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UK quietly drops Dadabhai Naoroji Awards

The Dadabhai Naoroji Awards were meant to celebrate the work of individuals who have furthered UK-India relations in culture, commerce and education. 

world Updated: Nov 04, 2017 23:37 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Dadabhai Naoroji Awards,Liberal Democrats,David Cameron
Former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg (Left) presents a Dadabhai Naoroji Award along with Priti Patel (second from left) and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on October 17, 2014.(Courtesy Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

The Dadabhai Naoroji Awards launched and presented in 2014 by the David Cameron-led coalition government have been quietly dropped by the two subsequent governments, even though they were inaugurated with much fanfare as annual awards.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had attended the high-profileawards ceremony in Londonled by then deputy prime minister Nick Clegg on October 17, 2014. The awards were meant to celebrate the work of individuals who have furthered UK-India relations in culture, commerce and education.

Naoroji, the first Indian, Asian or non-white elected to the House of Commons (from Finsbury Central in 1892), was associated with the earlier incarnation of Clegg’s party, the Liberal Democrats, which was part ofthe Cameron-led coalition between 2010 and 2015.

However, the two subsequent Conservative governments led by Cameron and Theresa May did not give away the awards, indicating that political considerations had more to do with launching them, even though they were announced as annual awards by Clegg during his India visit in August 2014.

Liberal Democrats leader Vince Cable told Hindustan Times on Saturday: “It is right that Britain's first Indian and non-white parliamentarian should be honoured and remembered. By doing so we honour the Indian community and its contribution to Britain.

“For theConservatives to drop the awards surreptitiously is disrespectful and careless with our history.”

A government spokesperson did not elaborate on the reasons for dropping the awards but said: “The Dadabhai Naoroji Awards were held in 2014 to celebrate the great links between the UK and India.

“We continue to celebrate the deep relationship between our two countries in a number of ways – not least through this year’s 2017 UK-India Year of Culture, launched by Her Majesty The Queen in February and featuring a wide range of events in the UK and India marking our rich cultural ties.”

The three awardees hailed by Swaraj and Clegg at the 2014event inthe Foreign and CommonwealthOffice were actor Madhav Sharma, educationist Asha Khemka and Patricia Hewitt, then chair of the Indo-British Trade Council.

Naoroji was described by the government at the time as the first Asian MP and “the man who brought the first Indian business to the UK. The fact that the awards are in his name pays tribute to his commitment to the Indian people and his key role in historical events.”

First Published: Nov 04, 2017 22:05 IST