Indian democracy is global good; if that cracks, will cause problem for planet: Rahul Gandhi in UK

News Network
May 21, 2022

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London, May 21: Democracy in India is a global public good and a central anchor for the planet and if that cracks, it is going to cause a problem for the planet, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has warned as he attacked the NDA government, asserting that there are two different designs of governance at play in India, one that stifles voices and the other that listens.

The Opposition leader, who is on a tour of the UK, had an interaction session at the 'Ideas for India' conference organised by non-profit think-tank Bridge India on Friday during which he articulated his party's vision for mass action that would result in something beautiful for the country.

He attacked the deep state that is causing damage and declared that the Congress ideology is geared up to fight it.

Please realise, what the BJP does is shout and stifle voices. What we do is listen. They are two different things, they are two different designs, said Gandhi.

Joined at the conference by Opposition leaders, including CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury, RJD's Tejashwi Yadav and TMC's Mahua Moitra, the Congress leader warned of kerosene all over the country and all it needs is one spark .

A cadre is told you will say this and nothing else it's designed to push a particular set of ideas down people's throats, whether it is the Communist idea or in the RSS system. We are not designed like that. We are designed to listen to the people of India and pull out their voice and place it on the table, he said.

Democracy in India is a global public good. It is a central anchor for the planet. Because we are the only people who have managed democracy at the scale that we have. If that cracks, it is going to cause a problem for the planet," he said.

We believe India is a negotiation between its people; The BJP & the RSS believe India is a geography; That it is a 'Sone Ki Chidiya' whose benefits should be distributed to a few. We believe everyone should have equal access," the Congress Party quoted Gandhi as saying.

Asked about the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Gandhi drew parallels with the Chinese actions in India.

Russians say to Ukraine that we refuse to recognise your territorial integrity. We refuse to accept that these two districts belong to Ukraine. And we are going to attack you in these two districts to make sure that you break an alliance with NATO, Gandhi said.

That is what Russian President Vladimir Putin is doing, he said.

Putin is saying I am not ready for you to have an alliance with America. So on the question of your territorial integrity, I will attack you, he said.

Please recognise the parallels between what is going on in Ukraine and what is going on in Ladakh and in Doklam, the Congress leader said.

Please realise that the same idea is at play. There are Chinese forces sitting in Ladakh and there are Chinese forces sitting in Doklam, Gandhi said.

The Doklam forces are designed for Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh forces are designed for Ladakh. And the same principle is there. What the Chinese are saying is that we do not accept your territoriality and we do accept your relationship with the US.

So we have to realise that there is a problem on the border and whether we like it or not, we have to prepare for that problem. Because we don't want to get caught off guard, he said.

He said that his problem with the government is that they do not allow a discussion.

Chinese troops are sitting inside India today. They have just built a huge bridge over the Pangong Lake. They are setting up the infrastructure. They are obviously preparing for something. But the government doesn't want to talk about it. Government wants to stifle the conversation. That's bad for India.

They keep saying that I raise the China issue. Yes, I raise the China issue because I am worried about it. I am worried that Chinese troops are sitting inside India and I can see exactly what is happening in Ukraine. I said this to the Foreign Minister in one of our conversations and he said you know what you have a point. That's an interesting way to look at it. Please realise that there are parallels to what is going on, Gandhi said.

The bridge is being built amid the lingering standoff between Indian and Chinese armies at several friction points in eastern Ladakh for over two years.

People familiar with the Chinese construction on Wednesday had said that the new bridge is being built in an area that is over 20 km from the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

India on Friday voiced strong opposition to China building a second bridge across Pangong lake in eastern Ladakh, and said it is in an area that has been under "illegal occupation" of that country for around 60 years.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India has never accepted such illegal occupation of its territory, nor has it accepted the "unjustified" Chinese claim or such construction activities.

"We have made it clear on several occasions that the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are an integral part of India and we expect other countries to respect India's sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said.

Bagchi said the government has stepped up the development of border infrastructure, especially since 2014, including the construction of roads and bridges in order to ensure that the nation's security interests are fully protected.

"The government remains committed to the objective of creating infrastructure along the border areas to not only meet India's strategic and security requirements but also facilitate the economic development of these areas," he added.

During the conference here, Gandhi, with reference to his own party, noted: We have an opportunity now that we haven't had for many years to completely redesign the Congress through mass action. And so do a lot of the Opposition.

Gandhi declared he believed that the time for mass action was not in the past few years but is timely now because there is a government in charge that is destroying and attacking the institutional framework of the country.

So, roles change and you adapt. I see myself as somebody who defends that idea of India when I see our country's voice being crushed, it upsets me. I think about what I should do and can do. It's a challenging situation but I think there's a huge opportunity inside this thing and I feel it.

I feel that from the struggle that is coming, we will get an India that is actually much better than the one we have right now and one we had before. I think there's something beautiful that can come out of this. I fundamentally believe in the spirit of our country, he said.

Earlier, he took to Twitter to describe the enriching exchange he had during the conference.

While in the UK, Gandhi is also set to interact with students at Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge, on Monday at an event entitled India at 75.

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Agencies
July 1,2022

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New Delhi, July 1: India imposed a ban on many single-use plastics on Friday in a bid to tackle waste choking rivers and poisoning wildlife, but experts say it faces severe headwinds from unprepared manufacturers and consumers unwilling to pay more.

The country generates around four million tonnes of plastic waste per year, about a third of which is not recycled and ends up in waterways and landfills that regularly catch fire and exacerbate air pollution.

Stray cows munching on plastic are a common sight in Indian cities and a recent study found traces in the dung of elephants in the northern forests of Uttarakhand state.

Estimates vary but around half comes from items used once, and the new ban covers the production, import and sale of ubiquitous objects like straws and cups made of plastic as well as wrapping on cigarette packets.

Exempt for now are products such as plastic bags below a certain thickness and so-called multi-layered packaging.

Authorities have promised to crack down hard after the ban -- first announced in 2018 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- came into effect.

Inspectors are set to fan-out from Friday checking that no suppliers or distributors are flouting the rules at risk of a maximum fine of 100,000 rupees ($1,265) or five-year jail sentence.

Around half of India's regions have already sought to impose their own regulations but as the state of rivers and landfill sites testifies, success has been mixed.

Firms in the plastics industry, which employs millions of people, say that alternatives are expensive and they have been lobbying the government for a delay to the ban.

Pintu, who earns his living hacking the top of coconuts with a machete and serving them to customers with a plastic straw, doesn't know what he will do.

Switching to "expensive paper straws will be tough. I will likely pass the cost to the customers," he told AFP in New Delhi.

"I've heard it'll help the environment but I don't see how it'll change anything for us," he added.

GlobalData analysts said small packs with plastic straws make up 35 per cent of soft drinks volumes, meaning manufacturers will be "badly hit".

"(The) price-sensitive masses are unable to foot the bill for eco-friendly alternatives," Bobby Verghese from GlobalData added.

Jigish N. Doshi, president of industry group Plastindia Foundation, expects "temporary" job losses but said the bigger issue was firmed "which had invested huge capital for machines that may not be useful" after the ban.

"It's not easy to make different products from machines and the government could help by offering some subsidies and helping develop and purchase alternative products," Doshi told AFP.

Satish Sinha from environmental group Toxics Link told AFP that "there will be initial resistance" as finding replacements may be hard but it was a "very welcome step".

"There will be difficulties and we may pay the price but if you're serious about the environment, this is an important issue that needs a concerted push," he said.

One young company trying to be part of the change is Ecoware, which makes disposable bio-degradable products at its factory outside Delhi.

Chief executive Rhea Mazumdar Singhal told AFP that the appalling state of landfills and widespread plastic consumption inspired her venture.

"We've seen plenty of bans before, but as citizens the power lies with us," Singhal said. 

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News Network
June 21,2022

 

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Mumbai: Maharashtra Minister and top Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde has reportedly moved to a hotel in Gujarat's Surat with 11 other party MLAs, setting off alarm bells in the Uddhav Thackeray government.

Latest developments 

>> Targeting the BJP, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said there is a conspiracy to topple the Uddhav Thackeray government in the "same pattern as in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan". "Shiv Sena is a party of loyalists. We won't let that happen," he said. 

>> Sources say Mr Shinde, who is reportedly upset, is "unreachable". Palghar MLA Srinivas Vanga, Aligarh legislator Mahendra Dalvi and Bhiwandi Rural Shantaram More are also "unreachable", it is learnt.

>> Opposition BJP's sources have claimed that besides the 12 MLAs from Sena, there are five Independent MLAs at the Surat hotel too.

>> This comes hours after the Maha Vikas Aghadi ruling alliance and the BJP won five seats each in the Legislative Assembly elections. Opposition BJP won all five seats it contested. Congress candidate Chandrakant Handore lost in a setback for the ruling alliance. 

>> Mr Shinde, it is learnt, may address the media at noon. The situation may turn into a major crisis for the ruling alliance of Shiv Sena, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party.

>> A prominent Sena leader in Thane, Mr Shinde has played a key role in strengthening the organisation in the region. His son, Dr Shrikant Shinde, is Sena's Member of Parliament from Kalyan.

>> Seen as a mass leader, Mr Shinde was named Leader of the Opposition in 2014 after the Shiv Sena parted ways with the BJP. When the Maha Vikas Aghadi government was formed, he was appointed cabinet minister for Urban Development and Public Works (Public Undertakings).

>> Of late, there have been reports that Mr Shinde is upset with the leadership and has been feeling sidelined.

>> Former Sena leader Narayan Rane, who is now with the BJP, had a cheeky response. "No comments should be made on such things, else what is the point of being unreachable," he said.

>> Mahesh Tapase, spokesperson for the Nationalist Congress Party, said that the future of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government is "absolutely safe".

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News Network
June 27,2022

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Mumbai, June 27: Rebel Shiv Sena MLA Eknath Shinde spoke to MNS chief Raj Thackeray over phone twice amidst the ongoing political crisis in Maharashtra, according to ANI.

Shinde spoke to Thackeray about the recent political situation in Maharashtra and enquired about his health, an MNS leader confirmed the agency. 

Rebel legislators led by Eknath Shinde inched closer to formally getting their group recognised and pulling out of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.

The Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress dispensation is contemplating action against the rebels and ministers and dealing with them sternly which may include disqualification, suspension from the party and stripping their portfolios.

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