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India lawmakers pass farm bills amid uproar in Parliament

India|: New Delhi: Amid an uproar in Parliament, Indian lawmakers on Sunday approved a pair of controversial agriculture bills that the government says will boost growth in the farming sector through private investments. The two bills were approved even though most opposition parties and some allies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi called them anti-farmer. See also Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) exams held amid stringent precautions in India What's happening in India, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Philippines, Europe? News in pictures from East to West today From the editors: Houthi attacks in Saudi Arabia, India-China border tensions Photos: Low-key Onam celebrations for Keralites across India amid COVID-19 The legislation is aimed at reforming India’s deeply stressed farming sector and will give farmers freedom to market their produce, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said while tabling the proposed laws in the upper house of Parliament. The upper house passed two out of three bills, amid a war of words between ruling lawmakers and those opposing the legislation. The third bill, intended to be part of the farm liberalisation plan, could not be taken up because the upper house adjourned for the day amid chaotic scenes, with opposition lawmakers shouting slogans against the bills. The lower house had approved all three bills on Thursday. The passed bills will have to be signed by India’s ceremonial president, a formality before becoming law. On Thursday, Shiromani Akali Dal party lawmaker Harsimrat Kaur resigned as minister for food processing in protest against the bills. The party is one of the Modi government’s most trusted allies. Insurance Tomar sought to allay critics of the legislation by saying that the government’s market intervention policy to procure agriculture crops from farmers will continue. The policy insures farmers against any sharp fall in prices of their agricultural produce. However, the opposition leaders launched scathing attacks on the government, calling the legislation “black law” and “pro-corporate.” Rahul Gandhi, a top leader of the main opposition Congress party, said in a tweet Sunday that Modi “is making farmers ‘slaves’ of the capitalists, which the country will never allow to succeed.” The government has projected that its massive support plans in the agriculture sector will double farmers’ income by 2022. Participating in the Parliament debate, former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, now a lawmaker, asked Modi to explain the short- and long-term impact of the bills on farmers. “The prime minister should explain why there’s a hurry to pass the bills amid the pandemic,” he said. Modi should “explain how it will help in achieving the government’s goal of doubling farmers’ income,” he added. Diminishing economic clout Farmers have long been seen as the heart and soul of India, where agriculture supports more than half of the country’s 1.4 billion people. But they’ve also seen their economic clout diminish over the last three decades. Once accounting for a third of India’s gross domestic product, farmers now account for only 15 per cent of the country’s $2.9 trillion economy. India’s farmers, often complaining about being ignored, hold frequent protests to demand better crop prices, more loan waivers and even water delivery systems to guarantee irrigation during dry spells. Sometimes they stage sit-ins or dump truckloads of vegetables onto highways to disrupt traffic. Several protests by farmers were reported against the bills in northern India on Sunday. More than half of India’s farmers are in debt, with 20,638 killing themselves in 2018 and 2019, according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau. Many factors are believed to contribute to farmer suicides, including poor crop yields, financial devastation or debt, and a lack of community support.

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All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen aligns with Samajwadi Janata Dal in Bihar

India|: Hyderabad: All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), which has been striving to spread its wings into other states, especially in North India, has floated a secular alliance with Samajwadi Janata Dal party for the forthcoming state assembly elections in Bihar. MIM, which made its debut in Bihar assembly in 2019 when its candidate won Kishangunj assembly seat, has now decided to contest a large number of assembly seats. SEE ALSO Photos: Stand Up Paddle Surfing festival in Moscow Race to rescue animals as Brazilian wetlands burn Bollywood: Anushka Sharma, Bhumi Pednekar and others share lockdown beauty tips Why Dubai is a ‘rising giant’ of global hotel industry MIM President and member of Parliament from Hyderabad Asaduddin Owaisi announced the formation of United Democratic Secular alliance by joining hands with SJD headed by former union minister Devender Prasad Yadav. Addressing a press conference in Patna, along with Yadav, Owaisi rejected the allegation that by contesting elections in Bihar, MIM will benefit the BJP. “In 2019 general elections MIM had contested only one Lok Sabha seat. I want to ask how many seats RJD (of Lalu Prasad Yadav) contested and how many seats it won? In Kishangunj we secured 300,000 votes and Congress won the seat”, Owaisi said. He demanded to know from the RJD and other secular parties how the BJP managed to won 39 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats when the MIM had contested only one seat of Kishangunj. MIM supremo said that the efforts will continue to enlarge the secular alliance and seat sharing formula was yet to be finalized. “We welcome other parties to join the alliance and the convenor of the alliance Devender Yadav was talking to other parties”, he added. Lashing out at the Nitish Kumar government of Bihar Owaisi said that in 2015 assembly elections people had voted against the BJP but Kumar betrayed their mandate and joined hands with the BJP to form the government. Earlier the MIM had announced that it would contest 50 assembly seats but the final number was likely to be less.

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India arrests local journalist for allegedly spying for China

India|: New Delhi: Police in India’s capital city on Saturday said they had arrested a local freelance journalist on allegations he was passing “sensitive information” to Chinese intelligence officers. In a statement, the Delhi Police said 61-year-old Rajeev Sharma was arrested earlier this week and officers had seized some confidential documents related to the Indian defence department from the journalist’s residence. One Chinese woman and her Nepalese partner were also arrested for allegedly supplying Sharma with “huge amounts of money” for “conveying information to Chinese intelligence”. The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside regular business hours. Reuters could not immediately reach any of the three individuals, who are under arrest, or their lawyers. “On interrogation, Rajeev Sharma has disclosed his involvement in procurement of secret/sensitive information and further conveying the same to his Chinese handlers,” Delhi’s Deputy Commissioner of Police Sanjeev Kumar Yadav said in the statement. The arrest comes amid heightened tensions between India and China at their border in the Himalayan region. The relationship between the neighbours has worsened since a clash in June that India says of 20 of its troops were killed. China suffered “far fewer” than the 20 deaths incurred by India’s military in the clash, according to a tweet this week by the editor-in-chief of the Global Times, which is published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party. The police said Sharma was tasked with providing information on India-China boundary issues and other matters in recent years. It added that between January 2019 and September 2020, Sharma received more than 3 million Indian rupees ($40,799.67) from one of his handlers. India has in recent months banned several Chinese apps and made it tougher for Chinese companies to make investments.

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Pakistan: Sindh government builds dam in desert town near Indian border

Pakistan|: Karachi: The Sindh government has said that a total of 60 small and big dams have been constructed in the province for storage of rainwater for cultivation of crops. According to Barrister Murtaza Wahab, one such small dam has been built in Nagarparkar town, a semi-desert Tharkarpar area bordering with India. Wahab said that the newly built Kali Das Dam had helped a lot in promoting agro-economy in the far-flung area of the province. SEE ALSO Photos: Stand Up Paddle Surfing festival in Moscow Race to rescue animals as Brazilian wetlands burn Bollywood: Anushka Sharma, Bhumi Pednekar and others share lockdown beauty tips Why Dubai is a ‘rising giant’ of global hotel industry He said that after construction of the dam, the area no more gave the look of any desert as it more looked like grassland. He said that chilli crop had been cultivated on several acres of land in the area due to availability of the irrigation water after construction of the dam. He said that cultivation of chilli crop had helped much the farmers of the area. Fast pace He said that border town of Nagarparkar would witness construction of total such 34 small dams as 18 such dams had been completed in the area. The work on the rest of the dams was in progress at a fast pace. He said that small dams completed in the area had filled to their maximum capacity due to recent spate of heavy monsoon rains in the region. The Sindh government’s spokesman said that the same dams would be utilized for supplying water to the desert area of Thar while other crops would also be cultivated in the area. He said that the vision to construct small dams in Thar desert area of Sindh had been given by former president Asif Ali Zardari who during his past visit to the area also directed the provincial government to construct reverse-osmosis water filtration plants for providing clean drinking to the underprivileged people. He said that the Sindh government of Pakistan Peoples Party would continue to complete and unveil more such development projects aimed at welfare of the people with the aim to do best public service in the province.

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Pakistan: Kaavan’s behaviour improving, say Austrian vets

Pakistan|: Islamabad: As the expected departure of Kaavan - Pakistan’s only Asian elephant - to Cambodia draws near,a marked improvement is being noticed in his behaviour. Earlier the ‘killer’ elephant - as he was named after he crushed a zoo worker to death in 1992 - kept standing in a corner of his shed, most of the time moving his huge trunk from right to left and the zoo employees provided him with food and water from a distance. SEE ALSO Photos: Stand Up Paddle Surfing festival in Moscow Race to rescue animals as Brazilian wetlands burn Why Dubai is a ‘rising giant’ of global hotel industry From the editors: Global Village to boost consumer confidence However, now, thanks to the Austrian team of experts from the Four Paws International, the animal is being nice and less aggressive. Still many fear going near him. The team arrived last month on August 22 to examine the animal’s fitness and medical condition before its possible relocation. Four Paws team’s lead vet Dr. Amir Khalil is perhaps the only guy in years that the animal has allowed to come close. He says it took him weeks to win the pachyderm’s trust. Daily routine Daily, he does two sessions with the animal, first in the morning from 9.00 am to 12pm and secondly, from 4.30 p. to 6.30 p. In his daily schedule, there are no off days. “I make it a point to develop a daily routine of the animal. I talk to him, feed him and sing songs so that he might be familiar with human company,” he says. Seeing Dr. Khalil singing to the pachyderm is an incredible sight. In the beginning, unaccustomed to close human contact, the elephant grew a little agitated, however later it calmed down as Khalil played Sinatra’s classic melody “My Way” on the speakers of his cell phone and sang it. Both of them also take many rounds of the barbed place with the song playing in the background and during the walk, Khalil patiently waits for the animal to pick grass from the ground or sniff the branches of trees overhead. During the work, the Austrian vet is assisted by his team member Marion Lombard, Velizar and the Pakistani staff of the Wildlife Board. “These guys are a great help to me in my daily task as it is a risky business and everyone has to be extremely careful,” said Dr Khalil. While seeing him patting Kaavan playfully on the back, caressing him, talking and singing to him makes many of his team mates and even the zoo workers emotional. “It brings tears to my eyes,” said Marion. “I have not seen such a sweet creature in my life,” said she while feeding apples to Kaavan. A zoo worker also confirmed that never before Kaavan had allowed anyone near him. It is quite inexplicable for him to depart from his earlier aggressive mood. Natural habitat On Sunday, Dr. Khalil administered eye drops to Kaavan which he said were sour because of inflammation. Kaavan has been in the Zoo for 35 years while the average age of an elephant is 60 or 65. Now it is time for him to spend the rest of his life in peace in the natural habitat, he said.However, he admitted it was not a simple thing as it looked. First of all the Pakistani government is the competent authority to make a decision. Then a big crate big enough for a 5,000 plus kg elephant needed to be constructed. Then the animal will have to be trained to go inside that huge cage. For the relocation of the elephant we might need a jumbo, Antonov A-225 aircraft, he said. Though short of tools and faced with a number of challenges Dr. Khalil is quite hopeful about Kaavan’s future and keeps pinning his faith in the bond of trust that has been established between him and the animal. “Kaavan is everyone’s favourite but to me he is a buddy and he listens to me and follows me that I believe because of my luck, the melodies I play to him and the bond of trust between us.” The plight of the chained animal had invited international condemnation and an American vet Samar Khan launched a worldwide online petition to set the animal free. Some 400,000 people voiced their support and among Kaavan’s fans include music icon and activist Cher. However it was after the Islamabad High Court took notice of the poor condition of Kaavan and ordered his relocation in May this year that the government moved into action.

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IPL2020 in UAE: Indian Paunch League - Stars pilloried for 'healthy waistlines' in IPL opener

IPL|UAE|India|: New Delhi: Leading cricketers from Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings have been slammed for their "healthy waistlines" during the opening match of the Indian Premier League in Abu Dhabi. Some players were returning to professional cricket for the first time in six months after global sport was put on hold amid the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The virus-delayed Twenty20 tournament was postponed and then moved to the United Arab Emirates, with India's cricket-crazy fans watching Chennai outplay Mumbai on Saturday on their televisions and mobile phones. Many expressed surprise at seeing top players including Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma, batsman Saurabh Tiwary and Chennai spinner Piyush Chawla sporting a post-lockdown paunch. CSK player Piyush Chawla reacts after taking the wicket of Mumbai Indians Skipper Rohit Sharma. Image Credit: PTI "I have never played more than gully cricket but I am pretty shocked to see some players in the #IPL2020 looking so unfit," former India field hockey captain Viren Rasquinha wrote on Twitter. "I can't think of another physical sport where players at the highest level could cope with these fitness levels." Veteran commentator Harsha Bhogle tweeted that there were a "couple of healthy waistlines today". Social media users joked that the cash-rich IPL was now the "India Paunch League". "Indian Paunch League (IPL) looking at all the bulging waistlines..looks like a veterans series match..," one user tweeted. Meanwhile Chennai skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni stood out with his bulging biceps on his return to the cricket field after more than a year on the sidelines. The veteran wicketkeeper-batsman, who retired from international cricket last month, last played for India in their semi-final loss to New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup. Fans swooned at their idol's body, with one user tweeting: "Dhoni looks WWE ready".

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IPL 2020 in UAE: Can show potential with bat in death overs, says Sunrisers Hyderabad's Rashid Khan

Dubai: Sunrisers Hyderabad all-rounder Rashid Khan on Sunday said that he can give his best performance with the bat in hand during the death overs of an innings. Sunrisers Hyderabad will be taking on Royal Challengers Bangalore in their opening match of IPL 2020 on September 21. The match between both sides will take place at the Dubai International Stadium. "I think I always have the thing in my mind, whenever there are three or four overs left in the innings, I think I can give the best performance with the bat. It depends on how the situation is, when I play the Big Bash, I have been told by the coaching staff as to how I need to go after the 15 overs mark. When you get such a positive response from coach and captain, it is really good," Rashid replied to an ANI query during a virtual press conference on Sunday. "I should not be thinking much about I can bat, I should just focus on what I can do in the entire match, I will try my best to do well for the team," he added. Talking about his battle with Virat Kohli in the upcoming match against RCB, Rashid said: "I think whenever you are bowling to anyone, you are under pressure. Virat is a world-class player in all three formats, I love it when somebody like him is batting against me, it is the best competition and you want it as a bowler, I will enjoy bowling to him, it will be a proud moment bowling to him. As a bowler, I will try to bowl the best deliveries." The 22-year-old spinner also said that he has not developed any new deliveries for the upcoming tournament and his focus would just be to remain consistent for the Hyderabad-based franchise. "I have been working hard on all my deliveries, I haven't developed any new delivery to a 100 per cent so I cannot afford to try new balls in a match like situation, I have been working hard, bringing new balls to a game would be hard for me. I need to be smarter compared to the last few years. The more consistent I bowl, it will help me," said Rashid. "Spinners will be key in this competition as it goes on, wickets might get better for the spinners as the tournament progresses, the grounds are bigger as well and that helps as a spinner. Sharjah is a small ground but the wicket would be good for the spinners," he added. Rashid was last seen in action for the Barbados Tridents in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) 2020 and he has to come to UAE from a bio-secure bubble. Talking about his extended stay in a bio-secure bubble, Rashid said: "Living in a bubble is something new, it is a requirement, you have to follow rules if you want the tournament to go ahead smoothly, it has been tough as a player, you have to be strong mentally. We are used to it now and we spent 15 days in quarantine when we went to play CPL, luckily we just had six days of quarantine in the UAE, we are happy that cricket is back. We need to focus on what we need to do on the ground. It hopes that bubble life does not stay longer and we go back to normal soon." Lastly, Rashid was quite impressed by the crowd noise technology used by the IPL organisers and the spinner said that it will help players to remain fresh in the middle. "Playing without a crowd was a bit tough in the CPL, I was reminded of club cricket initially, the crowd noise helps you on the ground, the best idea from the IPL organisers has been to have crowd noise to keep players fresh in the middle. The crowd gives you extra energy in the ground but we know they are watching us from television," said Rashid.