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Indian farmers say they will resume march to New Delhi

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Protesting Indian farmers say they will resume marching to capital Delhi this week after rejecting a government proposal to buy some crops at assured prices on a five-year contract.
The protesters began marching last week but were stopped around 200km (125 miles) from Delhi.

Since then, farmer leaders were in talks with the government on their demands.

But on Monday night, they said the offer was “not in their interest”.

The government had proposed buying pulses, maize and cotton at guaranteed floor prices – also known as Minimum Support Price or MSP – through cooperatives for five years.

But the farmers say that they will stand by their demand of a “legal guarantee for MSP on all 23 crops”.

“We appeal to the government to either resolve our issues or remove barricades and allow us to proceed to Delhi to protest peacefully,” Jagjit Singh Dallewal, a farm union leader, told local media.

They say they will resume marching from Wednesday.

Farmers form an influential voting bloc in India and and analysts say the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be keen not to anger or alienate them. His Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking a third consecutive term in power in general elections this year.

Last week, authorities clashed with the protesters, firing tear gas and plastic bullets at them in a bid to halt the march. They fear a repeat of 2020, when thousands of farmers camped at Delhi’s borders for months, forcing the government to repeal controversial agricultural reforms.

The latest round of protests began on Wednesday, when farmers from Haryana and Punjab started marching to Delhi. They say the government did not keep promises made during the 2020-21 protest, and also have demands including pensions and a debt waiver.

But their most important demand is a law guaranteeing a support price for crops.

India introduced the MSP system in the 1960s – first for only wheat and later other essential crops – in a bid for food security.

Supporters of MSP say it is necessary to protect farmers against losses due to fluctuation in prices. They argue that the resulting income boost will allow farmers to invest in new technologies, improve productivity and protect cultivators from being fleeced by middlemen.

But critics say the system needs an overhaul as it is not sustainable and will be disastrous for government finances. They also say that it will be ruinous for the agricultural sector in the long run, leading to over-cultivation and storage issues.

Since last week, federal minister Piyush Goyal and other government officials had held four rounds of talks with the farmers. On Sunday, Mr Goyal told journalists that the discussions had been “positive” and that the government was devising an “out-of-the-box” solution to benefit farmers, consumers and the economy.

But on Monday, farmer leaders said they were dissatisfied with the way the talks were being held, claiming that there was no “transparency”.


(BBC News)

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TikTok faces US ban as bill set to be signed by Biden

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The US Senate has approved a controversial landmark bill that could see TikTok banned in America.

It gives TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, nine months to sell its stake or the app will be blocked in the United States.

The bill will now be handed over to US President Joe Biden, who has said he will sign it into law as soon as it reaches his desk.

ByteDance has told the BBC that it did not have an immediate response to the move. Previously the firm said it would oppose any attempt to force it to sell TikTok.

If the US is successful in forcing ByteDance to sell TikTok any deal would still need approval from Chinese officials but Beijing has vowed to oppose any such move. Analysts say the process could take years.

The measure was passed as part of a package of four bills which also included military aid for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and other US partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

It had widespread support from lawmakers, with 79 Senators voting for it and 18 against.

“For years we’ve allowed the Chinese Communist party to control one of the most popular apps in America that was dangerously short-sighted,” said Senator Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee.

“A new law is going to require its Chinese owner to sell the app. This is a good move for America,” he added.

Fears that data about millions of Americans could land in China’s hands have driven Congressional efforts to split TikTok from the Beijing-based company.

Last week, the social media company said the bill would “trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans, devastate seven million businesses, and shutter a platform that contributes $24 billion to the US economy, annually.”

TikTok has said ByteDance “is not an agent of China or any other country”. And ByteDance insists it is not a Chinese firm, pointing to the global investment firms that own 60% of it.

Its chief executive, Shou Zi Chew, said last month the company will continue to do all it can including exercising its “legal rights” to protect the platform.

Mr Shou was grilled by Congress twice in less than a year, and downplayed the app’s connection – and his personal links – to Chinese authorities.

The social media platform made efforts to rally support against the potential ban, including a major lobbying campaign.

It also encouraged TikTok users and creators to express their opposition to the bill.

University of Richmond law professor, Carl Tobias told the BBC that a prolonged legal battle is likely to follow and that “could take about two years”.

He also said if a buyer for ByteDance’s stake is not found within the nine-month period, it could delay any action against TikTok in the US further.

(BBC News)

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10 dead as 2 Malaysian Navy helicopters collide midair

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Two Malaysian navy helicopters collided in mid-air as they flew in formation during a rehearsal for a military parade, killing all 10 crew on board.
One of the aircraft clipped the rotor of the other before the two crashed into the ground, footage published on local media showed.

The incident took place at 09:30 local time (02:30 BST) in the Malaysian town of Lumut, which is home to a Royal Malaysian Navy base.

There are no known survivors.

“All victims were confirmed dead on site and the remains were sent to the [Lumut] Military Hospital for identification,” said the Royal Malaysian Navy.

It added that it would form a committee to investigate the cause of the incident.

One of the helicopters, a HOM M503-3 with seven people on board, is believed to have crashed onto a running track.

The other, a Fennec M502-6 carrying the other three victims, crashed into a swimming pool nearby.

The state’s fire and rescue department said it was alerted to the incident at 09:50 local time (01:50 GMT).

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that “the nation mourns the heart-wrenching and soul-wrenching tragedy”.

“Condolences to all the families of the victims and prayers for strength to face this calamity,” he said.

In March, a Malaysian coast guard helicopter crashed into the sea off Malaysia’s Angsa Island during a training flight.

The pilot, co-pilot and two passengers on board were found and rescued by fishermen.

(BBC News)

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Indian elections begin

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Indians begin voting today to choose their next parliament in the first of seven voting days that end on June 01.
Almost a billion people are eligible to cast their ballot.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is aiming for a rare third consecutive term in power.

Several key opposition parties, including the Congress, have formed an alliance in many states to take on Mr Modi’s party.

The big issues include a jobs crisis, rising prices, a crackdown on dissent and the opposition, and the politics of religion.

Results will be announced on June 04.

(BBC News)

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