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1.5 cr free LPG connections issued to BPL households in less than 8 months

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Government has achieved its target of providing 1.5 crore free cooking gas (LPG) connections to poor households in less than 8 months.The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUJ) aimed to provide 5 crore free LPG connections to BPL families in three years.The target for the first was set at 1.5 crore.The first year target has been “achieved within a span of less than 8 months and the scheme is being implemented now across 35 states/UTs,” an official statement said.A woman member of BPL family identified through Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data is given a deposit free LPG connection with financial assistance of Rs 1,600 per connection.The scheme was announced in the Budget for 2016-17 with an allocation of Rs 8,000 crore for three years.Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched PMUJ on May 1 from Balia in Uttar Pradesh. “14 states/UTs having LPG coverage less than the national average, hilly states of J&K, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and all North-East States are identified as priority states for implementing the scheme,” the statement said.The top five states with maximum connections are UP (46 lakh), West Bengal (19 lakh), Bihar (19 lakh), Madhya Pradesh (17 lakh) and Rajasthan (14 lakh).These states constitutes nearly 75% of the total connections released.The households belonging to SC/ST constitute large chunk of beneficiaries with 35% of the connections being released to them. “With the implementation of PMUY, the national LPG coverage has increased from 61% (as on January 1) to 70% (as on December 12, 2016),” the statement added.

Economists favour cut in income tax rate; harmonisation of custom duties

New Delhi: Simplification and reduction in personal income tax rates and harmonisation of customs duties to global levels in a bid to boost economic activities were favoured by economists at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Niti Aayog.

The meeting, which comes ahead of the Budget slated to be held in early February, did not go into the impact of demonetisation on the economy while the aspect of digitisation to make it a less cash economy figured. “Tax simplification figured quite a lot…on the direct taxation, both corporate and personal income tax on simplifying, reducing exemptions, bringing down tax rate and
aligning tax system to make India competitive with international destination,” Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya told reporters. He was briefing the reporters about the outcome of the meeting on “Economic Policy: The Road Ahead”.

Representational Image. AFPRepresentational Image. AFP

Representational Image. AFP

About the inverted duty structure, it was suggested to harmonise the tariffs to resolve the issue. “One of the issues that came up (for discussion) was tariff inversion whereby tariff on component and inputs are higher than the final products so that undercuts the incentive to produce the final product,” Panagariya said. “So the suggestion (on this issue) was to harmonise the tariff to single rate to 7 per cent or so,” he added. Besides, suggestion was made for listing of PSUs and increase use of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) to subsidy expenditure.

Farm sector experts suggested incentivising states to undertake market reforms, create corpus fund for promoting farm mechanisation and micro irrigation, and provide interest subvention for term loans so that income of farmers are doubled by 2022. Experts also suggested that there is a need to invest in the tourism sector which has potential to generate high paying job and making Indian universities world class. Pulak Ghosh IIM Bangaluru professor said that India need to collect large volumes of data so that data driven policy can be formulated.

Among others, the meeting was attended by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Panagariya and various other senior officials from the Union Government and Niti Aayog. The economists and experts who were present include Pravin Krishna, Sukhpal Singh, Vijay Paul Sharma, Neelkanth Mishra, Surjit Bhalla, Govinda Rao, Madhav Chavan, N K Singh, Vivek Dehejia, Pramath Sinha, Sumit Bose and T N Ninan.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 08:13 IST

Ahead of Budget 2017, Arun Jaitley says India needs globally compatible tax rates

Ahead of the Union Budget, finance minister Arun Jaitley has pitched for a lower level of taxation that is globally compatible. This, according to him,  is necessary if the country has to have a broader base of economy.

He said gone are the days of the philosophy that high taxation will bring greater revenues and that since 1991 the course of economy has altered itself.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Reuters file photoFinance Minister Arun Jaitley. Reuters file photo

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Reuters file photo

“… What you need is a broader base of economy for which you need a lower level of taxation. You need to manufacture products and provide services which are more competitive in character and therefore your taxes have to be globally compatible,” Jaitley said while inaugurating the professional training of IRS officers.

The comments have raised speculation that the government may cut tax rates in the Union Budget for 2017-18 to be presented in Parliament on 1 February.

However, in a later tweet he also indicated that any such interpretation of his speech may be inaccurate.

Ever since the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, there has been speculation that the government may resort to some direct tax cuts to lessen the pain inflicted on the common man. A cut in income tax rates will placate the middle class, a key political constituency of the ruling BJP.

As far as corporate tax are concerned, Jaitley had laid out a road map for cuts in rates and exemptions in last year’s Budget.

In the speech on Monday, Jaitley also said competition is not merely domestic but global and therefore in the last two-and-a-half decades, the governments have been guided by these principles.

Tracing the behaviour of people in the last 70 years, the finance minister said there has been an impression if avoidance could be done of government revenue, there is nothing “improper or immoral” about it.

This was, he said, considered to be “commercial smartness” and of course some people were visited with very serious consequences.

He told the young revenue service officers that in coming future decades they should see that voluntary tax compliance has to increase in India.

“And the mindset of the tax payer (should be) that payment of legitimate taxes is a responsibility and then it should be reciprocated by you with a confidence in the tax payer. The tax payer is to be trusted, except when it’s proven otherwise.

And therefore only in those select cases, very objectively selected, you go in for a wider audit or a wider scrutiny itself,” Jaitley said.

With PTI

First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 08:35 IST

GST council talks on but states, Centre remain divided

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Loose ends continued to hang even after two days of deliberations by the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council.Despite long hours of discussions on Friday, the council, which comprises officials and ministers from states and the Union finance ministry, could not approve or clear for introduction in the Budget session any of the four draft pieces of legislation – Central GST, State GST, integrated GST and Compensation Act.It remained split over the compensation to states for the revenues losses from GST rollout, administrative control of taxpayers and a host of other issues. It, however, discussed each clause of CGST separately and discussed them threadbare and agreed that the states would be compensated for revenue losses every two months instead of every quarter as decided earlier.The next meeting will be held on January 3 and 4.Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who heads the council, told the media that the council was “making reasonable headway”.”I am trying my best. I am not going to bind myself to anything. Our effort is to do it as quickly as possible and I think we are making reasonable headway,” he said.Rakesh Bhargava, Director, Taxmann, said it was “unfortunate” that the council could agree on dual control.”It is very unfortunate that the GST Council failed to agree on dual control. In the next meeting, IGST Bill and this issue will be taken up. We hope there will be an agreement,” he said.Yanamala Ramakrishnudu, Minister for Finance and Planning, commercial taxes, Andhra Pradesh, vehemently opposed the Centre’s suggestion to levy cess on some goods to compensate for states’ losses. He proposed that the Centre should fund the states’ dip in revenues from the Consolidated Fund of India.He welcomed the inclusion of fisheries in the definition of agriculture and agriculturists, which will keep fishermen out of the ambit of GST. Bhavna G Doshi, Senior Advisor, KPMG, said that the Centre would have to address the concerns of states on adequate reimbursement.”States are feeling that the cess may not be adequate. That is the point (West Bengal Finance Minister Amit) Mitra raised – that this year is not going to be good, and even the first quarter may not be good. The state may need more compensation as businesses have been hit (by demonetization). His concern was whether there would be adequate funds available (with the government for compensation),” she said.Doshi suggested that the government could consider a “special contingency fund”. Apparently, Mitra has pointed out that in the light of demonetization, resources required for compensation could go up. The government was working on compensation, based on estimated losses of Rs 50,000 crore to states.This, the KPMG expert said, may see more goods and services attracting cess than before. Doshi believes that if the council is able to thrash out all issues in the next meeting, the government may call a special session of Parliament to pass the GST Bills.MS Mani, Senior Director, Deloitte Haskins & Sells LLP, feels the whole compensation discussion was very “hypothetical”.”The assumption is that revenues do not grow in GST, but past experience has shown that revenues will definitely grow under GST. The way I look at compensation is that it is more like underwriting. So, it is not necessary that compensation risk comes true. The compensation may not be as critical as it is being made out to be. I would say that the larger gains from today’s meeting is that on many issues they seem to have achieved consensus,” he said.Mani, however, feels that dual control could be a “difficult issue”. Even Pratik Jain, partner and leader indirect tax, PwC India, believes that the “most contentious issue was the dual control or cross empowerment”.

Govt hopes Consumer Protection Bill to pass in Budget session

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The government on Friday said it is hopeful that the new Consumer Protection Bill 2015, that aims to impose harsh penalties on endorsement of misleading ads among others, will be passed in the forthcoming Budget session of Parliament.In August this year, the Centre had introduced the Consumer Protection Bill 2015 in Lok Sabha, to repeal the 30-year-old Consumer Protection Act. A Parliamentary Standing Committee had also submitted its recommendations in April.The Consumer Affairs Ministry has accepted some of the recommendations of the panel and finalised the draft Bill, which has also been vetted by the Group of Ministers, headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. “We were expecting the passage of the Consumer Protection Bill in Winter Session but that did not happen. We are hopeful that it will be passed in the Budget session of Parliament,” Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters.The Minister said that the government has made sweeping changes in the Bill as it now provides huge penalties on celebrities endorsing misleading advertisements and ban such offenders for up to three years. It also seeks to create a Consumer Protection Authority to fast-track grievance redressal of consumers on the lines of US and European countries. The Bill has a provision for product liability and penalties in certain cases of food poisoning.Highlighting the major achievements of his ministry in 2016, Paswan said that it came out with direct selling guidelines for the Rs 80 billion industry and companies have been asked to submit their declarations by January 24, 2017. That apart, the government has revised the Legal Metrology (Packaged commodities) Rules, 2011 to enable the competent authority under the Essential Commodities Act 1955 to fix standard quantities and retail sale prices of essential items.On pulses, the Minsiter said that the government has created a buffer stock of 7 lakh tonnes so far, both through imports and domestic procurement. The pulses from the buffer are being released to states and agencies for direct distribution to public at reasonable rates. So far, 55,000 tonnes of pulses have been released from the buffer, he said.Paswan said that the national food security law, under which highly subsidised foodgrains are distributed to the poor, has been implemented in all states this year.He said that significant reforms have been undertaken in Public Distribution System (PDS) to make it more transparent and leak proof and better targeting of food subsidy.

Demonetization: Noted economists criticize PM Modi’s decision in Standing Committee of Finance

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Three out of four economists summoned by the Standing Committee of Finance headed by Congress MP Veerappa Moily, expressed deep anxiety and concern towards the demonetization being pursued by the Bhartiya Janata Party. Noted economists Kavita Rao, Professor at National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, Pronab Sen, former Chief Statistician to the government of India and Mahesh Vyas, CEO, Centre for Monitoring Indian economy were critical of the demonetization process whereas Rajiv Kumar, senior fellow, Centre for Policy Research argued for it in front of the committee. “This committee will submit its report on demonetization on the first day of the Budget Session of the Parliament,” said a member of the committee on the condition of anonymity.Sources confirmed to WION-DNA that the experts questioned how the conversion of cash economy into digital would take place within the confined time declared by the central government. All three economists who expressed concern on demonetization spoke on the issue of counterfeit currency, inflation and black money. The above mentioned economists argued in the committee that a lot of unaccounted black money does not exist in cash and is parked in other sectors of the economy. Sources also confirmed that three economists said that currency reform might end up spiking the inflation instead of reducing it. Lastly, it was also argued that for a meaningful war against black money, the government should denotify a part of the currency every two years.The Committee has decided to call Urjit Patel, Governor, Reserve Bank of India and members of the Indian Banking Association on January 19, 2017. The meeting was also attended by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.Even the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to meet the economists on December 27 to discuss the state of the economy. The economists in the first half of the day will meet the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and spend the second half with the PM. Since the exercise has become politically contested, every opinion of experts in this field counts both for the government and the Opposition.

Hike in salaries of Supreme Court, High Court judges expected soon

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Supreme Court and high court judges may soon get a fatter pay packet as the government is likely to bring a bill in this regard in the next session of Parliament. Chief Justice of India TS Thakur had recently written to the government seeking a hike in salaries of Supreme Court and high court judges.Sources in the government said the issue is under active consideration and a bill to amend The High Court and the Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Act may come up in the Budget session of Parliament which may begin in the first week of February next.While the sources refused to share details of the quantum of hike sought by the CJI, they said to affect the pay hike, the Act has to amended. As the Winter session of Parliament is coming to an end on Friday, they said the bill would now come up in the Budget session. A Supreme Court judge at present gets Rs 1.5 lakh a month in hand after all deductions from salary and allowances. The CJI gets a higher amount than this, while the judges of the high court get a lesser amount. This amount does not include the rent-free residences provided to the judges while they are in service.After the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission, the matter was already under the consideration of the government.

DNA Morning Must Reads: Kin, Sasikala play games over Jaya’s wealth; Aziz says insufficient proof against Kulbhushan; and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>1. Who will inherit Jayalalithaa’s wealth? Kin, Sasikala play games over Rs 120 crore-assetsPolitical games begin between Jaya’s relatives, Sasikala. Read more.2. Insufficient proof against Kulbhushan: Sartaj AzizAfter repeatedly questioned by Senators on the progress of investigations against Jadhav and why they are not being shared with international community to fix India for destabilising Pakistan, Aziz reportedly said that additional evidence needed to be collected and that the dossier on Jadhav contained mere statements. Read more.3. Urjit Patel rap stuns India Inc, industry now eyes Union Budget for positive cuesHonchos from real estate, consumption sectors disappointed; industry now eyes Union Budget for positive cues. Read more.4. Hackers operated Rahul Gandhi, Congress Twitter handles from 5 countries: PoliceA senior police officer of the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) said that they have got to know that the IP addresses from where the accounts were accessed don’t fall under our jurisdiction. Read more.5. ‘No survivors’ after plane carrying 47 people crash in northern Pakistan mountainsAviation official says flight suffered engine problems | TV images show trail of wreckage, huge fire. Read more.

Patidar leader Hardik Patel accepts Gujarat govt’s invitation for talks on reservation

Ahmedabad: Gujarat government on Thursday reached out to the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) which led last year’s Patel quota agitation by inviting its leader Hardik Patel for talks, to which the young leader responded positively.

Hardik said an eleven-member team of PAAS will meet the government, but stressed that the organisation will stick to its main demand of OBC quota and won’t accept any “lollipop”.

A file image of Patidar leader Hardik Patel. PTI

A file image of Patidar leader Hardik Patel. PTI

Assembly elections are due in Gujarat in December 2017. Also, Hardik, directed by the High Court to live outside Gujarat for six months as a bail condition in sedition case, is slated to return to the state in January.

Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel on Thursday said that Chief Minister Vijay Rupani wanted the resolution of quota issue.

“For peace and unity of the state, so that every member of the state could participate in its journey of development, support of all communities is required. With this aim, the government invites Patidar leaders for talks,” he said.

The Government had in the past opened dialogue with PAAS and even succeeded in resolving the matter with Thakor community (which recently agitated demanding stringent prohibition laws and government assured amendment to the laws in the Budget session), Nitin Patel said.

“Government wants an amicable resolution at the earliest, and hopes that PAAS members will reciprocate and its leader Hardik Patel and his friends will accept the invitation,” he said.

Subsequently, Hardik issued a statement saying he would hold a meeting with PAAS conveners in the next two days, and an eleven-member team will meet the Government for talks. “The primary objective of PAAS is the community gets the

“The primary objective of PAAS is the community gets the benefit of reservation. Apart from that, we want discussion on police atrocities (during last year’s agitation),” he said.

“If there is an attempt to break the unity of community or offer a lollipop (trivial concession), there will be another round of agitation in January,” said Hardik, currently living in Udaipur.

PAAS had recently announced it would relaunch the agitation next month.

First Published On : Nov 25, 2016 16:10 IST

Earlier Rail budgets were focused on pleasing parliamentarians: PM Modi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday asserted that previous Rail budgets were politicized as they were primarily focused to please the Members of Parliament(MP), adding that the decision of Railway Budget merger with General Budget has never been for the electoral gains.”The focus of our Rail Budgets has never been politics. We have worked towards a paradigm shift in the Railways. Usually the core focus of Rail budgets was which Member of Parliament (MP) was pleased by being given more stops in his/her seat, additional coaches etc,” he said. Expressing his nostalgia with railways at the inaugural session of the Rail Vikas Shivir at Surajkund near New Delhi via teleconference, the Prime Minister said that he has spent his childhood on rail platforms and he is equally a railway enthusiast as the dignitaries participating in the event.”My links with the Railways is strong. I always stay at the Railway guest house in Varanasi which is my constituency. My childhood was spent on rail platforms. That is all the more reason I want to transform railways,” he added. The Indian Railways is organizing the three-day Shivir from Friday. The aim of the Shivir is to generate numerous innovative ideas across most critical areas of the railway operations for substantial progress of this sector. Such brainstorming and large-scale planning involving all railway employees is taking place for the first time in the 163-year-long history of the Indian Railways.The Railway Ministry said the outcome of this camp would lead to rapid rejuvenation, transformation, modernisation, efficiency and productivity. Earlier, the government decided to do away with the practice of separate Rail Budget and merged it with the General Budget. The idea was mooted by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and the proposal was approved by the Union Cabinet in September this year. The practice of presenting a separate Railways Budget was introduced way back in 1924.

India’s carbon emissions increased by over 5 % in 2015: study

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India’s carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels increased by 5.2% while China’s decreased by 0.7 % in 2015, according to new research which found that global CO2 emissions remained nearly flat for three years in a row.India contributed 6.3 % of all global CO2 emissions, with emissions increasing 5.2 %, in 2015 continuing a period of strong growth, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK and the Global Carbon Project.Global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels did not grow in 2015 and are projected to rise only slightly in 2016, marking three years of almost no growth, they said.The projected rise of only 0.2 % for 2016 marks a clear break from the rapid emissions growth of 2.3 % per year in the decade to 2013, with just 0.7 % growth seen in 2014.The data shows emissions growth remained below one % despite GDP growth exceeding 3 %. Decreased use of coal in China is the main reason behind the 3-year slowdown.”This third year of almost no growth in emissions is unprecedented at a time of strong economic growth,” Professor Corinne Le Quere, Director of the Tyndall Centre at UEA who led the data analysis, said.”This is a great help for tackling climate change but it is not enough. Global emissions now need to decrease rapidly, not just stop growing,” Le Quere said.China – the biggest emitter of CO2 at 29 % – saw emissions decrease by 0.7 % in 2015, compared to growth of more than 5 % per year the previous decade.A further reduction of 0.5 % is projected for 2016, though with large uncertainties, researchers said.The US, the second biggest emitter of CO2 at 15 %, also reduced its coal use while increasing its oil and gas consumption and saw emissions decrease 2.6 % last year.US emissions are projected to decrease by 1.7 % in 2016.The EU’s 28 member states are the third largest emitter causing 10 % of emissions. The EU’s CO2 emissions went up 1.4 % in 2015, in contrast with longer term decreases.Although the break in emissions rise ties in with the pledges by countries to decrease emissions until 2030, it falls short of the reductions needed to limit climate change well below 2 degrees Celsius, researchers said.”If climate negotiators in Marrakesh can build momentum for further cuts in emissions, we could be making a serious start to addressing climate change,” said Le Quere.The Global Carbon Budget analysis also shows that, in spite of a lack of growth in emissions, the growth in atmospheric CO2 concentration was a record-high in 2015, and could be a record again in 2016 due to weak carbon sinks.”Part of the CO2 emissions are absorbed by the ocean and by trees. With temperatures soaring in 2015 and 2016, less CO2 was absorbed by trees because of the hot and dry conditions related to the El Nino event,” Le Quere said.The study was published in the journal Earth System Science Data.

PM Modi to provide economic assistance to universities who aspire to be among top 100 globally

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an appeal to universities in the country on Sunday to aspire to be among the top 100 globally and promised special economic assistance. There is no Indian university among the world’s top 100 universities, Modi said, adding, we feel “ashamed”.”I invite 10 public and 10 private universities to come forward and take a pledge to make a place for themselves in the top 100 universities of the world. “Those who will come forward will get special economic assistance. They will be given relaxation from seeking various approvals. There will be an open field for them,” he said.The Prime Minister was speaking at the centenary celebrations of Karnataka Lingayat Education Society (KLES) at Belagavi. He also urged the students to actively participate in sports and aim for a Gold in Tokyo Olympics in 2020. “In 2020 during ToKyo Olympics there should be some gold medals from KLES,” he said. “Research and innovation are vital for us. In the 21st century, the youth will take India to new heights. For this, we need skilled youth,” he tweeted.In the Union Budget announced earlier this year, the government had promised enabling regulatory architecture for 10 public and 10 private institutions to help them emerge as world-class teaching institutions. Rs 1,000 crore was also set aside for higher education financing during the budget.Congratulating KLES for completing 100 years, the Prime Minister said, “Political organisations do not last for 100 years. Even families do not. Imagine an educational institution which has completed 100 years.”

Rs 500, Rs 1,000 ban: Long-term measure or a one-time move against black money?

The decision to declare the existing Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes as illegal tender in one stroke is a bold measure taken by the government. While estimating the scale of black economy in the country is difficult, on considering a recent estimate that lists the magnitude of India’s black economy at 20 percent of GDP, such tightening of noose on those dealing in underhand practices is a welcome move.

According to an analysis by Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), the biggest source of generation of black money is evasion of commercial tax, which involves misreporting of the transactions in the books of account. The manipulation of financial statements creates unaccounted income that amounts to black money.

Representational imageRepresentational image

Representational image

This drastic measure by the government will certainly have some effect. First, this would paralyse the intentions of those who have hoarded illegal cash and will thus act as a one-time penalty for them; this will cover people who engage in generation of illicit money through commercial tax evasion, and also corrupt officials. It can be argued that the corrupt government officials would have lesser avenues to convert black money into white, and hence be affected to a greater extent.

The other problem this will help address is regarding usage of counterfeit currency in the economy. It has been reported that the country’s economy has witnessed a disproportionately faster rate in usage of high denomination currency notes in the last few years as compared to the rate of its expansion. As most fake currency is found in the 500 and 1000 denominations, it is hoped that the new currency notes (of Rs 500 and 2000) being introduced following the ban on the current series of these notes will come with suitably enhanced security features.

The fight against the menace of black money is far more complex, and requires more concrete and stronger measures by the government. To enhance the tax base and improve tax collection, it is crucial for the government to unearth black money in the economy and bring those resorting to tax evasion under the tax net. It is one thing to collect information based on which people can be held accountable for holding unaccounted moneys, but it is another thing to analyse that information, execute searches, detect cases of unreported income, and identify cases of tax evasion.

The Income tax department failed to achieve the target of tax collection in the past due to lack of adequate staff whereby most posts were lying vacant for several years. It is imperative to recruit regular professionals in the department and equip them with necessary skills to trace black money transactions for streamlining the tax collection process. Strengthening of Income Tax Department, the entire apparatus under CBDT, the institutional enforcement machinery- the Finance Intelligence Unit, and the Directorate of Enforcement will be of vital importance in dealing with the problem.

Sectors like real estate, jewellery market and financial markets need bigtime reforms as they are most vulnerable to generation of black money. Tightening regulations in the financial sector, improved reporting and monitoring mechanisms in the jewellery sector and improving state legislation can address loopholes in real estate transactions. In addition, measures bringing greater transparency in the global financial system are also needed to act as deterrents to moving money offshore.

The present move has taken most people by surprise, and a big challenge in the coming days would be the hassles that people will have to go through and the explaining required at the banks in the process of exchanging moneys. The immediate repercussion of this will be on informal sector and unskilled service providers who hardly use electronic transactions, particularly in the rural sector. The move seems to have overlooked a range of hardships that common people will experience in the transitioning process. The government has started recognizing and responding to some of these immediate challenges, this however needs to be done more proactively looking at the size of the problem.

The author is with Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA), a New Delhi based policy research organization and can be reached at [email protected] The views expressed are personal

Maharashtra to buy tablets for paperless functioning of Legislature

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Maharashtra government has given rpt given a go-ahead for procurement of tablets for paperless functioning of the state Legislature.With this move, the upcoming session of the Legislature to be held in Nagpur from December 5, will go paperless.The committee set up for procurement of tablets has given a go-ahead for it along with financial sanction, MLC Manikrao Thakre, one of the committee members, told PTI.States like Goa and Haryana are already using tablets during sessions of their respective Legislative Assembly, he added.”The tables are going to be used in the upcoming Winter Session. The Maharashtra government spends around Rs 50 crore annually for publication of various committee reports, official surveys, reference reports and daily reports for the members of Assembly and Council. Compared to it, at present the tablet cost is not over Rs five crore. Once the tablets are procured, the cost of (publishing) documents will be saved forever,” Thakre said.There are 288 members in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly while there are 78 members in the state Legislative Council.”The high speed Internet service will reduce the waste of time in searching the information and presenting it before the House”, Thakre, a senior Congress leader said, adding the government needs to ensure higher Internet speed through Wi-Fi service.”All the modalities including whether to fix the tables inside the both houses will be finalised at the Committee meeting after Diwali,” Thakre added.A committee of administrative officers had already studied the functioning of Haryana and Goa Assemblies and hence the state government gave its nod to the proposal, said the MLC.The Budget and the Monsoon session of the Maharashtra Legislature are held in Mumbai while the Winter session is held in Nagpur.

Union Budget to be presented one month in advance: PM Narendra Modi

Union Budget to be presented one month in advance: PM Narendra Modi

Updated: Oct 26, 2016 21:45 IST

#Budget #Budget 2017 #NewsTracker #PM Modi #Union Budget

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Union Finance Minister Arun JaitleyUnion Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said the Union Budget will be presented about a month in advance to ensure speedier implementation of the projects and asked the states to align their plans accordingly.

Modi made the remarks during the 16th interaction through PRAGATI — the ICT-based multi-modal platform for Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation.

“The Prime Minister mentioned that the Union Budget presentation is being advanced by about a month to ensure speedier implementation of projects and schemes. He urged all states to align their plans with this advancement, so that they could take maximum advantage of this move,” a Prime Minister’s Office release said.

Generally, the Union Budget is presented at the end of February every year.

UP, Punjab and three other states likely to go to polls in February- March next year

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Uttar Pradesh, which is set to witness game-changer elections, and four other states will go to polls simultaneously, most likely in February-March next, commencing shortly after the presentation of the Union Budget on February one.While it will be a single-day polling in Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur, Uttar Pradesh is likely to have as many as seven phases, sources in the Election Commission said.The BJP, which had swept the Lok Sabha elections more than two years ago, winning 70 of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, is seeking to make a comeback by wresting power after 15 years from the ruling SP. The BSP is expected to give a stiff challenge to both of them. In Punjab, after two successive terms, the ruling SAD-BJP combine is facing a tough battle from Congress on the one hand and a fledgeling AAP on the other. Uttarakhand, where the ruling Congress staged a sensational comeback this year following a legal battle, is fighting anti-incumbency and facing challenge from the BJP.Goa, where the ruling BJP is seeking a fresh term, is pitted against Congress and AAP. In Manipur, the Congress is seeking to retain power. As a matter of abundant precaution, the government approached the Commission for clearing its proposal to present the Union Budget in Lok Sabha on February one and avoid criticism of violating the model code of conduct that will come into force the day elections are announced.Sources said that the Commission had no objection to the budget exercise being carried on because of the fact that it would cover the entire country and was not specific to the poll-bound states.It has also been conveyed to the government that caution should be exercised so that overtly populist measures are not included in the budget aimed at voters in these states. The Commission is working on a schedule for the polls which should be completed by the middle of March so that new assemblies in these states could be constituted well in time before the expiry of their tenure.It is working out the requirements about security forces with the Centre and the states concerned for ensuring that the polls are free and fair.Nearly a lakh of state police and central armed police force personnel may be deployed to ensure that the electoral exercise is smooth and free from violence and malpractices like booth capturing. Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi had recently said, “We are trying to assess the requirement of security forces, climate and exam schedule — all these inputs are being taken into consideration. Only then we will be able to say whether they will be staggered or multi-phase.” While the term of the Uttar Pradesh assembly ends on May 27, 2017, those of Goa, Manipur and Punjab end on March 18.The Uttarakhand Assembly’s term ends on March 27.

GST Council meet inconclusive: Here is a pragmatic solution to end the stalemate

The move towards deciding the GST rate has gotten delayed again which is a bit disappointing it was assumed that these numbers would be out by the end of the three-day session and that the next steps would be taken. One does hope that the next Parliamentary session can take it up after a decision is reached in early November and have it passed so that we can be ready for rolling it out by 1 April 2017.

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Reuters

Quite clearly the two most important parts of the puzzle of introducing GST after acquiescence from the opposition and states were deciding on the ‘rate’ or ‘schedule of rates’ that were to be imposed and second, the preparedness to implement the same. The former is evidently difficult because the way it has been presented by the government makes it too good to be true.

Are we talking of a system which is very neutral in so far as that it ensures that the central government budget balances are not affected being revenue neutral rates. This structure would also compensate states adequately from what is generated so that everyone is better off and lastly, the rates are so designed that it the structure is non-inflationary. This is what in Economics is called a Pareto optimal situation where no one is worse off and some are better off. Assuredly, getting the numbers in place cannot be done very easily.

Two solutions have been proposed by the central government which are very good starting points. The assumption to be made is that there will be 14% growth in revenue for the next year for all states so that the calculations can be made for future compensation. This has to be agreed upon, as some states may find this number unacceptable, even though it has been reckoned on a formula based on past performance of the state with the best years being considered. It can be argued that the state has done a lot to enhance future tax revenue and hence the past performance may not be indicative of the future. This issue will work at the back of the mind especially if this rate is going to be fixed on a near-permanent basis.

The second point relates to the various rates and it now appears that we are talking of a ‘four rate structure’, 6%, 12%, 18% and 26% as the starting point of discussion. There can be a cess added at the higher end, and some goods would be out of the purview like petrol and tobacco which will have separate structures. Gold will go with a lower rate of 4%. Hence the GST will not be a single rate but multiple rates with various cesses added which will still keep the accountants in business. Calculations have also been made to show that the new structure would be inflation-neutral. But the heroic assumption made is that if prices are to come down, they will be passed over to the consumer, which does not generally happen.

Why should there be objections from the states in case there is a compensation structure already in place? The issue is that products manufactured in a particular state could get disadvantaged in terms of incentives in case they fall into a higher category as it will militate against their growth prospects. Therefore both the rates as well as the categorization of products into these buckets will have to be defined well to get a buy-in from the states. Further, the issue of cess on luxury products could come in the way of an agreement, as even though it sounds a fair way of imposing taxes, the producers would get affected.

The postponement of this decision to November should hopefully also lead to the logical conclusion of a decision being taken or else this decision could just get pushed into the next year, which would dilute this reform substantially as there has been a lot of urgency shown so far to implement the same. With the state elections in UP, Punjab, Uttarkhand, Goa and Manipur coming up, there is a political angle to agreeing on these rates as it could be used strategically to move the electorate to the extent it makes a difference. However it is necessary to have it passed so that we actually get past all these impediments which will also enhance the ease of doing business climate.

Further, as there will be a hiatus between the decision on rates and the final implementation of the new tax structure, it would be prudent if the tax machinery is put in place for rolling out the same as it requires substantial awareness and education to spread the word about what the GST is about. Also the software should be in place and tested so that the processes involved are seamless. There would be additional work to be done for service tax as this would require registration in all states where the company operates.

A thought here is that instead of treating the tax rates as being sacrosanct forever, the same should be rolled out over a three year time frame which should be permitted by Parliament. The assumptions relating to losses for states or earnings for the Centre by this four pronged rate structure may not be right to begin with and hence some bit of fine tuning would be required and should be permitted by statute. If this is agreed upon, then the Budget can start off with a certain bouquet on GST rates and the sharing arrangement which can then be modified over a specified period of time – say next three years before having it cast in stone. This would be a pragmatic way of going about it, as it will be more agreeable.

The author is chief economist, Care Ratings. Views are personal

‘My head hangs in shame’: PM Modi on Dalit atrocities

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said his “head hangs in shame” over incidents of atrocities on dalits that take place even after 70 years of Independence and called for more focused efforts to correct social anomalies.Citing the example of Guru Gobind Singh in raising his voice against casteism and untouchability, Modi said: “We know that due to our societal anomalies, hearing out some incidents targeting our Dalit brothers even today, my head hangs in shame. After 70 years of Independence, we cannot wait longer”. At the launch of a National SC/ST Hub here, he said: “We will have to sharpen the focus of our direction. The aspirations of a Dalit or an Adivasi exceed those of other youth in the country. If they get an opportunity they will not lag behind in changing the fortunes of India.” The Hub for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe will help Dalits and Adivasis become entrepreneurs so that they can provide jobs to others, he said.Modi also mentioned that under the Startup India, Standup India scheme, 1.25 lakh branches of nationalised banks in the country have been directed to sanction loans up to Rs 1 crore to at least one woman, and one person each belonging to scheduled caste and scheduled tribe categories, adding that the move can help create 3.75 lakh such entrepreneurs. The National SC/ST Hub, under the MSME Ministry, was announced in the Budget. With an initial outlay of Rs 490 crore, the hub will work towards strengthening market access/ linkage, monitoring, capacity building, leveraging financial support schemes and sharing industry-best practices.It will also enable central public sector enterprises to fulfil the procurement target set by the government. The Public Procurement Policy 2012 stipulates that 4 per cent of procurement done by ministries, departments and CPSEs will have to be from enterprises owned by SC/ST entrepreneurs. “I have requested the state governments that 4 per cent should be procured from goods manufactured by Dalits to encourage them,” Modi said.The Prime Minister emphasised upon efforts to bring backward sections of the society into the centre of economic activity.

Kerala Assembly session to resume tomorrow amid appointment row

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Kerala Assembly Budget session resuming on Monday is likely to be stormy as the Opposition is set to raise the appointment controversy which rocked the CPI(M)-led LDF government leading to the resignation of a minister. Industries Minister EP Jayarajan who posted some of his relatives in key positions in public sector units resigned on October 14, dealing a blow to the 142-day-old Pinarayi Vijayan government. Indicating that the session is likely to be stormy, Congress-led UDF Opposition has made it clear that the ‘nepotism’ row would not end with Jayarajan’s resignation. Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala has called for a detailed probe into the appointment row and demanded that the office of the Chief Minister also be brought into the ambit of the investigation.It was not possible for Jayarajan to appoint his relatives in PSUs without the knowledge of the Chief Minister, he said. “We will continue the fight against the anti-people polices of the LDF government inside and outside the Assembly,” Chennithala said. The strategy to be adopted in the Assembly would be decided at a UDF meeting tomorrow, he said. Besides the appointment row, the political murders in Kannur and self-financing medical colleges fees and admission issue would also be taken up by the UDF. However, the government is confident that it would be able to face the Opposition challenge with the resignation of Jayarajan. While permitting the resignation of Jayarajan, party strongman from Kannur, CPI-M had stated that Jayarajan wanted to resign to “uphold the party’s image and set an exemplary model in contrast to the previous Congress-led UDF government”. LDF in a bid to turn the tables on UDF, has also said that all appointments made during the previous UDF rule would be looked into. The full-fledged Budget session of the Assembly that began on September 26 ended on a stormy note on October 5 with the UDF stepping up pressure over the self-financing private medical college fees and admission issue.The UDF members had disrupted and later boycotted the proceedings over the issue. The session is resuming after more than a week-long pooja holidays.

Winter Session of Parliament to commence from November 16; 15 new bills to be introduced

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The month-long Winter Session of Parliament is set to begin from November 16 during which the issue of surgical strikes in PoK is likely to dominate the proceedings. The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affair (CCPA) met here this evening and recommended that the session would commence from November 16 and end on December 16.The Winter Session dates have been advanced as in the past it was normally convened in the third or fourth week of November. An early session may help the Central GST (CGST) and Integrated GST (IGST) legislations, which will pave way for the Goods and Services Tax (GST), to be approved within November or latest by early December.The government is also considering advancing the Budget Session by a month or so starting from January next year. Sources in the government said besides legislations relating to GST, nearly 15 new bills are likely to be introduced.The government would also push for the passage of the ordinance which seeks to amend the Enemy Property Act. In December, the Centre had for the fourth time promulgated the ordinance to amend nearly 50-year-old Enemy Property law to guard against claims of succession or transfer of properties left by people who migrated to Pakistan and China after wars.The issue of the Army’s surgical strikes across LoC and allegations by some parties that the government was trying to politicise the issue are set to grab the limelight during the session.

GST Council meet: Centre, state consensus on 5 key areas, but differ on service tax assessment

New Delhi: In signs of fracture, the Centre and states on Friday disagreed on decisions reached at the first meeting of the GST Council on service tax assessment although they reached a consensus on area based exemption in the new tax regime.

The second meeting of the all-powerful GST Council, headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, agreed on five subordinate legislations dealing with issues ranging from registration to invoicing under the new Goods and Service Tax (GST) regime.

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Reuters

It also agreed on the treatment of exemption from GST. Currently, the Centre gives exemption to 11 states mostly in North East and hilly regions from excise duty as also many states give the same as incentive for setting up industry.

The council decided that under GST, which will subsume excise duty and VAT among other levies, taxes will have to be collected and it can be reimbursed from the annual budgets to the exempted categories.

But there were divisions over ratifying or approving the minutes of the first meeting of the Council, held last week, after at least two states disagreed with what was documented as decided on the Centre’s assessing 11 lakh service tax filers in the new dispensation.

“Obviously the first item has to be approval of minutes of the last meeting. With regard to one item recorded in the minutes with regard to the service tax assessments in the new dispensation, there was a long discussion on the interpretation on the decision taken in the last meeting and that discussion consumed a lot of time today.

“That discussion was inconclusive and therefore it will continue in the next meeting on 18th (October),” Jaitley told reporters.

Non-ratification of even one item on the minutes means the whole minutes are not agreed. Initially, it was thought that the minutes should be put to vote as those objecting to them were far less than those agreeing but Jaitley wanted to take decisions with consensus and so it was postponed.

Uttar Pradesh’s Minister for Vocational Education and Skill Development Abhishek Mishra said the minutes were not approved in entirety.

The second meeting of the GST Council finalised rules for registration, rules for payments, returns, refunds and invoices.

With this as many as 6 issues have been settled by the Council, that has representatives of all the states, in two meetings in a span of one week.

Discussions on service tax assessment and the formula for calculating compensation to be paid to states in case of revenue shortfall as a result of implementation of the GST regime, possibly from April 1, 2017, would be taken up at the next meeting on October 18-20.

It will also decide on the all important GST rate, Jaitley said, adding that the government is targeting November 22 for completing major work on deciding tax rate, exemptions and draft legislation by the Council.

There were two items regarding draft GST rules on agenda of today’s GST Council meeting, he said.

“Now these rules are with regard to registration, rules for payments, return, refund and invoices. These rules are notified once the Act is passed… These 5 sets of rules were taken up for consideration and have been approved. So we are in a state of readiness with the subordinate legislation once the act itself is approved,” he said.

The rules approved will form part of the supporting legislations needed to rollout GST. “So once the act is passed by Parliament or by the state legislatures as the case may be, we want the draft rules to be ready so that the rules can be notified immediately,” he said.

Stating that the second item on agenda was treatment of existing tax incentives by the Centre, he said, has given some exemptions from excise duty to 11 North-East and hill states.

Similarly, states too give out a series of incentives.

“It is possible that some of the exemptions may get phased out. But for the exemptions which may remain how will these exemptions fit into the GST system. So the Council took up for discussion the management of these exemptions. And it was agreed that there would be a levy of tax under the GST system on all exempted entities.

“Once the tax is levied, the central govt or state government, which gets that tax, would then reimburse from the budget, that quantum of tax back to exempted entity,” he said.

Under the GST system, everybody will have to pay tax but those exempted would be entitled to be reimbursed the levy they pay.

On the issue of service tax assessment, he said the central government’s understanding is that an arrangement as been finalised for continuing with the existing system and transferring it to states when their officers are trained.

On services that are taxed partly by the Centre and partly by states, he said experts will examine and report it in next meeting for a final decision.

Asked if tax exemptions would be grandfathered, Jaitley said: “It is not necessary to grandfather everything but if you do grandfather it then the process of payment of tax and reimbursement, it will be like a direct benefit cash being returned. Today, we discussed the principle by which exemptions would be dealt with.”

There will be a levy under the GST tax on exempted entities, he said.

“Once the tax is levied, the central government or the state government which gets that tax would then reimburse from the Budget that quantum of tax to the exempted entity.

“So you will have the GST system in operation where everybody has to pay the tax but if you are an exempted entity and the state or Centre decides to continue that exempted entity then they would be entitled to that amount being given back to them,” he said, adding that the details in each case will be worked out.

Which exempted entities will remain or not will be decided by states and the Centre, he said, adding that states would have to decide on exempted entities as they will reimburse tax to them.

Jaitley said there were discussions on interpretation of service tax, division of authority between centre and states, but they were inconclusive.

“Now after this, two items remain. The rates would be the big item to discuss and then after we will go to draft rules of GST law,” he added.

Explaining how the area-based exemptions would be doled out, Jaitley said the centre gives incentives to North Eastern states. But the tax that comes to the central kitty, 58 per cent belongs to Centre and 42 per cent is devolved to the states.

“Hence, we (Centre) will reimburse only 58 per cent. How the remaining 42 per cent will be reimbursed that arrangement has to be worked out. I can’t get 58 per cent tax and reimburse 100 per cent,” he said.

The 14th Finance Commission in its report has scaled up devolution to states from the central pool of taxes to 42 per cent from 32 per cent.

“We are trying to build every decision through consensus. And as far as possible there is no voting because in that way federal spirit is maintained. Wherever possible dissent should not arise and wherever there is dissent it should be taken up in next meeting,” Jaitley said.

Asked how the supply contracts, where both goods and services components are there, would be taxed in the GST regime, Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said that has been referred to the officers committee.

“So the question is what happens to those kind of cases where there is both goods and services. Now it will become supply contracts. Now the officers committee will look into this and come back to GST Council,” Adhia said.

Cabinet approves major Budget overhaul: Here’s how it can boost infra spending

The Union Cabinet has approved advancing the date for presenting the Union Budget by a month, paving way for one of the major overhauls in the budgeting exercise in the last several years and also in the process taking a step that has the potential to boost infrastructure spending.

The Cabinet has also decided to merge the Railway Budget with the Union Budget, a reform sought by many experts for long. A decision has also been taken to remove the classifications for expenditure to make the exercise simpler.

The proposals were cleared by a meeting of the union Cabinet chaired by prime minister Narendra Modi.

The change has been touted as a break from the colonial past.

PTIPTI

PTI

Here are the key facts about the entire exercise:

1) The move is aimed at getting all the legislative approvals for the annual spending and tax proposals before the beginning of the
new financial year on April 1. Accordingly, the beginning of budget preparation will be advanced to early October. The government is likely to convene the Budget Session of Parliament before 25 January 2017, a month ahead of the current practice. The pre-Budget Economic Survey will also be advanced.

2) The advance estimates for GDP will have to be made on 7 January instead of 7 February and mid-year review of expenditure by various ministries is proposed to be completed by November 15. However, a report in The Business Standard on Wednesday said the ministry of statistics and programme implementation, which releases the data, has told the finance ministry that it may be able to give only some data that early.

3) Once the rail and general Budgets are merged and the date of presentation is advanced, there will be no requirement of separate Appropriation Bills as well as Vote on Account, as is the current practice.

4) With the advancement of the Budget and completion of the legislative processes before 31 March, the budget cycle will itself will be advanced. This will enable ministries and departments to ensure better planning and execution of schemes from the beginning of the financial year. Until now Budget was presented on the last day of February and it is not until mid-May that the Parliament approves it in two parts. And with the monsoon arriving in June, most of the schemes and spendings by states do not take off until October, leaving just half a year for their implementation. The change in budget presentation date has been decided so that the all proposals can be implemented and expenditure started from 1 April itself. This is expected to ensure better implementation.

5) The government will have to start pre-budget consultations with industry and other stakeholders without much delay as these will have to be ended by 25 December. The ministries and departments will also have to present their detailed demand for grants earlier to parliament.

6) The Cabinet also approved removal of distinction between Plan and Non-Plan expenditure as the present classification resulted in excessive focus on former with almost equivalent neglect to items such as maintenance which are classified as non-Plan. The Cabinet felt it is the total expenditure, irrespective of Plan or Non-Plan, that generates value for the public. Plan expenditure was for the first time presented separately in the budget for 1959-60.

7) Once the rail and general budgets are merged, Parliament will have approve only one Appropriation Bill. Usually, the government introduces the Appropriation Bill, which gives it the authority to incur expenditure from and out of the Consolidated Fund of India, after the debate on the Budget proposals and Voting on demands for grants. This will have to be taken up in Parliament on or before 24 March 2017.

8) The case for abolishing a separate Budget for the Railways has been argued many times earlier. “Like a defence budget or a civil aviation ministry budget, the railway budget does not require a speech to be made, only a set of accounts to be presented to parliament once a year, since the undertaking is owned by the people of India,” Firstpost columnist and Swarajya editorial director R Jagannathan had written in this article in July 2014.

“The budget of a commercial undertaking is no different from that of a corporation like Infosys or a public sector company like Bharat Heavy Electricals. There is need for account-keeping, budgeting, and the presentation of annual reports, but there is no need for a railway budget speech or the hype and hoopla associated with such events,” he points out.

9) However, according to a PTI report, even after the merger of the railway budget, the Indian Railways would continue to maintain its distinct entity status as a departmentally run commercial undertaking as at present. Also, the Railways would be allowed to retain its functional autonomy with delegation of financial power rules to continue as is the case now. Finance minister Arun Jaitley said in the press conference that Parliament have separate discussion on the Railways.

10) The most important fact is that after the merger, the Railways would not have to pay dividend to the central government and its capital at charge would stand to be wiped off. The Railways used to pay up to Rs 10,000 crore as dividend to the government. The Railway Convention Committee, which reviews the rate of dividend payable by the railways to the government, will be disbanded. Currently, the panel also suggests the level of appropriation to various funds of the railways such as depreciation reserve funds, development fund and pension fund.

11) Explaining the likely impact of the overhaul, DK Srivstava, chief policy advisor, Ernst and Young, said the advancement of the Budget presentation dates and processes will have tangible benefits. According to him, it would enable the govt to release its capital expenditure before monsoons, which is an important development.

“Under the present system, infrastructure spending, which is the government’s key spending, usually gets delayed as the rains start soon after the budget is approved. The whole exercise gets delayed 4-5 months as during the rainy season not much work in this sector happens. Under the new system, the funds can be released as early as April. This will give the government at least two-and-a-half to three months to spend on infrastructure, before the rain starts. This is the main advantage and has potential to boost the economic growth in the long run,” he said. He also said the move will help improve the quality of revised Budget estimates.

With PTI

End of 92-year-old practice; Cabinet approves merger of Rail Budget with General Budget

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the scrapping of separate Railway Budget and merging it with the General Budget.The 92-year-old practice of presenting a separate Rail Budget will now come to an end from the next fiscal.Last month, Suresh Prabhu had said that the Railway Budget should be merged with the General Budget for the long term interest of national transporter as well as the country’s economy. The Finance Ministry had also accepted Suresh Prabhu’s proposal.The public sector behemoth has to bear an additional burden of about Rs 40,000 crore on account of implementation of the 7th Pay Commission awards, besides an annual outgo of Rs 32,000 crore on subsidies.Besides, the delay in completion of projects resulted in cost overrun of Rs 1.07 lakh crore and huge throw-forward of Rs 1.86 lakh crore in respect of 442 ongoing rail projects. If the merger happens, Indian Railway will get rid of the annual dividend it has to pay for gross budgetary support from the government every year.(With inputs)

Cabinet to consider Budget presentation on February 1

New Delhi – Breaking from tradition, the general budget of the union government is likely to be presented on February 1 instead of the last day of the month, as part of an overhaul that would also scrap the practice of a separate railway budget.

The proposal for advancing of the budget and the merger of the railway budget with it will be considered on Wednesday at a meeting of the union Cabinet to be chaired by prime minister Narendra Modi, who has been pushing for it.

PTIPTI

PTI

The cabinet will also consider the proposal for doing away with the distinction between plan and non-plan expenditure.

According to the proposal, the entire Budget-making exercise will be advanced by 3-4 weeks so as to complete the legislative part of financial business before 1 April, the start of a financial year.

Sources said the government plans to convene the Budget Session of Parliament before 25 January 2017, present the pre-Budget Economic Survey a day or two before the finance minister reads out the Budget on 1 February.

Towards that end, the advance estimates for GDP will now be made on 7 January instead of 7 February and mid-year review of expenditure by various ministries is proposed to be completed by November 15.

The idea, sources said, is to get the Budget passed by Parliament along with Appropriation Bill and the Finance Bill before 24 March as this would ensure implementation of the Budget proposals from April 1.

According to the proposal moved by the ministry of finance, Parliament would take a three-week break — from February 10/15 to March 10/15 to complete ministerial or departmental scrutiny by various parliamentary committees.

Once the rail and general Budgets are merged and the date of presentation is advanced, there will be no requirement of separate Appropriation Bills as well as Vote on Account, as is the current practice.

Even after the separate railway budget is scrapped and its proposals clubbed in the general Budget, the Railways would continue to maintain its distinct entity status as a departmentally-run commercial undertaking as at present.

Also, the Railways would be allowed to retain its functional autonomy with delegation of financial power rules to continue as is the case now, sources said.

After the merger, the Railways would not have to pay dividend to the central government and its capital at charge would stand to be wiped off.

Like for other departments, the ministry of finance will provide gross budgetary support to the Railways for incurring its capital expenditure.

As regards removing the Plan and non-Plan classification of accounts, it has already been announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget for 2016-17.

According to the proposal, to ensure better targeting of benefits, all concessional railway passes provided to various categories of concessionaires will be linked to Aadhar number.

Also, the Railway Convention Committee, which reviews the rate of dividend payable by the railways to the government, will be disbanded. Currently, the panel also suggests the level of appropriation to various funds of the railways such as depreciation reserve funds, development fund and pension
fund.

Sources said advancement of presentation of the budget by a month and completion of budget related legislative business before March 31 would pave the way for early completion of budget cycle and enable ministries and departments to ensure better planning and execution of schemes from the beginning of the financial year.

Accordingly, the budget calendar would be advanced by about 3 weeks from the current schedule of it starting from the last week of October.

Pre-budget consultations with various stakeholders are proposed to be completed by December 25. Ministries and departments would be asked to present their detailed Demand for Grants to Parliament by February 7, 2017.

After the merger of railway budget with the general budget, one single Appropriation Bill will be presented to Parliament for consideration and voting on or before 24 March 2017.

With the rollout of the goods and services tax (GST), the changes in excise and service tax, which are normally proposed in the general budget, would shift to the GST Council and hence, there would be less onerous Finance Bill for Parliament to debate, sources said.

Is BJP ignoring the middle class? Yes, because Modi doesn’t want to be another Vajpayee

An outstanding communicator who could take holders of divergent views along in managing a difficult coalition, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a prime minister sans pareil. But despite his sagacity, all-encompassing nature and the reputation for being a ‘vikas purush‘ (an icon of development), Vajpayee failed to get a second term in office. Narendra Modi certainly wouldn’t mind being called a statesman but instead of universal acceptability, the incumbent prime minister is more interested in playing a much longer innings.

In December 2003, Vajpayee — a poet and orator par excellence — was at the height of his popularity, earning respect from even his detractors for being a leader with a vision. In the Assembly elections, the BJP had turned in a terrific performance, sweeping to power in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh. General elections were due in just a few months and the overwhelming belief was that the NDA would be voted in again.

An opinion poll conducted in January 2004 by India Today — Org Marg predicted 330-340 seats for BJP-led NDA in the 545-seat Parliament. The poll also indicated that while Vajpayee’s popularity ratings have soared to 47 percent, that of Sonia remained at 23 percent.

Enthused by the perception (‘mahaul‘ is an infinitely better to put it) and brimming with confidence, the BJP mounted an aggressive ‘India Shining’ campaign. Vajpayee dissolved the Lok Sabha prematurely to capitalize on the tailwind and also perhaps to avoid the fallout of an errant monsoon. Home Minister LK Advani started his Bharat Uday yatra.

File photo of AB Vajpayee and Narendra Modi. AFPFile photo of AB Vajpayee and Narendra Modi. AFP

File photo of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi. AFP

What happened next has confounded most pollsters and analysts to this day. Various theories have been propagated. The chief among those (and the one that has gained wide acceptability) explains that BJP and Vajpayee focused too much on the middle-class metrics and ignored the underclass. It is said that the rural poor took the India Shining as a personal affront and decided to teach the arrogant NDA a lesson by warming up to Congress and its slogan ‘Congress ka haath, aam admi ka sath‘.

In their book ‘Winning the Mandate: The Indian Experience‘, authors Bidyut Chakrabarty and Sugato Hazra write that “the problem that the campaign overlooked was that its audience could not be the impoverished masses… In a country where a large section of the population lived under abject poverty, the very concept of ‘India Shining’ was certainly not a feel-good factor.

By April 2003, Indian share market had an inflow of $4.1 billion, rupee the third-best performing currency against the dollar and India best performing economy after China. BJP reckoned that these would provide enough momentum for Vajpayee, except that these metrics are chiefly the concern of the middle class.

That aside, Vajpayee-led BJP “wanted to break away from its branding as a ‘temple party'” and by shunning the mandir, it managed to alienate its core voters and RSS, VHP cadres in working for its electoral cause.

Modi has no plans of becoming another Vajpayee.

He has made second term in 2019 his top priority. And is working assiduously towards that end. The Prime Minister has taken two important lessons from NDA’s 2004 debacle.

One, infrastructural and urban development, while necessary, are structural reforms that give long-standing but delayed returns. In the short term, for an economy that is overwhelmingly still agrarian and hopelessly dependent on monsoon, rights-based entitlements cannot be done away with.

The Congress may have stalled growth, widened the fiscal deficit and miserably failed to implement most of their rights-based schemes but the fact that they professed to be with the “gareeb, kisaan and pichde warg” has helped them win election after election. It is another matter that a government should not need a justiciable rights-based act to be whipped into doing its work, providing food, education, healthcare and sanitation for the poor.

Modi came to power riding a reform agenda and promised to do away with the various social schemes of the UPA such as the NREGA or the MNREGA, but has taken a stunning U-turn since assuming office. From a right of centre spectrum, the BJP — as the 2016 Budget showed — has moved to a more centrist position. Arun Jaitley’s budget had a clear socialist slant and the stamp of Modi on it was clear. It explicitly focused on improving the situation in rural India and providing relief to the agricultural sector. The social spendings increased manifold. It was evident that ‘suit boot ki sarkar’ jibe had drawn blood.

Now social spendings need resources. Where would the money for these expansive schemes come from? This is where Modi took his second lesson from NDA’s 2004 defeat. A series of recent steps indicate that the PM is unwilling to woo his core votebank, the middle class, anymore.

The 2016-17 Budget had no significant tax sops for middle class. Instead new taxes were piled on. The service tax rate increased from 12.36 per cent to 15 per cent, a 21.3 per cent increase in the last two years. This makes everything from telephone bills to broadband internet, watching movies to eating out with families costlier.

The NDA government has refused to pass on the windfall benefits of a crash in oil prices in global markets with a variety of taxes and cesses , denying the motorcycle or small car owners some extra cash in pocket.

Not just that. The government, in a stated bid to make India a pension-based society, announced in the Budget that interest earned on 60 per cent of provident fund (PF) contributions after 1 April, 2016, will be taxed at the time of withdrawal, a plan it had to roll back after vociferous protests from the salaried class.

At least in the medium to short term, it is quite evident that Modi is focusing on the underclass and ramping up social spending. And in doing so, he is levying a plethora of taxes at the risk of antagonizing the middle class. He either thinks that this bloc is too fractured to make a difference at the hustings or there is time yet to woo them back.

But Modi’s friction with the middle class has gone beyond ‘tax terrorism’.

A demographically young India which wants jobs and development is uncomfortable with BJP’s core Hindutva agenda. Modi was able to differentiate himself from other Prime Ministerial candidates in 2014 by tapping into the developmental aspirations of a cross-section of middle India that felt frustrated by the UPA government’s scams and poor economic record. Many neutral or swing voters went along with his ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ slogan. Building temples or banning beef was not a promise that enthused them.

However, as PM, Modi has either been unable to contain the Sangh agenda or defang the Hindu far right as he did as a Gujarat chief minister or he reckons that this core support base is too precious to be challenged. The way the likes of Yogi Adityanath, the BJP MP from Gorakhpur who on Saturday during a Ram Katha programme in Uttar Pradesh said that Mother Teresa was part of a “conspiracy for Christianisation of India”, has been allowed to indulge in polarizing topics, it appears that BJP’s strategy in states such as UP would be to embark on a combined approach.

The Prime Minister in his rallies will exclusively focus on development, the ground strategy will focus on caste-based equations while some of the hotheads will be allowed to soft-polarize the electorate. This might be a good electoral strategy, but the middle class sees this as a deviation from the path Modi had promised to take.

As if attacking India’s institutions and appointing mediocre political stooges like Pahlaj Nihalani and Gajendra Chauhan wasn’t enough, Modi’s handling of l’affaire Raghuram Rajan has angered the middle class even further. Arguments can be made on both sides and a government is entitled to appoint the public servant it chooses but the RBI governor is a man of great intellect, integrity and acclaim. The middle class looks up to such figures. Whether or not it’s true, the perception is that the former IMF chief economist was made to leave and that certainly hasn’t pleased this section.

Modi had branded himself as the champion of a neo-liberal middle class. The latest revisions prove that he has no dogmatic belief in any ideology. He is rather a pragmatist who is solely focused on getting re-elected in 2019.

Bibek Debroy pitches for scrapping of separate railway budget

The British-era legacy of having a separate railway budget needs to be scrapped, NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy said on Wednesday reiterating the suggestion made by a panel headed by him last year. Debroy, however, dismissed reports that a new committee of NITI Aayog has made a similar recommendation.”I don’t know about any such committee. Whatever we had said in our recommendation is public knowledge,” Debroy said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He, however, is of the opinion that there should not be separate rail budget as recommended by a high-level committee headed by him, which submitted its report last year.The committee had said that the separate railway budget should be phased out progressively and merged with the General Budget.”There is no need for separate railway budget. We have said it very categorically in the committee report. There are five reasons why railways budget is not necessary,” Debroy said.Elaborating it, he said, “The origin of this goes back to the Acworth Committee report in 1924. The report was triggered by the question whether East Indian Railway Company should be granted an extension of its lease… only recommendation of separate railway budget was implemented.”He further said, “All those countries that Acworth Committee mentioned no longer have separate railway budget. The second reason is that there is no constitutional or legal requirement for separate railway budget. Union Budget is a constitutional requirement.”If one is expecting the railways to function according to commercial principles then decisions should be left to railway board. The decision cannot and should not be left to Parliament.”The economist explained, “The railway budget is an avenue for populism with MPs demanding new trains and stops for existing ones. These decisions should be taken by railway board on a commercial basis. A lot of resources are wasted in the process of preparing it. A very complicated relationship between Finance Ministry and Railways has evolved. We should simplify it,” he added.

Railway Budget may be scrapped after Niti Aayog panel’s recommendation

The Narendra Modi government may scrap the practice of presenting a separate Railway Budget that has been going on since the days of the British Raj, according to The Times of India. A panel headed by Niti Aayog member Bibek Debroy recommended that the integration of the Railway Budget with the General Budget, the report added.

The NDA government has asked inputs from the Railway minister on the 20-page note titled ‘Dispensing with the Rail Budget,’ said an Indian Express report. The Department of Economic Affairs, the finance secretary and the Cabinet secretary will also be involved in the discussions, the report said.

Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. PIB

Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. PIB

The panel argued that the rail budget has become an exercise to dispense popular measures and have failed to address the “problem of under-investment”. The panel pointed out that as per the Railway Act of 1989, the Centre can change tariffs without involving the Parliament. The report also added that the panel noted that scrapping the exercise will also lower the stature of the Railway ministry.

In the 2016-17 Railway Budget, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu made no changes either in passenger fares or freight rates. He had also announced the introduction of three new super-fast trains and creation of dedicated north-south, east-west and east coast freight corridors by 2019.

The minister pegged the budget estimates at Rs 1.21 lakh crore with focus on capital expenditure with a mix of various sources of funding in order to ensure that the projects are given assured funding.

Gross traffic receipts for the coming fiscal was fixed at Rs 1.84 lakh crore, with passenger earnings growth pegged at 12.4 percent and earning target budgeted at Rs 51,012 crore. The freight traffic was pegged at an incremental tariff of 50 million tonnes, anticipating a healthier growth in the core sector of the economy. Goods earning was proposed at Rs 1.17 lakh crore.

In February, after the Railway Budget was announced, Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha told Firstpost’s Sanjay Singh, “the Rail Budget is not about announcement of new trains and number of stops a particular train will have. It should never have been like this. It means much more than that. Rail connects people in all parts of the country and carries persons of all hues, all strata. The rail minister has made right decisions. The prime minister is very keen to see that the face of Indian Railway is changed for the good.”

However, if the recommendations of the Niti Aayog panel is taken into consideration, Suresh Prabhu’s February budget could be the last one.

With inputs from agencies

Judiciary cannot perform executive function:Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

New Delhi: Drawing the line between judiciary and executive, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said courts cannot perform the functions of executive and the independence of the two will have to strictly maintained.

Jaitley said if executive fails to perform its function, courts can direct it to do so but it cannot take over the executive function.

A file photo of Arun Jaitley. PTIA file photo of Arun Jaitley. PTI

A file photo of Arun Jaitley. PTI

Speaking at the ‘Indian of the Year 2015’ awards of CNN News 18, he said if the judiciary fails to act, the executive cannot take up that role on the plea that there are mounting pending cases.

Similarly, courts also cannot take over executive function.

“Let’s first of all be clear about two basic facts. Fact one, independence of judiciary is certainly required and must be maintained at all cost. Fact two, judiciary unquestionably has the power of judicial review. I don’t think anybody has power to dispute that. It is essential for democracy,” he said.

Stating that the argument that judiciary steps in when executive does not act was a “questionable proposition”, he said, “when the executive does not act judiciary can tell and direct the executive to act. But the judiciary cannot perform executive function. Executive function has to be performed by executives.”

Jaitley, who also holds the charge of Information and Broadcasting Ministry, said just as independence of judiciary was essential, so was separation of powers.

“The Parliamentary function has to be performed by Parliament, nobody else can pass or approve a Budget. The executive function has to be performed by the executives. Courts cannot perform an executive function. It can direct the executive to perform its function, if it is not acting,” he said.

Jaitley’s comments came close on the heels of Chief Justice of India TS Thakur asserting that judiciary
intervened only when the executive failed in its constitutional duties.

The CJI had also said, “the government should do its job instead of hurling accusations and that the people turn to the courts only after they are let down by the executive.”

Budget proposals in J&K assembly put on hold after Omar Abdullah’s objections

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir government on Wednesday put implementation of various proposals made in the budget for 2016-17 on hold after opposition leader Omar Abdullah objected to it saying the Assembly had not approved the proposals yet.

As soon as the House assembled, Omar raised the issue saying the budget proposals have been implemented by the government even as the House was still conducting the general discussion on these proposals.

File image of Omar Abdullah. PTI

File image of Omar Abdullah. PTI

“We know you have the numbers and you will pass the budget anyway. But there could have come some good suggestions from here (assembly),” he said.

Omar said the orders for implementation of the budget proposals were issued by the government the same day the Finance Minister made his speech in the House.

“It is the contempt of this House. This house cannot be taken for granted. You (speaker) do not have to protect the government all the time. You have to protect this House also,” the former chief minister said.

Congress members led by Nawang Rigzin Jora also questioned the rationale of passing the implementation orders when the discussions had not been completed and the House was yet to approve the proposals.

BJP leader Satpal Sharma also joined the opposition in opposing the move. “While this is an established practice at the Centre, Jammu and Kashmir has a special status due to which even laws passed by Parliament are discussed and debated in the state Assembly.

“I agree with my friends (pointing to opposition benches) that these orders should be withdrawn till budget is approved by the House,” Sharma said.

Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu said it was an established practice in the state and the Centre that notifications are issued after budget presentation. “If there is any discomfort on this account, we will put these orders on hold,” he added.

Speaker Kavinder Gupta directed the government to put on hold the orders for implementation of budget proposals till the same are passed by the House.

Ordinance to amend Enemy Property Act to be ‘re-promulgated’

The government is learnt to have on Tuesday recommended re-promulgating an ordinance to amend the Enemy Property Act to allow custodians to continue to hold sway over such properties. Sources said the ordinance was not on the regular agenda of the Union Cabinet which met this afternoon but was added at the last moment. “Yes, it has been cleared,” said a senior functionary.A bill to replace the ordinance is pending with the Rajya Sabha which had referred it to a Select Committee. The Committee had recently tabled its report in the House recommending a few changes. Following the end of the Budget session, the ordinance had lapsed. The first ordinance was issued on January 1, while the second one was issued on April 2. Once signed by the President — who is in China on a state visit — the ordinance will be issued for the third time before Rajya Sabha takes a call on it in the Monsoon Session which usually begins in the last week of July.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The earlier ordinances amended the provisions of the Act declaring that all “enemy property” vested in the ‘custodian’ would continue to vest in the custodian irrespective of the death or extinction of the enemy. The custodian of enemy property in the country is an Indian government department that is empowered to appropriate property in India owned by Pakistani nationals. After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the Enemy Property Act was enacted in 1968.The Narendra Modi government, following the footsteps of the previous UPA government, has been keen to amend the Enemy Property Act. A new section was inserted in the previous ordinance to say that “the Custodian, may, after making such inquiry as he deems necessary, by order, declare that the property of the enemy or the enemy subject or the enemy firm described in the order, vests in him under this Act and issue a certificate to this effect and such certificate shall be the evidence of the facts stated therein”.The President had yesterday signed an ordinance to keep state boards out of the ambit of uniform medical and dental college exams for one year.

High gold prices will impact Akshaya Tritiya sales this year

Mumbai: Akshaya Tritiya, which is considered an auspicious day to buy gold, is likely to be lacklustre this time as jewellers are expecting negative to marginal growth compared to last year, on the back of rising gold prices, which is ruling at over Rs 30,000 per 10 grams.

Gold is currently ruling at Rs 30,050 per 10 grams in domestic market. In February first week it was at Rs 26,930.

“During Akshaya Tritiya (which falls on May 9) we are expecting marginal growth in sales compared to last year as the prices are ruling very high and due to the present dry weather conditions in the country,” All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation (GJF) Chairman Sreedhar G V told PTI.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Even as the overall market sentiment is positive, the surge in gold prices is likely to put a halt on consumer demand for heavy jewellery and people might go for small ticket size items, chains and bangles, Sreedhar added.

Echoing a similar view, former GJF Chairman Bachhraj Bamalwa said in terms of volume, the consumer demand might witness a negative growth of about 10 per cent, but in value terms it is likely to be at par with last year’s sales. “There will be buying as people will purchase a token small ticket size jewellery or coin for the festival and they will hesitate to go for heavy pieces due to high prices,” he said.

As for wedding jewellery, he said, usually consumers book for bridal jewelleries before one month for which most of the bookings were already done just after the strike ended.

“Bridal and wedding jewellery takes time so we usually get most of the bookings before one month. We got most of the wedding jewellery bookings just as the strike ended,” he said.

However, World Gold Council (WGC) MD Somasundaram PR felt that there will be sharp hike in demand during Akshaya Tritiya, where wedding jewellery as well as investment-related items like coins, bars will also move fast. The industry has been facing a challenging time as people were waiting for the Budget expecting a cut in import duty.”However, the jewellers went on strike after the announcement of excise levy. The industry is gearing up to meet the pent-up demand which will be witnessed during this Akshaya Tritiya,” Somasundaram said.

However, he cautioned that there are restrictions in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the two big markets, due to elections. Also the artisans, who had ventured into other professions during the strike, are coming back slowly and cannot meet the demand in such a short time.

“We don’t expect the price to deter demand. However, we feel that it will be difficult for the industry to increase supply in such a short time,” he added.

Ishu Datwani, founder of Anmol Jewellers, said there is likely to be 20-25 per cent rise in demand, mainly ruled by wedding jewellery. “Whatever demand was there during the strike we cannot regain it. But we are trying to make up for the lost business through many offers to attract consumers. Wedding jewellery will dominate the demand during Akshaya Tritiya as the bookings look good” he said.

P N Gadgil Jewellers Chairman and Managing Director Saurabh Gadgil opined this is the first major festival after the strike and there is a positive sentiment all around.”Expectations of good monsoon and wedding season will also help boost demand, which is likely to go up by 15 percent compared to last year,” he said.

Gadgil added that this will mainly be aided by the weekend preceding Akshaya Tritiya, which falls on the coming Monday, so people will get three days to shop.

Gold Monetisation Scheme mobilises 2.8 tonnes so far

New Delhi: The government has so far collected 2.8 tonnes of gold under the Gold Monetisation Scheme (GMS), which has been in force for a little over six months, Parliament was informed today.

“Gold Monetisation Scheme which was announced in the Union Budget 2015-16, was launched on November 5, 2015, and a total of 2.8 tonnes of gold have so far been deposited by 105 depositors under this scheme,” Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.

gold`gold`“Temples and trusts have so far deposited a total of 1,512 kilograms of gold under the scheme.”

The scheme is intended to mobilise idle gold held by households and institutions of the country and facilitate its use for productive purposes, and in the long run, reduce the country’s reliance on the import of gold.

The scheme, which did not pick up initially, was fine-tuned to make it more attractive and convenient to encourage entities holding idle gold to come on board.

Currently, there are 46 assaying and hallmarking centres that are qualified to act as collection and purity testing centres (CPTCs) for handling gold under GMS.

India imports about 1,000 tonnes of gold every year and the precious metal is the second-highest component of the import bill after crude oil. An estimated 20,000 tonnes of gold are lying with households and temples.

Replying to a separate query, the minister said that till April 20, 2016, 21.61 crore accounts have been opened under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), of which 9.62 crore accounts are Aadhaar-seeded.

Govt increases EPF interest rate to 8.8 percent bowing to trade union pressure

The government was forced to take a U-turn on the Employee Provident Fund (EPF) issue yet again on Friday when it increased the rate to 8.8 per cent from 8.7 per cent decided earlier. The Central Board of Trustees (CBT) had originally recommended 8.8 per cent.

ThinkstockThinkstock

Thinkstock

The reversal came after trade unions threatened nationwide protests to press their demand. On Thursday, the labour minister, Bandaru Dattatreya, had said he will discuss the issue with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

“I am happy that finance ministry has agreed to 8.8 per cent for 2015-16,” Dattatreya told reporters in Delhi on Friday.

This is the third time the government is forced to take back his decision on the EPF issue since February. First was when the government proposed in the 2016 Union Budget to tax 60 per cent of the EPF corpus, which it had to roll back almost immediately on account of mass protests.

Second was when the amendment on the age limit to withdraw the retirement corpus to 58 years from 54 earlier was brought in, only to roll back after trade unions protested.

Opposition stalls Parliament on Uttarakhand

Even as the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday sought cooperation from Opposition, the second half of the Budget session began on a stormy note. The Opposition didn’t allow any business in the Rajya Sabha and in Lok Sabha. Congress staged an impromptu ‘dharna’ in the well over the imposition of the President’s rule in Uttarakhand. Congress spokesman Jairam Ramesh told in a press conference that the party’s protest would continue in the Rajya Sabha.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Congress group leader Mallikarjun Kharge, squatted on the floor of Lok Sabha, even as the party MPs raised slogans from the well after the Speaker did not allow them raise the issue at the start of the House with the question hour. The government took stand in the Rajya Sabha that the matter was sub judice before the Supreme Court and hence it could not be discussed, prompting the Congress and other opposition MPs to repeatedly storm into the well and force adjournments.Speaker Sumitra Mahajan also did not allow debate since the matter was sub judice, rejecting adjournment motion of the Opposition, but allowed Kharge to speak briefly, cutting him short even as he started talking on a series of unconstitutional acts by the government to pull down all Opposition-ruled states, starting with Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand to seize power in every state.Home minister Rajnath Singh asserted that the ruling BJP had nothing to do with the crisis in Uttarakhand as it was an internal crisis of the Congress. The ruckus died down in the Lok Sabha to let it transact the listed business but not so in the Rajya Sabha where the Congress members forced repeated adjournments to protest against the government’s hand in engineering defections and then imposing the President’s rule.

Amidst dirsruption woes, PM Modi hopes for productive Budget session of Parliament

As the second half of the Budget session got underway, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday hoped that members of all parties will discuss issues in a democratic spirit and take good decisions.With Opposition, mainly the Congress planning to target the government over imposition of President’s Rule in Uttarakhand, Modi hoped that members will involve themselves in free discussions like the last time and important decisions will be taken.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Read More: Parliament Live: Rajya Sabha adjourned till 2 pm after uproar; Opposition, government spar over Uttarakhand issues
ALSO READ Uttarakhand crisis: Modi govt gets ready to counter opposition in Parliament with past incidents of President’s ruleHe noted that the first part of the Budget session was very productive and several important legislations were passed. “The first part of the Budget session was very productive. All the parties helped in running Parliament smoothly and many important decisions were taken. And the MPs of all parties seemed happy about this. This time too we will discuss issues with similar enthusiasm and as per the tradition of democracy and take good decisions. This is my belief,” he said.Even as the government has listed a heavy agenda for the session, including passage of 13 bills in Lok Sabha and 11 bills in Rajya Sabha, there is understanding among its floor managers that pushing contentious measures like GST won’t be possible in first few days.
ALSO READ Parliament session begins on Monday, likely to be stormy; all party meeting todayCongress backed by the Left, JD(U) and other opposition parties, is determined to corner the Centre over imposition of President’s rule in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh, calling it an “assault” on the federal structure. The NDA government is likely to counter the attack citing instances of imposition of President’s rule when Congress governments or governments backed by it or other Opposition parties were in power at the Centre.

Parliament session: Delhi government to run special buses to ferry MPs

With the second half of the Budget session of Parliament beginning Monday, the Delhi government said it will run six air-conditioned special buses to ferry MPs and appealed to the lawmakers to follow the odd-even rule.”I have appealed to all MPs to follow the odd-even rule. In order to facilitate the lawmakers, we have decided to run six ‘MP Special’ buses to ferry them to Parliament,” Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai told PTI.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) officials said they will operate six low-floor air-conditioned buses for MPs but they will have to buy a ticket.
ALSO READ Odd-even 2.0 loses fizz halfway throughRai said he also talked to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan over telephone and sought details from her on the MPs attending Parliament.”I talked to her (Mahajan) on how MPs would go to Parliament while the scheme is in place. After talking to the Lok Sabha Speaker, we decided to run six special buses for MPs and if required, we will run more buses.” DTC will operate two ‘MP Special’ buses each from North Block and South Block, and one each from Akhbar Road and Ashoka Road, he said.
ALSO READ Odd-even 2.0: Compliance rate higher this time than first edition, says Delhi govt’MP Special’ buses will ply from 9 AM to 11 AM and 5.30 PM to 8 PM, and will be available after every 15 minutes, a senior DTC official said.”If MPs do not prefer to travel by buses, they have the option to carpool. They should contribute to make Delhi a pollution-free city,” the Minister said.Members of Parliament have not been given exemption under the odd-even scheme, the second phase of which started on April 15 and will end on April 30. The violation of the car-rationing scheme attracts a penalty of Rs 2,000.President, Prime Minister, Vice-President, union ministers Chief Justice of India, judges of high courts, women among others are exempted under it.

Delhi government to run six special buses to ferry MPs to Parliament

With the second half of the Budget session of Parliament beginning on Monday, the Delhi government on Sunday said it will run six special buses to ferry MPs and appealed to the lawmakers to follow the odd-even rule.”I have appealed to all MPs to follow the odd-even rule. In order to facilitate the lawmakers, we have decided to run six ‘MP Special’ buses to ferry them to Parliament,” Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai told PTI.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rai said he also talked to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan over telephone and sought details from her on the MPs attending Parliament. “I have apprised her (Mahajan) of the Delhi government’s decision to run six special buses for MPs and if required, we will run more buses.”The Delhi Transport Corporation will operate two ‘MP Special’ buses each from North Block and South Block, and one each from Akhbar Road and Ashoka Road, he said. “If MPs do not prefer to travel by buses, they have the option to carpool. They should contribute to make Delhi a pollution-free city,” the Minister said.Members of Parliament have not been given exemption under the odd-even scheme, the second phase of which started on April 15 and will end on April 30. The violation of the car-rationing scheme attracts a penalty of Rs 2,000. President, Prime Minister, Vice-President, union ministers Chief Justice of India, judges of high courts, women among others are exempted under it.

Congress will not support GST Bill in Parliament: Ghulam Nabi Azad

On the eve of the Budget Session, leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad has said that the Congress Party would not support the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill in the Parliament. In an exclusive interview to ETV head Jagdish Chandra, Azad said the Congress Party is firm on the GST Bill.”The Congress will not compromise on three amendments in the GST Bill,” he said while blaming Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government for stalling the GST Bill.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>During this session, the BJP-led NDA Government hopes to garner the support of opposition parties in passage of key legislation, including the GST Bill. Besides, the Bill to replace Enemy Property Ordinance, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and Companies Amendment Bill will also be taken up.Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan earlier in the day held an all-party meet to discuss ways for smooth functioning of the Parliament. During the meeting, Mahajan sought cooperation from floor leaders of different parties to ensure smooth transaction of business in the House.

SpiceJet flight returns after technical snag

A Madurai-bound flight of budget air carrier SpiceJet with 72 passengers returned to the airport here, shortly after it took off, following a ‘technical snag’ on Monday, airport authorities said.The plane left at 6.50 am as scheduled but returned around 7.30 am after the pilot noticed a technical snag mid-air, they said. The specific reason of the technical snag is yet to be ascertained.The flight resumed its journey an hour later, after the problem was rectified, the officials added.

Rahul Gandhi to join protesting jewellers at Jantar Mantar against Centre’s excise duty proposal

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi will on Wednesday meet the protesting jewellers who are demanding withdrawal of excise duty on jewellery.The representatives of jewellers associations from across the country have been holding a protest at Jantar Mantar against the excise duty imposed in the Union Budget 2016-17.Rahul had earlier met with the jewellers on March 11.Jewellers and bullion traders in several parts of the country, including Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, have kept down shutters for over a month now.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress Vice President will meet the protesting jewellers at Jantar Mantar here today, party leaders said.Vice-president of the All India Sarafa Association Surinder Kumar Jain said the industry has been losing business due to ongoing indefinite strike, and workers including artisans involved in the trade have the “crisis of bread and butter now”.Jewellery manufacturers are likely to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to demand rollback of the budgetary proposal.”We have a meeting with the Prime Minister on Wednesday. The time is yet to be finalised,” said Rahul Gupta, CEO of PP Jewellers.Gupta is also the Vice-Chairman of Export Promotion Council for EoUs and SEZs.The Centre has already constituted a panel under former chief economic advisor Ashok Lahiri to look into the demands of jewellers.The sub-committee, which has been asked to submit its report in 60 days, will look into issues related to the compliance procedure for the excise duty, including records to be maintained, forms to be filled, operating procedures and other relevant aspects.The government, in the Budget for 2016-17, had proposed one per cent excise duty on jewellery without input credit or 12.5 per cent with input tax credit on jewellery excluding silver other than those studded with diamonds and precious stones.

Tax adventurism will prove extremely costly, says Jaitley

New Delhi: Amid reports of some Indians having unaccounted wealth in tax havens, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said those who did not take advantage of the compliance window last year to declare illegal assets abroad will find “such adventurism extremely costly”.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. PTIFinance Minister Arun Jaitley. PTI

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. PTI

The minister said global initiatives to deal with the menace of unaccounted wealth abroad will be in place by 2017, and then it would become extremely difficult for individuals to hide assets.

“With G20 initiatives, FATCA and bilateral transactions in place with effect from 2017, the world is going to be a far more transparent institution and therefore, this kind of an adventurism will prove to be extremely costly for those who have indulged in it,” Jaitley said while addressing the annual session of industry body CII.

His statement comes on a day when a newspaper, based on leaked documents of Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca, reported that over 500 Indians including some well known names figure in the list of persons having association with firms in tax havens.

Jaitley said those who did not take advantage of the black money compliance window last year to declare undisclosed overseas assets will realise their mistake.

“I had come in for adverse comment including some of my friends here when in 2015 Budget we had announced a strong penal law against illegal assets abroad. At that stage I had said that those who committed mistakes in the past are getting last opportunity with a compliance window in place.

“The compliance window operated (and), many availed but probably some didn’t. Today when I see contrarian reports appearing (in media), which are not only impacting India… which are impacting the rest of the world. I think it is a stern reminder to all of us,” he said.

Last year, during the 90-day compliance window ended September 30, the government had received disclosures of undeclared overseas wealth totalling Rs 4,147 crore. Those wanting to come clean were required to pay 30 per cent tax and 30 per cent penalty.

Beside, the government in this Budget came out with a compliance window to encourage domestic black money holders to declare assets in the four-month compliance window, which will open in June. They will have to pay a total of 45 per cent tax and penalty.

Jaitley further said the essence of the industry will have to be entrepreneurship and also credibility.

“If India aspires to be the fastest growing global leader, as far as the economy is concerned, we in government have a primary responsibility in terms of policy and guiding public opinion,” he said adding the industry also has to work towards
achieving the goal.

Citing various initiatives taken by the government to boost economic activity, the minister said “… with all the new avenues of entrepreneurship available at globally competitive rates, corruption level significantly going down if not disappearing, a far more ease of doing business, more and more avenues are being made available to you.”

With regard to mounting NPAs, he said some recent events haven’t added to the industry’s credibility as far as resolution of bad loans are concerned.

“As far as industry is concerned, we always welcome entrepreneurship. I also appreciate the kind of challenges which you are facing today but I think Indian industry is also fighting a major battle for its own credibility.

“Some recent events haven’t added to their credibility, and therefore, in this entire debate which is going on non-performing assets… but the approach of the leaders of the industry will certainly have to be always positive and ethical because it is that approach which is going to add to their credibility,” he said.
PTI

Uttarakhand President’s rule: Centre issues ordinance to authorise expenditure

The Centre has issued an ordinance to authorise expenditure from today in Uttarakhand, which is under President’s rule. The Uttarakhand Appropriation (Vote on Account) Ordinance, 2016 was promulgated by the President yesterday, according to an official notification. The ordinance is to provide for withdrawal of certain sums from and out of the Consolidated Fund of the State of Uttarakhand for the services of a part of the financial year 2016-17, it said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress has said that it would move court against the ordinance as it contends that the Assembly had duly passed the Appropriation Bill on March 18 and the Speaker has declared it so.The ordinance was issued as “Parliament is not in Session and President is satisfied that circumstances exist which rendered it necessary for him to take immediate action for the purpose of timely compliance of financial businesses of the state of Uttarakhand”, the notification said.The ordinance allows withdrawal of about Rs 13,642.43 crore to meet expenditure on certain services for the ongoing fiscal in the state, which was put under President’s rule on Sunday.The decision to issue the ordinance was taken on Wednesday at a meeting of the Union Cabinet chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh in the absence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on an official visit abroad.After the meeting, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said that on March 18, the Appropriation Bill was not passed.In the absence of any lawful passage of the Bill, no withdrawal can be done as far as the Uttarakhand government is concerned from the Consolidated Fund of the state.Since the state is under President’s Rule and no budget could be passed earlier, the Cabinet had recommended an Appropriation Ordinance for Uttarakhand, so that valid withdrawal of the government revenue can be done, he had said.In a rare development, the Budget session of Parliament was prorogued on March 29 to enable the government to promulgate the ordinance.The decision to recommend such a course was taken at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs chaired by Singh on Tuesday following questions over the status of the Appropriation Bill which was declared as passed by the Speaker in the Uttarakhand Assembly under controversial circumstances.

Reservation to Jats, 5 other castes challenged in Haryana HC

The reservation to Jats and five other communities in government jobs and education was challenged today in the Punjab and Haryana High court in Chandigarh, a day after Haryana Assembly cleared the quota Bill.LIVE England vs New Zealand 1st Semi-Final T20, ICC World T20 2016, March 30, 2016Advocate Satnarayan Yadav challenged the grant of reservation on the grounds that the Supreme Court has ruled against the overall quota exceeding the 50 per cent threshold in any state. The petition is likely to come up for hearing on Monday, he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Referring to a 1992 order wherein the apex court had opposed more than 50 per cent overall reservation, Yadav claimed Haryana government had succumbed to the pressure from Jats by bringing the reservation Bill. Two or three states have sought to provide over 50 per cent reservation but these decisions have been challenged in the courts, he said.On Tuesday, a Bill to provide reservation to Jats and five other communities in government jobs and education was unanimously passed by Haryana Assembly.Jats set an April 3 deadline for the granting of reservation after their violent quota agitation last month had brought the BJP-ruled state to a standstill. The stir left 30 people dead and 320 persons injured besides resulting in huge damage to property.The Bill extends reservation to Jats and five other castes — Jat Sikhs, Rors, Bishnois, Tyagis and Mulla Jat/Muslim Jat — by constituting a new classification, Block ‘C’, in the Backward Classes category. The Bill proposes to give 10 per cent reservation these communities in government and government-aided educational institutions and Class-III and IV government jobs. It also envisages 6 per cent reservation for them in BC ‘C’ category in Class-I and II jobs.The Jats had threatened to relaunch their agitation on March 18 but put it off till April 3 after the BJP government promised to bring the Bill in the ongoing Budget session.

Delhi Assembly: Ethics Committee recommends expulsion of BJP MLA OP Sharma

The Ethics Committee of the Delhi Assembly has “unanimously” recommended stripping off BJP MLA O P Sharma’s membership of the House in connection with a case of making derogatory remarks against AAP MLA Alka Lamba five months back and being “unrepentant” about it.Live England vs New Zealand 1st Semi-Final T20, ICC World T20 2016, March 30, 2016The report of the nine-member committee, tabled in the House today, called Sharma a “habitual offender”. Sources said he may be given one last opportunity to tender an apology during the discussion on the report which is scheduled for tomorrow.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On his part, Sharma trashed the recommendation of the committee describing it as “biased and politically motivated” and accused the ruling AAP of “misusing” its majority. In November last year, Delhi Assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Goel had suspended Sharma for rest of the Winter Session for using derogatory language against Lamba inside the House. Goel had also referred the matter to the Ethics Committee for further probe.Last month, Sharma was caught on camera beating a CPI activist at Patiala House court complex when JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar was being produced. Days, later he was arrested for the assault but was released on bail.”From the proceedings of Nov 25, 2015 it is abundantly clear that Sharma used the words ‘raat bhar ghumne wali’ in the most derogatory and defamatory sense against Lamba. It amounted to character assassination. He has shown neither remorse nor sign of learning from his past mistakes and is a habitual offender. The committee is left with no choice but to recommend expulsion of Om Prakash Sharma from the membership of the sixth legislative assembly of Delhi,” the report said.The section on facts and observations of the report, that was used to arrive at the conclusion by the members, said that Sharma attended five of the 10 sittings of the committee where he remained “consistently defiant and unrepentant”.”Yet the committee tried to reason with him all through with the hope that he would realise his mistake and would express regrets. Unfortunately, he was not amenable to the very thought of being regretful,” it said.It accused the Vishwas Nagar legislator of making “sweeping and unsubstantiated charges” against the speaker, committee on ethics, Chief Minister and secretariat of legislature during the committee’s last sitting.The Ethics Committee, “unanimously” concluding that the BJP MLA is found guilty of conduct unbecoming of an MLA said that it is “left with no choice but to recommend expulsion of Om Prakash Sharma from the membership of the sixth legislative assembly of Delhi.”The report also referred to the fine imposed on him by the House after he was found guilty by the committee on ethics on an earlier occasion for damaging mike in the House during the Budget session in June 2015.”(He) has to his credit the record of being named by Speaker most number of times for indecorous conduct in the House. Has the history of repeatedly interrupting the proceedings of the House. (He) is imprudent enough to rush menacingly towards the leader of the House when he was addressing the House with the permission of the Chair. Has shown neither remorse nor sign of learning from his past mistakes and is a habitual offender,” it added.In December, the Delhi Assembly had passed a resolution on recovering Rs 18,560 from Sharma’s salary towards the cost incurred in replacing a mike he had damaged during the Budget Session and warned him not to repeat such action.

Narendra Modi makes statements full of lies, has lowered PM’s post, says Tarun Gogoi

Guwahati: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing him of lying and making statements against him “without basis”.

File image. PTIFile image. PTI

File image. PTI

Rubbishing Modi’s claim that the state had not given an account of Rs 1.8 lakh crore to the Comptroller and Auditor General, the chief minister said, “This is just a lie. I never got so much money from the Centre in my entire tenure. I challenge him to prove it. The PM is making statements without any basis.”

The CAG has never said there is any misappropriation of funds in Assam. It has only said that some funds are being utilised and they suggested some corrections. If the Assam government is misusing funds then why was the Centre sending more money without reducing the state’s share as claimed by the Prime Minister in his rallies, he told reporters. “Have you ever seen a PM making statements with lies, lies, lies and full of lies? I have not seen it in the world. He has lowered the dignity of the PM’s post. There should be a limit of telling lies by a PM. Modi alleges that there has only been destruction in Assam in the last 15 years. That means, the condition of Assam was better in 2001 and it has worsened since then,” he added.

Referring to the issue of infiltration raised by BJP, he said it is the Centre’s duty to stop it and it was the Congress government which took up fencing and installing flood-lights on the Indo-Bangla border.

“When (L K) Advani was the (union) home Minister, why did you (BJP) not do anything? What have you done in the last two years? They (BJP) raise this issue every time before election. They raised it in 2014 Lok Sabha polls also,” he said.

Gogoi also questioned Modi over his silence on withdrawal of special category status. “If you care for Assam so much then why was there nothing for the state in the Budget? Now you are announcing everything for Assam.

“What have you done in the last 22 months? You sought 60 months for India’s development,” he said, adding there was only price rise and inflation.

PTI

Jat quota bill unanimously passed in Haryana Assembly

Haryana Assembly on Tuesday unanimously passes the Bill to provide reservation to Jats in government jobs and educational institutions.Akhil Bhartiya Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (ABJASS), the body that spearheaded the Jat quota stir in February, had on Sunday threatened to resume the agitation if its demands are not met by the end of this month.The BJP-led state government had earlier said it will bring the Bill to give reservation to Jats and four other castes-Jat Sikhs, Bishnois, Tyagis and Rors in the ongoing Budget session which is scheduled to end on March 31.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The community has been demanding reservation in the existing backward classes (BC) category. The Backward Classes quota is bifurcated in two categories–BC-A and BC-B having 16 and 11% reservation respectively.In February, 30 people had lost their lives during the nine-day violent agitation by Jats demanding 10% quota in government jobs and educational institutions.Several districts including Rohtak, the epicentre of Jat agitation, Jhajjar, Kaithal, Jind, Sonipat and Bhiwani had witnessed violence.Jats are also demanding withdrawal of FIRs registered against the protesters, compensation to those killed during the stir and action against BJP MP from Kurukshetra Raj Kumar Saini for his anti-Jat reservation stand.(With Agency Inputs)

Delhi government misleading people on revenue collection: Vijender Gupta

Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly, Vijender Gupta has accused the AAP government of misleading the public with its claim of earning Rs 20,000 crore revenue this year.He alleged that even after charging heavy Value Added Tax (VAT) from general public and traders, Delhi government was far behind in meeting its revenue estimates target of Rs 24,000 crores.The estimated target for revenue collection last year was to enhance Rs 8,000 crores per annum and accordingly it comes out to be Rs 24,000 crore but after applying all measures, the target is still not achieved, Gupta was quoted as saying in a release.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The Delhi government has already increased excise duty, luxury and entertainment taxes but their target has not completed. It is surprising that the present government is able to spend only 45 per cent of the plan budget on development projects. It clearly shows that the Kejriwal-led AAP government has no ability to use and spend the money,” he said.The BJP leader said there were apprehensions that the Delhi government would bring CNG under VAT in the Budget session tomorrow which would “make the life of common people more miserable as they have to spend more for public and private transport.”He alleged Delhi Value Added Tax Amendment Act-2 was passed in the Budget session last year without any discussion and the maximum limit of VAT was increased from 20 per cent to 30 per cent.Gupta said the plea given by Delhi government to increase the rate of VAT further in order to stop corruption had actually brought in a “cruel Inspector Raj”.”They consider every trader as tax evader. They started a programme-bring the bill and get a reward. With this policy they have brought 80,000 new traders in the fray but they are the petty traders and their business is so small that they are not able to pay the hugely-levied VAT,” he added.Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia today said the VAT department has managed to collect Rs 20,000 crore so far against its target of Rs 21,000 crore which officials claimed would be achieved by the end of March.

Parliamentary panel wants a roadmap for Skill India

At a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made imparting skills as prime focus of his governance, a parliamentary panel has noted with regret that an assurance on the floor of Lok Sabha given as back as in 2010 to set up 1,500 ITIs and 5,000 skill development centres in public-private partnership was never realised.Terming it a great set-back towards making the country a global economic and skill powerhouse, a 15-member Committee on Assurances headed by BJP’s Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, has said that while Modi government’s<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”National Skill Development Mission” as announced in July last was a welcome step, but in the absence of targets, a roadmap, productive tie-ups with corporates and institutionalised mechanisms, it will also go nowhere.Finance minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget speech has set aside Rs 1,700 crore for skill institutions. He said National Skill Development Mission has imparted training to 76 lakh youths and also announced setting up of 1,500 multi-skill training institutes.”The idea is to capitalise on the demographic advantages. The objective is to impart skills to one crore youths in the next three years under the PM Kaushal Vikas Yojana,” Jaitley added. Prime Minister Modi, who launched the Skill India campaign in July, announced that 40 crore people will be trained under it by 2022.According to a government document, as opposed to developed countries, where the percentage of skilled workforce is between 60% and 90% of the total workforce, India records a low 5% of workforce, despite 20 ministries/departments running 70-plus schemes for skill development over past many years.The document itself admits that insufficient focus on workforce aspirations, lack of certification and common standards and a pointed lack of focus on the unorganised sector were the primary reasons for the abysmal situation, keeping in view that more than 62% of India’s population is in the working age group (15-59 years), and more than 54% of total population below 25 years of age. While this youth bulge is a boon for the country, the country’s national security establishment a few years ago had raised an alarm that if rising youth population is not matched with equal job opportunities over next decade, it will pose an internal security challenge.The parliamentary panel felt that in view of increasing role of private sector, the active partnership with it was necessary for the development of ITIs. Directing the ministry to remain extra careful, while making assurances on the floor of the House, to avoid instances of backtracking, the committee urged the government to expedite setting up of new ITIs in PPP mode with the requisite standards and tie-ups with corporate sector within and outside country. It also recommended that every precaution should be taken to ensure selection of appropriate location for the new ITIs.

Rajasthan govt to train dhabha staff to provide aid in accidents

Rajasthan government will train the staff of roadside dhabas and make available medicines for first aid on national and state highways so that those injured in accidents can be given timely first aid treatment.Medical and Health Minister of Rajasthan Rajendra Rathore said that identification of spots where most mishaps occur on highways will be done and roadside dhaba staff will be given training for first aid so that they can help in saving lives.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He said initially one national and one state highway will be selected for this cause.Replying to the debate on demands for grants for medical and health department in the state assembly, Rathore also raised concerns over growing of vegetables in dirty and polluted water and on misleading advertisements for Ayurvedic medicines for raising height and treatment of other medical conditions.He informed the house that a special campaign will be run against the farming of vegetables using polluted water for two months.To check misleading advertisements, he said Ayurveda officers will be authorised to take action under the seldom used Drug and Magic Remedy Act 1954.The minister in his reply also expressed concern over increasing number of patients with lifestyle diseases and increasing pollution, and also laid stress on collectively meeting this challenge.Rejecting allegations of opposition members that the BJP government has weakened the free medicines scheme initiated by the former Congress government, the minister said the present government has increased the budget for the scheme and has brought qualitative changes in public interest.Rathore informed the House that BJP government in the last two years has increased the budget outlay for the medical and health services and most of the budget was utilized.He said the government will also undertake a special campaign to identify persons with mental disabilities who are chained in houses and added that arrangement for their free treatment will be made by the government.He said child sex ratio has increased to 929 which was from 888 recorded in the 2011 census.The minister also made announcements about recruitment of doctors, setting up of state excellence center for mental health for which the Centre has given its nod in principle, strengthening of laboratories in 17 districts, medical check up of students of madarasas, dial-in ambulance service, commencement of admission in seven new medical colleges from 2017-18 among others.After the reply, the demands for grants were passed by the House.

Election Commission questions Kerala govt’s decision to distribute free rice

A decision of the Kerala government to distribute free rice to 20 lakh families living below poverty line from April one has been questioned by the Election Commission citing model code of conduct.The Chief Electoral Officer of Kerala EK Majhi has now referred the matter to a committee headed by the state Chief Secretary P K Mohanty to examine whether the move is violative of the model code of conduct which came into force on March 4 when polls to five states were announced.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The decision to provide 25 kg of rice to BPL families was part of the Budget speech of Chief Minister Oomen Chandy. The state Cabinet had last month approved the move to distribute rice from April one. Though the decision was taken before the model code came into force, it is being implemented during the election period. Office of the Kerala CEO said the state government has not been asked to defer the implementation till elections are over but the issue has only been referred to the committee headed by the Chief Secretary for further consideration.Kerala will go for a single-phase poll on May 16. State Food Minister Anoop Jacob told PTI that if the implementation is delayed, the state will approach the Election Commission as the “policy decision” was taken “much before” the model code came into force.Citing a past precedent, he said in 2011, the Kerala High Court had set aside the Chief Electoral Officer’s order restraining the state government from implementing its decision to extend the scheme to distribute rice at Rs 2 a kg to families of the Above Poverty Line (APL) category subject to certain conditions.

Nagpur HC strictures on babus gives another ammunition for Opposition

The Opposition would raise the issue of Nagpur High Court strictures on Mantralay officials for ignoring inclusion of villages from Amravati in the list of drought-affected villages and question the reply by rehabilitation minister Eknath Khadse who already is facing the breach of Privilege Motion moved by the Opposition against him.After Khadse gave a detailed reply on drought situation in the state, leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil has moved a breach of Privilege Motion against him for presenting false picture about the farmers’ suicides in the year 2012. Vikhe-Patil has alleged that the minister has tried to mislead the House there by breaching the privilege of the House.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On Friday, when finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar presented the Budget in state assembly and his deputy, minister of state for finance Deepak Kesarkar presented Budget in state legislative council, the high court passed strictures on Mantralaya Babus for ignoring villages from Amravati division in the list of drought affected villages.The high court bench has came down heavily on Babus saying that the bureaucrats by sitting in air conditioned rooms can not understand the ground reality. The bench has directed the state government to present a fresh list of drought-affected villages by taking cognizance of the report submitted by the Amravati divisional commissioner. Amravati division had reported maximum suicides.Dewanand Pawar, a member of Yavatmal zilla parishad, had moved Nagpur Bench with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) for inclusion of villages which had Anewari or crop yield less than the standard norm set by the government.With the high court bench passing strictures, the Opposition is going to harness the same when House resumes on Monday. Leader of Oppositon Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil told DNA that the state government would have to provide a satisfactory reply on the Nagpur bench strictures. Vikhe-Patil asked: “Was Khadse unaware of the PIL pending before the Nagpur bench? If the minister was unaware of this PIL then on what basis the state government had presented its case before the court?”Vikhe-Patil said that the strictures passed by Nagpur Bench and the fact that Khadse did not mention anything on pending PIL in the House are testimony of the fact that the government does not know what is happening under its nose.When contacted, minister for parliamentary affairs Girish Bapat said that the government has provided financial assistance which was never provided in the history. As far as court matter is concerned, the government would respect the order and take appropriate steps. But as far as House proceedings are concerned, the government is capable enough to provide right reply when Opposition brings the issue in House.”

World Sufi Forum rejects all forms of terrorism; urges govt to revive Sufism

The World Sufi Forum on Sunday rejected all forms of terrorism outright and urged governments across the world to support the “revival” of Sufism to combat this menace.The Forum made the appeal even as influential Pakistani-Canadian cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri identified terrorism as the common enemy of both India and Pakistan and asserted the two countries will have to fight it out together.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A declaration adopted at the end of the first international conference of representatives of Sufism from 22 countries brought together by the All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board (AIUMB) also came down heavily on the present-day growing sectarianism in the societies of Muslims and others.”We openly condemn all forms of terrorism in clear and categorical words whether it is intellectual, social religious, political and economic or ideological terrorism. We reject all forms of terrorism outright,” it said.The Forum while requesting the governments of the world to extend its full cooperation for the revival of Sufism asserted that the remedy for the elimination of radicalism and extremism ideologies is in the ideology of Sufism only. The Forum participants also slammed Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS and all other terrorist organisations who have destroyed the brotherhood of mankind.”We condemn the brazen violation of Islam and human rights and strongly appeal to Muslim youth to shun extremist organisations and wrong interpretations of the Quran and Hadith that go against the consensus of the Ummah,” it said.In his speech on the concluding day of the conference, Qadri urged the Indian and Pakistani establishment to reflect as to whether they will remain ‘enemies forever?'”I request the governments to refrain from spending on lavish lifestyles and instead focus on eradication of poverty and end the enmity. Seventy years have passed since independence. Four wars have been fought. Are the two countries going to be enemies forever?””For god’s sake end this enmity now. And stop spending your Budget money on enmity. Spend your budget for promotion of peace. India should understand Pakistan is not its enemy and Pakistan should realise that India is not its enemy. The common enemy of both the countries is terrorism,” Qadri said.Qadri, whose massive protest in Islamabad a year-and-a- half ago had shaken the Nawaz Sharif regime, identified poverty as the root cause behind terrorism and extremism.

Save water, diversify crops, take up allied jobs: PM Modi tells farmers

With back-to-back droughts hitting the agriculture output hard, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday called for steps to conserve water and asked farmers to focus on crop diversification and go for allied activities like dairy, poultry and food processing to boost their income.Inaugurating a 3-day ‘Krishi Unnati Mela’, Modi said since May 2014 when it came to power, his government has taken several initiatives for agriculture growth, including introduction of a new insurance scheme and giving soil health cards to farmers, with a view to doubling their income by 2022.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As per the latest government data, the all-India average monthly income of agricultural households during the crop year July 2012-June 2013 was estimated at Rs 6,426.He even gave a clarion call for second green revolution in eastern states, which have adequate water and fertile land, through adoption of modern technologies.Putting a premium on water conservation to raise farm productivity and income, Modi said the government has identified 90 stuck irrigation projects which can irrigate 80 lakh hectares. The government is spending Rs 20,000 crore to boost irrigation projects.Attacking opposition parties for claiming that all projects and programmes started when they were in power, the Prime Minister said: “You would be surprised to know that as much as 90 projects which are full of water like dams have been built, but there is no way to provide water to farmers.” He added: “Now, my government is working to provide water from these projects and once it is completed, around 80 lakh hectares will get water. And once water reaches there, you all can think how much that land will give us back.” The Prime Minister spoke of funds from MNREGA programme to be utilised this summer for creation of assets such as ponds to conserve water.”About MNREGA, many discussions take place, but no asset has been created. This government is emphasising… during this summer in every village, one work should be done through MNREGA and that is desilting of ponds, deepening of ponds and creating new ones. In this Budget, the government is aiming at 5 lakh ponds,” Modi said.For good part, the Prime Minister emphasised on micro and drip irrigation as well as liquid fertiliser to reduce cost of production and raise farmers’ income level.”Water harvesting is of as much importance as water conservation. We do not have the right to waste water. Per drop more crop is how we can do that,” Modi said.The Prime Minister asked farmers to continue with their regular farming activity, but also told them to adopt animal husbandry, grow timber and go for value addition and processing.”Food processing is the best way to increase the farmers’ income,” he suggested.

Maharashtra treads on Arun Jaitley’s pro-farmer toes

It was ‘Jai Kisan’ all the way. The BJP-led government in Maharashtra has announced Rs 25,000 crore for the farm sector in the Budget for 2016-17, even while tweaking certain taxes such as VAT and offering exemptions for the sugarcane industry.With last three years’ recurring drought, agrarian distress and de-growth in farm sector pulling Maharashtra economy down, finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar’s second budget on Friday stressed on farmers’ welfare, on the lines of union Budget, presented by Arun Jaitley last month.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Shorn of any big-ticket announcements, Mungantiwar said 2016-17 fiscal will be observed as ‘Shetkari Swabhiman Varsh’.The Budget announced energy to industries at subsidised rates in Vidarbha and Marathwada and schemes to boost textile projects in the cotton-growing areas.Interestingly, there was no mention of memorials for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray in the Budget.Announcing a Rs 25,000-crore booster shot for agriculture and related schemes, Mungantiwar, in his near 105-minute speech – peppered with Marathi and Hindi poetry, said, “farmers continue to be the focal point of this budget”.He rolled out substantial provisions for agricultural regeneration, including water conservation schemes, equipping the four agri universities with organic farming research and training centres, two new agri and veterinary colleges and one horticulture college, and automated weather forecasting centres in all revenue blocks. It also proposed an outlay to enhance productivity of pulses and oil seeds, interest servicing for crop loans and rolled out a new scheme for financing costs of cold storage and processing units.”We cannot rest just by providing relief packages to the farmers… We have to build capacity in farmers to face vagaries of nature, for which a permanent arrangement needs to be in place,” he said. A substantial Rs 7,850-crore provision will help complete 28 irrigation projects and irrigate 1.68 lakh hectare land through 700 million cubic metre (MCM) water storage.Invoking icons like Shivaji Maharaj, Dr Ambedkar and Deendayal Upadhyay, the finance minister noted that “self-dependent farmers and prosperous villages constitute the foundation of Make in India”.Mungantiwar announced measures for developing jetties, rural roads, a competitive smart village programme, provision of safe drinking water, strengthening of gram panchayats, and skill development upgrading electricity distribution. Changes in tax proposals, an amnesty scheme for sales tax and measures to plug tax leakages are expected to unlock revenue growth.The state’s economic survey which was tabled on Thursday said that while the economy was expected to grow at 8%, the agriculture sector was likely to grow at a negative rate of 2.7%. The only bright spot in the otherwise stressed economy is the services sector which is likely to show a robust 10.8% growth, followed by industry which is expected to grow at 5.9%.However, much hinges on the vagaries of the monsoon and the weather. A rise in revenue expenditure projected in the previous budget due to factors like drought relief, has led to the revision of the revenue deficit to Rs 9,289 crore from the previous Rs 3,757 crore. The 2016-17 budget has estimated revenue receipts at Rs 2,20,810 crore and expenditure at Rs 2,24,454 crore, resulting in an estimated revenue deficit of Rs 3,644 crore. “I will try to minimise this deficit by reducing avoidable expenditure and by effective revenue recoveries,” said Mungantiwar.The budget also provides outlays for the third phase of the Mumbai Metro from Nariman point to the BKC and the Nagpur and Pune Metro railway projects and also announced the development of eight other smart cities in addition to Pune and Solapur, which which are selected by the Centre under the Smart City scheme.”To increase the coverage of ‘Rajiv Gandhi Jeevandayi Arogya Yojana’, the list of marked diseases… and their treatment is being revised as per the demand of public,” said Mungantiwar.The Budget noted that though state has brought in changes in tax laws and administration for ease of doing business, the fall in international crude prices has adversely affected tax collections by almost Rs 1,800 crore. Senior officials attribute this to fall in rural purchasing power and slowdown in farm, infra sectors.Agriculture expert Budhajirao Mulik said while Mungantiwar had “focussed on agriculture and touched all aspects”, he should have handled the issue of freeing farmers in drought-affected areas from debt. Stressing the need for a time-bound plan to complete irrigation projects, Mulik sought that implementation of the 7th pay commission for government employees should have been frozen, considering the state of finances.

Maharashtra budget 2016: State takes Arun Jaitley’s rural cue

It was ‘Jai Kisan’ all the way. The BJP-led government in Maharashtra has announced Rs 25,000 crore for the farm sector in the Budget for 2016-17, even while tweaking certain taxes such as VAT and offering exemptions for the sugarcane industry.With last three years’ recurring drought, agrarian distress and de-growth in farm sector pulling Maharashtra economy down, finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar’s second budget on Friday stressed on farmers’ welfare, on the lines of union Budget, presented by Arun Jaitley last month.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Shorn of any big-ticket announcements, Mungantiwar said 2016-17 fiscal will be observed as ‘Shetkari Swabhiman Varsh’.
ALSO READ CM Devendra Fadnavis lauds Sudhir Mungantiwar, says Budget progressiveThe Budget announced energy to industries at subsidised rates in Vidarbha and Marathwada and schemes to boost textile projects in the cotton-growing areas.Interestingly, there was no mention of memorials for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray in the Budget.
ALSO READ No big ticket announcements for education and sportsAnnouncing a Rs 25,000-crore booster shot for agriculture and related schemes, Mungantiwar, in his near 105-minute speech – peppered with Marathi and Hindi poetry, said, “farmers continue to be the focal point of this budget”.He rolled out substantial provisions for agricultural regeneration, including water conservation schemes, equipping the four agri universities with organic farming research and training centres, two new agri and veterinary colleges and one horticulture college, and automated weather forecasting centres in all revenue blocks. It also proposed an outlay to enhance productivity of pulses and oil seeds, interest servicing for crop loans and rolled out a new scheme for financing costs of cold storage and processing units.
ALSO READ Rs25,000 crore earmarked for agri sector, rural start-up schemes on anvil”We cannot rest just by providing relief packages to the farmers… We have to build capacity in farmers to face vagaries of nature, for which a permanent arrangement needs to be in place,” he said. A substantial Rs 7,850-crore provision will help complete 28 irrigation projects and irrigate 1.68 lakh hectare land through 700 million cubic metre (MCM) water storage.Invoking icons like Shivaji Maharaj, Dr Ambedkar and Deendayal Upadhyay, the finance minister noted that “self-dependent farmers and prosperous villages constitute the foundation of Make in India”.Mungantiwar announced measures for developing jetties, rural roads, a competitive smart village programme, provision of safe drinking water, strengthening of gram panchayats, and skill development upgrading electricity distribution. Changes in tax proposals, an amnesty scheme for sales tax and measures to plug tax leakages are expected to unlock revenue growth.The state’s economic survey which was tabled on Thursday said that while the economy was expected to grow at 8%, the agriculture sector was likely to grow at a negative rate of 2.7%. The only bright spot in the otherwise stressed economy is the services sector which is likely to show a robust 10.8% growth, followed by industry which is expected to grow at 5.9%.However, much hinges on the vagaries of the monsoon and the weather. A rise in revenue expenditure projected in the previous budget due to factors like drought relief, has led to the revision of the revenue deficit to Rs 9,289 crore from the previous Rs 3,757 crore. The 2016-17 budget has estimated revenue receipts at Rs 2,20,810 crore and expenditure at Rs 2,24,454 crore, resulting in an estimated revenue deficit of Rs 3,644 crore. “I will try to minimise this deficit by reducing avoidable expenditure and by effective revenue recoveries,” said Mungantiwar.The budget also provides outlays for the third phase of the Mumbai Metro from Nariman point to the BKC and the Nagpur and Pune Metro railway projects and also announced the development of eight other smart cities in addition to Pune and Solapur, which which are selected by the Centre under the Smart City scheme.”To increase the coverage of ‘Rajiv Gandhi Jeevandayi Arogya Yojana’, the list of marked diseases… and their treatment is being revised as per the demand of public,” said Mungantiwar.The Budget noted that though state has brought in changes in tax laws and administration for ease of doing business, the fall in international crude prices has adversely affected tax collections by almost Rs 1,800 crore. Senior officials attribute this to fall in rural purchasing power and slowdown in farm, infra sectors.Agriculture expert Budhajirao Mulik said while Mungantiwar had “focussed on agriculture and touched all aspects”, he should have handled the issue of freeing farmers in drought-affected areas from debt. Stressing the need for a time-bound plan to complete irrigation projects, Mulik sought that implementation of the 7th pay commission for government employees should have been frozen, considering the state of finances.

Kejriwal waits an hour to meet Kanhaiya Kumar, then cancels meeting

New Delhi: A scheduled meeting between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Kanhaiya Kumar had to be cancelled on Thursday as the JNUSU president failed to reach the Delhi Secretariat on time, “upsetting” the CM who had waited for nearly an hour.

Delhi chief minister Arvind KejriwalDelhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal

CPI National Secretary D Raja, who also waited for Kanhaiya along with the CM, said that the student leader could not reach as he got stuck in a “heavy traffic jam”, which apparently did not go down well with the CM, sources said.

Kanhaiya was supposed to meet Kejriwal at 6 PM for which Raja, accompanied by his daughter Aparajita who is also a JNU student, had reached before scheduled time.

“He could not reach on time as he got stuck in a traffic jam. By the time he reached near Supreme Court, the CM had already been waiting for nearly one hour.

“So they spoke over the telephone and agreed to meet most likely on Saturday. Kejriwal had prior engagements regarding the upcoming Budget so he could not wait more,” Raja said.

While Kanhaiya could not be reached for his comments, his party maintained that since Delhi Police could not provide him security for moving out of the campus, he got late and later got stuck in traffic near ITO.
However, a Delhi government official said that contrary to Raja’s statement, any future meeting between the two has not yet been agreed upon.

“Raja, despite being a national-level leader could reach on time but Kanhaiya could not. The CM was upset as he could not meet him and had to leave for prior engagements,” sources said.

PTI

Gujarat cops to get ‘smart’ with pocket devices, m-governance

Police force in Gujarat is set to get “smart” with its personnel getting handheld devices and using mobile governance to reach out to citizens in distress with special focus on women.These technology-based measures are part of a slew of initiatives announced by the Gujarat government on Thursday in the Assembly to modernise the police force, curb crime, improve detection rate and acquire people-friendly image. These steps are to be implemented from the next fiscal.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The announcement to turn Gujarat police into a “smart” force was made by Minister of State for Home Rajnibhai Patel during his speech on the budgetary demands of Home Department for the year 2016-17.Patel said each police station will be given smart handheld devices, called “Pocket Cop”, to help personnel in detecting crimes by accessing and feeding relevant information in them and ensuring foolproof investigation.”For Pocket Cop project, we have made a provision of Rs 5 crore in the Budget. To establish prompt police response system for women in trouble, we have alloted Rs 50 lakh to develop a mobile App based on the 181 helpline.” The 181 helpline has been set up by the state government for women in distress.Further, the government will set up a state-level high-tech command and control centre at a cost of Rs 10 crore at the DGP office in Gandhinagar, said the Minister.Patel said “for various other initiatives related to modernisation of police department, we have alloted Rs 41 crore, while Rs 6 crore has been earmarked for up-gradation of forensic science laboratory.”Other initiatives include procurement of anti-riot gears, intelligent traffic management systems for cities, development of m-governance system to help people in contacting police immediately, recruitment of 17,200 personnel in various posts and setting up public safety answering point (PSAP) in Surat Range, stated Patel.

Jammu and Kashmir govt formation: Mehbooba Mufti meets Amit Shah

PDP President Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday met BJP President Amit Shah amid rising speculation about government formation in Jammu and Kashmir but there was no clear indication whether they have made any headway.The PDP, which toughened its stance after Mufti Mohammed Sayeed’s demise by seeking concrete plans for the state’s development the before the coalition could be resumed, may latch on to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s statement in the Lok Sabha in which he promised speedy implementation of all the projects. The PDP President, who was in the national capital to attend the budget session of Parliament, drove in a car without security for a meeting that lasted nearly 30 minutes.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Both the parties maintained silence on the meeting but sources in the know said it was part of the intense efforts being undertaken by the two parties before resuming the coalition.Former Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu, who is considered one of the architects of the coalition worked during Sayeed’s time, is also understood to have been doing the ground work for bringing together PDP which has 27 MLAs and BJP’s 25 MLAs in the 87-member State Assembly. The sources said consultations with some of the ministries have been undertaken and the state may soon witness the end of Governor’s rule which came into force from January 8 this year after Mehbooba decided against taking over the reins after her father Mufti Mohammed Sayeed’s death.Jaitley had announced in Parliament earlier this week promised that the Centre will speedily implement all the projects announced as part of special package to Jammu and Kashmir. “Prime Minister has announced special package for J&K. We want that the three regions of the J&K are developed very fast,” Jaitley said in reply to debate on Budget in the Lok Sabha on Monday.Mehbooba had said last month that before taking a call on continuing the alliance, she wants to “reassess” whether the Narendra Modi government would take substantive steps within a ‘set time-frame’ to address the “core” political and economic issues of the state.

Jat agitation: As deadline ends, Haryana govt invites leaders for talks

Haryana braced for a renewed quota agitation on Thursday even as the government made a last ditch attempt to avert it by inviting Jat leaders for talks on Friday with a promise of getting a bill on reservation passed during the ongoing Budget session that ends on March 31.Deadline ends on ThursdayThe Jats, who had issued a 72-hour ultimatum to the government to address their demands by today, said they will take a decision on the future course of action after holding meeting with Haryana Chief Secretary and Director General of Police tomorrow afternoon. Bracing for the stir, the state government deployed paramilitary forces and police in sensitive districts and they carried out Flag Marches in various places to instil confidence among people in the state which witnessed widespread violence during the first phase of the agitation last month that left 30 people dead and caused extensive loss.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Paramilitary forces on alert The Centre has sent 80 companies (about 800 personnel) of paramilitary forces to the state which are being deployed in sensitive areas like Rohtak and Jhajjar districts, which were the worst-affected during the first phase of the agitation last month. To defuse the situation, the state government invited the Jat leaders for talks. “We have been invited by the government for talks tomorrow at Chandigarh,” All India Jat Aarakshan Sanghursh Samiti President Yashpal Malik said.”Our leaders will be meeting Haryana Chief Secretary and Director General of Police (DGP) tomorrow afternoon as per the government invitation,” he said. “Till then we will not resume our agitation,” he said, adding that “after meeting the top officials of Haryana next course of action will be taken.” In the evening, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said the Jat reservation bill may be brought during the current assembly session “on any day.”Bill may be passed any dayIn a brief statement, he said, “Jat Reservation Bill is being drafted after consideration of every aspect and discussion with all stakeholders. This Bill may be introduced in the Haryana Vidhan Sabha on any day during the ongoing Budget Session.” Finance Minister Abhimanya earlier said, “We are sure that during this session, this Bill will be passed.” He told reporters that it is taking time to draft the bill as the government wants to make it sure that the new law does not get entangled in a legal quagmire.”The Bill (to give reservation to Jats) is being drafted and we are making efforts to bring and pass such a Bill in the assembly which is in the interest of Haryana people and it does not get entangled in legal quagmire… This is why it is taking time (for introducing Bill in assembly),” he said. He asked Jat organisations to give their suggestions to draft this for their benefit instead of giving ultimatum on resuming agitation.”Instead of giving ultimatum, Jat leaders should give their suggestions for drafting a Bill which will be in the interest of Haryana people. It (ultimatum) will not help the state,” Abhimanyu said. Various Jat organisations had on Monday threatened to resume their quota agitation, which rocked the state last month and claimed 30 lives, if the Manohar Lal Khattar government does not meet their demand by today.Malik demanded that state government must bring a Bill in the ongoing Assembly session to ensure reservation for Jats.Malik said that the Samiti will organize meetings on March 19 and 20 throughout the state and after that, meeting of units of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi will be held at Nangloi in Delhi on March 21 to discuss about their demands. Police said it has made adequate security arrangements. “We have adequate force and we are deploying it accordingly,” said Sanjay Kumar, IGP of Rohtak Range, a region that was the worst affected during last month’s agitation. “We have already got the paramilitary force. The police is on the alert and we are making all arrangements (to maintain law and order),” he said.He said additional police forces had also been arranged from within the state for deployment in the sensitive areas in and around Rohtak. Asked about the situation in Rohtak, Jhajjar and some other areas worst hit by recent unrest, the IG said, “at present the situation is normal.” Reports said that authorities have stepped up security with deployment of additional security personnel in many towns, including Jind and Sonipat.

Budget Session of Parliament: Congress takes credit for passage of several bills, remains non-committal on GST

Congress took credit for the passage of several bills in the Budget session so far but struck a cautious note on government’s claim that the much delayed GST bill would be passed in the second phase of the Parliament session.”We will cross the bridge, when we come to it,” Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said at a joint press conference he addressed with M Veerappa Moily a day after the conclusion of the first part of the Budget session. Asked about Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu expressing confidence that the key GST bill would be passed in the second phase, he said the government has so far not talked to the opposition on taking up the bill.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Insisting that such bills are first taken up by the government with opposition and other political parties in the Business Advisory Committees of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, he said the GST was not brought up there.Azad replied in a similar vein when asked about Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s statement that it was difficult to accept Congress’ demand to cap GST rate in the pending Constitution Amendment bill.Seeking to take credit for passage of several bills, Moily said, “Rajya Sabha functioned at 129 per cent of the scheduled time and Lok Sabha at 120 per cent. This is in contrast to the performance of the Opposition led by BJP during UPA-II, when the House wasn’t allowed to function.” Azad said it was on the insistence of Congress, and not the government, there were extra sittings in Parliament. “Without the cooperation of Congress, no legislation would have been passed in the Rajya Sabha,” he said underlining that the government lacked majority in the Upper House.The Leader of the Opposition insisted that the amendments passed in the Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address and Aadhaar Bill had sent a “strong message” to the government to “not take the Rajya Sabha lightly.”He claimed the Prime Minister had refused to answer “any of the issues” that were raised by the Opposition, including the Pathankot terror attack, farmers suffering due to unseasonal rains, black money, and the Vijay Mallya issue.”Sadly, the Prime Minister did not respond to any of these questions.” Attacking the government on its claim of streamlining defence purchases, Azad said, “The government didn’t streamline defence procurement, but ended it”. Citing an example, he said during the UPA rule, it was decided to go in for 126 Rafale fighter jets with the deal including transfer of technology from France.”We were to receive 18 jets and 108 jets were to be manufactured by HAL. This was Make in India. But, the PM and his new government scrapped the deal. Instead they decided to buy 36 readymade jets,” he said.Noting that this deal was set to be signed during the Republic Day visit of French President Francois Hollande, he said, but it has been three months, and there is still “no deal”.

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