Morning Brief: Aadhaar’s Biggest Test; New War On Black Money; Pay More For Lower Berths, Recommends Railways Panel
Good morning, dear reader! Here’s your morning news and views brief for today.
Aadhaar’s Biggest Test; Final Hearing On Its Validity Begins Today: Five years after the first petition was filed challenging the validity of Aadhaar, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra will begin final hearing of the petitions against it today. In August, a nine-judge constitution bench headed by then Chief Justice of India J S Khehar had ruled that privacy was a fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution. Now the government has to convince the Supreme Court that forcing citizens to give a sample of their fingerprints and their iris scan does not violate privacy. The petitioners are challenging the nature of information collected, which includes biometrics, and its alleged unlimited use by government agencies. A recent report in The Tribune had exposed how access to the Aadhaar database could be bought on the internet only for Rs 500.
Railways Panel Recommends Dynamic Pricing Model: If the recommendations of a fare review committee are approved by the Railway Board, passengers could be shelling out more for choosing lower berths and travels during festive seasons. According to sources, the panel constituted to review the flexi-fare system in premium trains has recommended that the transport behemoth adopt the dynamic pricing model followed by airlines and hotels. Like flyers pay more for front-row seats, railway passengers too could be paying extra for seats of their choice. There also could be an increase in fares of trains which have "convenient" timings and are more popular on a particular route, the sources said. The committee has also recommended that instead of having flat fares, the railways should increase fares during festive seasons, and reduce them during lean months.
Green Light For Emergency Purchase Of 1.6 Lakh Assault Rifles For Frontline Soldiers: India will purchase more than 160,000 guns worth Rs 3,547 crore for troops on its high-altitude borders on a “fast track basis”, the Defence Ministry said on Tuesday. The procurement is expected to address the shortage of small arms for the armed forces. The Defence Acquisition Council cleared the purchase of 72,400 assault rifles and 93,895 carbines at a meeting chaired by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The DAC also simplified the guidelines for encouraging the participation of the private sector in design and production of weapon systems to bolster the floundering domestic defence-industrial base. The weapons will be bought to “enable the defence forces to meet their immediate requirement for the troops deployed on the borders,” the ministry said. Indian soldiers currently use AK-47s and Indian small arms system rifles, which are made in India, and were inducted in the Army in 1988.
Government Withdraws Haj Subsidy: In keeping with its stated philosophy of “empowering” minorities and not “appeasing” them, the Union government has withdrawn the subsidy it offers for Haj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, from 2018, four years ahead of a deadline suggested by the Supreme Court in a 2012 order. A six-member panel, headed by former secretary Afzal Amanullah, favoured an immediate abolition of the subsidy so that money could be used for the welfare of the community. Announcing the decision, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the government, which spent around Rs 500 crore on its last Haj subsidy bill, would like the money to be used for educating girls. The decision to abolish Haj subsidy came just a day after the government allowed Muslim women above the age of 45 to go on the pilgrimage without a male guardian, in groups of at least four.
War On Black Money: Government To Deregister 1.20 Lakh More Firms: As part of its continuing fight against the black money menace, the Union government on Tuesday said it has decided to deregister the names of 1.20 lakh more companies from the official records for various non-compliances. Nearly 2.26 lakh companies have already been deregistered and around 3.09 lakh directors associated with these entities have been disqualified. The latest decision to strike off more 1.20 lakh companies from official records came after a review meeting of the actions taken with respect to deregistered firms last week. Minister of State for Corporate Affairs P P Chaudhary, who chaired the review meeting, has directed officials to expedite action against the companies that are to be struck off the records, adding that a fair, transparent and accountable corporate governance ecosystem shall form the bedrock of sustained high economic growth in new India.
Vyapam Scam: CBI Files Chargesheet Against Former MP Minister And 94 Others: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday filed a chargesheet against former Madhya Pradesh minister Laxmikant Sharma and 94 others for irregularities in the recruitment of contractual teachers through Vyapam in 2011. Besides Sharma and the then officer on special duty O P Shukla, the chargesheet, filed in a special court in Bhopal, also named Pankaj Trivedi, the then controller of examinations at Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board also known as Vyapam, the then principal system analyst in Vyapam Nitin Mohindra, two other officials, six middlemen and 83 candidates. The agency has charged them with criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery, violation of IT Act, provisions of prevention of corruption act and others, CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said. The CBI registered an FIR in the case in 2015 on directions of the Supreme Court.
CII Urges Government To Bring Oil And Natural Gas Under GST: A leading industry association has asked the government to include oil and natural gas in the new goods and services tax (GST) regime at the earliest. The GST was rolled out from 1 July 2017 by subsuming most of the central and state indirect taxes into a single tax. But, crude oil, natural gas, diesel, petrol and aviation turbine fuel have not been included in the ambit of GST as of now. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said till such time that the five are included in GST, “C Form” should be continued to avoid high tax incidence on these products. According to CII, till the time that petroleum and natural gas derived goods come under GST, the system of "C Form" should be continued to avoid high tax incidence on these products. "C Form" system is used to avoid double taxation on "goods" being sold on an inter-state level.
Sri Lanka Reimposes Ban On Women Buying Alcohol: Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena has ordered the reinstatement of ban on women buying alcohol and being employed in places where the drinks are produced and sold. The President’s order came days after Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera revoked the 38-year-old ban. Sirisena instructed the Finance Ministry to cancel the circular that revoked the ban. The President said he was committed to building a cultured society with values such as freedom, morality and democracy. Sirisena said he was against promoting alcoholism and demeaning the women by linking them to the alcohol business. The ban had been in force since 1979, the early years of Sri Lanka embracing an open market economy. Many businesses had ignored the ban and employed women to serve alcohol and sold alcohol to them.
MUST READ OPINIONS AND COLUMNS
Aadhaar Has Built A Strong Base For India’s Digital Achievements: Today, 119 crore Indians have Aadhaar in a population of nearly 130 crore. It stands tall as an Indian innovation, globally acknowledged as the world’s largest digital identity programme.
The Economic Challenges Of 2018: Global economic winds have begun to shift. What does this mean for the Indian economy? Indian macroeconomic policy always gets complicated when global oil prices increase steeply.
The Circular Economy: Indian society has always had circular ideals. As a people, it is ingrained in us to reuse and recycle as much as possible. We have the opportunity to incorporate principles of the circular economy into our social fabric – and the time to do that is now.
Judges Versus Chief Justice Of India: What Was Said And Left Unsaid: The judges’ letter to the Chief Justice of India has stirred up the hornet’s nest, but will the debates that ensued help reduce judicial delays benefiting the common man and improve the country’s economic standing?
We hope you enjoyed reading our morning brief. Have a great day ahead!
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