Wednesday, July 31, 2013

An audience with the Mayor of Barking & Dagenham

I usually meet with people like the Mayor Rai and share their inspirational stories with the young people I come into contact with.

by Emdad Rahman

Hardial Singh Rai came to England in 1963.  He is married to Gian Kaur and is committed to his family, with 3 daughters, 1 son and 8 grandchildren.  All his children attended Eastbury Comprehensive School in Barking and went on to gain degrees.
Born in Bhootan a small village in Nawanshahar district, Punjab, India, Hardial came to England in 1963, to join his father, who had already settled here. He came with a much valued matriculation exam from Punjab University, where he had passed out the previous year.

Hardial's first employment was with the William Warne Rubber manufacturing company based in Gascoigne Road, Barking. He later joined Ford Motor Works, working in the assembly and engine plant, and qualified as a supervisor in the material handling department.

In 1979, he left Ford to pursue his own business, an off-license and a hardware shop at the Eastbury Shopping Parade in Barking.

In 1998 Hardial changed direction, and went to work for Newham Council in the Customer Services Department, a career which he pursued for over 12 years.

Hardial has been a lifelong support of the trades union movement, joining the Transport and General Workers Union at Ford and then Unison during his time at Newham Council.

It was a natural progression, then, for Hardial to seek election to the Council of the borough he has made his home - and he was successfully elected to represent Eastbury Ward in 2010.

Since then, Cllr Rai, has gone on to serve on a number of committees, including the Standards Committee, two select committees, and the Personnel Board - of which he is vice chair. Cllr Rai has also invested his time to support his local schools, serving as governor over the years at Eastbury and Ripple Primary Schools.

Away from the Council, Hardial has been closely involved with the Barking Gurdwara Singh Sabha since 1971, serving as a committee member and treasurer. He is also a lifelong member of the Punjabi Centre in Ilford, representing the interests of his homeland in East London.

Hardial has also volunteered tirelessly for good causes, including the Christian Medical College in Ludhiana, Punjab, as part of which Cllr Rai travels to his home district each year to help dispense free specialist eyecare, medication, treatment and lenses.

Cllr Rai also serves on the Independent Custody Visiting Panel, a Home Office panel that protects prisoners' rights and welfare by carrying out unannounced visits to prison facilities.

Q1)  What was your first reaction to being chosen to become the borough’s first citizen?

My first reaction was that I felt very happy and very humble that I have been elected as the Mayor of Barking and Dagenham. The reality also sunk in slowly with the responsibility and the duties it entails.

Q2)  What are you priorities and what do you hope to achieve as Mayor?

My priorities are community cohesion and well being of the citizens. I have to treat everyone equally regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, religion or social background.

Q3)  What are the key ingredients to achieving success?

Honesty, integrity and impartiality. Meeting people from diverse communities individually first and find out their priorities and opportunities available, then arrange an event where all can come together and find the common thread which will bring them together.

Q4)  How can the Mayor unite our communities?

By treating everyone the same.

Q5)  Why should young people choose politics?

Young people will be tomorrow’s leaders so the earlier they make a start the better experience, and understanding of local problems and politics will allow them to make the right decisions.

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