Failure to supply ‘legible copies’ of documents relied upon despite request by detenu renders detention order illegal: Delhi HC - Business Guardian
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Failure to supply ‘legible copies’ of documents relied upon despite request by detenu renders detention order illegal: Delhi HC

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In a most significant judgment directly affecting the detenus, the Delhi High Court in a recent, remarkable, refreshing, robust and rational judgment titled Zakir Khan v. Union of India and other connected matter in W.P.(CRL) 72/2022 and CRL.M.A.788/2022 and so also in W.P. (CRL) 73/2022 and CRL.M.A.791/2022 delivered most recently on May 2, 2022 has minced just no words to observe that a detention order passed by the Detaining Authority based on “illegible” copies of documents suffers from non-application of mind and is liable to be quashed. It added that a further failure and non-supply of legible copies of all documents to the Detenu, despite request and representation, renders the order of detention illegal and bad in law. We thus see that a Division Bench of Delhi High Court comprising of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar allowed the petitions filed by two detenus namely Zakir Khan and Sanjeev Kumar praying for quashing of detention orders dated November 26, 2021 issued under Section 3(1) of the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974.

To start with, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by Justice Siddharth Mridul for a Bench of Delhi High Court comprising of himself and Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar puts forth in para 1 that, “These two writ petitions under Article 226 of the Constitution of India read with Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, have been instituted on behalf of Zakir Khan (hereinafter “Detenu No. 1”), the Petitioner in W.P.(CRL.) 72/2022 and Sanjeev Kumar @ Sanjeev Kumar Yadav (“Detenu No. 2”), the Petitioner in W.P.(CRL.) 73/2022 (hereinafter collectively referred to as the ‘Detenus’), praying for quashing of detention orders, both dated 26.11.2021, bearing No. PD-PD-12001/17/2021-COFEPOSA and PD12001/18/2021- COFEPOSA, issued under Section 3(1) of the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974 (hereinafter “COFEPOSA”) against the Petitioners/Detenus No. 1 and 2 respectively; and for further directions that the detenus be set at liberty forthwith. As these Petitions raise common questions of law and are premised on similar facts, they are being disposed off by this common order.”

While dwelling on the facts of the case, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “The relevant facts qua the detenus, as are necessary for the adjudication of the subject writ petitions are briefly encapsulated as follows: –

i) The Income Tax Department conducted a search and seizure operation on 10.10.2021 at 23 premises allegedly belonging to the Detenu No. 1 and persons allegedly associated with him. Thereupon, a Statement (Annexure P-4) of the Detenu No.1 was recorded u/s 132(4) of the Income Tax Act, 1961, on the 11.10.2021, wherein the Detenu No. 1 admittedly stated that he had studied only till the VIII standard and therefore, expressed his volition to record his statement in Hindi.

ii) That, further on 13.10.2021, a Container No. PCIU8689880 (40 Feet) imported by one M/s Indo Fab, at Kolkata Port, with a declaration stated to contain HDMI cables, was subjected to examination by the Income Tax Authorities in the presence of port custom officers wherein it was found that it contained several prohibited items namely, old and used/refurbished laptops, mobile phones etc. Accordingly, the same was detained by the Customs officers at Kolkata. It was alleged that the said firm M/s Indo Fab was owned/controlled by the Detenu No.1.

iii) That on the basis of information received from the Income Tax Department, New Delhi; the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Delhi Zonal Unit (hereinafter DRI/Respondent No.3) initiated search proceedings at the purported residential premises of the Detenu No. 1 i.e., at S-80 Greater Kailash-I, New Delhi, on the 18.10.2021. During the search, certain documents allegedly found stored in the said premises in the form of files, loose documents, writing pads, diaries, Certificate of Incorporation/Articles of Association pertaining to three Hong Kong based supplier firms on which the name of the Detenu No.1 was mentioned as nominated person were recovered. All documents relevant to the investigation were resumed for further investigations in relation to the suspected undervaluation of imported goods by the firms allegedly controlled/owned by the Detenu No.1 and the Panchnama was drawn.

iv) On 18.10.2021, upon further search conducted at the office premises of Mr. Anurag Tiwari, Custom Broker-proprietor of M/s Anurag Tiwari situated at L-509, Gali No. 15, Mahipalpur Extension, New Delhi, when it was allegedly noticed that the clearance work of imports made in relation to the firms purportedly controlled/owned by the Detenu No. 1 was handled by one Sanjeev Kumar Yadav (Detenu No.2), having Custom Broker firm namely, M/s Sanjeev Kumar situated at Khasra No. 808, Gali No. 6B, K Block, Mahipalpur, New Delhi. Accordingly, search proceedings under the Customs Act, 1962 were carried out at the said office of Sanjeev Kumar whereupon certain documents were allegedly found stored in the said premises, in the form of files, loose documents etc. in respect of the said firms purportedly controlled/owned by the Detenu No.1. The officers of the DRI resumed the said documents for further investigations.

v) On or about the 18/19.10.2021, the Detenus were arrested by officers of the DRI and produced before the Court of CMM (Duty Magistrate), Patiala House Courts through Virtual Conference at around 08:30 PM (as it was a holiday) and were remanded to 3 days Judicial Custody.

vi) On 22.10.2021, Detenus were produced before the Learned Court of CMM, Patiala House Courts, New Delhi and remanded to 14 days judicial custody till the 04.11.2021.

vii) The Detenus admittedly filed retraction applications on the 28.10.2021, before the learned CMM Court thereby, retracting their statements recorded on 18/19.10.2021 before the DRI.

viii) The DRI then caused to be filed an application before the learned CMM, Patiala House Courts, New Delhi seeking permission to record statements of the Detenus u/s 108 of the Customs Act, 1962, which was allowed vide order dated 01.11.2021.

ix) On 02.11.2021, another container No. PCIU8010617 (40’) imported by M/s Viha International at Kolkata Port, with a declaration to contain HDMI cables, was subjected to examination by the officers of DRI, Kolkata wherein it was allegedly found that it contained several prohibited items namely, old and used laptops, CPUs. Accordingly, the same was detained by the officers of DRI, Kolkata. It is alleged that the said firm M/s Viha International was also owned/controlled by the Detenu No. 1.

x) On 05.11.2021, the DRI caused to be filed an application before the learned CMM Court seeking extension of the Detenus remand for a further period of 14 days. Vide Order dated 05.11.2021, the judicial remand was extended till 18.11.2021.

xi) On 08.11.2021, Bail applications were filed by the Detenus before the learned CMM, Patiala House Courts, New Delhi, both of which were summarily declined vide an order dated 15.11.2021.

xii) Judicial remand of the Detenus was further extended for a period of 14 days till 02.12.2021 by the Ld, CMM, vide order dated 18.11.2021.

xiii) On the 26.11.2021, the subject impugned detention orders (Annexure P-1) were passed by the Detaining Authority (Ministry of Finance, Department of Revenue, Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, COFEPOSA Wing, hereinafter the Detaining Authority/Respondent No.2), which were served upon the Detenus on 27.11.2022 while they were still in judicial custody in Tihar Jail, New Delhi, pursuant to their arrest by the DRI for the purported commission of alleged offences, punishable u/s 132/135(1)(a)(b) of the Customs Act, 1962.

xiv) Since no criminal prosecution was filed against the Detenus in the customs case, the Detenus were granted statutory bail in terms of the mandate of the provision of Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure vide Order dated 20.12.2021 passed by the Learned CMM.

xv) On 21.12.2021 the Detenus made a representation to the Detaining Authority, submitting that a large number of documents furnished to them were illegible and many other documents that had been relied upon and referred to were not furnished, communicated and/or supplied at all; and therefore, demanding legible copies of all of the above, so as to enable them to make an effective representation. This detailed representation was rejected by the Detaining Authority vide order dated 28.12.2021 (received by the Detenus in the jail on 29.12.2021).

xvi) On the 04.01.2022, a constitutionally provided representation was filed by the Detenus before the COFEPOSA Advisory Board (hereinafter “Advisory Board”).”

Be it noted, the Bench then discloses in para 3 that, “A further perusal of the grounds of detention, impugned in these proceedings reveal that the role assigned therein to the Detenu No.1 pursuant to the investigation carried out is that: –

(a) Detenu was the founding member/owner of three Hong Kong based supplier firms viz. M/s Trackon Logistics Limited, Yottabyte International Co. Limited and M/s SFS Import & Export Co. Limited, and from these supplier firms, goods were imported in the name of shell entities/dummy firms owned by the Detenu No.1 and that he used to decide the prices at which such goods are to be invoiced and declared before the Indian Customs. The value of the imported goods declared by these shell entities before Customs was allegedly roughly 5% (1/20th) of the actual purchase value of these goods;

(b) That the Detenu No.1 was the mastermind behind perpetrating the entire modus operandi of mis-declaration /undervaluation of imports through several dummy firms owned/controlled by him and differential remittances for the imported goods were remitted through hawala channels in order to evade custom duties, thereby causing huge loss to public exchequer. It is alleged that, during the period of 2017-2021, the Detenu No.1 had imported goods amounting to an estimated value of Rs.2730 crores, on which differential duty liability was estimated to be the sum of Rs 500 crores, whereas the actual declared value of the subject imported goods before the customs was statedly Rs.136 crores and the duty paid thereon was approximately Rs.42 crores.”

Notably, the Bench then reveals in para 4 that, “Also, a perusal of the grounds of detention, impugned in these proceedings, reveal that the role assigned therein to Detenu No.2, pursuant to the investigation carried out is that:-

(a) Detenu No.2 was the proprietor of the Customs Broker firm namely M/s Sanjeev Kumar, and rendered Customs Clearing Services for past 6 years to Detenu No. 1 in importing the consignment of electronic goods and computer peripherals, through his Custom Broker License as well as the borrowed Custom broker licenses of M/s Expert Cargo Movers of Shri Manoj Nagar and M/s Anurag Tiwari of Shri Anurag Tiwari, respectively; and paid monthly amount to the above-stated firms ranging from Rs.20,000/- to Rs.40,000/-, depending upon the volume of import in a given month.

(b) Detenu No. 2 also used the Custom broker licenses of M/s Phenomenal Logistics, M/s Anubhav Cargo, M/s Shyam Singh and M/s Satish Panjwani for the custom clearance of the goods allegedly imported by the various entities controlled by Detenu No.1.

(c) Detenu No. 2 used to charge Rs.10,000/- from Detenu No. 1 as agency charges through banking channel and, since the goods imported by Detenu No.1 were highly undervalued, Detenu No.2 used to charge Rs. One lakh per consignment in cash over and above the agency charges, for smooth clearance of the under-invoiced and under-valued imported goods.

(d) Detenu No.2 is stated to have orchestrated a plan to facilitate customs clearance of imported goods that were mis-declared and undervalued using licenses of other Customs Brokers despite the fact that the Detenu No.2 himself has a Customs Broker License in his name.”

While citing the relevant case law, the Bench then states in para 25 that, “We find it apposite at this stage to extract the observations made by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in a recent decision in Mallada K. Sri Ram vs. The State of Telangana & Ors. in Criminal Appeal No. 561 of 2022 (Arising out of SLP (Crl) No. 1788 of 2022, reported as LQ/SC/2022/476, specifically paragraph 15 as is reproduced hereunder: –

“15. A mere apprehension of a breach of law and order is not sufficient to meet the standard of adversely affecting the maintenance of public order. In this case, the apprehension of a disturbance to public order owing to a crime that was reported over seven months prior to the detention order has no basis in fact. The apprehension of an adverse impact to public order is a mere surmise of the detaining authority, especially when there have been no reports of unrest since the detenu was released on bail on 8 January 2021 and detained with effect from 26 June 2021. The nature of the allegations against the detenu are grave. However, the personal liberty of an accused cannot be sacrificed on the altar of preventive detention merely because a person is implicated in a criminal proceeding. The powers of preventive detention are exceptional and even draconian. Tracing their origin to the colonial era, they have been continued with strict constitutional safeguards against abuse. Article 22 of the Constitution was specifically inserted and extensively debated in the Constituent Assembly to ensure that the exceptional powers of preventive detention do not devolve into a draconian and arbitrary exercise of state authority. The case at hand is a clear example of non-application of mind to material circumstances having a bearing on the subjective satisfaction of the detaining authority. The two FIRs which were registered against the detenu are capable of being dealt by the ordinary course of criminal law.””

Quite significantly, the Bench then expounds in para 28 that, “It is observed that it was fairly admitted before this Court that several RUDs including not only those supplied to the Detenus, but also those on the record with the Detaining Authority are illegible i.e., not readable. In this regard, this Court’s decision in Mohd. Nashruddin v. Union of India & Ors., reported as 2021 SCC OnLine Del 4017 and the relevant paragraphs thereof are reproduced hereunder:-

“47. It is trite to say that a person detained in pursuance of an order for preventive detention, has a constitutional right to make an effective representation against the same. The authorities are constitutionally charged with the responsibility to ensure that the grounds of detention, including all relevant documents that are considered whilst forming the subjective satisfaction, W.P.(CRL.) 1924/2020 Page 52 of 86 are provided to the detenu by the Detaining Authority, so as to enable the detenu to make an effective representation to the Advisory Board, as well as to the Detaining Authority. Therefore, the non-supply of legible copies of all relevant documents inspite of a request and representation made by the detenu for the supply of the same, renders the order of detention illegal and bad; and vitiates the subjective satisfaction arrived at by the Detaining Authority.

48. In our considered view, therefore, the supply of the following documents namely, a) Passport, b) Identity Cards of codetenu’s, c) WhatsApp chats, d) bill of entry, e) invoice, f) the statement of Mr. Rohit Sharma who is alleged to have defaced the gold bars imported illegally etc. was critical, in order to enable the detenu to make a comprehensive, holistic and effective representation against the impugned detention order, both before the Advisory Board, as well as before the Detaining Authority.

49. In the present case, the denial by the official respondent to supply legible copies of the relevant documents to the detenu, despite his express request to do so, tantamount to denial of his constitutional right, thereby vitiating the detention order, founded on the said relevant material.

50. In this regard the Hon’ble Supreme Court has, in Dharmistha Bhagat V State of Karnataka & Ors reported as 1989 Supp (2) SCC 155 and in particular paragraph 5 thereof, observed that non-supply of legible copies of vital documents would render the order of detention illegal and bad. The relevant portion has been extracted hereinbelow:

5. The learned counsel appearing on behalf of Respondent 1, Union of India has contended that even though legible copy of panchnama referred to in the list of documents mentioned in the grounds of detention has not been supplied to the detenu yet the fact that five gold biscuits of foreign marking were recovered from the possession of the detenu was sufficient for subjective satisfaction of the detaining authority in making the said order of detention. So the detention order cannot be termed as illegal and bad for non-supply of legible/typed copy of the said document i.e. panchnama dated 12-2-1988. The panchnama dated 12-2-1988 which had been referred to in the list of documents referred to in the grounds of detention and a copy of which had been given to the detenu along with the grounds of detention, is not at all legible as is evident from the copy served on the detenu. It is also not in dispute that on receiving the documents along with the grounds of detention the detenu had made a representation to Respondent 1 stating that some of the documents including the panchnama which had been supplied to him are illegible and as such a request was made for giving typed copies of those documents to enable the detenu to make an effective representation against the same. The detaining authority on receipt of the said representation sent a reply denying that the copies of those documents were illegible and refusing to supply typed copies of the same. It is clearly provided in sub-article (5) of Article 22 of the Constitution of India that:

“(5) When any person is detained in pursuance of an order made under any law providing for preventive detention, the authority making the order shall, as soon as may be, communicate to such person the grounds on which the order has been made and shall afford him the earliest opportunity of making a representation against the order.”

Therefore, it is imperative that the detaining authority has to serve the grounds of detention which include also all the relevant documents which had been considered in forming the subjective satisfaction by the detaining authority before making the order of detention and referred to in the list of documents accompanying the grounds of detention in order to enable the detenu to make an effective representation to the Advisory Board as well as to the detaining authority. Therefore, the non-supply of legible copy of this vital document i.e. panchnama dated 12-2-1988 in spite of the request made by the detenu to supply the same renders the order of detention illegal and bad. This Court in Mehrunissa v. State of Maharashtra [(1981) 2 SCC 709 : 1981 SCC (Cri) 592 : AIR 1981 SC 1861] has observed that: (SCC p. 710)

“The detenu was entitled to be supplied with copies of all material documents instead of having to rely upon his memory in regard to the contents of the documents. The failure of the detaining authority to supply copies of such documents vitiated the detention, as has been held by this Court in the two cases cited by counsel. The detenu is, therefore, entitled to be released. He is accordingly directed to be released forthwith.”

51. To the similar effect are the observations recorded in the judgment of the Apex Court in Manjeet Singh Grewal vs. UOI & Ors. reported as 1990 Supp SCC 59.””

Quite forthrightly, the Bench then holds in para 29 that, “Upon a plain reading of the said order dated 03.03.2022 and the above extracted decision of this court, we are of the view that, as the RUDs; supplied to the Detenus as well as relied upon by the Detaining Authority, in arriving at its subjective satisfaction were admittedly illegible; it has the unnerving consequence of violating the constitutional rights guaranteed to the Detenus.”

While referring to another relevant case law, the Bench then states in para 31 that, “In our opinion, the aforementioned contention raised on behalf on the official respondents is untenable in light of the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s decision in Mrs. Tsering Dolkar vs. Administrator, Union Territory Of Delhi & Others reported as (1987) 2 SCC 69 and in particular paragraph 12, wherein it was observed as under: –

“12. The learned Additional Solicitor General relied upon the feature that the petitioner-wife knew both English and Tibetan languages and an effective representation as a fact had been made. There can be no two opinions that the requirement of law within the provisions of Article 22(5) of the Constitution is that the detenu has to be informed about the grounds of detention in a language which he understands. The fact that the detenus wife knew the language in which the grounds were flamed does not satisfy the legal requirement. Reliance was placed by the learned Additional Solicitor General on a decision of this Court in Prakash Chandra Mehta v. Commissioner and Secretary, Government of Kerala &Ors., [1985] 3 SCR 679 in support of his contention that unless the detenu was able to establish prejudice on account of the fact that the grounds of detention and the documents accompanying the grounds were not in a language known to the detenu the order would not be vitiated. There is no clear indication of the test of prejudice being applied in that case. On the facts relevant before the Court, a conclusion was reached that the detenu was merely reigning ignorance of English and on the footing that he knew English, the matter was disposed of. We must make it clear that the law as laid down by this Court clearly indicates that in the matter of preventive detention, the test is not one of prejudice but one of strict compliance with the provisions of the Act and when there is a failure to comply with those requirements it becomes difficult to sustain the order. (See AIR 1975 SC 1513, [1975] 2 SCR 832 , AIR 1975 SC 245 ).””

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Business

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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