Our Chairman was honoured for his excellent chairmanship of Vanik Council UK in championing organ donations, by the previous Mayor of Harrow (2019-2021),
Councillor Nitin Parekh
Manharlal Mehta is a well known and popular Jain community member having been active in several aspects of community service.
He qualified as a mechanical engineer in 1958 and migrated to the UK from India in 1968. He settled in Leicester when there was only a small Asian community there and only a handful Jains.
He had a demanding job as an engineer in aircraft industry but his interest in serving the community ensured he made time for it. He gathered the small number of Jains in Leicester and started celebrating the annual Jain festival of Paryushan and other smaller events. This activity soon attracted Jains from all over Midlands. Finally, in 1973, four years after he had started the informal gatherings, with the support of all Jain sects, he established Jain Samaj Leicester. He was the founding Chairman and remained so for next four years. After 8 years of pioneering leadership, he gave up the Chairmanship to pursue a Masters degree but remained a Trustee of Jain Samaj for the following 30 years. Jain Samaj Leicester during this time changed to Jain Samaj Europe with its first Jain temple in Europe and setting a precedent of having all Jain sects represented in one temple – a great credit to the Trustees of the day.
He moved to London where bigger involvement in social activities awaited him. He had become a member of National Council of Vanik Association since its inception in 1978 and became its Chairman in 1995.
He brought many innovative ideas in to NCVA to bolster its activities. For the immigrant Jains, the traditional introductions for the young people to get married were difficult as there was little social connectivity between communities living in different towns and boroughs. He introduced the concept of speed dating in 1982 and to date it is going strong with lots of successful marriages.
NCVA had been compiling and publishing a Vanik Community directory since 1982 and updating it every five years. Manharbhai converted this to an online directory which has proved to be tremendous benefit to the community. NCVA changed to Vanik Council – perhaps the name was a mouthful!!
Manharlal’s drive to serve knew no bounds – he was the force behind setting up a Jain spiritual care system in the hospitals. His efforts led the NHS to recognise “Jainism” as a faith option for patients. Manharbhai has represented the Jain community on the NHS Healthcare Chaplaincy Multi-Faith Group for many years, and has served as the Group’s Chairman from 2009-11.
As part of the spiritual care service, Manharbhai has formalised Jain funeral rites support to the community, has formed and trained a volunteer force for this activity. Jain Spiritual Care has been extended to prisons, following a request from the Prison Service in 2010 – though I need to add that it is a very rare occurrence that one would see a Jain as Her Majesty’s guest.
Another initiative by him was to promote the healthcare initiatives by holding seminars wherever there is a Jain community. He has played a major role in raising the awareness of living organ donations within the Jain and Vaishnav communities by organising seminars.
Manharlal found yet another outlet for his boundless energy – he served as a Trustee for Navnat Vanik Association – the second largest Jain organisation in the UK. He represents Jain faith in Brent SACRE and Brent Multi Faith Forum.
Additionally, he holds regular talks to explain the Jain ritual practices and teaching basic jain philosophy.
In his almost 50 years in the UK - he has covered a vast ground to provide a variety of beneficial services to the community. Whilst he is not associated with all that he initiated – the communities continue to benefit from them and these will mark his lasting legacy to the Jain community in the UK.
For his services to the Jain Community, he was awarded One Jain Award by Lord Bourne at the House of Commons on 28 March 2018.
AWARD OF PATRONSHIP OF NAVNAT VANIK ASSOCIATION UK
Patronship is the highest award Navnat can grant. This was confirmed on 6th October at our AGM for Manharbhai.
Manharbhai has served on the executive of the NCVA (recently rebranded as the “Vanik Council”) since its inception in 1978, and Chairman since 1995.
Manharbhai also served as a trustee of the Navnat Vanik Association from 2010-15
Initiated and co-ordinated, Matrimonial Gathering of Vanik/Jain youths in 1982. This project is still running and has helped hundreds of young people of Vanik/Jain community in their search for matrimonial partner.
Manharbhai has been the driving force behind setting up a Jain spiritual care system in hospitals across the UK. Volunteers are given training in Jain Spiritual care. His efforts led the NHS to recognise “Jainism” as a faith option for patients. In 2017, NHS have included ‘Jainism’ as one of the faiths, in their computerised records of patients.
Reorganised Jain funeral Rites support to the community. Raised a volunteer force and trained them across the UK.
Initiated, recognising and honouring the members of Vanik community who have given their selfless service for the benefit of the community. Twenty two people have been honoured till now.
Regularly gives talks on Practice of Pratikraman
Runs a course, ‘Fundamentals of Jainism- Atma, Karma and Dharma’, since 2015
In addition, Manharbhai has represented the Jain community on the NHS Healthcare Chaplaincy Multi-Faith Group for many years, and served as the Group’s Chairman from 2009-11.
He has continued his effort in publishing of Vanik Community Directory and developed this as an online database of the community.
He represents Jain faith in Religious Education Committee SACRE in London Borough of Brent.
The most recent project that has been undertaken has been on Living Organ Donation to raise awareness of Kidney diseases and need of donation of live kidney within Jain community. The project has successfully achieved the planned objectives and milestones set at the inception of the project.