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GDP numbers exposed Modi govt’s fake narrative: P Chidambaram

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said it will take many months before the economy turns the corner and registers positive growth.

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New Delhi: Former finance minister P Chidambaram flayed the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP government for the sharp decline in GDP numbers. The Indian economy shrank a record-shattering 23.9 percent during the April-June quarter this year. The GDP contraction was much worse than the forecast of 18.3 percent drop. It is the biggest contraction on record as the coronavirus crisis took a big toll on the economy.

Chidambaram said all this had been anticipated and the Congress had warned the government and urged it to take preventive and preemptive measures. It will take many months before the economy turns the corner and registers positive growth, he said.

“Our pleas fell on deaf ears. The country, as a whole, is paying a heavy price, the poor and the vulnerable are in despair. It is only the Modi government that was nonchalant and uncaring. The government peddled a fake narrative, but that narrative has been exploded today by the CSO estimates,” Chidambaram said.

“Let me say with regret: it will take many months before the economy turns the corner and registers positive growth. The inaction and ineptitude of the government give us no hope that we will see light at the end of the tunnel at any time soon,” the former finance minister said.

He said the GDP in the first quarter has declined by a whopping 23.9 percent, which means about one-quarter of the gross domestic output as on June 30, 2019, has been wiped out in the last 12 months or the gross domestic output has fallen by about 20 percent since the end of 2019-20.

The Congress leader said the only sectors that had grown are Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing at 3.4 percent, and the Finance Minister, who blamed an ‘Act of God’ for the economic decline, should be grateful to the farmers and the gods who blessed the farmers.

“The estimates do not come as a surprise to us. They should be a matter of surprise to the government that was seeing ‘green shoots’ during the first quarter. It should also be a matter of shame to the government that did nothing — literally nothing — to cushion the fall by taking suitable fiscal and welfare measures, but we know that the Modi government has no shame and will not acknowledge its mistakes,” the Congress leader alleged.

Chidambaram said the economic tragedy was foretold by many close observers of the Indian economy, most recently by the RBI in its Annual Report released a few days ago.

“Of the world’s major and advanced economies, India’s economy declined more than any other country’s except the economy of the United States. What does that tell us? That Mr Modi stands second only to Mr Trump in terms of incompetent economic mismanagement,” Chidambaram said in a tweet.

India imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the world on March 25, bringing all economic activities to a grinding halt. While businesses and economic activity have started picking up since then, India’s economy still doesn’t seem to be out of the woods.

India will be officially in recession if GDP contracts in the current quarter —July-September — too, which most experts reckon would take place.

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India extends $1 billion credit line to Central Asian countries for priority projects

Besides the $1-billion line of credit, India offered grant assistance for high impact community development projects to boost socio-economic development in Central Asia.

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India on Wednesday extended a $1-billion line of credit to Central Asian countries for priority projects in connectivity, energy, IT and health care, with the move being perceived as part of New Delhi’s efforts to boost its role as a transparent development partner.

The line of credit was welcomed by ministers of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyz Republic, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan during the second meeting of the India-Central Asia Dialogue held via video conference under the chairmanship of external affairs minister S Jaishankar. Acting Afghan foreign minister Haneef Atmar joined the meeting as a special invitee.

The meeting discussed cooperation in political and security matters, and all the countries called for settling the Afghan conflict on the principle of an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace process”, according to a joint statement. The countries also condemned terrorism and reaffirmed their determination to destroy terrorist safe havens, networks, and funding channels.

In a tacit reference to Pakistan, the joint statement said: “They also underlined the need for every country to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks against other countries.”

Jaishankar told the meeting: “India and Central Asia share ancient historical and cultural linkages. We consider Central Asia as India’s ‘extended neighbourhood’.” He added, “We face common challenges of terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking… All these commonalities make us a natural partner in our developmental journey.”

Besides the $1-billion line of credit, India offered grant assistance for high impact community development projects to boost socio-economic development in Central Asia.

The ministers emphasised the importance of connectivity in increasing trade and commerce between India and Central Asia, and appreciated New Delhi’s efforts to modernise Chabahar port in Iran as an important link in trade and transport between markets in Central and South Asia, the joint statement said. The ministers agreed to promote joint initiatives to create regional and international transport corridors.

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Failing to pay property tax by Oct 31 may land Gurugram property owners in trouble

Charitable educational institutions, charitable hospitals and special schools for children, which charge the same fees as government schools and hospitals, are given a 100 per cent exemption.

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Gurugram: Property owners in Gurugram can lose their water and sewage connections if they fail to clear their property tax dues by October 31, officials of the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) said on Wednesday.

According to the MCG officials, as per the notification issued by the Haryana government, only three days are left to avail the benefit of exemption in the payment of property tax issued by the MCG.

According to the notification, the government is giving an interest waiver and 25 per cent rebate to those paying their entire property tax dues by October 31.

“We have given a last opportunity to the property owners to pay their dues within the next three days. If they still do not pay their property tax, the process of cutting their sewer and drinking water connections will be initiated by the civic authority from November 1,” MCG Commissioner Vinay Pratap Singh said.

“A special drive to seal commercial buildings will be carried out and the process of auction can also be adopted by sealing the building,” he added.

As per the government notification, property owners who deposit their entire outstanding property tax by October 31 will be given a 25 per cent exemption on property tax from 2010-11 to 2016-17.

“Property owners who have deposited their property tax in the last three years till October 31, will be given an additional 10 per cent rebate along with the regular 10 per cent rebate. Those paying by auto debit mode will get the benefit of an additional 5 per cent discount,” an MCG official said.

Charitable educational institutions, charitable hospitals and special schools for children, which charge the same fees as government schools and hospitals, are given a 100 per cent exemption.

The officials further informed that the civic body has also started an incentive scheme for all the resident welfare associations (RWAs) of the city. Municipal corporations will give an incentive amount of Rs 5 lakh to the RWAs which submit property tax of more than 80 per cent.

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‘Who the hell are you?’, US lawmakers scold Twitter, Facebook, Google CEOs

In opening statements, Dorsey, Zuckerberg and Pichai spoke to the proposals for changes to Section 230. Zuckerberg said Congress “should update the law to make sure it’s working as intended.”

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New York, Oct 29 : “Baloney!”, “sham!” and “who the hell are you” scoldings dominated a Senate hearing on Wednesday where the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google took heat in a talking match with US lawmakers over the idea of free speech and alleged anti-conservative bias on the companies’ mighty platforms.

The Congressional grilling quickly shifted into the realm of political circus around the social media content moderation dumpster fire.

With less than a week to go for the US election, Republican lawmakers got an earful from critics for the timing of the “sham” hearing.

At the heart of the heated arguments were 26 words tucked away in a 1996 US law – Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

Section 230 states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”.

Under American law, Internet firms are typically exempt from liability for content that users post on platforms. President Donald Trump has challenged this via executive order which threatens to strip those protections if online platforms wade into “editorial decisions”.

For 3 hours and 42 minutes, the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google were at the receiving end of a firehose version of bipartisan alarm over their phenomenal power to influence behaviour at scale.

The Republicans’ drumbeat centered on Facebook’s and Twitter’s decision earlier this month to slam the brakes on an unverified political story from the conservative-leaning New York Post about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The story cited unverified emails from Biden’s son Hunter.

Trump acolytes jumped on the chance to prove their loyalty. One of them called Twitter’s action on the newspaper “a pattern of censorship and silencing Americans with whom Twitter disagrees”.

For their part, Twitter, Facebook and Google have struggled to frame exactly how they would intervene and in how many scenarios. And what about content that doesn’t fall into their precast rubric or categories of bad stuff? The answers have been less than clear.

Of the three companies, Facebook’s sway over behavioural targeting has raised a string of red flags in the context of the US 2020 election.

Multiple lawmakers pushed back against the idea of “unelected San Francisco elites” deciding if content makes the grade or not.

In opening statements, Dorsey, Zuckerberg and Pichai spoke to the proposals for changes to Section 230. Zuckerberg said Congress “should update the law to make sure it’s working as intended.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that if Google was “acting as a publisher”, he would be okay with the company being liable for content published on its platform.

Wednesday’s hearing comes barely a week after the US Justice Department’s landmark antitrust lawsuit against Google which argues that both advertisers and regular people are harmed by the tech giant’s position as “the unchallenged gateway to the Internet for billions of users worldwide.”

Warnings abound of the coming restrictions and for the “free pass” to end, maybe on the other side of the election results.

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