The Central Government intends to promulgate the new codified labour law on wages, social security, occupation safety, industrial relations, health and working conditions. The Government is of the opinion that this would have a quantum leap in the investment and the employment opportunities. The labour ministry has consolidated 29 central labour laws into four codes to simplify the process of compliance. The new code on wages ensures that two fifth of its population would be the beneficiaries. Occupational Safety, Heath and Working Conditions Code 2020 and the Code on Social security code has comprehensively discussed about interstate migrant workers. The code exhaustively expands the coverage of social security and is inclusive with unorganized sector, self -employed, migrant worker within the legislative framework. The code on industrial relation has profoundly defined workers that appends a person employed in skilled or unskilled, manual, technical, operational and clerical capacity. Twenty three states have drafted the labour code rules.
As many as 4.9million employees are recipients of this labour law that was effectuated on February 2 2022 which was upheld by the legislation on 2021. An estimated 34.25 lakh Indian expatriates are residing in the UAE. Of this, 7.74 lakh embodies the Kerala diaspora. Indians account for 40% of the total population of the country and plays a substantial role in contributing to the economy of UAE. The UAE ranks first in the NRIs population in the world. Federal Decree-Law No 33 of 2021 issued by President Sheikh Khalifa in the month of November 2021, has been elucidated as one of the extensive and comprehensive reformation to labour laws, replacing previous decrees of 1980. The new labour law paves away as reverence to employees working in private and government sectors. This plays a pivotal role in ameliorating morale and mental health of employees. The law governs employees in free zones and mainland companies, with the exception of Dubai International Financial Centre and Abu Dhabi Global Markets since they have their own implicit employment legislation. The new law is solicitous about rights of employer and employees in the right way. The abrogation of boundless contracts, protection against discrimination in any forms ,maternity leave and the new work models are main facets of the labour law.
AN OUTLINE ON INDIAN LABOUR CODE
The four labour codes on wages, social security, industrial relations and occupation safety, health and working conditions are likely to be effectuated by July 1 which would eventually replace twenty nine labour laws. According to the central government, there are over 100 state laws and 40 central laws regulating outlooks of labour. The Parliament had passed the Code on Wages in 2019 while the Code on Industrial Relations, the Code on Social Security and the Code on Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions were passed in 2020. The Centre has finished the process of finalizing the draft rules on the codes in February 2021.The four labour codes rationalizes the forty four central labour laws. There will be an increase in working hours from nine to twelve hours for employees. The allowances have been capped at fifty per cent that leads to half of the monthly pay calculates as basic wage. Provident fund (PF) contribution is computed as a percentage of basic wage, basic pay and dearness allowance. Increase in basic pay will result in an increase in the PF contribution, which will reduce the take-home pay for workers. The PF liability for employers will also splurge in many cases. There are also chances that with implementation of four labour codes employees in India can have four days work week instead of five work days a week. Many employers split basic wages into innumerable allowances to keep PF contributions and income tax outgo low. Once implemented, employers will have to undertake restructuring exercises as per the new code on wages. There have been disparate modifications and recasting to the existing labour laws. However, the biggest amendment is on how the ‘wage’ has been defined. The new wage code that addresses this revamp aims to directly include 50% of the wages into the salary of employees. As per the New Wage Code 2021 employees are entitled to receive gratuity even if they had worked for just an year whereas earlier it was paid if the employees had worked consistently and continuously for five years under the same entity. Cost to Company (CTC) will get influenced by the increase in the basic salary and if the basic salary of an employee has been less than fifty per cent, it should be enhanced. Allowances such as leave travel, overtime and conveyance will be capped to the remaining per cent of the CTC. The Social Security Code, 2020 provides for a universal social security, commencing with the gig workers who would be covered under the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation, besides paving the way for the government to merge all existing social security schemes under the code. The Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSH&WC Code) provides for prolonged work hours, double the wages in case of overrun beyond the fixed work hours and a single license for contractors and staffing firms, allowing them to operate pan-India under one registration, as against the prevailing situation where they have to obtain separate licenses for operating in each location. The other two codes, the Code on Wages, 2019 and the Industrial Relations Code, 2020 have financial implications and repercussions on the employer and hence the industry has been seeking extension of time from the government to tide over the Covid-19 crisis and other set back before it takes on any additional financial burden. The 2020 Bill provides that women will be entitled to be employed in all establishments for all types of work under the Bill and it also lays that in case if the women are required to work in hazardous or dangerous operations, the government will provide adequate safeguards prior to their employment.The objective behind codifying labour law is definitely a right step taken so as to achieve modernization and simplification of the labour regulation.
FEW KEY FEATURES OF LABOUR LAW OF UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
One of the key feature of the new labour law is the maternity leave. Employers are now obligated to give new mothers leave of an extra fifteen days at half-pay and an auxiliary 45 days unpaid leave in case of illness makes it an increase of thirty per cent. A working woman is capacitated to her maternity leave even if the baby is still born from the six months of pregnancy onwards. This also pertains to a baby born at any point within the maternity leave period .This new law is also felicitous to pregnant women working in private sector. Article 30.8 states that “It is not allowed to terminate the service of a working woman or give her a warning because of pregnancy, of obtaining maternity leave, or of her absence from work in accordance with the provisions of this article”. Once a woman resumes to work from their maternity leave, they are accredited to one or two rest periods per day to breastfeed their child, as long as the timescale of the two periods does not transcend an hour. This allowance endures until the baby is six months old. As per the new decree male employees in the private sector companies of United Arab Emirates are entitled to accrues paid parental leave for five working days. These five days must be taken within six months after the baby child is born. The United Arab Emirates makes it the first Arab country to countenance parental leave to employees in the private sector. Another substantial change is that employees having indefinite or permanent contracts reinstated with three year contracts with some implications for gratuity depending on the service period of the work. It makes uncomplicated for companies to hire people for part time work and permits for job shares. To be precise employment contracts must be limited. Probation period cannot exceed than six months and notice of two weeks must be given to terminate them during this time. Employees are opined to give a month’s notice or fourteen days if they want to leave the country in case they want to change their jobs during their probation period. An employee who has lost or left their respective jobs will hundred and eighty days left before their residency visa lapses from only thirty days previously. Discrimination in any form is prohibited including race, colour, gender, religion, nationality, social origin or disability. The amendments so promulgated intends to have an inclusive workspace. Equal pay for women is guaranteed for similar works done by men either for the same work or job of equal value. Employers are not supposed to use any means of force against workers or charge penalties and induce them to work against their will. Employees should not be forced to work for more than two hours of overtime a day. If that is supposed to be the job requirement they are supposed to be given twenty five per cent more than their regular hourly rate. Employers cannot impound employees documents such as passports and are not supposed to charge workers recruitment fees. Employees are not bound to pay any legal fees when they file labour case against their respective employers for the compensation of less than One Lakh Dirhams and in circumstances where the amount exceeds they are bound to pay. In cases of terminations now the employers are not allowed to terminate employee without any notice. This could be seen stipulated under article 45 of the new law. Workers are entitled to one paid leave every week with the possible additional weekly leave days upon the company’s discretion. This is inclusive with five or three day paid bereavement leave in addition to five days of parental leave. Another pertinent change is regarding the leaves. The new law ensures that the employees must use annual leaves before the end of that particular year. In case the employee has not utilized the leave on termination of employment compensation will be calculated on the basic salary. Employees are required to perpetuate good ethics and behavior that can supplement their professional skills. The law also regulates the duties of employers such as bestowing housing facility ,health and safety measures and skill development training. There was a huge dilemma faced by employees because of the visa restrictions lunge in resigning the past employment without having a confirmation of another job. Work-Life balance of an employee can be one of the reasons for satisfaction and contentment. The new labour law is providing with six job models which makes it more flexible for the employees to work for a project or to work under more than one employer which is also beneficial for the employer since they are able to have fresh talent and skills at a lower operational costs. The law provides employees to shift from one job model to another after an agreement with employer ensuring entitlements of first contract met. Employees can merge more than one job model as long as the work must not exceed for forty eight hours a week and hundred forty four hours every three weeks. This means that full time employees can have part time jobs without permission of their main employers but they are not supposed to exceed the threshold of hours. There is a scheme that enables full time or part time employees to work completely or partially outside the office. With the employer agreement the employee can split the responsibilities and pay among other employees which is referred to as shared job model. Full time, part time and temporary jobs are also some of the other job models. Twelve types of work permits are also introduced. Abdulrahman Al Awar, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation said the new law was designed “in preparation for the next fifty years”, and “to deal best with the changes in the working world”. He also says that the move would enhance the labor market for years to come, “characterised by flexibility, efficiency, ease of conducting business and attracting talents, and available expertise and skills”.
MATERNITY AND PATERNITY LEAVE IN INDIA
Child care is the responsibility of both parents and thus ,they are entitled to have maternity and paternity leave which elucidates on the significance of gender dynamics in their workplace. In 2020, Union Minister Jeetendra Singh announced that male government employees who are single parents are entitled to child care leave. The Maternity Benefit Act 1961 had its recent amendments in the year 2017. The new amendments made it pellucid that female employees can have twenty six weeks of paid maternity leave in establishments where there are more than ten workers. Expecting mothers can avail themselves the benefits of eight weeks of leave before the delivery of the child. Mothers who adopt children can have twelve weeks of maternity leave benefits and that includes commissioning mothers as well. The Central Civil Services (Leave) Rules,1972, lays out a provision to male government employees to take paternity leaves 15 days before the birth or within six months of the birth of the baby. In contrast, other countries provide much better benefits to their employees. It is high time for all Indians to come out of a narrow mindset that it is primarily and solely the mothers responsibility to look after their child. It is high time to normalize paternity leave taken by fathers to look after their children and try to abridge the burden leveled upon the shoulders of woman to look after the child. Paternity leave is sanctioned to government employees only. There is no strict obligation to private sectors to avail paternity leaves by the employees. However many multinational companies and Indian private companies are inclusive about paternity leaves. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had set out a precedent to the world by granting four weeks of paid paternity leave for all the male employees to sixteen weeks across all its offices in the world. A detailed study by the World Bank delineated that policymakers across the world are evolving and progressing to all the right way .
Between 2017- 2019, sixteen countries extemporized legal protection for their parents. For instance, Fiji initiated paid paternity leave and enhanced maternity leave from eighty four days to ninety eight days. Another such example is Canada, in which it promulgated a parental leave sharing benefit of thirty five shared weeks plus five weeks of “daddy days”. The longest leave is six months provided by Ikea which protract the rule from Sweden to India.
By granting Paternity leave in India we are not just abating the burden on women but also helping them to re boost their career which otherwise at most instances they quit the job altogether and thereafter they do not turn back to their professional life.
The need of the hour is definitely to look forward having an inclusive maternal and parental framework.
IMPACT OF LABOUR LAW IN INDIA AND THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Over a period of time, there has been a revolutionary change in labour regulations in both the countries, recognizing the worker’s turmoil and providing them their rights in consonance with the mindset of upgrading them is a sign of moving in the right direction. With the advent of industrialization and modernization there has been a change in the labour sector. Labour policies definitely dynamic and must cater to the needs of social justice and economic development. However, it would be safe for one to conclude that new labour law or the codes of both the countries is definitely a step to augment growth and employment, facilitating business environment. The new labour codes introduced in India and the United Arab Emirates helps to ensure social equity and social security in India. It is quite safe to say that economic development of any country depends on how well the labour laws are administered. The highlight of the law is to know how well balanced is the employer duties and employee rights.This will definitely help to improve India’s ranking in the “Ease of Doing Business “index and Foreign Direct Investment Flows.There will be a positive impact in both the countries specially in responding to the challenges of Covid era and post Covid period. In a tweet Sheikh Mohammed said, “The diversification of our economy requires the diversity and breadth of our legislation, and we are legislatively ready for a different and upcoming economic stage.” M.S. Unnikrishnan of CII’s national committee on industrial relations said “The initiative of bringing transparency and accountability through codification of labour laws will bring ease of compliance to the industry and investment push for India.” As the law evolves, further clarity on provisions on labour codes in both countries would pave a way for the best practice to come.
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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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