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FRONT PAGE NEWS
17 Dec 2020

FARMERS' PROTEST, DAY 21: NO MEETING GROUND BETWEEN THE TWO SIDES

 

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar Wednesday said that the

ongoing protest by farmers at Delhi borders was an "exception" and "limited

to one state".

"The ongoing protest is an exception and the agitation is limited to one

state. We are holding discussions and talks. I believe there will be an

early solution," Tomar said while addressing a virtual conference organised

by industry body Assocham.

Tomar also noted that while there is an agitation going on on one side,

there are also lakhs of farmers coming in support of these laws. He

highlighted the measures taken by the Narendra Modi-led central government

in the last six years to boost farmers' income and make agriculture sector

profitable.

The ongoing protests, which is now in its third week, have seen thousands of

farmers, primarily from Punjab and Haryana, gathering at the capital's

doorsteps.

In a letter to Centre, an umbrella body of 40 farmer unions of protesting

farmers urged the govt to stop holding "parallel talks" with other farmer

bodies.

The letter, by 'Sanyukt Kisan Morcha', which represents farmer bodies mostly

from Punjab, comes against the backdrop of the government holding talks with

several farmers organisations from different states who the Centre claimed

have extended their support to the new agriculture laws. "We want the

government to stop defaming farmers' agitation and holding parallel talks

with other farmers' organisations," said Darshan Pal, a member of the

'Sankyukt Kisan Morcha', in his letter written in Hindi.

Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan alleged that an anti-Indian and

feudalistic force was behind the ongoing farmers' agitation against the new

agricultural laws. He said that this force was also against the concepts of

'Bharatiyata' (Indianness) and India's self-reliance. "Who stood with China

against its invasion (on India)? Who imposed the Emergency in India? Who ran

nepotism in the country between 2004 and 2014? Those involved in these works

are now engaged in instigating the farmers' agitation," he alleged.

 

 

SC PROPOSES SETTING UP PANEL TO END FARMERS' STIR

 

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court took up petitions seeking directions to

authorities to remove the protesting farmers from the national capital's

borders. A 3-judge bench of the top court, headed by chief justice SA Bobde,

issued notice to the Centre in this regard and will resume the hearing on

Thursday.

In its observations, the CJI-headed bench noted that if urgent measures are

not taken, the protests may "soon become a national issue." The apex court

suggested formation of a committee comprising govt representatives, farm

union members and members of farm unions from the rest of India.

The bench also observed that the Centre's negotiations have not worked

properly and are "bound to fail again." On comparison with the Shaheen Bangh

protests, it said, there can't be a precedent in a law and order situation.

Union commerce minister of state Som Prakash welcomed the decision of the

apex court and said the Centre wants to resolve farmers' issue quickly.

"Farmers and government will express their views in the committee which is

good. Whatever final decision SC takes tomorrow on the issue, we will act

accordingly," the minister said.

The protesting farmer unions said constituting a new panel to break the

stalemate is not a solution as they want a complete withdrawal of the

legislations. They also said the government should have formed a committee

of farmers and others before the laws were enacted by Parliament.

Taking to Twitter, Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav, who is also a member

'Sankyukt Kisan Morcha', said, "The SC can and must decide on the

constitutionality of the 3 farm acts. But it is not for the judiciary to

decide on the feasibility and desirability of these laws. That's between the

farmers and their elected leaders. SC monitored negotiation would be a wrong

path."

 

 

RAHUL GANDHI, CONG MEMBERS WALK OUT OF DEFENCE PARL PANEL MEETING

 

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and other members of his party on Wednesday

reportedly walked out of a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on

Defence, alleging that the panel's time was being wasted in discussing armed

forces' uniform instead of the crucial issue of national security.

Media reports say Gandhi was disallowed to speak at the meeting by the panel

chairman Jual Oram (BJP) when he sought to raise the issues of Chinese

aggression and better equipping the soldiers at the border in Ladakh. At

this, Rahul Gandhi decided to walk out, reports say, adding Congress members

Rajeev Satav and Revanth Reddy also left the meeting along with their

leader.

 

 

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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

 

 

US SETS NEW 24-HOUR RECORD OF 248K+ COVID-19 INFECTIONS

 

The United States set a new daily record of Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, with

more than 248,000 infections registered in the past 24 hours, the Johns

Hopkins virus monitor reported. Coronavirus infections have increased

dramatically over the past month in the US - new daily cases have been

recorded at or above the 2,00,000 mark in 10 of the past 13 days.

The number of hospitalised Covid patients - 1,13,000 - is also at its

highest level since the beginning of the pandemic in March, according to

data from the US department of health and human services.

Daily US deaths from Covid-19 surpassed 3,000 for the third time in a week

as the country expanded its vaccination programme. The death toll of 3,102

on Tuesday, the third highest total since the pandemic began, increased the

cumulative number of US fatalities to 304,187.

Inoculations of the newly approved vaccine entered their third day on

Wednesday.

 

 

14 CONVICTED FOR 2015 CHARLIE HEBDO ATTACKS

 

A French court on Wednesday convicted 14 people of crimes ranging from

financing terrorism to membership of a criminal gang in relation to Islamist

attacks in 2015 against the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a Jewish

supermarket.

The trial has reopened one of modern France's darkest episodes, just as

another wave of Islamist attacks on home soil this autumn, including the

beheading of a schoolteacher, prompted the government to crack down on what

it calls Islamist separatism.

Brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi stormed Charlie Hebdo's offices in Paris,

spraying gunfire and killing 12, on Jan. 7, 2015, nearly a decade after the

weekly published cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad. A third attacker,

Amedy Coulibaly, killed a police woman and then four Jewish hostages in a

kosher supermarket in a Paris suburb. Like the Kouachis, Coulibaly was

killed in a shootout with police. Among the 14 accomplices sentenced on

Wednesday was Hayat Boumeddiene, the former partner of Coulibaly and one of

three defendants tried in absentia. Believed to be still alive and on the

run from an international arrest warrant, prosecutors referred to her as an

"Islamic State princess". The judges convicted Boumeddiene, 32, of financing

terrorism and belonging to a terror network, and sentenced 30 years of jail.

The attacks were claimed by al Qaida and Islamic State.

"The fact of choosing victims precisely because they were journalists, or a

member of the security forces, or of Jewish faith, clearly demonstrates in

itself their desire to sow terror in Western countries," the presiding judge

said.

 

 

THE REST

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AHEAD OF STATE POLLS, LDF GETS BIG LOCAL-BODY BOOST IN KERALA

 

Only a few months before Assembly elections in Kerala, the ruling CPM-led

Left Democratic Front (LDF) received a shot in the arm on Wednesday, making

major gains in local body elections in the state.

The results delivered a stinging blow to the Congress, which had run an

aggressive campaign against the government over the gold smuggling case in

which Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's office had come under the scanner,

and the arrest of former CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan's son in

a drug-related money laundering case.

The LDF won five of the six Municipal Corporations; the Congress-led United

Democratic Front (UDF), which had won two the last time, won only one.

Of the 86 Municipalities, however, the UDF won 45, while the Left won 35.

The BJP-led NDA won two.

The Left made major advances in the District Panchayats, winning 10 out of

14; the score was 7-7 the last time. Of the 152 Block Panchayats, the Left

won 104, relegating the UDF to just 44.

And of the 941 Gram Panchayats, the LDF won 514 as against the UDF's 377.

The NDA won 22 Gram Panchayats.

 

 

BJP CALLING UP TMC LEADERS, TRYING TO COERCE THEM TO JOIN IT: MAMATA

 

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday called the deserters

of ruling TMC "opportunists and cowards" and accused BJP of trying to

coerce Trinamool Congress leaders to join the saffron party.

She also blamed BJP for trying to break TMC by using "moneybags".

Banerjee, who is also the TMC supremo, urged the people to give their andate

against the "outsider" BJP, which she said has come here to loot the

Bengalis and leave after the elections are over.

"Imagine the audacity of the BJP leaders ---they are calling up my (TMC)

state president Subrata Bakshi and asking him to join the party. The BJP

doesn't have any political courtesy or ideology. And, there are one or two

opportunists who only work for their own benefits," she told a rally here.

Her comments come in the backdrop of growing resentment in the TMC with

several senior leaders, ministers and MLAs openly speaking out against the

party leadership and the state government.

Senior TMC leader Suvendu Adhikari had recently quit the state cabinet and

has resigned as MLA on Wednesday evening fuelling speculations of his

possible switchover to the saffron camp later this month.

Reacting to Banerjee's allegation of BJP trying to poach TMC MLAs and

elected representatives, West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said: "The

allegations are baseless. The truth is TMC leaders and members of Prashant

Kishor's team are calling up BJP leaders in various parts of the state".

Kishor is the poll strategist for TMC for the 2021 West Bengal assembly

poll.

 

 

SC COLLEGIUM TRANSFERS FOUR CHIEF JUSTICES INCLUDING ANDHRA PRADESH HC CJ

 

In a major reshuffle, the Supreme Court collegium has recommended to the

Centre the transfer of four Chief Justices of high courts including Andhra

Pradesh High Court's Chief Justice J K Maheshwari to the Sikkim High Court,

weeks after chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy had complained to the CJI about

the state's top judiciary.

In an unprecedented move, the Andhra Pradesh chief minister, on October 6,

had written to Chief Justice of India (CJI) S A Bobde alleging that the

state High Court was being used to "destabilise and topple' his

democratically elected government.

The collegium headed by the CJI, in its meeting held on December 14, also

recommended elevation of five high court judges as Chief Justices of

different High Courts including Justice Dr S Muralidhar whose notification

transferring him to Punjab and Haryana High Court close to mid night of

February 26 had created a huge controversy.

Justice Muralidhar has been recommended to be elevated as Chief Justice of

Orissa High Court. Justice Muralidhar's transfer from Delhi High Court to

Punjab and Haryana High Court was notified on the day a bench headed by him

had pulled up Delhi Police for failing to register FIRs against three BJP

leaders for their alleged hate speeches which purportedly led to the recent

violence in northeast Delhi.

 

 

NO ELEMENT IN BAJRANG DAL'S CONTENT THAT NECESSITATES BAN: FACEBOOK

 

Facebook's India head Ajit Mohan deposed before a parliamentary panel on

Wednesday and suggested that the social media company's fact-checking team

has so far found no such element that necessitates a ban on the Bajrang Dal,

sources said.

Mohan deposed before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information

Technology, chaired by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor. The panel had called

him on the issue of the citizens' data safety. Mohan was accompanied by

Shivnath Thukral, the public policy director of Facebook.

A Wall Street Journal report had suggested that despite an internal

assessment calling for a ban on the Bajrang Dal, Facebook has not cracked

down on the Hindu nationalist group due to these reasons.

Replying to queries, Mohan suggested to the panel members that the Facebook

fact team consultant has so far not found any such element in the content

posted by the Bajrang Dal that is violative of its social media policies.

BJP MP Nishikant Dubey asked if the Bajrang Dal content was not found to be

violative of its social media policies, then why did the Facebook not deny

the WSJ report and termed it as fake.

 

 

MAN KILLS SELF NEAR SINGHU BORDER

 

A 65-year-old man, identified as a religious leader, killed himself near the

Singhu border, where farmers have been protesting for the past 20 days, on

Wednesday.

In a purported suicide note, Sant Baba Ram Singh said he was pained by the

plight of farmers. "I am unable to bear the plight of the farmers.

Tolerating a crime is as bad as causing it. Several people have made

sacrifices for their cause," said the note.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh, Shiromani Akali Dal

president Sukhbir Singh Badal, Delhi Chief Minsiter Arvind Kejriwal and

other political leaders attacked the central government over the Sikh

priest's death and reiterated their demand of repealing the newly-enacted

three farm laws.

 

 

JEE MAIN FROM FEBRUARY 23, RESULT IN MARCH

 

The Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Main 2021 will be held from February

23. Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal today announced the dates for

engineering entrance test, the first session of 2021 will end on February

26. The minister also informed that the JEE Main will be held four times

from next year - from February 23 to 26, March 15 to 18, April 27 to 30 and

May 24 to 28, 2021.

 

 

TELE PRODUCTS FROM CHINA TO FACE CURBS

 

Telecom equipment from China may face fresh curbs with the Cabinet on

Wednesday clearing a proposal to secure telecom infrastructure by

designating "trusted sources" for the purchase of equipment by service

providers.

Announcing the decision Union Law and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

said the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), chaired by Prime Minister

Narendra Modi, had framed a National Security Directive in the

telecommunication sector, keeping in mind the country's security.

All service providers -- public and private -- would mandatorily be required

to source "trusted products" from "trusted sources". The move would have no

retrospective impact, Prasad said.

 

 

PROBE INTO VIOLENCE AT WISTRON IPHONE PLANT ON

 

Investigations into the recent violence at the Wistron's iPhone

manufacturing plant are on and a report was likely in a couple of days,

Karnataka Labour Minister Shivaram Hebbar said on Wednesday even as he

expressed hope about the factory restarting soon, with the Centre also

involved in addressing issues.

Asserting that the government was there to protect the interest of the

labourers, the minister, however, said such incidents may have an adverse

impact on investment and job creation prospects in the state.

Wistron Corp, a Taiwanese contract manufacturer for Apple, has informed the

Taiwan Stock Exchange that the December 12 violence at the iPhone

manufacturing facility at Narsapura in Kolar district, did not cause any

material damage to major manufacturing equipment and warehouses.

It put preliminary damage estimates in the range of about Rs 52 crore.

Earlier reports, quoting the complaint by company officials to the local

police station, had put the estimate at about Rs 437 crore.

"There is no employees union as yet.There was immaturity on part of the

labourers, also the company should have paid attention towards

contractors..we will get to know in a couple of days, the exact information

on how much amount was paid (towards workers) and when," Hebbar said.

 

 

INDIA DROPS ONE PACE TO 131 IN UN'S HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX

 

India dropped one spot to 131 among 189 countries in the 2020 human

development index, according to a report released by the United Nations

Development Programme (UNDP).

Human Development Index is the measure of a nation's health, education and

standards of living.

India (131), Bhutan (129), Bangladesh (133), Nepal (142), and Pakistan (154)

were ranked among countries with medium human development, the report said.

Life expectancy of Indians at birth in 2019 was 69.7 years while Bangladesh

has a life expectancy of 72.6 years and Pakistan 67.3 years, the 2020 Human

Development Report said.

India had ranked 130 in 2018 in the index.

 

 

INDIA ANNOUNCE PLAYING XI A DAY AHEAD OF MATCH

 

India have kept faith with young opening batsman Prithvi Shaw for the

opening day-night Test against Australia in Adelaide, which starts on

Thursday, the BCCI said.

The 21-year-old has scored a hundred and two fifties in his four Tests so

far, but managed only 62 runs in four innings in warmup games in Australia

ahead of the four-Test series.

Shaw's place looked to be under threat after he got out to some rash shots,

while Shubman Gill pushed his claim for a Test debut with scores of 43 and

65 in the final tune-up game in Sydney.

However, the board confirmed the line-up on Wednesday with Shaw keeping his

place and partnering regular opener Mayank Agarwal, with Cheteshwar Pujara,

captain Virat Kohli and deputy Ajinkya Rahane to follow in the batting

order.

Hanuma Vihari will be the number six batsman while Wriddhiman Saha will don

the wicketkeeping gloves for the touring side.

Ravichandran Ashwin has been chosen as the lone specialist spinner for

India, who will go with the frontline pace trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed

Shami and Umesh Yadav.

Kohli will fly home after the Adelaide Test for the birth of his first

child, leaving Rahane in charge for the three remaining matches.

 

 

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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

 

The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to

grow sharper. - Eden Phillpotts

 

 

OFF TRACK

 

When the boss returned to the office after a long vacation, he was told that

everyone had been looking for him. That set him off on a speech about how

indispensable he was to the company.

"Actually," interrupted his assistant, "you left with the key to the

stationery closet."

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