Morning Brief: Audit Of Aadhaar Centres On Cards; War On Left-Wing Insurgency; Gulf States Introducing VAT
Good morning, dear reader! Here’s your morning news and views brief for today.
Government To Conduct Audit Of Aadhaar Centres: The government has decided to conduct an independent audit of more than 50,000 Aadhaar enrolment centres and inspect them in person after questions were raised over the privacy and security of the Aadhaar systems in the Supreme Court. Three independent auditors will assess if enrolment centres are adhering to Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) processes and guidelines. They will also check if the hardware and software deployed at the enrolment centres are as per UIDAI specifications and check if the enrolment centre is not involved in any corrupt practices and people are not being overcharged for Aadhaar services. Photographs of all staff at the enrolment centre and equipment will be taken and a 5-10 minute video will be shot of the ongoing enrolment and update process at the Centre. The three auditors would be allotted 10,000 centres apiece in the first year for the job.
Jaitley Hints At Lower Number Of GST Slabs: Bigger reforms such as lower number of slabs under the goods and services tax (GST) regime can be considered once there is revenue buoyancy, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said. "We have space for improvement, eventually once we become revenue neutral, to think in terms of bigger reforms such as lesser slabs, but for that we have to become revenue neutral ," he said at an event organised here by the National Academy of Customs, Indirect Taxes and Narcotics. Currently, the GST regime slots items under rates of 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent. An additional GST compensation cess is also levied on certain products. Emphasising that indirect tax burden is borne by all sections of the society, the minister said it is always the endeavour of the government to bring down tax rates on mass consumption commodities.
Thirty Hurt In Kanpur Communal Clashes: Nearly 30 people, including five policemen, were injured while nearly 10 vehicles and four shops were either set afire or ransacked in communal clashes at two places in Kanpur. The violence was reported from Param Purwa and Rawatpur area. Trouble began when a tazia procession took a different route instead of the permitted one. It was supposed to take a U-turn from Jhandewala crossing but went straight through a pocket where another procession for Hindu goddess Durga’s idol immersion was being taken. Tempers flared quickly and the two sides clashed, pelting stones at each other. Anti-social elements torched a police vehicle, ransacked a police outpost and shops and set afire five two-wheelers in the area. Police fired tear gas shells to disperse the mob but were attacked with stones and bricks, leaving them injured.
RCom Calls Off Aircel Merger: In another setback to telecom company Reliance Communications, a deal to merge its wireless business with smaller rival Aircel was called off, raising fresh doubts around its debt restructuring plans. The company, widely known as RCom, said it had agreed with Aircel to call off the proposed deal due to regulatory delays and legal uncertainties. The Anil Ambani-led firm, with Rs 42,000 crore in debt, is exploring other alternatives to reduce debt through a possible sale of spectrum, tower and real estate assets as the six-month moratorium allowed by the lenders to repay Rs 25,000 crore of outstanding loans ends on 31 December. The collapse of the deal with Aircel comes after the local arm of Sweden’s Ericsson filed a plea with an insolvency court against RCom last month.
Rs 6,000 Crore Fund To Help Battle Left-Wing Insurgency: The Union government will spend more than Rs 6,000 crore to battle left-wing insurgency that has affected at least 10 Indian states. It is part of the Centre’s Rs 25,000 crore umbrella scheme to modernise the country’s central and state police forces over the next three years, according to documents from the Home Ministry. Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh come under the list. Thirty-five districts in these 10 states, especially Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, are considered to be the worst affected. Of the Rs 6,031 crore to be spent on Left-wing extremism, roughly Rs 5,196 crore would be spent on developing the police, security and public infrastructure in states considered to be most affected by the Maoist movement.
Funding Modern Bus Terminals Across The Country: The Union Road Transport, Highways, Shipping and Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari has said that the Centre is ready to partially fund modern bus terminals to be set up by states, amid holistic efforts to further promote public transport. “The country can have 2,000 to 2,500 bus ports. States have land and they can build world-class bus terminals on PPP (public private partnership) mode. For designing, modelling and supervision, we have offered them to bear 3.5 per cent of the cost which can be raised by one per cent,” Gadkari said and added that the response from the states has been positive. The minister said the government is planning separate policies for transportation in rural, urban and metropolitan cities. “We are also exploring the possibilities of double decker air conditioned buses between metros and other cities like Delhi to Kanpur and Delhi to Lucknow. This will reduce traffic of cars,” he said.
India Has Lost Kashmir Valley Emotionally: Yashwant Sinha: India has “lost people in Jammu and Kashmir emotionally”, former finance minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Yashwant Sinha said on Sunday. “I am looking at the alienation of the masses of people in Jammu and Kashmir. That is something which bothers me the most… We have lost the people emotionally… You just have to visit the valley to realise that they have lost faith in us,” Sinha told Karan Thapar in an interview. He said that the people in Kashmir are still waiting from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 15 August promise of an embrace and now it has been six weeks. Sinha leads a civil society organisation – Concerned Citizens Group – which has visited the troubled Valley several times and interacted with various stakeholders to explore the possibility of finding a lasting solution to the seven-decades-old problem.
'Tax-Free' Gulf States To Introduce VAT: Gulf countries are planning to introduce value-added tax (VAT) starting next year following the crisis faced by the energy-rich countries due to a drop in oil prices. The United Arab Emirates doubled the price of tobacco and increased soft drink prices by 50 per cent, ahead of the more general VAT on goods and services from 1 January next year. The UAE is one of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states to have agreed to introduce VAT at 5 per cent next year as they seek to revitalise their economies. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have said they will implement VAT from 1 January 2018, while the other GCC states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar are expected to follow suit during the year. Economies in the Gulf – home to the world's biggest exporters of oil and liquefied natural gas – took a major hit after a global supply glut triggered a drop in prices in 2014.
MUST READ OPINIONS AND COLUMNS
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We hope you enjoyed reading our morning brief. Have a great day ahead!
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