Current Affairs

Morning Brief: Jaitley Hints At Economic Stimulus; India Now Top Retail Hub: Study; Trump Seeks Early End To Rohingya Crisis

Arun Jaitley addressing a meeting. (GettyImages)

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

Booster Shot For Economy: The Union government has indicated that it may come up with a booster shot for the economy, with the focus on reviving a few sectors. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley hinted that steps might be taken after consultations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "We have noted all the economic indicators. This government has been proactive on reforms. Over the last two days, I have had a series of discussions with ministerial colleagues and secretaries. The government will take additional measures in the coming days after consulting PM." Arun Jaitley almost ruled out cuts in taxes on petrol and diesel, arguing that the government needed funds to meet its spending requirements. The gross domestic product growth rate had fallen to a three-year low of 5.7 per cent in April-June quarter.

High Horse Power Locomotive Dream A Step Closer: With the arrival of the first bodyshell of 12000 HP loco from Alstom France at Kolkata port on Wednesday, India has moved a step closer to achieving its dream for high horse power locomotive. This is the first major foreign direct investment project in the rail sector. The first such locomotive, estimated to cost about Rs 30 crore, will be assembled with components brought in from Alstom’s factories in France and will have its trial run by February next year. The contract allows for the first five locomotives to be imported, but the remaining 795 are to be manufactured locally in support of the government’s Make in India campaign. The locomotive will run at a speed up to 120 kilometres per hour.

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Banks Open 1,000 Aadhaar Kendras: The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) said on Wednesday that more than 1,000 bank branches of 42 private and public sector banks have opened Aadhaar enrolment and updation centres within their premises. “Bank Aadhaar Kendras are being established with a view to make the Aadhaar verification process of bank accounts convenient for the people as it has become mandatory under amended Prevention of Money Laundering Rules to verify bank accounts with Aadhaar by 31 December 2017,” UIDAI chief executive officer Ajay Bhushan Pandey said. Earlier this month, the UIDAI gave banks one more month to open Aadhaar enrolment centres in a stipulated 10 per cent of branches, but said it will impose Rs 20,000 as fine per uncovered branch after 30 September.

India-Russia Building Nuclear Power Plant In Bangladesh: India is collaborating with Russia to build the Rooppur nuclear power plant in Bangladesh. This will be India’s first atomic energy venture abroad. “We are collaborating with our Russian and Bangladeshi partners on establishing Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Bangladesh,” Atomic Energy Commission chairman Sekhar Basu said at a conference of the global nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency. The Rooppur project, which is being built by the Russians near Dhaka, will be Bangladesh’s first atomic energy project. After commissioning of two units, each with a capacity of 1200 MWs, Bangladesh will be the third South Asian country after India and Pakistan to harness energy from atomic fission.

Government Has No Plans To Bring Fuel Prices Under GST, Says Pradhan: The Union government has no plans to bring fuel price under the ambit of goods and services tax (GST) even as Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan is pushing hard to bring petrol and diesel under the new tax regime. Sources in the Finance Ministry said the states’ revenue position is not so good as to deprive them from collecting value added tax (VAT) and other local taxes on auto fuels. At present, the Centre levies an excise duty of Rs 21.48 and states levy a VAT of around Rs 15 on petrol. Besides, the states also get a share from the excise kitty of the Centre. Same is the case with diesel. The states levy a VAT of Rs 8.69. In case the fuels are brought under the GST regime, the maximum tax that can be levied is 28 per cent. In the current regime, the taxes on petrol and diesel are levied at close to 55 per cent.

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India Replaces China As Top Retail Destination: Study: India has replaced China this year as the top retail destination as part of the study on global retail development index. According to India Retail Report 2017, over the past 12-15 months, 100 per cent cash and carry operations are gaining significance in India with Thailand’s Siam Makro being the latest entrant in this space following Metro, Walmart and Booker. The change in ranking was an outcome of four factors including increased consumer spending, beyond essentials, rising mobile and internet penetration, favourable foreign investment climate and bold action on cashless transaction and goods and services tax, AT Kearney partner Subhendu Roy said on the concluding day of the two-day India Retail Forum 2017. “This has triggered the entry of global brands into India with transparency and ease,” he added.

India To Stick To 100 Per Cent Electric Mobility Deadline, Says Gadkari: Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said India will stick to its plan of having 100 per cent electric mobility by 2030 as he cleared the electric vehicle policy on Wednesday. “Now NITI Aayog will send it to the cabinet in a couple of weeks (for its approval)," he said. The minister said the official year for going all electric (all vehicles sold from then will be electric) remains 2030, though the government was aiming to advance the target, a source said. The government wants automakers to move to 100 per cent manufacturing of electric vehicles for which it is launching a dedicated policy, and which has found favour with the auto industry. The auto industry had cited high cost of lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles as one of the major challenges, but the minister said the prices were coming down and India would stick to its plan.

Trump Seeks Early End To Rohingya Crisis: US President Donald Trump is urging the United Nations Security Council to take “strong and swift action” to bring Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis to an end, US Vice-President Mike Pence said. Pence, accused the Myanmar military of responding to militant attacks on government outposts “with terrible savagery, burning villages, driving the Rohingya from their homes.” He called the violence and the “historic exodus” of Rohingyas, including tens of thousands of children, a “great tragedy.” The violence began on 25 August when Rohingya insurgents attacked about 30 police posts and an army camp, killing about 12 people. Unless the violence was stopped, it would only become worse and “consume the region for generations to come and threaten the peace of us all,” the Vice-President said.

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MUST READ OPINIONS AND COLUMNS

In Pursuit Of Digitising India: An estimated 37-40 million homes are yet to be digitised even though the deadline for a complete switch-over to addressable homes is over. While 100 per cent digitisation is a myth, not achieved even in the US, by 2020 approximately 95 per cent cable and satellite TV homes in India will enjoy the benefits of digitisation.

The Real Cost Of Big Development Projects: As Gujaratis celebrate the Sardar Sarovar Dam, they might pause to reflect on whether it would restore to the most marginalised Gujaratis – farmers and adivasis – control over their lives

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Why Dynastic Politics Is Harming India: A growing body of empirical research shows that dynastic politicians consistently underperform non-dynastic politicians. Weak institutions and state capacity of the kind India suffers from enables dynastic politics.

Is FDI The New Engine Of Growth? FDI from private equity funds has largely financed e-commerce firms, driving import-led consumption boom. If the proposed industrial policy is serious about realising the vision of Make in India, it needs to look elsewhere, not at FDI.

SWARAJYA SPECIAL

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Why Organised Religious Conversion Activities Leave Us All As Losers: Conversions induced by the need for numbers only creates permanent fissures in society. The only conversion worth seeking is the one that happens through natural osmosis: when an individual learns from another, by adopting the good he or she sees in the other.

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

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