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Delimitation Commission and the case of exiled KPs

Modi:2:0 is urged to give #Justice to Kashmiri Pandits by an amendment in the constitution to accord nomination of at least three seats in JK assembly and one seat in Parliament.

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The Delimitation Commission is appointed by the President of India and works in collaboration with the Election Commission of India. It is appointed for the purpose of drawing up the boundaries of constituencies all over the country.

The Delimitation commission or Boundary commission of India is a commission established by the Government of India under the provisions of the Delimitation Commission Act. The main task of the commission is redrawing the boundaries of the various assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies based on a recent census. The representation from each State is not changed during this exercise. However, the number of SC and ST seats in a state are changed in accordance with the census. The present delimitation of constituencies has been done on the basis of 2001 census under the provisions of Delimitation Act, 2002.

The Commission is a powerful and independent body whose orders cannot be challenged in any court of law. The orders are laid before the Lok Sabha and the respective State Legislative Assemblies. However, modifications are not permitted.

Delimitation commissions have been set up four times in the past — 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002 — under Delimitation Commission Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002.

The union government had suspended delimitation in 1976 until after the 2001 census so that states’ family planning programs would not affect their political representation in the Lok Sabha. This had led to wide discrepancies in the size of constituencies, with the largest having over three million electors, and the smallest less than 50,000.

After the Articles 370 & 35-A are made inoperable and the State reorganisation,the J&K Reorganization Act, 2019 (Act) mandates gerrymandering of assembly constituencies through the process of delimitation.

The delimitation process of Assembly Constituencies, as envisaged by The J&K Reorganization Act, 2019 (Act) is underway. Delimitation Commission constituted under Section 3 of the Delimitation Act, 2002 is on the job. Need for delimitation of the constituencies arose because the number of seats in J & K legislative Assembly has been increased to 114.

The delimitation process has generated hope among the people especially in the displaced Pandits that a way will be found out to ensure their political representation & empowerment. Accordingly, they have approached the Commission with their well founded case for having a statuary share carved out for them in the upcoming State Assembly.

Social Aspect:

The three-member commission, was setup in March 2020 and is headed by Justice (Retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai, proposed six more seats in the Jammu region and only one additional seat in Kashmir in proposed 90-member house.

Kashmir will be have 47 seats and Jammu region 43 seats.

The Delimitation Commission, mandated to redraw the assembly and parliamentary constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir, put its report in the public domain on Monday and invited objections and suggestions from people.

The Delimitation Commission has published its report in the gazettes of India as well as Jammu and Kashmir regarding the proposals.It has proposed six more seats in the Jammu region and only one additional seat in Kashmir in proposed 90-member legislative assembly house.Kashmir will have 47 seats and Jammu region 43 seats.

The displaced aborigines natives put up their case strongly before the commission for reservations of assembly seats for them.Their representatives consisting of various social organisations namely AIKS,Kashmir Samiti, Jammu Kashmiri Sabha and Punun Kashmir etc.The most vocal representation has been presented by social activists,the former top civil servants,the thought leaders and cultural activists,led by a erudite columnist and prominent leader Ashwani Chrangoo articulated the cause of displaced KPs most comprehensively and submitted law and facts about the specially placed population elsewhere in the country having been accommodated in the constitutional scheme of the Country as an exception.KPs urged the Commission at least put in a Para or two in their final report recommending at least three nominated seats in the JK assembly and a nominated seat in the Parliament.Similarly the exiled community submitted memorandums to PM Modi and HM Amit Shah to effect required and specific amendments in the Constitution in this regard.There can not be more extraordinary special facts and circumstances than the plight of Kashmiri Pandits living as refugees in their own Country for 32 years in today’s modern days of enlightenment and democracy that deserves an amendment to accommodate 7lacs population in the promotion of idea of India in Kashmir.

The last memorandum submitted reads as;

Hon’ble Justice Ranjana Desai Ji

The Chairperson,

Delimitation Commission of India

New Delhi

In view of the visit of Delimitation Commission to Jammu in context of the publication of the final report on Delimitation of constituencies in J&K, kindly permit us to put our point of view before your honour.

We already have made in the our presentation before you last year in March at Delhi and in July at Jammu.

The issue of the displaced Kashmiri Pandits can’t be ignored so far as the political representation of the Community is concerned. It will be a worse tragedy than the tragedy of our genocide and exile. In case this community is left behind, it will be a constitutional sin against the community. A section of the society that is indegenous to the land of the state can’t remain unrepresented in a representative parliamentary democracy in its own state the foundations of which have been laid by the community forefathers.

It has already been made known by us to the Commission alongwith the necessary documents that the displaced communities of Kashmiri Hindus and Kashmiri Sikhs have no opportunity in the prevailing situation to get elected either to the J&K Assembly or to the Parliament.

A reference in the draft could be made in the final report regarding our repeated interaction and submission before you. The government could be asked to favourably consider the issue of amendment in the constitution to accomodate the displaced community by inclusion through reservation or nomination to the J&K Assembly. There are already a number of instances in this regard in our country in various states like Sikkim, Pudduchery, the previously Anglo-Indian nominations in the Parliament or the Women nominations in J&K Assembly.

Your honour acknowledged in the meeting last time that there was enough substance in our presentation in this context. It is requested that an appropriate reference is made in the final Report in this regard to the government and the parliament enabling the government to take an appropriate constitutional measure in this respect.

Thanks.

Best Regards,

Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo, Yoginder Kaul IPS,& Virender Raina, President,

Panun Kashmir

LEGAL AND FACTUAL POSITION:

The delimitation process of Assembly Constituencies, as envisaged by The J&K Reorganization Act, 2019 (Act) is underway. Delimitation Commission constituted under Section 3 of the Delimitation Act, 2002 is on the job. Need for delimitation of the constituencies arose because the number of seats in J & K legislative Assembly has been increased to 114.

> The delimitation process has generated hope among the displaced Pandits that a way will be found out to ensure their political representation & empowerment. Accordingly, they have approached the Commission with their well founded case for having a statuary share carved out for them in the upcoming State Assembly.

SOCIAL ASPECT:

Case for Constitutional amendment

Among the myriad ethno, cultural religious and other groups that exist in the melting pot called India, the place of numerically small but significant Kashmiri Pandit community stood out as being privileged. The community which down the ages has made immense contribution to overall social, political and religious life of our nation is facing existential threat today. Away from home, they are fast losing their identity and, as a distinct race, is on the verge of extinction. How can KP identity survive as a distinctive and distinguished culture group is the moot point. Primarily, for this reason, it should come within the ambit of the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Minorities, which General Assembly adopted recalling Resolutions 46/115 of 17.07.1991, 1992/16 of 21 Feb 1992 and 1992/4 of 20.07.1992 of Commission on Human Rights:

Art 1.1 casts a duty on the State to protect the existence and the ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories; and shall encourage conditions for promotion of that identity;

Art 1.2 calls upon the State to adopt appropriate legislative and other measures to achieve those ends;

Art 1.3 reserves a right for the person belonging to the minorities to participate in the decision making process at national and appropriate regional levels, wherein they live.

It may be pertinent to recall that the National Commission for Minoritiee expressed concern on the dwindling number of KPs. Former Chairperson of National Commission for Minorities, Tahir Mehmood, wrote to the then CM Farooq Abdullah, in 1999, inviting his attention to the miserable plight of the minorities in J&K state. He wrote, “Our Hindu brethren are in minority in J&K. We owe them the sacred responsibility of all that is necessary to protect their lives, properties, human rights and civil liberties” (No. CH/4/88 NCM dt 21.01.1999).

> Another Chairman NCM, Gayural Hassan Rizvi told media on 13th June, 2017 “If the definition of minorities has to be revisited, it is my opinion that Kashmiri Pandits should be first people to be accorded minority status. When minorities in the entire country have that status, privileges and opportunities, why should Kashmiri Pandits, who are as minority in the state, be left out? It is something the Parliament has to decide but I will definitely raise the matter in the appropriate forum .”

> These references are made to assert right of the KPs to have a say in the decision making process of the state which, keeping their small number in view, may be possible only by initiating an affirmative action in their favour, by reservation of seats in the Assembly. Following should be a guide in the matter

SANGHA RESERVATION

The Sikkim Legislative Assembly has one seat reserved for Buddhist Monks who live in Monasteries across Sikkim. This constituency is not bound by geographical boundaries but spreads across whole state like a floating constituency. The Supreme Court has in RC Poudial and another versus UOI & others (1994 SCC Sup 1 324) upheld its constitutionality on the argument that though these Monasteries no doubt are religious in nature yet they form a separate section of society. The Court appreciated Sikkim’s Sangha Assembly seat and characterized it as a perfect example of state’s unique political process to protect minority rights.

PUDUCHERRY MODEL:

Puducherry Assembly has 30 elected members and in addition the Government of India is empowered to nominate 3 members (with voting powers ) to the Assembly -from among the sections of society who don’t have chances to reach thereto by way of election. This model could be replicated in case of J&K UT, also to fecilitate the KP representation.

Nomination for Women in the erstwhile J&K Assembly:

In the erstwhile J&K Assembly there was provision for nomination of two women members to the House, in order to correct the gender balance. On the same principle demographic balance, in the upcoming Assembly, has to be maintained by ensuring representation of all sections – particularly the minorities of Kashmir whom the Kashmiri Pandits constitute the main bulk.

ANGLO INDIANS:

Art 331 of the Constitution of India, reserved seats in the Lok Sabha and made provision for State Assemblies to reserve seats for the Anglo-India Community. Rationale behind the reservation was that Anglo Indian community constituted a religious, social as well as a linguistic minority, and being numerically small community interspersed all over India, it wasn’t possible for them to get represented in a general election. KPs are similarly situated, so the logic behind Anglo Indian reservation fully applies to their case. True, this reservation lapsed in 2020 but the logic behind it remains intact. It got lapsed because only 296 Anglo-Indians remained in the country.

BASIC FEATURE OF THE CONSTITUTION:

In Indira Gandhi versus Raj Narrain (AIR 1975 SC 2299), the Supreme Court added following to the list of Basic Features law laid down in Keshvananda Bharti’s case (AIR 1973 SC 1461) “Democracy which means free and fair election”. In UOI V/S Association of Democratic Reforms (2002) (SCC 294) Apex Court held “Democratic Republic is a part of the basic structure of the constitution. For this, free and fair periodical elections based on adult franchise are must”. In People’s Union for Civil liberties case (2013 (6) Supreme 673) Supreme Court observed that the decision taken by a voter either to vote or not is his right of expression under Art 19(1)a of the Constitution. It said, “the voters participation in the election is indeed the participation in democracy itself. Non-participation causes frustration and disinterest, which is not a healthy sign of a growing democracy”.

KPs right to vote is adversely affected for not having a proper vehicle of representation in the Assembly. The candidate who stands up in the constituency, where the exiled Pandits once lived, is not known to them nor does the candidate ever bother to make himself known to the displaced voter, leave alone enquiring about his problems and concerns which the displaced Pandits would want the candidate to raise in the Assembly. In this situation, where there is none to represent him, the exile’s right to vote gets effectively scuttled. Once a bulk of voters is excluded from participating in the voting process, it no longer remains a participatory democracy.

> Article 2.3 of the UN Declaration on Rights of Minorities reserves a right for minorities to participate in decision-making process at national and regional levels, were they live. The right can only be exercised if there is a proper forum available to them. For the KPs, Legislative Assembly could be the forum to feel politically empowered, besides the two houses of Parliament.

Respected Sir,

The Delimitation Commission is hemmed in by the constraints of law. It may not be able to address this demand of the KPs in the desired manner. It requires amendments to the Constitution and other law. If clause A could be added to Section 36 of now repealed JK Representation of Peoples Act to have polling booths away from the jurisdiction of an Assembly Constituency to facilitate a displaced person to cast vote, similarly constituencies could be carved out for them to ensure their representation in the Assembly.

> The head count of people and geography are inalienably integral to the whole electoral regime of which the Delimitation of Assembly constituencies is an important component. Precisely, to mark the point, the Delimitation Act 2002 lays emphasis on Census (Section 8) and compactness of Geography (Section 9) for delineation of Assembly or Parliamentary Constituencies.

For the reasons mentioned herein above both Census and the Geography elude them. There has been no head count of them, nor do they have the Geographic compactness to live in present. With the result KPs stand thrown out of the electoral regime. This amounts to their disenfranchisement and denial of citizenry rights which are available to their compatriots in the country.

In addition, this constitutes a grave violation of Human Rights. There can be no worse example of a whole community being excluded from the electoral process. The situation goes against the letter and spirit of the Delimitation process.

Appeal to PM Modi by representatives of Exiled KPs

Hon’ble PM ,Shri Narinder Modi,the displaced KPs look up to you as a Messiah who would deliver them their due ameliorate their miserable plight and ensure that the due rights -socio-political and economic– as envisaged by the Constitution of India, flow to them, smoothly.It is hoped that a necessary amendment to the constitution would be considered by Modi:2:0 to accommodate this illustrious community with political empowerment in the constitutional process of the Country to further contribute in promotion and consolidation of idea of India in Kashmir.

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NCEL granted export permission for rice and sugar

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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.

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Election Commission declares 253 RUPPs as inactive, bars them from availing benefits of the Symbol Order, 1968

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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.

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Coastal clean-up campaign receives a huge response: Dr. Jitendra Singh

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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.

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DASHBOARD TO BE SET UP SOON TO SHARE THE BEST TECH PRACTICES AMONG THE CENTRE & THE STATES: UNION MINISTER JITENDRA SINGH

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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.

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Floods, economic crisis and political bickerings: A saga of Pakistan’s mismanagement & insensitivity

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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.

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Separated in 1947, Sikh brother meets sister reunite

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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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