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Farmers to meet government for second round of talks today


After the failed first round the farmers’ representatives will meet the government today for the second round of talks over the ongoing protest against the controversial farm bills.

Yesterday, the agitating farmers had said that today’s talks will be the “last chance” to call an emergency session of parliament and recall the controversial legislations.

The government is weighing in on the possibility of giving a written assurance to farmers that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system will continue – the core issue for the agitation.

The protesting farmers continued their sit-in at the Noida-Delhi border for the second day on Wednesday, leading to closure of a key route that connects Uttar Pradesh with the national capital.

The Noida Traffic Police had released advisory for commuters travelling to Delhi to avoid using the Chilla route and instead take the DND or Kalindi Kunj route.

The farmers at the Delhi-Noida border belong to various districts of western Uttar Pradesh and want to reach the national capital to join the bigger stir launched by farmers of Punjab and Haryana against the Centre’s agriculture reform laws.

“The Chilla route is obstructed due to the farmers’ sit-in demonstration at the Noida-Delhi border. Kindly use alternative routes (DND or Kalindi Kunj) to reach your destination,” the Noida Traffic Police tweeted.

Hundreds of farmers affiliated to the Bharatiya Kisan Union and other groups had gathered at the border Tuesday evening where heavy security has been deployed on both Noida and Delhi sides which has prevented them from proceeding further.

Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Piyush Goyal, Minister of Railways & Commerce and Som Prakash, Minister of State, Ministry of Commerce and Industries had interacted with the representatives of Farmers Organizations of Punjab on Tuesday at Vigyan Bhavan.

The meeting failed to give any concrete results as the farmers turned down the Centre’s idea of the formation of a committee to sort out the differences over farm laws.

The meeting was earlier scheduled for December 3 was preponed for December 1. Tomar had cited cold and coronavirus for the decision and also assured that there was no precondition.

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UK becomes first country to vaccinate people against COVID, to start next week after clearing Pfizer inoculation


With this move, Britain has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use.

After months of agonising wait for a COVID-19 vaccine to be made available to the masses, the United Kingdom (UK) has, on Wednesday, authorized Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to be made available across the country from next week.

With this move, Britain has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use.

The authorities say that the much-awaited vaccine would be made available across the nation from early next week.

The vaccine, seen as the “light at the end of the tunnel”, is perceived as the best bet for the international community, a much-coveted chance for the world to get back to some semblance of regularity even as it grapples amid a global pandemic which has claimed nearly 1.5 million lives and toppled the global economy.

“The government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for use,” the government said.

“The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week.”

Britain’s vaccine committee will decide which priority groups will get the jab first such as care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

Both Pfizer-BioNTech and US biotech firm Moderna have reported preliminary findings of more than 90% effectiveness – an unexpectedly high rate – in trials of their vaccines, which are both based on new messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.

Pfizer said Britain’s emergency use authorization marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19.

Albert Bourla, the CEO of the American pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer, said, “This authorization is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the UK,” said CEO Albert Bourla.

Pfizer had announced in November that it is moving ahead with its request of asking the US regulators to allow emergency use of its Covid-19 vaccine, which has shown 95 per cent efficacy.

Pfizer and another US company, Moderna, have broken all vaccine development speed records in their race for a cure over the last 10 months.

Pfizer and BioNTech had expected to produce a total of 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

(With agency inputs)




Farmers protest: Noida-Delhi border closed for vehicles as farmers from western UP head for Delhi


“The Chilla route is obstructed due to the farmers’ sit-in demonstration at the Noida-Delhi border. Kindly use alternative routes (DND or Kalindi Kunj) to reach your destination,” the Noida Traffic Police tweeted.

Even as more farmers from Punjab and “khaps” from Haryana are making their way to the National Capital to join the protest against the new farm laws, another group of protesting farmers is continuing with its sit-in at the Noida-Delhi border for the second day on Wednesday. This has led to the closure of one of the most important routes that connect Uttar Pradesh with Delhi.

This route is used daily by thousands of commuters by both private vehicles and public transport.

In view of the situation, the Noida Traffic Police has advised commuters travelling to Delhi to avoid the Chilla route and instead take the DND or Kalindi Kunj route.

“The Chilla route is obstructed due to the farmers’ sit-in demonstration at the Noida-Delhi border. Kindly use alternative routes (DND or Kalindi Kunj) to reach your destination,” the Noida Traffic Police tweeted.

The Noida Traffic Police have also shared a Helpline number: 9971009001.

According to the sources, the farmers who are sitting-in at the Delhi-Noida border, belong to various districts of western Uttar Pradesh and have converged to enter Delhi to join the main protest launched by farmers of Punjab and Haryana.

Hundreds of farmers affiliated to the Bharatiya Kisan Union and other groups had gathered at the border Tuesday evening where heavy security has been deployed on both Noida and Delhi sides which has prevented them from proceeding further.

Meanwhile, the Centre, on Tuesday, had sought farmers’ objections and suggestions in writing on the farm laws that are at the centre of the protest.

The first round of talks between the leaders of the farmers’ groups and the government held yesterday was unproductive.

An Agriculture Ministry statement said, “It has been suggested by the government to the representatives of farmers’ union to identify the specific issues related to farm reform acts and share with the government on December 2, 2020 for consideration. These issues will be discussed during the fourth round of meeting to be held on December 3, 2020.

“Various issues related to farm reform acts were discussed at length and talks were held in a cordial atmosphere.”

(With agency inputs)




With AQI at 381, Delhi’s air quality nears ‘severe’ zone


The news coming in from the National Capital Region, especially Ghaziabad and Greater Noida, is not encouraging either as the area has reported pollution levels in the “severe zone”.

The National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT) witnessed yet another wave of high air pollution levels on Wednesday morning with the air quality in the upper end of the “very poor category”.

Delhi’s air quality index (AQI) was 381 at 9 am on Tuesday and compared to the 24-hour average was 367 on Tuesday, 318 on Monday, and 268 on Sunday.

The news coming in from the National Capital Region, especially Ghaziabad and Greater Noida, is not encouraging either as the area has reported pollution levels in the “severe zone”.

Ghaziabad and Greater Noida recorded AQI of 430 and 410, respectively.

An AQI between zero and 50 is considered “good”, 51 and 100 “satisfactory”, 101 and 200 “moderate”, 201 and 300 “poor”, 301 and 400 “very poor”, and 401 and 500 “severe”.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has said that the maximum wind speed is expected to be 12 km/ph on Wednesday while the minimum temperature was 8.2 degrees Celsius and the maximum is expected to settle around 27 degrees Celsius.

The minimum temperature this season has remained 2-3 degrees Celsius below normal in the absence of a cloud cover on most days, according to IMD officials.

The central government’s Air Quality Early Warning System for Delhi said the air quality is likely to remain in the upper end of the “very poor” category due to unfavourable meteorological conditions while there is a possibility of the air quality reaching the “severe” category between December 4 and December 7.

The Centre had, on October 28, issued an ordinance, making pollution an offence with a jail term, which can go up to 5 years and a penalty up to Rs 1 crore.

According to the ordinance, a Commission for Air Quality Management will be set up for the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjoining areas in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

“Any non-compliance of this Ordinance, rules made there under or any other order or direction issued by the Commission shall be an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend up to five years or with fine which may extend up to one crore rupees or with both”, said the ordinance.




Congress demands winter session of Parliament amid farmers protest


Tewari also said the need for the session is imperative in the wake of the rising Covid cases and the Chinese aggression.

Amid the farmers protests, the Congress on Wednesday asked the Centre to convene the Winter Session of Parliament.

Congress leader Manish Tewari demanded the government convene the session without any delay. He tweeted: “Farmers have besieged Delhi, Economy is officially in recession…Govt needs to convene the winter session of Parliament asap without delay.”

The demand from the Congress comes a day after the talks between the Central government and the 32 farmer union leaders remained inconclusive. The fourth round of talks will be held on Thursday.

Tewari also said the need for the session is imperative in the wake of the rising Covid cases and the Chinese aggression.

He tweeted, “Chinese continues to encroach upon over 1000 square kilometres of our land, COVID cases are at 95 lakhs with 1.38 lakhs dead in 8 months…”

India’s overall tally stood at 94,62,809 on Tuesday, as the fatality toll touched 1,37,621, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said.

The government has convened all-party meet on the issue of vaccine distribution on Friday to discuss the issue with all the political parties.




Tarigami urged Supreme Court to order Stay on implementation of new land laws


He submitted that the change of land use can’t be left at the caprice of bureaucracy more so at the lower rung of district collectors.

CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami has filed an application for direction in the pending writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging the new land laws introduced in J&K by the centre after abrogating Article 370.

In the application, Tarigami submitted that the new land laws promulgated by the Central Government permits anyone from any part of the country to purchase land in Jammu and Kashmir including agricultural land and that the same is illegal for the reason that the powers to make such laws are derived by the Central Government from the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019 which in itself is unconstitutional.

Tarigami pointed out that the new law prohibits the sale of agricultural land to a non-agriculturist, yet authorizes the government or an officer appointed by it to “grant permission to an agriculturist to alienate the land to a non-agriculturist by way of sale, gift, exchange or mortgage or for such agreement on such conditions as may be prescribed”.

He submitted that the change of land use can’t be left at the caprice of bureaucracy more so at the lower rung of district collectors.

The new land laws also allow any non-resident, even people from outside J&K, to buy agricultural land and to use it for commercial purpose with the permission of the Government. He submitted that the restriction placed by the erstwhile law to not change the nature of the land from ‘agricultural’ to ‘non-agricultural’ and to not allow non-permanent residents to acquire the agricultural land was aimed at protecting the large swathes of farm land, that provided life blood to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, from commercialization.

This crucial aspect has not been considered while issuing the notification dated 26 October 2020 whereby new lands laws have been brought into force by the Central Government.

Tarigami stated that the new land laws will seriously change the land use pattern and will destroy the food security of the Jammu and Kashmir.

He urged the apex court to order stay on the new land lawd till the disposal of the present writ petition as amendment could not have been done using Section 96 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 as the said statute is “unconstitutional”.




Government ‘prepones’ meeting with agitating farmers for today, assures ‘no conditions’ imposed


“On November 13, we had decided we will meet on December 3, but farmers are in a mood to protest,” Union minister Narendra Tomar said.

Citing the increasing cold and Covid situation in the country, the Union government has preponed the meeting with agitating farmers and has called them today instead of December 3.

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar cited cold and coronavirus for the decision and also assured that there was no precondition.

“On November 13, we had decided we will meet on December 3, but farmers are in a mood to protest,” Union minister Narendra Tomar said.

“It is cold and there is coronavirus. Hence we invite the kisan union heads to Vigyan Bhawan on December 1 at 3 pm. We request you to leave the protest and find a solution through discussion,” he added.

Farmers’ organisations have said more people from Amritsar region, who had stayed back to celebrate Gurpurab, are likely to reach the border by today, reported NDTV.

Yesterday, the protesting farmers had threatened to block five entry points to Delhi.

The protesting farmers on Sunday have rejected home minister Amit Shah’s proposal for an early discussion on their grievances.

The farmers said the government should have approached with “an open heart” and not put preconditions. The farmers’ decision came after a meeting this morning to discuss the Home Minister’s offer.

It is to be noted that Amit Shah had said that if the farmer unions want talks with the government before December 3, they have to shift to the grounds at Burari to hold their protest in a structured manner.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing an event in his constituency Varanasi spoke on the farm laws and said they are giving better access to markets — both national and international.

“But if someone thinks that the earlier system is better, how is this law stopping anyone,” he added.

“The reforms have given farmers new options and safeguards,” PM Modi had said.

The agitating farmers earlier entered into a confrontation with the Delhi Police and there was mild lathi-charge and some rounds of tear gas shells used besides water cannons to push the farmers from Singhu and Tikri borders along Delhi-Haryana.




Key accused in 26/11 terror attack case Tahawwur Rana wanted ‘top class’ medal for his work: US


The 59-year-old Pakistani-origin Canadian businessman Rana, a childhood friend of David Coleman Headley, was re-arrested on June 10 in Los Angeles.

The US government has told a federal court that Tahawwur Rana, who has been declared a fugitive by India, not only wanted a “top class” medal for his role in the Mumbai terror attacks, but also demanded the nine LeT attackers who were killed in the carnage be given Pakistan’s highest military honour.

The 59-year-old Pakistani-origin Canadian businessman Rana, a childhood friend of David Coleman Headley, was re-arrested on June 10 in Los Angeles on an extradition request by India for his involvement in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks in which 166 people, including six Americans, were killed.

US District Court Judge in Los Angeles Jacqueline Chelonian said in her order on November 13 that the extradition hearing in this case is scheduled for February 12, 2021, at 10:00 a.m.

US attorney Nicola T Hanna in his submission before the court in Los Angeles in support of Rana’s extradition to India said that Rana, Headley, LeT members, and the other co-conspirators” plans came to fruition between November 26 and 29, 2008, when ten members of LeT carried out a series of twelve coordinated shooting and bombing attacks.

Indian law enforcement apprehended one of the terrorists, who ultimately stood trial, Hanna said.

Headley discussed the Mumbai attacks with Rana in the months following the attacks, he said.

In December 2008, Headley shared what he had learned from their co-conspirators in Pakistan and told Rana about the different places that had been attacked, reminding him that Headley had made videos of those places.

“Referring to a 1971 attack on his school in Pakistan, Headley told Rana, that he believed he was ”even with the Indians now”. In response, Rana said that they (the Indian people) deserved it. Also, in September 2009, the FBI intercepted Rana telling Headley that the nine LeT attackers who had been killed during the attacks should be given Pakistan’s highest military honour,” Hanna said in his court papers.

”Rana also asked Headley to tell another co-conspirator in Pakistan – a member of LeT and one of the planners of the Mumbai attacks – that Rana thought that he should get a medal ”for top class”. When Rana learned that Headley already had conveyed this compliment to their co-conspirator, he was pleased,” he wrote.

The Mumbai bombings, however, did not end the conspiracy between Rana, Headley, LeT members, and the other co-conspirators. In particular, in 2009, Headley conducted surveillance activities for an intended, but ultimately foiled, terrorist plot in Denmark, again using Rana”s business as a cover, Hanna said.

Headley also conducted surveillance for potential future terrorist attacks in other parts of India. As he did with his surveillance in Mumbai, Headley kept Rana apprised of these surveillance activities. Starting 2009, Rana communicated directly with some of Headley”s contacts in Pakistan, he alleged.

Headley was arrested on October 3, 2009, in Chicago. Six months later, Headley pleaded guilty to 12 charges relating to his activities on behalf of LeT and agreed to cooperate with the United States. The Illinois Court ultimately sentenced Headley to a 35-year term of imprisonment.

Hanna told the court that Rana let Headley use his business as a cover to travel to India and conduct surveillance.

Headley informed his co-conspirators in Pakistan including LeT members that Rana had agreed to use the Immigration Law Center as a cover for his activities. He also showed them the visa that he obtained with Rana’s assistance, the US attorney said.

In September 2006, Headley travelled to India, using the opening and operation of Rana”s immigration business as cover for his travel and extended stay in Mumbai, the US attorney said. While in India, Headley conducted extensive video surveillance of various locations, including the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

Headley later travelled to Pakistan and met with LeT members and others, provided them the video recordings he had made, and discussed the video and surveillance he had conducted in India. At the directions of co-conspirators in Pakistan, Headley returned to Mumbai in February 2007 and conducted more surveillance of various locations, he said.




Centre should tell farmers MSPs, procurement won’t be affected: Nitish Kumar


He also sought to clear misconceptions over the farm legislation that allows sale of produce outside APMC mandis.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said that the Centre should allay fears among the protesting farmers that the new agriculture laws were aimed at doing away with the system of minimum support price or that they will adversely affect the procurement of produce.

Kumar, whose JD(U) is a constituent of the BJP-led NDA, also sought to clear misconceptions over the farm legislation that allows sale of produce outside APMC mandis (markets), and pointed towards the state’s own experiment with the abolition of these.

“The Centre has proposed to hold talks with the agitating farmers. Once they sit across the table, it will become clear that fears over MSP are unfounded,” he told reporters here.

The chief minister was speaking on the sidelines of programme organised for the inauguration of a 12.27 km-long elevated road that connects AIIMS, Patna to Digha locality, along the banks of the Ganges, which is expected to immensely facilitate travel between the city’s southern and northern extremes.

Kumar also said “as you all know, we had abolished these (APMC mandis) way back in 2006 and introduced a system for procurement through PACS (primary agriculture credit societies)”.

“Procurement in Bihar in fact picked up only after that. Earlier, that wasn’t the case. I hope the Centre would explain to the farmers that procurement is not going to be hit and the system of MSPs won’t get scrapped,” said Kumar, who was the Union agriculture minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.




Kashmir ushering in new dawn of democracy: Jitendra Singh


Dr. Jitendra Singh said, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will go down in the history for having acquainted the people of Kashmir with the true meaning of “Self-Rule” and “Autonomy”, the two slogans with which the Kashmir centric political parties had for decades bluffed the electorate to promote their family rule.

Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh on Monday said that Kashmir is ushering in a new dawn of democracy, which is truly going to be people’s democracy and not a democracy held to ransom by any dynasty.

Addressing a public meeting at south Kashmir’s Khanabal on the first day of his election tour of Kashmir valley, Dr. Jitendra Singh said, the introduction of three-tier democracy under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the holding of election of District Development Councils are a part of the government’s commitment to ensure the same benefits and fruits of grassroots democracy for the people of Jammu & Kashmir, including the Kashmir valley, which are available to the people in the rest of India.

He asked, why the “Gupkar” parties including the National Conference, PDP and Congress had all along resisted attempts to hold Panchayat elections and consciously held back implementation of the 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Constitution as well as the constituting of the District Development Councils.

Dr. Jitendra Singh said, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will go down in the history for having acquainted the people of Kashmir with the true meaning of “Self-Rule” and “Autonomy”, the two slogans with which the Kashmir centric political parties had for decades bluffed the electorate to promote their family rule.

Brushing aside the accusation by certain Gupkar leaders that BJP was uncomfortable because of their decision to participate in the election, Dr Jitendra Singh said, we believe in democracy and anybody or everybody can come forward to test his fortunes in the election, but expressed confidence that on the day of counting of votes,people will send the signal to convey to the whole world that they stand with Bharatiya Janata Party because this is a party which believes in the rule of the masses and not of dynasty.

Dr. Jitendra Singh said, high voter turnout during DDC election in comparison to dismal voter turnout in the Lok Sabha election last year is indicative of the fact that people were disillusioned with the dynastic candidates put up in the Parliament and Assembly elections but they have huge enthusiasm for the candidates from amongst them contesting the DDC elections.





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