Medics wearing protective masks inside the novel coronavirus isolation ward of Government Medical College Hospital in Jammu | PTI
Medics wearing protective masks inside the coronavirus isolation ward of a hospital (representational image) | PTI
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There’s only grim news today as the coronavirus outbreak claims its first victim in India — a 76-year-old man from Karnataka. The markets also witnessed a “carnage” as The Economic Times and Business Standard called it, with the Sensex and Nifty indices witnessing a freefall after the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak as a pandemic.

Over Rs 11 trillion worth investor wealth was wiped out in a day, notes Mint.

TOI’s story on the flap, not visible here, is about the Delhi riots: ‘7 arrested for cop’s murder, 1 for IB man’s brutal killing’. The daily notes, “While seven people have been arrested for Lal’s murder, a 20-year-old man has been arrested in Sharma’s case. Police have made four more arrests in other murders during the riots.”

Also on the flap, reassuring or scary news depending on how you look at it: Home Minister Amit Shah’s Rajya Sabha statement that 1,922 rioters in the Delhi violence had been identified through the “facial recognition software” and could be seen burning, attacking and killing people in videos and social media footage.

The front page lead headline is equally scary: ‘World War C: Sensex crashes by 2919 points, by far its worse’ says, “In its steepest one day crash in history (in absolute terms), the Sensex plunged 2,919 points…” The daily also noted Wall Street heading for its worst day since 1987 and the rupee hitting a lifetime low of 74.48.

Express focuses on ‘India’s first corona death’ —  a 76-year-old man from Karnataka’s Kalburgi. The report says the man “had returned from a month-long pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia and fallen ill with underlying conditions of asthma and hypertension”.

Meanwhile, as the Madhya Pradesh government faces a crisis following Jyotiraditya Scindia exit, another young Congress leader might be getting the short end of the bargain. The report ‘Scindia shadow: Rs 25 cr-worth ads for CM Gehlot‘ highlights that the Congress government in various official advertisements and other publications only carried photographs of the Chief Minister and not of Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot. “…The admission shines the spotlight on the ongoing friction…’’ between the two.

And admissions by the Delhi Police, too, in an exclusive report on the Delhi riots (‘We hid, we found no witnesses…’), based on an investigation of 14 FIRs filed in the “initial hours, at the Khajuri Khas, Bhajanpura, Dayalpur and Jyoti Nagar stations”, says “the police had seen enough on the night of February 23 (a day before the riots began) to indicate the situation could spiral out of control.” The report suggests that the FIRs indicate the police could have been outnumbered and inadequately prepared to deal with the violence.

Adding more grist to NPR-NRC-CAA mill, Hindustan Times’ story flap story, not visible here, features the Home Minister’s latest comments on the National Population Register —`No `D’ in NPR..’. Shah said any information shared with enumerators would be “voluntary” and no documents would be required, dismissing the Opposition’s allegations that the biometric database of Indian residents could lead to loss of citizenship.

Back to the pandemic: ‘City declares virus epidemic…’ as the Kejriwal government ordered all cinema halls shut, Mumbai banned all public events, and at least four states said they were suspending regular classes in schools and colleges’’.

The big news here is there’s no news of Amit Shah’s speech in the Rajya Sabha during the debate on the Delhi riots.

Hindu’s lead story is about India’s first coronavirus death, with the total number of cases now touching 74. The 76-year-old man had just returned from Saudi Arabia and also suffered from asthma, hypertension and diabetes.

Worryingly, the daily notes fresh cases in Maharashtra, Delhi, Ladakh, UP and Andhra Pradesh. And that the Ministry of External Affairs also advised the BCCI not to go ahead with the “cash-rich Indian Premier League.”

If ever there was a scary Page 1, this is it. ‘Bloody Thursday’ for The New Indian Express says “stocks around the world plunged into bear territory”.  Note the graphic illustration of this report. A graph lists the “top losers”, which includes TCS, Bajaj and Larsen & Toubro.

`What next for IPL’ lays out the uncertainties facing the upcoming IPL tournament due to the outbreak. “With the Ministry of External Affairs clearly stating their advice is not to go ahead with this edition of the IPL, the BCCI finds itself in a fix”, states the report.

Mumbai Mirror’s lead story had a picture of a team of BMCs medical and paramedical staff in masks, with the headlineVirus vs Tireless’. 

Reporting about the ‘tireless’ work the BMC was doing, the paper noted, “The three teams – comprising four members each working non-stop – have surveyed 106 houses and screened over 500 people, anyone who could have come in direct or indirect contact with the couple (infected by coronavirus in Andheri) now being treated at a special isolation facility at Kasturba Hospital in Chinchpokli.”

It further said, “To give you an idea of the complexity of the operation, the team has already tested the maid who worked at the couple’s house and every member of the other three houses in the building she served have been screened.”

Economic Times had carried some of its important stories on its flaps. For instance the one about the Yes Bank crisis — ‘Seven Investors Join SBI to Put Over Rs 12 crore into Yes‘ notes that the government-owned State Bank of India “will be joined by private lenders ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank…in the rescue plan for Yes Bank”. They will invest “more than Rs 12,000 crore,” the report said quoting sources.

The front-page lead story has a headline that no one can pronounce or understand at first glance: ‘Bear-Pidemic on D Street’ on the freefall in markets begins with a literary flourish: “Carnage. Dictionaries say the word is derived from the Italian word Carnaggio, and is defined as the killing of a large number of people. Stock markets around the world witnessed the massacre of a different kind”.

Now Mint is much clearer: Pandemonium‘ over the coronavirus pandemic, noting how the Indian Stocks were “wiped off Rs 11 trillion in investor wealth”.

On its flap also, the newspaper carries an analysis (‘Coronavirus has a monetary and fiscal treatment’) of the repercussions this outbreak will have on the global markets and supply chains. ” Such a scenario would have a snowballing impact as shipping companies report lower cargo, toll firms collect less revenue, multiplexes record reduced viewership and realty companies report weaker sales. Many estimate India’s FY21 first-quarter GDP growth to fall below 4%,” the piece explains.

Also, “hundreds of stranded Indians” will be evacuated from Iran, “the third-largest centre of novel coronavirus”. The anchor story gives the details: “Three evacuations will be conducted back-to-back starting Friday, followed by flights on 15 March and possibly 16 or 17 March.”

Like ET, Business Standard also says there’s “carnage in the stock markets” in ‘Markets get the shivers‘. A second report highlights that the Reserve Bank of India “move to address the dollar shortage in the market by offering a $2-billion swap for six months”.

The drastic dip in markets, however, didn’t stop Tata Sons from buying shares worth Rs 531-crore in “four group companies in a bulk deal on the National Stock Exchange”. The anchor story says that “the largest investment was made in Tata Steel, with Tata Songs buying shared worth Rs 222 crore at an average price of Rs 287 per share”.

Also, the RBI has “urged the chief secretaries of all states to not withdraw deposits from private sector banks for the sake of financial sector stability”. “The state government also advised its various departments to not put funds with private sector banks in view of the Yes Bank fiasco,” the report states.

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