In a significant observation, the Chhattisgarh High Court has in a refreshing, remarkable, robust, rational and recent judgment titled Deepa Nayak v. Pitamber Nai in FAM No. 35 of 2016 delivered on March 28, 2022 has ruled that if a wife doesn’t squeeze into the mold as per the desire of husband, it would not be a decisive factor to lose the custody of the child. We thus see that in this leading case, the Court set aside an order of the Family Court, Mahasamund wherein the custody of a 14-year-old child was granted in favour of the respondent/father and ordered that the child’s custody be handed over to his mother (appellant). The Chhattisgarh High Court thus held that, “Wife not molding herself as per husband’s desire not a decisive factor to deprive mother of child’s custody”. Most commendably, the Bench of Justice Goutam Bhaduri and Justice Sanjay S Agrawal further remarked that the character certificate given by a few of the society members, who might have an ostrich mindset, can’t be the basis to decide the character of a woman.
To start with, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by Justice Goutam Bhaduri for a Bench of Apex Court comprising of himself and Justice Sanjay S Agarwal sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “The instant appeal is preferred by the mother against the impugned judgment dated 28.01.2016 passed in Civil M.J.C. No.09/2014 by the learned Family Court, Mahasamund whereby the custody of the child is given to the respondent/father.”
While dwelling on the facts of the case, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “The brief facts of the case are that an application was filed under Section 25 of the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 by the respondent/father seeking custody of the child namely Dheeraj Kumar, who was born on 12.12.2007. The background of the facts are that the appellant and respondent were married on 05.04.2007. They could not go along eventually a divorce by mutual consent was passed on 04.03.2013 and during such divorce proceedings it was agreed that the child would be in the custody of the mother/appellant herein. Subsequently, the instant application for custody of the child was filed after the child crossed 5 years on the ground that the mother is in company of different male and she used to travel along with other male member and the attire of the lady was not befitting to which would reflect that she had lost her chastity. So if the child is kept in her custody, there would be an ill effect to the mind of child as such the child be given in custody of father. It was also alleged that she was in illicit relation with one Vivek Sharma, therefore, for the welfare of the child, the application for custody was filed.”
Simply put, the Bench then states in para 3 that, “The respondent Pitamber Nai examined himself as AW-1, one Ravi Prakash Pradhan was examined as AW-2, Smt. Saraswati Sharma was examined as AW-3 and Deepak Kumar Sahu was examined as AW-4. While on behalf of appellant/mother, the appellant was examined as NAW-1, one Gaurhari Kewat was examined as NAW-2 and Kamal Kishore Nayak was examined as NAW-3. Learned Family Court, Mahasamud after evaluating the evidence directed the custody of the child to be handed over to the father. Therefore, this appeal.”
To put things in perspective, the Bench then after hearing learned counsel for the parties and perusing the documents then discloses in para 7 that, “Perusal of the record would show that an agreement named and styled as Talaqnama (EX. P/2) was executed in between the parties on 05.07.2009, wherein the husband and wife agreed to stay separate with an agreement that after the age of 5 years the child who was born out of the wedlock would be in the company of the father. The document filed as Ex. P/5 is a decree of divorce under Section 13B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Act, 1955’) which was passed on 04.03.2013 that is much after the document of the agreement dated 05.07.2009. By such decree of divorce, the marriage which was solemnized between appellant and respondent on 05.04.2007 was dissolved. The order of divorce reflects that the parties admitted the fact that the child namely Dheeraj Kumar, who was aged about 5 years would continue to stay with the appellant/mother namely Deepa Nayak and the father will have the visiting right. The parties though agreed by way of an initial document captioned as Talaqnama that the child would be in the custody of the mother up till 5 years and thereafter with the father and subsequently at the time of divorce under Section 13B of the Act, 1955 it was agreed by the parties that the child would be in the company of the mother. In matter of custody of child such type of inter se agreement between the parties will not decide the fate of the child and his custody. The child cannot be treated like a commodity and by product of an agreement which can be executed shelving to look into the fact of welfare of the child. The predominant factor which would govern in respect of custody of the child is the welfare.”
While citing the relevant case law, the Bench then stipulates in para 8 that, “The Supreme Court in Mousami Moitra Ganguli v. Jayanti Ganguli AIR 2008 7 SCC 673 at para 14 expressed the view that while deciding the issue as to which parent the care and control of a child should be committed, the first and paramount consideration is the welfare and interest of the child and not the rights of the parents under a statute.”
While citing yet more relevant case laws, the Bench then states in para 9 that, “The Supreme Court further in Tejaswini Gaud and others Vs. Shekhar Jagdish Prasad Tewari (2019) 7 SCC 42 held that the Court while deciding the custody cases of the child, it is not bound by the mere legal right of the parents or guardians. It held that though the provisions of the special statutes govern the rights of the parents or guardians, but the welfare of the minor is the supreme Consideration in cases concerning the custody of minor child. Therefore, the paramount consideration should be the interest and welfare of the child. The Supreme Court in the aforesaid judgment reiterated the view taken in Nil Ratan Kundu Vs. Abhijit Kundu reported in (2008) 9 SCC 413 and emphasized that paramount consideration should be the welfare of the child and due weight should be given to the child’s ordinary comfort, contentment, health, education, intellectual development and favourable surroundings.”
While underscoring the utility of human touch in deciding cases of minor custody, the Bench then postulates in para 10 that, “With respect to the oral and documentary evidence so created by the parties in custody matters, the Supreme Court in M.K. Hari Govindan Vs. A.R. Rajaram reported in 36 2003 OnLine Mad 48: AIR 2003 Mad 315 held that the custody cases of child cannot be decided on documents, oral evidence or precedents without reference to “human touch”. It held that human touch is the primary one for the welfare of the minor since the other materials may be created either by the parties themselves or on the advice of counsel to suit their convenience.”
While dwelling on the nitty gritty of the case, the Bench then divulges in para 12 that, “The father Pitamber Nai (AW-1) and the witness Ravi Prakash Pradhan (AW-2) had stated that the lady used to consume liquor along with others. She also used to consume Gutkha and used to smoke cigarette. The husband stated that he has seen the wife consuming liquor at some place named Sankra in company of one Vivek Sharma. He further stated that he has seen his wife consuming liquor in the house of Vivek Sharma and she used to move along with him, who is the electrical contractor. The witness further stated that the wife used to work along with Vivek Sharma and used to travel for her job along with him at different places. Likewise, the statement of Ravi Prakash Pradhan (AW-2), it would show that he has stated that the mother used to work under Vivek Sharma, who is an electrical contractor used to travel along with him. He further stated that she is addicted to cigarette, liquor and Gutka and she has lost her character and she used to move along with other male members of the society, which is against the moral. He further has stated that she do not follow the rituals and describe her as a female don. It is further stated that the husband Pitamber Nai has not married and he is the only son but because of the arrogance of the wife the entire family is deprived of the love & affection towards the child. This witness has further stated that the day when the child will come to know about the character of the mother, he would be demoralized and would become pervert. Likewise the statement of one Smt. Saraswati Sharma (AW-3), who is the wife of Vivek Sharma, she has deposed because of the fact that the appellant is being kept as wife, the relation in between her and Vivek Sharma has become estranged and as such certain litigations are pending against the husband.”
Delving deeper, the Bench then reveals in para 13 that, “The evidence of the aforesaid witnesses would show that the efforts have been made to show that the character of the wife is not good. The reason which is been assigned that she used to consume liquor and is also addicted to cigarette and Gutka, moves along with other male members of the society in the car. As against this witnesses of the mother Deepa Nayak (NAW-1) she stated that she is presently doing a job of Rs.15000/- under a contractor. She further stated as there is no other female employee works, therefore, in order to carry out the job in the field she has to travel to the field. She further stated that she used to travel different sites in the field on the motorcycle and also at times in the car with the contractor. She further stated that at that time other supervisors also travels with her. She further stated that wherever she goes to field she wears capri and T-shirt. She denied the suggestion that she is being looked after by the contractor with whom she works as against this she performs duty from morning to evening.”
Furthermore, the Bench then observes in para 14 that, “Further coming to the statement further the mother/appellant has referred that while she goes out for job the boy is being looked after by her mother, who is aged about 58 years. The document produced also would show that the boy is admitted to the School, wherein he is studying. As against this, the statement of AW-1 would show that in the cross-examination he admits that till date he has not sent any money order or any financial help to the child. It was admitted that once he had written a letter to purchase some books and clothes but it was not accepted. There is no evidence on record to show the gesture that at any point of time he wanted to extend support by way of financial help. The father further stated that he goes for a duty of 12 hours and if the child is given to him he would call his sister to look after the child. The statement of the father, therefore, except the oral future promise nothing can be inferred that actual help or support was ever extended. Whereas the statement of Kamal Kishore Nayak (NAW-3) he stated that the child is being looked after by the mother and the likewise statement of Gaurhari Kewat (NAW-2) also supported the fact that the appellant/mother is looking after the child very well. This witness also appears to be Secretary of the society of the appellant and the respondent and reiterated the fact that the child is being looked after by the mother very well.”
Most commendably, the Bench then holds in para 15 that, “There being total conflict between the witnesses on one side and those on other. Therefore, the evidences both pro and contra whether has a bearing upon the issue are to be examined. The evidence on behalf of father it appears that the witnesses have stated according to their own opinion and thought. If the lady is required to do a job that too in the field for her livelihood, naturally she would be required to move from one place to other and only because of the fact that she is required to rub her shoulder with public at large or male i.e. to accompany them in the car, there cannot be an inference that she has lost her chastity. Only bald oral statement is made that she is addicted to consume liquor and smoke etc. It is important to set a red line when the attack is made to assassinate character of lady. The statement of witnesses of plaintiff would show that they are largely influenced by attire of women as she wears jeans and T-shirt along with the fact that she is marching along with male members of society. We are afraid that if such ill conceived exercise is given a spot light, then to protect the right & freedom of women would be a long arduous battle. If the wife do not squeeze into the mold as per desire of husband, it would not be a decisive factor to lose the custody of the child by her.”
Most significantly and also most decisively, the Bench then minces no words to hold in para 16 that, “By attacking the character of wife to impress upon that it would have an adverse impact on the mind of the child, the degree of nature of evidence should have been much more & severe to hold that continuous a kind of behaviour of wife would be detrimental to the interest of child. The character certificate by few of the society members, who might have ostrich mind set, should not be allowed to decide the character of a woman and to draw an inference while deciding the custody of the child that because of the behaviour of mother it would have an adverse impact on the mind of the child. Therefore, considering the entire evidence on record we are of the view that the welfare of the child would hold the sway if the child is kept in the custody of the mother. Accordingly, the direction of the Court below to handover the custody of the child to the father is set aside.”
Moving on, the Bench then observes in para 17 that, “Now coming to the visitation rights of the father in respect of the child is ordered to be kept in custody of the mother there is no specific visitation right has been conferred. The Apex Court in Yashita Sahu Vs. State of Rajasthan (2020) 3 SCC 67 held that even after the custody was given to one parent, the other parent must have sufficient visitation rights to ensure that the child keeps in touch with the other parent and does not lose social, physical and psychological contact with any one of the two parents. It is only in extreme circumstances that one parent should be denied contact with the child. The evidence in this case does not show any extreme circumstances whereby one parent for all practical purposes can be denied to meet the child. The evidence has come on record that even though the mother and father are living separately and the children are staying with the mother, yet the father often uses to meet the children.”
Quite forthrightly, the Bench then pointed out in para 18 that, “The Supreme Court in Yashita Sahu (Supra) further observed that the concept of “visitation rights” is not fully developed in India. Most courts while granting custody to one spouse do not pass any orders granting visitation rights to the other spouse. It held that the child has a human right to have the love and affection of both the parents and Courts must pass orders ensuring that the children are not totally deprived of the love, affection and company of one of their parents.”
Most forthrightly, the Bench then conceded in para 19 that, “In addition to “visitation rights” the court observed that the“contract rights” is also important for the development of the child specially in cases were both the parents live in different places the concept of contact rights in the modern age would be contact by telephone, e-mail or in fact we feel the best system of contact, if available, between the parties should be video calling. It observed that with the increasing availability of internet, and the Courts dealing with the issue of custody of child must ensure the parent who is denied the custody of the children should be able to talk to his/her child as often as possible. It held that the communication will help in maintaining and improving the bond between the children and the parent who is denied the custody. If that bond is maintained, the children will have no difficult in moving from one home to another during vacation or holidays. The purpose was held that the court cannot provide one happy home with two parents to the child then let the child have the benefit of two happy homes with one parent each.”
Most remarkably, while citing a recent and relevant case law, the Bench then enunciated in para 20 that, “In a recent decision rendered in Ritika Sharan Vs . Sujoy Ghosh , 2020 SCC OnLine SC 878 the Supreme Court held that a balance has to be drawn so as to ensure that in a situation where the parents are in a conflict, the child has a sense of security. The interests of the child are best served by ensuring that both the parents have a presence in his/her upbringing. Therefore, following the principles laid down in Yashita Sahu Vs. State of Rajasthan (supra) and Ritika Sharan Vs. Sujoy Ghosh (supra), we hereby order to facilitate the grant of visitation and contact rights to the father. The following arrangements shall be made by both the appellant and respondent as father and mother :
(i) The respondent/father would be able to engage with the child on a suitable video conferencing platform for one hour every Saturday and Sunday and 5 – 10 minutes on other days.
(ii) Both the respondent/father and the appellant/mother in order to facilitate the video conferencing between them shall procure smart phones which would facilitate the inter-se video calling.
(iii) During long holidays/vacation covering more than 2 weeks the child will be allowed to be in the company of the father for a period of 7 days. The period shall be fixed by the father after due intimation to the mother and she will permit the child to go with the father for the aforesaid period and the mother, if so desires, may also accompany him.
(iv) Every month preferably on Saturday or Sunday the mother shall allow the child to visit his father or father may take the child in his company and leave him back in the evening of such day.
(v) During festivals the father may join the company of the child at the place of the mother and spend the festival days with the child along with the mother.”
Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 21 that, “With the aforesaid observations/direction, the appeal is disposed of.”
In essence, the Chhattisgarh High Court has ruled most decisively in favour of woman in this notable case. The Bench comprising of Justice Goutam Bhaduri and Justice Sanjay S Agrawal has made it indubitably clear that the woman’s character can’t be decided by certificate given by people having an ostrich mindset. It also very rightly made it crystal clear that if a wife doesn’t squeeze into the mold as per the desire of husband, it would not be a decisive factor to lose the custody of the child.
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Election Commission declares 253 RUPPs as inactive, bars them from availing benefits of the Symbol Order, 1968
Additional 86 Non-existent RUPPs shall be deleted from the list and benefits under the Symbols Order (1968) withdrawnAction against these 339 (86+253) non-compliant. RUPPs takes the tally to 537 defaulting RUPPs since May 25, 2022
In continuation of the earlier action initiated on May 25, 2022 for enforcing due compliances by Registered Unrecognized Political Parties (RUPPs), the Election Commission of India led by Chief Election Commissioner, Shri Rajiv Kumar and Election Commissioner Shri Anup Chandra Pandey today further delisted 86 non-existent RUPPs and declared additional 253 as ‘Inactive RUPPs’. This action against 339 non-compliant RUPPs takes the tally to 537 defaulting RUPPs since May 25, 2022.
As per statutory requirements under section 29A of the RP Act, every political party has to communicate any change in its name, head office, office bearers, address, PAN to the Commission without delay. 86 RUPPs have been found to be non-existent either after a physical verification carried out by the respective Chief Electoral Officers of concerned States/UTs or based on report of undelivered letters/notices from Postal Authority sent to the registered address of concerned RUPP. It may be recalled that ECI had delisted 87 RUPPs and 111 RUPPs vide orders dated May 25, 2022 and June 20, 2022, thus totalling the number of delisted RUPPs to 284.
This decision against 253 non-compliant RUPPs has been taken based on reports received from Chief Electoral Officers of seven states namely Bihar, Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana & Uttar Pradesh. These 253 RUPPs have been declared inactive, as they have not responded to the letter/notice delivered to them and have not contested a single election either to the General Assembly of a State or the Parliament Election 2014 & 2019. These RUPPs have failed to comply with statutory requirements for more than 16 compliance steps since 2015 and are continuing to default.
It is also noted that of the above 253 parties, 66 RUPPs actually applied for a common symbol as per para 10B of the Symbol’s Order 1968 and did not contest the respective elections. It is pertinent to note that privilege of a common symbol is given to RUPP based upon an undertaking for putting up at least 5 percent of total candidates with regard to said legislative assembly election of a State. Possibility of such parties occupying the available pre-election political space by taking benefits of admissible entitlements without contesting elections cannot be ruled out.
Coastal clean-up campaign receives a huge response: Dr. Jitendra Singh
The 75-day long ongoing Coastal Clean Up Campaign is receiving a huge response from across the sections of society and besides others, Governors, Chief Ministers, Union Ministers, celebrities, film and sports personalities, civil society groups etc. are joining the campaign with overwhelming enthusiasm and pledging their support to the longest and largest beach cleaning campaign in the world titled “Swachh Sagar, Surakshit Sagar”, coordinated by Union Ministry of Earth Sciences with collaboration from all the other Union Ministries, departments as well as governments of the coastal States.
Addressing a press conference today, three days ahead of “International Coastal Clean-up Day” on 17th September, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology, Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh said, he will join the campaign at Juhu beach in Mumbai on 17th September and informed that Governor Maharashtra Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis, BJP MP Poonam Mahajan and several personalities as well as NGOs will also join at Juhu.
The Minister also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his support through social media. The PM has stressed on keeping India’s coasts clean as he praised efforts of volunteers to remove garbage from the Juhu beach in Mumbai. Responding to a video posted by Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh about the clean-up at the beach, Modi tweeted, “Commendable… I appreciate all those involved in this effort. India is blessed with a long and beautiful coastline and it is important we focus on keeping our coasts clean”. The Minister said, “A cleanathon was organised at Juhu Beach in Mumbai, saw participation in large numbers especially by youngsters and Civil Society.
Dr Jitendra Singh informed that Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan will take a lead in the clean-up campaign at world famous Puri beach, while Pratap Chandra Sarangi, former union minister will be at Chandipur. BJP MP from Hooghly, West Bengal Ms Locket Chatterjee will be at Digha on D-Day. R.K.Mission head will lead the campaign at Bakkhali in southern Bengal.
Chief Minister of Gujarat Bhupendrabhai Patel will be at Porbandar (Madhavpur), while Union Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Parshottam Khodabhai Rupala will join the clean-up operation at Jafrabad, Amreli.
Governor of Goa P. S. Sreedharan Pillai and Chief Minister Pramod Sawant will take part in beach cleaning campaign in South and North Goa beaches on 17th September.
Similarly, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan will be at Kochi, while MoS External Affairs V. Muraleedharan will be at Kovalam beach at Thiruvananthapuram.
Governor of Karnataka Thawar Chand Gehlot will join the campaign at Panambur beach in Mangalore, while the Governor of Telangana, Dr. Tamilisai Soundararajan will lend her helping hand at Puducherry beach.
Governor of Mizoram Dr. K. Hari Babu will take part in Vizag beach while L. Murugan, Union MoS, Information and Broadcasting will join the event at Chennai
Dr Jitendra Singh informed that the campaign has entered the mode of whole of Government approach plus whole of nation participation.
Dr Jitendra Singh said, apart from active cooperation of Ministries of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Jal Shakti, Health and Family Welfare, Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, External Affairs, Information and Broadcasting, organisations and associations like National Service Scheme (NSS), Indian Coast Guard, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Seema Jagran Manch, SFD, Paryavaran Sanrakshan Gatividhi (PSG), along with other social organizations and educational institutions are participating in the clean-up campaign.
The MPs of coastal states have also pledged full support to the first-of-its-kind and longest running coastal clean-up campaign in the world and they also advised the Ministry of Earth Sciences to undertake a variety of activities by involving local NGOs.
DASHBOARD TO BE SET UP SOON TO SHARE THE BEST TECH PRACTICES AMONG THE CENTRE & THE STATES: UNION MINISTER JITENDRA SINGH
Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology; Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh today announced setting up of a Dashboard to share the best technology practices among the Centre and the States.
Presiding over the concluding session of the two-day “Centre-State Science Conclave” at Science City in Ahmedabad, Dr Jitendra Singh informed that a high level mechanism will be developed by the Department of Science and Technology to monitor and coordinate the follow up action of the conclave. The Minister also asked the States to appoint a Nodal officer in each of the States to coordinate and cooperate with the Special Committee for knowing and sharing the best practices.
Giving the example of heli-borne technology launched from Jodhpur, Rajasthan in October, 2021, Dr Jitendra Singh said, to start with, the States of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana were taken up for this latest heli-borne survey.
The Minister pointed out that if the same technology is uploaded on Dashboard, other States may join and share this CSIR technology from source finding to water treatment and thus benefit millions of people across the country.
Dr Jitendra Singh said, it will also positively contribute to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Har Ghar Nal Se Jal” as well as “doubling farmer’s income” goals. He said, the latest state-of-the-art technology is being employed by Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) for mapping groundwater sources in arid regions and thus help utilise groundwater for drinking purposes.
The 2-day ‘Centre-State Science Conclave’ was formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Science City, Ahmedabad, yesterday. Dr Jitendra Singh expressed satisfaction that important plenary sessions with State S&T Ministers discussed in detail on issues like Agriculture, Innovation for producing portable drinking water including application of technologies like Desalination, Heli borne methods developed by DST, Clean Energy for All including S&T role in Hydrogen mission, Deep Sea Mission of MoES and its relevance for Coastal States/UT, Digital healthcare for All and Synergizing Science with National Education Policy.
A special session with the CEOs of over 100 Start-Ups and industry at the Centre-State Science Conclave’ in Ahmedabad came up with scientific solutions in the field of agriculture, drone, artificial intelligence, biotechnological solutions, single-use plastic alternates, irrigation and digital health amongst others.
Many of the State governments have shown keen interest in some of the technologies and agreed to partner with some of the startups for State-specific technological solutions.
Floods, economic crisis and political bickerings: A saga of Pakistan’s mismanagement & insensitivity
The worst floods in several decades have wreaked havoc in Pakistan, one of the most populous countries of South Asia. The floods have touched the country’s 220 million people’s lives directly or indirectly. More than 1,300 people have died with 81 out of 160 districts directly affected by the floods, leaving at least 33 million people homeless.
The heat waves followed by rains and glacial melting has been a global trend this year bringing out the stark reality that despite all talks and conventions, the world community has failed to contain and reverse climatic change. But Pakistan’s case is unique.
Beyond the human losses, the country’s economic managers have the most challenging task ahead as floods ravaged the country’s road and communication network, damaged an incalculable number of houses, and destroyed millions of hectares of crops.
Niaz Murtaza, a political economist, describes present crisis as “a triple whammy”, putting together economic, political and natural. “The poor had been suffering the first two months because of inflation, job loss and political paralysis. Now the floods have pushed millions into ruin,” he said.
Despite this, the political masters are not only busy in bickering and allegations against each other, but have also triggered a blame game on social media as usual, pointing fingers on India for the flood havoc. The bombardment of propaganda, nevertheless, cannot change the reality that Pakistan government and its institutions have utterly failed in fulfilling their duties towards its citizens.
Ludicrous as it is, it cannot absolve the leadership of Pakistan that has failed people in terms of economic mismanagement, entrenched corruption and naked cronyism in the system. Added to these are the wrong policies and priorities of Islamabad which have been instrumental in bringing economic crisis and political instability. The floods have only abetted it.
The natural disaster has struck Pakistan while economy is passing through the difficult phase of multiple challenges including Balance of Payment (BoP) crisis, heavy debt burden and solvency-related issues. The protracted economic crisis is likely to deepen further despite conclusion of talks with the IMF for release of Extended Fund Facility credit.
While Finance Minister Miftah Ismail estimates that the country has incurred a total loss of “at least $10 billion”, independent analysts, including Uzar Younus, Director of the Pakistan Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia centre and economist Ammar Habib Khan, put the figure between $15-20 billion, and expect it to rise further as information is coming with a great lag.
Existing infrastructure is collapsing with the flooding submerging one-third of the country, pushing 37 per cent of population into poverty. Pakistan is literally and figuratively under deep water, writes Nasir Jamal. It may take a few more months before the damages can be assessed. Even before the flooding, 60 per cent of the population was suffering from hunger, malnutrition and related diseases and the figures are bound to shoot up now.
In view of the mammoth loss, the IMF’s $1.2 billion credit now seems to be a peanut. Pakistan was earlier wounded and now it is bleeding. Floods will exacerbate the economic crisis that had shown initial signs of abating with the IMF deal. Twin deficits, growth prospects and inflationary expectations will be worsening, inflicting misery on the poor. Despite increasing gravity of the situation, saving people’s life and livelihood have not still become the priorities among the political class who are revealing in an ugly slugfest.
The real cost of the natural calamity is being borne by millions of poor kids, pregnant women, elderly and sick persons crowded under the open sky or tents, prone to hunger, diseases and insecurity as they wait for aid. It will be weeks before many can even return to their villages as the land drains and dries. It will take months, even years, to recover from the loss of housing, animals, crops and cultivable land.
Covid-19 had only disrupted economic exchange without damaging the economic base. But the flood has destroyed crops, land, animals, bridges, etc. negatively impacting deeper on the poor and the economy. And the insensitive political class in Pakistan is still deeply engrossed in political maneuver and cunning tricks against each other rather than presenting a united face at the time of calamity. That is the character of Pakistan’s politics.
In view of the contribution of agriculture to the extent of one fourth of the GDP, the country would have to face major revenue loss due to crop losses. As per the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s August 29 report, almost 80 per cent of crops in Sindh, which produces roughly 30% of Pakistan’s cotton output, were destroyed.
Close to 70 per cent of Pakistan’s textile industry, an important source of employment and foreign exchange, uses the cotton produced in the country. Floods are likely to cause severe shortage of cotton, said Abdul Rahim Nasir, Chairman of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association. He added that instead of earlier average import of cotton estimated at about 4 million bales, Pakistan would now need to import just the double of that figure, at a potential cost of $3 billion.
Shahrukh Wani, an Oxford economist, says the flood will make it terribly difficult for the government to reduce the trade deficit because while the country will need to import food to “compensate” for lost crops, the textile sector will find itself struggling due to “potential shortage” of cotton crop.
The biting inflation which rose to 25% in the month of July from a year earlier, the highest since May 1975, is taking its own toll on the living conditions of masses. The flooding would further push up the inflation and accentuate the scarcity of even essentials.
Amreen Soorani, Head of Research at JS Global Capital Ltd, said that “the main concern from the floods is the impact on inflation”. Even the IMF warned that the runaway inflation could trigger protests and instability.
Islamabad secured funds from the IMF for immediate bailout of the economy from the saturating forex crisis. However, the problems would be far from over for Islamabad. As the advanced countries are focused more on the impact of Ukraine-Russia war and trying to cope with recessionary pressures while some of the development partners including Middle Eastern countries and China are down with donor fatigue, Islamabad has scant probability to get any major international relief.
For now, the immediate challenge that government will face is to fulfil the conditions of raising taxes and applying austerity measures as part of its agreement with the IMF for its bailout package. This might turn out a politically unpopular move and could flare up the political bickering. The condition is rife for mass protests in view of increasing cost of living for many months now, which opposition could take advantage of. Anger is rising across Pakistan over the slow pace of government relief efforts.
The catastrophic floods have put a downward pressure on growth prospectus. Initial estimates suggest that the economic growth rate may slow down to just 2 per cent. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said that the recent floods caused more damage than the 2010 calamity wherein the economic losses had been estimated at $9.7 billion. The floods have already caused supply chain-related issues.
Even during natural calamity, politicians are concerned about their political agenda rather than allowing international aid agencies to import essential food items from the neighbouring country. Cases after cases of corruption are cropping up, “you reveal mine, I will reveal yours”, an unending slugfest continues.
Instead of fighting the fallout of the devastating natural calamity united, they are engrossed in manoeuvre and cunning tricks and a regressive thought process whether or not to allow aid flow from India. Some of the government top officials have suggested importing essential commodities such as food and medicine from India, while others are still the victim of the old rigidities and anti-India mindset.
India is an undoable reality of being the most potent vehicle of South Asia’s growth vision as it is a responsible regional power and the fastest growing economy of the world, which offers a big market for exports and sourcing imports. Islamabad needs to understand that cooperation with neighbours does not reduce the stature of a calamity hit country.
Separated in 1947, Sikh brother meets sister reunite
The Kartarpur Corridor has once again reunited another family after a man who separated from his parents when he was only a few months old in 1947, finally met his sister in Pakistan.
Amarjit Singh was left out in India along with his sister while his Muslim parents came to Pakistan. All eyes went teary as they saw the emotional scenes of the brother-sister reunion in Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, Geo News reported.
Amarjit Singh arrived in Pakistan via the Wagah border with a visa to meet his Muslim sister and to remain as her guest.
His sister, 65-year-old Kulsoom Akhtar, could not control her emotions after seeing Amarjit.
Both hugged each other and kept crying. She had travelled from her hometown in Faisalabad along with her son Shahzad Ahmed and other family members to meet her brother.
Kulsoom said that her parents came to Pakistan from the suburbs of the Jalandhar region of India in 1947, leaving behind her younger brother and a sister, Express Tribune reported.
Kulsoom said she was born in Pakistan and used to hear about her lost brother and a sister from her mother. She said that her mother used to cry every time whenever she remembered her missing children. Kulsoom said that she did not expect that she would ever be able to meet her brother and sister. However, a few years ago, a friend of her father Sardar Dara Singh came to Pakistan from India.
Kulsoom’s mother told Singh about her son and daughter she left behind in India. She also told him the name of their village and the location of their house in the neighbouring country.
Amarjit then visited her house in Padawan village of Jalandhar and informed her that her son was alive but her daughter was dead. Her son was named Amarjit Singh who was adopted by a Sikh family back then in 1947, The Express Tribune reported.
After getting the brother’s information, Amarjit and Kulsoom Akhtar contacted on WhatsApp and using the Kartarpur Corridor and the meeting between the two siblings became a reality.
Now an elderly man, Sardar Amarjit Singh came to Gurdwara Sahib in a wheelchair. Kulsoom Akhtar also could not travel due to back pain, but she showed courage and reached Kartarpur from Faisalabad along with her son. Both the siblings kept crying while embracing each other and remembering their parents.
Amarjit said that when he first learned that his real parents were in Pakistan and were Muslims, it was a shock to him. However, he comforted his heart that many families were separated from each other in addition to his own family.
Many Muslim children became Sikhs and many Sikh children became Muslims, Express Tribune reported.
He said that he always wanted to meet his real sister and brothers. He said that he is happy to know that three of his brothers are alive. However, one brother who was in Germany has passed away.
He said he will now come to Pakistan via the Wagah border with a visa and spend time with his family. He also said that he will take his family to India as well so that they could meet their Sikh family. Both the siblings had brought many gifts for each other.
Shahzad Ahmad, son of Kulsoom, said that he used to hear about his uncle from his grandmother and mother. He said that all of the siblings were very young at the time of Partition and no name was given to Amarjit or perhaps, after so many years, the name had slipped out of mind.
“I understand that since my uncle was brought up by a Sikh family, he happens to be a Sikh, and my family and I have no problem with this,” he added.
Shahzad said that he is happy that even after 75 years his mother has found her lost brother.
22 officers of different cadres to serve in J&K
The Centre has relaxed Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) deputation rules to encourage IAS and other all-India service officers as well as those of the Central Services get posted in Jammu & Kashmir, in a bid to address the shortage of officers in the Union Territory.
Union Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh said that due to relaxation of DoPT rules, 22 officers belonging to various services and different cadres have been posted in Jammu & Kashmir at various levels at a crucial time.
He said that DoPT has played a major role in facilitating induction of Jammu & Kashmir Administrative Services officers into the IAS by coordinating with UT administration, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the UPSC.
As a result, recently 16 officers from JKAS have been inducted into IAS and another 8 such vacancies will be filled up shortly giving opportunities to the JKAS officers to become part of prestigious IAS service after a long gap of 12 years.
The Minister added that mid-career training of JKAS officers of various seniority was carried out in collaboration with the LBSNAA and this has provided a new level of exposure to the JKAS Officers and more than 200 offices. Some other initiatives by the Ministry include special concessions or incentives to the Central government employees working in the Kashmir Valley in attached and subordinate offices or PSUs falling under control of the Central government.
They have been extended special concessions for a period of 3 years with effect from August 1, 2021 and the incentives include an additional house rent allowance, composite transfer grant, per diem allowance, incentive for period of temporary duty, messing allowance, and facility to draw pension at place of settlement in relaxation of relevant provisions.
Besides, facilities for retention of general pool accommodation available to officers who have served in the Central government has also been extended to officers posted in Jammu & Kashmir on the pattern of northeastern states.
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