Morning Brief: Tatas Interested In Air India; New Tourism Policy By Year-End; Truck Operators Go On Strike
Good morning, dear reader! Here’s your morning news and views brief for today.
Tatas Interested In Air India: The Tata group is interested in bidding for state-owned Air India. Tata would “definitely look” at Air India once the government finalised the privatisation process, Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran said, and added that the group, which already has two small airline joint ventures in India, one with Singapore Airlines and the other with Malaysia’s AirAsia, was still not clear about what a sale would look like. “We still don’t have all the details,” Chandrasekaran said. “We have two airlines, both are subscale. I feel scale is important.” Some companies including low-cost Indian carrier IndiGo, owned by InterGlobe Aviation, ground handling company Bird Group and Turkey’s Celebi Aviation Holdings have expressed an interest in buying some of Air India’s various businesses. Air India, founded in 1930s by the Tata Group, is saddled with debts and a bloated cost structure.
Rs 2,000 Crore Cleared For Aadhaar Units In Post Offices: In a move that would phase out private contractors from the data collection process, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved Rs 2,000 crore for setting up Aadhaar centres in post offices. The centres will have machines approved by the Unique Identification Authority of India and personnel will be trained by the agency as well. Aadhaar enrolment and updation facilities will be available in around 15,000 post offices by 31 March next year and this will complement the earlier decision that bank branches will have similar centres by 31 October. Around 5,000 post offices will have the facility by December this year. The decision to sanction Rs 2,000 crore comes in response to issues raised by the Supreme Court and activists and to ensure improved access to Aadhaar enrolment and updation.
Clerics Slam Plan To Allow Women Go On Haj Without Male Relatives: Sunni Barelvi clerics are up in arms against a proposal to allow women aged over 45 to go on Haj without close male relatives, calling it “un-Islamic”. This comes after the Haj Review Committee recommended allowing these women, if travelling in groups of four or more, to perform Haj, and the Union government supporting the suggestion. The clerics have accused the government of working against the interests of Islamic laws and said the move was a direct "interference in Sharia". The clerics said that if women are allowed to go without a male member, it would amount to a 'sin' under Sharia, and claimed that the motive of the authorities was to "make women work against Sharia".
New Tourism Policy By Year-End: The Union government will unveil India’s new national tourism policy by the end of this year. This comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made suggestions after going through a draft of the policy formulated by the Tourism Ministry. "We will incorporate those suggestions and finalise the policy after holding another round of discussion with the Prime Minister," Tourism Minister K Alphons said. While the draft policy enshrines the vision of developing and positioning India as a “must experience” and must re-visit” destination for the foreign tourists, it seeks to lay equal focus on boosting domestic tourism. According to official sources, the draft of the national tourism policy seeks to focus on employment generation and community participation with development of tourism infrastructure and products “in a sustainable and responsible manner”. The last national tourism policy was formulated in 2002.
NGOs Receiving Foreign Funds Told To Register With NITI Aayog: The Home Ministry has directed all non-governmental organisations (NGOs) receiving foreign funds to register with the NITI Aayog. Further tightening norms for receiving foreign funding, the ministry said existing NGOs registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act and those which are seeking registration or prior permission or accepting foreign contributions are required to register on the DARPAN portal of the Aayog. According to the ministry, the portal enables NGOs to enrol centrally and facilitates the creation of a repository of information about the NGOs sector-wise. It also facilitates NGOs to obtain a system-generated unique ID. “It is a free facility offered by NITI Aayog in association with the National Informatics Centre to bring about a greater partnership between the government and voluntary sector and foster better transparency, efficiency and accountability,” the ministry said.
Oil Majors Want Petroleum Products To Be Included In GST, Says Amitabh Kant: NITI Aayog Chief Executive Amitabh Kant said on Monday that chiefs of several global and Indian oil companies want petroleum products to be included in the goods and services tax (GST). He was speaking after the chief executives of major oil companies met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Major global oil exporters like Roseneft, BP, Saudi Aramco and Exxon Mobil will invest $1 trillion in India, increasing their previous commitments by up to five or six times. The Prime Minister, Kant said, has assured the industry that the Centre would discuss the issue with the states which suffer from ‘fear of the unknown’. According to Kant, CEOs also said India has the potential to become a gas-based economy. NITI Aayog is planning to finalise the national energy policy in 45 days, he added.
Centre Told To Scrutinise Congress-BJP Accounts For Foreign Funds: The Delhi High Court on Monday gave the Union government “a final opportunity” to inspect the accounts of several political parties – including the Congress and BJP – for traces of foreign funding. The Ministry of Home Affairs has been asked to comply with a 2014 judgment, which found both parties guilty of flouting Foreign Contribution Regulation Act norms by accepting donations from Indian subsidiaries of UK-based Vedanta Resources, within a period of six months. “We are concerned with the compliance of the order,” the court said. However, the ministry represented by central government's standing counsel Monika Arora, sought an extension of time till 31 March 2018, to comply with the court's directions.
Truck Operators Start Two-Day Strike: Hundreds of thousands of trucks went off the road on Monday as a part of a two-day nationwide strike to protest against rising diesel prices and the goods and services tax (GST). “Transporters all over the country are up in the arms against GST, diesel prices, harassment of truck operators and corruption on roads and toll policies,” said Bal Malkit Singh, chairman of the core committee of All India Motor Transport Congress. The body claimed nearly 10 million truck operators and other transporters remained off the roads. “This is our token strike, and if the government does not do the needful, we will call an indefinite strike after Diwali,” Singh added.
MUST READ OPINIONS AND COLUMNS
A Brave New India: The Narendra Modi government is ushering in a fundamental shift in the relations between the state and the informal economy. The tentacles of the state are now reaching deep into the informal economy, thanks to structural economic reforms such as GST and demonetisation.
The Twin Revenge: The GST council has decided to waive registration for small businesses (turnover of up to Rs 20 lakh) even if they were doing interstate sale. While demonetisation has been the revenge of the moral police, GST is a twin revenge—the revenge of the moral police and the revenge of the bean counter.
Price Discrimination Online: Today’s online marketplaces focus on demand, and when demand peaks, use a mechanism called ‘surge pricing’ to price-discriminate among potential customers. Even 10% of customers being price-discriminated against by online marketplaces in goods and services is a sufficient opening to allow new competitors plenty of room to manoeuver.
Financial Stability In The Age Of Crises: Evidence suggests that countries with more flexible exchange rate regimes have generally been better able to buffer themselves against external shocks. Asian countries, such as India, have leaders in the active use of macroprudential policies to correct asset price misalignments and limit systemic risks.
Ending Ambedkar’s Reservations: This Community Does Not Want To Be Classified As Scheduled Caste Anymore: Tamil Nadu politician Dr K Krishnasamy has demanded that the Devendrakula Vellalar community be taken off the list of scheduled communities. This bold step can set a precedent for other minority communities to operate from a position of strength rather than victimhood.
We hope you enjoyed reading our morning brief. Have a great day ahead!
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