Stateless, homeless but not futureless: A saga of refugees - The Daily Guardian
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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’.

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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.

INTRODUCTION

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

• Syria

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.

• Afghanistan

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.

• Myanmar

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.

• Somalia

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.

INDIAN STATUES

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.

CONCLUSION

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.

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Policy & Politics

Pradhan flags off used cooking oil-based biodiesel from Indian Oil’s Tikrikalan terminal

Tarun Nangia

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Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas and Steel, Dharmendra Pradhan, remotely flagged off the first supply of UCO (Used Cooking Oil) based Biodiesel blended Diesel under the EOI Scheme from IndianOil’s Tikrikalan Terminal. Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas Tarun Kapoor and Chairman, IndianOil S M Vaidya, were also present on the occasion.

To create an eco-system for collection and conversion of UCO into Biodiesel and developing entrepreneurship opportunities, Hon’ble Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas & Steel, along with Hon’ble Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, had initiated Expressions of Interest (EoIs) for “Procurement of Bio-diesel produced from Used Cooking Oil (UCO)” on the occasion of World Biofuel Day on 10th August 2019. And such “Expression of Interest” is being periodically released by Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs). In the first phase, 11 EoIs were floated between 10.08.2019 to 09.11.2020 for 200 locations. Publication of EoIs has been extended for one more year up to 31.12.2021, for 300 locations across the country.

Under this initiative, OMCs offer periodically incremental price guarantees for five years and extend off-take guarantees for ten years to prospective entrepreneurs. So far, IndianOil has also issued 23 LOIs for Biodiesel plants with a total capacity of 22.95 Cr Litres (557.57 TPD). Under this initiative, IndianOil has received 51KL of UCO-Biodiesel at its Tikrikalan terminal in Delhi as of 31.3.2021.

Speaking on the occasion, Dharmendra Pradhan complimented the Oil industry on the stellar role they have played to keep the fuel lines running despite the stiff challenges of the pandemic. He also lauded the OMCs for going beyond the usual business imperatives by extending support for medical oxygen supply to the nation in this crisis. Mr Pradhan also appreciated IndianOil’s leadership role in smoothening the Liquid oxygen logistics in the country through various initiatives.

Referring to the flag-off of the first supply of UCO-based Biodiesel from IndianOil’s Tikrikalan Terminal, Mr Pradhan said, “This is a landmark in India’s pursuance of Biofuels and will have a positive impact on the environment. This initiative will garner substantial economic benefits for the nation by shoring up indigenous Biodiesel supply, reducing import dependence, and generating rural employment”. He appreciated the proactive role played by OMCs in this direction and shared that 30 LOIs have already been issued.

Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Tarun Kapoor, while delivering his address, said, “With this flag off, a new era of Bioenergy has been ushered in that will revolutionize the Indian petroleum sector. Feedstock availability in Biodiesel is a challenge, and leveraging UCO can be a major breakthrough that will enable us to reach the target of 5% Biodiesel blending. It will also help divert the unhealthy used oil from the food chain to a more productive purpose”. Mr Kapoor also complimented IndianOil for their focused drive on UCO based Biodiesel and for the concerted efforts undertaken to promote the benefits of Biodiesel.

Earlier, Chairman IndianOil S M Vaidya, while welcoming the gathering, said, “IndianOil is committed to contributing to this remarkable drive to retrieve the unhealthy Used Cooking Oil and usher in a revolution through “Randhan se Indhan”. We aspire to trace even the last drop of UCO and ensure its conversion to Biodiesel, thereby contributing to a more energy secure, greener and healthier India. This event is yet another significant step towards a Swachh and Aatmanirbhar Bharat”. He also shared that IndianOil has started constructing eight Biodiesels plants across Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh.

Biodiesel is an alternative fuel similar to conventional or ‘fossil’ diesel. It can be produced from vegetable oil, animal fats, tallow and waste cooking oil. A significant advantage of Biodiesel is its carbon-neutrality, i.e. the oilseed absorbs the same amount of CO2 as is released when the fuel is combusted in a vehicle. Also, Biodiesel is rapidly biodegradable and completely non-toxic.

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Policy & Politics

INDIA BEGINS EXPORT OF ORGANIC MILLETS GROWN IN HIMALAYAS TO DENMARK

Tarun Nangia

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In a major boost to organic products exports from the country, first consignment of millets grown in Himalayas from snow-melt water of Ganges in Dev Bhoomi (Land of the God), Uttarakhand would be exported to Denmark.

APEDA, in collaboration with Uttarakhand Agriculture Produce Marketing Board (UKAPMB) & Just Organik, an exporter, has sourced & processed ragi (finger millet), and jhingora(barnyard millet) from farmers in Uttarakhand for exports, which meets the organic certification standards of the European Union.

UKAPMB procured millets directly from these farmers which have been processed in the state-of-art processing unit built by mandi board and operated by Just Organik.

“Millets are unique agricultural products from India which have significant demand in the global market. We will continue to carry out export promotion for the millets with a special focus on products sourced from Himalayas,” said by Dr M Angamuthu, Chairman, APEDA. He stated that Indian organic products, nutraceuticals and health food are gaining more demand in overseas market

In Uttarakhand, many of the common varieties of millets are the staple foods in the hills. The Uttarakhand government has been supporting organic farming. UKAPMB, through a unique initiative has been supporting thousands of farmers for organic certification. These farmers produce mainly millets such as ragi, barnyard millet, amaranthus etc.

The exports of millets to Denmark would expand exports opportunities in European countries. The exports would also support thousands of farmers that are getting into organic farming. Millets are gaining a lot of popularity globally because of high nutritive values and being gluten free also.

Meanwhile, India’s export of organic food products rose by more than 51% to Rs 7078 crore ($ 1040 million) during April-February (2020-21) compared to the same period in the previous fiscal (2019-20).

In terms of quantity, the exports of organic food products grew by 39% to 888,179 metric tonne (MT) during April-February (2020-21) compared to 638,998 MT shipped in April- February (2020-21). The growth in organic products have been achieved despite logistical and operational challenges posed by the COVID19 pandemic.

Oil cake meal is a major commodity of the organic product exports from the country followed by oil seeds, fruit pulps and purees, cereals & millets, spices, tea, medicinal plant products, dry fruits, sugar, pulses, coffee, essential oil etc. India’s organic products have been exported to 58 countries including USA, European Union, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Switzerland, Israel and South Korea.

At present, organic products are exported provided they are produced, processed, packed and labelled as per the requirements of the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP). The NPOP has been implemented by APEDA since its inception in 2001 as notified under the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulations) Act, 1992.

The NPOP certification has been recognized by the European Union and Switzerland which enables India to export unprocessed plant products to these countries without the requirement of additional certification. NPOP also facilitates export of Indian organic products to the United Kingdom even in the post Brexit phase.

In order to facilitate the trade between major importing countries, negotiations are underway with Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Australia, UAE, New Zealand for achieving Mutual Recognition Agreements for exports of organic products from India.

NPOP has also been recognized by the Food Safety Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) for trade of organic products in the domestic market. Organic products covered under the bilateral agreement with NPOP need not to be recertified for import in India.

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Policy & Politics

BAD BANKS: A WAY FORWARD FOR ASSET RECONSTRUCTION?

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INTRODUCTION

A bad bank is generally a financial entity set up to buy a non-performing asset (NPAs) or bad loan from the bank which eases the burden of the bank in its core functioning, also known as ARC (Asset Reconstruction Company). After acquiring a bad loan from the bank, a bad bank commissions some amount to the bank, and the rest may share with the investor who is interested to purchase. The idea of the bad bank was pioneered in the US in 1988 by the Mellon bank which was further fostered amid the financial crisis of 2007-08. The bank transferred $1billion of its bad loans to a newly created subsidiary and the subsidiary was resolved in 1995 after meeting all its objectives. However other experiments in Indonesia and Japan have shown that the government might have to do some hand-holding.

Initially, the idea of the bad bank in India was floated in January 2017 when the economic survey of India proposed the introduction of PARA (Public Sector Asset Rehabilitation Agency) and the central bank also suggested forming entities PAMC (Private Asset Management Company) and NAMC (National Asset Management Company) in tackling the problem of bad loan concerning the public sector bank.

On 1st February, FM minister Nirmala Sitharaman revived the idea of a bad bank in India in her budget proposing to set up an asset reconstruction company to tackle the increasing hazard of bad loans in the banking sector. COVID-19 has further impacted the asset quality of Banks and this proposal can act as a potential catalyst that the sector badly needs and IBA (Indian Bank Association) also endorsed the FM Nirmala Sitharaman’s idea of creation of ‘bad bank’ during the pandemic when the banking sector was expecting a hike in bad debts.

WORSENING OF ASSET QUALITY

The issue of bad loans is a perpetual one in the Indian banking sector which has been worsened by the impact of COVID-induced measures on the economy. According to the figures by the Reserve Bank of India the size of the bad loan in the Indian banks was around 9 lakh crores as of March 31, 2020, which in contrast to the figure of two years ago, the size of the bad loan was decreased significantly because of the larger write-offs by Indian to the bad bank. Furthermore, due to the lockdown, the non-performing asset of the bank as per the Financial Stability Report of RBI 2021 is going to rise sharply from 7.5% of gross advances in September 2020 to at least 31.5% of gross advances in September 2021 under the baseline scenario which indicates a need to take more proactive steps to ameliorate the deteriorating assets crisis.

Last year, IBA presented a proposal for the establishment of a composite or hybrid type of bad bank comprising stake from government and bank in dealing with the issue of a non-performing asset but the same was rejected by the government which prefers the market-oriented process but now due to the lockdown Indian banks are vouching for the concept of the bad bank to tackle the rising crisis of NPAs.

RATIONALIZING THE NEED

The issue of bad loans is prevalent in the Indian banking sector especially triggered to rise during the lockdown. The setting up of the bad bank entity comprising the experts dealing with non-performing assets can help in countering the problem of bad loans by creating a single entity to deal with the matters which will ease the burden of the banks. Besides this, it helps in cleaning the balance sheet of the bank and making them financially healthy, and aids them in focusing more on their core function of lending, and also have a positive impact on the bank history

Two important instruments currently in use for dealing with NPAs are the SARFAESI Act 2002 and the IBC 2016, both of which provide a framework for various stakeholders to deal with such assets. The SARFAESI Act was enacted by the parliament after the recommendations of the Umerjeee Committee for countering the rising NPAs and improving the financial health of the banks but now in these extraordinary circumstances during the pandemic, there is a need to amend the act as recently on April 2021, the Monetary Policy Committee of RBI constituted a committee to review the working of the ARCs and pointed out that the true potential of the ARCs is yet not realized and which is not sufficient enough to counter the deteriorating financial health amid the pandemic in the Indian banking sector. So, the committee should not turn a blind eye on a bad bank which is a viable option amid a pandemic to counter a sharp rise in NPAs.

However, the mere transfer of bad assets from one entity to another will not resolve the perennial problem of NPA’s. This requires long-term reforms in the Banking industry, especially in the public sector banks. This may also lead to the creation of a moral hazard as it enables banks to continue their current reckless lending practices and might hamper accountability within the system. The ARC might also have to be further financed by the government which will further create pressure on the government treasury.

CONCLUSION

While COVID continues to threaten the financial growth of developing countries like India, this is perhaps the opportune time for a hard reset on certain corporate practices. The idea of Bad Banks provides the government, the banking sector, and the business community a way out in these tumultuous times. However, the measure must be backed by reforming the sector and bringing more accountability and transparency. The structure and financing of such an entity remain unclear and both the public and the government must proceed with caution. The creation of a Bad Bank opens up more questions for the banking industry as bankruptcy cases rise and new bad assets are discovered, and it is important to remember the fundamentals while applying this much-needed idea.

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Policy & Politics

A TRIBUTE TO MAJOR BIKRAMJEET KANWARPAL

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Major Bikramjeet Kanwarpal succumbed to COVID-19 on May 1

After retiring from the Indian Army, the major became a successful actor in films and television.

An old friend salutes a wonderful human being.

Some people never go.

They live with you even after death has unkindly taken them away from you.

Major Bikramjeet Kanwarpal – more than a good friend, a lighting guide, and known to the world as a famous Bollywood actor – was one of them.

An ex-army major and son of an army officer, his friends, colleagues and seniors dearly called him Bizzu.

He did his schooling from the prestigious boarding school in Kasauli, Lawrence School, Sanawar, and from those days itself, the brilliant student was loved by his teachers and classmates.

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Bizz was passionate about acting since his childhood and used to participate in school plays and drama.

Though a ‘brat’, a term used for the children of army officers, Bizz never took academics lightly.

After completing his education, Bizz joined the Indian Army.

He was commissioned as an officer in Hodson’s Horse, (also called the 4th Horse) a prestigious regiment of the Armoured Corps raised in the British era.

As a second generation soldier, 4th Horse was another home for Major Bikramjeet since the very inception of his career.

Soon after joining the regiment at Nabha, Punjab, Bizz became the blue-eyed boy of not only of his regiment. But of the entire brigade.

And this is where I met him for the first time.

After migrating from Woodstock Mussoorie, I was studying at the Punjab Public School Nabha as my father Colonel A S Ghumman was the BSTO 1 Armoured Brigade.

I remember how was handsome, stunning, well-read and jovial Bizz was.

He loved listening to country and soft music. Elton John and Bryan Adams were his favourites. We would often exchange music CDs with each other.

The officers would finish their work during the day and we kids our school, and in the evenings, we would all meet at the officers’ club which hosted many indoor activities like billiards, badminton and table tennis. It had a library with books on the Indian Army as well as fiction. Most importantly, it had a bar which had premium liquor and the world’s best nimbu pani made by its bartender, ‘Pie’, as we called him.

Here, Bizz, Colonel Vivek, a very dear friend and three months senior to Major Bikramjeet, and Colonel Feroze Khan, who was a national squash player, used to get together with the officers.

They used to play tug-of-war on the badminton court and Major Bikramjeet was undoubtedly our leader.

One could witness the best Queen’s English between Bizz and and Colonel Vivek whereas Colonel Feroze used to onslaught all the officers with his power game.

We kids would pick up the key to Bizz’s bike and take it for a spin, only to come back after two hours and give the keys to the bachelor’s room, called the Stallion Den. It accommodated all the bachelor officers of the regiment.

After the fun days at Nabha, my father got posted as camp commandant Babina, Uttar Pradesh.

As luck would have it, 4th Horse was also posted at Babina within months, and we were together again.

My brother Captain Ruminder Singh Ghumman and Major Bikramjeet became best buddies as they were gym partners too.

In the evenings, all of us would gather at Major Bikramjeet’s room to listen to music, chat and play the guitar.

Country Roads Take Me Home was our favourite song.

Bizz was instrumental in teaching us how to dance, including jive. He was always full of life.

I remember putting on his favourite perfume before going to a party and he would guide me by saying, ‘Buddy, put on this one for occasions.’

Then came a time when we parted ways to set out for a new journey to fulfill our dreams.

Major Bikramjeet resigned from the Indian Army and went to Bollywood where he worked in films like Paap, Platoon, Ghazi Attack.

He was a part of popular television serials and became a loved celebrity in Bollywood.

I declined to join the army and became a lawyer instead.

My brother Captain Ruminder would be in regular touch with Bizz when he was in Bombay.

It was through him that I got in touch with Bizz again, and we relived our childhood memories.

Bizz loved his brother Mr Vishwajeet Kanwarpal a lot.

We often used to talk about his brother and parents, who would spend their holidays at their summer cottage in Solon.

The last time I spoke to Bizz was when he was shooting for a film in Lucknow. It was just a few days ago.

Never in my worst nightmare did I realise that would be my last conversation with him.

He was in the midst of writing a movie script based on the Indian Army.

When Colonel Feroze Khan informed me about Bizz’s sad demise, my world was shaken to its core.

A feeling of emptiness crept inside me.

Bizz was the most free-spirited, lively gentleman I knew and he left us too soon.

He was a man of his word, someone who lived life on his terms.

He knew how to live life not only on the big screen, but also in real life, with the same passion.

Will miss you a lot Bizz, you will always be with us.

Your memories are gold to us and even God can’t take them away, forget Death.

Adv. Rubinder Ghumman practices at Delhi High Court

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Policy & Politics

WOMEN, PATRIARCHY AND PANDEMIC

Tamanna Chandan Chachlani

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Being in a patriarchal setup, women have been the subject of various laws in our country and on the sidelined watch of the society. Law and society are inseparable in more ways than one, they work together to create harmony and ensure a co existence between various elements. However, the dichotomy is evident when it comes to Women. One of the primary reasons for the same is that the position of women has been unstable in the patriarchal setup. Beginning from the role of being the “supporter” and moving towards the “provider” in today’s time presents a remarkable shift, both in ideation and structuring of the society.

But, has this shift created a change in outlook, both in terms of law and society? It’s debatable. I say this because, despite being 48.04% of the current population, having so many laws to “protect” us, seems like we still have a long road which is rather less travelled. The pandemic has been a testing time for the entire nation, but more so for the women of this country.

INCREASE IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND THE LACK OF ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY AND MOBILE PHONES:

Law aims at providing a workable solution to the perils of the society. Domestic violence is one such by product of peril created by the setup we live in. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 is a legislation that aims at providing effective protection to women who are victims of violence. However, the lockdown saw an increase in domestic violence cases by a significant number. The National Commission of Women reported an increase by twofold in the lockdown period of 2020. The Commission received almost 23,722 cases from March to September, 2020. These numbers are those which have been reported, most of the go rather unreported due to fear, not wanting to destroy the family structure, the social and economic status, financial dependency and a lot more social stigmas. However, with rise in awareness through social media, women have actively started to report these cases. The NCW also launched a WhatsApp helpline for women. Apart from this, various NGOs, Organizations helped women to get the necessary help.

The lockdown also created a loophole in the system with most police officers being busy as frontline workers in maintaining law and order, women were left further helpless. Since, most women in our country especially from the unorganized sector remain unaware about the law that exists to protect them, a last resort is reporting to a nearby police officer or their employer but both of these havens were non-existent or barely existent during the lockdown period.

However, the various High Courts took suo motu cognizance of the rising crisis and asked the State as well as Central Government to make effective guidelines and help the victims at the earliest.

The United Nations Chief Antonio Guterres called for a global “ceasefire” against the increasing numbers of domestic violence cases across the world. UN Women termed it as the “shadow” pandemic. According to the report by UN Women, 1 in 3 women faced either sexual or physical violence mostly by their partner.

In India, the Delhi State Legal Services Authority announced specific measures such as collaboration with Mother Dairy booths (Milk Booths), pharmacists and chemists for information on survivors of violence and also launched an app to deliver legal aid to these individual

The Government also shared National Legal Aid Services Authority’s (NALSA) directory of Legal Service Institutions functional across the country along with NALSA Legal Aid Helpline and online portal with all the One Stop Centers and Women Helplines to facilitate legal aid and counselling to women facing violence.The State of Odisha came out with an initiative through which police officers will contact women who had earlier reported domestic violence to enquire about their condition over phone during the ongoing lockdown.

Coming to the aspect of access,The Mobile Gender Gap Report, 2020 of Groupe Speciale Mobile Association states that only 21% of women in India have access to the Internet. Moreover, a study conducted by John F Kennedy School highlighted that only 38% women in India own a mobile phone as compared to 71% men. Another recent study conducted by the University of Oxford concluded that women are 25% less likely to own a mobile phone than men. A study conducted by Mohan Diwakar also highlights that marginalized women have the least mobile phone access. These studies also liked the access of mobile phones to the health of women. With the second round of lockdown being imposed in cartons states across the country, the reality seems to be more grim for many women who have been in abusive Joel’s for too long, feeling trapped and unable to seek help.

With this being a reality, it is important to strengthen other measures apart from helplines, social media outreach. We need to act like an active community, develop a mechanism which allows women to seek help from their surroundings in case of lack of access to technology, internet and/or mobile phones.

We need a stronger nationwide policy especially addressing issues like domestic violence during a pandemic. For instance, Europe declared domestic violence assistance as an “essential service”. In Argentina, France and Spain, chemists are helping women report domestic violence cases with the codeword “Mask 19”. Canada and Australia also announced special funds for violence against women as a part of their action plan against the pandemic. These are measures that go beyond technology and assist women at ground zero.

EFFECT ON MENSTRUAL HEALTH AND THE LINK TO EDUCATION:

The CARE report on menstrual hygiene states that the availability of menstrual care products ha seven severely affected by lockdowns across the globe. 1.8 billion of the global population are menstruators but this could not garner the attention of lawmakers globally. Menstrual hygiene products were deemed nonessential and were absent from most hospitals. A report by FSG released in 2020 reveals that 500 million women worldwide lacked the essential resources to go through menstruation. More importantly, 70% of the global healthcare workforce are women and the pandemic has been an especially tough time for them while fighting Covid as well as catering to their own menstrual needs.

In India, 366 million women excluding gender non binary persons menstruate. The pandemic put the menstrual health and hygiene on a stand by. Firstly, because the Government of India didn’t include the production of menstrual products in the essential category leading to stall age in production, which was later rectified after public outcry. India has a Menstrual Hygiene Scheme, which allows rural adolescent girls to access sanitary napkins at a subsidized rate.

However, a scheme that has taken a big hit is the Kishori Shakti Yojna, as the scheme allows for distribution of sanitary napkins to adolescent girls via government schools. Due to the consistent spread of virus pan India, these schools have remained shut hence cutting off one crucial source of accessing these products. Various newspapers like The Hindu, Wire also reported on these aspects and how the young girls have been left with no recourse in sight. More importantly, this has further widened the gap between social stratas of the society, with women from the less privileged backgrounds suffering more than ever.

In a study conducted by SWACH organization, it was revealed that 23 million women drop out of schools annually once they start menstruating. Legally speaking, the Constitution of India has guaranteed the right to health, the right to equal treatment for everyone irrespective of their gender,the right to education, the Government has been encouraging education of the girl child by introducing various incentivizing schemes. But, the problem lies in implementation, in harmonizing these schemes and laws with the society and most importantly the lack of awareness amongst people of the society. Most people still consider “Menstruation” as a taboo topic and it goes undiscussed in most households and institutions like schools.

The pandemic has made it further difficult to bridge the gender gap especially in the semi urban and rural settings of India. There were various NGOs and organizations that distributed sanitary napkins in the lesser privileged areas, but these measures are only temporary and most importantly they are not run nationwide.

The Right to Education Forum in its 2020 policy report stated that around 10 million girls in India are on the verge of dropping out of schools due to the pandemic. While the report has a detailed portrayal of how schools are not inclusive enough, it also sheds light on the fact that patriarchal setup encourages gender discrimination, leading to discrimination right inside the schools. One of the core reasons for girls dropping out is poverty, which evidently has increased during the pandemic. Girls are being trafficked or they are being married off at a young age creating a further vicious loop of problems associated with female health altogether, which cannot be addressed by law alone.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS:

Although, the Government has taken various measures, we still have a long way to go. These issues cannot be looked at in isolation, they are a part of the larger patriarchal setup and hence the society. This is one area where we require harmonization of law as well as ideologies which is very difficult to achieve but never impossible. There are some measures that can be taken:

● Although schools cannot be opened for providing sanitary napkins, the Government can allocate certain funds for setting up distribution of sanitary napkins under the schemes, for effective realization of the same. Recently, the Karnataka High Court also asked the State Government to allocate proper funds to the Shuchi scheme for providing sanitary napkins.

● Actively educating and spreading awareness to chemists, grocers who can act as a source point for these women to report domestic violence.

● The UNICEF report on Gender Based Violence Service provision during pandemic specifically outlines the various measures that can be taken when the women do not have access to mobile phones. The report suggests that there should be installation of phone booths at various places to facilitate connection in times of need, creation of “safe spots” for women and an alert system with the help of local community.

● Citizens can help by being a part of the alert system and reporting cases.

Spreading awareness and working towards the goal of increasing education for girls more so after the pandemic. The Government and variousNGOs are working in this direction, but the gap will increase significantly once the country recovers from the virus.

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Policy & Politics

WILL MAMATA BE THE FACE OF NATIONAL POLITICS?

Political forces together failed to knock Mamata Didi out… The results of Assembly elections in five states have given several clear indications. Mamata Banerjee’s victory in West Bengal has rekindled a new hope within the Opposition at the national level that the BJP can be challenged provided the strategy is right. So the moot question is: Will Mamata become the face of national politics now? The poll results have given a clear message to Congress to appreciate public sentiment and respect the grassroots leaders.

Vijay Darda

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A midst tall claims about the West Bengal Assembly elections, I was constantly telling my BJP friends that Mamata Banerjee will score a hat-trick. BJP will not be able to cross double digits despite all its efforts. I was saying all this not as a politician but as a journalist based on my analysis. I have always analysed Mamata Didi’s politics in depth. She is a grassroots leader and has a first-hand experience of overthrowing the Left from power. She has suffered lathi blows and knows how to break through the opposition’s defense.

The Bharatiya Janata Party was determined to oust the Mamata Banjerjee-led Trinamool Congress out of power in this Assembly election. For that, it had started the groundwork around two-and-a-half years back. All the big-time leaders, all the outfits associated with the BJP and the RSS deployed all the power and resources at their disposal. They polarised the Hindu vote. Star campaigners were fielded and they worked day and night for this purpose. The Sangh undertook a door-to-door contact programme to woo the voters. The ‘Chanakya Neeti’ of ‘Saam-Daam-DandBhed’ was fully utilised. As the election season approached, several political developments took place that took everybody by surprise. Many leaders who had gained political stature, thanks to Didi, crossed over to BJP. An atmosphere was created that indicated that Didi was all set to lose power this time..! But was Didi the one to give up so easily? She responded to each and every attack with her own firebrand counter-attack. She left her constituency and went to Nandigram and contested against her once confidante and now BJP candidate Suvendu Adhikari, who had left her and was contesting on a BJP ticket. The BJP’s strategy was successful. Mamata lost the election in Nandigram. Mamata Banerjee met with an accident during the election. Her movement became restricted. But Didi once again proved that she is a grassroots leader in West Bengal. No matter how many allegations of corruption and hooliganism have been levelled against her and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, the people’s mandate went in her favour. Rather, Didi has emerged more powerful than before. Had Didi got the full support of the Congress, the situation would have been even more better. The Congress stopped campaigning in the fifth round, but by then the Congress had inflicted whatever damage it could on Mamata. Due to these initial mistakes, the possibility of division of Muslim votes increased. The BJP got its clear advantage too. The Congress and the Left suffered a humiliating defeat. Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary knew this. But it is clear that people have voted for Mamata to keep the secular forces strong

This election result of West Bengal can prove to be a big game changer in national politics. But before discussing this aspect, let us take a look at what happened in other states. Political analysts say that people have clearly told the Congress to appreciate the public sentiments and treat them accordingly. The Congress should respect the grassroots leaders who are closely connected with the people and let them take over the reins in the party. Kerala is a state where no party came to power for the second time in a row. This is for the first time that the Left retained power. The reason for this is that the Congress replaced those who were grassroots leaders and the high command handed over the leadership to K C Venugopal. Rahul Gandhi is an MP from Kerala. Analysts are saying that the Congress imposed Narayan Sami in Puducherry due to which they lost Puducherry. There was a lot of resentment against Sami due to which they lost power. Despite this, the Congress did not learn any lesson. The BJP’s strategy was successful in that they had already sacked the government of Puducherry.

In Assam, the Congress contested jointly with Badruddin Ajmal’s party All India United Democratic Front, but the strategy the latter had devised failed. Hemant Biswa Sarma was a grassroots leader, but after he joined the BJP, the Congress was in tatters and the result was that despite taking Ajmal along, the Congress could not get the desired results.

As far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, I had a conversation with Stalin and also those close to him. When I went there, it was clear to me that Stalin would come to power because he had been working at the ground level for years. After Jayalalithaa’s departure, Palaniswami’s government was facing serious allegations of corruption. Stalin took full advantage of it. Despite the BJP’s help, the AIADMK could not do anything there. As far as the Congress is concerned, it was clearly at Stalin’s mercy. Stalin was not happy with the Congress, but considering Sonia Gandhi, he had allotted 25 seats to the Congress but the party lost the high-stake political battle there too.

Let us now return to West Bengal where Didi has shown amazing power. She has not only retained power in West Bengal, but also ignited a ray of hope in the opposition politics of the country. Now it is to be seen how the secular forces in the country come together and what strategy Soniaji adopts. Will she adopt the strategy like when she went to Mayawati’s house on foot? Will she adopt the same strategy and move forward with the veterans of every state..? Or become a part of UPA-2 in which Sharad Pawar succeeded in bringing everyone under one flag by becoming its convener? It is difficult to say anything right now but it is crystal clear that the fight ahead is not going to be BJP vs Secular Force but Narendra Modi vs all. In this scenario, it will be interesting to watch what Mamata Didi’s stand will be!

BEFORE I CONCLUDE

Elections are over but what is worrying is how many people might have got infected with the coronavirus as a result of their participation in election gatherings, rallies and congregations and what the virus will do to them. It is reported that coronavirus is most widely spread in Maharashtra, but the data dished out by the Government of India is very shocking. In the states where Assembly elections or panchayat elections were held, Covid-19 cases have increased exponentially due to rallies and meetings. In April, the number of Covid-19 patients increased by 5412 per cent in Assam, 1266 per cent in West Bengal, 1229 per cent in Kerala, 1227 per cent in UP, 563 per cent in Tamil Nadu and 359 per cent in Puducherry. This is something called a gross negligence!

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

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