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Coronavirus pandemic | Parents seek waivers, rollback of fee hikes as schools suspend classes

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Even as schools are struggling to maintain academic continuity due to the coronavirus outbreak, parents are hoping for some fee waivers as regular classes have been suspended.

Across the country, parents of school children are sending appeals to the state governments to seek fee waivers and prohibition of fee hikes during this period.

Though many school are trying to make up partly by online classes, students will lose some part of their academic year. Hence there is a call for a partial fee waiver for March, April and May when schools have moved to virtual classes.

However, sources told Moneycontrol that the department of school education of the human resource development ministry is unlikely to take a decision on this and would leave it to individual states and schools to take a call.

"My employer has announced a 30 percent salary cut till September 2020. While I am not trying to calculate how to handle the monthly expenses, my child's school fees has been increased from this academic session. When the schools are anyway not conducting physical classes, why can’t they be considerate?” said Kolkata-resident Avik Bose.

"My employer has announced a 30 percent salary cut till September 2020. While I am not trying to calculate how to handle the monthly expenses, my child's school fees has been increased from this academic session. When the schools are anyway not conducting physical classes, why can’t they be considerate?” said Kolkata-resident Avik Bose.

Coronavirus pandemic | FICCI says economy needs a stimulus package of Rs 9-10 lakh crore

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Apex industry-body, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has said that India may need an economic stimulus of as much as Rs 9-10 lakh crore to ensure that the economy wrestles through the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.

Amid stymied economic activity due to a nationwide lockdown, several key sectors of the Indian economy are experiencing distress such as travel, tourism, entertainment, manufacturing, transport infrastructure, financial services, among others.

According to a Business Continuity Plan report by FICCI, there is an immediate need for a significant stimulus of Rs 9-10 lakh crores, this constitutes around 4-5% of the current GDP.

Other countries affected by the COVID-19 crisis have taken similar steps. For instance, the US has invested as much as 11 percent of its GDP to infuse liquidity into its economy.

The report recommends utilisation of funds for the rehabilitation of informal workers, MSMEs, and large corporates.

To ease the lack of liquidity that borrowers face amid the nationwide lockdown, the Reserve Bank of India on March 27 allowed banks and financial institutions to offer a three-month moratorium on term loans and credit card bills.

The FICCI report recommends extending a similar moratorium for loans taken from mutual funds and insurance companies.

In order to ensure workers resume jobs, the report recommends special transportation to get migration workers back to factories. The lockdown has caused a shortage of labour across sectors as migrant workers left for native places. The report also recommends engaging with trade unions to ensure a smooth transition.

Interest-free and collateral-free loans should be given to MSMEs for a period of upto 12 months to enable them to cover fixed costs, salaries and other operational expenses. This loan may be given with pre-conditions that businesses will continue to run and there would be no layoffs of workers.

Supply-side intervention recommendations

Provide greater regulatory forbearance including change in NPA definition and loan restructuring among other things. NPA recognition period to be extended from 90 days to a minimum of 360 days.

All tax payments including GST payments should be deferred by six months without inviting any penalty.

To ensure MSMEs are not forced to file for bankruptcy, the report recommends suspension of Sec 7, 9 and 10 of IBC with immediate effect instead of April 30. Between April 14-30, IBC may get triggered because of a lack of liquidity within the industry.

There is also a need to ensure all pending payments to the industry are cleared immediately by the government departments and PSUs.

There is a need to accelerate infrastructure spend of Rs 1.7 lakh crore allocated in Budget 2020 to provide immediate impetus to the economy. The report recommends directing the budget towards low cost housing and road construction.

COVID-19 war can't be won by clapping, lighting lamps: Shiv Sena

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The Shiv Sena on Tuesday said the war against coronavirus cannot be won by clapping, clanging of plates or lighting of lamps.

People "misconstrued" Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal, an editorial in Sena mouthpiece 'Saamana' said, adding that Modi should clearly spell out what it expected from citizens and those not obeying orders should be punished.

Modi last week appealed to people to defeat the coronavirus by switching off lights in their homes for nine minutes at 9 pm on Sunday amid the nationwide lockdown.

People across the country enthusiastically responded by lighting candles and diyas, and flashing lights of their mobile phones in balconies and in front of their houses.

Modi earlier urged people to observe 'Janta Curfew' on March 22, and come out briefly at their main doors and in balconies to show gratitude to health and other essential service providers, who at the forefront of the battle against coronavirus, with claps, sounds of bells and conches.

Taking a dim view of Modi's appeals, the Shiv Sena said, "Claps, thalis and this we will lose the war. There are many aspects to how people responded to these appeals. Citizens misconstrued the prime minister's

appeal...either the PM cannot communicate with citizens or he himself wants such a festive atmosphere."

It said Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has been urging people to maintain self-discipline, and communicating with them while ensuring there is no confusion.

"In the fight against coronavirus, you need such a commander. We lost the Panipat battle because of rumours and lack of planning. The war against coronavirus should not end up like that and people of the state shouldn't meet the fate of Sadashivrao bhau (Marathaarmy commander in Panipat

battle)," the Marathi daily said.

It said the prime minister should clearly tell people what is expected from them. "Those who don't obey should be punished. It is not that only Markaz (referring to Tablighi Jamaat's congregation in Delhi last month) breaks rules. Are those blaming the Markaz for the coronavirus spread themselves maintaining discipline and social distancing?" it asked.

The Sena cricitised incidents of people coming out on streets with candles, torches and mobile phones and dancing, and said due to bursting of crackers there was a fire incident in Solapur.

In Wardha, BJP MLA Dadarao Keche celebrated his birthday (during the lockdown) and more than 200 people gathered for the party, it noted.

The Sena also pointed out similar incidents in other parts of the country, including that of a BJP women's wing leader at Balrampur in Uttar Pradesh firing in the air to 'chase away' the coronavirus.

Fitch slashes India growth forecast to 30-year low of 2% for FY21

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Fitch Ratings on Friday said it has slashed India's growth forecast for the current fiscal to a 30-year low of 2 percent, from 5.1 percent projected earlier, as economic recession gripped global economy following the lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic. "The initial disruptions to regional manufacturing supply chains from a lockdown in China as the coronavirus spread have now broadened to include local discretionary spending and exports even as parts of China return to work.

"Fitch now expects a global recession this year and recently cut our GDP growth forecast for India to 2 percent for the fiscal year ending March 2021 after lowering it to 5.1 percent previously, which would make it the slowest growth in India over the past 30 years," it said in a statement.

On March 20, Fitch had projected India's GDP growth for 2020-21 at 5.1 percent, lower than 5.6 percent estimated in December 2019.

Fitch also said micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and the services segment are likely to be among the most affected amid reduced consumer spending.

NBFCs' business borrowers are typically smaller with more limited cash buffers, and any material fall in earnings is likely to affect their ability to repay their loans directly, it said in the statement.

"The challenges for India's non-bank financial institutions (NBFI) will intensify as local measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus exert pressure on their operating performance and financial profiles. Government-imposed activity restrictions in India will raise operational complications for the NBFIs, while any escalation in local infections would deal a blow to economic sentiment.

"These developments threaten to derail the incipient recovery in India's credit environment following the NBFI crisis in 2018-2019, and Fitch has taken negative action on our rated Indian NBFI portfolio in light of these risks," the agency said.

The RWN (Rating Watch Negative) placed on the ratings of Fitch-rated Indian NBFIs reflects heightened uncertainty over their credit profiles due to the authorities' measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, it added.

Last week, Moody's Investors Service sharply cut India's growth forecast for calendar 2020 to 2.5 percent from 5.3 percent estimated earlier.

New income tax rules from April 1: Find out what changes from today

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April 1 marks the beginning of the new fiscal year, 2020-21. Many new I-T rules are also coming into effect with the start of the new fiscal year.

Due to the 21-day lockdown across the nation to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the government has extended the deadline of some rules or procedures so that it will remain intact even after the commencement of new fiscal year. Income tax returns filing for the year 2018-19 has been extended, similarly, linking of pan card with Aadhaar card has also been extended to June 30.

Here are the new income tax rules, announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Budget 2020, which will come into effect from April 1:

From April 1, the new tax slab will be effective, however the old tax slab will also remain in existence, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced on February 1. This will allow people to select any one out of the two slabs, new or old.

Dividends earned from mutual funds or domestic firms will be taxable. Investors in higher tax brackets will be put under higher burden the whereas less burdened will put on those with lower tax brackets.

For employees, it will be taxable if the contribution to the NPS, EPF and pension fund exceeds Rs 7.5 lakh in a year. This new income tax rule will be applicable to both the old, as well as the new, slab.

The government has extended the date of additional tax benefit for one year till March 31, 2021 for those who are buying a house for the first time and its price is up to 45 lakh rupees. The landlord will get an opportunity to claim additional tax exemption of 1.5 lakhs on interest in addition to the existing Rs 2lakh tax rebate if he takes a loan to buy a house up to 45 lakhs.

The employees of startups get exemption from paying tax on the shares allotted within the ESOPs or Employee Stock Ownership Plan in this new income tax rules.

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