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Parliament’s Monsoon Session ends, government dubs it a ‘success’

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New Delhi, Aug 11: Parliament’s nearly month-long Monsoon Session ended on Friday, with the two houses recording a dip in productivity compared with the last session.

The session began on July 17, the day voting to elect the 14th President of India was held. During the session, voting to elect the 13th Vice President was also held on August 8.

During the session, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also saw itself becoming the single largest party in the Rajya Sabha after a fresh round of elections to the upper house.

Unlike previous sessions, the upper house recorded a higher productivity compared with the lower house, where the BJP along with its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners, enjoys a majority.

According to the data provided by the secretariats of the two houses, the Lok Sabha’s productivity was 77.94 per cent, significantly down from 114 per cent during the Budget Session.

The Rajya Sabha’s productivity was marginally higher compared with the lower house at 79.95 per cent. In the Budget Session, the upper house clocked around 93 per cent productivity.

Productivity is the ratio between the scheduled number of hours and the number of hours the house actually worked.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said that the government was happy with the session’s outcome.

“It has been a successful session in terms of legislative business conducted and wide participation of all political parties in discussions on various issues of national importance,” Kumar said at the press conference he addressed with Ministers of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and S.S. Ahluwalia.

Ahluwalia said the dip in productivity in percentage terms did not affect legislative business done by the two houses, as the Lok Sabha passed 14 bills and the Rajya Sabha nine bills.

“This session was short. In between, there were holidays, there was the Presidential election, obituary references, and there was also a day dedicated to discussion on the Quit India movement. There were disruptions, even though we were ready to discuss what they wanted…” the Minister said, adding that these factors led to low productivity ratio.

“There was no affect on the legislative business, as both houses passed several bills,” he said.

During the Monsoon Session, the opposition protested over several issues, including the agrarian crisis, withdrawal of cooking gas subsidy, and stalking of a young woman by the son of a Haryana BJP leader.

Two major issues that saw opposition protests were mob lynchings and cow vigilantes, with members blaming the government of inaction. Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections also led to much heat as the opposition Congress alleged use of money and muscle power to influence its MLAs.

Ananth Kumar said though time was lost to disruptions, members compensated by sitting extra hours.

The Lok Sabha lost nearly 30 hours to disruptions but sat for more than 10 hours extra. The Rajya Sabha lost around 25 hours, but members sat for seven hours extra.

The bills passed during the session include The Integrated Goods and Services Tax (Extension to Jammu and Kashmir) Bill, The Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, The Right of Children Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, and The Right of Children Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill.

Ananth Kumar called the passage of The Integrated Goods and Services Tax (Extension to Jammu and Kashmir) Bill “historic”.

Supplementary Demands for Grants for 2017-18, including Railways, and Demands for Excess Grants for 2014-15 and related Appropriation Bills were discussed and passed by the Lok Sabha.

These Bills were sent to the Rajya Sabha on August 2, but could not be taken up for consideration but were not returned to the Lok Sabha. As per the rules, the bills will deemed to have been passed by both houses on August 15, the end of 14-day period for returning a Finance Bill to the lower house.

The session also saw External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj speak on the stand-off with China along the country’s border in Sikkim, as the upper house took up a discussion on India’s foreign policy.

(IANS)

India

Loya issue ‘serious’, will examine all matters, says SC

Matter is serious. Let us look at full records. Let it never be on our conscience that we did not look at what we should have.

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cbi judge death mystery

New Delhi, Jan 22 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Monday said the controversy surrounding the death of Special CBI court judge B.H. Loya is “serious” and it will look into the circumstances leading to his death in November 2014.

Judge Loya was holding the trial into the staged shootout deaths of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and two others.

“Matter is serious. Let us look at full records. Let it never be on our conscience that we did not look at what we should have,” the bench said as it directed all the parties to file whatever material they have relating to Loya’s death and the circumstances leading to it and set the next hearing for February 2.

Senior counsel Dushyant Dave, appearing for the Bombay Lawyers Association, and Indira Jaising, appearing for an intervener, said that the records being produced by the Maharashtra government were not complete as they pointed to some documents they had accessed through RTI.

“There is no question of restricting the records. Prepare a compilation of the record,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said allowing both the sides to file whatever documents they had in their possession.

The bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M.Khanwilkar and Justice Chandrachud also transferred to itself two petitions pending before the Bombay High Court and its Nagpur bench relating to the matter.

At the outset of the hearing, Dave objected to senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for Maharashtra, saying that it was “not fair” for him to appear for the state government after appearing for BJP President Amit Shah, and that he has “done enough damage to the institution” and “there is a conflict of interest”.

He sought the appointment of amicus curiae to assist the court, but the court was not moved.

“We are on the circumstances leading to the death of Judge Loya. Let us not comment who is appearing for whom,” said Justice Chandrachud.

In a face-off between Dave and Salve, Dave said: “Entire institution is trying to protect one man – Amit Shah and Amit Shah alone” whom he described as “politician of great excellence”.

At this, Salve objected, saying: “What is this Amit Shah, Amit Shah. You are blaming somebody in the court behind his back. You can’t caste aspersion on somebody. You can’t jump three steps and pass comments just because he happens to be a prominent politician.”

As in the course of the arguments, Dave raised the pitch, the court intervened, saying that all the counsel appearing in the matter should assist it to “examine the documents objectively” and assuring that it would order the probe if needed.

As Dave, at one point, said that “as of today, it is a natural death”, Justice Chandrachud said: “If as on today, it is a natural death, you can’t cast aspersions. Let us look at the material objectively, so that we are not blamed that we did not look at the material dispassionately.”

In another face off between the rival lawyers, Jaising objected to Salve saying that the confidentiality of whatever material they will share with the counsel for petitioners and interveners be maintained and not shared with media, noting that it is like seeking a gag order against media.

As Justice Chandrachud said that “He is not saying gag the press. He is just saying …”, Jaising countered: “It means the same.”

As she said that court should not pass any order on Salver’s plea, the CJI asked if the court had said anything.

“Did we utter a word? Did we say gag? You can’t say order of the court. We are just discussing the matter,” he told Jaising asking her to withdraw her statement and apologise. She complied.

However, Dave said that if two judges in the Loya matter can address a press conference, why can’t the nation discuss it. He said that if the matters of Shashi Tharoor and P. Chidambram can be discussed in the media, then why not the Loya matter.

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India’s growing rich-poor divide: Richest 1% gross 73% wealth in 2017

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India’s richest, just 1 per cent of its 1.3 billion people, grossed 73 per cent of the wealth generated in 2017 while the wealth of the poorest half of Indians — some 67 crore — rose by only one per cent, according to a report by Oxfam.

The report, launched on Monday ahead of the gathering of some of the world’s richest at the World Economic Forum here, said the wealth of India’s elite went up last year by Rs 20,913 billion — an amount equivalent to the government’s total budget in 2017-18.

The Davos event is being attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Oxfam India has urged him to ensure that the “economy works for everyone and not just the fortunate few” in line with the government’s ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ slogan.

“It is alarming that the benefits of economic growth in India continue to concentrate in fewer hands. The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system,” said Nisha Agrawal, CEO of Oxfam India.

“Those working hard, growing food for the country, building infrastructure, working in factories are struggling to fund their child’s education, buy medicines for family members and manage two meals a day. The growing divide undermines democracy and promotes corruption and cronyism.”

The report, ‘Reward Work, Not Wealth’, has also found that India’s top 10 per cent of population have 73 per cent of the total wealth in the country.

“Indian billionaires’ wealth increased by Rs 4,891 billion – from Rs 15,778 billion to over Rs 20,676 billion,” it said, adding the amount of Rs 4,891 billion was sufficient to finance 85 per cent of the budget on health and education in all Indian states.

It said India added 17 new billionaires last year, raising the number to 101. But 37 per cent of the these billionaires inherited the wealth from their families.

It said 51 billionaires out of the total 101 were aged 65 or above.

“If we assume that in the next 20 years, at least Rs 10,544 billion will be passed on to the inheritors and on that if 30 per cent inheritance tax is imposed, the government can earn at least Rs 3,176 billion.”

This will be sufficient to finance six crucial services — medical and public health, family welfare, water and sanitation, housing, urban development and labour and labour welfare in the country.

The report said at least one in every two workers in the garment sector in India were paid below the minimum wage. By those standards, the report said, “it will take 941 years for a minimum wage worker in rural India to earn what the top paid executive at a leading Indian garment firm earns in a year”.

Oxfam called upon the government to promote “inclusive growth by ensuring that the income of the bottom 40 per cent of the population grows faster than of the top 10 per cent” to close the income gap.

“This can be done by encouraging labour-intensive sectors that will create more jobs; investing in agriculture; and effectively implementing the social protection schemes that exist.”

It said the government must also seal the leaking wealth bucket by taking stringent measures against tax evasion and avoidance.

The income gap can also be reduced by “taxing the super-rich by re-introducing inheritance tax, increasing wealth tax, reducing and eventually do away with corporate tax breaks and creating a more equal opportunity country by increasing public expenditure on health and education”, it said.

The charity said the government must also bring data transparency, produce and make available high quality data on income and wealth and regularly monitor the measures it takes to tackle the issue of rising inequality.

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Business

Gross NPA may rise to Rs 9.5 lakh crore by March: Study

“Fiscal 2018 marks beginning of third phase of ARCs which promises to change the landscape as new regulations and other changes kick-in.”

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Gross non-performing assets (NPA) in Indian banks are expected to rise to Rs 9.5 lakh crore by March, from Rs 8 lakh crore in March last year, said a ASSOCHAM-Crisil joint study.

Stressed assets in March 2018 are expected to be at Rs 11.5 lakh crore, the report titled “ARCs headed for a structural shift,” said.

“High level of stressed assets in the banking system provides enormous opportunity size for asset reconstruction companies (ARCs) which are an important stakeholder in the NPA resolution process,” ASSOCHAM said in a statement quoting the study.

It, however, said that owing to capital constraints, growth of ARCs is expected to come down significantly.

“While growth is expected to fall to around 12 per cent until June 2019, however the AUM (assets under management) are expected to reach Rs 1 lakh crore, and that is fairly sizeable.”

The study added that with banks expected to make higher provisioning over and above the provisions made for stressed assets, they may sell the assets at lower discounts, thus increasing the capital requirement.

The study also said that effective implementation of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code would be a remedy to the challenge of prolonged litigation and it can help improve the recovery rate of stressed assets’ industry further.

Power, metal and construction sectors contribute the bulk of stressed assets. According to an analysis of 50 stressed assets (forming nearly 40 per cent of stressed assets in the system), sectors like metal, construction and power form nearly 30 per cent, 25 per cent and 15 per cent respectively, while other sectors together form the remaining 30 per cent.

The report stated that 2018 would see a structural shift in the stressed assets’ space as increased stringency in banks’ provisioning norms for investments in security receipts (SRs) is likely to result in more cash purchases.

“Fiscal 2018 marks beginning of third phase of ARCs which promises to change the landscape as new regulations and other changes kick-in.”

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