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HindustanTimes Sat,25 Oct 2014

Drawn to the roots

Usmeet Kaur, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, December 10, 2013
First Published: 10:08 IST(10/12/2013) | Last Updated: 10:12 IST(10/12/2013)

Nirpal Singh Riat was awarded a prestigious honour of UK - OBE - by her majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2011 for the services rendered by him to charity and the Punjabi people in UK. Being a respected member of the Punjabi community settled in the UK, Riat, 56, has always believed giving back to his homeland is one of his prime concerns.

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The founder-patron of Punjabi Circle International (PCI), UK, and the president of Bucks Punjabi Society International (BPSI) – a society supporting charity, culture and community cohesion in the UK, Riat is undoubtedly a busy man.

In Punjab these days to do the ground work for setting up one of the bases of his social-cum-cultural organisation, Riat announces he is also all set to organise UK’s first Punjabi cultural awards evening, which will be held on January 25, 2014, at the Riverside Venue, Hounslow Middlesex, UK.

“The idea behind holding these awards is to honour the prominent Punjabi singers of the UK by PCI. The awardees include Punjabi singer Jazzy B, Channi Singh OBE, Balwinder Safri, Didar Pardesi, Heera Group, Mohinder Bhamra, Bally Sagoo and Johny Kalsi.

Apart from the singers, some Punjabi broadcasters and media personalities who have contributed to the propagation of Punjabi language and culture will also be honoured,” Riat tells us, adding that Surinder Shinda would be honored with a lifetime achievement award.

“Local Punjabi artistes settled in the UK would perform at this show and the funds raised on this evening would be donated to charities. Some funds will also go to First Step Foundation that helps in the combat of drug problems among the Punjabi youth in Punjab and UK,” adds Riat, who claims to have promoted most of the top-rated singers of the ’80s such as Suresh Wadekar, Jaspinder Narula and Ustad Asad Amanat Ali through his company, Gem Productions.

Born in Nairobi, Riat lived in Jalandhar for a few years before moving to the UK. Since 1982, he has been into entertainment business that promotes local and international singers. But, Riat is depply disappointed with the drug menace that Punjabi youth finds itself in the grip of. “It is so unfortunate to see Punjab suffering here and also in UK.

Just like it has here, the menace of drugs has also stuck West London. Punjabis who came to London illegally are in a bad shape. Due to recession, they find no jobs and because they have entered the country illegally, no one risks their own jobs to give them work. Unemployment has led to crime, prostitution and pick-pocketing. It is terrible to see Indian girls getting into prostitution for as little as five pounds only because they need to survive,” Riat laments.

He hopes to do his bit for the afflicted youngsters through the PCI. “PCI will hold Punjabi cultural exchanges between Indian and UK. Scouting for talent from Punjab would always be on the list. Also, the money raised from cultural shows and awards would be used for the rehabilitation of drug addict and create awareness about alcohol abuse,” he elaborates.

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