Morning briefing: Transport stir hits supply, govt declines to remove toll

GN Bureau | October 3, 2015



Demanding scrapping of the present toll system, the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) continued its nationwide strike for the second consecutive day on Friday, disrupting the supply of goods to various parts of the country. While the supply of essential commodities such as milk, vegetables and medicines have been kept out of the purview of the strike, its impact was seen in various parts of the country, including Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, among other places. AIMTC claims to have 87 lakh trucks and 20 lakh buses and tempos across the country under its fold.

Meanwhile, the government has refused to budge from its stance and said it cannot scrap the toll collection system. Road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari said on Thursday, “It is up to them to continue their strike. The government cannot scrap toll. We have already assured to implement the electronic tolling system pan-India by December. I appeal them to call off the strike.”

Government will go after black money offenders
The government warned that those who hadn't taken advantage of the one-time compliance window on black money declarations could expect to have the full might of the new law used against them, seemingly brushing aside suggestions that the response to the 90-day grace period had been underwhelming. "Those who did not declare have underestimated the power of information exchange... Those who did not declare have done it at their own peril and will regret," Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das tweeted on Friday. He was referring to new treaties under which countries will give each other access to financial information, making it difficult for anyone to conceal income in tax havens and other jurisdictions. The government has indicated that it will pursue offenders in cases where it has information and they haven't made any declarations.

India's climate control pledges hailed by international energy agency
India steered clear of announcing an absolute reduction in carbon dioxide output and instead vowed to cut the emission intensity of its GDP by about a third and generate 40% of the country's electricity from nonfossil fuels by 2030. The country's climate action targets, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), were submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on Friday.  Meanwhile, India's pledge to cut emission intensity of its GDP by a third in the next 15 years has won handsome praise from the International Energy Agency (IEA), which also sympathises with the country's view that developing countries should not foot the entire bill to combat climate change as rich nations polluted the planet for a century

Outsourcing fee on H-1B visas lapses
An "outsourcing fee" imposed on US visas for highly qualified Indian technology professionals has lapsed, providing companies with at least temporary relief from the payment, which industry body Nasscom considers discriminatory. The $2,000 fee for H-1B visas and a $2,250 fee for some L-1 visas were adopted by the US in August 2010. They were applicable for companies with 50 or more employees, with more than half of them in the country, according to the US Citizenship and Immigration services.

Exports of top 5 sectors dip 25% in August
Exports of top five sectors — engineering, petroleum, gems and jewelery, textiles and pharmaceuticals - fell by about 25% to $13.33 billion in August due to global demand slowdown. These five sectors accounted for about 65% of the country's total merchandise exports in 2014-15. In August last year, exports of these sectors stood at $17.79 billion. While engineering, petroleum and textiles recorded negative growth, gems and jewelery and pharmaceuticals registered a marginal growth of 2.66% and 6%, respectively during the month under review, according to the provision data of the Commerce Ministry. In 2014-15, exports of these segments stood at $202.15 billion.

PM Modi asks 'Swachh Bharat' critics to step aside
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that linking 'Swachh Bharat' drive with government or a political party will lead to its failure and took a dig at the critics of his pet scheme, saying those who cannot be a part of it should step aside but not criticise. The cleanliness drive must become a public movement if it has to succeed, he said yesterday. "This work should be (away from) from controversies... If you can join it, join it, if you cannot then step aside but not criticise," he said. Opposition parties, including Congress and Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP, have taken potshots at the Centre over the "Swachh Bharat' scheme, saying there was no visible improvement on the ground and it was all "showbaazi".

CVC awaits sanction to prosecute 47 corrupt officials
The Central Vigilance Commission is awaiting sanction from different departments for over four months to prosecute 47 government employees, including some IAS officials, for their alleged involvement in corruption. As per norms, sanction for prosecution has to be decided within four-month time.

Forex reserves fall to $350 bn
India's foreign exchange reserves fell $2.04 billion to $349.98 billion for the week ended September 25, shows data released on Friday. Foreign currency assets fell $1.98 billion to $326.58 billion. Gold reserves remained unchanged at $18.04 billion. Special drawing rights fell $48.3 million to $4.05 billion, while India's reserve position with the International Monetary Fund stood at $1.32 billion recording a fall of $11.8 million.

Suicide attempt by Indrani Mukerjea
Former media executive Indrani Mukerjea, who was rushed to Mumbai's JJ Hospital on Friday afternoon from the Byculla women's jail after she complained of "uneasiness", has shown signs of improvement but is still not out of danger. Doctors attending to her have said they are investigating whether Ms Mukerjea, who is accused of murdering her daughter, overdosed on prescription drugs. Sources in the police say she could have attempted suicide.

Centre to ask for raise in Karnataka's iron ore mining cap
Conceding to the request of the Karnataka government and steel majors such as JSW Steel, the Centre has agreed to recommend to the Supreme Court-appointed central empowered committee (CEC) to increase the iron ore mining cap in the state from 30 million tonnes to 40 mt. "We have listened to the arguments of both the state and the companies working there. The Centre will (so) recommend to the CEC," a senior official said. "However, the actual mining in Karnataka has been only 20-21 mt. So, the CEC would be informed that the actual production from the state would not rise beyond 30 mt."

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