It cannot be easily glossed over that none other than the Orissa High Court itself in an extremely laudable, learned, landmark and latest judgment titled Krushna Prasad Sahoo v. State of Orissa & Ors. in W.P.(C) No. 6610 of 2006 pronounced as recently as on May 21, 2022 has expressed deep concerns on the issue of the mental health of prisoners. On learning that there existed only one psychiatrist to attend all prisoners in the state with mental illness, a Division Bench of Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice RK Pattanaik noted with concern that, “This situation is unsustainable considering that it is physically impossible for just one psychiatrist to attend all prisoners in the state with mental illness.” It merits mentioning that the development comes in an ongoing case in which the Orissa High Court had previously directed the Director-General, Prisons, to ensure food, hygiene, and health facilities in all the jails/sub-jails of the State.
ATHAMALIK SUB-JAIL MATTER
To start with, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by a Bench of Orissa High Court comprising of Chief Justice Dr S Muralidhar and Justice RK Pattanaik sets the pitch in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “Pursuant to the directions issued by this Court on 5th May 2022, the District and Sessions Judge, Angul has submitted a report dated 18th May, 2022 enclosing original statements of 12 inmates and 2 staff of the Athamalik Sub-Jail. The sealed cover containing the report was opened and the report has been perused by the Court. Copies of the report be made available to Mr. Debakanata Mohanty, learned Additional Government Advocate (AGA) and Mr. Gautam Misra, learned Amicus Curiae (AC).”
In the fitness of things, the Bench then points out in para 2 that, “Mr. Manoj Chhabra, DG, Prisons, Odisha, who is present in virtual mode, states that he will immediately act on the said report by taking an appropriate action against the person involved in the incident of the assault on a convict as mentioned in that report. After copies of the report have been provided to them, the said report will again be placed in the sealed cover and kept with Registrar (Judicial) of this Court.”
To be sure, the Bench then discloses in para 3 that, “Affidavits dated 20th May, 2022 have been filed by the Deputy Inspector General of Prisons and the Member Secretary, Odisha State Legal Services Authority (OSLSA) regarding status of compliance with the earlier directions issued by this Court. The learned AC has also prepared a detailed convenience note for consideration of this Court.”
While according top priority to overcrowding of prisons, the Bench then mentions in para 4 that, “At today’s hearing, the Court first considered the issue of overcrowding of prisons. The note of the AC, refers to two SubJails, viz., the Balliguda Sub-Jail and the Jajpur Sub-Jail, where even now the prison population is more than 100% of the carrying capacity of the said Sub-Jails. Mr. Chhabra, the DG, Prisons is conscious of this position and has offered a temporary solution of shifting the prisoners to neighbouring jails. He has also undertaken to re-examine the earlier suggestion whether pending the actual increase in the additional capacity of the jails and sub-jails, there can be a temporary solution found for accommodating prisoners in other state-owned buildings.”
To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 5 that, “In the course of the discussion, a concern was raised about the resistance faced when applications are filed before the concerned Courts for shifting of an inmate from one Jail to another. Considering that the problem of overcrowding of jails in Odisha is a real and serious one, and it is going to take some time before the additional capacity in jails can be constructed, if a request is made for shifting of an inmate from a jail to a jail in a neighbouring district at the nearest possible location then such request should be considered in its proper perspective keeping in view the serious problems faced by inmates in an overcrowded Jail. It is emphasized that this is only a temporary solution pending the creation of the additional capacity in the Jails.”
Quite revealingly, the Bench then notes in para 6 that, “Apart from the above two sub-jails, there are four jails viz., the Phulbani District Jail, Bhadrak Special Sub-Jail, Kamakhyanagar Sub-Jail and the Malkanagiri Sub-Jail, where the prison population between 50 to 100% in excess of the carrying capacity of those jails even as of today. That apart, fifteen District Jails, Special Jails and Sub-Jails face the situation of prison population being in excess to the extent of 20 to 50%. Mr. Chhabra assures the Court that each of these situations is receiving the highest attention of the prison authorities and wherever possible, applications will be filed before the concerned Courts for shifting of the excess population to the nearest possible jails to tide over the critical situation.”
PRISONERS WITH MENTAL ILLNESS
No doubt, the Bench then specifies in para 7 that, “The issue of prisoners with mental illness was highlighted during today’s hearing. As per the figures collated by the Secretary, Odisha State Legal Services Authority (OSLSA), from the reports of visit undertaken by the District Magistrates (DMs) there are at least 286 prisoners with mental illnesses in the various jails and sub-jails. Mr. Chhabra anticipates that this number may be even higher and would be in the range of around 500 prisoners.”
Alarmingly, the Bench then notes in para 8 that, “The statistics provided to this Court show that there are as many as 42 prisoners in Circle Jail, Koraput, 33 in Circle Jail, Sambalpur, 29 in District Jail, Keonjhar, 22 in District Jail, Bhawanipatna, 19 in Special Sub-Jail, Bonaigarh, 14 in District Jail, Angul, 14 in Sub-Jail, Nayagada and 15 in Special Jail, Rourkela, who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses that require urgent attention. It is a matter of deep concern, and a concern that is shared by Mr. Chhabra, that there is just one psychiatrist in Choudwar Circle Jail, who is expected to cater to the needs of all prisoners with mental illnesses throughout the State. This situation is clearly unsustainable considering that it is physically impossible for just one psychiatrist to attend to all prisoners with mental illnesses.”
Commendably, the Bench then lays bare in para 9 that, “A suggestion that has come forth from the learned AC and which the Court is willing to accept is to have the OSLSA to step in to arrange for visits by psychiatrists to each of the jails where there are prisoners with mental illnesses to have an assessment done of their present condition and what urgent measures need to be taken to alleviate their distress. The Member Secretary, OSLSA, who is present in virtual mode, has undertaken to arrange for such visit by specialist psychiatrist not just from Public Health Facilities but even from Private Health Facilities, the expenses for which will be defrayed by OSLSA. The OSLSA will then follow up on such reports of individual assessment by filing appropriate applications before the concerned Courts on behalf of the prisoners enclosing such assessments and praying for appropriate orders from the Court concerned, particularly for interim or regular bail. Each such prisoner with mental illness will be assigned with an individual lawyer from the panel of the OSLSA.”
PRISONERS’ PANCHAYAT COUNCIL
Essentially, the Bench then stipulates in para 10 that, “The Court’s attention was drawn to Rule 802 of the Odisha Model Jail Manual, 2020 (2020 Manual), which provides for constitution of Prisoners’ Panchayat Council (PPC). Mr. Chhabra has undertaken to examine the position of the constitution of such PPC in the jails since that would address a large number of problems faced by inmates within jails, which can be then brought to the notice of the jail administration for remedial action. The Court emphasises that since this is a statutory requirement, it has to be complied both in letter and spirit and on the next date of hearing, the Court will be informed of the constitution of such PPCs in every circle jail, district jail, special jail, special sub-jail or sub-jail as mandated under Rule 802 of 2020 Manual.”
PRISON DEVELOPMENT BOARD
As we see, the Bench then lays down in para 11 that, “As regards the Prison Development Board (PDB), Mr. Chhabra informs the Court that in view of the draft agenda proposed by his predecessor having to be revised, a meeting has not yet been held. However, he expects it will happen very soon and definitely before the end of June, 2022. The Court expects the PDB to take up in its agenda the issue of the budgetary allocations per prisoner, which requires revision among the other issues including infrastructure, overcrowding, medical facilities, skill development of the prison inmates and the like. The deliberations of the meeting of the PDB be placed before the Court on the next date.”
INFORMATION ABOUT PRISONERS’ CASES
As things stand, the Bench then maintains in para 12 that, “On the issue of information being provided to prisoners about their cases, Mr. Chhabra states that during his visit to the Circle Jail, Choudwar and District Jails in Angul and Puri, he did notice such e-kiosk and his information is that there are around 20 jails in Odisha that have such e-kiosks. He states that he will be visiting the jails in other States to ascertain the best practice in this area and ensure that those are made available in the jails in Odisha. Basically, a prisoner must have easy and ready access to latest updated information regarding his own case as well as orders of the concerned Court in his case.”
VACANT POSTS OF MEDICAL STAFF
On key issue of vacant posts of medical staff, the Bench then directs in para 13 that, “On the issue of vacant post of Medical Staff, the position of 3 psychiatrists is still lying vacant and 31 sanctioned posts of Medical Officers are also still vacant. It is stated that since the D.G. of Prisons has made a request to the State Government in this regard, a direction is issued to the Home Department as well as the Health and Family Welfare Department, Government of Odisha to immediately act upon the above requests of the D.G., Prisons and expedite the process of filling up of the vacant posts of Medical Officers and Psychiatrists.”
Adding more to it, the Bench then also directs in para 14 that, “Mr. Chhabra states that although directions have been issued by the Health Department and Home Department for increasing the frequency of the visits by the Medical personnel to the jails, that is not happening as was directed. This aspect must be immediately examined by both the Health and Family Welfare Department and the Home Department to ensure that the instructions are strictly carried out. The responsibility should be fixed on the concerned Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) in each of the districts in this regard. A further circular/order be issued to that effect forthwith.”
Segregation of UTPs from convicted inmates, Segregation of Young Offenders from Adults and Separate Enclosures for Women Prisoners
Quite worryingly, the Bench then enunciates in para 15 that, “A concern has been expressed that at least in six sub-jails in Champua, Kamakshyanagar, Banki, Jajpur, Dharamagarh and Jeypore, under trials were not segregated from convicted inmates. Further, young offenders in the age group of 18 to 21 are not separated from adults in jails of several districts including Bargarh, Malkanagiri, Keonjhar, Bhadrak, Cuttack, Jajpur, Kalahandi, Koraput and Nuapada. A third aspect here is that the reports collated by the Member Secretary, OSLSA reveal that there are no separate enclosures for women prisoners in the District Jail in Bhawanipatna and even the report from the visit of the DLSA to Jharsuguda reveals that the women’s ward is in a pathetic condition. As regards the jail in Jharsuguda is concerned, Mr. Chhabra states that the Additional I.G. has visited the said jail and corrective measures have already been taken. As regards the issue regarding segregation in the jail in Bhawanipatna, he states that steps will immediately be taken to rectify the situation and that he will be issuing instructions in that regard.”
BIJU PATNAIK OPEN AIR PRISON
Be it noted, the Bench then states in para 16 that, “This Court had in its order dated 23rd December 2021, pointed out that the Biju Patnaik Open Air Prison, which has a capacity of 125, has remained largely underutilized. The position as of 30th April, 2022 is that the said prison has only 33 prisoners. Mr. Chhabra stated that once the COVID-19 situation totally eases and convicts return to the jails, the prison population in the open-air prison would increase. The Court urges that this issue receive the highest and most urgent attention of the prison department and on the next date, the Court must be informed of a substantial increase in the prisoner population in the open air prison.”
It is worth noting that the Bench then recalls and puts forth in para 17 that, “This Court had issued detailed directions regarding the duty lawyers being to be attached to every Police Station and of the directions issued by the Supreme Court in Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar (2014) 8 SCC 273, having to be followed in letter and spirit. The Court is informed by Mr. Biswajit Mohanty, Secretary, OSLSA that in 418 Police Stations in Odisha, the Duty-Lawyer system has already been implemented. The names and the mobile numbers of the Duty-Lawyers are stated to be displayed on boards in a prominent place in each of these Police Stations. He expects the Duty-Lawyer system to be implemented in all the remaining Police Stations by the 10th June, 2022. The Duty-Lawyers will be given an orientation through the DLSAs, emphasizing the need to ensure compliance with the directions issued by the Supreme Court in Arnesh Kumar (supra). The orientation will also be for effective interaction with the persons brought into Police Stations and proper advice as to their options.”
Needless to say, the Bench then mentions in para 18 that, “Mr. Chhabra states that the efforts would be made to earmark some space in every jail and sub-jail for library books and reading materials to be kept for prisoners.”
Of course, the Bench then reiterated in para 19 that, “The learned AC points out that despite the directions issued by this Court in its order dated 23rd December, 2021 in Para-48 about the Police authorities having to strictly comply with the directions issued by the Supreme Court in Joginder Kumar v. State of U.P. AIR 1994 SC 1349 and the subsequent amendments by which Sections 41-A to 41-D were introduced in the Cr.P.C., those provisions are not yet being strictly implemented. The direction to the Police to publish every month on its website the relevant information of persons arrested is reiterated.”
Quite remarkably, the Bench then mandates in para 20 that, “In modification of the direction issued by this Court in Para-7 of its Order dated 23rd December 2021, it is directed that the Member Secretary, OSLSA will facilitate the release of prisoners, who were unable to be released on bail despite being granted bail on account of their inability to furnish bail bonds, by filing applications before the Court of Sessions or the High Court under Section 440 (2) of the Cr.P.C. for modifying the conditions and the terms of both the Judgments of the Supreme Court as well as the guidelines issued by the NALSA in this regard.”
Most commendably, the Bench then notes in para 21 that, “A suggestion has been received from the D.G. Prisons to the DLSAs, who organize the visits by Panel Counsel or themselves visit the prisons should compile a list of Under Trial Prisoners (UTPs), who may be informed sick or aged or in need of urgent medical attention including pregnant women and on that basis, advise moving the Court for bail on medical grounds. This suggestion will also be acted upon by the Secretary, OSLSA, who will instruct the DLSAs accordingly.”
What’s more, the Bench then adds in para 22 that, “The Court also notes its satisfaction on the various measures that have been taken in the jails in Odisha pursuant to the orders passed by this Court, which has resulted in a considerable improvement in the conditions in he prisons in Odisha, as is reflected in the reports submitted to the Court by the District Magistrates, the DLSAs and even the District Judges, who have undertaken visits, all of which has been collated and presented in this Court at today’s hearing. Nevertheless, much more needs to be done. Hopefully, the further directions issued by this Court today should help in that direction.”
Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 23 that, “List on 28th July, 2022 at 2 pm.”
In sum, we thus see that the Orissa High Court has taken great pains to ensure that prisoners are properly looked after in prisons. The Court minced no words to express its serious concern on the deplorable condition of prisoners in jail. It also made it indisputably clear that just one psychiatrist for all prisoners with mental illnesses in State is not sustainable. No denying it!
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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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