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Environmental criminal law: Is it the need of the hour in India?

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INTRODUCTION

Even a single thought about the Bhopal Gas Tragedy never fails to send a chill down the spine- this is enough to address the grave consequences of the disastrous activities of the profit-sucking corporations that the people and the environment are exposed to. It is indeed thought-provoking how the gravity of such crimes go unnoticed even if they take the lives of hundreds of people, while an act of murder is seen with great contempt. Are these crimes less than murder? Indeed not. Environmental crimes are a simultaneous murder of not one but many people, and of the environment. The only method to curb such crimes is through a strong legal framework which currently is not up to the mark be it the legal provisions or the judicial pronouncements. The article, therefore, seeks to address and analyse the issues that the liberal perception of this crime raises.

The primary focus has been on analysing the liability of corporations in environmental crimes. To that effect, this article has been divided into four major sections. The first section of the article discusses and describes the concept associated with Environmental Crime. The second section of the article presents a detailed legal analysis of the criminalisation of corporate environmental crimes. The third section of the article highlights the lacunae concerning the incapacity of three legislations, i.e., the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Environment (Protection) Act to deal with environmental crimes. The fourth and the final major section of the article based on some of the case laws, analyses the paradigm shift in the judicial trend that the concept of Environmental Crimes in India has gone through.

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES

The term ‘Environmental Crimes’ does not have a universally accepted definition, and is in most instances defined based on the convenience to interpret. The genesis of such an idea can be owed to the deleterious acts/omissions that are responsible for the violation of the environmental law.1 Y. Situ and D. Emmons2 cumulatively put forth the definition as “an environmental crime is an unauthorised act or omission that violates the law and is therefore subject to criminal prosecution and criminal sanction”. According to the United Nations Crime and Justice Research Institute, “environmental crimes encompass a broad list of illicit activities, including illegal trade in wildlife; smuggling of ozone-depleting substances; illicit trade of hazardous waste; illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing; and illegal logging and trade in timber”.3 Legally speaking, for an act or omission to be categorised as an ‘Environmental Crime’ it should- a) cause direct/indirect damage to the environment, and b) be prohibited by the law.4 These interpretative definitions, though objective, do not suffice in toto. On analysing the proposed array of definitions available, a few shortcomings could be highlighted- firstly, the lack of a universally accepted definition creates uncertainties regarding a common ground for accepting an act as an environmental crime; secondly, the lack of a well-defined area of activities the definition would encompass; thirdly, the jurisdictional and geographical limitations- what is a crime in one nation may not be a crime in the other.

It is per se called a ‘crime’, for it endangers people’s health and causes irreparable damage to the environment. Such long-lasting and grievous harm is bound to have grave consequences not only on the present generation but also on the future generation, undermining the idea of Sustainable Development. It is the disastrous and far-reaching consequential nature of the act or omission that calls for criminal sanctions being associated with an environmental offence. There is no reason acceptable enough that would outweigh the costs over benefits of such heinous acts. As the telos is merely to serve either of the two- a) Corporations, or b) Individuals. These acts are unapologetically used as a means to serve the end of profit-making or financial gain. Corporations, under the veil of capital generation and lucrative business, blatantly ignore environmental and public concerns. Therefore, the present research seeks to deal with the Corporate Criminal Liability that arises out of the Corporate Environmental Crimes committed by industries and corporations.

THE CRIMINALISATION OF CORPORATE ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES: AN ANALYSIS

There are three kinds of stances that are put forward concerning the corporate liability for environmental crimes.5 First, the traditional view argues that since a corporation does not have a mind of its own, so the criminal act would lack the requisite mens rea, therefore, the corporate bodies cannot be charged criminally. The supporters of this view majorly argue that a corporation though a separate legal personality has no physical existence, therefore, imposing criminal liability would render the punishment of imprisonment meaningless. Some European countries like Germany, Greece, Hungary, Mexico, Sweden, etc., support the traditional view. Second, are the ones who support imposing criminal liability on corporations for the commission of environmental crimes. In this scenario, the corporation and the persons responsible for running the corporation would be held liable personally. Countries like the USA, Australia, Denmark, France, Finland, Netherland, Belgium, United Kingdom, etc., favour this view. Moreover, the International Environment Law contemplates a mandatory obligation on all parties to the convention to incorporate within their domestic law- provisions imposing criminal sanctions on the erring corporations.6 Third, this view is mediatory, which suggests that criminal liability ought to be adopted as a last resort. It is only supposed to be chosen in the cases where the other remedies fail to deter the actions of the offender.

This article seeks to support the second stance- the one of making corporations criminally liable for environmental crimes. To refute the argument put forward by the traditional view- that seeks to not make corporations liable for their criminal activities associated with the environment, the following premises are vital. Corporations are non-physical entities but have a distinct legal persona. Moreover, corporations are run by individuals like the directors, who are said to be the ‘mind of a company’. Oftentimes, the Courts have treated such officers as the mind, body and soul of the corporate body.7 Though legally, it may appear to be a non-physical entity, however, in reality, it is an association of persons. A corporation cannot be run without individuals associated with it. Therefore, it is wrong to hold that a corporation lacks mind and that it cannot have the requisite mens rea to commit a crime. Furthermore, a widely accepted rule of corporate law is the lifting of the corporate veil used to make such offenders personally liable who seek to commit the offence under the guise of the corporation. This rule becomes cardinal while seeking to make the officials of a corporation liable for environmental crimes. The mediatory view of adopting criminal liability as a last resort is certainly not acceptable provided the egregious nature of these crimes and the incapacity of penalty to alone suffice for punishments in such grave cases.

The Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 19848 has come to be known as one of the ‘World’s Worst Industrial Disasters’. The Bhopal plant of Union Carbide Corporation negligently released Methyl Isocyanate and Hydrogen Cyanide gas into the atmosphere. This incident killed at least 3,800 people immediately. The toll of death has risen to an approximate number of 25,000 in the three subsequent decades. This disastrous incident not only took away the lives of many people but also gravely affected the survivors who were present inside the corporation and who resided in its vicinity. Some half a million survivors suffered respiratory problems, eye irritation or blindness, and other maladies resulting from exposure to the toxic gas. Such industrial disasters have an inherently detrimental impact on the people and the environment which continues to haunt in the years to come. In the early 21st century, 400 tons of industrial waste was said to be present on the site of the disaster. This industrial waste has contaminated the soil and the groundwater to an extent that the consumption has led to chronic health problems and birth defects among the inhabitants of the area. This incident has been a major contributor to all three kinds of pollution- air, soil and water.

So, the whole point around emphasising the need for the criminalisation of corporate environmental crimes, a sub-type of white-collar crimes, is because of its inherently vast nature and capacity to cause harm. Industries significantly contribute to polluting the environment in diverse ways- intentional littering, improper disposal of nuclear and hazardous waste, releasing toxic substances into air and water bodies. Most of these above-stated activities are well-known to the officials and are not mere cases of negligence. Such activities not only affect the environment but also affect countless people, rendering them victims of a plethora of respiratory illnesses and other problems. The argument of making the corporations criminally liable for environmental offences gains efficacy in light of the following reasons.9 Criminal sanctions mostly deter violations in ways that are efficient to the other methods of punishment. “Deterrence works best on people who have not had contact with criminal justice and for whom prosecution or even investigation will have severe personal consequences.”10 Corporate officials are known to be a “social group that is exquisitely sensitive to status deprivation and censure”.11 The accusation of a crime would be degrading to their corporate image since the publicity value means a great deal to their job. Criminal sanctions can have certain systematic effects as well, like disqualification of a corporate official may change his attitude towards the environment thereby, reducing the chances of prospective violations by him. Furthermore, on moral grounds, it could be argued that the affluent persons who used to escape liability by affording even heavy penalties would become more responsible towards the environment in the absence of an alternative. Last but not least, oftentimes, the gravity of environmental crimes is so high that such behaviour must only be addressed with the criminal law.

The Statutory Provisions Dealing with Environmental Crimes- An Analysis

The major lacuna that the Indian environmental law suffers from is the lack of the consideration that environmental crimes are serious and may take the shape of even an organised crime12. Such crimes are even lowly ranked in the law enforcement priority list. The Law Commission of India has recurrently recommended that the liberal punishments concerning environmental crimes must be amended to include stricter punishments so that the responsible corporations do not go scot-free.13 There is a wide array of provisions and legislations which have been enacted by the Indian government with respect to environmental protection. Some of the important ones are discussed hereunder:

THE INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860

Chapter XIV of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 deals with “offences affecting the public safety, health, convenience, decency and morals”.

Section 268 provides for the offence of public nuisance- A person is held liable for the offence of public nuisance if he engages himself in any act/omission which causes- a) common injury, b) danger/annoyance to the public/people in general who live or occupy property in the vicinity, c) necessarily causing injury/obstruction/danger/annoyance to persons who may have occasion to use any public right. Further, Section 290 provides for the punishment of public nuisance with a maximum penalty of two hundred rupees. It is indeed dispiriting to know that the perpetrators of an egregious environmental offence like public nuisance can go scot-free by paying a mere penalty of a maximum of two hundred rupees or even less than that. This penalty can never succeed in deterring the violations towards the environment by the big corporations.

Fouling of the water of a public spring or reservoir is contemplated to be an environmental crime under section 277 of the IPC. Under this section, to voluntarily corrupt or foul the water of any public spring or reservoir is an offence and the person held liable would be punished with imprisonment for a maximum term of three months, or with a maximum fine of five hundred rupees, or with both. Moreover, the making of atmosphere noxious to health is punishable under the IPC under section 278. Under this section, to voluntarily vitiate the atmosphere in any place making it noxious to the health of persons in general dwelling or carrying on business in the neighbourhood or passing along a public way is a punishable offence. The offender is bound to be punished with a maximum fine of five hundred rupees.

The above-stated two provisions are directly related to environmental protection as they seek to prevent water and air pollution through a penal strategy. However, firstly, the problem with all these environmental offences is that the nature of punishment is not effective to cause a deterrent effect among the corporations. They are too lenient for offences as big as the ones where, for example, the industries pollute the only source of drinking water and the consumption of which causes mass public suffering.14 Secondly, the effective application of these provisions in achieving the objective of environmental protection is doubtful because the technicalities of Indian criminal law require a complete satisfaction of the ingredients of the offence as stipulated in the penal provisions making the process of delivery of the criminal justice system tedious.

THE CODE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, 1973

Chapter X of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 deals with the “maintenance of public order and tranquillity”. Part B and Part C enumerates provisions relating to Public Nuisance and urgent cases of nuisance and apprehended danger respectively- both relevant to be considered for environmental protection.

Section 133 (Part B) provides for the conditional order for the removal of the nuisance. The District Magistrate/Sub-Divisional Magistrate/Executive Magistrate is empowered to pass a conditional order for the removal of the nuisance on a report by the police officer or based on any other information after considering the evidence (if any). This has been proved to be an effective remedy to resort to abating public nuisance associated with environmental harm.

Section 144 (Part C) provides for urgent powers of the District Magistrate/Sub-Divisional Magistrate/Executive Magistrate to issue an order in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger in situations where a speedy remedy is desirable. This section particularly confers wide powers on the Magistrate to deal with urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger.

ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION ACT, 1986

The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 was enacted in an aftermath of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and in accordance with the decisions taken at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm in June 1972.15 The Act seeks to provide for protection and improvement of the environment and the prevention of hazards to human beings, other living creatures, plants and property.

Chapter III of the Act provides for the prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution. The following provisions are relevant to the corporations for environmental protection. Under Section 7 of the Act, the persons carrying on industry operations, etc., are not supposed to emit or permit to be discharged/emitted any environmental pollutants above the prescribed standards. Further, Section 8 provides that a person handling hazardous substances must comply with the procedural safeguards.

The penal provision of the enactment has been incorporated under Section 15 of the Act. This section, in case of contravention of the provisions and rules, orders and directions of the Act, provides for imprisonment of a maximum period of five years and a maximum fine of one lakh rupees. If the contravention is continuing then an additional fine of a maximum of five thousand rupees can be imposed every day. Furthermore, if the contravention exceeds beyond a period of one year after the date of conviction, the punishment can be extended to a maximum period of seven years.

The Act under section 16 provides a specific provision for environmental offences committed by companies. This section very appropriately makes all such persons liable for the offence who were directly in charge of and were responsible to the company for the conduct of the business of the company, as well as the company. Such persons would be held liable and be punished accordingly. However, a person can escape from liability under section 16 if he proves that the offence was committed without his knowledge or that he exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of such offence.

THE JUDICIAL TREND

1984- Union Carbide Corporation v. Union of India16 (The Bhopal Gas Tragedy Case): The very fact that in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy (the world’s worst industrial disaster) the Union Carbide Corporation was not held criminally liable suggests that the development of criminal jurisprudence of environment did not start off on the right foot. The UCC was absolutely exempted from the criminal liability and the Court held that the pending criminal prosecution was a separate and distinct proceeding unconnected with the suit from an interlocutory order. Since the Court did not have the power to withdraw the criminal proceedings, it urged to quash the order. “The order of February 15th, 1989 provided: All such criminal proceedings including contempt proceedings stand quashed and accused deemed to be acquitted.”17

1987- M.C. Mehta v. Union of India18 (The Oleum Gas Leak Case): This case is based on yet another instance of the leakage of gas that happened soon after the disastrous Bhopal Gas Tragedy. In one of the units of the Shriram Food and Fertiliser Industries, a major leakage of oleum gas was reported which caused considerable damage to the workers and the people residing in the vicinity of the factory. It was alleged that an advocate also died due to the gas leak. The Court very appropriately sought to hold the chairman and Managing Director and other officers along with the operator and head of the concerned plant personally responsible for this mishap. Such officers have often been treated as the mind, soul, and body of the corporation.19

However, the outcome of this case was particularly disappointing as the Court later decided to change the First Order. Subsequently, the Court ordered that the officials could be exempted from being held responsible if they prove that the escape of the gas was due to an Act of God or vis major or sabotage. On a positive note, the case particularly holds landmark importance in the development of criminal law in environmental jurisprudence and has also led to the incorporation of the tortuous doctrine of absolute liability in India.

1992- Dwarka Cement Works v. the State of Gujarat20: The absence of a strict legal framework provides the chance to the corporations to frame excuses to get rid of their responsibility in environmental offences. This is one such case where the corporation framed a lame excuse to escape liability.

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The Chairman, Director and the General Manager who were involved in the environmental crime contended that there was nothing in the complaint that concerned them with regards to the management of the industry, and, therefore, they could not be personally held liable for the harm caused. However, the Court did not allow their plea on account of their tricks to escape liability.

2003- M.C. Mehta v. Union of India21: This case marked the success of the environmental illuminary Mr M.C. Mehta in the unveiling of criminal sanctions on the respondent of the case. The Supreme Court ordered the respondent to close the hot mix plant unit. However, he alleged that the High Court had approved of his activities. Moreover, when the contempt notice was served on the respondent, he again chose to allege but this time it was the Apex Court, with contumacious statements. Therefore, the SC given the highly contemptuous statements decided ‘to give a strong signal to the respondent so that like-minded people do not repeat the same and such recurrence is thwarted in future’ who was responsible for causing the risk of deleterious effects of air pollution on the health of the society.22 Concerning the criminal sanction- he was punished with one week of simple imprisonment and a fine of one lakh rupees. One week of simple imprisonment seems too liberal for a criminal sanction, however, this case attempted to apply criminal sanction in environmental jurisprudence in a full-fledged manner.

Suggestions and Conclusion

The need of the hour is a shift in the environmental jurisprudence from tortious liability to criminal sanctions for crimes that affect the health and lives of people en masse and irreparably degrade the environment. The Courts must not allow the criminals to go scot-free.

It is high time for the environmental provisions to be amended to- a) include organised environmental crimes as separate and specific offences and b) raise the strictness of the currently liberal penalties.

The wide array of legislation on the environment should be consolidated to form a separate and specific piece of legislation that would precisely provide for environmental offences and their stipulated penalties.

The lame excuses of the corporations continue to take advantage of the weak legal framework and degrade the environment. Therefore, it is highly recommended to allow the full operation of absolute liability in environmental offences.

Considering the heinous, grave and egregious nature of environmental crimes, significant efforts should be made to formulate a definition and classify the acts that would result in environmental crime. The lack of a universally accepted definition, the liberal penalties, the weak legal framework and the absence of judicial activism has exacerbated the consequences of such a crime altogether. All of these lacunae should be given wide importance and be looked at with immense concern. Otherwise, profit-sucking corporations would continue to work in neglect to deteriorate and damage the environment. After all, it is not some temporary damage to the environment but serious, irreversible deterioration that affects not only the present generation but also the generations to come.

(Endnotes)

1 C.M. Jariwala, Corporate Environmental Criminal Liability in India: Reality or Myth, 3-5 RMLNLUJ 98 (2011-2013).

2 Y. Situ, D. Emmons, Environmental Crime: The Criminal Justice System’s Role in Protecting the Environment 3 Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks (2000).

3 UNITED NATIONS INTERREGIONAL CRIME AND JUSTICE RESEARCH INSTITUTE, http://www.unicri.it/topics/environmental (last visited June 29, 8:23 PM).

4 Stuart Bell, Donald McGillivray, Environmental Law 254 Oxford University Press (2008).

5 C.M. Jariwala, Corporate Environmental Criminal Liability in India: Reality or Myth, 3-5 RMLNLUJ 98 (2011-2013).

6 The Resolutions of the XVth International Congress on Penal Law, (Rio) Res. 12, 14 and 20, 1994.

7 Moore v. Brester, (1944) 2 All ER 515; Tesco Supermarket Ltd. v. Nattrass, 1972 AC 153.

8 BRITANNICA, https://www.britannica.com/event/Bhopal-disaster (last visited June 29, 8:23 PM).

9 Joseph F. Dimento, Criminal Enforcement of Environmental Law, 525 The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 134-146 (2013).

10 Greider, Fines Aren’t Enough: Send Corporate Polluters to Jail, Rolling Stone 46 (1984).

11 Susan Hedman, Expressive Functions of Criminal Sanctions in Environmental Law, 59 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 889-99 (1991).

12 Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra v. State of U.P., AIR 1985 SC 652; Indian Council For Enviro-Legal Action v. Union of India, AIR 1996 SC 1446.

13 The Report of the Law Commission of India (Forty-first) 1969; The Report of the Law Commission of India (Forty-seventh) 1972.

14 Vellore Welfare Citizen Forum v. Union of India, AIR 1996 SC 2715.

15 Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, No. 29, Acts of Parliament, (1986) India.

16 Union Carbide Corporation v. Union of India, AIR 1992 SC 248, 281.

17 Id.

18 M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, AIR 1987 SC 965.

19 Moore v. Brester, (1944) 2 All ER 515; Tesco Supermarket Ltd. v. Nattrass, 1972 AC 153.

20 Dwarka Cement Works v. State of Gujarat, (1992) 1 Guj L Her 9.

21 M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, (2003) 5 SCC 376.

22 C.M. Jariwala, Corporate Environmental Criminal Liability in India: Reality or Myth, 3-5 RMLNLUJ (2011-2013) 98.

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Policy & Politics

LONG INTERVAL NEEDED FOR SMALL BUSINESSES TO BOUNCE BACK

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The effects of COVID-19 were on all the sectors but it dreadfully impacted the small business and entrepreneurs. The widespread closing of stores and businesses in India and around the world due to the coronavirus is unprecedented. Stores, factories, and many other businesses have closed by policy mandate, downward demand shifts, health concerns, or other factors. Many of these closures may be permanent because of the inability of owners to pay ongoing expenses and survive the shutdown. The impact on small businesses around the world is severe.

The survey, conducted by data firm Dun & Bradstreet has shown 82 per cent of businesses have experienced a negative impact during pandemic year. The survey was conducted among over 250 companies, evenly split between the manufacturing and services industries, having a turnover of Rs 100-250 crore yearly.

Over two-thirds, or 70 per cent, said it will take them nearly a year to recover demand levels prior to Covid-19. Over the past year, India has emerged to be one of the worst-affected nations globally by the Covid-19 pandemic. The resultant lockdowns, which are springing up again across the country with rise in cases, have an impact on the economic front as demand disappears along with a dip in income generation.

Post-Covid, the majority of small businesses have been looking to sell themselves due to issues such as health issues, lockdown-related challenges, working capital issues, etc. Even as small businesses were hit hardest due to Covid, which reportedly led to the closure or temporary shutdown of some of these units, there is no official data on the number of such shutdowns.

Micro and small enterprises are looking to sell themselves, the scenario at the ecosystem level seems to be moving towards recovery. However, beauty & wellness, which included salons, apparel, footwear and jewellery were yet to catch up to the pre-pandemic levels of sale.

The Government realizes the difficulties faced by the business owners and start-ups to establish and run them. To ease the burden and encourage new business setup and startups, the Government has launched various schemes for business. The Union Government of India has launched schemes specifically for helping the business in India.

While it was difficult for smalll business to survive, as the consumers remained home to stop spread of virus, many had to go creative to run their business. Although many failed, others survived using their innovative operation plans .

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Policy & Politics

REVERSE THE 32-YEAR EXILE OF KASHMIRI PANDITS

Kashmiri Pandits are longing to return to the Valley

ASHOK BHAN

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If there is a consensus across all the national and regional political Parties in the Country that is for safe & secured return of seven hundred thousand exiled Kashmiri Pandit Community back in the Valley-Their Homeland.Why the current union and LG government does not act to facilitate the return,rehabilitation and empowerment of these aborigines natives back to their roots in Kashmir Valley is a big question.?This is the right time to Reverse their exile and restore their rights of life,liberty and spiritual heritage in their homeland.They urge the PM Act with large hearted ness and with pride to respect the national consensus.Modi Government needs to plan a time bound return action plan and demonstrate statesmanship as the late Prime Minister -Inder K. Gujral who said: “If the nation’s coffers have to be emptied for dignified return and rehabilitation of this illustrious community back in the Valley, still it would be a lesser price for their contribution towards modern Indian State.

It reflects badly on the current regime that Kashmir today is without Kashmir Pandits. Realities are, at times harsh and strange. Kashmiri Pandits, the aborigine of Kashmir, are out in exile, in this modern age of reason and enlightenment. The forced exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits in 1990, designed to effect the motivated ethnic cleansing, will go down in the history of these aborigines of Kashmir as a continuation of the persecution and genocide facing for hundreds of years and the atrocities were peaked during despotic rule of Muslim tyrant kings.

Acute fear and scare had been created which gripped the Kashmiri Pandits from September 1989 onwards after killings of prominent members of the community.

The local government abdicated its constitutional duties and left the citizenry at the mercy of the terrorists who killed scores of Muslims and Pandits.Gun wielding terrorists had a free play.Killing one and scaring a thousand was the strategy of terrorists for selective Pandits. in 1989-90 an orchestrated campaign was unleashed on the loudspeakers of mosques around -“O Kafiro Kashmir Chod Do. Pandits started feeling what they had felt when hounded by Afgans in the second half of the 18th century —-The killers roamed around unchallenged that created fear and dread in the city. The aborigines native exodus was engineered under a concerted plan scripted and executed by the local terrorists that created death,destruction and disorder dominant around.

The terrorists maimed, killed, lynched and looted a large number of Kashmiri Pandits. The terror-stricken Pandits ran for life, leaving their homes and hearths behind them.

They sought refuge in Jammu, Delhi and elsewhere in the country. The cleansing process was completed and now the Kashmir Valley has a very small number of Kashmiri Pandits

How will the present as well as future generations realise that Kashmir is the keystone of our heritage through millennia, finding mention even in our oldest scriptures?

Kashmiri Pandits have rich heritage and their roots are engraved in the soil of the Valley for more than five thousand years which can neither be destroyed nor obliterated by any power,more so by unleashing terror and vicious campaign. But the ground reality in today’s free India and new age of enlightenment is —Aborigines Kashmiri Pandit Community is in exile for last thirty two years(32yrs)

Kashmir was considered the abode of Saraswati, the highest seat of learning in India, and was also referred to as Sharda Peeth. So much so that students on graduating from Kashi would take four symbolic steps towards Kashmir, denoting their aspiration for higher learning. Almost the entire body of Sanskrit literature has its origins in Kashmir.

Rajatarangini, an authoritative historical tome on the royal lineage of Kashmir, written by Kalhana in the 12th century, outlines the greatness of King Lalitaditya, possibly the most powerful Indian emperor of all times, whose kingdom in the 8th century extended from the Caspian Sea in the north to the Kaveri basin in the south, and included Assam in the east. How many Indians have even heard his name? How many of us know that Srinagar was established by Ashoka the Great?

Mahayana Buddhism was spread across mid Asia, China and Japan by Kashmiri monks. Patanjali gifted his yog sutra to humanity his. Sarangadeva is considered the father of both Hindustani and Carnatic music. Acharya Abhinav Gupta, one of the greatest scholars of all times, wrote 46 literary classics, including the renowned Abhinav Bharti. His principles of ras are being taught in 80 universities around the world. But the irony is that they did not get any respite even in the bright days of the enlightened times, especially in the post-independent days of India.

Whatever be the vicissitudes of their history all pale into insignificance when we look at their present plight. The colossal crisis through which the exiled community or for that matter the entire Kashmiri society is passing through is in reality the crisis in the country’s great values — the perversion in practise of its constitutional jurisprudence, the socio-political and moral norms.

The native Kashmiris have entered in the 32nd year of exile. Pandits are longing for return to their roots. They say bidding farewell to the soil they have sprung from is too traumatic as experience to be conveyed in words. They always say — “we love our homeland and every inch of its bounteous soil has nourished us all”.The everyday resolve of these hapless Kashmiris is — strive, struggle and stop not till the exile is reversed and they return back to their homeland on their own terms.

The successive Central as well as state governments have done precious little for the return and rehabilitation of this community, which has contributed in a big way to the freedom struggle of India against the British imperialism, and also to the national reconstruction in the post-Independent era. It is a community whose history generates envy at their achievements as well as sorrow at their plight today. The long history of these exiled Kashmiris has been of triumphs and tragedies. The antiquity of the Kashmiri natives and its Aryan origin are well established. Human memory is short and so is, unfortunately, the memory of our leaders, especially of the current dispensation. It was I.K. Gujral as Prime Minister who said: “If the nation’s coffers have to be emptied for dignified return and rehabilitation of this illustrious community back in the Valley, still it would be a lesser price for their contribution towards modern Indian State.

From 1989-90 till date the exiled Kashmiri Pandit groups across the globe are relentlessly striving as a mission for reversal of exile and restoration of their roots There is no one at the political level, not even the PM and the home minister or at bureaucratic level, prepared to stick their neck out and assure and commit any actionable time bound plan to restore the homeland ,dignity and honour to Kashmiri Pandits.

After the inoperability of Article 370 and bifurcation of JK State into two Union Territories,hopes and expectations that the Current government would pay serious attention to the plight and future of Pandits were sadly belied. The government has not ever consulted the representatives of the exiled natives nor there is any governmental return module/plan in public domain.

The exiled Pandits have been waiting for 32years, hoping that the day of their return with honour, dignity and security to their homeland will come. It has not so far, despite claims of the considerable improvement in the ground situation.

In the meanwhile, the plight of Pandits has been slowly forgotten. Everybody sheds crocodile tears over their suffering, but there is nothing by way of action.

Rootlessness syndrome and despondency is fast gripping.The future of Pandits, as an important stakeholder and component of the Kashmir is less and less talked about.However the hope is never lost.History is replete Pandit’s have always returned back to homeland after every hounding out exodus by tyrant rulers.

There are attempts by various social groups and civil society activists to ensure that the promises made by the nation, to restore the honour and dignity of Pandits, are not forgotten. These groupings are interacting vigorously with leaders of the government,theOpposition political parties and the international public opinion leaders to ensure that this dimension of the Kashmir scenario is not forgotten. The socio-religious leadership of majority community and the groupings those who have for some reason have chosen not to be part of the mainstream are helpful factors towards the return of natives back home.

The return of Pandits to their homeland is achievable ,there is a national consensus and the people of Kashmir are in unison craving /asking for return of natives. The Government of India and the LG administration have to plan out a common and comprehensive return module and enforce the same in time-bound framework. New Delhi has a constitutional and political responsibility to and demonstrate a strong political will. It has to create infrastructures, housing colonies, etc, provide adequate jobs to the educated youth and secure all the religious places, cultural centres and endowments. The greater obligation on the Central and LG governments is to create a conducive economic and socio-political environment for reversing their exile and facilitate their safe and dignified return to their homeland. — their roots and homeland.

If not now then when is what KPs are asking on their exile entering today the 32nd.year.

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Policy & Politics

SPICES BOARD OF CENTRE CONDUCTS MEETING WITH SCIENTIST COMMUNITY AND CHILLI CROP EXPERTS

Meeting done to chalk out strategies to tackle Thrips outbreak in chilli crop in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Chairman, Chilli Task Force Committee, G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, directs agricultural scientists to chalk out strategies to tackle the pest outbreak in chilli crops.

Tarun Nangia

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Severe Thrips attack in Chilli crops in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh has seriously affected the crop yield and the chilli farmers are highly distressed and worried about the crop loss, which will add on to their financial burden.

In order to chalk out ways to address the issue caused by the invasive Thrips species the Chairman, Chilli Task Force Committee, G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, MP, conducted a meeting with Scientist community and Chilli crop experts today. Organised by the Central Government’s Spices Board, the meeting was attended by eminent scientists from the ICAR- Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR), Dr YSR Agriculture University, ICAR- National Bureau of Agricultural Insect Resources (NBAIR), Indian Cardamom Research Institute (ICRI), Spices Board; officials from the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine & Storage (DPPQS), New Delhi, Horticulture Department from States of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and representatives from Chilli Seed Suppliers.

This video conference, chaired by GVL Narasimha Rao, was a follow up action to last month’s field visit to the pest-infested chilli farms led by him along with teams of scientists from institution and horticulture department to analyse the ground reality. Dr. A.B. Rema Shree, Director, Spices Board welcomed Shri Rao and experts and explained the gravity of the situation during the field visit conducted by a team of experts from IIHR, NBAIR, Spices Board, State agri / horti dept and other stakeholders in Chilli area. The field visits led by Shri Rao enabled the scientist communities to develop strategies / action plan to equip the farmers to prevent the further spread of pest attack and take precautionary measures to protect their crop.

During today’s meeting the detailed deliberation were made by the Crop experts and Scientists. Shri Rao requested the need for coherent and confluent approach to the deal the with attack from invasive pest Thrips parvispinus, in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karanataka other states, wherever this risk is prevailing. He emphasized to focus on developing advisories for farmers on Good Agriculture Practices, and recommend low-cost / affordable materials like blue sticky trap, cultivation of short duration chilli varieties, so that farmers can manage and survive the pest attack till a firm strategy against the pest is jointly prepared by the line departments and institutions. In meantime, Shri GVL Narasimha Rao, requested ICAR-IIHR to take the lead and analyse and screen for chilli varieties that are resistant to thrips attack from the affected plots in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana; he directed the IIHR entomologists to screen existing molecules which can be used against thrips and identify natural enemies of thrips with help of other institutes like ICAR-NBAIR.

The major reasons cited for serious infestation by invasive thrips were identified as the indiscriminate usage of pesticides, excessive application of Nitrogenous fertilizers, October-November rains, followed by hot and humid conditions which mediated triggering of thrips, replacement of common chilli thrips Scirtothrips dorsalis by invasive species – Thrips parvispinus, etc.

During the deliberations, the representative of State Agricultural Dept, Andhra Pradesh mentioned that the presence of thrips are now found in mango plantation also, which might affect the yield. It was also pointed out that the fields where the infested chilli crops were removed and Bengal Gram was grown, the latter crop also got infested with the thrips. The Deputy Director, State Horticultural Department, Karnataka mentioned that in major chilli growing belt in the state – Bellary and Raichur, the fruit rot is main issue and farmers have not been much affected by thrips attack, though it is equally damaging the chilli crop. The Director, Spices Board mentioned that due to fruit rot, the Board has received grievances from the Chilli manufactures that during value addition process, the final chilli product is losing its colour, which might affect the export of chilli from the country.

Citing all the observations made during the meeting, Rao asked IIHR and Spices Board to conduct joint training programmes to impart knowledge on Good Agricultural Practices by emphasizing on judicious usage of pesticides, use of Integrated Pest Management techniques, adoption of good hygienic practices in field to prevent as well as withstand the pest as well as disease attack. He also asked the two institutes to draw chilli samples from the market yards and test its quality to analyse and record how the pest and disease attack is affecting the quality of chilli as well as for recording the seriousness of pesticide residue in the final produce due to indiscriminate usage of pesticides from farmers to thrive the thrips attack. He asked the Joint Director (PP), DPPQS, to present the consolidated report by adding points suggested by the scientist community during the meeting, to the Secretary, Agriculture Ministry along with the report prepared by the DPPQS.

The meeting ended with request by GVL Narasimha Rao force to the scientists community to jointly work and share the details such as the publication of thrips attack worldwide in the various crops, the extent to which it caused damage, how the invasive thrip -’Thrips parvispinus’ was introduced in India, consultations with international pest management institutes to identify how various countries are tackling the issue, etc and prepare a consolidated report so that he can discuss it with Ministry of Agricultural and Farmers Welfare before the parliament session begins.

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INDIA TO ADD 50 FRESH UNICORNS IN 2022: STUDY

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In India more than 50 startups have the potential of entering the unicorn club in 2022 as showcased in a new study. This will take the total tally of India to well over 100 startup unicorns(those well valued over $1 billion each). The year 2022 has shaped up nicely to become a matrix and a petri-dish of startups and with each success the chances of others joining them becomes well over-precedent. The growth of startups can be attributed to various national economic policies and the ease of doing business norms. The shopping capabilities and buying parameters of the people also has to do a lot with this, the report by a consultancy firm suggested.

Amit Nawka, partner(deals and startup leader) in PwC India, which conducted the study said that, “ We can say that the base of these companies in growth stage and late-stage deals have improved have improved significantly in the calendar year 2021, depicting a stronger base of companies having the potential to reach the unicorn status. With market sentiments favourably inclined towards startups, and the large base of scaled startup companies at the end of CY21, we expect the startup’ unicorn tally to go well beyond 100 by the end of 2022.” Over $10 billion was invested in the Indian startup ecosystem in the October-December quarter alone, according to the report.

81 is the total number of startups in India as of now with a total valuation of 4274 billion. Of these 44 unicorns with a total valuation of $89 billion were born last year, shows data from Invest India, the national investment promotion agency. The PwC report shows that in the fourth quarter, startup funding crossed the $10 billion mark.

If we talk about categorisation, Fintech startups raised nearly four times more funds last year as compared to the previous year. Edtech followed closely with a growth of 86% compared to $2.2 billion raised in 2020. Software as a service came in a close third. Growth and late-stage deals comprised around 85% of the total funding. Among the most persistent and active investors were Sequoia Capital, Accel and Tiger Global. A December 2021 report by the Hurun Research Institute had mentioned that India is the third largest home for unicorns globally but trails the US and China by a wide margin.

Bengaluru and the Nation Capital Region witnessed nearly three-fourth of the total funding by venture capital and private equity funds, the report said. In its list of 50 potential unicorns it placed companies like Khatabook, Whatfix, Practo, Ninjacart, Inshorts, Pepperfry as among the candidates because of their history of having raised over USD 100 million to date.

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Effect of high rated fuel on country’s economy

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High fuel taxes combined with a recovery in international crude oil rates has affected millions of people, slowing down the recovery of the country. The price of petrol and diesel hits a new record everyday. In Mumbai, petrol can be bought at Rs 109.98 per litre and diesel costs Rs 94.14 for one litre as on 18th January.

Experts have warned that rising fuel rates could severely derail India’s economy, which is already under pressure due to the impact of the second Covid-19 wave. High petrol and diesel prices have not only impacted vehicle owners, but also people who do not own a car. Rising fuel prices have resulted in a sharp rise in retail inflation, making a host of essential commodities and services costlier for citizens.

Elevated tax levels are playing a major role in the current record high prices in India. The central government had last year increased levies on petrol by Rs 14 per litre and on diesel by Rs 16 per litre to shore up revenues as the pandemic forced a sharp slowdown in the economic activity. Central and state taxes currently account for about 53.5 per cent of the pump price of petrol and about 47.6 per cent of the pump price of diesel in Mumbai

The rising crude oil prices, and the higher taxation impact, have also contributed to the prices of petrol and diesel regularly setting new record highs across the country in 2021. Petrol in nation’s capital is priced at Rs 95.41 per litre while diesel in the national capital is retailing at Rs 86.67 per litre. India has seen a faster recovery in the consumption of petrol than of diesel after pandemic-related restrictions with petrol consumption up 9 per cent in September compared to the year ago period but diesel consumption remaining 6.5 per cent below 2020 levels. Diesel accounts for about 38 per cent of petroleum product consumption in India and is a key fuel used in industry and agriculture.

India has long pushed for Middle eastern countries to remove the Asian premium that Asian countries have to pay for crude oil as key oil producers set higher prices for India than for the US and European countries. Despite a 40 cent per barrel cut in the official selling price of light crude to Asia, Saudi Arabia is still charging a $1.30 premium on the benchmark price for light crude sold to India compared to a $2.4 discount on the benchmark price for European customers.

Experts have noted that countries like India do not have much bargaining power in the current market scenario where supply is lower than demand and that India’s bargaining power may be reduced further if we try to further diversify crude oil procurement. Also, the level of output and pricing benchmarks are decided by cartels such as OPEC.

So, Experts believe that the government should cut excise duty to some extent as it will provide some relief to customers and lead to higher sales and revenues which will accelerate the economy. But economic recovery will become tricky if the government continues to ignore rising fuel prices. If the commodity becomes too expensive, it would see a sharp decline in revenue.

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India-born top the list of founders among US unicorns: Study

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It is not only in India but in the US too that Indian founders are creating unicorns.

A study by Professor of Finance at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, Ilya A. Strebulaev researched that 90 out of 1,078 founders and entrepreneurs across 500 US unicorns were born in India which signalled a significant presence of Indian-Americans in the country’s startup and tech economy. He tweeted that, “Over four out of ten unicorn founders are first gen immigrants”. Indian born founders were followed by the ones from Israel and Canada with 52 and 42 founders respectively.

Some of the Indian origin founders of prominent unicorns include: Rohan Seth of Clubhouse, Baiju Bhatt of Robinhood, Dheeraj Pandey, Mohit Aron, Ajeet Singh of Nutanix, Apoorv Mehta of Instacart, Aayush Phumbhra of Chegg, among many others.

The research undertaken by Strebulaev is ripe at the time when India based technology want to return back home. Indian immigrants in the US are increasingly leaving their American dream behind because of visa issues and also because of the allure of a thriving startup culture in the home country. America has had a history of extremely successful Indian-origin entrepreneurs including Kanwal Rekhi, Pramod Haque, Sanjay Malhotra among others. India born executives are not only fueling the startups of the US but they are the executives of the most powerful tech giants.

U.S based Kaufman Foundation 33.2% of the co-founders of technology and engineering founded by immigrants in the US were Indians. Kaufman Foundation found out that Indian immigrant contribution in tech and startup industry was the only one that increased, all other immigrant contributions saw a decline. Another finding showed that 33 of the top 50 AI companies have at least one first generation immigrant founder. And 53 of the 125 founders are first generation immigrants. India and Israel were the largest senders of immigrant AI founders followed by the UK, China and Portugal.

India has a vibrant and an ever growing startup ecosystem. A recent report by venture capital fund Orios Venture Partners said Indian startups raised $42 Billion in 2021 up from $11.5 Billion in the previous year. The newly minted unicorns include ShareChat, Cred, Meesho, Moglix, MPL, Grofers(now blinkit), upGrad, Mamaearth, Acko, Spinny and others. India with 90 unicorns is the third largest unicorn hub behind the US(487) and China(301) and ahead of the UK(39). According to the report Flipkart was the most valuable unicorn($37.6 Billion).

India has seen four decacorns(companies with a valuation of USD 10 billion and above) so far- Flipkart, Paytm, BYJU’s and Oyo Rooms. While Bengaluru was the ‘Unicorn Hub’ with 18 unicorns emerging from the city in 2021 and 35 in all. It also happens to be the seventh largest unicorn city in the world.

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