Mon, 28 December 2020
Karnataka restricts New Year bash in public
23:06 Karnataka restricts New Year bash in public
Karnataka Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Monday said that the state government will not allow any New Year celebrations at public places in view of the emergence of a new strain of COVID-19 virus in the United Kingdom.
"There will be no New Year celebrations at public places, due to COVID-19 and the emergence of the new strain of the virus in the United Kingdom," stated Basavaraj Bommai.
Bengaluru Police Commissioner Kamal Pant said that Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure would be imposed across Bengaluru from 6 pm on December 31 till 6 am on January 1 in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, owners of pubs and bars in Bengaluru are unhappy with government restrictions citing they are not expecting a good business during the New Year season. -- ANI
22:32 Govt lifts export ban on onion
The government on Monday lifted the export ban on all varieties of onions with effect from January 1 next year due to decline in prices of the kitchen staple.
In September, the government had prohibited onion exports because of the spurt in prices and to increase availability in the domestic market.
'The export of all varieties of onions...has been made free with effect from January 1, 2021,' the Directorate General of Foreign Trade said in a notification.
The DGFT, an arm of the commerce ministry, deals with exports and imports-related issues.
The retail prices in the national capital hover around Rs 35-40 per kg.
Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka are the top three onion growing states in India. India is one of the biggest onion exporters.
The export destinations include Nepal and Bangladesh. -- PTI
22:27 BJP team meets Punjab DGP over targeting of party workers
A Bharatiya Janata Party delegation met Punjab Police chief Dinkar Gupta on Monday over targeting of party offices and workers by 'divisive and disruptive forces' who are taking advantage of the ongoing farmers' protest against the Centre's three farm laws, and demanded strict action against them.
The delegation led by former state minister Madan Mohan Mittal expressed its concern over the 'deteriorating' law and order situation in the state and claimed that the police, despite prior warnings, could not prevent an attack on BJP workers celebrating the birth anniversary of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Bathinda on December 25, according to a party statement.
The delegation told the director general of police (DGP) that 'divisive and disruptive forces were at play' taking advantage of the farmers' stir and 'the state police must act against them'.
The Punjab unit of the BJP had on Sunday accused the state's ruling Congress of being behind frequent targeting of its offices and leaders by some criminal elements masquerading as farmers.
Accusing the Congress of resorting to murder of democracy in Punjab, state BJP chief Ashwani Sharma had said his party leaders were not being allowed to hold party functions and programmes without the threat of disruption.
"This is murder of democracy. We are being denied our democratic rights. All this is being done at the behest of the Congress party," he had alleged at a press conference in Ludhiana.
Meanwhile, several Punjab Congress leaders on Monday flayed Sharma and said he should not 'cross lines of propriety and decency in political discourse'.
In a joint statement in Chandigarh, state ministers Brahm Mohindra, Bharat Bhushan Ashu, Vijay Inder Singla, O P Soni and Sunder Sham Arora alleged that the state BJP chief was trying to vitiate peaceful atmosphere of Punjab by giving irresponsible statements.
They warned BJP leader to abstain from any such thing and focus on resolving farmer concerns.
They claimed BJP is 'shamelessly trying to divert attention from pressing issues the nation faces by indulging in irresponsible and dangerous politicking'.
Two days ago, BJP general secretary Tarun Chugh had alleged that the state had lately been witnessing frequent incidents of blocking of roads and rail traffic, disrupting the operation of toll plazas and the snapping of telecommunication lines which indicate that disruptive forces have been at work and the police have failed to control them.
In the name of farmers' agitation, Naxal forces have been let loose in the state, Chugh had said in a statement. -- PTI
21:59 SII has produced 40-50 mn dosages of Covishield
Serum Institute of India has already produced around 50 million dosages of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine 'Covishield' and plans to scale it up to 100 million by March next year even as it awaits approval for emergency use authorisation, a top company official said on Monday.
The company, which has launched the country's first indigenously developed pneumococcal vaccine PNEUMOSIL -- for children, said the scaling up of the COVID-19 vaccine would also depend on the overall demand from the government.
In order to introduce an urgently needed vaccine against COVID-19 in India, Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, has entered into a collaboration with the University of Oxford and AstraZenecato manufacture Covishield.
The Pune-based company has applied to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) seeking emergency use authorisation for COVID-19 vaccine in the country.
We have already manufactured 40-50 million dosages of the vaccine. The rollout of the vaccine is expected to be a bit slow in the initial phase due to logistics issue and is expected to pick up once things get sorted, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla told reporters.
He noted that the company plans to ramp up the vaccine production to 100 million dosages per month by March next year with the coming up of SII's third manufacturing facility.
Poonawalla said the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine could be approved in the UK soon.
By next month, the vaccine can also be approved in India, he noted.
Poonawalla said India would get the majority of vaccines produced next year with some part of the production also going to other markets as part of COVAX --a global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level.
Some shortage can be expected in the first six months. Things will ease out by August-September as other manufacturers will also start supplies, he added.
He noted that DCGI is examining the vaccine data submitted by various companies in detail and the approvals are expected to come in the next few days.
Union Minister Harsh Vardhan, who formally launched the company's pneumococcal vaccine, said everybody in the country is looking forward to the regulatory approvals for the COVID-19 vaccine in the next few days.
We are all waiting for the approvals to come. We know that SII has developed capacities which can cater to India as well as many other countries through various global associations, Vardhan said.
On the new strain of coronavirus, the minister said the government laboratories had already initiated the genome sequencing work few months ago.
We asked the laboratories what new is coming out in the tests...the country has the capability to fight any virus or disease, he noted.
Besides SII, Bharat Biotech and Pfizer have also applied to DCGI seeking emergency use authorisation for their COVID-19 vaccines early this month.
When asked about SII's progress on its own COVID-19 vaccine, Poonawalla said: We expect it to launch in January 2022. We have already initiated Phase 1 clinical trials in the UK.
Commenting on the PNEUMOSIL launch, Poonawalla said the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) has been developed through a collaboration spanning over a decade between SII, PATHandBillandMelinda Gates foundation.
The vaccine will provide effective and long-lasting protection for children against pneumococcal disease.
Launching the vaccine, Vardhan said: It is a significant milestone for the country's public healthcare which will ensure that children are protected better against pneumococcal disease with an affordable and high-quality vaccine.
He said the vaccine would not only help save lives of children in India but in other countries as well.
Poonawalla said around 68,000 children die annually due to the pneumococcal disease in the country and the vaccine would now help in saving the precious lives.
With the best PCV, we hope to bring down the mortality rate significantly while also making our country self-sufficient with a robust public healthcare system, he noted.
SII would supply the vaccine to both the government and the private sector players with different costing structures.
Pneumococcal disease is a significant contributor to the under-five mortality rate worldwide.
In 2018, WHO recommended the inclusion of PCV in routine childhood immunisation programmes in all countries. -- PTI
21:21 Farmers accept govt proposal for talks on Dec 30
Protesting farmer unions Monday agreed 'in-principle' to a government proposal of holding the next round of talks on the new agricultural laws on December 30, but said the Centre should have spelt out the agenda of the meeting in its invite.
Abhimanyu Kohar, a member of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha -- an umbrella body of 40 unions protesting against the contentious legislations -- said the farmers have agreed to go for the meeting on the date proposed by the Centre.
The farmers' acceptance of the proposal came hours after the Centre sent them a letter suggesting December 30 as the date for the dialogue, against December 29 the protesting unions wanted.
"In our letter sent to the government on December 26, we had clearly mentioned that repeal of three farm laws and legal guarantee for MSP should be part of the agenda for fresh talks, but despite this, the government in letter today has not mentioned any specific agenda," Kohar told PTI.
"But, we have agreed in-principle to hold talks with the government," he said.
The government's latest invite followed a proposal made by unions last week to hold the talks on Tuesday, December 29, on agenda including modalities for the repeal of the three laws enacted in September.
Kohar said the government proposing to hold the talks on December 30, instead of agreeing to farmers' suggestion of December 29, shows the Centre wants to assert its control. -- PTI
20:29 Manmohan, Pawar wanted farm reforms: Tomar
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Monday said former prime minister Manmohan Singh and the then agriculture minister Sharad Pawar wanted to bring farm reforms during the United Progressive Alliance regime, but could not implement them due to 'political pressure'.
Tomar also asserted the Modi government will not take any decisions detrimental to the poor and farmers.
The minister was addressing representatives of 11 farmer organisations from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Haryana, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir who had come to extend support for the three farm laws.
'Under the leadership of (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi, whatever positive steps are taken for bringing reforms, some section have opposed them.
'However, these reforms have been instrumental in changing the picture of the country,' an official statement quoted Tomar having said in the meeting with the farm groups.
The government is in talks with protesting farmer unions as well and is trying to end the logjam through dialogue, he added.
Asserting that the Modi government would never take any decision which will have a negative impact on the poor and farmers in villages, Tomar said, 'Some forces are making futile efforts to fulfill their plans/designs using the shoulder of farmers.'
'In the UPA regime, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the then Agriculture Miniter Sharad Pawar wanted to bring reforms in the farm sector.
'But it is unfortunate that their government could not take the decision due to political pressure,' he observed.
Separately, Pawar told reporters in New Delhi that the government should take farmers' agitation seriously.
Tomar also said that the previous governments, farm scientists, farm bodies and chief ministers had recommended and supported the farm reforms.
About 11 farmer groups, which included Kisan Indian Union (Delhi) Rashtriya Annadata Union (Uttar Pradesh), Krishi Jagran Manch (West Bengal) and Maharasthra Krishak Samaj, met Tomar at NASC complex in Pusa area in New Delhi.
With this, the number of farmer groups extending support for the laws has touched at least two dozen.
For over a month now, 40 farmer unions, especially from Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various borders of Delhi seeking repeal of the three farm laws.
The government has invited them to resume talks on December 30, which is scheduled to be held after 25 days since the last round on December 5. -- PTI
19:46 New strain: MHA issues fresh Covid guidelines
The Centre on Monday said there has been a continuous decline in the number of active COVID-19 cases in the country but there is a need to maintain surveillance, containment and caution, keeping in view the surge in the number of cases globally and the emergence of a new variant of the virus in the United Kingdom (UK).
In a statement, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said it has issued fresh guidelines for surveillance with regard to COVID-19 and these will remain in force till January 31.
'While there has been a continuous decline in the active and new COVID-19 cases, there is a need to maintain surveillance, containment and caution, keeping in view the surge in cases globally, and emergence of a new variant of the virus in the UK.
'Accordingly, containment zones continue to be demarcated carefully; prescribed containment measures strictly followed within these zones; COVID-appropriate behaviour promoted and strictly enforced; and the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) prescribed in respect of various permitted activities followed scrupulously,' the MHA said. -- PTI
19:08 Punjab starts dry run of COVID-19 vaccination
The exercise to conduct a dry run of the distribution and administration of the COVID-19 vaccine over a two-day period in two selected Punjab districts began on Monday, health officials said.
The districts of Ludhiana and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar (Nawanshahr) have been selected for the dry run, aimed at testing the laid out mechanisms for the vaccination roll-out in the health system, Health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said.
He said it will provide insights on any gaps or bottlenecks in vaccine distribution and its administration to the population so that those could be addressed before the commencement of the COVID-19 immunisation drive.
The minister said immunisation partners United Nations Development Program and the World Health Organisation would support the dry run at the state level.
The dry run has been planned by the Union Ministry of Health and Family welfare in Punjab and three other states, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, and Gujarat, he said.
In Ludhiana, the drill for COVID-19 vaccination started in full swing.
Seven centres have been set up in the district, two of which are meant for the city and the remaining five for Jagraon, Rajkot, Machiwara, Payal and Khanna, which fall in the district.
While the centres setup in Ludhiana for the dry run are housed in Dayanand Medical College and Hospital and the Civil Hospital, the centres at other places are at the respective government hospitals.
All beneficiaries are to be compulsorily pre-registered on the CoWIN portal, which was formed by the central government for monitoring the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, and photo IDs will be required for the same.
Health officials in Ludhiana and Nawanshahr said at each centre 25 people registered online will be selected for the dry run.
They will be sent an SMS each on their respective mobile phones, and these SMSs would be treated as identity proofs for entry into their allotted centres on Tuesday.
Each centre is equipped with a team of five doctors.
Police personnel will also be deployed at each centre, said Dr Bagga.
He said people in large numbers are getting themselves registered online.
In Nawanshahr, during the dry run exercise, stock was taken of the requisite infrastructure and uploading of data like the names of centres where the vaccination will be undertaken, assigning of duties to the medical staff and information about the persons who will administer the vaccine along with their supervisors.
District Immunisation Officer, Nawanshahr, Dr Davinder Dhanda said the necessary infrastructure at each centre includes a waiting area, an injection room, and an observation room where the person undergoing 'dummy vaccination' on Tuesday during the dry run would be kept for half an hour.
As per Civil Surgeon, Nawanshahr, Dr Rajinder Prasad Bhatia, a special training workshop of personnel involved in the dry run exercise was held here on Sunday under the supervision of Dr Balwinder Kaur, State Immunization Officer.
18:56 Nitish was reluctant to continue as CM: BJP
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushil Kumar Modi on Monday said Nitish Kumar had been "reluctant" to continue as chief minister after the recent assembly polls, and agreed to do so only upon being reminded that the National Democratic Alliance had sought votes in his name.
Sushil Modi, who had served as Kumar's deputy for more than a decade and is known to have an excellent equation with his former boss, made the remark in reply to queries about the Janata Dal-United's assertion to the effect on the previous day.
At a press conference after the JD-U's national executive meeting on Sunday, where Kumar relinquished the post of its president, the party's national general secretary and spokesman K C Tyagi expressed anguish over repeated references to the chief minister continuing in his chair despite his party now having far fewer MLAs than the BJP.
He underscored that Kumar had, initially, expressed the opinion that the BJP, on account of its superior numerical strength, should have its own chief minister.
The BJP returned with a tally of 74 in the state assembly polls, while the JD-U, which fought a few more seats than the saffron party, managed to win only 43, as it bore the brunt of Chirag Paswan's politics of brinkmanship, who pulled out of the NDA vowing to dislodge Kumar from power and fielded many BJP rebels as LJP candidates.
"It is true that Nitish Kumar had shown reluctance to continue as chief minister after the assembly polls and said the BJP should stake claim for the top post," Sushil Modi said.
"He agreed to continue only after all NDA partners in the state BJP, HAM and VIP requested him to do so and reminded him that votes were sought in his name," he told reporters.
He also ruled out the possibility of deterioration in relations between the two parties following the en masse defection of JD-U MLAs to BJP in Arunachal Pradesh.
"The JD-U itself has said that events taking place in another state will not affect the party's tie-up with the BJP in Bihar. I am confident that the NDA will rule Bihar for another five years, with Nitish Kumar at the helm, without any problem," Sushil Modi added.
The former deputy CM, who during his tenure played the role of a trouble-shooter, dismissed suggestions that relations between the BJP and the JD-U could hit rough weather on account of his focus shifting to national politics.
"There is excellent coordination between the two parties," he asserted.
The Rajya Sabha MP, who was talking to journalists on the sidelines of a function organised here on the birth anniversary of former Union minister Arun Jaitley, recalled the late leader's role in cementing the JDU-BJP ties in
Bihar, and bringing back Nitish Kumar to the NDA, a few years after he had abruptly left the coalition.
"I am sure had he been around, he would have found a way out of the current deadlock around the farm bills," he said. -- PTI
18:28 Kerala: 21-yr-old becomes India's youngest mayor
Twenty one-year-old Arya Rajendran on Monday became the youngest mayor in the country, taking charge of the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation after she scored a facile win in a three-cornered election to the post.
A college student and a Communist Party of India-Marxist member, she was administered the oath of office by collector Navjot Khosa at the corporation council hall.
With Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance and Congress-led United Democratic Front deciding to field candidates for the Mayor's post, an election was necessitated on Monday and the CPI-M candidate garnered 54 votes, including that of independents, in the 100-member corporation.
Actor-politician Kamal Hassan and industrialist and Chairman of the Adani Group Gautam Adani were among those who congratulated Rajendran on her feat.
"Congratulations to Thiruvananthapuram's and India's youngest Mayor, Arya Rajendran. Absolutely stunning and India's demographic dividend at its best. This is how young political leaders shape paths and inspire others to follow. This is Incredible India!," Adani tweeted.
In the recent civic elections, Rajendran, a second year Bsc Maths student of the All Saints College in Thiruvananthapuram, won from Mudavanmugal ward in the city, defeating her nearest Congress rival by a margin of 549 votes.
The CPIM-led Left Democratic Front bagged 51 seats, the BJP 34, the UDF ten seats and others five in the election.
Rajendran is a state committee member of the Students Federation of India and also the state president of Balasangam, the children's wing of the Left party.
She has stated that her top priority would be on the waste management of the capital city.
This was the first time she could exercise her right to vote in the local body elections due to her age.
As per the available details, the youngest mayor until now was Sabitha Begum who was the mayor of Kollam Corporation and took charge when she was 23. -- PTI
18:07 PM Modi flags off 100th 'Kisan Rail'
Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted on Monday that his government has undertaken historic reforms in the farm sector to boost agriculture and strengthen farmers.
Flagging off the 100th "Kisan Rail" from Sangola in Maharashtra to Shalimar in West Bengal via video-conferencing, Modi said his government's policies are clear and intentions transparent in reforming the agriculture sector.
It will continue to work to strengthen farmers and agri sector with full force and dedication, he said.
His remarks came amid continuing protests by a section of farmers against the Centre's three farm reform laws.
Modi did not directly refer to these laws on Monday, but he has often asserted that they are in the interests of farmers and accused opposition parties of misleading them.
The 'Kisan Rail', a service started by his government, will help small and marginal farmers, who are over 80 per cent of the peasantry, in supplying their produce to far-off markets, the prime minister said, adding that a big demand for its services led to a rise in its frequency.
This will also help boost the income of farmers, he added.
This is also a testimony to the fact that how keen the farmers are for new possibilities, he said.
The government has been working to boost supply chain, cold storage facilities and bringing about value addition to farmers' produce to help them, he said.
The multi-commodity train service will carry vegetables such as cauliflower, capsicum, cabbage, drumstick, chilli and onion as well as fruits like grape, orange, pomegranate, banana and custard apple, according to an official statement.
Loading and unloading of perishable commodities will be permitted at all stoppages en route with no bar on the size of consignment, it said, adding that the Centre has extended a 50-per cent subsidy on the transportation of fruits and vegetables.
It may be noted that the first Kisan Rail was introduced from Devlali in Maharashtra to Danapur in Bihar on August 7, which was further extended up to Muzaffarpur.
Following good response from farmers, its frequency was increased from a weekly service to three days in a week, it said.
"Kisan Rail has been a game changer in ensuring fast transportation of agriculture produce across the nation. It provides a seamless supply chain of perishable produce," it said. -- PTI
17:57 AR Rahman's mother Kareema Begum passes away
Oscar-winning music composer AR Rahman's mother, Kareema Begum, died in Chennai on Monday, sources close to the family said.
Rahman uploaded a picture of his mother on his official Twitter page, without a caption.
Condoling her death, Tamil Nadu chief minister K Palaniswami posted on Twitter, "Sad to know that Kareema Begum, mother of music great A R Rahman died of illness."
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M K Stalin also extended his condolences.
"He said she played a "big role" in Rahman's musical journey from Tamil cinema to across the globe," he tweeted.
Composer-singer Salim Merchant said, "Very sorry for your loss AR. We pray that Amma gets Jannat-Ul-firdaus."
Rahman's frequent collaborator, singer Shreya Ghoshal said Begum was one of the most affectionate people she came across.
"Deeply saddened by this news Rahman sir. She was one of the most gentle affectionate person I have met. Praying for her departed soul."
Filmmaker Shekhar Kapur tweeted, "Your heart is broken, I know. But your mother left you with an inner strength , an inner resilience and belief .. that I have seen and admired for long. Stay strong, my friend."
Music composers Thaman, Devi Sri Prasad and many others also paid tributes to Begum. -- PTI
17:38 TN CM appeals public to compulsorily wear face masks
Amid fears following the detection of a new, more virulent variant of COVID-19 in the UK, the Tamil Nadu government on Monday insisted on the use of face masks, saying it has turned out to be an effective preventive mechanism against the contagion.
Chief Minister K Palaniswami said the blood samples of 13 UK returnees who had tested positive for coronavirus upon their return to the state have been sent for analysis to a Pune lab and that treatment can be initiated accordingly only if they test positive for the new strain.
"Medical experts say the mutated coronavirus infection is caused by not wearing a mask," he said at a review meeting with district collectors and officials on the pandemic situation. The only way to prevent the spread of the virus now is for the people to compulsorily wear face masks, he said.
17:10 Govt invites 40 farmers' unions for talks on Wed
The government on Monday invited 40 protesting farmer unions for the next round of talks on December 30 on all relevant issues to find a "logical solution" to the current impasse over the three new farm laws. The government's invite followed a proposal made by unions last week to hold the talks on December 29.
In a letter to the unions, Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Aggarwal has invited them for holding talks at 2 pm on December 30 at Vigyan Bhavan in the national capital. So far, five rounds of formal talks held between the Centre and 40 protesting farmer unions remained inconclusive.
Taking note of the unions' offer to resume talks, Aggarwal said, "The government is also committed to finding a logical solution on all relevant issues with a clear intention and an open mind." It's been over a month now that thousands of farmers, especially from Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh, are camping at Delhi borders seeking repeal of the three farm laws. They have threatened to intensify their stir in the coming days if their demands are not fulfilled. PTI
16:46 Sensex jumps 380 points on US stimulus pkg cheer
Equity benchmark indices closed at fresh lifetime highs on Monday amid positive global cues after US President Donald Trump signed into law a USD 2.3 trillion pandemic aid and spending package.
The BSE S&P Sensex wound up the day 380 points or 0.81 per cent higher at 47,354 while the Nifty 50 advanced by 124 points or 0.9 per cent to 13,873.
Except for Nifty pharma, which dipped marginally, all sectoral indices at the National Stock Exchange were in the green with Nifty PSU bank rising by 2.7 per cent, realty by 2.6 per cent, metal by 2.5 per cent and auto by 1 per cent.
Among stocks, Tata Motors jumped by 5.6 per cent to Rs 185.80 per share after the United Kingdom and European Union negotiators finalised a historic post-Brexit trade agreement. The EU so far has been a single market for the Tata Motors-owned Jaguar Land Rover but this is set to change after the UK's exit from the European Union.
Metal stocks too saw handsome gains with JSW Steel moving up by 5.8 per cent. The other major winners were State Bank of India, which advanced by 3.2 per cent, Titan by 3.1 per cent, HDFC Life and SBI Life by 3 per cent each and IndusInd Bank by 2 per cent.
NIIT Ltd closed 3.6 per cent higher at Rs 207.55 per share after the company said its board has approved an up to Rs 237 crore buyback proposal at Rs 240 per equity share. -- ANI
16:41 Chidambaram vs Digvijaya on farmers protest
Rejecting Congress leader Digvijaya Singh's remarks that Congressmen are sleeping over farmers' issue, party veteran P Chidambaram on Monday refuted the allegations and said that the party has supported the agitating farmers.
"It is completely incorrect. Congress has also supported the farmers' movement," Chidambaram said while talking to ANI exclusively.
The senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Digvijaya Singh on Sunday blamed his party over farmers' protest and said that farmers of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are protesting against farm laws because Prime Minister Narendra Modi is doing injustice to them. Farmers of Madhya Pradesh are innocent but even Congressmen are sleeping. Wake up, join the stir and raise voices against these laws.
After Singh's remarks over Congressmen are sleeping on the farmers' issues, party veteran leader P Chidambaram strongly rejected the allegation and said that he does not know in what context he said it, but if he had said it in farmers' context then it is not correct because the Congress party is the first party who raised the voice against these three farm laws.
Reminding him that Congress was the first party who said farm laws anti-farmer.
"Please remember the Congress party had condemned the bill when they were brought and had said it is anti-farmers. First Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh wrote to the Prime Minister. I wrote three columns on the farm bills pointing out the deficiency in the farm bills. The Congress party wanted to move amendments in the Rajya Sabha and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha ignored amendments and declared the bill passed by the voice of vote. So it is completely wrong to say that the Congress party did not protest. In fact, we were the first one to raise the voice of protest." Chidambaram told ANI.
Meanwhile, Former Union Minister and Congress veteran P Chidambaram strongly pointed out that the party had protested in support of farmer protest.
"Subsequently throughout the country, Congress party has organised demonstrations. In Tamil Nadu we had at least three major conferences on the farm laws in Vellore," Chidambaram said.
16:21 BJP is targetting me: Mamata
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee says her government is with the farmers. "We demand the three draconian agriculture laws be withdrawn. They (BJP) want to torch Bengal through riots. BJP is trying to break universities and educational institutions like JNU. Bengal is being maligned. Gandhiji had come to Beliaghata to bring peace during the riots then.
"I'm targetted politically. Be it Abhijit Banerjee or Amartya Sen, they've a different place in society. Our educationists are being targeted. Now they're feeling isolated. In all these years, they (BJP) didnt say anything on Netaji. Now they are talking about him."
15:16 Targetting women is cowardice: Sanjay Raut on ED summons to wife
Yuva Sena president and Maharashtra minister Aaditya Thackeray on Monday termed "politically motivated" the summons issued by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to wife of Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut. The ED summoned Varsha Raut for questioning in the PMC Bank money laundering case on December 29, officials had said on Sunday.
"The ED move is politically motivated. We are not scared. The MVA (Maha Vikas Aghadi) government is stable," Aaditya, son of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, told reporters when asked about the ED summons.
The ED officials had said that Varsha Raut has been asked to appear before the federal agency in Mumbai. This is the third summons issued to her after she skipped the earlier two on health grounds, they said.
Sanjay Raut said, "In the last one year, Sharad Pawar, Eknath Khadse and Pratap Sarnaik got notices and now you all are discussing my name. All these people are crucial for govt formation in Maharashtra. These are pieces of paper, nothing else. But targetting women of a household is an act of cowardice. We are not scared of anyone and will respond accordingly. ED needed some papers and we have submitted them in time."
15:07 Madrassa bill will be passed: Himanta Biswa Sarma
Assam Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on the bill on madrassas: "We've introduced a Bill whereby all Madrassas will be converted into institutes of general education and no madrassa will be established by govt in future. We're happy to introduce this Bill to bring truly secular curriculum in education system. The Congress and AIUDF (All India United Democratic Front) have opposed this Bill. But we are determined that this Bill needs to be passed and it will be passed."
"Once the Bill is passed, the practice of running madrassa by the Assam government will come to an end, a practice which was started by the Muslim League government in pre-Independence Assam," Sarma tweeted.
The three-day winter session of the Assam Legislative Assembly began today.
Earlier on December 14, Sarma had said that the state government has decided to make 'education secular' and 198 high madrasas and 542 other madrasas in the state will operate as any other general educational institute and will not give admission to students for theological studies
14:48 Kohli named ICC Male Cricketer of the Decade
ndia captain Virat Kohli on Monday won the Sir Garfield Sobers Award for the the ICC Male Cricketer of the Decade. The International Cricket Council (ICC) made the announcement via twitter, bestowing the honour on Kohli, who scored 66 out of his 70 international hundreds, in the "ICC Awards" period. In the same period, he was also the batsman with most fifties (94), most runs (20396) besides having the maximum average (56.97) among players with 70 plus innings. Overall, the 32-year-old has amassed 12040 runs in ODIs, 7318 runs in Tests and 2928 runs in T20 Internationals, averaging more than 50 across formats. PTI
14:40 Strict action on violating night curfew in Mumbai
The Maharashtra cabinet minister and the guardian minister of Mumbai Aslam Sheikh have instructed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and Mumbai Police on Monday to stay vigilant and implement COVID-19 related guidelines and restrictions strictly on the New Year eve.
Speaking to ANI, Aslam Sheikh said, "We have instructed BMC and Mumbai Police officials to take strict action against those who flout social distancing norms or violate night curfew rules.
"Maharashtra government on Wednesday allowed the district collectors to impose night curfew in their respective jurisdictions after taking prior permission from the chief secretary of the state.
"Night curfew (not more than 5 persons to assemble between 11 pm to 6 am) will be in force from December 22 till January 5, 2021, in the limits of all municipal corporations of the state. The concerned competent authorities to issue necessary directions regarding the same in their respective jurisdictions," according to a press release by the Department of Revenue and Forest, Disaster Management, Relief and Rehabilitation, Mantralaya, Mumbai under the Government of Maharashtra. -- ANI
14:32 Ganguly in politics? Speculations amid guv meet
Trying to clear the air about him joining politics ahead of West Bengal Assembly polls next year, former Indian skipper and BCCI President Sourav Ganguly on Monday stated he went to meet the state's Governor upon invitation.
"If the Governor wants to meet you, you have to meet him. So let us keep it like that," said Ganguly.
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Sunday met Ganguly to discuss various issues and agreed to visit Eden Gardens on his invitation.
"Had interaction with 'Dada' Saurav Ganguly, BCCI President at Raj Bhawan yesterday at 4.30 pm on varied issues. Accepted his offer for a visit to Eden Gardens, the oldest cricket ground in the country established in 1864," tweeted the Governor.
Earlier in the day, he also visited the Swaminarayan Temple in the Bishnupur area of the South 24 Parganas district and prayed for peace and harmony of the people of West Bengal.
"Prayed for peace, harmony and love for people of the State at Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Joka at 11.30 am," Dhankhar said in another tweet. -- ANI
14:26 Krishna dist officials conduct dry run of COVID-19 vaccination programme
The Krishna district administration on Monday successfully conducted a dry run of the COVID-19 vaccination programme by carrying out various exercises that go into the actual event whenever it begins.
Krishna district Collector A Md Imtiyaz, who inaugurated the dry run at the urban primary health centre at Prakash Nagar in Vijayawada, said the (dummy) vaccine was transported from the central storage facility to cold chain points at various places.
The dry run was carried out in five locations with 25 test beneficiaries (healthcare workers) for each session.
"We have recorded this in the Co-WIN App and sent SMSes to the chosen patients. We have monitored the time taken for different processes and the logistics involved. This will be used in real-time simulation," the Collector told reporters.
All primary health centres, hospitals, educational institutions and village secretariats would be made vaccination centres once the actual begins, he added.
Andhra Pradesh is one of the four states chosen by the Centre to carry out end-to-end dry run for Covid-19 vaccination on December 28.
14:16 BJP leader calls Rahul a 'tourist politician'
BJP leader DK Aruna has launched a scathing attack on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on his personal visit to Italy.
She has also called him a 'tourist politician'.
She said, "90 per cent of congress leaders doing their best to defend Rahul Gandhi Milan trip. When will you think about people and playing a role of the opposition? Farmer brothers and sisters don't be misled by this tourist politician."
Rahul Gandhi left on a short personal visit abroad only on Sunday.
The party has not disclosed the location where Gandhi is travelling, but according to sources he has left for Milan.
13:29 Karnataka may punish missing UK returnees
Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar on Monday hinted at stringent action against those returnees from the United Kingdom who were untraceable and had switched off their mobile phones. It could even be police action against them, the minister indicated.
"I request the UK returnees to cooperate with us as responsible citizens. You have to get tested. If you don't get tested and switch off your phone, then it's a crime in true sense," Sudhakar told reporters.
Replying to queries, he said he would hold a meeting with Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai after the cabinet meeting because the UK returnees could not be tracked, have switched off their phones and were not responding to requests through media and social media. To a question whether police cases will be registered, Sudhakar said, "I am compelled to say that I will discuss with the Home Minister and decide the future course of action."
According to him, till now 1,614 people have been tested. Of them, 26 people have tested positive till Sunday evening. Their samples have been sent to the designated lab in NIMHANS. Later, the report will be sent to the ICMR. The Minister said all the 26 people have been admitted to the designated hospitals and none of them is in home isolation.
"They are under the supervision of the government and are getting the best treatment. All of them are in good health and none of them are suffering from any serious ailment. They do have mild symptoms," Sudhakar said.
12:58 China jails journalist over Covid-19 reports
Citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, who was detained in May for her live stream reporting from Wuhan over COVID-19, has been sentenced to four years of imprisonment on Monday, Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported. She has been convicted of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble" for her reporting in the chaotic initial stages of the outbreak.
Dozens of her supporters and diplomats gathered outside Shanghai Pudong New District People's Court on Monday morning before the trial began, according to HKFP.
The police, however, pushed journalists and observers away from the entrance.
The New York Times reported that the 37-year-old former lawyer is on a hunger strike since June. According to her lawyers, she has been forced fed via a nasal tube as concerns grow about her health.
"She said she refuses to participate in the trial. She says it's an insult," Ren Quanniu, one of the lawyers said after visiting Zhang in mid-December in Shanghai, where she is being held.
Ren, who visited separately later, pleaded with Zhang to eat. But she refused, Ren said.
"She's much paler than in her videos and photos -- deathly pale," Ren said, adding that Zhang appeared to have aged several decades. "It's really hard to believe that she's the same person as you saw online."
China's court system is notoriously opaque, with sensitive cases often heard behind closed doors. -- ANI
12:55 'No one like you, pappa': Tina Ambani remembers Dhirubhai
Former actor Tina Ambani on Monday remembered her late father-in-law and the founder of Reliance Industries Dhirubhai Ambani on his 88th birth anniversary.
The 'Karz' actor took to Instagram to share a picture of herself with her father-in-law to mark his birth anniversary.
She also posted a picture of her husband and chairman of Reliance Group Anil Ambani with his late father Dhirubhai.
The 63-year-old former actor also complimented the pictures with a note dedicated to her "pappa" and expressed that she misses him "immensely."
"There was, is and will be no one like you Pappa. You brought out the best in each one of us and taught us how to broaden our horizons," she wrote.
"While we miss you immensely, you remain part of our being, guiding and watching over us, lighting our path, and reminding us each day of the possibilities life holds. Happy birthday," she added.
Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani popularly known as Dhirubhai Ambani was a leading business tycoon and is known for the inception of Reliance industries.
He passed away at the age of 69 in Mumbai on July 6, 2002, after suffering a major stroke. He was later honoured with the Padma Vibhushan posthumously in 2016 for his contributions to the trade sector. -- ANI
12:32 India's active Covid caseload continues to decline
The ongoing trend of contraction of India's total active COVID-19 cases continues as the active caseload of the country stands at 2,77,301 today. The share of active cases in the total positive cases has further shrunk to 2.72 per cent, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).
A net decline of 1,389 cases from the total active caseload was registered in the last 24 hours.
Daily recoveries have outnumbered the daily new cases since more than a month now. In the last 24 hours, 20,021 persons were found to be COVID positive in the country. During the same period, 21,131 new recoveries were registered ensuring a drop in the active caseload.
Total recoveries are nearing 98 lakhs (97,82,669). The recovery rate has also increased to 95.83 per cent. The gap between recoveries and active cases is consistently widening and has crossed 95 lakh (95,05,368) today.
When compared globally, India's cases per million population is amongst the lowest in the world (7,397). The global average is 10,149. Countries such as Russia, the UK, Italy, Brazil, France and the USA have much higher cases per million population.72.99 per cent of the new recovered cases are observed to be concentrated in 10 States and UTs.
Kerala has reported the maximum number of single-day recoveries with 3,463 newly recovered cases. 2,124 people recovered in Maharashtra in the past 24 hours followed by 1,740 inWest Bengal. 79.61 per cent of the new cases are from 10 States and UTs.
Kerala continues to report the highest daily new cases at 4,905. It is followed by Maharashtra and West Bengal with 3,314 and 1,435 new cases, respectively.
279 case fatalities have been reported in the past 24 hours.
Ten states and UTs account for 80.29 per cent of daily deaths. Maharashtra saw the maximum casualties (66). West Bengal and Kerala follow with 29 and 25 daily deaths, respectively.
12:21 Metro svcs to reach over 25 cities by 2025: PM
By 2025, metro train services will be expanded to over 25 cities across the country, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi while adding that "Make In India" is essential for the expansion.
"The first metro in the country was started with the efforts of Atal Ji. When our government was formed in 2014, only five cities had metro services and today 18 cities have metro rail service. By 2025, we will take this service to more than 25 cities," said PM Modi.
"Make In India is very important for the expansion of metro services. It reduces cost, saves foreign currency and provides more employment to people," he added.The Prime Minister inaugurated India's first-ever driverless train on Delhi Metro's Magenta Line and launched National Common Mobility Card on the Airport Express Line today, via video conferencing.
"We noted that the expansion of the metro, modern modes of transport should be used according to the needs of the people of the city and the professional lifestyle there," the PM added.
"This is the reason why work is being done on different types of metro rails in different cities," he said.
"Delhi-Meerut RRTS will reduce the distance of Delhi and Meerut to less than an hour. MetroLight - In cities where passenger numbers are less, work is being done on MetroLite version. It is prepared at 40 per cent cost of the normal metro," said PM Modi.
"Work is also being done on Metro Neo in the cities where the ridership is less. It is built at the cost of 25 per cent of the normal metro. Similarly, water metro - this is also an example of out of the box thinking," he added.
Today, four big companies are manufacturing metro coaches in the country and dozens of companies are engaged in the manufacture of metro components. This is helping Make in India as well as the campaign for self-reliant India, the Prime Minister stated.
11:42 PM launches India's 1st driverless metro in Delhi
PM Narendra Modi PM inaugurates India's first driverless train operations on Delhi Metro's Magenta Line.
The PM and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal attended the inauguration programme of India's first driverless train on Delhi Metro's Magenta Line and the launch of fully operational National Common Mobility Card on the Airport Express Line, via video conferencing.
"The inauguration of the first driverless metro train shows how fast India is moving towards smart systems The first metro in the country was started with the efforts of Atalji. When our govt was formed in 2014, only 5 cities had metro services and today 18 cities have metro rail service. By 2025, we will take this service to more than 25 cities.
"Make In India' is very important for the expansion of metro services. It reduces cost, savings foreign currency and provides more employment to Indian people," Modi said.
Randeep Surjewala said Rahul was abroad on a short personal visit
11:17 Rahul MIA on Congress party's founding day
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is abroad as the party celebrates its 136th Foundation Day at its state and district headquarters across the country today. The ex-party chief has come under attack over the timing of his foreign visit; the BJP's Shivraj Singh Chouhan questioned him this morning over his absence on a day that holds immense significance for the party.
"Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has left for abroad for a short personal visit and will be away for a few days," top spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said on Sunday. His visit comes shortly after top party leaders met earlier this month, including those who have called for sweeping organizational changes over the poor electoral performance.
"Rahul Gandhi has gone to see his grandmother. Is it wrong? Everybody has the right to undertake personal visits. BJP is indulging in low-level politics. They are targeting Rahul Gandhi because they want to target only one leader," Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal said.
11:06 Delhi braces for cold wave in run-up to New Year
A cold wave is likely to grip parts of Delhi over the next four days as frosty winds from the Himalayas have started blowing towards the plains, weather department officials said on Monday. The minimum temperature in the national capital settled at 5.6 degrees Celsius as against 6 degrees Celsius on Sunday.
The India Meteorological Department said the mercury may drop to three degrees Celsius on New Year's Eve. Cold wave conditions are predicted in parts of the city over the next four days, it said.
Kuldeep Srivastava, the head of the regional forecasting centre of the IMD, said a Western Disturbance ledto "scattered to fairly widespread" snowfall in Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The wind system has withdrawn. Now, cold and dry northerly/northwesterly winds from the western Himalayas will bring the minimum temperature in north India down by three to five degrees Celsius, he said.
"Cold wave to severe cold wave conditions are likely in isolated pockets over Punjab, Haryana, UP and north Rajasthan.Ground frost and dense fog is likely in isolated pockets in the region," the IMD added. For the plains, the IMD declares a cold wave when the minimum temperature is 10 degrees Celsius or below and is 4.5 notches less than normal. On Sunday last, the Safdarjung Observatory, which provides representative data for the city, recorded a minimum of 3.4 degrees Celsius, the lowest this season so far. PTI
10:56 Anna Hazare may begin final fast for farmers
Social activist Anna Hazare has threatened to go on a hunger strike if his demands on issues concerning farmers are not met by the Union government by the end of January next year, and said it would be his "last protest".
Speaking to reporters in his Ralegaon Siddhi village in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra on Sunday, Hazare said had had been holding protests for cultivators since the last three years, but the government has done nothing to resolve the issues. "The government is just giving empty promises due to which I do not have any trust left (in the government)...Let's see, what action the Centre takes on my demands. They have sought time for a month, so I have given them time till January-end. If my demands are not met, I will resume my huger strike protest. This would be my last protest," the 83-year-old said.
On December 14, Hazare wrote a letter to Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar warning of a hunger strike if his demands like the implementation of the MS Swaminathan Committee's recommendations and granting autonomy to the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), were not accepted. -- PTI
10:38 BJP can have Bihar CM's post: Nitish
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday said he had no desire to become the Chief Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party could make its own Chief Minister. During the JD(U)'s national executive meeting, Kumar said that he is not attached to the position.
"I had no desire to become the Chief Minister. I had said that the public had given its mandate and anyone can be made the Chief Minister, BJP could make its own Chief Minister," said Kumar.
The statement comes days after six of seven legislators of the Janata Dal (United) in Arunachal Pradesh defected to its NDA partner, BJP.
However, Kumar had earlier made it clear that the developments of Arunachal Pradesh will have no bearing on Bihar's politics as there is "no dispute" in its alliance government in Bihar.
Nitish had recently quit from the post of party chief and handed over JD(U) to party leader Ramchandra Prasad Singh.Kumar is heading National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in Bihar having JD(U), BJP, Hindustani Awam Morcha, and Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) as its constituents.
The NDA had secured a 125-seat majority in the 243-seat Bihar Legislative Assembly in November. The BJP secured 74 seats, JD(U) 43 while eight seats were won by two other NDA constituents. -- ANI
10:12 Sensex, Nifty race to new peaks in early deals
Benchmark gauges Sensex and Nifty soared to new heights in early deals on Monday, tracking broad-based rallies in global equities. The BSE benchmark Sensex rose 361.93 points or 0.77 per cent to touch an all-time high of 47,335.47 in morning trade; and the broader NSE Nifty climbed 110.55 points or 0.80 per cent to a new peak of 13,859.80.
On the Sensex chart, barring HDFC and Asian Paints, all constituents were trading in the green.
On the last trading day, Thursday, of the previous week, the 30-share Sensex had surged 529.36 points or 1.14 per cent to close at 46,973.54. The broader NSE Nifty had zoomed 148.15 points or 1.09 per cent to 13,749.25. Markets were closed on Friday on account of Christmas.
Elsewhere in Asia, bourses in Mainland China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and other key markets were trading on positive note on Monday. Meanwhile, the global oil benchmark Brent crude futures slipped 0.31 per cent to USD 51.14 per barrel. Foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) purchased shares worth a net Rs 1,225.69 crore on Thursday, as per exchange data. PTI
10:07 U'khand CM Rawat shifted to hospital
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, who had tested positive for Covid-19 recently, was shifted to the Government Doon Medical College after developing fever, an official said on Monday. As he had developed mild fever, he was taken for a check-up on Sunday evening to the GDMC where doctors decided to admit him, the official at the Chief Minister's Office said. Rawat is under the observation of a team of doctors, the official said. The chief minister had tested positive for COVID-19 on December 18 after which he had isolated himself at home. His wife and daughter had also tested positive. PTI
09:53 India records 20,021 Covid cases, 279 deaths
India reports 20,021 new COVID-19 cases, 21,131 recoveries, and 279 deaths in last 24 hours, as per Union Health Ministry. The total cases are: 1,02,07,871, active cases: 2,77,301, total recoveries: 97,82,669, death toll: 1,47,901.
09:34 Sexpert Dr Mahinder Watsa passes away
Mumbai's most popular sexpert, Dr Mahinder Watsa passed away on Monday morning, aged 96.
Dr Watsa, a columnist, 'Ask the Sexpert', entertained his readers with his witty replies in the Mumbai Mirror.
An official statement by his children read, "Dad was a man of many dimensions. He lived a glorious life and on his terms. Today, we would like to celebrate his life as he has passed on to join his beloved Promila."
Read our 2018 interview with Dr Watsa here
08:53 South Korea reports its first cases of new coronavirus variant
South Korea has confirmed the first three cases of the new coronavirus strain in the country, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
The three people arrived from the United Kingdom on December 22, KDCA said. "They arrived in the country as a family living in London and tests revealed the presence of the virus; they are now in quarantine," KDCA said.
South Korean health specialists are now analysing biological material from another family of four people who have arrived from the UK and have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Earlier this month, UK health officials announced that the country had identified a new variant of the coronavirus that spreads faster than other Sars-Cov-2 virus strains. Many countries have suspended passenger travel to and from the United Kingdom in a bid to prevent the import of the new virus strain.
08:40 Dry run of Covid-19 vaccine to start today
India is set to hold a two-day dry run for the largest and most ambitious mass immunisation programme in its history.
The dummy vaccination exercise for Covid-19 will be carried out today and tomorrow in two districts of four corners of the country -- Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, and Assam.
With preparations underway for a possible vaccine-rollout by January, the Indian drug regulator may give emergency use authorisation to the Serum Institute that is manufacturing the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine.
The process of granting emergency use approval for Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine 'Covaxin' may take time as its phase 3 trials are still underway, while Pfizer is yet to make a presentation. "Going by this, Oxford vaccine 'Covishield' is likely to be the first to be rolled out in India," a source said.
08:12 No watching NYE fireworks from Sydney harbourside
Plans to allow about 5,000 frontline workers to watch Sydneys New Years Eve fireworks display from the foreshore have been scrapped as the New South Wales government tries to contain the northern beaches coronavirus outbreak.
The state premier, Gladys Berejiklian, announced the restrictions for 31 December on Monday as the Avalon cluster grew to 126, with five more locally acquired cases recorded.
Sydneysiders will be barred from the central business district on 31 December unless they hold a venue booking and have obtained an entry permit from authorities.
It means the centre of the city is likely to be eerily quiet on what is normally one of its busiest nights of the year. At the same time, rules on outdoor gatherings have also been tightened.
07:41 Amid cold wave, farmers protest enters 32nd day
Amid the prevailing deadlock between farmers and the Central government over the new farm laws, the agitation of farmers entered the 32nd day on Monday.
With the cold wave prevailing in the region, farmers at the Ghazipur border were seen comforting themselves before small log fires.
Farmers continued their protest at the borders of Delhi against the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
Farmer unions have held several rounds of talks with the government and attended a meeting called by Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Meanwhile, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a joint front of almost 40 farmer organisations, wrote a letter to the ministry of agriculture and farmers' welfare accepting the Centre's offer for dialogue and proposed December 29 as the next date for the meeting.