India Newsletter

FRONT PAGE NEWS
16 Dec 2020

PM MEETS FARMERS, IN GUJRAT

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met farmers on Tuesday, in Gujarat, where he

declared that the new farm laws have the support of "almost the entire

country".

"These days, in Delhi's vicinity, there is a conspiracy under way to mislead

the farmers)," Modi said.

Modi said his government was willing to hear them out. "I tell my farmer

brothers once again, again and again, that the government is ready to solve

each of their concerns," he said.

Among the farmers invited to meet Modi in Gujarat on Tuesday were a group of

Sikhs settled in Kutch. A news release issued by the Gujarat government's

information department before the visit specified that Sikh farmers had been

invited.

Several Sikh farmers, who started settling in barren land in Kutch after the

1965 war on the invitation of the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri,

had faced eviction when Modi was chief minister of Gujarat. After Gujarat

High Court ruled in favour of the farmers, the state government had gone to

the Supreme Court.

Earlier this month, the Centre released an e-book on "PM Modi and his

government's special relationship with Sikhs".

"I believe, our government's honest intentions, honest efforts, which have

the blessings of almost the entire country (kareeb kareeb poore desh), the

blessings of farmers from every corner of the country. the strength of the

blessings" would defeat those trying to "mislead" and do "politics", Modi

said.

"They are being made to feel scared by being told that after the reforms,

farmers' land would be taken over by others," Modi said. He asked the crowd:

"Do dairy companies take your cows and buffaloes when you enter into an

agreement with them to sell milk?"

Modi said the demand for the farm reform brought by his government was being

made for long and that even the Opposition, when it was in government, had

tried to bring it but couldn't. "But today, the same people are engaged in

misleading the farmers," he said. Many farmers' organisations have been

demanding that they should have the freedom to sell their produce to anyone,

he said.

Framing the farm laws as an economic and political imperative, Union

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said Tuesday that the Government

would invite protesting farmers for talks the day they revert with their

response to the concessions offered.

Tomar linked the laws to the "303-seat mandate," that, he said, had been

given to the government not just to stay in power but to effect change. He

cited demonetisation and GST as reforms pushed in the first term to which

there was opposition but which, Tomar claimed, were transformative and were

rewarded by a stronger majority in 2019.

When asked why the government did not yield in Parliament when some of these

very changes were sought by Opposition members, or refer it to a select

committee, Tomar said: "These are small Acts, which have been discussed and

debated for years. Only complex legislation are referred to a select

committee or a standing committee. In the UPA regime too, the then Prime

Minister and Agriculture Minister were ready to undertake these reforms.

There was a broad-based consensus among all political parties and states,

which discussed these with farmers and other stakeholders."

 

 

DECIMATION OF PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY IS COMPLETE: CONGRESS

 

Slamming the government for its decision to not hold Parliament's winter

session in view of COVID-19, the Congress on Tuesday said the "decimation of

parliamentary democracy is complete" and asked if election campaigning could

be done amid the pandemic then why can't the session be held.

Senior Congress leader and the party's chief whip in Rajya Sabha Jairam

Ramesh also said that the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha,

Ghulam Nabi Azad, was not consulted on the matter.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said he had informally

contacted floor leaders of various political parties and "they have

expressed their concerns about the ongoing pandemic and opined of doing away

with winter session".

Responding to the minister's remarks, Ramesh tweeted, "The Leader of the

Opposition in the Rajya Sabha was not consulted. Mr. Pralhad Joshi is as

usual departing from the truth."

Hitting out at the government, Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep

Surjewala said on Twitter, "Modi ji, decimation of 'parliamentary democracy'

is complete. NEET/JEE exams can be held during COVID. Schools can be opened,

universities can hold exams. Rallies can be held in Bihar-Bengal. But winter

session of Parliament can't be held." "Any semblance of democracy left?" he

asked.

On its official Twitter handle, the Congress said, "Another step in the

BJP's attempt to destroy democracy." "The BJP brought crisis on democracy is

not limited to parliamentary sessions, but is a crisis on every common

person's life, their independence, their wishes. We will fight this crisis,"

the party said in a tweet in Hindi.

 

 

JOHNSON TO BE CHIEF GUEST AT REPUBLIC DAY CELEBRATIONS

 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has accepted India's invitation to be the

chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations on January 26, UK Foreign

Secretary Dominic Raab said at a media conference after talks with External

Affairs Minister S Jaishankar here on Tuesday.

A separate announcement from 10, Downing Street, had Johnson describing

India as a key player in the Indo-Pacific region and an increasingly

indispensable partner for the UK in economy, security and climate change.

Johnson will be the second UK Prime Minister to attend the Republic Day

celebrations after John Major in 1993.

 

 

'POSSIBILITY OF ADVERSE EVENT AFTER COVID VACCINATION CAN'T BE RULED OUT'

 

The possibility of an adverse event after being vaccinated for COVID-19

cannot be ruled out, the government said on Tuesday and asked states and

union territories to be prepared for this as part of the anti-coronavirus

inoculation drive.

At a press briefing, secretary in the Health Ministry Rajesh Bhushan said

that adverse events following immunisation (AEFI) are critical aspect and

states have been asked to identify at least one AEFI management centre in

each block.

"Even during universal immunisation programmes, which have been going on for

decades, some adverse effects are seen in children and pregnant women after

they are administered shots. "So, we can't deny the possibility of an

adverse event when the COVID-19 vaccination begins. In countries where

inoculation has already started, especially in the UK, adverse events took

place on the very first day. So, it is essential that states and union

territories prepare for this too," Bhushan said.

While there is a continuous increasing trend in COVID-19 cases and deaths

globally, particularly in America and Europe and the situation in the world

is becoming worrisome, in contrast the scene in India is satisfying as the

cases and deaths are declining, Dr V K Paul, member (health) at NITI Aayog,

told a press conference here. "Mortality is declining and it is well below

400 per day. Cases have come down to almost 22,000. This is the kind of

number we all experienced in July. So that is very reassuring...But

remember, this cannot be taken for granted...the situation can escalate

unexpectedly."

 

 

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

======================

 

 

TOP TRUMP ALLY FINALLY ACKNOWLEDGES JOE BIDEN WON ELECTION

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell congratulated Democrat Joe Biden as

president-elect on Tuesday, saying the Electoral College "has spoken."

The Republican leader's statement, delivered in a speech on the Senate

floor, ends weeks of silence over President Donald Trump's defeat. It came a

day after electors met and officially affirmed Biden's election win. "I want

to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden," McConnell said.

"Many of us had hoped the presidential election would yield a different

result," he said. "But our system of government has the processes to

determine who will be sworn in on January 20. The Electoral College has

spoken."

McConnell called Biden someone "who has devoted himself to public service

for many years."

He also congratulated Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, saying "all

Americans can take pride that our nation has a female vice president-elect

for the very first time."

With states affirming the results, the Republicans faced a pivotal choice to

declare Biden the president-elect, as the tally showed, or keep standing

silently by as Trump waged a potentially damaging campaign to overturn the

election.

 

 

BOKO HARAM CLAIMS KIDNAPPING OF HUNDREDS OF NIGERIAN STUDENTS

 

Boko Haram on Tuesday claimed it was behind the abduction of hundreds of

students in northwestern Nigeria, in what appears to be a major expansion of

the jihadist group's activities into new areas.

At least 333 students are still missing since the attack late Friday on the

all-boys Government Science Secondary School in Katsina state -- hundreds of

kilometres from Boko Haram's stronghold in northeastern Nigeria.

"I am Abubakar Shekau and our brothers are behind the kidnapping in

Katsina," the leader of Boko Haram said in a voice message.

More than 100 gunmen on motorcycles stormed the rural school north of

Kankara town, forcing students to flee and hide in the surrounding bush. A

number of boys were able to escape.

The army has said it has located the hideout of the "bandits", and that a

military operation was under way.

 

 

THE REST

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MODI LAYS FOUNDATION STONE OF WORLD'S LARGEST RENEWABLE ENERGY PARK

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday laid the foundation stone of the

world's largest renewable solar and wind energy 30,000 MW Hybrid (Solar &

Wind) Park in Gujarat's Kutch. Spread over 72, 600 ha of land, the first

will be a 49,600-hectare hybrid park zone, accomodating wind and solar power

plants of 24,800 MW capacity; and second will be an exclusive wind power

zone spread over 23,000 hectares.

Besides, Modi also performed a virtual ground-breaking ceremony for four

desalination plants along the Arabian Sea coast. The plants will come up at

Gundiyali in Kutch, Gandhvi in Devbhumi Dwarka, Ghogha in Bhavnagar, and

Sutrapada in Somnath.

PM Modi also laid the foundation stone for the Rs 129-crore fully automated

dairy plant under the Centre's Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana. As the then

CM, Modi had set up the district's first dairy plant with 2 lakh litre

processing capacity in 2013-14.

 

 

BJP REAL TUKDE TUKDE GANG: SUKHBIR BADAL

 

Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal Tuesday said "the BJP is

the real 'tukde tukde' gang in the country today". The former BJP ally said

the saffron party is "splitting the country into pieces by setting one

community against another. So desperate is it for power that is has no

scruples in taking the communal polarisation route and setting the country

aflame."

Talking to mediapersons in Bathinda, Sukhbir Badal said, "The BJP first set

Hindus against Muslims. Now, it is determined to replay that evil game and

re-enact the same tragedy in Punjab. It is conspiring to set our

peace-loving Hindu brethren in Punjab against their Sikh brethren, with whom

they have shared strong bonds of blood for centuries. The BJP wants to

replace those bonds of blood with bloodshed."

Badal said the BJP "has been resorting to dangerous conspiracy theories to

sabotage the hard-earned atmosphere of peace and communal harmony just for

the realisation of petty political goals".

Badal said the whole country, except that BJP, gratefully acknowledges the

debt we owe to our patriotic farmers and soldiers. "The BJP is provoking the

people to deny that debt. It remains so ungrateful to farmers that it is

painting them as anti-national. Today it is the farmers. Nobody knows, the

BJP might even say the same about soldiers tomorrow if it suits them."

Later, in a statement issued from the SAD HQ in Chandigarh, Sukhbir Badal

said, "SAD deems it its national duty to caution the countrymen against

BJP's desperate and destructive game-plan in Punjab. This party is so

desperate for power that it has no qualms about making Punjabis thirst for

one another's blood and destroy the fabric of unity and fraternal love which

has been bequeathed to us by the great Guru Sahiban and by great saints and

seers like Kabir Sahib, Baba Farid ji, Jaidev ji, Namdev ji and others."

 

 

KAMAL SAYS ALLIANCE WITH RAJINIKANTH'S OUTFIT POSSIBLE

 

Sending out signals that he is open to alliance talks with actor

Rajinikanth's new party for next year's assembly elections,

actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan on Tuesday said he will definitely

consider such an alliance for his party if both find common ground to work

together. Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) party, which he announced in

2018, has remained without an ally so far.

When asked about a possible alliance with Rajinikanth, Haasan said: "Like

me, he is also fighting for a change. But he is yet to talk about the

ideology of his party in detail. Let him reveal more. We are just a phone

call away. If it is feasible to work together, we will definitely consider

that without any ego."

Rajinikanth recently said that he will announce his party's launch date on

December 31, is in Hyderabad to complete the shooting for his next movie

Annaatthe.

Many in Rajinikanth's camp were not sure of an alliance with Haasan.

 

 

PRANAB'S FAMILY SPARS OVER HIS MEMOIRS

 

Late President Pranab Mukherjee's children are on the warpath over the

publication of his memoirs that appear to contain certain negative

references to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister

Manmohan Singh.

In a dramatic turn of events today, Mukherjee's son and former Congress MP

Abhijit Mukherjee wrote to Rupa Publications, asking it to stop the

publication of the book "The Presidential Years". The book is slated for a

launch in January 2021.

Mukherjee's daughter Sharmishtha, who has custody of his diaries, however,

snubbed her brother, saying he should not do disservice to their father for

some "cheap publicity".

"I, daughter of the author of the memoir 'The Presidential Years', request

my brother @ABHIJIT_LS not to create any unnecessary hurdle in the

publication of the last book written by our father. He completed the

manuscript before he fell sick. The final draft contains my dad's

handwritten notes and comments that have been strictly adhered to. The views

expressed by him are his own and no one should try to stop it from being

published for any cheap publicity. That would be the greatest disservice to

our father," she said.

Her reaction came after her brother earlier tweeted tagging Rupa, "I, the

son of the author of 'The Presidential Years' request you to kindly stop the

publication of the memoirs as well as motivated excerpts which are already

floating around certain media platforms without my written consent." Abhijit

said his father would have done the same had he been alive.

 

 

TABLIGHI CASE: ALL FOREIGNERS FREED, COURT SLAMS POLICE, SAYS NO PROOF

 

Observing that the prosecution failed to "prove the presence of accused

inside the Markaz premises" and noting "contradictions" in statements by its

witnesses, a Delhi court Tuesday acquitted 36 foreigners facing trial for

allegedly flouting Covid guidelines while participating in a Tablighi Jamaat

event in Nizamuddin in March that was later linked to infections in 14

states.

While passing the order, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Arun Kumar Garg

pulled up the Station House Officer of Hazrat Nizamuddin, who was the

complainant in the case, and the investigating officer for lapses in

identification of accused.

Referring to contradictions in the statements of witnesses, the court

acknowledged the probability of the plea by some of the accused that "none

of them was present at Markaz during the relevant period and they had been

picked up from different places so as to maliciously prosecute them upon

directions from Ministry of Home Affairs."

"It is beyond comprehension of the court, as to how IO (Inspector Satish

Kumar) could have identified 952 foreign nationals out of 2,343 persons who,

as per SHO, were found flouting the guidelines, without any Test

Identification Parade (TIP), but on the basis of list provided by MHA

(Ministry of Home Affairs)," the court said.

The accused hailed from a number of countries, including the US, Russia, UK,

France, Sudan, Tunisia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, United Kingdom, Thailand,

Kazakhstan and Indonesia.

 

 

EVEN WITHOUT ISHANT, WE HAVE ASTRONG ATTACK: AJINKYA RAHANE

 

India vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane has conceded that pacer Ishant Sharma's

absence will be felt but added that the bowling attack would be strong even

without him in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, starting here on Thursday.

Rahane, who is expected to lead in the last three Tests after regular

skipper Virat Kohli goes on paternity leave after the first test, also spoke

about how batting in the "twilight" session of the Day/Night Test would be

the biggest challenge for batsmen. "I think we do really have a strong

attack, but yes we will definitely miss Ishant, being the senior fast

bowler," Rahane said. Sharma is recovering from a rib injury suffered the

IPL.

"The guys who are here... Umesh (Yadav), (Navdeep) Saini, (Mohammed) Siraj

with Jasprit (Bumrah) and (Mohammed) Shami, they are all really good and

experienced and they know how to bowl in these conditions," he said. "This

is a new series starting with the pink ball, so it is all about getting that

momentum, but I do believe that we have the attack to get 20 wickets."

On the possible opening combination among the four available options (Mayank

Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill and KL Rahul), Rahane said a decision

will be taken on the eve of the match.

That was his answer also about the two wicketkeeping options, Wriddhiman

Saha and Rishabh Pant.

The first Test begins in Adelaide on Thursday.

 

 

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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

 

Many a man's reputation would not know his character if they met on the

street. - Elbert Hubbard

 

 

OFF TRACK

 

An insurance agent was about to write up a big policy. The prospect said he

recognized the need, meant to buy, but was inclined to wait a while. "Come

back in January," he said.

The insurance agent's hand was on the doorknob and as he was leaving he spun

around and asked: "Who shall I ask for if you're not around in January?"

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