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Middle class gets tax relief, farmers assured income in election budget

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New Delhi:Finance Minister Piyush Goyal rolled out the government’s last budget ahead of this year’s national elections, announcing no tax on income up to Rs 5 lakh, a Rs 75,000 crore assured income scheme for small farmers and a mega pension scheme for workers in the unorganised sector. The initiatives are designed to woo the middle class, address farm distress and boost private investment in an effort to shore up the political base of ruling BJP-led national coalition that has been accused by the opposition of not delivering on its promises to the poor.

“India is solidly back on track and marching towards growth and prosperity,” Piyush Goyal said early in his budget speech, asserting that the government had succeeded in “we have broken the back of back-breaking inflation”.

He said the Narendra Modi government’s success in controlling inflation had put more money in the hands of people. “Inflation is a hidden and unfair tax, from 10.1 per cent during 2009-14,” he said.

 

Goyal announced exemption from tax on income of up to Rs 5 lakh per annum, which goes up to Rs 6.5 lakh if the individual tax payers invest Rs 1.5 lakh in provident fund and prescribed equities. He also proposed to increase the standard deduction from the existing Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000. The proposal will benefit 3 crore middle class tax payers.

The TDS (tax deduction at source) threshold on interest from bank, post office deposits has been raised from Rs 10,000 to Rs 40,000. The finance minister further proposed to increase the TDS?threshold on rental income from Rs 1.8 lakh to Rs 2.4 lakh.

The BJP-led ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is facing discontent over depressed farm incomes and doubts over whether his policies are creating enough jobs.

The interim budget allocates Rs 600 billion for a rural jobs programme and Rs 190 billion for building of roads in the rural areas.

Goyal said Rs 6,000 per year assured income support will be given to small and marginal farmers having less than two hectares of land. He announced a new fund, ‘Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi’ for disbursement of cash to “vulnerable farmers”.

Around 12 crore farmers will receive Rs 6,000 per annum under the PM Kisan scheme. The money will be transferred into bank accounts of farmers in three equal instalments. The finance minister said Rs 20,000 crore have been provided for current fiscal, 2018-19 under PM Kisaan scheme.

The government unveiled a mega pension scheme for the unorganised sector workers with an aim to benefit 10 crore people. Goyal said the beneficiaries will get assured monthly pension of Rs 3,000 after reaching the age of 60 years.

“We are launching Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Mandhan today. The scheme will provide assured monthly pension of Rs 3,000, with contribution of 100 rupees per month, for workers in unorganised sector after 60 years of age,” Goyal said.

The fiscal deficit would be 3.4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), slightly higher than the targeted 3.3 percent, said Goyal, who presented the budget as Union minister Arun Jaitley is undergoing medical treatment in the United States.

Goyal told the Lok Sabha that direct tax collections increased from Rs 6.38 lakh crore in year 2013-14 to almost Rs 12 lakh crore this year with a growth of 80 per cent in tax base. The number of income tax returns filed increased from 3.79 crore to 6.85 crore over the same period, he said.

On job creation, the finance minister said, “EPFO shows two crore accounts in two years. This shows formalisation of the economy. When there is such a high growth, jobs are created.” The government is facing sharp criticism from the opposition over a ‘leaked report’ claiming that unemployment rate is at a 45-year high.

The interim budget is likely to be followed by a full one in July after the Lok Sabha elections. The interim budget projected the economic growth for the fiscal year 2019-20 to be around 7.5 per cent.

Highlights of Interim Budget 2019-20

1. Within 2 years, Tax assessment will be done electronically
2. IT returns processing in just 24 hours
3. Minimum 14% revenue of GST to states by Central Govt.
4. Custom duty has abolished from 36 Capital Goods
5. Recommendations to GST council for reducing GST rates for home buyers
6. *Full Tax rebate upto 5 lakh annual income after all deductions.*
7. Standard deduction has increase from 40000 to 50000
8. Exempt on tax on second self-occupied house
9. Ceiling Limit of TDS u/s 194A has increased from 10000 to 40000
10. Ceiling Limit of TDS u/s 194I has increased from 180000 to 240000
11. Capital tax Benefit u/s 54 has increased from investment in one residential house to two residential houses.
12. Benefit u/s 80IB has increased to one more year i.e. 2020
13. Benefit has given to unsold inventory has increased to one year to two years.

*Other Areas*

14. State share has increased to 42%
15. PCA restriction has abolished from 3 major banks
16. 2 lakhs seats will increase for the reservation of 10%
17. 60000 crores for manrega
18. 1.7 Lakh crore to ensure food for all
19. 22nd AIIMS has to be opened in Haryana
20. Approval has to be given to PM Kisan Yojana
21. Rs. 6000 per annum has to be given to every farmer having upto 2 hectare land. Applicable from Sept 2018. Amount will be transferred in 3 installments
22. National kamdhenu ayog for cows. Rs. 750 crores for National Gokul Mission
23. 2% interest subvention for farmers pursuing animal husbandry and also create separate department for fisheries.
24. 2% interest subvention for farmers affected by natural calamities and additional 3% interest subvention for timely payment.
25. Tax free Gratuity limit increase to 20 Lakhs from 10 Lakhs
26. Bonus will be applicable for workers earning 21000 monthly
27. The scheme, called Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Mandhan, will provide assured monthly pension of Rs. 3,000 with contribution of Rs. 100 per month for workers in unorganized sector after 60 years of age.
28. Our government delivered 6 crores free LPG connections under Ujjawala scheme
29. 2% interest relief for MSME GST registered person
30. 26 weeks of Maternity Leaves to empower the women
31. More than 3 Lakhs crores for defence
32. One lakh digital villages in next 5 years
33. Single window for approval of India film makers.


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RBI asks banks to grout ATMs to wall, floor for security by September-end

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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.

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SBI refuses to disclose communication from RBI, govt on electoral bonds

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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.

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Walmart’s Flipkart, Indian startup GOQii settle dispute over sharp discounting

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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.

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