Latest News Today – Himachal Bridge Hit By Boulders Rolling Down Hill, 9


Chunks of rocks can be seen breaking off a mountain and rolling down into the valley below.

Nine tourists were killed and several were injured after a massive landslide hit a bridge in Himachal Pradesh’s Sangla valley today. In a terrifying video, large chunks of rocks can be seen breaking off a mountain and rolling down into the valley below. The video shows a section of the bridge crumbling and plunging into a river after a boulder hits it.

“All the 11 victims were tourists whose vehicle got hit by boulders,” said Saju Ram Rana, SP Kinnaur, adding the injured have been rushed to a nearby hospital.

A team of doctors is at the spot, he said.

The rocks can be seen hitting cars at the foot of the mountain, kicking up a massive cloud of dust.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Jairam Thakur expressed sorrow over the loss of lives in the accident.

“It is very sad that a vehicle carrying tourists came under its grip, in which nine died and two injured and one passerby got injured. May God grant peace to the departed souls and strength to the bereaved family,” Mr Thakur tweeted in Hindi.

“All arrangements are being made for the treatment of those injured in the accident. I wish them a speedy recovery,” read a tweet from the Prime Minister’s office.

PM Modi also announced an aid of Rs 2 lakh each for the families of those who died in the accident and Rs 50,000 to the injured from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.

The weather office recently issued a landslide warning in Himachal Pradesh due to heavy rainfall predicted in the next few days. In the last few years, landslides have become a common occurrence in the hill state,





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Latest News Today – Foreign Exchange Reserves Rise By $835 Million To Hit


Foreign currency assets include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US units

The country’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $835 million to touch a record high of $ 612.73 billion in the week ended July 16, 2021, RBI data showed. In the previous week ended July 9, 2021, the reserves had surged by $ 1.883 billion to $ 611.895 billion.

In the reporting week ended July 16, 2021, the increase in forex reserves was on account of the rise in foreign currency assets (FCA), Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) weekly data released on Friday showed. The FCA, a major component of the overall reserves, rose by $ 463 million to $ 568.748 billion in the reporting week.

Expressed in dollar terms, foreign currency assets include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US units like the euro, pound, and yen held in the foreign exchange reserves.

Gold reserves were up by $ 377 million to $ 37.333 billion in the reporting week, the data showed. The special drawing rights (SDRs) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were up by USD 1 million at $ 1.548 billion.

The country’s reserve position with the IMF declined by $ 7 million to $ 5.1 billion in the reporting week, the data showed.



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Latest News Today – India’s Microfinance Sector Hit As Defaults Surge In


Some microfinance firms had to scale back capital raising plans due to tepid interest from investors

Small loan specialists in India that typically cater to people without bank accounts are facing a jump in pandemic-related defaults that could force some of them out of business, industry experts warn.

Loans overdue by 30 days are expected to reach 14-16 per cent of all so-called microfinance loans in the immediate aftermath of the second COVID-19 wave sweeping India, said Krishnan Sitaraman, senior director at credit rating agency CRISIL.

That’s higher than 6-7 per cent in March, before the second wave took hold, and also above the 11.7 per cent reached in March 2017 after India’s demonetisation drive – an attempt to boost digital transactions and crack down on undeclared money that also hit microfinance lenders hard.

“Older loans that were taken in 2019 or early 2020 are at a higher risk of defaults and they form about 60-65 per cent of the loan book for lenders,” said Harsh Shrivastava, former head of the Microfinance Institutions Network, an association representing the sector in India.

Rahul Johri, chair of Vector Finance, a microfinance firm that provides loans to small enterprises, said many support measures brought in by the government had only helped larger institutions, while smaller players had struggled.

“It has become an existence issue for several small and mid-sized microfinance institutions as business has been severely impacted and collections are down,” said Johri.

Loan collection efficiency across the total loan pool has fallen to about 70 per cent from a peak of nearly 95 per cent in March, analysts say, indicating a potential build up in stress.

The gross loan portfolio of India’s microfinance lenders stood at $35 billion as of March 31, according to CRISIL.

Bumpy Road Ahead

Despite the short-term challenges, some remain bullish on the sector and expect it to bounce back if an anticipated third wave of COVID-19 infections in India is not so severe.

“About 55 per cent of the market is still untapped which means there is huge market opportunity … so things will look up soon,” said Johri. But for now, many smaller microfinance firms are struggling.

Such companies, typically with loan books of less than 5 billion rupees ($67 million), have also seen their cost of funds rise by 100-150 basis points as banks and companies have become less willing to lend to them, said one industry executive, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Some microfinance firms have had to scale back capital raising plans due to tepid interest from investors, said the heads of two firms that have been looking to raise funds.

As smaller players falter, some have stopped paying salaries, or incentives to employees in recent months, they added, asking not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“We are now only getting basic salaries, incentives have completely stopped in the last few months as collections are down,” said a collection agent at one microfinance lender in eastern India.



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Latest News Today – Dalit Man Beaten Up, Hit On Privates In Uttar Pradesh, 1


The man has been admitted to a Kanpur hospital

Highlights

  • The incident took place 2 days ago in Kanpur Dehat’s Akbarpur area
  • One person has been arrested while search for other culprits is ongoing
  • As the accused pummel the man, he is asked to give out his caste

Lucknow:

A 20-year-old Dalit man is pulled by his hair, elbowed, kicked, beaten with sticks in full public view by a group of people in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur Dehat district, show a set of disturbing videos. One person has been arrested in the case while police teams have been formed to find the other culprits, said a police official.

The incident, which took place two days ago, is from Akbarpur area in Kanpur Dehat.

As they pummel the man, he is asked to give out his caste. Upon learning that he is from a particular community, the blows get brutal and more insistent. The listless youth cries out in pain but takes all the beating with almost zero resistance.

“As soon as we got to know about the video, a police case was filed in the matter. A person identified in the viral video has been arrested. Two more people can be seen beating the Dalit youth. We are trying to find out their details and teams have been formed to arrest them,” Ghanshyam Chaurasiya, additional SP, Kanpur Dehat, told NDTV.

In another video, the man, clad in a shirt and now stripped waist-down, is put around a tree with his hands held together by another man while yet another pokes him in his privates with a wooden stick.

The man has been admitted to a Kanpur hospital.

Earlier, in Lakhimpur Kheri a Samajwadi Party worker was manhandled and her sari yanked by two men from a rival party as nominations were filed for local polls in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday



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Latest News Today – Amazon, Tata Say E-Commerce Rules Will Hit Businesses:


Tata Group, Amazon have warned that new e-commerce rules will impact their businesses

Amazon.com Inc and Tata Group warned government officials on Saturday that plans for tougher rules for online retailers would have a major impact on their business models, four sources familiar with the discussions told Reuters.

At a meeting organised by the Consumer Affairs Ministry and the Government’s investment promotion arm, Invest India, many executives expressed concerns and confusion over the proposed rules and asked that the July 6 deadline for submitting comments be extended, said the sources.

The Government’s tough new e-commerce rules announced on June 21 aimed at strengthening protection for consumers, caused concern among the country’s online retailers, notably market leaders Amazon and Walmart Inc’s Flipkart.

New rules limiting flash sales, barring misleading advertisements and mandating a complaints system, among other proposals, could force the likes of Amazon and Flipkart to review their business structures, and may increase costs for domestic rivals including Reliance Industries’ JioMart, BigBasket and Snapdeal.

Amazon argued that COVID-19 had already hit small businesses and the proposed rules will have a huge impact on its sellers, arguing that some clauses were already covered by existing law, two of the sources said.

The sources asked not to be named as the discussions were private.

The proposed policy states e-commerce firms must ensure none of their related enterprises are listed as sellers on their websites. That could impact Amazon in particular as it holds an indirect stake in at least two of its sellers, Cloudtail and Appario.

On that proposed clause, a representative of Tata Sons, the holding company of Tata Group, argued that it was problematic, citing an example to say it would stop Starbucks – which has a joint-venture with Tata in India – from offering its products on Tata’s marketplace website.

The Tata executive said the rules will have wide ramifications for the conglomerate, and could restrict sales of its private brands, according to two of the sources.

Tata declined to comment.

The sources said that a consumer ministry official argued that the rules were meant to protect consumers and were not as strict as those of other countries. The ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

A Reliance executive agreed that the proposed rules would boost consumer confidence, but added that some clauses needed clarification.

Reliance did not respond to request for comment.

The rules were announced last month amid growing complaints from India’s brick-and-mortar retailers that Amazon and Flipkart bypass foreign investment law using complex business structures. The companies deny any wrongdoing.

A Reuters investigation in February cited Amazon documents that showed it gave preferential treatment to a small number of its sellers and bypassed foreign investment rules. Amazon has said it does not give favourable treatment to any seller.

The Government will soon issue certain clarifications on the foreign investment rules, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal told reporters on Friday.



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Latest News Today – Crypto Exchange Binance Hit By Criminal Complaint From


Trading volumes at the exchange in June were $662 billion

Thailand’s financial watchdog filed a criminal complaint against cryptocurrency exchange Binance on Friday for operating a digital asset business without a licence, the latest in a string of crackdowns on the platform by regulators globally. Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said in a statement that Binance had been operating a digital asset business “in the category of a digital asset exchange” without a licence. In Thailand, only licensed firms are allowed to provide services related to digital asset trading, the SEC said

The Commission had warned Binance over its activities in a letter in April but received no response, it said, leading it to then file a criminal complaint with the Thai police. A Binance spokesperson declined to comment specifically on the Thai complaint, saying it takes a collaborative approach to working with regulators and takes its compliance obligations seriously.

Britain’s financial watchdog last week barred the company, one of the world’s biggest exchanges, from carrying out regulated activities in the country. Japan’s regulator said last week Binance was operating in the country illegally, while Germany’s watchdog said in April it risked being fined for offering tokens connected to stocks. In May, Bloomberg reported Binance was under investigation by the U.S

Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service. The complaint filed in Thailand by the SEC is the start of a criminal procedure, with a police investigation possibly leading to a recommendation to a public attorney who has authority for prosecution, the Commission said

The offence carries a penalty of two to five years imprisonment, a fine of 200,000-500,000 baht ($6,200-15,500), and a further daily fine of up to 10,000 baht for every day the contravention continues, it added. Trading volumes at the exchange in June were $662 billion, up almost ten-fold from July 2020, according to data from CryptoCompare



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Latest News Today – International Yoga Day 2021: When Covid Hit, No Country


Several studies are taking place around the world on the benefits of yoga, PM Modi said.

New Delhi:

Yoga became a source of inner strength among people amid the novel coronavirus pandemic and inculcated faith in them that they could fight the virus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today. “Yoga shows us the road from stress to strength and from negativity to creativity,” PM said as he addressed the nation on the occasion of the 7th International Yoga Day.

“When Covid emerged, no country was prepared. At this time yoga became a source of inner strength. Yoga helps in self-discipline, it inculcated faith in people that they could fight this virus. Frontline warriors told me that they made yoga a tool in fighting the virus,” PM Modi, who was dressed in an orange kurta, said.

PM Modi also said that India, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), will launch the M-Yoga application, which will have many videos of yoga training based on Common Yoga Protocol available in different languages of the world.

This will help us in making the ”One World, One Health” motto successful, he said.

“For most of the countries of the world, Yoga Day is not their age-old cultural festival. In this difficult time, people in so much trouble could forget it, ignore it. But on the contrary, people’s enthusiasm for yoga has increased, love for yoga has increased,” PM said.

Yoga often gives us a way of holistic health, he said, adding that several studies are taking place around the world on the benefits of yoga on our body and immunity.

“Yoga not only focuses on physical health but also mental health. During Covid, several studies are going on, researching the benefits of yoga on our body and immunity. We see that yoga and breathing exercises are being done at the beginning of online classes. This is helping children in fighting the virus,” PM Modi said.

Highlighting the importance of yoga on one’s overall wellbeing, he said, “Yoga shows us the road from stress to strength and from negativity to creativity. Yoga tells us that so many problems might be out there, but we’ve infinite solutions within ourselves. We’re the biggest source of energy in the universe,” PM said in a televised address to the nation.

Many schools now begin their online classes with yogic exercises like pranayam, he said, adding that this prepares children physically to deal with Covid.

International Yoga Day is celebrated every year on June 21. The UN General Assembly in 2014 overwhelmingly adopted a draft resolution, declaring June 21 as International Yoga Day. A record 177 countries supported the resolution.

As per the UN website, the theme for Yoga Day this year is “Yoga for Well-Being” and how the practice of yoga can promote the holistic health of every individual.

(with inputs from PTI)



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Latest News Today – Covid Cases In Moscow Hit Record High For Second


Officials are now rushing to reintroduce COVID-19 restrictions in Moscow (File).

Moscow:

Russia’s capital Moscow on Saturday reported a pandemic high for new coronavirus cases for the second straight day, while Saint Petersburg introduced fresh restrictions ahead of its Euro 2020 matches.

Brazil’s death count from the pandemic meanwhile passed the half-million-mark on Saturday.

Moscow’s hospitals were flooded with new patients due to the Delta variant, registering 9,120 new coronavirus infections in 24 hours, according to government figures. That made it a second consecutive high, topping the previous day’s total of 9,056 cases.

Those figures have ballooned from just 3,000 daily two weeks ago, with Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin saying the highly infectious Delta variant first identified in India represented nearly 90 per cent of new cases.

Across the country, officials recorded 17,906 cases and 466 deaths over 24 hours — 76 of them in Moscow — the worst nationwide figures since March 13.

The new wave of infections came as Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg, the country’s worst Covid hotspot after Moscow, is slated to host several Euro 2020 matches — including a quarter-final on July 2. They are expected to draw thousands of European football fans.

Officials are now rushing to reintroduce pandemic restrictions and roll out new beds dedicated to coronavirus patients.

On Saturday, Saint Petersburg announced it would restrict access to its main Euro 2020 fan zone on Konyushenaya Square to 3,000 people, down from 5,000, having earlier banned food sales in the fan zones.

Measures have been more drastic in Moscow, where Sobyanin on Friday shut down the city’s fan zone, banned gatherings of more than 1,000, suspended all mass entertainment events and closed dance halls.

In Brazil, meanwhile, Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga tweeted, “500,000 lives lost due to the pandemic that affects our Brazil and the world.”

He did not give the death count from the past 24 hours, but as of Friday, the ministry had recorded 498,499 deaths, with a daily average of more than 2,000 over the last seven days.

Delta Variant

The pandemic is also casting a shadow over the Tokyo Olympics which will start in just over a month.

The Japanese capital’s governor said Saturday the city would cancel all public viewing events.

Rather than setting up six planned viewing sites, “we will make greater use of the web to create exciting atmospheres for the Games,” Yuriko Koike said.

The faster-spreading Delta variant is a top concern in many countries.

Fears over the rapid spread of the variant prompted the airport in the southern Chinese city Shenzhen to cancel hundreds of flights and tighten entry controls Saturday, after a single restaurant employee tested positive.

Anyone entering the facility must show a negative virus test from the last 48 hours, Shenzhen Airport Group said in a statement on its official WeChat social media account.

In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni announced new restrictions, including the suspension of inland travel and an extended overnight curfew, as “the hospitals are full”.

“The rapid surge in the intensity of the pandemic appears unprecedented, but still manageable” with curbs similar to those employed at the beginning of the outbreak, Museveni added.

Mandatory Jabs

In Russia, Moscow mayor Sobyanin extended closures announced last weekend of food halls in public spaces like malls, as well as overnight shuttering of bars and restaurants.

The city has also ordered mandatory vaccination for residents working in the service industry, saying some 60 per cent would have to be fully inoculated by August 15.

Saint Petersburg has announced it will try to vaccinate 65 per cent of its civil servants by August 15.

Although free jabs have been available to Russians since December, just 19.5 million out of a population of some 146 million have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the Gogov website which tallies Covid figures from the regions and the media.

In Moscow, only 1.5 million of the capital’s roughly 12 million people have been fully vaccinated.

A recent independent survey found that 60 per cent of Russians do not intend to be vaccinated.

Russia is among the countries hit hardest by the pandemic, with the sixth-highest number of cases in the world, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

It overtook Britain on Thursday as the European country having suffered the most Covid deaths, reaching 128,911 by Saturday. Kremlin critics argue the real figure is far higher due to undercounting by authorities.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Latest News Today – Coronavirus 3rd Wave: Third Wave “Inevitable, Could Hit


Covid-19 Third Wave: India has logged 2.97 crore cases of coronavirus so far.

New Delhi:

A third Covid wave in India is “inevitable”, and it could hit the country in the next six to eight weeks, AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria told NDTV this morning amid unlocking in parts of the country after weeks of strict restrictions. The country’s main challenge is vaccinating a huge population and the increase in dose gaps for Covishield “may not be a bad” approach to provide protection to cover more people, he explained.

A new frontier will have to be developed in India’s fight against Covid to further study the mutation of the virus, Dr Guleria stressed as he talked about the new Delta-Plus variant, which has evolved from the Delta variant of COVID-19, triggering fresh concerns about monoclonal antibody treatment.

“As we have started unlocking, there is again a lack of Covid-appropriate behaviour. We don’t seem to have learnt from what happened between the first and the second wave. Again crowds are building up… people are gathering. It will take some time for the number of cases to start rising at the national level. Third wave is inevitable and it could hit the country within the next six to eight weeks… may be a little longer,” Dr Guleria said. “It all depends on how we go ahead in terms of Covid-appropriate behaviour and preventing crowds,” he added.

Nearly 5 per cent of the country’s population has so far been vaccinated with two doses. The government aims to vaccinate 108 crore of over 130 crore people in the country by the end of this year.

“That (vaccination) is the main challenge. A new wave can usually take up to three months but it can also take much lesser time, depending on various factors. Apart from Covid-appropriate behaviour, we need to ensure strict surveillance. Last time, we saw a new variant – which came from outside and developed here – led to the huge surge in the number of cases. We know the virus will continue to mutate. Aggressive surveillance in hotspots is required,” the AIIMS chief said.

“Mini-lockdown in any part of the country, which witnesses a surge and a rise in positivity rate beyond 5 per cent, will be required. Unless we’re vaccinated, we’re vulnerable in the coming months,” he underlined, stressing that “testing, tracking, and treating” should be the focus in hotspots.

“We have to factor in human behaviour while unlocking, which needs to be done in a graded manner,” Dr Guleria stressed.

On the spread of the Delta variant in the United Kingdom, which is now facing a third wave, he said, “Virus is still mutating, we need to be careful”.

The highly transmissible variant first identified in India is now making up 99 per cent of fresh COVID-19 cases in the UK, news agency PTI reported.

The gap between the new waves is shortening and it’s “worrying”, Dr Guleria said.

“During the first wave (in India), the virus was not spreading that rapidly… all that changed during the second wave, and the virus became much more infectious. Now the Delta variant that’s spreading is much more infectious. Faster spread is likely,” said the AIIMS chief.

A debilitating second wave had led to the shortage of hospital beds and medical supplies in various parts of India. SOS messages on social media had caught the world’s attention with many nations coming forward to help. Several states have now eased the restrictions after weeks of strict curbs; however, preparations are on against the third wave.

In Maharashtra, experts have now warned that at its peak, the third wave of the virus could cause 8 lakh active cases in the state, which currently has around 1.4 lakh patients.

“When there is a huge increase in the number of cases, shortage of (hospital) beds follows. The strategy should be multi-pronged – we have to make sure fresh cases don’t rise. Any healthcare system globally will tend to collapse with the unprecedented rise in the infections,” Dr Guleria stressed today.

Does India need to rethink its 12-16 week gap decision between two doses of Covishied, a vaccine the country is largely dependent on? “Nothing is written in stone. We will have to look at new strategies. But we need to have strong data to take that decision,” the AIIMS chief said.

The decision should be driven by science and not the shortage of doses, he suggested.

The United Kingdom adopted the one-shot strategy not only for Astrazenaca (which is being used as Covishield in India) but also Pfizer, Dr Guleria pointed out.

“One-shot strategy may not be a bad strategy as it can give protection to larger number of people,” Dr Guleria said.

On the Delta-plus variant, the AIIMS chief explained: “We need an aggressive genome sequencing to see how the virus is behaving. Does the vaccine efficacy come down, does the monoclonal antibody treatment work? To do all of that, we need to have a large or very good network of labs to study the data. I think that’s where to move in the next few weeks. And that’s the new frontier we need to develop if we want to succeed in our fight against Covid.”

India recorded  60,753 fresh infections this morning, taking the overall case count to 2.98 crore.
 



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Latest News Today – Covid Second Wave Has Hit Domestic Demand, Says RBI


RBI has noted that second wave of pandemic has hit domestic demand the most

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has observed that the Indian economy continues to wrestle with the second wave of Coronavirus pandemic even though cautious optimism is returning. It has assessed that the second wave has basically hit domestic demand hard.

In its monthly bulletin for June 2021, the central bank has focussed on the overall state of the economy, India’s sovereign yield curve and the fiscal framework of the country, in the form of three articles.

Commenting on the state of the economy, the central bank has said that while the second wave has hit domestic demand, on the brighter side, several aspects of aggregate supply conditions – agriculture and contactless services are holding up, while industrial production and exports have surged compared to last year amidst pandemic protocols.

“Going forward, the speed and scale of vaccination will shape the path of recovery. The economy has the resilience and the fundamentals to bounce back from the pandemic and unshackle itself from pre-existing cyclical and structural hindrances,” it said.

In the macroeconomic view of India’s sovereign yield curve, RBI found that the level of the yield curve has undergone a downward shift from the second quarter of 2019, reflecting the ultra-accommodative stance of monetary policy.

On the fiscal framework and quality of expenditure in India, the RBI noted in its study that the Coronavirus pandemic necessitated an overwhelming fiscal response from governments across the world.

“As India unwinds the fiscal stimulus and embarks on the path of fiscal adjustment, it is necessary to emphasise on ‘how’ over ‘how much’. This article proposes a few quantifiable indicators, i.e. ratios of revenue expenditure to capital outlay and revenue deficit to gross fiscal deficit along with threshold levels for them, that can be suitably blended into the fiscal fabric for a sustainable growth trajectory,” the RBI bulletin has noted.



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