19:16 GMT26 September 2020
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    Last month, Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman drew widespread ridicule after saying that the country was facing an Act of God due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused an economic slump.

    Not missing a chance to ridicule the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rahul Gandhi, one of the leaders of India's main opposition party Congress, slammed the Narendra Modi-led government on Friday over its months-long stand-off with China at the Ladakh border.

    Taking to Twitter, he claimed that the Chinese "have taken our land" and made a reference to a remark made by Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who suggested that the pandemic was an "Act of God".

    Sitharaman made her statement on 27 August, saying: “This year we are facing an extraordinary situation...we are facing an act of God which might even result in a contraction of the economy, to what percent I am not getting into that."

    Earlier, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, while mocking Sitharaman, called her "the messenger of God" and asked how the “mismanagement of the economy” before the pandemic should be described.

    The verbal duel erupted after the federal finance ministry last week gave two options to States: to borrow either fvia a special window facilitated by the Reserve Bank of India or from the market. The inhibition to pay the States' share in the indirect tax collections by the federal government comes after the country witnessed a massive fall in revenue due to the pandemic. The GDP also saw a record contraction of 23.9 percent during April-June of this year. 

    Due to the contraction, about 21 million salaried employees lost their jobs during this period, the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE), an independent economic think tank, claimed in a report earlier this week.

    Besides the deteriorating Indian economy, the Modi government is also dealing with a reported build-up of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) in the Ladakh region. About 1,000 square kilometres of territory in the Depsang plains and near Lake Pangong along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is now under Chinese control, Indian intelligence inputs suggest.

    The ongoing tensions between India and China since April flared up recently when both countries accused each other of crossing the loosely demarcated border Line of Actual Control and firing gunshots. The gunshots were fired on the LAC for the first time in 40 years. 


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