India's 2020 gold demand may hit 26-year low as prices rally: WGC

Agencies
July 30, 2020

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New Delhi, Jul 30: India's gold demand in 2020 is expected to fall to the lowest level in 26 years with domestic bullion prices hitting a record high and as falling disposable incomes could curtail retail purchases, the World Gold Council (WGC) said on Thursday.

Lower demand by the world's second-biggest bullion consumer could limit a rally in global prices, which hit a record high earlier this month, although it could also reduce India's trade deficit and support the ailing rupee.

"Fast rising gold prices could act as headwinds," said Somasundaram PR, the managing director of WGC's Indian operations.

Local gold futures have jumped 35% so far this year after rising a quarter in 2019.

India's gold consumption in the first half of 2020 plunged 56% on-year to 165.6 tonnes. Meanwhile, the coronavirus-triggered lockdown also slashed demand by 70% in the June quarter to 63.7 tonnes, the lowest in more than a decade, the WGC said in a report published on Thursday.

Millions of Indians have lost their jobs or taken a pay cut after the country imposed a lockdown on its 1.3 billion people to curb the spread of the virus that has infected more than 1.5 million Indians.

Consumption is generally high during the June quarter due to weddings and key festivals such as Akshaya Tritiya, but lockdown restrictions kept shoppers indoors this year.

The weak demand in the first half could drag down India's gold consumption in 2020 to the lowest since 1994, when demand stood at 415 tonnes, Somasundaram said, adding that it is still difficult to provide an estimate for full-year demand as the coronavirus crisis is still unfolding.

"Indian demand has previously jumped as much as 300 tonnes in a quarter. Latent demand could come out in the second half," Somasundaram said.

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News Network
September 18,2020

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New Delhi, Sept 18: The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to entertain submissions by a lawyer pressing for a contempt against the editor of Sudarshan News for an alleged tweet against the court, which has stayed the broadcast of the subsequent five episodes of "UPSC Jihad". The top court had said the intent and purpose of the programme is to vilify the Muslim community.

Senior advocate Anoop G Chaudhary, representing the petitioner Firoz Iqbal, submitted that he wants to press for a contempt against the Editor-in-Chief of Sudarshan News for his tweet after the court stopped the broadcast of a show on the news channel. Chaudhary contended before a bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising Justices K.M. Joseph and Indu Malhotra to initiate contempt proceedings for the "contemptuous" tweet against the top court. Justice Chandrachud replied: "If he has said something silly, we will ignore it."

The bench scheduled the matter for further hearing on Friday at 12 noon, which is subject to the administrative order of the Chief Justice, as this bench is not sitting tomorrow. Senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing Sudarshan TV, contended before the bench his client has filed a counter affidavit, where it provided details of the alleged foreign funding, by Zakat Foundation of India, to justify its programme alleging conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims into the Indian Civil Services. "I am doing investigative journalism. I feel it is my duty to awaken the citizens and the Government about anti-national and anti-social activities and the modus operandi", said Suresh Chavhanke, the Editor-in-Chief of Sudarshan News.

The editor in the affidavit said there is no statement or message in the four episodes broadcast that members of a particular community should not join the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). He insisted that the UPSC is an open competitive examination and members of every community may participate in the entrance examination and qualify. "The thrust of the programme is that there appears to be a conspiracy which needs to be investigated by NIA or CBI", he added.

He submitted before the court that the word "UPSC Jehad" was used because it has come to the knowledge through various sources that Zakat Foundation has received funds from various terror-linked organisations. "It is not that all contributors to the Zakat Foundation are terror-linked. However, some of the contributors are linked to organisations or are organizations that fund extremist groups. The funds received by the Zakat Foundation, in turn, are used to support aspirants for IAS, IPS or UPSC", said the affidavit.

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News Network
September 21,2020

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Agra, Sept 21: Over 450 licensed photographers, apart from other businessmen, who had suffered a major hit owing to COVID-19 induced lockdown breathed a sigh of relief as the Taj Mahal reopened for tourists after a gap of six months.

A total of 465 photographers whose livelihoods depended on tourists who came to view the majestic Taj will follow all Standard Operating Procedures and have been divided into two groups, which will function on alternate days, and further into two shifts, one from morning till noon and the other from 12:30 pm till sunset.

The government has capped the numbers of tourists who are allowed to visit the ivory-white marble mausoleum to 5,000 a day. In each shift, be 2,500 tourists will be allowed to enter while in the other heritage sites in Agra 1,000 tourists have been allowed.

Speaking to ANI, an official from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) said that on the first shift of Monday, close to 500 tourists visited the Taj.

Further, Sarvottam Singh, President, Archaeological Site Photography Association told ANI, "The virus outbreak came as a bolt from the blue for us. Most of the photographers were severely hit by this pandemic. Although a few tried to shift to some other businesses, however, the majority of us got stuck as we did not know anything else other than photography."

"Our savings had started to clear up and most of us were in debt. We had to look after our children and families. What other options did we have?" Singh added.

The business of photographers' has already been downhill since the smartphones became accessible for all, but the COVID-19 crisis dealt a lethal blow to their profession.

The situation is no better among those engaged in other vocations related to tourism, such as restaurants, e- rickshaw drivers, labourers, among others.

The owner of a prominent shop in the vicinity of the Taj, Oshun Global, said that although some hopes had been rekindled with the reopening but high visitor turnout would be needed to get the business back on track.

A small resturant owner, Fayam, said, "We are opening our restaurant after a gap of six months. Even a little bit of turnout would be great for start. Let's hope things get back to normal soon."

The Taj was closed on March 17 after all heritage monuments protected under the ASI after discussion with the union ministry of culture, were asked to close for the visitors following the rapid outbreak of SARS-CoV-2.

To keep up with COVID guidelines, the site has imprinted norms saying not more than five thousand visitors are allowed in a day. Also, group photographs are not at all encouraged.

Guards are keeping strict vigil so that tourists do not touch the railing and walls of the monument and to ensure that used tissue papers, masks, gloves and shoe covers are dumped in the dustbin.

Although most of the historical sites under ASI were opened, Agra Fort and Taj Mahal remained closed as it fell under the containment zone.

Among 3691 monuments across India under the ASI, many were opened for the public since July 6. The Taj Mahal was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th Century as a mausoleum for his wife Mumtaz Mahal.

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News Network
September 17,2020

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Bengaluru, Sept 17: Rajya Sabha MP and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Karnataka leader Ashok Gasti passed away in Bengaluru on Thursday. He was admitted to a hospital in the capital city on September 2 after he tested positive for coronavirus (Covid-19).

The BJP leader who had also served as the chairman of Karnataka Backward Classes commission had taken oath as a Rajya Sabha MP on July 22 this year.

Gasti is credited for organizing the BJP in Raichur district of Karnataka. A member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) he rose through the ranks as an activist of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). He joined BJP when he was 18-years-old and headed the Yuva Morcha of Karnataka BJP.

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