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Policy & Politics

Rebooting the hospitality sector after Covid-19

Hotel across the country are closed since march with practically zero revenues and high fixed costs.

RAKESH NANGIA and ARAVIND SRIVATSAN

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The global economy is going through an unprecedented phase due to Covid-19 of which Tourism and Hospitality sector is one of the worst impacted. With large scale cancellations, shut down of businesses, zero tourism, this has had a ripple effect to the Hospitality Sector. Hotels across the country are closed since March with practically zero revenues and high fixed cost has led to serious impairment of balance sheets.

The sector faces serious issues for its survival and revival in the near future. It’s a clear case that this sector needs major dosage of policy support from the government. The Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism & Hospitality (FAITH) had estimated total direct and indirect job losses due to Covid-19 on the tourism value chain to be around 70% of the total estimated workforce of 5.5 crore (both direct and indirect) i.e. 3.8 crore.

The Indian tourism and hospitality sector comprising of hotels, restaurants, tour and travel operators, wedding and conference planners, etc contributes more than one-tenth of the GDP i.e. more than US$ 250 billion and is also considered to be amongst the top job creating industry. As per a report by HVS and Anarock, the Indian Hotel industry may lose Rs 90,000 crore in the calendar year. The Federation of Hotels and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) has recently warned that almost 70% of hotels and restaurants could face possible closure in the next 30-45 days unless immediate relief is provided by the government.

During 2019, foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) in India stood at 10.89 million and during first two months of 2020, FTAs were 2.13 million and 0.73 million tourists arrived on e-Tourist Visa. However due to Covid-19 related travel restrictions and cancellations, the FTAs in March 2020 has come down drastically to 0.3 million and due to International travel ban it was close to zero in the last 2 months.

As per the data furnished by the Ministry of Tourism, there were 1854.93 million domestic tourist visits all over the country during 2018, these numbers are almost 20 times the size of the FTA highlighting the importance of quickly reviewing the domestic tourism. As highlighted above, the sector faces serious issues for its survival and revival, and it requires the government to take immediate measures. Many countries in the AsiaPacific region have introduced stimulus packages and other policies, including those related to employment, in direct support to the much-impacted tourism and hospitality industry.

Such assistance is intended to help enterprises weather the period of lost income while the pandemic lasts, preventing enterprise closures and ensuring that tourist workers will have jobs to return to when the Covid-19 situation normalises. Some noteworthy illustrations are shared below: In , the government, in late February, announced its aim to re-stimulate tourism by focusing on ten domestic destinations, which will receive financial support.

The aid package was to include funds dedicated to lowering domestic airfare prices for those destinations by 30%. During the same period, jet-fuel prices and airport charges were to be lowered at nine airports. For six months, the government would subsidise taxes owed to regional governments by restaurants and hotels located in those ten destinations. In , the Ministry of Tourism, and the government, in collaboration with airlines, resorts, and hotels also offered discount vouchers for tourists starting March 2020.

Further Malaysia approved a six-month tax deferment for travel agencies, hotels, airlines and other businesses in the tourism industry starting 1 April 2020. Hotels will also be exempt from service tax from March until August, further discounts are being provided on monthly electricity bills for 6 months government is offering up to 100 billion baht (THB) in soft loans for tourism operators, while debt suspensions and interest rate reductions can be requested by those who do not need fresh funds.

The Tourism Ministry will return THB 1.4 billion in deposits to tour companies that registered with the Tourism Department, with each company receiving 50-70 per cent of the deposit back. ’s relief package includes tax rebates and financial breaks for businesses and households with a special focus on “tourism, aviation, retail, food services and point-to-point transport service sectors”.

Property tax rebates proposed are as high as 30 per cent for hotels and meeting venues. In , the government has been paying AUD 1,500 fortnightly per employee from March 30, 2020. Further, AUD 1 billion has also been set aside to support sectors including tourism which are disproportionately affected by economic impact of Covid-19. The Union Government has announced significant reforms and come up with a special MSME focused economic package.

The new definition of MSME, takes investment and annual turnover into consideration and is expected to significantly help the players in tourism and hospitality sector to get benefits like: : This scheme is intended to help MSMEs by providing emergency Credit Line guaranteed by government. These loans, which should be availed before October 31, 2020, will have a four-year tenure and moratorium of 12 months which would come in handy for the MSME businesses.

Eligible players in the hospitality sector who have not defaulted in their loan repayment and have outstanding loan amount of not more than Rs 25 crore can avail additional loan of 20% on entire outstanding as at February 29, 2020. : The government has inter-alia set aside Rs 20,000 crore as subordinate debt to help about two lakh MSMEs with stressed accounts or non-performing assets (NPA). Under this scheme, promoters of the MSME including hotels/tour operators and the like who were unable to raise formal debt, will now be given debt, which will then be infused as equity in the business subject to necessary conditions. on all loan repayments until 31st August, but subject to interest being levied on this period.

Considering the above discussions, provided below are some of the measures that the government can provide: In view of the massive job loss situation and being a sector which is highly unorganised, appoint a think tank which comprises of key participants from ministry of tourism, state government, hotel operators and industry associations to evaluate key reforms for survival of the sector and specifically boost domestic tourism like: Targeted campaigns like seen in Indonesian example above to promote select tourist destinations in green zones starting with domestic tourism; engage Indian embassies overseas to bring discerning tourists on chartered flights to promote themes like wellness, Ayurveda and re-instate e-visa to countries which are Covid-free.

Allocate a corpus fund as seen in Thailand or Indonesia which can be provided to states to provide loans to allow players in this sector provide for wages, guarantee employment and undertake sanitisation measures. Encourage states to reduce property taxes on hotel properties and consider reduction of state taxes on alcohol and ATF.

With minimal revenues of hospitality industry, shortterm interest free loans or loans at low interest rates for funding operating costs, payment of salaries would help in rebuilding the business and tide through the uncertain times. Reduction in GST rates to boost tourism by reducing GST to 3 percent for budget hotels/tour operators/agents and 5 percent for others (premium hotels) Allow innovative measures including allowing the hotel/tour operators/ agents to utilise the GST collected for the FY 20-21 to be retained in the business for operational requirements and allow the remittance of this GST in the month of April 2021 With travel restrictions being lifted in a phased manner, it is expected that travel and hospitality industry is likely to see a slow recovery.

The industry will be required to undertake a significant change with widening the usage of technology and have appropriate health and safety policies in place for guaranteeing safety of travellers. India should also take such forward-looking steps to revive this sector and utilise the next few weeks to ensure liquidity is made available with the industry to re-open their business.

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Policy & Politics

Minister of Civil Aviation, Jyotiraditya Scindia inaugurates direct flights between Bilaspur to Indore

Enhanced air connectivity between these cities will help bolster tourism and trade activities in the region: Scindia

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Jyotiraditya Scindia

Minister of Civil Aviation, Jyotiraditya M. Scindia along with Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Bhupesh Baghel inaugurated a direct flight from Bilaspur to Indore, today, on 03rd October 2022.
The flight will operate between Bilaspur-Indore-Bilaspur effective 3rd October 2022 (Today). It will operate every Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Sunday on this route.
In his address, Minister of Civil Aviation, Jyotiraditya Scindia said “this new air connectivity will facilitate people of both the states and contribute to the economic development of the regions. The Minister further added that the Ministry is working to operationalise 200 destinations including heliports and water aerodromes by 2026. The central government is committed to take the civil aviation sector to newer heights and improve air connectivity in every part of the country.
Bilaspur and Indore are prominent cities in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh respectively. Enhanced air connectivity between these cities will help bolster tourism and trade activities in the region and contribute to their overall economic development.
Alliance Air’s Flight 9I 691 will depart from Bilaspur at 1135 hrs. and arrive in Indore at 1325 hrs. with an introductory all-inclusive fare of INR 2,847/-. Flight 9I 692 will depart from Indore at 1355 hrs. and arrive in Bilaspur at 1545 hrs. with an introductory all-inclusive fare of INR 3,218/-.
The inauguration was graced by Shri Tulsi Silawat, Minister of Water, Resources of Madhya Pradesh, Shri Jaisingh Agrawal, Minister in charge of District Bilaspur, Arun Sao, MP (LS) Bilaspur, Shankar Lalwani, MP (LS) Indore, Shailesh Pandey, MLA Bilaspur, Dharamlal Kaushik, MLA Bilha, Ramcharan Yadav, Mayor Municipal Corporation, Bilaspur, Smt. Rashmi Ashish Singh, Parliamentary Secretary, Government of Chhattisgarh. Besides, Usha Padhee, Addl. Secretary Ministry of Civil Aviation, Vikramdev Dutt, CMD, AIAHL, Vineet Sood, CEO, Alliance Air, and other dignitaries from MoCA, AAI, Alliance Air, and local administration from Bilaspur, and Indore were also present.

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Policy & Politics

Inter-ministerial meeting to review progress of biomass co-firing in thermal power plants held in New Delhi today

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Inter-ministerial meeting to review progress of biomass co-firing in thermal power plants held in New Delhi today

An Inter-ministerial meeting to review progress of biomass co-firing in thermal power plants was held in New Delhi today. The meeting was co-chaired by Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Shri Bhupender Yadav and Union Minister for Power, New & Renewable Energy, R. K. Singh. The meeting was held in the backdrop of the onset of the harvesting season for Kharif crops in the country. The meeting was also attended by Secretary (Power / Environment, Forest &CC / MOA&FW) and senior officials from the state governments of Haryana, Punjab & Uttar Pradesh and heads of all power utilities in the NCR region, as well. The meeting also drew participation from important government bodies like CAQM, CEA, CPCB etc.
The SAMARTH Mission presented the details of Biomass cofired in different NCR plants, Purchase orders placed, action on short term and long term tenders in process vis -a-vis the quantity required by NCR GENCOs as well. Regarding the quantity of biomass co-fired till date, it was mentioned that while till FY 2020-21, only 8 power plants had co-fired biomass pellets, the corresponding number has increased to 39 as on date. In the NCR region, 10 TPPs have started co-firing. However, the amount of biomass co-fired is still lagging. As on date, 83066 MT of biomass has been co-fired in 39 thermal power plants across the country totalling to a capacity of 55390 MW. In NCR region, the biomass co-fired is 22,696 MT out of which 95% has been done by NTPC. Further, 99% of the PO in place has been contributed by NTPC Ltd. Action by NTPC for both Biomass cofiring and procurement initiative was praised and it was mentioned that other GENCOs should follow the footstep of NTPC for successful implementation of Biomass cofiring in the country.
Different activities undertaken by MOP to expand Biomass co-firing in the country were discussed. Among the prominent activities are issue of revised Biomass policy, long term model contract, model SOP, Database development of Biomass stakeholders, lab development for testing of Biomass, initiation of R&D projects on Biomass, development of Biomass Mission website etc. It was also discussed that 25 number of offline and online training cum awareness programmes for various stakeholders in the sector including farmers, pellet manufacturers and power plant officials were held. While in the FY 2021-22, 10 such programs were held in a period of six months, 15 events have already been held in a period of six months in this Financial Year. Mission also highlighted various advertisements given in national &regional dailies for stopping stubble burning and raising awareness about SAMARTH mission in association with Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) & Power Foundation of India (PFI).
On the biomass pellet procurement side, a large no. of tenders have been floated by several power plants. Around 106 MMT of biomass tenders are at various stages of the tendering process. Out of these, order has already been placed for 43.47 Lac MT of biomass tenders by 35 power plants while tendering process is ongoing for 1064 Lac MT.
During the review, it was observed that the target of 5% co-firing of biomass along with coal in TPPs in the country was still far off. However, most power plants have issued long term tenders and the situation is expected to improve when the supply will start in those tenders. Meanwhile, Union Power Minister directed that till the time supply from the tenders is not started, power utilities should start procurement for the short term via alternate methods like spot market or commission agents as the harvesting season has already started.
All TPPs were directed that they should issue enough tenders to cover 5% requirement of biomass with special emphasis on plants located in Punjab and Haryana. It was also directed that power utilities should make all out efforts to complete the procurement process for existing tenders as soon as possible.
Direction was given to all thermal power plants in NCR region to install biomass pellet manufacturing plants (torrefied / non-torrefied) in their premises, including the private power companies. GENCOs may also explore to put up plant through Consortium. It was further highlighted that the non-compliance in this regard would be viewed very strictly. He further directed that Principal Secretary (Environment) from each State should act as nodal person for Biomass co-firing in the state.
Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had accepted the suggestion. He further communicated that MOP may think of giving Must Run status for the thermal power stations co-firing Biomass. He has praised the initiative by MOP and remarked that all should support Biomass Mission objective, which is a Mission of Prime minister of the country.
CAQM was also communicated to start considering penal provisions on Thermal Power Plants which are not taking enough steps to curb emissions and not co-firing sufficient quantity of biomass.
Ministry of Agriculture apprised that the Govt. has distributed Rs 600 crore worth of machinery to the Custom Hiring Centres of state governments under its scheme. Union minister requested that MoA should monitor whether the scheme is benefiting the intended beneficiary and that machines for stubble collection are made available in the vicinity of thermal power plants.
Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had further taken a review meeting for Financial support methodology. Union Environment Minister directed CPCB to also disseminate the information about the projects and organise workshop regarding the same.
It was also emphasised that the Power ministry would consider reduction in coal supply of those thermal power plants that do not comply with the MoP’s policy on biomass co-firing. Sufficient emphasis was given on the fact that the health and safety of the citizens was topmost priority and no one has the right to put innocent lives in danger.
Union Minister (Power and New & Renewable Energy) lauded the efforts of the SAMARTH Mission and directed it to continue its good efforts and hoped that the measures of the government in transforming the problem of stubble burning into a solution of power production would bear fruit with the cooperation of state governments.

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Policy & Politics

Inter- Ministerial meeting held to review Parali management in NCR and adjoining States

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Inter- Ministerial meeting held to review Parali management in NCR and adjoining States

A high level Inter-Ministerial meeting under the co-chairmanship of R.K Singh , Union Minister of Power & NRE and Bhupender Yadav, Union Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change was held today to review the progress of biomass co-firing in thermal power plants along with Parali management in NCR and adjoining states.
The meeting was held in the backdrop of the onset of the harvesting season for Kharif crops in the country. Secretaries of Ministries of Power and MOEF&CC, senior officials from MoA&FW, Chief Secretaries of governments of Punjab, Haryana & UP, Chairman-Commission of Air Quality of NCR along with officials of these ministries as well as heads of all power utilities in the NCR region attended the meeting. The meeting also drew participation from important government bodies like CAQM, CEA, CPCB etc.
R.K. Singh emphasised that orders for procurement & use of biomass pellets in TPPs must be expedited and at least 5% Co-firing is to be ensured.
Singh highlighted that power utilities should make all out efforts to complete the procurement process for existing tenders as soon as possible. He further underlined that till the time supply from the long term tenders is not started, power utilities should start procurement for the short term via alternate methods like commission agents as the harvesting season has already started.
R.K Singh also stressed that measures should be taken for expeditious setting up of manufacturing facilities for torrification of biomass pellets in different locations to overcome the challenges of supply of biomass’s pellets.
Singh further suggested that Principal Secretary (Environment) from each State should act as nodal person for Biomass cofiring in the state.
Singh emphasised that the ministry would put penal provisions on those thermal power plants that do not comply with the MoP’s policy on biomass co-firing. Sufficient emphasis was given on the fact that the health and safety of the citizens was topmost priority and no one has the right to put innocent lives in danger.
Bhupender Yadav, Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change welcomed the suggestions. He further communicated that Ministry of Power ( MOP) may think of giving Must Run status for the thermal power stations co-firing biomass. He praised the initiative by MOP in mission mode and remarked that all should support Biomass Mission objective, which is a Mission of Hon’ble Prime minister of the country.
It is to be noted that while till FY 2020-21, only 8 power plants had co-fired biomass pellets, the corresponding number has increased to 39 as on date. In the NCR region, 10 TPPs have started co-firing. As on date, 83066 MT of biomass has been co-fired in 39 thermal power plants across the country totalling to a capacity of 55390 MW. In NCR region, the biomass co-fired is 22,696 MT out of which 95% has been done by NTPC. Further, 99% of the PO in place has been contributed by NTPC Ltd. It was suggested that other GENCOs should follow the footstep of NTPC for successful implementation of Biomass co-firing in the country.
On the biomass pellet procurement side, a large no. of tenders have been floated by several power plants. Around 106 MMT of biomass tenders are at various stages of the tendering process. Out of these, order has already been placed for 43.47 Lac MT of biomass tenders by 35 power plants while tendering process is ongoing for 1064 Lac MT.
It was informed that 25 number of offline and online training cum awareness programmes for various stakeholders in the sector including farmers, pellet manufacturers and power plant officials were held. While in the FY 2021-22, 10 such programs were held in a period of six months, 15 events have already been held in a period of six months in this Financial Year.
During the review, it was observed that the target of 5% co-firing of biomass along with coal in TPPs in the country was still far off. However, most power plants have issued long term tenders and the situation is expected to improve when the supply will start in those tenders. Direction was given to all thermal power plants in NCR region to install biomass pellet manufacturing plants (torrefied / non-torrefied) in their premises, including the private power companies. GENCOs may also explore to put up plant through Consortium. It was further highlighted that the non-compliance in this regard would be viewed very strictly.
CAQM was also communicated to start considering penal provisions on Thermal Power Plants which are not taking enough steps to curb emissions and not co-firing sufficient quantity of biomass. CPCB informed that financial incentives are to going to be provided for setting up pellet manufacturing plants in the NCR region.
Ministry of Agriculture apprised that the central government has distributed Rs 600 crore worth of machinery to the Custom Hiring Centres of state governments under its scheme which can be used for stubble collection.

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Legally Speaking

Court sends Waqf Board scam co-accused to 14 day judicial custody

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A Delhi court on Monday remanded Kausar Imran Siddiqui alias Laddan, co-accused in Delhi Waqf board scam case, to 14 days custody.  

AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan is the primary accused in the case and is out on bail. The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has stated that Laddan is a fund manager for Khan. The Duty Sessions Judge at Rouse Avenue Court also expressed its displeasure over the non-presence of ACB on the previous date.  

ACB had submitted to the court Ladan’s “handwriting sample” and sought 7 days of custody for him.

The court observed that the agency had not given any reasonable answer for its absence on previous occasion. Thereafter, he was sent to 14 day judicial custody.

AAP MLA was arrested for alleged irregularities in appointment in Delhi Waqf Board during his chairmanship.
Accused Kausar Imran Siddiqui alias Laddan was produced on a production warrant before the court on 27th September. He was interrogated and arrested with the permission of the court.

Laddan’s name came into the frame, when additional public prosecutor Anil Srivastava opposed Khan’s bail plea. He stated that a diary was recovered from Ladan’s house.  It was alleged that he was Khan’s fund manager.  Earlier, the (ACB) had said that money was sent to Dubai and other money transactions need to be investigated. It also stated that a large amount of money was transferred to a party via Dubai. There were 100 people who either received or paid money to Laddan. Out of these 37 people have transactions of crores of rupees.                                                                                                                                                                          

This diary also has an entry about one Zeeshan Haider, who received crores of rupees. He is also a close associate of the accused, ACB had argued. The ACB has also submitted that Laddan is a nominated functionary of a political party. He has photographs with the accused during an iftar party. Additionally, 14 crores sale deed is recovered, which is said to be a ‘Benami property’.

Previously, Ladan was in judicial custody in another case lodged at Jamia Nagar police station. He was arrested from Telangana.

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Nation

Sonia arrives in Mysuru to join ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’

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All India Congress Interim president Sonia Gandhi is set to be a part of the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ as she arrived in Mysuru on Monday.

Sources have said that Gandhi will stay at a resort in the Kodagu district for two days, before joining the Yatra on 6th October, which is currently in it’s Karnataka leg.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadhra will take part in the event, the next day, according to the Karnataka Congress.

This will be the first time that all the members of the Gandhi family will be present in the Yatra that began on 7th September from Kanyakumari  and has covered Tamil Nadu, Kerala and will finish up 511 kilometres of the area in 21 days.

The march was aimed at covering as many as 12 states in five months. It recently reached Karnataka on Friday (30th September) and will be here for the next 21 days before moving north. A distance of 25 km is covered every day in the Padyatra (march).

According to the Congress, the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ is being held to combat the divisive policies of the BJP-led central government and to make people aware of the dangers of economic inequality, social polarisation, and political centralisation. It includes marches, rallies, and public meetings.

The Congress suffered a debacle in the assembly polls held earlier this year, and the Yatra is seen as an attempt to increase the party’s outreach to the public and prepare it for the upcoming polls.

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Nation

Diary entry by young Modi reveal the origins of ‘Sabka Saath, sabka vikas’

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The inspiration for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s idea of ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas’ came from a quote by Mahatma Gandhi which he penned in his diary in 1980’s, a diary entry from the Modi Archive revealed.

The Modi archive, a platform that tracks the prime minister’s life, his early days and journey, features his handwritten notes and his mind on a range of issues. The entries by a young Modi show that Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals had left an impact on his life, since he was young. The same is also reflected in the Centre’s welfare schemes.

The country celebrated Mahatma Gandhi’s 153rd birth anniversary on Sunday. 
“I do not believe in the doctrine of the greatest good of the greatest number. It is to sacrifice the good of forty-nine per cent to achieve the supposed good of fifty-one per cent. It is a heartless doctrine and has done harm to humanity. “The only real, dignified human doctrine is the greatest good of all,” wrote young Modi in a note.

The Modi Archive’s twitter handle shared moments when he visited Gandhi’s birthplace, Porbandar, and sought his blessings, just days before he was sworn in as Gujarat’s Chief Minister in 2001.

“At Porbandar, the place where #MahatmaGandhi was born, Modi looks at a portrait of the Mahatma. “After a few days, Modi was sworn in as Gujarat’s Chief Minister and has been in public office for 21 years since,” said the tweet by Modi Archive.

PM Modi replied to the tweet by sharing the lessons of water conservation which his hometown teaches and provided the link for the same.

Modi’s ability to turn schemes into mass movements like the Swach Bharat Abhiyan also finds its roots in Gandhi who turned the fight with Britishers into a mass movement through “Jan Bhagidari’.

Speaking at a media conclave in 2007, Modi, who was the then Chief Minister of Gujarat said, “As far as the development of concerned, it is my opinion that the way every citizen came together during the time of independence, numerous people sacrificed and tried to make the country free, and hundreds of people were spending captured in the jails of Andaman and Nicobar, but the biggest contribution of Mahatma Gandhi was that he converted freedom into a mass movement.”

Earlier on Sunday PM Modi, along with Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar paid floral tributes to Mahatma Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri at the parliament house.

He, along with Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankar also attended a prayer meet organised at Gandhi Smriti on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti.
Paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi on his 153rd birth anniversary, PM Modi tweeted, “This Gandhi Jayanti is, even more, special because India marks Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. I also encourage you to buy Khadi and handicrafts as a tribute to Gandhi Ji.” 

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