Ladies and Gentlemen, my wife or, as I was recently instructed in London by the Indian Diaspora community, my Mehabooba and I are absolutely delighted to be here in Mumbai as part of this quite extensive tour of various parts of India that believe it or not I have not managed to reach in the last forty years, although I have been here before on several occasions. It is incredibly good of you all to take this time, and on a weekend, to join us here this evening.
Now quite a few of you, I suspect, have been with us before at Windsor Castle and elsewhere as part of the British Asian Trust’s activities but I don’t know how many of you realise how much of India was part of my upbringing. I’m one of those people who was brought up surrounded for so much of my childhood by objects and pictures and photographs and stories about the sub-continent. So I was always rather affected by the romance and the fascination of this remarkable part of the world and of course Sandringham House in Norfolk is filled with every kind of object that my great great grandfather King Edward VII, when he was Prince of Wales was given during his tour here in 1873. In fact all the things he was given could help us start a small war of our own! He was also accompanied by my great grandfather, Prince Louis of Battenberg, who was the father of my great uncle Lord Mountbatten, and Prince Louis of Battenberg was then his aide de camp and in fact he was a remarkable artist in his own right and did some truly striking impressions of the trip to India all those years ago in the old illustrated London News. I remember as a child we used to have such fun reading the illustrated London News, some of you who are old enough may remember that and the Sphere. They were two remarkable magazines but you had to be an incredibly good artist to get into it so I’m very proud my great grandfather was good enough to be incorporated in that magazine.
I was trying to work out the other day that I must have come to India probably forty years ago and I will never forget the impression that first visit made on me. So I’m afraid I developed a particular interest and love and indeed passion for this part of the world. You know better than I that both countries have given each other a great deal over all these years of association and I know we have ended up with wonderful Indian things that people take for granted. I don’t think they realise where they came from. Whether it’s Shampoo or Bungalows or Jodhpurs or Pyjamas or Curry, which I suspect now people think is a British national dish! Let alone Tandoori chicken and whole lot of other things.
And of course in the other direction, I suspect cricket, which was certainly an English invention, was somehow adopted in the most remarkable way by people in sub-continent. We gave you Sir Geoffrey Boycott. You replied with Sachin Tendulkar! As I become a pensioner myself next week, which has already been alluded to, (incidentally I’ve always been so proud of sharing a birthday with Pandit Nehru) it might be an appropriate moment just to wish the Master a happy retirement.
So Ladies and Gentlemen if I could just say that it’s remarkable how in India you have developed the art of entrepreneurship to the most extraordinary heights and I know many leading entrepreneurs are here this evening. Many have become multi-national powerhouses for instance Reliance, started as Mukesh Ambani was telling us this evening, with his father with 100 Rupees, Tata, Mahindra, and a whole lot of other remarkable companies making a global contribution to business.
We in Britain now have 1.4 million people of Indian extraction accounting for a significant part of the United Kingdom population and making an enormous contribution in every conceivable walk of British life. That is something that hugely to the richness of our experience and our culture in Britain.
So it just seemed to me a few years ago that it would be incredibly valuable to try and encourage and work with the diaspora in Britain in terms of trying to assist with many of the challenges that you face in the sub-continent whether in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh and to find ways of connecting people with Britain and this part of the world. So I am extremely proud that we were able to launch my British Asian Trust, which has successfully linked the Diaspora in the United Kingdom with all sorts of remarkable charities in this region in order to transform the lives of thousands of people in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and especially here in India.
In fact the Trust has been able to help, I’m proud to say, more than a million of this region’s most disadvantaged people in its first five years. I just wanted this evening if I may to express my profound gratitude to those people in my Trust who have made all this possible, and in particular to Manoj Badale and his small but really brilliantly effective team led by Hitan Mehta and really they have been remarkable in what they’ve done.
What we’ve been able to do in many ways is support a whole range of charities in different fields. They include mental health in Pakistan, entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka and empowering girls and young people to move into employment here in India. This morning my wife and I went to visit the Mumbai Mobile Creche, which I think is one of those remarkable charities, which was started by incredibly determined Indian ladies (very often they are the ones who make things happen). This is where I discovered 10 years ago, when I was here in Mumbai, that there are 30million migrant workers in India working on all the construction projects. Many of them are women who were carrying their children on their backs while shimmying up and down these huge building sites and I remember talking to my British Asian Trust about this and so they have been helping the Mumbai Mobile Creche to do some remarkable work in ensuring that the children of all these migrant workers are looked after and accommodated. I think we need to salute the various construction companies, particularly K Raheja Group, who ensure this happens and Ms Vrishali Pispati who is the great inspiration behind all this.
I could not be more delighted and grateful to Mr. Mukesh Ambani, not only for organizing this wonderful evening for my Trust and to you all for attending, but also to Mr. Ambani for chairing our new Indian Advisory Council because this will enable us to add huge value to all the things we can do here in India and indeed elsewhere.
I am again hugely indebted to the other founding members of the advisory council - Mr. Ranjit Barthakur, Mr. Neeraj Kanwar, Mr. Ramadorai, Mrs. Naina Lal-Kidwai, Mr. Harish Salve and Mrs. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw. I do hope that we might be able to engage others of you here to join and work with us because collectively we can achieve so much more that is effective and powerful and rewarding in every sense than just operating alone.
So I hope that with the support of my Advisory Council, we will be able to establish a broader remit for our work to include conservation, the built environment and bring in some of the wide experience over the last 40 years of my other charities including The Prince’s Trust.
I hope that with our ambitious vision we can translate all this into a Prince’s Charities Foundation for South Asia to work in collaboration with the wonderfully innovative and effective civil society here in India, across a broader range of activities to scale up their opportunities.
Here, I must just pay tribute after forty years of coming to India, I think I must have known somebody called Bunker Roy from Rajasthan for nearly forty years, and Bunker has been doing the most remarkable work in all these villages in Rajasthan for much longer and he is a truly remarkable man and his work with small scale solar and water harvesting is truly remarkable. There’s Vandana Shiva who does the most incredible work on sustainable agriculture and the maintenance and saving of seeds and all the things, which are otherwise under threat. Rajendra Singh, who I met all those years ago whose done incredibly on water harvesting and bringing water back in places in Rajasthan where the rivers have dried up completely just by rediscovering traditional water harvesting techniques. Of course there’s Miss Vrishali Pispati, there’s wonderful ladies like Miss Geeta Dharmarajan who runs the Katha Community Lab School in Delhi, which I went to see yesterday, which is also supported by my British Asian Trust and Mrs Nina Advani, who my darling wife went to see this afternoon, who runs the Asha Sadan Residential Home for unbelievably neglected abused children and young girls. All these remarkable people are the sort of people that all of us could make such a difference to, all over India in so many different ways.
So thank you for all your help and all the things you do already with your foundations, which I know are incredibly extensive and hugely admirable but maybe you just might think about the added value of us all working together to bring more resource and effectiveness in terms of meeting the great challenges that you face here.
Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen.