While fully, firmly and finally espousing with full zeal the legal rights of even the convict which cannot be violated by not even the State itself, the Apex Court has in an extremely laudable, learned, landmark and latest judgment titled Bhola Kumar vs State of Chhattisgarh in Criminal Appeal No. 937 of 2022 (Arising out of SLP(Crl.)No.2426 of 2022) and cited in 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 589 delivered on May 9, 2022 but uploaded recently minced just no words whatsoever to hold that when a convict is detained beyond the actual release date it would be imprisonment or detention sans sanction of law and would thus, violate not only Article 19(1) (d) but also Article 21 of the Constitution of India. (Para 17). The Apex Court has clearly directed in this leading case the State of Chhattisgarh to pay compensation to the tune of Rs 7.5 lakhs as compensation to a rape convict who was kept in prison beyond the period by the State holding that it is vicariously liable for the act/omission committed by its officers in the course of employment. The Bench of Apex Court comprising of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice CT Ravikumar minced just no words whatsoever to hold unambiguously that, “When a competent court, upon conviction, sentenced an accused and in appeal, the sentence was modified upon confirmation of the conviction and then the appellate judgment had become final, the convict can be detained only up to the period to which he can be legally detained on the basis of the said appellate judgment.” The Bench also made it clear that, “Court can grant appropriate relief when there is some manifest illegality or where some palpable injustice is shown to have resulted. Such a power can be traced either to Article 142 of the Constitution of India or powers inherent as guardian of the Constitution. Referred to A.R. Antulay V. R.S. Nayak (1988) 2 SCC 602. (Para 19).”
At the outset, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by Justice CT Ravikumar for a Bench of Apex Court comprising of Justice Ajay Rastogi and himself sets the pitch in motion by first and foremost putting forth that, “This Special Leave Petition is filed assailing the judgment and order dated 19.7.2018 of the High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur in Criminal Appeal No. 110/2015 whereby and whereunder the conviction of the petitioner under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (for short ‘IPC’) was confirmed, but the sentence therefor, was reduced from 12 years to 7 years of rigorous imprisonment. Notice was issued on 04.03.2022. However, the said order and the subsequent order dated 21.03.2022 would reveal that it was, in truth, a limited one. Leave Granted, accordingly. A short prelude may be profitable for a proper consideration of the limited question (which we intend to go into) viz., whether the appellant is entitled to compensation for being kept in prison beyond the period of sentence and thereby sustained deprival of personal liberty.”
To start with, the Bench while citing the most relevant case law mentions in para 1 that, “While parting with the decision in Rudul Sah’s case Rudul Sah vs. State of Bihar & Anr. (1983) 4 SCC 141, this Court made a fervent hope-
“This order will not preclude the petitioner from bringing a suit to recover appropriate damages from the state and its erring officials. The order of compensation passed by us is, as we said above, in the nature of a palliative. We cannot leave the petitioner penniless until the end of his suit, the many appeals and the execution proceedings. A full-dressed debate on the nice points of fact and law which takes place leisurely in compensation suits will have to await the filing of such a suit by the poor Rudul Sah. The Leviathan will have liberty to raise those points in that suit. Until then, we hope, there will be no more Rudul Sahs in Bihar or elsewhere.” (Emphasis added) That was a case where Rudul Sah, despite being acquitted by the Court of Sessions, Muzaffarpur, Bihar, on 03.06.1968 was released from the jail only on 16.10.1982, idest, more than 14 years since his acquittal. A Habeas Corpus petition was then filed before this Court seeking his release on the ground that his detention in the jail is unlawful. Ancillary reliefs were also sought for. When the said writ petition was taken up on 22.11.1982, the learned counsel for the State of Bihar informed this Court that the appellant was released from the jail. Though the prayer for release from the jail had become infructuous, this Court went on to consider the writ petition in regard to the other reliefs sought for and held that his detention after his acquittal was wholly unjustified. Thereupon, this Court held: “Therefore, the State must repair the damage done by its officers to the petitioner’s rights. It may have recourse against those officers.” It is thereafter that the said writ petition was disposed of in the aforesaid manner and with the fervent hope extracted above.”
As we see, the Bench then acknowledges in para 2 that, “True that the appellant cannot be said to be another Rudul Sah inasmuch as his case never ended in his acquittal, but only in confirmation of conviction with reduction in period of imprisonment. Nonetheless, his case, to be unravelled hereinbelow, would reveal continuance of contumacious act on the part of a State Government (of course, its officials) in keeping a convict in incarceration beyond the period of sentence of imprisonment, unmindful of the final verdict of the Court. Such an act is injudicious and indefensible when his/her continued confinement is uncalled for in connection with any other case. This kind of levity cannot be viewed with laxity and it is time to consider it on the legit. Freedom of movement can be curtailed or taken away by imprisonment or detention ordained after due process of law and in accordance with law. Imprisonment or detention sans sanction of law would violate Article 19(d) as well as the right under Article 21, of the Constitution of India.”
To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 3 that, “In the case on hand the appellant Bhola Kumhar was made to stand the trial for the offence punishable under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (for short, “IPC”) and Sections 3(ii)(v) and 3(1) (xii) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. He was convicted and sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of 12 years and to pay a fine of Rs.10,000/- for the conviction for offence punishable under Section 376 IPC. He took up the matter in appeal and in Criminal Appeal No.110/2015 the High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur confirmed the conviction, but reduced his sentence of 12 years rigorous imprisonment to 7 years imprisonment. Further, it was ordered to compensate the victim in terms of the provisions under Section 357 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, by paying Rs.15,000/within a period of six months. The sentence to pay fine of Rs.10,000/- and in default, to undergo imprisonment for one more year was ordered to remain as it is. The orders dated 4.3.2022 and 21.3.2022 passed in the SLP are reflective on the disinclination to interfere with the conviction and the sentence imposed therefor, but indicative of inclination to make a probe on the question as to why the appellant was detained in custody exceeding the period of judicial custody in terms of the judgment of the High Court dated 19.07.2018.”
As it turned out, the Bench then observes in para 4 that, “When the matter came up for consideration on 04.03.2022 , this Court condoned the delay in filing the Special Leave Petition and took note of the submission made by the learned senior counsel appearing for the appellant (in fact, Amicus Curiae) that despite suffering the full sentence in terms of the judgment impugned, the appellant was not released. This Court passed the following order:-
“Learned senior counsel for the petitioner submits that the petitioner was convicted for offence punishable under Section 376 IPC and sentence for 7 years R.I. by the High Court under the impugned judgment dated 19.07.2018 and despite the petitioner has undergone the full sentence in terms of the judgment impugned, still he has not been released and it appears that the Superintendent Central Jail, Ambikapur, Surguja (C.G.) has not updated their jail records as it reveals from the certificate placed on record.
ISSUE NOTICE, RETURNABLE ON 14.03.2022.
Copy of the petition be served additionally to the Standing Counsel for the State of Chhattisgarh.””
Be it noted, the Bench then notes in para 5 that, “On 21.03.2022 this Court passed the following order:-
“The records indicate that the petitioner had undergone 10 years 03 months and 16 days of custody as revealed from the custody certificate dated 09th November, 2021 and the High Court while upholding conviction, reduced the sentence to 07 years rigorous imprisonment (RI).
The submission of the counsel for the petitioner was recorded by this Court on 4th March, 2022 that despite the petitioner has undergone full sentence of 7 years RI in terms of the judgment impugned by the High Court, still he has not been released and after the notice of the present petition came to be served, the concerned authorities have released the petitioner on 16th March, 2022. This may not be the end of the matter. What is being reflected to this Court needs a further probe.
Let the counsel for the State file an affidavit and tender an explanation as to why the petitioner was detained in custody exceeding the period of judicial custody in terms of the judgment impugned of the High Court dated 19th July, 2018. At the same time, the State may also collect the data from all over the State and furnish a report to this Court of such of the incident of which reference has been made in the present petition.
Copy of this order may also be sent to the Secretary, State Legal Services Authority, Chhattisgarh for taking appropriate steps and compliance report.” (Emphasis added).”
To be sure, the Bench then observes in para 6 that, “In compliance with the said order dated 21.03.2022, an affidavit was filed by the Superintendent of Central Jail, Ambikapur, purportedly to explain the reason for detaining the appellant in custody exceeding the period of judicial custody. We find no reason to accept so-called justification and we will explain the raison d’etre for our disinclination and also for our inclination to grant compensation.”
Quite significantly, the Bench points out in para 12 that, “Thus, it is evident that in the State of Chhattisgarh, the Madhya Pradesh Prison Rules, 1968 is in force and thereunder the term ‘sentence’ takes the meaning sentence as finally fixed on appeal, revision or otherwise and it includes an aggregate of more sentences than one and committal to or detention in prison in default of furnishing security to keep the peace or good behaviour. As stated hereinbefore, in the instant case the Court of Special Judge the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, Jashpur, which tried the appellant convicted him for the offence punishable under Section 376 IPC and sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 12 years and to pay a fine of Rs. 10,000/- and in default of its payment to undergo additional one year rigorous imprisonment. In the appeal, while confirming the conviction, the High Court reduced the sentence to rigorous imprisonment for 07 years under Section 376 IPC and retained the order of payment of fine of Rs.10,000/- as it is. Additionally, it was ordered that the appellant should compensate the victim in terms of the provisions of Section 357 Cr.P.C. by paying Rs.15,000/-. In the aforesaid circumstances, the indisputable position is that the sentence finally fixed on the appellant was 7 years of rigorous imprisonment. It is true that he was also to suffer one more year of imprisonment in default of payment of fine. But, what is disturbing us is the purposeful omission to make any mention about the period of remission to which the appellant was entitled to in the affidavit dated 24.4.2022. This requires to be taken seriously not solely due to the applicability of the afore-mentioned Prison Rules but on account of certain other aspects as well. Whatever be the actual period of remission to which the appellant was entitled to, the factum is that his entitlement to remission is indisputable in the circumstances mentioned above. Going by the custody certificate the period of jail remission as on 9.11.2021 was 2 years, 5 months and 26 days. It is pertinent to note that the deponent of the affidavit dated 24.04.2022 who himself issued the Custody Certificate, did not dispute the entitlement of the appellant for remission. What exactly was the period of imprisonment undergone by the appellant with remission was not mentioned at all in the said affidavit though in the order dated 21.03.2022 this Court recorded that going by the records the appellant had suffered, 10 years, 3 months and 16 days of custody as per the Custody Certificate dated 9th November, 2021. Add to it, even going by the affidavit dated 24.04.2022 the appellant had suffered imprisonment in excess of what was he was to suffer legally. In paragraph 17 of the said affidavit what is stated :
“That the total sentence undergone by the petitioner (excluding the remission period) is 8 years 1 month and 29 days.” (Emphasis added).”
Frankly speaking, the Bench then concedes voluntarily in para 17 that, “We are not oblivious of the fact that the appellant herein was held guilty in a grave offence. But then, when a competent court, upon conviction, sentenced an accused and in appeal, the sentence was modified upon confirmation of the conviction and then the appellate judgment had become final, the convict can be detained only up to the period to which he can be legally detained on the basis of the said appellate judgment. When such a convict is detained beyond the actual release date it would be imprisonment or detention sans sanction of law and would thus, violate not only Article 19(d) but also Article 21 of the Constitution of India. This is what was suffered by the appellant for a very long period. Considering the fact that the appellant is a youth, this long and illegal imprisonment beyond the period of sentence, taking into account the long and illegal deprivation of the right to move freely and thereby, the violation of right under Article 19 (d) of the Constitution of India, the violation of right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and the mental agony and pain caused due to such extra, illegal detention, we are of the view that the appellant is entitled to be compensated in terms of money.”
Most remarkably, the Bench then deems it apposite to hold in para 18 that, “We are aware that the present proceeding is not one under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. It is one under Article 136 of the Constitution. We are of the view that reference to Section 386 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (for short ‘Cr.P.C.’) would be apposite. Clause (a) thereof, deals with appellate powers available in an appeal from an order of acquittal whereas clause (b) deals with appellate power in an appeal from conviction. Clause (c) deals with the appellate power in appeal for enhancement of sentence and clause (d) deals with the appellate power in an appeal from any other order. Now, clause (e), unlike clause (a) to (d), does not say as to what particular nature of appeal that the power to make any amendment or any consequential or incidental order that may be just or proper may be passed in invocation of the power thereunder. The conclusion that can be reached in the absence of such specific mention is that the power specified under clause (e) would be available, of course in appropriate cases falling under any of the four categories of appeals mentioned under clauses (a) to (d). Our view is fortified by the fact that the twin provisos under clause (d) carry restrictions in the matter of exercise of power under clause (e), with respect to enhancement of sentence and infliction of punishment. According to us, the power thereunder can be exercised only in rare cases. In this case, we found that the appellant was kept illegally in prison far in excess of the legally permissible period of incarceration despite coming to know about the appellate judgment of the High Court dated 19.07.2018. As noted above, he was released only on 16.03.2022, which is much beyond the permissible period of sentence in terms of the said judgment dated 19.07.2018. In other words, he served out the period of permissible period of imprisonment on the basis of the judgment dated 19.07.2018. The appellant is a youth and he suffered long and illegal deprivation of fundamental rights besides the mental agony and pain on account of such extra, illegal detention. Is it not a case inviting a consequential or incidental order that may be just or proper. In the decision of Ambica Quarry Works Vs. State of Gujarat (AIR 1987 SC 1073), this court held that ‘all interpretations must subserve and help implementation of the intention of the Act’. This possession is applicable while interpreting any provision in any statute especially when the power under that provision is conferred to pass orders that may be just or proper.”
Finally and far most significantly, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 19 that, “It is also apposite to refer to the decision of this court in A.R. Antulay V. R.S. Nayak [(1988) 2 SCC 602] in the context of this case. Going by the same this Court can grant appropriate relief when there is some manifest illegality or where some palpable injustice is shown to have resulted. Such a power, going by the decision, can be traced either to Article 142 of the Constitution of India or powers inherent as guardian of the Constitution. Without making any observation as to his civil remedy, we think it only just and proper to pass an order granting compensation to the tune of Rs.7.5 Lakhs (Rupees Seven Lakhs and Fifty Thousand) to be paid by the State holding that it is vicariously liable for the act/omission committed by its officers in the course of employment. We also make it clear that while holding the State vicariously liable as above the State must have recourse against the erred officer(s). The appeal is disposed of in the above terms. Pending applications, if any, stand disposed of.”
Of course, this most commendable judgment by the top court deserves to be emulated by all the courts in similar such cases without fail. There has to be zero tolerance absolutely for illegal detention. If this is not ensured strictly then we will see the State and police violating the legal rights of the convict, the accused and the undertrials with impunity which cannot be allowed somehow to go unhindered, unchecked, unaccounted and unpunished at any cost and under any circumstances!
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NCEL granted export permission for rice and sugar
The newly established National Cooperative Exports Ltd (NCEL) has received authorization to export 14,92,800 tonnes of non-Basmati rice to 16 countries and 50,000 tonnes of sugar to two countries, as disclosed by Cooperation Minister Amit Shah in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
Functioning under the ambit of the Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act, 2002, the NCEL, registered in January this year, operates across agriculture, allied activities, handloom, and handicraft items. With an objective to double its revenue by 2025 from the present Rs 2,160 crore, the entity has actively enrolled numerous cooperatives, garnering 2,581 membership applications from 22 states and Union Territories.
Minister Amit Shah emphasized that NCEL’s primary objective is to create an export-friendly environment, particularly for agricultural commodities, leveraging India’s comparative advantage in these sectors. The cooperative body welcomes the participation of cooperative societies, from grassroots to apex levels, interested in engaging in export activities.
The key focus of NCEL remains on utilizing the surplus available within the Indian cooperative sector by accessing global markets. This strategic expansion aims to enhance the demand for Indian cooperative products on an international scale, ensuring better price realizations for these goods and services.
NCEL’s operational scope encompasses a comprehensive ecosystem to promote exports, spanning procurement, storage, processing, marketing, branding, labelling, packaging, certification, research and development, and trading across all goods and services produced by cooperative societies.
Moreover, the cooperative export body intends to facilitate cooperatives in availing benefits from various export-related schemes and policies curated by different ministries, streamlining and enhancing their export endeavours.
The establishment of NCEL underscores a concerted effort to leverage cooperative strengths in India’s export landscape, promising to amplify market reach and economic returns for agricultural commodities and allied sectors through strategic global engagements.
The initiative by the Cooperation Minister, Amit Shah, signifies a concerted push to empower cooperative societies in India’s export realm. By extending export permissions for substantial quantities of non-Basmati rice and sugar, the National Cooperative Exports Ltd (NCEL) is poised to facilitate a significant leap in the global market for agricultural produce.
This move aligns with India’s broader objective to bolster its global trade footprint, leveraging the competitive edge of its agricultural sector. Through NCEL, the aim is not only to foster increased export volumes but also to ensure a more equitable distribution of economic gains, channelling the benefits back to the grassroots level of cooperative societies.
Moreover, the strategic focus of NCEL on diverse export-related activities, including procurement, storage, branding, and research, speaks volumes about the comprehensive approach taken to fortify the entire export ecosystem. This encompassing strategy, coupled with NCEL’s commitment to guiding cooperatives in navigating export-related policies and schemes, underscores a forward-thinking approach aimed at creating a conducive environment for cooperative-driven exports.
The enthusiasm surrounding NCEL’s permissions signals a transformative phase for India’s cooperative sector. By leveraging cooperative strengths and fostering a global market presence, the initiative not only aims to boost export figures but also promises to uplift local communities, thereby enhancing the socio-economic fabric of the country.
Election Commission declares 253 RUPPs as inactive, bars them from availing benefits of the Symbol Order, 1968
Additional 86 Non-existent RUPPs shall be deleted from the list and benefits under the Symbols Order (1968) withdrawnAction against these 339 (86+253) non-compliant. RUPPs takes the tally to 537 defaulting RUPPs since May 25, 2022
In continuation of the earlier action initiated on May 25, 2022 for enforcing due compliances by Registered Unrecognized Political Parties (RUPPs), the Election Commission of India led by Chief Election Commissioner, Shri Rajiv Kumar and Election Commissioner Shri Anup Chandra Pandey today further delisted 86 non-existent RUPPs and declared additional 253 as ‘Inactive RUPPs’. This action against 339 non-compliant RUPPs takes the tally to 537 defaulting RUPPs since May 25, 2022.
As per statutory requirements under section 29A of the RP Act, every political party has to communicate any change in its name, head office, office bearers, address, PAN to the Commission without delay. 86 RUPPs have been found to be non-existent either after a physical verification carried out by the respective Chief Electoral Officers of concerned States/UTs or based on report of undelivered letters/notices from Postal Authority sent to the registered address of concerned RUPP. It may be recalled that ECI had delisted 87 RUPPs and 111 RUPPs vide orders dated May 25, 2022 and June 20, 2022, thus totalling the number of delisted RUPPs to 284.
This decision against 253 non-compliant RUPPs has been taken based on reports received from Chief Electoral Officers of seven states namely Bihar, Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana & Uttar Pradesh. These 253 RUPPs have been declared inactive, as they have not responded to the letter/notice delivered to them and have not contested a single election either to the General Assembly of a State or the Parliament Election 2014 & 2019. These RUPPs have failed to comply with statutory requirements for more than 16 compliance steps since 2015 and are continuing to default.
It is also noted that of the above 253 parties, 66 RUPPs actually applied for a common symbol as per para 10B of the Symbol’s Order 1968 and did not contest the respective elections. It is pertinent to note that privilege of a common symbol is given to RUPP based upon an undertaking for putting up at least 5 percent of total candidates with regard to said legislative assembly election of a State. Possibility of such parties occupying the available pre-election political space by taking benefits of admissible entitlements without contesting elections cannot be ruled out.
Coastal clean-up campaign receives a huge response: Dr. Jitendra Singh
The 75-day long ongoing Coastal Clean Up Campaign is receiving a huge response from across the sections of society and besides others, Governors, Chief Ministers, Union Ministers, celebrities, film and sports personalities, civil society groups etc. are joining the campaign with overwhelming enthusiasm and pledging their support to the longest and largest beach cleaning campaign in the world titled “Swachh Sagar, Surakshit Sagar”, coordinated by Union Ministry of Earth Sciences with collaboration from all the other Union Ministries, departments as well as governments of the coastal States.
Addressing a press conference today, three days ahead of “International Coastal Clean-up Day” on 17th September, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology, Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh said, he will join the campaign at Juhu beach in Mumbai on 17th September and informed that Governor Maharashtra Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis, BJP MP Poonam Mahajan and several personalities as well as NGOs will also join at Juhu.
The Minister also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his support through social media. The PM has stressed on keeping India’s coasts clean as he praised efforts of volunteers to remove garbage from the Juhu beach in Mumbai. Responding to a video posted by Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh about the clean-up at the beach, Modi tweeted, “Commendable… I appreciate all those involved in this effort. India is blessed with a long and beautiful coastline and it is important we focus on keeping our coasts clean”. The Minister said, “A cleanathon was organised at Juhu Beach in Mumbai, saw participation in large numbers especially by youngsters and Civil Society.
Dr Jitendra Singh informed that Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan will take a lead in the clean-up campaign at world famous Puri beach, while Pratap Chandra Sarangi, former union minister will be at Chandipur. BJP MP from Hooghly, West Bengal Ms Locket Chatterjee will be at Digha on D-Day. R.K.Mission head will lead the campaign at Bakkhali in southern Bengal.
Chief Minister of Gujarat Bhupendrabhai Patel will be at Porbandar (Madhavpur), while Union Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Parshottam Khodabhai Rupala will join the clean-up operation at Jafrabad, Amreli.
Governor of Goa P. S. Sreedharan Pillai and Chief Minister Pramod Sawant will take part in beach cleaning campaign in South and North Goa beaches on 17th September.
Similarly, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan will be at Kochi, while MoS External Affairs V. Muraleedharan will be at Kovalam beach at Thiruvananthapuram.
Governor of Karnataka Thawar Chand Gehlot will join the campaign at Panambur beach in Mangalore, while the Governor of Telangana, Dr. Tamilisai Soundararajan will lend her helping hand at Puducherry beach.
Governor of Mizoram Dr. K. Hari Babu will take part in Vizag beach while L. Murugan, Union MoS, Information and Broadcasting will join the event at Chennai
Dr Jitendra Singh informed that the campaign has entered the mode of whole of Government approach plus whole of nation participation.
Dr Jitendra Singh said, apart from active cooperation of Ministries of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Jal Shakti, Health and Family Welfare, Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, External Affairs, Information and Broadcasting, organisations and associations like National Service Scheme (NSS), Indian Coast Guard, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Seema Jagran Manch, SFD, Paryavaran Sanrakshan Gatividhi (PSG), along with other social organizations and educational institutions are participating in the clean-up campaign.
The MPs of coastal states have also pledged full support to the first-of-its-kind and longest running coastal clean-up campaign in the world and they also advised the Ministry of Earth Sciences to undertake a variety of activities by involving local NGOs.
DASHBOARD TO BE SET UP SOON TO SHARE THE BEST TECH PRACTICES AMONG THE CENTRE & THE STATES: UNION MINISTER JITENDRA SINGH
Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology; Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh today announced setting up of a Dashboard to share the best technology practices among the Centre and the States.
Presiding over the concluding session of the two-day “Centre-State Science Conclave” at Science City in Ahmedabad, Dr Jitendra Singh informed that a high level mechanism will be developed by the Department of Science and Technology to monitor and coordinate the follow up action of the conclave. The Minister also asked the States to appoint a Nodal officer in each of the States to coordinate and cooperate with the Special Committee for knowing and sharing the best practices.
Giving the example of heli-borne technology launched from Jodhpur, Rajasthan in October, 2021, Dr Jitendra Singh said, to start with, the States of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana were taken up for this latest heli-borne survey.
The Minister pointed out that if the same technology is uploaded on Dashboard, other States may join and share this CSIR technology from source finding to water treatment and thus benefit millions of people across the country.
Dr Jitendra Singh said, it will also positively contribute to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Har Ghar Nal Se Jal” as well as “doubling farmer’s income” goals. He said, the latest state-of-the-art technology is being employed by Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) for mapping groundwater sources in arid regions and thus help utilise groundwater for drinking purposes.
The 2-day ‘Centre-State Science Conclave’ was formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Science City, Ahmedabad, yesterday. Dr Jitendra Singh expressed satisfaction that important plenary sessions with State S&T Ministers discussed in detail on issues like Agriculture, Innovation for producing portable drinking water including application of technologies like Desalination, Heli borne methods developed by DST, Clean Energy for All including S&T role in Hydrogen mission, Deep Sea Mission of MoES and its relevance for Coastal States/UT, Digital healthcare for All and Synergizing Science with National Education Policy.
A special session with the CEOs of over 100 Start-Ups and industry at the Centre-State Science Conclave’ in Ahmedabad came up with scientific solutions in the field of agriculture, drone, artificial intelligence, biotechnological solutions, single-use plastic alternates, irrigation and digital health amongst others.
Many of the State governments have shown keen interest in some of the technologies and agreed to partner with some of the startups for State-specific technological solutions.
Floods, economic crisis and political bickerings: A saga of Pakistan’s mismanagement & insensitivity
The worst floods in several decades have wreaked havoc in Pakistan, one of the most populous countries of South Asia. The floods have touched the country’s 220 million people’s lives directly or indirectly. More than 1,300 people have died with 81 out of 160 districts directly affected by the floods, leaving at least 33 million people homeless.
The heat waves followed by rains and glacial melting has been a global trend this year bringing out the stark reality that despite all talks and conventions, the world community has failed to contain and reverse climatic change. But Pakistan’s case is unique.
Beyond the human losses, the country’s economic managers have the most challenging task ahead as floods ravaged the country’s road and communication network, damaged an incalculable number of houses, and destroyed millions of hectares of crops.
Niaz Murtaza, a political economist, describes present crisis as “a triple whammy”, putting together economic, political and natural. “The poor had been suffering the first two months because of inflation, job loss and political paralysis. Now the floods have pushed millions into ruin,” he said.
Despite this, the political masters are not only busy in bickering and allegations against each other, but have also triggered a blame game on social media as usual, pointing fingers on India for the flood havoc. The bombardment of propaganda, nevertheless, cannot change the reality that Pakistan government and its institutions have utterly failed in fulfilling their duties towards its citizens.
Ludicrous as it is, it cannot absolve the leadership of Pakistan that has failed people in terms of economic mismanagement, entrenched corruption and naked cronyism in the system. Added to these are the wrong policies and priorities of Islamabad which have been instrumental in bringing economic crisis and political instability. The floods have only abetted it.
The natural disaster has struck Pakistan while economy is passing through the difficult phase of multiple challenges including Balance of Payment (BoP) crisis, heavy debt burden and solvency-related issues. The protracted economic crisis is likely to deepen further despite conclusion of talks with the IMF for release of Extended Fund Facility credit.
While Finance Minister Miftah Ismail estimates that the country has incurred a total loss of “at least $10 billion”, independent analysts, including Uzar Younus, Director of the Pakistan Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia centre and economist Ammar Habib Khan, put the figure between $15-20 billion, and expect it to rise further as information is coming with a great lag.
Existing infrastructure is collapsing with the flooding submerging one-third of the country, pushing 37 per cent of population into poverty. Pakistan is literally and figuratively under deep water, writes Nasir Jamal. It may take a few more months before the damages can be assessed. Even before the flooding, 60 per cent of the population was suffering from hunger, malnutrition and related diseases and the figures are bound to shoot up now.
In view of the mammoth loss, the IMF’s $1.2 billion credit now seems to be a peanut. Pakistan was earlier wounded and now it is bleeding. Floods will exacerbate the economic crisis that had shown initial signs of abating with the IMF deal. Twin deficits, growth prospects and inflationary expectations will be worsening, inflicting misery on the poor. Despite increasing gravity of the situation, saving people’s life and livelihood have not still become the priorities among the political class who are revealing in an ugly slugfest.
The real cost of the natural calamity is being borne by millions of poor kids, pregnant women, elderly and sick persons crowded under the open sky or tents, prone to hunger, diseases and insecurity as they wait for aid. It will be weeks before many can even return to their villages as the land drains and dries. It will take months, even years, to recover from the loss of housing, animals, crops and cultivable land.
Covid-19 had only disrupted economic exchange without damaging the economic base. But the flood has destroyed crops, land, animals, bridges, etc. negatively impacting deeper on the poor and the economy. And the insensitive political class in Pakistan is still deeply engrossed in political maneuver and cunning tricks against each other rather than presenting a united face at the time of calamity. That is the character of Pakistan’s politics.
In view of the contribution of agriculture to the extent of one fourth of the GDP, the country would have to face major revenue loss due to crop losses. As per the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s August 29 report, almost 80 per cent of crops in Sindh, which produces roughly 30% of Pakistan’s cotton output, were destroyed.
Close to 70 per cent of Pakistan’s textile industry, an important source of employment and foreign exchange, uses the cotton produced in the country. Floods are likely to cause severe shortage of cotton, said Abdul Rahim Nasir, Chairman of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association. He added that instead of earlier average import of cotton estimated at about 4 million bales, Pakistan would now need to import just the double of that figure, at a potential cost of $3 billion.
Shahrukh Wani, an Oxford economist, says the flood will make it terribly difficult for the government to reduce the trade deficit because while the country will need to import food to “compensate” for lost crops, the textile sector will find itself struggling due to “potential shortage” of cotton crop.
The biting inflation which rose to 25% in the month of July from a year earlier, the highest since May 1975, is taking its own toll on the living conditions of masses. The flooding would further push up the inflation and accentuate the scarcity of even essentials.
Amreen Soorani, Head of Research at JS Global Capital Ltd, said that “the main concern from the floods is the impact on inflation”. Even the IMF warned that the runaway inflation could trigger protests and instability.
Islamabad secured funds from the IMF for immediate bailout of the economy from the saturating forex crisis. However, the problems would be far from over for Islamabad. As the advanced countries are focused more on the impact of Ukraine-Russia war and trying to cope with recessionary pressures while some of the development partners including Middle Eastern countries and China are down with donor fatigue, Islamabad has scant probability to get any major international relief.
For now, the immediate challenge that government will face is to fulfil the conditions of raising taxes and applying austerity measures as part of its agreement with the IMF for its bailout package. This might turn out a politically unpopular move and could flare up the political bickering. The condition is rife for mass protests in view of increasing cost of living for many months now, which opposition could take advantage of. Anger is rising across Pakistan over the slow pace of government relief efforts.
The catastrophic floods have put a downward pressure on growth prospectus. Initial estimates suggest that the economic growth rate may slow down to just 2 per cent. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said that the recent floods caused more damage than the 2010 calamity wherein the economic losses had been estimated at $9.7 billion. The floods have already caused supply chain-related issues.
Even during natural calamity, politicians are concerned about their political agenda rather than allowing international aid agencies to import essential food items from the neighbouring country. Cases after cases of corruption are cropping up, “you reveal mine, I will reveal yours”, an unending slugfest continues.
Instead of fighting the fallout of the devastating natural calamity united, they are engrossed in manoeuvre and cunning tricks and a regressive thought process whether or not to allow aid flow from India. Some of the government top officials have suggested importing essential commodities such as food and medicine from India, while others are still the victim of the old rigidities and anti-India mindset.
India is an undoable reality of being the most potent vehicle of South Asia’s growth vision as it is a responsible regional power and the fastest growing economy of the world, which offers a big market for exports and sourcing imports. Islamabad needs to understand that cooperation with neighbours does not reduce the stature of a calamity hit country.
Separated in 1947, Sikh brother meets sister reunite
The Kartarpur Corridor has once again reunited another family after a man who separated from his parents when he was only a few months old in 1947, finally met his sister in Pakistan.
Amarjit Singh was left out in India along with his sister while his Muslim parents came to Pakistan. All eyes went teary as they saw the emotional scenes of the brother-sister reunion in Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, Geo News reported.
Amarjit Singh arrived in Pakistan via the Wagah border with a visa to meet his Muslim sister and to remain as her guest.
His sister, 65-year-old Kulsoom Akhtar, could not control her emotions after seeing Amarjit.
Both hugged each other and kept crying. She had travelled from her hometown in Faisalabad along with her son Shahzad Ahmed and other family members to meet her brother.
Kulsoom said that her parents came to Pakistan from the suburbs of the Jalandhar region of India in 1947, leaving behind her younger brother and a sister, Express Tribune reported.
Kulsoom said she was born in Pakistan and used to hear about her lost brother and a sister from her mother. She said that her mother used to cry every time whenever she remembered her missing children. Kulsoom said that she did not expect that she would ever be able to meet her brother and sister. However, a few years ago, a friend of her father Sardar Dara Singh came to Pakistan from India.
Kulsoom’s mother told Singh about her son and daughter she left behind in India. She also told him the name of their village and the location of their house in the neighbouring country.
Amarjit then visited her house in Padawan village of Jalandhar and informed her that her son was alive but her daughter was dead. Her son was named Amarjit Singh who was adopted by a Sikh family back then in 1947, The Express Tribune reported.
After getting the brother’s information, Amarjit and Kulsoom Akhtar contacted on WhatsApp and using the Kartarpur Corridor and the meeting between the two siblings became a reality.
Now an elderly man, Sardar Amarjit Singh came to Gurdwara Sahib in a wheelchair. Kulsoom Akhtar also could not travel due to back pain, but she showed courage and reached Kartarpur from Faisalabad along with her son. Both the siblings kept crying while embracing each other and remembering their parents.
Amarjit said that when he first learned that his real parents were in Pakistan and were Muslims, it was a shock to him. However, he comforted his heart that many families were separated from each other in addition to his own family.
Many Muslim children became Sikhs and many Sikh children became Muslims, Express Tribune reported.
He said that he always wanted to meet his real sister and brothers. He said that he is happy to know that three of his brothers are alive. However, one brother who was in Germany has passed away.
He said he will now come to Pakistan via the Wagah border with a visa and spend time with his family. He also said that he will take his family to India as well so that they could meet their Sikh family. Both the siblings had brought many gifts for each other.
Shahzad Ahmad, son of Kulsoom, said that he used to hear about his uncle from his grandmother and mother. He said that all of the siblings were very young at the time of Partition and no name was given to Amarjit or perhaps, after so many years, the name had slipped out of mind.
“I understand that since my uncle was brought up by a Sikh family, he happens to be a Sikh, and my family and I have no problem with this,” he added.
Shahzad said that he is happy that even after 75 years his mother has found her lost brother.
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