Non-supply of documents relied upon in detention order affects detenus’ right under Article 22(5): Kerala HC - Business Guardian
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Non-supply of documents relied upon in detention order affects detenus’ right under Article 22(5): Kerala HC

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Without mincing any words and without beating about the bush, the Kerala High Court in an extremely laudable, learned, landmark and latest judgment titled Nushath Koyamu v. Union of India & Ors. in WP(Crl.) No. 107, 108 and 109 of 2022 pronounced as recently as on June 3, 2022 has commendably, cogently, composedly and convincingly held that failure to supply the documents which were relied upon by the detaining authority for arriving at the subjective satisfaction to pass the detention order affects the rights of the detenus under Article 22(5) of the Constitution of India, particularly when they were specifically requested for by them. We thus see that the Division Bench of Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Justice Mohammed Nias C.P, therefore, very rightly, rationally and robustly quashed the detention order observing that the non-supply of the documents had vitally affected the right of the detenus under Article 22(5). It must also be mentioned here that the Court was adjudicating upon a plea seeking to quash the detention orders passed by the Joint Secretary of COFEPOSA against the petitioners herein in a gold smuggling case. They were granted bail by the Sessions Court before the detention order was issued. To start with, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by Justice Mohammed Nias CP for a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court comprising of himself and Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “Specific, confidential information received by the officers of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Cochin Zonal Unit (hereinafter referred to as ‘DRI’) that a smuggling syndicate, in connivance with a G card holder of Customs Broker, Cochin Sea Port, was engaged in smuggling of gold from Dubai, in a concealed unaccompanied luggage imported through container Freight Station (CFS), Willington Island, Kochi. The specific information conveyed that the gang had recruited one Althaf Moosan Mukri for whom unaccompanied baggage was sent from Jabal Ali Port of UAE, booked in the name of the said Althaf Moosan Mukri. It was conveyed that it contained huge quantity of concealed gold and would be cleared on 20-4-2021, in the guise of genuine unaccompanied baggage containing household items. Accordingly, the intelligence officers mounted surveillance in and around the port Container Freight Station. While so, the said Althaf Moosal Mukri arrived at CFS at about 2 p.m. for clearing the baggage. He was intercepted and the unaccompanied baggage addressed to him was examined in the presence of Superintendent of Customs and two independent witnesses. The baggage declaration was signed by the proprietor of M/s. Mercantile and Marine Services which was the Clearing House Agency (CHA). The staff of the CHA, Mr. Biju v. Joy and two other representatives were present there. After identifying the baggage, the said Althaf was informed about the purpose of their visit and with his consent, items were checked. On a detailed examination, it was found that, huge quantity of gold was concealed in the compressor of a refrigerator, brought as an unaccompanied luggage. It contained 126 pieces of gold bars and one cut piece. A Gold Assayer was called who weighed it and found that, it was pure gold bars of 999 purity and it weighed 14763.300 gms. valued at market price of about Rs. 7.16 crores.” To put things in perspective, the Division Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “Apart from the passenger, the statements of one Mohammed Ali, Biju V. Joy and Abdulla S.S. were taken on 20.04.2021. On 21.04.2021 yet another statement was recorded from Mohammed Ali. They were arrested on 21.04.2021 and the bail applications were moved on 23.04.2021, which were dismissed on 30.04.2021. The second set of bail applications filed was dismissed on 5.5.2021 and finally bail was granted by the Sessions Court by its order dated 11.5.2021 as the DRI did not oppose the bail application on the ground of Covid 19 pandemic and thus bail was granted. Biju V. Joy alleges that he has retracted the statement on 29.5.2021, whereas, Mohammed Ali is said to have retracted his statement on 7.6.2021 and Abdulla.S.S on 8.6.2021. The DRI has issued a rebuttal letter to these persons on 15.6.2021. Further statements were also recorded and detention order, Ext.P1 was passed on 24.8.2021. Pursuant to the detention order passed on 24.08.2021, the detenus were detained at the Central Prison, Poojappura, Thiruvananthapuram on 1.9.2021. WP(Crl) No.107/2022 is filed Mohammed Ali, WP(Crl.) No.108/2022 is filed by Abdulla S.S. and WP(Crl.) No.109/2022 is filed by Biju V.Joy.” Needless to say, the Division Bench then states in para 3 that, “The prejudicial activities alleged against the detenus and the contentions against the orders of detention are almost similar and hence all these petitions are heard together.” As we see, the Division Bench then notes in para 11 that, “The medical examination of all the accused were conducted and produced before the magistrate court. The detenus Abdulla.S.S and Biju V Joy were tested for Covid 19 and as per the then existing Covid guidelines, all the accused were produced before the magistrate court through video conferencing adhering to the court protocol, and as directed by the court they were admitted to the Covid first line treatment centres and Mohammed Ali was remanded to the Sub Jail, Aluva. We do not find anything wrong in the procedure adopted when they were arrested or while producing the detenus before the jurisdictional magistrate. Appearance through video conferencing / through a whatsapp call, under the circumstances has to be taken as appearance before the magistrate and we do not think there is any illegality committed. The contentions to the contra are rejected as at any rate they are irrelevant to the present proceedings.” Be it noted, the Division Bench then clearly states in para 12 that, “With respect to the contentions that at no stage of bail the sponsoring authority had a contention that the detenus would further indulge in act of smuggling or that they had to be detained, cannot be accepted at all. The role of the sponsoring authority and the detaining authority are distinct and different. After the proposal for detention placed before the detaining authority, the Central Screening Committee consisting of senior officers from the different organisations will screen the entire proposal and make the recommendation and only after this stage the proposal goes to the detaining authority. Thus distinct, different and independent authorities are to examine the materials and it is thereafter that the detaining authority has to independently arrive at the subjective satisfaction to decide whether to detain or not. The detaining authority has also to satisfy itself about the propensity of the proposed detenus to indulge in prejudicial activities in future. Viewed in this background the contention on behalf of the detenus, that at the stage of bail, the sponsoring authority did not contend anywhere that the accused would indulge in prejudicial activities in future and therefore the detention orders are bad, cannot be accepted at all. The power of preventive detention is qualitatively different from punitive detention. The power of preventive detention is a precautionary power exercised in reasonable anticipation. It may or may not relate to an offence. It is not a parallel proceeding. It does not overlap with prosecution even if it relies on certain facts for which prosecution may be launched or to be launched. An order of preventive detention, may be made before or during prosecution. An order of preventive detention may be made with or without prosecution and in anticipation or after discharge or even acquittal. The pendency of prosecution is no bar to an order of preventive detention. An order of preventive detention is also not a bar to prosecution.” It deserves mentioning that the Bench mentions in para 15 that, “The learned counsel for the petitioner submits that in W.P. (Crl) No. 107 of 2022, the detenue had filed Ext. P12 request for supply of the documents mentioned therein, particularly, a screen shot taken from the detenus phone which was relied upon by the detaining authority. It is mentioned in Ext. P12 that there were at least six voice messages visible on the screen shot which were relied on and those messages appear to be of 19th April 2021, a day before the detenus in this case were taken into custody by the DRI. It is the contention that from the screen shot, the contents of the whatsapp chat cannot be understood and unless the chats in electronic form is provided, an effective representation cannot be made. Thus, the whatsapp chat in electronic form which was to be given on a pen drive or such other media to facilitate them to hear them and understand the content and offer the explanation has been deprived offending the right under Article 22(5) of the Constitution of India.” While continuing in a similar vein, the Bench then notes in para 16 that, “Similar request is made as Ext. P12 in W.P.(Crl). 108 of 2022. In W.P( Crl).109 of 2022, Ext.P12 has been made which relates to the documents pertaining to the transactions of the smuggled gold recorded from the mobile phone of Abdulla S.S. was sought for, since it was alleged that a “Syndicate” was formed, the contents of the mobile phones of, whatsapp and the other media of the phones etc. is very much necessary for making an effective representation seeking release. It is the contention of the learned counsel for the petitioners that these details sought for were absolutely crucial as the same has been relied upon by the detaining authority for arriving at the subjective satisfaction to detain and resultantly the nonfurnishing of which renders the detention order bad. The learned counsel for the respondents on the other hand contends that though there has been narration in the detention order about the screen shots/whatsapp, they had not been relied upon and hence there is no duty on them to give copies in electronic form to the detenus.” Quite rationally, the Bench then aptly observes in para 17 that, “On a consideration of the rival submission on this aspect, we notice that there has been reliance made in the detention order regarding the documents mentioned above which might have forced the detaining authority to reach the conclusion about the previous smuggling activities and which necessitated the present order of detention. Inspite of a specific request, as seen from Ext. P12 in the above cases, we find copies were not given. In as much as the contents of the above being relied upon and they have not been given despite asking for them, we feel there has been infraction of the right of the detenus to make an effective representation seeking release.” It is worth noting that the Division Bench then holds in para 18 that, “The learned counsel for the petitioner is right in stating that the detaining authority ought to have furnished the said materials as their right to make an effective representation has been impaired. It is relevant to note in the decision of the Supreme Court in Atma Ram Vaidya v. State of Bombay [AIR 1951 SC 157]. The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that : Para 10. “To put, it in other words, the detaining authority has made its decision and passed its order. The detained person is then given an opportunity to urge his objections which in cases of preventive detention comes always at a later stage. The grounds may have been considered sufficient by the Government to pass its judgment. But to enable the detained person to make his representation against the order, further details may be furnished to him. In our opinion, this appears to be the true measure of the procedural rights of the detained person under Article 22 (5).” Para 12 . “The conferment of the right to make a representation necessarily carries with it the obligation on the part of the detaining authority to furnish the grounds, i.e., materials on which the detention order was made. In our opinion, it is therefore clear that while there is a connection between the obligation on the part of the detaining authority to furnish grounds and the right given to the detained person to have an earliest opportunity to make the representation, the test to be applied in respect of the contents of the grounds for the two purposes is quite different. As already pointed out, for the first, the test is whether it is sufficient to satisfy the authority. For the second, the test is, whether it is sufficient to enable the detained person to make the representation at the earliest opportunity”. P a r a 1 3 “ B u t w h e n grounds which have a rational connection with the ends mentioned in section a of the Act are supplied, the first condition is satisfied. If the grounds are not sufficient to enable the detenue to make a representation, the detenue can rely on his second right and if he likes may ask for particulars which will enable him to make the representation. On an infringement of either of these two rights the detained person has a right to approach the court and complain that there has been an infringement of his fundamental right and even if the infringement of the second part of the right under Article 22 (5) is established he is bound to be released by the court”.” As a corollary, the Division Bench then most commendably mandates in para 19 that, “In the light of the above, we cannot accept the contention of the learned counsel for the respondents that there was no duty to supply the documents mentioned above to the detenus. The decisions relied on by the learned counsel for the respondent for the proposition that the documents sought for in the instant cases need not be granted cannot be accepted as the same are rendered on different sets of facts. In as much as the documents sought has been relied upon in the detention orders, the same ought to have been furnished to the detenus when they requested for the same. The learned counsel for the petitioners is also right in relying on the following judgments for canvassing the same position that the relevant electronic info to be provided in the same format: 1. 2016 (3) KHC – Reshmi v. Union of India 2. 2019 KHC 914 – Hajira N.K. v. Union of India 3. 2020 KHC 167 – Beevikunju v. Union of India 4. 2021 KHC 303 – Waheeda Ashraf v. Union of India In the light of the discussion above, we are convinced that the non-supply has vitally affected the right of the detenus under Article 22(5) of the Constitution of India. We, accordingly, hold that the detention order is bad for the non-supply of these documents sought for in Ext. P12.” In addition, the Division Bench then further hastens to add in para 21 that, “The learned counsel for the petitioner also argues that the confirmation of the detention order by the Central Government following the opinion of the Advisory Board is also completely illegal in as much as the reference of the case of the detenus was to an Advisory Board consisting of a Chairman and two members addressed by name as disclosed from Ext. P9 but the reference was answered by an Advisory Board consisting of judges different from those notified in Ext.P9. Thus, the learned counsel argues that the constitution of the Board was wrong and that it must be taken that the Advisory Board to which the case of the detenus were referred did not answer such reference by rendering an opinion under Section 8 (c) and as such it is the violation of the constitutional mandate under Article 22(4) as well as violation of statutory mandate under Section 8 (c) of the COFEPOSA Act rendering the confirmation order under Section 8 (f), null and void.” Finally and far most significantly, the Division Bench then concludes by holding briefly in para 22 that, “We are afraid that the said contention cannot be accepted. The requirement under Section 8 of the COFEPOSA Act in the background of the Constitutional provision is for a reference to an Advisory Board duly constituted and it is not the petitioner’s case and the board which answered the reference in the instant case had any member who was not qualified or competent to hear the reference. The constitution of the Board was changed owing to the retirement of the Hon’ble Judges after issuance of Ext. P9. It is true that the retired Judges also could be members of the Advisory Board but extra care was given to see that the serving Judges were included in the Advisory Board. It has to be presumed, when an Advisory Board is constituted, comprising of high constitutional functionaries, that the case of the detenus will be considered with objectivity, fairness and competence, reassuring the Constitutional and statutory safeguards while expressing their opinion on the sufficiency of the cause of detention. In such circumstances, the question of detenus being put to any prejudice much less any actual prejudice does not normally arise. The interest of the detenus were sufficiently taken care of both in the constitution of the Board and while answering the reference. We find no error, much less, any illegality in the constitution of the Board or while it answered the reference and contention on that count made on behalf of the detenu is accordingly rejected. In view of our finding on the issue of non-supply, Ext.P1 orders of detention are quashed and the detenus are forthwith set at liberty provided they are not wanted in connection with any other case.” In conclusion, I am definitely entirely on the same page as the Division Bench of the Kerala High Court which has made it absolutely clear in this notable judgment that non-supply of documents relied upon in detention order affects detenus’ rights under Article 22(5) of the Constitution. It was also made clear by the Court that this is moreso particularly when they are specifically requested for by the detenus. There can be just no denying or disputing it.

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NCEL granted export permission for rice and sugar

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The newly established National Cooperative Exports Ltd (NCEL) has received authorization to export 14,92,800 tonnes of non-Basmati rice to 16 countries and 50,000 tonnes of sugar to two countries, as disclosed by Cooperation Minister Amit Shah in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

Functioning under the ambit of the Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act, 2002, the NCEL, registered in January this year, operates across agriculture, allied activities, handloom, and handicraft items. With an objective to double its revenue by 2025 from the present Rs 2,160 crore, the entity has actively enrolled numerous cooperatives, garnering 2,581 membership applications from 22 states and Union Territories.

Minister Amit Shah emphasized that NCEL’s primary objective is to create an export-friendly environment, particularly for agricultural commodities, leveraging India’s comparative advantage in these sectors. The cooperative body welcomes the participation of cooperative societies, from grassroots to apex levels, interested in engaging in export activities.

The key focus of NCEL remains on utilizing the surplus available within the Indian cooperative sector by accessing global markets. This strategic expansion aims to enhance the demand for Indian cooperative products on an international scale, ensuring better price realizations for these goods and services.

NCEL’s operational scope encompasses a comprehensive ecosystem to promote exports, spanning procurement, storage, processing, marketing, branding, labelling, packaging, certification, research and development, and trading across all goods and services produced by cooperative societies.

Moreover, the cooperative export body intends to facilitate cooperatives in availing benefits from various export-related schemes and policies curated by different ministries, streamlining and enhancing their export endeavours.

The establishment of NCEL underscores a concerted effort to leverage cooperative strengths in India’s export landscape, promising to amplify market reach and economic returns for agricultural commodities and allied sectors through strategic global engagements.

The initiative by the Cooperation Minister, Amit Shah, signifies a concerted push to empower cooperative societies in India’s export realm. By extending export permissions for substantial quantities of non-Basmati rice and sugar, the National Cooperative Exports Ltd (NCEL) is poised to facilitate a significant leap in the global market for agricultural produce.

This move aligns with India’s broader objective to bolster its global trade footprint, leveraging the competitive edge of its agricultural sector. Through NCEL, the aim is not only to foster increased export volumes but also to ensure a more equitable distribution of economic gains, channelling the benefits back to the grassroots level of cooperative societies.

Moreover, the strategic focus of NCEL on diverse export-related activities, including procurement, storage, branding, and research, speaks volumes about the comprehensive approach taken to fortify the entire export ecosystem. This encompassing strategy, coupled with NCEL’s commitment to guiding cooperatives in navigating export-related policies and schemes, underscores a forward-thinking approach aimed at creating a conducive environment for cooperative-driven exports.

The enthusiasm surrounding NCEL’s permissions signals a transformative phase for India’s cooperative sector. By leveraging cooperative strengths and fostering a global market presence, the initiative not only aims to boost export figures but also promises to uplift local communities, thereby enhancing the socio-economic fabric of the country.

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

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

Additional 86 Non-existent RUPPs shall be deleted from the list and benefits under the Symbols Order (1968) withdrawnAction against these 339 (86+253) non-compliant. RUPPs takes the tally to 537 defaulting RUPPs since May 25, 2022

In continuation of the earlier action initiated on May 25, 2022 for enforcing due compliances by Registered Unrecognized Political Parties (RUPPs), the Election Commission of India led by Chief Election Commissioner, Shri Rajiv Kumar and Election Commissioner Shri Anup Chandra Pandey today further delisted 86 non-existent RUPPs and declared additional 253 as ‘Inactive RUPPs’. This action against 339 non-compliant RUPPs takes the tally to 537 defaulting RUPPs since May 25, 2022.

As per statutory requirements under section 29A of the RP Act, every political party has to communicate any change in its name, head office, office bearers, address, PAN to the Commission without delay. 86 RUPPs have been found to be non-existent either after a physical verification carried out by the respective Chief Electoral Officers of concerned States/UTs or based on report of undelivered letters/notices from Postal Authority sent to the registered address of concerned RUPP. It may be recalled that ECI had delisted 87 RUPPs and 111 RUPPs vide orders dated May 25, 2022 and June 20, 2022, thus totalling the number of delisted RUPPs to 284.

This decision against 253 non-compliant RUPPs has been taken based on reports received from Chief Electoral Officers of seven states namely Bihar, Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana & Uttar Pradesh. These 253 RUPPs have been declared inactive, as they have not responded to the letter/notice delivered to them and have not contested a single election either to the General Assembly of a State or the Parliament Election 2014 & 2019. These RUPPs have failed to comply with statutory requirements for more than 16 compliance steps since 2015 and are continuing to default.

It is also noted that of the above 253 parties, 66 RUPPs actually applied for a common symbol as per para 10B of the Symbol’s Order 1968 and did not contest the respective elections. It is pertinent to note that privilege of a common symbol is given to RUPP based upon an undertaking for putting up at least 5 percent of total candidates with regard to said legislative assembly election of a State. Possibility of such parties occupying the available pre-election political space by taking benefits of admissible entitlements without contesting elections cannot be ruled out.

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

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

The 75-day long ongoing Coastal Clean Up Campaign is receiving a huge response from across the sections of society and besides others, Governors, Chief Ministers, Union Ministers, celebrities, film and sports personalities, civil society groups etc. are joining the campaign with overwhelming enthusiasm and pledging their support to the longest and largest beach cleaning campaign in the world titled “Swachh Sagar, Surakshit Sagar”, coordinated by Union Ministry of Earth Sciences with collaboration from all the other Union Ministries, departments as well as governments of the coastal States.

Addressing a press conference today, three days ahead of “International Coastal Clean-up Day” on 17th September, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology, Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh said, he will join the campaign at Juhu beach in Mumbai on 17th September and informed that Governor Maharashtra Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis, BJP MP Poonam Mahajan and several personalities as well as NGOs will also join at Juhu.

The Minister also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his support through social media. The PM has stressed on keeping India’s coasts clean as he praised efforts of volunteers to remove garbage from the Juhu beach in Mumbai. Responding to a video posted by Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh about the clean-up at the beach, Modi tweeted, “Commendable… I appreciate all those involved in this effort. India is blessed with a long and beautiful coastline and it is important we focus on keeping our coasts clean”. The Minister said, “A cleanathon was organised at Juhu Beach in Mumbai, saw participation in large numbers especially by youngsters and Civil Society.

Dr Jitendra Singh informed that Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan will take a lead in the clean-up campaign at world famous Puri beach, while Pratap Chandra Sarangi, former union minister will be at Chandipur. BJP MP from Hooghly, West Bengal Ms Locket Chatterjee will be at Digha on D-Day. R.K.Mission head will lead the campaign at Bakkhali in southern Bengal.

Chief Minister of Gujarat Bhupendrabhai Patel will be at Porbandar (Madhavpur), while Union Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Parshottam Khodabhai Rupala will join the clean-up operation at Jafrabad, Amreli.

Governor of Goa P. S. Sreedharan Pillai and Chief Minister Pramod Sawant will take part in beach cleaning campaign in South and North Goa beaches on 17th September.

Similarly, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan will be at Kochi, while MoS External Affairs V. Muraleedharan will be at Kovalam beach at Thiruvananthapuram.

Governor of Karnataka Thawar Chand Gehlot will join the campaign at Panambur beach in Mangalore, while the Governor of Telangana, Dr. Tamilisai Soundararajan will lend her helping hand at Puducherry beach.

Governor of Mizoram Dr. K. Hari Babu will take part in Vizag beach while L. Murugan, Union MoS, Information and Broadcasting will join the event at Chennai

Dr Jitendra Singh informed that the campaign has entered the mode of whole of Government approach plus whole of nation participation.

Dr Jitendra Singh said, apart from active cooperation of Ministries of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Jal Shakti, Health and Family Welfare, Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, External Affairs, Information and Broadcasting, organisations and associations like National Service Scheme (NSS), Indian Coast Guard, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Seema Jagran Manch, SFD, Paryavaran Sanrakshan Gatividhi (PSG), along with other social organizations and educational institutions are participating in the clean-up campaign.

The MPs of coastal states have also pledged full support to the first-of-its-kind and longest running coastal clean-up campaign in the world and they also advised the Ministry of Earth Sciences to undertake a variety of activities by involving local NGOs.

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

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

Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology; Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh today announced setting up of a Dashboard to share the best technology practices among the Centre and the States.

Presiding over the concluding session of the two-day “Centre-State Science Conclave” at Science City in Ahmedabad, Dr Jitendra Singh informed that a high level mechanism will be developed by the Department of Science and Technology to monitor and coordinate the follow up action of the conclave. The Minister also asked the States to appoint a Nodal officer in each of the States to coordinate and cooperate with the Special Committee for knowing and sharing the best practices.

Giving the example of heli-borne technology launched from Jodhpur, Rajasthan in October, 2021, Dr Jitendra Singh said, to start with, the States of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana were taken up for this latest heli-borne survey.

The Minister pointed out that if the same technology is uploaded on Dashboard, other States may join and share this CSIR technology from source finding to water treatment and thus benefit millions of people across the country.

Dr Jitendra Singh said, it will also positively contribute to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Har Ghar Nal Se Jal” as well as “doubling farmer’s income” goals. He said, the latest state-of-the-art technology is being employed by Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) for mapping groundwater sources in arid regions and thus help utilise groundwater for drinking purposes.

The 2-day ‘Centre-State Science Conclave’ was formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Science City, Ahmedabad, yesterday. Dr Jitendra Singh expressed satisfaction that important plenary sessions with State S&T Ministers discussed in detail on issues like Agriculture, Innovation for producing portable drinking water including application of technologies like Desalination, Heli borne methods developed by DST, Clean Energy for All including S&T role in Hydrogen mission, Deep Sea Mission of MoES and its relevance for Coastal States/UT, Digital healthcare for All and Synergizing Science with National Education Policy.

A special session with the CEOs of over 100 Start-Ups and industry at the Centre-State Science Conclave’ in Ahmedabad came up with scientific solutions in the field of agriculture, drone, artificial intelligence, biotechnological solutions, single-use plastic alternates, irrigation and digital health amongst others.

Many of the State governments have shown keen interest in some of the technologies and agreed to partner with some of the startups for State-specific technological solutions.

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

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

The worst floods in several decades have wreaked havoc in Pakistan, one of the most populous countries of South Asia. The floods have touched the country’s 220 million people’s lives directly or indirectly. More than 1,300 people have died with 81 out of 160 districts directly affected by the floods, leaving at least 33 million people homeless.

The heat waves followed by rains and glacial melting has been a global trend this year bringing out the stark reality that despite all talks and conventions, the world community has failed to contain and reverse climatic change. But Pakistan’s case is unique.

Beyond the human losses, the country’s economic managers have the most challenging task ahead as floods ravaged the country’s road and communication network, damaged an incalculable number of houses, and destroyed millions of hectares of crops.

Niaz Murtaza, a political economist, describes present crisis as “a triple whammy”, putting together economic, political and natural. “The poor had been suffering the first two months because of inflation, job loss and political paralysis. Now the floods have pushed millions into ruin,” he said.

Despite this, the political masters are not only busy in bickering and allegations against each other, but have also triggered a blame game on social media as usual, pointing fingers on India for the flood havoc. The bombardment of propaganda, nevertheless, cannot change the reality that Pakistan government and its institutions have utterly failed in fulfilling their duties towards its citizens.

Ludicrous as it is, it cannot absolve the leadership of Pakistan that has failed people in terms of economic mismanagement, entrenched corruption and naked cronyism in the system. Added to these are the wrong policies and priorities of Islamabad which have been instrumental in bringing economic crisis and political instability. The floods have only abetted it.

The natural disaster has struck Pakistan while economy is passing through the difficult phase of multiple challenges including Balance of Payment (BoP) crisis, heavy debt burden and solvency-related issues. The protracted economic crisis is likely to deepen further despite conclusion of talks with the IMF for release of Extended Fund Facility credit.

While Finance Minister Miftah Ismail estimates that the country has incurred a total loss of “at least $10 billion”, independent analysts, including Uzar Younus, Director of the Pakistan Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia centre and economist Ammar Habib Khan, put the figure between $15-20 billion, and expect it to rise further as information is coming with a great lag.

Existing infrastructure is collapsing with the flooding submerging one-third of the country, pushing 37 per cent of population into poverty. Pakistan is literally and figuratively under deep water, writes Nasir Jamal. It may take a few more months before the damages can be assessed. Even before the flooding, 60 per cent of the population was suffering from hunger, malnutrition and related diseases and the figures are bound to shoot up now.

In view of the mammoth loss, the IMF’s $1.2 billion credit now seems to be a peanut. Pakistan was earlier wounded and now it is bleeding. Floods will exacerbate the economic crisis that had shown initial signs of abating with the IMF deal. Twin deficits, growth prospects and inflationary expectations will be worsening, inflicting misery on the poor. Despite increasing gravity of the situation, saving people’s life and livelihood have not still become the priorities among the political class who are revealing in an ugly slugfest.

The real cost of the natural calamity is being borne by millions of poor kids, pregnant women, elderly and sick persons crowded under the open sky or tents, prone to hunger, diseases and insecurity as they wait for aid. It will be weeks before many can even return to their villages as the land drains and dries. It will take months, even years, to recover from the loss of housing, animals, crops and cultivable land.

Covid-19 had only disrupted economic exchange without damaging the economic base. But the flood has destroyed crops, land, animals, bridges, etc. negatively impacting deeper on the poor and the economy. And the insensitive political class in Pakistan is still deeply engrossed in political maneuver and cunning tricks against each other rather than presenting a united face at the time of calamity. That is the character of Pakistan’s politics.

In view of the contribution of agriculture to the extent of one fourth of the GDP, the country would have to face major revenue loss due to crop losses. As per the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s August 29 report, almost 80 per cent of crops in Sindh, which produces roughly 30% of Pakistan’s cotton output, were destroyed.

Close to 70 per cent of Pakistan’s textile industry, an important source of employment and foreign exchange, uses the cotton produced in the country. Floods are likely to cause severe shortage of cotton, said Abdul Rahim Nasir, Chairman of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association. He added that instead of earlier average import of cotton estimated at about 4 million bales, Pakistan would now need to import just the double of that figure, at a potential cost of $3 billion.

Shahrukh Wani, an Oxford economist, says the flood will make it terribly difficult for the government to reduce the trade deficit because while the country will need to import food to “compensate” for lost crops, the textile sector will find itself struggling due to “potential shortage” of cotton crop.

The biting inflation which rose to 25% in the month of July from a year earlier, the highest since May 1975, is taking its own toll on the living conditions of masses. The flooding would further push up the inflation and accentuate the scarcity of even essentials.

Amreen Soorani, Head of Research at JS Global Capital Ltd, said that “the main concern from the floods is the impact on inflation”. Even the IMF warned that the runaway inflation could trigger protests and instability.

Islamabad secured funds from the IMF for immediate bailout of the economy from the saturating forex crisis. However, the problems would be far from over for Islamabad. As the advanced countries are focused more on the impact of Ukraine-Russia war and trying to cope with recessionary pressures while some of the development partners including Middle Eastern countries and China are down with donor fatigue, Islamabad has scant probability to get any major international relief.

For now, the immediate challenge that government will face is to fulfil the conditions of raising taxes and applying austerity measures as part of its agreement with the IMF for its bailout package. This might turn out a politically unpopular move and could flare up the political bickering. The condition is rife for mass protests in view of increasing cost of living for many months now, which opposition could take advantage of. Anger is rising across Pakistan over the slow pace of government relief efforts.

The catastrophic floods have put a downward pressure on growth prospectus. Initial estimates suggest that the economic growth rate may slow down to just 2 per cent. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said that the recent floods caused more damage than the 2010 calamity wherein the economic losses had been estimated at $9.7 billion. The floods have already caused supply chain-related issues.

Even during natural calamity, politicians are concerned about their political agenda rather than allowing international aid agencies to import essential food items from the neighbouring country. Cases after cases of corruption are cropping up, “you reveal mine, I will reveal yours”, an unending slugfest continues.

Instead of fighting the fallout of the devastating natural calamity united, they are engrossed in manoeuvre and cunning tricks and a regressive thought process whether or not to allow aid flow from India. Some of the government top officials have suggested importing essential commodities such as food and medicine from India, while others are still the victim of the old rigidities and anti-India mindset.

India is an undoable reality of being the most potent vehicle of South Asia’s growth vision as it is a responsible regional power and the fastest growing economy of the world, which offers a big market for exports and sourcing imports. Islamabad needs to understand that cooperation with neighbours does not reduce the stature of a calamity hit country.

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Separated in 1947, Sikh brother meets sister reunite

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Separated in 1947, Sikh brother meets sister reunite

The Kartarpur Corridor has once again reunited another family after a man who separated from his parents when he was only a few months old in 1947, finally met his sister in Pakistan.

Amarjit Singh was left out in India along with his sister while his Muslim parents came to Pakistan. All eyes went teary as they saw the emotional scenes of the brother-sister reunion in Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, Geo News reported.

Amarjit Singh arrived in Pakistan via the Wagah border with a visa to meet his Muslim sister and to remain as her guest.

His sister, 65-year-old Kulsoom Akhtar, could not control her emotions after seeing Amarjit.

Both hugged each other and kept crying. She had travelled from her hometown in Faisalabad along with her son Shahzad Ahmed and other family members to meet her brother.

Kulsoom said that her parents came to Pakistan from the suburbs of the Jalandhar region of India in 1947, leaving behind her younger brother and a sister, Express Tribune reported.

Kulsoom said she was born in Pakistan and used to hear about her lost brother and a sister from her mother. She said that her mother used to cry every time whenever she remembered her missing children. Kulsoom said that she did not expect that she would ever be able to meet her brother and sister. However, a few years ago, a friend of her father Sardar Dara Singh came to Pakistan from India.

Kulsoom’s mother told Singh about her son and daughter she left behind in India. She also told him the name of their village and the location of their house in the neighbouring country.

Amarjit then visited her house in Padawan village of Jalandhar and informed her that her son was alive but her daughter was dead. Her son was named Amarjit Singh who was adopted by a Sikh family back then in 1947, The Express Tribune reported.

After getting the brother’s information, Amarjit and Kulsoom Akhtar contacted on WhatsApp and using the Kartarpur Corridor and the meeting between the two siblings became a reality.

Now an elderly man, Sardar Amarjit Singh came to Gurdwara Sahib in a wheelchair. Kulsoom Akhtar also could not travel due to back pain, but she showed courage and reached Kartarpur from Faisalabad along with her son. Both the siblings kept crying while embracing each other and remembering their parents.

Amarjit said that when he first learned that his real parents were in Pakistan and were Muslims, it was a shock to him. However, he comforted his heart that many families were separated from each other in addition to his own family.

Many Muslim children became Sikhs and many Sikh children became Muslims, Express Tribune reported.

He said that he always wanted to meet his real sister and brothers. He said that he is happy to know that three of his brothers are alive. However, one brother who was in Germany has passed away.

He said he will now come to Pakistan via the Wagah border with a visa and spend time with his family. He also said that he will take his family to India as well so that they could meet their Sikh family. Both the siblings had brought many gifts for each other.

Shahzad Ahmad, son of Kulsoom, said that he used to hear about his uncle from his grandmother and mother. He said that all of the siblings were very young at the time of Partition and no name was given to Amarjit or perhaps, after so many years, the name had slipped out of mind.

“I understand that since my uncle was brought up by a Sikh family, he happens to be a Sikh, and my family and I have no problem with this,” he added.

Shahzad said that he is happy that even after 75 years his mother has found her lost brother.

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