Good morning, dear reader! Here’s your morning news and views brief for today.
GST On Common-Use Goods May Be Slashed: Goods and services tax (GST) rates on a host of goods such as handmade furniture, plastic products and daily-use items like shampoo are expected to be lowered. The all-powerful GST Council, headed by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, is scheduled to meet on 10 November to consider lowering of the 28 per cent GST rate on certain common-use items as well as simplify return filing rules. "A rationalisation of items in the 28 per cent tax bracket is expected. Most of the daily use items could be lowered to 18 per cent. Also tax rate on items like furniture, electric switches, plastic pipes could be relooked," an official said. In further relief to small and medium enterprises, the panel is likely to rationalise tax rate in sectors where the total incidence of taxation has gone up because the goods were earlier either exempt from excise or attracted lower value added tax rates in the previous indirect tax regime.
'Paradise Papers' Shed Light On Hidden Wealth Of High And Mighty: More than one and half years after the Panama Papers exposed secret and illegal offshore investments by corporates and individuals across the globe, another set of files called the 'Paradise Papers' have surfaced, shedding light on the trillions of dollars that move through offshore tax havens. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released a slew of documents which “reveal offshore activities of some of the world’s most powerful people and companies,” the ICIJ website said. The leaked files, of which there are more than 13 million, detail investment figures, tax plans, loan agreements and more, of major international figures including United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth, donors of US President Donald Trump, US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Jordanian Queen Noor Al Hussein among others. Most of the documents are from offshore law firm Appleby.
Cross-LoC Trade And Bus Service Set To Resume: In a significant confidence-building measure, trade across the line of control (LoC) and bus service between India and Pakistan through the Poonch-Rawalkote route are likely to resume this week after a four-month hiatus. "Since both sides decided to resume travel and trade at a meeting near the LoC, we are hopeful of resumption of the weekly cross-LoC bus service as per schedule on Monday," custodian of LoC trade (Poonch) Mohammad Tanveer said. The development follows India's decision to approve medical visas to Pakistani nationals in "deserving" cases and also the release of prisoners and fishermen by both countries last week. Trade across the LoC was suspended on 11 July after heavy firing and shelling from the Pakistani side caused damage to trade facilitation centres and police barracks.
Indian Railways Setting A Gold Standard: The Indian Railways is setting a gold standard in luxury travel with the showcase of its first 'Swarn' train today (Monday). The New Delhi-Kathgodam Shatabdi Express will be the first to be launched as part of the railways' 'Swarn' project, which aims to renovate India's premium trains, including Rajdhanis and Shatabdis. "This will be the first 'gold standard' train of the Railways. I urge people to cooperate in the upkeep of various amenities," a senior railway official said. From new on-board entertainment to trolley service for catering, new coach interiors and clean toilets with automatic doors, these elite trains are being upgraded at a cost of Rs 50 lakh each. Security systems will also be enhanced by installing CCTVs and deputing more RPF personnel. Punctuality of these trains has also been identified as a focus area. Around 30 trains – 15 Rajdhanis and 15 Shatabdis – will get a complete overhaul at a cost of Rs 25 crore under the project launched during the tenure of Suresh Prabhu as railway minister.
Rs 17,000 Crore Suspicious Transactions Detected After Demonetisation: Following last November’s demonetisation, more than Rs 17,000 crore was deposited into 58,000 bank accounts and subsequently withdrawn, the Corporate Affairs Ministry said on Sunday, in perhaps the most significant instance yet of possible tax-fraud. "Preliminary enquiry on the basis of information received from 56 banks in respect of 35,000 companies involving 58,000 accounts has revealed that an amount of over Rs 17,000 crore was deposited and withdrawn post demonetisation," the ministry said. As the government steps up the fight against illicit fund flows, so far names of around 2.24 lakh companies that have been inactive for long have been struck off from the official records and 3.09 lakh directors have been disqualified.
Indian Security Forces Foil LoC Infiltration Bid, Kill Two Militants: Indian security forces foiled an infiltration attempt by the Pakistani Border Action Team (BAT) near the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir's Uri sector, killing two militants. "BAT action bid foiled by Army and JKP. Two terrorists killed in Dulanja, Uri. No casualty on our side. Possible tragedy averted," Director General of Police (DGP) S P Vaid tweeted. An Army spokesman said the terrorists resorted to indiscriminate firing and in the ensuing gun battle two terrorists were killed while escaping towards the LoC. He said that a lot of arms and ammunition, and other warlike stores were recovered from the slain militants. "A search operation is still underway," the spokesman said, adding this is a fourth infiltration bid foiled in the Uri sector in the last five months.
India Planning 100 New Airports: With an estimated investment of Rs 4 lakh crore, India is planning to expand connectivity and meet potential demand by establishing about 100 new airports – doubling the current number – in 15 years, Minister of State for Aviation Jayant Sinha said. Of these, 70 will be locations that don’t have such a facility, while the rest will be second airports or the expansion of existing airfields to handle commercial flights. “We need to get out of that incremental trap and think for the future and take a long-term view. We will need to add about 100 new airports, as aviation in India grows.” India has 100 operational airports and is the fastest-growing aviation market in terms of domestic passenger growth. The plan will be largely driven by the private sector, Sinha said.
25 Die In Texas Shooting: A gunman walked into a small Baptist church in rural Texas on Sunday and opened fire, killing at least 25 people and turning a tiny town east of San Antonio into the scene of the country’s most recent mass horror. The incident took place at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, a small community of about 400 people located about 48km south east of San Antonio. "Approximately 25 people" were dead, including the shooter, Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said. With details rapidly unfolding, some unnamed officials were quoted as citing tolls as high as 27 dead and 20 or more wounded.
MUST READ OPINIONS AND COLUMNS
Demonetisation: A Resounding Success: Massive economic reforms like demonetisation cannot be measured solely by using economic parameters but need to take into account the structural shift that such reforms induce in society. Demonetisation has provided Indian citizens an opportunity to reimagine not only their currency, but also their social mores, honesty, and compliance with law.
The Need For Upending Feudal Markets: There is inbuilt resistance in feudal markets to innovative methods that upset the apple cart. The implications of feudal markets and their regressive impact have not been addressed enough, perhaps on the assumption that markets are homogeneous, inanimate institutions.
India Is Right To Focus On Ease Of Doing Business: India’s jump in ease of doing business rankings will hopefully be a spur for further reforms, which, if successful, will lead both to a better business environment and greater prosperity for all.
PSU Banks: Past Imperfect, Present Tense, Future Uncertain: Finance Minister Jaitley’s big-bang bank recapitalisation plan has led to a string of debates, discussions and unending speculation on the future of Indian banking. After bank recapitalisation, what? Will we see the government push the agenda for PSU bank consolidation to further banking reforms?
The Colonial Eye: How The Pretentious Indian “Baboo” Came To Be Satirised: The pretensions of the Indian baboo was noticed by quite a few Britons, but it was the Punch magazine that immortalised the ultimate brown sahib, a peculiar product of colonial rule, as Baboo Jabberjee!
We hope you enjoyed reading our morning brief. Have a great day ahead!
SUBSCRIBE NOW: The October issue of our magazine is out now. The focus is on the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has set itself a target of 360 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections – Mission 360. Is that Mission Impossible? For more insights and detailed analysis get a copy home and enjoy reading Swarajya in print. Subscribe here to start receiving your copies for just Rs 349.
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.