Below the line

| Updated on January 13, 2019 Published on January 13, 2019

File Photo of US President Donald Trump.   -  Reuters

Neighbourhood watch

When US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi picked up the phone on Monday to talk to each other, it was much more than exchanging New Year pleasantries. According to people in the know, Trump raised the issue of Afghanistan and indicated that India should play a more direct role in ensuring peace and stability there. Some say that the US wants India to send its troops to Afghanistan, but New Delhi, apparently, is not ready to oblige.

“We have been assisting Afghanistan through our development project funding and would continue to do so,” an Indian official recently told the media. And this is as “direct” a role that India is willing to play, whether the US likes it or not.

Patriotism in the air

The inauguration of NDMC smart meter project turned out to be one patriotic event. ‘Patriotism’ resounded right across the venue where the Power Minister inaugurated the NDMC smart meter project.

Around 10 members of CRPF band kept playing popular patriotic Bollywood songs most of the time in an almost two-hour long event. That left people rather flummoxed.

The event was the successful replacement of 50,000 conventional electricity meters with smart meters in the NDMC area, and not Republic Day or Independence Day.

Connecting the dots

Now that the Narendra Modi-led dispensation has endeared itself with the middle-class by going in for 10 per cent reservation in jobs and education institutions for economically weaker sections and also doubling the GST exemption threshold, there is now a clamour on a different front. Many feel that having an income tax exemption threshold of ₹2.5 lakh is an anachronism when the government itself has come up with ₹8 lakh as the cut-off for general category reservation. The big hope for the salaried class now is that the upcoming Budget would consider raising the threshold of taxable income to the logical level of ₹8 lakh. Not a big ask, if that will help boost the goodwill of the ruling dispensation in the upcoming general elections, say political observers.

New angel from North Block

For the many harried start-ups around the country facing the heat from taxman’s notices, help may come from a new angel at North Block. It is now reliably learnt that the new Chief Economic Advisor to the Finance Ministry Krishnamurthy Subramanian has been tasked to put out a note on the entire gamut of issues around ‘angel tax’ and the way forward.

But the main challenge is whether he would have the right economic arguments to recommend abolition of a provision in income tax law, which found its way into the statute book as an “anti-abuse” provision.

One thing is for sure. Most start-ups facing ‘angel tax’ demands are victims of the ‘unintended consequences’ of this “anti-abuse” provision, which has given sleepless nights for some political biggies!

Productive Winter Session?

A press release from the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs claimed that the Winter Session had been successful. The productivity of Lok Sabha was 47 per cent and that of the Rajya Sabha 27 per cent. Five Bills were passed by both the Houses, the press release said. And, of course, the remarkable passing of 124th Constitutional Amendment Bill by both the Houses was highlighted.

“(It) has been a successful session in terms of wide participation of all political parties in discussions on various issues of national importance,” said Narendra Singh Tomar, Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs.

Tomar said that the special achievement of this session was that both Houses passed the 124th Constitutional Amendment Bill.

But the Opposition had a different narrative. “Is this how a Bill this important is considered? Where are we headed?’ asked a senior Parliament member, whose voice obviously went unheard.

Our Delhi Bureau

Published on January 13, 2019
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