The Hindustan Times – ‘Remember, this is pre-lock-down’: Chidambaram warns on India’s 11-year low GDP slump

“Remember, this is pre-lockdown. Of the 91 days of Q4, lockdown applied to only to 7 days,” Chidambaram said in a tweet on the government released data for country’s GDP.

Arpan Rai

New Delhi – India, 29 May 2020. India’s former finance minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Friday plugged a reminder on latest Gross Domestic Product data released by the government for the fourth quarter and said that of the 91 days of quarter 4, lockdown applied to only to 7 days.

The lockdown, according to the experts, is expected to deliver a blow to Indian economy with most of the country facing severe restriction in economic activities due to the nationwide lockdown.

“We had forecast that GDP for Q4 will touch a new low at below 4 per cent. It has turned out to be worse at 3.1 per cent. Remember, this is pre-lockdown. Of the 91 days of Q4, lockdown applied to only to 7 days,” Chidambaram said in a tweet on the government released data for country’s GDP.

“It is a telling commentary on the economic management of the BJP government,” the former finance minister said.

Growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019-20 hit a 11-year low of 4.2 per cent, the government announced on Friday.

The economic growth slipped to 3.1 per cent in the January-March quarter of 2019-20 showing impact of the coronavirus.

The GDP had expanded by 5.7 per cent in the corresponding quarter of 2018-19, according to data released by the National Statistical Office (NSO) on Friday. The government had earlier projected GDP growth at 5% in 2019-20 as compared to 6.1% in 2018-19.

Published in: on May 30, 2020 at 6:40 am  Leave a Comment  

The Tribune – Punjab’s move to withdraw free power may trigger political storm

Jupinderjit Singh – Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 28 May 2020. The Punjab Government’s decision to withdraw free power facility from the farmers in a phased manner is set to trigger a political clash with the Shiromani Akali Dal saying it will launch an agitation to “save farmers.”

In response to the threat, the Congress said the SAD should first quit the coalition government at the Centre as the state government was being forced to follow the diktats of the Narendra government on the issue.

SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal said the party had been playing the role of a responsible Opposition by restricting protests to the virtual world only, but on the issue of farmers, the party will hit the streets.

Party insiders said the leaders might seek the “blessings” of Akal Takht, if needed, on the issue.

The party has called a meeting of its core committee on 30 May to chalk out the strategy on the matter. Notably, the farming community forms a major chunk of the Akali vote bank. The move to withdraw free power might give political fodder to it to reclaim much-needed support in the state.

“The Akalis should first resign from the coalition government at the Centre which is forcing the states to withdraw free power from farmers to get loans or funds from the Centre.

They should leave the coalition government and then talk about farmers,” said Sunil Jakhar, president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee.

The Cabinet had on Wednesday decided that free power from farmers will be withdrawn in phases. The Cabinet said this was being done as the Centre had refused to help the state economically, arguing it had enough money to bail out the farmers.

The government said it would not burden the farmers and reimburse the power bills.

Free power leads to deeper and deeper bore-wells and further depletion of the goundwater level.
This will have catastrophic effect on Panjab, but neither SAD nor Congress have the guts to speak out for the long term interest of the state.

Gentbrugge – Dampoort

Gentbrugge – Dampoort
31 March 2020



Left Scheldekaai (Gentbrugge)
Right Vlaamsekaai (Gent

Gentbrugge – Dampoort
31 March 2020


Through the tunnel to Gentbrugge and Sint-Amandsberg

Tunnel underneath Dampoortstation

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Indian Express – For Afghan Sikhs, fear of another terror attack bigger than fear of corona-virus

Divya Goyal

Ludhiana – Panjab – India, 29 May 2020. While the world is in the throes of a pandemic, 29-year-old Inderjit Kaur has another worry gnawing at her soul. Two months after she lost her husband and two brothers in an Islamic State (IS) sponsored terror attack at Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in Kabul, Inderjit lives in constant fear of another attack.

Huddled inside a tiny room along with her three children, Harjot (11 months), Simarjit (6), Arveen (3), her mother-in-law and two brothers-in-law, at Gurdwara Dashmesh Pita Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji Singh Sabha Karte Parwan, she says: Coronavirus ton zyada darr taan attack ton lagda hai.. assi haley vi darre hoye haan (More than coronavirus, we are fearful of another attack on us. We are still very scared).”

Speaking to The Indian Express over the phone from Kabul, she added: “Majboori hai saadi gurdware ch rehna, hor kithey jaaiye…I just want a safe life for my children. We want to move to India as soon as possible. Please take us out of here,” she cries.

It was on 25 March that the Sikh community in strife-torn Afghanistan lost 25 people in a ghastly terror attack at Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in Shor Bazar of Kabul.

As Covid-19 infections surged world over, the pandemic hit the Sikhs in Afghanistan, just a little over 600 left in the country, by causing delay in visa approvals for which they had sent written appeals to the Indian Embassy.

Further, they are at a higher risk of corona-virus infection as the families, which lost one or more members in the 25 March attack, are now living together in gurdwara rooms in cramped conditions. Anywhere between 9 to 14 Sikh community members have been living in each gurdwara room in the aftermath of the attack.

While most Sikh families in Afghanistan were rendered ‘homeless’ after the Mujahideen took over in 1992 and have been sheltered by gurdwaras since long, the situation worsened after 25 March attack as families at Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib were forced to move to small rooms at other gurdwaras.

Gurdwara Har Rai Sahab has not opened since the attack, forcing these Sikh families to live cheek by jowl, sleep on floor and share washrooms with several others.

With more than 12,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 227 deaths, Afghanistan, meanwhile, has been grappling with problem of low-testing and inadequate health infrastructure to tackle coronavirus and experts feel most cases there are going ‘undetected’.

Paramjit Kaur (30), who lost her mother-in-law and sister in the attack, now lives at Karte Parwan gurdwara. She says that she along with her husband, three children of her own and four of her deceased sister, are living in one small room.

“It is always crowded here. Other visitors also keep visiting. We sleep on floor, all nine of us in the same room. At least fifty people use same washroom. Saadi taan zindagi barbaad ho gai, hun bacheyan di sanwar jaaye kisi tarah.

We know that coronavirus can spread here anytime and if one gets it, all will infected because we are together almost entire day but we do not have any option. We cannot afford to pay rent for rooms outside.

We do not have our own house. We are scared of another attack and coronavirus both, but fear of another attack is always bigger,” she said.

“Sangat ke liye coronavirus se bhi bada khatra aatank hai.. (For the Sikh community here, another attack is a bigger fear than coronavirus),” added Daljit Kaur (25), whose husband had died in the attack.

Now, she along with her brother-in-law and four children (aged 14, 10, 3 and 2) live in a single gurdwara room. “Five, six, eight, ten….persons are living in one small room here.

We cannot move out as we are still getting threats. It is not hygienic here. Coronavirus has already delayed the entire visa process. Be it India or any other country, just take us out of this hell,” said Daljit.

Community leaders in Afghanistan said that were just waiting for lock-down to end in India.

Chhabol Singh, member, managing committee, Gurdwara Karte Parwan said, “We have already given in writing to the Indian Embassy to rescue us. We need evacuation from here as soon as possible.

There are just around 650 Sikh community members left here and we have already submitted the list to Embassy.

But corona-virus has delayed everything. It has been decided that in the first batch, shaheed parivar (families which lost members in March 25 attack) and those who have someone living in India already, will be sent.”

On the Covid-19 threat, he added: “Yahaan na rehne ki jagah hai, na sone ki (Here families do not have place to live, to sleep). We are trying our best to maintain social distancing, but how do we do it?”

“(After the attack) around fifty persons were adjusted at Karte Parwan gurdwara, six families are living at Khalsa Sahib ji gurdwara, four at Gurdwara Baba Sri Chand ji and remaining at Baba Almas ji gurdwara and Mansa Singh ji gurdwara, all in Kabul.

But their earning family members are dead, they have no source of livelihood plus there is always a fear of another attack. We keep asking them to wash their hands and sit at distance of at least 2 metres in gurdwara halls but risk is always there.

Ek ko bhi virus ne pakda to sab jayenge hum (If even one among us gets infected, then we are all in trouble),” he said.

The Print – Modi government finally clarifies it’s not paying Shramik Express fare, says states footing bill

Modi government made the clarification in Supreme Court following much confusion over its role in payment of migrant workers’ fares.

Sanya Dhingra

New Delhi – India, 28 May 2020. The Modi government finally clarified Thursday that it is not paying for migrant labourers’ Shramik Express tickets, telling the Supreme Court that the bill is being footed by states.

The statement in court comes amid much confusion over who exactly is paying for the migrant labourers’ journey, with certain statements from the central government suggesting that it is bearing 85 per cent of the fare and states paying the remaining 15 per cent.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra had also claimed earlier this month that the central government is paying 85 per cent of the fare.

The central government’s clarification came as the Supreme Court, at a virtual hearing, took up a PIL on the problems being faced by migrant labourers stranded in different parts of the country amid the Covid-19 lockdown.

In a statement to the court, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was representing the central government, said the fare for the special Shramik trains organised by the railways is paid either by the originating state or the receiving one.

The migrant workers are not required to pay the fares, Mehta told a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, S K Kaul and M R Shah.

When asked by the bench how it is ensured that the migrant workers are not harassed to pay for the tickets, Mehta said the states should file their respective reports in court.

The Shramik Express trains, special trains earmarked to carry migrant workers home from wherever they were stranded, were announced on 1 May, days before the central government extended the lock-down to its third phase.

Its initial run was marked by a furore over reports that the migrant labourers, hit hard by the lock-down, were being made to pay for the train journeys.

According to a notification issued by the railways on 2 May, the state governments were supposed to collect the ticket fare from the passengers and hand over the amount to the railways.

As the allegations also led to a political controversy, with opposition parties, particularly the Congress, attacking the Modi government on the issue, the central government said it is dividing “cost” on an 85 per cent-15 per cent basis with states.

Last week, addressing a press conference, Railway Board Chairman V K Yadav reiterated the claim.

Explaining the discrepancy, a railways ministry officer said the central government had never said it is bearing 85 per cent of the cost of the tickets, but maintained that it is paying 85 of the cost of running the trains. Of this, the officer said, ticket fare comprises 15 per cent.

“Running a train involves several costs. Ticket fare is just part of it,” the officer said. “What the government has told the court today is not at odds with what was said earlier.”

The Print reached a spokesperson of the railways ministry for a comment through WhatsApp, but there was no response until the time of publishing this report. A senior officer from an opposition-ruled state said the back-and-forth on the issue was an “eyewash”.

“After maintaining for so long that they are bearing 85 per cent of the cost, at least today they have admitted that it is the states which are paying for the travel of the migrants.”

The Supreme Court Thursday ordered the central government and states not to charge either train fare or bus fee from migrant workers keen to go back to their native towns.