London, Sep 12 (PTI) Over 100 British MPs, including Indian-origin lawmakers, have asked the UK Statistics Authority to include Sikh as a separate ethnic box for the 2021 census to give the community a fair access to all public services in the country.Also Read - International Flights: UK Relaxes Travel Restrictions For Fully Vaccinated Indians From Oct 4

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Sikhs alongside Sikh Federation UK are leading calls for the change. Also Read - Good News: UK Likely to Relax Travel Guidelines For Indians Including RT-PCR Test, Quarantine Rules From Oct 1

“I believe that wherever possible it is right that people should be given the opportunity to identify themselves. With more than 400,000 Sikhs in the UK but no real way to track that without the separate box on the census, now is the right time to let people define as they wish,” said Virendra Sharma, one of senior-most Indian-origin Labour MPs in the British Parliament. Also Read - Operation London Bridge: Secret Funeral Plans For Britain's Queen Elizabeth II Leaked For First Time

Sharma is among the 113 signatories of the letter addressed to John Pullinger, UK National Statistician and Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority.

The British Sikhs claim the move will ensure Sikhs have fair access to all public services in the country.

The authority oversees the Office of National Statistics (ONS), which had revealed it was undertaking research on adding Sikh and Kashmiri as separate ethnic tick boxes in the 2021 census earlier this year.

“We are a long way off as there is still a lot of research that needs to be done to ensure that the census held every 10 years collects all the right information,” an ONS spokesperson said.

“Ethnicity is just one aspect of this research and Sikhs and Kashmiris are among a number of requests we received,” the spokesperson said.

The MPs welcomed the research in their letter and claimed the demand within the British Sikh community is “both high and continuing to grow”.

They said: “The Census 2011 saw around 84,000 Sikhs object to the existing ethnic group categories by using the write in option and specifying ‘Sikh’ for the ethnicity question. This was nearly an eight-fold increase compared to the Census 2001 and several times higher than any other group”.

A number of issues faced by Sikhs, ranging from the reporting of hate crimes through to accessing healthcare provision in the UK, are not receiving appropriate attention by public bodies as they often only monitor ethnic group categories specified in the census, the MPs said.

Sikhs are a legally recognised ethnic group under the UK’s Race Relations Act 1976 and campaigners for the change believe this gives them a right to be able to identify themselves separately from current census options, such as Indian or British Indian.

“Local authorities with huge Sikh populations are not recording data that will assist public health professionals to ensure services are being delivered that are being targeted correctly for communities,” said Preet Kaur Gill, the first female British Sikh MP and chair of the APPG for British Sikhs.

The other newly-elected British Sikh MP in the June general election, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, is also among the signatories of the campaign.

“Around 40,000 schools, hospitals, local authorities and other public bodies use ethnic group data as defined in the census at the local and national level to plan and make decisions on public service provision. Sikhs want public bodies to separately monitor them as an ethnic minority and to acknowledge their legal responsibility towards the Sikh community by ensuring fair access to public service provision,” said Sikh Federation UK in a statement.

Sikhs are already recognised as a separate religion within an optional religious question introduced in the 2001 Census.

In preparation for the 2021 census, which is expected to be conducted largely online, the ONS ran a test version of the census this year with “Sikh” included as an option under ethnicity in areas with large Sikh populations Hounslow in west London and Wolverhampton in the West Midlands region of England. It found that almost a quarter of those who specified Sikhism as their religion also chose Sikh as their ethnicity.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.