Economy, Racial Equality Vital Issues, Says Exit Poll

Economic problems and racial inequality are the most important issues for US voters, while the COVID-19 pandemic comes only third, according to an exit poll in the ongoing US presidential election.

As many as one-third of respondents primarily focus on the economic situation, while one-fifth view racial inequality as the main issue of the presidential elections, CNN reported.

As per the poll, the COVID-19 pandemic is the foremost issue for only one out of six US citizens despite it being the worst-affected country with over 9,365,360 coronavirus cases and 232,484 deaths due to the virus.

Eleven per cent of respondents feel crime and safety, along with health care are a matter of concern.

According to the poll conducted by CNN, a total of 51 per cent of voters are negatively assessing the country’s efforts to fight the pandemic, whereas 48 per cent share the opposite outlook. Moreover, for 52 per cent of respondents, it is more important to stop the spread of the virus than to protect the economy.

A total of 46 per cent are confident that their votes will be accurately counted while only 12 per cent of respondents expressed doubts about the fairness of ballot count.

The poll was conducted among 7,774 voters at 115 polling locations as well as 4,919 early and absentee voters by phone.

Some 239 million people are eligible to vote this year. The mail-in ballots could take days to be counted – meaning a winner might not be declared in the hours after polls close on Tuesday. (ANI)

‘No Bias Towards Republican, Democrat States If Elected’

Amid the ongoing election day in the United States, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday promised that if he gets elected he would not differentiate between the Democrat and Republican states.

“I promise you this, as I’m running as a proud Democrat if you elect me, I’m going to be an American President, there will be no red states or blue states just the United States of America,” Biden said while addressing his supporters in Philadelphia.

Addressing the magnitude of the novel coronavirus, he assured people that the nation would overcome the pandemic by making “smart moves”.

“We have an enormous opportunity as a country. Not only we’re going to be able to overcome this virus by taking some smart moves but we’re going to rebuild the middle class. It built this country and Unions built the middle class,” he said.

Biden further said, “We are going to have more people vote in this election than at any time in US history.”

“The president [Donald Trump] is got a lot of things backwards. He thinks that he can decide that who gets to vote but guess what, the people are going to decide who gets to be president,” he added.

He urged the people of the US to choose hope over fear during the ongoing election day. “We have to remember who we are. This is the United States of America. Anybody who knows Donald Trump, we have to let him know who we are. We choose hope over fear, we choose truth over a lie, and we choose science over fiction.”

“When was the last time that you ever heard, when a US President shows up and the whole UN laughs at him. This has not happened before. Or when he appears at the NATO meeting, people make fun of him,” he added.

The Democratic nominee also promised to accept a mistake if he’ll commit one. “I promise you I am going to take responsibility. If I’ll make a mistake I’ll admit it.”

Over 100 million people have already voted and some states, such as Pennsylvania, will report the in-person vote count before moving through the absentee ballots.

Some 239 million people are eligible to vote this year. The mail-in ballots could take days to be counted – meaning a winner might not be declared in the hours after polls close on Tuesday. (ANI)

Surveillance Beefed Up At Streets Near White House

Crews of US law enforcement officers are monitoring the current situation on the streets surrounding the White House in Washington, which was fenced off ahead of the election day, a Sputnik correspondent at the scene reports.

Several dozen law enforcement officers have been dispatched to the streets adjacent to the White House. Many civilians, some with banners and posters, have taken to the streets of the US capital as voting in the presidential election continues.

The police crews have, at the present time, not intervened to break up any activity, according to the correspondent.

A large non-scalable fence was erected around the perimeter of the White House ahead of Election Day.

Parking restrictions were also brought into force in Washington, and the local authorities are prepared to temporarily close streets should protest break out.

Polling stations across the United States are set to close on Tuesday evening as Democratic candidate Joe Biden faces off against his Republican counterpart and incumbent president, Donald Trump.

Many retailers in downtown Washington have boarded up their premises, fearing that violence may break out in the city as the election results are announced. (ANI/Sputnik)

Bernie Calls For Reforms To Prevent Voter Suppression

US Senator Bernie Sanders on Tuesday called on US Congress to introduce reforms to prevent voters from being suppressed in future elections.

“If this campaign has shown us anything it is that Congress must pass real election reform. No more voter suppression. No more five-hour waiting lines to vote. No more threats to not count mail-in ballots. We must make it easier for people to vote, not harder,” Sanders wrote on Twitter.

Sanders’ comments come as over 100 million voters have voted in the 2020 presidential election.

His statement comes in the backdrop of US President Donald Trump’s criticism of the mail-in voting process, saying that it could be subject to fraudulent activity.

The Republican party in both Pennsylvania and Nevada launched attempts to interfere in the postal balloting process in the run-up to election day, Sputnik reported.

Moreover, a judge in the state of Nevada on Monday had denied a bid to temporarily halt the counting of mail-in ballots in Clark County.

Similarly, an attempt to eliminate the three-day deadline extension in Pennsylvania for the receipt of mail-in ballots was also denied, this time by the Supreme Court. (ANI)

Riddhima Remembers Father Rishi Kapoor On His Birthday

Almost four months after her superstar father Rishi Kapoor passed away, Riddhima Kapoor Sahni on Friday remembered him on his birth anniversary.

Riddhima shared some of her memorable pictures on Instagram with her father, family along with a long caption.

She began the note expressing how she has been living with a “broken heart” after losing her father.

“Papa, They say when you lose someone, you can’t live without – your heart will badly break! But I know you are living in this broken heart & will be there forever,” she wrote.

“I know you are watching over all of us & ensuring that we live by the value system you instilled in us! You gave me the gift of compassion -taught me the value of relationships & made me the person I am today,” the star-kid added.

She ended the note by wishing the departed actor on his birth anniversary and expressing that she misses him “each day.”

“I miss you each day & will always love you! Celebrating you today & always – Happy Birthday,” she wrote.

Rishi Kapoor passed away at the age of 67 on June 30, 2020, after a two-year-long battle with leukaemia.

He was last seen in the 2019 film ‘The Body’ alongside Emraan Hashmi and Shobita Sobhita Dhulipala. Often branded as Bollywood’s first chocolate boy, he touched heights of stardom in the film industry with iconic roles in blockbuster hits like ‘Bobby’, ‘Chandni’, ‘Karz’, and many others. (ANI)

Janaki Mata Temple in Ayodhya

Ram Temple Trust Invites PM To Lay Foundation Stone

With the highest single-day spike of 38,902 cases reported in the last 24 hours, India’s total COVID-19 tally on Sunday reached 10,77,618, informed the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry on Sunday.

The death toll has gone up to 26,816 with 543 fatalities reported in the last 24 hours.

The Health Ministry said the total number of cases includes 3,73,379 active cases and 6,77,423 patients have been cured/discharged/migrated.

Maharashtra remains the worst affected state with 3,00,937 cases reported until Saturday.

Meanwhile, as per the information provided by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 1,34,33,742 samples have been tested for COVID-19 till July 18, of these 3,61,024 samples were tested yesterday. (ANI)

‘I Want To Go Back Home, Uncertainty Here Is Killing’

Rameshwar Sahu, 29, lives in a tin shed with his wife Janki and one-and-half-year old child. A daily wage mason, Sahu is jobless since the Coronavirus lockdown was announced. Sahu seniors often go to bed hungry in order to feed the infant properly.

I belong to Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh) and want to go back home as soon as possible. But I am stuck here (Greater Noida) with my wife and our one and half year old child. It had only been six months since I got the job to work as a mason at a construction site here.

For the last three months, my wife and I were able to work consistently for 25 days a month. Together, we earned around ₹800 each day. We thought that we will work hard and save enough money for our child but our lives and dreams came crashing down with this virus outbreak.

ALSO READ: Who Is Afraid Of Lifting The Lockdown

When the lockdown was announced, I wanted to rush home like many others. So I went to my contractor the next morning but he said he had only ₹1,000 to spare for me and advised me to buy ration by that money. Going home, which is too far, with merely ₹ 1000 in hand was not a good idea. Especially when we have a young child.

My family is completely dependent on local residents and police to provide us food. There are many like us who are stranded and queue up before community kitchen every day. Life of a daily wager is tough. Seemingly, we can earn `20,000 a month, but that is not a fixed income. We earn money for days we work. If the work is stopped for a day, there is no earning. Payments are often delayed.

ALSO READ: ‘Lockdown Has Turned Me Into A Beggar’

I am thankful to some groups of local residents who are helping us with raw and cooked food. But in the initial days, nobody was there to help and we faced hard time. We don’t know for how long this will go on and when we will resume our normal lives.

The uncertainty is killing. There are thousands who live in the shanties waiting either to restart their job or go home. The only thing that stops them from going home is donations from some local residents who always refill the ration after a week.

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People often ask why these labourers are going home. If they are so poor, what will they eat there? They don’t understand that we live in a close-knit society in villages. We have our own houses, small piece of land on which we grow vegetables. There is family and extended family members to help. But here, we live in cramped houses, with no food security and without any money. Without help from local apartment dwellers, we could not have even survived thus far.

Janaki Mata Temple in Ayodhya

Sunni Board Not To Seek Review of Ayodhya Verdict

The Sunni Waqf Board on Tuesday decided that it will not file a review petition in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute case, as per Abdul Razzaq Khan.

Speaking to media, the Sunni Waqf Board member said, “Majority decision in our meeting is that review petition in Ayodhya case should not be filed.”

“There was no discussion about the land which will be offered by the government. When the land will be offered, then a meeting of the board will commence about it,” he added.

Earlier this month, a five-judge Supreme Court bench led by then-CJI Ranjan Gogoi unanimously ruled in favour of Ram Lalla and said the entire disputed land spread over 2.7 acres will be handed over to a trust formed by the government, which will monitor the construction of a Ram temple at the site.

The apex court also added that an alternative five acres of land at a prominent location in Ayodhya should be allotted for the construction of a mosque following consultation between the Centre and the state government.

(ANI)

Paying the price for losing grasslands

Azera Parveen Rahman Wiry shrubs and clumps of brown-green fill the semi-arid landscape of Kutch in western India. Many of these patches have, over the years, made way for “more productive” agricultural land. This greening of “wasteland” is, however, degrading a precious and largely ignored ecosystem — the grasslands. And, as a result, some species of animals that depend on grasslands are being pushed to the brink of extinction. Not just that. Nature has a way of linking all its elements. So grasslands play a big role in ensuring fodder security for livestock, thereby having a direct impact on the dairy industry. Another largely ignored ecosystem, the wetlands, along with grasslands, also play a crucial role in water table management; agricultural lands near their vicinity are usually fertile and productive. Grasslands are an important ecosystem. But to quote the first line of the Task Force report on Grasslands and Deserts (2006) submitted to the Planning Commission, “Grasslands and deserts are the most neglected ecosystems by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, which looks after biodiversity conservation in India.” This is significant, because more than a decade after that report, the Draft National Forest Policy 2018, while encouraging an increase in forest and tree cover, still does not give grasslands their due importance. The draft policy — an upgrade of the National Forest Policy of 1988 — which was open for public comments till the second week of April, had a promising note two years back, when, in addition to reiterating its goal of having one-third of India under forest cover, it had said that, instead of an exclusive focus on trees and tree-cover, efforts should be made to preserve other ecosystems too, like the grasslands, deserts, marine and coastal areas, etc. Two years hence, however, that crucial point is missing in the draft. Branding grassland as wasteland, says Sutirtha Dutta, scientist at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), is the prime reason behind undervaluing its importance and its degradation. “It is a remnant of the colonial policy that treated grasslands as unproductive, of no economic value. And the stigma has stayed on,” Dutta told IANS. There is a general lack of awareness about the immense value that an ecosystem like grassland (or deserts, for that matter) holds; for instance, its role in water table management. “In south Manas (Manas National Park in Assam), grasslands have been allowed to thrive, and therefore agriculture around its vicinity has also been very productive. It’s a boon to the farmers. On the other hand, in east Assam, where there are no grasslands, there have been long dry spells,” says Dr Goutam Narayan, project advisor of the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP) in Assam. The Pygmy Hog, a critically endangered species, itself rapidly lost numbers mainly because of the degradation of grasslands — its main habitat. Narayan says that the Pygmy Hog is a flagship species that denotes the health of the grasslands on which many other “bigger” animals are dependent, like the one-horned rhino, tiger, and Eastern Barasingha. The Bengal florican, another species that is endangered, also has grassland degradation to blame for its depleting numbers. It’s a similar scenario is Kutch, Gujarat, where the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard is facing the threat of extinction for the same reason. It is estimated that only 150 such birds are left in the world today, of which barely 10 remain in Kutch, one of its last few abodes. Devesh Gadhavi, member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and deputy director of the Kutch Ecological Research Centre, has been working on the conservation of Great Indian Bustards for many years now. Unhindered grazing of livestock on grasslands, he feels, is a primary reason for grassland degradation. “If one were to draw linkages, Gujarat’s dairy industry that the government has been promoting for so many years now is dependent on the grasslands in terms of livestock fodder,” Gadhavi told IANS. India has more than 500 million livestock, and more than 50 percent of its fodder comes from grasslands. Dutta says that only policy-level changes can bring about some change in the current scenario. “There needs to be a regulation on grazing of animals (on grasslands). The 2006 Task Force report on grasslands and deserts was well-meaning and, among other things, mentioned the urgent need for a national grassland policy. It also suggested fixing ownership for grasslands,” Dutta said. Barring some of its suggestions — like conservation programmes for some of the flagship species of the grasslands — being implemented, the report remained largely ignored. “Grasslands are ‘common’ land of the community and are the responsibility of none,” the report had said ominously, the manifestations of which are increasingly felt across regions now. (IANS)]]>