Farm Laws: Winners, Losers And The Future

The long term collateral impact of the biggest sustained protest in contemporary history is yet too early to be assessed. Prime Minister Modi, whose public persona was crafted as a tough leader who never does a U-turn, has been forced to do just that by the relentless farmers of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. They had more to lose from these laws than Modi did with a U-turn. He has repealed the laws to every one’s relief, except the arm-chair warriors around him who wanted him to stand firm against his own citizens.

What was also remarkable was the unity of the farmers’ leadership. Sikh leadership rarely remains united beyond a few months. The Punjab-Haryana leadership in association with the inspiring and formidable Rakesh Tikait of UP also managed to de-communalise the struggle despite several attempts by the Government to make it appear a Sikh separatist campaign. Astute and intelligent leadership has emerged from this movement. The one to watch.

It will remain to be seen what happens next in the talks. Will the leadership remain focussed and united? Will it successfully continue to be a one purpose campaign, keeping away opportunist politicians eying the potential vote bank?

While the immediate win is obvious, it’s the collateral impact of the protest that could be even more powerful. Struggles in the Punjab have often shaped the course of events in South Asia, sometimes the world. The cracks in the Mughal Empire were first split open in Punjab in 1710. Within 20 years the Mughal Empire began to unravel. It was the fall of the Punjab in 1847 that led to consolidation and expansion of the British Empire. It was the five year sustained protest movement in Punjab in 1920s for regaining control of Gurdwaras that started the collapse of the British Empire. The British invited the Congress in 1932 to talk about possible transfer of power. Why Congress and Gandhi dillydallied for another 15 years has not been looked at by historians. Once India became free, the rest of the British Empire fell apart like dominoes.

It was the communal violence in Punjab in 1947 that continues to dominate geo political issues in South Asia. And it was the Punjab Sikh agitation against Indira Gandhi’s Emergency in 1975 that weakened her and the Congress. It started the rise of the alternatives. It was the Sikh uprising after 1984 invasion of Golden Temple that led to final disintegration of Congress, rise of BJP and Hindutva.

The Punjab rarely gains much politically from its struggles but creates waves that quantumly precipitate other upheavals in South Asia and the world.

What will this movement precipitate? It is possible that a coherent federal Indian movement might arise as a collateral from the weakening of BJP. It is possible that the ‘small farms’ issue could become internationalised and small farmers around the world might rise against the encroaching corporate agri business. It could be the beginning of dismantling of stranglehold that global corporate sector has on power. Struggles from Punjab influence events in many ways and the consequences of this struggle remain uncharted yet.

Equal winners in the struggle were the women of India. The women of Punjab, Haryana and UP have shown a strength, resilience and daring that is an inspiration to the world. They stood shoulder to shoulder with the men and many times endured far more. They refused to go back to the villages and instead brought their children and grandchildren with them. They dared the Government and refused to bow.

It is difficult yet to predict the personal and political impact on the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. People who have met him personally often say that he is a pleasant, charming and a warm person who empathises with the concerns of others. But the BJP electoral machine had built him as an Indian Thatcher, decisive and never taking a U-turn.

Margaret Thatcher, the British Prime Minister who destroyed the coal mines and the Unions, is famously remembered for her rhetoric, ‘You turn, the Lady is not for turning’. Yet in her reign, she did many U-turns, most infamously in the very unpopular poll tax. Similarly Modi has done a few U-turns, with the repeal of Farm Laws as the most spectacular one in full public gaze.

Nevertheless, it is not appropriate to say he lost. He bowed to democracy. He is a leader of a democracy. When he sensed that that the protestors were gaining increasing support from Indians from all corners of the country, he did the decent thing. He ignored his image makers and took a personal decision. He decided to repeal the laws. He may initially have stood his ground against the farmers, but ultimately he defied those who ‘made’ his public persona.

ALSO READ: Farmers Protest – Solution Lies With Canada Sikh MPs

The greatest losers in this have been Canada and Australia and their big Agri businesses assisted by WTO rules set by western powers. It was Canada and latterly Australia that have relentlessly been gunning at the MSP (minimum support price) for farm produce in India. Australia brought a formal complaint against India in 2019 with Canada joining the ‘arbitration board’ to decide whether India has broken World Trade Organisation rules by given 150% MSP (or MPS in WTO language) for wheat and 185% for Sugar Cane.

The Indian Government was under immense pressure to scale down MSP to a mere 110% or bring in the private sector. Both Canada and Australia were drooling when farm laws were introduced and Modi stood firm. They are of the opinion that due to miniscule profit margin under WTO rules and free market, small farmers  will stop growing wheat and other food grains thus pushing India to buy these products from Canada and Australia instead. They had the GDP obsessed IMF on board too. India is a huge potential market for the mega farms of both countries. It was no surprise that Sikh MPs in Canada maintained a studious silence on the Punjab Farm Laws.

If Modi decides to stand by Indian farmers and accepts their demand for MSP to be legislated at 150% or more, this will be a great blow for the 30-year campaign by Canada and recently by Australia to break into the Indian grain market.

With growing dissent within the WTO for its pro-western and pro-corporate orientation, this protest may spur India to lead the developing countries and force change in WTO.

Perhaps the greatest winner of the protest and the Modi U-turn is India’s otherwise dysfunctional democracy. Often appearing to be faltering and surviving in Intensive Care, India’s democracy has in fact shown itself to be adaptable and a great survivor.  Despite many hiccups, election violence, wannabe dictators, it has shown its resilience time and time again. It broke Indira’s Emergency and it has forced BJP to repeal the laws.

Whatever happens next, whether the BJP starts to lose grip of near total power or federalism emerges as the way forward, democracy will survive in India for long time to come. It will make and break leaders. It is the wider collateral impact on the world that is to be watched from this protests.

Greater Role for Women in Armed Forces

‘Expansion Of Women Role In Army Will Benefit The Force’

Kerala-based Lt Col (Retd) Susan John, 62, welcomes the steps to ensure a greater role for women in Armed Forces. However, she says, the move hasn’t come a moment too soon

I joined Indian Army after my Class 12 in 1978 and am very proud to have served the forces. I was with the Military Nursing Service (MNS). Ours was the only Army corps way back then which gave lady officers permanent commission.

It was only after the Supreme Court, in February 2020, upheld the right of serving short service commission (SSC) women officers to be granted permanent commissions just like their male colleagues. And lately the welcome step of female cadets being allowed to enroll in Sainik Schools.

So you can see it took the government and the defence apparatus over three decades to realize what women are capable of when it comes to the uniform services, that too when prodded by the apex court. All I can say is the decision has not come a moment too early. Better late than never.

I see Armed Forces as the best career option for girls with the discipline, culture, respect and security that it gets with it. I felt so secured in my life as a lady Army officer in the army that it cannot be expressed. The Army unit was like a well-knit family and our matrons were our role models. Today when I look back I feel choosing the uniform was the best decision of my life. I have no regrets.

Lt Col (Retd) John says women know how to protect, be their family or nation

The expansion of roles for women in the Army will also benefit the force immensely. The whole notion of branding women as the weaker sex is mere patriarchal propaganda. In whichever roles women officers have served the defence forces, they made exemplary contribution without fear in the past. And now, there is no stopping the girls and women of today.

ALSO READ: ‘Never Faced Sexism In Air Force’

I can say with confidence that women officers in their new roles will smoothly adapt themselves without a challenge. No one would be able to raise a finger on them when they ask for their promotions or higher ranks; such is the capability that women possess. Incapable men who opposed combat roles or higher positions for women can go sulk now that the SC has paved the way.

Even in the medical core we served in filed areas. In fact there are lady officers who are far ahead of men managing certain corps over their male counterparts. Army can reach to great heights in every filed with the support of women, I believe.

A woman knows how to take care of the family and protect it. She carries this conviction be at home or the warfront. Men can never match the mental strength and the skill of a woman, no matter which roles she takes up.

As Told To Mamta Sharma

Govt Will Introduce Bill On Cryptocurrency After Cabinet Clears It: Sitharaman

The government will soon introduce a bill on cryptocurrency after the Cabinet’s approval, said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday.

“This is a risky area and not in a complete regulatory framework. No decision was taken on banning its advertisements. Steps are taken to create awareness through RBI and SEBI. The government will soon introduce a Bill once the Cabinet clears it,” Sitharaman replied during Question Hour in Rajya Sabha when Bihar’s BJP MP Sushil Kumar Modi asked if the government is planning to ban “misleading advertisements” till a bill comes up.
The BJP leader said, “Last time also it was mentioned in the bulletin but the bill on cryptocurrency could not come into the house.”

The ‘Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021’ is among 26 new bills on the agenda of the government for the winter session of the Parliament.

The Bill seeks to “create a facilitative framework for the creation of the official digital currency to be issued by the RBI”. It also seeks to prohibit all private cryptocurrencies in India, however, it allows for certain exceptions to promote the underlying technology of cryptocurrency and its uses. (ANI)

Army Receives New Israeli Heron Drones

After a delay of a few months due to COVID-19, the Indian Army’s surveillance capabilities have received a major boost as Israel has delivered advanced Heron drones under the emergency procurement clause to keep an eye on the Chinese activities in the Ladakh sector.

“The advanced Heron drones have arrived in the country and are being deployed for surveillance operations in the eastern Ladakh sector,” top government sources told ANI.
These drones are operational now and are far more advanced than the Herons in the existing inventory and their anti-jamming capability is much better than their previous versions, the sources said.

The acquisition of these drones has been done under the emergency financial powers granted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government to the defence forces under which they can buy equipment and systems worth Rs 500 crores to upgrade their warfighting capabilities, amid ongoing border conflict with China, they added.

According to sources, the other small or mini drones are being acquired from Indian firms.

The Indian defence forces have been taking these initiatives to acquire weapon systems that can help them in the ongoing conflict with China. The last time such a facility was given to the defence forces was in 2019 right after the Balakot airstrikes against terrorist camps in Pakistan.

Using the same facility, the Indian Navy has leased two Predator drones which have been taken from American firm General Atomics.

The Indian Air Force had exercised the same powers to acquire a large number of anti-tank guided missiles, long-range precision-guided artillery shells along with the Hammer air to ground standoff missiles with a strike range of around 70 kilometres.

The emergency procurement powers under capital acquisition route ended on August 31 this year.

The armed forces have a few more projects in the final stages and if they get an extension, they may go ahead for purchasing that equipment too for improving their combat capabilities. (ANI)

Congress Chief Press Conference

‘Not At All’, says Rahul On Opposition MPs Apologizing

Taking Twitter over the suspension of 12 Opposition MPs, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said the Opposition MPs will not ‘apologize’ as they were raising people’s issues in Parliament.

“Why apologize? To raise people’s issues in Parliament? No, not at all!” tweeted Rahul Gandhi.
Opposition MPs staged walkouts from Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha after Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu rejected revocation of the suspension of 12 Opposition MPs.

Following this, the Opposition leaders held a protest at the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Parliament.

“We have boycotted the Lok Sabha proceedings for the remaining day in protest against the suspension of 12 Rajya Sabha MPs,” Congress general secretary KC Venugopal told ANI.

Soon after the House assembled for the day, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge read a submission requesting the Rajya Sabha Chairman to revoke the suspension of 12 MPs from the House for the entire winter session.

In his submission, Kharge said: “I request you to revoke the suspension of 12 members of the House.”

Kharge also pointed out that he was not allowed to raise a point of order and it is a gross violation of the rule. He also said that the members should be named before issuing suspension orders against them.

However, the Chairman denied revoking the suspension, saying the House named all members on August 10 and requested them to help in the functioning of the House but they ransacked the House.

The Chairman said even the Deputy Chairman also took the names of the members.

“This is not the way. You ransacked the House and now you are teaching me a lesson. I cannot revoke the suspension of the members. The bitter experience of the last monsoon session still continues to haunt most of us. I was expecting and waiting for the leading lights of the House to take lead in expressing outrage over what happened in the last session,” said Naidu during the discussion in the Upper House.

“Such assurance would have helped me in handling the matter appropriately but unfortunately it will not be,” he added.

Rajya Sabha on the first day of its business for the winter session on Monday suspended 12 of its members for the rest of the current session, ending on December 23, on account of ‘unruly and violent behaviour’ during the monsoon session of Parliament.

The suspended MPs include six from Congress, two each from TMC and Shiv Sena and one each from CPM and CPI.

The suspended MPs are Elamaram Kareem (CPM), Phulo Devi Netam, Chhaya Verma, R Bora, Rajamani Patel, Syed Nasir Hussain and Akhilesh Prasad Singh of the Congress, Binoy Viswam of CPI, Dola Sen and Shanta Chhetri of Trinamool Congress, Priyanka Chaturvedi and Anil Desai of Shiv Sena. (ANI)

Delhi Govt Designates Lok Nayak Hospital As Dedicated Facility For ‘Omicron’ Variant Cases

The Delhi government has designated Lok Nayak Hospital as a dedicated hospital to treat patients infected with the new COVID-19 variant ‘Omicron’.

As per the order issued by the Health and Family Department of the Delhi government, the decision has been taken following the new guidelines by the Central government for international travellers in the context of the new variant.
“Lok Nayak Hospital will designate one or more separate wards ( as per need) for isolating and treating such patients…It is hereby directed that no COVID-18 patient of the new variant of SARS-CoV-2 will be denied admission on any ground,” the order stated.

The Omicron variant (B.1.1.529), a new variant of the coronavirus, was first reported in Botswana on November 11, 2021, and appeared on November 14 in South Africa. It has been declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO). (ANI)

Admiral R Hari Kumar Takes Over As New Navy Chief

Admiral R Hari Kumar on Tuesday took over as the new Navy chief, succeeding Admiral Karambir Singh who is superannuated after a 30-month tenure. Soon after taking over, Kumar said it was a matter of great honour for him to take charge as the Chief of Naval Staff.

“Indian Navy’s focus is on our national maritime interests and challenges. I would put in my best efforts to take the navy further in that direction building upon achievements and accomplishments of my predecessors,” he said after receiving the guard of honour at South Block Lawns.
Kumar is an alumnus of the prestigious National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla. He was commissioned into the Indian Navy on January 1, 1983.

In his career spanning over 38 years, he has commanded Coast Guard Ship C-01, IN Ships Nishank, Kora, Ranvir and the Aircraft Carrier INS Viraat. A Gunnery specialist, he has held several key appointments, including Fleet Operations Officer (FOO) and Fleet Gunnery Officer (FGO) of Western Fleet, Executive Officer (EXO) of INS Vipul, Gunnery Officer of INS Ranjit, commissioning GO of INS Kuthar and commissioning crew of INS Ranvir.

His shore appointments include Command Gunnery Officer at HQWNC, Naval Advisor to Government of Seychelles, UN Mission in Somalia (UNOSOM II) at Mogadishu and Training Commander, INS Dronacharya.

As a Flag Officer, he has served as Commandant of the Naval War College (NWC) at Goa, Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST), Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet (FOCWF), Chief of Staff (COS), Western Naval Command (WNC), Controller Personnel Services (CPS) and Chief of Personnel (COP) at Naval Headquarters.

Kumar has also served as the Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to The Chairman Chiefs Of Staff Committee (CISC) at the critical junction during the creation of the institution of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and Department of Military Affairs (DMA).

He was the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief (FOCinC), WNC at Mumbai, prior to taking over the helm as the Chief of the Naval Staff on 30 November 2021. (ANI)

Lok Sabha Passes ‘Farm Laws Repeal Bill 2021’

The ‘Farm Laws Repeal Bill 2021’ was passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday, the first day of the Winter Session of Parliament.

Soon after the Parliament’s winter session commenced today, the Lok Sabha was adjourned till 12 noon following sloganeering by the Opposition members. After the Lower House resumed, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar tabled the ‘Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021. The Bill was then passed in the House amid ruckus by Opposition MPs.

Leader of Congress Party in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury demanded a discussion on the Bill in the House.

Following the passing of the Bill, the Lok Sabha was again adjourned till 2 pm amid the ruckus by Opposition members.

The three ‘Farm Laws Repeal Bill 2021’ was circulated among Rajya Sabha members on Friday.

In an address to the nation on November 19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the repealing of the three Central farm laws on the day of Guru Nanak Jayanti. The bill was cleared by the Union Cabinet last week.

The winter session of Parliament is scheduled to conclude on December 23. (ANI)

SC Directs States To File Report On Steps Taken To Curb Pollution in Delhi, NCR

The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab governments to explain steps taken by them in compliance with directions issued by Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjoining areas to curb air pollution and sought compliance reports from them.

A Bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Surya Kant directed the Centre to respond to issues related to construction activities including the Central Vista project under its domain.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the petitioner, that construction activities for big projects like the Central Vista are going on in full swing and such a project cannot be “more important than the lives of citizens”.

To this, the Bench observed, “The question is how we are struggling as to how to control the pollution and whether it is Central Vista or polluting industries or the states… Do you think that we do not know anything? We also know everything. Don’t flag certain issues which ultimately lead to a situation where the main issue is diverted.”

Asking the Solicitor General to respond on continued construction activities of Central Vista the Bench said, “Vikas Singh has raised certain issues regarding construction activities in Delhi, we direct the Solicitor General to file an affidavit or get instructions about the areas which fall under the Central government domain.”

The Court has sought the response of the Solicitor General on construction in Delhi aspect. The apex court now posted the matter for hearing on December 2.

The top court was hearing a matter seeking emergency steps to control the worsening air quality situation in the national capital.

The Bench also directed the State governments to show compliance with the directions issued by the Court on November 24 to disburse the welfare funds to construction workers, whose livelihoods get affected due to the ban imposed on construction activities.

The top court observed that the intentions of the Commission are good and directions are given but the “result is zero”.

Earlier on November 24, the apex court had said that the air quality crisis in Delhi calls for a scientific study and suggested a statistical-based model on wind patterns to take advance measures to curb air pollution in Delhi-NCR before the situation deteriorates.

It had said that advance measures must be taken to deal with Delhi’s air quality crisis.

The apex court had also observed that when the weather becomes severe only then governments take measures to control it.

The apex court is hearing a plea seeking a curb on rising air pollution in Delhi. (ANI)

Kejriwal Gives Financial Aid To Kin Of Sanitation Worker Who Died Due To COVID

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday visited and handed over financial aid to the family of a COVID-19 warrior who died due to the novel coronavirus.

While speaking to media persons, Kejriwal tweeted, “Sunita Ji was a sanitation worker at East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC). Delhi government has given Rs 1 crore to her kin and assured any help needed. We have given Rs one crore to 18 such corona warriors.”
Meanwhile, Delhi on Monday reported 34 fresh COVID-19 cases, 36 recoveries and one death in the last 24 hours. (ANI)