While according paramount importance to the human rights of prisoners and so also taking a serious note of the increasing incidents of human right violations of prisoners, the Gujarat High Court has in a recent, remarkable, robust, refreshing and rational judgment titled Vasaya Yunusali Alarakhabhai Vs State of Gujarat in R/Special Criminal Application No. 1615 of 2022 and delivered as recently as on May 5, 2022 has recommended that the State government take initiatives to implement the guidelines issued by the Apex Court in the landmark case of DK Basu v. State of West Bengal and to install CCTV cameras with night vision and maintain their records for 6 months to deal with police atrocities in the region. A Bench comprising of Justice Sonia Gokani and Justice Mauna Bhatt was hearing a habeas corpus petition involving an inter-religious couple when it came down heavily on the Gujarat police and directed the concerned authorities to intimate all police stations about the guidelines issued in the Paramvir Singh Saini case [Paramvir Singh Saini vs Baljit Singh and others (2021) 1 SCC 184]. The Bench said that, “We expect the State to complete the task of installing the new gadgets and also follow the directions of the Apex Court as earliest possible”.
To start with, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by Hon’ble Ms Justice Sonia Gokani for a Bench of Gujarat High Court comprising of herself and Hon’ble Mrs Justice Mauna M Bhatt first and foremost puts forth in para 1 that, “This Court on 08.02.2022 in this petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India issued the notice by passing the following order:
“1. The petitioner is a father of one of the persons (corpus) who is alleged to have been illegally detained by the respondent no.2. The prayers sought for in this petition is as follows: –
“(A) Your Lordships may kindly be pleased to admit and allow the present petition;
(B) Your Lordships may kindly be pleased to issue a writ of habeas Corpus and / or any other appropriate writ, order or direction directing the Respondent No. 2 to produce the Corpuses namely ‘Vasaya Nadeem Yunusali’ and girl namely ‘Kukreja Jayaben Hareshkumar’ before this Honorable Court, the custody of the Corpuses be handed over to the Petitioner in the interest oat her parental home and moreover, it was an absolutely illegal act on the part of the respondent no.2.
(C) Pending admission, hearing and final disposal of this Petition, Your Lordships may kindly be pleased to direct the Respondent No. 2 to produce Corpus namely namely ‘Vasaya Nadeem Yunusali’ and girl namely ‘Kukreja Jayaben Hareshkumar’ before this Honorable Court in the interest of justice;
(D) Your Lordship may kindly be pleased to grant such other and further relief(s) as may deed just and proper in the facts and circumstances of the case.”
2. It appears that both, the son of the petitioner and the girl – Jaya had intended to marry each other. This being interreligious/interfaith marriage, the notice of intended marriage was issued under Section 5 addressed to the marriage officer for Bhavnagar District on 14.12.2021. Before the same could be actually performed, on completion of 30 days period, it is alleged that they both were illegally taken away by the respondent no.2. Some of the family members had been beaten up badly. The photographs of which are forming part of the petition. The medical report dated 18.12.2021 also reflects the names of those persons who have allegedly beaten up the family members.
3. Learned advocate Ms. Laksha Bhavnani appearing with learned advocate Ms. Setu Joshi for the petitioner has urged that once the respondent came to know of this petition of habeas corpus, they have chosen to release both the corpora. However, the marriage has not taken place as the girl is sent at her parental home and moreover, it was an absolutely illegal act on the part of the respondent no.2.
4. Issue Notice returnable on 11.02.2022. Learned Additional Public Prosecutor waives service of notice for and on behalf of the respondent authorities.
5. Learned APP shall gather the details and shall file an affidavit of the respondent no.2 which shall be also vetted by the Superintendent of Police, Bhavnagar.
6. The girl has been allegedly forcibly sent to her residence. The Superintendent of Police, Bhavnagar shall ensure her production before this Court through video conference from the District Legal Services Authority, Bhavnagar in presence of the Chair Person, District Legal Services Authority, Bhavnagar at 1:30 p.m. on 11.02.2022. The Superintendent of Police, Bhavnagar also shall remain present on that day.””
Quite significantly, the Bench observes in para 7 that, “The guidelines of 09.07.2018 issued from the Office of Director General and Inspector General of Police gives the detailed modality of working of the RMS as in all police stations the CCTV camera system are installed for preventing the incident of custodial violence, non registration of First Information Report as also the violation of human rights etc. following the decision of the Apex Court rendered in case of D.K.Basu vs. State of West Bengal & others, reported in (2015) 8 SCC 744 and thereafter reiterated in Criminal Miscellaneous Petition No.16086 of 1997 r/w Criminal Miscellaneous Petition No. 19694 of 2010 on 02.09.2015. For enhancing the quality of services rendered by the police and for the use of technology these guidelines have been formulated.
7.1 It mandates maintaining of Dead Stock Register in all offices of Superintendent of Police with the District level. The Superintendent of Police or the Police Commissioner is expected to monitor at least once in a week through the RMS, the CCTV Camera System and the video footage. All the gadgets of their RMS shall need to be maintained by a Wireless Sub Inspector after giving him the training in this respect. It also mandates the preservation of the video footage of CCTV camera for 30 days’ period. There are many complaints for the use and maintenance of this CCTV Camera System and it has been mandated that the strictest actions be taken if some police personnel or the officers continue to do the objectionable activities.
7.2 The detailed guidelines further says as to in what manner the misbehavior or the unpalatable actions with the citizens should be checked.”
Be it noted, the Bench then envisages in para 8 that, “This very clearly gives the indications as to how for the Gujarat Police office of DG & IG has been vigilantly directing every police station to follow the use and maintenance of the CCTV footage. It has also further detailed the manner in which the Head of the District to monitor the CCTV footage every week at least in one case and thereafter, to take necessary actions as directed in the very guidelines. However, from the affidavit which has been filed by the Secretary, Home Department, it is quite clear that there are various levels of redressing the different kind of grievances for the complaints, but there is no specific guideline issued to intimate the District Police Head when there are complaints regarding the police harassment in the District. There is no specific direction for the senior police officer or the Superintendent of Police to be intimated of such harassment. Every police station is equipped with this technology and the advancement of this technology is for the succor of the citizen.”
Most remarkably, the Bench then enunciates in para 9 that, “We need to also make a reference of the decision of the Apex Court rendered in case of PARAMVIR SINGH SAINI VS. BALJIT SINGH AND OTHERS, reported in (2021) 1 SCC 184 where the question was of installation of CCTV cameras in police stations and credible recording of evidence and safeguarding the human rights inside the police stations. The Apex Court vide its order dated 03.04.2018 directed that the Central Oversight Body (referred to as COB) to be set up by the Ministry of Home Affairs to implement the plan of action with respect to the use of videograph in the crime scene during the investigation.
9.1 The Apex Court also referred to the decision issued in case of D.K.Basu (supra) to hold that there was a need for further directions that in every State an oversight mechanism be created whereby the independent committee can study the CCTV camera footage and periodically publish a report of its observations thereon. The COB also may issue the appropriate direction from time to time so as to ensure that use of videography becomes a reality in a phased manner. It had also given the constitution of the District Level Oversight Committee and eventually enlisted the duties and the responsibilities for working maintenance and recording of CCTV.
9.2 Apt would be to refer to the guidelines and the mandate given by the Apex Court in this regard.
“14. The duty and responsibility for the working, maintenance and recording of CCTVs shall be that of the SHO of the police station concerned. It shall be the duty and obligation of the SHO to 7 immediately report to the DLOC any fault with the equipment or malfunctioning of CCTVs. If the CCTVs are not functioning in a particular police station, the concerned SHO shall inform the DLOC of the arrest / interrogations carried out in that police station during the said period and forward the said record to the DLOC. If the concerned SHO has reported malfunctioning or non-functioning of CCTVs of a particular Police Station, the DLOC shall immediately request the SLOC for repair and purchase of the equipment, which shall be done immediately.
15. The Director General/Inspector General of Police of each State and Union Territory should issue directions to the person in charge of a Police Station to entrust the SHO of the concerned Police Station with the responsibility of assessing the working condition of the CCTV cameras installed in the police station and also to take corrective action to restore the functioning of all non-functional CCTV cameras. The SHO should also be made responsible for CCTV data maintenance, backup of data, fault rectification etc.
16. The State and Union Territory Governments should ensure that CCTV cameras are installed in each and every Police Station functioning in the respective State and/or Union Territory. Further, in order to ensure that no part of a Police Station is left uncovered, it is imperative to ensure that CCTV cameras are installed at all entry and exit points; 8 main gate of the police station; all lock-ups; all corridors; lobby/the reception area; all verandas/outhouses, Inspector’s room; Sub-Inspector’s room; areas outside the lock-up room; station hall; in front of the police station compound; outside (not inside) washrooms/toilets; Duty Officer’s room; back part of the police station etc.
17. CCTV systems that have to be installed must be equipped with night vision and must necessarily consist of audio as well as video footage. In areas in which there is either no electricity and/or internet, it shall be the duty of the States/Union Territories to provide the same as expeditiously as possible using any mode of providing electricity, including solar/wind power. The internet systems that are provided must also be systems which provide clear image resolutions and audio. Most important of all is the storage of CCTV camera footage which can be done in digital video recorders and/or network video recorders. CCTV cameras must then be installed with such recording systems so that the data that is stored thereon shall be preserved for a period of 18 months. If the recording equipment, available in the market today, does not have the capacity to keep the recording for 18 months but for a lesser period of time, it shall be mandatory for all States, Union Territories and the Central Government to purchase one which allows storage for the maximum period possible, and, in 9 any case, not below 1 year. It is also made clear that this will be reviewed by all the States so as to purchase equipment which is able to store the data for 18 months as soon as it is commercially available in the market. The affidavit of compliance to be filed by all States and Union Territories and Central Government shall clearly indicate that the best equipment available as of date has been purchased.
18. Whenever there is information of force being used at police stations resulting in serious injury and/or custodial deaths, it is necessary that persons be free to complain for a redressal of the same. Such complaints may not only be made to the State Human Rights Commission, which is then to utilise its powers, more particularly under Sections 17 and 18 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, for redressal of such complaints, but also to Human Rights Courts, which must then be set up in each District of every State/Union Territory under Section 30 of the aforesaid Act. The Commission/Court can then immediately summon CCTV camera footage in relation to the incident for its safe keeping, which may then be made available to an investigation agency in order to further process the complaint made to it.
19. The Union of India is also to file an affidavit in which it will update this Court on the constitution and workings of the Central Oversight Body, giving full particulars thereof. In addition, the Union of India is also 10 directed to install CCTV cameras and recording equipment in the offices of:
(i) Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)
(ii) National Investigation Agency (NIA)
(iii) Enforcement Directorate (ED)
(iv) Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB)
(v) Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI)
(vi) Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO)
(vii) Any other agency which carries out interrogations and has the power of arrest.
As most of these agencies carry out interrogation in their office(s), CCTVs shall be compulsorily installed in all offices where such interrogation and holding of accused takes place in the same manner as it would in a police station. The COB shall perform the same function as the SLOC for the offices of investigative/enforcement agencies mentioned above both in Delhi and outside Delhi wherever they be located.
20. The SLOC and the COB (where applicable) shall give directions to all Police Stations, investigative/enforcement agencies to prominently display at the entrance and inside the police stations/ offices of investigative/enforcement agencies about the coverage of the concerned premises by CCTV. This shall be done by large posters in English, Hindi and vernacular language. In addition to the above, it shall be clearly mentioned therein that a person has a right to complain about human rights violations to the National/State Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Court or the Superintendent of Police or any other authority empowered to take cognizance of an offence. It shall further mention that CCTV footage is preserved for a certain minimum time period, which shall not be less than six months, and the victim has a right to have the same secured in the event of violation of his human rights.
21. Since these directions are in furtherance of the fundamental rights of each citizen of India guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, and since nothing substantial has been done in this regard for a period of over 2½ years since our first Order dated 03.04.2018, the Executive/Administrative/police authorities are to implement this Order both in letter and in spirit as soon as possible. Affidavits will be filed by the Principal Secretary/Cabinet Secretary/Home Secretary of each State/ Union Territory giving this Court a firm action plan with exact timelines for compliance with today’s Order. This is to be done within a period of six weeks from today.
22. We record our gratitude to Shri Siddhartha Dave, learned Amicus Curiae, for rendering his services to this Court.”
9.3 This dictum insists on the CCTV system to be installed with night vision and to consist of audio and video footage both. The Apex Court has also asked for the requirement of the CCTV footage to be preserved for a period of six months and a firm action plan to be submitted within six weeks.”
For clarity, the Bench then adds in para 10 that, “This in addition to what has been already directed by way of guidelines in the year 2018 by the office of Director General and Inspector General of Police will take care of the maintenance of the CCTV cameras.”
Simply put, the Bench then states in para 11 that, “According to the learned APP, Ms.Jhaveri, for fulfilling the directions of the Apex Court, the mechanism is already underway. She has taken the instructions to ensure this Court that pursuant to this mandate and the guidelines issued by the Apex Court, the process is on and it is soon to be completed. Therefore, no further directions in respect of this will be additionally needed till the new system is purchased and installed.”
In addition, the Bench clarifies in para 12 that, “Let the other guidelines which have been directed by the Apex Court, if are not otherwise presently hampered by the technological limitations be followed. All police stations should be intimated the guidelines issued in case of PARAMVIR SINGH SAINI (supra).”
Without mincing any words, the Bench then directs in para 13 that, “According to us, any incident of the alleged atrocities or involvement of the police officers in violation of mandatory guidelines shall at least be intimated to the Head of the District, i.e. to the Superintendent of Police or the Police Commissioner, as the case may be. Let a specific guidelines in that respect also be initiated. It is one thing for the Superintendent of Police himself to find out from the CCTV camera footage the misbehavior or the misconduct and it is another thing when he, as the District Head, is made aware of such complaints and registered. Let that be worked out by the Home Department.”
What’s more, the Bench then observes in para 14 that, “We have noticed that, in the instant case, the matter is pending before the District Court and therefore, we chose not to presently intervene. After once the District Court finalise the matter, it will be for the petitioner to also take an appropriate remedy in respect of his personal complaint. None of these observations or the limitation of the technology will in any manner hamper his right to approach the appropriate authorities.”
Most commendably, the Bench then rightly holds in para 15 that, “We expect the State to complete the task of installing the new gadgets and also follow the directions of the Apex Court as earliest possible.”
Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 16 that, “Present petition stands disposed of accordingly.”
No doubt, what the Gujarat High Court has directed so very commendably in this notable judgment must be implemented forthwith by the State. CCTV cameras must be installed in police stations and so also all other steps must be taken as we have already discussed herein aforesaid. No denying!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate
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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.
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.
22 officers of different cadres to serve in J&K
The Centre has relaxed Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) deputation rules to encourage IAS and other all-India service officers as well as those of the Central Services get posted in Jammu & Kashmir, in a bid to address the shortage of officers in the Union Territory.
Union Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh said that due to relaxation of DoPT rules, 22 officers belonging to various services and different cadres have been posted in Jammu & Kashmir at various levels at a crucial time.
He said that DoPT has played a major role in facilitating induction of Jammu & Kashmir Administrative Services officers into the IAS by coordinating with UT administration, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the UPSC.
As a result, recently 16 officers from JKAS have been inducted into IAS and another 8 such vacancies will be filled up shortly giving opportunities to the JKAS officers to become part of prestigious IAS service after a long gap of 12 years.
The Minister added that mid-career training of JKAS officers of various seniority was carried out in collaboration with the LBSNAA and this has provided a new level of exposure to the JKAS Officers and more than 200 offices. Some other initiatives by the Ministry include special concessions or incentives to the Central government employees working in the Kashmir Valley in attached and subordinate offices or PSUs falling under control of the Central government.
They have been extended special concessions for a period of 3 years with effect from August 1, 2021 and the incentives include an additional house rent allowance, composite transfer grant, per diem allowance, incentive for period of temporary duty, messing allowance, and facility to draw pension at place of settlement in relaxation of relevant provisions.
Besides, facilities for retention of general pool accommodation available to officers who have served in the Central government has also been extended to officers posted in Jammu & Kashmir on the pattern of northeastern states.
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