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Policy & Politics

FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION

Purva Narvekar

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The monologue ‘Two Indias’ performed by Comedian Vir Das is a burning topic of debate and discussion in the country since the video was released on 15th November 2021, on his YouTube channel ‘Vir Das COMEDY’. The said monologue was performed at the John F Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts; Washington D. C. (United States).The comedian is seen to have used analogies that are generalized in nature thus found by some to be misrepresenting the 1.38 billion Indian population on an international level. Some of the alleged defamatory and objectionable statements from his monologue in particular are; “… I come from an India were the AQI is 9000…; …where we worship women during the day and gang rape them at night…; …where we scoff at sexuality and yet F*** till we reach a billion people…; …where journalism is supposedly dead…; …where we bleed blue every time we play green but every time we lose to green we turn orange…; …where old leaders will not stop talking about their dead fathers and young leaders will not stop following their living mothers; …where we take pride in being vegetarians and yet run over the farmers who grow our vegetables …; etc.”

Exercising my right of free speech, following is the analysis ofthe monologue from a constitutional and criminal lawperspective to understand whether it is indeed defamatory and seditious in nature or not. 

DEFINITIONS

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines the word ‘Comedy’ as, “Professional entertainment with jokes, short acts, etc. that is intended to be funny” the synonym of which is ‘Humour’ whereas antonym is ‘Tragedy’. A comedy that is realistic, hard-hitting, and brings prevalent societal conditions to attention through satire and social commentary, is always praised and lauded but when the same hurts the sentiments of others, it ends up being misrepresentative, and becomes defamatory. In this context, it is worthwhile to consider: What is the cure? Who is to blame? Have a certain group of netizens turned intolerant? Or has the freedom granted by the Constitution being misused?  

Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution forms the core of Fundamental Rights bestowed upon an individual. Articles 14 guarantees, Equality before law and equal protection of the laws, Article 19(1)(a) guarantees, The right to freedom of speech and expression, while Article 21 guarantees, Protection of life and personal liberty. The combination of these three forms the basis of every argument be it the accuser or the accused. 

RESTRICTIONS 

Often the reasonable restrictions provided under the Clause 2 of Article 19 itself are not paid adequate attention to. The reasonable restrictions empower the State (Country) to restrict the rights of an individual in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. In the present case public order, decency or morality along with defamation has to be analysed.

In the 1964 case of Ranjit D. Udeshi V. State of Maharashtra, it was held that it is necessary that a balance should be maintained between “freedom of speech and expression” and “public decency or morality”; but when the latter is substantially transgressed the former must give way.

In the 1989 case of Bal Thackeray V. Shri Prabhakar KashinathKunte, it was held that the ordinary dictionary meaning of decency’ indicates that the action must be in conformity with the current standards of behavior or propriety, etc. and was not only limited to sexual morality.

In S. Khushboo v.  Kanniammal, 2010,  it was held that the different views are allowed to be expressed by proponents and opponents not because they are correct, or valid but because there is freedom in this country for expressing even differing views on any issue. An expression of opinion in favour of non-dogmatic and non-conventional morality has to be tolerated as the same cannot be a ground to penalise the author.

Public order, decency, and morality as reasonable restrictions on the right of free speech are very crucial concepts but both the legislature and judiciary have failed to properly define them. This brings a lot of ambiguity and vagueness to their interpretation; and consequently reduced to being subjective in nature rather than being concepts having any certain objectivecriteria.

To analyse if the monologue was defamatory, we have to look at the definition of “defamation” as provided under section 499 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 along with its 2nd explanation. 

Sec 499. Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter excepted, to defame that person.

Explanation 2. It may amount to defamation to make an imputation concerning a company or an association or collection of persons as such.

The basic principle of Criminal Law states that for any activity to be a crime there has to be a wrongful act (actus reus) and wrongful intention (mens rea). To come to a conclusion, it is important to ascertain whether the comedian INTENDED to defame his own country?  

It is important to note that there does not exist any legislation in India that penalizes an individual for defaming a country or holding its servants accountable concerning their official duties. Author Robert Castle in his article titled ‘Can you defame a country?’, states that, “If a country could sue for defamation of character, Bulgaria would have a strong case against many media outlets [New York Times or Wall Street Journal] for seriously, and maliciously, misrepresenting the country’s political, economic, and social situation.”

Keeping in mind that a country cannot be defamed, Explanation 2 of section 499 specifically mentions an imputation concerning an association or collection of persons. If we are to interpret it literally, we can say that such an association or collection of persons who feel that their reputation was harmed because of the monologue can legally prosecute the comedian. But was the comedian representing India in any official capacity that he was shunned the right of placing his personal opinions?

CONCLUSION 

In the 2019 case of Indibility Creative Pvt. Ltd. V Government of West Bengal, Justice D. Y. Chandrachud observed that underlying the vision of the artist is a desire to find a new meaning for existence. The artist, in an effort to do so, is entitled to the fullest liberty and freedom to critique and criticise. Satire and irony are willing allies of the quest to entertain while at the same time to lead to self-reflection.

To conclude it is important to know; whether any word, written or oral, is a symbol of freedom of speech and expression or falls under the realm of reasonable restrictions? Whether leaders should be held accountable on domestic forums or country’s dignity be kept for scrutiny at an international level? Whether the personal liberty of an individual is valuable or the social liberty of the citizens at large? Whether we have the right to place our personal opinions or only crude facts on behalf of the whole nation? Whether some groups of individuals are intolerant or tired of rampant generalizations? Whether as citizens we are always supposed to sing praises of our nation or can we also demand change? 

Morals and ethics are naturally wider concepts in comparison with criminal law. The former are the ideals of a greater good while the latter only deal with harmful social interactions. Criminal law comes into existence where morals and ethics fail. If we were to learn from our ancestors, the ancient Indian temples have carved and depicted the earth in various shapes, there existed a ‘Flat Earth Model’, ‘Concave Earth Model’, ‘Round/ Spherical Earth Model’, ‘Oval/ Oblate Spheroid Earth Model’, etc. This signifies that the country and its civilization as a whole have always allowed all the diverse opinions to exist. The truth or falsity is a later stage of evaluation but free speech has always prevailed. Given an opportunity to represent my country, its culture, and heritage I may personally choose to bring the positive generalizations to the limelight but does that mean I can forcefully withhold the other individual from exercising his right of personal liberty?

No country in the world has attained supremacy over the political, economic and social crisis in its entirety. It is indeed important to acknowledge the problems to be able to reach a solution. But to what an extent, calling ALL Indian men(worshipers of the Devine Feminine in particular) as ‘rapists’, is justifiable? Ours is a 75 years young country competing with the world, relearning its history and identity, though it is a mammoth task but sky is the limit for us in all the facets of development. So can’t we do our bit to come together with pride and represent India’s true spirit?! 

Jai Hind! 

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Policy & Politics

THIRD ROUND OF INDIA-UAE CEPA NEGOTIATIONS DUE TO BEGIN IN DELHI ON MONDAY

Tarun Nangia

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Union Minister of Commerce and Industries, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textiles, Piyush Goyal, met the representatives of Aluminium, Copper, and Chemicals and Petrochemicals Industry here today as part of the ongoing multi-stakeholder consultations related to the India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) negotiations.

The third round of India-UAE CEPA negotiations are scheduled to be held in New Delhi on 06-10 December 2021 wherein both sides aim to conclude the negotiations. Shri Piyush Goyal apprised the representatives from the Industry about the importance of the CEPA in elevating the overall economic and commercial relations with UAE which in turn will not only benefit bilateral trade but also create new jobs and provide wider social and economic opportunities.

Providing a way forward on these discussions, Goyal appreciated the accommodative spirit of the Industry and urged the Industry representatives to continue to support the CEPA negotiations in the same spirit in the wider interests of the nation contributing to the holistic development of multi-sectoral economic value chains in the country.

The Minister also stressed on the potential benefits from the envisaged CEPA agreement for Industries which are labour intensive in nature and also on the numerous complementary spill-over economic benefits, including increased investments, job creation and employment opportunities. Further, industry representatives were also apprised of the strategic importance of the agreement which encompasses deeper bilateral economic engagement and wider market access.

The stakeholders expressed gratitude to the Minister for taking into consideration concerns of Indian Industry and provided constructive inputs on this matter with a view to ensure overall balance between market access and domestic sensitivities.

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Policy & Politics

Rice has a share of more than 45% in the total APEDA basket of exports in April-November 2021-22

India’s exports of agricultural and processed food products witness an increase of more than 13 per cent in the first eight months of current fiscal notwithstanding logistical challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic

Tarun Nangia

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Notwithstanding logistical challenges posed by COVID19 pandemic, India’s exports of Agricultural and Processed Food products rose by more than 13 per cent in terms of USD in the first eight months of the current fiscal (April-November, 2021-22) compared to the same period of the previous year.






The export of products under the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) ambitincreased from USD 11,671 million in April-November 2020-21to USD 13,261 million in April-November 2021-22.

The target for exports under APEDA basket products has been fixed at USD 23,713 million in 2021-22.

The export of rice was the top forex earner at USD 5937 million during April-November 2021-22, growing 11 per cent over the corresponding period in 2020-21 when it touched USD 5,341million.

Meat, dairy and poultry products exports grew 12 per cent standing at USD 2665 million in April-November 2021-22compared to USD 2371 million in the corresponding eight-month period of 2020-21. Fruits and vegetables exports were up by 12 per cent to touch USD 1720 million during April-November 2021-22 against USD 1536 million in April-November 2020-21.

Exports of cereal preparations and miscellaneous processed items grew by 26 per cent during April-November 2021-22 to touch USD 1418 million against USD 1127 million in April-November, 2020-21. The cashew exports also grew by 29 per cent to USD 302 million in the first eight months of current fiscal compared to same period previous year.

The exports of oil meals declined by 12 per cent to USD 626 million in April-November, 2021-22, compared to same period in 2020-21.

Table: Agricultural and processed food products exports (April-November), 2021-22 vs 2020-21

Exports (April-November 2021-22) in USD million

Exports (April-November 2020-21) in USD million

Note: only oil meals exports declined Year-on-Year

The significant rise in agri-exports is seen as a testimony of the government’s commitment to increase farmers’ income through giving thrust on boosting exports of agricultural and processed food products of the country.

“We continue to focus on creating infrastructure for boosting exports by focusing on clusters in collaboration with state governments while taking into consideration objective of Agriculture Export Policy, 2018,” Dr M Angamuthu, Chairman, APEDA, said.

APEDA has been engaged with State Governments for the implementation of Agriculture Export Policy. Maharashtra, U.P., Kerala, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Manipur, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, M.P., Mizoram and Meghalaya have finalized the State specific Action Plan for exports while the action plans of other States are at different stages of finalization.

The rise in export of agricultural and processed food products has been largely due to the various initiatives taken by APEDA such as organizing B2B exhibitions in different countries, exploring new potential markets through product specific and general marketing campaigns by active involvement of Indian Embassies.

APEDA has also taken several initiatives to promote geographical indications (GI) registered agricultural and processed food products in India by organizing virtual Buyer Seller Meets on agricultural and food products with the major importing countries across the world.

In order to ensure seamless quality certification of products to be exported, APEDA has recognized 220 labs across India to provide services of testing to a wide range of products andexporters.

APEDA also assists in upgradation and strengthening of recognized laboratories for export testing and residue monitoring plans. APEDA also provides assistance under the financial assistance schemes of infrastructure development, quality improvement and market development for boosting export of agricultural products.

APEDA organizes participation of exporters in the International Trade Fairs, which provides a platform to the exporters to market their food products in the global marketplace. APEDA also organizes national events like AAHAR, Organic World Congress, BioFach India etc. to promote agri-exports.

APEDA also initiates registration of pack-houses for horticulture products for meeting the quality requirements of the international market. Registration of export units for peanut shelling and grading and processing units, for instance, is to ensure quality adherence for the EU and non-EU countries.

APEDA carries out registration of meat processing plants and abattoirs for ensuring compliance with global food safety and quality requirements. Another key initiative includes development and implementation of traceability systems which ensure the food safety and quality compliances of the importing countries. For boosting exports, APEDA compiles and disseminates various international trade analytical information, market access information amongst exporters and address trade enquiries.

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PIYUSH GOYAL REVIEWS PREPAREDNESS FOR MITIGATION OF CYCLONE JAWAD

Public Private Partnership necessary for Disaster Management and mitigation and for protecting lives and livelihoods, said Goyal

Tarun Nangia

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Piyush Goyal today reviewed preparedness for mitigation of cyclone Jawad.

Under the guidance of Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, proactive disaster preparation and management are being institutionalized. Prime Minister has personally reviewed the preparation for Disaster Management and has also given instructions to various Ministries to work with State Governments, industry and all other stake holders to ensure minimal damage to life and property.

In line with these efforts, the Minister for Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textiles, Shri Piyush Goyal today reviewed the arrangements and preparations made by the State Governments of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal today in a Video conference with the State Chief Secretaries concerned. National level Industry Associations like CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM and PHD Chambers were also represented at the Conference.

The Minister took stock of the preparations being made by the respective State governments. He also reviewed the suggestions for successful mitigation made by Ministries, State Governments, industry bodies and other organizations and appreciated the concerted efforts being made to mitigate the cyclone. He said that this collaboration was a worthy example of cooperative federalism at its best. He also underscored the need for the drawing of a comprehensive action plan towards managing this natural disaster in a most effective way by incorporating the inputs and suggestions given by all stakeholders.

Goyal said that public private partnership is necessary for Disaster Management and mitigation and for protecting the lives and livelihoods of those affected. Observing that the cyclone seems to be a milder one, the Minister said that we must constantly upgrade our learnings and keep upgrading our capabilities. He also called for preparedness in the banking and insurance sectors to tackle the effects of the cyclone.

As per the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the low-pressure region in the Bay of Bengal is expected to intensify into Cyclone Jawad and is expected to reach the coast of north Andhra Pradesh – Odisha around the afternoon today, with the wind speed ranging up to 100 kmph.

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Job generation: Big scope for expansion of labour intensive plastic, footwear and textile sectors, says Goyal

Tarun Nangia

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Piyush Goyal

Union Minister of Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution and Textiles, Piyush Goyaltoday called upon the captains of Indian Industry to set ambitious targets as our economy is poised for a sustained spell of rapid growth. Addressing the 5th Meeting of the CII National Council in New Delhi, he said the Industry has a huge role to play in the uplift of the poor and underprivileged.

Goyal encouraged the Industry to have a greater appetite for taking risks, to invest in Industries that may be less profitable at the start, but are labour oriented and create lakhsof jobs. He also urged the Industry to promote tribalhandicraft products as part of their CSR activities.

Goyal said there is big scope in the expansion of labour intensive Plastics, Footwear and Textiles industry. India cannot be truly Aatmanirbhar, without empowering its poor to be Aatmanirbhar, he added.

Goyal conveyed his appreciation for the Industry’s positive approach in FTA consultations. “Right now we are engaged in FTA negotiations with 6/7 countries,” he said. Citing India’s foreign trade as “very, very comfortable”,

Seeking accommodation in trade deals, Goyal said, “On our part, I believe, that it’s time that we engaged more with the world, we look at deeper engagement, – both imports and exports.” “If we (don’t) open our autos or spirits sectors, for example, it will open greater opportunities for India than the other way round,” he said.

Observing that 2020 has been a year of resilience for the Indian economy, Goyal said that in these unprecedentedtimes India has emerged as the ‘World’s Trusted Partner’ andis poised to contribute significantly to global growth. Policies of the Government in the last more than seven years, under the able leadership of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, have laid a solid foundation for growth of the Indian economy, he said.

Stating that all economic indices hinted at a fast growth trajectory, Goyal said India has Cost advantage as well as Trust advantage. “Services is growing at a fantastic pace, exports also are, of course on Merchandise,… Similarly remittances continue to be strong, FDI is at never before levels for the 7th time in a row, but this year the growth would be even much more, the capital markets are buzzing which means FII investments also and the IPO market is also gaining a lot of traction,” he said.

Goyal said the way we have fast bounced back since Covid, the way Industry geared itself up, Services sector, for example, reoriented their processes, Government supported Industry adopt WFH, we met all our international commitments throughout the Covid period including the lockdown. “Not for a second did any international supply chain, dependent on India, had to suffer, particularly the Services sector and for that matter even in the Goods sector,” he said.

Stressing that India is going through a sharp and strong revival, the Minister said that rising economic indicators point towards “India is shaping up for a growth decade.”

“Apna time aa gya (Our time has come)! This is the time to be in India & invest in India”, Shri Goyal said, adding “If we fail our Young Generation, it will be truly a sad day for India. We are at the cusp (of history). It’s our time to grab now, we’ll probably regret if we miss this opportunity.”

Goyal said that the Government is doing its part byundertaking transformational reforms such as PLI, PM GatiShakti, ODOP, Single Window, Retrospective tax amendment, National Asset Monetisation Pipeline, etc and opening up sectors like Defence, Space & Atomic Energy, Mining & Minerals, etc.

The Minister urged the top 100 CII members, that could comprise 1,000 companies, to onboard the NSWS Single Window clearance system and make full use of IILB Land Bank System. Resolving to use Indian materials to make a truly Aatmanirbhar Bharat, he said this will transform the future of India by making it self-reliant, resilient & competitive and will create jobs.

Shri Goyal said the Government has initiated several schemes for the benefit of the Industry and the public in general, including Power sector, One Nation, One Ration Card, world’s largest health insurance programme, – AyushmanBharat, UPI payments transfer and Jan Dhan banking for each and every home. “Government has focussed on saturating schemes,” he said.

Expressing confidence on the continuous Public-PrivatePartnership, Goyal said the Government is always thinking of how to empower the Industry and urged the entrepreneurs to come up with new ideas in nation-building.

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Policy & Politics

Share of agri-exports in GDP

Tarun Nangia

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The year-wise details of value of India’s agri-exports of principal agri commodity group along with its share in our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at current prices during last five years is as follows:

The agricultural products having exports of more than Rs 10,000 crore over the last five years is given in the table below. Last year we had 22.8% of growth in agri-exports with a share of 1.6% to GDP (highest in terms of growth and share in the last five years).

Source: DGCI&S, Kolkata and CSO, MoSPI

Source: DGCI&S, Kolkata

Government has taken several measures to boost exports, including agri-exports, such as:

(i) A comprehensive “Agriculture Export Policy” has been introduced toharness export potential of Indian agriculture and raise farmers’ income. Twenty One States viz. Maharashtra, U.P., Kerala, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Manipur, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, M.P., Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh and the 2 UTs vizLadakh and Andaman & Nicobar Islands have finalized the State specific Action Plans. State Level Monitoring Committees (SLMC) has been formed in 26 States and 4 UTs. 28 States & 4 UTs have nominated Nodal agencies for implementation of this AEPs. As part of the Agriculture Export Policy, 46 unique product-district clusters have been identified for export promotion. Twenty-Nine Cluster Level Committees have been formed in cluster districts of different clusters. Country and product-specific action plans have also been formulated to promote exports.

(ii) Products Specific Export Promotion Forums give impetus to the export of potential products as well as to remove the bottlenecks in the supply chain, Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) has formed Export Promotion Forums (EPFs) under the Chairmanship of Chairman, APEDA and having representatives of Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture, State Governments, National Referral Laboratories and top 10 leading exporters of each product for the products, viz., Grapes, Onions, Mango, Banana, Pomegranate, Floriculture, Rice, Dairy Products and Nutricereals.

(iii) 13 Agri-Cells in Vietnam, USA, Bangladesh, Nepal, UAE, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, China, Japan and Argentina were created in Indian embassies abroad to provide inputs on real time basis to enable us to improve Indian exports.

(iv) Further, In order to boost honey exports, India has made NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) testing mandatory for honey exported to USA.

(v) A Farmer Connect Portal has been set up for providing a platform for farmers, Farmer-Producer Organizations (FPOs) and cooperatives to interact with exporters. Buyer-Seller Meets (BSMs) have been organized in the clusters to provide export-market linkages. Regular interactions, through video-conferences, have been held with the Indian Missions abroad to assess and exploit export opportunities. Country specific BSMs, through Indian Missions, have also been organized.

(vi) Assistance provided through several other schemes to promote exports, including food export, viz. Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES), Market Access Initiatives (MAI) Scheme, etc. In addition, assistance to the exporters of food products is also available under the export promotion schemes of APEDA, Tea Board, Coffee Board and Spices Board.

(vii) Government has also introduced a Central Sector Scheme –‘Transport and Marketing Assistance for Specified Agriculture Products’ – for providing assistance for the international component of freight to mitigate the freight disadvantage for the export of agriculture products.

(viii) Common Digital Platform for Certificate of Origin has been launched to facilitate trade and increase FTA utilization by exporters.

(ix) Active role of Indian missions abroad towards promoting our trade, tourism, technology and investment goals has been enhanced.

(x) Package announced in light of the COVID-19 pandemic to support domestic industry through various banking and financial sector relief measures, especially for MSMEs, which constitute a major share in exports.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Anupriya Patel, in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha today.

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Policy & Politics

Share of India’s exports in annual GDP

Tarun Nangia

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The details of exports of goods and services and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at current prices, and percentage share of India’s exports to the GDP for the last five years and current year are as follows:

Source: National Accounts Division, CSO, MoSPI Note: RE: Revised Estimate, PE : Provisional Estimate

Source: National Accounts Division, CSO, MoSPI

The share of export of goods and services in GDP has increased to 18.7% during 2020-21 over 18.4% in 2019-20 and 21.7% in 2021-22 (April-September) over 19.4% in 2020-21 (April-September).

The details of the annual rate of growth of exports of goods and services and the corresponding annual rate of growth of GDP at current prices for the last five years and current year are as follows: This information was given by the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Anupriya Patel, in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha today.

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