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New Years Honours list disappoints UK's Indians

With just 16 of them figuring among 950 odd recipients the list has been a disappointment, reports Vijay Dutt.

india Updated: Dec 31, 2006 16:59 IST
Vijay Dutt

This New Year's Honours List has been disappointing for Britons of Indian origin with just 16 of them figuring among the 950 odd recipients.

No one was knighted. The highest honour a British-Indian got this year was a CBE (Commander of the British Empire), and it was accorded only to Ramniklal Chhaganlal Solanki - the founder of Britain's largest Asian publishing house, the Asian Media and Marketing Group - for his contribution to race relations, diversity, the British Asian community and his pioneering work in publishing. Solanki had earlier received an OBE in 1998.

All the 15 others got mere OBEs (Officer of the British Empire) or MBEs (Member of the British Empire). In comparison, British Indians had done much better in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in summer, with over 35 of them figuring in it.

The reason for fewer nominations could well be that hardly any political leaders were nominated to the list this year, because of the battering they got over the cash-for-peerages row. The main parties all avoided suggesting the names of MPs or other public figures. Tony Blair had renounced his personal right as Prime Minister last March to nominate individuals. Thus most Indians who have got the honours obtained them for contribution to improving community relations or in recognition of work in public utility services. 

The Cabinet Office said 46 per cent of those on the New Year list had been nominated or supported by members of the public. The Queen would be specially happy with her grand-daughter Zara Phillips - Princess Anne's daughter - getting an MBE in recognition of her winning the equestrian gold medal. Other famous names include singer Rod Stewart who has been made a CBE for services to music, while vacuum cleaner entrepreneur James Dyson and MI6 chief John Scarlett have been knighted and virtuoso percussionist Evelyn Glennie has been made a dame. 

Stewart, 61, one of the biggest-selling British artists of all time in a career spanning five decades, said he was "overjoyed".

Zara Phillips, who is 11th in line for the throne, appears on the list at the end of an eventful 2006 in which she also took the European equestrian title and was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year. "I'm honoured I've been recognised for my achievements in equestrianism and pleased British Eventing nominated me," she said. 

There were also knighthoods for blind jazz pianist George Shearing, biographer Michael Holroyd and Rangers football club chairman David Murray, while Daily Mail reporter Ann Leslie is now a dame. Hugh Laurie (OBE) and Penelope Keith (CBE) join other stars of the stage and screen on the list. Boxer Ricky Hatton and former BBC tennis commentator John Barrett are made MBEs, as is Liverpool and England footballer Steven Gerrard. 

Among the less well-known people to be recognised are John Grey, 80, a shoeshiner for Virgin Atlantic airline customers at Heathrow, former East Lothian milkman George Beal and Norfolk teaching assistant Susan Wade, who were all made MBEs. 

Virgin Atlantic's chief executive, Steve Ridgway, who too has been made a CBE for services to civil aviation, said of Grey, "Of the two of us, I suspect John has been more influential in helping to look after our passengers."
 
It was also announced that all past and future recipients would now be able to apply for a new buttonhole badge. There are said to be around 120,000 people currently eligible to wear the emblem, which will be made available for £15 (Rs1275).

Email Vijay Dutt vdutt@aol.com