Indian farmers renew protests against new laws

Indian farmers renew protests against new laws
Thousands of farmers in India renewed their protests across the country on Saturday.
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Updated 27 June 2021

Indian farmers renew protests against new laws

Indian farmers renew protests against new laws
  • In a memorandum addressed to Indian President Ram Nath Kovind, the union complained that three farm laws introduced by the government were ‘unconstitutional’

NEW DELHI: Thousands of farmers in India renewed their protests across the country on Saturday, marking seven months of demonstrations demanding a repeal of three agriculture laws they say favor private businesses at the expense of the growers they buy from.

Some marched toward New Delhi, while others rode tractors from neighboring Uttar Pradesh, chanting the slogan “save agriculture, save democracy.” They were part of a mass gathering called by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (Joint Farmers Group), despite fears of a resurgence in COVID-19 cases after a slow recovery from a debilitating second wave in recent months.

“In the last seven months different farm unions, led by Samyukt Kisan Morcha, organized one of the world’s largest and longest protests,” Dr. Darshan Pal, from the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Indian Farmers’ Union), told reporters in the capital. “Thousands have joined in from different parts of the country. We plan to intensify our stir as well.” 

In a memorandum addressed to Indian President Ram Nath Kovind, the union complained that three farm laws introduced by the government were “unconstitutional and prepared without the consultations with farmers.”

They also demanded a “minimum support price for farm produce” from the government, based on a 2004 report when New Delhi appointed a commission under agricultural scientist Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan to address the growing incidence of suicide among farmers.

In September, amid wide-scale protests from opposition parties and farmers, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) used its majority and passed the three laws in parliament, claiming they would usher in a “new era in farming.”

Farmers say the new laws will leave them at the mercy of corporations as they clear the way for the unregulated entry of private companies into the farming sector.

Farmers say the new laws will hit their incomes and leave them at the mercy of corporations because the legislation clears the way for the unregulated entry of private companies into the farming sector, which employs more than 50 percent of the country’s population.

They also fear the laws will usher in the privatization of traditional agricultural markets, leading to market-driven pricing of products and the elimination of the minimum support prices the government sets each year for specific produce.

“We are fighting not only to save farming but also democracy,” Yogendra Yadav, leader of the Swaraj Party and a prominent face of the farmers’ movement, told reporters in the neighboring state of Haryana, where he led a march to the governor’s house. “The government will have to choose between the interests of farmers and political chairs. Now farmers will show the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party its political worth. We will take the movement forward, and I am sure the movement will win.”

To assuage farmers’ fears, the government held 10 rounds of talks with the protesting groups and offered to postpone implementing the new laws for 15 months and reach an agreement.

The protesters, however, rejected the offer and continued demanding that the laws be revoked, reasoning that, by exerting more pressure on authorities, the government would be forced to cave into demands.

“For us, there is no option but to continue with the protest because the government is more concerned about listening to their corporate friends than to farmers,” Sarwarn Singh Pandher, from the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee based in the northern state of Punjab, told Arab News.

He said the BJP would have to “pay politically” in the upcoming regional elections in Uttar Pradesh. “We will mobilize people against the BJP in the elections and make sure that the party is punished for its anti-farmer stance.”

The government, however, called the protests a political movement.

“It was a political movement from day one,” BJP national spokesperson Sudesh Verma told Arab News. “Average farmers are happy and getting their dues.”

Political analysts said the root cause of the public anger was a fear among farmers of losing their land.

“For farmers, their land is not only their source of well being but also their cultural identity,” Prof. Ronki Ram, of Panjab University, told Arab News. “They perceive that the laws (would) take away their lands and corporate houses would become the owners of their land. That’s why, despite the assurances from the government, farmers are convinced that big corporates would take their land and they would lose their rights. No doubt the agitation will affect the BJP adversely. Farmers and agricultural laborers constitute a sizable number of the country’s population. Definitely, it will have an impact on the BJP’s electoral support.”


UK Conservative MPs revolt over home secretary’s migrant ‘failure’

UK Conservative MPs revolt over home secretary’s migrant ‘failure’
Updated 14 sec ago

UK Conservative MPs revolt over home secretary’s migrant ‘failure’

UK Conservative MPs revolt over home secretary’s migrant ‘failure’
  • Inaction placing people at risk, say critics

LONDON: UK Home Secretary Priti Patel is facing new pressure from members of her own party over the failure of an Afghan resettlement program, which has not opened more than three months after being launched.

It comes as debate rages in Britain over the deaths of 27 migrants in the English Channel earlier this week.

Several Conservative MPs privately demanded that Patel take action on the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, The Guardian reported.

They said that UK government inaction was placing Afghans at “deadly risk” and leaving vulnerable targets in the country at the mercy of the Taliban.

Damian Green, the former immigration minister, has called for a new approach to migration that is “realistic and compassionate.” 

In an opinion piece, he criticized the “blame game” between the UK and France over deaths at sea, and called on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron to work together to solve the crisis.

He said: “Now is not the time for displays of wounded amour propre in either language. Careless talk costs lives.”

Afghans are well represented in the body of migrants on the French coast who are attempting to travel to the UK. Government critics in the UK have argued that opening a legal route to entry would help avoid deaths at sea.

Rory Stewart, the former international development secretary, said the problems associated with the Afghan resettlement scheme were “surmountable,” but that the opportunity for helping vulnerable people was slipping away.

“We have a narrow window to get people out. At the moment, very strangely, the Taliban is prepared to permit people out. That won’t be true forever. It’s very likely at some point they’ll start taking more drastic measures.

“We have a deep moral obligation. These people, who are profoundly vulnerable, were told they were going to be helped. It’s just astonishing that they haven’t done so. This sort of program, actually, is the kind of thing that is the good alternative to these dangerous, unplanned routes. It moves people safely, but it’s also the way of ensuring that the most vulnerable are prioritized.”

An opinion poll found that just 18 percent of voters thought Patel was handling the migrant crisis effectively. In the opposite camp, 62 percent believed she was handling it “badly” or “very badly.”

Caroline Nokes, the former Conservative immigration minister, said: “This scheme needs to be up and running. Afghans here with family still in Afghanistan were given hope when the scheme was announced but are desperately worried that time is running out to get their family members to safety.”

Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, said: “We’re all supportive of stopping illegal immigration, but these other routes are the key to getting things properly done. This needs to be open and resolved, particularly because of Afghanistan and obligations to the people there. This week illustrates that.”

The Law Society has warned that lawyers and judges who worked to prosecute Taliban members over the past decade “are all targets while still in Afghanistan.”

Marina Brilman,the society’s international human rights adviser, said the scheme might not be ready by the end of the year.

She added: “Most judges, prosecutors and lawyers who helped to consolidate the rule of law in Afghanistan are Afghan nationals. They never made it on to the UK government’s evacuation list. When the last UK flight left Kabul airport, they were left stranded. Especially women.

“They send us desperate pleas for help and pass on handwritten death threats saying they and their families will be killed. They constantly move houses, and even provinces, to escape the violence. Door-to-door house searches by the Taliban continue, as do extrajudicial killings and public beatings. Of course, establishing this scheme is a huge undertaking. 

“But it should not have to take three and a half months to even open it for applications. It raises the question how much of a priority this is for the UK government.”

However, a government spokesperson defended the scheme’s rollout.

“We undertook the UK’s biggest and fastest emergency evacuation in recent history, helping more than 15,000 people to safety from Afghanistan, who we are continuing to support.

“The ACRS is one of the most generous schemes in our country’s history and will give up to 20,000 further people at risk a new life in the UK. We continue to work at pace to open the scheme amid a complex and changing picture, working across government and with partners such as the UNHCR to design the scheme.”


Father of migrant Channel victim calls on France to stop ‘mafia’ traffickers

Father of migrant Channel victim calls on France to stop ‘mafia’ traffickers
Updated 47 min 53 sec ago

Father of migrant Channel victim calls on France to stop ‘mafia’ traffickers

Father of migrant Channel victim calls on France to stop ‘mafia’ traffickers
  • Protests break out in London demanding safer route for migrants following deaths of 27 at sea
  • UK and France war of words escalates over plans to stop flow of migrant dinghies to England

LONDON: The father of an Iraqi Kurdish woman who drowned attempting to cross the English Channel has called for the “mafia” people traffickers responsible to be stopped, amid protests in London demanding safer passage for people attempting to reach the UK.

Maryam Nuri Mohamed Amin, 24, was among 27 people who died on Wednesday. She had been trying to reach her fiance who was already in the UK.

Speaking from Soran in Iraqi Kurdistan, Maryam’s father, Nuri Mohammed Mohammed Amin, called the people smugglers “butchers,” saying the disaster was a tragedy “not only for me but for the whole of Kurdistan and the world.”

He added: “I ask the French government to tighten their borders and stop those butchers. They are not smugglers, they are mafias. This is my only request.

“Those boats that they are using are not made for that purpose. They treat those poor people like animals. Where were her human rights?

“It is the role of the French government to have a strict procedure to stop those butchers to avoid further tragedies, and I hope our people stop even thinking about migrating using similar ways,” he said.

Maryam’s journey to join her fiance, which saw her travel to France via Turkey, Italy and Germany, was meant to be a surprise. Her cousin, Krmanj Ezzat Dargali, told UK radio station LBC that she had been “glowing with hope” to start a new life in the UK.

About 150 people gathered outside Downing Street in London on Saturday to protest the tragedy, which it is thought could have been caused when the dinghy being used — meant to carry 10 people at most — collided with another vessel, possibly a container ship.

Several protesters held banners calling for “safe passage now” for migrants, with others stating “migrants and refugees welcome here,” adding that politicians had blood on their hands.

The protest was in part a response to the proposed nationalities and borders bill, which will include new powers to deport people with no right to remain in the UK.

Lara Bishop, a volunteer for the asylum-seeker support charity Care4Calais said: “No one should have to die on our border. We are a first-world nation.

“We are the sixth biggest economy in the world but we only take 1 percent of refugees and we make it so difficult for people to cross and it’s not OK for people to be dying in the Channel.

“I think the British and the French governments need to remember humanity. At the moment they’re using them as political pawns — throwing them between themselves — but these are humans.”

So far about 25,000 people are thought to have crossed the English Channel via dinghies from Northern France this year, which has led to tensions between London and Paris.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned in a letter that more migrants would die unless France returned to talks over a plan to reduce the number of boats attempting the crossing, which led to an angry response from French President Emmanuel Macron after the letter was posted on social media platform Twitter.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel was subsequently disinvited from talks with her EU counterparts this weekend aimed at finding a joint solution.


13 cases of omicron variant in Dutch testing of travelers

13 cases of omicron variant in Dutch testing of travelers
Updated 28 November 2021

13 cases of omicron variant in Dutch testing of travelers

13 cases of omicron variant in Dutch testing of travelers
  • The 61 people who tested positive for the virus after arriving on the last two flights to Amsterdam before a flight ban was put in place were immediately put into isolation
  • The public health institute said in a statement that testing was continuing on the samples

THE HAGUE, Netherlands: The Dutch public health authority confirmed Sunday that 13 people who arrived in the Netherlands on flights from South Africa on Friday have so far tested positive for the new omicron coronavirus variant.
The 61 people who tested positive for the virus on Friday after arriving on the last two flights to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport before a flight ban was put in place were immediately put into isolation while sequencing was carried out to establish if they had the new variant.
The public health institute said in a statement that testing was continuing on the samples.
Most of the 61 people who tested positive were put into isolation at a hotel near the airport, while a small number were allowed to sit out their quarantine at home under strict conditions.
Health authorities appealed to all travelers who returned from southern Africa in the past week to get tested, and set up a test center at Schiphol Airport for Dutch citizens returning from the region. The tests are voluntary, and travelers can wait for the results in isolation at home.
 


Ethiopia PM Abiy says military will ‘destroy’ Tigray rebels

Ethiopia PM Abiy says military will ‘destroy’ Tigray rebels
Updated 28 November 2021

Ethiopia PM Abiy says military will ‘destroy’ Tigray rebels

Ethiopia PM Abiy says military will ‘destroy’ Tigray rebels
  • On Friday, state media showed what it described as the first footage of Abiy, a former lieutenant-colonel, in uniform at the front
  • The war erupted in early November 2020 when Abiy deployed troops into Tigray to topple the TPLF

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said his soldiers would “destroy” rebels from the northern Tigray region, in the latest instalment of footage which state media said shows him at the war front.
“You are comprehensively destroying the enemy, there is no going back without winning,” Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, said in the 34-minute clip posted Saturday to his office’s Twitter page, which AFP could not independently verify.
“We will win, the enemy is dispersing, there are areas we have to control,” he added.
“Until we destroy the enemy there is no rest.”
Abiy announced this week he would start leading operations against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which once dominated national politics but has been locked in a war with his government for the past year.
The announcement has spurred new recruitment in Addis Ababa.
The country’s most famous distance runner, Haile Gebreselassie, told AFP he was determined to “sacrifice and stand for Ethiopia.”
The TPLF, he added, “is destabilising our country beyond its region.”
On Wednesday state-affiliated media announced Abiy had handed over regular duties to his deputy.
His move came after the TPLF reported major territorial gains, claiming this week to have seized a town just 220 kilometers (135 miles) from the capital Addis Ababa.
The TPLF has aligned itself with other armed groups including the Oromo Liberation Army, which is active in the Oromia region surrounding the city.

On Friday, state media showed what it described as the first footage of Abiy, a former lieutenant-colonel, in uniform at the front, including an interview in which he vowed to “bury the enemy.”
He also said the military had secured control of Kassagita and planned to recapture Chifra district and Burka town in Afar region, which neighbors Tigray, the TPLF’s stronghold.
The World Food Programme tweeted that 79 trucks carrying food and other lifesaving humanitarian supplies had arrived in Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray region this week.
“More are on the way,” the WFP added.
Independent media have largely been denied access to war-affected regions in recent weeks.
On Saturday officials in Addis Ababa held a ceremony for athletes and artists heading north to visit troops.
Among those pledging to fight is Feyisa Lilesa, a distance runner and Olympic silver medallist.
The war erupted in early November 2020 when Abiy deployed troops into Tigray to topple the TPLF, a move he said came in response to TPLF attacks on army camps.
Though he promised a swift victory, by late June the TPLF had regrouped and retaken most of Tigray, and it has since pushed into the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions.

The African Union’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, is leading a diplomatic push for a cease-fire, but there have been few signs of progress so far.
International alarm is growing over a possible rebel assault on the capital, with the US, the UK, Germany and Italy among countries urging their citizens to leave Ethiopia.
France joined the group this week and on Sunday plans to ferry some citizens out on a charter flight.
The government insists rebel gains are overstated, blaming what it describes as sensational media coverage and alarmist security adviseries from embassies for creating panic.


7.5-magnitude earthquake strikes northern Peru: USGS

7.5-magnitude earthquake strikes northern Peru: USGS
Updated 28 November 2021

7.5-magnitude earthquake strikes northern Peru: USGS

7.5-magnitude earthquake strikes northern Peru: USGS

LIMA: A 7.5-magnitude quake struck northern Peru on Sunday, the United States Geological Survey said, but there was no tsunami warning issued.
The offshore quake hit at at 5:52 am (1052 GMT) at a depth of 112.5 kilometers (70 miles), about 42 kilometers northwest of Barranca, USGS said.