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Key figures to be watched in Budget 2021-22

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will be presenting her third Budget in a short while from now. Here are the key numbers to watch out for in the Budget for 2021-22, which is widely expected to be an “economic vaccine” for the pandemic-battered economy.

Sitharaman, who had in her first budget in 2019 replaced leather briefcase which had been in use for decades for carrying budget documents — with a traditional red cloth ‘bahi-khata’, had last month stated that the budget for the fiscal year 2021-22 will be “like never before”.

COVID-19 spending: India has started the world’s largest COVID inoculation programme from January 16 and is using two vaccines Covishield and Covaxin. The expenditure on vaccination this fiscal as well as in the next would be the most watched figures in the Budget.

Fiscal Deficit  The budgeted fiscal deficit, which is the difference between government expenditure and income, was 3.5 per cent for current fiscal “ending March 31. However, the revised number would over-shoot this by a large margin due to the fiscal stimulus given to support the economy following COVID-19 outbreak. The number for 2021-22 fiscal would be in focus.

Borrowing  The borrowing has already been hiked to Rs 12 lakh crore, from earlier budgeted Rs 7.8 lakh crore, to make good both tax and disinvestment revenue shortfall. Next fiscal’s borrowing, especially on the back of expected higher capital expenditures to boost growth, would have to be keenly watched out.

Tax revenue With an estimated 7.7 per cent economic contraction this fiscal, the 12 per cent growth projected in tax revenues at Rs 24.23 lakh crore for 2020-21 for current fiscal is difficult to meet.

Disinvestment receipts The record Rs 2.10 lakh crore CPSE stake sale target would be missed by a wide margin this fiscal with just Rs 19,499 crore raised so far. However, the silver lining is that privatisation process of at least 7 CPSEs, including Bharat Petroleum (BPCL), Air India, BEML, Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) and Pawan Hans has already started.

Capital Expenditure The government’s planned capital expenditure for this fiscal was over Rs 4.12 lakh crore. With the Economic Survey calling for an “expansionary fiscal stance” to ensure a ‘V’-shaped recovery and clock 11 per cent growth in 2021-22 fiscal, the expenditure number would hog the limelight.

source: The Statesman

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Tika Utsav beginning of second major war against Corona: PM Modi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called the ‘Tika Utsav’, vaccination festival, the beginning of the second big war against Corona and has emphasized a special focus on social hygiene along with personal hygiene. The Utsav started today on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and will continue till the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar on April 14th.

In a message on the occasion, the Prime Minister stressed four points with regard to the drive. First, Each One- Vaccinate,meaning those who can’t go themselves for vaccination, such as illiterate and old people, should be assisted.

Second, Each One- Treat One. This involves helping people in getting Corona treatment, who do not have resources or knowledge to get it.

Third, Each One- Save One, meaning I should wear a mask and save myself and others. This should be stressed.

Finally, society and people should lead in creating ‘micro containment zones’. Family members and community members should create ‘micro containment zone’, in case of even a single positive case. ‘Micro containment zones’ are a key component of the fight against Corona in a densely populated country like India, said the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister emphasized the need for testing and awareness. He asked that every eligible person should get vaccinated. This should be the primary effort of both the society and the administration, he said.

The Prime Minister insisted that we have to move towards zero vaccine wastage. Optimum utilization of vaccination capacity is a way of increasing our capacity, said the Prime Minister

The Prime Minister said our success will be determined by awareness about ‘micro containment zones’, by not moving out of our homes unnecessarily, vaccination of all eligible persons and how we follow Covid appropriate behaviour like wearing masks and other protocols.

The Prime Minister asked to make targets at the personal, social and administration level for these four days of ‘Tika Utsav’ and diligently make effort to achieve them. He expressed the hope that with people’s participation, awareness and responsible behaviour we will succeed in containing Corona once again.

He ended by reminding – Dawai bhi, kadai bhi.

source: The Statesman

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US announces Freedom of Navigation Operation in Indian waters

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The US has announced that it conducted the Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in Indian waters in the Lakshadweep Islands, leaving the Indian security establishment in a surprise leading to an assessment to ascertain if an operational exercise was actually carried out or was it just an innocent passage.

The US Navy announced that it carried a Freedom of Navigation Operation inside India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) without prior consent.

Reacting to it, a senior government official stated that if it was an innocent passage it’s not an issue.

“We don’t object to normal transiting but if there has been an operational exercise without informing then it needs to be taken up,” the official said.

The US Navy statement said: “On April 7, 2021, the USS John Paul Jones asserted navigational rights and freedoms approximately 130 nautical miles west of the Lakshadweep Islands, inside India’s EEZ, without requesting India’s prior consent, consistent with international law.

“India requires prior consent for military exercises or manoeuvers in its exclusive economic zone or continental shelf, a claim inconsistent with international law.”

The statement further said the FONOP upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognised in international law by challenging India’s excessive maritime claims.

US forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on a daily basis.

All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the US will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, the statement said.

“We conduct routine and regular FONOP), as we have done in the past and will continue to in the future. FONOPs are not about one country, nor are they about making political statements.”

Indian government officials said it’s unusual for such a statement to be released.

Any activity within 200 km nautical miles, which falls under EEZ or Indian waters needs prior permission as per Indian laws.

Chinese vessels on the pretext of carrying out research activities in Indian waters have been tracked and sent back in the past.

source: The Statesman

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Delhi: Over 7400 new Covid cases reported, infection rate crosses 8%

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The unabated rise of Covid-19 continues to rattle the national capital as it reported 7,437 fresh cases on Thursday whereas 24 more people lost their life the viral pandemic, the health bulletin by the Delhi government showed.

The latest figures have pushed the infection tally to 6,98,005 while the death toll has risen to 11,157, the health bulletin stated.

Meanwhile, the infection rate in the national capital has surged to 8.1 per cent after the city conducted 91,770 tests in the last 24 hours. Of them, 52,696 were done through RTPCR while 39,074 samples accounted for the Rapid Antigen Test.

Close to half of the beds reserved for Covid care in hospitals have been occupied. Only 4601 of 8813 beds in the hospitals are vacant. Meanwhile, 11,367 patients of Covid-19 are under home isolation.

The containment zones in Delhi have risen to 4,226.

source: The Statesman

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