Diwali Greetings

Councillor Manjula Sood is the Lord Mayor of Leicester, where the largest Diwali celebration outside

Diwali - from Deepavali, meaning row of lights - is one of the most popular and widely celebrated Hindu Festivals. Diwali marks the end of the Hindu year. Above all, Diwali is about the concept of light: divas (traditional Indian lamps) were lit at Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhaya after 14 years of exile. The holiday is the celebration of good over evil where light is the symbol of knowledge.

Diwali has special significance for Jains in that it commemorates the passing of the Lord Mahavira, the 24th Jain Tirthankara, in the year 527BC.

For Sikhs, Diwali is celebrated in remembrance of the 6th Guru Hargobindji‘s return from imprisonment by the Mughul Emperor Jahingir. The magnificent Golden Temple at Amritsar is lit up with thousands of lights at Diwali.

On Diwali, families exchange gifts, sweets and cards. The Indian sweets, Mithai, are only exchanged during Diwali and are usually homemade. Traditionally, families will visit their place of worship and decorate their homes with ‘Rangoli’ patterns which symbolises Peace, Prosperity and Harmony.

Although some celebrate for only one or two days, many people celebrate for five days. Day 3 of Diwali is Lakshmi Pooja. This is the day when worship unto Mother Lakshma is performed. Diwali also forms the last day of the Hindu Financial year.

Leicester hosts the largest Diwali celebration outside India. This year approximately 48,000 people attended the switch on event on 12 October, which as you can imagine involved a lot of road closures! The celebration involved the lights being switched on and cultural performances. Many people from around the UK - and even abroad - traveled to Leicester to witness the event and to join in the festivities.

Since the 1960s, Leicester has been home to many diverse communities which in turn has produced a Diwali celebration full of pomp and show. Leicester is one of the most culturally diverse cities, nationally and globally and all cultures come together in the spirit of friendship to celebrate Diwali.

As the Lord Mayor of Leicester, and on behalf of the Lady Mayoress and Consorts, I am delighted to convey my best wishes for Diwali and the New Year to all Hindu, Sikh and Jain Communities of Leicester.

Diwali commemorates victory over darkness and evil, and I pray for happiness, peace, harmony and fulfilment of all our hopes and ambitions, and may the Festival of Lights be full of splendour and promise of peace and prosperity.

May the light of love shine brightly in your hearts.

The Right Worshipful, the Lord Mayor of Leicester Councillor Manjula Sood is the first Asian female Lord Mayor.

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The 5 things the Tories aren't telling you about their manifesto

Turns out the NHS is something you really have to pay for after all. 

When Theresa May launched the Conservative 2017 manifesto, she borrowed the most popular policies from across the political spectrum. Some anti-immigrant rhetoric? Some strong action on rip-off energy firms? The message is clear - you can have it all if you vote Tory.

But can you? The respected thinktank the Institute for Fiscal Studies has now been through the manifesto with a fine tooth comb, and it turns out there are some things the Tory manifesto just doesn't mention...

1. How budgeting works

They say: "a balanced budget by the middle of the next decade"

What they don't say: The Conservatives don't talk very much about new taxes or spending commitments in the manifesto. But the IFS argues that balancing the budget "would likely require more spending cuts or tax rises even beyond the end of the next parliament."

2. How this isn't the end of austerity

They say: "We will always be guided by what matters to the ordinary, working families of this nation."

What they don't say: The manifesto does not backtrack on existing planned cuts to working-age welfare benefits. According to the IFS, these cuts will "reduce the incomes of the lowest income working age households significantly – and by more than the cuts seen since 2010".

3. Why some policies don't make a difference

They say: "The Triple Lock has worked: it is now time to set pensions on an even course."

What they don't say: The argument behind scrapping the "triple lock" on pensions is that it provides an unneccessarily generous subsidy to pensioners (including superbly wealthy ones) at the expense of the taxpayer.

However, the IFS found that the Conservatives' proposed solution - a "double lock" which rises with earnings or inflation - will cost the taxpayer just as much over the coming Parliament. After all, Brexit has caused a drop in the value of sterling, which is now causing price inflation...

4. That healthcare can't be done cheap

They say: "The next Conservative government will give the NHS the resources it needs."

What they don't say: The £8bn more promised for the NHS over the next five years is a continuation of underinvestment in the NHS. The IFS says: "Conservative plans for NHS spending look very tight indeed and may well be undeliverable."

5. Cutting immigration costs us

They say: "We will therefore establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs." 

What they don't say: The Office for Budget Responsibility has already calculated that lower immigration as a result of the Brexit vote could reduce tax revenues by £6bn a year in four years' time. The IFS calculates that getting net immigration down to the tens of thousands, as the Tories pledge, could double that loss.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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