Opinion

Below the line: Praise be to government!

Our Bureaus | Updated on August 30, 2020 Published on August 30, 2020

 

The need to be seen on the right side of the powers that be has become so important that lobby bodies and industry associations are not even checking the information given by the government. Recently, in a spate of tweets on the GST, the Finance Ministry also wrote about raising the annual turnover cap to exempt businesses from paying the GST to ₹40 lakh from ₹20 lakh.

Not a minute was spent in cross-checking whether this was new or old, and statements like “the move is a huge step in providing relief to lakhs of smaller businesses in the country, especially during the challenging Covid times” poured in. For a decision that was taken in 2019, the government must be happy with such a response, but it also reflects how tuned-in these associations are!

Pension priority

PFRDA Chairman Supratim Bandyopadhyay was all smiles at the FICCI FINCON conference last week, when he was asked to deliver the special address on pensions in the opening session. He saw it (addressing a conference at 10 am) as a “very very welcome change”, as normally any session on pensions usually gets relegated to the end. This was a reflection of how one thinks of pension just before retirement or at the end of their working life, he quipped..

Clearly, the world has changed and the millions who have lost their livelihoods or jobs are now going to think about financial savings and pensions seriously, much ahead of their retirement age.

Big anxiety over mini US deal

New Delhi seems to be undecided on what stance to take on the proposed India-US mini trade package that the Donald Trump administration seems keen to finalise before the November 5 US presidential elections. The buzz is that the US is pushing for lower import duties on farm products such as apples, almonds, walnut and poultry as well as access for its dairy items to please American farmers.

However, Indian farmers have got wind of the development and have been shooting off mails to the government, warning that liberalising agriculture would hit poor farmers who are already grappling with the Covid-19 disruptions. In fact, the RSS-affiiliated Swadeshi Jagran Manch, too, has vocally opposed a trade pact with the US. The Ministries of External Affairs and Commerce have, thus, both chosen to be non-committal and are not giving any indications of where the talks are poised at the moment. One can’t help wonder if a last-minute surprise is in store, like the country’s dramatic exit from RCEP negotiations in November 2019.

It is confidential

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla recently said that parliamentary committee proceedings must be treated as confidential. In a note, Birla said that members are not allowed to disclose them to the press, especially if the report has not been tabled in the House.

On his part, Birla is within his constitutional right to issue such a reminder. But this seems like an attempt to block out dissenting voices in panels from expressing their reservations to the press, some members felt. Whether this diktat is followed remains to be seen. This order is also to be seen in the light of Opposition parties gearing to hound the government in the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology. High on the agenda will be the Facebook fiasco and the allegations of bias against the platform.

Vocal about local

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for atmanirbharta reverberating, flaunting the ‘Made in India’ tag has become a style statement across India Inc. The latest to join the bandwagon is the BSE. The 145-year-old bourse suddenly carries ‘Made in India’ seal on the display page before its app loads. Achhe Din Aa Gaye.

Don’t underestimate tipplers

The State government-owned Tasmac liquor shops in Chennai, that were closed on March 24 due to Covid-19, were opened for retail sales after 146 days. While all arrangements, including social distancing norms, were in place, many shops reported dull sales.

Reason: Customers felt that since the shops were opened after five months, the stocks could be old. And, some also attributed the lack of long queues to people getting their regular share of drinks by beating the system.

 

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Published on August 30, 2020
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