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An analysis of the New Labour Code and its impact

The effectiveness of the New Labour Code—which were supposed to see the light of the day this year but deferred by a year due to Covid-19 pandemic—will be tested in due times when the same will be implemented.

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INTRODUCTION

Labour, enumerated as entry 24 & 25, falls under the Concurrent List of the Constitution of India. Therefore, both Parliament and state legislatures are competent to enact laws regulating labour. The Union Government stated that there are more than 100 state and 40 central laws regulating various aspects of labour such as resolution of industrial disputes, working conditions, social security and wages, etc. Pursuant to the recommendations of the Second National Commission on Labour, which submitted its report in June, 2002, the union legislature passed The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 (hereinafter as the ‘Code’). It was re-introduced in Lok Sabha by the Union Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr. Santosh Kumar Gangwar, on September 19, 2020, with the new changes which lead to the withdrawal of the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2019 (hereinafter as ‘OSH Code, 2019’). As the OSH Code, 2019 was referred to the Department related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour, which suggested substantial number modifications to the code and also in the light of Covid-19 pandemic, the Union Government also proposed certain changes to the OSH Code, 2019. The Code consolidates 13 existing Acts regulating health, safety, and working conditions, which include the Factories Act, 1948; the Mines Act, 1952; and the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970. The OSH Code intends to amalgamate, simplify, consolidate and rationalise more than 600 provisions of the 13 laws mentioned in a single code consisting of around 143 provisions.

EXTENT

The Code emphasizes on health, safety and welfare of the workers employed in various sectors such as industry, trade, business, manufacturing, factory, motor transport undertaking, building and other construction works, newspaper establishments, audio-video production, plantation, mine and dock-work and service sectors. It also aims to provide a broader legislative framework, thereby, enabling the workmen to secure just and humane working conditions and, enables the government at both the union and the state level to make rules and regulations in consonance with the emerging technologies and developments in the industrial sector.

IMPLICATIONS OR CHANGES IN THE LABOUR JURISPRUDENCE

The Code aims at reducing the burden of the employers as it replaces multiple registrations under various enactments to a single common registration, one licence and one return, ultimately creating a centrally consolidated database which will be helpful under ease of doing business policies of the Governments. The Code places an obligation on employers to conduct free annual health check-ups for their employees, to ensure the disposal of hazardous and toxic waste including e-waste, to issue an appointment letter to every employee on their appointment in the establishment.

CONSTITUTION OF ADVISORY BOARDS AT BOTH NATIONAL & STATE LEVEL

The Code states that the Central Government shall constitute a National Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board which will discharge the functions conferred on it by or under the Code and to advise to the Central Government on the matters relating to standards, rules and regulation to be framed under the Code. The State Government shall constitute a similar type of board to be called the State Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board which will advise on the matters arising out of the administration of the Code as may be referred to it by the State Government.

CONSTITUTION OF SAFETY COMMITTEES

The appropriate government may require a constitution of safety committees in certain establishments, and for a certain class of workers, consisting of representatives of the employer and the workers, however, the number of employer representatives shall not exceed the employee representatives. The function of these committees will be to act as a liaison between employers and employees. In any establishment which is a factory employing 500 workers or more, or a factory engaged in hazardous work employing 250 workmen or more, or a building or construction work employing 250 workers or more, or a mine where more than 100 workmen are employed in ordinary course; the employer will appoint safety officers according to the qualifications prescribed by the appropriate government.

In another welcome step towards providing some semblance of social security to the unorganised sector workers, the new Code provides for the establishment of a Social Security Fund. Any establishment having 100 workers shall have a canteen facility and that should be provided by the employer. For the appointment of welfare officers under the Code, the minimum number of workmen in any establishment is 250.

CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT

Workers cannot be subjected to work for more than 6 days in a week, one day off every week and will be entitled to one day off for every 20 days of work. Workers or Employees are entitled to receive wages for the work done overtime at the rate of twice the normal wage rate as per the scheme of the Code. Under the Code provisions have been made for the employment of female employees by the employer for working beyond 7 pm till 6 am (basically night shifts) with their consent and conditions relating to safety, holiday, working hours. Furthermore, the women workers are entitled to be employed in all establishments for any kind of work including hazardous ones subject to the conditions that the appropriate government may require the employer to provide adequate safeguards prior to their employment in hazardous or dangerous operations. The Code provides that the wages to the audio-visual workers, shall be disbursed electronically and this will ensure transparency, thereby helping in keeping and maintenance of the records as well.

FALLACIES IN THE NEW CODE

As the Code consolidates the provisions of the 13 legislations related to the subject but at the same time it is unable to simplify them or be all inclusive while dealing with the matters dealt by those laws. These include provisions on registration, duties of employers, and filing of returns. It also includes additional provisions which are applicable to the specific types of workers such as contract labour, inter-state migrant workers, audio-visual workers, or those in mines, beedi & cigar workers, construction workers, factories, and plantations.

Major Safety Issues sidelined & some sectors left out

For example, the Code requires that any person suffering from deafness or giddiness may not be employed in construction activity which involves a risk of accident. The question to be posed here is why such a general safety requirement is not provided for all workers or why the legislature ignored such an important aspect. Similarly, the Code provides for registration of employment contracts for audio-visual workers, raising the question of why there is a special treatment for this category. Furthermore, the disputes related to the contracts of audio-visual workers will be resolved by the dispute resolution mechanisms devised by the appropriate government, if still the dispute remains unresolved the parties may invoke the jurisdiction of the Industrial Tribunal established by the appropriate government under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.

The Code under section 2(1)(zx)(a)(i) contains health and safety provisions for workers in plantations measuring at least five hectares. In its report on the OSH Code, 2019 the Department related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour noted an assurance of the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment, that workers in plantations measuring less than five hectares would be covered in the Code on Social Security, 2020. However, the definition of a ‘plantation’ in the OSH Code, 2019 retained the five-hectare threshold. This recommendation has not been incorporated in the Code.

NO PROPER FORUMS FOR APPEAL

The Code bars the civil courts from hearing any matters under the code. In some matters where persons are aggrieved by the orders of authorities such as, Inspector-cum-facilitator in the case of factories, or by the revocation of a license for contractors, the Code under section 119 (6) provides for an administrative appellate authority to be notified by the appropriate government. However, it does not provide a proper judicial mechanism for hearing disputes under the code but provides a quasi-judicial one to be notified by the appropriate government as opposed to the earlier regime, for example the functions and constitution of a labour court were clearly laid down under Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. It can be argued that the bar on civil courts from hearing matters under the code, deny aggrieved persons an opportunity to challenge certain issues such as relating to the contractual terms in case of contract labour before a civil court of competent jurisdiction, as such matters may be governed by the terms of contract falling under Indian Contract Act, 1872. The only judicial remedy available to a person aggrieved is to file a writ petition before the relevant High Court, as the High Court is vested with power of superintendence over the courts and tribunals functioning under its territorial jurisdiction.

WEAKENING OF THE INSPECTION SYSTEM

The Code weakens the inspection system in numerous ways. To make matters adverse, the code is silent on the powers of inspectors envisaged by ILO Conventions ratified by India, the provisions such as free entry at any time and without prior notice and as frequently as possible to secure effective application of laws by the establishments of Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 are diluted by the passing of the Code.

EXCESSIVE DELEGATION OF POWERS & REGRESSIVE APPROACH TOWARDS DEFINING KEY TERMS

Under the Constitution, the legislature is the law making organ and the executive is responsible for their implementation. It is often observed that the legislature enacts a law on a specific entry/subject within its domain covering the general principles and policies, and further, delegates detailed rule-making to the government thereby, allowing expediency and flexibility. However, time and again the courts have reiterated that certain essential functions and powers should not be delegated to the government which include, framing the legislative policy on a particular subject matter to determine the principles of the law. Also, it is the general principle that any rule made as a delegated legislation should also remain within the scope of the parent legislation. The Code in section 127, also gives the appropriate government the power to exempt any establishment for a period to be specified in the notification providing exemption. Further, it also enables the state governments to exempt any new factory from any or a group of provisions of the Code in the interest of creating more economic activity and employment. Therefore, the appropriate government has wide discretion in providing exemptions under the Code. Every factory generates employment, and public interest could be interpreted broadly. Also the exemptions could cover a wide range of provisions including those related to hours of work, safety standards, retrenchment process, collective bargaining rights, contract labour. The low numeric thresholds with respect to the number of workers would create adverse incentives for establishment sizes to remain small, in order to avoid complying with labour regulation and therefore the real intention of the legislature will remain unfulfilled as the laws will not be applicable to them. It is worth noting that the Factories Act, 1948 only permitted exemptions from its provisions during the cases of public emergency, and such exemptions were limited to three months. The Code under its scheme also envisages similar provision but however, the life of such exemptions is that of one year at a time. But the drawback here is the regressive approach of the legislature when it defines the phrase ‘Public Emergency’, in explanation to section 128 of the Code, as a state of a grave exigency, whereby, the security of the union or any part of territory is threatened due to war, or external aggression, or internal disturbance. Implications of this could be that in near future the government may invoke the internal disturbance condition to suspend the application of the code and this will be a severe blow to the rights of the workers across India.

Also, this situation could be done for indefinite time as the maximum life for a notification issued after invoking this provision is one year, but this would be circumvented by re-issuing the notifications.

CONCLUSION

The (in)effectiveness of the Code and the rules made thereunder, will be tested in due times when the same will be implemented. These reforms were to see the light of the day this year but due to another deadly wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Union has deferred the same by another year. Also passing of these new laws is nothing short of packing the old & aged wine, into some new bottles and displaying them, so that it may attract some new customers to the tavern.

The Code under section 2(1)(zx)(a)(i) contains health and safety provisions for workers in plantations measuring at least five hectares. In its report on the OSH Code, 2019 the Department related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour noted an assurance of the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment, that workers in plantations measuring less than five hectares would be covered in the Code on Social Security, 2020. However, the definition of a ‘plantation’ in the OSH Code, 2019 retained the five-hectare threshold. This recommendation has not been incorporated in the Code.

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Policy & Politics

TELANGANA WELCOMES TESLA TO SET UP SHOP IN STATE

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Years after Tesla tried to make an entry into the Indian market, Industry and Commerce Minister of Telangana, KT Rama Rao invited Tesla CEO Elon Musk to set up shop in the state in a tweet.

“Hey Elon, I am the Industry and Commerce Minister of Telangana state in India. Will be happy to partner Tesla in working through the challenges to set shop in India/Telangana,” Rao said in a reply to Musk’s tweet.

“Our state is a champion in sustainability initiatives and a top notch business destination in India,” he added.

This statement has come days after Elon Musk said that Tesla “is still working through a lot of challenges with the government” in India to launch electric cars. Musk wrote in a post giving an update to a query on Twitter on Thursday. Tesla wants to begin selling imported cars in India this year but says taxes in the country are among the highest in the world, said Elon musk in a tweet

With a $39,990 global price tag, Tesla Model 3 may remain as an affordable model in the US but with import duties, it would become unaffordable in the Indian market with an expected price tag of around Rs 60 lakh.

Tesla’s request for tax cuts was first reported in July 2021, when sources told Reuters that the company had written to Indian ministries seeking a big reduction in import duties on electric vehicles. Soon after, Musk tweeted that Tesla was likely to set up a factory in India if successful with imported vehicles.

Another reason for the delay was that India treats clean energy vehicles the same as diesel or petrol vehicles, “which does not seem entirely consistent” with its climate goals, said Elon Musk as a reply to a tweet.

Lat year Rao helped in catalyzing a deal between the Telangana government and Kitex Group to get MD Sabu Jacob to invest Rs 2,406 crore in his state after Kitex pulled out of Kerala, withdrawing Rs 3,500 crore project from the state

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INNOVATION FOR INDIA, FROM INDIA, SAYS PM

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PM Modi called for a new mantra, that of innovate for India, innovate from India. This mantra came up to tackle challenges facing the country in the start-up industry. He counted the steps taken by the government in freeing entrepreneurs and innovation from bureaucratic silos. “The start-ups of India are changing the rules of the game. I believe that startups are going to be the backbone of the new India,” he said interacting with the youngsters from the world of startups. “Let us innovate for India, innovate from India”, he added. India, he said, has over 60,000 startups with 42 unicorns.

The government is focusing on three aspects to strengthen innovation, entrepreneurship and startup ecosystem- “Freeing entrepreneurship, innovation from government and bureaucratic silos; setting up institutional mechanisms to promote remodelling and innovation and handholding of youth innovators”, he said.

He also narrated the successes of startups during the recent years. “28,000 patents were granted last year as compared to 4,000 patents in 2013-14. In terms of trademarks, in 2013-14, 70,000 trademarks were registered in comparison with 2.5 Lakh trademarks in 2020-21”, he said.

He added, “India’s ranking on the Global Innovation Index is improving because of the programme on innovation started in the country. India’s ranking in the index in 2015 was 81 and now it is number 46.”

He lauded the efforts of startups in not only bringing innovation but also evolving as major job creators. As startups evolve and grow, the requirements of credential-bearing workforce with suited skill sets also increases. This leads to major job creation opportunities. Therefore PM Modi added that startups can be the ripe matrix for jobs and work opportunities to develop and blossom.

He said that the year 2022 has brought new opportunities and avenues for startups and January 16th will be celebrated as National Startup Day to help seep in the startup culture at the grassroot level in the society. Naming of the National Startup Day came in as big news because with the naming of the day, the entire culture of startups will get a new and rejuvenated boost. As people will be able to discern the day for startups and get to celebrate it the boost to the startups will be multiplied manifold.

Modi said that easier access to funds as well as making self-certification for compliance of nine labour and three environmental laws is also helping promote startups. Innovation and technology based solutions are being encouraged for finding solutions to facing the country.

Some of the famous startup unicorns of India include: UpGrad, CRED, Pharmeasy, PhonePe, OYO Rooms among others.

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ECONOMIC REVIVAL, EXPANSION ON CARDS: SURVEY

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There is no doubt that India is already under the grip of a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The country recorded at least 2.68 lakh new cases today, including 6,041 cases of Omicron; taking the total tally to 3.67 crore. Notwithstanding, the third wave spreading like wildfire, a significant percentage of industry leaders are optimistic about India’s economic revival with confidence ruling high amongst Indian businesses, finds a pre-budget survey conducted by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP (DTTILLP).

DTTILLP assembled a total of 163 responses from 10 industries. It was found that more than 75 per cent of respondents were positive about India’s economic revival as economic activities pick up steam with a healthy GDP growth.

The survey further finds that around 91 per cent of respondents believe that the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ initiative (Self-reliant India), coupled with monetary policy actions by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) played an instrumental role in driving back the economy from gloom last year.

“The industry leaders expect the Union Budget FY 2022-23 to build on to this momentum,” DTTILLP said in a release. The Union Budget is scheduled to be presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1.

On the other hand, 55 per cent of business leaders believe that providing extra tax incentives to long-term investors for infrastructure investment can encourage growth in the country.

While, 45 per cent of respondents believe that the upcoming budget should focus on announcing incentives for increased R&D spending that can boost sectors like automobile, technology, telecommunication, life sciences and capital goods.

Industry leaders, through the Deloitte survey also conveyed some other expectations like enhancing export competitiveness, putting in place competitive import tariffs, and reducing administrative inefficiencies.

“The economy has witnessed a steady recovery during 2021-22”, said, Sanjay Kumar, Partner, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP, while commenting on the survey findings.

“The Indian economy will continue to witness the growth momentum if the government is able to sustain the efforts on implementation of reforms such as asset monetisation for the infrastructure growth, and PLI schemes,” he further added.

Also, most of the business intellectuals foresee an increased start-up activity fostered by the Centre’s stimulus packages (ECLGS) and policies, which will brighten up the Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) culture in the country, resulting in a faster economic revival, Kumar said.

The survey also finds that 59 per cent of respondents believe in the fact that India can be a favourable atmosphere to run a business. With this regard, they touched on three things: promoting digitalisation, simplifying tax regimes and, improving land and labour laws that would also help enhance the EoDB in India.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, today announced that January 16 will be observed as ‘Start-up day’ as they are the game changers, whereas small businesses are the spine of country’s economy.

“This partnership (between small businesses and start-ups) can benefit both, the society and the economy, especially women employment will get strengthened because of this,” Modi said as he interacted with start-ups via video conferencing on the occasion of Start-Up India Innovation Week.

The survey conducted by DTTILLP aimed at analysing the industry’s expectations from the upcoming ‘Budget 2022’, where focus will be on EoDB, self-reliance (start-ups) and economic growth.

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46 STARTUPS ANNOUNCED WINNERS OF THE NATIONAL STARTUP AWARDS 2021 ALONG WITH 1 INCUBATOR AND 1 ACCELERATOR

Startup India is about realising millions of dreams: Piyush Goyal

Tarun Nangia

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“Startup India is about realising millions of dreams,” said ShriPiyush Goyal today. Presenting the National Startup Awards 2021, the Union Minister of Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution and Textiles, he said the Startup Mission is a symbol of Self-Reliant & Self-Confident India.

“Be it a fisherman’s son from Chennai or a boatman’s daughter from Kashmir, they all want to bring prosperity to their families and to their people, and therefore are thinking bigger and bolder,” said Shri Goyal.

Shri Goyal said, realising the contribution of Startups towards nation-building, the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi today announced that January 16 will be celebrated as National Start-up Day, to take the Startup culture to the far flung areas of the country.

“Prime Minister Modi is a very firm believer in potential of Startups to contribute significantly to the growth of the nation during the Amritkaal, the next 25 years. He recognises Innovation to be the strongest pillar in making India ‘Aatmanirbhar’,” said Shri Goyal.

Shri Goyal said the PM has focused on three sutras (pillars) to strengthen innovation:

Liberating entrepreneurs from the web of Govt processes & bureaucratic silos, – over 25,000 compliances reduced, decriminalization of laws, etc, but what more can be done to help businesses grow & prosper in an easier environment?

Building institutional mechanisms, – strengthen regulatory processes and self-regulation, &

Handholding young innovators & new enterprises, – mentoring will define Innovation in the future

Shri Goyal called upon the Startups to focus mainly on five areas to make India the No. 1 Startup ecosystem in the world:

1. Develop solutions & content in Indic languages

2. Encourage products & solutions that have a larger social & economic impact

3. Promoting Startups in every district across the country, – Establish ‘Startup Access centers’ in every district

4. Creating Innovation zones at the level of Urban Local Bodies, &

5. Adopt best practices from across the globe & enhance India’s global competitiveness

Quoting PM Modi, Shri Goyal said, “Today India is rapidly moving towards hitting the century of unicorns. I believe the golden era of India’s start-ups is starting now…”

“Government is standing with our innovators and so is the entire country…Let’s Innovate for India, innovate from India!” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, DPIIT Secretary Shri Anurag Jain said the Department will handhold the Startup Award finalists across seven tracks i.e. Investor Connect, Mentorship, Government Connect, Capacity Development, Corporate Connect, Brand Showcase and Unicorn Engagement.

“Our journey together doesn’t end here with just awards, we will walk step by step with you in this journey,” he said.

During the ceremony, the Results of the National StartupAwards (NSA) 2021 were declared. A total of 46 Startupshave been recognized as winners of National Startup Awards 2021 along with 1 incubator and 1 accelerator.

The second edition of the awards invited applications across 15 sectors and 49 sub-sectors. The sectors included Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Drinking Water, Education & Skill Development, Energy, Enterprise Technology, Environment, Fintech, Food Processing, Health & Wellness, Industry 4.0, Security, Space and Transport and Travel. Six special categories were also introduced to recognize exceptional Startups contributing to the good of the society. The 2021 edition of the awards also recognized exceptional Startups innovating solutions to promote Indic languages and to compliment national efforts to combat COVID-19 pandemic.

A total of 2177 applications were received from Startupsacross the 49 sub-sectors along with applications from 53 incubators and 6 accelerators for the ecosystem enablerscategories. These applicants included 863 Women-led, 414 innovations for combatting COVID-19 and 253 Startupsworking in rural areas.

All applicants were evaluated against six broad parameters namely Innovation, Scalability, Economic Impact, Social Impact, Environmental Impact, and Inclusiveness and Diversity.

After three rounds of detailed evaluation, 175 Startups were selected for presentation before the jury which made presentations before the 16 specialist jury panels, which comprised of domain experts from industry, investors and government.

The recognised entities will benefit from such recognition, not only in terms of being able to attract more business, financing, partnerships and talent, but also enable them to serve as role models for other entities, and to inspire them to be purposeful and responsible about their socio-economic impact.

53 applications were received from incubators and 6 applications were received from Accelerators. Select incubators and accelerators were selected after three rounds of evaluation for presentation before Jury Panel which gave presentations before the Jury.

The felicitation ceremony was accompanied by the release of an e-Report on National Startup Awards 2021 highlighting the year-round handholding support provided to the finalists of first edition of National Startup Awards and the journey of NSA 2021.

The ‘Blockchain-enabled verification for DPIIT tax incentive certificates’, ‘Digilocker enabled DPIIT Startup recognition certificate’ and second edition of the ‘Startup Champions’ programme on Doordarshan were also launched during the event.

The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) conceived the National Startup Awards to recognize and reward outstanding Startups and ecosystem enablers that are building innovative products or solutions and scalable enterprises, with high potential of employment generation or wealth creation, demonstrating measurable social impact. The measure of success is not only the financial gains for the investors, but also the contribution to social good.

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Pandemic proves to be good fortune for telecom sector

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While every other sector was doomed during the lockdown, the telecommunication sector has been in high demand. The visible shift towards work from home, online gatherings and classes, streaming services such as Netflix for entertainment brought the telecom sector into the spotlight today. The pandemic has shown the importance of the telecom sector in running business and staying connected.

Contrary to many other industries, the telecommunication sector has been generally exempted from major COVID-19-related restrictions, such as stay-at-home orders and quarantine requirements, as it is recognized as an essential service. The importance of having a strong telecommunications network during this lockdown has also been acknowledged by the government in the guidelines, issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which provides that telecommunications, internet services, broadcasting and cable services, IT and IT-enabled services only are the essential services and are exempt from the lockdown.

Many telecom players from broadband to mobile to data center operators have benefitted from a surge in the traffic of data and voice. As a result, the telecom sector is performing well compared to other infrastructure sub-sectors. Telecommunications has been directly contributing around 6% of the GDP and during the lockdown, this has gone up 5-6 times, which is huge. According to our India Telecoms Report, India’s internet consumption rose by 13% since the nationwide lockdown. Indians consumed 308 petabytes (PB) of data daily on an average for the week beginning March 22. This sudden overnight surge in demand caught the industry off guard with mobile network operators (MNO) struggling to augment capacity and manage data traffic. The forecasts are that mobile subscriptions and fixed broadband subscribers will continue to fuel the telecoms sector growth in the 2019-25 period.

A recent report by Kantar highlighted that India’s rural areas have witnessed a 45% growth in internet penetration in 2019 as compared to urban India’s 11%. Sector regulator TRAI has asked telecom operators to extend the validity period of prepaid users to ensure that subscribers get uninterrupted services during the 21day nationwide lockdown. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has also sought details of the steps being taken to ensure availability of uninterrupted telecom services to such customers on a priority basis.

Telecom sector is continuously adapting to the changes caused due to COVID-19 crisis. Being the sole distributor of Internet infrastructure to other industry verticals, telecom operators have made several amendments in their operations and offerings to serve their customers in a better way.

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WFH and its impact on affordable housing

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With the Covid-19 pandemic becoming endemic across the country, people have gradually learnt to accept the ‘new-normal’ and imbibe it to their lifestyle. A notable change that came to existence, since the pandemic struck is the concept of work from home (WFH). It started with the focus solely on keeping employees safe at home and gradually became the most popular work trend all over the country.

This led to companies stepping away from large real estate construction projects and lease deals. The workplace environment began to bear a scanty look with a depleted staff. The focus now has shifted primarily to an employee’s health followed by better communication while WFH.

The pandemic ensured that people begin to seriously consider homeownership where the idea is to own a home and give it an office-like makeover alongside a homely touch. Instead of going for multipurpose projects and erecting skyscrapers, developers and real estate firms have begun to cash in on this trend; by tapping the consumers’ minds. There was also a faster adoption of digital technologies by builders. On the other hand, some developers in partnership with architects are even going an extra mile to infuse business centres to give WFH population an office-like look.

This new trend of WFH also ensured that a major chunk of the middle class that is city-centric (based in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune to name a few) flies back to their respective homes as the pandemic-induced-WFH is here to stay. The developers have begun to shift their attention to tier-II and tier-III cities as the demand for affordable living increased during the pandemic with more and more people wanting to stay indoors while kids attending online classes.

REALTORS PIN HIGH HOPES THIS YEAR

The realty sector like most of the sectors staged a rebound from 2020’s economic downturn. It also stands at firm ground after tackling the pandemic gloom. Housing sales have witnessed a rise of over 50 per cent, thanks to a sharp rise in WFH. However, it is yet to reach pre-pandemic levels. This uptrend has ensured the property dealers pinning their hopes from 2022 beginning with the Budget (that is scheduled to happen on February 1).

Economic revival is on cards as the real estate sector is projected to reach $1-trillion-mark by 2030 from $200 billion in the pre-pandemic year.

The year 2021 began on a positive note for the real estate sector as the sales were strong during the January-March period, assisted by low-interest rates on home loans, pent up demand, discounts offered by cash-starved developers and lower stamp duty offered by some states.

NAREDCO President Rajan Bandelkar described 2021 as a “year of recovery”. He said, “The declining number of cases and resurgent homebuyers’ interest paved the way for a sustainable recovery”.

The central government also extended an additional tax deduction of Rs 1.5 lakh on interest paid on housing loans for the purchase of affordable homes by one more year to March 31, this year; thereby facilitating recovery to the real estate sector. The additional deduction of Rs 1.5 lakh over and above Rs 2 lakh was brought in Budget 2019.

The government should focus on demand stimulation measures to sustain economic recovery. It should look for ways to boost private consumption and incentivise the real estate sector in the upcoming Budget.

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