India and neighbors
Strident Pakistan presses for UN envoy on Kashmir: (The Hindu)
Recently, at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Pakistan blamed India and Afghanistan for the volatile security situation in the region and also denied charges of harboring terrorists who target the two countries.
What is Pakistan’s view?
- It stroke a stringent note against its neighbors India and Afghanistan for promoting terrorism in the region.
- It portrayed Pakistan as a victim of terrorism
- Pakistan sought the appointment of a special UN envoy on Kashmir
- The country also accused India of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir.
- Pakistan holds the view that India has responded to Kashmiris’ demand for self-determination, with massive and indiscriminate force, indiscriminately shootings on children, women and youth which constitute war crimes.
How India reciprocated?
- India (and also Afghanistan) refuted the accusations lamented by Pakistan.
- India reacted pretty strongly and called Pakistan a geographical synonym of terror.
- With regard to Kashmir the country made it very clear that Kashmir was, is and will always remain an integral part of India.
- Indian administration said that Pakistan has diverted international military and development aid towards creating a dangerous infrastructure of terror on its own territory and now it is paying the price of its own creation.
Hasina floats five-point peace plan: (The Hindu)
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has put forward a five-point proposal at the 72nd UN General Assembly (UNGA) to find a permanent solution to the Rohingya crisis
What are the five proposals?
- Myanmar must stop the violence and the practice of ethnic cleansing in the Rakhine State permanently and without any conditions
- The UN Secretary General should immediately send a fact-finding mission to Myanmar
- All civilians, irrespective of religion and ethnicity, must be protected in Myanmar- For this a proposal was made for creation of ‘safe zones’ under the UN’s supervision
- Sustainable return of all forcibly displaced Rohingyas in Bangladesh to their homes in Myanmar must be ensured
- The recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission Report must be implemented immediately
‘It is for States to crack down on cow vigilantes’: (The Hindu)
The State governments have a responsibility to crack down on cow vigilante groups and prepare a counter-mechanism to act against and prosecute cow vigilantes.
What has happened?
- A Supreme Court Bench (led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra) has ordered the Chief Secretaries of 22 States to file their compliance reports on steps taken.
The steps include:
- Appointment of dedicated nodal police officers in the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police
- Preventing cow vigilantes, or ‘gau rakshaks’.
- To restrict/stop “taking the law or becoming a law unto themselves.”
Supreme Court had earlier ordered the States and the Union Territories to appoint nodal police officers in every district to crack down on cow vigilantes.
Filing of reports by States : Status
- Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Gujarat have filed their compliance affidavits.
- All compliance reports need to reach the court before the next hearing.
- The court had earlier given the 29 States and seven Union Territories time to put in place a counter-mechanism to act against and prosecute cow vigilantes.
The compliance reports need to be filled by all the states. The state governments need to take the responsibility, and directions would be given to all states.
A few sacks of rice: (Indian Express, Editorial)
The article talks about how Indian government’s stance on the Rohingya issue is imprudent, myopic and untenable from the point of view of security, history and morality respectively.
An imprudent policy from security point of view
- The Indian government has declared the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants not refugees.
- Treating the Rohingya as illegal migrants will diminish rather than enhance India’s security for a number of reasons:
History tells us that radicalisation grows when three conditions obtain:
- Groups are subjected to political violence and marginalisation.
- States lose control over territory partly because their own repression destroys the normal fabric of civil society.
- And other states that side with the repressing state also evoke resentment and become a target.
Example: the Bosnian wars were a trigger of radicalisation in other parts of the world.
- By condoning the Myanmar government’s actions and not assisting the stateless Rohingya, India, in effect, might help create the conditions for greater radicalisation.
- By declaring a whole refugee community as a national security threat, largely on communal lines, India is risking a communal conflict.
- India has also implicitly put all its eggs in the basket of the Myanmar government. This is a mistake as it was the Myanmar government that created the push factor in the first place.
- We will not be able to contain the spillovers across our porous borders if we have alienated communities living on our borders.
- To isolate radical elements, you need a more imaginative refugee policy.
- A proper system of identification, rehabilitation, and possibly reporting in India is required to deal with the situation.
- If we actually had a proper asylum law, and better processing mechanisms for refugees, even the situation of Rohingyas ending up in Jammu could have been avoided.
- In short, there are prudent security reasons, for treating the Rohingya with more dignity and political finesse.
A historically myopic stance
- India has been exemplary in the way it accommodated refugees from Tibet, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
- India aspires to be a great power. Its biggest asset is the way it has been the significant open society of the region.
- India had escaped radicalisation in large part because of its success in democratic incorporation.
- It was not identified with persecutory ideologies of the state or of other states.
- The political construct we have put around the Rohingya weakens the ideological projection that has been India’s greatest security strength.
- Therefore, India is betraying its own historical heritage.
A morally untenable stance
- India has now changed its stance on an important moral principle: The principle of non-refoulement. This principle stops nations from returning people to a country where they might be at risk of severe persecution.
- Even if India is not a signatory to International Refugee Conventions, it takes a very pinched up moral imagination to forcibly send back people who will face persecution.
- There is something disquieting about a country that wants others to have open borders for its rich and privileged, but will not help those who show up at its door because of palpable threats to their lives.
- In humanitarian terms, Indian policy is a pittance.
- This stance is likely to be self-defeating.
Centre to hasten GST refunds: (The Hindu)
The Centre on Friday termed as “wild estimates,” exporters claiming that working capital was getting blocked due to delay in Goods and Services Tax (GST) refunds.
What is GST?
It is a destination based tax on consumption of goods and services. It is proposed to be levied at all stages right from manufacture up to final consumption with credit of taxes paid at previous stages available as setoff. In a nutshell, only value addition will be taxed and burden of tax is to be borne by the final consumer.
The tax would accrue to the taxing authority which has jurisdiction over the place of consumption which is also termed as place of supply.
What is a tax REFUND?
Timely refund mechanism is essential in tax administration, as it facilitates trade through the release of blocked funds for working capital, expansion and modernisation of existing business.
The provisions pertaining to refund contained in the GST law aim to streamline and standardise the refund procedures under GST regime. Thus, under the GST regime, there will be a standardised form for making any claim for refunds. The claim and sanctioning procedure will be completely online and time bound, which is a marked departure from the existing time consuming and cumbersome procedure.
Situations Leading to Refund Claims
A claim for refund may arise on account of:
- Export of goods or services
- Supplies to SEZs units and developers
- Deemed exports
- Refund of taxes on purchase made by UN or embassies etc.
- Refund arising on account of judgment, decree, order or direction of the Appellate Authority, Appellate Tribunal or any court
- Refund of accumulated Input Tax Credit on account of inverted duty structure
- Finalisation of provisional assessment
- Refund of pre-deposit
- Excess payment due to mistake
- Refunds to International tourists of GST paid on goods in India and carried abroad at the time of their departure from India
- Refund on account of issuance of refund vouchers for taxes paid on advances against which, goods or services have not been supplied
- Refund of CGST & SGST paid by treating the supply as intra-State supply which is subsequently held as inter-State supply and vice versa
- Thus, practically every situation is covered. The GST law requires that every claim for refund is to be filed within 2 years from the relevant date.
Tax trauma: (The Hindu, Editorial)
Glitches in the GST regime are increasing the anxiety among Indian businesses
- India’s biggest tax overhaul since Independence, the roll out of the goods and services tax is off to a less than desirable start.
- The GST Network, its online backbone, is struggling to keep pace with the millions of invoices and returns being filed electronically by businesses across the country.
- The government has extended the deadline for filing GST returns. But even those filing returns before the last date have struggled.
- Recently, a ministerial group formed by the GST Council to resolve the GSTN’s glitches gave an assurance that 80% of the problems would be fixed by the end of October.
- For an economy that is slowing down for multiple reasons, even more troublesome is the implication of these implementation stumbles for 85 lakh taxpayers now registered for GST.
- Exporters, have already alerted the Centre that the delayed timelines for filing GST returns will mean that no refunds can be expected before mid-November on input taxes paid in advance and the integrated GST levied on goods they imported.
- By their reckoning, as much as Rs. 65,000 crore of working capital will get blocked, cramping their ability to ramp up capacity and raw material procurement in time for festive season orders from around the world.
- The GST regime is turning out to be neither simple nor friendly for taxpayers.
Government’s stand on this:
- The government has asserted that many exporters’ funds were blocked for five-six months even before the GST.
- Solution to speed up refunds is being worked out.
- Those producing only for the domestic market are no better off.
- Though the deadline to file the relevant return has been extended to October 31, initially only those who filed by September 28 were to be allowed to revise their credit claims.
- While revisions will be enabled from mid-October, the tax department is already examining some of these credit claims, triggering unease among firms.
- Several revisions in deadlines, tax and cess rates, rules, clarifications and tweaks later, the GST regime is turning out to be neither simple nor friendly for taxpayers.
Shooting in the dark: (Indian Express, Editorial)
The Bullet train Project which is very much in news, needs to be evaluated considering all its dimensions to figure out whether it is a project that would be expensive to maintain and difficult to dispose off or will it leap-frog India into a new era of advanced technology.
- Japan introduced its high-speed Shinkansen line between Tokyo and Osaka as long ago as 1964.
- Its top speed then was 210 km/hr; it’s now 350 km/hr.
- Since the first Bullet Train made its debut, 10 other countries have developed a high-speed network, the biggest being China’s
- Other countries with high-speed trains include France, Germany, Italy, Spain, South Korea and even Turkey.
- None of them uses the Shinkansen system
What remains unchecked?
- Since none of the countries uses the Shinakansen system, does it imply that it is the best available technology.
- There seems to have been no technical evaluation comparing other available systems.
- So it might be so that India is embarking on such a huge project on the basis of blind faith.
How did India put its faith on a technology that has not been evaluated?
- There was no technical evaluation and no transfer of technology agreement, but there was a viability report
- No one knows the details of the viability report because officialdom has refused to share the report even in response to RTI applications
- However, there is the example of Taiwan which installed the Japanese Shinkansen system.
- In the early 1990s, a consortium of private companies was formed to install a high-speed train system on a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) model which by end failed and finally the Taiwanese government had to bail out the consortium.
- In India, the BOT model was not even floated as a trial balloon for the very good reason that no private company would have bid for the project — the failure of the much less capital-intensive Metro project (BOT) is very much on everyone’s mind.
How is this project a threat to India?
- The Japanese are giving a 50-year loan of Rs 88,000 crore of the total project cost of Rs 1,10,000 crore, the rest coming from the central government and state governments of Gujarat and Maharashtra.
- If the interest rate offered to India of 0.10 per cent sounds benign, consider this: The interest rate on 10-year Japanese government bonds is 0.04 per cent and other interest rates can even be negative.
- if we consider average Indian inflation at three per cent, and Japanese at zero per cent, the rupee will depreciate three per cent every year vis-a-vis the Japanese yen. So over 50 years, the sum to be repaid will not be Rs 88,000 crore but could be well over twice that amount.
- 95 per cent of rail users in India do not use even the Rajdhani or Shatabdi trains. So only five per cent of Indians use our present super-fast trains because they find the extra fares beyond them. In short, bullet trains are going to make travel faster for five per cent of the population, which already has the option of air travel.
How is this project beneficial to India?
- The raw materials and the labor for the project will be provided from India
- Everything that needs to be used in the project, right from services to provisions, will have a great potential of creating revenue
- The Bullet Train project is going to cost Rs 1,10,000 crore; in last year’s rail budget, the total outlay for the entire Indian railway system was Rs 1,21,000 crore.
- The Bullet Train will serve a small percentage of people travelling between two cities; the Indian railway system, with over 13,000 trains running every day, carries more than eight billion passengers per year plus 1,000 million tonnes of freight over the whole country.
- The cost for the two, as the figures show, is virtually the same.