West Bengal Deputy Speaker Sukumar Hansda dies of cancer

News Network
October 29, 2020

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Kolkata, Oct 29: West Bengal Assembly Deputy Speaker Sukumar Hansda died of cancer at a private hospital in Kolkata on Thursday, sources at the medical establishment said. He was 63.

Hansda, a two-time Jhargram MLA and former Paschimanchal Unnayan minister, was diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier this year and was being treated for the last few months, Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee said.

He was earlier admitted to state-run SSKM Hospital in the city and was shifted to the private hospital a few days back, Banerjee added.

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News Network
November 29,2020

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New Delhi/Mumbai, Nov 29: Manish Mehra, owner of Washex Hospitality, an industrial laundry service, recently flew from Delhi to Jodhpur, a city in north-western India, to win a contract to service a large, government-run hospital - a move essential to kickstarting his business.

"For a new relationship it is essential to know each other before you can establish the trust and confidence to work online and that need is higher in case of government departments," said Mehra, who had to stay for a week in a Jodhpur hotel.

Increased demand for air travel and hotel stays by small business owners like Mehra, accompanied by a rise in rural incomes and spending after two good monsoons, is helping the pandemic-hit Indian economy slowly recover.

Government data released on Friday showed the economy shrank 7.5% in the July-September quarter, performing better than analysts' expectation of an 8.8% contraction as lockdowns were eased and some pent-up demand was met. In the April-June period, the economy shrank 23.9%.

Annual growth of 3.4% in farm sector and 0.6% in manufacturing during the September quarter has raised hopes of an early recovery and some service sectors such as trade, hotels and transport contracted at a much slower pace compared with the April-June period.

Farmers, benefiting from a bumper crop, are lapping up tractors while demand for personal vehicles, due to a lack of public transport and the need for safer travel options, has boosted sales of cars and motorcycles.

There has also been an uptick in goods and services, tax collections and higher energy consumption.

A recovery is taking shape and it has been led by the manufacturing sector which has moved from near annihilation in the July quarter to rebound mode, said Yuvika Singhal, an economist at QuantEco Research.

"Until there is a stronger recovery in high contact service sectors, which make up 60% of the GDP, agriculture and manufacturing are expected to carry the growth," said Singhal, adding that India is still growing on a lower GDP base and it will take more than a year to recover lost output.

Slow start for hotels and airlines

A string of Marriot hotels in industrial towns like Sriperumbudur, Visakhapatnam and Nasik are operating at 50% to 60% occupancy with the bulk of guests working with domestic manufacturing companies, said Ashish Jakhanwala, CEO of hospitality firm SAMHI which owns the properties.

Meanwhile SAMHI's hotel in the tech-city of Bengaluru, that mainly depends on large corporates, is filling only 20% to 30% of rooms.

"Demand from large corporates and international travel will take longer to recover. Hotels catering to public sector and infrastructure companies are doing better," said Jakhanwala.

Since the end of May, when the government lifted a ban on flights, monthly domestic passenger traffic has more than doubled from 2 million in June to over 5 million in October. But that is still down from about 12 million a year ago.

India's biggest carrier IndiGo and rival Vistara are seeing an uptick in business travel but to a much smaller extent than before.

"Much of it is from small and medium enterprises (SMEs) or small business owners who cannot afford to sit at home," said Vinod Kannan, chief commercial officer at Vistara, a joint venture between Singapore Airlines and Tata Group.

SMEs have contributed to a 35% to 40% recovery in hotel bookings compared with pre-Covid times and between 27% and 32% recovery in flights, according to online travel agency MakeMyTrip.

Rural revival robust

In the hinterlands, the impact of Covid-19 has not been as severe as in the big cities and farmers have benefited from good rainfall for two consecutive years leading to a bumper harvest and adequate conditions for winter-sown crops. This is driving up sales for tractor makers like Mahindra & Mahindra.

Lack of adequate and safe public transport in small towns and villages has also pushed up demand for cars and motorcycles.

Maruti Suzuki, India's biggest carmaker, had a 10% growth in rural sales between July and September versus a 4% rise overall, led by small, entry-level models, said Shashank Srivastava, executive director, marketing and sales.

"While Bharat (rural India) is leading India in terms of a recovery, it cannot carry India," he said, adding that steady, long-term demand will depend on improving economic factors, growing incomes and a rebound in urban markets.

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News Network
December 1,2020

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New Delhi, Dec 1: The Government of India is actively working towards the return of its workers back to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain who had lost their jobs and had to be evacuated to India during the Covid pandemic earlier this year, sources told ANI.

Thousands of Indians had to leave the UAE as businesses closed and employees were placed on unpaid leave.

According to the Consulate General of India in Dubai in August, more than five lakh Indians had been registered for repatriation to India from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Quwain, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah since the beginning of the Vande Bharat Mission- a mega exercise to repatriate stranded Indians back to their country.

However, reflecting the close relationship between India and the UAE, the Government there took exceptional measures to take care of the community through a series of supportive initiatives. In this regard, they were assisted by the Embassy and Consulate, who worked in coordination with Indian community organisations. Similar steps were taken in Bahrain and other Gulf kingdoms. This was acknowledged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the August 15 address from Red Fort.

On its part, even at the peak of the Covid-19 crisis, India continued to provide essential goods to the UAE, including during the Ramzan period. It allowed special flights for that purpose. It also facilitated doctors and nurses to return to the UAE as a special gesture, as also to some Gulf countries.

The warm relationship between India and the UAE was recently on display when the Indian cricket board moved the prestigious Indian Premier League to the UAE as conditions were not conducive in India to hold the mega event.

Last week, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar was in the UAE to discuss the advancement of strategic cooperation between India and the UAE as coronavirus crisis seems to ebb away with the imminent roll-out of Covid vaccine. Earlier he visited Bahrain on a similar mission.

Jaishankar met Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and exchanged views on important regional and international issues.

"Thank HH @MohamedBinZayed for receiving me on arrival at Abu Dhabi. Conveyed the greetings and good wishes of PM @narendramodi. UAE's care and consideration of its large Indian community is deeply appreciated," Jaishankar tweeted, adding that he "Discussed advancing our strategic cooperation in the post-COVID era. Exchanged views on important regional and international issues."

Sources said that the objectives of EAM's mission were to facilitate the early return of Indians who came back from the Gulf, retention of those already there, build on India's reputation of reliability to increase trade and take the strategic cooperation to a higher level. This was trade and Diaspora diplomacy at its best, sources added.

Jaishankar, during his visit, also made it a point to meet the Dubai Government. On Sunday, he called on Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and handed over a personal communication from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The EAM's tweets spelt out the nature of these discussions.

"Called on HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, VP and PM of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai. Handed over a personal communication from Prime Minister @narendramodi. Thanked him for taking care of the Indian community," he tweeted.

"Underlined that India had been a reliable partner in all respects during this difficult period. Discussed prospects for our economic cooperation in the post-COVID era," said the EAM in another tweet.

Sources conveyed the sentiment about India in the Gulf has strengthened as a result of the COVID crisis. India's willingness to go the extra mile to keep trade going is widely appreciated. The discipline of the Indian diaspora and the proactive support of Indian missions and community organisations was also widely noted. In contrast, the UAE has just imposed visa restrictions on Pakistan. EAM is expected to visit other Gulf kingdoms ins the coming weeks.

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Agencies
November 21,2020

New Delhi, Nov 21: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has approved a study to analyse radicalisation in India, suggest practicable solutions to remedy and/or prevent the problem and also indicate how the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act can be amended.

The study 'Status of Radicalisation in India: An Exploratory Study of Prevention and Remedies' will be done under the leadership of GS Bajpai, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice who is also the Registrar of National Law University.

According to Bajpai, the study will focus on the process of radicalisation, its actors, target youths and will be probably conducted in four states like Maharashtra, Assam, Kerala and Jammu & Kashmir where cases of radicalisation have been reported.
Currently, there is no clear definition of radicalisation in the legal system. On the basis of the study's findings, Bajpai said that changes in UAPA Act will be suggested to the government.

"This study is about the status of radicalisation in India. This study will analyse the pattern and dynamics of radicalisation. Also, we will study actors of radicalisation and how they are targeting youth," Bajpai told ANI.

"Thirdly we will study who are vulnerable targets. These targets are selectively identified by actors of radicalisation. Fourthly, we are interested in the idea of de-radicalisation. We need the blueprint to counter radicalisation," Bajpai said.

On giving suggestions to amend UAPA Act on the basis of study's findings, Bajpai said, "We will also critically reviewing the current legal aspects, UAPA Act primarily. We would study to define radicalisation and de-radicalisation."

"Approximately 75 radicalised individuals, those undergoing de-radicalisation and de-radicalised individuals shall be sampled from each state. Similarly, 75 functionaries from law enforcement agencies, officers of correctional services and judges will be interviewed from each state," Bajpai said.

"Lastly, approximately 50 relatives of the individuals, psychologists, psycho-social workers, counsellors, religious and community leaders will be sampled from each state," he added.

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