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By-polls in demonetized India

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Amid politics over the Modi government’s demonetization drive, results for the by polls held in India’s six states and one Union Territory, announced on November 19, were on expected lines but the national ruling party BJP and its leader PM Modi seem to have failed to make any impact of its seriousness about the blackmoney drive with deadly negative consequences for the people on the national scene.

Indians are not much impressed by the Modi government’s anti-corruption move, though they want to make India free from rampant corruption to which the ruling parties, including the BJP, have driven the nation by promoting their own corporate favorites.

The government has not begun tracking the mafia networks spread in every field and domain across the nation. How can one expect the government to be sincere and honest when all sorts of fixings are allowed cricket, for example? Politicians also mint money from promoting fake cricket meant only to “garner” 50s and 100?

The abrupt announcement by PM Modi in the night, as the results of US presidency poll was pouring in, of ban on big currency notes without any homework on PM government’s part, has turned the nation upside down as people began running for cash. Modi and BJP did divert the Indian attention from US poll impact, but at a huge cost for the people and nation.

Conducted 10 days after the demonetization drive and held across six states and one Union Territory, the bypolls were seen largely as not exactly a referendum on Prime Minister’s daring move, however. The results succinctly explain the high frustration levels of opposition parties in MP and Assam who seem at their wits’ end to stop the Narendra Modi juggernaut. People suffer but the BJP run states have managed the show somehow.

In Tamil nadu, AIADMK sweeps the polls held in three Assembly constituencies– Thanjavur, Aravakurichi and Thiruparankundram. AIADMK wins by 26,483 votes on Thanjavur Assembly seat. In Puducherry CM Narayanasamy of Congress party wins Nellithope seat. Puducherry CM V Narayanasamy of the Congress defeated his AIADMK rival Om Sakthi Sekhar. Narayanasamy wins the Nellithope by a margin of 11,144 votes in the Puducherry by-election. The Puducherry incumbent CM secured 18,709 votes against Om Sakthi Sekhar’s 7,565 votes, out of a total of 26,564 votes polled. Narayanasamy, who did not contest in the 16 May elections, asked to be elected to the assembly within six months and took charge as the chief minister on 6 June, 2016. Lt Governor Kiran Bedi had administered the oath of office and secrecy to Narayanasamy and to five ministers

Trinamool Congress’ Dibyendu Adhikari wins Tamluk Lok Sabha seat by 4,97,528 votes. Trinamool Congress won Cooch Behar Lok Sabha seat.

BJP wins Shahdol Lok Sabha seat and retained the Nepanagar Assembly seat in Madhya Pradesh with party candidate Manju Dadu winning defeating her nearest Congress rival Antar Singh Barde by a margin of 42,198 votes- smaller margin than before. In Madhya Pradesh, BJP’s victory margin in Shahdol Lok Sabha came down to 60,000 from 2, 41,301 in the 2014 general elections. It bagged the Nepanagar Assembly seat, where it increased its winning margin to 42,198 votes as against 22,178. In Assam, BJP got the Lakhimpur Lok Sabha seat, Congress lost.

In BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, the party retained Shahdol Lok Sabha and Nepanagar Assembly seats at the cost of Congress. BJP’s Gyan Singh defeated Congress candidate Himadri Singh of Congress in Shahdol by a margin of over 60,000 votes. In the Nepanagar Assembly seat, BJP’s Manju Dadu defeated Congress rival Antar Singh Barde by a margin of 42,198 votes. The Shahdol Parliamentary seat fell vacant after the death of BJP’s Dalpat Singh Paraste.

In Assam, another BJP-ruled state, the party bagged both the Lok Sabha and Assembly seats. According to PTI, Pradan Barua retained the Lakhaimpur LS seat, defeating Congress’s Hema Prasanga Pegu by a massive 1, 90, 219 votes. The seat was vacated by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. BJP’s Mansing Rongpi, who had deserted the Congress in July, won the Baithalangso Assembly seat beating nearest Congress rival Ruponsing Ronghang by 16,600 votes. In Arunachal Pradesh, BJP-backed Dasingu Pul, wife of former chief minister Kalikho Pul who committed suicide in August, won the Anjaw assembly seat by 944 votes beating Independent candidate Yompi Kri.

Interestingly, the Congress party which promoted indirectly the Hindutva parties to threaten and terrorize Muslim minority as it hidden national policy has bit the dust as the BJP has wiped the Congress party out of the scene.

By polls were spread across six states — Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Tripura, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu — and one Union Territory, Puducherry, and had evoked additional curiosity in political and social circles because they were held exactly 10 days after the decision to discontinue Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes. Poll patterns and results were expected to be indicative of the popular mood, whether people have not yet fully lost trust in Modi and his capacity to deliver. But though the demonetization drive has been hard on people, forcing thousands to endure hours in queues at ATMs and banks, results of the bypoll can be considered as people continuing to be patient with the government and its policies. So although it’s perhaps too early to take it as a popular thumbs-up, it can still be considered that people tend to think of the move as being for the long-term popular good.

As expected, Trinamool Congress won both seats in West Bengal; three seats in Tamil Nadu went to AIADMK, proving that chief minister J Jayalalitha may have been in hospital for over a month, but her popular connect remains intact. Two Assembly seats in Tripura were won by the CPM, but the BJP did enjoy a massive upward swing in the vote share, while Congress’ share has ebbed to insignificant levels. BJP also has received encouraging trends coming in from Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal.

In West Bengal, Trinamool Congress retained the Tamluk and Cooch Behar Lok Sabha and Monteshwar Assembly seats by huge margins, prompting Mamata Banerjee to say that the results were “a revolt against demonetization”. The Bengal CM’s comments are a stretch because if we look at the vote swing, as psychologist and CVoter founder Yashwant Deshmukh demonstrated on Twitter, the BJP with 21 percent votes has registered a positive swing of 10 percent relegating CPM, who suffered a massive downswing of 21 percent, to a miserable third place. Notwithstanding Mamata’s bluster, BJP seems to have gained in Bengal. In Tripura, the CPIM-led Left Front retained one seat and wrested another from the Congress. CPM’s Biswajit Datta defeated TMC’s Manoj Das by 16,094 votes in Khowai while in Barjala, CPM youth leader Jhumu Sarkar defeated BJP’s Shista Mohan Das by 3,374 Votes. CPI (M) wins both Barjala and Khowai Assembly seats in Tripura.

Trinamool Congress is firmly footed and enjoys all honors by winning seats, claiming it was a vindication of their stand on demonetization, as ruling parties in six states and Puducherry held sway in by-elections, retaining most of the 10 Assembly seats up for grabs. Trinamool Congress swept Tamluk and Coochbehar Lok Sabha constituencies in West Bengal by a whopping margin of over 4.9 lakh votes, almost doubling the gap from 2014 polls. Trinamool also won the Monteswar assembly seat with candidates of CPM, Congress and BJP losing their deposits. The ruling CPI (M) in Tripura wrested Barjala (SC) seat from Congress and retained Khowai.

In Tamil Nadu, AIADMK, whose supremo Jayalalithaa is hospitalised for two months, retained Thanjavur and Thirupparankundram Assembly seats and wrested Aravakkurichi seat from DMK by margins ranging from 20,000 votes to 42,000. Senior Congress leader and Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy won the bypoll to Nellithope Assembly seat defeating AIADMK’s Om Sakthi Segar by a margin of 11,144 votes.

The BJP retained Parliamentary seats in Sahdol, Madhya Pradesh and Lakhimpur in Assam. BJP won the Lakhimpur Lok Sabha seat in Assam, vacated by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, by a margin of 1,90,219 votes and Shahdol Lok Sabha seat in Madhya Pradesh, both ruled by the party.

Hindutva leader BJP is making gains in Arunachal Pradesh a state bordering China where military altercations do take place occasionally and China claims the state. In fact, BJP makes inroads in all states that border or have proximity with neighboring nations like Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, etc. That was well planned and orchestrated by the ruling parties Congress and BJP. North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) candidate Dasanglu Pul of BJP won Hayuliang assembly by-poll in Arunachal Pradesh defeating her lone rival Yompi Kri, an independent candidate, by 942 votes. Pul is the youngest of the three wives of former chief minister Kalikho Pul. The bypoll was necessitated by his suicide. BJP leader and Union Minister Ananth Kumar said the BJP’s win in the bypolls showed that people have endorsed the government’s decision against black money and corruption. “BJP’s victory in by-polls is a clear indication that people are fully supporting the decision to demonetize Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes. It is people’s mandate for the Prime Minister’s decision of demonetization.”

West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, however, termed the by-election result as a mandate against the Centre’s decision of demonetization. “The by-election result is a befitting reply against the anti-people demonetization by the Modi government. It’s a people’s revolt, rather a mass revolt against the Centre. BJP should take lessons from this mandate,” she told newsmen in Kolkata before leaving for New Delhi to join the protest by the Opposition.

Good news was delivered to Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa at Chennai’s Apollo Hospital today, with her party the AIADMK sweeping all three seats where by-elections were held on Saturday. While the AIADMK has retained the Thiruparankundram seat, which fell vacant after the party’s sitting lawmaker S M Seenivel died not long after being elected in May this year, it has also won Aravakurichi and Thanjavur, where assembly elections were cancelled amid allegations that both the AIADMK and the DMK candidates tried to bribe voters.

The chief minister has thanked voters as ecstatic AIADMK workers celebrated the victory across the state. “The by-poll victory gives me boundless joy and enthusiasm. The victory proves yet again that people are on my side. My work will continue in tune with people’s expectation,” Ms Jayalalithaa reportedly said in a statement from hospital. In her first statement since she was hospitalized on September 22, Ms Jayalalithaa had said last week that she was “waiting to hear news of an election victory,” and had encouraging the party to work hard for a win. She had described her recovery as a “rebirth” and thanked people’s prayers for it in that statement, saying was “waiting to fully recover and resume work soon.”

The chief minister has been treated for an acute lung infection and in multiple heath updates in the past few days, Apollo hospital has reported that she is better and can be discharged whenever she chooses to be. As by-elections were held, Ms Jayalalithaa was shifted to special room from the intensive critical care unit where she had been for weeks on respiratory support. The hospital said last week that she needs minimum time on the ventilator now. As before, the Finance Minister O Panneerselvam has been holding charge in Ms Jayalalithaa’s absence, chairing cabinet meetings and looking after the eight departments that she personally handled. With today’s wins, the AIADMK now has 138 seats in the 234 house assembly. In assembly elections held earlier this year, Ms Jayalalithaa had won an unprecedented second straight term as chief minister, her fourth.

The only consolation for the Congress is from the Union Territory of Puducherry, where Chief Minister V Narayansamy won.

Assembly poll in Uttar Pradesh is the big challenge the BJP is facing now. PM Modi and “friends” do not think that the results mean that they can now go to the people in a confident frame of mind, particularly in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh. Demonization drive has annoyed the people of the state as well. The party has several hurdles to cross and the problem of cash paucity has disrupted the daily life of ordinary citizens and even if the situation returns to normalcy, people would not forgive the BJP ad Modi if the stated anti-corruption and anti-blackmoney objectives are achieved.

The outcomes for 14 seats (four parliamentary and 10 Assemblies) clearly reveal that the people are closely watching the moves of the BJP and PM Modi and if they are allowed to suffer they would not hesitate to use their axe on BJP at the appropriate time. And they have done it before as in Delhi elections showed where both national parties that ruled the national capital state alternatively have been driven out of the state. Delhi people exposed the hidden nexus between Congress and BJP and reelected the Aam Admi Party of Kejriwal.

The story is that BJP now does not continue as a party on the rise and efforts of Congress to regain its lost ground have failed too. Since Congress never supports Muslims and remains essentially an anti-Muslim outfit like the BJP, Muslims have deserted it long ago. This slide has cost the party heavily in national and state elections. But now Congress is focused on somehow regaining the Hindu votes and hence it does not criticize the criminalism of Hindus and demolition of Babri Mosque which was originally the Congress party’s agenda but very tactfully handed over to BJP and other Hindutva outfits trying to destabilize the national ethos of Indian secularism propounded by Mahatma Gandhi till his last breath.

In fact both Congress and BJP – essentially the fake cricket parties- jointly make mockery of Gandhiism.

If the by-elections were a gauge of public mood on demonetization, it does not seem to be firmly behind the party or PM Modi. How can anion support when stiffens? And if the polls were a personal test for Modi, he has only complicated the life of common people of India. People have lost their savings unable to use it as the government is using it to promote corporate interests in India and abroad having suffered a lot, people want to see the results as quickly as possible. India is reeling.

PM Modi and RSS-BJP duo cannot take the nation for an easy ride as they have launched what became an the “axe” on Indian people without enough preparation for an alternative mode of cash operation or new sets of currency to replace the old ones withdrawn by the government over night. Banks then supplied Rs 2000 but people cannot do anything with that as no changes were available in shops.

People cannot be fooled just like, you see by bad political gimmicks that negatively affect normal life of common folk. .

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Special Course on “China’s Foreign Policy and Economy-2019” Launched in Armenia

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The “China-Eurasia” Council for Political and Strategic Research in cooperation with the Armenian State University of Economics, started the “Rethinking China’s Foreign Policy and Economy-2019” Special Course.

The main aim of this special course is to introduce China’s Foreign Policy to those who are interested in China and its politics, providing them with solid knowledge and information about this great power, which increases its economic and political influence in the world through its Belt and Road Initiative.

The special program conducted by Armenian, Chinese and foreign scholars, who cooperate with the “China-Eurasia Council for Political and Strategic Research, Foundation and have solid professional background of doing research on issues related to China’s foreign policy and economy.

As a result of competition only 32 young specialists won the opportunity to be invited to participate as students in this significant course.

During the opening ceremony of Special Course, Vice-President of the National Assembly of the RA Lena Nazaryan spoke about the importance of deepening Sino-Armenian relations. She mentioned that the current government stresses the importance of further development of relations with China. Mrs. Nazaryan talked about the visit of the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan to China. During her speech, she introduced also the results of the negotiations with the Vice Chairperson of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of the of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Shen Yueyue during her official visit to Armenia. The Vice-President talked about the necessity of further cooperation with the academicians particularly stressed the importance of the Initiative of special course “Rethinking China’s Foreign Policy”.

In turn, His Excellency Chinese Ambassador to Armenia Mr. TianErlong presented the main directions of China’s foreign policy, spoke about the goals and success of the “Road and Belt” initiative. Mr. Tian Erlong mentioned about peculiarities of the Chinese foreign policy: Five principles of peaceful coexistence. Talking about the Armenian-Chinese relations, he mentioned about the great potential of two countries that still must be used and developed.

The head of the “China-Eurasia” Council for Political and Strategic Research-Dr. Mher Sahakyan noted that considering the growing role of China in the current world order, it is a necessity to study and understand this country, deepen relations between Armenia and China. He expressed hope that the participants of the course “Rethinking China’s Foreign Policy and Economy” will use the knowledge gained within the framework of this program to further develop Armenian-Chinese relations for the sake of Motherland.

In turn, professor, Dr. Ruben Hayrapetyan stated: “I think that organizing such kind of trainings is of great importance for our country. It is now that we must decide how and with what kind of effectiveness, we will pursue our foreign policy as human resource is the most important one. For the development of the latter we are obliged to transfer and disseminate the skills and capacities that will provide a significant result in long term prospective throughout such kind of trainings. Cooperation with China has always been and will continue to be one of the priorities for our country. Thus, as a result of the course, we expect that participants will have a greater opportunity to contribute to the development of Armenian-Chinese relations in all directions thanks to their knowledge gained.

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IEA and African Union hold first ever ministerial meeting on development of Africa’s energy sector

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Representatives from government and industry across Africa attended the historic event, which demonstrated the IEA’s increased regional engagement. Photo: IEA

The International Energy Agency co-hosted a joint ministerial summit with the African Union Commission (AUC) on Wednesday that brought together high-level representatives from government and industry to discuss the development of Africa’s energy sector.

The event, titled “The Future of Africa’s Energy,” is the first of its kind and reflects the IEA’s significant expansion of its engagement in Africa.

Wednesday’s discussions will help to inform a special report on Africa in the 2019 edition of the World Energy Outlook, the IEA’s flagship publication. They will also help the IEA to determine the next steps in its engagement with African Union members and in its work on several key Africa programmes in the years ahead.

“This historic meeting is a milestone for the IEA’s cooperation in Africa, a continent that is of critical importance in the global energy arena,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “I’m honoured to have been able to participate in such rich and fruitful discussions with major energy stakeholders from across the continent. African Union Commissioner Dr Amani Abou-Zeid has been a good friend and strong supporter of the IEA, and we are grateful to her and her team for working with us to deliver such a productive event.”

Dr Birol opened the event alongside Dr Abou-Zeid, Egyptian Minister of Electricity & Renewable Energy Dr Mohamed Shaker El-Markabi, and US Under Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes. Speakers at the conference included Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity Dr Seleshi Bekele.

The IEA and the AUC plan to hold a second ministerial forum on Africa’s energy sector in Paris next year.

The IEA has been working on Africa-related issues for many years, including capacity building for energy statistics as well as focusing on energy access, clean cooking and energy efficiency. The agency has been collecting country-by-country data and developing a long-term pathway for achieving universal energy access by 2030.

“Investment, innovation and access to education and training will be vital for Africa’s energy future,” Dr Birol said. “The IEA is fully committed to providing support and advice to help achieve positive, sustainable and prosperous transitions across the continent.”

This week, the IEA announced that Dr Kandeh Yumkella, a former United Nations Under-Secretary-General, will become an advisor on Africa and energy access issues.

The IEA is also launching two 3-year projects in Africa in 2019 that will focus on energy statistics and modelling, as well as energy policy advice. In the past few years, Morocco and South Africa have joined the IEA family as Association countries.

This year, the IEA chaired the latest edition of the inter-agency Tracking SDG7 report, which it co-authored with four other international organisations. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 aims to ensure affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.

This year’s tracking report found that without more sustained and stepped-up actions to meet those targets, 650 million people around the world will be left without access to electricity in 2030. Nine out of 10 of them will be living in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Forum calls for stepped-up action to end child labour

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Participants at a forum held at the Centenary International Labour Conference  (ILC) called for stronger action to end child labour, and highlighted some of the challenges resulting from the major transformations occuring in the world of work.

In an emotional moment, youth advocate Molly Namirembe recalled how she and her sister worked on a tea plantation in Uganda when they were children, after their parents died. “We would work for 12 hours, sometimes on an empty stomach,” she recalled, tears running down her cheeks.

The thematic forum entitled Together for a brighter future without child labour  also focused on accelerating action towards SDG Target 8.7 that calls for “immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.”

“Ever since the creation of our Organization, the elimination of child labour has been a top priority,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder, adding that he expected the ILO would achieve soon the universal ratification of Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour .

Kumaran Shanmugam Naidoo, Secretary-General, Amnesty International, called for a holistic approach “where we not only view the phenomenon of child labour but also the very systems that drive children to work at such a high cost.”

Juneia Martins Batista, Women’s Secretary, Single Confederation of Workers (CUT), Brazil, spoke of the need to improve the situation of women who make a living as domestic workers and rural workers. “The idea is that we can empower these adults, mostly women, to have a decent life. With decent work, we may be able to eliminate child labour.”

Assefa Bequele, Founder and former Executive Director, African Child Policy Forum, said: “The big question … is what needs to be done to initiate the kind of policy we need to narrow the gap between rhetoric and action and that would put children at the heart of public policy.”

Sue Longley, General-Secretary, International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Association, said, “The key question, the key accelerator will be addressing the fundamental power imbalance in rural areas – we really still do have feudal landlords and slavery.”

Jacqueline Mugo, Executive Director, Federation of Kenya Employers, stressed the need “to address the root causes and systemic issues. These are poverty, informality and the lack of educational opportunities for young people.”

Tanzila Narbaeva, Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, said: “To ratify a child labour convention is only half of the job: what is needed is to change the mindset of people and their perception of the child labour phenomenon.”

Phyllis Kong Wai Yue, Human Rights and Responsible Sourcing Specialist at chocolate maker Ferrero, said, “It is in business’ interest to demand stronger policies for protecting children, as well as the enforcement of labour laws.”

The forum was followed by a music event providing testimony to children and young people’s role combating child labour.

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