budget: Budget sops that can send realty, aviation, tourism stocks soaring


NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has over the past couple of months announced a slew of measures to revive demand for the Covid-hit sectors. While the focus of the forthcoming Budget is seen shifting from ‘growth’ to ‘repair’ and from ‘survival’ to ‘revival’, a host of Covid-hit sectors such as travel & tourism and real estate, among others, are eyeing budgetary sops.

For the hotel sector, the biggest wish has been to get an infrastructure status, as loans available to the asset-heavy sector attract as high as 15-20 per cent interest rate. The industry has sought that capital expenditure above Rs 25 crore be granted infrastructure status. At present, the status is granted only to hotels incurring capex of Rs 200 crore and above.



“If the hotel industry is granted infrastructure status, it can avail loans at lower interest rates for greenfield projects and will help them get water and electricity at industrial rates. It would be positive for Indian Hotels Company, Chalet Hotels, Lemon Tree Hotels, Jubilant FoodWorks and Speciality Restaurants,” Sharekhan said.

YES Securities said there are expectations that the government may allow business losses to be carried forward for up to 12 years, instead of eight years now, and there could be easing of tax for hotels from 34.94 per cent at present, to help increase cash flows. Hopes are also high of credit-guaranteed loans to the sector.

The tourism industry, as a whole, is asking for deferral of all statutory dues at the state government level such as excise fees, levies, taxes, power and water charges, and also deferral of renewal periods for all permits, licences, bank guarantees and security deposits across the tourism, travel, hospitality and aviation industry by 12 months.

Such a step would be positive for aviation companies SpiceJet and InterGlobe Aviation as well as hotels.

The tourism industry is also seeking to be brought under the ‘concurrent list’ by amending Schedule VII of the Constitution. “It would be ideal for each state to remove certain regulatory and licensing requirements that are currently in place to ease costs and the process of doing business,” said Sharekhan. “Thus, a more defined approach will be adhered to for the tourism sector, which would be driven by the unique needs of each state,” it said.

In the case of real estate, a Rs 2 lakh rebate is available on housing loan interest rates under Section 24 of the IT Act. There are expectations that this could be increased to at least Rs 5 lakh. If that happens, real estate stocks such as DLF, Godrej Properties, Prestige Estates, Brigade Enterprise, Ashiana Housing would be in focus.

It would also be positive for building material players such as Kajaria Ceramics, Century Plyboards, Astral Poly Technik and Supreme Industries, brokerages said.

The real estate sector is also seeking a GST waiver for a limited period. So far, the rate on under-construction properties is 5 per cent (minus the input tax credit benefit) for premium homes worth over Rs 45 lakh. The rate is 1 per cent for affordable homes (less than Rs 45 lakh).

The sector is also seeking a higher deduction under Section 80C up to Rs 1.5 lakh against principal repayment of housing loan, which is currently clubbed with other tax savings

“When it comes to investment in REITs, which have become a favoured route to raise funds for developers with renting-bearing commercial properties, an investment of up to Rs 50,000 should be allowed as a deduction under Section 80C. Also the holding period for REITs to qualify for long-term capital gain should be reduced from 36 months to 12 months, a step which will spur retail investment in value-creating instruments like REITs,” said Krish Raveshia, CEO at Azlo Realty.

Edelweiss said the government may look to support the bounce in the real estate sector by providing an extension to the PMAY-CLSS scheme, which is expiring at end of March 2021, which would also be in line with the government’s vision to provide Housing for All by 2022.

Meanwhile, public health has become very critical of late and further investments in public health infrastructure would be keenly awaited.

The vaccination rollout will be a very large project involving significant government expenditure. The outlay for this mega project and possible funding structure could become critical aspects of the budget, analysts said.



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PMK governing council meet postponed


The PMK has postponed its much-expected governing council meeting, planned to be held on January 25, to January 31. While the leadership was not reachable, party sources said it may have wanted to wait and see the developments in the AIADMK after the likely return of influential former leader V.K. Sasikala to the city on January 27.

The party leadership is expected to make a decision about the future of its alliance with the AIADMK, as the ruling party is yet to respond to PMK’s demand that Vanniyars be provided internal reservation in education and jobs, within the MBC quota.

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Farmers’ protest: Cavalcades of tractors from Punjab, Haryana set out for Republic Day parade


CHANDIGARH: Several batches of farmers from Punjab and Haryana set out on Saturday in their tractor-trolleys and other vehicles to take part in the proposed tractor parade on January 26 in Delhi. Carrying some ration, mattresses and other essentials, cavalcades of tractors left for Delhi to press the Centre to accept their demands.

Tractors carried the flags of the unions, some sported the tricolour, and also posters with slogans of ‘Kisan Ekta Zindabad’, ‘No Farmer, No Food’ and ‘Kaale Kanoon Radd Karo’.

Farmer unions protesting the Centre’s three farm laws had said they would go ahead with their tractor parade in Delhi on Republic Day.

They had announced to take out the tractor parade on the Outer Ring Road in Delhi.

Farmer leaders said that the tractor parade would be peaceful.

“Over 30,000 tractors and trolleys today moved from Khanauri (in Sangrur, Punjab) and Dabwali (in Sirsa district, Haryana) to join the tractor parade in Delhi,” said Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan on Saturday.

They are expected to reach the Tikri border on Saturday night.

Some farmers even mounted tractors on trailers and a few even towed their tractors in order to save diesel, said the farmer leaders.

“Some loaded their tractors in trailers and some even towed their vehicles in order to save fuel,” said Kokrikalan.

Similarly, a cavalcade of around 1,000 tractors left from Phagwara area and 150 tractors from Hoshiarpur in Punjab to become part of the parade, said the farmer leaders.

A farmer leader in Barnala said they were getting a very good response to the call for joining the tractor parade.

“Youth and elders are going in their tractors towards Delhi in a peaceful manner,” he said.

A batch of tractors and other vehicles from Fatehabad in Haryana also left for Delhi to join the parade, they said.

Many farmers from Karnal and other districts would leave for the national capital on Sunday.

Independent MLA from Dadri in Haryana, Sombir Sangwan, who recently withdrew his support to the Khattar government over farmers’ issue, told reporters on Saturday that the Centre will have to agree to farmers’ demands.

Sangwan, who had gone to meet protesting farmers at the Haryana-Rajasthan border near Rewari, also told reporters that farmers should be freely allowed to take part in tractor parade on January 26.

Kirpal Singh Moosapur, Vice-President, Bharati Kisan Union (Doaba) in Phagwara, Punjab, said, “More farmers with tractors will leave tomorrow as well. We expect over 5,000 tractors from Doaba region (in Punjab) alone to reach Delhi for the parade.”

Moosapur slammed the Centre for not accepting farmers’ demands.

“Farmers have been agitating at Delhi borders for the last several weeks but the Modi government has turned a deaf ear to their demands,” he said.

Before heading for Delhi, many farmers got their tractors inspected from mechanics for any fault so they can have a hassle-free journey, said the farmer leaders.

At many places in Punjab and Haryana, tractor marches were taken out on Saturday to mobilise more people for the tractor parade.

Meanwhile, some women in Bathinda said they have asked their male members who are at the Delhi borders not to worry about homes.

“We are taking care of the farm and other works. We have told our male members to stay put until the demands are met,” said an elderly woman in Bathinda.

Thousands of farmers from Punjab and Haryana have been camping at Delhi’s borders for several weeks, demanding the repeal of the farm laws and a legal guarantee on the minimum support price for crops.

They claim that the new laws will weaken the minimum support price (MSP) system. But the Centre says the MSP system will remain and the new laws only provide more options for farmers to sell their produce.



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Serum Institute of India: Blaze at facility of world’s biggest vaccine maker kills 5 people


The blaze at the Serum Institute of India (SII) in the western city of Pune was brought under control on Thursday though the cause is still under investigation, according to Murlidhar Mohol, the city’s mayor.

Four people were rescued from the six-floor building but five others died, Mohol said. They are believed to have been construction workers as the building was still under construction at the time of the fire.

Videos and images showed black smoke billowing out of the building at the company’s complex. Fifteen units of the municipal corporation and fire department worked to douse the fire, Mohol said.

Preliminary investigations suggest that “during the building’s construction, some welding work could have led to the fire,” he added.

Pune’s fire brigade chief Prashant Ranpise said Friday that the fire started on the second floor. As firefighters worked to put out the flames, the blaze reigned in another spot. The second fire was extinguished at 4:15 p.m. local time by 50 firefighters and personnel. Ranpise said they are still investigating the cause of the fire.

“We have learnt that there has unfortunately been some loss of life at the incident. We are deeply saddened and offer our deepest condolences to the family members of the departed,” SII CEO Adar Poonawalla tweeted Thursday.

SII, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, is in partnership with Oxford University and AstraZeneca to produce the Covishield vaccine. In December, the company said it was producing 50 to 60 million doses of Covishield per month, with production to be scaled up to 100 million doses in January or February.

A family business started by Poonawalla’s father 50 years ago to bring cheaper vaccines to the masses, the Serum Institute of India is aiming to produce hundreds of millions of coronavirus vaccines for not only India, but also other developing countries.

In a tweet, Poonawalla said that despite a “few floors being destroyed,” production of the Covishield vaccine would not be affected.

“I would like to reassure all governments and the public that there would be no loss of COVISHIELD production due to multiple production buildings that I had kept in reserve to deal with such contingencies,” he said.

Cyrus S. Poonawalla, SII’s chairman and managing director, said in a statement that the fire broke out at a facility that was under constriction in the Special Economic Zone at Manjri. He said it was an “extremely sorrowful day” and the company would offer INR 2.5 million ($34,000) to each of the victims’ families.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences Thursday: “Anguished by the loss of lives due to an unfortunate fire … In this sad hour, my thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives. I pray that those injured recover at the earliest.”



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Aviation sector workers be vaccinated on priority after health workers: MoCA to MoHFW


New Delhi: Frontline workers in the aviation sector should be considered for COVID-19 vaccination on priority basis after health workers have been given the jabs, the civil aviation ministry has told the Union health ministry.

As per the guidelines issued by the health ministry on December 28 last year, initially around 30 crore Indians will be vaccinated, including around three crore healthcare and frontline workers, and approximately 27 crore people of over the age of 50 years.

 

The frontline workers mentioned in the December 28 guidelines does not include aviation sector employees but personnel from the armed forces, prison staff, municipal workers, among others.

In a letter dated January 20, Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), Pradeep Singh Kharola told his counterpart in the health ministry Rajesh Bhushan: “You will agree with me that the crew, engineers, technicians, ground staff, frontline workers in aviation have certain risk elements while performing their duties in a most diligent manner and make air transportation a safe mode of transport.”

 

Recently, airlines and airports had approached MoCA and highlighted the need to vaccinate their staff on priority basis, albeit once the medical personnel are covered, Kharola mentioned in the letter, which has been accessed by PTI.

“Considering that the frontline workers of airlines and airports are also involved in movement of vaccines, this MoCA recognizes the merit in the proposal and requests the MoHFW (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare) to include frontline workers of airlines and airports along with frontline workers mentioned in the operational guidelines released on December 28, 2020,” he added.

 

If the request is considered favourably, MoCA would coordinate for enumeration of these personnel to be covered under the vaccination programme, Kharola noted.

He said airlines and airports have been in forefront in extending their services to passengers and movement of cargo within the country and across the borders.

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A man, woman being in a room does not indicate sexual relationship, says Madras HC


The mere presence of a man and a woman inside one roof for some time need not necessarily lead to a conclusion that they were in an illicit sexual relationship, the Madras High Court said and quashed an order dismissing from service a male constable who was found with a woman constable inside his residential quarters.

Justice R. Suresh Kumar said the presence of two individuals of opposite sex inside a locked house need not necessarily lead to a presumption that they were in an immoral relationship. “This kind of presumption prevailing in the society cannot be the basis for initiating disciplinary action and inflicting punishment,” he added.

The judge pointed out that the writ petitioner K. Saravana Babu had joined the Armed Reserve Police as a constable in 1997. On October 10, 1998, a woman constable had entered his residential quarters and the door was locked on the inside. Later, when others knocked the door, the woman was found standing near the kitchen.

When disciplinary proceedings were initiated against the petitioner for the charge of moral turpitude, he explained that the woman constable had come home at about 7:30 a.m. asking for the keys of her house located close by and that while they were talking, someone else locked the door from the outside and then pretended to knock on the door.

After referring to the defence taken by the petitioner, the judge pointed out that some of the witnesses had said the door was locked from outside too. He also agreed with senior counsel R. Singaravelan that there was absolutely no eyewitness or any other concrete evidence to prove that the two constables were found in a compromising position.

“Therefore, based on such suspicion and conjectures, one cannot come to a conclusion that some unlawful or immoral activities had taken place and by virtue of that the employee/delinquent is liable to be punished with a maximum punishment of dismissal of service,” the judge said and quashed the dismissal order passed by a Deputy Inspector General of Police in 1999.

After the dismissal, the petitioner had approached the Tamil Nadu Administrative Tribunal and obtained a stay order. By virtue of the stay order, he joined service but was denied promotions. After the abolition of the tribunal, his case was transferred to the High Court in 2007 and got converted into a writ petition.

Taking up the writ petition for final disposal now, the judge ordered that the petitioner would be entitled to all service benefits under the relevant rules.

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PM Modi in Kolkata: ‘Netaji dreamt of strong India… from LAC to LOC, we are following his footsteps’


Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said India was following the footsteps of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, who had dreamt of a strong and powerful country. Addressing a crowd at an event marking Bose’s 125th birth anniversary at Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial, PM Modi said, “Netaji had dreamt of a strong India… from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to the Line of Control (LOC), we are following his footsteps.”

In his first visit to West Bengal in the run-up to the Assembly elections, PM Modi also said Netaji had once asked people not to lose hope of a “free India”, and similarly, no one could stop India from being Atmanirbhar.

“I wonder how Netaji would have felt had he seen the new India that is taking shape today. How would Netaji have felt seeing India manufacturing its own Covid-19 vaccines? He would have been immensely proud to see India helping other countries fight the pandemic,” PM Modi said.

He announced that Netaji’s birth anniversary (January 23) would henceforth be celebrated as ‘Parakram Divas’, and that the freedom fighter’s life, work and decisions were an inspiration for all. “130 crore Indians are indebted and will remain so to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose,” the Prime Minister said.

Minutes before PM Modi’s speech, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who was also present at the event, refused to speak after a section of the crowd chanted ‘Jai Shree Ram’ and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogans. “There should be some dignity at a government programme. I am grateful to the Prime Minister and Ministry of Culture for inviting me. But one should not insult someone after inviting that person. In protest, I am not saying anything,” Banerjee said.

Ahead of the PM’s visit to Kolkata, Banerjee took a dig at BJP saying her party does not celebrate Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s birthday only in the years when elections are scheduled, adding that the saffron party never celebrated Netaji’s birth anniversary before. She also alleged the Centre did not consult her government before declaring Netaji’s birthday as ‘Parakram Diwas’.

PM Modi had landed at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport around 3 pm Saturday, from where he took a helicopter to the city. His chopper landed at the RCTC Ground where he was received by Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and state minister Firhad Hakim. He paid tribute to Bose at Netaji Bhavan, and also attended an international seminar on Bose at the National Library, where he interacted with delegates and artists.

Addressing a public event at historic Jerenga Pothar (field) in Assam’s Sivasagar district earlier in the day, PM Modi attacked the previous governments in the state for depriving its lakhs of poor indigenous people of their land rights. At the event, the Prime Minister ceremonially distributed over 1 lakh land pattas (land allotment certificates) to families from indigenous communities across the state.

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New Hyundai Bayon Crossover Images Leaked Ahead Of Official Debut


The new Hyundai Bayon has been specifically designed for the European markets, where it is expected to replace the i20 Active. The new crossover SUV will be based on the new-gen i20 hatchback.

The new Hyundai Bayon is expected to be launched in Europe, sometime around mid-2021

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The new Hyundai Bayon is expected to be launched in Europe, sometime around mid-2021

Images of the upcoming Hyundai Bayon crossover SUV have leaked online ahead of its official debut. The new images appear to be from the car’s official brochure and reveal a rugged crossover model based on the new-generation Hyundai i20. The new Hyundai Bayon has been specifically designed for the European markets, where it is expected to replace the i20 Active. The name of the crossover itself is derived from the ‘city of Bayonne’ in the southwest of France. The new Hyundai Bayon is expected to be launched sometime around the mid of 2021.

Also Read: All-New Hyundai SUV Named Bayon; Launch By First Half Of 2021

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Hyundai has been teasing the upcoming Bayon crossover SUV for a while now

Through its teasers, Hyundai had confirmed that the Bayon will be a fully new model positioned in the B-segment. It will be the entry-level model in the Hyundai SUV line-up for Europe which already includes the Kona, Tucson, NEXO and Santa Fe. Visually, we get to see a new front end with a massive mesh grille, flanked by arrowhead-shaped LED headlamps and a rugged-looking bumper with a wide air intake and cladding. We also get to see the sleek intake around the bonnet line, flanked by the LED daytime running lamps which were revealed in the teaser images as well.

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The new Hyundai Bayon with come with a set of sporty alloy wheels and boomerang-shaped LED taillamps

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The cladding also extends onto the wheel arches and the side underbody and we also get to see a set of sporty alloy wheels. As for the rear section, the car comes with vertically positioned boomerang-shaped LED taillamps connected by a red reflector strip and a large black applique similar to the one seen on the i20. We also get to see some sharp, sculpted lines all around the car, and a beefy rear bumper with more black cladding. The new Bayon is seen in a dual-tone green and white share with a set of roof rails and shark-fin antenna. The interior is similar to the new i20, featuring the same 4-spoke multi-functional steering wheel and a touchscreen infotainment system.

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The cabin of the new Hyundai Bayon will remains identical to the new-gen i20’s cabin

Powertrain wise, the Europe-specific Hyundai Bayon is likely to be offered with the same powertrain options as the i20 premium hatchback. So, the engine options will include a 1.2-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine producing 84 bhp and a 1.0-litre, turbo-petrol unit with 118 bhp. Transmission choices will likely include a 5-speed manual, a 6-speed manual and 7-speed dual-clutch automatic unit.

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Ahead of Modi, Didi show, West Bengal minister quits


Kolkata: A day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brief Kolkata visit, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee received yet another blow as one more rebel Trinamul Congress minister, Rajib Banerjee, quit her government, fuelling speculation of his defection to the BJP.

Within hours of Rajib’s move, the TMC expelled his loyalist and the daughter of former ICC chief Jagmohan Dalmiya, Baishali Dalmiya, from the party, accusing her of “anti-party activities” after she supported him and slammed the party leadership. Rajib and Dalmiya are MLAs from Howrah district.

 

Rajib is a two-time legislator from Domjur with a clean image. He is the third TMC heavyweight minister to leave Mamata Banerjee’s Cabinet in less than two months.

He tendered his resignation after he visited the Trinamul Congress supremo’s residence in Kalighat. After that he met Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar at Raj Bhavan on Friday and submitted his resignation letter which stated: “I regret to inform you that I hereby tender my resignation from my office as Cabinet Minister being in charge of forest department today, ie. on 22nd of January, 2021. It has been a great honour and privilege to serve the people of West Bengal. I heartily convey my gratitude for getting this opportunity.”

 

Rajib has neither quit as an MLA nor deserted his party. After meeting the Governor, he said in tears, “I never imagined I would have to take such a tough decision. If I have hurt anyone, I apologise with folded hands. Please do not misunderstand me. I was hurt within for a long time. That is why I had to take this decision with a lot of pain and pent-up anger.”

Lashing out at the chief minister, Rajib added, “I had almost taken this decision two-and-a-half years ago when I was removed as the state irrigation minister. Though portfolio allocation is the CM’s prerogative, I had expected minimum courtesy from her as a Cabinet colleague. But I did not get that even. I got to know about my removal as irrigation minister from breaking news on TV when I was sitting with party workers at an office in North Bengal. I had wished to resign then but was stopped by the CM.”

 

Hit by his outburst, the CM, who was already furious at him for submitting his resignation letter to the governor also, recommended to Dhankhar to remove him from the Cabinet rather than accepting his resignation. Rajib was later excluded from the Cabinet by Dhankhar while the CM took over his portfolio.

The TMC mocked Rajib for his step. But Dalmiya, who is an MLA of Bally, stood by him like she did when Laxmi Ratan Shukla, another MLA in Howrah, resigned as a minister and quit the party recently.

She said, “Rajib’s resignation will affect the party and public… We are insulted in Howrah always. There are some who are silent killers and backstab us and common people. If leaves, like Rajib, start coming off a tree one after another, it is harmful for the tree.” Stung by her allegations, the TMC disciplinary committee expelled her at a meeting.

 

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Covaxin and Covishield: What we know about India's Covid vaccines



As India starts exporting Covid vaccines, here’s what we know about Covishield and Covaxin.

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