In a fresh, fine, fortunate and favourable development, we saw how the Chhattisgarh High Court in a recent, remarkable, robust and rational judgment titled Chouksey College of Pharmacy & Another Vs Pharmacy Council of India & Others in WPC No. 3766 of 2021 that was reserved on March 7, 2022 and then finally delivered on April 22, 2022 has quashed the 5-year ban imposed by the Government of India (GOI) and Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) on the opening of new Pharmacy Colleges in the country for the next five years. This learned, laudable, latest and landmark judgment came in a petition moved by a batch of colleges before the High Court, which was finally allowed by the single Judge Bench of Justice P Sam Koshy which termed the ban in question as unconstitutional, monopolistic and discriminatory in nature. So no wonder that it was thus very rightly struck down.
To start with, this commendable, composed, cogent and creditworthy judgment authored by a single Judge Bench comprising of Justice P Sam Koshy of Chhattisgarh High Court first and foremost puts forth in para 1 that, “The validity and legality of two orders/resolutions passed by the respondent No.1-Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) dated 17.07.2019 (Annexure P/3) and 09.09.2019 (Annexure P/4) is under challenge in the present writ petition.”
Simply put, the Bench then states in para 2 that, “Vide the aforesaid two resolutions, the PCI has put a moratorium on the opening of new Pharmacy Colleges for running Diploma as well as Degree courses in Pharmacy for a period of 5 years beginning from the Academic Session 2020-21. Vide the order /resolution dated 09.09.2019 the PCI gave certain relaxations to the moratorium so far as its applicability is concerned.”
To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 3 that, “For proper appreciation of the facts and issues raised by the parties it would be relevant at this juncture to take note of the relevant portion of the two orders under challenge in this writ petition dated 17.07.2019 and 09.09.2019 passed by the PCI. The resolution that was passed by the PCI on 17.07.2019 is reproduced hereinunder:
“Taking into consideration the availability of sufficient qualified pharmacist workforce, the House unanimously resolved to put a moratorium on the opening of new pharmacy colleges for running Diploma as well as Degree course in pharmacy for a period of five years beginning from the academic year 2020-21. This moratorium shall not be applicable in the North Eastern region of the country where there is a shortage of pharmacy colleges.”
The said resolution has been communicated to Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India on 17.07.2019 for information under intimation to All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) and also posted on the Council’s website.”
As it turned out, the Bench then lays bare in para 4 that, “The said resolution stood modified on 09.09.2019 by which the respondents-PCI has passed an order of non-applicability of the said resolution on certain category of institutions and in respect of certain areas in the country. For ready reference the relevant portion questioning the order dated 09.09.2019 (Annexure P/4) is reproduced hereinunder:
“It was unanimously decided that moratorium on the opening of new pharmacy colleges for running Diploma as well as Degree course in pharmacy for a period of five years beginning from the academic year 2020-21 will be subject to following conditions:
(a) The moratorium will not apply to the Government institutions.
(b) The moratorium will not apply to the institutions in North Eastern region.
(c) The moratorium will not apply to the States/Union Territories where the number of D. Pharm and B. Pharm institutions (both combined) is less than 50.
(d) The institutions which had applied for opening D. Pharm and/or B. Pharm colleges for 2019-20 academic session either to the PCI or to the AICTE and the proposal was rejected or not inspected due to some reason or the other will be allowed to apply for 2020- 21 academic session and this relaxation is given only for one year i.e. for 2020-21 academic session only.
(e) Existing approved pharmacy institutions will be allowed to apply for increase in intake capacity as per PCI norms and/or to start additional pharmacy course(s).”
While spelling out reasons for issuance of moratorium by the PCI, the Bench then unravels in para 5 that, “Before proceeding further with the issue involved in the matter, it would be also relevant at this juncture to take note of the reasons, which led to the issuance of the moratorium by the PCI. The reasons as spelt out in the order of the PCI dated 17.07.2019 are as under:-
“During the 106th Central Council meeting of the PCI held on 9th & 10th April, 2019, a concern was expressed about the mushrooming of pharmacy colleges in the country. The issue was threadbarely deliberated. It was noted that-
(a) There are approximately 1,985 D. Pharm and 1,439 B. Pharm institutes in the country. The annual intake of students in these institutes (both D. Pharm and B. Pharm) is 2,19,279/
(b) This available workforce is enough to meet the current pharmacist-to-population needs of the country.
(c) The rapid increase in the number of pharmacy colleges over the last decade may result in shortage of trained and qualified teaching faculty which may affect the quality of education imparted to students.
(d) The pass out students are not getting reasonably paid job opportunities in public as well as in private sector.””
In continuation, the Bench then mentions in para 6 that, “The same reasons were again reiterated by the PCI in its order dated 09.09.2019 while modifying the earlier order dated 17.07.2019, which again for ready reference is being reproduced hereinunder:
“The matter was placed before the 107th Central Council in its meeting held on the 5th & 6th August, 2019 which noted that the spirit of the moratorium is to ensure-
* quality assurance in pharmacy education.
* availability of job opportunities to already available pharmacist workforce which is enough to meet the current pharmacist-to-population needs of the country as there are approximately 1,985 D. Pharm and 1,439 B. Pharm institutes in the country with an annual intake of more than 2.19 lakhs.
* that there is no shortage of qualified faculty.”
To be sure, the Bench then notes in para 7 that, “The aforementioned reasons given by the PCI gives a clear indication as to the reasons and grounds which led to the passing of the moratorium for a period of 5 years. The petitioners are a private unaided Self Financing Institution. The petitioners-establishment is a part of charitable trust titled as ‘H.K. Kalchuri Educational Trust’, which has educational institutions which impart other educational, technical and professional courses as well.”
Interestingly enough, what led to the filing of the present writ petition is then disclosed in para 8 stating that, “The facts which led to the filing of the present writ petition is that the petitioner No.1 with an intention of opening of an institution imparting courses of Pharmacy i.e. B. Pharm (Bachelor Pharmacy courses) and D. Pharm (Diploma of Pharmacy courses) had approached the PCI. When the petitioners approached the respondent-PCI in respect of their intention of establishment of an institution imparting courses of Pharmacy, they were informed of the impugned moratorium that was imposed by the PCI vide order dated 17.07.2019 and 09.09.2019. It is then that the petitioners thought of challenging the said two orders which is otherwise coming in the way of the petitioners in establishing the institution which would impart courses of Pharmacy.”
Frankly speaking, the Bench then also concedes in para 9 that, “It is also necessary to bear in mind the fact that in the State of Chhattisgarh, there is admittedly lack of basic medical facilities much less basic infrastructure required for providing the medical facilities to the general public particularly in the Semi-Urban, Rural and the Interior Areas of the State. There is acute shortage of Doctors, Paramedical Staff and People with Pharmacy background, who are the best persons and resources required for improving the medical facilities in a State. In the backdrop of the COVID-19 Pandemic that hit the universe for the last two years, the State has also witnessed the alarming need and necessity of Doctors, Paramedical Staffs and People with Pharmacy background throughout the State of Chhattisgarh, particularly into the Rural and Interior Areas which are predominantly tribal belts.”
Still more, the Bench then also concedes in para 10 that, “In the absence of sufficient medical facilities from qualified trained personnels there is an alarming rise of quacks and people with very little medical knowledge and people without proper qualification and authority providing medical services in these parts of the State. Thus, the State of Chhattisgarh has its own peculiar demands and necessities when it comes to issues relating to health, medical and Pharma care. Given the aforesaid socio-graphical conditions, the blanket moratorium imposed by the PCI would further create a vacuum in the field of Pharma Care in the State of Chhattisgarh.”
Most forthrightly, the Bench then holds in para 38 that, “From all the above provisions, it is clear that nowhere under the Act is any power conferred implicitly or explicitly on the PCI for imposing a blanket ban of the nature, which they imposed. Since the impugned orders create a prohibition having the effect of affecting substantive and fundamental rights enjoined with the institutions or entities intending to open new pharmacy institutions, therefore they need to derive authority from the parent enactment or the rules framed thereunder. It is trite law that whenever substantive obligation, rights or interests are being impaired or adversely affected by the decisions/orders of delegatee under enactment or through any piece of subordinate legislation, then its source must be traced within express provisions in the four corners of the parent enactment, in the absence of which, it cannot be sustained.”
While citing the relevant case law, the Bench then specifies in para 39 that, “That the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of Union of India and Ors. V. S. Srinivasan and ors. (2012) 7 SCC 683, interpreting the rule making authority of the delegatee under the parent enactment observed as follows:
21. At this stage, it is apposite to state about the rule making powers of a delegating authority. If a rule goes beyond the rule making power conferred by the statute, the same has to be declared ultra vires. If a rule supplants any provision for which power has not been conferred, it becomes ultra vires. The basic test is to determine and consider the source of power which is relatable to the rule. Similarly, a rule must be in accord with the parent statute as it cannot travel beyond it.
23. In Delhi Administration v. Shri Ram[(2000) 5 SCC 451] : AIR 2000 SC 2143, it has been ruled that it is a well recognised principle that the conferment of rule making power by an Act does not enable the rule making authority to make a rule which travels beyond the scope of the enabling Act or which is inconsistent therewith or repugnant thereto.
24. In Sukhdev Singh v. Bhagat Ram Sardar Singh Raghuwanshi (1975) 1 SCC (L&S) 101 : AIR 1975 SC 1331, the Constitution Bench has held that: the statutory bodies cannot use the power to make rules and regulations to enlarge the powers beyond the scope intended by the legislature. Rules and regulations made by reason of the specific power conferred by the statute to make rules and regulations establish the pattern of conduct to be followed.””
Be it noted, the Bench then stipulates in para 43 that, “If on account of non availability of sufficient employment for qualified persons and to tackle such a situation imposition of Moratorium on establishment of new colleges is a solution, then a vast majority of colleges in the whole Country will have to be closed down taking into consideration the large scale unemployment in the whole Country.
Not being able to provide sufficient opportunity of employment cannot be a ground for denial of Permission to establish a new College.”
It is worth pondering that the Bench then minces no words to state unequivocally in para 44 that, “Under Article 19 1 (g) citizens of India has been guaranteed, to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business. This fundamental right includes the liberty or a right of an individual to establish educational institutions in accordance with statutory provisions governing the field. Once when establishment and commencement of an educational institution being a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19 1 (g) of Constitution of India, can PCI in particular issue executive instructions imposing a ban on establishment and commencement of educational institution for a period of 5 years. If we read Clause 6 of Article 19 it clearly indicates that any restriction on the right so conferred under 19 1 (g) can be imposed only by the State. For ready reference Clause 6 of Article 19 is being reproduced hereinunder :-
“6. Nothing in sub-clause (g) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the general public, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause, and, in particular, 6 [nothing in the said sub-clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it relates to, or prevent the State from making any law relating to
(i)the professional or technical qualifications necessary for practising any profession or carrying on any occupation, trade or business, or
(ii)the carrying on by the State, or by a corporation owned or controlled by the State, of any trade, business, industry or service, whether to the exclusion, complete or partial, of citizens or otherwise].””
It would be apposite to state that the Bench then mentions in para 45 that, “It would also be relevant at this juncture to refer to Article 13 of the Constitution of India. For ready reference Article 13(1) and Article 13(3) is being reproduced hereinunder :-
13. Laws inconsistent with or in derogation of the fundamental rights:
“1. All laws in force in the territory of India immediately before the commencement of this Constitution, in so far as they are inconsistent with the provisions of this Part, shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void.
3.In this article, unless the context otherwise requires law includes any Ordinance, order, bye law, rule, regulation, notification, custom or usages having in the territory of India the force of law; laws in force includes laws passed or made by Legislature or other competent authority in the territory of India before the commencement of this Constitution and not previously repealed, notwithstanding that any such law or any part thereof may not be then in operation either at all or in particular areas.”
More to the point, the Bench then most rightly minces just no words to hold in para 46 that, “From the plain reading of the aforesaid provisions of Constitution of India it clearly reflects that anything which is inconsistent to the provisions of the Constitution shall be to the extent of such inconsistency would be void. That any restriction and embargo so far as establishment and commencement of educational institutions are concerned, the same can only be imposed by State. Article 13 does not provide for imposition of such restrictions and regulations by way of executive instructions. As such, regulations and resolutions in the nature of executive instructions issued by the PCI amounts to impingement upon the fundamental right of a citizen and or a juristic person.”
It cannot be glossed over that the Bench then adds in para 47 that, “The aforesaid view of this Court all the more becomes relevant in the light of the conclusion earlier drawn in this judgement where it has been held that the Pharmacy Act 1948 nowhere confers the power upon PCI to ban or put a moratorium so far as opening of new Pharmacy institution in the Country. The petitioners herein is a private unaided self financing institution with no financial obligation owed to the State Government. The petitioner who intends to establish and commence and operate an institution imparting Pharmacy course would be otherwise bound by only the requirement of the various statutory provisions as also the regulations issued by the various statutory agencies otherwise required for the purpose of establishment and commencement of an institution related to the Pharmacy course.”
Most commendably, the Bench then clearly holds in para 48 that, “As regards the ground of mushrooming pharmacy colleges and shortage of trained and qualified teaching faculty which could affect the quality of education. These are all matters of regulation and verification to be taken note of by the Pharmacy council in terms of the provision of Pharmacy Act and the various regulations. Under the said Act as also that which is laid down by the All India Council for Technical Education etc. subject to the petitioners meeting all the requirements otherwise required in terms of the pharmacy Act and regulations and instructions governing the field particularly in respect of availability of required infrastructure the availability of the qualified and trained teaching faculty etc. etc. there is no reason why and how the pharmacy Council of India can restrict somebody’s right and that too a fundamental right.”
It is worth noting that the Bench then expounds in para 49 that, “From the above exposition, it is thus clear that the right to establish, commence and operate an educational institution of their choice is a fundamental right, guaranteed to any person or an entity so provided under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India. Having stated that the aforementioned is a fundamental right, the same can be abridged only under a ‘law’, fitting in within the four corners of Article 13(3)(a) of Constitution of India.”
Most significantly, the Bench then explicitly holds in para 50 that, “Thus from the above, it is clear that impugned DO’s issued by the PCI amount to denuding any entity of their fundamental right to Occupation, i.e. opening or establishing of a new pharmacy institution. Even though the said restriction is for a limited period, i.e. 5 years, then also for the restriction to operate even for a minimal period of time, it has to figure within the four corners of Article 19(1)(g), Article 19(2) read with Article 13(3)(a) of the Constitution of India. Since the ‘executive instructions’ failed to meet the basic character required to impinging upon the fundamental rights, therefore on the said ground, the ‘executive instructions’ cannot hit or adversely affect the fundamental rights of the Petitioners to start a new Pharmacy Institution at the time and moment of their choice. For this ground, therefore the impugned DO’s must be treated to be ineffective and bereft of any fangs.”
Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 53 that, “For all the aforesaid reasons and the judicial pronouncements referred to in the preceding paragraphs, this Court is of the firm view that two resolutions under challenge in the present writ petition Annexure P-3 and P-4 dated 17.07.2019 and 09.09.2019 are also not sustainable in the eye of law and the same deserves to be and are accordingly quashed/set aside with consequences to follow. The writ petition thus stands allowed. No order as to costs.”
All told, the Chhattisgarh High Court has thus very rightly quashed the five year ban imposed by the Pharmacy Council of India on opening of new pharmacy colleges in the country for the next five years. It has given logical and learned grounds for holding so as discussed hereinaforesaid. The same must be complied with by the authorities.
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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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