(Written by Kamal Preet Kaur)
A doctor known for mental health talks in Punjab, a leading Oxford University academic, a septuagenarian fundraiser referred to as the Skipping Sikh, and founder of a charity that fights stigma around menstruation and periods are among a number of Sikh professionals from different walks of life to have been recognised for their outstanding contribution to Britain in Queen’s Birthday Honours list released Saturday.
The list, released annually in June to coincide with the Queen Elizabeth II’s official birthday, was delayed this year to consider nominations for people who had played a crucial role during the initial months of the coronavirus pandemic, includes Professor Yadvinder Singh Malhi
The Professor of Ecosystem Science at the University of Oxford has been awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for his services to ecosystem science. Malhi’s research is based on the impact of global atmospheric change on ecology, structure and composition of terrestrial ecosystems. “I am very surprised but pleased to have received this honour. I hope in some small way it draws attention to how important it is to treasure, protect and restore the natural world as we try and develop a just and sustainable future for our societies and our planet. Learning how to live in harmony with the natural world while providing human well-being is the key challenge for all our societies, whether in India, the UK or across the world. As a child of immigrants to the UK from Punjab, I also hope this award helps show that concern for the environment is something that can and must engage all communities regardless of background or nation,” Malhi, who had been appointed Trustee of the Natural History Museum in London earlier this year, told the Indian Express
Those awarded with Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for their services during Covid-19 include Harmohinder Singh Bhatia (for services to race relations in the West Midlands particularly, during Covid-19); Deputy Medical Director, Clinical Lead Acute Medicine Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust Dr Sarbjit Clare (for services to the NHS); Sandeep Singh Daheley (for services to the Sikh community); Jatinder Singh Harchowal (for services to the pharmaceutical profession); Hammersmith and Fulham Council Social Worker Manvir Hothi (for services to social care); London North West University NHS Trust’s Infectious Diseases consultant Dr Gurjinder Singh Sandhu; Dr Carter Singh GP (for services to healthcare in Nottinghamshire).
Talking to the Indian Express, Dr Carter Singh, who is known for his mental health talks in Punjabi, said, “I feel honoured and delighted, and shocked and surprised, in equal measure. I am shocked and surprised because I’m just another worker, another person, alongside many of my selfless colleagues against this terrible pandemic, and as far as I’m concerned each of my colleagues deserve it.
“For those suffering with mental health issues, within our community, I say you are not alone. Mental health problems are a normal part of life. This cultural stigma or label attached to mental health in Punjabi communities should go. Covid has definitely aggravated the situation and I have seen a significant increase in patients reporting anxiety, depression and panic attacks, within my GP practice too. I hope receiving this recognition puts me in a better position to implement more positive action for my patients and the NHS.”
The MBE list also features Rajinder Singh Harzall aka the Skipping Sikh, for services to health and fitness during Covid-19. Harzall, who had earlier received Prime Minister’s Points of Light award for skipping and fundraising for the NHS, has, at 73, inspired people around the world to remain fit. “I am honoured to have received this recognition through prayers of the Sikh Sangat. Sewa, the selfless service for the welfare of others is the core teaching of our Gurus and I urge all Sikhs to live that message in everyday life,” he said, paying obeisance at Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Southall.
Founder and CEO of Binti International — the first British charity to fight stigma around menstruation and periods — Manjit Gill, who has also been recognised for her work with an MBE, said, “My work has been honest and challenging and I am fuelled by the fire that there is hope in humanity. I have never shied away from helping people going through hardship, inequality or injustice. When I found out I was being recognised for my work in Her Majesty’s birthday honours, my initial reaction was ‘wow, Her Majesty, the Queen herself has read about Binti’.”
The Birthday Honours list (non-Covid) recognised as Officers of the Order of the British Empire (OBEs), Herminder Kaur Channa JP, Ark Boulton Academy principal, for services to education and principal specialist inspector, Health and Safety and Sarjit Singh Purewal for services to health and safety and cyber security. “Herminder has helped transform Ark Boulton into a popular and successful school serving the local community in Birmingham’s Sparkhill,” reads a statement on the institution’s social media page.
For services to small business finance, Neeta Avnash Kaur Atkar JP, received an MBE. Parminder Kaur Koundral was recognised for her services to the Sikh Community as co-ordinator UK Sikh Healthcare Chaplaincy, Baljeet Kaur Sandhu for contribution towards equality and civil society and Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust Consultant Urologist Gurpreet Singh for services to healthcare, equality and fairness.
British Empire Medals (BEM) have been awarded to Amolak Singh Dhariwal, Parbir Kaur Jagpal and Parminder Singh Purewal for services to business, diversity and inclusion in health, and hospitality sectors, respectively.
Meanwhile, Chief Inspector of Leicestershire Police Manjit Kaur Atwal received the Queen’s Police Medal (QPM).
Professor Iqbal Singh OBE FRCP is chair of the Centre of Excellence in Safety for Older People (CESOP) and a member of the Honours Committee Health and the Cabinet Office Honours Diversity and Inclusion Committee. “It is good that community and healthcare staff who have contributed to the huge challenge of Covid have been recognised. There are plans to recognise more people for their laudable contribution to Britain in the next list,” said Iqbal Singh.
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