AV 17th February 2024

Page 1

FIRST & FOREMOST ASIAN WEEKLY IN EUROPE PM Modi hails India-UAE friendship at 'Ahlan Modi' event

Bhutto's PPP indicates support to Sharif’s party to form govt



Remembering Baroness Shreela Flather

Bharat Ratna for Narasimha Rao, Charan Singh and MS Swaminathan



17 -23 FEBRUARY 2024


Let noble thoughts come to us from every side


VOL 52 - ISSUE 40

PM Modi to inaugurate BAPS temple in UAE

Photo courtesy: British Asian Trust

King Charles III has set a precedent by openly discussing his cancer diagnosis and now is the time to start a vital conversation about cancer, especially among UK’s South Asian community.

King Charles with Lord Jitesh Gadhia to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the arrival of British Asians from Uganda

Anusha Singh Last week, Buckingham Palace made a startling announcement regarding King Charles III's cancer diagnosis, sending shockwaves across the country. As we went to press on Tuesday 13 January, King Charles reached London from their private Sandringham house to continue his cancer treatment. While the community rallied behind the King with him thanking the public for support, revelation sparked widespread speculation about the future of the monarchy, particularly due to the unprecedented nature of publicly disclosing the monarch's ailment.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate UAE's historic BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Abu Dhabi on (Wednesday) February 14, marking a significant moment for the city's Hindu community.

Continued on page 02

Continued on page 26

A short assembly took place to formally welcome Swamishri to BAPS Hindu Mandir, Abu Dhabi





17 - 23 February 2024

LEADING THE NATION TOWARDS AWARENESS Continued from page 1 Historically, such health matters were kept private, making this announcement a significant departure from tradition. Beyond the initial uproar, the announcement triggered a surge in health awareness among the public. On 18 January, after it was announced that the King was to undergo a “corrective procedure” for a benign enlarged prostate, NHS England reported a remarkable increase in visits to an NHS webpage offering guidance on prostate enlargement. The day saw a staggering 1,061% rise, with 16,410 visits compared to just 1,414 visits the previous day. Moreover, various cancer charities also noticed a surge in website traffic following King Charles's disclosure of his cancer diagnosis. Prostate Cancer UK, for instance, reported a fivefold increase in website visitors, with a notable uptick in men using the online risk checker to determine if they should undergo a prostate checkup. Speaking about King Charles’ recent diagnosis and the conversation sparked by the event, Mark Guymer, CEO of Cancer Support UK said, “Without

lived experience stories are a powerful way to reach male target audiences who can identify with personal journeys. “The diagnosis also shows that cancer can affect anyone – rich or poor, old and young, male or female and underlines the fact that no one deserves cancer or should be judged because of their diagnosis.” In 2020, England recorded 288,753 new cases of cancer, with a 21% higher overall incidence rate in men compared to women. Presently, approximately 250,000 men are living with cancer across the UK, according to Macmillan's latest research. Prostate Cancer UK reports that, on average, more than 52,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer annually. This translates to approximately 144 new diagnoses per day. Alarmingly, every 45 minutes, one man succumbs to prostate cancer, resulting in over 12,000 deaths each year. With statistics like this, it has become imperative that conversation about cancer in British Asians, is initiated and aspects like culturally appropriate emotional support, barriers, stigma, early diagnosis, state of cancer care in Britain and awareness about the disease are discussed on public platforms. Self-examination to aid cancer diagnosis According to Prasanna Sooriakumaran, a Professor

ness is these organs are generally considered the “private parts” that men don’t want to discuss or talk about. This is especially true among Asian communities where there is good awareness generally of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc. but very little awareness of male cancers. “I feel engaging Asian men with these “taboo” topics is key to raising awareness and saving lives”, Prof Sooriakumaran said. The problem with both testicular cancer and prostate cancer is they are without symptoms in their early, curative stages, it is mostly in the genes. Prof Sooriakumaran describes the best way to spot testicular cancer early is through testicular self-examination. Luckily, testicular cancer is usually only on one side so if one testis feels different to the other (e.g. you feel a lump on one side that isn’t there on the other) then you need to see a urologist for an examination and ultrasound scan. With prostate cancer, there are no symptoms either in its early stages. The best way therefore of picking it up is with a blood test called a PSA (prostate-specific antigen), followed by an MRI scan of the prostate if the PSA is raised. This might then lead to a biopsy of the prostate to give a diagnosis of cancer. Again, men need to be proactive with regular PSA checks from their 50s and see a urologist if the PSA is ever raised. According to Dr Arjun Ghosh, a Consultant

Mark Guymer

doubt, the recent diagnosis has helped raise awareness of male cancer and how early detection improves the success of treatment and chances of survival. The King’s openness about his cancer emphasises the importance of early diagnosis and also signals a clear message that it’s okay to talk about cancer. The news about the Royal cancer will prompt people to search for information about cancer types, treatments and preventative steps, like routine screenings and to reach out for support. We know that

Prasanna Sooriakumaran

and Chair of Urology, and Consultant Urological and Robotic Surgeon at Cleveland Clinic, London, the most common cancer affecting young men in their 20s and 30s is testicular cancer and that affecting older men (50s and above) is prostate cancer. One of the main problems with both testicular and prostate cancer aware-

FINANCIAL A SERVICES MORTGAGES Residential Buy to Let Remortgages

PROTECTION Life Insurance Critical Illness Income Protection

Please conta act:

Dinesh S Shonchhatra Mortgage Ad dviser

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

Dr Arjun Ghosh

Cardiologist at UCLH and Barts Heart Centre working to grow cardio-oncology services, “Persistent changes in urinary symptoms or bowel habits should not be disregarded, just as seeking medical advice is crucial for a new, persistent cough. “I believe there should be increased educational outreach efforts at community centres or community events to raise awareness about cancer screening and check-ups.” Risk factors include an underlying genetic predisposition and in some cases external factors such as smoking, diet, weight and exercise. Barriers and taboo facing men with cancer Cancer can have a profound impact on masculine identity, and can affect men in many ways: - Physically (hair and muscle loss, fatigue (tiredness), inconti-

nence) Sexually (reduced sexual drive and impotence), - Economically (the ability to act as a provider/protector of the family) - Emotionally (negative self-image, low selfesteem, isolation, anxiety, depression, mood swings) About key challenges or barriers faced by men when it comes to cancer awareness and seeking support, Mark Guymer, CEO of Cancer Support UK shared that men with cancer face gender discrimination, as well as societal and cultural taboos. He said, “Side effects of cancer in particular can be very distressing for men, resulting in social stigmatisation, which can be difficult to handle. It can result in feelings of shame, hopelessness and isolation. Consequently, they are reluctant to ask for help and even get treatment. Stigma can even discourage men from attending cancer screening.” Mark also noted that men are notably reluctant to talk about personal emotional issues, unsurprisingly due to unsurprising societal pressure of bravery and emotional stoicism. Because men aren’t encouraged to talk about their feelings as much as women, it is a challenge for them to communicate, made even harder owing to peer pressure, a sense of self-reliance and the sensitivity of some cancers, such as testicular cancer or prostate cancer. The latest research by Macmillan Cancer Support found that 19% of men living with cancer struggle with feelings of sadness or depression, or worry, fear and anxiety, but despite this more than half (55%) of those who are affected have not yet sought any support for their feelings. Sian Robison-Brown, Service Knowledge Specialist at Macmillan Cancer Support, said

munity connectors with lived experience to help raise awareness, address stigma and taboo within South Asian communities. Kirit Mistry founded


Sian Robison-Brown

“Unfortunately, there is still a societal taboo around cancer and while men represent 52% of cancer cases, only 38% of the calls to our Macmillan Support Line come from men. This means men are missing out on getting the support they need. We need to get more men talking about cancer and seeking support.” Between 1st January 2022 to 31st December 2022, Macmillan Support Line directly supported an estimate of 37,997 females with cancer, 22,810 males with cancer and 1,698 people with cancer for whom a gender was not recorded. According to Prof Sooriakumaran, the main barriers that prevent men from seeking medical help or discussing their health concerns is themselves. “The stereotypical Asian male feels he cannot show any sign of weakness and thus tends to ignore any health issues and carry on. Plus, the stigma of discussing cancers of the private parts makes this worse. Men need to realise that these cancers are common and getting more so in the Asian community and the best way to deal with them effectively is to diagnose them early”, he said. Need for better culturally sensitive and appropriate support South Asian Health Action UK (SAHA UK) is a charity and a delivery partner for NHS Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland on the NHS Core 20 Plus 5 Health Inequalities Project which is focused on early cancer diagnosis and screening and recruitment of com-

Kirit Mistry

SAHA UK due to the lack of South Asian patient support, care and community voices to help shape better culturally sensitive and appropriate services. He said, “In my experience, breaking down taboos and stigmas surrounding cancer in men, particularly within cultures or communities where health discussions are considered taboo, requires multifaceted approaches and is culturally sensitive. “Initiatives like Core20Plus5, a collaboration between South Asian Health Action and the NHS, play a crucial role in raising awareness about early diagnosis and treatment options, especially within the South Asian community. By fostering dialogue, providing education, and destigmatising conversations around cancer, we can empower individuals to prioritise their health and seek timely intervention.” Kirit believes that dispelling misconceptions and myths surrounding cancer in men is crucial in fostering informed decision-making and proactive health-seeking behaviours. Organisations must engage in targeted educational campaigns to address misunderstandings and promote accurate information about risk factors, symptoms, and available treatments. SAHA is currently seeking funding to develop a South Asian-specific men's Cancer support group for men who do not speak up or seek help due to not wanting to show their weakness.

Emotional support goes a long way Families and support networks must play an active role in supporting men affected by cancer. By offering emotional support, practical assistance, and advocating for access to resources and treatment options, loved ones can make a profound difference in the lives of those facing cancer. Through SAHA UK, Keval Sachdev, a 43-yearold British Indian man shared his journey with cancer, stating, “My journey with cancer has been both challenging and eyeopening. Diagnosed with Aggressive Lymphoma in 2022, I was late diagnosed and embarked on a tumultuous path of treatments, including six months of chemotherapy, and continue to navigate the complex-

Keval Sachdev

ities of ongoing monitoring and care.” He said, "Reflecting on my journey, I've come to recognise the significant barriers men face in cancer awareness, prevention, and early detection. Societal perceptions and stereotypes around masculinity often inhibit men from seeking help or discussing their health experiences openly. The stigma associated with vulnerability and illness creates a barrier to

accessing timely care and support.” “My family, friends, the dedicated team at Leicester Royal Infirmary Hospital, and the invaluable resources offered by organisations like South Asian Health Action, have been instrumental in navigating the complexities of my cancer journey." Keval says his journey with cancer has been defined by resilience, community support, and a commitment to raising awareness and breaking down barriers. “Through collective action and empathy, we can empower men to prioritise their health, seek support without shame, and ultimately, navigate their cancer journey with courage and dignity”, he said.





17 - 23 February 2024

Youngsters hold the key to the future of our nation Labour leader Keir Starmer defended his late handling of the controversy surrounding the Labour’s candidate in Rochdale as Azhar Ali was suspended by the party on Monday night after days of revelations about his remarks about Israel soon after Hamas attacks. While the official Labour party support has been removed, Ali will now campaign for the Rochdale seat as an independent candidate. Sir Starmer came under severe scrutiny for backing him initially. Though Ali had apologised after making certain untoward comments about Israel, he was still offered the backing of Labour leadership. But soon it came to light that Ali’s comments allegedly went beyond those originally reported and therefore after much push from party MPs, the Opposition Leader was forced to take an action against him. As we went to press, news came of suspension of another candidate by Labour party, over comments made about Israel in a private meeting of Labour activists in Lancashire. It is understood Graham Jones, a candidate for Hyndburn was suspended after a recording emerged of him referring to “fucking Israel” and saying that Britons who fight for Israel Defence Forces should be locked up, The Guardian reported. As Marina Hyde pointed out in The Guardian, the Rochdale byelection actually holds bare the sorry state of British politics. When Azhar Ali apologised for his comment, the senior Labour leaders defended him by explaining that he was not “actually” antisemitic and was “unfortunately” a victim of some “conspiracy theories.” This is like when Boris Johnson would go ahead with anything that was indefensible, but senior Tory leaders would be marching to the hill to defend him without even batting eyelids. Not a very long time ago Rochdale was the centre of child sex-grooming scandal, where the agencies like local council bosses and police failed hundreds of children in the hands of predators. Girls as young as 13 were horrifically abused and were branded as “child prostitutes” – judged, blamed and disbelieved. Nine Pakistani men were convicted and meant to be deported nine years ago- many of them are

free now. The leader Rauf, former taxi driver and Muslim preacher was jailed in 2012 for the scandal which was later dramatised in the BBC drama 'Three Girls'. He was stripped of British citizenship against his appeal in 2018, but Pakistan has refused to take him back. He tried to fight his deportation too on human rights grounds and failed the appeal but still living in the UK. 15 years have passed yet Rochdale grooming gangs are preying on girls. Whistleblower reportedly warned recently of 96 men who pose risk to children as a damning report reveals how police left victims 'at the mercy' of pimps and abusers who impregnated and threatened them with guns. Justice has been failed then; it is being failed now! As Baroness Shreela Flather, one of UK’s first-ever Asian women to join House of Lords passes away, reminds me of her track record of fighting against injustices (see page 8). a strong defender of values, political correctness was not something she ever stood for. Diplomacy led to hundreds of children suffer in the hands of absolute animals, as council bosses and police mulled over political correctness, vote banks and cultural appropriation, without doing their actual job of serving and protecting the public, including the non-voters like children and youngsters. “We’re here to help” charity reveals the number of young people needing support with managing money has doubled since 2019 in the UK, as cost-of-living crisis deepens. Citizens Advice which supported 66,000 under 25s last year alone, says one in five (20%) young adults seeking its advice need help with debt. According to the charity’s new research, nine in ten (90%) under 25s shy away from such conversations and would rather talk about sensitive topics like health issues, politics or religion instead of money. Youngsters are the future of a nation, though treated with contempt, doubt and often with lack of respect, as were seen in Rochdale. But one must not forget that they hold the key to our tomorrow, as we dare to purposely ignore their present.

Modi effect on UAE and temple diplomacy The Middle East region holds significant importance for India's economy, serving as the source of nearly two-thirds of its total oil imports. In recent years, bilateral trade between India and UAE has flourished and the strengthening of economic and diplomatic ties has been a priority for both nations, which has been taken up a notch with temple diplomacy. With the inauguration of a grand Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi on Basant Panchami, scheduled for 14 February 2024, representatives from the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) Hindu temple extended an invitation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This temple symbolises the diasporic rootedness in India's culture and the commitment to fostering centres of Sanatan culture and spirituality abroad, standing as a testament to the enduring friendship between India and the UAE. PM Modi accepted the invitation, and, as we went to print on Tuesday, embarked on an official visit to the UAE, arriving in Abu Dhabi to a special reception. His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the UAE, warmly greeted him at the airport, followed by a ceremonial welcome. The two leaders engaged in bilateral discussions and conducted both one-on-one and delegationlevel talks, focusing on reviewing the existing bilateral partnership and exploring avenues for further cooperation. They expressed satisfaction with the progress of the C Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), particularly in areas such as trade and investment, digital infrastructure, fintech, energy, infrastructure, culture, and people-to-people ties. Additionally, the Indian community in the UAE is preparing to host a grand cultural extravaganza, “Ahlan Modi”, symbolizing the unity and friendship between India and the UAE in the presence of PM Modi. Scheduled for the evening of February 13th at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi, this historic event is anticipated to be one of the most significant gatherings for Prime Minister Modi outside of Indian borders. It serves as a tribute to "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam," an Indian concept advocating global brotherhood. Key highlights of the event include an exhibition featuring over 700 cultural artists, active involvement from more than 150 Indian community groups, the inclusion of thousands of blue-collar workers from across the Emirates and demonstrations of solidarity and anticipation from the ‘Nari Shakti’ of the Indian community. This visit marks Modi's seventh trip to the UAE since assuming office in 2015 and it is positive to say that he is on the right path, cultivating a friendship over the years. The friendship has mutually benefited both countries on many fronts. UAE has proven to be a fertile ground for Indian business leaders, who have established global brands

in the heart of the world's oil hub. It allures Indian businesspersons with its conducive environment for business, access to world-class infrastructure, a pool of investors, exceptional living standards, absence of income tax, and strategic proximity to India, Africa, and Europe. The success stories of prominent businesses such as M.A. Yusuf Ali's Lulu Group, Ravi Pillai's RP Group, and Micky Jagtiani's Landmark Group are nothing short of legendary. When it comes to trade, India holds a significant position as the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) largest export destination and trading partner. In the calendar year 2021, the bilateral trade turnover between the two countries amounted to US$68.4 billion. UAE's exports to India reached US$43.04 billion, while India's exports to UAE totalled US$25.4 billion. In 2022, India and UAE solidified their trade relationship further by signing the CEPA with the ambitious goal of elevating bilateral trade to US$100 billion within five years. Since its operationalisation, the bilateral trade between the countries has experienced significant growth, with nonoil trade increasing by 14% in the initial few months itself and bilateral trade reaching $88 billion in FY24. Moreover, this partnership is expected to catalyse India's dynamic investor ecosystem, encouraging companies from both countries to explore and seize new business opportunities, thereby fostering mutual growth and prosperity. From a political point of view, while debates over the alleged polarisation politics of the BJP government continue, PM Modi's close ties with the Islamic world serve as a shield against accusations of anti-Muslim sentiments. Even as the Muslim community of the country is divided in its support, the global Islamic countries present a different perspective. While prominent Islamists have vehemently criticised the UAE, accusing it of rewarding India amid allegations of Muslim oppression, liberal Muslims have taken a different stance. They have praised the UAE for its Indian diplomacy and the decision to allow the construction of a Hindu temple, citing it as a symbol of tolerance and coexistence. Not only UAE, Modi has prioritised strengthening India's ties with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Jordan, and Yemen — collectively representing a significant portion of the global Muslim population and wielding considerable influence in the Islamic world. This move has been praised by foreign policy experts for its energy and dedication. The India-UAE partnership is increasingly pivotal in the 21st century, characterised by intertwined trade, diplomacy, and camaraderie where both countries benefit mutually. Abu Dhabi ranks as India's fourth-largest investor and third-largest trading partner, and in turn is strengthened by a substantial Indian diaspora of approximately 3.5 million, one of the largest Indian communities worldwide.

Thought for the week The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. -Franklin D. Roosevelt

Political Sketchbook Alpesh Patel

This Is India’s Sparta – Karamsad Independent minded and giving strength to the rest of the nation is what the Spartans were known for. In the vibrant heart of Gujarat, amidst its lush fields and ancient soil, stands Karamsad—a village not just of geographical significance, but a beacon of India's indomitable spirit. My recent pilgrimage to this hallowed ground wasn't merely a return to ancestral roots; it was an immersion into a legacy of unparalleled pride and resilience. Here, where history whispers tales of valour and unity, I found myself profoundly moved, my heart swelling with a pride that is both personal and nationalistic. Emerging from the remnants of my family's ancestral home, I was struck by an encounter that underscored the far-reaching influence of CB Patel's paper—a publication for which I've had the honour to write. To hear my name called out in this cradle of my heritage, by a voice familiar with my contributions, was a stark reminder of the power of words to bridge distances, to connect the diaspora with its roots, and to stir the hearts of those even in the most remote corners. It was Bena (Jaimina) bhen from Bhadran. Karamsad, however, commands reverence not merely for personal ancestry or the extensive reach of a newspaper. It is, more significantly, the birthplace of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a colossus in India's struggle for independence and the architect of its unity. My visit to his home was a journey through the crucible of India's unity—a humble abode where Patel envisioned an independent India, a nation unfettered by colonial chains, woven together in the rich tapestry of its diverse cultures and communities. Sardar Patel, the "Iron Man of India," was the mastermind behind the integration of over 560 princely states into the Indian Union, crafting a unified realm from a fragmented tapestry of sovereignties. His vision for a united India was a beacon of political acumen and profound belief in the strength found in diversity. This vision, nurtured in Karamsad, elevates the village from mere historical significance to a symbol of India's arduous journey towards independence and unity. Patel's legacy transcends his monumental contributions to India's independence and the consolidation of its states. It is a legacy that continues to inspire, instilling values of unity, integrity, and nation-building across generations. As I traversed Karamsad, absorbing the essence of the place that moulded such a visionary leader, I was enveloped by a profound sense of connection. This village, independent-minded, resilient, and proud, is a living testament to the spirit of its most illustrious son, echoing the sentiment, "This is not Sparta, this is Karamsad"—a cradle where the dream of the world's largest democracy was nurtured. The pride of originating from Karamsad is multifaceted; rooted in the rich history of India's freedom struggle, in the enduring contributions of its sons and daughters, and in the timeless values championed by Sardar Patel. Reflecting on my visit, I am reminded of the paramount importance of preserving our heritage, honouring the sacrifices made for our liberty, and carrying forward the legacy of unity and integrity envisioned by our forebears. Karamsad stands as more than a village in Gujarat; it is a monument to India's historical, cultural, and political legacy. It serves as a constant reminder of the power of unity and the enduring strength of a vision capable of altering the destiny of a nation. As we face contemporary challenges and navigate the uncertainties of the future, let us draw inspiration from Karamsad and its most distinguished son, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, in forging an India that is united, strong, and indomitable.





17 - 23 February 2024

The Labour Party retracted its endorsement of its candidate in the Rochdale byelection following the emergence of "new information" regarding alleged comments made by him.

UK intelligence official warns of heightened conflict risk British defence intelligence officials have stated that the UK is currently facing a heightened risk of large-scale conflict compared to recent times, driven by escalating tensions in the Middle East, Russia's expansionist ambitions, and China's advancement in military capabilities. According to one senior official from the 4,500-strong secretive unit, the current situation marks the unit's busiest period in at least a decade. Additionally, the rapid turnover of ministers has posed challenges in ensur-

ing that key decision-makers are well-informed. When questioned about their agreement with Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, who characterised the current global situation as transitioning "from a postwar to a prewar world" in a recent speech, the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, pointed to Russia's ongoing aggression towards Ukraine and the potential for the conflict to escalate further. They also highlighted the possibility of China attempting to seize Taiwan by force.


Place - 4-12, Devipujak Vas To Div Gate, Delvada-4, Delwada-362510, Ta-Una, Dist. Gir, Somanath, Gujarat, INDIA

DATE: 12/02/2024

later this month had drawn scrutiny after the Mail On Sunday revealed that he had stated at a Lancashire Labour Party meeting that Israel deliberately allowed a Hamas atrocity to occur to

Azhar Ali

Graham Jones

According to a report in the Daily Mail, Azhar Ali was accused of attributing criticism of a proPalestinian Labour MP to "people in the media from certain Jewish quarters" and suggesting that Israel had plans to forcibly remove Palestinians from Gaza and seize land. It was reported that Mr Ali was suspended from the party pending an investigation. A Labour Party spokesperson said: "Following new information about further comments made by Azhar Ali coming to light today, the Labour Party has withdrawn its support for Azhar Ali as our candidate in the Rochdale by-election. "We understand that these are highly unusual circumstances but it is vital that any candidate put forward by Labour fully represents its aims and values. Given that nominations have now closed Azhar Ali cannot be replaced as the candidate." Mr Ali's candidacy for the upcoming by-election

pave the way for an invasion of Gaza. Although Mr Ali had previously issued an "unreserved" apology for his remarks, describing them as "deeply offensive, ignorant, and false," pressure mounted on Sir Keir to take action in line with his commitment to combating antisemitism within the party. Subsequently, on Monday evening, additional comments surfaced, prompting the Labour Party to withdraw its support for the candidate. Following Mr Ali’s suspension, a second Labour parliamentary candidate was suspended following remarks made about Israel during a private meeting of Labour activists in Lancashire. Graham Jones, Labour's candidate for Hyndburn, was suspended by the party after a recording surfaced of him using explicit language in reference to Israel and suggesting that Britons who serve in the Israel Defence Forces should face legal consequences.

PM under fire for controversial comment British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has drawn criticism for attempting to ridicule the Labour Party's leader's stance on the definition of a woman, mere minutes after it was announced in Parliament that the mother of a murdered transgender teenager was present. Responding to a question from Keir Starmer, Sunak highlighted several instances where he claimed the Labour leader had changed his position, culminating in a jab at Starmer's views on "defining a woman," adding, "although in fairness, that was only 99% of a U-turn." The remark aimed to embarrass Starmer, whom Sunak's Conservatives have accused of wavering on the issue of self-identification, particularly referencing his statement last year that "99.9% of women haven’t got a penis." Starmer, who had acknowledged the presence of Brianna Ghey's mother,

East London predator sentenced A convicted East London predator, Ashraf Khan, 39, residing at Emily Duncan Place, Forest Gate, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for the despicable rape of a teenage girl. The sentencing took place on Wednesday, February 7, at Snaresbrook Crown Court. Khan was found guilty of two counts of rape and one count of sexual assault following a trial held at the same court in November 2023. The harrowing incident occurred on August 11, 2021, when the victim, aged 13, and her 14-year-old friend entered a shop on Abbey Road, Barking. Approaching the girls, Khan engaged them in conversation before perpetrating the heinous act against one of them and fleeing the scene. Subsequently, on September 30, the victim

Source: Met Police

Labour candidates suspended following Israel comments

Ashraf Khan

reported the assault to the police, prompting a thorough investigation by detectives specialising in sexual offences. Utilising information provided by the victim, investigators discovered that Khan had shared his Snapchat account with the girls, leading them to his residence, situated just a 60second walk from the site of the incident. Despite denying the rape, Khan's proximity to the scene and his association with the victims were key factors in the investigation.

International students falsely accused of English test cheating After being accused of cheating on English language tests and subsequently removed from the UK, thousands of international students are preparing to launch new legal action to clear their names. The controversy dates back a decade when an investigation by the BBC suggested widespread cheating at test centres. ETS, the company responsible for administering the tests, found that 97 per cent of tests taken in the UK between 2011 and 2014 were suspicious. As a result, the Home Office revoked the visas of approximately 35,000 students. Of those affected, about 2,500 were deported, and 7,200 are believed to have left the country voluntarily, while others were forced to abandon their degree courses. However, many students claim they were falsely accused of cheating and argue that the evidence against them is flawed, as reported by The

Guardian. Over 3,600 students have successfully appealed against the Home Office's decision. A landmark test case heard in December at the upper immigration tribunal is expected to yield a decision soon. During the hearing, an expert witness testified that staff at certain test centres may have fraudulently substituted all tests conducted by students with those done simultaneously by proxies in a concealed room, leaving genuine students unaware of the fraud. Some affected individuals shared their harrowing experiences, with one man detained in immigration centres for 11 months before returning to India. Others recounted becoming homeless and reliant on food banks. Undercover investigations by Panorama revealed clear evidence of fraud at two out of approximately 90 test centres operated by ETS.

Thames search for Ezedi finds two unexpected bodies Rishi Sunak

Esther Ghey, in the chamber, visibly expressed anger in response. He deemed Sunak's comments inappropriate, with Sunak later acknowledging Ghey's presence. "Of all the weeks to say that, when Brianna’s mother is in this chamber. Shame," Starmer retorted. "Parading as a man of integrity when he’s got absolutely no responsibility." The two 16-year-old murderers of Brianna were sentenced to life imprisonment, with minimum terms of 20 and 22 years respectively on February 2.

Two male bodies have been discovered in the River Thames amidst a police search for a suspect involved in a severe chemical assault on a "vulnerable" woman and her two young daughters. The bodies were found on Saturday, but neither has been identified as that of Abdul Ezedi, the individual sought in connection with the attack that occurred on January 31 in Clapham, south London. Ezedi, who has been on the run since the assault, was last observed walking purposefully towards Chelsea Bridge in west London. CCTV footage captured him leaning over the bridge railings on the night of the

incident. However, his behaviour changed notably afterwards, with no further sightings of him leaving the bridge. Although the bodies were discovered during the search for Ezedi, they are not believed to be directly linked to him, according to police. The deaths are being treated as unexpected pending further investigation. While authorities continue to urge Ezedi to surrender and encourage the public to report any sightings of him, they now speculate that he may have succumbed to his injuries sustained during the assault, which left him with significant injuries to the right side of his face.





17 - 23 February 2024

CEO of three London dental clinics calls for more support for NHS dentistry A CEO of three of the largest dental clinics in London is calling for an overhaul of NHS dentistry, arguing that new plans recently announced by the Government do not go far enough. Dr Bharat Patel, CEO of Dental Care Centre, Dulwich Dental Office and Camden High Street Dental is asking for further support for NHS dentists. He is claiming that the NHS Dental recovery Plan is ‘more like a booster rather than fully-fledged reform’, with many of the supposed new measures already in place. NHS England recently announced that million more were to be offered dental appointments under the NHS Dental Recovery Plan, thanks to a major new plan to ensure easier and faster access to NHS dental care across England. Dr Patel said, “NHS dentistry has been playing catch up well before the Covid-19 pandemic forced the closure of all dental practices throughout the country, leaving patients without access to an NHS dentist. “The new plan adds to the existing system which is highly debated within the

dental community. It is without doubt that we have some of the best qualified dental surgeons in the UK, and NHS dentistry in practice is a vital part of allowing young dentists to develop and hone their clinical expertise on the most basic of treatments. However, the banding system that categories treatments, and therefore patients into fixed bands, creates a dilemma for dentists on a daily basis on how to prioritise individual treatment on a patient and even between patients. “Do dentists prioritise their existing patients for routine care, or do they prioritise a dental emergency on a new patient that they have never seen before, having to rearrange their day and reschedule existing patients?” Short supply and dental vans In areas where NHS dentists are in short supply, the government is offering up to £20,000 for up to three years’ work in a bid to attract dentists to areas where they are desperately needed. Dental vans have also been proposed in rural populations to help reach the most isolated communities.

Dr Bharat Patel

Commenting on this, Dr Patel said, “Incentivising dentists in areas where NHS dentists are sought is also nothing new and something the private sector has tried and failed to do for years. “The proportionality of earning to the bonus of £20,000 are mismatched and an extra £20 a day is unlikely to convince a dentist to travel or relocate to those locations where dentists are in shortage. Furthermore, dentistry requiring an average of eight hours a day of surgical focus limits the distance a dentist can realistically travel to work without impacting on their performance. “The reforms state the

public will be able to see which NHS dentists are taking on patients through an NHS website, however such technology already exists. The flaws will still be present in that it relies on individual practices to log into the NHS portal and update their status on accepting patients or not, something which is unlikely to change the status quo as most clinics do not regularly update this. “There is no doubt that mobile dental surgeries are feasible and have been trialled in the past, however the mainstream issue of not attracting dental surgeons to work with them is further compounded by an environment that will be compact to work within and lack the multidisciplinary support that dental practices thrive and develop on, within a team.” Overhaul is needed not regular ‘band-aids’ The government’s ‘SMILE4LIFE’ programme of initiatives are designed to improve dental access and oral health in England, complemented by communication and engagement activities to raise awareness of oral health issues and promote healthy dental habits.

Dr Patel added, “Offering advice to parents about baby gums and milk teeth is nothing new. Prevention is actually the most consistent and strongest armamentarium of dental surgeons, primarily due to some of the most thorough undergraduate programmes, and consensus opinion on prevention.” He welcomed the plans to increase university dental places but concluded by saying that for any real change to access and quality of dentistry, there needs to be a fundamental understanding that an overhaul is needed and not regular ‘band-aids’. He added, “There is only so much an approach like the one proposed can improve services. If there is a genuine desire to keep NHS dentistry as a leading beacon within the UK and Europe it requires a matching investment that recognises that dentistry in practice is a surgery not akin to hospitals. Subcontracting surgery to a general dental practice clinic cannot be done at a cut-price if the world-class standards we strive for are to be maintained.”

Asian waste plant boss obstructs authorities An Asian-origin owner of a waste treatment plant in east London was fined after she barred UK Environment Agency inspectors from entering the site unless they handed over thousands of pounds in bogus fees. Gurjit Athwal, director of Keep Green Ltd, has been fined £3,000, with more than double that amount in costs and other court charges, for twice refusing entry to officers from the Environment Agency. The officers sought to follow up on concerns regarding the amount of waste stored at the site on the banks of the river Thames since the last visual check six months ago. Barry Russell, environment manager for the Environment Agency in north and east London, emphasised the importance of inspections to ensure companies like Keep Green operate without harming the environment. "Athwal intentionally obstructed Environment Agency staff carrying out their work to keep communities safe," he stated. "Her fine will hopefully show her and others that her actions were unacceptable. My officers must be able to inspect permitted sites."

GESE: Graded Examinations in Spoken English

Secure English Language Te Tests (SEL LT Ts) approved for applications Ts to UK KVI VI for visas, visa renewals, Britiish Citizenship and Settlement

Prepare with the Trinity GESE Study App, an on-the-go study tool that helps you learn and track the progr o ess of your English language learning.

Scan the e QR code or visit trinit nityselt.co.uk to book your test





17 - 23 February 2024

in brief

Rishi Sunak has embraced the challenge of closing the gap between the Tories and Labour in the current polls. In an interview with the Times, the prime minister emphasised his commitment to tax reductions, pledging to cut taxes when it becomes fiscally prudent. “At the beginning of this year, there is a sense that the country is pointing in the right direction,” he said, attributing this optimism to positive shifts in the economy and the effectiveness of his plan, which has already seen mortgage rates decrease and taxes cut. Sunak is hopeful that a potential pre-election boost combined with a brighter economic forecast will diminish Labour’s lead under Keir Starmer. His reiteration of tax cut promises follows revelations from the publication of his own tax summary, which disclosed his payment of over £500,000 in UK taxes last year on a total income of £2.2m, as reported by The Guardian. This level of taxation,

Rishi Sunak

roughly 23% of his income, has drawn criticism for being proportionally similar to what a teacher earns, despite Sunak’s significantly higher income, primarily due to the lower taxation on capital gains. Amidst expectations for substantial tax cuts in the upcoming spring budget, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has been attempting to moderate these anticipations, even as calls for cuts grow louder within Tory circles. Sunak maintains that detailed discussions on fiscal policies are typically reserved for budget announcements, suggesting that some might be reading too much into the current discourse.

Figures reveal one-fifth of NHS staff foreign-nationals Analysis of NHS Digital figures reveals that one in five NHS staff in England are non-UK nationals, showcasing the indispensable role foreign workers play in sustaining the healthcare system. These healthcare professionals hail from a staggering 214 countries, ranging from populous nations like India and Portugal to smaller nations like Tonga and Liechtenstein. The proportion of roles occupied by non-UK nationals has surged to a record high, with 20.4% of the 1,282,623 full-time equivalent (FTE) hospital and community health service staff in England in September 2023 being nonUK nationals. This marks a significant increase from 13% in September 2016 and 11.9% in September 2009, indicating the growing reliance on international talent

within the NHS.. Notably, three in ten nurses (30%) and over a third of doctors (36.3%) are nonUK nationals, reflecting sharp increases in recent years. The most common non-UK nationality among nurses and health visitors is Indian (10.1%), followed by Filipino (7.7%), Nigerian (2.5%), and Irish (1.1%). Similarly, Indian nationals top the list among doctors (8%), followed by Pakistani (3.7%), Egyptian (2.9%), and Nigerian (2.0%). The proportion of midwives who are non-UK nationals has risen from 7.1% in 2020 to 9% in 2023, aligning with levels observed in 2009. Additionally, the percentage of medical support staff who are non-UK nationals has surged from 7.2% in 2009 to 10.3% in 2016 and 17.6% in 2023, indicating a significant upward trend.

Javid being considered for Standard Chartered chairman role Sir Sajid Javid is being tion. considered as a Sir Sajid, who potential candidate has previously for the role of chairserved as both man at Standard Chancellor and Chartered as the curhealth secretary in rent chairman, José Boris Johnson's Viñals, prepares to government, has step down. confirmed that he will not be standing Reports suggest in the upcoming that the former general election, Chancellor has been Sir Sajid Javid anticipated to take approached regardplace later this year. However, ing this leadership position at he has not ruled out the possibilthe London-listed bank. Spencer ity of assuming a significant role Stuart, a headhunting firm, has in the financial sector following been tasked with reaching out to his departure from Parliament, a range of senior bankers and as reported by the Financial prominent figures in the City to Times. gauge their interest in the posi-

Watchdog criticises London police for child exploitation failure A damning report by Britain’s law enforcement watchdog on Friday criticised London’s police force for leaving children at risk of exploitation and urged the implementation of nearly a dozen reforms to improve. According to the report by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), the Metropolitan Police’s response to the criminal and sexual exploitation of children is “not currently effective”. The 51-page report classified all under-18s as vulnerable and highlighted evidence of some good work by the Met to protect children. However, it emphasised that the force needed to do more to enhance its practices and police training. Of the 244 Met investigations examined by the inspectorate, over half were graded as “inadequate”. Particularly alarming were the force’s ineffective response

to missing children reports and its failure to adequately investigate cases where children were at risk of exploitation for sex or by other criminals. The HMICFRS also noted instances where police officers and staff used language that blamed the victims, highlighting systemic issues within the force. It pointed out discrepancies in IT systems and a lack of understanding among many officers regarding the links between missing children and exploitation. In response, the HMICFRS suggested 11 reforms to address these shortcomings. The Metropolitan Police apologised for the findings, acknowledging them as “deeply concerning”. Met Commander Kevin Southworth outlined plans to allocate more police resources to the issue and to retrain officers to better understand the complexities of child exploitation.

Cameron promises aid for Scotsman jailed in India According to The Times, Foreign Secretary David Cameron has pledged to assist Jagtar Singh Johal, a Scottish man who has been imprisoned in India for over six years, by pushing for an investigation into allegations of torture. Johal, 36, was detained in Punjab in 2017 after traveling to India for his wedding. Indian authorities accuse him of involvement in the murder of Ravinder Gosain, a Hindu nationalist leader. However, Johal, a blogger and political activist from Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, maintains his innocence, claiming he was coerced into signing blank papers. Reports have revealed disturbing accounts of abuse, including beatings and threats of violence. Cameron expressed his commitment to resolving Johal’s case, citing the UK government’s consistent expression of concern. The issue was raised by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during discussions with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Additionally, Lord Ahmad raised Johal’s situation with

Source: Facebook/Free Jaggi Now

Sunak pledges tax cuts amid ‘improved economic conditions’

Jagtar Singh Johal

Indian officials on multiple occasions. While Cameron promised to advocate for investigations into Johal’s allegations of torture and press for the implementation of a court order allowing family video calls, he stopped short of actively calling for Johal’s release. He cited concerns about interfering with India’s legal system, which could impact the UK’s ability to provide consular assistance. However, Gurpreet criticised Cameron’s stance, describing it as a failure and political cowardice. He emphasised the urgency of securing his brother's release rather than focusing on minor improvements to his conditions.

UK's Rwanda bill deemed human rights incompatible A damning parliamentary report asserts that the UK government's contentious Rwanda legislation, which designates Rwanda as a safe destination for deportations, is fundamentally at odds with Britain's human rights commitments and violates international law. MPs and peers from the cross-party joint committee on human rights have issued a scathing critique of the Safety of Rwanda Bill, which is rapidly advancing through parliament. According to the bill, Rwanda is deemed a safe country, ensuring that individuals sent there by

the UK government will not face forced removal to an unsafe destination. However, the committee's report highlights uncertainties regarding the practical guarantee of this assurance. After meticulous scrutiny of the bill, which proceeds to its committee stage in the House of Lords, the report concludes that the legislation fundamentally clashes with the UK's human rights obligations. It undermines protections outlined in the Human Rights Act, breaches sections of the European Convention on Human Rights.

TUBE FARE EVASION RISES WITH 10,000 FEWER PROSECUTIONS Latest figures released on Friday reveal that Transport for London (TfL) is prosecuting approximately 10,000 fewer fare dodgers annually compared to the period just before the pandemic. The data also indicates a significant surge in fare evasion, with Tube station staff reporting over 756,000 cases last year alone, marking a 51 per cent increase from the previous year. Fare evasion poses a substantial financial burden on TfL, estimated at £130 million per year in lost revenue. This amount could cover annual fare freezes, a move supported by Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has allocated £123 million to maintain pay-asyou-go fares unchanged until March 2025. In response to the escalating fare evasion issue, TfL prosecuted 19,614 individuals for fare dodging across all transport modes last year, representing a 56 per cent increase from 2022.

LABOUR MULLS BAN ON SELLING ENERGY DRINKS TO CHILDREN According to recent reports from Sky News, the Labour Party is considering a potential ban on the sale of energy drinks to children if it secures victory in the upcoming general election. While the ban is not currently part of Labour's official policy, sources have indicated that it is being considered for inclusion in the party's manifesto. The discussion surrounding this proposal comes in the wake of a government-commissioned study that revealed alarming statistics regarding energy drink consumption among UK children. The study, conducted in Norway and involving over 53,000 individuals aged between 18 and 35, and discovered that individuals who consumed energy drinks daily experienced approximately half an hour less sleep compared to those who consumed them occasionally or not at all.

PARLIAMENT STAFF DEVOUR 3,000 CHEESE & ONION BAGS Last year, peers and Parliament staff indulged in nearly 3,000 bags of Cheese and Onion crisps, making them the clear favourite snack of the House of Lords. According to data from Lords retail outlets, Walkers potato snacks, particularly the Cheese and Onion flavour, dominated sales with 2,580 bags purchased. Following closely behind was the Salt and Vinegar variety, with 2,332 bags sold. The standard four-finger Kit Kat secured the third spot on the list, with 2,298 units sold. This revelation comes shortly after it was reported that San Miguel lager was the beverage of choice among Lords, with almost 15,000 pints consumed in the subsidised cafes and bars across the estate last year.

UK DELIVEROO, UBER EATS DRIVERS STRIKE VALENTINE'S Delivery drivers for food-ordering platforms such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats are planning a Valentine's Day strike to demand improved pay and working conditions. Organised by a grassroots group called Delivery Job UK, many of whom are Brazilian, the strike is set to take place on Wednesday. The primary goal of the strike is to highlight the challenges faced by drivers, including low pay and job insecurity. Many drivers work for multiple delivery apps simultaneously, exacerbating these issues. App-based delivery drivers are typically classified as self-employed contractors, meaning they are not entitled to receive the statutory "national living wage" of £10.42 per hour, which is set to increase to £11.44 in April. This classification was affirmed by a Supreme Court ruling in November, which determined that Deliveroo riders were not considered "workers."




07 17 - 23 February 2024

NBPA calls for ethnic minority boycott The National Black Police Association (NBPA) has taken a historic step by calling on ethnic minority communities to boycott joining the Metropolitan Police (Met). This decision follows what they perceive as discriminatory treatment towards Charles Ehikioya, the current chair of the Met Black Police Association (Met BPA). This marks the first instance in 20 years that such a boycott has been proposed. The NBPA cites the alleged racially motivated misconduct investigation targeting Ehikioya as the catalyst for this action, which occurred after he raised concerns about

lack of confidence in racism and the Metropolitan unprofessionPolice Service (MPS) al behaviour due to numerous among senior reports of inadequate officers, as support for officers of reported by colour. He stated, “We T h e no longer have confiGuardian. dence in the commisAccording Charles Ehikioya sioner or his senior to the NBPA, leadership team to bring rather than supporting about the necessary and Ehikioya as a victim of racial promised reforms to the serabuse, efforts were made to vice. gather questionable eviThis unprecedented recdence against him. Andy ommendation by the NBPA George, NBPA president, is supported by a landmark expressed deep concern report by Louise Casey last about the timing of the year, which revealed that complaint against Ehikioya, Black officers were 81% suggesting it was an effort to more likely to face misconsilence dissenting voices duct proceedings compared within the police force. to their white colleagues. George highlighted a

Fujitsu secured £1.4bn in government contracts since 2019 Fujitsu, the Japanese technology company embroiled in the Post Office scandal over its flawed Horizon system, has reportedly secured contracts exceeding £3.4 billion with entities linked to the UK Treasury since 2019. This development comes despite a 2019 High Court ruling that identified "bugs, errors, and defects" in the Horizon software, leading to the wrongful prosecution of numerous sub-postmasters for alleged financial discrepancies, as reported by The Guardian. Of the total contracts, £1.4 billion were awarded to Treasury-affiliated bodies following the damning court verdict, while contracts worth more than £2 billion were signed before the judgment was issued. Despite the controversy, some of these contracts remain ongoing. However, Fujitsu has announced a

pause in bidding for UK public contracts until the conclusion of the inquiry into the Post Office scandal. The Commons' treasury committee, in its efforts to scrutinise the government's dealings with Fujitsu, has uncovered significant contracts with major institutions such as HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and the Bank of England (BoE). Specifically, HMRC engaged Fujitsu for contracts totalling over £2.8 billion, with approximately £1.4 billion still active. During the scrutinised period, the FCA's contracts with Fujitsu amounted to £630 million, with current contracts valued at just over £9 million. Meanwhile, the BoE had a single contract with Fujitsu, valued at over £417,000, which concluded in August 2020.

British girl rescued from forced marriage in Pakistan According to MailOnline, a 13-year-old British schoolgirl narrowly avoided a forced marriage to her cousin in Pakistan after her mother's urgent plea for help reached authorities in the UK. The girl's father had arranged the marriage without her consent, leaving her and her mother stranded in Pakistan under the control of his relatives. Alarmed by the situation, the girl's mother managed to send a distress message to a neighbour in England, who, affiliated with a women's anti-abuse charity, promptly alerted British authorities, including the police and the government's Forced Marriage Unit. "I messaged my neighbour in alarm because my child was about to be married to a grown man on the orders of her father," the girl's mother stated. The intervention involved

weeks of legal proceedings and diplomatic efforts. Eventually, the British Embassy in Pakistan persuaded the father's family to return the passports, enabling the mother and daughter to return to the UK. Additionally, a court order was issued to Interpol to prevent the child from being unlawfully taken out of Pakistan. Speaking anonymously to protect her daughter's identity, the girl's mother recounted the harrowing experience, highlighting her husband's controlling behaviour over the years and his attempt to force their daughter into marriage. Despite facing financial hardship and community pressure, the mother bravely sought assistance, underscoring the need for greater awareness and support from social services for individuals in similar situations.

Indian restaurant gets two Michelin stars An Indian restauIslam's culirant in journey nary Birmingham has traces back three etched its name in decades when he culinary history by was expelled from becoming the school and began city's first to be working at his bestowed with father's curry two Michelin restaurant, folAktar Islam stars. lowing in the footsteps of his Bangladeshi Opheem, situated in immigrant parents who setBirmingham's curry capital, tled in Birmingham in the achieved this milestone 1970s. Renowned for its despite having only one "progressive Indian cuisine," Indian chef among its 15Opheem has been tantalizstrong kitchen team. Chef ing taste buds since its and owner Aktar Islam, a establishment in 2018, native of Aston, expressed drawing notable personaliprofound gratitude for the ties like Michael Buble and accolade, prestigious Gary Barlow. describing it as "an incrediThe rarity of Opheem's ble honour."

achievement in Birmingham has sparked overwhelming joy and gratitude from Islam and his team, who have been inundated with congratulatory messages. This landmark recognition cements Birmingham's status as a gastronomic hub and places Opheem among the culinary elite, alongside just six other British restaurants receiving two Michelin stars this year. Opheem's elevation to the coveted two-star status not only marks a significant milestone for Birmingham's culinary scene but also adds a vibrant chapter to the rich tapestry of global cuisine celebrated across the UK.





17 - 23 February 2024

Remembering Baroness Shreela Flather Rupanjana Dutta Almost 17 years ago I had met Shreela Flather, Baroness of Windsor and Maidenhead for an interview I was commissioned by my Editor CB Patel to publish in Asian Voice. As a young journalist, in my early 20s, it was daunting for me to speak to someone as awe-inspiring and powerful as Baroness Flather. Nervously, as I sat listening to the first Baroness of Indian (and Asian) origin speak to me about her experience as a woman, the glass ceilings she had faced (and broken), it eased me into understanding how for most of us women, our journeys weren’t actually that different. In 2011, Baroness Flather hosted an event where Asian Voice launched its first ever British Tamils magazine in the House of Lords. Feisty and outspoken, Baroness Flather applauded the work of the community and the diaspora at large, but also addressed the hypocrisy in some, who complained about the British society and its values refusing to integrate, despite consciously choosing to work here, reaping the benefits and adopting this country as their home. Everybody who knew Baroness Shreela Flather would remember her by the strength of character she possessed, her ability to call spade a spade, fight for what’s just and her efforts to move mountains to set up the Memorial Gates for the Commonwealth soldiers. Despite the infrequencies of seeing her at community events over the years, there were occasional calls from the Baroness on our office landline to discuss issues she felt strongly about and letters from her to our Readers’ Voice section. I would still meet her once a year at the Memorial Gates, and would hesitantly go up and speak to her, as she would stand surrounded by guests, albeit very important ones. I would wonder if she remembered me and re-introduced myself, but every time she would say, “I know who you are” and quickly drift into highlighting an important issue, sometimes something as huge as world politics, that she felt strongly about – eventually asking me to think and write about it. An inspiring life of many firsts Baroness Flather was born in Lahore in 1934 to a distinguished family. She was the daughter of Aftab and Krishna Rai, one of the most prominent Hindu families in Lahore, and her great-grandfather, Sir Ganga Ram, was a famous engineer and philanthropist in early 20th century, affectionately known as the ‘Father of Lahore’. After partition in 1947, the family fled Lahore, leaving behind the house, factories, and land, and started again in Delhi. Baroness Flather herself flew

with her mother to the US to stay with her student brother. When her father was appointed Indian ‘ambassador’ to Brazil in 1948, as a 14-year-old daughter, she accompanied him, building her self-confidence and gregariousness. She first came to London in 1952 to study law at University College London and later became an honorary fellow of the college. She started out her career as a teacher and community activist, but eventually became UK’s first-ever female local councillor from ethnic minority background, the first-ever Asian Mayor and the first-ever Asian woman to become a Baroness in the UK House of Lords. She died after a at the age of 89 (shortly before her 90th birthday) on Tuesday 6 February 2024 after a brief illness at Wexham Park Hospital in Slough, in the company of family, friends and her cur-

Baroness Shreela Flather at the launch of Asian Voice’s British Tamils magazine in 2011 with me (Rupanjana Dutta) and our columnist and moderator for the evening Mamta Saha (in white) at the House of Lords

rent carers. She is survived by her sons Paul who has been a journalist, politician, academic and former fellow of Corpus Christi and Mansfield Colleges, Oxford, and Marcus who is a former professor of medicine and clinical trials at the University of East Anglia, four grandchildren, Jasmine, Josh, Alex and Hannah, and six great grandchildren Stella, Jack, Joseph, Ariya, Theo and Eliott. Stories still go around in the community about how Baroness Flather gained attention for wearing a saree to the House of Lords. As Mayor of the Royal Borough of Windsor, she got to know the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh and served on the Duke’s commission into housing. She took a girls’ school to court while Mayor for persisting with uniform rules that discriminated against Asian pupils.

Baroness Shreela Flather

Baroness Flather reportedly served on the Race Relations Board (1973-78), the Commission for Racial Equality and the Social Security Advisory Committee (1987-90). From 1987 to 1990, she was also a British representative on the Economic and Social Committee of the European Community and held senior posts in organisations involved in refugee, community, race relations, policing, and prison work. But she rose to fame as a public figure, by creating the iconic Memorial Gates at London’s Hyde Park Corner- a tribute to the 5 million Commonwealth soldiers who participated in the two World Wars. She was the lifetime President of the Memorial Gates Council. A moving ceremony of remembrance is held at the Memorial Gates every year which is attended by Ambassadors / High Commissioners of various countries, MPs, Peers, former soldiers including Gurkhas and other distinguished guests. It was designed by the architect Liam O’Connor with an Indian-style pagoda and has the names of soldiers who were awarded Victoria Cross inscribed inside. The final line of Ben Okri’s poem ‘Turn on your light’ is engraved on one of the pillars of Memorial Gates and say: “Our future is greater than our past….” Family and friends pay tribute Baroness Flather’s sons Paul and Marcus in a statement told Asian Voice, “Baroness Flather was a trailblazer, having been appointed as the first UK Asian Woman Justice of the Peace, perhaps local Councillor, Mayor, and Baroness. She worked tirelessly for women's and girls’ rights and served the South Asian community in the UK. She will be much missed for her sense of humour, plain speaking, and commitment to a range cause linked to race, immigration, and dignity of dying. She will be remembered especially for founding and setting up the Memorial Gates in central London dedicated to the memory of non-white soldiers from the Commonwealth who

fought in the two great wars.” Lord Karan Bilimoria, Chair of the Memorial Gates Council, expressed his sadness at the passing away of Baroness Flather, whom he knew for over 30 years. He told the newsweekly, “I have known Shreela Flather for 30 years and I will always be grateful to her as she was the person who brought me into Parliament for the first time when she started an initiative called Asian Link which brought in young Asians to events, she organised with cabinet ministers speaking, at the House of Lords. From that cohort, Shailesh Vara became an MP and Minister, Dinesh Dhamija became an MEP, and I joined the House of Lords 17 1/2 years ago. “Shreela Flather broke one glass ceiling after another, becoming the first woman Mayor in the UK as Mayor of Windsor and the first Asian woman parliamentarian when she joined the House of Lords in 1990. She was the driving force behind the creation of the Memorial Gates, next to Buckingham Palace on Constitution Hill, which commemorate the service and sacrifice of the 5 million individuals who served in the First and Second World Wars from South Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, inaugurated by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2002. I have the privilege of being the current Chair of The Memorial Gates. She was a unique personality and a force of nature. “Shreela was always proud of being Indian and Asian. She was an inspiration to me and to so many and paved the way for so many of us. She will be greatly missed by everyone who knew her. Her late husband Gary Flather QC was a leading and respected lawyer, and I had the privilege to serve with him as a Commissioner of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. He suffered from MS for many years and Shreela was always a loyal and devoted support to him. My thoughts are with their sons Paul and Marcus and all her family.” Her colleague Baroness (Caroline) Cox reflected, “As I mourn the loss of a great friend, Shreela, two words immediately leap to mind: courage and humour.” Baroness Helena Kennedy described her saying, “Shreela Flather was a force of nature and a great champion of women and girls. She had no hesitation in speaking firmly to male elders in minority communities about matters which inhibited others. She was feisty and challenging. I loved her and though we came from different political corners I loved her.”

Wildlife charities accuse British countryside of racism British wildlife charities have raised concerns about the countryside, describing it as a "racist, colonial" environment where non-white individuals often feel marginalised, according to media reports. Wildlife and Countryside Link, a coalition comprising 80 organisations including WWF, RSPCA, and National Trust, presented their findings to MPs as part of their response to inquiries about the connections between racism and climate change. The report, submitted to an allparty parliamentary group (APPG), highlighted that the British countryside is influenced by "racist colonial legacies," creating an environment perceived as dominated by white people. This perception acts as a deterrent for people of ethnic minority backgrounds to access and enjoy green spaces. Structural, experiential, and cultural barriers are identified as key obstacles preventing ethnic minorities from fully engaging with nature. The request for evidence follows a 2023 investigation into "rural racism" in the British countryside by academic experts in "hate studies." According to the report, cultural barriers stem from the incorporation of white British cultural values into the planning and administration of green spaces, as well as societal norms dictating interactions with these environments. The report also highlighted the persistence of racist colonial practices, perpetuating the idea of nature as primarily for white individuals, which may discourage ethnic minorities from using green spaces. It also emphasised the environmental impact of British colonialism, stating that colonial legacies contributed to the current climate and nature crisis. To address these issues, the report proposed a "rights-based approach" to expand access to green spaces, including implementing a legally binding target to ensure everyone has a green space within a 15-minute walk from their home.

English clubs lack diversity The English FA has acknowledged that the staff composition at professional clubs "falls short of reflecting the levels of diversity amongst the playing population." This observation follows the release of the FA's third annual report on the Football Leadership Diversity Code. Introduced in 2020, the code aims to catalyse collective efforts to address inequality in senior leadership, wider team operations, and coaching roles. In the previous season, among the clubs endorsing the initiative, only nine per cent of senior leaders, 11 per cent of team operations personnel, 16 per cent of coaches, and nine per cent of hired senior coaches were individuals of Black, Asian, or mixed heritage. Additionally, the representation of females was low, with only 23 per cent of senior leaders and 30 per cent of team operations hires being female. Within the 53 club signatories, 21 per cent of senior leaders and 29 per cent of team operations staff are female. Meanwhile, seven per cent of senior leaders and nine per cent of team operations personnel belong to individuals of Black, Asian, or mixed heritage.





17 - 23 February 2024

PM pledges to build homes strategically Rishi Sunak has under exceptioncommitted to pushal circumstances. ing forward with Additionally, coplans to construct mmercial properhundreds of thouties such as shops sands of new resiand offices will be dences in major eligible for concities across Britain, version into resiacknowledging that dential units the Conservatives without requiring Rishi Sunak have "much more to full planning perdo" in assisting young indimission, as the government viduals in accessing homeaims to accelerate construcownership. tion efforts in densely populated areas. As part of the new reguMinisters have stated lations to be unveiled today, that these adjustments will urban councils failing to lead to the construction of meet housing targets will be tens of thousands of homes informed that they can annually in England's largest reject planning permission urban centres. Sunak highon brownfield sites only

Heathrow calls for abolition of tourist tax Heathrow Airport has voiced its support for the abolition of the "tourist tax," criticizing Rishi Sunak for what it perceives as hindering domestic growth by eliminating VAT-free spending for overseas visitors during the pandemic. According to Heathrow, this decision by Sunak, made while he was leading the Treasury in Boris Johnson's government, has negatively impacted the UK's competitiveness as a destination for spending and doing business. As the airport nears pre-pandemic levels of traffic, it argues that the UK has missed out on potential

growth by turning away international shoppers. In response to this, Heathrow has teamed up with the British Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses to advocate for an internationally competitive tax-free shopping incentive in the upcoming spring budget, led by Jeremy Hunt. The Treasury maintains that eliminating VAT-free shopping has no adverse effects on British citizens, asserting that tourists are drawn to the UK for its heritage and culture rather than for shopping purposes.

Court hears accuser made false gun claim A jury at Reading Crown Court has been informed that a resident of Slough, who accused another man of sexually assaulting him in an alleyway, has a history of making unfounded allegations. Ranjit Singh, 42, currently with no fixed abode, is standing trial charged with perverting the course of justice. On February 2, 2021, Singh, previously known as Ranjit Dhaliwal, dialled 999, alleging that a man he was with at the time had sexually assaulted him. As they were heading towards Slough Police Station, officers arrived and apprehended the other individual. Singh was then taken to the station for questioning. The prosecution asserts that Singh pro-

vided false information to the police, claiming he had been sexually assaulted in an alleyway near the Jobcentre on the high street. During his testimony in court on February 12, the defendant refuted these allegations. He stated that he was attempting to report two distinct incidents to the police, both involving the same individual. According to Singh, on both occasions, the man approached him and engaged in inappropriate touching. PC David Morgan, one of the investigating officers, also provided testimony during the proceedings and indicated that Singh had a track record of making baseless complaints to the police. The trial is ongoing.

lighted the potential for constructing up to a million homes on brownfield sites. In an article for The Times, the Prime Minister acknowledged the public's frustration at being unable to afford homeownership and emphasized the Conservative Party's commitment to addressing the housing needs of younger generations. However, he emphasized the impracticality of imposing large-scale greenfield developments in rural areas, where there is significant public opposition and insufficient infrastructure to support such expansions.

Man jailed for Royal Mail fraud On Thursday, Narinder Sandhu, aged 62, from Jordans, Buckinghamshire, was sentenced to prison for defrauding the Royal Mail of £70 million over a decade. Sandhu utilised the illgotten gains to finance a lavish lifestyle, which included a mansion and multiple luxury vehicles. Operating through Pack Post International LTD (PPIL), Sandhu, along with his brother Parmjeet Sandhu, aged 56, and James Mooney, aged 44, orchestrated the scam from 2005 onwards, with Mooney joining the operations between 2008 and 2017. The fraudulent scheme involved sending mail through logistics firms in

Berkshire and Buckinghamshire during the period from 2008 to 2017. Evidence presented in court revealed 433 manipulated spreadsheets, indicating that PPIL had paid only £1.7 million for postal services when it should have paid at least £6 million. Parmjeet Sandhu declared an income of £495,000 per annum to HMRC in the tax year 2014/2015. However, as of December 2020, he possessed property valued at approximately £2.6 million, with equity totalling around £1.3 million. Although Sandhu's brother and Mooney were implicated in the fraud, the court heard that Sandhu was

Are you a ‘can I borrow your specs’ -er? Maybe it’s time for an eye test Book online at specsavers.co.uk

the mastermind behind the operation. Prosecutor Ellis Sareen detailed how thousands of items were underdeclared through manipulated spreadsheets until Royal Mail investigators identified the discrepancies. Narinder Sandhu received a four-year prison sentence, with only half of the term to be served before release on licence. Parmjeet Sandhu and James Mooney were both handed suspended sentences: Parmjeet received a 24-month jail term suspended for two years, while Mooney received a 21month suspended sentence over two years. Additionally, Sandhu was Parmjeet ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work.





17- 23 February 2024

Is Britain turning into a war mongering nation? The world is going through a dangerous phase, with Russian President Vladimir Putin in no mood to tolerate the West’s war preparation, its’ relentless drive to assimilate Warsaw Pact nations into NATO, thus negating its’ promise not to expand NATO taking in old Warsaw pact nations and surrounding Russia with hostile intentions. When the West encouraged Ukraine to become a member of the EU, the economic community, Russia was worried that this was the first step to draw Ukraine into NATO, thus allowing NATO to install missiles right on the border of Russia. As Ukraine has a large minority of Russian-speaking population, especially living in the border areas, already semi-independent, it did not come as a surprise to anyone when border areas declared independence and the province of Crimea which was part of Russia until Russian President Nikita Khrushchev gave it away to Ukraine in 1955, as Ukraine was part of the old Soviet Union nobody expected it to dissolve into various new independent States. But now the people of Crimea have becomean unpatriotic, undesired minority for Ukraine, with divided loyalty, preferring to rejoin Russia with 98% voting for this move. After the referendum, Russia welcomed the old province back into the Russian Federation. When Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to reclaim parts of its territory under Russian-speaking Ukrainians, using Western-supplied advance weapons, it became a war of attrition, with thousands of people killed on both sides; the West, especially Britain and the US playing a leading role. This is a proxy war by the West against nuclear-armed Russia with an unhinged President Putin at the helm. No wonder we are passing through one of the most dangerous phases in world history since the American, and Soviet Union confrontation over Cuba. Unfortunately, Britain is going through a similar scenario, our politicians are eager to take on Russia in a proxy war. Recently our politicians declared that we are not ready for war, to raise the defence budget, what war and against whom! Russian President made it clear that it does not want to attack any nation, including Warsaw Pact nations. The Ukraine war is a creation of the West to subjugate Russia, to thwart Russia’s progress on the economic front, with rich mineral wealth and being a world granary, especially when it comes to wheat export, Russia and Ukraine supply some 30% of the world export. So it is time for Britain to cool down and concentrate on internal affairs, and economic slowdown for the good of our own people. Bhupendra M. Gandhi

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam Congratulations to the BAPS family with the blessings of Pujya Mahant Swami for giving a monumental gift (mandir) in the land of the Muslim country – Abu Dubai. Our heartful gratitude fromall Indians to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabigifted the land for the mandir to mankind. He initiated the message of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam in collaboration with the BAPS Hindu family. The mandir acts as a message of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which means “The world is one family” remains relevant today and was coined thousands of years ago in Hindu text. The mandir will promote respect and welfare of all the people of the world with friendship, peace, and tolerance to other faiths. It will also build good relationships of friendship with other different faiths, cultures, and customs. Our Indian culture is very rich in values that sustain humanity. Today in a materialistic world, peace is in short supply, and morality and ethics are at a premium. In such a period, the mandir and all religious places act as a place of prayer for world peace and kindness to mankind. Today's big issue is climate change which is worrying to human race. We have been extracting natural resources selfishly, and that has to be changed for future generations. The message of Pujya Pramukh swami “In the joy of others lies our own” conveys acts of selfless service to others that lift the morals and create peace and joy in the world. Manoj Patel

Display patriotism for the country The feeling of patriotism is important for the freedom of a country. A patriotic person will always be ready to sacrifice his/her life for the love of his/her country. We must love our country and at the same time, we must not hate others. Wars break out between two nations for want of love for other countries. We should, therefore, love our country as well as those of others. Jubel D'Cruz

Operation Sharia Vote? Kapil Dudakia


The October 7th, 2023, terrorist attack by Palestinian Hamas on Israelhas created schisms in British and international politics. For the Conservative Party to side with Israel was a no brainer. It was easy and it is uncompromising support. However, we cannot say the same for the Labour Party whose natural position flirts with the extremists, and so their leadership now supporting Israel gives the rest of the Labour body full blown unwanted indigestion. Keir Starmer forced a three-line whip on his shadow cabinet to tow the line and support Israel’s legal right of self-defence. You always felt that some of them did so but reluctantly, and this disingenuousness has begun to unravel in recent days. We have seen Labour politicians join the ‘hate’ marchers who come out on our streets in their thousands. They aligned themselves to those who were shouting, ‘from the river to sea’, a war cry of Hamas to fulfil their ultimate aimof destroying the whole of Israel. However, the fact that the Labour leader has maintained support for Israel has become an irritation that the Muslim community cannot hide any longer. There is now open hostility within Labour of those who support Israel, and those who side with Palestinian Hamas. Within the Muslim community, in Mosques across the nationthere have been debates on where they now stand with their traditional block vote for Labour. The notion of ‘Operation Sharia Vote’ has taken root, and those who promote this idea are discussing how to target certain politicians. Let’s look at what they might be considering: These are the top 15 seats where there is a significant Muslim vote bank where the sitting MP voted in ‘favour’ of a ceasefire. i.e. These MPs are safe.

These are the top 15 seats where there is a significant Muslim vote bank where the sitting MP ‘abstained’ onthe ceasefire vote. i.e. These MPs are in trouble.

Gun culture striding across the US The unfortunate fact is that the gun culture has been prevailing in America and that many students are havingbehavioural problems akin to a radicalised mind. Going through the sad story in the newspapers has started unfolding many facts about the American lifestyle. In general, the youths in the US have great ambitions, working hard to achieve in their fields/areas. They are in fact taking education seriously. Despite this fact, the mindset of many youths is a bit monstrous, maybe due to the effects of Hollywood movies, mostly willing to create/cause disturbance to others. This mess should be immediately fixed. Interestingly the American parents are doing the audacious tasks of helping their wards in education and career. With the help of the ruling regime and the parents, good values and ethics can be imparted to the American youth. This will definitely make a difference to the present American culture. On the whole, the entire process of moulding the youths is a tedious task that can be executed through the motivation of the parents and a helping hand from the government. Finally, American students should be encouraged to take to social activities like visiting the other countries. As one example, Asian countries like India, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand and Bangladesh are home to great culture, great

These are the seats where the sitting MP voted ‘against’a ceasefire. i.e. These MPscould possibly be in trouble.

Therefore for ‘Operation Sharia Vote’ to be successful, the Muslim community would have to come out in force and vote against primarily sitting Labour MPs. It seems Keir Starmer is banking that when it does come to election time, most Muslim voters will still stay with Labour. There might be a few upsets, but in the scheme of things with Keir going for a massive majority, losing a few seats won’t make any difference. On 29th February we will have a by-election in Rochdale. Yes, the very place that is now renowned for grooming gangs of Pakistani heritage. George Galloway has thrown his hat into the arena. He has come out openly as the candidate who will serve the interest of Palestinians. In this mad world the Labour candidate Azhar Ali has been caught saying some unsavoury things against Israel. Will Labour still keep him as their candidate? How do they explain that they allowed such a candidate to be selected in the first place? Remember folks, in Rochdale it seems the abuse of white girls is the last items on the agenda. The only issue in town is how to fight for Palestinians and undermine Israel. The question remains, will ‘Operation Sharia Vote’ bring in their own candidates (either as independents, or part of the Labour offering or via some other new political party)? The jury I am afraid is out on that one. We are in uncharted territory. For the Muslim community General Election 2024 (GE24) will show if they can really affect change, or whether they remain a part of the Labour Party who are free to use them as they see fit. Of course, should they launch a Muslim Party, or if Jeremy Corbyn launches his own party, then there is real scope of these two factions getting together to meet their own needs. Namely to give Labour a bloody nose.Potentially changing the outcome of the election itself. As a socio-political commentator, for me it would be interestingto see each entity come out fighting with serious intent. Our nation is caught in the middle of culture wars. The British identity is now so scrambled that most people are not sure what it stands for. In this fluid space of competing narratives, it’s game on for all entities to fight for the soul of the nation. GE 24 is not just about winning an election; it will be about where this nation goes next and whether the very fabric of this nation will tear itself apart. For those who think it’s nothing to do with them, let me remind them, your action now will determine whether your children and theirs will have a future in Britain that we recognise as British. historical background and great ethics that are rarely seen in Occidental countries like the US. I still fondly remember seeing a few Americans in my native areas like Tiruchendur, Tuticorin and Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, India in the years 2000 and 2001. Remember, the prehistoric navigators/explorers [like Christopher Columbus] were hailing from Western countries like Italy. P. Senthil Saravana Durai

Rohan Bopanna powered by Asana Rohan Bopanna has shown age is only a number, a question of mind over matter, as long as you don't mind it doesn't matter. He attributed his success to yoga which has the power to turn ordinary to extraordinary. Rohan Bopanna powered by Asana! TS Karthik

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 Shefali at shefali.saxena@abplgroup.com





17 - 23 February 2024

Drug dealer sentenced to five years for collision

Junior doctors are set to strike for five days at the end of the month, as announced by union leaders. The strike, scheduled to begin at 7 am on February 24 and end at midnight on February 28, is in response to the government's failure to present an improved pay offer, according to the British Medical Association (BMA). The BMA stated that the decision to escalate industrial action was prompted by the government's inability to meet the deadline for a better pay proposal. Health Secretary Victoria Atkins criticised the upcoming strike dates, suggesting that junior doctors are not demonstrating readiness for

Source: @BMA_JuniorDocs/X

Junior doctors announce another walkout

reasonable negotiation. Sir Julian Hartley, representing NHS Providers, expressed concern over the impact of the strike on NHS services, already under significant strain. He urged politicians and unions to resume meaningful discussions to address doctors' concerns, resolve the dis-

pute, and prevent further strikes. This upcoming strike will mark the tenth since March 2023 and will be the third longest, lasting for five full days. The collective refusal to work by trainee medics over the past year amounts to 39 days, nearly six weeks of labour lost.

Officer dismissed after misconduct hearing An officer who engaged in inappropriate behaviour by touching a female colleague while on duty has been dismissed from the Metropolitan Police following an investigation by the professional standards unit. PC Rafiqur Rahman, assigned to the policing team covering Newham and Waltham Forest, faced allegations of breaching standards of discreditable

conduct during a misconduct hearing concluded on Monday, February 12. Following the officer's report in June 2022, the Directorate of Professional Standards initiated an investigation into Rahman's conduct, alleging that he inappropriately touched her while on shift together in February 2021. Subsequently, she received an inappropriate message from Rahman in response

to a message she sent him about another matter during the following shift. Rahman was placed on restricted duties pending the investigation, which resulted in the panel finding the allegations against him proven at the level of gross misconduct. As a result of the dismissal, Rahman will be included in the Barred List maintained by the College of Policing.

Omar Amar, 31, was swiftly apprehended by officers after fleeing the scene of a crash where he collided with a parked car, only to be discovered later to be engaged in drug dealing. He has been sentenced to five years in prison for his involvement in supplying crack cocaine and heroin to users in the Southend area. The incident occurred on January 7 this year when officers from the Southend Local Policing Team responded to a collision on Royston Avenue, Southend, shortly after midnight. Witnesses reported observing the

Omar Amar

driver of an Audi, involved in the collision, fleeing the scene. Before the crash, the vehicle was seen driving on the wrong side of East Street.

Upon inspecting the abandoned Audi, officers discovered a Nokia ‘burner’ phone, a small sum of cash, and a bag containing suspected Class A drugs. Analysis of messages on the phone indicated involvement in the supply of crack cocaine and heroin. Further investigation revealed that the Audi was registered to the defendant, who was also insured to drive the vehicle. Amar's arrest underscores the diligent efforts of law enforcement in addressing criminal activities within the community.

Study finds British boys at highest modern slavery risk A recent report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) think tank and the charity Justice and Care sheds light on the prevalence of criminal exploitation in the UK, particularly among British boys under the age of 18. The analysis reveals that almost half of the victims of criminal exploitation in the past four years are British boys aged 17 and under. According to referrals to the National Referral

Mechanism (NRM), which identifies individuals at risk of exploitation, approximately 45% of those affected by criminal exploitation fall into this demographic. The report highlights that many of these victims are teenagers and vulnerable adults who are coerced, groomed, or forced into committing crimes for the benefit of others. Despite the significant number of victims, there is a concerning lack of recogni-

tion of this form of exploitation by authorities. The report suggests that individuals involved in criminality may not be identified as victims of modern slavery, leading to a failure to address their exploitation adequately. This oversight underscores the need for new laws and increased awareness to ensure that victims of criminal exploitation receive the support and protection they require.

Leprosy: The curable disease still seen as a curse in India Louise Timmins, Head of Asian Partnerships, The Leprosy Mission Great Britain


hile leprosy has been curable since the 1980s, existing laws surrounding the disease remain stuck in the 1890s. Did you know there are still more than 100 laws in India that discriminate against people affected by leprosy? While these laws are still in existence, discrimination against people affected by leprosy cannot end. Since ancient times, society has stigmatised people affected by leprosy. Classic images of people affected by leprosy are portrayed throughout history in art and literature. A disfigured person with severe skin lesions draped in tattered clothing and bandages. Throughout history the lone figures are depicted as isolated from society, begging for alms their only means of survival. This portrayal of physical uncleanness and moral impurity has somehow justified centuries of ostracism and discrimination. Leprosy should not even exist today as it has been completely curable since the 1980s. Although only mildly infectious, it thrives where there is overcrowding, poor sanitation and malnutrition. Leprosy is a disease of poverty and over half of all cases treated globally each year are found in India. There are even 750 leprosy colonies in India today, a relic to a time when leprosy was incurable.

Louise Timmins

Yet despite being entirely curable, people affected by leprosy are often excluded from society. A leprosy diagnosis can lead to divorce, losing a job or business or homelessness. Yet a day after taking the antibiotic cure a person is no longer infectious and is a threat to no one. This demonstrates the power of fear, shame, ignorance and unfounded ageold beliefs. It is this unfounded fear that led to existing laws that still discriminate against people affected by leprosy. They were made in the 1890s at the time of the British Raj in India. The laws mean the police can still detain beggars affected by leprosy. They prevent people affected by leprosy from standing for election and disqualify them from doing certain jobs. Yet despite leprosy

The Leprosy Mission in India

being incurable at the time, there was still overwhelming evidence to show they were never needed. Alas, centuries of prejudice defeated medical evidence and logic. India’s state laws discriminating against people with leprosy, and even people cured of leprosy, are a product of The Lepers Act of 1898. Yet the report of the Leprosy Commission in India in 1893 clearly stated: “The amount of contagion that exists is so small that it may be disregarded. And no legislation is called for on the lines either of segregation or of interdiction of marriage with lepers.” Instead voluntary isolation was recommended in the absence of a cure. Even after independence in 1947, new discriminatory laws were made. Leprosy was recog-

nised as a ground for divorce. People affected by the disease were prohibited from entering marketplaces and libraries. They could not be appointed as members of university academic boards. Thanks to advocacy efforts, of which The Leprosy Mission has been at the forefront, 33 laws have been repealed or amended over the past five years. Head of Asian Partnerships at The Leprosy Mission Great Britain, Louise Timmins, said: “My colleagues in India have campaigned for many years for a constitutional right to dignity and equality to be fulfilled for every person affected by leprosy. “This outdated, and never needed, legislation needs to be consigned to the history books. “Because of the prejudice that

still surrounds leprosy in India today, awareness raising is a major part of our projects. I have spent time with many people who have experienced discrimination after someone sees that their body has been damaged by leprosy. These people are now being empowered to stand up to this terrible and unfounded prejudice. They’re being helped to understand their rights and challenge discriminatory laws and the attitudes behind them. This is at local, district and state levels.” One of these people is Sharidah, pictured above, who lives in Chhattisgarh in India. Sharidah is a Champion for Zero Leprosy. When Sharidah began to show signs of leprosy, her husband abandoned her. She also was forced by her fellow villagers to leave her community due to the stigma. But after receiving advocacy training, Sharidah is now a Champion for Zero Leprosy. She’s also the Secretary of her local self-help group, coordinating advocacy activities for 4,000 people. Sharidah’s biggest success has been leading a campaign to secure a piped water supply to her leprosy community. She liaised with the local government and took direct action to make sure that the project was completed. The Leprosy Mission is the Charity Partner for the Asian Achievers Awards 2024, taking place on Friday 20 September.





17 - 23 February 2024

The inspiring journey of Professor Shivani Sharma in UK academia Anusha Singh Professor Shivani Sharma stands as a trailblazer in UK academia, holding the esteemed position of deputy dean—a distinction that sets her apart as one of the youngest to achieve such a role. In a landscape where diversity remains a challenge, Professor Sharma defies the odds, representing not only the minority of women but also the even smaller percentage of Asian professors within the country's higher education sector. In an interview with Asian Voice, she discusses her journey in academia, initiatives and representation. an you share your journey to becoming one of the youngest deputy deans in UK academia? My career in academia started by accident after my final year project supervisor whilst I was studying a BSc in psychology who encouraged me to think about a PhD — something that I knew nothing about at the time. I went with their advice and secured funding for a doctorate. From thereon in, I got a feel for what it was like to work in higher education. I eventually became a lecturer where I had studied, and through encountering a few senior managers who invested in potential versus years of experience, I landed my first management position at 24. I learnt a lot fast, progressing through various leadership positions, and finding myself where I am today — 38, Professor and Deputy Dean at a university with a strong reputation for its career focus, a theme that resonates with me. s Deputy Dean People, Culture and Inclusion, what initiatives have you implemented to foster a more inclusive environment within the institution? My plans, working with the college leadership and academic community are still evolving. I hope to be able to draw on previous success in higher education as well as other organisational settings, starting with bold ambition and underpinning this with evidence and appropriate actions/ initiatives. And always co-created with those intended to benefit from their impact. I have previously worked to create specific opportunities to reduce disadvantages in research



and scholarship arising from factors such as career breaks, caring responsibility, and sickness absence. In my current position, we are also looking at career ceilings by enabling people to be ready for the next role or indeed to recraft their next role by being able to experience other areas of work. I’m also passionate about workplace culture prioritising well-being and a big advocate for kindness. Therefore, I’ll be prioritising how we create everyday kindness and moments of connection for physical and mental well-being. ith only 30% female and 8% Asian professors in the UK higher education sector, what strategies do you believe are essential for increasing representation and diversity among academic staff? The first thing is to demystify academic careers. I can’t speak for all families but certainly, within my own, large extended family, no one pursued academia as a profession. The more we can do to raise awareness of the career path, the better. And then, organisations have a major role in trying to understand barriers in recruitment, retention and progression that have unequal impact. For example, when including criteria in jobs, ask whether this is a genuine occupational requirement. Just a few years ago I saw a job that I really wanted to apply for and when I read the details, it stated that you could only apply if you were a professor already. The role was not a research position and didn’t need a professorship. In a nutshell — help people understand the career path and then remove obstacles to entry, retention and progression. Easier said than done! alancing a successful career with motherhood can be challenging. How do you manage this balance, and what advice do you have for other working mothers? Be kind to yourself. I love being a mum — I have a 5-year-old boy and a 7year-old girl. With both, I took 9 months of maternity and then returned to work full time. I have a lot of purpose stitched to my work and this gives me a sense of identity and ambition. But that can come with being overly hard on yourself too when you are trying to



Shivani Sharma

have it all but some days don’t feel like the best mum or best manager, though no plates have smashed. Ambition balanced with self-care has been a must. The most important path to balance for me however has been my partner and how we manage the home together. Balance doesn’t just require me; it requires the partnership. Employers allowing flexibility in how work is done is also a major part. I have never felt the need to change roles or be less ambitious, because I’ve had an organisational culture that supports working parents, often because I spoke loudly for those of us in this position but being mindful that this isn’t at the expense of balance for others. n your opinion, what are the most pressing issues facing academia today, particularly concerning inclusivity and diversity, and what steps can be taken to address them? There is a lot of talk in society about equity of opportunity and outcomes. People are certainly astute to tokenism and so the sector needs to be genuine in efforts to address diversity, inclusion, and equity for our students and workforce. However, awareness of the wider narrative in society is important, but shouldn’t be distracting. For the workforce specifically, a major issue is maintaining the pull factors of careers in higher education with stories of people opting to exit or not considering academia at all because of the way it is experienced. That’s where leaders need to be tuned into the changing demands across all types of job roles, using a valuesbased approach to cultivate environments where people feel able to do their job and to grow personally and professionally in the process. I can’t detail an action plan here but listening, willingness to unlearn, and co-creation of action has to be the way forward.


Redefining success through service and strength Sonal Dave has forged a dynamic and diverse career, integrating her passions across various fields as an Award-Winning Ceremonies Celebrant, Toastmaster, Public Speaking Expert, Magistrate, and Published Author in two collaborative books. Engaged in charitable endeavours, Sonal is a dedicated member of the Charity Shishukunj and lends her support to causes like Saving Dreams and SKSN, a school in Jodhpur, India, catering to children with polio. Embarking on her journey at the age of 50, Sonal courageously pursued her dreams despite encountering setbacks, disabilities, health challenges, and workplace bullying. Through her entrepreneurial ventures and volunteer work, she strives to inspire and empower others to overcome obstacles and pursue their aspirations fearlessly. Sonal was looking at

Sonal Dave

ways to give back to the community and was suggested that she should consider becoming a Magistrate. She said, “At the I worked in time Government. One of my roles was a Presenting Officer where I presented Immigration Appeals. This gave me some experience in the court environment and what it was like to be on the other side of the bench. “When I was first appointed, I didn’t see many Indian females which meant I just had to be myself and hope that was enough. I remember my first day arriv-

ing at court and constantly feeling like people wanted to look after me. You have to remember, back in 2004 there were not many young female magistrates or magistrates from diverse backgrounds. “When I became a chairperson, having two wingers who were more experienced and older than myself, I had to ensure that I did not let them take over and that we all followed the process at times was difficult.” When it comes to balance, Sonal lives with both a physical and hidden disability and chronic pain. “To be honest, I very often do not get the balance right, but I do try”, she said. Her mentor Vicky Watkins serves as a great inspiration in her life and advised her to “be myself and not worry about others or try and be like them.” This advice and her motto of “Dare to dream, dare to be different, the world is your stage” has continued to be her way of life even today.

Over half of British girls lack confidence in maths A report has revealed an "alarming" gender confidence gap in British schools, with more than half of girls feeling insecure about learning maths and two-fifths lacking confidence in science. According to research conducted by the education charity Teach First, 54% of girls lack confidence in maths, compared to 41% of boys. Similarly, 43% of girls in science feel insecure, contrasted with 26% of boys. These findings, based on a YouGov poll of 1,000 young

people aged 11 to 16, come ahead of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Despite these confidence issues, girls often outperform boys in STEM subjects at GCSE, with a higher percentage achieving top grades. However, fewer girls pursue these subjects at Alevel and subsequently enter Stem careers. The gender disparity in STEM fields is concerning given the current skills shortage facing the sector. Teach First advocates for more high-quality, specialist teach-

ers to inspire the next generation to pursue STEM careers. In 2020, women comprised less than 30% of the UK's STEM workforce, while the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) warns of a shortfall of over 173,000 workers. Teach First proposes increasing pay for trainee teachers to attract STEM professionals into teaching roles, particularly in subjects like maths, computing, and physics, where many schools struggle to recruit qualified educators.

UK women need 19 extra working years for equal pension Data from the Pensions Policy Institute reveals a significant disparity in pension savings between men and women, with women needing to work an additional 19 years to retire with equivalent savings. The research indicates that women retiring at the age of 67, the new UK state pension age starting in 2026, will have saved an average of £69,000, compared to £205,000 for men. Published by the PPI and pensions provider Now: Pensions, the data highlights the challenges faced by women in closing the "gender pension gap." Factors such as career breaks, caregiving responsibilities, childcare expenses, and lower earnings contribute to this gap. The study suggests that

to bridge this divide, girls would need to start saving from as young as three years old to match the retirement savings of their male counterparts. Despite living longer on average, women face the added pressure of ensuring their retirement funds last longer. Now: Pensions advocates for the removal of the £10,000-ayear earnings threshold for automatic enrollment into workplace pensions, as it excludes many women working multiple jobs, parttime, or as freelancers. The UK state pension age is set to rise from 66 to 67 between 2026 and 2028, with further increases expected in the future. However, recent research suggests that the pension age may need to rise to 71 for individuals born after April

1970. In light of the rising cost of living and changing economic conditions, the estimated amount needed for a "moderate" standard of living in retirement has increased by £8,000, or 34%, within a year. The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association has developed retirement living standards to illustrate various levels of retirement living, with the threshold for a moderate standard now set at £14,400 per year for a single person. Joanne Segars, chairwoman of trustees at NOW: Pensions, said: “It’s hard to believe that by the time a young girl starts school at four, she will already be falling behind a boy of the same age when it comes to providing for her retirement. ”





17 - 23 February 2024

Hidden Fires: Exploring identity and history Sairish Hussain

Sairish Hussain is a prominent author whose debut novel, "The Family Tree," garnered significant acclaim, having been shortlisted for prestigious awards such as the Costa First Novel Award, the Portico Prize and The Diverse Book Awards. Sairish was recognised by Kei Miller as one of ten 'unmissable writers working in the UK' for the International Literature Showcase 2021. Moreover, she emerged as a finalist in the Women’s Prize & Good Housekeeping Futures Award, underscoring her position as one of the most promising emerging female authors in contemporary literature. With the launch of her second book “Hidden Fires” in January 2024, she details the inspiration behind her book, the characters and writing fiction in an interview with Asian Voice. hat inspired you to write "Hidden Fires" after "Family Tree," considering it's another generational book aimed at fans of your previous work? It has always been a dream of mine to write a novel about the partition. As South Asian writers, it's something we're all familiar with, a significant event in our history that we feel deserves more attention. Despite it not being taught in schools when I was younger, my curiosity drove me to learn more about it on my own. So, writing a partition novel was always a goal of mine, something I hoped to attempt one day. When I finished writing "Hidden Fires" and met my publisher in London in 2017, the timing just clicked. The Grenfell Tower fire had recently occurred, casting a sombre atmosphere over the city. During the following months, as I struggled to come up with an idea for a new book, documentaries about the partition began airing, particularly those featuring elderly men sharing their stories. I was deeply moved by the emotions they conveyed. It was from these experiences that I connected the partition with the Grenfell Tower incident and found inspiration for my main character, Youssef, in "Hidden Fires." our works portray the differences in life of

different generations but also a theme of mutual misunderstanding between them. Where does this narrative stem from, and how do you ensure it is justly represented in your writing? This portrayal stems from personal experience. Initially, the relationship starts rocky, but as the story progresses, it evolves in an unanticipated way, eventually becoming the most meaningful relationship. It's natural to expect differences between grandparents and grandchildren, but in South




elderly Asian man from Bradford brings a fresh perspective to the table. He is a unique character, especially for me, as I know many individuals like him. The generation that came to England in the 50s and 60s to build a new life has lived a fascinating and unique experience. Many of them were children during the partition and witnessed the birth of two new nations and the struggle for independence. Their life experiences are incredibly rich, but they often remain silent about their past. Giving a voice to a character like this was a true treat for me. hat message do you hope readers will take away from your book now that it's gaining widespread attention? Firstly, I hope readers can take away the importance of familial bonds and finding common ground despite differences. While I’m not an expert, I also hope the book serves as an introduction to those who may not be familiar with this part of history. People need to understand that the partition is not just my history or your history; it's British history that we all share. I hope it prompts readers to further research and learn more about this significant historical event. hat advice would you offer to budding writers, particularly South Asian writers seeking to produce meaningful stories? My advice is always to be brave and bold. Don't feel pressured to write what you think people expect from you, especially if you're a South Asian writer breaking into the British publishing industry. Whether it's fantasy, crime fiction, or romantic comedy, follow your passion and write what speaks to you. For too long, there has been a stereotype that South Asian writers must focus solely on themes of identity, migration, and cultural clash. The publishing industry is becoming more aware of this issue and is holding itself accountable. It's important to break free from these expectations and write authentically about whatever interests you. Remember, everything we do as writers is public, so it's crucial to be brave and true to yourself. Don't hesitate to explore diverse genres and topics. Be bold in expressing your unique voice and perspective.

Asian culture, it's even more pronounced. When I reflect on my grandmothers, they serve as the inspiration for my novel, 'The Family Tree.' Both of my grandmothers could not complete their education, unable to read. They received basic village education. Contrasting them with myself, the differences are stark. However, despite that, the love and affection they have for me remain unwavering. We've managed to find common ground and ways to understand each other, which has always fascinated me. This dynamic of unlikely connections inspired the story in my novel. I wanted to explore the themes of love, support, and connection, demonstrating that they can be found in the most unexpected places. hat would you identify as the unique selling point (USP) of your book? I believe that my character, Grandpa Youssef is the USP of the book. There has been an interesting trend in publishing in recent years with older protagonists, particularly elderly protagonists. However, these characters are often portrayed as white and middle-class. So, having an



Sikh student Serene Singh wins John Lewis Fellowship Serene Singh, a DPhil student at the University of Oxford, has been awarded the prestigious John Robert Lewis Fellowship for the 2024-2025 academic year by the Washington-based nonprofit Faith and Politics Institute (FPI). This fellowship, named in honour of the late civil rights leader and US Representative John Lewis from Georgia, recognises Singh's dedication to justice, empathy, and the pursuit of knowledge, in line with the values of her Sikh faith. Singh currently serves as the Graduate President of the Sikh Society at Oxford and has founded the Interfaith Alliance at Rhodes House, is deeply committed to addressing the injustices within the US capital punishment and prison systems, particularly focusing on the

Serene Singh

experiences of women on death row in her doctoral research. Expressing her gratitude for being awarded the fellowship, she emphasised the profound impact of John Robert Lewis's legacy on her life, highlighting his tireless efforts in the civil rights movement alongside Dr Martin Luther King Jr. She sees the fellowship as an opportunity to continue the work of these empathetic and courageous leaders in elevating societal conscious-

ness and understanding. The announcement of Singh's fellowship comes as part of the FPI's fourth cohort of John Robert Lewis Scholars & Fellows for the 2024-2025 academic year. These student leaders and changemakers from across the United States will engage in a transformative educational journey, exploring the nonviolent philosophy of John Lewis and its relevance to contemporary issues. Led by Marisa Pryor, Director of Educational Programmes at the Institute, the program aims to cultivate future leaders through academic research, immersive experiences, and engagement with community leaders, activists, and legislators, with a focus on driving positive change in various social justice areas.

Kent Cricket seeks additional female volunteers Kent Cricket is reaching out for more women volunteers to join the sport, citing a need for increased involvement during a period of significant growth. The club has issued a "rallying cry" for female volunteers across various roles, including coaches, umpires, and welfare officers. Highlighting the diverse opportunities available,

Kent Cricket emphasised that there is a role suited to anyone's available time, confidence levels, and skill set. The club pointed out that many independent schools have transitioned from rounders to cricket, introducing thousands of young girls to the sport. Additionally, with the support of Kent Cricket's community team, women

and girls' junior sections are being established across the county, providing further opportunities for involvement. The club's website underlines that becoming a professional cricketer is now a realistic dream for aspiring female players, underscoring the potential for growth and development within the sport.





Photo Credit Hark1karan

17 - 23 February 2024

Balraj Samrai: Exploring identity through music

Balraj Samrai

Anusha Singh alraj Samrai, a multifaceted artist renowned for his roles as a musician, DJ, facilitator, and co-founder of Swing Ting and SEEN Magazine, has been named one of Opera North's Resonance artists for 2024. Joining a lineup that includes Satnam Galsian, Ellen Beth Abdi, Rory A Green, and Jonas Jones, Balraj will embark on a week-long Resonance residency in Leeds, delving into the intricate tapestry of migrant experiences. In an exclusive interview with Asian Voice, Balraj reflects on his creative journey, discusses the significance of his residency, and outlines his aspirations for the project. ould you share how your journey in the creative field of music has unfolded, and how your upbringing, cultural background, and personal experiences have influenced this journey? Both my parents are originally from the Punjab region in India, they migrated to the UK and I grew up in this country, born in the Midlands. Growing up involved attending gatherings, such as weddings, where music was always present given my cultural background. However, I also developed a strong interest in the popular music scene here, particularly electronic music genres like hip-hop, soul, garage, and jungle, which were prevalent during my upbringing. This exposure led me to delve deeper into DJing, and by the time I reached university, I found myself organising events, DJing, and forming a collective, which I co-ran for many years. Through that journey, I co-founded a label, engaged in music production, and continued DJing. I always had a desire to incorporate elements of my cultural background into my work. Sometimes, I would include music from my heritage in my DJ sets, like tracks from Panjabi Hit Squad or traditional folk music, or even explore connections to South Asia. I was always intrigued by how these influences could be integrated into my sound. Additionally, there was a trend where hip-hop artists were sampling Bollywood



music, which also caught my attention. While my experience initially stemmed from the electronic club music scene, over time, I began to explore different themes and directions in my work. hy did you apply for your residency in Leeds? In 2020, during the lockdown period, I embarked on a project for Opera North. This endeavour was inspired by the profound impact of Covid-19, particularly its disproportionate effect on communities of colour, including Black and South Asian individuals. This project marked a significant moment for me as it represented a more direct connection to my cultural heritage. Surprisingly, the project gained traction and received airtime on platforms like BBC Radio 6 Music, validating the potential of my sound and artistic direction. I applied for this residency with Opera North because they have been incredibly supportive in the past. I collaborated with them on a project in 2020, although it was relatively small in scale. They encouraged me to apply for a full residency this time around, and fortunately, my application was successful. Over the years, I've built a good relationship with the organisation. They often share and promote my work, which has been immensely helpful. ould you provide further insights into the residency program and what do you hope to achieve during your time? I'm currently exploring this myself. I aim to create music that resonates more deeply with individuals who have undergone the migrant experience, while also appealing to those who may not have the firsthand experience, but are open to connecting with diverse narratives. It's about sharing stories with a subtle narrative touch, avoiding heavyhandedness. It's about creating a space where individuals from different walks of life, including the global majority, can find a sense of belonging and resonance. It's about acknowledging generational experiences while also striving for a



more equitable world where everyone has the opportunity to engage with diverse experiences, whether through travel or other means. Another aspect I've been contemplating is my transition away from club music and towards themes that resonate more deeply with maturity and responsibility. As I've grown, I've found myself drawn to exploring themes of adulthood and the shift in perspectives that come with it. It's about embracing this phase of life and challenging the expectation that creativity and relevance are reserved for the younger generation. I've noticed a tendency in the music industry to prioritise youthfulness, and I wanted to push back against that notion. Ultimately, I hope my journey inspires other musicians to follow their own path, regardless of industry expectations. It's about staying true to oneself and creating music that resonates authentically, rather than conforming to external pressures. hat advice would you give to aspiring musicians and artists who are looking to pursue their passion in the music industry? Traditionally, there's been pressure to pursue certain professions deemed more stable or prestigious, but recent times have highlighted the indispensable role of art forms like music, film, and drama in sustaining our well-being and sense of connection. I'm a firm believer in the validity of pursuing a career in the arts, whether full-time or as a fulfilling hobby. My encouragement to younger South Asian artists and creatives is to carve out space for their passion, even amidst demanding schedules. Whether it's through educational work, tutoring, or diversifying their income streams, there are ways to prioritise and sustain artistic endeavours. Representation in the arts is still lacking, and while it's heartening to see more emerging talents, there's still progress to be made in normalising and celebrating diverse voices within the industry.


A gripping journey into British Asian identity and family A new indie British-Asian feature film, "Tell Me About It," is set to captivate audiences across the UK as it makes its debut on Amazon Prime. The film offers a deep exploration of the British Asian experience, focusing on the lives of second and third-generation young people, immigrant families, and the complexities of relationships within these communities. At its core, "Tell Me About It" seeks to shed light on the experiences of misrepresented South Asian GenZ individuals who, despite lacking direct residential experience, wield significant influence on South Asian culture while navigating the intricacies of British lifestyle. The narrative follows a segregated family grappling with limited horizons, facing low points in their lives while concealing their realities and yearning for a sense of belonging. Through a gripping thriller format filled with

A still from the film

twists and turns, the film delves into themes of identity, family dynamics, and the experience. immigrant Behind the scenes, the creative force driving "Tell Me About It" is producer and writer Suman Hanif, known for previous works such as "Plates," "True Colours," and "What Next?" The cast features notable talents including Asad Shan, renowned for his role in "Welcome to London," which stands as the most successful Britishmade Hindi language film in the UK. Accompanying Shan are actress Ariya Larker, known for her roles in "Binny & Baba" and

"Larna," and influencer and BBC Radio Leeds presenter Ahmed Sher Zaman. With its compelling storyline and talented cast, "Tell Me About It" promises to be a thought-provoking exploration of contemporary British Asian life, offering audiences a glimpse into the struggles and triumphs of immigrant families and the younger generation's quest for identity and belonging. As it hits screens nationwide, the film aims to spark conversations and deepen understanding of the rich tapestry of experiences within the British Asian community.

British Vogue celebrates 'Legendary Women' British Vogue's latest cover has made waves with its celebration of "legendary women," featuring an impressive lineup of 40 influential figures from various fields. Among the luminaries gracing the cover are Jameela Jamil and Simone Ashley, alongside icons like Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, and Oprah Winfrey. This star-studded "farewell shoot" marks the final issue under the editorial leadership of outgoing editor Edward Enninful, who has curated an impressive array of talent throughout his six-year tenure. The cover shoot, captured by renowned photographer Steven Meisel, took place in New York City and is hailed as a "once in a lifetime" gathering of supermodels, Hollywood stars, fashion

Edward Enninful

icons, and sporting champions. Notably, this historic cover features the largest number of women ever shot together for a Vogue cover, showcasing the diverse and influential voices that have graced the magazine's pages during Enninful's tenure. Each of the 40 women has previously been featured on the magazine's cover, making this final edition a fitting tribute to their collective impact and contribution to fashion, culture, and society.

Reflecting on his tenure, Enninful expressed gratitude and pride in his final edition, stating, "It has been an extraordinary ride and an absolute honour." As British Vogue bids farewell to one chapter, this landmark cover serves as a testament to the power and influence of women in shaping our world, leaving a lasting legacy for generations to come.

Indian Comic Kanan Gill announces UK Tour Excitement is building as Soho Theatre announces the UK run of acclaimed Indian comedian Kanan Gill, set to take audiences by storm in London, Birmingham, Salford, and Glasgow this May with his latest show, "What Is This?" Having made his London debut at Soho Theatre in 2019 as part of Diwali in the Square, Kanan Gill quickly established himself as a favourite among audiences. His subsequent performances at Soho Theatre's Dean Street venue later that year garnered

widespread acclaim, leading to a sold-out two-week run in 2021. Now, in 2024, Kanan is set to kick off his eagerly

anticipated UK tour at the Southbank Centre's Queen Elizabeth Hall in London on Wednesday, May 15th. This marks a triumphant return to the stage for the comedic maestro, whose razor-sharp wit and infectious humour have earned him a dedicated following both in India and abroad. With his unique blend of observational comedy, witty anecdotes, and incisive commentary on contemporary culture, Kanan Gill promises to deliver an unforgettable evening of laughter and entertainment.





17 - 23 February 2024

Sadiq Khan announces £15m fund for domestic abuse Rahul Inamdar: Moments in Silk and More


ahul is a self-taught abstract artist whose remarkable mercurial spatters make an ethereal yet existential mark. He has worked with both large and small canvases through a variety of materials. But his recent series, Moments in Silk, has been especially noteworthy. From prestigious art fairs in London to select galleries in Delhi and Paris, the meditative artist has exhibited his singular works across the globe. Starting out in the very different profession of marketing and innovation, Rahul found his true calling in the individually paced world of contemporary art. “Since 2013, I have been a dedicated painter,” he shared with us: “Initially, my medium was oil on canvas as the colour tones that oil delivers are extremely poetic. I had just quit my job. My first set of strong marks were the impasto pieces with thick and heavy layers made with

spatula and a lot of force. Over time, I realised I wanted to paint purely for the immediate joy of it. I began to use the canvas as a means through which I could clear my mind and be still: the empty space reflecting an inner state.” Indeed, Rahul’s emotional journey predicates the evolution of his professional work into the more spiritual: learning to coolly embrace immediacy led him to be able to strikingly connect to the nature of existence itself; particularly, its boundlessness. *** Indeed, many of the works from his recent sequence, Moments in Silk, seem to the viewer as blueprints of the infinite natural world. One piece may appear to the viewer as a rocky, pocked surface of a planet or celestial body while another looks as if it could be a delicate orifice found on the human form. Another piece (pictured) conjures the distinctively tough but graceful exterior of an elephant. “I seek to answer the hints of the sublime through my work – that inexplicable feeling of being in touch with something greater that really, for me, defines art. When you observe silently, time expands and reality appears in great clarity.” Here, Rahul’s highly authentic processbased approach seals the meaning of his reflective ethos. In effect, he removes every manufactured imposition within his personal remit to ensure that the application of the paint is truly fluid and wholly organic so that the barrier between him as an

individual and the wider flow of life is consummately collapsed, and there is profound relinquishing of control. In short, he invites oneness with the universe. “I have never tried to make a social statement but rather immerse myself completely in the work to have a serendipitous experience. The medium should not obstruct one’s action but rather allow one to purely express. When I first began painting, I used cotton canvases with a thick weave. The colours bleeding onto them would inadvertently display the pattern of the weave. This disrupted the experience of light and space, which is what I was after – to communicate the essence of life. To get rid of this overbearing structure, I moved to much tighter and smoother linen canvas. The colours, were no more impasto. I started using rolling pin to nudge around watery pigments floating in a delicate oil film.” Covid, specifically, pushed Rahul into a realisation about the complete lack of power one has over life. “Covid hit me hard. I could

RAHUL INAMDAR not work pretending that I was still in control. I wanted to reflect the reality. I had find a surface that allowed me to reduce my interference and paradoxically arrive at a state absolute freedom. A surface that could absorb colours, would be one step closer.” Rahul conclusively upgraded his canvases to silk: “Tighter weave, sensitive colours – and almost no control.” As opposed to being the painter in the traditional sense then, Rahul occupies the role of a facilitator, allowing the oils to interact freely with the surface to let the world, in effect, graphically identify itself: “The moment the colour touches the fabric, it just streams. It is so beautiful to see the stain expand, see it flow, slowly – throbbing, pulsating - reminiscent of the music of Max Richter.” Rahul’s devout choice of colours also enhances his unique practice: “All the work I do with colours happens in the background and am very attuned to evocative tonality. The colour needs to become light. Just to give an example, the blue colour in the tubes is nowhere close to the blue

and a rise in victims reporting crimes. However, the cost-of-living crisis is believed to exacerbate the situation, as survivors increasingly face the dilemma of enduring abuse or risking financial hardship. During a visit to the East European Resource Centre in Hammersmith, the mayor emphasised the urgency of addressing domestic abuse, stating, "I think domestic abuse is a hidden crisis that we don’t talk about enough." He highlighted the alarming statistics and stressed the need for continuous awareness and action. Additionally, Khan emphasised the importance of addressing perpetrators, mentioning London's implementation of GPS tagging for those released from prison to prevent breaches of their license conditions.

Birmingham teenager faces court on terrorism charges A teenager from Birmingham is set to appear before court on terrorismrelated charges. Eighteen-year-old Shaan Farooq faces one count of possessing terrorist material and three counts of distributing terrorist material. He is scheduled to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, February 13. Farooq's arrest in August last year, alongside 19-year-old Amir El-Harith from Smethwick, marked the beginning of an ongoing investigation. El-Harith was

charged last August and is awaiting trial in March on charges including distributing terrorist publications, encouraging terrorism, and possession of information likely to be useful for terrorism. West Midlands Police issued a statement confirming the charges against Farooq and highlighting the collaborative efforts of counter-terrorism officers in the region. They continue to pursue the investigation with a focus on preventing terrorist activities and ensuring public safety.

Oxford trio to split $100m from tech sale Three Oxford University alumni, along with the 500strong workforce of their 2012-founded business, are anticipating a substantial windfall of $234 million following its acquisition by an American competitor.

“I seek to answer the hints of the sublime through my work – that inexplicable feeling of being in touch with something greater that really, for me, defines art"

shows up in the sky. The sky blue is constituted of millions of molecules where the light is being refracted through and is not a solid object that can be encapsulated within a paste! The artist must realise, and translate this multidimensionality of each element. How we formulate impressions of the majesty of nature can open our minds – an amalgamation of physics, chemistry and chance can be an interesting exploration.” Finally, not only does Rahul present to us experiential, sensory silken statements but also, movingly, the fundamental fabric of life, of which we are an incidental but no less instrumental part. W: https://www.rahulinamdar.com/ I: @inamdar.rahul

Husayn Kassai, 34, Eamon Jubbawy, 32, and Ruhul Amin, 36, launched Onfido while pursuing degrees in economics and management at the university. Based on the company's latest filings, Kassai holds an Source: University of Oxford

Sunetra Senior

Sadiq Khan has unveiled a £15m funding initiative aimed at addressing what he describes as a "hidden crisis" of domestic abuse in London. The funding will bolster various projects providing secure housing for survivors of domestic abuse, along with specialised counselling and outreach services. This investment comes amidst data from the Metropolitan Police indicating a higher average of domestic abuse incidents over the past year compared to the pre-pandemic period. While the Met recorded 89,719 such offences between March 2019 and February 2020, the figure rose to 96,768 between January and December 2023, marking an increase of nearly eight per cent. City Hall attributes part of this increase to improved police recording practices

Onfido founders Ruhul Amin, Eamon Jubbawy and Husayn Kassai (front centre) with team

Entrust, headquartered in Minneapolis and specialising in payments and data security, has struck a deal to purchase Onfido, the London-based firm established by the founders. Onfido is renowned for its ID verification software. While the sale awaits regulatory clearance and the final sum remains undisclosed, reports suggest a figure of $650 million. Antonio Mugica, an entrepreneur who previously bid for Onfido without success, had valued the company at $1.1 billion.

8 per cent stake, potentially worth $50 million at the $650 million valuation. Jubbawy and Amin each retain a 4 per cent share, valued at around $25 million. A further 20 per cent of Onfido is owned by its employees, They stand to collectively receive $130 million. Additionally, the University of Oxford, which initially invested £12,000 for a modest stake in the company, is set to reap substantial returns, reportedly around 250 times its initial investment.





17 - 23 February 2024

Ravi Shastri among honoured in the UK for remarkable achievements In a ceremony held on 9 February 2024 at the UK Parliament, the Maharashtra Mandal London and Visionnaire Entertainment felicitated Ravi Shastri and Radhyeshyam Mopalwar with the Koh-i-noor of Maharashtra award.

joining the Indian Revenue Service and later transitioning to the Indian Administrative Service in 1995. The felicitation ceremony at the House of Commons was a grand affair, attended by distinguished guests from

The Bhavan celebrates India’s 75th Republic Day The Bhavan in London organised India’s 75th Republic Day celebration on Thursday 8 February 2024, which was attended by His Excellency Vikram Doraiswami, High Commissioner of India to the UK as the Chief Guest.

through it. The beauty of art is that one need not be an Indian to come to The Bhavan and enjoy being taught what is practiced here. He also added that there are more Indian students, businesses, and expats in

Radheshyam Mopalwar, Gareth Bacon MP and Ravi Shastri at the UK Parliament

This award recognised the exceptional contributions of both individuals in their respective fields. The felicitation ceremony held even greater significance, being hosted by the Maharashtra Mandal London (MML), one of the oldest Marathi organisations outside India. Ravi Shastri, a highly acclaimed cricket commentator, former Indian cricket team player and coach, was acknowledged for his illustrious career in sports. Radhyeshyam Mopalwar, lauded for his contributions to the Maharashtra state, stood proudly amongst the honourees. His dedication to public service began early,

various walks of life, including Gareth Bacon MP, dignitaries, community leaders, and members of the Indian diaspora. The evening was filled with heartfelt speeches and a sense of shared pride in the accomplishments of the two honourees. Mr Bacon also addressed the gathering where he delved into the historical and contemporary ties that bind India and the UK. He emphasised the cultural exchange, trade partnerships, and strategic alliances that have long defined their relationship. He lauded the vibrant Indian diaspora in the UK, highlighting their invaluable contributions to society.

UK donor funds eye operations for 113 patients in Bhuj The 171st free Mega Eye Camp was organised at Lions Hospital Bhuj which was supported by Laljibhai Veljibhai Bhuva and his wife Valiben Bhuva, who live in Kera, London. During this four-day camp, 113 needy patients from different villages of Kutch were provided free eye operations. Following free eye check-ups conducted by the hospital team in various villages, these patients were subsequently invited for free surgeries at Lions Hospital Bhuj after it was determined that surgery was necessary. After extending a warm welcome to the guests at the Lions Club, the program commenced with the ceremonial lighting of a diya. As per hospital tradition, the donor family was welcomed and honoured including other guests. They were given a complete tour of the

hospital. The Hospital Chairman, Bharat Mehta, provided an update to everyone regarding the ongoing service activities within the hospital. From the donor’s family Vale Fletcher and Deepaben Lalji Bhuva were present and among other guests were Gopal Jhina Dabasiya (Mankuva), Muljibhai Bhuva (Sukhpar) etc. Shailesh Manek served as the project coordinator. The program was compered by Abhay Shah, with a welcome speech by Jitubhai Zaveri and a vote of thanks from Chandrakantbhai. Mansukh Shah, Shailendra Raval, Vyoma Mehta and other members, relatives of patients undergoing eye surgery and relatives of dialysis patients were also present.

Cultural performance by Bhavan’s students

Indian High Commissioner Vikram Doraiswami addressing the guests as Andrew Slaughter MP, Bhavan’s Chairman Subhanu Saxena and Vice Chairman Dr Surekha Mehta look on

Vedic prayer by Bhavan’s Executive Director Dr M N Nandakumara MBE

The event started with a traditional Vedic prayer by Bhavan’s Executive Director Dr M N Nandakumara MBE, after which Chairman Subhanu Saxena gave a welcome address, followed by a speech by Andrew Slaughter MP for Hammersmith. He spoke about the important work that The Bhavan is doing to promote Indian culture and uniting people through it. The main address of the evening was delivered by the Chief Guest His Excellency Vikram Doraiswami. He said that in today’s age of materialism, the power of art and learning opens our perceptions, and we gain deeper and broader insights

the UK than ever before. The communities are therefore keener to stay connected through Indian art and culture. The vote of thanks was given by Dr Surekha Mehta (Vice Chair of The Bhavan). She thanked the High Commissioner’s constant support and threw light on how India is making remarkable strides in the field of AI, focusing on inclusion and empowerment through the initiative of ‘AI for everyone’. The speeches were followed by cultural performances by Bhavan’s students. The event concluded with the Indian national anthem.

Greater Manchester launches bilingual math workshops In a groundbreaking move toward adult education, Greater Manchester has launched a pioneering initiative that offers budgeting and numeracy classes in Urdu and Punjabi, directly catering to the diverse needs of its community. This initiative forms a crucial component of the Multiply program, intro-

duced by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) in March 2023 and supported by the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF). The program aims to equip residents with essential life skills, including numerical proficiency and qualifications in maths or numeracy, tailored to enhance everyday practical abilities.

The rule of the road Rohit Vadhwana


n 8th October 2023, the world watched a panther-like runner jetting towards the finishing line, to smash the world record set only a year ago in Berlin. Kelvin Kiptum, a 23-year-old Kenyan runner who was running only the third of his career marathon leapt to finish the longest race in Chicago in a record time of 2 hours 35 seconds, by smashing finishing 34 seconds earlier than the previous record set by another Kenyan marathoner Eluid Kipchoge in Berlin. As the champion Kiptum was aiming to break the 2hour barrier in the marathon this year, the sad news of his accidental death shocked the world. On 11th February Sunday night, Kelvin Kiptum died in a road accident along with his Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana. The car veered off the road and hit a tree before plunging into a deep ditch 60 meters away. This unfortunate road accident tells us a lot about how we drive and how safe our roads are. We have lost many champions, record makers, thought leaders, business tycoons and who-is-who-type personalities in road accidents. Rippling debates in newspapers about road safety, such accidents are forgotten in a short period. Even now, the death of Kelvin Kiptum will create shock waves but the shattered dreams of him creating a new record in the upcoming Paris Marathon, and building a house for his family this June, will never be fulfilled in his absence. We are compelled to think if this was an avoidable death. Could he be driving slowly, or more carefully? Or was it anyone else's fault that could have been avoided? Were the roads dangerous for the safety of motorists? WHO website mentions that 1.9 million people die of traffic crashes every year, and 20 to 50 million suffer non-fatal injuries. Road accidents create permanent disabilities in many. Males are 3 times more prone to death by road accidents than females, mainly because they drive more. Similarly, road injuries are a leading cause of death for children and youth between 5 to 29 years. Whopping 92% of such fatalities occur in low and middle-income countries even though they own less than 60% of total vehicles. It is also appalling that pedestrians and cyclists are also a major group suffering accidental injuries or fatalities. All these facts, along with the horrific accident that took the life of Kelvin Kiptum compels us to re-think the way we use our roads and vehicles. (Expressed opinions are personal)

Consultant's lost diamond ring found 100 miles away A diamond ring embarked on an unexpected journey of nearly 100 miles from Suffolk to the Royal Free Hospital (RFH) in London, where it was "miraculously" discovered nestled in a set of scrubs, much to the Suraj Shah (L) and Radhika Ramasamy (R) The breakthrough came relief of its owner, Radhika when the RFH facilities Ramasamy, a consultant team, after consulting with anaesthetist at the West their laundry service, disSuffolk NHS Foundation covered a reported missing Trust in Bury St Edmunds. ring from Suffolk. It was The discovery unfolded revealed that Radhika had when Suraj Shah, an anaesplaced the ring in her scrubs thetics registrar at RFH, pocket before administering stumbled upon the ring in a spinal anaesthetic to a his green scrubs while patient, only realizing its preparing for his ICU shift absence five days later—the on December 19, according very day Shah stumbled to a news report by RFH. upon it. The ring slipped from Despite low expectaShah's grasp as he was dresstions of recovery, fearing ing, catching the attention the ring would be lost in the of a colleague who promptly laundry process, Radhika alerted him. Initially assumexpressed her elation at its ing the ring belonged to a return, thanking all nurse at RFH, Shah endeavinvolved in the reunification oured to locate its owner process. Suraj echoed her within the hospital. sentiments, expressing However, when his efforts delight at playing a role in proved unsuccessful, he the "little miracle" of the sought assistance from the ring's return. hospital's facilities team.





17 - 23 February 2024

Lecturer awarded £450,000 in racism case Portsmouth University has been ordered to pay a minimum of £450,000 in damages to lecturer Kajal Sharma following a determination of racial discrimination in its reselection procedures. Sharma, who is of South Asian descent, was found to have faced discrimination when she was unsuccessful in her bid to continue her role within the university's business and law faculty. During the employment tri-

bunal, Sharma highlighted that over a span of three years, she was one of only two senior lecturers who were not reappointed, while 11 out of 12 white colleagues were retained. In what was deemed an "extraordinary" decision, Professor Gary Rees, along with two colleagues, selected Kerry Collier, a "white woman with no experience of the job," over Sharma. As a result of the tribunal's findings, Sharma has been

awarded a minimum of £450,000 in compensation, with the possibility of an additional £300,000 depending on pension calculations. The tribunal concluded that the selection process had been marred by racial discrimination. Judge Catherine Rayner criticised Professor Rees for exhibiting a "subconscious bias" against Sharma, highlighting differential treatment compared to white staff.

Labour urges Tata to postpone steel cuts Labour's shadow business secretary engaged in discussions with the head of Tata Sons in Mumbai, advocating for the preservation of traditional steelmaking at the conglomerate's Port Talbot plant. Jonathan Reynolds conveyed to Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chair of Tata Sons, that a future Labour government would consider extending the lifespan of one of the last remaining blast furnaces at the Welsh facility, with the prospect of increased government support contingent upon the party's electoral success. Despite Reynolds' efforts, Tata Steel's parent company indicated shortly after the meeting that it was unlikely to alter its course, which would result in the

Jonathan Reynolds

loss of 2,800 jobs at Port Talbot. During the meeting, Reynolds advocated for the preservation of one of the blast furnaces, projecting its operational viability into the 2030s, while suggesting that Tata Steel transition the other furnace to a less carbon-intensive electric arc furnace. Tata's current plan, announced last month, entails ending traditional steelmaking at Port Talbot

by shutting down both blast furnaces this year. This decision is part of Tata Steel's £750 million initiative to decarbonise its UK operations, bolstered by a £500 million government grant. This move mirrors a similar decision made by British Steel last year, which plans to cease blast furnace operations by 2025, leaving the UK as the sole major economy without primary steel production using iron ore and coal. In his discussion with Chandrasekaran, Reynolds urged Tata to reconsider a compromise plan endorsed by trade unions, acknowledging that it would necessitate additional taxpayer funds. Unions estimate their proposal would require an additional £683 million in investment.

UK-India trade deal stalled over social security India's efforts to reclaim social security payments worth tens of millions of pounds for its workers in the UK have emerged as a contentious issue in trade discussions between the two nations. Reports suggest that Kemi Badenoch, Britain's trade secretary, is wary of making such a concession due to its sensitivity, particularly its impact on Indian workers, particularly those in the IT sector, who often come to the UK on tempo-

rary contracts. Tensions surrounding this matter have escalated, with Conservative officials suggesting that a recent visit by Jonathan Reynolds, Labour's business and trade spokesperson, to New Delhi might have rekindled India's longstanding request. However, Reynolds dismissed these claims as "ridiculous," asserting that his discussions with India's commerce minister, Piyush Goyal, did not involve any covert negotiations. He

emphasised that a Labour government would pursue a mutually advantageous freetrade agreement (FTA) with India if the current UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, failed to secure one this year. The clock is ticking for negotiators as India's elections are expected to commence in April, while the UK elections are anticipated in the autumn. Consequently, the upcoming weeks are poised to be pivotal in shaping the trajectory of the discussions.

Labour cuts green spending pledge, reversing course After months of speculation, Keir Starmer's Labour Party executed a significant reversal on its green investment strategy. On Thursday, the party abandoned its iconic commitment to allocate £28 billion annually towards green policies, drastically reducing this expenditure by nearly 75 per cent. In a move likely to disappoint environmental advocates and the left-wing faction of the party, Starmer informed reporters that the target would be "stood down." With current opinion

Sir Keir Starmer

polls suggesting the party is poised for government, Labour now vows to allocate £23.7 billion to its Green Prosperity Plan throughout

the entirety of the next parliamentary term, in addition to the approximately £10 billion per year already pledged by the government. Consequently, the actual annual increase in green investment under a Labour administration would amount to £4.7 billion. The party's previous spending plans were anticipated to contribute an additional £18 billion annually to achieve the £28 billion objective, indicating that the new policy entails a substantial reduction of nearly 75 per cent.

NHS waiting list falls for third month in a row The NHS waiting list fell in December for the third month running, while winter pressure continued to hit the health service hard with A&E and ambulance services experiencing their busiestever January. England’s top doctor hailed the hard work and dedication of staff as new figures show the number of patients waiting for elective treatment fell by more than 19,000 in December, despite the NHS needing to reschedule 86,329 appointments due to industrial

action. The new figures, published today, show that the overall Covid backlog fell by more than 6,200 in December for the third consecutive month and is now down by 164,898 since September to 7.6million. Monthly performance statistics show that the proportion of people waiting over a year for elective care is the lowest it has been since November 2020, at 4.4% of the entire waiting list. NHS staff also delivered more elective activity in 2023 than in any other year

since the start of the pandemic – with more than 17.3 million people treated. The latest data also shows the significant demand for services in January, as the NHS managed the longest period of industrial action in its history with six days of strikes by junior doctors. There were 2.23 million A&E attendances - a record for January – with more than a 10% increase in emergency admissions from A&E, compared to the same month last year.

Teachers uneasy teaching Middle East conflict HOPE not hate has polled teachers to find out how they are handling issues arising from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the classroom. The poll of 4,646 secondary school teachers found that teachers feel they are not confident in their ability to handle issues arising and therefore require more support and guidance from the Government. Over half of all teachers said that their students were discussing the conflict, showing that this is a major talking point amongst young people. There is also a con-

cerning number of teachers reporting antisemitic and Islamophobic behaviour from pupils when talking the conflict. According to the poll, 52% of teachers said that students are discussing the conflict in Israel and Gaza while 22% of teachers said that pupils are distressed at what they’re viewing. 21% of teachers said that pupils were angry with what they were viewing and 18% witnessed pupils arguing with other pupils about the conflict. The poll also found that 50% of teachers do not feel

confident in addressing the issues arising amongst students about the conflict in the Middle East. On the other hand, 58% of teachers said their school is not willing to appropriately address issues that might emerge related to the Middle East conflict. This fell to 47% for teachers in private schools. Headteachers (67%) and those in a Senior Leadership Team (59%) had higher levels of confidence than classroom teachers (36%), the lowest-ranking teachers in seniority, to deal with issues arising.

Bexley-based Hindu Charity receives funding from The National Lottery Community Fund The Yog Foundation's Hot Meal Distribution Initiative has received funding through the Government's Community Organisations Cost of Living Fund, enabling the delivery of over 15,000 free meals. Originally established in Bexley and soon relocating to Bromley, the organisation will utilise the grant to sustain and expand its

volunteer-led hot meal distribution service. Each week, a dedicated team, comprising individuals of all ages, including children and the elderly, prepares and distributes over 200 meals, along with essential items such as fresh produce and long-life milk. With the support of this grant, the Yog Foundation aims to sustain and

enhance its initiative by involving more local residents and doubling the number of meals delivered annually. Moreover, the charity intends to extend its program to Bromley this year. Since its inception, approximately 7,500 meals have been delivered, including over 1,000 during the summer holidays of 2023.

Meghan and Harry debut new website The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have unveiled a new website aimed at showcasing their efforts in shaping the future through business and philanthropy. Originally registered in 1995, the domain Sussex.com underwent updates this month and now serves as the official online platform for the Office of Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The website provides detailed biographies of the couple and highlights the organizations they lead: the Archewell Foundation

close to his heart and effecting lasting change for people and communities. Meghan is described as "a feminist and advocate for human rights and gender equality," with a Prince Harry and Meghan Markle lifelong commitand Archewell Productions. ment to supporting women Prince Harry's biography and girls evident in both her portrays him as "a humanihumanitarian work and tarian, military veteran, business endeavours. The mental health advocate, and website also notes her environmental campaigner" recognition as one of the who has dedicated his adult most influential women in life to advancing causes the world.





17 - 23 February 2024

Dear Financial Voice Reader, Alpesh Patel OBE

I am shocked. I am worried. As a young Barrister dealing with pensions at 7 Stone Buildings, learning my craft, I thought the era of poor pension performance was behind us. I was not only wrong, but the level of how bad these are is shocking. In recent years, the performance of workplace pensions in the UK has become a point of significant concern for employees and financial experts alike. As retirement savings are foundational to the financial security of millions, the underwhelming returns from these pensions not only pose a risk to future livelihoods but also contribute to mounting workplace stress and mental health issues. This article delves into the critical steps individuals can take to safeguard their retirement savings and explores alternative investment strategies, underscoring the need for greater financial literacy and proactive management of pension funds. 1. The Imperative to Check Your Pension The first step for employees is to thoroughly review their current workplace pension plans. Surprisingly, a considerable number of individuals remain detached from their pension performance, often due to a lack of understanding or interest. This disengagement can lead to missed opportunities for optimizing retirement savings. Regularly checking your pension allows you to understand where your money is invested and how it is performing, setting the stage for informed decision-making. 2. Assessing Pension Performance Evaluating the performance of your pension fund is critical. Many workplace pensions in the UK have been criticized for their poor returns, particularly when compared to the potential growth opportunities available in the market. Understanding the growth rate of your pension and how it compares to inflation is essential to ensure that your retirement savings are not losing realworld value over time. 3. Questioning Poor Returns Upon discovering that your pension's performance is lacking, it's vital to inquire about the reasons behind these poor returns. High management fees, conservative investment strategies, or an over-reliance on low-yield assets could be contributing factors. Engaging with your pension provider can offer insights into these issues and prompt a reevaluation of the fund's investment approach. 4. The S&P 500 Benchmark Comparing your pension's performance to major indices, such as the S&P 500, can offer a perspective on what you might be missing. Historically, the S&P 500 has delivered robust returns over the long term, outpacing many conservative investment strategies employed by workplace pensions. This comparison can illuminate the potential for higher returns through alternative investment avenues. 5. Considering a Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) For those dissatisfied with their workplace pension's performance, exploring a Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) might be a prudent choice. SIPPs offer greater control over your retirement savings, allowing you to directly invest in a wide range of assets, including stocks, bonds, and funds that can potentially offer higher returns than traditional pension schemes. However, this approach requires a good understanding of investing and a willingness to actively manage your pension. 6. The Role of Financial Education The importance of financial education cannot be overstated. Websites like campaignforamillion.com provide invaluable resources on managing personal finances, understanding the implications of poor pension performance, and strategies for improving mental health related to financial stress. Empowering yourself with knowledge is a critical step towards taking control of your financial future. Conclusion The current state of workplace pensions in the UK serves as a wake-up call for employees to take a more active role in managing their retirement savings. By engaging with their pensions, questioning poor performance, and considering alternative investment strategies, individuals can take meaningful steps towards securing their financial future. The journey towards financial literacy and independence is challenging but necessary for those looking to maximize their retirement savings and mitigate the stress and mental health issues stemming from financial insecurity. In an era where traditional pension schemes often fall short of expectations, taking charge of your financial destiny is more important than ever. Embracing a proactive approach to pension management can not only improve your financial wellbeing but also contribute to a more secure and stress-free retirement.

Hunt aims for London Stock Exchange transformation Jeremy Hunt, the British finance minister, expressed his aspiration for the London Stock Exchange (LSEG.L) to emulate the success of Nasdaq in Europe, aiming to attract tech companies and foster the growth of "the next Silicon Valley." As UK tech firms like Arm Holdings opt to list in New York, the UK is undergoing financial sector reforms to sustain its global competitiveness, particular-

ly given the challenges posed by Brexit, which have somewhat isolated London's financial sector from the European Union. Speaking at TheCityUK's annual dinner in London, Hunt highlighted the opportunity to position London as the European equivalent of Nasdaq, renowned for its appeal to tech firms globally. He emphasised the potential for tech companies to list on the London Stock

Exchange in the future, envisaging a transformative impact akin to the "Big Bang" reforms of the 1980s that propelled London to the forefront of global finance. He referenced his proposal of the "Edinburgh Reforms" over a year ago, designed to modernise and streamline financial regulations post-Brexit. While some lawmakers have criticised the slow progress of these reforms,

Jeremy Hunt

Hunt remains optimistic about their potential impact and the overall goal of positioning London as a hub for tech innovation and financial prowess.

New boss predicts CBI Bank rate setter suggests UK will overcome scandal workers accept lower pay The newly appointed head of the CBI expressed concerns about the organisation's survival following allegations of rape and sexual assault last year, which led to the departure of several prominent members such as John Lewis and BMW. The CBI recently settled a legal dispute with its former director general, Tony Danker, for wrongful dismissal. Despite the challenges, Rupert Soames, the new leader, acknowledged the "reputational disaster" but also highlighted the continued importance of the CBI and its advocacy for business interests. He stressed the organisation's role in securing benefits for businesses, such as tax breaks and increased childcare support. While some former members remain sceptical about rejoining, Soames noted that 80% of

Tony Danker

those who suspended their membership have returned. The loss of major members plunged the CBI into financial turmoil, resulting in staff reductions and office closures. Additionally, the organisation faces ongoing scrutiny from law enforcement regarding the allegations. Despite past tensions with the government, Soames believes that both sides recognise the importance of the CBI in fostering economic growth. Overall, while the CBI faces significant challenges, Soames remains optimistic about its continued relevance and importance in the business landscape.

A senior Bank of England policymaker has suggested that achieving victory in the battle against inflation will necessitate British workers accepting lower pay deals and companies exercising restraint in their profits. Sarah Breeden, one of the central bank’s four deputy governors, emphasised that there is still a considerable distance to cover before inflation returns to the government's 2% target, which the Bank aims to achieve on a sustainable basis. Speaking nearly a week after the decision to maintain interest rates at their highest levels since the 2008 financial crisis, Breeden noted that inflation in the service sector remains elevated, posing a challenge to the Bank's target. She indicated that a combination of moderation in wage pressures and tighter profit margins among firms would

be necessary for service sector inflation to normalise. The Bank has reiterated the need for further evidence of inflation decline and stability before considering its first interest rate cut since the onset of the Covid pandemic. Despite inflation easing to 4% in December from over 10% a year earlier, most economists anticipate a drop below 2% in the coming months, driven by decreasing global energy prices. Financial markets foresee potential interest rate cuts of up to one percentage point this year, from the current 5.25%, as inflation falls and economic growth stagnates. However, policymakers remain cautious, expressing concerns about underlying inflationary pressures from the domestic economy, which could push inflation closer to 3% by year-end.

Barclays acquires Tesco Bank for £600mn Barclays is assuming control of Tesco Bank's credit cards, loans, and savings accounts, alongside an agreement to promote banking services under the Tesco brand. Approximately 2,800 Tesco banking employees will transition to Barclays as part of the deal. Tesco assured its customers that no immediate action was necessary, and it would communicate with them in the following months. While Tesco retains certain services such as insurance, ATMs, travel money, and gift cards, it has also established a partnership with Barclays for a decade to market credit cards, personal loans, and deposits

under the Tesco name. Following the announcement, Tesco's shares initially rose by over 2% but later receded, while Barclays witnessed a slight increase in its share value. Tesco's CEO, Ken Murphy, expressed confidence that the deal would fortify the company's financial position, facilitating growth in its core retail operations. Additionally, Tesco disclosed plans to return the majority of the proceeds from the deal to its shareholders, including a special dividend of £250 million received from Tesco Bank the previous August. The agreement also enables Tesco to access £100 million previously earmarked

for regulatory purposes. Barclays intends to gradually integrate Tesco Bank's operations into its own, with a commitment to supporting the transitioning staff in collaboration with Tesco. C.S. Venkatakrishnan, Barclays Group CEO, emphasised the strategic significance of partnering with the UK's largest retailer, envisioning new avenues for distributing unsecured lending and deposit services. The decision aligns with broader industry trends, as demonstrated by Sainsbury's recent announcement to gradually exit its banking division and refocus on its core food business.

Deloitte puts 100 jobs at risk in cost-cutting

Threshold freeze leads to 4.5mn more paying levy

Deloitte is taking steps to reduce costs by putting an additional 100 roles at risk of redundancy in the UK. The Big Four accounting firm disclosed that the proposed job cuts will affect approximately 5% of its financial advisory business workforce. This decision follows a downturn in dealmaking activities, which Deloitte attributes to high-interest rates. A spokesperson for Deloitte explained, "We are evaluating the restructuring of certain segments within our advisory corporate finance division to prioritise larger, sector-focused M&A endeavours. Consequently, we are considering the closure of certain segments within that business." Employees impacted by these proposed redundancies will undergo consultation processes in the upcoming weeks. This move aligns with a broader trend within the professional services sector, where firms are implementing significant cost-cutting measures and scaling back post-pandemic hiring initiatives in response to project cancellations and reduced client fee demands.

Research indicates a significant surge in the number of individuals paying income tax since 2010, with an additional four and a half million people surpassing the personal allowance threshold. According to findings by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, an advocacy group promoting lower taxes, the UK now boasts 35.5 million income taxpayers, up from approximately 31 million in 2010. Under the current taxation structure, income tax becomes applicable when earnings exceed £12,570. Individuals earning between this threshold and £50,270 are subject to a basic rate of 20%. Earnings surpassing this bracket trigger higher tax rates of 40% or 45%, depending on the income level. The alliance highlights a notable increase of about 1.7 million individuals now paying the basic rate of income tax, bringing the total to 28.5 million since 2010. Chancellor Rishi Sunak's decision to freeze income tax thresholds in the 2021 spring budget drew criticism, labelling it a "stealth tax."





17 - 23 February 2024

India signs $78 bn LNG deal with Qatar for 20 years India has signed a $78 billion deal to extend LNG imports from Qatar by another 20 years till 2048 at rates lower than current prices. Petronet LNG Ltd, India’s biggest liquefied natural gas (LNG) importer, in a statement said it has signed a pact with QatarEnergy to extend the deal to buy 7.5 million tonne a year of gas for producing electricity, making fertilizers and converting it into CNG. Sources said the renewal is at a “significantly” lower price than the current deal. At current prices, India will save about $0.8 per million British thermal unit at the renewed terms. This translates into savings of $ 6 billion over the contract

period. Petronet imports 8.5 million tonne per annum of LNG from Qatar under two contracts. The first 25-year deal is to expire in 2028 and has now been extended for 20 years. The second deal for 1 MTPA entered into in 2015, will be negotiated separately, sources said. Speaking at the second

edition of the India Energy Week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India will witness a USD 67 billion investment in the natural gas supply chain in 5-6 years as part of “unprecedented” investments flowing into the energy sector to meet the needs of the world’s fastest growing major economy.

HDFC Bank gets RBI nod to hike stake in six banks HDFC Bank has received approval from RBI to increase its stake in six banks: Axis, Suryoday Small Finance, ICICI, Bandhan, IndusInd and Yes Bank. The private lender and its affiliated entities, including HDFC Mutual Fund, HDFC Life Insurance, HDFC ERGO General Insurance and others group companies, have been permitted to acquire an aggregate holding of up to 9.5% of the share capital or voting rights in the six banks. These approvals stem from applications submitted by HDFC Bank, acting as a promoter/sponsor of the group, to RBI on December 18, 2023. RBI norms require

that once any entity’s shareholding in a bank exceeds 6%, the entity must get permission before buying any more shares. The RBI’s approval is valid for one year from the date of its letter, expiring on February 4, 2025. HDFC Bank must ensure that its aggregate holding in the six banks does not exceed 9.5%

Tourists to prefer spots with UPI link, says PM Modi

Narendra Modi

PM Narendra Modi said Indian tourists are likely to give priority to destinations with UPI link, while launching the payment service in Sri Lanka and Mauritius, along with Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mauritius PM Pravind Jugnauth. After this launch, UPI QR code can be used in two countries, while Rupay cards can also be used in Mauritius. Visitors from Mauritius can get Rupay cards from local banks for use in India, RBI said. The PM, in his address, said that the launch marks a special day for three friendly nations - India, Sri Lanka and Mauritius - with the comments coming amid New Delhi’s tense relations with Maldives in recent weeks. While pitching it as a success of Global South cooperation, Modi said the launch of the fintech product will further strengthen cross-border payments and connections. “India’s UPI comes in a new role today – ‘Uniting Partners with India’,” he said. The PM stressed that India’s policy is ‘Neighborhood First’. “Our maritime vision is SAGAR i.e. Security and growth for all in the region. India does not see its development separately from its neighbours.”

of their paid-up share capital or voting rights at all times. According to RBI norms on ownership of private banks, aggregate holding includes shareholding by the bank and entities under the same management /control, mutual funds, trustees or promoter group entities.

India's direct tax kitty reaches 80% of revised FY24 target Net direct tax collection in India so far in the current fiscal grew 20% year-onyear to £156 billion, which is 80% of revised Budget estimates for full fiscal year. “The provisional figures of direct tax collections continue to register steady growth. Direct tax collections up to Feb 10, 2024 show that gross collections are at £184 billion, which is 17.3% higher than the gross collections for last year,” Central Board of Direct Taxes said in a statement. Direct tax collection, net of refunds, till Feb 10 of FY24 stands at £156 billion, which is 20.3% higher than the year-ago period. This collection is 80.2%

of the total revised estimates of direct taxes for 2023-24. Refunds amounting to £28 billion have been issued during April 1, 2023 to Feb 10, 2024. Gross revenue collections for corporate income tax (CIT) and

personal income (PIT) tax also showed a steady growth. Growth rate for CIT was 9.2% while for PIT, it was 25.7% (PIT only). After adjustment of refunds, the net growth in CIT collections was 13.6% and that in PIT was 26.9% (PIT only), it added.

India's youngest billionaire is 27-year-old India is home to hundreds of billionaires, with businessmen like Gautam Adani and Mukesh Ambani among the richest people globally. As Indian economy thrives, a new luminary has emerged, rewriting the narrative of success at an astonishingly young age. At 27, Pearl Kapur has etched his name in entrepreneurial history as India's youngest billionaire. His success was a result of the meteoric rise of his startup, Zyber 365. Founded in May 2023, Zyber 365 is a Web3 and AI-based OS start-up that has not only disrupted the retail sector but also achieved the coveted unicorn status within three months. A

startup that is valued at over $1 billion is known as a unicorn. The company, headquartered in London with operations based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, has been hailed as India and Asia's fastest unicorn, attaining a valuation of $1.2 billion (approximately £984 million). Kapur, an MSC Investment Banking (CFA Pathway) graduate from Queen Mary University of London, is recognised as an innovator in the realm of Web3 technology. Kapur envisions a future where the aggregation of exponential

Pearl Kapur

technologies like blockchain, AI, and cybersecurity, combined with sustainable practices, creates a solution that empowers the masses and leads to what he terms as Globalization 3.0.

Tata Steel calls off TRF merger as co sees biz turnaround Tata Steel has scrapped the merger of its associate company TRF with itself as its business performance has turned around. In Sept 2022, it had decided to fold TRF into itself as part of a broader exercise to streamline its corporate structure. But since then, it has infused funds, placed orders with TRF, helping the material handling equipment manufacturer navigate a challenging operating environment.

As a result, its financials improved and the TRF stock hit the 20% upper circuit on the BSE. Trading volume in the counter also jumped substantially. Compared to an average daily volume of about 36,000 shares over the last two-week period, the turnover touched nearly 160,000 shares, BSE data showed. The metal flagship of Tata Group has amalgamated five arms, Tata Steel Long Products

(which had a turnover of £746.4 mn in FY23), Tata Steel Mining (£500 mn), Tinplate Company of India (£398.3 mn ), Tata Metaliks (£326 mn) and S&T Mining Company with itself. The consolidation has led to a minor dilution of parent Tata Sons’ stake in Tata Steel. Initially, Tata Steel planned to combine seven businesses into it. Last week, it said the merger

process of The Indian Steel and Wire Products is in an advanced stage and will be concluded by Q1 FY25. It also proposes to merge Bhubaneswar Power and Angul Energy into it.

RBI holds repo rates on hold for 6th time Reserve Bank of India kept rates on hold for the sixth successive time in line with expectations but surprised markets by projecting 7% growth for 2024-25 as against 6.7% earlier. RBI governor Shaktikanta Das said the transmission of the 250basis-point increase in the policy rate between May 2022 and Feb 2023 was not complete. While half of

bank loans, including home loans, are linked to the repo rate, the other half are linked to the cost of deposits or are fixed and yet to fully

reflect the market rates. RBI projected 4.5% inflation for FY25, and trimmed price forecasts for the first and third quarters of the next financial year. In his monetary policy statement, Das said that the battle against inflation was far from over. “The last mile of disinflation is always the most challenging and that has to be kept in mind,” he said. Das said that RBI

would persist in maintaining a scarcity of money to control prices. The monetary policy committee voted with a majority of 5:1 to keep the repo rate (at which RBI lends to banks) unchanged at 6.5%. The other rates at which RBI lends to banks the standing deposit facility and the marginal standing facility - remain at 6.25% and 6.75%, respectively.





17 - 23 February 2024

in brief

Bhutto's PPP indicates support to Sharif’s party to form govt ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Tuesday indicated it would support former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s party to form a minority government, seeking to end a stalemate after inconclusive elections in the nuclear-armed nation. But the conditions to join forces did not bode well for a stable or strong administration in the world’s second-largest Muslim country, especially with PPP saying it would not join the government. The indication of support from PPP’s former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated former premier Benazir Bhutto, came five days after the February 8 vote gave a split verdict and sparked worries of fresh instability.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari & Nawaz Sarif

Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is the largest recognised party with 80 seats and PPP is second with 54. Together, they have enough for a simple majority in the 264-seat legislature. Independent candidates backed by jailed former premier

Imran Khan have won 92 seats, making them the largest group, but they cannot form a government on their own, having run as individuals and not a party, and have ruled out alliances with PML-N or PPP. Bhutto Zardari said Khan’s independents and PML-N had

more numbers than his party but Khan had ruled out joining forces with PPP. “That leaves us with the PML-N which is the only political party in the National Assembly which has reached out to the PPP and invited us to join their government,” he told reporters. PPP does not want a perpetual economic crisis or a fresh election leading to a political crisis in Pakistan, Bhutto Zardari said. His party’s support of PML-N from the outside without joining the federal government would make for a weak government. Still, Bhutto Zardari was keen that his father Asif Ali Zardari be president again. PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of Nawaz Sharif, welcomed PPP’s support.

‘India out’ campaigns simmer in Bangladesh DHAKA: Amid allegations of Indian interference in national elections, there’s a call to boycott Indian goods in Bangladesh. Last week, a supplier for the Indian consumer goods giant Marico faced a chilly reception in Dhaka’s Panthapath area. Grocery shops, usually eager to stock their shelves with its hair oil, cooking oil, body lotion and other products, refused to take new deliveries. “Sales of Parachute oil, a

Marico bestseller, have plummeted to almost zero in recent weeks,” local shopkeeper Aman Ullah said. “Indian products just aren’t moving. We’re stuck with unsold stock and won’t be restocking.” Another shop owner revealed a deeper reason: “I don’t want to sell Indian products any more.” He cited YouTube videos advocating a boycott of Indian goods, which he wholeheartedly supported. Simmering anti-India sentiment in Bangladesh has

boiled over in the past decade, culminating in public displays such as celebrations in Dhaka last year after India’s loss in the Cricket World Cup final. But after last month’s elections in Bangladesh, in which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina secured a fourth term while the opposition boycotted the polls, a massive “India Out” campaign was launched, alleging Indian interference in Bangladesh politics. The Bangladeshi diaspora and opposition groups have

fuelled this anti-India movement and advocated boycotts of Indian products. This movement mirrors similar campaigns in the Maldives, where Mohamed Muizzu capitalized on anti-India sentiment to win the presidential election. In Dhaka, the campaign was launched against the backdrop of India’s traditionally strong ties with Hasina’s government and its strained relationship with the opposition, leading many to believe India favoured the status quo.

Police launch probe into forced Things getting ugly between adoptions of Bangladeshi children Trump and Nikki Haley DHAKA: Bangladesh Police initiated an investigation into the alleged forced adoption of children between 1976 and 1979, with a focus on adoptions to the Netherlands nearly five decades ago. The police recently confirmed of its commitment to conducting a fair and impartial inquiry into these historic cases. "Shedding light on the matter has ignited a deep sense of responsibility. We commit to conducting a fair and impartial investigation, striving to contribute meaningfully to the nation's healing process," Special Branch's Special Superintendent Tahsin

Mashroof Hossain Mashfi said. The investigation was prompted by a letter from Saida Muna Tasneem, Bangladesh's high commissioner to the UK, in August 2023. Saida urged the then-foreign minister, AK Abdul Momen, to look into allegations of forced adoptions. The letter was subsequently forwarded to the home ministry, leading to the initiation of the police investigation. Saida Muna Tasneem confirmed these developments. Following her letter, the foreign ministry directed the home ministry to investigate the matter. In January, the Special Branch officially commenced its inquiry.

WASHINGTON: Things are getting exceedingly ugly between former president Donald Trump and his one time ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, as they fight for the Republican Party presidential nomination. At a rally in her home turf South Carolina, which will hold primaries on Feb 24, Trump taunted Haley, asking where her husband Michael Haley was, seemingly alluding to Haley baiters alleging that she was involved with other men. “Where’s her husband? Oh, he’s away… What happened to her husband? Where is he? He’s gone...he

Indian-origin executive dies after assault outside US restaurant WASHINGTON: A 41-year-old Indian-origin tech executive died in the US, days after he was assaulted outside a restaurant in Washington, according to media reports. Vivek Taneja, president and cofounder of Dynamo Technologies, succumbed to his injuries after he was assaulted by a man on February 2 outside Shoto Restaurant, the WUSA9 news channel reported. Taneja was knocked to the ground by the suspect and hit his head on the pavement, following a verbal altercation that got physical. According to the police report, Taneja stepped in to defend a female companion who was being harassed by the suspect. Police found him at around 2 a.m. on the pavement with life-threatening injuries and rushed him to hospital. An eyewitness who knew Taneja told the news channel that the fight started inside

the restaurant after which both men were kicked out. Seeking public help, police released a surveillance video of the suspect walking in the courtyard outside the bar. They are offering a reward of up to $25,000 for any information leading to his arrest. Taneja was a graduate of the University of Virginia and was well-loved by neighbours. The recent incident comes amid a spate of attacks on Indian students in the US with five of them reported dead so far this year. Earlier this week, an Indian student from Hyderabad, Syed Mazahir Ali, was left bleeding from his nose and mouth after he was attacked by robbers in Chicago. Expressing regrets over the attacks on Indian students, US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti assured that America is a "wonderful and safe place" to study for Indians.

INDIAN ORIGIN SENATOR TAKES OATH ON GITA Barrister Varun Ghosh became the first-ever India-born member of Australian parliament to take oath on Bhagavad Gita. Ghosh from Western Australia has been appointed as the newest senator after the legislative assembly and the legislative council chose him to represent the Australian state in Senate. “Fantastic to have you on the team,” PM Anthony Albanese posted on X. Ghosh, a lawyer from Perth, previously worked as a finance attorney in New York and as a consultant for the World Bank in Washington, DC. He returned to Australia in 2015. His political stint began when he joined Labor Partyat the age of 17.

TRUCK DRIVER CHARGED WITH DRUG TRAFFICKING An Indian truck driver from Canada has been charged with “intent to distribute controlled substances” after he was caught attempting to bring an estimated Canadian dollars 8.7 million worth of cocaine into the US, according to a media report. Gagandeep Singh was caught by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers after a border canine found the suspected cocaine at a Windsor-Detroit border crossing. The discovery was made on February 5 at an outbound customs inspection at the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, according to court documents obtained by CTV News.

MISS JAPAN RENOUNCES TITLE OVER AFFAIR The Ukrainian-born winner of this year’s Miss Japan beauty pageant and the contest’s organisers say she has renounced her title after a magazine published an article about her affair with a married man. Karolina Shiino was crowned Miss Japan on Jan 22, setting off renewed public debate over what it means to be Japanese in a country where homogeneity and conformity are still valued. A weekly reported last week that Shiino had been in a relationship with a doctor who is married. After admitting about the relationship, she apologized and said she was in a state of shock and fear over the report and panicked. The office of the Miss Japan organizers said Shiino's renunciation of the title was accepted and the slot for the 2024 winner would remain empty.


knew, he knew,” he jeered. “Michael is deployed serving our country, something you know nothing about,” Haley clapped back, referring to Trump avoiding military service as a young man. Michael Haley is currently deployed in Africa, having previously served in Afghanistan. She also posted photos of her children in front of her tour bus in South Carolina, saying, “Running for president is hard. It’s even harder to do when it feels like I’m missing my rock, Michael...” Things have gotten increasingly testy between Trump and Haley, who is the only remaining challenger for the nomination that he has all but sewn up. But Haley has refused to throw in the towel despite trailing by over 30 points in her own home state where she was governor for two terms. She has pledged to stay in the race till Super Tuesday, March 5, when 15 states will hold primaries that will decisively tilt the nomination race. Her refusal to fold has clearly irked Trump.

Indian-origin employment lawyer Giridharan Sivaraman has been appointed Race Discrimination Commissioner by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). Sivaraman is currently the Chair of Multicultural Australia, and a Principal Lawyer at Maurice Blackburn where he is head of the firm’s Queensland Employment Law department. According to the AHRC, he has run numerous state and national race discrimination cases and led the pro bono compensation scheme for underpaid 7-eleven workers, many of whom came from migrant backgrounds. In addition, he provides advice and legal representation in all areas of employment law.

54 BURIED ALIVE IN PHILIPPINES LANDSLIDE The death toll from a massive landslide that hit a gold-mining village in the southern Philippines has risen to 54 with 63 people still missing, authorities said. The landslide hit the mountain village of Masara in Davao de Oro province after weeks of torrential rains. Davao de Oro’s provincial government said that 54 bodies had been recovered. At least 32 residents survived but 63 remained missing, it said. Among those missing were gold miners who had been waiting in two buses to be driven home when the landslide struck and buried them. The search operation has been hampered by poor weather and fears of more landslides.





17 - 23 February 2024

in brief CARE HOME WORKER ARRESTED FOR ASSAULT A 32-year-old Indian-origin personal support worker (PSW) has been arrested for allegedly assaulting an 89-year-old male resident at a care home in Vaughan, Canada. Suman Soni, has been charged with two counts of assault that occurred on January 29 and February 2, 2024, stated the York Regional Police. After investigation, police learnt an 89-year-old male resident was assaulted by a PSW on two occasions, stated in a police press release. The Canadian Police believe that there are more victims.

KAMATH’S DEATH RULED SUICIDE The death of 23-year-old Purdue University student Sameer Kamath in Indiana has been ruled a suicide, a release from the US county coroner’s office said. Sameer Kamath, whose body was found at Crow’s Grove Nature Preserve in Williamsport, died from a selfinflicted gunshot wound to the head, Warren County Coroner Justin Brummett said, citing preliminary autopsy reports. A forensic pathologist’s autopsy was performed on Kamath’s body on February 6. “Thorough extensive investigation by the Warren County Coroner’s Office in conjunction with multiple other local and federal agencies, we are now able to release a preliminary cause and manner of death,” the release said.

UKRAINE GETS NEW MILITARY CHIEF President Volodymyr Zelensky replaced Ukraine’s popular army chief with his ground forces commander, a huge gamble at a time when Russian forces are gaining the upper hand nearly two years into their war. The shakeup ushering in a new military leadership follows months of speculation about a rift between Zelensky and army chief General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, who many Ukrainians see as a national hero. “As of today, a new management team takes over the leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” Zelensky said. He named Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi as the new head of the Armed Forces.

META REMOVES INSTA & FB A/CS OF KHAMENEI Meta has removed Instagram and Facebook accounts run on behalf of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after criticism over his support for Hamas after its Oct 7 attack on Israel that sparked the months-long war still raging in the Gaza Strip. Meta, offered no specifics about its reasoning. However, it said it removed the accounts “for repeatedly violating our Dangerous Organisations and Individuals policy”. “We do not allow organisations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission,” the policy states. That includes those designated as terrorists by US government.

HOUTHIS SAY 17 FIGHTERS KILLED IN US ATTACKS A total of 17 Houthi fighters were killed in US strikes, the Iran-backed Yemeni rebel group said through its official media, following public funerals in the capital Sanaa. “The bodies of a number of martyrs of the nation and the armed and security forces who were martyred as a result of the bombing of the American-British aggression were carried through Sanaa in a solemn funeral procession,” Houthi official media said, listing their names. The US confirmed that its military had conducted a number of strikes against missile launchers as Houthi fighters prepared to launch them against commercial shipping and US warships. The Iran-backed rebels, who control much of war torn Yemen including the port of Hodeida, have been targeting shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden in a campaign they say is in support of Palestinians in Gaza.

Biden nominates Indian American for NY district judgeship WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden has nominated four individuals to federal district courts, “all of whom are extraordinarily qualified, experienced, and devoted to the rule of law and our Constitution,” the White House said. Among them is Judge Sanket J. Bulsara who has been a United States Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of New York since 2017. Bulsara was born in the Bronx to immigrant parents before moving to New Rochelle and later Edgemont, New York. Bulsara’s parents immigrated

over 50 years ago, his father worked for the City of New York as an engineer and his mother was a dedicated nurse. He received his J.D. from Harvard Law School, cum laude, in 2002 and his A.B., magna cum laude, from Harvard College in 1998. From January 2017 to May 2017, Judge Bulsara served as the Acting General Counsel of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, where he had been the Deputy General Counsel for Appellate Litigation, Adjudication, and Enforcement since 2015. Before that, Judge

Bulsara worked at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr as an associate from 2005 to 2008, a counsel from 2009 to 2011, and a partner from 2012 to 2015. For six months between 2007 and 2008, he served as a Special Assistant District Attorney at the Kings County (Brooklyn) District Attorney’s Office and he worked as an associate at Munger, Tolles & Olson L.L.P. in Los Angeles, California from 2003 to 2004. Judge Bulsara served as a law clerk for Judge John G. Koeltl on the US District Court for the Southern

Federation of Indian Associations in Chicago celebrates R-Day CHICAGO: The Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) in Chicago celebrated India's Republic Day on February 10. The festivities began with a ceremonial lighting of lamp. Dignitaries, including the Deputy Consul General of India, Chicago – T D Bhutia, along with Dr Reddy, Yes Desai, Sunitha Ji, Dr Vijay Prabhakar, Dr Rashmi Patel, Gabhawala and Nitin Patel. The short film elucidating the significance of India's Republic Day was showed, followed by a review of FIA’s activities aimed at empowering the community, which received resounding applause from all present. The atmosphere was electrified by the rendition of the patriotic anthem "Vande Mataram," beautifully sung by Vrinda Pandev ji. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, Dr Reddy and Dr Vijay Prabhakar delivered inspiring messages about the essence of republic day. The evening was hosted by Kruti Pandya and Khaty, whose energy infused the event with vibrancy. Hina Pandya's Women Empower group from Des Plaines enthralled

(From left): Yeshshvi Desai, Sunitha ji, Dr Reddy, Dr VGP, Bhutia. Dr Rashmi Patel (president), Gabhawala and Nitin Patel (EVP)

the audience with their captivating performance, showcasing the strength and resilience of women in our community. The presence of Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, India’s Deputy Consul General Bhutia, FIA 1980 Trustee Board, FIA’s executive leadership team, and over a hundred FIA members, underscoring the significance of the occasion. Dr Sreenivas Reddy and Dr VGP were honoured at the event, symbolizing the spirit of service and dedication that embodies FIA 1980 Chicago. The celebration culminated with a cultural programme.

2 teenagers held for shooting at Nijjar aide’s home in Canada TORONTO: The police in Canada's Surrey have arrested two teenagers for their alleged involvement in the shooting at the home of Simranjeet Singh, a close aide of slain Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. In a press statement, Surrey police say they arrested the two 16-year-olds for careless use of a firearm and discharge of a firearm after searching a home in the 7700 block of 140th Street. Nijjar was killed last year in a shooting in Surrey, for which Canada alleged the involvement of Indian government agents. The Indian government had denied the allegations, calling them baseless.

Incidentally, the shooting at Simranjeet Singh's home came a few days after he organised a pro-Khalistan protest at the Indian consulate in Vancouver, according to CBC News. However, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) spokesperson Sarbjit Sangha said police are yet to determine the motive behind the shooting. Speaking to CBC News, Sangha said the police seized three firearms and multiple electronic devices after obtaining a search warrant for the home where the two minors were arrested. The two suspects have been released pending the laying of any charges.

Five Indian-origin people arrested in Canada on extortion charges TORONTO: The Canadian police have arrested five people, including two women, of Indian origin in connection with extortion threats targeting business owners of the South Asian community in the Greater Toronto area. On January 24, Peel Police arrested four people from Brampton for offences including property damage, threats, and firearmsrelated violations. The suspects have been identified as Gagan Ajit Singh, 23, from Brampton, Anmoldeep Singh, 23, from Mississauga, Hashmeet Kaur, 25, and Iymanjot Kaur, 21, both from Brampton. They face multiple charges including extortion, uttering threats to cause death, unauthorised

firearm possession and related offences, stated Peel Police in a statement. The police said that Gagan Ajit and Anmoldeep have already been produced before the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton while Iymanjot and Hashmeet will attend the court at a later date. On January 26, a 32-year-old reported receiving threatening messages demanding money via phone and WhatsApp. The fifth suspect, Arundeep Thind, 39, was separately charged with extortion in connection with this incident. Thind was held for a bail hearing and attended the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton, the Canadian police press release said.

Sanket J. Bulsara

District of New York from 2002 to 2003.

59,000 Indians become US citizens in ’23 WASHINGTON: Nearly 870,000 foreign nationals became US citizens during the fiscal 2023, around a 100,000 less than the previous year’s data of 970,000 new American citizens. Over 110,000 Mexicans (12.7% of the total number of new citizens) obtained US citizenship. With 59,100 (6.7%) Indians acquiring US citizenship, India occupied the second slot as the top source country of new citizens. Five per cent or 44,800 of the new Americans were Philippines-born. The top five countries, which include the Dominican Republic and Cuba collectively comprised 32% of new citizens. According to the annual progress report2023 recently released by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, naturalisation (awarding of US citizenship) during the fiscal years 2022 and 2023 made up nearly a quarter of all naturalisations over the past decade. While the comparative USCIS progress report of 2022 does not provide country-ofbirth data of its new citizens, an annual flow report by the department of homeland security provides such information. Of the 969,000 new American citizens in fiscal 2022, Mexico at nearly 130,000 (or 13.3%) led the pack, followed by India at nearly 65,960 (or 6.8%) and Philippines at 53,413 (or 5.5%). After holding a green card (being a lawful permanent resident) for at least five years an individual can apply for American citizenship. For individuals who have married a US citizen, the time period is reduced to three years. However, for Indians the waiting time for a green card itself runs into several decades, which in turn derails the opportunity to opt for American citizenship.

Indian-American elected Kent City Council president WASHINGTON: Indian-American Satwinder Kaur has been unanimously elected as the Kent City Council president in the state of Washington. Kaur, in her new role will serve for two years. She replaces Bill Boyce, who served as council president for two years, according to the news portal Kent Reporter. Boyce, in his 13th year on the council, nominated Kaur. "You've got some little shoes to fill. I'm sure you will do a great job and we are here to support you and make sure you are very successful," Boyce said after Kaur’s election in a February 6 meeting. Kaur expressed gratitude to Boyce for his leadership and for being a good mentor. "As I start this I know all of us have the same goal of serving the community and making sure Kent is a better place for all of us,” Kaur said. The council president has to work closely with the mayor and also serves as the official spokesperson of the council.





17 - 23 February 2024

ABPL Group comes together for ‘Snehamilan’


L-R Zarnaben, Dr. Bhagyesh Jha (IAS), CB Patel and Padma Shri Joravarsinh Jadav

L-R Deepak Panchal, Maya Deepak, Jatin Parikh of Trident Group, CB Patel and Kunjan Panchal

Dr. Jayesh D.Patel and his wife Dr. Artiben with CB

L-R Chikabhai P. Kharsani of Chika Associates, CB Patel and Journalist Digant Sompura

CB with Yuva Unstoppable’s Amitabh Shah and his wife Rashmi

CB with Dr. Bhavesh Parekh and his wife Dr. Urvi Parekh

CB Patel, usually known for his formal attire at events, surprised everyone this time by donning a special outfit chosen by his younger sister, Kalpanaben Patel. With his trademark swagger, CB brought a unique energy to the gathering. Rather than traditional lectures or speeches, CB initiated dialogue by personally engaging with relatives and friends, introducing them and capturing cherished moments with simultaneous photos, creating a treasure trove of memories. Despite his health concerns, CB Patel's speech and demeanor remained unaffected. He humorously remarked, "Even though this old man is knocked out, he cannot refrain from speaking." CB introduced Amitabh Shah, the head of the 'Youth Unstoppable' organisation, and his wife Rashmi Shah, praising their relentless dedication to serving children worldwide. Amitabh expressed gratitude, stating that the UK feels like home because of CB's presence, highlighting the invaluable support received from CB and other dignitaries in improving the education system for around 70,000 children across 6,000 schools in India. After this, CB also introduced Ashokbhai Gajjar and Geetaben Gajjar, in-laws of Asian Voice's Canada-based journalist Mitul Panicker. CB interacted with Dr. J.D Patel, Dr. Aarti Patel, Dr. Jayshree Mehta, Pravin Amin, Aroon Patel, renowned advocate Ankit Shah and his wife Hiral Shah who were among the guest. Speaking about Dr. Jayashree Mehta, CB said, she is engaged in public service. She had also conducted a seminar on breast cancer for women through our publication. Dr Jayshree said, “It is difficult to describe CB Patel. Everyone has said a lot about him and there is lot to learn from him. Living on his own and working for people, nothing compares to the joy and trust that comes from meeting him.” Introducing to Jatinbhai Parekh of Trident Group, CB said, Jatinbhai is serving his father very

well. He even quit his job to do this service. CB Patel appreciated his close friend and social worker Surendrabhai Patel, expressing gratitude for their enduring friendship. He emphasised the importance of having friends who can offer constructive criticism without judgment. Surendrabhai, reciprocating the sentiment, mentioned his involvement in organising events featuring prominent spiritual leaders like Morari Bapu and Sacchidanandaji Maharaj in the UK, highlighting the importance of their teachings in their community. CB Patel introduced Padma Shri Joravarsinh Jadav, praising his dedication to Gujarat's folk art and culture. Joravarsinh Jadav expressed gratitude to CB Patel for showcasing his work in the UK and for consistently inviting him to contribute articles to the annual Diwali issue. Gujarati stage and film actress Bhavaniben Jani expressed gratitude to CB Patel, highlighting his constant support. She recalled how CB promoted her programme in New London through his newspapers, resulting in positive

responses. According to Bhavaniben, CB's actions demonstrate true saintliness, as he treats everyone as his own and consistently revitalises her energy. Padma Shri Vishnubhai Pandya described CB Patel as a vibrant and lively individual who brings energy to everyone around him. Despite having problems, CB continues to publish Gujarat Samachar and Asian Voice, which have a significant readership in Gujarat. According to Vishnubhai, CB's words are alive, and he has a remarkable ability to keep them vibrant and impactful. CB Patel introduced renowned oncologist Dr. Bhavesh Parekh and his wife Dr Urviben Parekh and highlighted the contribution of Dr Bhavesh's father and his late friend and journalist Bhupatrai Parekh. Dr Bhavesh expressed gratitude for CB's guidance and wished for his continued blessings. He emphasised CB's positive influence and expressed hope for the tradition of 'Snehmilan' to endure for another 25 years. CB Patel introduced Gujarat Samachar and Asian Voice columnist couple, Haribhai Desai

CB with Aroon Patel of Sharpex India

Padma Shri Vishnu Pandya

Surendra Patel

and Tinaben Doshi, acknowledging their significant support. Haribhai Desai expressed admiration for CB and recounted their longstanding friendship since 1986. He praised CB's youthful spirit and expressed gratitude for his guidance. CB, in response, thanked everyone,

emphasising the importance of future celebrations. Digant Sompura, a long-time journalist, praised CB for his dedication to keeping Gujarat connected globally. He humorously remarked that their close relationship has led him to consider changing his surname to

L-R Vikram Nayak, Kaushal Dabhi, Shrijit Rajan, Anusha Singh, Nilesh Parmar, CB Patel, Subhasini Naicker, Hardik Shah, Jagdish Arora, Dinesh Kadia, Achyut Sanghavi, Sandeep Bhavsar (ABPL India office Team)

including the readers, for their support. CB introduced Dr. Bhagyesh Jha, praising his skills as a poet, critic, and administrator. Jha recited a poem and expressed CB's desire for continued gatherings over the next 14 years, leading up to CB's centenary celebration. He highlighted CB's ability to foster connections and spread joy,

Patel. Any programme of Gujarat Samachar, Asian Voice, and CB Patel would be incomplete without Mayaben. Renowned singer Mayaben concluded the event with her melodious bhajans. Following the prayers, guests enjoyed delicious dishes, marking the end of the evening with CB Patel.

CB with Pankaj Mudholkar

CB with Kunal Thakkar-Owner of renowned chain of Das Khaman

Pravin Amin with his wife Janakben

Prof. Hari Desai

Actress Bhavini Jani

CB with Dr. Jayshree Mehta

Photo Courtesy- Jhatakia Studios

henever CB Patel, Publisher and Editorin-Chief of Asian Voice and Gujarat Samachar, visits India, his schedule is brimming with events and visits. However, he always sets aside a day to meet loved ones, friends, acquaintances, and employees along with their families. A recent "Snehamilan" (Get together) ceremony, held on January 26, 2024, at Hotel Radisson Blu, Ahmedabad, was a testament to this tradition.




23 17 - 23 February 2024

Bharat Ratna for Narasimha Rao, Charan Singh and MS Swaminathan Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, was conferred on former Prime Ministers PV Narasimha Rao and Chaudhary Charan Singh as well as agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan. Announcing the three awards on social media platform X, Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded their contributions to the country. Charan Singh served as the fifth Prime Minister of India, albeit for a brief period of time. He was sworn in on July 28, 1979, and was compelled to step down just 170 days after failing to prove his government’s majority on the floor of Parliament. After exiting the Congress in Uttar Pradesh in the 1950s, he went on to form the first non-Congress government in the northern state. He also went on to form the Bharatiya Kranti Dal (BKD), which later merged with the Samyukta (United) Socialist Party to form the Bharatiya Lok Dal (BLD). Pamulaparti Venkata Narasimha Rao served as the 10th Prime Minister of India from June 21, 1991, to May 16, 1996, for a total of 1,791 days. He is best known for

P.V. Narasimha Rao, Chaudhary Charan Singh and MS Swaminathan

ushering the country into an era of economic reforms. Rao previously served as a minister in the Andhra Pradesh government and held a number of portfolios including law, education and health until 1971, when he took over as the Chief Minister. He remained the CM till 1973. In his post, PM Modi credited Narasimha Rao with “fostering a new era of economic development” in the country. Known as the ‘Father of the Green Revolution’, Dr Swaminathan played a major role in the set of changes introduced in farming in the 1960s and ‘70s that helped India achieve food security. PM Modi highlighted his contributions towards modernising India’s agricultural sector. “He played a pivotal role in helping India

achieve self-reliance in agriculture during challenging times and made outstanding efforts towards modernizing Indian agriculture. We also recognise his invaluable work as an innovator and mentor and encouraging learning and research among several students. Dr Swaminathan’s visionary leadership has not only transformed Indian agriculture but also ensured the nation’s food security and prosperity. He was someone I knew closely and l always valued his insights and inputs,” said PM Modi. The announcement comes days after 96-yearold BJP stalwart LK Advani and two-time Bihar chief minister and socialist icon Karpoori Thakur (posthumously) were conferred with the highest civilian honour.

Lakshadweep tourism to receive £360 mn infrastructure upgrade The Central government has outlined a £360 million infrastructure upgrade plan for transforming the Lakshadweep islands into a premier tourist destination. Key highlights of the plan include the development of port facilities at Androth, Kalpeni, and Kadamat islands, along with the construction of beachfront and peripheral roads at strategic locations such as Kadamat Island (East), Agatti Island (East), and Kavaratti Island. These initiatives are part of a larger effort to enhance connectivity and tourism infrastructure across the 36 islands of Lakshadweep, covering 32 square km in total and which is situated 220-440 km off the Kerala coast in the Arabian Sea. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while presenting the Interim Budget 2024, highlighted the importance of investing in port connectivity and tourism infrastructure, particularly on islands like

Lakshadweep, to cater to the growing demand for domestic tourism in the country. She emphasised the need to encourage local entrepreneurship in tourism, including spiritual tourism, and announced plans to develop iconic tourist centres with global branding and marketing. To support the development of tourism infrastructure, the government plans to offer long-term interest-free loans to states on a matching basis. PM Modi's Lakshadweep visit The mention of Lakshadweep in the budget speech holds significance, especially following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent visit to the island on January 4. During his visit, PM Modi emphasised the tourism potential of Lakshadweep and its appeal to adventure enthusiasts, showcasing his own experience with activities like snorkelling.

Ahmedabad youth's start-up develops rapid soil testing device Agriculture plays an important role in the development of our country. In modern agriculture, testing the quality of the soil for its elements is a must. Such facilities are available in the agricultural universities in the state but it takes almost a week to get the results. Ahmedabad youth Gaurav Shah's startup has developed a kit that delivers the report in a mere 35 seconds and without anyone’s help. At a United Nations event, Gaurav's startup secured an order for 135 kits from Bangladesh, subsequently leading to additional orders for the startup.

Multiple reports can be generated from the Rapid Kit Gaurav said, “lab testing takes a long time. Through our kit we can go to the field and get instant result. This kit works on Time Domain Reflectometer (TDR). For this kit only the battery needs to be recharged.

Several reports can be generated by this kit.” Report in preferred language Soil is affected by chemical substances and pesticides, necessitating farmers to obtain soil quality reports. By using this kit, farmers can get the result in just 35 seconds. Based on this report, which is available in the languages preferred by farmers, it aids them in comprehending the necessary elements for cultivating crops in the soil. This kit has been certified by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL).

CAA will be notified before Lok Sabha elections: Shah Home minister Amit Shah accused Congress leader Rahul Gandhi of concocting a conspiracy theory around the caste census by bringing up the issue of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s caste, while asserting that the Citizenship Amendment Act would be notified before LS elections. Shah said that minorities, particularly Muslims, were being misled on CAA that had no provision to take away anybody’s citizenship. He said Uniform Civil Code (UCC), recently enacted by Uttarakhand, would be

adopted by other states/UTs based on the outcome of discussions by social and religious groups on its provisions as well as legal scrutiny. While accusing Rahul of following the policy of telling lies publicly and repeatedly despite knowing that PM Modi’s caste, Ghanchi Modh, was categorised as an OBC caste, Shah said “it is unfortunate that the caste of a globally respected leader like PM Modi is being raised. Rahul has no idea of the difference between a caste and bloc.

Modi ji had only said that he is an OBC. Let me clarify that Modi’s caste was included in Gujarat’s OBC list on July 25, 1994, by then Congress govt led by Chhabildas Mehta. Later in 2000, based on Congress recommendation from 1994, it was also included in the Central OBC list as well. Notably, Modi had not fought any election till then,” home minister said, while turning the heat back on Congress for not doing anything for OBCs by sitting on the Kalelkar and Mandal Commission report.

JainGPT: Where Jains get answers to their religious queries Questions such as ‘Why do we boil water before drinking it?’, ‘What happens after we die?’ or ‘What is Sagaropam?’ could be for a Jain Acharya to answer, but a generative artificial intelligence (AI) engine - JainGPT (Generative Pretrained Transformer) - is fielding them for the audience worldwide. The platform, run by experts based in the US and Ahmedabad, has found more than 100,000 users from countries including India, the US, the UK and several Asian countries. It is an initiative by Jain eLibrary where top officials are from California, North Carolina, New York, Virginia and Illinois among others.

The organisation also has a presence in Ahmedabad. In an interview, Anish Visaria, director of innovations at Jain e-Library, said the organization has launched JainGPT and Jain Quantum to combine religion and technology. “Both the initiatives originated from the need to search through vast amounts of literature. Many of the books and scriptures were in the image format, making it difficult for users to search through them. We had to employ optical character recognition (OCR) to extract all the text from over 4 million scanned pages,” he said.

Shantaben, the 103-year-old freedom fighter from Bhadran, passes away Shantaben Patel, a driving force behind the Subhash Chandra Bose to proceed. Despite freedom movement in Bhadran, passed being reprimanded for the absence of the away on February 11, 2024, at the age of 103, tricolor, towering figures like Subhash leaving behind a profound legacy. She radiChandra Bose respected Shantaben's stand. ated a commanding presence that earned Upon his belated arrival at the convenwidespread respect. With the passing away tion, Mahatma Gandhi inquired Subhash of Shantaben, people of Bhadran experiChandra Bose about the reason for the enced a profound sorrow, akin to the loss delay, to which Bose recounted his of their beloved mother. Throughout her encounter with Shantaben. On hearing of life, she was an inspiration to the entire vilher actions, Mahatma Gandhi commended lage, providing warmth and guidance. Shantaben for her dedication to upholding Despite a short illness, she remained the honor of the flag. He remarked, "The healthy and continued working for the nation is enriched by the presence of such well-being of the village until her last valiant women.” breath. Shantaben often emphasised that Bhadran village made significant contribuReflecting on her life story, one's imagtions to the freedom struggle. Notably, ination runs wild. From halting Subhash icons like Gandhiji, Sardar Chandra Bose's car before Patel and Subhash Chandra independence to imparting Bose had visited Bhadran as valuable lessons even to part of the freedom moveprominent leaders, her wisment, in which she actively dom and intelligence were participated. evident. She devoted her Shantaben, a devoted wealth for the country and patriot, made significant village development and contributions to the freeeven served time in jail dom movement alongside alongside Gandhiji. Gandhiji. She supported At the remarkable age of the 'Non-Violence' move103, her dignified presence ment by selling her jewleft a lasting impression on Shantaben Patel ellery. Shantaben would many politicians. She conpassionately recount her fidently offered advice to memories and experiences from the 1936 leaders on village and district affairs, which freedom movement to the villagers and they readily accepted and followed. youth, motivating them to forge ahead by Bhadran village gained additional fame leading through their own actions. due to Shantaben. She was one such warrior who followed the footsteps of Subhash Inspired by the remarkable personality Chandra Bose and a fierce fighter of the of Shantaben, renowned politician and Azad Hind Army. Shantaben was also former Speaker of the Gujarat Legislative arrested for her involvement in the ‘Quit Assembly, Rajendra Trivedi, paid her a India’ movement in 1942 and served visit. He was deeply impressed by imprisonment in Yerawada. Shantaben's anecdotes, tact, and remarkShantaben was known for her unwaable memory. She emphasised that vering commitment to her country, homeKandarai village had been the developland and personal principles. Once, during ment center of Bhadran since 1936, noting a convention in Haripura, she halted the that the village saw its first drainage line convoy of Netaji Subhashchandra Bose installed in that year. In the course of the because the Indian national flag was missvisit, Shantaben also secured a commiting from his vehicle. Only after the flag was ment from Rajendra Trivedi to conduct a affixed to his car did Shantaben permitted survey of Bhadran city.





17 - 23 February 2024

in brief


90 people in karnataka BJP CHIEF NADDA TN governor refuses to read SLAMS DMK get cabinet rank customary address in assembly CHENNAI: For the decently worded and second consecutive year, added that the governor the customary address of should have stayed back the governor to the State till the National Anthem Assembly ended up in was played. "This House controversy with is being conducted as Governor RN Ravi per the Constitution refusing to read his and the rules. The customary address governor expressing his prepared by the State own views in the government except for the customary address is introductory portions inappropriate", the citing some reasons. Later, Speaker added. Assembly Speaker M Responding to a RN Ravi Appavu read out the Tamil question as to whether version of the customary address in the the governor had acted in this way with presence of the governor and completing any ulterior motive, the Speaker said that that, the Speaker gave a sharp reply to the customary address was okayed by the the Governor's remarks. Besides, he said governor in advance and expressed his the personal remarks made by the own views in the House. The governor is Governor would not go on record. of the view that the National Anthem should be played at the beginning of the Just after the Speaker completed his session. "As per the rules of the House, sharp remarks, the governor left the an invocation to the Thamizh Thaai House without staying back for the would be rendered at the beginning of National Anthem. the session and the session will conclude Later, talking to reporters, the with the National Anthem. Across Tamil Speaker said the customary address does Nadu, at government functions, this not have any remarks contrary to the procedure has been followed," the truth and has any remarks that accuse Speaker added. any government. He said the address was

BENGALURU: As many as 90 people, including 77 MLAs and nine non-legislators, have been granted cabinet rank by Karnataka’s Siddaramaiah govt since it took office nine months ago. Sources said such a contingent is, perhaps, the largest ever in Karnataka history. With Congress scoring a big win in the May 2023 polls leading to claims from different sections, 77 of its 135 MLAs and four MLCs have been given the prestigious rank. These include chairpersons of boards and corporations, multiple advisors to CM and even chief whips of the governing and council. Besides, nine members appointed advisors to the CM with the rank and status as cabinet ministers are members of neither of the Houses. They include Congress victory mastermind Sunil Kanugolu, CM’s medical adviser Dr H Ravikumar, former IAS officer and ‘Brand Bengaluru’ expert B S Patil and Dr Aarthi Krishna, vice-president of NRI Cell. What does a cabinet-rank status entail? Apart from the inherent heft, they can hire as many as 14-member staff, get a car with a police escort and higher salary. However, Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms officials suggest that none of the cabinet-rank legislators has higher salaries.


AAP to contest all Lok Sabha seats in Punjab, Delhi: Kejriwal TARN TARAN (PUNJAB): A day after announcing that his party would independently declare candidates for all 13 seats in Punjab and one in Chandigarh in a fortnight, AAP national convenor and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal dropped clear hints that AAP would contest all seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi, delivering a blow to fellow INDIA bloc constituent Congress’s plans to have an alliance in national capital. “People of Delhi have decided to give all seven seats to AAP,” said Kejriwal in his address to a gathering during a ceremony to inaugurate Sri Guru Amar Das Thermal Plant here, expressing

Arvind Kejriwal

confidence that his party will be victorious in all Lok Sabha seats in Delhi. In last LS elections, BJP had won all seven in a triangular

fight, pushing Congress to second position in five seats (North East Delhi, Chandni Chowk, West Delhi, New Delhi and East Delhi) and AAP to third. AAP was runner up in North West Delhi (SC) and South Delhi. Claiming that AAP govt in Punjab stands as a beacon of honesty, Kejriwal appealed to voters to support his party and ensure victory in all 13 Lok Sabha seats in state. “Such a mandate will empower (chief minister) Bhagwant Mann to serve people with even greater dedication and expedite resolution of your issues.”

Describing his party as a “10year-old baby”, Kejriwal said AAP had formed govts in two states within that time frame and won assembly seats in Gujarat and Goa. “This fledgling party of a decade has instilled fear in major political entities like BJP, even haunting them in their dreams.” “Wherever we fight elections, we secure so many votes. Today, BJP fears that if (AAP) continues to grow like this, then there will be an AAP govt at Centre,” Kejriwal said and added that “they want AAP to be crushed and finished... arrest (our leaders), defame AAP. They make new accusations every day.”


Abhishek Banerjee vs judge sparring reaches SC NEW DELHI: Supreme Court questioned Trinamool Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee on his request to transfer the teacher recruitment scam case allegedly involving him from Justice Amrita Sinha of Calcutta HC to another judge of the court. “Why should the proceedings before Justice Sinha be shifted to another judge because of a colleague judge’s remarks?” asked CJI D Y Chandrachud while hearing the matter along with Justices Manoj Misra and Satish Chandra Sharma. Banerjee had moved SC to restrain Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay from making “baseless remarks prejudicial to him” and sought shifting of the case from Justice Sinha to another judge. Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Banerjee, said the judge had given 5 interviews against the leader, despite him not being connected to any of the scam-related proceedings pending in HC. Singhvi said since Justice Gangopadhyay had alleged that Justice Soumen Sen had attempted to influence Justice Sinha, the petition pending before her should be entrusted to another judge for fair and unbiased proceedings. CJI said Banerjee’s petition at best

Abhishek Banerjee

could be tagged with pending proceedings the court launched suo motu following the spat between Justice Gangopadhyay and Justice Sinha. His plea, filed through advocate Srisatya Mohanty, said Justice Gangopadhyay’s remarks, widely covered by media, violated his right to privacy & prejudiced public against him ahead of LS polls. The clutch of relief sought included an omnibus direction that Justice Gangopadhyay’s remarks would not prejudice him in judicial proceedings or probe by ED and CBI; suitable action against the judge; direction to Calcutta HC to restrain judges from making adverse comments about any sub judice case or parties involved therein.

Bengal governor visits Sandeshkhali, assures women of protection KOLKATA: Bengal governor CV Ananda Bose assured women in Sandeshkhali that he would do “whatever is required to protect their honour and security. All the women here are my rakhi sisters,” Bose said at Trimani Bazar in Sandeshkhali after women there tied rakhis on the governor. CM Mamata Banerjee, meanwhile, said those against whom there was anger and those who had fomented trouble in Sandeshkhali had been arrested. Three villagers - Sanjoy Mondal, Pradip Mondal and Saikat Das - arrested for alleged involvement in arson were granted bail by a Basirhat court in the evening. Suspended Trinamool politician Uttam Sardar was also released on bail. Referring to governor's visit to Sandeshkhali, Banerjee said: “Anyone can go anywhere they want. I have also sent the women’s commission.” In Kolkata, leader of opposition Suvendu Adhikari and five other BJP MLAs were suspended for the remainder of the state assembly budget session for “unruly and disorderly behaviour” in the House during protests over the clashes in Sandeshkhali. Later, an Adhikari-led team of 67 BJP MLAs was stopped by police on Basanti Highway at Topsia, 65 km from Sandeshkhali. The defiant MLAs stayed put in the bus for over two hours as a large police contingent encircled the area. BJP is likely to move Calcutta high court seeking permission to visit the Sandeshkhali victims.

BJP chief JP Nadda slammed the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu as a party that stands for "dynasty, money swindling and katta panchayat (kangaroo courts)". A rich state like Tamil Nadu has poor leaders, he said during a statewide foot march by his party in Chennai. "Do you know the meaning of DMK? DMK stands for dynasty, money swindling, katta panchayat. Karunanidhi, Stalin, Udhayanidhi...only Stalin family. They are not ashamed of corruption. A state minister is languishing in jail for 200 days and still keeps his post. What type of democracy you're having?" he said. The BJP chief was pointing to Chief Minister MK Stalin, his father and former chief minister M Karunanidhi and minister-son Udhayanidhi Stalin. Further sharpening his attack on the DMK, Nadda said that instead of a promised Horticulture Research Centre, DMK has established a "Corruption Research Centre".

FORMER MP, 15 EX-MLAS JOIN BJP IN TAMIL NADU A host of leaders from Tamil Nadu, including 15 former MLAs and former AIADMK MP V K Kulandeaivelu, joined BJP as the ruling party looks to strengthen its presence in the southern state in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections. Most of these leaders are from AIADMK, a former BJP ally in the state, and the members joined BJP in the presence of union ministers Rajeev Chandrasekhar and L Murugan besides state BJP president K Annamalai. Welcoming them, Annamalai said they bring a wealth of experience to BJP and want to strengthen the hands of PM Modi. They have been seeing the happenings in TN, he said in an apparent dig at the state’s ruling DMK and its main rival AIADMK. “TN is going the BJP way,” claimed the young leader whose strong position on his party’s ideological stand in the Dravidian state and sharp criticism of the entrenched parties is believed to have won him his share of admirers and detractors.

HC ORDERS RELEASE OF EX-MLA FROM ED CUSTODY In a major embarrassment to ED, Punjab and Haryana HC ordered the release of former Haryana MLA and senior INLD politician Dilbag Singh, declaring his arrest on moneylaundering charges “illegal”. Dilbag had claimed he was detained by ED on January 4 but was shown as arrested only on January 8. HC observed that ED’s excuse for arresting Dilbag - that he was non-cooperative - was “vague” and also ordered the release of his associate, Kulwinder Singh. “Since the order of arrest, arrest memo and remand dated Jan 9 are held illegal, other consequential orders are also liable to be set aside,” Justice Vikas Bahl said. HC made it clear that a Gurgaon special court’s order on Dilbag’s remand showed “nonapplication of mind and non-recording of compliance of stipulations in PMLA”.

ED RAIDS HOMES OF BENGAL OFFICIALS IN FOUR DISTRICTS ED officials knocked on the doors of govt officials and office-bearers of zila parishads and panchayats in four districts of Bengal and seized what it said were incriminating documents linking some of them to anomalies in MGNREGS payments and issuance of fake job cards. The coordinated search of homes across six locations included an embarrassing moment for the central agency when a team questioned a wrong functionary. Another team questioned deputy magistrate Sanchayan Pan, a nodal officer for MGNREGS, at his residence for around four hours. The agency also searched his home in Kolkata. ED interrogated for six hours Beldanga gram panchayat official Rathindranath Dey, who had been suspended earlier. Birupakkha Mitra, a former BDO of Beldanga-I, had filed a police complaint against some panchayat executives for alleged financial misappropriation and faking job cards.





17 - 23 February 2024

Karnataka, Kerala bring NRGs discuss community’s contribution during Ahmedabad meet fight against Centre to Delhi The second edition of Pravasi Gujarati Parva, cohosted by the Association of Indian Americans of North America (AIANA) was organized in Ahmedabad on Saturday. The two-day event saw participation of more than 200 persons of eminence with Gujarati descent from across the globe. The event was inaugurated by CM Bhupendra Patel in presence of Biman Prasad, deputy PM of Fiji and others. Sunil Nayak, president of AIANA, said that the event is a platform to take ‘Gujaratism’ to the world with about 55,00,000 persons of Gujarati origin living in other parts of the world. “Over the years, we have been called everything from American Born Confused Desi (ABCD) or coconuts who are brown from outside and white from inside, but we have made our mark in our chosen fields wherever we have made our homes,” he said.

Cllr Hitesh Tailor

Cllr Ramji Chauhan

While Biman Prasad’s wife traces her roots to Surat, another guest Vivek Malek, the treasurer of state, Missouri in the US, was brought up in Ahmedabad as his father worked with Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Julia Finn, MP from Australia, and Michael Wood, former minister of New Zealand, were also among participants who lauded the Gujaratis in their respective countries for economic and cultural contribution. The participants included mayors from the UK, diplomats from African nations, CEOs and businessmen from the US, the UK, Kenya and Japan, and

artists from Germany and the UK – all tracing their roots to parts of Gujarat. Several were ‘twice immigrants’ who went to the US and the UK from East Africa. Cllr Hitesh Tailor (Mayor of Ealing), Cllr Ramji Chauhan (Mayor of London Borough of Harrow), Cllr Bharat Pankhania (Deputy Mayor Bath), AMB. Nimisha Madhvani (Uganda High Commissioner to the UK) and Rohit Vadhwana IFS (Deputy High Commissioner of India in Kenya) were some of the dignitaries present for the event. "Multiculturalism resonates deeply within us”,

said Cllr Ramji Chauhan. Born in Uganda, he was merely four years old when his parents immigrated to the UK in the 1970s amid the mass exodus of Indians. Initially working in the pharmaceutical sector, his journey into public life began unexpectedly about 17 years ago when he received a call from the local council, informing him of his selection to represent the school's governing body where his children were enrolled. "Since then, my goal has been to give back to the community, leading me to various offices. In 2010, I became a councillor, and I also served as deputy mayor before my election as mayor last year," Cllr Ramji Chauhan explained while visiting the city as part of the Pravasi Gujarati Parva. "Multiculturalism lies at the heart of a thriving community. Our Borough encompasses individuals from 12 different faiths," he emphasised.

Congress trying to create a rift between north and south: PM Modi Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the Congress of trying to drive a wedge between the northern and southern states and said the opposition party’s government in Karnataka was trying to create a narrative that will jeopardise the country’s future. Replying to the debate to the motion of thanks in the Rajya Sabha, Modi lamented that the Karnataka government was building such a narrative through advertisements. His comments came even as the Karnataka government led by chief minister Siddaramaiah and deputy chief minister DK Shivakumar took to New Delhi’s streets to protest alleged “financial discrimination” against the state. “Today I want to share my pain on a specific matter... The way language is being spoken these days to break the

Narendra Modi

country, these new narratives are being made for political gains. An entire state is speaking this language, nothing can be worse for the country than this... what language have we started saying,” Modi asked in the Upper House. Modi said such narratives were not good for the country and could jeopardise its future. He asked the House what would happen if a vaccine is made

in one part of the country and someone says that it can’t be given to other parts. “What is this thinking? And it is very painful that such language is emerging from a national party, it is very sad,” he said. “The Congress, which had openly strangled democracy in its greed for power, the Congress which had dismissed democratically elected governments dozens of times overnight, the Congress which had even tried to lock newspapers, is now trying to break the country,” he said. He said the country is one and not the sum of separate parts. “But there is an attempt to break this. ‘Hamara tax, hamara money’ (our tax, our money), what is this language being spoken? Stop using such new narratives to break the nation. Make efforts to take the country along,” the PM said.

The Opposition-ruled states of Karnataka and Kerala brought their protest against the Centre’s alleged biased fiscal policies to the national capital, with Tamil Nadu lending its voice of support. The Karnataka Congress establishment led by CM Siddaramaiah held a protest at Jantar Mantar accusing the Modi regime of denying the state its rightful share in central funds and demanding that Karnataka be given justice by a return to old formula of devolution of funds. Siddaramaiah accused finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman of denying funds to the state and “for lying” that she could not interfere in the decision-making of an autonomous body like the Finance Commission. He added that the FM, ironically, belongs to the state. Arguing that population control and progress have become a handicap for Karnataka and the southern states, Siddaramaiah told the protesters which included his deputy D K Shivakumar, cabinet colleagues, MLAs, MLCs and MPs “We are not against giving more funds to northern states. But don’t kill the hen that lays the golden eggs.” He sought corrective steps to recover losses amounting to £18 billion incurred by Karnataka under the 15th Finance Commission, and sought a return to the formula for devolution of the 14th FC. Kejriwal, Mann and Farooq join Kerala protest A clutch of INDIA bloc leaders rallied around Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan as he led protests against the “crippling of democracy” and attack on India’s federal structure by the Modi govt. Vijayan’s protest, which came on the heels of a similar protest by Karnataka earlier, saw Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and his Punjab counterpart Bhagwant Mann extend their support. Tamil Nadu CM M K Stalin was represented by DMK leaders Tiruchi Siva and Palanivel Thiagarajan, aside from National Conference patriarch Farooq Abdullah, Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal, CPM chief Sitaram Yechury and CPI general secretary D Raja, among others.

Education should be based on Indian values: PM Modi Virtually addressing an event organized to mark the 200th birth anniversary of Arya Samaj founder Swami Dayanand Saraswati at his birthplace Tankara in Morbi district, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that an education system based on Indian values is the need of the hour. “An education system based on Indian values is the need of the hour. Arya Samaj schools have been a centre for this. The country is now expanding it through the National Education Policy. It is our responsibility to connect to society with these efforts,” the PM said. Commenting on the times when Swami Dayanand Saraswati was born, the PM said, “Swami Dayanandji used to speak about how our stereotypes of orthodoxy and superstitions had engulfed the country and weakened our scientific thinking. These social evils had attacked our unity.” “At a time when British rulers tried to make our people look inferior by using our social evils as a pawn and their rule was justified by some people citing social evils, the arrival of Dayanand Saraswati shocked such conspirators,” he told the gathering.

Organisers address leaders about the first-ever World Spirituality Mahotsav in March 2024 On 12 February 2024, Daaji, the Global Guide of Heartfulness, along with the Director of the Ministry of Culture, Rajiv Kumar, addressed over 75 dignitaries and leaders from various faiths, religions and spiritual organisations on Zoom, about the first edition of the World Spirituality Mahotsav from 14 to 17 March, 2024. It will be hosted at Kanha Shanti Vanam, the World Headquarters of Heartfulness in Hyderabad and will be officially inaugurated by the Honourable President of India, Draupadi Murmu. Daaji warmly invited all the heads of the various faith-based and spiritual organisations for the first meeting of the planning and organising phase. There were representatives from many religions, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam,

Sufism, Sikhism, Christianity, along with spiritual organizations, including Brahmakumaris and numerous schools of yoga, self-help gurus, philosophers, and more from all over the world. The Mahotsav will explore themes such as consciousness

evolution, theological convergence, social cohesion, and sustainable development. More than 300 spiritual, religious, faith, and yoga organisations, accompanied by 75,000 seekers from 100+ countries, will actively participate in this 3-day event. Daaji announced that there

will be an array of activities, including Wisdom Sessions and Experience Zones with over 50 parallel breakout sessions showcasing the philosophies and experiences of various Sansthas to foster dialogue and understanding among faiths. India, renowned for its spiritual heritage, is the ideal host for this Mahotsav, having been a beacon of wisdom for centuries and nurturing a legacy of spirituality and philosophy. Daaji reminded everyone of Swami Vivekananda's words from 150 years ago in 1893, at the World Parliament of Religions, where Swamiji encouraged all religions and faiths to unite to put an end to violence and fanaticism. Daaji emphasised an important aspect of peace being not merely the absence of violence, but about generating a greater

sense of harmony, love, cooperation, and gratitude. The Ministry of Culture announced that Kanha Shanti Vanam is the perfect place for a Mahotsav of this scale, as the sprawling tranquil green campus serves as an oasis of peace. Kanha is a testament to sustainability and environmental regeneration, naturally fostering inner and outer peace. Daaji invited all spiritual dignitaries to participate in the event, with the hopes of showing the world that spirituality can come together and metamorphose the human race into a divine species, which is crucial in shaping the destiny of our planet. All dignitaries assembled had a chance to share the messages from their spiritual traditions with valuable inspiring ideas, thoughts, and tips to help plan this event.





17 - 23 February 2024

PM Modi to inaugurate BAPS temple in UAE Continued from page 1 Sharing his excitement on his social media, PM Modi stated, "We are very proud of our diaspora and their efforts to deepen India's engagement with the world. This evening, I look forward to being among UAE's Indian diaspora at the “Ahlan Modi program! Do join this memorable occasion." Before the temple's inauguration by PM Modi, Sadhu Brahmaviharidas acknowledged the crucial role played by the generosity and friendship of UAE leaders. He also expressed profound appreciation for the rulers and leaders of the UAE and highlighted the strong friendship between India's Prime Minister and the UAE rulers. Prayers for global harmony More than 980 people gathered for the Vishwa Samvadita Yagna (Vedic prayers for global harmony) at the BAPS Mandir on 11 February. The event formed part of the ‘Festival of Harmony’ – a celebration of cultural diversity and spiritual unity – organised to commemorate the historic inauguration of the templei. Ancient Hindu scriptures describe a yagna as a powerful devotional offering that serves to seek blessings from God. The yagna – the first of its kind in the Middle East – brought together dignitaries, spiritual leaders, and members of the community to pray for peace, harmony and the well-being and success of everyone in the UAE and across the world. Seven expert priests had travelled from India to officiate the ancient ceremonial rituals, which connected participants through offerings and prayers that inspire pure and virtuous thoughts and actions. They were supported by more than 200 devotees

Swamishri transferred the naturally ignited auspicious flame to a divo

who helped conduct the ceremony to provide an enriching experience for all the participants.

that was evoked throughout the morning embodied a beacon of hope for future generations that the

Pujya Ishwacharan Swami performing Yagna rituals

Devotees performing Yagna in rain 2

Devotees participating in Yagna cermony

Swami Brahmaviharidas, leading the Mandir project under the guidance of His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, explained, “A yagna of this significance rarely takes place outside of India. The occasion served as the perfect way to pay tribute to the Mandir’s message of global unity, a value that His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj is deeply passionate about. The peace and coexistence

Mandir will reinforce.” The auspicious flame of the yagna symbolised the dispelling of darkness and emergence of spiritual enlightenment. This was a wonderful sight to see amongst the rare backdrop of the raining skies that showed all the five elements of nature coming together. Despite the wet weather, the joyous spirits of the participants could hardly be dampened. Jayshri Inamdar, a 70-year-old devotee who had travelled from London to attend the event, shared, “The rains made the historic event all the more memorable and enjoyable. Never in my lifetime have I witnessed a yagna take place in the rain! It felt especially auspicious.”

Qatar releases 8 Indian Navy veterans after intervention by Emir Qatar has released former Indian Navy personnel who were sentenced to death, which was later commuted to imprisonment after an intervention by the country’s ruler, Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Seven out of the eight men, who were accused of allegedly spying for Israel, returned to India on Monday morning. Commander Purnendu Tiwari, who had his death sentence reduced to life imprisonment, was the only individual to have not arrived. Official sources said he, too, had been released and that his return had been delayed because some legal formalities were yet to be completed. He also has family in Qatar.

Thanking the emir and Qatar govt, foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra said PM Modi had personally supervised developments in the case and never shied away from any initiative that could have led to the release of the veterans. The seven who returned are Captains Navtej Gill and Saurabh Vasisht, Amit Nagpal, S K Gupta, B K Verma and Sugunakar Pakala and sailor Ragesh. “I feel delighted to finally be back in India safe and sound. I wish to thank PM Modi because this would not have been possible had it not been for his personal intervention. I also wish to express my gratitude to the emir of Qatar,” Gill said.

Shiv Sena leader shot dead during live video in Mumbai Abhishek Ghosalkar, son of Shiv Sena leader Vinod Ghosalkar, was shot dead during a Facebook Live video last week. The incident took place in Mumbai's Dahisar area. The distressing footage, which quickly circulated on social media, captured the moment when Abhishek Ghosalkar, a former corporator, was struck in the abdomen and shoulder. The assailant, identified as Mauris Noronha, shot himself after killing Ghosalkar. As per Mumbai police, both succumbed to the injuries. Ghosalkar was rushed to a hospital in Borivli West and died while doctors tried to save his life. The incident happened less than a week after BJP's Kalyan East MLA Ganpat Gaikwad fired on Shiv Sena functionary Mahesh Gaikwad and another Shiv Saink inside a police station in Ulhasnagar.

PM Modi hails India-UAE friendship at 'Ahlan Modi' event Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam - the languages spoken in four southern states of India, which sends maximum number of people to the United Arab Emirates - at his outreach event 'Ahlan Modi' (Hello, Modi) in Abu Dhabi. PM Modi said people from various regions of the UAE and different states of India have gathered at the venue and "everyone's hearts are connected". "Today in Abu Dhabi, you have created a new history. You have come here from all corners of the UAE and different states of India. But everyone's heart is connected. At this historic stadium, every heartbeat, every breath, every voice says - Long live India-UAE friendship," PM Modi said at the packed Zayed Sports Stadium. "I bring with me a message from 1,400 million Indians, and it's simple yet profound Bharat is proud of you," PM Modi told the Indian community, adding "your enthusiasm paints a beautiful picture of 'Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat'." The Indian expatriate community of approximately 3.5 million is the largest ethnic community in the UAE, constituting roughly 35 per cent of the country's population. Earlier, PM Modi reached UAE for a twoday visit to the country. PM Modi's engagements include the inauguration of the first-ever Hindu temple in UAE on Wednesday. After reaching UAE, PM Modi met the country's president Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He introduced UPI RuPay card service in the presence of UAE President. He hailed UAE President's support in construction of BAPS Hindu Mandir. He also thanked UAE President for his visit to Vibrant Gujarat Summit.

PM and President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan launches UPI Rupay card payment service

PM interacting with the Indian Diaspora

During his visit, Modi will also participate as a guest of honour in the World Government Summit 2024 in Dubai, where he will deliver a keynote address. Modi's visit to the UAE marks his seventh since 2015 and it is his third visit in the past eight months, underscoring the robust ties between the leadership of India and the UAE. According to a press release from the ministry of external affairs a number of agreements were signed between India and UAE. 'Ahlan Modi' event is one of the most significant assemblies for PM Modi outside Indian borders, the gathering is an homage to "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam," an Indian worldview that espouses global brotherhood. This event serves to affirm the rich

PM being welcomed by Indian Diaspora at a hotel in Abu Dhabi

cultural heritage and inclusiveness that epitomizes the Indian diaspora. In preparation for an evening of such monumental scale, with over 60,000 individuals who have already registered, the organizing committee is engaged in meticulous coordination with Abu Dhabi authorities to guarantee an event marked by grandeur and seamless execution. This mirrors the profound support for Prime Minister Modi within the UAE and reflects the strong support extended by the UAE leadership. The event highlights the dynamic participation of Indian schools and student groups, underlining the strengthening ties between Indian governance and its youth. Such initiatives are designed to root the

young firmly in their heritage, while actively encouraging their participation in the nation's progress. Key highlights of the event included: An exhibition by over 700 cultural artists, bringing to life the vast diversity of Indian arts, ensuring an inclusive cultural soiree. Active participation from more than 150 Indian community groups, showcasing India's regional diversity and the organizing

Gathering at the Ahlan Modi event in Abu Dhabi

committee's dedication to social inclusivity. The integration of thousands of blue-collar workers from across the emirates, weaving a rich tapestry of diversity and unity into the fabric of the event. In a remarkable display of solidarity and anticipation, the ‘Nari Shakti’ of the Indian community have shown overwhelming support and enthusiasm. They have registered in significant numbers and are actively promoting the event, embodying the spirit of women empowerment, communal harmony and participation. Speaking on the event PNC Menon, founder and chairman of Sobha Realty, said: “Ahlan Modi is not just an event, it is a celebration of unity in diversity, resonating across borders.”





17 - 23 February 2024

Uncover the beauty of Oman T

he Sultanate of Oman beckons with its enchanting landscapes, vibrant cultural legacy, and gracious hospitality, making it an alluring off-the-beaten-path destination to explore this year. Whether you're drawn to the captivating performances at the esteemed Royal Opera House of Muscat or intrigued by the charms of Sur, honoured as the Arab Tourism Capital 2024, Oman offers a plethora of experiences to suit every traveller's desires.

Here are five places not to miss in Oman in 2024:


Visit Sur, the Arab Tourism Capital for 2024

Surhas been designated as the Arab tourism capital for 2024 and stands as a coastal gem just two hours from Muscat. Renowned for its rich history, unspoiled beaches, and traditional architecture, Sur boasts attractions such as Fatah Al Khair, an open-air museum honouring its shipbuilding legacy; Bilad Sur Castle, erected in the early 19th century as a defence against the Portuguese; Ras Al Hadd village, a sanctuary for green and hawksbill turtles; the striking Khor Jarama lagoon, home to sought-after floating chalets; and Marvelous Sur, a renowned beach celebrated for its pristine waters and sandy shores.

Dhow boat in Sur



Musandam Governorate, a northern peninsula separated from Oman by the UAE, resembles the fjord-laden coasts of Norway, enticingtravellers with its breathtaking khors or fjords. Optimal exploration is via

The Royal Opera House Muscatstands as Oman’s foremost cultural landmark, drawing music aficionados from far and wide. Hosting a diverse array of performances year-round, the venue showcases internationally renowned artists and fine art legends. Scheduled highlights for 2024 include the timeless ballet Swan Lake, the percussive extravaganza STOMP!, and a captivating opera rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Beyond performances, visitors can indulge in upscale shopping and dining experiences within the opulent mall.

Venture to Musandam, one of Oman’s hidden gems


Explore Oman’s cultural heritage at Bait Al Zubair (Muscat)

Bait Al Zubair, an emblem of Omani culture in Muscat, houses a diverse array of artefacts and exhibits, the museum offers profound insights into Oman's history, art, and traditions. Visitors can delve into various sections, showcasing traditional clothing, jewellery, weaponry, household items, and musical instruments. The museum's extensive permanent art collection, featuring works by Omani artists, is renowned. Beyond exhibitions, Bait Al Zubair also hosts cultural events, workshops, and educational programs.

Listen to the sounds of the world at the Royal Opera House of Muscat


Explore the Al Hoota Cave, the only one in Oman open to visitors


traditional Arab dhows, offering scenic cruises amidst stunning landscapes. Dolphin sightings and snorkelling in the azure waters are highlights. The region also boasts dramatic mountain vistas, notably the towering Hajar mountains. Musandam, often dubbed the "Norway of Arabia," beckons adventurers seeking lesser-known destinations.

Located in Al-Hamra, just two hours from Muscat, Al Hoota Cave is a captivating natural wonder spanning 5 kilometres. Adorned with hanging stalactites and towering stalagmites, it offers visitors a rare opportunity to explore Oman's underground marvels. Dating back over two million years, the cave showcases a stunning array of geological formations such as flowstones and soda straws, along with four underground lakes inhabited by blind cavefish.


The Practice of Therapeutic Reading

Bijal Shah


n our fast-paced and hectic lives, prioritising our wellbeing has never been more vital. Amidst various wellness practices, one often overlooked yet immensely powerful tool is therapeutic reading. Called ‘bibliotherapy’, it’s the use of literature as a therapeutic tool. Dating back millennia from the Stoics to Montaigne to modern-day pioneers, it’s relatively unknown still, only recently garnering attention. My new book, Bibliotherapy: The Healing Power of Reading, pulls together this history and outlinestechniques for using literature (fiction, non-fiction and poetry), as it captures client stories,lifechanging books and reading lists for mental health themes from anxiety, burnout, navigating mid-life, relationships and many more. Literature has a unique ability to transport readers into the minds of diverse characters, fostering empathy and understanding. The pages of a well-crafted narrative mirror our own thoughts, emotions, and struggles. Engaging with characters undergoing personal growth or confrontingsimilar challenges to us inspire self-reflection and promote a deeper

understanding of ourselves. From the person who’s struggling with terminal cancer, finding hope in cancer memoirs, to the new mother, who navigates the immense life change through parenting novels, to the seasoned couple seeking using poetry to rekindle their relationship, there’s something for everyone in Bibliotherapy. However, bibliotherapy’s more than simply reading a book.As a bibliotherapist I help clientsleverage their reading, using bibliotherapy techniques at home or insession. Ranging from literary journaling,

poetry therapy, narrative therapy to many more detailed in the book, the combination of reading and bibliotherapy technique,is where healing happens. As we identify with the character(s) or author, our experience mirroring theirs, we relax our defences,and feel the same emotions as them. This puts us in touch with our own feelings.As we journal or write alongside, reflecting on this, we provide an outlet for our emotions, giving way to catharsis, insight, awareness and healing.Bibliotherapy has also shown to reduce stress and lower heart rates. My approach is absolutely personalised – only suggesting books the reader or client will enjoyand connect with, based on their preferences, the genres they enjoy, and the time they have to read. This is paramount to the whole process. Just as connection with a therapist unlocks the therapeutic process, connection to the book we’re reading(and identification with the author or protagonist)is vital. A pathway to improved mental healthand personal growth, therapeutic reading heals, inspires, and transforms, leading to a more balanced and resilient self. Bijal Shah is a bibliotherapist at Book Therapy (www.booktherapy.io) and the author of Bibliotherapy: The Healing Power of Reading due to be published on 22nd February 2024. It’s currently available for pre-order at any bookstore you shop at.





17 - 23 February 2024

Gut-friendly foods to enjoy during the weather transition As the winter chill gives way to the warmth of spring, it's essential to adapt our diets to support our bodies through this seasonal shift. One crucial aspect to consider is gut health. Incorporating gut-friendly foods into your diet can help maintain a healthy digestive system and bolster your immune system as you transition between seasons. Fruits and vegetables Fibre-rich produce is an excellent addition to your diet as winter fades away. Apples, pears, and berries are packed with soluble fibre, promoting healthy digestion and regulating bowel movements. Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are abundant in fibre and brimming with essential vitamins and minerals to support your overall health. Fermented foods They are another powerhouse for gut health. Yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut are teeming with probiotics, beneficial bacteria that promote a thriving gut microbiome. These foods help maintain a healthy gut flora balance, supporting digestion and bolstering your immune system against seasonal illnesses. Whole grains Oats, quinoa, and brown rice provide a steady fibre source, aiding digestion and promoting satiety. Additionally, they contain prebiotics, which fuel the good bacteria in your gut, further enhancing digestive health. Nuts and seeds Incorporate those which are rich in both fibre and healthy fats. Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds are particularly beneficial for gut health. They provide a satisfying crunch while delivering essential nutrients that support digestive function.

Avoid these foods with citrus fruits Citrus fruits are a wonderful addition to your diet. They are high in plant compounds, flavonoids, fibre, and micronutrients. Consuming citrus fruits regularly can boost immunity, protect heart health and reduce inflammation. Ayurveda suggests practicing caution when combining them with other foods. As acidic, pairing them with the right foods can reap maximum benefits. Combining them with incompatible foods can lead to pitta and kapha imbalances in the body. Avoid the following with citrus fruits: Cucumber and melons: Watermelons, musk melons, and cucumbers have high water content and affect our pitta. Eating them with citrus fruits may lead to heaviness, bloating or hyperacidity. Yogurt: Combining yogurt with citrus fruits can increase kapha and pitta. It causes congestion, increases pitta in the blood, and can lead to overwhelming problems on the skin if consumed unabated. Milk: Adding sour and acidic foods with milk can make digestion difficult. It leads to toxins that can overburden the system and manifest as skin problems. Spicy, pungent foods: This combination can irritate the gut, especially if you have a sensitive bowel. It can also burden the liver and weaken it in the long run. Salty-fatty foods: Citrus fruits are rich in antioxidants. Salty and fatty foods like French fries tax and fatigue the gut. The delicate nutrients would thus be lost. Together, they can again increase heat and acidity.

Consumption of Amla to Support Cancer Treatment Studies show that Amla has a high antitumor effect, especially with certain cancers such as colon and lung cancer. The extract of this fruit can induce apoptosis of cancer cells without affecting healthy body cells. In other cases, they do not induce apoptosis, but they can stop the rate of tumour growth, this provides time for conventional pharmacological treatments to attack malignant cells. Health Views Disclaimer: The information provided is for general knowledge only and not a substitute for professional medical advice.

Unintended weight loss may be a sign to visit your doctor According to a study conducted by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, unintended weight reduction raises the likelihood of receiving a cancer diagnosis during the next year. Lead investigator Brian Wolpin, MD, MPH, Director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at DanaFarber and Director of the Hale Family Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research, said, “If you are losing weight and you aren’t trying to lose weight by making changes in your exercise routine or diet, people should see their doctor to consider possible causes.”

He added, “There are many conditions that can result in unexpected weight loss. Your doctor can determine if there is something that needs evaluation.” “Unexpected weight loss can come from cancer or

Kidney stone risk lowered by a class of diabetes medications Researchers at Mass General Brigham have discovered using sodiumglucose contratransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors resulted in a decreased chance of acquiring kidney stones. The study included data from three nationwide databases of patients with type 2 diabetes who were seen in routine clinical practice. The team analysed information from 716,406 adults with type 2 diabetes who had started taking an SGLT2 inhibitor or two other classes of diabetes medications known as GLP1 receptor agonists or dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4) inhibitors. Patients who began taking SGLT2 inhibitors had a 30 per cent lower risk of developing kidney stones than those taking GLP1 agonists and about a 25 per cent lower risk than those taking DPP4 inhibitors. Researchers from

Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital worked together to conduct the analysis. The findings were consistent across sex, race/ethnicity, history of chronic kidney disease and obesity. "Our findings could help inform clinical decisionmaking for patients with diabetes who are at risk for developing kidney stones," said corresponding author Julie Paik, MD, ScD, MPH, of the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics and the Division of Renal (Kidney) Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

many other conditions,” said Wolpin. “Sometimes weight loss is due to more exercise or a healthier diet, and this can be beneficial to people's health. However, when a patient experiences unintentional weight loss

not due to healthier behaviours, seeing your primary care doctor is appropriate, so they can determine whether an additional evaluation is necessary for other causes of weight loss, including cancer.” "We wanted to differentiate healthy weight loss from unhealthy weight loss," said Qiaoli Wang, MD, PhD, a research fellow at DanaFarber and the manuscript's author. “Healthy first weight loss can come from dietary changes or increased exercise. But unhealthy weight loss that occurs unexpectedly can be due to an underlying cancer.”

Castor oil can be used for treatment of dry eye conditions Researchers at the University of Auckland conducted a clinical trial of castor oil as a potentially safe and natural treatment for dry eye conditions. Approximately 58 per cent of the Australian population aged 50 and up are affected by dry-eye illness. Some risk factors for developing dry eye disease include advanced age, menopause, increased screen time, and contact lens wear. Doctoral candidate and lead clinical investigator Catherine Jennings said, “Currently, patients are left grappling with symptoms of dryness, grittiness and, in some cases, watery eyes that feel uncomfortable impacting on their quality of life and work productivity.” Current treatments, such as antibacterials and antiinflammatories, are generally unsuitable for long-term use due to significant side effects and the potential for antimicrobial resistance.

Jennings said, “Often patients are left feeling helpless when attempting to manage a chronic condition. The previous pilot study, conducted by our research team, was unique in its use of castor oil in such an application on the eyelids, with the product not known to be used anywhere else in the world for treating blepharitis.” Principal investigator Professor Jennifer Craig said, “Castor oil has been proposed as a natural product that could offer a safe, effective and easy-to-use alternative to existing therapies. My hope is this study will produce evidence-based guidance for clinicians about offering castor oil as a possible management option for patients suffering from blepharitis so they continue to enjoy a great quality of life, read the books they love, be productive in their work environment and enjoy other visual hobbies.”

Diabetics should avoid curd, white salt and jaggery People with diabetes are often advised against simple carbs, products with added sugar, fried foods, and packaged foods as they raise the risk of elevated sugar levels and can cause several health complications in the long run. In her recent Instagram post, Ayurveda expert Dr. Dixa Bhavsar Savaliya talks about three foods people with diabetes should avoid to prevent long-term complications. Dr Dixa said, “Just because these foods are bad for diabetes doesn’t mean you can never eat them. You can consume them occasionally in moderation. It is not just a random list of foods but it is specifically mentioned in Ayurvedic classics to avoid these foods for people with diabetes/insulin resistance.”

Curd According to Ayurveda, curd is heating in nature and not cooling as people believe it. It is also heavy (guru) to digest and slimy (sticky) in nature. It increases kapha dosha in body. When kapha increases, you gain more weight, your metabolism gets poor, and you become lazy) Kapha also blocks your channels which can lead to poor absorption of nutrition and even increase cholesterol and triglycerides. So, it’s best to avoid curd for people with diabetes, obesi-

ty, cholesterol and poor insulin sensitivity. Instead of curd, buttermilk can be consumed occasionally. White salt People with diabetes are more likely to be affected by high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and other complications. Salt intake doesn’t affect blood sugar. But limiting salt or switching to rock salt/Himalayan pink salt can definitely help you prevent or control high blood pressure, heart disease and other dia-

betic complications. Jaggery We all know sugar should be avoided but did you know that consuming jaggery in similar or greater quantities than sugar can still lead to sugar spikes making it an unhealthy alternative for diabetics? Yes, that's true. Jaggery is 100% healthier than sugar because unlike sugar, jaggery is made with natural process without chemicals and is nutrition rich. So, you must consume jaggery, it is important to do so in moderation (and do not overeat).





17 - 23 February 2024

Amitabh Bachchan visits Ram temple, shares pic

Edited photo features Rishi Kapoor holding granddaughter Raha A

ctor Neetu Kapoor has reacted to an edited photo featuring her late husband, actor Rishi Kapoor and their granddaughter Raha. A fan account recently posted the photo on Instagram. It features Rishi holding Raha as he looks at her and smiles. The caption read, “I wish Rishi ji was with us even today… and with Raha too.” Alia Bhatt’s mother, Soni Razdan, shared the picture on Instagram Stories and wrote, “This is such a great edit. It fills our hearts with happiness. Thank you.” Resharing Soni’s post, Neetu wrote in her Stories, “This is too adorable.” Actor Rishi passed away on April 30, 2020. Ranbir Kapoor and Alia welcomed Raha in November 2022. Last year in December, during

Siddharth Anand reacts to ‘Fighter’ receiving legal notice


rithik Roshan and Deepika Padukonestarrer ‘Fighter’ has received a legal notice over their kissing scene. Filmmaker Siddharth Anand has now addressed the issue in a new interview, where he clarified that the film was made in “complete conjunction with the IAF (Indian Air Force).”

He said, “This film is in complete conjunction with the IAF. IAF has been a cocollaborator on the film and has been a huge associate partner on our film. This film has gone through meticulous procedures with the IAF, right from the submission of the script, to the production planning, viewing the film before the censor saw it on the censor board, watching it again at the IAF, reviewing the film after the censor, and then giving us a physical copy of the NOC No Objection Certificate. After that, we got the certificate. We got the censor certificate. Then, we showed the entire film to everyone in the Air Force, including the Air Force Chief, Mr. Chaudhary, and over 100 Air Marshals from across the country. We called them and hosted a screening for them one day before the film's release in Delhi, and they gave us a standing ovation.”

Christmas, Ranbir and Alia stepped out for their first public appearance with their daughter. She was dressed in a white and pink frock, a reindeer on the front, and a pair of red shoes. Ranbir carried the little one in his arms with Alia by their side. The couple also thanked the media for their wishes as Raha made her “paparazzi debut.” On the work front, Ranbir recently won the Best Actor Award (Male) for his performance in Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s film ‘Animal’ at the Filmfare Awards. He expressed his gratitude to Rishi in his acceptance speech and said, “Every day I think of you, I remember you and everything that I feel for you… the love, the affection I try to channelise it through this part and I hope you are up there in peace and resting.”


ctor Amitabh Bachchan recently shared a picture of himself a day after visiting the Ram temple in Ayodhya. Taking to X, he shared the photo as he stood inside the newly-built temple. In the picture, Amitabh had his back to the camera while he folded his hands and smiled, looking at the deity; sharing the picture, he wrote in Hindi, “Jai Shri Ram. Aastha ne phir bulaaya, aur kheeche chale gaye hum. (Faith called again, and I was drawn to go there).” Sharing the same photo on his blog later, Amitabh wrote, "A travel to the God’s again .. Ayodhya .. and back by the late evening .. sublime, serene, and filled with the reverence that divinity has ever instilled in us all ..Love and may the blessings of the Almighty be within us all." For the visit, Amitabh wore a white kurta, pyjama and saffron jacket. The veteran star reached Ayodhya on Friday afternoon by a chartered flight and then travelled to the temple for darshan and aarti. He spent about half an hour inside the temple premises and also had a glimpse of

Jaya Bachchan says bad manners in a relationship is a red flag


he latest episode of Navya Nanda’s ‘What The Hell Navya’ was released on her YouTube channel last week. Titled ‘Love Aaj Kal,’ it featured Navya, her mother, Shweta Nanda and her grandmother, Jaya Bachchan, discussing red flags in relationships. After Navya explained what a red flag means to the ladies, Jaya said, “Bad manners would be a red flag for me. I hate it when people say ‘tu’ or ‘tum.’ Have you heard me referring to nana (grandfather, Amitabh Bachchan) as ‘tum?’ It feels disrespectful.” Shweta’s red flags were all about respect. “Violence is of course a no, both physical and verbal. If a partner says something bothers them, just don’t do it and show them consideration. Don’t drag fights if they say sorry, because they already apologised.” Navya spoke about how difficult it is for a woman to stay single in today’s world despite such evolution. Shweta pointed out that because people feel a woman’s purpose is to have babies, she has the pressure to marry. “Society is designed in a way that it’s okay for men to be single, but it’s not that

easy for women. Never get married in a rush and have kids only when you’re emotionally and financially secure,” she said as Jaya added, “A lot of couples today choose not to have children, which is fine too.” Shweta, however, also mentioned that women feel the pressure to be in relationships because their friends are. “None of your friends are single, Navya, and that’s very telling,” she said. For Jaya, self-love meant having self-respect first. “If you don’t respect yourself, your body, your mind, how can you respect someone else? You have to respect yourself first,” she said. Shweta thought that Gen Z had no issues with self-pampering, but they had an issue with self-love. “Self-love is so difficult because you’re constantly fed a lot of negativity online. If one person says something bad, you don’t see the positives everyone else is pointing out. That’s true for me also; we’re so harsh and negative on ourselves. We need to stop that,” she opined.

the temple building from outside. After attending the special prayer service at the Ram temple, he reached the official residence of the Ayodhya commissioner for lunch. Bachchan Sr. had attended the grand consecration ceremony of the Ram temple on January 22. He also bought a 10,000square-foot plot in Ayodhya a few days ahead of the Pran Pratistha ceremony. On the work front, the actor will be next seen in the sci-fi action thriller film ‘Kalki 2989 AD’ alongside Deepika Padukone and Prabhas. The film will hit the big screens on May 9. The film also features Kamal Haasan and Disha Patani in pivotal roles. He also has a courtroom drama film, ‘Section 84’ in the pipeline. Helmed by Ribhu Dasgupta, the film also stars Diana Penty, Nimrat Kaur, and Abhishek Banerjee in the lead roles.

Zeenat completes one year on Instagram


eteran actor Zeenat Aman had a glorious year on Instagram as she became a favourite among fans and new followers with her authentic and candid posts. On Sunday, she posted two new pictures and celebrated the one-year anniversary of being on the photo-blogging website.

Zeenat wrote a long caption: "People presume that transformative experiences are the prerogative of the young. My experience tells me otherwise. 365 days ago my kids cajoled me into uploading my first Instagram post. That little leap of faith forced me to confront my deep tech trepidations and even deeper need for privacy. Then it gifted me a transformative year.” She further talked about how she has managed the account all by herself. “It showed me the possibilities of being true to my self, publicly. No agents, no managers, no bought followers - just the kids and I winging it! Oh, and what kids they are. If you wonder how I navigate Instagram or know the latest lingo, the answer lies with my informal little band of millennials,” she wrote.





17 - 23 February 2024


er 2017 Miss World crown has had a major effect on Manushi Chhillar’s life. In a recent interview, she revealed that it altered the course of her life later as an actor. She said, “Miss World has had a very big impact on my life; that’s one night that changed everything.” Reminiscing about the pivotal moment that set her on an adventure, she said, “That one year at the age of 20 went travelling around the world and meeting so many people, world leaders, or the most underprivileged, that kind of exposure is not possible with any other platform.”

Samantha to resume work as an actor soon


ctress Samantha Ruth Prabhu is finally resuming work. She took to her Instagram account over the weekend and shared that she is going back to her life as an actor after taking a long break to focus on her health. Samantha also shared that she will release her new project next week, a podcast based on health. In a video message she uploaded for her fans, she says, “Yes, I am going back to work, finally… But apart from that, in the meantime, I was so completely jobless. (smiles) But, I am doing something fun with a friend. It’s a health podcast. It is quite unexpected, but it is something that I really, really love. I am extremely passionate about it, and I am very excited that it is releasing next week. I hope that some of you really find it extremely useful. And, I think I have enjoyed making this.” Last year, Sam announced a break from her projects for at least one year to focus on her health. She underwent treatment for her autoimmune condition, Myositis, in the US and travelling around the world. On the work front, she was last seen in ‘Kushi,’ her second Telugu film with actor Vijay Deverakonda. It marked their onscreen reunion after the 2018 ‘Mahanati.’ It was released on September 1 last year. In the meantime, the actor had also wrapped the filming of the Indian leg of Russo Brothers’ web series, ‘Citadel.’

The 26-year-old added, “The way I looked at things and life changed; I matured so much. Personally goals have always been quite similar, but professionally I got to learn a lot. Miss World taught me that nothing goes according to plan, and that’s the beauty of life.” On the work front, Manushi eagerly anticipates the release of her Telugu debut ‘Operation Valentine,’ scheduled for March 1. She said, “I am very excited for 2024 because it’s starting with a February 16 release, and there are many more releases this year. I am more comfortable as an actor and I understand my profession a lot better. 2024 is a year of a lot of results. I am looking forward to everything that has to fruitify this year.” Talking about the project, Manushi said, “I had a wonderful time working in the Telugu film industry. Each project of mine has been very different, whether it was Hindi or Telugu industry. Everyone works like a family. They are very accepting and accommodating and they understand the fact that you don’t speak the language.” She added, “They are the masters of making non-Telugu speaking people speak the language in their film, this was the one thing they assured me of. It came as a challenge but everyone on the set was very supportive. I would love to do more films down South. They do have a different way of working but they make you feel home.”

I would love to do more films down South: Manushi Chhillar

Fans light fire inside theatre to celebrate re-release of Pawan Kalyan film T

he re-release of Puri Jagannadh’s 2012 Pawan Kalyan-starrer ‘Cameraman Gangatho Rambabu’ ended up being a costly affair for theatre owners in Nandyala. Some fans of the actor created a bonfire inside the premises to celebrate their favourite star’s re-release.

Warning about fake Instagram account of Mahesh Babu's daughter


ctors Mahesh Babu and Namrata Shirodkar’s daughter Sitara Ghattamaneni appear to have fallen prey to a cybercrime incident. According to an official statement issued by their team on Instagram, an unknown person has created a fake account on the photo-blogging website and has been “fraudulently posing” as her and sending trading and investing links to people. An investigation is reportedly underway to trace the individual behind Sitara’s fake Instagram account. Namrata, too, took to Instagram to warn people about her daughter’s fake account. She reposted the official statement issued by Mahesh’s team, which mentioned details about the case and added a caption that read, “Attention! This is @sitaraghattamaneni’s only account. Any other handle is not to be trusted except the verified ones.” "The Madhapur police, in connection with Team GMB, have issued a warning about a cybercrime incident involving the impersonation of Ms Sitara Ghattamaneni on Instagram. An unidentified user has been fraudulently posing as Ms. Ghattamaneni, sending trading and investment links to

unsuspecting users. Authorities are urging the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity. Efforts are underway to trace and apprehend the individual responsible for these activities to prevent future occurrences," the statement read. Sitara has a huge following of over 1.8 million on Instagram and often makes news for her candid videos and posts. Recently, she grabbed attention for dancing to the title track of Mahesh’s latest release ‘Guntur Kaaram.’

In a video on X, fans can be seen howling and celebrating after lighting up scraps of paper. They can also be seen cheering, holding placards and egging each other on as the fire rages. It’s unknown if a complaint has been lodged against them and if they have been arrested. This is not the first time the actor’s fans have vandalised theatres. In 2021, when one of his films was stopped at a theatre due to a technical glitch, they vandalised a theatre in Jogulamba Gadwall. In 2023, when some fans vandalised a theatre in Vijaywada in an inebriated state, they were arrested by the police, who also issued a stern warning to others. On the work front, Pawan was shooting for a period drama titled ‘Hari

Hara Veera Mallu’ with Krish. There has been no update on the project or confirmation that it has been shelved. He is shooting for a film titled ‘Ustaad Bhagat Singh’ with Harish Shankar, apart from ‘OG’ with Sujeeth, which will also hit screens this year.






17 - 23 February 2024

Shah Rukh attends AFC final in Doha, meets Qatar PM

Kiara, Sidharth, Gauri Khan, Orry and other Indian celebrities attend Dubai event



new hotel inauguration in Dubai was a star-studded affair with Bollywood celebrities like Kiara Advani, Sidharth Malhotra, Gauri Khan, Malaika Arora and Orry in attendance. Jennifer Lopez performed at the launch of One & Only One Za’abeel, a snippet of which was shared by Kiara on her social media. Lopez wore a black gown paired with white elbowlength gloves and minimal jewellery. She however, opted for a sparking, dark brown jumpsuit for her performance. For the event, Kiara stunned in a black gown and diamond necklace, while Sidharth paired an orange coat over his black formal look. Both of them posed together for the paparazzi. Gauri wore a

black gown, too, with a statement necklace, whereas Malaika was seen in a shiny yellow gown with a thigh-high slit. Orry wore a matching suit and trousers for the event. He shared pictures with Malaika on his Instagram Stories, where the two were seen posing for pictures before the event. Malaika also shared a bunch of videos on her Instagram Stories, where she was seen enjoying Jennifer Lopez's performance. “The one and only @jlo at @ooonezaabeel," she wrote in the caption of her Instagram Stories. Also present were supermodel Naomi Campbell, actor-singer Vanessa Hudgens, tennis player Emma Radacanu, and actor Idris Elba.

Alia Bhatt on board as executive producer of ‘Poacher’ P

rime Video India has announced that Alia Bhatt has come on board as the executive producer for the crime series ‘Poacher.’ Created by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Richie Mehta, the series will star Nimisha Sajayan, Roshan Mathew, and Dibyendu Bhattacharya in lead roles.

poaching. Richie created, wrote and directed the series, which will be released in Malayalam, Hindi and English. Pumped to be on board, Alia said, “Being part of this incredibly significant project is an honor, for both me and the entire team at Eternal Sunshine Productions. The impact of Poacher was

Usha Uthup releases captivating cover of Miley Cyrus’ ‘Flowers’


enowned singer Usha Uthup has taken the internet by storm with her captivating cover of Miley Cyrus’ hit song ‘Flowers.’ The Indian music icon’s rendition of the song has gone viral, garnering praise and admiration from fans. Overwhelmed by the responses, Usha said in an interview, “I am so

thrilled and grateful to the people for loving my version as well. I just sang the song because my daughter Anjali introduced me to it randomly one day. When I heard it, I just loved the song so much.” She added, “I’ve been singing it in all my shows and everybody loves it so much. I was so excited to know that my cover version is being appreciated like this. I didn’t even think that it would come on Instagram. Everybody who has written such marvelous things about my cover, thank you so much! What

truly made me happy is that people have actually said that they could relate to the song more because of my voice.” “Girls, boys, men, women, and even children are loving this song so much. It’s really fantastic, the success has made me feel so good,” adding, “It’s such a beautiful song with fantastic lyrics, that’s what inspired

me. It’s a new kind of breakup song, but as far as I am concerned, it’s the positivity of woman power. I always end it with a line, ‘I can’t do without your love’, because I must have the love of the audience.” Expressing her admiration for Miley and her recent Grammy win for the song, the 76-year-old says, “I am so excited for Miley Cyrus for getting the Grammy for this song. I can’t wait for her to listen to the song and I hope she would like it. I am sure we will work together very soon.”

‘Poacher’ will be available on Prime Video from February 23. Sharing the news on their Instagram and X, the official Prime Video account wrote, “Beneath the silence, the forest reveals a deadly conspiracy... and the hunt for the Poacher begins! Alia Bhatt comes on board as #ExecutiveProducer on #PoacherOnPrime, a new Amazon Original Crime series, Feb 23.” ‘Poacher’ is an investigative crime series based on true events and explores ivory poaching in India. The web series brings the world of environmental conservation and entertainment together to highlight illegal

ctor Shah Rukh Khan was in Qatar recently and attended a few events. Several photos of the actor have now emerged on social media platforms. A fan account of @SRKUniverse shared several videos of the actor on X. In on picture, Shah Rukh is seen speaking with Qatar Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani. Shah Rukh smiled as he shook hands. The actor was seen in a white shirt under a blue and grey jacket and pants.

deeply personal, and Richie’s portrayal of the urgent issue of wildlife crime resonated strongly with me and the team.” She added that she was moved by the issue. “The storytelling genuinely moved me, especially knowing it's based on true events that shed light on brutal crimes occurring in our forests. I am confident Poacher will serve as an eye-opener, delivering a powerful message to be more compassionate and considerate towards all living beings. It's a call to embrace coexistence and I am genuinely thrilled to contribute to this narrative," Alia said.

The caption read, "Qatar Prime Minister HE Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani welcomes Bollywood Superstar Shah Rukh Khan as he attends AFC final in Doha as Special Guest of Honor. World’s biggest star for a reason @iamsrk.” In another photo, Shah Rukh was seen posing for the lens with FIFA President Gianni Infantino at the AFC Asian Cup Final in Qatar. In a clip, Shah Rukh was seen at a watch exhibition event. He met several people, greeted them, shook hands and also posed with them for the camera. He also shared conversations and jokes, as seen in a clip with people around him laughing. The actor was accompanied by his manager, Pooja Dadlani. On the work front, fans saw Shah Rukh last in ‘Dunki’ alongside Taapsee Pannu. Directed by Rajkumar Hirani, it opened to mixed reviews upon its release on December 21 last year. Based on an illegal immigration technique called donkey fight, the comedy-drama also starred Vicky Kaushal, Boman Irani, Vikram Kochhar and Anil Grover. Shah Rukh recently spoke at a fan meet-and-greet for ‘Dunki.’ He was on a four-year hiatus before he returned to the movies last year with ‘Pathaan,’ ‘Jawan,’ and ‘Dunki.’ He had said, “Normally, you feel a little nervous and you feel that, ‘I hope I’ve got the film right.’ Previously, some of my films didn’t do well so I thought I’m not making good films.”



17 - 23 February 2024

AsianVoiceNews AsianVoiceNewsweekly

Kohli to skip England series; K L Rahul to miss 3rd test After long uncertainty around the availability of key players, the national selection committee announced the team for the last three Tests against England. Virat Kohli continues to make himself unavailable due to personal reasons while K L Rahul will miss the third test in Rajkot as he was not fully recovered from the injury. The availability of Ravindra Jadeja will be monitored once the team assembles in Rajkot. The biggest call has been to leave out Shreyas Iyer. While there are reports that Iyer has complained of back stiffness, it is learnt that the team management and the selection committee were considering


few years back, now bats at No 3 in First-Class cricket for Karnataka. The left-hander has been in good form in First-Class cricket this season. A few days back, the 23-year-old Karnataka batter slammed 151 against Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy - his third hundred in the tournament this season. Squad for 3rd Test: Rohit Sharma (C), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Sarfaraz Khan, Rajat Patidar, Ravindra Jadeja, KS Bharat (wk), Dhruv Jurel (wk), Axar Patel, R Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar, Jasprit Bumrah (VC), Mohammed Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Akash Deep, Devdutt Padikkal.

PR Sreejesh has done it for India time and again. The 35-year-old India custodian was the saviour for the hosts one more time as they beat The Netherlands in their second match of the FIH Pro League at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium in Bhubaneswar. Sreejesh’s heroics in the shootout saw India pull off a thrilling 4-2 shoot-out win against the defending champions after the game was locked 2-2 at the end of 60 minutes. He made two stunning saves while Harmanpreet Singh, Sukhjeet Singh, Lalit Upadhyay and Shamsher Singh converted their chances to help India bag a bonus point. Hardik Singh and Harmanpreet Singh scored a goal each for India while Jip Janssen and Koen Bijen got on the scoresheet for the Dutch in a 2-2 draw in regulation time.

Bumrah becomes first Australia win U-19 title Indian pacer to be over India No. 1 in ICC Test rankings

England managed to score a consolation win when they beat India by 22 runs in the fifth and final T20 match of the Mukul Madhav Foundation Physical Disability Trophy at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. India, though, clinched the series 3-2. After winning the toss, England decided to bat first and made 152 for six in 20 overs. Callum Flynn (53 off 43 balls) and Liam O Brien (45 off 28 balls) were the main run-getters for them, while Ravindra Sante (2-28 in four overs) did well with the ball for India. They then restricted India to 130 for seven in 20 overs. Skipper Vikrant Keni (45 off 49 balls) was the top runscorer for India. Daniel Ricky Hamm (3-23) and Callum Flynn (2-13) were the main wickettakers for the visitors. Incidentally, India had beaten England by 22 runs in the last match.

Jasprit Bumrah became the first Indian pacer to top the ICC Test rankings after a stellar performance against England in Visakhapatnam. The 30-yearold’s nine-wicket match haul has helped him leapfrog Pat Cummins, Kagiso Rabada and Ravichandran Ashwin, making him only the fourth from his country to attain number one position. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Bishan Singh Bedi are the other Indians who have been at the top of the charts. Bumrah now has 881 rating points with Ashwin (904) and Jadeja (899) the only India bowlers to have aggregated more rating points. Ashwin and Jadeja also have the unique distinction of being jointly top-ranked in March 2017. The batting rankings see left-handed opener Yashasvi

Virat Kohli & K L Rahul

looking beyond him. “Kohli had conveyed to the board well in advance that he planned to take a break from mid-Feb. BCCI and the selectors had checked with him if could manage to play in the series but he said that he needed to be with his family,” a BCCI source said.

Jasprit Bumrah

Jaiswal progress 37 places to 29th after completing a fine double-century in the first innings and Shubman Gill go up 14 places to a career best 38th after notching a century in the second innings. In the ODI rankings, Australia leg-spinner Adam Zampa is up one place to third and fast bowler Sean Abbott's six wickets in the threematch series against the West Indies this past week have lifted him 35 places to joint-33rd position.

Swiss honour for Neeraj: Plaque at ‘Top of Europe’ India’s Olympic and world champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra has been honoured with a plaque at the famous Ice Palace at Jungfraujoch, known as the ‘Top of Europe’, in Switzerland. Acknowledging Chopra’s remarkable accomplishments, Jungfraujoch welcomed the sports icon to unveil the commemorative plaque, Switzerland Tourism said in statement. Chopra donated one of his javelins to the tourist attraction and it has been placed alongside the plaque. He joins stars such as Roger Federer, and golfer Rory McIlroy, who also have such commemorative plaques at the Ice Palace. The Wall of Fame at Jungfraujoch serves as a testament to the spirit of accomplishment and dedication, Switzerland Tourism said in a statement. Expressing his gratitude at the unveiling of the plaque, Chopra said, “I am humbled by the love and appreciation I have received in this country. To have a plaque installed here in this stunning Ice Palace was beyond my wildest dreams, yet here I am. I feel on top of the world, as I stand at the Top of Europe.” Chopra enthralled the attendees by showcasing his Javelin-throwing skills. Chopra had earlier gifted a javelin to the Olympic Museum in Switzerland.

Following the non-availability of Rahul, the national selectors replaced him with the inform Devdutt Padikkal, who received his maiden Test call-up in the squad for the third Test. Rahul had been named as part of the squad for the last three Tests subject to fitness. “Padikkal has replaced Rahul only for the third Test. We are still confident that Rahul will return later in this series,” a source said. Padikkal, who had emerged as a white-ball opening option a

A fresh chapter was added to the script of Australia’s domination over India in the ICC World Cup finals when they bagged the Under-19 title with a 79-run victory at Benoni in South Africa on Sunday. Batting by choice, the Aussies posted 253 for seven as India were forced to mount the highest chase in a youth World Cup summit clash. But Uday Saharan’s side floundered in the final step to glory, stumbling to 174 all out as the relentless Aussie bowlers led by the furious Mahli Beardman (3/15) and the crafty off-spinner Raf MacMillan (3/43) did not give them any breathing space. This was Australia’s fourth U19 title and first since 2010 and, in a way, they also washed away the pain of losing to India in two title matches in 2012 and 2018. Many would view this result as a continuation of Australia’s win over India in the senior World Cup last year at Ahmedabad. Pacer Callum Vidler started Australia’s victory march by packing off Indian opener Arshin Kulkarni, inducing an edge to stumper Ryan Hicks. From that point, India simply failed to stitch together any meaningful partnerships as frontline batters including skipper Saharan (8), Musheer Khan, who received a reprieve on zero, and Sachin Dhas (9) departed without making any real contributions. Beardman broke through the defence of Musheer (22) with a delivery that kept a tad low, while the pacer tempted Saharan, the tournament’s highest run-getter, with a slightly wide delivery on offstump, but his slash ended in the hands of Hugh Weibgen at point.

India, Bangladesh share SAFF U19 trophy In a bizarre end, India and Bangladesh ended up as joint winners of the South Asian Football Federation U-19 women’s championship after the final which ended one-all during playing time, led to a shootout where 11 penalties each were scored by both sides, then a coin toss to decide the winner. It led to onfield protests, a walkout and a lot of drama. In the end both teams were declared joint winners. Eleven kicks from each team went unsaved in the penalty shootout after hosts Bangladesh earned a 93rd-minute equaliser to end regulation time on equal terms - Sagorika for the hosts cancelling Sibani Devi’s eighth-minute opener. Then, the referee Anjana Rai of Nepal called skippers to the middle of the pitch for a coin toss and declared the visitors champions. While the capacity crowd at the

stadium were left in disbelief, the victorious Indians celebrated a crucial victory after ending up on the losing side in the 2019 summit clash against the same opponents and would have had scripted a comeback from their loss against Bangladesh in the round-robin fixture by virtue of another injury time winner from the hosts. However, the Bangladesh contingent protested the manner of decision and complained to the match commissioner even as AIFF posted “WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS” on its ‘X’ handle. As there is no rule for a coin toss as decider in SAFF tournament, or in the International Association Football Board rule book, the commissioner agreed that the penalty should have been continued and decided to crown both teams champions of the 2024 edition.


RISHABH IS CONFIDENT OF PLAYING THE ENTIRE IPL Rishabh Pant is confident of playing the entire IPL but the flamboyant cricketer could only be available as a batter and not behind the stumps, according to Delhi Capitals head coach Ricky Ponting. “Rishabh is very confident that he’s going to be right to play. In what capacity we’re not quite sure yet,” Ponting said. “You would have seen all the social-media stuff, he’s up and about and running well. But in saying that we’re only six weeks away from the first game as well. So we’re not sure if we’ll get wicket keeping out of him this year. We’ll just keep our fingers crossed and hope that he can be out there and play. Even if it’s not all the games, if we can manage him through 10 of the 14 games or whatever that might be then whatever games you can get out of him will be a bonus.”

MESSI VOWS TOKYO FANS AFTER HK NOSHOW Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi played 30 minutes of a friendly match in Japan, days after his noshow in a similar match sparked fury in Hong Kong. The Argentine superstar came in for the tail end of a goalless draw with Vissel Kobe in Tokyo, which his team lost 4-3 on penalties. He started on the bench for the pre-season game against J-League side Kobe, worrying 28,614 spectators at the National Stadium, who chanted “Messi, Messi” in sporadic attempts to coax out the 36-year-old. They began to sense their good fortune early in the second half, when the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner and other substitutes began warming up. After the game, Miami coach Gerardo Martino said the decision to use Messi was made the previous day.

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