India Newsletter

10 Dec 2020



The Centre Wednesday offered significant concessions, ranging from a written

assurance on continuation of minimum support price (MSP)-based procurement

and ensuring parity in transactions inside and outside existing Agricultural

Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis, to farmers protesting against the

three new agricultural laws. However, the farmer unions rejected the

proposals, saying they will settle for nothing less than repeal of the three


The farmers announced that they would intensify their agitation by blocking

the Jaipur-Delhi and the Delhi-Agra expressways by Saturday, and escalating

it to a nationwide protest on December 14.

The 20-page proposals, by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare,

were forwarded to the farmer leaders around 2.30 pm, and included a written

assurance on MSP.

On apprehensions that the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and

Facilitation) Act, 2020, or FPTC Act - one of the three contentious laws -

will weaken the mandi system, the government has proposed to tax

transactions outside the APMC mandis as well, saying states will be

authorised to make appropriate regulations to ensure this.

The government has also assured farmers that states will be authorised to

register private traders, so that they do not cheat farmers. The states can

be empowered to make the rules under the FPTC Act, 2020, say the proposals.

In case of a dispute, the Centre has further assured, farmers may approach

civil courts, a provision absent from the newly promulgated ordinances.

Incidentally, while the government has talked of amending these two farm

laws, it has not proposed any change in the third one, Essential Commodities

(Amendment) Act, 2020.

The other assurances made by the Centre include resolution of grievances

related to a new air quality management ordinance, which calls for steep

penalty in case of stubble burning. "Appropriate solution will be found in

this regard," the Centre has said.

It has also said that the existing arrangement on subsidy on electricity

usage by farmers will not be modified.

Officials in the Government claimed that they had "yielded" and given

"assurances" based exactly on what the farmers had asked for during the

talks in Vigyan Bhavan. "They asked for assurances on MSP and tax parity and

the court process. If repeal was the only demand, then what was there to

discuss over six rounds?" said a top government official.

Farmers underline that the repeal demand has been a consistent one along

with hardwiring MSP into the law and it is the government that has been


Meanwhile, a delegation of Opposition leaders - Congress leader Rahul

Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury,

CPI general secretary D Raja and DMK leader TKS Elangovan - met President

Ram Nath Kovind and sought repeal of the three farm laws.

Rahul Gandhi said the way the farm laws were passed in Parliament, "we feel

it was an insult to farmers and that is why they are protesting in the cold

weather against them". The three bills were passed without any discussion or

conversation with the Opposition parties or with farmers, he said.

He added that the new laws appeared to be aimed at handing over the farming

sector to the "friends of the Prime Minister" but the farmers were fearless

and would not back off and would continue with their peaceful agitation.





External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Wednesday China has given

India "five differing explanations" for deploying large forces at the LAC,

adding this violation of bilateral pacts has "very significantly damaged"

their relationship.

The comments by Jaishankar during an online interactive session organised by

Australian think tank Lowy Institute came against the backdrop of the over

seven-month-long military standoff between India and China at the LACin

eastern Ladakh.

"We are today probably at the most difficult phase of our relationship with

China, certainly in the last 30 to 40 years or you could argue even more,"

Jaishankar said highlighting various aspects of the bilateral ties in the

last three decades. "The relationship this year has been very significantly


"We are very clear that maintaining peace and tranquillity along the LAC is

the basis for the rest of the relationship to progress. You can't have the

kind of situation you have on the border and say let's carry on with life in

all other sectors of activity. It's just unrealistic," he said.

Jaishankar further said, "We have this problem because from 1988, our

relationship had its hiccups, we had our issues and differences but the

direction of the ties broadly were positive."





The expert committee scrutinising applications by three firms for emergency

use authorisation of their Covid-19 vaccines in India on Wednesday asked the

Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech for additional late-stage

safety and efficacy data from their ongoing clinical trials. The third

applicant, US pharma giant Pfizer, sought more time to present its data.

The Subject Expert Committee (SEC), which met for the first time on

Wednesday, has sought detailed replies by the next meeting, whose date has

not been decided yet. The SEC will be giving its recommendations to the

Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), based on which it will take a

final decision on the vaccines, with the whole process taking a few weeks.

Bharat Biotech, which is currently conducting Phase 3 trials on its

indigenous vaccine candidate Covaxin, has only submitted interim safety and

immunogenicity data of its Phase 1 and 2 trials in the country. After its

presentation on Wednesday, the SEC told it to "present the safety and

efficacy data from the ongoing Phase 3 clinical trial for further










British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday seemed to confuse two

separate issues when he reiterated his government's stance that any dispute

between India and Pakistan was for the two countries to settle bilaterally.

British Sikh Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, who has been leading a drive

to keep the protests by the Indian farmers against the government's

agricultural reforms in the news in Britain, repeated one of his previous

Twitter statements on the issue in the House of Commons during the weekly

Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) session. "Many constituents, especially

those emanating from Punjab and other parts of India, and I were horrified

to see footage of water cannons, teargas and brute force being used against

peacefully protesting farmers...So, will the Prime Minister convey to the

Indian Prime Minister our heartfelt anxieties, our hopes for a speedy

resolution to the current deadlock and does he agree that everyone has a

fundamental right to peaceful protest," he questioned Johnson.

Johnson, in his brief response, said: "Our view is that of course we have

serious concerns about what is happening between India and Pakistan but

these are pre-eminently matters for those two governments to settle and I

know that he appreciates that point," said Johnson.

Dhesi, who looked visibly perplexed, was quick to take to social media once

again as he posted the exchange on Twitter, adding: "But it might help if

our PM actually knew what he was talking about!"





Health Canada on Wednesday approved the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc and

BioNTech SE, clearing the way for shots to be delivered and administered

across the country. The nation's first coronavirus vaccine green light comes

under a new interim order system that allows for accelerated approval very

similar to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's emergency use


"The approval of the vaccine is supported by evidence that it is safe,

effective and of good quality," Health Canada said in a statement. The

vaccine has initially been authorized for use in people 16 years of age or






A health official's warning that anyone getting vaccinated against COVID-19

with Russia's Sputnik V vaccine should give up alcohol for almost two months

has caused a backlash among some Russians who call the request unreasonable.

Anna Popova, head of the consumer health watchdog, said on Tuesday that

people should stop drinking alcohol at least two weeks before getting the

first of two injections. They should continue to abstain for a further 42

days, she advised. There are 21 days between the two Russian vaccine jabs.

Popova warned alcohol would reduce the body's ability to build up immunity

to COVID-19.

Her advice was contradicted by Alexander Gintsburg, the vaccine's developer.

"One glass of champagne won't hurt anyone, not even your immune system",

said Gintsburg. He said it would be prudent to reduce alcohol use by a

reasonable amount while the body built up immunity, but said there was no

need to give up completely. It was crucial however, he said, to refrain from

alcohol three days before and after the two injections required. He said

such advice was the same for anyone getting vaccinated around the world and

not specific to Russia or Sputnik.









At a time the NDA government is facing flak over farmers' protest, the BJP's

win in Rajasthan Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti elections has given the

party ammunition to blunt opposition attacks and showcase that farmers still

trust the Modi dispensation.

BJP national president J.P. Nadda asserted that the victory shows the trust

the poor, farmers and labourers have in Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The elections were held in 21 districts in four phases on 23 November, 26

November, 1 December and 5 December.

Of the 4,371 Panchayat Samiti seats, the BJP bagged 1,989 seats, while the

Congress managed to get 1,852 seats. In Zila Parishads, of the 636 seats,

the BJP won 353 seats, while Congress managed to get 252 seats. The

remaining were bagged by other parties and Independent candidates.





Karnataka's BJP government tabled and passed a Bill in the state Assembly

Wednesday, banning cow slaughter. The Opposition Congress and JDS staged a

walkout, protesting the manner in which the Bill was passed without a debate

in the House.

The Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill, 2020,

which envisages a ban on all forms of cattle slaughter and stringent

punishment for offenders, is a revised version of a Bill that was passed in

2010 but was shelved in 2013 by the Congress government after it did not

receive the Governor's assent. The Congress had reverted to the less

stringent Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Preservation of Animals

Act, 1964, which allows cow slaughter with certain restrictions.

While the 1964 law banned the killing of "any cow or calf of she-buffalo",

it allowed the slaughter of bullock, buffalo-male or female if it was

certified by a competent authority to be above the age of 12 years or

incapacitated for breeding or deemed sick.

Under the latest bill, cattle has been designated as "cow, calf of a cow and

bull, bullock and he or she buffalo" and their slaughter is banned. The only

exemptions under the 2020 Bill are buffaloes above the age of 13 years and

certified by a competent authority, cattle used in medical research, cattle

certified for slaughter by a veterinarian to prevent spread of a disease,

and very sick cattle.

Like the 1964 and 2010 laws, the new law passed in the state assembly also

designates the slaughter of cattle as a cognizable offence - where arrests

can be carried out without court warrants. The punishment, however, has been

increased to three to seven years of jail or fines ranging from Rs 50,000 to

Rs 5 lakh or both.

The new Bill also prescribes new punishments for transport of cattle, sale

of meat and purchase or disposal of cattle for slaughter.





Hyderabad was lined up with policemen on almost all roads as envoys from 64

countries visited the city yesterday to get a first-hand account of the

Covaxin being developed at the Bharat Biotech premises.

The countries represented by them include those from Asia, Africa, Europe,

North America, South America, and Oceania.

Organised by the Ministry of External Affairs, this was an attempt to

showcase India's expertise so that a partnerships could be brokered for the

manufacture and delivery of vaccines. This is a follow up of the briefing in

Delhi where India presented its case to these envoys.





The Indian Air Force Wednesday objected to a trailer for the forthcoming

Netflix film AK vs AK in which actor Anil Kapoor is seen donning the IAF

uniform while using "inappropriate" language. With IAF asking for the scenes

to be withdrawn, Kapoor apologised through a video message on Twitter "for

unintentionally hurting sentiments".

The IAF had tweeted: "The IAF uniform in this video is inaccurately donned

and the language used is inappropriate. This does not conform to the

behavioural norms of those in the Armed Forces of India. The related scenes

need to be withdrawn."

Kapoor and filmmaker Anurag Kashyap play exaggerated versions of themselves

in AK vs AK.





India has quietly replaced China as the most sought after destination for

global sovereign wealth funds investment in the private sector - a sign of

the country's growing attraction for investors.

According to data by New York-based Global SWF, which tracks over 400

sovereign wealth funds, in the year 2020 to date, these funds deployed

capital worth a record $14.8 billion in India, which is nearly three times

more than what they have put in China ($4.5 billion).

The gap between the capital deployed in the two countries widened this year,

but the trend started in 2019, when sovereign wealth funds invested $10.1

billion in India, surpassing the $6.4 billion it did in China. This is a far

cry from the period between 2015 to 2018, when China was way ahead in the

game and sovereign funds invested a total of $46 billion in that country. In

contrast, they invested only $24.6 billion in India over the same period.

The benchmark Sensex on Wednesday topped the 46,000 mark amid relentless

buying by FPI.

"Multiple factors are playing part. Vaccination news, decreasing cases in

India, and continuous liquidity have been the key factors," said Naveen

Kulkarni, chief investment officer, Axis Securities.





The US government and 48 states have filed parallel lawsuits against

Facebook, accusing the social media giant of anti-competitive conduct by

abusing its market power to create a monopoly and crushing smaller


Soon after the Federal Trade Commission and 48 state attorney generals on

Wednesday sued the company, Facebook's shares dropped significantly at the

stock exchanges.

The bipartisan coalition alleged that Facebook has engaged in a systematic

strategy to eliminate threats to its monopoly. This includes its 2012

acquisition of up-and-coming rival Instagram, its 2014 acquisition of the

mobile messaging app WhatsApp and the imposition of anti competitive

conditions on software developers.

According to the complaint, this course of conduct by Facebook harms

competition, leaves consumers with few choices for personal social

networking, and deprives advertisers of the benefits of competition.

Opposing the lawsuit, Jennifer Newstead, vice president and general counsel

of Facebook, described it as revisionist history.

This lawsuit risks sowing doubt and uncertainty about the US government's

own merger review process and whether acquiring businesses can actually rely

on the outcomes of the legal process. It would also punish companies for

protecting their investment and technology from free-riding by those who did

not pay for the innovation, making those companies less likely over the long

term to make their platforms available to spur the growth of new products

and services, she said.





The Champions League clash between Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul

Basaksehir was abandoned on Tuesday night as both sets of players walked off

after fourth official Sebastian Coltescu was accused of racism.

The match was suspended midway through the first half after Pierre Webo,

Basaksehir's black assistant manager, vehemently protested a decision on the

touchline. As the referee came over, footage appeared to show Coltescu

identifying Webo by saying: 'The black one over there. Go and check who he

is. The black one over there, it's not possible to act like that'. It is

believed Coltescu said 'negru', the Romanian word for black. A furious Webo

heard this and immediately accused Coltescu of racism.

Webo was shown a red card during the exchange on the touchline and the match

was later suspended when Basaksehir and Paris Saint-Germain players walked

off the pitch, with the game rescheduled for Wednesday with a new team of

match officials.

Coltescu later apologised, saying: 'Sorry for the misunderstanding. My

intention was never racism. 'In such an environment, people sometimes

cannot express their feelings correctly and can be misunderstood. I

apologise...I hope you understand.'





Sensex 46,104 (+495), Nifty 13,529 (+136), Trading Value NSE ,(Rs.crores)


Nasdaq 12,339 (-244) Dow 30,069 (-105), S&P 3,673 (-29)

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57.48, Aus$- Rs. 54.80

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1.33 /US$, Bang Taka 83.27 /US$, Can$ 1.28 /US$, Mal Ring 4.06 /US$,

Pak Re 159.92 /US$, Phil Peso 48.11 /US$, Russian Rouble 73.53 /US$, NZ$

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Bitcoin - USD 18,356

Dollar Index 91.04 Brent Crude 49.08 BDI 1,121

Gold world Spot Price USD/aoz 1,840 India (Rs. per gm 24k/22k) 4,930 / 4,830

Silver (Rs. Per KG) 64,400





To know a person's religion we need not listen to his profession of faith

but must find his brand of intolerance. - Eric Hoffer





Last year I entered the Mumbai Marathon. The race started and immediately I

was the last of the runners. It was embarrassing.

The guy who was in front of me, second to last, was making fun of me. He

said, "Hey buddy, how does it feel to be last?"

I replied: "You really want to know?"

Then I dropped out of the race.

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