Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB), the representative body for British Hindus, has launched a Parliamentary Experience Programme (PEP) that offers 10 young British Hindus an opportunity to shadow a British parliamentarian for six months.
The initiative, which has the support of parliamentarians from all three parties?Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats?allows the youth to experience first hand how parliamentarians work in their constituency and in Westminster.
The programme aims to encourage young Hindus to actively participate and contribute to the democratic institutions of Britain.
The six-month Parliamentary Experience Programme seeks to address the current lack of representation of Hindus in the decision-making process for public policy and democratic institutions by encouraging and nurturing carefully the selected Hindu youth who will be mentored and trained by the parliamentarian they will be shadowing. Currently, there are only two Hindu MPs out of 646.
Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the HFB, said: ?The Parliamentary Experience Programme will provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see what politicians do day-to-day, experience Westminster life and provide talented Hindus a platform to become active in British politics. More importantly, it will improve the political representation of Hindu communities in local and national politics. It will also allow Hindus with an interest in the political process to shadow Members of Parliament from constituencies around Britain and learn how parliamentary democracy works. If our values, concerns and traditions are to be understood and listened to, then we must be part of the country'sdemocratic process. This is the first step in making sure this happens.?
Chair of the Patrons Council of HFB, C.B. Patel explained, ?The Parliamentary Experience Programme aims to give bright and enthusiastic Hindus an opportunity to gain valuable experience about the workings of local and national politics. With this expertise, we hope that those selected will feel able and confident perhaps to consider selection as prospective councillors or MPs within the three main political parties.?
Parliamentarians that have agreed to be shadowed are Dawn Butler, MP, Brian Binley, MP, Stephen Crab, MP, Greg Clarke, MP, Lord Dholakia, Lindsay Hoyle, MP, Ashok Kumar, MP, Dr Phyllis Starkey, MP and Simon Hughes, MP.
The first group of young Hindus selected to participate in the programme are:
Aman Rattan: Born in 1985, he is from Essex and is currently undertaking a BSc in International Relations at the London School of Economics.
Deepti Pancholi: Born in 1981, she is a graduate in Politics and Philosophy from Brunel University. She has worked as a Political Philosophy tutor for the department of Politics at Brunel University.
Nikunj Lukka: She is 19 years old, has attended the Beauchamp Community College taking English Literature, Drama and Sociology as A levels. She is now working as a customer assistant at Sainsbury in Leicester.
Rishi Sehgal: Born in 1986, he successfully attended the Royal Grammar School, taking Chemistry, Mathematic and Economics as A level subjects.
Sangna Kotecha: Born in 1981, she holds a doctorate in education from Nuffield College, Oxford University. She has worked with Professor Heath over the past three years on matters of Ethnicity and Higher Education, writing papers and teaching undergraduates Sociology Options.
Sanjay Rawal: Born in 1985, he is a Business and Management final-year student at Kings College. During his summer holidays, he works as Trainee Accountant for Ashford Associates, Chartered Certified Accountants.
Selina Rawal: Born in 1983, she is a Biochemistry final-year student at Kingston University. She has just completed an industrial placement in the Proteomics Department of the GlaxoSmithkline Medical Research Centre.
Shivali Dave: Born in 1987, she has taken Politics as an A level while attending St. Helen'sSchool and is now a first-year undergraduate student in the field of International Relations and French.
Sundhya Raman: She was born in 1975, and is currently completing an MBBS at Guys Kings and St Thomas? Medical School. She holds a doctorate in Genetics from Oxford University and works as a research assistant at King'sCollege, London.
Umesh Bhudia: Born in 1986, he is a second-year Economics and Political Studies student at the University of London and a teacher of Indian classical music.
Those chosen will shadow an MP from one of the three political parties, for a minimum of two days a month over a period of six months. Additionally, shadowers will attend bi-monthly seminars with senior politicians; organise a national conference on democracy for 500 students, and stand a chance of being adopted by the Hindu Forum of Britain as potential politicians for training, mentoring and support.
(The writer is a UK-based journalist and can be contacted on [email protected])