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One of Britain’s senior-most Indian-origin MPs, Virendra Sharma, has been awarded the first Dr Stya Paul Memorial Award for his “outstanding contribution” to India-UK ties. The Labour party MP for Ealing Southall received the award at a ceremony in London on Wednesday from NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul, the younger brother of Indian educationist Dr Stya Paul. “It is a great honour to receive this award in memory of Dr Stya Paul, who hails from the same town in India as me – Jalandhar,” Sharma said at the third annual Indo-UK Thought Leadership Awards.
The event, organised by Great Place to Study (GPTS) Research Institute – an international auditing firm for Indian colleges – and UK-based consultancy Sterling Media, is held annually to celebrate achievements in the field of education and economic development.
Dinesh Patnaik, Deputy High Commissioner of India to the UK, highlighted the importance of education to the India-UK relationship.
“It is vital that education acts as a great link between the two countries. However, over the years, the number of Indian students coming to the UK to study has fallen down from 40,000 to 16,000,” he said.
“While this is not a loss to India, considering they have other welcome options such as the US, Canada, Germany or Australia, where numbers seem to swell, it is certainly a setback for working and expanding on the historical UK-India ties. Students and academia play a great role in cementing this relationship.”
The Global Icon Award for 2017 went to Rajesh Agrawal, London’s Indian-origin Deputy Mayor for Business.
“London is a city of dreams, where one can achieve anything. My story is a testimonial to that, I grew up from a small town in India (Indore) and stepped out for the first time abroad, and landed in Heathrow with 200 pounds in my pocket back in 2001,” he said in his acceptance speech.
Among some of the other key award-winners included Dame Asha Khemka, principal and CEO of West Nottinghamshire College, for “outstanding contribution to Indo-UK academic relations”; Lord Paul’s niece Sushma Paul Berlia, chairperson & president of Apeejay Svran Group & Apeejay Education Society, for “outstanding contribution in Indian education & industry”; and Centre of Excellence Award to the head of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, Shaunaka Rishi Das.
“These thought leadership awards are not just about celebrating the leading contributors to sectors like education, business and economic development from both countries, but also building and fostering new relationships between the UK and India,” Shekhar A Bhattacharjee, founder of the GPTS Research Institute, explained.