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June - July 2005

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Dispatches & Reports

In an unprecedented show of unity UK Hindu organisations joined hands to voice concern over the plight of Kashmir Hindus. In a joint statement UK Hindu organisations condemned the government of J & K state for failing to protect human-right, heritage and homeland of Kashmiri Hindus. Declaring Kashmir as the fountainhead of Hindu religion, UK Hindu organisations launched a joint ”Kashmir Task force” to pursue rights of Hindus in Jammu & Kashmir state and resolved:

To initiate awareness campaign on plight of Kashmiri Hindus
To reclaim and develop Hindu heritage sites in Kashmir and declare them as World Hindu Heritage sites.
To fight for human-rights of Kashmiri Hindus
To demand equal rights, opportunities and justice for all people in the state of Jammu & Kashmir based upon merit and reservation for assistance on basis of economic bracket rather than caste or religion.
Initiate a Worldwide signature campaign in support of a Safe-Haven for Kashmiri Hindus in Kashmir valley with guarantee of a plot of land to all Kashmir Hindus and a ready home to all Kashmiri Hindu refugees.

The UK Hindu Kashmir task force will meet every twelve weeks to monitor and pursue its objectives. More that 15 mainstream UK Hindu organisations participated in a conference hosted by Indo-European Kashmir Forum and Brent Hindu Council.

The Arts and Humanities Research Board Diaspora, Migration & Identities Launch Event

Dr Natubhai Shah, the Jain Associate Director at Hindu Council UK and Mr Anil Bhanot, the General Secretary, attended a reception of The Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) on 21st April 2005 to launch the Diasporas, Migration and Identities programme. The event took place at the Museum of Immigration and Diversity, 19 Princelet Street, Spitalfields, London E1 and was attended by 70 guests, mostly academics and leaders of the Faith communities.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council funds high-quality research and Postgraduate training in huge range of subjects from history and English literature to design and dance. It has set up a 5 year trans-disciplinary programme from the beginning of 2005 to the end of 2009 for the Diasporas, Migration and Identities research.

The AHRB‘s new strategic programme, Diasporas, Migration and Identities will investigate the contemporary and historical context of wide range of related issue including language, religion, culture and creativity. The programme explores the ways in which different identities and cultural practices emerge and to penetrate public consciousness with an understanding of these issues as they relate to the UK and the wider world. By applying the unique perspective of Arts and humanities subjects, new insights and new methods will be developed for approaching the important issues related to diasporas and migration.

The Museum of Immigration and Diversity at 19 Princelet Street, is an extraordinary testament to many generations of immigrant families that goes right to the heart of who we are now.

INDIA ASSOCIATION Completion of The Great Charity Walk by Balwant Grewal (Bobby
Sixty eight-year old Balwant Grewal from Hillingdon Middx. completed his gruelling charity walk on 13th of April 2005 at 1300 hrs. in Kanniyakumari (South India) at Gandhi Mandapan (Memorial) and Swami Vivekanand Rock after five months (16 November 2004 to 13 April 2005), which he started from Amritsar and covered a distance of 4096 KMs. In his own words, “It was an experience of my life to see India from North to South walking on the roads step by step through nine states (Punjab, Haryana, New Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnatka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu) with different colours, different cultures, different languages, different customs, different foods, different dresses and different people.”

On the last day of his walk,(13 April 2005) Tamil Nadu Police escorted him to the Vivekanandpuram (Tourist Rest House), where he rested with his team for a while and had their breakfast. Then he was escorted again by a dozen police officers from Kanniyakumari District and about 50 people. He walked through the city and reached at the seashore (where three seas meet together i.e. Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea). There he was received by the Police Chief of Kanniyakumari. There was a reception arranged by the Police Department initiated by a Police Band welcome and a Tamil Song followed by speeches from the politicians, local industrialists of District and Doctors about AIDS, Cancer and this Great walk. At the end of the ceremony there was a national anthem followed by a very elaborated lunch in Chief Minister’s Circuit House. They had also arranged for Grewal and his team of 7 to stay for two nights at a very nice hotel by the sea shore.

The Great charity walk was sponsored by India Association UK (a regd. Charity no. 1094366).

A Newham-based radio station are frustrated that they can't get a permanent licence despite being allowed on air eleven times in the last 14 years. Star Sound Radio - an English-cum-Asian oriented station- is on air 24 hours a day for a month from 1 April on 103.8 FM from their base in Romford Road, Manor Park. Their short-range frequency covers Newham, Barking & Dagenham, Redbridge and parts of Tower Hamlets and Hackney. They received maximum 28-day Restricted Service Licence (RSL) in 2004 for this year's launch and have been on air since they formed in 1989.

A temporary remit is not enough, claims station founder Tari Sian who said, "We need a permanent licence. Even if it is a small-scale licence, we will be happy." He added, "We have applied to become permanent several times but have been rejected with no reason given." However, following news that former licence provider, the Radio Authority, handed over responsibility to the Office of Communications (Ofcom), Mr Sian hopes his station will stand a fresh chance of becoming fully-fledged.

An Ofcom spokeswoman gave hope saying, "there are quite a few RSL stations that have become permanent." She added that those chosen are done amongst competition, and in regard to Star Sound Radio, said they should keep persevering.

The station, which went on air in 1991, plays a variety of English and Asian music. Special guests who have appeared include East Ham MP and Financial Secretary to The Treasury - Stephen Timms, playback singer Asha Bhosle, Bollywood Stars - Sonu Sood, Akshay Kumar and Mahima Chaudhry, and Baroness Shreela Flather of Windsor & Maidenhead. In previous years Star Sound Radio has featured members of rock bands from Maiden and Status Quo on air, when they were at the Ruskin Arms, High Street North, East Ham.

Presenting this year on 103.8 FM is Gurpreet Mudhar who works on Newham General Hospital's Woodside Radio. She hosted the drive-time show between 5pm and 7pm. Gurpreet said, "One day I hope to get into radio as a career. Hopefully, this will be a step towards that goal."
Star Sound Radio hopes that businesses, communities and people will now give support so the station can develop and continue its work with a wide range of resources. For further details. please call Tari Sian on 07909 998 927 or Chaz on 07961 387 788.

India is facing an HIV/Aids epidemic. From just a single case of HIV/Aids in 1986 the official figure today is 5.1 million. But, according to UNAIDS the figure might be as high as 8.5 million. Whatever the actual figures it is a matter of grave concern both in India and to the rest of the world. The Gates Foundation (Bill Gates and Melinda Gates) reckons that India spends only 29 US cents per person -almost half of what is being spent by Thailand. Clearly, India is under-funded in its efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. IDT has started a new initiative called “ Savera, a new dawn for HIV/AIDS”. The aim is to set up mobile testing, treatment and advice centres to combat the spread of this disease.

Dr. Prem Sharma , Chairman India Development Trust said that considering over 20 million lives have been lost since 1981 world wide your help is urgently needed to combat the spread of this disease.

Mr Paul Riat, Fund Raising Chairman, said that IDT is now well set up to raise £1 million by the end of the year.

Mr Surinder Aujla , Fund Raising Secretary said that the screening “Far Pavilions” for fund raising is just a beginning with much bigger events coming between July and December.

Mr Ravi Giddar , Advisor Fund Raising Committee, said he is confident that “Savera” will see the first mobile unit operating in Mumbai by the first Quarter of 2006 .

Mr Chan Chowdhry, Trustee, said the launch of “Savera” proposed to get units to remoter parts of India which was necessary because of the gravity of the situation.There is a need to tackle social taboos and to help when the loss of a wage earner leaves a family poor or orphans and where the disease is passed from Mother to Child

The NRI Banquet – “Changing India – Investment Opportunities”
NRI Institute held on 12th May at the Regal Room of Hotel InterContinental a banquet ‘Changing India - Investment opportunies. Dr. Najma Heptulla, MP, President, Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Mr. S. Krishna Kumar, IAS, Secretary to Govt. of India, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, Sardar Charanjit S. Atwal, Deputy Speaker, Lok Sabha, Sardar Tarlochan Singh, Chairman, National Commission for Minorities, Dr. Rattan Singh Ajnala, MP, Raja Fateh Singh of Nabha and his wife Sohinder attended the banquet.
NRIs from different parts of the world included Mr. Rajan K. Sehgal - UK, Mr. Raj Kumar - Singapore, Mr. Deny Patel - USA, Mr. G. S. Bhalla - UK, Mr. Sonjoy Chatterjee – UK, Mr. Syed N. Masood – Saudi Arabia, Prof Yasmin Thanavala – USA, Mr. Arvind Joshi – USA.
The Chairman of the Link Engineers, Mr. S. K. Sikka welcomed the Deputy Speaker and Jagmohan Singh welcomed Dr. Najma Heptulla with bouquet of flowers.
The guests included Rajan Sehgal, Chairman, Skylords Group of Companies who was honoured for his significant contribution to Travel Business since 1983 consolidator 50 Airlines taking the Turnover to 25 Million Pounds with seven Branches. Acting as Wholesaler and Retailer. Rajan Sehgal is the 1st Travel Agent in UK for Emirates since 1986. He is also launching on line booking site and for booking flights, hotels, car hire and insurance.
A qualified Chartered Accountant after finishing B.Com.(Hons) from Sriram College of Commerce, Delhi University started Skylord Group of Companies in UK.
Has sponsored many a good cause including educating numberless children in Bhilai – is a Philanthropist on the Executive Committee for Nargis Dutt Society for Cancer Relief and Research, Friends Circle International, Indian Association of Harrow, The Skal Club of London Benevolent Fund (UK) & Indian Business Forum, UK.
Last year Mr. Sehgal was awarded SME of the Year at Asian Achievers Awards 2004 held in UK at Radisson SAS Portman Hotel.
Shri Charanjit Singh Atwal, Dr. Najma Heptulla, Shri S. Krishna Kumar, Sardar Tarlochan Singh, Rajan K. Sehgal and Shri Jagmohan Singh, Secretary General of NRI Institute addressed the Banquet.

The scientific advancement in general and particularly in medicine has transformed our lives beyond our comprehension. I distinctly remember my father retiring at the age of 45 in the early forties and the compulsory retirement age in the African colonies was 50, as our life span, on average was no more than 55 years in the pre Second World War era.

Today our average age is touching 80, although the Asian population in this country is lagging behind the national average, as most of us were born and brought up either in Africa or India. But we are fast catching up and even overtaking the indigenous people, as most of us are financially wise, live within our means and our children are academically and professionally high flyers. That helps us to pay our debts, such as a mortgage well before due date and retire early, in our fifties rather than in sixties as is the case with the majority of the population.

Statistically those who retire early, especially from demanding jobs (now a day all jobs are demanding, as companies are getting more profit orientated and less principle-oriented) live on average ten years more.

That is why sheltered accommodations are becoming popular, even amongst us, the Asian elders who traditionally live in joint families. There are three types of retirement accommodation, which are mainly one bedroom flats available to us, although we lag a light year behind in such trend, such development that is so common in more affluent and socially aware and responsible countries like USA, Canada, Australia and Sweden.

In those countries, the government actively encourages pensioners to move to such accommodation, with tax incentives, so often the government providing a free land and council building the infrastructure, as these old and venerable people are well looked after in such accommodation, with a resident warden, medical care and social activities, all available on the premises.

In America, they even build a small village, an enclosed settlement with 500 to 5000 flats, so often luxurious flats with an attached golf course, a lake, a church, health centre, gym with every mod and con. It is so safe that the residents do not have to lock their homes as only accredited personal are allowed inside this walled fortress village. Some people even reserve their homes while in their forties, just like we make a provision for our pensions, as they get tax concession and special mortgage deals from the government.

Here the council provides such an accommodation but only to those who do not have any assets, which include our own homes. As usual, this rules out most of us, as we are thrifty, frugal, responsible and economically wise people and we become the victims of the politically correct, loony left policies of the council and the government.

The second option is the Housing Associations who welcome any one, regardless of one’s financial standing but again, if you are referred by a council and your rent is paid from the public purse, then it is much easier to move in.

The third option is to buy one’s own flat and many leading house building firms have such developments on their books. The leading retirement builder is the firm of McCarthy & Stone, with over thirty developments throughout England.

As usual, neither our short sighted council nor the government give any financial incentive for such a scheme. So these flats are on the expensive side, costing in the region of two hundred thousand pounds for a one bedroom flat. Moreover the maintenance cost may come to some forty to fifty pounds per week and the resale market is very limited; so one has to think hard indeed before selling one’s own house, as it would be practically impossible to move out if the life in a confined atmosphere may not be your cup of tea.

Most people in their retirement do not want to own a flat. They would rather give the rent and enjoy the income generated by the sale of their property. With travel industries rapidly expanding to exotic and once a dream, out of reach places like Nepal, Bali, Hawaii, Australia, USA and the Far and Middle East, today we are spoilt for choice.

Let us be honest, who would like to remain here during the dark, cold and wet winter months if we can get away to the warm climate of Goa, Kerala, Maldives and East Africa, our place of birth for which we still have affiliation, a soft corner deep down in our hearts.

Well, if you plan your retirement well in advance, then nothing is impossible, no place is out of bound for us, as we are, on the whole, well versed in financial management, live within our means and always save for rainy days. But one has to be healthy and fit to fly to the far corners of the world and unfortunately many are not, as the stressful lives do take its toll.

So make hay while the sun shines and don’t wait for tomorrow, as tomorrow may never come.


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