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Delhi’s ‘power’ play: Pay nothing for Rs 800 bill

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The Delhi government will extend its 100% power subsidy scheme to those domestic consumers who manage to keep their power bills to at most Rs 800, senior government officials working on the plan said on Monday.

The government will also offer a flat Rs 800 discount to those who consume a maximum of 400 units of power, the officials added.

Soon after the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC), a quasi-judicial independent body, announced new tariffs effective from August 1, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had offered a power subsidy scheme for domestic consumers who consume a maximum of 200 units of power every month, with the additional caveat of a maximum 5kW sanctioned load. Kejriwal further said that households consuming anything between 201 and 400 units per month will have to pay their electricity bill but approximately 50% of the full bill amount will be subsidised by the government.

The new plan prepared by the power department, however, expands this.

Officials, while providing details of the revised scheme, said monthly electricity bills will be effectively nil for even those households which consume up to 208 units as their bill would come to about Rs 800 – the maximum a consumer can avail of the subsidy.

The newly introduced cap has rather turned in favour of mostly those consumers who have a consumption pattern ranging from 201-208 units a month with a sanctioned load between 1-2 kW. Electricity for such consumers too will be free of cost.

“It is a misconception that only those consuming up to 200 units will get a full waiver on their electricity bills. Under the new scheme, even those households who have a consumption of say, 204 units with a low sanctioned load, will have to pay nothing. For the rest who consume up to 400 units, those households will get a subsidy of flat Rs 800 on their bills,” said a senior official in the power department on condition of anonymity.

Besides, the scheme will also benefit consumers whose properties are not occupied. Also, the subsidy has no cap on the sanctioned load of a household, as against the cap of 5kW that was announced earlier.

“There are many farmhouses and bungalows that have relatively higher sanctioned load but have no energy consumption as the owners stay out. Or for that matter, any family that has gone for a holiday and has not consumed any electricity for a month, will have to pay either nothing or a negligible amount. This is because the government, for the first time, will be paying for the fixed charges and surcharges in electricity bills up to certain units,” another official said.

Calculations done by the power department show if a household has a sanctioned load of 5kW or 7kW will also have to pay nothing if there is no energy consumption. Those consuming say 208 units with 1 kW will pay Rs 0 even as their actual bill would amount to Rs 798.71.

In 2018-19, there were around 2.6 million consumers using up to 200 units electricity, while those consuming more than 200 and up to 400 units numbered around 1.4 lakh. Delhi has about 4.9 million domestic electricity consumers as of now.

The total expenditure to be incurred for the revised subsidy is still unknown even as officials are estimating that the cost may increase by at least Rs 300 crore. This is the second time that the Delhi government has tweaked it power subsidy scheme which was first launched as a flat 50% subsidy for those consuming up to 400 units in the year 2015.

Last year, in March, the government had changed the scheme after the DERC had increased fixed charges across all slabs. As per the previous subsidy scheme, which was applicable between March, 2018 and July 31 this year, those who consumed between 0-200 units were charged Rs 1 per unit instead of Rs 3, and those using 201-400 units were paying Rs 2.5 instead of 4.5.

In 2015-16, the first year of the scheme, the government had allocated Rs 1,690 crore for the water and power subsidy scheme collectively. Out of this, the power subsidy bill was around Rs 1,200 crore.

The following year saw the power subsidy outlay rise to Rs 1,577 crore; which further rose to Rs 1,676 crore in 2017-18. In 2018-19, Rs 1,699 crore was set aside for the scheme and in the budget for 2019-20, an allocation of Rs 1,720 was made which was slated to be revised to Rs 1,850 crore until the new scheme was announced.

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‘No need for third-party intervention’: China rejects Trump’s offer to ‘mediate’ on border row with India

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China has finally reacted to US President Donald Trump’s offer to “mediate or arbitrate” on the Indo-Sino border dispute, saying that there was “no need for a third-party intervention” between Beijing and New Delhi.

Rejecting Trump’s mediation offer, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, “China and India are capable of properly resolving the issues through dialogue and consultation.”

Reacting for the first time to the US President’s offer, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said said the two countries did not want the “intervention” from a third party to resolve the military standoff.

“Between China and India we have existing border-related mechanisms and communication channels,” Zhao told reporters and added “We are capable of properly resolving the issues between us through dialogue and consultation. We do not need the intervention of the third party.”

Amid heightened tensions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, US President Donald Trump on Wednesday made a surprise offer to mediate between India and China over what he calls “their now raging border dispute”.

“We have informed both India and China that the United States is ready, willing and able to mediate or arbitrate their now raging border dispute. Thank you!,” President Trump tweeted.

However, in a carefully crafted reaction to Trump’s offer to arbitrate, India on Thursday said it was engaged with China to peacefully resolve the border row.

“We are engaged with the Chinese side to peacefully resolve it,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, replying to a volley of questions at an online media briefing.

“The two sides have established mechanisms both at military and diplomatic levels to resolve situations which may arise in border areas peacefully through dialogue and continue to remain engaged through these channels,” he said.

Although, the Chinese Foreign Ministry did not react then, an op-ed in the state-run Global Times said both countries did not need such help from the US president.

“The latest dispute can be solved bilaterally by China and India. The two countries should keep alert on the US, which exploits every chance to create waves that jeopardise regional peace and order,” it said.

Trump’s unexpected offer came on a day when China took an apparently conciliatory tone by saying that the situation at the border with India is “overall stable and controllable.”

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday that both China and India have proper mechanisms and communication channels to resolve the issues through dialogue and consultations.

Meanwhile, China’s official response on the matter today comes as US President Donald Trump on Thursday, while reiterating his offer to “mediate”, said that he spoke with Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Indo-Sino border dispute.

In a startling claim, Donald Trump on Thursday said he had spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is “not in a good mood” over the border row between India and China.

“They like me in India. I think they like me in India more than the media likes me in this country. And, I like Modi. I like your prime minister a lot. He is a great gentleman,” Trump said speaking to reporters at the Oval Office of the White House.

“They have a big conflict …India and China. Two countries with 1.4 billion people (each). Two countries with very powerful militaries. India is not happy and probably China is not happy,” the president said when asked if he was worried about the border situation between India and China.

“I can tell you; I did speak to Prime Minister Modi. He is not in a good mood about what is going on with China,” Trump claimed.

However, Indian government officials have contradicted the claim saying that the last conversation between the two leaders was on April 4 on the matter related to Hydroxychloroquine.

“There has been no recent contact between PM Modi and US President Trump. The last conversation between them was on 4 April, 2020, on the subject of Hydroxychloroquine,” said government sources, according to media reports.

“Yesterday, the Ministry of External Affairs had also made it clear that we’re directly in touch with China through established mechanisms and diplomatic contacts,” they said.

Several areas along the LAC in Ladakh and North Sikkim have witnessed major military build-up by both the Indian and Chinese armies recently, in a clear signal of escalating tension and hardening of respective positions by the two sides even two weeks after they were engaged in two separate face-offs.

The nearly 3,500-km-long LAC is the de-facto border between the two countries.

Indian and Chinese troops have remained engaged in an eyeball-to-eyeball situation in several areas along the LAC in eastern Ladakh, signalling that the standoff could become the biggest military face-off after the Doklam crisis in 2017.

Earlier, the United States had accused China of engaging in provocative and coercive military and paramilitary activities with neighbouring countries including India.

The offer for mediation has come as a surprise as the US-China military frictions are also on the rise with the US navy stepping its patrols in the disputed South China Sea as well as the Taiwan Straits. Washington and Beijing are also engaged in a war of words over the origin of the Coronavirus pandemic.

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Coronavirus cases cross 1.58 lakh in India; US passes 1 lakh deaths

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With over 6,566 fresh cases reported in the last  24 hours, the COVID-19 tally in India reached 1,58,333 on Thursday with as many as 4,531 fatalities, according to ministry of health.

Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Delhi remain the worst-affected states, with Maharashtra alone reporting 56,948 COVID-19 infections and 1,897 deaths. Tamil Nadu has reported 18,545 cases with 182 deaths. Gujarat has 15,195 cases with death toll at 938.

Jammu and Kashmir witnessed the biggest single-day spike in COVID-19 cases on Wednesday with 162 people testing positive for the disease, raising the tally to 1,921. Of these, 1,535 are in Kashmir and 386 in Jammu region. The number of active cases has now gone up to 1,041, 288 in Jammu and 753 in Kashmir.

The rise in cases comes amid easing of lockdown relaxations and the restarting of one-third of all domestic flights.

Meanwhile, globally the number of infections has reached  5,693,066 with 355,629 number of deaths according to Johns Hopkins data.

The United States remains the worst affected country with 1,699,176 cases of infections and death toll at 100,442. This comes as many states relax preventative measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

According to The Guardian, the pandemic has killed more Americans than the Vietnam and Korean wars combined, and the death toll is approaching that of the first world war, when more than 116,000 Americans died in combat.

US is followed by Brazil, Russia, and United Kingdom with maximum number of cases of COVID-19.

South Korea, which had successfully reduced its coronavirus cases has reported 79 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, the highest one-day increase in 53 days, the BBC reports.

This week, infections continued to creep up in and around the country’s capital Seoul. Jeong Eun-kyeong, the director of Korea Centers for Disease control and Prevention, has now said social distancing measures eased in April may need to be reimposed.

The development comes after World Health Organisation had warned countries which were easing the lockdown to stay cautious of a second wave of infections.

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IMD issues ‘red alert’ for North India as heatwave intensifies, warns people to stay indoors between 1-5pm

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As the temperature in the Northern India is soaring high with each passing day the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has warned that heatwave is likely to persist for the next few days in most parts of the northern India, Maharashtra and Telangana. While, the day temperature in the state capital is likely to touch 46 degrees Celsius by Tuesday.

The IMD has also issued a ‘red alert’ for a severe heatwave, for parts of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Rajasthan for the next two days.  While sweltering heat engulfing the capital city on Sunday with maximum temperature hovering close to 45 degrees Celsius in most parts of the city.

Meanwhile, the IMD also issued “orange” warning for eastern Uttar Pradesh.

“Heatwave will prevail in many places and severe heatwave in isolated places. Mainly clear sky with strong surface winds (20-20 kilometres per hour),” the IMD forecast said.

The maximum temperature was recorded at 44.4 degrees Celsius, which was five notches above the normal, on Sunday and the minimum temperature was recorded at 28.7 degrees Celsius, two notches above the normal.

The temperature is likely to remain around 46-48 degrees Celsius in all the northern states affected by heatwaves except for Uttar Pradesh.

Kuldeep Srivastava, the head of the regional forecasting centre of the IMD, said some respite from the stifling heat is expected in the national capital on May 28 due to a fresh Western Disturbance and easterly winds at lower levels.

“Dust storm and thunderstorm with winds gusting up to 60 kilometres per hour is likely over Delhi-NCR on May 29-30,” he said.

Srivastava added that this this is the first “Red” warning for heatwave which is issued by the IMD according to the intensity ascending from  green to  yellow to orange with the highest level of red.

“The warning has been issued to caution people not to step out between 1 pm and 5 pm, when heat is most intense,” said Srivastava.

The ‘Red alert’ comes at a time when lakhs of migrant labourers are on roads, walking back to their home states amid the Coronavirus lockdown, making it all the more difficult for them to reach their destinations when even the ‘Shramik Special’ trains and buses with inadequate numbers and mismanagement haven’t been able to take them  back safely.

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