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Opinion

UK at the end of the year: India and Indians were more involved in pandemic, politics and protests

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India and Indians are historically intertwined with Britain at various levels, but in 2020 the engagement reached a new record: from the ‘most desi government’ in British history, to its mixed role in the Covid-19 pandemic, to India. becoming the second largest. investor in the UK.

For the first time in British politics, the year saw four people of Indian descent appointed to the cabinet – Rishi Sunak, Priti Patel, Alok Sharma and Suella Braverman – after Prime Minister Boris Johnson formed his government following a landslide victory in the December 2019 elections.

Its elevation reflected the success not only of the Indian diaspora of 1.5 million people, but also of the UK’s policies of multiculturalism. The near integration of community involvement in politics was evident in the way they were praised or ridiculed in the media, just like any other British politician.

As James Cleverly, chairman of the Conservative Party, put it at the Republic Day event in January, Johnson leads the “most desi government” in British history. Labor also increased the number, including Lisa Nandy, Preet Kaur Gill, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and Valerie Vaz in the shadow cabinet.

It was not unusual to see Sunak often battling for the Conservative Party or the government and Nandy answering on behalf of the Labor Party on widely viewed news programs. There is already speculation that Johnson would induce more of the community in 2021.

In fact, top people in the community were among the top experts who regularly commented and advised on key topics in the mainstream media, including Anand Menon on Brexit and Devi Sridhar, Bharat Pankhania and Sunetra Gupta on Covid-19.

Experts who helped the government deal with the pandemic included Nobel laureate Venki Ramakrishnan, whose term as president of the Royal Society ended in November, and Lalita Ramakrishnan of the University of Cambridge. Among the first to receive the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine were Hari Shukla and his wife Ranjan.

The pandemic hit the community hard: as of December 23, up to 1,188 patients classified as ‘Indian’ had died in hospitals and nursing homes in England, the biggest casualty among non-whites. The largest number of victims in the whole of the UK included several community doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

Among those killed was Gulshan Ewing, 92, the pioneering editor of women’s magazines. Hailing from a Parsi family in Mumbai, she was one of the first publishers of major Indian publications since the mid-1960s, setting benchmarks in film journalism and focusing on female audiences.

India came to the UK’s rescue when it faced a severe acetaminophen shortage in the early stages of the outbreak, when the Johnson government was grappling with ways to deal with the virus. India shipped 3 million packages in April, when pharmacies and supermarkets had run out of medicine.

In addition to politics and pandemic, India and Indians also figured prominently in education, culture, extraditions, protests and history as events and issues in India resonated in the UK, in particularly those related to the new laws on citizenship, farmers and Kashmir.

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The Ealing Council in West London announced the renaming of part of Southall’s Havelock Road, named after Henry Havelock, a general in the colonial army involved in the suppression of the 1857 Uprising, as Guru Nanak Road from early 2021 , after a public consultation.

At Cambridge University, the sociologist Manali Desai became the first head of a department in its 811-year history when she was appointed head of the sociology department. In addition, his chemistry department is named after his student, Yusuf Hamied, from the pharmaceutical specialty Cipla.

The year saw a changing of the guard at India House. Ruchi Ghanashyam, who was the second Indian woman High Commissioner in the UK since independence (after Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit) was succeeded by Gaitri Issar Kumar.

Four stolen idols from India were recovered in the UK and given to the mission to return home: a 9th century statue of Natesh Shiva, stolen from the Ghateshwar temple in the Chittorgarh district of Rajasthan, and three ancient idols stolen from Tamil Nadu in 1978.

The Johnson government allowed India to continue to use a property in northwest London as a memorial museum for BR Ambedkar, who lived there while studying at the London School of Economics in the 1920s.

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Noor Inayat Khan, the British spy of Indian origin, who worked as an undercover radio operator in Nazi-occupied France in 1943, was captured and killed in the Dachau concentration camp in 1944 at the age of 30, received another honor when a ‘blue plaque’ was installed outside the home in Bloomsbury where he lived.

Various Indians and community members received royal and other honors, including Vice Admiral Vinay Badhwar, who was awarded the Alexander Dalrymple Award in recognition of his “outstanding contribution” to hydrography in India and throughout the region. Indian Ocean.

Ravi Solanki, a physician working on neurodegenerative diseases, was honored by the Royal Academy of Engineering for his exceptional achievement in addressing Covid-19, while Ranjitsinh Disale, an inspirational teacher in Maharashtra, won the $ 1 Global Teacher Award million created in association with Unesco by the Varkey Foundation.

In addition to India emerging as the second largest investor in the UK, the year also saw businessman Karan Bilimoria elected chairman of the Confederation of British Industry, the representative body for 1.9 billion UK companies employing almost 7 million people.

114 AI Innovation LLP, a New Delhi-based artificial intelligence company, was among the 10 global winners of a UK-US initiative that aims to find, fund and accelerate innovation and technology. that provides advantages to military personnel and operations in the space field. .

Zuber Issa and Mohsin Issa, the sons of a Gujarat immigrant, acquired the retail giant Asda (valued at £ 6.8bn), months after a new report co-produced by the high commission highlighted the ‘diaspora effect’ of billions of pounds in Britain. business: more than 65,000 companies are owned by British citizens of Indian origin.

As Johnson prepares to visit India in January and pursue a free trade agreement, ministers and officials identified five sectors for closer cooperation in the UK post-Brexit: information and communications technology and services, food and drink , life sciences and chemicals.

Members of the Indian community also continued to appear in crimes and convictions, while proceedings to extradite several people continued throughout the year, including Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, and Sanjeev Chawla (who was escorted to New Delhi).

The links between crime and the country were evident when the City of London Police praised the raids carried out by the IWC in six Indian cities from where 10 companies were defrauding UK citizens under the pretext of solving “technical problems” in their computers, while British border officials seized 174,400 sildenafil tablets from India.

On the cultural front, while the BBC’s six-part adaptation of Vikram Seth’s 1993 tome ‘A Right Boy’ received mixed reviews, London Fashion Week for the first time showcased the magic of the saree as models. wearing saris from various parts of India. and the British Fashion Council appointed actress Priyanka Chopra as its new ambassador.

Mahatma Gandhi, who had close interaction with London and the British during his life, continued to make headlines. His statues in London and Leicester became the focus of protests during the Black Lives Matter campaign. But an unidentified buyer surprised many by buying Gandhi’s glasses of his time in South Africa for £ 260,000 at a Bristol auction.

Hindustan Times

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