India Newsletter

13 Nov 2020



Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday announced tax relief on

select home sale deals, enhanced credit guarantee programme for small

businesses and provided incentives for new job creation as the government

widened stimulus measures to boost the economy.

The measures, that also include additional fertiliser subsidy and already

announced production-linked incentive scheme for manufacturing units,

totalled Rs 2.65 lakh crore, taking the cumulative stimulus package

announced since the lockdown to almost Rs 30 lakh crore, or 15 per cent of

the GDP.

It also includes additional funding for real estate developers and

contractors, a new employment scheme and additional spending on the rural

jobs plan.

Sitharaman cited data, including increase in tax collections for goods and

services, rise in energy consumption and improvement in bank credit, to

state that the economy was seeing "strong recovery" taking root.

Doubling down on the previously announced measures, she said income tax law

will be relaxed to allow primary or first sale of housing units of up to Rs

2 crore at a price that can be 20 per cent below the stamp duty circle rate.

Currently, the law restricts differential between circle rate and agreement

value at 10 per cent.

Under the new job creation scheme, the government will provide a subsidy

equal to the contribution that an employee and the employer have to make

towards the retirement fund (totaling 24 per cent of the wages) to

establishments that hire new employees or re-hire those it fired during

COVID-19 pandemic.

The Rs 3 lakh crore Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS), under

which small businesses can get collateral-free loans, has been extended till

March 31, 2021.

An additional outlay of Rs 18,000 crore will be made towards the affordable

urban housing programme.

Also, Rs 10,000 crore was provided for rural employment, Rs 3,000 crore to

Exim Bank for extending lines of credit, and Rs 10,200 crore additional

budget outlay for defence and infrastructure.

A Rs 900 crore grant was made to the Department of Biotechnology for

COVID-19 vaccine research, she said, adding this did not include the cost of

procuring and distributing the vaccine which will be established later.

Sitharaman said the government will provide Rs 65,000 crore of additional

subsidy on fertiliser to ensure the crop nutrient is available to farmers

during the current season.






Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday unveiled a statue of Swami

Vivekananda on the JNU campusin New Delhi - for long an ideological

battlefield for the Left and Hindutva groups - and asserted that people's

ideologies should be seen standing with and not against the country in

matters of national interest.

Giving priority to one's ideology over national interest has harmed the

democratic system of the country a lot, Modi said in his address to students

after unveiling the statue through video-conferencing.

He spoke of the independence struggle and the movement against the Emergency

to note that people of different ideological persuasions had joined hands

for national interest without compromising their ideologies to make his


The Prime Minister said the statue on the campus will inspire everyone and

instill courage and compassion that Vivekananda wanted to see in everyone.

The statue's unveiling drew protests from the JNU Students' Union. Students

flashed posters of "Modi go back" and "we want answers" ahead of the

unveiling of the statue by Modi.

He has chosen this university for installing the statue but whenever

students raise their voice on any issue, everybody comes "hounding" and

demands that the university should be shut, said JNU Students' Union

president Aishe Ghosh, who was leading the protest.





In what is being seen as a veiled reference to the US, Russia said Thursday

that any escalation in the border tension between India and China amid

global turbulence and unpredictability would further trigger regional

instability in Eurasia, and the friction can be "misused by other players in

their geopolitical purpose".

At an online media briefing, Roman Babushkin, Deputy Chief of Mission in the

Russian Embassy in New Delhi, said that his country is "naturally concerned"

over tensions between India and China, and that it is "very important" for

the two Asian neighbours to engage more in "constructive dialogue".

Noting that India and China are members of the Shanghai Cooperation

Organisation and BRICS groupings, Babushkin said "respectful dialogue" is

the "main tool" when it comes to cooperation within the framework of

multilateral platforms.

"It is clear that amid global turbulence and unpredictability, escalation

between India and China would further affect regional instability in our

common home, Eurasia. The escalation we are witnessing can be misused by

other players in their geo-political purposes," he said.









Many world leaders have been congratulating Joe Biden and talking to him,

recognising him and calling him the president-elect. Trump Republicans are

serially losing court cases alleging election fraud. The few glitches they

have uncovered are not enough to overturn the results, which has given the

Biden-Kamala Harris ticket a clear nationwide win. Even lawyers representing

the Trump argument are bailing out of the cases.

But defeated President Donald Trump is doggedly refusing to concede. He has

mounted a furious campaign to denigrate the mandate Biden has earned, with a

blizzard of tweets and retweets relaying falsehoods, distortions, and

outright lies, while his aides have blocked transition rights to the new,

incoming Biden-Harris dispensation.

The charitable view of the election gridlock engineered by the defeated

president is that he is laying the ground for a 2024 White House run by

adopting a tough posture before the 72 million people who voted for him, and

that he will fold once states formally certify the election results. No one

seriously expects recounts - which typically move a few hundred votes in

either direction - to make a difference when the margins of victory-loss are

in thousands.

The more fearful view is that Trump is digging in for the long haul,

virtually mounting a political coup in defiance of the mandate for Biden,

with no clear mechanism about how to resolve it.

On Thursday, Trump claimed he has won 73 million votes (AP's count shows he

has just crossed 72 million), without mentioning that Biden has won five

million votes more, having crossed 77 million, the highest nationwide

popular vote (50.8%) since Ronald Reagan's 50.7%.

Meanwhile, world leaders are not waiting for Trump to concede. Germany's

Angela Merkel, Canada's Justin Trudeau, Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga, South

Korean President Moon Jae-in and Australian PM Scott Morrison are among

those who have spoken to Biden to discuss bilateral and global issues,

despite the Trump-Mike Pompeo state department not facilitating the

exchanges as transition protocol demands. The state department is said to be

sitting on a stack of messages from foreign leaders to Biden, while refusing

to give the transition team logistical and translation support needed for

engaging the world.

The number of Republicans willing to acknowledge Biden victory too is

growing, with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and the veteran party operative Karl

Rove, who served as an adviser to the Trump campaign, urging the president

to accept defeat.









While RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav claimed on Thursday that rejected postal

ballots might have made the difference between victory and defeat for the

Mahagathbandhan, Election Commission records show that in only one Assembly

constituency in Bihar, Hilsa, the winning margin was less than the number of

invalid postal ballots. And, following the RJD candidate's request, all the

postal ballots in this seat, and not just the rejected ones, were recounted

and found to be in order, Bihar's Chief Electoral Officer said.

The RJD's Atri Muni lost the Hilsa seat to the JD(U) by 12 votes.

According to the data shared by the Bihar CEO, of the total 243 seats, only

11 - Hilsa, Barbigha, Ramgarh, Matihani, Bhorey, Dehri, Bachhwara, Chakai,

Kurhani, Bakhri and Parbatta - saw a winning margin of less than 1,000

votes. Of these seats, four were won by the JD(U), three by the RJD, and one

each by the BJP, CPI, LJP and an Independent candidate. RJD lost in only two

constituencies decided by less than 1,000 votes.

On Tejashwi's allegation of inordinate delay in handing over certificates to

the winning candidates, the CEO said, "At the end of EVM counting, five

polling stations are randomly chosen and their VVPAT slips are verified with

the EVM count. Counting of VVPAT slips is a tedious job and takes time. That

apart, in some cases, the VVPAT slips had to also be tallied when the

Control Unit did not display the result and where the polling officer forgot

to delete the mock poll votes. So while according to the candidate the EVM

rounds are over, the actual result declaration cannot happen till the VVPAT

slips are tallied, and data of all polling stations is entered into the EC's

software. These reasons contribute to the time taken in handing over

certificates to the winning candidates."

In Delhi, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora also addressed the

allegations of irregularities, saying the Bihar CEO had responded to all the

charges. He said the EC had held four press conferences on counting day

alone to respond to various aspects of the process.

Responding to a query on the "slow pace of counting", Arora said it was due

to 33,000 more polling stations due to Covid-19, resulting in 63% additional






Nitish Kumar may take oath as Bihar CM for a fourth successive term next

week but the date has not been finalised yet. Speculation is rife in

political circles that he will be sworn in on Monday, the day 'Bhaiyya Dooj'

festival will be celebrated.

The newly elected MLAs of the NDA are yet to meet formally and elect Kumar

as their leader.

However, with top BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi,

strongly endorsing Kumar as the chief minister, there are no doubts over a

fourth straight term for him in the high office.





The Congress said on Thursday it was disappointed with its performance in

Bihar Assembly elections and the party's working committee would soon review

it. The Congress managed to win only 19 of the 70 seats it had contested,

down from its previous tally of 27 seats out of 41 it had fought in the 2015

assembly elections in the state.

The people of Bihar came "pretty close" to change the government, the

Congress' senior spokesperson P Chidambaram told reporters.

The former finance minister said one should remember that Bihar was the

poorest state of India, even though Narendra Modi has been the prime

minister since 2014 and Nitish Kumar the chief minister of the state since


"In the poorest state of India, as I agree in the alternative analysis,

voted for no change in the government. Well, they came pretty close to

change the government. I think, 10 seats either this way or that would have

changed the government," he said. The vote difference between the NDA and

the 'Mahagathbandhan' was only 0.3 per cent, Chidambaram said.





The government has issued a notice to Twitter for showing Leh as part of

Jammu and Kashmir instead of the Union Territory of Ladakh. The ministry, in

its notice, has directed Twitter to explain within five working days why

legal action should not be initiated against the micro-blogging platform and

its representatives for disrespecting the territorial integrity of India by

showing an incorrect map.

In the notice sent to the global vice president of Twitter, the ministry

asserted that showing Leh as part of Jammu and Kashmir is a deliberate

attempt by the micro-blogging platform to undermine the will of sovereign

Parliament of India which has declared Ladakh as a Union Territory with its

headquarter in Leh.

An industry watcher said that in case Twitter does not fall in line even

after the latest notice, possible options could include action initiated

under Section 69A of the IT Act for banning access to Twitter in India.

Also, under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, the government can lodge an

FIR, which has punishment of up to 6 months of imprisonment.





In order to ensure early availability of its Covid-19 vaccine once approved,

Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) has already manufactured 40

million doses of the candidate developed by Oxford University and

AstraZeneca, under the 'at-risk' manufacturing and stockpiling licence from

the Indian drug regulator.

The company plans to stockpile 200-300 million doses by January and around

50% of its capacity is expected to cater to local requirements, regulatory

sources said.

Serum and Indian Council of Medical Research on Thursday said 1,600

participants have been enrolled in the Phase 3 clinical trials for the

vaccine- Covishield- in the country and, based on the Phase 2/3 trial

results, SII with the help of ICMR will also pursue early availability of

this product for India. "The promising results of the trials so far give

confidence that Covishield could be a realistic solution to the deadly

pandemic. Covishield is by far the most advanced vaccine in human testing in

India," Serum Institute said.





A lawyer for Future Retail Limited (FRL) on Thursday told the Delhi High

Court that Amazon is interfering with its lawful business. The lawyer argued

that due to this thousands may lose jobs and FRL may go bankrupt.

The Delhi High Court is hearing Future Retail's suit related to its deal

with Reliance. It was recently halted by an Emergency Arbitrator of the

Singapore International Arbitration Centre in favour of Amazon.

Future Retail which was represented by senior advocate Harish Salve told the

court that the interference by Amazon in the Future-Reliance deal would

result in thousands of job losses and FRL becoming bankrupt.

"This whole concept of minority rights being protected is nonsense.

Thousands may lose jobs, FRL may go bankrupt but this great American giant

(Amazon) should not be upset," said Salve, according to Bar & Bench. "In

today's day and age, to say that I will kill a 25,000 crore company. God

knows if Amazon still thinks that it's living during the time of the East

India Company."





Donald Trump "promised an elixir for the racial anxiety" of "millions of

Americans spooked by a black man in the White House", Barack Obama writes in

his eagerly awaited memoir. Those Americans, Obama writes, were prey to "the

dark spirits that had long been lurking on the edges of the modern

Republican party - xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, paranoid conspiracy

theories, an antipathy toward black and brown folks".

In A Promised Land, which comes out on Tuesday, Obama continues: "It was as

if my very presence in the White House had triggered a deep-seated panic, a

sense that the natural order had been disrupted. Which is exactly what

Donald Trump understood when he started peddling assertions that I had not

been born in the United States and was thus an illegitimate president."

Penguin Random House reportedly paid the former president and his wife,

Michelle Obama, $65m for books about their time in the White House. The

former first lady's memoir, Becoming, came out in 2018 to widespread


Excerpts of Obama's book have run in the press. In the Indian media, what's

creating ripples is Obama's remarks in the book about Rahul Gandhi. Obama

says Rahul has 'a nervous, unformed quality about him, as if he were a

student who'd done the coursework and was eager to impress the teacher but

deep down lacked either the aptitude or the passion to master the subject'.





Attorney General KK Venugopal on Thursday gave his consent to initiate

criminal contempt of court proceedings against standup comedian Kunal Kamra

for his tweets insinuating the Supreme Court after it gave bail to Republic

TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami in an abetment to suicide case.

Terming Kamra's tweets "highly objectionable", Venugopal said in his opinion

it "constitutes criminal contempt of court."

The tweets are not only in bad taste but clearly cross the line between

humour and contempt of court, said the Attorney General who recently refused

to give consent for initiating contempt of court proceedings against several


In one of his tweets, Kamra showed the Supreme Court in safron colour with a

BJP flag in place of the Tricolour. He tweeted that honour had left the

building (Supreme Court) long back and it was "the most supreme joke of the

country". He also made nasty comments about a sitting Supreme Court judge.

"All this in my opinion constitutes contempt of court," the Attorney General


"I find that today people believe that they can boldly and brazenly condemn

the Supreme Court of India and its judges by exercising what they believe is

their freedom of speech. But under the Constitution, freedom of speech is

subject to the law of contempt and i believe that it is time that people

understand that attacking the Supreme Court of India unjustifiedly and

brazenly will attract punishment under Contempt of Courts Act," the Attorney

General said.





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The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time. -

Abraham Lincoln





The Oxford English Dictionary had revealed in 2012 that its word of the year

was GIF.

People who use dictionaries were like, 'What's a GIF?'

And then people who use GIFs were like, 'What's a dictionary?'

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