National News

    BBC faces backlash over salaries as top seven earners are all white men.

    The BBC has been criticised over the huge gender pay gap and lack of diversity, after being forced to reveal their highest paid stars’ salaries. The broadcaster’s data has revealed that it’s top seven earners are all white men, whilst out of its 96 top earners only 11 come from a BAME background.

    The salaries are divided into pay bands, and only include pay for presenters and talent who work directly for the BBC, mainly in news, radio, sport, and some drama. The totals don't include fees paid by independent production companies who make some of the BBC's biggest hit comedy and entertainment shows. They also do not disclose the income earned through BBC Worldwide.

    Radio 2’s Chris Evans tops the list, making between £2.2 million and £2.25 million in 2016/2017, closely followed by Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, who earned between £1.75 million and £1.8 million.

    Other top earners include Graham Norton (£850,0000 - £899,999), Jeremy Vine (£700,000 - £749,999), John Humphrys (£600,000 - £649,999), Huw Edwards (£550,000 - £599,999), and Steve Wright (£500,000 - £549,999).

    The highest paid female is Claudia Winkleman, who made between £450,000 and £499,999, over four times less than Evans.

    The highest paid female and the only highest paid female from a BAME background is Mishal Hussain with earnings of £200,000 - £299,999.

    A statement from the BBC on the release of the statistics said: “On gender and diversity, the BBC is more diverse than the broadcasting industry and the civil service.

    “We have set the most stretching targets in the industry for on-air diversity and we’ve made progress, but we recognise there is more to do and we are pushing further and faster than any other broadcaster.”

    Just 10 people on the list were from a minority ethnic background, and they tended to fall into the lower end of the earnings scale. The highest-ranked earner Chris Evans, took home approximately the same as all of its BAME high-earners put together last year. The maximum that all BAME staff together earned last year, based on the upper limit of the BBC’s bands, was £2.24m, while the minimum Chris Evans could have earned was £2.2m.

    The broadcaster is believed to be working towards a goal of 15 per cent black and ethnic minority talent by 2020.

    BBC Chief Tony Hall said: “On gender and diversity, the BBC is more diverse than the broadcasting industry and the Civil Service. We have set the most stretching targets in the industry for on-air diversity and we’ve made progress, but we recognise there is more to do and we are pushing further and faster than any other broadcaster."

    He went on: “At the moment, of the talent earning over £150,000, two-thirds are men and one-third are women. We’ve set a clear target for 2020: we want all our lead and presenting roles to be equally divided between men and women. And it’s already having a huge impact. If you look at those on the list who we have hired or promoted in the last three years, 60 per cent are women and nearly a fifth come from a BAME background.”

    Many have taken to social media to express their outrage over the recent disclosure of salaries.

    @nadineaishaj Lets not forget #BBCpaygap isn't just abt gender (tho glad we're talking abt it), but also shows other inequalities + lack of representation

    @KASiddall We're not just talking about men v woman in terms of #BBCPayGap issue. What about those who aren't white?! What the actual f*ck!? No excuse.

    @AssedBaig  While everyone is distracted by how much BBC stars get paid, people are forgetting how little BME peeps get paid...

    @omaromalleykhan BBC racial pay gap is poor. Tho prob no worse than all UK employers, incl in London, where 4/10 aged 45-54 are BME. Do any boards, SMT match?

    What are your views on BBC top salaries? Are women underpaid? Is the BBC under paying BAME talent? Or do you think the top earners salaries are justified?

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    Queen’s Birthday Honours list – most diverse yet!

    The Queen's Birthday Honours list has been released, recognising more than 1,000 people for commitment to public service.

    The list has been described by the honours committee as the most diverse yet, with half of this year's honourees being women, while 10 per cent are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

    There is a total of 1,109 people on the Queen's Birthday Honours list, of whom 438 are awarded an MBE, 221 an OBE and 303 a BEM. Some might argue 10 per cent is still some way to go before we get a true representative of all our diverse communities, nevertheless, it’s good to see an increase, however small.

    The honourees this year include Police Constable Keith Palmer, who was stabbed to death by attacker Khalid Masood in March on the forecourt of the Palace of Westminster. He has been awarded the George Medal for confronting an armed terrorist to protect others and Parliament. Also receiving the George medal is the heroic passer-by, Bernard Kenny, who was stabbed in the abdomen as he tried to stop neo-Nazi Thomas Mair attacking MP Jo Cox outside her constituency surgery in Yorkshire.

    Among the British Asians receiving a Knighthood are Professor Mir Saeed ZAHEDI, Technical Director at Blatchford & Sons for services to Engineering and Innovation. Joining him is Professor Alimuddin Zumla, Professor of Infectious Diseases and International Health at the University College London for services to Public Health and Protection from Infectious Disease.

    Responding to the news of the Knighthood, Professor Alimuddin said: “I am absolutely delighted to be accorded this wonderful honour. It’s awe inspiring and a great privilege to be together with exceptional people who have distinguished themselves, serving humanity in different ways with great commitment and impact.

    “I would like to share this honour with the numerous selfless and committed people across the world, who I work with effectively on a range of academic capacity development, advocacy and charity activities on poverty-related diseases. I am blessed with a very supportive family excellent research teams and awesome talented friends who have shown ‘unity of purpose’ for improving the lives and health of disadvantaged populations worldwide.”

    Britain’s Asian Women were also represented well, with nineteen of them on the honours list this year, which included Parveen June Kumar who has been conferred the prestigious Dames Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to medicine and medical education.

    The 74-year-old Professor of Medicine and Education at Bart's and the London School of Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London, is also the co-editor and author of a revolutionary 1989 textbook, 'Kumar and Clark's Clinical Medicine', which is credited with improvements in the education of medical students, doctors and nurses in training both at home and abroad.

    Another notable recipient is diversity champion, Dr Kamel Hothi, who received an OBE for her services in the banking sector.

    Dr Hothi is Head of Responsible Business Special Projects at the Lloyds Banking Group. She migrated to Slough at the age of six from India with her family. Upon leaving school she found a job as a cashier at TSB (prior to the merger with Lloyds Bank) in Slough High St. She progressed up the career ladder becoming an assistant manager at Maidenhead and then went on to be their first Asian Bank Manager at Walton on Thames.

    After managing several other branches, she became the Area Manager for Thames Valley covering 160 branches until the merger of TSB and Lloyds Bank when she was asked to support the merger and transferred to their head office in London. It was following the lack of diversity she witnessed in the City that influenced Kamel to speak up and take action. She was soon challenging views resulting in being invited to chair several committees and mentor individuals.

    Kamel continued to work hard and break glass ceilings and now with 38 years’ banking experience she is recognised for being the architect behind the Asian Strategy across Lloyds Banking Group. Her remits have included product development, cultural training, strategy and marketing, resulting in some very high-profile sponsorships of over 30 national Asian events including sponsoring The Asian Jewel Awards and The Asian Women of Achievement Awards for seven years. It is through the sponsorship of such events that Kamel helped improve access to finance for Ethnic communities and creating platforms to acknowledge their invaluable contribution to UK society and the economy.

    In speaking about the recognition, Kamel Hothi says, “I am truly humbled to be honoured in such a profound way but feel this recognition is for my parents who survived the partition of India and Pakistan – the biggest migration of refugees and brought us here to the UK to build a better life. My father was a civil engineer in India but unfortunately in the 60’s his skills were not acknowledged.  He did struggle with this biasness and refused for me to go onto further education believing there was no point and arranged my marriage at 19. It was these experiences that have driven me to improve and create a level playing field for all concerned.  I just wished my parents were alive today to witness me receiving my OBE from the Queen so to prove that hard work is recognised regardless of your background.”

    For a full list click here

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    Six people dead and many injured in Grenfell Tower blaze

    A huge fire broke out at a west London tower block during the early hours of Wednesday morning. As reports coming in six people have died and more than 50 are in hospital after a huge fire raged through the night at a west London tower block, a fire chief says.

    Eyewitnesses described people trapped in the burning Grenfell Tower, in north Kensington, screaming for help and yelling for their children to be saved.

    The 24-storey block, which is still believed to be on fire, looks at risk of collapsing.

    During the night, eyewitnesses said they saw lights - thought to be mobile phones or torches - flashing at the top of the block of flats, and trapped residents coming to their windows - some holding children.

    Image credit: Wilson Chowdry

    The Met Police has set up an emergency number on 0800 0961 233 for anyone concerned about friends or family.

    London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said there had been "a number of fatalities" but she could not say how many because of the "size and complexity" of the building.

    “In my 29 years of being a firefighter I have never seen anything of this scale. Based on the level of resources needed at this fire, we declared this a major incident very early this morning.” She said

    She urged all residents to make sure they had reported themselves to police so that the authorities know they are safe.

    The cause was not yet known and it was too early to speculate on the building, she said, although it was structurally safe enough for her crews to be working inside.

    By mid-morning, the building looked to be just smoking ruins but the fire has again taken hold, and cladding is falling to the ground.

    Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was devastated by the horrific scenes, attended by more than 250 firefighters and 100 ambulance medics.

    Questions will need to be answered over the safety of tower blocks, he told BBC Radio.

    "We can't have a situation where people's safety is put at risk because of bad advice being given or if it is the case, as has been alleged, of tower blocks not being properly serviced or maintained," he said.

    Matt Wrack, of the Fire Brigades Union said something had clearly gone badly wrong with fire prevention procedures at the building.

    Firefighters would normally fight a fire in a tower block from the inside, going up the fire escape, and fighting using the internal dry-rising mains, he said, but that's not been possible in this case.

    Image credit: Wilson Chowdry

    "Several hundred" people would have been in the block when the fire broke out, leader of Kensington and Chelsea Borough Nick Paget-Brown said.

    Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, Wilson Chowdhry travelled to the blaze to offer help and bottles of water to victims.

    He told Asian Standard: "When I got there the police cordons had not yet been fully implemented. I was able to reach victims and offer them water from the two crates that had been in my home.

    "People were crying in the streets they were all shocked and stunned. Those that spoke described very harrowing accounts of how people escaped the flats. Many told me that they had not heard any fire alarm.

    "People heard bangs and pops as the fire raged on. Most people learnt about the fire through kind but panicked neighbours who woke them up with vigorous knocking. One man told me the fire began from one of the lower levels but rapidly rose and engulfed the building.

    "Many people were still looking for friends and family it was a very disturbing place. This situation was exacerbated as people fleeing the blaze left their phones behind.

    "The fire just raged on and all of us were praying that the building would not collapse as it is in the midst of a densely populated area.”

    An emergency number has been set up by The Met Police Anyone concerned about their family and friends can call 0800 0961 233 for anyone concerned about friends or family.

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    "The biggest challenge is for mothers and fathers to raise our boys, so that they grow up respecting women." - Sujo John

    According to official figures the number of potential victims being trafficked into Britain has risen by 245% over the last five years.

    Police and other authorities identified 3,266 people last year thought to have been the victims of modern slavery compared with 946 in 2011, a rise that has prompted disquiet among MPs and charities.

    The figures from the National Referral Mechanism – a government safeguarding framework that aims to help potential victims of trafficking – reveal a steady rise of potential slavery victims over the last five years, with the single largest annual increase between 2014 and 2015 when nearly 1,000 extra cases were recorded.

    Founder of international human rights organisation ‘YouCanFreeUs’ Sujo John believes more work needs to be done and feels that trafficking and slavery could be thriving in the UK.

    His charity, YouCanFreeUs started fighting modern slavery in 2010 and since then has rescued and successfully rehabilitated over 120 women and children. The charity currently operates two safe houses and one training centre in Mumbai, India, and one safe house in Warsaw, Poland. As well as presence in the US and Canada where it holds regular campaigns to hold awareness via fashion, sports and arts, the charity has now started its operations in the UK.

    We caught up with Sujo John, during his recent visit to the UK to learn more about his work and how he and his organisation are helping thousands across the globe.

    You and your wife were both rescued during the 9/11 attacks and now your rescuing people from human trafficking. What an incredible journey. When you look back on all of this how does that make you feel?

    I never thought I would be doing what I do. For one I get to travel the world doing talks and meeting all kinds of amazing people, last night I was giving a talk in London meeting very influential people.  Tomorrow morning, I land in Mumbai and by 3 o’clock I’m in the red-light district Kamathipura I love people and because of what I do I get to meet people of all walks of life and you find something in common with humanity is so precious.

    That tragedy that changed the world, my eyes would not be open to some of these things. Even though it was a horrible day the experience of having survived that day has opened my eyes to the realities of our world. The fact that there are so many problems with our world and our world sometimes looks broken, but my hope is that if we, you and I, people all over the world can embrace to be an agent of change. If we can change one human life then perhaps the world will become a better place.

    There is a very interesting connection between me and these women. The first time I was exposed to this was in New Dehli, GB Road. They say there is almost 37,000 sex workers in that one street. My first time I thought a good thing to do was to take roses and we started handing out lots of roses. Most of them had never got a rose before; you could see the walls were coming down. They started pulling me and said “If you really care for us, get us out of here” That’s why we named this charity You Can Free US.

    It’s a message from them to the free world, that those that live in freedom can do something to end this evil of our times. When I’m out there I feel my chest is collapsing. I feel out of place, it’s so hot and you’ve seen those cages 6’ by 6’ no ventilation. I feel I have something incredibly in common with these girls. I know what it feels like to be trapped. I know what it’s like thinking, I will never get out. Will I see my family again? I was given a second chance.

    My personal passion is to rescue these girls and help them rewrite their lives/stories. I passionately believe this and this is what we tell our girls in our projects in different parts of the world. All things can be restored, it doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what’s happened to you. It’s how you finish your journey that really matters.

    Tell us a little bit more about the charity You Can Free Us. It currently runs in the US, India, Poland and you launched into the UK last year.

    Primarily, this started when I saw the needs in Delhi. As you know Mumbai is the capital hub of India that’s where the action is, that’s where Bollywood is, the stock market is there. All the girls in villages come to Mumbai, they’re told ‘come to the city, you’ll make it. You’ll get work’ be a movie star, be a model or whatever. We rescue these girls, they come to our safe houses, we keep them for a period of 18 to 24 months and we do what’s called psycho social care. We really believe a few months can help. These girls have been through years of trauma. So, it takes a minimum of close to two years for them to really heal and us to give them a skill set to re enter society.

    So we are in India and in India beyond the rescue and life skill training, psycho social care and re-entering society. We also do awareness programmes. We’ve done things with fashion. A few years ago, through fashion we told the story of trafficking. We do different awareness events in India. Last week I did a talk about how businesses and society can get involved in this fight. In India, it’s not just your sex trafficking, there’s a huge component of labour trafficking. Where kids are forced to work, brick hills or factories or something like that. Awareness is a big way of fighting this.

    We also have a curriculum that we have almost finished writing. It will be launched and be taught into 125 schools in India. Boys, girls and parents. To parents we challenge them, when your children hit puberty, have conversations about sex. Boy’s we teach about when buying sex what’s going to happen to you emotionally and physically. Men and women are preyed on equally. Men are called protectors and cherishes of women. And to the girls we teach them what’s a good touch and bad touch, how to know who is a predator.

    We also have a similar operation in Poland, we have a safe house and training centre and what we do there is similar. This problem of human trafficking is a global problem. Affecting 161 countries in the world. The root causes of how the girls end up there is the same. In Poland, we rescue Eastern European girls, Poland is a transit country, they’re taken to different parts of Europe. Interestingly many girls from Poland are brought to UK. They’re offered jobs here, told, come to the UK we’ll find you employment and unknown to them they’re being sold here in this country.

    In the UK we only got started a year and a half ago. London is such a global city and I also know your newspaper speaks a lot to Asians. The Indian community does so well in this country and they are thought leaders of this country. For me also being of Indian origin and now I live in the US. I look at this community and say much is given much is expected. We have a responsibility to give back to the country we were born or our fathers and mothers were born there. That’s our motherland.

    In India people look at the movie world, look at the business. The sad part is the incredible dichotomy; there is a lot of social evils in that country. If fact when you look at the numbers of modern day slavery close to half of the modern-day slavers are in India. So I passionately believe those numbers have to change. That’s why we are in the UK, as it’s a global city we want to build an organisation here to help us reach out globally. Right now, we are looking at initial partners in UK. Last night I met some influential people here in London. Different people from different walks of life and come together with their talents can make a huge change.

    So those of us living in freedom have a responsibility to make a difference thought our talents, our resources, our finances.  I know this is a paper that reaches out to the Asian community and I always challenge them. We have to raise our boys and girls, especially our boys to respect women.

    So, what can our readers do to help your cause and charity?

    Well our biggest need is finances; they can follow us on social media and connect with us. I often tell people, tell us how you want to be a part of it. If they want to go to Mumbai and they feel this is the right fit maybe we can arrange for some of them to go on our projects.  Sometimes it’s just to go love these girls, love to hug, change a life. We do events in the Red Light distract. This week I’ll be in the red light district in Mumbai we hand out gifts and we become advocates for these girls. We encourage them to get out. We do Christmas parties in the red-light district in the holidays to bring cheer.

    Reach out to us, we want to know your story and how you can help us. If there are things happening, where women are being victimised then good people need to speak up against it. I think the biggest challenge is for mothers and fathers to raise our boys, so that they grow up respecting women. This has to end, for me as an Indian, sometimes I’m embarrassed when you look at the numbers for global human trafficking we’re almost half way there and it’s got to change. We talk about India as this growing economy, everything going so well, but what about some of these social evils in our country. Poverty, the curse of poverty has to be broken we have to educate our boys and girls. And then we have to protect our women. It’s hard to understand how, in a country where we have had a a female prime minister, female politicians and business leaders and female goddesses are worshipped in India, yet it is one of the most dangerous county in the world, most crimes against women happen every single day in India than any other country. I think this is a justice generation and I think if we can inspire young people to take a stand against this I think we can turn the tide. We have to start when they are young and deal with the root cause. We go rescue these girls and made a difference to their lives.

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    World’s first not-for-profit solar plant to remove deadly arsenic from drinking water, opens in Bangladesh

    By PARVEEN AHMED

    Professor Bhaskar Sen Gupta, from Edinburgh Heriot-Watt University, and the Bangladesh Bright Green Energy Foundation, has designed the world’s first solar-powered plant to remove deadly arsenic from drinking water. Practical and cheap, the plant will not incur running costs for an impressive 25 years after the initial establishment cost of around £5,000. This is because the not-for-profit plant can be operated remotely using an app from the nearest city. The technology could help people in remote and rural areas across the globe.  The solar-powered plant, in the Comilla district of Bangladesh, will be operated from the country’s capital city Dhaka. Crucially it provides a safe supply of water to 200 schoolchildren, with plans to expand it over the next year to serve 800 people.

    Arsenic occurs naturally in some parts of Bangladeshi, and neighbouring India, where it sweeps down from the Himalayas. It used to sit on riverbanks, but since the 1960’s it has become soluble, breaking down into water.

    Sinister by nature, arsenic is colourless, odourless without taste, so people unwittingly consume contaminated water. Arsenic in drinking water can only be detected by chemical tests, which is difficult for remote communities far away from testing facilities. More than 137 million people from 70 countries are thought to be exposed daily to drinking water containing arsenic, particularly in rural areas: Professor Bhaskar Sen Gupta told the Asian Standard: “Dhaka has a safe water supply but when it comes to villages they do not have a safe water supply”.

    Professor Sen Gupta stresses the deadly long-term effects of prolonged arsenic consumption. In separate project, he has established a plant in Ghetugachi, West Bengal, roughly 50 km away from Calcutta, where one thousand people now benefit from safe drinking water. However, he is saddened by the stark contrast of inhabitants in a neighbouring village which can only access a contaminated supply: “Not a single male person over 50 is alive there. People in their 40’s look about 70 years old because of arsenic contamination.”

    A community affected by arsenic in water in Comilla, Bangladesh.
    A community affected by arsenic in water in Comilla, Bangladesh.

    It takes several years for health problems to manifest as a result chronic exposure, leading to cancer of the internal organs, most commonly the lungs, kidneys and bladder. People can suffer from skin pigmentation and arsenic can also manifest itself in skin cancers on exposed areas such as the palm of the hands and soles of the feet.

    However, arsenic levels in contaminated water amongst crops is an on-going problem. Professor Sen Gupta told the Asian Standard that by eradicating levels in drinking water, health problems in turn, can be halved. He said:

    “The conventional technologies for arsenic remediation are based on a 'pump and treat' method involving either adsorption or membrane processes. Such plants are expensive to run and have problems associated with waste disposal and maintenance. In contrast, our team has developed subterranean arsenic removal (SAR) or 'in-situ treatment' which we first began using in 2008. It doesn't use any chemicals and produces no waste, making it a very low-cost technology option for rural use. This is the first time we have created a treatment plant that is fully autonomous and solar-powered. This plant will operate entirely from a mobile phone app, so will have no running costs for 25 years and doesn't use any chemicals. It also produces no waste.”

    For the Calcutta-born professor Bangladesh is dear to his heart; his wife’s family hail from Comilla and his own family originated from Bangladesh.  He told us: “I have a natural affinity for Bangladesh”, and he was motivated to help by villagers who were concerned about the safety of their drinking water and keen to put it right.

    Professor Bhaskar Sen Gupta designed and commissioned the plant at Edinburgh’s Heriot Watt University, with assistance from the Bangladesh Bright Green Energy Foundation and Dr Soumyadeep Mukhopadhyay. The Bangladesh Bright Green Energy Foundation paid for the cost in Comilla and EPSRC and Heriot-Watt University funded the UK cost.

    Professor Sen Gupta has two main aims; to set up more plants and campaign to raise awareness of the importance of drinking water free from arsenic. He stresses the sooner people start drinking safe water, then the sooner any health problems from consuming arsenic water can be stalled, and possibly, eradicated for good. He plans to set up more plants in Bangladesh, but sincerely wishes for plants to be established in other high-risk areas worldwide. He said: “I hope others follow suit”.

    For more information about the not-for-profit Subterranean Arsenic Removal (SAR) water plants see www.insituarsenic.org

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