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Sonia Gandhi Speech on Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2019

Indira Gandhi was acutely conscious of the fact that she was Prime Minister of a developing country, a country that needed to create jobs and tackle poverty.

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Sonia Gandhi in Cong meeting

I am delighted that the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2019 is being formally conferred on Sir David Attenborough today. Sir David is already well known to us all through his prodigious creativity in educating human kind with brilliant films and books about the natural world. And he has, of late, been the most sensible voice warning us that we, more than anything else, are responsible for the accelerating threat to the environment on our planet.

In essence, for well over half a century, Sir David has been one of Nature’s most staunch conscience keepers.

Indira Gandhi too was one throughout her life. She was born in a political family but saw herself as a child of Nature, developing a special affinity for mountains, forests, birds and animals from an early age. Along with the Quaker associate of Mahatma Gandhi Horace Alexander, she was one of the founder-members of Delhi Bird Watching Society as long ago as 1950.

Subsequently, as Prime Minister she became an unwavering champion of environmental protection long before that cause had become popular both in India and abroad. Her momentous speech at the first-ever UN Conference on Human Environment at Stockholm in June 1972, has become a milestone in the global environmental discourse. It was in this speech that she first elaborated on the inter-connectedness of peace, disarmament and development with environmental conservation.

Her view was forthright: without meaningful disarmament you cannot have enduring peace, and without protecting the environment, development will simply not be sustainable. In that speech, she was one of the first world leaders to draw attention to changing weather patterns, something now accepted as a hard reality.

Indira Gandhi was acutely conscious of the fact that she was Prime Minister of a developing country, a country that needed to create jobs and tackle poverty.

India needed to accelerate the pace of investment, and to expand its economic infrastructure. But at the same time, she was very sensitive to the imperative of maintaining what she would often call ‘ecological balance’. Her political innings were a search for that balance and a journey of educating her colleagues and the people to preserve that balance. Her Stockholm address ended with an invocation from the Atharva Veda: What of Thee I dig out, let that quickly grow over, Let me not hit thy vitals or thy heart.

It is not a surprise, therefore, to find that the legal and institutional framework India now has for protecting its wonderful bio-diversity had been put in place during her tenure as Prime Minister. It bears her personal imprimatur.

What can I say about Sir David himself that is already not known. To say that he is the world’s leading authority on the natural world is to state the obvious. To say that his passion has been inspiring is also to reiterate what we all acknowledge.

He has legions of admirers across the world. Age has not dimmed his zeal, neither has humanity’s willful disregard for what he says. He has kept going relentlessly, educating, enlightening and sensitizing millions of people. I well remember how excitedly Indira Gandhi would watch his documentaries with us and encourage her grandchildren to do so. I am not sure whether Sir David had ever met her.

But whether or not he had, the fact remains that when environmental protection has become all the more imperative, when climate change and continued loss of bio-diversity is threatening livelihoods and public health, indeed life on earth, there could not have been a more appropriate choice for an award in her name than Sir David Attenborough.

Business

‘Corporate vultures eying small banks, merge Lakshmi Vilas Bank with govt bank’

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Chennai: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) should take a prompt and correct action of merging the 93-year-old Lakshmi Vilas Bank (LVB) with a nationalised bank, a top leader of one of the largest bank unions said.

“There are a number of corporate vultures that are circling the small-old generation private banks for a take over. These regional banks have their own tradition and culture and taking them beyond certain borders and expanding their size will result in failure,” All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA) General Secretary C.H. Venkatachalam told IANS.

It is not known who brings the suitors for the south-based, regional old-generation private banks and for what purpose.

Referring to the voting out of seven Directors of the Lakshmi Vilas Bank, and the statutory auditors by a group of shareholders at annual general meeting held on September 25, Venkatachalam said it is time for the RBI to act quickly in the interests of depositors.

“The RBI should take necessary steps to merge the LVB with a public sector bank to protect the depositors, rather than looking out for suitors who may not be suited for the bank’s culture,” he said.

According to Venkatachalam, banks like the LVB, Karur Vysya Bank (KVB), Tamilnad Mercantile Bank (TMB), Karnataka Bank and others are largely regional banks steeped in their own tradition.

“Expanding them into unknown territories would result in trouble for them,” he said.

Citing the case of Kerala-based small-sized Dhanlaxmi Bank, Venkatachalam recalled that around 2008-2012, it made a loss of over Rs 850 crore as the top management brought it to serious problems in the name of modernising it.

He said with the intervention of the RBI, a change in top management, and strengthening its capital base, etc. and inducting some reputed people on the bank’s Board, Dhanlaxmi Bank turned around and earned profit.

As a part of turnaround, the bank closed down many of its branches in north Indian states, where inadequate controls landed it in problems, he said.

Venkatachalam said for the past two years, the Dhanlaxmi Bank is making profits with the profit for last fiscal being Rs 65 crore – the highest since the bank’s inception.

He pointed out the Kumbakonam-based City Union Bank, which is operating steadily, as an example of a well-run, small-sized old generation bank which was started in 1904.

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Agri laws are death sentence for farmers: Rahul Gandhi

The Congress party is also protesting against the farm laws across the country.

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Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi, Sep 28 : Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday alleged that the agriculture-related laws are a “death sentence” for farmers whose voice has been crushed both inside and outside Parliament.

“The agriculture laws are a death sentence to our farmers. Their voice is crushed in Parliament and outside. Here is proof that democracy in India is dead,” he said on Twitter.

Gandhi tagged a news report along with his tweet that claimed that Opposition members demanding a division of votes were on their seats when the farm bills were passed in the Rajya Sabha, while the government said they were not.

Gandhi and his Congress party have been demanding that the farm legislations be withdrawn as they are not beneficial for farmers, who will be enslaved at the hands of private players and big businesses.

The Congress party is also protesting against the farm laws across the country.

The government has, however, asserted that the new laws will free farmers from the clutches of middleman and allow them to sell their produce anywhere they want at a remunerative price.

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India

Congress protests against farm laws in Goa, demands rollback

“If this is not a new ‘zamindari system’, what else is? Through this specious mode of contract farming, farmers will be left at the mercy of big companies, courts and bureaucracy in the event of any dispute.

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Goa Congress Farm Protest

Panaji, Sep 28 : The Congress in Goa on Monday staged a protest at the Raj Bhavan here to protest against the three new agricultural laws and demanded their rollback.

In a memorandum submitted at the Raj Bhavan, Goa Congress leaders leading more than 1,000 protestors claimed the new legislations were “anti-farmer but corporate-friendly”.

Parliament passed the three Bills in its Monsoon Session. President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent on September 24 whereas the central government published it its gazette on Sunday.

“The biggest flaw in the contract farming law is that Minimum Support Price (MSP) is not mandatory. Once the mandi system is abolished, farmers will be solely dependent on contract farming and big companies will decide the price of farmer’s crops on their own,” claimed the memorandum signed by top Congress functionaries and addressed to the President of India.

“If this is not a new ‘zamindari system’, what else is? Through this specious mode of contract farming, farmers will be left at the mercy of big companies, courts and bureaucracy in the event of any dispute.

“In such a scenario, powerful big companies will naturally exercise their influence on bureaucracy and attack the very livelihood of farmers by engaging them in the legal intricacies and earn profits,” the memorandum said.

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