IN INDIA, EVERY STATE ACTION MUST BE FAIR, FAILING WHICH IT WILL FALL FOUL OF ARTICLE 14: SC SETS ASIDE DIRECTION TO SHIFT NH TOLL PLAZA - The Daily Guardian
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IN INDIA, EVERY STATE ACTION MUST BE FAIR, FAILING WHICH IT WILL FALL FOUL OF ARTICLE 14: SC SETS ASIDE DIRECTION TO SHIFT NH TOLL PLAZA

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In an interesting turn of events, we saw just recently on September 23, 2021, the Apex Court in a well-articulated, well-analysed, well-substantiated, well-justified and well-concluded judgment titled National Highways Authority of India & Others vs Madhukar Kumar & Others vs Madhukar Kumar & Others in Civil Appeal No(s). 11141 of 2018 in exercise of its civil appellate jurisdiction set aside a Patna High Court judgment which directed the National Highway Authority of India to shift the toll plaza on Patna-Bakhtiyarpur four-lane road (NH-30) from Karmalichak near Deedarganj. Quite remarkably, the Bench of Apex Court comprising of Justice KM Joseph and Justice S Ravindra Bhat observed forthrightly that, “Undoubtedly, in India, every state action must be fair, failing which, it will fall foul of the mandate of Article 14. It is, at this juncture, we may also notice that the duty to give reasons, would arise even in the case of administrative action, where legal rights are at stake and the administrative action adversely affects legal rights.” Very rightly so!

To start with, this learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment authored by Justice KM Joseph for a Bench of Apex Court comprising of himself and Justice S Ravindra Bhat sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “Respondent Nos. 1 to 17 in this appeal (hereinafter referred to as, ‘the writ petitioners’), filed Writ Petition No. 5643 of 2012. The relief sought in this Writ Petition was to restrain the construction of a toll plaza at 194 km of NH30 in the four-laning of Patna-Bakhtiyarpur section of NH30, in violation of Rule 8 of the National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008 (hereinafter referred to as, ‘the Rules’, for short). The said Writ Petition was heard along with Writ Petition No. 4526 of 2013, filed by one Shri Ritesh Ranjan Singh @ Bittu Singh. By Judgment dated 22.07.2014, the Writ Petitions were allowed in the following manner by the learned Single Judge:

“32. Thus, on the basis of aforesaid discussions, these writ petitions are allowed and respondents no. 6 and 11 are directed to shift the proposed construction of Toll Plaza at 194 km milestone of Patna-Bakhtiyarpur Section of N.H. 30 from its present location to any other place on new alignment which separates from old N.H. 30 so that the violation of Rule 8 of Rules 2008 could be avoided and the persons who do not have intend to use toll road could be exempted from paying toll tax. The respondent no. 6 should take the decision of shifting the above stated Toll Plaza to any other place as discussed above within six weeks from today and till then respondents shall not collect the toll tax from those persons who do have intend to go through the old N.H. 30 without using the new alignment of toll road. The parties shall bear their own cost.””

Needless to say, the Bench then observes in para 2 that, “The appellants before us, who are NHAI, its Chairman and the General Manager, filed LPA No. 388 of 2015 against Writ Petition No. 5643 of 2012. The said Appeal came to be heard along with LPA No. 236 of 2015, filed by the concessionaire, arising from Judgment in Writ Petition No. 5643 of 2012 and LPA No. 332 of 2015 filed again by the concessionaire against Writ Petition No. 4526 of 2013, and by the impugned Judgment, the Division Bench confirmed the Judgment of the learned Single Judge.”

Most significantly, what forms the cornerstone of this brief, brilliant and balanced judgment is then summed up in para 60 wherein it is postulated that, “We would hold that as noticed by the Bench of three Judges in M/s. Mahabir Jute Mills Ltd., Gorakhpore (supra), there is no general duty, when an administrative decision is taken, to give reasons. A Statute may, however, explicitly provide that the Executive Authority must provide reasons and it must be recorded in writing. A case in point is the first proviso to Rule 8 of the Rules itself. The desirability of a general duty, in the case of administrative action to support decisions with reason, is open to question. One of the most important reason is, the burden it would put on the administration. It is apposite, at this juncture, to notice that administrative decisions are made in a wide spectrum of situations and contexts. The executive power of the Union and States are provided in Articles 73 and 162 of the Constitution of India, respectively. Undoubtedly, in India, every state action must be fair, failing which, it will fall foul of the mandate of Article 14. It is, at this juncture, we may also notice that the duty to give reasons, would arise even in the case of administrative action, where legal rights are at stake and the administrative action adversely affects legal rights. There may be something in the nature or the context, under which, the administrative action is taken, which may necessitate the authority being forthcoming with rational reasons. There are other decisions, which essentially belong more to the realm of executive policy-making, which ordinarily may not require the furnishing of reasons. The advantages, undoubtedly, of introducing a reasons driven regime, are as follows.”

As a corollary, the Bench then observes in para 61 that, “Persons, who may have a right or an interest, would know, what are the reasons which impelled the Administrator to take a particular decision. Judicial review, in India, which encompasses the wide contours of public interest litigation as well, would receive immeasurable assistance, if the reasons for particular decisions, are articulated to the extent possible. The giving of reasons also has a disciplining effect on the Administrator. This is for the reason that the reasons would capture the thought process, which culminated in the decision and it would help the Administrator steer clear of the vices of illegality, irrationality and also disproportionality. Reasons could help establish application of mind. Conversely, the absence of reasons may unerringly point to non-application of mind. The duty to act fairly, may require reasons to be recorded but the said duty, though there is a general duty on all state players to act fairly, may have its underpinnings, ultimately in legal rights.”

Interestingly enough, the Bench then envisages in para 62 that, “It is one thing to say that there should be reasons, which persuaded the Administrator to take a particular decision and a different thing to find that the reasons must be incorporated in a decision. The question, relating to duty to communicate such a decision, would arise to be considered in different situations, having regard to the impact, which it, in law, produces. In fact, the second proviso to Rule 17 of the Rules, provides not only for there being reasons, but the reasons for refusal to permit barricades, must be communicated. If the law provides for a duty to record reasons in writing, undoubtedly, it must be followed and it would amount to the violation of the Statute, if it were not followed. Even if, there is no duty to record reasons or support an order with reasons, there cannot be any doubt that, for every decision, there would be and there must be, a reason. The Constitution does not contemplate any Public Authority, exercising power with caprice or without any rationale. But here again, in the absence of the duty to record reasons, the court is not to be clothed with power to strike down administrative action for the mere reason that no reasons are to be found recorded. In certain situations, the reason for a particular decision, may be gleaned from the pleadings of the Authority, when the matter is tested in a court. From the materials, including the file noting’s, which are made available, the court may conclude that there were reasons and the action was not illegal or arbitrary. From admitted facts, the court may conclude that there was sufficient justification, and the mere absence of reasons, would not be sufficient to invalidate the action of the Public Authority. Thus, reasons may, in certain situations, have to be recorded in the order. In other contexts, it would suffice that the reasons are to be found in the files. The court may, when there is no duty to record reasons, support an administrative decision, with reference to the pleadings aided by materials.”

It is worth noting that the Bench then enunciates in para 82 that, “We have referred to the pleadings. We have also noticed the relevant parts of the DPR. In the Writ Petition, petitioners themselves have pleaded that the road in question is a national highway, and what is more, that it has been constructed merely for the use of the residents of the Patna Municipality Area. In our view, this pleading is fatal to the case of the petitioner that there is violation of the second proviso. As already found by us, the only requirement to locate the toll plaza within the municipal limits, is that a section of the national highway, inter alia, is constructed within the municipal limits and the construction must be primarily for the residents living in the said municipal limits. There is hardly any dispute that the national highway, which means the project road, commences from 181.300 kms from the Patna side and it goes to the east and till 196 kms, it is located within the municipal limits. After 196 kms, it branches of towards the south, which is the new bypass consisting of nearly 36 kms. The total stretch consists of a little over 50 kms. For nearly 14 kms, the road project road passes through the municipal limits.”

Furthermore, the Bench then observes in para 83 that, “The DPR would show that the construction of the project road and other roads, will bring about greater circulation of traffic in the area. In other words, it means that, the project road which begins from 181.300 kms, which was a two-lane road was widened to a fourlane road and the project road ends at 231 kms, where NH30 meets NH31. The Project Report also makes it clear that from km 180 to km 190 of the bypass section, there is a very congested stretch. From km 190 to km 195, it is further stated that there is agricultural land on both sides. Didardanj is located even further to the east, and still further is, Fatua town. Construction of the bypass in that area, was found to be impracticable and it is accordingly that from 196 kms, the new alignment towards the south, was carried out. The Project Report further reveals that the project road is only 50 kilometres long. Only one toll plaza could be provided. In this regard, Rule 8(2) contemplates the distance of 60 kilometres between two toll plazas. The Project Report further reveals that the NHAI Officials were available at the site along with the persons who prepared the DPR, and it is thereafter that this location was quite clearly accepted by the NHAI, as when it entered into the agreement with the Concessionaire, the agreement itself provides for the site of the toll plaza being km 194. It may be true that there may not be any decision which specifically incorporates the view of the NHAI regarding the site. What has apparently happened is, in keeping with the newly introduced Rule (Rule 8 of the 2008 Rules), the NHAI has proceeded to accept the recommendation of the Expert Body to locate the toll plaza at km 194.”

Frankly speaking, the Bench then observes in para 84 that, “We are not unmindful of the fact that counter affidavit of the appellants betrays a certain degree of ambiguity. This is for the reason that, what is pleaded in both the counter affidavits, was that, even if the toll plaza is located within the municipal limits, the second proviso to Rule 8 comes to the rescue of the appellant. This is sought to be exploited by the Writ Petitioners to point out that even appellants were not clearly aware, whether the toll plaza was being located within the municipal limits or not. Writ Petitioners also harp upon the clarity being infused by the counter affidavit filed by the Municipal Council of Patna that the toll plaza was located within the municipal area. We also agree that the matter becomes a little worse, when we read the pleadings of the Concessionaire. In the first counter affidavit, it was contended that the proposed toll plaza at km 194 is much beyond 5 kilometres stipulated in the first proviso. There is also pleading, which indicates that understanding of the Concessionaire was that the construction was for the overall population of the area. However, we must also not ignore that the upgradation was stated to be also aimed at benefitting the local population for the speedy movement from Patna to Bhaktiyarpur and vice-versa. In the second supplementary counter affidavit, it is contended that the four-laning was initiated to reduce the pressure of the local traffic as well and that it is primarily for the benefit of the local residents.”

Be it noted, the Bench then points out in para 85 that, “We are, indeed, troubled by the manner in which the case was approached by the Concessionaire, in particular. However, the appellants definitely set up the case under Rule 8 in both the counter affidavits filed by it. The statement that the second proviso applies, even if the construction is made within the municipal limits, is emphasised by the Writ Petitioners, to show the non-application of minds. We must, in this regard, bear in mind the nature of the lis, as also the rights of the Writ Petitioners. The High Court did not find any Fundamental Rights with the writ petitioners in the matters. The only issue is relating to violation of Rule 8. We have already found that upon the satisfaction of the objective criteria laid down in the second proviso, construction of the toll plaza, as provided therein, is permissible. Apart from the statement of the Writ Petitioners themselves, that the road is a national highway and it is merely for the use of the local residents, the undeniable fact is that, in place of the two-lane road, after a huge investment, it was upgraded to a four-lane road and nearly 14 kilometres of the project road, indisputably, passed through the municipal limits and the most important beneficiary of the said construction, can clearly be stated to be the residents in the municipal area. The project road, did enure chiefly to the residents of the Patna Municipality. The road from 180 to 190 kms was found to be a very congested stretch. The construction of the widened road, undoubtedly, helped mainly the residents of the municipal area. There are other features, apart from widening, including the graded separators. No doubt, it may be true that many persons may be using the said stretch, who may not be residents of the Patna Municipality, would also benefit from the construction, but that cannot detract from requirement of the second proviso being fulfilled, viz., that the construction was primarily for the benefit of the residents of the municipal area. The second proviso does not require that the construction must be solely for the benefit of the residents of the municipal area.”

Simply put, we cannot gloss over that the Bench then hastens to add in para 86 that, “There is another aspect, which we cannot ignore. The construction was completed in accordance with the agreement with the Concessionaire. The Judgment of the Division Bench came to be stayed by this Court and the toll has been collected from the toll plaza. Secondly, the High Court may not be justified in finding that the commercial expediency trumped the law. Commercial expediency is, undoubtedly, a relevant fact. The exact location of the toll plaza is also geared to garner maximum revenue. Concessionaire Agreement lasts for a particular period of time. It is the Concessionaire, who makes the construction, after making the entire investment. The contract contemplates “Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer (the “DBFOT”) under Rule 16 of the Rules, upon the expiry of the agreement, the fee is to be collected by the Central Government or the Executing Authority. Therefore, in such circumstances, any leakage in the toll, would naturally be sought to be avoided. As long as the site of the toll plaza is otherwise supportable, with reference to the second proviso, then, the area of judicial review, in such matters, would be extremely narrow.”

Quite significantly, the Bench then makes it clear in para 94 that, “It is the case of the Writ Petitioners that the decision to locate site of toll plaza at 194 kilometre is arbitrary. Under Article 14 of the Constitution, no State action can pass muster, if it is found to be arbitrary. But, then, a different or even an incorrect decision, would not make an otherwise lawful decision vulnerable to judicial scrutiny. An arbitrary decision would be one which is bereft of any rationale or which is capriciously wrong, and not merely an erroneous view, in the perception of the Court. Any other view would tantamount to substituting its view for that of the Authority. Judged by the said standard, and also the nature of dispute, it cannot be held that toll plaza, having been located at a point where there was sufficient space and which would prevent the leakage of traffic, and also noticing that stretch itself consisted of a little over 50 kilometres, quite clearly, the case based on arbitrariness, is only to be repelled.”

Finally and far most significantly, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 97 that, “The upshot of the above discussion is that we find as follows:

(1) The construction of the toll plaza at 194 kilometre was not illegal or arbitrary;

(2) The direction by the High Court, to shift toll plaza, cannot be upheld and it is liable to be set aside;

(3) The appellants will look at the barricades (closing of service roads) in regard to the toll plaza and permit such barricades only as are permitted in Rule 17 of the Rules. Any unauthorised barricades will be removed without any delay and at any rate within 2 weeks from today.

(4) The First Appellant will issue suitable directions to all Executive Authorities to maintain distinct records containing the decision, invoking the second proviso to Rule 8 of the Rules. Such direction shall be issued within 3 weeks from today.

(5) We direct the appellants as also the Concessionaire to extend the fullest benefits of the concessions under Rule 9 of the Rules.

(6) Resultantly, we allow the Appeal and set aside the impugned Judgment and the direction to shift the toll plaza is set aside.

(7) There shall be no order as to costs.”

To conclude, the upshot of the above discussion of this notable judgment of the Apex Court is that it goes beyond doubt that in India every state action must be fair failing which it will fall foul of the mandate of Article 14 of the Constitution. The Apex Court also made it clear that the duty to give reasons would arise even in the case of administrative action where legal rights are at stake and the administrative action adversely affects legal rights! Thus the decision by the Apex Court to set aside the Patna High Court judgment stands well justified! No denying it!

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Policy & Politics

INDEX NUMBERS OF WHOLESALE PRICE IN INDIA FOR THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER, 2021(BASE YEAR: 2011-12)

Tarun Nangia

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Note: P: Provisional, F: Final, * Annual rate of WPI inflation calculated over the corresponding month of previous year

The month over month change in WPI index for the month of September, 2021 (as compared to August, 2021) was 0.07 %. The monthly change in WPI index for last six-month is summarized below:

Annex-I

All India Wholesale Price Indices and Rates of Inflation (Base Year: 2011-12=100) for September, 2021

Annex-II

Note: * = Provisional, Mf/o = Manufacture of

Note: * = Provisional, Mf/o = Manufacture of

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Policy & Politics

One nation one election: From inception to constitutional/logistical issues

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‘The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity.”

In the yesteryears, when Late Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru was injecting the idea that India will awake to life and freedom, he certainly would not have had any idea that the same speech, to the same public and with the same zeal will be delivered by dissecting few of the words and adding spice wrapped in polarized feelings. Those occasions were five yearly festival of Indian democracy- elections where such speeches jumbled every now and then – could be heard and read.

But one could never fathom of a situation where complex electoral processes does not go simultaneously for the centre and state and in fact, takes place at intervals of every few months in the diversified though unified country like India. And the saga of speech would start once again, every second, for months. It took 20 years of independence and 17 years of first general election to break the chain. 1967 was the last time when India had near simultaneous elections.

The Constituent Assembly had scholars like Dr. BR Ambedkar who raised the issue of deciding the status of election commission i.e. whether it has to be a permanent body or a temporary one, giving logic for his take on the issue. At the same time, the far-sightedness of ones like Prof. Shibban Lal Saxena, threw light on the issue that mid-term dissolution of assemblies would push us to a situation of having elections before completion of five years and hence we cannot have such a commission which sits free for five years after conducting one and waiting for other election, and hence we have Article 324 in our constitution.

Kerala Assembly made debut for the mid-term dissolution and elections were held in the year 1960, unlike for rest of the country which was held in 1962. Nagaland and Pondicherry should also be kept under exceptions because assemblies here were formed only after 1962. Like every beginning has an end, similarly every end has a beginning. The end of simultaneous election had its beginning in 1970 when, on the wishes of Indira Gandhi, there was a premature dissolution of Lok Sabha on December 27, 1970 and mid-term elections were held in February 1971. The next political event was declaration of National Emergency, 1975. General Elections were held in the year 1977 and the newly formed Janta Parivar started to focus on dissolution of assemblies of few states after the 1977 victory. Such attempts, both at centre and state level, were rusting the greased process of simultaneous elections. The 1998 and 1999 dissolution of Lok Sabha acted as a catalyst for such rusting of simultaneous elections and now only three to four states go for elections with the Lok Sabha polls for last few years. Thus, the Election Commission now conducts state elections once or twice every year and so we get to hear the saga of speeches discussed earlier every few months.

The Hurdles in the path

The Representation of People Act, 1951 is relevant to throw light on the legal aspect of the possibility and shortcomings faced by the authorities for conducting simultaneous elections. Section 14 and Section 15 talk about notification for general elections to House of People and State Assembly respectively. These provisions are empowering in nature and hence the Election Commission, by virtue of these provisions, can notify elections keeping a gap of six months from the end of tenure of the house and this gap period has to be strictly adhered to. Usually, the election schedule is announced a few days before the notification is issued so that the individuals and institutions involved in the process gear up. Hence we can surmise that for the present state of affairs regarding elections of different states and for those assemblies ending their tenure in the span of less than six months, simultaneous elections are legally possible. But, this is not the only changes that shall be required.

Our constitution’s basic structure not only includes parliamentary democracy but also federalism. Also, the tenured elected legislatures are equally important to sustain parliamentary democracy. By bringing the scheme of simultaneous elections, tampering of constitutional accountability shall take place. This shall further deteriorate the structure of federalism that we uphold.

As we have a quasi federal state, our President and Governor neither reigns nor governs unlike United States where the President both reigns and governs and England where the King reigns but does not govern. Thus, by bringing simultaneous elections, we shall be indirectly bringing Governor and President at the pedestal to govern and reign, as when the Lok Sabha or the State Assemblies would be dissolved, the President and Governor shall be appointed as head of the executive. This was even suggested as one of the proposals in The Niti Aayog discussion paper, 2017.

The Paper and the Draft Report of the Law Commission in 2018 also suggested to shorten the tenure of few legislative assemblies and to extend the same of the others in order to synchronize the cycles. This would lead to chaos as why would an elected assembly would want a tenure of two years in place of the earlier promised five years. Similarly, it was also proposed to conduct only two sets of election in a time span of five years. This action in itself is anti-democratic as it goes against the right of citizens to elect their leaders at regular intervals.

This anti-democratic action can be curved into a democratic one by bringing the necessary constitutional amendments. In order to sync the tenures and terms, amendments shall be needed in the following Articles of The Constitution of India, 1950

Article 83(Duration of Houses of Parliament) and 172(Duration of State Legislatures) – These article provides for fixed tenure of five years of the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly. It shall need to be amended to match the requirements of flexible tenures in case of synchronizing elections.

Article 85(Sessions of Parliament, prorogation and dissolution) and 174(Sessions of the State Legislature, prorogation and dissolution) – These sections empowers the President and governor to dissolve the Lok Sabha and Legislative assembly respectively. it shall need to be amended to include synchronization as a reason to dissolve.

Article 356(Provisions in case of failure of constitutional machinery in States) – This article provides for when president or governor can act as head. This shall need to be amended to include manual tampering of tenures so as to create a path to shorten the tenures and also provide for a way to president or governor to act in situations.

In addition to these constitutional issues, there are logistical issues too. The logistical issues which are of major economical value bring with itself the shortage of the number of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). Presently, the complete set of single EVM including the voter-verifiable paper audit trial can be used for different elections taking place at different time and places for so long as is the recommended life of an EVM. One EVM can have the names of 16 candidates at maximum. Hence for those constituencies where candidates are even one more than 16, the second EVM has to be used. As a precautionary measure, few of the EVMs are kept as reserve and they are to be used in case the once installed earlier face issues. The number of polling stations in India is more than one million. Now the calculation has to start from providing every polling station with EVMs, that too double in number in case of simultaneous elections for centre and state. The procurement of such large number of EVMs does not limit the expenditure. Storage and security of the EVMs adds to the expenditure which undoubtedly counts to thousands of crores and this does not adds to decrease in the expenditure as is the view of proponents for simultaneous elections. As far as local body polls are concerned, the polling stations, the superintending authority and the judicial authority for taking cases of local elections are different from those of state or centre elections. Hence such issues only add to the logistical issues already faced by the election commission.

Conclusion

The idea of one nation one election is not alien to India. 1952, 1957, 1962 and 1967 pave way for the history of simultaneous elections. The synchronization shall definitely bring stability and strengthen nationalism. In long run, it might also help to cut expenditure and speed up development but the immediate expenses seem to be more than the cost benefit analysis. Moreover, the authors are of the opinion that one election might make the country more centralized and lead to tangential behavior towards local issues and regional parties. It might also transform our democracy to a managed democracy like in Russia. It might give the pretence of free and fair elections but the reality shall be far from it.

Thus, it is imperative that electoral reforms are needed but one nation one election is not the correct scheme to embrace under the ambit of electoral reforms.

The Constituent Assembly had scholars like Dr. BR Ambedkar who raised the issue of deciding the status of election commission i.e. whether it has to be a permanent body or a temporary one, giving logic for his take on the issue. At the same time, the far-sightedness of ones like Prof. Shibban Lal Saxena, threw light on the issue that mid-term dissolution of assemblies would push us to a situation of having elections before completion of five years and hence we cannot have such a commission which sits free for five years after conducting one and waiting for other election, and hence we have Article 324 in our constitution.

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MAKING IT HAPPEN: HIGH SCHOOL TRANSFORMATION IN GANJAM

Anil Swarup

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With the sole motto of ‘Desire for excellence in School Education’, the concept of transformation of high schools into Centre of Excellence (CoE) is based on the vision of Chief Minister of Odisha. The school transformation initiative aims to revolutionize the high school education paradigm of Odisha by upgrading the existing school infrastructure at par with the best of the private schools in the country. This has helped provide a highly conducive learning environment for the students from humble background and would also ensure the delivery of best quality education and training.

The major challenge of community participation and ownership was addressed through regular coordination meetings with PRI members, Block Administration, parents, alumni, School Management Committee (SMC), teachers and students. This also helped identify the needs and priorities of the school for imparting quality education. After several rounds of consultations, it was decided to bring about holistic changes in the existing infrastructure of the high school and re-establish it with Smart and Digital Class Rooms, e-Library-cum-Reading Room, Modern Science Laboratory, Hygienic Toilet, Safe & Pure Drinking Water and upgradation of Sports facilities.

After finalizing the above-mentioned priorities, the next challenge was to work out the finances to implement the said work. This is where the ‘Mo School’ initiative of the State Government played the role of a game changer. Under this programme, contributions were to be invited from alumni, donors and organizations for every school and the State Government would provide twice the matching grant against each donation received. For example, if a CSR contribution of Rs. 1 Lakh was received for a particular school, the State Government would provide Rs. 2 Lakhs for the said school and a total amount of Rs. 3 Lakhs would be made available for the development of the school.

In addition to the aforementioned, the local self-governing bodies such as Gram Panchayats and Blocks also earmarked their funds for transforming the local schools which would turn into an asset for capacity building of their children. The overall transformation work was closely monitored by the School Management Committee (SMC) in coordination with Block Technical Team in order to maintain a higher degree of transparency, accountability and timeline.

The main aim was to improve quality of education in high schools by using latest technology, upgrading infrastructure by means of smart class rooms and creation of interactive learning environment with audio-visual facilities. In order to inculcate the practice of reading and to develop soft skills among the students, a well-furnished Library-cum-Reading Room has been setup where students not only develop practice of reading books related to their syllabus but also various informative and motivational books.

To inculcate a sense of scientific temper among students, a modern integrated science laboratory has been setup. To facilitate easy understanding of various science concepts and theories, students will now get a first-hand learning experience by performing various experiments in the laboratory. The modern science laboratory will improve scientific reasoning abilities and practical skills of the students.

In addition to all the above, separate hygienic toilets for boys and girls were also ensured in the high schools. The idea is to ensure that students remain free from infection by developing good sanitation habits. The toilets are fitted with colored & designed tiles and with modern sanitary fittings to minimize wastage of water. Installation of napkin incinerators in girls’ toilet is also ensured to dispose the sanitary napkins in a hygienic way. It is also ensured that the teachers and students use the same toilet so that they take personal interest in maintaining cleanliness & hygiene. Special and dedicated toilet for students with special needs are also made an integral part of the new toilet pattern.

As a top priority, pure and safe drinking water facilities are being ensured in all schools under the ‘Nal Se Jal’ campaign of the State Government. Provision of water purifier is ensured in every high school for safe and pure drinking water. It has also been decided to upgrade the school playground with modern playing equipment in order to nurture young sporting talents.

An additional initiative called ‘Water Bell – The reminder’ has been launched by Ganjam Administration with a vision to inculcate the habit of drinking water at regular intervals among the students so that they stay hydrated and fit. As students spend most of the time in schools, water bell is a reminder for a strategic break for the students during the school hours to take a break and drink water in between the school sessions. Students are also encouraged to carry water bottle to schools

The efforts being made have the potential of transforming high school education in the entire state of Odisha, including Ganjam District . The idea of upgradation of Government high schools driven by 5T principles has not only resulted in the transformation of infrastructure but also developed self-confidence and motivation among students, teachers and parents coming from very humble background in rural areas. This ambitious initiative has become a reality only because of the concerted efforts of various stakeholders, especially the field level functionaries like BDOs, AEs, JEs, SMCs, Teachers, parents, students, etc. The success can be attributed to ‘Team Ganjam’ led by a young and dynamic Vijay Amruta Kulange. This team made it happen. All this could not have been achieved without political support from the top. The beauty of the model is that it is replicable, scalable and sustainable because all the stakeholders are on board.

Anil Swarup has served as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Offic. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.

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Policy & Politics

YES, KHAN SAHAB, INDIA CONTROLS INTERNATIONAL CRICKET

Ensconced in the lap of terror, a frustrated Pakistan trying to browbeat India for its own failure in cricket.

Vijay Darda

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Dear Imran Khan Sahab, I can understand your pain. Just before the match, if New Zealand returns to their country saying they cannot play because there is a threat of a terrorist attack, and if England refuses to come ahead of the tour, the embarrassment it causes to Pakistan is quite natural. It is certainly a matter of great shame. Besides, the profit that would have been made from the match, which would have filled the pockets, was also gone! It is an instance of misery worst confounded! Therefore, the discomfort and pain are natural.

When the New Zealand team was returning, I was thinking that you would say something about the terror situation in Pakistan. Pakistan, which is on the verge of ruin, will talk about reforming the Pakistan Cricket Board. Instead, your information minister Fawad Chaudhry did not know from where he came up with a bundle of lies stating that the device and email ID used to send threatening messages to the New Zealand cricket team are being operated from India. He even blamed someone called Omprakash Mishra from Mumbai! I could not understand how the information minister of a country could do such a stupid thing. As if this stupidity was not enough, the chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board Rameez Raja started saying that everything is a trick of the Board of Control for Cricket in India! The situation is worse in your country, your army and ISI are patronising terrorists and you are blaming India? Have some fear of God!

Now you are saying that India is controlling world cricket. Yes Khan Sahab! Of course, India has control over world cricket, for only those who are capable and whose players perform well for the nation wield control. I am specifically using the word ‘nation’ here. You may not understand this, so let me remind you of Kerry Packer. Between 1977 and 1979, when Kerry Packer had formed many of his teams, all the players of Pakistan had gone with him. Don’t you remember! You were among them too. Khan Sahab, not a single player from the Indian team went with Kerry Packer at the time because the pride of playing for the nation is more important to our players than money. As far as Pakistan is concerned, also think about how many of your players live in Pakistan and how many live abroad. You too used to spend more time abroad! Let me also remind you of the spirit of Indian cricket. We tasted our first Test cricket victory against England from whom we learned to play cricket. And yes, your forefathers of cricket must have told you that it was Pakistan against which India won its first Test series.

However, now let me tell you how the Board of Control for Cricket in India became so strong that world cricket came under its control while your country remained oblivious. First of all, the Board of Control for Cricket in India has been an independent organisation since its initial days. The way it was managed, especially in the last 30-40 years, is unimaginable. After winning the World Cup in 1983, money started coming to us. When the economy of our country improved, more money streamed in. We put this money to good use. Today, we have good stadiums in every state. Cricket is played from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. There are good sports facilities from school to university. The children who excel at that level join the state teams. After that players pass through levels like Duleep Trophy to Ranji Trophy. We groom players at every level. If our 11 players play, countless players are in the back rows who keep awaiting their turn. We have created a great structure of cricket in the form of the IPL. Opportunities have been made available to players around the world. It is a different matter that due to the antics of Pakistan, we do not give place to your players in this tournament.

You yourself have been saying that Pakistan should also have cricket infrastructure like India! Now you are the Prime Minister, so why don’t you do what you have been saying. Sir, you have government control over the Pakistan Cricket Board and the situation is chaotic. Politics has permeated everywhere. Your domestic cricket stands ruined. The players who are able to make it to the top, do so owing to their own hard work. There is no grooming. Forgive me if you feel bad, but there is a lot of arrogance in your cricket players too. Arbitrariness prevails. You must remember that you yourself retired thrice! You were a bowling superstar in 1992 but it is a mystery why you said that I will play as a batsman and that if I want, I will bowl! Khan Sahab, no player has ever shown such arrogance here.

We have no ego even at this point when we are running world cricket with our own money. We believe in promoting cricket. If the New Zealand team left just before the match and the England team did not turn up, it is not our fault. Pakistan has committed the sin of making itself the sanctuary of terrorists. Have you forgotten the dark wretched day of March 3, 2009 when the Sri Lankan team was attacked by terrorists in Lahore. Six players were injured and 8 people including 6 jawans of your security agencies were killed. So how can anyone trust you? Take a look at your own past, Khan Sahab! Who knows Indian cricket better than you? Still you are using incriminating language? Is this your political compulsion or are you under some political pressure? For, this cannot be the language of a player!

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

I fully agree with the statement of Imran Khan, the superstar cricketer of his time and now the Prime Minister of Pakistan, that world cricket is completely controlled by the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Khan Sahab, only one who is capable and whose players play dedicatedly for the game and for the nation wields control.

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Policy & Politics

India’s foreign trade: September 2021

Tarun Nangia

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India’s overall exports (Merchandise and Services combined) in September 2021* are estimated to be USD 54.06 Billion, exhibiting a positive growth of 21.44 per cent over the same period last year and a positive growth of 26.03 per cent over September 2019. Overall imports in September 2021* are estimated to be USD 68.49 Billion, exhibiting a positive growth of 70.00 per cent over the same period last year and a positivegrowth of 44.11 per cent over September 2019.

India’s overall exports (Merchandise and Services combined) in April-September 2021* are estimated to be USD 312.47 Billion, exhibiting a positive growth of 40.52 per cent over the same period last year and a positive growth of 18.30 per cent over April-September 2019. Overall imports in April-September2021* are estimated to be USD 341.10 Billion, exhibiting a positive growth of 64.91 per cent over the same period last year and a positive growth of 9.31 per cent over April-September2019.

* Note: The latest data for services sector released by RBI is for August 2021. The data for September 2021 is an estimation, which will be revised based on RBI’s subsequent release. (ii) Data for 2019, 2020 and April to June 2021 are revised on pro-rata basis using quarterlybalance of payments data.

* Note: The latest data for services sector released by RBI is for August 2021. The data for September 2021 is an estimation, which will be revised based on RBI’s subsequent release. (ii) Data for 2019, 2020 and April to June 2021 are revised on pro-rata basis using quarterly balance of payments data.

I. MERCHANDISE TRADE

EXPORTS (including re-exports)

• Exports in September 2021 were USD 33.79 Billion, as compared to USD 27.56 Billion in September 2020, exhibiting a positive growth of 22.63 per cent. In Rupee terms, exports were Rs. 2,48,605.74 Crore in September2021, as compared to Rs. 2,02,508.54 Crore in September2020, registering a positive growth of 22.76 per cent. As compared to September 2019, exports in September 2021 exhibited a positive growth of 29.86 per cent in Dollar terms and 33.92 per cent in Rupee terms.

• C The commodities/commodity groups which have recorded positive growth during September 2021 vis-à-vis September2020 are Coffee (62.55%), Cashew (49.4%), Petroleum products (47.91%), Cotton yarn/fabs./made-ups, handloom products etc. (40.5%), Engineering goods (36.83%), Organic & inorganic chemicals (29.65%), Man-made yarn/fabs./made-ups etc. (26.49%), Electronic goods (26.33%), Other cereals (21.18%), Fruits & vegetables (21.13%), Gems & jewellery (19.71%), Plastic & Linoleum (18.61%), Jute mfg. including floor covering (16.04%), Marine products (12.67%), RMG of all textiles (9.24%), Mica, Coal & other ores, minerals including processed minerals (8.82%), Leather & leather products (7.41%), Cereal preparations & miscellaneous processed items (5.64%), Rice (5.62%), Carpet (4.42%), Tea (3.2%) and Handicrafts excl. handmade Carpet (2.29%).

• The commodities/commodity groups which have recorded negative growth during September 2021 vis-à-vis September2020 are Iron ore (-72.77%), Oil meals (-39.05%), Oil seeds (-26.77%), Tobacco (-16.31%), Ceramic products & glassware (-14.15%), Spices (-13.56%), Meat, dairy & poultry products (-10.77%) and Drugs & pharmaceuticals (-8.45%).

• Cumulative value of exports for the period April-September2021 was USD 197.89 Billion (Rs. 14,63,048.24 Crore) as against USD 125.62 Billion (Rs. 9,41,358.09 Crore) during the period April-September 2020, registering a positivegrowth of 57.53 per cent in Dollar terms (positive growth of 55.42 per cent in Rupee terms). As compared to April-September 2019, exports in April-September 2021 exhibited a positive growth of 24.33 per cent in Dollar terms and 31.35per cent in Rupee terms.

• Non-petroleum and Non-Gems and Jewellery exports in September 2021 were USD 25.34 Billion, as compared to USD 21.33 Billion in September 2020, registering a positive growth of 18.82 per cent. As compared to September 2019, Non-petroleum and Non-Gems and Jewellery exports in September 2021 registered a positive growth of 33.39 per cent. Non-petroleum and Non-Gems and Jewellery exports in April-September 2021 were USD 149.89 Billion, as compared to USD 104.81 Billion for the corresponding period in 2020-21, which is an increase of 43.02 per cent. As compared to April-September 2019, Non-petroleum and Non-Gems and Jewellery exports in April-September 2021 registered a positive growth of 26.34 per cent.

IMPORTS

• Imports in September 2021 were USD 56.39 Billion (Rs.4,14,812.41 Crore), which is an increase of 84.77 per cent in Dollar terms and 84.97 per cent in Rupee terms over imports of USD 30.52 Billion (Rs 2,24,254.02 Crore) in September2020. Imports in September 2021 have registered a positivegrowth of 49.59 per cent in Dollar terms and 54.27 per cent in Rupee terms in comparison to September 2019. Cumulative value of imports for the period April-September 2021 was USD 276.02 Billion (Rs. 20,40,890.34 Crore), as against USD 151.94 Billion (Rs. 11,39,032.05 Crore) during the period April-September 2020, registering a positive growth of 81.67per cent in Dollar terms and a positive growth of 79.18 per cent in Rupee terms. Imports in April-September 2021 have registered a positive growth of 11.26 per cent in Dollar terms and positive growth of 17.59 per cent in Rupee terms in comparison to April-September 2019.

• Major commodity group of import showing negative growth in September 2021 over the corresponding month of last year is:

CRUDE OIL AND NON-OIL IMPORTS:

• Oil imports in September 2021 were USD 17.44 Billion (Rs. 1,28,268.20 Crore), which was 199.27 per cent higher in Dollar terms (199.60 per cent higher in Rupee terms), compared to USD 5.83 Billion (Rs. 42,812.53 Crore) in September 2020. As compared to September 2019, oil imports in September 2021 were 91.90 per cent higher in Dollar terms and 97.90 per cent higher in Rupee terms. Oil imports in April-September 2021 were USD 72.99 Billion (Rs. 5,39,582.43 Crore) which was 127.99 per cent higher in Dollar terms (124.67 per cent higher in Rupee terms) compared to USD 32.01 Billion (Rs. 2,40,166.21 Crore), over the same period last year. As compared to April-September2019, oil imports in April-September 2021 were 11.95 percent higher in Dollar terms and 18.30 per cent higher in Rupee terms.

• In this connection it is mentioned that the global Brent price ($/bbl) has increased by 81.55% in September 2021 vis-à-vis September 2020 as per data available from World Bank.

• Non-oil imports in September 2021 were estimated at USD 38.95 Billion (Rs. 2,86,544.21 Crore) which was 57.75 percent higher in Dollar terms (57.93 per cent higher in Rupee terms), compared to USD 24.69 Billion (Rs. 1,81,441.49Crore) in September 2020. As compared to September 2019, Non-oil imports in September 2021, were 36.16 per cent higher in Dollar terms and 40.41 per cent higher in Rupee terms. Non-oil imports in April-September 2021 were USD 203.03 Billion (Rs. 15, 01,307.91 Crore) which was 69.30 per cent higher in Dollar terms (67.02 per cent higher in Rupee terms), compared to USD 119.92 Billion (Rs. 8,98,865.84Crore) in April-September 2020. As compared to April-September 2019, Non-oil imports in April-September 2021 were 11.02 per cent higher in Dollar terms and 17.34 per cent higher in Rupee terms.

• Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports were USD 33.84 Billion in September 2021, recording a positive growth of 40.45 per cent, as compared to Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports of USD 24.09 Billion in September 2020. Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports in September 2021 recorded a positive growth of 23.79 per cent over September 2019. Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports were USD 179.07 Billion in April-September 2021, recording a positive growth of 58.26 per cent, as compared to Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports of USD 113.15 Billion in April-September 2020. Non-Oil and Non-Gold imports in April-September 2021 recorded a positive growth of 7.18 per cent over April-September 2019.

II. TRADE IN SERVICES

EXPORTS (Receipts)

• As per the latest press release by RBI dated 1st October 2021, exports in August 2021 were USD 19.57 Billion (Rs. 1,45,208.94 Crore) registering a positive growth of 21.36 per cent in Dollar terms, vis-à-vis August 2020. The estimated value of services export for September 2021* is USD 20.26 Billion, exhibiting a positive growth of 19.50 per cent vis-a-vis September 2020 (USD 16.96 Billion) and a positivegrowth of 20.13 per cent vis-à-vis September 2019 (USD 16.87 Billion).

IMPORTS (PAYMENTS)

• As per the latest press release by RBI dated 1st October 2021,imports in August 2021 were USD 11.52 Billion (Rs. 85,460.66 Crore) registering a positive growth of 24.52 per cent in Dollar terms, vis-à-vis August 2020. The estimated value of services import for September 2021* is USD 12.10 Billion exhibiting a positive growth of 23.86 per cent vis-à-vis September 2020 (USD 9.77 Billion) and a positivegrowth of 23.09 per cent vis-à-vis September 2019 (USD 9.83 Billion).

III.TRADE BALANCE

• MERCHANDISE: The trade balance for September 2021 was estimated at USD (-) 22.59 Billion as against USD (-) 2.96 Billion in September 2020, which is a decline of (-) 663.48per cent. As compared to September 2019 (USD (-) 11.67Billion), trade balance in September 2021 exhibited a negative growth of (-) 93.60 per cent.​

Concluding part is available on thedailyguardian.com

▪ SERVICES: As per RBI’s Press Release dated 1st October2021, the trade balance in Services (i.e. Net Services export) for August 2021 is USD 8.05 Billion. The estimated trade balance in September 2021* is USD 8.16 Billion, which is an increase of 13.58 per cent over September 2020 (USD 7.19 Billion) and an increase of 15.98 per cent over September2019 (USD 7.04 Billion).

• OVERALL TRADE BALANCE: Taking merchandise and services together, overall trade balance for September 2021*is estimated at USD (-) 14.43 Billion as compared to USD4.23 Billion in September 2020, a decline of (-) 441.40 per cent. In comparison to September 2019 (USD (-) 4.63 Billion), trade balance in September 2021 exhibited a negative growth of (-) 211.51 per cent.

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Analysis of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021

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INTRODUCTION

Abortion is an essential component of sexual and reproductive health care. It constitutes a reproductive choice of a woman to either continue with or terminate her pregnancy. But is it so easy to realize such freedom of choice? Amidst the age-old social stigma backed by poor legislation in India, women are often rendered helpless to access abortion care even in the worst of situations. Abortion remains stigmatised in India, even within the medical fraternity, as IndiaSpendreportedin September 2020. In such a scenario, the availability of safe abortion care to the vulnerable women becomes even far moredifficult.

The national rape-related pregnancy rate is5.0%per rape among victims of reproductive age (aged 12 to 45). Only 11.7% of these victims receive immediate medical attention after the assault, and 47.1% do not revieve any medical attention related to the rape. A total 32.4% of these victims do not discover their pregnancy until they have already entered the second trimester and only 50% are able to undergo abortion.

THE MEDICAL TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2021

The MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021aims to ease the pain of such rape victims and facilitates the termination of the unwanted pregnancy upto a period of 24 weeks. The upper gestational limit has further been removed in case of pregnancies accompanied by substantial foetal abnormalities. The amendment is a welcome step in addressing the physical and mental health issues concerning pregnancy in ‘vulnerable’ women, including rape victims. For a better understanding, the amendments in the MTP Act have been summarisedbelow.

Amendments made via the MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021 Setting up of MedicalBoards Section 2 of the MTP Act, 1971 has been amended to provide for the definition of “Medical Board”. Subsection 2D of section 3 further provides that the Medical Board shall consist of a Gynaecologist, Paediatrician, radiologist and such other members as may be notified in theOfficial Gazette by the State Government or Union territory. The powers of such a medical board have been prescribed under subsection 2C of Section 3 of the MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021.

‘Termination of pregnancy’defined The ‘termination of pregnancy’ has been defined under Section 2 (e) of the MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021 as “a procedure to terminate a pregnancy by using medical or surgical methods”.

Single Registered Medical Practitioner’s opinion sufficient to terminate pregnancyofless than 20 weeks Earlier, the opinion of at least two registered medical practitioners was required to terminate a pregnancy between 12 – 20 weeks. Now, Section 3 (2) (a) of the MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021 has been amended and seeking a second medical opinion has been done away with for terminating a pregnancy of less than 20 weeks.

Upper Limit for Termination of Pregnancy Extended to 24weeks The prodigious change sought to be achieved by the recent amendment is to allow for the termination of pregnancy upto 24 weeks in case of rape victims. Section 3 (2) (b) of the MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021 aims to relieve such rape victims from the extended mental trauma of birthing a child conceived out of sexual abuse.

Medical Board to have the final say in case of substantial foetal abnormalitiesSection 3 (2B) has an overriding effect on subsection (2) of the MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021. VideSection3(2B),iftheMedicalBoardhasdiagnosedsubstantialfoetal abnormalities in a particular pregnancy, then the provisions of subsection (2) relating to the length of the pregnancy shall not apply to the termination of pregnancy by the medicalpractitioner. In other words, the upper gestational limit in such pregnancies have been removed subject to the diagnosis of the Medical Board.

Anonymity of the women undergoing abortion

Reinforcing Puttaswamy judgement, the right to privacy of the women undergoing abortion has also been recognized. Section 5A of the MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021 restrains the medical petitioner from revealing the particulars of any woman undergoing abortion except to a person prescribed by law.

CONCLUSION

The MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021 is no doubt, highly ambitious at streamlining the abortion laws in case of irregular pregnancies. However, the implementation of this Act can itself prove to be a challenge in the coming times. The formation of the Medical Boards in various states has been left at the hands of the State governments without any strict plan for action. Adding another layer of barrier for availing abortion care will only create further delay in terminating such pregnancies.

Furthermore,theamendmentsfailtoaddressthechallengesthatwereearliersoughttobe covered under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill, 2014.The vulnerablewomen should have been given access to medical procedures from the earlier weeks of pregnancy for safer termination of such pregnancies. Since90%of such women seek abortion before 12 weeks gestation, training village-level healthworkers (auxiliary nurse midwives) and nurses to prescribe simple abortion pills could have helped to render safe services to the doorsteps of vulnerable women and, in case of complications, lead to timely referrals. Although the MTP (Amendment) Act, 2021 aims to do certain things right, the actual implementation of the amendments remains to be seen in future.

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