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‘I am encouraging voters to stick with Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives’-Ameeet Jogia

AMEET JOGIA is the new Conservative Parliamentary candidate for the traditionally Conservative held seat Hendon, which covers Edgware, Mill Hill, Colindale, Burnt Oak and Hendon.  Ameet was born in Hendon and has lived around the area all his life. He is the Political Adviser to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, focussing on faith, race and communities. Previously to this he was Councillor for Harrow for over 10 years and an aide to Lord Dollar Popat. He is currently co-chair of Conservative friends of India.. Ameet holds Masters in Geography fromKing’s College, London. He spoke to SOUTH ASIA TIME on his ongoing canvassing and major agenda in this election. Excerpts of the interview:

Now that elections are taking place on 4thJuly, how is your canvassing going on? What type of response are you getting on the doorsteps?

I am very excited that there is going to be an election on 4th July. We have been working hard on the campaign for many months, so I am looking forward to seeing everything come together and speak to as many residents as possible whilst campaigning. We are seeing a positive response on the doorstep at the moment; however, it is important that everyone is registered to vote and indeed goes out to vote on the day.

What is your main message to the voters? What is your main agenda for Hendon?

My message to voters is that I am committed to working hard for Hendon and I will continue to do this if I am elected to Parliament as your MP. I was born in Edgware and grew up around the constituency, so Hendon holds a special place in my heart. I would love to be able to give back to the area that gave so much to me.

In terms of my plans for the area I am against Labour’s plans to introduce a 20% tax on private schools. This would disproportionately impact the British Indian and Jewish community which is incredibly unfair. Parents will not be able to absorb the costs and this will in turn increase strain on state schools. I believe we should be encouraging aspiration. I’m also committed to reducing crime, especially after the horrific news of a mother in Burnt Oak. Finally, I’m in favour of supporting developments that are in keeping with the area, and opposing those which are not, such as the plans to build tower blocks over the Broadwalk centre in Edgware.                    

Labour party is far ahead than your party in the opinion polls and they are calling on Britons to vote for change.  How different will the new government be if Labour wins the next election?

If the Labour Party are elected as the new government, we risk going  back to square one. Labour do not have the conviction, courage or the plan needed to navigate an increasingly uncertain world and secure a brighter future for this country. This is why I am encouraging voters to stick with Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives. We are working through a clear plan and are not afraid to take the bold action needed to deliver a secure future for you and your family.

One of the main concerns of local residents has been long queues at the NHS, incidences of burglary and potholes on the road. Critics say the Conservatives have failed to address these issues. Then, why vote again?

By sticking with the current plan, Rishi Sunak is making progress. The ship is steadier than it was before, and this is why you should vote Conservative. Inflation rates have gone down from 11.1% to 2.3% and has returned to its normal level, the lowest since 2021. The economy has grown, and we have the joint fastest growth in the G7 this quarter. Rishi Sunak’s track record shows he will deliver even when difficult decisions are needed. This makes him, and the Conservative Party the best choice for you at the upcoming election.

Hendon is known for ethnic diversity and cultural harmony.  How will you support and promote cultural harmony in your constituency if you get elected?

I will continue to work with community leaders to ensure that minority voices are protected and amplified. Over the last few months, I have visited a number of community institutions in Hendon that do remarkable and selfless work, caring for the most vulnerable members of minority communities. I hope to continue to support these organisations in the future in Parliament as the work they do is vital. There are large Indian and Jewish communities in Hendon who I hope to continue to support.

How do you see the contributions of the South Asian community in the UK?

The South Asian community is a huge part of the UK and of Hendon, I was born in Edgware but am of Indian origin. I have worked hard but have only got to where I am today because of the help of the broader South Asian community around me. If elected, I am committed to upholding and supporting the South Asian community if elected.

What motivated you to become an MP?

I have worked in politics for over 15 years and I have loved every moment. I have had the opportunity to work in a range of environments but the one thing that has been consistent has been my connection to Hendon. I was born in Edgware and grew up around the constituency. My experience in Westminster and my love for my home town means that I have the skills to be able to represent local people and give back to the area that has given so much to me over the years.  

Your message for voters.

I encourage you to register to vote and on the 4th July, please go out to vote and vote Conservative! I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible soon.

Call to end child labour in Nepal 

Kathmandu: Experts and rights advocates on Tuesday underscored the need for measures to effectively eliminate and prevent child labour in Nepal.

Participants of Shramadhan Sambad, a discussion series organized by the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, demanded that the government take concrete steps to abolish child labour and safeguard child rights.

Despite the government’s establishment of laws and regulations to eliminate and prevent child labour, the effectiveness of these legal measures remains in question.

Ram Prasad Gautam, a child protection officer at UNICEF, stated that effective implementation of legal provisions requires strong commitment from the state. Effective implementation is interlinked with many factors, including setting up structures, allocating sufficient resources, providing effective services, and introducing programs aligned with legal provisions.

Narayan Bhattarai, National Project Manager at the International Labor Organisation (ILO), shared information about major international instruments, including ILO Convention 138 on Minimum Age and Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor. Convention 138 was ratified by the government of Nepal in 1996, and Convention 182 in 2002. Additionally, Nepal became a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990.

“The commitments should be backed by efforts such as eradicating poverty, ensuring quality education, and implementing social security measures to translate international pledges into action,” he added.

“What we need to realize is that we have plans and strategies, but for these to work, we need both social and political will. This includes greater collaboration with like-minded government agencies, stakeholders, CSOs, media, academia, and most importantly, children,” said Ayush Joshi.

“At Save the Children, we constantly advocate that for policies and plans on children to be effective, we must consider their lived experiences and ensure their voices and opinions are heard and respected. Our policies, plans, and strategies need to be child-informed and ensure the meaningful participation of children directly and indirectly impacted by child labor. Furthermore, we need to reconsider and evaluate if our policies and strategies are viewed from an intersectional lens, as children from underrepresented groups are more vulnerable. Therefore, our approach to addressing child labor shouldn’t be siloed and should consider new trends, such as children’s and young people’s access to digital spaces, and how this has created an entry point to the labor market, and the far-reaching impact of climate change on child labor,” Joshi added.

Inter-governmental and departmental coordination is key. The National Child Rights Council, the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens, and the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs must work in tandem to effectively monitor the labor situation and mobilize resources to support rescue and rehabilitation efforts, he said.

Despite the government’s commitment to ending the worst forms of child labor, children in Nepal are still subjected to severe exploitation, including commercial sexual exploitation, according to Pragya Lamsal, Knowledge Sharing Manager at Adara Development.

Presenting her insights on her engagement in a recent participatory action research project, she noted: “Children from families below the poverty line are particularly vulnerable to risks. When families face financial difficulties, children often seek work to support their parents.”

There are multiple causes of child labour, including its worst forms, she said, adding that responsible agencies should address these interlinked causes for effective intervention. She also highlighted the need to recognize the multidimensional nature of child labour issues and to put forth efforts accordingly.

Narendra Modi Sworn in for Third Term as Prime Minister Along with 72 Ministers

London — In a historic event today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the oath of office for his third consecutive term, heading a new coalition government. The oath-taking ceremony, held on the expansive lawns of Rashtrapati Bhavan, saw Modi, aged 73, along with 72 ministers being sworn in. This marks Modi’s first term as the leader of a coalition government since his initial appointment in 2014, following a significant victory that ended a decade of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule.

The new government comprises 30 Cabinet Ministers, five Ministers with independent charge, and 36 Ministers of State. The distribution of portfolios will be disclosed in the coming days.

President Droupadi Murmu administered the oath of office to Prime Minister Modi. Following him, senior leaders Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah took their oaths, with Nitin Gadkari being the fourth to be sworn in. Other prominent figures such as JP Nadda, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Nirmala Sitharaman, S. Jaishankar, and Manohar Lal Khattar also took their oaths.

From the BJP’s allies, HD Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular) and Lalan Singh of Janata Dal (United) were among the first to be sworn in. The ceremony also saw representation from the northeastern states, with Sarbananda Sonowal and Kiren Rijiju taking their oaths.

Significant figures in the new council of ministers include Virendra Kumar, an eight-time MP from Madhya Pradesh, and Jyotiraditya Scindia, whose induction solidifies his role in the BJP after his departure from Congress four years ago. Hardeep Singh Puri, recognized for his diplomatic efforts during oil crises, and Chirag Paswan, the leader of Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas), were also sworn in, highlighting the diverse representation in Modi’s new government.

The ceremony witnessed enthusiastic support from the followers of the ministers, who cheered as each leader took the stage. Notable international guests included Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu, and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, underscoring the significance of the event on the global stage.

With the weather office predicting a high of 42 degrees Celsius in the national capital, the ceremony proceeded smoothly, marking a significant moment in India’s political landscape as Modi embarks on his third term, following in the footsteps of Jawaharlal Nehru as the only other Prime Minister to achieve this milestone.

‘South Asian diaspora has made huge contributions to the British economy and society’

London – Prof Surya P Subedi, a leading UK-based academic and Barrister- has said that South Asian diaspora has made huge contributions to the British economy and society.

Delivering a keynote address on the theme “South Asian Diaspora in the UK: Partners in Progress,” Prof. Subedi, who teaches international law at the University of Leeds, said that British citizens of South Asian descent were excelling in almost every sector in the British society except football.

Saluting the ingenuity of Bangladeshi and Indian restaurateurs in the UK, Prof Subedi said South Asian people have made their space in the British society through hard work, discipline and by promoting family values. “From Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to three-time Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to Lord Karan Bilimoria, people from South Asian descent are leading the UK in various sectors. Now the challenge is to pass this ingenuity and discipline to the young generation,” he added.

Addressing the interaction organised by www.southasiatime.com, a UK-based online news portal, on Saturday, Prof Subedi said British society is the most liberal society in whole of Europe. “While far right parties are making gains in France, Italy, The Netherlands and other European countries, far right in the UK are not as hard line as in other European countries. It is because of the multicultural British society that they had to reconcile their hard line with the reality.”

Prof Subedi said that despite being new immigrants in the UK, Nepali diaspora were excelling in academia, business and service sectors. “With over two century long relations, Nepal and the UK enjoy unique relationship which is now flourishing at the people-to-people level,” said Prof Subedi, “You should encourage your children and young people to engage in local politics. Let us  hope we will have Nepali origin MP in the House of Commons within the next 10 years or so.”

Deputy Chief of Mission at the Nepali embassy in London, Mrs Roshan Khanal, said South Asia is known for its rich culture, heritage and strong family values. “South Asians take these values with them wherever they go and also pass these values to their children,” said Mrs Khanal and advised immigrant communities to integrate with the host population while protecting their own identity, language and culture. “We are so proud to see South Asian community registering progress in every sector,” she added.

Former Mayor of Harrow, Councillor Suresh Krishna, said there were no barriers left for the South Asian community in the UK anymore. He urged people from South Asian descent to protect their culture and heritage.

Former VP of Non Resident Nepali Association ICC and chairman of Holy Cow Group, Kul Acharya, said Britain offered a lot to law-abiding citizens. “South Asian community are hardworking, disciplined and help each other. We are grateful to Britain for the opportunities it is offering to us as well as to our children.”

Deputy Chief of Mission at the Nepali embassy in London, Mrs Roshan Khanal, unveiled the biography of Prof Surya P Subedi written by London-based Nepali journalists, Bhagirath Yogi and Nabin Pokharel. Commenting on the book, research fellow at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Oxford University, Dr Krishna Adhikari, said extraordinary achievements made by Prof Subedi during his career are a source of inspiration for all including people from the South Asian community. “In his role as UN special rapporteur on Human Rights for Cambodia, as an advisor to the Foreign Secretary of the UK and as a writer and academic, he has contributed a lot which needs to be studied and discussed further.”

Mrs Khanal and Prof Subedi also felicitated community heroes and community leaders of South Asian descent in the UK.  Head Priest of the London Buddhist Vihara, Ven Bogoda Seelawimala Nayaka Thera, former MP for Ealing Southall, Virendra Sharma, Former Corporal Hari Budha Magar, a double above-knee amputee from the Gurkha regiment who summited Mount Everest, Bangladesh-born British entrepreneur founder chairman and managing director of Euro Foods, Shelim Hussain MBE, leading British Indian entrepreneurs Dinesh Gandhi and Steve Mody, Gurkha Justice Campaigner Gyan Raj Rai, President of Britain Nepal Chamber Dr Kapil Rijal,  Consultant Nurse in Critical Care at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, Suman Shrestha MBE, and founder of Yumi and Utam Boutique Uttam Nepal were felicitated at the event.

Similarly, former deputy Mayor of London Borough of Barnet Councillor Lachhya Gurung, NRNA leader and entrepreneur Dayanedhi Sapkota, UK-based Nepali singer Situ Kharel, former Mayor of London Boroughof Harrow Councillor Krishna Suresh, Councillor Sasikala Suresh, philanthropist Rabindra Jung Lamichhane, fashion designer Sanyukta Shrestha, founder of The Makesworth Foundation Sanjay Sah, artiste Govinda Sah Azad, celebrity chef Vivek Singh and entrepreneur Manoj Mehta were also felicitated at the event.

Chief editor of www.southasiatime.com, Bhagirath Yogi, welcomed the participants while editor, Dr Jagan Karki, extended vote of thanks. Dr Sangita Shrestha ‘Swechha’ hosted the event. 

Nepal Investment Summit 2024: High Hopes Amidst Political Uncertainty

KATHMANDU – The third edition of the Nepal Investment Summit (NIS) last month saw Prime Minister Prachanda emphasize Nepal’s strategic position and investment-friendly policies. Despite efforts to attract foreign investment, the commitments fell short of the expectations set by the Investment Board Nepal.

The summit, held on April 28-29, gathered around 2,500 guests and 800 potential investors from 55 countries. The government presented 154 projects, generating expressions of interest for 19. However, the total commitments of 9.13 billion NPR were significantly below the anticipated levels, and no project agreements were finalized.

Notably, investments were pledged for four projects, including an investment company in Bhaktapur and a business complex in Kathmandu. However, the realization of these commitments remains uncertain.

India and China, the top sources of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Nepal, showed substantial interest. China reiterated its commitment to the Belt and Road Initiative and signed MoUs for commercial flights at Nepal’s Pokhara and Lumbini airports. India, under its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, signed an MoU to establish a data center in Kathmandu and released a handbook for Indian investors.

Despite these efforts, Nepal’s FDI inflows remain low. Historical data shows only 36.2% of approved FDI translated into actual investments between 1995-96 and 2021-22. The gap between pledges and actual inflows is attributed to pervasive corruption, bureaucratic red tape, and frequent policy changes.

Prime Minister Prachanda highlighted recent legislative efforts to attract FDI, including amendments to investment-related laws. However, the use of ordinances to expedite these changes has drawn criticism from the opposition.

Political instability further complicates the investment landscape. Shortly after the summit, the Janata Samajbadi Party-Nepal split, prompting the Prime Minister to seek another vote of confidence, his fourth since December 2022. Such instability threatens investor confidence and the potential for future investments.

Nepal continues to pitch itself as a favorable investment destination amidst growing geopolitical interest in South Asia. However, significant structural and political reforms are essential to converting investment pledges into tangible economic benefits.

As Nepal navigates these challenges, the outcome of the summit and the future of its investment landscape remain to be seen.

Presidents of Brazil and Nepal to Participate in Inaugural Forum of Global Coalition for Social Justice

GENEVA – The Presidents of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and Nepal, Ram Chandra Paudel, will participate in the Inaugural Forum of the Global Coalition for Social Justice on Thursday, June 13, during the International Labour Conference (ILC).

The Forum, taking place at the UN Palais des Nations, will feature a high-level segment, thematic working sessions, and an engagement zone. Participants will discuss a range of social justice issues, addressing challenges, opportunities, and potential solutions to advance the Coalition’s objectives. The event will also serve as a platform for Coalition partners to share knowledge, tools, and experiences, and to showcase activities and initiatives in support of social justice.

Launched in 2023, the Global Coalition for Social Justice has rapidly grown, now comprising over 250 members, including governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations, multilateral and national organizations, financial institutions, academic bodies, and international NGOs.

The ILC, the annual meeting of the 187 Member States of the International Labour Organization (ILO), is being held from June 3-14. The event brings together a wide array of stakeholders to discuss and formulate international labour standards and policies.

For UNOG-accredited correspondents, Palais-based journalists can cover the forum with their press credentials. Arrival details for high-level guests will be provided closer to the date. Due to limited space, access will be prioritized for broadcast journalists, while print journalists are invited to follow the forum from the ILC media center or via the ILO Live platform.

The forum’s agenda and live broadcast link can be accessed on ILO Live. This event promises to be a pivotal moment for the Coalition, highlighting the global commitment to social justice and providing a collaborative space for innovative solutions and initiatives.

Rishi Sunak Congratulates Narendra Modi on Election Victory, Highlights Strengthening UK-India Relations

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak congratulated India’s Narendra Modi on Wednesday (5) following his recent election victory, expressing optimism about the future of UK-India relations. In a social media post, Sunak emphasized that the bilateral relationship between the two countries will “thrive,” reflecting the deep friendship shared by the nations.

“Today I spoke to Narendra Modi to congratulate him on his election victory,” Sunak stated. “The UK and India share the closest of friendships, and together that friendship will continue to thrive,” he added, enhancing the message with a phrase in Hindi: “Britain aur Bharat ke beech kareebi mitrata hai, aur saath milkar yeh mitrata aage badhti rahegi (Britain and India share a close friendship, which will be enhanced moving forward in partnership).”

According to a Downing Street spokesperson, the two leaders will meet in person at the upcoming G7 Summit in Apulia, southern Italy. Modi has been invited to the Outreach Sessions by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. The spokesperson noted that Sunak wished Modi every success for his third term and that both leaders agreed to stay in touch, looking forward to their meeting at the G7.

Notably absent from the conversation was the topic of the stalled India-UK free trade agreement (FTA), currently paused in its fourteenth round of negotiations. The general election cycles in both countries have delayed progress. The FTA discussions, which Sunak and Modi aimed to accelerate after their last meeting at the G20 Summit in New Delhi last September, are expected to resume post-election.

Sunak is currently on the campaign trail for the UK general election, set for July 4, with hopes of securing a record fourth term for his Tory-led government. Meanwhile, the opposition Labour Party has pledged to finalize the FTA if elected.

The continuation of UK-India relations remains a pivotal focus, as both nations look to enhance their partnership in the coming years.

London Fashion Week Embraces Diversity with a Fresh Lens

For this year’s June edition of London Fashion Week, the British Fashion Council is taking an innovative approach by broadening its traditionally menswear-centric focus. The event will spotlight the contributions of three influential communities in London’s fashion scene: the Black community, the queer community, and the South Asian community.

Simran Randhawa, a renowned brand consultant and online influencer since the Tumblr era, has been entrusted with co-curating the event from a South Asian perspective. Her aim is to showcase the contemporary ingenuity and craftsmanship of British South Asian designers, reflecting the current fashion landscape.

“South Asians working in fashion [in the UK] isn’t a new concept,” Randhawa told Vogue India. “We’ve had trailblazers like Ashish and many others working behind the scenes. Now, there’s a new generation of young British South Asians—designers, photographers, curators—making significant strides. I feel passionate about increasing visibility for us across the entire industry, not just within our own circles.”

The highlight of Randhawa’s contribution is an exhibition at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, running from June 7 to 9. The exhibition will feature key garments selected by Randhawa for their artistic and innovative use of fabric. Among them is an all-denim look by British and Indian-Nigerian designer Priya Ahluwalia, known for her creative use of sustainable fabrics, and a piece by Kerala-born designer Harri, celebrated for his innovative work with latex.

The exhibition will also showcase emerging talents. Hadiyah Hussain’s screen-printed designs and LahoS, a brand by Suk Sohal, will be featured. Pakistani British photographer Tami Aftab will present ‘Threads,’ a photography collection exploring themes of fabric and heritage.

While South Asia has a rich history of textile work, Randhawa’s focus is decidedly contemporary. She emphasizes that the featured designers are not confined to traditional techniques like intricate beadwork or handwoven materials. “You can just be a South Asian designer showcasing and telling your story,” Randhawa asserts.

Reflecting on her own experiences, Randhawa recalls instances of stereotypical styling in fashion campaigns. She believes the industry has progressed past such representations to a point where South Asian designers can simply be themselves.

Randhawa’s focus on textiles draws from personal heritage. “We all have those memories of going to the fabric shop and getting a suit or a sari fitted,” she says. Her goal is to modernize these memories, aligning them with current conversations in fashion.

As part of London Fashion Week, Randhawa will participate in a panel discussion on diversity in the UK fashion industry. Joining her will be journalist Maliha Shoaib, multi-disciplinary artist Darkwah, and presenter Lea Ogunlami. The panel aims to challenge the industry’s understanding of diversity and push for actionable change.

Randhawa admits to experiencing ‘diversity fatigue’ but stresses the importance of moving beyond discussions to tangible actions. “This exhibition is a great manifestation of what I believe in: action and visibility,” she concludes.

This year’s London Fashion Week promises to be a celebration of diverse voices and talents, reflecting the dynamic and inclusive spirit of the city’s fashion scene.

Narendra Modi Retains Power in Tight Election, BJP Loses Majority

London — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has won a third consecutive term in office after a much tighter general election than anticipated. Despite retaining leadership, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost its outright parliamentary majority for the first time in a decade.

The BJP fell short of the required 272 seats in the 543-seat parliament but remains the leading party. Its coalition partners have gained additional seats, ensuring that Modi’s National Democratic Alliance (NDA) bloc can still form a government with a total of 293 seats.

This election result is a personal setback for Modi, who has previously secured clear majorities in both his terms as prime minister and during his tenure as chief minister of Gujarat. His dominance in Indian politics over the past decade faced an unexpected challenge from the Congress Party-led INDIA opposition alliance, which secured 232 seats. The opposition’s performance defied earlier predictions and sharply diverged from exit polls and pre-election surveys.

In his victory speech, Modi thanked voters for their mandate and pledged to “do everything” to eradicate corruption and poverty. Despite the results, the INDIA alliance has not conceded defeat and is set to meet today to decide their next steps.

The world’s largest democratic exercise saw over 640 million people cast their votes in a marathon seven-week election, described as a “world record” by election authorities. Nearly half of the voters were women, reflecting a significant participation in this historic electoral process.

Lord Buddha’s birth anniversary observed in London amid much fanfare

London – The birth anniversary of Lord Gautam Buddha was observed in London amid much fanfare.

The Buddha Foundation UK organised the 2568th birthday of Lord Buddha at General Gordon Square  at Woolwich, South East London, on Sunday.

Hundreds of members of Nepali diaspora, many of them in their ethnic costumes, took part in the programme organised by the Foundation in cooperation with the Nepali Embassy, London, Nepal Tourism Board and other local organisations.

Cultural programme and children’s activities were organised as part of the festival.

Addressing the event, Nepal’s envoy to the UK, Gyan Chandra Acharya, said Gautam Buddha’s message was still relevant amid conflict and environmental destruction in the world. He called upon all to preserve and protect Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha. He thanked the organisers for their tireless efforts to protect and promote Nepali culture in the UK.

Newly elected Mayor of London Borough of Greenwich, Councillor Jit Ranabhat, said Greenwich was proud to host diverse communities living in harmony with each other. He thanked the Nepali community in the Borough for their active participation and contribution to local community. He assured full cooperation from the Borough to support local community activities.

During the event, Buddhist monk Khenpo Karma Thultrim and 11-year-old girl, Arya Shrestha, spoke about the message of Lord Buddha.  A three-and-half-feet tall Buddha statue brought from Nepal and a canvas prepared by former Vice Chancellor of Lumbini University Hriday Ratna Bajrachayra and Prof Karna Maharjan depicting Gautam Buddha’s life were main attractions of the event. 

The venue was decorated with Buddhist prayer flags. 

President of the Buddha Foundation UK, Deepak Shrestha, said the Foundation was organising the event, in cooperation with other organisations, to spread the message that Lord Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal. He thanked all for their participation and support to make the event a grand success.

Programme coordinator and Vice President of the Foundation, Ms Prasuna Kadel, conducted the event.

Members of Pasa Puchah UK performed Lakhe dance and Dhime music while artistes including Suresh Lama, Anu Chaudhary, Sharmila Bardewa and Deepak Thapa also performed at the ceremony.

All guests as well as participants at the event lit lamps at the end of the programme praying for world peace and harmony.  

(All pics: Shiba Bhandari/London)

Exit Polls Predict Another Term for NDA in 2024 Lok Sabha Elections

NEW DELHI: Exit polls following the final phase of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in India signal a continued reign for the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), projecting a potential third consecutive term. The NDA is expected to secure approximately 360 seats, with the opposition INDIA bloc forecasted to win around 150 seats.

The remaining seats are likely to be distributed among neutral parties, including the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC). These projections will be confirmed once the official results are released on June 4.

Initial analyses indicate that the NDA is maintaining its dominance in the northern and western regions of India, while also gaining significant ground in the east and making notable inroads in the southern states. Noteworthy is the forecast that the NDA may surpass the TMC in West Bengal and outdo the BJD in Odisha.

In Bihar, the ruling coalition and its allies are predicted to exceed the 30-seat mark out of a total of 40 seats. Despite these gains, the NDA faces minor setbacks in Maharashtra compared to its 2019 performance. The split between the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has potentially strengthened the INDIA bloc’s presence in the state, though the extent varies among different pollsters.

As the country awaits the official election results, these exit poll projections suggest a continued period of stability and governance under the NDA, with their influence expanding across various regions of India.

Voting underway in 57 constituencies in 8 states of India

PTI, NEW DELHI, June 1: In the seventh and final phase of the general election on Saturday, polling is being held for 57 constituencies spread across seven states and the Union Territory of Chandigarh, including Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a third consecutive term in the Lok Sabha.

The voting is being held in all 13 seats of Punjab and four of Himachal Pradesh, 13 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, nine in West Bengal, eight in Bihar, six in Odisha and three in Jharkhand, besides Chandigarh. Polling for the remaining 42 Assembly constituencies in Odisha and by-polls to six Assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh are also taking place simultaneously.

The voting began at 7 am. Voters were seen standing in queues in front of polling booths since early in the morning during severe heatwave conditions in several parts of the country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to people to exercise their franchise. “Together, let’s make our democracy more vibrant and participative,” the prime minister said on X.

“Today is the final phase of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. As 57 seats across 8 states and UTs go to the polls, calling upon the voters to turn out in large numbers and vote. I hope young and women voters exercise their franchise in record numbers,” he added.

Other prominent candidates among the 904 in the fray are Union minister Anurag Thakur, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad’s daughter Misa Bharti and actor Kangana Ranaut.

More than 10.06 crore citizens, including nearly 5.24 crore men, 4.82 crore women and 3,574 third-gender electors, are eligible to vote in this phase.

Saturday’s voting will mark the end of the marathon polling process that began on April 19. The assemblies of Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim also went to polls. The counting of votes will be taken up on June 4. In Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, the counting for the Assembly polls will be held on June 2.

According to the Election Commission’s (EC) guidelines, television channels and news outlets will be able to run exit poll data and its results after 6:30 pm.

The poll panel has called upon voters to turn out in greater numbers and vote with responsibility and pride. The turnout in the first six phases of the general election was 66.14 per cent, 66.71 per cent, 65.68 per cent, 69.16 per cent, 62.2 per cent and 63.36 per cent respectively.

The campaigning for the last phase, which ended on Thursday evening, saw ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, led by Modi, accusing the Congress and the INDIA opposition bloc of being corrupt, anti-Hindu and engaging in loot, appeasement and dynastic politics.

The opposition parties have been claiming that the BJP is anti-farmer, anti-youth and will change and scrap the Constitution if it wins the election.

Polling is being held in eight Lok Sabha constituencies of Bihar, along with the bypoll to the Agiaon Assembly seat. Union minister R K Singh and former Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad are among the contestants in the fray.

The Dumka, Rajmahal and Godda seats in Jharkhand are going to polls in this phase. All eyes are on Dumka, where the BJP’s Sita Soren, the sister-in-law of jailed former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren, is contesting against the INDIA bloc’s Nalin Soren. Sita Soren, a three-term former Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) legislator, joined the BJP just ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

Polling has commenced for six Lok Sabha and 42 Assembly seats in Odisha.

Assembly Speaker Pramila Mallik, the government’s chief whip Prashant Muduli, Odisha BJP chief Manmohan Samal and BJP national vice-president Baijayant Panda are among the candidates in the fray.

Voting is also being held for the Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata Dakshin and Kolkata Uttar seats in West Bengal.

Several heavyweight candidates, including incumbent Trinamool Congress (TMC) MPs Sudip Bandyopadhyay, Sougata Roy and Mala Roy, former Union minister Debasree Chaudhuri of the BJP and senior CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty, are in the fray.

Voting is underway in 13 constituencies of Uttar Pradesh, which sends the highest number of 80 members to the Lok Sabha among all the states.

In Punjab, INDIA bloc allies — the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) — are contesting the election separately, while the BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) are fighting the polls on their own for the first time since 1996.

The Sukhbir Badal-led SAD walked out of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2020 over the now-repealed three farm laws.

Polling is being held for four Lok Sabha seats — Hamirpur, Mandi, Kangra and Shimla — and six Assembly constituencies of Sujanpur, Dharamshala, Lahaul and Spiti, Barsar, Gagret and Kutlehar in Himachal Pradesh. All eyes are on Mandi, where Ranaut of the BJP has locked horns with the Congress’s Vikramaditya Singh.

The voting is scheduled to conclude at 6 pm, barring in Jharkhand, where it is scheduled to conclude at 5 pm.

British Electoral Irony

Bhabani Shankar Nayak

University of Glasgow, UK

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, currently considered one of the most unpopular political figures in the UK, has announced that the next general election will be held on July 4, 2024. According to a YouGov Westminster Voting Intention survey conducted on May 30, the Labour Party holds a 25% lead over the Conservative Party. Should these percentages translate into actual votes on July 4, the unpopular Prime Minister is likely to be replaced by the most unpopular opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer. Both Sunak and Starmer are representatives of two sides of the same ideological spectrum, which prioritises the interests of the wealthy, large corporations, and both British and international elites, often at the expense of the working class. This has led to significant disillusionment among voters, who feel that neither party genuinely addresses their concerns and needs.

The dominance of these two parties in British politics has undermined the conditions necessary for the deepening of democracy and the implementation of robust welfare policies. Leadership within both the Conservative and Labour parties is committed to policies that ultimately weaken the working masses, exacerbating exploitative working conditions and socio-economic inequalities. It often appears as though these two parties are in a contest to see who can be more ruthless in their treatment of the populace.

Once upon a time, the Labour Party played a historic role in shaping progressive welfare policies, institutions, and laws such as the Equal Pay Act, the Minimum Wage, and key health and education policies, including the establishment of the National Health Service (NHS). These contributions significantly advanced social justice and improved the lives of countless individuals. However, the current Labour Party seems to be undermining its own legacy. By adopting policies and stances that echo those of the Conservative Party (the Tories), it risks dismantling the very achievements that once defined it. This shift raises concerns among supporters who believe the party is straying from its foundational principles of equality, fairness, and social welfare. The current trajectory of the Labour Party under Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership has raised significant concerns about its adherence to traditional Labour values.

Ideologically, the Labour Party has traditionally been a broad church, encompassing a wide range of perspectives and beliefs. This diversity has included social democrats, democratic socialists, leftists, trade unionists, more centrist members and liberals who advocate for market-friendly policies within a minimalist framework of social justice. This ideological plurality has been both a strength and a challenge for the party, allowing it to appeal to a broad spectrum of voters while also navigating internal tensions. However, Sir Keir Starmer led Labour Party is moving into a reactionary political landscape sans labour values. From day one of his leadership, he has been busy suspending progressive, left-wing, trade unionist, and democratic leaders within the party, as if he is on a mission to cleanse the Labour Party of its progressive character.

Similarly, the Conservative Party is dedicated to maintaining its political tradition, which prioritizes the interests of British elites, large corporations, and businesses. The political ethos within the Conservative Party extends support to the ideology of white supremacists under the guise of national interests and conservative British cultural values, thereby perpetuating a system of political patronage. This alignment with white supremacist ideals not only undermines the principles of equality and inclusivity but also exacerbates societal divisions and tensions in 21st century Britain.

These two parties in British politics bear striking similarities in their policies, ideological commitments, and interactions with the populace. Both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party share commonalities in their approaches to governance, often aligning on key issues such as economic strategy, social welfare, and foreign policy. Their ideological foundations, while distinct in certain aspects, frequently converge on matters of corporate interests branded as national importance.

The electoral rituals of democracy, orchestrated by these two parties, fail to provide a genuine alternative for the common people. The forthcoming general election on July 4 merely perpetuates a cycle wherein an unpopular ruling party and its leadership are replaced by an equally unpopular opposition party and its leadership. This recurring pattern underscores the disillusionment felt by many citizens who perceive little substantive difference between the policies and priorities of the incumbent government and the opposition. Despite the democratic façade of electoral choice, the fundamental interests of ordinary people often remain marginalised amidst the political theatre enacted by these parties in Britain.

The mere act of alternating power between two unpopular entities does little to address the systemic issues and challenges facing society. Instead, it reinforces a sense of political inertia and cynicism, eroding trust in the democratic process itself. In such a climate, the need for genuine alternatives and transformative leadership becomes increasingly evident. Citizens deserve more than a superficial exchange of power; they deserve meaningful representation and policies that genuinely reflect their interests and aspirations. Until such alternatives emerge, the electoral rituals orchestrated by the dominant parties will continue to ring hollow for many disenfranchised voters. However, the result of the forthcoming general election is crucial as it will determine the direction of the UK’s political landscape amidst ongoing economic, political challenges and social issues. Many are calling for a shift towards policies that more directly benefit the broader population, rather than maintaining the status quo that favours the elites.

Will the British electoral irony offer any alternatives?

The British electoral irony, characterised by the cyclic exchange of power between unpopular parties, may indeed present opportunities for alternative voices to emerge. While the dominant parties may seem entrenched in their positions of influence, historical precedents demonstrate that shifts in political landscapes can occur, often catalysed by grassroots movements, new political parties, or charismatic leaders. In recent years, people have witnessed the rise of smaller progressive parties, green politics and independent candidates challenging the status quo, offering alternative visions and policies that resonate with disenchanted voters. These movements, although initially marginalised, can gradually gain momentum, reshaping the political discourse and forcing established parties to adapt or risk irrelevance.

Moreover, societal changes and evolving public attitudes can create fertile ground for new ideas and progressive ideologies to take root in the expansion of working-class politics. Issues such as climate change, social inequality, and technological innovation have the potential to galvanise diverse coalitions and mobilise support for unconventional political platforms.Ultimately, the British electoral system, despite its limitations and paradoxes, remains dynamic and responsive to changing realities. While entrenched interests may resist change, the inherent unpredictability of politics means that genuine alternatives can emerge from unexpected quarters, offering hope for a more inclusive and representative democracydespite its current irony.

Professor Subedi elected Council Member of the Royal Asiatic Society

Professor Surya P. Subedi, OBE, KC, of the School of Law has been elected a Council Member of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland for a term of four years by the Anniversary General Meeting of the Royal Society held in London recently.

Professor Subedi is the author of several books on international legal aspects of Asian affairs and has served as the Chief Editor of the Asian Journal of International Law which is published by Cambridge University Press. One of his books ‘Human Rights in Eastern Civilizations’ was published by Edward Elgar Publishing in 2021. He has been a Fellow of the Royal Society since 2022.

The Royal Society was founded in 1923 and received its Royal Charter from King George IV in 1924 for the investigation of subjects connected with and for the encouragement of science, literature and the arts in relation to Asia.  King Charles III is the Patron of the Society.

Professor Subedi said that he was honoured by his election to the Council of the Royal Society and looked forward to contributing to its important work in the years to come.

Nepal Celebrates 17th Republic Day Amidst Political and Economic Challenges

Kathmandu, Nepal, May 28 — Nepal is celebrating its 17th Republic Day with a grand ceremony held at the Nepal Army Pavilion in Tundikhel, Kathmandu. The event, organized by the Republic Main Ceremony Committee, saw President Ram Chandra Paudel as the chief guest.

The special ceremony featured a march past by the Nepali Army, Nepal Police, and Armed Police Force. A joint team of the Nepal Army and Armed Police Force also performed patriotic songs and lyrics reflecting the spirit of national pride and unity.

The event was attended by an array of dignitaries, including ministers, chiefs of constitutional bodies, high-ranking government officials, security body chiefs, and representatives from diplomatic missions, alongside other notable personalities.

Despite the celebratory atmosphere, the Republic Day also brings to light significant challenges that Nepal has faced since becoming a republic. The political instability is evident, with 13 different governments having taken office in the 16 years of the republic’s existence. The federal system has also struggled, exemplified by Gandaki Province, which has seen seven government changes in just six and a half years—a situation mirrored in other provinces.

Economic challenges are profound. Daily, approximately 2,000 youths leave the country seeking employment abroad due to a lack of job opportunities and an underdeveloped economic system that fails to support business and entrepreneurship. Systemic corruption further hampers progress, with scandals such as the cooperative cheating scandal, Giribandhu tea scandal, fake Bhutanese refugee scandal, and the Baluwatar government land-selling scandal being shaded through political power.

Leadership in Nepal continues to be dominated by figures whose tenures have previously been tested. Sher Bahadur Deuba, KP Sharma Oli, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, and Madhav Kumar Nepal are among the leaders who have repeatedly held power, raising concerns about the lack of qualitative change in governance.

The persistence of corruption and the re-election of the same leaders despite their tainted records remain significant challenges. Calls for a qualitative change in the federal republic system and a shift in voter behavior towards nominating more accountable and honest leaders are growing louder.

As Nepal celebrates its 17th Republic Day, the juxtaposition of patriotic pride with political and economic realities highlights the need for substantial reforms to achieve sustainable progress and stability.

Cyclone Remal Hits Bangladesh and Eastern India: Seven Dead, Hundreds of Thousands Without Power

Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 28 — Cyclone Remal wreaked havoc on southern Bangladesh and eastern India on Monday, flooding coastal villages, destroying homes, and leaving hundreds of thousands without power. Initial reports indicate that at least seven people have died.

In Bangladesh, dozens of villages were inundated as flood protection embankments were either washed away or damaged by the storm surge. Approximately 800,000 people were evacuated from vulnerable areas on Sunday, according to local authorities.

Somoy TV, a Dhaka-based television station, reported that at least seven individuals lost their lives due to the cyclone, and two more are missing following a boat capsizing incident.

In India’s West Bengal state, the cyclone caused significant damage, blowing away thatched roofs and uprooting electric poles and trees in several coastal districts. While there were no immediate reports of fatalities, heavy rains flooded streets and homes in Kolkata’s low-lying areas.

Cyclone Remal made landfall in Bangladesh’s Patuakhali district early Monday with winds sustaining at 111 kph (69 mph). The Bangladesh Meteorological Department reported that the winds have since decreased to 90 kph (56 mph), with gusts reaching 120 kph (75 mph).

The India Meteorological Department forecasted that Remal would continue to weaken throughout the day but warned of heavy rainfall over Assam and other northeastern states for the next two days.

As a precaution, the Kolkata airport, which had been closed on Sunday, reopened, while Bangladesh shut down Chattogram airport and cancelled all domestic flights to and from Cox’s Bazar. Operations at the Chittagong seaport were also halted, with over a dozen ships moved to the deep sea for safety.

Volunteers in Bangladesh assisted hundreds of thousands of evacuees to reach up to 9,000 cyclone shelters. Authorities have closed all schools in the affected regions until further notice.

Remal is the first cyclone of this year’s Bay of Bengal cyclone season, which precedes the monsoon season running from June to September. The increasing intensity of cyclones due to changing climate patterns has heightened the urgency of disaster preparedness along India’s coasts.

As recovery efforts begin, the full impact of Cyclone Remal on both human lives and infrastructure will become clearer in the coming days.