QBullet: Jaitley Announces Revised GST Rates; NGT Halts Odd-Even
A roundup of top business stories of the day.
1. Only 50 Items Left in Highest GST Slab
The highest Goods and Services Tax (GST) bracket was slashed three-quarters Friday with only 50 items being retained in the 28 percent slab. The GST Council, at its 23rd meeting, moved 178 items out from the list of 228. It also decided to reduce the tax rate for all restaurants, barring those in luxury hotels, to 5 percent, without any input tax credit.
These measures are expected to cost the exchequer around Rs 20,000 crore, government officials said.
Additionally, the Council decided to reduce the compliance burden for businesses through easing procedures for filing of returns, along with an increase in the annual turnover threshold for the composition scheme to Rs 1.5 crore from the recently revised Rs 1 crore.
2. Odd-Even Scheme Comes Under Smog After NGT Poser
Uncertainty prevails over the implementation of the ‘odd-even scheme’ in Delhi with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday asking the city government to explain why the measure should be rolled out in the Capital next week when the pollution levels, according to reports, are likely to reduce considerably.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, while refusing to comment on the NGT’s directive since it was sub judice – the hearing remained inconclusive and will continue on Saturday – announced free bus rides aboard its Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) fleet during the proposed implementation of the vehicle-rationing measure.
“To encourage use of public transport during odd-even, Delhi govt to allow free travel for commuters in all DTC and Cluster buses from 13-17 November,” Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot tweeted.
3. Stormy Scenes in SC, CJI Says He Decides Who Hears Which Case
High drama and acrimonious exchanges were witnessed in the Supreme Court on Friday when it struck down an order by a two-judge bench the previous day that a matter of alleged judicial corruption, involving a blacklisted Lucknow medical college, should be heard by a Constitution Bench comprising the five most senior judges of the apex court.
Ruling that the Chief Justice of India alone had the power to allocate work to judges in the Supreme Court and constitute benches, a five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, cited propriety and unanimously overturned Thursday’s decision by the bench of Justices J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer. Any order which runs contrary to the finding “cannot be binding”, the Constitution Bench ruled.
4. Pak to Arrange Meet Between Kulbhushan Jadhav and Wife
Pakistan on Friday offered to arrange a meeting between Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian national sentenced to death by a military court for alleged involvement in espionage, and his wife on humanitarian grounds.
The Foreign Office said in a brief statement that a note verbale with the formal offer of a meeting had been sent to the Indian high commission in Islamabad. The meeting would be arranged “in Pakistan, purely on humanitarian grounds”, the statement said without giving further details.
There was no immediate response from the external affairs ministry.
Officials in Islamabad privately said the meeting could take place next month. The Pakistani reported that it was not clear what had prompted Islamabad to make the offer.
5. Autonomous Body to Conduct Entrance Exams Gets Cabinet's Green Signal
In an effort to relieve the CBSE, the AICTE and other agencies from the responsibility of conducting entrance examinations, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi cleared a proposal on Friday for the creation of a National Testing Agency (NTA).
The agency will aim to bring high reliability, standardised difficulty level for assessing the aptitude, intelligence and problem solving abilities of students.
Barring the Board exams, the CBSE will be relieved of entrance tests like the Joint Engineering Entrance (JEE), NEET, the UGC's National Eligibility Test (twice a year), Central Teacher Eligibility Test (twice a year) and the entrance test for Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas.
6. Pune Varsity's Gold Medal Values Versatility, but in Vegetarians, Teetotallers
Should an Indian university award gold medals to meritorious students with the eligibility criteria that they must be a vegetarian and not consume alcohol?
This is precisely what has been done by the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), which has been awarding the gold medal in question since 2006.
The SPPU in an official statement to HT said: “We do not discriminate between vegetarians and non-vegetarians. The university has no view in who should eat what. As far as the medal being given to vegetarians and non-alcoholics, a decision to review the criteria will be taken with the sponsors of the medal.”
7. India, China Likely to Hold Border Talks Next Month
India and China are expected to hold the next round of talks on border issues as well as on other bilateral topics next month, the first between the two countries after Chinese President Xi Jinping began his second term as the chief of the ruling Communist party.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that the 20th round of the India-China Special Representatives border talks as well as the Russia, India and China (RIC) Foreign Ministers meeting will be held in "due course".
She declined to give a schedule of both the meetings.
Officials, however, say both the border talks and the RIC meeting were expected to be held next month in New Delhi.
8. Dineshwar Sharma to Keep Visiting Kashmir
Dineshwar Sharma, Special Representative of the Union government, concluded his five-day visit to Jammu & Kashmir on Friday, saying he would visit the State again and again.
Mr Sharma, who has failed to engage the Hurriyat so far, described his visit as “fruitful”. “This was my first visit to the State and I will be visiting Jammu and Kashmir again and again. Every Indian in J&K is a stakeholder of this dialogue process,” Mr. Sharma said.
On the question of engaging the separatists, Mr. Sharma said he was hopeful of meeting the Hurriyat next time.
9. Stubble Burning Continues to Stoke Fire
After days of targeting each other over the problem of paddy stubble burning by farmers, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi and the Congress-run Punjab government on Friday turned to blaming the Centre for not taking the lead in resolving the ecological crisis looming over the national capital.
The Centre hit back by releasing statistics that show that the ministry of agriculture had allocated Rs 97.5 crore to Punjab for 2016-17 and 2017-18 to deal with the problem of straw burning and the funds remained “unutilised”.
Ministry data showed that Haryana had utilised Rs 39 crore of the Rs 45 crore allocated to it this year (there was no allocation in 2016-17) and Rajasthan utilised a third of its Rs 9 crore. Uttar Pradesh was allocated Rs 56.01 crore over two years and has used up nearly 90 percent of the funds.
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