Current Affairs

Morning Brief: Big Relief For Consumers On Cards; Heavy Polling In Himachal Elections; Army To Get New Generation Tanks

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley at an earlier GST Council meeting.

Good morning, dear reader! Here’s your morning news and views brief for today.

GST Council Meeting: Big Relief For Consumers On Cards : The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council, at its crucial two-day Guwahati meeting, which ends today, is likely to announce relief for consumers and big and small businesses. Small businesses and eateries will also get major relief as the flat GST rate they can pay under a special window called the composition scheme is likely to be cut. Permission for big businesses to file GST returns quarterly instead of monthly, pruning the list of items in the highest tax slab of 28 per cent and raising the sales ceiling for small businesses from Rs 1 crore to Rs 1.5 crore to avail of the composition scheme are among the proposals before the GST Council. Experts said the meeting will be important as businesses expect rate reductions on several products and simplification of several processes.

Huge Turnout In Himachal Assembly Polls: People in Himachal Pradesh voted in big numbers on Thursday to pick the new assembly, with five million voters recording a turnout of 74 per cent. The ruling Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are locked in a tight battle in the state, which became the first to have voter-verifiable paper audit trail machines used at all 7,525 polling stations. As many as 337 candidates are in the fray for 68 assembly seats, the results of which would be declared on 18 December along with those for Gujarat, where election will be held in two phases in December. Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, eyeing a seventh term, and BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal were among the first to cast their vote. High polling was reported from Gagret, Una, Nalagarh, Shilai, Chopal, Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur, Haroli and Jubbal Kotkhai assembly segments, where the BJP and the Congress are locked in a fierce fight.


Rajan Snubs AAP’s RS Seat Offer: Former Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan has conveyed that he is not keen on a Rajya Sabha seat offered by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). "I have no plans to leave my full-time academic job at the University of Chicago," Rajan said and added that he will continue to engage in a variety of educational activities in India. The AAP had approached Rajan offering him a seat in the Upper House of Parliament. Sources within AAP, who did not wish to be identified, said the party will not field its leaders for the three Rajya Sabha seats from Delhi that will fall vacant in January. AAP sources suggest that party president Arvind Kejriwal is keen only on sending professional people to Rajya Sabha. The move to not field any party leader to the Rajya Sabha is also seen as an attempt to put an end to the intra-party rivalries.

‘Odd-Even’ Rule Back For Five Days In Delhi: With the national capital gasping for breath, the Delhi government has decided to bring back the odd-even vehicle movement scheme for a week to tackle the air pollution crisis created by the killer smog. The car rationing programme would be enforced in the city for a five-day period from 13 November, Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot said. Owners of even-numbered cars can use their vehicles on 14 and 16 November, and those with odd-numbered cars are allowed to use them on 13, 15, and 17 November. Single women drivers and government vehicles are exempted from the rule. The impact of the scheme would be reviewed by the end of the week. This is one of the measures suggested by the Delhi High Court to improve the quality of air in the national capital.

Indian Army To Get New Generation Tanks: Indian Army will soon get as many as 1,700 new generation, state-of-the-art tanks called the Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV) to replace the ageing Soviet-era T-72 tanks. The Defence Ministry has issued a global request for information for development and manufacturing of FRCV under the Strategic Partnership model in collaboration with an Indian partner. Under the joint development plan, the design will be provided by the Foreign Original Equipment Manufacturer to the selected Indian strategic partner. FRCV, which is planned to be used in border areas close to Pakistan and China, will not only form the basic platform of the main battle tank, but also for a family of variants such as lighter tanks, taking the total number of vehicles to be manufactured under this project to over 2,000.


Solar Scam: Chandy Received Rs 2 Crore Bribe, Says Report: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday tabled a judicial probe report on the solar scam in the assembly with damning remarks against several former ruling coalition politicians. The probe panel is unequivocal on allegations that former chief minister Oommen Chandy received bribe from Team Solar – the company founded by Biju Radhakrishnan and Saritha S Nair– and that he, contrary to his repeated claims, knew Saritha and had met her in person. The commission claimed that Radhakrishnan and Nair paid Rs 2.16 crore as bribe to Chandy in several installments through his trusted lieutenants. The commission also found substance in allegations of bribe taking against former minister Arayadan Mohammed, his cabinet colleague A P Anilkumar and former Union minister of state S S Palanimanickam. The commission recommended vigilance probe against all these leaders.

India To See 10 Per Cent Salary Hikes, Says Report: In India, salaries are projected to increase by 10 per cent next year, the highest in the Asia Pacific region, according to a report. The highest projected salary rise is seen in the energy, FMCG and retail sectors. The ‘Q3 2017 Salary Budget Planning Report’ released by global advisory, broking and solutions company Willis Towers Watson covered a range of industries, including BPO, chemicals, construction and engineering, consumer products and retail, financial services, high tech, manufacturing, media, pharmaceutical and health sciences, business and technical consulting and transportation and logistics. Although salaries in India are seeing a decreasing pattern in the year-on-year, the country’s projected salaries for 2018 is still the highest in the Asia Pacific region, the report said. Among other countries, Indonesia is projected to record 8.5 per cent growth, China 7 per cent, The Philippines 6 per cent and Hong Kong and Singapore both 4 per cent, it added.

India To Soon Send Zakir Naik Extradition Request To Malaysia: India has ‘nearly completed’ the legal process to approach Malaysia for the extradition of Zakir Naik and soon an official request will be sent, the External Affairs Ministry said on Thursday. “The formal request for assistance of a foreign government is such case requires a legal process. We are nearing the completion of this exercise. Soon an official request will be made to the Malaysian government. The internal process we have to complete is also underway,” he said. According to media reports, Naik was in Malaysia after obtaining permanent residency there five years ago. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has charged Naik and the Mumbai-based non-profit Islamic Research Foundation that he founded in 1991 with indulging in unlawful activities and promoting religious hatred.


US Rules Out Mediation To Reduce India-Pakistan Tension: A top American diplomat has ruled out any mediator role for the US between India and Pakistan, however, President Donald Trump's new South Asia strategy focuses on reducing tension between the two neighbours. "An improved relationship between these two countries is critical to regional security and stability," Alice G Wells, the acting assistant secretary for South and Central Asia, said during a Congressional hearing on Afghanistan and Pakistan held jointly by House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees for Middle East and North Africa, and Asia and Pacific. "In particular, the region and the world looks to both Pakistan and India to safeguard against a nuclear conflict in South Asia," she said. She said the US remains concerned about Pakistan's growing fissile material stockpiles and its expanding and diversifying military nuclear and missile programmes.


Will Roads And Banks Stimulus Revive The Economy? The recapitalization of public sector banks by itself, while essential, cannot suffice to revive the economy in time for any electoral dividend. While both are necessary, they are not silver bullets – issues such as resource mobilisation for road building and future flow of toxic assets must be addressed.


Deepening Innovation Ties With The US: A PM-level engagement with young entrepreneurs who are not household names would be a powerful visual stamp of support for India’s entrepreneurs. India and the US must leverage Global Entrepreneurship Summit to deepen ties between their innovators and enabling institutions.

Time To Talk About Business-Driven Security: There are no official figures available on the loss of business due to cyberattacks. Unofficial analyses by some cybersecurity firms say this is around $4 billion every year.

The Deceptive Allure Of Declassifications: In 2015, the government of India announced that it was going to declassify a massive tranche of secret files pertaining to Subhas Chandra Bose. While declassifications can often help to dispel rumours and settle disputes, they can also be highly problematic for a number of reasons.



Where Are The Left’s Intellectuals? The Indian left’s “intellectuals” have been absconding from the policy field and its activists have instead chosen to disrupt with canned, pre-digested sound bites and shrill garble from institutional pulpits.

We hope you enjoyed reading our morning brief. Have a great day ahead!


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