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Centre rolls out scheme for interest waiver on small loans

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Nirmala Sitharaman

New Delhi, Oct 24 : The Finance Ministry has announced a scheme for ex-gratia payment of difference between interest for the designated class of borrowers to provide relief in times of Covid-19 pandemic.

The scheme issued by the Department of Financial Services provides the difference between compound interest and simple interest for six months of loans up to Rs two crore.

The scheme can be availed by designated class of borrowers from March 1 to August 31, 2020.

Those having loan amounts above Rs two crore are not eligible. “Borrowers who have loan accounts having sanctioned limits and outstanding amount of not exceeding Rs two crore (aggregate of all facilities with lending institutions) as on February 29 shall be eligible for the scheme,” it said.

The class of borrowers included are housing loan, education loans, credit card dues, auto loans, MSME loans, consumer durable loans and consumption loans.

As per the scheme, the lending institutions shall credit the difference between compound interest and simple interest with regard to the eligible borrowers in respective accounts for the said period irrespective of whether the borrower fully or partially availed the moratorium on repayment of loan announced by the RBI on March 27, 2020.

The lending institution after crediting the amount will claim the reimbursement from the Central government. All banks and NBFCs are covered under the scheme.

The government has clarified that the payment does not constitute a legal, contractual or equitable liability of the Central government and is only an ex-gratia payment to borrowers in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a major relief to thousands of individuals and MSME borrowers, the Centre in an affidavit had informed the Supreme Court that it has taken a decision to waive “interest on interest” on loans up to Rs two crore during the six-month moratorium period.

The affidavit said the only solution is that the government should bear the burden resulting from waiver of compound interest.

“After careful consideration and weighing all possible options, the respondent Union of India has decided to continue the tradition of handholding the small borrowers”, said the Centre. The categories of loans up to Rs two crore include: MSME loans, education loans, housing loans, consumer durable loans, credit card dues, auto loans, personal loans to professional and consumption loans.

The Centre said it is impossible for the banks to bear the burden resulting from waiver of compound interest without passing on the financial impact to the depositors or affecting their net worth adversely, which would not be in larger public interest.

The affidavit said: “The government, therefore, has decided that the relief on waiver of compound interest during the six-month moratorium period shall be limited to the most vulnerable category of borrowers.”

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Adar Poonawalla, CEO Serum Institute among 6 named ‘Asians of the Year’ by Singapore daily

The Serum Institute was founded by Poonawalla’s father Cyrus Poonawalla in 1966.

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Adar Poonawalla

Singapore, December 5 : Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India, is among six people named ‘Asians of the Year’ by Singapore’s leading daily, The Straits Times, for their work in fighting the Covid pandemic.

Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) has collaborated with the University of Oxford and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for making the Covid vaccine, ‘Covidshield’, and is conducting trials in India.

The other five named in the list are Chinese researcher Zhang Yongzhen, who led the team that mapped and published online the first complete genome of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that sparked the pandemic, China’s Major-General Chen Wei, Japan’s Dr Ryuichi Morishita and Singapore’s Professor Ooi Eng Eong, who are among those at the forefront of developing vaccines against the virus, and South Korean businessman Seo Jung-jin whose company will enable the making and dispensing of the vaccines and other Covid-19 treatments to the world.

Collectively referred to as “the virus busters”, they are heroes of a kind, having devoted themselves to the pressing cause of resolving the coronavirus pandemic, each in their own capacity, the daily said.

“Sars-CoV-2, the virus that has brought death and hardship to the world’s largest and most populous continent, is meeting its tamer in The Virus Busters,” the award citation said.

“We salute your courage, care, commitment and creativity. In this peril-filled hour, you are a symbol of hope for Asia, indeed the world.”

The Serum Institute was founded by Poonawalla’s father Cyrus Poonawalla in 1966.

Poonawalla joined the Serum Institute of India in 2001 and became the CEO of Serum Institute with complete control of the day-to-day operations of the company in 2011.

Poonawalla said that he had put USD 250 million of his family fortune into ramping up his institute’s manufacturing capacity.

“I decided to go all out,” said Poonawalla, 39, who has pledged that his firm’s COVID-19 vaccines will help supply lower- and middle-income countries that face significant disadvantages in the quest to obtain them.

Poonawalla said his institute is helping poorer countries level up in access to vaccines.

In the big picture of ending the pandemic, commonality of purpose is key, said The Straits Times, Singapore’s mainstream daily.

The Straits Times Asians of the Year have led the way, as have scores of other individuals in their own fields. When an end comes into sight, it will be due in no small part to these people who – undaunted by the tumult – have committed themselves to the sobering, much-needed work to put together an exit plan from the crisis, for humanity.

“There has not been a day this year when the pandemic has not been in the news. Straits Times’ editors felt there could be no more deserving recipients this year than the people squaring up to Asia’s biggest-ever health challenge, engaged in pioneering and courageous efforts to prevent the highly contagious virus from wreaking more damage,” Bhagyashree Garekar, Straits Times’ foreign editor, said on Saturday.

“In a year that is ending with a wish for great resets… Asia’s virus busters are the face of hope on the horizon,” said Garekar.

Between them, the recipients of the 2020 award capture the entire trajectory of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In deciding to honour The Virus Busters, Straits Times editors had in mind those who have, in one way or another, enabled the complex, multi-stage process of preventing as many people around the world from getting the deadly disease in as little time as possible.

“Each year, ST editors seek out a person, team or organisation that has not only made or shaped the news, but also helped contribute positively to Asia in the process,” said Warren Fernandez, editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings’ English/Malay/Tamil Media Group and editor of Straits Times.

“This year, we naturally looked to those involved in the fight against Covid-19, which has dominated the headlines. We debated long and hard, but finally agreed on a group of people who have done the most to help find an answer to the crisis brought on by the virus.

“They are a disparate group whose collective efforts have pushed forward the search for vaccines, allowing these to be discovered and delivered with an urgency never attempted or seen before. Their commitment and actions have helped save lives and give hope to people all around Asia, and the world,” Fernandez said. PTI

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Farmers’ rail roko protest continues at Jandiala Guru

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Farmers RAil Roko Protest

Amritsar, December 4: The farmers’ protests against the agri laws implemented by the Centre entered the 73rd day in Jandiala Guru.

The kisan union leaders said they would not accept any condition of the Central Government and the latter to revoke the controversial laws.

The farmers also burnt an effigy of the state government and criticised Chief Minister Capt Amrinder Singh’s statement on the farmers’ stir.

Satnam Singh Pannu, chief, Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, said the protest led by Sukhwinder Singh Sabhra, Jasbir Singh Pindi and Lakhwinder Singh Varyamnangal at Kundli border was underway.

The Centre wants to amend the agri laws, which would be a betrayal. Just as the Britishers cheated, the Union Government also wants to deceive us. We have single demand to repeal three agri laws, the Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 and the recent amendment in the Environment Protection Act.

Sarwan Singh Pandher, general secretary, Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, said, “The Centre should assure minimum support price on all crops. Around 25 vehicles of the union are going daily to Delhi. On December 11, more than 500 tractor-trailers will leave for Delhi.”

Addressing the activists during the ‘rail roko’ protest in Jandiala Guru, Pandher said Capt Amarinder’s statement (farmers are a threat to national security) is highly objectionable.

Gurbachan Singh Chabba and Jarmanjit Singh Bandala said the central leadership of the Congress had convened a special session by Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi demanding repeal of the agri laws while Capt Amarinder was speaking on the behalf of the BJP.

Meanwhile, a group of residents from Malanwali village and members of the Amritsar Bar Association led by Advocate Kuljit Singh left for Delhi to participate in the agitation.

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Meghalaya parties’ stir to enforce ILP to keep state out of CAA purview

To visit the ILP-governed states, foreign nationals and even people from other states of India, now need to take a permit.

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Meghalaya CAA Protest

Shillong: Meghalaya Governor Satya Pal Malik on Friday assured an apex body of over 17 organisations that he along with Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma would soon go to Delhi to urge Home Minister Amit Shah to implement the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system across the state.

If the ILP is enforced in entire Meghalaya, the hill state, like other four northeastern states — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur, would keep itself out of the purview of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

The Confederation of Meghalaya Social Organisations (CoMSO), an umbrella body of more than 17 organisations, which has been spearheading the agitation since last year for the introduction of ILP in the remaining part of the state, on Friday held sit-in demonstrations in all the 11 districts and in some sub-divisional headquarters besides in the capital city of Shillong.

After the state-wide demonstrations, a delegation of CoMSO led by its Secretary Roy Kupar Synrem met the Governor and sought his urgent intervention to implement the ILP by the Centre in the remaining part of the state.

“The Governor has assured us that he along with the Chief Minister would soon go to Delhi to meet the Union Home Minister Amit Shah and request the Central government to promulgate the ILP in Meghalaya,” Synrem told the media.

He said: “We have apprised the Governor about the urgent need of ILP in Meghalaya. We have also urged the Governor to approve the Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which was passed by the state Assembly long back.”

“Conrad Sangma prove yourself that you can lead Meghalaya to the ILP regime, if not please step down,” said one of the banners displayed at Friday’s agitation.

The CoMSO, after several months of silence due to the Covid-19 induced situations, resumed its stir on November 27 by holding black flag protests across Meghalaya.

“We have been asking all the 60 Meghalaya MLAs and three MPs of the state to hold sit-in demonstrations in Delhi to ensure that the ILP is enforced in the state soon,” Synrem told IANS over phone.

He said: “Even though the Meghalaya Assembly had unanimously adopted a resolution on December 19 last year, the Home Ministry is yet to take appropriate steps to enforce the ILP in the remaining part of the state.”

The CoMSO leader warned the National People’s Party-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government that if the ILP was not implemented in the next few months, there would be more protests across the state.

The Bharatiya Janata Party with two MLAs is part of the MDA government in the state and one of the legislators Alexander Laloo Hek is the Health Minister.

The ILP under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 was in force in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram. On December 11 last year it was promulgated in Manipur, to allow for inward travel of an Indian citizen into the ILP enforced areas for a stipulated period with the written permission of the state authority.

To visit the ILP-governed states, foreign nationals and even people from other states of India, now need to take a permit.

The main aim of the ILP system is to check settlement of other Indian nationals in these states to protect the native population. There are also protection extended to indigenous people with regard to land, jobs and other facilities.

The ILP is currently issued for a minimum of 15 days and maximum one year, depending on the applicant’s purpose and necessity.

The Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland governments are issuing the ILP through the online process to facilitate any Indian to obtain this from anywhere in the country.

The central government had earlier announced that the CAA would not apply to the ILP and the Tribal Autonomous District Council (TADC) areas.

In the northeastern states there are 10 TADCs, constituted under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. While Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram have three TADCs each, Tripura has one.

All eight northeastern states and neighbouring West Bengal witnessed violent protests for many weeks last year and early this year against the CAA.

Notified on January 10, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 (CAA) seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslims minorities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who have migrated from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014, after facing faith-based persecution.

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