Of course, the newly-announced Vehicle Scrappage Policy of the Central Government kindles a ray of hope that perhaps everything will be hunky-dory in the years to come! But a question also arises as to why there is still the shortage of laws? There are many existing rules which if strictly followed in letter and spirit can make roads safe and our lungs can be saved from hazards of automobile smoke. By the way, Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari has assured that the new policy will increase safety on roads and reduce pollution. He has also assured to pay the scrap value of the vehicle and a 25 per cent concession has also been announced in road tax.
Safety on the roads in India is indeed a very crucial issue. Government statistics show that on an average 53 accidents take place every hour in our country and one person dies every four minutes. Among those who are victims of road accidents, more than 76 per cent are aged between 18 and 45 years. A report from the World Bank states that more than four and a half lakh road accidents occur annually in India and one and a half lakh people die. In the last ten years, road accidents have killed 13 lakh people and injured 50 lakh people. There are thousands of people who have either been killed or wounded.
Now compare India at the international level. You will be surprised to know that India has only one per cent of the world’s vehicles but India’s share of deaths in road accidents is 11 per cent! That is, our roads remain graveyards. Though there might not be any loopholes or shortcomings in our policies, but there must be a mistake in following the law, otherwise why would there have been so many deaths? And yes, also consider that if someone dies or someone becomes completely crippled in an accident, his entire family is devastated. The figure of this social and economic loss is very large. Nobody cares about it! If accidents stop then life will be saved and you will also avoid financial loss!
If we investigate the reasons behind the accidents, then one thing that clearly emerges is that we do not have a proper system to train the drivers. Getting a licence is not a difficult task. There is no proper system to regulate the unruly drivers on the roads. If you go abroad, you will not see any arrogance on the road there. If anyone crosses the speed limit, he will be caught before the next stop. He has to pay a heavy penalty and if he repeats the mistake the next time, the licence is terminated forever.
A stringent law was also talked about in India and in 2019 the Motor Vehicle Act was amended to impose heavy fines on those who break traffic rules! The objective of amending the Act was to create fear among the people that if the traffic rules are broken, greater penalties will have to be paid. Even after looking at the number of road accidents and the deaths, I do not think that increasing the penalty has made any difference. Actually, if the system of monitoring is not right there, then how will they be punished?
Now let’s talk about the dangerous smoke being emitted by the vehicles. If you go out on any road in any city of the country, you will see vehicles passing you by leaving a thick black cloud of smoke behind! There are no restrictions! Sometimes inspection is done as a matter of protocol. The rule is that every vehicle must have a PUC i.e. Pollution Under Control certificate, but who among us does not know how easy it is to get this certificate despite all the rules and regulations in force! I think that the government should take a strict action in this direction as it has become the biggest threat to the health of the people. The city air is becoming poisonous due to the smoke emanating from old and condemned vehicles. Hazardous gases such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and harmful particles like the lyocell have made the air poisonous. For your information, let me tell you that there are more than 50 lakh vehicles which are above 15 to 20 years old. Now, if the new scrappage policy is followed properly, then such vehicles can be scrapped. It is obvious that if the old vehicles are off the road, then new vehicles are needed. With this the automobile industry can be expected to get a boom but all this can be achieved only if the law is followed.
The people should mend their conduct or the government will have to act vigorously.
Just recall the days during the lockdown when there were no accidents, pollution had almost ended, animals and birds had also started coming to the urban landscape. As the lockdown ended and the unlock process started, it was back to the pavilion with the vehicles returning to the roads and the situation worsening again. Can we not bring pollution-free days back?
Hope that someday our roads will be safe and free of pollution too!
The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.
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Misleading the ingenuous: Advertising by influencers
The role of social media influencers is expanding at an unprecedented rate. Considering the large audience who are exposed to promotions by celebrities and influencers, it is essential that advertisements made by them comply with the provisions of the law. They should not be misleading and deceptive to impinge upon the rights of the consumer.
It has been a longstanding practice for brands to engage in advertising using print media, broadcasting on televisions and nowadays, with the advent of technology, the internet has become a potent tactic for promoting a brand. Worldwide, brands have actively started collaborating with ‘social media influencers’ for marketing their products. Influencer advertising is amongst the latest trends of gaining publicity which is rapidly being adopted by all manufacturers, ranging from large-scale multinational producers to local businesses. Owing to the ongoing pandemic, usage of social media has increased manifold as people were homebound and in a constant search for entertainment. A large number of people took to Instagram and Facebook to launch their local businesses, while others started creating quality content. Generally speaking, an influencer is basically a person who influences others in their purchasing choices. The public starts looking up to social media influencers and basing their decisions on these influencers’ remarks, feedback, and experiences. A social media influencer builds up his/her reputation through active engagement with their accounts.
As digital marketing is becoming highly ubiquitous, it has become vital to regulate the same. More and more consumers are gaining access to advertisements on digital platforms. Opinions of the influencers regarding the products persuade or dissuade the consumers from purchasing that particular product. Therefore, in the interest of protecting the rights of the consumers, it is required that misleading advertisements or promotions are not made. A consumer has the right to be correctly informed about the quantity, quality and standard of products. In light of these considerations, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has proposed to frame guidelines on influencer marketing to understand the peculiarities of these advertisements and the way consumers view them.
LAW GOVERNING ADVERTISEMENT AND ENDORSEMENTS BY INFLUENCERS
The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 (COPRA, 2019) is the foremost and prominent statute applicable to advertisements on various media platforms. This Act is one of a kind being the first legislation bringing within its ambit the representations made using electronic media or records. Advertisements by influencers and celebrities impact large masses; any deceptive endorsement can harm many consumers at a time. Under the COPRA 2019, a misleading advertisement has been explicitly defined as an advertisement falsely describing the product or service or misinforms the consumers regarding the nature, substance, quantity or quality of such product or service. Rendering misleading representations as to the ‘quality, quantity, grade, composition, style or model’ of goods and services is an unfair trade practice that is punishable under the Act. If an influencer intentionally deceives persons by lying about the product’s usefulness and viability, a consumer motivated by such advertisement can make a complaint against such unfair trade practices. Under Section 89 of the COPRA, 2019, the penalty for making misleading advertisements that are prejudicial to the consumers’ interest is imprisonment for a term extending up to two years and a fine, extending to ten lakh rupees. In case of a subsequent offence, such a person shall be punished with imprisonment for a term that may extend to five years and a fine, extending to fifty lakh rupees.
In addition to the Act of 2019, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs notified draft guidelines titled the Central Consumer Protection Authority (Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Necessary Due Diligence for Endorsement of Advertisements) Guidelines, 2020. Under these guidelines, an endorser of a product or service must mandatorily observe due diligence concerning the representations made by her/him. The endorser must ascertain that their endorsement does not convey any express or implied representations that would be false, misleading or deceptive. Furthermore, the standard of due diligence has also been provided in the guidelines as taking advice from an advertising self-regulatory organisation or a legal opinion from an independent legal practitioner regarding the honesty of statements in their endorsement and its compliance guidelines. The provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 shall apply for any violation of the provisions of these guidelines.
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has framed a Self-regulatory Code prescribing the rules for advertisements in India. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has recognised these rules under the Cable television network Rules. The Code lays down a series of rules and regulations to ensure the authenticity of the advertisement content.
The role of social media influencers is expanding at an unprecedented rate. Considering the large audience who are exposed to promotions by celebrities and influencers, it is essential that advertisements made by them comply with the provisions of the law. They should not be misleading and deceptive to impinge upon the rights of the consumer.
In Marico Limited v. Abhijeet Bhansali, the Bombay High Court granted an interim injunction order against the Defendant, a Youtuber by the name ‘bearded chokra’ stating that he committed a ‘targeted attack’ towards the product of the respondent, namely Parachute Coconut Oil. It was alleged that the respondent made scathing reviews of the product, remarking it to smell like a rotten coconut and causing damage to his hair, which severely influenced the reputation of the product. Bhansali contended that it was an honest opinion and that mere viewing of his video does not mean that the viewers were swayed to not buy the product. The Court held that the respondent made the video to increase his viewership and thus falls under the ‘nascent category’ of social media influencers. The Court observed that social media influencers wield great power to influence minds. “With power also comes responsibility. I do not believe that a social media influencer can deliver statements with the same impunity available to an ordinary person. Such a person bears a higher burden to ensure there is a degree of truthfulness in his statements. A social media influencer is not only aware of the impact of his statement but also makes a purposeful attempt to spread his opinion to society / the public. In view of the same, the Defendant had a higher responsibility to ensure that his statements do not mislead the public and that he is disseminating correct information. The Defendant’s recklessness has a much greater impact on the Plaintiffs / its product’s reputation as compared to a reckless statement by an ordinary individual.”
However, a Division Bench of Bombay High Court lifted the injunction granted by the Single Judge and allowed Bhansali to post the video subject to removal and alteration of certain parts of the video demarcated by the Court.
ASCI DRAFT GUIDELINES FOR INFLUENCER ADVERTISING ON DIGITAL MEDIA
The ASCI is a voluntary self-regulatory organization seeking to ensure that advertisements conform to its Code. It seeks to ensure that all advertising material is truthful, legal, honest, decent, does not objectify women, safe for consumers and fair to their competitors. It seeks to maintain and enhance consumer’s interest and confidence in advertising. ASCI review all sort of complaints related to advertising under the category media including TV, SMS, Print, Internet, brochures, etc. In the light of growing promotions and endorsements by influencers on digital media, the ASCI formulated draft guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media (hereinafter referred to as guidelines) for consultation by stakeholders in February 2021.
The guidelines have been drafted considering the need to enable consumers to differentiate between promotions made to influence their opinion or commercial gain. The consumers may view several promotions and be influenced by them, not realising whether they are genuine opinions of the influencers or paid collaborations. This is inherently misleading and amounts to unfair trade practice. The guidelines apply to advertisements across all digital media platforms, including internet, mobile broadcast, digital TV etc.
KEY FEATURES OF THE GUIDELINES INCLUDE
Definition of advertisements as ‘a paid-for communication, addressed to the public or a section of it, the purpose of which is to influence the opinions and/or behaviour of those to whom it is addressed.’
An influencer is defined to be a person ‘who has access to an audience and the power to affect their purchasing decisions or opinions about any product, service, brand or experience, because of the influencer’s authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with their audience.’
The guidelines require the influencer, publishing account or the advertiser to make a disclosure clarifying that particular promotion is an advertisement such that an average consumer must be able to recognise it as an advertisement without clicking or otherwise interacting with it. The disclosure must be clear, unambiguous and obvious.
Disclosures have to be made from amongst the labels prescribed by the ASCI. These include #ad, #collab, #promo, #sponsored or #partnership. Only permitted disclosure labels will be considered sufficient disclosure since consumers may not be familiar with various creative ways in which advertisers and influencers may signify that the said communication is an advertisement.
Advertisements must be obviously differentiable by an average consumer from editorial and independent user-generated content to prevent the audience from confusing between them.
The disclosure label needs to be placed so that it is evident, clear and prominent. The user must not have to click or scroll to find the label; it must be mentioned within the first two lines. The disclosure label should also be compatible with all devices or platforms. The disclosure label has to be in English or translated into the language understood by the average consumer viewing the advertisement.
If an advertisement is posted on Instagram stories or Snapchat, the label should be imposed. Different durations have been provided for which the disclosure should be visible to the consumer in the case of video advertisements without any accompanying text.
The influencers should do their due diligence about any technical or performance claims made by them. Evidence of due diligence would include correspondence with the advertiser or brand owner confirming that the specific claim made in the advertisement is capable of scientific substantiation.
In case of a violation of these guidelines, the ASCI will have the authority to take action. It can issue notice to the brand owner and influencer upon a complaint made by a consumer or suo motu cognisance of a potentially objectionable advertisement.
Feedback and suggestions on these draft guidelines have been taken from the stakeholders, and the ASCI will shortly release the final guidelines.
In the backdrop of the growing influence and reach of these influencer marketing on digital media platforms, there is a crucial need for regulating these advertisements in the interest of consumers. It is a consumer’s right to be informed of the actual quantity and quality of the product or service. As a natural corollary, the consumer must also be able to differentiate between genuine opinions of the influencers and the promotions done for monetary gain.
This will enable the consumer to make a more informed and well-rounded decision. The guidelines are being viewed as a step in the right direction. These guidelines will bring in more transparency and responsibility on the part of the influencers endorsing brands. This will also strengthen the trust of consumers in the influencers as well as the brands. The influencers will now have to be more mindful before making representations and ensure authenticity.
In addition to the Act of 2019, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs notified draft guidelines titled the Central Consumer Protection Authority (Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Necessary Due Diligence for Endorsement of Advertisements) Guidelines, 2020. Under these guidelines, an endorser of a product or service must mandatorily observe due diligence concerning the representations made by her/him. The endorser must ascertain that his/her endorsement does not convey any express or implied representations that would be false, misleading or deceptive.
Making it happen: Balance between solar and thermal energy
Focus on the Green Energy Sector is extremely laudable and India appears to be is on its way to achieving its target of 100 GW of solar energy by 2022. Other latest developments in the Sector have also been very encouraging. Tariffs of solar energy have plummeted to Rs 1.99 per unit from the high of INR 14 per unit a few years ago. The overall energy sector is under stress but the demand for solar energy seems to be on the rise. However, to say that renewable energy has already become cheaper than coal-based thermal energy, as Rahul Tongia from Brookings India put it, “masks…system-level costs as well as the disproportionate impact (it had) on selected States’ generators and stakeholders”. Accordingly, before blowing the victory bugle there is a critical need to examine the implications of what was happening.
What are the direct and indirect costs incurred due to shifting of focus on renewable energy?
Who is bearing this cost?
Is the manner in which renewable energy mission was being rolled out in the country sustainable?
As Coal Secretary, Government of India, I was convinced that solar energy would play the most prominent role in the push for green energy. Not only did it have a larger share of India’s targets, but it also represented much of the growth of renewable energy. It was in the fitness of things that the government was pushing for solar energy.
However, I was (still am) against the mad rush for solar energy without taking into account all the associated features. There is indeed a dilemma as any reservation or difference of opinion against this mad rush is also deemed an ‘opposition’.
There is no doubt about the fact that India is a ‘sun-rich’ country with bright sunshine available for the better part of the year. However, I am equally convinced that there would still be issues that need to be considered and sustainable solutions to those needed to be developed as we proceeded towards increasing our dependence on solar energy.
Sunlight, by nature’s law, is available only during the day. Unlike the European countries that were pushing for green energy, the peak demand in India is during the evening when solar energy (unless stored) is not available. Storage and the cost thereof therefore would be key determinants for the sustainability of solar energy, especially as its share scaled. Hydropower generation has been a good complement and India always had enormous potential. However, unfortunately, this potential has not been tapped, ironically on account of environmental considerations. (The recent cloud-burst in Garwhal region and the consequent flash floods have made the task even more difficult.) The ongoing projects, like the one at Subhanshree in Assam, have languished and the delays have led to cost escalation that have perhaps made the project unviable. India even lags in the deployment of pumped hydro capacity, the most proven and cost-effective large-scale storage technology available then.
The first step for higher solar usage is improving predictions. However, even perfect predictions can only go so far. We know monsoons reduce the output, and also sunsets. India needed to step up its game for learning to balance variable renewables as other countries have done. But we lack some tools to do so, such as flexible markets and dynamic pricing – most power is sold via static Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).
The highest Plant Load Factor (PLF) for solar power plants is considered to be only about 20%, and many rooftops accounted for even less. Meaning thereby that the 100 GW installed capacity is only equivalent to 33 GW of thermal power (assuming it had thrice the PLF, of, say, 60%). Solar energy can produce nearly 100 GW only for a short while during the middle of the day.
Going forward, price ‘grid parity’ would be another issue that will have to be resolved. To meet peak demand in the evening, some other source of power will need to be built. Similarly, when solar power is available (typically during the day), some other power source has to back down. Both have a cost. And someone would have to bear the cost.
Rooftop solar plants sound exciting but would sound the death knell for the power distribution companies, who risk losing their best customers. These small localised solar plants will use the conventional power grid like a battery as these solar plants can generate energy only when the sun is shining. The ‘net metering’ would have enabled them to push power into the grid when the requirement is relatively low and there is ‘surplus’ power. This could lead to what has been termed as ‘utility death spiral’. There are also other issues related to setting up of solar plants as well as financing those. However, everyone seems to be rushing in. But there is some resistance from States as well as the distribution companies.
Does solar equipment perform as envisaged? There have been known issues related to the maintenance of solar panels, especially in the context of dust and pollution. The quality of solar panels manufactured on a mass scale are already causing problems. Land costs, availability, and bankability are also growing concerns, especially as India looks at scaling its share of solar energy. It’s important in this context to take into account the fact that the demand of 175 GW is projected for 2022 only. It will inevitably grow in future. Moreover, the cost of delivering solar energy is more than its generation cost. The transmission cost at 20% PLF will have to be factored in while arriving at the actual cost of shifting to solar energy.
What has been the response to these challenges? Yes, there is an enormous amount of research taking place in the western world and in China to find the ‘storage’ solution that is critical to the sustainability of this ‘solar drive’. The rest of the world is waiting with bated breath as the power of solar energy is being unleashed.
However, not many seem to be bothered about the adverse impact this undue adulation of solar energy is causing to the coal-based power plants that account for most of the energy requirements of the country. The generation companies (Gencos) are already in trouble on account of a shortage of coal and growth in demand not good enough to service investments made. It was estimated that more than INR 1.7 lakh crore of capacity could become non-performing asset (NPA). These Gencos are being pushed further by the ever-increasing coal cess, statutory ‘back-down’ to accommodate renewal energy and competition with a subsidised sector.
Green energy is the way forward but it is not likely to end the need for coal-based thermal plants in India. Not at least in an overnight manner. Hence, it would not be advisable to promote it at the cost of pushing thermal power plants to become unviable. The two have to co-exist and supplement each other, at least for the time being. The dependence on coal-based thermal power plants will gradually need to be phased out over the next couple of decades.
Anil Swarup has served as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Offic. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.
No friends around, children falling prey to loneliness
Coronavirus is filling the children’s world with severe depression and I am afraid it may well lead to psychological problems among children!
The ongoing power struggle in Maharashtra, the furore in the police department, the Naxalite rampage in Chhattisgarh, people in West Bengal and other states turning out in massive numbers at election meetings and rallies sans masks and without observing a safe distance, a scary spike in coronavirus cases, accusations and counter accusations over shortage of medicines and vaccine and the struggle of the entrepreneurs and businessmen to save their existence! Brushing aside all these important issues, this time I have decided to write this column for the captains of the future, children and teenagers that is. For, the younger generation, especially the students, are under severe stress at the moment. This tension is so deep that, I am afraid, it may well create widespread psychological problems!
I am seriously worried about the future. The situation created by the corona pandemic is going from bad to worse. Today, even the tiny tots studying in the kindergarten are compelled to study online. An ophthalmologist told me that online studies will not yield any meaningful result. On the other hand, it will have a worse effect on the eyes of the children. They will contract screen disease. The screen addiction will be so intense that their world will revolve around the mobile and computer, the screen that is. Actually, they are drifting apart from the activities that they should engage themselves in at this age.
Of late, I held several rounds of discussion with several psychologists from home and abroad about the side effects on children. A psychologist told me that children are not able to meet each other physically. They are not able to hold each other’s hands. It is obvious that touch has its own language; there is a message of affection and love, there is a lesson of harmony, there is the joy of mixing and meeting, which makes children cheerful. Naturally, when there is no touch, all these emotions disappear.
Education is being imparted online but children are being deprived of the pleasure of meeting each other. Psychologists say that if this situation persists, the depression in children will set in and increase further. A parent told a psychologist that while living alone in the corona era, his child has become so self-centred that now when he gets an opportunity to meet other children, he shows no enthusiasm at all. Now he has befriended his computer and mobile at home. He avoids meeting other children. After hearing what this psychologist said, I was reminded of the story of a child from South Korea who was so lonely that he stopped associating with children of his age. Later, he had to be treated so that he could become normal. This is to say that the level of stress in children has increased so much that their mental and physical development is being adversely affected.
In the corona era, there is no regular schooling on one hand and on the other, the stress of examinations has continued to trouble them. Parents wanted the children to appear for the examinations, but the government promoted the students from I to VIII and IX and XI to the next class. But before that, the education department too exerted a lot of pressure on these children. Now, the examinations of children of X and XII standards of the State Board are yet to be conducted.
The Board itself appears to be confused on the mode of the exams. Sometimes it says there will be an online exam and sometimes it says there will be an offline exam! Sometimes it says practicals will be conducted and sometimes it says practicals will not be conducted! The question is that if the children are not able to complete their studies, how will they take the exam? In Maharashtra alone, about 30 lakh students appear for the X and XII standard exams. After all, what is the rationale for keeping so many children under stress? This attitude of the education department is not right. Why so much confusion? This only causes stress among children!
By the way, our entire education system stresses children. A report of the ministry of human resource development says the school children in the age group of 11 to 17 years are suffering from severe stress, which is affecting their mental health. I remember that in 1993, a committee was formed under the chairmanship of noted scientist Dr Yash Pal on how to liberate children from the burden of heavy baggage, but the situation did not change much. Yes, the Delhi government has taken a strong initiative in recent years. Happy classes are going on in schools in Delhi. Children study while playing sports. I am of the opinion that such ‘Happy Classes’ should be started all over the country… And it is very important to change the marking system.
Everyone accepts that scoring the highest marks in an examination does not necessarily mean that the child is the best. It has been found that even those children who have stayed away from the race of marks have become more successful in life. But the competition to score more marks has been created in the society and it has made the children stressful. Sometimes they are so stressed that they even commit suicide. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, between 2011 and 2018, about 70,000 students ended their lives due to low scores and fear of exam results. About 50 per cent of these incidents took place at the school level.
I would like to draw your attention towards another figure. The report of the ministry of human resource development says that while 6.9 per cent children have been found to have mental problems in the villages, this figure is about 13.5 per cent in the cities. We all have to understand that scoring more marks alone is not the purpose of life! Besides, we need to shape our education system in a manner that our students do not become victims of stress!
The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.
In this grim corona-triggered situation, children are confined to their homes. They can’t even meet other children. The joy of human touch is missing from life. Playgrounds are deserted and the children are falling prey to stress. They are getting depressed. I am afraid this should not create a serious psychological problem that might become worse than the pandemic itself!
Stateless, homeless but not futureless: A saga of refugees
According to Article 1 of United Nations Convention on Status of Refugees, refugees are those who are ‘owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country’.
In 2019, when we all were relishing our New Year’s Eve and making new year resolutions to achieve different set of goals, somewhere, a midget virus took birth to show its humongous impact, which led to global pandemic, which only got deepens with time. To fight a battle against novel coronavirus, government of different nations laid down akin guidelines which are wearing masks, using sanitizer, washing hands and maintaining social distancing. We all reside within our safe spaces and could easily adhere to the said guidelines but there are people living under altogether different set of circumstances, those people are Refugees. The refugees are forced to leave their native place to avoid war, financial crisis, etc. Human rights and health of refugees are one of the major concerns for any country. The refugees were already living under harsh circumstances with the outbreak of Covid-19, the situation has worsened and had impacted them in terms of health and income. This pandemic showed us the real operations of laws implemented for betterment of refugees. The refugees faced a lot of hurdles in keeping themselves safe during this pandemic as they have very small space to reside, which made it difficult for them to keep a safe distance and lack of funds for proper sanitization and medical safety. There are various international conventions, protocol and agreements to protect the rights of refugees which are UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugee, 1951, Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1967, New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, 2016, with many other Indian constitutional rights. United Nations Human Rights Council actively implement laws and statues to safeguard refugees, in which India is not a signatory but actively participates which affirms rights to all person whether citizen or non- citizen. To look into the hopeful prospect, Refugees contributed efficiently to win battle against the pandemic by serving as medical staff in hospitals whether it is as nurse or cleaning the rubbish, sewing masks, conducting educational drives. The time has changed and refugees are proving themselves as an asset to the country they are residing in.
When a person is tuck in a bad situation the first thought which comes to mind is to escape the situation, find a better and safe space to avoid the harsh outcome of that situation but what if one cannot find safe space around, this is the exact situation which is faced by lots of people who ultimately have to leave their home, state, country and most importantly their identity at their native place and are identified as Refugees.
According to Article 1 of United Nations Convention on Status of Refugees, refugees are those who are “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”
India is a country which perpetually keep debating on the rights of refugees and keep participating in many regulations made to safeguards rights of refugees. In India, there are many refugees’ groups from neighbouring countries but it does not have any proper laws and statutes for Refugees neither it is signatory to the 1951 UN Convention nor 1967 protocol on Status of Refugees. India always tries to help refugees on humanitarian grounds.
A BRIEF CHRONICLE OF REFUGEES IN INDIA
India is considered to be the second populated country and is one of the countries experiencing refugees lately. The Partition of India–Pakistan resulted in a huge number of people migrating to different counties. After India got its Independence, almost 20 million people came to India and to address such huge number of refugees India had to set up many relief camps. People started coming in from Bangladesh, Pakistan. Eventually, it passed the Rehabilitation Financial Administration Act in the year 1948 to deal with these issues with funding. A Huge number of people were displaced from India to Pakistan and vice versa. Another instance was happened in 1959 when Dalai Lama with his followers approached India as refugees and India provided them a Political Asylum. The year of 1971 saw many refugees transmitting from East Pakistan to India. In 1983 and 1986 India had refugees approaching in from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh respectively. By the end of 1992, India has hosted 237,000 displaced persons and 2,000,000 migrants. India always has some or the other Refugees presence throughout its history.
MAJOR GROUP OF REFUGEES
Around the globe, people leave their home to protect their families and themselves from many undesirable activities. Behind the records are people filled with exceptional life experiences and dreams for the future. There are mothers longing to return home, fathers desire to work again, children looking for a childhood.
At the moment, we see around 80 million people are displaced from their homes. We are witnessing shift in humanity like never before.
Over half of total refugees come from just five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia. All those refugees have suffered incredible loss, whether they are displaced in their own country or located overseas for safety. Yet they are filled with potential and the strength to triumph over misfortune.
THE COUNTRIES TO WHICH REFUGEE CRISIS ARE HITTING HARD
The Syria crisis has accelerated melod3ramatically than any crisis on planet, and Syrians are still the largest forcibly displaced population in the world. After war erupted in March 2011, it took 2 years for 1 million people to find a place. Another million were displaced within six months. Now 9 years on, more than half of the pre-war population has been internally displaced or forced to seek safety in neighbouring countries. There are more than 13.2 million people on run, counting more than 6.6 million people who have fled across the borders.
The factors which have led to a massive migration from Afghanistan are years of unemployment, insecurity and political instability. More than 2.7 million people have been pushed to leave the country to Iran, Europe or Pakistan, whilst more than 2.5 million people are assessed to be living in new and prolonged displacement.
The United Nations evaluates that an average 1,100 people a day — mostly women and children — were forcibly displaced by violence in 2017, and over the years more than half of people displaced by disruptions in Afghanistan have been displaced at least twice, compared to just 7 percent five years before.
• South Sudan
The situation in South Sudan is dire, and the largest refugee crisis in Africa. More than 4 million people have been relocated from their homes since the start of a brutal civil war in 2013, including approximately 2.2 million people who have been made to cross into neighbouring countries, the majority of them were women and children.
What is already a perilous humanitarian crisis continue to worsen by ongoing warfare, flooding and drought. There are need for clean water, health care, sanitation, food, shelter, and protection across the country, and millions of people over there now require urgent support to survive.
In August 2017, violence broke out in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State, over 7,42,000 Rohingya have fled to southeast Bangladesh. Even before the crisis, Bangladesh was grappling with humanitarian challenges, and accommodating around 2,12,000 Rohingya who had escaped Myanmar during periods of violence and persecution. More than half of them are children.
Today, there are around 860,000 Rohingya in search of refuge in Bangladesh and at least 1.3 million people — Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi host communities — who bank on humanitarian assistance by other counties to meet their basic needs. These populations live in congested camps and communities, highly vulnerable to harsh weather conditions and cyclone seasons.
With more than two decades of unending conflict and natural hazards which have driven nearly 1 million Somalis to live in poor refugee camps in the Horn of Africa and Yemen, whilst around 2.6 million people remain expatriate.
Across the country, many people are in dire need of assistance. In the early 2020, it was assessed that 1.2 million people had to face acute food insecurity — a number that is anticipated to increase as swarms of desert locusts infest farmland in the Horn of Africa and East Africa.
CHALLENGES FACED BY REFUGEES
Refugees who ended up in different set of camps or different countries deal with many problems in their life. They are prone to harsh living conditions. They have limited resources to fulfil their needs, live in tents, have limited food, water, clothing. They survive without adequate shelter and have to face many difficulties. Those who do not wish to join refugee camps and shift to countries, often deal with unexpected hardships, they also face cultural and language problems. The refugee children are the ones who have to face the real struggle as they find it very hard to continue with their schooling and fail to understand the situation at such a tender age. Most refugees take up some or the other labour work which feed them in the country they are living and are often exploited by the recruiters. Different countries have different set of rules and regulations foe handling refugees, some countries grant citizenship in lesser number of years than the other. The benefit of being a refugee in one country are different than the other. They face financial difficulties, discrimination, and are psychologically affected.
Despite of all the struggle they face, refugees are strong and battle with their situation to make most out of it. They are grateful for the opportunities they get. Most of them had such basic desires: to have their children succeed in school and to be able to put a roof over their heads. After everything they had already been through, they were doing all that they could to keep their families afloat in the new and scary place called refugee camps.
LEGISLATION FOR REFUGEES: INTERNATIONAL STATUES
Universally, there are various conventions, declarations and protocol for refugees. Some of them are UN Declaration on Territorial Asylum (1948), Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) and Protocol (1949), Convention relating to the status of Stateless Persons (1954), International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (1961), Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (1979), Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (1998). Some of the Regional Refugee Laws are Cartagena Declaration (1984), Asian African Legal Consultative Committee Principles (1996).
The UN Convention concerning the Status of Refugee of 1951 was adopted on 28 July 1951 and entered into force on 22 April 1954. It repealed previous laws and set a most comprehensive codification of the rights of refugees. The Convention deals with General Provisions, Juridical acts, Lucrative Employment, Welfare schemes, Administrative measures, Executory and Transitory powers. These chapters are already defined and therefore they serve the aim of aiding refugees. Article 1 of the convention defines the term ‘refugee’, Article 12 and 13 deals with personal status and Movable and Immovable property respectfully. Article 16 deals with access to courts because the 1951 Convention only give blanket to those people who became refugees as a result of events occurred before 1951, Protocol concerning the Status of Refugees was entered into force on 4 October 1967, because new refugee situations have arisen after the convention and therefore the new refugee didn’t fall into the Convention. So, this protocol makes sure that equality reaches to all refugees.
The Constitution of India contains few articles which are applicable to the refugees during their stay in India. The most important of all is Article 21 which deals with Right to Life and personal liberty, it applies to all irrespective of their citizenship. Many judgements have been delivered by the apex court based on Article 21 in respect of refugees. Article 14 assures the person right to equality before the law. Article 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,11,12, 20, 22,25-28, 32, 226 are also available for non-citizens of India including Refugees.
In the case of Visakha v. State of Rajasthan 1997 (6) SCC 241, the court has held that “International Conventions and norms are significant for the purpose of interpretation of the guarantee of gender equality, right to work with human dignity in Articles 14, 15 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution and the safeguards against sexual harassment implicit therein”. In the case of Louis De Raedt v. Union of India, 1991 (3) SCC 554, the court held that the fundamental rights to life, liberty, dignity are available to everyone irrespective of their citizenship.
Some fundamental rights are guaranteed to non-citizens of India. In the case of NHRC v. State of Arunachal Pradesh 1996 (1) SCC 742, the court asked the government to safeguard the life and health of Chakma tribe that are in the state and that their application for citizenship should be sent to the authorities concerned instantly.
There are definitely a plenty number of protections given to the refugees staying in India under the Constitution of India but are hardly in practice. The provisions of the Constitution give a hint about ambition towards refugees, but due to its own reasons India doesn’t sign any Conventions related to it.Other than Constitution of India, India does not have any laws which specifically deal with Refugees. But India is in dire need of one, considering the recent conflicts for land by the refugees in different states of India.
STATUTORY BODIES TO SAFEGUARD RIGHTS OF REFUGEES
United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a body dedicated to foster and protects the rights of refugees across the globe, established on 15 March 2006, the Geneva, Switzerland.
The main objective of UNHRC is to investigate claims of human rights abuse in member states of the United Nations and ensure that the said human rights matters are addressed and upheld to the maximum extent.
In India, UNHRC got involved since the issue of Tibetan refugees and the Bangladesh crisis in 1971. The UNHRC office located in Delhi, works to help refugees become self-sufficient with income-generating activates with the help of NGO’s. The main duty of UNHRC in India is to make sure that the refugees are not involuntary sent back to their country from which they have fled until the conflict rests in their country.
National Human Rights Council (NHRC) is a standalone entity of the Government of India which promotes and protects human rights, established in 1993 and amended in 2006. In 1994, NHRC gave directions to Tamil Nadu Government to deliver medical help to Sri Lankan refugees. In 1995, it filed a PIL on Arunachal Pradesh Government regarding the government officials not supporting Chakmas tribe, and got the decision of the court ordering the government to provide necessary help to the group. NHRC is always on the frontline in the matters which talks about rights of refugees and offering them better living standard.
REFUGEES AFFECTED BY OUTBREAK OF COVID-19
With the Covid-19 pandemic spread, human rights organizations warned adverse impact the coronavirus will have on the world’s most helpless populations which include refugees.
Refugees live in small area with great density but it varies by refugee population and what the status of the pandemic is where they are living. Refugees are infected and affected in a similar way to their host communities. Yet refugees are more vulnerable. They are not well-equipped with the medical facility as there aren’t many hospitals having good facility of ICU and ventilators, as there are not many qualified doctors to deal with adverse health condition caused by coronavirus.
But at the same time, they came out as a strong individual by providing helping hand in battle against this outbreak, they worked as frontline workers in healthcare sectors and also as essential workers. The demand of soaps and sanitizers soared high as people are advised to use them as cleaning agents against coronavirus, so, refugees manufactured it and made them more accessible to those in need. The pandemic caused the largest disruption to education in recent history, putting millions of children’s future and schooling at risk. Some refugees have stepped up to ensure that children of their community can continue learning and prepare themselves for better future.
Around the globe, though there are a number of conventions and laws protecting rights of refugees but they still have to fight for their basic rights. When a country as big and developing as India doesn’t have a Refugee Law, we can fathom that many countries have the same picture and are on the same ride. If UNHCR and NHRC work together to develop a better world for refugees, there will be much more development in the area of Refugee Law. There is definitely a need for India to set up a Law safeguarding Refugees, as in the future there may be many more concerns due to various reasons. Whenever UNHCR tries to do something regarding refugees NGOs should actively lend them the helping hand. Though Constitution of India protects the rights of refugees, still there needs to be a uniform Law that give equal rights to all the refugees. India continues to help refugees on the humanitarian view. Bearing the security issues in mind due to which India is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention, it should give due attention to all issues and rectify it accordingly. India should make stringent refugees’ laws and also take care that those law is not mistreated and mis-utilized by people who come to seek opportunities. By far Indian judiciary has done some really good work in regard to refugees by delivering many judgements like in the case of Dongh Lian Kham vs. Union of India (2016), the apex Court stated that the principle of non-refoulement is part of the guarantee under Article 21 of the Constitution of India irrespective of nationality. Many Rohingya refugees living in India are receiving aid, but India is planning to deport them to their terrain. In the past NHRC submitted a report for the need of Refuge law but didn’t receive a response but if UNHCR and NHRC join their hands, there could be a light at the end of tunnel.
Covid-19 showed us the real operations of laws implemented for betterment of refugees. The refugees faced a lot of hurdles in keeping themselves safe during this pandemic as they have very small space to reside, which made it difficult for them to keep a safe distance and lack of funds for proper sanitisation and medical safety.
Uttarakhand High Court directs state to grant extraordinary pension to widow of police officer who lost his life while on duty
While rising to the occasion, the Uttarakhand High Court has in a rare gesture most rightly in a latest, landmark, laudable and learned judgment titled State of Uttarakhand vs Smt. Preeti Chand in Special Leave No. 124 of 2021 delivered just recently on April 5, 2021 directed the State to sanction and grant extraordinary pension in favour of the widow of a police officer who lost his life while on duty. It has to be certainly applauded also as the widow has to bear the whole expenses of her, her children and the entire family herself for which she definitely needs support also. There is no reason for not appreciating and admiring it.
To start with, this commendable, courageous, cogent, composed and convincing judgment authored by Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan for himself and Justice Alok Kumar Verma of the Uttarakhand High Court sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in para 1 that, “For the sake of brevity and convenience, the party shall be referred to as arrayed in the writ petition.”
In real terms, this notable judgment starts laying itself bare in para 2 wherein it is observed that, “The petitioner-State has challenged the order dated 05.11.2020, passed by a learned Single Judge, in Writ Petition (S/S) No.590 of 2018, whereby the learned Single Judge has allowed the writ petition, and has directed the State to sanction and grant extraordinary pension in favour of the petitioner, Smt. Preeti Chand, a lady who lost her husband suddenly in call of duty.”
While elaborating on the facts of the case, the Bench then puts forth in para 3 that, “Briefly stated the facts of the case are that the petitioner’s husband, Mr. Ramesh Chand Rajwar, was a SubInspector (Civil Police) in the Police Department. In the year 2013, he was posted at Police Station Dharchula. He was incharge of the Special Operation Group (for short ‘SOG’) constituted for controlling typical crimes such as forest smuggling, and poaching. On 25.09.2013 at 8:15 P.M., the Police Station was informed that forest smugglers had entered the forest, and were carrying on their nefarious activities. Therefore, the petitioner’s husband went to the scene of crime in Tawaghat Tapovan. In order to show his departure from the police station, relevant entries were made in the General Diary. Unfortunately, while the petitioner’s husband was returning from the scene of the crime, his vehicle got trapped in a landslide caused by the heavy rains. A boulder struck the head of the petitioner’s husband; he died on the spot. Due to the death of her husband, the Department granted the family pension to the petitioner. But the extraordinary pension has not been granted to the petitioner. Therefore, the petitioner had filed an application before the Department for seeking the benefit of extraordinary pension. The Superintendent of Police, Pithoragarh submitted his report to the Police Headquarters, Dehradun “that the petitioner is entitled for receiving extraordinary pension”. By a letter dated 20.12.2016, in turn, the Police Headquarters recommended to the Office of Accountant General that the petitioner is, indeed, entitled to receive the extraordinary pension. By letter dated 27.02.2017, the office of Accountant General also recommended to the State Government that under the Rule 3, Sub Rule (3) of U.P. Police Extraordinary Pension Rules, 1961 (for short ‘the Rules’), petitioner is certainly entitled to receive the extraordinary pension. Furthermore, by letters dated 20.03.2017 & 08.09.2017, the Police Headquarters again recommended to the State Government that the petitioner should be granted extraordinary pension. However, despite the repeated recommendations both by Police Headquarter and by Accountant General, State rejected the petitioner’s claim. Left with no other option, the petitioner approached before this Court by filing the writ petition. By the impugned judgment dated 05.11.2020, the learned Single Judge allowed the writ petition in the terms mentioned hereinabove. Hence, the present appeal before this Court.”
On the one hand, the Bench points out in para 4 that, “Mr. Vikas Pande, the learned Standing Counsel appearing for the State, has vehemently contended that Rule 3 of the Rules are applicable to only those police personnel who are engaged against the dacoits, or armed offender, or foreign intruders or “during engagements in other activities”. According to the learned counsel, the words “other activities” was further clarified by the Government Order dated 19.08.1988. According to the learned counsel, the said G.O. mentioned the following categories:
firstly, police personnel who have died while fighting the dacoits or other anti-social elements; secondly, those who have died while fighting with the invaders; thirdly, those who have died while fighting with the terrorist; fourthly, those who have died while trying to control the violent crowd; fifthly, those who have died while tackling natural calamities such as flood, landslide, avalanche, earthquake, or while fighting with fire. According to learned counsel, the work assigned to the petitioner’s husband does not fall within any of these categories. Therefore, the petitioner’s case is not covered under the Rules. Hence, the Government was justified in rejecting the petitioner’s claim for receiving the extraordinary pension. Lastly, according to the learned counsel, the learned Single Judge has failed to notice the Government Order dated 19.08.1988. Hence, the impugned judgment deserves to be set aside by this Court.”
On the contrary, the Bench then discloses in para 5 that, “On the other hand, Mr. D.S. Patni, the learned Senior Counsel appearing for the petitioner, submits that Rule 3 of the Rules has used residuary words, namely, “any other action in which the police personnel is killed”. Moreover, these residuary words have been defined by the Government Order dated 19.08.1988. According to the learned counsel, the very first category i.e. “while fifing dacoit or any anti-social elements” certainly covers the case of the petitioner’s husband. After all, the petitioner’s husband was working for SOG, which was a special task force created for tackling the problems created by forest smugglers and poachers. Further, the petitioner’s husband was informed that forest smugglers/poachers have entered in the forest to carry on their nefarious activities; they need to be stopped immediately. Since, the petitioner’s husband was on duty to tackle the anti-social elements, like forest smugglers and poachers, the petitioner’s case falls under the first category mentioned hereinabove. Therefore, the State has illegally rejected the claim for granting the extraordinary pension to the petitioner. According to the learned Senior Counsel, the learned Single Judge has noticed this point. Moreover, as the impugned orders dated 27.02.2018 and 02.04.2018 were passed without assigning any reasons, since both these impugned orders are cryptic in nature, the learned Single Judge was certainly justified in quashing these two orders and in issuing the directions to the State Government as mentioned hereinabove. Hence, the learned Senior Counsel has supported the impugned judgment.”
Needless to say, the Bench then observes in para 6 that, “Heard the learned counsel for the parties, and examined the records, submitted by both the parties, and perused the impugned judgment.”
Most significantly, the Bench then without mincing any words puts forth in simple, straight and suave language in para 7 that, “Admittedly, the petitioner’s husband was initially working as a Sub-Inspector in Civil Police. However, in the year 2013, he was reposed with the responsibility of Incharge of the S.O.G.. In fact, S.O.G. was constituted for controlling the crimes committed in the forest either by those who are smuggling forest products, like precious woods, or by the poachers who indulge in killing wild animals for their own personal profits. Undoubtedly, on 25.09.2013, the petitioner’s husband was deputed to tackle these anti-social elements who threaten the wildlife, or the environment. Obviously, the petitioner’s husband was not discharging his duty simplicitor. In fact he was risking his life in order to tackle the menace caused by the forest smugglers, or poachers. Thus, it was a special duty, a dangerous task, performed by the petitioner’s husband.”
Please read concluding on thedailyguardian.com.
No less significant is what is then stated in para 8 that, “The Government Order dated 19.08.1988, clearly mentions the category of dacoits and anti-social elements. Any police personnel while fighting the dacoits and antisocial elements is covered by these category. Obviously, the forest smugglers and poachers do fall under the category of “anti-social elements”. As mentioned above on 25.09.2013, the petitioner’s husband was on special duty to control the anti-social elements; while returning from discharging his duties, the petitioners husband met his death. Thus, naturally, the petitioner’s claim for receiving extraordinary pension is clearly covered both by Rule 3 of the Rules, and by Government Order dated 19.08.1988.”
As it turned out, the Bench then lays bare in para 9 that, “A bare perusal of the orders dated 27.02.2018 and 02.04.2018, clearly reveals that they are cryptic in nature. Therefore, the learned Single Judge was justified in observing that any order that adversely affects the civil and fundamental rights of a person would have to be a reasoned order. Hence, the learned Single Judge was justified in quashing the impugned orders, and in issuing the necessary directions to the respondents.”
As a corollary, the Bench then holds in para 10 that, “For the reasons stated above, we do not find any illegality or perversity in the order passed by the learned Single Judge. This appeal, being devoid of any merit is, hereby, dismissed.” Finally, it is then held in the last para 11 that, “No order as to costs.”
To sum up, it needs no Albert Einstein to conclude that the Uttarakhand High Court has most wisely, most commendably and most courageously chosen to stand up in favour of the right of the widow whose husband who was a police officer and who lost his life while on special duty to control anti-social elements. It has therefore rightly directed the State to sanction and grant extraordinary pension in favour of the widow of a police officer. This will now save her from running from pillar to post for getting her basic rights. So there is no ostensible reason as to why the Uttarakhand High Court who has spoken so decisively in her favour in its judgment be not appreciated and applauded.
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
Legalisation of medical marijuana: A boon or a bane?
Cannabis, which has many other forms such as Ganja, Charas or Bhang is a type of physio-pharmaceutical drug. Marijuana often evokes images of euphoria and relaxed lethargy. Some of the earliest human cultures ingested and smoked the leaves of the plant, and its consumption has persisted in modern society. Although it’s most commonly used as a recreational drug, marijuana also has important medicinal, religious, and spiritual applications. To some, it’s an important clinical substance that functions as a pain reliever, appetite booster, and sleeping aid. When smoke of cannabis is inhaled, rapid flow of THC takes place in the bloodstream of individual through lungs and is circulated throughout the body parts including brain. This THC impacts the brain receptors which eventually causes euphoria, dizziness etc. Hence the person who consumes the same experiences enhances sensory awareness & comfortable mentally.
Objectively though, there are some scientific data to show that marijuana has some medical uses, foremost of which is the relief of pain, severe nausea and vomiting in cancer patients receiving anticancer chemotherapy or radiotherapy. In terminally ill cancer and AIDS patients, when treatment has shifted to palliative from curative, cannabis —which is also available in capsule or pill form in other countries—can make the patients more comfortable, with less pain and angst during the remaining days or weeks of their lives. It can allow for a peaceful death—something which the family of a terminally ill patient would find comfort in, seeing that their loved one has gone with tolerable pain and distress. Some would call it “leaving with dignity.” Cannabis has been reported to have other medicinal uses like relief of severe spasticity, chronic muscle and joint pains unrelieved by conventional treatments, psychological and mental conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, bipolar disorder, childhood mental disorders, depression, alcoholism and Tourette syndrome.
The active ingredient in the cannabis plant is tetrahydrocannabinol (or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC). Other cannabis extracts or cannabinoids include delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, cannabinol, cannabicyclol, cannabichromeme and cannabigerol. All of these other cannabinoids are less potent than THC but may also play a contributory role in the overall effect of cannabis in the body. I can imagine that our health authorities, particularly our Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are mentally struggling on the issue whether to legalize medical marijuana or not. Despite the potential benefits of marijuana, it has potential negative side effects — it serves as a “gateway drug” to other dangerous substances and is linked with increased rates of crime and delinquency. High-frequency marijuana use has also been associated with neurological abnormalities, respiratory issues, and improper perinatal development. A major roadblock in marijuana legalization is a lack of carefully conducted clinical trials. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires thousands of clinical subjects in controlled experiments in order to push the development of a drug. So far, researchers have not published enough large-scale clinical studies which indicate that the benefits of marijuana outweigh its risks. However, the merits of marijuana cannot be ignored. Its prospective medical applications are various, and its status as an illegal drug is undergoing a shift as more people are accepting its recreational use.
CUSTOMARY IMPORTANCE OF CANNABIS IN INDIA
If we start tracing the initial point or having said that the customary importance of cannabis in India we can trace various connections of it with Lord Shiva who is worshipped as the Supreme God in the Hindu Religion. Indian festival such has Maha Shivratri has always witnessed consumption of cannabis because it has always been perceived that elixir of life can be purified with cannabis consumption and is also mentioned within the Hindu scriptures. Various initiatives were taken to highlights its benefits scientific and economical benefit but still no changes took place in the existing legislation for the same. In the earlier times, it was legal to consume cannabis in India, but India was pressurized by the United States since year 1961 to introduce a ban upon cannabis production. As a consequence, to such pressure, India finally introduced a Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act which eventually prohibited producing and selling of cannabis flowers and resin. However, the permission regarding usage of leaves and seeds was granted and the states was allowed to regulate the same accordingly.
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985 provides the definition of cannabis (hemp) as the following and prohibits the same:
Charas: It is a raisin separated in either crude or purified form and obtained through the plant of cannabis. Its oil is known as hashish oil.
Ganja: The fruiting or flowering tops after seeds and leaves are excluded from the cannabis plant.
Any other sort of mixture, inclusive of any form of cannabis mentioned above or any drink prepared individually from such forms or by adding neutralizing material to the same.
Case Law: It is pertinent to note that Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act does not provide any specific definition of “Bhang” which is also a form of cannabis and hence, it is legal to sell and consume bhang in India and is highly consumed in religious cities of northern India. The bhang is sold in government authorized shops and governments keeps a check over sale of bhang as it be used with malicious intention to prepare a new substance which can eventually be potent intoxicant. In Arjun Singh v State of Haryana case, it was held by the High Court of Chandigarh that as far as Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act is concerned, bhang cannot be considered as the cannabis (hemp). However, court also added that it is a product of cannabis plant. It clarified the perception that consuming cannabis leaves is not illegal however, production of cannabis plat is illegal.
PROS OF LEGALISATION OF MARIJUANA
1. Medical science and cannabis share a relationship with each other since ages. In many countries it is prescribed for those patients who are undergoing chemotherapy for cancer treatment. Studies have proved that cannabis is capable of preventing metastasis in the cases of aggressive cancer.
2. Enhanced production will eventually provide newer revenue opportunities for government other than liquor and tobacco. Such, revenue generated can be further utilized for welfare of general public.
3. India is one of the most favourable location for production of cannabis. If the cannabis is legalized, it will lead to higher production of the same which would in turn increase exports of our country India in a huge way.
4. It will be a very big boost to the agricultural sector of India, Since, the cannabis has numerous ways of usage, its demand will be higher and farmers will be having an alternative to produce and gain higher profits.
5. Cannabis has various components which are proved to be effective in curbing mental health issues, it will act as an antidepressant having less side effects than the chemical drugs that are given to patients in today’s time.
6. As a result of statutory prohibitions, trade of cannabis is taking place illegally within the country. If the cannabis is legalized, it will be formally and openly produced and will eventually prevent any sort of illegal trade killing the black market of the same.
CONS OF LEGALISATION OF MARIJUANA
1. The cannabis inhabits an active ingredient known as carcinogens which has a severe impact on the respiratory system. If any individual inhales the smoke of cannabis, he will be exposed to high volume of carcinogens which can be further lead to conditions which can even be life-threatening.
2. Constant consumption of cannabis will eventually develop a drug habit and once that habit is developed, it is not easy to deal with it. Those individuals who have tried to give up such habit have seen various symptoms such as depression, anxiety, fits of rage, headaches and emotional outbursts.
3. Marijuana can obstruct the user’s short-term memory and the ability to perform tasks like studying. Because of its effect on perceptions, marijuana can interrupt various skills such as driving and machine operation. It may also cause hallucinations and affect one’s sexual behavior.
It might be a shock to many; but like marijuana, some of the substances that we consume are potentially habit-forming. These include alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and even refined sugar. For some, all of these are part of their daily consumption. Tobacco and alcohol are not safe, after all, and both are already reported to cause many serious conditions including cancer. In some countries, marijuana is an additional option to treatment and has paved way to the right to health of the people. It has been used as the last resort for untreatable conditions. A good demonstration of this is when marijuana was used to stop an American child’s severe seizures. Legalization of Marijuana is not a problem but it’s implementation is definitely one of the concerns in a country like India, also there should be guidelines on medical marijuana treatment, dose, and the route of administration that must also be established. Nonetheless, it is important that we open our minds to the potential benefits of marijuana. May we set aside any political barrier and be open to the possibilities that we could benefit from this disputed plant. If ever it is fully legalized within the country , I hope it won’t be profit-oriented and instead, patient-oriented and research-oriented with proper regulation and taxation.
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