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Andhra govt hikes VAT on natural gas by 10%

Lokeswara Rao

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YS Jagan Mohan Reddy
YS Jagan Mohan Reddy

To bridge the gap between state’s revenue and expenditure, the Andhra Pradesh government has increased VAT (Value-Added Tax) on natural gas from 14.5 percent to 24.5 percent. The state government outlined fall in revenue collections due to Covid-19 lockdown and increased expenditure on welfare schemes as the reasons behind this decision.

The government stated that the revenue collections in the month of April 2020 came down to Rs 1,323 crore against Rs 4,480 crore in the corresponding period of 2019. However, denying all rumours of increasing taxes on LPG as well, the government in a statement said that the news was propagated by some mischievous sections in the media. “This is totally misleading. LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) is different from natural gas. After introduction of GST in 2017, LPG along with all other goods are subsumed in GST. State governments have no power to revise the tax rates of GST subsumed goods including LPG,” the government said.

Meanwhile, the YSR Congress leader Vijay Sai Reddy lashed out at TDP leader Nara Lokesh. He tweeted, “Nara Lokesh does not know the difference between LPG and natural gas.” Earlier the TDP leader had criticised the government over VAT hike.

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KEJRIWAL PLANS BIG GUJARAT PUSH, SAYS STATE YEARNING FOR CHANGE

Abhijit Bhatt

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The political atmosphere in Gujarat began heating up on 11 June when it was announced that a meeting of the leaders of Leuva and Kadwa Patidar would be held at Khodaldham in Kagwad, the centre of faith of Leuva Patidars. They criticised the government’s performance in Covid-19 pandemic and praised the work done by the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi and other states during the meeting that was held on 12 June.

Amid these developments, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is coming on a one-day visit to Gujarat on the morning of 14 June. He also tweeted in Gujarati, on Sunday, that he is coming to Gujarat tomorrow. His visit is likely to bring many twists and turns in Gujarat politics.It seems the AAP has become active in Gujarat.

While the Congress has selected some leaders including the state president, BJP in-charge Bhupendra Yadav is scheduled to be on a three-day visit to Gujarat and meet MLAs on 15 June.

A day before the tour, Arvind Kejriwal tweeted in Gujarati, “Gujarat will change now. I am coming to Gujarat tomorrow. I will meet all the brothers and sisters of Gujarat”.

According to sources, Kejriwal will arrive at Ahmedabad airport at 10.30 am and will go directly to Shahibaug Circuit House. He will meet party workers. A press conference will be held at Vallabh Sadan at 11.30 am. Former journalist Isudan Gadhvi and 10 others are likely to join the AAP. The party will inaugurate its new state office at Navrangpura in the afternoon. Kejriwal’s visit is a sign of AAP’s readiness for the Gujarat Legislative Assembly. More people will get connected to make the AAP organisation stronger. He will also visit Surat. In addition to AAP corporators, he will hold meetings with local leaders and workers and also guide the upcoming Assembly elections.

On the other hand, Yadav’s visit to Gujarat is signalling a major political upheaval in the coming days. According to sources, he had a meeting with the experienced leaders and asked them about the performance of Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, working style of Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, and state leadership of BJP state president C. R. Patil. Yadav had asked about the current situation in Gujarat and what can happen next. He may have asked about the AAP for the first time. Kejriwal’s visit can impact the local body elections.

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IN A VIRAL VIDEO, CAR VANISHES AS LAND CAVES IN MUMBAI

Urvashi Khona

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A scary moment was caught on camera by an onlooker and it quickly went viral. As heavy rainfall continues in Mumbai, a video of a parked car suddenly being swallowed up by a sinkhole has taken social media by storm.

In the viral video, a black car was seen sinking into the ground rapidly and then quickly disappearing into a pool of muddy waters. Even as the car, which appeared to be a hatchback, was swallowed up, two other vehicles parked near it were not affected. The incident took place on Sunday at Ram Niwas society’s parking lot situated in Cama Lane in Mumbai’s Ghatkopar area. Fortunately, no one was killed or injured in the incident as no one was in the car.

Several years ago, the society had closed half the portion of the well by carrying out RCC work where they would park the vehicles. This well runs as deep as 50 feet and is nearly a hundred years old as per residents. As the video went viral — BJP leader Kirit Somaiya asked BMC, “BMC Nala Safai?” BMC responded by saying, “The corporation has nothing to do with this car accident. This is an incident in a private society in the Ghatkopar area.” The press release stated, “In this connection, it has been informed by the Emergency Management Department of the Corporation that the incident in this video has taken place on 13 June 2021 in the morning in Ghatkopar West area. Preliminary information has come to light that a car parked on the RCC was submerged in water. No one was killed or injured in the incident as no one was in the car.”

In this connection, the work of water abstraction is being coordinated by the concerned departmental office of the Municipal Corporation. Also, the concerned society has been informed to take necessary measures for safety in this place immediately.”

Meanwhile, the Traffic Police department of the Ghatkopar area said, “The RCC on this well has been washed away by rain/water today and the car parked by Pankaj Mehta on it has fallen into the well and drowned. Officers/staff of local Ghatkopar police station are present at the spot.” Nagraj Majge, Inspector of Police in-charge, Ghatkopar Traffic Department said that BMC officials after alert worked on recovery operations. Once the sinkhole is drained using pumping machines, a crane will be used to pull out the car that fell into the sealed well.

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Summoning Parkash Badal in Kotkapura firing is right: Partap Bajwa

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Welcoming the Special Investigation Team (SIT) decision to summon former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on 16 June in connection with the Kotkapua Police firing case, Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab Partap Singh Bajwa has said that it is a step in the right direction. Speaking to ANI on phone, Partap Singh Bajwa said, “The summoning of Parkash Singh Badal, former Chief Minister, by the Special Investigation Team investigating the Kotkapura police firing case is a step in the right direction. In the previous investigation which was set aside by the High Court vide its judgement dated 9 April 2021, it had been observed that the previous SIT had not arrayed Badals as accused. The role of the Badals in the police firing case is that of an accused, fact known to everyone.”

“I had specifically stated that instead of challenging the judgement of the High Court before the Supreme Court, a new SIT should be constituted and the investigation should be concluded within 30 to 45 days (out of which more than 15 days have already passed).”

The Congress leader said that the need of the hour is to conduct a fair investigation wherein the role of the then Chief Minister S Parkash Singh Badal, the Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and DGP Sumedh Singh Saini are brought out.

“They should be made to face a trial for their illegal actions of ordering the police to fire on innocent people, who were only seeking action against the culprits responsible for sacrilege by sitting on a peaceful dharna reciting Paath (prayers). Once the investigation is concluded within a month, an application must also be filed for day-to-day hearing of the case before the Trial Court at Faridkot.”

The three-member SIT was constituted on May 7 on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The high court had quashed the Punjab Police SIT’s report into the Kotkapura police firing incident in which police opened fire at people protesting against the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib in Faridkot in 2015.

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Women can be priests: Tamil Nadu CM Stalin

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History has changed, M.K. Stalin, the DMK party president, has been chosen as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for the first time. After he took the oath as the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister on 7 May 2021, he also launched multiple schemes for the betterment of people. One of them is that women will be appointed as temple priests soon in Tamil Nadu.

P.K Sekar Babu, Minister of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments said, “If women wish to work as priests in the temple, training will be provided to them and efficient steps will be taken after the training to appoint them as priests.”

Sekar Babu has also said that the ‘All-Caste Archaka’ scheme would soon be implemented in Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments temples all across the state.

The Minister has also promised that within 100 days of the DMK government, the ‘All-Caste Archarka’ scheme will be implemented. Sekar Babu has also mentioned that the talks regarding the issue is underway with CM Stalin.

While talking to the media, the Minister added, “We have discussed various plans to be implemented for the temples and its administration. These plans would be implemented in three phases: plans that need to be implemented immediately and those required to be enforced during the second and third phases. Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister MK Stalin will make appropriate announcements for these plans to be implemented.”

Sekar Babu also said that in the upcoming days, non-Brahmin priests will be appointed in the Brahmin dominated temples. He has also assured that nearly 200 eligible non-Brahmin priests will be appointed in Brahmin dominated temples within 100 days of the DMK Government. As a measure to bridge the caste hierarchy among the Hindus in Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments temples across Tamil Nadu, the former Chief Minister and DMK President Karunanidhi’s government had launched a one-year junior Saiva archakar courses in six temples across Tamil Nadu in 2007-2008. It was started to give any non-Brahmin Hindu opportunities to become a priest.

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IT’S CONGRESS MINDSET THAT IS RESPONSIBLE FOR TERRORISM IN J&K: RAJYAVARDHAN RATHORE

The BJP MP hits out at the Congress, alleging that the party is furthering Pakistan’s agenda in Jammu and Kashmir.

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BJP MP Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore has accused Congress of furthering the agenda of Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir, whose people had suffered terrorist attacks for decades.

“The mindset that the Congress party has, where one particular family is everything, is responsible for the roots of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir over decades. The kind of involvement that Pakistan has in Jammu and Kashmir is the result of its policies,” Rathore told ANI on Sunday. Rathore was reacting to recent remarks by Congress leader Digvijaya Singh in a Clubhouse conversation that the revocation of Article 370 and stripping Jammu and Kashmir of statehood was an “extremely sad” decision and his party will have a “relook” at the issue.

“I am not surprised that they still nurse the same mindset. But this is a new India and it has decided that its Constitution will be applicable to its entire geographical sovereignty,” added Rathore.

He further said that the Central government has exposed Pakistan in the matter of Jammu and Kashmir before the whole world. The BJP leader also said that not just Pakistan, the Indian Army and the Indian government are prepared to respond to any country meaning harm to India.

Responding to the NIA probe into Singh’s remarks, he said that such comments have come even before.

“Former leadership (National Conference) had said that they would take China’s help. Now they are supporting their long-time friend Congress party. It is evident that they are working hand in glove with each other,” the BJP MP added.

He also said that these parties only want to loot the country, be it Jammu and Kashmir or any other state, sidelining the concerns of the citizens and they have been doing such politics for a very long time. ANI

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Vehicle scrappage scheme: A much-needed policy for auto sector

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The long-awaited draft policy on vehicle scrappage is now  accessible. The proposal specifies the guidelines for identifying and scrapping end-of-life vehicles. It also has directives for scrapping facilities for sustainable waste recycling and material recovery. This is a significant move in the development of infrastructure for the organised and scientific scrapping of old automobiles. It also has far-reaching implications for emissions/pollution reduction in India. There was a dire need for such a policy in India’s automobile system. According to the statistics , about 51 lakh LMVs are exceeding an age of 20 years in India, around 34 lakh LMVs exceeding 15 years, and about 17 lakh medium/heavy commercial vehicles exceeding 15 years. 

THE SCRAPPAGE ECOSYSTEM 

According to the released draft of the policy, passenger vehicles ageing over 20 years and commercial vehicles ageing over 15 years fall under the bracket of scrutiny. These vehicles would have to undertake a fitness and emission test covering a variety of parameters, failing which they would be mandatorily scrapped.

SETTING UP SCRAP YARDS AND FITNESS CENTRES 

Automobile manufacturers such as Maruti Suzuki, Toyota, and Mahindra and Mahindra have announced their investments in setting up vehicle dismantling centres in the country, with the expectation that these centres produce substantial revenue in the coming years until vehicle scrapping becomes prevalent. Other automobile makers are expected to do the same.

CONTRIBUTION OF THE GOVERNMENT 

The government has shown its commitment to investments of about Rs 10,000 crore both from the government and private sector enterprises for the establishment of these centres. 

COMPLIANCE

Certain deadlines would have to be kept in mind by all industry stakeholders. These are to ensure an expedited result of the scheme on the ground. The rules will be effective from 1 October 2021. The time bar on the government’s unfit vehicles is 1 April 2021 while all the heavy and other vehicles have a mandate of getting their fitness tested by 1 April 2023 and 1 June 2024 respectively. The government also plans to levy an extra green cess on such passenger and commercial fleet owners which would eventually push them to comply with the policy and phase out their old vehicles.

Non-compliance with the policy would warrant a mandatory de-registration after 20 years if the vehicles are found to be unfit or have failed to renew registration. From the 15th year of initial/original registration, private cars may be eligible for enhanced re-registration.

INCENTIVES OFFERED BY THE POLICY TO VEHICLE OWNERS

Vehicle owners who voluntarily scrap their cars can get a road tax rebate ranging from 15% to 25% and a full waiver of registration fees for their next new vehicle purchase. Automobile dealers would now be required to have a 5% discount in consideration for a car scrapping certificate. Also, car owners can get a value for their old cars from scrap yards that are about 4% to 6% of the price of a new vehicle. 

OVERALL MACRO-BENEFITS

These scrap yards would act as a source for generating employment for the local people and the steel made out of the scrapping process would be supplied to the automobile industry and other industries at a cheaper rate than the market ensuring availability of low-cost raw materials to a variety of industries. This would help in triggering economic growth for the automobile industry. 

It would ensure achieving of an aim of cutting 25% to 30% air pollution caused by vehicles and also result in economic fuel efficiency and better vehicular safety.

WHAT INDUSTRY EXPERTS HAVE TO SAY

According to the statement of Satyakam Arya, MD and Chief, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles, “We have long advocated for a well-designed, incentivised ‘end of life’ policy that boosts demand, improves safety, and supports the environment by encouraging commercial vehicle owners to exchange their older vehicles for new ones, meeting current emissions norms. Only a joint effort by government, industry and the customer can result in a scrappage policy that offers true safety, economic and environmental benefits.” The question of whether or not the introduced draft of the policy serves its purpose as a well-thought and deliberated executive framework is not up for debate. But the draft policy overlooks an incentive to plan the policy as an important support program for green recovery in the industry, resulting in broader and faster air quality benefits. This program has only ‘advised’ state governments and the auto industry to provide voluntary discounts to owners of old cars. 

The Central government has not committed to making it a fiscal stimulus policy in the post-Covid-19 era to replace ageing heavy-duty vehicle fleets with Bharat Stage VI vehicles or to connect other segments with aggressive electrification.

Miheer Jain is a research assistant at Infinite Sum Modelling Inc, while pursuing legal studies at NMIMS School of Law, Mumbai. Dr Badri Narayanan is the founding director of Infinite Sum Modelling (ISM), Seattle and a senior economist with University of Washington, Seattle.

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