GN Staff | December 5, 2015
A key government committee has suggested a standard goods and services tax (GST) rate of 17-18%, increasing chances of a consensus on the key reform so that the constitutional amendment that it entails can get passed in the current winter session as the clock ticks down to the April 1 deadline.
The standard rate, typically that at which most goods and services will be taxed, is based on a revenue-neutral rate of 15-15.5% as suggested by the committee headed by Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian.
The committee has suggested a two-rate structure, while calling for a unified one in the medium term — a concessional rate of around 12% for goods that need to be taxed at low rates and the standard rate of 17-18%. It has also recommended a steep 40% "sin/demerit" rate for luxury cars, aerated beverages, paan masala, tobacco and tobacco products.
The committee said this structure will have minimal inflationary consequences. "Facilitating easy implementation and taxpayer compliance at an early stage — via low rates and without adding to inflationary pressures — will be critical," it said. Subramanian said GST was a critical reform initiative.
SC no to ban on social networking platforms, govt told to look for alternates
The supreme court has rejected a plea to ban social networking platforms ike Facebook and Whatsapp but asked the government to examine whether these social networking platforms can be prosecuted for offensive and vulgar content.
A social justice bench of justices Madan B Lokur and UU Lalit asked the centre to look into the issue after two cases were brought to its notice in which people were booked for circulating rape videos through WhatsApp in Mumbai and running a sex racket for pedophiles through Facebook. No action had been taken against these platforms in spite of these cases.
The centre had earlier told the supreme court that it was difficult to identify people uploading sex videos through mobile phones, although the same was possible if they did so from a computer.
A Hyderabad-based NGO, Prajwala, had therefore told the bench that action should also be taken against the networking sites and they should be blocked. But this plea has now been rejected. "You are now asking blocking of sites. You may later on ask for banning mobile phones. It's not a solution and it cannot be done," the bench said.
"Let the government first respond to the issue and then we will consider," the bench said asking the Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh to look into the issue why networking sites were not booked by Kerala and Maharashtra Police.
The bench had earlier directed a CBI probe into all these cases after taking suo moto cognisance of the NGO's complaint.
IAF to commission women fighter pilots on 'experimental basis' for five years
The IAF will commission women as fighter pilots from June 2016 on an "experimental basis" for five years, minister of state for defence Rao Inderjit Singh told Lok Sabha on Friday. Singh told Parliament that all women pilots in IAF are cleared for all operational roles including low level tactical flying, para drop, air maintenance (northern and eastern sector) and special heli-borne operations.
Women pilots undergo jungle and snow survival course, he added.
"Government has accorded approval to entry of women into the fighter stream of IAF on experimental basis for a period of five years," he said.
There are already 94 women in the IAF who fly helicopters and transport aircraft.
All IAF pilots undergo the same basic 55 hours of flying training for the first six months on the newly-acquired Swiss Pilatus PC-7 turboprop aircraft.
During Stage-II the men trainees are "trifurcated'' into the fighter, transport and helicopter streams for one more year of training, while women are excluded from fighter plane category.
Sushma Swaraj to travel to Pakistan on December 8
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will travel to Islamabad on December 8 to attend the Heart of Asia security conference. She will be accompanied by foreign secretary S Jaishankar. She is expected to call on Pakistani prime minister Nwaz Nawaz Sharif and also his adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz on the sidelines of the conference. Swaraj will return to India in the evening the next day, making her visit last not more than 24 hours.
Full train ticket charge for children of age group of 5 to 12 years
Children of the age group of 5 to 12 years of age will be charged full fare instead of half as the Railways has revised the child fare rule. The new rules will be effective from April next year.
Under the revised provision, full adult fare will be charged for children of age 5 years and under 12 years of age if for whom berth/seat (in reserved class) is sought at the time of reservation.
However, there shall be no change in the rule for child fare of unreserved tickets which means fare for children of 5-12 years for unreserved tickets shall continue to be half of the adult fare.
Sachin Tendulkar asks first question in parliament
Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar asked his first Parliament Question in the Rajya Sabha on Friday, over three years after he was nominated as a Rajya Sabha member in the year 2012.
Tendulkar raised the question on the criteria for declaring suburban railway services as a separate zone. "Will the Minister of Railways be pleased to state the rationale behind creating a new zone for Kolkata Metro and whether it can be replicated in other cities such as Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi that also have similar suburban rail services; the criteria that a suburban railway system must fulfil to enable it to be notified as a separate zone; and whether the above three cities fulfil that criteria and are eligible for being notified as separate zones?" was Tendulkar's query.
Manoj Sinha, the MoS Railways replied that Metro Railway, Kolkata is a one-of-a-kind stand-alone system on Indian Railways (IR) which operates only Metro services. "After taking this into consideration along with operational, administrative and other factors, the zonal railway status was granted to Metro Railway, Kolkata to, inter-alia, help this organization in its operations and in further expansion. In the Indian Railway system operational in other cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, the the suburban railway traffic is run along with the mainline traffic, i.e. unified operation of all types of trains takes place on the same infrastructure viz. track, bridges, signalling, Over Head Equipment (OHE), etc. Creation of exclusive zones for suburban systems, operated by Indian Railways, in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai is not envisaged as segregation of suburban, non-suburban, freight traffic, etc. is not possible in these cities," Sinha said in his reply.
India’s forest cover goes up, shows report
India's forest cover increased by 3,775 square km since 2013, taking the total to 701,673 sq. km, or 70.17 million hectares, equivalent to 21.34% of the country's geographical area.
In the very dense forest category, the thickest and oldest of forest patches, an increase of 2,402 sq. km was offset by a shrinking of 3,371 sq. km in moderately dense forest areas, according to the India State of Forest Report 2015 released on Friday.
There were worrying signs for the northeastern states, an area that accounts for one-fourth of the country's forest cover. The report, published by the Forest Survey of India, noted that "there is a net decline of 628 sq. km in forest cover as compared to the previous assessment." Similar trends were observed in the 2013 forest report, where both the northeastern states and the moderately dense forest areas recorded a decline in cover.
India now has no more than nine contiguous uninterrupted forest patches measuring over 10,000 hectares.
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