Good morning, dear reader! Here’s your morning news and views brief for today.
Major GST Revamp On Cards: With the aim of making compliance simpler, India is set to revamp the goods and services tax (GST) regime next week. This will be the second significant overhaul of GST after a November rejig that saw the tax rate on 178 household goods being lowered and that on restaurants brought down to 5 per cent. India rolled out GST, which replaces multiple state and central taxes and cesses on 1 July. The GST Council meeting on 18 January is expected to take up changes in the definitions of terms such as supply and handicrafts as part of this effort besides replacing the three forms that need to be submitted with one, said two government officials aware of the development. It may also drop the requirement for upfront invoice matching, they said. “These changes would be taken up by the council at the upcoming meeting,” said one of the officials.
ISRO Set To Launch 31 Satellites Today: Nearly four month after an unsuccessful satellite launch attempt, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch its 100th satellite along with 30 others on-board a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in a single mission on Friday from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. The workhorse rocket of ISRO weighs nearly 320 tonnes and stands as tall as a 15-storey building. The entire launch of satellites is expected to happen over a period of 2 hours and 21 seconds. On its 42nd mission, the ISRO's new and refurbished PSLV-C40 will lift off with 31 passengers of which the earth observation 'Cartosat 2 Series' satellite is the heaviest, weighing 710 kg. The co-passenger satellites comprise one micro and nano satellite each from India as well as three micro and 25 nano satellites from six countries – Canada, Finland, France, Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Nissan Planning To Manufacture Electric Cars In India: Nissan is seeking government support as it plans to produce an all-electric budget small car in India – its cheapest globally. "If you want to sell electric cars with significant volumes in India, you have to make them there. We are considering this (local manufacturing) as part of a study," Nicholas Thomas, global director for Nissan's electric vehicles (EV), said. The company is also looking at exporting the India-made electric cars and may sell it in other Asian countries to gain economies of scale and ride on India's low-cost manufacturing processes. A price of around Rs 7 lakh – or upwards of $10,000 – is being considered for the car – which is under study presently. This may perhaps make the car the cheapest private electric passenger vehicle in the country, less expensive than even Mahindra & Mahindra's e2O mini car. However, Thomas said that the government needs to come up with credible solutions to support the growth of electric cars till they are in their infancy.
Reliance Planning Its Own Cryptocurrency JioCoin: Report: After disrupting the telecom sector, Reliance Jio Infocomm is reported to have been planning to create its own cryptocurrency, JioCoin. With Mukesh Ambani’s elder son Akash Ambani leading the JioCoin project, Reliance Jio plans to build a 50-member team of young professionals to work on blockchain technology, which can also be used to develop applications such as smart contracts and supply chain management logistics. “The company plans to hire 50 young professionals with average age of 25 years for Akash Ambani to lead. There are multiple applications of blockchain (for the company). The team would work on various blockchain products,” a person familiar with the development said. Significantly, the Indian government has cautioned against cryptocurrencies, stating that virtual currencies were not backed by assets and posed risks such as money laundering.
Kerala To Introduce Robots For Cleaning Sewer: Ending the age-old practice of manual scavenging in Kerala, robots will soon replace men in cleaning up sewer holes in the southern state. 'Bandicoot', the robot developed by the startup firm Genrobotics, will be used for cleaning sewer holes. The Kerala Water Authority (KWA) and Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) today signed an agreement for transfer of technology and products, including use of the robots for the purpose. The MoU was signed between Kerala Water Innovation Zone under KWA and KSUM at the Chief Minister's office. 'Bandicoot' will start its work, so far mostly done manually, by cleaning sewer holes in Thiruvananthapuram ahead of the Attukal Pongala festival in the city in March, it said. The robot has four limbs and a bucket system attached to a spider web looking extension, which can go inside the manhole.
Tamil Nadu Transport Workers Call Off Strike: The strike by transport workers demanding a pay hike in Tamil Nadu, which had crippled the state for the last eight days, was called off on Thursday evening after intervention by the Madras High Court. The staff will resume work from Friday morning. As many as 17 trade unions had gone on an indefinite strike after rejecting the government's proposal to hike the wages of the transport workers by 2.44 times. Transport workers are demanding salaries on par with drivers in other state government corporations. The unions want a 2.57 times hike, but the government, after 23 rounds of talks, has agreed for a 2.44 times raise. The state transport minister had ruled out further negotiations citing huge losses incurred by government transport corporations. There are about 1.4 lakh workers in the state's transport department to handle a fleet of 22,500 buses.
Two Men Arrested Over Bid To Sell Off Kerala Woman To IS After Forced Conversion: Two people have been arrested on charges of helping a Muslim man “forcibly” convert a Kerala woman and attempting to take her to Syria to be sold off to Islamic State (IS) terrorists. Fayaz Jamal and Mohamed Siyad, both natives of North Paravur near Kochi, were arrested following investigations based on a complaint by the 25-year-old woman, who was rescued from Saudi Arabia and brought home last year by her family. The two are friends of Muhammad Riyaz from Thalassery in Kannur district, the prime accused in the case. “They have been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,” Ernakulam Rural SP A V George said, adding a hunt is on to arrest eight more accused, including Riyas, in the case. He said the police have begun a probe into their alleged link with the Islamic State terrorists.
Ecuador Grants Citizenship To Assange: Ecuador has granted citizenship to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been living in asylum at the nation's embassy in London for more than five years. The country’s foreign minister, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, announced on Thursday that officials had decided to permit Assange's naturalisation while they look for ways to resolve his situation. Ecuador gave Assange political asylum after he sought refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden for investigation of sex-related claims. Sweden dropped the case, though Assange has remained in the embassy because he is still subject to arrest in Britain for jumping bail. Britain's Foreign Office said on Thursday it had rejected Ecuador's request to grant diplomatic status to Assange, who was born in Australia.
Islam Will Be Second Largest Religion In US By 2040: Study: By 2040, Muslims will become the second largest religious group in the United States, a study by Pew Research Center has suggested. Pew said in its study that the Muslim population is growing at an accelerated rate and will rise from an estimated 3.45 million in 2017 to an estimated 8.1 million in 2050, CNN reported. By 2040, the number of Muslims will surpass the Jewish population to become the second largest religious group, the study said. According to the Pew analysis, the reason for the burgeoning Muslim population was twofold — a high rate of immigration and a high fertility rate. It said that around three quarters of the Muslim population in the US are immigrants or the children of immigrants. However, the number of Christians — the largest religious group in the US — will still see a massive growth in numbers, though a declining percentage of population, the study said.
MUST READ OPINIONS AND COLUMNS
2018 Will Put To Test India’s Bankruptcy Code: It is clear that the bankruptcy law is yet to fully demonstrate its effectiveness. However, with 12 big cases likely to be resolved this year, 2018 will test its robustness.
Wrong Time For Fiscal Squeeze: Given the slowdown and downturn in the economy, counter-cyclical fiscal policies are essential to revive economic growth and foster employment creation.
Independent Trajectory For India-Israel Ties: India-Israel ties are on course for further expansion under Narendra Modi and Benjamin Netanyahu, who have developed the personal chemistry needed to take it forward.
Why A Successful NRC Exercise In Assam Will Help The BJP: If the National Register of Citizens succeeds in identifying a huge number of illegal migrants, the BJP will be the only party to benefit politically from the exercise, and which is likely to trigger a shift in the political narrative from minority to majority appeasement.
We hope you enjoyed reading our morning brief. Have a great day ahead!
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