India Newsletter

15 Dec 2020



Intensifying their agitation against the Centre's controversial agriculture

laws, leaders of around 32 farmer unions observed a day-long hunger strike

at Delhi's Singhu border Monday. The hunger strike began at 8 am and ended

at 5 pm even as talks with the government remained inconclusive.

The unions claimed that more people are expected to join the ongoing

agitation, which has now entered its third week. United Farmers' Front said

leaders also observed a two minute-silence over the alleged deaths of over

20 protesters at Delhi borders in last 18 days. Several borders of the

national capital remained closed due to the ongoing agitation. Undeterred by

the harsh winter weather, protesters at Tikri, Ghazipur and Singhu said they

are determined not to yield until their demand is met.

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, meanwhile, said that the

government is engaging with farmer leaders to decide on the next date of

talks. "The meeting will definitely happen. We are engaging with farmers,"

Tomar said. Reiterating that the government is ready for discussion anytime,

Tomar said farmer leaders have to "decide and convey" when they are ready

for the next meeting.

Tomar, who is leading the negotiations with 40 farmer unions, along with

Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce and Industries

Som Parkash also met with a delegation of Haryana BJP MPs and MLAs which

extended its support to the three new farm laws.

Following a nationwide call given by their unions against the new central

laws, farmers also raised slogans outside the offices of district

commissioners and took out protest marches in Punjab and Haryana.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who along with other AAP leaders, MLAs

and volunteers observed a day-long fast in support of the protesting

farmers, said that the new farm laws will lead to immense inflation and will

only favour a few capitalists.

With some key roads blocked for several days now due to their protests, an

umbrella body of farmers Monday apologised with "folded hands" to people for

the inconvenience caused to them, but said they were carrying out the

demonstration "out of compulsion".

Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, which is spearheading the protests at Delhi border

points, distributed handbills in Hindi to commuters on the Jaipur-Delhi

Highway near Haryana-Rajasthan borders, where hundreds of farmers have been

camping for almost past three weeks now, to convey their apology, and also

reiterate their demand for legal guarantee for Minimum Support Price.

The morcha also said that any elderly person, patient or ambulance stuck due

to the blocked roads may contact the volunteers, who will immediately

provide help.

The farmers also accused the Centre of "pretending" to be talking to them

but not listening to their grievances.





Days after Congress leader in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, sent a

letter to Speaker Om Birla, urging him to convene a short winter session of

Parliament to discuss issues such as the farmers' agitation, the government

on Monday informed him that floor leaders of various parties, whom it had

consulted, were in favour of doing away with the session due to the pandemic


In a letter to Chowdhury, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi

stated that the government is willing to have the next session of Parliament

at the "earliest", and that it would be appropriate to have the Budget

session in January.

Chowdhury confirmed receiving the letter but said he never suggested that

the winter session should not be held. "Rather," he said, "I suggested that

the session should be held." The Congress leader alleged that the government

is running away from Parliament to evade questions on issues such as the

farmers' protests.

He maintained that the government is "dithering" on several issues,

including farmers' agitation, and therefore "they don't want to convene the

winter session of Parliament".





Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's comments on farmers' agitation in

India were "uncalled for", "disconnected with ground realities", and "served

merely to fan the flames", said a group of former Indian ambassadors on

Monday in a sharply worded open letter condemning what they called "vote

bank politics in Canada".

Interacting with the Sikh community last week on the birth anniversary of

Guru Nanak Dev, Trudeau had said that the "situation is concerning, and

we're all very worried about family and friends."

"Such blatant interference in India's internal affairs to appease a section

of the Liberal Party's voter base is completely unacceptable and cannot but

cast a long shadow on bilateral relations," the former diplomats wrote.

The letter, signed by at least 22 retired diplomats, including former Indian

High Commissioner to Canada Vishnu Prakash, underlined that Trudeau's

support to Indian farmers' demand for MSP contradicts the stance it took in

the WTO, where Canada was one of the most strident critics of India's MSP


The former diplomats said that Ottawa conveniently ignored that the Indian

government has, in good faith, been holding talks at ministerial level with

the representatives of agitating farmers. They wrote that while Canadian

investment in India is well-positioned to scale up, "yet the fact remains

that not unoften, bilateral political equations develop stress, due to the

propensity of certain Canadian political parties and leaders to engage in

vote bank politics."

The letter also condemned Canada's indifference towards separatist

Khalistani elements who "carry out anti-India activities, from the safety of

Canadian soil." "They (Khalistanis) are also radicalising the Canadian youth

with far-reaching consequences, which is being ignored at the altar of

short-term political expediency," the ex-diplomats wrote.









The Electoral College gave Joe Biden a majority of its votes Monday,

confirming his victory in last month's election in state-by-state voting

that took on added importance this year because of President Donald Trump's

refusal to concede he lost.

Electors cast paper ballots in gatherings that took place in all 50 states

and the District of Columbia.

There was little suspense and no surprises as all the electoral votes

allocated to Biden and Trump in last month's popular vote went to each man.

"In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed," Biden said in

remarks prepared for an evening speech.

There have been concerns about safety for the electors, virtually unheard of

in previous years. In Michigan, lawmakers from both parties reported

receiving threats, and legislative offices were closed over threats of

violence. Biden won the state by some 2.8 percentage points.

Even with the Electoral College's confirmation of Biden's victory, some

Republicans continued to refuse to acknowledge that reality. Despite Biden's

wins in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Republicans who would

have been Trump electors met anyway.





Amid simmering tensions between Australia and China, the media on Monday

reported a major data leak containing official records like party position,

birthdate, national ID number and ethnicity of nearly two million alleged

members of the Communist Party of China living and working across the world.

The data leak obtained by 'The Australian' newspaper has revealed how the

alleged CPC members are employed with some of the world's biggest

corporations in the areas of defence, banks and pharmaceutical giants

manufacturing coronavirus vaccines.

The leak has exposed details of 1.95 million CPC members after being

extracted from a Shanghai server by whistleblowers.

An investigation by 'The Australian' has found that at least 10 consulates

in the eastern Chinese metropolis Shanghai have CPC members employed as

senior political and government affairs specialists, clerks, economic

advisers and executive assistants.

It has further revealed 79,000 branches, many of them inside companies,

universities and even government agencies.

The leak has alleged that the ruling CPC has infiltrated the Australian,

British and United States consulates in Shanghai, with the Department of

Foreign Affairs and Trade using a Chinese government agency, the Shanghai

Foreign Agency Service Department, to hire local staff.





New York on Monday inoculated its first healthcare worker, an intensive care

unit nurse in Queens, with the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, marking a

pivotal turn in the US effort to control the deadly virus.

The first 2.9 million doses began to be shipped to distribution centers

around the country on Sunday, just 11 months after the United States

documented its first Covid-19 infections. As of Monday, the United States

had registered 16,286,343 cases and 299,489 deaths from the virus.









Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Punjab counterpart Amarinder

Singh engaged in a Twitter spat on Monday over the ongoing farmers' protest.

The war of words between the two leaders began after Singh, addressing a

press conference at Chandigarh on Sunday, described as "theatrics"

Kejriwal's announcement earlier during that day that he will observe a

one-day fast on Monday in support of the protesting farmers.

Responding to Singh's comments, Kejriwal tweeted: "I have been with the

farmers since beginning. I did not let Delhi's stadiums being turned into

jails. I fought with the Centre. I am serving the farmers by becoming their

sewadaar. You have done a deal with the Centre to save your son from the ED.

You disowned the farmers' movement. Why?"

Punjab CM responded thus: "Just as every Punjabi knows, I am not one to be

cowed down by ED or other cases, you Mr @ArvindKejriwal will even sell your

soul if it serves your political purposes. If you think farmers are going to

be taken in by your dramatics then you are totally mistaken."

"Farmers of India and particularly Punjab know that you Mr @ArvindKejriwal

have sold off the interest of farmers by notifying one of the draconian farm

bills in Delhi on November 23. What pressure did the Centre have on you,"

Singh said in another tweet.

Kejriwal responded: "You were part of the committee which drafted these

bills. These bills are your 'gift' to the nation. Captain sahib, why do BJP

leaders never accuse you of double standards the way they accuse all other

leaders of?"

Amrinder's turn: "These farm laws were not discussed at any meeting & your

repeated lies will not change that Mr @ArvindKejriwal. And naturally BJP

can't accuse me of double standards as I don't have any nexus with them like

you have. They after all have to cover up their collusion with you!"

Kejriwal: "It's a part of record that your committee drafted these laws. You

had the power to stop these laws, tell the people of this country that such

laws were being contemplated by the centre. Why did u go along with the






After years of waiting and a couple of failed attempts, the government has

finally managed to make substantial headway in its attempt to sell off Air

India, the loss-making national carrier.

Tuhin Kanta Pandey, secretary of the Department of Investment and Public

Asset Management, tweeted that the government has received multiple

expressions of interest for the strategic disinvestment of Air India. "The

transaction will now move to the second stage," he said.

The two bidders who have announced they are in the running are the Tata

group as well as a consortium of Air India employees and US-based Interups


However, the total number of bids for Air India and the identities of the

other bidders haven't yet been revealed.





India and the U.S. are the two most investor-friendly markets in the world

in terms of best practice for portfolio disclosure, while Australia ranks at

the bottom, according to a global study by Morningstar Inc.

The two countries earned top grades for their robust disclosure regimes

across six categories including fees, transparency of fund holdings and

issues such as conflicts of interest. The report covered 26 markets across

North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.





Reliance Jio has written to TRAI seeking strict action against Bharti Airtel

and Vodafone Idea for "unethical practices" and "unscrupulous violations"

and to stop campaigns under which "false propaganda is being spread across

the country to get some additional MNP port-ins" by "capitalising on the

ongoing farmer protest in the northern parts of the country".

"They are inciting the public by making preposterous claims that migrating

Jio mobile numbers to their networks would be an act of support to farmers'

protests," say the letter by Jio. The letter was accompanied by pictures of

"misleading and inciteful campaign" across Punjab and other northern states.





Wistron Infocomm Manufacturing India Pvt Ltd has said it suffered losses

worth Rs 438 crore in the violence where a section of workers went on a

rampage at its facility manufacturing Apple iPhones and other products in

Bengaluru's Narasapura area over non-payment of promised wages.

According to the complaint by Wistron company executive Prashanth TD, office

equipment, mobile phones, production machinery and related gadgets worth Rs

412.5 crore was lost. Infrastructure worth Rs 10 crore, Rs 60 lakh worth

cars and golf carts, smartphones and other gadgets worth Rs 1.5 crore were

among those that were damaged, were stolen or lost.

He stated in his complaint that 5,000 contract labourers and about 2,000

unknown culprits carried out the vandalism in the facility. According to

police, a clear picture regarding the total loss will emerge only after

assessment by the insurance company.

Police said 160 people had been arrested so far.

Violence broke out during a change of shifts at the plant over the

non-payment of promised wages. Work has been suspended at the 43-acre plant

and police has beefed up security in the area. Most of the shop owners in

the industrial area have also shut shop fearing trouble.





Google's services, including Gmail, YouTube, Google Docs and others, faced a

global outage earlier today. The company blamed an 'internal storage quota

issue' for the same. The outage lasted almost 45 minutes across all Google

services with users unable to login.

In an official statement, a Google spokesperson said, "Today, at 3.47AM PT

Google experienced an authentication system outage for approximately 45

minutes due to an internal storage quota issue. Services requiring users to

log in experienced high error rates during this period. The authentication

system issue was resolved at 4:32AM PT. All services are now restored. We

apologise to everyone affected, and we will conduct a thorough follow up

review to ensure this problem cannot recur in the future."





Ola Electric on Monday said it will make two million electric scooters a

year at a greenfield facility in Hosur, Tamil Nadu. This would displace

Honda's Vithalpur facility in Gujarat, which makes 1.2 million units of

petrol-powered scooters a year.

Ola has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the state government

for the factory, which will entail an investment of Rs 2,354 crore. The Ola

investment will create nearly 2,200 jobs, the state government said. Ola's

pact was part of 18 MoUs signed by the TN government, worth a cumulative

investment of Rs 19,995 crore with the potential to create more than 26,500


The Ola factory will help "galvanise India's electric vehicle ecosystem and

establish India as a key player in the EV manufacturing space", Ola added.

"Ola's factory will cater to customers not only in India but in markets

around the world, including Europe, Asia, Latin America and more, and the

company is gearing up to launch the first of its range of electric scooters

in the coming months," the statement added.





As the Indian team management look to firm up their opening combination for

the Adelaide Test, Allan Border and Sunil Gavaskar, two greats after whom

the trophy for the series is named, both picked Shubman Gill over Prithvi

Shaw to partner Mayank Agarwal in the pink-ball Test starting in Adelaide on


Border was critical of incumbent opener Shaw's expansive stroke-play. "I

know you guys are big on Shaw. But it seems to me he plays a shot a ball,"

he told Gavaskar. "Against the new ball. it looks good on flat tracks but in

Australia you have got to be a little more watchful with your shot

selection. He seems to be a bit loose outside the off-stump."

Gavaskar too feels Shaw needs to change his approach. "He has to spend a

little more time assessing his batting. As an opening batsman, you have to

give yourself a little more time to see what the pitch and bowlers are

doing," he said. "The way he is batting at the moment is not going to make

him a very consistent player. Yes, he will score runs once in a while. But

he has got to tighten his defence. I agree with AB, he is playing far too

many shots at the start of his innings."





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Men of integrity, by their existence, rekindle the belief that as a people

we can live above the level of moral squalor. We need that belief; a cynical

community is a corrupt community. - John W. Gardner





A seven year old came home from school and said to her mother, "Mom, Guess

what? We learned how to make babies today."

The mother, more than a little surprised, asked fearfully, "That's

interesting. How do you make babies?"

"It's simple," replied the girl. "You just change 'y' to 'i' and add 'es'."

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