14 th July 2021 – Prabha Khaitan Foundation organized a virtual session of tete-a tea with Preet Kaur Gill. Introducing and welcoming the guests was Ehsaas Woman of Amritsar, Praneet Bubber. Preet Kaur Gll is the labor cooperative MP from Birmingham and has been an MP since June 2017. She currently undertakes the role of shadow secretary of State for international development. She is UK’s first female Sikh MP and was born and raised in the West Midlands. She was a social worker, counsellor and cabinet member for public health and protection prior to entering parliament. She is a patron of a social housing charity and VP of the local government association. In parliament she chairs the all-party parliamentary group, first British Sikhs and co-chairs the APPG for international freedom of religion or belief and the West Midlands. In 2020, she was named MP of the year by the patchwork foundation. The topic of discussion for the event was Bahar Bharat. In conversation with her was Ehsaas Woman of Chandigarh, Rishma Gill.
Preet’s parents migrated to the UK when her father was 15 and her mother was 8, her mother went to school in the UK and even worked there. At that time, a lot of Punjabis migrated to the UK and her grandfather also fought for the British army as part of the Indian army. It was a difficult time for people such as her parents and back in those days, many of the Punjabi communities congregated around the gurudwara and not because it was a place for door darshan but because it became a place for finding support regarding things such as jobs, welfare etc. Many highly qualified people as well had to work off jobs such as in foundries or bakeries. Women used to sew at home which was a norm, even her mother used to take care of them and then sewed until the night to make ends meet. She feels that Indians have achieved great success; they are hard-working and contribute to the society there.
Her father was the Pradhan of the first gurudwara in Guru Nanak Dwara Smith, which is one of the largest gurudwaras in UK. She saw her dad helping people, which developed an interest towards politics in her. She believes that politics is about helping people. Her dad even set up committees and helped many women who came to the UK and got married to the men there and didn’t have any family living there.
She says that sometimes when a person is going through things, they don’t really comprehend how they can influence their choices in future career pathways. Her father was really involved in politics and when she was young, he used to take her for campaigning, distributing leaflets etc. then, and they used to think if they really needed to do that. Preet’s sisters used to think that she was very geeky as she was very interested in politics and used to sit and talk with her dad and debate politics. She says that her father had a dream that her daughter would become the first female MP of the UK and she became a counselor only because her father pushed her. She believes that as a woman, a person needs the support of her family and wider relations. She, herself has faced a lot of sexism and her colleagues have also passed comments at her saying that she should go home and look after her kids. For women, it’s about picking the battle that they want to fight as they can’t fight all the battles as it can get exhausting.
When she got into politics, she was very excited as she thought she could help the people and bring about changes in the society, but she says that as a politician you just can’t think about what to do in the parliament or what’s your brief but you also have to think about your constituency, the people you are serving and the issues that the people are facing locally. As soon as you come into politics, the reality of opposition hits you and in opposition it’s very frustrating in terms of what one can achieve but one can try to be innovative and find ways of bringing people together on issues. In opposition a person needs to be much more creative in finding different ways on how to solve problems.
She says that her greatest achievement is that she was able to expose the current government and was able to mobilize and really push the government.
She says that one of the biggest problems in India is that of the healthcare system. There is a huge disparity between government hospitals and private hospitals and it shouldn’t be that way. One’s life shouldn’t depend on how much money they have or don’t have. She is of the opinion that every country should invest in their healthcare and everyone should receive equal care. There should be a fair tax system that enables the countries to invest in their health services so that all citizens have access to proper healthcare.
She talks about the Sikh community and says that it can be seen, around the world that Sikhs have always come forward to help people who are facing problems with basic human rights. Sikhs are always ready to come forward and help people in need regardless of who they are. Sometimes governments feel like the Sikh community does not need the government’s support which she thinks as a downside because everybody needs support. Not everybody is affluent or self-sufficient and need the support of the government.