New Delhi: Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday accused the Opposition parties led by Congress of “double standards” while claiming that they were opposing farm reforms just because it was brought by the present BJP government.
Prasad, while addressing a Press conference at the party headquarters in Delhi, presented documents and media reports of the UPA times, to prove that the Congress and other Opposition parties—who were protesting against the farm bills that was recently passed by the Modi government—had tried to bring in the same reforms when they were in power.
The farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, backed by Opposition parties, have called for a “Bharat Bandh” on Tuesday.
“The Congress, in their 2019 manifesto, had promised to repeal the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act and make trade of agricultural produce including export free from all restrictions. In 2013, Rahul Gandhi had called a meeting of all Congress chief ministers and said Congress-ruled states should give farmers the right to sell directly,” Prasad said.
Prasad presented official communications to show that the previous UPA government had called a CM meeting in 2013 and directed their CMs to allow farmers to sell their products directly without involving the APMC in Congress ruled states. “Rahul Gandhi had issued these directions. Congress ruled states were asked to delist fruits and vegetables from APMC Act by January 2015”, he said.
According to Prasad, on 11 August 2010, former Union minister and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, who is also opposing the farm law now, in a letter to then Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit had written, “As you are aware, the agriculture sector needs well-functioning markets to drive growth, employment, and economic prosperity. This requires huge investment in market infrastructure and for this private sector participation is essential for which an appropriate regulatory and policy environment needs to be in place.”
Pawar, in a media interview which he gave when he was the agriculture minister, had stated that the APMC act will be abolished within six months maximum, Prasad claimed while quoting Pawar’s words where he had said, “Unless you are ready to amend the market act and allow the private sector players to enter in the area there will not be any financial support from government of India to the state.”
Prasad further presented official documents that showed that the Planning Commission under the UPA government had given a report of the working group on agricultural marketing infrastructure in which it had stated that the central government may enact inter-state agriculture produce trade and commerce regulation act.
He stated that there was no law under the new act which allows the farmer’s land to be bought by the corporate groups, as the opposition parties were saying. “The lands will not be sold, mortgaged or leased under the new laws”, Prasad said while quoting section 8 of the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020
Prasad also charged Yogendra Yadav, who has emerged as the face of protest, of practicing double standards while presenting an article written by Yadav that accused the Modi government of “washing” its hands of APMC Act, citing state subject” and not taking steps to reform it.
Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar, on the other hand, blamed the Centre for the ongoing farmers’ agitation, saying the NDA government was responsible for the protests as it had not held discussions with the farmers before enacting the new laws and the “The only solution is to call a session of Parliament and repeal the laws,” Jakhar said.
Meanwhile, Opposition parties except for Trinamool Congress (TMC) have lent their support to the farmers’ ‘’Bharat Bandh’’ call.Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said that his party will hold demonstrations in all states on Tuesday. “Congress has supported the voice of farmers and will support Bharat Bandh on December 8 in every district and state. All parties and even NDA allies are concerned. Our district and state units will hold demonstrations,” Khera said.
DMK president M.K. Stalin also extended support to the Bharat Bandh. “The Opposition has already said that we will support the bandh and participate in it,” he said.
CPI general secretary D. Raja said that the Central government, instead of being adamant, should repeal the new farm laws. “The government should not remain adamant and should agree to repeal anti-farmer, anti-national agrarian laws. After several rounds of talks, the government is not conceding. Farmers have given a call for Bharat Bandh. Our party has given support and extended solidarity with protesting farmers,” he said.
BSP spokesperson Sudhindra Bhadoria said that his party is in support of farmers and their call for Bharat Bandh. “After these bills came, farmers are protesting. But the government is not listening to them. The government should leave this attitude and agree to farmers’ demands. BSP chief Mayawati has supported Bharat Bandh. BSP is in support of farmers,” he said.
Telangana Rashtra Samithi MLC K. Kavitha also announced her party’s support for the Bharat Bandh.
However, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Saugata Roy said that his party stands with protesting farmers, but will not support the Bharat Bandh in West Bengal. “TMC stands with agitating farmers, but we will not support Bharat bandh in West Bengal. It (bandh) goes against our principles,” he said.
Other Opposition parties, including Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Samajwadi Party (SP), All India Forward Bloc (AIFB), Shiv Sena and National Congress Party (NCP), have also extended their support for the ‘Bharat Bandh’ call. The leaders of the Opposition parties issued a joint statement while extending solidarity with farmers’ call for a Bharat Bandh on 8 December demanding the withdrawal of “retrograde Agri-laws”.
Sukhbir Singh Badal-led Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which left the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to protest against farm laws, has also announced to lend its support to Bharat Bandh.
The Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP), an ally of the BJP in Rajasthan, has also extended its support to the call for ‘Bharat Bandh by farmers’. Demanding that PM Narendra Modi should withdraw the farm laws, party chief Hanuman Beniwal on Sunday announced that the party will decide on whether or not to stay in the NDA after 8 December.
Hundreds of farmers have been protesting on different borders of the national capital since November 26 against the three newly enacted farm laws—Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
Farmers’ leaders have held several rounds of talks with the government but all of them remained inconclusive so far. After the fifth round of talks, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has called another meeting on 9 December.
WITH INPUTS FROM AGENCIES
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WE ARE FOCUSED ON HELPING THE HELPLESS AND FEEDING THE NEEDY: ARIDAMAN RATHORE & AANJNEYA SINGH
Aridaman Singh Rathore, Founder, Act Jaipur and Aanjneya Singh, Member, Act Jaipur joined NewsX’s special series, NewsX India A-list and spoke about how social media became a valuable tool in making their aim a fortunate reality.
Covid-19 was an unprecedented disaster that wreaked havoc on the world and is still at its prime momentum. Humanity is being tested daily, and some warriors are holding up its sanctity with valour and pride. NewsX’s special series, NewsX India A-list, aims at acknowledging such warriors. Aridaman Singh Rathore, Founder, Act Jaipur and Aanjneya Singh, Member, Act Jaipur, participated in the special series for their excellence in social work.
Introducing the concept behind this initiative and how it all came together, Aridaman said, “It was nothing but friend and family coming together to do their bit.” Driven by the feeling of helplessness and witnessing the Covid-19 pandemic exploding onto our country, he added, “We are focused on helping the helpless and feeding the needy. Even people with a good job profile who got laid off are suffering, and we came to their aid as well.”
Aanjneya Singh, who has been working in New York for six years, came to India for holidays and couldn’t go back due to the lockdown restrictions. Explaining how he came to be a part of this noble initiative, he said, “Actions speak louder than words. We had the resources and the network, so helping people in need was our responsibility.” Aanjneya also mentioned how donations from across Europe and New York, through his contacts, have been beneficial in propelling social aid.
Both the individuals spoke about how social media became a valuable tool in making their aim a fortunate reality. Aridaman connected with his cousins and friends over a WhatsApp group and started their page on Instagram. Social Media proved to be immensely helpful in propagating the idea further.
Throwing light on the reach and expansion of ‘Act’, Aridaman said, “Our initial goal was distributing 10,000 food packets. Today, we have distributed 23,791 meals, and are projecting close to 50,000 packets by mid-June.” Reiterating the importance of social media in times of the pandemic, Aridaman talked about the ease with which people with similar aim and equal drive connected with Act on Instagram. The platforms also facilitated their networking with several NGOs. One such NGO is ‘Raksha’. In collaboration with Raksha, Act Jaipur also fed stray animals and has expanded to distributing dry ration in slums.
“We wanted people to act out. We had had enough of just talking, it’s time to act now. We wanted people to realise the power of Social Media and reach out to the needy in such trying times,” said Aridaman while enlightening about the name of their initiative. He said that they want to do as much as they can in their limited capacity and are unwilling to stop until they achieve it. Aanjneya echoed Aridaman’s thought and said, “Doing something is always more beneficial than just speaking up.”
Humanity is facing a crisis, and initiatives like Act Jaipur gives people hope and a dose of positivity which is the need of the hour (after a dose of the vaccine). Ending the interview on a hopeful note, Aridaman said, “No amount is less, and no effort is lost.”
WHAT OTHER STATES CAN LEARN FROM MP IN DEALING WITH COVID-19
The worst ever pandemic, Covid-19 has affected the mankind world over, almost every country was caught unaware and unprepared. The gravity and severity of the pandemic were very much visible over time. It affected almost every aspect of human life including health, economy, development, and growth. It all came to a halt. The scientists, doctors, government, and the common man didn’t know what had hit them.
The worst situation the country ever faced after independence — the leadership and the common man didn’t know what had hit them and didn’t know how to deal with it and what to do. Everyone including scientists, doctors and researchers tried their level best to find a way out to deal with this dragon of the pandemic.
Though at the national level, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the charge of the affairs and in Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan took the bull by the horns. So what made Madhya Pradesh different from other states in dealing with this pandemic is the Chief Minister taking the charge directly to control the scenario before it could get worse by taking adequate steps. This helped to not only control the pandemic but fight it and try to finish it. The fallout was much less than the anticipated one, damage to the economy and people were within control.
It was precisely because of the leadership of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, owing to his vast experience, know-how of the state, people, flora and fauna, as well as his vision and long term measures, nipped the problem in the bud itself and stopped it from blooming.
Whether it was managing the affairs at the state level, inter-state level, or national level, he was at his best, using all his resources in dealing with the pandemic.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan saw to it that the necessary medicines were made available besides providing oxygen and medical equipment, availability of beds to the needy ones on the one side and on the other side, making a team of dedicated officers to ensure the availability of necessary medicines that are not overpriced, keep a check on black marketing, hoarding etc. Also he ensured to check the supply of genuine medicines and lifesaving drugs, all these were made available timely to the patients at reasonable prices.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s way of dealing with the situation was lauded by the Prime Minister and other states were asked to replicate the Madhya Pradesh model especially in dealing with the pandemic in rural areas.
Whether it was dealing with the problem of migrant labourers, farmers, and agriculture-related issues, and getting the right prices to the farmers for their produce, the Chief Minister excelled in everything.
In this time of distress, his government made special policies for helping street vendors. Apart from this, taking the responsibility of the orphan children whose parents have died in the traumatic situation, Shivraj Singh Chouhan set an example, which was later on replicated by the Centre and other states also.
The Chief Minister, on regular basis, tried to get community feedback from various sources. He invited suggestions from every quarter of the society before framing any policy or taking any important decision. Involving public participation was the key to his success. On important issues, he didn’t shy away from taking advice from leaders of opposition and taking their help in case of need.
At the national level also, due to his vast experience and long stint, he was in regular touch with several Union Ministers in case of any help the state government needed be it the Union Railway Minister, for running Oxygen Express to various destinations of the state, or talking to Union Health Minister for the supply of necessary medicines, medical equipment, masks, oxygen concentrators etc. in time of need, or asking the Union Commerce and Industry Minister to open oxygen plants for various places in the state.
In case of severity, Shivraj Singh Chouhan didn’t even hitch in requesting the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for timely release of necessary funds under various schemes to cope up with the dreaded situation. He didn’t shy away in asking for help from Chief Ministers of other states for helping the migrants from Madhya Pradesh stuck in their states. Meanwhile, Shivraj Singh Chouhan also helped the migrants from other states stuck in Madhya Pradesh. He took full care of them and ensured their safe return to their native places.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan is is the real son of the soil. In the state, he decentralised the powers to the ground level and made all district magistrates act and take quick decision, and in case of fatality, were answerable also.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan held regular meetings with the health and district officials and that helped him to get the right feedback and act accordingly as per need. It was this approach that all the districts of the states are out of the red zone and the state has begun with the unlocking process from 1 June onwards. It is his confidence, grit, and zeal to work for the people of the state to move forward with confidence and courage that worked wonders for Madhya Pradesh in fighting with Covid-19 pandemic.
The writer is Joint Director (P.R.), New Delhi, Government of Madhya Pradesh.
The Greek connection of the pandemic and more
When the world is looking for politically-correct nomenclature and yearning for a medical utopia in which everyone is protected from the pandemic, ancient Greece is as good a place as any to start looking for beginnings of ideas and experiences that preoccupy us today.
One of the latest developments in the year and a half old pandemic has been nomenclatural. On 31 May 2021, the WHO rechristened Covid virus variants of interest after the first four Greek letters — alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. The Greek alphabet is the major contributor to English, but even in original, it occupies an important and euphonious place in domain-specific jargons, popping up in unlikeliest places. The Phi Beta Kappa Society, active since 1776, has 290 chapters in the US. Leaders of social groups are called alphas, betas, and omegas, in the order of dominance, based on research originally conducted on wolves in captivity. Software development goes through beta testing. We sleep wrapped up in alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and theta waves. Some unconscious patients end up in an alpha coma. Theta captures the decline in the value of a stock option over time. The Riemann Zeta function is used to study the properties of prime numbers. Lambda has come to stand for gay liberation, besides dozens of others meanings in as many disciplines. The examples can be multiplied almost without end. If Greek enrichment of jargon is diverse and wide-ranging, Greek contributions to ideas and culture are encyclopaedic.
To ancient Greeks, we also owe the idea of Polis. Poleis were nascent city-states established in ancient Greece over two millennia ago. The Covid-19 pandemic, already a year and a half old, has germinated a new aspiration among people across the world- to acquire as quickly as possible membership of a polis that might be called Immuno-polis. It is the virtual, global, and utopian community of those who have developed immunity to the SARS-CoV-2. Some have become its unwilling members by contracting the disease and developing antibodies against severe future attacks. Others are members by vaccination. The remainders, still a majority of people, await membership after getting their shots. Fears that they might be expelled from the protective borders of Immuno-polis by emerging strains have largely proved unfounded. Immunopolitans will continue to enjoy most of their privileges with the existing vaccines, with more on the way. From polis have arisen Metropolis, Cosmopolis, Necropolis, as well as the above-mentioned Immuno-polis. When herd immunity is achieved, benefits of this imaginary community would be available to all, even those who haven’t suffered from the disease or received a vaccine; we would all end up living in a Utopia.
Utopia, or an ideal community, is also a Greek idea, though morphed. In most intellectual histories, coinage of the word is attributed to Sir Thomas More (1474-1535) by whose work of the same name we know him best. However, he was only the efficient cause of neologism, as Aristotle might have put it. More seems to have got the word while translating the works of Greek satirist Lucian, whose True History, a compilation of events that never happened, is based in outopia, meaning ‘no place’. From this root, and ‘eutopia’, meaning a good place, More invented a pun, Utopia. Today we think of Utopia as goodness incarnate in a state. But More’s Utopia is dysfunctional, what we would now call a dystopia.
This is not merely a linguistic quibble. The idea of a flawless state, and by implication, a flawed one, was Greek before Lucian got going. Plato, and Aristotle after him, assumed an idealised political entity of which all earthly republics and entities were imperfect forms and corruptions. The thread was picked up by Polybius and Cicero in ancient Rome after the disintegration of the Greek city-states. With the spread of Christianity, Augustine of Hippo and several centuries after him, St. Thomas Aquinas developed the idea in the context of a Christianising Western Europe and Italy. Plagues that wracked the medieval world contributed to a concrete concept of the opposite of Utopia. Ideal communities and their debased variants have been imagined, written about, and romanticised and demonised at all times and in all cultures. Dystopian writers today are respected distant descendants of Old Testament writers and Dante, whose descriptions of hell were alarming enough for his native Florence to drive him to seek the protection of Verona. Perhaps the greatest 20th-century creator of dystopias, Eric Arthur Blair, aka George Orwell, was at home in the Greek language. Writing a decade before Orwell, Aldous Huxley, in his Brave New World (1932), ordered his imaginary casteist society from alpha at the top to epsilon at the bottom.
If renaming the variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus after letters of the Greek alphabet and ideal imaginary communities has ancient Greek roots, so is one of the earliest descriptions of epidemics and plagues. Hippocrates, the great physician of Greek Antiquity (460-370 BC), was perhaps the first to define endemics and epidemics. His pre-modern theory of humour continues to inform several enclaves of alternate medicine. Thucydides, the greatest among ancient historians and chronicler par excellence of The Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC), describes the Athenian plague in the second year of the war, a contagion he contracted and survived. ‘At the beginning, the doctors were quite incapable of treating the disease because of their ignorance of the right methods. Mortality among the doctors was the highest of all, since they come more frequently in contact with the sick’, he writes. He goes on: ‘Some died in neglect, some despite every possible care being taken of them, what did good in some cases did harm in others. Those with naturally strong constitutions were no better able than the weak to resist the disease’. There were crises of faith, disorganised funerals, overwhelmed public facilities, changed attitude towards wealth and leisure and much else that sounds familiar in these times. What now and what next were as pressing questions then as they are now. When the world is looking for politically correct nomenclature and yearning for a medical utopia in which everyone is protected from the pandemic, ancient Greece is as good a place as any to start looking for beginnings of ideas and experiences that preoccupy us today.
The writer is a physician and a civil servant in India.
HARYANA PREPARES POLICY FOR THE SALE OF SHOPS AND HOUSES BY MUNICIPAL BODY: ANIL VIJ
Haryana Urban Local Bodies Minister Anil Vij said that the state government has formulated a policy to give ownership rights to the occupants of the property of municipal bodies. A maximum rebate of up to 50% on the collector rate of the property concerned will be given to get the ownership of the occupied property. This policy will come into effect from 1 July. He said that the eligible occupant, who wants to take advantage of this policy, will have to apply online on the web portal to the concerned commissioner/executive officer/secretary of the concerned municipal body within a month. Vij informed that for the convenience of the occupants, a web portal is being designed which will be ready by 20 June as there is a possibility of large scale occupants to be covered under this policy.
He said that the Haryana government is working to give ownership to those occupants of the properties of the Urban Local Bodies Department, who own the property on rent, lease or license fee for over 20 years. These occupants will be given a maximum discount of 50% on the present collector rate for the deed of the property. Vij said that the occupants who have occupied such property for over 20 years but less than 25 years, they will have to pay 80% of the collector rate. Occupants who have occupied such property for over 25 years but less than 30 years, will have to pay 75% of the collector rate. Similarly, the occupants who have occupied such property for over 30 years but less than 35 years, will have to pay 70% of the collector rate and so on.
Gujarat Assembly polls: Congress decides to take aggressive stance
As soon as Covid-19 came under control in Gujarat, a series of political meetings started. After Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal visited Ahmedabad, BJP in-charge Bhupendra Yadav held a meeting with Ministers and MLAs. Now the Congress has also started churning. A lunch diplomacy meeting was held at the bungalow of Opposition Leader Paresh Dhanani Wednesday afternoon in which state president Amit Chavda, Shaktisinh Gohil, Hardik Patel, Arjun Modhwadia, Bharatsinh Solanki, Siddharth Patel, and other leaders were present. In the meeting, holding programs on the issue of Covid-19 and inflation as well as taking an aggressive stance towards the upcoming 2022 Assembly Elections were discussed. Apart from that, the racial equations on the election issue were also discussed.
For a long time now, there has been a heated debate in the Congress High Command over the new state president of Gujarat, the Opposition Leader in the Legislative Assembly and the Gujarat Congress in-charge. Incumbent state president Amit Chavda and Opposition Leader in the Legislative Assembly Paresh Dhanani resigned following the results of the local body elections but no new office bearers have been appointed yet. On the other hand, the death of Rajiv Satwan, in-charge of the Gujarat Congress, gave a major blow to the Congress in Gujarat. There is also talk of putting new faces in Gujarat to strengthen the party.
Gujarat Congress spokesperson Dr Manish Doshi said on Arvind Kejriwal’s allegations that the Delhi Chief Minister, who did not utter a word of consolation for the people of the country amid recession, inflation, and pandemic, was politicising the allegations against the Congress. It is the nature of the AAP to make such allegations. Thus the AAP is the B team of the BJP. He has come to Gujarat to benefit BJP. Kejriwal remained silent on the issue of farmers, education, and health. Congress has been constantly fighting the BJP. Congress does the politics of the masses.
In Rajasthan, resolving the revolt called by Sachin Pilot to accept his demand is the first priority for the Congress. In such circumstances, the High Command’s calculation to resolve the issue of Gujarat’s state in-charge, state president, and Opposition Leader in the Legislative Assembly by 11 June has turned upside down. Now political sources are expressing the possibility of a concrete solution in the next one or two weeks. Therefore, the Gujarat issue is not likely to be resolved in two days. It could still take at least a week. If the Rajasthan issue becomes more complicated, the Gujarat issue may take more time to resolve, the sources said.
Apart from Bhupendra Yadav, a meeting was held of party organisation office bearers, all MLAs, and MPs in the presence of Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, and State President C. R. Patil. The meeting will first give a glimpse of the government’s Covid and vaccination operations and the work done by the system during Cyclone.
EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS IN J&K TO REMAIN SHUT AMID LIFTING OF RESTRICTIONS
Srinagar: While the authorities have lifted some restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir in the recent past, the government has decided to extend the closure of all the educational institutions till 30 June.The government, in a fresh order, has decided to keep the schools, colleges, universities, technical education institutes, skill development institutes, and coaching centres closed for offline classes. According to the official communication to the media, “All schools, colleges, universities, technical education, skill development institutes, and coaching centers shall remain closed for in-person on-campus teaching”. “In view of safety and well-being of students due to Covid pandemic, all pending JKBOSE Examinations session 2020-21 (Regular/Private) for final exams of class XI and XII across JKUT for which examination/results are awaited, are cancelled,” the Lt. Governor’s office said. There has been a dip in the Covid positive cases in the entire Jammu and Kashmir due to the recent containment measures taken by the government that includes weekend curfew and night curfew. The government has accelerated the process of vaccination and in the past few days, a lot of vaccination camps were held even in Srinagar for the age group of 45 years and above so that the vaccination for the age group of 18 years to 45 years is also taken up at a massive level. LG Manoj Sinha recently asked his administration to get the 100% vaccination done for the age group of 45 years and above in Jammu and Kashmir by June-end.
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