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Farmers begin march from Thane to Mumbai for land rights, loan waiver

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Mumbai | Demanding compensation for drought and the transfer of forest rights to tribals, thousands of farmers and tribals began a two-day march from Thane to Mumbai on Wednesday, eight months after a similar protest that started from Nashik.

Magsaysay award winner Dr. Rajendra Singh, also known as Waterman of India, is among the marchers. They started walking Wednesday afternoon and will reach the Somaiyya Ground in Mumbai’s Sion area where they will halt for the night. They will reach Azad Maidan in south Mumbai early on Thursday and will try to hold a demonstration near Vidhan Bhawan, where the state legislature session is underway, a leader of the march said.  The participants are mostly from Thane, Bhusawal and Marathwada regions, he said.

The farmers are demanding implementation of the Swaminathan Committee report, which suggested that farmers must have assured access and control over resources such as land and water. They are also demanding an increase in the Minimum Support Price and a judicial system to ensure its implementation.

The farmers, struggling to cope with the agrarian crisis, are demanding proper implementation of the loan waiver package announced by the BJP-led government in the state last year, land rights for farmers and compensation for farm labourers.

“We have been consistently asking the state government to fulfil our long-standing demands but the response has been lukewarm. We are forced to launch this agitation,” said Pratibha Shinde, general secretary of Lok Sangharsh Morcha, which is organising the protest. “We are taking maximum care to ensure that Mumbai citizens are not inconvenienced,” Shinde said.

In March, thousands of farmers, led by the Left-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha, took out a 180 km long march from Nashik to Mumbai in March to press for their demands.  That protest saw a sea of red, formed by farmers in red caps, converge in Mumbai from across Maharashtra.

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Rafale steals the show at Aero India

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Bengaluru | Political row hit Rafale jet was the cynosure of all eyes as the breathtaking display of manoeuvres by military aircraft and the aerobatic team cast a spell at Aero India, Asia’s premier air show here on Wednesday.

The city’s skies dazzled with somersaults and stunts by the metal birds, which also paid tributes to the Surya Kiran aircraft pilot killed in a mishap during rehearsal on Tuesday.

The might of the Rafale jet was in full flow as it roared into the skies at the Yelahanka air base, the venue for the event, giving a dazzling display with breathtaking manoeuvres.

The Rafale aircraft flew at low speed to pay tribute to Wing Commander Sahil Gandhi who died in a mid-air collision between two aircraft of IAF’s aerobatics team ‘Surya Kiran” during rehearsal on Tuesday.

Three Rafale jets have landed in Bengaluru for Aero India- two for flying and one on static display.

Rafale has been participating in the Aero India shows since 2011.

India has signed an Inter-Government Agreement with France to purchase 36 Rafales– to form two squadrons.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been carrying on a sustained campaign against the Modi government on Rafale, accusing it of favouring Anil Ambani’s firm as an offset partner and saying it was crony capitalism.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report tabled in Parliament recently revealed that the Rafale deal negotiated by the NDA government to procure 36 fighter jets was 2.86 per cent cheaper than the UPA’s 2007 offer.

The Jaguar, Tejas and Sukhoi 30 aircraft flew in the ‘missing man’ (aerial salute) formation in honour of Gandhi.

Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat, Air Force Chief B S Dhanoa and Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba were also present.

Thebiennial edition of International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition – Aero India 2019 was inaugurated by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the presence of Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy.

Enthralling stunts were performed by Sarang aerobatics teams with daredevil crosses and spins, that has been the mainstay of the Aero India for many editions.

The air display began with vintage Dakota aircraft, followed by formations of Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv and Light Utility Helicopter, DO-228, Hawk and HTT40 aircrafts.

Then came the flypast and thrilling manoeuvres by MIG 21, Sarang team, Saras PT1, Embraer along with Sukhoi, Boeing P8I, LCA Tejas, HTT40, Sukhoi Su-30MKI, LUH, F-16 Fighting Falcon, Airbus 330 and the mighty B-52 Stratofortress bomber, among others.

LCA also paid tribute to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who named it as Tejas, by performing certain sets of manoeuvres.

On static display among other things at the air show are HAL’s Light Utility Helicopter(PT-1), Light Combat Helicopter (TD-2), Advanced Light Helicopter (Rudra) and ALH MICU (Medical Intensive CareUnit).

The Aero India official website said a total of 61 aircraft would be on display and 403 exhibitors would be part of the show.

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Vande Bharat Express hits motorcycle, no damage: Railways

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New Delhi | The Vande Bharat Express hit a motorcycle near Allahabad on its third commercial run on Wednesday, the railways said, adding that no one was injured in the incident.

The incident occurred hours after stones were hurled at the train near Tundla in Uttar Pradesh in the morning.

The incident took place near Phaphamau, around 42 km from Allahabad.

“The train hit a motorcycle, which was abandoned by its owner on the tracks as he saw the train approaching while illegally trespassing on the tracks. While the vehicle has completely been damaged, the Vande Bharat Express suffered none. No one was injured and the train will run as per schedule,” Northern Railway Spokesperson Deepak Kumar said.

The train, made indigenously at a cost of around Rs 97 crore, has been plagued by issues since its trial runs commenced in November last year. It had suffered damage to its window panes when stones were hurled on it on two occasions previously.

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India, Saudi agree on need for increasing pressure on countries supporting terror: PM Modi

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New Delhi| India and Saudi Arabia agree that there is a need to increase all possible pressure on countries supporting terrorism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday after holding talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Prime Minister Modi and the Saudi Crown Prince explored ways to further deepen strategic ties against the backdrop of escalating tensions between India and Pakistan following the Pulwama terror attack.

The barbaric terror attack in Pulwama last week is a cruel symbol of the scourge spread over the world by this anti-humanitarian danger, Modi said in his press statement with Salman by his side.

“In order to deal effectively with this threat, we agree that there is a need to increase all possible pressure on the countries supporting terrorism in any manner,” Modi said, without naming Pakistan.

He asserted that destroying the terror infrastructure and punishing terrorists as well as their supporters was “very important”.

Prime Minister Modi also called for a strong action plan for combating extremism and so that the powers spreading violence and terror cannot mislead the youth.

The Saudi Crown Prince, in his press statement, said his country will cooperate with India in tackling terrorism, including by intelligence sharing.

The crown prince arrived here on a less than 30-hour visit Tuesday night, a day after concluding his high-profile tour of Pakistan where he said the dialogue was the only way to resolve “outstanding issues” between India and Pakistan.

In a special gesture, Modi received Salman at the airport here, signifying the importance India attaches to the visit by the leader of the Gulf nation.

In a joint statement, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Monday called for avoiding “politicisation” of the UN listing regime at a time when India was stepping up efforts to brand the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group’s chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist.

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