Constitutional supremacy is and has to be the bedrock upon which the edifice of a democracy rests. And if the foundation or the basic structure of the edifice is sought to be changed so as to invest one of the pillars of democracy with unbridled powers, the very edifice would tilt and consequently be weakened to the detriment of citizens and consequently of democracy. When however, an attempt is made to shift this balance, someone has to step in and play the role of a soldier, a saviour and consequently a titan so as to restore the balance. The titans to whom this article refers to in the context of the Constitution of India, have to surely be Kesavananda Bharati, the Judges of the Supreme Court that took the majority view and of course the legal genius Nani Palkhivala, who stood like colossuses in the face of the amendment to the Constitution which was the subject matter of challenge before the Supreme Court.
The passing away of His Holiness Kesavananda Bharati on the 5th of September,2020 brings down the curtain on the life of an individual whose memory shall be etched upon the minds of all those concerned with the Law, Judges, lawyers and politicians foremost amongst them, and of course, upon the minds of the Indian populace as a whole, who may not yet realise the immense contribution that the case that he helmed as a petitioner has had such a tremendous impact upon the politico legal landscape of our country.
Perhaps one of the greatest Constitutional cases that has been decided by the Supreme Court , and perhaps continuing to be so is the iconic case of His Holiness Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalveru v. State of Kerala. That was a case that had the effect of stopping a legislature from running amok and imposing upon the citizens of this country, an Atlas like burden by seeking the right to amend and alter the basic structure of the Constitution, as per the whims and wishes of the legislature, which the Supreme Court thankfully and astutely halted in its tracks.
The challenge in the case was to the 29th Amendment Act , by virtue of which the Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1969 and the Kerala Land Reforms Amendment Act, 1971 were placed in the 9th Schedule to the Constitution. As a result, this brought into focus the issue as to whether the Golak Nath case had been rightly decided or not. The conflict started with the decision rendered by the Supreme Court in Golak Nath v. State of Punjab in 1967, where the Court held by a slim majority of 6 to 5 that the Parliament had no power to amend Fundamental Rights. The majority took the view that the law in Article 13(2) was inclusive of even a Constitutional law enacted by the Parliament in its powers under Article 368 of the Constitution.
On 5th November, 1971, the Parliament passed the 24th Amendment Act, which gave the right to amend the Constitution by amending Article 368 and Article 13, the effect of the amendment being to overrule the majority judgment in Golak Nath. As a result of this amendment, and as a corollary thereto, several legislations were amended, including the Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1971, which was sought to be inserted by the 29th Amendment Act , so as to place the Act in the 9th Schedule of the Constitution, in order to validate the provisions which had been overturned by the Kerala High Court. This laid the ground over and for the mine field of a direct confrontation between the Parliament and the Supreme Court.
With the challenge mounted to the Kerala legislations previously referred to, the challenge to the Golak Nath case was apparent in Kesavananda Bharati as it raised the question as to whether that case had been rightly decided. Whereas a bench of 11 Judges had decided the Golak Nath case, a bench of 13 Judges was constituted to hear the Kesavananda Bharati case. The stage was thus set for the decisive Battle Royale between the Parliament and the Supreme Court .
A marathon, in any sense of the term, the hearing of the case went on for a mammoth 66 days. It was decided with 7 judges taking the ‘Majority view’.The result upon conclusion being that though the decision in Golak Nath’s case that there is no implied limitation on the powers of Parliament to amend the Constitution, was reversed, it was emphatically held that no amendment can do violence to the basic structure doctrine. The words in the judgment are that “ Article 368 does not enable Parliament to alter the basic structure or framework of the Constitution”.
11 judgments were rendered in the case which constituted a bench of 13 justices. This being a short article on the issue, it is neither possible or practicable to reproduce the divergent views expressed by the judges.
Many legal scholars and jurists have argued that the “ Note” which bears the signatures of the “majority” could not be considered as a majority view. But comity in justice or judicial comity being what it is, it can very safely be argued that since 6 judges held the view that there was a limitation on the amending power and since one judge, Justice H R.Khanna had emphatically held that parliament could not amend the basic structure or the framework of the Constitution, the judgment was therefore by a majority, with the decisive view of Khanna J, which could be considered as a ‘ swing vote’ if election terminology is used or the deciding vote , as he agreed in principle with the view and furthered it by stating the above. The resultant effect being that by virtue of and being propped up by the view of Khanna J, the Court held that the Basic Structure of the Constitution could not be tinkered with by the Legislature. It could be said that the merged views of the majority read with the view elucidated by Khanna J, therefore effectively was the view of the Court and sealed the fate of the amendment.
The fallout of the verdict
The judgment in the Kesavananda case was pronounced on 24th April, 1973. Chief Justice Sikri was to retire on 25th April,1973. Normally his successor Chief Justice would be named earlier. In a surprise development however, which may perhaps have been foreseen by them, three senior most judges, Justices Shelat, Hegde and Grover, were superseded and Justice A N.Ray was appointed as Chief Justice, whereas in the normal course, justice Shelat would have been appointed as Chief Justice. This happened on 26th April, 1973 and Justices Shelat, Hegde and Grover resigned on the same day at 4.00 p.m.
On 9th October, 1975, Chief Justice Ray passed an order that a bench of 13 Judges would hear a review petition. The hearing commenced on 10th November, 1975 and went on to the 11th of November. When the bench assembled on 12th November, as soon as the proceedings were called, the Chief Justice stated that “ this bench is dissolved”. Every person concerned with the hearing was caught by surprise. The review therefore paled and was put to rest. However, no record of the review is available.
Upon the retirement of Ray CJ, M H.Beg J, was appointed as Chief Justice, whereas H R.Khanna J, would have been appointed. He was however overlooked, perhaps because he had dissented with the majority view in ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla. That case was, of course one where many around the country had been detained during the days of the emergency. Upon Habeas Corpus petitions being filed, High Courts had held that the writs were not maintainable as Article.21 of the Constitution had been suspended. When the matters were heard in the Supreme Court, in the above case, the majority held that the petitions were not maintainable. The lone dissent was by Justice H R.Khanna. He disagreed with the position of the majority that Art. 21 can be suspended by the declaration of Emergency.
He stated that, “without such sanctity of life and liberty, the distinction between a lawless society and one governed by laws would cease to have any meaning.” This dissenting judgment and the earlier view that he had taken in Kesavananda, cost Justice Khanna his Chief Justice ship. He too resigned.
The turn of the tide decades later is worth a mention here. The great American Judge, Charles Evan Hughes wrote that “A dissent in the court of last resort is an appeal to the brooding spirit of the law, to the intelligence of a future day when a later decision may possibly correct the error into which the dissenting judge believes the court to have been betrayed.” That is what happened in the case of K S.Puttaswami v. Union, which is known famously as the Right to Privacy case. The decision in ADM Jabalpur was overruled . Though judges do their duty when they decide cases, they never look to accolades or even recognition while doing so, but one cannot but wonder whether the indomitable spirit of the judge would surely be pleased that , even if quite a bit late, his words of dissent have prevailed with considerable and emphatic authority.
FRESH ATTEMPT TO UNDO THE DECISION IN KESAVANANDA
The matter in Kesavananda refused to die down . The powers that be were perhaps biding their time for an opportunity to have the judgment reversed.
The basic structure doctrine, evolved by the Court in Kesavananda was first tested in the case of Indira Nehru Gandhi vs Shri Raj Narain, where the Court applied the doctrine . By virtue of the 39th Amendment ,Parliament inserted Article 329-A in the Constitution, clauses (4) and (5) of which article barred judicial review of elections for the posts of President, Prime Minister, Vice President and the Speaker of The Lok Sabha. The Court struck down the clauses as being violative of the Basic Structure doctrine.
The 42nd Amendment was moved by the Government in order to once again tilt the balance of power and establish supremacy over . Rather than reproduce the same here, suffice it to say that the amendment once again sought to curtail the powers of the Courts. There was a change of Government at the Centre and the new Government brought in the 44th Amendment in order to do away with the earlier one. The 44th Amendment reversed the provision made by the 42nd Amendment that allowed the government to amend the constitution .
The controversy however, did not rest there. This was brought to the fore in the case of Minerva Mills v. Union of India. The mill had been nationalised and taken over by the Government. This was challenged. Again without going deeper into the whole controversy, suffice it to say that section 55 of the Amendment Act was challenged. This too was struck down. The Judges however deferred on the amendment to Article 31C. That , as yet remains a grey area according to Constitutional experts.
The Basic Structure Doctrine remains, but was later refined by the Supreme Court
In a later decision in Waman Rao v. Union of India, soon after the decision in Minerva Mills, the Court held that the various Amendments by which additions were made to the 9th Schedule, would be valid only if they did not damage the Basic Structure of the Constitution.
That of course led to further issues. A Constitution Bench hearing the case of I R.Cohelo referred the matter to a larger bench. A bench of 9 Judges held that Amendments to the Constitution made on or after 24/4/1973 by which the Ninth Schedule is amended by inclusion of various laws..shall have to be tested on the basic or essential features of the Constitution……though an Act is put in the Ninth Schedule by a constitutional Amendment, its provisions would be open to attack on the ground that they destroy or damage the basic structure…
It was also further held that “ Justification for conferring protection…on the laws included….. shall be a matter of constitutional adjudication…..if the infraction affects the basic structure then such laws will not get protection of the Ninth Schedule”.
WHAT IS THE BASIC STRUCTURE?
The concept of basic structure is difficult to encapsulate. But what emerges from a perusal of the judgments of the Supreme Court is that some features of the Constitution lie at its core and are therefore sacrosanct. In the course of the hearing of Kesavanandas case, and as emerges from the judgment, some concepts as set out by the judges are what the basic structure refers to. I refer to some of them here. Supremacy of the Constitution, secular character of the Constitution, separation of powers between the legislature, executive and the judiciary, essential features of the individual freedoms secured to the citizens, secularism and freedom of conscience and religion.
The arguments advanced by Palkiwala in the Minerva Mills case are worth reproducing in an encapsulated form. He argued that giving primacy to the Directive Principles over Fundamental rights, had the effect of demolishing the basic structure. According to him, principles stated in the Directive Principles could only be achieved through permissible means, without infringing the provisions of Part III of the Constitution.
The Court stated that to destroy the guarantees given by Part III (Fundamental Rights) in order to purportedly achieve the goals of Part IV (Directive Principles) is to plainly subvert the Constitution by destroying its basic structure. And so holding, the Court held that Sections 4 and 55 of the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 to be ultra vires the Constitution of India.
To put this in perspective. the Basic Structure is the base upon which the edifice of our Constitution stands. The structure is seen in the form of Fundamental Rights. If laws are made which have the effect of altering or altogether doing away with the Basic Structure Doctrine, then it would be perceived as an attack upon the Basic Structure and would not stand judicial scrutiny.
To further comprehend this. Article 44 of the Constitution speaks of the State endeavouring to have a Common civil Code. It is a Directive Principle. Why does it appear as a Directive Principle? The framers of the Constitution and the Constituent Assembly were aware of the plurality of religions in the country. They were aware of the various uncodified laws that existed. They were aware of public sentiment and the possible impact of foisting upon the citizens such a code. Thus it was placed as a Directive Principle with the words..The state shall endeavour. If the observations of the Court over the decades on a possible Common Civil Code are read, it becomes abundantly clear that though desirable as per Article 44, a code may not be practicable in view of public sentiment. In Lily Thomas v. Union of India the Court stated that-” In another decision, namely, Pannalal Bansilal Pitti v. State of A.P. “, this Court had indicated that enactment of a uniform law, though desirable, may be counter-productive. I refrain from reproducing excerpts from other judgments due to space constraints.
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly on 2nd December, 1948 at the time of making of the Constitution. While discussing the position of Common Civil Code, Dr. Ambedkar, inter alia, had stated in his speech that “. . . . . . . . . . . . I should also like to point out that all that the State as claiming in this matter is a power to legislate. There is no obligation under the State to do away with personal laws. It is only giving a power. He further stated in his speech as under :”We must all remember …that sovereignty is always limited, no matter even if you assert that it is unlimited, because sovereignty in the exercise of that power must reconcile itself to the sentiments of different communities’
The Constitution of our country gives us religious freedom. Our personal laws are woven around our diverse religions. That is a fundamental right. Thus even though the Common Civil Code is perceived in the Constitution, its practicability must be measured against public sentiment. It must also be looked at by the powers that be that we already have statutory personal laws in existence for many religions. If not in existence, they can be brought in by legislation for the religious denomination . In fact, the Law Commission of India itself in its report on the Common Civil Code stated through the then Chairman that instead of a code, changes in personal laws would be recommended.
Despite various attempts at different times, a Common Civil Code has been difficult to put into place. It has not been due to any appeasement but due to sensitive religious overtones . In fact, there are some petitions pending before a High Court seeking prayers that a Common Civil Code be formulated. The question arises as to whether such a petition based upon a Directive Principle can lie, when the Courts have held that one could prefer a writ when there is violation of a fundamental right. Let us suppose the High Court does not entertain the petitions on the ground of maintainability. But what if the petitions are entertained. Can the Court direct such implementation. I think not. If however, the court does recommend instead of directing, what will be the ultimate outcome? A political party has the Uniform Civil Code on its wish list.
Will the probable future taking away of personal laws and replacing them with a Common Civil Code amount to a violation of the fundamental rights of the guarantee of religious freedom? Can and more particularly, should it be done? Does it go against the Basic Structure Doctrine?
Do we have another Kesavananda Bharati waiting to happen in the wings, and alongside him another incarnation of N A.Palkiwala ?
Only time will tell.
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NCEL granted export permission for rice and sugar
The newly established National Cooperative Exports Ltd (NCEL) has received authorization to export 14,92,800 tonnes of non-Basmati rice to 16 countries and 50,000 tonnes of sugar to two countries, as disclosed by Cooperation Minister Amit Shah in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
Functioning under the ambit of the Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act, 2002, the NCEL, registered in January this year, operates across agriculture, allied activities, handloom, and handicraft items. With an objective to double its revenue by 2025 from the present Rs 2,160 crore, the entity has actively enrolled numerous cooperatives, garnering 2,581 membership applications from 22 states and Union Territories.
Minister Amit Shah emphasized that NCEL’s primary objective is to create an export-friendly environment, particularly for agricultural commodities, leveraging India’s comparative advantage in these sectors. The cooperative body welcomes the participation of cooperative societies, from grassroots to apex levels, interested in engaging in export activities.
The key focus of NCEL remains on utilizing the surplus available within the Indian cooperative sector by accessing global markets. This strategic expansion aims to enhance the demand for Indian cooperative products on an international scale, ensuring better price realizations for these goods and services.
NCEL’s operational scope encompasses a comprehensive ecosystem to promote exports, spanning procurement, storage, processing, marketing, branding, labelling, packaging, certification, research and development, and trading across all goods and services produced by cooperative societies.
Moreover, the cooperative export body intends to facilitate cooperatives in availing benefits from various export-related schemes and policies curated by different ministries, streamlining and enhancing their export endeavours.
The establishment of NCEL underscores a concerted effort to leverage cooperative strengths in India’s export landscape, promising to amplify market reach and economic returns for agricultural commodities and allied sectors through strategic global engagements.
The initiative by the Cooperation Minister, Amit Shah, signifies a concerted push to empower cooperative societies in India’s export realm. By extending export permissions for substantial quantities of non-Basmati rice and sugar, the National Cooperative Exports Ltd (NCEL) is poised to facilitate a significant leap in the global market for agricultural produce.
This move aligns with India’s broader objective to bolster its global trade footprint, leveraging the competitive edge of its agricultural sector. Through NCEL, the aim is not only to foster increased export volumes but also to ensure a more equitable distribution of economic gains, channelling the benefits back to the grassroots level of cooperative societies.
Moreover, the strategic focus of NCEL on diverse export-related activities, including procurement, storage, branding, and research, speaks volumes about the comprehensive approach taken to fortify the entire export ecosystem. This encompassing strategy, coupled with NCEL’s commitment to guiding cooperatives in navigating export-related policies and schemes, underscores a forward-thinking approach aimed at creating a conducive environment for cooperative-driven exports.
The enthusiasm surrounding NCEL’s permissions signals a transformative phase for India’s cooperative sector. By leveraging cooperative strengths and fostering a global market presence, the initiative not only aims to boost export figures but also promises to uplift local communities, thereby enhancing the socio-economic fabric of the country.
Election Commission declares 253 RUPPs as inactive, bars them from availing benefits of the Symbol Order, 1968
Additional 86 Non-existent RUPPs shall be deleted from the list and benefits under the Symbols Order (1968) withdrawnAction against these 339 (86+253) non-compliant. RUPPs takes the tally to 537 defaulting RUPPs since May 25, 2022
In continuation of the earlier action initiated on May 25, 2022 for enforcing due compliances by Registered Unrecognized Political Parties (RUPPs), the Election Commission of India led by Chief Election Commissioner, Shri Rajiv Kumar and Election Commissioner Shri Anup Chandra Pandey today further delisted 86 non-existent RUPPs and declared additional 253 as ‘Inactive RUPPs’. This action against 339 non-compliant RUPPs takes the tally to 537 defaulting RUPPs since May 25, 2022.
As per statutory requirements under section 29A of the RP Act, every political party has to communicate any change in its name, head office, office bearers, address, PAN to the Commission without delay. 86 RUPPs have been found to be non-existent either after a physical verification carried out by the respective Chief Electoral Officers of concerned States/UTs or based on report of undelivered letters/notices from Postal Authority sent to the registered address of concerned RUPP. It may be recalled that ECI had delisted 87 RUPPs and 111 RUPPs vide orders dated May 25, 2022 and June 20, 2022, thus totalling the number of delisted RUPPs to 284.
This decision against 253 non-compliant RUPPs has been taken based on reports received from Chief Electoral Officers of seven states namely Bihar, Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana & Uttar Pradesh. These 253 RUPPs have been declared inactive, as they have not responded to the letter/notice delivered to them and have not contested a single election either to the General Assembly of a State or the Parliament Election 2014 & 2019. These RUPPs have failed to comply with statutory requirements for more than 16 compliance steps since 2015 and are continuing to default.
It is also noted that of the above 253 parties, 66 RUPPs actually applied for a common symbol as per para 10B of the Symbol’s Order 1968 and did not contest the respective elections. It is pertinent to note that privilege of a common symbol is given to RUPP based upon an undertaking for putting up at least 5 percent of total candidates with regard to said legislative assembly election of a State. Possibility of such parties occupying the available pre-election political space by taking benefits of admissible entitlements without contesting elections cannot be ruled out.
Coastal clean-up campaign receives a huge response: Dr. Jitendra Singh
The 75-day long ongoing Coastal Clean Up Campaign is receiving a huge response from across the sections of society and besides others, Governors, Chief Ministers, Union Ministers, celebrities, film and sports personalities, civil society groups etc. are joining the campaign with overwhelming enthusiasm and pledging their support to the longest and largest beach cleaning campaign in the world titled “Swachh Sagar, Surakshit Sagar”, coordinated by Union Ministry of Earth Sciences with collaboration from all the other Union Ministries, departments as well as governments of the coastal States.
Addressing a press conference today, three days ahead of “International Coastal Clean-up Day” on 17th September, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology, Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh said, he will join the campaign at Juhu beach in Mumbai on 17th September and informed that Governor Maharashtra Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis, BJP MP Poonam Mahajan and several personalities as well as NGOs will also join at Juhu.
The Minister also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his support through social media. The PM has stressed on keeping India’s coasts clean as he praised efforts of volunteers to remove garbage from the Juhu beach in Mumbai. Responding to a video posted by Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh about the clean-up at the beach, Modi tweeted, “Commendable… I appreciate all those involved in this effort. India is blessed with a long and beautiful coastline and it is important we focus on keeping our coasts clean”. The Minister said, “A cleanathon was organised at Juhu Beach in Mumbai, saw participation in large numbers especially by youngsters and Civil Society.
Dr Jitendra Singh informed that Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan will take a lead in the clean-up campaign at world famous Puri beach, while Pratap Chandra Sarangi, former union minister will be at Chandipur. BJP MP from Hooghly, West Bengal Ms Locket Chatterjee will be at Digha on D-Day. R.K.Mission head will lead the campaign at Bakkhali in southern Bengal.
Chief Minister of Gujarat Bhupendrabhai Patel will be at Porbandar (Madhavpur), while Union Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Parshottam Khodabhai Rupala will join the clean-up operation at Jafrabad, Amreli.
Governor of Goa P. S. Sreedharan Pillai and Chief Minister Pramod Sawant will take part in beach cleaning campaign in South and North Goa beaches on 17th September.
Similarly, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan will be at Kochi, while MoS External Affairs V. Muraleedharan will be at Kovalam beach at Thiruvananthapuram.
Governor of Karnataka Thawar Chand Gehlot will join the campaign at Panambur beach in Mangalore, while the Governor of Telangana, Dr. Tamilisai Soundararajan will lend her helping hand at Puducherry beach.
Governor of Mizoram Dr. K. Hari Babu will take part in Vizag beach while L. Murugan, Union MoS, Information and Broadcasting will join the event at Chennai
Dr Jitendra Singh informed that the campaign has entered the mode of whole of Government approach plus whole of nation participation.
Dr Jitendra Singh said, apart from active cooperation of Ministries of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Jal Shakti, Health and Family Welfare, Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, External Affairs, Information and Broadcasting, organisations and associations like National Service Scheme (NSS), Indian Coast Guard, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Seema Jagran Manch, SFD, Paryavaran Sanrakshan Gatividhi (PSG), along with other social organizations and educational institutions are participating in the clean-up campaign.
The MPs of coastal states have also pledged full support to the first-of-its-kind and longest running coastal clean-up campaign in the world and they also advised the Ministry of Earth Sciences to undertake a variety of activities by involving local NGOs.
DASHBOARD TO BE SET UP SOON TO SHARE THE BEST TECH PRACTICES AMONG THE CENTRE & THE STATES: UNION MINISTER JITENDRA SINGH
Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology; Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh today announced setting up of a Dashboard to share the best technology practices among the Centre and the States.
Presiding over the concluding session of the two-day “Centre-State Science Conclave” at Science City in Ahmedabad, Dr Jitendra Singh informed that a high level mechanism will be developed by the Department of Science and Technology to monitor and coordinate the follow up action of the conclave. The Minister also asked the States to appoint a Nodal officer in each of the States to coordinate and cooperate with the Special Committee for knowing and sharing the best practices.
Giving the example of heli-borne technology launched from Jodhpur, Rajasthan in October, 2021, Dr Jitendra Singh said, to start with, the States of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana were taken up for this latest heli-borne survey.
The Minister pointed out that if the same technology is uploaded on Dashboard, other States may join and share this CSIR technology from source finding to water treatment and thus benefit millions of people across the country.
Dr Jitendra Singh said, it will also positively contribute to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Har Ghar Nal Se Jal” as well as “doubling farmer’s income” goals. He said, the latest state-of-the-art technology is being employed by Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) for mapping groundwater sources in arid regions and thus help utilise groundwater for drinking purposes.
The 2-day ‘Centre-State Science Conclave’ was formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Science City, Ahmedabad, yesterday. Dr Jitendra Singh expressed satisfaction that important plenary sessions with State S&T Ministers discussed in detail on issues like Agriculture, Innovation for producing portable drinking water including application of technologies like Desalination, Heli borne methods developed by DST, Clean Energy for All including S&T role in Hydrogen mission, Deep Sea Mission of MoES and its relevance for Coastal States/UT, Digital healthcare for All and Synergizing Science with National Education Policy.
A special session with the CEOs of over 100 Start-Ups and industry at the Centre-State Science Conclave’ in Ahmedabad came up with scientific solutions in the field of agriculture, drone, artificial intelligence, biotechnological solutions, single-use plastic alternates, irrigation and digital health amongst others.
Many of the State governments have shown keen interest in some of the technologies and agreed to partner with some of the startups for State-specific technological solutions.
Floods, economic crisis and political bickerings: A saga of Pakistan’s mismanagement & insensitivity
The worst floods in several decades have wreaked havoc in Pakistan, one of the most populous countries of South Asia. The floods have touched the country’s 220 million people’s lives directly or indirectly. More than 1,300 people have died with 81 out of 160 districts directly affected by the floods, leaving at least 33 million people homeless.
The heat waves followed by rains and glacial melting has been a global trend this year bringing out the stark reality that despite all talks and conventions, the world community has failed to contain and reverse climatic change. But Pakistan’s case is unique.
Beyond the human losses, the country’s economic managers have the most challenging task ahead as floods ravaged the country’s road and communication network, damaged an incalculable number of houses, and destroyed millions of hectares of crops.
Niaz Murtaza, a political economist, describes present crisis as “a triple whammy”, putting together economic, political and natural. “The poor had been suffering the first two months because of inflation, job loss and political paralysis. Now the floods have pushed millions into ruin,” he said.
Despite this, the political masters are not only busy in bickering and allegations against each other, but have also triggered a blame game on social media as usual, pointing fingers on India for the flood havoc. The bombardment of propaganda, nevertheless, cannot change the reality that Pakistan government and its institutions have utterly failed in fulfilling their duties towards its citizens.
Ludicrous as it is, it cannot absolve the leadership of Pakistan that has failed people in terms of economic mismanagement, entrenched corruption and naked cronyism in the system. Added to these are the wrong policies and priorities of Islamabad which have been instrumental in bringing economic crisis and political instability. The floods have only abetted it.
The natural disaster has struck Pakistan while economy is passing through the difficult phase of multiple challenges including Balance of Payment (BoP) crisis, heavy debt burden and solvency-related issues. The protracted economic crisis is likely to deepen further despite conclusion of talks with the IMF for release of Extended Fund Facility credit.
While Finance Minister Miftah Ismail estimates that the country has incurred a total loss of “at least $10 billion”, independent analysts, including Uzar Younus, Director of the Pakistan Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia centre and economist Ammar Habib Khan, put the figure between $15-20 billion, and expect it to rise further as information is coming with a great lag.
Existing infrastructure is collapsing with the flooding submerging one-third of the country, pushing 37 per cent of population into poverty. Pakistan is literally and figuratively under deep water, writes Nasir Jamal. It may take a few more months before the damages can be assessed. Even before the flooding, 60 per cent of the population was suffering from hunger, malnutrition and related diseases and the figures are bound to shoot up now.
In view of the mammoth loss, the IMF’s $1.2 billion credit now seems to be a peanut. Pakistan was earlier wounded and now it is bleeding. Floods will exacerbate the economic crisis that had shown initial signs of abating with the IMF deal. Twin deficits, growth prospects and inflationary expectations will be worsening, inflicting misery on the poor. Despite increasing gravity of the situation, saving people’s life and livelihood have not still become the priorities among the political class who are revealing in an ugly slugfest.
The real cost of the natural calamity is being borne by millions of poor kids, pregnant women, elderly and sick persons crowded under the open sky or tents, prone to hunger, diseases and insecurity as they wait for aid. It will be weeks before many can even return to their villages as the land drains and dries. It will take months, even years, to recover from the loss of housing, animals, crops and cultivable land.
Covid-19 had only disrupted economic exchange without damaging the economic base. But the flood has destroyed crops, land, animals, bridges, etc. negatively impacting deeper on the poor and the economy. And the insensitive political class in Pakistan is still deeply engrossed in political maneuver and cunning tricks against each other rather than presenting a united face at the time of calamity. That is the character of Pakistan’s politics.
In view of the contribution of agriculture to the extent of one fourth of the GDP, the country would have to face major revenue loss due to crop losses. As per the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s August 29 report, almost 80 per cent of crops in Sindh, which produces roughly 30% of Pakistan’s cotton output, were destroyed.
Close to 70 per cent of Pakistan’s textile industry, an important source of employment and foreign exchange, uses the cotton produced in the country. Floods are likely to cause severe shortage of cotton, said Abdul Rahim Nasir, Chairman of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association. He added that instead of earlier average import of cotton estimated at about 4 million bales, Pakistan would now need to import just the double of that figure, at a potential cost of $3 billion.
Shahrukh Wani, an Oxford economist, says the flood will make it terribly difficult for the government to reduce the trade deficit because while the country will need to import food to “compensate” for lost crops, the textile sector will find itself struggling due to “potential shortage” of cotton crop.
The biting inflation which rose to 25% in the month of July from a year earlier, the highest since May 1975, is taking its own toll on the living conditions of masses. The flooding would further push up the inflation and accentuate the scarcity of even essentials.
Amreen Soorani, Head of Research at JS Global Capital Ltd, said that “the main concern from the floods is the impact on inflation”. Even the IMF warned that the runaway inflation could trigger protests and instability.
Islamabad secured funds from the IMF for immediate bailout of the economy from the saturating forex crisis. However, the problems would be far from over for Islamabad. As the advanced countries are focused more on the impact of Ukraine-Russia war and trying to cope with recessionary pressures while some of the development partners including Middle Eastern countries and China are down with donor fatigue, Islamabad has scant probability to get any major international relief.
For now, the immediate challenge that government will face is to fulfil the conditions of raising taxes and applying austerity measures as part of its agreement with the IMF for its bailout package. This might turn out a politically unpopular move and could flare up the political bickering. The condition is rife for mass protests in view of increasing cost of living for many months now, which opposition could take advantage of. Anger is rising across Pakistan over the slow pace of government relief efforts.
The catastrophic floods have put a downward pressure on growth prospectus. Initial estimates suggest that the economic growth rate may slow down to just 2 per cent. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said that the recent floods caused more damage than the 2010 calamity wherein the economic losses had been estimated at $9.7 billion. The floods have already caused supply chain-related issues.
Even during natural calamity, politicians are concerned about their political agenda rather than allowing international aid agencies to import essential food items from the neighbouring country. Cases after cases of corruption are cropping up, “you reveal mine, I will reveal yours”, an unending slugfest continues.
Instead of fighting the fallout of the devastating natural calamity united, they are engrossed in manoeuvre and cunning tricks and a regressive thought process whether or not to allow aid flow from India. Some of the government top officials have suggested importing essential commodities such as food and medicine from India, while others are still the victim of the old rigidities and anti-India mindset.
India is an undoable reality of being the most potent vehicle of South Asia’s growth vision as it is a responsible regional power and the fastest growing economy of the world, which offers a big market for exports and sourcing imports. Islamabad needs to understand that cooperation with neighbours does not reduce the stature of a calamity hit country.
Separated in 1947, Sikh brother meets sister reunite
The Kartarpur Corridor has once again reunited another family after a man who separated from his parents when he was only a few months old in 1947, finally met his sister in Pakistan.
Amarjit Singh was left out in India along with his sister while his Muslim parents came to Pakistan. All eyes went teary as they saw the emotional scenes of the brother-sister reunion in Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, Geo News reported.
Amarjit Singh arrived in Pakistan via the Wagah border with a visa to meet his Muslim sister and to remain as her guest.
His sister, 65-year-old Kulsoom Akhtar, could not control her emotions after seeing Amarjit.
Both hugged each other and kept crying. She had travelled from her hometown in Faisalabad along with her son Shahzad Ahmed and other family members to meet her brother.
Kulsoom said that her parents came to Pakistan from the suburbs of the Jalandhar region of India in 1947, leaving behind her younger brother and a sister, Express Tribune reported.
Kulsoom said she was born in Pakistan and used to hear about her lost brother and a sister from her mother. She said that her mother used to cry every time whenever she remembered her missing children. Kulsoom said that she did not expect that she would ever be able to meet her brother and sister. However, a few years ago, a friend of her father Sardar Dara Singh came to Pakistan from India.
Kulsoom’s mother told Singh about her son and daughter she left behind in India. She also told him the name of their village and the location of their house in the neighbouring country.
Amarjit then visited her house in Padawan village of Jalandhar and informed her that her son was alive but her daughter was dead. Her son was named Amarjit Singh who was adopted by a Sikh family back then in 1947, The Express Tribune reported.
After getting the brother’s information, Amarjit and Kulsoom Akhtar contacted on WhatsApp and using the Kartarpur Corridor and the meeting between the two siblings became a reality.
Now an elderly man, Sardar Amarjit Singh came to Gurdwara Sahib in a wheelchair. Kulsoom Akhtar also could not travel due to back pain, but she showed courage and reached Kartarpur from Faisalabad along with her son. Both the siblings kept crying while embracing each other and remembering their parents.
Amarjit said that when he first learned that his real parents were in Pakistan and were Muslims, it was a shock to him. However, he comforted his heart that many families were separated from each other in addition to his own family.
Many Muslim children became Sikhs and many Sikh children became Muslims, Express Tribune reported.
He said that he always wanted to meet his real sister and brothers. He said that he is happy to know that three of his brothers are alive. However, one brother who was in Germany has passed away.
He said he will now come to Pakistan via the Wagah border with a visa and spend time with his family. He also said that he will take his family to India as well so that they could meet their Sikh family. Both the siblings had brought many gifts for each other.
Shahzad Ahmad, son of Kulsoom, said that he used to hear about his uncle from his grandmother and mother. He said that all of the siblings were very young at the time of Partition and no name was given to Amarjit or perhaps, after so many years, the name had slipped out of mind.
“I understand that since my uncle was brought up by a Sikh family, he happens to be a Sikh, and my family and I have no problem with this,” he added.
Shahzad said that he is happy that even after 75 years his mother has found her lost brother.
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