Morning Brief: World Bank Praises Modi Government’s Aadhaar Push; Trouble For Vadra In Bikaner Land Scam Case; India’s Gross Debt To Decline Nine Per Cent

Morning Brief: World Bank Praises Modi Government’s Aadhaar Push; Trouble For Vadra In Bikaner Land Scam Case; India’s Gross Debt To Decline Nine Per CentA man passes by the sign of World Bank Group September 2000 outside the World Bank headquarters in Washington. (Alex Wong/Newsmakers) 

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

World Bank Praises Modi Government’s Aadhaar Push

Indian government’s “strong” push to increase account ownership through biometric identification cards helped narrow both the gender gap and the gap between the rich and poor, the World Bank said on Thursday. In its Global Findex database 2017 released yesterday, the World Bank said that India has significantly reduced the gender gap in providing access to financial services as 77 per cent women against 83 per cent men now have bank accounts. The total number of current and savings accounts in banks has risen from 122.3 crore in March 2015 to 157.1 crore in March 2017, the international body has noted. However, around 190 million Indian adults are without a bank account despite the success of the Jan Dhan Yojana.

ED Seizes Land Belonging To Robert Vadra's Close Aide

No relief for Robert Vadra - Congress president Rahul Gandhi's brother-in-law - in the Bikaner land scam case. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has seized land parcel in the city allegedly owned by his close aide Jaiprakash Bagarwa. The agency has put up its board on land parcel. ED had arrested Bagarwa in December 2017 under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in the land scam case. According to reports, the agency has also issued a notice to a firm reportedly related to Vadra as part of its investigation into the scam. In February 2018, the ED had searched the Faridabad premises of a person allegedly close to Vadra. The person, identified as Mahesh Nagar, is reportedly associated with Skylight Hospitality Private Limited, a firm with alleged links to Vadra. Although the investigating agency has not mentioned Vadra's name, the Congress has called the action "sheer political vendetta".

IMF Lauds Modi Government’s Policies Aimed At Lowering Debt

India is trying to lower its “high” debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio using "the right policies," the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said, adding that India’s combined gross debt is set to decline by almost nine percentage points. This would not only create conditions for lowering of interest rates in the country but can also lead to a sovereign rating upgrade, the body has reportedly said. IMF’s projections are in line with the central government’s target of bringing down debt-to-GDP ratio to 40 per cent by 2024-25. The multilateral body, in its World Economic Outlook report released on Tuesday, projected India’s economic growth to accelerate to 7.4 per cent in 2018-19 and touch 8.2 per cent by 2023-24.

Calcutta HC To Give Verdict On WB Panchayat Elections

The Calcutta High Court (HC) will give its verdict today on petitions filed by the Opposition alleging a “reign of terror” unleashed by the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) to prevent their candidates from filing nomination papers for the panchayat elections in the state. The court had on Thursday extended its stay on the poll process till Friday. The polls, scheduled to be held between 1 May and 8 May, was stalled by order of justice Subrata Talukdar last week after the state election commission extended the time for filing nominations and then reversed it. A number of incidents, in which TMC workers had resorted to violence to prevent Opposition candidates from filing nomination papers, were reported. In one case, a photojournalist was allegedly abducted and assaulted by TMC goons for clicking pictures of party men preventing Opposition candidates from filing nominations.

Ministers Recommend Uniform Road Tax

A group of state transport ministers constituted by the Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry has recommended a uniform, one-time road tax for vehicles across states. If the recommendation is accepted, it would be possible to transfer vehicles from one state to another without levying road tax. The group said that the tax should be based on invoice price of the vehicles and recommended three slabs, 8 percent tax on vehicles below 10 lakhs, 10 percent for vehicles costing between 10 -20 lakh, and 12 percent for vehicles above 20 lakh. It has also recommended national passenger vehicles permit for passenger cars.

Gadkari Woos Foreign Investors For River Linking Project

Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Nitin Gadkari is trying to woo foreign investors for the National Democratic Alliance government’s river connectivity project. Speaking at the MintAsia-Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, Gadkari revealed that he has discussed the project with investors from countries like South Korea and Japan for financing. He mentioned that the government is looking for financing with low-cost interest.

“For this river connectivity project, there is a potential of 60,000 megawatts (MW) of hydropower; so I am working on the scheme. Two days ago, I was in South Korea, now I am discussing with Japan, and we need low-cost interest because it is an infrastructure and irrigation project. Instead of making a canal, we are using pipeline for it. This is going to triple the use of water,” he was quoted as saying.

Naroda-Patiya Riot Case Verdict Today

The Gujarat High Court will give its verdict on appeals in the 2002 Naroda Patiya riot case later today. The order was reserved by a division bench of justices Harsha Devani and A S Supehiya last August after the hearing concluded. Over 30 people, including Bharatiya Janata Party minister Maya Kodnani, were sentenced to life. At least 29 accused were let off by the trial court for lack of evidence. While Kodnani was sentenced to 28 years of imprisonment, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi was given life imprisonment till death. Kodnani is currently out on bail. The riot followed the Godhra train burning incident of February in which 59 kar sevaks were killed.

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