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Highlights November 2021


The Repeal of Farm Laws

On 19th November, coinciding with the auspicious Purnima day – Guru Nanak’s birthday PM Modi made a personal announcement to repeal the three farm laws. With this and by meeting some follow-up demands of the protesting farmers, curtains have been drawn on the farmers’ agitation at the Delhi-Haryana border. The protest has been going on for more than a year. It has been marked by much violence and ill-will – such as Republic Day violence, Lakhimpur-Kheri violence, lynching and rape at Singhu border and sporadic expressions of pro-Khalistan sentiment across some parts of Punjab – despite the best attempts of the central government to pacify the protestors without withdrawing the legislation.

At this point, the protest was indeed fading out on its own, neither getting much crowd and nor much media attention. Therefore, the government’s decision to take back the laws has come as a surprise to many. It is being speculated in some quarters that this decision was taken to placate the farmers ahead of the elections in various state assemblies. However, this does not make much sense, as only a section of Jat and Sikh farmers were leading the protests – hardly enough to make a dent in BJP. And when the protest itself was fizzling out, there was hardly any political capital that the party could have lost in the upcoming assembly polls. Indeed, one can argue that the embarrassing withdrawal of the laws would have cost the party more electoral capital given that the support for the laws among the farmers of the country far outweighed its opposition.

The reason for the withdrawal – hidden in cryptic words by the PM – can only be slightly deeper. In his speech announcing the withdrawal of the laws, the PM mentioned that he introduced these laws for the welfare of the farmers, but is withdrawing them in the national interest. The day of the withdrawal also happened to be the Sikh holy day of Guru Nanak Jayanti. It is not difficult to understand that the withdrawal of these laws will pacify the sentiment of the Sikhs greatly who were gradually becoming alienated. Alienation of Sikhs from Hindus does no good to the cause of national interest. And BJP’s ideological parent, the RSS, recognizes this more than anyone else and recognizes the sacrifices made by the Sikh community for the nation. Therefore, this step – taken without calculations of electoral mileage – is a step in the right direction.

Tripura By-polls

In recent weeks, Tripura has seen much political activity in the form of acrimony between TMC and the ruling BJP, communal tensions with the Muslim community which resonated till Maharashtra, culminated in the massive BJP victory in the local elections. TMC has been attempting to expand its base across the country as a viable alternative to the Congress party. In North-east in general and Tripura in particular – due to the latter’s Bengali speaking population – the TMC has been very aggressive. This has resulted in much acrimony, although the TMC attempts were unsuccessful as in clear from its performance in local elections.

BJP won 217 out of 222 seats in the civic body elections and won all the 14 urban bodies as well. It also won the Agartala Municipal Corporation which is now without an Opposition for the first time since its formation. The CPI(M) won only 3 seats across urban bodies. One seat was won by Tripura royal scion’s TIPRA Motha. The TMC – winning only a single seat – seems to have emerged as the main opposition, with the second-highest vote-share after BJP.

Prevalent COVID19 Situation

Spiraling COVID19 cases of the Delta variant had not even come under control in the US, UK and Europe, even as a new variant of concern was flagged by the World Health Organization (WHO) viz. Omicron. Presently, the USA has been averaging nearly 1 lakh cases a day due to the Delta variant, while the Omicron variant has been detected in at least 19 states. In Europe, massive lockdowns were being imposed due to the resurgence of cases and the rise of deaths by around 10%, despite some of the world’s highest rates of vaccination. Europe is also witnessing anti-lockdown protests. Israel, Russia and China are similarly logging higher cases and are on alert, including imposing lockdowns.

The resurgence despite high vaccination rates is inexplicable to the scientists. Instead of introspecting about what is going wrong, governments and pharma companies are still insistent that the virus is spreading due to the unvaccinated. This defies all logic, as it implies that a mere 20% of the unvaccinated population in nearly fully-vaccinated countries can spread the virus to vaccinated people also. It also doesn’t explain the high death rates and overflowing of hospital capacity in US and UK.

Instead of introspecting, governments and pharma companies have gone into a reactionary mode. They are insisting on an additional booster shot of vaccine. Many governments are at various stages of making vaccination mandatory.

In the midst of all this, the emergence of a new variant viz. Omicron from South Africa poses new concerns. So far, all that is known about the variant is that it is much more transmissible than Delta and can possibly evade vaccines. However, symptoms are largely mild rather than severe. For now, it is a wait-and-watch for this variant.

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