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Policy & Politics

Multiple layers of freedom of religion: Political, judicial and constitutional provisions

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The Constitution of India guarantees to all individuals ‘freedom of conscience and the right freely to protest, practice and propagate religion’. Freedom of religion, to be meaningful, is to be guaranteed not only to individual but to religious institutions also. Religious freedom has both an individual as well as a corporate side, and the latter is guaranteed by the Constitution by providing to every religious denomination or section the right “(a) to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes; (b) to manage its own affairs in matter of religion: (c) to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and be absolute, they are subject to state legislation in the interest of “public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of Part III of the Constitution”. Nevertheless, certain lacunae remain. More provisions need to be added to Art 25, so as to limit the scope for conflict. On the other hand it is impossible to understand religious freedom without understanding the wider process of the political management of the group life. Many years ago when India’s Constitution was being drafted, B.R. Ambedkar, who piloted various drafts through the Constituent Assembly, stated that the individual rather than the group was the basis of the Indian Constitution. However, Ambedkar’s insight forcefully explains how groups and group life were to be viewed in the new dispensation. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate various perspectives and layers of the “Freedom of Religion” and bring out its various provisions in three fields i.e. judicial, political and Constitution.

CONSTITUTION, JUDICIARY, FREEDOM, RELIGION.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

The researcher has used doctrinal research method that is pure library based method. Context and contents has been taken from various books, articles and the books of eminent authors. While the concepts of justice, right, infringement, legality, enforcement etc. will be explained utilizing the doctrinal approach. The data will be collected from the published research works and published data from different sources.

INTRODUCTION

When the right to the freedom of religion or belief is said, the primary component that comes to mind is that the right of people to behave according to conscientious beliefs, to worship (or not worship) freely, and to be able to experience life in society without discrimination on the idea of such beliefs.

Practically, however, the amusement of such primary spiritual freedom rights is based upon crucial methods on the legal structures available to spiritual groups to set up their affairs. History is replete with examples of legal suggestions that constrain individual religious practice by denying legal popularity to certain spiritual organizations. The vintage structures of special charters that antedated corporate organization structures were all too often used as a technique of constructing favored nonsecular bodies, and dissolution provisions might be used to reign in unpopular groups. Religious association (VHP, RSS), laws have regularly been passed as a means of controlling spiritual organization than of contributing to their freedom. 

None of the international instruments guarantying the freedom of faith and belief presents a definition of these terms. The Human Rights Committee (HRC), at some stage in a general comment on Article 18 ICCPR, has stated that this text protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as right not to profess any religion or belief; that the phrases ‘religion’ and ’belief’ are to be substantially construed; and, that Article 18 isn›t always confined in its utility to traditional religions or religions and beliefs with institutional developments or practices analogous to those of conventional religions.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECTHR) has moreover given a great interpretation of the meaning of religious beliefs. All traditional religions and ideals are blanketed, however also non-religious beliefs consisting of pacifism, veganism and atheism. Further, nonsecular or philosophical convictions or beliefs are protected if they achieve a specific degree of cogency, seriousness, harmony and importance; are worth of appreciation for the duration of a democratic society; are not incompatible with human dignity; relate to a weighty and excellent component of human existence and behavior.

India, popularly known as the land of philosophy, spirituality & the beginning place of civilization, became a birthplace of diverse religions. Religion can be a specific system of faith, beliefs, and worship. Religion is a set of faith and belief which is held through a group of people. There is much difference and each complies with brilliant beliefs and customs. Taking into the account of the Indian situation, it can be concluded that people in India have sturdy faith and belief when it comes to their religion as they adjudge that faith which they followed add meanings and reasons to their lives.

In India, Art. 25-28  of the Constitution of India offers the right to freedom of faith. The right to freedom of religion entitles each citizen of India and offers them liberty to profess, practice and propagate any faith of their preference. The right additionally gives them the liberty to sermonize approximately their religion. It moreover offers the hazard to spread it among absolutely everyone with none worry of presidency involvement.

Religion studies are a volatile issue within the country, prepared to impel sentiments that have routinely found being translated into violent outpourings inside the public sphere.

This paper specializes in this crucial aspect of the freedom of faith: particularly, the right of belief, communities to accumulate legal personality and get right of entry to legal entity status using which they will carry out the entire range of their legitimate belief-related sports.

CONSTITUTIONAL VIEW

In Western political history the idea of secular State and conceding of religious freedom developed out of a wide range of chronicled circumstances and philosophical motivations. Specifically, they have been molded by the procedure of secularizations of the State and dividing of the medieval combination between the Church furthermore, the State. Indian Constitution likewise controls the manner of division among religion and the State in the Indian country. These arrangements do not intent to make a State that minimizes religion from society, or to follow an approach of exacting lack of bias towards religion. The framers of the Indian Constitution visualized a model of secular political framework that ensures all religions with equivalent respect (Sarva Dharma Samabhava) however under the system of an egalitarian social order, informed by the principles of welfare State consistent with the progressive enhancement of human dignity. The State’s methodology towards religion installed in these constitutional arrangements are one that keeps up a ‘principled distance’ from religion. India had been a secular state since its commencement. The Constitution of India has acknowledged the rule of secularism. Secularism in India implies that in the open undertakings of the nation, religion won’t have any impact.

One of the rights ensured by the Indian Constitution is the Right to Freedom Of Religion. As a secular country, each resident of India has the privilege to freedom of religion i.e. option to follow any religion. As one can see significant number of religions being practiced in India, the constitution assurances to each resident the freedom to follow the religion of their decision. As per this essential right, every resident has the chance to practice and spread their religion calmly. Also, if any occurrence of strict bigotry happens in India, it is the obligation of the Indian government to check these rates and take severe activities against it. Right to opportunity of religion is well portrayed in the Articles 25, 26, 27 and 28 of Indian constitution. In Indian constitution, the composite right to religious freedom is enumerately expressed, partitioning into four classes: conscience, profess, practice and propagate. These can be distributed into two-nonexclusive zones- belief and practice. Conscious implies conviction, confidence, sentiment, and to pronounce and in one sense, intends to have a place with participation, adherence, that is again confidence, profess in the other sense of ‘to declare’ and to practice and propagate are the exercise aspect of the right. Articles 25 and 26 are the two focal articles ensuring religious freedom.

Article 25 of the Constitution ensures freedom of religion to all people in India. It provides that all people in India, subject to public order, morality, health, and other provisions. It further gives that this article will not influence any current law and will not keep the state from making any law .The Supreme Court in Tilkayat Shri Govindlalji Maharaj V. Province of Rajasthan held that the test to decide the inquiry in choosing what is a vital piece of a religion is whether it is viewed as basic by the network following that religion or not. The Supreme Court held that the basic right ensured under Article 25 and 26 isn’t absolute and is subject to public order and if the court is of the supposition that moving of graves is in light of a legitimate concern for the open then the assent of the gatherings is insignificant despite the fact that the Muslim individual law is against moving of graves.

JUDICIAL ASPECT

As a strictly assorted society and self-broadcasted mainstream state, India is an ideal setting to investigate the complex and frequently questionable convergences among religion and law. The strict opportunity conditions of the Indian Constitution take into consideration the state to direct and limit certain exercises related with strict practice. By deciphering the established arrangements for strict opportunity, the legal executive assumes a significant function in deciding the degree to which the state can legally manage strict issues. This postulation tries to historicize the related advancement of two jurisprudential tests utilized by the Supreme Court of India: the strict group test and the fundamental practices test. The strict group test gives the Court the power to figure out which gatherings comprise strict groups, and in this manner, fit the bill for lawful insurance. The fundamental practices test restricts the sacred assurance of strict practices to those that are esteemed ‘fundamental’ to the particular confidence.

From their causes during the 1950s up to their application in contemporary cases on strict opportunity, these two tests have served to restrict the extent of lawful insurance under the Constitution and legitimize the interventionist propensities of the Indian state. Furthermore, this theory will examine the standards behind the activity of the two tests, their most conspicuous reactions, and the potential ramifications of the Court’s methodology. The Supreme Court’s choices on strict opportunity, I contend, epitomize the interventionist inclinations of the Indian state. The Court is an ideal climate to inspect the state’s way to deal with religion and its ramifications for strict opportunity. The discussions that happen in the court interface the exceptionally hypothetical contentions on secularism to prompt, unmistakable issues, felt profoundly by the country’s residents. Since the Supreme Court is entrusted with adjusting strict freedom with the state guideline of religion—two contending driving forces in the Constitution—its choices are significantly considerable for strict networks in India. Struggle is unavoidable. In completing its obligation to determine debates and decipher laws, the legal executive offers substance to the assurance of strict opportunity, and decides the level of limitation that can be put upon it.

Addressing the part of the courts, Tahir Mahmood expresses, “In the common India of our occasions, it is the tradition that must be adhered to that decides the extent of religion in the society, and the legal executive figures out what the laws identifying with the extent of religion state, mean, and require.”As Chatterjee watches, strict freedom is a fundamental nature of a common state A common state is needed to allow the free act of any religion, inside sensible limits. Dissecting the Supreme Court’s statute on religion will reveal insight into what restricts on strict opportunity are perceived to be sensible, and why. I recommend another motivation behind why it is judicious to think about the Indian Supreme Court’s arbitration on religion. A few ongoing cases have clarified that judges read, refer to, and consider grant on the Court’s methodology. Their commitment with this material will `definitely impact their dynamic. Surely, the Court is contained people, a few of whom bring a self-intelligent mentality to their decisions. That being the situation, the group of grant managing secularism, strict opportunity, and the Supreme Court isn’t as it were clear of the legal executive’s methodology, yet may even impact its course. In a perfect world, commitments to this control could advance the capacity for the appointed authorities to consider the more extensive setting of their decisions, maybe prompting more illuminated dynamic. The controversy surrounding a recent Supreme Court decision i.e. the sabrimala case and the triple talaq case llustrates the social and legal magnitude of religious freedom adjudication in India and the profound societal ramifications of the Supreme Court’s approach.

POLITICAL ASPECT

In sixty years we should have consolidated secularism and should have meet our politics of all traces of religious controversies and communal trappings .But it was not easy to translate the constitution Idea into practice in a society as complex as India. Indian state was categorised as solid state by Gunner Mysdal in Asian drama. And it remained soft towards Communism as well.The state remained not only soft towards Communism it also encouraged it, if it paid political dividends.The political role of Congress in early eighties was nothing but exploitation of religious sentiments to win over certain sections of Indian society.On the other hand the BJP which is not only the rightist but also a Hindu communal party choose to use religious controversial issues to capture power at the centre and some States mainly in Hendi heartland. India despite partition on the basis of religion resolve to be a secular state and promulgated its constitution in 1950 accepting equal rights for all the citizens irrespective of their caste, creed Or race. It was undoubtedly a great step forward. Thus,citizens was ,prioritized over religion and ethnicity. Citizenship and not religion became the fundamental category.At the same time all citizens were given the right to profess, practice and propagate their religion under article 25 of the Constitution. Gandhiji wrote In 1942,” religion is a personal matter which should have no place in politics.”He even went further and told a missionary “If I were a dictator, religion state would be separate, I swear by my religion I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The state has nothing to do with it. However our politicians have completely adverse this situation.They mix religion with politics with vengeance and throw away values in the air.Religion without values like justice, equality, compassion, love, nonviolence, truth and sensitivity to other suffering is mere death ritual and if that empty ritual and not values associated with religion which our politicians do,it can be very deadly. That is what we have been witnessing since independence.

CONCLUSION

India is the world’s second-most crowded nation with more than 1.3 billion individuals and is the origin of four significant world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism. It is likewise home to around 180 million Muslims—just Indonesia and Pakistan have more. A little Christian minority incorporates around 30 million individuals. An authoritatively common country with a large number of ethnic gatherings and 22 authority dialects, free India has a long convention of strict resilience (with intermittent and some of the time genuine slips). Strict opportunity is unequivocally ensured under its constitution. Hindus represent a larger part (almost four-fifths) of the nation’s general population. Hindu patriotism has been a rising political power in late many years, by numerous records dissolving India’s common nature and prompting new attacks on the nation’s strict opportunities.

The 2014 public political race triumph of the Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian Peoples’ Party or BJP) carried recently intense regard for the issue of strict opportunity in India. Following its causes to an ideological group made in 1951 in a joint effort with the Hindu patriot Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Organization or RSS), the BJP has since proceeded to win control of various state governments, remembering for Uttar Pradesh, the nation’s most crowded state with in excess of 200 million inhabitants, one-fifth of them Muslim. The BJP’s chief, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is a self-declared Hindu patriot and long lasting RSS part with a dubious past: In 2002, during his 13-year residency as boss clergyman of the Gujarat state, huge scope against Muslim revolting there left in excess of 1,000 individuals dead, and Modi confronted allegations of complicity as well as inaction (he was later officially absolved). In 2005, Modi was denied a U.S. visa under a once in a while utilized law excepting section for unfamiliar government authorities discovered to be complicit in extreme infringement of strict opportunity, and he had no official contacts with the U.S. government until 2013. Numerous in the U.S. Congress were incredulous of Modi’s function in the 2002 brutality, and some keep on pointing out signs that strict opportunity mishandles are expanding under his and his gathering’s standard, as reported by the U.S. State Department and free basic liberties gatherings. Thus, in this paper we tried giving overview to religious freedom in India, beginning with an constitutional perspective and then judicial and finally the political view.

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Policy & Politics

The Unique Indian Market: Doing Business in India

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The complex and challenging diversity of India has confused many – Indians as well as foreigners have tried and are still trying to understand the market for taking right decisions. But often they have failed. Some learnt their lessons and survived whereas others quit. But no one could sum up common problems or common prospects with sure shot definition of the Indian market and its attributes like most global peers (by definition of a country). Now, here is a book which has tied all aspects about the country together in one thread and very brilliantly put them in mere 200 odd pages. This quick read summarizes the History, Geography, Democratic Politics and Economics of modern Free India along with undivided India/ colonial India(before independence), without compromising on data and the key facts.

The initial chapters in the book focus on an overall status of Indian market – a brief history, success, and failures of foreign companies in India. This is followed by describing the diversity across all possible parameters viz. ethnic, linguistic, regional, religious, cultural, food habits, lifestyle etc. The next few chapters brilliantly summarize the history of foreign attacks and rulers from Gupta Dynasty in 4th Century to the British rule till 1947 (middle of 20th Century) along with foreign business in India since 1292AD. All the East India Companies of different countries for different goods in different Indian territories, debate on acknowledgement of “India” and failure of an American East India Company (yet a successful ice-export to America by ship in 1883) is covered here.

Stating credible and authentic sources, the author boasts of the 35% contribution made by India to the world GDP before the foreign attacks and compares it to the ‘less than 1%’ a decade before the start of the 21st Century. The book compares the golden history with current concerns and struggles for the SMEs in the country providing valid reasons for the change over centuries and suggestions for making a mark again. It talks about how the country directly jumped from being an agrarian economy to the service one, grossly skipping the important manufacturing lessons. The seeds sown by the invaders that made India a supplier of raw materials and importer of finished goods, are still reaping their bitter fruits which has made Indians totally dependent on other countries or their MNCs/companies in India for the manufacturing part. Every eye is now on the results of ‘Make-In-India’ and ‘Atma-Nirbhar-Bharat’. How India makes up for the losses it faced for centuries and gets back its prosperity, which it lost to the greed of others, and self-created mistakes!

The next few chapters provide the reader an exhaustive overview of governance and administration system in India with around 1000 political parties at country level, and the love-hate relationship between the union and state governments, and its implications on businesses. Following these are topics on classification of the country based on wealth inequality, religion, reservations, working, education, native status, region, languages, surnames etc.

An exceptional set of chapters on Social Capital of India and Indian Education System follow next. The author highlights how successful SME with international trade existed even in ancient history. Pluralism based rich heritage was present without existence of slaves or concept of castes. Qualities and actions were given more importance in ancient India, not the family of birth – all these were changed by the British for their selfish motives and ‘divide and rule’ policies; castes were assigned at birth and first caste-based census was reported in 1987. Castes were brought by the Portuguese and the British. Jati

Book Review

(based on knowledge) or Varna (community) is not same as Caste. Caste and Reservations based systems were the main cause for lack of development , disharmony, and social problems like untouchability. The Indian Education System today faces issue of ample knowledge but lacks in skills and trainings, because it has shifted from the Gurukul system and well-developed universities to current faulty Pro-Degree one. This was surely another downgrade by foreign invaders who wanted India to remain a raw-material exporter. Practice based education system was converted to theory based, same education system for all, high tenure in education system of 10+2+3/4 years. The upcoming New Education Policy gets a ray of hope to cater to these drawbacks and revive the ancient Indian entrepreneurial system with new nomenclature.

India’s orientation towards service sector and the problems of agriculture and industries is covered in detail in the following chapters. How ‘thriving SMEs were uprooted and License-Quota-Permit-Raj was imposed’ is discussed. Even after 75 years of independence and multiple changes in industrial policy, manufacturing industry is still not even close to the ancient SMEs. Due to the strong Government control, even now around 2,000 different approvals and permissions are required to start and run a manufacturing business, which need to regularly undergo lot of inspections and regulations.

Business culture, business systems and impact of family system on business is well defined and exhaustively discussed by Dr. Jain. India vs. Bharat debate and India’s Diaspora with Indians who have settled abroad are a decent read. The author does not forget to cover the regular and massive festivals and celebrations and their role in business.Interestingly chapters that follow next highlight on media –(advertising and PR), Jugaad Technology, existence of parallel systems and paradoxes seen in the country which create a base for how things are not as they appear.

The last few chapters talk in detail about India being in transition, the taxation & legal system in India and strategies and tips for a successful India entry. Throughout the book, the author continues to assess the performance and what lacks in the SMEs ,he provides apt suggestions to cater to the later.

A well-researched, well-structured, and well-expressed book of 30 chapters, “The Unique Indian Market: Doing Business in India” is a masterpiece for existing and prospective entrepreneurs and for everyone who intends to understand the country (in fact, the Sub-continent – considering the diversity as the author Dr. Prateek Jain puts it). Dr. Jain has used a varied range of writing flavors – seriousness of facts, jokes with good sense of humor, using anecdotes or simple essaying – keeping the essence intact and effective. Each chapter is complete in itself, yet well connected with the other.

In a nutshell, after the detailed and fact-based analysis, the author convinces the reader how 2020s is the best time to do business in India. Success is guaranteed if the uniqueness of the market is accepted and appreciated, and case specific related action taken. Though targeted with a business in India focus, this book is a must-read book for a traveler, a student or a homemaker!

Hemant G. Golechha is PhD Research Scholar, Dr. Vishwanath Karad’s MIT World Peace University.

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Policy & Politics

INDIA’S MERCHANDISE EXPORT IN APRIL 2021 WAS US$30.21 BILLION

Tarun Nangia

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India’s merchandise exports in April 2021 was USD 30.21 billion, an increase of 197.03% over USD 10.17 billion in April 2020 and an increase of 16.03% over USD 26.04 billion in April 2019.

India’s merchandise imports in April 2021 was USD 45.45 billion, with an increase of 165.99% over USD 17.09 billion in April 2020 and an increase of 7.22% over USD 42.39 billion in April 2019.

India is thus a net importer in April 2021 with a trade deficit of USD 15.24 billion, which increased by 120.34% over trade deficit of USD 6.92 billion in April 2020 and declined by 6.81% over trade deficit of USD 16.35 billion in April 2019.

In April 2021, the value of non-petroleum exports was USD 26.85 billion, registering a positive growth of 200.62% over USD 8.93 billion in April 2020 and a positive growth of 19.44% over USD 22.48 billion in April 2019. The value of non-petroleum and non-gems and jewellery exports in April 2021 was USD 23.51 billion, registering a positive growth of 164.28% over USD 8.90 billion in April 2020 and a positive growth of 19.89% over USD 19.61 billion in April 2019.

In April 2021, Oil imports was USD 10.8 billion, a positive growth of 132.26% compared to USD 4.65 billion in April 2020 and a negative growth of 6.62 compared to USD 11.56 billion in April 2019.

Non-oil imports in April 2021 was estimated at USD 34.65 billion, showing an increase of 178.6% compared to USD 12.44 billion in April 2020 and an increase of 12.42% compared to USD 30.82 billion in April 2019.

Non-oil, non-GJ (gold, silver &Precious metals) imports was USD 26.05 billion in April 2021, recording a positive growth of 111.3%, as compared to non-oil and non-GJ imports of USD 12.33 billion in April 2020 and a positive growth of 6.48% over USD 24.46 billion in April 2019.

All Major commodities have recorded positive growth in export during April 2021 vis-à-vis April 2020 namely, Gems and Jewellery (9158.63%), Jute mfg. Including floor covering (1556.39%), Carpet (1351.48%), Handicrafts excl. Hand-made carpet (1207.98%), Leather and leather manufactures (1168.96%), RMG of All Textiles (920.52%), Cotton yarn/fabrics/made-ups, handloom products etc. (616.6%), Man-made yarn/fabrics/made-ups etc. (583.53%), Ceramic products and glassware (441.57%), Other cereals (441.46%), Electronic Goods (362.86%), Oil meals (275.91%), Cashew (252.46%), Mica, coal and other ores, minerals including process (234.63%), Engineering goods (234.63%), Tobacco (183.86%), Iron ore (175.15%), Petroleum products (171.11%), Cereal preparations and miscellaneous processed item (170.86%), Oil Seeds (166.24%), Meat, dairy and poultry products (148.6%), Tea (143.04%), Marine products (107.59%), Spices (102.32%), Coffee (73.83%), Organic and Inorganic Chemicals (69.39%), Rice (60.29%), Plastic and linoleum (47.49%), Fruits and vegetables (21.82%), and Drugs and pharmaceuticals (20.68%).

Major commodity groups of export showing positive growth in April 2021 over April 2019 are: Iron ore (219.55%), Other cereals (206.43%), Oil meals (86.59%), Jute mfg. Including floor covering (66.19%), Rice (49.45%), Cereal preparations and miscellaneous processed item (40.34%), Electronic Goods (35.81%), Mica, coal and other ores, minerals including process (33.17%), Spices (32.72%), Cotton yarn/fabrics/made-ups, handloom products etc. (25.27%), Ceramic products and glassware (22.57%), Drugs and pharmaceuticals (22.55%), Carpet (22.38%), Engineering goods (18.61%), Cashew (16.57%), Gems and Jewellery (16.38%), Marine products (16.34%), Handicrafts excl. Hand-made carpet (14.33%), Plastic and linoleum (13.31%), Fruits and vegetables (11.66%), Man-made yarn/fabrics/made-ups etc. (8.35%), and Oil Seeds (1.30%).

Major commodity groups of export showing negative growth in April 2021 over April 2019 are: Tea (-23.66%%), Leather and leather manufactures (-13.27%), Tobacco (-9.86%), RMG of All Textiles (-8.01%), Petroleum products (-5.5%), Coffee (-2.56%), Organic and Inorganic Chemicals (-2.21%), and Meat, dairy and poultry products (-1.38%).

Major commodity groups of import showing positive growth in April 2021 over the corresponding month of last year are: Gold (215906.91%), Pearls, precious & Semi-precious stones (119500.48%), Sulphur & Unroasted Iron Pyrites (1525.05%), Electronic goods (213.59%), Non-ferrous metals (193.89%), Transport equipment (170.95%), Professional instrument, Optical goods, etc. (163.13%), Artificial resins, plastic materials, etc. (138.18%), Metaliferrous ores & other minerals (133.77%), Petroleum, Crude & products (132.26%), Machinery, electrical & non-electrical (113.73%), Textile yarn Fabric, made-up articles (111.7%), Wood & Wood products (101.01%), Machine tools (100.93%), Vegetable Oil (97.57%), Project Goods (91.79%), Leather & leather products (91.59%), Dyeing/tanning/colouring materials (88.10%), Chemical material & products (84.57%), Iron & Steel (73.19%), Organic & Inorganic Chemicals (72.73%), Fruits & vegetables (70.0%), Coal, Coke & Briquettes, etc. (65.98%), Medcnl. & Pharmaceutical products (56.92%), Pulp and Waste paper (46.35%), Cotton Raw & Waste (11.68%) and Fertilisers, Crude & manufactured (7.75%).

Major commodity groups of import showing negative growth in April 2021 over the corresponding month of last year are: Silver (-88.55%), Newsprint (-46.07%), and Pulses (-42.46%).

Major commodity groups of import showing positive growth in April 2021 over April 2019 are: Vegetable Oil (75.85%), Gold (54.17%), Chemical material & products (41.68%), Artificial resins, plastic materials, etc. (36.69%), Metaliferrous ores & other minerals (29.60%), Sulphur & Unroasted Iron Pyrites (25.23%), Medcnl. & Pharmaceutical products (22.23%), Fruits & vegetables (18.95%), Electronic goods (17.01%), Pearls, precious & Semi-precious stones (15.39%), Non-ferrous metals (13.51%), Organic & Inorganic Chemicals (12.46%), Professional instrument, Optical goods, etc. (6.78%), Dyeing/tanning/colouring materials (5.54%), and Wood & Wood products (2.63%).

Major commodity groups of import showing negative growth in April 2021 over April 2019 are: Silver (-95.25%), Newsprint (-59.63%), Cotton Raw & Waste (-50.42%), Pulses (-46.98%), Project Goods (-37.47%), Leather & leather products (-33.10%), Transport equipment (-24.49%), Machine tools (-23.40%), Pulp and Waste paper (-18.09%), Iron & Steel (-17.93%), Coal, Coke & Briquettes, etc. (-14.84%), Fertilisers, Crude & manufactured (-11.44%), Petroleum, Crude & products (-6.62%), Machinery, electrical & non-electrical (-1.55%), and Textile yarn Fabric, made-up articles (-0.37%).

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Policy & Politics

Badrinath to be developed as spiritual and smart hill town by oil and gas PSUs

Chief Minister of Uttarakhand and Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas & Steel jointly witness the signing.

Tarun Nangia

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Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) were signed today between the Oil and Gas PSUs-IndianOil, BPCL, HPCL, ONGC and GAIL, and Shri BadrinathUtthan Charitable Trust for Construction and Redevelopment of Badrinath Dham as a Spiritual Smart hill Town. The MoUs were signed in the august presence of the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Tirath Singh Rawat, Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas & Steel Dharmendra Pradhan, Tourism Minister of Uttarakhand Satpal Maharaj, Secretary, MoPNG Tarun Kapoor, Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand Shri Om Prakash, and senior officers of the MoPNG, Uttarakhand Government and Oil & Gas PSUs.

As per the MoUs, the Oil & Gas PSUs will be contributing Rs. 99.60 crore in the first phase of the developmental activities, including river embankment work, building all-terrain vehicular path, building bridges, beautifying existing bridges, establishing gurukul facilities with accommodation, creating toilet and drinking water facilities, installing streetlights, mural paintings etc.

Speaking on the occasion, Pradhan said that Char Dham is close to millions of Indians, due to spiritual, religious and cultural reasons. The Oil and Gas PSUs will not only contribute to the development work of the Badrinath but are also part of the development of Kedarnath, Uttarkashi, Yamunotri and Gangotri. He said “Today’s event is a significant milestone in the direction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of developing Badrinath shrine as a mini smart and spiritual city, without compromising on the religious sanctity and mythological importance of the region.”

Lauding the efforts of Oil & Gas PSUs in developing the facilities, Pradhan said, “I am glad that Oil and Gas PSUs of this nation have come forward to realise the vision of developing BadrinathDham into a Smart Spiritual Town. Tourism is one of the key industries, which is playing a critical role in the development of the state. Development of the sites like Badrinath would also help in attracting more tourists, which in turn would strengthen the economy of the state.”

Addressing the occasion, Tirath Singh Rawat said, “I congratulate Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Oil & Gas PSUs for extending their supports for this noble initiative. Shri Badrinath Dham has a special place in the hearts of the people of this country. It is considered to be one of the most sacred places in our country, and developmental activities are much needed to provide the best of facilities to the pilgrims from across the country. With the concerted efforts of both Uttarakhand Govt. and Oil & Gas PSUs, we are hopeful that the rejuvenation work of Shri Badrinath Dham will be completed within a span of three-year time.”

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Policy & Politics

SIGNIFICANT ECONOMIC PRESENCE: ADDING ANOTHER STRING TO THE BOW

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Over the years, digitalisation and technology have revolutionised our world and daily lives. Emerging technologies such as internet of things, quantum computing, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, blockchain etc have a marked influence on our economic as well as social activities and are changing the way people connect, entertain, socialise, create, sell, shop and work. With technological advancement, the pace at which businesses have proliferated their extraterritorial presence without having any tangible footprint, is astonishing. India is among the top three global economies in terms of digital consumer base, with 624 million active internet users. Taxation systems in major developing economies, including India, were drafted taking into consideration, the traditional way of doing business, ie a brick-and-mortar model. The conventional residence-based and source-based concepts of taxation have become outmoded over time and incapable of effectively taxing the digital economy largely due to its distinctive amorphous nature. This has resulted in either double taxation or non-taxation of revenues and has become a key base erosion and profit shifting concern across the globe. The OECD and G-20 countries have been working determinedly under the inclusive framework on BEPS to address the need for tax reforms. The OECD is spearheading a project to develop a consensus-based solution to address this crisis through revised profit allocation and nexus rules. India has been at the fore of adopting changes in international tax systems to keep pace with progression in the digital world. India was among the first to implement Equalisation Levy in 2016 on online advertisements related services and to substantially expanded the scope of this levy in 2020 to cover e-commerce supply and services. Equalisation Levy is designed to operate outside the framework of the existing system of tax treaties and transactions covered thereunder are not subject to income tax.

In the year 2018, the domestic tax laws in India were amended to widen the scope of ‘business connection’ with the introduction of Significant Economic Presence (SEP). The resulting income of a non-resident attributable to SEP in India were to be considered taxable. However, owing to delay in accomplishing a global consensus, SEP provisions were deferred till April 1, 2021 and the enacting thresholds were not prescribed. Pursuant to the amendments in Finance Act 2020 and the recent notification prescribing these thresholds, SEP is now defined to mean any transaction in respect of any goods, services or property carried out by a non-resident with any person in India, including the provision of download of data or software in India, subject to payments threshold of INR 20 million or systematic and continuous soliciting of business activities or engaging in interaction with 0.3 million or more number of users in India. Moreover, transactions and activities may constitute SEP in India, regardless of whether a non-resident has a residence or place of business in India, or renders services in India, or agreement for such transactions or activities is entered in India. This all-embracing definition is not restricted to digital transactions and could also impact typical buy-sell or service transactions between non-resident and an Indian resident. Far from the original intent, SEP provisions may also embrace offshore sale of goods and provisions of services outside India, unless clarified otherwise. Necessary clarifications regarding definition of key terms such as goods, property, systematic and continuous soliciting etc are awaited too from the Regulators.

Although SEP related provisions are applicable from April 1, 2021, it may only be a ‘paper tiger’ as non-residents from tax treaty network countries are shielded under the narrower definition of Permanent Establishment (PE) in respective tax treaties. India has an operational tax treaty alliance with majority of countries housing businesses that derive income from India. Unless these tax treaties are renegotiated through bilateral or multilateral instrument and corresponding modifications are made to include provisions similar to SEP in those tax treaties, SEP provisions under domestic tax laws seem innocuous. Irrespective of this armour, test of beneficial ownership could still be a relevant aspect to evaluate, especially in cases of multi-tier structures, where a non-resident could invoke tax treaty protection to duck SEP test. On other side of the fence, SEP provisions would set in motion for all businesses coming from countries such as the Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, etc, with whom India does not have a tax treaty yet.

A conjoint assessment of net basis taxation under SEP and gross basis taxation under Equalisation Levy would become critical for digital businesses. Equalisation Levy would become an elective regime once a non-resident e-commerce operator accedes to an Indian PE, in the form of SEP. In a scenario where a non-resident constitutes SEP in India, only income attributable to such transaction or activities would be taxable in India. While a public consultation document on profit attribution for SEP was issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes, no rules have been notified so far. It, therefore, becomes apposite to assess the applicability of Rule 10 in such a scenario. Constitution of SEP would unfold various compliance obligations for both, payers and non-residents. Payers would be required to review withholding tax position as any shortfall could trigger expense disallowance, interest, and penal consequences. Non-residents, on the other hand, could be required to file income tax return, tax audit and transfer pricing reports in India, wherever applicable. Notably, non-compliance related to transactions carried out between April 1 and May 2 of 2021 (ie before threshold notification date) may possibly be defended by payers on the tenet of impossibility of performance.

Though the payment threshold for Equalisation Levy and SEP are calibrated at same level, it is quite low given the size of Indian economy and growing consumer base. Even after the Apex Court settled the highly debated issue of taxation of software, taxpayers cannot breathe a sigh of relief as the ruling was based entirely on the premise of no PE in India and software sale as well as services transactions could now well be covered under the new SEP regime. The evolving ecosystem of taxation in India would require non-residents to tread a tightrope as dynamic provisions such as SEP are plugging-in loopholes that may have existed under domestic tax laws for a while. What lies ahead is the hope of reaching a quick global consensus that could provide a fair and just system of taxation, followed by modification of tax treaties to incorporate the suggested amendments.

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Policy & Politics

Pradhan flags off used cooking oil-based biodiesel from Indian Oil’s Tikrikalan terminal

Tarun Nangia

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Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas and Steel, Dharmendra Pradhan, remotely flagged off the first supply of UCO (Used Cooking Oil) based Biodiesel blended Diesel under the EOI Scheme from IndianOil’s Tikrikalan Terminal. Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas Tarun Kapoor and Chairman, IndianOil S M Vaidya, were also present on the occasion.

To create an eco-system for collection and conversion of UCO into Biodiesel and developing entrepreneurship opportunities, Hon’ble Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas & Steel, along with Hon’ble Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, had initiated Expressions of Interest (EoIs) for “Procurement of Bio-diesel produced from Used Cooking Oil (UCO)” on the occasion of World Biofuel Day on 10th August 2019. And such “Expression of Interest” is being periodically released by Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs). In the first phase, 11 EoIs were floated between 10.08.2019 to 09.11.2020 for 200 locations. Publication of EoIs has been extended for one more year up to 31.12.2021, for 300 locations across the country.

Under this initiative, OMCs offer periodically incremental price guarantees for five years and extend off-take guarantees for ten years to prospective entrepreneurs. So far, IndianOil has also issued 23 LOIs for Biodiesel plants with a total capacity of 22.95 Cr Litres (557.57 TPD). Under this initiative, IndianOil has received 51KL of UCO-Biodiesel at its Tikrikalan terminal in Delhi as of 31.3.2021.

Speaking on the occasion, Dharmendra Pradhan complimented the Oil industry on the stellar role they have played to keep the fuel lines running despite the stiff challenges of the pandemic. He also lauded the OMCs for going beyond the usual business imperatives by extending support for medical oxygen supply to the nation in this crisis. Mr Pradhan also appreciated IndianOil’s leadership role in smoothening the Liquid oxygen logistics in the country through various initiatives.

Referring to the flag-off of the first supply of UCO-based Biodiesel from IndianOil’s Tikrikalan Terminal, Mr Pradhan said, “This is a landmark in India’s pursuance of Biofuels and will have a positive impact on the environment. This initiative will garner substantial economic benefits for the nation by shoring up indigenous Biodiesel supply, reducing import dependence, and generating rural employment”. He appreciated the proactive role played by OMCs in this direction and shared that 30 LOIs have already been issued.

Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Tarun Kapoor, while delivering his address, said, “With this flag off, a new era of Bioenergy has been ushered in that will revolutionize the Indian petroleum sector. Feedstock availability in Biodiesel is a challenge, and leveraging UCO can be a major breakthrough that will enable us to reach the target of 5% Biodiesel blending. It will also help divert the unhealthy used oil from the food chain to a more productive purpose”. Mr Kapoor also complimented IndianOil for their focused drive on UCO based Biodiesel and for the concerted efforts undertaken to promote the benefits of Biodiesel.

Earlier, Chairman IndianOil S M Vaidya, while welcoming the gathering, said, “IndianOil is committed to contributing to this remarkable drive to retrieve the unhealthy Used Cooking Oil and usher in a revolution through “Randhan se Indhan”. We aspire to trace even the last drop of UCO and ensure its conversion to Biodiesel, thereby contributing to a more energy secure, greener and healthier India. This event is yet another significant step towards a Swachh and Aatmanirbhar Bharat”. He also shared that IndianOil has started constructing eight Biodiesels plants across Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh.

Biodiesel is an alternative fuel similar to conventional or ‘fossil’ diesel. It can be produced from vegetable oil, animal fats, tallow and waste cooking oil. A significant advantage of Biodiesel is its carbon-neutrality, i.e. the oilseed absorbs the same amount of CO2 as is released when the fuel is combusted in a vehicle. Also, Biodiesel is rapidly biodegradable and completely non-toxic.

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Policy & Politics

INDIA BEGINS EXPORT OF ORGANIC MILLETS GROWN IN HIMALAYAS TO DENMARK

Tarun Nangia

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In a major boost to organic products exports from the country, first consignment of millets grown in Himalayas from snow-melt water of Ganges in Dev Bhoomi (Land of the God), Uttarakhand would be exported to Denmark.

APEDA, in collaboration with Uttarakhand Agriculture Produce Marketing Board (UKAPMB) & Just Organik, an exporter, has sourced & processed ragi (finger millet), and jhingora(barnyard millet) from farmers in Uttarakhand for exports, which meets the organic certification standards of the European Union.

UKAPMB procured millets directly from these farmers which have been processed in the state-of-art processing unit built by mandi board and operated by Just Organik.

“Millets are unique agricultural products from India which have significant demand in the global market. We will continue to carry out export promotion for the millets with a special focus on products sourced from Himalayas,” said by Dr M Angamuthu, Chairman, APEDA. He stated that Indian organic products, nutraceuticals and health food are gaining more demand in overseas market

In Uttarakhand, many of the common varieties of millets are the staple foods in the hills. The Uttarakhand government has been supporting organic farming. UKAPMB, through a unique initiative has been supporting thousands of farmers for organic certification. These farmers produce mainly millets such as ragi, barnyard millet, amaranthus etc.

The exports of millets to Denmark would expand exports opportunities in European countries. The exports would also support thousands of farmers that are getting into organic farming. Millets are gaining a lot of popularity globally because of high nutritive values and being gluten free also.

Meanwhile, India’s export of organic food products rose by more than 51% to Rs 7078 crore ($ 1040 million) during April-February (2020-21) compared to the same period in the previous fiscal (2019-20).

In terms of quantity, the exports of organic food products grew by 39% to 888,179 metric tonne (MT) during April-February (2020-21) compared to 638,998 MT shipped in April- February (2020-21). The growth in organic products have been achieved despite logistical and operational challenges posed by the COVID19 pandemic.

Oil cake meal is a major commodity of the organic product exports from the country followed by oil seeds, fruit pulps and purees, cereals & millets, spices, tea, medicinal plant products, dry fruits, sugar, pulses, coffee, essential oil etc. India’s organic products have been exported to 58 countries including USA, European Union, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Switzerland, Israel and South Korea.

At present, organic products are exported provided they are produced, processed, packed and labelled as per the requirements of the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP). The NPOP has been implemented by APEDA since its inception in 2001 as notified under the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulations) Act, 1992.

The NPOP certification has been recognized by the European Union and Switzerland which enables India to export unprocessed plant products to these countries without the requirement of additional certification. NPOP also facilitates export of Indian organic products to the United Kingdom even in the post Brexit phase.

In order to facilitate the trade between major importing countries, negotiations are underway with Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Australia, UAE, New Zealand for achieving Mutual Recognition Agreements for exports of organic products from India.

NPOP has also been recognized by the Food Safety Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) for trade of organic products in the domestic market. Organic products covered under the bilateral agreement with NPOP need not to be recertified for import in India.

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