Last Friday, the Goods and Service Tax (GST) arrangement in India turned five. It was a significant landmark in the country’s fiscal history. Launched with considerable fanfare at the stroke of midnight on 1 July 2017, in a joint session of Parliament by then President Pranab Mukerjee, the new indirect taxation regime was born out of a fairy tale wedlock between the Centre and the existing 30 states and 7 union territories.
Almost 15 years of “courting” had preceded the announcement of the alliance, which was to herald a happier life ahead for all parties. Henceforth, the states were to give up almost all their sovereign powers of taxation exercised by way of levying value added taxes (the erstwhile sales tax), and excise duties on agricultural products, food, alcohol, and other defined products. They had also agreed to abolish the entry (octroi) taxes imposed by their municipal bodies. The Centre, in turn, had consented to share its exclusive power to tax services, and the levy of excise duties on manufactures and a variety of other goods. The consummation of the marriage after these vows was to result in a common and uniform indirect tax rate for the entire nation, with the cascading effect of “tax upon tax” disappearing and giving birth to input tax credits and their refunds. The other happy expected outcome was for aggregate annual GST revenue-receipts to experience robust growth when compared to the 17 separate central and state taxes and 13 cesses being subsumed under it.
THE EMERGING TRENDS
In assessing the efficacy of the new but relatively sophisticated arrangement, it is worth recalling the experience of past five years. Ardent proponents had projected that upon stabilisation, its adoption would lead to raising GDP growth by 2% annually. Unfortunately, despite the tax base expanding from 6.39 mn to 13.7 mn taxpayers, that did not materialise in any of the five years. The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, and the slowing down of global trade ever since Trump launched his tirade against WTO and China in particular in 2018, can only partially explain the non-fructification of the full benefits of the tax-rationalisation and simplification measures. Neither, have the overall tax collections risen for most of the period under review, with the GST to GDP ratio also remaining flat. Only in the past year, did this rise to 6.25, a level also attained in 2019. Prior to GST, in 2016, this figure was higher at 6.5.
A relevant question to ask is whether the new tax rates are too low in comparison to the taxes and cesses prior to their subsuming. As per RBI, the weighted average GST rate in September 2019 had declined to 11.6% from 14.4% in May 2017. The so called revenue neutral rate (RNR) worked out by Arvind Subramanian, the then chief economist of the Union Finance Ministry, was 15.5%. A deep dive reveals that apart from ab initio exempting 60% of items in CPI, fixing a low taxation rate of 5% for another 15% of items, and having 4 tax-slabs ranging from 5% to 28%, the GST Council has lowered the rates on over 200 products and services since 2018.
Political consideration—first, the 2019 general elections and then the annual exercise of Assembly polls—had prevented the rationalisation of the tax structure. The pandemic also contributed to the inertia. Another cause for not increasing the tax rates was the Centre’s preference for going in for a cess on GST especially on the so called “sin” goods already in the highest tax slab of 28%. Such revenue-yields are not required to be shared by the Centre with the states and were used to effect compensation as per the GST (Compensation to States) Act of 2017 enacted under the 101st constitutional amendment. The recent onset, and the persistence of the 96-month high inflation rate, is yet another reason for the Council not opting to extensively review the prevalent rates.
Yet another drawback in the GST architecture that has contributed to the lower than expected revenue is the exclusion of significant items from the purview of GST right from the beginning. Electricity, petrol, diesel, specified petroleum products, natural gas, aviation turbine fuel and real estate are all worthy candidates for inclusion. Perhaps, their being kept out of the regime was upon the insistence of the state governments to have some discretionary taxation powers. The subsequent levy of surcharge and cess on the applicable excise and other taxes on a few of these also came in handy for the Centre to raise resources exclusively for itself.
That said, their exclusion has adversely impacted the efficacy of the new tax regime. The energy costs for several goods and services constitute a high portion of total costs. Without the input credits, the overall prices of final products remain high and are a real contributor to the unduly high inflation currently being witnessed. Also, without the true costs of each significant input being determined, the inter se optimal substitution of raw materials and intermediates in the production process is eluded.
The issue of the statutory compensation to the states has invited comments. Assuring them a 14% annual increase in receipts over the audited figures of 2015-16 was indeed a generous, as well as shrewd move, by the then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. It was liberal because only a handful of the 30 states and 7 union territories joining it had actually experienced such a robust growth in the years prior to GST. For a majority of them, it was too attractive an offer to be passed over. Surely it was a deft political move by the Centre in view of the states having to give up their already limited taxation powers. Their genuine concerns and feelings needed to be assuaged, particularly in light of the fact that they stand completely excluded from the levy of direct taxes and customs duties.
After frequent delays in effecting the assured compensation to cover the deficit in revenue-receipts, the Centre has now fully made good on the committed shortfalls. However, almost all states, including a majority of BJP ruled ones, are clamouring for an extension of the compensation scheme. Given its own precarious fiscal situation, the Union Government is understandably not up to accepting this demand. With this backdrop, the states could be expected to make use of the recent apex court judgement in the Mohit Mineral case, terming the GST Council’s decisions as advisory and non-binding. This opens up a window for the states to not fall in line with the proposals of the GST Council, especially those not unanimously passed. Theoretically, within certain parameters of restraint, states could have their individual slabs, specific rates, coverage etc. If this were to occur, the much lauded “one nation one tax” concept justifying a countrywide uniform GST regime would be wounded.
CONSTRUCTIVE FEDERALISM, THE ESSENCE OF GST
A pre-requisite for ushering in the GST regime five years ago was nurturing co-operative and constructive federalism, along with building mutual trust. After all, as described above, the states stood to lose their already limited, but much prised taxation powers. After their concurrence of the new taxation regime, the Centre needed to consistently work on mitigating their loss of power and enhance their ability to face unforeseen contingencies. The response, unfortunately, has been wanting. It was less than helpful in 2020-21, when it invoked the corporate contractual provision of force majeure or a God’s Act as a reason for backing out of fulfilling the constitutionally guaranteed compensation till mid 2022. Instead, it had proposed the states themselves raise the deficit amounts from the open market.
In particular, the fiscal and financial differences with the Centre and the dozen odd non NDA states have further widened. During the pandemic, when the needs of the state governments were higher and the revenue-receipts lower, such tensions only heightened. The Centre is yet to comply with the 14th Finance Commission norm for the sharing of direct taxes for the period 2016-21 viz 42% of the divisible pool. It continues to hover around 35% despite the Fifteenth Finance Commission endorsing it and GOI having expressed its willingness. Not unexpectedly, this has irked the provincial governments since the tax collections accruing to the Centre have consistently grown—both by way of its retentions and the non-shareable surcharges and cess.
Over the last two decades, the Union Government (no matter the ruling party in power) has shown scant urgency to address the genuine fiscal concerns of the states. This has been the case despite their aggregate expenditure accounting for as much as 60% of the overall government spending. Yet the transfers by way of devolved taxes and grants remain disproportionate, ranging at around one-third of direct taxes collected and one-half of indirect taxes subsumed under GST. Given their respective weights in overall revenue, this adds up to them getting about 40% of the revenues accruing to the Centre (excluding the income of surcharges and cess) to discharge their allocated responsibilities. With not much left in their domain to earn by way of taxes or fees, the states end up annually borrowing from the open market almost as much as the Centre. The consequential effects of their deficit financing upon the aggregate national liquidity, lending rates and levels of inflation are no less severe than of the union’s borrowings.
Despite the evident need, the frequency of institutionalised consultation between the Centre and the States has reduced in recent years. For years together, there has been no meeting of the Inter State Council set up statutorily to address contestations. The legal option of going to the apex court, with all the associated rancour and bitterness, remains the commonly followed way. It is time the Inter State Council were empowered to take action, suo moto as well as upon references made to it, and act within a prescribed time limit. Such a need is greater in fiscal and financial matters. This could also ensure that the Council becomes a standing body and convening its meetings would not be left to the whims of a few. Arguably, it is only then that we should see far reaching and progressive fiscal regimes like GST fully materialise and yield their potential benefits.
Dr Ajay Dua, a development economist by training, is a former Union Secretary, Commerce and Industry.
Part 2 of the article discussing the possible way forward will appear next Sunday.
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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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