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AGR risk for GAIL, OIL and Powergrid stays: Fitch

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Oil India

New Delhi, Feb 19 : India’s telecom-related regulatory dispute still is event risk for GAIL, OIL and Powergrid, Fitch Ratings said on wednesday.

Fitch Ratings continues to treat any payments that three India-based companies – GAIL (India) Limited (BBB-/Stable), Oil India Limited (BBB-/Stable) and Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (BBB-/Stable) – may have to make under a demand notice from the Department of Telecom as an event risk for the companies’ ratings.

Fitch is not taking immediate rating action on the three companies, as the Supreme Court of India allowed the companies to withdraw their clarification applications on February 14, 2020, and resolve their dispute with Department of Telecom outside the court.

This is in stark contrast to the court’s decision to demand immediate payments from the telecom companies that are also involved in the dispute, Fitch added.

“We expect the three companies to eventually resolve the dispute, although resolution timing is uncertain. A speedy solution is important to prevent disrupting the companies’ investment plans and damaging their performance. The three companies are considering an appeal against the demand notices. We understand that they have the option to resolve the matter through alternate dispute-resolution mechanisms available to state-owned enterprises. This is in addition to the legal options available to telecom license holders in general,” it said.

The Department of Telecom has issued demand notices to GAIL, OIL and POWERGRID for Rs 1,831 billion, Rs 480 billion and Rs 220 billion, respectively.

The notices include license fees on non-telecom revenue and additional interest and penalties on the license fees. However, the three companies’ telecom-related revenue is insignificant, at around Rs 0.5 billion, Rs 0.01 billion and Rs 23 billion, respectively, for the same time period as the demand notices.

The three companies have created telecom infrastructure for internal use and have obtained national long distance and Internet service provider licenses to rent out spare capacity. They maintain that their licenses differ from the unified access licenses held by telecom companies, hence, the court’s decision on adjusted gross revenue for telecom companies does not apply to them.

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Indians with OCD should avoid watching news around COVID-19

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OCD and Coronavirus COVID 19

New Delhi, March 27 : At a time when over 1.3 billion Indians have been asked to stay indoors, people who are claustrophobic or suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are finding it difficult to obey the ‘Lakshmana Rekha Prime Minister Narendra Modi has drawn in from of all homes.

According to health experts, such people should first unplug themselves from the news around new coronavirus (COVID-19) and divert their minds towards constructive thoughts and engage in indoor games.

“People with OCD and those who are claustrophobic need to try and avoid reading or seeing too much negative news. Instead, they can opt for completing the work pending for some time which is a constructive channelization of the energy,” said Dr Sameer Malhotra, Director, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket.

“If under treatment, do not stop the medications at this juncture, and if the symptoms are significant, psychiatric intervention may also be required,” Malhotra told IANS.

Indians are currently living with 21-day nationwide lockdown, which started from Tuesday midnight.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), OCD is the sixth most disabling psychiatric disorder in the world.

Dr Samir Parikh, Psychiatrist and the Director of the Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare said that in the face of a pandemic, if you have claustrophobia, OCD or any other form of phobia or anxiety, it is important to ensure that you continue to follow your treatment regimen.

“Stay connected to your doctors, take your medications regularly and also ensure that you continue to take regular therapy sessions through teleconsultations,’ Parikh emphasized.

Family too would play a very pertinent role in providing support and being understanding of the challenge being face by the individual.

“Concurrently, it is important to ensure that one engages in maintaining a work-life balance, take care of certain lifestyle-related elements such as the sleep-wake cycle and also engage in activities of interest during this period,” Parikh noted.

Malhotra said that it is time to rationalize negative thoughts into positive and meaningful thoughts.

“Discuss general topics, try and engage in healthy conversations at home. It is also the best time to bond with family members,” he added.

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Covid lockdown to come at heavy economic cost: Analysts

According to a analysis by Nomura, initial estimates suggest that 75% of the economy will be shutdown, resulting in a direct output loss of 4.5%.

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Market Down

New Delhi, March 27 : The three week lockdown in India will make the year 2020 an even worse year for the economy than the 2008 global financial crisis, according to analysts.

ING Group said in a note that the three-week nationwide lockdown will significantly dent India’s GDP growth, making this an even worse year for the economy than the 2008 global financial crisis. This demands a stronger policy response. Until then, the looming economic misery is poised to push US dollar/rupee above 80 in the coming days

The report said that the biggest whammy will be to private consumption, which accounts for 57 per cent of India’s GDP. With all non-essential consumption dropping virtually to zero for a week in the current quarter means year-on-year GDP growth plunges to just about 1 per cent, and with two weeks of a hit in the next quarter could push it to about -5 per cent.

“We would anticipate at least one more quarter of drag keeping growth in negative territory, beyond which the policy support and favourable base effects should drive recovery back to positive growth”, it said.

“While this shaves a full percentage point from the yearly growth in the current fiscal year (ends on 31 March 2020) to our estimated 4.0%, we have revised our forecast for the next financial year to 0.5% from 4.8%. This is a far cry from the government’s expectation of over 6% growth outlined in the FY2020-21 budget”, the report added.

According to a analysis by Nomura, initial estimates suggest that 75% of the economy will be shutdown, resulting in a direct output loss of 4.5%.

Additionally, there will be indirect effects such as the persistence of public fear factor (even after the lockdown ends), a high risk that the livelihoods of the predominantly unorganised workforce will be hit and a sharp increase in corporate and banking sector stress, which are likely to further weigh on growth is beyond Q2 in H2 2020.

“While the states have been largely leading the fiscal charge against COVID-19 so far, we expect the central government to soon announce a stimulus package of 0.7-1.1% of GDP. Along with the growth hit and poor tax collections, we expect the fiscal deficit for FY21 (year ending March 2021) to balloon by over 1% of GDP from the 3.5% target set in the budget (i.e. more than the escape clause leeway of 0.5% of GDP)” it added.

The lockdown is essential to slow COVID-19 transmission, but this will come at a very heavy economic cost in the short term with potential medium-term spillover effects. Certain sectors are exempt from the lockdown, including food and pharmaceutical industries, storage, telecom, electricity, banking and capital markets, among a few others.

These sectors comprise roughly 25% of the economy. Current guidelines will lead to a complete halt in activity in the remaining 75% of the economy for a duration of three weeks (for now).

On average, every month of lockdown results in output loss of 8.5% of the annual total. Hence, if 75% of the economy is locked down for a month, then the output loss will 6.5%.

A three week lockdown – as is the case currently – should result in an output loss of 4.5%. The experience of other countries that implemented such lockdowns – China and Italy – suggests that the risks are skewed towards longer periods of lockdowns, Nomura said in the report.

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Forces may halt anti-Naxal ops during corona pandemic

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Maoist Naxal Attack

New Delhi/Bastar, March 26 : In view of the humanitarian crisis that has erupted due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, security agencies are mulling over the option of halting all the counter-insurgency operations against armed Maoists in the Naxal belt of India.

Sources told IANS that the security agencies in Chhattisgarh are exploring the possibility of a “humanitarian ceasefire” as the Covid-19 contagion is spreading in India, with around 700 infected and 14 people dead so far.

However, the top police officer of Naxal operations in Raipur, Inspector General of Police (Bastar range) P. Sundar Raj told IANS said that security forces do not have the authority or mandate to take such decisions.

“I am just a police officer. Bastar Police and security forces here have a mandate to ensure safety to life and property of the people. At present the entire world is fighting against Covid-19. Bastar Police is also committed to fighting this virus,” he said.

The IGP said that hygiene is a major issue among Maoists since they all live together in a commune with hardly any healthcare. “There is no social distancing in a commune and the villagers are worried about it at the moment. They are putting not only their lives at risk but endangering the lives of thousands of tribals living in the nearby areas. There is a lot of social pressure over the Maoists to shun violence during this global crisis,” he said.

Also, due to the lockdown, the entire system, other than the essential services, outside the Maoist areas, has come to a standstill. “Because of the terror created by the Maoists, it is generally difficult for healthcare workers to work in Naxal areas. Now with the country-wide lockdown, volunteers who are helping with essential services and distribution of relief packages, will find it even more challenging to help the tribals living in the Maoist controlled areas, if Naxals continue their violence,” the counter-insurgency specialist said.

Just three days ago, police found bodies of 17 security personnel who had gone missing after an encounter with Maoists in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh.

Ceasefire, Sunder Raj said, is an option when the state launches a war. “The state is not the aggressor or perpetrator of violence here. The state has always desired peace for its citizens. Our endeavour right now is that we maintain peace while fighting the coronavirus together with our healthcare system and essential services to cope with the humanitarian crisis. Now it is up to the Maoists to take a call to shun violence in the greater interest of the humanity,” he said.

Incidentally, the Communist Party of the Philippines, in a direct response to the call of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire between warring parties for the common purpose of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, has ordered all its commands and units to observe a nationwide ceasefire from March 26 to April 15.

The convener for the new peace process in central India and activist who works with displaced tribals in Chhattisgarh, Shubhranshu Choudhary has also appealed to the government and armed Maoists to observe ceasefire and initiate a peace dialogue through the lockdown.

“Government figures in India say that in the last 20 years, more than 12 thousand people have died in this conflict. In 53 years, about 40 thousand people may have been killed here. I request the Indian government and the Maoists to follow Philippines at the moment. When a tsunami struck in Indonesia in 2004, a ceasefire that started between the rebels and the government in Aceh area, was finally successful in reaching a peace agreement in 2005,” Choudhary said.

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