FRONT PAGE NEWS
10 Dec 2020
CENTRE CONCEDES MOST DEMANDS BUT FARMERS WANT THE NEW LAWS REPEALED
The Centre Wednesday offered significant concessions, ranging from a written
assurance on continuation of minimum support price (MSP)-based procurement
and ensuring parity in transactions inside and outside existing Agricultural
Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis, to farmers protesting against the
three new agricultural laws. However, the farmer unions rejected the
proposals, saying they will settle for nothing less than repeal of the three
The farmers announced that they would intensify their agitation by blocking
the Jaipur-Delhi and the Delhi-Agra expressways by Saturday, and escalating
it to a nationwide protest on December 14.
The 20-page proposals, by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare,
were forwarded to the farmer leaders around 2.30 pm, and included a written
assurance on MSP.
On apprehensions that the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and
Facilitation) Act, 2020, or FPTC Act - one of the three contentious laws -
will weaken the mandi system, the government has proposed to tax
transactions outside the APMC mandis as well, saying states will be
authorised to make appropriate regulations to ensure this.
The government has also assured farmers that states will be authorised to
register private traders, so that they do not cheat farmers. The states can
be empowered to make the rules under the FPTC Act, 2020, say the proposals.
In case of a dispute, the Centre has further assured, farmers may approach
civil courts, a provision absent from the newly promulgated ordinances.
Incidentally, while the government has talked of amending these two farm
laws, it has not proposed any change in the third one, Essential Commodities
(Amendment) Act, 2020.
The other assurances made by the Centre include resolution of grievances
related to a new air quality management ordinance, which calls for steep
penalty in case of stubble burning. "Appropriate solution will be found in
this regard," the Centre has said.
It has also said that the existing arrangement on subsidy on electricity
usage by farmers will not be modified.
Officials in the Government claimed that they had "yielded" and given
"assurances" based exactly on what the farmers had asked for during the
talks in Vigyan Bhavan. "They asked for assurances on MSP and tax parity and
the court process. If repeal was the only demand, then what was there to
discuss over six rounds?" said a top government official.
Farmers underline that the repeal demand has been a consistent one along
with hardwiring MSP into the law and it is the government that has been
Meanwhile, a delegation of Opposition leaders - Congress leader Rahul
Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury,
CPI general secretary D Raja and DMK leader TKS Elangovan - met President
Ram Nath Kovind and sought repeal of the three farm laws.
Rahul Gandhi said the way the farm laws were passed in Parliament, "we feel
it was an insult to farmers and that is why they are protesting in the cold
weather against them". The three bills were passed without any discussion or
conversation with the Opposition parties or with farmers, he said.
He added that the new laws appeared to be aimed at handing over the farming
sector to the "friends of the Prime Minister" but the farmers were fearless
and would not back off and would continue with their peaceful agitation.
OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHINA STANDS SIGNIFICANTLY DAMAGED: JAISHANKAR
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Wednesday China has given
India "five differing explanations" for deploying large forces at the LAC,
adding this violation of bilateral pacts has "very significantly damaged"
The comments by Jaishankar during an online interactive session organised by
Australian think tank Lowy Institute came against the backdrop of the over
seven-month-long military standoff between India and China at the LACin
"We are today probably at the most difficult phase of our relationship with
China, certainly in the last 30 to 40 years or you could argue even more,"
Jaishankar said highlighting various aspects of the bilateral ties in the
last three decades. "The relationship this year has been very significantly
"We are very clear that maintaining peace and tranquillity along the LAC is
the basis for the rest of the relationship to progress. You can't have the
kind of situation you have on the border and say let's carry on with life in
all other sectors of activity. It's just unrealistic," he said.
Jaishankar further said, "We have this problem because from 1988, our
relationship had its hiccups, we had our issues and differences but the
direction of the ties broadly were positive."
PANEL SEEKS MORE VACCINE DATA BEFORE EMERGENCY NOD
The expert committee scrutinising applications by three firms for emergency
use authorisation of their Covid-19 vaccines in India on Wednesday asked the
Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech for additional late-stage
safety and efficacy data from their ongoing clinical trials. The third
applicant, US pharma giant Pfizer, sought more time to present its data.
The Subject Expert Committee (SEC), which met for the first time on
Wednesday, has sought detailed replies by the next meeting, whose date has
not been decided yet. The SEC will be giving its recommendations to the
Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), based on which it will take a
final decision on the vaccines, with the whole process taking a few weeks.
Bharat Biotech, which is currently conducting Phase 3 trials on its
indigenous vaccine candidate Covaxin, has only submitted interim safety and
immunogenicity data of its Phase 1 and 2 trials in the country. After its
presentation on Wednesday, the SEC told it to "present the safety and
efficacy data from the ongoing Phase 3 clinical trial for further
BORIS JOHNSON CONFUSES FARMERS' PROTEST WITH INDIA-PAK DISPUTE
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday seemed to confuse two
separate issues when he reiterated his government's stance that any dispute
between India and Pakistan was for the two countries to settle bilaterally.
British Sikh Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, who has been leading a drive
to keep the protests by the Indian farmers against the government's
agricultural reforms in the news in Britain, repeated one of his previous
Twitter statements on the issue in the House of Commons during the weekly
Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) session. "Many constituents, especially
those emanating from Punjab and other parts of India, and I were horrified
to see footage of water cannons, teargas and brute force being used against
peacefully protesting farmers...So, will the Prime Minister convey to the
Indian Prime Minister our heartfelt anxieties, our hopes for a speedy
resolution to the current deadlock and does he agree that everyone has a
fundamental right to peaceful protest," he questioned Johnson.
Johnson, in his brief response, said: "Our view is that of course we have
serious concerns about what is happening between India and Pakistan but
these are pre-eminently matters for those two governments to settle and I
know that he appreciates that point," said Johnson.
Dhesi, who looked visibly perplexed, was quick to take to social media once
again as he posted the exchange on Twitter, adding: "But it might help if
our PM actually knew what he was talking about!"
CANADA APPROVES PFIZER AND BIONTECH'S COVID-19 VACCINE
Health Canada on Wednesday approved the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc and
BioNTech SE, clearing the way for shots to be delivered and administered
across the country. The nation's first coronavirus vaccine green light comes
under a new interim order system that allows for accelerated approval very
similar to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's emergency use
"The approval of the vaccine is supported by evidence that it is safe,
effective and of good quality," Health Canada said in a statement. The
vaccine has initially been authorized for use in people 16 years of age or
DON'T MIX SPUTNIK VACCINE WITH ALCOHOL, SAYS RUSSIAN OFFICIAL
A health official's warning that anyone getting vaccinated against COVID-19
with Russia's Sputnik V vaccine should give up alcohol for almost two months
has caused a backlash among some Russians who call the request unreasonable.
Anna Popova, head of the consumer health watchdog, said on Tuesday that
people should stop drinking alcohol at least two weeks before getting the
first of two injections. They should continue to abstain for a further 42
days, she advised. There are 21 days between the two Russian vaccine jabs.
Popova warned alcohol would reduce the body's ability to build up immunity
Her advice was contradicted by Alexander Gintsburg, the vaccine's developer.
"One glass of champagne won't hurt anyone, not even your immune system",
said Gintsburg. He said it would be prudent to reduce alcohol use by a
reasonable amount while the body built up immunity, but said there was no
need to give up completely. It was crucial however, he said, to refrain from
alcohol three days before and after the two injections required. He said
such advice was the same for anyone getting vaccinated around the world and
not specific to Russia or Sputnik.
FARMERS TRUST MODI, SAYS BJP AFTER RAJASTHAN LOCAL BODY POLL WIN
At a time the NDA government is facing flak over farmers' protest, the BJP's
win in Rajasthan Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti elections has given the
party ammunition to blunt opposition attacks and showcase that farmers still
trust the Modi dispensation.
BJP national president J.P. Nadda asserted that the victory shows the trust
the poor, farmers and labourers have in Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The elections were held in 21 districts in four phases on 23 November, 26
November, 1 December and 5 December.
Of the 4,371 Panchayat Samiti seats, the BJP bagged 1,989 seats, while the
Congress managed to get 1,852 seats. In Zila Parishads, of the 636 seats,
the BJP won 353 seats, while Congress managed to get 252 seats. The
remaining were bagged by other parties and Independent candidates.
KARNATAKA PASSES TOUGH ANTI-COW SLAUGHTER LAW, OPPN WALKS OUT
Karnataka's BJP government tabled and passed a Bill in the state Assembly
Wednesday, banning cow slaughter. The Opposition Congress and JDS staged a
walkout, protesting the manner in which the Bill was passed without a debate
in the House.
The Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill, 2020,
which envisages a ban on all forms of cattle slaughter and stringent
punishment for offenders, is a revised version of a Bill that was passed in
2010 but was shelved in 2013 by the Congress government after it did not
receive the Governor's assent. The Congress had reverted to the less
stringent Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Preservation of Animals
Act, 1964, which allows cow slaughter with certain restrictions.
While the 1964 law banned the killing of "any cow or calf of she-buffalo",
it allowed the slaughter of bullock, buffalo-male or female if it was
certified by a competent authority to be above the age of 12 years or
incapacitated for breeding or deemed sick.
Under the latest bill, cattle has been designated as "cow, calf of a cow and
bull, bullock and he or she buffalo" and their slaughter is banned. The only
exemptions under the 2020 Bill are buffaloes above the age of 13 years and
certified by a competent authority, cattle used in medical research, cattle
certified for slaughter by a veterinarian to prevent spread of a disease,
and very sick cattle.
Like the 1964 and 2010 laws, the new law passed in the state assembly also
designates the slaughter of cattle as a cognizable offence - where arrests
can be carried out without court warrants. The punishment, however, has been
increased to three to seven years of jail or fines ranging from Rs 50,000 to
Rs 5 lakh or both.
The new Bill also prescribes new punishments for transport of cattle, sale
of meat and purchase or disposal of cattle for slaughter.
ENVOYS FROM 64 NATIONS WITNESS INDIA'S VACCINE PRODUCTION
Hyderabad was lined up with policemen on almost all roads as envoys from 64
countries visited the city yesterday to get a first-hand account of the
Covaxin being developed at the Bharat Biotech premises.
The countries represented by them include those from Asia, Africa, Europe,
North America, South America, and Oceania.
Organised by the Ministry of External Affairs, this was an attempt to
showcase India's expertise so that a partnerships could be brokered for the
manufacture and delivery of vaccines. This is a follow up of the briefing in
Delhi where India presented its case to these envoys.
IAF WANTS SCENES FROM ANIL KAPOOR FILM REMOVED, ACTOR APOLOGISES
The Indian Air Force Wednesday objected to a trailer for the forthcoming
Netflix film AK vs AK in which actor Anil Kapoor is seen donning the IAF
uniform while using "inappropriate" language. With IAF asking for the scenes
to be withdrawn, Kapoor apologised through a video message on Twitter "for
unintentionally hurting sentiments".
The IAF had tweeted: "The IAF uniform in this video is inaccurately donned
and the language used is inappropriate. This does not conform to the
behavioural norms of those in the Armed Forces of India. The related scenes
need to be withdrawn."
Kapoor and filmmaker Anurag Kashyap play exaggerated versions of themselves
in AK vs AK.
SOVEREIGN FUND FLOW: INDIA REPLACES CHINA AS MOST SOUGHT-AFTER DESTINATION
India has quietly replaced China as the most sought after destination for
global sovereign wealth funds investment in the private sector - a sign of
the country's growing attraction for investors.
According to data by New York-based Global SWF, which tracks over 400
sovereign wealth funds, in the year 2020 to date, these funds deployed
capital worth a record $14.8 billion in India, which is nearly three times
more than what they have put in China ($4.5 billion).
The gap between the capital deployed in the two countries widened this year,
but the trend started in 2019, when sovereign wealth funds invested $10.1
billion in India, surpassing the $6.4 billion it did in China. This is a far
cry from the period between 2015 to 2018, when China was way ahead in the
game and sovereign funds invested a total of $46 billion in that country. In
contrast, they invested only $24.6 billion in India over the same period.
The benchmark Sensex on Wednesday topped the 46,000 mark amid relentless
buying by FPI.
"Multiple factors are playing part. Vaccination news, decreasing cases in
India, and continuous liquidity have been the key factors," said Naveen
Kulkarni, chief investment officer, Axis Securities.
US GOVT, 48 STATES SUE FACEBOOK FOR ABUSING POWER TO CRUSH SMALLER RIVALS
The US government and 48 states have filed parallel lawsuits against
Facebook, accusing the social media giant of anti-competitive conduct by
abusing its market power to create a monopoly and crushing smaller
Soon after the Federal Trade Commission and 48 state attorney generals on
Wednesday sued the company, Facebook's shares dropped significantly at the
The bipartisan coalition alleged that Facebook has engaged in a systematic
strategy to eliminate threats to its monopoly. This includes its 2012
acquisition of up-and-coming rival Instagram, its 2014 acquisition of the
mobile messaging app WhatsApp and the imposition of anti competitive
conditions on software developers.
According to the complaint, this course of conduct by Facebook harms
competition, leaves consumers with few choices for personal social
networking, and deprives advertisers of the benefits of competition.
Opposing the lawsuit, Jennifer Newstead, vice president and general counsel
of Facebook, described it as revisionist history.
This lawsuit risks sowing doubt and uncertainty about the US government's
own merger review process and whether acquiring businesses can actually rely
on the outcomes of the legal process. It would also punish companies for
protecting their investment and technology from free-riding by those who did
not pay for the innovation, making those companies less likely over the long
term to make their platforms available to spur the growth of new products
and services, she said.
PSG, BASAKSEHIR PLAYERS WALK OFF AFTER ALLEGED RACISM BY MATCH OFFICIAL
The Champions League clash between Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul
Basaksehir was abandoned on Tuesday night as both sets of players walked off
after fourth official Sebastian Coltescu was accused of racism.
The match was suspended midway through the first half after Pierre Webo,
Basaksehir's black assistant manager, vehemently protested a decision on the
touchline. As the referee came over, footage appeared to show Coltescu
identifying Webo by saying: 'The black one over there. Go and check who he
is. The black one over there, it's not possible to act like that'. It is
believed Coltescu said 'negru', the Romanian word for black. A furious Webo
heard this and immediately accused Coltescu of racism.
Webo was shown a red card during the exchange on the touchline and the match
was later suspended when Basaksehir and Paris Saint-Germain players walked
off the pitch, with the game rescheduled for Wednesday with a new team of
Coltescu later apologised, saying: 'Sorry for the misunderstanding. My
intention was never racism. 'In such an environment, people sometimes
cannot express their feelings correctly and can be misunderstood. I
apologise...I hope you understand.'
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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
To know a person's religion we need not listen to his profession of faith
but must find his brand of intolerance. - Eric Hoffer
Last year I entered the Mumbai Marathon. The race started and immediately I
was the last of the runners. It was embarrassing.
The guy who was in front of me, second to last, was making fun of me. He
said, "Hey buddy, how does it feel to be last?"
I replied: "You really want to know?"
Then I dropped out of the race.