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RCom and its subsidiaries get bids for over Rs 25,000 crore at CoC meet

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With a bid of Rs 25,000 crore, Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm and asset reconstruction company UVARC, are learnt to have emerged as the highest bidders for assets of Reliance Communications (RCom) and its subsidiaries, at a Committee of Creditors (CoC) meeting held on Monday.


According to sources, Jio, part of Reliance Industries Ltd, will pay about Rs 4,700 crore for tower and fiber assets of Reliance Infratel Ltd (RITL), while UVARC has offered to pay about Rs 16,000 crore for spectrum, real estate, and enterprise & data centre businesses of RCom and Reliance Telecom Ltd (RTL). The bidders are believed to have committed themselves to paying 30 per cent of the proceeds of Rs 7,500 crore within 90 days.



Emailed queries sent to Jio and UVARC were yet to be responded to at the time of publishing of this report.


The 38 lenders of RCom are to recover 75 per cent of the Rs 33,000-crore outstanding loans, in the highest-ever recovery of dues by financial creditors to the telecom sector, which has seen the exit or shutdown of nine of 12 operators since 2012.


In addition, lenders will claw back the priority payments of Rs 4,300 crore made to Chinese lenders (Rs 1,300 crore) and Indian ones (Rs 3,000 crore). They will start recovering the monetisation proceeds starting March 2020.


The members of the CoC will obtain their respective board approval for a final vote on January 31 to clear the resolution plans ahead of the National Comp any Law Tribunal (NCLT) filing due by February 3.


This round of recovery will also rank among the highest by way of the corporate insolvency resolution process approved by the NCLT across sectors, according to data published by the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI).



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FPIs pour in Rs 1,624 cr in Jan so far as US-China deal boosts sentiment

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Foreign portfolio investors (FPI) have infused a net sum of Rs 1,624 crore into the Indian capital markets in January so far, buoyed by the signing of the first phase of the US-China trade deal.


According to the latest depositories data, FPIs invested a net Rs 13,304 crore in equities and withdrew a net Rs 11,680 crore from the debt segment between January 1-24. This translates into a total net inflow of Rs 1,624 crore.



“After starting the year on a muted note, investments from FPIs has picked up pace and most of that flows came after US and China signed a trade deal putting the trade war between them on a pause,” said Himanshu Srivastava, senior analyst manager research at Morningstar Investment Adviser India.


The latest investments came despite challenges such as enhanced geopolitical tension between the US and Iran and dwindling domestic economic growth, Srivastava noted.


On the domestic front, “there are some signs of India shaking away the slowdown with business activity picking up and this is reflecting in the investments coming into equities. Besides, after the limit to which FPIs can invest in debt instruments has been increased, more inflows into the debt category can be expected,” said Harsh Jain, co-founder and COO at Groww.


The Reserve Bank of India on Thursday raised the investment limit for FPIs in government and corporate bonds, a move that is likely to bring in more foreign funds in the country.


According to the current norms, short-term investments by an FPI should not exceed 20 per cent of the total investment of that FPI in either central government securities (including treasury bills) or state development loans.


The same norms are applicable on investments in corporate bonds.


The short-term investment limit has now been increased from 20 per cent to 30 per cent in both the cases, the RBI said in a circular.


Additionally, the RBI has also made relaxation in the voluntary retention route (VRR) for FPI investments in debt. The investment cap through VRR has been doubled to Rs 1.5 trillion, the RBI said in another circular.


Going forward, “all eyes will now be on the upcoming Budget to get further cues. This will play major role in terms of shaping up the investment views of foreign investors and decision to invest in the Indian equity markets,” Srivastava added.



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Iraqi security forces clash with hundreds of protesters in central Baghdad By Reuters

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi security forces firing teargas and live bullets clashed with hundreds of protesters in central Baghdad on Sunday, a Reuters witness and security sources said, following a push to clear out a sit-in camp in the heart of the capital.

At least 14 protesters were injured, the security and medical sources said.

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Facebook content moderators required to sign PTSD forms

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Content moderators working at a European facility for Facebook have been required to sign a form explicitly acknowledging that their job could cause post-traumatic stress disorder, according to documentation and employee confirmation obtained by the Financial Times.

The facility, which is operated by global professional services company Accenture, hosts roughly 400 content moderators who trawl through hundreds of disturbing images and videos — ranging from bestiality and child abuse to hate speech, self-harm and terrorism — across Facebook and Instagram every day.

The moderators’ jobs entail making granular decisions about why each image or video is objectionable. One employee at the facility, who asked not to be named, said that people working there “cry every day”, and that many “take sick leave for mental health issues, sometimes three or six months”.

Accenture runs at least three content moderation sites for Facebook in Europe, including in Warsaw, Lisbon and Dublin, where workplace safety rules are some of the most stringent in the world and include protections for mental health.

The document was distributed to all moderators at the European facility in early January via email, asking them to sign it immediately. It stated: “I understand the content I will be reviewing may be disturbing. It is possible that reviewing such content may impact my mental health, and it could even lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

The two-page form also outlines Accenture’s WeCare programme, which provides employees with access to “wellness coaches” from whom they can receive mental health support. The company says, however, that “the wellness coach is not a medical doctor and cannot diagnose or treat mental disorders”.

Facebook is facing lawsuits in California brought by two former moderators, and a slew of personal injury claims in Ireland, where its international headquarters are based, brought by a dozen Facebook content moderators who have all experienced severe mental health conditions, ranging from panic attacks to PTSD.

A similar document was also provided by Accenture to workers at a YouTube content moderation facility in Austin, Texas, according to the Verge.

“Now we see it in black and white: Big Tech knows full well that content moderation causes PTSD in its workers,” said Cori Crider, director of Foxglove, a UK-based litigation non-profit organisation that is assisting with investigation, strategy and campaigning in one of the Irish cases.

“The question is, when are Google and Facebook going to clean up their unsafe factory floor? Pushing responsibility on to the individual worker, as this document tries to do, won’t cut it. It’s on them to make their workplace safe.”

A spokesperson for Accenture said: “Although targeted at new joiners, the document was also reissued to existing personnel, but there are no consequences for not signing the updated document.

“We regularly update the information we give our people to ensure that they have a clear understanding of the work they do — and of the . . . wellness program and comprehensive support services we provide.”

Facebook said it did not review or approve forms like the one Accenture had sent and was not aware that its content moderators were being asked to sign it. It did say, however, that it required its partners to offer extensive psychological support to its moderators on an ongoing basis.

“Facebook themselves were part of an industry group called the Technology Coalition that proposed standards for protecting moderators’ mental health years ago — in 2015,” Ms Crider added. “But they didn’t follow those standards. So these companies are going to be hard pressed to say senior management weren’t aware of the problem.”

According to an employee who signed one of these acknowledgment forms, every moderator at the facility was emailed a link and asked to sign immediately. The employee said they had seen multiple instances of severe mental health conditions among their colleagues, and had also been diagnosed with depression themselves, something they believed was exacerbated by their working conditions. However, they had never previously been asked to sign a form acknowledging the potential for damage to their health.

“When I started to work there, I thought graphic violence and sexual and animal abuse would be the hardest part of this job for me, and I think they were,” said the moderator. “But if you work on hate speech six hours a day, five days a week, it gets to you. I’m a cis white heterosexual male, so I can’t imagine how it affects the people that represent minorities.”

The moderator explained that it was not just the content that caused severe mental health problems among employees, but also that Accenture’s running of the facility contributed to the overall stress levels.

“I would stress . . . that the employment conditions are a factor in the high rate of mental health problems in our workplace,” the person said. “When I started, we had five possible decisions to make; now there are more than 250 possible combinations of labels. The content policies are changing every two weeks.”

Employees are expected to hit quality scores of 98 per cent, which means their decisions on why a piece of content is egregious have to match that of their quality reviewer in almost every instance.

Every few minutes, a notification with quality scores pops up on an employee’s screen, showing them how many mistakes they have made. Their scores determine if their short-term contracts are terminated or extended. “The anticipation of the quality score is what is very stressful for me, and for most of us,” the person said.

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