Hoshiarpur-born Chaman Lal Makes History as Birmingham’s First British-Indian Lord Mayor

by Antariksh Singh

Birmingham, England—The city of Birmingham proudly announced its appointment of Councillor Chaman Lal as its first British-Indian Lord Mayor. The local councillors of the West Midlands city elected Lal, a prominent figure in the Ravidassia community of British Sikhs, to represent the city as its esteemed first citizen.

Born in the village of Pakhowal in Hoshiarpur, Lal embarked on a journey that led him to the United Kingdom, where he served as a dedicated local councillor for numerous years. His political career began in 1994 when he was first elected, and in the recent local elections, he secured re-election as the Councillor for the Soho and Jewellery Quarter Ward.

Addressing the audience during the mayoral ceremony, Lal expressed his profound pride, saying, “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. 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.”

Chaman Lal’s father, Sardar Harnam Singh Banga, served as a British Indian army officer in the Italian campaign during World War II, according to the Birmingham City Council. In 1954, Lal’s father immigrated to England and settled in Birmingham, where he worked in various industries, including several years with British Steel.

Chaman Lal joined his father in Birmingham in 1964, accompanied by his mother, Sardarni Jai Kaur. Since then, he has resided in the city. He attended Wattville Secondary Modern School and continued his education through evening classes at Sandwell and Matthew Boulton Colleges.

With a commitment to lifelong learning, Lal pursued further academic studies in economics and law through part-time degree courses at the local Polytechnic. He also became a qualified electronics engineer and started his own electronics business, among others. In 1971, he married Vidya Wati, and the couple has been blessed with three daughters and two sons.

Lal’s interest in politics emerged in 1989 when he joined the Labour Party and actively participated in social justice campaigns to challenge inequality and discrimination. Over the past 29 years, he has served on various committees of the local council, including as a cabinet advisor for major transport projects. Recently, he held the position of Chair of the Sustainability and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Recognized for his dedication to improving public transport, Lal served for many years on the West Midlands Transport Authority. As the Chair of the Transport Scrutiny Committee, he spearheaded several Task and Finish Groups, resulting in recommendations for the best e-ticketing solution for the WMPTA. These efforts led to the introduction of contactless travel (Swift Card) in the West Midlands area. Additionally, his policy reviews paved the way for increased late-night and early-morning bus services to accommodate the needs of the night economy and early morning workers.

Beyond his political endeavors, Lal finds joy in cricket, live music, and the performing arts.

Antariksh Singh

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