DAILY FROM: AHMEDABAD, CHANDIGARH, DELHI, JAIPUR, KOLKATA, LUCKNOW, MUMBAI, NAGPUR, PUNE, VADODARA JOURNALISM OF COURAGE SATURDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2020, KOLKATA, LATE CITY, 14 PAGES SINCE 1932 His base shrinking, Nitish hopes voter cheering Modi will carry him along HAJIPUR, MUZAFFARPUR, OCTOBER 30 ANTI-INCUMBENCY does not quite describe it. This election is dealingtwocruelironiestoNitish Kumar. One, for the first time in 15 years in Bihar, he is at the receiving end of, not in the driving seat of, the desire for change. It’sadeepanddramaticshift: A leader seen and celebrated as the hero of Bihar’s Great TurnaroundStory,isnowseenas a figure of Old Guard, the obstacle for repair and progress, not the righteous vehicle for it. Afterall,itwasNitishwhorestored the authority of the State after the slide presided over by Lalu Prasad, who had scripted a radical upending of caste inequalities but did not, or could STRATEGIC TIES WITH FRANCE CrisisonLAC worstin decades,Indiaresponse firm&mature:Shringla DECISION 2020 In Paris, Foreign Secretary says France our friend for all seasons B I H A R BJP FEARS TROUBLE IN BHAGALPUR BASTION TEJASHWI NO BAGGAGE: CONG PAGE 10 FULL COVERAGE, VISIT WWW.INDIANEXPRESS.COM not, take the next step: stitch the politics of social justice with an agenda of governance. NitishwastheMandalleader adept at social engineering who also became Sushasan Babu. His CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 TWO’S COMPANY SHUBHAJIT ROY ESSENTIALS MOVING BUT DISCRETIONARY TEPID HUL chief: Neighbourhood grocer, online channels stood out during pandemic… uptick in rural demand P13 ANIL SASI & P VAIDYANATHAN IYER NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 30 Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar at a rally in Khagaria district on Friday. PTI BJP vaccine promise not a violation of poll code, says EC RITIKA CHOPRA NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 30 THE BJP’S promise of free Covid19vaccinetothepeopleofBiharin its election manifesto is not violativeoftheModelCodeofConduct (MCC), the Election Commission (EC) has said in its decision on a complaint filed against the announcementlastweek. The EC’s clean chit came in response to a representation by RTI activist Saket Gokhale, alleging that the announcement was a gross violation of the Union government'spowers,andanat- tempt to mislead voters, given that the vaccine policy is not decided yet. The EC had taken the same stand on a complaint received during the Lok Sabha elections last year against the Congress's NYAY scheme that guaranteed a minimum income of Rs 6,000 per month, or Rs 72,000 a year, for 25 crore people. The Commission's reply to Gokhale, dated October 28, quotesthreeprovisionsfromthe MCC: that state election manifestos should not contain anything repugnant to the CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 WORLD THE EXPRESS INTERVIEW SANJIV MEHTA CHAIRMAN AND MANAGING DIRECTOR, HINDUSTAN UNILEVER LTD Mehta, chairman and managing director of India's largest FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) company,told The Indian Express NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 30 PAGE 12 CONTINUED ON PAGE2 NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 30 THE CENTRE plans to prepare a socio-economic profile of street vendors to bring them in the net of eligible government schemes, and turn PM SVANidhi into a comprehensive poverty alleviation programme, as per directions issued by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, top sources told The Indian Express. Under the Centre’s new PM Street Vendors’ Atmanirbhar Nidhi (SVANidhi) microcredit programme, a loan of Rs 10,000 PAGE 1 ANCHOR EXPRESS NETWORK CENTRE FLAGS SOME ‘ISSUES’, MAHARASHTRA SAYS FOLLOWINGNORMS PAGE 9 isextendedasworkingcapitalto street vendors.Disbursals under the scheme have risen to 15,000 per day, and around Rs582 crore has so far been disbursed to over 5.93 lakh street vendors. The next step will be to profile and map the beneficiaries, work on which will begin next month, the sources said. “The mapping will identify who they are, and how many are covered by which welfare schemes of the government. The planistoformcommitteesatthe level of Collectors, then ask governmentdepartmentstoappoint nodal officers in each city, and then bring them into all the welfareschemestheyareeligiblefor,” aseniorgovernmentofficialsaid. The idea has come from Modi himself, officials said. The Prime Minister wants the SVANidhi scheme to work as not CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 People pay tribute to the victims of the attack, near the Notre Dame church in Nice, France, on Friday. Reuters SHUBHAJIT ROY NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 30 INDIA HAS dealt with the“worst crisis in decades” on its border with China with “firmness and maturity”, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told an audience in Paris on Thursday. Shringla, who spoke at the Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI), underlined "respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty”, and “peacefulresolutionof disputes” as he described India and France as “strong partners” in the IndoPacific. Earlierthisweek,inanobvious referencetoChina,ExternalAffairs Minister S Jaishankar too had referredto"respectforterritorialintegrity and sovereignty" after the Indo-US2+2ministerialmeeting. CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 FRANCE ON ALERT AMID WARNING OF MORE ATTACKS PAGE 12 A SLIP over Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s comments regardingChinaattheIndo-US2+2 ministerialmeetinglastTuesday has led to a diplomatic commotion, and some red faces in New Delhi. More so, because both Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar did not mention China directly in their remarks. At the 2+2 meeting, Singh, speaking in Hindi, said: “Aaj ke samay mein jo challenges hum face kar rahe hain, unki wajah se hamari partnership aur bhi mahatwapurn ho jaati hai.” The Indian government’s English language interpreter, reading from a script, said: “Excellencies, in the area of defense we are challenged by reckless aggression on our northern borders – (inaudible)”. ItislearntthattheIndiangovernment changed its statement. While Singh read out the prepared remarks, the interpreter wasnothandedtherevisedscript. Realising that the two statements did not match, the Indian CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 Future builds Rs 1,000-cr war chest Monthly avg price in arbitration battle with Amazon of potato Rs 40/kg, AASHISH ARYAN & SANDEEP SINGH GLOBAL COVID CASES RISE BY SINGLE-DAY RECORD OF HALF-A-MILLION MORE PEOPLE VOTED EARLY IN TEXAS THAN ITS TOTAL 2016 TURNOUT in an interview. The Rs 38,200-crore company, behind a range of products including Kissan jam, Dove soap, Surf Excel and Knorr soups, has clockedaturnaroundoverthelast twoquarters:fromaminus7per cent overall contraction in the June quarter to a plus 3 per cent growthintheSeptemberquarter. Thisindicatesconsumers are largely sticking to essentials but choosing to keep off discretionary items sold predominantly in urban markets. The 3 per cent growth in the September quarter, Mehta said, came from 80 per cent of HUL’s IN ORDER to factor in all present and future liabilities in its arbitrationtusslewithglobale-commerce major Amazon, Kishore Biyani's Future Groupis learntto have set aside around Rs 1,000 crore in an escrow account as a safeguard measure, sources privy to the development told The Indian Express. Theamountintheescrowaccount,whichcouldlaterberaised to Rs 1,500 crore, is equal to the total investment made by Amazon in Future Coupons, the promoter group entity of Future Retail, the sources said. The Future Group did not respond to adetailedquestionnaireseeking itsresponseonthedevelopment. The company's top management is also of the view that the deal with Reliance Retail Ventures, a unit of Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries, will go ahead as planned and will be completed as per schedule, one of the persons said. “The understanding within thecompanyisthatevenifFuture Govt plans to leverage microcredit IIMC’s new prof was scheme for street vendor database sacked by BJP for calling AVISHEK G DASTIDAR NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 30 Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Sardar Patel Zoological Park at Kevadia, in Narmada district of Gujarat, which he inaugurated on Friday. ANI HINDUSTAN UNILEVER Ltd, the Indian unit of the Euro 52 billion Anglo-Dutch consumer goods company Unilever and whose salesareabarometerfornational demand,hasseenamarkedconsumption uptick in rural India but sluggish in urban areas. The rural surge is from areas typically not associated with high per capita consumption such as the Hindi heartland, alongside Punjab, Haryana and the hill states of the north, Sanjiv Rajnath skipped China mention, no one told interpreter, US Group loses the arbitration, it wouldhavetopayamaximumof monetary damages. And we are readyforthat.Thatistheideabehind keeping the money aside in the escrow account,” the person quoted above said. Legal sources, however, said that if Future decided to go ahead with the deal, it would leave Amazon with no option but to either approach an Indian court with a plea seeking a stay on the deal, or to approach the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) for an early hearing in the matter. CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 BUSINESS AS USUAL BY UNNY Mahatma ‘father of Pak’ KRISHN KAUSHIK NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 30 ANIL KUMAR Saumitra, head of the BJP media cell in Madhya Pradesh until he was suspended by the party last year for calling Mahatma Gandhi the “father of Pakistan”, has been appointed professor at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), oneofthepremiermasscommunicationinstitutesinthecountry. Saumitra was suspended fromtheBJP’sprimarymember- Anil Kumar Saumitra ship in May 2019 following his remarks against Mahatma Gandhi. The BJP said his social media posts were against the party’s ethics, ideas and principles, and had affected its image. In a Facebook post, Saumitra CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 THE EDITORIAL PAGE IN DEFENCE OF LIBERTY BY PRATAP BHANU MEHTA PAGE 6 highest in a decade HARIKISHAN SHARMA NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 30 THEALL-INDIAmonthlyaverage retail price of potato rose to Rs 39.30perkginOctober,thehighest in 130 months, official data from State Civil Supplies Departments compiled by the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, show. Theaverageretailpriceof potato in Delhi this month was slightly higher than the all-India average at Rs 40.11 per kg — also the highest since January 2010, almost 11 years ago. The all-India average retail price per kg this October was almost double that of October 2019 (Rs 20.57 per kg). The average price in Delhi in October 2020 was 60 per cent higher than the Rs 25 per kg of the corresponding month last year. January 2010 is the earliest month for which comparable data are available on the Ministry’s portal. While retail prices of potato are usually higher during September-November due to seasonalvariations, thisyear,the tuber started to get expensive from February-March, when average monthly retail prices reached about Rs 23 per kg. CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 E E X P L A I NE D VANDITA MISHRA `5.00/EX-KOLKATA `6.00 (`12 IN NORTH EAST STATES & ANDAMAN) WWW.INDIANEXPRESS.COM Less storage ● to blame ONE REASON for the spike in retail prices is lesser storage than in earlier years. Prices continued to rise during the lockdown in April and May. In fact the Ministry had sounded an alert about the likelihood of a post-lockdown spike in prices. THE RISING Monthlyaverageretailprices ofpotato(Rs/kg) ■ Delhi ■ AllIndiaAverage 50 40.11 40 30 20 10 0 39.3 15.08 10.45 Jan-10 Oct-20 Source: Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution 2 yrs on, high power bills, no broadband for Chhattisgarh panchayats GARGI VERMA RAIPUR, OCTOBER 30 INONEOFthethreeroomsof the PanchayatBhawaninKhamtarai village in Arang Block, about 50 kms from Chhattisgarh capital Raipur, stands a wall-mounted metal cabinet with two routers installed under the Rs 3,057crore rural broadband connectivity project,BharatNetPhaseII, awarded to Tata Projects Ltd in July 2018. These devices — meant to lightupthevillagewiththeinternet—havenowbecomeadragon thepanchayat’sfinances.Poshan Sahu,SarpanchofKhamtarai,said Tata Projects was required to enelectricityconsumptionofthede- surehigh-speedbroadbandconvicesisprobablyhigherthanthat nectivity (1 GBPS to 10 GBPS) for the rest of the office. “Earlier, I free through WiFi in 5,987 gram wouldpayafewhundredrupees. panchayats. This involved laying InDecember2019,afterthesede- down Optical Fibre Cable over vices were installed, it shot up to 32,466 km, installing hardware, Rs 1,320,” he told The Indian and establishing a ring of connections instead of standalone Express. connection for each The panchayat gram panchayat. would not mind the PART-3 The Indian Express higher costs if services promisedunderBharatNetwere had on October 29 reported that available to the villagers. “We ChhattisgarhInfotechPromotion bought wifi-hotspot providers, Society, the nodal agency tasked but we were not allowed to con- withmonitoringtheproject,had nect them to the device in- overruleddecisionsofitstwopast CEOs, and decided not to levy stalled,” he said. Under Bharat Net Phase II, penalty on Tata Projects despite Khamtarai village is among the gram panchayats listed for the project. Gargi Verma thecompanynotmeetingmutually-agreed milestones. So far, Tata Projects has twice received extension of timeline (EOT), first for a year in June 2019, and then foranothersixmonths,whichexpires in December 2020. Khamtarai is one of the 200oddgrampanchayatslit(primed for broadband connectivity) under the project.Part of the fourth ring in Arang block, work has been going on in the village for over a year, Sahu said. But the desktop in the panchayat office remains mostly switched off. “Our computer operator (a village-level entrepreneur or VLE) left and now works at a shop in the city,” Sarpanch Sahu said. Even when the panchayat officials want to operate e-governance portals, the 2 mbps speed hinders all tasks. “We can't even download a document,evenondayswehaveinternet connectivity,” he said. Adjoining village Kavai, just 2 km away, is not connected to the BharatNet Phase II network yet,saidLeelaKosariya,Sarpanch of this gram panchayat. “No digging or other work has commenced, and no device connected… There is no internet in the village; we get our work done from a private centre in Arang,” she said. When asked why services haven’t reached the citizens even where infrastructure has been installed, Sameer Vishnoi, CEO of Chhattisgarh Infotech Promotion Society (ChIPS), the state’s nodal agency tasked with monitoring the project, said, “BharatNetPhaseIIprojectasapproved by Government of India was designed to connect blocks to Gram Panchayats. Additional connectivity from Gram Panchayatstoofficesandhouses wasnotpartof theoriginalscope defined in the project.” CHiPS provides network throughSWAN(StateWideArea Network) to Tata with the con- nectivity of 2 Mbps, “for devices management purpose”. “Wider Range of Broadband can be accessed as and when requested by customers,” Vishnoi said. Tata Projects did not respond to questions, including on the number of open accessible connections already in place in Chhattisgarh. In a press statement after bagging the project in July 2018, Tata Projects, however, had said that important services including PDS, 102 (Free Ambulance Service) and 108 (Emergency Service), would be executed at thegrampanchayatlevel.“Itwill CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 Kolkata
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