The linear growth of coronavirus cases due to the lockdown, the Centre’s decision to freeze dearness allowances for government employees in order to fund the fight against Covid-19, hit the top spot in many newspapers, this Friday.
There’s also Amazon’s announcement to ramp up ‘Local Shops on Amazon’ a day after Reliance Jio and Facebook joined forces as the humble kirana store is now the“unlikely darling” of multinational corporations, dailies observe.
The lead in The Times Of India has a very sobering message from AIIMS’ Director Dr Randeep Guleria: ‘Stigma attached to Covid can cause more deaths’.
TOI reports that according to Dr Guleria, “Stigmatising of Covid-19 patients and their families is resulting in cases turning up late at hospitals, with heightened breathlessness, and this could mean increased morbidity and mortality…’’
The government is doing a great deal of penny pinching as, ‘Centre freezes DA for 18 mths, eyes saving of ₹38k cr’.
TOI writes that the finance ministry announced an 18-month freeze on additional instalments of dearness allowance for central government staff and dearness relief for pensioners. This will save Rs 15,000 crore.
In some non-Covid news — yes, there is some, one of Delhi’s most prestigious clubs is in centrestage as ‘Govt moves to take over Gymkhana Club’. The newspaper says, “The Centre has moved a petition seeking a change of management of the Delhi Gymkhana Club and appointment of its 15 nominees as administrators..’’
The Indian Express leads with some positive news that during the lockdown, Covid-19 has spread to more than half of India’s districts but “the heavy load remains confined to 12 administration districts that recorded over 200 cases each”.
Maharashtra registered 778 new Covid-19 cases — Housing Minister and NCP leader Jitendra Awhad was one of them — reports Express. The story raises the alarm about the spread of infection in places like the congested slum area, Dharavi. The visiting central team has asked for “quarantine facilities away from slums for people living in those areas, citing the threat posed by the use of same public toilets”, it says.
In a big scoop, the paper reports how travel company Cox and Kings has sneakily “fudged records and window-dressed numbers” between the period 2015-19. A February 2020 audit report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) found the now bankrupt company “owes Rs. 5,500 crore to banks and financial insitutitions and was one of the top borrowers of Yes Bank..”. Siphoning of funds, falsifying records, inflating bank balances and “a string of defaults” are just some of the irregularities that were discovered.
Another report ‘Mamata hits the streets, speaks directly to locked-down Kolkata’ notes how West Bengal CM Mamata Bannerjee, in a throwback to her earlier days in politics, took to the streets of Kolkata Thursday. In an SUV and speaking through a loudspeaker, didi appealed to the people to “stay in, stay healthy”.
The Hindustan Times lead has some good news, ‘Virus spread slowed by a month of lockdown: Govt’. The paper reports that “Medical experts and government officials steering India’s battle against Covid-19 said…the country’s prophylactic measures have led to a reduction in the disease’s doubling rate, while allowing the ramping up of testing and the bolstering of health care preparedness.”
Meanwhile, the World Bank has some bad news for us as, ‘India to take a 23% hit on remittances…’. HT says a WB report found that the decline in 2020 could be up to $64 billion “the sharpest fall in recent history, due to declining oil prices and the Covid-19-led global recession…”. Also, the loss of employment and wages for migrant workers in the Gulf will “contribute significantly” to this drop.
Moving from one international organisation to another, “India set to get a lead role at WHO”. HT claims that according to sources, “India will move into a leadership role at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters after the annual meeting of the global health body next month.”
Back home, rural distress deepens as ‘More seekers line up for NREGS jobs, PDS ration’. The paper says that “enrolment for manual work under the MGNREGS has risen 10-fold in Rajasthan and Maharashtra…. On April 23, MGNREGS had 110.6 million active workers enrolled, compared with 82.3 million a month ago”.
Providing evidence of the spike in MGNREGS, The Hindu has women undertaking desilting as part of the MGNREGS at Nidigattu village in Visakhapatnam district.
The Hindu’s second lead reports that ‘Clause allowing FIR against firms for COVID-19 cases goes’. This, after considerable confusion the last few days over the issue. “The government withdrew… the clause allowing filing of an FIR against a company and its management if an employee tests positive for COVID-19, following concerns raised by India Inc..’’
And, there’s news on migrants in ‘Plan ahead for train services for migrant workers: Maharashtra’, the paper reports, that with 10 days to go for the lockdown to end on 3 May, Maharashtra urged the Centre “to plan and resume railway services for several lakh migrant labourers who want to return home…’’
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar warned of a possible repeat of “the violent incidents at the Bandra railway station on April 14”.
In `Top hospitals add blood thinners to treatment plan…’, The New Indian Express notes that several hospitals across the country give blood thinners to coronavirus patients. This after eerie reports of patients collapsing after “developing a relatively less understood complication related to the infection — clotting of blood…”
And, in relief to corporate borrowers and MSMEs, the Centre has suspended several provisions under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. In ‘Bankruptcy code sword set to be put away for 1 year’, the daily says this is in line with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s earlier stance on 24 March keeping in mind that “a lot of firms are staring at defaults due to the halt in economic activity”.
After the Reliance Jio-Facebook tie up, Amazon announced it would “pump in Rs. 10 crore to ramp up its pilot programme Local Shops on Amazon”. The daily adds: “The fight to get the attention of India’s kirana shops seems to be getting serious”.
In a horrifying story Mumbai Mirror notes, “Cooper patient spends 22 hours with bodies to his left and right”. The Mumbai daily writes, “Bodies of at least five patients, who were either Covid-19 positive or were suspected to be carrying the virus, were left unattended in Cooper Hospital’s isolation and casualty wards for 10 to 22 hours because no attendant was willing to touch them.”
“Three of these bodies were in the isolation ward and two in the casualty ward. A heart patient, who is awaiting his Covid-19 results, said he could not sleep the whole night on Wednesday with a body each on both sides of his bed.”
Mint notes e-tailer Amazon’s attempts to woo India’s kirana stores a day after Reliance Jio and Facebook Inc. joined forces. In “Retail India Set For Recast..’’ the paper reports, that now “The humble corner store has emerged as the unlikely darling of multi-billion-dollar corporations…”
A brief report notes budget carrier IndiGo’s adherence to PM Modi’s “call to protect jobs in the face of the coronavirus crisis”. InterGlobe Aviation Ltd, which runs IndiGo, has made a U-turn in its “decision to cut salaries of most employees by up to a fourth during April”, observes the report.
In some disappointing news, Business Standard’s second lead notes that RBI has “received bids for only about half the Rs. 25,000 crore it offered under its revised Targeted Long Term Repo Operations (TLTRO)”. This suggests that banks are reluctant to lend to NBFCs, it adds.