Rabindranath Tagore in his poem ‘Bharat Teertha’ wrote “…No one knows at whose beckoning call how many streams, of humanity came in indomitable waves from all over the world, over the millennia and mingled like rivers, into this vast ocean and created an individual soul, that is called Bharat”. As India revels in the celebration of its 74th Independence Day, I feel that it becomes necessary to revisit what the Indian story of the 21st century has to offer its often neglected, out- of- the- ‘mainstream’ constituents.
Tribals constitute about 8.6% of the nation’s total population and possess their own customs and languages. The usage of the word ‘tribe’ has been regarded as a colonial invention to classify people so diverse from one another in terms of physical and linguistic characteristics, demographic scale, ecological living conditions, and stages of social creation and degree of acculturation and growth. The Report of the High Level Committee on Socio-Economic, Health and Educational Status of Tribal Communities of India in 2014 listed 705 individual ethnic groups as scheduled tribes.
On the eve of Independence, there prevailed two dominant discourses on tribes in India. According to Prof. G.S. Ghurye, the indigenous tribes belonged to the same group as the Hindus; they had been pushed to backwardness because of their isolation with the larger Hindu society in due course of time. The contrasting view offered by the British-born anthropologist, and tribal activist Verrier Elwin attributed the marginalization of the tribals to their contact with the outside world, which had led them to become increasingly indebted and to lose control over their land and forests. This, in turn, brought about crippling effects on their social and cultural life as well. Linguistic identity is a key element in social and cultural life of every community. Languages are repositories of historical/geographical knowledge and healthy community interactions. Indigenous people speak hundreds of languages. The nationalist leadership attributed much of the condition at which tribals found themselves at the eve of independence principally to their social and geographical isolation and socio- economic backwardness. Therefore, the tribal policy in independent India came to be centered on the agenda of drawing the tribal communities out of their primordial condition of living and bringing them into the wider mainstream Indian society which was seen as representing a dimension of civilisation. Various provisions related to the tribal community in the Constitution of India clearly reflect this vision of the nationalist leadership. These include, among other provisions, extending fundamental rights to tribes as any other citizen, providing for their statutory recognition (Article 342) as well as proportionate representation in the Parliament and state legislatures (Articles 330 and 332). The Constitution also mandates the state to make provision for reservation in favor of tribal communities [Article 16(4)]. Besides these, the fifth and sixth schedules of the constitution (Articles 244 and 244A) provide for special administration of tribal areas.
India, with 197 endangered languages, tops the list in UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger (2010). Around 100 of these 197 endangered languages are from tribal areas of the Northeastern region of India (NEI). Further, 13 of them are classified as critically endangered. When a language is lost, cultural tools for encrypting and distributing indigenous information structures among the groups are also lost. This loss becomes even more acute in a country like India where caste, class, gender, religion, lingual and regional fault lines play a paramount role in defining identities of citizens at various levels. The speakers of minority and indigenous languages are devoid of the sense of individuality and recognition when languages spoken by the tribal communities are excluded from mainstream educational discourse. Here, I feel that it is important to note that most tribal languages are written in either the dominant regional language or another major language script. Given the respect that a language backed by codified script commands in the syllabic world, languages lacking a script are often trivialized as dialects, clearly missing the reality that writing frameworks often evolved well after languages and are not important language resources. The proponents of bringing tribals into the ‘mainstream’ in their zeal often ignore that privileging homogenisation and standardization of languages leads to linguistic and cultural inequality resulting in loss of freedom, and disparity in participation and growth. It is in this context that I analyse the issue of education in the local language/ mother tongue and the preservation and revitalization of indigenous languages.
How did Language Policy Evolve in India?
The Indian Constitution emphasized that for an initial period of fifteen years, the official business of the Union should be performed both in English and Hindi. Following this time, Hindi would become the Union’s only official language. It also acknowledged linguistic diversity. Part XVII contains provisions on Official Language, including Articles 345-347 on ‘Regional Languages’ and ‘Language of the State.’ The Constitution allows the Indian States to define their own official language(s) by legislation under these articles. It also emphasized that ‘the language(s) chosen by the States need not be one of those listed in the Eighth Schedule’. Article 29(1) provides for safeguarding the rights of linguistic and cultural minorities, which ensures the right of linguistic and cultural minorities to maintain their linguistic and cultural practices. Article 30(1) provides that linguistic and religious groups have the right to establish and administer educational establishments to protect their linguistic and/or cultural heritage. Further, Article 30(2) forbids the State from discrimination against minority educational institutions on the basis that they are under the supervision of linguistic or religious minorities in offering financial assistance. These two broad provisions meant for the protection and promotion of multilingualism are equally applicable to tribal communities. The Official Language Act, 1963, officially established Hindi and English as the languages of the Central Government, thus, allowing States and provinces to use their ‘own’ languages. However, the re-organization of states based on linguistic cohesiveness had already begun with the formation of Andhra Pradesh in 1953. The inclusion of certain languages in the Schedule VIII further led to the local pushpull of linguistic identities. The Constitution of India recognises twenty-two languages as ‘scheduled languages.’
The Linguistic Geopolitics of NEI
The Partition of India in 1947 reduced the North- East India to a landlocked region. Tripura, Manipur and Khasi Hills of Meghalaya were erstwhile Princely States that merged with India after independence. At independence the entire region except Manipur and Tripura comprised the state of Assam. The vast international border and weak communication between the North- East and the rest of India added to the diaphanous nature of insulated politics there. At the same time, the influx of migrants from neighbouring States and countries brought about major demographic changes in the region. The seclusion of the region, its complex social character and backwardness compared to other parts of the country -all resulted in complex set of demands, sometimes even secessionist, from different tribal pockets of the North- East. The demands for political autonomy first arose when the non- Assamese felt that the Assam government was imposing Assamese language on them. In Assam, forced Bengali immigration had led to minor and major ethnic movements. Hence, the declaration of Assamese as the official language was seen mostly as a win over the Bengali imposition. There were agitations and riots throughout the State. Leaders of the major tribal communities formed the Eastern India Tribal Union which later transformed into All Party Hill Leaders Conference in 1960. They wanted to separate from Assam and form a separate tribal State. Ultimately, several states got carved out of Assam on the issue of linguistic identity. At different points in time, the division of Assam led to the formation of Nagaland in 1963, Meghalaya in 1970 and Mizoram in 1972, to protect the languages of Naga, Khasi and Mizo, respectively. Kokborok, the Tripuri language was given recognition by the Left Front government as the second official language in 1978 but the script chosen was Bengali. This later became a point of contention for younger generations of Tripuris who insisted on Borok being written in the Roman script rather than Bengali. The creation of several Autonomous District Councils for ethnic tribes, like the Maras, Lais and the Chakmas gave momentum to the demand of a separate identity in Mizoram. This further provided the impetus to other tribal minorities to fight for separate Autonomous District Councils, e.g.: the Hmars (recognized as one of the major languages only in 1986), the Brus and the Paites.
Why are the Tribal Languages on the Verge of Extinction?
After the Census of 1971, the languages that were spoken by less than 10,000 speakers were placed under the section ‘Others’. According to the data of Census of 2011, there are 121 languages and 270 mother tongues spoken in the country. The data below gives a clear picture on speakers of Scheduled and Non-Scheduled languages in the NEI.
The above data shows that all the NEI states have a large number of people who speak Non-Scheduled languages. The share of Non-Scheduled languages speakers is high as 85% in Nagaland, Mizoram, and Meghalaya. Only the state of Assam has the least population of 7.22% who speaks NonScheduled languages.
While exploring the reasons behind the endangerment of tribal languages in NEI, I came across six major causes responsible for their ‘linguistic genocide’.
According to Marchang (2017) the output value per factory was about Rs. 15 crore in NEI as against Rs. 27 crore in India. Moreover, only 2% of higher educational institutions of India were in NEI during 2012-13. Language can be passed from one generation to another if there are economic incentives for the younger generation to stay in the region in which the language is spoken. Lack of opportunity in education and employment is a major reason why tribals from NEI migrate to other regions within the country. The yearly out-migration from tribal areas of NEI to the rest of India almost doubled between 1991 and 2001. Considering these endangered languages are mainly tribal languages, lack of economic incentive and the resultant migration could be considered as a key factor contributing to the loss of mother tongue speakers. As observed in tribal regions in Africa which have indigenous languages disappearing, the presence of ex- colonial languages like English and the disproportionate prestige attached to them plays a major factor in the neglect of these languages. One of the factors for some of the indigenous languages not getting attention could be that there are other languages with a bigger population of speakers getting asymmetric attention. In this context, the ‘Assam factor’ plays a primary role in the linguistic tussle in NEI. For example, while Assamese had already been a part of Schedule VIII, a yet another language- mainly spoken in Assam – Bodo was added to Schedule VIII in 2003. However, Nissi/Dafla spoken in Arunachal Pradesh or Konyak/Ao spoken in Nagaland are not in the list of languages demanded to be included in Schedule VIII. Less percentage of people speaking Non-Scheduled languages in Assam can be attributed to inclusion of ‘Bodo’ in the list of Scheduled languages in 2003. Though Article 350A of the Indian Constitution calls for attempts by the State and local authorities to provide appropriate facilities for the teaching of children belonging to linguistic minority groups in their mother tongue at the primary level of education, this is not carried out in practice. Since the school textbooks and other curricular material in dominant languages hardly talk about the regular life experiences of tribal children, the language barrier gets supplemented by the content barrier. The publication of newspapers in India caters to only 35 languages; while the state run enterprise All India Radio broadcasts in 120 languages. More than half of all internet content in the world is in English. Therefore, the exclusion of tribal languages from education and their limited or no usage in media and internet constitute one of the foremost causes for their endangerment. A thorough analysis of the Constituent Assembly debates and the first list of languages from Schedule VIII highlights that the standard used to create a bifurcation between ‘Scheduled’ and ‘Non-Scheduled’ languages did not take into consideration the status of languages in the country. With the Constitutional Amendment of 2003, two tribal languages – Bodo and Santali – were recognized as official languages. It was the first time since the Constitution of India came into force that such recognition was accorded to a tribal language. Even though Bodo and Bhili are spoken by lakhs of people, much greater than the numbers for Sanskrit, until 2003, Bodo was not included in the list. This shows that greater attention has been given to Indo-Aryan and Dravidian family languages as compared to the tribal languages from NEI which are from other language families. The risk of endangerment for the languages lacking a script increases manifold. For tribal speakers of such languages, the memories are weaved as designs at the helms of the clothes and history is remembered as ballads and songs.
The Policy Developments
The Provincial Education Minister’s Conference in 1949 stated that:
“The medium of instruction in the junior basic stage must be the mother-tongue of the child and that when the mother-tongue was different from the regional or State language arrangements must be made for instruction in the mother tongue by appointing at least one teacher to teach all the classes, provided there are at-least 40 such pupils in a school.”
In 1952, the Secondary Education Commission proposed the study of at least two other languages, e.g. Hindi and English, at the higher primary level. The ‘Three-Language Formula’ which was suggested by Central Advisory Board of Education in 1956 was adopted in the Chief Ministers’ Conference in 1961. The purpose of Three-Language Formula was to ‘promote national integration and equalise the burden of learning languages on children in Hindi and non-Hindi speaking areas’. The Kothari Commission (1964-66) proposed an ‘updated’ Three-Language Formula, which acquired widespread acceptance and is the language policy currently in effect in most of India. In 1968, the National Education Strategy recommended the Three-Language Plan to be introduced. The Parliament adopted the National Policy of Education (NPE) in 1986. As per the policy framework, provision relating to scheduled tribes was not treated as a matter of language or titled bilingual education but instead implemented as follows:
The socio-cultural milieu of the scheduled tribes and its distinctive characteristics underline the need to develop the curricula and devise instructional materials in the tribal languages at the initial stages, with arrangements for switching over to the regional language.
In 1992, the Three-Language Formula was revised again under the aegis of National Policy on Education. As per the 2002 National Council Of Educational Research And Training Survey data and Sixth and Seventh All India School Education Survey (1993 and 2007) the ‘first language’ and ‘second language’ offered at the primary stage in the North Eastern states, especially, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Sikkim, is usually English or Hindi. Khasi and Garo were recognized as the Associate Official Languages only in 2005 in Meghalaya by the enactment of the Meghalaya State Language Act of 2005. This indicates that the successive governments at the Centre and the State level have remained lackadaisical in their bid to expand the usage of local languages in educating the tribal children despite various states having their ‘own’ languages as the official language and there being the constitutional provisions guaranteeing the protection of interests of linguistic minorities.
The New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 among other things says the local language/ mother tongue would be the preferred medium of instruction till grade five, possibly Class 8 (in both public and private schools). ‘Since children learn languages most quickly between 2-8 years, and multilingualism has great cognitive benefits for students, children will be immersed in three languages early on, from the Foundational Stage.’ Local sign languages will also be taught wherever possible and relevant. The policy also acknowledges that ‘only about 15% of the country speaks English, and this population almost entirely coincides with the economic elite.’ English is regularly used by the elite as a prerequisite for jobs — even in cases of jobs where knowledge of English is entirely irrelevant. This results in the marginalisation of large sections of society based on language. Nonetheless, taking into account the advent of technological advancement and globalization, and ‘to help break the current divide between the economic elite and the rest of the country’, English as a language must also be available and taught in a high quality manner in all schools. ‘The emphasis should be on functionality and fluency.’ Meanwhile, ‘the medium of instruction should be conducted to the extent possible through the local language/ mother tongue and other Indian languages.’ The dichotomy drawn between the local language/ mother tongue as the medium of instruction and English as a discipline, if upheld in letter and spirit, has the potential to ensure both the preservation of linguistic pluralism and economic survival of tribal mother tongue speakers. Experience of the policy initiatives from the past shows that an ambitious policy like NEP 2020 requires micro- level management of schools starting from the panchayat level; decentralisation of planning and execution, from the recruitment of teachers and their training to identifying children speaking varied local languages and creating nation- wide database for the same with the use of high- end information technology, is the key to its successful implementation.
India’s languages are some of the richest, most scientific, and most expressive in the world, with a compendium of ancient as well as modern literature that help form India’s national identity. Multilinguism is a necessity for India to conserve its linguistic and cultural diversity. A multilingual India is better educated and also better nationally integrated. Languages form a critical part of heritage of tribal communities. By compelling tribal children to receive education about history and culture in a language that is alien to them, constitutional and other policy objectives of tribal justice are defied. The 21st century story of India must offer its indigenous communities a multilingual India that is more inclusive, more creative, and more innovative; where the chances of socio-economic development for all and political stability strengthen the spirit of democracy.
Vijay K. Tyagi is an LL.M candidate at the Indian Law Institute, New Delhi, and Ex-LAMP Fellow. Inputs by Himanshu Khanna.
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Femtech Apps: An Analysis
Since times immemorial, women’s reproductive rights and allied healthcare have been deliberated upon behind closed doors. Even in the 21st century, these pressing issues have been largely stigmatised and have not received the recognition that they deserve. The scales were tilted in favour of women after the arrival of ‘Femtech’. Now, women can count upon such apps which provide them with a plethora of solutions including menstrual cycle tracking, pregnancy tracking and fertility solutions. Female technology commonly abbreviated as Femtech entails creation of hygiene products, reproductive health monitoring systems and other digital applications that empower a woman by keeping her abreast of her less talked about but significant, reproductive health. A report by Emergen Research estimated the global market size for Femtech to be around USD 60.01 billion by 2027. The rationale behind the tremendous popularity of this novel industry is its huge target audience which constitutes 50% of the global population.
ARE WOMEN, COMMODITIES MASQUERADING AS USERS FOR FEMTECH APPS?
The leading Femtech apps like Flo, My Calendar, Clue, Maya and Ovia enjoy millions of downloads on Google Playstore. Their remarkable success makes it all the more imperative to address the issues encircling them. Women share their extremely intimate and sensitive information with these apps including the duration of their menstrual cycle, mood swings, the last time the user had unprotected sexual intercourse and whether she is trying to get pregnant. The enormous faith and confidence reposed by a female upon these apps is quite conspicuous given that she is apprehensive about sharing such information even with the closest people in her life. It is understandable that these apps require particulars of the user for processing and delivering the accurate outcome without which they cannot function effectively. Nevertheless, the chink in the armour is that this data is being shared with third parties without the informed consent of the user. So, you never know where your information might end up! According to a significant report published by the Norwegian consumer council, an advocacy group revealed that multiple apps including Clue transmitted personal information of its users to at least 135 companies or data brokers. These entities consolidated sensitive data received from myriad sources to create digital profiles of the consumers that are further exploited for online targeted advertising. Its detrimental impact can be discerned where several women are spammed by online advertisements related to diapers after they start using a pregnancy app. ‘Menstrual/Intimate Surveillance’ can be observed as a phenomenon directly emanating from circulating personal data of female users. Every minute step taken on a Femtech app is watched, recorded and processed by hundreds of suspicious agencies for their dystopian ways. This manifests as being a downright intrusion and an encroachment over the right to privacy of a woman.
APERTURES IN REGULATORY STANDARDS AROUND THE WORLD
Even the law does not come to the rescue of these women who continue to be susceptible to data exploitation by these Femtech apps. With respect to data protection laws, European Union (EU) observes that 12 non-EU countries have an acceptable legal framework for data security.
USA has Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), 1996 which caters to patients’ privacy concerns by defining ‘Protected Health Information’ (PHI) that specific entities are mandated to protect. These encompass healthcare providers, clearinghouses and business associates. The Femtech apps can come within the purview of HIPAA only under the third category, business associates because they are independent corporate houses that provide specialized technology. Nonetheless, they evade liability and keep themselves safe from any legal ramifications. EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) can be viewed as a silver lining. It is a stringent legislation that administers how businesses ought to safeguard the confidentiality of digital personal information of EU residents. GDPR places the explicit and unconditional consent of the users at the highest pedestal without which their data cannot be transmitted to a third party at any cost. It is commendable that the residents of the EU are protected by a sound legal framework as regards data security. At the same time, it cannot be denied that the Femtech apps cater to women in non-EU jurisdictions as well who remain bereft of the protection offered by GDPR. Under these circumstances, it becomes imperative for the Femtech apps to have a universal policy addressing this issue.
ABSENCE OF DATA GOVERNANCE FRAMEWORK IN INDIA
Closer home, a path-breaking judgement Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) and Anr v. Union of India and Ors. transformed the privacy landscape. The Supreme Court of India recognized the right to privacy as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution. It further held that “….from the right to privacy in this modern age emanate certain other rights such as the right of individuals to exclusively commercially exploit their identity and personal information, to control the information that is available about them on the “world wide web” and to disseminate certain personal information for limited purposes alone.” To follow the judgement in its letter and spirit, Srikrishna Committee was constituted by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). It submitted a comprehensive report on 27 July 2018 which was later codified as the draft Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill, 2018. The revised version of this draft was introduced before the Lok Sabha on 11th December, 2019 and was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee, formed exclusively for providing recommendations to the PDP Bill, 2019. The Bill once passed would be an immaculate attempt at bringing India at par with other jurisdictions, especially the EU. It prescribes a robust mechanism for notifying the user before his/her data is collected and mandates unambiguous consent of the user concerning sensitive data which can be easily withdrawn, as well. The Bill goes a step further by providing a host of rights including but not limited to, right to access and correction. Hopefully, the revered Parliament will soon make history by passing the first, one of its kind Data Protection law in our country.
THE ROAD AHEAD
We acknowledge that Femtech apps are quite efficacious and are empowering women to take charge of their health and body. Nevertheless, the unwavering trust that women have in them should not be compromised for ulterior motives. In other words, these apps can turn into Frankenstein monsters if data exploitation is trivialised.
At the cost of repetition, it is re-iterated that the right to privacy loses its true essence if Femtech apps are given leeway to commercialise intimate data. Henceforth, states should realise the significance of the interface between health, technology and confidentiality.
Vehicle Scrappage Rules’ Enforcement in current times
In the Union Budget 2021, the country’s Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitaraman has introduced vehicle scrappage policy where the reason for its introduction is to bring down pollution levels across the nation and to uplift the automobile industry.
36. We are separately announcing a voluntary vehicle scrapping policy, to phase out old and unfit vehicles. This will help in encouraging fuel-efficient, environment friendly vehicles, thereby reducing vehicular pollution and oil import bill. Vehicles would undergo fitness tests in automated fitness centres after 20 years in case of personal vehicles, and after 15 years in case of commercial vehicles. Details of the scheme will be separately shared by the Ministry.”
On 18th March 2021, the Motor Vehicles (Registration and Functions of Vehicle Scrapping Facility) Rules, 2021 draft was issued vide notification by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. The Draft Motor Vehicles (Registration and Functions of Vehicle Scrapping Facility) Rules, 2021 aims to the establishment of Registered Vehicle Scrapping Facility (RVSF) and regulate automobile collection, scrapping and recycling centres, dismantling automobiles etc.
ELIGIBILITY TO GET SCRAPPED
It is clearly said in the draft rules, the vehicles not renewed under Rule 52 of Central Motor Vehicle Rules 1989, vehicles not granted with fitness certificate under section 62 of MV Act, 1988, vehicles damaged in natural disaster, fire, accidents, riots or owner himself certifies his vehicle a scrap, vehicles which are declared obsolete by state or central organizations of government, vehicle bought by any agency even RVSF in an auction for scrapping, vehicles outlived utility, manufacturing rejects and test vehicles certified by vehicle OEM and vehicles auctioned, abandoned or impounded by any Enforcement Agency.
So your vehicle in hand has more probability to get scrapped if you have a private vehicle of twenty years or above age or a commercial vehicle of fifteen years or above age and it fails to get fitness certificate.
END OF LIFE OF YOUR VEHICLE
Once your vehicle fails to get fitness certificate or if no valid registration is present or if registrations are cancelled under Chapter IV of MV Act or due to court order or any criteria said above, it will be called as End of Life of your vehicle and you will the Registered Owner of the End of Life Vehicle. Next step is to leave your vehicle for scrapping.
VEHICLE SCRAPPER FACILITY AND PROCEDURE
If you have an entrepreneur inside you, then you can be a registered scrapper by registration of your name or firm or company or establishment for Vehicle Scrapping as prescribed under this Draft Rules and owns and operates the same. To be an efficient scrapper you need to know some elementary definitions which are essential. Legally speaking, Rule 3(l) defines scrapping as the entire process from receipt and record of the “ELV including depolluting, dismantling, segregation of material, safe disposal of non-reusable parts, and issuance of “Certificate of Vehicle Scrapping to the registered owner of a motor vehicle. Clause (m) defines Scrapping Yard as the designated location within the premises of the RVSF where dismantled vehicle parts are processed for further treatment including recycling. Whereas Rule.3(n) says “Treatment” means any activity after the end of life vehicle has been handed over to a collection centre of an RVSF for depollution, dismantling, shearing, shredding, recovery or preparation for disposal of the shredder wastes, and any other operation carried out for the recovery and/or disposal of the end of life vehicle and its components.
Draft Rules says that Eligible RVSF means person, trust, company formed in accordance with the law and entity shall possess Certificate of Incorporation, valid PAN and GST registration. There are additional set of criteria such as evidence for availability of usable land, consent from State Pollution Control Board, obtain quality certification etc. or the undertakings of the concerned documents.
Once you find yourselves eligible, you can file Form-1 as prescribed by Registration Authority along with processing fee of One lakh rupee per RVSF and an Ernest Money Deposit (EMD) in the form of bank guarantee of Ten Lakh Rupees per RVSF with initial authorization period of ninety plus days. Approval or dismissal of your application has to be made by the Registration Authority within sixty days from the date of submission of application. If your application gets rejected the above EMD will be refunded but not the processing fee i.e. One Lakh Rupees.
RVSF is duty bound to keep up connectivity to the VAHAN database, maintain record of scrapping vehicles, issuance of Certificate of Issuance, Certificate of Scrapping and shall have necessary IT systems certifications for safe access to VAHAN database and also install CCTV cameras at the yard, in the customer and vehicle reception area.
Once get registered means its initial validity shall be ten years and can be renewed for another 10 years after the expiry of the initial validity period. If you need to do renewal, you have to submit application under Form-1 and the certificate will be issued under Form- 1A. It is to be noted that the registration issued is not transferable.
Now you have RVSF, and the question is how vehicles will come to you or if you are Registered owner of End of Life Vehicle how will you scrap the vehicle. The registered owner or authorized representative can submit two originals of Form-2 to the Regd. Scrapper or designated collection centre.
If the vehicle does not have valid registration, then Regd. Scrapper or the designated collection centre has to match the identity of registered owner as per VAHAN database with person who handover the vehicle and then receive the vehicle and issue receipt linked to VAHAN database.
In case of impounded vehicles Enforcement Agency shall handover the registered scrapper as per procedure prescribed by the appropriate government. Also Registered scrapper shall match the handed over vehicles with the database of the stolen vehicles held by NRCB as well as with local police before scrapping.
The documents to be produced along with Form-2 to the Registered scrapper include Original Certificate of Registration, authorization from registered owner, if inheritance applicable then death certificate of the registered owner with proof of succession, certificate confirming sale in public auction in his favour and undertaking that there is no pending criminal record or litigation.
The registered scrapper shall also keep self-certified copies of documents prescribed under Rule 10(8) of the Draft Rules.
Registered Scrapper shall always keep in mind that the RVSF established in a state shall accept and scrap the vehicles registered in any of the State/UTs under the jurisdiction of any Registering authority. The whole process shall be smooth linked with VAHAN and on PAN India basis irrespective of the location of any vehicle registering authority.
Being a Registered Owner of End of Life Vehicle handed over to registered scrapper, shall always be keen to collect Certificate of Deposit from the scrapper only by which the owner will be able to avail benefits for the purchase of new vehicle. This certificate is tradeable and once utilized will be stamped as cancelled by the agency providing benefits to the holder of said certificate. Matching entries shall also be made by the RVSF on VAHAN portal.
These are also additional provisions on removal of fuel, hazardous substance etc. from vehicles is discussed which has to be ensured by the registered scrapper before scrapper.
Certificate of Vehicle Scrapping shall be provided by the registered scrapper after completing necessary treatment including digital photograph of the cut out of Chassis in Form-4 to update national register VAHAN database and inform competent authority on the same. Central government shall maintain a separate record on the same.
The Draft Rule further concentrates on detailing the description of scrapping yard vide Rule 13 which a proposed registered scrapper shall always look into, before applying for the registration. It is also to be noted by the Registered Scrappers that your RVSF facility will be subject to audit and certification which shall be revalidated at least three months before its expiry.
DISPUTES & ADJUDICATION
Further the Registration has the right and authority to inspect upon on receipt of complaint, report of non-compliance from appropriate authority and shall prepare Report of Inspection. A copy shall be given to the scrapper. After providing opportunity to hearing to the Regd. Scrapper the authority may pass speaking order to cancel or suspend the authorization for the facility. Appeal can be filed by the aggrieved party to the Commissioner of Transport within thirty days of passing such order. There is an appeal fee of Ten Thousand Rupees. The said appeal shall be disposed in fourteen days.
DRAFT RULES AND PANDEMIC
From the Draft Rules, it is understandable that the implementation will be possible only if there are full-fledged RVSF is available in the states. Also, for commencing RVSF, the applicant has to have risk of Rs. One Lakh as processing fee of Application which is preferably high especially during this pandemic. Also, usable bulk lands are already turned to cemeteries in the first and the ongoing second Covid-19 wave. In this period, people regardless their wealth are securing assets for their health to escape from Corona virus.
Even though vaccine drive is actively conducted all over India, recovery cases are also hiking, many people are again suffering from Covid-19 even after taking two doses of vaccination. Every Today in recent comes up with terrifying news of people succumbed, begging for ventilators and even oxygen.
In addition, M. Vidyasagar (Scientist) and K Vijay Raghavan (Principal Scientific Advisor) vide news reports informed that the third wave of Covid-19 will hit by the January 2022. This is also not good news for people as no preparedness can be taken at ground level as variants of viruses are hitting person to person.
In our view, the government shall take into consideration about the appealing situation of India amidst of Covid-19 and take a prudent decision either by not implement it anytime soon and to decrease the amount fixed as processing fee, bank guarantee and fees for filing appeal.
We suggest that the implementation of this Draft Rules shall be a very slow process and both the proposed registered scrappers and registered owners shall get amicable time and may not take steps that further traumatize the registered owners of the vehicles.
Back from the brink: Positivity is the key
“Anil, it is not good news. You have malignancy”. This was my doctor-friend, Ambrish Mithal on phone. He was the one who had persuaded me to get the necessary tests done after some painless growth was detected in my groin and armpits. I had half expected it as the tuberculosis treatment for this growth was not working and the PET Scan had revealed growth in many parts of the body. Ambrish went on to explain that it was Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, cancer of lymph glands. Though I had lost my mother to cancer a few years ago, I didn’t have much of an idea of this variety of cancer. Hence, all that he told me made no sense except that I had been afflicted with this dreaded disease. My wife, Ruchi was with me. My first reaction was that irrespective of the outcome, we will fight it out. She was a step ahead. She looked totally unfazed and was confident that we will tide over the crisis. If there was any turmoil going inside, she didn’t show it. She remained that way right though the six-month trauma of debilitating medication called chemo-therapy. It was her emotional strength that made all the difference.
I looked at the entire crisis differently. If I were to die, so be it. Everyone does some day. I had always believed in living in the moment and enjoying each one of it simply because I had no control over the consequences. This approach helped. I continued to fire on all cylinders. In a sense, COVID was a blessing in disguise. We were cut off physically from most of the world during the past year and a half. Hence, this quarantine on account of lowered immunity made no difference. I was physically shattered because of extreme weakness, loss of appetite, intermittent nausea, loss of weight, strange sensations, high pulse rate, long sessions of hiccups and sleeplessness. Consequently, I lost 10 Kgs of weight (I had previously thought I didn’t have additional weight to shed) and gained 10 years in age. All this made life extremely difficult. However, I was mentally as alert and as positive as ever, penning down my usual three articles every week and working on my next book, “No More A Civil Servant”. However, the Webinars stopped after some time. Intermittent appearances on television also were without the video feed because I could barely recognize myself in the mirror. To begin with, I could continue with physical exercises but as the body became weaker, I had to give it up. Even walking became difficult
I was lucky to run into a very competent set of doctors at Max Hospital at Saket, New Delhi. Ambrish who works in the same hospital was a great help in introducing me to Dr Harit Chaturvedi who performed the biopsy and, he in turn put me across to Dr Rajesh Naithani, a cool-headed doctor who knew his job. The experience otherwise with the hospital was a forgettable one. I have often wondered how and why do such accomplished doctors work in an environment that is so poorly managed. For a patient it is even worse. The hospital is interested in “catching” you. You are a VIP till then but once you are “caught”, you are left to the wolves. The only concern of the management is to somehow make money. Unfortunately, the doctors who have nothing do with this “mismanagement” end up getting a bad name.
The incompetence and callous attitude of some para-medical staff has to be experienced to be believed. You pay through your nose (though my bills were taken care of CHGS), yet get such poor service. My first experience was blood extraction for tests. The person just shoved the needle while engaging in a casual conversation with his colleague. Experience at Sir Gangaram hospital where I went for PET Scan was totally different. Here the para medical staff was not only polite but competent. When I asked one of them how did they manage such painless insertion of needles, I was pleasantly surprised at his response. He said that since all the patients that came to him were already in pain, they made an effort not to add to their misery.
Obtaining medical reports was another tragic experience at Max. Those at the front desk, almost always indifferent and sometimes even rude, have no clue. They make people run around for locating medical reports. The callous indifference is pretty appalling. The hospital takes regular feedback after each visit but follows up with no action.
Despite all the mismanagement, the hospital continues to attract patients on the strength of the quality of its doctors. My miraculous recovery in just six months after six rounds of chemo-therapy can be attributed totally to Dr Naithani. The para-medical staff, however, gave me an infection on account of their incompetence in inserting the Cannula needle.
The news relating to my ailment wasn’t kept a secret but I made no effort to share it with everyone. Still, many of my friends, former colleagues and relatives got to know of it. Their reaction ranged from disbelief to a variety of positive inputs. Many of them narrated cases where Lymphoma had been cured. All this helped enormously in staying positive. It was also extremely heartening to know that so many cared and prayed for me.
In such a crisis, support from family is the key. I was lucky to have them around. For my wife, everything else became secondary as she committed full time to take care of me. One of the fall-out of chemo-therapy was the loss of taste and appetite. She researched and cooked stuff that I could eat. There was never an occasion that she was found wanting, keeping awake with me during many sleepless nights to ensure that I was not put to any inconvenience. More than anything else, she never lost hope. My daughter, Aditi and son, Apurv were living elsewhere in Delhi.
They had their own professional and personal commitments but they ensured that at least one of them was around to assist my wife. Apurv also ferried me to the hospital and undertook the difficult task of engaging with the “people” at the hospital. In his absence, Divam, my son-in-law deputized for him. During these six months what I missed most was the company of my twin grand-daughters, Dviti and Srisha.
It was a tough journey, perhaps one of the very few in my life that I didn’t enjoy. However, it was an experience where positivity helped. It is not all over yet as there could be recurrence of this deadly disease but this experience will hopefully stand me in good stead.
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.
The incompetence and callous attitude of some para-medical staff has to be experienced to be believed. You pay through your nose (though my bills were taken care of CHGS), yet get such poor service. My first experience was blood extraction for tests. The person just shoved the needle while engaging in a casual conversation with his colleague. Experience at Sir Gangaram hospital where I went for PET Scan was totally different.
Self-proclaimed appearance of Param Bir Singh
It’s been great that at long last you have turned in, Mr Param Bir Singh! Greetings to you on behalf of the people of Maharashtra! Your appearance calls for a celebration! Your appearance day should be celebrated the same way as that of saints and sages. The date of your appearance has also been recorded in the book of history. Yes, of course why not? How hard you got the police and intelligence agencies to chase you, how many of them got dead tired chasing you and how many of them were reduced to tears! You are in a class beyond compare! Actually we were anxiously waiting for you for a long time! Better late than never! At last you have turned in. Is your appearance any less than a miracle?
Mr Param Bir Singh, I was really longing for you. Everyone was wondering where you went missing? How did you vanish into thin air? Did anyone cause your disappearance? How would you have dodged the red corner notice? Have you changed your appearance? Did you undergo plastic surgery? Tell you what! Your disappearance fired up people’s wildest imaginations! Everybody had something to say about you! Someone said you were staying in Belgium. Someone else said you had relocated to London. Some people claimed with great pride about having tea and breakfast with you. What could we have done? Just kept listening..!
Whom could we have trusted? We just had faith in you and also believed that one day you will definitely come and tell us how you managed to escape the eyes of your department as well as dodge the smart agencies of your country. I think you should conduct training camps for police and intelligence agencies to see what vanishing tricks can be employed. Once the detectives of the agencies become aware of your art, learn your skills and master the nuances, it will become easier for them to nab the accused.
The art of dissimulation that you have demonstrated has failed even Anil Kapoor of Mr India and Amitabh Bachchan of Bhootnath fame. Both of them acted wonderfully on screen. Actually you did all that stuff too, though off screen. I want to thank you that you have also exposed some time-honoured institutions. The first is that the Mumbai police, which is equated to the Scotland Yard police, can so badly be defeated by its single officer in a game of hide and seek. You have also busted the myth of the invincibility of the intelligence agencies which consider themselves as ‘Turram Khan’ or supreme ones. You have proved to them that just one police officer can send them on a wild goose chase. The agencies kept running from post to pillar yet drew a blank. The court declared you a fugitive but amidst all this drama you were relaxing in Chandigarh. How amazing, isn’t it! Wow! I feel like doffing my hat to your skills. People are asking a wrong question: Who among you all three– you, police and intelligence agencies is the most powerful?
You are the emperor of the police department. Even the ones who witnessed your mood swings don’t know who you are, how you are, where you have come from and where you are going to go. Only the emperor can know this. You have also proved that it is not only difficult but impossible to catch the don. I am just astonished to think as to what would have happened if you had not appeared? Those who were saying that they will confiscate your property are ignorant. They don’t know who you are!
By the way, I want to advise your police and intelligence agencies that they must celebrate your appearance day. Your appearance is nothing less than an official celebration. I just want to say that what has passed in six months is a matter of letting bygones be bygone! The government should feel relieved and thankful that your appearance has saved it a lot of labour, time and resources in locating you. You have also benefitted those ensconced in power.
So say with love: Glory to Param Bir Maharaj’s appearance day! And be least bothered about those who have filed a case against you and some policemen for demanding Rs 15 crore from a builder. Now cases keep getting registered! You accused Anil Deshmukh of extorting Rs 100 crore and others accused you of seeking Rs 15 crore as bribe. Now understand that the greater the status, the greater the allegation! God alone knows the truth..!
And of course, one should really learn from you the art of executing somersault on tamarind leaves. The tamarind leaf is very small and no one can be a better acrobat than the one who can execute a somersault on it. That’s why this Hindi phrase ‘Imli Ke Patti Par Gulati Marna’ which means somersaulting on the tamarind leaf. I remembered this adage because your lawyer stated before the Chandiwal Commission that you do not have any specific evidence regarding the allegation in which you had accused Anil Deshmukh of extorting Rs 100 crore a month. You had levelled this allegation on the suggestion of some officials! Oh wow Param Bir Singh! You were the police commissioner.
As you already know that allegations require solid evidence, yet you acted like a child. Initially, you were breathing fire against the former minister, but you executed a reverse somersault when you found yourself on a sticky wicket. You are a great acrobat indeed!
I have just one request to make. Kindly don’t share and teach this magical art to other police officers because what you did has put our police system to shame! Don’t know how many skeletons in the cupboard have tumbled out and are still tumbling out. You are indeed a blessed soul, Param Bir..!
The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.
Param Bir Singh is unique indeed. There is no other like him! He has immense potential to vanish into thin air like Mr India! The magic of staying out of sight of the police department of which he is a top officer and dodging all the government agencies is really unmatched. His appearance is no less than a miracle and calls for celebration!
ILLEGAL USE OF LICENSED WEAPON PER SE NOT OFFENCE UNDER SECTION 27 UNLESS MISDEMEANOUR UNDER SECTIONS 5/7 PROVED: SC
It is extremely significant to note that the Apex Court just recently on November 26, 2021 in a learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled Surinder Singh vs State (Union Territory of Chandigarh) in Criminal Appeal No. 2373 of 2010 has made it absolutely clear that illegal use of a licensed or sanctioned weapon per se does not constitute an offence under Section 27 of the Arms Act, 1959 (“Act”). The Apex Court also observed that at best, it could be a ‘misconduct’ under the service rules. It must be also mentioned here that the Bench of Apex Court comprising of CJI NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice AS Bopanna in this present matter was considering a criminal appeal against Punjab and Haryana High Court’s order dated May 19, 2010 (“impugned order”).
To start with, this notable judgment authored by Justice Surya Kant for CJI NV Ramana, himself and Justice AS Bopanna sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in para 1 that, “Appellant-Surinder Singh has laid challenge to the judgement dated 19th May 2010 of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, whereby, the order of his conviction and sentence dated 25th July 2006 passed by Learned Additional Sessions Judge, Chandigarh was confirmed. The Appellant has been convicted under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter ‘IPC’) and Section 27 of the Arms Act, 1959 (hereinafter, ‘Arms Act’), and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment of 3 years for both the offences, with a direction that sentences will run concurrently.”
While elaborating on the facts of the case, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “The prosecution case in brief is that, on 10th July, 1999, Mansur Ali, Advocate (Complainant) was sitting at his residential office alongwith his clerk Maler Singh (PW-3), giving dictation to his steno, R.K. Sood (PW4). At about 5:30 PM, the Appellant, who was then a Head Constable in Chandigarh Police, entered the residential office of the Complainant in an inebriated condition and stating that he was a beat officer of the lane, asked for a glass of water. He thereafter sat across the Complainant and after consuming the water served to him by Balbir Singh (PW5), pulled out his service pistol and threatened the Complainant by pointing the pistol at him and stated that “there are 10 bullets in this gun and I will kill 20 people today”. Appellant also asked the Complainant to stand and raise his hands. At the same time, he directed Maler Singh and R.K. Sood to step outside the office, to which they complied. In the meantime, the Appellant moved around the table, towards the Complainant, pulled the lever and made himself ready to fire. Sensing the seriousness of the situation, Complainant lunged at the Appellant and pushed his hand towards the ceiling, which resulted in the bullet, fired from the pistol, hitting the ceiling of the office.”
While continuing in a similar vein, the Bench then enunciates in para 3 that, “The Appellant then attempted to fire a second time, however, he was unable to and in the said exercise a bullet fell from his pistol. By that time, the ladies of the house had entered the office and raised a holler. Panicstricken, Appellant rushed out of the office, leaving behind his wireless set on the table of the Complainant and his scooter outside the house. No injury was caused to the Complainant. The incident was then reported to the police. Upon receiving the information, about 10-15 minutes later, police officials arrived at the house of the Complainant and F.I.R. was lodged against the Appellant, whereafter, the police officials sprang into action and the Appellant was arrested by SI Ramesh Chand (PW6), who found the Appellant near the Masjid of Sector 20A, with the pistol still in his hand. Appellant was then taken for medical examination where he refused to give his urine or blood samples.”
Furthermore, the Bench then states in para 4 that, “The investigation ensued in light of the above-stated facts, and upon collection of substantial evidence, the charge sheet was filed against the Appellant. The case was committed to the Additional Sessions Judge, Chandigarh, and charges under Section 307 IPC and Section 27 of the Arms Act were framed. The Appellant abjured his culpability and claimed trial.”
Simply put, the Bench then lays bare in para 9 that, “Since there is no dispute regarding the presence of the Appellant at the residential office of the Complainant at the time of the incidence, or that the bullet was fired from his service pistol, the pivotal question before the Trial Court was, whether the Appellant fired the pistol, and if so, was the weapon used with the intent to kill the Complainant. The Trial Court observed that the prosecution witnesses had, by and large, supported the prosecution version and that no reason was adduced to depict why the Complainant would want to falsely implicate the Appellant. Although the Trial Court noted that there were some inconsistencies in the statement put forth by the prosecution witnesses, however, the same were held to be minor contradictions brought about naturally due to the passage of time. The Court found version of the Defense to be “a patch of lies and figment of imagination”, and rejected the same in its entirety.”
What’s more, the Bench then reveals in para 10 that, “As far as the charge under Section 27 of the Arms Act was concerned, the Trial Court observed that the Appellant had used his service pistol without any prior permission and for an illegal purpose. The act of firing by the Appellant was thus held to be in contravention of Section 27 of the Arms Act. The Trial Court therefore convicted the Appellant under Section 307 IPC and Section 27 of the Arms Act and awarded a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for 3 years.”
Needless to say, the Bench then states in para 11 that, “Discontented with his conviction, the Appellant preferred an appeal before the High Court of Punjab & Haryana. The High Court upon reappraisal of the evidence, sustained conviction and the consequential sentence imposed by the Trial Court and dismissed the appeal.”
Be it noted, the Bench then observes in para 30 that, “The Appellant was admittedly a police official at the time of the incidence and the arms and ammunitions used for the commission of the offence, were placed in his possession under the sanction accorded by the Competent Authority. The Appellant being in authorised possession of the weapon, cannot be said to have used an unlicensed weapon, as prohibited under Section 5 of the Arms Act. It appears that the Trial Court was swayed by irrelevant considerations such as illegal use of the weapon, and lost track of the objective of the Statute, which has been enacted to provide a licensing/regulatory regime, to enable law-abiding citizens to carry arms, and also to prohibit the possession, acquisition, manufacture, etc. of certain categories of firearms, unless authorized by the Central Government. In other words, illegal use of a licensed or sanctioned weapon per se does not constitute an offence under Section 27, without proving the misdemeanor under Section 5 or 7 of the Arms Act. At best, it could be a ‘misconduct’ under the service rules, the determination of which was not the subject of the trial.”
As a corollary, the Bench then observes in para 31 that, “In light of the afore-stated discussion, we find that the order of the Trial Court in convicting the Appellant or of the High Court in maintaining such conviction under Section 27 of the Arms Act, is unwarranted and unjust. Accordingly, the Appellant is acquitted of the charge under Section 27 of the Arms Act.”
Most significantly, the Bench then holds succinctly in para 35 what forms the cornerstone of this brief, brilliant and balanced judgment that, “Adverting to the facts of the case in hand, we are of the considered view that at this stage, the sentence awarded to the appellant is no longer in degree to the crime which he has committed. Remitting the Appellant to the rigors of imprisonment at this juncture of his life would not serve the ends of justice due to following mitigating factors:
a. No motive or element of planning has been proved by the Prosecution in the present case which indicates the possibility that the offense could have been committed on impulse by the Appellant. Hence, the culpability of the offender in such situations is less than that which is ascribed in premeditated offenses as the commission of planned illegal acts denotes an attack on societal values with greater commitment and continuity in comparison to spontaneous illegal acts.
b. Even though the factum of injury may not have a direct bearing on a conviction under Section 307 IPC, the same may be considered by a Court at the time of sentencing. No doubt, the offence committed by the Appellant squarely falls within the four corners of Section 307 IPC, but fortunately neither the complainant nor any other person was hurt by the untoward act of the Appellant.
c. Appellant has already undergone a sentence of 3 months and 19 days. Additionally, despite the occurrence taking place in 1999, there is no indication that Appellant has been involved in any untoward activity before or after the incident. This highlights the Appellant’s good character and indicates that the incident can be interpreted as an isolated lapse of judgment. Further, the Appellant’s clean post-incident behaviour suggests that he is rational individual who is capable of responding to the social censure associated with the offence. Hence, the passage of a long time period coupled with a clean record, both before and after the incident is definitely a factor that calls for mitigation of sentence.
d. Barring this particular incident wherein he was under the influence of alcohol, the Appellant had an unblemished service record with sixteen good citations in his favour. This indicates that he was a valuable member of society than the present criminal incident might lead one to assume. This is not to say that courts should draw up a social balance sheet when sentencing, but only to take these positive social contributions as a factor for mitigation of sentence.
e. Lastly, it is to be noted that the Appellant was suspended in the year 1999 and has also been subsequently dismissed from service in the year 2007. Hence, this should also be considered as a reasonable factor for mitigation because the dismissal and the consequent loss of social security benefits such as pension, also construes as a form of social sanction.”
Finally, the Bench then aptly holds in para 36 that, “Consequently and for the afore-stated reasons, the criminal appeal is partly allowed. While the conviction and sentence awarded to the Appellant under Section 27 of the Arms Act is set aside, his conviction under Section 307 IPC is maintained. The sentence under Section 307 IPC is however reduced to the period already undergone. Since, Appellant is on bail, his bail bonds are discharged.”
To sum it up, the Apex Court thus makes it distinctly clear in this leading case that the illegal use of licensed weapon is per se not an offence under Section 27 of the Arms Act unless misdemeanor under Section 5 or 7 of the Act is proved. Of course, all the Courts whether they are Trial Courts or High Courts must always abide by what the three Judge Bench of the Apex Court comprising of CJI NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice AS Bopanna have held so clearly, categorically and convincingly also in this noteworthy case! There can be just no denying it!
Even though the factum of injury may not have a direct bearing on a conviction under Section 307 IPC, the same may be considered by a Court at the time of sentencing. No doubt, the offence committed by the Appellant squarely falls within the four corners of Section 307 IPC, but fortunately neither the complainant nor any other person was hurt by the untoward act of the Appellant.
Musings of a BSF officer’s daughter
An important part of being raised as a BSF officer’s kid was to get acquainted with the vagaries and challenges of a borderman’s job and to learn about their life-threatening situations along India’s international borders in states and union territories afflicted with insurgency and terrorism.
In border areas, phenomena such as cross-border shelling and infiltration were routine and seldom shocked or demoralized a borderman’s family. Bordermen knew places they were posted to quite well. In several instances, their understanding was better than that of the locals, having researched every nook and corner, ditch, tunnel and ridge and topographical feature.
My father, Late Shri RS Mehta, who retired from the Border Security Force (BSF) as an Inspector General (IG), belonged to one of the first batches of officers to join the force. As a result, right from the time of BSF’s founding in 1965, he was passionately involved in the process of giving the force a shape, identity and a clear direction in over three decades of service. He held many key positions in the organization up to, and including, the Commanding Officer of a battalion.
During his very eventful career with the force, he conducted several counterterrorism operations in Jammu & Kashmir as well as planned and executed many counter-insurgency operations in the Northeastern part of India. These experiences were to later come in handy when, as a senior officer, he was instrumental in formulating many protocols and policies relating to securing the Nation’s borders.
My father used to tell us that bordermen had clearly defined protocols to deal with residents of border villages. A key part of their duty was to maintain an excellent rapport with the local population to win its faith and confidence. Moreover, in certain areas of the country, this also involved making sincere attempts to expedite the integration of the locals into the national mainstream.
I recall my father narrating his experience during his tenure as a young Commanding Officer (CO) posted at Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district, where he was instrumental in organizing several sports and cultural programmes for the villagers. He would always encourage them to wholeheartedly participate and excel in such events organized by BSF to become model citizens. Various prizes, certificates of merit and goodies were given to participants to build strong linkages. Papa also mentioned his efforts to work closely with Sub-Divisional Magistrates (SDMs) and Tehsildars to provide to the border villages basic facilities such as schools, dispensaries, etc., and to resolve any immediate problems that they might be facing.
Undeniably, the rapport that a borderman shares with the local population can hardly be replicated by the police or other law-enforcement agencies. In a similar vein, inhabitants of rural habitations secured by BSF feel inclined to provide security-related information, updates on border activity and other intelligence inputs.
I chanced to accompany my father to one of his border inspection tours of a remote area in Jammu & Kashmir. Certain pockets in the mountainous regions of Gul and Kishtwar were becoming host to terrorist camps. Our convoy comprising four to five vehicles swerved through the ravines of the majestic Himalayas. In a lonely spot, just by the waterfall, seeing an elderly lady walking by herself, Papa asked the driver to stop for a breather, rolled down his window and asked her, “Amma, sab theek hai na?” (Hope all is well?). To which she replied, “Ethe bus butte he butte ne!” Once the convoy started moving again, I asked my father what she meant and he laughingly told me that her evasive answer implied that there was nothing to tell as there were “only pebbles and more pebbles” in that area.
When we halted for the night at a BSF base camp, we were informed that there were many interceptions of our wireless network by the miscreants who had even challenged the inspecting officer to locate their camp and visit them for a cup of tea! Thanks to his knowledge of the culture and traditions of the area, and other information related to the region, it was possible for my father to deduce that local herdsmen, with their routine cross-border travels and nomadic way of life, had allied with the enemy. Consequently, they were providing strategic support to the miscreants from across the border.
Having understood the root of the problem, the force could carry out combing operations in the region, freeing it of the anti-national forces and, thus, cleansing the area of any terrorist camps.
It would not be wrong to say that the rigorous training of a borderman, his vast experience at the border in different terrains and familiarity with the people living in border villages, make him fit to fulfill his role of securing areas not just along the border but also beyond.
Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs has issued a notification to widen BSF’s jurisdiction for seizure, search and arrest up to 50 kilometres from the international border in the states of Assam, West Bengal and Punjab.
On October 11, 2021, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India announced that it was amending a 2014 notification related to the jurisdiction of the BSF to exercise its powers in states that are on the international border. This notification replaces a 2014 order under the BSF Act, 1968, which also covered the States of Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya. It also specifically mentions the two newly created union territories of J&K and Ladakh. The BSF can carry out search and seizure operations to check and combat smuggling, illegal entry of migrants and other nefarious activities.
The Central Government’s decision to thus extend the area of jurisdiction of the BSF is, therefore, a welcome step. It will enable our bordermen to carry out combing and search operations in more areas and help the state governments concerned in weeding out anti-national elements to greatly reduce threats to national security. Further, having a centralized chain of command makes the BSF well-equipped and competent to handle issues relating to border security and to also secure the areas adjoining and adjacent to the borders.
As someone rightly noted a long time ago, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
The author is a practicing advocate at the Delhi High Court
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