Gorkha Morcha To Back Mamata In Bengal Elections

Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s (Bimal Gurung faction) Roshan Giri has said that he will support West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the upcoming assembly elections in the state.

Speaking to reporters at a public gathering, Giri said, “We have decided to defeat BJP who cheated us. They did not fulfill any of our demands from 2009 to 2020, they only make promises. We will support Mamata Banerjee in North Bengal. We want to see her as the third time Chief Minister as she keeps her promises.”

“However, in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, we will support the party that will lend their support to the Gorkhaland issue,” Giri added.

The assembly elections in the state are scheduled to be held in 2021. With 294 seats, a keen contest awaits as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tries to wrest power from Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress. (ANI)

Urmila Matondkar Likely To Join Shiv Sena On Dec 1

Bollywood actor Urmila Matondkar may join the ranks of the Shiv Sena on December 1, senior leader and party’s Member of Parliament, Sanjay Raut said on Monday.

“She (Urmila Matondkar) may join Shiv Sena tomorrow. She is a Shivsainik. We are happy that she is joining the Shiv Sena. This will strengthen the party’s ‘mahila aghadi’,” Raut told reporters here.

Matondkar had last year resigned from the Congress party, a key ally of the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra.

Matondkar had unsuccessfully contested the 2019 Lok Sabha election from Mumbai North constituency and resigned from the party in September last year citing inaction on the part of “key functionaries of Mumbai Congress”. (ANI)

President, PM Greet Citizens On Guru Nanak Jayanti

President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday paid tribute to the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak Dev and wished citizens on his 551st birth anniversary.

Taking to Twitter, the President said that Guru Nanak Dev showed people the path of unity, harmony, fraternity, comity, and service, and gave an economic philosophy to realize a lifestyle based on hard work, honesty, and self-respect.

“Greetings to all fellow citizens, especially to our Sikh brothers and sisters in India and abroad, on the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. On this sacred occasion, let us resolve to conduct ourselves in a manner so as to emulate his teachings,” the President tweeted. “Guru Nanak Dev Ji showed people the path of unity, harmony, fraternity, comity and service, and gave an economic philosophy to realize a lifestyle based on hard work, honesty and self-respect. His life and teachings are inspiration for all human-beings,” he said in another tweet.

The Prime Minister prayed that the Sikh Guru’s thoughts keep motivating people to serve society and ensure a better planet.

“I bow to Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji on his Parkash Purab. May his thoughts keep motivating us to serve society and ensure a better planet,” he tweeted.

Earlier on Sunday, the Prime Minister on Sunday extended greetings to people on the eve of the birth anniversary of the first Sikh Guru.

“Tomorrow we shall celebrate the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. His influence is clearly visible in the entire world. From Vancouver to Wellington, from Singapore to South Africa, his message reverberates everywhere,” Prime Minister Modi said while addressing the nation in the 71st edition of his monthly radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’.

“…I feel that I have special blessings of Guru Sahib as I have always been associated with all activities connected to him. And I feel deeply indebted that Guru Sahib accepted my services. Last year, the opening of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor was historic,” he said.

Devotees offered prayers at Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar on the occasion of 551st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev today.

Guru Nanak Jayanti, also known as Guru Nanak Gurpurab, celebrates the birth of the first Sikh Guru and is considered one of the most sacred festivals among Sikhs.

The day is celebrated on the full moon day of the Kartik month as per the Hindu calendar. It is also marked as Kartik Poornima. (ANI)

When The Farmer Fights Back

Iconic moments captured on camera often express a historical event which shakes the conscience of the civil society for all times to come. Captured in a fleeting flash, they remain etched in public memory: the Afghan girl, Sharbat Gula, then nameless, shot by Steve McCurry in June 1985 in a Pakistani refugee camp, celebrated on the cover of National Geographic; one thin man standing in defiance against a row of tanks at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, June 1989; earlier than that, naked children running from a napalm bomb during the Vietnam war; and Che Guevara’s dead body somewhere in a jungle in Bolivia, shot dead by CIA mercenaries.

In contemporary India, as thousands of farmers wait steadfastly at the Delhi-Haryana-UP borders, deciding their next move, some images have already captured the imagination: A dignified old Sikh farmer, totally non-violent, with flowing white beard, in a white kurta -pyjama and jacket, being threatened by a young, wiry cop, belligerent, aggressive and remorseless, his fingers clenched around a rod, his body tensed up with machismo and power.

There are other iconic images too of the struggle:  a young protester jumping from a trolley to a police water cannon vehicle, switching off the tap showering dirty water on a cold day on farmers, and jumping back. (He and his father have reportedly been charged now for murder)

Many endearing moments have arrived yet again: women and men cooking in community kitchens on the highway; women driving a convoy of tractors in protest; and farmers giving food and water to grateful cops.

The last image would have been appreciated by the likes of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. This is because the cops, many of them children of hardworking farmers from humble rural backgrounds, had earlier gone all out against the peaceful protesters. They had drenched them with water, in this cold, teargassed them, threatened them with lathis, dug medieval war-like trenches, brought in iron barricades, sand and mud trucks, huge cement slabs, sand bag walls, ship containers, barbed wires, and an endless row of cops in full gear, ready to charge.

REFERENCE POINT: Making Sense Of Central Farm Laws

The farmers have been protesting in Punjab and Haryana since September. November 26 was a national protest day organized jointly by farmer organisations and trade unions against the labour laws being unilaterally enacted by the Centre despite the economic collapse and mass unemployment of millions in the organized and informal sector. These might include draconian provisions like hire and fire, 12 hours work, mass sackings, major changes in pro-worker acts like the Inter-state Migrant Workers Act, Contract Workers Act, the Factories Act, the Industrial Disputes Act, etc, and changes in wages, safety and compensation, while contractors will be calling the shots with no regulations. These trade unions are also opposing unbridled privatisation of the public sector, including banks, railways and airports, whereby certain favoured industrialists of the ruling regime in Delhi are being brazenly backed.

Significantly, there are more than 250 farmers’ organization in the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, and they actually joined hands with the workers on November 26 all over the country, including in West Bengal and South India. The farmers march to Delhi from Punjab and Haryana, and also other Hindi heartland states like Uttarakhand, UP and Rajasthan, however, became the epicenter of this mass uprising, and it is not going to die down so soon.

Police used water cannons on protesting farmers

The question is, why the government is so adamant after pushing the three farm bills in Parliament without consensus? Why is it refusing to make the MSP a law? And why is it so rigidly refusing to budge, to negotiate with flexibility, using strong-arm tactics? What is that unsurmountable, one-dimensional pressure on the Narendra Modi regime that it is ready to alienate farmers, while choosing to block, barricade and brutalise them?

“The BJP government is toeing the line of corporate cronies,” said Vijoo Krishnan, speaking to Lokmarg. He is a top leader of the Left-led All India Kisan Sabha, which led the massive long march of farmers to Mumbai. “The intention of this government is total corporatization of Indian agriculture. But the resistance is unprecedented. Except for the BJP and RSS unions, all other workers and farmers’ unions have joined this resistance. Even state governments like Punjab and Rajasthan are exercising their federal rights in support of the farmers. Kerala has declared MSP for 16 agricultural products, and has protected the farmers during and after the lockdown. Besides, it is providing food to 90 lakh people, including ‘guest workers’ (migrant workers).”

Farmer leader J Hooda from Shamli, Western UP, speaking to Lokmarg at the UP-Delhi barricades, said: “The farmers have always known their sinister motives – to sell our land and agriculture to corporates. Modi is doing precisely that to favour his favourite industrialists. Now the farmers are not going to relent. Drop the farm bills. Make a new law on MSP.”

Hooda says the farmer makes huge losses in the open market, because it is based on market whims, unscrupulous private players and demand and supply ratio. Often, distress sale becomes a norm. Without government support in states, or a central MSP, farmers will be doomed. “They want to abolish local mandis. So where will we go to sell our produce – can we compete in the international market with massive, mechanized farming and huge multinational farmer lobbies? Why are they pushing us into the hands of unethical corporates who are now trying to capture Indian agriculture through the backdoor backed by the BJP regime?”

Indeed, while Punjab and Haryana (with UP and MP) are the biggest producers of rice and wheat, there are 23 crops, including cereals, pulses, commercial crops, on the list. India is 80 per cent agriculture – the food chain begins at the land of the tiller and ends long distances in metros and small towns. In this complex and long chain, thousands of people are involved: farmers, entire families, landless farmers and sharecroppers, small and middle farmers, local services and ancillary networks, small markets, shopkeepers, loaders, truckers, workers, mandis, mills and factories, small scale and big industries, and others. It’s corporate and government propaganda that only 6 per cent of rich farmers are benefitting from MSP. What about the millions integrated to the entire process till the food reaches your table? ask farmers.

Argues Vijoo Krishnan: “MSP ensures at least that much for farmers if public procurement is there. In states where there is no effective public procurement, farmers get paid even below the MSP. For instance, while the MSP of paddy is around Rs 1860 per quintal in Bihar, Odisha etc, farmers are forced to sell at Rs 1000-1200 per quintal.”

ALSO READ: ‘MSP Must Be Fixed For All Crops’

Farmers are also arguing that even the MSP, based on state averages, is arbitrary. Kerala pays many times more per quintal for paddy, and the crop produce costs vary from state to state. But the government refuses to usher in serious policy changes for large scale benefits to the vast rural sector, even while pampering and subsidising big industrialists and waiving off their debts etc, while facilitating lucrative contracts for them, like the privatisation of airports and railways, or the Rafael deal.

Farmer are angry that the government is shy on implementing the comprehensive Swaminathan Commission recommendations, including the guarantee of 50 per cent more than the stated MSP, among other reforms, like compensating for land, labour, seed, pesticides, fertilisers, diesel, electricity, water, tractors, machines, and other things needed for agriculture. They are asking why the government has not returned the GST to them on all the additional things they have used for agriculture.

Indian economy is in crisis because crony capitalism by profit sharks have ravaged it with no signs of recovery during the pandemic. Now they are greedily eyeing the post-independence public sector and agriculture. If the farmers are driven to the edge, for the benefit of favoured industrialists and powerful MNCs, then there is no option left for them but to fight back. That is why, as of now, it is a do or die struggle for the thousands of defiant and non-violent farmers, now steadfast at the borders of the capital of India.

Pak Army Opens Fire At Unarmed Pashtuns At Border

In yet another incident of state terrorism, the Pakistan Frontier Corps (FC) opened fire on unarmed Pashtuns at Chaman-Spin Boldak (Afghanistan-Pakistan) border gate area.

While condemning the attack on the civilians, Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) leader Mohsin Dawar asked the Pakistan government whether those who attacked the civilians will be prosecuted or not.

“Strongly condemn FC’s firing on unarmed civilians in Chaman. Security forces continue to attack our people mercilessly. What laws allow the FC to open fire on unarmed civilians? Will the FC personnel who attacked civilians be arrested and prosecuted?” Mohsin Dawar tweeted.

This follows after thousands of people on Friday participated at the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) rally in Chaman demanding an end to the war in Afghanistan and also to “ensure an end to extrajudicial killings” in Pakistan.

“Thousands of people gathered in #PashtunLongMarch2Chaman. They demanded an end to the war in Afghanistan and sincere action against terror havens. @ManzoorPashteen said they want the state of Pakistan to ensure an end to extrajudicial killings. No word from Pakistani official as yet,” said Malali Bashir, a journalist.

On November 17, the PTM held a public gathering in Miran Shah, North Waziristan, calling for an end to the brutalities in the country in the form of enforced disappearances, killings and abuses of civilians, and asked the Pakistan military to abide by the Constitution.

Dawar in his speech had said that the grand rally was a public referendum in which people are demanding justice for the victims of terrorism. (ANI)

Farmers Reject Govt’s Talks Offer: ‘Conditions An Insult’

Farmers protesting at various places in Delhi and Haryana on Sunday rejected the Central government’s offer to hold talks saying that imposing conditions for starting a dialogue is an insult to them.

“There was an offer from the central government for negotiation to resolve our issue. We have decided not to accept the proposal because there was a condition in it asking farmers sitting on the road to vacate the roads and move to Burari. We cannot accept this demand. The condition put forward for talks is an insult to farmers,” said Surjeet Singh Phul, Punjab State President of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), while addressing media on Singhu border (Delhi-Haryana) on Sunday afternoon.

He claimed that Nirankari Samagam Ground in Delhi’s Burari provided by the Central government to the protesters to stage demonstrations is an “open jail”.

“We’ve decided that we’ll never go to Burari Park as we got proof that it’s an open jail. Delhi Police told Uttarakhand Farmer Association president that they’ll take them to Jantar Mantar but instead locked them at Burari Park,” alleged Phul.

The BKU Punjab president stated that farmers have ration to last them for four months, and would continue their protest till their demands are met.

“Our main demand is that we want a guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) in the laws. We also want assurance of government procurement in the laws. But what the government offered us was a conditional letter. The government needs to have a big heart,” the farmer leader added.

He apologised for the “unintentional misconduct” with some mediapersons in the past three days and added that from today, to avoid such situations in future, protesting farmers will release a “press note”.

“If a person talks to the media here, it will be his individual statement. We’ve decided that we won’t allow any political party leader to speak on our stage, be it Congress, BJP, AAP or other parties. Our committee will allow other organisations, which are supporting us, to speak if they follow our rules,” he added.

Earlier, while talking to ANI, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar asked the farmer’s unions to “create an atmosphere” for talks, saying the government is open to dialogue.

“Government has proposed to meet on December 3 for the fourth time. So, talks are already going on, nobody should think the government isn’t ready for it. Government is open for talks. Farmers’ unions should create an atmosphere for it. They should leave agitation and choose talks,” said Tomar.

Around 32 farmer bodies, mostly from Punjab, and a few farmers from Gujarat and Maharashtra as well managed to reach Delhi on Friday and assembled at the border areas to continue their protest.

The farmers are protesting against The 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.

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has said that the central government is ready for talks with the farmers’ unions on December 3. (ANI)

Elections No Solution To Kashmir Problem: Mehbooba

A day after Jammu and Kashmir witnessed its first elections since the abrogation of Article 370, bifurcating the erstwhile state into two Union territories, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday said simply conducting polls would not solve the problem of Kashmir, which in turn would persist as long as the Centre’s 2019 decision was not revoked and a dialogue was not held with Pakistan.

“Until and unless the Kashmir issue (with Pakistan) is resolved, the problems (in the Valley) will remain. The issue won’t be resolved till Article 370 is reinstated. Ministers will come and go. Simply conducting elections is no solution to the problem,” said Mufti, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief.

She, however, expressed happiness that people are willing to express the need for having a dialogue with Pakistan. “We’re having the 9th, 10th rounds of talks with China. Is it (not having a dialogue with Pakistan) because it is a Muslim country? Because everything is being made communal now,” Mufti tweeted on Sunday.

On targeting the Gupkar Alliance, she alleged the BJP wants to ban my party because I raise my voice. “I am repeatedly told that Article 370 is being talked about since my release. But what can I do about that,” she asked.

Mufti added that after her party decided to participate in the District Development Council (DDC) polls, the degree of oppression has increased in Jammu and Kashmir.

“After we decided to participate in the DDC elections, the degree of oppression has increased in Jammu and Kashmir. Candidates of PAGD (Gupkar Alliance) are confined and are not allowed to go out for campaigning. How candidates will contest if they are not allowed to canvass,” asked Mufti.

“They (BJP) call Muslims as Pakistani, Sardars (Sikhs) Khalistani, activists “urban naxal” and students members of “tukde-tukde gang” and anti-national. I fail to understand if everyone is terrorist and anti-national, then who is Hindustani in this country? Only BJP workers,” she asked, adding the BJP wants to develop an ecosystem where there is no place for democracy. (ANI)

Haryana Govt Treated Farmers As Terrorists: Hooda

Congress leader and former chief minister of Haryana Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Sunday slammed Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and said that Haryana government has treated farmers like “terrorists”.

“Arvind Kejriwal government is not stopping farmers from protesting, Punjab government is also in support of farmers, but Haryana government is treating farmers like terrorists,” said Hooda at a press conference in Delhi.

Hooda also hit out at Khattar’s statement that farmers from Haryana are not part of the protest march called ‘Delhi Chalo’. “If Haryana farmers didn’t participate in the protest, then I want to ask him (CM Khattar), who were the people on whom they (police) fired water canon? Who were those people they (police) have picked from villages a day earlier and who were those people, they filed a case for agitating, and they (CM Manohar Lal Khattar) are saying Haryana farmers are not participating in protest? This is an insult to Haryana farmers.”

Hooda also hit out at Dushyant Chautala-led Jannayak Janata Party (JJP). The BJP-JJP alliance government has proved that they are anti-farmer. They just want to be in power and are sitting on their chairs putting Fevicol on it, Hooda said.

“We are with farmers. Farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan are against the new farm laws because they are against farmers,” Hooda said at a press conference.

It is fundamental right of farmers to raise their concerns. If they were not stopped by the Haryana government, the matter might have been resolved by now.

Meanwhile, a meeting of farmers is underway at Singhu border (Delhi-Haryana) as they continue their protest against the Central farm laws.

The Home Minister on Saturday has said that the Centre is ready to deliberate on every problem and demand of the farmers as soon as they move to the ground allocated by the Delhi Police.

The farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, embarked on Dilli Chalo march to protest against the three new farm laws. Farmers were seen sitting together and discussing their plans regarding the protest.

This is a key meeting since farmers are yet to decide on moving to Burari from borders after a request from the Centre. During the meeting, the farmers raised anti-government slogans and saying “Fulfil our demands” and “We will not go back”.

Over the past few months, thousands of farmers mainly from Punjab have been protesting against the new agricultural legislation which they say could be exploited by the private sector to buy their crops at low prices.

While the government has maintained that the three laws will do away with middlemen, enabling farmers to sell their produce in the markets directly, protesters fear that these could dismantle the minimum support price (MSP) system, thereby disrupting their timely payments.

The Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 were passed by the Upper House in September through voice vote despite objection from opposition parties. (ANI)

Foreign Investors Withdraw $471mn From Pak Debt Mkt

Foreign investors have pulled out USD 471.7 million from Pakistan’s debt market in the past five months due to lower interest rate and a fresh wave of coronavirus in the country, according to data from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

Citing analysts, The News International has reported that the continued hot money outflows from the local fixed income market have indicated that the low-yielding government debt has become less attractive for foreigners with the SBP having slashed policy rates by 625 basis points to 7 per cent since mid-March.

“The withdrawal could be because rates are close to all-time lows and are not lucrative enough for investors,” said Saad Hashemy, executive director at BMA Capital.

“Increase in rates will result in losses and maturing investment is not being rolled over as foreign investment in the local bond market started late last year,” Hashemy added.

However, the government securities such as market treasury bills and Pakistan investment bonds received a combined total inflow of USD 205.6 million during July 1 to November 25, The News International said quoting the SBP.

The data has further stated that the foreigners became net sellers of USD 266.1 million worth of treasury bills and investment bonds during the period under review, The News International said.

According to the analysts, SBP seems to be hesitant towards tightening monetary policy till the first quarter of 2021 as a move to revive the pandemic-hit economy.

“They said average 7 per cent yields on the treasury bills and 8-10 per cent on the investment bonds are still attractive for the foreign investors when compared with negative and near-zero interest rates in the United States and Europe. The stability in the exchange rate, after appreciation in rupee value versus the US dollar, has not propelled the foreign investors to buy Pakistan’s debt,” the Pakistan daily said.

Foreigners had bought USD 90.9 million worth local currency bonds between July 1 and November 25, and disposed of USD 36 million from the short-term instruments, the SBP data said.

“We saw outflows only from the treasury bills in November, but foreigners invested both in treasury-bills and the investment bonds during the month,” said another analyst.

“This trend shows foreign investors can step up buying of the rupee-denominated bonds and such inflows to the country should resume once the interest rates are started going up. It also depends on a faster economic recovery in the world and in the country following the positive news on the vaccine progress,” the analyst added.

Quoting the SBP, The News International said, activities in the local currency debt securities largely drove the portfolio investment, with net portfolio inflows surging to USD 2.1 billion during July-February, and then reversing to a net outflow of USD 2.7 billion in the March-June period.

“It is important to highlight that the reversal in capital flows in this latter period was not unique to Pakistan. The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, specifically in advanced economies, led to a global flight of capital from emerging and developing economies,” it said in the latest report.

While Pakistan could not bring in foreign exchange inflows into the local currency debt market, the SBP’s foreign exchange reserves reached USD 13.4 billion by November 20 as compared to USD 12.1 billion by June-end.

The News International has reported that this increase in the reserves is due to a surplus in the current account, higher remittances, and increased inflows from the international financial institutions. (ANI)

Malaika To Arjun: Not A Dull Moment When You Around

Malaika Arora, on Sunday, shared her happy corner with Arjun Kapoor on Instagram describing how cheerful she feels when the actor is around her.

Arora is currently in Dharamshala with boyfriend Arjun Kapoor, who has been shooting for his next comedy-thriller ‘Bhoot Police’ with Bollywood stars Saif Ali Khan, Yami Gautam, and Jacqueline Fernandez.

The ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ star recently took to Instagram to post a picture with Arjun, captioning it, “Never a dull moment when ur around …..”

The photo captures both the actors sharing a snuggly moment, embracing each other in a warm hug as they smile away.

Instagram soon went into a meltdown after the picture was posted with users writing adorable comments for the couple.

Kapoor also dropped a comment in reply to his lady and wrote, “I agree…” with a face savouring delicious food emoticon.

Comments followed the Instagram post where the couple’s followers could not stop gushing about the image and garnered more than two lakh views within a few minutes of posting. (ANI)