India’s GDP grew by 0.4 per cent in the October to December quarter (Q3 FY21), marking a return to positive zone after two-quarters of recession but showing a lingering weakness in the economy, government data showed on Friday.
A sharp improvement in the Covid-19 situation and rising public spending are the two factors behind uptick. “The GDP at constant (2011-12) prices in Q3 of 2020-21 is estimated at Rs 36.22 lakh crore as against Rs 36.08 lakh crore in Q3 of 2019-20, showing a growth of 0.4 per cent,” said the National Statistical Office (NSO).
A continuing fall in domestic consumption is seen as a strong reason behind the sluggish pace.
According to second advance estimates of economic growth, the real GDP in current financial year (2020-21) is estimated at negative 8 per cent as compared to growth rate of 4 per cent in 2019-20.
Investment recorded its first growth since December 2019, growing at 2.6% compared to a revised 6.8% fall in the previous quarter, while weakness in consumer demand eased.
Consumer spending – the main driver of the economy – dropped 2.4 % year-on-year in Oct-December compared to an 11.3% fall in the previous quarter, data showed.
The economy has returned to the “pre-pandemic times of positive growth rates”, a finance ministry statement said after the release of the GDP data, which it said reflected a continued V-shaped recovery.
“Significant recovery in manufacturing and construction augurs well for the support these sectors are expected to provide to growth in 2021/22,” said the statement, which also cautioned that India is not yet beyond “the danger of the pandemic”.
Economists have raised their forecasts for the current fiscal year and 2021-22, expecting a pick-up in government spending, consumer demand and a resumption of most economic activities curtailed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Agriculture sector is estimated to see a growth of 3 per cent in FY21 as compared to 4.3 per cent in 2019-20. The manufacturing sector is likely to contract by 8.4 per cent during FY21. More worryingly, services sectors like trade, hotel, transport are projected to contract by 18 per cent. However, electricity is likely to grow at 1.8 per cent.
Some analysts warn, however, that a recent rise in crude oil prices and a surge of Covid-19 cases in parts of the country may pose risks to the nascent recovery.
“There are some risks that need to be watched, including rising commodity prices,” Sakshi Gupta, senior economist at HDFC Bank, told Reuters, adding that the pace of recovery in the informal sector and contact-intensive services could be impacted by the resurgence of domestic virus cases.
The economy contracted by 23.9 per cent in the April to June quarter (Q1 FY21) and by 7.5 per cent in the July to September quarter (Q2 FY21) as normal activities were disrupted due to nationwide coronavirus lockdowns.
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A BIG THUMBS-UP TO PM MODI’S SOFT POWER DIPLOMACY
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handling of the economic crisis, amid a raging pandemic, has bolstered India’s image as a promising economic power, a worthy alternative to China and an attractive destination for foreign investment.
Covid-19 has brought inexplicable changes on every possible front across the globe. This pandemic brought everything to a standstill, but now establishment in every corner of the world are in pursuit of a successful revival, with the only desire of getting back on its feet.
In this process, mere choice and need are not enough to get what is desired. With the changes in the global scenario, the priorities of all the countries have changed too, along with the dynamics of their investments. However, at a time when even developed countries are struggling to get back on their feet in terms of their economy, India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is continuing to witness an optimistic upwards trend in the calculations of economic progress.
Despite reservations about economic revival, the people of this nation had collectively and completely supported the lockdown. In the initial phase of the lockdown, they were on the same page as the government, which prioritized the health of the citizens over the economy.
What then came as a relief to citizens and industrialists were the packages announced by the Prime Minister under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan. These developments helped create a positive perception about the government which in a way managed to do well both on the economic as well as the health fronts.
While the initiatives of the government were appreciated domestically, they were also closely observed internationally. The manner in which India handled the Covid situation, at the same time initiating policies for economic revival, has been perceived as a successful model of governance by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is being appreciated across the globe. This has helped India enhance its reputation for goodwill at the international level.
Ever since Narendra Modi took charge as the Prime Minister, he has been keenly focusing on projecting internal strengths, such as positive economic growth, a robust domestic demand, a young workforce, economic and social reforms and, most importantly, a stable and dynamic government, to attract foreign investments. If the overview of this positive approach of global investors towards India is to be analysed, a consistent 7%-plus economic growth along with the needed improvisations of the nation’s macro fundamentals has made India a preferred choice for FDI. Besides, the ambitious economic reforms brought in by the Modi government have ensured that foreign investors view India as a destination for long term investment.
With changes in the global trend of investments due to Covid-19, India verily enjoys a brighter spot vis-à-vis China. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected an impressive 12.5% growth rate for India in 2021, which is stronger than that of China. This also makes India the only major economy to have a positive double digit growth rate last year during the pandemic. Similarly, Moodys, World Bank and the Reserve Bank of India have also revised their estimates and projected impressive growth.
At a stage where the pandemic is yet to be defeated and cases are accelerating around the world, India stands tall amongst 16 global economies in comparison. India, with a multitude of opportunities and potential, has over the last few years developed tremendous goodwill among the global economic powers as well as with neighbouring countries. In comparison, with its aggressive and dominating policies, China is gradually losing the influence it had in the recent past. Simultaneously, an international union of inclusive economies is forming, which will lead inevitably to further isolation of China.
The Quad, a four-nation alliance of India, Australia, the US and Japan, that was established in 2007, has maintained a low profile for a very long time. However, the exhibition of increasing bonhomie among the four nations has most certainly irked Beijing and challenged its ambitions. This Quad’s advocacy of “free and fair” Indo-Pacific trade is nothing but a clear signal cautioning China. In the world of free trade, assertion and dominance like China’s is most uncalled for. However, the protagonists can only be those whose foundations happen to be inclusive like, in this case, India.
At a time when global growth is expected to moderate to 3.3% over the medium term, India’s growth projection is an assurance to its people and industrial sector that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s target of achieving a $5 trillion economy is going to be a reality soon. While this looks ambitious, Narendra Modi has proved that with proper planning and execution, nothing is unachievable. And the IMF’s projection of economic growth echoes the same possibility.
With India’s image of inclusivity along with a well thought out plan and encouraging ease of doing business, the Modi government has ensured that we will soon be one of the most powerful economies in the world. We have now successfully painted an image of ourselves as a peace-loving business-friendly country with a plethora of opportunities, essentially owing to our exponential market potential along with a young workforce. Our relaxations in FDI along with our evolving technological and innovation capabilities only compliment our welcoming and accepting nature.
The pandemic has created an anti-China sentiment across the globe. There was a time when China’s foothold in the manufacturing sector in India appeared undisputed. However, the change in this is now evident with India emerging as a better alternative, by choice and not compulsion. Many conglomerates, particularly from China, have moved their manufacturing operations from China to India in the recent past.
This has been possible precisely because the nation, under the efficiency and wisdom of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, believes in democratic leadership and not dictatorship in terms of economic operations. Propelled by the economic reforms in 1991, the Modi government has only strengthened its roots through various financial, socio-economic and agricultural reforms.
India as a country has never believed in the policy of expansionism like China. Instead we have always believed in “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies are a reflection of the same.
On the basis of such strong indicators of a robust economy and its colossal opportunities, the world has verily given a big thumbs-up for Modi’s soft power diplomacy.
The author is Media Head, BJP Maharashtra. The views expressed are personal.
WHEN BUDDING STARTUPS SHARE INNOVATIVE IDEAS WITH PANELLISTS
In an invigorating session with NewsX, Supreme Incubator, a startup venture platform founded by Disha Singla and Tanvi Singla, presented a panel discussion, ‘Demo Day by Supreme Incubator’, wherein five budding startup companies presented their ideas and vision in the presence of an exemplary panel which consisted of business and entrepreneurial stalwarts who were also esteemed investors.
Supreme Incubator aims toward helping early age startups, especially those who are beyond the metropolitan areas and helping them build strong foundations from a very early stage and accelerate their growth. They hand-picked startups from a variety of companies across the country through a six-month-long program and provided them with a structural support system involving dedicated mental support, opportunities, and infrastructure. Supreme Incubator has been serving solutions for the young startups, creating a startup ecosystem, and helping them adapt to this new normal.
A demo day is an event that culminates this cohort program where companies, which are successfully graduated, can come to this platform to pitch to this panel of investors, who are successful entrepreneurs and capital venturists in their own right, to showcase their business idea and what does their product or company represents.
The panel constituted of some of the industry leaders who have actively contributed to the startup ecosystem and helped it to be stronger than ever. The panellists included Ashwin Srivastava, an IIT Bombay Alumni, Global Investor, VC/PE FIRM Founder, Government Advisor; Ashish Taneja, Partner at growX Ventures; Sandro Stephen, Regional Head, North India Operations, and Indian Angel Network; and Kshitij Shah, Principal, 3one4 Capital. Disha and Tanvi were also present while their finalised startup teams gave presentations to potential investors.
On an introductory note, Tanvi talked about Supreme Incubator and shared her experience of working with these young startups and how incredibly talented are the teams of different startups. The five startups pitched to the investors, followed by a Q&A session from the panellists and NewsX viewers.
The startups were:
Startup 1: Bigdipper Exploration Space Technologies – Abhinesh Srivastava, CEO
Startup 2: TalkEng – Er. Subhra Deb, Founder & CEO, Sowarjit Baidy, Co-Founder & CEO, Sushmita Bhowmik, Co-Founder & CPRO, Subhendu Datta, Co-Founder & COO, and Shantanu Modak, Co-Founder & CMO
Startup 3: SoDo – Gaurav Sood, Founder & CEO
Startup 4: Edgenus – Jalaj Garg, Founder & CEO, and Priyansh Mahajan, Co-Founder & COO
Startup 5: Hyoristic Innovations- Hari Shankar Lal, Founder & CEO
Abhinesh made the first pitch whose startup- Bigdipper Exploration Space Technologies aims toward enabling access to space resources. Talking about the idea, he underlined that their goal is to develop cutting-edge robots for lunar and deep space missions which would further enable access to space resources that will have a life-changing impact on humanity. In the presentation, Abhinesh briefly described the roadmap of the company, the opportunities that await us in space technology, and the future goals of the company. “With 2.5 crore capital, we will be able to get the product ready by the end of next year,” he said.
The second startup to make their pitch was TalkEng, which is an ed-tech startup, aiming to revolutionise the process of learning any language, especially English. The team cited some relevant data that is obstructing young people to take up jobs, particularly in the corporate sector. They talked about their innovative idea of following a scientific approach to pave the way for English learners, citing the three crucial elements which are required to learn and achieve fluency in any language, that is Listen-Observe-Speak.
The third startup that gave the presentation was SoDo, founded by Gaurav, which is an on-demand B2B and B2C Hyperlocal platform with an intent to provide on-demand assured services for IT firms and businesses. Talking about the idea behind his company, he said, “Our company will help the clients in order creation wherein we will provide them freelancers, IT firms, and find out the best service to take depending upon their requirements to get their work done smoothly.” Gaurav underlined the post-funding predictions were stated to be at about 60 lakh wherein the major chunk would go in marketing.
The fourth presentation was given by Edgenus, founded by Jalaj, which is a one-stop destination to help you take a step ahead in your artistic passion. He asserted three major problems which might stop someone to discover and pursue arts—lack of learning opportunities, community exposure, and structured guidance in the artistic arena. The company aims to address such concerns through methods that include self-assessment, goal realisation to domain understanding, skill-building by providing the users with relevant informative content, and networking opportunities with the artists across the country.
The fifth and final startup that gave the presentation was Hyoristic Innovations. Introducing his idea to the panel, Hari stated that they aim to build high-tech solutions to mitigate space debris, making it safe for space explorations. He talked about the growing threat of space debris through his visual presentation and the current problems we are facing in that area. Hari said, “We plan to capture the eighth hidden device in the de-orbit using the ADR technique and intend to fill the gap in the debris through our services. Our service area includes ADR (Active Debris Removal) and mapping.”
On a concluding note, Disha talked about the plan ahead and stated that these startups have been an active part of the cohort. She added that the major focus would be to connect them with industry experts.
ITV NETWORK COMMITS RS 100 CR TV SPACE FOR ROTARY RAHAT’S HEALTH MISSION
On its mission to bring an effective change in India, Rotary Rahat is all set to roll out the world’s biggest health mission from July 2021. Led by a team of committed Rotarians all across the world, the mission will cover all of India. NewsX recently organised a special public service broadcast to spread awareness about the initiative, which was joined by Shekhar Mehta, incoming Rotary International president of 2021-22, Dr Naresh Trehan, Padma Bhushan and chairman of Medanta, Vivek Tankha, Member of Parliament and Rotarian himself, and Kartikeya Sharma, founder of ITV Network.
In his opening remarks, Mehta highlighted the commendable work done by Rotary International in the past and said, “Rotary has been involved in many things and the biggest has been polio eradication. Over the years, the medical mission has become an important part of our work. In India, we do large camps with some of the best doctors offering their services. Various health check-ups are done, including surgeries if required. Rotary has an advantage because of its entire network. We have two lakh people whose motto is to serve the people in fields such as education, health, water, and sanitation. In the last ten years, we have done 25,000 paediatric heart surgeries and we want to do 35,000 heart surgeries for children.”
Dr Trehan said, “It is a privilege to be a part of an organisation like Rotary, which treats 50,000 people for free. Tankha has been very dedicated to the Rahat mission. I feel it is a worthwhile thing to do. In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has disrupted life in many ways, where people who need care have not been able to have access due to the fear of movement. The purpose of these camps is to detect morbidity and guide those people for the future. It has become more complex as many people have had Covid-19 and have already suffered the infection and the side effects are carried on, so I think this kind of camp takes into the huge population into consideration and the fact that those who desperately need help and are somehow unable to access it. We examine, diagnose and then treat them, this is the mission of the camps that are held around the country. Medanta will be backing it and we will be backing it more vigorously.”
He emphasised the points that need to be kept in mind while organising such camps, “The main concern is the safety of the personnel and the people who come to attend the camp. In this Covid-19 era, this has created a challenge. We will have to carefully plan our camps. It is going to be more time consuming and even more difficult to get the people. They have to be screened first for what they came to the camp for. Suppose people are in a separate situation, we will have to establish separate areas so all these things will have to be planned. If we go by the estimates of our vaccination drive, the government is expanding it with time. A large number of people who come to the camp are vaccinated and have completed their two doses of vaccination, and hopefully, they will develop immunity. A lot of the population has been covered by Ayushmann and that entitles them to treatment everywhere. All the members of the providers, healthcare providers who sign up for the scheme will be able to participate. The amount of money required to accomplish the mission and our million objectives are achievable now. We need connections everywhere. The way the population is covered by the Gold Card, the Ayushmann Card, we will have to recruit diagnostics and treatment wherever they need it. There may not be facilities in Kashmir itself, which means like us, institutions that are participating will help, so every speciality will be covered. We are ready to link with NGOs that are identifying people who cannot otherwise get access to healthcare.”
When asked the motto behind these camps, Tankha said, “In 2019, we had one lakh patients but the whole administration was with us. Thousands of surgeries took place. I remember doctors performing surgeries on those tribal women who otherwise may not have got a chance to live. When you see a leader like Shekhar who is willing to take mega projects it is all the more motivational and encouraging. We have 38 districts and 38 governors, Rotarians in all parts of India and each of them wanting to work. What could be a better situation than to serve the people of India? You are reaching healthcare to the unreached. We send patients to top hospitals.”
Narrating his experience with Rotary, Kartikeya Sharma said, “I was part of the 2019 Rahat camp and saw what was happening. It was mind-boggling and motivated us at ITV Foundation as well to collaborate and take it to the furthest. Everything about Rotary is massive and what rotary as an organisation has been doing is fantastic. Rahat is a fantastic concept and it has reached millions of people in the last decade. When we spoke about it, I wanted to be a part of this organisation with names such as Medanta and Dr Trehan associated with it and the initiatives taken by the civil society which make healthcare possibilities happen.” He further committed Rs 100 crore worth of TV space across the ITV network to promote and take the mission to the farthest parts of the country over the next year.
MAHARASHTRA BACK TO SQUARE ONE WITH SECOND LOCKDOWN
The state government’s decision to impose another lockdown is not a wise one since the losses would outweigh the benefits. What the state needs to do instead is ramp up its health infrastructure and Covid-19 testing, while letting citizens lead normal lives.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday announced a lockdown for 15 days, taking the state back to square one. The state administration seems to have accepted defeat in the fight against Covid-19 and chosen the method of inaction.
Throughout the pandemic, Maharashtra has been the worst performer consistently. Now, with a disproportionately high fatality rate, the statewide implementation of Section 144, which will paralyse daily life, is another setback for its citizens. For a state which boasts of many urbanized centres, it has failed miserably in curbing the surge in infections and put pressure on its healthcare system.
With 60,212 fresh cases, the number of active cases in Maharashtra stands at 593,042. Disturbing reports have begun to emerge from various parts of the state, from hospitals looting patients to a lack of beds resulting in deaths. The unavailability of Remdesivir has led to hoarding. Inadequate oxygen supply has been a cause of concern. People running from pillar to post to secure hospital beds, medicines and ventilator facilities has turned it into a tragedy on a mass scale. How did Maharashtra end up in such a precarious position while Delhi is holding on despite facing a surge too?
Inadequate testing and contact tracing by the government of Maharashtra, combined with a lax attitude, have led to Covid cases shooting through the roof. The Covid positivity rate has reached the dangerous threshold of 29%. Out of the 2.20 lakh tests done, approximately 63,000 have turned out to be positive cases, which indicates an appalling state of affairs. Overall, there have been 34 lakh cases out of 2.20 crore tests.
The positivity statistics in Maharashtra are way ahead of the all-India average of 5%. Meanwhile, Delhi, despite a high density of population, has a positivity rate which is not over the national average. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are at 2% and 1%, respectively. Even a relatively urbanised and large state like Tamil Nadu has held its own with an impressive 6%.
Given the high occurrence of the infection in Maharashtra, evident from such a high positivity rate, there is an urgent need to ramp up testing. The state cannot fight Covid unless the true extent of the spread is known. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his discussion with Chief Ministers has already sought increased testing along with widespread vaccination as a sustainable tool to fight the virus.
Maharashtra with its imposition of another lockdown is taking a step backwards. Last year’s experience has taught us that lockdowns are not a permanent or sustainable solution, but merely the postponing of the inevitable. The need of the hour for the state is to ramp up infrastructure and increasing testing, while letting normal life run as usual, until the positivity rates are in a comfortable position. This way the state may surely enter the list of badly hit Covid-infected states, but will succeed in saving lives by timely interventions.
The steep fall in the mortality rate in Maharashtra may either mean a sign of hope or be considered a result of undercounting due to a lack of reporting. Whatever the case, it is getting increasingly clearer that the economic costs of a lockdown far exceed the supposed benefits.
Unlike the previous year when the scientific community’s knowledge of the virus was limited, the world is better off today, especially with vaccines available in varying degrees of effectiveness. The original lockdown served its purpose of buying time and letting India manufacture a lot of medical items like PPE kits, which aided the fight initially and made the lockdown worthwhile. But now, we have reached a point where a lockdown will lead to diminishing returns in terms of the fight against Covid-19.
The author is a BJP spokesperson and former executive director of the Maharashtra Village Social Transformation Foundation. The views expressed are personal.
CAPT AMARINDER SLAMS AKALI DAL AND BJP’S PROMISES OF APPOINTING DALIT LEADERS
Trashing it as nothing but poll optics, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday ridiculed the Akali and BJP promise of appointing Dalits as Deputy CM and CM respectively, if voted to power.
Given the shockingly poor track record of both parties, which did nothing for the SC community during their term in power, the Chief Minister said the SAD and the BJP had failed to ensure the welfare of the Dalits in the state for 10 years and are now resorting to political gimmickry to woo the community with an eye on the 2022 elections.
“Sukhbir Badal is now promising a Deputy Chief Minister, but has nothing to show what he or his party, in alliance with the BJP ever did for the community,” remarked the Chief Minister, terming it a political antics aimed at misleading the people with an eye on votes. It is ridiculous the way the BJP also quickly jumped on to the wagon to promise a Dalit Chief Minister if it is elected by the people of Punjab, he said, adding that given the angst against the party in the state over the farmers’ issue, even finding one winnable candidate would be a challenge for them.
On Wednesday Capt Amarinder announced that at least 30% of funds under all government schemes will be spent for the welfare of the state’s SC population along with a host of other measures for the upliftment of the Dalit community, as a mark of homage to Dr BR Ambedkar, who he said should be remembered as the first Indian who achieved so much for the Dalit Samaj. Paying floral tributes to the architect of the Indian Constitution, Dr BR Ambedkar, on his 130th birth anniversary, at a virtual state-level event, the Chief Minister also announced filling up of the SC vacancy backlog in all departments on priority, while promising to explore a post-matric overseas scholarship scheme for SC students.
HUNDREDS OF STRANDED PEOPLE AIRLIFTED IN JAMMU, LEH
As the Srinagar-Leh highway is closed for vehicular traffic due to the slippery conditions at and around Zojila pass, the administration had requested the government to airlift stranded people in Leh and Jammu.
Reports said that at the request of Lt Governor of UT of Ladakh, the administration arranged C130 Hercules Aircrafts to airlift passengers between Leh and Jammu and Srinagar on Wednesday. The highway between Srinagar and Leh was open earlier but was again closed on 1 January and since then it has not been opened for traffic.
Authorities told reporters on Wednesday that they airlifted 243 passengers between Leh, Jammu, Srinagar, and Kargil on Tuesday when a return flight of AN 32 from Srinagar to Kargil was cancelled due to bad weather.
Though the Beacon authorities who are responsible to keep this national highway open, after a lot of efforts opened it on 28 February but only after a few hours it was closed again due to avalanches and fresh snowfall.
Beacon officers, during the current year, tried to declare the Srinagar-Leh highway open two days earlier owing to their efforts to clear the snow as in the past it was always open for traffic on 15 April.
Meanwhile, hundreds of drivers, who are stranded along with trucks on this side of the Zojila as well as on the other side, have protested against the delay to reopen the road. There are dozens of trucks loaded with essential commodities waiting for the signal to cross the Zojila pass to reach Kargil and Leh. These truckers have alleged that the traffic authorities could allow them to cross but were delaying it resulting in a lot of losses and also made their purses empty.
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