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Saturday, March 21, 2020

economic news of india - world economic news - economics news for students - indian economy news

economic news of india - world economic news - economics news for students - indian economy news


How successful can India be in containing the Covid contagion?

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The number of confirmed coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in India has been growing at a rate seen at the early stages in other countries where there was subsequently an exponential rise in infections in a matter of weeks. As a result, worries are beginning to mount whether India will also witness a significant outbreak in the days ahead. This is despite the sweeping measures put in place by governments at the Centre and in the states. In a televised speech on the evening of March 19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people not to leave their homes unless necessary for the next few weeks.While India placed travel restrictions relatively early in the spread of Covid-19, and several states moved quickly to shutter public places, the country's high population density (and the associated difficulty in practising social distancing), overburdened public health infrastructure, high prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and the prospect of transmission from younger people to the elderly in joint families all stack the odds against effective containment.The number of people in India who have tested positive for Covid-19 has nearly doubled to 283 in three days. Seven countries have thus far had more than 10,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and it took all of them just 13-19 days to go from 100 reported cases to 10,000, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 74753760 "We have to assume that the worst that happened in other countries will also happen here," says T Jacob John, a former professor of virology at Christian Medical College in Vellore, Tamil Nadu.He is not the only one sceptical of drawing comfort from the limited number of reported Covid-19 cases in India. "There is no reason to believe the trajectory of the disease will be any different in India," says Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of Washington, DC-based Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy.Though an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) study has ruled out community transmission—in which someone who has not travelled abroad, and has not been exposed to a Covid-19 patient, tests positive—till now, Laxminarayan says the ICMR's sample size of 830 is too small for a country of India's size. "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," he said. On March 18, a Rampur resident who had travelled by train from Delhi to Chennai six days earlier in search of a job, tested positive in Tamil Nadu.Since the man had no history of foreign travel or known contact with an infected person, authorities in the state said it could be a case of local transmission. 74753765 If true, it would be India's first. On Saturday, a woman in Pune who had not travelled abroad was confirmed to have tested positive. It's not clear yet if she had met someone with a foreign travel history.India has come in for praise for being quick to restrict travel from other countries and for tracking down those who came in contact with Covid-19 patients. "But where we dropped the ball is testing," says Laxminarayan. As of March 20, around 14,500 individuals had been tested in India, according to the ICMR. The same day, the government agreed to expand its testing beyond those who have had international travel; contacts of those who tested positive; and healthcare workers, all of whom have to exhibit symptoms to be tested.Now, even asymptomatic contacts of a confirmed case and those hospitalised with severe acute respiratory illness will be tested. Hospitals also have to report pneumonia patients for testing. Adding to India's woes are the reckless behaviour of some who are at risk. Kanika Kapoor, a Bollywood singer, went to a party in Lucknow days after returning from London, instead of being in selfisolation. She later tested positive for Covid-19.Also at the party were former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and her son Dushyant Singh, a member of the Lok Sabha. Singh then attended Parliament and a breakfast meeting hosted by President Ram Nath Kovind. Raje, Singh and other politicians who came in contact with them have now quarantined themselves at home.The Lucknow police have lodged a case against Kapoor for negligence. A large Covid-19 outbreak can challenge an already under-equipped healthcare system in India. The country only has nine beds for every 10,000 people, compared with more than four times that many in China.Around 20% of those infected with the coronavirus need to be hospitalised, explains V Ravi, professor of neurovirology at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences. "Other countries have had a problem treating severe cases of Covid-19. So will India."India also has to contend with the problem of high population density. There are 455 people per sq km, compared with 148 in China, 205 in Italy and 50 in Iran, according to the World Bank.China, Italy and Iran have reported the highest number of Covid-19 cases. The other risk factor, according to D Prabhakaran, vice-president for research and policy at the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), is the high number of people with NCDs such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. "These are risk factors for mortality among older people with Covid-19." One in every four deaths in India in 2016 was because of heart conditions, according to a study by the ICMR, the PHFI and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Moreover, one in every eight Indians aged 50 and above is diabetic, showed a Union government survey conducted between 2015 and 2019.India has so far seen four deaths, which puts its fatality rate at 1.4%, while Italy's is as high as 8.3%. That means more than 8 out of every 100 infected people have died—an alarming statistic.India was among the last major countries to experience an outbreak of Covid-19. So while it has had a good head start in preparing itself to face the challenge, the next couple of weeks will prove crucial in its battle against the invisible enemy.

India all set to observe 'Janata Curfew' today

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New Delhi: The country will be observing an unprecedented shutdown on Sunday following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal for a 'Janata curfew', where people have been urged to voluntarily stay indoors to check the spread of coronavirus while public transport will be suspended or curtailed and all markets and shops except those dealing in essential items will be closed on the day.Cutting across party lines, chief ministers and others leaders urged the people to follow the self-imposed curfew from 7 am to 9 pm, noting that "social distancing" was key to breaking the chain of infection, as the number of coronavirus cases rose to 283 after 60 new cases were detected on Saturday, the highest so far in a day, and states like Maharashtra, Odisha and Bihar imposed partial lockdown till month end.No passenger train will originate from any railway station in the country from midnight to 10 pm on Sunday while all suburban train services will be reduced to a bare minimum as well. Metro services, including in Delhi, will remain suspended for the day.Air carriers like GoAir, IndiGo and Vistara have announced that they will be curtailing domestic operations on Sunday.Traders' body Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has announced that they will keep their establishments shut across the country on Sunday.From suspending regular prayers involving large gatherings in shrines of various faiths, including Sunday mass, to disallowing jail inmates from meeting their families on the day, organisations and institutions in every sphere have announced restrictions for Sunday.Modi had on Thursday called for the 'Janata curfew' from 7 am to 9 pm on March 22, saying no citizen, barring those in essential services, should get out of their houses, and asserted that it will be a litmus test to show India's readiness to take on the coronavirus challenge.Describing it as the need of the hour, Union Home Minister Amit Shah asked everyone in the country to support the step.In a series of tweets, Shah also asked all citizens to express gratitude to those who are working round the clock to keep the country safe and healthy amid the pandemic.Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu too made a fervent appeal to the people of the country to confine themselves to homes on Sunday.He said that since the virus spreads through physical contact, social distancing is an effective measure to contain its spread by avoiding contact during the incubation period of the virus."Janata curfew should be seen in the largest context of the initiative to insulate people with their voluntary involvement. It is a matter of great assurance that people have responded very positively to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal. People remaining indoors and social distancing are part of measures to curb the contagion virus," Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Saturday.In Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said 50 per cent of the buses will ply on roads on Sunday considering some people may have to travel due to an emergency.Autos and taxis will, however, be off roads in the national capital as several unions including the Delhi Autorickshaw Sangh, Delhi Pradesh Taxi Union, Delhi Auto Taxi Transport Congress Union and Delhi Taxi Tourist Transport Association, have decided to join the 'Janata curfew'.Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath appealed to the people of the state to stay indoors on Sunday."Metro trains, roadways buses and city buses will not operate on Sunday," the statement said on behalf of the chief minister."Coronavirus is in the second stage all over the country. It will convey a big message to the entire world if we are successful in stopping this at this stage."To curb this infection, we are working on a war footing. Isolation wards have been set up in every district hospital and medical college. So far, 23 patients have been identified in the state, out of which nine have completely recovered. There is no need to panic, but prepare yourself to fight against this challenge," the UP chief minister said in the statement.Leaders and other prominent personalities also urged the traders not to hoard essential items and the people to purchase only necessary things."We can prevent the virus entering third stage if people stay indoors and for that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced Janata Curfew on March 22," Tamil superstar Rajinikanth said in a video message.Archbishop of Goa Filipe Neri Ferrao cancelled the Sunday mass at all churches in support of the call for "janata" curfew to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.In Delhi too, St Peter's Mar Thomas Syrian Church, Patparganj and Cathedral Church of Redemption in central Delhi have cancelled Sunday mass and all services for next week, sources said.Prominent Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband in Uttar Pradesh said it will remain closed on March 22 and asked its students not to venture outside.The Jammu and Kashmir Waqf Board announced suspension of regular prayers at mosques and shrines affiliated to it in the Kashmir valley as a preventive measure to contain the spread of the coronavirus.On Saturday, the prime minister thanked various organisations and business bodies for their efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus."Never forget -- precautions not panic!" he said adding that it is not only important to be home but also remain in the town/ city where you are."Unnecessary travels will not help you or others. In these times, every small effort on our part will leave a big impact," Modi said reacting to tweets by people on the virus.This is the time we should all listen to the advice given by doctors and authorities, he said."All those who have been told to stay in home quarantine, I urge you to please follow the instructions. This will protect you as well as your friends and family," he said.The prime minister also shared a video which showed how virus spreads and ways to check its outbreak taking small precautions.The Odisha government on Saturday announced a "near total" shutdown in five districts and eight other prominent towns for a week.These districts are Khurda, Ganjam, Cuttack, Kendrapara and Angul, while the towns include Puri, Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, Balasore, Rourkela, Bhadrak, Jajpur Road and Jajpur.The Bihar government ordered shutting down of bus services, restaurants and banquet halls across the state till March 31. All schools and malls are already closed in the state.Authorities have already ordered a shutdown in Maharashtra's major cities like Mumbai, Pune, Thane and Nagpur.The Akola district administration also ordered a sectoral lockdown between March 22 and 24.

India is fighting virus on a colonial-era law

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The Epidemic Disease Act was enacted in 1897 and needs to be repealed. The Act does not provide any power to the Centre to intervene in biological emergencies. It has to be substituted by an Act which takes care of the prevailing and foreseeable public health needs, including emergencies such as BT (bioterrorism) attack and use of biological weapons by an adversary, cross border issues and international spread of diseases" — Management of Biological Disaster Guideline, GoI, 2008Behind the urgency to detect and quarantine suspected Covid-19 patients and the clarion call for social distancing lies a stark reality: in terms of enforcing laws to contain Covid-19, the Centre can do little on the ground.The legal inadequacy to tackle disease outbreaks was known for long, baby steps were taken, but at the end of the day, the country was not ready when it encountered another pandemic — arguably the severest since the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed around seven million people in the country.The main legal weapon the government possess today is the Epidemic Disease Act of 1897, a hurriedly drafted short legislation to stonewall the bubonic plague that devastated life in Bombay in 1896, forcing people to migrate out of the city. No wonder, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba last week advised states to invoke Section 2 of the Act so that all advisories the Union health ministry was issuing could be enforced on the ground. After all, health is a state subject. Union government's role could, at best, be advisory and coordinating in nature, since Section 2 of the Act only empowers a state to inspect people and segregate suspected patients. The only power the Centre derives from the British Raj-era law is on "inspection of any ship or vessel leaving or arriving at any port" that comes under its jurisdiction. The Act does not even mention airports. It is understandable — there were no aeroplanes 123 years ago. 74753020 However, when the Centre drafted the 156-page Management of Biological Disaster Guideline in 2008 — followed in letter and spirit even today — the realisation came that the Epidemic Disease Act was inadequate to deal with bioterrorism and international spread of diseases. After all, the law does not bestow the Centre any power beyond issuing advisories and coordinating. It cannot even regulate the transfer of biological samples — imagine a coronavirus sample getting stolen while being taken to a laboratory. During the first term of the UPA government, a public health emergencies bill was drafted. But the bill went into cold storage after states called it an infringement upon their powers. Later, during the Modi government's first term, a similar draft was more sincerely followed up, with the health & family welfare ministry naming it Public Health (Prevention, Control and Management of Epidemics, Bio-terrorism and Disasters) Bill 2017, proposing to repeal the epidemic law of 1897. The draft bill explains in clearer terms the quarantining of suspects and isolation of the infected, in addition to empowering the Centre to direct states and district or local bodies as well as usurping powers bestowed to states under Section 3 if it is found to be "expedient and in public interests" to do so. In addition, the proposed law also embedded a provision marking that anyone intentionally violating the law could end up paying a fine of up to `1 lakh and face imprisonment of up to two years. This provision could have been useful now given the rising instances of Covid-19 suspects skipping quarantine.Under current laws, police can charge someone under IPC's Section 269 for negligent act and Section 270 for malignant act for spreading an infectious disease which is dangerous to life.Former Union health secretary Lov Verma concedes that there is a need to strengthen India's legal framework but laws alone are insufficient. "India still has a plethora of laws to take on such an emergency. There are enough guidelines too. The problem arises mainly because of coordination and implementation issues," he says, adding that silo mentality in the government often poses a challenge.In the last fortnight, during which the Centre intensified its efforts to contain the pandemic, its coordination with states has largely been satisfactory. Also, no inter-ministerial tussles have come to the fore. In fact, the home ministry, which usually takes the lead during crises such as earthquakes, floods and cyclones, has taken a backseat, allowing the health ministry to coordinate with states as mandated by the Disaster Management Act of 2005.On March 11, Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, who chairs the national executive committee to coordinate during crises, invoked certain provisions of the National Disaster Management Act to delegate coordinating powers to the union health secretary to facilitate antiCovid preparations and interventions.The government indeed preempted a scenario like this, says Kamal Kishore, a member of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), which comes under the home ministry. "We thought about a possible biological disaster and did a lot of peacetime work, including drafting the National Disaster Management Plan, 2019. That, along with the guidelines on biological disaster (2008), are coming handy now," he told ET Magazine.True, the NDMA, along with the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), did India's first full-scale biological management emergency mock drill at Patna airport in the summer of 2018.The participants had enacted an Ebola outbreak scenario, vindicating what Kishore says -- an inkling about a biological disaster and the need to be prepared. But, according to an official who took part in the 2018 exercise, that mock drill was never followed up, nor did its outcomes find any place in subsequent government guidelines or laws.

Covid 19: Life in the times of social distancing

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It is so boring, so boring, I can't tell you!" says Veena Iyer, repeating the two words so that there is no smidgen of doubt over how she feels about having to miss her twice-a-week dance classes. For Iyer and her friends, the afternoon classes at The Rising Groove Dance Academy in Mumbai's Lal Baug meant a chance to meet friends, exercise and, of course, dance with gusto. "We used to look forward to it a lot. Otherwise, who will go out in the hot sun!" she exclaims.For two weeks now, though, Iyer has been despondent as the classes have been cancelled. But she does not quibble over the reasoning. "They are doing it for our safety as we are more prone to it at our age," she muses, referring to Covid-19, the current pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus that is sweeping the world. After all, Iyer and her dance-class batchmates are all over 60 (Iyer herself is 70), putting them squarely in the bracket of the age group most at risk from the virus.In putting away their dancing shoes, the group of 10 enthusiastic women who would otherwise never skip a class join the rest of the country in a collective bid to stall the relentless march of Covid-19. 74752255 Flatten the curve, exhort researchers, referring to the steep rise in graphs showing the spread of the virus. Or we are a goner. Weeks into the battle against Covid-19, experts say the best way to achieve this is through social distancing. If crises come with their own vocabularies, the most used word in the Covid-19 pandemic would probably be social distancing, a term that's seen as a 100-fold rise in Google searches. This involves not mixing with people — for work or play — not going out of our houses except for essentials and throwing life as we knew it out of the window so that hospitals are not inundated with coronavirus cases. It is an unprecedented behavioural change experiment that is seeing people slow down and rethink many things they took for granted. 74752294 For people like Anshul Akhoury, the shift to this "new normal" has been rather drastic. Akhoury, a freelance writer, belongs to the tribe of digital nomads who enjoy combining writing assignments with their love for backpacking. In fact, the 31-year-old should have been exploring the historic quarter of Hoi An in Vietnam or the stunning Kuang Si Falls in Laos as you read this. But Covid-19 meant he had to cancel this and three other work trips. Instead, he has confined himself to his parents' home in Patna.The lifestyle change has taken some getting used to. But Akhoury says he has been keeping himself busy by finishing pending assignments, editing videos for his new You-Tube channel and making his way through various books he had bought but never had the time to read. "I don't like being idle," he explains.While Akhoury's trips were for work, many people have also had to cancel holidays because of travel bans and practising social distancing as a precaution. For several years now, higher incomes and better connectivity meant everyone had gotten used to the idea of being able to pack their backs and head out without a second thought, whether for an impulsive weekend trip or a longer holiday. The shutting of borders and grounding of planes have put paid to the plans of even those who haven't quite bought into the notion of social distancing.74752379 74752383 74752387 After some initial lamenting, people are now figuring out how to make the best of this. A look at online travel forums or the feeds of inveterate travellers shows that people are using the time to savour travel-themed books, organise photos of old holidays or to finally start the travel blog they had always planned to. Others intend to use the time to research for their next trip, whenever it might be.There is no question about the gravity of living in the middle of a pandemic. But as with every crisis, it has also thrown up unexpected opportunities like these, says New Delhi-based social commentator Santosh Desai. "While an overall sense of anxiety still pervades, I do believe it is an opportunity of a certain kind that was not available in the course of our everyday lives. Whether by spending more time with your family or reading a little, it allows a sense of enforced slowing down of everything," says Desai, also the CEO of Future Brands. For instance, the neighbourhood park that he is speaking from, he says on the phone, has never had so many people at 6 pm on a weekday.Akhoury agrees. "I hope there is a kind of soft reboot in people's minds so that they can learn to enjoy the small joys, like staying with their loved ones. I hope people realise that travelling on every holiday is not something they need to do."All this social distancing also seems to have created more time and opportunity for forays into the kitchen. "There are people I know who like to cook but could not because there wasn't time. Now that you are stuck indoors, you can rediscover that talent," says Desai. This would explain the recent deluge of pictures of people cooking up a storm, which has replaced the deluge of travel photos on social media.For some, though, this is about survival as it becomes infeasible to order in every single meal — because of the expense, infection risk or both. Spadika Jayaraj, a 26-year-old business development executive, had gotten used to eating lunch at the offices of the fintech startup in Bengaluru where she works, and ordering dinner from a food-delivery app. But with her company telling employees to work from home from last week, that has changed. "I used to come back from work around 8:30 pm so there was never enough time to cook dinner. But now that I am home, it doesn't make sense to not cook," says Jayaraj. With many of her friends in the same boat, they exchange easy recipes.Question of FitnessOthers are doing this at a larger scale. Mumbai-based journalist Peter Griffin has set up a Facebook group expressly aimed at those people who are not used to cooking but are now being forced to. Titled "Simple recipes for complicated times", it attracted 175 members and several recipes in less than 24 hours.But even as Jayaraj is enjoying her culinary experiments, the social distancing and partial lockdown involves other, less palatable readjustments. "I used to go to a CrossFit gym every day after work. That used to be the best part of my day and I really miss that." Jayaraj's gym in Bengaluru had downed shutters even before the Karnataka government ordered the closure of such public places to contain the spread of coronavirus.Several others have voluntarily decided to stay away from fitness classes and similar group activities because of the risk of transmission. Final-year law student Nivedita Pandit, based in Delhi, is one of them. "I stopped going for Zumba classes a week ago because the cases of coronavirus were increasing. And they're still increasing," says Pandit. But since working out had become as important as brushing her teeth for Pandit, she makes sure she does not skip a daily routine of exercise, which includes a run in the park and bodyweight training. "Since I'm mostly at home and my workouts are limited, I am also making sure I eat well," says the 23-year-old, who has been avoiding going out and meeting friends.In the Great Isolation that everyone is being subject to, the big differentiator with any parallel event in history has been technology, which is turning out to be a lifeline for many. It is helping people get around the physical barriers now in place in new and innovative ways, whether for fitness or socialising. Atulaa Krishnamurthy will vouch for it.The corporate lawyer used to treasure her one-hour gym session when she could switch off from work. For the past week or so, she has substituted that with a workout app. "Working out has so many benefits that spill over to my life. Hopefully, the app-based workout will give me the same feeling," says the 26-year-old who is based in Bengaluru. As a bonus, she can coordinate these workouts with her younger sister, who is under lockdown in Paris. "We are planning to be accountability buddies — we will do the same workouts remotely and keep each other posted about our progress," she says.Serendipitously, Krishnamurthy also started a virtual book club recently with friends in Melbourne, New Delhi and Mumbai. "It was something we randomly planned but now it is proving to be really useful," she adds. Psychologists underline the importance of these digital connections and activities for people holed up at home. In these anxiety-inducing times, it is important to stay connected emotionally, even as we distance ourselves physically. According to an article in medical journal The Lancet, "Confinement, loss of usual routine, and reduced social and physical contact with others were frequently shown to cause boredom, frustration, and a sense of isolation from the rest of the world, which was distressing to participants."One way for those staying alone to avoid such a situation is to throw virtual dinner parties, where you eat together over a video call. Or you can tune into virtual concerts by Coldplay's Chris Martin and John Legend that are being livestreamed on social media as part of the Together, At Home campaign by WHO and Global Citizen. The idea behind the campaign, according to the Global Citizen website, "is to unify people around the world when they may feel isolated by the conditions of Covid-19".Even games and quizzes are being organised online for those who miss the offline version. In Bengaluru, board game collective ReRoll is experimenting by substituting their Tabletop Thursdays, the weekly game nights they have been organising for over three years, with free virtual sessions."We wanted to put something together for people staying at home on weekdays. We figured anything was better than not having a board game night at all," says cofounder Karthik Balakrishnan. The first week saw a live-stream of Skribble, a Pictionary-like game, while last Thursday had games as well as an online quiz. There is even an upside to going virtual, says Balakrishnan. "The scope of who can participate becomes much wider. It could be an opportunity for us to reach people we otherwise would never have been able to."As leisure options change, so have the systems around work. Several companies have asked employees to work from home to enforce social distancing. But the new arrangements come with their own challenges, as content marketer Priya Ravichandran discovered last week. For instance, a recent video call with colleagues had a surprise participant — her two-year-old son, who decided to sit at her feet. Her two children, says the 37-year-old, are not yet used to seeing her at home all day. "My elder son has a million questions and wants to sit with me. My younger one wants to make sure I'm still at home, so he keeps coming to look at my face," she says, laughing. But she is hopeful that this is a period of transition, which will get better. The upside, apart from no commutes, has been the ability to focus more deeply on the job at hand and the luxury of home-cooked, sit-down lunches on weekdays.Behaviour ChangesAll of these changes could well induce behavioural shifts, in the long term. "A change of this kind is so unusual and goes so against the general flow of life that it creates a very abrupt kind of counterpoint. If it lasts a long time, it will have a residual effect," says social commentator Desai.As we emerge from the Covid-19-induced tunnel of isolation, he says there could be two sets of reactions: those who get back to their old life with a vengeance and those who have an easier, more relaxed idea of life. This would, of course, hinge on the length of the self-imposed quarantine.In the meanwhile, people continue to adjust to the new normal as best as they can. Mumbai-based Iyer, for one, has taken to practising dance at home, Tai Chi and watching dance videos online. "It is difficult to pass the time now," she adds. "But we can find novel ways."

Covid-19 impact: Hero MotoCorp halts operations at all manufacturing plants globally till 31st March

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MUMBAI: India's largest two wheeler maker, Hero MotoCorp has decided to stop operations in all facilities including in India, Colombia and Bangladesh - and the Global Parts Centre (GPC) at Neemrana with immediate effect until March 31, 2020 in view of the escalating COVID-19 virus situation to safeguard wellbeing of its employees.Employees at all the other functions and locations including the Centre of Innovation and Technology (CIT) in Jaipur in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan will continue to work from home, except for those whose physical presence is necessary to run the day-to-day essential services, the company said in a statement shared with stock exchanges early Sunday morning. Chairman of Hero MotoCorp, Dr. Pawan Munjal, through two Digital Town Hall meetings held in quick succession last week, has already conveyed the organisation's commitment to stand by the employees despite the severe disruptions caused by the ongoing situation. The Task Force set-up by the Chairman is constantly monitoring the developments through regular video conferencing and tele-meetings to ensure that safety and business-continuity plans are up-to-date and effective."Hero MotoCorp is hopeful and confident that our global society will emerge stronger and wiser from this unprecedented calamity. The Company wishes good health to everyone and is empathetic towards those suffering from this situation," added the statement.

Indian Oil initiates rare protocol to keep fuel supplies running amid Coronavirus spread

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New Delhi: As cities shutdown to contain the spread of coronavirus, Indian Oil Corp (IOC) has initiated a rare protocol to safeguard its workforce while at the same time ensuring that plants operate uninterruptedly so as to keep the nation's fuel supplies running. "We are in a business where we need to ensure not just consumers get uninterrupted supplies of petrol, diesel and cooking gas (LPG), but also airlines get jet fuel on demand and supply lines for nation's defence forces are unhindered," IOC Chairman Sanjiv Singh said. The company has implemented work from home at non-critical locations and implemented staggered work hours and working on alternate days at others with all precautions. Its consumer facing points such as petrol pumps and LPG delivery services have initiated safeguard protocol with face masks and sanitisers. "We have an obligation towards the nation to keep its supply lines running and we are doing everything while ensuring employee and consumer safety," he said adding rare times require extraordinary measures and Indian Oil and all its employees are rising to the occasion to serve the nation. Singh said to keep fuel supply lines running, oil refineries have to function, depots have to operate, pipelines need to flow and retail outlets need to dispense. "To keep our operations running, we have to ensure that crude oil is imported on regular basis, it is stored and then refined at refineries, fuel so produced is transported to depots from where it has to be moved to consumer dispensing points. These are 24x7 operations and so we have taken measures to ensure they run while at the same time employees are protected," he said. At petrol pumps and LPG distributorships, the company is trying to run operations with minimum number of employees while ensuring they dont take public transport, he said. In all this, the company has to also ensure that the switch over to ultra-clean BS-VI petrol and diesel, equivalent to Euro-VI emission compliant fuel, happens before April 1 deadline, he said. "The challenge before us is to protect employees and stakeholders (consumers). Challenge is that we cannot stop operations at any plant, location or retail outlet. The challenge is to maintain supplies at all times," he said. The protocol IOC has implemented involves restricting outsider entries to company plants and townships as well as avoiding non-essential gathering of people, he said adding board meetings are being conducted through video conferencing. "Indian Oil Tanking Ltd and Chennai Petroleum Corp Ltd (IOC subsidiaries) will hold forthcoming board meetings through video conferencing," he said. IOC also tweeted pictures of its employees and retail outlet operators in precautionary gears while doing refils. "The IndianOil aviation team working against the face of adversity, while taking the proper precautionary measures and following guidelines, to ensure uninterrupted supply of aviation fuel," it said in a tweet. "Hats off to our customer attendants who are ensuring uninterrupted fuel supplies despite the challenging times; #IndianOil is committed to the health of all its stakeholders, ensuring all safe practices are in place," it said in another tweet. IOC said all its distributors and delivery personnel have been advised on the best practices of personal hygiene and usage of hand sanitisers frequently. "We are taking all the necessary precautions to service our customers successfully." "We are committed to the safety of our customers, employees and channel partners. We are ensuring cashless payments on home delivery of #Indane cylinders and are taking all necessary precautions for safety," it added.

Unstoppable Mumbai! Your brokers will work from home

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As India's worst coronavirus-hit state Maharashtra has enforced a partial shutdown, financial capital Mumbai has come to a standstill.But the financial markets fraternity is rising to the occasion in a show of its characteristic never-say-die spirit.As soon as the stock exchanges on Friday announced relaxations to allow work from home, big brokerages rushed to issue guidelines to facilitate their employees to operate out of their homes, wherever possible.They have also put up alternative facilities for the on-ground staff, in a bid to make the ongoing social distancing drive successful.Top brokerages told ETMarkets.com on Saturday that after the exchanges allowed those relaxations, they have temporarily permitted employees to log on to trading systems from remote locations to put through client orders and execute transactions.Vijay Bhushan, President at ANMI, an association that represents 900 members, said brokerage are taking steps to ensure that their clients are not inconvenienced and trading volumes do not suffer.He said stock exchanges' decision to allow brokers to trade on behalf of clients from remote locations was a swift and appreciable response to the virus outbreak.The sanitation of office premises, redesigning of IT policies to meet regulatory requirements and setting up of disaster recovery sites under business contingency plan are underway, said Sudhir Dhar, Executive Director & Head of HR at Motilal Oswal Financial Services.He said most of Motilal Oswal employees were already working from home since March 17, except for what he called 'business-critical staff' .The business-critical employees, on the other hand, will work from 'secondary office locations' closer to their homes, so that they could avoid public transport, he said.Nikhil Kamath, CIO and Co-founder Zerodha and True Beacon, said his companies had already made necessary investments in technology and infrastructure to provide employees with the capabilities to work remotely."Covid-19 will have both a cultural and institutional impact where businesses will be compelled to reflect their longstanding 'work from home; policies and technologies that enable them to do so," Kamath said.Historically, a turmoil accompanying such downturns significantly reconfigures a business and often removes redundancies, he said.Edelweiss said it has implemented various tools and is partnering with companies like Microsoft, Zscaler and AWS "to ensure better productivity and a better experience for customers even in these unprecedented times."Currently, more than 90% of Edelweiss Group employees, i.e. 9,000 people, have been enabled and are working seamlessly from home, while ensuring that client information and data are protected at all times."Employees are using digital tools for online video meetings and secure instant messaging through Microsoft Teams. They are accessing internal applications hosted on our 'On Premises Datacenter' as well as AWS/Azure Cloud, using the zero trust security platforms of Zscaler and Microsoft. Our digital engagement internally has gone up 30 times in the last week," said Nitin Agarwal, CTO Edelweiss.He said Edelweiss Group was holding over 1,500 online video meetings a day (up from just 30 the previous week).Ravi Kumar, co-founder at Upstox, a discount broking firm, said his company has pro-actively started implementing work from home policy for most of its employees for a week. "That's the advantage of being a technology-driven online business," he said, adding that his online brokerage has been witnessing healthy month-on-month growth in the number on new demat accounts and transactions, given the online nature of the business.Queries sent to Sharekhan and IndiaNivesh remained unanswered as Saturday was a holiday for them.Other brokerages said meetings with external visitors are being called off or are being done via video conferencing. Lav Chaturvedi ED & CEO at Reliance Securities said his team had been working on a contingency plan since the outbreak of Covid 19."This has given us the agility to continue with our operations in these challenging times. We do not expect any hit on our business as our customers can seamlessly transact using our digital platforms across web & mobile," he said.Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddav Thackeray on Friday announced a lockdown of Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Pimpri till March 31. While essential services will be in place, government offices will operate with just 25 per cent attendance. At the time of writing of this report, Maharashtra accounted for 56 out of the total 275 confirmed cases in India so far. They included singer Kanika Kapoor, who has also been booked for negligence.NSE said the arrangement will continue till April 30 or longer if the situation demands.This would be the first time in history when the brokerages are being permitted to operate the trading terminals from locations other than main or branch offices or from the office of an authorised person.That said, stock exchanges have asked brokers to put in place an internal policy to prevent unauthorised trading and provide a list of approved users, terminal details, segment, certificate details and addresses of the alternate locations to the exchange.The virus fears have rattled financial markets globally. The Philippines shut down its financial markets last week amid a surge in volatility. There has been debates in the US and also in India whether domestic stock exchanges should be shut.Indian investors have lost Rs 44 lakh crore in wealth since January 25 in the market turmoil triggered by the virus crisis. To curb the market free fall, Sebi on Friday stepped up and announced curbs on short positions in the F&O segment, raised margins for non-F&O stocks in cash market and revised marketwide position limits.Globally, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has lowered the threshold for reporting short-selling to regulators for the next three months. Hedge funds and other investors in the region will have to give regulators more information about the bets.France, Italy, Belgium and Spain have introduced temporary measures to halt bets on falling shares at scores of companies.On Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an address to the nation described social distancing as the key measure to contain the virus. He warned that the next 3-4 weeks will be crucial for the country to tackle the crisis.

Sebi curbs likely to trigger adverse market reaction

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The unabated meltdown of the equity markets continued this week as well, which saw Nifty plunge to the fresh weekly lows. Domestic equities traded in line with weak global setup and lost ground as rapidly as other global markets.Benchmark Nifty declined and ended in the negative for the first four days of the week. Despite some short covering-led pullback, the headline index ended with a net weekly loss of 1,209 points, or 12.75 per cent. The currently weekly fall remains one of the largest in the absolute terms in the history of the Index.The market has got damaged extensively on the technical front as of today. With the current weekly decline, Nifty has violated the over 10-year-long upward rising trend line, as it appears on the chart. While the index trades below all the moving averages, it is also set to negatively react to the new Sebi circular that came out after market on Friday, aiming to curb market volatility. 74745037 The India Volatility Index, INDIA VIX, surged by further 30.36 per cent to 67.10, and now it trades very close to its lifetime high.The week ahead is likely to see a volatile and weak start, and the 9,000 and 9,315 levels will act as key resistance for Nifty. The downside risks remain deep with key supports at 8,200 and 7,800 levels. Volatility is likely to stay ingrained in the sessions over the coming days.The weekly RSI stands at 16.13; it trades deeply oversold. The weekly RSI has marked a fresh 14-period low, which is a bearish indication, but it remains neutral and shows no divergence against the price. The weekly MACD is bearish as it trades below the signal line. The PPO remains negative. 74745040 Pattern analysis shows Nifty has violated the 11-year-old upward rising trend line. In the process, it has disrupted a decade-long uptrend.On technical ground, any pullback will face resistance at this trend line going ahead. Sebi's measures to curb shorts and, therefore, volatility, will bring in very volatile and adverse reaction in the market. It has made creating shorts much tougher; in the process, it will also reduce the amount of short-covering that usually fuels a pullback.This will result in lower volumes, lead to either margin pressure or liquidation of positions, and will also practically drive retail index traders out of the market for a month.We strongly recommend staying away from the current setup, as it is nearly impossible to apply technical readings in isolation on such a market. The market will not only react to the Sebi measures, but will remain highly responsive to weak global market setup as well. Medium and long-term portfolio investors may invest a small amount of total available funds at lower levels, but should strictly avoid any significant exposures. 74745053 In our look at Relative Rotation Graphs®, we compared various sectors against CNX500 (Nifty500 Index), which represents over 95% of the free-float market-cap of all the listed stocks.The review showed the only way to approach such a weak and volatile market is to go for defensive plays.Without going into microanalysis this week, as it would be pointless to do so, RRG charts convey a clear message that defensive pockets like FMCG, consumption, pharma and realty are the only ones that are rotating favorably. Nifty pharma, consumption and IT indices are the only ones in the leading quadrant. Nifty FMCG is currently in the improving quadrant, but appears to steady while maintaining its relative momentum. These groups are likely to relatively outperform the broader market.It is best advised to stay away from the rest of the pockets in this market.Important Note: RRGTM charts show the relative strength and momentum for a group of stocks. In the above chart, they show relative performance against Nifty500 Index (broader market) and should not be used directly as buy or sell signals.(Milan Vaishnav, CMT, MSTA is a Consultant Technical Analyst and founder of Gemstone Equity Research & Advisory Services, Vadodara. He can be reached at milan.vaishnav@equityresearch.asia)

Govt launches chatbot on WhatsApp to create awareness about coronavirus, curb misinformation

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he Ministry of Health and MyGov, along with WhatsApp, have launched a helpline number to raise awareness and answer questions about the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting Saturday, WhatsApp users across the country can reach out to the ministry of health on +91 9013151515 for credible information and to verify any uncertain information on precautionary measures or treatment practices.To contact the helpline, citizens should save the WhatsApp number in their phone, and then start a chat by typing "Hi" and sending it to the number, which will prompt them to either type in a query or choose from a list of frequently asked questions. Depending on the question, users will receive verified information in the form of a video, infographic or text. "In times of global crisis such as the COVID 19 Pandemic, it is imperative that we rely only on factually correct and verified information. I commend Facebook for this great effort to synergise facts from credible sources and put it in the public domain through a popular messaging platform like WhatsApp. It shall definitely have a resounding positive impact on public health. When facts are incorrect, it leads to panic and takes the form of a vicious cycle. I appeal to people, transcending all borders, to use precautions that are being given out through official sources and to NOT get misled by myths that are circulated by mischievous elements," said Dr Harsh Vardhan, union minister for health and family welfare, science and technology, earth sciences."Access to credible sources of information is critical to battling Coronavirus and is our top priority. We appreciate the opportunity to work with the ministry of health and MyGov on this initiative. We encourage users across the country to depend on verified sources for any information during this period" said Abhijit Bose, head of India for WhatsApp.

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