The Joe Biden Administration has come in support of India’s new farm laws that have triggered protests from farmers, but added that unfettered access to information including the Internet was one of the “hallmarks of a thriving democracy”.
In a statement, the US embassy in New Delhi said: “In general, the United States welcomes steps that would improve the efficiency of India’s markets and attract greater private sector investment.”
The Indian government, in its response on Thursday, said that it has “taken note” of the comments made by US State Department on farmers’ protests in the country. It also added that the protest should be “seen in the context of India’s democratic ethos and polity”.
Earlier, the US had called for a “dialogue” with the farmers of India, urging the Indian government to recognise “peaceful protests” and allow “access” to the Internet. On the issue of reports of Internet shutdown in areas around the protest sites at the Delhi border, the Joe Biden administration emphasised that access to information was the “hallmark” of a thriving “democracy”.
Speaking at the weekly virtual press briefing, Anurag Srivastava, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson, said the decision to restrict the Internet access in the regions surrounding Delhi was taken to prevent any more violence. “Any protest must be seen in the context of India’s democratic ethos and polity and the ongoing efforts of the government and concerned farmer groups to resolve the impasse,” he said.
Replying to a question on India’s stance on the US over the farmers’ protest, Srivastava said, “We have taken note of the comments of the US State Department. It is important to take such comments in the context in which they are made and in their entirety.”
While reiterating that India and the US are both vibrant democracies with shared values, he said that the incidents of violence and vandalism at Red Fort on 26 January “evoked similar sentiments and reactions in India as did the Capitol Hill incident on 6 January”.
The incidents are being addressed as per the local laws, he said.
Speaking on the Internet access that was restricted in certain areas on Delhi and its surrounding regions on 26 January, the MEA spokesperson said, “The temporary measures with regards to internet access in certain parts of the Delhi-NCR region were therefore understandably undertaken to prevent further violence.”
With regard to agricultural reforms, the MEA spokesperson further said that the US has acknowledged India’s steps. The US has come out in support of India’s new farm laws, saying it welcomes steps that would “improve the efficiency” of Indian markets and attract greater private sector investment.
India also asked for US help in investigating the Sikhs for Justice—a Khalistani outfit—and their secessionist campaign Referendum 2020. The request has been sent to the US Department of Justice, the foreign ministry said in the backdrop of investigation into alleged Khalistan links in the farmers’ protests. The Delhi Police has registered a case, citing an “overseas” conspiracy behind the violence during the Republic Day tractor rally.
The MEA, in its statement, had earlier said that the government has passed the laws “after a full debate and discussion” and has “initiated a series of talks” to address the farmers’ issues.
The MEA also condemned celebrities, who have drawn attention to the farmers’ protest on social media. Its response came after American pop star Rihanna extended support to the farmers’ protest. “Why aren’t we talking about this?” Rihanna tweeted on Tuesday, along with the hashtag ‘#FarmersProtest’.
Soon after Rihanna’s tweet, several other prominent international celebrities and activists including Jay Sean, Amanda Cerny, Lilly Singh, and Greta Thunberg came out in support of the farmers.
Farmers have been protesting at different borders of the national capital since 26 November last year 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.
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YOGI ADITYANATH TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19
LUCKNOW: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday.“I got tested for Covid-19 after showing some symptoms. The report is positive and I am in self-isolation and following all medical instructions. I am doing my work virtually. All the functions of the state government are running normally. Whoever came in my contact, please get their Covid test done,” Adityanath tweeted in Hindi.
The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister on Tuesday went into self-isolation after coming into contact with some officials who tested positive for Covid-19. Uttar Pradesh reported 18,021 new Covid-19 cases and 85 deaths on Tuesday. ANI
AS DELHI SEES 17K CASES, HEALTH MINISTER SAYS ENOUGH HOSPITAL BEDS FOR PATIENTS
As Delhi registered more than 17,000 fresh Covid-19 cases—another record high in the national capital—and almost double the 9,925 cases in Mumbai, Health Minister Satyendar Jain on Wednesday said that there are enough hospital beds available for coronavirus patients.
Speaking to the media, Jain said, “Currently we have 13,000 beds and there is no shortage of ventilators. Patients from Delhi and other states are being admitted.” Elaborating on the arrangements that have been made, the Health Minister said the Central government has provided 1,100 beds and talks are going on to add more hospital beds.
He said that 286 out of 5,525 Covid Care Centres are occupied in Delhi. To set up more centres, banquets halls and hotels will be included soon, he added. The Health Minister said that there is no slowdown in Covid cases, the numbers of coronavirus cases are rapidly increasing and appealed to people to stay home. “The numbers of hospital beds (for availability) is being revised twice a day on the Delhi Corona App,” he said adding that people should visit hospitals only after going through the app.
NO COMPARISON BETWEEN MARKAZ AND KUMBH: UTTARAKHAND CM
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat on Tuesday said that there is no comparison between Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi and Kumbh in Haridwar as the former was held in a closed space while the latter is being held in a vast open area.
Briefing the mediapersons, Rawat said, “There is no comparison between Markaz and Kumbh. Markaz was in a closed hall. All the people slept in a single hall with close contacts. They shared blankets. On the contrary, there are 16 ghats in Kumbh. Not just Haridwar, Kumbh is spread from Rishikesh to Nilkanth. Devotees take bath in different ghats at different times.”
“The Akhadas also reach the ghats at different time slots. The peshwai of the Akhadas visit in a time-bound manner. Markaz was in a closed building but Kumbh is in a vast open area. Most importantly, Kumbh is at the bank of the River Ganga. Maa Ganga’s blessings are there in the flow. So, there should be no corona,” added the CM.
Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi is the headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat, a society of Sunni Islamic missionary movement. It caught national attention in March last year after the havoc Covid-19 infections caused among the people gathered in the building.
GUJARAT STARTS NATION’S FIRST DRIVE-THROUGH RT-PCR TESTS
Drive-through RT-PCR tests have been started at the GMDC ground in Ahmedabad for the first time in the country from Wednesday, under a joint venture between the municipal corporation and Neuberg Supratech Laboratory. Sample collection was started in the morning to reduce the line of people wanting to get tested.
Those who come in car for the test first scan the QR code provided by the laboratory in their mobile phone. After mobile phone scanning and registering of all information, the car goes to a collection center inside. The suspect’s sample is taken by a person wearing a PPE kit without getting out of the car. From 8 a.m., about 50 vehicles arrived for the test. People returned with samples in just 5 minutes. About 10 collection centres have been set up by Neuberg Supratech Laboratory. In addition, walking test centers have also been set up, where people can get tested.
According to the director, Neuberg Supratech Laboratory, Dr Sandeep Shah, there were lines of people in the laboratory, so Dr Rajiv Gupta has arranged for drive-through RT-PCR tests to reduce the lines, for which an entire collection center has been set up with Sufalam software along with Neuberg Supratech Laboratory.
TMC says EC acting on BJP’s instructions
Lists alleged instances of EC inaction against Modi-Shah.
Raising questions over the functioning of the Election Commission during the ongoing West Bengal polls, a delegation of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Wednesday met Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and submitted a memorandum, listing several instances of “inaction” against BJP’s “violators” and “over action” against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The delegation was led by TMC Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien, who especially flew to Delhi to register the party’s grievances before the poll panel. Kalyan Banerjee, Dr Santanu Sen and Pratima Mandal were also part of the visiting TMC delegation.
“Amit Shah and Narendra Modi are seeking votes in the name of caste and religion. The Election Commission has not taken any action against the duo. We have now come here to formally file complaint and ask for action against them,” said Banerjee while briefing reporters outside the EC headquarters.
The memorandum submitted by the TMC leaders to the EC was divided into three parts, in which “illegality by EC” was highlighted in an orderly manner. The first part was inaction of the EC, wherein references to various “divisive speeches” made by PM Modi and Home Minister Shah were mentioned and the TMC emphasised how action was not taken against them despite their speeches being fit cases of poll code violations.
The second part spoke of “mild action” taken against mid-level BJP leaders, who flouted EC norms and that too after much hue and cry by the TMC.
The third part spoke of strong action by the EC against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who, according to the TMC, only appealed to female voters to lodge protests against those who hinder them from casting votes.
“It is apparent that the EC is acting in a partisan manner, absolutely in favour of the BJP or on its instructions, that is pre announced by the BJP,” said the memorandum. Since the onset of elections in West Bengal, the TMC has been accusing the BJP of misusing central agencies such as ED, CBI, EC and paramilitary forces.
RAJASTHAN ORDERS 6 PM TO 6 AM CURFEW STARTING FRIDAY
JAIPUR: The Rajasthan government on Wednesday night announced a 12-hour daily curfew—from 6 pm to 6 am—starting Friday, across all cities, as part of a series of measures to combat a worrying spike in Covid cases. The curfew will be in effect till the end of the month.
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