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Indian-origin billionaire brothers and ‘Skipping Sikh’ among Asians on Queen’s Honours list


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Businessmen, frontline healthcare staff as well as charity workers and volunteers are among Asians in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours’ List, whose publication in June was delayed in order to recognise “unsung heroes” of the coronavirus pandemic.

Billionaire brothers Zuber Vali and Mohsin Issa, who last week acquired Asda from Walmart in a deal worth more than £6 billion, have been made Commanders of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). The siblings, from Blackburn, founded petrol station operator EG Group nearly two decades ago which has grown exponentially, with interests in the UK and US.

Carehomes entrepreneur Farouq Rashid Sheikh has also been honoured with a OBE.

In an interview with GG2, the founder of CareTech said, “I felt quite humbled. It was unexpected. But it is something which I feel is deserving of the team that’s worked with us and recognition for some of the work we do in social care, which is supporting some of the most vulnerable in our society. And, frankly, that was not possible without the people that work with us in CareTech.

“We are part of a family and part of a team that has worked so hard – we’ve been going for over 27 years now. It’s a recognition for the good work that the company has done.”

Businessman Anant Meghji Pethraj Shah, who with his older brother Vipin founded Meghraj Bank, the first private Indian bank in the UK, serving the Indian community, is also a recipient of the OBE for his services to education, health and animal welfare.

Nairobi-born Shah, who attended the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), has devoted the past two decades to philanthropy and charitable activities. The family’s MP Shah Cancer Hospital in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, is among India’s leading cancer hospitals and more than 11,000 doctors have been trained at the MP Shah Medical College in Jamnagar, also in Gujarat.

This year’s list is the most diverse ever, with 13 per cent of recipients being from an ethnic minority background.

A total of 1,495 honours have been bestowed, of whom 414 are recognised for their “exceptional contributions” in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Among them is Londoner Dabirul Islam Choudhury, honoured with an OBE.

Choudhury drew inspiration from Captain Tom Moore and started walking in his garden to raise funds for charities.

The 100-year-old, who began walking in April, had a target of £1,000, but ended up raising £228, 315 as he continued his efforts even during Ramadan. The money was distributed to victims of Covid-19 in the UK, Bangladesh and other countries.

Healthcare and social care workers comprise 14 per cent of the honours list and in the World Health Organisation’s Year of the Nurse and Midwife, 41 nurses and midwives have been recognised by the Queen.

CareTech’s Sheikh said, “This is the biggest crisis or pandemic I’ve ever seen in my lifetime, both personally and businesswise, so it is rather special to receive it at this time.”

His company is known for services to specialist social care.

“A lot of staff worked beyond the call of duty to look after the young people that we support, beyond what they would normally be doing,” he said.

Among other Asians recipients are fitness instructor Lavina Mehta and “the Skipping Sikh” Rajinder Singh Harzall who receive MBEs for encouraging elderly people to stay active in lockdown.

Mehta provided workout sessions free of charge for Asian community groups, with her 72-year-old mother-in-law, in Gujarati and English.

Asda employee Imran Rashid Dawji, 24, received an MBE in recognition of his work in establishing a recruitment process that enabled the supermarket to hire an additional 25,000 temporary staff during the pandemic.

Dawji, from Batley, West Yorkshire, said, “It was a pivotal time to ensure everything was close to perfect as we had a duty to ensure support was provided to everyone around the country.”

His colleague Faisal Tuddy, Asda house superintendent pharmacist, ethics and compliance, received a British Empire Medal for his work in the local community.

At the height of the pandemic Tuddy played a key role in creating a contingency plan so that Asda could continue to serve its customers and ensured that the retailer could keep each of its 254 pharmacies open as coronavirus spread through the country.

He created a prescription delivery service from scratch, in a little under two weeks, which included establishing the process, recruiting temporary drivers, briefing all our pharmacy colleagues and communicating to customers about the service.

He said, “I feel honoured and humbled to be accepting the British Empire Medal, it’s a testament to the incredible work of all our pharmacy teams in stores and the support of my head office colleagues. They have all really pulled together to go above and beyond to look after our patients when they needed us the most.”

Of those who have been awarded, 72 per cent of the successful candidates are those who have worked “tirelessly for their local community”, whether it was supplying millions of meals free of charge to those shielding, delivering care packages to NHS frontline workers or doing volunteer work to support those at risk.

Professor Iqbal Singh OBE FRCP is chair of the Centre of Excellence in Safety for Older People (CESOP) and a member of the Cabinet Office Honours Diversity and Inclusion Committee. He told GG2, “Covid 19 has had a huge disproportionate impact on BAME doctors, nurses, health and care staff.  It is important and fitting that their contributions are recognised.

“Honours are given to people of all walks of life and sections of society who have made a difference to their community. The system is committed to ensuring that the awards represent the diversity of our populations. I would encourage readers to nominate people, who they may be aware of, for these honours.

“We have done a number of workshops and meetings with BAME doctors and hard to reach groups in getting this message across.”

Other prominent recipients who are recognised for a wide range of other contributions to society are food writer and broadcaster Mary Berry and actress Maureen Lipman who have both been made a dame and a knighthood for actor David Suchet.


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