It is most heartening to note that none other than the Supreme Court itself has in a learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled Abhishek Singh Chauhan vs Union of India in Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 40/2022 and cited in 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 608 that was finally delivered on July 13, 2022 directed State-wise clubbing of the FIRs that were filed against an accused in different states. The key point of this judgment as stated in the very outset of this learned judgment is that, “FIRs lodged against accused under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code (Section 420 IPC etc) and other State enactments in various states – Directs clubbing of all the FIRs State-wise, which can proceed together for one trial as far as possible – Multiplicity of the proceedings will not be in the larger public interest. Referred to: Amish Devgan vs. Union of India (2021) 1 SCC 1.”
At the outset, this brief, brilliant, balanced and bold judgment authored by a Bench of Apex Court comprising of Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice JB Pardiwala sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in the opening para of this notable judgment that, “In this writ petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, the principal relief claimed by the petitioner is regarding clubbing of all the FIRs registered in different States and for grant of bail respectively. The details of said FIRs are as follow: –
SI. NO. FIR NO. DATE OFFENCES POLICE STATION
1. RC/40/S/2014 5.6.2015 S. 420, 120B & 34 IPC S. 4, 5 & 6 prize chits and money circulation schemes (Banning Act, 1978) CBI/SCB/SIT Kolkata
2. 338/2018 12.09.2018 S. 420, 406, 120-B IPC Pindwara, Sirohi
3. 552/2016 15.04.2016 S. 420, 409 IPC S. 3 & 4 of The Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors (in Financial Establishments) Act, 1999 Ramnagar, Chandrapur
4. 533/2017 29.07.2017 S. 420, 504, 506, 34 IPC Nahol, Sholapur
5. 467/2017 08.08.2017 S. 3 & 4 of The Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors Sholapur ( in Financial Establishments) Act, 1999 Bijapur Naka,
6. 915/2016 09.11.2016 S. 420, 409, 120B & 34 IPC S. 6 Madhya Pradesh Investor Protection Act, 2000 Kotwali, Sehore
7. 51/2017 08.2.2017 S. 420, 409, 120B & 34 IPC S. 6 Madhya Pradesh Investor Protection Act, 2000 Byawara Rural, Rajgarh
8. 03/2017 08.03.2017 S. 420, 409, 120B & 34 IPC S. 6 Madhya Pradesh Investor Protection Act, 2000 EOW, Bhopal
9. 146/2017 04.04.2017 S. 120B, 420 &34 IPC The Chhattisgarh Protection of Depositors Interest Act, 2005 Surajpur.”
10. 127/2017 10.04.2017 S. 420 & 34 IPC The Chhattisgarh Protection of Depositors Interest Act, 2005 Kanker
11. 240/2017 16.04.2017 S. 420 IPC Bemetara
12. 161/2017 21.04.2017 S. 420 IPC Baloda, Baloda Bazar
13. 176/2017 02.05.2017 S. 420 IPC Tila Nebra, Raipur
14. 591/2019 06.08.2019 S. 420 & 34 IPC Raigarh Kotwali, Raigarh
15. 79/2019 10.08.2019 S. 420 IPC Geedam, Dantewada.
As things stand, the Bench then points out in the next para of this judgment that, “It is noticed that the crime registered in the State of West Bengal has been investigated by C.B.I. and chargesheet has also been filed in connection with the said case. We are also informed by the learned Additional Solicitor General that the trial has also commenced in that case. As a result, no direction can be issued for clubbing of other cases with the said case being investigated by the special Investigating Agency i.e., C.B.I.”
Furthermore, the Bench then discloses in the next para of this learned judgment that, “As regards crimes registered against the petitioner in the State of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in each of these States, the trial will proceed before the Special Court under the special enactment, namely, Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors (in Financial Establishments) Act, 1999, Madhya Pradesh Investor Protection Act, 2000 and Chhattisgarh Protection of Depositors Interest Act, 2005 respectively.”
Quite frankly, the Bench then deems it apposite to note in the next para of this robust judgment that, “The cases in the concerned States, to be tried by the Special Court can be conveniently clubbed, for being tried together as has been directed in the case of Radhey Shyam vs. State of Haryana & Ors.in Writ Petition (Crl.) No.75/2020 vide Order dated 12.05.2022.”
Most significantly and also most remarkably, the Bench then minces no words to hold forthright in the next para of this learned judgment that, “Following the exposition of this Court in Amish Devgan vs. Union of India & Ors. (2021) 1 SCC 1, we deem it appropriate in exercise of power under Article 142 of the Constitution of India, to direct clubbing of all the FIRs State-wise, which can proceed together for one trial as far as possible, as we are of the opinion that multiplicity of the proceedings will not be in the larger public interest. We may hasten to add that the concerned States have no objection for abiding with such dispensation.”
To put it differently, the Bench then observes in the next para that, “In other words, the offence registered in the State of West Bengal being RC/40/S/2014 dated 05.06.2015 registered with CBI/SCB/SIT, Kolkata, will proceed before the concerned Court in the State of West Bengal independently. Similarly, the FIR registered at Pindwara, Sirohi, State of Rajasthan being FIR No. 338/2018 dated 12.09.2018 shall proceed before the concerned jurisdictional Court in that State itself being the only case registered in connection with the Indian Penal Code (IPC) offences in that State and cannot be clubbed with the cases pending in other States, as the same will have to proceed under the special enactment of the concerned State.”
To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in the next para of this judgment that, “As regards three cases registered in the State of Maharashtra, the same will have to proceed under the special enactment [Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors (in Financial Establishments) Act, 1999] before the special Court. It can be conveniently proceeded together. Accordingly, the subsequently registered FIRs being FIR Nos. 533/2017 dated 29.07.2017 registered at Nahol, Sholapur and 467/2017 dated 08.08.2017 registered at Bijapur Naka, Sholapur, need to be clubbed with FIR No. 552/2016 dated 15.04.2016 registered at Ramnagar, Chandrapur.”
As it turned out, the Bench then specifies in the next para of this noteworthy judgment that, “On the same pattern, the subsequently registered two FIRs – (FIR Nos. 51/2017 dated 08.02.2017 registered at Byawara Rural, Rajgarh and 03/2017 dated 08.03.2017 registered at EOW, Bhopal) in the State of Madhya Pradesh need to proceed together with FIR No. 915/2016 dated 09.11.2016 registered at Kotwali, Sehore being the earliest FIR registered under the special enactment – Madhya Pradesh Nikshepakon Ke Hiton Ka Sanrakshan Adhiniyam, 2000, before the jurisdictional special Court at Sehore.”
While continuing in the same vein, the Bench then underscores in the next para of this brief judgment that, “Similarly, the subsequently registered FIRs (FIR Nos. 127/2017 dated 10.04.2017 registered at Kanker, Distt. Kanker, 240/2017 dated 16.04.2017 registered at Bemetara, Distt. Bemetara, 161/2017 dated 21.04.2017 registered at Baloda, Baloda Bazar, Distt. Janjgir-Champa, 176/2017 dated 02.05.2017 registered at Tila Nebra, Raipur, 591/2019 dated 06.08.2019 registered at Raigarh Kotwali, Raigarh and 79/2019 dated 10.08.2019 registered at Geedam, Dantewada, Distt. Dantewada) in the State of Chhattisgarh need to be clubbed with FIR No. 146/2017 dated 04.04.2017 registered at Surajpur, Distt. Surajpur under the special enactment – Chhattisgarh Protection of Depositors Interest Act, 2005 as applicable to the State of Chhattisgarh, to be tried by the jurisdictional special Court at Surajpur, Distt. Surajpur.”
Most remarkably, the Bench then hastens to add in the next para of this laudable judgment that, “In each of the States, where directions for clubbing of FIRs is being passed, the subsequently registered FIRs shall be treated as statements under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.). The investigating officer in criminal case arising from the first FIR in the concerned State, as referred to above, will be free to file supplementary chargesheet after collation of all the records concerning other FIRs in the respective States, which are clubbed in terms of this order. In the event, the investigating officer in other FIRs had already filed the police report under Section 173 of the Cr.P.C. before the concerned Court and the concerned Court had taken cognizance thereof, the said FIRs and criminal cases would also stand transferred and merged/clubbed alongwith the first criminal case FIR No. 552/2016 dated 15.04.2016 registered at Ramnagar, Chandrapur (State of Maharashtra); FIR No. 915/2016 dated 09.11.2016 registered at Kotwali, Sehore (State of Madhya Pradesh); FIR No. 146/2017 dated 04.04.2017 registered at Surajpur, Distt. Surajpur (State of Chhattisgarh) registered in the respective State, as referred to above, to be proceeded with in accordance with law. The investigating officer in the stated case (principal case to which the subsequent FIRs would stand merged/clubbed), will be free to file supplementary chargesheet on the basis of material collated during investigation of other FIRs.”
As we see, the Bench then states in the next para that, “Needless to observe that the other offences not part of the special enactments can also be tried by the special Court under the concerned State legislation.”
For sake of clarity, the Bench then clarifies in the next para that, “It is clarified that this direction is limited to general offences, the offences under the IPC and the offences under the special State legislations; and not offences concerning the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, which have to proceed under a separate legislation and of which the investigation is done by a separate investigating agency.”
Most commendably, the Bench then states unambiguously in the next para that, “In other words, all cases in the State of Maharashtra will stand clubbed with FIR No. 552/2016 dated 15.04.2016, registered with Police Station Ramnagar, Chandrapur, and to be tried by Special Court at Chandrapur ( Maharashtra ). Similarly, all criminal cases arising from the FIRs filed at the different point of time in the State of Madhya Pradesh will stand clubbed with FIR No. 915/2016 dated 09.11.2016, registered with Police Station Kotwali, Sehore – to be tried by Special Court, Sehore (Madhya Pradesh); and in the State of Chhattisgarh on the same lines will stand clubbed with FIR No. 146/2017 dated 04.04.2017 registered with Police Station Surajpur – to be tried by Special Court at Surajpur (Chhattisgarh).”
Most forthrightly, the Bench then makes it indubitably clear by pointing out in the next para that, “If the accused has been granted bail in connection with the principal FIR or criminal case arising therefrom, in which the other FIRs/criminal cases will stand clubbed/merged in terms of this order, the bail so granted must enure in his favour until the Court of competent jurisdiction cancels the same owing to supervening circumstances including breach of bail conditions. In case, no bail has been granted in the principal FIR (case), the appellant may apply for the same before the jurisdictional court competent to try the principal crime. That be decided on its own merits.”
What’s more, the Bench then directs that, “The writ petition is disposed of in the above terms.”
Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in the final para of this sagacious judgment that, “Pending application(s), if any, shall stand disposed of.”
In conclusion, I am just falling short of words to appreciate, applaud and admire the thorough professional manner in which this most commendable judgment has been drafted by two most competent Judges of the Apex Court – Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice JB Pardiwala. One fervently hopes that in case of Nupur Sharma who is facing most serious death threats, rape threats and what not too will get the much needed relief strictly on merits and I am sure Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Suryakant will review their stand on this case also which attracted so much limelight but about which I will not like to discuss here.
It is again good to note just like in case of Zee News anchor Rohit Ranjan was granted protection most commendably by a Bench of Apex Court comprising of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice JK Maheshwari against the multiple FIRs that were lodged against him over an alleged doctored video of Rahul Gandhi’s speech that was telecasted in a DNA show on July 1, 2022 similarly in Mohammed Zubair case also who is an eminent journalist we see that the Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justice Dr DY Chandrachud and Justice AS Bopanna have noticed a “vicious cycle” and has most commendably granted another bit of temporary relief to him until the next hearing. He has already got bail from the top court in a sixth case in UP but is under arrest in a case registered in Hathras. The Apex Court has clearly directed that no action on Zubair till July 20.
It is unquestionable that his lawyer who is none other than the eminent and senior lawyer Vrinda Grover has very rightly maintained that, “This kind of targeting must end. This is an abuse of the process of law.” Why can’t Centre amend our penal laws to ensure that this abuse is ended forthwith? Why Centre always forwards hundred reasons for not doing so? Why can’t it act promptly on this also?
Needless to say, Zubair has rightly sought bail and cancellation of all six FIRs that were registered in Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Ghaziabad, Muzaffarnagar and Hathras districts. This alone explains why I openly bat for this same treatment to be accorded for Nupur Sharma also who too faces death threats, rape threats from terror groups who most cowardly killed first Umesh Kohle on June 21 in Amaravati in Eastern Maharashtra and then most dastardly beheaded Kanhaiya Lal and decapitated his hand also in Udaipur in Rajasthan which no civilized person of any religion can ever justify under any circumstances! But alas! That was not to be and she was denied any relief and squarely blamed for the terror attacks by a Bench of Apex Court comprising of Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Surya Kant who are both very competent Judges and in line to become the next CJI in the days to come yet they have grievously erred in squarely blaming Nupur Sharma and denying her any relief which she sought so very desperately! It must be said upfront that, “A terror act done by any person of any religion cannot be justified on any ground whatsoever!” I still hoope they will review their stand now.
Coming back to Zubair case, the cycle started from Delhi as mentioned in NDTV website where it is pointed out that, “Mr Zubair, co-founder of fact-checking site Alt News was originally arrested there on June 27 in a case over a four-year-old tweet that had an image from a 1983 movie. Then he was arrested in a case in Sitapur in UP over calling some Hindu right wing leaders “hatemongers”.” He too has faced so much of harassment when couple of cases were lodged against him and this “open abuse of the due process of law” must end forthwith!
All said and done, one can only say that this “open abuse” and “complete mockery and brazen trampling” shamelessly of “the due process of law” by intentionally lodging FIR in different states to harass the person against whom it is lodged needs to be plugged right now so that no litigant has to face endless troubles openly by running from pillar to post in different States most shamelessly, senselessly and stupidly with our Apex Court also in some cases like that of Nupur Sharma failing to rise to the occasion and in Zubair case also we see that he has faced so much of endless hassles before Supreme Court finally stepped in just because Centre turns a Nelson’s eye to it and Supreme Court also finds it best to not ruffle feathers of the Centre. But this must definitely change now especially when eminent lawyers like Kapil Sibal, Vrinda Grover, Aman Lekhi, Gautam Bhatia and many others keep raising their voice on this most strongly for which they definitely deserve to be applauded, admired and adored as they don’t want status quo to continue even after more than 75 years of independence!
On a final note, at the cost of repetition it must be said again that the Centre must amend our penal laws by which there should be clubbing of cases and no individual is required most stupidly, shamelessly and senselessly to keep running from one state to another on same charge and facing endless harassment from police and different courts also which is the biggest mockery of our legal system and also our democratic system where the legal rights of individual must be always accorded the highest priority and not the lowest priority! There can be definitely just no denying or disputing it! I fervently hope that Centre led by our Hon’ble PM Narendra Modi will at least now wake up its ideas on this and act most promptly and most decisively so that no citizen is ever again made to suffer immeasurably for no fault of his/her just because Centre since last 75 years has refused to do just nothing on this! His policy advisers too must guide him properly on this so that a common person is no more made to beg before different Courts like a beggar begs most helplessly! Let’s fervently hope so!
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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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