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RBI announces measures to help businesses, small firms amid raging coronavirus pandemic

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RBI governor Shaktikanta Das on Wednesday made an unscheduled announcement in the wake of the second bout of the COVID-19 outbreak, forcing states and local authorities to impose lockdown and restrictions to stop the spread of the virus. While the central government has refrained from imposing a nationwide lockdown, the economic costs of the second coronavirus outbreak are growing exponentially.

Keeping in view the economic difficulties wrought upon by the second wave of the COVID-19 crisis, RBI governor Shaktikanta Das announced a slew of measures aimed at alleviating the hardships endured by the people.

“RBI stand in battle readiness to ensure finance condition remain congenial and market function efficiently, we will work in close coordination with the government to ameliorate the impact,” Das said.

Rs 50,000 crores of liquidity facility announced by the RBI

The RBI governor announced that on-tap liquidity of Rs 50,000 crores at repo rate is being opened till March 31, 2022. Under this scheme, banks can support entities, including vaccine manufacturers, medical facilities, hospitals and also patients. The apex bank has also prioritised such lending till repayment or maturity.

Banks have been asked to create a COVID loan book under the said scheme. The governor said that banks can park liquidity equal to the COVID loan book at 40 basis points above the reverse repo rate. The RBI has announced a targeted long term repo operation for small finance banks of up to Rs 10,000 crore. The funds can be used for lending of up to Rs 10 lakh per borrower.

The Reserve Bank has also granted permission to the Small Finance Banks to on-lend to smaller microfinance institutions of asset size up to Rs 500 crore.

The RBI has also advanced the next G-SAP auction, adding that the second purchase of government securities for Rs 35,000 crore under G-SAP 1.0 will be conducted on May 20.

Assistance for the small firms and borrowers to tide over the adverse impact of the COVID-19 outbreak

With the pandemic taking a devastating toll on the country’s economy, the RBI has eased the burden on individuals and MSMEs by allowing one-time restructuring till September 30, 2021. This facility will be available for those having an aggregate exposure of Rs 25 crore. These borrowers should have been standard as of March 31, 2021, Das said, adding that under restructuring 1.0, the period of moratorium can be extended upto a total of 2 years.

The RBI governor also stated that banks have been permitted to use counter-cyclical provisions for making provisions for bad loans. Separately, the RBI has permitted limited KYC to be used till December 1, 2021.

In order to provide relief to state governments, the RBI has allowed them to remain in overdraft for a maximum of 50 days as compared to 36 days earlier. Furthermore, the number of consecutive overdraft days have been increased from 14 days to 21 days. This overdraft facility is related to funds that states may avail via the RBI’s ‘Ways and Means Advances’ facility.

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PM Modi had alerted CMs about Covid-19 second wave in 6 meetings

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A few weeks before the advent of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Modi government had alerted states about the imminence of a second wave in the country and had also issued advisories urging states to take immediate measures, reports Times of India.

Amidst the opposition parties’ allegations of laxity against the centre over the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has hit back at the opposition parties asserting that the state governments, especially the states ruled by the opposition parties, ignored the risk of a second surge of infections even after the centre had warned them about the second wave of the pandemic.

The BJP has now put out details about how the Modi government alerted states about the possibility of a second wave and advisories issued to states to take necessary measures to tackle the pandemic.

Rebutting the opposition’s allegation, the BJP has said that time and again, PM Narendra Modi, in his interactions with chief ministers, had raised the issue of rising infections in certain parts of the country. The Prime Minister had also asked them to take measures to handle the surge, the BJP said. The party had also circulated videos of PM Modi’s meetings with various Chief Ministers on March 17, where he had alerted them about a fresh spike in infections and had asked them to take urgent steps before it was too late.

“We are confident about our Covid management, but our confidence should not become overconfidence,” PM Modi had said in one of the meetings and had urged states to become more proactive in order to contain the spread of the virus. He had insisted on states creating a micro containment zone to limit the spread of the virus.

In fact, PM Modi held six interactions with chief ministers, starting from September 23 last year till April 23 this year, to monitor the situations in the country. During such meetings, PM Modi had constantly asked Chief Ministers to focus on 60 districts with a high burden of cases and increase testing substantially.

“Moreover, the PM’s interaction with CMs on March 17 took place when India had only 30,000 new cases per day,” BJP said.

Opposition party Chief Minister’s skipped meeting to attend election rallies

The BJP also said that opposition CMs like West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Chattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel skipped these interactions as they were busy with assembly polls. In fact, Bhupesh Baghel had left his own state to stay in Assam ahead of the state assembly elections as he was leading the Congress poll campaign in the state.

Reportedly, the Modi government had also dispatched teams to various parts as soon as states like Maharashtra and Kerala after both states started showing a steady increase in people testing positive. Till March, the opposition-ruled states Maharashtra and Kerala accounted for more than 75 percent of cases in the country.

Attacking the Congress party over its criticism against the vaccination policy of the center, BJP said that the opposition party’s functionaries like Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari, spokesperson Randeep Surjewala and health ministers of Congress-ruled states, such as TS Singh Deo and Bana Gupta, promoted vaccine hesitancy by raising questions about the efficacy of Indian-made vaccines.

“India is in the midst of a pandemic. Its scientists raced against time to produce a vaccine. They were reviewed at different levels before being given emergency use approval so that lives could be saved. But the opposition, Congress, in particular, mocked it. Result: people died,” BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya tweeted, sharing videos of Congress leaders’ raising doubts against Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.

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MP Plans Affordable Liquor Policy, 90ml Country Liquor Packs to Help the Poor, Stop Hooch Tragedies

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The Madhya Pradesh government’s excise policy for 2021-22 aims to package country liquor in 90 millilitre bottles so that it becomes affordable to the poor who may skip costlier 180ml bottles and opt for cheaper and possibly spurious liquor, officials said on Saturday. The move to have country liquor in smaller bottles comes after 38 people died drinking illicit liquor in Ujjain and Morena in October and January, they added.

The policy, cleared by the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in its cabinet meeting on Friday, however, has put on hold plans to sell liquor online, unlike neighbouring Chhattisgarh which recently became the 12th state where people can purchase alcohol in this mode. “As per the new policy, liquor companies must pack 10 per cent of their production in 90ml bottles. Country liquor used to come in 180 ml packs, which some of the poor consumers may not have been able to afford and there was the risk of them turning towards cheaper and possibly spurious liquor,” an official explained.

“The 90 ml bottle may be more affordable as it will come at half the price of a quarter,” he added. The new excise policy will come into effect from June 1 and will be in force for just 10 months, the months of April and May having been “dry ones” due to the corona curfew in place, officials pointed out.

Under the new policy, licence fee of outlets has been hiked by 10 per cent to tide over excise losses brought about by the coronavirus-induced restrictions, they added. “The closure of liquor outlets has affected business by some Rs 32 crore daily,” MP Excise Commissioner Rajeev Dubey told PTI.

Corona curfew is in force in MP since April 20.

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Kid Reporter, Who Asked Obama to be His ‘Homeboy’ in Interview at White House, Dies at 23

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The student reporter who gained national acclaim when he interviewed President Barack Obama at the White House in 2009 has died of natural causes, his family says. Damon Weaver was 23 when he died on May 1, his sister, Candace Hardy, told the Palm Beach Post. Further details were not released. He had been studying communications at Albany State University in Georgia.

Weaver was 11 when he interviewed Obama for 10 minutes in the Diplomatic Room on August 13, 2009, asking questions that focused primarily on education. He covered school lunches, bullying, conflict resolution and how to succeed.

Weaver then asked Obama to be his “homeboy,” saying then-Vice President Joe Biden had already accepted. “Absolutely,” a smiling Obama said, shaking the boy’s hand. He used that meeting to later interview Oprah Winfrey and athletes like Dwyane Wade.

This May 23, 2016 file photo shows Royal Palm Beach High School student Damon Weaver during his high school graduation in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP)

“He was just a nice person, genuine, very intelligent,” Hardy said. “Very outspoken, outgoing. He never said no to anybody.”

Weaver got his start in fifth grade when he volunteered for the school newscast at K.E. Cunningham/Canal Point Elementary in a farm community on the shores of Lake Okeechobee.

“Damon was the kid who ran after me in the hall to tell me he was interested,” his teacher, Brian Zimmerman, told the Post in 2016. “And right away, I just saw the potential for the way he was on camera. You could see his personality come through. He wasn’t nervous being on camera.”

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