India Newsletter

FRONT PAGE NEWS
14 Dec 2020

FARMERS’ PROTEST: HEADS OF ALL FARMER UNIONS ON HUNGER STRIKE TODAY

 

Amid the deadlock between farmers and the Centre, farmer leader Gurnam Singh

Chaduni Sunday announced that the heads of all farmer unions will observe a

one-day hunger strike on Monday. The hunger strike, between 8 am to 5 pm, is

part of the farmers’ plan to intensify their agitation.

Addressing a press conference at Singhu border, where the farmers have been

camping for the past 18 days now, Chaduni said the leaders will observe the

hunger strike at their respective places. Farmer leader Shiv Kumar

Kakkasaid, “Government agencies have been stopping farmers from reaching

Delhi, but the protest will continue till their demands are met. Our stand

is clear, we want the three farm laws repealed. All farmer unions

participating in this movement are together.”

Another farmer leader, Rakesh Tikait, said, “If the government gives another

proposal for talks, our committee will decide on it. We appeal to all to

maintain peace during the protest.”

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Sunday accused Opposition

parties of running a propaganda against the new farm laws and asserted that

these legislations “may cause difficulty for some in the short term” but

will be beneficial to farmers in the long run.

Tomar, who is leading negotiations with the 40 protesting farmer unions to

break the deadlock, was addressing a delegation of over 100 farmers from

Uttarakhand who came to extend their support to the laws.

Addressing the delegation, Tomar said the government faced opposition when

it revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. It also faced opposition

when it brought the amended citizenship law as well as over the Ram temple

issue.

“When the agricultural reforms were brought, there was opposition to this

too.... There are some people who just oppose and weaken the country. This

has become their nature,” the agriculture minister said.

On agricultural sector reforms, the discussion has been going on for last

many years, Tomar said. “Unfortunately the previous governments who wanted

to reform were not able to it...,” he added.

 

 

WHY GOVT TALKING IF FARMERS HAVE MAOIST AND KHALISTAN LINKS: CHIDAMBARAM

 

Former Union Home Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has

slammed the Centre on the linking of farmers' protest with Khalistan and

Maoist elements and questioned that if it were so why was the government

holding talks with protesters.

"Ministers have described the protesters against the farm laws as

Khalistanis, agents of Pakistan and China, Maoists, and 'tukde-tukde' gang.

If you exhaust all these categories, it means there are no farmers among the

thousands of protesters. If there are no farmers, why is the government

talking to them?" he tweeted.

 

 

GANDHI’S STATUE VANDALISED IN US, EMBASSY FOR ACTION

 

The Indian Embassy in Washington has lodged a strong protest with US law

enforcement agencies over the draping of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi with a

flag purportedly to be that of “Khalistan”.

In a statement, the embassy said, “The statue at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial

Plaza in front of the embassy was defaced by Khalistani elements… by

hooligans masquerading as protesters against the universally respected icon

of peace and justice.”

The embassy has taken up the matter with the US Department of State for an

early investigation and action against the culprits.

 

 

IRCTC SENDS OUT NEARLY 2 CRORE EMAILS HIGHLIGHTING MODI’S RELATIONSHIP WITH

SIKHS

 

IRCTC, a railway PSU sent out nearly two crore emails between December 8 and

December 12 to its customers listing 13 decisions taken by Prime Minister

Narendra Modi to support the Sikh community, amidst farmers’ protest against

the Centre’s three farm laws.

The emails were sent to the entire database of IRCTC, where passengers key

in their details while booking tickets, the officials said.

Officials said that the move to send out the emails was a conscious choice

as part of a communication strategy for public interest.

The booklet speaks of the justice given to the 1984 riot victims, FCRA

registration granted to Sri Harmandir Sahib, Jallianwala Bagh Memorial, no

taxes on langar, the Kartarpur corridor among other things under 13 heads.

 

 

ASSAM CABINET NOD TO REPEAL PROVISIONS FOR MADRASAS, SANSKRIT SCHOOLS

 

The Assam government on Sunday approved a proposal to repeal provisions for

madrasas and Sanskrit tolls (schools), a Cabinet note said. Legislation to

this effect will be introduced in the coming session of the Assembly.

“So, we have decided to convert these institutes into seats for general

education. Now, 600 madrasas will be closed (down). In these madrasas, we

are going to impart modern education. This (is not to) save any finance. We

will keep spending Rs 300 crore because we are not going to take anybody out

of service… The madrasa education is opposed by the students themselves,”

said Assam’s Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

According to Sarma, in the ‘high madrasas’ in Assam a student has the chance

to score 200 marks studying a subject based on Islam and Quran. “An

opportunity was given only to a class of citizens to study their holy

scripture and then score marks. So, my opposition is because you have to

establish parity. Either you allow the Bhagavad Gita or Bible so that other

students also score 200 marks, or remove the Quran,” Sarma said.

He added, “I think introducing the Bible or Bhagavad Gita will not be easy

because Assam has a composite culture and there are many small religions. So

the best way to establish parity is to remove the subject on the Quran.”

 

 

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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IRAN EXECUTES JOURNALIST RUHOLLAH ZAM

 

Iranian dissident and journalist Ruhollah Zam was executed on Saturday for

his role in sparking nationwide anti-government protests in 2017, Iran’s

state television reported. Zam’s execution comes four days after the Iranian

Supreme Court upheld his death sentence, despite facing widespread

condemnation.

Earlier this year, a court sentenced Zam to death after he was found guilty

of “corruption on earth” — a charge that is often invoked for cases that

involve espionage or an attempt to overthrow the Iranian government.

Ruhollah Zam was an Iranian activist and journalist who was best known for

running an online opposition news website, called AmadNews, as well as a

thriving channel on messaging app Telegram, where he had garnered over a

million followers.

Zam’s website and Telegram feed played a central role in the anti-government

protests that broke out across Iran in 2017 in response to a flailing

economy, soaring inflation and an overall lack of opportunity for thousands

of the country’s citizens.

The 2017 protests grew to become the biggest political challenge faced by

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali

Khamenei since the pro-democracy Green Movement protests that spread through

the country in 2009.

Several activists and advocacy groups across the world have condemned Zam’s

execution. According to Reporters Without Borders, Iran has been “one of the

world’s most repressive countries for journalists for the past 40 years.”

 

 

BREXIT: LEADERS TO GO ‘EXTRA MILE’ AS DEADLINE IS EXTENDED

 

Britain’s grinding negotiations with the European Union for a post-Brexit

trade agreement won a reprieve on Sunday, as PM Boris Johnson and the

president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, agreed to extend

the talks despite divisions between the two sides that had looked impossible

to bridge.

In a joint statement issued after a midday phone call, Johnson and von der

Leyen said, “We think it is responsible at this point to go the extra mile.”

They characterised the call as “useful,” the first glimmer of hope after

days in which the negotiations appeared to be heading for the rocks.

Johnson and von der Leyen did not set a new deadline for the negotiations,

though as a practical matter, the two sides have until December 31, when the

transition period to hammer out a long-term trade deal expires and Britain

and the EU would impose tariffs on each other’s goods.

A failure to come to terms would thrust the United Kingdom into uncharted

waters with its largest trading partner. It could lead to disruptions of

food shipments, threaten British manufacturing industries, and ignite ugly

squabbles between British and French fishing boats over coastal fishing

grounds.

 

 

CHINESE DEBT DEFAULTS SEND INVESTORS INTO A TIZZY

 

Despite claims of an economic recovery, Chinese state-owned companies are

defaulting on their debts. A string of missed debt repayments by major firms

has shaken local as well as global markets. State firms defaulted on a

record $6.1 billion worth of bonds between January and October, according to

Fitch Ratings. That’s about as much as the last two years combined. The

development has rattled China’s nearly $4 trillion corporate debt market, of

which state-owned enterprises are estimated to account for more than half.

At least 20 firms suspended plans for new debt issues totalling $2.4

billion, all citing recent market turmoil.

The mounting non-payment of debt payments is getting worse in recent weeks.

A slew of major companies, including German automaker BMW’s Chinese partner

Brilliance Auto Group, top smartphone chipmaker Tsinghua Unigroup, and

Yongcheng Coal and Electricity declared bankruptcy or defaulted on their

loans in November. This was enough to send shock waves through debt market.

Bond prices nosedived sharply, interest rates soared and the turmoil even

spilt over into the stock market, with shares of state-owned firms

plummeting.

The defaults have angered global investors, who say their faith in the

firms’ top-notch ratings, seemingly sound finances and implicit state

backing has been violated. There is a panic among investors who believed

that the close relationships between these companies and Chinese governments

make them safe bets in times of trouble. But investors are a worried lot as

the state is no longer willing to support these companies; investments have

suddenly become much riskier propositions.

 

 

THE REST

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KEJRIWAL TO FAST TODAY, IN SOLIDARITY WITH PROTESTING FARMERS

 

Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today said he will hold a

one-day fast Monday in support of the protesting farmers. He also urged all

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) workers and supporters to observe the one-day fast in

solidarity with the farmers. Addressing a virtual press briefing, the chief

minister said the Centre should immediately accept all demands of the

farmers. He also asked the BJP-ruled Centre to shun “arrogance”, and scrap

the three farm laws and bring in a Bill to guarantee minimum support price

(MSP) for agricultural produce.

Punjab CM Amarinder Singh on Sunday described Kejriwal’s announcement of

observing a fast on Monday as “theatrics”. Singh said the Kejriwal

government had “backstabbed” the farmers by “shamelessly” notifying one of

the farm laws on November 23.

“And now, they are indulging in theatrics by announcing that they would be

sitting on a fast in support of the farmers’ hunger strike on Monday,” he

said in a statement.

“Instead of doing anything constructive to help the protesting farmers, who

are sitting outside your city for the past 17 days to seek justice, you and

your party are busy playing politics,” the Congress leader said.

 

 

BRAHMINS DON’T TAKE OFFENCE WHEN CASTE CALLED, WHY DO ‘SHUDRAS’, SAYS PRAGYA

THAKUR

 

Bhopal Member of Parliament (MP) Pragya Singh Thakur told a gathering in

Madhya Pradesh’s Sehore on Saturday that shudras “feel bad” when they are

called shudras due to “ignorance” about the social system.

Addressing a gathering of the Kshatriya Mahasabha, Thakur said that society

has been divided into four categories in “our dharmashastra (social

treatise)”. “Kshatriya ko kshatriya keh do, bura nahin lagta. Brahmin ko

brahmin keh do, bura nahin lagta. Vaishya ko Vaishya keh do, bura nahin

lagta. Shudra ko shudra keh do, bura lag jata hai. Kaaran kya hai? Kyunki

na-samjhi, samajh nahi paate,” she said.

(“If you call a kshatriya a kshatriya, they don’t feel bad; call a brahmin a

brahmin, they don’t feel bad; call a vaishya a vaishya, they don’t feel bad.

But if you call a shudra a shudra, they feel bad. Why is this so? Because of

ignorance, they are unable to understand.”)

In other contentious remarks, Thakur said that a “law to control population

growth should be for those who indulge in anti-national activities…it

doesn’t apply for those who live for the nation” She also said that

“reservation should be on the basis of economic background to benefit the

poor, enabling them to live a better life not on caste lines”. Addressing

women at the gathering, she said: “Today’s kshatriya need to understand

their duties and produce more and more children to induct them into the

Armed Forces so that they can fight for the nation and strengthen its

security.”

 

 

EXPECT NORMAL LIFE TO RETURN BY OCT: ADAR POONAWALLA

 

Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla said the Covid-19

vaccination drive was likely to begin in India by January as his firm —

which is testing and manufacturing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine candidate

— was expecting to get emergency-use authorisation by month-end.

Speaking at The Economic Times Global Business Summit, Adar Poonawalla said

he expected everyone in India to be vaccinated by October 2021 following

which normal life could return.

“Once 20% of India gets the coronavirus vaccine, we can hopefully see the

confidence and sentiments coming back, and by September-October next year

hopefully there will be enough vaccines for everyone and normal life can

return,” the SII chief said.

The Oxford vaccine uses a chimpanzee viral vector that can’t cause disease

in humans and expresses the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. This means the vaccine

delivers the spike protein genetic code into cells, which then produce the

protein, teaching the immune system to recognise and attack the virus.

The total no. of cases identified country-wide since the start of pandemic

stands at over 98.82 lakhs while the current active cases are at around 3.51

lakhs. The total no. of deaths so far stands at about 1.43 lakhs

The last 7 days have seen an average of 29,675 new cases a day while the

recoveries have averaged at about 35,634 a day. The deaths by Covid-19 have

averaged 400 a day over the last 7 days.

Worldwide, the total no. of cases stands at over 72 million while the

current active cases are at a little over 20 million lakhs. The total no. of

deaths so far stands at over 16 lakhs, The last 7 days have seen an average

of about 6.54 lakh new cases a day while the recoveries have averaged at

about 5.33 lakh a day. The deaths by Covid-19 have averaged about 10,900 a

day over the last 7 days.

 

 

WORRYING SEX RATIO TREND IN EIGHT STATES

 

In worrying signs for India’s gender parity goals, the latest round of

National Family Health Survey (NFHS) has revealed negative trends for sex

ratio at birth (SRB) in several states that had posted gains in the past.

States with decline in sex ratio at birth among kids born in last five years

are Kerala, HP, Bihar, Goa, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Dadra and

Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu

The highest decline of 166 points in SRB over five years has been reported

by Dadra and Nagar Haveli

Of the 22 states covered by NFHS-5 so far, eight have shown losses in sex

ratio at birth (SRB) defined as the number of female births per 1,000 male

births. The SRB is a key indicator of son’s preference vis-à-vis daughters.

States with declines in sex ratio at birth among children born in the last

five years (between NFHS-4 conducted in 2015-16 and NFHS-5 conducted in

2019-2020) are Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Maharashtra, Meghalaya,

Nagaland, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.

With a drop of 128 points in SRB over five years (966 in 2015 to 838 in

2020), Goa is the second worst performer, followed by Kerala, which has

posted a loss of 96 points – down from 1,047 in 2015 to 951 in 2020.

What’s worrisome is Kerala was the second best performer on SRB after Punjab

in NFHS-4 and had posted a gain of 122 points improving its SRB from 925 in

NFHS-3 (2005-2006) to 1,047 in NFHS-4 (2015-2016).

 

 

REPUBLIC TV CEO HELD IN TRP CASE

 

The Mumbai Police’s Crime Branch on Sunday arrested Republic TV’s Chief

Executive Officer Vikas Khanchandani in the Television Rating Points

manipulation case, taking the total number of arrests to 13.

A senior police official said Khanchandani’s statement was recorded twice

and his role was identified during the interrogation of the channel’s

distribution head Ghanshyam Singh, who was arrested earlier.

The investigators alleged that Khanchandani was part of an internal WhatsApp

group in which discussions on Logical Channel Number (LCN) would take place.

LCN is an identification number assigned to a TV channel, and the

allegations against Republic TV Republic TV CEO held in TRP case are that it

allegedly used dual LCN, which allowed it to show up in the genre of ‘kids

channels’, apart from the ‘news channels’ category, thus showing up at two

places. Investigators have claimed that Khanchandani knew about these

alleged LCN manipulations.

The TRP manipulation scam came to light in October after an official of

Hansa Research Group — the company tasked with installing barometers to

record viewership — lodged a complaint with the Mumbai Police, following

which the owner of Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema were arrested.

Last week, the Supreme Court turned down a plea by ARG Outlier Media Private

Limited, which owns Republic Media Network, seeking protection for the group

and its employees from the cases filed against them in Maharashtra.

 

 

VERSTAPPEN WINS SEASON ENDING ABU DHABI GP

 

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen won the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in

dominant style on Sunday for his 2nd victory of the season and 10th of his

career. He finished 16 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas and 18.4 clear of

world champion Lewis Hamilton as Red Bull enjoyed a rare and significant

success over both Mercedes cars. Alexander Albon completed a good race for

Red Bull by finishing fourth ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris.

 

TOP DRIVERS THIS SEASON

 

POS DRIVER NATIONALITY CAR PTS

1 Lewis Hamilton GBR MERCEDES 347

2 Valtteri Bottas FIN MERCEDES 223

3 Max Verstappen NED RED BULL RACING HONDA 214

4 Sergio Perez MEX RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES 125

5 Daniel Ricciardo AUS RENAULT 119

6 Carlos Sainz ESP MCLAREN RENAULT 105

7 Alexander Albon THA RED BULL RACING HONDA 105

 

 

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

 

Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor

to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. - Francis Bacon

 

 

OFF TRACK

 

One office supervisor called a secretary in to give her the bad news that

she was being fired.

He started the conversation with: "Miss Symthe, I really don't know how

we're going to get along without you, but starting Monday, we're going to

try.

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