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Offtake of commercial vehicles, an index of economic activity, tumbles 39%

Continuing the free fall, automobile sales in the country declined by 23.55% in August 2019 — the worst drop in monthly sales since the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) started recording wholesale vehicle sales data in 1997-98.

This follows the steepest sales decline of 18.71% in nearly 19 years in July 2019 witnessed by the industry reeling under a prolonged demand slump, mainly due to poor consumer sentiment amid slowing economic growth.

The vehicle sales across categories stood at about 18.21 lakh units in the last month, down from over 23.82 lakh units in August 2018, according to data released on Monday.

Domestic passenger vehicle sales, which comprise cars, utility vehicles and vans, contracted for the tenth straight month to about 1.96 lakh units down 31.6% from about 2.87 lakh units in August 2018. Sales of vans and cars were badly hit, falling over 47% to 9,089 units and 41% to nearly 1.16 lakh units, respectively. Utility vehicle sales fell 2.20% to 71,478 units.

Commercial vehicle sales — which are usually seen as an indicator of the economic activity in the country — tumbled nearly 39% to 51,897 units.

‘Rights of indigenous people are safe’

Amit Shah leaving the Kamakhya temple in Guwahati.Ritu Raj Konwar

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday said the people of the northeast had nothing to fear from a fresh Citizenship (Amendment) Bill the Centre may push through.

The Centre’s bid to pass such a Bill in January had triggered widespread protests across the northeastern States as it sought to legitimise the stay of allegedly persecuted non-Muslim migrants from India’s neighbourhood.

Mr. Shah was addressing fears expressed by the Chief Ministers of the region and the “spillover effect” of Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) at the fourth conclave of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a forum of anti-Congress parties helmed by the BJP.

‘Article 371 intact’

“The Citizenship Bill will not violate Article 371 that is applicable in the northeast. It will not affect any rights of the indigenous people, nor will it affect the Inner-Line Permit,” he said. Any visitor to Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland need to possess the permit for temporary stay. Manipur and Meghalaya have been demanding such a permit.

Mr. Shah also pointed out that the proposed Bill had December 31, 2014, as the cut-off date and no one arriving after this date would be given citizenship. But he said the Centre would not let any illegal immigrants come in from neighbouring countries.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma had earlier told him that the northeastern States feel the Citizenship Bill would threaten their existence and urged him to take all the political partners of the BJP into confidence before bringing in the legislation again.

State Bank of India (SBI), the country’s largest lender, on Monday reduced its benchmark lending rate — the MCLR — by 10 basis points (bps). With this cut, the one year MCLR of the bank, to which most loan rates are linked, will be 8.15% with effect from Tuesday.

The move will benefit all the existing SBI customers having home, auto and any other category of loans that are linked to the marginal cost of fund based lending rate (MCLR). The rate cut is aimed at boosting loan demand in this festive season.

This is the fifth rate cut by the SBI this financial year. The bank has cut its MCLR by 40 bps since April.

The RBI has reduced the key policy rate or the repo rate by 110 bps between February and August to boost slowing growth. The central bank has expressed displeasure at banks for not passing on the reduction in rates to customers.

SBI has also reduced retail fixed deposit rates by 20-25 bps and bulk deposit rates by 10-20 bps across various tenures due to surplus liquidity and falling interest rates, the bank said in a statement. The peak FD rate for retail customers (on deposits upto ₹2 crore) is 6.5% for maturities of 1 year to less than 2 years.

The UN Human Rights Council urged India on Monday to end the lockdown in Kashmir and restore basic communication services.

Delivering the opening statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet cited the situation in Kashmir and Assam, where lakhs have been excluded from the National Register of Citizens, and asked the Centre to “respect” civil rights.

“I am deeply concerned about the impact of recent actions by the Government of India on the human rights of Kashmiris, including restrictions on internet communications and peaceful assembly, and the detention of local political leaders and activists,” said Ms. Bachelet, while addressing the 42nd Session of the HRC.

India ended the special status for the State of Jammu and Kashmir guaranteed under Article 370 of the Constitution and put the newly created UT in a state of indefinite curfew. Following the declaration, UN Security Council held a special consultation on the situation in the territory on August 16.

“I have appealed particularly to India to ease the current lockdowns or curfews; to ensure people’s access to basic services; and that all due process rights are respected for those who have been detained. It is important that the people of Kashmir are consulted and engaged in any decision- making processes that have an impact on their future,” said Ms. Bachelet.

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