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FM Sitharaman to hold pre-budget consultations with prominent economists today


Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will hold pre-budget consultations with prominent economists on Wednesday in connection with the forthcoming general budget 2022-23.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will hold pre-budget consultations with prominent economists on Wednesday in connection with the forthcoming general budget 2022-23.

Finance Ministry in a tweet said, “Union Finance Minister @nsitharaman will chair Pre-Budget consultations with prominent economists tomorrow afternoon, 22nd December 2021, in New Delhi in connection with the forthcoming General Budget 2022-23. The meetings are being held virtually,”.

Sitharaman has been having pre-budget meetings with representatives from various sectors since December 15. She has sought assistance from industrial groups, farmer groups, economists, and service sector professionals in order to resurrect consumption and growth, which has been slowed by the continuing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

The first meeting the Union finance minister had was with agricultural experts and the agro-processing business. Sitharaman has hosted six such pre-budget meetings so far, the most recent of which took place on December 18 with representatives from the health, education, rural development, and water and sanitation sectors.

On February 1 of the next year, she will present the Union Budget.

Apart from Sitharaman’s pre-budget meetings, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also met with business leaders. On Monday, he met with CEOs of companies from several industries for pre-budget discussions.

(With ANI inputs)




LS adjourned for the day following Oppn protests over Ajay Mishra


Soon after the House resumed at 2 p.m., BJP member Rajendra Agrawal who was on the Chair, allowed Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani to move the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2021 amid strong protests by the Opposition bench.

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday was adjourned for the day amid Opposition’s continuous protests over Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra Teni, however, the government was able to introduce the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2021 amid din.

This Bill seeks to increase the marriage age of women from 18 to 21 years but later, Minister Irani asked the Chair to refer the bill to Standing Committee.

Soon after the House resumed at 2 p.m., BJP member Rajendra Agrawal who was on the Chair, allowed Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani to move the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2021 amid strong protests by the Opposition bench.

Introducing the Bill, Irani said that it was a step towards gender equality and empowerment.

Giving data, she further said that 20 lakh marriages of underage women have been prevented and the voices that emerged make it clear that there should be equality for marriage.

Opposing the government’s move to introduce the Bill, the Congress Party floor leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said they continued to demand the removal of MoS Home Ajay Mishra. “We are not against any individual, but we are with the farmers,” Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury added.

He also said that the government has brought the Bill without consultation with political parties and with the states. “Why is the government bulldozing the Parliamentary norms and introducing Bills without consultations with the political parties?” he asked. This Bill should be sent to the standing committee for further scrutiny, Chowdhury demanded.

TMC Member Saugata Roy and AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi opposed the Bill. “An 18-year-old can vote and elect a Prime Minister, have sexual relations under POCSO Act but cannot marry. What message are we sending?” Owaisi said.

Indian Union Muslim League Member E.T. Mohammed Basheer said that it was an attack on personal law while the NCP Member Supriya Sule and K. Kanimozhi of the DMK opposed the manner in which the Bill was introduced in the House. Both women MPs from the Opposition bench argued for stakeholder consultations and feedback from civil society.

“The Bill needs to be scrutinized, I condemn the way this Government brings all the Bills,” Supriya Sule added.

Responding to them, Irani said, “We are 75 years late in a democracy to give equal rights to enter into matrimony. To say that rural women cannot exercise their right is an insult to them,” the Union Minister further added.

Meanwhile, Union Minister for State Arjun Ram Meghwal said that the Bills to amend the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949, the Cost and Works Accountants Act, 1959 and the Company Secretaries Act, 1980, should also be referred to the Standing Committee.




PM Modi transfers 1000 cr to women SHGs in UP, says none can push UP back to darkness, mafia raj


Modi also transferred first month’s stipend to Business Correspondent-Sakhis and also money to over one lakh beneficiaries of Mukhya Mantri Kanya Sumangala Scheme, a PMO note after the event said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi who visited Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday to take part in a women’s empowerment programme transferred Rs 1000 crore to Self Help Groups (SHGs) benefitting around 16 lakh women members in the State.

Modi also transferred the first month’s stipend to Business Correspondent-Sakhis and also money to over one lakh beneficiaries of Mukhya Mantri Kanya Sumangala Scheme, a PMO note after the event said. He also laid the foundation stone of over 200 Supplementary Nutrition Manufacturing Units.

Addressing a gathering of women, the Prime Minister praised the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh for ensuring security, dignity, and respect to rural poor and girls in the state.

“Schemes like Mukhyamantri Kanya Sumangala Yojana are becoming a great medium of trust for the rural poor and for the girls. Security, dignity, and respect ensured by the double-engine government for the women of UP are unprecedented. The women of Uttar Pradesh have decided that they will not allow the return of earlier circumstances,” Modi said.

Modi said self-help group members are ‘actually national help group’. “I consider the sisters of women self-help groups to be the champions of the Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign. These Self Help Groups are actually National Help Groups,” he said.

Justifying his government’s decision to bring the legal age of marriage of daughters to 21 years, Modi said the decision was taken keeping in mind educational needs and ensuring equal opportunities for them.

“The daughters also wanted that they should get time to pursue their studies and to get equal opportunities. Therefore, efforts are being made to bring the legal age of marriage to 21 years for daughters. The country is taking this decision for the sake of daughters,” the Prime Minister said. He also said that the biggest beneficiaries of the eradication of mafia raj and lawlessness in UP were ‘the sisters and daughters of UP’.

Earlier, after transferring Rs 1000 crore to the back accounts of SHGs, Modi paid tribute to the doyen of Hindi literature Acharya Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi on his death anniversary. He said Prayagraj has been the land of the confluence of Ganga-Yamuna-Saraswati, the symbol of our mother power for thousands of years. Today this pilgrimage city is also witnessing such a wonderful confluence of women-power, he said.

The Prime Minister said the entire country is witnessing the work being done for women’s empowerment in Uttar Pradesh. He said schemes like Mukhyamantri Kanya Sumangala Yojana, under which he transferred crores of rupees to the accounts of more than one lakh beneficiary daughters of the state today, are becoming a great medium of trust for the rural poor and for the girls.

Modi said the security, dignity, and respect ensured by the double-engine government for the women of UP is unprecedented. “The women of Uttar Pradesh have decided that they will not allow the return of earlier circumstances,” he pointed out adding the government had tried to awaken the consciousness of society to prevent sex-selective abortions by Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign.“This has resulted in an increase in the numbers of daughters in many states,” he said.

The Prime Minister said the government is focused on immunization of pregnant women, delivery in hospitals, and nutrition during pregnancy. Under the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, Rs 5000 is deposited in the bank account of women during pregnancy, so that they can take care of proper diet.

Enlisting steps being taken to enhance the dignity of women, the Prime Minister said, “With the construction of crores of toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission, facility of gas connection under the Ujjwala scheme, and tap water in the house itself, a new convenience is also coming in the lives of sisters.”

“For decades, house and property were considered as the right of men only. The schemes of the government are removing this inequality. Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana is the biggest example of this. The houses being given under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana are being built in the name of women on a priority basis,” Modi said.

The Prime Minister further claimed that the schemes were being run for employment and increasing the income of the family, women are being made equal partners.

“Today, Mudra Yojana is encouraging new women entrepreneurs, even from poor families in villages. Women are also being linked with self-help groups and rural organizations across the country through the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana. I consider the sisters of women self-help groups to be the champions of the AtmaNirbhar Bharat campaign. These self-help groups are actually National Help Groups,” he stressed.

Modi said the double-engine BJP government, is working without any discrimination to empower the future of daughters. He also informed about the important decision regarding the legal age of marriage for girls.

“Earlier, the legal age of marriage for sons was 21 years, but for daughters, it was only 18 years. The daughters also wanted that they should get time to pursue their studies and to get equal opportunities. Therefore, efforts are being made to bring the age of marriage to 21 years for daughters. The country is taking this decision for the sake of daughters,” Modi said.

Referring to the improvement of the law and order situation in the state in recent years, the Prime Minister said the biggest beneficiary of this eradication of mafia raj and lawlessness were the sisters and daughters of UP. He also appreciated Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for bringing the situation under control.

“Today, there is security as well as rights in Uttar Pradesh. Today UP has possibilities as well as business. I have full faith that with the blessings of our mothers and sisters, no one can push this new UP back into the darkness,” PM Modi added.




Rajnath Singh likely to brief Parliament on chopper crash


Union Minister Krishan Pal will make a statement regarding the status of implementation of the recommendations contained in the Standing Committee on Energy on ‘Measures To Check Commercial Losses’ pertaining to the Ministry of Power.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is likely to brief the Lok Sabha about the chopper crash in Tamil Nadu in which Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 other defence personnel died. Singh is also likely to brief the Rajya Sabha.

Sources said that the Defence Minister will brief the Lok Sabha at 11:15 a.m. and Rajya Sabha later on. The CDS was going to the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington to deliver a lecture when the crash happened.

The chopper, with 14 persons on board including CDS Rawat, his wife and other defence personnel, crashed a few minutes before landing.

Under rule 193, further discussion in the Lok Sabha will take place on climate change which was started by Kanimozhi Karunanidhi on Wednesday.

Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh will move Bills further to amend the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003, and the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, for consideration in the Lok Sabha. He will also move that the Bill be passed.

Opposing this, the opposition members will move a resolution that this House (Lok Sabha) disapproves of the Central Vigilance Commission (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021 and The Delhi Special Police Establishment (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

Union Minister Krishan Pal will make a statement regarding the status of implementation of the recommendations contained in the Standing Committee on Energy on ‘Measures To Check Commercial Losses’ pertaining to the Ministry of Power.

Union Minister V.K. Singh is to make statements on the status of implementation of the recommendations contained in the Standing Committee report on Transport, Tourism and Culture on Demands for Grants for 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2020-21 pertaining to the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

Members Heena Gavit and Riti Pathak will present the fifth report of the ‘Committee on Empowerment of Women’ (2021-22) on the subject “Empowerment of Women through Education with Special Reference to ‘Beti Bachao – Beti Padhao’ Scheme”.




Farmers’ stir on Delhi borders to be ‘postponed’ for now


Besides, the farmers have been continuously seeking the resignation of Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni over the Lakhimpur-Kheri incident in October this year in which 5 farmers were among the dead.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), the umbrella body of the farmers protesting along the borders of the national capital over agricultural issues, have agreed to the draft proposal prepared by the Central government and is expected make a “major announcement” on Thursday.

Following its meeting on Wednesday, the farmers’ body said that their stir has not ended but it has been postponed for now, adding they would continue pressing the government over the Minimum Support Price (MSP) issue.

A meeting is likely to be held on Thursday noon to decide the further strategy of the movement.

Besides, the farmers have been continuously seeking the resignation of Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni over the Lakhimpur-Kheri incident in October this year in which 5 farmers were among the dead.

In the draft resolution sent for the second time by the government, it was said that the government has agreed to cancel the FIRs against farmers in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttarakhand with immediate effect. At the same time, there will be representatives of the SKM on the committee to be formed on MSP.

Also, the government will present the Electricity Bill in the Parliament only after discussing the matter with the representatives of the SKM. Besides, the government has also given consent to the farmers on compensation.

After the SKM meeting, farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni said: “Agreement was reached upon on the draft proposal sent by the government. After receiving a formal letter in this regard from the government, a meeting of farmer leaders will be held tomorrow (Thursday) in a decision on the suspension of the agitation is likely to be taken.”

The SKM continued camping along the borders of Delhi even after Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 19 — along with an apology, announced the withdrawal of the three agriculture laws against which the farmers have been on streets since November 2020.

The SKM has put forward some of their other demands including the MSP issue.

The farmers have also demanded compensation to the families of the farmers who lost their lives during the almost year-long agitation. They also demanded cancellation of the Electricity Bill, while seeking no action against them on stubble burning.

After the meeting on Wednesday, the farmers also were seen celebrating by distributing sweets among themselves.




Gen Rawat, his wife, 11 others killed in chopper crash


Gen Rawat was on his way from Sulur IAF base in Coimbatore to Defence Services Staff College, Wellington (Nilgiri Hills) to address the faculty and student officers of the Staff Course when the chopper crashed.

India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and eleven other military personnel were killed on Wednesday when an Indian Air Force military helicopter carrying them crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu.

Gen Rawat was on his way from Sulur IAF base in Coimbatore to Defence Services Staff College, Wellington (Nilgiri Hills) to address the faculty and student officers of the Staff Course when the chopper crashed.

Group Captain Varun Singh, who was in Gen Rawat’s staff, was the only survivor in the crash. He suffered serious injuries and is currently under treatment at Military Hospital in Wellington.

”With deep regret, it has been ascertained that Gen Bipin Rawat, Mrs Madhulika Rawat and 11 other persons on board have died in the unfortunate accident (crash),” the IAF tweeted. An Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident.

”Around noon today, an IAF Mi 17 V5 helicopter with a crew of 4 members carrying the CDS and 9 other passengers met with a tragic accident near Coonoor, TN,” the IAF announced earlier in the day. The chopper was a few minutes away from landing when it hit a tree, crashed, and caught fire, resulting in several casualties.

”Deeply anguished by the sudden demise of Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 other Armed Forces personnel in an extremely unfortunate helicopter accident today in Tamil Nadu,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted.

As soon as the news about the crash came, Rajnath convened a high-level meeting and also briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the incident. He also visited the residence of Gen Rawat to convey his condolences to the bereaved family.

President Ram Nath Kovind, the supreme commander of the armed forces, said he was shocked and anguished over the untimely demise of Gen Rawat and his wife. The nation has lost one of its bravest sons. His four decades of selfless service to the motherland was marked by exceptional gallantry and heroism. He also joined the fellow citizens in paying tributes to others who died in the crash while performing their duty.

In a series of tweets, Prime Minister Modi said, “I am deeply anguished by the helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu in which we have lost Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and other personnel of the armed forces. They served India with utmost diligence. My thoughts are with the bereaved families.”

Gen Rawat, the PM said, was an outstanding soldier. A true patriot, he greatly contributed to modernising the armed forces and security apparatus. His insights and perspectives on strategic matters were exceptional. The Prime Minister also held a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).

The Defence Minister said Gen Rawat’s untimely death was an irreparable loss to the armed forces and the country.

Belonging to a family of military officers and one of the most decorated soldiers, Gen Rawat took over as the CDS on January 1, 2020 – the first to occupy the post that made him the country’s senior most military officer.

As CDS, he was above the other four-star military officers heading the Navy, Air Force and Army and also headed the Department of Military Affairs in the Defence Ministry.




Cabinet approves 44605 crore Ken-Betwa river link project


The Project would be of immense benefit to the water-starved Bundelkhand region, spread across the states of MP and UP.

In a major move, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the 44,605 crore Ken-Betwa river link project which would provide irrigation to 10.62lakh hectares and drinking water to over 62 lakh people.

The project, proposed to be implemented in 8 years with state of the art technology, would boost socio-economic prosperity in the backward Bundelkhand region on account of increased agricultural activities and employment generation and would help in arresting distress migration from this region, said a senior officer of the Jal Shakti Ministry.

The Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the central support of Rs.39,317 crore for the project, covering a grant of Rs.36,290 crore and a loan of Rs.3,027 crore. “The project would also pave the way for more interlinking of river projects in India and also showcase to the world our ingenuity and vision,” the officer said.

This project involves the transfer of water from the Ken to the Betwa River through the construction of the Daudhan Dam and a canal linking the two rivers, the Lower Orr Project, Kotha Barrage -and Bina Complex Multipurpose Project. The project would provide annual irrigation of 10.62 lakh hectares, drinking water supply to a population of about 62 lakhs, and would also generate 103 MW of hydropower and 27 MW solar power.

The Project would be of immense benefit to the water-starved Bundelkhand region, spread across the states of MP and UP. This project would also provide enormous benefits to the districts of Panna, Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur, Sagar, Damoh, Datia, Vidisha, Shivpuri, and Raisen of Madhya Pradesh and Banda, Mahoba, Jhansi & Lalitpur of Uttar Pradesh.

The historic agreement to implement the major centrally driven river interlinking project was signed in March 2021 by the Union Minister of Jal Shakti and the Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The agreement heralds the beginning of inter-state cooperation to carry water from areas that have surpluses to drought-prone and water deficit areas, through the interlinking of rivers.




RS passes Health Ministry Bills amidst shouting and protests by Opposition members over suspension of 12 of their colleagues


Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said the two Bills, already passed by the Lok Sabha, were framed after a study by the Standing and Select Committees.

Amidst Opposition protests, the Rajya Sabha today passed the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) (Regulation) Bill, 2021, and the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2020 to prevent misuse of technology and unethical practices in surrogacy.

Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said the two Bills, already passed by the Lok Sabha, were framed after a study by the Standing and Select Committees.

He said there was demand in the House that the two Bills should come together. Surrogacy was on in the country for several decades but there was no regulation. Foreigners came to India to avail themselves of surrogacy.

The Bill was needed to save the lives of women who offered to bear children for others.

There were reports of the misuse of IVF technology. The laws will allow widows and divorcees to have children and raise families. There will be the maintenance of records. The two laws have penal clauses too.

“We don’t want motherhood to become a commercial activity,” he said. There will be insurance cover for women volunteering for the ART and surrogacy processes. There were incidents in which women had died during the processes.

Members of the BJP, BJD, and AIADMK were among those who participated in the debate and welcomed the laws. They said the laws would benefit women. All through the debate, several Opposition members kept shouting slogans demanding revocation of suspension of 12 of their colleagues.

Independent member Ajit Kumar Bhuyan said he was with the Opposition but participated in the discussion because the Bills were important. He opposed the Bills and staged a walk-out.

The ART Bill seeks regulation and supervision of the ART clinics and ART banks, prevention of misuse, and safe and ethical practice of ART services for addressing the issues of reproductive health where ART is required for becoming a parent.

The ART is also used for freezing gametes, embryos, embryonic tissues for further use due to infertility, disease, or social or medical concerns. The law will regulate and supervise research and development also.

The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2020 seeks to constitute the National Surrogacy Board, State Surrogacy Boards and appointment of appropriate authorities for regulation of the practice and process of surrogacy.




Army chopper crashes in TN with Gen Bipin Rawat on board


Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is understood to have briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the crash.

An Army chopper, with Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat on board, crashed in Tamil Nadu’s Coonoor on Wednesday.

Taking to the social media site, Twitter, the Indian Air Force said, “An IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter, with CDS Gen Bipin Rawat on board, met with an accident today near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. An Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident.”

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is understood to have briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the crash.

Local policemen said that three people have been rescued so far while a search is on for others.

The rescued suffered serious injuries and have been taken to Wellington cantonment.




UP Assembly polls 2022: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra releases ‘women’s manifesto’ in Lucknow


Addressing a press conference in Lucknow, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said, “Women empowerment is possible only when women get equal rights and get respect. Congress is committed to give equal rights and respect to women power.”

Ahead of the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, Congress General secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra rolled out ‘women’s manifesto’ with a bunch of promises.

Addressing a press conference in Lucknow, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said, “Women empowerment is possible only when women get equal rights and get respect. Congress is committed to give equal rights and respect to women power.”

While reading out the manifesto, she said, “Will make education accessible to daughters by giving them smartphones and electronic scooters on an educational basis. Congress will fulfill the promise made with daughters. Congress will make the education of daughters accessible.”

The Congress leader lauded the party’s policies towards women empowerment.

She said, “We prepared ‘women manifesto’ where we want to say we actually want to empower them. We will have to create an environment where shackles can be broken with their opinion, where they get full participation in politics and participation in society that ends their exploitation.”

“We gave 40 per cent representation to women (for Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls) so that their empowerment doesn’t remain confined to paper. When women will truly be a part of politics, then it will be translated not on paper but also in reality,” she said.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra further said that Congress gave the first woman Prime Minister to the country. “Congress’ Sucheta Kripalani was the first woman Chief Minister. Our country had the first woman Prime Minister when other countries had very low women representation at that level,” she said.

This comment by the leader comes ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.

In the 2017 Assembly elections, the BJP won a landslide victory winning 312 Assembly seats. The party secured a 39.67 per cent vote share in the elections for 403-member Assembly. Samajwadi Party (SP) bagged 47 seats, BSP won 19 while Congress could manage to win only seven seats.





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