Today Picture



Send farmers’ data on PM-Kisan portal for state to verify: Mamata to Centre


Chief minister said farmers should not suffer due to Centre’s politics and so she has asked for the data and assured them of all possible help.

Amidst the ongoing tussle between the Centre and the state over PM-Kisan scheme, chief minister Mamata Banerjee today hinted that she was ready to implement it and has asked the Centre to send details of the farmers so as to verify those making them eligible for direct fund transfer.

Miss Banerjee further said that she would make arrangements to convene an Assembly session soon for passing a resolution against the three contentious farm laws, which have sparked protests across the country.

Around 21.79 lakh farmers have registered on the central portal to avail the benefits of the scheme and Miss Banerjee has asked the Centre to send those details so that she can verify them.

“I had repeatedly asked the Centre to transfer funds allotted under the PM-Kisan scheme to the state government so that we can transfer the fund to the accounts of beneficiaries. On 6 November Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar wrote to us that 21.79 farmers have got themselves registered at the central portal for availing benefits and asked us to verify those details,” said Miss Banerjee at a Press Conference in Nabanna.

“After the Centre told us to verify details I understood that they were trying to politicise the matter. We realised that farmers should not suffer because of this and so I have asked the Centre to pass on the data so that we can start the verification process,” she said.

Miss Banerjee said she wants the farmers of the state to get all possible help in addition to the assistance being doled out by her government.

The central fund is for farmers possessing two acre of land, she added. We are with the farmers and want that the three farm laws be repealed, she added. Oil reserves Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today announced that discovery of oil reserves in Ashoknagar in North 24 Parganas will turn Bengal as the future energy destination.

“We have requested the Centre to position Bengal on the oil and gas map of India following its discovery at the Ashoknagar block and Deocha Pachami areas in the Coal belt world map. Those who say there is no industry but only stories in Bengal should rethink. Our business summits have given us benefits despite criticisms that were leveled against us. This would generate direct and indirect jobs,” said Miss Banerjee at Nabanna.

ONGC has extracted crude oil from the Ashoknagar oilfields and sent it to Indian Oil’s Haldia refinery for processing. ONGC so far has invested Rs 3,361 crore for exploration of hydrocarbons in the Bengal basin to find oil and gas reserves. Another Rs 425 crore would be spent on exploration in the Bengal basin spread over 1.22 lakh km.

“We have extended full cooperation so as to expedite the process. The state government has provided 40 acre of land free of cost to the Centre for the project though the Centre had offered to pay for the land. We have requested the Centre to provide a special rehabilitation package and a job per family to the 300 people who are occupying this plot,” she said.

Chokher Alo Miss Banerjee further launched the ‘Chokher Alo’ scheme wherein cataract operations would be done for senior citizens and eye treatment would be provided for all people.

The first phase that is to start from tomorrow would cover 1200 gram panchayats and 120 urban primary health centres and the next two phases will cover the remaining gram panchayats and urban health centres under the scheme.

Miss Banerjee said there would be free cataract surgery and distribution of spectacles for senior citizens and students of government schools and anganwadis.

Next, Miss Banerjee inaugurated an advanced trauma care facility equipped with modern infrastructure and facilities at North Bengal Medical College and Hospital for people of West Bengal.

The trauma care unit will have 20 beds, two operation theatres and 10-bedded recovery room. Mamata to collect her Swastha Sathi card Miss Banerjee would collect her Sasthya Sathi health card from Duare Sarkar camp at Harish Mukherjee Street tomorrow.

“I have a Rs three lakh mediclaim policy that was bought by my brother a long time back. Though I have not been using it, I thought I should have the government health card just like the other people of my state. I’ll keep it safe,” said Miss Banerjee.




Seventh round of talks between Centre and protesting farmers to be held today


At the talks, two key issues will be on board — the repeal of the three agriculture laws and giving legal status to the minimum support price guarantee.

As the protest by the farmers demanding the repeal of farm laws fails to yield any result, the seventh round of talks between the Centre and the protesting farmers will be held today.

At the talks, two key issues will be on board — the repeal of the three agriculture laws and giving legal status to the minimum support price guarantee.

The farmers had yesterday threatened to lead a tractor rally into Delhi on January 26 if the demands of the farmers are not met.

In the press conference by the seven member coordination committee of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a joint front of almost 40 farmer organisations that are protesting for over a month at the Delhi borders said that the farmers shall ‘peacefully and non-violently’ lead a tractor parade into Delhi, and across the country on Republic Day celebration on January 26, in which British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to be chief guest.

In the last talks between the farmer unions and the government on December 30, the centre had agreed upon excluding farmers and to ‘decriminalise’ stubble burning for them and to drop provisions of the Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020 which intended to change the existing mode of subsidy payment to consumers.

“The birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on January 26 will be celebrated as Azad Kisan Diwas and to mark that farmers will ‘organise protests outside official residences of Governors in all state capitals” said farm leader Darshanpal.

Thousands of farmers who are protesting against the farm laws at Delhi borders have braved police barricades, tear gas and cold. The protesting farmers said that the new farm laws will make them vulnerable to exploitation by big corporations, erode their bargaining power and weaken the government’s procurement system.




Brazilian private health clinics negotiating with Bharat Biotech to buy doses of Covid-19 vaccine


Any final deal would be subject to approval by Brazil’s health regulator, Anvisa, which has yet to approve any vaccines against the new coronavirus.

A Brazilian association of private health clinics said Sunday it was negotiating with Indian pharmaceutical firm Bharat Biotech to buy five million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine, which India has just authorized for emergency use.

The Brazilian Association of Vaccine Clinics (ABCVAC) confirmed on its website it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian firm to purchase its Covaxin vaccine, which is currently in the final stage of clinical trials.

Any final deal would be subject to approval by Brazil’s health regulator, Anvisa, which has yet to approve any vaccines against the new coronavirus.

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s government faces mounting criticism of dragging its feet on a vaccination campaign in Brazil, which has the second-highest death toll in the pandemic, after the United States.

ABCVAC described its planned deal with Bharat Biotech as a way to ensure Brazilians using the private health system — typically the wealthy — would have access to a vaccine, even as the government reserves its own initial doses for the public health system and high-priority groups such as health workers and the elderly.

“We had been looking for solutions for the private market, and the possibility came up of using this Indian vaccine, which is very promising,” ABCVAC president Geraldo Barbosa told TV network Globo News.

“It’s an additional sale that will not interfere with the quantity of vaccine doses the government has ordered.”

India approved vaccines from both Bharat and Britain’s Oxford University earlier Sunday for “restricted use in emergency situations,” even though the former is still in testing.

The country has set an ambitious target of vaccinating 300 million of its 1.3 billion people by mid-year.

Brazil is meanwhile struggling to get its vaccination campaign off the ground, amid political squabbling and vaccine skepticism from Bolsonaro, who regularly flouts expert advice on containing the pandemic and says he does not plan to get a Covid-19 shot himself.

The government has secured 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, but has yet to set a start date, get regulatory approval or acquire the necessary syringes.

Brazil’s health ministry is due to announce the start date for its vaccination campaign Monday.




Nancy Pelosi narrowly re-elected US Speaker of the House


Pelosi, 80, faced a scare when five fellow Democrats defected and voted “present” or for someone else during the floor vote.

Nancy Pelosi, the only female US Speaker of the House, was narrowly re-elected to the position Sunday in a deeply divided new Congress that convened in the final weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Pelosi, 80, faced a scare when five fellow Democrats defected and voted “present” or for someone else during the floor vote.

But the woman who is third in line to the presidency secured her fourth — and perhaps final — non-consecutive term as House speaker by earning 216 votes versus 209 for Republican leader Kevin McCarthy.

In a symbolic gesture, McCarthy formally handed over the gavel to Pelosi.

“We begin the new Congress during a time of extraordinary difficulty,” Pelosi told the chamber, noting the toll of 350,000 dead and 20 million infected by Covid-19.

“Our most urgent priority will continue to be defeating the coronavirus,” a masked Pelosi said. “And defeat it, we will.”

The vote took hours, as lawmakers were required to vote in groups of several dozen due to social distancing rules imposed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pelosi has been Trump’s chief nemesis in Congress, and the two clashed bitterly over the past two years, particularly as she leveled impeachment charges against the president.

Trump was impeached in December 2019, but the Senate acquitted him early in 2020. His successor, Joe Biden, takes office on January 20.

With Pelosi scrambling to keep her post, it was a handful of progressive lawmakers or members-elect who have been critical of her leadership but ultimately voted for her on Sunday.

Among them was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most high-profile Democrats in Washington, and incoming lawmaker Cori Bush, who is the first African-American woman to represent Missouri in Congress.

There are normally 435 seats in the House, but just 427 votes were cast Sunday as a few congressmen-elect are in quarantine due to Covid-19 and a tight House race in New York has yet to be formally decided.

One congressman-elect from Louisiana, Luke Letlow, died of complications from Covid-19 last week, days before he was due to be sworn in.

That leaves Democrats with one of the slimmest House majorities in recent decades, 222 to 211 with two vacancies.




Farmers’ protest: Several roads remain closed in Delhi


The traffic police said Tikri and Dhansa borders are also closed for traffic movement.

Routes connecting Delhi to Ghaziabad and Noida via Ghazipur and Chilla borders remained partially closed on Monday due to the farmers’ protest against the Centre’s agricultural reforms, the traffic police said.

They advised commuters to take alternative routes for coming to Delhi via Anand Vihar, DND, Bhopra and Loni borders.

Farmers from different states have been camping at various border points of Delhi for 40 days now to demand the repeal of the three farm laws enacted in September and a legal backing for the minimum support price (MSP)

The farmers had a difficult morning on Sunday as overnight rains left their tents waterlogged, firewood and blankets soaked, and intensified the cold. However, the farmers have said the weather will not dampen their spirit and they will continue the protest till their demands are met.

Since the farmers arrived at the national capital’s borders in late November, the Delhi Traffic Police has been posting alerts on its official Twitter handle to inform commuters about road closures across the city.

In a series of tweets on Monday, the traffic police said Singhu, Auchandi, Piau Maniyari, Saboli and Mangesh borders are closed for traffic movement.

“Please take alternate route via Lampur Safiabad, Palla & Singhu school toll tax borders. Traffic has been diverted from Mukarba & GTK road. Please avoid Outer Ring Road, GTK Road & NH-44,” it said.

“The Chilla and Ghazipur borders are closed for traffic coming from Noida & Ghaziabad to Delhi because of farmer protests. Please take alternate route for coming to Delhi via Anand Vihar, DND, Bhopra & Loni Borders,” it said.

The traffic police said Tikri and Dhansa borders are also closed for traffic movement.

“Jhatikara Border is open only for LMV (Cars/Light Motor Vehicles), two wheelers and pedestrian movement,” it said in another tweet.

According to the traffic police, people travelling to Haryana can take the routes via Jharoda (only single carriageway), Daurala, Kapashera, Badusarai, Rajokri NH-8, Bijwasan/Bajghera, Palam Vihar and Dundahera borders.

After five rounds of inconclusive talks, the government and 40 farmer unions reached some common ground during the sixth round of negotiations on December 30 to resolve protesting farmers’ concerns over rise in power tariff and penalties for stubble burning.

However, the two sides remained deadlocked over the main contentious issues of the repeal of the three farm laws and a legal guarantee for MSP.

The seventh round of talks between the government and farmer unions is scheduled to be held later on Monday.




‘Stalin can never become chief minister’: Expelled DMK leader MK Alagiri


With Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu likely to be held in April-May, the former Union Minister’s role is being speculated, from joining the BJP to floating his own outfit.

Expelled DMK leader MK Alagiri on Sunday held discussions with his close assoiciates and supporters in Madurai over his next course of political action and said he might make an announcement soon.

Asking his supporters to be prepared for any kind of move from him, Mr Alagiri said he might either come up with a “good decision” or not, seven years after he was expelled from the DMK for alleged anti-party activities in the wake of sibling rivalry with his brother and incumbent party chief M K Stalin.

With Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu likely to be held in April-May, the former Union Minister’s role is being speculated, from joining the BJP to floating his own outfit. He also trained his guns on Stalin, claiming his younger brother “can never become Chief Minister” of Tamil Nadu.

“I will soon announce my decision. The supporters should accept it whether is is good decision or not,” Mr Alagiri told a well-attended meeting of his supporters.

The former DMK South Organisation Secretary said he was never behind posts and claimed such responsibilities were “forced” on him by his father and late DMK chief M Karunanidhi.

Recalling the bypoll victory in Tirumangalam in 2009 in Madurai under his leadership, when DMK was in power in the state, Mr Alagiri said he ensured his party won by a margin of 40,000 votes.

Contrary to claims of a “Tirumangalam formula” involving cash distribution “by media and some persons,” Mr Alagiri said he had ensured the DMK”s victory only through sheer hard work.

He claimed that Stalin and Maran brothers imploredhim to work and help the party to win in the Tirumangalamby poll.

He further claimed that he had once told Stalin that “you are everything” after Karunanidhi and wondered why he was kicked out of the party later.

A critic of his sibling, Mr Alagiri said MK Stalin’s supporters often hail him as “future CM.”

“Now I say Stalin can never become chief minister. My supporters won’t allow you,” he added.

Mr Alagiri, a former Madurai strongman of the DMK with considerable clout in southern districts, also claimed that Karunanidhi was not keen on contesting the 2016 Assembly polls, where he won from his native Tiruvarur constituency.




Dry run to check best way to vaccinate people, plug loopholes in logistics and training starts today


This drive will also test the operational feasibility in the use of CoWIN application in a field environment.

As the threat due to the new mutant coronavirus strain from UK increases, a dry run to check the best way to vaccinate people against the virus and plug loopholes in logistics and training has started in all the states today.

The activity is proposed to be conducted in all State Capitals in at least 3 session sites; some States will also include districts that are situated in difficult terrain/have poor logistical support; Maharashtra and Kerala are likely to schedule the dry run in major cities other than their Capital.

This drive will also test the operational feasibility in the use of CoWIN application in a field environment. CoWIN is a digital platform to roll out and scale up the vaccination drive.

A government-appointed panel of experts on Covid has taken up the applications filed by the Serum Institute of India, Bharat Biotech and Pfizer for the emergency use approval for the coronavirus vaccines today.

Serum Institute had made presentations before the panel on Wednesday regarding the vaccine ‘Covishield’ developed by Oxford University and pharma major AstraZeneca and Bharat Biotech which has partnered the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for its ‘Covaxin’.

Once the vaccines are cleared by the expert panel, the applications will move to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for final approval.

With the objective of gearing up for the roll-out of COVID19 vaccine across the country, the Central Government has asked all States and UTs to ensure effective preparedness for the vaccine roll-out.




Oxford COVID-19 vaccine to be sent for approval to regulator DCGI


On the other side, Pfizer had sought more time to present their data to the panel of experts.

The Oxford COVID-19 vaccine will be sent for approval to the regulator Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) by a government-appointed panel of experts.

The vaccine is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, developed by Oxford University and pharma major AstraZeneca, while Bharat Biotech has partnered with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for its Covaxin.

On the other side, Pfizer had sought more time to present their data to the panel of experts.

As the threat due to the new mutant coronavirus strain from UK increases, a dry run to check the best way to vaccinate people against the virus and plug loopholes in logistics and training has started in all the states today.

“The preparations are like general elections, where even the booth-level preparations are made. The purpose of the dry run is to be ready for the actual rollout… Potential recipients of vaccine will be informed via SMS. Frontline workers are the priority. After inoculation, digital certificate will also be provided,” NDTV quoted health Minister Harsh Vardhan as saying.

This drive will also test the operational feasibility in the use of CoWIN application in a field environment. CoWIN is a digital platform to roll out and scale up the vaccination drive.

A government-appointed panel of experts on Covid has taken up the applications filed by the Serum Institute of India, Bharat Biotech and Pfizer for the emergency use approval for the coronavirus vaccines.

With the objective of gearing up for the roll-out of COVID19 vaccine across the country, the Central Government has asked all States and UTs to ensure effective preparedness for the vaccine roll-out.




‘Kangana Ranaut violated sanctioned plan while merging her three flats’: Mumbai court


Actor Kangana Ranaut violated the sanctioned plan while merging her three flats, a civil court has remarked while rejecting her plea seeking to restrain the Mumbai civic body from demolishing the unauthorized construction.

A court in suburban Dindoshi dismissed an application filed by Ms Ranaut last week. The detailed order became available on Thursday.

Judge L S Chavan noted in the order that Ms Ranaut, who owns three flats on the fifth floor of a 16-storey building in Khar area of the city, merged them into one.

In doing so, she covered the sunk area, duct area, common passage and converted free Floor Space Index (FSI) into habitable area, the judge observed.

“These are grave violation of the sanctioned plan for which the permission of the competent authority is required,” the court said.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had in March 2018 issued a notice to the actor for “unauthorized constructions” at her Khar flats.

Another notice asked her to restore the structure to its original position as per the original plan, warning that otherwise the unauthorized portion will be demolished.

Ms Ranaut challenged the demolition notice and requested the court to restrain the civic body from carrying out demolition. The court had then ordered status-quo.

In the latest order on December 23 judge Chavan rejected the actor’s application, saying the “interference of this court is not required”.

However, the court has given her six weeks to approach the Bombay High Court against the order.

On September 9, the BMC had demolished parts of Ms Ranaut’s bungalow in the Pali Hill area for alleged “unauthorized” construction. She moved the High Court against it.

The high court later termed the BMC’s action as illegal and malicious.




Will have to take firm steps if govt does not take decision in January 4 meeting: Farmer unions


They said that only five per cent of the issues raised by them have so far been discussed in meetings with the government.

Resolute in their demands for the repeal of three new farm laws and a legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP) for crops, protesting farmer unions on Friday said they will have to take firm steps if the government does not take a decision in their favour in the next meeting scheduled for January 4.

Addressing a press conference at the Singhu border protest site, farmer leaders warned of multiple actions if their main demands are not met.

They said that only five per cent of the issues raised by them have so far been discussed in meetings with the government.

“If the January 4 meeting with the government fails to end the deadlock, we will announce dates for shutting all malls, petrol pumps in Haryana,” farmer leader Vikas told reporters.

Farmers protesting at Shahjahanpur on the Haryana-Rajasthan border will also move towards the national capital, Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav said.

Another leader Yudhveer Singh said that a tractor march will be held on January 6 if no concrete decision is taken in the next round of talks.

After the sixth round of formal negotiations on Wednesday, the government and farm unions reached some common ground to resolve protesting farmers’ concerns over rise in power tariff and penalties for stubble burning, but the two sides remained deadlocked over the main contentious issues of the repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee for MSP.

After the talks between three union ministers and a 41-member representative group of thousands of farmers protesting on Delhi borders, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said at least 50 per cent resolution has been reached with mutual agreement on two out of four items on the agenda and discussions would continue on the remaining two on January 4 at 2 PM.

Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, are protesting at various borders of the national capital for more than a month against these three new laws.

The government has presented these laws as major agriculture reforms aimed at helping farmers and increasing their income, but the protesting unions fear that the new legislations have left them at the mercy of big corporates by weakening the MSP and mandi systems.





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