QBullet: PM Defends Note Ban; Revenue Secy Says GST Needs Rejig
The Quint’s roundup of top headlines from national dailies.
1. PM Gifts New Projects to Poll-Bound Gujarat, Defends Note Ban and GST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed on Sunday, 22 October, to continue his economic reforms and asserted that the Indian economy is on the right track, defending his government’s major steps such as the demonetisation drive, and the goods and services tax.
His remarks are aimed at deflecting flak from the Opposition after the economy decelerated to a three-year low of 5.7 percent in the quarter ended September.
“After all the reforms and hardcore decisions, the economy of the country is on track and is going in the right direction,” Modi said at a rally in Dahej, one of the three places he visited in Gujarat, where assembly polls are due this winter.
Modi’s assurance couldn’t cut ice with his rivals, though. As many as 13 opposition parties will meet on Monday, 23 October, to sharpen their strategy for a renewed attack on the government over the economy.
2. GST Needs Rejig to Cut Burden on Small Businesses: Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia
Close to four months into the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia has said that some rejig in the rate structure may be required to reduce the burden on small and medium businesses. He told PTI:
There is need for some rejig in rates… it is possible that some items in the same chapter are divided. There is a need for harmonisation of items chapter wise, and wherever we find there is a big burden on small and medium businesses and on the common man, if we bring them down, there will be a better compliance.
He, however, said the rejig would require some calculations by the fitment committee, which will decide which items need a rationalisation of rate under the GST regime which kicked in from 1 July. Adhia said the committee will bring its suggestions to the Council as early as possible.
3. Centre Wants SC Collegium to Review Scrapping Additional Judges’ Evaluation
The Union law ministry has objected to the Supreme Court collegium’s move to scrap the mechanism for evaluating judgements of additional judges of high courts while recommending their names for promotion as permanent judges.
The SC collegium is a body of the country’s top five judges headed by the Chief Justice of India that appoints judges. High court judges are appointed after their names are recommended by similar bodies in the country’s 24 high courts to the SC collegium.
Additional judges – appointed for an initial period of two years – were being evaluated for the judgments they delivered before being made permanent judges since 2010. On 31 October that year, then CJI Justice SH Kapadia had written to high court chief justices asking them to set up judgments evaluation committees in every HC.
4. CEC Joti Denies Taking ‘Bungalow Favour’ From Gujarat Government
Responding to reports that he had requested the Gujarat government to let him retain a bungalow in Ahmedabad for over a year after he was appointed to the Election Commission, chief election commissioner AK Joti on Sunday, 22 October said he had not sought any undue favours from the state government.
"I was allocated a house in Delhi only after one year of being appointed in the EC," Joti told the Times of India.
I requested the Gujarat government to allow me to keep possession of the house in the Dafnala area of Ahmedabad as I could not have lived with my wife for a year in Delhi’s Gujarat Bhavan. I have paid the rent as per Gujarat government norms.
Joti added that after he was given a house by the government of India, he immediately vacated the Ahmedabad bungalow in October 2016. “All these facts are on record. I have not taken any undue favours from any government,” he said.
5. Invoking Vajpayee, BJP Youth Wing Holds Its First Convention in Kashmir
Aiming to showcase a secular face, the BJP’s youth wing held its first ever convention in Kashmir on Sunday, 22 October, with slogans of ‘Allahu Akbar’ to start the proceedings, and repeated references through the day to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s “doctrine of Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat”.
Addressing a gathering of around 1,000 men and women at the Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium in Srinagar, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) president Poonam Mahajan described the occasion as “historic”.
“When I was told that this is going to be the BJP youth wing’s first ever convention in Kashmir, I was a bit nervous. I have come from Bollywood city. After seeing you here in such large numbers, I can only repeat a Bollywood dialogue. ‘This is just a trailer, friends, the complete superhit movie is yet to come’,” Mahajan, BJP MP from Mumbai, said.
6. You Could Soon Opt to Fly Air India If Rajdhani Ticket’s Not Confirmed
Passengers with unconfirmed AC-I or AC-II tickets for Rajdhani Express may soon be able to fly to their destination instead by paying the difference, if any, in the price of the train and air tickets. Ashwani Lohani had planned the move last summer when he was Air India chairman, but the railways had not reacted to it positively. Now the chairman of the Railway Board, Lohani has said he will clear the plan if AI puts it up again.
“If AI approaches us with this proposal, we will accept it,” Lohani told TOI.
A large number of people end up with unconfirmed AC-II Rajdhani tickets almost every day due to a severe demand-supply crunch in the railways. In a bid to boost AI's aircraft occupancy, “turnaround man” Lohani had planned that such people's contact details could be automatically shared with AI, which could then offer them seats on flights for the same destination at competitive rates.
7. Strong Winds Helping Dissipate Pollutants in Delhi, but Air Still ‘Very Poor’
Take a long deep breath on Monday.
A good wind helped clean out pollutants that were rapidly building up on and after Diwali in the national capital, improving the city’s air quality.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) recorded an air quality of index of “very poor” with a score of 329 for the city on Sunday. The air was cleaner in neighbouring Gurgaon with a reading of 285, while Noida and Ghaziabad registered 342 and 381.
New Delhi’s air turned “severe” for the first time in 2017 by touching 403 on Friday, the day after the festival of lights.
CPCB’s air lab head Dipankar Saha said wind blowing intermittently at 12kmph created a westeast air passage and dispersed suspended particulate matter hanging over the city.
8. With 20% of Agriculture Output Value, Milk Overtakes Foodgrains
Which is India’s No 1 farm crop by value? Rice (paddy) or wheat? Wrong. The answer is milk.
According to the Central Statistics Office’s (CSO) detailed crop-wise estimates of the value of output from agriculture and allied sectors, the country’s farmers produced milk worth Rs 4,95,841 crore in 2014-15.
For the first time, the value of milk produced exceeded the total value of foodgrains (cereals plus pulses), which stood at Rs 4,86,846 crore, and was way above paddy at Rs 2,26,481 crore or wheat at Rs 1,28,998 crore, according to latest figures released this month.
It wasn’t like this even 15 years ago. In 1999-2000, the value of milk production, at Rs 88,092 crore, was not even two-thirds of cereals at Rs 1,34,096 crore, although it was more than that of paddy at Rs 70,416 crore and wheat at Rs 46,224 crore.
9. Implementation of Witness Protection Programme Hits a Bump Over Funding
A Law Commission-recommended witness protection programme to safeguard public interest in criminal cases appears to have hit a roadblock due to a lack of consensus among states and funding issues.
The Union ministry of women and child development told the Supreme Court as much during the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the safety of women held last month.
“Law Commission’s report, if accepted, was to be implemented through administrative measures by the states… There is no consensus amongst the states on it,” stated the ministry’s affidavit submitted before a bench headed by Justice MB Lokur.
In its affidavit, the Centre informed the court that the Law Commission’s ‘198th Report on Witness Identity Protection and Witness Protection Programmes’ of 2006 was forwarded to states for inputs since the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) is a subject of the concurrent list and is administered through local governments.
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