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‘Confiscating cash was not aim’, Arun Jaitley on 2 years of demonetisation

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Mumbai: On the second anniversary of demonetisation, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the decision never aimed to confiscate currency but to get it into the formal economy and make the holders pay tax.

As the opposition targeted the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government on the move, Jaitley described demonetisation as “a key step in a chain of important decisions taken by the government to formalise the economy”.

In a Facebook post, the Union Finance Minister wrote, “An ill-informed criticism of the demonetisation is that almost the entire cash money got deposited in the banks.

Confiscation of currency was not an objective of demonetisation. Getting it into the formal economy and making the holders pay tax was the broader objective”.

He also said that the government first targeted the black money outside India and asset holders were asked to bring this money back on payment of penal tax.

“Those who failed to do so are being prosecuted under the Black Money Act. Details of all accounts and assets abroad which have reached the government, resulted in action against the violators,” he added.

Jaitley also said that following the note ban, it is “now becoming increasingly difficult to evade the tax system”.

“In May, 2014, when the present Government was elected the total number of the filers of income tax returns was 3.8 crore. In the first four years of this Government, it has increased to 6.86 crore. By the time the first five years of this Government are over, we will be close to doubling the assessee base,” the finance minister wrote.

Defending demonetisation, he further said, “The system required to be shaken in order to make India move from cash to digital transactions. This would obviously have an impact on higher tax revenue and a higher tax base.”

On November 8, 2016, the Centre had declared Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes as non-legal and introduced new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes.

Since then, several opposition leaders have highly criticised PM Modi while the members of the BJP and its allies have supported the decision.


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6 killed, 18 injured in explosion at Pulgaon Army depot in Maharashtra’s Wardha

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Nagpur: At least 6 people were killed and 18 injured in a massive explosion at Pulgaon-based Central Ammunition Depot (CAD) in Wardha district, around 120 kms from Nagpur on Tuesday morning.

PRO Nagpur has confirmed that the tragedy occurred when the employees of the depot were disposing unused explosives in a military firing range area of Pulgaon.

“Today morning at 7.10 pm while carrying out the demolition of old explosives by the staff of ordnance factory Khamaria, Jabalpur there was an accident. The demolition was being carried out in the demolition land under the jurisdiction of central arms depot, Pulgaon. While carrying out the demolition there was an accident (sic) ,” said BBPande, PRONagpur.

“The officials of ordnance factory Khamaria, Jabalpur and of ordnance factory Chandrapur are rushing to the spot,” he added.

This is the second major blast in the depot in the last two years. In May 2016, 13 persons were killed in a major fire in the depot while disposing the explosives.

According to reports ,out of the six persons killed in the deadly fire-blast at the CAD, Pulgaon, two bodies were charred beyond recognition. The deceased are yet to be identified.

Pulgaon in Wardha houses the largest weapons stockpile in the country. The officials of the ordnance factory Khamaria, Jabalpur and of the ordance factory Chandrapur have rushed to the spot

These stocks include assorted weaponry including bombs, grenades, shells, rifles and other explosives. All the ordnance produced in different factories arrives at this facility before it is sent out to various forward bases.

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As Chandrababu Naidu meets Mamata Banerjee, BJP says ‘futile attempt’

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New Delhi: The BJP said that TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu is making futile attempts to build an alliance of opposition parties as many of them are resisting his efforts to grab a central role for himself and to project Congress president Rahul Gandhi as the leader of such a grouping.

BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimhra Rao also took a dig at Naidu after he announced in Kolkata, following a meeting with Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, that a planned conclave of opposition parties for November 22 has been postponed.

The meeting will eventually be shelved given the competing interests of the proposed partners and Congress’s negative image, he said in a statement.

“Whatever may be Naidu’s political compulsions for his desperate actions, there is no credible alternative leader or party to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the BJP in national politics today. Naidu is making futile attempts at alliance building,” the Rajya Sabha member said.

The postponement of the opposition meet is a severe setback to “desperate and spirited” efforts of Naidu, who is Andhra Pradesh chief minister, to cobble up a “United Corrupt Alliance” with many potential partners resisting his attempts to grab a central role for himself and projecting Gandhi as a leader of the alliance, Rao said.

Naidu met West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and asserted that all parties opposing the BJP were united in their endeavour “to save the nation” and will chalk out a strategy to take on the saffron party ahead of the winter session of Parliament.

He told reporters that the November 22 conclave of opposition parties which was to be held in Delhi has been postponed due to ongoing assembly elections and a fresh date for the meeting will be announced soon.

Rao said Naidu’s potential partners may be wary of him as he has made “multiple opportunistic U-turns” in the recent past.

In April last year, Naidu had hailed PM Modi’s leadership in glorious terms and mooted in an NDA alliance meeting that Modi be made the NDA’s PM candidate again in 2019, Rao claimed.

“Naidu is seen in Andhra Pradesh as a U-turn CM running a very corrupt government. People of Andhra see Naidu’s somersault as a political ploy to blame the BJP for his failures,” he alleged.

Despite his frantic efforts, neither Naidu can save the Congress from a “Congress-mukt Bharat” (Congress-free India) nor his own party from “TDP-mukt Andhra Pradesh”, Rao claimed.

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To battle Delhi pollution, artificial rainfall being considered through cloud seeding

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New Delhi: The toxic air quality over the National Capital Region (NCR) has persisted through November, prompting union environment minister Mahesh Sharma to reveal that artificial rainfall through cloud seeding may be considered as the next step of action.

Delhi’s air quality has oscillated between ‘poor’, ‘very poor’ and ‘hazardous’ in the first three weeks of November. The days following Diwali were especially bad with air quality plummeting to toxic levels. Trucks were banned from entering the city – unless carrying essential items, while construction activities too were halted for a few days. The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, however, said that extending the ban was not a practical solution. It suggested bringing back the odd-even traffic system or taking diesel vehicles off Delhi roads.

While the proposals have not yet been implemented, Sharma said that if the air quality worsens, cloud seeding could be considered. “If the situation worsens then the option of ‘cloud seeding’ to induce rainfall artificially, as an immediate step, can be considered,” he told news agency ANI.

Cloud seeding, in simplified terms, refers to the process of injecting certain chemicals into clouds to induce more rainfall by increasing the moisture content.

While it is unclear how far cloud seeding could be of help, Delhi and adjoining areas need every help possible because residents – especially children, elderly and those with respiratory ailments – are suffering. Some studies have shown that residents in NCR may have a reduced lifespan by 10 years due to sustained exposure to air pollution here. Medical experts and environmentalists too have warned against severe health problems unless urgent measures are not put into place.

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