Gilgit Baltistan, a part of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), has been in the grip of another bout of violence and unrest for the last three months. Residents organized a massive protest last month against Pakistan for issuing licenses to private contractors for mining and digging gems in the region.
Despite being a disputed area licenses have been issued to Pakistani contractors, one of which is Mohammad Dada, who is digging out all the marbles from the Gilgit Baltistan mountains and transporting them to Pakistan. Similarly, poor people are being forced to give up their ancestral land to private Pakistani buyers who have connections with the military. They are buying off lands from the poorest of people,” one of the locals told the media.
“Gilgit Baltistan is a disputed area, it is not Pakistan’s territory. It has been illegally occupied by Pak since 1947, it belongs to India and the people of Gilgit Baltistan. This blundering of lands cannot take place,” the man said.
During the elections, the Imran Khan government had promised the people of Gilgit-Baltistan jobs, education, and prosperity as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). But according to the locals, the policies framed by the government alter the demographics of the region and systematically secure the ownership of the land that is possessed by locals. They said that they would never let such anti-native policies get implemented in the region. They alleged that the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan were not consulted while drafting such policies.
To recall the region witnessed the blatant killing of Shia pilgrims in Kohistan on the Karakoram Highway in 2012 when they were returning from Iran. Ahmed Marwat, commander of an outlawed terrorist group, Jundullah, owned up responsibility for the attack, stating clearly that these people were targeted because they belonged to the Shia community. Jundullah, which allegedly has links to the Taliban and al Qaeda, is based in Balochistan. This group is said to be different from the Jundallah active in neighbouring Iran. The killers, dressed in military uniforms, managed to escape the scene of attack without much difficulty. In the aftermath of this particular incident, a series of clashes have taken place in the region, the most grievous among them being the massacre of Shias at Chilas on April 3, 2012.
The incident and the recent killings and protests in Gilgit Baltistan have once again highlighted the widening Shia-Sunni divide in Pakistan as a whole. Gilgit Baltistan was predominantly Shia even under the Maharaja of Kashmir although there was hardly sectarian conflict in the region at that time. Post-1947 too, sectarianism may have existed as a latent force but largely without any violent manifestations. It was under the Zia ul Haq regime, however, that this latent force was ignited to serve Pakistan’s larger goals. Zia pursued a policy of Sunni Islamisation wherein Sunnis were patronized and given preferential treatment by the state in all public spheres. This caused widespread discontent in Shia majority Gilgit Baltistan were riots and other acts of violence consequently broke out frequently. By encouraging the Sunni population from outside of the region to settle in Gilgit Baltistan, the state created a permanent divide between the various groups in Gilgit Baltistan.
Consequently, there have been many instances of sectarian violence in Gilgit Baltistan beginning with the large-scale riots of 1988, which erupted over a minor controversy on the sighting of the moon during the holy month of Ramzan. Several hundred were killed, villages were destroyed and even livestock was not spared while the administration watched the unfolding crisis like a mute spectator. The next major outbreak of violence occurred during 2003-04 when there was controversy over the introduction of a Sunni-centric curriculum in the schools of Gilgit Baltistan.
During the last several decades, Pakistan has imposed ad hoc governing structures without giving the region either an independent or a provincial status. The political yearnings of the locals, suppressed for long, occasionally find vent in the demand for autonomy because of such sectarian clashes. Political mobilisation along sectarian lines has complicated matters and widened the divide between the Shias and the Sunnis.
The absence of constitutional status, political deprivation, Pakistan’s exercise of forceful control on the region and its deliberate strategy of playing the sectarian card have all proved to be a lethal combination that continues to adversely impact peace and security in Gilgit Baltistan. Escalating sectarian tensions and Pakistan’s reluctance to address popular grievances and aspirations could potentially lead to increasing demands for autonomy and independence in the coming days.
According to A Comparative Study and Analysis of Human Development and Human
Rights in J&K and PoJK/G-B compiled by Law and Society Alliance in 2020, the PoJK government allocated PKR (Pakistani Rupee) 12,156 crore or US$773 million for its 2019-20. On the other hand, J&K spent INR (Indian National Rupees) 88,911 crore or US$12.4 billion in the fiscal year 2019-20. Comparative analysis of the budget of both states reflects that India spends at least 16 times more on J&K as compared to the amount spent by Pakistan on PoJK. There is a considerable difference in the Human Development Index (HDI) of PoJK and G-B versus J&K.
Data suggests that Pakistan has seemingly been a poor performer in human development in G-B, leading to the underdevelopment of the territory. As per the UNDP 2017 data, the HDI value for G-B was 0.5233 against 0.6844 for J&K. Whereas, the HDI value for PoJK was measured to be 0.734.
There are numerous claims made by Pakistani organisations as well as the government on the literacy rate of G-B. The civil society suggests a horrible situation of education and literacy in the PoJK and G-B region. According to a Pakistani non-profit organisation Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, Islamabad (PIPS), the G-B region has a super low literacy rate. In the area, a meagre 14 per cent of men are educated, while
> education among women is even worse at 3.5 per cent.
The condition is a little better in PoJK which has a literacy rate of 60 per cent. The exceptionally low education rate is coupled with the inefficiency of the Pakistani government to tackle terrorism in the region and use the region as a launchpad and breeding ground for terrorists. In a recent incident, 12 schools were set on fire and burnt down by terrorists in the G-B region. Most of the schools that were set ablaze were girls’ schools.
There are currently six small and big universities in PoJK. Except for the University of Azad Kashmir, all other universities were founded in the 21st century and are yet to be fully developed. Besides, there are two small universities in the G-B region with small numbers of student enrolments. The Karakoram International University has a comparatively higher number of enrolments than the Baltistan University which was founded recently in 2017.
India, on the other hand, has been able to establish an infrastructural set-up of the education system in J&K and is performing much better than PoJK and G-B territories. Besides, the literacy rate in the state is 67.16 per cent. The Government of India has made significant investments in the higher education sector in J&K. As of now, there are ten major State Universities and two major Central Universities in J&K: one Central University in each part of the state – Central University of Jammu and Central University of Kashmir. In addition, there are four premier Institutes of National Importance including the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Jammu, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Jammu, National Institute of Technology (NIT) Srinagar and National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) Srinagar.
SPENDING ON EDUCATION
The spending on education by the PoJK government in the fiscal year 2019-20 was PKR 2,716 crore or US$ 173 million. Whereas the spending on education by the J&K government was INR 11,105 crore or US$1.55 billion during the year 2019.10 In addition, a separate allocation was made for the medical and higher education sectors. It implies that the J&K government spends nearly nine times more on education than by PoJK government. In addition to poor educational infrastructure and low literacy, the PoJK and G-B regions are also struggling with severe unemployment conditions. According to a news report of ‘The Nation’, nearly 300 students committed suicide in the Ghizer district of G-B alone. There has been an increasing frequency of suicide incidents in the region. In Ghizer district alone, over 300 youth, both boys and girls, committed suicides since 2000.11.
One major reason for committing suicide is unemployment. Due to acute underdevelopment, there are no private jobs and educated youth are left with extremely limited options. There is no other scope for them besides joining either government services or Pakistan Army’s battalion Northern Light Infantry.12 They also have to face discrimination in the pay structure. The natives, who join civil services, are paid 25 per cent less than those on deputation from Punjab.
The budget of the PoJK government for health in the fiscal year 2019-20 was PKR 969 crore or US$62 million.14 Whereas, J&K government allocated INR 4,447 crore or US$618 million for health in the year 2019.15 The comparison of relative health expenditures of both the governments reflects a similar trend observed in education expenditure, as the budget allocated by the J&K government is approximately 11 times more than that by PoJK government. The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in Pakistan is 62 per thousand infants – one of the worst in the world. The Pakistani government did not include PoJK and G-B while measuring the IMR. The numbers for these two most underdeveloped territories are expected to be the worst. Available statistics suggest that G-B’s maternal mortality ratio hovers between 250 and 600 per 100,000 live births – among the highest in Pakistan.
There are just 33 hospitals with 986 beds in the entire G-B region. The doctor’s coverage to the population is expected to be roughly around one doctor per six thousand people.18 With such a meagre number of hospitals/doctors, it is nearly impossible to ensure proper healthcare services to the inhabitants. Health is a rare and costly affair in G-B, available only to the upper and elite classes. District Headquarters hospitals, designated for maternity healthcare in G-B, suffer from a lack of power and water supplies. Another facility is the Combined Military Hospital, where patient access is limited due to high costs. Recently, pictures of an ambulance discharging the duties of a garbage van surfaced over the internet and spoke volumes about the state of medical and health affairs in G-B and led to a huge embarrassment for Pakistani authorities.
The condition of healthcare is not any better in PoJK. There are only 73 hospitals and health centres in PoJK (24 hospitals and 49 health centres). There are 4,916 people covered by each doctor in the state much lower than the recommended doctor-population ratio of the World Health Organisation (WHO). At present, there are at least 5,534 health institutions (4,433 government and 1,101 private) in J&K.
> However, the doctor-patient ratio in the state is one doctor per 1,658 people as against WHO’s recommendation of one doctor per 1,000 population. The IMR in J&K is 23 – three times less than that of the PoJK.23 A year ago, J&K was ranked number
one in the country for a reduction in IMR by eight points in a single year.24 The government plans to bring the rate further down to single-digit by 2022.25.
ANNUAL PER CAPITA INCOME
According to Agha Khan Rural Support Program Survey, the annual per capita income of G-B is less than US$268, which is one-quarter of Pakistan’s national average per capita income.26 The per capita income of PoJK is US$1,512, which is around six times higher than the per capita income of G-B and substantially higher than that of J&K. Per capita income of J&K is US$1,000 per annum. Despite a moderate per capita income, the poverty rate in J&K is extremely low and currently stands at 10.35 per cent, which is almost half of the national average of around 21 per cent. According to the latest data available, the unemployment rate in PoJK is higher than the national average of Pakistan, measuring 10.3 per cent.28 Whereas it stands at 5.3 per cent in J&K, measuring lower than the national average.
According to the last census held in 1998, the population of G-B is around 870,000. G-B is one of the most multi-ethnic, multicultural, and multi-linguist regions of the world. The the sparsely populated region consists of a conglomeration of multiple ethnic groups and tribes. According to the available data, the population of the region is now approximately 1.5 million, with around 39 per cent Shia, 27 per cent Sunni, 18 per cent Ismaili and 16 per cent Nurbakhshi. Earlier, the region was dominantly inhabited by the Shia population with a share of 80 per cent. Generally, people of G-B have been peace-loving and liberal as compared to other parts of Pakistan.
There are reports of numerous inter-ethnic and inter-tribal marriages in the region. Interestingly and strikingly, sectarian identities were seemingly not very dominant in the region until the early 1990s, as ethnic and tribal loyalties conventionally surpassed sectarian identities. However, Pakistan has long been making attempts to radicalise the region and induce strong sectarian identities amongst the people.
Post-1980s, the G-B people started to gradually divide along sectarian lines – an outcome of Pakistan’s continuous efforts. Today, the region has been converted into one of the most divisive regions in the world. There are bloody clashes and bloodbaths on small and petty issues.32,33 Sectarian clashes have also led to the downfall of the tourism industry – the only revenue-generating industry in the region. To worsen the situation, the international political dynamics such as the Iranian revolution and Afghanistan war worked as catalysts to further the sectarian violence in the late 1980s and 1990s. Increased activities of religious extremists in the wake of Pakistan’s involvement in the Afghan war, coupled with the freedom given to religious groups, vitiated the atmosphere in this Shia-majority region. Pakistan’s manipulation of religious groups for internal and external policy objectives is a major reason for the current sectarian situation in G-B and across the country.
Besides numerous violent attempts of ethnic cleansing in these regions, the Pakistan government and military, under the leadership of Zia-ul-Haq, made several continuous attempts to alter the ethnic demography of the region. Post the 1980s, Sunni Muslims from hegemonic Pakistani provinces like Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa started to make an influx through business routes and started to gradually settle in the region.
INFLUX OF OUTSIDERS
In this regard, researcher and activist Samuel Baid argues, “the influx
> of outsiders has created two problems, depletion of employment opportunities for the locals and brutalisation of sectarian tension. Along with this, there has come along a gun culture and gradual replacement of spiritual values by class materialism of the new middle class. The outsiders grab land and government jobs. It is not only the jobs that the outsiders grab, but they also plunder upon forest and natural resources in the region. The funds allocated for the development of G-B are spent on the Army deployed there.”
Terror camps that were being run here openly with the active support of the Pakistani Army have bred hundreds of Sunni Jihadis of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), who are now operating all across G-B, killing Shia Muslims. In this regard, rebutting the claims of foreign forces involved in G-B riots made by the Pakistani government, Inspector General of G-B, Hussain Asghar went on record to say, “I don’t think there is any foreign hand involved in sectarian riots. It is not only that the Shia, Ismaili and Nurabakhshi communities have been the targets of sectarian violence and ethnic cleansing in Pakistan, rather, the liberal Sunni Muslims have also been victims of attempts of Pakistani government and Army to cleanse the region and populate it with staunch Sunni Muslims.”
Inhabitants of the Gilgit region, for several years, have been voicing their concern that their region is under Taliban attack from the Waziristan region and being used as safe havens for Jihadis, supported by the Salafi elements in the Pakistan Army. At the 13th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Abdul Hamid Khan of the Balwaristan National Front said, “human rights abuses are widespread and common in G-B for many decades but the absence of local media and independent judiciary have helped Islamabad to hide its illicit practices.”
The abolishment of the State Subject Rule in G-B in 1974 and introduction of the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-governance Order in 2009 snatched land rights from G-B locals and opened the door for Pakistani settlements in the region. The Pakistani elites, including several Corporate, Army Generals and politicians have acquired land and built sprawling residences in G-B. The list includes Prime Minister Imran Khan, ex-President Parvez Musharraf, Senator Talha Mahmood and Hamid Gul, as well as many others.
Given the fact that G-B is the hotspot of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), it is pertinent to note that many Chinese citizens, who initially came to work on CPEC, have now settled all across G-B. A 2010 Stratfor report mated the figures and claimed that 7,000 to 11,000 PLA soldiers guard CPEC projects. The number is expected to multiply manifold in a decade. Several radical Pakistani musclemen,
including ex-Army officers, are being roped into work on projects of CPEC. These Wahhabi Sunni workers permanently settle in G-B, further radicalising the region and wiping out the Shia majority.
> The PoJK and G-B are not mentioned in Article 1 of the Pakistani constitution, which defines and mentions Pakistani territories. It implies that neither PoJK nor G-B have been mentioned as Pakistani territories under its constitution. However, Article 1(2)(d) states that Pakistan’s territories include “such States and territories as are or may be included in Pakistan whether by accession or otherwise.” The Pakistani government, under the Karachi Agreement with the PoJK government, divided
> the natural resources-rich and fertile G-B from PoJK and renamed it as Northern Areas. Since then, Pakistan has been directly ruling G-B through provisional orders/ordinances, where every new order replaces the previous one. Unlike PoJK, it does not have an interim or permanent constitution.
STATE SUBJECT RULES
The State Subject Rules of 1927 – the land ownership act entitling land rights to the locals – was annulled by the Pakistani government in 1974, which opened the door for the influx, settlement and subsequent dominance of the Pakistani community in G-B. Until 2009, no legislative body existed in G-B. The Pakistan government promulgated the G-B Order 2009 to entitle the inhabitants of the territory to a certain amount of control over governance. G-B Assembly and G-B Council were also set up under the provisions of the Order.166 However, in 2018, the Pakistan government introduced the G-B Order 2018 to replace the Order 2009, which was not received warmly by the local populace.
It gave sweeping and broad powers to the Federal government to directly control the territory. Along with G-B Assembly, the Prime Minister of Pakistan was empowered with direct legislative powers to make laws on G-B as well as directly imposing the laws from Pakistan. The powers of the G-B Council were thus taken away and entrusted to the Pakistani Prime Minister.
At the economic and budgetary fronts, J&K is multiple times ahead of PoJK and G-B. In terms of health and education – the two foundational pillars of the HDI – J&K has allocated a budget that is equal to the worth of multiples of the budget of PoJK. Besides, the infrastructural setup of J&K in these two areas has also been noteworthy. This research suggests that India is comparatively reforming better in terms of objectives as well as the infrastructure in health and education sectors,besides other components of the human development index (HDI) in Jammu and Kashmir.
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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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