Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah.
NEW DELHI: Head of Afghanistan’s peace council
held talks with a senior Indian official in Doha, covering various aspects of the historic dialogue between the Taliban and the Afghan government that has kickstarted in the Qatari capital.
The meeting between Abdullah and JP Singh, Joint Secretary (Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran) in the External Affairs Ministry took place on the sidelines of the peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
“Had a good meeting with J P Singh, JS (PAI), Ministry of External Affairs of India,” the influential Afghan leader said on Twitter.
Had a good meeting with J. P. Singh, JS (PAI), Ministry of External Affairs of India @MeaIndia in Doha-Qatar. We to… https://t.co/BZBHr6HVbo
— Dr. Abdullah Abdullah (@DrabdullahCE) 1600072190000
“We took stock of the developments on the peace efforts, & the need for genuine regional & international support for talks. I also thanked India for its continued support,” he added.
US Special Representative for Afghanistan
is expected to visit India on Tuesday to hold discussions with External Affairs Minister S
on the Afghan peace talks.
The Taliban and the Afghan government are holding direct talks for the first time to end 19 years of war that has killed tens of thousands of people and ravaged various parts of the country.
On Saturday, Singh led an official delegation at the inaugural ceremony of the intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha while External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar joined it through video conference.
In his address at the ceremony, Jaishankar said India expects that the soil of Afghanistan is never used for any anti-India activities.
There have been apprehensions in India over the possibility of use of Afghan soil for anti-India activities if a new dispensation friendly to
emerges from the intra-Afghan negotiations.
“Our friendship with Afghanistan is strong and unshaken, we have always been good neighbours and will always be so. Our expectation is that the soil of Afghanistan should never be used for any anti-India activities,” Jaishankar said in his brief address.
Last month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani agreed to release 400 Taliban prisoners, paving the way for the beginning of the long-awaited peace process aimed at ending nearly two-decades of conflict in the war-torn country.
India has been a major stakeholder in peace and stability of Afghanistan. It has already invested USD two billion in aid and reconstruction activities in the country.
India has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.
India has been keenly following the evolving political situation after the US inked a peace deal with the Taliban in February. The deal provided for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, effectively drawing curtains to
‘s 18-year war in the country.
The US has lost over 2,400 soldiers in Afghanistan since late 2001.
India has also been maintaining that care should be taken to ensure that any such process does not lead to any “ungoverned spaces” where terrorists and their proxies can relocate.
India has been calling upon all sections of the political spectrum in Afghanistan to work together to meet the aspirations of all people in that country including those from the minority community for a prosperous and safe future.
Decision on holding Bihar polls amid pandemic a leap of faith, not leap in the dark: CEC Arora
NEW DELHI: The decision to hold Bihar assembly polls amid the coronavirus pandemic is not a “misadventure” but a leap of faith and not a leap in the dark, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora asserted on Friday.
Responding to a volley of questions on holding elections when the pandemic has not subsided, he said, “As a commission, we don’t regard it as a dussahas (misadventure) … it is a very, very meticulously worked, from our side, exercise.”
He also said the decision to hold the elections in the state, where the term of the assembly ends on November 29, is “a leap of faith and not a leap in the dark.”
Arora also gave the example of recently-held JEE and NEET examinations, saying thousands of candidates from various district across India came out to write the test.
Some opposition parties had urged the EC to postpone the elections in view of the pandemic.
The CEC also cited a recent Supreme Court observation, saying eventually life has to go on.
In a related development, the apex court on Friday refused to entertain a plea seeking to postpone the upcoming Bihar assembly elections in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A three-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah also refused to grant liberty to the petitioner to give representation to the Election Commission in this regard.
“We can’t permit everybody to go to the Election Commission. We can only permit you to withdraw the petition,” the bench said.
Asked whether the voter turnout will be effected due to the pandemic, Arora said the electors are very aware of what they want and most won’t miss out on the opportunity of exercising their franchise.
Responding to a question on whether the Covid-related guidelines would be in place for future elections too, he said God has not given him wisdom of astrology. He said much would depend on the situation prevailing at that time.
The CEC said the decision to hold state elections in three phases was taken keeping in mind the Covid-related safety norms and the fatigue factor of security personnel.
Lok Sabha saw 68.65% average attendance, 8,700 Covid-19 tests conducted in Parliament during monsoon session: Speaker Om Birla
NEW DELHI: Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on Friday said that the lower ohuse of parliament saw 68.65 per cent average attendance of members during the monsoon session, which had 10 sittings and was held with precautions against Covid-19.
Birla said that 8,700 Covid-19 tests were done during the session in parliament, which began on September 14 amid several precautionary measures and ended on September 23.
“As it was an extraordinary session due to Covid-19, regular Covid tests were being done in the parliament,” he added.
He said the debate on Covid-19 lasted for 5 hours 8 minutes and 74 MPs participated in the discussion.
Ahead of the session, AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria briefed MPs on Covid precautionary measures on September 13 and September 14.
For the first time in the history of Parliament, members of both houses sat in both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha including galleries during the proceedings to maintain social distancing.
The Speaker told the media that the session saw several achievements though it as full of challenges amid conditions created by Covid-19.
“India’s democracy is strong and people have faith in it. Since 1952, voters’ percentage has increased as they exhibited faith in democracy. Many countries held their Parliament virtually. The kind of support we received from all political parties and government, we were able to finish more work compared to the time we had. We saw a good percentage of MPs present in Parliament,” added the Speaker.
On the first day of the session, 369 MPs attended the Lok Sabha. The maximum number of MPs were present on September 22 when 383 MPs attended the house, he said.
The average attendance was 370 which translates into 68.65 per cent.
The monsoon session was adjourned sine die on September 23 after several opposition parties during the meeting of Business Advisory Committee (BAC) suggested curtailment of session due to Covid-19 spread.
Lok Sabha passed 25 bills and 16 were introduced. Eleven bills related to ordinances brought by the government. The bills were cleared after discussion that lasted 35 hours 24 minutes.
The productivity for 10 days, including the House sittings on Saturday and Sunday, was 167 per cent. The House worked for 60 hours against the proposed 37 hours.
Sixty-eight per cent time was used for legislative business whereas 32 per cent was allocated for other things like the zero hour.
During Zero hour, 88 MPs raised issues of public importance. The House devoted 10 hours 23 minutes for matters of public importance and 370 MPs spoke during the zero hour.
A total of 183 issues were raised under rule 377.
The House spent 5 hours and 36 minutes discussing two farm bills – The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020. Forty-four MPs took part in the discussion.
Other bills passed include the Essential Commodities Act, 2020, National Defence University Bill, 2020 and Epidemic Diseased (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
The Speaker said that MPs did not press want division on bills. “We would have done that if asked for,” he said.
In a first, an app was also used to register attendance. On September 20, 59 members registered themselves through the app.
“To finish important legislative business, we sat for long hours on September 20 and 21. Out of 78 women MPs, 63 spoke on the issues important to them,” Birla said.
A total of 2,300 starred questions were asked and 90 per cent of questions were asked online.
Dr Subhash Ramrao Bhante and Dr DNV D Senthil Kumar, both asked maximum 49 questions.
The maximum 167 questions were asked from the Health and Family Welfare Ministry, 150 from Agriculture Ministry and 11 each from the Railway Ministry and Finance Ministry.
The ministers gave 40 replies. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh gave a statement on Ladakh border situation, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on COVID-19 and Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar spoke on Minimum Support Price (MSP) and agriculture bills.
A total of 855 papers were laid on the table by ministers.
On the construction of the new building of parliament, Birla expressed hope that the new building will have the session coinciding with the 75th year of Independence.
“We are in the process of making a new building of Parliament. The estimated expenditure is Rs 892 crores. The tender cost is Rs 891.9 crores. And this has to be completed in 21 months. I believe we will have a new parliament in 75th year of Independence,” he said.
For first time in decades law formulated to benefit small, marginal farmers, workers: PM Modi
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday accused the opposition of “misleading” farmers and “using their shoulders to fire” at his government over the farm bills for selfish political interests, and asserted that for the first time in decades, the Centre has framed laws that will benefit farmers and workers.
Addressing BJP leaders and workers on the 104th birth anniversary of the party’s ideologue Deendayal Upadhyay, Modi launched a powerful defence of farm as well as labour bills, saying the reforms brought in the agriculture sector will benefit the small and marginal farmers the most as 85 out of 100 farmers fall in this category.
The three farm bills –the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020– and the labour bills were passed by Parliament during the recent monsoon session.
Amid vehement protests by the Congress and other opposition parties against these bills, Modi hit out at them, saying many governments came to power in states and at the Centre over the decades in the name of farmers and workers, “but what did they getâ€”nothing; just a web of promises that neither the farmers understood nor the workers.”
“The farmers were entwined in laws that prevented them from selling their produce at prices that they wanted; consequently, even though the produce went up their income did not go up,” he said, adding those who always “lied” to farmers are now “shooting from their shoulders” and misleading them.
Asserting that the small and marginal farmers are “happiest today”, the Prime Minister said, “for the first time, they have got an alternative to bargain for the price of their produce. The tradition earlier was to sell in ‘mandis’. If he thinks he will benefit by selling there, he will sell there. If he thinks the benefit is more outside, he will sell outside.”
The Opposition, farmers and many farmer organisations have been protesting against the proposed reforms in the agriculture sector by the Modi government, dubbing these measures as “anti-farmers”.
With Punjab witnessing most protests from a section of farmers, regional party Shiromani Akali Dal, a BJP ally, has also come out against these bills and its lone member in the Union Cabinet, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, has quit her post in an expression of solidarity with farmers.
During his address, Modi gave a call to BJP members to fan out across the villages to bust the propaganda of its rivals by explaining the importance of the agriculture reforms in simple language to farmers and how they will make their future brighter.
Our ground connection will bust the propaganda being spread in the virtual world, he asserted, stating that saving farmers from such “rumours” explaining them the importance and benefits of the agriculture reforms is the duty of all party workers.
Farmers were so far unable to sell their produce as they wished for decades and, consequently, their income did not grow despite the rise in farm productivity, he said, adding that workers faced the same situation.
“The BJP-led NDA government has constantly tried to change this situation. Minimum support price for crops was fixed at 1.5 times of the input cost. A record hike was effected in the MSP and the government procurement also hit a record high. Under the Kisan Samman Sidhi, more than Rs one lakh crore has been transferred to bank accounts of over one crore farmers,” he said.
Speaking of the working class, he said his government has brought labour codes to bring workers out of the complex web of dozens of laws.
Modi said over 50 crore workers employed in organised and unorganised sectors will benefit from these reforms, with fixed income and other, including health benefits.
So far only 30 percent of workers had the coverage of minimum wage guarantee, and it will now expand to all workers in the unorganised sector, he said.
Woman workers have been empowered and given equality by these proposed laws, as they did not get equal rights earlier, he said.
The views of Upadhyay, who propounded the BJP’s founding ideologies of integral humanism and ‘antyodaya’ (uplifting the last man in queue), are reflected in his government’s welfare works, he said.
In his speech, the prime minister also lauded his party’s workers for their “flexibility and adaptability”, and helping people extensively during the COVID-19 pandemic and said they have found a place in the poor’s heart with their welfare works.
“Our remarks, ideas and conduct should be in line with the expectation and aspiration of 21st century India,” he said, and asked party workers to follow coronavirus guidelines and encourage others to do so as well.
In his address, Modi also said his government has been very clear that it should not excessively interfere in the lives of those who do not need the government much, as he noted the faceless appeal system for the taxpayers has come into effect on the day of Upadhyay’s birth anniversary.
Asserting that “nation-first” is the BJP’s mantra, he noted as to how promises made by the party have been fulfilled and referred to decisions like scrapping Article 370, which had given Jammu and Kashmir special rights, and the beginning of the Ram temple construction in Ayodhya.
He also asked BJP cadres to promote local products and spread awareness about the National education Policy.
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