14.7.20

Inter-state migration touched 9m annually between 2011 and 2016

The Covid-19 pandemic may have brought the vulnerability of migrant workers into focus but data show more and more people have been moving from their native villages in search of work opportunities to other states over the decades. The magnitude of inter-state migration in India accelerated from five to six million annually between 2001-11 to nine million annually between 2011-16.

Urban population in India grew from 286.1 million in 2001 to 377.1 million in 2011 which constitutes 31.1% of the total population residing in 53 urban agglomerations with more than a million people. Nearly 14% of this urban population was estimated to be living below the poverty line in 2011-12 with 65.5 million living in slums. India’s urban population is expected to rise to around 606 million by 2030.

These figures are part of a comprehensive voluntary national review report on a wide range of sectors and progress made presented by Niti Aayog at the United Nations High-level Political Forum on sustainable development on Monday.

The report, Decade of Action: Taking SDGs from Global to Local, emphasises how India is focussing on making the SDG monitoring and implementation more localised for better results. It maps India’s progress, challenges and the way forward on various SDG goals ranging from no poverty, zero hunger, good health and gender equality to sanitation, sustainable cities and reducing inequalities.

In the backdrop of the pandemic, Niti Aayog, vice-chairman, Dr Rajiv Kumar, asserted that “the role of international cooperation is more critical than ever before.”

Despite the pressure on cities, the report says “migration can, in fact, be turned into a strong economic opportunity by overcoming bottlenecks such as migrants’ lack of access to healthcare, social entitlements, education for children, lack of improvement in skill profile and employability”.

A significant proportion of migrants and the poor in cities are employed in the informal economy which makes them vulnerable, especially in times such as the Covid-19 crisis. The report says that to mitigate the impact on various sectors including migrants both the central government and the states have announced an economic relief package with both short term and longterm measures.

Google to Invest $10 b in India Over 5-7 Years

Google will invest $10 billion in India over the next five to seven years with the aim of consolidating its position in the digital ecosystem of the world’s fifth-largest economy that is emerging as a battleground for global internet giants.

Alphabet Inc-owned Google’s outlay for India — nearly double the $5.7 billion investment made by rival Facebook in the digital platform of India’s largest conglomerate Reliance Industries in April — will be deployed through a mix of investments and partnerships, chief executive officer Sundar Pichai said.

Pichai neither denied nor confirmed reports of Google’s interest in Jio Platforms or a stake acquisition in Vodafone Idea. The country-specific nature of the fund is the first of its kind in the world for Google. “We’ll do it (deploy funds) through a mix of equity investments in large Indian companies, startups, partnerships, as well as infrastructure investments such as data centres,” he said. The fund size, he said, provides an “opportunity to directly make larger investments” in bigger companies.

Google dominates search, video, maps and email in India. Nine out of 10 smartphones sold in India come with Google’s Android OS.

Commenting on the equalisation levy imposed by India, Pichai said he favoured adoption of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development framework to tax foreign digital transactions.

The mega-investment plans are also one way to combat the issue, which has seen a pushback from other US technology companies as well. “Investing in a country directly is the best way to address the problem in the long run,” Pichai said.

Pichai, among the most successful Indian immigrants in the US, has been critical of US President Donald Trump’s move to suspend H-1B visas. Google was the top recipient of the visas in 2019, according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Google will be looking out for companies that can build for India and scale up quickly across languages, according to Pichai, who said capabilities such as artificial intelligence will make it very "interesting" for Google.

“We want to scale beyond English and really invest in access, so that effectively Indians in their own language be it Punjabi or Tamil (can access internet),” the India-born CEO said. Google’s push to build local products has been boosted with the success of payment app Google Pay, which is now being scaled up globally.

India has over 500 million internet users, with 450 million of them accessing it on smartphones from smaller towns in the country.

With China, which has local behemoths such as Baidu and Byte-Dance, largely out of bounds for western internet companies, India is the only large market open to them. Google, under Pichai’s leadership, has been attempting to re-enter China, after exiting it a decade ago, but has faced setbacks. Last week Bloomberg reported that Google had abandoned plans to set up a cloud unit in the country. It has also suspended processing user requests from Hong Kong after China imposed a national security law in its special administrative region.

Pichai did not comment on Google’s China ambitions but said India has the local talent and access to a large market along with aspects of a strong entrepreneurial and venture capital foundation to build an ecosystem of its own.

On whether he looks at the call of Atmanirbhar Bharat by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a threat for American tech companies like Google, he said his company is trying to develop apps in India as well as invest in firms which are doing it. “We want to help play a small role in accelerating that trend.”

“We are definitely happy to partner with governments, in compliance with laws in a democratic society. Privacy regulation is incredibly important,” said Pichai, who earlier in the day interacted over video with PM Modi.

Responding to a query on whether Google will extend its initiative to pay publishers for content in countries like Australia, Pichai said it was still “early days”.

“We have tried to incorporate news more in our products to generate more traffic. We’ve over the last couple of years added subscriptions as a big area,” Pichai said.

Retail inflation rises to 6.09 per cent in June

Retail inflation rose to 6.09 per cent in June, mainly on account of higher prices of food items.

Food inflation in June increased by 7.87 per cent, according to Consumer Price Index data.

The inflation figures are based on data collected from limited markets in view of the restrictions imposed on account of coronavirus pandemic.

The data collected, however, did not meet the adequacy criteria for generating robust estimates of CPIs at the state-level.

The retail inflation based on Consumer Prince Index was 3.18 per cent in June 2019.

The government had released truncated CPI data for April and May in the backdrop of the lockdown to contain COVID-19 pandemic.

Ex-royal family can run Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple

The Supreme Court upheld the rights of the erstwhile royal family of Travancore in the management and administration of the centuries-old Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple, one of the richest places of worship in the country.

It set aside the Kerala High Court’s order of 2011, which had directed the state government to set up a trust to take control of the Thiruvanthapuram temple’s management and assets. A bench of Justices UU Lalit and Indu Malhotra rejected the HC’s observation that the rights of the Travancore family to the temple ended with the death of the last ruler. The temple has been controlled by a trust run by the descendants of the erstwhile royal family since Independence.

A committee, comprising Hindus, constituted by the SC under the chairmanship of the district judge of Thiruvanthapuram will continue as the administrative head as an interim measure. The committee will take a call on opening the last of the temple’s six underground, secret vaults. In 2011, gold, jewels and statues worth around Rs 1 lakh-crore were unearthed from five vaults following an order from the SC based on a public interest litigation to assess the 16th century temple’s wealth. In July 2017, the SC had said it would examine claims that the last vault had been closed since it contained an “extraordinary treasure with mystical energy”.

The state government said it respected the ruling.

Four years after the treasures were found below the temple, gold worth Rs.186 crore was reported missing. A committee constituted by SC conducted a special audit and found large-scale financial irregularities in the temple.

13.7.20

PMR lockdown



The Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad municipal corporations on Sunday evening released identical orders for a ten-day total lockdown to be enforced from July 14. Only milk suppliers, medical stores, hospitals and clinics will be allowed to operate on these five days. There are no restrictions on media operations either.

A few exemptions have been made to allow grocery shops, vegetable vendors, and the sale of mutton, chicken and eggs between 8 am and noon from July 19 to 23.

Vikram Kumar, who took over as Pune municipal commissioner on Sunday, said, “These steps are needed to stop the spread of Covid-19 and also to control the increasing number of positive patients.”

The department of disaster management and rehabilitation authority has empowered municipal commissioners to issue such orders.

“The lockdown is an essential step to break the chain (of the infection spread). Citizens should cooperate with the authorities and inform the health department if they develop any symptoms. Practising social distancing, wearing masks and personal hygiene can help a lot in the current situation,” Pimpri Chinchwad municipal commissioner Shravan Hardikar said.

All types of public and private vehicles — barring those engaged in Covid-19, emergency and essential services, exempted services like media, and transport to and from the airport and railway stations — will be off the roads.

App-based food delivery services will remain closed throughout the 10-day lockdown period, while e-commerce services will be barred from July 14 to 18 and can resume operations thereafter.

Also off limits are morning or evening walks, and all playgrounds, open public places and gardens. Similarly, salons, spas and beauty parlours will remain closed for all 10 days.

The orders further stated that industrial operations will remain functional with 50% staff, while the IT sector has been allowed to remain functional with 15% strength. No restrictions have been put on those assisting the elderly. Housekeeping services will remain suspended. Wedding ceremonies too have been prohibited, but those who have already taken prior permission will be allowed to proceed with a maximum of 20 people in attendance.

Anyone found violating the orders are liable to be prosecuted under sections 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, apart from action under IPC Section 188 and other legal provisions as applicable, the orders stated.

The Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad police will not be issuing separate orders. “PMC’s order is the outcome of an overall comprehensive discussion, which also involved the Pune police,” Pune’s joint CP Ravindra Shisve said.

On Friday, Hardikar and Kumar’s predecessor Shekhar Gaikwad had said that the civic bodies would be utilizing the lockdown to augment critical health care infrastructure, including setting up new Covid-19 care centres, ICUs, ventilators and oxygen beds, enhancing testing capacity and vigorous contact-tracing.

“Construction works shall continue in rural areas. It shall continue in Pune city and Pimpri Chinchwad also on the condition of in situ labour,” Pune collector Naval Kishore Ram tweeted via his official handle (@navalMH).

Covid may have Infected 15% of Delhi’s Population

A sero-surveillance survey conducted across 20,000 households in Delhi shows that around 10-15% of the sample could have been infected by coronavirus. The results of the sero survey conducted from June 27 to July 5 in 11 districts of the national capital have been evaluated and shared with the home ministry.

Conducted by the National Centre for Disease Control and the Delhi government, 22,823 samples were picked up randomly by the surveillance team for antibody testing.

“Sero-surveys help to understand the proportion of the population exposed to SARS-CoV-2 infection including asymptomatic individuals. The survey found that 10-15 % have already got the disease and are over with it. In a very few zones, it ranged higher than 15%,” said a person aware of the findings of the survey. “The prevalence varied in different districts which means that the outbreak is localised,” he added.

Earlier, the Indian Council of Medical Research had also conducted sero surveillance in the containment zones of Delhi along with other cities. While the details of the survey are yet to be made public, sources said that it showed the prevalence of the infection in 10-30% of the sample in the containment zones of Delhi.

The rising number of cases in Delhi has been a major cause of concern, though there have been signs of improvement in the last few days. The active cases reported on Saturday in the national capital were the lowest in the last one month. The fatality figures also showed a decline.

On Sunday, the city reported 1,573 positive cases and 37 deaths due to Covid-19, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 112,494 and the death toll to 3,371. A total of 2,276 people have recovered and discharged in the last 24 hours, taking the recoveries to 89,968.

“The steady decline in daily cases in Delhi is an encouraging sign. A fall in daily death count, if maintained, will be an even stronger indication that the epidemic is coming under control. Over all the recent trends are promising and suggest that increased vigour of public health is paying off,” said K Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India.

Congress: Tumult in Rajasthan as Pilot-Gehlot tussle hits breaking point

Long-standing differences between Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his deputy Sachin Pilot reached breaking point on Sunday, threatening the stability of the Congress government in the state. A summons by the Rajasthan special operations group served to Pilot on Friday, seeking to record his statement in the alleged horse-trading case lodged ahead of the Rajya Sabha election last month, is said to have been the last straw.

Soon after the SOG notice was pasted outside his official residence in Jaipur on Friday, Pilot headed for Delhi in a huff with some of his close aides, the speculated numbers ranging from five to 19 MLAs. There is buzz that he has told the party leadership that he will move out with his MLAs and launch a regional outfit.

The MLAs’ disappearance sent the Gehlot camp into a huddle—the CM met his ministers on Saturday night and called for a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party (all elected MLAs) at 10.30 am on Monday at his official residence. This meeting is expected to shine light on the actual numbers in the Gehlot camp. Congress President Sonia Gandhi despatched senior party leaders to Jaipur to be a part of this meeting and to speak to the MLAs directly.

Late in the night, Pilot said he will not attend the meeting, and claimed that he had the support of more than 30 MLAs, leaving the Gehlot-led government in the state in a minority.

Meanwhile, speculation was rife that Pilot and several MLAs close to him were lodged in resorts in Manesar and Gurugram. Three MLAs—Rohit Bohra, Danish Abrar and Chetan Dudi-—who were said to have left with Pilot and returned to Jaipur late in the evening, were paraded before the media in Jaipur as they repeatedly assured the gathering that they would be with the party “till the last breath”.

Pilot reportedly could not be reached by his own party leadership after he failed to get an audience with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and former chief Rahul Gandhi. Party sources said he had a conversation with Sonia’s close aide Ahmed Patel, and conveyed his strong displeasure at the turn of events in Rajasthan, particularly the SOG’s summons. Pilot alleged that Gehlot, who held the home department portfolio in the state, had engineered the move to humiliate him and that it was unprecedented for a deputy CM to have to appear in a poaching case against his own party. In defence, the Gehlot camp produced similar SOG summons issued to the CM as well as the chief party whip.

Sources said Pilot recalled in his chat with Patel his limited role in governance in Rajasthan with Gehlot “curtailing funds from departments under his charge”.

There was also speculation that Pilot was in talks with the BJP to pull off a coup on the lines of the one in Madhya Pradesh in March, which led to the fall of the Kamal Nath government.

The Congress has 107 MLAs in the 200-member assembly and has the support of 12 independents as well as members of RLD, CPI(M) and Bharatiya Tribal Party. Most of the independents are Gehlot loyalists. The BJP has 72 MLAs and enjoys the support of three MLAs of Rashtriya Loktantrik Party.

Avinash Pande, the Congress general secretary in charge of Rajasthan, maintained that the government in Rajasthan was stable and would complete its full term.

Even if Pilot exits the Congress and manages to topple the government, the BJP has a problem of plenty in Rajasthan for the post of CM: Vasundhara Raje is vying for it along with Om Mathur, Bhupendra Yadav, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Arjun Ram Meghwal. It would be far more difficult for Pilot to make a place for himself in the state while with the BJP unless he gets a cabinet berth at the Centre and moves out of state politics.