Political defection and intra-party democracy vs right to free speech to legislators in India: A matter of constitutional principles - The Daily Guardian
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Political defection and intra-party democracy vs right to free speech to legislators in India: A matter of constitutional principles

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India is not only the world’s largest democracy but also the most dynamic and flourishing democracy in the world as of now. Various social and political changes have been taking place in the country and the pillars of governance have been increasingly becoming democratic in its functioning. The democratic principles and the Constitution are more or less followed by both, state and common man in pretentious terms. But if there is one institution, where there is complete lack of internal democracy and disregard to its individual constitution, it’s the political parties. The bizarre irony is that these parties are the institutions that play a major role in running the Indian democracy through their leaders and representatives by preaching democracy and its principles to the entire country. But sadly, when it comes to preach the same, they make a complete volteface. Forget about Indian Constitution’s principles, they end up defying their own constitution and its principles.

The leaders of the political parties are expected to promote and encourage debate, discussions, and dissents in the country as a means to propagate the essence of democracy and transparency. People are expected to voice their views without fear of intimidation and express dissent as and when they feel dissatisfied with the opinion of any individual or organisation. But political parties are miles away from this proposition and they tend to keep themselves away from all this quintessential part of democracy.

There are numerable instances through which it can be inferred that Indian political system suffers from the vice of lack of democracy and transparency in its functioning including defections, confining MLAs into hotels and resorts, election of party leadership and functioning of party. The best part in this is that all the political parties seems to be on the same page and no one out of them is different from others when it comes to these things. Well, this might sound little ironical about this political unity and comity, this is the truth.

Laws against Political defection and chilling effect on Free speech

Out of all such instances, political defection is the most pertinent example of something which undermines the democracy in India. It is something which is a very common phenomenon in the political system and a quarterly event which has almost become unavoidable in the contemporary and modern democracy in India. To combat this evil of defection, India was one of the first states to enact the law against defection, also known as anti-defection law. India regulates such defections through Articles 102 and 191 of the Constitution along with the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution of India which was inserted way back in 1985, as a means to disqualify members on certain grounds. The grounds which is little disturbing is that the legislators shall be disqualified from the house in case he/she defies the party whip on any issue.

Most of the advanced democracies have not enacted any law against defection and have given free space for dissent in the system. In UK and US, it’s a routine phenomenon that legislators often disagree with their own party and partymen, and defy their party whip when they don’t agree with the views of the party on certain issues. Infact, in UK, the members often lose their individual membership from the party, but not their membership from the parliament. In US, Congressmen are not defected when they vote against their own party on any issue of importance. Compared to this, the law in India against defection is very strict and even a miniscule of dissent against the party and its whips on any issue might attract disqualification from the house.

 In India, legislators are not free to express dissents against their own party and they have to mandatorily align themselves with the view of party and its leadership, thanks to anti-defection law. It’s very obvious that the legislator cannot agree with the party and its leadership on every issue and should have right to express dissent. Due to these obstacles, various legislators were not able to express their independent views in the past on CAA, NRC Article 370, and Triple Talaq in the past because any such defying act would lead to their disqualification from the house. Recently, a deputy Chief Minister of the State of Rajasthan and few other MLAs of a State in India were served with a disqualification notice for inner party dissent which was equally violation of freedom of speech. While anti-defection law promotes political stability one hand, on the flip side, it doesn’t promote transparency, accountability, and representative democracy in the party. We need to remember that the legislators have their first duty, loyalty, and responsibility not towards their party or the leadership but towards their individual constituency which elected them.

As already pointed above, debate and discussion should be profoundly promoted but such provisions clearly defeats the principles of democracy and free speech. Clearly, such things will help us in keeping a check on the government and party’s leadership. Here, we give more focus to central cabinet than the individual views. Such blanket provisions allows the defiance of principles of separation of powers wherein the legislators are bound to work on the direction of executive and can’t disagree with them. Amidst all this, the legislator does more damage to its constituency than anyone else. As if the legislature and executive didn’t deter much, the Supreme Court ruling made it more blatant that if you want to criticise own party’s decisions, you will have to lose your membership of the house since it calls for voluntary giving up membership of the house. Thus whole process of defection is a gaffe to the democracy and the whole contemplation process in our legislatures has been reduced to buffoonery.

Intra-Party democracy and Political parties

Intra-Party democracy tends to promote constitutionalism in the country and is essential for its survival because it affects the inherent quality of democracy in the country. In India, none of the political parties, be it national or regional, follow their individual constitution. There is no intra-party democracy within the political parties and almost all the parties are autocratic in their functioning. There are various measures to check this assertion like election of party’s head, election of candidates for state or national elections, and funding of the parties. Amongst all the parties, none of the parties seems to follow a democratic approach while appointing their head, selecting candidates for the elections, or funding the election rallies.

One of the major reasons for such existing mechanism in the country is that India’s political parties are more leader centric rather than centralised leadership. Due to this, most of the leaders are unwilling to channelize the whole procedure for selection of their party’s candidates. Almost every party seems to be perpetuating dynasty politics in India, ignoring a proper channelized method of system and election. There is complete lack of transparency to this and everything happens through an entirely undemocratic process.

How do we expect these parties’ leaders to promote democracy in the country when they themselves are not able to portray the same within the parties? How far we will be controlling the state politics through New Delhi or national leadership? When will we promote federal politics in the country? Probably, we can learn from Germany which has achieved a remarkable feat in ensuring intra-party democracy and transparency in party funding and internal elections.

 Some efforts had been made by some people to combat this deficiency of anti defection law and promote intra party democracy, but all those efforts had been in vain. It is pertinent to note that in the past, a private member bill was moved by an legislator Mr. Manish Tewari to amend the anti defection law with a view to promote healthy discussions and free speech of legislators. But sadly, it couldn’t attain any finality. A PIL was filed in High Court of Delhi seeking directions from the court to Election Commission to formulate guidelines to regulate parties and bring intra-party democracy which was ultimately rejected. Top leaders from the two major national parties of the country including the incumbent Prime Minister have even expressed their concerns regarding the intra party democracy in the country. Despite all this efforts and concerns, no efforts have been taken by either organs of the democracy to promote free speech of parliamentarian and intra party democracy.

Recently, a petition was filed in the Rajasthan High Court by Sachin Pilot and other MLAs challenging the legality of the show cause notice by the Speaker served to them for not attending the party meeting and expressing dissent to the state leadership wherein they also challenged the constitutionality of Paragraph 2(1) (a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution of India. While ordering the status quo to be maintained on the showcause notices issued by the speaker, the Court framed 13 question of law but didn’t order anything on merits. While this has been challenged in the Supreme Court, it would be interesting to observe the outcome of this petition considering the fact that this would be the first case of its kind where the Court would be deciding the defection on the issue of intra party dissent and not crossing over per se. No Court has ever decided the defection on the issue of intra party dissent. Another question which ought to be decided would be regarding the ambit of party whip. Whether the whip applies only when the house is in session or does it apply to the legislator outside the house as well including internal party meetings?

Conclusion

 A Change is important because unless we democratised our political parties, we can’t really democratise the Indian parliamentary system. To promote the political stability and protect independence of legislators concurrently, it would be better if the current defection law is changed a bit. Possibly, the word term any issue should be removed and disqualification of members should not happen when they are willing to express their dissent against arbitrary law or policies which is being propagated by their party. The legislators should be allowed to exercise their right to freedom of speech and expression, as guaranteed under Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution. The legislators should be allowed to voice a difference of opinion outside the legislative assembly and it shouldn’t attract anti defection law. It should rather only happen if they are found defying the party’s leadership on few issues like money bills and no-confidence motions. Further, the member who has resigned shouldn’t be allowed to contest the by-election that happens soon after his resignation. Rather, he should be only allowed after the end of the term of the Assembly. In addition to this, it is high time that India develops a separate law for ensuring internal democracy amongst the parties along with financial transparency and accountability in their working. This is important because unless we democratised our political parties, we can’t really democratise the Indian parliamentary system.

Adv. Ankit Tripathi is a commercial litigator, appearing before various courts in tribunals. He is working as an associate with the chambers of Adv. J. Sai Deepak.

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Policy & Politics

PIYUSH GOYAL CALLS UPON STARTUPS TO LEVERAGE ‘DEEP TECH’

Goyal says start ups to build solutions for local & global markets: AI, IoT, Big Data, etc.

Tarun Nangia

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Piyush Goyal

The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Piyush Goyal today called upon the Indian industry to aim for raising 75 unicorns in the 75 weeks to the 75th anniversary of Independence next year.

“We have added 43 unicorns added in 45 weeks, since the start of ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ on 12th March, 2021. Let us aim for atleast 75 unicorns in this 75 week period to 75thAnniversary of Independence,” he said, while releasing the NASSCOM Tech Start-up Report 2022.

Goyal said Startup India started a revolution six years ago and today ‘Startup’ has become a common household term. Indian Startups are fast becoming the champions of India Inc’s growth story, he added.

“India has now become the hallmark of a trailblazer & is leaving its mark on global startup landscape. Investments received by Indian startups overshadowed pre-pandemic highs. 2021 will be remembered as the year Indian start-ups delivered on their promise, – fearlessly chasing opportunities across verticals – Edtech, HealthTech & AgriTech amongst others,” he said.

Goyal lauded the ITES (Information Technology Enabled Services) industry including the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector for the record Services exports during the last year. “Services Export for Apr-Dec 2021 reached more than $178 bn despite the Covid19 pandemic when the Travel, Hospitality & Tourism sectors were significantly down,” he said.

• “Let us aim for at least 75 unicorns in the 75 weeks to the 75th Anniversary of Independence”: Piyush Goyal

• Goyal lauds the ITES industry including the BPO sector for the record Services exports during the last year despite the pandemic

•  Piyush Goyal says the PM’s interaction with Startups a week ago has supercharged our innovators

• The next “UPI moment” will be the ONDC (Open Network for Digital Commerce) – Goyal

• New India is today being led by new troika of Innovation, Technology & Entrepreneurship (ITE), ‘India at 100’ will be renowned as a Startup nation: Goyal

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Subhas Chandra Bose statue to be installed in India Gate, announced PM Modi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Friday that a grand statue of iconic freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose will be installed at India Gate. This announcement came ahead of the 125th anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that his statue will be installed at India Gate to honor his contribution to the independence movement.

The Prime Minister further said that Bose’s grand statue will be made of granite and will be a symbol of India’s indebtedness to him. “Till the grand statue of Netaji Bose is completed, a hologram statue of his would be present at the same place. I will unveil the hologram statue on 23rd January, Netaji’s birth anniversary” PM Modi tweeted

“At a time when the entire nation is marking the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, I am glad to share that his grand statue, made of granite, will be installed at India Gate,” PM Modi tweeted on Friday. “This would be a symbol of India’s indebtedness to him.”

The statue will be installed under the grand canopy near which the Amar Jawan Jyothi flickers in remembrance of India’s martyrs. The eternal flame, which has not been extinguished for 50 years, will be put off on Friday, as it will be merged with the flame at the National War Memorial.

The canopy, which was built along with the rest of the grand monument in the 1930s by Sir Edwin Lutyens, once housed a statue of the former king of England George V. The statue was later moved to Coronation Park in Central Delhi in the mid-1960s.

The announcement was hailed by many Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, Union ministers and civil society members.

“Great news for the entire nation as PM @narendramodi Ji has today announced that a grand statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, will be installed at the iconic India Gate, New Delhi. This is a befitting tribute to the legendary Netaji, who gave everything for India’s freedom.” Amit Shah tweeted.

“Netaji is an epitome of India’s true strength & resolve. Congress has left no stone unturned to forget the immortal contributions of India’s brave son. PM @narendramodi’s decision to install Netaji’s statue at India Gate on his 125th Jayanti will inspire our generations to come.” Amit Shah added in his tweet.

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi will unveil a 216-foot statue of Ramanujacharya, a 11th century saint and a social reformer, in Hyderabad on February 5. The statue described as the ‘Statue of Equality is located in a 45-acre complex at Shamshabad on the outskirts of the city.

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‘US, India should set bold goals to attain $500bn target’, said Keshap

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Having achieved a huge success in their bilateral relations, two of the world’s greatest democracies – India and the United States of America should opt in favour of setting bold goals in order to take their relationship to a new high thereby achieving the ambitious target of $500 billion in bilateral trade echoes retired American Diplomat Atul Keshap, who recently became the new president of the US India Business Council (USIBC).

“I think it’s vitally important that we show that democracies can deliver; that the United States and India can be a driver of global growth and a model for prosperity and development in the 21st century,” Keshap said.

During his illustrious career, the veteran diplomat has served in various capacities with the US State Department. He has been the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives and has also served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.

In 2021, he took over as the Chargé d’affaires of the United States mission to India and has been instrumental in shaping the US-India ties under the Joe Biden administration.

“I feel it’s critically important that we show that open societies powered by a free enterprise can be relevant for their people and can help power the world out of this pandemic. I tend to agree entirely with President Biden and PM Narendra Modi that the US India Partnership is a force for global good and it’s going to have a huge impact on economic growth,” he said.

Keshap feels that USIBC is the podium where he can give his best and help the people from both countries. “We need to move forward on the global trade agenda. We need to ensure the prosperity of the future, especially after this pandemic,” he said.

The 50-year-old diplomat reflected on the vision set by Biden, about potentially having a $500 billion trade in goods and services between the US and India. “That’s a very ambitious number and I believe in it. It is a great idea to try to have ambitious targets, else we are on a standstill” he said.

Having donned the new role recently, Keshap said he wants to help meet that $500 billion bilateral trade goal. “This is where the government and the private sector have to work together hand-in-hand,” he said.

“We have to articulate the benefits and have to convince all our stakeholders that there is value in lowering trade barriers, in creating strong standards and in creating positive ecosystems. There is value in dealing with small technical issues that might be creating a blockage to greater prosperity between our countries,” Keshap said.

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Coal crisis: How private sector can power India’s growth

Tarun Nangia

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India has been reeling under a coal shortage crisis and the situation got aggravated in October 2021 leading to a lot of concern amongst various stakeholders including government bodies, thermal power plants, industry and investors. The shortages, triggered by global factors, of course with Indian peculiarities, threatened supplies to thermal-based power plants, leading to an alarm.

Recovering from Covid-19-induced reverses, the global economy has rebounded and gathered steam. This was one of the prime reasons why there was an acute shortage of coal and sources of energy, worldwide. Global coal prices have risen by 40 per cent.

Port based Indian power plants normally rely on imports. Given the global conditions, and the sharp rise in coal prices internationally, the power plants are now almost solely dependent on Indian coal. It’s in this context that the coal crisis has been amplified by various stakeholders.

While global factors did contribute, did we fail to take necessary action, over a period of time? To highlight one prominent factor: Why should the Coal India Limited have monopoly over coal mining / supplies? Consider the CIL performance in the last few years: Its output was 606 MT in 2018-2019, 602 MT in 2019-2020, and 596 MT in 2020-2021. Contrast this with various governments’ efforts to ramp up Coal production in the 1992-2010 period.

So, why did Coal India Limited fail to expand capacity? This is one big question that must be debated. It can therefore be argued that CIL’s monopoly on coal extraction and supplies (till very recently) is one of the prime reasons why India’s thermal power plants faced a coal crisis.

India has the world’s fourth-largest coal reserve, with around 300 billion tonnes of coal. But it is also true that it imports approximately 250 million tonnes of coal. This is because we don’t mine enough and use our resources optimally.

CIL supplies 80 per cent of India’s coal needs. The demand for coal in India is nearly a billion tonnes a year, and the supply is below 800 million tonnes.

Unfortunately, based on then CAG Vinod Rai’s miscalculations and the Notional Loss theory, the Supreme Court cancelled 214 coal blocks in September 2014. Private players were not given a patient hearing on the issue. Rather than encouraging them, the private sector got punished unfairly for its efforts to strengthen the economy through coal mining. If 100 out of 214 of those mines were functional and each one was producing, say, 4 mtpa of Coal, India today would be a net exporter, not importer, of Coal.

Rai’s theory and the Supreme Court judgment had devastating consequences. The coal production in the country took a hit. The country’s GDP declined by almost 1 per cent. Millions of jobs were lost. NPAs of banks with exposure to power, steel and mining sector rose exponentially. Such is Rai’s credibility that he recently tendered an apology to a Congress leader, who, Rai claimed in his book, “requested him to remove then PM Manmohan Singh’s name from the coal scam”. Taking a cue, if someone sues Rai for his Coal Scam theory and numbers, would he be able to defend his report in court?

Against the recommendations of CAG of incentivizing good performers who produce coal, the Supreme Court imposed an additional levy of 295 rupees per ton on the coal extracted from operational mines retrospectively from 1993. The private miners were directed to deposit more than Rs. 9000 crore as penalty.

The stagnating CIL coal output should be seen in this background. Being a monopoly, CIL could have been a saviour for the nation. CIL however neither ramped up production nor invested in technology or expansion of new mines.

In 2020, in a bold and much welcome development, the Union Government opened up commercial coal mining, thus ending Coal India’s monopoly. PM Modi said that he wanted India to be a net exporter of coal, as he set ambitious targets.

A lesson from the recent crisis is this – the CIL monopoly, along with the no-entry sign for the private sector, harmed the country.

There are lessons to be drawn from the opening up of the aviation sector for the recent coal crisis episode. With a series of measures, the aviation sector was opened up, with the Air India privatisation being the latest example. The economy, the nation and consumer benefitted. When sectors as diverse as Steel, Infrastructure and Healthcare were unshackled, the end consumer, the economy and the nation benefitted.

Similarly, if the private sector in coal mining would have been encouraged consistently, and ill-advised measures like cancellation of coal blocks not taken, the coal situation would not have come to such a pass. In 2014, the private sector was said to be accounting for 90 million tons of coal – a substantial figure. Instead of getting encouraged, the private sector had to fight protracted court cases and spend its time wastefully.

There’s a consensus that Coal would continue to power economic growth for a country like India for the next two decades. It’s important that this abundantly-available natural resource is used optimally. The Private Sector can play a key role here.

The Government has shown intent and commitment. It’s time for all the stakeholders to ensure that the country faces no shortage of Coal hereafter. It’s time we all learnt our lessons and ensure that Coal and Mining booms and fires India’s growth march.

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eGrocers seize the day as orders rise 40% amid third wave

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In the ongoing third wave of Covid-19 one industry tops it all with high revenue generation based on more than enough orders to double their size of operation. eGrocers are riding the Corona wave high with record number of orders rising in the third wave and inevitably increasing the rate of their operations. Since December the online grocer Blinkit has added 200 “dark stores” that are designed only for deliveries in ten minutes.The company now plans to take the number to 1000 by March. Reliance owned MilkBasket is more than doubling its warehousing capacity to almost 350,000 sq ft in NCR to cater to 1,50,000 orders a day, double the current order size. In the midst of the growing Covid-19 cases while the brick and mortar retailers and dine-in restaurants are holding out on their expansion plans, online grocers like Blinkit and MilkBasket are going all out on aggressively pushing to take advantage of the growing demand for quick online deliveries. Even at the time of the first and second wave the online grocers had been in the works to expand their operations as millions of Indians gravitated to digital commerce. However the ongoing third wave has made the push on market capitalisation more aggressive and ambitious. “One thing has changed in this wave that our pace of expansion has doubled,” said Rohit Sharma head of supply chain at Blinkit.

The main rival of Blinkit, Tata owned BigBasket is planning to launch BB Now, its express delivery service of delivering products in 10-20 minutes, joining the growing space of quick commerce. Currently Blinkit, Swiggy’s Instamart, Dunzo and Zepto are active in that space. T K Balakumar, chief operating officer at Big Basket said his company is planning to increase its existing warehousing capacity by 40%. They are also planning to open more than 300 dark stores in the coming financial year starting April.

During the ongoing Covid wave the orders in various cities have gone up by 30-40%, said the online grocers. Milkbasket is currently catering to about 70,000 orders per day in the NCR. Its new 150,000 sq ft warehouse in the region will be ready by next month. “There is excess demand. They are already running 110% of capacity,” said a person familiar with MilkBaskets’ plans. MilkBasket operates in Delhi-NCR, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai and is set to enter Jaipur later this month.

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India-assisted projects launched for Mauritius by PMs Modi and Jugnauth

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During a virtual event on January 20, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Mauritius counterpart Pravind Kumar Jugnauth jointly opened an India-assisted social housing project in Mauritius. The two leaders also opened a civil service college and an 8-MW solar power project in Mauritius, both of which are being funded by India, as per the external affairs ministry. According to the ministry, a bilateral agreement for the implementation of modest development projects was exchanged, as well as an agreement to grant a $190 million line of credit from India to Mauritius for the Metro Express Project and other infrastructure projects. The news follows Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s tour to Indian Ocean countries like Sri Lanka, Comoros, and the Maldives, during which the Chinese side disclosed a number of business initiatives. Mauritius is an important aspect of India’s “Neighbourhood First” strategy, with New Delhi supporting a variety of projects in the African island nation. India supplied immunizations and medical supplies to Mauritius during the initial stages of the Covid-19 outbreak.. Last February, India, and Mauritius signed a free trade agreement aimed at making the island nation a regional center for Indian investments, and New Delhi offered a $100 million line of credit to cover defense gear purchases. Both governments decided to lease a Dornier plane and a Dhruv advanced light chopper to monitor Mauritius’ exclusive economic zone at the time.The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Pact (CECPA) between India and Mauritius was the country’s first free trade agreement with an African nation.

METRO EXPRESS PROJECT

PM Modi and his Mauritian counterpart Jugnauth jointly launched phase-I of the rail transportation line between India and Mauritius in 2019. The Light Rail Transit System Project represents a watershed moment in Indo-Mauritian ties, delivering significant economic benefits to both countries. In addition, the project provided engineering and technical skill development possibilities for the island nation. According to Rajeev Jyoti, Chief Executive of L&T, the construction company that won the contract from the Government of Mauritius, the large-scale investment also established India’s credibility in the international railway market. The first phase comprised the construction of a 26-kilometer railway with 19 stations connecting Curepipe and Immigration Square in Port Louis. Two of the stations were described as cutting-edge. Three major bus interchanges are included in the alignment, making it a multi-modal urban transit system. The bilateral flagship program was expanded in June 2021 with the start of phase-II, which runs from Rose Hill to the Quatre Bornes sector. PM Modi and PM Jugnauth jointly inaugurated the Metro Express corridor, “providing a safe, secure, dependable, and efficient method of transit in Mauritius,” according to the Indian embassy in Mauritius. Three major bus interchanges are included in the alignment, making it a multi-modal urban transit system. The bilateral flagship program was expanded in June 2021 with the start of phase-II, which runs from Rose Hill to the Quatre Bornes sector. PM Modi and PM Jugnauth jointly inaugurated the Metro Express corridor, “providing a safe, secure, dependable, and efficient method of transit in Mauritius,” according to the Indian embassy in Mauritius.

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