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Bhupesh Baghel: There isn’t any uniformity in mandis across states, then how can you have one Act for the entire country?


The Chhattisgarh CM says the farmers’ protest is different from the 2011 anti-corruption movement.

The Chhattisgarh CM says the farmers’ protest is different from the 2011 anti-corruption movement, asserts the state’s measures will constrain Naxalism soon, and criticises the 23 party leaders who went public with their concerns regarding the Congress. The session was moderated by Deputy Associate Editor Manoj C G

MANOJ C G: Does the Opposition see the farmers’ protest as the NDA government’s Anna Hazare moment? The anti-corruption movement was the beginning of a change in public perception about the UPA government.

Bhupesh Baghel: That was a different kind of movement which was aimed at ending corruption and bringing in the Lokpal Bill. It has been over seven years since the movement, but neither corruption has ended nor do we have a Lokpal. It was organised by the RSS; people were not as connected to it as it was projected.

The present movement is by farmers, and it is against the black laws implemented by the government. They are being referred to as farm laws, but they are just capitalist laws. The farmer will get no benefit from them. The farmers are on the streets because their livelihoods, their families, their future, everything is at stake. As a political party, we have supported their fight.

MANOJ C G: But in its 2019 manifesto the Congress party had also spoken about APMC reforms, creating new markets etc.

Bhupesh Baghel: I have been hearing what the BJP leaders and ministers are saying. Of the 22 points (raised by farmers), they are only talking about two… If you look at the NDA government’s tenure… They implemented demonetisation, 125 people lost their lives. Then the Goods and Services Tax was imposed, and so many people went bankrupt and some took their own lives. This year, during the lockdown, crores of people came out on the streets. So this is the difference between policies of the NDA and the UPA governments. We formulate and implement policies based on experience and after examining things in detail.

As far as the manifesto is concerned, we took it to the public and we were rejected. We did not win the mandate. So whose manifesto should we talk about? The BJP is in power, we should ask them about their manifesto…

This government is doing everything to promote privatisation. You (changed) the Essential Commodities Act. What happened? Onions that were being sold for Rs 10-20 (per kg), their prices went up to Rs 70-80, and even Rs 150 in Tamil Nadu. Today, the farmers are protesting, tomorrow when there is no control over prices of commodities, all consumers will protest…

In the coming days, the situation for farmers is going to be very difficult because of the new mandi laws. They will not get the right price for their produce.

MANOJ C G: What amendments would you bring to the laws? Also, the protests seem to be limited to Punjab and Haryana. Even in Chhattisgarh, we haven’t seen farmers come out to protest.

Bhupesh Baghel: Firstly, our people could not join the protests physically (at the Delhi border) because of the distance. Secondly, the purchase of paddy began in the state on December 1. In (Punjab, Haryana) paddy is harvested in September and October. Wheat has already been sown.

In Chhattisgarh, the farmers have just completed their paddy harvest, and now they are selling it. About 11 lakh tonnes of paddy has been purchased so far. About 94 per cent of the farmers in Chhattisgarh are selling their produce at MSP in the state. That is why I say that the Chhattisgarh model should be implemented across the country.

GARGI VERMA: You mentioned the Chhattisgarh model. Can you tell us how it is different from provisions suggested by the Central government?

Bhupesh Baghel: Under the (Central government’s laws), a private mandi can be opened outside the main mandi. We have proposed a ‘deemed mandi’, which will encompass the entire mandi, and which will also bring the private players under its ambit. We introduced the Bill so that our farmers are not cheated. But the Governor is yet to sign the Bill. (Chhattisgarh passed the Krishi Upaj Mandi Act to counter the Centre’s farm laws in October).

HARIKISHAN SHARMA: The government has suggested a slew of modifications to the new laws. Which of these are farmers and the Opposition willing to accept?

Bhupesh Baghel: What I know is that the farmers want an answer in ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The government must do that. When the farmers have made it clear that they will not accept modifications, then why make them? Agriculture is a state subject, but you didn’t take the opinion of states and brought in these laws. If they (the Centre) had reached out to the states, the current situation could have been avoided.

As far as the mandi Act is concerned, it is not the same in the entire country. It is different in Punjab and Haryana, different in Rajasthan, different in Chhattisgarh, Bihar doesn’t have it… It is based on the situation in each state. Now if you want to implement one Act across the country, why don’t you implement the Punjab model, Haryana model, Chhattisgarh model?… But the fact is that there isn’t any uniformity in mandis across states, then how can you have one Act for the entire country?

LIZ MATHEW: Apart from the mandi issue, experts have also pointed out that reforms are needed to ensure diversification of our crops to ensure better trade etc. Isn’t that important as well?

Bhupesh Baghel: Different states grow different crops. The government can work to promote that by setting up food processing plants etc. For example, Chhattisgarh has a variety of crops that have high demand internationally as well. We need a cargo plane at the airport, but the Centre is not providing that.

Secondly, you have surplus foodgrains in your godowns. You have supplies for the next three years and there is no space to store more. So the farmers have produced the crops and done their job. Now, should they be punished for it? That would be wrong.

AVISHEK DASTIDAR: The Central government has a Road Requirement Plan (RRP) to ensure connectivity in Maoist-affected areas. The programme is now complete in 90 per cent of the country. A total of 400 km of roads remain to be built, of which 350 km are in Chhattisgarh. The Centre has cited lack of cooperation from the state for the delay. When will the project be completed in the state?

Bhupesh Baghel: I have met (Minister for Road Transport & Highways) Nitin Gadkari and Home Minister Amit Shah regarding the issue. I have proposed that the programme under which roads are being built in LWE (Left Wing Extremism) areas needs some improvements because the (contractors) in these parts take the tenders but fail to work on the ground. That is not something that has happened now, things have been getting delayed for15 years.

I have proposed that instead of building long stretches of roads, we must focus on building small stretches. In J&K you have given permission for precast, steel bridges, but you are not giving permission for it in LWE-affected areas. So many of our jawans have lost their lives trying to protect roads and bridges. If we get permission for steel bridges, then a bridge that would take six months to be built will only take a week. We will have to give less security and things will move faster.

Amit Shahji said send me a proposal and I will discuss it with other departments. The meeting was positive. It would be wrong to claim that the state government is not providing support.

VANDITA MISHRA: The farmer unions have said that they have no links with the Opposition, and will not allow Opposition leaders to speak from their stage. There was a similar situation at the time of the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests too. Isn’t this in some way a failure of the Opposition that the common man doesn’t want the Opposition to speak for it?

Bhupesh Baghel: These are two different issues. On the issue of farmers, both the farmers’ unions and political parties have spoken out. If you say that political parties haven’t done their bit… Punjab, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh governments have opposed the laws in the Vidhan Sabha. The Congress party has always opposed them (the farm laws), and Rahul Gandhi has also spoken about this often. Now, if the farmers are saying that they don’t want political parties to get involved, then that’s fine because they don’t want to tilt towards any one political party. But we have supported them. I am happy that even non-political organisations are fighting the same fight as us.

DEEPTIMAN TIWARY: The Central security forces have often complained about not getting enough support from state police in Maoist-affected areas, including in Chhattisgarh. Why do you think we have not been successful in handling the Naxalism issue in the state?

Bhupesh Baghel: Recently, when the CRPF DG visited the state, he said that we have good synergy with the state police… Now, if the state police alone could solve the issue, then what was the need to bring in Central forces? About 15-20 years ago, the paramilitary forces were brought in because the state police could not handle it on its own. After J&K, Bastar has the most number of paramilitary forces. When I became CM, I made it clear that we must first win the trust of the local people in the areas we are fighting the Naxals.

Secondly, we need more development in the area. We need to make arrangements for healthcare, education, employment. The third aspect is ensuring security. Through these three measures, we have managed to reduce Naxal activity in the region… Despite the pandemic, we ensured that mahua flowers, tendu leaves are bought from the locals. This has helped increase trust. About 105 schools were shut in Sukma district for over 13 years, we started those. People are getting treatment through the Mukhyamantri Haat Bazaar Clinic Yojana… So with these steps, in the coming days, the Naxals will be very constrained.

DEEPTIMAN TIWARY: You have questioned the NIA investigation into the 2013 Darbha Ghati attack on Congress leaders…

Bhupesh Baghel: The fight against Naxals and disagreement on issues are two different matters. In the Minpa attack (in March 2020) where 17 security personnel were killed… They were all part of the state police. At the time, at a distance of 500m the CRPF were sitting, but they did not give support because they did not get orders. So we registered our complaint with the Home Ministry.

As far as the NIA is concerned, in July 2014 the chargesheet (in the Darbha Valley incident) was submitted. By that time, the NDA government had come to power… We asked the NIA, that if this attack was part of a political conspiracy, why was that investigation not done? Then, the FIR in the police station here (in Chhattisgarh) had names of big Naxal leaders. Why were the names of big leaders removed? If an incident occurs in Hotel Taj (the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai), people from Pakistan are named in the FIR. Then why were names of Naxal leaders removed? Why won’t we be suspicious?… It has been seven years since the attack, and the culprits are yet to be punished. The Centre is taking the incident lightly, it is obvious for us to question it.

MANOJ C G: From panchayat elections in Rajasthan to municipal elections in Hyderabad, the Congress seems to be struggling to revive itself. What is the way forward for the party?

Bhupesh Baghel: Political ups and downs will always come and go. When people want, they bring you to power, and when they want, they drop you. This is a matter of time. When the time comes, the Congress will come to power too. I am optimistic that the Congress party will do better in the coming days.

MANOJ C G: Your own party leaders wrote a letter seeking internal reforms and sweeping changes within the Congress. The letter was written in August and there is still no response. Why is the party not paying heed to suggestions by its own senior leaders?

Bhupesh Baghel: The 23 leaders (who wrote the letter) have been giving us lessons in discipline so far, that all controversial matters must be raised in internal forums, that we should talk to senior leaders about them through proper channels. What has happened to them now? To those asking questions, I want to ask a counter-question: Who stopped you from going to Bihar during the elections? But once the results came out, you promptly appeared to give reactions. Aren’t you ashamed? The party made you a Member of Parliament, minister, gave you an identity, and when the time came to stand by the party, you are busy giving advice. It is unfortunate.

The lessons that these leaders taught us are also applicable to them. They should have raised the issues in internal party forums. The Congress is the most democratic party. There have been several CWC meetings, and all these issues have been discussed. Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mukul Wasnik, they were all there. I was there too. They all got an opportunity to speak. So once they have spoken there, what was the need to speak outside?

P VAIDYANATHAN IYER: But they are all senior leaders and ministers. Should their concerns be ignored?

Bhupesh Baghel: We are all tied by a certain discipline. There are limits to it. The way you behave with your family and children, can you behave the same way on the streets? Everyone must function within limits, there is a certain beauty about it. By speaking outside, you are revealing the party’s weaknesses.

If they had spoken internally, it would have strengthened the party. There would have been reforms. These are people who have been ministers for decades. Who has brought them up to this level? So all I am saying is that they must talk internally. And the party has internal democracy. That is why, even after everything, their views are being heard… This shows the magnanimity of the leadership too.

MANOJ C G: After every election defeat, the Congress seems to follow a familiar script — some leaders call for introspection, others contest it, and so on. However, after one-two weeks things return to normal. How long will this go on for?

Bhupesh Baghel: When a party is not in power, such things happen. When the UPA government was in power, similar things would happen in the BJP too. In Chhattisgarh, the BJP was in power for 15 years, and now it has been out of power for two years. What is the party’s situation in the state? Same (as the Congress at the national level). So such things happen when parties are out of power and journalists have a field day.

There is always scope for improvement within the party. The Congress has always accepted change and suggestions for improvement. The Congress has played a crucial role in taking the country forward and the party will have the same role in the future too.

MANOJ C G: When you became CM two years ago, there were talks of splitting the tenure between you and another colleague. Was there such a proposal?

Bhupesh Baghel: Chhattisgarh does not have a coalition between two parties. We have a majority in the state. If the party high command tells me to resign, I will resign right away. But there was no such (proposal to divide the Chief Minister’s tenure between two leaders).

KAUSHIK DAS GUPTA: The Congress seems to be lacking grassroots connect, whether it was the anti-CAA protest or this farmers’ protest. Why is that?

Bhupesh Baghel: What we need to understand is that there are several organisations that raise issues connected to the common man. As far as farmers’ issues are concerned, the Congress has raised the issues. The farmers’ protest is being led by 32 organisations and we are supporting them from the outside. If they ask us for direct support, we will provide that. If you go without invitation, then we saw what happened with (Delhi Chief Minister) Arvind Kejriwal. He was forced to say that I have come here as a ‘sevadar (for your service)’. We don’t want that. We don’t want to go there (at the farmers’ protest site) to get mocked.

Why Bhupesh Baghel: Two years ago, Baghel gave the Congress its most decisive victory in a state election, winning 68 out of Chhattisgarh’s 90 seats. He is among the CMs to pass an Act in the Assembly to counter the Centre’s farm laws in October this year.

By https://indianexpress.com/




After rounds of failed talks, protesting farmers to block Delhi-Jaipur highway today


In order to contain the situation, two thousand policemen are on duty in Gurgaon and 3,500 policemen are on duty in Faridabad, officials said.

As the demands of the farmers not met yet after the successive rounds of talks, the protesters are set to block Delhi-Jaipur highway today.

Yesterday, one of the 32 protesting unions moved the Supreme Court against the farm bills.

They have dismissed claims that “ultra-left” and “pro-Left Wing Extremist” elements have hijacked their agitation.

In order to contain the situation, two thousand policemen are on duty in Gurgaon and 3,500 policemen are on duty in Faridabad, officials said.

On Wednesday, the government suggested that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for the crops will stay.

The proposal was sent with written amendments that the government intends to implement, with the government assuring that the MSP will continue.

It was conveyed by the government via a written proposal to protesting farmers a day after several farmers’ groups held a meeting at the Singhu border to discuss the future course of action as both sides remain firm on their stances.




I’ll appeal all Bengalis living in state to urge population in Bengal to oust ‘Nirmamta’ didi’s govt: MP Home Minister


Mishra also met superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s mother-in-law Indira Bhaduri in Bhopal.

The BJP is leaving no stone unturned for the upcoming West Bengal elections as a day after attacks on the convoy of party chief JP Nadda, Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra said that the Bengali population living in Bhopal and other parts of the state will be urged to appeal to the people of Bengal to overthrow Mamata Banerjee’s government.

Mishra also met superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s mother-in-law Indira Bhaduri in Bhopal.

“Nirmamta Didi (Cruel Didi) government has turned the glorious state of West Bengal into a lawless state. The attack on the BJP national president JP Nadda and national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya’s convoy in Bengal is condemnable and speaks volumes about lawlessness in Bengal,” he said, quoted NDTV.

“Bengali population has a significant presence in many parts of MP, including Bhopal. During the refugee crisis in the past, a large number of Bengalis were accommodated in MP. Even during COVID-19 lockdown, a large number of migrant workers from Bengal who were working in MP were sent to their home state through special transport arrangements,” Mishra said.

“I’ll appeal to all Bengalis living in MP to urge their population in Bengal to oust the cruel and corrupt Nirmamta didi’s government from Bengal,” he added.

Yesterday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee launched verbal spout on former by asking why the BJP, with all the central forces  at its disposal, could not protect its party chief during his visit to Bengal.

She also raised doubts that the attack on JP Nadda could have been “orchestrated”.

“If there was a small incident — I don’t know if there was one. But at a tea shop, one of the 50 cars in your convoy may have hit someone, or something was thrown or it was planned. The police will probe. We will not tolerate all your lies. Enough is enough,” Mamata Banerjee said.

On Thursday, while on his way to West Bengal’s Diamond Harbour to attend a party event, JP Nadda’s convoy was attacked. Protestors, standing at both sides of the road, hurled stones at Nadda’s motorcade, alleged party’s West Bengal chief Dilip Ghosh.

BJP’s national secretary and party’s chief observer in West Bengal, Kailash Vijayvargiya’s car was also at the receiving end of stone pelting.




US gives green light to Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine; first immunization in less than 24 hours


President Donald Trump immediately released a video on Twitter, where he hailed the news as a “medical miracle” and said the first immunizations would take place “in less than 24 hours.”

The US green lighted the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine late Friday, paving the way for millions of vulnerable people to receive their shots in the world’s hardest-hit country.

President Donald Trump immediately released a video on Twitter, where he hailed the news as a “medical miracle” and said the first immunizations would take place “in less than 24 hours.”

It comes as infections across America soar as never before, with the grim milestone of 300,000 confirmed deaths fast approaching.

The US is now the sixth country to approve the two-dose regimen, after Britain, Bahrain, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.


The move came earlier than expected, and capped a day of drama after it was widely reported that the White House had threatened to fire Food and Drug Administration chief Stephen Hahn if he did not grant emergency approval Friday.

Trump’s intervention reinserts politics into the scientific process, which some experts have said could undermine vaccine confidence.

The US is seeking to inoculate 20 million people this month alone, with long-term care facility residents and health care workers at the front of the line.

The government also said Friday that it is buying 100 million more doses of the Moderna vaccine candidate, amid reports the government passed on the opportunity to secure more supply of the Pfizer jab.

The purchase brings its total supply of Moderna doses to 200 million, enough to immunize 100 million people with the two-shot regimen that could be approved as early as next week.

Both frontrunners are based on mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid), a major victory for a technology that had never previously been proven.

Two other vaccine candidates stumbled Friday: France’s Sanofi and Britain’s GSK said their vaccine would not be ready until the end of 2021.

And in Australia, the development of a vaccine at The University of Queensland was abandoned Friday after clinical trials produced a false positive HIV result among subjects involved in early testing.

Sputnik mix

The mixed news on the vaccine front comes as infections accelerated fast in North America and parts of Africa but started to stabilize in Europe and drop in Asia and the Middle East.

Around the world more than 1.58 million lives have been lost to Covid-19 since it emerged in China a year ago, according to an AFP tally from official sources.

Brazil on Friday crossed 180,000 deaths, despite President Jair Bolsonaro’s insistence the crisis was at the “tail end.”

But across the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand, which has been praised for its handling of the virus, took its first tentative steps towards reopening its borders — with the tiny Cook Islands.

Countries which have approved the Pfizer-BioNTech jab meanwhile were preparing for roll out, as the World Health Organization warned of a potentially grim Christmas season.

Following Britain’s lead, the first vaccine shipments to 14 sites across Canada are scheduled to arrive Monday with people receiving shots a day or two later.

Israel, which accepted its first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday, is targeting a rollout on December 27.

And Hong Kong said Friday it had struck deals for two vaccines — one from Pfizer and the other from Beijing-based Sinovac — with plans to launch a campaign in early 2021.

A new combined approach is also being tested by AstraZeneca, whose Russian operation said it would mix its shot with the locally-made Sputnik V vaccine in clinical trials.

Russia and China have already begun inoculation efforts with domestically produced vaccines that have seen less rigorous vetting.

EU countries are eagerly awaiting clearance on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, in late December and early January respectively.

Carbon down

As Europe’s surge eases off slightly, France is planning to lift a six-week-long lockdown from Tuesday but impose a curfew from 8.00 pm, including on New Year’s Eve.

Greece also announced new plans Friday to slash quarantine time for incoming travelers and reopen churches for Christmas.

But Switzerland, which is seeing a sharp resurgence in cases, announced a 7:00 pm curfew for shops, restaurants and bars.

While lockdowns have brought economic pain, boredom and myriad other problems, the effect on the environment has been more positive.

Carbon emissions fell a record seven percent in 2020 as countries imposed lockdowns, according to the Global Carbon Project.




Man in Delhi stabbed 22 times after he intervened in fight between two groups


The man has been identified as Neeraj and his two injured friends have been identified as Mukesh and Rakesh – both work as contractual security guards in Safdarjung hospital.

A man died after he was stabbed 22 times, while his two friends were injured in a fight with another group of three people, including a juvenile, the police said on Friday.

The man has been identified as Neeraj and his two injured friends have been identified as Mukesh and Rakesh – both work as contractual security guards in Safdarjung hospital, they said.

According to the police, two of the three accused persons — Krishan and Ravi — also used to work at the same hospital, but were replaced by Mukesh and Rakesh which resulted in enmity and the two hatched a conspiracy to attack Mukesh and Rakesh, the police said.

The incident took place on Wednesday night when Mukesh and Rakesh left their workplace after finishing their shift. They were also accompanied by their friend Neeraj.

On the way, they were intercepted by Krishan and Ravi, who were accompanied by their juvenile associate.

A heated argument ensued between the two groups and soon the verbal confrontation turned violent.

The accused attacked Mukesh and Rakesh, and when Neeraj tried to intervene, they stabbed him, the police said.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (southwest) Ingit Pratap Singh said a case of murder was registered and two people were arrested, while the juvenile was detained.




Manmohan was preoccupied with saving coalition, Modi autocratic in 1st term: Pranab Mukherjee in memoirs


In the summer of 2012, when Mukherjee became the 13th President of India after having spent several decades in politics, there was great speculation about how he would approach his new, bipartisan role after having been associated with a political party for so many years of his life.

Manmohan Singh was preoccupied with saving his coalition during his second stint while Narendra Modi was “autocratic” in his first term as Prime Minister, former President Pranab Mukherjee wrote in the fourth and concluding volume of his memoirs to be posthumously published next month.

He also doesn’t subscribe to the theory that the Congress would not have been drubbed in the 2014 general elections had he been made the Prime Minister in 2004 but says the Congress “lost focus” after he was elevated to President in 2012.

Laying bare his thoughts on his relationship with the two Prime Ministers he worked with, who belonged to two parties and who were (and are) fi­ercely opposed to each other, Mukherjee writes in ‘The Presidential Years’ (Rupa): “I believe that the moral authority to govern vests with the PM. The overall state of the nation is reflective of the functioning of the PM and his administration.

“While Dr Singh was preoccupied with saving the coalition, which took a toll on governance, Modi seemed to have employed a rather autocratic style of governance during his ­first term, as seen by the bitter relationship among the government, the legislature and the judiciary. Only time will tell if there is a better understanding on such matters in the second term of this government.”

He is also frank about the reasons for the dismal showing of the Congress in the 2014 general elections, admitting candidly: “Some members of the Congress have theorized that had I become the PM in 2004, the party might have averted the 2014 Lok Sabha drubbing.

“Though I don’t subscribe to this view, I do believe that the party’s leadership lost political focus after my elevation as President. While Sonia Gandhi was unable to handle the affairs of the party, Dr Singh’s prolonged absence from the House put an end to any personal contact with other MPs.”

Mukherjee also brings the reader closer to the inner workings of the Rashtrapati Bhavan as he reveals a minor diplomatic issue that arose during the visit of US President Barack Obama in 2015 when the US Secret Service insisted that Obama travels in a specially armoured vehicle that had been brought from the US, and not in the car designated for the use by the Indian head of state.

“They wanted me to travel in the same armoured car along with Obama. I politely but ­firmly refused to do so, and requested the MEA to inform the US authorities that when the US President travels with the Indian President in India, he would have to trust our security arrangements. It cannot be the other way around,” Mukherjee writes.

In the summer of 2012, when Mukherjee became the 13th President of India after having spent several decades in politics, there was great speculation about how he would approach his new, bipartisan role after having been associated with a political party for so many years of his life. By the time he had served his term, Mukherjee had won the respect and admiration of the people from across the political spectrum, including those who were his rivals when he was a political figure.

‘The Presidential Years’ is the culmination of a fascinating journey that brought Mukherjee from the flicker of a lamp in a remote village in Bengal to the chandeliers of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

It is a deeply personal account of the manner in which he reshaped the functioning of Rashtrapati Bhavan and responded to tumultuous events as the country’s fi­rst citizen, leaving behind a legacy that will be hard to match. Pranab da, as he is affectionately called, recollects the challenges he faced in his years as President – the difficult decisions he had to make and the tightrope walk he had to undertake to ensure that both constitutional propriety and his opinion were taken into consideration.

The first three books are titled ‘The Dramatic Decade’ that focuses on one of the most fascinating periods in Independent India’s history – the 1970s, when Mukherjee cut his teeth and plunged headlong into national politics; ‘The Turbulent Years’, which opens in the 1980s – Sanjay Gandhi is dead under unexpected, tragic circumstances, not many years later, Indira Gandhi is assassinated and Rajiv Gandhi, ‘the reluctant politician’, abruptly becomes India’s Prime Minister; and ‘The Coalition Years’, which begins its journey in 1996 and explores the highs and lows that characterised 16 years of one of the most tumultuous periods in the nation’s political history.




‘At times Home Minister is here, other times it’s Chaddha, Nadda, Fadda, Bhaddha’: Mamata Banerjee mocks BJP


‘Every day they are coming out for rallies with firearms. They are slapping themselves and blaming it on the Trinamool Congress,’ she said a day after attacks on BJP chief.

A day after the attack on BJP chief JP Nadda’s convoy in Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee launched verbal spout on former by asking why the BJP, with all the central forces  at its disposal, could not protect its party chief during his visit to Bengal.

She also raised doubts that the attack on JP Nadda could have been “orchestrated”.

“If there was a small incident — I don’t know if there was one. But at a tea shop, one of the 50 cars in your convoy may have hit someone, or something was thrown or it was planned. The police will probe. We will not tolerate all your lies. Enough is enough,” Mamata Banerjee said.

Yesterday, on his way to West Bengal’s Diamond Harbour to attend a party event, JP Nadda’s convoy was attacked. Protestors, standing at both sides of the road, hurled stones at Nadda’s motorcade, alleged party’s West Bengal chief Dilip Ghosh.

BJP’s national secretary and party’s chief observer in West Bengal, Kailash Vijayvargiya’s car was also at the receiving end of stone pelting.

Continuing her doubts over the attack, Banerjee said, “You have so many CISF-BSF commandos. Then how can they touch your car? What about your people who go around with shot guns.”

“They are importing a new Hindu Dharma. That Hindu Dharma is not our Hindu Dharma. They are passing off a disgusting dharma as Hindu dharma with which neither you nor I have any thing to do. This is how Hitler became Hitler, this is how Ceausescu became Ceausescu. Mussolini became Mussolini. Today, this Narendra Babu sarkar simply plans drama, creates drama and sends video of the drama they have themselves created to the media. And media has no power to question them. they may of their own drama they send to the media,” she added.

“Every day they are coming out for rallies with firearms. They are slapping themselves and blaming it on the Trinamool Congress. Just think of the situation. They are roaming around with the BSF, CRPF, Army, CISF….then why are you so scared?” she said.

“Your leaders are welcome. We are against violence, but why are 50 cars following you around? And bikes and media cars? So who were standing there? Who threw stones?  Is it planned? You are so smart, you can use satellite watch everything,” she added.

“They have no other work. At times Home Minister is here, other times it’s Chaddha, Nadda, Fadda, Bhaddha. When they have no audience, they call their workers for doing nautanki,” Banerjee said.

Hours after the attack, Home Minister Amit Shah ordered an investigation and asked West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar for a detailed report on law and order in the state.

He also called for two reports from the state administration within 12 hours as the BJP alleged that the state had slipped into complete lawlessness and anarchy.

Input From Agency 




Half of India’s population vulnerable to extreme climate events


The frequency, intensity, and unpredictability of these extreme events have also risen in recent decades, according to the study, released two days before the Climate Ambition Summit, where several nations are expected to announce enhanced commitments towards combating climate change

Over 75 per cent of Indian districts ~ which are home to over 638 million people, nearly half of the country’s population ~ are hotspots of extreme climate events such as cyclones, floods, droughts, heat and cold waves, according to a study released today by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).

The frequency, intensity, and unpredictability of these extreme events have also risen in recent decades, according to the study, released two days before the Climate Ambition Summit, where several nations are expected to announce enhanced commitments towards combating climate change. While India witnessed 250 extreme climate events between 1970 and 2005, it recorded 310 extreme weather events post 2005 alone. The study also found a shift in the pattern of extreme climate events such as flood prone areas becoming drought prone and vice versa in over 40 per cent of Indian districts.

The United Nations, the United Kingdom and France, in partnership with Chile and Italy, will co-host a virtual Climate Ambition Summit on 12 December, to mark the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement. The summit has been positioned as a ‘sprint to Glasgow’, where the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is scheduled to take place during 1-12 November in 2021.

Abinash Mohanty, programme lead at the CEEW and the author of the study, said, “The current trend of catastrophic climate events results from a mere 0.6 degrees Celsius temperature rise in the last 100 years. India is already the fifth most vulnerable country globally in terms of extreme climate events and it is all set to become the world’s flood capital. Access to finance and technology along with democritisation of weather and climate-related data is critical for building climate resilience. Embracing risk assessment principles will be equally crucial to safeguard Indian agriculture, industry, and large-scale infrastructural projects from the vagaries of climate change.”

The study found that, in the last 50 years, the frequency of flood events increased almost eight times, while associated events such as landslides, heavy rainfall, hailstorms, thunderstorms, and cloudbursts increased by over 20 times. Between 1970 and 2004, three extreme flood events occurred per year on average. But after 2005, the yearly average rose to 11. The yearly average for districts affected until 2005 was 19, but after 2005, it jumped to 55.

In 2019, India witnessed 16 extreme flood events, which affected 151 districts. Over 97 million people are currently being exposed to extreme floods in India. The CEEW analysis indicates that while the number of rainy days during monsoon have decreased, singleday extreme rainfall events have been increasing, leading to flooding. After 2000, there has also been a rise in urban floods due to flawed urban planning, encroachments on wetlands and deforestation.

According to the study, after 2005, the yearly average of the number of districts affected by cyclones tripled and the cyclone frequency doubled. In the last decade alone, 258 districts were affected. The cyclone hotspot districts are concentrated along the eastern coastline, where warming regional microclimate, land-use change and degrading forests are triggering cyclonic activity.

While preparedness and resilience against droughts have improved in recent decades, extreme climate events continue to significantly affect the Indian farmers. The yearly average of drought affected districts increased 13 times after 2005. Nearly 68 per cent of Indian districts have been facing droughts and drought like situations. While the intensity of damage in terms of loss of life has reduced significantly, droughts increase uncertainties related to agriculture and rural livelihoods.

The study found a trend of several traditionally flood prone districts such as Cuttack, Guntur, Kurnool, Mahbubnagar, Nalgonda, Paschim Champaran, and Srikakulum becoming drought prone in recent years. Coastal Indian states such as Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka have also been increasingly seeing more droughts. Further, floods and droughts coincide during the same season in several districts of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, and Tamil Nadu. These changing patterns are due to microclimatic changes across the subcontinent that are triggered by local climate change drivers such as land-use-surface change, deforestation, encroachments upon mangroves, and wetlands.

The study recommends that risk assessment principles should form the core of India’s strategy to build climate resilience. As a first step, it proposes developing a climate risk atlas covering critical vulnerabilities as well as an integrated emergency surveillance system to facilitate a systematic response to emergencies.

 

By ASHA RAMACHANDRAN | New Delhi  www.thestatesman.com




US FDA gives nod for emergency use approval for Pfizer Covid vaccine


Britain, Canada, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have already approved the vaccine, the first in the world to complete a large-scale, phase 3 clinical trial.

An expert committee convened by the US Food and Drug Administration voted heavily in favor of recommending the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use approval on Thursday.

The final voting tally was 17 in favor, four against and one abstention.

The committee was tasked with answering whether, “based on the totality of scientific evidence available, do the benefits of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine outweigh its risk for use in individuals 16 years of age and older?”

The vote by the independent experts and researchers, including infectious disease specialists, biostatisticians and other scientists, isn’t binding but the FDA is expected to follow the recommendation within the coming days.

Britain, Canada, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have already approved the vaccine, the first in the world to complete a large-scale, phase 3 clinical trial.

Russian and Chinese vaccines are already being administered on a large scale, but without having completed comparable clinical trials.

The full results of the trial, which included nearly 44,000 people, were published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, another major milestone.

These confirmed the vaccine was 95 percent effective with no serious safety issues, an outcome that was described in an accompanying editorial as a “triumph.”

Pfizer scientist Kathrin Jansen told the panel this was a result of the innovative messenger RNA technology behind the vaccine, an approach that has never before been approved.

Britain on Wednesday reported that two health care workers developed significant allergic reactions to the vaccine as the country rolled out its massive drive Tuesday.

The FDA will therefore include a warning label on the vaccine if it’s approved, the agency’s Marion Gruber said.




Joe Biden, Kamala Harris named Time magazine’s 2020 ‘Person of the Year’


The pair was chosen ahead of three other finalists: frontline health care workers and Anthony Fauci, the racial justice movement, and President Donald Trump who Biden defeated in November’s election.

US President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have been chosen as Time magazine’s 2020 “Person of the Year,” the publication announced Thursday.

The pair was chosen ahead of three other finalists: frontline health care workers and Anthony Fauci, the racial justice movement, and President Donald Trump who Biden defeated in November’s election.





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