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Farmers will vote Congress to power in Chhattisgarh: Leader of Opposition

Adding to the problems, Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel has been charge-sheeted by the CBI for distributing a pornographic CD allegedly featuring a state minister. He was arrested in September and is now out on bail.

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Even as it battles the ruling BJP’s “poaching prowess”, the Congress is hoping to leverage anti-incumbency sentiments and the rising agrarian crisis in its bid to oust the 15-year-old Raman Singh-led government in Chhattisgarh, in the two-phased elections to the 90-member assembly later this month.

Congress veteran and Leader of Opposition T.S. Singh Deo firmly believes Chhattisgarh is all set to end 15 years of the BJP’s “misrule and anti-people” policies.

“The agrarian crisis, exploitation of tribals and a downward spiraling economy with no jobs are the hallmarks of the Raman Singh government. Reeling under 15-years of misrule, the people, especially farmers and tribals, will vote the Congress to power in the state,” Singh Deo told IANS in an interview.

Widely considered as one of the party’s Chief Ministerial hopefuls, Singh Deo has been leading the Congress campaign in the state that promises complete waiver of farm loans and Rs 2,500 as minimum support price for paddy.

“Under the BJP, Chhattisgarh has consistently been among the top states to account for most number of farm suicides. Annually, more than 1,200 farmers and agriculture labourers end their lives. In fact, the government admitted in Parliament that there have been nearly 2,400 farm suicides between 2014-2016 in the state,” said Singh Deo, highlighting the deepening crisis in the agriculture sector in the state.

“Its the farmers and tribals who will vote Congress to power,” said the MLA from Ambikapur.

Notwithstanding Singh Deo’s assertions, the Congress is faced with a stiff challenge in the state which, for the first time, will witness a three-way poll battle with arch-rivals Congress and BJP wrestling it out with Mayawati’s BSP, which has aligned with the Chhattisgarh Janata Congress of former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi and the CPI.

Still recovering from the snub by Mayawati, the Congress received a jolt when its state working president and prominent tribal face Ramdayal Uike joined the BJP. Soon after Uike switched loyalties, the BJP allegedly approached Chintamani Maharaj, the Congress MLA from Lundra, offering money and a ministerial berth to quit the party.

Since the 2013 Maoist attack that wiped out its top leadership, including then state unit chief Nand Kumar Patel and party veteran Vidya Charan Shukla, the Congress has been facing a leadership crunch that was further compounded in 2016 when Jogi quit to form his own outfit.

Adding to the problems, Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel has been charge-sheeted by the CBI for distributing a pornographic CD allegedly featuring a state minister. He was arrested in September and is now out on bail.

Singh Deo, however, asserted there is no leadership crunch and exuded confidence of the people putting their faith in the Congress.

While the Congress leadership, including President Rahul Gandhi, has refused to read much into Mayawati’s alliance with Jogi and the CPI, Singh Deo admitted the BJP’s “poaching prowess” is a big hurdle.

“The BJP is brazen in using money and muscle power in its bid to decimate the opposition. They have mastered the art of subverting the democratic process. It exposes their political bankruptcy,” he said, adding that it was good for the Congress to have lost an “opportunist” like Uike.

“Going by BJP’s way of fighting by by-hook-or-crook, but its the people who would give a befitting reply,” he said asserting the Congress has been able to reach out to farmers, tribals and the youth who have been the biggest victims of the BJP’s “misrule”.

Asked if the Mayawati-Jogi alliance was a threat to Congress’ plans on winning Dalit votes, Singh Deo asserted that both were insignificant players in the state.

“Compared to the Congress securing 40.3 per cent of the vote share and 39 seats in 2013, the BSP got only 4.27 per cent and could win only one seat. Our vote share difference with the BJP (41.04 per cent) was just 0.75 per cent. The people realise that it’s only the Congress which is the alternate and they will vote for us. The BSP-Jogi combine is only bidding to hurt our chances,” he said, asserting that the Congress will come to power with an absolute majority.

Hitting out at the BJP government over the rising Maoist violence, Singh Deo said that bringing the rebels into the mainstream through dialogue and appropriate policies was high on the Congress’ agenda.

“Like in other fields, the BJP government has been a complete failure in tackling left- wing extremism. For 15 years, the state has been deprived of any development and even basic amenities like water and roads. Raman Singh is only known for making promises and not fulfilling them. Dialogue with the Maoists and an effective surrender policy will be our way to tackle the issue,” said Singh Deo.

Polling to the 90-member assembly will be held on November 12 and November 20, with the first phase covering 18 seats, spread across the Maoist-affected districts of Bastar, Bijapur, Dantewada, Sukma, Kondagaon, Kanker, Narayanpur and Rajnandgaon. The second phase will cover the remaining 72 seats.

The Congress has fielded a mix of youth and experience with prominent faces including Baghel, Singh Deo and senior leader Satyanarayan Sharma.

Among the main candidates in the first phase is Devati Karma, widow of former state minister Mahendra Karma and founder of the controversial anti-Maoist Salwa Judum militia.

Besides reaching out to the people at the grassroots, the Congress is actively running a digital campaign to appeal to both urban and rural voters.

Using social media to reach out to the youth, the party has also been targetting voters in the hinterland, particularity farmers and tribals.

“We have been running a campaign called the ’15 saal kayi sawaal’ (15 years, many questions) across the state, particularly in rural areas, highlighting how the Raman Singh government has paid only lip-service and all its promises to farmers have remained unfulfilled,” said Naresh Arora who is spearheading the digital campaign.

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

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Once dreaded ‘queen of outlaws’ Phoolan now a ‘veerangana’

Phoolan Devi emerged as an icon for the Nishad community (boatmen) but after her brutal death in 2001, the community was not given adequate representation by political parties.

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phoolan devi Bandit Queen

Bandit queen-turned-politician Phoolan Devi has been conferred the title of ‘veerangana’ (a brave warrior) by the Eklavya Welfare Society in Jalaun district.

Phoolan’s native village Garha Ka Purwa is located in Jalaun district and the Eklavya Welfare Society represents the Nishad community to which Phoolan belonged.

“The title of Veerangna has been conferred on Phoolan Devi because she was a true warrior — she fought for her honour and later, for the welfare of the oppressed.

“She deserves her and the young generations need to be told about her contribution. We will soon install her statue here,” said Gopalm Nishad, a member of the Eklavya Welfare Society.

Phoolan Devi, a bandit in the ravines across Uttar Pradesh and present Chhattisgarh and also Madhya Pradesh, had hit the headlines when she massacred 22 Thakurs in Behmai in Kanpur in February 1981 to avenge her sexual exploitation by a Thakur gang led by Lala Ram and Sri Ram.

In 1994, then Chief Minister Mulayam Singh withdrew the cases against Phoolan and she contested and won the Lok Sabha elections from Mirzapur in 1996 on a Samajwadi Party ticket.

Phoolan Devi emerged as an icon for the Nishad community (boatmen) but after her brutal death in 2001, the community was not given adequate representation by political parties.

The Nishad community constitutes about 4.5 per cent of the state’s population and are known to be among the Most Backward Castes (MBC).

The Nishad community has a sizeable population in about 40 assembly segments. Since the past one decade, they are trying to be included in the Scheduled Caste’s category but their demand has been caught in legal hassles.

An attempt was made to install Phoolan’s statue in Gorakhpur in 2016 but the attempt was foiled by the district administration that claimed that requisite permission for same had not been obtained.

The issue had revived an intense caste war between OBCs and MBCs in Uttar Pradesh.

Last year, Phoolan’s mother, Moola Devi, 90, who still lives in the village in abject poverty, had released the Chambal Manifesto on the eve of Lok Sabha elections to press for development of the Chambal region.

The 4-page manifesto was a compilation of the demands for the region which included the formation of the Chambal Commission for a scientific study of the issues and challenges faced by the people living in Chambal region along with solutions.

More than 40 years after she picked up the gun and turned into a bandit, following a dispute over four bighas of land with her cousin Maya Din, Phoolan Devi’s family in her native village in Jalaun district is still waiting to reclaim that elusive piece of land.

Meanwhile, the land that was initially owned by Phoolan’s father, Devi Din Mallah, and after his death, it still eludes her mother Moola Devi as the rightful owner.

Maya Din, son of late Devi Din’s elder brother allegedly grabbed the plot and did not allow Phoolan’s mother to till the land. Maya Din claimed the land was passed on to him as legacy.

Moola Devi said, “My daughter Phoolan fought with Maya Din for this land. Maya Din and his men ridiculed her and hurled abuses at her. She got together some girls from the village and staged a dharna on the land. The village elders tried to remove her from the land but failed. Then Maya Din hurled a brick at her and she fell unconscious. After this, she became a ‘baaghi’ (rebel).”

It is said that Maya Din ‘sold’ her off to Lal Ram and Shri Ram — heads of a Thakur gang of dacoits — who not only raped her but also held her captive.

A few years later, Phoolan Devi fell in love with another dacoit Vikram Mallah, who was later killed by the Lala Ram and Shri Ram gang.

To avenge the wrong done to her by the Thakur gang, Phoolan Devi gradually built up her own gang and the rest, as they say, is history.

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Theme, Date and history of the day

International Day of Persons with Disabilities: It aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities

International Day of Persons with Disabilities is an international observance promoted by the United Nations since 1992. It is celebrated on December 3 all around the world. It aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

IDPD mobilizes support for critical issues relating to the inclusion of persons with disabilities, promotes awareness-raising about disability issues and draws attention to the benefits of an inclusive and accessible society for all.

UN agencies, civil society organizations, academic institutions and the private sector are motivated to support IDPD by collaborating with organizations for people with disabilities to arrange events and activities.

International Day of People with Disability: Theme

The theme for IDPwD 2020 is “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World”.

Every year the UN announces a theme to observe for International Day of People with Disability. The annual theme provides an overarching focus on how society can strive for inclusivity through the removal of physical, technological and attitudinal barriers for people with disabilities.

This has been occurring since 1992 when the General Assembly announced 3 December as the International Day of Disabled Persons.

National Disability Strategy 2010–2020

In Australia, the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020 commits all governments to a nationwide approach aimed at improving the lives of disabled people, their families and carers.

The Strategy’s ten-year national framework for reform concentrates on better inclusion for people with disabilities and seeks to create a society that enables people with disabilities to fulfill their potential as equal citizens.

On the 2012 International Day of People with Disability, the United Kingdom government introduced mandatory work for disabled people who received welfare benefits in order to “Improve disabled peoples chances of getting work by mandatory employment”.

A program is also launched on December 3 across India to serve the differently-able community of the country as an initiative called Accessible India Campaign under the Article 9 of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)

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BJP leaders brainstorm for second day, say govt ready for talks with farmers

Union Home Minister Amit Shah met Agriculture Minister Narender Singh Tomar earlier in the day to discuss the strategy to break the logjam.

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Farmers on Protest

Eager to break the deadlock with famers who are agitating for scrapping the new farm laws, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership held meetings for a second consecutive day on Monday and sent out the message that the Union government is ready for talks.

Union home minister Amit Shah met Union minister for agriculture, NS Tomar earlier in the day to discuss the strategy to break the logjam. A senior party functionary said, “The message from the top is clear that the laws are not anti-farmers and that the farmers are being misled. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reiterated that laws will offer better opportunity for the farmers.”

The functionary said the government is ready to sit across the table and discuss the new laws and “address whatever concerns” the farmers have.

Speaking in Varanasi, the PM on Monday said the laws have given farmers new options and legal protection. He lashed out at the opposition for “misleading” the farmers and said earlier decisions of government were opposed now rumours have become the basis for opposition and propaganda is being served even though the laws favour the farmers.

The party has also opted for a cautious, measured response to the agitation. Even though it is pinning the blame on the opposition for provoking the protest, it is taking care not to rile the farmers. “The farmers are innocent. They are being misled by those with vested interests. The laws have barely been implemented and their impact is yet to be ascertained, so how can people rush to call these anti-farmers,” said Rajkuamr Chahar, head of the BJP’s Kisan Morcha.

He said the Punjab unit of the Morcha has been communicating with the farmers’ representatives and has relayed the government’s willingness to address their concerns.

On Monday, even as the party tried to diffuse the anger against the bills, its ally the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) joined the chorus for the rollback of the laws. Rajasthan lawmaker and RLP chief, Hanuman Beniwal, shot off a letter to Shah, seeking the reversal of the laws.

“….In view of the countrywide sentiment in support of the ongoing farmers’ movement, the recently introduced three bills related to agriculture should be immediately withdrawn. (The Centre must) implement all recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, and immediately hold dialogue with farmers in Delhi,” he said.

The BJP, however, played down the ally’s demand. Its national spokesperson on economic issues, Gopal Krishna Agarwal said, “We assure all, including our NDA partners that farmers’ well-being and welfare are in our heart. Large scale market reforms are needed and that has always been the consensus.”

He went on to add that while the BJP opposes misgivings about the APMC mandis being dismantled and MSP being withdrawn, the opposition is politicizing the issue along with the Arhtiyas (commission agents) and middleman.

“We have offered all the basic facilities to farmers, drinking water, toilets, shelters and medical facilities. They have been given permission to protest and also been invited for dialogue. We are open for all discussions on the merits or demerits of the three bills. If farmers have certain serious concerns, we are ready to listen to them,” he said.

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