Morning Brief: Government Hints At Excise Duty Cut On Fuel As Prices Hit New Highs; Maoists Kill Seven Jawans; China’s New Gold Rush

by Swarajya Staff - May 21, 2018 06:34 AM +05:30 IST
Morning Brief: Government Hints At Excise Duty Cut On Fuel As Prices Hit New Highs; Maoists Kill Seven Jawans; China’s New Gold RushVehicles at a Kandivali petrol pump in Mumbai, Maharashtra.  (Prasad Gori/Hindustan Times via GettyImages) 

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

Fuel Prices At New Highs; Government Hints At Excise Duty Cut

The price of petrol touched a record high of Rs 76.24 per litre and diesel climbed to its highest ever level of Rs 67.57, on 20 May, as the oil companies passed on four weeks of relentless rise in international oil prices to consumers. Petrol price increased by 33 paisa a litre in Delhi — the highest since the daily price revision came into force in mid-June 2017, and diesel by 26 paisa, according to price notification issued by state-owned oil firms. With this increase, petrol has touched an all time-high, breaching the previous high of Rs 76.06 in Delhi on 14 September 2013. Diesel rates are also at an all-time high level. Meanwhile, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan raised hopes of the government cutting excise duty to soften the impact of oil prices as petrol and diesel prices hit historic highs. The minister blamed "the unilateral decision of Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to reduce production, political instability in Venezuela and the prospect of US sanctions against Iran" for the steady rise in fuel prices.

NDA Government Way Ahead Of UPA In Urban House Approvals

After coming to power in 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has approved construction of 45.86 lakh houses in urban areas, registering an increase of 240 per cent as compared to that sanctioned in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's 10-year tenure. According to the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry data, around 13.45 lakh houses were approved during the UPA I and II under two schemes - Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and Rajiv Awas Yojana. Quoting the data, a senior official said after the NDA government came to power in 2014, 45.86 lakh houses have been sanctioned under this flagship programme - Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban). The central assistance approved by the UPA government was to the tune of Rs 20,303 crore for construction of 13.45 lakh houses for the poor, while the NDA government has approved Rs 70,716 crore for construction of sanctioned 45.86 lakh houses so far, according to the data.

Kumaraswamy Rules Out Rotation Of CMs Between JD(S) And Congress

Janata Dal (Secular) leader H D Kumaraswamy, who will meet Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in Delhi today to discuss the modalities of government formation ahead of his swearing-in as the Karnataka chief minister, has dismissed reports on the power-sharing formula of 30 months each between the two parties as “bogus”. “No such talks have taken place,” he said when asked about reports on power-sharing formula of 30 months each being worked out with the Congress, with whom JD(S) has stitched up a post-poll alliance after the 12 May assembly elections delivered a fractured mandate. Declaring that he would prove his majority within 24 hours of taking the oath, he said portfolio allocation would be decided after talks with senior Congress leaders. The JD(S) leader has invited West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and others for the swearing-in ceremony, which is to be held on Wednesday.

Seven Jawans Killed In Dantewada Maoist Attack

Seven state police jawans were killed on Sunday when Maoists allegedly blew up their vehicle with an improvised explosive device (IED) in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district. Two other jawans were also injured in the incident. The police said that the Maoists also looted six automatic rifles of the police personnel after the blast and fled into the jungles. Special director general of police (anti-Naxal operations) D M Awasthi said the Maoists targeted the team of state police jawans, who were escorting a truck carrying material for road construction in the area. In April, security forces had killed eight Maoists, including five women, in a forest in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district. This followed a major operation in neighbouring Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli that left 39 rebels dead. Following Sunday’s blast, joint operations to hunt down the Maoists in the area have been launched by the Sukma and Dantewada police.

Bullet Train Project: Land Acquisition Process Begins, Farmers Plan Agitation

India’s showpiece Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project is moving full speed ahead. Gujarat government’s Revenue Department has issued notifications for acquiring land in 165 cases in Gujarat under section 11 of the latest amended land acquisition law. However, the state government’s decision has evoked strong criticism from the farmers’ outfits, which have threatened to launch a massive agitation against acquisition of land. The Gujarat government has made it clear that it wants to complete the land acquisition process by the end of this year. The Prime Minister’s Office is directly supervising the progress of the project. According to a senior officer of the Revenue Department, the government has zeroed in on 185 cases where land is to be acquired, and the department has issued notifications for 165 cases till now. Two years ago, the state government had amended the Centre’s land acquisition law to remove the provision of mandatory consent of those who give up their land for a public purpose.

CBI May Approach Interpol For RCN Against Nirav Modi And Mehul Choksi

In yet another blow to diamantaires Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is likely to approach the Interpol for a Red Corner Notice (RCN) for their alleged involvement in the Rs 13,600 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud. Modi and Choksi now face increased scrutiny as the CBI has filed two chargesheets in the PNB case. The chargesheets name a number of bank officials involved in the scam apart from the main conspirators. Around 19 officials from different banks in the country and other staffers of Modi and Choksi’s group of companies have been booked in the biggest banking fraud witnessed in India. According to reports, the fresh Red Corner Notice will help Indian authorities track down Modi and Choksi. In the first CBI chargesheet, the agency had alleged Modi of siphoning off funds to the tune of Rs 6,498.20 crore through his companies. The second one mentioned Choksi, alleging him of swindling funds to the tune of Rs 7,080.86 crore.

China’s Gold Rush: A New Flashpoint Along Arunachal Border?

China has launched large-scale mining operations on its side of the border with Arunachal Pradesh, where a huge deposits of gold, silver and other precious minerals valued at about $60 billion has been found. According to media reports the mine project is being undertaken in Lhunze county under Chinese control adjacent to the Indian border. A report in Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post said “people familiar with the project say the mines are part of an ambitious plan by Beijing to reclaim South Tibet". The report with inputs from local officials, Chinese geologists as well as strategic experts comes less than a month after the first ever informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping that was aimed at cooling tensions to avert incidents like the Doklam military standoff last year. "China’s moves to lay claim to the region’s natural resources while rapidly building up infrastructure could turn it into another South China Sea,” it said.


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A Daily Battle For Survival: Life In A Jammu Town On India-Pakistan Border: The border areas in Jammu are increasingly facing ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops, that have turned life in these otherwise peaceful towns into ‘a living hell’. Swarajya visited one such town, Arnia, that is one of the worst affected. Residents say the ruling PDP-BJP government doesn’t care about them.

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