Up to Speed, Issue 8: Protesting Indian Farmers and Lebanon’s Covid Dilemma

Collage by Emma Kappeyne van de Coppello

In the midst of non-stop reports, statistics and exclamations about the Coronavirus pandemic, other events and news from around the world may have escaped your attention. But fear not – The Herring’s biweekly current affairs summary helps you stay up to speed. In today’s edition: Among others, protesting farmers in India and an uncomfortable dilemma for Lebanon’s government.

Indian Farmer Protests Culminate in Storming of National Monument

Indian farmers are getting down to business! After months of peaceful protests in the outskirts of Delhi, tens of thousands stormed the 400 year old Red Fort on Tuesday’s Republic Day in the capital’s city centre, breaking barricades and engaging in fights with local police forces. At least one protester was reported dead. Farm union leaders have distanced themselves from violent protesters, stressing that the vast majority remained peaceful.

Since November, millions of farmers all over the country have demanded the canceling of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s planned changes of agricultural laws, which would shift control from the government to private investors in order to accelerate economic growth. However, farmers fear to be increasingly vulnerable in face of profit-seeking multinational corporations. A fear justified by the fact that agriculture remains the main source of income for almost 60 per cent of India’s rapidly increasing population.

(Sources: The Hindu, Quartz, IBEF)

Lebanon’s Covid Dilemma Drives People into the Streets

Hunger or virus? This is the dilemma that the Lebanese government is in. Peaceful protests in Lebanon’s second-largest city Tripoli have turned into riots after protesters started to block squares and throw stones against government buildings. Several hundred people were injured. Tripoli is considered to be the country’s poorest city and is especially suffering under the closing of businesses.

The government’s harsh lockdown measures have led to widespread economic hardship with the local currency losing more than 80 percent of its value against the dollar. By now, more than half of the country lives below the poverty line. At the same time, infection rates are soaring with hospitals being on the verge of breaking down due to a lack of sufficient healthcare workers – 40 percent are currently either sick or in isolation. There is one last hope: Health Minister Hamad Hasan aims to vaccinate 80 percent of the population by the end of this year.

(Sources: Al Jazeera, Reuters) 

Nigeria: Teenager Acquitted of Blasphemy Prison Sentence

13-year-old Omar Farouk has been acquitted of his 10-year prison sentence passed on him in August of last year. The teenager had been convicted by the Kano State High Court to this draconian sentence for using inappropriate language towards Allah in a discussion with a friend. The case sparked controversies all around the globe with human rights agencies heavily criticising the sentencing of a minor. One month after the trial, 120 volunteers from all over the world had offered to each serve one month in prison for the boy. The Nigerian state in the north of the country is one of 12 states to practice the Sharia legal system alongside the country’s secular law.

(Sources: Premium Times, BBC)

David against Goliath: Robinhood Restrictions Cause Outrage

Since mid-January, the stock of the video game chain GameStop has been upside down. The reason: retail investors have colluded on the subreddit wallstreetbets to fuel the share prices of GameStop that Wall Street hedge funds have betted in falling. As a result, these hedge funds and several big time investors have lost billions of dollars within one week. 

Online broker Robinhood has reacted to the frenzy at the stock markets, restricting the trading of popular stocks, such as GameStop or AMC Entertainment, to “protect the company and customers from volatility.” This has caused a large outrage in social media, with app users accusing the trading platform of hindering the flow of the trading markets. Even U.S. representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticises Robinhood for its “decision to block retail investors from purchasing stock while hedge funds are freely able to trade the stock as they see fit.”

(Source: Al Jazeera)

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