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Chidambaram decries government’s flip-flop on Pakistan

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New Delhi, Sep 21 : Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Friday took a dig at the government’s flip-flop over talks with Pakistan which the government called off in the wake of abduction and killing of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir by the Hizbul Mujahideen militants.

“Monday – No talks, says MoS Defence, Tuesday – No talks, says HM, Wednesday – No Talks, says Defence Minister, Thursday – FMs will meet, says MEA. Friday – No Talks, says Government. That is a lesson on ‘How to make foreign policy,” Chidambaram tweeted.

His reaction came soon after government called off the scheduled meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the sidelines of UNGA session that begins later this month.

The proposed meeting between both the countries would have been the first such high-level interaction between the neighbours after three years.

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IYC activists protest over Farm Bills outside Parliament

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New Delhi, Sep 22 (IANS): Amid the uproar over the controversial Agriculture Bills, Indian Youth Congress (IYC) workers on Tuesday staged a protest outside Parliament House.

The IYC workers were detained by the Delhi police. Hundreds of IYC activists led by its National President Srinivas B.V. staged the protest outside Parliament House against rising unemployment among the youth and the “anti-farmer” Agriculture Bills.

Lashing out at the government while leading the protest march, Srinivas said,”The Central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is anti-youth and anti-farmer.”

He accused Modi of suppressing the voice of the countrymen to benefit a few of his industrialist friends.

“I want to say that the anti-farmer black law has been passed at the whims of Prime Minister Modi and if these anti-people laws are not withdrawn, there will be a fierce protest and satyagraha on the streets,” Srinivas added.

He said the IYC workers surrounded Parliament to awaken the “deaf and dumb” government to listen to the voice of the common people of India. During the protest, the IYC workers also burnt effigies of Modi.

The Congress has also planned nationwide protests from September 24 to November 14 over the passing of the Farm Bills. It has planned to submit two crore signatures of farmers opposing the the Bills. The IYC is already running a ‘Rozgar Do’ (give employment) campaign to awaken the Central government to the rising unemployment among the youth.

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Opposition walks out of LS, demands withdrawal of farm Bills

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New Delhi, Sep 22: Opposition members, including from the DMK, Congress, NCP and TMC, on Tuesday boycotted proceedings and walked out of the Lok Sabha over the contentious farm Bills seeking their “withdrawal”.

Congress Leader of the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury requested the government through the chair to withdraw the two farm Bills which were passed by the Rajya Sabha on Sunday despite objection raised by the opposition. Chowdhury’s request came after the House reassembled at 4.14 p.m. following a one-hour adjournment over the same issue earlier raised by the opposition.

The MP from Baharampur in West Bengal said that the opposition has no problem in participating in House proceedings if the government is ready to withdraw the two farm Bills. “Since 2014, you (Modi government) are in the power. India’s farmers, labour and unemployed people have been passing through worse phase…You passed the Bills here and snatched our right in other House. Nothing can happen without the order of the government. We are standing in the support of our members in other House. We all opposition members boycott the House proceedings. You compel us to boycott the House,” Chowdhury said.

Later almost whole opposition walked out of the House sloganeering “Aawaz Do Hum Ek Hai”, “Tanasahi Nahi Chalegi”, “Modi government hai hai”. The opposition staged walk out after Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar accused the Congress of spreading rumours against the government and urged the nation not to fall in the trap of the party.

The minister said that Minimum Support Price (MSP) will continue and the whole country knows how the government in 2018 increased the MSP at 1.5 times the production cost, which is the chief determinant of MSP after the recommendation of the National Commission of Farmers 2006. The minister later accused the Congress of not making the reforms due to pressure of brokers even as the party’s manifesto mentions the issue.

Tomar said when the Congress failed to implement the reforms for the welfare of the farmers while the Modi government has managed to do it, they are now scared of losing farmers’ support and are spreading such rumours. Similar issue created pandemonium in the Lok Sabha when it assembled at 3 p.m. leading to a one-hour adjournment as Congress raised the issue criticising the government’s step that led to thousands of farmers hitting the streets in protest.

Cutting across party lines, the Trinamool Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party also supported the Congress with leaders Kalyan Banerjee and Ritesh Pandey echoing on the subject. Banerjee said “we are with Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury over the issue.”

The two controversial Bills — 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 — passed by both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, will now go to the President for his assent before they are notified as laws.

The third farm Bill – the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 is yet to be taken up in Rajya Sabha.

Thousands of farmers in Punjab, Haryana and several other states have been staging protests since the government introduced these Bills in the Lok Sabha on the opening day of the Monsoon Session on September 14 to replace the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020 promulgated on June 5.

Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal of the Akali Dal resigned from the Modi government, hours ahead of the voting in the Lower House on the two Bills on September 17. However, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla continued the proceedings and took up three labour code Bills moved by the government for passage in the House.

(IANS)

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Punjab lowers market fee on basmati rice

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Amarinder Singh

Chandigarh, Sep 22 (IANS): Paving the way to provide a level-playing field for basmati traders and millers from within and outside Punjab, especially in the light of the provisions of the new agriculture Bills, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday announced reduction in the market development fee and the rural development fee rates, from two to one per cent each.

The move, which will also help keep Punjab basmati competitive in the international markets, will provide relief to the tune of Rs100 crore to traders and millers, according to an official spokesperson.

However, the change comes with the caveat that no refund of any fee will be allowed to any paddy, rice dealer, miller or trader for export of the basmati paddy or rice to other countries from the state.

The Chief Minister’s announcements came in response to a proposal of the Punjab Mandi Board, made after thorough examination of the representations received from the Punjab Rice Millers and Exporters Association and the Punjab Basmati Rice Millers and Exporter Association.

The Punjab Rice Millers and Exporters Association had submitted that with the farm ordinances coming into force, the disparity in fees and other charges among the basmati producing states would be around four per cent, thus making the rice industry in Punjab economically unviable as it would be unable to compete with rice exporters in Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, which had totally exempted the market fees from agricultural produce.

They had also pleaded that Punjab-based exporters would not be able to cover the additional cost of taxes, which is four per cent plus, thus making it extremely difficult for them to remain in business.

This trend may force them to purchase paddy from other states to remain in competition.

Pointing to the excellent Mandi infrastructure network of the Punjab Mandi Board, the Association had urged the state government to implement 0.35 per to one per cent usage charges or mandi fees on the first purchase instead of all other charges that are currently levied, in order to keep the Punjab rice industry competitive viz-a-viz other states.

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