Rajinder Singh Harzall, the 74-year-old fundraiser fondly referred to as the “Skipping Sikh” for his inspirational health and fitness videos during lockdown, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List released on Saturday.
Harzall, who has raised nearly £14,000 for the National Health Service (NHS), is among scores of British Indians to be honoured for their contribution during the coronavirus pandemic after the annual list had been deferred to prioritise frontline and community heroes who went above and beyond their duties to help others during the early months of the pandemic.
The Skipping Sikh receives an MBE for “services to health and fitness during Covid-19” in a list described as the most ethnically diverse to date, with 13 per cent of recipients from a minority ethnic background.
“It is hard, but we must keep moving to stay positive,” the Skipping Sikh told ‘iGlobal’ in an at the peak of the pandemic.
He is joined by Lavina Mehta, who also receives an MBE for services to health and fitness during Covid-19 for her work encouraging people to stay active during the lockdown.
Among other community heroes celebrated for their work during lockdown is Sandeep Singh Daheley, who receives his MBE for taking the initiative to create an online portal for prayers whilst gurdwaras were closed, to keep the community spirit alive for British Sikhs. Vinod Bhagwandas Tailor is also awarded an MBE for services to the community in Bedfordshire during Covid-19.
Among some of the others recognised with honours include the Issa brothers – Zuber and Mohsin – who recently hit the headlines with their multi-million-pound acquisition of the supermarket chain Asda.
The brothers from Blackburn, whose parents moved to the UK from Gujarat in the 1970s, own the Euro Garages chain of petrol stations as part of their EG Group business. They have both been honoured with CBEs for services to business and charity.
Also receiving CBEs are , Professor of Ecosystem Science at the University of Oxford for his services to ecosystem science, and Neena Patel, for services to entrepreneurship and technology.
London-based finance expert Alpesh Patel, the Founder of Praefinium Partners, has been awarded an OBE for his services to the economy and international trade. Other British Indians to receive an OBE include Nilay Shah, Professor of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London for services to the decarbonisation of the UK economy, and Dr Sanjiv Nichani, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Healing Little Hearts for services to medicine and charity.
Among other MBE recipients are Manjit Kaur Gill, Founder of Binti, for services to the provision of menstrual products to women in developing countries, the UK and US; dance teacher Pushkala Gopal for services to South Asian dance; Vasant Patel, Senior Policy Officer at the Department for Education, for services to adopted children and their families; and Baljeet Kaur Sandu, Founder of the Centre for Knowledge Equity, for services to equality and civil society.
The honours list, which is traditionally published to coincide with the 94-year-old monarch’s official birthday celebrations in early June, was postponed this year in order to consider nominations of people playing crucial roles during the first months of the effort. It showcases 414 exceptional contributions of unsung heroes in all four nations of the United Kingdom in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the majority of the list, dubbed a “bumper list” for incorporating nearly 1,500 honours, was compiled before the ongoing pandemic.
Of those who have been honoured, 72 per cent go to those who have worked tirelessly for their local community. The UK Cabinet Office said this reflects the huge voluntary effort across the country in response to Covid-19, with recipients cumulatively supplying millions of free meals to those shielding, delivering care packages to and clocking up countless voluntary hours to support those at risk.