Friday, July 29, 2016

Good and Services (GST) Bill – This time it may pass

Hopes are high again regarding the passage of GST (Goods & Services Tax Bill) in Rajya Sabha (Council of States). After all, this is probably the biggest and most radical piece of legislation came out of Indian Parliament after revolutionary Right to Information Act (RTI) and Right to Education Act (RTE).

GST (122nd Constitution Amendment bill) basically put forward the concept of comprehensive tax code on manufacture, sale and consumption of goods and services in India. This will replace numerous taxes levied by central and state governments.

There were numerous oppositions from multiples states, especially manufacturing power houses of India – Tamilnadu, Maharashtra and Gujrat, regarding various sections of the GST. Finally, the Union government on Tuesday agreed for the removal of 1% additional levy on supply of goods and full compensation to the states for all revenue loss they may encounter for next five years.

In addition to these changes; GST rate won’t be capped at 18% and dispute resolutions will be through a mechanism created by GST Council (not by dispute resolution panel as envisaged earlier).
As per many models and experts’ opinion; implementation of GST will not only simplify the tax structure but also help companies to operates more smoothly as far as taxation is concerned. Experts also hope that; this implementation may also add a couple of points to India’s GDP growth rate.

As two of the concerns raised by Congress is already addressed, they may in favour of the passage of GST bill in Rajya Sabha. Main problem in Rajya Sabha is, for passing this constitutional amendment government requires the support of 2/3 of Rajya Sabha members present and voting (i.e. 163 votes). Out of this, ruling NDA alliance only have 72 votes, and congress have 60.

The good side is, in addition to 72 votes GST is currently supported by 19 members of Samajwadi Party (SP), 6 members of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), 10 members of Janata Dal (U), 5 members of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), 3 members of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), 12 MPs of Trinamool Congress and another 8 from Biju Janata Dal (BJD). This will take the total to 135 votes in favour. Now, if Congress also favours the bill; then it can be passed easily in Rajya Sabha in coming session.

In addition to the passage in Rajya Sabha, this bill has to be ratified by half of Indian state assemblies.

Hope that this time there will be consensus for the smooth passage of bill.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

For those who lost their childhood to elder's senseless wars

It is not easy to give hope to those whom are otherwise betrayed of their joyful and innocent life. Millions of kids in Asian and African war zones are paying heavy price for their previous generations greed and crimes. A generation lost their play time and hope due to the senseless war for power, money and religion. It is here where Tim Jahnigen and Sting’s efforts to bring hopes to that very people by designing and popularizing a new type of football - which can withstand rough grounds of Rwanda, Congo, Sudan and many other war ravaged countries where playing is more than a luxury – is important.

“…Tim Jahnigen, when he saw a documentary about children in Darfur who found solace playing soccer with balls made out of garbage and string, he was inspired to do something about it. The children, he learned, used trash because the balls donated by relief agencies and sporting goods companies quickly ripped or deflated on the rocky dirt that doubled as soccer fields. Kicking a ball around provided such joy in otherwise stressful and trying conditions that the children would play with practically anything that approximated a ball.

he happened to be having breakfast with Sting, a friend from his days in the music business. Jahnigen told him how soccer helped the children in Darfur cope with their troubles and his efforts to find an indestructible ball…

One World Futbol Project has distributed more than 700,000 footballs in more than 165 countries, impacting the lives of an estimated 21 million children around the world since July 2010… Doctors Without Borders and a U.S. Army colonel in Afghanistan have taken balls with them on their travels.”

For reading the full story, please visit – Balls that make the difference


Friday, July 22, 2016

Raped Again - No lights at end of the tunnel

There are many things in which we Indians are not proud at. One such area is the attitude towards women at some regions in India; many consider them more or less as a tool for sexual satisfaction than an equal human being.

Rape is not unique to India; there are many places in this planet were rapes are routine and culprits walk free. But that doesn't make our record good. We are not supposed to compare our country with some stateless places where rule of the law is never heard of (or still rules by medieval rules).

What troubles me more is, even after so many incidents and too many laws every day it happens.

However, media reports those incidents depends on its news value to them (after all they are not doing any public service). Hence, instead of presenting the simple fact that a girl was raped; they highlight the social status of that girl and family. Those who don’t fit into these brackets hardly matters. Hence it is not an innocent girl who was raped but a Dalit girl. What you think? A girl was raped because she is a girl or because she is a Dalit girl?

Another thing which troubles me is the way laws are implemented. First of all, court affairs are very costly and not affordable even to middle class. Another problem is lengthy proceedings; by the time you get final copy of verdict (after all appeals) your you might have spent all most all money and life. If the accused are rich enough to hire good lawyers, then it may even turn out to be a futile exercise. Assume that you are ready for all this. Will that decision offer any protection to you? A girl from Rohtak (close to National capital and seat of Union government - Delhi) is an example of that irony.

Couple of days back this 20-year-old college student was found in the roadside bushes of Rohtak. She was raped and left to die. What makes this case deadly is; those who raped her now already raped her three years back. They probably did this again because she was determined to fight against them in courts.

As per news reports, "Family members said the attack last week was retaliation for not withdrawing the case. Instead of settling the matter in court, the five men had wanted to do so out of court, the victim’s family members said. The accused wanted to pay about $75,000... but the victim’s family members said they repeatedly rejected the offer."

So who are the culprits here? Those five men? or Indian Law & Order and Judicial system towards which those five men had any respect or fear. Earlier the state failed to protect her, later state failed to bring those culprits to justice, later state failed to stop the culprits from threatening her family, finally state failed to protect her when those five raped her and left her body in the bushes to die.

What we want is not extraordinary laws or all power to police; both actions are useless. We need our law and order machinery to protect citizens, their life, wealth and property and judiciary to make things fast and less costly. Is it too much to ask?



Monday, July 11, 2016

Sagarmala is creating new waves

As discussed in an earlier article, the flagship project of ‘Ministry of Shipping’ – Sagarmala - is making headway. It might take some time to reap the benefits.

As per latest government reports, state government of Odisha has confirmed a 10% equity participation in SPV (Special Purpose Venture) of Indian Port Rail Corporation (IPRCL). IPRCL’s SPV is for the development of heavy haul rail corridor from Salegaon to Paradip port. This will give connectivity for transportation of Coal from Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL) via eastern shores of India to Southern Indian states. It will also serve the industrial clusters of Jharsuguda-Sambalpur, Angul-Talcher-Dhenkanal, Kalinganagar Steel Hub, and industrial area in and around Paradip Sea Port.

There are a lot of benefits to reap from Sagarmala,
1. Freeing up roadways for other essential transportation
2. More investments to build sea ports and associated infrastructure.
3. Less pollution on roads
4. Less transportation cost in long run

and there are more.

Wishing all the best for Sagarmala.

PS: Facts not to forget here,
1. Murmagao Port handled a total traffic of 16.99 lakh tonnes during the month of June, 2016 (against 11.63 lakh tonnes handled in June, 2015) registering a growth of 46 %
2. Traffic handled from April 2016 to June, 2016 by the port was 84.62 lakh tonnes as compared to 41.39 lakh tonnes handled during the corresponding period last year, which is a growth of 104%.
3. Main reason for growth is surge in iron ore and coal exports.

4. Container traffic increased by 31%
5. General cargo by 8%.

Brexit - Referendum was fundamentally a bad choice

There were hundreds of articles written about the effect of Brexit on European politics, economy and integration. Economic problems in old mining towns and rural England, migration from Eastern Europe, refugees from Syria and beyond, loss of jobs, presumed loss of sovereignty, Brussel’s bureaucracy etc were cited as main reasons why people voted for an exit (simple majority) from European Union. By the way, this was the same club which was turned down by Briton when invited to join as a founder member and later rejected entry to Britain twice (in both cases the application was vetoed by France).

More than Brexit, what concerns me more is the disintegration of the country which we currently know us United Kingdom. The problem neither started with EU referendum nor it will end with British exit from EU. The problem is not limited to Britain alone but to other European countries as well. I believe the problem started with Scottish referendum. From where, Prime Minister David Cameroon got the idea of holding a referendum on Scottish Independence? It made sense if Scotland joined with Britain recently or at least a decade back. But no; Scotland became part of United Kingdom due to some historical coincidence (King James VI & I was son of Mary - Queen of Scots; great-great-grandson of Henry VII - King of England and Lord of Ireland (through both his parents); thus he finally accedes to all three thrones and ruled three countries as personal union).

Coming back to original question, why Referendum? This is not an issue of passing some law, election or something like that. Even if it passed in favor of those who organized it in the first place, referendum about national integration/division possess a grave risk of partitioning the country. Moreover, it is like, a generation of people most often looking into short term problems taking a decision (which is most often irreversible in nature) for future generations as well. Whatever pro-referendum advocates say, referendum is not to be employed for deciding the partitioning of a state. Even if they are doing it, the decision is not supposed to be taken by a simple majority. A two-third majority is a must.

Conducting referendum on the question of Scottish independence Cameroon made two mistakes. First one, Scotland can (for that matter Wales, England or Northern Ireland can) ask for another referendum for exit from the union in the future. Once we set foot in this path, it is hard to comeback. Second one is, future British governments will be forced to hold referendum on matter which are very much unpopular but necessary.

As a colonial overload of the past - a country who ruled an empire in which sun never sets; a country from which close to 60 modern countries got independence - should have looked in to history in much more detail.


China and THAAD Deployment

One thing with North Korea is, her current administration doesn’t care much about rest of the world’s opinion. Every now and then she will conduct a nuclear test or a missile test to shore up support domestically and to create tensions abroad. One of Pyongyang’s allies - probably the only ally left - is China. China played the good cop-bad cop game and every time North Korea did something which is not digestible to her arch-rival South Korea and US, China intervened as a responsible player to pacify things.

However, last time China moved a step ahead and tried to wean South Korea away from US orbit. This strategy is in fact interesting. If succeeded China would have got a neutral South Korea (I don’t think South Korea will fall to Chinese orbit anytime soon) but a difficult, but still manageable Pyongyang. Chinese might have assumed that they can placate North in some way. Timing is very important here, China badly need a couple of friends in East Asia and South East Asia. Probably taking this in to mind, Xi Jinping went to see his South Korean counterpart first before/along with going to North Korea.

The strategy fell apart when North Korea did some more military tests. There was a realization in South that China can’t guarantee her security or manage North in the way Seoul wanted. So they did what they were expected to do. Accelerate the talk with Americans to deploy Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD - Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin; Weight X Length X Diameter (900kg X 6.17m X 34cm); Operational Diameter: >200km) interceptors on their soil. As per Pentagon, this missile defence system is aimed solely at incoming North Korean missiles; not towards any others. But it won't take any hawk eye to understand that, once it deployed the range may fall well inside mainland Chinese territory. In other words, Chinese may have to develop new missiles to overcome new US pieces.

For China it looks like, Americans are on the periphery for a reason which they can't reasonably or logically oppose well. Probably from now onwards, the more North is trying to test missiles they more South will accelerate THAAD deployment. I think now Chinese are trying to strengthen the relations with north which for last two years where not well maintained.


Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia