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August - September 2005


Political News

From Far & Near: Topics of Interest

by Bhupendra Gandhi


TIME TO HEAL POLITICAL WOUNDS:
Now that the dust has settled down after the hustle and bustle of one of the most bitterly fought elections since the end of the Second World War, I feel that it is time to tone down the differences and heal the wounds before they become infectious, contagious and permanent.

Although opinion polls were pointing to a clear cut Labour victory, I am sure most of us are relieved that the MPs we admire for their courage, foresight and sincerity who have done most for the ethnic minorities, especially for the British Gujaratis, Indians and East African Asians, have all been re-elected, albeit with a reduced majority and will be with us for the next four to five years.
I am referring to my own MP Barry Gardiner(Brent North) founder and first Chairperson of Labour Friends of India, Tony McNulty (Harrow East) Gareth Thomas (Harrow West, Stephen Pound, present Chairman of Labour Friends of India, Keith Vaz(Leicester East) and a few more. It seems there are more Asian MPs in this Parliament than ever before and that includes Dr. Ashok Kumar, Sailesh Vara, Piara Khabra and Parmjit Dhanda.

It is also worth taking note that the first Gujarati and a first Conservative black MP has been elected under the leadership of Mr. Michael Howard. That is the legacy he will be leaving, the legacy I would like to remember him for and not his anti-immigrant ranting that some of us found offensive, although to be honest, according to opinion polls, most voters,t including blacks and Asians approved his policy of controlled immigration to this tiny and overcrowded island.

Perhaps his hard line on uncontrolled and illegal immigration may have taken the sting out of BNP venom. I am relieved that BNP failed to win a single seat while such a policy on the continent, especially in France, Belgium and Holland has brought them a hat full of Parliamentary seats.

Iraq has played a major part or rather the only reason in the defeat of popular and loyal Ms. Oona King and Ms. Yasmin Qureshi, as their constituency was once a safe Labour seat. But I must admit Ms. Sarah Teather has done a wonderful job for her constituents since her famous by-election victory against a seasoned and very experienced politician of the calibre of Robert Evans, MEP.

When we were canvassing on behalf of our MP Barry Gardiner, a very popular constituency MP, We were surprised at the hostility of some of the Labour supporters who wanted to abstain from voting. The reasons they gave were varied and interesting but mainly centrd on iraq, Sky high Council Tax and impeding revaluation of our properties which may increase the rates burden on most of us.

I am sure we were able to convinced most if not all the people we talked to on the door-steps, to go out and vote, if not for the Labour party, then at least for our MP Barry. No doubt the poor quality of the opposition has also helped our cause.

It seems the Conservatives miserably failed to take advantage of the unrest created by Tony Blair with his Iraq misadventure, his failure to address the unrest on rates and the Tories failure to put up creditable ethnic candidates like Cllr. Harshad Patel who would have provided a tougher opposition.
It is indeed a sad day for democracy when the politicians have to rely on the poor opposition and negative campaign to win an election. It should be won on the past record and the future programme.


PACKAGE HOLIDAY HEALTH TOURISM
We all knew that it was only a matter of time when countries from the developing world would be able to offer us medical facilities par excellence, at a fraction of a cost to us. First it was the manufacturing industry jobs, then the white collar jobs in communication, finance and affiliated services that were exported to these super fast developing economies.

Now it is the turn of our hospitals to lose their patients and in the long run the loss of NHS jobs as well. I just wonder where the buck would stop. The countries that are in the forefront in stealing our jobs, albeit on merit and good governance on most part, are China, India, Malaysia, South Africa and Taiwan.

The Western governments will never be able to stop this drain on our resources, unless they tackle the fundamental reasons behind these job transfers. While our governments in Europe tax and spend some 35% to 50% of GDP, the ratio in developing countries, the tiger economies of Asia is as low as 10% to 20%. Where people are encouraged to be self sufficient, self reliant and depend on their own resources and family members in times of crises.

The reasons for such a huge drain on our economies are obvious and staring in our eyes. There are some two and a half million people of working age claiming incapacity benefits, which has gone up five folds in last two decades, costing the treasury nine billion pounds. One in three of the population is claiming some sort of benefits. Our government spends as much as 40% of the tax revenue on pensions, social security, disability, housing and such associated benefits.

In some towns and villages in Wales, decimated by the closure of coal mines and steel manufacturing plants, one in three persons are claiming incapacity benefits. Government is aware of this scandal but turns a blind eye, as there are no jobs and if these people are denied incapacity benefits, they will go on dole, thus spoiling government record on unemployment.

According to a report in Daily Mail, complied by Graham Grant and Sean Poulter, a holiday firm has just announced that it would soon be publishing healthcare holiday brochures which would give us, the consumers, an opportunity to choose hospitals of our choice, in the major cities of India, mainly in Mumbai. These Hospitals would provide operation for various ailments, thus cutting out the long waiting period for our NHS patients.

As it would cost far less than as a privte patient in Britain and will be within the reach of most patients, especially retired and elderly people who have to wait for months and years for similar operation under NHS in UK. Thomas Cook’s spokesperson in India, Ms. Amita Munshi said, “We are establishing connections with top selected hospitals in major cities in India who would provide operations for hip replacement, neurosurgery, cancer therapies, coronary heart bypass and many advanced heart surgeries costing from just £1500 to £6000. Such health tourism would be within reach of most of the British people. A major surgery would cost at least five times more here in England.”

India is fast acquiring the reputation as the world’s most efficient “Accident and Emergency Centre.” India already attracts well over 150,000 international health visitors, mainly from Far and Middle East, North Africa as well as most European countries.

Medical tourism is already on the brink of earning India £1 billion which is expected to treble by the year 2020 if India plays her cards well, as people are living longer and the population of pensioners is rising very fast in Europe, America. Asia’s largest health provider, “The Apollo Group of Hospitals” already has some forty hospitals in India specialising in neuro-surgery, IVF and maternity care, cancer and cardiac treatment.

These hospitals are treating British patients and the percentage is rising year by the year. This success is based on personalised service of the highest standard, private rooms with all the latest mod cons at a fraction of the cost, clean. If you are willing to pay a bit extra, you can have a twenty four hour private nurse for as little as £10 per day, an amount, which would not buy even a decent dinner in this country.

This package holiday care could be extended to include recuperation on a beach or hill station in Munar and Ponmudi, sailing in Kerala backwaters and sightseeing in Goa and Kerala.
India would need an efficient, well educated and sincere workforce to keep on expanding this source of income. It is of utmost importance that English language should be taught in every state to build up a workforce base to cope with the rising demand.

At present English is widely spoken only in Southern India. But Gujarat, under the dynamic and progressive BJP Chief Minister Narendra Modi, has already introduced English as a compulsory subject in secondary schools, which will soon be extended to primary education, available to all children. It is the aim of the Gujarat Government that every one should be able to speak at least Hindi and English, besides Gujarati. They would also like children to learn German, French and Spanish to welcome health tourists from all over Europe.


ID CARDS ARE AN ABSOLUTE NECESSITY:
I am glad that at last the government is going ahead with purpose and speed in their determination to introduce; some may call it a controversial ID card bill which has just passed the first hurdle with a comfortable majority of 31, under the difficult circumstances.

It is sad to note that some twenty backbench MPs, notably Clare Short and Glenda Jackson, the Sumo rebels, voted against the government. But then they are famous for their leftwing tendencies and their rebellious voting pattern, although I must admit they are occasionally right and in tandem with the public opinion, as they were on Iraq.

I am glad that the Conservatives opposed the bill. It seems they only support the government when the government has committed a blunder, as on Iraq war. They have the aptitude, the talent and flair to turn gold into iron. Certainly all that glitters on their manifesto is not gold. We are definitely not thinking what they are thinking, neither on Iraq nor on education and certainly not on ID cards.
The most responsible bodies, authorities and establishments, those who protect us, guard our borders and fight, investigate fraud, crime, lawlessness and violence, generally support the introduction of ID cards.

ID cards will also assist in rooting out benefit fraud, illegal immigration and identity thefts that are ruining many lives. It will curtail tax avoidance in the black economy. I would describe ID card as an asset, an entitlement card rather than an infringement on our personal liberties, if it enables us to claim our rights on pension, hospital treatment and other benefits with minimum fuss and delay.
The ID cards should also carry the medical history of a person. It could and should include blood group, kidney, diabetic, heart problem and such life threatening illnesses, as well as the prescribed medicine that one may be taking. Such vital information could save the life of a person in an emergency, as the medical history is available to the doctor, ambulance crews and paramedics at the touch of a button. It will be a God send gift in an emergency for those who are chronically sick, disable and infirm due to old age.

We will need only one card to establish our identity instead of many and varied documents we are obliged to show in trying to establish our identity when even opening a simple bank account. Even passports may be available just by presenting an ID card, cutting out form fillings and long waits that is if passports are not replaced by IDs.

It is a great credit to the government that they have exempted under eighteen and old age pensioners from paying but the government must make sure that the cost of acquiring an ID card should not exceed £100 as promised. If necessary, it may be introduced on voluntary basis to start with, to judge and emulate the pros and cons of the IDs on the drawing board.

People who have nothing to hide, should have no fear from this newest technological marvel. We should readily lend our support to the government. Only those who consider this country and her people a soft touch will surely be worrying.

ID cards are already in operation in many countries throughout the world. As usual we lag behind, as we are afraid of change; and we are overburdened with well intended but misguided do-gooders who fight any progress under the guise of curtailment of our human rights and personal freedom. That is so often an illusion, a privilege of the few. Reading about the misery and sufferings of the victim of identity thefts will make one realise how easy it is to commit such crimes in our over liberal country.


ARE WE THE AUTHOR OF OUR OWN MISFORTUNE?
When the dust has settled down, tempers cooled and we have come out of the shock, then it will be the time to decide where we have made mistake. Why has our country become the first target for suicide bombing in Western Europe?

Police, intelligence agencies as well as all knowledgeable politicians warned the government and the public again and again that it is not a question of if but when the terrorists will strike in London, the most prestigious city in the world. Did any one take them seriously?

Yet the government, hampered by the judiciary with loony left tendencies, have hardly done enough; break a sweat to protect us, the British people. Could I say politicians of all parties have failed us miserably?

Can we continue to tolerate, harbour, even fund those who are bent upon destroying our way of life, have only hatred and contempt for our values and our democratic way of life they take advantage of to further their aim by violence?

Should we keep Hunan Rights legislation in place that was so successfully used to free Belmarsh Prisoners, held under the Government’s anti-terror laws? Should unelected judiciary reign supreme over elected parliament? Why our judges are not elected by the people as in other countries like USA? Are they accountable to any one?

At the time of passing the judgement on Belmarsh prisoners, Lord Hoffman gleefully declared that the real threat to our nation does not come from these detainees or terrorists but from draconian laws such as these. I wonder how he feels now.

Then again judiciary and these law Lords have more sympathy for the offender then the ones offended against. This is a sad reality in Britain.

In a way freedom is a myth, an illusion, whether it is political, social or financial. Does economic freedom mean a great deal to some one who find it difficult to get one square meal a day? How much human rights are worth to dead people or to their grieving families that include the families of suicide bombers.

The government has a lot to think, ponder and act to protect our citizens before it is too late. It is a defeatist talk to say that it is impossible to provide a complete protection. If there is a will, there is a way. President Bush did promise a complete protection after the 911 attack on New York and other cities. So why can’t Tony Blair?

I am sure the government will not be uttering such nonsense if the P.M. Tony Blair, along with leading politicians, Prince Charles and other prominent members of the royal family were using the public transport, instead of using chauffer driven Rolls Royce and helicopter to travel even a short distance.

Did Sir Winston Churchill say to the British people that German occupation was inevitable, even when the rest of Europe had crumbled like a house of cards? Is the government lacking the will to fight terrorism? These are serious questions which need serious answers.

Rightly or wrongly many people think, believe that this government is partly responsible to put our country in the front line for the terrorist attack, by attacking Iraq and so closely associating with America when most major European countries like France, Germany and Russia kept their distance.

Every one knows that Iraq never poised any threat to us or any Western country. So why are we responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians? If the liberation of Iraq was so well received by the people of Iraq, as we were led to believe, then why so many suicide attacks take place on a daily basis?

Does it mean that the removal of Saddam has been counter productive to Britain, made the world a more dangerous place to live in? Could any one give us a true answer? I would certainly not depend on the government to find out the truth.

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