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Biden reinvigorates tariff war against India

June 7, 2021 - 2:05am
The US tariff war against India has been reinvigorated by President Joe Biden threatening to increase import duties on a range of imports, from prawns and Basmati rice to furniture and jewellery, in retaliation against New Delhi imposing Digital Services Tax (DS) on tech giants.The US Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced on June 2 the plan for the 25 per cent increase in the tariffs on 26 items from India, but said that the hikes will be on hold till December.India imposed a two per cent tax starting in April last year on earnings in the country by foreign technology and e-commerce companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google. It was opposed by the administration of former President Donald Trump, and Biden has picked up the baton.The Trade Representative's Office said: "India's DST is unreasonable or discriminatory and burdens or restricts US commerce."The Office estimated the increased taxes on the selected imports from India will equal the taxes India assesses on the US companies under the DST."Estimates indicate that the value of the DST payable by US-based company groups to India will be up to approximately $55 million per year. The level of trade covered by the action takes into five account estimates of the amount of tariffs to be collected on goods of India and the estimates of the amount of taxes assessed by India."The other items threatened with increased duties include bamboo, window shutters, cigarette papers, pearl, copper foil and bedroom furniture.Inaugurating the new phase of trade wars, the Biden administration also threatened to increase tariffs on imports from five other countries -- the UK, Austria, Italy, Spain and Turkey over their DST.Explaining the reason for holding the increases in abeyance for the six countries, Tai said it was to help the international negotiations on taxation."The US remains committed to reaching a consensus on international tax issues through the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) and G20 processes. Today's actions provide time for those negotiations to continue to make progress while maintaining the option of imposing tariffs."In the first phase of the negotiations, the Finance Ministers of the G7, the major western industrial powers, meeting in London agreed on Saturday to a minimum 15 per cent corporate tax rate to prevent companies using legal loopholes to avoid paying taxes on incomes in countries where they operate.The deal will next go to next month's meeting in Italy of the G20 -- a group of 19 countries, industrialised and developing, and the European Union.India is a member of the G20. The latest Biden salvo opens a new front in the trade war between the two countries that started in 2018 when Trump imposed 25 per cent duties on steel and aluminium imports from India.In 2019, Trump withdrew the special treatment for some Indian exports, mostly low-tech items and handicrafts, under the General System of Preferences (GSP) that exempted them from import duties.New Delhi retaliated with higher tariffs on 28 US products that included walnuts and almonds.Biden has not so far taken steps to reinstate the GSP facility for India.
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Over 2 crore vaccine administered in UP till now

June 6, 2021 - 11:04pm
Uttar Pradesh has administered over two crore COVID-19 vaccine doses till now with over 30 lakh jabs given to beneficiaries in the 18-44 age group, the state government said on Sunday.So far, 1,66,27,059 people have received the first dose of vaccine while 36,27,433 have received both doses, it said."Till now, we have administered more than two crore (2,02,34,598) doses of vaccine. In view of the huge population of Uttar Pradesh, we have to speed up the vaccination drive," Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said at a high-level COVID review meeting.Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in the country. Last month, Maharashtra has achieved the milestone of administering two crore vaccine doses."We must now work on increasing the target set under Mission June by three times for July," the chief minister said.Uttar Pradesh had set a target of administering one crore vaccine doses in one month under 'Mission June'.The UP government also said the state has administered over 30 lakh vaccine doses in the 18-44 age category, the highest in the country. In a day, the state has jabbed around 3.88 lakh people.CM Adityanath said the speed of vaccination must be increased further to prevent a third wave of COVID-19 infections and start targeting to administer at least 10 lakh doses a day from July.The target is to administer at least 10 crore people in the next three months.So far, India has administered around 22.80 crore vaccine doses, with Uttar Pradesh accounting for around 8.9 per cent of it."A district-wise strategy should be prepared to meet the target of administering 10 lakh doses a day in July. There is no shortage of vaccines. With the help of the Centre, many new vaccines will be available soon," Adityanath said."About one lakh additional vaccinators, including the nursing students, should be trained to achieve the new target."To encourage women to take the jabs, 'Special Pink Booths' will start operating in all the 75 districts of the state from Monday. Each district has been directed to set up at least two such booths.
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FB's new rules may hurt govt relationship

June 6, 2021 - 11:04pm
Social media giant Facebook has announced major changes in its content moderation policies, which could have far reaching repercussions for the company in India and may impact its relationship with the government, cyber law experts told ET. The global changes announced by Facebook on Friday imply that posts from politicians on the platform will no longer be exempt from the company’s policies that prevent regular users from engaging in harmful speech. These changes will be applicable in India as well and the update has gone into effect immediately, a Facebook spokesperson told ET. While responding to The Oversight Board's recommendations in the case of former US president Donald Trump, whose accounts have been suspended for two years by Facebook, the company said it will no longer treat content posted by politicians as 'inherently' being of public interest or being newsworthy.This means such posts will be moderated like other users, though the company will provide a 'newsworthiness exemption' in 'rare' cases and will update users on these instances. "We are removing the presumption we announced in 2019 that speech from politicians is inherently of public interest...when we assess content for newsworthiness, we will not treat content posted by politicians any differently from content posted by anyone else," the company said in a statement and added: "We will simply apply our newsworthiness balancing test to all content, measuring whether the public interest value of the content outweighs the potential risk of harm by leaving it up." The move marks a sharp departure from the company's previous stance which exempted politicians from some of its moderation rules. In an interview given to CNBC last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had said he does not think social networks should be fact checking what politicians post. The company said on Friday it would fully implement the Oversight Board's recommendation of suspending the accounts of high government officials such as heads of state if their posts repeatedly posed a risk of harm. "It’s incorrect to say we didn’t moderate political speech previously. We had previously presumed all political speech was in the public interest, though all content was still balanced against safety and harm, and we still removed content that was harmful such as voter suppression and harmful covid misinformation,” a Facebook spokesperson said. Technology lawyer Nikhil Naredran, partner at Trilegal said these changes may lead to some 'friction' between Facebook and politicians from the ruling party. "We will have to see how this works out with the intermediary guidelines in place now. While the newsworthiness exemption can be used, if the underlying content is illegal, the content would have to be taken down or else Facebook will not get safe harbor exemption,” he said and added that it may affect the relationship between Facebook and the government similar to what is happening between Twitter and the government. "However, this move by Facebook was much needed. Politicians’ speech should not be treated with any additional impunity." Apar Gupta, executive director of Internet Freedom Foundation said the move will lead to a better form of content moderation, though this is only the first step and two additional factors need to be considered. "The first is to do with the actual enforcement of rules and policies which are often done without full transparency and are applied selectively in instances and the second being that under the international human rights standards, quite often, speeches of politicians are regarded to be much more sensitively assessed in terms of the moderation required for them than other people."Advocate Virag Gupta said if Facebook is admittedly doing content moderation against hate speech, how can it claim immunity from non-moderation for other offensive content such as terrorism, drugs and pornography, which is offensive as per its own policy. "The changes in its policy may raise suspicion about the dual conduct of Facebook and also its entitlement of legal exemption as an intermediary in India," he added. "There are government functionaries like ministers, MPs or MLAs. But there is no official list of politicians anywhere, so who will define it. There are crores of political party members in India. Will those members be counted as a special class by Facebook?"Apar Gupta said the updates may impact Facebook's relationship with the government. "Considering Facebook India's enforcement practices in the past, the company has not adopted an even measure between enforcement in the US for instance and a global market like India. This has been demonstrated even in exposés which were done globally which showed they wanted to prevent a business impact and wanted to ensure the safety of their staff, as enforcement of their policies would have led to potential risks here." The company said in its response to The Oversight Board that it would also fully implement the recommendation of resisting pressure from the governments to silence their political opposition, and will consider the relevant political context including off of Facebook and Instagram, when evaluating political speech from highly influential users.
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Meghan and Harry welcome second child

June 6, 2021 - 11:04pm
The second baby for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex is officially here: Meghan gave birth to a healthy girl on Friday.A spokesperson for Prince Harry and Meghan said Sunday the couple welcomed their child Lilibet "Lili" Diana Mountbatten-Windsor. Their daughter weighed in at 7 lbs, 11 oz.Her first name, Lilibet, is a nod to Her Majesty The Queen's nickname. Her middle name is in honor of her grandmother and Harry's mother. The baby is the eighth in line to the British throne.No photos of the newborn or the Sussexes accompanied the announcement.The birth comes after the Harry and Meghan's explosive TV interview with Oprah Winfrey in March. The couple described painful discussions about the color of their first child's skin, losing royal protection and the intense pressures that led her to contemplate suicide.Buckingham Palace said the allegations of racism made by the couple were "concerning." The royal family said the issue would be addressed privately.Winfrey and Harry on mental illness have recently collaborated on the Apple TV+ mental health series "The Me You Can't See."Harry and American actor Meghan Markle married at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their son Archie was born a year later.In early 2020, Meghan and Harry announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They live in Montecito, a posh area recently bought a house in Santa Barbara, California.Last year, Meghan revealed that she had a miscarriage in July 2020, giving a personal account of the traumatic experience in hope of helping others.Months before the miscarriage, Harry said the royal family cut him off financially at the start of 2020 after announcing plans to step back from his roles. But he was able to afford security for his family because of the money his mother, Princess Diana, left behind.In the interview with Winfrey, Meghan said she grew concerned about her son not having a royal title because it meant he wouldn't be provided security. said digesting everything during while pregnant was "very hard." More than the "prince" title, she was the most concerned about her son's safety and protection.Meghan said it was hard for her to understand why there were concerns within the royal family about her son's skin color. She said it was hard for her to "compartmentalize" those conversations.Harry, too, said there are lasting impacts about Meghan's treatment and his relationship with his family.Harry and Meghan's departure from royal duties began in March 2020 over what they described as the intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media toward the duchess.
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Migrant workers unsure of Delhi return

June 6, 2021 - 11:04pm
Most of the construction sites in Delhi are unable to start work as migrant labourers are scared of returning to the city, after the capital witnessed high infection rates and death count during the second Covid-19 wave, multiple real estate developers said. Many labourers had to face a horrid time in Delhi when the city faced a severe shortage of oxygen and hospital beds.The Delhi government has allowed construction activity from May 31 but most of the sites have been unable to resume operations.“They have seen the crisis and are now hesitant in coming back fearing the same during the third wave. Government must help the developers in bringing back the labourers,” said Pankaj Bajaj, managing director of Eldeco Infrastructure & Properties and president of the Delhi chapter of industry association Credai.Eldeco is executing a commercial project in South Delhi’s Malviya Nagar.The second lockdown has had devastating effects on the real estate sector which was already reeling due to construction stoppage, demand shrinkage and mounting liability of salary and interest payments. It won't be easy for the developers and construction players to reach the pre-pandemic levels anytime soon. “Rising input costs and shortage of labour are going to be some challenges that would delay the pace of construction,” said Harish Sharma, executive director at REPL, an infrastructure consultancy firm.“Keeping in mind past experiences of two lockdowns, the labourers may find it challenging to return to work. The shortage of labour is going to continue, till the time the situation across the country gets better, which may take 30 to 45 days,” Sharma said. Also, movement of the workforce would take time as several states from where the majority of labourers come are still under lockdown-like restrictions. “It has been a difficult time as the construction sector faces supply disruption and shortage of labour. With Delhi government’s announcement of opening up, things could take a month’s time to normalise. Authorities should also look into the possibilities of bringing back the labour, who are wary of coming to Delhi due to infection scare,” said Abhishek Bansal, executive director at the Pacific Group. Nayan Raheja of Raheja Developers said since last year, the sector had always followed Covid guidelines that ensured no cases among the staff and labour working on sites. “The focus of the developer community is to deliver projects on deadline, but the sector needs authorities' support in challenging times,” he said. The Uttar Pradesh chapter of the National Real Estate Development Council has also said construction would suffer for another six months at least, and even after that, it would take time to restore the material supply chain, and re-mobilise manpower and machines.
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Maha govt taking calculated risk: Thackeray

June 6, 2021 - 8:04pm
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday said the government was taking a "calculated risk" by relaxing the coronavirus-induced restrictions in the state, and added that people need to take care of themselves.He made the statement during a virtual meeting with leading industrialists.The state government has announced a five-level plan to relax the coronavirus-induced restrictions in the state from Monday, based on the weekly positivity rate and the occupancy of oxygen beds. A notification to this effect was issued on Friday night."The state government is taking a calculated risk and hence people have to take care of themselves. Nothing is going to be eased immediately. Some criteria and levels have been fixed and the local administration will take decisions on whether to ease restrictions and further tighten them," the chief minister said.As per the 'unlock' notification, areas with positivity rate of five per cent or less and oxygen bed occupancy of less than 25 per cent will be in the first category, and can open up completely.Whereas in the fifth category areas, with positivity rate of more than 20 per cent, only essential shops will remain open and office attendance will be capped at 15 per cent.During the meeting, Thackeray also said that the state should set an example before the country by showing that the industrial sector can function uninterrupted by following all COVID-19 norms during restrictions."We should not let ourselves be knocked down by the virus," he said."Neither a lockdown is required nor do we want to get knocked down by the virus. So all health related rules have to be followed," Thackeray added.He said if there is a need to go for another lockdown after the possible third wave, there should be no impact on manufacturing."Industries should set up temporary accommodations in their premises for their staff and employees. The planning process should begin now," he said.Prominent among those who participated in the meetingincluded Uday Kotak, Sanjiv Bajaj, B Thiyagrajan, Naushad Forbes, Amit Kalyan,Ashok Hinduja, A N Subramanyam, Ajay Piramal, Harsh Goenka, Niranjan Hiranandani, along with the state government's COVID-19 task force members Sanjay oak and Shashank Joshi.A statement from the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) said the industrialists present at the meeting welcomed the criteria of positivity rate and oxygen bed occupancy to ease restrictions and the levels fixed.They said awareness should be created about this among people, and also offered help in checking the spread of corona virus in rural areas .They suggested that members of the unorganised sector should be vaccinated and the IT sector professionals should be allowed to continue working from home .Their other suggestions include vaccination of not just employees of the industrial sector, but also their families.
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'Prioritise vaccines for pregnant women'

June 6, 2021 - 8:04pm
Amid rising deaths of pregnant women due to COVID-19, a report has made a strong case for their vaccination on a priority basis. For Covid not to further aggravate the already heavy burden of maternal and under five mortality, there is a strong case for inclusion of pregnant women as a high priority group for vaccination, a report prepared by a group of doctors led by Yamini Sarwal of Delhi-based Vardhman Mahavir Medical College and Safdarjung Hospital said. "We recommend including COVID-19 vaccination in the routine protocol for antenatal care in all countries, particularly India and Indonesia, in view of their high dual burden," it said. Currently, either pregnant women are not included for vaccination, or the policies are ambiguous with the decision being often left to the woman, the report said. Evidence is emerging of the safety and efficacy of Covid vaccination, which along with benefits of passing on the protection to the newborn, call for including pregnant women in the high priority group for vaccination, it said. Observing that pregnant women are known to be at significantly higher risk for severe coronavirus-related complications compared with non-pregnant women, it said, the issue of protecting such women is critical. Vaccination has emerged as a reliable protective measure against severe COVID-19 infection, the report noted. Of the top 20 Covid affected countries, nine allow vaccination of pregnant women, of which two preferentially vaccinate them. In contrast, four of the 20 high under-five mortality countries allow vaccination of pregnant women, while none include them in the preferential group. India and Indonesia, with one fifth of world's population, fall in both the groups but do not include pregnant women for vaccination. Many organisations have represented the government for inclusion of pregnant women for inoculation. Last month, the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has moved the Supreme Court against the January 14 advisory of the Union government excluding pregnant and lactating women from vaccination. Arguing for prioritisation, the report said pregnant women experience more severe COVID-19 disease than non-pregnant women. They are more likely to require hospitalization, admission to ICU, receive invasive ventilation and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation when compared with non-pregnant women, it said, adding, there is a 70 per cent increased risk of death among symptomatic pregnant women as compared to non-pregnant ones. Women who get coronavirus infection while pregnant, experience a higher maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality, it added. Observing that Covid vaccination in pregnancy has dual benefit, it said, both the mother and newborn get antibodies which have been demonstrated in cord blood and breast milk.
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Virus surge in rural K'taka triggers stigma

June 6, 2021 - 8:04pm
Mahadevappa, 46, a small farmer, had been living happily with his family in Mookahalli, Chamarajanagar district, about 180km from Bengaluru, till recently. He was quite popular in the village as he delivered milk to several households every day.But his life turned upside down after he was infected with Covid-19 on May 24. His family members, including daughters Jyothi, 14, and Geetha, 12, were allegedly ostracised by the villagers. They not only stopped buying milk from him but also did not allow his wife Mangalamma, 40, to fetch water from the public tap.The family felt even more humiliated when their relatives and friends in the village did not comfort them. On June 2, Mahadevappa, his wife and daughters, hanged themselves from the ceiling of their house, police said.As cases continue to surge in rural Karnataka, instances of social ostracism due to misinformation are being reported from many parts.“Initially, police dismissed it as a suicide case due to financial stress, but many got to know the genuine reason after Mahadevappa’s elder daughter, who is married and stays in another village, narrated their ordeal. They had shared it with her a few days before they took the extreme step,’’ said AR Vasavi, a social anthropologist and former professor at National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru. “What’s also worrying her is that the family belonged to the upper caste (Lingayats) and the villagers who ostracised them are also from the same religious group,’’ she added.Vasavai, who is also engaged with Punarchith, an organisation for alternative learning in Chamarajanagar, said this is the third incident (two in Chamarajanagar and one in Mysuru) of people ending their lives due to Covid-related stigma that has come to her notice. “Social stigma attached to Covid is extreme in rural districts. Only a wide and active awareness campaign will normalise the discussion around the illness,” she added.On May 10, 50-year-old Hanumanthu, who lived in Advimallanakeri village in Ballari district and was under home isolation after contracting the infection, allegedly ended his life because neighbours accused him of “bringing doom” to the village. He was a construction labourer.Rise in Covid-related suicides has been reported in other districts too, but several cases have been registered by police with different reasons since family members of the victims are wary of accusing the villagers.According to public health experts and medical practitioners in the frontline of the fight against the disease, stigma and ostracism faced by patients and their families are deterring effective tackling of the pandemic.
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IFFCO begins commercial production of nano urea liquid

June 6, 2021 - 8:04pm
Leading fertiliser cooperative major IFFCO on Sunday said it has started commercial production of nano urea liquid and dispatched the first consignment to Uttar Pradesh for use of farmers. Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Ltd (IFFCO) has priced nano urea liquid at Rs 240 per bottle, which is 10 per cent cheaper than the cost of a bag of conventional urea. It is a patented technology of IFFCO developed at its Nano Biotechnology Research Center, Gujarat. "IFFCO Nano Urea is a product of the 21st century and it is the need of hour to keep the environment soil, air and water, safe for future generations while securing food for all," IFFCO Vice Chairman Dilip Shangani said in a statement on the occasion of the World Environment Day. According to IFFCO, the process of construction of nano urea plants at Kalol (in Gujarat) and Aonla and Phulpur (in Uttar Pradesh) has already been initiated. In the Phase-I, the annual production capacity of 14 crore bottles is being installed which would be ramped to additional 18 crore bottles in the Phase-II by the year 2023, it said. These 32 crore bottles are expected to potentially replace 1.37 crore tonnes of urea by the year 2023,it added. It may be noted that urea forms 82 per cent of the total nitrogenous fertilisers consumed in India and it has recorded exponential increase in consumption over the years. Around 30-50 per cent of nitrogen from urea is utilised by plants and the rest gets wasted due to quick chemical transformation as a result of leaching, volatilization and run off, thereby low use efficiency. On benefits of this new product, IFFCO said nano urea liquid is environmental friendly, smart fertilizer with high nutrient use efficiency and a sustainable solution for curtailing pollution and reduction in global warming in the long run as it reduces the emissions of nitrous oxide and doesn't contaminate soil, air and water bodies. Thus, making it a promising alternative to the conventional urea. IFFCO explained that the size of one nano urea particle is 30 nanometre and when compare to the conventional urea it has about 10,000 times more surface area to volume size when compare to granular urea Due to the ultra-small size and surface properties of nano urea, it gets absorbed by the plants when sprayed on their leaves. Upon penetration, these nanoparticles reach plant parts where nitrogen is required and release nutrients in a controlled manner, it said. Besides this, IFFCO said nano urea requirement will be lower than conventional urea fertiliser to fulfil plant's nitrogen requirement. The efficacy trials undertaken on over 40 crops at more than 11,000 locations demonstrated that nano urea increases crop productivity and can reduce the requirement of conventional Urea by 50 per cent, it said. Further, application of nano urea (liquid) improves yield, biomass, soil health and nutritional quality of the produce. Nano urea has been tested for biosafety and toxicity as per the guidelines of Indian government and international guidelines developed by OECD which are adopted and accepted globally, it said. Nano Urea liquid is completely safe for human, animals, birds, rhizosphere organisms and environment at the recommended levels of application, IFFCO said. IFFCO's nano urea is a giant step towards sustainable agriculture and food systems with a step towards precision and smart farming. This has the potential to revolutionise the entire agriculture sector across the world, it added.
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DHFL Q4 results: Net profit rises to Rs 97 cr

June 6, 2021 - 5:03pm
New Delhi: Dewan Housing Finance Corporation (DHFL) on Sunday reported a consolidated net profit of Rs 96.75 crore for the last quarter of fiscal ended in March 2021. The company, which is under corporate insolvency process, had posted a net loss of Rs 7,507.01 crore in the January-March quarter of the year-ago fiscal. The company had reported a loss of Rs 13,095.38 crore in the December quarter of 2020-21. For the full year 2020-21, the non-banking finance company posted a net loss of Rs 15,051.17 crore, which widened from Rs 13,455.81 crore in 2019-20, DHFL said in a regulatory filing. Total consolidated income during Q4FY21 fell to Rs 2,060.57 crore from Rs 2,160.98 crore in Q4FY20. For FY21, total income was down at Rs 8,802.78 crore as against Rs 9,578.85 crore in the preceding fiscal year. The company is currently being run under an administrator appointed by the RBI in November 2019. It is the first finance company to be referred to the NCLT by the RBI. The lenders of the company classified the account as fraud on alleged fund diversion by promoters Kapil Wadhawan and his brother Dheeraj Wadhawan.
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Amazon under fire over bikini with K'taka emblem

June 6, 2021 - 5:03pm
Following outrage against e- commerce giant Amazon after users claimed that a bikini having colours of the Karnataka flag and emblem was available for sale on its Canada site, state's Kannada and Culture Minister Aravind Limbavali has said the government would take legal action.Calling it a matter of Kannadigas' self-pride and that the government would not tolerate such things, the Minister asked Amazon Canada to apologise.This comes close on the heels of an outrage against tech giant Google over a search result that showed Kannada as Indias "ugliest language"."We experienced an insult of Kannada by @Google recently. Even before the scars could heal, we find @amazonca using the colours of #Kannada flag and the kannada icon on ladies clothes," Limbavali has said.We experienced an insult of Kannada by @Google recently. Even before the scars could heal, we find @amazonca using… https://t.co/Q3LW5IgKri— Aravind Limbavali (@ArvindLBJP) 1622904220000"Multinational companies should stop such repeated insult of #Kannada This is a matter of Kannadigas' self-pride and we will not tolerate the rise in such incidents. @amazonca should, therefore, apologise to Kannadigas. Legal action will be taken immediately against @amazonca," he tweeted on Saturday.The Minister had directed for similar action against Google following uproar last week against search result showed Kannada as Indias "ugliest language", but later decided against going ahead with it, as the tech giant tendered an apology.Terming it an insult to the government, JD(S) leader and former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy has asked the government to look into possibilities of taking action against Amazon, and it was necessary to stop the recurrence of such things in future.He also demanded that Amazon should apologise to Kannadigas.The bikini had the colours of unofficial state's flag, in hues of yellow and red, and has the state's emblem 'Gandaberunda', a two-headed mythological bird, which now seems to have been removed by Amazon from its Canada site following uproar.There was no immediate comment from Amazon.
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'Alarming law and order scenario in post-poll WB'

June 6, 2021 - 5:03pm
Describing the law and order situation in post-poll Bengal as "extremely alarming" with numerous cases of killings and rapes recorded, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Sunday said he has called upon Chief Secretary HK Dwivedi to learn about the steps being taken by the administration to contain this "retributive violence". He also claimed that the state police is "engaged as an extension of ruling dispensation to let loose vindictiveness on political opponents". Dhankhar, taking to Twitter, said lakhs of people were being displaced and property worth hundreds of crores vandalised in Bengal. "Extremely alarming law & order scenario. Security environment is seriously compromised. In such a grim situation called upon (the) Chief Secretary to brief me on the law and order situation on Monday 7th June and indicate all steps taken to contain post poll violence," he tweeted on Sunday. The governor also alleged that people who have voted against the ruling TMC are victims of "targeted violence". "The state is in (the) grip of unprecedented post poll retributive violence at unimaginable scale, with lacs of people being displaced and property worth hundreds of crores vandalised. Rampant vandalism and hooliganism has resulted in large scale arson, loot, destruction of property. "Numerous instances of rapes and killings at the hands of rogue elements who have no fear of law (sic)," he stated. Condemning alleged incidents of socially boycott and denial of benefits to people who had voted for TMC rivals, he said they are being made to pay extortion fees for living in their own house or running their own business. "Democratic values are openly shredded and trampled by ruling party harmads. People are in mortal fear of police and that in turn is at the feet of ruling party rogue elements," he wrote on his Twitter handle. He maintained that the state functionaries "are not recognising this malaise, much less take steps to contain it". "Police is engaged as extension of ruling dispensation to let loose vindictiveness on political opponents. In such a grim situation Chief Secretary of the state be called upon to brief me urgently on Monday 7th June and indicate all steps taken to contain post poll violence," Dhankhar, who has always been at loggerheads with the TMC government, added.
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Central team to visit WB to review damage by Yaas

June 6, 2021 - 5:03pm
A central team headed by a joint secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will visit West Bengal to assess the damage caused by Cyclone Yaas, days after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee abstained from a cyclone review meeting convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi triggering a controversy.The very severe cyclone Yaas made landfall in Odisha on May 26 and affected a large part of the state as well as West Bengal.A central team led by a joint secretary of the MHA will visit West Bengal for three days to assess the damage caused by the cyclone, a Home Ministry official said.The West Bengal chief minister had said, as per preliminary assessment, the cyclone had led to damage of an estimated Rs 20,000 crore to property and agriculture.She had also said that 18 lakh people were affected by the cyclone and around 2.21 lakh hectares of crops and 71,560 hectares of horticulture area suffered damage.Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted an aerial survey of the cyclone-affected area of West Bengal on May 28 and later called a review meeting at the Kalaikunda air force station.However, the chief minister and the then chief secretary, Alapan Bandyopadhyay, a senior IAS officer, did not attend it, even though they met the prime minister for a few minutes.Following this, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), the cadre controlling ministry for the IAS officers, summoned Bandyopadhyay for serving in the central government.However, he did not come to the capital and chose to retire on May 31, instead of accepting a three-month extension sanctioned to him by the state and central government.Subsequently, he was appointed as the chief advisor to the state government by Banerjee.On May 31 itself, the MHA slapped a show-cause notice on Bandyopadhyay under a stringent provision of the Disaster Management Act that entails imprisonment for up to two years for abstaining from the meeting presided by the prime minister at Kalaikunda.Chief Minister Banerjee had alleged that the officer was targeted by the central government due to a "political vendetta".The ruling Trinamool Congress claimed that the Centre was wreaking vengeance on the West Bengal government and that the notice sent to Bandyopadhyay was an "illegal" move.
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India slips two spots on 17 SDGs adopted: Report

June 6, 2021 - 5:03pm
India's rank has slipped by two places from last year to 117 on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted as a part of the 2030 agenda by 193 United Nations member states in 2015, a new report has said. The State of India's Environment Report 2021 revealed that India's rank was 115 last year and dropped by two places primarily because major challenges like ending hunger and achieving food security (SDG 2), achieving gender equality (SDG 5) and building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and fostering innovation (SDG 9) remain in the country. India ranks below four South Asian countries -- Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, it said. The overall SDG score of India is 61.9 out of 100. Elaborating state-wise preparedness, the report said Jharkhand and Bihar are the least prepared to meet the SDGs by 2030, which is the target year. While Jharkhand lags in five of the SDGs, Bihar lags in seven. It said the states/UTs with the best overall score which are on the path to achieving the SDGs are Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, was adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, which provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. There are 17 SDGs which are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership. The 17 SDGs adopted by UN member states are SDG1- no poverty, SDG 2-zero hunger, SDG3-good health and well-being, SDG4- quality education, SDG 5- gender equality, SDG 6- clean water and sanitation, SDG 7- affordable and clean energy, SDG 8 - decent work and economic growth, SDG 9- industry, innovation and infrastructure. SDG 10 - reduced inequalities, SDG 11- sustainable cities and communities, SDG 12- responsible consumption and production, SDG 13- climate action, SDG 14- life below water, SDG 15- life on land, SDG 16- peace, justice and strong institutions and lastly SDG 17- strengthening global partnerships for the goals. The report also said that India ranked 168 out of 180 countries in terms of Environmental Performance Index (EPI) which is calculated on various indicators, including environmental health, climate, air pollution, sanitation and drinking water, ecosystem services, biodiversity, etc. India's rank was 172 in the environmental health category, which is an indicator of how well countries are protecting their populations from environmental health risks. According to the EPI 2020 report by Yale University, India ranked 148, 21 positions behind Pakistan which was at 127th position in the category of biodiversity and habitat which assesses countries' actions toward retaining natural ecosystems and protecting the full range of biodiversity within their borders.
Categories: Business News

Next crypto hotspot? Miami hosts Bitcoin event

June 6, 2021 - 5:03pm
Miami : Thousands of people have descended on Miami for a massive two-day bitcoin conference that opened Friday -- a sign that the US city, in the midst of a tech boom, is hoping to become the next cryptocurrency hub."I don't think there's anything more important in my lifetime to work on" than bitcoin, given the flexibility it offers, billionaire entrepreneur Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter and payments firm Square, told a crowded auditorium."We don't need the financial institutions that we have today. We have one that is thriving, that is sound, that is owned by the community, that is driven by the community," said Dorsey, one of the keynote speakers at Bitcoin 2021.Dorsey tweeted Friday that Square was considering making a hardware wallet for safely storing bitcoin.With 12,000 participants and all speaker sessions sold out, the Bitcoin 2021 trade show features exhibits from crypto mining companies, crypto traders and bitcoin exchange networks.The conference was originally scheduled to take place in Los Angeles, but was moved due to tougher coronavirus restrictions in California.The line to get into the Mana Convention Center in Miami's trendy Wynwood neighborhood wrapped around the building. Everyone was in high spirits and there were no face masks to be seen.Beyond Dorsey, two of the other speakers were Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, twin Harvard classmates of Mark Zuckerberg who sued him over claims he stole the idea for Facebook from them, and now run cryptocurrency exchange Gemini."We think bitcoin is gold 2.0," Tyler said at a panel discussion. "When we get to Mars, what is the currency going to be in Mars? Dollars? No. Bitcoin." 'A movement'So where does Miami fit into the picture?For David Abner, Gemini's global head of business development, Miami is "centrally located, especially in the Americas, and there's a lot of political support here.""I think they've spent time to understand it and think about the ramifications of bitcoin. And so they're very supportive of the economy," Abner told AFP, adding that cryptocurrency could revolutionize remittances sent back to Latin America.Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who opened Bitcoin 2021, has become a bit of a celebrity in tech circles, for his intense efforts to turn the Magic City into a beachfront Silicon Valley.In February, the Republican mayor announced that the city would explore ways to do some of its financial transactions using cryptocurrency, including paying salaries to employees.Earlier this week, venture capital firm Borderless Capital announced it was moving its headquarters from Atlanta to Miami and launching a new $25 million fund for local startups using blockchain technology.And the mayor announced the launch of MiamiCoin, a Miami-specific cryptocurrency that will allow investors to boost the city's coffers while making money themselves."This is not a moment. This is a movement," Suarez said Friday.'A bit wary'Since late last year, Miami has been attracting techies away from Silicon Valley and New York for a variety of reasons -- thanks to Florida's lack of state taxes and relatively lax coronavirus precautions, along with the city's multicultural work force and proximity to Latin America.It's not exactly clear how many have moved, but there are signs of growth -- home prices are soaring, up nearly 35 percent in just a year, according to the Miami Association of Realtors.But not everyone is happy. The Miami Herald warned in an editorial of the possible pitfalls of the city's embrace of all things crypto."Don't get us wrong. We hope cryptocurrency -- and the flashing neon welcome mat we've set out for the tech industry -- elevate this city to new prosperity," the paper said."Just don't blame us for being a bit wary," it said. "Because Miami has history, folks. We've been a smugglers' paradise, the epicenter of the cocaine trade, a mecca for money laundering, ground zero for mortgage fraud...""We worry about going through another boom-and-bust cycle or a wave that crashes and takes us all down with it. If we're staking the city's future on this, please, let’s not repeat the past."
Categories: Business News

Pokhriyal approves Performance Grading Index 2019

June 6, 2021 - 5:03pm
Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal on Sunday approved the Performance Grading Index (PGI) 2019-20 for States and Union Territories, which was introduced with a set of 70 parameters to bring about change in school education.The PGI for States and Union Territories was first published in 2019 with reference to the year 2017-18. The PGI: States/UTs for 2019-20 is the third publication in this series.As per an official statement, the PGI exercise 'envisages that the index would propel States and UTs towards undertaking multi-pronged interventions that will bring about the much-desired optimal education outcomes'."The PGI helps the States/UTs to pinpoint the gaps and accordingly prioritise areas for intervention to ensure that the school education system is robust at every level.Punjab, Chandigarh, Tamil Nadu, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Kerala occupy the highest grade (Grade A++) for 2019-20, the statement said, adding that Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Puducherry, Punjab and Tamil Nadu have improved overall PGI score by 10 per cent.Thirteen states and UTs showed improvement by 10 per cent or more in the PGI domain: Infrastructure and Facilities. Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Odisha have shown improvement by 20 per cent or more.Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Odisha have shown more than 10 per cent improvement in the PGI domain: Equity."Nineteen States and UTs have shown improvement by 10% (36 points) or more in the PGI domain: Governance Process. Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal have shown improvement by at least 20 per cent
Categories: Business News

Pro-Khalistan slogans raised at Golden Temple

June 6, 2021 - 5:03pm
Supporters of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Mann) raised pro-Khalistan slogans at the Golden Temple and a large number of young people carried banners and placards saying "Khalistan Zindabad" on the 37th anniversary of Operation Bluestar on Sunday.Describing the event as the "ghallughara (holocaust)" of 1984, Jathedar Akal Takht Gyani Harpreet Singh stressed on maintaining unity among the Sikh community.Actor-activist Deep Sidhu, who was arrested by the Delhi Police in connection with the violence during the farmers' tractor march on January 26 and later released on bail, was also seen at the Golden Temple along with former MP Simranjit Singh Mann.Operation Bluestar was an Army operation which was carried out in 1984 to flush out the militants from the Golden Temple.Pro-Khalistan slogans were raised by supporters of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Mann) outfit led by Mann at the Akal Takht, which is the supreme temporal seat of the Sikhs.Elaborate security arrangements were put in place in Amritsar to ensure that the event passed off smoothly.Delivering his customary message from the podium of Akal Takht, Jatehdar said the Sikh community will always remember the unhealed wounds of Operation Bluestar."The Army action was comparable to a war between two nations. It was like a country attacking another nation," Jatehdar added.The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex religious body of the Sikhs, displayed the bullet-ridden holy saroop of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Categories: Business News

India likely to benefit from global tax pact

June 6, 2021 - 5:03pm
India is likely to benefit from the global minimum 15 per cent corporate tax rate pact inked by the world's richest nations as the effective domestic tax rate is above the threshold, and the country would continue to attract investment, tax experts said on Sunday. The Finance Ministers of G-7 countries, comprising US, UK, Germany, France, Canada, Italy and Japan, on Saturday reached a landmark deal on taxing multinational companies as per which the minimum global tax rate would be at least 15 per cent. They also agreed to put in place measures to ensure businesses pay taxes in the countries where they operate, a move aimed at plugging loopholes in cross-border taxation. Nangia Andersen India Chairman Rakesh Nangia said the G7 commitment to global minimum tax rate of 15 per cent works well for the US government and most other countries in western Europe. However, some low-tax European jurisdictions such as the Netherlands, Ireland and Luxembourg and some in the Caribbean rely largely on tax rate arbitrage to attract MNCs. "The global pact would face the challenge of getting other major nations on the same page, since this impinges on the right of the sovereign to decide a nation's tax policy," Nangia added. India had in September 2019 slashed corporate taxes for domestic companies to 22 per cent and to 15 per cent for new domestic manufacturing units. The concessional tax rate was extended to the existing domestic companies as well, subject to certain conditions. Consulting firm AKM Global Tax Partner Amit Maheshwari said India is expected to benefit as it is a big market for a large number of tech companies. "It remains to be seen how the allocation would be between market countries. Also, the global minimum tax of at least 15 per cent means that in all probability the concessional Indian tax regime would still work, and India would continue to attract investment," Maheshwari added. EY India National Tax Leader Sudhir Kapadia said the global corporate tax pact is a path breaking one, especially for large and developing countries like India which would always find it very difficult to keep corporate tax rates artificially lower in a bid to increase much needed foreign direct investments in the country. "Even the recently announced lower rate of 15 per cent for new manufacturing units in India just about meets this new threshold, thus, not affecting this much needed boost to manufacturing in India. Equally important is the explicit granting of taxing rights to "market countries" for a share of global profits of multinational corporations, thus aligning right to taxation with place of economic contribution," Kapadia added. The decision of the Group of seven (G-7) advanced economies would be placed before the G-20 countries, a group of developing and developed nations, in a meeting scheduled for July in Venice. Nangia said since India's effective tax rate is still above the global minimum tax rate, it would not impact companies doing business in India. "The global minimum rate impacts companies using low-tax jurisdiction to achieve low global tax cost. Moreover, India attracts foreign investment owing to its large internal market, quality labour at competitive rates, strategic location for exports, and a thriving private sector," he added. Maheshwari said that the G-7 agreement will have a lot of weight in the G20/OECD discussions, but is still a lot of work to reach global consensus. "Countries like Ireland are expected to have a challenging time and may oppose this minimum tax rate. However, a minimum tax of 15 per cent may not raise substantial revenues and there is a possibility that other countries may want a higher minimum global tax rate," he added. In a statement issued on Saturday, OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann said the consensus among the G7 Finance Ministers, including on a minimum level of global taxation, is a landmark step toward the global consensus necessary to reform the international tax system. "There is important work left to do. But this decision adds important momentum to the coming discussions among the 139 member countries and jurisdictions of the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on BEPS, where we continue to seek a final agreement ensuring that multinational companies pay their fair share everywhere," Cormann added. Deloitte India Partner Rohinton Sidhwa said the benefit of the minimum tax rate should accrue by first giving a right to tax a slice of profit of the large global digital MNEs. Secondly, it will put an end to the various digital taxes that have proliferated around the world similar to the equalization levy in India, he said adding that thirdly, it paves the way for changes in global tax treaties pursuant to the consensus being reached.
Categories: Business News

Car prices may be 'fairly stable' in short term; demand to rise from this month: VW India official

June 6, 2021 - 5:03pm
Prices of cars are likely to remain "fairly stable" in the short term as the second COVID-19 wave has more or less balanced the demand-supply situation in the past two months, according to a senior official at Volkswagen Passenger Cars India. Automobile makers witnessed plunging sales in May, reversing the recovery trajectory in the first three months of 2021 that was fuelled by pent-up demand. Various states and authorities resorted to restrictions and lockdowns in April and May to curb rising infections during the second COVID-19 wave. With the COVID-19 situation improving and curbs easing, overall demand in the economy is expected to pick up in the coming weeks. Against this backdrop, Volkswagen Passenger Cars India's Brand Director Ashish Gupta said demand is expected to bounce back from June onwards on the back of easing of restrictions, increasing vaccination and a normal monsoon. In an e-mail interaction, he told that demand actually outstripped supply in the first quarter of this calendar year, in turn, leading to longer waiting periods and upward pricing corrections in the marketplace. "Even for us at Volkswagen, Q1 of 2021 saw robust demand for all our products and we actually entered the lockdowns with a strong order book of outstanding customer orders," he said. Major automobile makers such as Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai, Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Motors and Toyota Kirloskar have reported a decline in domestic passenger vehicle sales in May compared to the year-ago period. The second COVID wave has significantly production and dispatches. "Currently, we are experiencing a decline in demand for the passenger vehicles due to the ongoing lockdown. "Deliveries to customers in April were affected to the tune of 20 per cent. During May, most of the country was under lockdown and, hence, we saw deliveries being down by close to 70 per cent," Gupta said. Though the second COVID-19 wave has surely been a dampener as far as deliveries to customers are concerned, he said, "we see that this situation has more or less balanced demand and supply, with both being equally constrained due to the prevailing situation". This situation should lead to "fairly stable prices" in the short term, and the demand is expected to start picking up again as the restrictions start easing out, he noted. In May alone, India reported more than 88.82 lakh coronavirus infections. Gupta said that over the past two months, efforts have been to ensure the safety and wellbeing of employees at its plants and dealer networks. Volkswagen India is operating its plants with limited capacity. Sounding optimistic, Gupta said the auto industry will gain momentum once the lockdowns are eased and also when the festive season approaches. "We will continue to see growth in sales due to the need for personal mobility even in the used car segment". About the situation prior to the second COVID-19 wave, he said recovery trends in the auto industry were quite encouraging from the second half of 2020 onwards, with practically all automotive segments reporting healthy sequential recovery. The latest March quarter volumes of the passenger car makers were 43 per cent higher on a year-on-year and even 13 per cent above the sales volume of Q1 2019. Gupta said Volkswagen India's plans remain as per schedule and is gearing up for the launch of the most-awaited C-segment SUV Taigun. "As per our earlier commitment, the Taigun along with the new 5-seater Tiguan will be launched in the festive season this year," he said adding that rapid vaccination plans and learnings from the current experience would help in bringing back reasonable levels of normalcy. The company's pre-owned car business has been performing well over the past 18 months, and last year, sales under this channel increased three times as compared to over 10,000 cars. "We are well on track to double this in the CY 2021," Gupta said. Stating that electric vehicles are the way forward for the Volkswagen (VW) group globally, he said, "In India, according to our estimates, the EV take-off should come by around 2025-26, both because of the time required to build volumes and the critical charging infrastructure." Looking at the global trends, "we expect that with the right conditions and an enabling environment, EVs can form up to 20 per cent of the Indian passenger car market by 2030", he emphasised. As for India, he said, "we are evaluating the market situation and infrastructure development across the country and will introduce the technology at the suitable time".
Categories: Business News

Bank of Maharashtra may see rise in customer defaults due to pandemic impact

June 6, 2021 - 5:03pm
State-owned Bank of Maharashtra (BOM) said the pandemic-driven slowdown in the economic activities may lead to a rise in customer defaults, and its impact on the bank will depend on the COVID-19 situation going forward. There has been a significant volatility in the global and Indian economy as the outbreak of the pandemic continues to spread, Bank of Maharashtra said in its annual report 2020-21. The Pune-headquartered lender said the impact of the pandemic on its results will depend upon the developments on the coronavirus front going forward, including any stimulus or regulatory packages to mitigate its impact. "While there has been an improvement in the economic activity since the easing of the lockdown measures, the slowdown may lead to a rise in the number of customer defaults and resultant increase in provisioning," said the bank's annual report 2020-21. Its gross non-performing assets (NPAs) improved to 7.23 per cent at the end of March 2021, from 12.81 per cent a year ago. The net NPAs or bad loans were trimmed to 2.48 per cent, from 4.77 per cent by March 2020. The lender said it has held Rs 753.49 crore COVID-19-related provisions as of March 31, 2021. It was Rs 75 crore by the end of March 2020. In the financial year 2020-21, the bank reported a net profit of Rs 550.25 crore, up by nearly 42 per cent from the previous year's Rs 388.58 crore. The bank's total business increased about 15 per cent to Rs 2.82 lakh crore. Total deposits moved up by 16 per cent to Rs 1.74 lakh crore as of March 31, 2021. Gross advances grew 13.45 per cent to Rs 1.07 lakh crore. Its Managing Director and CEO A S Rajeev said approvals and launch of multiple vaccines globally have raised hopes for less impact of the pandemic. "With respect to Indian economy, the larger-than-expected magnitude of COVID-19 second wave has posed serious threat to the faster recovery of economic activities. "As of now, the outlook is hazy and will largely depend on how the second wave pans out," Rajeev said. With the COVID-19 second wave starting to wane and availability of sufficient numbers of vaccines from September 2021, growth in second half of 2021-22 is likely to pick up, he said. The lender said its performance was outstanding in the year gone by despite all odds. Bank of Maharashtra said the stimulus measures and reforms undertaken by the government and liquidity measures by the RBI are expected to support industrial activity and demand. "Our bank will continue to improve its business position while navigating these uncertain times," Rajeev said in his statement to the shareholders of the bank.
Categories: Business News

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