It is most heartening to note that in a very pertinent, pragmatic, powerful and progressive judgment titled XXX v. Registrar of Births and Dead Pathanamthitta Municipality and Ors. in WP(C) No. 4262 of 2022 and cited in 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 373 that was delivered as recently as on July 19, 2022 while allowing a writ petition, the Kerala High Court held in no uncertain terms that a person has the right to not specify the name of their father in identity documents. The Court minced no words to state upfront that, “A child of an unwed mother is also a citizen of our country, and nobody can infringe any of his/her fundamental rights, which are guaranteed in our Constitution. He/she is a son/daughter of not only the unwed mother but this great country “India”.” The Court passed this superb order while recognizing and conceding the agonies faced by children of unwed mothers and rape victims. While robustly referring to the Mahabharat character Karna, the Court observed in its judgment that, “We want a society with no such characters like “Karna”, who curses his life because of the insult he faced for not knowing the whereabouts of his parents.”
To start with, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by a Single Judge Bench of the Kerala High Court comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice PV Kunhikrishnan sets the pitch in motion right from the beginning by putting forth in para 1 that, “This is a sad story of a mother and her son. The 2nd petitioner is an unfortunate mother who conceived the 1st petitioner while she was a minor under a mysterious circumstance by an unidentified person. This writ petition is filed by the petitioners to expunge and remove the father’s name from the birth register maintained by the office of the 1st respondent with respect to the 1st petitioner and issue a certificate showing the mother’s name only as a single parent. A child of an unwed mother is also a citizen of our country, and nobody can infringe any of his/her fundamental rights, which are guaranteed in our Constitution. He/she is a son/daughter of not only the unwed mother but this great country “India.” We need to live in a country where there will be no example to cite for the word “bastard” and let that word continue in the dictionary pages without getting an opportunity to give examples to the young student generation of English. The children of unwed mothers and the children of raped victim can also live in this country with the fundamental rights of privacy, liberty, and dignity. None can intrude into their personal life, and if it happens, the constitutional Court of this country will protect their fundamental rights. The Apex Court has held that a woman’s reproductive choice is a fundamental right and compassed the same under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. In Suchita Srivastava and Another v. Chandigarh Administration [AIR 2010 SC 235], the Apex Court held thus:
“There is no doubt that a woman’s right to make reproductive choices is also a dimension of “personal liberty” as understood under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. It is important to recognize that reproductive choices can be exercised to procreate as well as to abstain from procreating. The crucial consideration is that a woman’s right to privacy, dignity, and bodily integrity should be respected.””
While citing yet another relevant case law, the Bench then states in para 2 that, “Referring to the above judgment, the Apex Court in Devika Biswas v. Union of India and Others [AIR 2016 SC 4405] observed thus: “This Court recognized reproductive rights as an aspect of personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution in Suchita Srivastava v. Chandigarh Administration. The freedom to exercise these reproductive rights would include the right to make a choice regarding sterilization on the basis of informed consent and free from any form of coercion”.”
While citing yet another most relevant case law, the Bench then mentions in para 3 that, “The Apex Court in K.S. Puttuswamy v. Union of India [2017 (4) KLT 1], observed like this:
“To live is to live with dignity. The draftsmen of the Constitution defined their vision of the society in which constitutional values would be attained by emphasising, among other freedoms, liberty and dignity. So fundamental is dignity that it permeates the core of the rights guaranteed to the individual by Part III. Dignity is the core which unites the fundamental rights because the fundamental rights seek to achieve for each individual the dignity of existence. Privacy with its attendant values assures dignity to the individual and it is only when life can been enjoyed with dignity can liberty be of true substance. Privacy ensures the fulfilment of dignity and is a core value which the protection of life and liberty is intended to achieve.””
Needless to say, the Bench then observes in para 4 that, “In the light of the above decisions, the facts of the present case are to be considered. To keep the anonymity of the son and the mother, who are the petitioners in this writ petition, the 1st petitioner son is referred to as “X” and the 2nd petitioner mother is referred to as “Y”. The name of the father of the 1st petitioner is given differently in three different documents, and therefore, the father’s name is referred as “Z”, “Z1” and “Z2”.”
To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 5 that, “The 1st petitioner was conceived by the 2nd petitioner, the mother of the 1st petitioner, while she was a minor under mysterious circumstance by an unidentified person. Therefore the father’s name of the 1st petitioner happened to be recorded differently in different documents. The name of the mother of the 1st petitioner is correctly recorded in all identification and education certificates. In the birth registration certificate of the 1st petitioner before the Registrar of Births and Deaths, Pathanamthitta, the father’s name is recorded as “Z”. Ext.P1 is the copy of the birth certificate. In the Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC), the name of the father of the 1st petitioner is recorded as “Z1”. Ext.P1(2) is the copy of the certificate(SSLC). In the Higher Secondary Examination (HSE) Certificate, the parents’ names are not recorded on the face. Ext.P1(3) is the copy of the HSE certificate. In the Election ID, mother’s name is recorded on the face. Ext.P1(4) is the copy of the Election ID card of the 1st petitioner. In AADHAR card, name of the father of the 1st petitioner is recorded as “Z2”. Ext.P1(5) is the copy of the AADHAR card. In the driving licence, the name of the mother alone is recorded on the face. Ext.P1(6) is the copy of the driving licence of the 1st petitioner. In the card showing the Permanent Account Number (PAN), name of the mother, “Y” alone is recorded on the face. In the Passport, the name of the father is recorded as “Z3”. The same is produced as Ext.P1(8).”
As we see, the Bench then lays bare in para 6 that, “Since the paternal name of the 1st petitioner appears differently in different documents and the name is uncertain, the petitioner did not want the father’s name to be recorded in any of the documents and certificates. Hence the 1 st petitioner sent a request to the 1st respondent as well as respondents 2 to 8 requesting to delete the name of the father of the petitioner appears in all identity certificates, records, and databases concerning the 1st petitioner and after deleting the name of the father, to issue new corrected identity cards and certificates. Ext.P1 is the request submitted by the petitioner.”
Truth be told, the Bench then specifies in para 7 that, “The 1st respondent is the statutory authority under the Central Act, namely The Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 (for short, the Act 1969). The 1st respondent is chronologically the first authority to record the name of the parents. Section 15 of the Act 1969 gives power to the 1st respondent to correct the entries. The State of Kerala framed Rules as per the Act, which enables such correction and deletion of errors that are wrongly or improperly made. Moreover, the Government of India, as per Ext.P3 letter, circulated to all Chief Registrar of Births and Deaths in the country directing that the name of the single parent will be written in the birth record, and the name of the other parent must be left blank if such requests are made. This letter was issued in the light of the judgment of the Apex Court in ABC v. State (NCT of Delhi) [2015 (10) SCC 1]. In the light of the law declared by the Apex Court and clarified by the direction in Ext.P3, it is the case of the petitioner that the 1st respondent is bound to expunge the name of the father from the Birth Register and based on which the other respondents are also bound to correct the records in tune with the same. Hence this writ petition is filed with following prayers:
A. Direct Respondent No.1 to expunge and remove the name of father from the Birth Register maintained at his office regarding petitioner no.1 and issue certificate showing the name of the mother only as a single parent.
B. Direct respondents 2 to 8 effect consequential expunge of name of the father from their official records and databases,
C. Grant such other reliefs which may be prayed for hereafter and this Hon’ble Court deems fit and proper to grant in the facts and circumstances. (SIC).”
It deserves mentioning that the Bench then observes in para 10 that, “Section 15 of the Act 1969 deals with the correction or cancellation of entry in the register of births and deaths. It will be beneficial to extract Section 15 of the Act 1969:
“15. If it is proved to the satisfaction of the Registrar that any entry of a birth or death in any register kept by him under this Act is erroneous in form or substance, or has been fraudulently or improperly made, he may, subject to such rules as may be made by the State Government with respect to the conditions on which and the circumstances in which such entries may be corrected or cancelled correct the error or cancel the entry by suitable entry in the margin, without any alteration of the original entry, and shall sign the marginal entry and add thereto the date of the correction or cancellation.””
Quite usefully, the Bench then illustrates in para 11 stating that, “As per Section 15, if it is proved to the satisfaction of the Registrar that any entry of a birth or death in any register kept by him under this Act is erroneous in form or substance or has been fraudulently or improperly made, he may, subject to such rules as may be made by the State Government with respect to the conditions on which and the circumstances in which such entries may be corrected or cancelled, correct the error or cancel the entry by suitable entry in the margin, without any alteration of the original entry, and shall sign the marginal entry and add thereto the date of the correction or cancellation. The Kerala Registration of Births and Deaths Rules, 1999 (for short, the Rules 1999) was framed in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 30 of the Act 1969. Rule 11 of the Rules 1999 is relevant, and the same is extracted hereunder:
“11. Correction or cancellation of entry in the register of births and deaths –
(1) If it is reported to the Registrar that a clerical or formal error has been made in the register or if such error is otherwise noticed by him the Registrar shall enquire into the matter and if he is satisfied that any such error has been made, he shall correct the error (by correcting or cancelling the entry) as provided in section 15 and shall send an extract of the entry showing the error and how it has been corrected to the State Government or the officer specified by it in this behalf.
(2) If any person asserts that any entry in the register of births and deaths is erroneous in substance, the Registrar may correct the entry in the manner prescribed under section 15 upon production by that person a declaration setting forth the nature of the error and true facts of the case made by two credible persons having knowledge of the facts of the case. Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-rule (1) and sub-rule (2) the Registrar shall make report of any correction of the kind referred to therein giving necessary details to the State Government or the officer specified in this behalf.
(3) If it is proved to the satisfaction of the Registrar that any entry in the register of births and deaths has been fraudulently or improperly made, he shall make a report giving necessary details to the officer authorised by the Chief Registrar by general or special order in this behalf under section 25 and on hearing from him take necessary action in the matter.
(4) In every case in which an entry is corrected or cancelled under this rule, intimation thereof should be sent to the permanent address of the person who has given information under section 8 or section 9.””
Simply put, the Bench then notes in para 12 that, “As per Rule 11(2), if any person asserts that any entry in the register of births and deaths is erroneous in substance, the Registrar may correct the entry in the manner prescribed under Section 15 upon production by that person, a declaration setting forth the nature of the error and true facts of the case made by two credible persons having knowledge of the facts of the case. It is also stated that notwithstanding anything contained in sub-rule (1) and subrule (2) of Rule 11, the Registrar shall make report of any correction of the kind referred to therein, giving necessary details to the State Government or the officer specified in this behalf. Therefore, on a combined reading of Section 15 of the Act 1969 and Rule 11 of the Rules 1999, it is clear that a correction of an entry in the Register of Births and Deaths is possible in certain circumstances mentioned in it.”
Most significantly, the Bench then minces no words to mandate unambiguously in para 18 that, “From the above discussions, it is clear that it is the right of a person to include his mother’s name alone in the birth certificate, identity certificates and other documents. As I observed earlier, there are children of rape victims and children of unwed mothers in this country. Their right of privacy, dignity and liberty cannot be curtailed by any authority. The mental agony of such person is to be imagined by every citizen of this country while intruding into their privacy. In some cases it will be a deliberate act and in other cases it may be by mistake. But the State should protect citizens of all such kind as equal to other citizens without disclosing their identity and privacy. Otherwise, they will face unimaginable mental agonies.”
Briefly stated, the Bench then observes in para 19 that, “The mental agony faced by a person, who does not know their parents is picturised by the character of “Karna” in the ancient epic “Maharabharatha”. “Karna” was not aware of his parents till his mother “Kunthi Devi” told him about the truth. The mental agony and insult faced by “Karna” is picturised way back in the ancient time itself by “Vedavyasa” in “Mahabharatha”. In tune with the above story, Mali Madhavan Nair wrote a story (Aattakadha) in “Kathakali” which is popularly known as “Karnashapadham”. The mental agony and insult faced by “Karna” is picturised in a “Padham” (verse) of “Karnashapadham”.”
Quite graciously, the Bench then concedes in para 20 mentioning that, “It is difficult to translate the above “padham” to English with the same artistic beauty. However, since the language of this judgment is in English, the meaning in plain words is to be stated. The meaning is like this:
“Why doubts and indecision are going
through my heart!
Even though I am the King of Angarajya
I do not know where I was born!
Does anybody know where I was born and what is the sect?
Oh my God! Who are my parents?
Will I be able to see them, or is it my fate
to die before meeting them!”
When the above “Padham” was sung by the legends like Late Kalamandalam Hyderali and Kalamandalam Gopi (who was honoured by Padmasree by the country) on stage to act the scene, even a person who is not a lover of “Kathakali” would find tears in their eyes. We want a society with no such characters like “Karna”, who curses his life because of the insult he faced for not knowing the whereabouts of his parents. We want the real brave “Karnas” who was the real hero and fighter in “Mahabharatha”. Our Constitution and the constitutional Courts will protect all of them and the new age “Karnas” can live like any other citizen with dignity and pride.”
Finally and as a corollary, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 21 that, “In the light of the above discussions, the prayers in this writ petition are to be allowed. Therefore, this writ petition is allowed in the following manner:
1. There will be a direction to the 1st respondent to expunge and remove the name of the father from the Birth Register maintained at his office regarding the 1st petitioner and issue certificate showing the name of mother only as a single parent, if such a request is made by the petitioners. The 1st respondent will do the needful as directed above, as expeditiously as possible, at any rate, within two weeks from the date of receipt of such request and issue the necessary certificate to that effect during the above said period itself.
2. If the petitioners produce the corrected certificate issued by the 1st respondent, respondents 2 to 8 will effect consequential expunge of the name of the father from their official records and databases.
3. The Registry will not mention the names of the petitioners in the cause title of the judgment while uploading to the official site of this court. The registry will give sufficient number of certified copies of the judgment along with the details of the petitioners in a separate sealed cover if a copy application is filed for that purpose by the petitioners for production before the respondents.”
No doubt, this most commendable, cogent and convincing judgment deserves to be applauded in totality in all such similar cases! The Single Judge Bench of Hon’ble Mr PV Kunhikrishnan has taken great pains to meticulously dwell on all significant points and have elaborated exhaustively on the irrefutable fact that every person has right to specify only mother’s name in identity documents and none should suffer insult as suffered by legendary “Karna” now! Absolutely right!
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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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