Devika Balakrishnan, a 14-year-old daughter of a daily wage labourer in Kerala committed suicide on 1st June of this year since she was unable to attend online classes because she did not have access to the internet or television. In another incident, 14-year-old boy from Chennai also committed suicide for same reason.
These disgraceful incidents were seen as a product of failure of government to ensure means of internet connectivity to masses. It was also surmised from these incidents that ‘Digital Divide’ and ‘Digital Inequality’ have negative impact on people belonging to downtrodden section of society.
Covid-19 pandemic brought unprecedented compulsions to stay indoors due to inherent contagiousness and pervasive nature of the disease. In order to keep continuing daily chores as before, it was utmost important to replace physical connectivity with virtual connectivity. Internet connectivity played a crucial role in achieving such objectives which were constrained by physical connectivity due to impending pandemic.
PENETRATION OF INTERNET
At global level, more than 60 percent of the total world population have access to internet. But this percentage varies from country to country as developed countries like USA and Scandinavian countries more than 80 percent people have access to internet when compared with least developed countries where only around 20 percent population can access internet.
India is the second largest internet using country after China with around 700 million internet users. However, penetration rate in India is only about 40% compared to 80% in case of USA. In a reply to a question in Rajya Sabha, Sanjay Dhotre, Minister of State for Communications, Education, and Electronics & Information Technology, said Broadband penetration in rural India is limited to a mere 29.2 per cent, as on 31 March 2020.
‘The Indian Telecom Services Performance Indicators’ report of TRAI dated 30 June 2020 cited that Bihar (21.69), Uttar Pradesh (21.64), Jammu & Kashmir (16.58), Madhya Pradesh (23.88), and West Bengal (25) are the states that have the least number of internet subscribers per 100 persons.
A CASE FOR RIGHT TO INTERNET
Like any other infrastructural connectivity, internet connectivity is of vital importance for development of human being in the age of information and technology. The necessity of internet and its access to all populace in judicial manner cannot be ensured until and unless it is guaranteed by state itself. State plays pivotal role in granting equal access to communication technology and can ensure equal opportunities of development to all citizens.
Citing all these reasons, in 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Council General Assembly articulated access to the Internet an essential human right by releasing a non-binding resolution condemning intentional disruption of internet access by governments. The same resolution reaffirmed that “the same rights people have offline must also be protected online” in particular the freedom of expression covered under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Several countries like Costa Rica, Finland, France, Estonia, Greece and Spain have adopted laws that require the state to work to ensure the internet access is broadly available or preventing the state from unreasonably restricting an individual’s access to information and internet.
INDIAN CONSTITUTION AND RIGHT TO INTERNET
Constitution of India is the sovereign law of land and part three of the it enumerated various justiciable rights which are of indispensable nature in the sense that they are most essential for the all-round development (material, intellectual, moral and spiritual) of the individual. Although, right to internet has not explicitly been mentioned in constitution, it has been construed under ambit of various rights incidental to freedom, equality and right to dignified life.
Indian constitution is a profound blend of virtuous principles enshrined in various constitutions across the world. It tries to strike harmonious balance of rigidity offered by US constitution and flexibility offered by British constitution. This envisaged flexibility in constitution meant to incorporate changes owing to prevailing need of time.
Right to internet incorporated in the Constitution and it evolved as a product of various judicial pronouncements from time to time which are in nature equal force of statutory provisions. The Constitution called Supreme Court of India as a ‘Custodian’ and ‘Guardian’ of constitution. Higher Judiciary (High courts and Supreme Courts) entrusted to oversee execution laws in consistent with constitutional values in the country.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION THROUGH INTERNET
Article 19(1)(a) of the constitution of India guarantees freedom of speech and expression which inherently include right to access and distribution of information. K.M. Munshi while drafting the Constitution held that “freedom of speech and expression constitute the essence of democracy”. In People’s Union of Civil Liberties v. Union of India case, Supreme Court held that, ‘Freedom here means the right to express one’s opinions freely by word of mouth, writing, printing, picture, or in any other manner’. In Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, the Supreme Court recognised the internet as an essential medium to further the constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression.
This issue came again on forefront on 5th August, 2019 when the special status of Jammu and Kashmir granted under Article 370 of the Constitution of India was revoked by a Presidential Order. Due to possibility of exacerbating law and order problem in the valley, internet services were suspended prior to promulgation of the Presidential Order. Several writ petitions were filed before Supreme Court including one by Anuradha Bhasin, the then editor of daily Kashmir Times demanding restoration of internet access inter alia calling for judicial review of the internet shutdown order in Jammu and Kashmir.
In Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India case, the Supreme Court held that expression of one’s views and practicing any profession through the internet is a protected right under Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g).The Court also went on to elucidate that such online speech can only be impeded under the recognized restrictions under Article 19(2) and Article 19(6) and that the proper standard of review would be the test of proportionality.
In judgement Supreme Court observed that,
Law and technology seldom mix like oil and water. There is a consistent criticism that the development of technology is not met by equivalent movement in the law. In this context, we need to note that the law should imbibe the technological development and accordingly mould its rules so as to cater to the needs of society. Non recognition of technology within the sphere of law is only a disservice to the inevitable. In this light, the importance of internet cannot be underestimated, as from morning to night we are encapsulated within the cyberspace and our most basic activities are enabled by the use of internet.
Freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) can only be restricted with reasonable restrictions only on eight grounds mentioned in Article 19(2) viz. in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India or the security of the State, friendly relations with Foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of Court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
In S. Rangarajan Etc v. P. Jagjivan Ram case, Supreme Court observed that exercise of conditions in article 19(2) for curbing freedom of speech and expression should not be based on convenience but on necessity. Further court concluded this list of grounds is exhaustive one so that state must not encroach over freedom of speech and expression of citizens beyond these eight grounds.
Therefore, the Supreme Court extended the proportionality test which was earlier applicable to judging legality of curbing freedom of speech and expression laid down in Justice K.S.Puttaswamy(Retd) v. Union Of India to internet disruptions. This four-pronged proportionality test include firstly, the restriction should serve a legitimate goal, Secondly. it must be a suitable means of furthering this goal, Thirdly, there must not be any less restrictive but equally effective alternative and Fourthly the measure must not have a disproportionate impact on the right-holder. Court further held that ‘…Proportionality is an essential facet of the guarantee against arbitrary State action because it ensures that the nature and quality of the encroachment on the right is not disproportionate to the purpose of the law.’
FREEDOM OF OCCUPATION, TRADE AND BUSINESS WITH INTERNET
Since last few years e-commerce offering viable option of trading to people having limited capital and resources at their disposal. E-commerce industry becoming more and more popular in recent years. In the latest rankings of the world’s top websites illustrate the dramatic rise of Asia’s ecommerce platforms. In its latest list, Alexa ranked China’s Tmall in third place in the global website rankings – that’s ahead of both Facebook and Baidu.
Article 19(1)(g) guarantees freedom of occupation trade and business subject to restrictions laid down under article 19(6) of the constitution. In Chintaman Rao v. State of Madhya Pradesh Supreme Court held that, the phrase “reasonable restriction” under Article 19(6) connotes that the limitation imposed on a person in the enjoyment of the right should not be arbitrary or of an excessive nature, beyond what is required in the interests of the public. This restricts power of state from doing any unreasonable activity which directly or indirectly circumvent freedom of occupation, trade and business with internet.
In Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India and Others. The Supreme Court held that freedom to practice any profession or carry on any trade, business or occupation over the medium of internet enjoys Constitutional protection and therefore is requisite to Article 19 of the Constitution subject to reasonable restrictions. Suspending Internet service not only obstruct conducting online businesses but also deprive individual from their source of livelihood.
RIGHT TO LIFE WITH DIGNITY AND INTERNET
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution reads as “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law”. This right is so sacrosanct that can not be infringed even in the state of emergency. According to Justice P. N. Bhagwati, Article 21 “embodies a constitutional value of supreme importance in a democratic society.” Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer has characterized Article 21 as “the procedural magna carta protective of life and liberty”.
Over the years, arena of Article 21 substantially expanded through interpretational judgements of Supreme court and various High courts to accommodate various aspects of life that needs to protected for ensuring dignified life of individual. It incorporated Right to livelihood, right to health, right to pollution free air, right to live a quality life, right to go abroad, right to privacy, right against solitary confinement, right against delayed execution, right to shelter and right against custodial death after enactment of constitution.
Right to internet can be construed as an inherent part of Article 21 from various judgements. In Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court quoted and held that, By the term “life” as here used something more is meant than mere animal existence. The inhibition against its deprivation extends to all those limbs and faculties by which life is enjoyed. The provision equally prohibits the mutilation of the body by amputation of an armoured leg or the pulling out of an eye, or the destruction of any other organ of the body through which the soul communicates with the outer world.
Right to access internet came again in limelight when petitioner, Faheema Shirin, a female student at Sree Narayaguru College who was residing at the Women’s Hostel run by the college. She was expelled from hostel on a ground that she was using internet beyond permissible hours mandated by college authorities.
In this Faheema Shirin v. State of Kerala case, Single judge bench led by Justice P. V. Asha held that right to internet is part of right to life with dignity which emanates from right to privacy and right to education in the light of development of students and their learning process. Hon’ble justice observed that, “the enforcement of discipline shall not be by blocking the ways and means of the students to acquire knowledge. They should be left to choose the time for using mobile phones. The only restriction that can be imposed should not cause any disturbance to other students.”
Court came to these conclusions by referring to international conventions and directive principles. Here relying on Vishaka & Others v. State of Rajasthan & Others court held that,
“the international conventions and norms are to be read into the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution of India in the absence of enacted domestic law occupying the fields when there is no inconsistency between them” in the light of Articles 51(c) and 253 of the Constitution of India. Accordingly, the Court concluded that “the right to have access to Internet becomes the part of right to education as well as right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”
Another landmark judgement of Supreme Court came in the case of Foundation for Media Professionals v. Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir popularly known as 4G case which sought restoration of 4G internet services in Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Here court concluded that there should have been balance between national interest and human rights and every move of restoration such human right should be qualified with national interest.
HOW RIGHT TO INTERNET CAN MAKE CHANGE
Internet has opened a new world for many people around the world since it is a manifestation of never-ending innovation and creativity. It brought world much closer and integrated multiple cultures through fusion of information and made territorial boundaries almost oblivious.
According to International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Measuring digital development: Facts and figures 2019 report, more than 4.1 billion people were using internet in 2019 with 5.1% growth from previous year. There are more than 3 billion social media users worldwide. With right to internet, state can ensure bridging ‘Digital Divide’ gap between those who have access to internet and those who don’t have such access.
Recognition of right to internet would facilitate state to promote Digital literacy and get rid of digital inequality which is evident from the fact that more than 70 percent of rural population do not have broadband internet access. In a difficult time like global pandemic, the internet is not just a medium of expression but a key element of access to healthcare, public information, education policy, and an offshoot of the right to life. So, it can contribute affirmatively in efficient implementation of policies in critical times.
Internet access can significantly contribute in accelerating all social development objectives and targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. Digital India Programme, which aims to transform India into digitally empowered society and knowledge economy has nine pillars, of which six are directly related to internet access.
THE OTHER SIDE
Despite numerous positive aspects of granting right to internet, there are some issues that needs to be addressed before effectuating any step further in this direction. Right to access internet is a freedom at its core and no freedom can be absolute one. It should be subject to rules and regulations framed in good faith.
There are also some legal complications of incorporation of right to internet since there is no consensus where to compartmentalise this right. Such complexity can burden judiciary with litigations and have potential to hamper its implementation in good faith. State can resort to technical tactics of “Bandwidth throttling” to vitiate purpose of granting this right.
In recent times, many countries have attracted opprobrium for the sheer number of internet clampdowns imposed. For protecting any such move by any authority, it is necessary that such right to be recognised at global level and encapsulated in constitution of each country.
Internet has been so embedded in the lives of people, acting as the main way for information exchange, that to deny access to everyone in the world is a breach of human rights. It is in fact the undiscovered ocean of information and in present the greatest supplier of knowledge. Right to internet access and digital literacy will alleviate situation and allow citizen to avail better opportunity and lifestyle.
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A PAGE FROM A REPORTER’S DIARY WHILE COVERING THE VAJPAYEE PRIME MINISTERSHIP
There has been a lot of focus on the Vajpayee era recently because of two books that have recently been published: Vinay Sitapati’s Jugalbandi: The BJP Before Modi and N.K. Singh’s Portraits of Power that refer to the said period. I too recall covering that period as a young reporter for the Sunday magazine (and later on Aaj Tak and Outlook). There are many books on the Vajpayee era but since he did not write an autobiography (unlike L.K. Advani) or commission one, it is very difficult to get an insight into what he was feeling at critical junctures of his prime ministership—or indeed most of his life. And unfortunately, most of his PMO and some of his closest friends are no more, from Brajesh Mishra, Ashok Saikia, Jaswant Singh, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat to George Fernandes. His family has also decided to let his legacy speak for itself and has not contributed to any of the books on him so far.
Which makes it all the more difficult to decipher a man who was so much larger than life in the public sphere. I recall covering his PMO, an office he presided over with a benign grandfatherly presence, leaving the nuts and bolts to his Principal Secretary Brajesh Mishra. As all PMOs reflect the personality of the Prime Minister, so did this one—accessible and warm but also capable of issuing harsh snubs to those who crossed the line. The PM’s personal secretaries, initially the politically astute Shakti Sinha, and later on the dapper duo of V Anandrajan & Ajay Bisaria as the private secretaries, brought their own charm to covering the PMO. Since Ajay Bisaria came to the PMO straight from the IFS, he had a chart of all the names and pictures of the entire Cabinet under a glass top on his desk to help him send the right person into the PM’s office. But it’s not the PMO but the PMR that has the warmest memories for the television beat reporters forever parked outside Race Course Road (Vajpayee preferred to work from there instead of South Block). For, though this was one Prime Minister who took his vacations, his winter holidays were always jinxed with some crisis or the other. And so, on those cold winter nights, waiting outside Race Course Road, some reporter or the other would end up calling the PM’s residence with a fervent plea. And sure enough, tea and samosas would soon be sent for the entire media. Some gestures you do not forget.
New Years would begin with the PM’s musings from Kumarakom where he liked to spend the year-end. Since the PMO went with him, one would be SMSing ‘sources’ for any indication of what was on the PM’s mind, if not his mind, then his mood! But being a beat reporter what one loved were the summer breaks, for then Vajpayee would go to Manali for a few days, and the rest of us would follow, OB vans and all. Holi was also open house at Race Course Road for both the media and the Cabinet where one could catch Yashwant Sinha breaking into an impromptu dance. And then of course there was always the Kavvi Sammelan organised by the irrepressible Vijay Goel on the PM’s birthday who just wouldn’t take no for an answer. In fact, this was standard routine. Every year Vijay Goel would propose a kavvi sammelan and the PM would refuse. But Goel would just say “Haina jee” (ok) and go ahead and print the cards and then tell the PM, “but the cards have already been printed”. And that was that.
Despite the informal air of bonhomie, this was also one of the most pro-active PMOs since Rajiv Gandhi’s time. I recall mentioning this to Brajesh Mishra who countered with a “is that a criticism or praise?” It’s not as if South Block was ignored for that is where the media often dropped in to meet the affable Ashok Tandon (also known as “Tandon-from-Landon” due to an earlier stint there with PTI). Tandon had the tough job of placating media egos—who were demanding everything from an exclusive interview to the right to be able to carry mobile phones inside the PMO and not having to leave them at the reception. However, not many got to meet the low-profile Ashok Saikia who kept away from the limelight but his was one view the PM valued, for Saikia called it as it is. This included his perpetual air of amazement at some of the stunts politicians would pull just to get the PM’s attention.
Into this mix was brought in N.K. Singh with his Hermes ties and Kishori Amonkhar CDs. He tested Brajesh Mishra’s patience by waiting almost six weeks to get his office redone before he shifted into it but his presence definitely added to the buzz in South Block’s corridors.
Of course there were clashes—between Brajesh Mishra and Jaswant Singh on foreign policy, between Yashwant Sinha and N.K. Singh on the economic policy, and the perpetual standoff between the PMO and the Home Ministry. Not to mention the ego clashes between the GenNext of the time: Pramod Mahajan vs Sushma Swaraj vs Arun Jaitley (Narendra Modi was then CM of Gujarat and away from the durbar politics). Some were handled with a smile, some with a dressing down and others with a poet’s dexterity that left the other side guessing. In the end it all came together, because for Vajpayee this was not just an office, it was his parivar.
RCEP: Why PM Modi stayed out
Those who push for joining the RCEP forget that the economic pillar is not more important than the security pillar. Security consideration will always be, and indeed should always be, more important. Economic consideration can only come into play if it does not contradict security interests.
India is one of the top countries in Asia with maximum number of FTAs (free trade agreements) either in operation or under negotiation or proposed. According to the Asian Development Bank Institute, as of now, India has 42 trade agreements (including preferential agreements) either in effect or signed or under negotiation or proposed. The major FTAs that India has signed and implemented so far include South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), India-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), India-Korea Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and India-Japan CEPA.
While India has gained substantially in terms of exports from its FTA with SAFTA countries, CEPA with Korea and CECA with ASEAN have been more beneficial to those economies. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar put it very succinctly when he said: “If we are to grow by leveraging the international situation, then you have to exploit the opportunities out there. Either you are in the game or you are not in the game. I would say that the era of great caution and a very much greater dependence on multilateralism, that era is to a certain extent behind us. We need to create those structural linkages between us and our neighbours so that they take care of political cycles and any volatility their politics may produce.” What Jaishankar implied was that while we as a nation need to build closer ties with our neighbours, blanket multilateralism is not necessarily the answer in the altered scheme of things globally.
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed into existence by 15 countries led by China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the 10-state ASEAN grouping, creating one of the world’s largest trading blocs. India had been a part of negotiations for almost nine years till it pulled out in November 2019, stating that inadequate safeguards and lowering of customs duties will adversely impact its manufacturing, agriculture and dairy sectors. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s politics and his policies have always been driven by the “India First” motto and hence, the decision to withdraw from the RCEP was the right decision.
Many have opined that by staying out, India has blocked itself from a trade bloc that represents 30% of the global economy and world population, touching over 2.2 billion people. Did India do the right thing by pulling out of the RCEP? The answer is a firm yes. India has a bilateral trade deficit with most of the member countries of RCEP. India has already signed an FTA with all the countries of RCEP, except China. Trade data suggests that India’s deficit with China, with which it does not have a trade pact, is higher than that of the remaining RCEP constituents put together. This trade deficit is the primary concern for India, as after signing RCEP, cheaper products from China would have flooded the Indian market. Further, from a geopolitical perspective, RCEP is China-led and is intended to expand China’s influence in Asia. To deal with the imminent rise in imports, India had been seeking an auto-trigger mechanism. Auto-trigger mechanisms would have allowed India to raise tariffs on products, in instances where imports cross a certain threshold. However, other countries in the RCEP were against this proposal. Hence, India was absolutely right in withdrawing from the RCEP.
India had also reportedly expressed apprehensions on lowering and eliminating tariffs on several products like dairy, steel, etc. For instance, the dairy industry is expected to face stiff competition from Australia and New Zealand. Currently, India’s average tariff for dairy products is, on an average, 35%. The RCEP binds countries to reduce the current level of tariffs to zero, within the next 15 years. This would have clearly harmed India›s position, had India joined the RCEP. India was also concerned about a “possible circumvention” of what is called the “rules of origin”. Rules of origin are the criteria used to determine the national source of a product.
Current provisions in the deal reportedly do not prevent countries from routing, through other countries, products on which India would want to maintain higher tariffs. Hence, to join the RCEP, without the much-desired clarity on how “rules of origin” could be strengthened to prevent dumping by member countries, would have been against our national interests
You don’t get into FTAs merely to provide your market to your partner countries. While you accommodate your partner countries, your objective is also to increase the presence of your products in the markets of your partners. What is the option for India? Well, India, as an original negotiating participant of RCEP, has the option of joining the agreement without having to wait 18 months, as stipulated for new members in the terms of the pact. RCEP signatory countries said that they plan to commence negotiations with India once it submits a request of its intention to join the pact “in writing”, and it may participate in meetings as an observer prior to its accession. If indeed, RCEP resolves the thorny issues raised by India, given India’s economic clout today, then of course, India can always join the RCEP at a later date. But till those issues are ironed out to India’s competitive advantage, Prime Minister Modi has decided not to blink and, rightfully so.
India also wanted RCEP to exclude most-favoured nation (MFN) obligations from the investment chapter, as it did not want to hand out, especially to countries with which it has border disputes, the same benefits it was giving to strategic allies. India felt that the agreement would force it to extend benefits that it gives to some key allies, for sensitive sectors like defence, to all RCEP members. RCEP also lacked clear assurance over market access issues in countries such as China and non-tariff barriers on Indian companies.
Will the decision cost India and what will that cost be, if any? Well, India is one of the few countries where today we have to give our own industry a level-playing field at home. Building on national capacity doesn’t make you anti global. On the contrary, if you don’t have local capacities, you only end up as a market for other peoples› goods. If you want to actually participate more vigorously in the global economy, you must build stronger domestic capacities, and do what it takes for the gaps to be closed, as a result of years of disadvantage, thanks to inept and corrupt Congress led regimes, which ruled India for decades. Hence, the decision to pull out of RCEP will only strengthen India’s standing both economically and geopolitically, instead of it being an economic disadvantage, as is wrongly being bandied about. In the name of openness, we have allowed subsidised products and unfair production advantages from abroad to prevail. Those who say India should have joined RCEP, fail to realise that RCEP is not just about economic consequences, but political and geopolitical ones too. When India chose to stay out of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2017, there was much rabble-rousing commentary that India might be isolating itself. Three years later, India’s position has been recognised by like-minded democracies and, many have said that Prime Minister Modi’s decision was so prescient and correct, in hindsight, given that BRI as an initiative is tottering today and has failed.
Some analysts who argue in favour of RCEP have said that “if you don’t want to be on the menu, you have to be at the table”. Well, India’s seat at the table as an “observer” is an important development, where New Delhi can make sure that it is not on the “menu”. Plus, India has enough financial heft to not become a part of the “menu”. Under the new Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative aimed at self-reliance, we have a goal of making the share of manufacturing, 25% of our GDP. That is possible if we truly act on the “Vocal for Local” concept. It does not mean we have to be inward looking or simply resort to import substitution. Equally, we have to be cautious about where and whom we are building trade linkages with.
Those who push for joining the RCEP forget that the economic pillar is not more important than the security pillar. Security consideration will always be, and indeed should always be, more important. Economic consideration can only come into play, if it does not contradict security interests. The RCEP, if it works as designed, will make the countries of the region even more vulnerable to China’s economic and political coercion. Hence, India under Prime Minister Modi should actually be applauded for refusing to get bullied by an expansionist China that honey trapped many nations into, say, the BRI initiative. Today, many of those nations are ensnared in the Chinese debt trap, with no way out.
Indeed, it is China’s constant use of trade as a political weapon, and its unfair trading practices, that has led many countries to actively explore alternative supply chains. Yes, things will not change overnight but a beginning had to be made and by calling out China›s bluff on the RCEP, fair and square, Prime Minister Modi did what a lesser leader would not have even dared to attempt.
China represents a direct security threat to most of the countries in the region. That is one reason why Japan and Australia are understandably deepening their bilateral security engagement, why the Quad grouping has strengthened and why India welcomed Australia to the Malabar naval exercise. Joining a China-led trade arrangement simply because many others are doing it would be equal to cutting your nose to spite your face. Security is primary because it is impossible to pursue either economic well-being or any other value in its absence. Ignoring this comes at a cost.
Recent experiences with China itself should serve as a warning to most nations. China is a bully, with scant regard for territorial sovereignty of other nations. To expect China to become “a responsible stakeholder”, as US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick wanted China to become, by simply engaging in robust trade ties with the Chinese Dragon, is an illusion and a fallacy. China’s natural urge is to usurp and encroach. Why should India offer one of the biggest and fastest growing markets to RCEP on a golden platter, without concomitant economic and geopolitical benefits? Beijing never plays to the international script because its worldview is based on a fundamentally misguided assumption of international politics, in which conflicts and confrontation are the way forward. Consensus is an anathema to CCP. China has always felt and decided that others must listen to it. There is no mystery here. What Xi Jinping, however, never anticipated is the fact that Prime Minister Modi is not a pushover. PM Modi is an extraordinary leader who does not like being told what he should do, and rightfully so. Why should the leader of the world’s largest democracy be beholden to a trade arrangement that has the stamp of an authoritarian Chinese regime, with no concrete benefits for India?
Trade will increasingly become the new political weapon in the post Covid era, with global protectionism on the rise. India under PM Modi has always been an open, liberal democracy that believes in pluralism and inclusivity. Hence Prime Minister Modi’s decision to reject the RCEP in its current form is absolutely the right thing to do.
Thankfully, be it RCEP or BRI, PM Modi has never been mesmerised by the Chinese illusion. Currently, 127 countries and 29 international organisations are part of BRI, through which China has reportedly made investments of more than $90 billion to these countries and regions. In 2017, China imported intermediate goods worth $943.12 billion, with $302.31 billion coming from these countries and regions. What a China-friendly, Left-leaning global media will never tell you is the fact that Chinese banks are reeling under a debt burden of over $103 billion after being forced to indiscriminately lend to financially unsound BRI projects. What the leftist media has also not admitted to is the fact that most of the BRI countries together owe a debt in excess of $380 billion to China and that number is rising rapidly, every minute. China shares a border with at least 14 countries and has territorial disputes with over 21 countries. Given the aforesaid, unless a China-centric RCEP is amended, to ensure tariffs, cross-border flows and anti-dumping laws are calibrated to cater to India, which commands huge economic clout, thanks to Prime Minister Modi’s towering stature, staying out of RCEP, is more beneficial than staying in for the moment.
Sanju Verma is an economist, national spokesperson for the BJP and bestselling author of ‘Truth & Dare: The Modi Dynamic’
The power to levy penalty under the Code on Wages, 2019: Constitutional imperatives
In India, the post independence labour law regime has been influenced by the vision of the founding fathers, reflected in the Constitution, which calls for respect and recognition of the principles of dignity of labour and human rights. The expansive interpretation of the fundamental rights, more particularly, Article 21 concerning the right to life and personal liberty, have ensured that the rights of the labourers and those in the unorganized sector are protected and recognized. The directive principles of State policy also cast an obligation on the State to secure dignity of labour, equal pay for equal work, equitable distribution of resources and decent standard of living for the citizens. Labour being a concurrent subject, both Centre and States are competent to legislate on it. Thus, labour laws concerning different aspects of labour namely, occupational health, safety, employment, training of apprentices, fixation, review and revision of least wages, etc. were enacted by Parliament as also by the various State legislatures.
In 1999, the government set up the second national labour commission, headed by Ravindra Varma which recommended that all the labour laws must be compiled into four or five codes. A step towards fulfilling the recommendations of the commission, The Code on Wages was passed in August last year compiling four different labour laws namely the Payment of Wages Act, 1936; The Minimum Wages Act, 1948; The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965; and The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 into one consolidated law.
Section 53 of the Code on Wages provides that an officer (not below the rank of an under-secretary) to the government will be notified with power to impose a penalty in the place of a judicial magistrate. In this article, we argue that grant of power to impose penalty on an officer of the Government is problematic and that Section 53 suffers from certain Constitutional infirmities. It is pertinent to peruse Section 53 of the Code. Section 53 reads as follows;
“53. (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in section 52, for the purpose of imposing penalty under clauses (a) and (c) of sub-section (1) and sub-section (2) of section 54 and sub-section (7) of section 56, the appropriate Government may appoint any officer not below the rank of Under Secretary to the Government of India or an officer of equivalent rank in the State Government, as the case may be, for holding enquiry in such manner, as may be prescribed by the Central Government.
(2) While holding the enquiry, the officer referred to in sub-section (1) shall have the power to summon and enforce attendance of any person acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case to give evidence or to produce any document, which in the opinion of such officer, may be useful for or relevant to the subject matter of the enquiry and if, on such enquiry, he is satisfied that the person has committed any offence under the provisions referred to in sub-section (1), he may impose such penalty as he thinks fit in accordance with such provisions.”
It is thus clear that for contravention of clauses (a) and (c) of sub-section 1 of Section 54 or for contravention of sub-section (2) of Section 54, penalty may be imposed by the said officer appointed by the Government. Furthermore, such penalty may also be imposed for contravention of clause (7) of Section 56. A reading of these provisions reveals that the following violations are stipulated by them;
(a)- Non payment of amount due to the employee as per the provisions of the code
(b)- Contravention of any other provisions, rule, order under the Code (other than the contraventions expressly mentioned in the provisions of the Code)
(c) Non-maintenance or improper maintenance of records in the establishment.
(d) Non compliance with compounding order made by gazetted officer.
In our submission, Section 53 contravenes Article 50 of the Constitution of India. Though Article 50 forms part of the chapter containing the Directive Principles of State policy and is therefore not enforceable in a Court of law, it is clear that the principle of separation of powers has been recognised and enforced by the Courts and has also been used as a tool to strike down similar provisions.
Section 3(4) of the Code of Criminal procedure lays down clear demarcation of power between the judicial magistrate and the executive magistrate. It vests the judicial magistrate with the powers to examine the evidence, conduct trails which may expose any person to punishment or penalty or detention. Whereas the executive magistrate dispenses primarily administrative duties; it includes granting, suspension or cancellation of a licence and sanctioning or withdrawing from a prosecution. The function of the executive magistrates is administrative and limited to maintenance of law and order. Notwithstanding this, they also perform certain judicial functions such as obtaining bonds and security for maintaining good behaviour and peace under sections 107,108,109,110. They are also empowered to issue orders against any nuisance and apprehended danger and restore public tranquillity.
In the case of Mammoo vs. State Of Kerala and Anr the Kerala High Court was considering the question as to whether a District magistrate exercising functions under Section 16(1) of the Telegraph Act was an ‘inferior criminal court’. The Court took note of Section 3(4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure and held that the executive magistrates are to perform their functions as per the provisions mentioned in the code and if acting under any other law other than the code they must strictly adhere to the performance of executive or administrative functions. Since the enforcement of the Code of Criminal Procedure, there has been a complete separation of the judiciary and the executive. This has been done to implement the mandate of Article 50 of the constitution which contains a Directive Principle of State Policy that the State shall take steps to separate the judiciary from the executive in the public services of the State.
In Hanumantsing Kubersing vs State Of Madhya Pradesh the vires of Section 21 of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 were under challenge before the Madhya Pradesh High Court. The said provision empowered the revenue officers designated as executive magistrates to try offenses under the Act. The Madhya Pradesh High Court struck down the said provision as it violated Articles 14 and 21 and was contrary to the principle laid down in Article 50.
The said provision was also struck down by the Madras High Court in the case of Union of India vs Gajendran wherein the Court observed, “By merging the judicial function in the executive, the basic structure of the Constitution is affected; justice and fair trial cannot be ensured by the Executive Magistrates in as much as they are not required to be legally qualified and trained persons and in actual practice are required to perform various other functions. Their powers under the Code are limited for the purposes of maintenance of law and order…’’
Again in Aldanish Rein v Union of India, a three judge bench of the Supreme Court, observed that the executive magistrates are under complete control of the executive government. Their promotion, increments and seniority of services, etc. are all dependent on their higher officers, who belong to the Executive.
The apex court in Statesman (Private) Ltd. v. H.R. Deb &Orsheld that ‘the appointment of a person from the ranks of civil judiciary carries with it a unique assurance. The functions of a Labour Court are of great public importance and quasi civil. Men of experience on the civil side of the law are more suitable than Magistrates. Persons employed on multifarious duties and also performing some judicial functions may not truly answer the requirement and it may be open in a quo warranto proceeding to question their appointment on the ground that they do not hold essentially a judicial office because they primarily perform other functions. For it cannot be denied that the expression “holding a judicial office” signifies more than discharge of judicial functions while holding some other office.’
Section 53 of the Code on Wages, 2019 does not confer upon the members of the executive, the power to conduct trials. Hence, it is possible to distinguish with the judgements of the several High Courts which have emphasized the need of separation of the judiciary and the executive. However, a perusal of the said provision indicates that a substantive power to arrive at the decision regarding innocence or guilt has been conferred on the government official. A residuary power to impose penalties for violations of the provisions of the Act for which there is no express provision made, have also been conferred on the executive official. This, in our submission, falls foul of Articles 14, 21 and 50 of the Constitution of India. In view of the settled jurisprudence on this subject, it is possible to arrive at the conclusion that Section 53 of the Code on Wages suffers from certain Constitutional infirmities.
Agriculture Ordinances: HC directs Haryana DGP to implement police guidelines in D.K. Basu case during farmers’ protests
In a latest, landmark and laudable judgement titled Haryana Progressive Farmers Union — Sabka Mangal Ho Vs State of Haryana and another in CWP No. 14874 of 2020 delivered just recently on September 18, 2020, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed the DGP Haryana to ‘sensitise’ police officials performing duties during these farmers protests against the three Ordinances regulating farming and agricultural sectors about the guidelines for police laid down by the Supreme Court in the famous DK Basu case. A plea was filed by the Haryana Progressive Farmers Union alleging that during the farmers protest against the Agricultural Ordinances on September 10, 2020, few unknown persons, some in police uniform and others without resorted to lathi charge to dispel the crowd. It is a sad commentary that even after 23 years of the famous DK Basu’s ruling, we still see that its guidelines are still not being implemented by the police in our country.
To start with, this noteworthy judgment authored by Justice Arun Moga of Punjab and Haryana High Court in oral first and foremost sets the ball rolling in para 1 wherein it is observed that, “Petitioner, a farmers Union, inter alia, seeks issuance of a writ in the nature of mandamus, directing the respondents, to ensure that police officers of all ranks while on law and order duty, particularly, during the mass protests/agitations, shall wear proper uniform with visible clear identification, their name tags with designations. Further prayer has been made that all the protestors detained or arrested, ought to be given immediate medical treatment.”
To say the least, para 2 then reveals that, “Learned counsel for the petitioner contends that, on 10.09.2020, when the farmers in Haryana, owing allegiance to the petitioner union, were on a protest rally, few unknown persons, some in police uniform and others without, resorted to lathi charge to dispel the crowd. He relies on the photographs appended with the petition, purported to be of the scene of occurrence. The farmers were protesting against three agriculture ordinances issued by the Government of India. In the said incident, numerous farmers, including many old aged, were allegedly injured by unknown police officials but even the basic medical care was not provided.”
Be it noted, para 3 then further reveals that, “Learned counsel relies on guidelines/safeguards laid down by Apex Court way back in year 1997 in “D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal” 1997 (1) SCC 416. He contends we are in year 2020 and yet, 23 years later, the said safeguards are not being implemented in State of Haryana. Seeking compliance thereof, petitioner-Union submitted Legal Notice/Representation dated 12.09.2020 (Annexure P-5) but the same has not been adverted till date. Hence, the petition.”
Furthermore, while para 4 mentions “Notice of motion”, we then see how para 5 then discloses that, “Ms. Mamta Talwar, DAG, Haryana, who has joined proceedings on service of advance copy of the petition, appears and accepts notice on behalf of State of Haryana.”
For the sake of clarity, it is then mentioned in para 6 that, “Given the nature of order being passed, there is no necessity to seek any return and/or conduct further proceedings.”
Most significantly, it is then envisaged in para 7 that, “Directions issued by Apex Court and the envisaged procedural safeguards to be observed by police administration per D.K. Basu’s case (supra) are no doubt to be followed/implemented in strict letter and spirit. For ready reference, the relevant is reproduced here under:
“We therefore, consider it appropriate to issue the following requirements to be followed in all cases of arrest or detention till legal provisions are made in that behalf as preventive measures:
(1) The police personnel carrying out the arrest and handling the interrogation of the arrestee should bear accurate, visible and clear identification and name tags with their designations. The particulars of all such police personnel who handle interrogation of the arrestee must be recorded in a register.
(2) That the police officer carrying out the arrest of the arrestee shall prepare a memo of arrest, at the time of arrest such memo shall be attested by at least one witness, who may be either a member of the family of the arrestee or a respectable person of the locality from where the arrest is made. It shall also be counter signed by the arrestee and shall contain the time and date of arrest.
(3) A person who has been arrested or detained and is being held in custody in a police station or interrogation centre or other lock up, shall be entitled to have one friend or relative or other person known to him or having interest in his welfare being informed, as soon as practicable, that he has been arrested and is being detained at the particular place, unless the attesting witness of the memo of arrest is himself such a friend or a relative of the arrestee.
(4) The time, place of arrest and venue of custody of an arrestee must be notified by the police where the next friend or relative of the arrestee lives outside the district or town through the Legal Aid Organization in the District and the police station of the area concerned telegraphically within a period of 8 to 12 hours after the arrest.
(5) The person arrested must be made aware of this right to have someone informed of his arrest or detention as soon he is put under arrest or is detained.
(6) An entry must be made in the diary at the place of detention regarding the arrest of the person which shall also disclose the name of the next friend of the person who has been informed of the arrest and the names and particulars of the police officials in whose custody the arrestee is.
(7) The arrestee should, where he so requests, be also examined at the time of his arrest and major and minor injuries, if any present on his/her body, must be recorded at that time. The “Inspection Memo” must be signed both by the arrestee and the police officer effecting the arrest and its copy provided to the arrestee.
(8) The arrestee should be subjected to medical examination by trained doctor every 48 hours during his detention in custody by a doctor on the panel of approved doctors appointed by Director, Health Services of the concerned State or Union Territory. Director, Health Services should prepare such a panel for all Tehsils and Districts as well.
(9) Copies of all the documents including the memo of arrest referred to above, should be sent to the Illaqa Magistrate for his record.
(10) The arrestee may be permitted to meet his lawyer during interrogation, though not throughout the interrogation.
(11) A police control room should be provided at all district and state headquarters, where information regarding the arrest and the place of custody of the arrestee shall be communicated by the officer causing the arrest, within 12 hours of effecting the arrest and at the police control room it should be displayed on a conspicuous notice board.
Failure to comply with the requirements hereinabove mentioned shall apart from rendering the concerned official liable for departmental action, also render him liable to be punished for contempt of court and the proceedings for contempt of court may be instituted in any High Court of the country, having territorial jurisdiction over the matter.
The requirements referred to above flow from Articles 21 and 22(1) of the Constitution and need to be strictly followed. These would apply with equal force to the other governmental agencies also to which a reference has been made earlier. These requirements are in addition to the constitutional and statutory safeguards and do not detract from various other directions given by the courts from time to time in connection with the safeguarding of the rights and dignity of the arrestee.”
In tune with the intent/ratio of the Supreme Court judgment, some of the above said preventive protections/directions, later on, by way of appropriate amendments in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, have also been given legislative mandate.”
While disposing the writ petition, the Punjab and Haryana High Court then observes in para 8 that, “In the premise, without commenting on the merits of allegations/averments contained in the writ petition, the same is disposed of with a request to the Director General of Police, State of Haryana, to once again sensitize police officials of the state, on regular intervals, qua the aforesaid safeguards/parameters, to be followed by police officials while on duty. Regarding other allegations containing in the petitioner herein, the petitioner is at liberty to follow up its representation/legal notice, Annexure P-5, with the competent authority. Disposal of the present writ petition shall not be construed to mean that, if any genuine grievance is made out, the competent authority shall not look into the same. It is expected of the competent authority to pass appropriate orders qua Annexure P-5, in accordance with law, as expeditiously as possible.”
On a final note, it is then held in para 9 that, “In the parting, this court would also like to observe that the Director General of Police, State of Haryana, would do well by directing all the district police heads to ensure that a print out of all the 11 directions, per DK Basu, supra, are prominently displayed in a minimum font of 20 or 22, on a conspicuous notice board at the entrance of every police station in the State. Similar exercise, in fact, ought to be carried out in the State of Punjab as well. Registry is, therefore, directed to convey copy of this order to the Director General of Police, State of Punjab, who is also requested to do the needful, as aforesaid.”
All said and done, it is a no-brainer that the Haryana DGP must implement what the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held so clearly, cogently and convincingly on implementing police guidelines in DK Basu’s case and even the Punjab DGP is urged to do the needful just like Haryana. This will certainly ensure that the old and the weak are not unnecessarily lathicharged by the police which is the crying need of the hour also! No society and no country can ever progress where human rights are not respected in totality and so the human rights have to be accorded the highest priority always in our country. Even the Supreme Court will hear on October 7, 2020 the plea to revive DK Basu’s case to issue fresh guidelines to curb custodial torture. This is a very hot button issue and cannot be kept in cold storage any longer as it directly affects the people and agitates them when they see that the police beats them mercilessly without any strong reason! There can certainly be no denying it!
Poverty not a curse, sterling efforts needed to be wealthy
Mukesh Ambani has added a feather to India’s cap by figuring among the richest in the world.
Let me tell you a story of Mukesh Ambani’s vision. Reliance Group has a huge petroleum refinery in Jamnagar, Gujarat. A large area was lying barren around it. Mukesh Ambani felt that if trees and plants are planted on this land, the pollution of the refinery can be absorbed. When Mukesh Ambani decided to plant mango orchard on 600 acres of barren land, people harboured serious reservations about the success of his project.
The soil of Jamnagar and the moisture there has salinity and the winds blow at a high velocity too. In such a situation, would it be right to plant a mango orchard? This was the question in everyone’s mind, but Mukesh Ambani had decided and insisted that only mango orchard would be planted there. That was in 1997. Today, after 23 years, the salinity of the soil has been controlled, the winds have been taken care of and there are more than 1.5 lakh mango trees of about 200 species. Mangoes from this orchard are being exported all over the world because of its unmatched quality. The name of this mango orchard in Jamnagar is ‘Dhirubhai Ambani Lakhibag Amrayee’. For your information, let me tell you that the word ‘Lakhibag’ was the name of a mango grove developed by Mughal Emperor Akbar near Darbhanga in Bihar.
I told you this story so that you can understand how important it is to have vision, devotion and dedication to your work to become rich. After all, Dhirubhai Ambani started his journey from zero and built a big empire on his own. After that, one of his two sons raised his empire and the other collapsed on the ground. It is clear from this that even if you get a huge wealth by luck, you do not necessarily climb the stairs of success. It takes strength, concentration and balance to climb. Just one mistake is enough to fall! Let’s just think of Tata-Birla, Ambani-Adani, Hinduja, L N Mittal or Sajjan Jindal, Singhania, Anand Mahindra, you will find that their family started from zero. Infosys is an excellent example of our times. Narayan Murthy had laid the foundation of Infosys with a capital of only Rs 10,000. Adani started from the very bottom. Today, their success stories are for all to see. It is obvious that all this does not happen by sheer luck. For this, action and vision are required.
Many people continue to criticise industrial and business groups indiscriminately. Be it Ambani group or Adani group or someone else. People do not miss any chance to say that the government has always been ‘favourable’ to them. To me, these are all stupid and meaningless outpouring. No one can become ‘Kuber’ only with ‘favours’. For that, capacity needs to be increased manifold. Do not discuss what kind of house Ambani lives in, by which aircraft he travels, how many vehicles he has and how the wedding took place in his house. If at all, discuss that Ambani has given work to millions of hands. India has advanced in the world of technology. Do you know that while some people swindled Rs 15 lakh crore of the banks, Mukesh Ambani does not owe a single rupee to any bank! Consider why Mukesh Ambani flourishes in every sector he enters? Be thankful to all these industrialists that they have played and are playing an important role in the country’s progress. When I see the tricolour waving at The Pierre, a Taj Hotel in New York, my chest swells with pride. Isn’t it a matter of pride that Tata bought a global brand like Land Rover?
I have close proximity to almost all the industrialists I am referring to here and I know their lifestyle very closely. Humility, spontaneity and focus are their greatest assets. They have not become rich in a day. They have achieved this position through hard work. Therefore, do not curse poverty. Poverty is not a curse at all. Poverty can be transformed into prosperity by sterling actions and efforts. I know hundreds of such administrative officers who were born in a poor family but are occupying high posts today. Babasaheb Ambedkar was also poor but due to his talent, he is remembered with reverence all over the world today. Our former President APJ Abdul Kalam is the biggest example of this. His father was a fisherman and Kalam used to sell ‘beedis’ as a child. He became the best scientist in the world and also adorned the country’s highest position. Lal Bahadur Shastri rose from poverty to become the Prime Minister of the country. M S Kannamwar who once sold newspapers, became the chief minister of Maharashtra. People like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg have also risen from the state of extreme poverty to reach the summit. Former presidents of America, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, hailed from very humble origins. Elsewhere across the world, there have been many prime ministers, presidents, industrialists, great writers and scientists who were born poor, but they overcame their poverty through their ability and reached the top. So don’t accept poverty as a curse, take your steps, develop your potential. Success is waiting for you! The need of the hour is dedication, out-of-the-box thinking and perseverance… So what are you waiting for!
The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha. firstname.lastname@example.org
I congratulate Mukesh Bhai that he has not only joined the select list of wealthiest persons in the world with his devotion, dedication and vision but also made the country proud. True, if the capabilities are utilised to the full, one can scale the summit. Mukesh Bhai has proved his mettle and ability in every field.
Making it happen: Mission Kayakalp
Crackdowns and raids on illicit liquor makers and sellers in UP’s Barabanki district revealed some bitter truths. Many of those being arrested would go right back to their ‘trade’ after release. And, most of those involved were stuck in this trade due to lack of alternative sources of income.
Illicit liquor is a massive social, economic and law enforcement nightmare across India. It has been known to destroy innumerable lives by death, criminal conviction, disability and addiction apart from ruining livelihoods, families and health. The brunt of this evil is most intensely felt by the poor and illiterate classes.
In January this year Dr Aravind Chaturvedi was posted as the Superintendent of Police of Barabanki, a district of UP adjoining its capital city Lucknow. Barabanki is a prosperous district but it has some great challenges. It is notorious for narcotics and illicit liquor. Hence, the first priority for Aravind on being posted there was to curb these criminal activities.
Crackdowns and raids on illicit liquor makers and sellers across the district, revealed some bitter truths. Many of those being arrested would go right back to their ‘trade’ after release. And, most of those involved were stuck in this trade due to lack of alternative sources of income. Ironically, a few villages had almost all residents involved in illicit liquor making. The issues were discussed were discussed at length with colleagues. On ascertaining the details, they were able to spot a few villages which were worst affected. One of the places with highest concentration of such cases was a small village of Chaynpurwa in Ramnagar tehsil of the district. This became the centre of the initiative.
Chaynpurwa is a remote village, cut-off from the nearby suburbs on account of being surrounded by the expansive Bhagahar Lake on three sides. The people here had lost a lot to the illicit liquor trade. Out of the 94 families of this village, 32 women were widows. Only 6 men in the entire village were in a condition to work. The others were in jail, handicapped or heavily addicted. Most children didn’t go to school and those who did, faced economic hurdles and social stigmas. It was a painful sight.
Uplifting a village out of poverty is a difficult task, but lifting one out of the grip of crime and poverty is a much bigger challenge. Rehabilitation that was not considered a part of Police’s regular duty was initiated. It was initially frowned upon. However, soon the thought behind it and the prospect of improving the lives of people of an entire village came to be appreciated. The initiative soon got wholehearted support.
The first step was to organise a “Police Chaupal”, a gathering of all residents of Chaynpurwa and nearby villages, hosted by the local Police and attended by Aravind himself and Circle Officer, Ramnagar along with Inspector, Ramnagar. Villagers were given opportunity to speak about their problems, compulsion towards illicit liquor trade and socio-economic challenges. The stories that came out of the meeting were painful and heart-wrenching. “Mission Kayakalp” started taking shape consequent to this meeting
A survey of the village was conducted in Chaynpurwa village to obtain basic data about the village and its residents. This survey provided critical insights into the state of the village and its people. With the exception of 4 families which had at least one employed member, 90 of the village’s 94 families needed immediate assistance if they were to be emancipated from illicit liquor trade.
Priority now was to come up with a suitable, sustainable and circumstantially practical occupation alternative. A series of discussions with District Magistrate of Barabanki Dr Adarsh Singh, a passionate leader and Chief development Officer Medha Roopam, a bright officer brought forth a few options. Out of these, beekeeping seemed an appropriate and practicable choice. The villagers were briefed about this. A training session was arranged for them. Support also came from bank authorities who promised to provide loans.
Dr Adarsh Singh’s support for Mission Kayakalp and his personal interest and backing to the initiative gave Chaynpurwa Village the attention and resources of 26 Government departments under the district administration. Medha Roopam herself went to the village with officials from various departments to make the residents of Chaynpurwa aware about Government schemes and programmes and provided eligible persons all the benefits.
The above events took place during the period between mid-August and mid-October this year. Bee farming in North India starts only after mid-November. Hence, an idea was mooted to help them generate some interim income through making and selling candles for the upcoming Diwali festival. This initiative was started and sponsored by Barabanki Police but Nimit Singh, an empathetic entrepreneur who owned bee farms, honey processing units and honey export played an important role
Nimit provided the women of Chaynpurwa training and raw-materials to make various types of diyas from bee-wax. The sale of these Diyas soared beyond expectations and close to 5 lakh diyas were sold in the weeks leading to Diwali. With a total amount over Rs 6 lakh earned by the village from these diyas in one month, an average income of Rs 7,000 was received by almost every household in the village. A grand “Deepotsav” was organised in collaboration with Umeed Foundation of Lucknow to honour and recognise the self-awareness and inspirational hard work done by the people of Chaynpurwa. For them it was an ecstatic moment to be the centre of focus of a program at such a scale and in the presence of top authorities.
The plan, alongside setting up bee-farming infrastructure, is to get a Community Hall built in the village so that a common space may be available for conducting training programs and provide an organised working area. Another plan on the anvil is to try and direct the energy of young children of this village in a positive, productive direction by arranging holistic orientations, building an open gym or recreation centre and motivate them to be diligent towards education. On the economic front with a long-term horizon, efforts are being made to attract the schemes of UP Government’s Khadi and Village Industries Board to provide a stable source of income to the village. These will include training them on electric pottery machines known as “Electric Chaak”, developing a stitching unit or a Agarbatti and candle making unit.
Setting up of a ‘trust’ by the name of “Chaynpurwa Kayakalp Foundation”, consisting of motivated private individuals for the welfare of villages like Chaynpurwa is also being planned. The objective is to provide sustainability to the project. Chaynpurwa village is on a path to turn its life around, look to a bright future and produce good law-respecting citizens.
The initiatives taken by Aravind clearly demonstrate that despite enormous hurdles, if an officer so desires, she/he can make-it-happen.
Anil Swarup has served as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Office. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.
Uplifting a village out of poverty is a difficult task, but lifting one out of the grip of crime and poverty is a much bigger challenge. Rehabilitation that was not considered a part of police’s regular duty was initiated. It was initially frowned upon. However, soon the thought behind it and the prospect of improving the lives of people of an entire village came to be appreciated. The initiative soon got wholehearted support.
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