NEW DELHI: What the detailed presentation of the officers in the meeting of Vigyan Bhawan couldn’t do, the lunch diplomacy of Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal did, shaping up a positive development following the sixth round of talks between the government and the representatives of farmers’ organisations.
Unlike the previous five meetings that ended on an inconclusive note, the sixth round of talks held here at Vigyan Bhawan on Wednesday saw the government and farmers coming on the same page on two key issues out of four.
The way the Wednesday meeting between the farmers and the government happened, the possibilities of solving the farmers’ movement have increased.
Farmer leaders are also hopeful that the way the government on Wednesday agreed to the demands like keeping farmers out of the purview of stubble burning and continuation of electricity subsidy, in the same way, the meeting on 4 January will also be positive.
The agenda for the 4 January meeting has been set. This meeting is to be held on two issues like the three agricultural laws and the guarantee of MSP.
During the lunch break at Vigyan Bhawan on Wednesday at 2.30 pm, two hours after the sixth round meeting, Narendra Singh Tomar, Piyush Goyal and Union Minister of State Som Prakash reached out to the farm leaders when they were getting ready to eat the ‘langar’ meal.
Since the last two meetings, the farmer leaders have been eating the langar meal instead of the food being provided by the government during the meal breaks.
Agriculture Minister Tomar, addressing a farmer leader, said: “O Paa ji … you are eating alone?”
Responding to this, the farmer leader said: “No… no Sir… let’s arrange some meal plates for you.”
Soon, the three ministers took took a plate in their hands and started queuing up to eat the langar meal.
According to sources, the ice was broken mainly during the lunch break. What could not be seen happening during the presentation of the officers in the meeting of Vigyan Bhawan happened during a casual conversation between the ministers and the farmer leaders.
Eating lunch with the ministers and then later having tea break together also sent out a positive message among the farmer leaders.
Tomar also agreed to continue the power subsidy, along with withdrawal of provisions for action against farmers for burning stubble in the ordinance brought to prevent air pollution in Delhi-NCR during lunch and tea break.
At the same time, he tried to find a middle path by asking the farmer leaders to form a committee on MSP and all three agricultural laws. According to sources, this softening in the attitude of the government was appreciated by the farmer leaders due to which the representatives after resolving the issues related to stubble and electricity, willingly approved to attend the meeting on 4 January on the farm laws and MSP.
What did farmer leaders say?
Farmer leader Shivkumar Kakka told IANS: “A total of four issues were taken up in today’s meeting, out of which the government has agreed to two demands from farmers. Now agriculture laws and MSP are to be discussed further.”
Rakesh Tikait, national spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), told IANS that the conversation took place in a positive environment.
Harpal Singh Bellary of the BKU told IANS: “The government has agreed to issue the order, agreeing on two issues related to electricity and stubble. The repeal of the three laws and the guarantee of the MSP could not be done yet. Now, these two issues will be discussed in the January 4 meeting. “
With IANS inputs
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ARMY TO UNVEIL NEW DIGITAL COMBAT DRESS
The Indian Army would unveil its new digital pattern combat dress in January next year during the Army Day celebrations. “A digital pattern uniform would be unveiled during the Army Day celebrations where it would be worn by one of the contingents,” Army officials said. The Army Day parade would also see contingents wearing different combat uniforms worn by the force in the past, they said.
The decision to bring out the new combat dress for the force was taken at the recently held Army Commanders’ Conference, the officials said. These camouflage uniforms would be totally different from the existing dress and the shirts would not be required to be tucked in by troops. The new camouflage dress would include a mix of colours including earthen and olive.
‘24 nations affected by Omicron variant’
As the new strain of Covid-19 Omicron has reached several countries, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday said there is a “toxic mix” of low vaccine coverage and very low testing—a recipe for breeding and amplifying variants.
“WHO continues to call on all countries to optimize public health and social measures and ensure that high risk and vulnerable individuals in all countries are fully vaccinated,” Tedros said at a press briefing. Tedros suggested against blanked ban on travel and said the variant can be kept in check by mandatory quarantine of international travellers.
On Thursday, the Omicron variant was reported to have reached 24 countries, including Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Press Agency said the citizen carrying the variant came from a North African country.
Amid the scare, the government made RT-PCR mandatory at Delhi airport, for all flyers coming from abroad.
Tedros said: “We are learning more all the time about omicron but there is still more to learn about its effect on transmission, severity of disease and the effectiveness of tests therapeutics and vaccines.” Tedros was keen to call on all countries to rational proportional risk reduction measures in keeping with international health regulations, this includes measures to delay or reduce the spread.
“Several WHO advisory groups have met over the last couple of days to evaluate the emerging evidence, and prioritise the studies needed to answer these questions,” he added. Amid the new variant, many countries have imposed ban on travel since the new strain was discovered at the end of last week.
‘MODI GOVT WORKS IN COOPERATIVE FEDERALISM SPIRIT’
Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat on Thursday asserted in the Rajya Sabha that the ‘Dam Safety Bill-2019’ will not encroach on the powers of the states, stating that “we (Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government) work in cooperative federalism”. Addressing the Upper House in his concluding statement for the passage of the Bill, Shekhawat said: “The Centre hasn’t any intention of taking over the power of the States as well as encroaching any of their rights.”
The Union Minister mentioned the point as it was the major concern of various Opposition parties. Shekhawat said 90 per cent of India’s dams are built on inter-state rivers. He explained that when water is released by a state then the states downstream are affected due to this. “There have been several efforts undertaken to ensure a national body on dams has been constituted since the last 40 years. The Centre is trying to ensure that the body is constituted to ensure dam safety,” Shekhawat said.
The Bill proposes the constitution of the National Committee on Dam Safety and the National Dam Safety Authority. The National Committee on Dam Safety will form policies and recommend regulations to the National Dam Safety Authority.
The National Dam Safety Authority implements the policies advised to it. It will also constitute two state bodies—State Committee on Dam Safety and State Dam Safety Authority—if the legislation is passed. The state committees’ functions are restricted at the state level and are akin to those of national committees. The Centre, can, however, amend the functions of these state committees through a notification, if and when it deems necessary.
The provisions of the Bill are proposed to be applied to all specified dams in the country which have a height of more than 15 metres, or between 10 metres to 15 metres. The Lok Sabha had passed the Bill on August 2, 2019. Mentioning that 22 MPs took part in the debate on the Bill, Shekhawat said: “The people of the country have been waiting for the Bill for the last 40 years as it ensures the security of those residing in downstream states, and that the move is to create an environment of security by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government.” Rejecting claims of Opposition leaders that states were not approached before the Bill was moved, the Minister said that a Bill linked to dam safety was circulated to States in 2002 based on 1982 recommendations but only Bihar showed its positive approach then. The Minister made it clear that the Centre neither has any intention to encroach the powers of state on the ownership of dams, its water, electricity or operation, it only made an amendment to give power to the Centre to keep a tab on the safety procedures.
Kashmir sees highest-ever tourist footfall in 7 years
A total of 127,605 tourists visited Kashmir in November this year, which is more than all the figures in the month in the past seven years, according to the Jammu and Kashmir government officials. The officials are planning to organise various festivals for the winter season in the Union Territory.
According to the official, 6,327 tourists had visited Kashmir in November 2020 which is way lower than the current figure of nearly 127,000. Director, Tourism Kashmir, Dr G.N. Itoo said, “On the direction of the LG, we conducted some of the iconic festivals like houseboat festival, the Sufi festival in which the national level celebrities had participated and also literary festival because of which a buzz was created at the national as well as the international level. So the tourists from all over the world preferred visiting Kashmir. Almost 1,27,000 tourists have visited in November and almost 93,000 tourists have visited in October. It is the first time in the past 7 years, that tourists in such large number have turned up in October and November.”
Itoo further said that this is the result of a vigorous campaign including the roadshows in the country to promote tourism in Kashmir along with other measures to attract the tourists after the second wave of Covid-19. “The department has started a vigorous promotional campaign after the first wave of Covid-19. We have conducted almost 21 roadshows within the country. When the second wave hit the country, we vaccinated all the members of the tour and travel fraternity as a confidence-building measure,” he said.
PARAM BIR SINGH SUSPENDED WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT
The government of Maharashtra on Thursday placed former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh under suspension with immediate effect until further orders, said the State Home Department on Thursday.
During this period Singh shall be paid subsistence allowance, dearness allowance and other allowances as admissible under Rule 4 of All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969, on the production of certificate that he is not engaged in any other employment, said the Maharashtra government. The headquarter of Singh, during this period, shall be the office of the Director-General of Police, Maharashtra State, Mumbai and he shall not leave the said headquarter without obtaining the permission of the Director-General of Police, Maharashtra State, added the government.
INDIA FORESEES ‘VERY INTENSIVE’ ENGAGEMENT DURING PUTIN’S VISIT
Ahead of the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit next week, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday said that India foresees a “very intensive” engagement culminating with the Summit. Putin will arrive in New Delhi on 6 December for the annual India-Russia summit. This will be the first in-person meeting of the Russian President and Prime Minister Narendra Modi after their meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Brasilia in November 2019. “The visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin will take place on 6th December. He will be here for the 21st India-Russia Annual Summit. There will be a series of meetings. We foresee a very intensive engagement during the day and culminating with the Summit,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said during a weekly media briefing.
“Day will begin with Defence Minster and Russian counterpart co-chairing intergovernmental commission. External Affairs Minister will have a bilateral meeting with their Russian counterpart. It’ll be followed by an inaugural meeting of the newly instituted 2+2 dialogue mechanism at the level of Foreign & Defence Ministers,” he said.
Bagchi said that the 21st India-Russia Annual Summit will be held in the afternoon, and India looks forward to welcoming President Putin to New Delhi for this Summit. “A joint statement is proposed to be issued at the end of the Summit,” he added.
During the summit, the leaders will review the state and prospects of bilateral relations between the two nations and will discuss ways to further strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries. The last India-Russia annual summit took place in 2019 during the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Vladivostok city in Russia. The annual summit could not take place in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation.
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