SUNDAY www.thestatesman.com 27 DECEMBER 2020 FIND US ONLINE Scan this with your smartphone twitter.com/TheStatesmanLtd facebook.com/thestatesman1875 Pages 12 | `5.00 |LC* KOLKATA | NEW DELHI | SILIGURI | BHUBANESWAR TRUMP GOLFS AS VIRUS RELIEF HANGS IN BALANCE COLD WAR DOUBLE AGENT GEORGE BLAKE DIES AT 98 P10 WEATHER Fog/Mist in the morning. Mainly Clear sky later. Temperature will be in the range of 24-12 degrees Celsius. RAINFALL: NIL RELATIVE HUMIDITY Max. 99 % TEMPERATURE NORTH-EAST HAS BECOME COUNTRY’S GROWTH ENGINE: SHAH P10 P4 Ball in Centre’s court as farmers set date for talks Protesters set repeal of laws and guarantee of MSP as riders for 29 December meeting Min. 38 % RLP convenor announces split from NDA over farm laws Max: 24.6°C (-2) Min: 12.7°C (-2) SUN RISES SUN SETS 06:15 hrs 17:00 hrs MOON RISES MOON SETS 14:11 hrs 02:41 hrs Full moon on 30 December JAIPUR, 26 DECEMBER THUMBNAILS Farmers continue to protest against the three contentious farm laws, at Delhi’s Singhu border. IANS PRESS TRUST OF INDIA NEW DELHI, 26 DECEMBER Fog engulfs Delhi on a cold winter morning on Saturday. SUBRATA DUTTA India to become 5th largest economy in 2025: India, which appears to have been pushed back to being the world's sixth biggest economy in 2020, will again overtake the UK to become the fifth largest in 2025 and race to the third spot by 2030, a think tank said on Saturday. The UK appears to have overtaken India again during 2020 as a result of the weakness of the rupee, it said. The UK-based think tank forecast China will in 2028 overtake US to become the world's biggest economy, five years earlier than previP8 ously estimated. China rushes envoy to prevent split in NCP: The A wary China is rushing a high-level delegation led by a vice minister of the Chinese Communist Party in Kathmandu to assess the ground situation and avert a vertical split in the ruling Nepal Communist Party, according to media reports on Saturday, nearly a week after embattled Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli got the House of Representatives dissolved. Nepal plunged into a political crisis last Sunday after Oli, known for his pro-Beijing leanings, in a surprise move, recommended dissolving the P11 275-member House. Pak’s charge of India planning false-flag op baseless: MEA he protesting farmer unions on Saturday decided to resume their dialogue with the Centre, and proposed 29 December for the next round of talks to end the deadlock over the three newly enacted farm laws, but made it clear that the modalities for its repeal and guarantee for MSP should be part of the agenda. The decision by the agitating farmers to hold another round of talks with the government was taken at a meeting of Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of 40 farmer unions protesting at various Delhi border points against the farm laws for more than a month. The decision also came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that his government is willing to hold talks with all, including its staunch T ference, farmer leaders said the modalities for the repeal of three farm laws and guarantee for MSP ~minimum support price at which the government procures crops from farmers ~should be part of the agenda for resuming talks with the government. The farmers also decided to intensify their agitation, with farmer leader Darshan Pal saying that a tractor march will be held on Kundli-Manesar-Palwal highway on 30 December. He asked people from Delhi and other parts of country to come and celebrate New Year with Oxford Covid vaccine may be first to get Indian nod for emergency use PRESS TRUST OF INDIA NEW DELHI, 26 DECEMBER NEW DELHI, 26 DECEMBER India has rejected as “baseless and laughable” the charge by top Pakistani leaders that it was planning to carry out a “falseflag operation” against Pakistan. “These are baseless and laughable allegations which have become part of the Pakistani leaders’ daily routine. We should better ignore such statements,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said. Earlier this week, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a series of tweets, alleged that India was planning “false-flag operation” to divert attention from its domestic problems. Pakistan Foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, at a Press conference in Dubai, had also claimed that Islamabad had specific inputs of India conducting surgical operations on the neighbouring country. He said Islamabad had shared its inputs with “important world capitals’’. In recent weeks, Pakistan has stepped up its efforts to discredit India in the international arena without any success. Islamabad had also alleged that Indian forces had targeted United Nations Military Observers Group on India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) observers and their vehicle along the LoC on 18 December. Both the Indian Army and the External Affairs Ministry rejected Islamabad’s charge. Sources said the Pakistani leaders were levelling these charges against India because of pressure from global community to stop cross-border terrorism and rein in terrorists operating from the territory under Pakistan's control. SNS critics, as long as they are based on farm issues, facts and logic, and squarely blamed political rivals for the stalemate in the Centre-farmer unions talks. Meanwhile, Union Home minister Amit Shah also urged the protesting farmers to resolve their issues through discussions. In a letter to Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare Vivek Aggarwal, the Morcha said, “We propose that the next meeting between the farmers’ representatives and the Government of India be held on 29 December 2020 at 11 a.m.” “As the government is willing to hold talks with us, and asking for a date and about our issues, we have proposed to hold a dialogue on 29 December. Now, the ball is in the government’s court, when it calls us for talks,” Bhartiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait said. Addressing a Press con- Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) convenor and Nagaur MP Hanuman Beniwal on Saturday announced a split from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) over the Centre’s new farm laws. “I am not stuck with Fevicol with the NDA. Today, I separate myself from the NDA,” Beniwal said at a farmers’ rally at Shahjahanpur in Alwar district after starting a march to Delhi in support of the farmers who have been protesting againstthe contentious laws. In September, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) had quit the NDA With preparations underway for a possible vaccine-rollout by January, the Indian drug regulator is looking at the UK, which sources believe may give its nod to the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine next week, before deciding on giving emergency use authorisation to the Serum Institute that is manufacturing the shots here. Once the UK drug regulator gives its approval to the Oxford vaccine, the expert committee on Covid-19 at the CDSCO will hold its meeting and thoroughly review the safety and immunogenicity data from the clinical evaluations conducted abroad and in India before granting any emergency authorisation for The process of granting emergency use approval for Bharat Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine ‘Covaxin’ may take time as its phase 3 trials are still underway, while Pfizer is yet to make a presentation the vaccine here, official sources said. The process of granting emergency use approval for Bharat Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine ‘Covaxin’ may take time as its phase 3 trials are still underway, while Pfizer is yet to make a presentation. “Going by this, Oxford vaccine ‘Covishield’ is likely to be the first to be rolled out in India,” a source said. Serum Institute of India (SII) last week also had submitted some additional data required by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), the sources said. Amidst fears about themutated variant of SARS-CoV2 detected in UK, government officials recently said that it will have no impact on thepotential of emerging vaccines agisnt Covid-19. BharatBiotech, SII and Pfizer had applied to the DCGI seeking emergency use authorisation for their Covid vaccines early this month. The subject expert committee on Covid-19 of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) on 9 December had sought additional safety and efficacy data for vaccines of SII and Bharat Biotech after deliberating upon their applications. over the three farms laws. Beniwal was elected as BJP MLA in Rajasthan for the first time in 2008 but later left the party. The RLP leader said that farmers were running the agitation in the country and he was not trying to gain political mileage with his action. He had resigned from three parliamentary committees last week in support of farmers’ agitation. “Farmers are peacefully carrying out their protest. I request them to protest peacefully. If farmers are canecharged, then we will forcibly march towards Delhi,” Beniwal, a threetime MLA, said. protesting farmers. Another farmer leader, Rajinder Singh, said, “we will march from Singhu to Tikri to KMP We ask farm. ers from surrounding states to come in huge numbers in their trolleys and tractors. If the govt doesn’t want us to block the KMP highway, then they better announce the repeal of the three farm laws.” Earlier this week, Aggarwal had written to the 40 protesting unions and invited them for fresh talks, but made it clear that it would not be “logical” to include in the agenda any new demand related to the MSP which is out , of the purview of the three new farm laws. Responding to the government’s letter, SKM in its communication said, “unfortunately, your (Aggarwal’s) letter continues the government’s attempt to mislead the public by suppressing true facts about the deliberations in the previous meetings. We have consistently demanded the repeal of the three Central Farm Acts, whereas the government has distorted our position as if we were asking for amendments to these Acts.” The letter further added “If you are sincere about respectfully listening to farmers, as you say in your letter, the government must not indulge in misinformation about the previous meetings. The campaign launched by the entire state machinery to defame and malign the farmers’ movement must stop forthwith.” In Bengaluru, former Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy said India’s image is taking a hit globally because of the ongoing farmers' protest and urged Modi to end the stalemate. Thousands of farmers have been camping at three Delhi border points ~Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur~ for nearly a month. While the government has presented these laws as major reforms aimed at helping farmers, protesting unions have maintained these acts will leave them at the mercy of big corporates by weakening the mandi and MSP systems. AUSTRALIA IN A SHAMBLES ON DAY ONE P12 Freedom of Religion Bill against ‘love jihad’ gets MP cabinet’s nod STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE BHOPAL, 26 DECEMBER The Madhya Pradesh Cabinet today approved the draft of the proposed ‘MP Freedom of Religion Bill, 2020’, which proposes a fine of up to Rs one lakh and jail term of up to 10 years to anyone who forcefully or by misrepresentation through marriage abets the religious conversion of a woman, minor or person of Scheduled Caste or Tribe. The draft was approved in a special cabinet meeting chaired by Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan here. Chief minister Chouhan said after the meeting that forced conversions would not be tolerated and allowed at any cost in Madhya Pradesh. The chief minister said that under the proposed law, anyone found guilty of forced conversion would face a jail term of up to 10 years and minimum Rs 50,000 fine. State home minister Narottam Mishra said that in case of group conversions, the jail term would be up to 10 years with a fine of Rs one lakh. “MP’s law is the most stringent in the country,” Mishra averred. “The new legislation will prohibit religious conversion or such efforts by misrepresentation, allurement, force, undue influence, coercion, marriage or any other fraudulent means. Abetment and conspiracy for religious conversion will also be prohibited under it,” he said. The Bill also proposes that if such a marriage gets broken and is legally declared null and void, still the woman would be eligible to receive financial support from the husband. Similarly, children born from such marriages would be legal heirs in the father’s property. The BJP state government UP love jihad law completes one month Going full steam, the Uttar Pradesh police have made more than one arrest a day since the controversial anti-conversion ordinance came into effect a month ago, having apprehended about 35 people so far. Nearly a dozen FIRs have been lodged since the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, was notified on 27 November. The first case was registered in Bareilly just a day after the legislation came into force. Former UP DGP Yashpal Singh said that when a girl flees, there is pressure for her recovery. “It (law) is good as per the social structure. However, as per modern social outlook, people can feel stripped off their freedom.” plans to table the Bill and get it passed in the upcoming winter session of the State Assembly, scheduled to begin from 28 December. Subsequently, it would be enacted in the state. The Assembly session, however, has come under doubts presently, as more than half of the Assembly employees tested for the coronavirus have reported positive. Covid-linked daily deaths dip below 300 STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE NEW DELHI, 26 DECEMBER India reported daily fresh Covid-19 case count of 22,272 and less than 300 deaths, the first time after more than six months. Up to 251 deaths were recorded in the past 24 hours, taking the overall count since the outbreak in January to 1,47,343, according to the data of Union Ministry of Health. The country also logged 3.4 per cent fewer coronavirus cases since yesterday, at 22,273, government data shows. India not only logged 22,273 Covid-19 infections in the last 24 hours, but 22,274 people also recovered from the virus, the data from Ministry of Health and FamilyWelfare showed. Total recovered people are 97,40,108. There are 2,81,667 active cases. Around 150 Army personnel test Covid positive: Around 150 Army personnel who arrived in the national capital from various locations in the last few weeks to participate in the Republic Day and Army Day parades have tested positive for Covid-19, official sources said. The infection was detected during a mandatory testing for Covid-19. Over 2,000 Army personnel have arrived in Delhi since late November using various modes of transport and all of them had to undergo the Covid-19 test before they PTI were put into a “safe bubble”, the sources said. The recovery rate stands at 95.78 per cent while the fatality rate is 1.45 as per cent. A total of 16,71,59,289 samples have been tested for Covid-19 till now. Of these, 8,53,527 samples were tested on Friday, the ICMR said. Bengal records 1,253 new cases: Bengal today registered 1,253 fresh Covid-19 cases and 33 deaths due to the infection. The total Covid case count is 5,46,008 with a death toll of 9,569 while there are 14,108 active cases. Kolkata recorded 262 cases and 12 deaths and North 24 Parganas recorded 270 fresh Covid cases and 8 deaths. In the last 24 hours, 1,861 patients were discharged taking the number of recovered patients to 5,22,331. A total of 30,641 people were tested for Covid in a single-day. 1,01,69,118 2,81,667 22,273 22,274 1,47,343 UNION HEALTH MINISTRY FIGURES AS OF 8.00 A.M. SATURDAY 26 DECEMBER 2020 BJP murdering democracy by detaining victorious PAGD candidates: Omar STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE JAMMU, 26 DECEMBER National Conference (NC) vice-president and the former chief minister Omar Abdullah on Saturday accused the administration of altering results of the recently held District Development Council (DDC) elections by misusing police to pick up the victorious candidates of Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) and forcing them to join the J&K Apni Party (JKAP) that is friendly towards the BJP. “On one hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Lt Governor Manoj Sinha boast of free and fair DDC polls and claim democracy has won, but on the other hand, democracy is being murdered by detain- On one hand, PM Modi and Lt Governor Manoj Sinha boast of free and fair DDC polls and claim democracy has won, but on the other hand, democracy is being murdered by detaining PAGD candidates. I don’t know on whose command this all is being done, but winning candidates of PAGD are being threatened, humiliated and coerced to join JKAP, which is a B-team of BJP ing PAGD candidates,” said Omar while addressing a Press conference at his Gupkar residence in Srinagar. Omar played a purported phone recording to support his claim that the candidates were forced to join the Apni party. In the phone conversation clip, the husband of a woman candidate who had won from Shopian in south Kashmir could be heard admitting to another person that he was asked to make his wife join Apni Party in exchange for the release of his brother from detention. “I don’t know on whose command this all is being done, but winning candidates of PAGD are being threatened, humiliated and coerced to join JKAP which is , a B-team of BJP” he alleged. A beginning in the direction has been started from Shopian to alter the election results in those districts where the PAGD got clear mandate. Omar pointed out that the Prime Minister while launching the health insurance scheme for residents of Jammu and Kashmir earlier during the day claimed that democracy has won during the DDC elec- tions. However, the democratic win of the PAGD candidates was now being murdered by making them join the JKAP . Showkat Ganai, a former MLC of National Conference and a senior party leader Shabir Ahmed Kullay were kept under detention to change the verdict of the DDC elections, he alleged. He said that the verdict of the DDC elections was a clear message against abrogation of the Article 370 and splitting Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories. Abdullah, however, said that he does not claim that the entire population of the union territory was with us but majority have voted against the decisions of last year’s 5 August, Omar added. DDC polls ‘moment of pride’: Modi NEW DELHI, 26 DECEMBER Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted on Saturday that free and transparent DDC polls in Jammu and Kashmir coupled with voters’ keen participation are a “moment of pride” for India, while hitting back at his rivals for giving him “lessons in democracy”. Modi said while his government has completed three-tier panchayat polls in J&K in over a year of the region becoming a UT, the Congress dispensation in Puducherry has not carried out local body elections despite a top court order. Launching the Ayushman Bharat scheme to extend health insurance benefits to all residents of J&K, he said the three-tier panchayat system has fully taken shape here, describing it as a realisation of Mahatma’s dream of ‘gram swaraj’ (village self-rule). The district development council polls in Jammu and Kashmir have written a new chapter in the troubled region and have strengthened democracy, he said. “I feel so proud... This is a moment of pride for India,” he said. See also Page 5
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