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MHA seeks report from Raj govt over alleged phone tapping

He then asked five questions on the alleged tapes made public by All India Congress Committee (AICC) General Secretary Randeep Surjewala on Friday.

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Gehlot, Pilot

New Delhi, July 19 : The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Saturday sought a detailed report from Rajasthan government over the alleged phone tapping issue in the state, said sources.

The ministry has asked Rajasthan Chief Secretary to submit the report by next week over the issue after the Special Operations Group (SOG) in Rajasthan on Friday lodged a case against Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat for trying to destabilise the Ashok Gehlot government by attempting to offer money to the MLAs.

The development comes after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into all the aspects of the alleged phone tapping.

The Congress on Friday suspended two rebel MLAs — Bhanwar Lal Sharma and Vishvendra Singh — from party’s primary membership after alleged audio clips of a conversation between the two and Shekhawat surfaced on social media. They were allegedly talking against the Gehlot government.

Shekhawat, however, denied that it was his voice in the alleged clips and said that he was ready to face any inquiry.

In a press conference earlier in the day, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said the events around the unfolding of the political crisis in Rajasthan were a mix of “conspiracy, lies and illegalities by the state Congress government in the state”.

He then asked five questions on the alleged tapes made public by All India Congress Committee (AICC) General Secretary Randeep Surjewala on Friday.

“Phone tapping can only be done by authorised agencies as per due process of law and subject to approved safeguards and SOPs. Each case is also reviewed by a committee chaired by a Cabinet Secretary in case of Centre and State Secretary in case of a State government,” Patra said.

“These are serious questions that we want to ask the Rajasthan Congress and Ashok Gehlot. Was phone tapping done? The Congress government in Rajasthan must answer. Secondly, is it not a sensitive and legal issue, if phone tapping has been done? Assuming that you’ve tapped phones, was the SOP followed? The people of Rajasthan want to know whether their privacy has been compromised. Did the Congress government in Rajasthan use unconstitutional ways to save themselves when they found themselves cornered? And finally is the phone of any person who is related to politics being tapped,” asked Patra.

“We demand a CBI probe into all the illegalities of this alleged tapping,” he said.

The BJP’s aggressive stance comes after the case against Shekhawat and after the Haryana Police rushed to regulate the ingress of an SOG from Rajasthan at the Manesar hotel where rebel Congress MLAs loyal to Sachin Pilot are lodged.

An FIR was filed by the SOG in Rajasthan against Shekhawat and two others on the basis of a complaint by Congress whip Mahesh Joshi soon after three audio clips with alleged conversations on toppling of the Ashok Gehlot government were released by the ruling party.

The clips have recorded purported conversation between Shekhawat, Congress MLA Bhanwarlal Sharma and Jaipur resident and BJP leader Sanjay Jain while discussing plans and actions to topple the Congress government.

Politics

Modi Govt trying to end MSP through farm bills, attacking farmers’ livelihood: Congress

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P Chidambaram

New Delhi, Sep 18 : Likening farmers to the “Pandavas” and the Centre to the “Kauravas”, the Congress on Friday accused the government of trying to end minimum support price (MSP) through three new farm bills and asked political parties to decide with whom they want to stand.

The Congress also said that it will fight for farmers in Parliament as well as on the streets.

Lok Sabha has passed the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, the Farmers” Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, which seek to promote barrier-free inter-state and intra-state trade in agricultural produce. These will now be tabled in the Rajya Sabha.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said farmers have lost faith in the Modi government as there is a difference between its deeds and actions.

This government wants to benefit its “friends” by attacking the lives and livelihood of farmers, he said.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said this fight has now become “the battle of truth” like the Mahabharata. Here the Modi government is like the “Kauravas” and the farmers are the “Pandavas”, he said.

He said various political parties will now have to decide whether they stand with the “Kauravas” or the “Pandavas” in this “dharam yudh” (battle of truth). Congress leader P Chidambaram said the laws passed by the government scuttle the MSP principle and undermine public procurement.

In a tweet in Hindi, Gandhi said, “Farmers have lost faith in the Modi government as there has been a difference in their deeds and actions right from the start – demonetisation, wrong GST and heavy tax on diesel.”

He also said that “awakened farmers know that with the agriculture bills, the Modi government will increase trade of its ”friends” and will attack the livelihood of farmers”.

Surjewala told reporters that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP were trying to mislead farmers and the people on the farm legislations which were “anti-farmer” and sought to “kill” farming.

“The prime minister is misleading the people and is anti-farmer. By bringing these “black laws”, the PM is attacking the farm sector and the lives and livelihood of farmers. PM Modi is trying to make farmers indebted to a select few of PM”s crony friends,” he said.

The BJP and Modi want to hand over the fate of farmers and farm labourers into the hands of a few crony capitalists, the spokesperson alleged.

“The armies are now standing against each other, with the Congress standing with the ”Pandavas”, who are the farmers, and against the Modi government and the BJP which are the ”Kauravas”,” Surjewala said.

“JD(U)”s Nitish Kumar, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), TRS, AIADMK, JJP, YSRCP and every other political party will now have to decide on whether they are standing with the ”Kauravas” or the ”Pandavas”. The time has come to stand with farmers and farm labourers,” he said.

The Congress leader also asked whether the Food Corporation of India would pay MSP to farmers when mandis (wholesale markets) are not there. Farmers with small land holdings don”t have the money even to pay bus fares, how will they sell their produce in far-flung areas, as sought by these bills, Surejwala said.

“Who and to whom would you give MSP to? Will the FCI go to the farmer’s fields to give MSP,” he asked.

Surjewala also attacked SAD leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal for her “farce” of resigning from the Modi cabinet and questioned why she did not resign when the ordinances were brought in the cabinet in June.

Badal resigned on Thursday as the Union Minister for Food Processing Industries. “Why is Akali Dal still sitting with the BJP. Why do they not resign from the Lok Sabha.

This farcical drama would not work. Why does JJP”s Dushyant Chautala not resign and is still clinging to power,” Surjewala asked.

Chidambaram said the three pillars of food security are MSP, public procurement and Public Distribution System.

“The Farm Bills of the Modi government undermine the three pillars. The laws sought to be passed by the Modi government scuttle the MSP principle and undermine Public Procurement,” he said in a series of tweets.

“Will the TV anchors please point out the clause in the Farm Bills that stipulates that the price that the farmer will get from the purchaser “shall not be less than the MSP”? Will the TV anchors highlight the fact that the Congress Manifesto promised to create thousands of Farmers” Markets in small towns and large villages,” the Congress leader said.

To a question on the Congress promising to abolish the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act in its manifesto, spokesperson Surjewala said an attempt is being made to mislead people and farmers. Chidabaram said he was disappointed with BJP spokespersons” distortion of the Congress manifesto statement on APMC laws.

“Our Manifesto promised that we will create thousands of Farmers” Markets in small towns and large villages. Once that is accomplished, APMC laws can be changed. The way to liberalise agricultural marketing is to create more accessible markets and choice for the farmer. There will be rules to regulate such markets,” he said.

The former finance minister said the APMC system is indeed a safety net for the farmer but it is a restricted market that is not accessible to millions of farmers.

“We need to enlarge the market for agriculture produce while preserving the ”safety net” principle through MSP and public procurement,” he said.

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Politics

Anurag Thakur regrets Nehru remarks as Lok Sabha sees 4 adjournments

The statement led to chaos in the House as Congress and Trinamool Congress members objected to his speech and continued to sloganeer, leading to four adjournments of the House.

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Aurag Thakur in Lok Sabha

New Delhi, Sep 18 : After the Lok Sabha witnessed four adjournments on Friday due to a ruckus over his remarks pertaining to the PM National Relief Fund set up by independent India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Union Minister of State Anurag Thakur expressed regrets in the House.

The Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs expressed regret over his statement made while speaking during the introduction of the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020.

As the opposition members led by the Congress objected to his remarks against Nehru and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, the House saw four back-to-back adjournments.

“During the introduction of taxation and other laws, it was not my aim to hurt anyone while putting information (before the House). If anyone got hurt, I also feel the pain on that statement,” Thakur said when the House reassembled at 6 p.m. following the four adjournments.

Thakur’s statement came after Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla discussed the issue with the treasury benches and opposition leaders in his chamber in the wake of protests by opposition members. Birla later asked the Minister in the House to speak on his remarks so that the proceedings of the session could be regularised.

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said his party was hurt by Thakur’s statement against his party leaders and said his MPs will be happy if the treasury benches did not repeat such things in future.

“You made us feel very hurt. The government’s duty is to do work for the welfare of the country while the opposition’s duty is to help the government. Parliament is for both. We will all run this session together. It is the responsibility of both the treasury and opposition benches,” Chowdhury said.

Speaking on the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020, Thakur raised questions on Nehru’s trust which he claimed is not yet registered even though it was set up in 1948 on the then PM’s orders.

“In 1948, then Prime Minister Nehru ordered the PM National Relief Fund. Since then, there has been no registration of that fund. How did that fund get the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act nod is not known? The trust is not registered. How did you (Congress) give that trust FCRA clearance?” Thakur said earlier.

His remarks came as the Bill, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, has provisions about Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM-CARES) fund on which the opposition has raised question on several occasions after it was set up to undertake and support relief or assistance of any kind relating to a public health emergency during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thakur said that the PM-CARES fund is a constitutionally authorised trust and was set up for the welfare of 130 crore people of the county.

The Prime Minister is the ex-officio Chairman of PM-CARES while the Ministers of Defence, Home Affairs, and Finance are ex-officio Trustees.

“You (Congress) made PM National Relief Fund Trust only for (welfare) of one Gandhi family,” Thakur alleged.

Nehru and Interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi have been members of the Prime Minister National Relief Fund, continued the Minister, an MP from Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh.

He sought a detailed discussion to clear things about that fund.

The statement led to chaos in the House as Congress and Trinamool Congress members objected to his speech and continued to sloganeer, leading to four adjournments of the House.

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India

MPs object to the suspension of MPLAD funds

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New Delhi: SP MP from Uttar Pradesh Vishambhar Prasad Nisha says that he supports the salary cut, but objected to the suspension of MPLAD funds. This money does not go into our pockets, but is used to help the people in our constituencies, he says. Without that, our hands are tied, he adds.

He asks that the government not use this pandemic to sneak in such measures.

DMK MP P. Wilson from Tamil Nadu argues that the savings made from passing this bill is less than the the amount spent in the process of passing it in the Parliament Houses. “The government is spending Rs. 6 crores to save Rs. 4 crore,” he says.

He too calls for the MPLAD fund suspension be lifted. He adds that it is astonishing that the government thought it appropriate to suspend the MPLAD fund while the multi-crore Central Vista project is still on.

BJP MP from Punjab Shwait Malik asks the Congress to not politicise COVID-19 efforts. He says that the PMCARES funds are being used wisely, and for coronavirus response.

AITC MP from West Bengal Dinesh Trivedi says that he fully supports the wage cuts, but asks the ruling party to include the Opposition in the decision making process.

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