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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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For the love of the chair

Shweta Shalini

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Back in 1975, the ruling Congress under Indira Gandhi had organised mass protests outside the PM’s house. The so-called “spontaneous rallies” and “people’s rallies” were against a high court ruling, which restrained the PM’s right to vote or draw a salary as a Member of Parliament. The conditional stay had allowed Indira Gandhi to retain the prime minister’s post. Indira Gandhi’s misuse of power had put her in a spot when Allahabad HC accepted a petition filed by Raj Narain, which found her guilty of corrupt practices under Section 123(7) of the Representation of People’s Act during her Lok Sabha campaign in 1971 at Rae Bareli. The mass rallies in support of Indira Gandhi were a desperate attempt to cling to the chair when the moral authority and legal tenability of the government was fast slipping away. Gandhi was in no mood to exit gracefully. To insulate herself from the court verdict, she declared an Emergency on 25 June 1975 on the grounds of internal disturbances.

A similar situation is playing out in Maharashtra as CM Uddhav Thackeray desperately clings to power. In the evening of 20th June 2022 when the political observers, media and politicians in Maharashtra were focused on the Vidhan Parishad vote counting exercise, about 30-40 MLA’s in the assembly quietly made their way out of the state. The surprising BJP victory in the fifth MLC seat proved what the LoP Devendra Fadnavis was saying all along “that inherent ideological contradictions and dissatisfaction within the ranks of MVA will fuel our victory”.

When news about the 40 MLA’s who left the state in rebellion against the MVA government in Maharashtra broke the next morning, CM Uddhav Thackeray found himself in a similar situation to Mrs Gandhi in 1975. The Uddhav Thackeray government has lost moral authority as most of his MLAs have deserted him and the government can no longer claim a majority. Realising this, the CM left the official residence Varsha in order to claim the high moral ground and bring back the MLAs. After emotional appeals failed, he tried to convince, cajole and even threaten the MLAs. He attempted a show of strength on the streets and removed the security of MLAs’ family members. After every attempt failed, he is still clinging to power and repeats what Indira Gandhi did—organising protests in solidarity with him even though he clearly knows that numbers in the Vidhan Sabha don’t favour him.

A graceful exit and the forming of a “natural alliance” with the BJP is what his rebel MLAs have demanded. A “graceful exit” for CM Thackeray is exactly what the NCP under Sharad Pawar wants to prevent, even though the NCP is under no illusion about the future of this government. The NCP is egging the Shiv Sena Chief to fight this losing battle, prolong this humiliation, conduct floor test and face more ignominy. How else can Shiv Sena be thoroughly humiliated than fighting for a lost cause? For two and a half years, the NCP worked in tandem with the MVA government in denying their share of power to Shiv Sena MLAs. Today, the NCP under Sharad Pawar is working on its design to weaken the Shiv Sena further by making them fight a losing battle despite a lack of numbers.

If Indira Gandhi’s experience is any indication, Uddhav Thackeray will face the same fate as Indira Gandhi faced in the 1977 elections immediately post-emergency. The protests on the streets notwithstanding, the Indian electorate has consistently demonstrated a preference for democratic ideals. The excesses and desperation to cling to power of the emergency era had paved way for the first non-Congress government in India. A similar trend will be visible in Maharashtra post the 2019 elections.

In 2019, Shiv Sena had fought elections in alliance with BJP under the leadership of CM Devendra Fadnavis. Uddhav Thackeray abandoned the alliance after elections and formed an unnatural alliance with the NCP-INC combine, thereby insulting the voter’s mandate. The Shiv Sena rebel camp led by Eknath Shinde today is merely calling for the undoing of this insult to the people and a return to the Hindutva fold. If CM Thackeray continues to cling to his chair, the people of Maharashtra will punish his group heavily in every upcoming election, while the “original Shiv Sena” of Eknath Shinde adhering to Balasaheb’s ideals will be rewarded by the voters. The post-emergency era brought non-Congress parties into prominence and led to the eventual decline of Congress. The Love of the chair on the part of CM Thackeray will lead to the same results. CM Thackeray can either choose to respect the mandate of the people and their elected representatives or risk losing his party altogether.

The author is BJP spokesperson, advisor to former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, and executive director of Maharashtra Village Social Transformation Foundation.

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ONLINE FOOD DELIVERY IS TRENDING AND CONTAGIOUS

Technology has saved consumers from driving through the busy lanes with red lights at smaller intervals and a longer wait for their turn at the restaurant.

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If one is asked, “How many times did you order food online in the last six months?” The chances are that one may not even remember the exact number. However, the answer to another question, “How many restaurants have you visited to enjoy food in the last six months?” would be “yes, I can tell.” Millions of Indians have similar answers. Nonetheless, one might be mistaken if they believe that consumers order foods online only because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Most Indians had never thought that online food delivery would become so common that too, so fast. But the reality is that it is now part of urban consumers’ food habits, e.g., food purchase and consumption behaviour, in many countries, including India. It is trending and contagious. In the year 2021, more than 282 million Indians ordered food online, and the number is likely to increase to 493 million by the end of 2025.  

Was it all because of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdowns? No, the Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated the pace of the e-commerce business, including the online food business. The two most important factors that led to the food delivery business transformation are a revolution in internet and digital technologies and fast-changing consumers’ lifestyles and preferences. 

Technology has enabled consumers to access their favourite foods from their preferred outlets at their fingertips. Food reaches consumers in the shortest possible time at the place and the time decided by the consumer and all of this without spending much. Technology has saved consumers from driving through the busy lanes with red lights at smaller intervals and a longer wait for their turn at the restaurant. It is undoubtedly a fancied choice both for busy and lazy people. Consumers compare price, menu, quality, and outlet and select the best option that provides them with value. This is in addition to the time they save, a precious resource in modern times. With the number of smartphone users expected to increase to about 1133 million by 2025 from 847.7 million by the end of 2021, the future seems brighter. 

Consumers, too, are changing faster. Nuclear family, husband-wife working, increased disposable income, family members with varying tastes, not interested in kitchen work, and preference for a faster and easy option of getting food – all these have allured consumers to go online. Further, today’s consumers look for utilisation benefits and seek enjoyment, control, experimental value, and emotional arousal in their day-to-day activities. Ordering food online, fortunately, meets most of the wishes. Consumers today expect food to come to them instead of following, travelling, and waiting for it. With per capita spending on food and beverages expected to increase by more than 30% by 2025, many new consumers are likely to join the bandwagon, and existing customers will increase their online purchases.

There are two different types of online food delivery players in the market. First, the online food delivery system owned and run by established restaurants or food outlets, like Pizza Hut and Domino’s, makes home food delivery after consumers put their orders on their website. Next are food delivery platforms like Swiggy and Zomato, which source food from multiple restaurants and outlets and deliver it to consumers. In India, though restaurant-owned online food delivery is more popular and has a consumer penetration of 15.7%, online delivery platforms, with a penetration rate of 6.4%, are catching up very fast.

Online delivery platforms democratise the food market. Platforms provide every consumer with the opportunity to have food from any outlet, making it possible for smaller and not-so-popular food outlets to serve many consumers. In addition, food delivery platforms make local, traditional, and even international cuisine available to all consumers—a win-win situation for everyone. 

The online food delivery system has further decentralised and democratised entrepreneurship with concepts like dark kitchens or ghost kitchens. Dark kitchens create opportunities for established industries to extend their kitchen work and for professionals and entrepreneurs to start a new venture, even with a limited budget, by partnering with delivery platforms. Understanding what, how, and when customers order and how to meet those orders in the least amount of time at a lower price is crucial for the business’s success. It seems that online delivery players are mastering these tricks faster.

Delivering food in the proper packaging is more than 50% of food quality, and the industry seems to learn it slowly but steadily. It can be ensured that hot desi samosa and dosa reach the customer with the same crispiness as those served in restaurants. Hyderabadi Biryani, if not served as it appeared on the screen while ordering or with the fragrance that biryani is expected to have, may upset the customers. Restaurant owners have started using innovative packaging, and delivery partners have added specialised carrying boxes and well-planned routes through which foods are reaching faster and safely. Swiggy food survey 2021 indicates that Biryani and Desi Samosa were the most ordered meals and snacks, respectively, indicating that food delivery players in India are doing it briskly.

Food delivery platforms are labour-intensive, and their success is dependent on their partners. Their delivery persons, called “gig workers” in business terminology, are among the most crucial players in their business. Zomato, India’s second food delivery platform after Swiggy, employs more than 1,60,000 gig workers. Though their remuneration, working hours and conditions have come under scrutiny and have become the subject of debate, no one disagrees that the business creates many jobs at the field level. 

No doubt, advancing technologies, changing customers and innovations in the delivery business will result in the rapid spread of the industry. However, the food delivery business still has to cover a long distance before stabilising and settling down. Most delivery companies are yet to achieve their break-even and will require working hard to spread their reach and optimise costs. The business remains immensely competitive and reliant on the external business environment. 

In 2021, Indians ordered food worth 11782 million US dollars online, 30.4% more than the previous year. If the excitement the recent IPO of Zomato created, the presence of at least one food delivery platform for more than 100 million consumers, and fast-moving bikers with food in every lane are any indication, it establishes that online food delivery has arrived in India, and it will continue to grow and flourish. 

Niraj Kumar is a Professor of Rural Management at XIM University, Bhubaneswar. 

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SIDHU MOOSE WALA’S LAST SONG ‘SYL’ REMOVED FROM YOUTUBE

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singer Moosewala

Sidhu Moose Wala’s lastest song released after his assassination, SYL, the title referring to the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal, has now been taken off the video streaming platform YouTube.

The song on Punjab’s water issue, talks about the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal, which has been an apple of discord between Punjab and Haryana for quite a long time. Composed by Sidhu Moose Wala before he was shot dead on May 29, the music video was released by producer MXRCI on Friday, June 23 on YouTube. However, on clicking the link of the video, a message gets displayed now, saying, “This content is not available on this country domain due to a legal complaint from the government.”

The song talks about undivided Punjab, the 1984 anti-Sikh Riots and its videos shows the Sikh flag being hoisted at the Red Fort during the farmer agitation.

Since its launch, Moose Wala’s song SYL has garnered over 27 million views on YouTube and got 3.3 million likes.

Sidhu Moose Wala was shot dead by assailants in Jawaharke village of Punjab’s Mansa district on May 29.

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R MADHAVAN TROLLED OVER HIS COMMENTS ON ISRO

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Amid the promotions of the film Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, actor R Madhavan has found himself in the centre storm for his comments on Mars mission of the ISRO.

A clip of him saying that ISRO used the Panchangam (Hindu Calendar) to successfully launch the PSLV C-25 rocket to Mars has made him the subject of trolling. Now, the actor has issued a clarification.

In a tweet he wrote, “I deserve this for calling the Almanac the “Panchang” in Tamil. Very ignorant of me. Though this cannot take away for the fact that what was achieved with just 2 engines by us in the Mars Mission. A record by itself. @NambiNOfficial Vikas engine is a rockstar,” tagging former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan.

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Fake call centre busted in Delhi

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RSS

Delhi police busted a fake call centre for cheating over 250 unemployed people on the pretext of providing jobs, said officials on Sunday. The incident came to light when a complaint was received at the cyber cell where a complainant alleged that she was contacted by a woman named Muskan who stated that she is a recruiter from a job portal. The accused later asked the complainant to visit the job consultancy in Bhikaji Cama Palace for an interview and where they collected registration fees of Rs.3500 and Rs. 8500 on Google pay. The complainant was later issued an appointment letter in the name of other private companies and no job was given to her.

“As per the complaint, a case dated 21.06.22 U/s 420/468/471/34 IPC was registered at PS Cyber, Dwarka, New Delhi. During the investigation, the details of the alleged mobile numbers were obtained and the complainant also visited B-50, Somdatt Chamber-II, 9, Bhikaji Kama Palace, New Delhi,” said police. A trap was laid and a raid was conducted at B-50, Somdatt Chamber-II, 9, Bhikaji Kama Palace, New Delhi. During the raid, it was revealed that a fake call centre was found running in the name of Sunshine HR Global Services.

“During the raid, 16 mobile phones, 2 laptops, several registers and forged appointment letter pads in the name of Sunshine HR Global Services were recovered and 2 males and 5 females were also arrested. During interrogation, it was revealed that they cheated abut 250 unemployed youth with an amount of Rs. 23 lakh approximately as registration fees,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Dwarka, M. Harsha Vardhan.

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Two newly elected MPs can’t cast vote in coming presidential election

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The two newly elected members of Council of States (Rajya Sabha) from the State of Haryana namely Krishan Lal Panwar of BJP and  Kartikey Sharma (real name Kartikeya Sharma) who has been elected as Independent, can not cast their vote in the forthcoming 16th presidential election to be slated on July 18, 2022 as their tenure will commence from August 2022.  It is worth stating that the six years tenure of Rajya Sabha of both above newly elected MP’s from Haryana would only commence from August 2, 2022 and for which the requisite Gazette Notification would be issued by Union Ministry of Law and Justice under relevant provisions of Representation of the People Act, 1951 on August 2, 2022 itself.  

Divulging aforesaid information, Hemant Kumar, an Advocate at Punjab & Haryana High Court, Chandigarh said that  although both MPs have been issued Election Certificate after being declared elected by Returning Officer (R.O.) of Rajya Sabha Biennial Election from State of Haryana, RK Nandal, who is also Secretary of Haryana Vidhan Sabha but the  point is that the current tenure of two of total five incumbent MPs from State of Haryana viz. Dushyant Kumar Gautam of BJP and Independent Subhash Chandra is until August 1, 2022 and that their current  tenure can›t be cut-short merely due to the election of new successors on their seats.

It is pertinent to mention that Subhash Chandra has lost from Rajasthan while seeking fresh election to Rajya Sabha as an Independent candidate. Even otherwise, if Chandra would have been elected from Rajasthan, then his tenure as Rajya Sabha MP from such State should have however begun with effect from July 5, 2022 as the term of four MPs from Rajasthan would come to end on July 4, 2022. Even in that case, the tenure of two newly elected MPs from Haryana should have begun with effect from August 2, 2022. Kartikey Sharma, a debutant in the politics has defeated the Congress stalwart Ajay Maken a parachute candidate from Delhi in a neck to neck fight. It is being considered that being a parachute candidate resulted in the defeat of Maken.

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