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Cross-border data transfers: (In)Adequate protection?

Rahul Chaudhary, Jayashree Parihar & Aastha Saxena

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“Data is the New Oil, the New Gold”. If there is one thing which unites businesses all over the world, it is, above all else, their collection, use, processing or storage of personal/financial data of clients, consumers, service providers and business associates.

 Across the nations , data protection laws have changed remarkably over the past two decades. Now more than ever, an individual’s digital existence is a common phenomenon. Our reliance on smartphones, laptops and wearable technology has increased manifold and payment through online digital modes, is a way of life. At an individual level, there is a huge amount of personal data that is being shared, collected, and stored online on the pretext of making our online existence customized and therefore, comfortable. Due to this boom in digital space and economy, one of the most frequent concerns to arise is regarding the ‘adequacy’ of protection of our personal data.

Generally speaking, personal data is any data or set of data which can be used to identify a person directly or indirectly. This would include one’s name, characteristics, personality traits, appearance etc. which may not necessarily be closely guarded. However, certain other types of data, such as those relating to one’s religious or political belief, health, or private life would be closely guarded as their dissemination, or knowledge could have significant impact on a person or may be treated with greater care simply by virtue of their sensitive nature. With varying legal systems and societal standards, all jurisdictions have their own definition of what type of data should be categorised as ‘Sensitive Personal Data’ or be put in a special category of personal data (‘SPD’) requiring a relatively higher level of regulation or protection.

In the digital economy space businesses are global, requiring cross-border transfer of personal data. It is imperative that each business must understand the common basic principles pertaining to data protection and privacy laws regulating the legal environment of the jurisdictions within which such business operates or transacts. At a high level, jurisdictions having dedicated data protection law usually permit crossborder transfer of personal data on five broad principles – adequacy, informed consent, contractual necessity, interests of data subjects or other persons, and overriding legal or state functions.

The principle of adequacy requires that data can be transferred across national borders only if the receiving nation or territory offers sufficient protection for data under its own laws, which is comparable to or, at the very least complies with the minimum protection accorded in the transferor state.

The last few weeks have been particularly busy for the data protection activists and businesses alike, as both find themselves grappling with the issues resurrected by the ruling of the Court of Justice of European Union (‘CJEU’), European Union’s highest court, in the much-awaited case of Data Protection Commissioner v. Facebook Ireland Limited, Maximillian Schrems (usually known as the ‘Schrems II’) wherein the legal basis of international transfer and processing of personal data between the EU and the United States of America (‘USA’) was tested for the second time.

European privacy laws [previously the Data Protection Directive – Directive 95/46/EC (‘Directive’), and now the General Data Protection Regulation (‘GDPR’)] permit free flow of personal data within the EU. Cross-border transfer of personal data to non-EU country is also permitted provided the personal data enjoys ‘adequate’ level of protection in such country which is essentially ‘equivalent’ to that within the EU. USA came up with a set of guidelines or principles to be followed by businesses receiving data from EU known as the EU-US Safe Harbour framework (‘Safe Harbour framework’). Vide order dated July 26, 2000, the European Commission accepted the adequacy of Safe Harbour framework. This resulted in free flow of personal data from EU to USA provided the entity receiving the personal data was compliant with the privacy principles contained in Safe Harbour framework.

 In 2013, Edward Snowden publicly disclosed that intelligence agencies in USA have wide access to the personal data of EU users being collected by the electronic communication/service providers in USA. Following these revelations regarding the invasive surveillance mechanisms employed by authorities in USA, questions were raised about the integrity of the Safe Harbour framework and the adequacy of protection provided by it.

In the year 2015 an Austrian national, ‘Maximillian Schrems’ approached the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (‘DPC’) claiming that the Safe Harbour framework did not guarantee the requisite level of data protection mandated under the Data Protection Directive, the EU’s data protection law in force at the time, and thus, data collected by Facebook Ireland Limited from EU residents must not be transferred to servers of Facebook Inc. in USA, as it violated the guaranteed rights of EU residents. The DPC ruled that it was bound by the Order dated July 26, 2000 passed by the European Commissioner; the Safe Harbour framework provided adequate protection; and, rejected the complaint as “frivolous and vexatious”. The matter travelled up to the CJEU which gave its decision in this case of Maximillian Schrems v. Data Protection Commissioner, which came to famously be known as the ‘Schrems I’ case, in the year 2015. The CJEU also observed that “legislation permitting the public authorities to have access on a generalised basis to the content of electronic communications must be regarded as compromising the essence of the fundamental right to respect for private life” as guaranteed under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘CFR’). The CJEU held that a third country such as the USA must provide an “essentially equivalent” level of protection, that the decision of the DPC was invalid and that the protection pursuant to the Safe Harbour framework was inadequate.

Soon thereafter, USA negotiated with EU to come up with another framework referred to as the EU-US Privacy Shield framework (‘Privacy Shield’) for providing adequate protection to data so that the companies in the USA can resume engaging in crossborder transfer of data on a self-certification basis. European Commission’s Decision 2016/1250/EC of July 12, 2016 approved the Privacy Shield as providing ‘adequate’/’equivalent’ protection.

Since the Privacy Shield had failed to address the core issues pertaining to conflict of laws in USA with the fundamental right to respect for private life as guaranteed under the CFR of EU, the issue related to adequacy of protection granted by the Privacy Shield again travelled to the CJEU on account of a lawsuit filed by Irish DPC against Facebook Ireland Limited and Maximillian Schrems. However, this time, the touchstone to judge the adequacy of the data protection was GDPR which replaced and repealed the Directive in the year 2018. On July 16, 2020, the CJEU issued a judgment declaring invalid the European Commission’s Decision of July 12, 2016 on the adequacy of the Privacy Shield. The CJEU, amongst other things, declared the Privacy Shield as an invalid mechanism for transferring personal data, due to the limitations on its protection from the domestic law of USA which allow indiscriminate access to public authorities in USA to the EU data transferred there. It observed that though the Commission had held in its adequacy ruling that the authorities in USA would be bound by the limitation principles under the EU law, the laws of USA do not “grant data subjects actionable rights before the courts against the US authorities. Therefore, the Privacy Shield cannot ensure a level of protection essentially equivalent to that arising from the Charter contrary to the requirement in Article 45(2)(a) of the GDPR that a finding of equivalence depends, inter alia, on whether data subjects whose personal data are being transferred to the third country in question have effective and enforceable rights.” The CJEU thereby declared that the Privacy Shield cannot be used as the legal basis for transferring personal data to USA where the recipient is subject to parting with such data as per its surveillance laws.

Back at home, the Supreme Court of India in the year 2018 had also given a ruling recognising the need to bridle the powers of the government while handling data of its citizens. It was noted that “informational privacy is a facet of the right to privacy. The dangers to privacy in an age of information can originate not only from the state but from non-state actors as well.” To guard against such dangers, the Court recognised that “a careful and sensitive balance between individual interests and legitimate concerns of the state” needs to be achieved. In the past couple of months, lack of adequate protection has also been a growing concern. The Indian Government’s recent ban on several Chinese applications including TikTok, UC Browser and BeautyPlus was also due to breach of users’ data privacy. India under its current laws in the Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules, 2011 also recognises the requirement of adequate protection for cross-border transfer of SPD.

Should adequacy be lacking in laws, states such as Russia, Switzerland and those following the GDPR permit cross-border transfers provided treaties or data sharing frameworks have been established for it. It was under this route that the Privacy Shield was set up to allow EU companies to transact with businesses in USA. Even if there is no data sharing framework in place, entities intending to transfer the data can opt to be contractually bound by the model clauses or Standard Contractual Clauses (‘SCC’) approved by the transferor nation’s data authorities. Even otherwise, parties can themselves provide contractual obligations respecting the higher protection standards. However, some jurisdictions such as Switzerland, would require prior approval of the data protection authorities if the SCCs terms are deviated from. The consequences of the CJEU judgment in Schrems II is that the businesses are now forced to rely on SCCs to legally support cross-border transfer of personal data from EU to USA. Contractual safeguards may even be put in place by way of binding corporate policies. The law proposed to be enforced soon in India i.e. the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 (‘Proposed Bill’) also envisages alternative mechanisms to facilitate cross-border transfer of data.

Even in case of glaring conflicts or inadequacy, all is not lost in the world of data transfer. In such situations, cross-border transfer can take place if the data subject or data principal, i.e. the person to whom this personal data relates, consents to transferring such data despite being apprised of the risks associated with such inadequacy. What assumes importance then is the quality of consent and the riders attached to it, which vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For instance, EU, UK, Mauritius and Switzerland would require that consent should be given after informing the data subject about associated risks and giving the option to refuse such consent. In fact, in Vietnam, financial data is considered as SPD and therefore, the e-commerce websites must seek purpose-specific informed consent before using or disclosing such data. On the other hand, as per Australian law, since financial data is not strictly included in SPD, it could even be disclosed based on an implied consent understood to have been given by the data subject. However, most recently enacted data protection laws do not consider a ‘consent by default’ sufficient for this purpose. The practicality of this is to give the data subject an opportunity to make a conscious decision for herself, being insulated from the self-interest of the data controller/transferor to export data, whether for ease of business or earning profits.

Where transfer is necessary for purpose of contractual or pre-contractual obligations, the same may be transferred in the absence of specific informed consent for cross-border transfer by the data subject. However, the requisite parties to the contract eligible to transfer data in this manner also vary under different laws. In countries such as Brazil, Mauritius and Russia, so long as it is in the best interest of the data subject, even contracts entered into by the data collector/transferor with other third parties to the exclusion of but for benefit of the data subject would be valid ground for availing leeway under this basis. Whereas in Switzerland, for intra-group cross-border transfer in case of inadequacy, data subject should be a party to the contract.

The next basis for international transfer is vital or compelling interest. This means that cross-border transfer may be permitted on the grounds of vital interest of data subject, or on account of compelling legitimate interests of the data controller and/or processor, and in some cases, a third party. Different legislative frameworks have different standards for exercising this basis for cross-border transfer. In some jurisdictions, such as Germany, Russia and Luxembourg, such a ground of data subject’s interest would be permitted only where data subject is not in a position to give an informed consent. Interestingly, Mauritian authorities can even call upon the data exporter to demonstrate that compelling legitimate interests did in fact exist. Further, under the GDPR and Mauritian law, data from publicly accessible records can be shared, in compliance with other conditions of the data protection law or where the requesting third party, can demonstrate a legitimate interest where access is regulated. It is likely that issues relating to demonstrability and compelling nature of such interest, being subjective elements, would require frequent intervention of data protection authorities and courts.

 The ground of necessity for legal or state related functions for data transfer is, perhaps, a ground as widely observed as that of consent. Laws of almost all nations recognise that data to at least a limited extent could be transferred even without strictly complying with otherwise applicable law where disclosure is necessitated by reasons of national security or defence, public interest, protection of life or health, complying with court procedure or establishing or enforcing legal rights. It must be appreciated that it is not only in case of national or international exigencies that cross-border flow of data occurs. In the present day and age where international cooperation has expanded in all spheres, be it to improve global health, fight terrorism or to catch economic offenders, countries are likely to share data proactively to achieve their goals. Such cooperation amongst countries has been seen in the past when Herve Falciani in 2008 fled to France with data of account holders who were hiding money from taxmen in the Swiss branch of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (H.S.B.C.) Bank, and details of those individuals were shared with India by the French authorities in 2011 and later, the Swiss authorities in 2019. Being bound by their respective national laws to some extent, even the authorities would be expected to exercise a degree of caution while disclosing such data.

The protection of personal data in cross-border transfers has gained enormous importance in recent times and would continue to be of vital interest to the businesses in times to come given the fact that data flows are bound to grow with more and more businesses going digital. Judgments of CJEU in Schrems I and Schrems II has served notice to businesses and nations alike that the right to privacy must be upheld and respected.

 India has proposed a new law for protection of personal data. In fact, the Indian Government is also considering regulating the processing and transfer of non-personal data to promote a healthy business environment. Earlier this year, the Indonesian President is reported to have signed a draft law on personal data protection, which leans towards the Indian Proposed Bill and defines general personal data and SPD in a similar fashion. Unlike the GDPR, the Indonesian bill includes personal financial data as a part of SPD and for cross-border transfer of personal data and adopts the mechanism of ‘adequacy’ of protection in the recipient states. Countries like China, Indonesia and Russia, that once banned cross-border data transfers, are now conscious of the need to open up the digital boundaries and harmonize themselves with the global pulse of data protection. Where Switzerland had a more stringent regulation in place, in light of its close geographical and economic ties with the EU, perhaps, it realized the need to introduce leniency and streamline its laws with that of its neighbours.

 However, a view may be taken that it is not sufficient for countries to merely align their data protection policies. As seen above, a state of real adequacy of protection cannot be attained unless national laws overriding data protection laws are also brought in sync with one another. In absence of coming up with robust crossborder data transfer mechanisms, nations and entities might soon realise that the principle of adequacy is turning into an unforeseen trade barrier. Since international harmonization across legal issues seem more like a utopian vision than a soon to be achieved reality, data importers and exporters would have to make up for the disconnect on their own, to whatever extent it is possible. Depending on a case to case basis, one approach could be to transfer data not only on one of the many aforementioned legal bases but rather to use a combination thereof so that even if one of the basis is held to be invalid, like the Privacy Shield in Schrems II, business is not thrown in a state of absolute frenzy and rather already has provisions for enabling stop-gap arrangements to be put in place.

 While countries can take time to decide whether or not to review their respective legislations, the business entities are forced to amend their policies and contracts to protect their businesses so that they earn ‘adequate’ profits while arranging to provide for ‘equivalent’ protection for cross-border flow personal data.

Adv. Rahul Chaudhary is Partner, PSL Advocates & Solicitors. Adv. Jayashree Parihar is Senior Associate & Adv. Aastha Saxena is Associate, PSL Advocates & Solicitors.

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Policy & Politics

PIYUSH GOYAL CALLS UPON STARTUPS TO LEVERAGE ‘DEEP TECH’

Goyal says start ups to build solutions for local & global markets: AI, IoT, Big Data, etc.

Tarun Nangia

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Piyush Goyal

The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Piyush Goyal today called upon the Indian industry to aim for raising 75 unicorns in the 75 weeks to the 75th anniversary of Independence next year.

“We have added 43 unicorns added in 45 weeks, since the start of ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ on 12th March, 2021. Let us aim for atleast 75 unicorns in this 75 week period to 75thAnniversary of Independence,” he said, while releasing the NASSCOM Tech Start-up Report 2022.

Goyal said Startup India started a revolution six years ago and today ‘Startup’ has become a common household term. Indian Startups are fast becoming the champions of India Inc’s growth story, he added.

“India has now become the hallmark of a trailblazer & is leaving its mark on global startup landscape. Investments received by Indian startups overshadowed pre-pandemic highs. 2021 will be remembered as the year Indian start-ups delivered on their promise, – fearlessly chasing opportunities across verticals – Edtech, HealthTech & AgriTech amongst others,” he said.

Goyal lauded the ITES (Information Technology Enabled Services) industry including the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector for the record Services exports during the last year. “Services Export for Apr-Dec 2021 reached more than $178 bn despite the Covid19 pandemic when the Travel, Hospitality & Tourism sectors were significantly down,” he said.

• “Let us aim for at least 75 unicorns in the 75 weeks to the 75th Anniversary of Independence”: Piyush Goyal

• Goyal lauds the ITES industry including the BPO sector for the record Services exports during the last year despite the pandemic

•  Piyush Goyal says the PM’s interaction with Startups a week ago has supercharged our innovators

• The next “UPI moment” will be the ONDC (Open Network for Digital Commerce) – Goyal

• New India is today being led by new troika of Innovation, Technology & Entrepreneurship (ITE), ‘India at 100’ will be renowned as a Startup nation: Goyal

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Subhas Chandra Bose statue to be installed in India Gate, announced PM Modi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Friday that a grand statue of iconic freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose will be installed at India Gate. This announcement came ahead of the 125th anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that his statue will be installed at India Gate to honor his contribution to the independence movement.

The Prime Minister further said that Bose’s grand statue will be made of granite and will be a symbol of India’s indebtedness to him. “Till the grand statue of Netaji Bose is completed, a hologram statue of his would be present at the same place. I will unveil the hologram statue on 23rd January, Netaji’s birth anniversary” PM Modi tweeted

“At a time when the entire nation is marking the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, I am glad to share that his grand statue, made of granite, will be installed at India Gate,” PM Modi tweeted on Friday. “This would be a symbol of India’s indebtedness to him.”

The statue will be installed under the grand canopy near which the Amar Jawan Jyothi flickers in remembrance of India’s martyrs. The eternal flame, which has not been extinguished for 50 years, will be put off on Friday, as it will be merged with the flame at the National War Memorial.

The canopy, which was built along with the rest of the grand monument in the 1930s by Sir Edwin Lutyens, once housed a statue of the former king of England George V. The statue was later moved to Coronation Park in Central Delhi in the mid-1960s.

The announcement was hailed by many Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, Union ministers and civil society members.

“Great news for the entire nation as PM @narendramodi Ji has today announced that a grand statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, will be installed at the iconic India Gate, New Delhi. This is a befitting tribute to the legendary Netaji, who gave everything for India’s freedom.” Amit Shah tweeted.

“Netaji is an epitome of India’s true strength & resolve. Congress has left no stone unturned to forget the immortal contributions of India’s brave son. PM @narendramodi’s decision to install Netaji’s statue at India Gate on his 125th Jayanti will inspire our generations to come.” Amit Shah added in his tweet.

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi will unveil a 216-foot statue of Ramanujacharya, a 11th century saint and a social reformer, in Hyderabad on February 5. The statue described as the ‘Statue of Equality is located in a 45-acre complex at Shamshabad on the outskirts of the city.

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‘US, India should set bold goals to attain $500bn target’, said Keshap

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Having achieved a huge success in their bilateral relations, two of the world’s greatest democracies – India and the United States of America should opt in favour of setting bold goals in order to take their relationship to a new high thereby achieving the ambitious target of $500 billion in bilateral trade echoes retired American Diplomat Atul Keshap, who recently became the new president of the US India Business Council (USIBC).

“I think it’s vitally important that we show that democracies can deliver; that the United States and India can be a driver of global growth and a model for prosperity and development in the 21st century,” Keshap said.

During his illustrious career, the veteran diplomat has served in various capacities with the US State Department. He has been the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives and has also served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.

In 2021, he took over as the Chargé d’affaires of the United States mission to India and has been instrumental in shaping the US-India ties under the Joe Biden administration.

“I feel it’s critically important that we show that open societies powered by a free enterprise can be relevant for their people and can help power the world out of this pandemic. I tend to agree entirely with President Biden and PM Narendra Modi that the US India Partnership is a force for global good and it’s going to have a huge impact on economic growth,” he said.

Keshap feels that USIBC is the podium where he can give his best and help the people from both countries. “We need to move forward on the global trade agenda. We need to ensure the prosperity of the future, especially after this pandemic,” he said.

The 50-year-old diplomat reflected on the vision set by Biden, about potentially having a $500 billion trade in goods and services between the US and India. “That’s a very ambitious number and I believe in it. It is a great idea to try to have ambitious targets, else we are on a standstill” he said.

Having donned the new role recently, Keshap said he wants to help meet that $500 billion bilateral trade goal. “This is where the government and the private sector have to work together hand-in-hand,” he said.

“We have to articulate the benefits and have to convince all our stakeholders that there is value in lowering trade barriers, in creating strong standards and in creating positive ecosystems. There is value in dealing with small technical issues that might be creating a blockage to greater prosperity between our countries,” Keshap said.

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Coal crisis: How private sector can power India’s growth

Tarun Nangia

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India has been reeling under a coal shortage crisis and the situation got aggravated in October 2021 leading to a lot of concern amongst various stakeholders including government bodies, thermal power plants, industry and investors. The shortages, triggered by global factors, of course with Indian peculiarities, threatened supplies to thermal-based power plants, leading to an alarm.

Recovering from Covid-19-induced reverses, the global economy has rebounded and gathered steam. This was one of the prime reasons why there was an acute shortage of coal and sources of energy, worldwide. Global coal prices have risen by 40 per cent.

Port based Indian power plants normally rely on imports. Given the global conditions, and the sharp rise in coal prices internationally, the power plants are now almost solely dependent on Indian coal. It’s in this context that the coal crisis has been amplified by various stakeholders.

While global factors did contribute, did we fail to take necessary action, over a period of time? To highlight one prominent factor: Why should the Coal India Limited have monopoly over coal mining / supplies? Consider the CIL performance in the last few years: Its output was 606 MT in 2018-2019, 602 MT in 2019-2020, and 596 MT in 2020-2021. Contrast this with various governments’ efforts to ramp up Coal production in the 1992-2010 period.

So, why did Coal India Limited fail to expand capacity? This is one big question that must be debated. It can therefore be argued that CIL’s monopoly on coal extraction and supplies (till very recently) is one of the prime reasons why India’s thermal power plants faced a coal crisis.

India has the world’s fourth-largest coal reserve, with around 300 billion tonnes of coal. But it is also true that it imports approximately 250 million tonnes of coal. This is because we don’t mine enough and use our resources optimally.

CIL supplies 80 per cent of India’s coal needs. The demand for coal in India is nearly a billion tonnes a year, and the supply is below 800 million tonnes.

Unfortunately, based on then CAG Vinod Rai’s miscalculations and the Notional Loss theory, the Supreme Court cancelled 214 coal blocks in September 2014. Private players were not given a patient hearing on the issue. Rather than encouraging them, the private sector got punished unfairly for its efforts to strengthen the economy through coal mining. If 100 out of 214 of those mines were functional and each one was producing, say, 4 mtpa of Coal, India today would be a net exporter, not importer, of Coal.

Rai’s theory and the Supreme Court judgment had devastating consequences. The coal production in the country took a hit. The country’s GDP declined by almost 1 per cent. Millions of jobs were lost. NPAs of banks with exposure to power, steel and mining sector rose exponentially. Such is Rai’s credibility that he recently tendered an apology to a Congress leader, who, Rai claimed in his book, “requested him to remove then PM Manmohan Singh’s name from the coal scam”. Taking a cue, if someone sues Rai for his Coal Scam theory and numbers, would he be able to defend his report in court?

Against the recommendations of CAG of incentivizing good performers who produce coal, the Supreme Court imposed an additional levy of 295 rupees per ton on the coal extracted from operational mines retrospectively from 1993. The private miners were directed to deposit more than Rs. 9000 crore as penalty.

The stagnating CIL coal output should be seen in this background. Being a monopoly, CIL could have been a saviour for the nation. CIL however neither ramped up production nor invested in technology or expansion of new mines.

In 2020, in a bold and much welcome development, the Union Government opened up commercial coal mining, thus ending Coal India’s monopoly. PM Modi said that he wanted India to be a net exporter of coal, as he set ambitious targets.

A lesson from the recent crisis is this – the CIL monopoly, along with the no-entry sign for the private sector, harmed the country.

There are lessons to be drawn from the opening up of the aviation sector for the recent coal crisis episode. With a series of measures, the aviation sector was opened up, with the Air India privatisation being the latest example. The economy, the nation and consumer benefitted. When sectors as diverse as Steel, Infrastructure and Healthcare were unshackled, the end consumer, the economy and the nation benefitted.

Similarly, if the private sector in coal mining would have been encouraged consistently, and ill-advised measures like cancellation of coal blocks not taken, the coal situation would not have come to such a pass. In 2014, the private sector was said to be accounting for 90 million tons of coal – a substantial figure. Instead of getting encouraged, the private sector had to fight protracted court cases and spend its time wastefully.

There’s a consensus that Coal would continue to power economic growth for a country like India for the next two decades. It’s important that this abundantly-available natural resource is used optimally. The Private Sector can play a key role here.

The Government has shown intent and commitment. It’s time for all the stakeholders to ensure that the country faces no shortage of Coal hereafter. It’s time we all learnt our lessons and ensure that Coal and Mining booms and fires India’s growth march.

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eGrocers seize the day as orders rise 40% amid third wave

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In the ongoing third wave of Covid-19 one industry tops it all with high revenue generation based on more than enough orders to double their size of operation. eGrocers are riding the Corona wave high with record number of orders rising in the third wave and inevitably increasing the rate of their operations. Since December the online grocer Blinkit has added 200 “dark stores” that are designed only for deliveries in ten minutes.The company now plans to take the number to 1000 by March. Reliance owned MilkBasket is more than doubling its warehousing capacity to almost 350,000 sq ft in NCR to cater to 1,50,000 orders a day, double the current order size. In the midst of the growing Covid-19 cases while the brick and mortar retailers and dine-in restaurants are holding out on their expansion plans, online grocers like Blinkit and MilkBasket are going all out on aggressively pushing to take advantage of the growing demand for quick online deliveries. Even at the time of the first and second wave the online grocers had been in the works to expand their operations as millions of Indians gravitated to digital commerce. However the ongoing third wave has made the push on market capitalisation more aggressive and ambitious. “One thing has changed in this wave that our pace of expansion has doubled,” said Rohit Sharma head of supply chain at Blinkit.

The main rival of Blinkit, Tata owned BigBasket is planning to launch BB Now, its express delivery service of delivering products in 10-20 minutes, joining the growing space of quick commerce. Currently Blinkit, Swiggy’s Instamart, Dunzo and Zepto are active in that space. T K Balakumar, chief operating officer at Big Basket said his company is planning to increase its existing warehousing capacity by 40%. They are also planning to open more than 300 dark stores in the coming financial year starting April.

During the ongoing Covid wave the orders in various cities have gone up by 30-40%, said the online grocers. Milkbasket is currently catering to about 70,000 orders per day in the NCR. Its new 150,000 sq ft warehouse in the region will be ready by next month. “There is excess demand. They are already running 110% of capacity,” said a person familiar with MilkBaskets’ plans. MilkBasket operates in Delhi-NCR, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai and is set to enter Jaipur later this month.

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India-assisted projects launched for Mauritius by PMs Modi and Jugnauth

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During a virtual event on January 20, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Mauritius counterpart Pravind Kumar Jugnauth jointly opened an India-assisted social housing project in Mauritius. The two leaders also opened a civil service college and an 8-MW solar power project in Mauritius, both of which are being funded by India, as per the external affairs ministry. According to the ministry, a bilateral agreement for the implementation of modest development projects was exchanged, as well as an agreement to grant a $190 million line of credit from India to Mauritius for the Metro Express Project and other infrastructure projects. The news follows Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s tour to Indian Ocean countries like Sri Lanka, Comoros, and the Maldives, during which the Chinese side disclosed a number of business initiatives. Mauritius is an important aspect of India’s “Neighbourhood First” strategy, with New Delhi supporting a variety of projects in the African island nation. India supplied immunizations and medical supplies to Mauritius during the initial stages of the Covid-19 outbreak.. Last February, India, and Mauritius signed a free trade agreement aimed at making the island nation a regional center for Indian investments, and New Delhi offered a $100 million line of credit to cover defense gear purchases. Both governments decided to lease a Dornier plane and a Dhruv advanced light chopper to monitor Mauritius’ exclusive economic zone at the time.The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Pact (CECPA) between India and Mauritius was the country’s first free trade agreement with an African nation.

METRO EXPRESS PROJECT

PM Modi and his Mauritian counterpart Jugnauth jointly launched phase-I of the rail transportation line between India and Mauritius in 2019. The Light Rail Transit System Project represents a watershed moment in Indo-Mauritian ties, delivering significant economic benefits to both countries. In addition, the project provided engineering and technical skill development possibilities for the island nation. According to Rajeev Jyoti, Chief Executive of L&T, the construction company that won the contract from the Government of Mauritius, the large-scale investment also established India’s credibility in the international railway market. The first phase comprised the construction of a 26-kilometer railway with 19 stations connecting Curepipe and Immigration Square in Port Louis. Two of the stations were described as cutting-edge. Three major bus interchanges are included in the alignment, making it a multi-modal urban transit system. The bilateral flagship program was expanded in June 2021 with the start of phase-II, which runs from Rose Hill to the Quatre Bornes sector. PM Modi and PM Jugnauth jointly inaugurated the Metro Express corridor, “providing a safe, secure, dependable, and efficient method of transit in Mauritius,” according to the Indian embassy in Mauritius. Three major bus interchanges are included in the alignment, making it a multi-modal urban transit system. The bilateral flagship program was expanded in June 2021 with the start of phase-II, which runs from Rose Hill to the Quatre Bornes sector. PM Modi and PM Jugnauth jointly inaugurated the Metro Express corridor, “providing a safe, secure, dependable, and efficient method of transit in Mauritius,” according to the Indian embassy in Mauritius.

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