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Indian fisherman killed at sea, Colombo denies role

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Chennai, March 7 

A 21-year-old fisherman from Tamil Nadu was shot dead in Sri Lankan waters igniting tensions in the state but Colombo insisted its Navy was not involved.

Six fishermen from Thangachimadam in Ramanathapuram district were fishing near the Katchatheevu islet in the narrow sea dividing the two countries when they were fired at on Monday night, Indian officials said.

One fisherman, K. Britjo, was killed. Another who was injured was warded in a hospital in Tamil Nadu. The others escaped without injuries.

As India voiced “deep concern” after the incident, Colombo promised a thorough probe and later said that its naval personnel did not fire at the fishermen.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K. Palaniswami, however, urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to act to curb what he said was Colombo’s “aggression” against innocent Indian fishermen.

Katchatheevu is located in the Palk Straits which divides India and Sri Lanka. The sea near the island is rich in marine life, leading to frequent clashes between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen as well as Navy.

In a letter to Modi, Palaniswami urged him “to intervene personally in this sensitive livelihood issue of our fishermen and use all means at the command of the government of India to curb the unacceptable aggressive actions of the Sri Lankan Navy and to protect the life, limb and liberty of our innocent fishermen”.

Palaniswami said the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India should be summoned and told about the strong feelings of the Indian and Tamil Nadu governments about the unprovoked firing on Indian fishermen.

Hundreds of fishermen launched a protest at Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu, blaming the Sri Lankan Navy for the killing. The dead man had set sail in a vessel with others from Rameshwaram on Monday.

Sri Lankan Navy spokesperson Lt Commander Chaminda Walakuluge said in Colombo that the Navy personnel had been ordered not to fire at Indian fishermen but to only arrest them if they entered Sri Lankan waters.

Indian High Commissioner Taranjit Singh Sandhu took up the matter with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the family of Britjo and Rs 1 lakh for the injured fisherman Saron.

The attack comes a day after Palaniswami wrote to Modi seeking the release of 85 fishermen and their 128 boats now in Sri Lankan custody.

The Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry said it was deeply concerned over the shooting.

“Initial investigations indicate that the Sri Lanka Navy is not involved in this alleged incident,” the Ministry said.

PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss on Tuesday condemned the killing and said New Delhi should stop terming Sri Lanka as a friendly nation.

“They were first attacked by the Sri Lankan Navy with grenades and then were shot at,” he said in Chennai.

(IANS)

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Manmohan meets Naidu ahead of Parliament session

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New Delhi, Dec 14 : A day ahead of the Winter Session of Parliament, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday met Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, who is also the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.

Later, Naidu tweeted about meeting Singh, who is a Congress member of the Rajya Sabha from Assam.

The Winter Session will begin on December 15 and continue till January 5. The 21-day session is scheduled to have 14 sittings of both Houses of Parliament.

In another tweet, the Vice President said: “I will work with all party leaders during the Winter Session and try to build a congenial environment in which public issues and national concerns can be discussed and where every member is given a reasonable opportunity to present her or his perspective.”

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‘Premature GST hurting small businesses, causing revenue shortfall’

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New Delhi, Dec 14: West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra on Thursday attacked the Central government on what he called “premature GST launch” and said it had led to revenue shortfall of Rs 39,111 crore to states in just four months.

He said the “plummeting” GST collections by Rs 12,000 crore in one month was a serious cause of concern even as the premature implementation had led to serious problems for the small and medium enterprises which were “seriously hurting”.

Mitra, also a member of the GST Council, said under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Act, Rs 43,013 crore worth revenue per month was protected for the states.

“So in four months, we needed Rs 1.72 lakh crore while we have got Rs 1.33 lakh crore. That means there is a protected revenue shortfall in four months of Rs 39,111 crore,” he said at the FICCI’s Annual General Meeting here.

He added the total amount budgeted for in the GST Council was Rs 55,000 crore for the full year.

“…Whereas we already have a shortfall of Rs 39,111 crore in four months. Even if you assume some improvement, probably it will end up as Rs 80,000 to 85,000 crore. Where will that money come from?

“The central government’s receipts have also sharply fallen from expectations. So states are worried what happens if Rs 80,000-85,000 crore becomes due from the central government as compensation,” Mitra said.

He attacked the government over the sharp decline in GST collections between September and October.

“September GST collections were Rs 95,131 crore whereas October collections plummeted by Rs 12,000 crore to Rs 83,346 crore. Rs 12,000 crore decline in one month has never been seen before. That concerns me deeply.

“The question on the table is what will happen next month and the following month. Among economists there is a feeling that this is not going to stabilize in a day or two,” Mitra said.

He added the main reason for this sharp decline was that small and medium enterprises were not able to file their returns.

He said under the “hastily-implemented” GST regime, the infrastructure was unprepared to handle the enormous number of returns and refund claims and hence manual systems had to introduced.

“It seems we have gone back a few steps even from the VAT era. In VAT era, we were completely digitised. Now we are still grappling with the fact that we have gone back to the manual.

“First by demonetisation, you kill the informal sector. Then you come to small and medium enterprises with this premature GST launch without homework. What you have done is that small and medium enterprises, which provide 40 per cent of GDP and 80 per cent of employment, are in a bad shape today,” Mitra said.

However, Jammu and Kashmir Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi defended the landmark indirect tax reform, saying the government was making all efforts to improve collections.

Expressing hope that revenue collections under GST will stabilise over the next few months, Modi said an exercise was going on to compare pre-GST and post-GST tax collection data to find out the cause of the shortfall and to identify any malpractices responsible for that.

He said 80-90 per cent of issues related to GST rates were resolved after the Guwahati GST Council Meet of last month.

“Now the big issue is how to improve compliance and make the IT network more user-friendly. Refund is also a big issue where problems exist and we are trying to solve those,” Modi said, adding the issue of input tax credit was also being worked out and complaints had reduced.

Drabu said the GST regime which we have arrived at was a result of decisions taken by the GST Council. “I take responsibility of every decision even if I don’t agree with them.

“Many of the errors in the current GST structure are our contributions. But while this transition may not be as glamorous as globalisation and liberalisation, it is the biggest move towards formalisation of economy,” he said.

Acknowledging problems faced by small and medium enterprises, Drabu said larger companies were not buying from small businesses due to lack of input tax credit and hence the composition scheme for small businesses should be adjusted to allow some input tax credit.

He also suggested abolishing the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) under GST. “MRP and GST regime don’t go together. We need to abolish the MRP and allow market forces to arrive at prices.”

IANS

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Supreme Court to pronounce order on Aadhaar mandatory linking tomorrow

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New Delhi, Dec 14: The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its interim order for Friday on a batch of pleas seeking a stay on the government’s decision of mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various welfare schemes, as the Centre extended the deadline up to 31 March next year.

 

SC on Friday will pronounce its order on a batch of petitions seeking stay of various Central and state government notifications mandating the linking of Aadhaar with various schemes including taking exam by the students, availing scholarship, cremation and treatment of HIV positive patients.

The government has already issued 139 notifications mandating the linking of Unique identification Number with various schemes including MNREGA, old age pension scheme, provident fund and Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana.

Reserving the order after the hearing spread over three and half hours on Thursday, the five judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that the regular hearing on the batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar being violative of right to privacy would commence on January 10, 2018.

The court indicated that it will address the government plea for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with the opening of new bank accounts in its order to be pronounced on Friday.

As Attorney General K.K.Venugopal insisted that linking of Aadhaar with the opening of new banks accounts should be allowed, the counsel for petitioners said that if in the last seven decades, the system of introduction by an existing account holder has worked, heavens would not fall if it continues for another three months.

The court is also likely to pass order extending February 6 deadline for the linking of mobile numbers with Aadhaar to March 31.

The government has already extended December 31 deadline on the linking Aadhaar with the existing bank accounts till March 31.

Read More: – Deadline to link Aadhaar with bank accounts extended till March 31

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