, read, listened & reviewed it. In these strange times, I hope our story gives you strength, inspiration & ultimately hope #KikaAndMe.” Amit Patel is working as a trauma doctor when a rare condition causes him to lose his sight within thirty-six hours. From the challenges of travelling when blind to becoming a parent for the first time, Kika & Me is the moving, heart-warming and inspirational story of Amit’s sight-loss journey and how one guide dog changed his world.

INDIA WALES DIGITAL FESTIVAL COLLABORATIONS IN LITERATURE Rebecca Gould who head of arts at British Council Wales, described how a series of online events attracted an audience keen to hear how culture has helped build connections between Wales and India. In the first of six blogs she talked about the 'Collaborations in literature' event. Collaborations in literature, was their launch event in partnership with Welsh Government’s Digital Diwali #DiwaliCymru. The event was introduced by Barbara Wickham OBE, Director British Council India and was chaired by Clare Reddington, British Council Trustee and CEO of the Watershed in Bristol. The panel included award winning Welsh poet Natalie Ann Holborow, Alexandra Büchler, Director of Literature Across Frontiers, poet and curator Mamta Sagar and, Arunava Sinha, literary translator and Associate Professor of creative writing, Ashoka University. Online book launch The event explored the many recent IndiaWales collaborations in literature and saw the launch of ‘Modern Bengali Poetry: Desire for fire’ by Parthian Books, a leading publishing house based in Wales. The book celebrates over one hundred years of poetry from the two Bengals - the Eastern Indian state and the country of Bangladesh represented by over fifty different poets and a multitude of forms and styles, selected and translated by Arunava Sinha. There was a powerful poetry recital by Arunava Sinha who went on to talk about his personal connection to Wales as he grew up reading poetry by Dylan Thomas. He spoke about his book Modern Bengali Poetry and thanked Richard Davies at Parthian Books for conceptualizing and publishing the book.

Lord Desai suggests - young Indians settling in the UK must “integrate” Shefali Saxena The Director of The Nehru Centre, Mr Amish Tripathi was in conversation with Lord Meghnad Desai at the launch of Lord Desai’s book, “Rebellious Lord An Autobiography” India in the UK (High Commission of India, London) last Friday. Lord Meghnad Desai, has been Professor Emeritus at the London School of Economics, has 38 years of teaching experience and is a life peer at the British House of Lords. He has been awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in the Republic of India, in 2008. Born in Vadodara, Gujarat, India, on July 10, 1940, Meghnad Jagdishchandra Desai grew up with two brothers and one sister. He is said to have gone to secondary school at age seven and matriculated at 14. He secured a bachelor's degree in economics from Ramnarain Ruia College, affiliated to the University of Mumbai, and then pursued a master's degree in economics from the University of Mumbai, after which he won a scholarship to University of Pennsylvania in August 1960. He completed his PhD in economics at Pennsylvania in 1963. He quit his Labour Party membership of 49 years over antisemitism concerns in November 2020, following the readmission of former Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn as a member. Reminiscing his childhood, Lord Desai remembered seeing the king of Vadodara twice a

year through the window of his house, as the former sat on an elephant, which was fascinating for Lord Desai who could see him at an eye level. His father had a “sarkari” (government) job which made him travel from Vadodara to Bombay (now Mumbai) back then. “I had a very loving family,” he said as he fondly talked about “being addicted to studying” (to which Tripathi chuckled and said that Lord Desai is a worshipper of

Saraswati, not Lakshmi). However, according to Lord Desai’s online bio, he is an atheist. He is also an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society. Did the theatre circuit lose a wonderful director when he started chasing economics? Lord Desai explained that he felt one had to have an enormously secure ego to be able to survive a theatrical life among Gujarati stars and filmmakers. In those days it was more about having a

pension and a safe retirement plan in the job one pursued. He also talked about being financially independent at the age of 21 in America in the 1950s when his home in Baroda didn’t have a telephone and he had left hsi support structures (aunts and family) back in India and there was no way to go back or connect with them instantly than to make the most of what he had back then. He noticeably never faced racism in the west wherever he went. He expressed that in his opinion, Indian middle class and upper class people think they are white. “I started reading books which nobody else was reading,” said Lord Desai as he described himself as more “devious” than rebellious. He picked every book from the library, especially the ones whose authors he hadn’t heard of. “I said, let’s have fun in the library while you can,” he added. Lord Desai also told Amish Tripathi that he has briefly known US Vice President elect Kamala Harris’ mother, Shayamla Gopalan who brought baby Kamala in a buggy and he hasn’t seen her since. “She brought up her children to think of themselves as Black Americans,” he said as he spoke about Harris’ mother who was a dynamic lady in his understanding. He also knew her father whom Lord Desai described as a “very very bright man”.

Lord Desai has written about 35 books so far, ranging from economics, fiction, to law and other matters. “Once I write a book, it’s away from me,” he said as he clarified that the fiction he writes is often a reflection of his real life observations which he cannot make look too real as some of the stories come from his living friends and fellow politicians. When asked to give a message to young Indians settling or settling in London, his immediate response was “integrate”. He highlighted that one doesn’t need to forget their roots which they nurture in their motherland, but integration into the culture of the country they choose to settle in is imperative. Lord Desai, besides being an admirer of theatre, is also fond of Bollywood. In Fact he also showed K Asif’s Mughal-E-Azam in The House of Lords once. Closing the conversation with Tripathi after taking the viewers on a virtual tour of his life from India - America- and the UK, he signed off by singing one of his favourite songs from Bollywood - Mera joota hai Japani (from Raj Kapoor’s Shree 420) leaving the audience with his revolutionary, rebellious and radiant rendition of the song.

Satya Paul: The man who “reinvented” the saree, passes away Renowned designer Satya Paul breathed his last on January 6, 2021 at the age of 79 in Coimbatore, India. He had suffered a stroke in December 2020. With no formal design training, he launched his first sari boutique, L’Affaire, in 1980. His bold and contemporary designer sarees were worn by Indian celebrities such as Aishwarya Rai, Mandira Bedi, Karisma Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor and Vidya Balan. In a Facebook post, while confirming Paul’s death in Coimbatore at the age of 79, his son Puneet Nanda wrote: “Most people are not aware, more than as a designer or entrepreneur, he has been steadfastly a seeker. In the 70’s his inner journey started with going to listen to talks with J. Krishnamurty, later he took sannyas from Osho. After Osho left in 1990, though he wasn’t seeking another Master, he discovered Sadhguru in 2007. He immediately started enjoying the path of yoga and eventually moved here in 2015. He has been a doorway for hundreds of people towards spirituality and all the Masters he was so blessed to have been with. He couldn’t have had a sweeter life or passage... at the feet of the Master. We are sad only a bit, mostly rejoicing in him, his life and now his passing with such a blessing.” Talking to LiveMint, Sunil Sethi, president of the Fashion Design Council of India, said, “Owning a Satya Paul sari was the thing back then. It was the only designer brand selling sari at the time.” Over the years, Paul was instrumental in bringing

Satya Paul

luxury brands from Jimmy Choo and Coach to Emporio Armani and Tumi to India. In her tribute to Paul, designer Masaba Gupta, who was appointed the Satya Paul fashion director in 2012, wrote in an Instagram post: “A true example of an actual BRAND, homegrown. Put in corporate hands at the right time and one with a signature that will stand the test of time. Fashion schools – Please introduce young Indian design aspirants to this brand in schools and various other homegrown brands. We can be inspired by the story of Chanel etc but we must learn what

Aishwarya Rai in a Satya Paul saree

happened on our soil first.” On Paul’s demise, Jaggi Vasudev said that the fashion designer was “a shining example” of someone living with “immeasurable passion and unrelenting involvement.” “The distinct vision you brought to the Indian fashion industry is a beautiful tribute to this,” he wrote. “A privilege to have had you amongst us. Condolences & Blessings,” he added.




16 - 22 January 2021

Dear Financial Voice Reader, Alpesh Patel Will the stock market crash? A computer model developed at Yale University shows that markets will most likely crash… in late summer 2018. And that’s the problem – it was wrong and too many times people cry wolf, but the paranoid could be right too. The algorithm, which was developed by a team of financial engineers led by Professor Robert Shiller, based its prediction on past volatility. So we are talking about clever people. The average investor knows that a crash is coming, but doesn’t know when. If not a crash, then a serious decline.At worst, the average market correction would erase PAST gains in the stock market. To protect their assets and meet long-term financial goals today, they need to start thinking beyond down moves. For me the best way to do this is not to try to guess whether it will be this month or next, whether in small or large stocks or which theme will do better eg tech, healthcare, but to look at companies which will be resilient to falls and spring back fast on recoveries. Research shows these are companies with growing cash-flows, regardless of company size or sector. They also have growing profits and growing sales. Of course some stocks move up without any of these. No one can be really sure about what will happen to the stock market. Some experts are saying it will probably crash. And it is making people worried. Investors are wondering if they should wait until the market has crashed to buy, or whether they have missed their chance and whether they should sell first. The possibility of a stock market crash keeps investors awake at night. According to the CIA World Factbook, US Debt as % of GDP is over 100%. Interest payments on this debt represent over $300 billion per year i.e pay 300 Billion in Interest. That’s more than the entire budget for the Department of Defense. I have aggregated data from leading gurus and their holdings like Gates, Buffet, Ackerman in this field and translated their holdings into action and it shows they believe not in selling out or speculating or gambling, but holding through falls in cash rich companies which are growing in cash, profits, and sales. The world of finance is a scary place. Trends and predictions have power over our lives. What if you could have a tool that helps predict what’s to come. Would you use it? The best tool is a calm mind in the knowledge the companies in which you hold shares are not fads but with solid foundations to whether storms. I continue to own Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, TechTarget, PayPal, Mastercard among others. My job for my family is to convert every £100k into £1m over 10 years or sooner preferably. I hold 15 stocks and review each 12 months. The returns are left to compound over time.

Royal Mail names new CEO for its UK business

UK economy to get worse before it gets better: Rishi Sunak Chancellor Rishi Sunak has warned that UK economy will “get worse before it gets better” as businesses and households endure the latest lockdown measures to try to bring the coronavirus pandemic back under control. “Even with the significant economic support we’ve provided, over 800,000 people have lost their job since February,” the chancellor told the House of Commons. “And while the new national restrictions are necessary to control the spread of the virus, they will have a further significant economic impact.” Sunak highlighted the government’s £280bn of fiscal stimulus that the government has provided, including supporting 10 million jobs through the fur-

Rishi Sunak

lough scheme and three million with self-employment grants. He went on: “While the vaccine provides hope, the economy is going to get worse before it gets better. Many people are losing their jobs, businesses are struggling, our public finances have been badly damaged and will need repair. The road ahead will be tough. Sadly, we have not and will

not be able to save every job and every business.” Responding to Sunak’s economic update, shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said the chancellor “was nowhere to be seen” when minister Boris prime Johnson announced the latest lockdown. She told the Commons: “His sole contribution to a set of announcements that had profound implications for our econo-

my was a 90-second video on Twitter which begged as many questions as it answered.” She added: “Today the chancellor appears out of ideas, urging us to look towards the sunny uplands but providing nothing new. The purpose of an update is to provide us with new information, not to repeat what we already know.” She continued: “Will we have to wait until the Budget for a recognition of all of these problems and solutions to them?” Conservative Tom Hunt asked Sunak to detail what further support might be provide ahead of the Budget, adding: “I talk specifically about the potential extension of the business rates holiday throughout 2021 and also the support on VAT.”

Small businesses fear twin threats of Covid-19 and post-Brexit trade Small businesses and manufacturers in Britain are preparing themselves for a fight this year as they stand to fight the double threat of Covid-19 and weaker postBrexit trade with the European Union. A quarterly poll by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) revealed over 250,000 small firms expect to fold without further government financial support. Manufacturers' trade body Make UK said its members expected lower investment in the UK and to have a harder time recruiting talent. The FSB said just under five per cent of the 1,400 companies they surveyed were expecting to close down this year. If the trend continues, 295,000 small businesses across the UK fear they will go under in a

total of 5.9 million. Eighty per cent of the vast majority of firms surveyed did not expect their prospects to improve over the next three months. FSB's national chair, Mike Cherry, said the amount of government support available had dwindled as the pandemic continued to lash on. He said, “At the outset of the first national lockdown, the UK government was bold. The support mechanisms put in place weren't perfect, but they were an exceptionally good starting point. That's why it's so disappointing that it's met this lockdown with a whimper.” He welcomed support for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses but said that many were “still being left out in the cold”, including company directors, the

newly self-employed, supply chains, and firms without commercial premises. The group published a five-point plan to assist small businesses, including grants, income support and extended debt relief. However, it warned that firms already lacked the cash to cope with the tough trading environment, especially considering the costs associated with adjusting to the UK's new trading relationship with the EU. Meanwhile, survey data from Make UK, in partnership with accounting firm PwC, indicates that its members feel the same way about the post-Brexit challenge. Make UK's chief executive Stephen Phipson said, “The transition to new trading arrangements with the EU was always going to be the biggest challenge facing

manufacturers this year and the fact we have an agreement in place doesn't alter that.” He called for a bold industrial strategy that goes beyond “short-term tinkering”, instead laying out a plan for the next decade. The BDO Output Index, which measures economic data from the UK's main business surveys, averaged 73.62 in 2020, well below the previous low of 83,28, recorded in 2009. BDO partner Kaley Crossthwaite said, “These figures reinforce just how stark the economic impact of the pandemic has been. As we enter a third national lockdown, crippling challenges will continue to plague businesses in the weeks and months ahead. Successful and rapid rollout of Covid-19 vaccines will be the single biggest driver of business recovery.”

Heathrow airport handles 73% less passengers in 2020

The Royal Mail has endorsed former Ocado and WM Morrison executive Simon Thompson as its head of UK business, roping in a retail industry veteran to guide the postal service amid a surge in online parcel deliveries. Interim CEO Stuart Simpson will leave Royal Mail by the end of January. He had filled in for Rico Back who had stepped down last May after two years during which the company faced issues with unions over a proposed 1.8 billion pound restructuring plan.

As per Simon Thompson's LinkedIn bio, he served as online grocer Ocado's chief product officer until mid-2020. He has headed digital commerce at HSBC, was in charge of Apple's online stores in EMEA and held senior executive positions at WM Morrison Supermarkets, Motorola, and Honda Europe. The formal appointments come just three weeks after Royal Mail reached a crucial deal with its largest union over pay and operational change.

A recent survey reveals the number of passengers at Britain's largest airport plummeted by 73 per cent in 2020, making it the smallest annual total since 1975. An average of 22.1 million travellers passed through Heathrow last year, 59 million fewer than in 2019. December figures are slightly higher than November, as Britain came out of lockdown for a brief moment. However, the figures remain 83 per cent below previous December. Not only passenger flights, cargo volumes for the year were down 28.2 per cent with dedicated cargo flights helping to counteract lost capacity in the belly hold of passenger planes. While Heathrow tried to cut

its costs by slashing pay, mothballing two terminals and operating on a single runway for most of the year, it remains vocal on how the industry was “fighting for survival”. Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said, “The past year has been incredibly challenging for aviation. While we support tightening border controls temporarily by introducing predeparture testing for international arrivals as well as quarantine, this is not sustainable.” He called on the government to “show leadership” and work to create a common international standard for pre-departure testing. He added, “The aviation industry is the cornerstone of the UK economy but is fighting for survival. We

need a roadmap out of this lockdown, and a full waiver of business rates.” The update comes after easyJet announced it had secured another £1.4bn fiveyear loan to help shore up its finances during the pandemic. The airline said the loan would help it repay and cancel about £800m of shorter-term debt. The air-

line's chief executive Johan Lundgren said, “This facility will significantly extend and improve easyJet's debt maturity profile and increase the level of liquidity available. EasyJet has taken swift and decisive action, having now secure more than £4.5bn in liquidity since the beginning of the pandemic.”




16 - 22 January 2021

PM Modi urged to push privatisation, increase infra spending Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the fiscal and reform measures undertaken by the government following the Covid-19 outbreak as he held deliberations with top economists who pitched for pushing privatisation, avoiding challenging international arbitrations and increasing infrastructure spending. Participating in a virtual meeting with the Prime Minister, some economists suggested that the government could take a lenient view on fiscal deficit in the forthcoming Budget for 2021-22 due to the urgency to revive the pandemichit economy, sources said. According to a note issued by Niti Aayog after the meeting, all the attendants agreed that high frequency indicators are showing signs of a strong economic recovery, and that too earlier than expected. "The attendants were broadly in agreement that next year will see robust growth and suggested measures to maintain this growth rate to drive India's socio-economic transformation," it said. In his concluding remarks after the two-hour long meeting, the Prime

Minister highlighted that together with a fiscal stimulus, the government also tried reform-based stimulus, which was seen in historic reforms in agriculture, commercial coal mining and labour laws. Modi further said the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent management threw up new professional challenges for all those involved. "The prime minister explained his vision behind an Atmanirbhar Bharat, where Indian companies are integrated in global supply chains in a manner not seen before," it said. On infrastructure, Modi highlighted the National Infrastructure Pipeline as the government's commitment to developing world class infrastructure. "The prime minister ended his talk by stating the importance of partnerships in achieving our goals, and that such consultations play a crucial role in setting the broader economic agenda," the note said. According to the sources, the participants urged the government to come up with policies to increase exports and build investors' confidence as despite multiple structural reforms

Narendra Modi

across sectors, investments are still not flowing into India in a big way. "There is a need to boost investor confidence. Government should avoid challenging everything (international arbitration awards). This is important as investors are still wary of investing in India despite several reform measures," one of the sources present in the meeting said. The speakers also stressed on the need to raise India's tax-to-GDP ratio, which is declining since 2008, embark on import tariff rationalisation and undertake bank recapitalisation. Some participants also pitched for creating a separate ministry for privatisation of PSUs and assets, if needed, as was the case earlier.

China raises India’s recent FDI policy at WTO China last week expressed its “deep concern” over the recent foreign direct investment (FDI) policy changes initiated by Modi government, alleging that it curbs takeovers and acquisitions of Indian companies. In April, India had decided to review every FDI proposal from a neighbouring country, a move that was targeted at Chinese investment in India. The statement came during India’s trade policy review at the World Trade Organisation, where the US and the European Union flagged trade barriers,

especially recent increase in import duties, as key concerns, sources said. The US pointed out that since India’s last trade policy review in 2015, simple average tariff had increased from 13.5% to 17.6%. This trend will not facilitate India's further integration into global supply chains, the US has pointed out, according to sources familiar with the three-day review. Washington opted to use the platform to call for foreign participation in retail, ecommerce and insurance, while also seeking dismantling of “unjustified

product standards”. It also asked the government to reconsider the agricultural support programme -+ already a major political headache for the Centre battling farmers at the Delhi borders – arguing that it disrupts domestic and world market prices. Commerce secretary Anup Wadhawan, however, countered it saying that food security remained a challenge for India and the Covid-19 pandemic had reinforced the importance of its public stockholding programmes. India has been coming under attack for the minimum support price

offered to farmers, which has also helped procure large quantities of wheat and rice, usually much higher than the buffer norms. On its part, the EU delegation said it was concerned about the continued trend of new barriers to trade, which, it believes, have been amplified due to the Covid-19 crisis. The EU mentioned high customs duties, unpredictable trade procedures, cumbersome product standards, gaps in intellectual property rights protection, and narrowing access to government procurement, sources added.

Lamenting on the past

Suresh Vagjiani, Sow & Reap Properties Ltd

It’s always interesting how after a deal has been done, many investors who missed the boat exclaim what a great deal it was and ask me to let them know if anything like that comes up again. I recently heard this from an investor who lives close to a deal which has just completed in North West London. The question I ask is, if I had presented that deal to them at the time would they have jumped on it like they claim presently? Or do people just like looking in the rear view mirror, making statements of what they could have and should have done? If their statement is true, then a deal which has similar characteristics should be jumped upon. If the sentiment was correct a deal which ticks all the boxes should be seized. There is a class of investor who will only invest retrospectively and only in their minds. They will always look at what could have been and not at what is. This is demonstrated through the stories they tell each time a deal is presented. You will find they do not invest for years, as they keep telling themselves a past story. Life moves forwards not backwards. The reason this deal was so good is because it has a 5.5% yield and has the potential to increase its value by about 60% through added square foot. The deal is attractive because there exists the safety of cash flow month on month and a big upside via an uplift in planning, if it is gained. It is very important, especially in the current environment, to ensure there is immediate cash flow, or a strong prospect of cash flow coming from the property especially if the gain is to be made via planning permission, as planning permission is uncertain and subjective. If the gain is through permitted development it is not as important, as once you gain the permission under PD the value per square foot would have increased, possibly doubled. As mentioned previously, PD (permitted development) has certainty, but planning permission does not. This was demonstrated to us very acutely when we were applying for permission for 92 flats. It was a hung decision with the chair casting the deciding vote in our favour. Not once, but twice, due to a technical error by the council. This was after pre apps and well in excess of six figures being spent on planning. It is better to go for income producing properties, and where planning is highly probable or even certain under PD. Over and above this, it is also important to see where the income will be coming from. Many many people will be feeling the effects of what has gone on in the economy. There are means and ways of ‘guaranteeing’ the rental income you receive from an investment property.

India's economy expected to contract by 7.7% in 2020-21 HC ORDER ON ANIL AMBANI COS’ India’s economy is expected to contract by 7.7% in 202021 ravaged by the impact of the Covid-19 induced lockdown, with the crucial services and manufacturing sectors taking a massive hit and the farm segment expected to remain the only bright spot. The first advanced estimate released by the National Statistical Office (NSO) comes ahead of the Union budget on February 1, which is expected to unveil fresh measures to get growth back on track. The NSO data estimated the economy to contract by 7.7% compared to an 11-year low growth of 4.2% in 201920. This will be the first contraction in over four decades since the 5.2% fall recorded in 1979-80. This is also the record contraction since annual GDP data began to be published in 1951-52. The Reserve Bank of India estimates GDP to

contract by 7.5% while other agencies forecast in the range of 7.4% to 10.3% decline for the current financial year and rebound next year on the back of the low base and measures unleashed by the government and the central bank. The impact of one of the strictest lockdowns in the world has been evident on the economy with a record slump of 23.9% in the June quarter. The restart of economic activity has helped narrow the contraction to 7.5% in the September quarter, with the festival and pent-up demand lending a huge push. Most economists

now estimate the economy to return to positive territory in the third and fourth quarters and move away from the technical recession that it entered with two consecutive quarters of

contraction. According to the data, only the farm and electricity sectors posted growth, with agriculture forecast to grow by 3.4% and electricity by 2.7% in 2020-21. The crucial manufacturing sector is estimated to contract by 9.4% compared to a 0.3% growth in 2019-20. Construction, which has been hit hard by the lockdown, is forecast to contract by 12.6% in 2020-21, while hotels, transport, communication and broadcasting services is estimated to decline by a record 21.4% in the current fiscal.

SPECTRUM AUCTIONS FROM MARCH 1 The government will look to bridge the yawning fiscal deficit through sale of spectrum that begins from March1. The sale of airwaves, a total of 2,251MHz, is being seen as crucial for the exchequer even though struggling telecom companies such as Airtel and Vodafone Idea may not be enthusiastic in their purchase. The spectrum sale can fetch the government over £39 billion at just the reserve price. The government last week came out with the notice inviting applications (NIAs) for the auctions. However, the government has skipped the sale of the muchcoveted 5G airwaves in this round, auctions for which could though be announced soon.


The Delhi high court last week asked SBI to maintain status quo with regard to accounts of Anil Ambani’s firms - Reliance Communication (RCom), Reliance Telecom and Reliance Infratel which the bank has declared as fraud accounts. Justice Prateek Jalan, however, allowed SBI and the RBI to take steps in the nature of an investigation or filing of complaints against the erstwhile directors and the three companies independent of the action of declaring the accounts as fraud. The HC acted on a plea by former directors of the three companies challenging a 2016 circular of the RBI on declaring accounts as fraud by banks. According to the plea, the circular allows banks to declare an account as fraud without giving any prior notice or communication to the account holder against the principles of natural justice.

BOSE, PIONEER OF INVESTMENT BANKING DEAD Veteran dealmaker Udayan Bose, who brought modern investment banking and venture capital to India in the ’80s and set up the second private Indian mutual fund, passed away last week. Bose (71) was suffering from heart and kidney related issues. Bose straddled the world of pinstriped bankers of London’s Lombard Street and the stock markets of Mumbai and Kolkata. He threw away an opportunity to head Deutsche Bank’s Australia operations to turn an entrepreneur by acquiring a vintage broking firm, which then he used to partner Lazard (a global investment bank) and create India’s first multinational investment bank. A young achiever from Kolkata’s Presidency College, Bose started his career with Grindlays Bank where he rose to be a director of Asia-Pacific before moving on to European Asian Bank (which became Deutsche Bank).





16 - 22 January 2021

India's Balakot strike killed 300 ultras: Ex-Pak envoy NEW DELHI: In an embarrassing development for Pakistan, a former Pakistani diplomat Agha Hilaly admitted on a television show that 300 terrorists had died in the Balakot air strike on February 26, 2019. The admission by the former Pakistani diplomat, who regularly takes the Pakistan Army side in TV debates, goes against the zero casualties claim made by Islamabad at that time. Soon after the IAF had carried out a strike at a Jaish-eMohammad (JeM) terror training camp at Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, as a face saving measure, had refused to acknowledge the presence of terrorists who were killed during the airstrike. The strike was in

response to the terror attack in Pulwama in which 40 CRPF personnel lost their lives. Pakistanbased Jaish-e- Mohammad (JeM) claimed the responsibility for the February 14 attack, which has been largely condemned by the international community. India crossed the international border India crossed the international border and did an act of war in which at least 300 militants were reported dead. Our target was different from theirs. We targeted their high command. That was our legitimate target because they are men of the military. We subconsciously accepted that a surgical strike - a limited action - did not result in any casualty. Now we have subconsciously told them that, whatever they will do, we’ll do

only that much and won’t escalate,” said Agha Hilaly. Hilaly was speaking during a debate on a Pakistani Urdu channel. This revelation by the former diplomat comes months after the remarks of Pakistan Muslim League-N leader Ayaz Sadiq, who in October 2020, said

in the country’s National Assembly that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in an important meeting had pointed out that if Pakistan did not release Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, India would attack Pakistan “that night by 9 pm”.

Mumbai attack mastermind Lakhvi jailed for 15 years LAHORE: Mumbai attack mastermind and Lashkar-e-Taiba operations commander Zaki-urRehman Lakhvi was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment by a Pakistani anti-terrorism court in Lahore in a terror financing case. UN proscribed terrorist Lakhvi, 61, who was on bail since 2015 in the Mumbai attack case, was arrested by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab province. "The Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Lahore convicted Lakhvi for commission of offences of terrorism financing in a case registered by the CTD for 15 years under different section of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997," a court official said after the hearing. Judge Ejaz Ahmad Buttar sentenced Lakhvi to five years of

rigorous imprisonment each on three counts with a fine of PKR 100,000 each on three counts. "In default of payment of fine, he will have to undergo an imprisonment of six months each on three counts. He has been sent to prison to serve the sentences," the official said. His whereabouts had not been known since he was released on bail from a jail in Rawalpindi in April 2015.

However, it was widely believed he had continued playing a key role in directing the activities of LeT even while he was in prison after being arrested in the aftermath of the Mumbai carnage. "Lakhvi is accused of running a dispensary, using funds collected for terrorism financing. He and others also collected funds from this dispensary and used these funds for further terrorism financing. He also used these funds for personal expenses," the the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab province had said last week. India calls step ‘farcical’ However, India described Pakistan’s action as “farcical” just ahead of next month’s

review of its case by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global terror watchdog. India called upon the international community to hold Islamabad accountable for its support to cross-border terrorism. Pakistan is trying to avoid being put on its black list. It is currently on the FATF grey, or increased monitoring, list. While Lakhvi has been accused by New Delhi and Washington of being behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the court sentenced him on charges not linked to any specific militant attack. The UN Security Council sanctions committee has declared Lakhvi LeT’s chief of operations and accuses him of being involved in militant activity in a number of other regions and countries, including Chechnya, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Will show our cards at right time to leave Pak govt: PDM Chief ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) president Maulana Fazlur Rehman issued a warning to the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, saying that the 11-opposition party alliance will show its cards at the right time that will leave the PTI government with no option but to leave the office. "We will show our cards at the right time which will leave the government shell-shocked," Rehman told a responsive crowd at Seraiki Chowk. PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz, PPP leader Yousaf Raza Gillani and other leaders of the 10-party alliance also spoke, as reported by Dawn. Maryam Nawaz also warned of some tough "decisions" if the Imran Khan regime did not agree to leave "with dignity" by January 31 - the deadline set by the Opposition-led antigovernment coalition under the Pakistan Democratic Movement's (PDM) banner. Apparently overwhelmed by the turnout, Maryam said:

Maulana Fazlur Rehman

"What will happen if I ask these people to march on Islamabad? In that case the puppet PM will have no place to hide." According to Geo News, Maryam said that a long march would be definitely held adding that its date will be announced depending on the people's convenience and weather. The PML-N vice president said that the PDM definitely had a plan for the long march, which "will be held for sure". Maryam said that the Opposition lawmakers will resign from assemblies as well, adding that if the PTI government did not agree to leave with dignity by January 31, then the masses will make "other decisions". Speaking of the PDM

rally in Bahawalpur a day prior, she said people broke the record in terms of attendance and wrote on Twitter that she was surprised. "Those here [in Bahawalpur] were saying such a large number of people had never come out here before. That is why I said 'Punjab has woken up'," she said. Speaking on the "reprehensible" Machh massacre, Maryam said the incident of "sectarian terrorism speaks volumes about the heartlessness, indifference, and incompetence of the federal and provincial governments". "Neither do they [the federal and provincial governments] know how to work nor how to reassure those who are grieving. Such a government has no right to impose itself on the people... The whole nation sympathises with its oppressed brothers," she added. On Sunday, Maryam lashed out at Khan calling him a "fake, incompetent prime minister", Pakistan Muslim League

(Nawaz) (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz on Sunday said that the support of people in Bahawalpur has shown that the "government's days in power are numbered". She said that the PTI government will be toppled the day the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) lawmakers tender their resignations. Oppn alliance will die on its own: Imran Imran Khan, meanwhile, has said that there was no threat to his government from the Opposition alliance protesting to remove him from office, saying the PDM has 'almost lost and died its own death. The PDM has almost lost and died its own death, so it is no more a threat to the government, he said. He urged his supporters to get hard on the Opposition leaders in press conferences and talk shows by highlighting their corruption. Khan once again said that the main purpose of the protest was to get concession from the government in their cases of corruption.

in brief LANKA NAVY ARRESTS 9 INDIAN FISHERMEN The Sri Lankan Navy has arrested nine Indian fishermen and seized one mechanised boat for allegedly fishing in that country's waters, besides damaging fishing nets in a separate incident, Indian officials said. The fishermen were arrested near Neduntheevu, sources said, adding that one boat was also seized by the Lankan navy. In a separate incident, the Lankan navy personnel allegedly damaged fishing nets in 20 mechanised boats near Katchatheevu, the officials added. They also allegedly hurled stones and bottles on the the Indian fishermen. Fishermen's association representative Sesuraja rued the acts of the Sri Lankan Navy, saying damage to equipment caused distress to the fishermen. Meanwhile, the fishermen operating mechanised boats decided to strike work indefinitely.

NEPAL PROTESTERS DEMAND RETURN OF MONARCHY Riot police in Nepal clashed for hours on Monday with thousands of protesters demanding a return of the monarchy that was abolished more than a decade ago and the reinstatement of a Hindu state. Police blocked the main road to the prime minister’s office, using batons to beat the protesters, who responded by throwing rocks and sticks. There were no reports of serious injuries. It was the latest in a series of protests against PM K P Sharma Oli’s government by a variety of groups, including a faction of his governing Communist party. The unrest, fuelled by Oli’s failure to honour an agreement to split his term as PM with the co-leader of the governing party, has increased distrust of the political system. The protesters on Monday accused the government of corruption.

INDONESIAN JET WITH 62 ABOARD CRASHES A passenger jet carrying more than 60 people crashed into the Java Sea last week, minutes after taking off from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. Indonesia’s transportation ministry said that the last contact with the plane, Sriwijaya Air Flight 182, was made at 2.40 pm (1.10 pm IST). The Boeing 737-524 was bound for the city of Pontianak on Borneo. It had 62 people aboard, according to an official from Sriwijaya Air, an Indonesian airline based in Jakarta. Four minutes after taking off amid heavy rain, the 26-year-old plane lost more than 10,000 feet of altitude in less than 60 seconds, according to Flightradar24, the flight-tracking service. The Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency said it had found pieces of debris in waters just northwest of Jakarta that it believed may be from the plane’s wreckage, but it said that darkness had impeded its search.

US LOST 1,40,000 JOBS IN DECEMBER The US posted a surprise decline in payrolls in December and all of the 1,40,000 jobs lost were held by women, according to data. Analysts had expected an uptick in employment in December but instead American businesses shed 1,40,000 non-farm payroll. The country’s unemployment rate stayed steady at 6.7%, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “The most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) monthly jobs report shows that the economy lost 1,40,000 net jobs in December, marking the first month of job loss since the economy started adding back jobs in May 2020,” said the National Women’s Law Center, a nonprofit focused on achieving gender justice in courts and public policy. “All of the jobs lost were women’s jobs, with women losing 1,56,000 jobs and men gaining 16,000.” December’s numbers reflect a slowdown in US economic recovery, which has been mostly stagnant as the coronavirus continues to spread.




16 - 22 January 2021

in brief 53 PRO-DEMOCRACY LEADERS ARRESTED IN HK Hong Kong police arrested 53 former lawmakers and democracy proponents for allegedly violating the new national security law by participating in unofficial election primaries for the territory’s legislature last year. The mass arrests, including of former lawmakers, were the largest move against Hong Kong’s democracy movement since the law was imposed by Beijing last June to quell dissent in the semi-autonomous territory. “The operation targets the active elements who are suspected to be involved in the crime of overthrowing, or interfering (and) seriously destroy the Hong Kong government’s legal execution of duties,” John Lee, Hong Kong’s security minister, said. He said those arrested were suspected of trying to paralyse the government, via their plans to gain a majority of the seats in the legislature to create a situation in which the chief executive had to resign and the government would stop functioning. In a video posted by former lawmaker Lam Cheukting on Facebook, police turned up at his house and told him he was “suspected of violating the national security law, subverting state power”.

NEW RECORD SET IN US WITH 300,000 CASES The US broke its single-day record for new Covid cases for the second consecutive last week with more than 300,000 cases. It was the first time the country had crossed the 300,000-case mark. Amid no slowdown in the virus spread, President-elect Joe Biden said he intends to release nearly all available doses of the vaccine soon after he is inaugurated, rather than hold back millions of vials to guarantee second doses will be available. Meanwhile, reports of a contagious new variant in the US, published by several news outlets, are based on speculative statements made by Dr Deborah Birx of the White House task force and are inaccurate, officials said.

PUTIN, MERKEL TALK POSSIBLE JOINT VACCINE PRODUCTION Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the possibility of jointly producing vaccines in a phone call, the Kremlin said. “Issues of cooperation in combating the pandemic were discussed with an emphasis on the possible prospects for joint production of vaccines,” the Kremlin said in a statement. It added that an agreement was reached to “continue contacts on the issue” between health ministries and specialised agencies. While Germany is using the vaccine by Pfizer and the German company BioNtech, Russia has put into circulation its homemade jab Sputnik V.

KIM THREATENS TO BUILD MORE NUKES North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, vowed to advance his country’s nuclear capabilities, declaring that it will build land- and submarine-launched solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as make its nuclear missiles smaller, lighter and more precise, the North’s state media reported. Kim called the US the “biggest enemy” and said Washington’s hostile policy toward North Korea would not change regardless of who occupies the White House. Kim’s comments were seen as applying pressure on the incoming administration of President- elect Joe Biden, who has called Kim a “thug”. Kim said he won’t use his nuclear weapons first unless threatened. He also suggested he is open to dialogue “if Washington is too”.

Ugandan presidential election on Jan 14 KAMPALA: Ugandans vote on Thursday, January 14, in a presidential election pitting longtime leader Yoweri Museveni against 10 candidates including, opposition frontrunner Bobi Wine, a singer-turned-lawmaker whose star power has rattled the ruling party. Scores of opposition protesters have been killed during a campaign scarred by crackdowns on Wine’s rallies which the authorities say contravene curbs on gatherings to stop the spread of Covid-19. Military personnel have been deployed across the capital Kampala to reinforce the police with columns of soldiers patrolling suburbs amid fears the presidential and legislative elections on Jan. 14 could descend into violence. At 38, Wine is half Museveni’s age and the singer known for catchy protest songs has attracted a large following

Yoweri Museveni and Bobi Wine

among younger people in the East African country, where 80% of the population are under 30 and two-thirds unemployed. In Kampala, trucks plastered with yellow Museveni posters blaring music wind through bustling streets while Wine’s red-andblue posters adorn busy intersections, with young men on hand to wipe off any dust gathering on them. When Museveni seized power in 1986 after a five-year

guerrilla war, he was welcomed by Ugandans worn down by the murderous regimes of Milton Obote and Idi Amin. But accusations of corruption, official extravagance, rights abuses and nepotism have gradually eroded support for Museveni, who is 76, especially among younger voters who are looking to Wine for change. Museveni has won every election since the first under his presidency in 1996, though they

have been tarnished by the intimidation of opposition candidates as well as accusations of vote rigging. Uganda is a Western ally, a prospective oil producer and is considered a stabilising force in a region where war has plagued neighbours such as Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. It also contributes the biggest contingent of an African Union force fighting Islamist insurgents in Somalia. In campaigns Museveni, trumpets his achievements in energy and transport, such as building hydropower dams, roads and driving industrial expansion. At one rally he also did press-ups to demonstrate he was still energetic despite his age. Uganda’s parliament, which is dominated by the NRM, has twice changed the constitution to allow Museveni to run, first removing a two-term limit in 2005 and then abolishing the age limit of 75 in 2017.

South Africa struggling to contain Covid -19 infections PRETORIA: South Africa is struggling to contain a second wave of Covid-19 infections, fuelled by a virulent new local variant of the virus, “Covid fatigue” and a series of “superspreader” events. Health officials last week announced 844 deaths and 21,832 new cases in a 24-hour period, the worst toll yet. Experts believe the second wave has yet to reach its peak in the country of 60 million, and fear healthcare services in the country’s main economic and cultural hub may struggle to cope with the influx of patients. Unlike wealthier countries, South Africa cannot afford to repeat the hard lockdown imposed last year, which caused massive economic and social damage. Some predict a third wave when winter comes in the

southern hemisphere in May and June and there are fears that current vaccines may be less effective against the new variant. “We are going to get a third wave, even a fourth. This pandemic has only just started,” said Tivani Mashamba, professor of diagnostic research at the University of Pretoria. There is also growing criticism of authorities’ apparent failure to secure adequate supplies of vaccines. Last week health officials announced that around 1.5m doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine would be available for health workers by the end of next month. It is unclear how promises to roll out jabs to two-thirds of the population through the year can be kept, though South Africa will get enough shots for 10% of its 60 million citizens

through the global Covax initiative, designed to ensure equitable supply of cheap vaccines to poorer countries. The official Covid-19 death toll in South Africa now stands at 31,368, but reliable sources said that over 71,000 have died since May. The country is the worst hit in Africa. On a 4,000 km journey from the badly hit province of KwaZulu-Natal through to the western city of Cape Town, now the centre of the second wave, the signs of the pandemic were clear. Shops and restaurants were shuttered on every high street in every town, with infrastructure suffering from an acute lack of repair and maintenance. Unemployment has soared as key industries such as mining and hospitality have suffered. “We had almost nothing.

Now we have nothing at all,” said Nicolas Mvoko, a former vineyard worker who recently lost his job in the Hex Valley, in the Western Cape. Wine and beer manufacturers have suffered from repeated bans aimed at preventing gatherings at which social distancing has been ignored and relieving pressure on the health system. Efforts to control the flow of people across borders are also undermined by corruption and inefficiency. Huge crowds gathered at the crossing point with Zimbabwe as migrant workers rushed to return to jobs in South Africa after Christmas. Though all were meant to have had negative official Covid tests, a reported bribe of 2,500 rand (£120) to frontier guards secured passage with no questions asked.

India a dependable, reliable Kenya's deputy president friend, Jaishankar tells Lanka Ruto told to resign or face


S Jaishankar

COLOMBO: Assuring that India will always be a "dependable partner and reliable friend" of Sri Lanka, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said New Delhi is open to strengthening its relationship with Colombo on the basis of "mutual trust, mutual interest, mutual respect and mutual sensitivity". Addressing a joint media briefing here with his Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena, Jaishankar also said that the coronavirus pandemic has not been able to dent

the bilateral ties and that the two countries are now looking at post-Covid cooperation. "Covid hasn't been able to dent our bilateral cooperation. In fact, high level contacts were maintained and indeed strengthened during the past year and the virtual summit between our prime ministers was a high watermark for us in 2020," he said. "India will be a reliable partner in Sri Lanka's development," he tweeted. Rajapaksa said he and Jaishankar discussed ways to strengthen bilateral ties.

Nairobi: Amani National Congress (ANC) party asked Deputy President William Ruto to resign on grounds of ‘misleading’ the public. Through a statement signed by Deputy Party Leader Ayub Savula, the party stated that it will prepare a motion to impeach the DP, accusing him of being a ‘danger to the stability of the nation.’ “In that impeachment William Ruto motion, we will make the case that because his ambition is in competition with priorities set by the government he serves in, he is a danger to the stability of the nation by covertly dissenting and sabotaging the President’s government agenda. He does that through incitement of the vulnerable poor. “Ruto swore to serve the people of Kenya diligently by assisting the President prosecute government agenda. But Ruto has deviated, nay, subverted his oath of office loyally to serve the President. Just this Sunday, Ruto has the shameless knack to call the President, his boss, a tribalist,” read the letter in part. The party also accused Ruto of pretending to be excluded in the formulation of the BBI yet he was part and parcel of it, as per President Uhuru Kenyatta’s speech during the unveiling of the document.




16 - 22 January 2021

Indian American Raj Iyer named chief information officer of US Army WASHINGTON: The US Army recently announced that Dr Raj Iyer will take over as the new chief information officer, the Army’s Civilian Senior Leader Management Office said in a news release. The appointment was announced following the establishment of the new position by the Pentagon in July 2020. Iyer will be the highest ranking Indian American civilian at the Pentagon equivalent in rank to a three-star general, the release notes. He will supervise an annual budget of $16 billion for US Army IT operations and over 15,000 civilians and military personnel in over 100 countries, it said. Iyer replaces acting CIO

October. “This move was not one that I had planned, but the call for public service is my duty,” Iyer wrote in a LinkedIn post. “It’s also an exciting opportunity to put technology front and center to Army modernization leveraging cloud, AI and data analytics to achieve digital Dr Raj Iyer overmatch against Greg Garcia, who stood in after our adversaries.” the retirement earlier of Lt. Gen. In his new role as CIO, Iyer Bruce Crawford. Garcia was also will serve as principal advisor to serving as Army’s chief data the secretary of the Army, officer, but was replaced by setting the strategic direction David Markowitz in midand objectives for information

technology and information management. Iyer will direct the execution of policies and programs to modernize the US Army to achieve digital overmatch against near peer adversaries such as China and Russia. The Army has committed to leveraging advanced technologies such as cloud computing, robotics and Artificial Intelligence as critical enablers for future war fighting through a concept called Multi Domain Operations, the release said. Iyer was appointed by the secretary after a nationwide search for a CIO with private sector and government executive experience, the release adds.

Indian-origin Trump loyalists hold Tricolour to show they are not racists WASHINGTON: Amid a sea of unruly members of a proDonald Trump mob waving American confederate flags and flags supporting the US President in the attack on the US Capitol Hill, there was the presence of one that stood out: a man waving the Indian tricolour. The man has been identified as Vincent Xavier Palathingal, a resident of Virginia, who traces his roots to Kochi, Kerala, and had earlier been picked by Trump to be member President’s Export Council. The 54-year-old said that he was not part of the violence that followed when the mob breached the Capitol Hill, leading to the deaths of five persons. He claimed he was there only for a “peaceful protest” against “election fraud” – a claim that Trump has been pushing since his defeat in

November. Asked why he was holding the Indian flag during the protests, Vincent said it was to show that the Trump supporters were not racists, and the protest rally was not a racist movement. “I would not be able to hold an Indian flag and walk around if it was a racist movement,” he said. He said there were about 10 Indians in the group of Trump loyalists, and five of them were from Kerala. “Whenever I have been at a Trump rally, I’ve seen people of Vietnamese, Korean, even Pakistani origin, carrying their flags. This is also to show that such rallies are not a racist movement,” he added. The entrepreneur, who spent 25 years in India before moving to the US, also tried to downplay the scale of the violence witnessed at the Capitol Hill. He claimed that out of the million people gathered outside the

Congress to protest, only “about 10-15 daring people, scaled the walls like ‘Spider Man’ and created violence… Eventually the violence created by about 50 people destroyed the purpose of our rally.” He also pushed the unfounded theory that there were members of left-wing group Antifa among those who stormed the US Capitol, the implication being that they were masquerading as Trump supporters. “They appear to be trained, professional thugs. There isn’t clarity about their identity. However, if you see the way they climbed the walls, etc. it appears that they were trained very well. Only people in the military can do it. They appear to be Antifa, BLM (Black Lives Matter) thugs who support the Democratic Party who infiltrated into our side. They were the ones who opened the

door, it was not the police…” he claimed. But reports say that there was no evidence of any Antifa member among the mob, but photos of the attack showed individuals associated with a range of extreme and far-right groups and supporters of fringe online conspiracy theories that have been seen at pro-Trump rallies before. But Vincent claimed that it was these “50odd people who created the ruckus”, while the Trump loyalists were peacefully chanting slogans and singing the national anthem.

Controversy over Kamala Harris' first Vogue cover WASHINGTON: US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is featured on the cover of the February 2021 issue of Vogue, but controversy over the selected cover photo has overshadowed the magazine's debut. The cover photo, which began circulating on social media, shows Harris with her arms crossed wearing a dark suit and her trademark Converse sneakers in front of a pink and green back drop. The magazine later released an additional photo, a portrait of Harris wearing a powder blue suit, which a source familiar with the photo shoot said had been the agreed-upon image that would be featured as the cover. "Aides to Harris and Vogue had the understanding that the blue suit/gold background would be the cover photo. Without telling Harris' team, Vogue changed it to the pink/green photo which the

Vice President-elect's team did not agree to," the source said. Another source described Harris' team as being "blindsided" when the cover was released. According to the source, an image showing Harris in her Converse sneakers was originally intended to be used as a smaller photo that would be featured inside the actual Vogue story. Both photos in question were taken by famed photographer Tyler Mitchell. Mitchell, 26, became the

magazine's first African American photographer to shoot a Vogue cover in the magazine's over 125-year history when he photographed singer Beyoncé Knowles-Carter for the September 2018 issue. A representative for Mitchell did not respond for a request to comment, but he tweeted out the powder blue suit cover. "The team at Vogue loved the images Tyler Mitchell shot and felt the more informal image captured Vice President-elect Harris's

authentic, approachable nature which we feel is one of the hallmarks of the Biden/Harris administration," a spokesperson for Vogue said and added, "To respond to the seriousness of this moment in history, and the role she has to play leading our country forward, we're celebrating both images of her as covers digitally." Additionally a source said both Harris' team and the magazine "collaborated closely on all creative decisions." For Harris, who made history in November when she became the first Black and South Asian American to be elected Vice President, gracing the cover of Vogue was meant to send a message to young people of color. "There are not many Black women, let alone Black and South Asian women, that grace the covers of these high-end magazines," a source said. "[For Harris], it was important for young men and women, people of color, to see that this is possible."

in brief TRUMP EXTENDS H-1B VISA BAN US President Donald Trump has extended pandemic-related bans on green cards and work visas - including H-1B visas largely used by highly-skilled Indian nationals - to large groups of applicants through March 31, while a federal appeals court sided with him on a rule that requires new immigrants to have their own health insurance. The twin developments on the final day of 2020 encapsulated how Trump has made US immigration policy more restrictive without support from Congress. President-elect Joe Biden has promised to undo many of Trump’s actions but it is unclear how quickly and even to what extent. Federal judges have limited the impact of the pandemic-related visa bans, which were set to expire Dec. 31.

TAIWAN ROLLS OUT NEW PASSPORT Taiwan rolled out a newly redesigned passport that gives greater prominence to the island's day-to-day name, aiming to avoid confusion with China amid the Covid-19 pandemic and Beijing's steppedup efforts to assert sovereignty. Existing Taiwanese passports have "Republic of China", its formal name, written in large English font at the top, with "Taiwan" printed at the bottom, creating confusion internationally, according to the government. During the early days of the pandemic Taiwan says some of its citizens were confused with Chinese nationals and on occasion unfairly subject to the same Covid-19-related entry bans when the disease was well under control in Taiwan though not in China. The new passport enlarges the word "Taiwan" in English and removes "Republic of China", though that name in Chinese and in small English font around the national emblem remains.

SIX GORILLA RANGERS KILLED IN AMBUSH Armed men have killed at least six rangers and wounded several others in an ambush in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga national park, a sanctuary for endangered mountain gorillas, the park said. The identity of the assailants was not immediately clear, said Olivier Mukisya, a Virunga spokesman. Previous attacks against the rangers have been blamed on various militias who fight to control land and natural resources in eastern Congo. More than 200 rangers have been killed in the past, including 12 in last April in the deadliest such attack in recent memory. Dozens of armed groups operate in eastern Congo, many remnants of militias that fought in civil wars around the turn of the century that resulted in millions of deaths from conflict, hunger and disease.

ZIMBABWE JOURNALIST ARRESTED FOR THIRD TIME IN SIX MONTHS Zimbabwean journalist and government critic Hopewell Chin’ono was arrested on charges of communicating false information, his third arrest inside six months, his lawyer said. Chin’ono, who has a large social media following, has been critical of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s rule, accusing his government of corruption and mismanagement. His comments have been unusually outspoken for a journalist in Zimbabwe, where critics are often dealt with harshly. The United States embassy in Harare said it was concerned for Chin’ono’s welfare. Police spokesman Andrew Phiri said he could not comment on Chin’ono’s latest arrest, which the journalist himself tweeted about, saying: “The police have come to arrest me! Let everyone know!”




16 - 22 January 2021

Gujarat announces new tourism Nirav Modi’s sister and her husband policy to attract more tourists turn approver in the PNB scam case Chief minister Vijay Rupani announced Gujarat's new tourism policy for 20212025 with a special focus on attracting new investments in the state’s 'high priority tourism centres' by offering lucrative incentives. “We want to give more importance on world class tourism this time. And I am confident that with this policy, Gujarat will be a global choice for tourists,” Rupani said. He further added that he wanted more amusement parks, like Disneyland, to come to Gujarat. The new policy promises special incentives on large-scale tourism projects while aiming to introduce new avenues like caravan tourism, MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions) tourism and rural-based experience tourism. Incentives for setting up tourism projects in the state will be applicable to only those projects that come up in the high priority tourism centers identified across 25 districts of the state under the policy, the CM added. As per the latest policy, 15 per cent capital subsidy will be given for setting up world-class theme or amusement parks with capital investment ranging from £5 to 50 million. “In case of capital investment of more than £50 million for setting up a new project, 15 per cent of the eligible capital investment, and if required, land on lease will be provided by the state

government,” the policy states. While considering the incentives under the new policy, land prices will not be considered. While launching the policy, the CM said, “The policy has been framed keeping in mind the mission of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ so as to be ‘Vocal for Local’ thereby boosting local employment. The state is gifted geographically. It has hill resorts, natural attractions, beaches etc in

addition to a rich legacy of ancient crafts and civilization. Gujarat has the world’s tallest Statue at Kevadia, Gir National Park, India’s first World Heritage City,World’s Biggest Stadium, India’s first seaplane services, India’s first Blue-Flag certified beach, Seema Darshan, in addition to Somanth, Dwarka, Ambaji etc. These places been attracting have tourists from various parts of the world.

Fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi’s sister Purvi Mehta and her husband Maiank Mehta have decided to turn approver in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam case. According to the reports, Purvi and Maiank have filed an application before the Special PMLA Court in Mumbai asking the court to seek pardon under Section 306 and 307 of the CrPC. The two have now decided to turn approver and is expected to assist in the confiscation of two flats in New York, one each in London and Mumbai, bank balances in two Swiss Bank accounts and also another bank account in Mumbai. Purvi, a Belgian national, is an accused in the case registered by the Enforcement Directorate, while Nirav Modi is the prime accused in a $2 billion bank fraud case at stateowned PNB. Justice VC

A virtual event on Zoom showcasing Gujarati literature and 'Charan' tribe's culture Considering the demand of the readers and well-wishers of 'Asian Voice' and ‘Gujarat Samachar, The Publisher/Editor of Asian Voice/Gujarat Samachar, Mr C.B. Patel has organized an extraordinary live virtual event on 17th January 2021, from 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm on Zoom application which will further talk about the rich Gujarati literature and culture. The online 'Zoom' program will be hosted by Brighton-based Dhirubhai Gadhvi and Gujarat Samachar's Managing Editor Kokila Patel. Born in the forest of Gir, a 12-year-old Raviraj will present folklore. The keynote speakers of the literature event organized jointly by the ‘Asian Voice’, ‘Gujarat Samachar’ and Brighton Gujarati Cultural Society are residents of the UK, Mr. Maheshbhai Gadhvi and Dhruv Gadhavi. Mr Mahendrabhai Chauhan and Anantbhai Suchak of Brighton Gujarati Cultural Society will handle the technical management of this online 'Zoom' program. Event details are as below:

Gujarat Samachar Lok Satihya Dayro; Time: Jan 17, 2021: 3:00 PM Join Zoom Meeting- Meeting ID: 874 0700 8903; Passcode: 762363.

Barde, the Special Judge for cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) has accepted their application. The “position of the accused (Purvi Modi) in this case after tender of pardon is that she shall be marked as approver”, the court said in its order. “The accused staying abroad presently shall be directed to present herself before the court, for which purpose the prosecution shall take necessary steps,” the order said. The husband-wife duo promises to make full disclosures and provide evidence. The husband-wife duo has also submitted an undertaking to make true and full disclosure of the circumstances and events without concealing any evidence and to provide complete documents. Purvi has agreed to assist in realising and repatriating various assets in India and abroad totalling £57.9 million to the government. The approvers have categorically stated that all the companies, properties and accounts mentioned in the prosecution complaints, except Pavillion Point Corporation belong to Nirav Modi. She gave her willingness to offer all cooperation to repatriate the assets to India. Earlier, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is probing the multi-crore PNB scam case, had filed submissions before the Special PMLA court against Purvi, Maiank

and others in the bank fraud case. The investigation under PMLA had revealed that Purvi has a dozen bank accounts and ownership of various companies/trusts abroad. Nirav Modi is the prime accused in the USD 2 billion PNB scam. He had fled India after the PNB had reported £1.13 billion loan fraud by Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi. After evading detection for over a year, he was finally arrested in London on March 20 last year. He had been living in an ultra-luxury apartment in West London. His bail petitions have been repeatedly denied and he has been in a UK jail since. The other accused Mehul Choksi has taken up the citizenship of Antigua and has been living there. The Indian government is trying for his extradition too. Both Nirav and Choksi’s properties, houses, luxury items and business premises have been attached by the ED in India. In June, the ED had recovered several consignments of diamond and luxury pearl jewellery of the duo in Hong Kong and had brought back over 108 consignments of various entities, totalling over £130 million.

Indian Supreme Court puts three farm laws on hold Continued from page - 1 We will form a Committee which will submit a report to us… Every person who is genuinely interested in solving the problem is expected to go before the Committee. The Committee will not punish you or pass any orders. It will submit a report to us”, remarked the CJI. The day’s hearing was marked by the absence of senior lawyers Dushyant Dave, H S Phoolka and Colin Gonsalves representing different farmers associations. Advocate M L Sharma, who represents some of the unions, told the bench that some farmers had told him that they were not willing to go before the committee. The bench said members of the bar must show “some loyalty” to the judicial process. “You cannot reject the process if it does not suit you. You will have to cooperate with us and accordingly speak to the client. You cannot tell us negative without telling something positive to your clients.” The court said it is constituting the committee to understand the ground situation. The CJI added “all it needs to be seen is

which part needs to be deleted from the law and which should stay.. that is why a committee is needed”. The committee, it pointed out, “is part of the judicial process in this case”. The Centre may have a specific interest and farmers want repeal, the court said and pointed out that a knowledgeable person has to tell the court what is the complaint on the ground. Advocate Sharma also said that the farmers were upset that the Prime Minister was not speaking to them. To this, the CJI said the court cannot ask the PM as he is not a party before it. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta intervened and told the court that the Agriculture Minister is talking to the farmers. When one of the lawyers said there’s a confusion that it’s a mediating committee, the court responded “who said it’s mediation?” The Bench also asked Attorney General K K Venugopal about the charges by one of the parties that a banned outfit ‘Sikhs for Justice’ was aiding the protests. The AG replied “we have been informed there is a Khalistani infiltration in the protests”. The bench asked the

AG to say the same on the affidavit which the senior law officer agreed to. The CJI also noted the absence of Dave, Gonsalve and Phoolka at the hearing. Senior Advocate Harish Salve submitted it’s a coincidence that they are not present in hearing today. “This is really concerning,” he said. Salve said that the Republic Day parade should go on unaffected. The court then said it will issue notice to the Delhi Police on the plea by the Centre against any tractor/vehicle rally in the national capital on the Republic Day. Salve also added that there is no basis to the apprehension that land of farmers who have entered into a contract under the new laws will be sold. The law doesn’t allow that, he said. The CJI responded that the court will add a word in the order that nothing of that sort will happen. Savle said the two main concerns were whether the MSP will be dismantled and land sold. Both will not happen, he added. Senior Advocate Vikas Singh said the farmers needed a prominent place like Ram Lila Maidan or Boat Club for the protests. The

court said it will say in the order that they may apply to police for permission. Attempting to assuage the concerns of farmers, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the law says no farming agreement shall be entered into for mortgage, sale of land. Also, no action for recovery of the amount will be initiated against the agricultural land, he pointed out. Farm land is completely immune from attachment, the SG said, adding misinformation are being spread. SC flays govt The Supreme Court on Monday criticised the Centre for inept handling of the farm protests and said it would like to keep in abeyance implementation of the contentious farm laws to enable protesting farmers to vent their grievances before an SCconstituted expert committee headed by a former CJI. But the court has to await for the response of the protesting farm leaders, who have hardened their opposition, whether they were willing to appear before the SCconstituted expert committee to discuss the pros and cons of the laws. Later, the unions said they

would not meet the proposed panel. The protesting farmers have refused to discuss the laws clause by clause with the government even as several farm bodies have sought implementation of the new legislations. In court, senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for eight farm unions protesting at the Singhu border, said he would have to consult the unions about their willingness to go before the committee. Chief Justice SA Bobde said, "If you (farmers) have been going to the negotiation table with the government, why won't you go to the committee set up by the SC? Don't create this odd argument." The advocates appearing for the eight farm unions welcomed the suggestion to keep implementation of the laws in abeyance though the Centre said this should not be done without any legal infirmity being established. SG Tushar Mehta said the SC's observations on the government’s handling of the protests were harsh. The bench clarified that its observations were "the most innocuous that could have been made in the fact situation”.




16 - 22 January 2021


ED court summons Andhra CM in land allotments case HYDERABAD: A special Enforcement Directorate court has issued summons to Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, YSR Congress MP Y Vijayasai Reddy, seven directors of pharma companies Hetero, Aurobindo and Trident Life Sciences - along with scores of former officials of APIIC asking them to appear before it in connection with a case. The ED case is an offshoot of the CBI’s quid pro quo case wherein the pharma firms were charged with bribing Jagan’s firms by way of investments in lieu of the land allotments they got when his late father Y S Rajasekhara Reddy was the CM in 2004-09 when the state was united. The case was recently transferred from Nampally metropolitan sessions judge

Y S Jagan Mohan

court to ED special court which renumbered the case and issued fresh summons. With this, all the six chargesheets filed by the ED in the quid pro quo case have now reached the ED special court which will hear all the cases along with the CBI’s 11 chargesheets filed in the same case. The CBI court, it can be recalled, was earlier designated as an ED special court to hear the cases filed under Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

The CBI case against these pharma companies was that they had entered into a criminal conspiracy with the accused to get 150 acres of land at Jadcherla SEZ in Telangana in lieu of £2.9 million investment they made in Jagan’s media house, Jagathi Publications. But, advocates representing the AP CM and the pharma firms have denied these charges and termed them as politically motivated. Although this was a disproportionate assets case, the allegations made by the probe agencies were disproportionate, the investigators said citing the lesser value of the land the companies had got and the higher value of the investment they made. An ED appellate tribunal too found force in their argument last year and wondered why any industrialist

would lose Rs 29 crore for deriving a benefit of Rs 21 crore from the state and modified an attachment order made by the authorities of ED in respect of Hetero, Aurobindo and Trident companies. The ED made this attachment as part of its probe into Jagan’s disproportionate assets case in its pharma companies’ chargesheet. The ED filed its case basing on a CBI case that said when YSR was at the helm he gave 75 acres of land each to Hetero and Aurobindo at Jadcherla SEZ on lease. “In lieu of this benefit, the firms invested in Jagan’s companies,” the CBI said. The ED identified several properties of the pharma companies and attached assets worth £5.1 million. The companies later challenged the action before the appellate tribunal in Delhi.


Haryana CM's event cancelled after farmers vandalise venue KARNAL (HARYANA): Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s ‘kisan panchayat’ at Kaimla village in Karnal district had to be cancelled after farmers protesting the Centre’s controversial agri-reform laws ransacked the venue of the meeting. They had also occupied the helipad where Khattar was to land. The incident is also embarrassing for the BJP as Karnal district is Khattar’s home constituency and the saffron party won it with one of the highest margins in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The farmers had already announced that they will not allow Khattar to hold the kisan panchayat and had even taken out a protest march in the village to oppose trucks laden with construction material in the middle of the road almost 4 km ahead of the village. Braving tear

gas shells lobbed by the cops, protesting farmers crossed two barricades and then entered the wheat fields and marched on foot to reach close to the venue. When the protesters reached the venue, some villagers tried to stop them with lathis, which led to a fracas. Police then used tear gas and water cannons to stop the farmers, but the protesters managed to reach the venue and vandalized the stage, broke chairs

and other items. Khattar programme cancelled for 2nd time For the past three days, senior Karnal administration officials, including deputy commissioner Nishant Kumar Yadav and superintendent of police Ganga Ram Punia, have been trying hard to convince the farmers to refrain from raiding the venue. This is the second time the chief minister had to

cancel a programme in his home district since the farmers’ agitation started at Delhi borders. Khattar had to cancel his visit to Padha village after some miscreants damaged the helipad and vandalized the venue before his visit. Later, at a press conference, Khattar blamed the protesters and opposition parties for the chaos at the kisan panchayat venue. “Keeping in view the law and order situation, I decided to go to the Karnal venue in a helicopter. The chaos was an outcome of breach of trust by the agitators, who had agreed on a symbolic protest but they obstructed the rally. Only, I could not reach the venue otherwise those present on dais addressed the farmers and conveyed the message,” he said. The chief minister also blamed Haryana farm union leader Gurnam Singh Charuni for the standoff.


Mamata govt to implement PM-Kisan Yojana for Bengal farmers KOLKATA: The West Bengal government led by Mamata Banerjee last week indicated its willingness to implement the Central government's PM Kissan Yojana for farmers in the state. Earlier, the Chief Minister had stated that the money should be transferred to the state but now she said that her government has no problem if the money is directly transferred to farmers. The Chief Minister said that she has asked the Centre to share details of all those who have registered themselves on the Union government's portal for the programme. Addressing a press meet in Kolkata, Mamata said, "I had repeatedly asked the Centre to transfer funds allotted under the PM-Kisan scheme to

the state government. Recently, they (central government officials) claimed that around 21,70,000 farmers from Bengal have registered themselves on a portal to avail benefits of the scheme." "They (Centre) have sought verification of this data. I understood that the Centre was trying to politicise the matter. We realised that farmers should not suffer because of this... I have asked the Centre to pass on the data so that we can start the verification process," she said. Mamata said that she would want the farmers of the state to get all possible help, in addition to the assistance being doled out by her government, adding "I want the farmers to get all benefits. We do have our

schemes, but if they get extra benefits... Let them avail it. However, if the Centre doesn't trust us with the verification process, then it is up to them." In the past, she had opposed the implementation of Central schemes, saying that her government would allow PMKisan Samman Nidhi and Ayushman Bharat programmes in the state, only if funds to the beneficiaries are routed through the state government. Criticising the Centre over the new farm laws, the Bengal CM said arrangements would soon be made to convene an assembly session to pass a resolution against the contentious legislations. She, however, asserted that she would never allow the implementation of the

in brief GREEN SIGNAL FOR KARNATAKA CM TO EXPAND CABINET The much-awaited cabinet expansion in Karnataka will take place on January 13, said Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa. The Chief Minister further said that seven new members may be inducted into the Cabinet. The final decision on this matter will probably be taken later, he added. This comes after Yediyurappa met Union Home Minister Amit Shah at the latter's residence in Delhi to discuss the political situation in Karnataka. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief JP Nadda and the party's in-charge for Karnataka Arun Singh were also present at the meeting. The chief minister had earlier suggested some names and expressed confidence that the central BJP leadership will respond positively. Apart from the cabinet expansion, the chief minister also held discussions on the upcoming by-polls in the state for one parliamentary and two Assembly seats.

AIADMK ENDORSES PALANISWAMI, SNUBS BJP AGAIN With state elections just months away, the general council of the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu empowered party coordinator and Deputy CM O Panneerselvam, and joint coordinator and Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, to decide on the poll alliances and strategy. In what is seen as yet another terse message to the BJP, which endorsed the chief ministerial candidature of EPS were silent on the continuation of alliance recently announced by both the leaders at a government function attended by BJP leader Amit Shah. Rifts are apparent as the BJP has also not given a confirmation amid indications of demands of power-sharing in the state. AIADMK MP and senior leader Munusamy, who had last month made it clear his party won't play a second fiddle, reiterated saying: "National parties don't matter in Tamil Nadu".

COVID TESTING SUSPENDED AT JALANDHAR LAB The Punjab government has temporarily suspended the Covid-19 testing at the Animal Husbandry Department’s Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (RDDL), Jalandhar, to maximise testing for avian influenza (bird flu) in the state. Health and Family Welfare Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said RDDL would revert to testing for Covid19 once bird flu threat was over. He clarified not even a single sample was pending for testing at the facility. Hussan Lal, Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, said in the wake of bird flu, instructions had been issued to all civil surgeons asking them to coordinate on a regular basis with the Department of Animal Husbandry in their respective districts for any unusual death of poultry birds/migratory birds, etc. and ensure regular surveillance of wetlands, if any, in respective areas.


three farm laws, which have sparked protests across the country. Mamata said, "We are against those farm laws. We would soon convene an assembly session for a day or two and pass a resolution against the anti-farmer laws." Notably, West Bengal would become the sixth state in the country to do so, after Kerala, Delhi, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, if it passes the resolution.

West Bengal minister of state for youth services and sports and former Bengal skipper Laxmi Ratan Shukla quit all forms of politics, saying he wanted to concentrate more on sports, but did not resign as the Howrah (North) MLA. He wrote a letter to chief minister Mamata Banerjee, apprising her of his decision. She responded, saying “there is nothing wrong when a sportsperson wants to return to sports,” and sent a recommendation to governor Jagdeep Dhankhar to “relieve” Shukla from the state cabinet. The CM stressed that there was “no room for any misunderstanding” over Shukla’s decision, adding, “Anyone can do this. Laxmi bhalo chele (Laxmi is a good person). He has resigned. In his letter, he did not write about resigning as a minister.”





16 - 22 January 2021

Pravasi Samman for American NRI body The Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) of New York, New Jersey & Connecticut (FIATristate) was conferred the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman last week during the16th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) celebrations. The FIA received the honours for community service, according to the MEA website. A total of 30 individuals and organizations from across the globe were conferred the honours, the highest for non-resident Indians (NRIs), in the presence of President Ram Nath Kovind and PM Narendra Modi. Established in 1970, FIA-Tristate celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2020. Since its inception, the Gujarati diaspora settled in the US has remained an

important part of the federation. Ramesh Patel, the founding member of the federation, played an important role in making the India Day Parade the biggest celebration of Independence Day outside India. The three states have one of the highest concentrations of Gujarati population, said members. “We are very proud, humbled and thankful to be the recipient of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman,”

said Anil Bansal, the president of the body. “This award is for exceptional and meritorious contribution to India and to social and humanitarian causes.” Ankur Vaidya, the chairman of the FIA, said that even during one of the worst times in recent history, the federation continued to shine through its initiatives. “We managed with the motivated team and Ramesh Patel’s spirit and soul to show us light and inspiration,” he said. “This is only the beginning and bigger and better things are coming.” India ready to save world: PM Modi India is ready to help protect the world with not one but two ‘Made in India’ coronavirus vaccines, PM Narendra Modi said

while addressing the inaugural function 16th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Convention. Modi said: “In the corona era, today India is among the countries with the lowest mortality and highest recovery rate in the world. Today, India is ready to protect humanity with not one, but two Made in India corona vaccines.” He also said India has the most vibrant democracy, days after the violence on Capitol Hill shocked the US and much of the world. In his virtual address on the theme of ‘Contributing to Aatmanirbhar Bharat’, he said: “Being the pharmacy of the world, India has supplied important medicines to all those in need in the world in the past and is also doing so now.” “When India got

Independence it was said that such a poor and under-literate country will disintegrate and democracy was impossible here. Today’s truth is that India is united and if democracy is most strong, vibrant and lively anywhere in the world, it is in India,”he said. The past year, he said, had been challenging for everyone. “...but in the midst of these challenges, the way Indian-origin colleagues across the world have worked, it is a matter of pride for all of us”.Modi said he felt very proud about the praise for Indian diaspora and also lauded them for their contributions to the PMCARES Fund, which has been used to boost health infrastructure in the country.

India, China remove some troops from eastern Ladakh India and China have progressively removed some troops from the “depth areas” along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh due to the harsh winter, but there has been no de-induction of soldiers ranged against each other in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation on the frontlines. China has de-inducted around 10,000 soldiers from their “traditional training areas” around 150 to 200-km from the LAC, with India following suit with “a mirror reduction” from its depth areas, said defence ministry sources. But the operational situation remains as grim as ever on the front in Pangong Tso, Chushul, Gogra-Hotsprings and Depsang Plains despite freezing conditions, with temperatures even

dipping to minus 30 degrees Celsius at some heights, and oxygen deprivation in the high-altitude area. Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and IAF chief Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria, in fact, visited eastern Ladakh on Monday to take stock of the “operational readiness”, even as India handed over the PLA soldier, who had inadvertently strayed across the LAC to China. “There is zero reduction of troops on the frontlines and immediate depth areas. But yes, both sides are frequently rotating troops at the heights to maintain their operational efficiency in the killing weather and terrain,” said a source. The visits of Gen Rawat and ACM Bhadauria to the forward areas took place amidst no signs of any de-escalation in the

Nehru lost Nepal by rejecting King’s offer, says Pranab Mukherjee's book In a sensational disclosure, late President Pranab Mukherjee says in his much-talked-about autobiography - ‘The Presidential Years’, has revealed how former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru committed a major blunder by rejecting Nepal’s King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah’s offer that the Himalayan nation is made a province of India. According to the reports, in the chapter titled, ‘My Prime Ministers: Different Styles, Different Temperaments’, Mukherjee wrote that Nehru dealt with Nepal very diplomatically. He noted that after the Rana rule was replaced by the monarchy in Nepal, he wished for democracy to take root. Mukherjee in his autobiography added, “Interestingly, Nepal’s king had suggested to Nehru that Nepal be made a province of India. But Nehru rejected the offer on the grounds that Nepal was an independent nation and must remain so.” In the yet-tobe-published book, Mukherjee writes that “had Indira Gandhi been in Nehru’s place, she would have perhaps seized upon the opportunity, like she did with Sikkim”. Sikkim was a kingdom which became part of India in 1975. On April 9, 1975, the Sikkim Parliament announced that the king was deposed. Through a referendum, Sikkim became part of India. On May 16, 1975, the Indian parliament announced that Sikkim officially became a state of India.

Expressing his views on the Former Prime Ministers and Presidents of India, Mukherjee reportedly writes, “Every PM has his or her own style of functioning. Lal Bahadur Shastri took positions that were very different from that of Nehru. There can be divergent perceptions among PMs, even if they happen to come from the same party, on issues such as foreign policy, security and internal administration.” The memoir by Mukherjee has yet again ignited a debate regarding the cost India has been paying due to the strategic blunders that were committed during the Nehruvian era. Nehru during his tenure, not only made blunders by gifting territories to Pakistan and China but also responsible for India ceding territories with much crucial strategic significance. The indecisions of Nehru has cost the country much more than just vast swathes of Jammu Kashmir, Ladakh, Coco Islands and many other strategic locations along the border including Tibet and Nepal.

ongoing military confrontation with China, which has entered its ninth month now. It has seen both sides deploy over 50,000 soldiers each, along with tanks, howitzers and surface-to-air missiles batteries, in close proximity to each other

since May last year. The rival troops even clashed at the Galwan Valley, which left 20 Indian and an unspecified number of PLA soldiers dead on June 15. The lack of any tangible progress in resolving the standoff between India and China has led to a major delay in even scheduling the ninth round of corps commander-level talks after the eighth one was held on November 6. “The PLA, in fact, may have withdrawn some soldiers from the depth areas with the intention of swiftly bringing them back after the harsh winter starts ebbing from March onwards. We cannot lower our guard,” said the source.

Couple believe power of Bhagavad Gita made brain surgery successful Jitendra Umatiya Science and technologies have advanced remarkably over the last century. But some cases of faith and miracles still make us speechless. Recently, a patient chanted shlokas from the holy book of Bhagavad Gita, while undergoing a complicated brain surgery at Zydus hospital in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. 36 year old Dayaben Budhelia was diagnosed with a tumour in her brain. She was admitted in Zydus hospital in Ahmedabad for a surgery. But during her surgery, she opted to remain conscious. The surgeon operating on her advised her to keep talking, in order to monitor the condition of her brain during surgery. Dayaben, therefore asked for permission to recite shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita and kept softly chanting the verses till her surgery was over. Speaking to Asian Voice, Neurosurgeon Dr Kalpesh Shah said, “I have done more than nine thousand open surgeries in the last 12 years. But this is the first case there was a patient chanting Gita verses during her operation. It took us about a quarter of an hour to remove the lump from her brain. All this time she was given local anaesthesia but she remained conscious. The position of the tumour was so delicate that there was a possibility of causing paralysis.” Dayaben’s husband Bharatbhai is from a small village called Limda Haunubha in Bhavnagar district. At present the family is settled in Katargam, Surat. Speaking to the newsweekly, Bharatbhai said, “On 20th December 2020 we visited Zydus Hospital. On 22nd December my wife was admitted for her surgery. After a day, she was operated on and on 25th December 2020 the doctor discharged her.” He added, “The whole family was terrified after hearing about the brain tumour. But we had full faith in God and it felt like he was standing beside us all through this surgery.” Dayaben said that she learnt the verses of Bhagavad Gita from her parents in her childhood and strongly believes in God. She is proud to have passed her knowledge on to her children.

Dr. Kalpesh Shah Dayaben Budhelia




16 - 22 January 2021

First batch of Covid-19 vaccines arrives in Gujarat The first batch of Covishield, a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), arrived at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (SVP) airport of Ahmedabad on Tuesday. The consignment consisted of 276,000 shots, said the state health department officials. The state would also get 265,000 vials of vaccine on Wednesday, totalling 541,000. It would cover the first phase of vaccination, to be rolled out from January 16, in which 433,000 healthcare workers would get their first shot. Gujarat deputy CM Nitin Patel, who is also the state’s health minister, welcomed the consignment at the city airport. He was accompanied by Pradipsinh Jadeja, MoS (home), and Jayanti Ravi, principal secretary (health). Interacting with the media, Patel

India's vaccination drive against Coronavirus will begin on January 16, the government said, hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting with senior officials to review the Covid situation in the country and finalise vaccine roll-out details. The Prime Minister called the news a "landmark step forward in fighting Covid19". said that out of the consignment, 120,000 doses would be sent to the cold storage created at regional drugs depot (RDD) at Ahmedabad. “The cold storage at Gandhinagar Civil Hospital would get 96,000 doses, and 60,000 doses to be sent to the storage facility in Bhavnagar,” he said.

Gujarat woman’s stem cells save Canadian’s life A 40-year-old woman from a village in Patan district has now turned a life saviour for a patient in Canada suffering from fatal blood disorder. The stem cells of Daksha Patel that she donated at a special camp in 2013 have matched with the 32-year-old woman and flown to Canada from Ahmedabad in the first week of January. Daksha had registered in a special camp in her village, Aghar in Sarswati taluka of Patan district as a potential donor, not even remotely imagining that one day her swab samples would match with someone in dire need of her life support, that too thousands of miles away. “I received a call from DATRI informing that my samples matched with a patient suffering from life threatening blood disorder. I did not know anything about stem cell donation when I had given my samples in 2013 and so, I paid no heed to the call. However, I was sensitized about the importance of stem cell donation and more importantly, that I am one of the lucky few who can actually save

India's vaccination drive to begin on Jan 16

someone’s life. I realised the necessity of my donation and became ready to donate,” Daksha, a homemaker, said. ‘I am happy to save someone’s life’ A mother of a 16-year-old boy, Daksha did her masters in arts while her husband Hasmukh Patel has a business. “My husband and other family members supported me in my decision to donate stem cells. I am happy that my donation will help save someone’s life,” she added. Jalpa Sukhanandi, head donor recruitment and counselling at DATRI (Gujarat), said, “Daksha has set an example for others by donating her stem cells. Her donation will inspire other women to get them registered with blood stem cell donor registry and help patients save their lives.” “Through DATRI, total seven women have so far donated stem cells from Gujarat till now while this number is 91 across the country,” Sukhanandi added. Interestingly, 23 of the 91 donated stem cells have saved lives in foreign countries so far.


Swami Nirliptananda ji passes away on Jan 5 Swami Nirliptananda ji, President of the London Sevashram Sangha and Vice-President of the Bharat Sevashram Sangha, passed away on 5th January 2021. Swamiji's funeral took place on 12th January 2021. Swamiji’s life was devoted to building and propagating the work of the London Sevashram Sangha. Therefore, rather than sending flowers, we feel that the best way to honour the memory of Swamiji is to make a contribution to the Ashram so that we can continue to build on his great work and legacy. Like many charities, the Sangha hasn't been able to operate services in person during the lockdown and has been holding virtual prayer meetings. This has resulted in a significant reduction in donations. We humbly request that any devotees and well-wishers who wish to donate please use the bank account details below: Account name: London Sevashram Sangha Bank: Lloyds Bank Account Number: 01277340 Sort Code: 30-94-51 Registered Charity Number: 261363 A JustGiving page will also be set up in the coming days - if you are abroad or prefer to donate via JustGiving please let us know and we can circulate these details in due course. If you are in the UK and your donation is eligible for Gift Aid but have not registered your details with the Ashram for gift aid reclaims in the past, please email us on this email address: with details of your donation and full name and address if you would like us to reclaim Gift Aid on your donation. We would like to thank everyone for the messages of support already received and all pray for Swamiji's soul as he joins the lotus feet of Guru Maharaj. Om Shanti, Shanti, Hari Om - Rajeeb (On behalf of the Trustees and Committee of London Sevashram Sangha)

Priority will be given to around 10 million healthcare workers and 20 million frontline staff, like doctors, community health workers and police, who are directly involved in fighting the pandemic. The vaccine will be free of cost for this group, Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said last week. The next group will be people who are above 50 years of age, followed by those under 50 but with co-morbidities. Around 300 million people will be vaccinated in the first phase. Minutes after the announcement, Prime Minister Modi tweeted: "On 16th January, India takes a landmark step forward in fighting Covid-19. Starting that day, India's nationwide vaccination drive begins. Priority will be given to our brave doctors, healthcare workers, frontline workers, including safai karamcharis."

The government said its CoWIN app (short for Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network) and ecosystem would be used to manage the massive vaccination drive. The CoWIN digital platform will provide realtime information of vaccine stocks and storage temperatures, as well as provide individualised tracking of vaccine beneficiaries. Over 79,00000 beneficiaries have already been registered on the platform, the government has said. The app has yet to be launched but will use Aadhaar numbers to authenticate vaccine beneficiaries and send text messages - in at least 12 languages - with details of vaccination date and time. Initially it will autopopulate data for citizens over 50 from electoral rolls. Individuals can approach the district or block officer to resolve issues, Dr Suneela

Garg, a Delhi Covid-19 task force member, said. Those below 50 can upload medical certificates to establish comorbidities and secure an appointment. Once the app is launched there will be three registration options self, individual (an official will help in uploading data) and bulk upload. The government had approved two vaccines for emergency use - Bharat Biotech's Covaxin and Covishield, which was developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University and is being manufactured by Punebased Serum Institute of India. Both are two-dose vaccines - they need two doses each for maximum protection against the virus. Both can also be stored at normal fridge temperatures (two to eight degrees Celsius) making it easier to transport and store the millions of vials needed to vaccinate the country's vast population.

Former Gujarat CM Madhavsinh Solanki is no more Veteran Congress leader Madhavsinh Solanki, 93, who served as the chief minister of Gujarat four times and also as a Union Minister, passed away in Gandhinagar on Saturday, January 9, morning following a cardiac arrest. The soft-spoken and mild mannered Solanki was a Congress stalwart in Gujarat. The Congress party won its last Assembly polls in the State under his leadership in 1985. In 1985, the Congress won 149 out of the 182 Assembly seats, which still remains a record in the state’s politics. Solanki’s mortal remains were kept at the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) headquarters in Ahmedabad on Sunday for people to pay their last respects, before it was cremated with full state honour at the crematorium beside VS Hospital. A number of leaders from across the political spectrum paid their respects to the departed leader and offered condolences to his bereaved family. Solanki also served as Union minister in the Rajiv Gandhi and P.V. Narsimha Rao governments at the Centre. He was India’s External Affairs Minister from June 1991 to March 1992. However, he had to resign from the Union ministry in the wake of a controversy following his meeting with the then Foreign Minister of Switzerland in Davos over his alleged remarks on the Bofors case probe. He had reportedly delivered a letter to his Swiss counterpart to scuttle the probe into alleged kickbacks in the Bofors deal. Before that, in 1985 too, he had to resign from the chief ministership following antireservation riots in the State. A staunch loyalist of the Nehru-Gandhi family, starting with late Indira Gandhi, Madhavsinh Solanki dominated Gujarat politics for decades and was regarded as the most powerful politician and mass leader in the State.

Madhavsinh Solanki

His ‘KHAM’ (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim) experiment proved to be a powerful social alliance in electoral politics, which won the Congress party landslide victories for two decades. Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled Solanki’s death with a message on Twitter: “Shri Madhavsinh Solanki Ji was a formidable leader, playing a key role in Gujarat politics for decades. He will be remembered for his rich service to society. Saddened by his demise. Spoke to his son, Bharat Solanki Ji and expressed condolences. Om Shanti.” “Beyond politics, Shri Madhavsinh Solanki Ji enjoyed reading and was passionate about culture. Whenever I would meet him or speak to him, we would discuss books and he would tell me about a new book he recently read. I will always cherish the interactions we had,” Modi added. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former party president Rahul Gandhi also condoled the death. Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani declared State mourning for a day, and a State cabinet meeting held at his residence passed a resolution condoling the death of the former chief minister.





16 - 22 January 2021

Britain faces worst weeks of the pandemic: Chris Witty The Chief Medical Officer of Britain has warned that the country is facing the worst weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the health service entering a “dangerous time” as deaths and cases hit record highs. Meanwhile, to get on top of the pandemic, the government is rushing out its largest ever vaccination programme, with shots to be offered to all those in its top four priority categories. Government's chief medical adviser Chris Whitty warned the situation would deteriorate in the meantime. Speaking in an interview with BBC, he said, “The next few weeks are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers into the NHS. Anybody who is not shocked by the num-

ber of people in hospital who are seriously ill at the moment and who are dying over the course of this pandemic, I think, has not understood this at all. This is an appalling situation.” Whitty said about 18,000 people were in hospital during the peak of the first outbreak in April last year, but now there are 30,000. He added the health service was facing a “significant crisis”. He said, “Everybody says that this is the most dangerous time we've really had in terms of numbers into the NHS.” Britain was the first country to approve vaccines developed by OxfordAstraZeneca and by Pfizer/BioNTech. It aims to offer shots to 15 million people by the middle of next month. The government is

opening seven big vaccination centres to reach the target, which will require delivering 2 million vaccines a week. Additional doctors' surgeries, hospitals and some pharmacies will also start delivering shots. Those in the four highest risk levels, including those over 70, most clinically vulnera- Chris Witty ble and frontline health ing number of cases if people workers, will be offered the do not follow the restricvaccines by February 15. tions. Starmer said, “The British Meanwhile, indecision and delays of the Labour leader Keir Starmer prime minister cost lives and criticised Johnson for failing they cost people's jobs. The to take quick decisions to British people will forgive fight the novel coronavirus. many things. They know the Renewing his criticism of pandemic is difficult. But Johnson, Starmer said he they also know serial incom“simply isn't up to the job”. petence when they see it and The British government has they know when a prime warned that hospitals could minister simply isn't up to soon struggle to treat the risthe job.”

British govt set to roll out controversial testing programme across country The Boris Johnson-led UK government is all set to roll out asymptomatic testing across the whole of England in a measure aimed at curbing the rapid spread of coronavirus. With sans symptom infections accounting for roughly one-third of all cases, Downing Street has announced that lateral flow tests capable of returning a result within 30 minutes will be made available to all residents from next week.

England have reportedly been told to specifically target people who are unable to work from home

during the current lockdown. Media reports suggest there are also plans in place to expand this rapid

About 317 authorities in

UK launches Global Health Insurance Card The British government has launched the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) under its new agreement with the European Union ensuring UK residents' rights to emergency and medically necessary healthcare will continue when travelling in the EU. Current European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) are valid as long as they are in date and people can continue to use these when travelling to the EU. Residents only need to apply for their new GHIC when their current EHIC expires. The new GHIC card is free to obtain from the official GHIC website. People should apply at least 2 weeks before they plan to travel to ensure their card arrives on time. Health Minister Edward Argar said, “Our deal with the EU ensures the right for our citizens to access necessary healthcare on their holidays and travels to countries in the EU will continue.” In case a UK resident is travelling without a card, they are still entitled to necessary healthcare and should contact the NGS Business Services Authority who can arrange for payment should they require treatment when abroad.

testing in workplaces and offices throughout the country. Health Secretary Matt Hancock says asymptomatic testing can help break transmission. Meanwhile, the NHS has invited tens of thousands of people over 80 to book vaccinations. The Department of Health and Social Care said expanding the Community Testing Programme to more people without symptoms was “crucial given that around one in three people” who contract Covid-19 show no symptoms.

Smile can reduce pain of an injection, says new study A recent study finds that both smiling and grimacing could reduce the sensation of pain associated with a “vaccination-like needle injection.” A sincere smile also reduced stress-induced physiological responses in participants. When humans face acute pain, they tend to close their eyes tightly, raise their cheeks, and bare their teeth. Certain animals use similar facial expressions, which experts often call the grimace response. As the authors of the study explain, “these facial musculature changes can also have a different interpretation: smiling.” Why these two expressions, which occur for very different reasons, should share so many aspects is unclear. Researchers from the University of California, Irvine School of Ecology recently set out to “test whether these facial movements are beneficial in the context of stress and pain.” Specifically, they wanted to understand whether manipulating participants’ facial expressions during a needle injection might impact their experience of pain and associated stress levels.

For many years, scientists have been interested to understand the impact of facial expressions on pain perception and mood. The facial feedback hypothesis, for instance, states that activating facial muscles can enhance or reduce emotional experiences.

between facial expression and pain sensation, the researchers recruited 231 participants. The participants all received a shot of saline solution using a needle similar to those used to deliver a flu vaccine. The researchers split the participants into four

These effects on emotion can occur even if researchers manipulate a participant’s facial muscles into an expression. As the authors of the study explain, “feigning a smile, whether conscious or not, may alter emotions in a positive way.” The study To investigate possible links

groups. Before the injection, participants completed a questionnaire that asked how anxious they were about the needle. As the participants held their facial expressions, a medical practitioner administered the saline injection. Once the practitioner had applied a bandage, the participant completed a

questionnaire about how much pain they were experiencing. After 6 minutes of rest, the participants once again reported their pain levels. The researchers also asked them how stressful the experience was. Before, during, and after the injection, the participants were linked to an electrocardiogram. Additionally, the researchers measured changes in the electrical resistance of participants’ skin, or electrodermal activity (EDA). EDA is a measure of psychological or physiological arousal. Does smiling help? According to the authors, the effect of the induced facial expression was strongest immediately after the injection. They explain that “the smile and grimace groups reported approximately 40% less needle pain versus the neutral group.” When the researchers examined heart rate data, they found that the smile group had significantly lower heart rates than the neutral group. There were no significant differences between the other groups.




16 - 22 January 2021


so I thought I might as well.” The 'Quantico' actress also revealed what makes this jacket so special for her, “This is a jacket that I literally live in. It’s my airport jacket, but it belonged to an ex-boyfriend. Things get exchanged. But this one I really really loved because it kind of became mine. It stopped being him like after it stayed back in my house once and I just kind of wore it. He asked for it and I said no. I was like ‘no’. That’s what happens in a relationship. Sorry!” When Priyanka, like many other Not born with a silver spoon successful actors was at the peak of her Born to Dr Ashok Chopra and Dr Madhu career, she withdrew from Salman Khan’s Chopra in Jamshedpur, Bihar (present day ‘Bharat’ (the role later went onto Katrina Jharkhand), Priyanka wanted to be an and married Kaif) aeronautical engineer until American singer she won the Miss World songwriter and actor pageant in the year 2000 Nick Jonas, a young and her life changed forever. heartthrob following Today, not only is she the Hindu and Christian most successful and one of customs in a big fat the highest paid actors in wedding in India. Chopra the world, but she’s also a also shares a friendly National Film Award relationship with the winner along with five Duchess of Sussex, Filmfare Awards. In 2016, Meghan Markle (she also the Government of India attended the Royal honoured her with the wedding) and american Padma Shri and Time actor and filmmaker named her one of the 100 Mindy Kailing. most influential people in A staunch supporter of the world, and in the next human rights two years Forbes listed her Priyanka Chopra was among the World's 100 appointed as Global Most Powerful Women. UNICEF Goodwill During her teenage years in PC at the Royal Wedding Ambassador in 2016. the United States, Priyanka Priyanka Chopra has now Chopra faced racial issues been associated with UNICEF for almost a and was bullied for being Indian by an decade and a half. African-American classmate. She once told a In a recent interview with The Sunday publication that, "I was a gawky kid, had low Times magazine, it was stated that “her self-esteem, came from a modest middleactions carry weight”. The article spoke about class background, had white marks on my her tryst with fighting gender pay gap and the legs. But I was damn hard working. Today, origin of her association with launching the my legs sell 12 brands." After three years, dating app, Bumble, where women make the Chopra returned to India, finishing the first move. Her work to support women has senior year of her high-school education at been instrumental as she continues to donate the Army Public School in Bareilly. She sports 10 percent of her earnings to Priyanka a tattoo on her hand that reads, “Daddy’s lil Chopra Foundation for Health and girl”. Dr Ashok Chopra passed away after Education, by taking medical care of 70 battling cancer for five years in 2013. children, 50 of which are girls. Dirty Laundry, dignified demeanour In the same interaction she also spoke Priyanka’s personal life has been in the about how her mother helped in broadening public eye for almost 20 years now. From her her perspective and withdrawing her rumoured relationships with A-list endorsements of skin brightening cosmetics, Bollywood actors to brand endorsements, the as she herself promotes brown girls across woman has maintained a dignified the globe. PC has continued to be vocal even demeanour throughout speculations, also while being abroad, the most recent one withstanding the fact that it heavily cost her being, the farmers protest in India. While the relationships with A-list producers and majority of Bollywood actors remain tightdirectors who stopped offering her work due lipped about anything remotely critical of the to their close proximity with the actors in government, Chopra doesn’t hold herself spotlight. back. She moved to New York in a new Priyanka Chopra Jonas, the producer apartment, bagged the role of Alex Parish in Priyanka founded her production Quantico, launched her own music videos company, Purple Pebble Pictures (PPP) which and songs, and the rest as we know is, a has produced more than 10 films in four truly global Indian actor. Over the years, languages and web shows and won several she braved all tough questions thrown at accolades including three National Film her and during Laura Brown’s chat show Awards. In 2019, the company's fourth 'Dirty Laundry' she openly showed a jacket Marathi film, Paani won the National Film that she said belonged to her ex-boyfriend. Award for Best Film on Environment She went on record to say, “I was a little Conservation/Preservation. The same year, unsure about this one, whether I should… the company released the biographical film But then your show is called dirty laundry Priyanka Chopra once said in an interview,“Yes, the zeroes on the pay-cheque do matter, because I work very hard for them. And I wasn’t born with a silver spoon, though my parents always gave me one. I always worked very hard to be where I am and I think each one of us deserves to be compensated for it.” Her life story mirrors that statement.

PC shooting in London in 2020

The Sky Is Pink which received three Filmfare Awards nominations. Priyanka was recently shooting in London during the lockdown. The salon that the actor visited earlier that week, during the Covid-19 lockdown in London, was fined by the police. After further review, the London salon that hosted actor Priyanka Chopra amid the Covid-19 lockdown in the UK was also fined. Priyanka, in a statement via her representative, had earlier admitted to being in the salon, but explained that she had the ‘paperwork legally permitting her to be there’. Priyanka reportedly arrived at the salon with her mother, Dr Madhu Chopra, and pet dog Diana, on Wednesday. She went to get her hair coloured for her film, Text For You, which she is currently shooting for in London. Priyanka’s spokesperson said in a statement, “Following government guidance, Priyanka’s hair was coloured for the purpose of the film she is currently shooting in London. The salon was opened privately for the production and everyone involved had been tested and followed both the DCMS working guidelines and the film production regulations.``''As I am sure you are aware, film and TV production is permitted to continue in the UK, and locations can continue to accommodate shoots and recces (pre-filming visits) that are carried out in-line with government guidelines. The paperwork legally permitting her to be there was provided to the police, and they left satisfied,” the spokesperson said. Net worth Owing to her choices, her celebrity net worth is reported to be standing at a

whopping $50million!” According to reports the People’s magazine bought the rights of the Priyanka-Nick wedding for a whopping USD 2.5 million (18 crores) making it one of the heavily monetised weddings ever. Priyanka’s social media game has been top notch, personal, effective, informative and entertaining at the same time, thanks to her PR team that makes her the most followed actress on Instagram at 59.6 Million followers. 20 years on… Reacting to her Miss World title win, Priyanka recently reacted on Instagram. While watching this 20-year-old moment of being crowned, Priyanka said: "That was crazy. I never, ever expected to win. I wasn't supposed to. I had a train booked and I was supposed to go back and give my board exams. And I had a crown on my head. It was crazy. It's been 20 years and I haven't looked back up until now." Memoir Her autobiography, titled, ‘Unfinished, a memoir’ is all set to launch in February 2021. Sharing the first look, she wrote on Instagram, “Ironically, I named this memoir years before I started writing it. Having been a public person now for 20 years, with so much life to live and a long list of things to check off my list personally and professionally, I am very much #Unfinished. BUT the funny thing about writing a memoir is that it forces you to look at things differently, reconciling so many things you thought you had put to bed. In doing so I’ve realized that being “unfinished" has deeper meaning for me, and has in fact been one of the most common threads of my life.”

Priyanka’s upcoming projects The White Tiger (22 Jan 2021 release Netflix) - Screen adaptation of a Man Booker Prize-winning novel - A trailer that promises dark, gripping, edge-of-the-seat thrills Text For You (Sony Pictures) - Headlining the film with Sam Heughan (most popular for his role on Outlander) - Her first lead role in a mainstream Hollywood film - Film also stars music icon and fivetime Grammy award winner Celine Deon in a crucial role Ma Anand Sheela biopic (Amazon Studios) - Will see Priyanka at her genre best: drama - Directed by Barry Levinson (His movies have received a total of 38 Oscar nominations and 6 wins) - Script written by Nick Yarborough who is writing the Training Day prequel for Warner Bros Matrix 4 (April 1, 2022 release) - Priyanka joining an iconic and highly successful franchise - Will share screen space with Keanu Reeves & Neil Patrick Harris

Citadel (Amazon Studios) - Global event series including stuntfilled action sequences with Priyanka back in an action avatar - Developed by mainstream Hollywood's successful director duo: Russo brothers (Avengers & Captain America fame) - Includes a writing team of Mission Impossible collaborators - Described by Amazon as "groundbreaking global television franchise" Untitled wedding comedy (Universal Studios) - Co-producing with Mindy Kaling (The Office, The Mindy Project fame) and Dan Goor (Brooklyn 99, Parks and Recreation fame) - Described as "Crazy Rich Asians" meets "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" - Centered around an Indian wedding Sangeet project (Amazon Studios) - Exec co-producing with husband, Nick Jonas - Centered around sangeet ceremonies (Indian pre-wedding tradition) and will be unscripted - Idea stemmed from their own sangeet ceremony and will celebrate love and magic




16 - 22 January 2021

Sara says 'weird, amazing' to be Sharmila Tagore's granddaughter Actor Sara Ali Khan comes not only from royalty, but a strong Bollywood lineage as well. In a recent interview, she said she often finds herself in disbelief that she is related to veteran actor Sharmila Tagore, who is her grandmother. Calling her the “first star”, Sara described her as “warm and amazing. She epitomizes dignity and grace. And she's also an extremely maternal and loving grandmother.” Sara said, “If I watch 'Aradhana', and 'Mere Sapno Ki Rani', I'm like “Oh my God, that's my dadi!” Like, are you serious? Because she's just superb, you know, she's a star. I think she's the first star in my opinion. So sometimes, it's almost confusing for me, like, really that lady is my grandmother! You know, it's weird. It is very strange. But, I mean, she's amazing. And I'm very lucky to have her in my life.” Sara comes from a family of performers. Her grandmother, her aunt Soha Ali Khan, her mother, Amrita Singh, and father Saif Ali Khan. On the work front, Sara made her

debut in 2018 with 'Kedarnath'. She has since done 'Simmba', 'Love Aaj Kal', and was last seen in 'Coolie No 1'. She currently has 'Atrangi Re' with Akshay Kumar and Dhanush, in her kitty.

Saif attributes 'privileged upbringing' for role in 'Tandav' Actor Saif Ali Khan is all set to feature in Ali Abbas Zafar's upcoming web series 'Tandav' as a cut-throat politician. In an interview, the actor described why he was the right choice for the role. In the series, Saif plays a young politician Samar Pratap Singh hoping to follow his deceased father to power as Prime Minister. Khan said his privilege prepared him for the role. “I have grown up in a very privileged section of New Delhi, I understand that. If you're asking me to play a privileged prince of a politician, a lot of that will come naturally to me because of the way I've been brought up . . . It's pretty good casting.” Saif also talked about the show's theme. He said, “The whole show is really a play-off between these two. People are definitely questioning the idea of

Amitabh shares first time ever he saw his father break down Veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan shared a throwback picture shared by one of his fans, remembering the time he survived the 'Coolie' accident and how his father, noted Hindi poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan reacted upon his return from the hospital. Bachchan Sr took to Twitter and wrote, “The caption informs of 45 million on Twitter .. thank you Jasmine, but the picture says a lot more .. Its the moment I came home surviving death after the 'Coolie' accident .. Its the first time ever I saw my Father breaking down ! A concerned little Abhishek looks on !” The picture shows Amitabh bending down to touch his visibly distraught father's feet. Young Abhishek stands next to his grandfather. The accident took place on July 26, 1982, during the filming of a

fight scene, when Amitabh was gravely injured when he misjudged his jump and landed on a table.

On the work front, Amitabh has 'Brahmastra' in the offing, along with television's 'Kaun Banega Crorepati'.

privilege and lineage, as it should be . . . We're arguing and talking and rejecting and accepting, and it's lovely to be in the culture right now.” Saif is the son of late cricketer Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and veteran actor Sharmila Tagore. He is also the heir of the ancestral Pataudi Palace, and is the Nawab of Pataudi. 'Tandav' also stars Sunil Grover, Dimple Kapadia, Sarah Jane Dias, Kritika Kamra and others. The show is set to release on Amazon Prime Video on January 15. On the work front, Saif has multiple other projects in the pipeline. He has 'Bhoot Police' with Arjun Kapoor, Yami Gautam and Jacqueline Fernandez. He has 'Bunty Aur Babli 2' in the offing with Rani Mukerji and Siddhant Chaturvedi. He also has 'Adipurush' with Prabhas and Vikram Vedha with R Madhavan.

Varun Dhawan may tie the knot to Natasha Dalal this year Actor Varun Dhawan and long-time designer girlfriend Natasha Dalal were expected to tie the knot in 2020. However, the coronavirus pandemic came as a roadblock. In a recent interview, Varun has said that 2021 may be the year he and Natasha seal the deal. He said that provided the Covid-19 situation gets better, he and Natasha just might take the vows. He said, “Everyone is talking about this for the last two years. There is nothing concrete right now. There is so much uncertainty in the world right now, but if things settle down, then maybe this year. I mean... I am planning for it definitely soon. But let there be more certainty.” Both, Varun and Natasha have been dating for many years and are childhood sweethearts. They are not the only actors whose marriage plans flopped in 2020. Actor Ranbir Kapoor had said in an interview recently that his marriage plans with Alia Bhatt were put on hold due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, on the work front, Varun was last seen in 'Coolie No 1', opposite Sara Ali Khan.




16 - 22 January 2021

Bhumi Pednekar wants gender gaps in pay scale, opportunities to reduce Actor Bhumi Pednekar had a busy 2020 with three film releases. The year 2021 too, brings a lot of scope as the actor has already begun shooting for 'Badhaai Do'. Bhumi said, “I am starting 2021 with Badhaai Do with Rajkummar Rao. The film comes from a very celebrated franchise and I am so excited to team up with Rajkummar and the whole team. It is a cracking start for an actor like me who always strives to add variety to the filmography.” The 31 year old acknowledges there are certain things that need to be altered in the industry. She said, “I want to see change not just in the kind of films being made but everywhere. Like the gender gap that exists, you know be it our pay scales, be it opportunities. I

really hope that kind of reduces and diminishes. We have enough people who are working very hard from both the sexes. So that is definitely going to be my number one thing on my list of wants.” The 'Durgamati' actress said she is happy to see how stardom has changed and evolved. “I think today actors are a lot more accessible. You seem to know a lot more about them because of social media. And that is how I like it as well, I feel that the audience needs to know me, my fans need to know me. They know what I like, what I don't like, what my ideology is what my value system is like, that is why you can really create a good community, that is something that has definitely changed.”

Did certain films just for the money during bad times: Anil Kapoor Ace actor Anil Kapoor has starred in over a hundred movies, some of which, he lately revealed, he did simply for the money. Any regrets? No. Among the most popular veteran stars of the industry who seems to be aging in reverse, Anil faced tough times in the 90s, when he signed movies just for the money. “I did,” he said. “In fact, I can even name them. 'Andaz' and 'Heer Ranjha'. After 'Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja', the family was in a crisis and each one of us did what we had to do for survival, out of a sense of responsibility. I have no qualms about admitting that. 'Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja'

released in 1993 after a long delay. The film was a massive flop at the box office.” Anil added, “My family and I are fortunate that those times are behind us and our circumstances since then have not been as tough. But if our luck takes a turn and we ever face bad times again, I will not think twice about doing whatever it takes to take care of my family.” On the work front, Anil will soon be seen in 'Jug Jug Jeeyo' with Neetu Singh, Varun Dhawan and Kiara Advani. He also has Karan Johar's 'Takht' in the making in which he will play Shah Jahan.

Genre: Family Drama Duration: 115 minutes

Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi Ramprasad passes away and his entire family comes together to mourn his death and follow the 13 day ritual that follows. This is when the chaos starts as the family is completely dysfunctional.

The film starts following the death of the eldest family member Ramprasad whilst he teaches the piano to a young child from the neighbourhood. This brings his 4 sons and 2 daughters, their spouses and kids back to Lucknow, to the family home, to mourn his death which is the 13 day Hindu ceremony called Tehrvi. This brings about discussions, conversations and arguments as the kids find out their father has left them a bank loan that needs repaying and also who is going to now take care of their ageing mother now that she is a widow. Old wounds resurface and this is made even worse by the fact that the youngest

Kangana compares herself to Amitabh, takes digs at Taapsee Pannu Kangana Ranaut has once again launched a fight against fellow actor Taapsee Pannu. The actor shared a fan post claiming Taapsee's latest magazine photoshoot was a copy of Kangana's pose and called it “impressive”. She went on to compare herself to veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan for being “the most mimicked superstar” after him. Kangana reacted to the fan post on Twitter by saying, “Ha ha ha I am flattered, she is a true fan, dedicated her whole existence to study and impersonate me to the point of dessolution it is rather impressive, also no other female superstar has taken over pop culture the way I have I am the most mimicked superstar after Mr Bachchan.” In the post, the fan had claimed that Taapsee had copied Kangana “for the 1000th time”. She shared pictures of Kangana from her Architectural Digest photo shoot alongside Taapsee's pictures from the Elle shoot. She captioned the post, “Monkey see, monkey copy

sasta Monkey sees, copies n looks more sasta Monkey...”. The fight between Kangana and

Taapsee goes back to last year, when the former named the 'Thappad' actor among “B-grade actors”.

sons wife did not comeback from Mumbai for the rituals as she pursues her career as an actress. A conversation that is prevalent is that of the final day falling on the 1st of Jan which seems like a strange day being the start of the new year to mourn a death of the past. Like in all households there are jones between the siblings with blames being thrown all over the place as to why their father needed to take out such a large loan in the first place. Especially seeing as they find his diary which states that the kids were asking for money all over the place. Each character works really well in their role, each having their time to shine through the film which is really important when their is such a large ensemble cast. The film makes you feel right at home as you will be able to relate to one or more the characters and maybe be feel like you have been in their shoes once before in your own life. If from the trailer you think this is going to be a funny light hearted film you will be surprised by the seriousness of the script but it will entertain you for sure with some brilliant acting from some great actors. You can get in touch with Vallisa:





16 - 22 January 2021

Aishwarya Rajesh's role in thriller movie revealed! Actress Aishwarya Rajesh has been known for her impressive performances in movies like 'Kaaka Muttai', 'Kanaa' etc and was last seen in the acclaimed movie 'Ka Pae Ranasingam' which got her good reviews for her performance. Now, Aishwarya has signed an interesting female centric film which will have her playing the

lead. This movie titled 'Driver Jamuna' is directed by Kinslin of 'Vathikuchi' fame and begins shooting in March 2021. 'Driver Jamuna' is produced by 18 Reels SP Chowdary who produced 'Dagaalty' and this movie is a thriller which will have Aishwarya playing the unique role of a cab driver.

Kerala Film Chamber decides to keep theatres shut

Prithviraj bags Kerala rights of Yash-starrer 'KGF 2' Actor Prithviraj has bagged the distribution rights of upcoming multilingual film 'KGF: Chapter 2'. Releasing a statement on his social media, he said, “KGF 2. I'm a huge fan of the KGF franchise and pretty much everything associated with it. Hombale films was among the first to reach out to me after Lucifer and discuss the possibility of an association. I definitely look forward to that but no better way to start the journey than to have the privilege of presenting one of the most anticipated films in the country. Prithviraj Productions is proud to present KGF 2. Like millions of you.. I too am waiting to see Rocky's take unfold!” Filmmaker Prashanth Neel has completed the shoot of 'KGF 2', and is currently busy with post-production work. The sequel also stars Sanjay Dutt, Prakash

waive off fixed electricity charges incurred by cinemas during the lockdown period. They have also demanded full exemption on entertainment tax. Meanwhile, there is also an internal conflict brewing among producers and theatre owners. If reports are to be believed, theatre owners owe about £1.6 million to producers over films that were released before Covid. However, exhibitors claim that the due is not more than £425,000.

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Raj, and Raveena Tandon. On the work front, Prithviraj also owns the distribution rights of Vijay's most anticipated movie 'Master', which is slated for release on January 13. He recently completed shooting for his next film titled 'Kuruthi'.

Rajnikanth asks fans not to give him pressure and pain Superstar Rajnikanth had recently announced that he's opting out of his decision to launch a political party, citing his health condition and the newly formed mutated strain of Coronavirus spreading. Meanwhile, his fans organized a protest in Chennai urging him to reconsider his decision. Later the Superstar has released a statement, where he has said that though the event was held peacefully, he's saddened that the event happened in Chennai against the leadership. Besides Rajnikanth clearly says that he has already explained the

Theatres in Kerala will remain shut despite the state government's goahead to reopen with 50 per cent cap on occupancy. Members of the Kerala Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) met in Kochi last week and decided to not resume screening in the state until their demands are met by the government. KFCC has sought a relief package from the government as the box office took a severe hit following the coronavirusinduced lockdown. Members of the industry are disappointed that the government did not give any relief package to help the film industry which has suffered massive financial losses. Theatre owners have requested the government to

reasons behind his decision to opt out of politics, and why he has taken his decision. Rajnikanth has further requested fans not to organise such events to give him more pressure and torment him. On December 29th Rajini shocked his fans and followers by revealing that he could not enter politics due to his health and instead he would concentrate on serving the people in his individual capacity. Though his friends and family members and movie fans welcomed this move hardcore followers are a p p a r e n t l y disappointed.

* Schedule is subject to change


* Schedule is subject to change





16 - 22 January 2021

AsianVoiceNews AsianVoiceNewsweekly

India deny Australia victory in third test Rishabh Pant’s brilliant counter-attacking knock and Hanuma Vihari-R Ashwin’s dogged, courageous display ensured that India batted for nine hours and 131 overs to earn a draw in the third Test at the SCG on Monday. Cheteshwar Pujara too played a vital role. Australia’s wicketkeeper captain Tim Paine was involved in three of four dropped catches on the day, two of them to reprieve Pant on 3 and 56. Facing the target of 407, India finished with 334-5, losing only three wickets for 236 runs in 97 overs on the day to score a huge moral victory. If cricket deserves to be called the great leveller, the game of glorious uncertainties and the sport closest to life, this Test showcased it all. The four heroes on the day – Pant, Pujara, Ashwin and Vihari – had fumbled in the first innings but redeemed themselves in great fashion. Paine seemed to have got all his opening moves right on the fifth day when he started with

the right field placings, a good line of attack, his best two bowlers in Cummins and Lyon. Australia also got the crucial breakthrough of Rahane, caught at short leg off Lyon. But by promoting the left-handed and far more attacking Pant ahead of Vihari, the Indian team management proved that they abandoned smart hadn’t thinking or optimism. His smashing knock added another dramatic dimension to the script. Pant started with just five runs off first 34 balls. But once he changed gears, the Aussies

attack was almost forced to err and made to look ordinary, and their field placing turned defensive. His high strike rate, coupled with Pujara at the other end managing to score boundaries without crossing his defensive orbit was the hallmark of their partnership. Pant and Pujara added 148 runs in 43.3 overs and at one point, even a victory became a probability for India as they needed just 157 runs in 53 overs with seven wickets in hand. Just before the second new ball was due, India were in the driver’s seat with all four results

possible. But the visitors lost the momentum as Pant was dismissed trying to force the issue. After Pujara’s departure, only a draw and an Australian win remained probable results. Pujara’s straight drives and cover drive off Cummins and upper cut off Starc were outstanding. Pant toyed with Lyon, hitting him for two consecutive sixes. When Pant got out, caught at backward point when trying hit a lofted drive off Lyon, an Indian collapse was a real possibility. But an injured Vihari and Ashwin then batted as if their lives depended on the outcome of the match. They added only 62 runs but batted for four hours and 63 overs together. Knowing that injured Ravindra Jadeja wouldn’t be able to bat at his best, Vihari and Ashwin batted like warriors, taking blows on the fingers, ribcage, groin, abdomen and arm. They devised the plan as they batted along: Ashwin played Lyon and Vihari, who batted through a hamstring injury, faced the faster bowlers.

Indians racially abused during Sydney test The issue of racism, simmering since the first day of the third India-Australia Test at Sydney Cricket Ground, boiled over on Sunday when Indian pacer Mohammad Siraj, abused constantly by a section of the crowd while fielding on the boundary line, went up and complained to his skipper Ajinkya Rahane and on-field umpires. Play was halted for 10 minutes before tea break, police called in and six people were ejected from the stadium. The racist fans told Bumrah and Siraj, “You brown dog, go home. We don’t like you”. The two had been called “monkeys, wanker and motherf*****” on Saturday. Team India had lodged an official complaint

with ICC on Saturday when both Siraj and fellow pacer Jasprit Bumrah were similarly abused. ICC is looking into the matter. Cricket Australia (CA) “unreservedly” apologised to the Indian team and launched a parallel investigation with New South Wales Police, promising to take the "strongest measures" against anyone found to have been guilty of vilification. Kohli calls for strict action India captain Virat Kohli, himself the victim of racial abuse on the boundary line in the past in Australia, tweeted: “Racial abuse is absolutely unacceptable. Having gone through many incidents of really pathetic things said on the boundary lines, this is the

absolute peak of rowdy behaviour. It is sad to see this happen on the field. The incident needs to be looked at with absolute urgency and seriousness and strict action against offenders should set things straight for once.” “The Indian team will move on from this incident - like possibly many such incidents that former Indian teams or other sides from the subcontinent have been subjected to on tours over the years. Whatever this culture change that they (Aussies) harping about, fact it this (sort of abuse) comes naturally to

Birmingham, and Jones says it’s a dream come true to be able to compete in her home city. “I think it’s a brilliant opportunity for the city, all eyes will be on Birmingham for that period of time.” Birmingham 2022 will be the first time Jones and her England teammates will have competed as part of a multisport team, something she says will add to the occasion: “It’s

something that will be extremely special. We’ve never really been part of a bigger team, and being around that whole Team England squad of athletes is something that we’re really looking forward to.” Jones says the Commonwealth Games will be a chance to raise the profile of women’s sport in general and women’s cricket in particular, and she welcomes the decision to award more medals to women than men at Birmingham 2022. “As a team we always try and engage with people that come and watch us and really just make it an experience that makes them want to come back and watch again. Hopefully that will

GANGULY DISCHARGED FROM HOSPITAL AFTER ANGIOPLASTY BCCI president and former India captain Sourav Ganguly has been discharged from Kolkata's Woodlands hospital, five days after undergoing an angioplasty. The 48-year-old was admitted in the hospital after he complained of a chest pain. Ganguly has thanked the doctors, saying, "I thank the doctors at the hospital for the treatment. I am absolutely fine, hopefully I will be ready to fly soon." "Firstly, I thank everyone for their well wishes. Especially the doctors at the Woodlands Hospital. I thank them for taking care of me. They say we come to hospital to get our lives back and it's really has been that," he added. The former India opener had been admitted to Woodlands hospital in Kolkata after complaining of a heart issue recently. Ganguly was diagnosed with three blocked coronary arteries, following which a stent was inserted in one to remove the blockage. Ganguly had also tested negative for Covid-19. A 9-member medical team was formed who then decided that Ganguly doesn't need any further angioplasty for the remaining blockages in his coronary arteries. Dr Rupali Basu MD & CEO Woodlands Hospital, said that Ganguly will be able to resume his normal life in another 3-4 weeks once the remaining two blocked arteries are revascularised. "I don't think we are considering surgery at the moment because of his young age and the advancement of angioplasty.


them,” said an Indian team official. “It just doesn’t end. At airports, while leaving the hotel, inside the stadium, on the streets - somewhere you’re going to get it. It’s nobody’s fault that some nameless, insensitive and vile human is going to let his or her tongue loose. But it’ll happen and there’s no running away from it. That’s a fact,” he added.

Cricketer Amy Jones looks forward to Birmingham C'wealth Games Birmingham cricketer Amy Jones says that competing for gold for Team England at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will be “a real light at the end of the tunnel” after a period of lockdown which has seen the 2021 ICC Women’s World Cup postponed. Jones has more than 90 international caps for England as well as playing county cricket for Warwickshire. She is one of the stars of Birmingham 2022’s latest campaign, celebrating elite athletes with a link to the West Midlands. She will appear on billboards across the region as the build up to the Commonwealth Games continues. Women’s T20 cricket is part of the Commonwealth Games programme for the first time in

in brief

be the case in 2022.” The current world’s top eight women’s T20 cricket nations are all eligible to compete at the Commonwealth Games (Australia, England, New Zealand, India, South Africa, West Indies, Pakistan and Sri Lanka), promising an extremely high quality tournament. England qualify automatically as hosts, with the top six highest ranked sides as of 1st April 2021 also qualifying directly. The eighth spot will go to the winner of a qualifying tournament. The Birmingham 2022 cricket competition will be held at Edgbaston cricket ground, home of Warwickshire County Cricket Club. And Jones, who plays for Warwickshire, says that will make the competition even more special.

Indian wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant has set a unique batting record in Australia by becoming the first visiting batsman to score over 25 runs in nine consecutive innings. Pant went past Wally Hammond (England), Rusi Surti (India) and Viv Richards (West Indies), who scored 25+ runs in eight consecutive innings. During the third day’s play in the third Test between India and Australia at Sydney Cricket Ground, Pant surpassed another milestone as he crossed the 400-run mark in the country. Playing his ninth innings in Australia, Pant now averages over 58 in the country. Pant's only century in Australia (159*) came during the Sydney Test of 2019. Overlooked for the first Test at Adelaide Oval, Pant replaced Wriddhiman Saha for the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne. He scored a vital 29 in the first innings, a knock that played a small part in India’s memorable win at the venue. However, the southpaw has been under fire for his shoddy glovework. Earlier in the Sydney Test, he dropped Will Puckovski twice as the debutant registered his maiden fifty. Australian legend Ricky Ponting, who is also incidentally Rishabh Pant’s coach at Delhi Capitals in the IPL, criticised the southpaw for his wicketkeeping, stating that no keeper has dropped as many catches since his debut.

NZ TAKE NO 1 SPOT IN TESTS FOR 1ST TIME New Zealand grabbed the No 1 position in the ICC Test rankings for the first time in history after decimating Pakistan by an innings and 176 runs in the second Test in Christchurch, recently. The comfortable series-clinching victory, shaped by captain Kane Williamson’s double century, pushed the Kiwis to top of the heap as they became the sixth country in the past 10 years to be ranked No 1 in Test cricket. Overall, they are the seventh side in the world to hold the No 1 spot. New Zealand came close to reaching the summit in the last couple of years but stayed second on the table. They now have 118 points, two more than Australia and four clear of India.