- The option: The Reserve Bank had last week allowed banks to grant a three-month moratorium on loan repayments for dues to be paid between March-May 2020. While state-run banks have gone for an “opt-out” option (where the repayments automatically get deferred unless a customer informs of her willingness to pay), most private banks have decided to go for the “opt-in” option (the onus is on the customer to inform the bank of their choice to go for the breather).
- The spoiler: This is just a deferment of payments and not an interest waiver, which means interest will continue to accrue on the outstanding portion of the loan during the moratorium period. The borrower may be given three options by the lender: Option I: One-time payment in June of the interest that accrues in April and May. Option II: Add the interest to the outstanding loan and increase EMI for remaining months. Option III: Keep the EMI unchanged but extend the loan tenure.
- The cost: Explaining the financial burden to its customers, SBI said for a home loan of Rs 30 lakh with a remaining maturity of 15 years, the net additional interest would be about Rs 2.34 lakh equal to 8 EMIs for those opting for the moratorium. For an auto loan of Rs 6 lakh with a remaining maturity of 54 months the additional interest payable would be about Rs 19,000 equal to additional 1.5 EMIs, it said.
- The irony: The longer the remaining tenure of your loan, the bigger will be the impact. That’s because the interest accounts for a larger portion of the EMI in the early years and progressively comes down. So, people with older loans taken 10-15 years ago will not feel the burden as much as someone with a new loan taken 2-3 years ago. Ironically, people with older loans may not really need the moratorium as much as those with younger loans. More details here
Meanwhile, RBI on Wednesday announced measures to help resource-strapped state governments raise money to deal with emergency expenditure and gave more time to exporters to collect payment of goods sold to overseas buyers and repatriate that to India.
5 THINGS FIRST
PM Modi to hold virtual meet with chief ministers to discuss Covid-19; Congress Working Committee virtual meet over coronavirus; RIL board meet to discuss fundraising; IHS Markit manufacturing activity data to be released; NATO foreign ministers’ virtual meet
- India is facing a spike in coronavirus cases linked to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi and the subsequent travel by attendees — mostly by train — the Centre said on Wednesday. Of the 1,976 Covid-19 cases that were recorded by late Wednesday, as per data from all states, 348 were linked to the event, Times of India reports. The number is likely to shoot up as test results of nearly 8,000, including of the attendees of the event and those they have been in contact with, are awaited.
- Government data shows, till date, 16 people connected to the congregation — three foreigners and 13 Indians — have died in different states. Some of them were confirmed cases of Covid-19, while the reports of others are awaited. This includes a Malaysian national who died at Delhi’s Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital on Wednesday. Hospital authorities said he had tested negative for Covid-19.
- Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, health ministry, said: “As many as 1,800 people related to the group have been sent to hospitals and quarantine centres.” In Delhi, 2,346 Tablighi members and their contacts have been quarantined — 536 who are symptomatic have been admitted to hospitals and 1,810 have been shifted to quarantine centres. Of this, TOI reports, 53 have been found positive for Covid-19. The number of confirmed cases in Tamil Nadu have touched 234 — 190 attended the congregation. On Wednesday alone, 110 from the cluster tested positive.
- The Centre has, meanwhile, decided to test all symptomatic cases in high-risk zones or ‘hotspots’ reporting a large number of cases. Until now, only symptomatic individuals who have travelled abroad in the last 14 days and symptomatic contacts and healthcare workers of positive Covid-19 cases were being tested.
- The Centre also cautioned states against allowing exceptions to the lockdown outside of those permitted under the guidelines issued by the home ministry under the Disaster Management Act. The warning came in the wake of states like Kerala and Meghalaya allowing sale or home delivery of liquor for addicts. No exception for sale or delivery of liquor is allowed under the home ministry guidelines.
- New rule: The government on Wednesday issued a gazette notification announcing a slew of amendments to 138 Acts of Jammu and Kashmir that included new rules for domicile status. Any person living in J&K for 15 years will now be deemed as the domicile of the union territory. The amendments also include protecting jobs up to Class-IV, comprising junior posts in the bureaucracy and the constabulary, for only those who are domicile of J&K.
- New jobs: For all posts that have a maximum payscale of Rs 25,500, a person who’s resided in the UT for at least 15 years “or has studied for a period of seven years and appeared in Class 10th /12th examination in an educational institution” in J&K is eligible to apply for such jobs. The new rules also allow for people registered as migrants with Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner (Migrants) to apply for such jobs — this is expected to majorly benefit the Kashmiri Hindus who were forced to flee in the wake of the onset of militancy, though it will also benefit Muslim and Sikh migrants.
- Gen next: The benefits extend to the children of central government employees who have served in J&K for a total of 10 years and even those children, who may be residing outside J&K but whose parents have either stayed for 15 years or studied for seven years till Class 10/12 in J&K. Interestingly, in the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services (Decentralisation and Recruitment) Act 2010, a person is deemed a resident if he/she has resided “for a period of not less than 15 years before the date of applying for a particular post and is actually residing in the said area.”
- The politics: The home ministry’s move was criticised by former J&K CM and NC leader Omar Abdullah as well as by the J&K Apni Party, which was formed recently by former PDP leader Altaf Bukhari, who was a minister in the PDP-BJP coalition government in the erstwhile state. While Abdullah termed the new rules “hollow”, calling it “insult heaped on injury”, Bukhari, who had been demanding domicile rights for long, termed the move a “casual attempt, cosmetic in nature” and said it was “totally unacceptable to JKAP.” While some have questioned the timing of the order, which comes during a nationwide lockdown, others have said that widening the definition of domicile would open jobs to “outsiders”.
- What: India is likely to relax some export restrictions on pharmaceutical products under pressure from the US, news agency Reuters reports, as the coronavirus pandemic makes access to drugs a flashpoint in international relations.
- The background: Early in March India banned the export of 26 active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) and drug formulations fearing a shortage of medicines in the wake of coronavirus pandemic and closure of drug companies in China that supply raw ingredients. India is the world’s largest producer of generic drugs, and the APIs Indian pharmaceutical companies make are used to make many common drugs such as pain killers. Since then India has also banned the export of antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine that are being administered to medical staff treating Covid-19 patients, as well as medical equipment such as artificial respiratory apparatus, oxygen therapy apparatus and breathing devices, and sanitisers.
- The trouble: The ban on APIs and hydroxychloroquine, in particular, have hit nations. Last week, members of SAARC, the South Asian bloc, as well as Indonesia and UAE requested India to reconsider the ban on hydroxychloroquine as they are facing a shortage of the drug that is primarily used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and long-term autoimmune disease lupus. India’s ban on exports will also cause drug shortages in the US as the coronavirus outbreak picks up pace there, experts say.
- White House steps in: On Monday, US broadcaster NBC reported that the Trump administration has asked India to lift the export restrictions on pharmaceutical ingredients. “We are collaborating to try to ensure that critical manufacturing and supply chains for pharmaceuticals, health care technology and personal protective equipment remain open even as large portions of our countries are shut down to reduce the risk of transmission,” the US State Department spokesperson told NBC.
- Clue 1: It was founded in 1894 in Lahore, Pakistan as an off-shoot of the Swadeshi Movement.
- Clue 2: Freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai was actively associated with the management of the bank in its formative years and was the first to open an account with it.
- Clue 3: It is the second largest public sector bank in India — both in terms of business and branch network.
Scroll below for answer
- The day: India on Wednesday joined a select league of nations having the world’s cleanest petrol and diesel as oil companies rolled out Euro-VI emission compliant fuels. April 1 was the deadline for oil companies to start supplying BS-VI grade fuel, but most had started doing before it in phases.
- The journey: India’s fuel upgradation programme began in the early 1990s. Low lead petrol was first introduced in 1994 in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai and then six years later, unleaded petrol was mandated nationwide. BS-2000 (Euro-I equivalent, BS-1) emission norms were introduced for new vehicles from April 2000. BS-II (Euro-II equivalent) norms for new cars were first introduced in Delhi in 2000 and then extended to the other metros a year later. India adopted Euro-III equivalent (or Bharat Stage-III) fuel with a sulphur content of 350 parts per million (ppm) in 2010 and then seven years later moved to BS-IV fuel that had a sulphur content of 50 ppm. The switch from BS-IV to BS-VI fuel, containing just 10 ppm of sulphur, was achieved in just three years.
- The cost: State-owned oil refineries spent about Rs 35,000 crore to upgrade plants that could produce ultra-low sulphur fuel. The refinery upgrades for previous switchovers had cost them about Rs 60,000 crore. The shift to BS-VI would have resulted in an up to Re 1 per litre increase in cost but with oil international oil prices plummeting to a 17-year low that wasn’t needed.
- This summer’s Wimbledon has been cancelled, the All England Lawn Tennis Club announced on Wednesday in a move that had become increasingly inevitable amid the Covid-19 outbreak. Its statement read: “It is with great regret that the Main Board of the All England Club (AELTC) and the Committee of Management of The Championships have today decided that The Championships 2020 will be cancelled due to public health concerns linked to the coronavirus epidemic.
- “Uppermost in our mind has been the health and safety of all of those who come together to make Wimbledon happen — the public in the UK and visitors from around the world, our players, guests, members, staff, volunteers, partners, contractors, and local residents — as well as our broader responsibility to society’s efforts to tackle this global challenge to our way of life.”
- It is the first time Wimbledon has been cancelled since World War II in 1945 and also the first time since the tournament began in 1877 that the event will not be played during peacetime. While Wimbledon 2020 was scheduled to be played between June 29 and July 12, next year’s event will be held June 28 to Jul. 11, 2021. (The torunament began in 1887 and the 2020 edition was supposed to be the 134th.)
- Though the All England Club considered a number of alternatives, including postponement, it decided that cancellation was the best option. While moving Wimbledon into late July or August was discussed, not enough sunlight and too much dew at that time of year made any move problematic. Playing the tournament behind closed doors, with no spectators, was ruled out by the club in a statement last week.
- The French Open, which was scheduled to be played May 24 to June 7, announced last month that the event will now be played Sept. 20 to Oct. 4. The USTA on Wednesday issued a statement saying the US Open is still scheduled to begin August 24 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York.
- A 93-year-old farmer in the Ranni sub-division of Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district has become the country’s oldest patient to survive the coronavirus infection, doctors said. The man and his 88-year-old wife both recovered after testing positive about a month ago, and were likely to be discharged on Wednesday from the Kottayam Medical College Hospital, hospital officials said. (Pathanamthitta has 12 positive Covid-19 cases — way less than Kasaragod, which has Kerala’s highest case count, at 121 — but 7,254 people are under observation. No deaths have been reported so far.)
- The couple was infected by their daughter and son-in-law, who returned from Italy. Think the infamous ‘Italy couple’ who made the headlines for skipping screening at the airport upon their arrival. The daughter and son-in-law had to be eventually tracked down by a team of officials, but had already infected several family members by then. (The elderly couple have three children, seven grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.)
- And their recovery has been hailed by medical professionals as a “miracle cure” since both also suffered from age-related problems. The man, despite being a teetotaller and non-smoker, also had hypertension and diabetes — underlying conditions which have proved to be fatal in so many cases across the world. Reportedly, the man’s condition deteriorated briefly and he had to be put on a ventilator for 24 hours, before staging a remarkable recovery.
- The farmer and his wife aren’t the oldest coronavirus survivors in the world though. According to news reports, two 103-year-old women — one in China’s Wuhan and the other in the Iranian city of Semnan — were discharged after testing positive.
- The United States on Tuesday proposed a “democratic transition framework” for Venezuela that calls for President Nicolas Maduro and his challenger Juan Guaido to step aside and hand over power to an interim government. In return, the US would lift the sanctions on Maduro and his regime. Remaining sanctions on the country and its businesses will be lifted once a free and fair election is held within 12 months.
- The Venezuelan economy has been crippled under the US sanctions that were put in place to pressure Maduro to give up power and make way for democracy. The crash in its oil production output pushed the country deeper into an economic abyss. Its currency is effectively worthless, inflation has sky-rocketed, and people are short of food and ration. Now, Venezuela is also battling the coronavirus, prompting it to seek financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund.
- The US has, for over a year, recognised Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela. But the framework has charted a middle ground, allowing Maduro to step aside with the solace of not seeing his bitter rival take over the reins. Under the framework, all political prisoners would be released, and all foreign — principally Cuban — forces would leave. A five-member council of state would be selected, with two members chosen by the opposition, two by Maduro’s Socialist party, and the fifth member picked by the other four. Maduro has not yet responded to the proposal.
- One man’s crisis is another man’s opportunity to grandstand. On Wednesday, a Russian military plane took off from Moscow to the US with a supply of medical equipment and masks, Russian state media said. President Vladimir Putin had offered help in a phone conversation with his American counterpart Donald Trump on Monday. “Trump gratefully accepted this humanitarian aid,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was cited as saying by the Interfax news agency. The US has recorded over 200,000 Covid-19 cases, including 4,476 deaths as of Wednesday; Russia has detected 2,777 cases and 24 deaths.
- Nevertheless, the Russian aid has raised eyebrows in the US. “Hopefully someone will tell Trump that he’s playing right into a propaganda ploy,” wrote Andrew Weiss of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Twitter. Note: Antonov An-124 is a large transport aircraft first designed during the Cold War and inducted in 1986. An-124-100 is the modern iteration of this plane.
Punjab National Bank (PNB). The state-owned bank has said all nationwide branches of United Bank of India and Oriental Bank of Commerce have started functioning as PNB branches.The biggest-ever consolidation exercise in the public sector banking space was effected on Wednesday, marking a new dawn for the Indian banking sector. Six public sector banks — Oriental Bank of Commerce, United Bank of India, Syndicate Bank, Andhra Bank, Corporation Bank and Allahabad Bank — lost their individual identity as they were merged into four bigger lenders with the objective to make them globally competitive.