From Raghav Chadha to Raju Kendre: Who Are 75 Indian Achievers Honoured by UK?
Accessibility rights activist Pratishtha Deveshwar and Rajya Sabha MP Raghav Chadha were some of the achievers.
The Quint DAILY
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It was 10 years ago when Pratishtha Deveshwar was told by a doctor that she would not be able to walk again. Her father was advised not to invest in her education. But she proved them all wrong when she became the “first wheelchair user from India to study at the University of Oxford.”
Often when she visited London, she would pass by the House of Commons of the Parliament building. “And I never thought that I would be inside this building to share my experience of studying in the UK,” said the 24-year-old who was joined by many other achievers who assembled on Wednesday, 25 January, at the Terrace Pavilion of the House of Commons to commemorate the 75th anniversary of India's Independence and of India-UK educational ties.
The breakfast reception for Indian achievers was organised by the National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK (NISAU) in partnership with the British Council and the UK government’s Department of Trade in an effort to recognise and celebrate the work of young Indian students and alumni who have pursued a British programme of study.
The event was a chance for Indians to recall their experience studying in UK academic institutions and how it shaped them and their careers.
After her stint at Oxford University, where Pratishtha worked on advocacy for disability rights, she has been working in India to enhance the accessibility of those who are marginalised.
“The one thing that stands apart is the inclusion we see in the UK. Here I have wheelchair-accessible buses and toilets and kitchens as well. People with disability in India cannot imagine that. I would persuade you to go back to your community and home and workplace and remember to do something for the marginalised.”Pratishtha Deveshwar, Accessibility Rights Activist
Sanam Arora, chairperson of NISAU said the achievers’ list was made up of former or current Indian students in the UK who have gone on to excel in their fields while inspiring and encouraging many others to dream and achieve.
“As is demonstrated from our list of Achievers, the truly outstanding impact that young UK Indian alumni are having in India, the UK, and globally can be seen in every field,” Arora said.
"We have always known that the work of Indian graduates of British universities was extraordinary, but I don’t think even we realised just how profoundly world-changing it is," she added.
Raju Kendre: First-Generation Learner
One such achiever who is using his UK academic experience for an impact is Raju Kendre – founder of Eklavya Foundation – who hails from the nomadic tribe community of the Vidarbha region.
Kendre believes that an education in the UK mattered a lot to him as he was a first-generation learner who managed to study at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London.
Kendre is thankful of Chevening Scholarship which allowed him to study in the UK.
The felicitation, added Kendre, was “another confidence booster for all the problems I have had to suffer in my educational journey, and will push me in my mission to democratise education access to rural and tribal students.”
'Inspired by Ambedkar'
Fellow social worker Pravin Nikam agreed that his experience at the London School of Economics as a Chevening Scholar “is symbolic of the aspirations of millions of young people from challenged backgrounds.
"LSE and Chevening have enabled me to study while also strengthening my efforts to advance the cause of access to justice and quality education,” he said.
After finishing his Masters, he returned to India to scale up Samata Center, a non-profit organisation that conducts capacity-building sessions for teachers.
He attributes his desire to study in the UK strongly influenced by Dr BR Ambedkar, “whose life encouraged me to study law as a tool for social change.”
British MPs Hail UK as Education Destination
Speaking at the event, member of British Parliament Virendra Sharma called for a need to build strong bridges between India and the UK and request the youth to enter politics.
Sharma, who is the MP from Ealing Southall, stated that “India and the UK are natural collaborators, allies, and friends. Where once was a relationship based on exploitation, now rests a partnership of equals, representing democracy, industry, and technology.”
He was joined by fellow Labour MP from Slough, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi.
Speaking to The Quint, Dhesi said that much like many Indians “my parents migrated to the UK and contributed. We are here to celebrate the achievers from India and all the Indian-origin MPs are here to support them.”
The event also saw Conservative party MP and former home secretary Priti Patel. She called it a “moment of great excitement,” and hailed the Indian achievers as inspiring.
“India and the UK are blessed with mutual respect, and it has been my privilege that when I was home secretary, I made sure Indian students come to the UK. We need to thank Boris Johnson for this as he was a great believer in India-UK relations. Indians coming here to work and live have been contributing to the UK."Priti Patel
This was reiterated by Lord Bilimoria, Chancellor of Birmingham University, who praised NISAU and informed how he was personally involved in bringing in the two-year graduate visa route for Indians.
He added that the UK “offers one of the best student experiences in the world and has always been a very popular choice for Indian students.” He informed that the latest data suggests that “Indian international students have overtaken those from Chinese in the UK.”
Raghav Chadha Honoured
The MPs from the UK were joined by Raghav Chadha, a Rajya Sabha MP who is also an alumnus of a UK institute.
“As someone who comes from the world's largest democracy and has studied at the oldest democracy, I can say that there is more of India in the UK. I studied at LSE and it opened the door for me,” Chadha said.
Chadha studied at the prestigious London School of Economics (LSE). He later set up a boutique wealth management firm in London. After returning to India, he joined the India Against Corruption movement as a young activist, demanding a law against corruption in the country.
Another LSE alumni Punit Goyal was also one of the achievers at the event. Goyal has found three companies and it was at the LSE where he wrote a dissertation on clean energy. It inspired him to start his solar energy company and build solar power plants. Goyal has now co-founded BluSmart, a fully electric ride-hailing service in India.
Utkarsh Amitabh, CEO of mentorship initiative Network Capital, began writing his third book while studying at Oxford university.
“The education helped me combine my business skills with philosophy. The Chevening fellowship was helpful as it allowed me to connect science and liberal arts,” Amitabh said.
The breakfast session was followed by an evening gala near Trafalgar Square where a special magazine about Indian achievers titled ‘The Living Bridge’ was launched.
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