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NEW DELHI: Opposition parties Saturday demanded in the Rajya Sabha that the government waive interest on loans to farmers and individuals for the coronavirus pandemic period on the lines of a pause in insolvency proceedings against defaulting corporates.

Participating in a debate, K K Ragesh of CPI (M) said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and other members have told the House that the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill has been brought to save businesses and corporates.

“Why the same logic is not applied in the case of farmers? Farmers are also bankrupt. Why the government is not taking any responsibility and any initiative in waiving the farmers’ loans?” he asked.

Ragesh said the government could have at least considered to “waive the interest on farmers loans during the moratorium period”.

DMK member P Wilson said, “There is discrimination between common man and corporate. Why is this discrimination? Is the government here for crony corporates?”

He demanded the government waive off recovery as well as repayment of all bank loans and credit card bills.

Wilson asked for a complete waiver of agriculture term loans.

Initiating the debate, Congress member Vivek Tankha said the government should protect only those businesses which are affected by Covid-19 pandemic and not all defaulters.

He said the Section 10-A in the Bill states that no application for initiation of the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP) shall be filed for any default, whether COVID-19 related or not, arising on or after March 25 for a period of six months or such period not exceeding one year form such date as may be notified.

The Congress leader asked the government whether it was sure that the coronavirus pandemic would end in one year.

“When you are suspending Section 7,9,10, I think it’s a makeshift solution to a long standing problem. There is no certainty that the economy will revive in one year.”

He pointed out that Gross NPA of banks went up from Rs 2.63 lakh crore in March 2014 to Rs 10.3 lakh crore in March 2018.

“NPA and defaulting problems are pre-pandemic and Section 10-A would only postpone the problem and not solve it,” Tankha said, adding the creditors would be in a worst position with likely erosion in the value of assets.

“The entire object of IBC Code is compromised by this amendment. The Code aims to prevent wilful default by companies. However, the blanket bar on Sec 7,9,10 will enable many companies which are already under defaulting categories to use the notification as a shield to protect themselves in future proceedings.

“Do we want to protect COVID-19 category of industries or all industries irrespective of their performance in the past. Section 10-A does not make distinction between COVID-19 defaults and other defaults,” he said.

About giving relief under the IBC, Arun Singh (BJP) said, “It was very much needed. It was very difficult to find out which transaction is COVID related….If my friends can tell that these are Covid-related transactions and these are not related to that then I will be very happy. But it is simply impossible.”

TMC member Dinesh Trivedi said, “The intention of the bill is good. But you are in a hurry to do things without larger consultations. That is why the Bill is hastily drafted and an ill-worded piece of legislation, which would defeat its own purpose.”

He said, “We have record level of food stocks. Oil prices are historically low…The need of the hour is to put, maybe Rs 10,000 or Rs 15,000 or Rs 20,000, into the bank accounts of needy people.”

Trivedi said this would help in creating demand, generating more jobs and more tax revenues for the government.

SP leader Ravi Verma was of the view that this Bill will support big corporate and also asked the government about the wilful defaulters who have fled the country.

Verma alleged insolvency professionals are charging very hefty fees and generally eat up a large chunk of haircut.

Amar Patnaik (BJD) asked the government to improve the quality of debt resolution as well as competence of insolvency professionals.

AIADMK leader A Vijaykumar suggested that cooperative societies not be brought under the insolvency code.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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EC action against BJP’s Imarti Devi over poll code violations




NEW DELHI: The Election Commission on Saturday imposed a 24-hour campaign ban on BJP leader Imarti Devi due to poll code violations.

“BJP leader Imarti Devi has been barred from holding, anywhere in MP, public meetings, public processions, public rallies, roadshows and interviews, public utterances in media in connection with ongoing elections for one day on November 1,” the poll panel said.

Earlier this week, the election commission had issued a notice to Imarti Devi, who is contesting a bypoll in Madhya Pradesh, for allegedly describing an unnamed political rival as “insane” and making remarks against women members of his family.

Devi, who is also a minister in the Madhya Pradesh government, did not name the political rival in a video on social media.

According to the transcript of the video, Imarti Devi said after the person left the chief minister’s post in Madhya Pradesh, he became “insane” (pagal).

Devi was involved in another incident earlier when senior Congress leader Kamal Nath called her an “item” during an election rally. Following his remarks, Nath was served a notice by the EC and later removed as Congress’ “star campaigner”.

Bypolls to 28 Madhya Pradesh assembly seats will be held on November 3.

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Covid-19: Indian students speak of depression and isolation at UK universities under lockdown, some plan to return to India




LONDON: Indian students in Manchester have spoken of their isolation and depression at being stuck in their rooms all day since all teaching went online and the city moved into a harsh lockdown owing to rising Covid-19 cases.

Five joined a protest outside the university offices holding placards saying “Are we paying £22k for this?” and “Was it worth me flying from India to attend an online class?”. The students want greater offline social activities, blended teaching, mental health support and a reduction in fees.

“I have not experienced 5% of university life this year. It was our last year to have fun and live university life. Now everything is ruined,” said Danish Hussain (21) of Ajmer, in the final year of his £15k-a-year undergraduate degree in tourism management at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). He returned to India in the spring, when Covid cases were rising, and returned in September expecting teaching to be blended.

But on October 7, the University of Manchester (UoM) and MMU moved all teaching online after young people accounted for 55% of Covid-19 cases. On October 23 the city went into a Tier 3 lockdown.

“I don’t know why they can’t divide us into groups and do face-to-face learning with social distancing. The teachers come on video chat but I’m not getting to interact with classmates. We don’t have anywhere to go. You can’t meet new people. Everyone is stressed,” he said. “There used to be so many house parties in Manchester, now it is dead.”

He is staying alone in a house-share as less students have come because of Brexit and Covid-19, he said.

MMU told TOI it had increased investment in its counselling services and from November 2 it will offer up to three hours of on-campus activity each week.

“The isolation is the worst part. It makes you feel so demotivated. The main struggle is not money, it is mental health,” said Shubhi Verma, 25, from Bhopal, who is doing an intellectual property masters at the UoM costing £19,500 a year. “I could have done this in India and saved a lot of money. There are no contact hours with the professor. How can you create a relationship online? Online teaching is on Zoom but there is a lack of interaction. We have to stay in a bubble and can only interact with people we live with. We want more pastoral support. The societies have become WhatsApp groups. We are sat in our rooms and it is depressing,” Verma said.

“I think if you meet people in person you feel more pressured to do your work. Now no one feels bothered. People are not doing their work properly. I am just watching Netflix, eating and sleeping,” she said.

The UoM said online teaching would be reviewed on November 11, that the campus remained open, and insisted there were lots of activities.

“Many Indian students want to go back to India at Christmas and stay until the spring. They don’t see the point of being here as their courses are all online, student bars are closing and a lot of events are online. Already 50% didn’t come back in September,” Indian National Students Association UK president Amit Tiwari said.

Ahaan Gupta, 20, a third year undergraduate student of PPE at LSE, is doing just that. He went back in March and has not returned.

“I am at home with my parents and there is less chance of catching it here whereas in the UK there are so many possible interactions in a student halls of residence. The quality of teaching at LSE is really good online. It is the same as offline,” he said. Ahaan is paying £19,000 a year but doing the course from his parents’ home in Delhi.

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After slamming NHAI officials for ‘inefficiency’, Gadkari says his remarks meant for just a few




NEW DELHI: Barely days after hitting out at NHAI and terming a section of its senior officials as “inefficient” and slamming them for adopting delaying tactics, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari on Saturday said his remarks were aimed at only a few officials.

The minister said he was pained at the inordinate delay in completing construction work for a new NHAI office building.

Addressing an event of industry lobby ASSOCHAM on “Advanced Digital Technology & Policy for Infrastructure with special focus on Tunnel Engineering” on Saturday, Gadkari said a few days back he had pulled up NHAI officials while inaugurating the new NHAI building as its construction took eight years while it should have been done in two years.

“I was deeply hurt due to the inordinate delay. There are good people in NHAI, my ministry and NHIDCL including the NHAI chairman, secretary in the ministry and managing director of NHIDCL. There are hundreds of good engineers. My unhappiness was against only a few people,” he said.

The minister said while the NHAI was accelerating to complete the Rs 1 lakh crore Delhi-Mumbai Expressway project in three years, it was a bad show to complete such a small building project in eight years.

The minister’s comment had left several NHAI officials disheartened. “There was a lot of misconception as the minister’s speech went viral on social media. The highway construction has increased in recent years, which is the main parameter to assess performance. NHAI is not a building construction agency. Ideally, this project should have been assigned to a agency which is into construction of buildings,” said a senior NHAI official.

NHAI had recorded highest ever highway construction in 2019-20 at 3,979 km and the highways ministry as a whole had recorded maximum ever highway construction at 10,855 in 2018-19. Last year, it reduced marginally to 10,237 km.

During his address at the ASSOCHAM event, Gadkari said private contractors, after getting works, should not adopt tactics to “delay works, escalate costs and then go for arbitration to extract more money” from the government. He urged them to bag more work and earn profit by completing the projects in time.

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