Modi Extendes Free Ration For Poor Scheme Till Nov-End

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced that his government will extend till end of November, the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana, under which foodgrains are being provided to the poor and needy.

Mr Modi also gave credit to the farmers and taxpayers for enabling the Centre to provide free foodgrains during the COVID-19 phase to the poor and needy in the country.

“If the government today is able to provide free grains to the poor and needy today then the credit goes to two sections of people. The first are our hardworking farmers, our food providers and the second are the honest taxpayers of the country,” Modi said in his address

“From July the festival seasons start, Guru Purnima will be celebrated on July 5. Following this, the month of Saawan will start. In this season of festivals, the needs and expenses of all increases. Keeping this in mind, the PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana has been extended till Diwali and Chatth Puja, i.e till the end of November,” the Prime Minister said.

“The scheme will provide 80 crore people with free grains, will now be applicable in July, August, September, October and November too. The government, during these five months, will give each family member 5-kilogram wheat or 5 kilogram rice free of cost, apart from this each family will get free one kg of chana (chick peas) too every month,” he added.

The Prime Minister further said that the extension of this scheme will require an additional expense of Rs 90 thousand crore.

“If we add the expenses incurred during the past three months then it totals to around Rs 1.5 lakh crore,” he further said.

The scheme was announced by the Centre as part of the first rescue package during the COVID-19 pandemic. The scheme ends on June 30.

The scheme, announced for a three month period, covered 80 crore ration cardholders. Each household was provided 5 kg of food grains (rice or wheat) and 1 kg of pulses (only channa) free of cost. Already, 21 states — both BJP-ruled and Opposition-led governments — had appealed to the Centre to extend the scheme for another three months till September.

Earlier in his speech, the Prime Minister had urged citizens to follow all safety guidelines for protection against COVID-19 as the country enters phase two of the Unlock. (ANI)

China Terms US Claims On Spy Balloon ‘Hysterical, Absurd’

Beijing ‘Strongly Concerned’ At Ban Of China Apps By India

China on Tuesday expressed concerns over India’s decision to ban 59 apps developed by Chinese firms and stressed that New Delhi has a responsibility to uphold the legal rights of international investors including Chinese.

In first reaction after the Indian government announced the ban, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said: “China is strongly concerned, verifying the situation. We want to stress that Chinese Govt always asks Chinese businesses to abide by international & local laws-regulations.”

“Indian Govt has a responsibility to uphold the legal rights of international investors including Chinese ones,”‘ he added.

Amid the ongoing border tensions with China in Eastern Ladakh, the Centre had on Monday banned 59 mobile apps including Tik Tok, UC Browser and other Chinese apps “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity and defence” of the country.

A senior official at the IT Ministry said the prime reason to block the apps under section 69 A of Information Technology Act is to stop the violation and threat to the security of the state and public order and to plug the data leaks.

“Almost all of them have some preferential Chinese interest. Few are from countries like Singapore. However, the majority have parent companies which are Chinese,” the official said.

This move will safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users. This decision is a targeted move to ensure the safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace, Ministry of Information Technology said. (ANI)

India’s Coronavirus Count Crosses 5.66 Lakh Cases

With a spike of 18,522 new cases in 24 hours, India’s COVID-19 count on Tuesday reached 5,66,840, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

As per the ministry, 418 deaths due to COVID-19 were reported in last 24 hours. The number of deaths in the country now stands at 16,893.

There are 2,15,125 active coronavirus cases in the country while the number of cured/discharged patients stands at 3,34,821 and one patient migrated.

Till date, there are 1,19,696 more recovered patients than COVID-19 active cases. This has resulted in the recovery rate amongst COVID-19 patients further improving to 59.07 per cent. During the last 24 hours, a total of 13,099 COVID-19 patients have been cured.

India now has 1049 diagnostic labs dedicated to COVID-19. These include 761 labs in the government sector and 288 private labs, the Ministry said.

Maharashtra continues to remain worst-affected state with regard to the COVID-19 cases. As many as 245 deaths and 4878 new COVID-19 positive cases were reported in the state on Tuesday.

Out of 245 deaths, 95 occurred in the last 48 hours and 150 from the previous period. The total number of cases in the state has now reached 1,74,761, including 75,979 active cases, as per the latest update by the State Health Department.

The Maharashtra government had earlier extended the lockdown imposed as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of COVID-19 till July 31.

In Tamil Nadu, 3,943 new positive cases and 60 deaths were reported on Tuesday. Total number of cases in the state has increased to 90,167 including 38,889 active cases, 50,074 discharged cases and 1,201 deaths.

Delhi’s COVID-19 count reached 87,360 on Tuesday after 2,199 new cases were recorded. Out of the total cases, 26,270 are active, 58,348 have been cured/discharged/migrated and 2,742 have died.

As many as 620 new cases and 20 deaths have been reported in Gujarat in the last 24 hours. State tally has increased to 32,446, including 23,670 cured/discharged and 1,848 deaths, as per the State Health Department.

Jharkhand’s tally has reached 2,490 after 60 new positive cases and 35 recoveries were reported today. Out of the total number of cases, 591 are active, 1,884 have recovered and 15 have died.

In Haryana, 338 new cases were recorded today, taking the total number of cases in the state to 14,548. The death toll reached 236 after four deaths were reported today, the Haryana Health Department stated.

Goa also witnessed 64 new cases today, taking the total number of positive cases in the state to 1,315, including 716 active cases, three deaths and 596 recoveries. Telangana saw 945 new cases today. Total number of cases in the state is now at 16,339, including 8,785 active cases, 7,294 discharged and 260 deaths.

While in Jammu and Kashmir, 260 new cases were seen today – 32 from Jammu division and 228 from Kashmir division. Total number of cases in the Union Territory now stands at 7,497, including 2,674 actives cases, 4,722 recoveries and 101 deaths.

On the other hand, Rajasthan recorded 354 new positive cases and eight deaths till 8:30 pm today. Total number of positive cases now stand at 18,014 in the state, including 3,381 active cases and 413 deaths.

Meanwhile, West Bengal saw a spike of 652 new cases and 15 deaths today. Total number of cases in the state has increased to 18,559 and death toll is at 668.

Punjab witnessed 150 new cases and six deaths on Tuesday, taking the total number of cases to 5,568 and death toll to 144. While, Karnataka saw 947 new cases, including 503 cases from Bengaluru Urban, taking the total number of cases to 15,242. Death toll has jumped to 246 after 20 deaths were reported today.

Kerala Health Department informed that 131 persons tested positive for COVID-19 in the state today. Number of active cases now stand at 2,112, while 2,304 have recovered till now. On the other hand, 243 patients have recovered today, taking the total number of recoveries to 5189 in Odisha. Total number of COVID-19 positive cases in the state stands at 7,065 including 1844 active case and 25 deaths.

While addressing the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said that negligence in personal and social behaviour has been increasing after `Unlock 1′ on June 1 and noted that there is need to be alert and follow norms as was done during the lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“We are entering into Unlock 2. We are also entering into season where cold, cough, fever cases increase. I request citizens to take care of themselves. It is true that if we look at the death rate due to coronavirus, then India is in a better position than many countries of the world. Timely lockdown and other decisions have saved the lives of millions of people in India,” he said.”Since Unlock 1, negligence in personal and social behavior is also increasing. At first, we were very cautious about the mask, about two-yard distancing, washing hands several times a day for 20 seconds. During lockdown, rules were followed seriously. Now the governments, local bodies and citizens need to show alertness in the same manner,” he said.

He also appealed to the local administration to act against those flouting coronavirus lockdown restrictions, imposed to curb the spread of the disease asserting that no one is above the law.

“All those who are not following rules will have to be stopped and made aware of the problem. You have seen in the news that a fine of Rs 13,000 imposed on a Prime Minister because he went to a public place without mask,” he said while referring to the example of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov who was recently fined for not wearing a mask in the public.

Meanwhile, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has also granted permission to Bharat Biotech International Limited (BBIL) to conduct Phase I and II Human clinical trials to develop an indigenous vaccine for COVID-19 — in the name COVAXIN. (ANI)

Apps Are Only Tip Of China’s Huge Presence In India’s Tech Sector

On June 29, the Indian government banned 59 Chinese-owned mobile apps. The list included many but the most prominent ones were TikTok and WeChat, both hugely popular among Indian users. India has the world’s second largest number of mobile phone users. The number of mobile phones in use in India is estimated to be 1.38 billion, with more than 104 connections for every 100 citizens. Even if a third of those are on smart phones, it is a staggeringly huge number that accesses internet on their mobile apps, a market that most global app makers worldwide cannot afford to miss.

The ban on Chinese apps came shortly after a border clash between troops from the two countries left 20 Indian soldiers dead earlier in June. The Indian government blocked the apps ostensibly because of cybersecurity risks and the possibility that some of the apps could be used to compromise India’s defence systems. But the ban may have also been a way of sending a message to China. Ever since the most recent border clash between the two countries occurred—at a time when India is struggling with a massive internal problem of containing the rapidly spreading pandemic of Coronavirus within the country—there has been a clamour for boycotting all Chinese products and services in India.

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TikTok and a host of other apps that have been blocked or banned in India will no doubt affect users as well as the makers and suppliers of those apps but China’s less visible but ubiquitous presence in India’s tech and internet landscape goes way beyond Chinese apps that have been popular in that market. Chinese venture capital is probably the biggest component of funding that India’s start-ups, most of them internet based and online. In many ways, Chinese funding is the lifeline for India’s bustling and vibrant start-up industry.

Chinese venture capitalists and private equity investors have invested huge amounts in India’s tech start-ups. And one could argue that without their funding, India’s start-up sector could lose much of its buoyancy. US investors who earlier dominated India’s start-up funding have been eclipsed by Chinese funders. According to GlobalData, an analytics firm, Chinese investments in Indian start-ups increased 12 times since 2016 to $4.6 billion. Eleven of the 30 Indian unicorns (start-up firms with a valuation of $1 billion or higher), at least 15 are funded by Chinese venture capitalists, with two of the biggest funders being China’s Tencent and Alibaba.

Some Indian start-ups that have become household names in India have raised huge amounts from Chinese firms. Paytm, the mobile payment system that has become ubiquitous in India, particularly after the government resorted to demonetisation of large currency notes, has raised $3.5 billion; Flipkart, India’s challenge to e-tailing giant Amazon has raised $7.7 billion; food delivery major Swiggy got $1.6 billion; and Uber’s Indian rival Ola $3.8 billion. All of their funding coming almost exclusively from Chinese venture capitalists. Between 2016 and 2018, Chinese funds for Indian start-ups grew an eye-popping five-fold.

Much of this has happened because of the potential that Chinese investors see in India. India’s population of 1.3 billion is expected to cross China’s 1.4 billion. Middle-income earners in India who comprise the biggest chunk of consumers are estimated at more than 30% of the total population. Moreover, there have been changes in the global dynamics of manufacturing and supply of products. Tech giants from across the world have been steadily shifting their manufacturing bases to emerging markets and India is a prime destination for them. This trend has a multiplier effect, spawning new start-up ancillaries and other firms in India, all of which need funding, which has translated into opportunities for Chinese venture capitalists and private equity investors.

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Some Chinese investors appraise the Indian market as China was some years ago when the mobile access to internet began taking off. There are other similarities with China—the size of the market and the willingness of Indian consumers to quickly adopt new apps for convenience or recreation when they are launched. Chinese investors not only have a deeper understanding of the Indian market (because it is not unlike China’s) but they are also funds-rich.

The recent ban on Chinese apps is likely, of course, to have an impact. Both on users as well as app makers who are set to lose what is probably their biggest market with the promise of a huge potential. But what could happen if India follows it up with a decision to curb or restrict Chinese investment in Indian companies? In April this year, the Indian government amended its foreign direct investment (FDI) policy by stipulating that any country that shares a border with India cannot any longer take recourse to the automatic route for FDI but has to take government permission before investing in Indian firms. Besides China, India shares borders with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Myanmar, and Bhutan, but those latter countries account for negligible amounts of investment in India.

The new policy, therefore, is presumably aimed at a closer scrutiny of China’s investments in India. This could hit India’s start-up industry hard. Some start-ups, such as the popular food delivery major, Zomato, are already witnessing a slowdown in investments that were slated to come from Chinese funds. It is early days still because the policy has just been implemented but by all reckoning, it will have an adverse effect on Indian firms whose business models pin their hopes on easy funding from Chinese investors.

What exacerbates the situation is India’s large trade deficit with China—in 2019 it was $57 billion. India imports a vast range of products from China. Much of it is capital goods such as telecom equipment, power plants, railway coaches, value-added iron and steel items; electronic and household durables such as air conditioners, washing machines, refrigerators and so on; as well as mobile phone components, chemicals, auto components, and pharmaceuticals.

If the tensions at the Sino-Indian border spills over to the economic front, there could be a bigger impact on the Indian economy. Banning apps is just the tip of the looming iceberg below. If Indian firms’ funding is affected, India’s burgeoning start-up industry would suffer. If India resorts to trade restrictions in the form of import sanctions, it is conceivable that the economy could be hit hard. In both countries’ interests it is, therefore, prudent to dial down the tensions at the borders they share and foster greater economic ties instead.

Centre Bans 59 Chinese Apps Amid Cyber Safety Concerns

The government on Monday banned 59 mobile apps including Tik Tok, UC Browser and other Chinese apps “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity and defence” of the country and “security of state and public order”‘

The Ministry of Information Technology said in a release that it has decided to block 59 apps in view of the information available “they are engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order”.

The release said that the Ministry of Information Technology has received many complaints from various sources including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India.

“The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures. At the same time, there have been raging concerns on aspects relating to data security and safeguarding the privacy of 130 crore Indians,” said the release.

The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs also sent an exhaustive recommendation for blocking these malicious apps, the release said.

This Ministry also received many representations raising concerns from citizens regarding security of data and risk to privacy relating to operation of certain apps.

The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) has also received many representations from citizens regarding security of data and breach of privacy impacting upon public order issues.

“This move will safeguard the interests of crores of Indian mobile and internet users. This decision is a targeted move to ensure safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace”, the release said.

The apps which have been banned include TikTok, Shein, Clash of Kings, DU battery saver, Helo, Likee and Mi Video Call amid others.


Border Standoff: India To Get Rafale Jets Ahead Of Schedule

Amid the ongoing dispute with China over its aggression along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), India is likely to get around six fully-loaded Rafale fighter aircraft by July-end fitted with the long-range Meteor air to air missiles.

The Rafales along with the Meteor missiles which can hit targets at more than 150 km strike range will give an edge to the Indian Air Force over the Chinese Air Force.

“Depending upon the situation and the ongoing training of IAF pilots in France, we may get six Rafales by July-end. The aircraft will be arriving with their full package and will be made operational within few days itself,” government sources told ANI.

The original plan was to get four Rafales including three twin-seater trainer versions for training the pilots here at Ambala Air Force station, which will be the first base of the Rafale fighter jets in India. The second base would be in Hashimara, West Bengal, sources said.

The number of aircraft set to arrive in India may be higher according to requirement and a decision will be taken keeping in mind the training requirements of the pilots already stationed in France, the sources said.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the Indian Air Force has worked hard to ensure that the ground infrastructure gets ready by the time the planes land here.

The IAF officials said the date of arrival of the planes would be decided by mid-July after taking multiple factors into account.

The first aircraft to be flown in is planned to be piloted by the Commanding Officer of the 17 Golden Arrows’ squadron along with a French pilot, they said.

The aircraft on their way from France to India would be refuelled by a French Air Force tanker aircraft in the air before they make a stopover in the Middle East.

“From Middle East to India, there would be one mid-air refuelling done by the Indian IL-78 tanker before they land in India,” sources said.

Sources said that the Rafales could have come directly from France to India but a 10-hour flight would be stressful for pilots sitting inside a small cockpit.

The first batch of seven Indian pilots has also finished their training at a French airbase while the second batch would be going to France as soon as the lockdown measures are relaxed in both the countries.

Post lockdown, India received the first consignment of equipment from France when a cargo plane landed in Delhi few weeks ago and more equipment would arrive in the near future.

India had signed a deal worth over Rs 60,000 crore with France in September 2016 for 36 Rafales to meet the emergency requirements of the Indian Air Force.

Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria was the Deputy Chief of Air Staff at that time and headed the Indian negotiation team for the deal which is the biggest ever in monetary terms in India.

Armed with the long-range Meteor air to air missiles and SCALP, the Rafales would give India an edge over both Pakistan and China in terms of air strike capability.

Sources said the air to air and the air to ground strike capabilities of the Rafale cannot be matched by both China and Pakistan and the aircraft would give India an edge over both the rivals. (ANI)

Syed Ali Shah Geelani Resigns From Hurriyat

Senior Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Monday resigned from All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC).

Geelani is understood to have realised his folly of supporting Pakistan and that they only pump in weapons and drugs.

“Looking at the current situation of All Party Hurriyat Conference, I announce my resignation from this forum. Units have been informed by a letter,” he said. (ANI)

Maharashtra Extends Lockdown Till July 31

Maharashtra government on Monday extended the lockdown imposed as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of COVID-19 till July 31.

“It is directed that, considering the local conditions the concerned district collector and the commissioners of the Municipal Corporations in the state may enforce certain measures and necessary restrictions in specified local areas on the permitted non-essential activities and the movement of persons to contain the spread of the epidemic,” said Ajoy Mehta, Chief Secretary, government of Maharashtra.

It is further directed that the movement of persons for the purposes of non-essential activities like shopping and the outdoor exercises, shall be restricted within the neighbourhood area limits with all necessary prescribed mandatory precautions of wearing masks, social distancing and personal hygiene, Mehta added.

Maharashtra has a total of 1,64,626 COVID-19 cases of which 7,429 patients have succumbed to the infection, said the Union Health Ministry on Monday.

There are 70,622 active cases in Maharashtra, it added. (ANI)

7 Dead In Terror Attack On Karachi Stock Exchange

The Karachi Stock Exchange came under attack on Monday morning as four terror suspects tried to storm into the building on Karachi’s II Chundrigar Road. The Baloch Liberation Army has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Two security guards and a police officer were killed in the attack, along with all four suspected terrorists. Seven people, including three police officials, have been injured, the police said in a statement cited by Dawn.

The attackers, armed with grenades and automatic rifles, launched the attack and attempted to enter the PSX compound.

A clearance operation was held later.

The police said that advanced weaponry, hand grenades and explosive material was recovered from the terrorists’ custody. Officials of the Bomb Disposal Unit also arrived at the scene of the attack and scoured the site, including a “suspected car” parked outside PSX that may have been used by the terrorists, for any explosive material.

Additional inspector general of Police, Karachi directed to tighten the security of all important offices and trading centres across the city.

Police surgeon Dr Qarar Ahmed Abbasi said that seven bodies and seven injured, including policemen, have been brought at the Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi.

Witnesses who were working inside the building at the time of the attack described hearing heavy gunfire and explosions as the attackers entered the complex. (ANI)

India’s Covid-19 Recovery Rate Reaches 58.67%

India’s coronavirus recovery rate has reached 58.67 per cent as the gap between recoveries and active cases stands at 1,11,602, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).

A total of 12,010 COVID-19 patients have been cured in the last 24 hours.

According to the Ministry on Monday, the total coronavirus cases in the country stands at 5,48,318 including 2,10,120 active cases, 3,21,723 cured/discharged/migrated and 16,475 deaths.

“The gap between recoveries and active cases is 1,11,602 as of today. So far, as many as 3,21,722 patients have been cured of COVID-19. The recovery rate continues to steadily improve. It has reached 58.67% amongst COVID-19 patients today. During the last 24 hours, a total of 12,010 COVID-19 patients have been cured. Presently, there are 2,10,120 active cases and all are under active medical supervision,” said a release by MoHFW.

The Ministry informed that India now has 1,047 diagnostic labs including 760 in the government sector and 287 private labs dedicated to COVID-19. This includes 760 in the government sector

The 11 labs that have been inducted in the last 24 hours are all operated by the government, the MoHFW said.

There are a total of 567 Real-Time RT PCR based testing labs, 393 TrueNat based testing labs and 87 CBNAAT based testing labs.

The total number of samples tested up to 28 June is 83,98,362 of which 1,70,560 samples were tested yesterday, as per the data provided by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).