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SUVs rule the roads with 48.5% market share in May

June 19, 2021 - 8:45am
More than one out of every three passenger vehicles sold in the local market is now an SUV, as Indian consumers increasingly opt for sporty, multipurpose personal vehicles that they can drive to office every day and take on long family leisure trips.Industry estimates put the number of SUVs sold in the first five months of this year at nearly half a million, compared with 707,000 units in the 12 months of 2020. This has raised the share of SUVs in India’s passenger vehicle sales to 35% from 29% last year. The segment’s share was as much as 48.5% in May, but industry insiders don’t see it as a true picture of the market as much of the country was in lockdown last month due to the second Covid wave. 83654899While passenger vehicle sales picked up quickly after the nationwide lockdown last year, the gains were faster in the SUV segment, continuing the trend in shifting consumer preference towards these more spacious vehicles with higher ground clearance that are more comfortable in Indian conditions.“India is at the cusp of an SUV revolution,” said Tarun Garg, director of sales and marketing at Hyundai Motor India. “The contribution of SUVs to overall PV (passenger vehicle) sales is only going to grow going ahead.”At Hyundai, SUVs now account for 45% of total India sales compared with just 9% in 2015 and the manufacturer of the Creta and Venue SUVs expects this to increase as the market recovers from the disruptions caused by Covid.The local unit of the Korean automaker has already received 4,000 bookings for the Alcazar SUV it launched on Friday. Alcazar, priced at Rs 16.30-19.99 lakh, is the fourth major SUV launch by automakers in India since January and the latest of a dozen planned for this year. The mainstream passenger car segment, meanwhile, hasn’t seen any major launch this year, indicating the changing focus of the automakers as well to the SUV space.Hyundai is the SUV market leader in India. It had a share of more than 23% during January-May 2021. At Maruti Suzuki — which also has multipurpose vehicles in its portfolio and dominates the overall utility vehicle market in the country — the market share of the entry SUV Vitara Brezza has increased 2.9 percentage points in April-May 2021, said executive director Shashank Srivastava.A higher number of product offerings, competitive pricing and better fuel efficiency have been fuelling the demand for utility vehicles, he said, adding that the number of models in the entry SUV segment had increased to 15 now from just two in fiscal 2012. “There are more choices for the customer, especially in the entry SUV segment at aggressive prices,” Srivastava said.In the luxury segment, Mercedes-Benz has seen a sharp spike in sales of SUVs. The company has sold out the 50 units of the GLS-Maybach allocated for India this year and has started taking orders for next year. “In the luxury segment, personal use always remained the primary reason for vehicle purchase and more customers prefer travelling intercities in their SUVs together with their families for comfort and security reasons,” said Martin Schwenk, managing director at Mercedes-Benz India. VG Ramakrishnan, managing partner at consultancy firm Avanteum Partners, said the share of SUVs in PV sales had been on the rise, and the pandemic had only quickened it.
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India's sprint icon Milkha Singh passes away

June 19, 2021 - 2:45am
Indian sprint legend Milkha Singh died on Friday after a month-long battle with COVID-19, during which he lost his former national volleyball captain wife Nirmal Kaur to the same ailment. The Padma Shri awardee was 91 and is survived by his golfer son Jeev Milkha Singh and three daughters. "He breathed his last at 11.30pm," a family spokesperson told . His condition turned critical this evening as he developed complications, including fever and dipping oxygen saturation levels, after a bout with COVID-19, in the Intensive Care Unit of the PGIMER hospital here. He had contracted COVID-19 last month and tested negative for the virus on Wednesday when he was shifted to general ICU in another block of the hospital. Milkha had been "stable" before Thursday evening. Milkha's 85-year-old wife Nirmal, who had also been infected by the virus, passed away at a private hospital in Mohali on Sunday. Milkha was admitted to PGIMER on June 3 after his oxygen levels dipped at home following treatment at the Fortis hospital in Mohali for a week. The legendary athlete is a four-time Asian Games gold medallist and the 1958 Commonwealth Games champion but his greatest performance remains the fourth-place finish in the 400m final of the 1960 Rome Olympics. He also represented India in the 1956 and 1964 Olympics and was bestowed the Padma Shri in 1959.
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Indians’ love for Ludo endures amid Covid

June 19, 2021 - 2:45am
Hyder Jung Hearsey was a colourful figure in the East India Company years. The son of a British officer and his Indian mistress, he fought with both Marathas and British, married the daughter of a deposed Prince of Cambay, had several other wives, earned a jagir near Bareilly and took part in map making expeditions in the Himalayas.Along the way, according to Richard Holmes, in Sahib, his history of British soldiers in India, Hearsey found time to have “a board for the game of Pacheesi (Indian Ludo) tattooed on his stomach so that his wives could enjoy a game while he relaxed or, indeed, recovered.” This is an even more intimate identification of Ludo with Indian history than the other famous example of the Mughal emperor Akbar playing the game with women from his harem as live tokens on boards inlaid into the floors of his palaces in Agra and Fatehpur Sikri.Ludo’s recent appearance in an appeal to the Bombay High Court over the question of whether it was a game of skill or chance underlines it’s enduring role in Indian culture. It falls into a category known as cross-and-circle games, where the aim is to race to finish a circuit of the board. These have been found across the world, but Ludo is clearly descended from the most common Indian variation of these, known as Pacheesi, for the highest score of 25 points that could be thrown with cowrie shells or numbered sticks used to control play.Dice take their place today, and their use might seem clearly to identify Ludo as a game of chance. That is what a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena politician asserts, adding that people now use online versions to play for real money. But a lower court magistrate rejected this case, declaring Ludo a game of skill, presumably because the point of the game is to manage your chances, deciding how to advance your tokens in answer to what the dice brings you, and thus achieve a win.If Ludo was only a game of chance it would appeal to the smaller group of those addicted to the thrill of taking pure chances; most people prefer the element of control that comes with choosing how to play their tokens. At the same time, it isn’t only about skill, like chess, which may have evolved from Pacheesi, perhaps because, as Trevor Donovan suggests in It’s All a Game, his history of board games, religious leaders were suspicious of the chance element, and pushed it towards pure strategy. Buddhism in particular, which preaches escaping the ties of the world, may have disdained a game that mimics the challenges of life.Whatever the reservations of some, there’s little doubting the wider popularity of the game. In RG Singh, HS Dharmendra and CR Dileep Kumar’s beautifully illustrated guide to traditional Indian board games, they point to the ubiquitous appearance of Pacheesi boards scratched into the stones of both big temples and small village shrines, centres for local life where people would gather and play: “Sometimes it appears that some games emulate sacred temple rituals in the ritual of play.” Circling the board could represent the parikrama or ritual circling of a shrine.Singh and his co-authors suggest games were spread across India by “traveling guilds of craftsmen, secular bards and religious minstrels, invading armies (whose soldiers took back memories of games played on figures drawn on sand) sailors and merchants…” The last were particular enthusiasts for games that sharpened skills at estimating chances and taking risks, and adding monetary stakes was a natural extension. The importance of gambling in merchant communities is well documented, most famously and in this season, with the rain gamblers of Bombay, who wagered on the levels noted in the Meteorological Department’s rain gauges.Playing Pacheesi seems almost universal across communities in India. Both men and women play, and it is one children’s game that remains popular with adults. It has gone abroad with Indians, like the soldiers during World War II who, as Ghee Bowman notes in his book The Indian Contingent, received Pacheesi and carrom boards from the Indian Comforts Fund, set up in 1939 to support Indian soldiers abroad. It has featured in films, like Anurag Basu’s Ludo, released on Netflix last year for Diwali.Most remarkably, Ludo has bridged the digital divide through the LudoKing app launched in 2016. It rapidly became one of the most downloaded apps, becoming the first Indian gaming app to pass 500 million downloads. It was popular in places like Mumbai’s trains, where commuters, who used to play cards precariously balanced on a briefcase with rubberbands to hold the deck, found huddling over a phone much easier. Lockdown didn’t change this, it just opened up a huge home market. The MNS politician who complained to the High Court might have considered this long history and current popularity before trying to crack down on India’s love for Ludo.
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Meghalaya extends lockdown till further orders

June 18, 2021 - 11:45pm
Meghalaya Chief Secretary M S Rao on Friday said the lockdown in the state has been extended till further orders as the number of COVID-19 cases is still very high. Earlier the lockdown was supposed to end on June 21 but it will continue till further orders, he said. "It is observed that the number of COVID-19 cases is still very high and there is a significant spread in rural areas of the state," Rao said. "In order to safeguard the state from an uncontrollable surge in COVID-19 cases, the containment measures issued will continue to be enforced in the state w.e.f. June 21 until further orders," he said in an order. At a high-level review meeting chaired by Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, health department officials briefed the meeting on the present status of COVID-19 cases. Health Minister A L Hek later informed that deputy commissioners of each of the 11 districts have been empowered to take decisions with regards to imposing/extending lockdown in their respective districts. "The deputy commissioners are empowered to take necessary action and issue directives as per requirements in their districts to prevent spread of COVID-19," he said. Meghalaya now has 4,819 active COVID-19 cases and 771 COVID-19 related deaths while 38,792 infected persons have recovered, Health Services director Aman War said. East Khasi Hills which includes the state capital Shillong has recorded 24,931 COVID-19 cases and 589 deaths so far, he said. The district now has 1,674 active COVID-19 cases, War said. East Khasi Hills district which has been under lockdown since the state government announced lockdown from May 5 has relaxed its containment measures and now the non- essential shops are allowed to open three times a week Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
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Decision on JEE, NEET entrance exams soon: Govt

June 18, 2021 - 11:45pm
The Ministry of Education is expected to soon decide on conducting the two remaining editions of the engineering entrance examination JEE-Mains and the medical entrance test NEET in August, according to officials. "The situation is being reviewed to decide on the schedule of the pending editions of JEE-Mains and whether NEET-UG can be conducted on August 1," a senior official said. From the current academic session, JEE-Mains is being conducted four times a year to offer flexibility to students and a chance to improve their scores. The first phase in February was followed by the second phase in March, while the next phases were scheduled for April and May. But those were postponed after an exponential rise in the number of COVID-19 cases during the second wave of the pandemic in the country. The JEE-Advanced exam, which is conducted for admission to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology and the National Institutes of Technology, was also postponed. The exam was scheduled on July 3. While no further decision was taken on NEET-UG, the registration for the exam, which was supposed to commence from May 1, was kept in abeyance. The ministry is also yet to decide on the fate of the Central University Common Entrance Test (CUCET). The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on Thursday announced the marks tabulation policy for the Class 12 exams, which were cancelled on June 1 in view of the Covid situation. The schedule for the subsequent entrance examinations is expected to be decided soon. According to the policy decided by a 13-member panel set up by the board, the theory paper evaluation formula is that a 30-per cent weightage will be given to the marks obtained in Class 10, another 30-per cent weightage to the Class 11 marks and a 40-per cent weightage to the Class 12 marks obtained in the unit test, mid-term and pre-board exams. The CBSE scheme further elaborated that for Class 10, the 30 per cent marks based on the average theory component of the best three performing subjects out of the main five subjects will be taken.
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Doctors join IMA's nationwide protest

June 18, 2021 - 11:45pm
A nationwide protest called by the Indian Medical Association over recent incidents of violence against healthcare professionals and demanding a central law to curb such cases, was held on Friday. The Indian Medical Association (IMA), in a statement, said as many as 3.5 lakh doctors, with proper Covid protocol, participated in the agitation. "All across the country, in every state, in different hospitals, the doctors and healthcare professionals wore black badges, ribbons and black shirts, and raised slogans 'Save the Saviours' and uploaded their photographs on social media," the statement said. As many as 3.5 lakh doctors, individually and in groups, with proper Covid protocol, participated in this, it said. The IMA said medical professionals from other specialty organisations like ASI, API, FOGSI, among others, also joined the protest, while several corporate hospitals put up hoardings demanding safety of doctors. "In Delhi, in 10 different places, including outside AIIMS, the protest was organised by the doctors, junior doctors and medical students," it said in the statement. The IMA and its branches also submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to ensure safety of the medical fraternity and also take appropriate action against people involved in spreading fake news against Covid vaccination and its protocol. "In many medical colleges, students boycotted their classes and organised virtual students' parliament in which more than 1,000 students participated. Today, the national president and the secretary general, IMA met Union health secretary and submitted the memorandum to him. They also met Delhi Special Police Commissioner and requested for enhancing security for the hospitals," the statement said. The apex medical body said women doctors also organised special protest meets in various parts of the country. The doctors have sought enhanced security of hospitals and that the hospitals be declared as "protected zones". "Those who assault doctors or the profession should be punished under the fast-track trial mode. IMA believes that the Government of India will respond to this unified peaceful protest and initiate steps to bring a central law, and ensure the medical fraternity serves without fear in the hospital premises. "IMA urges that these demands be fulfilled ahead of July 1, the Doctors' Day, as a gift to the suffering medical fraternity," the statement added. In Delhi, a group of doctors belonging to both the IMA and FAIMA (Federation of All India Medical Association) stood with placards outside the AIIMS main gate to raise their voice on the issue. The doctors, both in government and private sectors, organised standing protest in front of the secretariat in Kerala, and in various district headquarters besides hospitals. About 35,000 doctors of the IMA Tamil Nadu branch also joined the nationwide protest. "Our members wore black badges as a sign of protest. Our medicare service to the patients remained unaffected," A K Ravikumar, honorary state secretary of IMA, told . Cases of violence against doctors and other healthcare workers have been reported lately from some parts of the country, including Jammu and Kashmir and Assam among other places. On June 1, a doctor at a medical facility in Hojai in Assam was allegedly assaulted by attendants following the death of a patient suffering from Covid and pneumonia at Udali Model Hospital. The National Human Rights Commission had later taken cognisance of the case and asked the Assam government and the state police chief to inquire into the alleged assault and take "needful, preventive and punitive action" in the case.
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CPEC delays force China to change Pak strategy

June 18, 2021 - 11:45pm
China is looking to expand its cooperation in Pakistan beyond federal and state-level governments and engage with various political parties in the neighbouring countries to ensure smooth execution of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects that have overshot its deadline. CPEC, often described as the crown jewel of China’s ambitious international connectivity project Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has faced opposition from various political parties across Pakistan, delaying its implementation. This has made Communist Party of China (CPC) launch party-to-party engagements with Pakistan’s political class rather than solely depend on the governments of the day to push CPEC projects.“CPC attaches great importance to exchanges and cooperation with Pakistani political parties and will give full play to the advantages of inter-party relations to reach the consensus among parties and make the contribution of party-to-party exchanges to build a closer China-Pakistan community of shared future in the new era,” Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong said recently.“We are ready to work with Pakistan’s political parties to make good use of the CPEC Political Parties Joint Consultation Mechanism, actively promote coordination between CPEC and Naya Pakistan Vision, and strengthen exchanges of ideas, policies and peoples so as to create a good political and public environment for the high-quality development of CPEC,” Nong said at a webinar hosted by Pakistan-China Institute (PCI) in connection with the upcoming CPC centenary celebration.His comments came even as the Imran Khan government had stalled certain projects under CPEC on suspicion of corruption by the previous governments. Following this, the opposition (which was previously in power) has created obstacles in the execution of most CPEC projects.Nong said China wants the two countries to support each other on issues concerning their core interests and major concerns. “We are willing to support Pakistan’s political parties to devote themselves to developing Pakistan and consolidating the political foundation for China-Pakistan cooperation,” he said at the webinar.Prime Minister Imran Khan in a letter to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on June 8 had requested to give another 12 months to Pakistan to pay back $1 billion Islamabad had borrowed from Beijing last year at an interest rate of 1%. Islamabad has requested Beijing to forgive debt liabilities owed to China-funded energy projects established under CPEC.In a recent setback to CPEC, Saudi Arabia announced that it will move its refinery project from Pakistani port city of Gwadar to Karachi. Gwadar Port has not yet been connected to areas of northern Pakistan with highways and railways, which necessitated the Saudis to relocate their proposed refinery to the economic hub of Pakistan.Leading Japanese media platform Nikkei Asia quoted Tabish Gauhar, special assistant to the Pakistan prime minister on power and petroleum, as saying the proposed refinery along with a petrochemical complex is now expected to be set up in Karachi.
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Kumbh Fake Covid tests : Max moves HC against FIR

June 18, 2021 - 11:45pm
Max Corporate Services on Friday moved the Uttarakhand High Court challenging an FIR filed against it for allegedly conducting nearly one lakh fake Covid tests during the Kumbh Mela. The company pleaded before the court in Nanital that it had no role to play in any fake Covid tests conducted during the religious congregation, the firm's counsel Kartikeya Hari Gupta said. In the petition to the court, the company said it was merely a service provider with no actual role in generating fake Covid test reports as it only signed a contract with the ICMR-accredited laboratories namely Nalwa Laboratories Private Limited and Dr Lal Chandani Labs Limited to conduct the tests. If any fake testing has been done, Max Corporate Services has no role to play in it and it is willing to co-operate in the probe, Gupta said. "We have pleaded before the court that our client facilitated the testing through these two labs as per the government work order. All the sample collection and other data entries were done under the knowledge and supervision of the government health authorities. "We have requested the court to protect the petitioner from any coercive measures of police and in whatever manner the government wants to investigate, our client is ready and willing to cooperate. We have filed the petition today and hope for an early hearing, the counsel said. An FIR was lodged by the Uttarakhand police in Haridwar on Thursday against Max Corporate Services which has been under the scanner for allegedly conducting around one lakh fake Covid tests during Kumbh Mela and two private labs with which it had signed an MoU.
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RBI has taken steps to fight Covid: MK Jain

June 18, 2021 - 11:45pm
Asserting that the second wave of COVID-19 has posed some challenges, RBI Deputy Governor M K Jain on Friday said both the central bank and the government have taken steps to mitigate its impact. He also said the domestic banking system is strong, as per the preliminary data for the quarter ended March 2021. "I am happy to inform that the banking sector was in strong position when COVID-19 hit...the preliminary data suggest that in terms of CRAR that has been improved upon, the profitability has been improved upon, provision coverage ratio that has also been improved over the previous year, and the gross NPA as well as net NPA has come down," he said. Jain was addressing a virtual conference organised by the India International Centre (IIC) and Research & Information System for Developing Countries (RIS). Observing that the COVID-19 second wave has some challenging aspects, he said both the RBI and the government are dealing with this and taking steps to smoothen the impact on the financial system. The central bank has announced a slew of measures in the last two months to help flow of credit to the desired sectors and maintain adequate level of liquidity in the system. Earlier this month, RBI kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged in view of elevated level of retail inflation. Jain said the RBI strives to ensure financial resilience of banks and NBFCs by prescribing a set of micro prudential norms like minimum capital requirements. To maintain resilience, he said, the RBI has asked financial entities to undertake stress tests at regular intervals and accordingly take risk mitigation measures. Jain further said the financial system, both in India and overseas, is witnessing rapid shifts in the operating environment due to changing competitive landscape, automation and increasing regulatory supervisory expectations. The Reserve Bank of India has put in place various regulations to improve the governance in banks and make them more resilient, he emphasised. "In addition, banks have also made improvements in the risk management capacities. Yet, the changing operating and risk environment requires banks to be vigilant, strong and agile so as to identify risks early and absorb the shocks and be able to adapt to the newer ground realities. "I am hopeful that banks and other financial institutions in India will rise to the challenge, continue to demonstrate the resilience and be able to contribute to a USD 5 trillion economy and beyond," he said. Talking about the link between financial system and climate resilience, Jain said while insurance companies directly face the climate risk, banks are also required to take into account such risks more seriously. In addition to mitigating operational risk arising out of climate extremes, he said there is a need for the financial system to move towards green financing, keeping in mind the development requirement of the country. "While as of now RBI has not come out with any regulatory prescriptions, but we are evaluating all those aspects and then at the appropriate time after evaluating all the things a call may be taken," he said.
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Adani Power emerges as successful bidder for Essar Power's 1,200 MW Mahan project

June 18, 2021 - 11:45pm
Adani Power has emerged as the successful bidder for Essar Power's 1,200 MW thermal power project in Mahan, Madhya Pradesh.The Adani Power bid for the project has been approved by a committee of creditors. Now, it will have to seek the NCLT approval to acquire the project, which is undergoing insolvency proceedings."This is to inform that the Committee of Creditors of Essar Power M P Ltd (EPMPL), a company undergoing insolvency resolution under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, has approved the Resolution Plan submitted by Adani Power Ltd," a BSE filing by Adani Power said on Friday.EPMPL owns a 1,200 MW power plant in Singrauli district, Madhya Pradesh, it added.Pursuant to this approval, the Resolution Professional appointed by the National Company Law Tribunal, Delhi has issued a letter of intent dated June 17, 2021, to the company, it stated.According to industry sources, the deal size of the project is estimated at around Rs 2,800-Rs 3,000 crore.The closure of the transaction will be subject to obtaining necessary approval from the NCL T and satisfaction of conditions precedent under the resolution plan.
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Ampere Vehicles cuts scooter prices by up to Rs 9,000 as govt raises subsidy

June 18, 2021 - 11:45pm
Greaves Cotton's e-mobility arm Ampere Vehicles on Friday cut the prices of its scooters by up to Rs 9,000 following the government increasing subsidy for electric two-wheelers by 50 per cent under the FAME-II scheme. Following this downward revision in the prices, Ampere's Zeal will carry a price tag of Rs 59,990 (ex-showroom Bengaluru) as against Rs 68,990 earlier, the company said in a statement. Similarly, Magnus Pro model is now priced at Rs 65,990 (ex-showroom Bengaluru) from Rs 74,990 earlier, it said. This price reduction makes Ampere electric scooters more affordable to consumers across the country. Roy Kurian, chief operating officer for e-mobility business (two-and three-wheelers) at Ampere Electric, said: "With significant subsidy revision in FAME-II policy, the scheme makes EV (electric vehicle) affordable, as more and more customers can now go for it." Ampere will pass the subsidy benefits to its customers, making its scooters more affordable to people and help strengthen the company's customer base, he added.
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Forex reserves rise $3.07 bn to lifetime high of $608.08 bn

June 18, 2021 - 11:45pm
MUMBAI: The country's foreign exchange reserves surged by $3.074 billion to reach a record high of $608.081 billion in the week ended June 11, the latest data from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) showed on Friday.The reserves had increased by $6.842 billion to $605.008 billion in the previous week ended June 4, 2021.In the reporting week ended June 11, the rise in reserves was on account of an increase in foreign currency assets (FCA), a major component of the overall reserves, the RBI's weekly data showed.FCA rose by $2.567 billion to $563.457 billion, as per the data.Expressed in dollar terms, the foreign currency assets include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US units like the euro, pound and yen held in the foreign exchange reserves.After declining in the previous week, the gold reserves rose by $496 million to $38.101 billion in the reporting week, according to the data.The special drawing rights (SDRs) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) declined by $1 million to $1.512 billion.The country's reserve position with the IMF increased by $11 million to $5.011 billion in the reporting week, the data showed.
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Gold heads for worst week in 9 months after Fed blow

June 18, 2021 - 11:45pm
Gold struggled for direction in choppy trading on Friday en route to its worst week in nine months as the dollar resumed its rally while investors took stock of the US Federal Reserve's hawkish outlook.Spot gold edged 0.2% down to $1,770.60 per ounce by 10:28 a.m. EDT (1428 GMT), stalling an initial uptick on some bargain buying. Prices were down 4.5% for the week, having slid over 2% on Thursday.US gold futures fell 0.1% to $1,774.00.Palladium was poised for its biggest weekly fall since March 2020, while silver was down 6.9% for the week.Palladium was last up 0.3% at $2,529.66 per ounce, while silver was little changed at $25.93 and platinum dropped 0.6% to $1,052.18.The Fed on Wednesday said it would consider whether to taper its asset purchase programme in every subsequent meeting and brought forward projections for interest rate hikes into 2023.Traders also digested St. Louis Fed President James Bullard's comments that faster monetary tightening was a "natural" response to faster than expected economic growth and inflation."Markets are fearful of further Fed jawboning," said David Meger, director of metals trading at High Ridge Futures.It remains to be seen "how much Fed talk we're going to get on potentially reducing asset purchases and raising interest rates at some point down the road, if these forecasts ring true" Meger added.The dollar index was headed for its best week in nearly nine months, denting gold's allure for other currency holders.But some analysts, including from Goldman Sachs and Commerzbank said gold could be set for a recovery."In a now familiar pattern, the recent gold move has outpaced both the move in the dollar and in real rates, indicating it is due for an upward price reversal in coming weeks," Goldman Sachs said in a note.Commerzbank also kept its $2,000 an ounce year-end forecast unchanged.
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Study finds traces of coronavirus in Sabarmati river

June 18, 2021 - 8:45pm
A recent study by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Gandhinagar has established the presence of coronavirus in water samples from the Sabarmati river and two lakes in Ahmedabad city of Gujarat.While the study, funded by the UNICEF, did not reveal if the genes of coronavirus found in the water samples were dead or alive, Professor Manish Kumar, who led the research, has emphasised the need for further probe on the subject to avert any future tragedy.Following the revelation, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has decided to send samples from these water bodies to the Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre (GBRC)."The GBRC is the authorised agency of the AMC for water analysis. We have been sending samples to them since the last one year and they submit their report to the state government. We have no idea about the IIT's research. However, we will now send samples of these water bodies to the GBRC for a similar analysis," said Harpalsinh Zala, the AMC's city engineer for Water Resources.The study was conducted between September and December 2020 and water samples were collected from the Sabarmati river, Chandola and Kankaria lakes of the city."Our aim was to detect the presence of N, S and ORF lab genes of SARS-CoV-2, also called as coronavirus, through RNA isolation. We found N-gene copies in the waters of the Sabarmati river, Chandola and Kankaria lakes. The ORF lab-gene was not found in Chandola, while S-gene copies were present in all the three water bodies," said Kumar, who teaches in the IIT's Earth Sciences department."Although genes of coronavirus were detected, our methodology does not tell us if they were alive or dead. However, we can't just presume that they all were dead. Although virus transmission through water is not proven yet, institutions need to come together and conduct further research on this. Monitoring is needed," the professor said.He further claimed that if coronavirus genes reached the surface water through urine or excreta of COVID-19 patients, then the genes would have been dead. However, the genes might have been alive if they came from the mouth of a COVID-19 patient, such as through gargled water, he said."We do not know if genes found by us were alive or not. Further research is needed to understand the implications of our findings. Governments should also focus on better solid waste management," said Kumar, adding that the report has been submitted to UNICEF.
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Rule of land supreme, not your policy: Panel to Twitter

June 18, 2021 - 8:45pm
Amid a tussle between the Union government and Twitter over the new IT rules, members of a parliamentary panel on Friday strongly objected to Twitter India officials' observations that they abide by their policy and categorically told them that the rule of land is supreme. According to sources, members of the Parliamentary Panel on Information Technology also asked Twitter why it should not be fined as it has been found "violating" rules of the country. Earlier this month, the Centre issued a notice to Twitter giving it one last chance to "immediately" comply with the new IT rules and warned that failure to adhere to the norms will lead to the platform losing exemption from liability under the IT Act. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology, chaired by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, had last week summoned Twitter over issues related to misuse of the platform and protection of citizens' rights. Twitter India's public policy manager Shagufta Kamran and legal counsel Ayushi Kapoor deposed before the panel on Friday. Members of the panel asked some tough and searching questions to Twitter India officials but there answers lacked clarity and were ambiguous, sources said. They strongly objected to the observation of Twitter India officials that its policy is on par with the rule of land and categorically told them "rule of land is supreme, not your policy", sources said. Twitter and the Centre have been at loggerheads over several issues for the last few months. The microblogging site had faced backlash when it briefly removed the 'blue tick' verification badge from the personal account of Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu and of several senior RSS functionaries, including its chief Mohan Bhagwat. Earlier, Delhi Police had sent a notice to Twitter, seeking an explanation of how it described an alleged "Congress toolkit" against the Central government as manipulated media. The police reportedly had also questioned Twitter India MD Manish Maheshwari on May 31 and visited the Twitter India offices in Delhi and Gurgaon on May 24 over the toolkit issue.
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Southern Railway to restore cancelled specials

June 18, 2021 - 8:45pm
The Southern Railway on Friday announced restoration of a number of special trains, earlier cancelled due to poor patronage, from next week. Daily specials such as Chennai Egmore-Thanjavur, Dr MGR Chennai Central-Thiruvananthapuram, Coimbatore-Nagercoil and Punalur-Madurai will be restored from June 20 and 21, a Southern Railway release here said. "Please continue to follow covid safety norms such as wearing of masks, social distancing and hand hygiene," it said. Further, the North Eastern Railway has notified two pairs of summer special trains in the Gorakhpur-Ernakulam sector. The Gorakhpur Ernakulam Special Fare Summer Special will leave Gorakhpur at 08.30 hrs on June 19 and 26 (Saturdays) and reach Ernakulam at 14.30 hrs, the third day. In the return direction Ernakulam-Gorakhpur special will leave Ernakulam at 23.55 hrs on June 21 and 28 (Mondays) and reach Gorakhpur at 06.30 hrs, the fourth day. Further, weekly special trains will run on the Silchar-Coimbatore sector starting June 22.
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50K face homelessness post SC order

June 18, 2021 - 8:45pm
Around 50,000 migrants from various states, settled in the Khori area on the encroached land of the Aravali forest in Faridabad district, face the prospect of becoming homeless following the Supreme Court's order to clear the land of encroachments. The apex court's strict order has left authorities with no other option than demolishing over 10,000 houses in the Khori area near Lakkarpur village on the encroached forested land adjoining the Faridabad-Surajkund road. The Khori residents face eviction after a bench of justices A M Khanvilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari dismissed a plea by the Haryana government and the Faridabad municipal authorities to review its earlier order to evict the people and demolish their houses to clear the forest land of all encroachments. "We want our (forest) land vacant," the bench tersely told the authorities while junking their plea to review its June 7 order for eviction. On the apex court's order, District Commissioner Yashpal said the people have already been told that the court's order for the demolition of illegal houses built on the encroached land will have to be implemented in all circumstances. Accordingly, they have been told to take out their belongings and vacate their houses for demolition, he said, adding the district authority has also built some temporary camps to shelter them for four-five days till they find some place to live. They would also be provided free transport to the camps, DC Yashpal said. People facing the prospect of the loss of their houses they considered their own all along for at least two decades if not more appeared completely distraught. The majority of people living in the Khori area are migrants from states like Bihar, easter Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal and most of them belong to the minority community. "We bought the land and houses here in this colony and settled here on assurances by builders that the colony will be regularised before soon. On our addresses here, the government authorities even issued ration cards, voter Id, Aadhar cards and we were sure that we finally have roofs over our heads. And then this is happening to us," said a distraught 65-year-old Narayan Tiwari, an Ayodhya native. The head of a 14-member family said he has been left with no other option now except going back to his native place in Ayodha, where his house is not even worth living in due to lack of maintenance for years and decades. Facing the prospect of being on roads, many women broke into tears as interacted with them. "Many of us were born here and many of us came as brides after marriage. But after the demolition of our houses here, we will be left with neither our own parental homes nor those of in-laws," said a sobbing Sarita. Another elderly man, Nabab Khan recalled that he had come to the place with his father 40 years ago. "We used to sell carpets here from Mirzapur to make a living. Now I along with all ten people of my family will have to sleep under the open sky. We have no house even in our native place to go," he rued.
Categories: Business News

Hackers got US dept files with one password

June 18, 2021 - 8:45pm
New York City’s Law Department holds some of the city’s most closely guarded secrets: evidence of police misconduct, the identities of young children charged with serious crimes, medical records and personal data for thousands of city employees.But all it took for a hacker to infiltrate the 1,000-lawyer agency’s network early this month was one worker’s pilfered email password, according to a city official briefed on the matter.Officials have not said how the intruder obtained the worker’s credentials, nor have they determined the scope of the attack. But the hack was enabled by the Law Department’s failure to implement a basic safeguard, known as multifactor authentication, more than two years after the city began requiring it, according to four people with knowledge of the legal agency’s system and the incident.The intrusion interrupted city lawyers, disrupted court proceedings and thrust some of the department’s legal affairs into disarray. And on Tuesday morning, in a conference call, Mayor Bill de Blasio admonished the heads of city agencies to shore up their cyberdefenses or face consequences in the event their agencies were hacked, according to three people who were on the call.The mayor’s warning to the agency heads comes 10 days after the city’s Cyber Command, created by de Blasio in 2017 to defend the city’s computer networks, detected unusual activity on the Law Department’s computer system.The next afternoon, June 6, city officials have said, they removed the department’s computers from the city’s larger network. Many remain disconnected.De Blasio, in public appearances last week, said that the hack was under investigation by the New York City Police Department’s intelligence bureau and the FBI’s cyber task force. He said officials were not aware of a ransom demand being made or of any information being compromised.Officials also said there was no evidence that the attack had damaged the city’s computer systems, though the investigation was still in an early stage. Investigators are still trying to determine the identity of the perpetrator and the motive.“We’ve identified the malware — we have seen it before,” John Miller, the Police Department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, said at a news conference.“Is it someone looking to corral information, export it and then do a ransomware attack?” Miller said. “Is it another kind of actor looking to gather information for other strategic purposes?” Both were possibilities, Miller added.A City Hall spokeswoman and a spokesman for the Law Department both declined to comment Thursday.Multifactor authentication, a measure familiar to many who work on computers at home and at the office, requires users logging into sensitive accounts to take at least one additional step to verify their identities, like entering a temporary numerical code sent to a user’s cellphone.The tool has been widely adopted in recent years, cybersecurity experts say, as hackers increasingly target government, business, hospitals and infrastructure using stolen passwords and other credentials. This allows them to penetrate computer systems to disrupt operations or steal data, which can be used to demand a ransom.The vast majority of ransomware attacks taking over American towns, cities and hospitals were made possible because the targets failed to turn on multifactor authentication, cybersecurity experts and officials said. Hackers exploited the lack of multifactor authentication to force the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline in May and in an attempt to poison the water supply in a small Florida town in February 2020, officials have said.Diligent hackers have found ways to bypass multifactor authentication on software used by the Pentagon and many Fortune 500 companies. But cybersecurity experts say its use is still one of the simplest ways to significantly reduce the odds of a successful attack.In an urgent memo earlier this month, the White House urged American organizations to use multifactor authentication, in addition to other safeguards like backing up data.A directive issued by New York’s Cyber Command in April 2019 required all city agencies to use multifactor authentication for access to restricted or sensitive information, according to a copy of the document obtained by The New York Times.Geoff Brown, head of Cyber Command and New York’s chief information security officer, acknowledged at a news conference last week that the city had issued such a directive, but he refused to answer a question about whether the Law Department used the tool.“At this time answering questions about the protection of city systems could give the attacker insight” into the city’s internet technology or the ongoing investigation, Brown said.The Law Department’s servers ran on Microsoft software released in 2003, which the company stopped providing critical security updates for in 2015.The failure to update software makes municipal systems a ripe target for hackers who simply scan the internet for unpatched software and exploit it. The Florida water treatment plant hacked last February also used a decade-old version of Microsoft Windows that had not been updated in years.In his phone call Tuesday with city agency heads, de Blasio cited multifactor authentication and up-to-date software as priorities that needed to be addressed immediately, according to the officials who participated in the call.Katharine Rosenfeld, a lawyer who in one case represented a pregnant woman who sued the city after being handcuffed while she was in labor, said the security lapses revealed the Law Department was “scarily sloppy” in its handling of confidential information.“Think of all the medical records that we give them of our clients, mental health treatment, settlement negotiations,” Rosenfeld said. “It just makes me very worried.”The disabling of the Law Department's computer system after the attack has had an impact that has rippled through New York courts, slowing cases and forcing city lawyers to ask for extensions on deadlines.“While the undersigned has recently regained remote access to email,” one city attorney, James Jimenez, wrote to a Brooklyn federal judge on Tuesday in a false-arrest lawsuit, “I am still unable to remotely access any case files or documents.”In federal court in Manhattan, the attack fueled a dispute in a set of high-profile lawsuits accusing the Police Department of using excessive force and making unjustified mass arrests during the demonstrations in New York last year after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.Plaintiffs’ lawyers have complained that the Law Department, citing the hack, has refused to say when it will turn over critical documents that the lawyers say they need to investigate what they have called the city’s “brutal response” to the large-scale protests.The Law Department has accused the plaintiffs’ lawyers of using the hack to “engage in gamesmanship” and of suddenly deciding that “now is a good time to inundate defendants with a barrage” of new document requests, a city lawyer, Dara L. Weiss, wrote to the court last week.Weiss said that despite the “technological challenges,” the hack had not halted progress in the case.“Defense counsel have not been sitting on their hands,” Weiss added.
Categories: Business News

Assam cancels class 10, 12 state board exams

June 18, 2021 - 8:45pm
The Assam government on Friday cancelled this year's class 10 and 12 state board examinations due to the prevailing COVID-19 situation, Education Minister Ranoj Pegu said.The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by the minister and attended by officials of the Health and Education departments and other stakeholders including the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) and All Bodo Students' Union (ABSU)."The matric and higher secondary examinations for 2021 have been cancelled as the positivity rate due to the prevailing COVID situation is yet to be brought under control," Pegu told reporters after the meeting.Two committees, one each for class 10 and 12, will be constituted on Saturday to suggest a formula for preparing the results."The results will be record-based and not subjective. They will be based on records available with the schools and the boards," Pegu said.The reports of both the committees will be submitted within a week and the results of both matric and higher secondary exams will be declared by July 31, he added.
Categories: Business News

NCB asks WazirX for details of alleged drug dealer

June 18, 2021 - 8:45pm
Mumbai: The Mumbai wing of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) recently sought details from cryptocurrency exchange WazirX about an alleged drug dealer who, according to the agency, used the platform to deal in contraband. On Tuesday, the NCB arrested Makarand Pardeep Adivirkar, aka Cryptoking, in Mumbai for allegedly using bitcoin to purchase the drug LSD on the dark web in November 2020.WazirX has denied that the alleged dealer used its platform but the agency said it is looking into this. "During interrogation, the accused claimed that he used various cryptocurrency exchanges for his business. One of the platforms he named in his statement is WazirX. We have written to them and they have given their clarification. The probe is underway and once there is more clarity on the flow of money, we will seek more information from the said exchange if need be," said a senior NCB official privy to the developments. A WazirX spokesperson said in a statement, “On June 11, 2021, WazirX received an email from the NCB enquiring about the said accused and his trading activity on WazirX. Upon checking our records, we identified that the accused is not a WazirX user, and we communicated the same to the authorities on June 12, 2021.” This comes just a week after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) asked WazirX, which is India’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by volume, to explain transactions worth Rs 2,790.74 crore that, the agency alleged, were in violation of foreign exchange rules. The exchange claimed that as of Friday it had not received any summons from the ED.In its statement, WazirX also reiterated its commitment to following know your customer and anti-money laundering rules. “We perform stringent KYC verification of every user to verify their identity as well as a secondary KYC verification through linked bank accounts before allowing a customer to transact on WazirX,” it said.
Categories: Business News

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