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Counsel entitled to physically accompany party to remote point while giving evidence via video conferencing: Karnataka HC

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In a very significant development, we saw how just recently on 24 June 2022, the Karnataka High Court has in an extremely learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled K Lakshmaiah Reddy vs V Anil Reddy & Others in Writ Petition No. 10926 of 2022 and cited in 2022 LiveLaw (Kar) 237 held in no uncertain terms that a counsel/advocate appearing for the parties are entitled to be physically present at the remote point from where the evidence of such party is being recorded through video conferencing. It must be mentioned here that a Single Judge Bench of Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum allowed the petition filed by one K Lakshmaiah Reddy who had challenged the order of the Trial Court which had declined permission that was sought by his counsel to be present at the remote point while recording of the evidence. Very rightly so!

To start with, this brief, brilliant and balanced judgment authored by a single Judge Bench of the Karnataka High Court comprising of Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “The captioned writ petition is filed by the defendant No.2 questioning the order dated 30.05.2022 passed on memo filed by the petitioner/defendant No.2. Under the impugned order, the learned Judge has declined permission sought by the counsel appearing for the present petitioner/defendant No.2 to be present at the remote point while recording evidence of defendant No.2.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “The present petitioner is a resident of Michigan, USA and is aged about 87 years and is suffering from various health issues. Therefore, the petitioner filed applications in I.A.Nos.27 and 28 under Rule 6 of the Video Conferencing Rules and also application in I.A.No.36 under Order 18 Rule 16 of CPC to examine the petitioner immediately. The said applications were allowed by the Trial Court thereby permitting the present petitioner/defendant No.2 and defendant No.5 to record their evidence through Video Conference. The Trial Court accordingly with the consent of parties to the suit, fixed the date of recording evidence through video conferencing on 06.06.2022. The petitioner filed memo on 25.05.2022 requesting the Court to make further e-mail correspondence towards logistic support and to inform the remote point coordinator to issue 5 entry passes to enable the petitioner to have assistance of his Advocate and also attendants.”

While stating the precise reason behind filing of petition, the Bench then specifies in para 3 that, “The contesting defendants filed statement of objections to the said memo. The learned Judge vide impugned order at Annexure-A has refused to permit the petitioner’s Advocate to be present at the remote point while recording evidence of defendant No.2. It is this order which is under challenge.”

To be sure, the Bench then states in para 14 that, “Before I advert to the controversy involved between the parties, it would be useful for this Court to refer to the relevant Rules framed by this Court which is titled as “Rules for Video Conferencing for Courts”. The relevant definitions are culled out as under:

“2(v) ‘Court Point’ means the Courtroom or one or more places where the Court is physically convened, or the place where a Commissioner or an inquiring officer holds proceedings pursuant to the directions of the Court.

2(x) ‘Remote Point’ is a place where any person or persons are required to be present or appear through a video link. 2(xii) ‘Required Person’ includes:

a. the person who is to be examined; or

b. the person in whose presence certain proceedings are to be recorded or conducted; or

c. an advocate or a party in person who intends to examine a witness; or

d. any person who is required to make submission before the Court; or

e. any other person who is permitted by the Court to appear through video conferencing.””

Needless o say, the Bench then mentions in para 21 that, “The respondents are objecting the presence of counsel at the remote point. The moot question that has to be examined before this Court is, as to whether the Court is vested with discretion to permit the counsel on record to be present at the remote point along with his client?”

It would be instructive to note that the Bench then enunciates in para 22 that, “Rule 14 refers to ‘Conduct of proceedings’. It would be useful for this Court to refer to Rules 14.1 and 14.7 which reads as under:

“14.1 All Advocates, Required Persons, the party in person and/or any other person permitted by the Court to remain physically or virtually present (hereinafter collectively referred to as participants) shall abide by the requirements set out in Schedule I.

14.7 The Court shall satisfy itself that the Advocate, Required Person or any other participant that the Court deems necessary at the Remote Point or the Court Point can be seen and heard clearly and can clearly see and hear the Court.””

For sake of clarity, the Bench then clarifies in para 23 that, “On perusal of Rule 14.1, it is clearly evident that the said Rule clearly contemplates and enables all Advocates, required persons, party-in-person either to remain physically or virtually present who are collectively referred to as participants. The only rider to the said sub-rule is that the participants are required to abide by the requirement set out in Schedule-I to the Rules. Therefore, the “Required Person” as defined under Rule 2(xii) would not necessarily mean that it is only the witness, who has to be examined, has to be physically present at the remote point. This Court is unable to understand as to how the counsel on record can be denied a right of audience at the remote point. Rule 14 clearly contemplates and permits all Advocates including required persons or party-in-person to be physically present at the remote point. Further, Rule 14.7 also gives discretion to the Court in a given case to permit the Advocate or any other participants that Court deems necessary at the remote point or Court point.”

Frankly speaking, the Bench then observes in para 24 that, “The definition “Required Person” and further persons who can be permitted to be present at the remote point as contemplated under Rule 8.11 cannot be so narrowly construed and interpreted so as to exclude a counsel. If such a proposition is accepted, that would take away the valuable rights of a client who is entitled for apt assistance by his counsel on record. It is an established tradition that a trusting relationship between a client and Advocate is necessary for effective representation. Therefore, legal assistance before a witness is examined or cross-examined plays a vital role. The counsel appearing for either of the parties are the most important actors of most court room interactions. The Advocates on record are the central influence in the court room. Therefore, personal contact between a counsel and his client stand together in Court and therefore, is deemed very important in establishing trust which would ultimately result in establishing a litigants’ faith in the legal system overall and this trust is often built by the Advocates on record who are also officers of the Court. Mere presence of Counsel of a deponent under cross-examination at remote point would result in either prompting or tutoring the witness.”

Most forthrightly, the Bench then states in para 25 that, “The definition “Required Person” under Rule 2(xii) coupled with Rule 8.11 authorizing a coordinator at the remote point to ensure that no person is present at the remote point cannot be read in isolation. The above said relevant rules have to be conjointly read along with Rules 14.1 and 14.7. A witness is entitled for legal assistance even when he is cross-examined. However, at the time of cross-examination, his counsel cannot prompt or tutor him. Based on mere apprehension, the above said rules cannot be narrowly interpreted so as to exclude the counsel on record who is an integral part of legal system and plays a vital role in dispensation of justice. The Advocates admittedly play a role as an Officer of the Court. His presence at the time of cross- examination of his witness is further more essential. It is a common fact that cross-examination often involves a battle of wits between cross-examiner and witness. At times, Advocates cross-examining the witness may have to use guile to expose the unreliability of the witness, as when the latter is lulled into a false sense of security and does not realise that he is being trapped or set up for questions which will effectively challenge him. Advocates often adopt such an approach which are essential to break the effect created by the witness in examination-in-chief or in his affidavit of the evidence in chief. Therefore, it is the counsel appearing for the witness who is subjected to cross-examination can object to the questions posed to the witness which are found to be contrary to ethical rules. In such circumstances, it is the Advocate who has to meticulously watch the proceedings of cross-examination and has to be vigilant to see that Advocate who is cross-examining does not lie or put untruths to the witness. The essence of the principle here is that the cross- examiner must not act dishonestly. He must not mislead the Court as well as the witness who is being cross-examined. Therefore, the presence of Advocate also plays a vital role when his witness is being cross-examined at the remote point. The presence of Advocate at the remote point would create a sense of security and would help him to face test of cross-examination. That cannot be misconstrued to such an extent that it would amount to prompting or tutoring. His mere presence at the remote point will not violate the Rules.”

Quite commendably, the Bench then holds in para 26 that, “Therefore, in the present case on hand, defendant No.2 is entitled to seek legal assistance even when he is being cross-examined by way of video conferencing. Using video conferencing, the defendant’s rights cannot be sacrificed in the name of procedural efficiency. The adversarial model which is adopted for several decades cannot be abandoned under the garb that the Rules relating to video conferencing does not permit. Adversarialism is a cornerstone of the legal process; the system is predicated on this tenet. Denial of legal assistance while recording ocular evidence of a witness through video conferencing violates fundamental fairness.”

In the present context, the Bench then also makes it clear in para 27 that, “Looking to the recent trend, video conferencing does have a place in the legal system. The challenge is not to exclude it but to use it responsibly. The video conferencing can produce better results, but at the same time, certain highlighted issues which may prop up down the line have to be addressed effectively. The client is entitled to seek assistance and therefore, the clients interaction with his counsel on record is quite essential to a fair trial and a person who is supposed to be cross-examined is entitled to meet his counsel ahead of time to discuss every anticipated questions, concept or a piece of evidence. The Rules that are framed by this Court governing recording of evidence through video conferencing require all participants to follow the Rules in terms of Schedule-I which is annexed to the Rules.”

As a corollary, the Bench then observes in para 28 that, “It is in this background, the proposition floated by the counsel appearing for the contesting respondents cannot be acceded to. An Advocate should always be with his client. The Rules framed by this Court do not intend to support plaintiffs team or a defence team. The counsel appearing for respective clients are entitled to stand together and the same is necessary for an attorney-client relationship to function properly. A medium that interferes with the court’s main mission should be eliminated.”

Quite forthrightly, the Bench then also clearly states in para 29 that, “The contesting parties are entitled to have a discussion with their Advocates on record as they need to discuss important decisions concerning vital documents, basic legal strategy prior to appearing in Court. Personal meetings are better for hastening out case strategies, fact gatherings and basic legal tactics. Therefore, it is in this context, if the proposition of respondents is accepted and if counsel appearing for a witness who is supposed to be cross-examined is denied a right of audience at a remote point, the apprehension that the ocular evidence recorded through video conferencing will not satisfy the prescribed requirements of a fair trial and the same would create a doubt in regard to legitimacy of a legal process may turn out to be a hard reality. Therefore, denial of right of audience to a counsel on record has its own ramifications and may result in violation of fundamental fairness and may also have impact on due process of law.”

Furthermore, the Bench then states in para 30 that, “By introducing technology and by bringing in recording of ocular evidence through video conferencing, an attempt is made in all good faith to meet the standards of face-to-face trial. By bringing in new Rules, the Courts have to meet the established standards and traditions in recording evidence physically in the open Court. The dignity and ritual of physical presence in the Court was found to be absolutely necessary for public perception of justice. A very ceremony of trial and presence of fact finder may exert a powerful force for truth telling. The opportunity to judge the demeanor of a witness face-to-face is accorded great value in our tradition. Now in a given case, where parties consent to record ocular evidence through video conferencing has to meet the above said standards. There is an apprehension that non-verbal cues are unavailable or harder to read when associated with video conferencing. Therefore, the presence of counsel of a witness to be cross-examined at a remote point becomes further more essential.”

What’s more, the Bench then stipulates in para 31 that, “In the light of the discussions made supra, now let me see whether the Court is vested with discretion to permit the counsel appearing for a witness who is supposed to be cross-examined to be present at the remote point. The remote point has to be considered as an extended court room. A Court includes a physical court and a virtual court and if a Court can have court point at one or more place, then the Rules clearly prescribe that the counsel on record can be present at all point either in the Court physically or through a video link or at a remote point physically. Rule 14.1 clearly contemplates persons who are entitled to participate in court proceedings. Rule 14.1 clearly indicates that all Advocates and required persons are entitled to remain physically or virtually present. A discretion is also vested with the Court under Rule 14.7 and it is well within the discretion of the Court in a given set of facts to permit Advocate, required person or any other participants that court deems necessary at the remote point or at the court point. If at all any mischief is played during the course of recording evidence, the Court is better placed to hold an enquiry in regard to any mischief that would be complained.”

Of course, the Bench then rightly points out in para 32 that, “Unlike face-to-face hearing, a Judge has a privilege of replaying the recording and find out as to whether the witness is hoaxed or tutored. The court can also examine whether counsel on record has interfered and assisted the witness under cross-examination. The guidelines set out in Schedule-I coupled with Rule 5.6.4 clearly provides adequate protection. It is in this background, this Court would find that the apprehension of the respondents and objections raised in regard to entitlement of counsel on record to be physically present at remote point appears to be misconceived.”

Most significantly, the Bench then lays down in para 33 that, “If the order under challenge is tested in the light of the above said discussions made supra, this Court is of the view that the order under challenge is not at all sustainable. Mere bald allegations that if the counsel is permitted to be physically present at remote point, then every possibility of petitioner getting prompted, tutored or coaxed cannot be acceded to and such an objection is not at all sustainable. In fact, Rule 14 which lays down guidelines for conducting proceedings through video conferencing clearly contemplates and authorizes all Advocates to be present physically at remote point. A discretion is also vested with the Court in a given set of facts to permit the counsel or any other unconnected participants to be physically present at the remote point. It is in this background, this Court would find that the learned Judge erred in not exercising discretion judiciously. Therefore, the finding of the learned Judge that counsel appearing for the present petitioner/defendant No.2 is already present at the remote point and he can join recording of evidence by joining the link does not satisfy the requirements of a fair trial. The learned Judge erred in not exercising judicial discretion by permitting the counsel appearing for defendant No.2 to be physically present at the remote point.”

In addition, the Bench then also most commendably notes in para 34 that, “If a coordinator at the remote point is already available and if the entire ocular evidence is video recorded, any slight mischief can be easily taken notice of and the consequences would follow if the counsel contravenes any of the courtesies and protocols applicable to a physical Court. Therefore, I am of the view that the counsel appearing for the defendant No.2 is entitled to be physically present at the remote point.”

Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 35 that, “For the reasons stated, supra, I pass the following:

ORDER

(i) The writ petition is allowed;

(ii) The impugned order dated 30.05.2022 passed in O.S.No.66/2016 on the file of the III Additional City Civil & Sessions Judge, Bengaluru is set aside. Consequently, the memo dated 25.05.2022 filed by the petitioner/defendant No.2 is allowed;

(iii) The coordinator at the remote point shall ensure that while recording evidence of the petitioner/defendant No.2, the persons who are permitted to be present at the remote point will not indulge in interfering with his cross-examination;

(iv) Before commencing with the recording of evidence of petitioner/defendant No.2, the Court shall satisfy itself that the counsel appearing on behalf of petitioner/defendant No.2 can be seen and heard clearly at the remote point;

(v) The Court shall also monitor and take all necessary precautions that recording of ocular evidence of petitioner/defendant No.2 is conducted by strictly following the Rules.”

In essence, the Karnataka High Court has thus made the entire picture pretty clear in this notable judgment about counsel being entitled to physically accompany a party to remote point while giving evidence via video conferencing. We have already discussed it in detail. It merits no reiteration that all the courts must definitely pay heed to what the Karnataka High Court has held so very explicitly in this leading case!

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Policy&Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Separated in 1947, Sikh brother meets sister reunite

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Separated in 1947, Sikh brother meets sister reunite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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22 officers of different cadres to serve in J&K

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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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