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India Latest News

Top 10 events that made headlines in India

Intro: Apart from Covid-19 that dominated the news, in India, the foundation stone was laid for the Ayodhya Ram Temple, key state elections were conducted and several mass protests were held amid deadly Delhi riots.

Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh became the epicentre in the CAA protests. (File photo)

CAA protests shook the nation

Protests continued in 2020 over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which grants citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists and Christians fleeing religious persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh if they entered India on or before December 31, 2014. People protested against the CAA in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area for over a month that ended on March 24 as pandemic lockdowns began in India.

Riots broke out at many places in north-east Delhi in February, in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The violence erupted on February 22 but the riots continued for 4 days, claiming 53 lives and around 600 people were injured. Several dead bodies were retrieved from a nullah, where mutilated bodies were dumped.

The Delhi riots were triggered through social media, and this medium was used as a weapon to execute the conspiracy as per the chargesheet filed by Delhi Police.

The agitating farmers have announced to take out a tractor rally towards Delhi on Republic Day. (File photo)

Farmers’ protest refuses to die

Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh have been protesting at the borders of the national capital demanding the repeal of the three key farm laws, among other issues.

The Singhu border, ground zero of the snowballing protests, saw thousands of farmers blocking highways from Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan leading to Delhi. The farmers agitation continued after the ministerial level talks between the farmers leaders and the Central government failed to reach a consensus.

The agitating farmers have announced they will take out a tractor rally towards Delhi on Republic Day, besides a series of programmes in a bid to intensify their protest.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi performing the ‘Bhoomi Pujan’. (File photo)

Work begins on Ram Temple in Ayodhya

Prime Minister Narendra Modi performed the ‘Bhoomi Pujan’ and laid the foundation stone for the Ram Temple in Ayodhya on August 5. Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra trust had announced in September that Ram Temple will have 1,200 pillars which will go 200 feet deep. It is expected that the Ram Mandir would be 161 feet tall.

In a related development, nearly 28 years after the Babri Masjid was demolished, the Special CBI court on September 30, 2020, acquitted all 32 accused in the case, including former deputy prime minister LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti.

Arvind Kejriwal back as Delhi CM

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal took oath as the chief minister of Delhi on February 16, for the third time at the Ramlila Maidan Ground. 

The Aam Aadmi Party swept the Delhi Assembly election 2020, bagging 62 out 70 seats and decimating its rivals BJP and Congress. The BJP bagged eight seats, while the Congress failed to open its account and the party’s 62 candidates lost their deposit.

Kejriwal’s oath-taking ceremony at the Ramlila Maidan also assumed significance as it was from this ground that he along with noted anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare led a massive anti-corruption agitation.

Nitish Kumar back as Bihar CM too

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) registered a victory in the Bihar assembly election and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar once again sat on the chair of the Chief Minister. This was the seventh time Nitish Kumar became the Chief Minister of the state. After the ruling alliance’s victory, Nitish Kumar took to Twitter to thank the people of the state and he also expressed his gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his co-operation.

The JD(U) chief got the full backing of all constituents of the NDA, including the BJP, which has outperformed his party in the assembly elections. The BJP secured 74 seats while the JD (U) managed only 143.

Covid-19 spreads in India

The first case of the coronavirus in India was found in Kerala on January 30 through a medical student who had returned from Wuhan. This was followed by the second and third cases in February.

Mass gatherings such as the Tablighi Jamaat event at Delhi’s Nizamuddin, held between March 1-21, became super spreaders. As cases increased, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced one of the world’s most stringent lockdowns on March 24, halting most economic and social activities, closing borders and allowing only essential services to continue.

Over 10 months later, India has crossed 1 crore cases, while the death toll touched over 1.5 lakh.

Several migrants died of hunger, heatstroke and exhaustion. (Photo: Courtesy, PTI)

Migrant exodus got international attention

As the coronavirus spread, India saw a humanitarian crisis, with the lockdown impacting nearly 40 million migrants. What started as groups of migrants walking from Mumbai and neighbouring districts to their hometowns in Gujarat and Rajasthan slowly grew into the largest mass exodus since the Partition, in March.

Many traveled thousands of miles on foot to reach their villages in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, while others traveled by the special Shramik trains that were launched by the government. Not all reached their destinations, though.

According to data compiled by road safety NGO, 198 migrants lost their lives in road accidents during this lockdown period, while many more have died of hunger, heatstroke and exhaustion.

India-China clashes at border

On May 5, a scuffle broke out between Indian and Chinese forces, who had encroached into the Indian border at the Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh. Soldiers from both sides engaged in stone-pelting and fistfights and around 11 soldiers were injured.

On June 14, Indian army soldiers were attacked with iron rods and barbed wires, unprovoked. In the resultant hand to hand combat, during the interluding night between June 15 and 16, 20 Indian army personnel and nearly 43 Chinese soldiers were killed.

The Indian government reacted by banning over 200 mobile apps developed in China, along with several infrastructural projects for which Chinese companies had won contracts.

GDP shrinks a record 23.9 percent

India recorded a GDP drop of 23.9 per cent, in the period April-June 2020. This was the worst contraction since India started reporting GDP data in 1996. The stringent lockdown measures, which put a huge dent on the economy, caused all sectors, apart from agriculture to suffer huge losses. The gross value added growth (GVA) in the manufacturing sector shrank by 39.3 per cent, while industries such as construction, trade, travel and hospitality, were all badly affected.

The country began its term on January 1, 2021. (File photo)

India finally elected to UNSC 

India was formally elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for a period of two years on June 18, 2020, after winning with an overwhelming majority. This is the 8th term for the country, the previous one being in 2011-12.

India was the sole candidate from the Asia-Pacific region for the 2021-22 term. Since long, India has been pushing to get a permanent seat at UNSC. The country began its term on January 1, 2021, joining 15 other members – five permanent and 10 non-permanent at the Council.

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Entertainment Latest News

How Sonu Sood has become migrants’ superhero

Sonu Sood’s real life role of the migrants’ superhero has virtually affected his reel life roles.

Doing a yeoman’s job for those who are walking barefoot for thousands of miles to their hometowns, the Bollywood’s new role model from this town in Punjab has decided to stay away from movies till the completion of the real life drama impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

His old-time friends and well-wishers in his hometown, some 175 km from the state capital Chandigarh, describe him as the messiah of tens of thousands of desperate migrants in Maharashtra, while his family believes his philanthropy spirit comes from his ancestry.

“I am proud that my brother is giving succor and strength to those who have been ruined by the pandemic,” actor’s youngest sister Malvika Sachar (38), who is married and running her parental family business in Moga, told IANS.

“It is a proud moment for the family and the state that Sonu is contributing to society from his own resources,” she said.

Without naming anyone, she said, “It hardly matters when one or two people are critical about your compassionate gestures.”

“My brother arranged air tickets of nearly 160 stranded people in Mumbai for their destinations in Assam this morning. Last evening, he managed to send nearly 2,500 migrants to Bihar through trains,” an elated Malvika said, adding, “He won’t stop till the last migrant reaches home”.

Born to a business family, Sonu’s father was in the cloth business and his mother was an English lecturer in Moga’s oldest D.M. College of Education.

His father died four years ago, while his mother passed away seven years back.

Sonu’s eldest sister is settled in the US.

“Sonu is deeply attached to his hometown, his family and friends. He prefers to travel to Moga whenever he spares time from his hectic schedule in Bollywood,” she said.

“Since he’s now busy with thousands of migrants, I think he will not unite with his family till his aim to reunite each and every migrant with his family is over,” Malvika, who runs cloth and education business, said.

Sood, 47, in a tweet said: “My journey with my migrant brothers & sisters has been the most special one. It’s straight from the heart.

“Right from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari whenever anyone tried to reach me, I’ve put all my efforts to help them reunite with their families & will continue to do so.”

Appreciating his gesture, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has tweeted: “It fills me with immense pride whenever I read about my fellow Punjabis going beyond their call of duty to help those in need & this time it is our Moga boy Sonu Sood, who has been actively helping migrant workers by arranging for their food & transportation. Good work Sonu!”

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coronavirus India Latest News

MGNREGA transfers power to the poorest in Covid-19 times

By Sonia Gandhi

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), 2005 is a shining example of a radical and rational systemic change. It is radical because it transferred power to the poorest of the poor and enabled them to escape hunger and deprivation. It is rational because it puts money directly in the hands of those who need it most. It has proved its worth in the years it has been in existence, even enduring six years of a hostile government.

A government that sought to denigrate it, undermine it has come to reluctantly rely on it. Along with the Public Distribution System put in place by an earlier Congress government, it is the mainstay for our poorest and most vulnerable citizens in preventing starvation and destitution wherever implemented in letter and spirit, especially in today’s COVID-19 crisis.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “When ridicule fails to kill a movement it begins to command respect”. In independent India there is no better example of this coming true than MGNREGA. On assuming office, Prime Minister Modi realized that shutting down the scheme was not practical. Instead he sought to deride it, attacking the Congress party in a caustic speech in which he called it “a living monument of your failure”.

In the years since the Modi government tried its best to throttle MGNREGA, hollowing it out and undermining it. But with the unrelenting pressure of activists, the courts and a vocal opposition in Parliament, the government was forced to step back. In a characteristic reversal of course, it sought instead to give it a new appearance, by integrating it with the Prime Minister’s pet programs like Swacchh Bharat and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.

These were passed off as reforms but in reality they were no more than a barely disguised dressing up of Congress party initiatives. It is another matter that payments to workers were delayed interminably and work was denied frequently.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the distress it has unleashed, has brought the Modi government around full circle. Faced with unprecedented hardship and an economy already in slowdown, the government was obliged to fall back on UPA’s flagship rural relief program. Deeds are more important than words, and nothing speaks more eloquently than the Finance Minister’s recent and belated increase in the overall allocation of the program to more than rupees one lakh crore. In May 2020 alone 2.19 crore households demanded work through the Act, the highest for the month in eight years.

Now, as dejected workers return from cities and towns to their villages in droves, deprived of employment, facing an insecure future, a humanitarian crisis on an unprecedented scale is unfolding before us. And the value of MGNREGA has never been clearer and more evident. Relief efforts must be centered around rebuilding their faith. One immediate step must be to issue them job cards in the program.

The government must put money directly in the hands of the people in this time of crisis by clearing arrears, ensuring unemployment allowance, and being flexible about modes of payment to the workers to cut delays. The Modi government has not paid heed to the demands to increase the number of workdays to 200 and to allow them to be registered at the worksites in every gram panchayat. MGNREGA must ensure open ended funding as it was meant to be.

(Sonia Gandhi is the President of the Congress party. The views expressed are personal.)

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Business India Latest News

‘One Nation One Ration Card’ to cover India by March 31, 2021

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme has been implemented across 20 states so far with the Central government targeting the entire country by March 31 next year.

Union Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution minister Ram Vilas Paswan said that after Odisha, Sikkim and Mizoram joining the ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme, 20 states are now linked to IMPDS (Integrated Management of Public Distribution System).

The Union minister tweeted, “As I earlier announced, three more states — Odisha, Sikkim and Mizoram — have been added to the government’s ambitious ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme today. With this 20 states have joined the IMPDS scheme.”

In another tweet, Paswan said, “‘One Nation One Ration Card’ Scheme is to be implemented across the country by March 31, 2021. In this regard, necessary steps are being taken to connect Uttarakhand, Nagaland and Manipur by August 1, 2020.”

After the implementation of the scheme across the country by March 31, 2021, any beneficiary of the Public Distribution System (PDS) under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) can avail of ration anywhere in the country.

Under the NFSA, nearly 81 crore people in the country are provided foodgrains at a cheaper rate.

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coronavirus International Latest News

UN urges countries to protect people on move during COVID-19

United Nations: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked for protection of people on the move in face of COVID-19.

In a video message for the launch of a policy brief on the impact of coronavirus on people on the move, Guterres asked countries to develop a new mindset on human mobility, Xinhua news agency reported.

“The COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity to re-imagine human mobility. Four core understandings must guide the way,” he said.

First, exclusion is costly and inclusion pays. An inclusive public health and socio-economic response will help suppress the virus, restart the economies and advance the Sustainable Development Goals, said Guterres.

Second, human dignity must be upheld in face of the pandemic. Lessons should be learned from the handful of countries that have shown how to implement travel restrictions and border controls while fully respecting human rights and international refugee protection principles, he said.

Third, no one is safe until everyone is safe. Diagnostics, treatment and vaccines must be accessible to all, said the UN chief.

Fourth, people on the move are part of the solution, he noted. “Let us remove unwarranted barriers, explore models to regularize pathways for migrants and reduce transaction costs for remittances.”

Guterres expressed gratitude to countries, especially developing countries, that have opened their borders and hearts to refugees and migrants, despite their own social, economic and health challenges.

People on the move face a protection crisis as more than 150 countries have imposed border restrictions to contain the spread of the virus. At least 99 states make no exception for people seeking asylum from persecution. At the same time, fear of COVID-19 has led to skyrocketing xenophobia, racism and stigmatization, he said.

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coronavirus India

Thousands of Nepalese workers stranded at Indo-Nepal border

New Delhi: Thousands of migrant Nepalese workers, wanting to return to their homes in Nepal, are stranded at various checkposts on the Indo-Nepal border. At one of the busiest posts in Rupaidiha in Uttar Pradesh’s Bahraich, bordering Nepalganj, a trading city of Nepal, around a thousand Nepalese workers have been prevented from entering into Nepal following instructions of Nepalese Home Department.

Nepalese laborers returning from various Indian states have also been stopped at Indo-Nepal border in Pithoragarh (Uttrakhand), sources told IANS.

On the plight of Nepalese laborers who returned from Gujarat on several buses, Superintendent of Police, Bahraich, Vipin Kumar Mishra confirmed to IANS over phone that 848 workers were still stuck at the border.

Sources said that Nepal customs officials revealed to the Indian officials that following instructions from Kathmandu, the entry of Nepalese labourers, working in India has been restricted due to Covid-19 guidelines.

According to the sources, while migrating Nepalese laborers appreciated efforts of Indian authorities for providing shelter and food on the border, they seemed unhappy with the treatment given to them by Nepalese authorities.

“The laborers assured that they were willing to face 14 day quarantine once they reached their hometowns in Nepal. However the Nepalese government, till May 18 evening did not give clearance to the customs to allow entry of the stranded Nepalese citizens,” said a district administration official, adding that a bus carrying Nepalese workers was allowed entry into Nepal three to four days ago.

Nepal has made efforts to contain the virus, and despite its weak medical infrastructure, has reported only 357 cases of coronavirus and 2 deaths till date.

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