Over the last week, as a city and country we have watched in horror as India battles with a horrific surge of Covid-19 cases. I have been proud to see the global leadership shown by our Government in sending ventilators, oxygen concentrators and other medical supplies to help India in its fight against this awful virus. It re-emphasises the unbreakable bond that our nations share.
Here in London, the British Indian community have been at the forefront of the UK’s own fight against coronavirus, making an immeasurable contribution to not only the NHS but also on a community level by supplying millions of meals to some of the most vulnerable in our capital city.
During the course of the campaign I have had the privilege to visit and volunteer at mandirs, gurdwaras and mosques, and this has been an immense learning experience for me personally. Last Sunday I was fortunate enough to pay my respects at the magnificent BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. It was amazing to see the work that the Temple is doing, opening up their space to encourage people of all faiths and backgrounds to get the vaccine.
This kind of work shows London at its best. It has been an absolute pleasure to get to know the community over the course of my campaign. I have always said that London is a global city with the heart of a village; London’s Indian diaspora helps to give meaning to that statement. If I’m elected as London’s next Mayor on 6 May, I will ensure that the contributions of this great community don’t go unrecognised and I will work hard to get the best deal for all Londoners.
I’ll start by dealing with Sadiq Khan’s Congestion Charge hike and his plans to extend ULEZ to the North and South Circular. Taken together, these amount to a worship tax — punishing families who drive to mandirs, gurdwaras, synagogues, mosques and churches. And it’s not just families who suffer. At a time when London needs an economic recovery, the last thing businesses should face are higher charges. So I’ll reverse the Congestion Charge hike on day one, abolishing it on evenings and weekends, and I’ll scrap plans to extend ULEZ.
As well as easing burdens, I want to use the resources of City Hall to celebrate London in all its diversity. So as Mayor, I’ll hold a yearly Festival of London — a perfect opportunity to highlight the contributions of our diverse communities, including British Indians. And I’m looking forward to celebrating Diwali and Vaisakhi in the Square with my whole family next year.
Another issue was brought to my attention during the course of my campaign: the lack of appropriate crematoria for Hindus and Sikhs in our city. That’s why I’ll back plans for a new crematorium in London, one with the right facilities to cater to the Hindu and Sikh communities, including iconography and the ability to handle demand.
Finally, I will strengthen ties between London and India. I’ll appoint a Deputy Mayor for International Trade to bang the drum for British businesses and help create new trade opportunities between Britain and India.
The policies I’ve outlined are all part of my plan to give London a fresh start. So I’m asking you to vote for me on 6 May. I know that together we can build a safer, fairer, more affordable city for every resident.