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February - March 2007

Political News

From Far & Near - Topics of Interest

by Bhupendra Gandhi

Why are British turning their back on land of milk and honey?

It is a well known fact that British people are one of the most mobile, restless and ambitious people in the world. This is an inbred quality that has served this country well in the past, enabled them to sail the seven seas, discover and colonize countries, even continents like Australia, America, India and vast land mass of Africa, Middle East and South East Asia, spreading her culture, religion and above all English language. English has become the language of commerce, business, science and IT, widely spoken throughout the world.

A tiny country, an island nation like Britain with a population of no more than 30 to 40 million at the height of its power, ruled one third of the world population as well as occupied 30% of the land mass.

It was said that sun never set on the British Empire, as it stretched from Hong Kong in the east to Falkland Islands in the west, off the coast of South America, a distance of more than fifteen thousand miles.

It seems this wandering spirit, the spirit of adventure along with the desire and longing for long hours of sunshine, a warm, dry climate and business opportunities, are tempting some two hundred thousand people to emigrate to countries like Australia, the first choice, to Spain, USA, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Portugal and even to countries like Ireland, Mauritius, India and the West Indies; thus turning the tide of one way traffic that was so prevalent in the fifties and sixties.

One in ten Britons now live overseas, the highest number of emigrants, the most mobile people in Europe. Even the super rich Scandinavians living in countries with a freezing climate, more suitable for reindeers, igloos and Father Christmas than for human habitat are not even half as mobile as us the Brits, with gypsy spirit, wandering heart and never say die spirit. But Scandinavians are catching fast, as they all speak English, beside their own language.

With East European countries like Poland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Rumania having recently joined EU, even more Britons are expected to desert these shores, as cost of living and house prices going sky-high, in a false economic boom based on borrowing and high property prices, and our manufacturing industry has practically disappeared. Once we had 20% of the world trade, today it is just one percent. What a calamity?

With European countries like Spain, Portugal and France becoming expensive, it is but natural to turn to East where pound sterling has a high purchasing power. Brits are welcomed as friendly and enterprising people, unlike French and Germans who are too dominant and demanding, unable and unwilling to integrate with the locals. Moreover, in these countries English is the most popular and widely spoken language, thanks to information technology and American influence.

According to the Institute of Public Policy research document, British people are more widely spread than any other nationality, even more than Americans with a population of three hundred millions.

There are forty one nations where more than ten thousand Brits have settled down and some one hundred nations where at least ten Britons could be flying our flag. These include some of the most beautiful places on earth, places like Fiji, Mauritius, Seychelles, Maldives, Bali and little known islands like Christmas, Vanuatu, Solomon, Galapagos, Polynesia, Suva, Guam, New Britain, St. Helena, Norfolk and many more, in the romantic and isolated part of Indian and Pacific Ocean, with sandy beaches, palm groves and grass skirt-wearing beautiful girls? Some of these islands are dependencies of Britain, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

We can only dream and envy these Brits who live in exotic and warm countries, especially during our cold, damp and depressing winter months, with shorter days and long hours of darkness when most of us prefer to stay indoors and some escape to Canary Islands for a few weeks, a paradise on the cheap?

But for every two Brits leaving, three come in, giving us a surplus of some one hundred thousand people. But according to research, while the people leaving are highly qualified, such as doctors, accountants, pharmacists, journalists, lawyers, architects and scientists with entrepreneuring spirit and a fat bank balance to take it with them, most of the new arrivals are penniless; hardly able to speak English and a drain on the economy.

They take up low paid jobs in farming, catering and transport. Although they provide cheap labour and keep inflation down and economic boom going, they are unable or unwilling to mix, creating an underclass with resentment that so often comes to surface with vengeance, like the 7 July suicide bombing and ever climbing crime rate.

So in a way, it is a brain drain, not to mention capital drain that we can ill afford if we want to keep our economy expanding in real term. I know a few people, usually well qualified youngsters who have migrated to countries like Canada, USA and Australia.

This is a new phenomenon for us, the Indians (Hindus) to go against the family tradition of living close to each other. But most are fed up with high taxes, mediocrity NHS, high crime level and a lunatic foreign policy of our government that has made us a laughing stock in most countries and a terrorist target.

This is a debate worth pursuing. So let the readers whose family members may have migrated, tell us how they are doing, faring in their new, adopted land of opportunity and advancement.

Are we (Hindus) the most law abiding citizens of UK?

The population of United Kingdom has just reached a landmark figure of sixty million and according to the latest figure available, as published on 31st March 2006 there were 77058 prisoners locked up in our prisons up and down the country.

The break down according to religious affiliations is:

As the figure shows, Hindus behind bars number only 370. As a percentage of the total Hindu population, it is just 0.0528 per 100 even lower than Jews whose corresponding figure is 0.0625, marginally higher. This indeed comes as a surprise, as we all thought that Jews, being the most affluent and highly educated close-knit ethnic community, there would hardly be any Jewish prisoners in British jails.

Another surprising figure is that of Buddhist prison population, as Buddhism is one of the most peaceful religions. It is one of the smallest religious group in Britain.

Religion Population Prisoners Male Female % of Total Population Prisoners
per 1000
Muslim 1:5 Million 8010 7820 190 0:5341 5:34
Hindus 700,000 370 350 20 0:0528 0:52
Sikhs 350,000 560 540 20 0:1600 1:60
Jews 320,000 200 190 10 0:0625 0:62
Buddhist - 1330 1280 50 - -

Many people I spoke to, find this figure of 370 Hindus and 560 Sikhs in jail as too many. The community should aim for a figure of less than 100. Although this is a noble thought, it would be difficult if not impossible to reduce the figure so drastically. Yet Hindu prison population was just 157 in 1994. So it is a substantial rise but this rise is not as severe as in other ethnic minorities.

The best way to reduce it is to tackle drink and drugs problem and benefit dependency, however insignificant it may be, as most Hindu prisoners are there on what is called a soft crime, that include benefit cheats, embezzlement, debts and traffic offences. There are very few prisoners on serious offences like murder, rape, GBH and drug smuggling. There are no Hindu prisoners for what has come to be known as Honour Killing.

One point raised by my Muslim friends, and a valid one indeed, is that Muslim community, just like Christians is made up of many sects and subdivisions, some of them with a crime rate as low as or even lower than amongst Hindus. These communities include Daudi Bhora, Ismaili, Ahmedia and Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslims, as well as all those Muslims who came here from East Africa.

Their children are as highly educated as ours. Most of our GPs, dentists and solicitors come from these Muslim minorities. That speaks a volume about their achievement under difficult circumstances. If Home Office can divide Christians as Anglican, Free Church, Roman Catholic and other Christians, then perhaps it can divide Muslims as well. I would like the leaders of these Muslim communities to take up the matter with the Home office.

One more reason for such a low crime rate amongst Hindus and above mentioned Muslims is that our youngsters are usually well educated and in full time employment. Unemployment in this group is even lower than the national average while it is so high, reaching almost 80% amongst some ethnic communities.

If we aim for even lower or nil unemployment amongst our younger generation, then Hindu and Sikh prison population will certainly go down. That means we should take to our heart Blair and Brown’s advice of education, education and even more education. So let us take up the challenge and send every child, male or female, to college for a degree or two.

That would be the first step on the ladder to better education, better employment, better housing and a higher living standard that would significantly reduce unemployment and ultimately our already very low prison population.

It is a challenge but I am sure we or rather our younger generation is up to it.

Are our GPs the best paid in the world?

According to the latest figures taken from the Tax Data for the year 2004/05, our GPs, on average, earn £106,000 per annum. The earning figure goes up substantially to £128,000 for a minority of doctors who do not use contracted out of hours services.

This earning figure for our doctors is only surpassed in the USA and Canada where health service is more complex and funded both by the government and the private sector, through insurance schemes which are widely used, as some 70% of the people in USA have private medical insurance, mainly through their employment.

Our health service is unique in the sense that practically all GPs’ incomes come from the government, from the tax payers with private sector contributing less than 5% of the GPs income.

This unique status for GPs, as the best paid GPs in Europe was achieved by a hefty 30% rise in their earnings, following the introduction of lucrative contracts in April 2004, so ably negotiated by BMA on behalf of their members. I wonder how many other professional bodies have the influence to succeed in such a spectacular way to put GPs on the highest financial pedestal!

Although no one grudges this unique status for our GPs, who are hard working and totally dedicated in providing a good, caring professional service to their patients, it is nevertheless an established practice to let agency doctors provide out of hours services.

So often these agency doctors are neither as efficient nor as caring as one’s own GP. Perhaps they are more interested in visiting as many patients as possible, in the shortest possible time.

So one may wonder how a hefty rise of 30% in their earnings can be justified, when hospitals are struggling to stay within the budget, wards closed and some 26000 professional people, that include doctors and nurses have lost or are about to lose their jobs, unless there is a corresponding rise, improvement in the services provided by GPs.

There is also a very tiny minority of GPs, especially among the Asian community who are solely in the profession to make money rather than serve the patients. Although people can walk away from such practices, and many do, I can not help but wonder what action NHS or PTC take when patients turnover is well above normal in some GP surgeries.

Does NHS or the appropriate body ever write to such patients asking them why they are walking away from such GPs? I don’t think so. I can say from my own personal experience that it is very difficult to get a reply from PCT when we write to them, even through our MP, especially when it is about lack of choice in haematology, physiotherapy and psychology.

In spite of Government’s boast of introducing choice, it is just the opposite. Our choice for the above mentioned treatment has been removed completely. For such a treatment, our names go to a clearing body and we have to accept whatever hospital allocated to us, irrespective of how far, how inconvenient it may be, especially for the elderly, the sick and the infirm. Budgets, contracts and turnover are more important than treatment which is a post code lottery.

Who said no one can fool all of the people all of the time?

Institutionalized Racism in Travel Industry

Every one knows that there is an institutionalized racism in police, media, entertainment, law and judiciary but very few can identify racism in travel industry, until one becomes a victim or such news grab headlines.

At least police force have recognized the shortfall in their ranks and file and working hard to eradicate racism. Police are also working hard to protect all of us and no one can deny that they are working under the most difficult circumstances and deserve our full and unqualified support and cooperation from us, every member of the ethnic minority, even after the recent Forest Gate blunder which came so soon after the Mendes killing. Without the dedication and alertness of the police, thousands more would have died at the hands of the terrorists.

However the way two Muslim young men, passengers on a Manchester bound flight who were escorted off the aircraft with a gun pointing at them, after they had passed all security checks was most disgraceful and must have been frightening as well. I am glad that Spanish rather than British police were involved but they were called in by a British Captain of a plane bound for Britain.

I am sure people like us speaking Gujarati, Hindi, Urdu or Bengali may sound like Arabic to a person of European origin. We on most part are also unable to distinguish between various European languages, such as Spanish, Italian, French and German. It was mob rule at its worse, more of a mutiny than a protest and the Captain gave in so easily.

As a frequent traveller, I could not fail to notice that institutional racism does affect travel industry, perhaps in common with most walks of life and from time to time, we are being treated less courteously, with less respect than our fellow passengers who are native Europeans. It is for no other reason than the colour of our skin and our names.

I would like to share my recent experience with my fellow readers who may have received similar treatment, undergone similar experiences and may like to share their experiences with us, the readers of this prestigious publication India Link which is read at the highest level and thus able to make a difference, attract attention of the people in the right places.

Recently I became a victim of air rage, not at the hands of my fellow passengers or the airport authority but at the hands of air hostess, the Cabin Manager who behaved like a mini Hitler, flaunting her authority in most blatant and unpleasant manner.

Perhaps air rage is too strong a word. It could be more appropriate to describe my experience as being a victim of the colour of my skin and ethnicity if not my religion, as Hindus, Sikhs and Jains are in most part regarded as polite, courteous, well behaved and law abiding citizens and respected as such by most authorities, including police. That is my personal experience.

As a disable passenger, I always book and pay for a special sitting arrangement whereby we are allocated seat numbers of our choice, right in the front with plenty of leg-room, at the time of booking and our seat numbers are confirmed on the tickets and boarding cards as well.

So there is absolutely no chance of misunderstanding or confusion at any point. I must also be honest and admit that this was the first time we had such a bad experience in all these years of flying with this particular airline that have treated us fairly and courteously on most part. But for me, this one experience was one too many.

While boarding the plane at a Spanish airport on our return flight, I noticed that our seats, paid for and allocated to us at every point, were already occupied by an English couple with completely different seat numbers on their boarding passes.

The lame excuse put forward by the air hostess who gave away our seats to this couple was that we were late in boarding the plane; even though 90% of the passengers boarded after us and the departure time was some 45 minutes away.

According to my understanding the cabin crews or air hostesses are only allowed to reallocate unoccupied seats after the plane is airborne and not when most of the passengers are still boarding the plane.

It was a sheer act of thuggery on the part of the Cabin Staff, in particular one air hostess who was in charge who erroneously believed that most of us, the members of the ethnic minority, especially old age pensioners like us, are uneducated and incapable of defending our rights, put up a fight.

Normally I am calm and a docile person who would not get into argument, avoid confrontation at any cost but this treatment, outright discrimination and racism was so blunt, so obvious that it was enough to raise my blood pressure, lose my normal cool. We had a heated argument, at the top of our voice for some fifteen minutes.

At one point I was even afraid that we may be thrown off the aircraft. But as it would delay the flight departure by at least two hours, to offload our luggage and the fact that we were in the right, in a position to demand fair compensation if not allowed to travel, gave me the courage and confidence to demand justice, to give us the seats which were allocated to us at every turn and for which we had paid a hefty premium.

In the end, each of us was given a three seat raw that enabled us to sleep, provided us with free drinks and given a letter to claim compensation or the refund of the payment made for these seats. I am sure my journalistic background and my membership of the prestigious Journalists Institute may have helped me to get justice from this egoistic queen of ignorance who thought she could bully us and get away with murder. How wrong she was. She did not know the first rule, never to judge a book by its cover.

In the end we got better seats than we had paid for but I had to fight all the way and not many would have done the same if they were in my shoes! On most part, we the Hindus lack the fighting spirit and give in easily, even when we are in the right and the law is on our side.

On my return I did receive a letter of apology from the airline, admitting their mistake and a promise to investigate the incident thoroughly and a cheque for £10, a king’s ransom. But that was the last I heard from the airline. I do not believe that any action was taken against her who treated us so badly and gave the airline a bad name.

If passengers misbehave on a flight, they are punished severely, even thrown off the plane. In a recent incident a drunk and unruly passenger was forced to disembark on a remote Portuguese island of Porto Santo with a NATO airbase but no commercial flights to fly home.

The only way back to Britain is to catch a ferry to the island of Madera, a four to five hours sailing and then catch a flight home. In my opinion, as a law abiding citizen and a frequent traveller, I do support such action on the part of the airline, as these half drunk and unruly passengers do endanger the lives of their fellow passengers and give a hard time to air hostesses who on most part are polite and helpful.

It would be a foolish behaviour on the part of the air passengers at a time when the air industry is lurching from one crisis to another, from one disaster to another, as a result of terrorism and extremism.

But I do not expect their employees to add to their problems, their difficulties and their loss of business. Worse still, the airlines are not willing to take action against their unruly, biased and perhaps racist employees! They have the support of their Unions and no airline would like to take on a Union, especially when a faceless passenger is involved.

I feel the law should apply equally to all, passengers as well as the airline employees. I am afraid in this case; I do not think the employee received even a mild reprimand from the airline, let alone a fully deserved punishment.

It seems there is one rule for us and another one for them? If they do not put their house in order, they will rapidly lose the support and sympathy of the passengers they receive at present. People like us are most law abiding and understand and support the staff in every way we can.

I wonder any of your readers had undergone a similar experience and would like to share it with us, the devoted readers of India Link. A comment from the airline industry would also be most welcomed. But knowing how these people would like to close rank and stick together, I would not hold my breath.

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