Thursday, February 28, 2019

Modi emulates Indira IAF aircraft Cross LoC after 48 years

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Modi emulates Indira
IAF aircraft Cross LoC after 48 years
Orders destruction of terror camps in Pakistan

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Feb 26

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, by allowing the Indian Air Force to cross the Line of Control (LoC) and destroy the “factories” of terror, has sent a clear message to Pakistan and the world that a New India has arrived.

If Indira Gandhi sent IAF inside Pakistan in 1971 when full scale war was declared, Modi showed the same political will 48 years later to avenge Pulwaha terror attack. He allowed the IAF aircraft to go 80 kilometers inside the LoC to avenge the killing of 40 CRPF jawans on February 14.
Pakistan's radars failed to detect the Indian IAF's massive 21-minute meticulously planned “non-military preemptive” attack within 12 days of Pulwama to destroy three major terror camps of Jaish-e-Mohammed. Perhaps, the Pakistani Establishment had not anticipated that Modi will act with such an alacrity. In the past, be it V P Singh, Chandra Shekhar, P V Narasimha Rao, Atal Behari Vajpayee or even Dr Manmohan Singh, none dared to act against the acts of terrorism. If V P Singh allowed the swapping of Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in lieu of eight terrorists in December 1989, his successor Chandra Shekhar released JKLF militants in lieu of Saifuddin Soze's daughter in 1990. The P V Narasimha Rao gave safe passage to militants in 1993 in Hazratbal Mosque (Srinagar) hostage case. Atal Behari Vajpayee had to eat the humble pie in 1999 December when he had to swap Masood Azhar along with other terrorists with passengers of IC-814 aircraft of Indian Airlines in Kandhar. Unfortunately, its the same Azhar who is involved in all terror activities in India. Incidentally, the terrorist involved in the hijacking of the IA aircraft was Jargar was the same person who was released in lieu of Rubaiya Sayeed by V P Singh. In fact, Vajpayee suffered huge personal set back to his image when Parliament was attacked by JeM fidayeen militants in December 2001 and he failed to avenge it. Dr Manmohan Singh wanted to undertake surgical air strike after the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai in 2008. But due to political indecision, nothing happened. In fact, today's decisive action set at rest all criticism by the Opposition that no surgical strike took place in September 2016 after the Uri attack. Today's strikes have been acknowledged by Pakistan. Modi has done what none of his predecessors dared do since 1989 and has sent a clear message to Pakistan that he would not hesitate to strike inside the LoC irrespective of the consequences.
How this action will pan out in the weeks to come could be anybody's guess. But Modi has shown he is a great risk taker irrespective of the consequences.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Bajwa ready to quit RS for Manmohan Singh

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Bajwa ready to quit RS for Manmohan Singh
Option open to Contest Amritsar LS seat

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Feb 25

The search of a Rajya Sabha seat for former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has ended with sitting Congress RS MP from Punjab Pratap Singh Bajwa ready to vacate his seat for him.

Since Dr Singh is retiring in June after a long stint in Rajya Sabha from Assam, the party was struggling to find a seat for him. The problem was compounded as no biennial RS polls due in 2019 except for two seats in Assam in June and six seats in Tamil Nadu in July. Given the composition of two state assemblies, the Congress cannot win any seat in Assam on its own. The Congress and AIUDF together have 38 votes in the Assam assembly of 126 while the party would need 63 votes to win one RS seat. Therefore, Dr Singh cannot win from Assam.
In Tamil Nadu, the DMK can win only two seats on its own and it has only 10 surplus votes while the Congress has only 8 MLAs in the state Assembly. The DMK expressed its inability to spare one RS seat for Dr Singh as it has to bring back Kanimnozhi, daughter of late M Karunanidhi. Second seat has already been committed to D Raja of the CPI who is also DMK's key ally.
A desperate Congress asked senior party leader Ms Ambica Soni if she could quit her seat from Punjab and contest for the Lok Sabha polls. But she was reluctant citing her age and wants to live peacefully now.

It now transpires that Pratap Singh Bajwa offered to quit and make room for Dr Manmohan Singh. Bajwa is ready to contest in the ensuing Lok Sabha polls.
It is also now emerging from sources in the Punjab Congress that Dr Manmohan Singh himself may contest from the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat. Since the political situation in Punjab is very conducive for the Congress, a section in the party is keen that Dr Singh should give a try and contest from Amritsar. Dr Singh did contest once for Lok Sabha from South Delhi Lok Sabha seat. But he lost to the BJP.

It is not immediately known whether Dr Singh is desirous to contest or given his consent to the suggestions. But he has certainly conveyed to the party that he would like to remain active as a parliamentarian.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Twin challenges for Opposition Search for new name as UPA Is Dead

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Twin challenges for Opposition

Search for new name as UPA Is Dead

Pre-poll alliance not easy

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Feb 20

Intense parleys are on among the leaders of the Opposition parties whether to form a pre-poll alliance and give a new nomenclature to such a front.

Most parties who met at the residence of NCP leader Sharad Pawar last week,were of the view that instead of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), a new name be coined to show-case unity of the Opposition. A senior leader even suggested that the UPA be renamed as ‘People’s Progressive Alliance' (PPA). But there was no unanimity. Pawar reminded that he was the first to form the Progressive Democratic Front (PDF) in Maharashtra 40 years ago.

The leaders were also receptive to TMC leader Mamata Banerjee's idea that a pre-poll alliance be formed. But a Congress leader sarcastically said that all Opposition parties should speak in one voice irrespective of the formation of a pre-poll alliance. The leaders were clearly of the view that in the absence of a pre-poll alliance, the President of India will have a leeway to use his discretion to invite leader of the single largest party in the Lok Sabha after the polls to form the government.

While the task for evolving a consensus among the parties was entrusted to NCP leader Sharad Pawar, the Congress was sounded out to prepare the Common Minimum Program (CMP) of all like-minded parties.

Mamata Banerjee has the difficult task to create unity of the Opposition parties in West bengal first where her party is biggest in the alliance. The Congress leadership felt that she was trying to rather weaken the backbone of the party in West Bengal by luring its MLAs and sitting Lok Sabha MP s to TMC. “She should herself stop poaching our MLAs and Mps”, said a senior leader.
There is a possibility that a crucial meeting of the Opposition parties may be held either on February 25-26 or after the Congress Working Committee. The CWC is meeting in Gujrat on February 28 where the draft manifesto of the Congress and CMP would be discussed. TMC has also asked rebel BJP leader and former Union minister Yashwant Sinha to draft CMP for a discussion.
The pre-poll alliance has serious problems as major parties such as SP, BSP, AAP etc won't be in it. Some regional parties would not join the front either. Even TMC is unwilling to accommodate Congress in West Bengal.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Centre rushes to quell unrest against Kashmiris outside J&K

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Centre rushes to quell unrest against Kashmiris outside J&K

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Feb 18

The Modi government is worried over growing cases of threats, intimidation and uncontrollable anger in educational institutions across the country in the aftermath of Pulwama terror attack.
The Centre has twin problems in hand; It is to ensure the safety of students from Kashmir following a backlash against them and also punish elements in universities who are raising anti-India slogans.
While the Ministry of Human Resource Development has not directly written any advisory to the Universities or directed the UGC to do so, the Ministry of Home Affairs has cautioned states to maintain law and order in their respective territories.
The Home Ministry issued the advisory after students and other residents experienced threats and intimidation. The most serious incidents were reported from Dehradun and Ambala, both ruled by the BJP.

The CRPF and Jammu and Kashmir police has even opened a helpline and a students’ organisation set up a temporary camp in Mohali to accommodate at least 20 young men and women who had left Dehradun and Ambala after facing threats.

Several special teams have been deployed to monitor trolling on social media specifically targeting Kashmiri students and people of Kahmiri origin living outside J&K. Several state governments have also issued advisory to residents to be careful and avoid moving around.
The PMO is also worried as more than 20,000 Kashmiri students are studying outside the state. Around 8,000 students – belonging to Jammu, Leh and Kashmir regions – are part of the Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS). This scheme is meant for students from Jammu and Kashmir.
The PMSSS covers a certain number of colleges and universities that are spread across Delhi, Pune, Udaipur, Haryana and other areas.

A handful of institutions even suspended some Kashmiri students who shared objectionable comments on social media.

According to officials, while there have been no complaints from students studying at universities covered under the PMSSS so far.
The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has told private satellite TV channels to broadcast content strictly in adherence to the Program and Advertising Code as prescribed in the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 and the Rules framed there under. The channels have been told not to show content which is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promotes anti-national attitudes, and or (ii) contains anything affecting the integrity of the nation.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Gadkari ministries get drubbing in funds

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

A Lokmat special report

Gadkari ministries get drubbing in funds 

Namami Gange budget cut drastically 

"Har Khet Ko Pani" gets Rs 1178 crore shocker  

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Feb 9

Road Transport, Shipping, Water Resources and Namami Gange Minister Nitin Gadkari may have earned applause across party lines for his performance. But his wings have been clipped by none other than the Prime Minister Narendra Modi when it came to granting funds for  Namami Gange project and Irrigation.

In 2017-18 when Gadkari took charge of the ministry from Uma Bharti, the Namami Gange project was granted Rs 700 crores. Next year i.e. 2018-19, government allocated a whopping Rs 2300 crores to the ministry so that Ganga can be cleaned before the Lok Sabha polls. However, the ministry could spend only Rs 750 crores only as most BJP ruled states were lukewarm to clear sewage projects.

Even during 2019-20 Budget presented by Piyush Goyal, Namami Gange project was granted Rs 750 crores only. Interestingly, the PM's most ambitious irrigation scheme “Har Khet Ko Pani” saw a drastic cut in funds. While Rs 2018-19, the government had granted Rs 2181 crores to the Gadkari's ministry which spent it too, this year (2019-20) only Rs 903.92 crores were given.

While the government blamed Gadkari for the slow implementation of the projects, Gadkari said that most of the sewage projects fall under the BJP ruled state governments of UP, Uttrakhand, Himachal, Jharkhand, Haryana etc. The worst performer is UP itself where only 11 of the 43 projects could be completed. The pace has not picked up even after Yogi Adityanath government came to power in early 2017. In Bihar, not a single project out of 26 could be completed though Nitish Kumar is an ally. The  Arvind Kejriwal government of Delhi did not complete any of the 11 sewage projects. However, things have started moving after Gadkari personally requested him to do so.

Even as an estimated 5 crores pilgrims took a dip at the confluence of the Ganga, about 2,782 million litres per day (MLD) of sewage continues to flow into the Ganga. Of the 136 sewage projects planned across eight States to create 3,252.28 MLD sewage treatment capacity at a cost of Rs 20,623 crore, only 31 projects with a capacity of 468.19 MLD have been completed.

Of the total treatment capacity created, the share of new projects is just 0.06 MLD, while that of old projects is 468.19 MLD. About 887 MLD capacity has been created through ‘rehabilitation’ of old STPs.


BJP may dump Citizenship Bill

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

A Lokmat Exclusive report

BJP may dump Citizenship Bill

Centre calls meeting of North-East CM s on Feb 11

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Feb 7

The BJP leadership seem to have decided buy peace in North East and all set to dump the controversial Citizenship Bill pending for passage in the Rajya Sabha.

The U-turn came today when the Modi government decided to hold a meeting of Chief Ministers of the North Eastern states on Monday. The Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, has called the meeting of North East CM s to find if there is any meeting ground. The Citizenship Bill has not been listed in the Rajya Sabha though parliament session began on January 31. The session is ending on February 13 and no bill will be taken up on the last day. A final decision will be taken on February 11 after the CM s' meeting. It simply means that there is only day February 12 when the bill can be passed. But considering the stiff opposition to the bill by almost all North Eastern states, there is every likelihood that the bill is buried.

Until the other day, the BJP leadership including the PM and party president Amit Shah were saying that the party will go ahead with the bill. But today, a high-level meeting of party leaders including top leaders from North east met Rajnath Singh and decided that CM s be invited to take a final call.

It must be borne in mind that the Rajya Sabha is yet to discuss the President’s address, interim budget presentation and three ordinances, including one on Triple Talaq, the Companies (Amendment) Bill and the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill.

Though the Lok Sabha passed Citizenship Bill amid protests, all the seven states of North East states are up in arm against it. The BJP leadership has been told that there are 25 Lok Sabha seats which are at stake and it would be better that a reasonable assurance is given by the Centre on the issue.

The Bill seeks to give citizenship to non-Muslims from 3 countries, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Assam has been simmering over the past few days ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi floated the proposal of the bringing the Citizenship Bill at a rally in the northeast state.


PM-Kisan big headache for Modi

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Exclusive report

PM-Kisan big headache for Modi

How to Link 12.56 crores Farmers with Banks before polls 

Maharashtra's 1.18 crores farmers to get Cash dole 

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Feb 10

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has issued instructions to ministries of Rural Development, Agriculture, Finance and Information Technology to link 12.56 crores land-owning farmers with banks so that Rs 2000 could be transferred in February-early March. Once first installment is gone before notification, the government can also give second installment of Rs 2000  too.

The Ministries are working day-in and day-out with 36 states and union territories to collate farmers with their bank accounts.

Interestingly, 14 states including Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal are big beneficiaries as land records of farmers are fully computerized. Of the 12.56 crores farmers, 1.18 crores farmers in Maharashtra will benefit as their land record data is 98.83% complete and most are linked to banks too. (see Table) 

Surprisingly, the Agriculture Ministry data shows that land records is very poor in Goa where only 53% are computerized and  number of farmers is only 51000.

During the past 55 months, 34 crores new Jan Dhan accounts have been opened in the country. Of these, 15 crores are in the rural areas. Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told Lokmat that of the 12 crores MANREGA beneficiaries, the data of 8 crores beneficiaries is computerized. “We are now trying to find out land owners and link them with bank accounts.”

Radha Mohan Singh, Union Agriculture Minister, also told Lokmat that a data base of 8.59 crores exist in his ministry.  Of the 2.22 crores are beneficiaries of 15 schemes and 2.07 crores are linked with bank accounts. There are 7 crores farmers who have Kisan Credit Cards (KCC). 

Now PM Modi wants states and ministries to complete the task of linking 12.56 crores land oning farmers with their bank accounts by February 25 so that money could be transferred directly in their accounts.

Modi has covered 67% of rural population of land owning community by his PM-Kisan scheme. The foot-print of this cash transfer will spread over 342 rural Lok Sabha constituencies.


Status of computerisation of land records
State Number % complete

Odisha 4524000 100.00
Karnataka 6977000 99.99
Telangana 5249000 99.44
Madhya Pradesh 7560000 99.21
Jharkhand 2304000 99.12
Maharashtra 11871000 98.83
West Bengal 6969000 98.10
Andhra Pradesh 7550000 97.16
Rajasthan 4748000 96.86
Gujarat 3634000 96.41
Punjab 361000 93.63
Uttrakhand 808000 93.58
Sikkim 57000 93.29
Haryana 1117000 92.93

Saturday, February 9, 2019

The New “King-Makers”

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

The New “King-Makers”

50 MP s of BJD, TRS, YSR make new PM 

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Feb 6

If pollsters believe that Mamata Banerjee (TMC) or N Chandrababu Naidu (TDP) or Mayawati (BSP) will be the “king Maker” in a hung Lok Sabha after the 2019 polls, they may be sadly mistaken.

The new King Makers on the horizon are three non-aligned parties; Biju Janata Dal (Odisha), YSR Congress (Andhra Pradesh), and Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (Telangana) who are likely to get 45-50 Lok Sabha seats and play a crucial role in the formation of a new government if the BJP is restricted to 200 seats mark.

These three parties have decided to stay neutral and go it alone in the Lok Sabha polls. According to pollsters, YSR Congress is virtually sweeping the state of Andhra Pradesh which has 25 Lok Sabha seats. The YSR Congress is an off-shoot of the Congress Party and was formed when Y S Jaganmohan Reddy revolted after the tragic death of his father in a plane crash. He is expected to win at least 15-17 Lok Sabha seats. One of the reasons for Chandrababu Naidu to quit the NDA was his suspicion that BJP is hob-nobbing with the YSR Congress. Another indication of YSR Congress's friendly ties with the BJP is that Prashant Kishore is working with the party as its poll strategist. Jagan Mohan Reddy has already given Kishore a huge commercial space at Banzara Hills and he is running his poll campaign. K Chandrarao Rao is a known Modi Bhakt.

Similarly, the TRS headed by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao is expected to win 15 Lok Sabha seats out of 17. He recently swept the Assembly polls and showed his popularity with the voters. The Congress and the BJP are contesting all 17 seats in the state. But pollsters believe that both the parties will draw a blank.

The Biju Janata Dal headed by Odisha Chief Minister is likely to win anywhere between 15-17 seats. During the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJD had won 20 out of 21 seats while the BJP won one seat and the Congress drew a blank. The BJP is so desperate to placate Naveen Patnaik that it dumped B J Panda, who had resigned his seat to join the BJP. Panda is now sulking and left high & dry. Even Prime Minister Modi who was toying with the idea of contesting from Puri Lok Sabha seat in Odisha and take on Pantaik decided to look the other way.

The fact that Naveen Patnaik's sister Gita Mehta was offered Padma Shri by Modi, though she declined later citing wrong political message, is an indication that there is some tacit understanding between BJD and BJP.

The third indication of bon homie is that the CBI has gone silent in Odisha though BJD leaders were equally involved in the Chit Funds scam.

So this block of 50 Lok Sabha seats in a house of 543 will play a very crucial role if the BJP doesn't cross the 200 seats mark. The NDA parties (Shiv Sena, Janata Dal (U), LJP, Apna Dal, Akali Dal, AIADMK) are expected to get another 25-30 seats. Thus, PM Modi will need new “King Makers” to chip in a post-poll scenario.


Friday, February 8, 2019

Modi Govt. Clears Forest land for Anil Ambani

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Modi Govt. Clears Forest land for Anil Ambani

1169 acres for Cement plant in Yawatmal

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Feb 4

The Ministry of Environment and Forest has granted prior approval for diversion of 467.45 ha. of Forest Land for non-forestry purpose to M/s Reliance Cementation Private Limited, a company owned by Anil Ambani.

It is stated that the 1169 acres of land was given to Ambanis diverting Forest land in Pimaradwadi, Horapur and Govindpur villages of Yavatmal District of Maharashtra.

The Anil Ambani group is already in controversies due to Rafale deal and other issues. The company has also filed for insolvency recently. Now it emerges that the Maharashtra government and the Centre granted forest land to him for setting up a cement factory.

The Maharashtra government told the Centre that proposed area does not fall under any National Park, Wildlife Sanctuary, Biosphere Reserve, Tiger Reserve, Elephant Corridor etc. and no protected area was located within 10 kilometres distance from the forest land proposed for diversion in favour of M/s Reliance Cementation Private Limited, in Pimaradwadi, Horapur and Govindpur villages of Yavatmal District of Maharashtra.

The state government sent the proposal to the Centre for its prior approval which agreed and granted the same.

The Forest land is not acquired but the forest land is given to the User Agency by the State Government for non-forestry purpose and Compensatory Levis such as Compensatory Afforestation cost, Net Present Value and other charges are deposited by the User Agency in Compensatory Afforestation Fund.

In this case M/s Reliance Cementation Private Limited has deposited Rs. 52,06,22,016.63/- ( Fifty Two Crore Six Lakh Twenty Two Thousand Sixteen and sixty three paisa) amount as compensatory levies in Compensatory Afforestation Fund of Maharashtra.

The Minister of state for Environment & Forest Mahesh Sharma confirmed the information in Rajya Sabha today.


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Akalis give new Headache to Fadnavis

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Special report

Akalis give new Headache to Fadnavis

Amit Shah issues sermon; Amend Nanded Gurudwara Act

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Feb 4

Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) may be BJP's ally in Punjab. But it is giving a new headache to the Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra.

It now transpires BJP president Amit Shah spoke to the Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and impressed upon him to re-look at the Gurudwara Act governing the historic Gurudwara at Nanded in the state.

The tiny issue of the Nanded Gurudwara has rocked the decades old relationship of the BJP with the SAD which threatened to walk out of the NDA and quit the Modi government. Sukhbir Singh Badal, president of the SAD, had met the BJP president had told him in no uncertain terms that his party would be left with no option but to quit the NDA. Even Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Food Processing Minister would quit the Modi government if the Maharashtra government continued to play with the religious sentiments of the Sikh community in the state. Since the Akalis had refused to attend the NDA meeting held on Friday last, Amit Shah swung into action and held a marathon meeting with Akali leaders to appease the discontentedThe SAD had made it clear that its core committee would meet and severe ties with the BJP forever.

Obviously, the BJP found the issue too hot to handle after what is happening in the North East and with other allies.

The Akalis told Shah that a section of the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) are trying to interfere in matters related to Sikhs. Functionaries who were privy to discussions said the both leaders managed to hammer out a truce after the two-hour meeting.

The bone of contention between the BJP and Akali Dal is over the amendments made in the Takht Hazoor Abchal Nagar Sahi Nanded Act, 1956 by the BJP government in Maharastra. The amendment empowered the Government to nominate six members to the Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee of Nanded and also its chairman. The committee has 15 elected elect members. But the power to nominate as many as six members and also the chairman made the Akalis angry. Their argument was that its a religious matter of the Sikh community and the government should not interfere in the Sikh sangat.

Fadnavis is understood to have told Shah that the amendments to the Act were made at the behest of the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, another frontal organisation of the RSS working in the Sikh community.

It is learnt that the Gurudwara Act would be amended shortly ensuring that an elected president is appointed and the state would not nominate six members and number would be brought down to two.

Shah, after talking to Fadnavis assured Badal that the state would not interfere in the affairs of Sikhs. Both parties are learnt to have agreed not to step on each other’s political turf.


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Modi's imprint on Full “Interim” Budget

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Modi's imprint on Full “Interim” Budget

Rs one lakh crore to benefit 55 crores in Poll year

Harish Gupta

New Delhi, Feb 1

The imprint of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Union Budget 2019-20 was clearly visible. The Modi government has done what no previous government dared do in the past – presented a full budget and yet called it an Interim Budget. Insiders say during one of the interactions with the Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, it was the PM who suggested that “big Bonanza” is needed for the salaried middle class tax-payers to win back the lost ground in urban areas. “Why not double the Exemption limit from Rs 2.50 lakhs to Rs 5 lakhs?” was the poser and Goyal did it exactly the same today.

So what the cost to the exchequer will be Rs 18500 crores plus Rs 4700 crores in other benefits. But it will help BJP win three crores tax payers. It was Prime Minister Modi's big ticket relief to 3 crore Income-Tax payers that stumped the Opposition completely.

Earlier, the dole to farmers was to be to the tune of Rs 10000 per year to farmers owning 5 acres of land. But Modi scaled it down to Rs 6000 per year as he wanted the total relief under Rs one lakh crores to maintain fiscal deficit targets. Thus the 12 crores farmers will get a direct bank transfer cash subsidy to the tune of Rs 75000 crores. Then, 40 crore workers in un-organised sector will benefit from the pension scheme which has been introduced first time. The amount, however, for 40 crores work force, is a mere Rs 500 crores. Its a scheme where every worker will have to chip in Rs 55 per month and centre will match it by paying Rs 55. The government should have allocated Rs 2200 crores. But only Rs 500 crores as government knows such pension accounts can't be opned. Modi also kept in mind his core constituency by setting up Kamdhenu commission for the welfare of cow and allocated Rs 750 crores.

Modi may have tried to woo the distressed farmer, middle class groups and un-organised sector workers and the cow by doling out Rs one lakh crores approximately. The farmers will get the first installment of Rs 2000 cash in their bank account before March 2019 – i.e. merely a month before the polling begins. The huge tax exemption limit will bring down the number of income tax payees from 6 crores to three crores. But riders may be attached when the Full Budget is presented by the government in July.

Any way, its a win win for Modi before the polls.


Monday, February 4, 2019

Govt buckles under Pressure

by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group

Govt buckles under Pressure

It will be Interim Budget now on February 1 

No tinkering with Income-tax code 

Harish Gupta
New Delhi, Jan 30 

Stung by wide-spread criticism of government's intentions to present a full budget on February 1, the Union Finance ministry today clarified that it will present an “interim budget” . 

Finance ministry officials denied reports in the media that it will be a full budget for the year 2019-20 by Union Finance Minister Piyush Goyal.  

The Ministry official asserted that it will be a vote-on-account, as the Lok Sabha elections are likely to be held in April and May. “The Budget will be called Interim Budget 2019-’20,” Ministry of Finance Official Spokesperson DK Joshi said today. 

The official asserted that there was no confusion in the ministry. However, if there is any policy announcement, it is not a budgetary exercise.

Obviously, the government wants to douse the fire on the issue after shouting from the roof-tops that it had every right to take into account the needs of the people and incorporate the same in the proposed Budget. In fact, Arun Jaitley asserted this in a statement before leaving for the USA for treatment. Some of the Cabinet Ministers of the Modi government have also been saying that several new schemes are at works. 

These assertions sparked condemnation by the Opposition and the Congress even threatened to stage protests if the government presents a full budget instead of a vote-on-account, which is a convention followed by outgoing administrations for decades. Congress leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma had said that such a step would be a “blatant violation of Constitutional propriety”.

Insiders in North Block, however, say that the Interim Budget may not propose any Income-tax related slab changes. But offering relief to targeted section will not fall in the full budget category. 

While several governments have tinkered with indirect taxes, most finance ministers have kept income tax rates unchanged in the interim budget.

In 1977-78, the then finance minister H M Patel  proposed to enable companies to make deposits with the industrial development bank  of india in lieu of payment of surcharge of income tax. The bill proposed the discontinuance of the duty on salt for the year.

In 1980-81, Finance Minister R Venkataram proposed income tax exemption for residents of Ladakh those assesses engaged in poverty alleviation, corporations or other bodies promoting the interests of the Scs/STs.  The Bills proposed to levy auxiliary duties of customs on all imported goods.

In 2004-05, Finance Minister Jaswant Singh proposed levy of national calamity contingent duty on certain items. Amendments  were proposed in baggage rules also. In 2014-15, even Finance Minister P Chidambaram proposed changes in customs duty structure on non-edible grade industrial oils, fatty acids and fatty alcohols, Exemption from countervailing duty on specified imported road  construction machinery withdrawn and Concessional customs duty on imported capital goods to encourage domestic production of security paper for printing currency notes