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Updated: 1 hour 55 min ago

Postmen to update Aadhaar cards in UP

4 hours 55 min ago
In a new initiative, the postal department has decided to set up a team of postmen who will update the mobile number of residents or link the same with their Aadhaar cards across districts in Uttar Pradesh.The postmen will be able to do this right at the doorstep of residents, who earlier had to stand in long queues at banks and Aadhaar correction centres for the same.The India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) started rolling out this facility in all the branch post offices of the Allahabad division of Indian Post from this month.Senior Superintendent of Post (SSP), Sanjay D. Akhade told reporters that the mobile updation service will be provided through the IPPB branch and more than 350 Grameen Dak Sevaks across Prayagraj and Kaushambhi districts.This new service will especially benefit residents of villages whose Aadhaar cards often lack mobile numbers linked to them, and it is a struggle for them to get details updated on the cards or procure a duplicate card in case of losing the original.As part of Child Enrolment Lite Client (CELC) services, IPPB offers Aadhaar services through banking service providers, via mobile handsets in post offices and at doorsteps of clients.Developed by Unique Identification Authority of India, CELC service enables citizens to add/update mobile number with Aadhaar.It also helps in enrolling children below five years for issuance of their Aadhaar cards.Currently, the IPPB is providing only mobile updation services for customers. It will roll out the facility of enrolling children below 5 years later, the SSP said."Through Aadhaar, the government has been able to reach out to crores of people and facilitate delivery of direct benefit transfer under various schemes such as LPG-Pahal, MGNREGS etc into their bank accounts. Mobile updation is another significant customer-centric initiative from IPPB that will help the financially disadvantaged citizens in underbanked and unbanked areas of the districts. Now citizens will be able to access this important service through the strong and robust network of our banking service providers and post offices in the district," he explained.The IPPB has been established under the Department of Posts, Ministry of Communication with 100 per cent equity owned by Government of India. It was launched on September 1, 2018.The fundamental mandate of IPPB is to remove barriers for the unbanked and underbanked, and reach the last mile leveraging a network comprising 1,55,000 post offices (1,35,000 in rural areas) and 300,000 postal employees across India.
Categories: Business News

BSE, NSE to suspend trading in DHFL from tomorrow

4 hours 55 min ago
New Delhi: BSE and NSE have decided to suspend trading in equity shares of debt-ridden Dewan Housing Finance (DHFL) with effect from June 14, Monday. Both the exchanges have issued circulars regarding the same.The circulars stated that DHFL had informed the exchanges on June 8 regarding approval of the resolution plan by the Mumbai bench of National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), which provides for delisting of equity shares of the company."Further, the company vide announcement dated June 9, 2021 stated that no value was attributable to the equity shares as per the liquidation value of the company estimated by registered valuers appointed under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Insolvency Resolution Process for Corporate Persons) Regulations, 2016," the added.NCLT has approved the resolution plan by Piramal Group for DHFL, resulting in zero value for the shares of DHFL. Despite this, the stock was being actively traded. However, the company has also mentioned that the written order of the NCLT approving the resolution plan is still awaited and all disclosures made remain subject to such orders.In pursuance of Regulation 3.1.2 of the National Stock Exchange (Capital Market) Trading Regulations Part A, and for reasons mentioned above, it is hereby notified that the following security will be suspended from trading w.e.f. June 14, 2021 (that is closing hours of trading on June 11, 2021), the NSE circular said.DHFL has been a very active counter recently. The counter hit lower circuit limits throughout the week. The bourses revised its circuit limit to 10 per cent from 5 per cent earlier, but had to again cut back those levels to the earlier levels. Over 30 lakh shares of DHFL were traded on Friday.The housing finance firm was in the spotlight since September 2019, when the IL&FS crisis broke out. The commercial papers of DHFL were downgraded after it defaulted on a series of payments.The company went bankrupt and owed over Rs 90,000 crore to its lenders, before becoming the first financial services firm to be taken to NCLT. In November 2019, the Reserve Bank of India referred DHFL for resolution under Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).
Categories: Business News

Annual packages and other IIT nightmares

4 hours 55 min ago
Recently, I came across a report in a Dehradun daily. ‘A piece of good news has emanated in tough times of corona and black fungus... Just when the ravages of anxiety were getting deeper (sic),’ it announced. A BTech student, a local boy, had landed a plush job with Microsoft. The annual package: Rs 40 lakh. It’s the stuff small-town dreams are made of. Or, as a student in Alma Matters, the new Netflix documentary, tells us: the package gives you the ‘thrust’ to get out of the ‘lower middle-class’. His friend chips in. ‘When my shopkeeper father sees me suited-booted, he knows I’ve moved up in life.’ It gives the parents an ace to play with in a card game called ‘arranged marriage’.Alma Matters is set in IIT Kharagpur. India’s youth, we are told, is divided into two categories: IITians and those who wish they were IITians. The three-part series is directed by Pratik Patra and Prashant Raj, both alumni. In the absence of a voiceover, the story is in the dialogue. A student from Bihar says, ‘Yaha log dekha dekhi se hi kaam kar lete hain’ — in this competitive fishbowl, looking at others working hard itself serves as motivation. Another student recalls feeling let down by the unassuming gate of the institute when he first arrived.The documentary deglamorizes the IIT dream (and the hostel). The mattress without a bed-sheet, the walk to the community baths with a plastic bucket, hanging underwear on a clothesline. The graffiti scribbled on the walls lists life’s priorities: ‘Roti, kapda, makaan, internet aur nasha.’As headlines play up the ‘one-crore’ placements, we see the students give job interviews over gruelling 16-hour days, chain-smoking on an empty stomach, taking naps in between. A boy calls his mother to give her the good news, ‘Mammi, baara lakh ki lagi hai. Location will be Pune or Gurugram!’ The ‘18-lakh’ boy celebrates with a salad and Diet Coke while his mates pull his leg: ‘Look at you, already moving up in life!’A sense of privileged disaffection, rather than arch accomplishment, is the running theme. Pre-IIT, students spend two years in coaching classes: dormitories on the ground floor, classes on the second, and a mess on the third. Students are not allowed to leave the premises. After the 3-tier non-AC life, the first year of IIT is like reaching paradise, minus the 72 virgins.The ratio of boys to girls is 9:1. This shortfall is more than made up for by the new laptop and fast Internet. ‘This is true freedom. Nobody wants to study and no one does,’ says one student. Freshman year is a time to celebrate that one belongs to the 1% in a million, who applied for JEE and made it.India’s caste system is reflected in the system of rankings, where one is assigned a branch — biotech, geophysics, agricultural engineering — according to one’s rank rather than one’s interest and inclination. IITians spend years studying what they’re least interested in. This knowledge, too, is functionally useless because the ultimate goal, for most, is to get a well-paying corporate job, or to sit for the IAS. It’s a circuitous route to selling soap or becoming a bureaucrat.IIT Kharagpur is a 2,100-acre world unto its own, far from the town its located near in south-west West Bengal. In the year the documentary was shot, there were five suicides on campus. The others soldier on, building small racing cars from scratch, learning to skateboard, and cosplaying. The loneliness is mitigated by an adopted stray dog — Desdemona, in happier times, now called Coco. Coco could walk until her legs were ravaged by disease. The students put their ‘cream of the cream’ heads together to design a walker-on-wheels for her. And it’s not for sale.The writer is author of The Butterfly
Categories: Business News

How food helps in being gay and happy

4 hours 55 min ago
Pride Month commemorates New York’s Stonewall riots in June 1969, commonly said to have kicked off the LGBT rights movement. It is now being marked in India by organisations as varied as the Bengaluru FC soccer team and a North Goa bakery which has produced bread in rainbow colours. But the gay community existed before Stonewall, and one entertaining proof is The Gay Cookbook by chef Lou Rand Hogan, published in 1965. Subtitled “the complete compendium of campy cuisine and menus for men… or what have you”, it offers a window to a surprisingly open and ribald gay world, combined with an excellent guide to mid-century American cooking. Hogan was born in 1910 and tried his hand at theatre before finding work on Pacific cruise liners. The closed world of the ships, effectively beyond the reach of the law which still penalised homosexuality, was a haven of sorts and of the 500 stewards, Hogan wrote, “probably 486 were actively gay”. This gave them the freedom to be flamboyant, with “female nicknames and jokes about their sexual exploits and desires”, writes Stephen Vider, in a paper on Hogan and his cookbook. This kind of exaggerated sexuality was one of the few ways to be openly gay back then, but it still took courage and carried dangers, as Hogan shows with one throwaway bit of advice: “When you have enticed someone in… and the character starts playing with his switchblade as he says, ‘Lay some bread on me, hear?’, he is NOT asking for a sandwich. Ya better get out the billfold (the one with the single small bill), edge the door open, and prepare to scream the house down, Gert.” Mostly, though, the book is a collection of standard recipes, chattily told with risqué jokes and innuendos — no cucumber or banana goes unmentioned. Yet this conceals how genuinely revolutionary the book was, not just for being openly gay, but also for being unashamedly camp at a time when activists were trying to downplay this aspect of queer life in an attempt to gain mainstream acceptability. By the 1960s, the mainstream was allowing more depictions of homosexuality, but gay men were either shown negatively as perverse and predatory, or more positively, but depressingly, as sad and lonely or tortured about their sexuality. And this was where Hogan was really pathbreaking, because by showing gay life through cooking, and an anecdotal world of parties and dinners, he presented the radical notion of being both gay and happy. Food normalises life, because we all must eat. So many people, still coming to terms with their sexuality, have been helped by meeting other LGBT people, in a café or restaurant, or just invited home for a meal. When the GayBombay support group began in 2000, its first meetings were held in McDonald’s. It felt a bit odd to be surrounded by parents and kids, but it also felt like a step towards normality, a family meal, just of a slightly different kind.
Categories: Business News

Should you be worried about valuation of smallcaps?

4 hours 55 min ago
Players with strong balance sheets and strong brands in the midcap and smallcap space are gaining market share from unorganised players, says Aishvarya Dadheech, Ambit Asset Management in this interview. Edited excerpts:Let us start by understanding your thoughts on smallcaps. Do you find froth in valuations?Midcaps and smallcaps outperformed largecaps in calendar year 2020. We are seeing massive outperformance even this year as well. There is enough leg room for the momentum to continue. All three participants -- DII, FII and even retail -- have increased their exposure in this particular segment.If you look at the last five quarters, the ownership of DIIs in midcaps and smallcaps has moved from half per cent to 2.8 per cent; whereas FIIs have increased it from 2.7 per cent to almost 3.3 per cent. A large part of increment has happened on the smallcap side. Retail investors, who are leading this rally, have increased it from 3.1 per cent to 3.9 per cent. In the last 20 years, whenever the economic recovery has seen strong momentum, the broader market has done well. In FY22, the economy will possibly grow in double digits, and in FY23, it may grow by another 7-8 per cent. And then we have low interest rates. All this boards very well for midcaps and smallcaps. Are the valuations a concern? Yes, to some extent. If you look at the valuation of Nifty50 and compare it with Nifty Midcap 100, valuation is in line. Smallcaps are still relatively cheaper.You have to consider growth expectations. We are entering a very solid earnings growth momentum cycle which will be visible for companies across midcaps and smallcaps, alongside largecaps. To an extent, this earnings growth is justifying the movement that we have seen in the market. A lot of sectors have gained meaningfully from the Covid crisis. Players with strong balance sheets and strong brands in the midcap and smallcap space are gaining market share from unorganised players. Their trajectory is looking very promising and that justifies their valuations.How are you looking at the consumer discretionary space? Do you see a rebound in their business over the next few quarters?It is very likely that all contact-intensive sectors which bore the brunt of Covid will see normalisation. We have also seen RBI giving them liquidity to stand on their own. We believe that contact-intensive sectors which have been impacted the most will see a big mean reversion. One beautiful thing is that a huge amount of consolidation has happened. A lot of weak players which had too much leverage or had limited skills to raise money or limited brand or limited distribution channels have vanished. A couple of leaders in each and every segment will gain. So we believe it is going to be a beautiful trade to invest in sectors which will benefit once the economy gradually opens up over the next couple of quarters. This is one area which we believe is very promising.What is your reading of the earnings momentum?When we interacted with a lot of midcap and smallcap companies even before Covid 2.0, there was an uncanny optimism on the demand side. They were talking about a demand trajectory which was not seen in the last 5-7 years. They are preparing themselves to bring up the capex to meet the demand in the next 2-3 years.We believe inflation is quite manageable. People in equity always love inflation because healthy inflation is always conducive for higher earnings growth. It will remain very comfortable from equity market's perspective.
Categories: Business News

A plain truth our Yudhishthirs must get

4 hours 55 min ago
Despite never owning up to it then, I would be quietly glued to BR Chopra’s 92-episode pre-OTT, OTT ‘Mahabharat’ every Sunday between October 1988 and June 1990. (Ramanand Sagar’s ‘Ramayan’ that aired for a year before left me cold, especially since Arun Govil as Ram looked like an older version of a goodie-two-shoes in my class.) By the time Mahendra Kapoor’s stretched-out ‘Maha-a-a-a-a-a-a-bharat’ in the opening track of each episode ended, I was ready to update myself with the latest instalment of the tin’n’tinsel version of my favourite epic in which Doordarshan’s Duryodhan was my hero.This week on chancing upon a news item, I remembered Episode 46 — ‘…hone wale dyut ka parinam kya hone wala hain,’ or, the impending result of the gambling between Kauravs and Pandavs, better known among my schoolmates as the ‘preDraupadi ki vastraharan episode’. What happened in Hastinapur clearly didn’t stay in Hastinapur. But I do take games of dice seriously.So, when I learned that the Bombay High Court would be hearing the matter of whether ludo is a game of chance or skill on June 22, I just had to weigh in. On June 3, the high court had issued a notice to the Maharashtra government after a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) member KR Muley sought an FIR against a company that operates online ludo. Muley contends that playing ludo for moolah falls foul of the Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act, 1887 — a colonial law that may have helped Mohandas Gandhi, 18 when it was enacted, to stay away from the path of perfidy, debt and sin.Like sale of alcohol, gambling, with its ‘addiction’ bogey, is open to mai-baap morality interpretation, and falls under state laws. Only Goa and Sikkim legalised (and regulate) it. But the whole thing really hangs on one thread: is the ‘game’ based purely on chance or also on skill?Betting on sports remains illegal in India ‘because’ while playing cricket requires skill, betting on aspects of the game, says our judicial Januses, requires as much skill as playing book cricket. How, going by the same law, betting on horse-racing is exempt, we can only leave it to the horses to neigh say. In 1996, the Supreme Court maintained that horse race betting requires the punter to learn about jockeys, horses, their form, the racetrack — in other words, to analyse multiple parameters and make bets on informed guesses.This data-mining and analysing are indeed skills. We know that the same rule should apply to football, cricket, badminton, mahjong… But tell that to our Yudhisthir-like — or, rather, going by the Mahabharat’s Sabha Parva, our un-Yudhisthir-like — lawmakers.So, rounding back to my dear ludo. The game itself may involve randomised rolls of die. But open your eyes Dhritarashtra! Ludo also requires strategy. Do you run after your opponent’s ‘ripe’ counter that’s almost ‘home’ and risk the life of your own one? Or do you play it safe and push your counter along uncrowded squares? Does the ‘six’ you just rolled merit taking out your counter from its pen? Or should you just run one into the safety of ‘home’? Do you ‘eat’ your opponent’s counter, or tactically push another of your counters elsewhere for a bigger prize?These are no less weighty matters to weigh as whether Snowy Dick is on top form for tomorrow’s Mahalaxmi Race Course run. Ludo may not be bridge, chess, or ‘Kaun Jitega Bengal?’ But it certainly requires you to not be just Fate’s eye-candy.Gajendra Chauhan as Yudhisthir was dripping with sweat in Episode 46 of Mahabharat not because of the heavy hooker make-up and costume he was wearing, or because his character just had a bad run in the Kaurav casino. He’s drenched as a tense bookmaker because his character has been dumb enough to stake all he holds precious (does he?) in a gambling spree that he’s lost.Both playing ludo — online, on an app or on cardboard — and betting on ludo should be legal. As should any other sport, booking your vaccination schedule on Co-WIN included.
Categories: Business News

Inside ed-tech companies' suddenly rising focus on coaching for government jobs

4 hours 55 min ago
Ed-tech companies, including giants such as Unacademy, are increasingly focusing on test preparation for government jobs that are attracting more candidates as uncertainty continues in the private sector.While Byju's only offers test prep for the UPSC exam, Unacademy has over 20 exams in its offerings. Last year in December, Unacademy acquired NeoStencil, which offers test-prep for several government exams.Some companies such as Adda247, Testbook, Dhurina and ixamBee focus exclusively on preparatory courses for government job exams.“Government test-prep booms whenever private sector jobs are few,” said Anil Nagar, founder of Adda247.Companies focusing exclusively on government jobs said their revenues had grown around 1-4x in the last year, on the back of both job market uncertainty, as well as increased adoption of online mode of learning due to Covid-19 and lockdowns that forced local tuition centres to shut.This, despite ticket sizes being small. At Adda247, for instance, the average ticket size is just Rs.1200. About 80% of the users come from beyond the metro cities – from Tier 2, Tier 3, and rural areas.Industry players estimate that 80-100 million candidates appear for government exams every year. A vast majority of them apply for state-level exams for jobs like village secretary, police constable, patwari and clerk. The rest are for national level exams such as UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) and IBPS (Institute of Banking Personnel Selection).To capture this market, many players have in the past year started offering content in vernacular languages like Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Oriya and Bengali.Unacademy offers coaching in various Indian languages. Adda247 offers content in eight languages and plans to add another 2-3 languages in the next six months.Dhurina offers courses only in Hindi and English currently. Cofounder Sachin Sardana, however, said the company recruits teachers who can speak with a local touch – for instance, with a Marwadi accent to cater to students in Rajasthan, so that students can better connect and understand.Dhurina’s revenues have grown 4x to Rs 12 crore this year from about Rs 2.7 crore last year.Testbook, one of the oldest players in the market that started in 2014, said its revenues grew 4x in the last year. Cofounder Ashutosh Kumar said the company has 18 million registered users, out of which 1.8 million are paying users, and 1.1 million have an active subscription. About 6-7 million unique users visit its platform monthly. The company had raised $8.3 million in January last year.Adda247, which started in 2016, had had its revenues double at the end of FY2021. The company, which raised $6 million in a series B round in November 2019, turned profitable a year later. About 15 million users visit its website, app and its 20 odd YouTube channels every month, Nagar said. Its largest YouTube channel has more than 4.9 million subscribers, he said.ixamBee cofounder Chandraprakash Joshi said the firm’s revenues grew 100% last year.Almost all these firms are ramping up hiring. Testbook has gone from about 200 full-time employees to 575 in the last year. Dhurina, too, has more than doubled from about 20 odd employees to around 50 employees.
Categories: Business News

Discoms' outstanding dues to gencos fall 11.2 per cent to Rs 81,628 crore in April

4 hours 55 min ago
Total outstanding dues owed by electricity distribution utilities or discoms to power producers fell 11.2 per cent to Rs 81,628 crore in April 2021 from a year ago.Distribution companies (discoms) owed a total Rs 91,915 crore to power generation firms in April 2020, according to portal PRAAPTI (Payment Ratification And Analysis in Power procurement for bringing Transparency in Invoicing of generators).However, outstanding dues of discoms towards electricity producers have been increasing year-on-year as well as month-on-month for years showing perennial stress in the power sector till February this year. It has started tapering off from March 2021.Total dues in April increased sequentially compared to Rs 78,841 crore in March this year.Total outstanding dues of discoms had dipped 3.4 per cent in March this year from Rs 81,687 crore in the same month last year.The PRAAPTI portal was launched in May 2018 to bring in transparency in power purchase transactions between generators and discoms.In April 2021, the total overdue amount, which was not cleared even after 45 days of grace period offered by generators, stood at Rs 68,732 crore as against Rs 76,117 crore in the same month a year ago. The overdue amount stood at Rs 67,656 crore in March this year.Power producers give 45 days to discoms to pay bills for electricity supply. After that, outstanding dues become overdue and generators charge penal interest on that in most cases. To give relief to power generation companies (gencos), the Centre enforced a payment security mechanism from August 1, 2019.Under this mechanism, discoms are required to open letters of credit for getting power supply. The Centre had also given some breathers to discoms for paying dues to gencos in view of the COVID-19-induced lockdown. The government had also waived penal charges for late payment of dues.In May, the government announced Rs 90,000 crore liquidity infusion for discoms under which these utilities would get loans at economical rates from Power Finance Corporation (PFC) and REC Ltd.This was a government initiative to help gencos remain afloat. Later, the liquidity infusion package was increased to Rs 1.2 lakh crore and further to Rs 1.35 lakh crore. Under the liquidity package, over Rs 80,000 crore has been disbursed.Discoms in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu account for the major portion of dues to gencos, the data showed.Overdue of independent power producers amounted to 53.04 per cent of the total overdue of Rs 68,732 crore of discoms in April 2021. The proportion of central PSU gencos in the overdue was 30.52 per cent.Among the central public sector gencos, NTPC alone has an overdue amount of Rs 5,167.11 crore on discoms, followed by Damodar Valley Corporation at Rs 5,156.34 crore, NLC India at Rs 3,416.18 crore, NHPC at Rs 2,261.05 crore and THDC India at Rs 1,134.17 crore in April 2021.Among private generators, discoms owe the highest overdue of Rs 18,608.11 crore to Adani Power followed by Bajaj Group-owned Lalitpur Power Generation Company at Rs 4,817.12 crore and SEMB (Sembcorp) at Rs 2,364.56 crore in the month under review.The overdue of non-conventional energy producers like solar and wind stood at Rs 11,296.24 crore in April, 2021.
Categories: Business News

Wannabe Bitcoin ETFs are mushrooming and getting more creative

4 hours 55 min ago
By Claire Ballentine and Katie GreifeldWith at least nine applications for Bitcoins ETFs collecting dust in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s in-box and clients baying to buy crypto funds, US issuers in the $6.4 trillion industry are cobbling together a growing number of workarounds.A slate of companies are releasing or planning “Bitcoin adjacent” products that skirt US regulators’ refusal to allow the largest cryptocurrency to be put in an exchange-traded fund wrapper. Invesco became the latest on Wednesday, announcing a pair of funds packed with crypto-linked equities.It’s the only way US firms can cash in on the unrelenting clamor for digital coins, and it may stay that way for a while. The SEC has already delayed its decision to approve or deny a Bitcoin ETF once this year and is expected to punt again at its next deadline on June 17.“There’s clearly strong demand from investors for exposure to the price of Bitcoin, and ETF issuers are simply looking to meet that demand,” said Nate Geraci, president of the ETF Store, an advisory firm. “The SEC is essentially forcing ETF issuers into the laboratory to create these Frankenstein products.” 83477720The Frankenfunds’ creators are being rewarded for their efforts. For instance, the Bitwise Crypto Industry Innovators ETF (ticker BITQ) has already drawn about $45 million in assets less than a month after its launch. That fund holds crypto-heavy companies like MicroStrategy Inc., Coinbase Global Inc., and Galaxy Digital Holdings Ltd.Then there’s a slate of older products finding new life amid the coin craze. The Amplify Transformational Data Sharing ETF (BLOK), an actively-managed fund with stocks like MicroStrategy and PayPal Holdings Inc., attracted more than $711 million this year already, as its price has risen 30 per cent. A peer fund called the First Trust Indxx Innovative Transaction & Process ETF (LEGR), which invests in companies using or developing blockchain technology, is on pace for its best year of inflows yet.“There is a high demand for a Bitcoin product that has all the features that people love about ETFs -- that they trade on an exchange, that they’re liquid,” said Ross Mayfield, investment strategy analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co.Biggest Player YetInvesco is the largest fund manager yet to try the workaround tactic, with its Invesco Galaxy Blockchain Economy ETF and Invesco Galaxy Crypto Economy ETF, each holding about 85 per cent of their assets in crypto-linked equities and the rest in trusts and funds that hold cryptocurrencies.Two days before the Invesco filing, there was an application for the Volt Bitcoin Revolution ETF, which would include companies with Bitcoin exposure. At least 80 per cent of its assets will be in firms that either have Bitcoin on their balance sheet or are developing or using products within the crypto ecosystem, as well as options on those firms and ETFs that have exposure to them.More funds tracking the crypto industry -- instead of actual Bitcoin -- may debut in the coming months, as the SEC continues to voice concerns about the market. Recently, SEC Chairman Gary Gensler said the crypto sector could benefit from greater investor protection and has urged Congress to give the regulatory agency authority over trading venues.“My optimism on Bitcoin ETF approval has waned recently,” ETF Store’s Geraci said. “It’s hard to view Gensler’s comments on the current state of the Bitcoin and crypto ecosystem and feel optimistic about the prospects of a Bitcoin ETF anytime soon.”Even after a true Bitcoin ETF finally launches in US markets, these crypto-flavored funds could still have appeal, especially in a world obsessed with all things involving blockchain and digital tokens.“These Bitcoin-adjacent vehicles make sense for people who don’t want to deal with all the volatility of Bitcoin but want exposure,” said Amrita Nandakumar, president of Vident Investment Advisory. “It’s a solution that has popped up in response to the pent-up demand.”
Categories: Business News

Centre refutes 'speculative' report on death toll

13 hours 56 min ago
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Saturday informed that States and Union Territories record Covid-19 deaths as per guidance issued by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). In an official release, the ministry slammed a renowned international magazine for publishing an article that claimed that "India has suffered perhaps five to seven times 'excess deaths' than the official number of Covid-19 fatalities". The union health ministry said that the article was speculative article, is without any basis and seems to be misinformed. It added that the unsound analysis of the said article is based on the extrapolation of data without any epidemiological evidence. Studies which are used by the magazine as an estimate of excess mortality are not validated tools for determining the mortality rate of any country or region, the government said. "The so-called "evidence" cited by the magazine is a study supposedly done by Christopher Laffler of Virginia Commonwealth University. An internet search of research studies in scientific databases such as Pubmed, Research Gate, etc., did not locate this study and the detailed methodology of this study has not been provided by the magazine. "Another evidence given is the study done in Telangana based on insurance claims. Again, there is no peer-reviewed scientific data available on such a study," the statement said. "Two other studies relied upon are those done by Psephology groups namely "Prashnam" and "C-Voter" who are well versed in conducting, predicting and analyzing poll results. They were never ever associated with public health research. Even in their own area of work of psephology, their methodologies for predicting poll results have been wide off the mark many times," it said. By their own submission, the magazine states that "such estimates have been extrapolated from patchy and often unreliable local government data, from company records and from analyses of such things as obituaries", the statement said Stating that it has been transparent in its approach to Covid data management, the government said that as early as May 2020, to avoid inconsistency in the number of deaths being reported, the ICMR issued 'Guidance for the appropriate recording of COVID-19 related deaths in India' for correct recording of all deaths as per ICD-10 codes recommended by World Health Organisation (WHO) for mortality coding. States and UTs have been urged through formal communications, multiple video conferences and through the deployment of Central teams for correct recording of deaths in accordance with laid down guidelines. Union Health Ministry said that it has also regularly emphasized the need for a robust reporting mechanism for monitoring district-wise cases and deaths on a daily basis. States consistently reporting a lower number of daily deaths was told to re-check their data. A case in point is the Union Government writing to the State of Bihar to provide a detailed date and district-wise break-up of the reconciled number of deaths to the Union Health Ministry. As per the ministry's release, it's a well-known fact that there shall always be differences in mortality recorded during a profound and prolonged public health crisis such as Covid pandemic and well-conducted research studies on excess mortalities, usually done after the event when data on mortalities are available from reliable sources. The methodologies for such studies are well established, the data sources are defined as also the valid assumptions for computing mortality.
Categories: Business News

Goa govt extends COVID-19 curfew till June 21

13 hours 56 min ago
The Goa government on Saturday announced extension of the coronavirus-induced "curfew" in the state till June 21 with some more relaxations.Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said the curfew will be extended upto 7 am on June 21."Shops, including in panchayat and municipal markets, may open between 7 am to 3 pm. Marriage function with upto 50 persons have been permitted...," he said on Twitter late in the evening."Detailed order will be issued by District Collectors,” he said.Goa recorded 472 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, taking the caseload to 1,62,048. With 15 patients succumbing during the day, the death toll in the state reached 2,914.
Categories: Business News

The politics of austerity and its shortcomings

13 hours 56 min ago
Manohar Lal Khattar would have found a kindred soul in Charles Dickens’ Mr Micawber with regard to the latter’s famous advice on the virtues of thrift: ‘Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.’It was with a similarly laudable objective of good husbandry in mind that the Haryana CM took to task Arvind Kejriwal, for being too prodigal with the usage of anti-Covid vaccines in Delhi, saying, ‘Even we can administer 2 lakh jabs in one day and exhaust our stock. But… if we keep administering 50,000-60,000 doses to people daily, our work will keep going on.’The Delhi CM’s rejoinder to this, ‘My aim is not to save vaccines but to save people’s lives,’ revealed a lack of appreciation of the laws governing supply and demand in a country where chronic shortages, of not just vaccines but just about everything, are a norm. So, the mismatch between what is available and what is needed is best made up by tightening the belt of demand and not by loosening the purse strings of supply.An exemplary case in point is that of electricity. We can’t seem to produce — or efficiently distribute — enough of it, with the result that there are frequent unscheduled outages, despite claims regarding the progress made in rural electrification and the declaration of ‘power cut-free zones’. So, what’s our solution to this persistent problem? Not an increase in supply, but a deterrent to demand by imposing punitive changes on those who consume the most power — an inversion of the blithe belief that economies of scale result in a lowering of costs and prices, and not a raising of them.A similar principle of ‘less is more’ was evident in the ‘Miss a Meal Day’ that was promulgated in Calcutta in the 1960s. Every Monday, the residents of the city were enjoined by the authorities that, to eke out scant food supplies, it was their civic duty to eschew eating either lunch or dinner on the designated day of the week. To facilitate this programme of abstinence, restaurants and eateries had to have a special ‘Snacks Only’ menu to be served either for lunch or dinner.No one questioned this dietary diktat by asking why the food deficit, which supposedly was responsible for it, could not be made up both by increasing produce and ensuring that stockpiles in government godowns weren’t left to rot or be eaten by rats and other vermin.Nor did anyone in authority address the point as to how a ‘Snacks Only’ policy for a single meal could significantly restrict calorific intake. No specifics were given as to the quantity of ‘titbits’ that could be ordered, thus enabling a customer to follow Marie Antoinette’s injunction and eat lots of cake, not to mention samosas and sandwiches, in the absence of daal-roti.Ever since Sarojini Naidu — referring to Mohandas Gandhi’s insistence on travelling in third class on trains and so making it mandatory for his security to have an entire coach reserved for him — remarked that it cost the taxpayer a lot to keep Bapu in the frugality he was accustomed to, conspicuous, and competitive, austerity has been the shambolic mantra of our polity.Khattar’s statement that by vaccinating fewer people than Delhi was doing, he was ensuring that ‘our work will keep going on’ is a reprise of Indira Gandhi’s strident sloganeering of ‘Garibi hatao!’ subsequently paraphrased by different dispensations. While the garibi, like a recalcitrant squatter, refuses to be evicted from the vote-bank premises it continues to occupy.For if garibi were indeed to be hataoed — and all shortages, be they of vaccines or of food, or anything else, eliminated — there would be no further need of the proponents of what some would call use-less policies, and others term merely useless.
Categories: Business News

IAS: Losing the swagger in the corridors of power

June 12, 2021 - 11:25pm
Last month, the Government of India appointed 20 joint secretaries (JS) in various ministries, in which the majority — 12 to be precise — belonged to services other than the elite Indian Administrative Service (IAS). The new entrants included three officers from the income-tax department, three from the railways, two from the central secretariat service and one each from postal, audit and accounts, civil accounts and ordnance factories services, all considered rank and file in the hierarchy of Indian civil services. This is not a new trend. But the pattern has become so consistent since 2017-18 that IAS officers holding critical JS rank have now become a minority in almost all central government offices. According to data available with the department of personnel and training (DoPT), IAS officers in the rank of a GoI joint secretary are only one -third, a dramatic fall from five years ago when almost all posts of JS and above were unofficially reserved for the prestigious cadre. A JS in GoI is a senior officer with a mandatory experience of 16 years, a post deemed important because of the power and independence it wields. Plus, it is a stepping stone to the upper echelons of civil services: additional secretary and secretary. “IAS is no longer a premier service,” says a serving additional chief secretary-ranked IAS officer, requesting anonymity. “Other services have lobbied far too well. The Seventh Central Pay Commission has damaged us a lot, both in terms of pay and seniority,” he adds, referring to its refusal to accept the IAS’ demand for faster promotion. The outcome is clear. The “IAS lobby” is on the wane, losing its swagger and power, and the political establishment at the Centre does not seem to be unhappy about it. Small wonder that when Alapan Bandyopadhyay, a 1987 batch IAS officer and the then chief secretary of West Bengal, was in the dock recently for failing to attend PM Narendra Modi’s review meeting regarding Cyclone Yaas, none of his comrades in the service, not even his batchmates, made any backroom bid to rescue him, say officials in the know. Bandyopadhyay has been served a notice under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and if the case is doggedly pursued and the officer’s explanation not found satisfactory, he could end up in jail for a year, a harsh punishment for any officer of such seniority. It will, however, be wrong to claim that IAS, a legacy of the British-era Indian Civil Service (ICS), has lost its sheen entirely. Even today, most of the 90 GoI secretaries are IAS officers, barring those in a few specialised ministries and departments such as science and technology, space and external affairs (the last is always an IFS officer). As on March 24, the actual strength of IAS and IPS officers, excluding those from state services and promoted later, were 3,719 and 2,992 respectively, with IAS having 942 vacant posts, according to a reply to a Lok Sabha question. ET spoke to half a dozen serving IAS officers, two officers belonging to other central services and a few retired bureaucrats to outline the emerging trends in the premier civil service. First, a unique situation has arisen where the secretary of a GoI ministry is still an IAS officer, but the majority of joint secretaries hails from diverse backgrounds like tax collection and ordnance factories and have little experience of working in state civil departments. “IAS officers as joint secretary have a clear advantage over others in almost all ministries, barring a few such as defence, civil aviation, commerce and industry that don’t need to deal much with states,” says Satyananda Mishra, former DoPT secretary. “Let’s be honest, when a joint secretary, who is an income-tax officer, calls up a senior state officer, who will invariably be an IAS, the response is likely to be far less enthusiastic,” he adds. VK Yadav, a former railway board chairman who belonged to the Indian Railway Service of Electrical Engineers (IRSEE), disagrees: “Railway officers are well-trained to meet any challenge. That’s why they excel when they join any ministry on deputation. Also, they bring back the experiences to the railways.” The second trend has been the Centre’s tightening of norms for empanelment under the “360 degree” evaluation process since 2015. (Empanelment refers to preparing a list of officers for positions under the Central Staffing Scheme at the level of joint secretary and above.) Unlike in the past when 70-80% of a particular IAS batch got empanelled, the share has slipped to 45-50%, says an officer who has recently managed to scrape through the process. The selection process has become more inclusive but it is also somewhat opaque, as the review allows an expert panel to independently verify the credentials, integrity and, some allege, the ideology of an applicant beyond what the boss has written in the appraisal papers, better known as ARC (annual confidential report). A railway officer, requesting anonymity, asks: “Why should the entire administration be left to the whims and fancies of one service? The government is empanelling a smaller number of IAS officers to accommodate more from other services. The government is right as it is breaking the IAS monopoly.” No government functionary wants to come on record, but many say the present political establishment does not want to hand over the reins to only one service. Third, there is a genuine shortage of mid-career IAS officers because of fewer number of recruitments in the past as well as a growing reluctance among officials to come to Delhi. In the mid-1990s, the government’s focus on downsizing its operations had resulted in at least half a dozen smaller IAS batches, with just 50-60 recruits, as against 180 now. Its fallout is felt currently when officers of those batches are eligible for a JS posting. “In 1972, our batch had 112 IAS officers. In the late 1990s, the intake got reduced to 50-60. That has its impact now. Also, many IAS officers nowadays simply don’t want to join the central government. Many say they are finding Delhi not so conducive,” says GK Pillai, who retired as Union home secretary in 2011, after serving at the Centre and in his home state, Kerala. Fourth, the clout of IAS could diminish further if officers from other services fast-track their empanelment process. This depends, among others, on how proactive the cadre-controlling authorities are; for instance, the Department of Revenue controls the cadre of the Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise) officers. As of now, 1999 batch IRS (C&CE) officers are empanelled for joint secretary as against 2004 batch IAS officers — a gap of five years. When more and more young non-IAS officers become joint secretaries, there will always be a greater probability of their moving up to the next level. Since the government seems to have put in the deep freeze its experiment with lateral entry for joint secretaries, IAS officers won’t have to face an avalanche of private CEOs in the corridors of power, but the challenge from officers in other services is real. On the debate of deputation of IAS versus non-IAS officers, former cabinet secretary, KM Chandrasekhar, tells ET, “I have always held the view that public administration is a specialised skill and that anyone picked up from outside the system cannot make any significant impact.” Should the IAS or any other service be protected? “What happens to a section of officers of any service is less important than the transformation of administration into a results-oriented system,” he says, giving the example of UK and Australia’s corporatestyle, customer-centric New Public Management.
Categories: Business News

UP gets Rs 10,870 cr for Jal Jeevan Mission

June 12, 2021 - 11:25pm
The Centre has allocated Rs 10,870 crore to Uttar Pradesh under Jal Jeevan Mission in 2021-22 as the state government looks to provide 7.8 million piped water connections across 60,000 villages this year ahead of the assembly polls next year.The central allocation for the mission has been increased to Rs 10,870.50 crore from Rs 2,571 crore last fiscal and Rs 1,206 crore in 2019-20.Work under the Jal Jeevan Mission will begin in 60,000 villages in the coming days, people aware of the development said. The government will provide tap water supply in 177 arsenic and fluoride-affected habitations this year, they said. There are 26.3 million households across about 97,000 villages in the state. Out of these, only about three million, or 11.3%, households have tap water supply in their homes at present.In the last 21 months, the state has provided tap water supply to 2.49 million (9.45%) households. Despite this, there are about 23.3 million households without tap water supply in Uttar Pradesh.The state had assured availability of Rs 3,348 crore of central fund for the Jal Jeevan Mission last fiscal year, including enhanced allocation of Rs 2,571crore and opening balance of Rs 777 crore. It could utilize only Rs 2,053 crore from this fund. Union Jal Shakti minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat has written a letter to UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, urging him to take necessary measures to accelerate the implementation of the mission.
Categories: Business News

View: Athletes show us work is more important than age

June 12, 2021 - 11:25pm
By the time you read this, James Anderson will have played more Test matches than any English cricketer in the history of the game. Sachin Tendulkar finished on 200 — top of the list. But he began when he was 16, and there was no question of him being dropped, or rotated, or rested against his will.The next closest are Ricky Ponting, a batting prodigy, who racked up 168 appearances, and Steve Waugh, on the same number. Jacques Kallis (166), and two dour specialists, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Rahul Dravid, come in at 164.Anderson may not get to 200, but he will go past the rest, because he is still at the top of his game at 38 years 11 months 47 days (today) and counting. He is fit, strong, and valued by the country he plays for.Only days ago, Darren Stevens, the 45-year-old Kent cricketer scored 190 in 149 balls, and then picked up crucial wickets in his team’s match against Glamorgan. He was the oldest man to score a first class hundred in England in 35 years. In the aftermath of the match, his county offered him a contract for the next season, something that typically does not happen till the end of the ongoing season.It’s easy to dismiss these developments with the usual clichés: life begins at 40; be naughty after 40; age is just a number. But what professional sport is showing us is that the work you do is more important than the age in which you do it.When Pravin Tambe played for the Rajasthan Royals in 2013, he was already 41. He had not played first class cricket. After his IPL heroics, he played for Mumbai, the toughest domestic team to get into, in the Ranji Trophy. Today, he is still at it, plying his trade in T20 tournaments around the world.When you look at most sporting disciplines — chess, cue-ball sports aside — 40 is a bridge too far, when it comes to age.But equally, in India, we are at a crossroads. The level of competition is so high, and the space for coaches to train wards so low, that if you haven’t cut your teeth in competitive sport at a really early age, you will not be let in.My son is nearly 10, and while he likes to kick a football around with friends, he has not been able to do this in Covidian times. He took to badminton in a proper training camp. But that has been since shut down. With both his parents being cricket journalists, it was not surprising that he couldn’t be bothered with the bat and ball game.Pointedly, at 10, he is too old already to get into organised cricket in India. He has missed the bus, so to say. But the other end of the Covid-19 spectrum has been the lengthening of careers for those already in the mix. Which reminded me of a far more physically demanding sport than cricket.NBA basketballer Reggie Miller, of the Indiana Pacers, played 18 seasons for the team, and was 39 when he finished. He then held the record for the most 3-point field goals made. More importantly, he made these shots in clutch time, under extreme pressure. Running up and down a basketball court in the course of an NBA game demands fitness that Tambe, and likely even Anderson, cannot match. And now you have skin fold tests and bleep tests and several similar measures that will allow you to even qualify for a team.While times have changed, and the demands on fitness and youth must keep up, it’s becoming clear that health and strength are no longer the preserve of youth. As for skills and perspective, let’s not go down that route. That may be a bridge too far.Views are personal
Categories: Business News

Pandemic losses: The year dreams went to die

June 12, 2021 - 11:25pm
When Namitha MS got accepted to a college in Pune for her MBA in 2020, she was over the moon. This was her chance to leave behind Bengaluru, the city where she has lived all her 23 years, and have a host of novel experiences such as living in a hostel — a rite of passage for many. A year on, that experience remains out of reach, thanks to the pandemic.Since Covid-19 began making its way across the globe, millions have gone through a multitude of such lost opportunities. “Over the last year, my therapy practice has just been about these types of stories: people having lost out on opportunities, seeing their plans change,” says Pallavi Arora, a counselling psychologist in Gurgaon.In the face of the devastating loss of life and livelihood caused by the pandemic, it is tempting to dismiss the loss of the chance to take up a new job or missing a family milestone event, but psychologists say it is important to identify and acknowledge our personal losses, and not minimise them. “Be very mindful of when you start to dismiss your own pain because someone else’s seems greater,” says Arora. One thing she does with many of her clients is to help them identify and acknowledge their losses. “I think that’s something all of us need to do — to really take stock of how much our life has been disrupted and what exactly we’ve lost.”Here are the stories of a few such lost opportunities over the past one year — giving up on an Olympic dream, shelving a startup venture, missing the birth of a grandchild — and the coping mechanisms that have helped people come to terms with these.Gave up on an Olympic dreamVirdhawal Khade, 30 SwimmerSwimmer Virdhawal Khade was desperate to return to the pool. The bronze medallist of the 2010 Asian Games had set his sights on the Tokyo Olympics — but the pools in Maharashtra were shut for eight long months last year, his training was suspended and his hopes of competing in the Games kept dashing against the walls.Khade had clocked 22.4 seconds in men’s 50 m freestyle at a qualifying event in 2019 — it was a national record and a B qualification for the Games, but it doesn’t guarantee a berth. He was hopeful of making the A qualification mark of 22.01 seconds, which gives a direct entry to the Olympics.Then the pandemic struck. The lockdown followed. Khade tried to stay fit. “I made sure I did not put on an extra gram of weight. But it wasn’t the same.” Finally, with no inkling of when pools would reopen, the 30-year-old took a difficult decision. He would stop thinking about the sport that had consumed his life, take a break and focus on his family and his day job as a tehsildar, even if that meant giving Tokyo a miss.Once he made up his mind, he says, he felt at peace. “I swim because I love competition. Without a goal, I find it difficult to motivate myself. I was getting frustrated every single day, till I finally decided to take a break.” Key to his coping strategy was Thor, the Lhasa Apso pup that he and his wife adopted in the lockdown.With pools closed once again in the second wave, Khade has no regrets about what he has given up. But he worries about the sport: “Everyone says Indian swimmers aren’t as good as others. We had been trying to catch up for years. Now it will take us a couple of years to make up for this lost time.” 83465547Birth Pangs Usha Murthy, 62 RetireeUsha Murthy knows exactly what she will do when she finally gets to meet her newborn grandson. “I will run to him, hold him, cuddle him and kiss him.” She has it down pat, for that’s all she has been dreaming about for months. Her husband, she jokes, has been saying how he wishes he had wings to fly to The Netherlands from Bengaluru and see their first grandchild, whose birth they were forced to miss because of the pandemic.It was a trip they had been planning ever since they learnt in April 2020 that their daughter was expecting. They hoped the situation would improve close to the delivery. “But everything went palat-palat (upside down),” she says. The first couple of months after her daughter’s delivery were particularly trying for Murthy, 62. “I couldn’t sleep at night. Sometimes, I used to cry, thinking how they had to manage alone,” she says. The daily video calls help but it’s not the same. “We are really missing out on those first few months.”Meanwhile, she and her husband have got vaccinated and are planning to buy a mini sherwani to gift the child, whenever they meet. “Now we just need the visa office to open,” she says. 83465567MBA from the bedroomNamitha MS, 24 StudentFor Namitha MS, doing her MBA was never about the degree alone. The two-year course at a reputed institute in Pune was to be her ticket out of Bengaluru, where she has spent all her life, a chance to experience hostel life, have roommates and stay up all night with friends. But the pandemic and consecutive lockdowns have meant doing half of her master’s online, locked down with her parents at home.“I was mentally prepared to go to campus in September but that kept getting pushed,” says Namitha. Now, she and her classmates are wondering if it might be 2022 by the time they finally meet. “If I had any idea 2020 would be like this, I wouldn’t have written the exam. An MBA is not just about what your lecturers teach you, it’s about what you learn from your peers, about networking.”Still, she has been able to make new friends, attend lectures and even become part of clubs online. But what she is missing the most, she says, are the simple pleasures of college life. “I never thought I’d say this but I miss sitting in class... things like sitting on the backbench, sharing food while a class is on.” 83465597Stuck at home Shibumi Raje, 32 LawyerIn her seven hectic years as a lawyer, the longest break Shibumi Raje had managed stretched to all of two weeks and three weekends. That was set to change from October 2019, when Raje quit her job for an 8-to-10-month sabbatical, which was to be interspersed with long stretches of travel. March was to be spent in Japan in time for sakura season, with her mother. The next couple of months would be split between US and Europe, including a solo trip to Slovenia. This was also to be a time to reflect on her career, relocate from Bengaluru to Mumbai and spend time with family.Raje , 32 , has checked just two things: move to Mumbai and spend time with family. Back in March 2020, once she knew she would have to cancel all her bookings, a rollercoaster of disappointment and anger followed. What helped her come to terms with it was that the rest of the world, too, had come to a standstill. That and the fact that she was privileged enough to isolate safely with enough savings.When the world reopens, Raje knows she will be able to travel, but it won’t be the way she had planned. “The slow, immersive travel is a missed opportunity. Another sabbatical is not feasible in the immediate future,” she says. 83465616Startup shutdown Shreya Jha, 42 Marketing professionalAt the end of May, Shreya Jha made a final call to her developer and decided to pull the plug on her startup’s website. There was little choice — the server costs were adding up for the website of a business that was never launched. “It felt like I was letting go of little parts of me,” says the 42-year-old marketing professional.It wasn’t meant to be like this. After 16 years in marketing, Jha had gone to Barcelona for a master’s in high-tech entrepreneurship. That’s where the seed of a startup was planted — Find a Buddy, a platform for people to meet for offline activities. On returning to Mumbai, she began working on her venture in right earnest, investing all her time, effort and money. The launch was slated for March 2020. By then, Covid-19 had brought the world to a standstill.At first, Jha thought of putting Find A Buddy on hold for a few months. But even as restrictions eased, the contagious virus brought into question the very premise of the platform, which would involve meeting strangers. Now, after a year of waiting and with nearly all her savings exhausted, Jha is looking for a corporate job to return to.“It was bad luck,” she says. Having gone all-in for an idea she was passionate about, giving it up was difficult. However, the same pandemic that tore apart her plans has also helped her see her loss in perspective. “I’ve lost so many people close to me. It has been easier to accept the loss of the business because at least you can eventually pick it up.” 83465663Missing the right noteRuth Isaia, 18 StudentHaving sung in choirs since she was in second grade, it was not surprising that Ruth Isaiah chose music as one of her majors for her undergraduate degree. But singing in a choir where you blend your voices, practise harmony and learn from each other is a world away from doing it online. “It’s unnerving because you have to unmute one by one on a video call and sing. It takes all the fun out of it,” says the 18-year-old.With lockdown succeeding lockdown, it’s one of the many things about first year in college that Isaiah has had to miss out on. “I had seen pictures of the campus and was looking forward to being there, meeting people, using the recording studio. There’s also a choir concert every year with choirs from different institutes, but this year that was also online,” she says.The one silver lining, she says, is how well her class has managed to get along with one another, despite never having met in real life. “We gelled well from Day 1, with everyone spamming the WhatsApp groups with memes — maybe because everyone was desperate to meet people!”With no clarity yet on on-campus classes, Isaiah is not making any plans. “I’ll have to get used to not attending classes in pyjamas,” she chuckles. “But I’m looking forward to it.” 83465714
Categories: Business News

PhonePe goes to Sebi against Ventureast

June 12, 2021 - 8:25pm
PhonePe on Saturday said it has filed a formal complaint with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) against early-stage investment fund Ventureast and its top officials. The complaint’s main premise is that Ventureast, an investor in homegrown content discovery platform Indus OS, did "side dealings" with Affle Global "deliberately" in a "bad faith attempt to scuttle" PhonePe’s acquisition of Indus OS. Affle is also a minority investor in Indus OS, which has objected to the deal.PhonePe said its complaint to the market regulator has highlighted "serious misrepresentations, including a series of unethical and bad faith actions, as well as potentially illegal actions, that have been and are being continually undertaken by the managing partner, general partner and principal of Ventureast involved with this transaction."PhonePe’s complaint with Sebi against Ventureast follows allegations that Ventureast sold its stake in IndusOS to Affle, giving it nearly 23% stake while the terms were already agreed for an acquisition by PhonePe."As founders, we are always held to the highest standards of legal and ethical integrity by our investors. But these standards should apply to investors in startups too. I believe in this case, VPF (Ventureast Proactive Fund-II) has not only broken Sebi’s code of conduct, but it has also acted in complete negligence of its fiduciary duties as a large shareholder of Indus OS. By deliberately derailing PhonePe’s acquisition of IndusOS, a deal which all three OS Labs founders continue to also believe is in their company’s best long-term interests, VPF has also hurt OSLabs’ long term interests,” PhonePe’s cofounder Sameer Nigam said in a statement.“We believe it’s important to expose such unethical conduct by VPF for the sake of the larger startup ecosystem. We have a very strong case and are confident that we will prevail on both fronts, and hopefully in the process also create a strong deterrent against bad actors trying to bully young startups.”ET has exclusively reported how PhonePe’s seemingly straightforward deal to acquire Indus OS for $60 million has run into trouble after Affle objected to the deal. Affle has sued Indus OS and PhonePe in a Singapore court seeking an injunction over the proposed acquisition. In reaction, PhonePe has also filed a counter lawsuit against Affle as well as Ventureast. ET reported earlier this month that Indus OS, which wants to close the deal with PhonePe, has also moved a petition against Affle in a Singapore court.Over the past few weeks, ET has reported about the legal tangle over the takeover. PhonePe was in the final stages of closing its acquisition of Indus OS but Affle Global had sought an injunction in the Singapore court on the deal and said it had the right of first refusal against the sale of the founders’ stake to PhonePe. Indus OS had told ET earlier that its founders and board members had signed a term sheet to sell a significant majority in the company to PhonePe. According to the initial plan, PhonePe was looking to buy over 90% in Indus OS. The latest developments would have a direct impact on this plan but PhonePe, meanwhile, has secured two board seats in Indus OS as it bought over 30% in the company from earlier investors like Omidyar Network, JSW Ventures and others. Affle Global has previously told ET that it has invested over $20 million, so far, in Indus OS and owns a 20% stake, valuing the startup at $90 million. This is another point of conflict as PhonePe has valued Indus OS at $60 million.Indus OS was started in 2015 by three IIT alumni - Rakesh Deshmukh, Akash Dongre and Sudhir Bangarambandi. The company operates a local Android app store called Indus App Bazaar, which offers apps and content in over a dozen Indian languages. The company said it hosts more than 400,000 apps and caters to over 100 million users across India.Through this acquisition, PhonePe’s plan is to bring a wider array of apps on its platform through in-app integrations. If it happens, this would be PhonePe’s second acquisition after it bought point-of-sale startup Zopper in 2018.Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd (BCCL), the publisher of Economic Times, is an investor in Affle Holdings Pte Ltd, which owns Affle Global.
Categories: Business News

Bharat Biotech shares full research data of Covaxin

June 12, 2021 - 8:25pm
India's first indigenous COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer- Bharat Biotech on Saturday shared comprehensive data of all research studies of Covaxin. As per the company release, the complete data for Phase I and II, and partial data for Phase III trials of Covaxin have been thoroughly scrutinised by the regulators in India.Covaxin, a whole-virion inactivated coronavirus vaccine, is the first and only product to have published any data from human clinical trials in India, Bharat Biotech said.The full data from studies on Covaxin’s neutralisation of variants are already published at bioRxiv, Clinical Infectious Diseases, and Journal of Travel Medicine, the release addedIt is the first and only product to have published any data from human clinical trials in India. Covaxin is the only product to have any data on emerging variants and it is also the first and only COVID-19 vaccine to have efficacy data in Indian populations, Bharat Biotech said in a statement. In vaccine development, preclinical studies involve the testing of vaccine candidates in laboratory animals."The published studies are widely cited for the rigour and breadth that Bharat Biotech brings to its clinical trials. Currently, data from both efficacy and safety follow-up of Covaxin's Phase III trial is being analyzed and compiled. Upholding its uncompromising commitment to integrity, the company will make Phase III trials data from the final analysis public soon," read the statement. India had begun its COVID-19 vaccination drive on January 16, 2021, with two vaccines- Covaxin and Serum Insitute of India's Covishield.The company said that the full data from studies on Covaxin's neutralization of variants are already published at "bioRxiv", Clinical Infectious Diseases, and Journal of Travel Medicine. "The study on the neutralisation of Beta and Delta variants (B.1.351 and B.1.617.2 respectively) and the study on B1.1.28 variant, at Journal of Travel Medicine, while the studies on B.1.617 variant and Alpha variant (B.1.1.7) are published at Clinical Infectious Disease, and Journal of Travel Medicine respectively," it said.Bharat Biotech completed three preclinical studies, which are published in Cellpress, a peer-reviewed journal. The studies on Covaxin's Phase I (done to assess a vaccine's safety, immune response and to determine right dosage), and Phase II clinical trial (carried out to assess the safety and the ability of the vaccine to generate an immune response) are published by the peer-reviewed journal- the "Lancet-Infectious Diseases", read the statement.(With Agency inputs)
Categories: Business News

NITI CEO outlines a post pandemic business plan

June 12, 2021 - 8:25pm
It will not be business as usual after the COVID-19 pandemic and we need to bring more "simplicity" in the ease of doing business by doing away with the current maze of rules, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said here on Saturday. He was speaking to reporters after visiting the Aurangabad Industrial City and Marathwada Auto Cluster at Waluj.To a question about proposed reforms after the pandemic, Kant said, "It is very clear that business will not run as usual after the pandemic. We need to bring reforms as much as we can, after COVID. "We have made many rules, regulations and procedures. By removing them, we need to bring more simplicity to ease of doing business," he added. The country also needs to "grow the technology and leapfrog along with it", Kant said, adding that the Union government is working in this direction. Talking about Aurangabad and the surrounding areas, he said this part of central Maharashtra needs a regional master plan for development with consideration for possible growth in the next 25 years. "This area has a potential and can come up as one of the fastest growing region in the country from the tourism and industry point of view," he said.
Categories: Business News

Just how far would Trump administration go?

June 12, 2021 - 8:25pm
Former President Donald Trump has made no secret of his long list of political enemies. It just wasn't clear until now how far he would go to try to punish them.Two House Democrats disclosed this week that their smartphone data was secretly obtained by the Trump Justice Department as part of an effort to uncover the source of leaks related to the investigation of Russian-related election interference.It was a stunning revelation that one branch of government was using its power to gather private information on another, a move that carried echoes of President Richard Nixon during Watergate.On Friday, the Justice Department's internal watchdog announced that it was investigating the records seizure.And Democratic leaders in Congress are demanding that former top Justice officials testify before a Senate committee to explain why the iPhone records of Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both Democrats, and their family members were secretly subpoenaed in 2018. The records of at least 12 people were eventually shared by Apple.The dispute showed that the rancorous partisan fights that coursed through the Trump presidency continue to play out in new and potentially damaging ways even as the Biden administration has worked to put those turbulent four years in the past.White House spokesman Andrew Bates said the conduct of Trump's Justice Department was a shocking misuse of authority.“Attorneys general's only loyalty should be to the rule of law - never to politics,” he said.The disclosure that the records had been seized raised a number of troubling questions. Who else may have been targeted? What was the legal justification to target members of Congress? Why did Apple, a company that prides itself on user privacy, hand over the records? And what end was the Trump Justice Department pursuing?The revelations also are forcing the Biden Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland to wade back into a fight with their predecessors.“The question here is just how did Trump use his political power to go after his enemies - how did he use the government for his political benefit,” said Kathleen Clark, legal ethics scholar at Washington University in St. Louis.The effort to obtain the data came as Trump was publicly and privately fuming over investigations by Congress and then-special counsel Robert Mueller into his 2016 campaign's ties to Russia.Trump inveighed against leaks throughout his time in office, accusing a “deep state" of working to undermine him by sharing unflattering information.He repeatedly called on his Justice Department and attorneys general to “go after the leakers,” including singling out former FBI Director James Comey and Schiff, now chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.In May of 2018, he tweeted that reports of leaks in his White House were exaggerated, but said that nonetheless, “leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!”Schiff and Swalwell were two of the most visible Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, then led by Republicans, during the Russia inquiry.Both California lawmakers made frequent appearances on cable news shows. Trump watched those channels closely and seethed over the coverage.There's no indication that the Justice Department used the records to prosecute anyone.After some of the leaked information was declassified and made public during the later years of the Trump administration, there was concern among some of the prosecutors that even if they could bring a leak case, trying it would be difficult and a conviction would be unlikely, one person told The Associated Press.That person, a committee official and a third person with knowledge of the data seizures were granted anonymity to discuss them.Federal agents questioned at least one former committee staff member in 2020, the person said, and ultimately, prosecutors weren't able to substantiate a case.For decades, the Justice Department had worked to maintain strict barriers with the White House to avoid being used as a political tool to address a president's personal grievance.For some, the Trump administration's effort is more disturbing than Nixon's actions during Watergate that forced his resignation.Nixon's were done in secret out of the White House, while the Trump administration moves to take the congressmen's records were approved by top Justice Department officials and worked on by prosecutors, who obtained secret subpoenas from a federal judge and then gag orders to keep them quiet.“The fate of Richard Nixon had a restraining effect on political corruption in America,” said Timothy Naftali, a Nixon scholar and former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.“It didn't last forever, but the Republican Party wanted to cleanse itself of Nixon's bad apples and bad actors.”The Republican Party is far too aligned with Trump to do that now, but it doesn't mean Biden should let it go, Naftali said.“The reason to do this is not revenge,” Naftali said. “It's to send a signal to future American lawyers they will be held accountable.”While the Justice Department routinely conducts investigations of leaked information, including classified intelligence, opening such an investigation into members of Congress is extraordinarily rare.A less rare but still uncommon tool is to secretly seize reporters' phone records, something the Trump Justice Department also did.Following an outcry from press freedom organizations, Garland announced last week that it would cease the practice of going after journalists' sourcing information.The subpoenas were issued in 2018, when Jeff Sessions was attorney general, though he had recused himself in the Russia investigation, putting his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, in charge of Russia-related matters. The investigation later picked up momentum again under Attorney General William Barr.Apple informed the committee last month that the records had been shared and that the investigation had been closed, but did not give extensive detail.Also seized were the records of aides, former aides and family members, one of them a minor, according to the committee official.The Justice Department obtained metadata - probably records of calls, texts and locations - but not other content from the devices, like photos, messages or emails, according to one of the people.Another said that Apple complied with the subpoena, providing the information to the Justice Department, and did not immediately notify the members of Congress or the committee about the disclosure.And the people whose records were seized were unable to challenge the Justice Department because the subpoenas went to Apple directly.The gag order was renewed three times before it lapsed and the company informed its customers May 5 what had happened.Apple said in a statement that it couldn't even challenge the warrants because it had so little information available and “it would have been virtually impossible for Apple to understand the intent of the desired information without digging through users' accounts.”Patrick Toomey, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the seizure of congressional records was part of a series of Trump-era investigations that “raise profound civil liberties concerns and involve spying powers that have no place in our democracy.”
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