Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a former defence secretary and intelligence officer who was accused of committing human rights violations, has won Sri Lanka’s closely fought presidential elections.
His main opponent who was Sajith Premadasa of the ruling United National Party (UNP), conceded defeat on Sunday, saying he will “honour the decision of the people.”
Rajapaksa who is 70 yrs old led the Sri Lankan Armed Forces during the time of the end of the country’s decades-long civil war, while his older brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was president. The Sri Lankan Armed Forces defeated the Tamil Tigers, and ended the violent conflict in 2009 — and were also accused of rape, torture and the abduction of thousands of people.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa win signals the return to power for the controversial family which got hailed by many for ending the civil war but also was remembered for brutal acts against minorities and dissidents.
The former defence secretary earlier won with more than 52% of the nearly 16 million possible votes, according to final results released on Sunday by Sri Lanka’s election commission. He defeated Premadasa by about 10 percentage points.
“As we move into this new journey for Sri Lanka, we must remember that all Sri Lankans are a part of this journey,” Gotabaya Rajapaksa wrote on Twitter that “Let us enjoy peacefully, with dignity and discipline in the same manner in which we campaigned.”As we usher in a new journey for Sri Lanka, we must remember that all Sri Lankans are a part of this journey.
Rajapaksa did campaign heavily on the platform of national security, especially being focused on the threat of Islamist terrorism after suicide bombers killed more than 250 people and injured hundreds which are there in the country on Easter Sunday this year.
ISIS later also claimed responsibility for these attacks, which also threw the fragile sense of peace in the nation into a tailspin and caused an angry backlash against Muslims.
The president-elect also faces several human rights lawsuits, stemming from his time as defence secretary, which threatened his run for the presidency. When asked about the overall allegations against him last month by reporters in the capital, Colombo, Rajapaksa dismissed them with a laugh by saying that “You people always are talking about the past things. Ask [about] the future!” “I am just trying the process to become the president of future Sri Lanka! We can move on.
But for many people in Sri Lanka’s ethnic minorities, moving on is not an option. Ahead of this weekend’s election, NPR’s Lauren Frayer also talked to several of Tamil mothers whose children are still missing after security forces led by Rajapaksa which also took away before the end of the civil war more than a decade ago.
Tens of thousands of people disappeared too during the 26-year civil war, and more than 100,000 people died. No one has ever been held accountable for the extrajudicial killings, although many in the minority groups hold Rajapaksa responsible for it, and fear what Sri Lanka will become under his rule.
But, Frayer writes, the Buddhist majority in the country which tends to see Rajapaksa in a completely different light:
“When Sri Lankans think of a leader who eradicates his enemies, many think — for better or worse — about Gotabaya Rajapaksa. To many of the country’s Sinhala Buddhists, he’s a war hero who led government forces to attain victory in the civil war. The Rajapaksa campaign video also features some scenes of Buddhist temples — and lots of soldiers with guns.
“The memories are still fresh of whatever happened during the period when he was defence secretary. In that, there was a lot of impunity and disappearances,” says Jehan Perera, executive director of Sri Lanka’s nongovernmental National Peace Council, in Colombo. “But for many in the majority and security — and also pride in one’s nation — trumps other matters.”
Early on Sunday,Gotabaya Rajapaksa closest opponent Sajith Premadasa issued a statement conceding his defeat, calling this weekend’s election is the “most peaceful” in Sri Lanka’s independent history.
“My appeal to the incoming president to take this process forward from now on and strengthen and protect the democratic institutions and values that enabled his peaceful election,” he wrote this too.
Read more:Ayodhya Verdict
Lockdown Extended Till 3rd May
India’s three-week lockdown was to end at midnight tonight.
In a half-hour televised address to the nation, Modi, however, held out hope that from next Monday, there will be phased relaxation of the lockdown in districts where COVID-19 cases have been contained.
There are several hundred districts in India where there has been not even one case of the infection. In those areas, Modi cautioned, “Even if one new case is reported, the relaxations will be taken back.”
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare here announced this morning that India had so far recorded 10,363 COVID-19 infections of which 1,036 patients have recovered and discharged from hospitals. There have been 339 deaths. A final figure for the day is expected to be announced late evening.
Meanwhile, Modi said restrictions will be tightened further in areas which have become “hotspots” because of a large number of virus positive patients. “Harsh steps will be taken to curtail the spread of coronavirus in these hotspots which will be closely monitored.”
The Prime Minister added that the pandemic had not spread exponentially in India despite the country’s size, population and density of habitat only because the three-week, ongoing lockdown had been pervasive. He thanked people for cooperating with the government’s efforts to contain the Coronavirus.
“You all are like soldiers fighting the virus,” Modi said about the people of India noting that they have been celebrating the traditional harvest and spring festival today from their homes with patience and forbearance.
Almost all over India, today is a day of festivities, known by different names in different states, to mark the start of the food harvesting season and the advent of spring.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation today at 10 am and briefed about the next phase of the lockdown. The first phase of lockdown announced on the 24th of March ended today.
The address was much awaited as the nation was clueless about the further steps the government was to take to combat the COVID-19 crisis. While few states have already extended lockdown, a nationwide address by the Prime Minister was keenly awaited. The Prime Minister had chaired a meeting with all the Chief Ministers on the 11th of April to analyze the situation throughout the country.
Here are the highlights of the address:
- The lockdown is officially extended to the 3rd of May.
- Until the 20th of April, all the hotspot regions and the regions that are on the verge of hotspot will be monitored carefully.
- In this period, the rules will be strengthened in these areas.
- Post the 20th of April, if these areas contain the spread, there might be relaxation on the lockdown rules on those regions.
- The relaxation will be reversed if there are any new outbreaks in those regions.
- The relaxation will be done considering the plight of poor and daily wage earners.
- There are efforts by the government to minimize the problems farmers face while procuring the produce.
- The Prime Minister invited youngsters of the nation to come forward in preparing the vaccine for COVID-19
- The detailed guidelines of the extended lockdown will be officially released by the government tomorrow.
Political Chaos in Karnataka
What is the first synonym that comes to your mind after hearing the word ‘politics?’ Controversial. Politics and controversies always go hand in hand. From making heated allegations at each other to pulling each other down, everything happens here. Especially during the election season. There are only two main competing parties in India, Congress, and BJP.
The rivalry has been ever-present between BJP has won the election for the second time in a row on 23rd May. The two parties do not leave any chance to insult each other and hence, intensifying the political circumstances even more.
The same situation prevails in Karnataka state these days. Karnataka functions under the rule of Congress and JDS. H.D. Kumara Swamy is the chief minister of Karnataka since 23 May 2018. Let’s investigate the whole matter closely.
BJP and Congress have been never on good terms with each other and why would they. After all, this is politics. In 2019 elections as well multiple heated statements were passed between MLAs and ministers from both the parties.
Whether it’s related to Rafael or the policies introduced by each party in their working period everything becomes the reason to fight. But now tension in Karnataka has begun to rise. The game of snatching and bribing MLAs to join the other party remains consistent.
Congress and JDS together function in Karnataka as a ruling party. Congress did not win the elections in Karnataka on its own back in 2018 and thus, asked JDS to form ties with them. Recently 18 MLAs of Congress – JDS association submitted their resignations to join the rival party, BJP on July 1, 6, 8, 9 and 10 respectively.
When the assembly speaker accepted 18 resignations, the strength of the Congress- JDS association decreased to 100 from its earlier strength of 118. In total there are 224 members in the house and for the majority 113 members are required from the side of the ruling party otherwise the ruling party would not hold the majority.
If the resignation of the MLAs approved, BJP will hold the majority and thus, Congress and JDS will lose, which they cannot afford.
Hence, the resignation was not accepted by the Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar as the proper rules and regulations were not followed by the MLAs, which led to MLAs extreme rebelling.
Role Of Supreme Court
After being denied by the speaker, the rebel MLAs filed a petition in the Supreme Court. They claimed that he did not deliberately accept their resignations and they are forced by both sides. The Apex Court interrogated the speaker KR Ramesh Kumar matter and asked him to study the matter thoroughly and report back by midnight.
The speaker, in turn, filed a petition of his own statement that he is a human and can’t work at a ‘lightning speed’. He further criticized the MLAs by said that going to the supreme court was not the right step. The hearing in this matter was scheduled to be held between July 10 and 12
Security To MLAs
Supreme Court ordered the Karnataka DGP to provide security to the rebel MLAs. The MLAs were suspicious of any attack or other dangerous incidents that might happen in this heated situation and thus, asked for security outside the hotel.
Even though the MLAs will be prevented from joining the other party, the boat has already sailed. When there is no corporation among the party, how will they run the state?
The Highlights of First Budget Of Modi 2
A much-awaited Union budget, the first one of the new NDA government arrived today. There is a high expectation from the new Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The presented budget promises to boost infrastructure and foreign investment to the slowdown economy. The budget is focused on rural, common peoples and farmers. The finance minister announces no change in personal income tax rates and imposed supercharge on the super-rich peoples.
Also, there are big decisions taken to grow and improve sectors like housing, start-ups, agriculture, and transportations. There is a lot more that is surely going to improve the life of the common citizen.
Let’s see the highlights of the first budget –
To promote Digital India
- Only 2% TDS on withdrawals of 1 crore Rupees in the entire year from your bank account for payments related to business.
- MDR charges removed on cashless payments means there is no charge on digital payments from now.
To promote Aviation Industry and MAKE IN INDIA
- The government is planning to launch a scheme where the government will invite foreign companies to set up manufacturing plants for electronic hardware such as laptops, semiconductors, and batteries
- The government also plans to encourage adoption and skilling in technologies like Artificial Intelligence, IoT, Big Data, 3D printing, and Virtual Reality
To improve the Housing Sector
- Enhanced interest deduction of 1.5 lakh rupees on loans borrowed up to 31 March 2020 for purchase of house up to 45 lakh.
To Increase Revenue
- The government increases customs duty on gold. A hike of 2.5% from the current level of 10% on import duty on gold and precious metals to 12.5%, according to the Budget proposals.
- The budget also proposed to increase special additional excise duty and road and infrastructure cess each one by 1 rupee per liter on both diesel and petrol.
To promote start-ups
- Government plans to provide 70,000 crore rupees to Public sector banks to boost capital.
- The government also plans to start Exclusive ‘Start-up TV program’ to promote the entrepreneurship culture in youths. The channel will be conceptualized and executed by start-ups themselves.
To promote the education sector
- The government will allocate 400 crore rupees for world-class higher education institutions.
- ‘Study in India’ program will be launched to attract foreign students.
- The budget proposal will make PAN card and Aadhar card interchangeable and allow those who don’t have PAN to file returns by simply quoting Aadhar number and use it as a replacement of PAN.
- The SHG women member would now be able to take loan up to 1 lakh.
- The Modi Government will develop 17 iconic world-class tourist sites to attract tourists and boost the tourism industry.
- National Sports Education Board for development of sportspersons to be set up under Government’s ‘Khelo India’ project to promote sports at all levels.
- Pradhan Mantri Karam Yogi Maandhan, a new policy is introduced to give pension benefits to retail traders and small shopkeepers.
- Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) will establish a robust fisheries management framework.
So, it can easily be concluded that the budget has many promising policies that will contribute to the growth of the nation’s economy.
The Great Indian Agrarian Crisis
India is dependent on its agriculture sector since Freedom. Agriculture is the backbone of the nation’s economy. It caters employment to approx half the population of India. The rural sector of India is heavily dependent on agriculture and the agrarian crisis is just a deep pain to their lives.
Low production growth, poor earnings and distress behavior such as large-scale internal migration and disproportionately high suicide-rate have signaled that something is wrong with India’s rural sector. According to reports, Agricultural growth has been lower than that in non-agriculture sectors on an average. The reports of surveys and annual production say that India’s agrarian sector is under stress. This is an issue that should be solved under the highest priority.
The income of farmers depends on both revenues and costs of cultivation on farming, with revenues being in turn determined by the total output produced and selling prices In case when there is high productivity, farmers are forced to sell their products at lower costs because they can’t keep them fresh and store them. This also affects their income gap.
The aim to adopt high-yielding varieties, the purchase-system at Minimum Support Prices (MSP) that was introduced to gain costs and offer a lucrative return to farmers, and the sale of foodgrains through the public distribution system at subsidised prices to protect the common consumer and clear acquired production stocks, were initiated to achieve these objectives. The farmers didn’t get the benefits that they were supposed to be.
In South India, farmers live in distress and despair fearing a steep drop in acre yields and agro-production due to serious drought in the region. The government took some steps to control the saddening situation and tried to improve the lives of farmers, but the reality is it didn’t perform well on the ground.
Since the harvest of 2015, the farmers in the rain-fed areas have been affected by deficient rainfall by northeast and southwest monsoon as well.
The crisis is serious because several industries rely on agriculture for their functioning. Directly or indirectly, their dependence on agriculture is putting them in a bad situation. They need to understand that by pressurizing the government to improve farmer’s productivity, they’re securing their future.
To help the farmers, the government’s scheme named the prime minister’s National Agricultural Insurance Scheme is aimed to cover some production losses. Though this scheme is good, the compensation provided by the scheme is not sufficient and does not cover the risk of falling prices, which is a drawback. The government should launch a new scheme adding some new features that are aimed to cover the risk of falling product prices.
Expectations are high from the new NDA government as farmers and agriculture are in the priority.
Om Birla: The New Lok Sabha Speaker
On 19 June 2019, the grassroots politician rose to become The New Lok Sabha Speaker. This has come across as a shock to many as this post of being a Lok Sabha Speaker is usually procured by the seniors. According to sources, the suggestion for the post was given by the Prime Minister himself, Shri Narendra Modi. Becoming the 17th Lok Sabha Speaker, Om Birla was a member of the parliament in the 16th Lok Sabha.
Om Birla was born on 23rd November 1962. His father was Shrikrishna Birla and his mother, late Shakuntala Devi. His entry into politics was as a student leader who rose to be elected in the Rajasthan Assembly for three consecutive terms.
In the years 1992-1995, Birla was the chairperson of the Rajasthan Rajya Sahakari Upbhokta Sangh. In addition, he was the vice-chairperson of the National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation of India in New Delhi.
In the years 1987-2003, Birla served as a key leader in the BJYM(Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha). From the years 1987-1991, Birla stood as the District President. Later from 1991-1997, Birla served as the State President in the state of Rajasthan. While from 1997-2003, he was the National Vice President of the same. This is why the 56-year-old is considered to be close to both PM Narendra Modi and the Home Minister, Amit Shah.
In 2003, Om Birla won his first assembly elections from Kota South by defeating his Congress opponent with a margin of 10,101 votes. In the next assembly elections, his seat remained defended. This time, his closest opponent(Ram Kishan Verma, Congress) lost to him with a margin of 24,300 votes. In these years i.e. 2003-2008, Om Birla was the Parliamentary Secretary in the Rajasthan Government. The 2013 Assembly Elections was the third time Om Birla secured a win and this time with 50,000 votes more than his closest opponent, Pankaj Mehta of Congress. 2019 made him a member of the parliament for the second time.
Om Birla, who holds a masters degree in commerce has also introduced several social welfare programs. In 2012, he introduced ‘Paridhan’ which was an effort to provide the weaker section of the society with both clothes and books. He was also involved with the set up of several blood donation camps. In addition, he initiated a free meal program and a medicine bank so the poor could be supplied with required medicines free of cost along with meals.
The appointment as Speaker
His appointment as a Lok Sabha Speaker was seen as a shock as this post is usually given to more senior candidates. His successor to the post was Sumitra Mahajan who was an 8 time MP. In the 16th Lok Sabha, Om Birla had a significant contribution. His attendance was 86%, he raised a total of 671 questions. He participated in 163 debates. In addition, he introduced 6 private members’ bills in the 16th Lok Sabha. When he was the Parliamentary Secretary, he provided financial aid of about Rs. 50 Lakh to the poor, serious and helpless patients through the State Government.
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