Protesting Farmers Celebrate Gurpurab, Light Candles On Barricades

Even as farmers continued their protest against three new farm laws in Delhi and its border areas, they celebrated Guru Nanak Jayanti by lighting candles, including on security barricades.

Protesting farmers lit candles at Tikri border (Delhi-Haryana border) and at Ghazipur border (Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border) to mark Gurupurab in the presence of security personnel.

They lit candles on the barricades placed on the borders.

The farmers had embarked on a ‘Dilli Chalo’ march on November 25 to protest against three new farm laws – the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act. (ANI)

Centre Asks States For Health Staff Data For Vaccination

By Sahil Pandey

The Union Health Ministry has asked states and Union Territories to upload data of health care workers on its application–Covid-19 Vaccine Intelligence Network (COVIN)–who would receive Covid vaccination on priority basis.

The Covin App, developed by the central government, is a key part of India’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout plan. Procurement, distribution, circulation, storage and dose schedules of the vaccine will be found in the Covin App.

“Government of India has initiated preparations for the introduction of Covid-19 vaccine, upon its availability. As part of the preparations, one of the activities is the creation of database of Health Care Workers (HCWs) who will be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccine. This database of HCWs is to be uploaded on COVID-19 Vaccine Intelligence Network (COVIN),” reads an internal communication letter of the Health Ministry dated November 23 accessed by ANI.

The Ministry has also asked states to identify potential health workers who will carry out the Covid-19 vaccination drive.

According to the letter, the persons who may be considered as potential vaccinators, provided that they are actively involved in day to day provision of clinical care to patients and have experience in administering injections through Intra-muscular, Intra-dermal and Sub-cutaneous routes included –MBBS Doctors, BDS Doctors, Staff Nurses (B.Sc Nursing), Auxillary Nurse Midwives (GNM, ANM etc.), Pharmacists MBBS interns and BDS interns.

“Appropriate training of the potential vaccinators will be carried out before utilizing them for COVID-19 vaccination drives,” the letter said.

Further, it mentions that “The states may also consider retired personnel from above-mentioned categories, as applicable, that may be utilized to meet the demand for vaccinators.”

A total of 10 vaccine candidates have been supported by Department of Biotechnology so far at both academia and industry and as on date, five vaccine candidates are in the human trials stage. The government has announced a stimulus package of Rs 900 crore for mission Covid Suraksha to promote indigenous vaccine development. (ANI)

DRDO Lab To Study Terrain, Avalanches At China Border

In the middle of a border conflict, the government has merged two DRDO laboratories to create a new one to do focused research on terrain and avalanches along the borders with China and Pakistan.

“The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has created a new laboratory named Defence Geo Informatics Research Establishment by merging two exiting labs. The new lab will focus on research on terrain and avalanches along the border with China from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh,” Government Sources told ANI.

The two new labs merged by the government are the Manali-headquartered Snow and Avalanche Studies Establishment (SASE) and the other is the Delhi-based Defence Terrain Research Establishment.

The merger of these labs is the first step in the large-scale reforms to be taken in the DRDO by its Chief Dr G Satheesh Reddy to make the organisation “leaner, mean, and more result-oriented”.

The SASE had been very actively engaged in the study of snow and avalanches in the operational areas and has prepared an avalanche atlas of almost 3,000 on-road locations in different parts of the country where the armed forces are deployed.

Similarly, the Defence Terrain Research Laboratory (DTRL) had been working on different terrains where the armed forces are deployed.

Sources said the new lab would also be spreading out its teams in different parts of the border with China like Arunachal Pradesh and work with the forces deployed there.

The merger of two labs has happened soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a detailed review meeting on the DRDO with all the stakeholders including his ministerial colleagues, DRDO chairman, and Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat.

Reddy has also been given a tenure extension by the government and he has been entrusted with the task of bringing reforms in the premier defence research agency.

The DRDO chief recently set up a committee under IIT Delhi, Director P Ramagopal Rao to review the charter of duties of the laboratories to prepare the armed forces for futuristic battlefields.

The select panel will delve deep into the nature of work being carried out by each lab under the organisation and will present a report to redefine the charter of work being carried out and minimize technology overlaps. (ANI)

New Laws To Give Farmers New Mkts, Better Income: PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday asserted that his government’s new agricultural reforms have empowered the farmers and given them new options and legal protection. He said that the benefits of these new laws will be experienced in the coming days.

The prime minister said in his address in Varanasi where he dedicated to the nation the six-lane widened Handia (Prayagraj)-Rajatalab (Varanasi) section of National Highway 19.

“India’s agricultural products are famous all over the world. Should not the farmer have access to this big market and higher prices? Shouldn’t a farmer get the freedom to sell his produce directly to those who give them better prices and facilities. If someone considers transactions from the old system only, then where has that been stopped?,” Prime Minister said.

“Earlier, transactions outside the market were illegal. In such a situation, small farmers used to get cheated. Now the small farmer can also take legal action on every deal that is out of the market,” he said.

Farmers are being empowered by giving them options for a bigger market and . Reforms are being done in the interest of farmers, which will give them more options, Modi said.

The Prime Minister was referring to three agriculture acts–The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

He said that the new agricultural laws were brought in for benefit of the farmers. “We will see and experience benefits of these new laws in the coming days,” he added.

“The new Farm law doesn’t stop anyone who wishes to sell produce according to old system. Earlier, any sale outside Mandi was considered illegal and small farmers were cheated as they were not able to reach Mandi. Farmers now are protected by law against cheating and fraud,” PM Modi said.

The Prime Minister said that raising questions on policies and laws made by the government is natural and it is part of democracy

“Earlier it used to be that if someone did not like the decision of the government, then it was opposed. But there is a new trend now, we have been seeing for some time that now rumours have become basis for Opposition. Propaganda is spread that although decision is right, it can lead to other consequences, about things that haven’t happened or will never happen. Same is with farm laws. These are the same people who have consistently tricked the farmers for decades,” he said.

“Earlier MSP used to be declared but very little purchase was done on Minimum Support Price (MSP). For years, farmers were cheated on the name of MSP. Large loan waiver packages were announced in the name of farmers. But they did not reach the small and marginal farmers. Big schemes were announced in the name of farmers. But they themselves believed that out of 1 rupee, only 15 paisa reached the farmer. You have to remember, these are the people who used to raise questions about PM Kisan Samman Nidhi.

“They used to spread the rumor that Rs 2,000 is being given in view of election and after the general election, this money will have to be given back with interest. But, Rs 1 lakh crore has reached the farmers and it continues,” he added.

Prime Minister said that the promise made by the government to accept the M S Swaminathan Commission’s recommendation has been fulfilled.

“We promised that we would give MSP one and a half times the cost in production as per Swaminathan Commission’s recommendation. This promise was not only fulfilled on paper, but has reached the bank accounts of the farmers. In the five years before 2014, pulses of around Rs 600 crores were purchased from the farmer. But in the subsequent five years, we have bought pulses worth about Rs 49,000 crore, which is an increase of about 75 times,” he said.

“In the five years prior to 2014, the earlier government had purchased paddy worth 2 lakh crores. But in the subsequent 5 years, we have passed Rs 5 lakh crore as MSP of paddy to the farmers which means that almost two and a half times more money has reached to the farmers,” he added.

The Prime Minister also lauded the efforts made by the Uttar Pradesh government and Varanasi administration on agriculture-related infrastructure.

“For the first time, the produce of Varanasi farmers is being exported to foreign countries at a large scale. Varanasi’s Langda and Dussehri mangoes are spreading their fragrance in London and the Middle-East…Mango farmers need not go to other cities for packaging now,” he said.

“With the establishing of a perishable cargo centre in Varanasi, now farmers here have got a facility to store and sell their produce easily. Due to this storage capacity, for the first time, the produce of farmers here is being exported in large quantities. When connectivity in a region improves it also benefits its farmers. Recently, a fund of Rs one lakh crores was constituted to establish cold storage facilities for farmers and other agriculture infrastructure,” he added. (ANI)

Delhi Govt Caps RT PCR Test For Covid At ₹800 In Pvt Labs

The Delhi government on Monday fixed the price of RT-PCR test by private labs in the national capital at Rs 800.

RT-PCR tests are the most decisive and crucial for COVID-19 testing. Currently, people have to spend Rs 2,400 for the RT-PCR test at private labs, however, these tests are being conducted free of cost in government hospitals in Delhi.

The Health and Family Welfare Department of the Delhi government in an order on Monday fixed the price at Rs 800 for samples that are collected by the government teams and collected from the collection sites by private sector labs “as requisitioned by the districts/hospitals and samples that are collected at the labs/hospitals/collection facilities (including all charges-samples collection and testing cost at the site)”.

It also fixed the price at Rs 1,200 for samples that are collected through home visits (including all charges-visit, samples collection and testing cost).

“Private sector labs shall mandatorily collect the samples from the testing sites as requisitioned by the government team,” it said.

The order comes into effect immediately and is for strict compliance by all concerned, the department stated.

Delhi has reported 1,487 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of active coronavirus cases to 35,091 on Monday, according to Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. (ANI)

Centre Ready To Discuss All Issues With Farmers: Puri

In the midst of ongoing farmer protests against three farms laws, Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Monday said the Centre is willing to address all genuine issues of the farmers, which can be resolved through dialogue.

Speaking to ANI today, Union Minister said the government is ready to talk to the farmers on every issue with an open heart.

“Our senior leaders have invited farmers for talks and are willing to address genuine issues. I firmly hope that all their genuine demands will be considered and issues will be resolved,” Puri said.

He also said farmers have been told to shift their protest to the designated place in Burari ground and whenever there will be talks, all the issues will be up for discussion.

Responding to the farmers’ organisations claim that the government was placing a condition for negotiation and it was not possible to negotiate in this manner, Puri assured that the policies of the government were in the interest of the farmers and there was no condition.

“Talks are always held without preconditions or preconceived notions. I sincerely hope that the ministers will listen to all their genuine demands, they will be considered and whatever problems they have, it will be solved,” Puri said.

It is worth noting that constant discussions are going on among top leadership to establish a dialogue with the protesting farmers. The Prime Minister and the Home Minister have also appealed to the farmers to withdraw the movement. (ANI)

Analysis: Are Chinese Navy’s Growth Targets Sustainable?

Last year was a monumental year for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), with no fewer than 23 modern surface warships launched. That figure included nine destroyers (two Type 055s and seven Type 052Ds), twelve Type 056 corvettes, one Type 075 landing helicopter dock, and one Type 071 landing platform dock. 2020, despite the twin challenges of a trade war with the USA and the impact of COVID-19, will be a stellar year for China’s navy as well, with a number of those previously launched ships entering formal service and yet more under construction.

But how much more powerful can the PLAN grow? A great deal of effort is put into predicting the future size and composition of the Chinese navy, but a straight extrapolation of what is going on today is insufficient. Indeed, Chinese shipyards need to build commercial vessels as well as naval ones in order to gain revenue. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that building new warships will be China’s only priority out till 2049, especially as national debt rises.

Another major issue that many commentators ignore is the tremendous cost involved in building, operating, and maintaining a large navy. Generally, a ship’s upkeep throughout its lifetime will be some three times what it cost to build originally. Indeed, many a navy has run aground on the extra cost of sustaining its fleet, and China will no doubt face the same fiscal and manpower pressures in future years given its recent mad expansion in modern hulls.

In a November report published by the US Naval War College, PLAN Force Projection Structure Concept: A Methodology for Looking Downrange, author Christopher P. Calson calculated what China may have invested in the production and overhaul of its main surface combatants and aircraft carriers. He estimated that the PLAN invested 28.84 million man-hours on these ships in 2018, excluding all submarines, amphibious warfare, support ships, and smaller boats.

Illustrating the incredible growth and resource allocation for China’s navy, this figure had risen from 11.38 million man-hours in 2010. This represents a 153 per cent increase in production and sustainment man-hours in a period of just eight years.

There are many estimates as to what the PLAN will look like ten years from now, but they remain only guesses. However, conservatively there could be four carriers (including two with catapults), 16-20 Type 055 cruisers, 36-40 Type 052D/E destroyers, and 40-50 Type 054A/B frigates in the surface fleet.

If this prediction is remotely correct, Calson calculates that the PLAN’s shipbuilding and overhaul workload will peak in 2026 at around 48.13 million man-hours. This is because many Chinese warships will start requiring midlife overhauls about then. Interestingly, that estimate of 48.13 million represents a 93 per cent increase from 2018 (plus it excludes Type 056 corvettes that were factored in to the 2018 figure). In other words, thePLAN/contracted shipbuilders would require a workforce that is double the size of the present one!Of course, such research shows that the PLAN’s recent shipbuilding rate is absolutely unsustainable. Add to this the fact that China’s economy is growing more slowly than before, and that its labor costs are rising.

Calson thus observed in his report, “There is little doubt that China desires to continue building surface combatants at an accelerated rate, but the resource requirements to achieve this desire are daunting and maybe beyond even its reach.”

Yet there is something else to consider. What is the point of such a serious naval build-up? Obviously, China wants a navy that can operate at great distances from its own shores, the ability to project power at will anywhere in the world that it wishes.

Indeed, one must remember that this expansion in capability with more modern and larger hulls has not occurred in isolation over the past couple of years. In fact, the PLAN laid the framework for such expeditionary operations nearly two decades ago.

China took a two-pronged approach to develop its navy so it can perform both “near-seas defense and far-seas protection”, as China would term it after the policy was adopted in 2015. It could alternatively be dubbed a “sword and shield” approach, the ability to dominate waters near home and to project power into distant oceans.

A second recently published US Naval War College report authored by Roderick Lee and Morgan Clemens, entitled Organizing to Fight in the Far Seas: The Chinese Navy in an Era of Military Reform, pointed out that the PLAN previously faced five key weaknesses: an inadequate leadership management system, inadequate joint operations command system, suboptimal structure of the People’s Armed Forces, antiquated policy system and inadequate civilian-military integration.

The main reforms to rectify these PLA weaknesses occurred from 2015-17, such as new joint theater commands and a restructured Central Military Commission (CMC). These reforms mean that PLA forces are now controlled via a CMC-theater command-unit chain of command.

A third reform will only be completed by the end of 2020, at least according to a formerly promulgated schedule, and that is policy reforms – the “software” of the PLA if you like. Policy changes encompass such areas as personnel management, training, promotion requirements, education, and other almost intangible things.

One of the most visible demonstrations of the growing reach of the PLAN is its introduction of aircraft carriers. The Liaoning, an incomplete hull originally built for the Russian Navy, was commissioned in 2012, but the first carrier task group was actually created a year earlier in 2011. Significantly, according to the report, “This corps-deputy leader grade organization was the PLAN’s first permanent task-oriented unit, and it would set a precedent for how the PLAN would organize its aircraft carrier force.”

Two other important milestones for the PLAN in its quest to rule the waves far from home was the establishment of its first comprehensive support base (now part of the Northern Theater Command) and in 2013 an organizational structure for carrier aviation forces (a carrier test/training base and an embarked aviation unit).

At the same time, other changes were occurring in the PLAN to expedite its ability to roam the world’s oceans. Lee and Clemens list the following: a southward shift of the center of gravity; strong offshore defensive zone from which to radiate outward; slimmed-down command structure; reduced command layers; task-based units; intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance of distant seas; and forward logisticscapabilities.

As part of its wider ambitions, critical to the PLAN is the ability to “break through” the so-called First Island Chain, which is on average some 500km from China’s coast. This imaginary line runs from Japan southward between Taiwan and the Philippines to the island of Borneo. China must have the ability to operate with impunity within that barrier and also to easily pass through this chain in order to reach destinations farther afield.

How can it perform distant-seas operations if it cannot even get there in the first place? Given this reality, it becomes clear why China is so adamant about dominating the South China Sea. This zone within the First Island Chain also serves as a defensive area for China so it can keep enemies at arm’s length. In support of this, the PLA built up the Southern Theater Command’s ability to radiate support farther southwards, aiding thePLA whenever it wishes to jump off missions to the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Lee and Clemens again: “China views much of its maritime access as being blocked by US allies, with South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines forming a geopolitical barrier impeding far-seas operations. When geopolitical constraints are combined with the geography of the First Island Chain, which limits the number of submarine transit lanes into the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the best access in a wartime environment is through the South China Sea.”

This explains why PLAN facilities in the Southern Theater Command have been undergoing major modernization. Naturally, there is the infamous reclamation of reef bases in the Spratly Islands, plus expanded PLAN facilities on Hainan Island. As an example, the Southern Theater Navy’s Comprehensive Support Base east of Yulin is gaining a large dry dock able to accommodate an aircraft carrier. Additionally, Lingshui Air Base is undergoing construction such as a new runway and fighter aircraft shelters, which could presumably support carrier aircraft.

When it comes to far-seas operations, it is still unclear who administratively commands PLAN naval task groups. For example, it seems improbable that the respective geographic zones of the theater commands span all the way around the globe. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the PLA’s counterpiracy task group in the Gulf of Aden, operating there since 2008, falls under the responsibility of any particular theatercommand.

The US Naval War College report attempted to answer that question: “…The only sensible option for commanding far seas and overseas operations outside of the theater command structure is some entity operating more directly under CMC authorities, giving rise to several possibilities. One option is for far-seas operations to be commanded directly by the CMC’s Joint Operations Command Center. A second possibility is that PLAN Headquarters Operations Command Office commands such operations through CMC authorities. A third possibility is that the mysterious Navy Special Activities Command and Control Group commands and controls PLAN operations occurring outside theater command areas of responsibility. Unfortunately, there is no substantive evidence available to suggest which of these is most likely.”

This ambiguity caused Lee and Clemens to warn of a potential weakness: “…The command arrangements for far-seas operations have not been clearly delineated and no one organ or set of organs has been identified as responsible for them. While this is manageable in the context of China’s current, limited far-seas operational presence, any meaningful increase in the size, scope, frequency and intensity of far-seas operations will require further structural reforms at the CMC and theater command levels in order to layout clear command responsibilities.”

To date, China is still hampered by a lack of overseas bases to support its warships too. Only one such base exists at the moment, and that is the logistics base in Djibouti. While there is great speculation that China is seeking to establish new bases such as in Gwadar in Pakistan, these do not yet exist, further hampering the PLA’s ability to ply the world’s oceans. (ANI)

Dance Is Very Close To My Heart: Madhuri

Reminiscing about the time spent while shooting the 2007 released dance film ‘Aaja Nachle’, Bollywood actor Madhuri Dixit, celebrated 13 years of the musical film on Monday.

While fondly celebrating the anniversary of the movie, which was her second venture with Yash Raj Films, Madhuri took to her Instagram on Monday and shared a celebratory poster of the film along with some unknown facts captioned, “Dance is something close to my heart and makes this film special.”

The actor took a trip down memory lane and revealed that the super hit song ‘Aaja Nachle’, initially was not the first preference for being the title track of the film. It was only after when the other song did not work out, the makers decided to make ‘Aaja Nachle’ their title track.

Madhuri, who after her wedding with Dr Sriram Nene had shifted to the US, also revealed in the Instagram post that Aditya Chopra, the producer and story writer of the movie, had flown there to narrate the film personally to her and get her on board.

The ‘Dhakdhak Girl’ had done the film back in 2007 after a five-year hiatus from the big screen. Other than Madhuri Dixit the star cast of the film also included names of power performers like Kunal Kapoor, Konkana Sen Sharma, Divya Dutta, Ranveer Shorey, among several others. (ANI)

Rahul, Priyanka Urge People To Support Farmers’ Protest

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Monday urged people to join the “Speak Up for Farmers” campaign, amid farmers’ protests against the Central government’s new farm laws.

“Modi government tortured farmers- first they brought in black laws and then used force/lathi-charged farmers. But they forgot that when farmers raise their voice then it resonates across the country. Join us through the #SpeakUpForFarmers campaign against the exploitation of our brother farmers,” read Rahul’s tweet (roughly translated from Hindi).

Raising the issue, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra alleged that the interests of farmers were ignored in new agricultural laws.

“Name of the law is farmer’s law but all the benefit to billionaire friends. How can farmer laws be made without talking to farmers? How can the interests of farmers be ignored while making these laws? The government will have to listen to the farmers. Let us together raise our voice in support of farmers. #SpeakUpForFarmers,” she tweeted in Hindi.

Farmers have been protesting at various places in Delhi and Haryana and have rejected the central government’s offer to hold talks on December 3 saying that imposing conditions for starting a dialogue is an insult to them.

Around 32 farmer organisations, mostly from Punjab, and a few farmers from Gujarat and Maharashtra as well managed to reach Delhi on Friday and assembled at the border areas to continue their protest.

The farmers are protesting against The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has said that the Central government is ready for talks with the farmers’ unions on December 3. (ANI)

Farmers Protest At Delhi Borders Remains Peaceful

Delhi Police have made elaborate security arrangements as farmers decided to camp at the Singhu border (Delhi-Haryana) to protest Central farm laws.

“Situation is peaceful and under control. We are in contact with them (farmers). Our objective is to maintain law and order. We have deployed enough force,” said Surendra Yadav, Joint Commissioner of Police, Northern Range, Delhi.

Farmers are holding a peaceful protest at the Delhi-Singhu border on the occasion of 551st Prakash Parv of the first Sikh Guru.

Sukhvinder Singh Sabhran Punjab Kisan Sangarsh Committee Joint Secretary told ANI, “Today, we are sitting here on the day of Guru Parv and we will celebrate Guru Parv here. The central government is not ready to listen to us or there is no platform for discussion with them, we are not going to leave from here. There is enough food and we also want to thank the people of Delhi for the way they are supporting us.”

Joint CP Surender Yadav informed that all the farmers are peacefully protesting at the Singhu border.

“We are not facing any problem of any kind. We have enough force to deal with any situation in any way. We are also providing all kinds of facilities for the farmers here apart from medical facilities,” he added.

Meanwhile, security has been tightened and barricading was done at Ghazipur-Ghaziabad (Delhi-UP) border where farmers have gathered in protest farm laws.

Farmers have been protesting at various places in Delhi and Haryana and have rejected the central government’s offer to hold talks on December 3 saying that imposing conditions for starting a dialogue is an insult to them.

Around 32 farmer organisations, mostly from Punjab, and a few farmers from Gujarat and Maharashtra as well managed to reach Delhi on Friday and assembled at the border areas to continue their protest.

The farmers are protesting against The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has said that the Central government is ready for talks with the farmers’ unions on December 3. (ANI)