IndiGo says its servers were hacked in early Dec

NEW DELHI: Some servers of India’s largest airline IndiGo were hacked earlier in December, the airline said on Thursday.
The extent of data breach is being ascertained and the airline has taken up the issue with the police, it informed.
In a statement, the airline said: “We would like to make this disclosure that some of our servers were subject to a hacking incident earlier this month. We were able to restore our systems in a very short span of time with minimal impact.”
“There were some segments of data servers that were breached. So, there is a possibility that some internal documents may get uploaded by the hackers on public websites and platforms. We realise the seriousness of the issue, and are continuing to engage with all relevant experts and law enforcement to ensure that the incident is investigated in detail,” it added.
The airline said it was able to restore systems in a very short span of time with minimal impact.

In Video:Servers hacked in early December: Indigo

Vistara to continue with pay cut for staff till March

MUMBAI: Full-service carrier Vistara will continue with pay cuts of its staff till March but will do away with the three-day leave without pay for pilots effective from January 1.
For the pilots, the carrier will implement a 10 per cent salary cut while at the same time increase their monthly base flying allowance to 40 hours from 20 hours at present, a Vistara spokesperson said in a statement to PTI on Thursday.
Vistara, the joint venture of Tata Group and Singapore Airlines, on June 30 announced a reduction in salary of its nearly 40 per cent of the total workforce till December 31, to deal with the low cash flow amid a weak passenger demand in the wake of the pandemic.
For pilots, who were getting base flying allowance since April, which is a fixed component of the salary, for 70 hours per month, the allowance was reduced to 20 hours till December 31.
In September, the airline also introduced a three-day ‘Leave Without Pay’ for the pilots.
“The pay cut scheme at Vistara will continue to be in effect until March 31, 2021, as part of which the Vistara CEO will continue to take the maximum cut of 25 per cent in monthly pay,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson added that the airline’s senior staff, including members of the management, will be affected by a cut of 15 per cent in monthly pay; while for those in mid-to-junior-mid levels, the cut will be 10 per cent.
“Covid-19 continues to have an industry-wide impact on business, despite improvement in the operating environment. While we currently deploy nearly 70 per cent of our pre-Covid-19 capacity, our operating revenue is still at a significant distance from normal levels,” the Vistara spokesperson said in the statement.
To this end, the airline continues to take several measures to control operational expenditures, including containment of staff costs, the spokesperson added.
Employees at the junior levels, whose monthly cost-to-company equals or is more than Rs 50,000, will be affected by a 5 per cent monthly pay cut, Vistara said.
“For pilots, a monthly 10 per cent pay cut will be applicable. However, their monthly base flying allowance will be increased from the current 20 hours to 40 hours. The scheme does not impact nearly 60 per cent of Vistara’s staff at junior levels,” the spokesperson added.
The aviation sector continues to grapple with low passenger volumes and travel restrictions by various countries. Even as the scheduled international commercial operations remain suspended since March 23, the domestic demand though has been on an uptick sequentially since the resumption of services from May, it has not yet matched the pre-Covid-19 level.
Domestic passenger volumes in November were almost half of the November 2019 level at 52.71 lakh passengers, according to data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. However, month-on-month, domestic demand grew 22 per cent over October 2020, as per the data.
“Our approach of going after measured growth in business puts the company in the position of being able to continue saving all jobs and implement rational reduction of staff costs, even though taking that decision has always been the toughest for the company’s board and the leadership,” Vistara said.
The airline said it is planning to ramp up its domestic operations in line with the government guidelines and remain operationally ready to operate more international flights whenever scheduled operations are allowed to resume.
Earlier this month, the civil aviation ministry allowed the airlines to increase capacity to 80 per cent from 70 per cent earlier.
“Our long-term plans of fleet and network expansion within and outside of India remain unaltered,” said the spokesperson.

Record prod, protests: Eventful year for agri sector

NEW DELHI: Indian agriculture sector achieved record foodgrain production and registered positive growth despite the coronavirus pandemic but the massive farmers’ protest at the borders of the national capital against the new farm laws overshadowed its remarkable performance this year.
Notwithstanding the cold weather and pandemic concerns, the protest by thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, started in late November and is continuing even as the government and around 40 farmer unions have so far held as many as six rounds of formal discussions to break the deadlock.
Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who is leading the negotiations with the unions, was hopeful of finding solutions before the year end, but it was not meant to be.
Later, Tomar said he expects the new year to herald new solutions to end the crisis.
In the last meeting between the government and the unions on Wednesday, both sides reached at a consensus regarding concerns about the proposed electricity amendment bill and the ordinance on air pollution that penalises farmers for stubble burning.
The government has promised to decriminalise stubble burning by farmers and also assured continuation of power subsidies.
But the talks on the contentious issues and two main demands — repealing of three news laws enacted in September and legal guarantee for MSP (Minimum Support Price) procurement system — remained inconclusive. Now, both sides hope for a resolution in the new year and the next round of talks is scheduled to be held on January 4.
The country’s agriculture sector, which contributes around 15 per cent of the GDP and employs more than half of the population, saw good, bad and ugly moments in equal measure this year. Nevertheless, the sector remained the only bright spot in the Indian economy, which was battered by the pandemic.
At a time when almost all the industries were severely impacted, the agriculture and allied sectors grew 3.4 per cent in both first and second quarters of this fiscal while the economy contracted 23.9 per cent and 7.5 per cent, respectively, during the same period.
The country had record foodgrain production of 296.65 million tonnes in 2019-20 crop year (July-June) and the output could cross 300 million tonnes in the current 2020-21 on good monsoon, which has led to higher sowing of kharif and rabi crops.
Just before the outbreak of the pandemic in the country, the Union government in the Budget in February enhanced allocation for agriculture and allied sector by 30 per cent to Rs 1,42,761 crore for this fiscal. Besides, several new programmes were announced.
As the government was busy preparing for roll out of the Budget decisions, including Kisan Rail and Kisan UDAN, the nationwide lockdown was imposed for little over two months from late March to curb spreading of coronavirus infections.
The lockdown was imposed at a time when the rabi crops like wheat were ready for harvesting. The government eased lockdown restrictions for farm activities to ensure food security.
While many farmers, especially those growing perishables items, suffered in the initial days of the lockdown and were forced to dump their crops, paddy and wheat growers were able to sell their crops. The government purchased a record 39 million tonnes of wheat at the MSP.
Thanks to good southwest monsoon and relaxed lockdown norms that ensured timely supply of farm inputs, farmers sowed kharif crops like paddy on time and harvested the crop. Like wheat, the government has already procured record 45 million tonnes of paddy so far in this kharif marketing season.
The government, which was sitting on huge buffer stocks of foodgrains because of bumper production and procurement in the last several years, provided free ration to whopping 80 crore poor from April till November, a major relief for people severely impacted by the pandemic.
While wheat procurement was underway, the Centre saw farmers facing problems in marketing of other commodities during the pandemic as they were forced to sell their produce in regulated mandis without waiting for better rates in the absence of proper agri-infrastructure.
This prompted the government to announce slew of incentives in May for the agriculture sector and allied activities, including setting up of a Rs 1 lakh crore agri-infrastructure fund. The announcement was part of the Centre’s Rs 20 lakh crore fiscal stimulus package to fight the Covid-19 crisis.
The government also announced amendments to the Essential Commodities Act to deregulate food stuffs and a central law to provide adequate choices to the farmers to sell produce at an attractive price, barrier-free inter-state trade and framework for e-trading of agricultural produce.
To ensure that farmers do not face problems in selling their kharif produce when harvesting begins from October, the government hurriedly in June came out with three ordinances to deregulate selected food commodities (cereals, edible oil, oilseeds, pulses, onions and potato), permit trading outside regulated mandis and encourage contract farming.
There was not much opposition when these ordinances were brought during the lockdown but all hell broke loose when these were replaced with laws passed by Parliament in September as the Opposition voiced concerns that the bills were an attempt to bypass state laws on agriculture.
Shiromani Akali Dal, which was part of the NDA, opposed the bills and Union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned from the Cabinet. Later, Akali Dal walked out of the NDA as well.
After the passage of the laws, farmers’ protest started in Congress-ruled Punjab.
Initially, representatives of 31 farmers unions confined their protest to Punjab where they blocked trains for nearly two months. Later, with their clarion ‘Delhi chalo’ call, they moved to the borders of the national capital where other frontal organisations like All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) joined the protest and played a pivotal role in bringing together farmer unions from different parts of the country.
In total, 40 farmer unions, especially from Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at Delhi borders for over a month now and the logjam continues. The Opposition parties, too, have lend their support to the protest.
The unions have kept the government on tenterhooks with their demand for repeal of the three pro-market farm laws enacted in September. The government has been maintaining that these laws are for the benefits of farmers and launched a massive campaign to create awareness about these laws as well as share success stories after implementation of these legislations.
The Centre blamed Opposition parties for misleading farmers and also accused them of taking U-turn on these reforms. Some ministers even alleged that anti-social elements and naxals have hijacked the farmers’ protest.
It remains to be seen whether the Centre and the unions are able to find some common ground on January 4 meeting or the protest continues for a longer period of time.

Investors gain Rs 32.49L cr in pandemic-hit 2020

NEW DELHI: Equity investors grew richer by Rs 32.49 lakh crore in 2020 on the back of smart returns in the stock market which had a roller-coaster ride during the year hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Covid-19 outbreak ravaged lives and livelihoods on a global scale, shuttering businesses and jolting world equities.
But amid all the gloom, Indian stock indices gave hope of returning to winning ways towards the latter part of the year.
The sensex gained 15.7 per cent in a memorable year 2020, where the BSE benchmark saw both ruthless selling and massive buying.
Markets witnessed volatile trends during the year, with the benchmark crashing to its one-year low of 25,638.9 on March 24, only to roar back to its record high of 47,896.97 on the last day of trade.
During the entire year, the 30-share BSE sensex made monthly gains in seven, while closing with losses in five of them.
March proved to be dreadful for Dalal Street, with the sensex plunging a massive 8,828.8 points or 23 per cent during the month as concerns related to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy jolted investor sentiments.
It was a volatile last day of trade for the market, with the BSE benchmark inching up 5.11 points to reach its new closing record of 47,751.33.
For the entire year, the market capitalisation of BSE-listed firms zoomed by Rs 32,49,689.56 crore to reach Rs 1,88,03,518.60 crore.
“The effect of the crash in March was completely undone over a few months that followed, and markets rose much more to touch peak levels.
“While expectations of a rebound in economic growth, and the consequent resurgence in corporate earnings, breathe into the markets an unusual optimism, the fact that India would continue to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world with a large consumer market, and an extraordinary potential for growth and development, instils greater confidence in not only domestic investors but also overseas investors,” said Joseph Thomas, head of research, Emkay Wealth Management.
“This is the singular factor that would keep the markets going, but we need to be cautious about the pandemic, keep a watch on its effective containment in crucial geographies like the US and EU, and also build in the implications of rising inflation and higher oil prices into our expectations on interest rates,” he added.
A number of main board initial public offerings during the year, with many of them receiving massive subscription, including Burger King India and Mrs Bectors Food Specialities, added to the market optimism.
“2020 has turned out to be one of the most unpredictable years for everyone. Equity markets worldwide have gone through a roller-coaster ride in this calendar year.
“The Nifty-50 fell 40 per cent between January and March and then rose by 86 per cent from the lows of March. Unprecedented fiscal and monetary support from governments and central banks has led to massive liquidity infusion into global markets. India is one of the few emerging markets to receive strong FPI flows,” said Rusmik Oza, executive vice president, head of fundamental research at Kotak Securities.
Reliance Industries Limited remained the country’s most valuable firm with a market valuation of Rs 12,58,157.10 crore, followed by TCS (Rs 10,77,009.46 crore), HDFC Bank (Rs 7,91,312.61 crore), Hindustan Unilever Limited (Rs 5,62,378.04 crore) and Infosys (Rs 5,34,940.34 crore) in the top five.
“As we enter 2021, markets are sitting at all-time highs and are showing resilience on the back of abundant liquidity, positive developments on the vaccine front and signs of economic recovery,” said Hemang Jani, head equity strategist at Motilal Oswal Financial Services (Broking & Distribution).
Vinod Nair, head of research at Geojit Financial Services said, “Despite the havoc created by the Covid-19 pandemic, the economy is expected to recover in 2021 giving a boost to the equity markets in addition to upgrades in corporate earnings.”

Fiscal deficit touches 135.1% of FY21 target in Nov

NEW DELHI: The Union government’s fiscal deficit soared to Rs 10.75 lakh crore, or 135.1 per cent of the 2020-21 Budget Estimates (BE), at the end of November 2020, mainly on account of low realisation of revenue due to disruption in business activities amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The fiscal deficit at the end of November 2019 had stood at 114.8 per cent of 2019-20 BE.
In absolute terms, the fiscal deficit stood at Rs 10,75,507 crore at the end of November 2020, according to the latest data released by the Controller General of Accounts (CGA).
The lockdown imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus had significantly impacted business activities and, in turn, contributed to sluggish revenue realisation.
The fiscal defict, or gap between the expenditure and revenue, had breached the annual target in July this year.
The government’s total receipts stood at Rs 8,30,851 crore (37 per cent of BE 2020-21) till the end of November 2020. This included Rs 6,88,430 crore tax revenue (net to centre), Rs 1,24,280 crore of non-tax revenue and Rs 18,141 crore of non-debt capital receipts. Non-debt capital receipts consist of recovery of loans and disinvestment proceeds.
The tax revenue collection was 42.1 per cent of BE of 2020-21, compared with 45.5 per cent of BE (2019-20) during the corresponding period a year ago. Non-tax revenue was 32.3 per cent of BE. During the corresponding period of the last fiscal, it was 74.3 per cent of BE 2019-20.
During the corresponding period last fiscal, the total receipts were 48.6 per cent of 2019-20 BE.
According to the data, over Rs 3.34 lakh crore were transferred to state governments as devolution of share of taxes by the Government of India up to November 2020.
The CGA data said the total expenditure incurred by the government stood at Rs 19,06,358 crore or 63 per cent of BE. Of the total expenditure, Rs 16,65,200 crore was on revenue account and Rs 2,41,158 crore on capital account.
It further said that out of the total revenue expenditure, over Rs 3.83 lakh crore was on account of interest payments and Rs 2,02,119 crore towards major subsidies.
For this financial year, the government had pegged the fiscal deficit at Rs 7.96 lakh crore or 3.5 per cent of the GDP in the Union Budget, which was presented by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in February 2020. These figures, however, may have to be revised significantly in view of the economic disruptions created by the coronavirus pandemic.
Fiscal deficit had soared to seven-year high of 4.6 per cent of the gross domestic product in 2019-20, mainly due to poor revenue realisation.

Eight core sector output contracts 2.6% in Nov

NEW DELHI: The output of eight core industries dropped for the ninth consecutive month in November, government data released on Thursday showed.
The production of eight core sectors contracted by 2.6 per cent in November as against a growth of 0.7 per cent recorded in the same period last year.
Barring coal, fertiliser and electricity, all sectors — crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, steel and cement — recorded negative growth in November 2020.
During April-November, the sectors’ output dropped by 11.4 per cent as compared to a growth of 0.3 per cent in the same period of the previous year.
While coal production increased by 2.9 per cent, electricity sector output grew by 2.9 per cent and 2.2 per cent during the period under review. Fertiliser sector growth stood at 1.6 per cent as against 13.6 per cent in the same month last year.
The output of crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, steel and cement declined by (-)4.9 per cent, (-)9.3 per cent, (-)4.8 per cent, (-)4.4 per cent, and (-)7.1 per cent, respectively.
(With PTI inputs)

Sensex, Nifty close 2020 with overall gains of 15%

MUMBAI: Key stock indices sensex and Nifty closed almost flat on the last trading day of 2020 on Thursday as investors tracked news related to Covid-19 vaccines rollout across the globe for further bets.
In choppy trade, the 30-share BSE sensex inched up by 5.11 points 0.01 per cent to its new closing record of 47,751.33.
After opening higher at 47,753.11, the index hit its all-time high of 47,896.97 during the day and touched a low of 47,602.12.
The broader NSE Nifty crossed the record 14,000 level for the first time, touching an intra-day peak of 14,024.85. The 50-issue index pared gains to close at 13,981.75, down by just 0.20 points.
The indices, however, closed the year 2020 with overall gains of around 15 per cent. sensex gained 15.7 per cent while Nifty jumped 14.9 per cent in the year.
HDFC was the leading gainer among sensex stocks on Thursday, rising by 1.65 per cent, followed by Sun Pharma, ICICI Bank, Asian Paints, Titan and Infosys.
TCS was the biggest loser, shedding 1.33 per cent. Ultratech Cement, Bharti Airtel, Kotak Bank and Tech Mahindra were among the other major laggards.
Bourses in Tokyo and South Korea were closed for the New Year’s holidays. Among others, Australia’s S&P/ASX fell 1.4 per cent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose by 0.3 per cent.
The Shanghai Composite gained 1.2 per cent.
Analysts said focus has been on vaccine-related developments around the globe, with China’s Sinopharm becoming the latest to release encouraging study results.
On Wall Street, stocks eked out modest gains overnight. Oil prices inched forward in global trade. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 25 cents to $51.34 a barrel.

Bitcoin sets new record, price nearly quadruples in 2020

Bitcoin on Wednesday jumped to a record $28,599.99, after the digital currency almost quadrupled in value this year amid heightened interest from bigger investors.

The world’s most popular cryptocurrency was last up 2.3% at $28,012. It has surged by nearly half since breaking $20,000 for the first time on Dec. 16.

Bitcoin has increasingly seen demand from larger U.S. investors in particular, attracted by its perceived inflation-hedging qualities and potential for quick gains, as well as expectations it would become a mainstream payments method.

Read more: Bitcoin crosses US$20K threshold for the first time

Investors said limited supply of bitcoin – produced by so-called “mining” computers that validate blocks of transactions by competing to solve mathematical puzzles – has helped power upward moves over recent days.

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Many recent entrants to the market are holding onto positions, they said.

“The supply side to the bitcoin market will remain tight,” said Jacob Skaaning of crypto hedge fund ARK36.

Click to play video 'Market and Business Report Dec. 17 2020' Market and Business Report Dec. 17 2020

Market and Business Report Dec. 17 2020 – Dec 17, 2020

The latest gains took bitcoin’s market capitalisation past $518 billion, according to industry website CoinMarketCap.

Other major cryptocurrencies, which tend to move in tandem with bitcoin, were flat. Ethereum, the second biggest, was down 0.4%, on track for a 2020 gain of around 465%.

© 2020 Reuters

BJP pushes budget relief for middle class, biz

NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has urged the government to put more money in the pockets of middle-income families in the next budget and cut the costs of raw material for small and medium-sized businesses, a party spokesman said on Thursday.
After the coronavirus impact shrank the economy in the last two quarters, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government wants to boost spending on projects for roads, ports and pipelines in the next fiscal year to revive businesses and generate jobs.
BJP feels that while the poor received free rations and businesses got state-guaranteed loans and other concessions, the economy will benefit from slimming the tax bill for the middle class with more generous standard deductions.
“The middle-income group is feeling a lot of pinch, and they need some support,” said Gopal Krishna Agarwal, who handles the BJP’s communication and coordination on economic affairs.
“Incentivising consumption by them would also help the industry,” Agarwal told Reuters, days after meeting the finance minister to discuss budget suggestions by party members. “I can say the budget will take care of the middle class.”
The government ranks more than 300 million of India’s population of 1.35 billion among middle-class consumers.
Finance ministry spokesman Rajesh Malhotra said no ministry official would comment on the budget for the new fiscal year, which begins in April, until the document was unveiled in Parliament on February 1.
Another proposal is to raise the depreciation allowances on items like cars, plant machinery and consumer durables such as refrigerators so that consumption increases and tax outgoings of businesses fall, Agarwal added.
For medium-sized and small businesses, the government could also look to lower the import duties on some raw materials such as copper and base metals.
“Raw material costs are rising not because of demand but because of supply constraints for consuming industries, and they are asking for some relief,” Agarwal said.

Act against Amazon, Flipkart for violations: Govt

NEW DELHI: In a significant development related to war between e-commerce giants and traders of India, the government has directed the Enforcement Directorate and Reserve Bank of India to take necessary action against Amazon and Walmart-owned-Flipkart.
The Centre has taken strong cognizance of various complaints made by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) for blatant violation of FDI Policy and Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) by these companies.
CAIT raised several complaints against Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart to Union commerce minister Piyush Goyal in the recent past.
The department of promotion of industries and internal trade (DPIIT) of commerce ministry — in its letter issued on December — has asked both ED and RBI to take necessary action against the e-commerce majors.
CAIT said that the DPIIT has forwarded four of it’s complaints including violation of FDI policy in deal between Flipkart and Aditya Birla Group, violation of FDI policy related to FDI in manufacturing which is being used for multi-brand retailing by various e-commerce companies, violation of FEMA and its rules by Amazon and blatant violation of FEMA and FDI Policy by Amazon and Flipkart and exploitation of loopholes.
The body said that “traders across country will observe 2021 as ‘Bhartiya Vyapaar Samman Varsh’ and all efforts will be made to clean the e-commerce landscape and an era of manipulations, mal-practices and exploitation will come to end.”