Posts tagged ‘Rajya Sabha’

03/08/2016

India’s biggest tax reform GST looms, many companies unprepared | Reuters

Throughout years of political gridlock, the risk that India might pass its biggest tax reform since independence appeared reassuringly remote for many businesses.

Until now.Suddenly, the prospect that a new Goods and Services Tax (GST) could enter force next year has bosses panicking at the likely impact and seeking advice on how to cope.

The expected passage by parliament on Wednesday of a key constitutional amendment would resolve crucial issues needed to transform India’s $2 trillion economy and 1.3 billion consumers into a single market for the first time.

The amendment is likely to clear the Rajya Sabha after the opposition Congress party, which originally proposed the GST while in power, wrung concessions from Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government.

Yet the vote will only fire the starting gun in a legislative marathon in which the national parliament and India’s 29 federal states have to pass further laws determining the – still unknown – rate and scope of the tax.

At the same time, a huge IT system needs to be set up, tax collectors trained and companies brought up to speed on a levy that experts say will force them to overhaul business processes from front to back.

One boss who isn’t ready is G.R. Ralhan, head of Roamer Woollen Mills in the northern city of Ludhiana.

“Companies, particularly smaller ones, are apprehensive,” Ralhan told Reuters, calling for more time to adjust and saying a high rate of GST could put his firm out of business.

Countries that have introduced GST in the past have often faced a relative economic slowdown before the benefits of a unified tax regime feed through.

India is already the world’s fastest growing large economy, expanding by 7.9 percent year-on-year in the March quarter. Economists at HSBC forecast a boost of 0.8 percentage points from the GST within three to five years.

80-20 RULE

Tax experts say that only 20 percent of – mostly big – firms are getting ready for the GST. The rest are taking things as they come in a country where coping with a changing tax regime has been a way of life for decades.

Yet even those actively preparing must contend with a series of unknowns as the national and state parliaments tackle the task of transforming a “model” GST law into the real thing.

The first hurdle will be for a majority of state parliaments to pass the GST amendment, which would establish a GST Council to finalise key terms of the new tax.

That could take until November and mean that the legislation to put the GST into force would only come before the national parliament’s winter session.

Hitting the government’s target launch date of next April 1, the start of the fiscal year, looks ambitious. Slippage to July or October 2017 is increasingly likely, say experts.

Source: India’s biggest tax reform GST looms, many companies unprepared | Reuters

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27/07/2016

Parliament passes controversial child labour bill | Reuters

Parliament on Tuesday approved a controversial law that would allow children to work for family businesses, despite widespread concern by the United Nations and other rights advocates that it will push more children into labour.

A week after the bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha approved the measure that brings a raft of changes to a three-decade-old child labour prohibition law. The bill now goes for the President’s assent before becoming law.

The U.N. Children’s Agency (UNICEF) as well as many others have raised alarm over two particular amendments – permitting children to work for their families and reducing the number of banned professions for adolescents.

A 2015 report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) put the number of child workers in India ages 5 to 17 at 5.7 million, out of 168 million globally.

More than half of India’s child workers are employed in agriculture and more than a quarter in manufacturing – embroidering clothes, weaving carpets or making match sticks. Children also work in restaurants, shops and hotels and as domestic workers.The new legislation extends a ban on child labour under 14 to all sectors. Previously, only 18 hazardous occupations and 65 processes such as mining, gem cutting and cement manufacturing were outlawed.

It also stiffens penalties for those employing children, doubling jail terms to two years and increasing fines to 50,000 rupees ($740) from 20,000 rupees ($300).

While child rights groups have welcomed such changes, there has been concern over other amendments proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government.

For example, children will be allowed to work in family businesses, outside of school hours and during holidays, and in entertainment and sports if it does not affect their education.

Also, children 15 to 18 will be permitted to work, except in mines and industries where they would be exposed to inflammable substances and hazardous processes.

The government says the exemptions aim to strike a balance between education and India’s economic reality, in which parents rely on children to help with farming or artisanal work to fight poverty or pass on a family trade.

“The purpose of this very act is that we should be able to practically implement it,” Labour and Employment Minister Bandaru Dattatreya told parliament. “That’s why we are giving some exemptions.”UNICEF had urged India to exclude family work from the proposed law and include an “exhaustive list” of hazardous occupations.

“To strengthen the Bill and provide a protective legal framework for children, UNICEF India strongly recommends the removal of ‘children helping in family enterprises’,” it said in a statement on Monday.

“This will protect children from being exploited in invisible forms of work, from trafficking and from boys and girls dropping out of school due to long hours of work,” it said.

Source: Parliament passes controversial child labour bill | Reuters

05/02/2016

‘One family’ not letting Rajya Sabha function, Modi says – The Hindu

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday accused Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi of disrupting Parliament to avenge defeat in 2014 Lok Sabha polls and hence blocking the passage of Bills aimed at benefitting the poor. Prime Minister Narendra Modi being presented Jaapi, a traditional hat from Assam at a meeting in Sivasagar district on Friday.

Addressing tea garden workers in Assam, Mr. Modi alleged that “one family” was indulging in “negative politics”, as he claimed that there are leaders in opposition parties other than Congress, who want Parliament to function even though they oppose him.

“Those who have lost the election (in 2014) and have come down from 400 to 40 have decided not to allow Modi to work. They have decided to create obstacles and difficulties. The conspiracy for the same is going on,” he said, referring clearly to Congress.

“They have now decided to take revenge from people, from the poor workers for voting the Congress out of power,” Mr. Modi said.

“There are many leaders and parties even in the opposition who oppose Modi, the BJP and the government but they want Parliament to run and carry out is business. But one family is so rigid that they do not allow the Rajya Sabha to function and let the nation’s agenda of development to be taken forward because people of the country have defeated them,” Mr. Modi said.

“The country is not going to benefit from this politics of negativism and obstructionism. There is only one family with such a thinking, which has brought this kind of destruction. Leaders in the other opposition parties are not like this,” the Prime Minister said.

Mr. Modi urged people to give a chance to the BJP to form a government in Assam.

He contended that laws for the welfare of the State can be put in place only when there is a government in Guwahati, which listens to Centre.

Source: ‘One family’ not letting Rajya Sabha function, Modi says – The Hindu

09/06/2015

Modi to launch India’s biggest labour overhaul in decades | Reuters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is preparing to launch India’s biggest overhaul of labour laws since independence in a bid to create millions of manufacturing jobs, at the risk of stirring up a political backlash that could block other critical reforms.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves towards his supporters during a rally in Mathura, May 25, 2015.  REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Three officials at the central labour ministry told Reuters that the ministry was drafting a bill for the upcoming parliamentary session that proposes to loosen strict hire-and-fire rules and make it tougher for workers to form unions.

The changes, if approved by parliament, will be the biggest economic reform since India opened its economy in 1991, but it is likely to meet stiff opposition in parliament and from labour activists.

The prime minister enjoys a majority in the Lok Sabha, but not the Rajya Sabha, hobbling his ability to pass politically contentious measures.

That handicap has stymied his efforts to make it easier for businesses to buy farmland and convert Asia’s third-largest economy into a common market.

Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist at IHS Global Insight, said Modi had little option but to push ahead with the measures.

“Without these reforms, the economy would stagnate, and frustrated investors would look elsewhere,” he said.

“You cannot make political opposition an excuse for not taking tough decisions.”

Since taking office in May last year, Modi has taken a series of incremental steps to make labour laws less onerous for businesses, but fear of a union-led political backlash made him leave the responsibility for unshackling the labour market with Indian states.

He let his party’s governments in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh take the lead in this area.

Encouraged by a successful and peaceful implementation of the measures in those states, the federal labour ministry now intends to replicate them at the national level, one of the ministry officials said.

Manish Sabharwal, one of the brains behind Rajasthan’s labour reforms and co-founder of recruitment firm Teamlease, said the federal administration would have been better off without attempting these changes.

“Let states carry out these changes and save your political energy for other policy reforms,” he said.

via Modi to launch India’s biggest labour overhaul in decades | Reuters.

14/05/2015

India’s Parliament Just Had the Most Productive Session in Years – Here’s How It Did It – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s Parliament is not known for its productivity. Disruptions, adjournments and delays to proceedings are often a feature of parliamentary business in the world’s largest democracy.

But the recently-concluded budget session was the most productive in recent years, according to PRS Legislative Research, an organization that tracks the affairs of the Indian Parliament.

During the four-month-long sitting, productivity in India’s lower house –the number of actual working hours as a percentage of the total scheduled hours for parliamentary business – was 123%.

That’s the most productive the lower house, known as the Lok Sabha, has been in 15 years. In fact, the lower house decided to extend the session by three days.

The upper house was slightly behind, with a productivity measurement of 101%.

“A lot of financial business got done, a lot of legislative business got done and a lot of issues of national importance were discussed,” said Chakshu Roy, head of outreach at PRS Legislative Research.

“Both the houses met for a longer period of time and that’s the reason the productivity of the Parliament has gone up,” he said.

Such prolonged discourse eventually results in robust policies and laws, which ultimately helps in better governance, said Mr. Roy. ”If you debate something extensively, then the different nuances of the subject come out,” he said.

via India’s Parliament Just Had the Most Productive Session in Years – Here’s How It Did It – India Real Time – WSJ.

14/05/2015

Delayed reforms, market woes tarnish end to Modi’s first year | Reuters

A surprise delay to India’s new goods and services tax (GST) marks one of the most painful setbacks suffered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government as it nears the end of a first year in power, with markets falling and farmers braced for a poor monsoon.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends an event in New Delhi February 17, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

Investors had hoped that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party‘s majority in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, would ensure Modi could push through reforms far more smoothly, but that assumption has taken a battering.

Late on Tuesday, the government submitted to strong opposition in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house, by agreeing to delay the landmark tax legislation until at least July.

The introduction of the GST would constitute India’s biggest tax reform since independence.

The delay to the bill is a blow to a government that is already dealing with rural discontent over proposed land reforms, which have also still to be sent to the upper house for approval.

The GST would replace a patchwork of levies by the central and state governments, reducing corruption, attracting investment and — according to the finance minister — add 2 percentage points to India’s growth.

Senior officials said on Wednesday they feared the delay could become yet another “sell” signal for foreign funds, already angered by the government seeking to tax them for several years of previously untaxed gains.

“A delay in parliament approval of the GST bill will send a wrong signal to investors, who are already grappling with tax notices,” said one senior government official dealing with economic policy decisions.

India was Asia’s second best performing market last year and the government has scored some successes. It has, for example, improved its finances, held successful telecoms and coal block auctions, and allowed more foreign investment into the insurance and defence sectors.

But the shine has worn off. Foreign investors sold nearly $2.2 billion in shares during the last 16 trading sessions.

via Delayed reforms, market woes tarnish end to Modi’s first year | Reuters.

24/02/2015

Modi’s bid to ease land for companies could impact reforms | Reuters

A bid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make it easier for businesses to buy farm land for infrastructure and industry has sparked a backlash that could stymie his efforts to get reforms through a parliament session that began on Monday.

Labourers work along the construction site of a road at Ghilot in Rajasthan, October 1, 2014.  REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/Files

While the change is aimed at unlocking hundreds of billions of dollars worth of projects, which have been stuck for want of land, opposition parties and rights activists say it discriminates against farmers.

“We will protest and fight the government on this issue inside and outside parliament,” Ghulam Nabi Azad, a senior leader of the opposition Congress party, told the Indian Express.

Modi issued an ordinance in December to exempt projects in defence, rural electrification, rural housing and industrial corridors from provisions of a law enacted by the previous Congress party government that mandated the consent of 80 percent of affected landowners for any deal.

He had also ended the need for companies to conduct a social impact study of such projects, which would involve public hearings and, industry executives fear, drag on for years.

The ordinance is a temporary order and needs the approval of both houses of parliament to come into force. It will lapse if parliament does not ratify it this session.

via Modi’s bid to ease land for companies could impact reforms | Reuters.

08/12/2014

Rs 5,160cr given to states to clean rivers – The Times of India

Centre has released Rs 5,160 crore to various states for implementation of pollution abatement works in rivers, Parliament was informed on Monday.

Minister of water resources, river development and ganga rejuvenation Uma Bharti said in Rajya Sabha that Rs 5,159.81 crore has been released by the Centre to states for implementation of pollution abatement works and a sewage treatment capacity of about 5,005 million litres per day has been created so far under NRCP and NGRBA programmes.

National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) and National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) programme cover polluted stretches of 42 rivers spread over 21 states at a sanctioned cost of Rs 11,362.85 crore.

To another question, the minister said conservation of rivers is an ongoing process and cleaning of Ganga and other rivers is taking time mainly due to the “large gap between sewage generation and availability of sewage treatment capacity…”

She said it is the responsibility of the state governments and local bodies concerned to set up proper facility for collection and treatment of sewage generated and ensuring that it is not discharged into the rivers.

The new NDA-government has set up an Integrated Ganga Conservation Mission — ‘Namami Gange’ for for rejuvenation of Ganga and its tributaries.

via Rs 5,160cr given to states to clean rivers – The Times of India.

25/01/2014

Modi more popular than party, says Jaitley – The Hindu

The Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday accepted that its prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi is more popular than the party itself. Commenting on the projections made by recent opinion polls, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley said the results of at least two such polls show a surge in Mr. Modi’s popularity and acceptability as prime minister after the 2014 general elections.

Mr Modi with Mr Jaitley. File photo

“The most significant factor in these opinion polls has been that Narendra Modi\’s acceptability as prime ministerial candidate is about 15 to 20 per cent higher than the BJP vote in each state. His ability to pull the party up in strong areas and contribute to its vote percentage in the non-strong areas is evident. How else can we justify the projected 17 per cent vote share in Tamil Nadu and 25 per cent in Odisha,” he said in a statement.

via Modi more popular than party, says Jaitley – The Hindu.

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19/12/2013

Outrage in Parliament, govt. vows strong action – The Hindu

Amidst outrage expressed by members in Parliament, India on Wednesday asserted that it will intervene “effectively and specifically” to ensure the return and restoration of dignity of its Deputy Consul General in New York who has been arrested on charges of visa rules violation.

File photo of Deputy Consul General in New York Devyani Khobragade.

Responding to concerns expressed by members across party lines in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid condemned the U.S. action and said he will not return to the House if he fails in his responsibility to bring back the arrested diplomat Devyani Khobragade.

Spelling out the series of steps initiated to scale down the privileges granted to U.S. diplomats in India, he said there was a “conspiracy” in which Ms. Khobragade was “virtually trapped”.

He said the diplomat is “innocent” and the U.S. action was unwarranted. “It is not illegality that she is accused of, but the illegality she refused to oblige,” he said.

Maintaining that the government was not over-reacting by taking a slew of measures against the U.S., Mr. Khurshid said the treatment meted out to Ms. Khobragade had “not happened out of blue” and there is a “history” behind it.

He asserted that the government is determined and “will intervene effectively and specifically to ensure that dignity of the diplomat is preserved.” Mr. Khurshid made suo motu statements in both the Houses after members expressed outrage with demands that a resolution be passed to condemn the U.S. action.

“It is my responsibility. We will bring back the diplomat (arrested in New York) and restore her dignity. If I fail to do it, I will not return to this House,” he said in Rajya Sabha.

In the Lok Sabha, he said, “First and foremost, our effort is to bring her out of this situation and then we will talk to the US government.”

via Outrage in Parliament, govt. vows strong action – The Hindu.

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