Arun Jaitley Raises H1B Visa Issue With US Commerce Secretary

Jaitley raised the H1B visa issue with the US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross and stressed the importance of Indian IT companies to both the economies.

Venkata Kondubhatla

Washington (DC):Jaitley raised the H1B visa issue with the US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross and stressed the importance of Indian IT companies to both the economies. Stressing the importance of the role played by the Indian skilled labor in the US, Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley brought up the H1B visa issue in his meeting with the US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, as per the reports.

Ross believed to have said that that Trump administration had asked the federal departments to review the H1B program and that they hadn’t made any decision on that yet. He reportedly said that the Trump administration wants to reform the H1B visa program to support a merit-based system.

The finance minister landed in Washington, D.C on Thursday morning, along with his delegation, to attend the meetings at International Monetary Fund and at the World Bank.

Jaitley taking the issue further believed to have stressed on the economic benefits both the countries had enjoyed because of the contributions of the IT companies and hoped it would continue.

The Trump administration has recently cracked down on the H1B visa abuses and signed an executive order directing the federal departments — Justice, Homeland Security, Labour and State — to review the program and come up with recommendations to use the program to allow only highly-skilled foreign workers.

The Indian IT companies depend a lot on H1B visa program and about 60 percent of the work comes from the US. The companies use the H1B visas to send their employees to the US to work on the projects, mostly to deal at the client’s end and coordinate between the US clients and the groups in India who implement the outsourced client’s work.

The companies will be impacted to some degree because of the tightening of the rules on the foreign workers.

Before heading back home, Jaitley will hold meetings with think tanks and Indian-American groups in the US.

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A Sensible, Conservative Budget By Jaitley

New Delhi: The budget proposals presented by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday were carefully designed without moving out of the comfort zone. They can be described as conservative.  While the proposals would cheer up the salaried sections, there is nothing for the youth to be happy about. The farm sector was promised more funds and loans but there was no word about the continuing suicides by farmers or about waiver of farm loans. It is not a bold budget. It is safe budget which has no risky proposal. The total layout of the budget is Rs 21.47 lakh crores for 2017-2018.

However, had there been any promise to waive farm loans, it would have been criticized as a move aimed at getting farmers’ votes in the five States that are going to polls. Similarly had the government made any proposal to put money in Jan Dhan Yojana Accounts, as popularly expected, it would have been flayed as abusing public exchequer in order to win over the poor in the ensuing elections. The government has desisted from these two temptations. Though the philosophy of the ruling dispensation is against subsidies or waiver of any loans, the putting money in Jan Dhan Yojan Accounts was well in its policy which is transferring cash to the poor instead of subsidies or doles.

Positive takeaways from the budget proposals: 1. Capping of cash donations to political parties at Rs 2,000 instead of the prevailing Rs 20,000. 2. Reduction in income tax rate 3. Increase in expenditure on health and education. 4. Improved layout for rural infrastructure. 5. Greater loan facilities for Dalits, women and minorities. 6. Focus on housing for the poor. 7. Digitalization of transactions. 8. Increasing the farmers’ income by 200 percent in five years. 9. Incentives for small and medium industries in terms tax concession.

The negative aspects are: 1. Lack of focus on employment creation 2. No word about the impact of demonetization. 3. Absence of mention about the fact that farmers have been committing suicide since 1998 and their problems remain unresolved. No creative idea was thrown up which helps in  going  to  the rescue of the hapless farmers. 4. No word on public sector banks which have been languishing in poor health due to disproportionately nonperforming advances.

PM Pats FM

After two hours taken by Arun Jaitley for presenting the budget proposals, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken good time to give his take on the budget proposals. He presented a positive picture of the budget which, according to him, is expected to help the people who are backward and downtrodden. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has commended the proposal. He complimented Arun Jaitley and his colleagues. He said the budget would improve conditions in rural area, agriculture and other sector. Modi described the budget as historic, a uttam budget.  It would modernize the railways. Safety of the passengers would be given priority. He said the proposals are aimed at increasing the income of farmers. He said the budget would bring change in the quality of lives of the people in rural areas. He said there are measures expected to bring people in unorganized sectors into organized sectors. Higher allocation would be made for Mahatma Gandhi NEREGA. He reiterated that the government’s war against black money would continue unabated. The PM said there is special emphasis on youth and creation of jobs, the opposition leaders pointed to the absence of any such emphasis. Employment generation would receive special focus. He said digital economy would be the focus area of the government. He described the income tax cut by 50% for those who have annual income of less than Rs 5 lakh as a bold move by the FM. Overall, the budget has shown the government’s commitment to the poor, said Modi.

As Rahul Gandhi, AICC Vice President, said while the nation was expecting fireworks in the budget it turned out to be a damp squib. He said there is no word about creation of employment for the youth and the budget was silent on waiver of farm loans. He said the budget has no vision and no roadmap.

Political Reform

The proposal to bring down the amount of cash donations to political parties from Rs 20,000 to Rs 2,000 is good. But there is no guarantee that this provision would not be taken advantage of by the political parties to accept the cash from a number of persons since there is no limit on the number of donors. If there is a mechanism in place to see that even those who donate Rs 2,000 in cash are accounted for and their names and other details are recorded, there could be some transparency and subsequent reduction in black money.

Though there were no direct references to proposal that would be obviously seen as politically motivated and aimed at getting votes in the ensuing elections, the repeated mention of poor, women and minorities is seen as election rhetoric. The FM said the government proposed to build one crore house for the houseless poor by 2019. He proposed to increase the layout for PM Awas Yojan to Rs 23,000 crore. 

Jaitley said there was an increase in Direct Tax collections by 34 % after demonetization. Holding period for LTCG for Land & Building reduced to 2 years. 5 % tax exemption would be extended to companies having turnover below Rs 50 crores.

The middleclass and the salaried class would be happy to know that income less than Rs 3 lakhs would not be taxed. Income upto Rs 5 lakh would attract a tax of 5 percent instead of 10 percent as is the practice so far. As GST (Goods and Services Tax) is about to be implemented soon, there was no major changes in indirect taxes were proposed. He said the GST is almost ready for implementation as a consensus was reached among all the States after a prolonged and detailed discussion in a spirited way.

Unmanned Railway Crossings To Disappear

A ‘Rail Raksha Sanraksha Koch’ with a corpus of Rs 1 lakh crore in the course of five years would be created, according the FM. Unmanned railway crossing would disappear before 2020. Railway line to the extent of 3,500 km will be commissioned in 2017-18, said Arun Jaitley. He said 500 railway stations would be made convenient for the differently-abled with lifts and escalators. There would be solar plants at more railway stations. All trains would have bio-toilets and a Coach Mitra facility would come up. Service charge on tickets booked at IRCTC would be withdrawn. The tariffs would be fixed basing on the competition and quality of service, said the FM.

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Rs 2.5 lakhs for marriage

Rs 500 notes at 22,500 ATMs

exchange amount cut

New Delhi: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday that new currency notes of Rs 500 denomination was made available in 22,500 ATMs. He said there were some two lakh ATM machines across the country. Due to technical problems, most of the ATMs are yet to be calibrated. New software has been done in 22,500 ATMs where the new notes of Rs 500 would be available, he added.

Jaitley has clarified that there was no plan to re-introduce Rs 1,000 currency note. The Union government has given relief to the people for making marriage arrangements. For this purpose, one member of the family can withdraw Rs 2.50 lakhs, he said. He also said in an attempt to keep a watch on the black money, it has been decided to decrease exchange of old notes to Rs 2000 from Rs 4,500.


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All praise for Modi, no word on Special Status

  • Special Package is better, asserts Jaitley

Vijayawada: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has all the praise for Prime Minister Narendra Modi but no assurance on granting Special Status to AP despite a strong demand from opposition parties.

Addressing a party workers’ meeting in Vijayawada on Friday, Jaitley asserted that the country has a strong leadership led by Modi who has established a new political culture in India. Modi was constantly working for development of the country and had the courage to take tough decisions in the larger interests of the country, he said. Referring to national security, the Union minister said that the country’s security would not be comprised at any cost.

Recalling his association with Union Minister for Urban Development M Venkaiah Naidu from his student days, Jaitley said it was Venkaiah, who always protected the interests of the residual State of Andhra Pradesh which has deficit budget. The Centre was extending all possible assistance to the state for its development through Special Assistance Package which is more than the help that comes in the case of Special Category status. He said the previous Congress-led UPA government at the Centre gave only Rs 69,298 crore in five years to then united Andhra Pradesh whereas the Modi government, after the state’s bifurcation, would give Rs 2,03,174 crores in five years to help revenue-deficit AP.

Venkaiah Naidu, Ashok Gajapati Raju, Sujana Choudhary, AP State BJP president and MP Haribabu were among those present at the meeting. Earlier, Jaitley laid the foundation stone for the state administrative building complex at Lingayapalem under Talluru mandal in Guntur district in Amaravati. The administrative block would be built in 950 acres at an estimated cost of Rs 5,600 crores.


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Arun Jaitley sets credibility as yardstick for police

  • Tells IPS probationers to be committed

Hyderabad: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has called for deployment of modern tools to fight terrorism as the nature of crime is changing.

Addressing the Passing out Parade of 68th batch probationers of Indian Police Service at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy in Hyderabad on Friday, Jaitley said, “crime is no longer conventional; new forms of crimes such as cyber crime have emerged.”

Addressing the IPS probationers, Jaitley said: “There are opportunities and struggles for you during your career. The day you pass out, your greatest possession should be credibility. You will be able to judge yourself on that one yard stick of credibility.”

The Union minister advised the young IPS officers to be committed to the cause of service, be humble, adhere to ethics and moralities and maintain professional standards. “When you are standing at the crossroads, just remember basic principles of life and when are you in doubt, just go straight, cutting to corners or choosing the easier path may bring you some momentary advantage but certainly not the long term advantage,” said Jaitley.

In her welcome address, Director of the National Police Academy Aruna Bahuguna said, in the new role as leaders and decision-makers, IPS probationers are fortunate to be benefited from 21st century technology and the immense power of information and data that ensures the facts at the disposal that were earlier just conjecture, she said. The NPA Director urged foreign trainees from Bhutan, Nepal and Maldives to carry the message of professional policing in the service of the people, taught during the 45 weeks of training period.

Jaitley also reviewed the Parade and took the general salute from the Parade. He presented trophies to meritorious IPS officer trainees. The Prime Minister’s Baton and Home Ministry’s Revolver for the Best All Round Probationer was presented to Rishikesh Bhagawan Sonawane.  Chaitra Teresa John won the Best Lady IPS Probationer Trophy. In all, 109 IPS probationers, including 26 lady officers, six officers from the Royal Bhutan Police Service, five from Nepal Police Service and four from the Maldives Police Service underwent the training.


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Jagan demands CM’s Resignation

  • Questions midnight announcement
  • Appeals for support to bandh

Hyderabad: YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, opposition leader in AP, has demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu for letting down the people. CM should apologise to the people for welcoming the midnight statement of Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley denying Special Status to AP.

Chandrababu Naidu has not been allowing the opposition to speak in the Assembly. The CM has mortgaged the interests of the people of AP at the feet of the NDA government to save his skin in the ‘Note for Vote’ case in which he was caught red handed. Jagan questioned the midnight statement by Arun Jaitley. Thousands of unemployed have been waiting for jobs for more than two and half years. Had the Special Category Status been granted, industries would have been established in AP and numerous jobs would have been created. Denying the status is to deprive the youths of jobs, said YS Jagan.

Jagan said Arun Jaitley has done nothing special to AP. All the institutions that are coming to AP are there in other States fit years. He questioned Arun Jaitley’s claim the the 14th Finance Commission was against Special Status. Abhijit Singh, a member of the Finance Commission, write to Rajya Sabha Member Jairam  Ramesh that the Finance Commission did not recommend abolition of Special Category Status. Even if the Commission has recommended such a move it is not binding on the government. Why did Venkaiah Naidu insist in Rajya Sabha on Special Status when the Re-organisation Bill was being debated if the status is not very important, asked Jagan.

YS Jagan listed various benefits that would flow into the State if Special Status were to be given. He appealed to the people to support the bandh.

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Centre Says No Special Status

  • Special Assistance for AP

(Primepost Bureau)

New Delhi: The NDA government made it officially clear that Andhra Pradesh will get special assistance but not special status.

After a day-long deliberations, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Information & Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu held joint media conference late in Wednesday evening at 11.00 pm. They said the revenue deficit faced by AP would be made good by the centre. Construction of Polavaram project is centre’s responsibility. The Union government would also help in building capital. Various departments would take care of the promises made in the Reorganisation Act.

Jaitley said AP would be getting all the benefits promised by the outgoing prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh. Saying that there was nothing wrong in AP asking for a special status, only north-eastern States and hilly State of Himachal Pradesh are entitled for special status. The 14th Finance Commission had ruled out special status for any more States, explained Jaitley.

1 Response

  1. September 16, 2016

    […] by Central Government?  Naidu was saying repeatedly that he will not accept anything other than special status to the […]

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Expectations On Package

(Primepost Bureau)

New Delhi: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu have been extremely busy throughout Wednesday cooking up a package to be offered to Andhra Pradesh in lieu of Special Status. Almost all the Telugu news channels had cancelled the important 9 pm news bulletins expecting Arun Jaitley to make the announcement. TDP Minister Sujana Chowdary was seen making rounds to Finance Ministry several times. TDP MP CM Ramesh also met Jaitley briefly. Another TDP MP Narayana also was involved. AP Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu, on the other hand, was busy talking to Jaitley on phone and also confabulating with the available ministers at Amaravati. Jaitley was slated to make the statement at 6.30 pm first. Then it was postponed to 8 pm. The statement has not been made till 10.20 pm when this report is composed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly told Jaitley before leaving on a foreign tour that a decision can be announced in his absence. However, Jaitley had sent the proposed package to the Prime Minister’s Office(PMO) as an abundant precaution. The statement was also faxed to AP CM. Officers in the PMO were also talking to AP CM on finer details. While Chandrababu Naidu kept on repeating that he was insisting on the Special Status, he was helping Jaitley in preparing the package. The governments at the centre and in the State maintained that a package would be given in lieu of the special status but the package would most probably contain an aggregation of all the promises made in the AP Re-organisation Act, 2014.

In the meanwhile the AP leaders of the BJP were upset that they were not involved in the process. They cannot derive any mileage if they are not asked for inputs. They wish to be seen as involved.

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  1. September 16, 2016

    […] Why did Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu accept the package offered by Central Government?  Naidu was saying repeatedly that he will not accept anything other […]

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All set for trade union strike on Friday

New Delhi: On Friday, employees and workers, both organized and un-organized, belonging to various sectors appear to be participating in a big way in nation-wide strike. They are demanding  better pay and protesting against  new labour and investment policies.

The overtures made by the government to persuade the trade unions to withdraw the strike did not yield any result.

Banks, government offices and factories to be closed. In some states, local unions have agree to join the strike which is likely to affect the public transport. The workers of state-run Coal India Ltd are among those joining the strike.

Trade unions including the All India Trade Unions Congress and Centre of Indian Trade Unions rejected a government appeal on Tuesday to call off the strike, saying it failed to address their demands.

They have objected to the government loosening the norms for foreign investment in areas like insurance and defense. They are also opposed to  a plan to close loss-making state-run firms.

The government aims to raise Rs. 55,907 crore ($8.35 billion) through privatization this fiscal year, and shut down some companies. The trade unions are opposed to weakening the public sector in this way.

To persuade the unions, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Tuesday that the government will release state employees’ bonuses for the last two years, and increase minimum wages for unskilled labour.

The unions also oppose a government directive to state-run pension funds to put more money into stock markets. The trade unions consider pension funds to be a life time savings and should not be subjected to the vagaries of stock markets.

The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, which is l affiliated with the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the BJP, is not joining the strike. The BMS did not join the strike of 2nd September 2015 also but units affiliated to it at various centers joined the strike.

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A Budget of Boasts & Hopes .. and a bit of good luck

Vithal Rajan

In the Economic Survey strategically released a few days before the Budget, Arvind Subramanian, its architect and the government’s Chief Economic Advisor, had already prepared us for the Finance Minister’s boastful elation. However, unlike Arun Jaitley, he had added other reasons than good governance in the preceding few NDA months to help India reach a ‘sweet spot’ for economic growth. Crude oil prices had fallen dramatically from above $ 100 a barrel to less than $ 60 a barrel under American and Saudi joint action to bring political pressure on Russia and Iran, both oil producing countries with higher costs. Low inflation resulting from expected food grain production, and a normal monsoon were the other volatile factors contributing to Indian economic stability. If these turned against Indian economic forecasts, as they have in the past, the ‘sweet spot’ could disappear in bitter political wrangling. But the moment was with the Finance Minister and he made the most of it.

Vithal Rajan PhotoHis confident speech started with a long list of what needs to be done, reminding an older listener about a very similar list prepared by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr Mahalanobis at the dawn of independence. What had not been done in the last sixty odd years, Jaitley confidently expects would be accomplished by 2022 when his government hopes to celebrate the Amrut Mahotsov of India. Nor was this the first time that an Indian politician has promised that all Indians would get jobs, houses, schools, hospitals, happiness – not just yet…but soon.

With a dark thunderstorm brewing in parliament over the land acquisition bill, he started with the government’s commitment to farmers. He led with his determination to increase irrigation, as many of his predecessors had done. From the time of Pandit Nehru, politicians have not been able to see beyond the interests of the large farmers with land in command areas and under ayacuts. Mr. Jaitley, to do him justice, made passing references to organic agriculture, soil improvement, micro-irrigation, rural infrastructure, and farm credit, but it seemed unclear to all listeners – and perhaps to him as well – who would benefit and to what extent. A national agricultural marketing network is very welcome, but no one is clear how the millions of poor farmers can connect with it. No strategy came to light how help would be given to communities of farmers on rain fed lands, who are the great majority of poor, small farmers in deadly peril, precisely because this government like the rest is clueless about their living and working conditions, or about rural life at the vast bottom of our caste-class human pyramid. Their economists know how to help corporate India, large farmers and landlords who garner votes, and maybe even the middle classes. After Gandhiji, perhaps no Indian politician has thought long about the vast numbers of the poor, except vaguely to send them good wishes.

The Prime Minister has spoken often about single window access to services. His bureaucracy continues to be autocratic, moored to its colonial heritage, with babu satraps defending their turfs. It will take many more years than the seven to Amrut Mahotsov to create a genuine civil service, which is both civil to, and which serves, people, especially the poor. The PM’s and the Finance Minister’s emphasis on the urgent need to build up rural infrastructure is sound in theory, but it lacks experiential detailing at India’s several thousand local levels. Roads and electric poles alone will not do. A cluster of support needs to be created around every poor farming community, and this cannot be done well without local political empowerment. A larger sharing of tax revenues with States’ leaders, in which the government takes so much pride, is far from strengthening the panchayat raj institutions, and their communities.

‘Make in India’ is another sound slogan, and the government correctly focuses on energising manufacturing, which has excess capacity in many sectors, lacking effective demand, even for its major automobile industry. But reducing corporate tax from 30% to 25% over the next five years, or reducing regulatory hassles for foreign direct investment are not enough to increase demand, which ultimately depends on purchasing power of the people. If industry cannot create a wide domestic market, it cannot be competitive in exports either, especially in a global scenario dominated by the Chinese.

The Finance Minister has taken the welcome step of setting up the Micro Units Development Refinance Agency [MUDRA] bank to aid the 5.77 crore SME units mostly owned by SCs, STs, and OBCs. However, if this is not to join other failed well-intentioned schemes, he must also help create a growth climate in the localities where these units are situated.  He can solve his dilemma only by creating strong associations of poor farming communities, that is for the major part of India’s population, and this will require political will, bureaucratic renewal, and the understanding of local difficulties above all.

Kiran Shaw, founder of Biocon, and Keki Mistry, CEO of HDFC, both in television audiences for the Budget speech, pleaded ably for government to help industry increase investment cycles to create more jobs. Arvind Panagariya, the Vice Chairman of the Niti Aayog, the new planning commission with a Hindi name, also applauded the government for its pro-corporate leanings. However, bitter experience in this country and several others has shown that corporate job creation is expensive, and the best use of public money is in the social sector to allow community synergies to create the millions of jobs that are urgently needed for our sizeable youth population from among the poor. The Finance Minister himself stressed a few times the financial squeeze he was under. Coupled with his commitment to keep fiscal deficit under 4% of GDP and inflation below 6%, he should be careful where he puts his money and for what purpose.

 The government can certainly take credit for their excellent Jan Dhan scheme which has extended banking services to the poor, so long denied with impunity. The newly declared insurance and pension schemes for the poor are also good and welcome. A cess of 2% on the income of the super-rich exceeding Rs one crore a year was also announced, with the discontinuation of the wealth tax. Another populist announcement of 7-years imprisonment for hoarding money abroad may have played to the galleries, but sober voices from the TV audiences wondered whether this could be turned into a witch hunt of political opponents. As Sachin Pilot wisely reminded everyone, it is surety of punishment, not its severity, that is needed. Another policy of doubtful merit is the institution of a new Monetary Policy Committee to oversee the RBI which has had an excellent record so far as an autonomous body without much governmental interference.

A slew of yoganas and schemes were announced as was to be expected. Ultimately it all depends on proper implementation as Adi Godrej, past president of the Confederation of Indian Industry, reminded the TV audiences. The Finance Minister is placing a great deal of hope on Public-Private-Partnership not only to pull in investments into large infrastructure schemes but also perhaps to enliven a red-tape bound bureaucracy. The Telangana experience casts doubts on his enthusiasm, since the unique Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas [PURA] PPP project, first conceived by Dr. AJP Abdul Kalam himself when he was President, has so far not seen the light of day in Warangal, even after five years, though it was declared as the best in the country!

Referring to his financial squeeze, Arun Jaitley gestured to parliamentarians and others to give up their LPG subsidies. If he were really serious he would have looked into the structure of under-recoveries by the oil companies. Though they have come down substantially due to the temporary drop in crude oil prices, they could once again reach towards the 150,000 lakh crore mark if oil prices bounce back with a vengeance to make up for lost profits. Brazil, one of our BRICS partners, has hedged against this danger, by fitting almost all of its road transport with ethanol using engines. The technology is well established, with Henry Ford himself first making use of ethanol. India as a major producer of sugarcane can easily supply all the ethanol we need for road transport. A few crore farmers would also benefit since sugar factories can then maintain a steady demand for cane to convert to ethanol when there is over production of sugar. It appears the liquor lobby obstructs such moves for fear of increasing costs.

PDS kerosene cost the exchequer anywhere from Rs 25000 to 30000 crores in subsidies. Solar-powered LED lighting came of age some years back. Despite all governments making polite noises about promoting off-grid solar energy appliances, the regulations of its Ministry of New & Renewable Energy are among the most arcane devised by an obfuscating bureaucracy, hindering solar energy development.

Perhaps the greatest enemies of the Modi government are its claque of supporters at home and in the Indian diaspora. Too many expectations have been heaped on this fledgling government, ensuring disappointment and anger when these fail to materialise within the next five years. Social, political, religious, and historic issues intertwine in this saga of development, as noted long ago by Gunnar Myrdal, and no superman can produce success without painful, long drawn out, negotiations with, and among, several thousand communities. Modi and his ministers should warn the Indian people, as Churchill did to his people in a time of war and crises, that what we have to look forward to is a time of work, sweat and tears. As Modi himself pointed out in his parliamentary oratory the day before the budget, we must all come together to fight against poverty. So, it is not an invitation to a party but a massive social struggle. The Finance Minister should be careful not to paint too rosy a picture.

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No change in tax slabs but some sops for middle class

NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley disappointed the middle class by belying expectations that he would hike the exemption limit from the existing Rs. 2.50 lakhs per annum.

These expectations were based on the belief that the BJP-led NDA Government would seek to repay to the middle-class by way of tax sops for voting for it in the 2014 general elections. Mr. Jaitley resisted this temptation but extended a number of benefits to the middle-class tax payers which he described as the fifth pillar of his taxation proposals. They are:

  • Increase in the limit of deduction in respect of health insurance premium from `15,000 to `25,000.
  • For senior citizens the limit will stand increased to `30,000 from the existing `20,000.
  • For very senior citizens of the age of 80 years or more, who are not covered by health insurance, deduction of ` 30,000 towards expenditure incurred on their treatment will be allowed.
  • The deduction limit of ` 60,000 towards expenditure on account of specified diseases of serious nature is proposed to be enhanced to `80,000 in case of very senior citizens.
  • Additional deduction of ` 25,000 will be allowed for differently abled persons under Section 80DD and Section 80U of the Income-tax Act.
  • The limit on deduction on account of contribution to a Pension Fund and the New Pension Scheme is proposed to be increased from`1 lakh to `1.5 lakh.
  • To provide social safety net and the facility of pension to individuals, an additional deduction of ` 50,000 is proposed to be provided for contribution to the New Pension Scheme under Section 80CCD. This will enable India to become a pensioned society instead of a pensionless society.
  • Investments in Sukanya Samriddhi Scheme are already eligible for deduction under Section 80C. All payments to the beneficiaries including interest payment on deposit will also be fully exempt.
  • Transport allowance exemption is being increased from Rs. 800 to Rs. 1,600 per month.
  • For the benefit of senior citizens, service tax exemption will be provided on Varishta Bima Yojana.

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Protests in Parliament over Land Acquisition Bill

HYDERABAD: The Land Acquisition Bill, which has kicked up a political storm, was introduced in the Lok Sabha amid vociferous opposition and a walk out by the Congress while non-NDA members in the Rajya Sabha slammed the legislation on Tuesday for being anti-farmer.

The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill 2015, which was tabled in the Lower House, seeks to replace an ordinance promulgated in December 2014.

Minister for Rural Development Birender Singh, who introduced the Bill, said the Government was willing to discuss the objections received from the members as and when the Bill was taken into consideration. However, Congress members, who stridently opposed the Bill at the introduction stage itself, staged a noisy walk out.

Congress governments promulgated 639 ordinances: Jaitley

The NDA Government faced flak in the Rajya Sabha too with Mr. Anand Sharma (Congress) leading the charge. Supported by the other Opposition parties, the Congress leader accused the Government of “bypassing” Parliament to benefit corporate houses at the cost of farmers and small landowners.

The Congress and three other parties had given notice under Rule 267 for suspension of the business on the ground that the Government had bypassed Parliament to make changes in a law that was passed in 2013 through consensus of all political parties including the BJP.

However, Finance Minister and Leader of the House Arun Jaitley, in a spirited rebuttal, said 639 ordinances had been promulgated since 1950 of which 80 per cent were done under the watch of Mr. Anand Sharma’s party. Of them 70 ordinances were promulgated under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, a leader respected by all.  Also, many ordinances that were promulgated multiple times.

Mr. Jaitley pointed out that no law could be passed without the Parliament’s approval and there was no question of bypassing it. He reminded members that a Bill to convert the ordinance into an Act was listed for introduction in the Lok Sabha. It would be brought to the Rajya Sabha for discussion after consideration by the Lower House.

Mr. Anand Sharma said ordinances under Jawaharlal Nehru’s Government were promulgated over a period of 17 years under extraordinary circumstances after the Constitution came into being in 1950. Mr. Sharad Yadav of the JD (U) said the Government was bulldozing on Parliamentary scrutiny while Ms. Mayawati (BSP) said the passage of the Land Acquisition Bill in 2013 was preceded by extensive consultations.

Meanwhile, activist Anna Hazare and several other leaders including Medha Patkar staged a dharna at Jantar Mantar protesting against the Land Acquisition Bill.  Ms. Patkar also condemned the Andhra Government for arm-twisting farmers in Krishna-Guntur belt to hand over their lands for land pooling to build the new capital.

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Paradigm shift in Indian politics?

  • Arun Jaitley says the shift has taken place in last elections
  • Says there was not a whimper of protest against the ordinances
  • Reforms in coal mining, land acquisition were welcomed, says FM
  • Modi did a Thatcher with little difficulty

(K Kaushik)

New Delhi, January 18: There has been a paradigm shift in Indian politics in recent years, according to Union Finance & Information Minister Arun Jaitley. Speaking at a function organized by TV news channel CNN-IBN on Saturday, Arun Jaitley said the old ideas of political family succession, caste and region did not influence the outcome of the elections in May 2014. He said the people of India have, for the first time, started factoring economic development into their electoral decision.

Is it real or a figment of FM’s imagination? Or is it wishful thinking? Is it true that the economic policies were central to the decision of the people of India to vote for the BJP led by Narendra Modi? Or was it on account of anger against the UPA-II that they cast their votes desperately for Modi. The people may have voted for Modi, even enthusiastically and positively, but not necessarity for Modinomics, as Jaitley seems to be interpreting.

Arun jaitley pointed out that when the Iron Lady of England Margaret Thatcher introduced reforms in coal mines there was a strike in the coal mines for more than two and half years. When Narendra Modi government got an ordinance issued introducing reforms in coal policy, there was hardly any protest. This shows the people in India have come to realise that economic reforms are necessary and wealth has to be produced at any cost, Jaitley explained.

It is true that there was not much of a protest in the country in the wake of the controversial ordinances. But it does not mean there was no opposition or anger. It only means that the Left parties and the Congress party are yet to recover from the blow they received in the recent general election and organize themselves. It is also true that the Modi government is going through the honeymoon period and it is too early to launch mass demonstrations.  There has been a lot of debate on the amendments to the Land Acquistion Act 2013 which were sought to be affected through an ordinance by President Pranab Mukherjee. It is said that the president asked fiancé minister about the urgency in signing the ordinances and Jaitley advised the president that the matter was very urgent and could not brook any delay. He is said to have explained to the president that many proposals to establish industries are put on hold because of the difficulty on account of the Act in acquiring land from the farmers.

There was a very interesting debate in NDTV and The Headlines Today in which ativists like Medha Patkar participated. The ordinance is described as anti-farmer and pro-industry. Taking into consideration the fact that the farmers comprise more than fifty percent of population in the country, Jaetley’s optimism appears to be misplaced. It may be a fact that the farmers are not organized. It is not a fact that the ordinance was accepted by the farmers or welcomed by them as Jaitley appears to be suggesting. Even if the farmers are not organized, they would give vent to their anger when the time to vote comes next.

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Assets of 16 ministers increased in 5 months

  • Railway Minister’s wealth increased by 106%

  • PM’s assets declined by 24%

  • 91% of Union Minister are Crorepatis


New Delhi, October 25: The assets declared by all union ministers showed an increase in the wealth of 16 ministers, who are from Loksabha, in the last five months. The increase of assets can also be seen in case of Ministers from Rajya Sabha also. The latest details furnished by union ministers to Prime Minister’s office revealed all these facts.cabinet ministers 1

As per the Code of Conduct issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs one shall declare his/her assets after assuming the office as a minister. The details to be disclosed shall consist of particulars of all immovable property and the total approximate value of shares and debentures; cash holdings and jewellery. Such a Statement of assets and liabilities could be in respect of the financial year for which the income tax return has already been filed by the Minister. After taking office, and so long as he/she remains in office, the Minister shall furnish annually by 31st August to the Prime Minister, a declaration regarding the details of assets and liabilities of himself and of members of his family for the previous financial year.

As per this policy, all the 45 union ministers submitted their details of assets to PM’s office.

sadananda gowa

Sadananda Gowda, Minister for Railway

According to this data, the railway minister DV Sadananda Gowda’s who is first among such 16 ministers assets increased by 106%. His assets increased by Rs. 10.46 crore, which is 106%. As per his affidavit filed during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, his assets worth was Rs. 9,88,88,874, which has reached to Rs. 20,35,65,477 now (Oct 10, 2014).

Pon Radhakrishnan 1

Pon Radhakrishnan, Minister for Industries and Public Enterprises

The assets of Minister of States (independent charge) for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Pon Radha Krishnan rose by Rs. 2.98 crore, which is 73%. The worth of his assets (as per 2014 election affidavit) was Rs. 4,09,63,269, which became now Rs. 7,07,68,564. The Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s assets also rose by mere 1%, which is about Rs. 1.01 crore. The worth of his assets was Rs. 113,02,16,000 during 2014 elections (as per affidavit) and now reached to Rs. 114,03,40,370.

Out of the total 45 ministers in Modi’s cabinet, 37 are from Lok Sabha and the remaining 8 are from Rajya Sabha. Out of the 37 Ministers (Lok Sabha) the assets of 16 ministers increased in the last five months and there was no change in details of 9 ministers. But the worth of assets of twelve ministers, including the PM, showed a decline.

narendra modi

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister

The worth of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assets decreased from his earlier (as per affidavit in 2014 elections) by Rs. 39.79 lakhs. The worth of his assets was Rs. 1,65,91,582 in May 2014, but decreased to Rs.1,26,12,288, which is about 24%. Likewise the assets of Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj also decreased by 22%, i.e., from her earlier Rs. 17,55,16,422 (May 2014) to Rs. 13,65,42,170, followed by Minister Harshavardhan’s assets decreased by 45%, which was from Rs. 2.82 crore to Rs. 1.54 crore. The decline may be around Rs. 1.28 crore. The Minister of State for Development of North-Eastern Region Gen (retd). VK Singh assets also decreased by 76% (from Rs. 4.11 crore to Rs. 98.27 lakh).

piyush goyal

Piyush Goyal, Minister for Power and Coal

Whereas the assets of Minister for Power and Coal Piyush Goyal rose by 212% in the last four years. He was elected to Rajya Sabha in 2010, when his assets’ worth was Rs. 30.34 crore, but increased to Rs. 64.31 crore, which is higher than any other minister from Rajya Sabha.

ravi shankar prasad

Ravi Shankar Prasad , Union Law Minister

There was increase in assets of Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad (Rajyasabha-2012) about 37% (from Rs. 13.26 crore to Rs. 18.11 crore, followed by minister Najma Hepthulla by Rs. 2.81 crore, which is about 10% (from Rs. 26.88 crore to Rs. 29.69 cores) and Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu’s assets rose by 28% (Rs. 7.72 crore to Rs. 9.91 crore). The assets of another minister Thawarchand Gehlot (social justice and empowerment) also rose by 323%, which is about Rs. 2.78 crores (from Rs. 86.12 lakhs in 2012 to Rs. 3.64 crore in 2014).

There was no significant change in the assets of about nine minsters (Lok Sabha) and minister Nirmala Seetharaman (Rajya Sabha) from their earlier declarations.

arun jaitely

Arun Jaitely, Minister for Finance

The details furnished by Finance Minister Aruna Jaitely showed the purchase of a residential building worth about Rs. 1.02 crore in Amritsar (3060 sq. ft area spread in Tungabala Urban Green Avenue) on April11, 2014.

The cause of changes in assets for many Ministers is largely due to the lack of any standardized format for ministers’ asset declarations. Many Ministers have not given the value for many assets declared. Not declaring the value of assets in the Ministers’ declaration is akin to not making a disclosure at all. Some Ministers have not given the present market value of the immovable assets.

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