Category: New Delhi

Indian-origin leader makes history in Canada Parliament

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Indian-origin Jagmeet Singh created history in Canada when he made his debut in the House of Commons as the first non-white leader of a major opposition party in the country.

The arrival of the leader, wearing a turban, into the house on Monday, cheered by all members, coincided with the induction of a senior woman member into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet.

Singh, 40, the leader of the New Democratic Party, placed his hand over his heart as he walked into the House of Commons, the lower of house of Parliament, before the daily question period.

He was elected in federal by-elections held on February 25.

Singh, as an elected lawmaker, talked about last week’s terrorist attack on two mosques in New Zealand.

“I want to begin by expressing our solidarity with the people of New Zealand who are mourning the attack on Muslim brothers and sisters… in Christchurch,” he said.

About 50 people were killed last week in the Pacific country’s worst-ever mass shooting.

He then launched his first question about housing in Burnaby-South.

“I met a mom in Burnaby. She bought a home, but cannot afford to live there anymore. Her daughter has a good job, but only gets by because she lives in the basement. Her son does not see a future. Like too many Canadians, he has lost all hope,” Singh said.

“However, the prime minister is telling families like theirs to wait for help. I believe that better is possible. Will the government commit to building half a million new affordable homes?” he asked.

Prime Minister Trudeau responded by congratulating Singh for his entry into the Commons, before touting the government’s record on fighting poverty.

Singh’s remarks echoed the mood of the House on a crucial day when the prime minister was beleaguered by the resignations of his two key cabinet colleagues.

NDA will marginally fall short of majority

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The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will fall marginally short of a majority in the Lok Sabha but will comfortably form the government with post poll tie-ups.

In the eventuality of no Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance of opposition parties) in Uttar Pradesh, the Narendra Modi-led NDA will walk home with over 300 Lok Sabha seats.

According to the latest State of the Nation opinion poll conducted by CVoter for IANS, the battle in Uttar Pradesh will largely decide the complexion of the next Lok Sabha.

The poll was conducted in the month of March when the Modi government took the bold decision of carrying out aerial strike on Jaish-E-Mohammad (JeM) terror camp in Pakistan, leading to a new wave of nationalism across the country.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hoping to ride on this wave to drown the opposition and the opinion poll confirms that Prime Minister Modi is leading the race.

The poll has projected that the NDA will get 264 seats while the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is expected to reach a tally of 141 and all other parties are expected to get 138 seats.

If there is no Mahagathbandhan in Uttar Pradesh, the NDA will get 307 seats and the UPA will settle for 139 and all other parties are expected to get 97.

In terms of seats, the BJP is expected to get 220 seats on its own and the allies are likely to get 44.

If NDA gets into a post poll alliance with parties like YSR Congress, Mizo National Front (MNF), Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS), the NDA tally will go up to 301.

In the UPA camp, the Congress is expected to get 86 and other partners will add up another 55.

If the UPA goes for post-poll alliance with parties like All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), Left Democratic Front (LDF), MGB (Mahagathbandhan in UP), Trinamool Congress (TMC), its tally will go up to 226.

The BJP’s tally in Uttar Pradesh is likely to come down to 29 from 71 if it is pitched against a Mahagathbandhan. If there is no such grand alliance, then the BJP is expected to match its 2014 performance and get 72 seats.

The BJP is expected to make major chunk of seats from Bihar (36, up from 22 in 2014), Gujarat (24, two down from all 26 seats in the state bagged by the BJP), Karnataka (16, one down from 2014), Madhya Pradesh (24, two down from 26 won last time), Maharashtra (36, 13 more than 23 won in 2014), Odisha (12, against only 1 last time) and Rajasthan (20, four down from 2014).

The Congress will improve its 2014 tally of 44 by getting most of the seats from Assam (7, up from 3 in 2014), Chhattisgarh (5 against only 1 in last election), Kerala (14, one more than 2014), Karnataka (9, same as last time), Jharkhand (5, a seat less than last time), Madhya Pradesh (5, against 3 last time), Maharashtra (7, a marginal improvement from 4 in 2014), Punjab (12 against 3 last time), Rajasthan (5, up from nil in 2014), Tamil Nadu (4 against nil last time) and Uttar Pradesh (4, up from 2).

In terms of vote share, the NDA is likely to get 31.1 percent of votes against 30.9 for the UPA. The other parties are likely to get 28 percent.

 

Ex-Army chief says ‘not to misuse the armed forces’ for political gains

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Former Navy chief Admiral L Ramdas (retired) has asked immediate intervention of the Election Commission in stopping political parties from using the Pulwama attack, Balakot air strike and Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s operations to influence the electorate.

In an open letter to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, Admiral Ramdas expressed concerns on “recent instances” of parties using armed forces’ heroics for political gains.

“With elections due in a few weeks from now, it is particularly important that there should not be any misuse of these recent events by any political party to send triumphalist or jingoistic messages which can influence the electorate,” he said.

In his two-page letter, the former Navy chief said the armed forces have always prided themselves on belonging to a structure, an ethos and an environment which have been both apolitical and secular.

“And it is in this context that as a responsible citizen and a proud veteran of the Indian Armed Forces, I share our collective sense of dismay and deep concern at how some political parties are brazenly pushing their agenda using images, uniforms and other examples, showing pictures of the armed forces with political figures, in public spaces, in media, election rallies and so on,” he said.

The former Navy chief said it was completely unacceptable since it has the potential to destroy the very foundations and value system of the armed forces, drawn from the vision, the spirit and intent of the Constitution.

He said he could not circulate the open letter for more signatures “although many veterans are duly agitated by these attempts to compromise the integrity and secular nature of the Indian Armed Forces”.

“We, therefore, urge the Election Commission to immediately intervene and send a strong message to the political parties that there should be no misuse of the photographs as indeed any other material/reports or other information pertaining to the armed forces for electioneering in any way,” he said.

SBI links pricing of loans, deposits to repo rate

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In a first-of-its kind move that will ensure faster monetary transmission, the nation’s largest lender State Bank of India Friday announced linking of its savings deposits rates and short-term loans to the RBI’s repo rate.

The new rates, linked to the external benchmark rate, would be effective May 1, the bank said in a late evening statement.

The move would help speed up the monetary transmission process wherein lenders pass on RBI’s rate cuts as well as hikes to borrowers. The RBI has been unhappy with delays in transmission of rate cut benefits by the banks.

SBI said it would exempt savings bank account holders with balances up to Rs 1 lakh and borrowers with cash credit accounts and overdraft limits up to Rs 1 lakh from linkage to the repo rate.

This would insulate small deposit-holders and small borrowers from the movement of external benchmarks.

“To address the concern of rigidities in the balance sheet structure and address the issue of quick transmission of changes in the RBI policy rates, effective May 1, 2019, we’ve taken the lead in linking key pricing decision for savings bank deposits and short-term loans to the repo rate of the RBI,” SBI said.

Savings bank deposits above Rs 1 lakh constitutes around 33 percent of SBI’s total deposit books, SBI Managing Director PK Gupta said.

Currently, the bank is offering interest rate of 3.50 per cent for savings bank deposits up to Rs 1 crore and 4 per cent for deposits above Rs 1 crore, he added.

“This is a major policy decision we have taken. A 25 basis points reduction in the repo rate can result in a 7-8 basis points cut in our MCLR now,” Gupta told PTI.

The new regime would be applicable only for those with a balance of over Rs 1 lakh in their accounts.

Currently, repo rate is 6.25 per cent.

Also, the move will in fact see large depositors losing on the interest rate as at present a savings bank holder get paid 4 percent annum after the RBI under D Subbarao had deregulated the pricing of deposit rates.

SBI said it would link the savings bank deposits, with balance above Rs 1 lakh to the repo rate with current effective rate being 3.50 per cent per annum, which is 2.75 per cent below the present repo rate.

The bank has also linked all cash credit accounts and overdrafts with limits above Rs 1 lakh to the repo rate plus a spread of 2.25 percent.

The risk premia over and above this floor rate of 8.50 percent will be based on the risk profile of the borrower, as is the current practice, the bank said.

In a note, Anil Gupta, vice-president and head of financial sector ratings at Icra said “linking the savings deposit rates with policy rate will help faster repricing of liabilities for banks and help protect their profit margins”.

“We expect more banks, especially all the public sector ones, and a few large private banks to follow suit, which will also be in line with RBI requirements to link these rates to external benchmarks,” he added.

India Ratings director and head financial institutions Prakash Agarwal said “the move will help the bank reduce volatility in its margins”.

Despite the recent RBI rate cut, banks were struggling to reduce their lending and deposit rates as the deposit accretion continued to lag credit growth. Cutting deposits rate was not a feasible option amid slowing deposit growth.

It can be recalled that banks were always slow to pass on the entire benefit of RBI rate cuts to borrowers, thus delaying the monetary transmission process. This had governors from the time of D Subbarao chiding banks for the delay.

This disconnect had forced Subbarao to end the BPLR (Benchmark Prime Lending Rate) regime, which was very opaque and usher in the bank rate. But this too did not have the desired effect as the new pricing regime was opened only to new borrowers and the existing borrowers, who are the vast majority lost out.

Following this, his successor Raghuram Rajan made bankers change the model and ushered in the base rate regime, again without much success on the monetary transmission front.

Then the last governor Urjit Patel ended the base rate regime and launched the MCLR (Marginal Cost-Based Lending Rate) regime. Again banks were slow to move on the transmission front, forcing him to announce that from April 2019, all loan pricing will move onto an external benchmark.

However, present governor Shaktikanta Das has lifted the deadline given the poor balance sheets of banks.

Categories: Finance New Delhi News

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Infosys saw maximum rejections of H-1B extensions

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Indian IT companies were the worst affected in 2018 due to Trump administration’s revised rules for H-1B visa extension.

According to a report in the Economic Times, TCS, Infosys and Cognizant saw the maximum rejection of H-1B extension applications as revised rules favoured American technology firms.

According to the ET report, Bengaluru-based Infosys saw 2,042 rejections, followed by TCS at 1,744. US-headquartered Cognizant, which has a majority of its workforce in India, saw 3,548 rejections during 2018, highest for any company. These numbers were released by Centre for Immigration Studies, a US think tank, after an analysis of the H-1B data, the business daily said.

Six Indian companies — TCS, Infosys, Wipro, Cognizant, and the US arms of Tech Mahindra and HCL Technologies — accounted for nearly two-thirds of the rejections among the top 30 companies, the publication mentioned citing the think tank, which analysed data put out by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The above six firms got just 16%, or 2,145, H-1B work permits, less than the 2,399 visas that only Amazon bagged in 2018. Cognizant, TCS, Infosys and Wipro together saw 7,933 H-1B rejections while top 30 tech firms, including Indian IT companies, saw 13,177 rejections, the business daily mentioned.

It may be noted that H-1B visas, which are used mainly by technology companies to send their employees to work in US, are initially given for three years with the option of an extension for a similar term.

US-based tech firms, such as Microsoft, Amazon and Apple, increased their H-1B workforce during the year, while net reductions were imposed on the big Indian firms, such as Cognizant, Tata and Infosys, the Centre for Immigration Studies said in its study that was put out on March 6.

Now, FIR filed in Pakistan against IAF pilots. For bombing trees. No kidding

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Pakistan’s forestry department filed an FIR against Indian Air Force pilots who bombed a terrorist training camp in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province last week.

What does it say, you ask? Answer: That more than a dozen trees were damaged — 19, to be precise — when the Indian jets “hastily dropped their payload”, according to the Express Tribune newspaper.

Last Tuesday, India said it had conducted a pre-emptive operation against Jaish-e-Mohammed inside Pakistan, killing a large number of terrorists (although no specific figure was mentioned). The Air Force later confirmed that it had hit its target.

Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said the IAF does not count the dead, but only targets hit and missed.

But in India, fierce debate has focused on specific death toll numbers put out by top BJP leaders, as well as skeptical foreign media reports.

 

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