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Why Indian farmers are protesting against new farm bills | India


Farmers in several Indian states are protesting against three new bills the government says will open up the tightly-controlled agriculture sector to free-market forces.

The bills, passed by India’s parliament this week, make it easier for farmers to sell their produce directly to private buyers and enter into a contract with private companies. The government hopes private sector investments will stimulate growth.

Part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agricultural reform policy, the laws will also allow traders to stock food items. Hoarding food items for the purpose of making a profit was a criminal offence in India.

The government has left us at the mercy of big corporations.

Rashpinder Singh, a farmer

The main opposition Congress party has called the bills “black law” and “pro-corporate”. Its top leader Rahul Gandhi accused Modi of “making farmers ‘slaves’ of the capitalists…”.

But Modi has defended the move. “For decades, the Indian farmer was bound by various constraints and bullied by middlemen. The bills passed by Parliament liberate the farmers from such adversities,” he said in a Twitter post.

Under the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act passed in 1964, it was compulsory for farmers to sell their produce at government-regulated markets, or mandis, where middlemen helped growers sell harvests to either the state-run company or private players.

The government says the monopoly of APMC mandis will end but they will not be shut down, and that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) – the price at which the government buys farm produce – will not be scrapped.

Farmers, particularly in the states of Punjab and Haryana, have protested against the government move [Narinder Nanu/AFP] (AFP)

The new laws give farmers additional choices to sell their produce anywhere in the country, in contrast to the earlier situation where inter-state trade was not allowed.

State governments, which earn an income through transactions at mandis, stand to lose out on tax revenues as trade moves out of state or into the domain of private deals.

The protests have been most intense in northern states of Punjab and Haryana, dubbed India’s grain bowls, where mandis are the main centres of farm trade.

Modi, who won elections on a promise of doubling farm income, has been under pressure to bring private investments to an agriculture sector that has stagnated badly.

For decades, farmers found themselves driven deeper into debt by crop failures and the inability to secure competitive prices for their produce. Finding themselves unable to cope, many have resorted to taking their own lives.

The agriculture sector contributes nearly 15 percent of India’s $2.9 trillion economy but employs about half of the country’s 1.3 billion people.

Al Jazeera spoke to farmers and experts on the issue that has become a hot-button issue in the country.

Rashpinder Singh, 27, a farmer from Punjab state

The government has left us at the mercy of big corporations. It is preposterous to believe that farmers who have small land-holdings will have any bargaining power over private players.

Government officials have said that farmers can sell their produce to whoever they want, whenever they want. How can a small farmer store his produce for months on end? He will not have access to storage facilities. As a result, it is very likely that the produce will be sold at a rate which is unsustainable for the farmer.

The bills further state that farmers can come into an agreement with private companies. Such deals are financially attractive but because there are so many terms and conditions attached, it is difficult for a farmer to cope with them. You become the slave of the company. This fight is not just about economics, but also our right to grow what we want and our self-respect.

Harvinder Singh Lakhowal, 53, member of the Bhartiya Kisan Union, the group spearheading agitation against the bills in Punjab

[Photo courtesy: Harinder Singh Lakhowal]

All assurances given by the government regarding the MSP have not been provided to farmers in writing, they are all verbal assurances.

If a farmer gets into a dispute regarding her/his contract with a private company, it will be very difficult for the farmer to have the dispute settled in her/his favour. How can a small farmer face mighty corporations like Reliance, for instance? A farmer is anyways in a difficult position since agriculture is unsustainable, and then to expect that a person will have it in her/him to fight against big companies means they will eventually be driven towards suicide.

Davinder Sharma, food and trade policy analyst

It’s quite obvious that the bills are not going to benefit the farmer and that is why they are protesting.

There are a lot of problems in the APMC mandi system, which require reforms. Nobody is denying that. But reforming the APMC mandi doesn’t mean you push the farmers from one set of middlemen to another set of middlemen. It is not a solution for agriculture.

The point is that in a country where 86 percent farmers have a land of the size of less than two hectares, you can’t expect the farmer to carry his produce to far off places to sell.

What we need is assured price for the farmers. If the markets are saying they will provide higher price to farmers, the question is higher price to what. There must be some benchmark.

[Photo courtesy Rashpinder Singh Grewal]

Agriculture is suffering from a depressed pricing over the decades. Farmers have been denied the rightful income over the decades. Agriculture has been deliberately kept improvised.

Let’s reform and expand the network of APMC mandis in the country. Provide MSP to farmers and make it legally binding that there will be no trading below the MSP. Only then it is going to realise the Prime Minister’s vision of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas (together with all, development for all).

Farmers are not foolish. If they would get higher prices for their crops, will they protest on the streets amid coronavirus pandemic?

We are following the American model by bringing corporates into the agriculture.

Kavitha Kuruganti, the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture

The implications of these bills are going to be adverse because farmers actually need protection of their interests in the form of regulations. The government step to de-regulate in the hope that private players will do what the government ought to be doing itself is not going to help farmers.

The overall reading is that there are serious deficiencies in the way the bills have been drafted. Clearly, it’s meant for the agri-business companies and not the farmers. While the government more or less openly says that it’s meant for investors, it obviously has not done enough to ensure that farmers’ interests are not sacrificed.

Sudha Narayan, agricultural economist at Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research

The bills are not going to hit all the farmers equally. It’s going to help some and hurt others.

Farmers have now the freedom to sell the crops to anyone. Traders can ignore what the state government legislations are and can buy directly from the farmers and build their own connections with farmers and procure, which is actually a good thing in principle.

The problem with the bills is that they are putting the farmers into the hands of the private players without any safeguards and without any regulations or discipline in terms of price setting. There is a lack of regulatory oversight and price-setting body.

The farmers in the states of Punjab and Haryana are worried that these bills are only the beginning of something larger.

What they fear is that the government will eventually dismantle the state procurement system and the MSP transaction which they depend on.

Additional reporting by Bilal Kuchay and Fateh Veer Singh





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India didn’t prioritize mental health before Covid-19. Now it’s paying the price


“The worst are the headaches and the pain in my eyes,” said Paul, who lives in Kolkata, West Bengal. “I have had more panic attacks this year than in my entire life combined.”

Research conducted by the Suicide Prevention in India Foundation (SPIF) in May found that nearly 65% of 159 mental health professionals surveyed reported an increase in self-harm among their patients. More than 85% of therapists surveyed said they were experiencing caregiver fatigue, and over 75% said fatigue had impacted their work.

Another survey in April, by the Indian Psychiatric Society, showed that, of 1,685 participants, 40% were suffering from common mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, due to the pandemic.

The lockdown may have eased, but the situation isn’t improving. The report’s authors told CNN in August that there’s growing anxiety and uncertainty about when the pandemic will end.

Before Covid-19, India had the highest suicide rate in south-east Asia — now medical experts say the country’s mental health system is being pushed to the limit.

“The system was already creaking and overburdened, now with Covid, we are experiencing the catastrophe of increased demand, woeful supply, and fatigued frontline workers,” said Nelson Moses, founder of SPIF.

No words for mental health

India doesn’t have a long history of discussing mental health.

In 2016, a National Mental Health Survey conducted across 12 states documented a list of over 50 derogatory terms used for people suffering mental illness. “Usually, the public believes that individuals with psychiatric illnesses are incompetent, irrational and untrustworthy consequently, they have low marriage opportunities,” said one of the participants.

“People think that talking about your feelings makes you weak — there are a lot of misconceptions,” said 23-year-old Baldev Singh, a volunteer counselor with the MINDS Foundation, an Indian nonprofit that aims to reduce the stigma around mental health.

Experts say the historical reluctance to address mental health in India could be partly due to a lack of terminology. None of India’s 22 languages have words that mean “mental health” or “depression.”

“People think that talking about your feelings makes you weak — there are a lot of misconceptions.”Baldev Singh, volunteer counselor

While there are terms for sadness (udaasi), grief (shok) or devastation (bejasi) in Urdu and other Indian languages, the specific terminology to address different mental illnesses is lacking. That’s because the practice of psychiatry is largely Western, said Dr S.K. Chaturvedi, Head of department at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore.  “It is easier for people to talk about physical symptoms and illnesses than to express to their families that they are feeling low or depressed,” he said.

Growing up, Paul says her middle-class Indian family didn’t talk about negative feelings.

“Ever since I was a kid it was ingrained that we don’t talk about things that bother us.”

Problems were pushed aside and minimized, she said. “They might just compare it with someone else’s problem and make you feel guilty about it.”

Aritri Paul has spoken about her issues with mental health to encourage others to seek help.

Straining mental health system

The stigma around mental health may prevent some people from recognizing that they need help. For those who do want treatment, facilities are limited.

According to the 2016 National Mental Health Survey, 83% of people suffering mental health problems in India did not have access to adequate mental health treatment.

The same year, India had three psychiatrists for every million people and even fewer psychologists, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). For comparison, the US had 100 psychiatrists and almost 300 psychologists for every million people.

In many cases, access to mental health treatment in India depends on where you live.

“The divide basically comes in the urban versus rural, so if I look at Mumbai, I know that today I can just get up and go to a hospital in my own area,” said Pragya Lodha, the Mumbai Program Director for the MINDS Foundation.

For people in rural India, it’s much harder.

Sub-district hospitals cater to roughly 30,000 people or 15 to 20 villages. However, these hospitals typically don’t have mental health services, according to Amul Joshi, MINDS Foundation’s program director in Gujarat.

Some villagers may have to travel up to 60 kilometers (37 miles) to get treatment, said Joshi. That takes time — and money. “We sometimes pay for their travel to the hospital as an incentive. However, this means that treatment is usually limited to medication as people cannot keep going to the district hospital for therapy,” he said.

People in rural India tend to have other priorities.

“The struggle in rural communities is often about basics so mental health tends to take a backseat,” said Lodha.

The urban-rural divide

India was heading into harvest season when the government announced its nationwide lockdown in March. Farmers were confused about whether they could hire migrant workers amid the ban on cross-border movement, and whether crops could be transported to market, said Singh, the volunteer counselor.

“People have to deal with a lot of stress in villages — farmers have to deal with their produce going bad when they can’t take it to the market or distribute it in time,” said Singh, who lives in Nara Village, a rural farming community of around 2,000 people in Gujarat.

Singh said people in rural India are feeling more isolated than ever.

“In rural India, where people aren’t aware of mental health issues and can’t talk to their friends about their stresses, the situation is only getting worse.”Baldev Singh, volunteer counselor

“In urban India, this may have led to more dialogue among family members. In rural India, where people aren’t aware of mental health issues and can’t talk to their friends about their stresses, the situation is only getting worse,” he said.

Technology has become crucial to mental health intervention in many communities during the pandemic. However, online therapy is not often available to people in villages who don’t have access to smartphones or the internet.

The MIND Foundation trains volunteers — like Singh — to become “community leaders” to raise awareness of mental health and encourage people to seek help when they need it.

Government programs

Changing attitudes in a country of 1.3 billion people is an immense challenge. But in recent months, there have been signs of change.

Chaturvedi, from NIMHANS, is part of a central government initiative to address the mental health of migrants who were disproportionately affected by the lockdown that stretched for 68 days.

“(It’s) definitely proof of the fact that there is a shift in attitudes, and that people understand the importance of mental health,” Chaturvedi said.

Millions of migrant workers lost their jobs and became stranded in cities when lockdown rules closed workplaces and froze public transport. Some were forced to take shelter under bridges or other public spaces or walk hundreds of miles to get home.

Migrant laborers (were) displaced, forced to go back to their villages, ignored by the state machinery, treated as collateral damage,” Moses said. Sometimes they were unwelcome in their own villages, he added, due to fears they were carrying the virus.

“Thanks to Covid, everyone is in the same boat of despair and despondency.”Nelson Moses, founder of the Suicide Prevention in India Foundation

Under the direction of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, NIMHANS set up a helpline that refers prospective patients to mental health professionals. Separately, the government released guidelines on addressing the mental health issues of migrants and health care workers, and advice on identifying patients whose mental health had suffered during the pandemic. And the Health Ministry shared posters stressing the importance of wellness practices, such as yoga to improve mental health.

However, some mental health practitioners say these initiatives are insufficient. “These are helpful but seem to be reductive and appear to pay mere lip service,” said Moses.

Mental health experts say what’s needed is more funding. Of India’s total 2020-2021 budget, just 2% has been set aside for healthcare. And of that figure, less than 1% has been allocated to mental health.

Moses believes now is the time for the Indian government to start prioritizing mental health services.

“Never before have we witnessed more engagement surrounding mental health. Thanks to Covid, everyone is in the same boat of despair and despondency,” said Moses. “It has gone from (being) swept under the carpet to hitting the ceiling.”

Paul chose to speak about her panic attacks to raise awareness of a problem that often is ignored in India. “It is no longer acceptable to label mental health as “taboo,” and move on without addressing the issue,” she said.

“There needs to be a lot more communication … we need to start from ground zero in schools and colleges and rope in parents and make them comfortable with it, so that their children can be comfortable talking to them about their issues.”



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Coronavirus live news: Iran’s death toll exceeds 21,000; India passes 3.2m cases | World news


A 61-year-old man has died in the Gaza Strip after contracting the coronavirus, Palestinian authorities said on Wednesday as they clamped down on an outbreak in the enclave.

The man had suffered previous illnesses and had been on a respirator, the health ministry said. It was the first death among the general population since an infected woman died at a quarantine centre in March.

A Palestinian baker wearing a protective mask prepares the dough for fresh bread at a bakery in Gaza City during lockdown in the Palestinian enclave due to increasing cases of coronavirus infections.

A Palestinian baker wearing a protective mask prepares the dough for fresh bread at a bakery in Gaza City during lockdown in the Palestinian enclave due to increasing cases of coronavirus infections. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

Health officials said nine more cases were discovered on Wednesday. Six of them were in the isolated Maghazi refugee camp where a first four cases had been confirmed on Monday, prompting Gaza’s Hamas authorities to impose a full lockdown.

The three other cases were in northern Gaza Strip, indicating the virus has begun to spread into different areas of the enclave of 2 million people.

A Palestinian man shops at a mini-market in Gaza City amid restricted movement due to increasing cases of Covid-19. The new cases raised alarm bells this week in the sealed-off enclave that has weathered the pandemic relatively well so far.

A Palestinian man shops at a mini-market in Gaza City amid restricted movement due to increasing cases of Covid-19. The new cases raised alarm bells this week in the sealed-off enclave that has weathered the pandemic relatively well so far. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

The outbreak outside Maghazi remains slow but it cemented concerns by local and international health organisations over the territory’s potentially disastrous combination of poverty, densely populated refugee camps and limited hospital capacity.

With local authorities maintaining a lockdown in all cities, people were instructed to stay home at all times and to wear face masks if, in cases of extreme necessity, they had to go out.

A Palestinian boy and girl wearing protective masks in Gaza City.

A Palestinian boy and girl wearing protective masks in Gaza City. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which helps over half of Gaza’s population, said it was looking into alternative plans to continue health, education and food services to beneficiaries should the lockdown be extended.

Adnan Abu Hasna, UNRWA spokesman in Gaza, said clinics remained open but physical presence was prohibited, instead staffers were providing medical consultation over the phone and some medication was delivered to patients at home.

Abus Hasna said:


We are in constant consultation with the health ministry and we are also in discussion over the implementation of our own alternative plans in order to ensure the continuation of delivering services to refugees.

Monday’s cases were uncovered after a woman traveled to the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where she tested positive, the Gaza health ministry said.

A ministry spokesman urged everyone who might have visited a supermarket outside a hospital in central Gaza to quarantine themselves and report to medics immediately.

A police officer speaks with Palestinians riding a donkey-drawn cart during lockdown after Gaza reported its first cases of Covid-19 in the general population.

A police officer speaks with Palestinians riding a donkey-drawn cart during lockdown after Gaza reported its first cases of Covid-19 in the general population. Photograph: Mohammed Salem/Reuters



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India extends suspension of int’l flights till end of August


India on Friday extended the ban on international flights till Aug. 31, said an official statement Trend reports citing Xinhua.

However, travel will take place under the “travel bubbles” which the country has created with some countries like Germany, the United States and France, added the statement.

A statement issued by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said, “The government has decided to extend the suspension on the scheduled international commercial passenger services to/from India up to August 31. However, the restriction shall not apply to international cargo operations, and flights specifically approved by the DGCA.”

It further stated that to allow gradual movement of passenger traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic, transport bubble agreements have been signed with the United States, France and Germany.







India had suspended the scheduled international passenger flights on March 22 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.



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Galwan Valley: Satellite images ‘show China structures’ on India border


A satellite image shows close up view of road construction near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) border in the eastern Ladakh sector of Galwan Valley, 22 June, 2020.Image copyright
Maxar Technologies/Reuters

Image caption

New satellite images show the area near Patrol Point 14 where a clash between Indian and Chinese forces took place on 15 June.

China has built new structures near the site of a Himalayan border clash that left 20 Indian troops dead earlier this month, fresh satellite images suggest.

Bunkers, tents and storage units for military hardware are visible in an area where last month there were none.

Fighting between the nuclear-armed powers over their disputed frontier has prompted alarm. Chinese casualties were also reported but not confirmed.

The latest images were published as the sides hold talks to defuse tensions.

The fresh satellite images, dated 22 June, are from space technology company Maxar. The structures which appear to have been built by China overlooking the Galwan River were not visible in aerial photographs earlier in June, Reuters reported.

Neither India nor China has commented.

The clash in the Galwan Valley, in the disputed Himalayan territory of Ladakh, took place on 15 June, weeks after high-level military commanders from both nations agreed to “peacefully resolve the situation in the border areas in accordance with various bilateral agreements.”

Since the clash, and amid spiralling rhetoric, the two nations have tried to publicly calm tensions.

A statement released by the India’s foreign ministry on Wednesday said that India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and the Chinese Foreign Minister HE Wang Yi “reaffirmed that both sides should sincerely implement the understanding on disengagement and de-escalation that was reached by the senior commanders on 6 June”.

What do the images show?

Ajai Shukla, a leading Indian defence analyst, tweeted that “there is a large Chinese camp in the Galwan Valley, 1.5km into the Indian side of the LAC [Line of Actual Control]”.

Local media have also quoted sources in the Indian army as saying that the additional build-up by China seemed to have taken place between the 15 June clash and commander-level talks prior to that.

Satellite imagery from May shows no structures in the disputed area near where the clashes took place.

Former Indian diplomat P Stobdan, an expert in Ladakh affairs, told the BBC the construction was “worrying”.

“The [Indian] government has not released any pictures or made a statement, so it’s hard to assess. But the images released by private firms show that the Chinese have built infrastructure and have not retreated,” he said.

Image copyright
Maxar Technologies/Reuters

Image caption

The images suggest Chinese construction in the Galwan Valley came after talks between army commanders

The situation in the region is described as still “very tense”.

Meanwhile, India’s Army Chief Gen MM Naravane is scheduled to visit a forward location along the border on Thursday. He visited other forward areas on Wednesday and reviewed operational preparedness, the army said.

What happened in the Galwan Valley?

Media reports said troops clashed on ridges at a height of nearly 4,300m (14,000 ft) on steep terrain, with some Indian soldiers falling into the fast-flowing Galwan river in sub-zero temperatures.

At least 76 Indian soldiers were reportedly injured in addition to the 20 dead. China has not released any information about Chinese casualties.

The fighting took place without any firearms because of a 1996 agreement barring guns and explosives from the area.

Image copyright
Maxar Technologies/Reuters

Image caption

An image from May shows no structures in the area overlooking the Galwan River

How tense is the area?

The Line of Actual Control, as the disputed border between the two nations is known, is poorly demarcated. The presence of rivers, lakes and snowcaps means the line can shift.

The soldiers on either side – representing two of the world’s largest armies – come face to face at many points. India has accused China of sending thousands of troops into Ladakh’s Galwan valley and says China occupies 38,000sq km (14,700sq miles) of its territory. Several rounds of talks in the last three decades have failed to resolve the boundary disputes.

The two countries have fought only one war so far, in 1962, when India suffered a humiliating defeat.

In May, dozens of Indian and Chinese soldiers exchanged physical blows on the border in the north-eastern state of Sikkim. And in 2017, the two countries clashed in the region after China tried to extend a border road through a disputed plateau, Doklam.

Tensions have also risen over a road built by India in Ladakh.

There are several reasons why tensions are rising now – but competing strategic goals lie at the root, and both sides blame each other.

India’s new road in what experts say is the most remote and vulnerable area along the LAC in Ladakh. The road could boost Delhi’s capability to move men and materiel rapidly in case of a conflict.

Analysts say India’s decision to ramp up infrastructure seems to have infuriated Beijing.



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The Real Danger in a Quiet Escalation of Tensions Between China and India


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US panel wants India on religious freedom blacklist


Washington (AFP) – A US government panel on Tuesday called for India to be put on a religious freedom blacklist over a “drastic” downturn under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, triggering a sharp rebuttal from New Delhi.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom recommends but does not set policy, and there is virtually no chance the State Department will follow its lead on India, an increasingly close US ally.

In an annual report, the bipartisan panel narrowly agreed that India should join the ranks of “countries of particular concern” that would be subject to sanctions if they do not improve their records.

“In 2019, religious freedom conditions in India experienced a drastic turn downward, with religious minorities under increasing assault,” the report said.

It called on the United States to impose punitive measures, including visa bans, on Indian officials believed responsible and grant funding to civil society groups that monitor hate speech.

The commission said that Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, which won a convincing election victory last year, “allowed violence against minorities and their houses of worship to continue with impunity, and also engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence.”

It pointed to comments by Home Minister Amit Shah, who notoriously referred to mostly Muslim migrants as “termites,” and to a citizenship law that has triggered nationwide protests.

It also highlighted the revocation of the autonomy of Kashmir, which was India’s only Muslim-majority state, and allegations that Delhi police turned a blind eye to mobs who attacked Muslim neighborhoods in February this year.

The Indian government, long irritated by the commission’s comments, quickly rejected the report.

“Its biased and tendentious comments against India are not new. But on this occasion, its misrepresentation has reached new levels,” foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said.

“We regard it as an organization of particular concern and will treat it accordingly,” he said in a statement.

The State Department designates nine “countries of particular concern” on religious freedom — China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

The commission asked that all nine countries remain on the list. In addition to India, it sought the inclusion of four more — Nigeria, Russia, Syria and Vietnam.

Pakistan, India’s historic rival, was added by the State Department in 2018 after years of appeals by the commission.

In its latest report, the commission said that Pakistan “continued to trend negatively,” voicing alarm at forced conversions of Hindus and other minorities, abuse of blasphemy prosecutions and a ban on the Ahmadi sect calling itself Muslim.

– ‘Tipping point’ –

India’s citizenship law fast-tracks naturalization for minorities from neighboring countries — but not if they are Muslim.

Modi’s government says it is not targeting Muslims but rather providing refuge to persecuted people and should be commended.

But critics consider it a watershed move by Modi to define the world’s largest democracy as a Hindu nation and chip away at independent India’s founding principle of secularism.

Tony Perkins, the commission’s chair, called the law a “tipping point” and voiced concern about a registry in the northeastern state of Assam, under which 1.9 million people failed to produce documentation to prove that they were Indian citizens before 1971, when mostly Muslim migrants flowed in during Bangladesh’s bloody war of independence.

“The intentions of the national leaders are to bring this about throughout the entire country,” Perkins told an online news conference.

“You could potentially have 100 million people, mostly Muslims, left stateless because of their religion. That would be, obviously, an international issue,” said Perkins, a Christian activist known for his opposition to gay rights who is close to President Donald Trump’s administration.

Three of the nine commissioners dissented — including another prominent Christian conservative, Gary Bauer, who voiced alarm about India’s direction but said the ally could not be likened to non-democracies such as China.

“I am deeply concerned that this public denunciation risks exactly the opposite outcome than the one we all desire,” Bauer said.

Trump, who called for a ban on Muslim immigration to the US when he ran for president, hailed Modi on a February visit to New Delhi.



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India coronavirus: Migrant workers sprayed with disinfectant in Uttar Pradesh


Video showed three people, dressed in protective gear, spraying the liquid directly on a group of Indian workers as they sat on the ground in the northern city of Bareilly.

Ashok Gautam, a senior officer in charge of Covid-19 operations in Uttar Pradesh, told CNN as many as 5,000 people have been “publicly sprayed” when they arrived before they were allowed to disperse.

“We sprayed them here as part of the disinfection drive, we don’t want them to be carriers for the virus and it could be hanging on their clothes, now all borders have been sealed so this won’t happen again,” he said.

He said the disinfectant used was a solution made from bleaching powder, and was not harmful to the human body.

While chemical disinfectants work on surfaces, they can be dangerous to people. And according to the World Health Organization (WHO), putting disinfectant on your skin will not kill it if the virus is already in your body.

‘Overzealous action’

The chemical wash has appalled many in India. Lav Agarwal, senior official at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said Monday that local officials involved in the incident have been “reprimanded,” adding that spraying migrant workers was not a “required” policy in the country.

“This is an overzealous action done by some employees at the field level, either out of ignorance or fear,” he said.

The district magistrate of Bareilly, Nitish Kumar, also tweeted that while the municipal corporation and local fire service were under orders to sanitize buses, they were “overzealous” in spraying the migrant workers directly.

“Orders to launch an inquiry against those responsible have been given,” he said.

Video showed the workers being doused in the chemical.

Kumar, who is the highest-ranking district official in the city, added that workers affected by the incident are currently under medical surveillance following instructions from the chief medical officer.

Tens of thousands of India’s 45 million economic migrant workers have been making a long, arduous journeys back to their rural villages. Many of them had lost their jobs as businesses’ shut their doors across India’s cities due to the lockdown.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged all states to seal their borders to stop the virus being imported into rural areas. Officials are now scrambling to find millions of migrant workers who had already returned to small towns and villages across the country, in order to quarantine them for 14 days.



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Malaysia open to Davos talks with India amid palm oil spat



Malaysia’s trade minister is open to meeting his Indian counterpart at the World Economic Forum gathering this week, his ministry said on Monday, after New Delhi said no such encounter was possible amid a spat over palm oil supplies, Trend reports citing Reuters.

It was the second time in the last four days Malaysia expressed the possibility of such a meeting in Davos, during a standoff between a major supplier and buyer of palm oil caused by Malaysia’s criticism of Indian policies.

Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) reiterated that India’s trade ministry first sent a request on Dec. 24 – before India placed curbs on imports of refined palm oil – for a bilateral meeting between the two ministers in Davos.

“In the spirit of economic partnership between our two nations, Malaysia has made every effort to accommodate the official request by India, but due to the busy schedule of both ministers, a mutually agreeable time has not been reached at the time of this statement,” MITI said.

“In the absence of a formal meeting, it is common for interested parties to meet informally and exchange views on the sidelines.”

It said MITI minister Darell Leiking “has expressed his openness to such discussion” with his Indian counterpart Piyush Goyal, mainly regarding India’s participation in the trade bloc Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

An Indian trade ministry official, speaking on behalf of the ministry, told Reuters on Sunday that Goyal would not meet Leiking in Davos because of his tight schedule. No other meeting was scheduled between them, he said.

Hindu-majority India has been agitated by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad last month speaking out against a new citizenship law which critics say discriminate against Muslims. Mahathir had angered New Delhi last year too when he accused India of invading and occupying Kashmir, a Muslim-majority disputed region also claimed by Pakistan.

Malaysia, a Muslim-majority nation, is the second biggest producer and exporter of palm oil and India’s restrictions on the refined variety of the commodity imposed on Jan. 8 have been seen as a retaliation for Mahathir’s words.

Mahathir, the world’s oldest premier at 94, told a small group of reporters including from Reuters on Monday that India’s new citizenship law was “grossly unfair”.

But he said his nation of 32 million people was too small to take retaliatory action against India following its palm curbs.

Since the restrictions, thousands of tonnes of refined palm oil have been delayed or got stuck at various Indian ports, multiple sources told Reuters.

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India v Australia: first one-day international – live! | Sport






Warner reaches his 18th ODI century!





































































Finch to 50 (for real this time)





Warner to 50!









Finch to 50! (But probably not)









































































Thanks, JP. Our man put in a huge tennis shift today before taking care of the first innings. Well played. Australia did that nicely, denying India the chance to explode the old fashioned way with consistent wickets in the middle overs.

You find me watching Star’s coverage in London, where Michael Slater is currently learning Hindi. Just another day in 2020. Good afternoon/evening to you all.





India 255

Australia will be the happier of the two sides at the changeover. They never allowed India to get away from them, took wickets at regular intervals after that long second-wicket partnership, and they will be confident of chasing down 255 with the fast outfield at the Wankhede Stadium, especially if the dew settles and makes bowling awkward.

The three pacemen all bowled superbly, each deserving their multiple-wicket hauls, while the two spinners kept India in check when their innings was meandering.

Not a great day at the office for India’s much vaunted batsmen. Rohit and Kohli both fell cheaply while Dhawan was one of a number of Indians to give their wicket away needlessly.

Find out if Australia can chase down 256 with the incomparable Adam Collins.

Pat Cummins

Pat Cummins, Australia’s golden boy. Photograph: Rafiq Maqbool/AP




WICKET! Shami c Carey b Richardson 10 (India 255)





WICKET! Kuldeep run out (Smith) 17 (India 255-9)





















WICKET! Shardul b Starc 13 (India 229-8)









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