CMYK THURSDAY www.thestatesman.com 31 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 BRITISH MPS CLEAR POST-BREXIT TRADE DEAL RUSSIA OPENS FRAUD PROBE AGAINST NAVALNY P10 WEATHER Fog/Mist in the morning, mainly clear sky later. Temperature likely to in the range of 25-13 degree Celsius. RAINFALL: Nil RELATIVE HUMIDITY Max. 95% TEMPERATURE P10 P9 Govt, farmers break Flights to UK suspended till bread, not much ice 7 January PRESS TRUST OF INDIA Max: 25.7°C (N) Min: 12.6°C (-1) SUN RISES SUN SETS 06:16 hrs 17:03 hrs MOON SETS MOON RISES 06:17 hrs 17:14 hrs Next moon quartr on 6 January THUMBNAILS West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee during her visit to a tribal village at Ballavpur Danga, Bolpur area in Birbhum on Wednesday. RAJA BHAKAT Stranded sailors: The government on Wednesday said 39 Indian sailors stuck in China will be brought back soon as diplomatic talks are on with the neighbouring country. Two cargo vessels with a total of 39 Indians on board have been stuck in Chinese waters as they were not allowed to unload their cargo though some other ships have managed to do so. “Diplomatic talks are going on for this successfully. Our seafarers will come to India soon,” shipping minister Mansukh Mandaviya said. New missions: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the opening of Indian missions in Estonia, Paraguay and Dominican Republic, Union minister Prakash Javadekar said. An official statement said the opening of Indian missions in these countries will help expand India's diplomatic footprint, deepen political relations, enable growth of bilateral trade and investment and facilitate stronger people-topeople contacts. NEW DELHI, 30 DECEMBER he government and farm unions reached some common ground onWednesday to resolve protesting farmers' concerns over rise in power tariff and penalties for stubble burning, but the two sides remained deadlocked over the main contentious issues of the repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee for the Minimum Support Price (MSP). After nearly five hours of the sixth round of negotiations between three Union ministers and a 41-member representative group of thousands of farmers protesting on Delhi borders, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said at least 50 per cent resolution has been reached with mutual agreement on two out of four items on the agenda and discussions would continue on the remaining two on January 4 at 2 p.m. “Discussions on the three farm laws and MSP are not complete and will continue in the next round of talks... We are hopeful that consensus would be reached for resolving the two remaining issues also,” Tomar told reporters after the meeting. While the three ministers joined the farmer leaders to share their langar (community kitchen) food during the lunch break, the union representatives accepted the beverage offered by the government during the evening tea break. For the last few meetings, farmer leaders have been arranging their own food and beverages and T PRESS TRUST OF INDIA TO BE CONTINUED Farmer leaders said the government agreed to their demands for dropping the penal provisions against farmers in an ordinance relating to stubble burning and to put on hold a proposed electricity amendment law. However, there was no concrete movement on their main demands for repeal of the three farm laws and a legal guarantee for MSP, union leaders said The government offered to set up two NEW DELHI, 30 DECEMBER had so far refused to accept even water offered by the government. Farmer leaders said the government agreed to their demands for dropping the penal provisions against farmers in an ordinance relating to stubble burning and to put on hold a proposed electricity amendment law. But there was no concrete movement on their main demands for repeal of the three farm laws and a legal guarantee for MSP union leaders said. , The unions, however, have decided to postpone their proposed tractor rally, earlier scheduled for Thursday, till the next round of talks on January 4. Tomar said talks were held in a cordial atmosphere and the two sides reached an agreement on two issues ~ one relating to the proposed electricity law and the other about an ordinance on penal provisions committees ~ one to ensure parity between the MSP and the market price and the other on finding alternatives to the farmers' demand for the repeal of the three laws for stubble burning. Tomar said the union leaders kept insisting on the repeal of the three farm laws, but the government side tried to explain to them the benefits of the Acts and sought to know specific problems faced by the farmers. On farmers' demand for a legal guarantee for procurement at Minimum Support Price (MSP), the minister said the government has already said that it is ready to give a written assurance. “Talks will continue on these two issues,” said Tomar, who was accompanied by food and railways minister Piyush Goyal and minister of state for commerce Som Parkash at the meeting. Later, an official statement said the government offered to set up two committees ~ one to ensure parity between the MSP and the market price and the other on finding alter- while upholding the constitutional values. But this was rejected by farmers. The next round of talks will be held on 4 January 2021. natives to the farmers' demand for the repeal of the three laws while upholding the constitutional values. After the meeting, union leader Kalwant Singh Sandhu said Wednesday's talks mostly focussed on electricity and stubble burning, while the next meeting on January 4 would focus on the MSP guarantee and the three farm laws. All India Kisan Sabha leader and CPI(M) politburo member Hannan Mollah said,“The discussion has not broken, it is on. Out of four issues on the agenda, two have been addressed and the remaining two ~ MSP legalisation and repeal of three laws ~ are to be resolved.” The government during the discussion offered to set up a committee to discuss ways to legalise the MSP and amendments to the three new laws, but we rejected that, he said. Retd babus term UP epicentre of hate politics, seek anti-conversion law recall Interfaith couple booked in Uttarakhand PRESS TRUST OF INDIA DEHRADUN, 30 DECEMBER NEW DELHI, 30 DECEMBER dinance was being used to “victimise especially those Indian men who are Muslim and women who dare to exercise their freedom of choice”. “It has become painfully evident that, in recent years, UP state, once known as the cradle of the Ganga-Jamuna civilisation, has become the epicentre of the politics of hate, division and bigotry and that the institutions of governance are now steeped in communal poison,” the retired civil servants wrote in the letter dated December 29. They also referred to a case of an interfaith marriage involving a Muslim man and a Hindu woman in Moradabad. “In the Moradabad incident, 22-year-old Rashid and his 25year-old brother, Saleem, were arrested, to be released only two weeks later when Rashid's wife, Pinki, gave testimony that she had married him willingly, without any compulsion,” the letter stated. It added that the couple had married in July 2020, well before the promulgation of any ordinance on the issue of interfaith marriage, and were on their way to have their marriage registered on December 5 when they were accost- ed by alleged Bajrang Dal men, who accused Rashid of “love jihad”, and took them to the police. “The vigilantes who had accosted them brought Pinki's family to the police station. What is inexcusable is that the police remained mute as the vigilantes harassed and interrogated the innocent couple. Pinki suffered a miscarriage, possibly as a result of the harassment... This is only one of a series of “heinous atrocities committed by your administration” against young Indians across UP the letter said. What , is worse is that law enforcement machinery, with the active backing of the state government, is playing a role reminiscent of the “secret police in authoritarian regimes”, it alleged. Fourteen more people were found infected with the UK strain of the coronavirus on Wednesday in the country, with West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh reporting their first such cases, taking the total tally to 20 in two days. A cautious government extended the temporary suspension of passenger flights between the UK and India till January 7 and said the services would resume in a “strictly regulated” manner thereafter. According to local authorities, a number of UK returnees in states like Maharashtra, Odisha, Karnataka and Punjab remained untraceable and efforts were on to contact them. Experts have said that so far it has not been found that the new strain increases the severity of the disease, though it is considerably more transmissible. At least six cases of the new strain were reported on Monday. Among the new cases, Bengal and Uttar Pradesh reported one and two respectively among UK returnees. The Union health ministry said the mutated UK strain has so far been detected in eight samples at the National Centre for Disease Control in Delhi. Among the eight was the woman who left Delhi and travelled to Andhra Pradesh last week by train. The remaining seven are in quarantine at the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital in New Delhi. The ministry said that one ASSOCIATED PRESS NEW YORK, 30 DECEMBER In this Friday, 1 January 2016, file photo, fireworks explode over the River Thames and Big Ben, as the New Year's Day celebrations begin in London. AP sidewalks that would normally be all but impassable. Vendors' carts and window displays at the area's struggling gift shops flaunted few 2021themed souvenirs as workers set up a stage for a celebra- tion that will unfold this year without the usual throngs of cheering, kissing revelers. Police will block off the area so spectators can't get a glimpse. It’s almost like a Seinfeld episode, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said, invoking the 1990s “show about nothing”. “This is a ball drop about nothing, where you can’t see, so you may as well stay home.” The event's special guests will be first responders and essential workers. But they won't be joining the mayor on stage to lead the countdown. Instead, each guest will watch from a private, well-spaced area. The night's performances including disco diva Gloria Gaynor's singing of the aptfor-2020 anthem I Will Survive” will be aimed at TV audiences. New Year's Eve will look different around the world after a year in which the virus killed an estimated 1.8 million people, including more than 330,000 in the USA. Germany banned the sale 1,02,44,852 2,62,272 20,549 26,572 1,48,439 UNION HEALTH MINISTRY FIGURES AS OF 8.00 A.M. WEDNESDAY 30 DEC 2020 case each was detected at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in Delhi, the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, Kalyani and the National Institute of Virology, Pune and seven were at the National Institute of Mental Health and NeuroSciences Hospital, Bengaluru. Two cases have been detected at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, it said. India’s Covid-19 caseload rose to 1,02,44,852 with 20,549 new infections being reported in a day, while the number of people who have recuperated from the disease reached 98.34 lakh, according to health ministry data updated on Wednesday. The death toll increased to 1,48,439 with 286 new fatalities. PRESS TRUST OF INDIA LONDON, 30 DECEMBER An interfaith couple who had approached the Uttarakhand High Court seeking protection has been booked here along with the husband’s uncle and the qazi who performed the marriage for allegedly not following the provisions of the state's anti-conversion law. According to police, this is the first case of violation of the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act in the state since it came into force in 2018. The police found that the woman had converted to Islam without informing her parents or the district authorities prior to her marriage as is required by PTI the law. of fireworks, which residents usually set off in on the streets, and a pyrotechnics show at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate is off. So, too, are the fireworks over the River Thames in locked-down London, where New Year's Eve also marks Britains final economic split from the European Union. However, Big Ben, which has been largely silent since 2017 while its clock tower is restored, will sound 12 bongs at midnight. The Netherlands moved the national countdown from an Amsterdam park to a soccer stadium, where spectators won't be allowed in and pyrotechnics will be replaced with electric fireworks. In Rome, the fireworks are still on, but customary concerts in public plazas have been scrapped in favor of livest- CMYK West Bengal reports first case of new Covid strain KOLKATA, 30 DECEMBER West Bengal has reported its first case of a mutant coronavirus strain that surfaced in the United Kingdom, a senior health official said on Wednesday. The patient, son of a senior official of the state health department, tested positive for the Variant of Concern 202012/01 (VOC-202012/01) mutant coronavirus strain after returning from London 10 days ago, the official said. The youth is undergoing treatment at the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital,” the official said. He had tested positive for Covid-19 at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport on the day of his return to Kolkata, he said. “As he had returned from the UK, we had sent his samples to Kalyani's National Institute of Biomedical Genomics for genetic analysis as per the protocol set by the Centre. “The new strain of the coronavirus was detected during his genetic analysis. We had sent the report to Delhi-based National Centre for Disease Control,” the official said. Six others who had come in contact with the youth at the airport also underwent genetic analysis but tested negative for the new strain, he said. The state, meanwhile, today recorded 1,178 fresh Covid cases and 28 deaths due to the infection. The total Covid case count is 5,50,893, while the death toll has reached 9,683. In the last 24 hours, 1,557 patients were discharged from hospitals, leaving the state with 12,381 active cases. SNS/PTI AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine approved for use in UK The UK on Wednesday approved a cheaper and easyto-handle Covid-19 vaccine developed by scientists at Oxford University and produced by AstraZeneca for human use, the second coronavirus vaccine to be cleared for rollout in Britain after the Pfizer/BioNTech jabs. The Oxford vaccine, which also has a tie-up with the Serum Institute of India, was being evaluated by the British regulator - the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) - after the final cut of data was submitted by the government last week. The approval by the MHRA After a year like this, expect a strange New Year’s Eve If ever a year's end seemed like cause for celebration, 2020 might be it. Yet the coronavirus scourge that dominated the year is also looming over New Year's festivities and forcing officials worldwide to tone them down. From New York's Times Square to Sydney Harbor, big public blowouts are being turned into TV-only shows and digital events. Fireworks displays have been canceled from the Las Vegas Strip to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Even private parties in some places are restricted. Days ahead of the ball drop in Times Square, it clearly wasn't New Year's as usual at the Crossroads of the World. There was room to roam on P12 Talks deadlocked on MSP, repeal of laws; consensus on two issues Min. 39% Uttar Pradesh has become the “epicentre of the politics of hate, division and bigotry” and the institutions of governance are “steeped in communal poison,” alleged 104 retired civil servants in a letter to chief minister Yogi Adityanath. The signatories of the letter, including former foreign secretary Nirupama Rao, exnational security adviser Shivshankar Menon and former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, also demanded immediate withdrawal of the anti-conversion ordinance. They alleged that the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Or- WHY AUSTRALIA ARE DEEMED ‘FAVOURITES’ TIRED OF MAKING DEALS WITH PRACHANDA: OLI reamed performances and art installations. Rio de Janeiro nixed the fireworks, open-air concerts and rooftop parties that draw crowds of white-clad revelers in the Copacabana neighbourhood, where only residents will be allowed in. In Russia, New Year's Eve has been more widely celebrated than Christmas, which is marked on Jan. 7 by the countrys Orthodox Christian majority. Public events have been banned or restricted in many regions. But the country's so-called New Year's Eve capital, the city of Kaluga, is luring tourists with a week of festivities, despite pleas from residents to cancel. Officials in Kaluga, 150 kilometres southwest of Moscow, said virus precautions will be taken. means the vaccine is both “safe and effective” and the government's Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that the National Health Service (NHS) will prioritise giving the first of the two-dose vaccine to those in the most high-risk groups quickly. “It is truly fantastic news and a triumph for British science that the vaccine has been approved for use. We will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that the rollout of the second approved vaccine will begin on January 4 and will really accelerate into the first few weeks of next year”. “The vaccine is our way out of the pandemic,” the minister said. The approval means the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine is now cleared for use for people 18 years or older in the UK. The transportation and storage requirements mean that it needs to be kept at temperatures of 2C to 8C, which is similar to a conventional fridge, for up to six months. TMC MPs write to Kovind, demand Governor’s recall STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE KOLKATA, 30 DECEMBER The Trinamul Congress Parliamentary party has written to the President of India asking for the removal of Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar from his post for his anti-constitutional activities. In a six-page letter, the MPs wrote: "In exercise of your power conferred under Article 156(1) of the Constitution we respectfully submit, you may graciously pleased to kindly consider withdrawing your pleasure for holding the office of Governor of West Bengal, Jagdeep Dhankhar for serious breach of oath of his office." The letter was signed by Sudip Bandopadhyay, leader of the Trinamul Congress in Lok Sabha, Kalyan Banerjee, the party's Chief Whip in Lok Sabha, deputy leader Dr Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Rajya Sabha leader Derek O'Brien and Sukhendu Shekar Roy, the party's Rajya Sabha chief whip. Mr Roy, told mediapersons that the Governor, flouting the Constitution, is acting at the behest of his Delhi bosses by dishing out half truths and false statements. In the letter the MPs alleged the Governor has failed to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and repeatedly breached the rulings of the Supreme Court. He has been practicing divisive politics from the seat of highest Constitutional office in the state, they wrote. Details on Page 3
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