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Updated: 45 min 22 sec ago

What startups want from Budget 2021

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New Delhi: Startups faced unprecedented challenges in the pandemic year. Funds dried up and close to 40% startups halted operations in May 2020, according to a Nasscom report. Now, with hopes of a post-pandemic recovery, startups are seeking relief and policy changes in Union Budget 2021 that will help them boost their working capital, attract and retain top talent, and make the inflow of rupee capital into the sector easier.A look at the budget expectations of India’s startup industry.1. ESOP Taxation: While the government had in the previous budget reduced the tax burden on employees by deferring tax on employee stock ownership plan (ESOPs) by five years, or when they leave the company or when they sell their stocks, it is estimated that just 400 startups have been cleared to benefit from this regulation so far. Startups are now demanding a broadening of the ambit for tax exemptions, suggesting that the government pass on this benefit to all 40,000-odd startups registered with the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).2. Removal of IMB certification: Startups that are seeking income tax exemptions under Section 56(2)(viib), or the so-called ‘Angel Tax’ provisions, require vetting from an Inter-Ministerial Board setup by the DPIIT. This has been seen taking a long time. Startups and investors alike are now demanding that the government scrap the IMB clearance and grant the exemption to all startups registered with the DPIIT that submit the required undertaking.3. Boost domestic capital participation: The startup and venture capital industry is demanding changes in regulations that currently prohibit or prevent large institutions, such as the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) and pension funds, from investing in alternative investment funds (AIFs).They say this will boost domestic capital participation in India’s startup industry, which has so far been dominated by monnies from the US and China, while also improving sentiments for other local high net-worth individuals and family offices to invest in startups.4. Tax free gains on new investments: Industry bodies representing venture capital investors are demanding that the government exempt capital gains on new investments made by AIFs, similar to what the UK and the US have done. They say the loss to the state exchequer will be minimal as increased capital flowing into startups and MSMEs will boost job and asset creation.5. Rollback of “super-rich” surcharge: While the government rolled back the so-called “super-rich” surcharge of 25% on income between Rs 3-5 crore and 37% for income above Rs 5 crore for gains made through sale of listed securities and for foreign investors, it hasn’t done so for gains made from sale of unlisted securities in startups. Investors are demanding the government treat listed and unlisted securities at parity, which will help persuade local investors to back startups rather than investing solely in listed securities.6. GST under reverse charge: Early-stage startups procuring services from overseas providers pay 18% GST under the reverse-charge mechanism, but are unable to claim input tax credits as they often have little to no revenues. They are demanding an exemption from having to pay GST under reverse-charge mechanism up to a certain revenue threshold. For instance, all DPIIT-registered startups with less than Rs 10 crore in annual revenue should be offered an exemption from paying the 18% GST.
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UNSC reforms: Single negotiating text needed

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India and the three other G4 nations -- Brazil, Japan and Germany -- have asserted that the format of the Inter-Governmental Negotiations on UNSC reforms can be saved only if there is a single negotiating text and application of the General Assembly rules of procedure, otherwise it can no longer be the forum where the long-pending amendments can "realistically be achieved".The first IGN meeting on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) reforms in the 75th session of the General Assembly took place on Monday.During the meeting, the G4 nations said only two things can save the IGN as a format -- negotiations of a single text with attributions, reflecting various positions taken by member states in the last 12 years and the application of the rules of procedure of the General Assembly (GA)."If these two things cannot be achieved this year, the IGN will have run its course for us," Germany's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Christoph Heusgen said, making a statement on behalf of the G4 nations.The bloc underlined that if there isn't a discussion of a single document before the fourth meeting of the IGN this year and the application of GA rules of procedure, “then the debate will have to shift back to the General Assembly in a formal process,” for which there is strong support from several UN member states.“It is our firm belief that in order to ‘instill new life' in the debate, we need to start a proper conversation and negotiation based on a single text with GA rules of procedure. As the G4, we stand ready to work with you on this in an open, transparent and result-oriented approach,” Heusgen said.He said the single negotiating text must be shared by IGN co-chairs Ambassadors Joanna Wronecka of Poland and Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani of Qatar with the member states immediately after the third and well before the fourth IGN session this year.All five clusters should be discussed in the first three IGN rounds and the negotiating document be updated after every round. “This single document would contain all the various positions issued on this floor in the last 12 years. We are not asking for any paper to merely reflect the G4 position,” Heusgen said.On the necessity of the application of the GA rules of procedure, he said only by moving away from handing everybody a veto, and giving the power to change things to the majority, can any progress be achieved.India joined UNSC this month as a non-permanent member for a two-year term. India has been at the forefront of the years-long efforts to reform the 15-nation body, saying it rightly deserves a place as a permanent member of the Council, which in its current form does not represent the geo-political realities of the 21st century.The IGN meetings were postponed last May as in-person meetings at the UN headquarters were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.Heusgen told the co-chairs that the “ball is now in your field. You have the opportunity to really make progress this time, to work with all reform-minded countries to actually bring about progress”.The G4 nations called on the co-chairs to “directly" pick up from where the IGN process was left off in “mid-air” in March 2020. They insisted that following the trodden path of five IGN rounds, each discussing one of the five clusters will not be helpful. “It would merely mean going round in circles and repeating arguments we heard countless times."The bloc said the co-chairs should not waste anymore valuable time and suggested merging the two documents rolled over last year, in order to start discussing text.“Otherwise...despite all your best efforts...you will not be able to break the curse that seems to hold the IGN under its spell. If we once again devote each of the five IGN sessions to cluster-discussions, we will end up exactly where we were in 2020."This would mean that we would need to face the fact that the IGN is no longer the forum in which Security Council reform can realistically be achieved. A dozen years of repetition have proven this beyond any doubt," it said.The G4 asserted that any delegation saying that the IGN in its current arrangement is the “one and only forum” to negotiate UNSC reforms is “effectively preventing any reform from happening. And this is most likely also their intention.”Through this stance, they are accepting a Council that is less legitimate and whose authority is undermined. It said those who think the IGN process can only happen in the Council are “simply wrong: the IGN was established by the General Assembly, and the General Assembly can decide to establish something else.”At a time when member states and the UN have adapted to a new “virtual world” due to COVID, the G4 asked how come the IGN is incapable of doing the same? “Just because a few do not want it to?”Asserting that they cannot allow the IGN to be a smokescreen, blocking any progress and catching delegations in an endless deja-vu, the G4 said prior consensus is not needed to talk about text.The G4 reiterated that Africa needs to sit at the UNSC table “permanently”.UNGA President Volkan Bozkir said it is crucial that any reforms to UNSC reflect the realities of the 21st century.He pointed out that the most appropriate platform to pursue this reform is within the framework of the IGN and asked all delegations to "utilise the opportunity, that this IGN session provides to engage constructively"."We must give this process a chance," he said.
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Why vaccines alone will not end the pandemic

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The coronavirus pandemic in the United States has raged almost uncontrollably for so long that even if millions of people are vaccinated, millions more will still be infected and become ill unless people continue to wear masks and maintain social distancing measures until midsummer or later, according to a new model by scientists at Columbia University.The arrival of highly effective vaccines in December lifted hopes that they would eventually slow or stop the spread of the disease through the rest of the population. But vaccines alone are not enough, the model shows. And if precautions like working remotely, limiting travel and wearing masks are relaxed too soon, it could mean millions more infections and thousands more deaths.There is no doubt that getting vaccinated protects the recipient. Still, several infectious-disease researchers contacted by The New York Times cautioned that it would be months before enough people in the United States will have gotten the shots to allow for normal life to begin again.Only then will the number of people with immunity — those who have had the disease and recovered, plus those who have been vaccinated — be large enough to take the wind out of the pandemic, said Jeffrey Shaman, a public health researcher at Columbia who shared his team’s modeling calculations.Shaman estimates that more than 105 million people have already been infected across the U.S., well above the number of cases that have been reported. And his projections show millions more infections are yet to come as the vaccine rolls out.Social distancing, masking and other measures should remain in place until late July, “and that may be optimistic,” Shaman said. Otherwise, yet another resurgence of the virus is possible.“There are people who are going to want to relax the controls we have in place,” Shaman said. “If we start thinking, ‘We’ve got a vaccine, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, we can stop in a couple of months’ — that’s way too soon.”The coming months are critical in the race to reduce new infections and deaths, since there will ultimately be fewer people for the virus to infect as the pandemic drags on.Lifting restrictions in early February, after most health care workers and nursing home residents are set to be vaccinated, would still mean far more infections in the long run than keeping restrictions in place until mid-March, for example.Even with current precautions, some areas of the country have let the pandemic rage so uncontrollably that it is too late for the vaccine to have a major effect, Shaman said. His group estimates that 60% of the population in North Dakota has already been infected. Vaccines will help, but the pandemic will mostly burn out on its own, as fewer and fewer people are available to infect, he said.On the other hand, in Vermont, with roughly a 10% infection rate, the vaccine could protect nearly the entire population if it is deployed quickly enough, Shaman said. California is teetering somewhere in between as new outbreaks take place.The model takes into account factors like the speed and order of vaccine distribution, the effectiveness of the vaccine after one and two doses, current social distancing measures and the transmissibility of the virus. It assumes that groups like health care workers and older adults will be prioritized according to CDC guidelines, and vaccination will continue at a pace ramping up to 5 million doses per week.The group considered scenarios in which current social distancing measures were relaxed earlier or later in the vaccine rollout, and what might happen if they were strengthened. The research was financed by Pfizer, one of the vaccine-makers, as well as the National Science Foundation and the Morris-Singer Foundation.Of the scenarios the researchers examined, those in which restrictions were strengthened and then kept in place until much of the population could receive the vaccine resulted in some of the fewest total infections.Other researchers said they agreed with Shaman’s broad conclusions, although the model involves a number of approximations, and it has not yet been published or subjected to formal review.The finding “passes the gut check,” said Trevor Bedford, a geneticist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington. He said the pace of vaccine rollout was an unknown that could change the conclusions. The Biden administration has said it intends to accelerate distribution, but those assertions have yet to be tested.Bedford also cautioned that a new variant of the virus that recently emerged from the United Kingdom and that is believed to be more transmissible than others circulating in the United States “could cause more of a spring wave than what was modeled here.”Lauren Ancel Meyers, a professor of biology and statistics at the University of Texas at Austin, said that Shaman’s reasoning “all makes intuitive sense.” Meyers said she agreed that the uncontrolled outbreaks in many places in 2020 have lowered the benefits of a vaccine.“Unfortunately, we’ve let this virus spread extensively and are launching the vaccination campaign at the height of the threat,” Meyers said. “The more the virus spreads before the vaccine reaches people, the fewer deaths we can prevent with the vaccine.”Meyers added, though, that mortality figures could come down sooner than infections with the right vaccination strategy, perhaps allowing some parts of the country to open up more quickly than expected. That depends on highly exposed front-line workers and those who are most at risk of death getting vaccinated quickly, she said.“We may get to the point where, even though the virus is still spreading, it’s just less deadly on a population level and policymakers feel comfortable relaxing some of the measures we now have in place to protect our health care systems and save lives,” Meyers said.Overall, the findings are probably unwelcome news for millions of people who would like to return to normal life, from a guilt-free night out at a restaurant to chatting about football scores at school drop-off, as soon as possible.Policymakers who will have to lay down and sometimes enforce those restrictions in 2021 are already aware of the long haul still ahead, said Mayor Jenny A. Durkan of Seattle in an interview.“I think that the modeling is absolutely credible,” said Durkan, who has received praise for incorporating science into her own policy decisions. The mayor said she was preparing Seattle to continue social distancing measures “at least through the summer and probably into the fall.”“It’s just human nature to hope,” Durkan said. “I think that people thought that if there was a vaccination that it would be safe to gather again, and it’s not.”Vaccinating people provides collective protection because the virus spreads by hopping from person to person. If the virus encounters someone who cannot catch the disease, that eliminates a path to infect someone else.For simplicity, in his team’s models, Shaman assumed that neither those who have recovered from the disease nor those who receive vaccinations could develop it or pass it on again. He took the effectiveness of the vaccine to be 95% after the two standard doses for the vaccines available now.All models incorporate certain approximations, and Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, a professor of health policy and management at the City University of New York, said that scientists would be cautious in using the new calculations to determine precisely when the disease is likely to subside. Lee said that his own modeling determined that the virus could drop to much lower levels by July.That condition, sometimes referred to as “herd immunity,” does not mean the disease has been eradicated, Lee said. “Reaching the threshold of herd immunity means there are additional protective effects from people around you being immune to something,” Lee said.Susceptible people can still get the disease once herd immunity has been achieved, said David Engelthaler, who leads the infectious disease branch of the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Arizona. Case numbers, however, are no longer growing exponentially, and they may stay relatively constant, he said.“You’re not going to wipe this thing out by achieving herd immunity; clusters and spikes continue to occur,” Engelthaler said.Still, he said, growth will inevitably slow and stop — in his view, a bit earlier than some other researchers are projecting. He said the combination of immunity from vaccines and infection could begin reining in the pandemic by late spring or early summer.“Then we can start thinking about normal civilization again,” Engelthaler said.
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Municipalities may get up to Rs 2L cr from Centre

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MUMBAI: Top municipalities in the country are likely to get a funding boost in the budget as the government prepares to empower civic bodies that will play a key role in strengthening the quality of life in a rapidly urbanizing India.The 15th Finance Commission may recommend up to Rs 2 lakh crore in fund allocation over the next five years to municipalities across the country in its report next Monday, two sources familiar with the matter told ET.This should significantly improve the financial health of those local bodies, many of them aiming to raise bonds. Asia’s richest civic body, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, is planning to raise up to Rs 4,000 crore, the Times of India reported on January 25.“It will likely have big provisions for cities, both in terms of money and reform measures, besides others,” said one of the executives cited above.The 14th Finance Commission had allocated Rs 87,000 crore for the period between FY16 and FY20. There was an interim report for FY21, which was released in the last budget.An emailed query sent to the department of economic affairs remained unanswered.“Financial sustainability and financial accountability of Urban Local Bodies are critical to transform urban infrastructure in India,” said Srikanth Viswanathan, CEO at Janaagraha, a Bangalore-based NGO working on governance reforms and citizen participation in cities. “If urban local bodies receive predictable and untied fiscal transfers in the form of Finance Commission grants, their financial health would improve. Private investors would start gaining confidence to invest in municipal borrowings including bonds.”The coronavirus has compounded the financial position of local bodies. Also, alleged reluctance by states to pursue collections has further weakened the resources.Fund allocations will likely be released to certain categories of cities, especially for undertaking improvements in key social infrastructure such as air quality, drinking water and solid waste management.“If we go by their interim report, urban local bodies should receive sizable grants under 15th Finance Commission” Viswanathan said.There are about 3,700 urban local bodies in the country. The government has been encouraging them to raise money in the capital market. However, private investors are apprehensive of the municipal bonds.“Any surge in funding boost will help lift investor confidence in muni bonds,” said a local investment banker.Successive finance commissions have pursued reforms in urban governance. The interim report recommended key data-driven reforms including publishing of audited annual accounts, notifying floor rates for property tax, publishing of service level benchmarks, creating a national municipal information system and building an integrated accounting platform.
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UP’s Yogi Sarkar draws a liquor laxman rekha

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LUCKNOW: Purchase, transport and private storage of Indian made foreign liquor and imported foreign liquor beyond the permissible retail sale limit in Uttar Pradesh now requires a special licence, according to a rule which is part of the 2021-2022 excise policy of the state effective from this month. The move targets only those who maintain their own bars at home. “We have brought in this rule to give such connoisseurs of liquor a legal provisioning so that they are not caught on the wrong side of the law for keeping large quantities of alcohol,” said a senior excise department official. This is evident from the fact that an eligible applicant for the licence is expected to have paid income tax for the past five years including minimum three years under the 20% bracket, which is applicable to those earning more than Rs 10 lakh per year. Besides, at an annual licence fee of Rs 12,000 along with a security deposit of Rs 51,000, it will also give the department an opportunity to earn extra revenue, said another official. According to a 2010 government notification, not more than six litres of Indian made or imported foreign liquor could be sold in retail. Similarly, the limit for retail sale of wine and beer was fixed at 3 litres and 7.8 litres respectively. However, there was no limit on liquor to be held by a person at any given time.80460401According to the new rule, a licencee may have a collection of assorted liquor, but the maximum quantity of each category of liquor that can be held has been fixed. For example, no more than six bottles of 750 ml each of Bottled in India (BII) whisky, or no more than twelve 500/650 ml of BII beer is allowed to be held. Fifteen categories of liquor with their maximum holding limit have been specified. Also, for all categories, 12 bottles of 60 ml or 90 ml capacities can also be held. The rule is only applicable for Indian made foreign liquor and imported foreign liquor such as whisky, rum, wine, brandy, beer, gin and vodka.
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India, China talk ‘early disengagement’ of troops

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New Delhi: India and China have resolved to push for an early disengagement of frontline troops after the ninth round of military talks on the ongoing Ladakh border crisis, which both the sides termed positive and constructive. Indicating forward movement in talks, the two sides in a joint statement said they plan to meet again soon to move towards de-escalation of thousands of troops deployed near the border since April last year.After the marathon 16-hour talks on Sunday, an army spokesperson said the two sides had a “candid and in-depth” exchange of views on disengagement along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). India and China have been working on a roadmap of de-escalation, which included withdrawal of frontline armoured positions and gradual moving back of in-depth troop formations. While some success has been achieved, frontline troop positions at all friction points remain a cause of concern as there has been no reduction from the Chinese side. “The two sides agreed that this round of meeting was positive, practical and constructive, which further enhanced mutual trust and understanding,” the joint statement said. “The two sides agreed to push for an early disengagement of the frontline troops.” Even as regular faceoffs are continuing along the disputed border – a physical clash on January 20 at the Naku La pass in northern Sikkim resulted in injuries on both sides – the joint statement sought to restrain troops from further border provocations. Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi questioned PM Narendra Modi’s silence, as he reacted to reports of a recent skirmish between Indian and Chinese forces in Sikkim, and lamented that China is expanding its occupation of India’s territory. “China is expanding its occupation into Indian territory. Mr 56” hasn’t said the word ‘China’ for months. Maybe he can start by saying the word ‘China’," Gandhi tweeted on Monday.
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Wipro appoints AWS' Douglas Silva as Brazil head

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Bengaluru: Wipro Ltd. has appointed IT industry veteran Douglas Silva as country head for Brazil, signalling its intent to build on its Latin American business.Silva joins the Indian IT company from Amazon Web Services (AWS), where he was the head of financial services industry in Latin America and enterprise sales director for Brazil. He has previously held senior positions at SAP AG, Capgemini AG and Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. (TCS).He will be based at Alphaville in Barueri, Brazil, and report to Mukund Seetharaman, managing director at Wipro Latin America.“We are excited to have Douglas Silva join us as we look to build on our legacy of success and drive accelerated growth in one of Latin America’s most dynamic markets,” Seetharaman said in a company statement on Monday. “Brazil has helped drive growth across the region over the last few years and Wipro remains committed to strengthening its teams to support both global and local clients in their transformation journey.”The Bengaluru-headquartered IT services company has made several strategic investments in Latin America in the past five years, and built a regional presence by hiring locals and establishing offices in key economic hubs.
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ESG: India Inc’s new alpha mantra?

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Among many new paradigms established last year, ESG stood out for both investors and corporates (ESG refers to the framework of a company to include environmentally conscious business practices, strong social responsibility and corporate governance). There is a visible rise in demand from asset managers to invest in companies with high ESG scores. Data from Morningstar shows sustainable funds in India saw inflows of more than half a billion dollars from January to March 2020. Why? “Several studies highlight that companies with good ESG scores tick most of the checkboxes for investing, tend to mitigate environmental and social risks, and tend to have stronger cash flows, lower borrowing costs and durable returns,” Chintan Haria, Head of Product & Strategy, ICICI Prudential AMC told ET. Agrees Rajesh Dahiya, Executive Director at Axis Bank: “As a commercial lender, ESG factors do play a role in our lending decisions. In fact, over the past few years, we have worked to put in place a policy and system that integrates environmental and social risk imperatives into our credit appraisal in corporate lending.” Taking the cue, some Indian companies have brought in ESG-related strategies and initiatives. Dalmia Cement has committed to a carbon negative roadmap. Mahindra & Mahindra has an over $600 million green product portfolio across its businesses from electric mobility to green buildings to waste-to-energy initiatives. And JSW has built a pipe conveyor belt to transport 36 MT of iron ore every year, in a bid to cut pollution from truck transportation.80460843“Practice of ESG helps reduce cost, gives new sources of revenue, access to new talent, and brings you new consumers. It is another quiver for companies to become more resilient,” says Anirban Ghosh, Chief Sustainability Officer at M&M. In fact, ESG is now critical for Indian companies to remain competitive globally. “Our customers are ready to pay more for our premium quality steel because of our brand and the trust in it,” says Seshagiri Rao, Joint MD and Group CFO of JSW Group. “How do you think that was built? On the strength of our ESG framework. Tomorrow, if you want to export, ESG will be the gamechanger for you.” COVID has ensured there is greater focus on ESG -- US data shows a record $27.7 billion flew into ESG ETFs in 2020, more than three times the previous year. “In times of Covid-19 uncertainty, it was yet again proven that companies having better ESG strategy do well by protecting people, communities and economic performance,” says Mahendra Singhi, MD & CEO of Dalmia Cement. “Therefore, it is a natural inclination for investors to follow ESG and sustainability as alpha to beat the indices, and reduce overall volatility and known systematic market risks.” The success of ESG in corporate strategy is because a strong framework of environment-friendly business practices with a socially responsible approach and strong governance ensures business-risk mitigation. “Longevity is the fruit of strict adherence to ESG,” says Jinesh Gopani, Head Equity at Axis Mutual Fund. But beyond longevity, is the strength of a company’s ESG framework being rewarded by investors in India? “It would be reasonable to say that in a few years, ESG investing in India will reach a stage where we can clearly identify that companies performing better on ESG parameters are being rewarded by investors,” answers Singhi. But there are nuances. “While the results of environment-friendly tech adoption and actions are easy to showcase and so are the social responsibilities; many Indian companies find it difficult in coming out transparently with good governance practices. Sound business ethics still has an opportunity to be better ingrained,” said Dipankar Ghosh, Partner & Leader, Sustainability, Climate Change and ESG, Thinkthrough Consulting. To this end, experts say a common set of ESG guidelines from the regulator would add depth to the movement -- currently, the NSE100 ESG Index, a subset of the Nifty 100, has only 88 companies. It would also help investors who are now left to developing their own mechanism for identifying ESG-compliant companies. “Ours is an in-house process based on 180-220 questions on ESG matrices. Weightage on each pillar of ESG differs from sector to sector,” explains Gopani of Axis MF. The good news is that SEBI’s proposed Business Responsibility and Sustainability Reporting requires the top 1,000 listed companies to disclose their ESG initiatives. “It is time ESG compliance is scaled up in India,” says Ghosh of M&M. (This article is part of a series on sustainability in association with Mondelez India. The company had no editorial input)
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Covaxin a hardsell in 2 of India’s largest hospitals

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Mumbai | New Delhi: Vaccine hesitancy has hit two of India’s largest state-run hospitals — JJ Hospital in Mumbai and the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, where Covaxin is being administered.The authorities at these two premier healthcare centres are trying to convince their staff to take the Covaxin vaccine even as the health ministry and the Central government consider taking penal action against those who spread misinformation about the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines. Covaxin, developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, is being administered under clinical trial mode, which means those receiving it are part of an open label trial.JJ Hospital, the only site for Covaxin vaccines in the city, has had the lowest turnout. Last week, only 19 health workers were vaccinated at JJ Hospital when a total of 4,374 doses were administered in the city. Since the inoculation drive started on January 16, JJ Hospital has vaccinated only 111 staffers, while the total vaccination figure for the city is 13,364.“We think the number is slowly picking up. We are reaching out to beneficiaries and counselling them. But we cannot force people to vaccinate themselves. We try our best to tell them that the vaccine is safe and efficacious,” Ranjit Mankeshwar, dean of JJ Hospital, told ET.Resident doctors at AIIMS have said they are wary about taking Covaxin amid continuing doubts and anxiety over the efficacy of the indigenously developed Covid-19 vaccine, which was approved for use before the completion of phase 3 trials that determine efficacy. Approval for Covaxin was granted under a provision of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act that allows companies to apply for approval with phase-2 trial data.80455376“We met the dean and the deputy director, administration showing our unwillingness to go for Covaxin. Many of us would want to wait for the results before we get inoculated,” said Adarsh Pratap Singh, president of the Resident Doctors Association at AIIMS.At JJ Hospital, the administrative staff is struggling to get senior doctors vaccinated. With few takers from among its over 500 resident doctors, the hospital has asked second- and third-year medical students to enrol for the shots so that doses don’t go waste, people aware of the development told ET.The parents of some of these students have expressed concern over the random selection of beneficiaries and some have asked their wards not to get vaccinated, ET has learnt. The AIIMS doctors said they are reluctant to take Covaxin because they can’t follow something blindly.
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Mutiple tractor parades today on smaller stretches

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NEW DELHI: Farmers’ unions are finalising arrangements at three different borders for the Republic Day tractor parade. Farmers have reached different sites around Delhi with their tractors in large numbers to participate in Tuesday’s protest parade. The tractor parade would lead to spread of the agitation to other parts of the country, a union leader told ET. On Monday, the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha also announced a Parliament march on February 1, the day the Union Budget would be presented.“Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha and others have joined the movement. We think after the parade, the movement will spread to different parts of the country. It started in Punjab and now farmers of Haryana, UP and Uttarakhand are completely supporting the movement,” Kirti Kisan Union vice-president Rajinder Singh told ET.SKM has a group of 3,500 volunteers to manage the tractor parade. They will be given special clothes. Around six to seven special committees have been formed to take care of food, shelter, health and other issues during the parade. After talks with police of Delhi, Haryana and UP, the parade route has been divided into several small stretches rather than one route. The unions had wanted to use Delhi’s Outer Ring Road earlier. Some unions are unhappy over the new route.“What is the point in having the parade on a road where no one can be seen around? Our boys are charged up and they won’t accept such routes,” Sardar VM Singh, national convener of Rashtriya Kisan Majdoor Sangathan (RKMS) told ET. “They have issued the order but on ground we have to execute it. It doesn’t mean I am against them,” he said. RKMS has been protesting at the Ghazipur border and VM Singh was removed from SKM in December. SKM has jointly appealed to the farmers to follow the route. “What difference does one or another road make to the parade? Those opposing it are not part of us. Is it possible for 3.5 lakh tractors to move on a single road? The fact that the government has shortened the route of the annual Republic Day parade indicated pressure on it from farmers”, Rajinder Singh told ET. The leaders have advised farmers to carry two days’ provisions, as the parade is expected to go beyond a day considering the number of vehicles.
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Vaccines bringing down infections, shows study

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Mumbai: Israel’s massive drive to vaccinate its citizen against Covid-19 seems to have led to a decline in new infections and hospitalisation in what researchers see as early evidence of vaccine-induced herd immunity.Three days after the second dose of vaccine among people aged 60 and above, there was a 60% fall in the number of new infections in this age group, a study by healthcare firm Maccabi Health Services’ KSM Research and Innovation Centre and health research firm KI Institute. This is one of the first studies that link vaccination and a drop in infection rates. The study analysed data on Covid-19 infection and hospitalisation of more than 50,000 people over the age of 60 who received the first dose of vaccine between December 19 and 24, 2020. These are early days, but researchers said this points towards vaccine-induced herd immunity in Israel. The analysis found that after 23 days, which is the time of the second vaccination, there was a “significant decrease” in hospitalisation among the vaccinated. There was also 60% decrease in the new cases. The rate of infection among those above 60 irrespective of being vaccinated has also decreased, it said. “Our current work represents raw data without implementing statistical methods (except moving average), allowing decision makers, researchers, and the public to form initial impressions related to the vaccine efficacy,” KSM-Maccabi said in a statement. However, the study authors warned that despite these encouraging efficacy data, the basic non-pharmaceutical interventions like wearing masks, social distancing should continue. Israel is among countries that have managed to vaccinate the maximum number of people per 100 population in the world.
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Colonel Santosh Babu awarded with Maha Vir Chakra

45 min 22 sec ago
Colonel Bikumalla Santosh Babu, who led his troops against the "vicious" Chinese attack in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh in June last year, has been posthumously named for the second-highest military award, Mahavir Chakra, for acts of gallantry in the presence of the enemy, according to an official announcement on Monday. Twenty Indian Army personnel laid down their lives in the fierce hand-to-hand combat on June 15 in Galwan Valley, an incident that marked the most serious military conflicts between the two sides in decades. Four other soldiers --Naib Subedar Nuduram Soren, Havildar (Gunner) K Palani, Naik Deepak Singh and Sepoy Gurtej Singh-- who also laid down their lives valiantly fighting the Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley clash have been named for Vir Chakra awards posthumously. Havildar Tejinder Singh from the 3 Medium Regiment and was a member of the Indian Army team at Galwan Valley clash, has also been named for Vir Chakra award. Col Babu, the commanding officer of the 16 Bihar regiment, was undaunted by the "violent and aggressive" action and overwhelming strength of enemy soldiers, and he continued to resist their attempt to pushback the Indian troops, displaying true spirit of service before self, the official release said. "Despite being grievously injured, Colonel Babu led from the front with absolute command and control despite hostile conditions to deter the vicious enemy attack at his position," it said. "In the skirmish that broke out and ensuing hand-to-hand combat with enemy soldiers, he valiantly resisted the enemy attack till his last breath, inspiring and motivating his troops to hold ground," it said, about his role during the 'Operation Snow Leopard' . The release said Col Babu has been awarded the Mahavir Chakra for displaying "exemplary leadership, astute professionalism and supreme sacrifice" in the line of duty. The Indian Army has already built a memorial for the 'Gallants of Galwan' at Post 120 in eastern Ladakh. The memorial mentioned their heroics under operation 'Snow Leopard' and the way they evicted the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops from the area while inflicting "heavy casualties" on them. About Naib Subedar Nuduram Soren, who was also a part of the 16 Bihar Regiment, the communication said he led his column and resisted the enemy's attempt to push back the Indian soldiers while establishing an observation post. "He organised his column, countered the adversary forcefully and stopped them in their attempt to push back Indian troops. During the skirmish, he was viewed as a daunting leader and was targeted by the enemy soldiers with lethal and sharp weapons," it said. "Being grievously injured when asked to move back, as a true leader he refused, in spite of being heavily outnumbered by the enemy soldiers. The Junior Leader stood at the forefront under hostile conditions," it said. The release said Soren displayed raw courage, fighting with resolute spirit before succumbing to his injuries. "The gallant action by the junior commissioned officer resulted in a positive response which overwhelmed the enemy by surprise. His action speeded own retaliation and also galvanised own troops to continue to hold ground," it said. It further said Havildar Palani stood bravely and tried to defend his comrades even when the enemy attacked him with sharp weapon. "His act of valour inspired other fellow soldiers to fight fiercely and resist enemy aggression. Inspite of his grievous injuries, he continued to hold his ground resolutely and in the finest traditions of the Indian Army and laid down his life for the motherland," it said. Naik Deepak Singh, who too belonged to 16 Bihar regiment and was performing duties as a nursing assistant, played a "pivotal" role in rendering treatment and saving the lives of more than 30 Indian soldiers, the release said. "In the ensuing skirmish coupled with heavy stone pelting, he received serious injuries, but undeterred and tirelessly, he continued to provide medical aid. The enemy outnumbered Indian troops and he was injured while carrying out his duty," the communication said. "In spite of grievous wounds by the enemy, he continued rendering medical assistance to injured soldiers and saved many lives. He finally succumbed to his injuries," it added. According to the communication, Sepoy Gurtej Singh, who was from the third battalion of the Punjab regiment, successfully spotted the enemy troops while establishing the observation post. It said Singh displayed raw courage and exceptional combat skills in resisting the enemy troops and kept fighting even after he was seriously injured. "With utter disregard to his personal safety, he continued to fight the enemy valiantly and also extricated own injured troops, thereby saving a number of fellow soldiers of his patrol party before making the supreme sacrifice," the communication said.
Categories: Business News

Pilot killed as Army chopper crash-lands in Kathua

45 min 22 sec ago
JAMMU: A pilot was killed after an advanced light helicopter (ALH) Dhruv of the Indian Army made a crash-landing in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua district on Monday, officials said. The chopper, which was coming from Pathankot, was forced to make a crash-landing in an Army area in the Lakhanpur belt of the district, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Kathua Shailendra Mishra told . Two pilots of the helicopter were injured in the incident, he said, adding that they were rushed to a military base hospital. One of them succumbed subsequently, an official said. "Tragic news coming in. We have one pilot fatal casualty," a defence spokesperson, said. Further details are awaited.
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'US flexing its muscles in South China Sea'

45 min 22 sec ago
Beijing: Despite a change at the White House with a new commander-in-chief, tensions between Washington and Beijing continued to escalate with China slamming US military deployment in the South China Sea saying that President Joe Biden-led administration is doing so to "flex its muscles."Speaking at the regular press briefing, Zhao Lijian, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, slammed the US for sending an aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt to the South China Sea to promote "freedom of the seas"."It does no good to regional peace and stability for the United States to frequently send military vessels and aircraft to the South China Sea to show off muscles," Zhao said.He further said, "We urge the US side to earnestly abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiques, prudently and properly handle Taiwan-related issues, and refrain from sending any wrong signals to the "Taiwan independence" forces so as to avoid damaging China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait."On January 23, the US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) had announced, the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG) entered the South China Sea on January 23 to conduct routine operations.The TRCSG consists of USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), Destroyer Squadron 23, and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Russell (DDG 59) and USS John Finn (DDG 113).This comes days after China passed a law that gives power to its coastguard to fire on foreign vessels and demolish structures built in disputed waters, South China Morning Post reported.China's top legislative body, the National People's Congress Standing Committee, on Friday passed the coastguard law that empowers the coastguard to use "all necessary means" to deter threats posed by foreign vessels in waters "under China's jurisdiction". It will also allow the coastguards to launch pre-emptive strikes without prior warning if commanders deem it necessary.The SCMP reported that it is yet to ascertain whether the law will be applied to all waters claimed by Beijing, which has a number of competing claims with its neighbours in the East and South China Seas.Meanwhile, Taipei on Sunday expressed gratitude to the US for its commitment of "rock-solid support" against China's coercion after the United States expressed plans to strengthen ties with Taiwan under President Joe Biden's administration."We sincerely thank US State Department for its rock-solid support of democratic of Taiwan in the face of Beijing's ongoing coercion. Based on shared values and interests, we are committed to our partnership with the United States in furthering peace and stability in the Indo Pacific," Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan said in a tweet amid Beijing's growing belligerence.
Categories: Business News

Manufacturing cutting reliance on migrant labourers

45 min 22 sec ago
Mumbai: Covid-19 seems to have led to a shift in the talent landscape of Indian manufacturers with several of them now replacing migrant workforce with local people.Dalmia Cement, KEC International, Lumax and Hyundai Motor have all seen a significant increase in intake of workers from surrounding localities in recent times after a major chunk of their migrant workers left for their homes after the imposition of the national lockdown to tackle the pandemic last year.Economists and top company officials said this could lead to a permanent shift in the labour workforce market as the pandemic made companies realise the uncertainty and risk of heavy reliance on migrants. Dalmia Cement has hired large batches of people in local areas in Maharashtra, Bengal, Orissa and other places and started skilling them. The representation of local labour in some of its plants has increased from 20-25% in pre-Covid times to 90-95% now. 80455112“In our new Murli plant (in Maharashtra) we got an opportunity to replace outside people and hired batches of people in local areas and started skilling them,” said Ajit Menon, group human resources head at Dalmia Bharat Group. “In our Bengal plant, we have 90-95% local workers now versus 20-25% earlier, while in Orissa it is almost 100% local labour,” he said.“Covid has accelerated the intake of local workforce… This has also given us the opportunity to give employment to people in the locations neighbouring our factories – many of whom are tribals and are from underprivileged communities,” Menon said.KEC International, a part of RPG group, has stepped up local hiring across work sites and factories in Nagpur, Halol, Jaipur, Mysore and Jabalpur – with the local workers representation rising to up to 50% in its plants from 20% earlier.“Our local talent engagement has gone up significantly,” said Somraj Roy, CHRO of KEC International. “From a business continuity perspective, leveraging of local talent has really helped the company. It ensures that the talent pipeline is continuous.”Deepak Jain, managing director of auto components maker Lumax, said, “We have been aggressively hiring locals. They are mostly from villages within 50-100 km from our plants.” Lumax has factories in 33 locations across India.A Mahindra spokesperson said: “There was a need based increase in local hiring of workers in the plants at the time of resuming operations. We are now seeing a return to stability with most of the people back to work.”Hyundai Motor India senior VP, people strategy and business support, Stephen Sudhakar said contractor organisations are responsible for maintaining service levels and headcount. “Currently the mix of workers has been optimised to ensure convenience by sourcing from surrounding areas,” he said.Companies have been relying on migrant labourers due to the concentration of certain trade skills in specific geographical locations as well as their willingness to work at lower rates.Most of the supply of the country’s migrant workforce comes from rural hinterlands of Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Northeastern states. A lot of this labour comes at a cheaper cost than local workers due to the lack of jobs in these places. However, a combination of factors, led by the impact of the pandemic, is prompting companies to hire more locals.Many migrants are still not willing to come back as their employers are not able to give them the assurance that what happened nine months ago will not happen again, said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at Care Ratings.While many of the larger companies have resumed production at pre-pandemic levels, for thousands of manufacturers in small and medium enterprises segment, the future is still uncertain.
Categories: Business News

How India can leverage its learning form Covid-19

45 min 22 sec ago
Infectious diseases like diarrhoea, pneumonia and influenza are not new to India. For a country considered the ‘tuberculosis (TB) capital’ of the world, an unprecedented response to Covid-19 seems commendable and preposterous at the same time. Its response to control the pandemic with one of the severest lockdown measures otherwise has a very slack record of responding to more fatal infectious diseases. To be sure, Covid-19 compelled India to defy its past record of managing public healthcare crises. But will there be any long-term learning and change emanating from our Covid response? While TB is not a global healthcare crisis like Covid-19, its incidence and spread in India makes its status as a national healthcare crisis deserving. World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that nearly 27 lakh infections and 4.4 lakh deaths in India occurred in 2019 — more than double the number of deaths due to Covid. A single TB patient can infect 10 or more people in a year. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the strongest risk factor for TB among adults. The emergence of multi-drug-resistant (MDR) TB strain is especially concerning, as it is resistant to the two most effective anti-TB drugs available: isoniazid and rifampicin. While conventional TB treatment requires at least six months of therapy, MDR TB takes at least 18-24 months of treatment with far more expensive — and often toxic — medicines. What makes the situation grim is that more than half of India’s MDR TB cases remain undetected. Through its National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme, India has committed to an ambitious target of achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of eliminating TB in the country by 2025, five years ahead of the global target. However, these timelines may have to be pushed ahead due to the Covid pandemic. On the one hand, amid the rising toll of Covid patients, the GoI exercise to attend to existing and new TB cases suffered a setback. On the other hand, apprehensive patients avoided getting tested in clinics lest their infection is presumed to be ‘Covid’. WHO estimates that the world could see one million post-pandemic additional TB cases due to malnutrition. This does not augur well for India that accounts for a quarter of the global burden of the infection. Incidentally, the experience of containing Covid can hold India in good stead for launching a decisive battle to restrict the virus’ spread. TB containment doesn’t require expensive lockdowns or closing of international borders. Right from contact tracing, testing and rigorous vaccination, to implementing simple measures such as wearing masks, improving sanitation and hygiene, and creating awareness to de-stigmatise the disease, could cumulatively help contain TB’s contagious spread. The Maharashtra government began a month-long drive in December to detect new cases of TB and leprosy. 9,206 TB cases were detected in the drive that screened 8.6 crore people — 6.8 crore in rural areas and 1.8 crore in urban municipal corporation limits. These undetected cases provide a glimpse of the magnitude of setbacks in the TB containment efforts of India’s healthcare machinery due to Covid-19. More states must follow suit in aggressively screening their populace for traditional, and often overlooked, infections. The governments should also create the necessary financial incentives for diagnostic firms, private hospitals and pharmacies to cater to reducing the disease burden of India’s poor. An aggressive outreach campaign broadcasted to reach out to undetected patients of the disease should spur early diagnosis and treatment. Covid should set the stage for India’s drive against more common and fatal diseases. The country leads the world in the number of deaths caused by TB, pneumonia and diarrhoea — diseases that can be easier to tackle, don’t require expensive lockdowns and kill more Indians every year — than those having died by Covid-19 or co-morbidities. In case this does not happen, India’s response to Covid-19 will stand out as a singular and exceptional feat achieved by its public health apparatus at a time of a global health crisis — but one that didn’t much change the ground reality of the country’s public healthcare.
Categories: Business News

A case for govt to quicken the privatisation move

45 min 22 sec ago
As Budget Day approaches, among GoI’s top priorities will be the need for capital to expand access to healthcare, primary education and infrastructure, not to mention ramping up defence expenditure to deal with enhanced security threats on India’s borders. Along with all this, a Keynesian push to aid economic recovery may also be required. So, short of raising tax rates, where can GoI find fiscal cushion?In principle, the answer is easy — privatisation of public sector undertakings (PSUs). However, despite Cabinet approvals, the needle on privatisation hasn’t moved much. In theory, the objective of PSUs is to maximise social welfare and not just to generate financial returns. Unfortunately, most Indian PSUs, plagued by decades of inefficiency, have failed to deliver on both counts.This is not to say that PSUs have no role to play. Public sector banks (PSBs) such as the State Bank of India (SBI) were critical in ensuring access to banking for all under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana. However, for the most part, PSUs have been sucking national resources without generating sufficient public welfare. These resources could be put to more productive use — education, healthcare and erecting a social safety net — which, in turn, could help accelerate economic growth.In 2018-19, Air India made a loss of ₹8,475 crore, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) of ₹14,904 crore, and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) of ₹3,390 crore. To put these numbers in perspective, the cost of setting up six new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) is budgeted at about ₹20,000 crore. Therefore, losses for 2018-19 incurred by Air India and BSNL could have jointly financed about seven IITs.Overall, GoI’s share of losses in just the top 10 loss-making PSUs in 2018-19 is an astounding ₹27,683 crore. This amount can fund 52% of GoI’s budgeted annual health expenditure, or 34% of its budgeted annual education expenditure, if it simply stopped running these entities. Given the times we are in, Covid-19 vaccines are an appropriate currency to measure these losses as well. With ₹27,683 crore, India could fund the two-dose vaccines for close to half the Indian population.One could argue about these expenditures until the cows come home. One may say, for instance, that these loss-making PSUs may be offering essential services to the poor that the private sector will not provide in their absence. Or, that some PSUs are necessary for ‘national security’. Alternatively, there is the argument that private players may exploit consumers, and these PSUs serve to safeguard consumer interests.However, such reasoning is untenable in the context of most PSUs. In fact, it is the private sector that has ushered in a revolution in the telecom sector, expanding access with the world’s cheapest rates for high-speed data. Similarly, several high-quality private sector airlines have ensured high-frequency connectivity across different Indian cities. Therefore, the case for GoI diluting its stake in PSUs is compelling from both the fiscal and consumer welfare perspective.Based on our estimates, if GoI were to dilute its stake in the top 10 (by market capitalisation) publicly listed PSUs to 26%, it could raise ₹2,80,000-3,40,000 crore — an amount big enough to fund 2-3 years of GoI’s budget expenditure on education and healthcare. Diluting the stake in the top 10 privately held PSUs to 26% could additionally raise ₹1,00,000-1,30,000 crore for the exchequer.Bringing GoI’s stake down to 26% achieves the twin objectives of raising capital today, while allowing the government to gain from any future price appreciation and recurring dividends.While GoI cannot — and probably should not — run its operations like a private corporation, it does need to step out of businesses not critical to the nation’s strategic or defence interests, especially those that consume resources without generating a commensurate return for citizens, the de facto shareholders of these corporations. GoI’s stimulus package initiated in response to the economic uncertainty created by Covid-19 has already stretched the fiscal leash. With rising debt-to-GDP levels, and expectations of additional fiscal relief, especially for the poor, GoI should use Budget 2021 as an opportunity to press its foot down on the privatisation accelerator.(Alok is assistant professor, finance, Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, Kuvalekar is assistant professor, economics, University of Essex, UK, and Agarwal is research associate, Centre for Analytical Finance, ISB)
Categories: Business News

India should cut tariffs, open up market: Panagariya

45 min 22 sec ago
New Delhi: No major economy has grown 8-10 per cent without opening up of market, and India should bring down tariff on industrial goods to 10 per cent, Niti Aayog former vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya said on Monday. Participating in a virtual event organised by the Ananta Aspen Centre, Panagariya also said the government should allow non-financial corporations in the banking sector. "Our average tariff, which was 12 per cent in the case of industrial goods, have gone back to 14 per cent, and it should at least come back to 10 per cent... Without opening of market, no major economies have grown 8-10 per cent," he said. Panagariya, a professor of economics at Columbia University, said India should sign a free-trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union. "We have no issue of agriculture with the European Union (EU) because the EU is not super-competitive in agriculture. We should be willing to open our market for the EU," the eminent economist said. He also reiterated that India should be willing to address the EU concerns. Noting that he is the one-man army fighting against protectionism, Panagariya said, "During the 1991 reforms, India saw lots of opposition." Also speaking at the event, Fifteen Finance Commission Chairman N K Singh also said there are few countries that have been able to sustain 8-9 per cent growth without significantly high exports. Singh said that on the trade side, after new US President Joe Biden took charge, there is new trade-related opportunities for India to look ahead. Veteran banker Uday Kotak said that bank nationalisation happened in India because of politics, not because of economics. Kotak pitched for privatisation of some public sector banks saying that the banking is now a customer-centric business. He also emphasised that businesses need stable tax and interest rate regimes.
Categories: Business News

China's Xi warns Davos WEF against 'new Cold War'

45 min 22 sec ago
Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping warned global leaders at an all-virtual Davos forum Monday against starting a "new Cold War", and urged global unity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.Having largely curbed the spread of the pandemic within its borders, Xi wants to position China as a key player in a new multilateral world order as the US remains crippled by the pandemic."To build small cliques or start a new Cold War, to reject, threaten or intimidate others... will only push the world into division," said Xi in a likely veiled attack on US President Joe Biden's plans to revitalise global alliances to counter China's growing influence.In a swipe at moves targeting China launched by the previous US administration under President Donald Trump, Xi said confrontation "will always end up harming every nation's interests and sacrificing people's welfare".The Chinese leader also reaffirmed Beijing's ambitious climate pledges to slash carbon emissions by 65 per cent by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 -- both significant commitments as China emits a quarter of the world's greenhouse gases."Meeting these targets will require tremendous hard work from China. But we believe that when the interests of the entire humanity are at stake, China must step forward, take action and get the job done," he said.Xi also called for stronger global governance via multilateral organisations, the removal of barriers to international trade, investment and tech exchanges, as well as stronger representation on the world stage for developing countries.He stressed the importance of strengthening macroeconomic policies to combat the pandemic-induced global economic downturn."We must build an open world economy, firmly safeguard the multilateral trade system, and refrain from making discriminatory and exclusive standards, rules and systems, as well as high walls that separate trade, investment, and technology," he said.China saw its GDP increase 2.3 percent last year, according to official data -- the lowest growth rate since 1976 -- but it is nonetheless expected to be the only major economy to have expanded in the pandemic-ravaged year.Its economy is also forecast to grow by 7.9 per cent in 2021, according to the International Monetary Fund -- trimmed down from initial predictions by a harsh geopolitical climate, global economic downturn and risks from a messy technological decoupling from the US.It also overtook the US as the world's biggest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2020, according to a UN report released Sunday.Bolstered by confidence in his country's management of the pandemic, Xi has made ambitious climate pledges and vowed to uphold multilateralism as US-China relations entered their worst phase in decades under the Trump administration.But the Chinese government has been accused of mishandling the initial Covid-19 outbreak and covering up information, while a World Health Organisation expert team is currently conducting a long-delayed probe into the origins of the virus.How Biden decides to handle the mounting tensions posed by China's rise will be one of the biggest strategic challenges he faces.Under Trump, China and the US traded blows on a wide range of issues ranging from the virus to trade, media freedoms, human rights and technology competition.Biden, busy handling several urgent domestic crises, did not participate at Davos and tasked US climate envoy John Kerry with representing Washington.Xi last addressed Davos in 2017, presenting himself as the champion of free trade on the eve of Trump's inauguration.
Categories: Business News

Samsung's India biz now bigger than HUL

45 min 22 sec ago
Kolkata: Samsung India recorded consolidated net sales of Rs 75,461 crore for the year ended March 2020, just Rs 200 crore lower than the country’s largest consumer company Maruti Suzuki India, according to regulatory disclosures filed recently.Samsung’s India business is now nearly double that of largest packaged consumer goods firm Hindustan Unilever while its mobile phone business alone has become bigger than conglomerate ITC Ltd at Rs 52,315 crore in 2019-20. Consolidated net sales of HUL for 2019-20 was Rs 39,783 crore and that of ITC Ltd was Rs 51,393 crore. Maruti Suzuki’s consolidated net sales was Rs 75,660 crore. Samsung India’s consolidated net sales increased 7% in FY20 while its mobile phone business – which accounts for 70% of the Korean electronics major’s sales in India – bounced back to grow 21% during the year. Analysts attributed this to higher share of mid-to-premium smartphones and the company cracking online sales despite intense competition from Chinese brands. The company in the filings said its online-exclusive Galaxy M series has become extremely popular among Gen Z and young millennials.In FY19, Samsung’s mobile phone business growth rate was lower at 15% due to intense competition and low presence online. The company’s India revenue had grown 20% in FY19 at Rs 73,086 crore.In its regulatory filings to the Registrar of Companies (RoC) accessed through business intelligence firm AltInfo, Samsung India also reported 88% surge in net profit at Rs 2,902 crore in 2019-20.AltInfo founder Mohit Yadav said Samsung had seen a sharp uptick in mobile phone demand in India in FY20. “The company is actively making strategic investments in India and seems their dividends are likely to have a cascading effect in the nearby future,” he said.However, Samsung’s television and audio products business revenue dropped by more than 10% at Rs 4,472 crore in FY20, which industry executives attributed to online exclusive and Chinese brands creating a price war. Samsung’s sales of home appliances such as washing machine, AC, refrigerator and microwave oven grew by 6% to Rs 7,832 crore. By number of units sold, Samsung is the country’s largest television, microwave oven and refrigerator company and also the largest in overall mobile phone sales. In smartphones, Samsung is the second largest brand after Chinese rival Xiaomi.As per mobile phone researcher IDC, India became Samsung’s largest smartphone market globally ahead of the US in the July-September period of 2020, accounting for 15% of its global shipments. The online channel accounted for 43% of Samsung shipments with two models among top five sold. In the regulatory filings, Samsung India said its reserves after proposed appropriations was at Rs 22,081 crore for 2019-20.An email sent to Samsung India remained unanswered.
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