LONDON: Birmingham has got its first British-Indian Lord Mayor in Councillor Chaman Lal after the local councillors of the West Midlands city of England chose him to represent it as its first citizen. Lal, who is from the Ravidassia community of British Sikhs, was born in the village of Pakhowal in Hoshiarpur before he moved to the UK, where he has served as a local councillor for many years.
The Labour Party politician was first elected in 1994 and in the most recent local elections was re-elected Councillor for the Soho and Jewellery Quarter Ward. “It is a very proud moment for me and our family, as a son of an army officer born in India, but made in Birmingham,” Lal said in his acceptance speech at a mayoral ceremony last week.
“I am an adopted Brummie, and I never thought that one day I would become the Lord Mayor of my adopted city. I would like to thank my fellow councillors for electing me as their first citizen and of our great city which happens to be the highest civic role entrusted to a serving councillor,” he said. According to the Birmingham City Council, Chaman Lal’s father, Sardar Harnam Singh Banga, was a British Indian army officer who served in the Italian campaign during World War II. Lal’s father came to England in 1954 and settled in Birmingham, taking employment in various industries including several years with British Steel.
Chaman Lal came to England with his mother, Sardarni Jai Kaur, to join his father in 1964 and has lived in Birmingham ever since. He attended Wattville Secondary Modern School and continued with his studies in evening classes at Sandwell and Matthew Boulton Colleges. “He believes in lifelong learning and continued his academic studies in economics and law on part-time degree courses at the local Polytechnic. He qualified as an engineer in electronics and became an apprentice with an electronics company. He progressed to becoming their youngest chief engineer in the service department and was later promoted to the post of manager of the service department,” Birmingham City Council said.
Lal went on to set up his own electronics business as well as other businesses. He married Vidya Wati in 1971 and the couple have three daughters and two sons. His interest in politics dates back to 1989 when he joined the Labour Party and took part in many social justice campaigns to challenge inequality and discrimination.
He has served on most of the local council’s committees in the past 29 years, including as a cabinet advisor for major transport projects and recently as the Chair of the Sustainability and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee. “He has served many years on the West Midlands Transport Authority and has a keen interest in improving public transport. As Chair of the Transport Scrutiny Committee, he led several Task and Finish Groups including making the recommendations for the best e-ticketing solution for the WMPTA which led to the introduction of the contactless travel (Swift Card) in the West Midlands area,” the local council noted.
His other policy reviews resulted in more late night and early morning bus services to meet the needs of the night economy as well as early morning workers, it said.Lal’s interests outside of politics include cricket, live music and performing arts.