YK MYK ILL PLANNED VACCINATION PROG STUMBLES AMIDST SHORTAGES OPINION KOLKATA SATURDAY, 17 APRIL, 2021 PG-12, YEAR—7, ISSUE—329 (RNI NO: WBENG / 2014 / 56803) MAX 36 C MIN 27 C SPORTS Morning India Rs. 3 WEATHER TODAY LIC EMPLOYEES TO GET OVER 25 PER CENT WAGE HIKE 45 constituencies to go to polls for phase-V today MI NEWS SERVICE Sky will be partly cloudy. AT A GLANCE GOLD AT OVER 1 MONTH HIGH ON INFLATION FEARS NEW DELHI: Gold prices have climbed to an over one month high as inflation fears sweep the world while rising Covid cases rile the Indian economy. Gold futures on MCX were up 0.35 per cent or Rs 162 at Rs 46,770 per 10 gm. Silver futures added 0.20 per cent or Rs 137 to Rs 67,775 per kg. Navneet Damani, VP Commodities Research, Motilal Oswal Financial Services, said that gold traded higher at more than one-month peak as US Treasury yields slipped despite better than expected US economic data, pushing investors to bullion as a refuge against possible inflation ahead. BENGAL REGISTERS RECORD ONE-DAY COVID SPIKE Kolkata: The COVID19 tally in Bengal mounted to 6,43,795 on Friday after the highest- single-day spike of 6,910 new cases was reported in the State, the health department said in a bulletin. The death toll in the State rose to 10,506 after 26 fresh fatalities were registered in the last 24 hours, it said. Kolkata also accounted for the highest single-day jump of 1,844 new cases as well as nine deaths, the bulletin said. At least 2,818 patients recovered from the disease as the discharge rate now is 91.99 per cent. Since Thursday, 40,153 samples were tested for COVID- 19 in Bengal taking the total number of such tests to 97,15,115, the bulletin added. KOLKATA: Over one crore voters in West Bengal will decide the political fate of 342 candidates on Saturday, when 45 Assembly constituencies go to the polls in the fifth phase, amid a raging second wave of COVID-19 virus. Security measures have been heightened for phase-V in view of the violence in the previous phase, which witnessed the death of five people in Cooch Behar, including four in CISF firing. The Election Commission (EC) has decided to deploy at least 853 companies of Central forces to ensure free and fair polls, an official of the poll panel said. It will also put in place measures to ensure strict adherence of COVID-19 protocols during the voting process, he said. Bengal on Thursday recorded the highest singleday spike of 6,769 coronavirus cases and at least 22 fatalities. Prominent names in the fifth phase polls include Siliguri Mayor and Left Front leader Ashok Bhattacharya, State Ministers Gautam Deb and Bratya Basu and BJP's Samik Bhattacharya. Voting will be held at 15,789 polling stations in the 45 constituencies, 16 seats in North 24-Parganas, eight each in Purba Bardhaman and Nadia, seven in Jalpaiguri, five in Darjeeling and one in Kalimpong district. The phase is crucial for the ruling Trinamool Congress, which is hoping to better its 2016 tally of 32 seats, even as a resurgent BJP looks to make inroads. The Left-Congress alliance had bagged 10 seats in the last Assembly elections five years ago. TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, who had Thursday urged the EC to consider conducting the polls for the remaining Assembly seats at one go in the wake of the emerging COVID-19 situation, held several public meetings and road shows in most of the seats in the run-up to the fifth phase. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah led the campaign blitzkrieg for the BJP, which has come up as TMC's main challenger in this election. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, too, had held two public meetings in North Bengal as part of his first campaign in the State for the Assembly polls. Campaigning for the fifth phase ended on Wednesday with the EC having increased the 'silence period' from 48 to 72 hours in view of the Cooch Behar violence. Elections have been held in 135 constituencies so far, and the remaining 159 seats are set to go to polls between April 17 and 29. EC curtails poll campaign timings MI NEWS SERVICE KOLKATA: Amid a record spike in COVID-19 cases in the country, the Election Commission (EC) has decided to curtail the timings of campaigns for the remaining phases and extended the silence period to 72 hours for each of the phases. In its order, the EC said: "No rallies, public meetings, street plays, nukkad sabhas, shall be allowed on any day during the days of campaign between 7 pm and 10 am w.e.f. 7 pm of 16.4.2021." "Silence period for rallies, public meetings, street plays, nukkad sabha, bike rallies or any gathering for campaigning purposes shall be extended to 72 hours before the end of the poll for Phase 6, Phase 7 and Phase 8 in the State of West Bengal," it added. The Commission in its order noted several instances of election meetings and campaigns "wherein norms of social distancing, wearing of masks etc., have been flouted in blatant disregard of the Commission's aforesaid guidelines". The Commission also took a serious view against repeated violations by star campaigners/political leaders/candidates who are supposed to be torch-bearers for the campaign against COVID-19, grossly violating COVID-19 protocols, thereby exposing themselves as well as the public to the danger of infection. The EC had given a strict warning earlier this month against violation of COVID-19 guidelines and said it would not be hesitant in banning public meetings and rallies. The EC said that candidates and political parties shall ensure absolute, repeat absolute, adherence to COVID-19 guidelines in letter and spirit. "Violations, if any, shall be sternly dealt with and action, including criminal action, taken as per extant legal framework," it said. "It shall be the responsibility of the organisers of public meetings, rallies, etc., to provide masks and sanitisers to every person attending these meetings, rallies, etc., at their cost which shall be added and counted within limits of prescribed expenditure," the Commission further said, adding that district election officers and special observers should take strictly monitored compliance of COVID-19 norms. CORONA CID takes over Cooch Behar firing probe METER MI NEWS SERVICE INDIA TOTAL CASES: 1,42,95,430 TOTAL DEATH: 1,74,350 WORLD TOTAL CASES: 139,857,929 TOTAL DEATH: 3,002,728 KOLKATA: Bengal CID Friday took over the case of killing of four people in firing by the CISF during polling in Cooch Behar district on April 10, a senior Government official said. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has been constituted to conduct the probe into the incident which happened during the fourth phase of polling at Sitalkuchi. The incident had set off an acrimonious debate between the rul- ing TMC and challenger BJP, and triggered public outrage. Investigators will visit booth number 126/5 in Jorpatki in Sitalkuchi Assembly constituency where CISF personnel opened fire after they allegedly came under attack from a group of villagers. The TMC has claimed those killed were its supporters who were gunned down when they were standing in queue to cast their votes. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had called the incident a "genocide". Besides talking to witnesses . ICSE BOARD EXAMS FOR CLASS 10, 12 POSTPONED NEW DELHI: The Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) on Friday postponed the board exams for classes 10 and 12 amid the massive surge in COVID-19 cases across the country. The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE), which conducts the ICSE examinations, said that the new dates will be announced in the first week of June. "In the light of the nationwide surge in Covid 19 cases, the CISCE has decided to defer the ICSE (Class X) and ISC (Class XII) board examinations scheduled to be held from May 4," CISCE said in an official statement. "The COVID-19 situation will be closely monitored and the deferment of the ICSE and ISC 2021 Examinations will be reviewed and a final decision on the conduct of the board examinations will be taken by the 1st week of June 2021," the statement further said. The CISCE has also given an option to Class 10 students to not write ICSE board exams, adding that they may at their discretion write examinations with Class 12 students. "While the ISC (Class XII) examination will be conducted at a later date, the candidates for the ICSE (Class X) examination will be given the following options: to write the offline examination, along with the Class XII candidates or not to write the offline examination," the council said. Light rainfall was reported from several parts of Ranchi on Friday. MI Photo Monsoon to be normal this year, says IMD NEW DELHI: The Southwest monsoon, which brings more than 75 per cent of rainfall to the country, is expected to be normal this year, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Friday. The Long Period Average (LPA) will be 98 per cent with an error margin of plus and minus 5 per cent, said M Rajeevan, secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences. Rainfall in Odisha, Jharkhand, eastern Uttar Pradesh and Assam is likely to be below normal, but normal or above normal In the rest of the country, he said while releasing the first Long Range Forecast for the fourmonth rainfall period from June to September. "The monsoon will be 98 per cent of the LPA which is normal rainfall. It is really good news for the country and will help India have a good agriculture output," Rajeevan said at a virtual press conference. The news augurs well for economy, battered due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Southwest monsoon is one of the primary drivers of the country's economy which is largely based on agriculture and its allied activities. Large parts of the country rely on the four-month rainfall season for agriculture and also for filling reservoirs. RAINFALL IN ODISHA, JHARKHAND, EASTERN UTTAR PRADESH AND ASSAM IS LIKELY TO BE BELOW NORMAL, BUT NORMAL OR ABOVE NORMAL IN THE REST OF THE COUNTRY, HE SAID WHILE RELEASING THE FIRST LONG RANGE FORECAST FOR THE FOUR-MONTH RAINFALL PERIOD FROM JUNE TO SEPTEMBER. This is the first time the IMD has made a specific forecast on spatial distribution. Rajeevan said the IMD will also issue month-wise forecasts during the next four months. The country has recorded above normal rainfall for the last two rainfall seasons. The La Nina and El Nino factors major influence on the Indian monsoon. The former is associated with the cooling of the Pacific waters and brings good rainfall while the latter is linked to the heating of Pacific waters and could lead to deficient precipitation. "There are less chances of formation of an El Nino," Rajeevan said. LPA, the average of the season's rainfall across the country from 1961-2010, is 88 cm. UK Home Secretary nod to extradition of fugitive businessman Nirav Modi NEW DELHI: In a major boost to the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) probe into the Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case, the UK Home Minister has approved the extradition request of fugitive businessman Nirav Modi, sources said on Friday. "The UK Home Minister has approved the extradition request of Nirav Modi," a CBI source related to the probe told IANS. Asked how long will it take for the CBI will bring back the fugitive businessman, who has been lodged in a prison in London since his arrest in March 2019, the source said that if Nirav Modi files an appeal, then it may take some time. On February 25 this year, a UK court allowed extradition of Nirav Modi in the Rs 13,500 crore PNB scam case. The District Judge at the Westminster Magistrates' Court, Samuel Goozee, accepted the prima facie evidence against Nirav Modi for money laundering, saying: "Many of these are a matter for trial in India. I am satisfied again that there is evidence that he could be convicted," according to reports. The CBI had then dubbed the UK court judgement as a "significant" achievement in its efforts to curb corruption. The CBI in a statement had said that the UK court ruling is "a reminder that fugitives, who have eluded the process of law after commission of large value frauds, cannot consider themselves above the process merely because they have changed jurisdictions". MORE STORIES ON PAGE 9 You may actually be ‘dissaving’ by putting money in savings instruments YOU MAY not have noticed it but the actual interest rate that you are getting on your bank deposits and investments in small savings schemes has fallen into the negative territory. This means that the return on investments is not yielding any positive value but only covering for higher inflation and savings may actually be falling in their real value. The situation has emerged in wake of a sharp fall in deposit rates due to aggressive rate cuts by banks in response to the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) reduction in the benchmark rates, coupled with a rise in consumer prices. What this meant is that the real interest rate (actual return that you get on your sav- ings minus inflation) has been pulled into the negative territory, disincentivising savings. As per the latest RBI data, household financial savings had declined sharply to 10.4 per cent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) in the JulySeptember period of FY21, down from 21 per cent of the GDP in Q1 of FY21. It is estimated to have further declined in the December quarter as consumption intensified and options to save were disincentivised. A look at the official inflation data based on wholesale price index (WPI) makes things clearer on the trajectory for returns on savings. The data released on Thursday showed WPI inflation accelerated to 7.4 per cent in THIS MEANS THAT THE RETURN ON INVESTMENTS IS NOT YIELDING ANY POSITIVE VALUE BUT ONLY COVERING FOR HIGHER INFLATION AND SAVINGS MAY ACTUALLY BE FALLING IN THEIR REAL VALUE. March, higher than the 27-month high of 4.2 per cent in February. This is the highest inflation rate recorded in the new data series. The previous high was 7.4 per cent in October 2012. Even if one looks at inflation based on consumer price index (CPI), the trajectory has been going up and up. After falling to 4.06 per cent in January, CPI inflation inched up to 5.03 per cent in February and further to 5.52 per cent in March 2021. Food inflation also increased recently; however, the concern is the elevated level of core inflation. Core inflation has not come down and has remained above 5 per cent since June 2020 and touched 6 per cent in March 2021. If we compare the developments on inflation with the rate of interest prevailing on prime savings instruments, the plight of the common man becomes clearer. Interest on five-year time deposits is being maintained at 6.7 per cent in Q1 of FY22, the Senior Citizen Savings Scheme is earning 7.4 per cent, PPF and NSC are offering interest of 7.1 per cent and 6.8 per cent for the coming three months, five-year recurring deposits is offering 5.8 per cent, and one-year to threeyear time deposits are fetching 5.5 per cent interest rate. Similarly, interest on five-year time deposits is being maintained at 6.7 per cent, Kisan Vikas Patra is offering 6.9 per cent interest while the Sukanya Samriddhi Account scheme is offering interest rate of of 7.6 per cent. Not to mention savings deposits that is giving around 4 per cent. In most of the savings instruments, the real rate of interest has fallen sharply or fallen off the cliff into the negative territory, barring the Sukanya Samriddhi Account scheme that is still offering some positive returns after taking inflation into account. The situation would have been worse had the Finance Ministry not withdrawn a decision to reduce interest rates in small savings instruments by upto 110 basis points from April. The rate of interest on these had already fallen in April 2020 by about 140 basis points. "Present, interest rates will further pressurise savings which have been hit hard by the Covid pandemic. However, if stricter lockdowns are imposed, then the rate can go up temporarily again as it will be hard to spend disposable income, but this is unlikely to repeat the extent of last year shot up in savings rate as the lockdown stringency levels are easier than last time," said Madhavi Arora, Lead Economist, Emkay Global Financial Services.