PIL by Delhi BJP leader seeks minority status for Hindus in eight states

Citing a research report titled, ‘Hindu Human Rights Report’, the plea notes that a level playing field for Hindus has been skewed

A public interest litigation (PIL) filed in the Supreme Court has sought a minority status for Hindus in eight states. The application cited continuous human rights violations and denial of basic rights to Hindus in these states.

The plea was filed by Delhi BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. In his petition, Upadhyay stated that minority rights are being siphoned off “illegally and arbitrarily” to the majority population as neither the centre nor the state has notified Hindus as a ‘minority’ under the National Commission of Minorities Act, 1992, reported News18.

The states named in the PIL are Lakshadweep (2.5 percent), Mizoram (2.75 percent), Nagaland (8.75 percent), Meghalaya (11.53 percent), Jammu & Kashmir (28.44 percent), Arunachal Pradesh (29 percent), Manipur (31.39 percent) and Punjab (38.4 percent). Numbers in parentheses represent the percentage of Hindu population in the states.

The plea also addresses the Minister of Law and Justice, Ravi Shankar Prasad and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It says that it is the “duty of the state to move beyond the minority-majority binary communal politics, which ironically passes for secularism in this country, has been the bane of our democracy.”

Citing a research report titled, ‘Hindu Human Rights Report’, the plea notes that a level playing field for Hindus has been skewed. “There is an attempt to skew the level playing field in the private education sector against the Hindu community. In last three years, the government has forced the closure of 7659 non-minority schools. Moreover, in last three years, budget increase for minorities is far higher compared to other groups like Tribals, Scheduled Caste and Other Backward Caste,” reads the report as quoted by the plea.

The petition further argues that a denial of minority rights to the actual religious and linguistic minorities is a violation of fundamental right of minority community enshrined under the Article 21 and it only shows a “furtherance of vote bank politics”.

Three key reasons why India galloped in Doing Business index

In an apparent and convincing boost to the Narendra Modi government’s push for reforms, India soared 30 spots to 100th rank in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report 2018 (DB 2018). The appraisal comes on the back of three key parameters — resolving insolvency protecting minority investors and paying taxes — where India has made exceptional progress.

Resolving Insolvency

India ranks at the 103rd spot, up 33 places from DB 2017 position, on the resolving insolvency metric.

The jump can be attributed to the enactment of the big bang Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) last year. The IBC or bankruptcy law, passed by Parliament in May 2016, came into effect in December, is meant to to tackle bad loans and non-performing assets (NPAs) in the system.

Many experts have said that the improvement in the DB 2018 ranking was on cards. “With the Indian government undertaking a spree of reform initiatives, the improvement in India’s Doing Business Rankings comes as no surprise,” said Pankaj Patel, President, FICCI.

“With GST, the government has laid the foundation for a more efficient indirect tax system and likewise, with the enactment of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, India now has an efficient institutional mechanism for easing of business exit,” he added.

Paying Taxes

Tax payments is an area where the country galloped the most — from rank 172 last year to 119 this year. Given the implementation of GST , the ranking on this parameter is expected to improve further and in turn boost India’s overall ranking on the Ease of Doing Business next year.

Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is confident that on the back of GST and other reforms that are planned, India would see an equally impressive improvement next year.

India ushered in one of its largest economic reform — Goods and Services Tax on July 1. Besides, the GST council is mulling putting together a system to rank businesses based on their tax payment records. This will help businesses know which suppliers are likely to default on their tax payment obligations, leading to a further transparent.

Protecting Minority Investors

India now ranks 4 on the protecting minority investors parameter, up from rank 9 in DB 2017. Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said: “The huge improvement in ranking and score will immediately boost investor sentiments. The latest report validates the commitment of the government to fast-track economic reforms, address red tape and facilitate businesses.”

US-based Vimana sees air taxi potential in India

A US-based air taxi service provider is planning to come up with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for business executives who face problem of massive traffic jams in Indian metro cities.

Vimana Global Inc, a blockchain-based air taxi service provider, said that it was working on a plan to provide aerial commuting solution for busy executives in major cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai.

Founder and CEO of the Delaware-based company, Evgeni Borisov said he sees the potential of deploying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as he prepares to market its prototype in international cities.

Noting that India was working on options to manage city traffic in major metros by introducing transportation modes such as seaplanes, boat-taxis and speed-boats, he said that vertical take-off and landing autonomous aerial vehicles (VTOL-AAVs) could also be an option.

“We have worked out daily aerial commuting solution for busy executives in major cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai,” he said.

Borisov has established an office here recently.

He said VIMANA would be holding demonstration flights in Dubai, Singapore, Tokyo, Dallas and Toronto.

Borisov also said that a number of parts for the first prototype have been produced in India.

“We aim to manufacture some parts for the vehicle under the ‘Make in India’ initiative as it will help us keep the cost of vehicle low and compete with vehicular traffic,” he said.

“Business executives are looking for ways to reduce their time in traffic jams in major cities, and we have a solution in place,” he said.

Vimana aims to use blockchain to enable management of its UAVs, while turning UAVs into blockchain nodes and thus creating a ubiquitous blockchain-based air traffic control system across Class Bravo (ground to 2,000 meters) urban airspace around the world.

In a blockchain system, transactions made between two parties are recorded chronologically and publicly in an open digital leader.

A team of aerospace engineers, led by Borisov, is currently developing a two- and four-seater unmanned aerial vehicle.

India ‘very strongly’ raises H-1B visa issue with US: Suresh Prabhu

India has “very strongly” raised the issue of H-1B and L1 visas with the US, Union Minister Suresh Prabhu said.

India has “very strongly” raised the issue of H-1B and L1 visas with the US, Union Minister Suresh Prabhu has said, asserting that the American economy will find it difficult to cope with the reality as it has been immensely benefited by Indian IT professionals.

The US has tightened the norms for issuing the most sought-after H-1B and L1 visas in line with the Trump administration’s goal to protect American workers from discrimination and replacement by foreign labour.

In a new directive, the Trump administration this week made it more difficult for the renewal of H-1B and L1, popular among Indian IT professionals, saying that the burden of proof lies on the applicant even when an extension is sought.

Under the current US rules, Indian IT professionals working in the US on H-1B visas do not get back their hard- earned contribution to Social Security, which runs into at least more than USD 1 billion per annum.

“We raised very strongly the issue of Indian professionals and H-1B and L1 visa issues,” Prabhu said after the first US-India bilateral Trade Policy Forum (TPF) under the Trump administration which was also attended by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

“We explained to them that we are not raising this issue because Indians will find it difficult to come, because US economy itself will find it difficult to cope with the reality because the US has immensely benefited by IT professionals penetrating into the market by offering services that has improved their productivity,” Prabhu said.

Batting for Indian IT companies, he also strongly raised the issue of totalisation.

“I hope they will look into the issue,” Prabhu said, as he pointed out towards the issue of mismatch between US visa and US social security regimes, wherein Indian professionals making social security contributions do not receive their due benefits upon their return to India.

Meanwhile, the US and India have also agreed to address the issue of trade deficit by increasing and diversifying bilateral trade, the minister said as he sought easing of procedures for export of mangoes and pomegranates to the US.

Taking note of America’s concern on price controls on medical devices, Prabhu, during his meetings with Lighthizer on Thursday, encouraged US companies to take benefit of the “Make in India” policy and establish manufacturing facilities in India which would considerably bring down the cost.

During the inaugural India-US Commercial dialogue, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stressed on the need to increase bilateral trade between the two countries to address the issue of trade imbalance, a point which keeps on popping up in the remarks of US President Donald Trump.

Reducing imports from India is not an option, Ross was quoted as saying by Prabhu.

“The Commerce Secretary clearly said that trade deficit is an issue, but not by reducing imports from India but promoting more exports from the US to India which is absolutely a very positive and an extremely forward-looking idea, which we welcome,” Prabhu told reporters at the conclusion of his two-day visit to Washington DC.

In the next few years’ time, India would actually be able to buy more from the US.

India has started buying crude oil from the US, he said, adding that there is great potential for the United States in the fast expanding aviation market in India.

Indian aviation companies such as Spicejet and Jet Airways have placed orders for over 300 aircraft worth several billions of dollars.

As American companies shift their manufacturing base from China to the US, this would also result in more American export to India, Prabhu said.

He said that the two countries have agreed to work on the issue of poultry, pork and intellectual property right.

“We already have made some substantial progress,” he said.

Acknowledging that there is a very strong issue on medical devices, Prabhu said he explained to his American counterpart that public health is a priority issue for the Indian government.

“This is something we would have to balance between the commercial interest and the larger public interest,” he said, adding that there is a review due early next year, during which concerns of the US would be relayed back to the reviewers.

Prabhu said that his meetings have yielded very positive results in removal of barriers in export of Indian mangoes to the US.

While the US market was opened up for Indian mangoes during the tenure of former president George W Bush, in reality it has been tough because of the tough irradiation procedure adopted by the US, which not only makes its very expensive, but is also time consuming.

India has been demanding that pre-clearance be transferred to Indian National Plant Protection Organisation, which is well equipped and trained to do the necessary inspection and meet the US standards.

“Of course, you should get Pomegranates and Table Grapes also,” Prabhu said, referring to the progress made in removing hurdles towards export of these products to the US.

Prabhu said, India has sought cooperation from the US on certain technology sectors like artificial intelligence, electric vehicles and aviation.

While acknowledging significant areas of progress in the commercial relationship, Prabhu and Ross shared candid feedback on a range of market access issues that can be addressed to expand trade and investment opportunities.

Ross highlighted the potential to enhance trade by lowering tariff and non-tariff barriers and committing to the use of international standards.

While recognising the reforms that India has undertaken to simplify tax and bankruptcy procedures for industry, he indicated that greater effort in this direction would ensure a more meaningful and balanced trade relationship.

Prabhu appreciated the growing strategic and economic relationship between India and the US.

Emphasising the liberalisation measures undertaken in India, he reaffirmed his government’s commitment to make India a favoured investment destination.

While responding to US concerns on price controls on medical devices, Prabhu mentioned about the need to bring about a balance between providing optimum medical facilities and affordable health care to its citizens.

India desires to address the concerns of providing healthcare to its citizens at reasonable costs and balancing it with the need to introduce high-end technology, he said as he encouraged American companies and manufacturers of medical devices to establish manufacturing facilities in India.

He also pointed out that the Draft Pharmaceutical Policy addresses many of the US concerns and sought comments from industry stakeholders on the draft policy.

Xi Jinping orders PLA to be combat-ready as he begins 2nd term

The once-in-a-five-year Congress of the Communist Party endorsed Xi’s leadership of the party, the military and the presidency this week and approved his ideology to be written into its Constitution, elevating him on par with modern China’s founder Chairman Mao Zedong and his successor Deng Xiaoping.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has begun his second five-year term ordering the country’s 2.3 million-strong military, the world’s largest, to be absolutely loyal to the ruling Communist Party and intensify its combat readiness by focussing on how to win wars.

The once-in-a-five-year Congress of the Communist Party endorsed Xi’s leadership of the party, the military and the presidency this week and approved his ideology to be written into its Constitution, elevating him on par with modern China’s founder Chairman Mao Zedong and his successor Deng Xiaoping.

Xi, 67, began his second tenure yesterday by holding a meeting of top military officials, regarded as a main source of power base.

Xi, who heads the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC) the overall high command of Chinese military, is the only civilian leader in the body which is otherwise packed with top most officials of the armed forces. The new CMC line-up which was unveiled on Wednesday will be led by a group of seven, down from the 11 members who headed its operations before.

Earlier reports said Xi, who consolidated his power in the last five years with a massive anti-corruption campaign in which over a million officials were punished wanted to shrink the Standing Committee of the party to five from seven.

But apparently, he did not succeed as other groups in the party headed by former leaders pressed for status quo to include their nominees in the highest-ranking body bringing it a semblance of balance in power equations.

In the last night’s meeting of top military officials, some high-ranking officials were conspicuously absent, Hong- Kong based South China Morning Post reported.

It appeared from the state-run CCTV report that two top generals, the former chief of general staff General Fang Fenghui and director of the political work department, General Zhang Yang were absent.

Both Fang and Zhang were CMC members in Xi’s first term, but they were left off the list of PLA delegates to this month’s party Congress.

Earlier the two Generals were taken away on the same day last month as part of a corruption investigation, the Post report said.

Meeting top military officials, he ordered them to be absolutely loyal to the party, to focus on how to win in wars, to pioneer reforms and innovation, to scientifically manage commanding a unit, to lead troops in accordance with the strictest standards and to take the forefront in complying with laws and regulations.

He also told the officers to strengthen party-building within the military and to continue to intensify combat-ready training and exercises, to keep carrying out reforms in the national defence system and the military, and to carefully consider strategic issues concerning the PLA’s future development, the official media here reported.

Defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said yesterday that Xi’s plan to strengthen the military would be fully implemented and his authority would be upheld.

Xi asked the PLA officers to learn and implement the spirit of the just-concluded 19th CPC National Congress by following the road of building a strong army with Chinese characteristics and promoting the modernisation of national defence and the army.

“We should strive to fully transform the people’s armed forces into a world-class military by the mid-21st century,” Xi said.

He said that during the past five years, the CMC has endeavoured to build an army that follows the command of the CPC, capable of winning battles and has a fine style of work, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

During his previous tenure, Xi carried out widespread reforms of the military including reconfiguring the command structure, slashed three lakh troops from 2.3 million military, cut the size of the army to a million and made navy more powerful to push China’s influence abroad.

Over 13,000 military personnel including top generals were punished in the anti-graft campaign. With over USD 141 billion-dollar annual budget, Chinese military is next only to the US in terms of defence spending.

Xi also said the military should obey CPC’s absolute leadership over the armed forces, innovate military strategy, govern the army by law and promoting civil-military integration.

Senior officers, as the backbone of the campaign to build a strong army, should be loyal and obedient to the party, be good and smart at combat and endeavour to reform, Xi said.

Unlike other countries, the military in China functions under the party and not under the government.

Without input tax credit eating out to become dearer under new GST rate: NRAI

NRAI which represent more than one lakh restaurants said that the government’s proposal to reduce GST rate to 12 percent from 18 percent without input tax credits will make eating out in restaurants more costly.

The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), an association of restaurants that represents more than one lakh restaurants in the country, said that the government’s proposal to reduce Goods and Services Tax (GST) rate to 12 percent from 18 percent without input tax credits will make eating out in restaurants more costly, reports The Economic Times.

At the recent GST Council meeting on October 6, a five-member panel has been set-up headed by Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to examine the prospect of reducing the GST rate for air-conditioned restaurants to 12 percent from 18 percent. The panel will study whether the restaurants will be allowed to avail input tax credit if the rates are slashed.

Air-conditioned restaurants pay 18 percent tax on food under the GST regime which was rolled out from July 1, 2017.

The Association said that under the present 18 percent tax rate, restaurants are allowed to claim input tax credit on processed food, rent, electricity and transportation but they won’t be able to claim credits when the tax is slashed to 12 percent, resulting in an increase in their operational costs by 7-10 percent.

Riyaaz Amlani, President of the National Restaurant Association of India told the newspaper they would have to increase the menu prices for customers as taxes on many inputs have risen – without input tax credit, the operating cost of running the restaurant will rise.

The industry body feels that their concerns would be taken into consideration and the proposal won’t get implemented in its current form.

Air India divestment: Govt gets 6 bids for transaction advisor mandate

The fact that only six firms are in contention for the mandate, which is a prestigious one, may leave the government a little puzzled as the September 25 pre-bid meeting had seen the presence of ten companies.

The government on Monday received bids from six consulting companies and investment banks for the mandate of advising it on the divestment of its stake in Air India, an official with one of the bidders told .

The candidates in the fray are KPMG, EY, Rothschild & Co, BNP Paribas, ICICI Securities and Edelweiss Financial Services. October 23 was the last date for submitting the bids and the government will select two out of the six for the advisory process.

The fact that only six firms are in contention for the mandate, which is a prestigious one, may leave the government a little puzzled as the September 25 pre-bid meeting had seen the presence of ten companies. Another official, not involved with the process but whose bank is among the bidders, was not surprised.

“The fee (to be quoted in bulk) that the successful bidders will get will be little. Others would have thought it better to work on the buy side with the interested companies in Air India rather than work with the sell side and gain little despite all the volume of work,” he said.

So far, InterGlobe Aviation which runs IndiGo, has officially expressed interest in buying the international operations of Air India, while the Tata Group said it would “definitely look” at the national carrier once the government finalises the privatisation process. A few companies have also expressed interest in the airline’s ground handling subsidiary.

Apart from the transaction advisor, the department of investment and public asset management that is managing the entire divestment exercise, will also appoint a legal advisor and an asset valuer to help with the process.

“Two things will keep smaller names away. One is that this will be bigger than any other divestment carried out by any government so far,” one of the interested bankers had earlier told. “Also, the request for qualification for appointment of the advisor lays down the condition that the bidder should have handled a transaction of at least Rs 4,000 crore during April 1, 2012 and June 30, 2017. Not many people would have done a transaction of that size.”

The government has ‘in-principle’ decided to disinvest AI as a whole or its constituents fully or part thereof through strategic disinvestment with transfer of management control. The airline operator has five subsidiaries and one joint venture.

The airline made a loss of Rs. 4,310.65 crore in 2015-16. This was on top of a loss of Rs. 6,280.42 crore in 2014-15. The wholly state-owned company is weighed down by a debt of around Rs. 52,000 crore.

The government’s rules on foreign direct investment permit 100 per cent FDI in an airline with a foreign airline not allowed to hold more than 49 percent in an Indian carrier.

While the final contours of the divestment will be known only after all the stakeholders – the government, transaction advisor and interested suitors deliberate on buying the whole or parts of the airline – it is certain that the government will have to absorb AI’s debt to have any private sector company acquire the loss-making airline. A special purpose vehicle will also be formed in which all the real estate and artefacts of the airline will be housed, according to a ministry official.

While the government intends to complete the divestment of the airline this financial year itself, it will not be a smooth going. The airline’s unions, seven of them, are expected to meet in the capital this week to draw out a strategy for opposing the privatization process.

Cheetah-inspired logo to be the face of India’s bullet train project

The logo was designed by a student of National Institute of Design.

The logo, already visible on the NHSRCL’s official website, was chosen in a contest, according to The Indian Express. The contest was judged by a three-member screening committee, led by famous artist Satish Gujral, sources said were quoted as saying. The other two panelists were a NITI Aayog member and a National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) official.

“Three entries were shortlisted after an initial screening. The top entry was selected from NID, Ahmedabad, the second from the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi, and the third from the NID in Bengaluru,” the source added.

The participants were required to send in their applications between April 19 and May 18. Sources told the paper that the cheetah was chosen as it represents speed. The logo has blue and red lines, which according to the sources “symbolise calm and reliability.”

India’s first bullet train, which will run between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, is set to be operational from August 15, 2022. Covering the cities in less than three hours, the foundation stone for the project was laid by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month.

Toshiba sees annual loss of almost $1 billion after tax related to chip unit sale

Toshiba, which separated out the unit in April as a prelude to a sale, said it was being taxed on the basis of assets and liabilities of the transferred business at the time of the split.

Embattled Japanese conglomerate Toshiba Corp said on Monday it now expects to slide to a net loss of nearly $1 billion this business year after calculating taxes related to the sale of its prized chip unit.

Toshiba, which separated out the unit in April as a prelude to a sale, said it was being taxed on the basis of assets and liabilities of the transferred business at the time of the split.

The latest forecasts, however, do not reflect expected gains from the 2 trillion yen ($17.6 billion) sale as the deal has yet to receive regulatory approval.

Toshiba said that due to the tax impact, it expects a loss of 110 billion yen ($970 million) in the year to March, instead of its previously forecast profit of 230 billion yen.

It kept its annual revenue and other profit forecasts unchanged.

Toshiba, desperate for funds to cover liabilities arising from it U.S. nuclear unit Westinghouse, agreed last month to sell the unit – the world’s second biggest producer of NAND flash memory chips – to a group led by Bain Capital.

A highly contentious auction meant that a decision on the buyer took much longer than expected, and Toshiba has run the risk of not getting anti-trust clearance before the end of the financial year in March as regulatory reviews usually take at least six months.

If it doesn’t get the deal done in time, it could end the year in negative net worth for a second year in a row, putting pressure on the Tokyo Stock Exchange to delist it.

Govt likely to achieve 3.2% fiscal deficit target: Report

“There are doomsday predictions currently that government is going to have a big revenue slippage in 2017-18 which may impact the headline fiscal deficit numbers. However, such projections flunk the test of logical reasoning and are grossly misconstrued,” the report said.

The government is likely to achieve the fiscal deficit target of 3.2 per cent of GDP for the first time in about seven years, but may cut its capital expenses by Rs 70,000 crore to meet the goal, said a report by SBI Research.

“There are doomsday predictions currently that government is going to have a big revenue slippage in 2017-18 which may impact the headline fiscal deficit numbers. However, such projections flunk the test of logical reasoning and are grossly misconstrued,” the report said.

According to estimates by SBI’s economic research department, while there could be a shortfall of Rs 1.1 lakh crore in the revenue receipts, disinvestments receipts worth Rs 72,500 crore and expenditure cuts are likely to offset the impact.

“We estimate that the government may cut about Rs 70,000 crore from the capital expenditure,” the report said.

However, it noted that budgeted disinvestment receipts are on track to realising Rs 72,500 crore.

“At current trends, it is likely that for the first time after fiscal 2009-10 that disinvestment target is likely to be achieved,” it noted, adding even if the nominal growth declines significantly in 2017-18, fiscal deficit would be impacted by at most 10 basis points in upward direction.

Further, the report observed that the government has accumulated a total of Rs 40,491 crore in the National Small Savings Fund during the first five months of this fiscal.

“It could thus receive Rs 1 lakh crore in small savings in FY18, and would be able to do a buyback of Rs 75,000 crore which was contingent upon that.”

“This, in turn, implies that the government would be able to meet its net borrowing target of Rs 3.48 lakh crore,” it added.

Out of the total estimated shortfall of Rs 1.1 lakh crore in the revenue receipts, around Rs 77,000 crore shortfall may be from tax revenue on account of reduction in excise duty in petroleum products, tax refunds under GST and revenue compensation to states for GST implementation.

The non-tax revenue may decline by Rs 38,000 crore because of lower spectrum proceeds among others, it said.