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Air India slams discrimination against crew

Mumbai: Even as the state-carrier, Air India has come forward to rescue Indians stranded abroad in the wake of coronavirus, the airline’s crew is falling prey to discrimination.

On Sunday, a batch of 263 Indians, who were evacuated from Italy in view of the coronavirus outbreak there, were brought back to the country and sent to a quarantine facility.

Air India has been operating flights to evacuate Indians stranded at Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus, and has made similar trips bring back Indians stranded in Japan, Milan and Rome. Air India has done this multiple times earlier as well.

‘Heroic effort by crew’
According to a recent report, a video of a girl claiming to be an Air India flight attendant has gone viral on social media. In this video, the Air India flight attendant alleges that the many crew members are being discriminated against by housing society members, when they return from servicing the international sectors. BusinessLine was not immediately able to confirm the same.

Air India has been pulling out all stops to stand by the nation in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak, said a spokesperson in a statement adding, “Crew members who are landing into India from affected cities are sent on home quarantine, and also to designated hospitals for check part of the protocol. Safety measures have been providing adequate protection to our crew, who have been discharging their duties.”

However, “it is alarming to know that in many localities, vigilante Resident Welfare Associations and neighbours have started ostracising the crew, obstructing them from performing their duty or even calling in the police simply because the crew travelled abroad in the course of their duty.”

“These vigilantes have conveniently forgotten that many a spouse, parent, sibling, child, and near and dear ones have been brought home safe and secure from affected countries thanks to the heroic efforts of these Air India crew,” it further added.

Air India in the statement appealed to all concerned societies, particularly the law enforcement agencies, courtesy, respect and freedom that every citizen of this country deserves especially in light of the fact of their having undertaken flight duties to affected countries to bring back Indian citizens. to ensure that our crew are treated with the respect they deserve.

Support from public
Several people, and industry players came out in support of the Air India crew on the micro-blogging site, Twitter. Sanjiv Kapoor, @TheSanjivKapoor, aviation veteran, who has recently joined GoAir as a consultant, sharing the press statement, in a tweet said, “it is essential we don't turn against each other. Crew under quarantine should not be harassed. Foreigners & ex-pats who live in India should not be challenged when they are outside their homes. Those from the north-east should not be taunted. Surely we are better than that.”

Aditya Raj Kaul, @AdityaRajKaul, another Twitter user said: “Guys, this is so bizarre. Air India crew/staff has been doing whatever it can to rescue Indians all across the globe. They are following WHO and Health Ministry Guidelines. Only crackpots and idiots would indulge in harassment of Air India employees at their residential areas.”

(Source: The Hindu BusinessLine 23rd March 2020)

Retail, HNI out of trading limits as COVID-19 lock-down hits brokerages

There was panic in stock markets on Monday as large number of retail investors and high net worth individuals (HNIs) were not able to trade as brokers were not giving them any limits, retail portfolio managers and traders told BusinessLine. As a major fall-out of COVID-19 containment measures, there has been huge disruption of office working staff in equity markets.

In Mumbai, Gujarat and Rajasthan stock brokers were not giving clients any limit to trade in derivatives or even buy in the cash segment, unless 100 per cent or more margin money was deposited first. In Delhi, Kolkatta and many other states brokers themselves were not allowed to open their offices due to a state government announced complete lock down. In 75 districts which have announced a lock down, brokers and equity market related workers are yet to classified as essential services.

Across the country, the main issue for stock brokers was that many of their dealers on terminals had not been able to reach to work due to suspension of transport services in states. In Mumbai too, which has the largest base of brokerage services, largely broking office employees could not reach office due to unavailability of transport. States have banned passenger trains and metros and private taxi services too had suspended their trade.

Although, stock exchanges said that broking staff can work from home, the announcement came in the evening only after markets closed. Brokers had to follow procedures to allow trading terminals to be shifted from their offices to dealers home, which has not been done yet. Exchanges need to be informed of specific locations, all of which again requires working staff. While all these logistical issues were being sorted out, broker shops were nearly shut, a Mumbai based legal compliance officer of broking firm said. Banks branches too were shut in many states and employees were not able to reach for work due to lock down.

Sensex and Nifty hit 10 per cent lower circuit levels and had to be shut for trading for 45 minutes as there was wafer thin buying volumes in the stock market. Bank Nifty index came down like and avalanche. The index was down 15 per cent or 3000 points. Even after a 45 minute break Nifty index was down over 1000 points or 11 per cent and Sensex more than 3500 points.

In an interview to a television channel Aditya Puri, MD, HDFC Bank said that he had spoken to some of the fund managers who said they were not in such panic selling mode and pressure on the markets was coming from ‘programmed selling’ (meaning computer driven algo strategies).

“On Friday, when global markets were down, India’s stock markets rose on the back of rumours that there would be a complete ban on short-selling. There is still 80,000 to 1 lakh contracts of net short positions in index futures by FPIs. These category of traders feared a ban on shorts and covered their positions on Thursday as a result of which their net shorts in index future fell below one lakh contracts. SEBI just linked short selling to limited of underlying positions held by traders. FPIs hold huge stock and still there is no panic to cover them until global sentiments do not improve,” said a research head of one of Mumbai’s largest broking house.

Effectively, SEBI on Friday hiked margins in derivatives from 15 per cent to 30 per cent for the current month derivative expiry and 40 per cent thereafter for a month. The regulator said that for shorting the equity index futures, the limit for all category of traders will be equal to their stock holdings.

(Source: The Hindu BusinessLine 23rd March 2020)

North Western Railway cancels all trains on Sunday, 1 international flight among 18 affected

JAIPUR: The containment measures for Covid-19 continue to affect the air, road and rail traffic in the state. The North Western Railway, which cancelled 52 of its trains till March 31 on Saturday, declared to cancel all its trains for Sunday. The cancelled trains include 136 passenger trains and 100 mail/superfast trains. Due to poor passenger load, 18 flights — including one international and 17 domestic — remained cancelled.

NWR announced that its 100 mail/express trains would remain cancelled from 4am to 10pm on Sunday. This means there would be no train operations between this period.

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Officials added that 136 passenger trains will stop running from midnight. “These 136 passenger trains plying on smaller distances would not operate from 12.00am to 10.00pm on Sunday,” the officer added.

Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation decided to discontinue its bus operations in Pratapgarh and Chittorgarh districts. “Out of our 4,200 buses, which operate on a regular day, we are running only 2,400 buses due to poor passenger load,” Sudhir Bhati, manager, public relations said.

Many flights have also been affected. “We had cancellation of 17 domestic flights and one international flight from Jaipur to Bangkok on Saturday,” said J S Balhara, director, Jaipur airport.

(Source: Times of India 22nd March 2020)

9 domestic flights, 52 trains cancelled in Rajasthan

JAIPUR: With increase in number of coronavirus cases in Rajasthan, the number of travellers by air, rail and road has come down. On Friday, nine domestic flights were cancelled due to fewer passengers, while North Western Railway (NWR) decided to terminate 52 important trains till April 1.
Jaipur airport that usually witnesses frenzied activities was deserted on Friday. However, various operators had to cancel nine flights due to negligible passenger load .

“The flights which remained cancelled, included two flights each for Mumbai from Jaipur, Bengaluru from Jaipur, one for Delhi from Jaipur and one international flight from Jaipur to Dubai. Many passengers have opted for re-scheduling of their flights,” said an officer of air traffic control .

Likewise, the ongoing scare and awareness to avoid crowd has also affected the rush in various trains. “Due to poor passenger load, we have decided to terminate 52 of our trains, including trains to Mumbai, Indore, Bikaner, Udaipur, Chandigarh, Bhopal, and many other parts of the country,” said a senior officer of NWR.

The ongoing scenario has already hit the Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation buses. On Friday, 60% drop in passengers travelling in mini-buses in Jaipur was witnessed. “We have 2,300 buses operating in around 23 routes. For past one week there has been constant drop in the number of travellers. We are only operating buses in losses as there is merely 30-40% passengers load. On Sunday, we decided not to operate to make Janata Curfew successful,” said Prashant Meel, president of Rajasthan City Mini Buses Association.

(Source: Times of India 21st March 2020)

Coronavirus outbreak: GJEPC postpones international gem, jewellery show in Jaipur

Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) has rescheduled its international gem and jewellery show in Jaipur from April to July on account of coronavirus outbreak. In a statement, the council has said due to concerns related to the global coronavirus outbreak, they have decided to postpone the dates to July 18-20, 2020.

New Delhi: Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) has rescheduled its international gem and jewellery show in Jaipur from April to July on account of coronavirus outbreak. In a statement, the council has said due to concerns related to the global coronavirus outbreak, they have decided to postpone the dates to July 18-20, 2020.

There are serious concerns globally pertaining to the outbreak of respiratory illness caused by Coronavirus, adversely affecting everyone's travel plans, it said.

"Considering the concerns and sensitivities of the countries impacted, the health and safety of exhibitors and visitors, after much deliberation with buyers and other stakeholders, there was no option but to reschedule the show," it added.

Further, the council said over 600 buyers from 56 countries which includes Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, and England, have registered so far. Over 230 exhibitors have confirmed their participation from all over India. During April 2019 to January 2020, exports declined 4.78 per cent to Rs 2,16,076.06 crore as compared with Rs 2,26,933.91 crore during the ten months period of 2018-19.

(Source: Zee News 20th March 2020)

Anti-CAA protesters plan to call off agitation in Rajasthan

JAIPUR: Following the state government’s directive on social distancing, the 24/7 anti-CAA protest running across the state are contemplating to call off the protest to join the nation’s fight against the spread of the virus.
Considering the prevailing situation, Naim Rabbani, coordinator of the Jaipur’s Shaheen Bagh in told TOI, “Since the state has initiated several steps in containing the spread of the virus, the protest committee has called a meeting on Wednesday afternoon to take a call on the status of the protest.”
Both the protest sites in Jaipur-Shaheed Smarak and Karbala Maidan have been drawing Muslim women from huge numbers every day. Similarly, Samvidhan Bachao Samiti of Chittorgarh has called a meeting on Wednesday for the same.
“The Samiti members keep the interest of the nation above all. The meeting has been called to discuss what can be done in the light of the spread of the virus,” said advocate Arif Ali, member of the Samiti. Refusing to roll back, Shifa Khalid, a coordinator of Shaheen Bagh in Kota told TOI that they are taking all precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. “Our protesting women wash their feet, hands and face five times before prayers will keep them safe from the spread of the virus. We will give them medicines to fight the spread of the virus,” said Khalid.

(Source: The Times Of India 18th March 2020)

Two coronavirus patients cured in Rajasthan: Health officials

Jaipur: Two persons who had tested positive -- 69-year-old Italian man and 85-year-old Jaipur resident with travel history to Dubai -- have tested negative twice and were now coronavirus-free, according to health officials here on Sunday.
Three patients, including 70-year-old Italian woman, now in Rajasthan, become coronavirus-free after treatment at SMS Hospital, said Rohit Kumar Singh, Additional Chief Secretary (Health).
Complimenting doctors on their achievement, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said: "Happy to share, three #corona patients, including two senior citizens with comorbid issues at SMS hospital, #Jaipur have been treated successfully & their test reports are now negative. My heartiest compliments to SMS doctors & staff for their commendable & dedicated service in treating corona patients."
"This news should reassure those feeling stressed. My appeal to people is to take precautions and avoid visiting crowded places. State govt is continuously monitoring the situation & enhancing medical facilities for corona testing & treating patients. This news should reassure those feeling stressed," he tweeted.
Of the 402 samples tested in Rajasthan, 393 turned negative and four positive. Five samples are still under test.
While three have tested negative, a 26-year-old local youth, who had a travel history, tested positive on Saturday.
In Rajasthan, total 417 samples have been tested. Of this, four tested positive, 406 negative and seven were still being processed, said Singh.
(Source: Zee News 18th March 2020)

Coronavirus impact: Hundreds of ground handling agents of international airlines told to go on leave

About 35,000 agents working for foreign carriers face grim prospect of unemployment

The coronavirus pandemic has had its first direct impact on employment in India. Hundreds of ground handling agents (GHAs) providing support services to international airlines have been asked to go on ‘temporary’ leave as over 75 per cent of the flights to and from India have been suspended over the past few days.

There is now an imminent threat of unemployment for nearly 35,000 GHAs associated with various international airlines, till regular flight operations begin again. The ground handling (GH) industry totally employs over 70,000 people, with over half of them working for international airlines.

On March 3, India suspended visas granted to the nationals of Italy, Iran, South Korea and Japan. On Monday, the list was extended to include those from the EU and the UK. This has shut the doors to over 90 per cent of international flights, said an industry source.

R Promod, General Manager - India, NAS Ground Handling, said: “Temporary layoffs can be foreseen. No airline, GHA or travel agent will be able to survive without drastic cost cuts. The whole team can be in trouble as their salaries won’t come if there are no flights.”

(Source: The Hindu BusinessLine 17th March 2020)

Covid-19 scare in Rajasthan: Kota coaching centres move online

JAIPUR: For the first time in 30 years, the coaching centres in Kota wore a completely deserted look on Saturday following the previous night’s state government advisory against holding of classes till March 30 in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The coaching town woke up with the news of the closure of coaching institutes. But by the time the institutes could call off the classes, thousands of students had already landed in their centres. They were immediately requested to go back to their hostels or accommodations and asked not to report until the ban is lifted. The coaching institutes said that they pre-empted the government advisory since the first case of an Italian couple tested positive for the virus in Jaipur last week.
By the evening, the coaching majors, which have over 1.5 lakh students from outside Kota, adopted the “minimal human contact-free coaching” methods and shifted their classes to the online platform, offering lessons and giving out assignments through WhatsApp, video conferencing and mobile apps to ensure “no loss of studies”.

“All major institutes immediately started working on preparing online modules to be broadcast on social media platforms,” said Pramod Maheshwari, director of Career Point.

At present, two groups of students are living in Kota: Those preparing to appear in JEE-Main slated in April and NEET in May; the others are those who are in junior classes and most of them preparing for competitive exams like Olympiads.

The initial hours were full of panic as the centres found it difficult to counsel students who were worried about the break in their preparation. The institutes started receiving calls from parents concerned for their wards.

“We have been telling everyone that the government has taken a precautionary measure to stop the spread of the virus which doesn’t mean that Kota facing any endemic. From the past 2-3 days, we have made thermal screening mandatory for every entrant in all our campuses including the staff and provided hand sanitizers at all possible places to reduce the spread of the virus,” said Nitesh Sharma, chief media and marketing officer, Allen Career Institute.

Students have now been asked to proceed to their hostels and follow all precautions. Considering the volume of students, the district administration has directed all major stakeholders —institutes, hostels, transport and food providers — to keep a watch on the students.

(Source: The Times Of India 16th March 2020)

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