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Policy & Politics

Covid-19: Why plasma therapy is removed from clinical management guidelines

The antibodies that have been obtained by infected patients will benefit the person who is infected with the corona; this is known as plasma therapy. The ailment for which you are receiving plasma has been resolved fully.

Surya Pratap

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For the past few months, you may have noticed that users on social media have been continuously requesting family members of former covid patients that we need plasma, and many individuals have been frustrated that they have not received plasma treatments in some way. You’ve probably heard many stories about patients who couldn’t live because they didn’t have access to plasma therapy, and there’s been a lot of talk about if the plasma is found, the patient will survive; otherwise, survival is problematic. However, during the night of May 17, the Government of India, which operates with a National Task Force, abruptly intervened. In its recommendation, the National Task Force eliminated plasma treatment from the Clinical Management Guidelines.

As a result, the Indian government no longer recommends that plasma therapy be offered to any hospital or clinic with a covid patient. Many people are perplexed as to why the government abruptly discontinued plasma therapy, which was saving lives. Today in this article, we will know why it was allowed, why it was withdrawn, whether it is appropriate to be removed, and what options are available, so that if any of us has a problem with someone, we will know how to address them and what to avoid.

PLASMA THERAPY: WHAT AND WHY

The antibodies that have been obtained by infected patients will benefit the person who is infected with the corona; this is known as Plasma therapy. The ailment for which you are receiving plasma has been resolved fully. It should also be free of any diseases that could affect him. Antibodies play the most important function in disease transmission because they can protect a person from a new disease that spreads quickly; however, only antibodies unique to this disease may protect a person. Antibody preparation method If there was no vaccination, the only way for antibodies to survive is for us to borrow antibodies from the person whose body have antibodies and save his life.

WHY PLASMA THERAPY WAS APPROVED FOR COVID-19

Plasma treatment was approved for COVID19 because it was used to treat the Spanish flu in 1918, the Swine flu in 2012, and EBOLA in 2014. This treatment was also a ready-to-use way for treating infectious diseases. Aside from that, there was no treatment, though the government was testing this therapy for COVID19 as well.

WHY IS PLASMA THERAPY DROPPED NOW?

Convalescent plasma therapy should be removed from treatment guidelines, according to all members of the ICMR-National Task Force on COVID-19, because it is ineffective and often used inappropriately. The government amended clinical recommendations for COVID-19 treatment on 17 may, removing the off-label use of convalescent plasma after finding it to be ineffective in slowing the progression of severe Covid-19. Last month, the ICMR-National Task Force for COVID-19 met and made the decision. Convalescent plasma should be removed from the guidelines, according to all members of the panel, because it is “ineffective and unsuitable” in many circumstances.

According to PTI, the task committee “updated” the Clinical Guidance for Management of Adult COVID-19 Patients and “deleted convalescent plasma (off label).” Doctors could use plasma therapy on patients with mild symptoms within seven days of beginning of symptoms if a high titre donor plasma was available, according to earlier guidelines.

Some doctors and scientists, including vaccinologist Gagandeep Kang, surgeon Pramesh CS, and others, have written to Principal Scientific Adviser K Vijay Raghavan, urging him to avoid using convalescent plasma for COVID-19 because it is “irrational and non-scientific.”

The letter, which was also addressed to ICMR Director Balram Bhargava and AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria, stated that current plasma therapy guidelines are not based on existing evidence, and that some preliminary evidence suggests a possible link between the emergence of variants with lower susceptibility to neutralising antibodies in immunosuppressed people receiving plasma therapy.

Irrational use of plasma therapy, according to these scientists and clinicians, could contribute to the production of more virulent strains, fueling the pandemic. “This is the result of government-issued recommendations, and we urgently request your intervention to resolve the situation so that COVID-19 patients, their families, professionals, and survivors are not harassed,” the letter stated.

And one of the major reasons to discontinue the plasma therapy is that India has adopted vaccination program which is more effective than plasma therapy and it is long lasting acquired immunity and it is better option as compared to plasma therapy.

PLASMA THERAPY’S COMPLEXITIES

The challenge of getting considerable amounts of plasma from survivors makes this therapy difficult to implement.

Not all recovered patients can offer to donate blood in disorders like COVID-19, where the majority of victims are elderly and have additional medical issues like hypertension, diabetes, and so on.

IS PLASMA THERAPY RELATED WITH NEW VARIENTS?

In a letter to the principal scientific advisory, ICMR president Balram Bhargava, and AIIMS director Randeep Guleria, 18 health professionals stated that when plasma treatment was utilised on an immunosuppressed patient, new variations were produced from the studies. and it was noted in the letter that there was a remote possibility of new variations emerging through plasma therapy. A treatment for which there is no cure for the disease and the possibility of new versions must be discontinued.

CONCLUSION

Medical professionals have proven that plasma treatment is not useful. It is a source of harassment for society, as well as a significant risk, as new varieties are possible. As a result, the Indian government has removed this therapy from COVID19 clinical management guidelines. Patients who require plasma therapy have a far better option in the form of monoclonal antibodies and antibody cocktail

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Policy & Politics

Delhi HC upholds order of interim maintenance to ‘live-in partner’ of married man under DV Act

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It has to be noticed that just recently the Delhi High Court in a case titled Parveen Tandon vs Tanika Tandon in CRL.M.C. 264/2021 & CRL.M.A. 1352/2021 (Stay) and CRL.M.C.420/2021 & CRL.M.As. 2196/2021 & 8859/2021 (Stay) has very rightly upheld the order of an Additional Sessions Judge directing a married man to pay ad-interim maintenance under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 to a woman claiming to be his live-in partner. While doing so, it must be noticed that the Single Judge Bench of Justice Subramonium Prasad had observed that the issue as to whether the parties were residing in a shared household and were enjoying a domestic relationship in the nature of marriage could not be decided without leading evidence. It has to be borne in mind that this latest ruling acquires considerable relevance in light of the recent judgments of other High Courts holding that a live-in relationship between a married and unmarried person is not permissible.

To start with, the ball is set rolling in para 1 of this notable judgment authored by Justice Subramonium Prasad of Delhi High Court wherein it is put forth that, “CRL.M.C. 264/2021 is directed against the order dated 14.01.2021, passed by the learned Additional Sessions Judge-03, West, Tis Hazari Courts, Delhi in CA No. 110/2020 and CRL.M.C. 420/2021 is directed against the order dated 14.01.2021, passed by learned Additional Sessions Judge-03, West, Tis Hazari Courts, Delhi in CA No. 171/2020. Both the petitions have been filed under Section 482 Cr.P.C.”

While elaborating on the facts of the case, it is then enunciated in para 2 that, “Facts, in brief, leading to the present petitions are as under:

a) The respondent herein filed an application under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (hereinafter referred to as “the DV Act”) before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Tis Hazari Court, stating inter alia that she was married when she met the petitioner herein in the year 2009. She got married to him in the year 2014 after obtaining a divorce from her husband. It is stated that the applicant/respondent herein has a son namely, Master Jatin, aged 13 years, from her previous marriage. The child is presently studying in Shadley Public School, Delhi. It is stated that the petitioner herein is running a business of motor-parts from his shop. It is also stated that the petitioner herein has other shops which he has given on rent and he earns about Rs.10 lakhs per month from his business. It is stated that the petitioner herein had not disclosed his marital status to the applicant/respondent herein when they both met so as to induce the respondent to marry him. It is further stated that the petitioner herein executed a Marriage Agreement to show his genuineness and responsibility towards the applicant/respondent herein and her child. It is stated that in the agreement it was mentioned that the applicant/respondent herein was married and has a son from her previous marriage. It is stated that later the petitioner herein told the respondent that his wife is on dialyses and would not survive long and therefore he is looking for a life partner and that he is going to marry the applicant/respondent herein. It is stated that the applicant/respondent herein took divorce from her husband and got married to the petitioner herein on 21.11.2014. It is stated that another Agreement-cum-Marriage Deed was entered into between the petitioner herein and the applicant/respondent herein on 22.11.2014. It is stated that the petitioner herein had arranged a rental accommodation and both of them were living as husband and wife. It is further mentioned that the name of the petitioner herein is shown as the father of the child of the applicant/respondent herein in the school records. It is also stated that in the bank accounts of the respondent herein, the petitioner is shown as a nominee. It is stated that differences arose between the parties and the applicant/respondent was subjected to physical and mental abuse by the petitioner herein. It is stated that the applicant/respondent herein filed an FIR against the petitioner herein. The applicant/respondent herein therefore prayed for an order restraining the petitioner herein from evicting the applicant/respondent herein from the rented accommodation. An application for grant of interim maintenance has also been filed by the respondent herein.

b) Summons were issued to the petitioner herein. The learned Metropolitan Magistrate by an order dated 31.07.2020 restrained the petitioner herein from dispossessing the applicant/respondent herein from the property bearing House No.435, Indra Vihar, Mukherjee Nagar, Delhi. An application for the rectification of the said order was filed stating that the address in the order was not correct.

c) The petitioner herein prayed for recall of summons and dismissal of the application filed by the respondent herein contending that the respondent herein is not entitled to any relief under the DV Act because the respondent herein is not an aggrieved person inasmuch as the petitioner and the respondent had never been in a domestic relationship which is the sine qua non for maintaining an application under the DV Act.

d) On 17.08.2020, the learned Metropolitan Magistrate corrected the address and restrained the petitioner herein from dispossessing the respondent herein from property bearing No. B22, First Floor, Hari Nagar, New Delhi 110064. However, the learned Metropolitan Magistrate rejected the plea of the petitioner herein to dismiss the case on the ground of maintainability stating that the question as to whether the respondent herein is an aggrieved person or not and whether she was in a domestic relationship with the petitioner herein or not cannot be decided at the present stage without leading evidence. The learned Metropolitan Magistrate also directed the parties to file their income certificates along with supporting documents as warranted by the judgment of this Court in Kusum Sharma v. Mahinder Kumar Sharma, 2015 SCC OnLine Del 6793.

e) By an order dated 26.10.2020, the learned Metropolitan Magistrate directed the petitioner herein to pay an ad-interim maintenance of Rs.10,000/- per month from 26.10.2020, to the respondent herein towards maintenance of child and also towards the rent/accommodation.

f) The order dated 17.08.2020, dismissing the prayer of the petitioner for recalling his summoning order under the DV Act was challenged by the petitioner herein by filing an appeal being CA No.110/2020 before the Sessions Court. The order dated 26.10.2020, directing the petitioner herein to pay ad-interim maintenance of Rs.10,000/- to the respondent herein, was challenged by the petitioner by filing an appeal being CA No.171/2020 before the Sessions Court.

g) The learned Additional Session Judge, vide order dated 14.01.2020 dismissed CA No.110/2020 and upheld the order dated 17.08.2020 by observing that the issue as to whether the parties were residing in a shared household and were enjoying a domestic relationship in the nature of marriage, could not be decided without leading evidence.

h) By another order of the same date, the learned Additional Session Judge refused to interfere with the order dated 26.10.2020 and dismissed CA No.171/2020 and upheld the order dated 26.10.2020 directing the petitioner herein to pay ad-interim maintenance of Rs.10,000/- per month to the respondent herein for the maintenance of the child and also for the rent/accommodation.

i) CRL.M.C. 264/2021 is directed against the order dated 14.01.2021 in CA No. 110/2020 and CRL.M.C. 420/2021 is directed against the order dated 14.01.2021 in CA No. 171/2020.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then makes it clear in para 7 that, “The DV Act has been enacted to provide a remedy in civil law for protection of women from being victims of domestic violence and to prevent occurrence of domestic violence in the society. The DV Act has been enacted also to provide an effective protection of the rights of women guaranteed under the Constitution, who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family. The Act enables the wife or the female living in a relationship in the nature of marriage to file a complaint under the proposed enactment against any relative of the husband or the male partner. The Act is meant to provide for the rights of women to secure housing. It also provides for the right of a woman to reside in her matrimonial home or shared household, whether or not she has any title or rights in such home or household. This right is secured by a residence order, which is passed by a Magistrate.”

Be it noted, the Bench then observes in para 8 that, “In order to maintain a petitioner under the DV Act the aggrieved person has to show that the aggrieved person and the respondent (man) lived together in a shared household and this could be even from a relationship in the nature of marriage. The material placed on record shows that the petitioner had entered into a marriage agreement in the year 2012 wherein it is stated that both the parties intend to marry each other. The agreement shows that the petitioner undertook to discharge all liabilities/obligations towards the respondent herein and similarly the respondent undertook to discharge all liabilities/obligations towards the petitioner herein. The affidavit has been signed by both the parties. After the respondent herein obtained divorce from her husband, another agreement-cum-marriage deed was entered into between the parties on 22.11.2014, wherein it is stated that the petitioner and the respondent are residing together for the last five years in a live-in relationship and are now getting married to each other according to Hindu rites and ceremonies and the marriage was solemnized in an Arya Samaj Mandir at Delhi. The marriage deed also records that after solemnization of marriage both the parties will reside together as husband and wife and will be faithful towards each other. The marriage deed has been signed by both the parties. There are photographs of the petitioner and the respondent which gives an impression that the parties were living together as husband and wife and have married each other. The school records of the child have been filed wherein the petitioner has been shown as the father of the child. Copies of the bank accounts have been filed wherein the petitioner has been shown as a nominee of the account held by the respondent.”

It is worth noting that the Bench then also makes it a point to mention in para 9 that, “Great emphasis has been placed by the learned counsel for the petitioner on para 31 of the judgment of the Supreme Court in D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal, (2010) 10 SCC 469, which reads as under:

“31. In our opinion a “relationship in the nature of marriage” is akin to a common law marriage. Common law marriages require that although not being formally married:

(a) The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses.

(b) They must be of legal age to marry.

(c) They must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage, including being unmarried.

(d) They must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period of time.

(See “Common Law Marriage” in Wikipedia on Google.) In our opinion a “relationship in the nature of marriage” under the 2005 Act must also fulfil the above requirements, and in addition the parties must have lived together in a “shared household” as defined in Section 2(s) of the Act. Merely spending weekends together or a one night stand would not make it a “domestic relationship”.”

Other relevant paras of the abovementioned judgment read as under:

“32. In our opinion not all live-in relationships will amount to a relationship in the nature of marriage to get the benefit of the Act of 2005. To get such benefit the conditions mentioned by us above must be satisfied, and this has to be proved by evidence. If a man has a “keep” whom he maintains financially and uses mainly for sexual purpose and/or as a servant it would not, in our opinion, be a relationship in the nature of marriage.

33. No doubt the view we are taking would exclude many women who have had a live-in relationship from the benefit of the 2005 Act, but then it is not for this Court to legislate or amend the law. Parliament has used the expression “relationship in the nature of marriage” and not “live-in relationship”. The Court in the garb of interpretation cannot change the language of the statute.

34. In feudal society sexual relationship between man and woman outside marriage was totally taboo and regarded with disgust and horror, as depicted in Leo Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina, Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary and the novels of the great Bengali writer Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyaya.

35. However, Indian society is changing, and this change has been reflected and recognised by Parliament by enacting the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.””

It would also be worthwhile to mention here that the Bench then observes in para 11 that, “The Supreme Court in Lalita Toppo v. State of Jharkhand, (2019) 13 SCC 796, has observed as under:

“3. In fact, under the provisions of the DVC Act, 2005 the victim i.e. estranged wife or live-in partner would be entitled to more relief than what is contemplated under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, namely, to a shared household also.

4. The questions referred to us by the Referral Order were formulated on the basis of the decisions of this Court rendered in Yamunabai Anantrao Adhav v. Anantrao Shivram Adhav [Yamunabai Anantrao Adhav v. Anantrao Shivram Adhav, (1988) 1 SCC 530 : 1988 SCC (Cri) 182] and Savitaben Somabhai Bhatiya v. State of Gujarat [Savitaben Somabhai Bhatiya v. State of Gujarat, (2005) 3 SCC 636 : 2005 SCC (Cri) 787] which were rendered prior to the coming into force of the DVC Act, 2005. In view of what has been stated hereinbefore, it is, therefore, our considered view that the questions referred would not require any answer. We, therefore, decline to answer the said questions. The appellant is left with the remedy of approaching the appropriate forum under the provisions of the DVC Act, 2005, if so advised. If in the event the appellant moves the appropriate forum under the provisions of the DVC Act, 2005, we would request the said forum to decide the matter as expeditiously as possible.””

As we see, the Bench then observes in para 12 that, “The documents placed before this Court shows that the couple has held themselves out in the society as being akin to spouses which fact is evident from the marriage-cum-agreement deed, affidavits, the school records of the child and the bank statements of the respondent. The parties are majors, they have voluntarily cohabited for a significant period of time. The respondent has already taken divorce from her husband.”

It would be pertinent to mention here that it is then envisaged in para 13 that, “The tests laid down in Indra Sarma (supra) i.e. the duration of the period of the relationship, the question as to whether there was a shared household or not, the pooling of the resources and financial arrangements, the domestic arrangements, the socialisation in public, the intention and the conduct of the parties, are all questions of fact which have to be established by leading evidence. In Indra Sarma (supra), the judgment of the High Court, which denied protection of the DV Act to the lady on the ground that the lady knew that the man, with whom she was living in a relationship, was already married, can be distinguished on facts. In that case the wife of the man/respondent therein had opposed the relationship of the respondent therein and the petitioner therein. The evidence led in that case showed that the family of the lady/petitioner therein including her father, brother and sister had also opposed the live-in relationship. After evidence was led, it was found that the lady/petitioner therein had not given any evidence of mutual support and companionship between the parties. There was no projection of their relationship in the public. It was the specific case of the respondent therein (man) that he never held out to the public that the petitioner therein (lady) was his wife. There was no evidence of pooling of resources or of financial arrangements between the parties. The specific case of the respondent therein (man) was that no joint account was opened and no document was executed in jointly and that the petitioner therein (lady) was never permitted to affix the name/surname of the respondent therein. The conclusions were arrived at after the parties led evidence.”

As it turned out, the Bench then observed in para 14 that, “In the present case, the specific allegation is that the respondent herein was told that the wife of the petitioner is on dialysis and that she would die soon. It is the specific case that for six long years the petitioner and the respondent were living as husband and wife. Materials in the form of photographs and other documents showing that the petitioner and the respondent have married each other have been produced. The school records of the child show that the petitioner herein is shown as the father of the child. The petitioner herein is shown as a nominee in the bank account held by the respondent. All these materials have to be examined. It is the contention of the petitioner that he has not entered into any rental agreement and that the agreements, affidavits and the photographs produced by the respondent herein are not genuine. All these facts can be established only after evidence is led. The question as to whether the respondent herein has been duped by the petitioner or whether she was a party to an adulterous and bigamous relationship or not and whether her conduct would not entitle her for any protection under the DV Act can be determined only after the evidence is led, as was done in the case of Indra Sarma (supra).”

Needless to say, it cannot be glossed over that it is then enunciated in para 15 that, “The learned Metropolitan Magistrate vide order dated 26.10.2020, has directed the petitioner to pay a sum of Rs.10,000/- per month to the respondent herein as an interim arrangement. The memorandum of grounds does not challenge the figure of Rs.10,000/- awarded by the learned Metropolitan Magistrate. The principle challenge is that the order could not be passed since the application under the DV Act was not maintainable as the respondent is not an aggrieved person. Since the case is only at an interim stage this Court is not inclined to interfere with the direction of the courts below awarding interim maintenance to the respondent herein towards maintenance of child and also towards the rent/accommodation.”

To put it shortly, the crux of para 16 is that, “The scope of the revision petition under Sections 397/401 Cr.P.C. read with Section 482 Cr.P.C. is narrow. It cannot be said that the order of the courts below warrants interference of this Court by exercising its revisional jurisdiction.”

Before dismissing the petitions along with all the pending applications as envisaged in para 18, the Bench then holds in para 17 that, “In case the Metropolitan Magistrate, after evidence is led, comes to a conclusion that the respondent herein was not entitled to the protection of the DV Act then adequate safeguards must be made to ensure that the respondent returns the amount received by her as interim maintenance in terms of the order dated 26.10.2020, passed by the learned Metropolitan Magistrate back to the petitioner with interest. The rate of interest is to be fixed by the Metropolitan Magistrate. The learned Trial Court is directed to hear the matter and decide the matter finally within a period of one year.”

In short, this notable Delhi High Court judgment upholds the order of interim maintenance to alleged live-in partner of married man under Domestic Violence Act. As opposed to the rulings by many other High Courts like Allahabad, Rajasthan, Punjab and Bombay which denied relief to a woman who lived in relationship with married man, this noteworthy judgment seeks to make a men liable for paying interim maintenance to alleged live-in partner of married man under Domestic Violence Act.” A men cannot have a cake and eat it too. If a married men seeks to establish live-in relationship with some other women then he is bound to maintain her and this is exactly what the Delhi High Court has sought to do in this leading case! Very rightly so!

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Policy & Politics

Pakistan: Failing economy, polarised politics

Friendly relations with India and Afghanistan, abandoning the policy of exporting terrorism are only recipes available for Pakistan to realise its economic potential.

ASHOK BHAN

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At the Heart of Asia Conference at Amritsar in December 2016, Pakistan’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz had to eat crow after he offered a $500 million grant to Afghanistan. The conference had taken place just a month after Prime Minister Modi decided to boycott the 19th SAARC summit which was scheduled in Islamabad. Amid cheers, Afghanistan President Ashraf Gani told Aziz to keep the 500 million dollars and use it to contain extremism in their own country. I don’t know what happened to this grant thereafter. But the economic potential of all South Asian nation has indeed taken a break, due to the obstinacy of Pakistan supporting terrorism and violence in its neighbouring countries. It has also harmed the country domestically.

Recently Pakistan government presented the country’s deficit budget of Rs. 8,400 billion in the National Assembly. This is the third budget presented by Prime Minister Imran Khan government, since he assumed office in August 2018.

According to the Economic Survey, the performance of the agricultural sector this year was 2.7 per cent as against 3.3% last year. The decline in the agricultural sector has led to a record decline in cotton production, the country’s main crop, which will fall by 22% to 7 million bales in the current fiscal year. Its production in the last financial year was more than 9 million bales. Cotton is the country’s main textile export major raw material. According to the Economic Survey, the area under cotton cultivation has also declined in the financial year under review.

The foreign investment in Pakistan has also declined due to global conditions caused by the coronavirus. Most of the foreign investment came from China which was for CPEC projects in Pakistan which is about 47% of the total investment. The volume of investment in Pakistan from other parts of the World has been very low this year.

The survey, which provides foreign trade data for the first ten months of this financial year, shows that the country’s trade deficit has increased by more than 21% in those ten months. During the period under review, the country’s exports increased by 6.5 per cent, but the sharp rise in imports wiped out the benefits of the increase in exports. It may be recalled that Pakistan had set a total import target of 42 billion this year, but in ten months, the country’s imports exceeded this target, leading to a widening trade deficit.

According to Uzair Younus a senior fellow at The Atlantic Council, Pakistan’s economy used to be in good shape at the turn of the century, when compared with India, Bangladesh, and Vietnam. Twenty years later, it is at the bottom of the group. Political upheaval, supporting terrorism in Afghanistan and India, and the inability of successive governments to carry out reforms are to blame for this decline. The polarized political environment and elite intrigue among civilian, judicial, and military institutions have made sustainable economic growth and reforms that much more unlikely.

IMRAN KHAN REVERSING HIS EARLIER STAND

When Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan entered office in August 2018, Pakistan’s economy was facing twin deficits—the country’s foreign exchange reserve was running low and its fiscal deficit had reached the breaking point. A return to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), along with bilateral support from countries like China and Saudi Arabia, was necessary to stabilize the economy.

Within a few months of coming to power, Khan, a charismatic populist who had derided Pakistan’s addiction to debt, famously saying that he would rather commit suicide than beg for money, had to reverse course and seek international help.

The economic upheaval in those early months of Khan’s government led to declining economic growth, devaluation of the currency, double-digit inflation, and sky-high interest rates. The government’s initial attempts to fend off an IMF bailout did not help. Asad Umar resigned from the job of finance minister in April 2019 after losing Khan’s trust. His replacement, the technocrat Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, who also served as finance minister in the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led government from 2010 to 2013, was brought in to negotiate and execute the IMF bailout.

Less than a year later, the COVID-19 pandemic dealt a body blow to Pakistan’s economy. Lockdowns in response to the health crisis turned economic growth negative, a first in decades. The Khan government sought debt relief and secured an additional $1.3 billion from the IMF. The government rolled out an Rs. 1.2 trillion stimulus package. Cash transfer programs were expanded to protect the most vulnerable segments of society. While a significant portion of the total stimulus included already-budgeted spending and more than Rs. 500 billion remained unutilized, the government’s prompt response eased the pain, particularly for the most vulnerable. Additionally, the State Bank of Pakistan sharply cut interest rates and provided monetary stimulus to businesses.

Inflation is still the biggest issue facing the government today. Headline inflation climbed to 9 per cent in September 2020 and double-digit food inflation continues to erode citizens’ purchasing power. This has worsened the situation for millions of households who have seen a decline in their purchasing power since 2016, according to data from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. In its most recent monetary policy statement, the State Bank of Pakistan raised its concerns as well, warning that while “core inflation has been relatively stable,” food inflation remains a risk, “especially in the wake of recent flood-related damages and potential locust attacks.” With households spending a larger share of their incomes on food—an emerging wheat crisis is compounding problems—consumption spending on other items will remain subdued, leading to a lack of economic growth in a country where consumer spending drives more than 80 per cent of the economy.

NO STRANGER TO THE BALANCE OF PAYMENT CRISES

While external sector stability is critical for a country like Pakistan, which is no stranger to balance of payments crises, the fact remains that sustainable growth requires more than a stable current account balance. The State Bank of Pakistan is also warning that “the economic recovery remains uneven” and that “growth will recover to slightly over 2 per cent” in the current fiscal year. For a country that needs to generate more than 1.3 million jobs a year, an economy that grows at 2 per cent a year is no cause for celebration.

Another major issue that continues to plague Pakistan is its yawning fiscal deficit. Despite an uptick in economic activity, tax collection in the first two months of this fiscal year has shown a meagre growth of 1.8 per cent.

Due to increasing polarization, Pakistan’s economy has remained hamstrung by the same issues that led to the crisis Khan inherited in 2018. There is broad consensus among economic experts that these reforms need to be pushed through with urgency. However, both civilian and military rulers have failed to usher them in. Successive governments in Pakistan have spent the majority of their term trying to consolidate power, which means that they do not have the will to shake things up. Leaders fear that if they try to change the status quo, then the beneficiaries of the existing rent-seeking economy, both within and outside the government, will weaken their hold on power.

As Mosharraf Zaidi argued in a recent article, political leaders in Pakistan “do not have the will or capability to change even the little things to solve the little problems.”

In 2017, China poured billions of dollars into energy and infrastructure investments into Pakistan and the World Bank praised Islamabad for accelerating gross domestic product growth, which exceeded 5 per cent that fiscal year — the highest in nearly a decade. But after the country’s top court sacked the business-savvy Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in July of that same year, Pakistan’s military publicly criticized his administration, led by his Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) party, for its handling of the economy.

Government and international statistics show poverty among Pakistan’s rapidly expanding estimated 220 million population is on the rise. International lenders expect poverty to rise to more than 40 per cent from 24 per cent in 2015, and the country could be home to as many as 80 million poor compared to some 55 million in 2015. Ali Malik, a financial adviser and writer in the eastern city of Lahore, says that while the current government’s initial indecision contributed to “stagflation” marked by no growth and rising inflation, his country’s economic troubles are much deeper and need to be analyzed without partisan bias.

Pakistan’s high defence spending, which goes well over the global average of 2 per cent of GDP, comprises some 20 per cent of overall government expenditure and constantly overshadows the economy. Despite the onset of the COVID pandemic last year, Islamabad increased its defence budget 11 per cent to $7.85 billion compared to a paltry $151 million for health care.

LIMITED SPACE FOR GOVERNMENT

This leaves limited space for the government to use fiscal resources on the development. In March, Bangladesh celebrated 50 years of independence from Pakistan. Dhaka was once Islamabad’s impoverished eastern half. But today it is well ahead of Pakistan in key economic indicators. Its $1,855 GDP per capita in 2019 was a third more than Pakistan’s $1,284 as the two countries follow vastly different trajectories of growth and human development.

Pakistani leaders need to take some time out to think about how even Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have stolen a march and performed on the economic front, while their country has gone into the abyss. Friendly relation with India and Afghanistan, abandoning the policy of exporting terrorism are perfect recipes to make Pakistan once again an economic hub in the region, keeping in view its connectivity and potential.

Inflation is still the biggest issue facing the government today. Headline inflation climbed to 9 per cent in September 2020 and double-digit food inflation continues to erode citizens’ purchasing power. This has worsened the situation for millions of households who have seen a decline in their purchasing power since 2016, according to data from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. In its most recent monetary policy statement, the State Bank of Pakistan raised its concerns as well, warning that while “core inflation has been relatively stable,” food inflation remains a risk,

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Policy & Politics

MAKING IT HAPPEN: RESTORATION OF WASTELAND

Anil Swarup

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Aishwarya Raj joined the Indian Forest Service in 2017, and Parvati Division was his second posting after Kullu in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Having taken charge in January, 2021, the first task was to assess the ground situation in different areas of his jurisdiction. On one such field visit close to the confluence of the mighty Beas and Parvati rivers, he came across a tract of forest land dumped with garbage and infested with heavy weed overgrowth. This was also a cause of riverside pollution. His staff informed him that the space was being misused by anti-social elements both during day and night to bide their time. These elements were involved in substance abuse as well. There was a threat of encroachment in the near future. Wanting to do something about these challenges, Aishwarya wondered how the forest land could be reclaimed into something safe and how some funds could be sourced to carry out the execution of a plan that he had on his mind. In his previous posting too, he had worked on a 15 hectare wasteland project in Manali that was being developed into an ecotourism project which gave him the confidence to think in terms of a possible revamp here as well.

Interestingly, the Government of Himachal Pradesh, around the same time, declared its intention to set up ‘Swarnim Vatikas’ across the state as part of Himachal’s 50 years statehood celebration. Using this as an opportunity, it was decided to transform this 1 hectare of wasteland into an eco-friendly sprawling, green urban space for town dwellers and nature seekers alike. The green zone was christened as ‘Sangam Swarnim Vatika’ for it stood at the confluence of two mighty rivers. If someone visits the place today, the view is serene, with no evidence of a shabby dump yard that once held ground here. Instead, it has been replaced with a beautifully landscaped garden, with a variety of tree species, creepers, shrubs, herbs along the area, frequented by a variety of beautiful birds.

The first step was to clear the area of its waste pile, cactus and weeds. The enthusiastic forest guards organized the clean-up quite efficiently. The garbage of around 25 tippers was collected and disposed. The organic waste was turned into processing vermicompost in nearby nurseries. The quality of soil was checked by deep digging and it was found to be in fairly good condition for plant growth. After mixing with some fertile mountain soil and humus, the soil was readied.

Before planting, the second step was to ensure the protection of the 2.5 acre area from both grazing/biotic pressures and movement of anti-social elements. In part RCC fencing and inter-link chain fencing was carried out for the entire space. Additionally, CCTV cameras were also installed nearby for monitoring purpose.

Technology cam handy. Aishwarya’s I-pad (which he deployed at workplace to minimize paper use) was a huge help in designing the entire lay-out of the Swarnim Vatika. After spending sometime exploring and reading on the local ecology and plant suitability of the ecotone area (Riverine), species of trees, shrubs and ornamental ones were identified. These could be considered for plantation in the park.

In phase I, over 400 species of native varieties such as deodar, silver oak, horse-chestnut, jacaranda, golden shower, bougainvillea, rose, thuja, cycas, ribbon plant, gladiola, peach, apricot, plum and pomegranate, among others have been planted. More than 200 additional species will be planted by the coming monsoon season. Groves of some of these species have been created so that can be enjoyed by visitors in future.

For landscaping, it was decided to go the up-cycling way in three aspects. One, the discarded or used slates, a stone with which houses are made in the hills, from the neighboring settlement were up-cycled to create the walking trails. The local ‘Dhrub’ grass sprouting in between those slates within 2 months is a sight to behold. Two, only riverside stones were used to landscape and beautify the Vatika. In addition to being eco-friendly, they enhanced the natural riverside view. Three, signages regarding nature awareness and seating are being installed. For this purpose, driftwood, obtained during last monsoon, are being put to use.

Parvati Valley is a hugely popular tourist hotspot with a number of breathtaking destinations. The Vatika, however, was primarily created for the local people who actually didn’t have enough urban walking or recreational avenues. Interestingly, there have been a number of avian visitors at the park – including yellow-billed blue magpie, parakeets, Eurasian hoopoe, barn swallow and doves. There is a likelihood of further increase in the number of such visitors.

The local panchayats, Mahila Mandals as well as youth groups have been engaged in this effort to instill a sense of ownership amongst them. This will help sustain the effort of keeping this area clean and green.

Next up, an attempt is being made to identify more such degraded areas in Parvati jurisdiction that can be converted into green zones. With funds and local support in place, this initiative will help revamp such areas and enrich the environment. The Vatika is an example where the Forest Department under the visionary leadership of a young forest officer, Aishwarya Raj and his committed team demonstrated a win-win scenario of nature conservation and development. Such initiatives, though small and in remote locations, can inspire others to do the same as they attempt to restore the beauty of Mother Earth. It is also an effort to demonstrate that a combination of concern for nature and capability to take the stake holders along can help transform the landscape in many regions. There are indeed many parts of the country that require such interventions

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Policy & Politics

WHEN WILL YOU CHANGE, WHEN WILL THE COUNTRY TRANSFORM?

Milkha Singh wished to see an Indian win Olympic gold medal in athletics.

Vijay Darda

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I salute and bow down to the legendary sprinter Milkha Singh who got the sobriquet of Flying Sikh. On his departure, two thoughts come to my mind. First, will we ever see a runner like him again? And the second, when will Milkha Singh’s unfulfilled dream be fulfilled? He had a dream, that one day an Indian will win an Olympic gold medal! I wonder whether true tribute can be paid with an unfulfilled dream!0

When Milkha Singh ran in the Commonwealth Games and set a record that remained unbroken for 40 years, he did not have the resources. He faced immense hardship. He didn’t have a good pair of shoes. The concept of nutritious food was totally unfamiliar then. He used to run barefoot during practice. Yet he excelled, all these difficulties notwithstanding. His wife Nirmal Kaur was the captain of the national volleyball team and son Jeev Milkha Singh is a professional golfer. Milkha Singh always regretted why no Indian could win a gold medal in the athletics section in the Olympics. This regret became his dream. He would always express it. Unfortunately, this dream could not be fulfilled during his lifetime. After his death, the country is invariably remembering his dream and his contribution to sports. The entire country including the President, Vice President and Prime Minister has paid tribute to him. I think the real way of paying tribute to him will be to fulfil the dream he saw all his life. The nation should remember the blisters on his feet when he ran barefoot so as to groom an entire generation of sportsmen. Like Milkha Singh, it was Dhyanchand’s dream too that India should become the world champion in hockey again.

Actually, to fulfil the dreams of Milkha Singh and Dhyanchand, we have to work together on many fronts. First of all, we have to understand that sports is not just a means of enhancing physical ability. Sports are directly related to our patriotism, our self-respect, our progress and our nation’s pride. Remember that when the tricolour flies high in the celebration of victory and when the tune of Jana Gana Mana is played, we are thrilled to the bone. Tears of joy flow from the eyes of the winner. It was the dream of Milkha Singh to celebrate victory in the Olympic arena and hold the tricolour high to the tune of Jana Gana Mana.

Of course, the atmosphere is changing now. Kiren Rijiju is a very competent minister. He wants that an environment of sports should be created in the country. Children who have abilities should get opportunities. It can be said that the government seems to be becoming conscious about sports; the government has started to think that it should spend on sports, but the atmosphere is still not so positive that we can produce another Milkha Singh again. If we really want to create and train a generation of players, we have to learn how children are spotted and groomed by China, Russia or Croatia. Today the players of these countries dominate the playground, and the commitment of the government there is the biggest reason. I remember, I was watching a World Cup match. When the Croatian football team won, their President Colinda Graber walked into the dressing room and hugged the sweaty players and kissed them. When will our players experience such a moment?

We are all witness to the state of affairs about sports in our country. From the schooldays itself, we should keep in mind and identify which child has the potential for which sport. They should be selected there and their training should start. But today, our children are away from the playgrounds and remain obsessed with mobile phones. Neither the parents care much nor our government. Children’s playgrounds are also shrinking. Concrete jungles are encroaching upon them. If Saina Nehwal has risen from amidst us and made a name for herself today, the government has no contribution in it. This is the result of the determination of a mother who trained Saina from the age of five with a pledge to make her a world champion.

Saina Nehwal’s mother Usha Rani Nehwal was seven months pregnant and still played a local match. This shows her passion. Be it Saina Nehwal, Sania Mirza or Mary Kom or other players like them, all of them have been able to excel on their own strength and determination. Many people have potential but they do not get opportunities due to various reasons. Politics has to be kept away from sports, only then will success be achieved. Sometime back, I had heard that Maharashtra’s shooter Anjali Bhagwat, who earned a name in the world, faced a lot of harassment. Many such incidents keep coming to light. If incidents like these happen, why would anyone make sports his or her career?

Spotting and grooming children with potential is not an impossible task. It just needs perspective. You spot the children and give the responsibility to the industrial houses to mould them. Yes, it will be very important to keep in mind that the government does not interfere and the industrial houses should get full freedom for this purpose. And of course, also ensure that the craze for cricket should not destroy other games. We have to understand that cricket is not a national or international game. It’s neither in the Olympics nor in the Commonwealth Games. This is a club game. But cricket has become a religion in India. Given the amount of money cricket has, it has its share of controversies and scandals too. I would not like to discuss any of them. All I have to say is that to fulfil the dream of Milkha Singh and hold the tricolour aloft in the world of sports, we need to create enthusiasm, passion and love for sports among the children.

And finally, the only question to the system is when will you change, when will the country change, and when will this dream come true?

The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.

Though Milkha Singh is no longer among us. He has left a dream for all of us to fulfil, that some Indian athlete should win a gold medal in the Olympics. We will pay him a true tribute only when we are able to mould our youngsters into sporting stalwarts who will be able to win gold medals and make us all feel the thrill of the tricolour held high to the tune of ‘Jana Gana Mana…’ in the Olympics.

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Policy & Politics

Significance of attaining the age of majority: Decoding the landmark judgements in the light of Article 21

The 242nd Law Commission Report titled ‘Prevention of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances (in the name of Honour and Tradition): A Suggested Legal Framework’ demonstrates how crimes and unwarranted interference against persons marrying have the catastrophic and grave chilling effect on the individual’s right to choose. The report highlights, “As far as India is concerned, ‘honour killings’ are mostly reported from the states of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and UP. Bhagalpur in Bihar is also one of the known places for ‘honour killings’.”

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If you are a major, you can even solemnize marriage with a criminal and no fetters can be placed on your choice; indeed, it may appear somewhat paradoxical to the ordinary mind but not to a legal mind. I am not pronouncing this verdict on unqualified grounds rather this phenomenon of the right to make a choice is the result of the peculiar stupendous judicial pronouncements. Recently, the right to choose a partner of one choice, the right to renounce one religion and accept another religion are such constructive, progressive, and liberal concepts that have garnered the substantive attention of large public discourse. But with the attention on the topic of choice of partner and religion, few people have paid attention to the subject matter of “Age of the Majority”.

According to Sec 3(1) of the Indian Majority Act 1875, an individual is said to attain the age of majority when he/she completes his/her 18 years. Article 21, does mandate that no person shall be deprived of his/her liberty but there is no such expression, expressly enumerated under this Article that we are having the liberty to marry a person, involved in criminal activities. Interestingly, it is worth mentioning that there are many rights guaranteed implicitly under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution as it is the mother in recognizing the “Unrecognised liberties”. It is desirable to note that one of such recognitions, was recognizing the significance of an individual who attains the age of majority.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, while recently hearing the contention advanced by the petitioner in the case of Soni Gerry v. Gerry Douglas (2018) 2 SCC 197 that the daughter is under illegal custody/detention and the Court must free her from illegal restraint. The Hon’ble Court considered this particular fact that the daughter had completed 18 years of age on 19.9.2016, thus she had attained the age of majority. In this regard, the landmark observation that was made by the Court that – ‘when an individual attains the age of majority, it has its own significance. It was also observed that he/she is entitled to make his/her choice. The Hon’ble Supreme Court rejected the contention to pass the writ of habeas corpus and held that she was not under illegal detention.

AGE OF MAJORITY: A DETERMINATE FACTOR IN UPHOLDING THE TWO MAJOR RIGHTS

Recognising the two major rights- the right to marry a person of one’s choice and the right to renounce one religion and accept another religion are appositely valued and also its esteemed status is conferred under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also lays down the importance of age of majority that – “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

“India is a free and democratic country and once a person becomes a major he/she can marry whosoever he/she likes. If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage the maximum they can do is that they can cut-off social relation with son or daughter,….”- This was the erudite observation made in the much-celebrated case of Lata Singh v. State of U.P and Another, (2006) 5 SCC 475 that reverberates in the Constitutional guarantee of freedom from the patriarchal tyranny and autocracy.

The notion of liberty was also examined and evaluated in the case of Gian Devi v. Superintendent, Nari Niketan, Delhi (1976) 3 SCC 234, that the girl has attained the age of majority and no restraints can be placed on her choices of the person with whom she is to stay, nor can any restriction be imposed regarding the place where she could stay. Even the Court does not possess the right to determine.

The landmark case of Shafin Jahan v. K.M Ashokan & Ors. AIR 2018 SC 357 cannot be ignored as the same is an important development for the right to choose a partner of one’s choice. It is worth stepping into the facts of the case where a girl namely Hadiya aged 26 years converted herself to Islam and married a Muslim boy namely Shafin Jahan. In this case, the father Ashokan moved a habeas corpus petition before the Hon’ble Kerala High Court alleged that her girl Hadiya was the victim of systematic psychological manipulation and forcefully converted to Islam and in the furtherance of same, her daughter was likely to transport out of the country. The High Court accepted the contentions and allowed him to sustain the writ petition of habeas corpus and annulled the marriage of her with Shafin Jahan. The High Court of Kerala was in the view that even though she has attained the age of majority, she is weak and vulnerable and capable of being exploited in many ways in the circumstances noticed in this instant case. An investigation was also ordered to National Investigation Agency to investigate the ‘education, family background, antecedents and other relevant details of Shafin Jahan and it is fascinating to note that the principal finding of the report was that Shafin Jahan is accused in a criminal case and his Facebook posts show a radical inclination.

When this matter came before the Hon’ble Supreme Court, it was observed that Kerala High Court has failed to recognize the undisputed fact that the girl Hadiya is major, and when an individual attains the age of majority, he/she becomes capable to take her own decision. It was also observed that the annulment order passed by the Kerala High Court is the non-acceptance of her choice that simply transgresses her fundamental rights guaranteed under our Constitution. The Kerala High Court, being a Constitutional Court was not supposed to interfere in this matter as the very interference amounts to a miscarriage of justice and the liberty and dignity of two consenting adults who have been subjected to judicial affront. The Hon’ble Supreme Court also clarified that if there is any criminality in any sphere then NIA may continue its investigation however the validity shall not form the subject matter of the investigation and NIA cannot interfere with the marital status of the two major couples. The appeal was allowed and judgment of the High Court was set aside.

There are other landmark judgments as well but in this overall context, the importance of emphasizing the concept of age of majority and right to make a free choice that the basic elements of a dignified life are also the realization of the significance of the right to choose within the legitimate parameters of the law. The individual’s authority is supreme and no one possesses the right to dictate or limit a person’s choice. Our choices are cherished because they are ours. Indeed, it is not a privilege rather a right of a major and more importantly it is further protected by the Constitution of India which ensures that every person can make the determinations on the matters which is central to the pursuit of happiness and is the intrinsic part of liberty and dignity guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.

Grave Social Symptoms: The Unwarranted Interference and Distressful Silence

It is disheartening to see all the survey carried or report submitted have become veritable documents of the fact that consent of family or the society or the clan is still required to enter into a wedlock. Despite of the fact, no shackles can be placed on the choice of a major, still there is an unwarranted interference of the family or the society or the clan that guillotines the freedom and liberty guaranteed under the Constitution of India and the distressful silence of the protectors of this right succumbs the objective of our Constitutional guarantee of freedom of choice which is the quintessence of the 21st Century.

The 242nd Law Commission Report titled “Prevention of Interference with the Freedom of Matrimonial Alliances (in the name of Honour and Tradition): A Suggested Legal Framework” demonstrates that how crimes and unwarranted interference against persons marrying have the catastrophic and grave chilling effect on the individual’s right to choose. The report highlights that- “As far as India is concerned, “honour killings” are mostly reported from the States of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and U.P. Bhagalpur in Bihar is also one of the known places for ‘honour killings”. Even some incidents are reported from Delhi and Tamil Nadu. Marriages with members of other castes or the couple leaving the parental home to live together and marry provoke the harmful acts against the couple and immediate family members.”

The Report also underlines the pernicious interference of caste/community assemblies in the guise of ‘Khap Panchayats’ that underscores the liberty and instil the terror by inhuman treatment and inflicting the excessively harsh punishments on those individuals who tried to do exogamous marriage. Unfortunately, these merciless hands haunt the dignity of the individuals in the name of ‘moral vigilantism’ and distressful silence of the society waters them to continue this evil practise.

In 2018, Lok Foundation-Oxford University Survey run by the Centre for Monitoring India Economy (CMIE) reported that just 3 percent of marriages are love marriages. According to the 2011-12 India Human Development Survey, only 13 percent of married women in metro cities knew their husbands prior to marriage. Arranged marriages do not imply forced marriages necessarily however, this fact cannot be ignored that most of the Indian families and communities try to maintain endogamous marriage.

REASON BEHIND SUCH GRAVE SOCIAL SYMPTOMS

It is apt to refer to the case of Bhagwan Dass v. State (NCT of Delhi) (2011) 6 SCC 396 where the Hon’ble Supreme Court stated that many people feel that they are disgraced or dishonoured by the conduct of the young individuals who is related to them or belongs to their caste simply because they marry against their will or wishes or having an affair with someone, and as a result, they take the law into their hands and mentally, physically assault them and inflict the other atrocities which is not lawful in the eyes of law. The 242nd Law Commission Report mentions that the crimes against the young individuals take place as the result of doing exogamous marriage without receiving the family consent. Even the marriages between the young couples outside the gotra often called the violent reaction from the family or clan or society.

Ostensibly, it is clear that that the couples must be freed from the unlawful fetters or hindrances placed by the so-called social guardians who are doing nothing for the benefit for the society rather killing the soul of our Constitution. Hence, it is important to break down the same.

STEPS TAKEN

Undoubtedly, the Courts are playing the active and important role in asserting the choices of majors. For this reason, this particular subject matter becomes of utmost importance. The case of Sakti Vahini v. Union of India (2018) 7 SCC 192 is the evident and glaring example where the Hon’ble Supreme Court directed the police departments and State governments to adopt a robust mechanism to eradicate the crime of ‘Honour Killing’. The Hon’ble Court laid down certain guidelines which was preventive and punitive in nature. Also, the remedial measures were issued. However, if the governments and administrations at the different tiers will not work properly and become silent spectator then the importance of same will languish which is fortunately not in our case.

In order to boost and encourage the inter-caste marriages, the NDA government is providing Rs. 2.5 lakh for every inter-caste marriage with Dalit under the ‘Dr. Ambedkar scheme for social integration through inter-caste marriage’. This financial motivation was started in 2013 but there was a bar that total income must be less than Rs. 5 lakhs so that one can be eligible to receive the one-time monetary incentives of Rs. 2.5 lakhs. Recently, in order to infuse the teachings of BR Ambedkar in the society and to promote the social equity, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment took this bold step and scrapped this bar. This will definitely help in the effective implementation and the administration of this scheme. Many states also have the similar schemes and protective, pre-emptive and corrective measures to curb the menace of crimes against the individuals and to assert their choices. For instance, Bihar government provides the National Saving Certificate amounting to Rs 25,000/- as monetary incentive to women performing inter-caste marriage. The Madhya Pradesh Government has a dedicated cell better known as ‘Crime Against Women Cell” that ensures the safety of couples.

CLOSING OBSERVATIONS

Indeed, The notion of ‘Significance of Age of Majority’ has achieved the landmark growth. Still, in the long growth, the directions issued by the Courts and policy, measures adopted by the Central and State governments has to reach at the grassroot levels and more importantly the society itself has to come forward to stamp out the acts of barbarism against the individuals “WHO HAVE ATTAINED THE AGE OF MAJORITY”.

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Policy & Politics

Second coronavirus wave, administration and Fundamental Rights

The pandemic saw the infringement of various Fundamental Rights guaranteed by our Constitution. The fundamental human rights that are most affected are ‘Right to Health’ and ‘Right to Life’ which also includes ‘Right to die with dignity’. In many well-known judgements, the Supreme Court and several High Courts agreed that the dead corpse should be treated with proper dignity and treated fairly. The Supreme Court recognised that right to life extends not only to living persons but also to their bodies after death.

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In the words of William Shakespeare which says “All that lives must die, passing through nature to eternity.”While death is regarded as a natural occurrence, the basic decent treatment that is anticipated and should be provided to the deceased does not always germinate and materialize naturally. We recently had to witness such tragic cases which have not only shocked the entire country but have also witnessed and drawn intervention towards this grave issue from all over the world.

Sightings of dead bodies floating on the bank of the holy river Ganga were reported in the country’s top newspapers. Villagers in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh discovered bodies in the Ganga and Yamuna rivers on May 11, 2021. Ganga, a holy river where people undertake various rituals in relation to ceremonies that are therein mentioned in their holy book, they not only perform ceremonies but also venerate river Ganga for its purity. On May 11, seven bodies wrapped in plastic bags were discovered floating in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur and Hamirpur districts. Similar incidents have also been reported in the Baksar district of Bihar. The greatest concern among residents was that stray dogs and birds would devour the carcasses which would then result in spreading the coronavirus. However, instead of taking action against those responsible for the malafide attacks, the state authorities are now playing a blame game with one another. The world is in danger and the situation has been seen severely detrimental among masses. The heart-rending incidents from these states remind us of the last Mughal emperor and his poetic lament. Unable to find a final resting place in his beloved homeland (India), the last Mughal emperor quite rightly put forth the plight of the dead – Kitna hai badnaseeb Zafar dafn ke liye/Do gazz amen bhi na milikoo-e-yaar mein (How unlucky is Zafar! For burial, even two yards of land were not to be had in the land of his beloved). In the recent past, a ‘novel’ difficulty, similar to the ‘novel’ Corona Virus, has arisen for our contemplation, which would be guided eventually from the foundations of this present article. The article shall examine three major contentions vis-à-vis the issue of dead bodies which were found floating on the banks of river Ganga. Firstly, whether the actions of state authorities being negligent towards the horrendous issue i.e the floating of dead bodies, be condemned? Secondly, the fundamental right of a dead person, enumerated under the constitution of India violated or do we not owe a duty to cremate the deceased respectfully? Third, is there a need to amend the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on management of corpses?

NEGLIGENCE ON PART OF STATE AUTHORITIES

The term other authorities that are enumerated under Article 12 of the constitution of India has given interpretation to the term ‘AUTHORITIES’ by the means of landmark precedents. It is settled law that the State under Article 12 is the custodian of the welfare and wellbeing of its citizens. However, looking at the present scenario the situation seems to be such where the actions on part of state authorities are not at all seems to be custodian but seems to become a warrior against the interest of masses.

Legislation derives its power from the constitutions of India, 1950 which grant the liberal interpretation of Articles 21, 48 and 51(g) by the Hon’ble Judges of Apex court and other courts across the country. In the famous case of Narmada Bachao Andolan v. union of India 2010 SCC 664, The Supreme Court has held that the right to clean water is a fundamental right under article 21 of the Indian constitution. Water prevention and control of pollution act of 1974 is the key specific legislation for preventing water pollution and for taking care and maintaining water bodies. It also aims for promoting for restoration of water bodies. For better implementation of the act, the Central pollution control board and the state pollution control board have been established by the Central and the state government. Under the aforesaid act, the board has the requisite power to encourage and conduct research and investigation with the view of promoting, the prevention of contamination of water in a significant manner and also to add the central government for the matters relating to environmental issues and for the prevention and control of water pollution. In the present issue, the duties and obligations that have been imparted to such boards and the ones enumerated in the aforesaid act have been brazenly ignored by state authorities. They have failed to impart their duties in such remorse condition because of which the lives of masses are now at stake. Hence, because of the aforesaid reason the actions of state authorities should be condemned.

DEAD PERSON TOO HOLDS A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT

The flagrants acts during the pandemic has resulted in the infringement of various Fundamental Rights guaranteed by our Constitution.The fundamental human rights that are most affected are “Right to Health” and “Right to Life which also includes Right to die with dignity.” In many well-known judgements, the Supreme Court of India and many High Courts agreed that the dead corpse should be treated with proper dignity and treated fairly. The Supreme Court of India recognized that right to life, to fair treatment and dignity, extends not only to a living person but also to their bodies after death. In a landmark judgment (Common Cause, A Regd. Society V. Union of India & Anr.) delivered on 9th March, 2018, the Supreme Court of India held that the right to die with dignity is an intrinsic facet of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. In fact, in the year 2007, the Madras high court in the case of S.Sethu Raja vs The Chief Secretary (2007) 5 MLJ 404 had held in Para 18 of the Judgment that the same human dignity (if not more) with which a living being is suppose to be treated by our tradition and our culture should also apply to the dead person and he too holds a right of dignified burial or cremation of a dead body. The right to decent burial is upholding in Indian context, but who is authorized for burial is not explained in any Indian Law. There is a strong societal interest in the proper disposition of the bodies of deceased person. It is universally accepted that a duty is owed to both society and the deceased that the body be buried without any unnecessary delay.

AMENDEDMENT IN THE GUIDELINES AMID COVID-19 IS ‘THE NEED OF THE HOUR’

A document containing ‘Dead Body Guidelines (COVID-19)’ – [hereinafter, ‘Document’], was released by the Directorate General of Health Services (EMR División), Minister of Health and Family Welfare of India on March 15, 2020. To date, it remains unamended and builds on the epidemiological understanding of COVID-19 of the Ministry at present. The aforesaid document lacks some crucial quintessential.

Thereby, the authors would like to propose some takeaways from the other jurisdiction of the nations across the globe, which can be included in the aforesaid guidelines for the benefit of the masses across the country.

The guidelines should be inclusive or seeks to impose a compulsory cremation of the covid-19 victims, which is foremost aimed to prevent local bodies from being able to cremate the body of the deceased overriding his/her religious belief.

In the midst of the global pandemic of covid-19 where graveyards and crematoriums crammed, the locals people of various states are of the view that there emerged shortage of woods for pyre, thereby resulted in the hike in the cost of cremation, whereby this becomes the sole reason why the bodies were buried or seen floating. Hence, the guidelines should impose a reasonable amount or capped a certain amount that crematoriums can charge from families at the time of cremation of a dead body.

Prices should be regulated for hearse or ambulance services so that people are not used and are not exposed to difficulty transporting dead bodies.

The guideline should impose sanction on those people committing horrendous acts such as throwing bodies in rivers, not cremating bodies as per rules enumerated therein.

In order to avoid health risks from smoke emission from burning pyres in large numbers, the use of electric crematoria can be encouraged.

The burial or cremation of masses should not occur because it infringes the right to dignity of the dead.

CONCLUSION

India has been overwhelmed by a devastating second wave of the pandemic in recent weeks. It has recorded more than 25 million cases and 2,75,000 deaths. But the experts say the real death toll is several times higher. The bodies dumped on the river banks and the funeral pyres burning round the clock and cremation grounds running out of space are the proof that the official tally of deaths represent a substantial undercount of the true burdens. In recent times, various eye opening incidents surfaced through media wherein humans were seen to be treated worse than animals. There were interminable news reports which reported incidents like dumping of corpses in a pit at a burial ground without performing their last rites. Many photographs and videos of the half burnt and decomposed dead bodies have gone viral on social media. In order to stop this menace that is bulging the entire nation, all those aforesaid measure as stated hereinabove should be adopted and the the adminstration should pay heed and curb against all those activities that are disturbing not only the rights of dead person but all the right of a living person.

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