New Delhi: Union Minister Arun Jaitley rejected criticism for deviating from past by including direct tax proposal in an interim Budget saying the rebate in the income tax was a logical extension of steps taken by the government since 2014.
While in 2009 and then in 2014, the Congress-led UPA had brought indirect tax proposals in keeping with the needs of the economy, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal announced an income tax rebate on earnings of up to Rs 5 lakh.
“Budgets are a political reality in a Parliamentary democracy. So are elections, but this is not a move which anywhere contradicts or deviates from what this government has been doing in the past 5 years. “It’s actually a logical movement in the direction in which we were moving in last 5 years,” he said during an interaction on interim Budget through video conferencing from New York.
Goyal’s move was criticised by the Opposition saying with general election months away, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government had mandate only to present a vote on account and a Budget containing direct tax proposals. They felt that was the job for the next government to do when they present a full Budget for 2019-20 in July.
In 2009, then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee introduced a stimulus for the economy faced with global meltdown in his reply to the interim Budget debate. His successor P Chidambaram had in 2014 changed duty structures on some commodities.
“I completely reject this artificial distinction between direct and indirect taxes. You can deal with indirect taxes not with direct taxes. Tell me, giving a boost to the economy, is it not required today in the larger interest of the economy? On one hand, the so-called critics ‘Nawab of Negativity’ are saying that the world’s fastest growing economy is growing slowly. “If that’s the point of criticism, then let us be allowed to give a boost to the economy. And, this higher consumption will certainly give boost to the economy,” he said.
Jaitley said that for the past 5 years, the government has been giving relief in direct taxes and whatever has been done in Interim Budget 2019-20 is a continuation of what started in 2014. With the increased size of Budget, the government has been able to provide benefit to taxpayers.
“Now, size of the Budget has expanded to Rs 27 lakh crore from Rs 14 lakh crore in 2014…small tax payers are entiled to more money in the pocket and whatever more we spend a lot of it comes back as indirect taxes. It’s a movement in the same direction which we started in 2014,” he said.
On the income support scheme for farmers, Jaitley said the farm sector required resources and if the current scheme is inadequate, the Centre will increase its allocation. Pointing out that the sector is in distress, he said, the Centre has taken the first step and “let the state governments of so called critics top it up”.
Income support and subsidy can go hand in hand, he added. Taking a dig at critics of the scheme, he said the Congress had announced a Rs 72,000-crore farm loan waiver but had actually disbursed about Rs 52,000 crore.
Jaitley said the average monthly collection in the first eight months of the GST roll-out was Rs 89,000 crore which increased to Rs 97,000 crore in the 10 months so far this fiscal.
“If the collections are growing at 11-12 per cent in the second year then with increased compliance, the collection in third and fourth year will be much higher,” he said.
RBI asks banks to grout ATMs to wall, floor for security by September-end
Mumbai: The Reserve Bank asked banks to ensure their ATMs are grouted to a wall, pillar, or floor by September-end, except those installed in high secured premises such as airports, to enhance security of the cash vending machines.
In 2016, the RBI had st up a Committee on Currency Movement (CCM) to review the entire gamut of security of treasure in transit.
Based on the recommendations of the panel, the central bank has now issued instructions aimed at mitigating risks in ATM operations and enhancing security.
As part of the security measures, all “ATMs shall be operated for cash replenishment only with digital One Time Combination (OTC) locks”.
Also, “All ATMs shall be grouted to a structure (wall, pillar, floor, etc.) by September 30, 2019, except for ATMs installed in highly secured premises such as airports, etc. which have adequate CCTV coverage and are guarded by state/central security personnel”.
Further, banks may also consider rolling out a comprehensive e-surveillance mechanism at the ATMs to ensure timely alerts and quick response, it said.
The new measures to be adopted by banks are in addition to the existing instructions, practices and guidance issued by the RBI and law enforcement agencies.
The RBI also warned the banks that non-adherence of timelines or non-observance of the instructions would attract regulatory action including levy of penalty.
SBI refuses to disclose communication from RBI, govt on electoral bonds
New Delhi: The State Bank of India has refused to disclose any communication it received from the government or the Reserve Bank of India on electoral bonds, terming it “personal information” and held in “fiduciary capacity”.
Responding to an RTI filed by Pune-based activist Vihar Durve who had demanded copies of all letters, correspondence, directions, notifications or e-mails received from the RBI or any government department between 2017 and 2019, the SBI said it cannot be provided by it.
The bank cited two exemption clauses under the RTI Act to deny information — Section 8(1)(e) which pertains to information held in fiduciary capacity and Section 8(1)(J) which pertains to personal information of a person which has no link to any public activity.
“Information sought by the applicant cannot be disclosed as it is in fiduciary capacity, disclosure of which is exempted under Section 8(1)(e) and 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005,” the Central Public Information Officer of the bank said in his reply.
The bank also refused to give any details of action taken by it on such communications from the RBI and the government.
The electoral bonds, for giving donations to political parties, are being sold through SBI only. The sale opens in SBI branches when the Finance Ministry issues a notification of their sale for a given period.
The scheme of electoral bonds notified by the Centre in 2018 has been challenged in the Supreme Court.
Only the political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and which secured not less than one per cent of the votes polled in the last general election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State, shall be eligible to receive the bonds.
The bonds may be purchased by a person who is a citizen of India “or incorporated or established in India,” the government had said in a statement last year.
The bonds remain valid for 15 days and can be encashed by an eligible political party only through an account with the authorised bank within that period only.
A voluntary group working in the field of electoral reforms, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), has demanded a stay on the sale while the CPI(M) has challenged it before the Supreme Court in separate petitions.
ADR recently filed an application in the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the Electoral Bond Scheme, 2018 which was notified by the Centre in January last year.
Walmart’s Flipkart, Indian startup GOQii settle dispute over sharp discounting
New Delhi: Walmart unit Flipkart has settled a legal dispute with an Indian startup that alleged it suffered losses because its products were sharply discounted on the global retailer’s website.
GOQii, a seller of smartwatch-type health devices, sued Flipkart last month in a Mumbai court, alleging its devices were discounted by around 70 per cent to the retail price, much more than the two sides had agreed. The court had, as an interim measure, ordered device sales to be halted on Flipkart.
In a joint statement , the companies said the dispute had been resolved and GOQii health devices would again be available on Flipkart. They didn’t say how the settlement was reached.
Vishal Gondal, CEO of GOQii, told Reuters the company would withdraw the case against Flipkart. The e-commerce retailer’s “team worked on a resolution benefitting the brand and the customers”, Gondal said in the statement.
The legal spat was seen as a test case of the giant retailer’s operating strategy in the country.
Small traders and a right-wing group close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party have raised concerns about large e-commerce companies, saying they burn billions of dollars deeply discounting some products to lure customers onto their sites, in the expectation that they will also buy other goods.
GOQii said it signed an agreement last year with a Flipkart unit to sell two of its devices at a price not below 1,999 rupees (USD 28.63) and 1,499 rupees. It later found the devices were being sold for 999 rupees and 699 rupees, calling it “unauthorized” discounting.
In response, Flipkart said it reserved “the right to institute actions for defamation, both civil and criminal”, arguing it wasn’t responsible for any discounts which are determined by third-party firms which sell via its website.
The two companies struck a friendlier tone in their joint-statement on Friday as they brought the legal battle to an end.
“We have ensured constant engagement with GOQii to resolve any differences,” Flipkart said in the statement.
With a 19 per cent market share, GOQii was the second-biggest player in India’s so-called wearables market last year, data from industry tracker IDC showed. The market is dominated by China’s Xiaomi, with Samsung a small player.