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Corona crisis can be a blessing in disguise to attract FDI leaving China: Nitin Gadkari

The Minister of Road Transport and Highways and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises speaks exclusively to The Daily Guardian on fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and reviving Indian economy

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Nitin Gadkari
Corona crisis can be a blessing in disguise to attract FDI leaving China: Nitin Gadkari

Everyone in India is waiting for the government’s decision on the lockdown, either lifting it or extending it. A: At this moment, we are fighting against the coronavirus and it is not only corona we are fighting, but on the economic front also. We will definitely win this battle and what I suggest should be done at this moment is to use masks, sanitisers and maintain distance and hygiene in the industry is also very important. As you asked about whether the lockdown will be lifted or it will be extended, we have given our reports to honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister will officially announce it.

Q: Before talking to us, you have spoken to various transport ministers and chief ministers of different states.

A: Yes, I did speak to the chief ministers, deputy chief ministers and transport ministers of various states for four hours and discussed about the supply chain which was paralysed due to the lockdown. I told them we have opened our highways and we will ensure that supply chains should not get disturbed or hamper goods transport. After the clear indications from the Home Ministry and their guidelines, with the starting of National Highway operations, it will allow the opening of dhabas, export import activity and this can’t be stopped for long. National Highway work has also started and migrant labourers will start getting employment. They would be in a situation to earn money. We should look at the current crisis as a blessing in disguise as many Japanese companies are coming out of China and we will try to attract them through FDI in India. It’s not only Japan which wants to come out of China, it’s many other nations who really want to move out of China and have shown their interest in investing in India and the technological joint venture with India. We have an aim in sight to increase our exports and reduce the imports as economy grows and the dream of $5 trillion economy and Rs 1 lakh crore infrastructure.

Q: Every citizen feels China should be taught a lesson due to the origin of the virus from there. Some have suggested boycott of Chinese products. What is your opinion?

A: This is a very sensitive matter. I don’t want to jump into this controversy. America has already made its intention very clear but what we feel is that new technology, skill innovation, entrepreneurship and science is required. Our aim is to attract FDI. We are here with the mindset of giving them a red-carpet welcome and not only this, all facilities, no red tape, corruption-free transparency and time-bound execution of their needs will be done on priority. Working on this, it will help industry to grow, MSME to grow, it will help getting FDI and it will lead to result-oriented work and infrastructure in the country and increase of exports will help India grow and develop after this current crisis. On China, I don’t want to jump into this controversy neither do I want to make any comment but we are focusing on developing our economy.

Q: Maharashtra, your home state, has not been able to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

A: I spoke to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and the chief secretary. I am constantly in touch with them. The worrisome situation is in Mumbai and Pune which is really alarming and I don’t want to make any politics or make any political comment but I can say that we all are together. Being together, I have spoken to Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and  Nationalist Congress Party president  Sharad Pawar. We talked on bout how to fight unitedly and control and win over this corona crisis and all seem to be very sensitive in controlling this. We can do politics after we defeat corona, it is too early to talk about any politics in Maharashtra and we are all united.

Q: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and Prime Minister Modi have very clearly said corona should not be given a communal colour.

A: I am here to state that that nobody is being targeted on their caste or creed. If you are talking about the Tablighi Jamaat, I must tell you that there is a misunderstanding which has been created. The misunderstanding is that fruit-sellers are mainly Muslim, so people have fear in their mind that if they buy fruits or vegetables from them, they will get corona. Our government is trying to have confidence-building measures among all. Let me tell you that we are not here to tolerate anyone creating a ruckus out of this fear of any particular community being targeted and that no one should be given stepmotherly treatment.

Q: The exodus of migrant labour is turning to be the main concern all over the country.

A: Yes, you are right. Migration is on the rise since people do not have employment. There are several problems but I have a question. If they go back home, what employment will they get? My suggestion is that to stop community transmission through people travelling from one place to another, it is better that they stay where they are. They should be provided employment and food and shelter. They called me as well to return home and the government is working towards it.

Q: Different governments are planning to get back labourers and citizens from their states.

A: I disagree with the decisions by the respective states. I wish to alert them that this is a sensitive matter and it is not a good time for anyone to travel. People should be where they are and it will raise new questions. I would suggest and request industries to meet the basic needs of migrant labour, otherwise it might give birth to several new problems. Do I respect the decisions of the respective chief ministers? We should look at America, Spain, France, Germany and Italy who did not shut their international boundaries and their death toll. Look at India’s decision and the leadership of Prime Minister Modi and his decision and the number of corona deaths in India. It is up to the chief ministers to look into data but I will still appeal them to rethink.

Q: Due to corona, your own department and ministry of MSME, which is the spine of industrial growth, seems to have broken down completely.

A: MSME contributes 29% of the industrial and economic growth in the country. It creates 11 million jobs. We have started restructuring and we are happy the RBI has taken few steps to revive it. We have given many sops. I am constantly in touch with the finance minister, the PM and the Government of India is with industry. But let me tell you one thing, there is a loss and fall in revenue. Though Government of India is also facing the problem, state governments do not have funds to disburse salary. There is a challenge for banking system as well. We have to protect all and we have to survive and move ahead with little support but we need the support of all as well.

Q: Due to the corona crisis, aviation, hospitality and travel industry have completely collapsed. Do you think the Rs 12,000 crore package for aviation industry will suffice?

A: You’re right. Many sections in many areas of industry, and, especially, aviation, are in crisis. We know their problems and the Government of India will not allow this sector to die. The PM and the Government of India have taken note of it and I promise you that we stand with them and we will not let them sink.

Q: What would you like to say on the attacks on sadhus? Two sadhus and their driver were killed in Maharashtra’s Palghar and two sadhus in Bulandshahr.

A: This is really unfortunate at this point of time or any time. Innocent people and sadhus are being targeted and killed. I shall request the respective state governments to take stern action against the guilty so that the people should fear the law. They cannot allow anyone to escape and strict action as per the law needs to be taken. Our government is not going to tolerate this.

Q: When the first lockdown started, you promised citizens that no toll will be operational until it ends.

A: See, let me tell you, we have to regularise everything. As it is, 65 to 70% of National Highways are now operational and we will have to compensate the private toll operator. It is on build-and-operate basis, if we are giving the best facility which is being used by motorists. Then, I think they need to pay and I request the people that it is a hard and trying time. They should help and cooperate with the authorities.

Q: In Delhi alone, 24,000 challans have been sent to people engaged in emergency duties like doctors, mediapersons and others. Do you think it is appropriate at a time of emergency like this when doctors are rushing to the hospital to save lives?

A: See, I must tell you that anyone breaking the law will not be tolerated. I request all that violating traffic rules will definitely result in challans. There is no point saying I am a doctor, engineer, politician or journalist, no concession will be given to anyone. So kindly make a note and follow traffic rules.

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STERLING’S STRIKE HELPS ENGLAND DEFEAT CROATIA

Raheem Sterling, center, celebrates after scoring goal during the Euro 2020 soccer championship match between England and Croatia at Wembley stadium in London.

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A thunderous goal from Raheem Sterling helped England defeat Croatia 1-0 in the Group D encounter of the ongoing European Championships here at the Wembley Stadium on Sunday. England managed to gain full three points from the match against Croatia and now the Three Lions will lock horns against Scotland on June 18 while Croatia will square off against Czech Republic on the same day.

The first half between England and Croatia saw no goals and as a result, the scoreline remained 0-0 at halftime. In the first half, England held on to the ball for 58 per cent of the match, while Croatia held on to it for 42 per cent. The deadlock was finally broken in the 57th minute as Raheem Sterling registered the goal for England. This was Sterling’s first goal at a major tournament. Kalvin Phillips made a stunning run as he beat two players and then he went on to pass the ball to Sterling, and he did not disappoint and successfully netted the ball into the goalpost.No more goals were possible in the match, and in the end, England went away with a 1-0 victory. Austria will lock horns against North Macedonia while in another match, Netherlands and Ukraine will be squaring off against each other.

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Mizoram man who headed world’s largest family dies

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Ziona Chana, the man from Mizoram believed to head the world’s largest family with at least 39 wives and 94 children and 33 grandchildren, died on Sunday at the age 76.

Taking to Twitter, Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga on Sunday bid farewell to him. “With heavy heart, Mizoram bid farewell to Mr. Zion-a (76), believed to head the world’s largest family, with 38 wives and 89 children. Mizoram and his village at Baktawng Tlangnuam has become a major tourist attraction in the state because of the family. Rest in Peace Sir!” he tweeted along with a group picture of the huge family.

Zion-a featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not in 2011 and 2013 for having the world’s largest family.

He reportedly lived with his family in a large 100-room, four-story building.

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We will be part of the next Union cabinet expansion: JD-U chief

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Amid the speculations of the Union Cabinet expansion, R.C.P. Singh, National president of the NDA-ally Janata Dal (United) on Sunday said that JDU is part of the alliance of the ruling NDA coalition at the Centre and the party will be part of the Cabinet whenever there is an expansion.

“There is no confusion. We are a part of NDA. Whenever there will be an expansion in the cabinet in Centre, JD (U) will be part of it,” he said.

At present, the JD(U) has no representation in the Union Cabinet. the JD(U) contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in alliance with the BJP.

However, RCP Singh chose not to comment on the inclusion of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) in the ‘cabinet expansion’.

Singh also mentioned that everything is good in the alliance in Bihar and there are no clashes in the NDA-led government in the state. “Everyone is together in the NDA in Bihar. The NDA government will complete its present term in Bihar. Everyone is working towards the development of the state,” the JD(U) chief said.

“The RJD is spreading rumours that nothing is good in the NDA to keep its MLA together. There is everything good in NDA but there are clashes in the RJD,” he added.

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First three desi nuclear attack submarines to be 95% made in India

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In what would be a major boost for the submarine building capability within the country, the first three nuclear attack submarines to be built indigenously would be having 95 per cent Made in India content in them and it would further go up in the next three. The Cabinet Committee on Security is considering a proposal worth around Rs 50,000 crore for indigenously building three nuclear attack submarines which would be built by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in Visakhapatnam. This project is separate from the Arihant class project under which six nuclear-powered submarines are being built with the capability of launching ballistic missiles.

“The nuclear attack submarine project would be a big boost for the indigenous submarine capability as 95 per cent of it would be made in India. This would provide a big boost to the domestic defence sector including both private and public sector,” government sources told ANI.

For the six nuclear attack submarines, the planners are confident that they would be able to complete the project without any external help but if required, they may take help of one of its strategic partner countries, they said.

The project would also be very helpful for the economy as it is expected to generate a large number of jobs in the defence sector, the sources said.

The Navy and DRDO would first get a clearance for three of these boats and will have the option of building three more after the completion of this project. The Indian Navy proposal to have six indigenous nuclear attack submarines was one of the first few major defence modernisation proposals to have been cleared by the Narendra Modi government soon after it came to power in 2014.

Even though marred by some delays, India has been making big headways in the field of indigenous submarine building capability. The first Arihant class boat was commissioned a few years ago and the second one INS Arighat is also undergoing sea trials and is expected to be commissioned in near future.

India has plans of building 24 submarines including six nuclear attack ones which would give it long legs to operate in the Indian Ocean Region and will help it to keep its adversaries in check at long distances.

The first six conventional boats are already under construction in Mumbai under the Kalavati class project while the tender for the next six with greater capability would be issued soon after recent clearance by the Defence Ministry. There is a plan to build six more conventional submarines under the Project 76 but it will take a long time to be initiated.

ANI

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SECOND WAVE WASHES AWAY DABBAWALAS’ HOPES, FORCES THEM TO TAKE OTHER JOBS

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Currently, many dabbawalas are jobless, some of them have returned to their villages while others had to find new ways to earn their livelihood. According to the members of the Mumbai Dabbawala Association, many bicycles can be seen outside railway stations in this lockdown but there are not as many dabbawalas.

The pandemic has brought a halt to their lives. Only some of them are working and delivering dabbas in hotels and hospitals while the rest are earning their livelihood through other means. Some dabbawalas have become auto drivers or are selling vegetables to earn money.

Mumbai’s 130-year-old dabba delivery system has over 5,000 dabbawalas like Kailash Shinde who now operates and provides dabbas for hotels and travels from Andheri to Malad to Borivali and Bandra.

Since trains are being used only for essential services, dabbawalas face a lot of problems in travelling. Due to the lockdown, the places have been shut where they used to deliver dabbas.

Subhash Talekar, President, Mumbai Dabbawala Association says “we demanded the state government to allow us to travel in local trains as essential workers are being allowed. We should also get a nod to commute in trains as it gets difficult to go by any other vehicle to far off places. Lockdown has affected our economy drastically”

A dabbawala told us how this lockdown has impacted his life. Kailash lives in a chawl system in Andheri with his wife and two children. The pandemic and the lockdown have caused a lot of damage to dabbawalas. Kailash showed us his house and opened up about the difficulties he is facing due to the lockdown. 

He says, “Before the lockdown, I had a team of 18 people and used to earn from Rs 12,000 to Rs 15,000 from one house and had over 400 orders. But after the lockdown, I have a team of only three people and fewer orders. Now we get only Rs 5000 to Rs 6000 in which we have to survive as the money is divided among three people.”

Kailash and his wife earn to manage somehow and give good education to their children. His wife also works to support her husband and family, yet this is not enough.

Due to the pandemic, Kailash had to face commuting hurdles as half of the money earned goes into travelling. In an emotional appeal to the government, he says, “I request the government to look into the matter and allow us to travel in trains as the lockdown has greatly affected our economy. If trains are opened for dabbawalas, then it will be a ray of sunshine for them from the dark clouds of lockdown.”

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Experts find no proof of 3rd wave hitting kids hard, but states in no mood to take chance

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With 80,834 Covid-19 reported cases in the last 24 hours, India continued its declining trend of new infections and reported the lowest single-day count in 71 days, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Sunday.

The new cases pushed the Covid case tally in the country to 2,94,39,989. India has been witnessing a continuous fall in the active caseload and the current active number of Covid cases stands at 10,26,159 with a net decrease of 54,531 cases in the last 24 hours.

The weekly positivity rate further dropped to less than 5 per cent and currently stands at 4.74 per cent while the daily positivity rate stands at 4.25 per cent today. It has remained less than 10 per cent for 20 consecutive days now.

Despite the downward trend, most states seem to be gearing up for the anticipated third wave, especially on creating infrastructure for paediatric wards, given the buzz that the coming wave might hit kids particularly hard. In view of the pandemic, the states have kept the health budget of 8-14 % for the current year. The Delhi government allocated Rs 9,934 crore or 14% of the total budget to health. CM Arvind Kejriwal on 12 June cautioned that the chances of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic were quite real, while he asserted that his government was preparing on a “war-footing” to combat it.

The Kerala government allocated Rs 2,800 crore to deal with the health emergency. The third wave of Covid-19 is expected to arrive in October, necessitating a larger budget for Covid mitigation.

Bihar has kept Rs 13,264 crore on health this year. The health department has focused its attention on arranging beds with medical facilities for children who, experts fear, could be mostly affected in the third wave. Currently, there are 816 beds for children in the nine medical college hospitals in the state. Of these, only 225 have oxygen facilities.

Uttar Pradesh allocated 5.5 per cent of its total expenditure for health. CM Yogi Adityanath said that the state is now preparing for a probable third wave. Paediatric ICUs in district hospitals and mini-PICU in community health centres were being operationalised. A new 20-bed PICU has been planned for Deoria and a mini-PICU in Laar.

Incidentally, as the states gear up to ramp up their paediatric wards, a new report says that there’s no substantial evidence to suggest that children will be more affected or have greater illness severity in the anticipated third wave.

The Lancet Covid-19 Commission India Task Force prepared the report after convening an experts group comprising leading paediatricians from the country to examine the issue of ‘paediatric Covid-19’ in India. It said that the infection’s symptomatology in children in India appears to be globally comparable.

“Most children with Covid-19 are asymptomatic, and amongst those symptomatic mild infections are predominant. Most children have fever with respiratory symptoms, and often present with gastrointestinal symptoms and a typical manifestation compared to adults. The proportion of symptomatic children increases as age increases as does the severity in such age groups,” the report started.

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