Kashmiriyat, GST And Indian Economic History

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Updated: Thu, 18 May 2017 21:54:35 IST Updated: Thu, 18 May 2017

Few could have imagined that Srinagar would be the host city for the crucial meeting of the GST Council. And even fewer realise the significance of the moment: It is creating unprecedented history.

As a venue, given the state of near conflict the city finds itself in thanks to sponsored cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, Srinagar is an unlikely choice. Consequently, it has provided all stakeholders, who believe in a different future for Kashmir, to rewrite the negative narrative of the state.

Finance Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Haseeb Drabu thinks so, though he sees the impulses working out differently.

“I don’t think this will change the narrative. But what it does (is), it also brings a different perspective to the city and state. There is obviously a huge amount of conflict here, there is no denying that. But there are other things as well. It is a much more layered reality; a much more complex reality. I would call it the Rashmonian reality of Kashmir—there are lots of layers to it, lots of angles to it. And somehow the media only focuses on one aspect,” he said in an interview to a business daily. 

Drabu is right. Day in and day out all we get to see on Kashmir are stone pelters or encounters with terrorists exported from Pakistan.

The media forgets that yes while there is conflict, the state does have a life. And now Kashmir is at the centre of one of the most high-profile reform efforts: GST.

The moment also captures the significance of the new federal polity promoted by the BJP-led NDA. “I personally feel that we are in transition from a coercive federalism to a cooperative federalism en route to competitive federalism. That is where ultimately a lot of political issues will get resolved,” said Drabu.

At the meeting, Mamata Banerjee’s West Bengal was isolated -- in the face of an otherwise universal support to the country’s most radical tax reform so far -- on the question of an elastic deadline for rolling out GST.

The two-day meet has been convened to work out product-specific rates while deciding on slabs for service tax. Most issues, in view of the overwhelming support from most states, are expected to be ironed out at this meeting of the GST Council, which is the highest decision-making body for the implementation of the new tax.

On day one of the meeting, West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra stood out like a sore thumb in the meet, where most states -- cutting across party lines -- assured Finance Minister Arun Jaitley that they were working on rolling out the GST from July. Mitra, however, told the gathering that businesses in his state were not ready for a transition and that pushing it through at this juncture could adversely impact the economy and state finances.

While the Centre is determined to work towards the July 1 deadline, Mitra himself refused to recommend a date by which West Bengal would be comfortable rolling out the GST. The outer limit for the rollout of the country’s biggest tax reform is mid-September, going by the one year window provided by the relevant Constitutional amendment.  

Given that, there were some suggestions that perhaps it would be a better idea to implement the GST from September instead of July 1. None, though, were in sync with Mitra’s own open ended suggestion to delay the rollout of the GST until such time as businesses in his state found themselves “ready” for the landmark move.

Interestingly, for all the bitter relations between the AAP and the ruling BJP back in the nation's Capital, even Delhi deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia showed willingness to launch the GST by July 1, as desired by the Centre. However, he urged the Centre to come up with a clearer definition of service where it is delivered. The current definition, it was felt, was “vague.”

Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac said most issues had by and large been ironed out. “It’s only a question of details, now and it is almost decided that we will work towards the July 1 GST rollout deadline. However, we need to ensure that the exercise is revenue-neutral and not impact customers,” he said.

Among the key issues that were being battled out among states on day one of the meet was the minimum levy that had to be imposed on gold. Kerala has demanded a minimum levy of 5 pc on gold. “Gold is luxury, not a necessity. In the last one decade, price has quadrupled and nobody had any problem. So, what is the big trouble with a 5% tax,” Isaac said, justifying his position.

States including Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, however, do not see eye to eye with Kerala and are keen on a one per cent tax on the precious metal that many across the country still buy, not just as a luxury item, but as a crucial investment instrument.

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Washington Rolling Out Red Carpet For ‘Special Visitor’ Modi

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Updated: Sat, 24 Jun 2017 10:02:06 IST Updated: Sat, 24 Jun 2017

The White House is looking forward to robust discussions taking place between U.S. President Donald Trump and visiting Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It will be Modi's first meeting with the President though the two leaders have spoken over phone at least thrice since the latter assumed office.

"President Trump and Indian Prime Minister Modi will discuss ongoing cooperation, including counterterrorism, defence partnership in the Indo-Pacific region, global cooperation, burden-sharing, trade, law enforcement, and energy. I think it's going to be a very robust discussion," news agency ANI quoted the White House spokesman Sean Spicer as saying during a press briefing on Friday.

"The White House is very interested in making this a special visit. We're really seeking to roll out the red carpet. In fact, the two (leaders) will have dinner, a working dinner at the White House. This will be the first dinner for a foreign dignitary at the White House under this administration. So, we think that's very significant," a senior administration official was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.

This meeting comes at a time when Trump made critical comments about India while announcing America's decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. President Trump has accused India and other countries of trying to extract "billions and billions and billions" of dollars in foreign aid from the developed world to sign up for the climate accord.

In spite of the difference on some issues, Prime Minister Modi's discussions with Trump are likely to find a common approach on matters related to South Asia, particularly the rise in infiltration from neighbouring Pakistan, terrorism and India's case for a seat in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Modi has reiterated India's support to the Paris Agreement and said he is willing to go further than what has been committed under the Paris accord. 

Modi's three-nation tour started today with Portugal being the first stop to be followed by the US on June 25 and 26, and the Netherlands on June 27. The Prime Minister yesterday said that he intends to strengthen ties with all the three nations. "My USA visit is aimed at deepening ties between our nations. Strong India-USA ties benefit our nations & the world,” he said. “My visit to Netherlands seeks to boost bilateral ties & deepen economic cooperation," he added.

He is expected to hold talks with his Portuguese counterpart Antonio Costa.

"We are working on several documents to strengthen India-Portugal economic, scientific and cultural engagements and we expect to finalise and sign these documents essentially which are in the nature of memorandum of understanding," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said yesterday.

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UPA Prez Pick Meira Kumar Is A Prime Squatter In Lutyens’ Delhi

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Updated: Sat, 24 Jun 2017 09:45:43 IST Updated: Sat, 24 Jun 2017

Should Meira Kumar get the better of Ram Nath Kovind in the presidential elections---- chances of that are as remote as June snowfall in Delhi----controversy will hound her right into the Rashtrapati Bhavan. 

RTI activist Subhas Chandra Agrawal is getting set to ask the Union Government to regenerate and recover a rent-bill of Rs 1.98 crores due from Kumar, the UPA’s presidential candidate. The unpaid bills were due for utilities and rent for the sprawling bungalow at 6, Krishna Menon Marg in Lutyens’ Delhi. 

Not only were the dues waived but, Agrawal's petition says, the bungalow was “kept forcibly and illegally occupied as an unofficial memorial of the late Babu Jagjivan Ram after the death of Indrani Devi, his widow.” 

Agrawal learnt, in response to a query under the RTI, that the UPA government waived Rs 1.98 crore rent bill of former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar for the 6 Krishna Menon Marg bungalow she occupied. The response from Directorate of Estates said subsequent to a CIC-verdict with both Directorate of Estates and the Lok Sabha Secretariat confirming a rent bill of Rs 1.98 crore against Kumar was cancelled, curiously enough, without any request on record. Given that, Agrawal, has in his petition demanded that the Central government should re-generate the rent-bill for recovery because the bungalow was "forcibly and illegally" occupied by Kumar. She had converted it into an unofficial memorial of late Babu Jagjivan Ram after the death of his wife, Smt Indrani Devi. 

Worse, she was granted a 25-year lease on the bungalow, allowing her to squat on prime property in the middle of the sylvan and uppity part of the Capital until, hold your breath, 2038. Her father Jagjivan Ram, former deputy PM and Congress leader from the Dalit community, had lived in that bungalow until his death in 1986. 

According to Agrawal, the UPA regime had allotted this bungalow to the Babu Jagjivan Ram Foundation in order to justify its decision to let the bungalow at Krishna Menon Marg remain occupied well after Jagjivan Ram's demise. Earlier, the Vajpayee government had prohibited any further conversion of government-bungalows in the Lutyens’ zone of New Delhi into memorials. However, the UPA government headed by Manmohan Singh had deliberately not allotted the bungalow to anyone officially for a prolonged period, he argued, so that it could allow the occupants to continue in the building without any legal glitches.

To make that act of the government appear further justified, prayer meetings were regularly held on the birth and death anniversaries of Babu Jagjivan Ram. However, none of these activities had the official permission of relevant authorities. In fact, Meira Kumar, at the time that she was Lok Sabha Speaker, had issued press releases for prayer meetings with impunity and invited top ranking government officials.

Agrawal, in his petition, noted that the Modi government had firmly turned down demands of Ajit Singh, son of Chowdhury Charan Singh, to convert 12 Tughlaq Road, also in Lutyens’ Delhi, into a memorial for his father. He has demanded that the government cancel the 25 year long lease-deed of 6 Krishna Menon Marg granted to Meira Kumar in 2013 which allows her to keep possession of the bungalow way past 2030. 

Kumar was the last occupant of the bungalow as minister in the UPA I government in 2004. After she became Lok Sabha Speaker in 2009 in the UPA-2 regime, she moved home to the Speaker's residence at 20, Akbar Road. But she continued to occupy the Krishna Menon Marg bungalow, according to records kept by CPWD which is responsible for maintenance of government property. 

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Nitish To Oppn: Why Didn’t You Respect Bihar Ki Beti in 2007 and 2012? Why Nominate Her Now To Lose?

Team Khabare


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Updated: Fri, 23 Jun 2017 21:35:45 IST Updated: Fri, 23 Jun 2017

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Friday firmly rebuffed opposition entreaties to change his mind in favour of Meira Kumar for the presidential elections. To Lalu Yadav and others who dangled the Bihar Ki Beti card to seek his support, the JD(U) leader said he doesn’t want to be a party to making her a sacrificial lamb. 

Kumar poured scorn on those who are raising the Bihar ki beti slogan now saying that the same parties had two occasions in the past to get anyone of their choice as the president. “In both 2007 and 2012, current opposition people had the majority to get any person of theirs as the President. Why dint they think of Bihar Ki Beti then?” He said the opposition instead of pointing fingers should draw up a roadmap to strengthen parties and win the elections in 2019. “Then we can respect the Bihar ki beti by getting her elected as the President of India in the 2022”. 

Kumar justified his decision to back NDA's presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind and said his decision was taken after intense consultations with everyone concerned and weighing all aspects of the matter. "It's a presidential poll, let's not draw political battlelines.” he said and added, “I have a lot of respect for Meira Kumar ji, but 'Bihar ki beti' has been nominated only to lose?"

Kumar was speaking to reporters after meeting his ally in Bihar Lalu Yadav who had warned him that his decision to back the NDA candidate was "a historic blunder". The RJD chief pointed out that during the first two meetings of the Opposition on a presidential nominee, the JDU had declared its support to putting up a joint candidate. When reminded about Lalu’s “historic blunder” remark, all Kumar said was “so be it”. 

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Pak blames India for Balochistan blast deaths, after putting out fake video on Jadhav

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Updated: Fri, 23 Jun 2017 21:31:13 IST Updated: Fri, 23 Jun 2017

India is to blame for the attack in Balochistan province by a suicide bomber who blew up his explosive-laden car near the office of the regional police chief, the regional government in Pakistan said today. Spokesperson Anwarul Haq Kakar blamed India for the blast that killed at least 13 people, including six policemen and injured 20 others.

The powerful blast took place near Inspector General of Police Ehsan Mehboob's office on Gulistan Road area of the provincial capital, Quetta. Thirteen people, including six policemen, died in the suicide car bombing, officials said.

The accusation comes after India, following preliminary testing of the new nine minute video on Kulbhushan Jadhav put out by Islamabad, maintained that the video was a fake one put together with multiple cameras and editing virtually every six seconds to make it appear that Jadhav had confessed to charges of being a spy and fomenting trouble in the Balochistan province that led to many deaths and destruction of property.

According to Indian experts, this is the first time they have seen a confession and mercy plea being made on serious charges on video. Jadhav, according to the Pakistani authorities had accepted all charges and had once again appealed to the Pakistani army chief for mercy so that his life could be spared. A military court had weeks ago sentenced Jadhav, an ex-Navy official, to death. 

Pakistan is yet to respond to multiple requests by India for consular access to Jadhav and to the request put in by his mother in the courts there. The ICJ, to which India took the case, has said that Jadhav cannot be sentenced to death until it gives its final ruling.

Balochistan government spokesperson Anwarul Haq Kakar told Geo News that the suspected bomber in the car tried to break a security perimeter to target the police offices but blew up after policemen standing guard attempted to stop him. Officially, no group has claimed responsibility for the blast, leaving the field open for Kakar to blame India. Balochistan has also been facing insurgency by Baloch nationalists and Islamist militants.

Security officials confirmed that the blast was the result of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device which exploded after the "suspicious" driver was spotted by policemen. DIG Quetta Abdul Razzaq Cheema, addressing the media, said they are examining CCTV footage to determine the details of the incident. Security forces cordoned off the site of the blast and began investigating after rescue services shifted the injured and deceased to the hospital. Officials said body parts of the suspected bomber, strewn across the site of the blast, were being collected along with other evidence for forensic examination.

An initial investigation report by Civil Defence Director Aslam Tareen revealed that 75 kilograms of explosives were used in the blast. Footage of the incident showed two vehicles badly damaged in the explosion, while debris lay scattered on the street. Officials said the explosion was loud enough to be heard from a distance and shattered windows of nearby buildings.

Earlier this year, on February 13, a blast took place near the Saryab Bridge in Quetta killing two personnel of the bomb disposal squad and leaving 11 injured.

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