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Riding on Maha surge, India registers 23k new Covid cases

Aditya Nair

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The number of Covid-19 cases in India is on the rise as the country recorded more than 23,000 new cases. Maharashtra, which is battling a massive coronavirus surge, reported 15,817 cases on Friday. This is the state’s highest single-day tally this year. 56 people also died of the illness in the last 24 hours, the state government said in a statement.

Maharashtra has the highest number of active cases in the country. As on Friday, active cases stood at 1,10,485—an increment of over 4,000 over Thursday. 

11,344 patients were also discharged on Friday, taking the total recoveries to 21,17,744, which is 92.79 percent of total cases reported.

The Centre is “very worried” about the upsurge in coronavirus cases in Maharashtra, said NITI Aayog member Dr V.K. Paul, adding the virus cannot be taken for granted if the country has to remain Covid-free. The remark comes after the Maharashtra government announced a week-long lockdown, from March 15 to March 21, in Nagpur.

The Union Health Ministry said that eight of the 10 cities with the highest number of active cases belong to Maharashtra, namely, Pune, Nagpur, Thane, Mumbai, Amravati, Jalgaon, Nashik and Aurangabad.

Furthermore, the Punjab government imposed night curfew in four more districts on Friday and closed all schools amid a rise in cases in the state, officials said. In total, the night curfew has been imposed in eight districts—Ludhiana, Patiala, Mohali, Fatehgarh Sahib, Jalandhar, Nawanshahr, Kapurthala and Hoshiarpur — from 11 pm to 5 am each day.

Meanwhile, Uttarakhand CM Tirath Singh Rawat, in his first cabinet meeting on Friday, decided to withdraw all cases registered in connection with COVID-19 violations.

The number of fresh cases reported daily in Uttar Pradesh has been showing an upward trend in the last 10 days with 187 new instances of the infection reported in a day, according to official data on Friday. Two fresh COVID-19 fatalities took the death toll in the state to 8,743, he said. Ten days ago, daily cases were in two-digits. Now it is seeing an upward trend, Additional Chief Secretary, Health, Amit Mohan Prasad said. 

On Friday, Tamil Nadu reported 670 new cases, 527 recoveries and 6 deaths.

Kerala added 1,780 fresh Covid-19 cases on the same day pushing the caseload to 10,87,792, while 3,377 people were cured of the infection, the state government said. With 14 more fatalities being recorded, the toll mounted to 4,369. Active cases touched 32,174 and recoveries increased to 10,50,603, state health minister K.K. Shailaja said in a press release.

Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir recorded 73 fresh coronavirus cases on Friday, taking the infection tally to 1,27,436, while the death toll reached 1,971 with two more fatalities, officials said. Of the fresh cases, 14 were from the Jammu division and 59 from the Kashmir division.

In Goa, as many as 82 people tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday, raising the tally of infections to 55,758, an official from the health department said. Apart from this, at least 40 patients were discharged from various treatment facilities, while one died of the infection during the day, the official said. This has taken the toll to 804 and the count of recoveries has reached 54,209, he stated. The coastal state is now left with 745 active cases.

Odisha’s Covid-19 tally surged to 3,38,056 on Friday as 64 more people tested positive for the infection, while one fresh fatality pushed the state’s coronavirus death toll to 1,918, said a health official. 37 new cases were reported in quarantine centres, while 27 fresh infections were detected during contact tracing.

Andhra Pradesh reported 210 fresh cases of Covid on Friday, the highest after two months, pushing the gross up to 8,91,388. In the 24-hour period ending at 9 am on Friday, 140 patients recovered and one succumbed to the virus in the state, the latest bulletin said. The number of active cases rose to 1,227 after a total of 8,82,981 recoveries and 7,180 deaths, it further said.

Overall in India, a total of 23,285 new infections were registered during the day, while the death count increased to 1,58,306 with 117 daily new fatalities, according to data updated at 8 am on Friday. 

The Covid-19 active caseload is 1,97,237 which now comprises 1.74 percent of the total infections. The recovery rate has increased to 96.86 percent.

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KERALA COVID SPIKE RAISES CENTRAL CONCERN, HIGH-LEVEL TEAM SENT

Reporting 22,064 new cases, Kerala announces complete lockdown on 31 July and 1 August; Maharashtra eases Covid curbs in 25 districts.

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Even as the Maharashtra government on Thursday decided to ease Covid-19 related restrictions in 25 districts of the 36 districts as the state is witnessing a decline in fresh infection cases, the Centre dispatched a high-level team to Kerala in view of the rising cases in the southern state.

Maharashtra Health minister Rajesh Tope made the announcement about relaxations after a meeting of the Covid-19 task force chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray who will take the final call and an order on the same will be out in a day or two. The 25 districts, including Mumbai, are those where the positivity rate and weekly growth rate are lower than the state’s average.

On Thursday, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, along with Tope, met the task force to know their view on relaxation and easing of Covid-related restrictions across several districts of the state. “We’ve decided to give relaxation in restrictions in 25 districts. Relaxation will be given in functioning of shops, theaters, cinema halls, gyms. There would be restrictions in wedding functions, etc, we would discourage using an air-conditioned hall,” Tope said, as the state witnessed 6.8 thousand new cases on Thursday. 

At a same time, no relaxations will be given to 11 districts that have more than average positivity and growth rate. “Things will be open on Saturdays with limitations, on Sunday, the restrictions will continue. Detailed guidelines will be issued in the next 2-3 days. Hotels and shops timings will increase till 8-9 pm. But they need to ensure staff is fully vaccinated; they’ll be allowed to function with 50% capacity,” Tope said. The state currently has 10 districts with positivity rates above the state average of 3.8%. These are Satara, Pune, Kolhapur, Sangli, Sindhudurg, Solapur, Ahmednagar, Beed, Raigad, and Ratnagiri.

The task force also discussed the issue of allowing fully vaccinated citizens to travel by local trains, Mumbai’s lifeline. The public health department of state is not in favour of allowing people with two Covid-19 doses to commute in suburban trains amid the threat of spread of infection due to the Delta Plus variant. While there has been rising demand for local trains, no decision has been taken yet on the same.

Meanwhile, the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has dispatched a high-level multi-disciplinary team to Kerala, which reported 22,064 new cases and pandemic-related 128 deaths on Thursday,to collaborate with the state health authorities in instituting effective public health measures for Covid-19 management. The six-member Central team to Kerala is headed by Dr S.K. Singh, Director, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The team shall reach Kerala on Friday and visit the most affected districts.

The team shall work closely with the state health department, and take a stock of the ground situation and recommend necessary public health interventions to contain the large number of cases being reported by the state.

The Kerala government on Thursday announced a complete lockdown amid the spike of Covid-19 cases from 31 July to 1 August, this year.

Kerala, with an active case load of 1.54 lakh, is contributing 37.1% of the total active cases in the country, with a growth rate of 1.41 in the last seven days. Average daily cases being reported in the state are above 17,443. The state has also reported a high case positivity of 12.93% cumulatively and 11.97% weekly. Six districts are reporting more than 10% weekly positivity.

Meanwhile, registering a spike, India reported 43,509 daily new cases on Thursday. As per the data shared by the Union Health Ministry, India’s active caseload now stands at 4,03,840 and active cases now constitute 1.28% of the country’s total positive cases.

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Govt to offer 27% quota for OBCs, 10% for EWS in medical courses

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The Central government on Thursday announced a 27 per cent quota for OBCs and 10 per cent reservation for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category in the All-India Quota (AIQ) scheme for undergraduate and postgraduate medical and dental courses from the current academic year, 2021-22.

“This decision would benefit every year nearly 1,500 OBC students in MBBS and 2,500 OBC students in postgraduation and also around 550 EWS students in MBBS and around 1,000 EWS students in postgraduation,” a statement issued by the health ministry said.

Terming it a “landmark” decision, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the move will ‘immensely’ help thousands of youth every year.

According to an official statement issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Thursday, Prime Minister in a meeting held on Monday had directed the Union Ministries concerned to facilitate an effective solution to this long pending issue.

“Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has taken a historic and a landmark decision for providing 27 per cent reservation for OBCs and 10 per cent reservation for Economically Weaker Section (EWS) in the All India Quota (AIQ) Scheme for undergraduate and postgraduate medical/dental courses (MBBS / MD / MS / Diploma / BDS / MDS) from the current academic year 2021-22 onwards,” the release informed.

The All-India Quota (AIQ) scheme was introduced in 1986 under the directions of the Supreme Court to provide for domicile-free merit-based opportunities to students from any state to aspire to study in a good medical college located in another state. All-India Quota consists of 15 per cent of total available UG seats and 50 per cent of total available PG seats in government medical colleges. Initially, there was no reservation in AIQ Scheme up to 2007.

In 2007, the Supreme Court introduced reservations of 15 per cent for SCs and 7.5 per cent for STs in the AIQ Scheme. When the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act became effective in 2007 providing for uniform 27 per cent reservation to OBCs, the same was implemented in all the Central Educational Institutions like Safdarjung Hospital, Lady Harding Medical College, Aligarh Muslim University and Banaras Hindu University.

However, this was not extended to the AIQ seats of state medical and dental colleges. “The present government is committed to providing due reservation both to the backward category as well as the EWS category. The Union Government has now taken a historic decision to provide for 27 per cent reservation for OBCs and 10 per cent reservation for EWS in the AIQ Scheme. The OBC students from across the country shall now be able to take benefit of this reservation in AIQ Scheme to compete for seats in any state,” the statement said.

“Being a Central Scheme, the Central List of OBCs shall be used for this reservation. Around 1500 OBC students in MBBS and 2500 in postgraduation will be benefitted through this reservation,” it added.

In order to provide benefit to students belonging to the EWS category in admission to higher educational Institutions, a Constitutional amendment was made in 2019 which enabled the provision of 10 per cent reservation for the EWS category.

Accordingly, seats in medical/dental colleges were increased over two years in 2019-20 and 2020-21 to accommodate this additional 10 per cent EWS reservation so that the total number of seats available for the unreserved category do not reduce. In the AIQ seats, however, this benefit had not been extended so far.

Therefore, along with the 27 pe cent reservation for OBCs, 10 per cent reservation for EWS is also being extended in AIQ seats for all the undergraduate/postgraduate medical/dental courses from the current academic year 2021-22.

This will benefit every year around more than 550 EWS students for MBBS and around 1,000 EWS students for PG medical courses. This decision is also in sync with the significant reforms carried out in the field of medical education since 2014.

During the last six years, MBBS seats in the country have increased by 56 per cent from 54,348 seats in 2014 to 84,649 seats in 2020 and the number of PG seats have increased by 80 per cent from 30,191 seats in 2014 to 54,275 seats in 2020. During the same period, 179 new medical colleges have been established and now the country has 558 medical colleges, including 289 government and 269 private.

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SNOOPING SAGA DISRUPTS PARLIAMENT, KNOCKS CJI DOORS

Opposition wants Pegasus discussion in presence of PM Modi and Amit Shah; 519 people and groups write a letter to the Chief Justice of India, seeking intervention.

Ashish Sinha

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The Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge on Thursday said that the Opposition wants to discuss the Pegasus snooping row in the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The day also saw 519 people and groups across the country writing a letter to the Chief Justice of India, requesting him to intervene in the matter. The letter states that using Pegasus spyware, the phones of journalists, Opposition party leaders and others have been spied on. 

Speaking to ANI after the joint meeting of the Congress parliamentary party groups consisting of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs, Kharge said: “The Pegasus is being discussed in more than 50 countries. What is there to discuss, the Home Minister should come to the House, discuss, give replies to the questions. After that, it will be up to us to take further steps.”

He added, “We have taken MPs views on future strategies. They want a discussion on Pegasus. Prime Minister and Home Minister’s presence is necessary during the discussion. This issue comes under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Probe on Pegasus is being done in other countries including France and Germany, than why not in India.”

The Opposition has alleged that names of several Indian politicians, journalists, lawyers and activists have appeared on the leaked list of a potential target for surveillance by the unidentified agency using Pegasus software. A joint meeting of Congress parliamentary party groups in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha was held on Thursday.

The meeting was held amid continuing protests by the Opposition parties led by the Congress in both Houses over their demands including the probe into allegations of surveillance through Pegasus and the repeal of three new farm laws.

As for the letter written to the Supreme Court, it said: “Human rights defenders have been imprisoned and victims of sexual harassment have also not been spared such shocking forms of state sponsored cyber-crimes, which are analogous to digital forms of state terror.”

“We are deeply disturbed by reports that journalists, lawyers, clients, activists, academics, students, and even complainants of sexual harassment, witnesses and their support persons were made persons of interest and targets of the Pegasus malware. Human rights activists have repeatedly asserted that such hacking as well as other kinds of abuse of office have resulted in malicious prosecution, wrongful imprisonment, custodial torture, and custodial death of political prisoners,” the letter said.

The letter has been signed by various activists, including democratic reforms (Aruna Roy, Anjali Bhardwaj) and human rights (Kavita Srivastava, Teesta Setalvad, Harsh Mander), scholars and practitioners of the law and lawyers (Vrinda Grover, Kalpana Kannabiran, Jhuma Sen, Aparna Chandra, Pratiksha Baxi) eminent academics and scientists (Zoya Hasan, Niraja Gopal Jayal, Utsa Patnaik, Jayati Ghosh, Rosemary Dzivuchu, Romila Thapar, Sukanta Chaudhuri, Ram Ramaswamy), acclaimed writers (Arundhati Roy, V. Geetha, Githa Hariharan, Amit Chaudhuri), musicians and artists (T.M. Krishna), architects and artists (Pushpamala N., Prem Chandavarkar, Vivian Sundaram), persons in political life (Kavita Krishnan, Manoj Jha, MP), journalists (Anuradha Bhasin, Patricia Mukhim, John Dayal) and others.

WITH ANI INPUTS

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ALWAYS TRY TO TAKE UP RELATABLE PROJECTS: VARUN SHARMA

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX, actor Varun Sharma spilled the beans about his new show ‘Chutzpah’, his working style, and much more.

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Varun Sharma will be seen in a new show ‘Chutzpah’. Talking about it, he said, “Internet is now embedded in our blood and system. It is impossible to live without it. The show talks about three to four different stories. The madness, chaos, craziness, relatability, and the reality of the digital world, is what ‘Chutzpah’ has to offer. I am playing Vikas, who is in love with Shikha. The show talks about how they are in a long-distance relationship due to certain situations, and how things change. The feelings and the rush of emotions are the same but because of not being physically there for each other, they are rather connected virtually and the story progresses further.”

Commenting on the comfort level of again working with people he has earlier worked with, Varun expressed, “It felt like a homecoming as it is the same people. Immediately after ‘Ruhi’, this is coming out. Dinesh Vijan had produced ‘Ruhi’ and it was created by Mrighdeep Singh Lamba. Once you work with friends and the people that you are close with, a lot of things become easier. In that sense it was a blessing to be working with them. The interesting fact is Manjot and I did not shoot together. We were working on different stories but we used to keep chatting about how is it going.”

Speaking about the relatability factor of ‘Chutzpah’, he said, “It is very relatable. Two years back, no one thought that everything will go digital. For example, we never thought of doing virtual interviews sitting in our houses. But things have changed. There is a lot of reality in the show which is relatable. Whether it is ‘Fukrey’, ‘Fukrey Returns’, ‘Dilwale’, ‘Chhichhore’, I have always tried to do, relatable projects. People comment that ‘Oh, even I do this, or my friend does this or this guy is the Chucha or the Sexa of our group.’ Playing a relatable character is something I always crave to do when I want to be a part of a project. That is also the same thought I had in mind when it came to ‘Chutzpah’. The show is out and people will witness how relatable the character is and they would want to talk about it.” Varun added, “This show is also going to be an eye-opener for so many relationships, which are long-distance right now. Couples will think, ‘Why are we talking like this? It is not because I don’t love you but because I am not physically there with you for the longest time.’ That’s why the conversations and the interactions are getting shorter. The camaraderie is getting affected. It is not because the love is fading away but the physical presence is not there. If people realise that it may save certain relationships. There are so many relationships around me that have been called off because of the pandemic and two people not being together.”

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Love thy nature to lessen pandemic anxiety

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The young but fragile Himalaya is blessed with rich biodiversity. Its valuable resources have traditionally served as the foundation for the economic and cultural life of a vast and vibrant population. 

A few attitudinal differences and climate change developments coupled with variation in soil conservation create striking changes in the terrain having fabulous flora and fauna. Such unique biodiversity not only encompasses ecological, scientific or economic values but it is also a capital of inheritance, passed down over generations, stressing the need for sustainable development.

BIOTIC INTERFERENCE 

Developments of past and present indicate extremes of biotic interference. Making wise use of biodiversity inheritance should not be tutored. It has to be felt, imbibed and carried forward when one is confronted with the tentacles of Covid auntie and whims and fancies of the Covid uncle. Without entering into the realm of discussion about the origin of the virus, one should believe that SARS-CoV-2 is an offshoot of the prevailing environment. An environment throttled by one and all.

FAUNA NEEDS FRESH LOOK

Coming to judicious utilisation rather than exploitation of floral and faunal wealth, there may be a need for a fresh approach. Not only do farming communities near forests have to be sensitised to extract forest and non-forest timber products properly but they also have to be briefed to leave enough scope for growth and sustenance of grass, shrubs, water bodies etc, vital for the life of animals such as lions, elephants, tigers, and deer etc. While saying so, one is not aiming to touch upon the crucial food chain, rather the purpose is to prick our mind specifically about the plight of gentle elephants, who, being vegetarian, show full loyalty towards their masters.

Of 27,000 Asian Elephants in India, 21% reside in Assam. Due to the loss of forest habitat, they are increasingly coming face to face with humans. Every year, around 100 of them, unfortunately, get killed. They are also misused in the Tourism industry. The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 bans the sale of captive and unregistered elephants.

The mere fact that they live, eat and move in groups or clusters, goes on to show their strong family instincts, something reflected glaringly in:

A) Episode of 18 elephants in Nagaon, Assam in May 2021 crushed by lightning

B) Freak, directionless walk of over 500 km by 15 elephants in Kunming area of Yunan province of China in June 2021.

SYMPATHY IS NECESSARY

Despite the inherent friendly attitude of the elephants and many other animals often the reports of entry into the human habitations hit the headlines. There has to be some reason for such an entry. What they get in return is hectic, irrational, and merciless action. The facial expression of the fauna in such a situation shows their state of helplessness. The onlookers, nevertheless, get sarcastic pleasure in having an exciting glimpse. Whether it is a case of entry by the loveable monkeys, leopards, tigers or the elephants into towns of different states, these should not be considered as an intrusion by the animals.

ASSERTION OF RIGHTS

 It is felt that such behaviour has to be viewed as a valiant act of assertion of rights by certain species to counter the actual intrusion into their bonafide habitat by shrewd human beings. There should be no justification to suppress or subjugate the innocent animals either by mechanical or muscle power.

Will our Forest Service friends wake up and take requisite action especially during the current wave of Covid-19 pandemic, when almost two dozen ‘positive’ tigers and a couple of similarly infected lions have already left the world? Lingering threat to pets and domestic animals who soothes our feelings when we are tired, and exhausted, also fill the atmosphere, time and again.

 Having stated so, I may humbly submit: “When the animal instinct among the humans crosses conceivable limits, the actual and bonafide sons and daughters of mother earth are left with no alternative but to react vehemently or justifiably.”

UNHEALTHY TUSSLE

It is not only the competition or tussle factor for habitat between the animals and human beings but it is a question of displaying adequate love and care for the natural endowments, indiscriminately gifted by the Almighty.

SAVIOUR DUTY

It may not be out of context to remind ourselves about the basic Hindu philosophy of emphasising reverence to the flora and fauna right from childhood. For generations, plants, such as peepal, banyan, tulsi, banana, mango etc. and the animals namely, cow, bull, lion, tiger, elephant, monkey, rat, cobra snakes etc. were being worshipped. Also, the morning ritual of offering water to Sun God, tulsi plant and peepal tree not only has given the requisite faith and confidence to the worshippers but it can also teach us again the forgotten lesson to do everything possible to Preserve flora and fauna.

To sum up, if we are mandated to avoid Social Interaction due to coronavirus and the more lethal third wave, how can we afford to undermine similar ‘social’ instincts among the animals?

Their state of hunger and helpless facial expressions during the last two rounds of lockdowns, calls for improving our overall attitude towards them. The timely food intake and sound health of fauna not only can improve their internal social behaviour but may also ensure a refined attitude towards their human handlers, caretakers or masters.

Even if we get rid of Covidity clinically, the love and affection displayed by the pets may prove much more valuable if not decisive in reducing our anxiety and depression. It may ultimately facilitate satisfactory healing of the community.

The writer is former Chief Secretary, the Government of Sikkim. The views expressed are personal.

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BE THE VOICE OF THE VOICELESS

Article 51-A (g) says that citizens must be compassionate towards all living creatures. Also, there are several wildlife protection Acts. Yet, we have betrayed our moral failure towards voiceless animals.

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India, being the land of sages, has always believed in ahimsa and equality for all living beings. The Constitution of India itself lays down in Article 51-A (g) that Indian citizens must be compassionate towards all living creatures. In the furtherance of it, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960 was enacted along with Wildlife (Protection) (WP) Act. However, in the past few years, we, as humans, have betrayed our moral failure towards voiceless animals. The testament to this is the growing reports of animals being subjected to sexual abuse, being burnt alive, acid and pebble attacks, thrown off from the rooftop, lit crackers on their tails, and even cutting them down in marble cutter, the list is endless and horrendous. How have we stooped down so low that we are finding our entertainment in torturing voiceless beings? 

PREVENTION OF ANIMAL CRUELTY

The Constitution imposes a fundamental duty on us to safeguard the wildlife and have compassion for all living creatures as a result of which the PCA Act was laid down as a measure to give rights of freedom and living to animals. The act was made in 1960 shows how little has been done since then. Unfortunately, in our country, the discussion related to animal rights revolves around political arcades, primarily cow slaughter or beef ban and protection for endangered species. Many animal lovers have been helping by rescuing and providing shelter homes, medication, and food to the tiny beings but for a collective measure, a well-executed law has to be made to safeguard the interest of animals.  

The PCA Act in Section 11 defines cruelty and lists a series of offences and prescribes punishment for the same. However, the act lacks basic connotation with today’s time and needs strict amendments. Disturbingly, the punishment for treating animals cruelly is punishable with a fine of Rs 10 that may extend to Rs 50 on first conviction. On subsequent conviction within three years of a previous offence, it is punishable with a fine of Rs 25 that may extend to Rs 100 or imprisonment of three months or with both. Performing operations like Phooka or any other operations to improve lactation which is injurious to the health of the animal is punishable with a fine of Rs 1,000 or imprisonment up to two years or both and experimentation on animals is punishable with a fine up to Rs 200.

The WP Act too provides lists of species of both flora and fauna which need to the protected from increasing commercialisation of animal goods in form of trading of endangered species, uses of their skin for beauty products, selling off their horns in the black market and further being used in medical by-products. The law brings all these malpractices under its supervision. The act also controls the hunting of wild animals, protection of national parks and sanctuaries, restrict the illegal trade of wild animals, and articles. Section 39 specifies that any wild hunted animal found, killed, fed, alive, or dead shall be the property of the state government. Likewise, Section 9 of the act prohibits the hunting of wild birds.

JUDICIAL APPROACH

Our legislative provisions and judicial pronouncements make an effective case for animal rights. But since no rights and laws can be absolute, regulation of animal rights is a must. Therefore, time and again judicial pronouncements have become voices of the animals and their rights.

In 2014, Supreme Court’s landmark judgment in decisions banning the bull-taming festival ‘Jallikattu’ can be described as a watershed moment in terms of animal rights. It not only recognised that animals have a constitutional right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution as well as the right to dignity and fair treatment.

In a landmark judgement of Punjab and Haryana High Court, it was observed that “entire animal kingdom including avian and aquatic are declared as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person”, touching the matter of animal rights in the purview of Fundamental Rights.

The latest judgment by Delhi High Court states that stray dogs have the right to food and citizens have the right to feed them. The Court observed that “we have to show compassion towards all living creatures. Animals may be mute but we as a society have to speak on their behalf. No pain or agony should be caused to the animals. Cruelty to animals causes psychological pain to them. Animals breathe like us and have emotions. The animals require food, water, shelter, normal behaviour, medical care, self-determination.”

In 2006, the Bombay High Court passed an important ruling, wherein any film meant for public viewing in which animal is used or filmed, has to obtain a certificate from the Animal Welfare Board of India. It safeguards animals from being exploited or ill-treated during filmmaking.

In 2014, Supreme Court banned the illegal transport of cattle to Nepal for the Gadhimai festival that played a crucial role in bringing down the number of animals sacrificed that year.

VIABLE ALTERNATIVES 

The Central government has already initiated the process of amendment of the PCA Act and other viable alternatives are being made for safeguarding the interest of animals at large. Some of the observations are as under:

In the present scenario of Covid-19, when every country is researching making successful medication and vaccines to end this pandemic, millions of mice, cats, dogs, rabbits etc are the ones on whom the trial is being done. This kind of horrible environment exposes animal cruelty. Through the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules (Second Amendment) 2014, animal testing for cosmetic products was prohibited all over India. But this subject needs more attention in today’s time. The present legislation in India needs to be modified by making more stringent laws.

Over the years illegal trafficking and poaching of animals across the borders have led to overexploitation of certain species to the point that their survival has become difficult and caused further cruelty to them. Wildlife resources must be managed sustainably and conserved by the law. For which the Indian Penal Code, 1860, under sections 428 and 429 constitutes that killing, poaching or torturing animals is a cognisable offence and is required immediate FIR and rigorous imprisonment which may extend to up to five years or fine or both.  

There should be finer and stricter rules implemented for the transportation of livestock in India. The amended motor vehicle rule is one such step in this direction which provides that vehicles without special licenses for such transportation should not be ply on roads and a healthy and safe environment should be provided to these animals. The excessive overloading of animals, permanent partition for transportation of individual animals, health checks up can be some of the additions. 

Shelter homes are the need of the hour. An animal that has been mistreated needs support and sometimes immediate for which there should be shelter homes with viable facilities. There should be proper checks and regulations with timely inspection of these shelter homes.

There should be 24/7 medical centres for animals, especially domesticated pets.

The PETA India suggested some regulations mandating the use of anaesthetics before castration and replacement of cruel practices. 

The PCA Act needs refined and stern punishment. The drafted bill has increased the fine three times the cost of animals or Rs 75,000 with the imprisonment of three years that may extend to five or both, has been proposed. 

Steps should be taken for the protection of ‘’dignity of the creature’’ like the law laid down in Switzerland which deemed activities degrading to the dignity of animals forbidden by law.

In many cases reported in India, the barking of dogs has been a cause of beating them and often owners try to stop dogs from barking. This should be considered illegal and pet owners should learn how to take care of their pets.

Registration of pets has become a mandate across the country. This is a huge step for making society pet friendly. Effective implementation of registration should be done and non–compliance to register should be met with dire consequences. People too should be responsible and help the government in this.

As per WP Act, there are some wild and endangered animals not just lions and tigers but a lot of exotic animals are banned to pet or keep domesticated. The reason for this is that these animals enjoy their natural habitats and can’t survive or properly nurture at our homes. We should not play down with the rule of the land and also report such incidents to the authorities at the earliest. 

The issue of animal rights revolves around the question of whether animals should be given the same protections as humans. They should be treated with the utmost respect, care, and love. Animals should not be considered helpless and voiceless beings. In a society, where we all talk about how to be civilised, we buffoon the idea that animals are meant to be caged. There are a lot of things we can do to protect animals. You don’t have to own a pet to help in the cause. Let’s all be the voice they wish they had, and make the choice they wish they could. Stop animal cruelty.

The writer is an Advocate at Punjab and Haryana High Court, Chandigarh. The views expressed are personal.

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