13 May 2021

Unemployed Doctors Come Forward To Fight Covid In Mizoram

Aizawl: In a generous gesture, over 400 unemployed doctors, nursing students, laboratory technicians and pharmacists in Mizoram have voluntarily agreed to assist the government in Covid management, health officials said on Wednesday.

A health official said that responding to the state government’s appeal, 412 unemployed doctors, nursing students and laboratory technicians willingly engaged themselves in Covid-19 related works including sample collections, screening of patients, contact tracing, and providing care to the patients in Zoram Medical College (ZMC) and other Covid care centres.

“The state government has been facing huge shortages of skilled medical manpower. The voluntary engagement of 412 unemployed doctors, nursing students and laboratory technicians would be a great help for the authorities in dealing with Covid management,” the official said.

Of the 412, 37 are doctors and 144 are nurses, while the rest are laboratory technicians and pharmacists.

According to the official, around 900 doctors, nursing and para-medical students had voluntarily helped the Mizoram Health Department last year to deal with the pandemic.

A total of 8,032 positive cases have detected in the mountainous border state and on Wednesday, the active cases stood at 1,889 with 23 people succumbing to the disease.

Nagaland Goes For Total Lockdown, More Curbs In Other NE States

Guwahati/Kohima/Agartala:  The Nagaland government has clamped total lockdown across the state for eight days while Assam and the other six northeastern states extended the timings of curfew and imposed other restrictions to curb the alarming spread of Covid, officials said on Wednesday.

Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh have shown continued increasing trend in daily new Covid cases.

In Kohima, health officials said that the High-Powered Committee on Covid-19 decided to impose a state-wide total lockdown starting from 6 p.m. on Friday till May 21.

Officials in Guwahati said that in the past one week (May 5-May 11), 5,215 new Covid cases were reported against 3,466 cases in the previous week (April 28-May 4) while 2,333 fresh cases reported in the earlier week (April 21-April 27).

The Assam government on Wednesday issued new standard operating procedures (SOPs) with effect from Thursday. According to the SOPs, the curfew timings across Assam have been advanced to 2 p.m. from the earlier 6 p.m.

The fresh SOPs, issued by Chief Secretary Jishnu Barua, said that all shops and commercial establishments would be shut down at 1 p.m. on all days instead of 2 p.m., weekly markets would not be allowed for 15 days, all educational institutions including schools, colleges and Universities must provide quality virtual options, and no physical classes would be allowed for 15 days, and all government and non-government offices would be closed for 15 days with effect from Thursday.

Director General of Police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta on Wednesday said that the police would register “attempt to murder” case if any one violates the SOPs.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma entrusted each of the 13 ministers to oversee the Covid management in at least two districts while he himself would look after the pandemic-related actions and necessities in Majuli district, the world’s largest river island.

After imposing night curfew and other restrictions, the Tripura government has declared three containment zones within the Agartala Municipal Corporation area.

The Manipur government has imposed total curfew in seven of the 16 districts till May 17. The seven include Imphal West and Imphal East districts. In the remaining districts, night curfew would in effect from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The Meghalaya government extended the lockdown in East Khasi Hills district, where Shillong is located, till May 17.

Chief Secretary M.S Rao, in his order, said that weekend lockdowns would be enforced in the remaining 10 districts on May 15 and May 16. “Inter-state movement of people shall continue to be restricted. This shall not apply for transit vehicles of Assam, Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram,” the order said.

The Mizoram government has announced complete lockdown till 4 a.m of May 17 while Sikkim imposed lockdown-like restrictions till May 16. Arunachal Pradesh has imposed night curfew — from 6.30 pm to 5 am – till May 31.

'Champions League of tax avoidance:' Uber used 50 Dutch shell companies to dodge taxes on nearly $6 billion in revenue


GettyImages 1176816141 (1) NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 24: Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO, UBER, speaks onstage during the 2019 Concordia Annual Summit - Day 2 at Grand Hyatt New York on September 24, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)Riccardo Savi/Getty ImagesUber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.
  • Uber used around 50 Dutch shell companies to help reduce its global tax burden, an Australian research group found.
  • Despite earning $5.8 billion in global revenues in 2019, Uber claimed a $4.5 billion loss for tax purposes.
  • One researcher called Uber’s alleged scheme “the Champions League of tax avoidance.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Uber has been using a complex tax shelter involving around 50 Dutch shell companies to reduce its global tax bill, according to recent research from the Center for International Corporate Tax Accountability and Research.

In 2019, Uber claimed $4.5 billion in global operating losses (excluding the US and China) for tax purposes – in reality, it brought in $5.8 billion in operating revenue, according to CICTAR, an Australia-based research group.

Uber had previously disclosed details about its Dutch tax haven in 2019, when it moved its intellectual property from Bermuda to the Netherlands, but CICTAR’s research sheds more light on how the company has structured its network of shell companies.

“This is the Champions League of tax avoidance,” CICTAR principal analyst Jason Ward told Dutch news magazine De Groene Amsterdammer.

Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story.

Uber transfered its intellectual property through a $16 billion “loan” from one of its subsidiaries in Singapore that in turn owns one of Uber’s Dutch shell companies, a manuever that grants the company a $1 billion tax break every year for the next 20 years, the researchers found.

“Uber has supercharged their tax avoidance approach,” Ward told Insider, using an intellectual property tax break “to prevent future tax bills, turning it into a much more useful, viable tax structure in the Netherlands.”

CICTAR also found several of Uber’s Dutch subsidiaries hadn’t submitted mandatory financial reports, and in India, Uber paid less than a third of the 6% tax the country imposes on multinational companies, according to the report.

“India is in desperate need of public revenue” to help it combat COVID-19, yet companies like Uber are able to avoid cointributing to that effort through tax avoidance schemes, Ward told Insider.

In Australia, CICTAR found that Uber was underpaying its tax bill by $30.5 million (AUD$39 million), according to Groene Amsterdammer.

Uber’s sophisticated efforts to achieve little or no tax burden on multibillion-dollar global revenues highlights a long-standing challenge governments face in enforcing tax compliance among wealthy corporations and individuals across borders.

In response, some lawmakers around the world, including the US President Joe Biden, have lobbied for a global minimum tax and other measures to reduce tax avoidance, which the Tax Justice Network estimates costs governments $427 billion annually.

04 May 2021

Mizoram: Eight-day lockdown imposed in Aizawl, other district headquarters

A health worker collects a swab sample
A health worker collects a swab sample
  • The lockdown would come into force at 4 am on Monday (3 May) and would remain in force till 4 am of 11 May
  • There is no restriction in terms of opening of shops and other economic activities in other parts of the state

Amid an alarming surge in Covid-19 cases, the Mizoram government has decided to impose an eight-day lockdown in capital Aizawl and other district headquarters town from 3 May.

The decision was taken to curtain people's movement and activities, except essential services, for flattening the curve of the virus transmission and efficient testing, tracking and treatment, said a government order.

The lockdown would come into force at 4 am on Monday (3 May) and would remain in force till 4 am of 11 May.

There are 11 districts in Mizoram, including Aizawl.

"No resident of the Aizawl municipal area and other district headquarters town should step out of their homes during the lockdown, while intra-state movement or travelling outside the state will be allowed under exceptional or very essential case," the order said.

"State residents or visitors coming to Mizoram should enter the state only through those entry points currently opened by the state government and they will undergo mandatory Rapid Antigen Test for Covid-19," it added.

The government has mandated the returnees or visitors to undergo either home quarantine or at a government/hotel/community facility if tested negative.

Quarantine is not mandatory for people visiting the state for a short duration (lesser than 96 hours) provided they possess Covid negative certificates from ICMR recognised RT-PCR or Truenat or CBNAT labs. The certificates should not be older than 96 hours upon their arrival in the state.

Manipur HC orders safe passage to seven Myanmar nationals to approach UNHCR

“They fled the country of their origin under imminent threat to their lives and liberty. In such a situation, insisting that they first answer for admitted violations of our domestic laws...would be palpably inhuman,” the bench observed.

myanmar refugees manipur, myanmar refugees in india, Manipur HC Myanmar refugees, Myanmar refugees north east india, indian expressAnti-coup protesters flash the three-finger salute during a demonstration at Yangon, Myanmar, in April. (Photo: AP)

“They fled the country of their origin under imminent threat to their lives and liberty. In such a situation, insisting that they first answer for admitted violations of our domestic laws…would be palpably inhuman,” the bench observed.The High Court of Manipur on Monday ordered safe passage to seven Myanmar nationals, stranded at a border town in Manipur, to travel to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in New Delhi.

It is learnt that three of the seven Myanmar nationals are journalists working with Mizzima News, while the rest are their kin.

The order was issued by a division bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjaykumar and Justice Lanusungkum Jamir, in response to a petition filed by one Nandia Haksar. The petitioner approached the court to pass an order for safe passage to the seven Myanmar nationals to seek protection from UNHCR.

In the course of the hearing, the bench noted that though India has no clear refugee protection policy or framework, it does grant asylum to a large number of refugees from the neighbouring country. It further noted that India usually respects UNHCR’s recognition of the status of such asylum seekers, mainly from Afghanistan and Myanmar.

Citing this, the court observed that the seven in question are not ‘migrants’, as normally understood, but are ‘asylum seekers’.

“They did not enter our country with the clear-cut and deliberate intention of breaking and violating our domestic laws. They fled the country of their origin under imminent threat to their lives and liberty. They aspire for relief under International Conventions that were put in place to offer protection and rehabilitation to refugees/asylum seekers. In such a situation, insisting that they first answer for admitted violations of our domestic laws, as a condition precedent for seeking ‘refugee’ status, would be palpably inhuman,” the bench observed.

In his argument, S Suresh, Assistant Solicitor General, cited the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946; the Foreigners Order, 1948; and the Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939; in support of his contention that these seven persons, who admittedly entered the country illegally, should first face the consequences of their unlawful acts.

The counsel further asserted that the Constitutional freedoms available under Article 19 are limited to citizens and these seven persons cannot claim such freedoms under Articles 19(1)(d) and 19 (1)(e), with regard to moving freely or residing/settling in any part of the territory of India.

The petitioner, on the other hand, stated that after a military coup in the neighbouring country in February, the military junta banned Mizzima news and arrested several journalists. As such, the journalists, with their family, fled their country. They entered India and have taken shelter at Moreh border in Tengnoupal district of Manipur.

The petitioner maintained that the Myanmar nationals feared they would be sent back by the Assam Rifles, as they had come without proper travel documents.

Earlier in March, the Ministry of Home Affairs had directed the authorities of the border states in the North-East and the Assam Rifles to check the flow of illegal migrants from Myanmar in the wake of the coup.

Modi wants NGOs to help fight Covid-19. But their hands are tied by rules his government introduced

The law that regulates foreign contributions to the non-profit sector was amended in the middle of the pandemic.

In September, when India was in the midst of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the Centre amended the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, which governs the use of foreign donations received by non-governmental organisations in the country.

At that time, the Voluntary Action Network India, a group of Indian non-profit organisations, said in a statement that the stringent restrictions brought in through the amendments would deliver a death blow to them.

Eight months later, India is going through a more severe second wave of Covid-19, with daily infection numbers touching almost 4 lakh per day and the country registering a record number of daily deaths.

On April 30, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a review meeting with officials discussed how NGO should help maintain lines of communication between patients, their dependents and healthcare personnel.

But those in the NGO sector say the September amendments introduced by the Modi government have crippled them, limiting their ability to access and distribute crucial foreign aid at a time when India is looking for every bit of help to fight the crisis.

There are hundreds of NGOs across the country with health as their primary area of focus. These organisations want the government to put the implementation of the amendments in abeyance to allow them to effectively use their networks in the fight against Covid-19. In particular, the organisations want the government to allow the larger NGOs to distribute funds they receive to the smaller ones, something that has been prohibited by the new changes to the law.

Sub-granting aid

Before the amendments were passed in September, larger NGOs which are registered under the FCRA would receive donations from outside India and redistribute the funds to smaller NGOs with whom they work in the country. To illustrate, an NGO working in Delhi could sub-grant the money to a smaller NGO working in Bihar or Kerala to implement a certain program in the field.

But the amendments put an end to this practice.

According to Biraj Patnaik, executive director of the National Foundation of India, smaller NGOs working in remote areas do not usually get direct access to foreign funding. They depend on the larger NGOs to sub-grant funds for their work. “A small NGO may not even have a functioning website. But they could be doing excellent work on the ground,” he said.

The larger NGOs act as a bridge between the donors and the smaller organisations. “By disallowing sub-granting of funds, the whole stream of funding has dried up,” he added.

This becomes even more important in times like a pandemic.

Patnaik said FCRA covers both money and material donations. Without powers to sub-grant, the reach of the larger NGOs is also restricted. For example, an NGO may receive oxygen concentrators from a donor abroad. “For instance, if my organisation which is based in Delhi gets a large supply of oxygen concentrators from abroad as a donation, we can no longer send it to organisations working in Nagaland or Arunachal Pradesh, or indeed in rural Uttar Pradesh.”

29 April 2021

Mizoram plans to become ‘Har Ghar Jal’ State by 2022-23

NEW DELHI: The State of Mizoram presented their Jal Jeevan Mission Annual Action Plan via video conference with details of the saturation plan for the financial year 2021-22, thereby ensuring that every rural household in the State gets tap water connection. Working along with the mission objective ‘HarGharJal’, Mizoram proposes 100% tap connections in rural homes of the State by 2022-23. Out of 1.27 lakh rural households in the State, 59 thousand (46%) rural households have tap water supply. The State has planned to provide 40 thousand tap connections in 2021-2022.  Total 34 thousand tap connections were provided by the State during 2020-2021.

The extensive exercise of taking up the Annual Action Plan (AAP) of States/UTs under Jal Jeevan Mission, is done by a national committee chaired by the Secretary, Department of Drinking Water & Sanitation and members from different ministries/ departments as well as NITI Aayog. Thereafter, funds are released throughout the year based on quarterly progress and expenditure incurred from time to time. The detailed planning exercise is undertaken to help the State achieve the goal of ‘HarGharJal’.

Under Jal Jeevan Mission, efforts are made to dovetail all available resources by the convergence of different programmes viz. MGNREGS, SBM, 15th Finance Commission Grants to PRIs, CAMPA funds, Local Area Development Funds, etc. The committee suggested that the Mizoram must utilize its funds for Water Quality Monitoring & Surveillance testing of drinking water sources and at delivery points. It was highlighted to involve the local village community/Gram Panchayats and or user groups in planning, implementation, management, operation and maintenance of water supply systems in villages to ensure long-term sustainability, thereby help achieve drinking water security.

Mizoram was urged to focus on support activities and mobilisation of community contribution. The committee also emphasized the preparation of Village Action Plans and the constitution of Village Water and Sanitation Committee/Pani Samiti as a sub-committee of Gram Panchayat with a minimum of 50% of women members. This committee will be responsible for planning, designing, implementing and operating & maintaining in-village water supply infrastructure. In all villages, the IEC campaign along with community mobilization to be taken up to make Jal Jeevan Mission, truly a people’s movement.

Tripura DM apologises for disrupting wedding ceremony that continued into curfew hours

In a video that went viral on social media, the District Magistrate was seen stopping a wedding ceremony at Manikya Court, a marriage hall at North Gate of the Palace Compound, supposedly after the 10 pm cutoff time for Covid-19 night curfew to come into force in the Agartala Municipal Council (AMC) areas.

By Debraj DebTripura, Covid-19Tripura West District Magistrate (DM) Dr Shailesh Kumar Yadav orders closure of two marriage halls for violating night curfew order in Agartala. (Photo: Twitter/@Pronamotweets)

Agartala: West Tripura District Magistrate Sailesh Kumar Yadav Tuesday apologised for disrupting a marriage at Manikya Court in Tripura, saying he didn’t intend to “hurt anyone’s sentiments”. Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb has asked Chief Secretary Manoj Kumar to submit a report on the events that transpired.

In a video that went viral on social media, the District Magistrate was seen stopping a wedding ceremony at Manikya Court, a marriage hall at North Gate of the Palace Compound, supposedly after the 10 pm cutoff time for Covid-19 night curfew to come into force in the Agartala Municipal Council (AMC) areas. The video showed him shoving out the bridegroom, arresting everyone present including the bride and groom’s family and tearing up a written permission for the wedding signed by himself.

Yadav said everyone who gathered at the site were in direct violation of prohibitory orders under Section 144 of thr CrPC and would be prosecuted. Over 30 people were arrested and released later.

Opposition leader Manik Sarkar and the CPIM termed the incident as ‘undesired’ and unbecoming of the District Magistrate. It sought proper action against the DM for his behavior.

West Tripura MP and BJP leader Pratima Bhowmik said she would visit the bride’s relatives and speak to them over the incident. “The administration is doing what’s needed to break the chain of transmission of coronavirus. But what happened last night is most undesired. It should not have happened,” the MP said.

Tripura royal scion Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debbarma and chief of TIPRA Motha, which recently won the tribal council elections here, is also the owner of Manikya Court, where the incident happened. In a Facebook post, he called for a complete investigation of the incident and said he will close down the marriage hall “as per the VERBAL direction of Honourable DM Sahib”.

Ruling BJP MLAs including Sudip Roy Barman, Ashish Kumar Saha and Sushanta Choudhury have written to Chief Secretary Manoj Kumar seeking removal of the DM.

After a day of severe criticism on social media, the DM apologised for what happened on Monday night. “All I did was done during the night curfew period last night and was for the benefit and wellbeing of the people. My intention was not to hurt or humiliate the sentiments of anyone,” Yadav told reporters.

Tripura imposed night curfew in Agartala municipal areas on April 22 with a new surge in Covid-19 cases. The state now has 793 active coronavirus patients and two deaths in the last 24 hours.