BCCI refuses to stop IPL despite covid wreaks havoc across India

News Network
April 26, 2021

April 26: Anxiety pierced through IPL's bio-secure bubble on Monday with leading Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and some Australian players withdrawing from the league amid the escalating Covid-19 crisis in India even as the BCCI insisted that the glitzy league will go on.

The 34-year-old Ashwin, competing for Delhi Capitals, decided to take a break saying that his family is currently "putting up a fight against Covid-19" and he wants to support them. He hopes to return to the side "if things go in the right direction".

However, Andrew Tye (Rajastan Royals) and the duo of Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa (both Royal Challengers Bangalore) withdrew as apprehension set in after a couple of weeks went by smoothly for the league being held in front of empty stands across nine venues.

While Zampa and Richardson have not yet spoken about their "personal reasons" for leaving, Tye said he feared getting locked out of his own country owing to mounting quarantine cases from India in his hometown Perth.

"I just thought to try and get on the front foot and get home before I got locked out of the country...think I've had 11 days at home out of the bubble since August, so for me I just wanted to get home," Tye told 'SEN Radio' from Doha, the transit point before his flight to Perth.

The BCCI, on its part, insisted that the event will continue and it wouldn't come in the way of those wanting to leave.

"As of now, IPL is going ahead. Obviously, if anyone wants to leave, that's perfectly fine," a senior Board official said on conditions of anonymity.

While leg-spinner Zampa was bought for Rs 1.5 crore, RCB spent Rs 4 crore to buy pacer Richardson at the players' auction.

Richardson featured in one match for RCB, returning figures of 1 for 29 in three overs against Rajasthan Royals in Mumbai, but Zampa couldn't make it to the playing XI this season.
The 34-year-old Tye had also not got a game with the Royals so far and his contract with the franchise was worth Rs one crore.

India is recording over 3 lakh daily cases for the past few days and the health infrastructure is struggling to handle the rise with shortage of oxygen and some crucial medicines adding to the crisis.

Kolkata Knight Riders mentor David Hussey acknowledged that Australians in the IPL are a "bit nervous" about getting back home in the wake of the situation here.

"Everyone is sort of a bit nervous about whether they can get back into Australia. I dare say there will be a few other Australians a bit nervous about getting back into Australia," Hussey, a former Australia international, told the 'Sydney Morning Herald'.

Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association also issued a joint statement on Monday, saying that they are monitoring the situation.

"Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association remain in regular contact with Australian players, coaches and commentators taking part in the Indian Premier League, which is being conducted under strict bio-security protocols," the two bodies said.

"We will continue to listen to feedback from those on the ground in India and the advice of the Australian Government. Our thoughts are with the people of India at this difficult time."

Several England and New Zealand players are also competing in the event but haven't yet spoken about their concerns.

"We continue to monitor and work with the players on an individual basis. Our thoughts are with the people of India during these difficult times," a spokesperson of the England and Wales Cricket Board told PTI.

The players from New Zealand, including stars such Kane Williamson and Trent Boult, are expected to leave early in any case as they have a Test series against England starting June 2. They will have to head back in last week of May to be available for it because of quarantine rules.

The IPL final is scheduled to be held on May 30 in Ahmedabad.

Australia, it is learnt, might arrange a chartered flight for its IPL cricketers once their engagement is over.

As many as 14 Australian players now remain in the event, including stars such as Steve Smith (DC), David Warner (SunRisers Hyderabad) and Pat Cummins (Kolkata Knight Riders), as well as coaches Ricky Ponting (DC) and Simon Katich (RCB).

Commentators Matthew Hayden, Brett Lee, Michael Slater and Lisa Sthalekar are also among the Australians involved with the league right now. 

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News Network
July 19,2021

New Delhi, July 19: The Union government has collected Rs 94,181 crore through levy of excise duty on petrol and diesel in the first three months of the current fiscal on the back of a record tax on fuel that yielded 88 per cent higher revenue than the previous financial year, the Lok Sabha was informed on Monday.

Excise duty on petrol was hiked from Rs 19.98 per litre to Rs 32.9 last year to recoup gain arising from international oil prices plunging to multi-year low as pandemic gulped demand.

The same on diesel was raised to Rs 31.8 from Rs 15.83 a litre, according to a written reply by Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Rameswar Teli in the Lok Sabha.

This led to excise collections on petrol and diesel jumping to Rs 3.35 lakh crore in 2020-21 (April 2020 to March 2021), from Rs 1.78 lakh crore a year ago, he said.

Collections would have been higher but for fuel sales falling due to lockdown and other restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which muted economic activity and stalled mobility.

In the current fiscal starting April, where fuel sales were higher than the previous year, the collections have gone up.

"The total central excise duty collected on petrol and diesel from April to June 2021 (first quarter of FY22) is about Rs 94,181 crore," Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Choudhary said in reply to a separate question.

In 2018-19, excise collections on petrol and diesel were Rs 2.13 lakh crore.

Together with excise on other petro products such as ATF and natural gas, the total excise collections in April-June this year stood at Rs 1.01 lakh crore.

The total excise collection in FY21 was Rs 3.89 lakh crore. 

Choudhary said the average share of central excise duty on petroleum products in gross revenue collected by the Union government is 12 per cent.

"Prices of petrol and diesel are market-determined with effect from June 26, 2010, and October 19, 2014, respectively," Teli said.

Since then, the Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) have been taking appropriate decisions on the pricing of petrol and diesel on the basis of international product prices and other market conditions.

"The OMCs have increased and decreased the prices of petrol and diesel according to changes in international prices and rupee-dollar exchange rate," he said, adding that "effective June 16, 2017, daily pricing of petrol and diesel has been implemented in the entire country."

The hike in taxes last year did not result in any revision in retail prices as they got adjusted against the reduction that was warranted because of the fall in international oil prices.

 But with the demand returning, international oil prices have soared, which have translated to record high petrol and diesel prices across the country. More than one-and-a-half dozen states and union territories have petrol at over Rs 100-a-litre and diesel is above that level in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha.

Teli said prices vary from state to state due to freight rates and VAT/local levies.

"The impact of the increase in prices of petrol and diesel can be seen in their impact on inflationary trend measured by Wholesale Price Index (WPI)," he said. "The weightage of petrol, diesel and LPG in the WPI index is 1.60 per cent, 3.10 per cent and 0.64 per cent respectively."

He said during the current fiscal 2021-22, petrol price has been increased on 39 occasions and diesel on 36. The price of petrol has been cut on one occasion during this period and that of diesel on two occasions.

There was no change in the remaining days.

In the previous 2020-21, petrol price was hiked on 76 occasions and cut on 10, while diesel rates went up 73 times and were reduced on 24 occasions, his reply showed.

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News Network
July 23,2021

New Delhi, July 23: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah used the Pegasus spyware against India and its institutions, and "the only word for this is treason", Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleged on Friday.

Gandhi demanded a Supreme Court-monitored probe into the matter. Addressing reporters at Vijay Chowk, he also demanded the resignation of the home minister.

He said all his phones have been tapped and his friends were informed by intelligence people that this is being done.

"Pegasus is classified by the Israeli state as a weapon and that weapon is supposed to be used against terrorists. The prime minister and the home minister have used this weapon against the Indian state and our institutions. They have used it politically, they have used it in Karnataka..," he told reporters.

"The only word for this is treason,” he said. The matter has to be investigated, the former Congress president said. “A judicial inquiry monitored by the Supreme Court should be conducted and the home minister must resign," he told reporters.

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News Network
July 19,2021

Kolkata, July 19: Thirteen years after their small car project was forced out of West Bengal following the anti-land acquisition movement in Singur, Industry and IT Minister Partha Chatterjee has said talks are on with the Tatas for big-ticket investments in the state.

Underscoring job creation as the TMC government's top priority, Chatterjee also said incentives to companies will depend on their ability to generate employment.

He said the Mamata Banerjee dispensation wants two large manufacturing units to be set up by any prominent industrial house at the earliest.

"We never had any enmity with the Tatas, neither we fought against them. They are one of the most respected and biggest business houses of this country and also abroad. You can't blame the Tatas (for the Singur fiasco).

"The problem was with the Left Front government and its forcible land acquisition policy. Tata group is always most welcome to come and invest in Bengal," Chatterjee, also the ruling TMC's secretary general, told PTI in an interview.

Chatterjee said the salt to steel business conglomerate has shown interest in setting up another Tata Centre in Kolkata to house its offices.

"We already have the presence of Tata Metaliks, one Tata Centre besides the TCS here. But if they are willing to come up with big-ticket investments in manufacturing or other sectors, there is no problem. Our IT secretary recently told me they had shown interest in setting up a Tata Centre here," he said.

When asked whether the state government will go the extra mile to reach out to the Tatas, Chatterjee said he is already in touch with group officials to attract investment.

Singur, once known for multiple crop farming, hogged media limelight after Tata Motors set its sight on the land to build its cheapest car Nano in 2006. The Left Front government acquired 997.11 acres along the National Highway 2 and handed it over to the company.

Mamata Banerjee, then in the opposition, called a 26- day hunger strike demanding the return of 347 acres of farmland that was "forcibly" acquired.

Despite several rounds of meetings between the TMC and the Left Front government, the issue could not be resolved and the Tatas eventually moved out of Singur to Sanand in Gujarat in 2008. The land acquired for the project was subsequently returned to farmers in 2016.

When asked whether the government will invite the Tatas to set up a manufacturing unit at Singur once again, the minister said, "Why would Tatas want to return to Singur? The land has already been given back to farmers. We are planning to come up with agro-based industries there as the area's economy is based on agriculture."

Speaking about the government's priority areas for rapid industrialisation and employment generation, Chatterjee said setting up two major manufacturing units, specifically in the iron and steel sector, topped the list.

"Industrialisation and job creation have been the focus areas in our party manifesto. No doubt it's a challenge as the situation across the globe is not conducive due to the Covid situation.

"Our priority right now would be to bring two big manufacturing companies which are job creators. I am speaking to various stakeholders, industry captains and officials about it. We are on the job," he said.

Chatterjee said although information technology does not fall in the category of manufacturing sector, the government is looking for more investments there too.

The minister assured the issue of delay in land acquisition and related approvals, and incentives sought by industry for setting up their units will be addressed promptly.

"We will simplify the process of clearances required for land needed for setting up industries. I will discuss the matter with our chief minister. There will be promptness so that industries don't have any complaints about delay," he said.

"Second is the incentive part. We earlier had an incentive scheme, but we did away with it as the incentives companies were seeking and offers they had for us in terms of job creation and revenue generation, did not balance out. Now incentives will be decided depending on their proposals and the scale of jobs that will be created," he said.

Chatterjee, however, emphatically noted that there won't be any change in the government's land policy of "no forcible acquisition".

The industry, he said, will have to acquire land on its own or from the government's notified land bank and industrial parks.

"It is our stated stand that there will be no forcible land acquisition," he said, adding West Bengal has good connectivity, infrastructure, and law and order conducive for industries. The labour is skilled and inexpensive, he said.

Chatterjee rejected suggestions that the anti-land acquisition agitations in Singur and Nandigram had given the TMC an anti-industry image. "Had it been the case, the party won't have won three consecutive terms in office with a resounding mandate," he asserted.

The minister replied in the negative to a question about whether the constant bickering between the state and the Centre will pose a hurdle in bringing in new investments, but advised the BJP-led government to follow the spirit of federalism. 

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