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GETTING ECONOMY BACK ON TRACK WILL BE AN UPHILL TASK

The positive movements on the post-Covid economic front need to not just be sustained, but accelerated, if India wishes for a complete turnaround of its economy. However, the fresh surge in cases has complicated the situation again.

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The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented upheavals in personal, economic and financial, and political lives. Stringent lockdowns have thrown the global economy off gear. Numerous predictions were floated about the trajectory of the virus and the resultant path of the global economy as the business situation remained volatile and uncertain.

The general sense is that the rate of global economic revival would depend upon the course of the pandemic. The manner in which the global vaccine programme is scaled up will be one of the crucial factors of such recovery. The World Bank’s latest projections of January 2021 peg the global output growth at 5.5% in 2021 and 4.2% in 2022.

At home, a prudent mix of fiscal stimuli and monetary policies, announced in 2020, have helped the economy witness a V-shaped recovery, with the GDP in Q3 2020-21 estimated to have grown by 0.4% over Q3 2019-20. The OECD’s forecast for India is revised upwards by 4.7 percentage points to 12.6% for 2021, while the IMF’s projections indicate a growth of 11.5% in 2021, after a dismal -8% in 2020.

Some economic parameters are ameliorating. From 54.0 in April 2020, monthly IIP rose to 135.9 in December 2020. Agriculture, the only sector not subjected to lockdowns, is also the lone sector to have a projected positive GVA of 3% and a projected positive GDP growth (0.9%) in 2020-21. There are signs of revival in trade too. The decline in exports from 2019-20 to 2020-21 has narrowed down from 36% in Q1 to 5% in Q2 to 4% in Q3 of 2020-21. FDI flows in Q2 2020-21 were 2.4 times the Q2 2019-20 figures and 3.6 times the Q1 2019-20 level. Bank credit to agriculture and service sectors has witnessed some resumption. According to a recent FICCI survey, India Inc’s business confidence has reached its peak in the past decade, with FICCI’s Overall Business Confidence Index witnessing a decadal high of 74.2 following an improvement in present business conditions. The Index had stood at 70.9 in 2020 and 59 in 2019. The release of pent-up demand built during the lockdown has improved capacity utilisation and key operational parameters, thereby boosting business confidence. A big positive is that stock markets are performing well, reflecting investors’ confidence in the strong fundamentals of the economy. The Budget announcements have rightly endeavoured to tackle both demand and supply-side issues for economic resumption.

Despite positive movement on the economic growth front, the challenge remains since it has to not just recuperate, but accelerate as well to more than offset the low base. It needs to be noted that despite the slight improvement in the GDP in Q3 2020-21, estimates for the financial year 2020-21 remain bleak at -8%, compared to 4% in 2019-20. In absolute terms, while Government Final Consumption Expenditure (GFCE) is estimated to record an increase in 2020-21 over 2019-20, Private Final Consumption Expenditure (PFCE) is still low. All sectors other than agriculture and electricity are projected to record negative GVA in 2020-21. The outlook for global FDI flows, rising fuel prices, unemployment, especially in the informal sector, and a slowing tourism, hotels and transport sector are sending out disconcerting economic signals. Direct investment made by India overseas fell by 31% to $1.85 billion in February 2021. There has been subdued lending by banks to large industries. Inflation reached a 27-month high in February 2021. The combined Index of Eight Core Industries in February 2021 also declined by 4.6%, compared to February 2020.

The evolving situation is further exacerbated by a recurrence of Covid-19 cases, along with new variants being found. After registering a peak of more than 98,000 daily new Covid-19 cases in September 2020, the number of cases dipped to around 9,000 in February 2021. However, as soon as we were celebrating our success with controlling the pandemic, a second wave, riding on our complacency, hit us hard. The number of daily new cases has climbed up to above 80,000 now and another round of localised lockdowns is being resorted to, bringing along the imminent hazard of a debilitating effect on the economy.

The global financial crisis of 2007-08, which stretched till around 2011-12, had witnessed long periods of dampened growth and high unemployment. A full revival of the global economy after the Great Depression of 1929 had taken a decade. The IMF’s projections indicate that the global medium-term loss in output growth, due to the pandemic, is expected to be lower than that after the global financial crisis, yet sizeable, at an expected 3.5% lower than the output projected for 2024 before the pandemic.

Thus, while early green shoots are visible, it is too early to let our guards down and become complacent. A sustained economic recovery would require us to be cautious about the potential surge in infections, the resultant compelling lockdowns, and impending threat to employment and incomes due to a potential increase in corporate and individual insolvencies.

With regulatory forbearances slowly lifting across countries, the impact on indebted business and individuals will now be visible. In the Indian context, the Supreme Court has recently decided in favour of lifting of the standstill on the classification of NPAs and granting no further extensions on loan moratoriums. The suspension on filling for corporate insolvencies under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code also ended on 25 March 2021.

So, are we out of the woods? Not quite. The road ahead for the economy is precarious and needs to be trekked with great caution. We have some kind of solution on the health front, wherein the proactive contribution of citizens would be of utmost importance to sustain gains from the ongoing vaccination programme. However, getting the economy back on track will be an uphill task. Balancing forbearance with austerity on the fiscal path ahead would be a tightrope walk. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event. There is no known policy prescription available to fall back upon, especially when any economic solution is crucially linked to the highly uncertain path of a virus on which we seem to have little control. However, think tanks and governments are earnestly engaged in addressing economic and health issues in tandem.

The authors belong to the Indian Economic Service. The views expressed are personal.

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ALWAYS TRY TO TAKE UP RELATABLE PROJECTS: VARUN SHARMA

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX, actor Varun Sharma spilled the beans about his new show ‘Chutzpah’, his working style, and much more.

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Varun Sharma will be seen in a new show ‘Chutzpah’. Talking about it, he said, “Internet is now embedded in our blood and system. It is impossible to live without it. The show talks about three to four different stories. The madness, chaos, craziness, relatability, and the reality of the digital world, is what ‘Chutzpah’ has to offer. I am playing Vikas, who is in love with Shikha. The show talks about how they are in a long-distance relationship due to certain situations, and how things change. The feelings and the rush of emotions are the same but because of not being physically there for each other, they are rather connected virtually and the story progresses further.”

Commenting on the comfort level of again working with people he has earlier worked with, Varun expressed, “It felt like a homecoming as it is the same people. Immediately after ‘Ruhi’, this is coming out. Dinesh Vijan had produced ‘Ruhi’ and it was created by Mrighdeep Singh Lamba. Once you work with friends and the people that you are close with, a lot of things become easier. In that sense it was a blessing to be working with them. The interesting fact is Manjot and I did not shoot together. We were working on different stories but we used to keep chatting about how is it going.”

Speaking about the relatability factor of ‘Chutzpah’, he said, “It is very relatable. Two years back, no one thought that everything will go digital. For example, we never thought of doing virtual interviews sitting in our houses. But things have changed. There is a lot of reality in the show which is relatable. Whether it is ‘Fukrey’, ‘Fukrey Returns’, ‘Dilwale’, ‘Chhichhore’, I have always tried to do, relatable projects. People comment that ‘Oh, even I do this, or my friend does this or this guy is the Chucha or the Sexa of our group.’ Playing a relatable character is something I always crave to do when I want to be a part of a project. That is also the same thought I had in mind when it came to ‘Chutzpah’. The show is out and people will witness how relatable the character is and they would want to talk about it.” Varun added, “This show is also going to be an eye-opener for so many relationships, which are long-distance right now. Couples will think, ‘Why are we talking like this? It is not because I don’t love you but because I am not physically there with you for the longest time.’ That’s why the conversations and the interactions are getting shorter. The camaraderie is getting affected. It is not because the love is fading away but the physical presence is not there. If people realise that it may save certain relationships. There are so many relationships around me that have been called off because of the pandemic and two people not being together.”

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Love thy nature to lessen pandemic anxiety

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The young but fragile Himalaya is blessed with rich biodiversity. Its valuable resources have traditionally served as the foundation for the economic and cultural life of a vast and vibrant population. 

A few attitudinal differences and climate change developments coupled with variation in soil conservation create striking changes in the terrain having fabulous flora and fauna. Such unique biodiversity not only encompasses ecological, scientific or economic values but it is also a capital of inheritance, passed down over generations, stressing the need for sustainable development.

BIOTIC INTERFERENCE 

Developments of past and present indicate extremes of biotic interference. Making wise use of biodiversity inheritance should not be tutored. It has to be felt, imbibed and carried forward when one is confronted with the tentacles of Covid auntie and whims and fancies of the Covid uncle. Without entering into the realm of discussion about the origin of the virus, one should believe that SARS-CoV-2 is an offshoot of the prevailing environment. An environment throttled by one and all.

FAUNA NEEDS FRESH LOOK

Coming to judicious utilisation rather than exploitation of floral and faunal wealth, there may be a need for a fresh approach. Not only do farming communities near forests have to be sensitised to extract forest and non-forest timber products properly but they also have to be briefed to leave enough scope for growth and sustenance of grass, shrubs, water bodies etc, vital for the life of animals such as lions, elephants, tigers, and deer etc. While saying so, one is not aiming to touch upon the crucial food chain, rather the purpose is to prick our mind specifically about the plight of gentle elephants, who, being vegetarian, show full loyalty towards their masters.

Of 27,000 Asian Elephants in India, 21% reside in Assam. Due to the loss of forest habitat, they are increasingly coming face to face with humans. Every year, around 100 of them, unfortunately, get killed. They are also misused in the Tourism industry. The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 bans the sale of captive and unregistered elephants.

The mere fact that they live, eat and move in groups or clusters, goes on to show their strong family instincts, something reflected glaringly in:

A) Episode of 18 elephants in Nagaon, Assam in May 2021 crushed by lightning

B) Freak, directionless walk of over 500 km by 15 elephants in Kunming area of Yunan province of China in June 2021.

SYMPATHY IS NECESSARY

Despite the inherent friendly attitude of the elephants and many other animals often the reports of entry into the human habitations hit the headlines. There has to be some reason for such an entry. What they get in return is hectic, irrational, and merciless action. The facial expression of the fauna in such a situation shows their state of helplessness. The onlookers, nevertheless, get sarcastic pleasure in having an exciting glimpse. Whether it is a case of entry by the loveable monkeys, leopards, tigers or the elephants into towns of different states, these should not be considered as an intrusion by the animals.

ASSERTION OF RIGHTS

 It is felt that such behaviour has to be viewed as a valiant act of assertion of rights by certain species to counter the actual intrusion into their bonafide habitat by shrewd human beings. There should be no justification to suppress or subjugate the innocent animals either by mechanical or muscle power.

Will our Forest Service friends wake up and take requisite action especially during the current wave of Covid-19 pandemic, when almost two dozen ‘positive’ tigers and a couple of similarly infected lions have already left the world? Lingering threat to pets and domestic animals who soothes our feelings when we are tired, and exhausted, also fill the atmosphere, time and again.

 Having stated so, I may humbly submit: “When the animal instinct among the humans crosses conceivable limits, the actual and bonafide sons and daughters of mother earth are left with no alternative but to react vehemently or justifiably.”

UNHEALTHY TUSSLE

It is not only the competition or tussle factor for habitat between the animals and human beings but it is a question of displaying adequate love and care for the natural endowments, indiscriminately gifted by the Almighty.

SAVIOUR DUTY

It may not be out of context to remind ourselves about the basic Hindu philosophy of emphasising reverence to the flora and fauna right from childhood. For generations, plants, such as peepal, banyan, tulsi, banana, mango etc. and the animals namely, cow, bull, lion, tiger, elephant, monkey, rat, cobra snakes etc. were being worshipped. Also, the morning ritual of offering water to Sun God, tulsi plant and peepal tree not only has given the requisite faith and confidence to the worshippers but it can also teach us again the forgotten lesson to do everything possible to Preserve flora and fauna.

To sum up, if we are mandated to avoid Social Interaction due to coronavirus and the more lethal third wave, how can we afford to undermine similar ‘social’ instincts among the animals?

Their state of hunger and helpless facial expressions during the last two rounds of lockdowns, calls for improving our overall attitude towards them. The timely food intake and sound health of fauna not only can improve their internal social behaviour but may also ensure a refined attitude towards their human handlers, caretakers or masters.

Even if we get rid of Covidity clinically, the love and affection displayed by the pets may prove much more valuable if not decisive in reducing our anxiety and depression. It may ultimately facilitate satisfactory healing of the community.

The writer is former Chief Secretary, the Government of Sikkim. The views expressed are personal.

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BE THE VOICE OF THE VOICELESS

Article 51-A (g) says that citizens must be compassionate towards all living creatures. Also, there are several wildlife protection Acts. Yet, we have betrayed our moral failure towards voiceless animals.

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India, being the land of sages, has always believed in ahimsa and equality for all living beings. The Constitution of India itself lays down in Article 51-A (g) that Indian citizens must be compassionate towards all living creatures. In the furtherance of it, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960 was enacted along with Wildlife (Protection) (WP) Act. However, in the past few years, we, as humans, have betrayed our moral failure towards voiceless animals. The testament to this is the growing reports of animals being subjected to sexual abuse, being burnt alive, acid and pebble attacks, thrown off from the rooftop, lit crackers on their tails, and even cutting them down in marble cutter, the list is endless and horrendous. How have we stooped down so low that we are finding our entertainment in torturing voiceless beings? 

PREVENTION OF ANIMAL CRUELTY

The Constitution imposes a fundamental duty on us to safeguard the wildlife and have compassion for all living creatures as a result of which the PCA Act was laid down as a measure to give rights of freedom and living to animals. The act was made in 1960 shows how little has been done since then. Unfortunately, in our country, the discussion related to animal rights revolves around political arcades, primarily cow slaughter or beef ban and protection for endangered species. Many animal lovers have been helping by rescuing and providing shelter homes, medication, and food to the tiny beings but for a collective measure, a well-executed law has to be made to safeguard the interest of animals.  

The PCA Act in Section 11 defines cruelty and lists a series of offences and prescribes punishment for the same. However, the act lacks basic connotation with today’s time and needs strict amendments. Disturbingly, the punishment for treating animals cruelly is punishable with a fine of Rs 10 that may extend to Rs 50 on first conviction. On subsequent conviction within three years of a previous offence, it is punishable with a fine of Rs 25 that may extend to Rs 100 or imprisonment of three months or with both. Performing operations like Phooka or any other operations to improve lactation which is injurious to the health of the animal is punishable with a fine of Rs 1,000 or imprisonment up to two years or both and experimentation on animals is punishable with a fine up to Rs 200.

The WP Act too provides lists of species of both flora and fauna which need to the protected from increasing commercialisation of animal goods in form of trading of endangered species, uses of their skin for beauty products, selling off their horns in the black market and further being used in medical by-products. The law brings all these malpractices under its supervision. The act also controls the hunting of wild animals, protection of national parks and sanctuaries, restrict the illegal trade of wild animals, and articles. Section 39 specifies that any wild hunted animal found, killed, fed, alive, or dead shall be the property of the state government. Likewise, Section 9 of the act prohibits the hunting of wild birds.

JUDICIAL APPROACH

Our legislative provisions and judicial pronouncements make an effective case for animal rights. But since no rights and laws can be absolute, regulation of animal rights is a must. Therefore, time and again judicial pronouncements have become voices of the animals and their rights.

In 2014, Supreme Court’s landmark judgment in decisions banning the bull-taming festival ‘Jallikattu’ can be described as a watershed moment in terms of animal rights. It not only recognised that animals have a constitutional right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution as well as the right to dignity and fair treatment.

In a landmark judgement of Punjab and Haryana High Court, it was observed that “entire animal kingdom including avian and aquatic are declared as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person”, touching the matter of animal rights in the purview of Fundamental Rights.

The latest judgment by Delhi High Court states that stray dogs have the right to food and citizens have the right to feed them. The Court observed that “we have to show compassion towards all living creatures. Animals may be mute but we as a society have to speak on their behalf. No pain or agony should be caused to the animals. Cruelty to animals causes psychological pain to them. Animals breathe like us and have emotions. The animals require food, water, shelter, normal behaviour, medical care, self-determination.”

In 2006, the Bombay High Court passed an important ruling, wherein any film meant for public viewing in which animal is used or filmed, has to obtain a certificate from the Animal Welfare Board of India. It safeguards animals from being exploited or ill-treated during filmmaking.

In 2014, Supreme Court banned the illegal transport of cattle to Nepal for the Gadhimai festival that played a crucial role in bringing down the number of animals sacrificed that year.

VIABLE ALTERNATIVES 

The Central government has already initiated the process of amendment of the PCA Act and other viable alternatives are being made for safeguarding the interest of animals at large. Some of the observations are as under:

In the present scenario of Covid-19, when every country is researching making successful medication and vaccines to end this pandemic, millions of mice, cats, dogs, rabbits etc are the ones on whom the trial is being done. This kind of horrible environment exposes animal cruelty. Through the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules (Second Amendment) 2014, animal testing for cosmetic products was prohibited all over India. But this subject needs more attention in today’s time. The present legislation in India needs to be modified by making more stringent laws.

Over the years illegal trafficking and poaching of animals across the borders have led to overexploitation of certain species to the point that their survival has become difficult and caused further cruelty to them. Wildlife resources must be managed sustainably and conserved by the law. For which the Indian Penal Code, 1860, under sections 428 and 429 constitutes that killing, poaching or torturing animals is a cognisable offence and is required immediate FIR and rigorous imprisonment which may extend to up to five years or fine or both.  

There should be finer and stricter rules implemented for the transportation of livestock in India. The amended motor vehicle rule is one such step in this direction which provides that vehicles without special licenses for such transportation should not be ply on roads and a healthy and safe environment should be provided to these animals. The excessive overloading of animals, permanent partition for transportation of individual animals, health checks up can be some of the additions. 

Shelter homes are the need of the hour. An animal that has been mistreated needs support and sometimes immediate for which there should be shelter homes with viable facilities. There should be proper checks and regulations with timely inspection of these shelter homes.

There should be 24/7 medical centres for animals, especially domesticated pets.

The PETA India suggested some regulations mandating the use of anaesthetics before castration and replacement of cruel practices. 

The PCA Act needs refined and stern punishment. The drafted bill has increased the fine three times the cost of animals or Rs 75,000 with the imprisonment of three years that may extend to five or both, has been proposed. 

Steps should be taken for the protection of ‘’dignity of the creature’’ like the law laid down in Switzerland which deemed activities degrading to the dignity of animals forbidden by law.

In many cases reported in India, the barking of dogs has been a cause of beating them and often owners try to stop dogs from barking. This should be considered illegal and pet owners should learn how to take care of their pets.

Registration of pets has become a mandate across the country. This is a huge step for making society pet friendly. Effective implementation of registration should be done and non–compliance to register should be met with dire consequences. People too should be responsible and help the government in this.

As per WP Act, there are some wild and endangered animals not just lions and tigers but a lot of exotic animals are banned to pet or keep domesticated. The reason for this is that these animals enjoy their natural habitats and can’t survive or properly nurture at our homes. We should not play down with the rule of the land and also report such incidents to the authorities at the earliest. 

The issue of animal rights revolves around the question of whether animals should be given the same protections as humans. They should be treated with the utmost respect, care, and love. Animals should not be considered helpless and voiceless beings. In a society, where we all talk about how to be civilised, we buffoon the idea that animals are meant to be caged. There are a lot of things we can do to protect animals. You don’t have to own a pet to help in the cause. Let’s all be the voice they wish they had, and make the choice they wish they could. Stop animal cruelty.

The writer is an Advocate at Punjab and Haryana High Court, Chandigarh. The views expressed are personal.

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I WANTED TO BUILD A PLATFORM THAT COULD HELP OVER A MILLION PEOPLE: RANGANATH THOTA

Fueladream.com is the only crowdfunding platform in the world that funds social causes, products and creative ideas, said its founder and CEO Ranganath Thota during an exclusive interview with NewsX.

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Ranganath Thota is the Founder & CEO of FuelAdream and is doing social entrepreneurship via this platform. Thota in an exclusive interview with NewsX India A-list said “The objective is to try and build something that could help over a million people and the only way you could do it is through this concept called Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding means the act of several people coming together to fund something that they believe in.”

The switch from a media person to a social entrepreneur was because of a turning point that happened six years ago. Thota said, “I used to be in the corporate world for about 30 years where I worked across consumer products, media, worked in India, China, South-east Asia. About six years back, I realised I was making a lot of money and it was not as gratifying as I thought it should be. I realised that helping others was more satisfying and meaningful. I sold everything and decided to start this crowdfunding platform. I read about it for half an hour, discovered what it is and moved to Bangalore six years back.”

When asked what sets it apart from other competitors, he said, “What we discovered is that when people fund creative and innovative ideas, they are overwhelmed and passionate about it and that’s why they support it. Similarly when they fund something for a social need, then they have compassion. You have compassion at one end and passion at the other. But in many cases, people are the same. So, for example, we could fund the education for a child and also something as an electric bike.”

Speaking about one of his innovations, Thota said, “For example, there is a smart wallet with a chip in it that connects to the phone. If you lose your wallet you can call it with your phone and if you lose your phone you can call it with your wallet. You can use the phone camera and take pictures using the wallet. This project was funded four years ago. But the same person will help people with cataract surgery and education. So the same person can be driven by compassion and passion.”

He added, “The second thing is about giving behaviours. In social media, we talk about the food we eat, the holidays we take and the pictures we like but we never talk about giving. It is never understood. But there is a huge science in consumer behaviour related to giving which is very different. Crowdfunding also has a science and has four key elements that go into it. It includes storytelling, technology, consumer behaviour and most importantly, communication. Unless you know all this, you cannot do crowdfunding. The other thing we do is teach crowdfunding to a large number of people. They could be corporate people, students, etc.”

When asked about how he builds rapport, Thota said, “Nine out of ten people don’t know how to crowdfund even if their intention is good. They need a lot of hand rolling and that is where I and my team support them. The other important thing is raising funds. There are a lot of things that we need to understand about the projects that need fundraising. A lot of people come to us with great projects but what they don’t realise is that if they raise five times the amount that they are planning to, they actually cannot execute it. Unlike other platforms where you can start a campaign in an hour, with us it takes two days.”

Talking about the success rate he said, “typically it is about 70%. But if some projects don’t work well it is simply because the person doing it doesn’t manage it well, it is not like the story is not good.”

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ISRAEL MINISTER TO DISCUSS PEGASUS IN FRANCE VISIT

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JERUSALEM: Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz will meet his French counterpart in Paris this week for talks that will include an “update” on the Pegasus spyware scandal, his office said Tuesday. A Ministry statement said Gantz will leave Wednesday for talks with French Defence Minister Florence Parly on topics including the crisis in Lebanon, nuclear negotiations with Iran and the Pegasus malware made by the Israeli firm NSO, which was allegedly used to target President Emmanuel Macron. Pegasus, which is able to switch on a phone’s camera or microphone and harvest its data, is at the centre of a storm after a list of about 50,000 potential surveillance targets was leaked to human rights groups. Amnesty International and French media nonprofit Forbidden Stories collaborated with a clutch of media companies, including the Washington Post, the Guardian and Le Monde, to analyse and publish the list. Macron had to change his phone and number. Israel’s defence ministry must approve NSO exports given the sensitive nature of the sector. Israel’s defence establishment has set up a committee to review the firm’s business, including the process through which export licenses are granted. Pegasus’s list of alleged targets includes at least 180 journalists, 600 politicians, 85 human rights activists and 65 business leaders. NSO insists its software is only intended for use in fighting terrorism and other crimes and says it exports to 45 countries.

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NORTH, SOUTH KOREA AGREE TO RESTORE SEVERED COMMUNICATION LINKS

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SEOUL: North and South Korea restored their cross-border communication lines that had been severed for over a year, the South Korean presidential office said on Tuesday.

An official statement said that the two Koreas decided to resume their direct communication hotlines as of 10:00 am local time. This comes 13 months after North Korea cut off all communication lines with South Korea in protest over Seoul’s supposed failure to stop activists from sending anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets into the communist nation, Yonhap reported.

Since June last year, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) cut off ties in protest against Seoul’s inability to stop civic activists from sending anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets into the DPRK.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and DPRK leader Kim Jong Un have exchanged personal letters several times since April to communicate about issues on the restored inter-Korean relations, the statement said.

Moon and Kim agreed first to restore the severed inter-Korean communication lines, the statement read. The two leaders also agreed to restore mutual trust and enhance inter-Korean ties at the earliest.

Seoul said the resumed inter-Korean communication lines would play a positive role in the improvement and the development of inter-Korean relations.

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