Indian farmers step up strike after six die in firing

An Indian farmer dries harvested rice from a paddy field in India. (Reuters)
Updated 07 June 2017
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Indian farmers step up strike after six die in firing

MUMBAI: Indian farmers on Wednesday stepped up their agitation in the central state of Madhya Pradesh after six were shot dead in clashes the previous day, forcing the authorities to impose a curfew in some areas.
The outburst of discontent in India’s heartland farming states of Madhya Pradesh and neighboring Maharashtra poses a challenge for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has promised to double farmers’ incomes over the next five years.
Farmers’ leaders say the six were shot dead by police during a protest in the central city of Mandsaur, a version questioned by the state government which has ordered an investigation.
“We will continue our protest until the government accepts our demands,” said Sunil Gaur of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangh, or National Farm Workers’ Union, which called Wednesday’s state-wide shutdown.
“The government has complicated the situation by killing six innocent farmers.”
Farmers dumped vegetables and milk on the roads when the strike kicked off last week, demanding billions of dollars in debt forgiveness and better prices for their produce.
Tension persisted in some parts of Madhya Pradesh, with a curfew imposed throughout the district of Mandsaur where the farmers died, a police officer said.
“The curfew won’t be lifted until the situation becomes normal,” said the officer, D. Kavita.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan appealed to farmers to keep the peace and accused the opposition Congress party of being behind violence that broke out at the protests.
“The government is with the farmers,” he told television news agency ANI, a Reuters affiliate. “Some people want to ruin the atmosphere. Stay away from such people.”
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi was expected to visit Mandsaur on Wednesday. “This government is at war with the farmers of our country,” he said on social network Twitter.
In the past, ruling parties have lost elections in the eastern state of West Bengal, western Maharashtra and the northern state of Uttar Pradesh after farmers died at the hands of security forces.
The Maharashtra farmers’ strike entered its seventh day, despite an assurance from Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis that the state would waive distressed farmers’ debts before Oct. 31.
The prices of fresh produce have more than doubled in cities such as Mumbai, India’s main financial center and the capital of Maharashtra.
Two-thirds of India’s population of 1.3 billion depend on farming for their livelihood, but the sector makes up just 14 percent of gross domestic product, reflecting a growing divide between the countryside and increasingly well-off cities.


UN Assembly adopts refugee pact, without US and Hungary

Updated 15 min 17 sec ago
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UN Assembly adopts refugee pact, without US and Hungary

  • The refugee pact was approved by 181 countries
  • Only two voted no — the US and Hungary. Three others abstained — the Dominican Republic, Eritrea and Libya

UNITED NATIONS: The UN General Assembly on Monday adopted by a wide majority a Global Compact on Refugees aimed at improving efforts to manage large refugee movements — but without the support of the United States and Hungary.
The refugee pact, which did not provoke the controversy unleashed over a similar pact on migration, was approved by 181 countries.
Only two voted no — the US and Hungary. Three others abstained — the Dominican Republic, Eritrea and Libya.
Much like the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration — the refugee pact is not legally binding.
The two global agreements stem from the so-called New York Declaration adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly in September 2016, with the goal of better handling migrant and refugee flows worldwide.
The compact — written under the auspices of the Geneva-based UN refugee agency (UNHCR) — hopes to ensure an adequate international response to large-scale refugee movements and extended displacement of refugees.
General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa told AFP the pact would help “strengthen the assistance to and protection of the 25 million refugees globally” and was based on burden — and responsibility-sharing.
“Refugee-hosting countries continue to show extraordinary levels of generosity and commitment to refugee protection,” said Espinosa, who is from Ecuador.
“It’s a known fact that low and middle-income countries host over 85 percent of all refugees. I believe that we must support the communities and states that host refugees.”
In voting no, Hungary said no new agreement was needed. The US said recently that it backed most of the refugee pact, but not the part aimed at limiting detentions of asylum seekers.
Ahead of Monday’s vote, two countries facing massive population flight addressed the assembly.
Syria said the debate should not be politicized and asked the UNHCR to do more to help Syrian refugees return to their war-wracked country.
Crisis-hit Venezuela, which has seen massive flight as its economic quagmire has deepened, urged the assembly to ensure that the new pact did not become a way for other countries to intervene in internal matters.
The document has four key objectives: ease pressure on refugee-hosting nations; improve refugee self-reliance; expand access to third countries for refugees via resettlement; and, support conditions for refugees to go home.
The compact is meant to set up a framework; national and regional solutions are supported, and it discusses financing and possible partnerships, as well as data sharing among nations.
It also includes systems to monitor progress, including a Global Refugee Forum held at ministerial level every four years.
Unlike the talks on the migration pact, the United States remained in the negotiations for the refugee pact.
The final text of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Legal Migration was agreed on in July, and it is to be formally ratified by the General Assembly on Wednesday.
Since July, a number of countries have either quit the pact or expressed serious reservations, including Hungary, Australia, Israel, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Latvia and Italy.
In Belgium, the migration pact sparked the collapse of the country’s coalition government.
About 165 countries reaffirmed their commitment to the migration pact earlier this month in Morocco.