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August - September 2008

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Dispatches & Reports


Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea, the UK’s first and only Zoroastrian peer, hosted a glittering reception at the House of Lords last week to celebrate the Zoroastrian community’s contribution to Indo British Business. Lord Bilimoria has been for many years the UK CoChair of the UKIndia Business Council.

The unique occasion for this reception was the presence in London of the Indian CoChair of the UK India Business Council Mr Phiroz Vandrewala, Executive Director of Tata Consultancy Services.

For the first time in history, and as a matter of great pride for Zoroastrians all over the world, both the CoChairs of the UK INDIA Business Council are Zoroastrians.The Zoroastrian community in India is very prominent in business with major business houses like Tata, Wadia and Godrej being owned and managed by Zoroastrians. In the UK the most prominent Zoroastrian businessman is Lord Bilimoria, Chairman of Cobra Beer.

The Guest of Honour for this occasion was Baroness Hyman the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords. The Baroness welcomed the invitees and spoke of the role of the House of Lords and the diversity of its current membership. The Baroness praised the contribution within the last 2 years of the newly ennobled first Zoroastrian Lord Bilimoria.

From L to R: Mr Phiroz Vandrewala, Ms Shernaz Engineer & Lord Karan Bilimoria

Lord Bilimoria spoke of his pride in his Zoroastrian faith and the Indian roots of his family. He emphasised the key Seventh Social Sin that Mahatma Gandhi presented to all businessmen : Commerce without Morality. Lord Bilimoria traced rich history of Zoroastrians in Britain in the field of politics when the first 3 British MPs of Asian descent were Zoroastrians. He then described the recent history of the Zoroastrian Chamber of Commerce and urged his fellow Zoroastrians to keep up the tradition of risk taking and business. He spoke of the need to see the difference between Obstacle and Opportunity and to be able to turn both to advantage. He asked Zoroastrians to take advantage of the many facilities available under the UKIBC and to expand Indo BritishTrade and take it to a higher level. He felt proud of the fact that UKIndia trade and investment had expanded dramatically since the inception of the Indo British Partnership in 1993. Lord Bilimoria was all praise for the role of the House of Tata in Indian business and its stellar role in recent inward investment in the UK.

Lord Bilimoria spoke of his own commitment to entrepreneurship and described how in 2001, he had been requested by the then ZTFE President Dorab Mistry to establish a Zoroastrian Chamber of Commerce in the UK . He had founded the Chamber to encourage entrepreneurship amongst the young of the community and in 2006 had passed the torch onto the current Chair Ms Engineer.

Lord Bilimoria also pointed out that this was his first ever reception at the House of Lords and he felt very proud to host it as a Zoroastrian event for the promotion of Indo Business business. He felt delighted that many of his old friends and his own dearest mother as well as the their family Mobed Ervad Rustom Bhedwar were present to bless the event.

Mr Phiroz Vandrewala, a Tata director, spoke very warmly of the relations between Britain and India and described the two countries as the “ best friends of each other in politics as well as in business “. Mr Vandrewala gave a brief background of the recent business approach of the House of Tata who in the last 5 years have expanded outside India in dramatic fashion. He described the acquisition of CORUS Steel as visionary and extremely successful. He felt the recent acquisition of Jaguar & Land Rover would also turn out to be fortuitous for theTatas. He also went on to speak of the current investment climate in India and the opportunities for British business. As regards his own company Tata Consultancy Services, he explained how it was one of the most successful and profitable software companies in the world.

WZCC UK Chair Ms Shernaz Engineer gave a brief history of Zoroastrians in business in the UK –starting with the first Asian firm to be established in the UK – CAMA & Company in 1850. Over the last 100 years, whilst British companies had been thriving in India, several Zoroastrian Indian businesses had also established offices and businesses in the UK, namely Tata, Godrej,Wadia, Cowasji Jehangir, Shapoorji Pallonji, Petit and Thermax.

Presentations were made to Baroness Hyman as well as to Lord Bilimoria and to Mr Vandrewala by Ms Engineer on behalf of the membership of the WZCC UK. The function was attended by prominent UK Zoroastrians, many of whom represented Indian companies currently doing business in the UK.


Migrants coming to the UK from Eastern Europe have not caused unemployment or stopped UK workers from finding jobs, according to research published today.

The research, 'The impact of migration from the new European Union Member States on native workers' concludes that new migrants have not had an impact on the numbers claiming unemployment benefits in the UK, or had a significant impact on wages.

Welcoming the research Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform Stephen Timms said: "Migrants from Eastern Europe have come to the UK to work and have been a benefit to our economy, allowing companies to grow and create more jobs. As this research shows these migrants have not taken jobs away from British workers and have not impacted on wages.

"The numbers of people claiming unemployment benefits are at levels as low as 30 years ago, while the number of vacancies in the economy continue to rise. What we need to do now is ensure we continue helping those young people with low skills to get the training and support they need to make the most of the opportunities which exist."

As well as this research paper from the DWP, the Home Office has published the Government's response to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee's report into the economic benefits of migration.

Indian to head new Oxford faculty

An Indianorigin expert in linguistics, whose work on Bengali dialects is widely recognised, has been chosen to head a new faculty at the University of Oxford.

Aditi Lahiri, currently a professor of Linguistics at Oxford, will head the new Faculty of Linguistics, Philology, and Phonetics to be launched on August 1.

Lahiri's work includes 'A study of the Bengali dialect of the Kandi subdivision of Murshidabad' (1979) published by the University of Calcutta.

The new faculty will be made up of a core of dedicated linguistics staff, with support from other academics in related faculties, such as classics and modern languages, who have linguistics expertise.

Lahiri said: "I am delighted to be heading the new faculty at such an exciting time. It will be a unique institution, combining general linguistics, comparative philology and phonetics, embracing members from various different departments.

"Although this is the beginning of a new chapter, it is also a continuation of a long and successful tradition of the study of linguistics, philology and phonetics at Oxford.

"Eminent scholars in the field have passed through this University, and the new faculty plans to maintain cuttingedge interdisciplinary research, including language study from ancient to modern, as well as extending to the fields of cognitive science, computing, and experimental psychology."

The Head of Oxford University's Humanities Division, Sally Shuttleworth, said: "Oxford has a long history in the field of linguistics and the creation of the new faculty will help bring together all our excellent work in this area."


Two of the UK’s biggest charities are teaming up to help address health issues for older people across the country.

The Football Foundation and Sport Relief are launching a £500,000 initiative aimed at helping the over60s stay active and healthy. The initiative offers football club community schemes the chance to bid for funding which will enable them to develop and manage a community project aimed at getting older people in the community to take part in a local health and exercise programme.

Physical activity is one of the most important factors in maintaining a good quality of life, as those who are physically active have more energy and are far more able to cope with daily routines. Regular exercise can also help reduce stress. The project will also include helping participants to build social networks as part of the scheme.

One key focus of the programme is the link between physical activity and stronger bones and muscles. The exercise programme will improve participants’ balance, strength, suppleness and mobility – therefore likely to give them more independence in later life.

Another key objective is to increase the social opportunities for older people. Isolation for this section of society is an increasing issue. This programme will not only improve the health and wellbeing of this group but also reduce the social exclusion that many face. The Football Foundation and Sport Relief are each providing £250,000 towards the initiative.

Initially the programme will be delivered by community coaches at 15 professional football clubs, which, if successful, will be expanded to more clubs across the country. The Football Foundation will centrally manage the programme, as well as monitoring and evaluating it.

Community schemes from across the country have applied for grants and the assessment process is now ongoing. The successful applications will be announced in August 2008.

Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation said: “This is an exciting new venture which will help improve the quality of life for older people and provide important opportunities to stay fit and healthy.”

Kevin Cahill, Chief Executive, Comic Relief added:
“For a number of years Comic Relief has awarded grants that help older people across the UK get access to the support they need. We are proud to be part of a programme that will provide a fantastic service for older people, improving their health and fitness as well as strengthening social and community links”.

In 2006 the Social Exclusion Unit published an academic estimate of the number of excluded older people. This work concluded that:

1.2 million people over 50[1] in England, face severe, multiple exclusion

1.3 million people over 65 have clinical depression

2.5 million people over 50 have little social or family contact

3.4 million people over 50 live in relative poverty.

Since its launch in July 2000 the Football Foundation has been revitalising the grass roots of the game, constructing modern football facilities, developing football as a force for social cohesion and as a vehicle for education in communities throughout the country. It is funded by the Premier League, The Football Association and Government.

Lord Dholakia Chairs Lecture by Eminent Professor on Governance in India

On the 25th June 2008 Lord Rana of Malone hosted a lecture and dinner at the House of Lords. Professor Kapil Kapoor gave a lecture on democratic governance and how this was addressed in India throughout the ages.

Lord Dholakia chaired the lecture, which was delivered to over 50 academic and political delegates, with representatives from Northern Ireland, London and India. The Indian Deputy High Commissioner was also in the audience as a guest of honour.

The lecture was followed by a dinner on the terrace of the House of Lords where Professor Peter Gregson, Vice Chancellor and President of Queen’s University, Belfast, gave an address on the national and international development of the University. He described its strong association with India, culminating in the establishment of the India Centre and the translation of some important Sanskrit texts by Indian scholars. Justice Jain and Baroness Prashar also spoke, confirming the importance of the relationship between the academic and political worlds of India and Northern Ireland respectively.

Survey finds greater diversity and more equality in social entrepreneurship in the UK

New research shows that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities have higher levels of social entrepreneurship than the White community. It also finds that while women are only half as likely as men to be mainstream entrepreneurs, they are equally as or more likely than men to be social entrepreneurs.

The Delta Economics findings, based on a fiveyear survey of social entrepreneurship in the UK, were released today at a BAME conference in London hosted by the Social Enterprise Coalition.

Social entrepreneurship is entrepreneurship aimed to achieve a social or environmental purpose through profitmaking ventures. Social enterprises are businesses set up to achieve those objectives.

The survey found that twice as many Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic respondents were engaged in some form of startup social entrepreneurial activity compared to White respondents.

Phil Hope, Minister for the Third Sector, said: “What is obvious from this interesting research is that social enterprise is a concept that resonates across all communities. Innovation and hard work are at the heart of social enterprise, and the Government is grateful for the contribution of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities to this exciting new movement.”

The survey also found that when it comes to social entrepreneurship, women are as likely as men to be social entrepreneurs. This contrasts significantly with mainstream business where men are twice as likely to be entrepreneurs.

Dr. Rebecca Harding, Managing Director of Delta Economics, who led the survey said: “Underrepresented groups in enterprise, such as women and BAME communities, are more likely to be social entrepreneurs and be innovative in tackling the needs they see in front of them on a daily basis.”


Using advanced technology that may hold the key to the current energy crisis, students at Durham University are about to embark on the challenge of a lifetime, by racing across the United States in a car powered by sunlight alone.

DUSC (Durham University Solar Car) is the only UK entry to the 2008 North American Solar Challenge, where they will be competing against teams from some of America’s leading Universities.

The North American Solar Challenge, is a test of speed and endurance. This year, 24 custombuilt electric vehicles will rely on cutting edge solar technology alone to race the 2,400 miles from Dallas, Texas to Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Engineering students and staff at Durham University have been working on DUSC since 2004. The finished car holds one driver and will travel at an average speed of 70km/h (approximately 45mph).

A team of nine Durham University students and alumni will accompany the car to America, where two drivers will take it in turns to complete sections of the race.

The current team is led by third year Engineering student Ben Derrick. Ben says:
‘This project represents a fantastic opportunity for students to get involved with a cutting edge practical project of real significance in today’s environmentally aware society.’

The Engineering Department at Durham University is known for its commitment to developing cuttingedge and environmentallyfriendly technology.

The car will then be further developed to compete in the World Solar Challenge held in Australia in 2009 and other forthcoming events.

Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies Celebrates Ten Years

The Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies (OCHS) celebrates ten years of growth from humble beginnings in a suburban house to one of the worlds leading Hindu Studies centres building bridges between academia, tradition, and economics.

‘As India nudges its way on to the world stage as an economic force, an understanding of its underlying philosophies becomes important’, says the Centre’s Director, Shaunaka Rishi Das. ‘In the twentyfirst century, Indian cultures and philosophies will make themselves felt in subtle ways as India’s economic growth brings an inevitable cultural impact.’

The Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies has developed into one of the world’s foremost Centres of the study of Hinduism with many of the field’s best scholars serving as visiting fellows and academic directors. These include Prof. Francis X. Clooney, SJ, now teaching at Harvard, and Prof. Gavin Flood author of the highlyregarded Introduction to Hinduism (Cambridge University Press).

Since its earliest days it has been nurtured by respected Oxford scholars including Prof. Keith Ward (Emeritus Professor of Divinity), Prof. David Patterson of the Oxford Centre for Jewish and Hebrew Studies (on which the Hindu Studies Centre was modelled), and Prof. Richard Gombrich (Emeritus Professor of Sanskrit).

According to Prof. Gombrich, ‘The OCHS has developed a reputation for academic excellence. Without the Centre we wouldn’t have Hindu Studies at Oxford. Its students do us credit.’ One such student is Ravi Gupta, now a Lecturer in Eastern Religions in the US: ‘The OCHS approach to the study of the Hindu traditions is a basis for excellent education and informed debate. It gave me the perspectives I needed to launch my career.’ At twentyone, Ravi was one of Oxford’s youngest ever Ph.D. recipients and now lectures in Hinduism in the US.

The Centre studies all Hindu cultures and traditions in all parts of the world. An important part of this is building links with Hindu communities in the UK who have also provided a firm financial footing for the Centre.

The Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies played an instrumental role in the creation of the Dow Jones Dharma Index – an ethical investment package based on Hindu and Buddhist values. This was an exercise in building bridges between academia and the business community in a way that benefited both.

The Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies celebrated its tenth anniversary at its annual Board of Governors Dinner on 24 June. Prof. Richard Gombrich spoke on the history and achievements of the Centre.


The persecution of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Pakistan continued as members of its local community in Kashmir were discriminated against and tortured simply due to their allegiance to the peace loving Community.

Ahmadis in this region had no mosque and so undertook to voluntarily build one. In order not to offend any group or person they chose not build a minaret even though legally they were not prevented from doing so. All relevant legal requirements were duly complied with.

To the dismay and utter shock of the local Ahmadiyya Community, the police registered a criminal case against 14 Ahmadi men under the antiAhmadiyya specific laws PPC 298B and 298C in June 2008. Thereafter a large police presence ruthlessly blasted away the Ahmadi mosque which was still under construction using a range of explosives.

The authorities having registered the cases did not wait for any court judgement before dismantling the Ahmadiyya mosque.

Members of the Ahmadiyya Community had a case registered against them by the police simply for trying to repair parts of their local mosque. The First Information Report (FIR) did not name any individual defendants and thus the entire Ahmadi population in the area faces potential criminal proceedings.

Members of the Ahmadiyya Community recently built a mosque in the village of Barali. However before it could be completed the local authorities forcibly halted its construction and thus the Ahmadis chose to start building at a new location. This led to criminal proceedings to be filed against seven Ahmadis. One child Naveed Ahmad was not named in the proceedings yet was still arrested and subjected to torture.

The blame for these atrocities must be shared by both the Mullahs (extremist clerics) and the local authorities who continually bow to the pressure of the former and thus fail in their duty to safeguard the basic human civic rights of the local Ahmadi population.


London's Child Poverty Ministers Stephen Timms, Beverley Hughes and Jane Kennedy are calling today for organisations across the Capital to recognise their role in tackling child poverty and to pledge to do more.

In London child poverty has fallen by less than any other region in the UK, with inner London rates steadfast at 31 per cent above the national average of 22 per cent. Nationally, 600,000 children have been lifted out of poverty but in London 400,000 children still live in poverty.

The 'London Pledge', launched today, asks services that work with children and families, such as jobcentres, schools, childrens centres and other local groups to sign up to a set of specific actions to help London's families raise their incomes and lift themselves and their children out of poverty.

Stephen Timms said:
"Child poverty is not acceptable, and it is not inevitable. We can all do more to support families experiencing hardship and break the cycle of deprivation. This is not just a job for central Government public services, local government, charities and communities and others must play a role. We are challenging all these partners to recognise that ending child poverty is their business, and to commit to playing their part in this historic challenge."

Ministers see the 'London Pledge' as a vehicle to bring organisations together to commit to actions that are realistic and achievable for their particular service, including:

  • Acting as exemplary employers, leading the way in family friendly working practices helping parents progress to better paid jobs
  • Breaking down boundaries between different services to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy, delay and frustration for parents in accessing the help they need
  • Appointing a Child Poverty Champion a senior member of staff who will ensure the organisation delivers it's commitments
  • Seeking the input of children, young people and parents to shape the services on offer

These activities are based on good practice, identified by Ministers working with experts from across London. Many organisations are already doing some very good work, and are keen to commit to the pledge.

One example is Jobcentre Plus who have been working in partnership with local authorities to give lone parents access to advice and training in children's centres, tailored to their needs, safe in the knowledge that their children are properly cared for.

Beverley Hughes said:
"London has a particularly high level of child poverty and a unique set of problems, which make it harder for Londoners to step out of the poverty trap. Common influences include a lower employment rate than average, particularly among lone parents, mothers in couples and disabled parents. These problems can only be tackled through a concerted effort by services in London, working together to be truly responsive to the needs of whole families."

Ministers celebrated the launch of the 'London Pledge' by visiting LEAP (Local Employment Access Projects) a London based charity that has been particularly successful in helping Londoners to improve their skills and enter sustained employment.

Jane Kennedy said:
"I am pleased to be helping to launch the pledge. We are committed to lifting the income of families with children above the poverty lines to ensure that, so far as we can, no child's opportunity is reduced by poverty. We aim to do this by 2020 and we cannot allow London to be left behind. In order to do this we need everyone to play their part and today's initiative will help to ensure that all the Government's partners are working towards this important goal."

Organisations who want to commit to the 'London Pledge' should contact the Child Poverty Unit. In October, all signatories will be invited to join Ministers, the Mayor, and other London leaders to share their commitments.

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