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Bidi workers, health activists want bidis under 28% GST slab

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Bidi

New Delhi, May 30: Aiming to minimise tobacco-related deaths, bidi workers and health activists on Tuesday urged the government to put bidis under the 28 per cent tax slab of the proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime.

The bidi workers have also urged the government to intervene and alleviate their working conditions and eventually seek out alternative livelihood options.

The workers have accused the bidi company owners of taking subsidies in the name of poor workers like them.

“We ourselves are the victims of the bidi industry owners. They take advantage of us and manipulate the weak enforcement and regulatory system in the bidi industry to make our lives more miserable.

“We do not want you (government) to consider their request for lower taxes, benefits or subsidies that they are seeking in our name,” said Thangam, a 45-year bidi worker from Tamil Nadu in a letter written to the finance and health ministries.

Over one million deaths in India every year are tobacco related and almost two-thirds of tobacco consumers in India actually consume bidis, leading to debilitating diseases and eventual death.

According to Rijo John, Economist and Health Policy Analyst, the bidi consumption in India is price elastic and hence responds negatively to changes in prices.

“This is why a change in tax slabs could make a significant change in consumption and hence all the more reason why the government and the GST Council should not let this opportunity go to leverage the instrument of taxation to discourage bidi consumption — a stated public policy goal,” said John.

John said that a 28 per cent GST on bidis would only barely surpass the current tax burden on bidis in India. Hence, settling for a GST rate less than 28 per cent on bidis will result in a public health disaster in India as bidis are the most commonly used form of tobacco in the country.

According to the Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI), for the majority of India’s 275 million tobacco users, not categorising bidis in the highest GST rate slab will only accelerate the death and diseases caused by tobacco and work against the goals stated in the government’s recently announced national health policy.

IANS

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Equities surged on IMD’s monsoon forecast, healthy IT earnings

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Mumbai, April 21: Forecast of normal monsoon rains, along with healthy earnings in the IT sector, lifted the Indian equity markets during the week ended Friday.

Besides, supportive global cues, coupled with expectations of healthy corporate earnings, led the two equity indices — the BSE Sensex and the NSE Nifty50 — to extend their rise for the fourth consecutive week.

However, higher crude oil prices, along with a weak rupee and heavy selling pressure in banking stocks — triggered by a likely hawkish stand of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in its next monetary policy review — trimmed some gains of the benchmark indices, said market observers.

On a weekly basis, the barometer 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) of the BSE rose by 222.93 points or 0.65 per cent to close at 34,415.58 points.

The wider Nifty50 of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) closed trade at 10,564.05 points — up 83.45 points or 0.80 per cent from its previous week’s close.

“Markets extended their winning streak to the fourth consecutive week on strong earnings from TCS (Tata Consultancy Services), Mindtree and Cyient which posted a better than expected quarterly numbers,” Prateek Jain, Director, Hem Securities, told IANS.

“Sentiments also got a boost from postive global clues and IMD’s (India Meteorological Department) forecast that India is likely to receive a normal monsoon in 2018, which further boosted sentiments,” said Jain.

Rahul Sharma, Senior Research Analyst, Equity99, said: “Investors’ sentiment also got a boost after India’s annual WPI-based inflation eased to 2.47 per cent in March, helped by a fall in food prices.”

“Positive global stocks also supported buying,” Sharma told IANS.

Official data released during market hours on Monday showed that India’s Wholesale Price Index (WPI) inflation softened to 2.47 per cent in March from a rise of 2.48 per cent reported for February and acceleration of 5.11 per cent in the corresponding month of last year.

On the currency front, the rupee weakened by 92 paise to close at 66.13 against the dollar from its previous week’s close at 65.21.

“The Indian currency got hammered and sank to a 13-month low of 66.06 against the dollar (during the week) due to rapid surge in global crude oil prices and fiscal deficit worries,” D.K. Aggarwal, Chairman and MD of SMC Investments and Advisors, told IANS.

“The minutes of the last (previous) meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) indicated the RBI may shift to a hawkish monetary stance in June. At present, market participants looked little worried that the commodity will continue appreciating to new highs, which would spell trouble for Indian markets,” Aggarwal added.

On the investment front, provisional figures from the stock exchanges showed that foreign institutional investors sold scrips worth Rs 2,821.24 crore, while the domestic institutional investors purchased stocks worth Rs 2,124.16 crore during the week.

Figures from the National Securities Depository (NSDL) revealed that foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) divested equities worth Rs 3,096.62 crore, or $471.78 million, during April 16-20.

“The top sectoral gainers were IT, metal, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) and realty indices and the major losers were PSU banks, energy and bank Nifty indices,” Deepak Jasani, Head, Retail Research, HDFC Securities, told IANS.

On Friday, shares of IT bellwether Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) rose nearly seven per cent to touch a new high of Rs 3,414 per share, on the back of its robust earnings taking its market capitalisation (m-cap) to over Rs 6.50 lakh crore or around $98 billion.

The top weekly Sensex gainers were: TCS (up 8.11 per cent at Rs 3,406.40); Bharti Airtel (up 6.07 per cent at Rs 400.75); ITC (up 5.81 per cent at Rs 275.95); Power Grid (up 4.94 per cent at Rs 207.30); and Hindustan Unilever (up 3.96 per cent at Rs 1,465.50).

The losers were: Axis Bank (down 6.65 per cent at Rs 505.85); Tata Motors (DVR) (down 5.84 per cent at Rs 190.95); Tata Motors (down 5.72 per cent at Rs 336.25); State Bank of India (down 3.90 per cent at Rs 241.40); and IndusInd Bank (down 2.42 per cent at Rs 1,814.00).

IANS

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PNB claims expected recovery of Rs 1,800 cr from “Mission Gandhigiri”

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Punjab National Bank
Punjab National Bank (PNB). (File Photo: IANS)

New Delhi, April 20 (IANS) State-run lender Punjab National Bank is expected to recover around Rs 1,800 crore from its non-performing assets (NPAs) recovery mechanism — “Mission Gandhigiri” — which will soon complete one year of operation.

A senior bank official told IANS the mission, was launched in May 2017, had consistently delivered positive results with an average recovery of Rs 150 crore from the initiative.

“The mission was born out of the need to name and shame defaulters to increase societal pressure and urge them to pay back. Mission Gandhigiri has a dedicated recovery team across all circles of the bank,” the official, who did not want to be named, told IANS.

Accordingly, the passive recovery mechanism entails the team members to “visit the borrowers’ office or residence and sit their silently with placards that have hard-hitting messages such as ‘It is public money, please repay the loans’.”

On the legal side of the operation, following the government’s directions regarding wilful defaulters, the bank has declared 1,084 wilful defaulters.

“Due to PNB’s aggressive stance towards wilful defaulters, 150 passports have been impounded over the past few months,” the official said. Additionally, over the last 9 months, the bank has also lodged 37 FIRs against defaulters.

The bank is also leveraging data analytics for loan recovery and risk management.

“We have tied up with a leading credit agency and with the help of a third-party expert analytics, we will now be able to get access to contact information of PNB defaulters who have good credit record with other lenders,” the official said.

“This partnership is a part of the larger strategy to deploy technology to strengthen internal systems. This partnership will not only help the bank with loan recovery but will also help identify and automate profitable lending strategies and minimise credit and fraud risk,” the official said.

The bank has also recently started works towards “improving internal systems by incorporating analytics and Artificial Intelligence for reconciliation of accounts”.

In addition, two special OTS (One-Time Settlement) schemes have helped the bank to accelerate NPA recovery.

“From an average of recovering loan amount from 70,000-80,000 NPA accounts in a year, this move has resulted in recovery in 225,000 NPA accounts over a span of 10 months,” the official added.

“These schemes apply to small NPA accounts helping defaulters come out of debt.”

IANS

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Key Indian equity indices open flat

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Mumbai, April 20: The key Indian equity indices opened on a flat note on Friday.

At 9.17 a.m., the wider Nifty50 of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) traded at 10,558.15 points, down 7.15 points or 0.07 per cent from the previous close at 10,565.30 points.

The barometer 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) of the BSE, which opened at 34,434.14 points, traded at 34,414.73 points (9.17 a.m.) — down 12.56 points or 0.04 per cent — from its previous close at 34,427.29 points on Thursday.

The BSE market breadth so far was bearish with 710 declines and 507 advances.

IANS

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