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Hits and misses of NEP 2020 and its impact on legal education

The prominence of this new policy is that it redefines the education system on several trajectories, enabling easy access and participation of students, multidisciplinary courses, system efficiency & governance, and facilities of research and development.

Shresth Vardhan

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Emerging from a painful partition and struggle for independence, the first-ever education policy of the nascent Indian democracy was implemented in the year 1968, under the reign of the then Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi laying focus on Right to Education. Ever since then, India has seen a new education policy only once every few decades. Debated sparingly, it was then replaced by the policy of 1986, administered by Mr. Rajiv Gandhi. Embodying a few modifications, the policy of 1992 has since then, guided the education system of the country. It is now approximately 3 decades later, that a refurbished National Education Policy (NEP-2020) with sweeping amends has been unveiled by the government spearheaded by Mr. Narendra Modi. Not since 1992, has there been more educational reform. As a result, the NEP 2020, has been doing rounds of debate and suggests to touch down on several prime issues of educational development. The prominence of this new policy is that it redefines the education system on several trajectories enabling easy access and participation of students, multidisciplinary courses, system efficiency & governance, and facilities of research and development.

 A Blow to Rote

 The NEP-2020 welcomes some revisions as it establishes a single regulatory body for higher education institutions, discontinues MPhil programs, and provides for multiple entries and exit points in degree courses. It likewise suggests low stakes board exams and a common entrance exam for universities across the nation. This was necessitated due to the dearth of quality institutions and unreasonable entrance requirements such as high cut-off marks.

 Another applauding step that the policy tenders is to universalize school education at all levels by expanding access to more early childhood education. It further envisions to ace a 100 percent Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) from Pre-Primary to Secondary level (age group of 3 to 18 years) in school education by 2030 thereby proffering a strong foundational literacy and numeracy for all.

In a significant shift from the 1986 policy, the existing school curriculum structure of 10+2 will be revamped with a 5+3+3+4 structure thereby encapsulating children of all ages (3- 18 years) under the covers of formal schooling.

 Beyond this, the policy aims to expand open schooling facilities through the establishment of an autonomous body to march open and distance learning (ODL) as well as massive open online courses (MOOCs). This step caters to the dropouts and working children who are unable to find the space to attend formal schooling. It also suggests the medium of education to optionally be in the regional language mother tongue or local language until at least grade 5 as it manifests better creativity and understanding abilities.

Assessment modules will see a comprehensive shift from a program outcome-based evaluation to a year-round assessment structure with regular and formative assessments that will promote learning and development and at the same time will test higherorder skills, analytical and critical thinking.

Additionally, the students will now be able to flexibly pick and choose their interests within-subjects ranging from arts and sciences to vocational and academic streams as well as extracurricular and curricular activities.

Another idea that the policy professes is the concept of bagless days or internship for students, so as to open them up to the realworld understanding of the subjects of their interest from local experts and inculcate skills at an early age.

Donning another feather in the policy is the inclusion of coding as a subject with the intent to merge with the rapidly increasing technological era. This will expand innovation and seamless creativity while promoting analytical and logical thinking. The policy likewise speaks of a comprehensive set of recommendations for the promotion of online and digital education consequent to the recent epidemic to better prepare the system with alternative modes of quality education in case such need arises.

The idea is to make education and learning easier accessible and engaging. The realization of this idea will involve board exams to be testing primarily core capacities and competencies rather than rote learning. There will also be a provision for an improvement exam after the main exam if the student so wishes. Standardized school exams will be introduced for students in grades 3,5& 8 for the purpose of tracking the progress throughout the years of study in the school rather than at the end. The National higher education regulatory council NHERC will be set up to function as the primary and sole regulator in the higher education sector including teacher education but excluding medical and legal education.

Orchestrating Legal Education

Under the helm of the new policy, private and selfgoverned institutes are witnessing a radical shift from being perceived as affiliated to a more self-reliant structure. This ‘autonomy’ will now bring organizations and institutions vested with financial and educational independence, to the brink of corporatism, wherein they are enabled to create additional courses and departments. Disjunctively, without funding from government bodies, institutions will naturally turn to the students. Under the guise of this autonomy and structure, a steep increase in the tuition fee will be witnessed, not just for students in that particular department, but all the students attending that institution. This coupled with the window of multiple exit options at universities will increase the dropout rates which will only exacerbate the already fragmented landscape of the Indian higher education system. Under the multiple exit and entry option, if a student decides to leave mid-course, he/she will bestow appropriate certification for credits earned until that point which will be then be digitally stored in an Academic Bank of Credit [‘ABC’]. A ‘certificate’, a ‘Bachelor’s degree’, a ‘diploma’, and a ‘Bachelor’s Degree with Research’ respectively will be accorded for each year of a four-year course. The financial autonomy resulting in financial burden on students and the availability of certification each year will propel students to consider dropping out. This creates an immense disparity between financially strong and other students where the former has the higher prospects for studies and is reinforced with better opportunities, thus creating an unlikely situation where higher studies become a privilege rather than a basic requirement only for those who can afford it.

Moreover, a centralized education system leading to social exclusion and dilution of the Right to Education Act is only the tip of the iceberg; the government stated that it is proposing to improve the quality and autonomy of higher education, however, is a completely backward move, it is dismantling the University Grants Commission [‘UGC’] which is a core structural and regulatory body for higher education. This will only accelerate the commodification and centralization of education, which is perilous considering the probability of the ruling party thrusting its ideological and capital requirements. This is in fact, not the first time such a move was attempted. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government tried to usher similar reforms but was met with strong opposition. The contemporary education reforms have come into being only because they were passed through the backdoor without the consent of the parliament and a proper code of conduct.

While NEP 2020 envisions a transformative sea of changes across India, the arcane passing of the bill and the possibility of augmented malfunctioning in the Indian landscape needs to be ventured into. On a superficial level, this policy will seemingly elevate the economic rift in a country that is already dissected by wealth, caste, religion, and gender.

 The policy apparently envisages centralizing young Indian mindsets; however, a pertinent question that arises is whether that can paint the education system of the country with the hues of saffron? In this scenario, interdisciplinary, overall learning, multidisciplinary, holistic, could be a decoy to camouflage all the above-mentioned aspects. It will take ample time before this policy goes into full swing, letting the complexities rise to the surface. The procedure of its implementation will be put to test to decide its outcome. The drawbacks in this policy need to be addressed with a stringent and disciplined code of conduct to reduce the current deficiencies and prevent future adversities.

One of the critical fixes is to make the professionals equipped for changing situations. Professional education is the part and parcel of the overall higher education system; for professionals to take on the mantle, a skillset comprising education in the ethic, the importance of public purpose, interdisciplinary thinking, critical analysis, debate, innovation, and research must be inculcated and put to play. This can be surmountable if professional education does not suppress the individual’s forte. Selfgoverning bodies like the agricultural universities, health science universities, technical universities, legal universities, and autonomous institutions in other fields, must aim to become bodies propounding multidisciplinary education. All institutions offering either general or professional education will aim to naturally evolve into clusters in a centralized manner by the end of 2030. Legal education needs to be competitive globally, embracing novel practices, and espousing new technologies for extensive access and timely delivery of justice. Proactively, it must be enshrined with Constitutional attributes of Justice –Political, Social, and Economic, aimed towards national reconstruction through orchestration of rule of law, human rights, and democracy.

 Another dire issue to be addressed is of the English language which is not only paramount for global competitiveness but is also necessary for communicating and connecting with people from other states in India. In the new scheme, English will only be offered from the secondary level. Discontinuing English as the primary medium of teaching and learning can hamper competition on a global level mostly where English is the parent/ first language. Career building, outsourcing technical support, and skills are hegemonized by the western countries where English has the utmost importance. Consequentially, students from impecunious families in India will not have strong communication attributes along with a low grasping power compared to the rest. This usually happens due to the lack of affordability of tuitions and students not being able to hone the English language ultimately growing averse to it. A disadvantage persists to the lower caste who see this language as a medium to escape caste hierarchy.

Additionally, it is also alleged that this policy promotes centralization because this policy has a point that states that a new teacher’s training board will be set up for all kinds of teachers in the country and no state can change. Further, the curriculum for legal studies must mirror the socio-cultural contexts with an evidence-based manner, history, legal principles and jurisprudence. Institutions offering legal education must consider offering bilingual education in English and in the language of the State where the institution is situated.

The Interplay of NLUs and NEP

The advent of the National Law Universities [‘NLUs’] for legal education in India has often been censured for fostering entitlement and remaining inaccessible and isolated to most of the law aspirants. A cursory glance examination of the system is enough to exemplify that the criticism is not bereft of merit. Voices have been pedestaled on multiple occasions to increase the diversity in and of NLUs. Most of these concerns were at the earliest expressed by late Prof. Shamnad Basheer, who through the establishment of Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access to Legal Education [‘IDIA’] attempted to equip and intercept some of these issues. However, these points of concern have suffered the consequences and costs of insufficient and slow institutional reforms. Moreover, a deeper analysis of recommendation, however, reveals flaws in design and possible implementation.

Into the bargain, one of the primary recommendations of the policy is regarding a multi-disciplinary institute which acts like a double-edged sword which can either provide law students with the opportunity to interact with students and scholars from different fields and thus develop a more varied understanding of the law or lack the practicality of this facet to be warranted with the shortage of physical space, and deficiency of financial support. Most NLUs are, however, already facing space crunch and are unable to shelter the existing batch of students within the campus vicinity. They are working in a self-reliant model with limited funding from the state governments. In such cases, forcing them to open up new departments could further drive up their costs and hence decrease accessibility. Cluster model could function better for these institutes. The policy, however, does not elaborate on how these clusters shall operate.

The recommendation to promote bilingual teaching in state law universities is commendable, though it has certain pitfalls. The policy is intended towards implications to the state institutes offering legal education, which makes it applicable to the NLUs. As envisaged, the appointment bilingual teachers based on the regional language of the place could help to translate legal materials for students familiar with the respective language and also for the courts which function mostly in English. However, it disentangles the problem of a language barrier for NLU students only to a restricted extent. Though it certainly helps a student, who is studying at an NLU situated in her region, it turns a blind eye to account for people who could be taking admission in different states. De-emphasizing English as against regional languages is not the solution for legal education. To address this issue, it is necessary not merely to introduce bilingual education throughout, but to also start extra remedial courses/classes for English as it is the primary language used in the legal field.

The most pressing issue exists with the third recommendation in the NEP. The statement prima facie materializes to be a reaffirmation of the Constitutional ethos in legal education. However, phrases like national reconstruction and socio-cultural contexts that stipulate further travesties. While the term socio-cultural context finds its explanation in the policy, it does not throw any light on the exact meaning of national reconstruction.

The revised NEP as it elaborates, states, “It is the function of legal education to transmit the foundational values of Indian democracy to learners to give legal studies the necessary social relevance and acceptability.”

 Novelty cannot be refurbished by looking at history and culture for understanding the legal aspect. Historical context has been jurisprudentially recognized as an important aspect of legal theory by scholars. The draft policy passed over all other aspects of law and tends to over-emphasize on culture, mythology, and tradition. The usage of the term “has to fall back upon culture and traditions” cannot be disregarded as a mere statement. The government on multiple stages has expressed its desire for reviving the Vedic traditions and Hindu sentiments. Taking this in the background, the verbatim of culture, mythology, and tradition while discussing legal education portrays an alarming situation. The draft further asserted that law cannot be independent of culture and states the study of classical law texts. Some of these texts, being the prominent have fallen into ignominy for cultivating an outdated and discriminatory frame of mind. Revisiting these texts in the educational framework shall do more harm than good to legal education. With assertion, it is true to say that the law is a memory, and hence has to derive from its past; but at the same time, some memories can only function as a reminder for the need to progress and cannot text to rely upon for the study of law.

It is noteworthy that the policy when dealing with legal education makes no recommendation towards making law schools more comprehensive. It remains tranquil on both the questions of caste and gender in graduate as well as in postgraduate studies. Its recommendations can potentially enhance concerns.

Hawk-Eyed View

 A nagging question that remains is whether there is more to this policy which was unceremoniously adopted by the Union cabinet without any juridical application of mind? Though the vital reforms required in the education sector, such as widening the availability of scholarships, strengthening infrastructure for open and distance learning, online education and increasing usage of technology are reflected in the new policy, it is also categorized as a political document which can be comprehended from the remarks of political and ideological organizations.

As education is catalogued under the concurrent list, laws made subsequent to this list are first put up as drafts for a minimum threshold period. This threshold period is to stimulate suggestions and discourse from the states or distinguished personalities from the respective field of the draft bill. However, the NEP 2020 was bypassed in the parliament, thereby violating the above-mentioned code of conduct and procedure. A new inherent policy introducing such substantial changes in the country must endure discourse in the parliament. Can this be visualized in the light of an existing ruptured system of higher education being replaced with the decoy of a commercialized and centralized education system?

Altogether the NEP policy on legal education, like most of its other policies is quite like a pie in the sky – agreeable to comprehend but implausible to be realized. It does change things academically and theoretically, but to implement them in real life is going to be a very onerous task. This policy needs to be followed in its spirit to realise its intricate benefits.

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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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