Centre forms expert panel to look into interest waiver on loans during moratorium

Agencies
September 11, 2020

New Delhi, Sept 11: The Centre has constituted an expert panel for assessment of relief required by bank borrowers on loans taken during moratorium, in the wake of the pandemic. The committee has been formed under the chairmanship of former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Rajiv Mehrishi. 

The development comes after the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to consider a plea for not charging interest and interest on interest on deferred EMIs during the moratorium period and also not downgrade the credit and asset classification of the borrowers.

A Finance Ministry statement said: "Various concerns have been raised during the proceedings of the ongoing hearing in Supreme Court of India, in the matter of Gajendra Sharma Vs. UoI and Others, of the matter regarding the relief sought in terms of waiver of interest and waiver of interest on interest and other related issues."

"Government has accordingly constituted an Expert Committee for making an overall assessment so that its decisions in this regard are better informed."

The committee, to be headed by Mehrishi, also includes former IIM-Ahmedabad professor and former member, Monetary Policy Committee of the Reserve Bank of India, Ravindra H. Dholakia, and former Managing Director, State Bank of India and IDBI Bank, B. Sriram. The State Bank of India (SBI) will provide secretarial support to the committee.

The terms of reference of the committee would include measuring the impact on the national economy and financial stability of waiving of interest and waiving of interest on the COVID-19 related moratorium.

It would also provide suggestions to mitigate financial constraints of various sections of society in this respect and measures to be adopted in this regard.

The committee will submit its report within one week and may consult banks or other stakeholders, as deemed necessary, for the purpose, said the official statement.

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Agencies
October 21,2020

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Bikaner, Oct 21: Researchers have found the evidence of a "lost" river that ran through the central Thar Desert, near Bikaner, as early as 172 thousand years ago, and may have been a life-line to human populations enabling them to inhabit the region.

The findings, published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews, represent the oldest directly dated phase of river activity at Nal Quarry in the central Thar Desert.

The study by researchers from The Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany, Anna University in Tamil Nadu, and IISER Kolkata indicates that Stone Age populations lived in a distinctly different Thar Desert landscape than we encounter today.

This evidence indicates a river flowed with phases of activity dating to approximately up to 172 thousand years ago, nearby to Bikaner, Rajasthan, which is over 200 kilometres away from the nearest modern river.

These findings predate evidence for activity in modern river courses across the Thar Desert as well as dried up course of the Ghaggar-Hakra River, the researchers said.

The presence of a river running through the central Thar Desert would have offered a life-line to Paleolithic populations, and potentially an important corridor for migrations, they said.

The researchers noted that the potential importance of 'lost' rivers for earlier inhabitants of the Thar Desert have been overlooked.

"The Thar Desert has a rich prehistory, and we've been uncovering a wide range of evidence showing how Stone Age populations not only survived but thrived in these semi-arid landscapes," said Jimbob Blinkhorn from The Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

"We know how important rivers can be to living in this region, but we have little detail on what river systems were like during key periods of prehistory," Blinkhorn said.

Studies of satellite imagery have shown a dense network of river channels crossing the Thar Desert, according to the researchers.

"These studies can indicate where rivers and streams have flowed in the past, but they can't tell us when," explained Professor Hema Achyuthan of Anna University.

"To demonstrate how old such channels are, we had to find evidence on the ground for river activity in the middle of the desert," Achyuthan said.

The team studied a deep deposit of river sands and gravels, which had been exposed by quarrying activity near the village of Nal.

The researchers were able to document different phases of river activity by studying the different deposits.

"We immediately saw evidence for a substantial and very active river system from the bottom of the fluvial deposits, which gradually decreased in power through time," Achyuthan said.

The researchers used a method called luminescence dating to understand when quartz grains in the river sands were buried.

The results indicated that the strongest river activity at Nal occurred at approximately 172 and 140 thousand years ago, at a time when the monsoon was much weaker than today in the region.

River activity continued at the site between 95 to 78 thousand years ago, after which only limited evidence for the presence of a river at the site, with evidence for a brief reactivation of the channel 26 thousand years ago, the study found.

The river was flowing at its strongest during a phase of weak monsoonal activity in the region, and may have been a life-line to human populations enabling them to inhabit the Thar Desert, the researchers said.

The timeframe over which this river was active also overlaps with significant changes in human behaviour in the region, which have been linked with the earliest expansions of Homo sapiens from Africa into India, they said.

"This river flowed at a critical timeframe for understanding human evolution in the Thar Desert, across South Asia and beyond," said Blinkhorn.

"This suggests a landscape in which the earliest members of our own species, Homo sapiens, first encountered the monsoons and crossed the Thar Desert may have been very different to the landscape we can see today," he added.

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Agencies
October 30,2020

New Delhi, Oct 30: The Sensex and Nifty retreated for the third session on the trot on Friday amid continued weakness in global markets due to rising COVID-19 cases in Europe and uncertainty ahead of US elections.

After gyrating 746 points during the day, the 30-share BSE Sensex ended 135.78 points or 0.34 per cent lower at 39,614.07.

Similarly, the broader NSE Nifty slipped 28.40 points or 0.24 per cent to 11,642.40.

Bharti Airtel was the top loser among the Sensex constituents, shedding 3.82 per cent, followed by Maruti, HUL, Bajaj Finance, ICICI Bank, Kotak Bank and Bajaj Auto.

On the other hand, Tata Steel, NTPC, Sun Pharma, Nestle India, TCS, Tech Mahindra and ONGC were among the main gainers, climbing up to 2.27 per cent.

Market heavyweight Reliance Industries rose 1.37 per cent ahead of its results.

During the week, Sensex tumbled 1,071.43 points or 2.63 per cent, while Nifty sank 287.95 points or 2.41 per cent.

"Concerns over prospects of global economic recovery due to resurgence of COVID-19 in various nations continued to weigh on investors' sentiments as domestic equities declined for third consecutive day. Financials and Auto were the major drags today, white other key sectoral indices staged a recovery towards the end of the session.

"Volatility in markets is expected to persist in coming week as well led by uncertainty over global economy and US presidential election. However, better corporate earnings so far and improvements in high frequency key economic indicators are expected to offer support to domestic equities," said Arjun Yash Mahajan Head Institutional Business at Reliance Securities.

BSE telecom, auto, bankex, FMCG, finance and teck indices fell as much as 2.37 per cent, while realty, metal, energy, oil and gas and power closed in the green.

In the broader markets, the BSE midcap index advanced 0.62 per cent, while the smallcap gauge slipped 0.03 per cent.

In rest of Asia, bourses in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo ended the day with significant losses.

Stock exchanges in Europe were also trading on a negative note as fresh lockdowns in France, Germany and other countries dented risk sentiment.

Meanwhile, international oil benchmark Brent crude was trading 0.58 per cent higher at USD 38.48 per barrel.

The domestic forex market was closed on account of 'Id-E-Milad'.

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Agencies
October 22,2020

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Thane, Oct 22: At least 25 people were injured when lightning struck a residential area at a village in Maharashtra's Thane district, an official said on Thursday.

During heavy rains in Thane on Wednesday evening, lightning stuck Palaspada hamlet in Umbarmali village under Sahapur taluka around 7 pm, regional disaster management cell chief Santosh Kadam said.

A house in the locality was completely destroyed while some adjoining houses also suffered damages, he said.

"At least 25 people, including women and children, were injured due to the lightning strike and were rushed to the Sahapur rural hospital," Kadam said.

Their condition was reported to be stable, Thane's resident deputy collector Dr Shivaji Patil said.

Sahapur MLA Daulat Daroda visited the injured people in the hospital late Wednesday night.

Heavy rains along with thunder and lightning were experienced in Thane and neighbouring areas on Wednesday evening.

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