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Britain’s Upper House Defeats Government for Second Time on Article 50 Bill

The government had rejected the amendment, saying it would weaken May’s hand by denying her the ability to walk away from the negotiating table

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House of Lords Chamber, Wikimedia

London, March 8, 2017: Britian’s upper house, the unelected House of Lords on Tuesday voted to give parliament a veto over the final outcome of Theresa Mays Brexit negotiations, inflicting a second defeat on the governments article 50 bill.

Peers supported a Labour-led amendment by 366 to 268, despite the government’s argument that it would “damage the national interest” by making May’s Brexit negotiations more difficult, the Guardian reported.

Michael Heseltine, the Conservative former Deputy Prime Minister, was one of those leading the rebellion against the government’s position, along with Labour, Liberal Democrat and crossbench peers.

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“Everyone in this house knows that we now face the most momentous peacetime decision of our time,” he said.

“And this amendment secures in law the government’s commitment … to ensure that parliament is the ultimate custodian of our national sovereignty.

“It ensures that parliament has the critical role in determining the future that we will bequeath to generations of young people.”

The government had rejected the amendment, saying it would weaken May’s hand by denying her the ability to walk away from the negotiating table, the Guardian added.

George Bridges, a Tory peer and minister, said it would “make negotiations much harder from day one for the Prime Minister” by increasing the incentive for European Union countries to offer Britain a bad deal in the hope of getting parliament to scupper Brexit.

The Brexit bill will now return to the elected House of Commons with the amendment forcing May to have a vote on her Brexit deal and another guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens.

MPs are likely to overturn those amendments, although some Conservative MPs remain unhappy that it is not clear whether parliament will get a vote if May ends up trying to take Britain out of the EU without a deal having been struck.

This will send the Brexit bill back to the House of Lords, which may end up backing down and acknowledging the supremacy of the Commons.

May has already verbally promised that parliament will get a vote on her Brexit deal but this will be on a “take-it-or-leave-it” basis, as the choices would be accepting the terms or crashing out of the EU to rely on World Trade Organisation rules.

But the House of Lords decided that the promise of a parliamentary vote on the outcome of the Brexit talks with the EU must be set down in legislation. Earlier, the peers voted against putting the outcome to a second referendum. (IANS)

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Undaunted Initiative by tribal women for forest preservation in Muturkham, Jharkhand

Muturkhum forest saved from deforestation and exploitation under Timber mafia due to collective efforts of tribal women

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forest under the threat o deforestation in Muthurkam saved by tribal women. pexeby

8th Nov, 2017, Jharkhand:Armed with just water bottles and sticks, a group of poor tribal women in Muturkham village of Purbi Singhbhum district of Jharkhandtrekked miles to the sal forest that surrounded their habitat. Their mission: To save the forest from being plundered and denuded by the “forest mafia”.

Accompanied by just a dog for their safety, these determined women made frequent forays into the deep forest — with which they shared a symbiotic relationship — and have been able, over the years, to successfully conserve 50 hectares of forest land and its flora and fauna deep in the heart of a territory that has also been a battle zone between government forces and left-wing extremists.

This group was brought together by Jamuna Tudu, 37, who has spent the last two decades of her life fighting against deforestation. It was in 1998, after her marriage, that Jamuna took up this challenge of preserving the forest by making villagers develop a stake in it.

 

orest saved from deforestation by tribal women in Muturkham. pexeby

Today, her Van Suraksha Samiti (Forest Protection Group) has about 60 active women members who patrol the jungle in shifts thrice a day: Morning, noon and evening. And sometimes even at night, as the mafia set fire to the forests in random acts of vandalism and vengeance.

Jamuna’s fight has not gone unnoticed. The President of India has honoured her conservation efforts.

“Few days after my marriage, when my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and a few other women from the village took me to the forest to cut wood and get it to cook food, I felt that if we keep cutting the trees this way, all our forests will be wiped out,” Jamuna recalled to IANS in an interview.

In her quest, she had to battle against the mafia that was chopping down trees for their precious sal timber with complete disregard for the law or the tribal tradition that prohibits cutting of the trees.

Realising that she would get little help from authorities, who may well have been hand in glove with the mafia, she took matters in her own hands. She spoke to a few women of the village who were quite aghast at the task she had taken on. We won’t do it; this will require us to fight the men in the village, they told her.

But Jamuna, who has studied up to Class X, foresaw a bleak green-less future for herself and her community with no trees and forests to sustain or protect them.

‘Jungle nahi rahega toh paryavaran kaise bachega (how will we protect the environment if the forest is destroyed)?’ she asked.

Jamuna’s clear understanding of the issue soon trickled down to the other women and even men in her village.

“I was brought up with a love and respect for nature. My father used to plant numerous trees in our farms in Odisha. That’s where I learnt the importance of the environment,” she said.

Pointing out how the mafia was exploiting the wood from Muturkham to fund their alcohol needs, she said she was bewildered by the passive response of the community at their habitat being slowly destroyed.

“I went on to speak to a few women in the village. I held a meeting with them several times to be able to convince them that we needed to protect our beautiful forests,” she said.

Gradually, she mobilised a group of 25 women from the village and armed them with bows and arrows, bamboo sticks and spears, they marched into the forest to take on the forest predators.

With time, many men also became part of the campaign against deforestation, but most of the effort has continued to be from women, said Jamuna.

There are many daunting challenges that came their way, but their single-minded dedication towards their cause kept them going.

“There were too many altercations with the village people initially.. many scuffles with the mafia… and I told those women that in this journey, we would come across both good and bad times, but we have to struggle to keep the forest,” said Jamuna.

The group convinced the railway authorities to bar the plundered wood from being exported.

“Some time in 2008-09, we were brutally attacked by the mafia,” she said.

“They pelted stones at us while we were coming back from the railway station after speaking to the station master. Everybody got injured,” she added.

For obvious reasons, Jamuna, the woman whose initiatives were hampering their business, was their main target. She and her husband suffered most in the assault.

“My husband got hit on his head as he tried to save me. It was dark and we somehow managed to run away. We narrowly escaped death that day.” But she did not give up.

Over 15 years of many fierce encounters with the mafia and relentless sensitisation of the community, Jamuna, and the Van Suraksha Samiti that she formed, have succeeded in protecting and conserving the 50 hectares of forest land not just surrounding her village, but around many others as well.

Tribal communities cannot survive without wood. They need it for various things — mostly to cook food. But they ensure that their requirements remain within sustainable limits.

“We don’t cut trees on purpose any more and use the fallen trees and branches for all our needs,” Jamuna said. “The amount we are able to save up during the rains is sufficient for the whole year.”

The Forest Department has “adopted” her village, which has led to Muturkham getting a water connection and a school.

In 2013, Jamuna was conferred with the Godfrey Phillips Bravery Award in the ‘Acts of Social Courage’ category and this year in August, she was awarded with Women Transforming India Award by the NITI Aayog.

Today, she runs awareness campaigns through various forest committees in Kolhan Division. Around 150 committees formed by Jamuna, comprising more than 6,000 members, have joined her movement to save the forests.

She wants to do a lot more. “I wish to do a lot… to make a lot more difference, but I am bound by limited resources. I can’t in many ways afford to go beyond the villages in my state.”

But if I get more support, many more forests like ours can be saved, she declared.

(This feature is part of a special series that seeks to bring unique and extraordinary stories of ordinary people, groups and communities from across a diverse, plural and inclusive India, and has been made possible by a collaboration between IANS and the Frank Islam Foundation. Mudita Girotra can be contacted at mudita.g@ians.in)

 

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PM Modi inaugurates Ferry Service, Calls it his ‘Dream Project’

Calling it his dream project, PM Modi has called the service "a landmark occasion for entire South-East Asia".

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia

Gujarat, October 22, 2017 : Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the first phase of the Ghogha-Dahej Ro-Ro ferry service, a first-of-its-kind project in India, calling it “a landmark occasion for entire South-East Asia”.

Describing it as his dream project, Modi said the ferry service was his “invaluable gift to India” and claimed that the even for South-East Asia, this was the first project of its size.

He said it were his efforts that gave birth to this ferry service which he had heard about only in his school days.

“It seems implementation of all good works are my luck,” Modi joked. “New changes don’t come from cliched attitude but new thinking. We changed the way of thinking,” he said.

He said the service would shorten a 360-km distance to 31 km or a journey of seven hours to one hour. (IANS)

 

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Prime Minister Greets Nation on Valmiki Jayanti

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PM Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modii. IANS

New Delhi, Oct 5: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday greeted the nation on the occasion of Valmiki Jayanti.

“Greetings on Valmiki Jayanti. A great sage and master litterateur, his rich ideals and works guide generations…,” Modi tweeted on the birth anniversary of Sanskrit poet Maharishi Valmiki.

Valmiki is the author of the epic Ramayana. The original texts written by the sage consists of 24,000 shlokas and seven cantos (kandas) including Uttara Kanda. (IANS)