Allahabad High Court directs Mathura court to expeditiously decide on application seeking scientific probe of Shahi Eidgah in Krishna Janmabhumi dispute - The Daily Guardian
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Allahabad High Court directs Mathura court to expeditiously decide on application seeking scientific probe of Shahi Eidgah in Krishna Janmabhumi dispute

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The Allahabad High Court has directed Mathura Court in the case Bhagwan Shrikrishna Virajman And 3 Others v. U.P. Sunni Central Waqf Board And 3 Others, to expeditiously decide on an application filed before it for conducting a scientific investigation of Shahi Eidgah and Jahanara’s Masque in connection with a 2021 suit.

The bench comprising of Justice Vipin Chandra Dixit observed and ordered while hearing a plea moved under Article 227 by Bhagwan Shrikrishna Virajman And 3 Others seeking a direction to the Civil Judge (Senior Division), Mathura for deciding the application filed before the Mathura Court.

An application is moved before the Mathura Court by the Bhagwan Shrikrishna Virajman through one Manish Yadav in April this year, However, before the court, the same remain pending and the instant plea was moved before the High Court, seeking the aforesaid direction.

Before the Matura Court, an application has been filled under section 45 of the Evidence Act and the Provisions of Rule 10-A of Order XXVI of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 for conducting Scientific Investigation of Shahi Eidgah and Jahanara’s Masque in Civil Suit No. 151 of 2021 in the case (Bhagwan Shrikrishna Virajman and others vs. U.P. Sunni Central Waqf Board and others).

The counsel appearing for the petitioner submitted that the suit was filed by plaintiffs-petitioners for cancellation of judgment and decree dated 20.7.1973 and 7.11.1974 passed by Civil Judge, Mathura in Civil Suit No. 43 of 1967 as well as for the removal of encroachment over the disputed property.

On 14.4.2021, the petitioner moved an application for experts’ opinion. Further, it was submitted before the court that although respondents have been served and, in an application, dated 14.4.2021, no objection have been filled by them.

It was submitted by the counsel appearing for the respondent no.1 i.e., the U.P. Sunni Central Waqf Board that an application had also been filled under Order 7 Rule 11 C.P.C. on 16 July 2022 which is also pending for consideration and he has no objection if both the applications are expedited and decided simultaneously.

The Allahabad High Court directed Civil Judge (Senior Division), Mathura/Court to decide the application of the plaintiffs-petitioners and the application filed by respondent no.1 expeditiously and if possible, within three months after giving an opportunity of hearing to the parties concerned.

In the view of the above, the court finally disposed of the instant petition under Article 227 of the Constitution of India.

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Policy & Politics

Privacy implications in India of the overturning of Roe v Wade in the US

The journey from the winters of 1973 to the summer of 2022.

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June 24, 2022 witnessed perhaps one of the single-most momentous blowbacks to the notion of privacy, the consequence of which would certainly send ripples across the globe both on an ideological and a judicial-legal plane. On this day, the Supreme Court of the United States of America on this day overturned the watershed case of legal and feminist jurisprudence, Roe v. Wade of 1973 (“Wade”), effectively disrobing women in the country from exercising the erstwhile right to abort. The ramification of this ruling underlines a particularly interesting conundrum – in the wake of Big Tech collecting, storing, and processing personal data and information incessantly and sharing the same with law enforcement agencies (“LEAs”) as and when mandated, how can the most vulnerable and sensitive aspects of a person’s personal life be afforded protection to in the absence of adequate safeguards?

It is common knowledge that the tracking and storage of personal data and information accompany with it a saddening saga of squander and abuse – history is witness to this. With the over-ruling of Wade, it is now open season, wild-wild-west – the LEAs theoretically have a free hand to collect location data, forage through text messages and SMSes, dig through web-browser histories, online purchases, and personal e-mails, and use period-tracking apps surreptitiously to prosecute not only the users but also the intermediaries who may provision the said services.

The logical, unfortunate conclusion to the series of events that may potentially transpire hereon would be an absolute nightmare for all the people and families who were promised significant reproductive autonomy in the US for the past five decades. To chill reproductive freedoms, we may now even notice medical and health services providers track pregnant patients and LEAs exploit tools of surveillance to enforce existing abortion laws.

CALM BEFORE THE STORM?

If a report from Vice News were to be believed, accessing data troves in the US is an absolute breeze – for as meager as $160, one could access a week’s worth of data of the credentials and the geo-indicators of people who visited Planned Parenthood facilities (an American NGO which provides for sexual healthcare services). One possible reason why such a glaring infraction of personal privacy exists in the US in broad daylight is because of a ‘gray area of the law’. This gray area pertains to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, 1996 (“HIPPA”) which covers such data or information that is shared by the individual with a doctor. However, HIPPA does not secure any such data or information which is shared with a third-party. Hence, taking into consideration the possibility that third-party apps may share such data or information with yet another third party, the risk of abuse is glaring, to say the least.

There are two consequential takeaways for policymakers closer to home in India here. First and foremost, the guardrails for the protection and preservation of personal data and information in India are starkly lacking. And, second, in the absence of an omnibus privacy legislation, individuals and their data are at the mercy of private parties and the government to be exploited and be capitalized on.

Certainly, the Supreme Court of India did affirm that the Right to Privacy forms an integral part of the Right to Life and Liberty guaranteed by Law under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution – certainly no two thoughts about it. However, because of its delicate nature, the degree of safety and consideration that protection of medical data warrants is a notch above the safety standards mandated by the protection of general data. Taking into consideration the rapid growth of the Indian telemedicine market, the onus falls upon the Government to ensure that the prospective economic benefits of the proliferating market segment do not imperil the tenets of the Right to Privacy, especially that of health data. A nuanced and considered approach is the call of the day.

FLAWS IN THE INDIAN MEDICAL DATA POLICY FRAMEWORK

Perhaps the most pertinent issue in the framework as it stands today is the ambiguity in the understanding of ‘health data’ or ‘medical data’ and what it constitutes. Case in point, the Information Technology Act, 2000 (“IT Act 2000”), along with the Information Technology (Reasonable security practices and procedures and sensitive personal data or information) Rules, 2011 (“SPDI Rules”), accords the status of sensitive personal data or information (“SPDI”) merely on such data which are either related to the physical, physiological, or mental health of an individual. However, the current legal framework does not require such data to be anonymized – hence, it is quite feasible for any entity (government or third-party) which is in possession of such un-anonymized data to ascertain who it pertains to and mine such data, thereby risking misuse.

Despite several administrative attempts, the foul of conceptual legislative clarity remains. For instance, let us take into consideration three frameworks that pertain to or which touch upon personal health data, namely – the ‘Strategy Overview: Making India a Digital Health Nation Enabling Digital Healthcare for all’ document of the National Health Authority, dated July, 2020 (“NHA Strategy Overview”), the draft Digital Information Security in Healthcare Act, 2018 (“DISHA”), and the draft Data Protection Bill, 2021 (“DPB”). In the NHA Strategy Overview, “personal health data” encompasses information and data relating to the medical conditions and subsequent treatments undertaken by a party. In comparison to the standards of the NHA Strategy Overview – where on the one hand, the DPB covers only information regarding the physical or mental health of the individual, on the other, the DISHA goes a notch up and deals with data extracted from body-part donations and data derived from medical tests and bodily examinations as well. The discordance and dichotomy in the data protection frameworks indeed are glaring. Worse still, none of them reflect upon the surveillance misuse that can manifest from the status quo!

It indeed is well established that policy frameworks conceptualize data in general, and medical data in specific, as an incorporeal, intangible resource and an effective enabler for economic progress. Data is predominantly understood as a resource (like oil), available for human extraction, and exists independent of the bodies producing it. The present-day health data policy framework in India is inordinately concentrated on the data and information that is collated and collected by primary healthcare service providers (like hospitals and medical establishments) or secondary healthcare service providers or healthcare-related service providers (like insurance companies). We today have smartwatches and mobile apps which gather data on and monitor a person’s activity levels, heart rates, sleep cycles, and daily moods, and which also can track period-cycles. Hence, the draft DISHA-DPB framework presents a thought-provoking policy and legal lacuna – with the growing use of these smartwatches and third-party apps, can the law protect from exploitation the digital footprint of an individual that is left behind?

Yet another species of unease that arises is the difficulty in dealing with the unfettered access to medical data and information that the government (both at the Central and the State level) and LEAs can procure either from third-party apps or from IoT devices. To cite an instance, it is common knowledge that in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, both the Central as well as several State Governments used platforms and apps to track and contain the infection. What is perhaps not so commonly known is that for all the virtue and nobility that such contact tracing mechanisms may have brought about, they also institutionalized mass surveillance to a very large extent – one needs to understand that most of these apps often devolved into mechanisms of trickery by surveilling, monitoring and controlling the movement of individuals in the cloak of ‘lockdown enforcement’. Add to this, by way of the mandate provisioned in the proviso to Rule 6(1), and in Rule 6(2), of the SPDI Rules – sensitive personal data and information (including medical and health data) which is shared by an individual with third-party apps and platforms can legally be procured by LEAs without the explicit permission of the individual to whom such data belongs to. This gives rise to a certainly worrying trend, especially when you look at it from the privacy lens!

WHERE CAN WE GO FROM HERE: STEPS FOR THE TIMES AHEAD

In no uncertain terms, the pressing priority of the day in the Indian data-landscape is for lawmakers to cogitate considerately upon a definition of ‘health data and information’. A good starting point to fortress individual rights over their personal health would be to place digital health data and information collected by third-party apps and platforms, as well as by IoT devices, under the ambit of the draft DPB-DISHA framework.

Subsequently, legislative intent must deliberate over the fact that a certain category of health data is more intimate and sensitive than others (like, mental health issues faced by an individual vis-à-vis the height of that person) and may necessitate a higher degree of care and protection. Hence, to ensure that the individual possesses absolute and unqualified autonomy over such data of such a delicate character, a graded approach to health data is necessary.And lastly, lawmakers in India must take into account that in the wake of ‘data-sharing and interoperability’ practices, the policy-framework governing health data and information does not trade off privacy principles in the veneer of supposedly facilitating public welfare. Both healthcare service providers, medical insurance providers, and other healthcare-service providing third parties should enact protective policies which ought to be designed to keep a tight lid on sensitive personal health data and information and associated medical records and histories. Along these lines, to take a cue from the European General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), wherein data subjects have the ‘right to erasure’ as protected under Article 17 and Recital 65, GDPR – in India as well, individuals should also have the right to ensure that their sensitive personal data and information is erased if and where the said individual objects to the collection or processing of her/his health data and information.

The United States’ decision of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (the regressive U-turn precedent to Wade) did ensure for certain one thing – that the frigidity of the winters of 1973 would certainly chill the spine of women fifty odd years after, in the summer of 2022. Trust, accountability, and transparency – at a time we need them the most are indeed the absolute, dire necessity of the moment.

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Policy & Politics

Delhi HC facilitates school admission

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While emerging as a very strong voice for the voiceless, the Delhi High Court in an extremely laudable, learned, landmark and latest judgment titled Kamini Arya Through Perokar vs The State NCT Of Delhi in Bail Appln. 2165/2022 pronounced as recently as on August 3, 2022 has taken suo motu cognizance to facilitate admission of an 8 year old child to school which could not be facilitated for the reason that her parents were in judicial custody in a murder case since July 2021. It must be mentioned here that the Single Judge Bench of Hon’ble Ms Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma minced just no words to espouse child’s cause while observing that, “The court is of the opinion that the child must get admitted in a school at the earliest so that shadow of no unpleasant happening falls upon the child’s life to darken her future.” It is also most pleasing to learn that the Delhi High Court in this notable case made it absolutely clear that the child, being an individual Indian citizen, enjoyed the Fundamental Rights including the Right to Education and that the welfare of child should not only be considered in cases dealing with family disputes but also like the present one.

At the outset, this most commendable, cogent, courageous, composed and convincing judgment authored by the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Ms Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma sets the ball rolling most promptly by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 itself that, “The present application has been filed by the petitioner seeking interim bail for two weeks in FIR No. 323/21 registered at P.S. Mohan Garden under sections 302/365/292/397/411/120-B/201 & 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’). The petitioner and her husband, who is the co-accused in the aforementioned FIR, have been in judicial custody since 11.07.2021. The application has been moved by the mother of the child on the ground that she is concerned about the admission in a school of her child, who is about 8 years of age. It is stated that without her presence, she cannot be admitted in any school.”

No doubt, the grounds forwarded by the mother of the child are bona fide and worth considering seriously by the Court. The child is just about 8 years of age and so definitely the mother’s presence is inevitable to get the child admitted to school. This was considered seriously also by the Court!

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “The interim bail application of the petitioner has been dismissed by the ld. ASJ, Dwarka Court, vide order dated 21.05.2022 wherein the ld. ASJ opined that the ground on which the petitioner has approached the court for bail, i.e. getting her daughters admitted to school, is not of such a nature which can be termed as a compelling circumstance or intolerable grief. The application was thus dismissed by the ld. ASJ.”

As it turned out, the Bench then points out in para 3 that, “The court is informed by the learned counsel for the applicant that the elder sibling of the child is studying in the secondary school branch of Co-Ed Pry. School, West Zone, New Delhi – 110059. It is prayed that the child in the present case may be admitted in Nursery Class in the aforementioned school.”

As we see, the Bench then discloses in para 4 that, “In the present case, it has come to notice of the court that the applicant, i.e. the mother of the minor child, is in judicial custody due to her alleged involvement in the murder of an old lady whose body parts were severed and disposed of in a drain.”

As things stand, the Bench then brings out in para 5 that, “During the course of arguments on the bail application a query was put forth by this court and the court was informed that the presence of the applicant/mother is not required for admission of the child in the school and the Aadhaar Card of the mother shall suffice. The same has been duly verified by the Investigating Officer (IO) who has filed a reply from the Principal of SDMC, Co-Ed Pry. School, West Zone, New Delhi – 110059, wherein it is stated that the child’s admission can be done without the Aadhaar Card if the child has a certificate bearing the child’s date of birth from any government institution. It is further stated that any local guardian of the child can also get him/her admitted in school.”

While unequivocally underscoring the huge importance of education in a child’s life, the Bench then opines in para 6 that, “In my opinion, education is the first step towards tackling social evils, especially poverty, inequality and discrimination. Every child, irrespective of caste, religion, sex, or economic background has been guaranteed right to education. An educated individual can make informed decisions, first for themselves, and then be able to contribute constructively towards the progress of the nation and society at large.”

While sending out the most simple, straightforward and strong message to all the Judges, the Bench then mandates in no uncertain terms in para 7 that, “Once it comes to the notice of the court that a child or an individual is deprived of a fundamental right, the courts have to ensure that the fundamental right is enforced and there is no impediment for any individual to enjoy the same. The court should not fail in its duty at any point of time in this regard.”

Most remarkably, the Bench then further adds in para 8 that, “Right to Education is a fundamental right guaranteed to every citizen under Article 21-A of the Constitution. A child must not suffer the consequences, on account of their parents having been in judicial custody for a crime which is yet to be adjudicated upon by the court. This court is duty bound to enforce fundamental rights of every citizen and in this case right to education of the child.”

Most forthrightly, the Bench then also unambiguously maintained in para 9 that, “The Constitution guarantees protection of independent identity and individuality to every Indian citizen. Constitution of India is the supreme law of the land and this court is bound to protect the rights of every individual enshrined and guaranteed by the same. Especially in the present case, where the right to education of a child is at stake, it is imperative that the court intervenes timely and upholds the right envisaged in the Constitution to protect the future of the child.”

Needless to say, the Bench then notes clearly in para 10 that, “This court is of the opinion that the child must get admitted in a school at the earliest so that shadow of no unpleasant happening falls upon the child’s life to darken her future.”

Most significantly, the Bench then state in para 11 what constitutes the cornerstone of this learned judgment that, “At the cost of repetition, it is opined that in the present case, the child is an individual Indian citizen and enjoys her own Fundamental Rights given to her by virtue of her being born in India, Right to Education is the child’s fundamental right. In the present unpleasant situation of the case, the court has to become the voice of the voiceless child. The parents are in judicial custody and the prime concern of the parents is education of the child. It is not only in cases dealing with family disputes that the rights and welfare of the child should be considered but also in the cases as the present one, the courts can become and act as the parent of the child and ensure that the child is not deprived of its Fundamental Right to Education. Depriving any child of education due to family circumstances should not be allowed to every extent possible. An educated child educates the entire family and becomes an asset to the nation.”

Quite forthrightly, the Bench then directs in para 12 that, “In the circumstances, at this stage, this court feels the need to exercise its discretionary powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India and take suo-motu cognizance to facilitate the child’s admission in a school so that the child does not lose out on the current academic year i.e. 2022-23. It is therefore directed that the SHO concerned will get the child admitted to the school adjacent to the senior branch of the school in which the older sibling of the child is already enrolled and pursuing her education.”

Furthermore, the Bench then lays down in para 13 that, “The Principal of the school will extend full cooperation for the admission of the child. A compliance report will be filed within 10 days. The identity of the child and the school in question is not being mentioned in this order to protect the privacy and dignity of the child.”

What’s more, the Bench then aptly points out in para 14 that, “It is submitted by the counsel for the petitioner that the petitioner is satisfied with the relief that has been granted. Considering the petitioner was seeking bail only on the ground that she needed to fulfil her responsibilities as a parent and get her child admitted to school, permission is now sought by the counsel of the petitioner to withdraw the present application.”

As a corollary, the Bench then reveals in para 15 that, “In view of this order, the learned counsel for the applicant states that she is satisfied with the order and does not press her application at this stage. Permission is sought to withdraw the same.”

In this context, the Bench then quite ostensibly directs in para 16 that, “In terms of the above, the application is dismissed as withdrawn.” Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in final para 17 that, “Ordered accordingly.”

All told, it definitely merits no reiteration that all the courts must in similar such cases emulate what the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Ms Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma of Delhi High Court has laid down so elegantly, eloquently and effectively in this noteworthy case! In essence, the Courts must definitely become the voice of the voiceless as we see so very ostensibly in this leading case. It also must be definitely underscored that the Courts must also prima facie ensure that the process itself does not become the punishment due to which the long term interest of the child gets jeopardised. No doubt, we saw how in this case the Delhi High Court so very commendably took suo motu cognizance to facilitate the school admission of the child whose parents are in custody and thus ensured that the paramount interest of the child to education is safely protected. Of course, it must be said that this is definitely the best way in which ideally all the Courts in our country must always act and not just turn away their face citing process, procedure etc! There can be certainly just no denying or disputing it!

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Policy & Politics

PRADHAN MANTRI AWAS YOJANA: RS 8.31 LAKH CR INVESTMENT APPROVED

Anuj Puri

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Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

In Finance Minister Nirmala Seetharaman’s words, India stands on the threshold of Amrit Kaal, or the ‘Era of Elixir’. Regarding the country’s real estate sector, we can be a little more restrained with such definitions. Still, there is little doubt that the industry has made remarkable progress since it attained independence 75 years ago. Real estate has not been left behind – quite the contrary.

This once hugely beleaguered sector has made history-defying forward strides, especially in the last 8-10 years.

Today, massive transformation across sectors and industries has assured India a recognizable position in the new world order. The real estate sector features prominently in this revitalized avatar of a country on the move. Let’s reflect on what has transpired over the years and take a look at what lies ahead for the sector.

The Winds of Change

As India’s population grew over time, cities expanded to create habitable localities and industries for its economic upliftment. Chandigarh was the first planned city of independent India – one of the successful trials of urban planning and modern architecture. To address the ever-increasing need for housing, the government set up institutions like the Housing and Urban Development Company (HUDCO), City Industrial and Development Corporation (CIDCO), and the National Housing Bank (NHB).

The liberalization of policies in the 1990s facilitated significant changes in the real estate sector. Many international companies jostled to establish businesses in India, triggering a consistently increasing demand for commercial and residential real estate.

The rapid growth of the IT-ITeS sector resulted in the expansion of new urban centres across major cities like Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, MMR, NCR, and Pune. These cities were the first to witness changing skylines and rapid vertical development.

At the turn of the century, the sector was further invigorated when foreign direct investments allowed the entry of global investors. This catalysed the development of malls and other organized retail spaces across the country.

PMAY: With the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) program, the social housing sector – mainly aimed at the economically weaker sections – has gathered momentum over the last decade. PMAY was launched with a specific and ambitious target to provide Housing for All by 2022. In the country’s urban areas, the development has been tangible.

CLSS: To provide momentum to affordable housing and generate demand for it, the government has provided for subsidized interest to be paid to financial institutions lending to borrowers in this housing category. The cost of ownership became easier on prospective buyers and empowered women with the social security of having their own homes – a significant sea-change in a once highly patriarchal society.

Smart Cities Mission: The Smart Cities mission aims to develop 100 cities that are technology-enabled to drive economic growth and offer significantly improved quality of life to citizens. Currently, there are 5,151 projects under this mission across the identified cities, with investments to the tune of INR 2,05,018 crores.

CRITICAL REFORMS

Various reforms and structural changes implemented in the government have been instrumental in altering the real estate sector. Today, we use terms such as governance, transparency, and accountability, and stakeholders are evaluated on these parameters.

Many corporate business houses have also ventured into the sector. Prominent and listed real estate players are successfully gaining market share and helping the industry consolidate – a much-needed process that steadily eliminates unwholesome elements and the shenanigans for which they were known.

Some of the significant reforms in recent times and their effects:

GST: This taxation reform was conceived and implemented to enable a uniform tax code across the country. Completed real estate projects are exempted from GST, and affordable housing projects are levied with GST of only 1% to keep the momentum of demand high.

REITs: Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) have emerged as another option for Indian investors to add real estate to their portfolios for better diversification and risk mitigation. The REITs operational in India today are mainly in the commercial office segment. The total market cap of these REITs is estimated at INR 60,584 crores.

RERA: Perhaps the most significant post-independence reform to impact the Indian real estate sector was implementing the Real Estate Regulation Act. This Act aims to safeguard the interests of homebuyers and investors and make developers accountable for their projects. The Act makes all relevant project details, including the approvals and permissions, available at homebuyers’ fingertips and provides a mechanism for redressing complaints and grievances.

RERA establishes specific standards for the construction and development of real estate that aim to improve transparency in real estate transactions. It has given homebuyers several rights and has set forth specific laws and regulations that all developers must observe.

In the five years of its existence, 87,124 projects and 65,500 agents have been registered across the country. The regulator has successfully disposed of 97,404 complaints, paving the way for a stronger and more resilient real estate sector.

RERA is in many ways still a work-in-progress, with loopholes and lacunae getting addressed along the way. However, it is safe to say that it is the one regulatory reform that has genuinely empowered real estate end-users and investors.

THE ‘AMRIT KAAL’ WAY FORWARD

As the nation progresses rapidly and requirements evolve, real estate products, services, and assets will grow too. Many new-age real estate asset classes such as senior living and student housing are already gaining momentum. Data centres, warehousing, and industrial parks are the new buzzwords in the sector. They will gain further traction as the incumbent government focuses on its visions of Atmanirbhar Bharat and India becoming a USD 5 trillion economy.

NOT A HOME RUN YET

As these sectors and economic activities rev up, housing for the workers they employ will pose a significant challenge. The government has already laid the framework for affordable rental housing and invites private participation, but there is still a lack of clarity. ARHCs (Affordable Rental Housing Complexes) are now among the most urgent needs in post-Independence India – and the government’s Housing for All vision.

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Policy & Politics

‘Fishery sector needs an integrated structure like dairy’

Tarun Nangia

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It is crucial to have an integrated chain of activities when organising fish farmers, especially those who are poor, said NN Sinha, Secretary, Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, at the First Conference on Fishtech, organised by the industry chamber FICCI.

Delivering the Special address, Sinha alluded to the need to develop an integrated structure akin to the dairy sector. “There is a lot of scope for developing such a value chain”, he said. The secretary also referred to growing seaweed, ornamental fishing, and cage culture as viable livelihood activities. “We think aquaculture is an important livelihood option for a large number of people”, he said, adding, “we will work with everyone in the sector”.

Speaking on occasion, Hemendra Mathur, Chairman, FICCI- Taskforce on Agri-Startups, said, “we need a dedicated fund for fishery startups, which can put in early-stage funding for startups trying to build interesting models and features”. Further, Mr Mathur said that “we should at least have 500 fishtech startups in the country, given the sector’s potential”, adding, “all startups put together account for less than 2-3 per cent of the market potential”.

He said that fishery is an important sector with more than 1.5 crore fishermen engaged in the activity and its contribution to GDP being more than USD30 billion. Noting the considerable headroom for growth, Mr Mathur alluded to the need to develop an innovation ecosystem in fishtech on the lines of agriculture and said, over the last five to seven years; we saw 1500-plus agri-tech startups in the country due to ecosystem development. However, he said the share of fishtech startups is still tiny, probably 30 to 50. “That is a small number in the context of the opportunity ahead of us”, he said, adding, “I think fishtech has a lot to catch up to when compared to agritech”.

Alluding to the opportunities in the sector, Mathur noted the need to create an integrated supply chain and incorporate technology to bring efficiency to fisheries.

Mr Shashi Kant Singh, Executive Director, Agri & Natural Resources, PWC, also noted the potential of increasing the use of technology and, further, the headroom available to increase the production, exports and domestic consumption in the fishery sector. He added that a lot of “policy support”, “ecosystem support”, and “well-designed schemes” were introduced by the government during the last four to five years. However, “we do see a lot of opportunity for the fishery sector in improving the quality of the produce”, he said. Mr Singh added that “if the blue economy story has to be a success in India, then fishery is going to be one of the key segments, among others”.

Devleena Bhattacharjee, Chair, FICCI Committee on Fishtech and Founder & CEO, Numer8 Analytics, said, “India is the second largest fish producing country in the world and contributes to about 7.56% of the global fish production. She noted that the fishery sector is a sunrise sector owing to tremendous scope in domestic consumption and expansion, strong export potential and greater economic returns with strong policy support.

A FICCI PwC report, “Championing the blue economy: Promoting sustainable growth of fisheries sector in India”, was released on occasion. The report showcases the potential of India’s fisheries sector, trends, opportunities, challenges, and strategic interventions needed to support the blue economy in India and build a sustainable and profitable future for the industry.

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Policy & Politics

Industry should engage with the government to help reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides in the agriculture sector, says Narendra Singh Tomar

Need to focus more on organic pesticides; Industry should work with the aim of protecting the environment and being self-reliant, says Bhagwanth Khuba, Minister of State for Chemicals & Fertilizers.

Tarun Nangia

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Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Govt of India today said that the private sector should come forward and support the government in reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides in the agriculture sector.

Addressing the ‘11th Agrochemicals Conference 2022 -Policy Landscape for a Flourishing Agrochemicals Industry’, organized by FICCI, with the support of Department of Chemicals & Fertilizers and Department of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Govt of India, Mr Tomar while speaking virtually, added that India is agriculture oriented, and agriculture has a huge contribution in country’s economy. “Profit is very important for the farmers in the agriculture sector. Increase in production is also necessary. It is imperative to increase the profits in the field of agriculture and post-harvest losses to the farmers should be minimal for which the government is working on several schemes,” he added.

Mr Tomar also stated that the government is promoting the use of newer technology to be adopted by the farmers to produce expensive crops. “Work is also being done to ensure uniformity in production of crops along with ensuring quality in the production”, he added.

The Minister also emphasized that today, horticulture should be promoted so that India can become self-reliant in every respect. “Our country is in a very good position from the point of view of food grains. To compete at the global level, we have to look towards developed countries and move ahead with them,” he said.

Bhagwanth Khuba, Minister of State for Chemicals & Fertilizers and New & Renewable Energy, Govt of India stated that the government aims to move forward while keeping in mind the benefits for farmers. “With rising population, it is important to focus on food security along with ensuring farmers produce at lower cost and safeguarding the environment.” He further added that the government is farmers and business friendly and works to remove barriers by amending policy and reforms as and when needed. “It is not only the commitment but conviction of the government to work towards doubling farmers income. It is our responsibility to adopt low-cost agrochemicals along with innovations to improve the agriculture sector. We need to also focus on organic fertilizers,” he stated.

Khuba also urged the industry to focus on organic pesticides as this will take time to adopt to mitigate the side effects of pesticides currently used. “We must also promote manufacturing these organic pesticides in India as well”, he added.

Vijay Sampla, Chairman, National Commission for Scheduled Castes, Govt of India said that there is a need for the research and development to be communicated to the small and marginal farmers in their language. He also emphasized on the need to create more awareness on the use of pesticides to benefit the agriculture sector.

RG Agarwal, Chairman, FICCI Crop Protection Committee & Chairman, Dhanuka Group said, “We urge the government to reduce GST rates on pesticides and bring it at 5 per cent like fertilizers so as to benefit small and marginal farmers as well. The government should also provide PLI to pesticides industry to develop the domestic industry as an international manufacturing hub.”

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Policy & Politics

SUPREME COURT TELLS CENTRE: ADOPTION PROCESS TEDIOUS IN INDIA, PRECLUDING PEOPLE FOR ADOPTING.

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The Supreme Court in the case The Temple of Healing v. Union of India observed and has adjourned the hearing of the petition seeking simplification in the process of adoption in India.

The bench comprising of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and the Justice J.B. Pardiwala apprised by Additional Solicitor General, Mr. K.M. Nataraj observed and has held that he had not received the petition. Thus, the Bench asked the petitioner-in-person to handover a copy to him.

In the present case, as a preliminary objection, Mr. Nataraj indicated that the writ petition might not be maintainable as it is filed by a society. It was noted by the bench that the process of adoption in India is indeed cumbersome and tedious and needs to be addressed, wile stating that it is a genuine PIL. It was requested by the bench to the ASG not to treat it as adversarial litigation. Thus, the bench also orally observed that the petitioner-in-person has established his bona fides, on the last date of hearing.

The bench of Justice Chandrachud orally said that “We issued notice because the process of adoption is so cumbersome and tedious that it is precluding people from adopting…It is a genuine PIL. Do not treat the PIL as adversarial litigation”.

A charitable trust, “The Temple Of Healing” filled an PIL through its secretary Dr. Piyush Saxena (petitioner-in-person).

It was observed that earlier, when the notice was issued, Dr Piyush Saxena, had informed the Apex Court that he had submitted an application seeking leniency in adoption norms to the Ministry of Women and Child Development and which has not been acted upon.

It was stated by him that 4000 children are adopted in our country every year but there are 3 crores orphans in our country and there are infertile couples too who are desperate to get a child. Thus, parents are not educated enough therefore the scheme should be introduced based on the Income Tax Scheme which was issued 16 years back. The notification has been issued by the Ministry wherein they have given some leniency to the prospective parents.

It was suggested by the petitioner that the Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance system may appoint a few trained “Adoption Preparers” along the lines of the Income Tax Preparer Scheme of 2006. However, they can help prospective parents complete the cumbersome paperwork required for adoption.

It was pointed out by Dr. Saxena that adoption governed by the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 was administered by the Ministry of Law and Justice, whereas adoption of orphans is dealt with by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

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