Mumbai :Half of around 93 lakh trucks remained off the roads while buses plied as usual in most parts of the country on the first day of the transport strike called by All Indian Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC). The authorities warned that prices of essential goods would rise if the strike continues beyond Sunday.
The AIMTC called for the nationwide strike on Thursday after negotiations with the central government — transport and finance ministries — failed on Thursday night. The transporters want relief from rising costs sparked by increase in diesel prices, toll charges, third party insurance and national permits for passenger vehicles. They are also demanding that fuel be brought under the GST.
Friday being the first day of the strike, most states did not report any shortages of essential goods even though the wholesale markets reported marginal reduction of daily arrivals. “The arrival of fruits and vegetables in the market was slightly less than yesterday. This was mainly because the trucks already carrying goods were not stopped and they arrived till early this morning,” said a trader at Asia’s biggest wholesale market in Azadpur.
Transport of fruits and vegetables from Haryana, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Himachal, the major supplier states during the monsoon months to the National Capital Region (NCR) centred on Delhi, was stalled to a large extent. “We are closely monitoring the situation. But, as of now, Delhi has not been affected by the strike,” said a Delhi transport department official. Haryana transport minister Krishan Panwar said he had not received reports of any services getting hit by the strike even as truck unions claimed full participation.
In several states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab, there was modest participation of truck unions in the strike. AIMTC president S?K?Mittal, however, said the response was “good” and the strike will gain momentum in coming days.
“While private buses remained unaffected, trucks are not being allowed to move across the city Friday afternoon onwards,” said KS Atwal, AIMTC chairman, adding vehicles carrying essential goods will operate.
“As per our information from 75 trunk routes the response has not been huge. To me, it was not more than 40% participation,” said S P Singh, director of the Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training.
In Bihar, builders feared the strike will lead to a rise in prices of construction material, which has already gone up because of a court ban on sand mining in the state. In Uttar Pradesh, traders said the prices will rise once the stocks with local traders start drying up. Madhya Pradesh’s principal secretary Malay Shrivastava said the effect of the strike had been minimal and was hopeful of an early resolution.
In Maharashtra, where even private bus unions supported the strike, there was some impact on school buses while the majority of the trucks remained off the roads. “About 90% of school buses were off the roads. Only the buses owned by schools were playing,” said Anil Garg, leader of the School Bus Owners Association.
Maharashtra’s transport commissioner Shekhar Channe said: “The supply of essential commodities is normal. We are closely monitoring the situation and district level committees have been formed to tackle the situation.”
In Dehradun, public transport was affected as private buses, including those on contract with schools, autorickshaws and taxis participated in the strike.
“We understand that because of our strike, people had to face problems. But for us, it was necessary to make the administration pay attention to our valid demands,” said president of the Dehradun city-bus association, Vijaywardhan Dandriyal.
Indian billionaires’ wealth rose by Rs 2,200 crore a day in 2018: report
New Delhi: Indian billionaires saw their fortunes swell by Rs 2,200 crore a day last year, with the top 1 per cent of the country’s richest getting richer by 39 per cent as against just 3 per cent increase in wealth for the bottom-half of the population, an Oxfam study said .Globally, billionaires’ fortunes rose by 12 per cent or USD 2.5 billion a day in 2018, whereas the poorest half of the world’s population saw their wealth decline by 11 per cent, the international rights group said in its annual study released before the start of the five-day World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in this Swiss ski resort town.
Oxfam further said that 13.6 crore Indians, who make up the poorest 10 per cent of the country, continued to remain in debt since 2004.
Asking the political and business leaders who have gathered in Davos for the annual gathering of the rich and powerful of the world to take urgent steps to tackle the growing rich-poor divide, Oxfam said this increasing inequality is undermining the fight against poverty, damaging economies and fuelling public anger across the globe.
Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, one of the key participants at the WEF summit, said it is “morally outrageous” that a few wealthy individuals are amassing a growing share of India’s wealth, while the poor are struggling to eat their next meal or pay for their child’s medicines.
“If this obscene inequality between the top 1 per cent and the rest of India continues then it will lead to a complete collapse of the social and democratic structure of this country,” she added.
Noting that wealth is becoming even more concentrated, Oxfam said 26 people now own the same as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, down from 44 people last year.
The world’s richest man Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, saw his fortune increase to USD 112 billion and just 1 per cent of his fortune is equivalent to the whole health budget for Ethiopia, a country of 115 million people.
“India’s top 10 per cent of the population holds 77.4 per cent of the total national wealth. The contrast is even sharper for the top 1 per cent that holds 51.53 per cent of the national wealth. The bottom 60 per cent, the majority of the population, own merely 4.8 per cent of the national wealth. Wealth of top 9 billionaires is equivalent to the wealth of the bottom 50 per cent of the population,” Oxfam said while noting that high level of wealth disparity subverts democracy.
Between 2018 and 2022, India is estimated to produce 70 new dollar millionaires every day, Oxfam said.
“It (the survey) reveals how governments are exacerbating inequality by underfunding public services, such as healthcare and education, on the one hand, while under taxing corporations and the wealthy, and failing to clamp down on tax dodging on the other,” Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said.
The survey also shows that women and girls are hardest hit by rising economic inequality, he added.
“The size of one’s bank account should not dictate how many years your children spend in school, or how long you live — yet this is the reality in too many countries across the globe. While corporations and the super-rich enjoy low tax bills, millions of girls are denied a decent education and women are dying for lack of maternity care,” Byanyima said.
Fugitive Choksi surrenders Indian passport in Antigua to ‘avoid extradition’
Chandigarh:Fugitive tycoon Mehul Choksi has given up his Indian citizenship and surrendered his passport to Antigua, as per media reports.
This move by Choksi’s is being seen as an attempt to avoid his extradition to India. Antigua and India do not have an extradition treaty.
India had earlier handed over a request to Antigua for extradition of Mehul Choksi who is charged in connection with India’s biggest banking fraud, and now living in the Caribbean nation after taking its citizenship.
Official sources said a team comprising officials from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and other agencies was sent to Antigua a couple of days ago to request the Antiguan authorities to extradite Choksi, wanted in India in the US$ 2 billion Punjab National bank scam.
As per reports, Antiguan authorities cleared Choksi’s citizenship in November 2017 after India did not give any adverse report to stall his application for it.
Choksi had fled India on January 4 this year and took oath of allegiance in Antigua on January 15. His citizenship was cleared in November 2017.
Choksi’s application for citizenship in Antigua in May 2017 was accompanied with clearance from the local police as required by norms, Antiguan newspaper the Daily Observer reported, citing a statement from the Citizenship by Investment Unit of Antigua and Barbuda (CIU).
FPI outflow crosses Rs 4,000 crore in Jan so far
New Delhi: Foreign investors have pulled out more than Rs 4,000 crore from the Indian capital markets so far in January, highlighting their cautious stance towards the country.
This comes following a collective net inflow of over Rs 17,000 crore in the capital markets both equity and debt by Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs) during November and December.
Prior to that, they had pulled out a massive Rs 38,905 crore in October.
According to data available with the depositories, FPIs withdrew a net amount of Rs 3,987 crore from equities and a net sum of Rs 53 crore from the debt market, taking the total outflow to Rs 4,040 crore during January 1-18.
Market experts believe that FPIs are continuing with their ‘wait and watch’ approach towards India.
Going ahead, the focus would be on the budget, progress on the economic growth front and general elections, they added.
Other factors such as movement in crude prices and currency as well as US-China trade relations will also play a role in FPI flows, they added.
Harsh Jain, COO at Groww, an online MF investment platform, said 2019 is likely to see a lot of volatility because of the rate hikes and dollar instability, but the Indian markets may be able to weather the storm.
“India offers better investment opportunities due to consistent growth, supportive global factors and attract valuations. We should expect positive inflow in coming months,” he added.