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Farmer suicides, unemployment biggest issue in Rajasthan



Rameshwar Lal Dudi

Nokha (Rajasthan) Nov 30 : With farmers “regularly committing suicide” and jobless youth taking their lives, an unprecedented agrarian crisis and unemployment are the two biggest issues that will power the Congress to dethrone the Vasundhara Raje led-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Rajasthan, asserts Congress leader Rameshwar Lal Dudi.

Confident of the Congress coming to power in the state with an absolute majority, the Leader of Opposition in the Rajasthan Assembly squarely blames the Raje government for the acute agrarian crisis in the state that has led to over 350 farmers taking their lives since 2013.

“Once known for its agricultural prosperity, Rajasthan is now infamous for farmers committing suicide on a daily basis. For the first time, Rajasthan is witnessing farm suicides. Thousands of farmers are reeling under debt because this government’s sole focus has been corruption,” Dudi told IANS in an interview.

“From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Chief Minister Raje, the BJP keeps singing its tune of giving MSP (minimum support price) for various crops and crop insurance. But the reality is they are pushing the farmers to the brink and covering up their suicides,” he said, claiming “over 350 farmers and agricultural labourers have taken their lives since the Raje government came to power in 2013.

Vying to retain Nokha constituency in Bikaner district, farmer distress and unemployment are the focal points of his campaign. Known for his image of a leader fighting for farmers’ rights, Dudi, a former MP, is pitted against BJP’s Biharilal Bishnoi, who had unsuccessfully contested from Nokha in 2013 as an independent.

“One can imagine the state of the economy when youth are killing themselves because they can’t find a job,” he said referring to four unemployed young men flinging themselves before a train in Alwar earlier in the month.

Led by party president Rahul Gandhi and supplemented by former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and former Union minister Sachin Pilot, both chief ministerial aspirants, the Congress’ campaign has revolved around bashing the BJP over the agricultural crisis and corruption.

Besides promising farm loan waiver within 10 days of coming to power, the Congress has also assured pension for farmers, bringing agricultural equipment out of the GST purview and creating sufficient employment opportunities for the youth.

While it is confident of riding on the “huge anti-incumbency factor”, the Congress is engaged in fighting its own demons, particularly the internal feud over ticket distribution that has led to disgruntled leaders contesting as independents.

Dudi had himself led a fight over tickets after Kanhaiyalal Jhanwar was replaced in Bikaner East constituency. Jhanwar was renominated from the seat following threats by Dudi of not contesting the polls.

Incidentally Dudi in 2013 had won the Nokha seat defeating Jhanwar, who had contested as an independent.

Earlier, the Rajasthan Congress suspended party leader Spardha Chaudhary after she accused the state party chief Sachin Pilot of “taking money” for ticket distribution.

Denied a ticket to contest from Phulera, Chaudhary and her supporters had also demonstrated outside Gandhi’s residence in the national capital, prompting the party to suspend her for six years.

The war over tickets witnessed the party expelling over two dozens leaders including former Union minister Mahadev Singh Khandela and ex-state minister Babulal Nagar, both of whom are now contesting as independents.

Even as he asserted that “all was well” within party and there was no infighting, Dudi conceded the rebels contesting as independents was a matter of concern.

“It is a fact that their contesting will result in division of votes, the party leadership has taken the matter seriously,” he said.

The Congress infighting has also given the ruling BJP much-needed ammunition. Campaigning in the state, BJP president Amit Shah had ridiculed the Congress, saying the “party which couldn’t keep its house in order is dreaming of ruling Rajasthan”.

Another contentious issue for the Congress is multiple contenders for the chief ministerial post. While Gehlot and Pilot are being seen as the top two claimants, Gehlot added further fuel to speculations saying there were multiple faces for the hot seat, including Dudi and former Union ministers Lal Chand Kataria and C.P. Joshi.

Preferring to remain evasive about his chief ministerial aspirations, Dudi asserted there was no contest over the post and whoever the Congress high-command decides as the chief minister will be acceptable to one and all.

The 200-member Rajasthan Assembly goes to the polls on December 7. The results, along with that of Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana, will be declared on December 11.

(Anurag Dey can be contacted at [email protected] )


Indo-Russian collaboration in AI, IoT to take-off in 2019: Zyfra CEO



India-Russia relations

New Delhi, Jan 24 : Indo-Russia joint projects in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are expected to take-off this year according to the Finnish-Russian digital solutions provider Zyfra which has joined hands with Indian companies to provide IoT and AI-based solutions for the industrial sector.

In an e-mail interview with IANS, Igor Bogachev, the Chief Executive of Zyfra, which has supplied Indian manufacturers with AI and IoT-based solutions, as well as autonomous vehicles, said the Indian sectors with most potential to adopt such solutions are metallurgy, transportation, aerospace and petrochemicals.

“India is of great interest to companies in the field of the industrial Internet of Things and this year we hope to see first projects in this area being implemented jointly with Russia,” Bogachev said.

“Innovations should become a point of growth of Russian-Indian relations. We see significant potential for introduction in such industries as construction of machine tools, mechanical engineering, metallurgy, the chemical industry and the oil and gas sector,” he said.

Last month, Zyfra announced it has managed to reach $3 million in contracts with its Indian counterparts in 2018., and the company plans to reach the target of $50 million in India-related deals by 2021.

The company has already signed agreements with various Indian companies, including Spudweb, Abcon Group, Parivartan Automation, Agaram Infotech, Wimerasys, Nortech Trinity and Mascot Tools.

Zyfra is implementing 7 pilot projects in collaboration with its Indian partners and plans to launch five more joint projects including for production of farm machinery, as well as for manufacturing components for aerospace divisions of both Boeing and Rolls-Royce.

According to Bogachev, cooperation between Russia and India in AI and IOT will be much more than a buyer-seller relationship and will involve sharing best practices, knowledge and innovating jointly.

“We truly believe, that we will be able develop products with our Indian partners, probably with joint ventures, to export to third countries,” he said.

The company has already signed agreement with various Indian firms accounting for around $2.5 million in contracts, the Zyfra CEO said.

Last year, Zyfra unveiled its manufacturing data collection (MDC) plus system in India which performs real-time machine monitoring with customizable reports and charts that can be used to track jobs, parts, operations, work centres, scrap costs, downtime and people, he said.

Zyfra recently also released a report which ranks India among the most advanced countries in terms of development of AI technologies and IoT. The survey ranks the US first, followed by China, while India ranks 13th, after Canada.

The company has started the acquisition of the VIST Group, one of the industrial leaders in development and implementation of information technologies for digital mining.

“Through the acquisition of these assets, which will be finished by 2020, the company is planning to occupy a significant share of the global market and to compete with Catarpillar, Komatsu and other majors,” the CEO said.

According to Bogachev, who also chairs the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Subcommittee on the Digital Economy and Innovations, “there is tremendous opportunity for disruption in the industrial IoT and applied AI space, although it is still a nascent market to a larger extent.”

Founded in 2017, the private sector Zifra’s clients in Russia include giants like Gazprom, Chelpipe, NLMK Group and United Engine Corporation.

(Biswajit Choudhury can be reached at [email protected])

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Madhya Pradesh farmers hopeful of being ‘debt-free’ as loan waiver scheme kicks-off



Earth Climate

Bhopal, Jan 22 : A week after the launch of the loan waiver scheme in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress government claims 19.54 lakh farmers have filed their applications in the six days till Sunday.

While the opposition BJP has been calling the “Jai Kisan Rin Mukti Yojana” a trick to cheat the farmers, the question is how the farmers of the state perceive the entire exercise.

Kailash Chaudhary, a farmer from Mandsaur district’s Babulda village, said: “About two years ago, six farmers sacrificed their lives for their rights in Pipliya Mandi. This is the beginning of the victory of their fight.”

“Forms are being filled for waiver of loans up to Rs 2 lakh. We feel that the government is taking our demands seriously,” Chaudhary told IANS.

Mandsaur was the centre of farmers’ agitation in 2017 when six farmers were killed in police firing in June, 2017. After the incident, the farmers’ movement had taken over the whole state, which then spread to the whole nation.

Farmer’s leader Kedar Sirohi said: “Farmers in different parts of the state are excited about the loan waiver. They are filing applications in large numbers.”

“To ensure they don’t face any difficulty in filing applications, leaders and workers of farmer organisations are helping them. Government officials is also alert to help out the farmers. Colour coding of application forms has made it easier for farmers to fill out the applications,” he said.

According to official figures, out of the 19.54 lakh forms filed till Sunday, around 60 per cent were green forms, 35 per cent were white forms and 5 percent were pink forms. The farmers are hopeful of becoming debt-free through this exercise.

As per the scheme, the farmers of the Aadhaar seeded list will have to submit green applications and the farmers of non-Aadhar seeded list will have to submit white coloured applications. Farmers have to submit a pink application to file an objection or claim against information provided in the green or white list.

However, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had been accusing the Congress of misleading the farmers and terming the scheme a trick to cheat them.

Former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan said the Congress promise of a loan waiver won’t be fulfilled by a mere announcement.

“The Chief Minister (Kamal Nath) and Congress leaders are saying they have fulfilled their promise of loan waiver to the farmers. But the promise has not yet been fulfilled. An announcement does not mean fulfillment of the promise,” he said, adding the Congress was misleading the farmers.

Congress spokesperson Syed Jaffer responded that 55 lakh farmers will get their loans waived of under the scheme, for which the due process needs to be followed.

“No matter what charges the BJP makes, the truth is that farmers are happy and they trust that the Congress is fulfilling the promise that they made to them,” he said.

“Those farmers who are in debt, neither are they now receiving notices from the banks nor is their property being seized. Under BJP rule, farmers had to go to jail and lose their property just for not paying their power bills,” Jaffer told IANS.

Calling the scheme pro-farmer, farmer leader Shiv Kumar Sharma told IANS that political parties were creating doubts about the scheme.

“Farmers were reeling under debt which had increased manifold over the last one-and-a-half decade. Now they are getting waiver of up to Rs 2 lakh. The government is new and one should wait before making adverse comments,” he said.

Kamal Nath had signed the farm loan waiver file soon after taking oath as the Chief Minister. The filing of forms for the waiver started from January 15 and will continue till February 5.

According to the government, farmers will start getting the money in their loan accounts from February 22.

The Chief Minister had said that the scheme would benefit around 55 lakh farmers by waiving their loans worth Rs 50,000 crore.

(Sundeep Pouranik can be contacted at [email protected])

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Entertainment industry is run by a glamorous mafia: Pahlaj Nihalani

Dropping another bomb, Nihalani says he suspects the hands of some big guns in sabotaging “Rangeela Raja”.



Pahlaj Nihalani

Mumbai, Jan 22 :Govinda, “Rangeela Raja”, Pahlaj Nihalani-backed comeback vehicle for Govinda, did not open well. Nihalani says it is because his film did not get the theatres required as the entertainment industry is run by a “glamorous mafia”.

“I am being targeted for my blunt views on the workings of censor board, and because of me, my leading man Govinda is being targeted. If you ask me, Govinda and I have the maximum number of enemies in the film industry,” Nihalani said.

Lamenting the lack of theatres for “Rangeela Raja”, Nihalani says he was refused a release in places like Bihar and Jharkhand.

“These are traditional strongholds of Govinda. And not a single theatre in Patna or Ranchi agreed to play ‘Rangeela Raja’. Why? Because my film is bad? Are only quality films released in theatres? And who decides that my film is substandard? A handful of critics for whom I did not have a press show, so they are upset with me and they are taking it out on my film,” he said.

Dropping another bomb, Nihalani says he suspects the hands of some big guns in sabotaging “Rangeela Raja”.

“I know who they are. I know the people who want to finish off Govinda and me. The entertainment industry is run by a glamorous mafia. They all sit, eat, sleep and make movies together. Solo producers like me with no corporate backing are being pushed out of the film industry in the name of corporotization,” he said.

But Nihalani says he isn’t going away anywhere.

“I belong to this industry as much as those who are currently monopolising the A-list stars. I will make another film with Govinda and prove he too is an A-list star.”

Nihalani says he has always believed in introducing new talent and will continue to do so.

“I introduced Govinda and Chunky Pandey. In ‘Rangeela Raja’ I’ve introduced Mishika Chourasia. I am confident she has a very bright future. Unless the industry will punish her for being Pahlaj Nihalani’s protege.”

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