The Finance Ministry will take a call on whether to extend until year-end the deadline for linking PAN with Aadhaar.

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

Key Decision On PAN-Aadhaar Linking Today: The Finance Ministry is likely to decide today (Thursday) whether to extend until year-end the deadline for linking of permanent account number (PAN) with biometric identifier Aadhaar. The cut-off ends on Thursday. The Aadhaar matter is before the Supreme Court with next date of hearing posted for November, and the deadline for Aadhaar linking for availing of social sector schemes has been extended till December-end. “The government will decide tomorrow if the deadline for PAN-Aadhaar linking will be extended,” said a government source. However, those categorised as non-resident Indians as per income tax laws, people who are not citizens of India, those above 80 years of age and residents of Assam, Meghalaya and Jammu and Kashmir had been exempt from the requirement.

Significant Portion Of Deposited Notes Could Be Black Money, Says Finance Ministry: A “significant portion” of Rs 15.23 lakh crore that came back to the banking system, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s shock move on 8 November to demonetise high-value notes, could be black money, said the Finance Ministry. This comes after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said in its annual report that Indians have returned almost all of the estimated Rs 15.44 lakh crore after the demonetisation. Fending off criticism that the notes ban failed to deliver on its purpose of tracking black or untaxed money, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said: “That was not the objective of demonetisation...it was not an exercise to confiscate money but to nudge India towards digitisation, ending anonymity of cash.”

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ISRO Set To Launch IRNSS-1H: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is all set to launch PSLV-C39, carrying Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS-1H) with the 29-hour countdown for the lift off starting at 2 pm on Wednesday. The launch will take place at 7 pm today from the second launch pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, about 100 km from north Chennai. For the first time, private players have been actively involved in building a full satellite. Their role earlier was limited to supplying components-with 70 engineers from a consortium led by Bengaluru-based Alpha Design Technologies having built the satellite and also tested it. By replacing the ineffective navigation satellite IRNSS-1A with IRNSS-1H satellite, ISRO is all set to help the fishermen, general public, railways and ships with India’s very own GPS, the NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation).

Petrol-Diesel Duty Cuts Ruled Out: Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Wednesday ruled out a reduction in duties on petrol and diesel for now despite sharp increase in rates after the oil companies resorted to daily revision in prices last month. While petrol price has risen by over Rs 6 per litre since last month, diesel was dearer by Rs 3.65 per litre. “That situation has not come where we should relook at tax structure. When the situation arises, we will see,” Pradhan said on the sidelines of an event on rationalisation of diesel and petrol prices here. The government raised excise duty by Rs 7.75 per litre on petrol and Rs 6.50 per litreon diesel between November 2014 and January 2015 when international crude prices continued to fall.

Government To Appoint Transaction Advisers For Air India Disinvestment: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the Union government has decided to appoint transaction advisers for Air India disinvestment after a ministerial group met to discuss various aspects of the stake sale. On 28 June, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs had given its in-principle for strategic disinvestment of Air India and five of its subsidiaries. Subsequently, an Air India-specific alternative mechanism was set up to guide the process. At least two parties – IndiGo and Bird Group – have formally evinced interest in Air India disinvestment and have written to the Civil Aviation Ministry in this regard. Air India is staying afloat on taxpayers' money and the airline has a debt of more than Rs 50,000 crore.

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Rs 7,000 Crore Cleared For IIT Campuses: The Finance Ministry has cleared an Rs 7,000 crore proposal to establish permanent campuses in six new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). The Human Resources and Development Ministry is in the process of forwarding the proposal for the Cabinet’s clearance, said sources. The Narendra Modi government has set up six IITs since 2015. All the IITs are currently functioning out of transit campuses in their respective states. Official sources said the Rs 7,000 crore proposal is only to build the first phase of buildings before March 2024. “More funds will be required for the next phase, which would take the overall expenditure to at least Rs 20,000 crore,” sources said.

CBI Begins Probe Into Land Deals; New Focus On Vadra : The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday launched a probe into 18 cases referred to it by the Rajasthan government for alleged irregularities in land deals by companies, including one linked to Robert Vadra. “The cases pertain to fraudulent and fictitious claims and allotments in lieu of land acquired for Mahajan Field Firing Range Bikaner, which is used by the Army,” a CBI spokesperson said after the cases were registered. Separate first information reports (FIRs) were registered under several sections of IPC regarding a series of transactions of land allotted in lieu of Mahajan Firing range in Bikaner, of which Vadra's companies also made a few purchases and later sold them at a hefty profit. Among the 18 FIRs registered by the agency, 16 were lodged at the Gajner police station while two at Kolayat police station in Bikaner between August and September 2014, agency sources said.

Bullet Train Project: Modi-Abe To Perform Groundbreaking Ceremony: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe will perform the groundbreaking ceremony for the ambitious Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Project, commonly referred to as the bullet train project, on 14 September. The ceremony for the project, coming up at an estimated cost of Rs 98,000 crore, will be held at a ground near the Sabarmati railway station. Apart from this project, various MoUs related to investments and tie-ups will also be signed in the presence of these leaders, the official said, adding that bilateral talks will also be held between the two here. The high speed railway line between Ahmedabad and Mumbai is expected to cover 508 kilometres in about two hours with an operating speed of around 320 kmph. It is expected to become operational by 2023.

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NDB Approves $1.4 Billion Loan For India, China and Russia Projects: Just a few days before the BRICS Summit, the New Development Bank (NDB) of the five-member group approved $1.4 billion loans for sustainable development projects in India, China and Russia. “The four projects approved today are fully in line both with national development agenda in our member countries and the NDB’s mandate of mobilising resources for infrastructure and sustainable development in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries,” said the bank’s president K V Kamath. The loans were approved ahead of the BRICS summit to be held in China’s Xiamen city from 3 to 5 September. NDB was established in 2014 with an initial fund of $100 billion pooled from five BRICS countries. The bank – headquartered in Shanghai – was launched in July 2015 and issued its first loan in April 2016.

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SWARAJYA SPECIAL

Ease Of Doing Business: NITI Aayog-IDFC Report Shows Firms Not Feeling All Of Government’s Reforms: Global lists which rank countries on the ease of doing business tend to look past people with skin in the game – the firms and their managers. A report jointly published by NITI Aayog and the IDFC Institute tries to address this lacuna. We discuss its findings about the state of doing business in India.

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