Modi lauds national startup growth as reflecting ‘new India’

Special Modi lauds national startup growth as reflecting ‘new India’
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends a conclave on the co-operative sector in Gandhinagar, India on May 28, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 29 May 2022

Modi lauds national startup growth as reflecting ‘new India’

Modi lauds national startup growth as reflecting ‘new India’
  • Country hosts third-largest startup ecosystem in the world behind US, China
  • But some industry players say apparent tech boom is ‘hyped’

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that the rapid growth of startups across the country reflected the spirit of the “new India,” but some industry players still struggle for viability amid what they say is a lack of institutional support.

India is the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world, just behind the US and China. The South Asian country saw its 100th startup achieve the unicorn, or the $1 billion, status in early May, with Indian unicorns now valued at more than $330 billion, according to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

The Indian government established Startup India in 2016, an initiative aimed at empowering local startups by developing a stronger ecosystem for their growth. There are more than 65,000 Indian startups to date, according to official data.

“Our unicorns are diversifying and the world of startups is reflecting the spirit of new India, with entrepreneurs also coming from small cities and towns,” Modi said during his monthly radio talk.

“This shows that in India, the one who has an innovative idea, can create wealth. I am confident that in the coming future we will witness startups reaching new heights in India.”

Yet profitability remains a feat for many startups in the country. Only 18 of India’s 100 unicorns have attained profitability in the 2021 financial year, with more than half reportedly experiencing deep losses, according to data tracking by media platform Entrackr.

Delhi-based Pravash Pradhan, a managing partner of communication startup P2C Communications, is among those struggling for adequate support despite the apparent boom in India’s tech startups.

“Startup India is a good initiative and the government has developed an ecosystem, but the initiative is hyped,” Pradhan, who has been running his venture for four years, told Arab News.

“It’s advertised a lot but the kind of institutional support needed, the kind of ground support needed for new players is missing.”

Dr. Ramesh Chandra Biswal, who left his space scientist job in the US to start an agriculture startup called Villa Mart in his home village in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, said that it was still challenging to secure enough loans to run his company.

“Startup India is more (about) hype — the reality on the ground is different,” Biswal told Arab News.

Villa Mart runs a mobile market in the rural area, buying farmers’ produce for double the price before selling it to other villagers. Despite the struggle, the startup has created a network of 2,000 farmers across 40 villages in the last five years.

“We are not getting the support from the government and the ‘Startup India’ slogan was useful in the beginning to convince people. I am not getting any benefit as of now,” Biswal said.

“The government should allocate some funds to banks and instruct banks to provide loans, but getting loans from banks is not easy for startups … I hope that things will be better in the future.”

Salman Rushdie stabbed onstage, rushed to hospital

Salman Rushdie stabbed onstage, rushed to hospital
Updated 5 sec ago

Salman Rushdie stabbed onstage, rushed to hospital

Salman Rushdie stabbed onstage, rushed to hospital
NEW YORK: British author Salman Rushdie, whose writings have made him the target of Iranian death threats, was attacked and stabbed in the neck at a literary event on Friday in western New York state.
Police said that a male suspect stormed the stage and attacked Rushdie and an interviewer, with the writer suffering “an apparent stab wound to the neck.”
He was rushed by helicopter to a local hospital, police said, adding that his condition was not known.
New York governor Kathy Hochul said Rushdie was alive, and hailed him as “an individual who has spent decades speaking truth to power.”
“We condemn all violence, and we want people to be able to feel (the) freedom to speak and to write truth,” she said.
A state trooper assigned to the event at the Chautauqua Institution, where Rushdie was due to give a talk, immediately took the suspect into custody.
Police gave no details about the suspect’s identity or any probable motive.
Social media footage showed people rushing to Rushdie’s aid and administrating emergency medical care. The interviewer also suffered a head injury in the attack.
The Chautauqua Institution — which puts on arts and literary programming in a tranquil lakeside community seventy miles (110 kilometers) south of Buffalo — said in a statement that it was coordinating with law enforcement and emergency officials.
Rushdie, 75, was propelled into the spotlight with his second novel “Midnight’s Children” in 1981, which won international praise and Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize for its portrayal of post-independence India.
But his 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” brought attention beyond his imagination when it sparked a fatwa, or religious decree, calling for his death by Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The novel was considered by some Muslims as disrespectful of the Prophet Muhammad.
Rushdie, who was born in India to non-practicing Muslims and today identifies as an atheist, was forced to go underground as a bounty was put on his head — which remains today.
He was granted police protection by the government in Britain, where he was at school and where he made his home, following the murder or attempted murder of his translators and publishers.
He spent nearly a decade in hiding, moving houses repeatedly and being unable to tell his children where he lived.
Rushdie only began to emerge from his life on the run in the late 1990s after Iran in 1998 said it would not support his assassination.
Now living in New York, he is an advocate of freedom of speech, notably launching a strong defense of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after its staff were gunned down by Islamists in Paris in 2015.
The magazine had published drawings of Muhammad that drew furious reactions from Muslims worldwide.
Threats and boycotts continue against literary events that Rushdie attends, and his knighthood in 2007 sparked protests in Iran and Pakistan, where a government minister said the honor justified suicide bombings.
The fatwa failed to stifle Rushdie’s writing and inspired his memoir “Joseph Anton,” named after his alias while in hiding and written in the third person.
“Midnight’s Children” — which runs to more than 600 pages — has been adapted for the stage and silver screen, and his books have been translated into more than 40 languages.
Suzanne Nossel, head of the PEN America organization, said the free speech advocacy group was “reeling from shock and horror.”
“Just hours before the attack, on Friday morning, Salman had emailed me to help with placements for Ukrainian writers in need of safe refuge from the grave perils they face,” Nossel said in a statement.
“Our thoughts and passions now lie with our dauntless Salman, wishing him a full and speedy recovery. We hope and believe fervently that his essential voice cannot and will not be silenced.”

UK PM front-runner Liz Truss slammed over civil service ‘antisemitism’ comments

UK PM front-runner Liz Truss slammed over civil service ‘antisemitism’ comments
Updated 12 August 2022

UK PM front-runner Liz Truss slammed over civil service ‘antisemitism’ comments

UK PM front-runner Liz Truss slammed over civil service ‘antisemitism’ comments
  • MP accuses service of having ‘woke culture’ in its approach to Jewish community
  • But workers’ union chief says comments are ‘inflammatory, insulting and abhorrent’

LONDON: The front-runner to replace Boris Johnson as UK prime minister has been criticized for voicing “inflammatory” comments about the British civil service’s approach to the Jewish community.

Liz Truss, the favorite to take over as Conservative Party leader and head of government, accused the civil service of having a “woke culture” that “strayed into antisemitism,” according to Sky News.

“Every organization has its culture, but it’s not fixed, it can be changed,” she said in a statement after speaking at a synagogue in Manchester.

“That’s what ministerial leadership is about. It’s about making sure that the policies we represent, the values we stand for, are reflected in what we do.

“I’ve been very clear with our officials about the positions we take on Israel, and that will continue if I become prime minister.”

The current foreign secretary has also been targeted after saying that setting up your own business was a “Jewish value.”

Following a show of support at the UN Human Rights Council for Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who she called “a good friend,” Truss told the Jewish Chronicle that not enough was being done to educate children and teachers about antisemitism and that university campuses must be “ridded” of the issue.

“So many Jewish values are Conservative values and British values too. For example, seeing the importance of family and always taking steps to protect the family unit, and the value of hard work and self-starting and setting up your own business,” she said.

“The British Jewish community is incredibly proud of this country and so are Conservatives.”

Her comments have been described as “inflammatory, insulting and abhorrent” by the FDA Union, which represents British civil servants.

Truss provided “no evidence for her accusation,” according to FDA general secretary Dave Penman, who said Truss’ comments went “further than the usual dog-whistle politics” of the ongoing Conservative leadership election.

“The Conservatives have been in government for more than 12 years now and for most of that time Liz Truss has been a minister,” he said. “So accusations of ‘civil service wokeism’ are a little ironic, given it’s essentially a criticism of their own leadership.”

He continued: “A prime minister is also minister for the civil service, and throwing around such unfounded inflammatory accusations illustrates a lack of leadership, the very thing that she claims to be demonstrating.”

Her remarks have also been criticized by the British Jewish community, including a Jewish Labour Party member of parliament.

Charlotte Nichols, an MP in the north of England, accused Truss of “using the Jewish community as spurious pretext for another baseless attack on the civil service.”

Fellow Labour MP, Sarah Owen, said on Twitter: “Using the serious issue of antisemitism in schools and universities to peddle your anti ‘woke’ war against civil servants is not the solution you think it is.

“Either you’re woke — simply alert to social injustice and inequality (including antisemitism) — or you're not.”

Afghan refugees in UK shun relocation to Scotland, Wales as hotel costs mount

Afghan refugees in UK shun relocation to Scotland, Wales as hotel costs mount
Updated 12 August 2022

Afghan refugees in UK shun relocation to Scotland, Wales as hotel costs mount

Afghan refugees in UK shun relocation to Scotland, Wales as hotel costs mount
  • Officials say language barrier, poor weather behind fear of life outside London

LONDON: Afghan refugees living in temporary accommodation in the UK are boycotting demands to relocate to Scotland and Wales due to their limited English language skills and concerns over poor weather, The Telegraph reported.

The UK is spending about $1.2 million a day on hotels to temporarily house almost 10,0000 Afghans who fled from their homeland in the wake of the Taliban takeover. Authorities have so far allocated permanent housing to about 7,000 refugees. 

However, officials are facing significant resistance from many Afghan families amid the relocation process. Common concerns include perceived language barriers and a belief that the climate outside southeast England is colder. Staff say that many of the refugees favor the capital, London, and believe stereotypes about life in the rest of the UK.  

Refugees Minister Lord Harrington called on local councils across the country to push harder in moving refugee families from temporary housing into permanent accommodation, warning in a letter that more than 2,000 properties were needed to house the remaining 10,000 Afghans, including more than 500 four-bedroom homes.

The UK Home Office said: “While hotels do not provide a long-term solution, they do offer safe, secure and clean accommodation.”

One Afghan refugee, who previously worked alongside the British Army, told the BBC: “I want to settle and integrate but how can I when we are living in a hotel for months and months? I can’t start my life properly.”

The man has shared a single hotel room with his wife and two children for almost one year.

He added: “I don’t blame her (for struggling) because I know the situation. She is in that room for one year with two kids. These are kids, and she is depressed, so things are not good.”

Drought officially declared in several parts of England

Drought officially declared in several parts of England
Updated 12 August 2022

Drought officially declared in several parts of England

Drought officially declared in several parts of England
  • The "drought trigger threshold had been met" in parts of southwestern, southern, central and eastern England
  • The Environment Agency on Friday published a report saying that England as a whole had its driest July since 1935

LONDON: The UK government on Friday officially declared a drought in several parts of England, following months of record low rainfall and unprecedented temperatures in recent weeks.
At a meeting of the National Drought Group, the government’s Environment Agency said the “drought trigger threshold had been met” in parts of southwestern, southern, central and eastern England.
Drought was last officially declared in England in 2018.
The Environment Agency on Friday published a report saying that England as a whole had its driest July since 1935.
The exceptional weather comes as France is also experiencing a record drought and battling huge wildfires.
The Met Office, the UK’s meteorological authority, said the period from January to June this year saw the least rainfall in England and Wales since 1976.
That summer saw the use of drastic measures such as roadside standpipes and water rationing.
The government statement said the move to drought status was based on factors such as rainfall, river flows and levels of groundwater and reservoirs and their impact on public water supply.
“We urge everyone to manage the amount of water they are using in this exceptionally dry period,” National Drought Group chair, Harvey Bradshaw, was quoted as saying.
The Environment Agency and water companies “will step up their actions to manage impacts” and press ahead with their published drought plans, including thinks like hosepipe bans.
It stressed that “essential supplies of water are safe.”
England and parts of Wales are severely parched and some water companies have already announced hosepipe bans.
The UK overall had 56 percent of its average rainfall for July. Every month of the year except February has been drier than average, according to the Met Office.
Satellite images from July released by NASA showed dried-up brown areas extending across most of southern England and up the northeastern coast.
The source of the River Thames has dried up, with the river now flowing from a point several miles downstream.
Meetings of the National Drought Group are convened by the government’s Environment Agency, which monitors water levels in rivers and ground water.
The group is made up of senior decision-makers from the government and water companies, along with other affected groups such as farmers.
The Met Office on Tuesday issued an amber warning over “extreme heat” in parts of England and Wales Thursday to Sunday, predicting possible impacts on health, transport and infrastructure.
Temperatures were expected to hit the mid-30s Celsius, peaking on Friday and the weekend, after which showers and thunderstorms were forecast.
Temperatures were not expected to hit the record levels seen in July when a temperature of 40.3 Celsius was recorded in Lincolnshire in northeastern England on July 20, during an unprecedented heatwave.
The National Climate Information Center said that such high temperatures in the UK were only possible due to human-induced climate change.

Germany suspends military operations in Mali

Germany suspends military operations in Mali
Updated 12 August 2022

Germany suspends military operations in Mali

Germany suspends military operations in Mali
  • The German move comes as Mali’s junta turned away from France and toward Russia in its fight against militancy

BERLIN: The German defense ministry said Friday it had suspended most of its operations in Mali after the local military-led government denied flyover rights to a UN peacekeeping mission.
“The Malian government has once again refused to give flyover rights to a flight planned today” for the rotation of personnel on the ground, a ministry spokesman said at a regular press conference.
In response, Germany had decided to “suspend until further notice the operations of our reconnaissance forces and CH-53 (helicopter) transport flights.”
“It is no longer possible to support the MINUSMA reconnaissance missions on an operational basis,” the spokesman said.
Without the new troops, who were set to “replace French forces” in the process of withdrawing, “security on site is not assured” as the “remaining forces must be kept ready for security operations.”
The flyover rights were refused despite assurances to the contrary from the Malian Defense Minister Sadio Camara in a call with his German counterpart Christine Lambrecht Thursday, the spokesman said.
“Camara’s actions tell a different story than his words,” Lambrecht said in a statement posted by her ministry on Twitter.
The German move comes as Mali’s junta turned away from France and toward Russia in its fight against militancy.
The long-running insurgency has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.
The relationship between Bamako and Paris, its former colonial power and traditional ally, has deteriorated in recent months.
The arrival of Russian paramilitaries in the country on the invitation of the government was a key factor in France’s decision to pull its military forces out.
The withdrawal is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.