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Prices of Protein Items, Edible Oil Products pushed Retail Inflation to 8.83% in February 2012
According to data released by the government on 19 March 2012, retail inflation stood at 8.83% in February 2012 as a result of higher prices of protein based items, edible oil products and manufactured goods. In February 2012, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), measured by changes in retail prices remained high as compared to the rate of price rise in the wholesale market. Retail inflation, based on CPI was 7.65% in January 2012. Retail inflation in January 2012 had stood at 7.56 per cent.
Retail prices of egg, meat and fish rose by 10.62 per cent in February 2012 while milk and its products turned costlier by 15.76 per cent, year-on-year. Pulses and products saw a rise of 4.17 per cent. Price of fuel and light, and clothing, bedding and footwear segments were all registered in double-digits. Inflation in the oil and fat category went up by 12.76 per cent and condiment spices shot up by 8.68 per cent on an annual basis.
However cereals and products reported a moderate rate of price rise at 2.40 per cent. Only vegetable prices among other items saw a decline of 4.73 per cent over the February 2011 level.
The inflation rates for rural and urban areas in February 2012 were 8.36% and 9.45% in February 2012. Retail inflation in rural and urban areas was 7.28% and 8.25% in January 2012.
The all India CPI is prepared by the ministry of labour in addition to the three retail price indices for agricultural labourers, rural labourers and industrial workers.
Tamil Nadu Government agreed for Commissioning of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project
The Tamil Nadu Government agreed for commissioning of the 1000 MW Kudankulam nuclear power project on 19 March 2012 and sought the co-operation of the people in the area for resuming work on the plant. A resolution to this effect was adopted at the state cabinet meeting.
The resolution stated that the reports submitted by the expert committees constituted by the central and state governments had clearly stated that the nuclear power plant was absolutely safe. Moreover, the livelihood of the fishermen would not be affected by the project.
Indian Ace Badminton Player Saina Nehwal won the Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold Trophy
Indian ace badminton player and World no five Saina Nehwal retained the Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold trophy by securing a victory over China's Shixian Wang in a 48-minute summit clash at Basel, Switzerland on 18 March 2012. With the victory at the Swiss Open GP she won her first title of 2012. The world number five Indian defeated third ranking Shixian 21-19 21-16 and thus defended her title.
Saina began with a healthy 11-3 lead in the first game. Saina had an early 3-0 lead in the second game forcing Shixian to claw her way back to 11-8 at the break. Saina caught up with Shixian at 13-13 after the breather and then registered four straight points from 15-all to eventually win the game comfortably.
Saina had earlier defeated Japan's Minatsu Mitani in the semifinals. She had defeated Mitani 21-16 21-18 in 35 minutes to set up a summit clash with Shixian.
Saina had reached the quarterfinal of the All England Championship in early March 2012. She has also managed to reach the semifinals at the Malaysia Open and the quarterfinal in the Korea Open in January 2012.
SIPRL Report: India emerged as the Largest Importer of Arms in the World
As per the report released by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRL) on 19 March 2012, India emerged as the world’s largest importer of arms in 2007-2011. In fact, India accounted for 10 percent of global arms imports between 2007 to 2011. The report stated that India took several measures to modernize its armed forces and signed many deals to procure military hardware. The major deals included 10 C-17 strategic lift aircraft, additional Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jets and six C-130 Super Hercules Special Operations aircraft.
The report mentioned that in 2002-2006, China was the largest importer of arms. It is now placed at fourth position. Chinese arms industry showed improvements, which resulted in the decline of Chinese imports. The report further added that the top five global arms importer were from the Asia and Oceania.
A New Frog Species called Fejervarya Sengupti was found in Meghalaya
A new frog species was found by researchers in the second week of March 2012 at Mawphlang, about 25 kilometre from Shilong, capital of Meghalaya. The new species was named Fejervarya Sengupti in honour of Saibal Sengupta. Sengupta was the head of Aryavidyapeeth College and one of the pioneers of amphibian research.
The new species was different from all congeners in terms of body size and call characteristics. The discovery of new species shows that northeast part of India is quite rich in terms of its biodiversity, especially in case of amphibians.
Pro-democracy Activist Joachim Gauck elected as Germany's New President
Former East German pro-democracy activist Joachim Gauck was elected as Germany's new president, a position largely ceremonial on 18 March 2012. Gauck won 991 votes in the federal assembly that comprises members of parliament as well as regional delegates that elect German heads of state. He succeeded Christian Wulff. Veteran anti-Nazi campaigner Beate Klarsfeld who too was competing for the post got only 126 votes.
The office of the German president was shaken by Wulff's premature resignation as well as by the sudden departure of Wulff's predecessor, Horst Koehler. Koehler had resigned in 2010, early into his second five-year term as president following his comments on Germany's involvement in Afghanistan deemed inappropriate.
It is expected that Gauck who played a prominent role in the peaceful protests that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, will help to restore dignity to the presidency which in the recent past had been marred by financial scandals.
Gauck, a pastor based in the northern port city of Rostock had in 1989 helped to initiate protests against the communist regime in his region. He had joined a prominent opposition group in the final phase of hardline communist rule, and after communism fell he was elected in March 1990 to serve as a lawmaker in East Germany's first and only democratically elected Parliament until the German reunification in October 1990.
In 1990 he served as a member of the only freely elected People's Chamber for the Alliance 90. Following the Reunification of Germany, he was elected by the Bundestag as the first Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Archives, serving from 1990 to 2000.
After the fall of Communism and Germany's reunification, Gauck oversaw the archives of the Stasi, the East German secret police. He rose to prominence by exposing the crimes of the Stasi. He also ensured that the files were used to root out former Stasi employees and collaborators in public service as well as to understand the country's past.
He has been serving as a chairman of the association Gegen Vergessen – Für Demokratie (Against Forgetting – For Democracy). He also served on the Management Board of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia 2001–2004.
He received numerous honours, including the 1997 Hannah Arendt Prize.
Tata Motors hiked Prices of Passenger Vehicles by up to 35000 rupees
Auto giant Tata Motors on 19 March 2012 increased prices of its passenger vehicles, including the Nano, by up to 35000 rupees with immediate effect. The move came in the wake of hike in excise duty in the Budget for 2012-13.
The price was raised as per the excise duty hike in the Budget. In passenger cars, the increase will vary between Rs 2,000 and Rs 8,000 depending upon various models.
The passenger car division of Tata Motors includes Nano, Indica and Indigo series cars.In case of utility vehicles like Safari, Aria and Sumo, the hike will be from Rs 8,000 to 35000 rupees.
The Union Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee in his budget speech had proposed to raise excise duty to 12 per cent from 10 per cent.
The excise duties for petrol cars with engines under 1,200 cc and diesel cars with engine capacity under 1500 cc, but the length exceeding four meters have been increased to 24 per cent from the previous 22 per cent with a fixed duty of 15000 rupees.
Petrol and diesel driven vehicles having length exceeding four meters and engine capacity of over 1200 cc and 1500 cc respectively will now be charged with an ad valorem duty of 27 per cent, instead of the earlier 22 per cent with a fixed duty of 15000 rupees.
The basic customs duty for fully imported vehicles priced over 40000 dollar and with engine capacity of over 3000 cc and 2500 cc for petrol and diesel driven vehicles respectively was also hiked to 75 per cent from 60 per cent earlier.
Jharkhand, Mizoram, Sikkim and Lakshadweep Signed MoU Under the ISSP
Four States namely Jharkhand, Mizoram, Sikkim and Lakshadweep on 16 March 2012 signed MoU with the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation under the Indian Statistical Strengthening Project (ISSP) for the States and Union Territories.
ISSP is aimed at strengthening State Statistical Systems by way of providing adequate technical and financial support to improve their statistical capacity and infrastructure. ISSP is a very important and a comprehensive project of Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation, with an approved outlay of about 650 Crore rupees, out of which 80% has been funded through World Bank Loan and 20 percent is being borne by the Government of India.
Assam Government earmarked 24199 lakh Rupees on Implementation of NRLM
Assam government on 17 March 2012 earmarked 24199 lakh rupees on implementation of National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), for 2012-13. The decision was taken in the first meeting of the general body of the Assam State Rural Livelihood Mission Society. It was held under the chairmanship of chief minister Tarun Gogoi in Guwahati. The mission will cover 42 blocks in the first phase.
The aim of the NRLM is to improve the standard of living of BPL families by providing them gainful self employment oppurtunities. Assam has recorded over 18 lakh BPL households. The mission proposes to cover all the 219 blocks in a phased manner. All the blocks were divided into seven zones.
Niger declared the Termit Massif and Tin Toumma Desert as a National Nature and Cultural Reserve
The Government of Niger, in the first week of March 2012, declared the whole area-the Termit Massif and Tin Toumma desert- to be a national nature and culture reserve. Significantly, the area is home to some critically endangered species.It is now the largest single protected area in Africa. It has an area of 100000 square kilometers.
Union Rail Minister Dinesh Trivadi tendered his Resignation
Union Rail Minister Dinesh Trivedi, tendered his resignation on 18 March 2012 to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Trivadi was instructed to resign by his party Trinmool Congress as the decision of increasing the rail fares did not go well with the party. Trinmool Congress chief, Mamta Banarjee had vociferously demanded the rollback of fare hikes.
Trivedi in his rail budget, which he had presented in the Loksabha on 14 March 2012, proposed a hike in passenger fares ranging between 2 paise to 30 paise per kilometre. The decision was taken to improve the ailing condition of Indian Railways.
Trivedi, a Loksabha MP from Barrackpore in West Bengal, took over as the Union Rail Minister on 13 July 2011. Trivedi was slated to be the Union Rail Minister by his party Trinmool Congress, after Mamta Banarjee quit the job.
It is for the first time in the history of independent India that a Railways Minister has been made to resign just after five days of presenting the budget in the parliament.
Akhilesh Yadav sworn in as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
Akhilesh Yadav,38, of Samajwadi Party, was sworn in as the 33 rd Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh on 15 March 2012. He was administered the oath at Lucknow's La Martiniere college ground by the UP Governor B L Joshi .
Akhilesh, son of Samajawadi Party chief, Mulayam Singh Yadav, is the youngest chief minister of the state ever. A post-graduate in environmental engineering from Australia, Akhilesh successfully spearheaded his party to a massive victory in the UP assembly elections 2012.
Akhilesh’s all-embracing campaign across the state yielded the desired result as the Samajwadi Party did not only emerge victorious, but bagged a record 224 seats in a 403-member house which is highest in its history.
Hailing from a strong political family in UP Akhilesh entered into politics at a very young age. He first got elected to the Lok Sabha from Kannauj in a by-election in year 2000. He retained his seat in the 2004 and 2009 general elections. He has won three Lok Sabha elections since 2000 when he first got elected for the lower house.
Akhilesh a youthful face of Samajwadi party, which suffered a humiliating defeat in 2007 assembly elections, came with an all new idea to rejuvenate the condition of party in UP. His wisely strategized campaign across the state won him the support of all age group. To set up a direct contact with the masses he held cycle rallies and public meetings at various locations in the state. His Rath Yatra conducted across the state proved to be instrumental in bringing him the support of young voters.
Union Budget 2012-13: Tax Proposals
The tax proposals in the Union budget 2012-13 were guided by the need to move towards the Direct Tax Code(DTC) in the case of direct taxes and Goods & Services Tax (GST) in the case of indirect taxes. In the Budget Estimates for 2012-13, the Gross Tax Receipts were estimated at 1077612 crore rupees which is an increase of 15.6 per cent over the Budget Estimates and 19.5 per cent over the revised estimates for 2011-12.
After devolution to States, the net tax to the Centre in 2012-13 is estimated at 771071crore rupees. The Non Tax Revenue Receipts were estimated at 164614crore rupees and Non-debt Capital Receipts at 41650 crore rupees. The total expenditure for 2012-13 is budgeted at 1490925 crore rupees. Of this 521025crore rupees is the Plan Expenditure while 969900 crore rupees is budgeted as Non Plan Expenditure.
The budget stated that individual income upto 2 lakh rupees will be free from income tax; income upto 1.8 lakh rupees was exempt in 2011-12. Income above 5 lakh rupees and upto 10 lakh rupees will carry tax at the rate of 20 per cent.
The following provisions were stated under Direct Taxes:
• Tax proposals for 2012-13 mark progress in the direction of movement towards DTC and GST.
• DTC rates proposed to be introduced for personal income tax.
• Exemption limit for the general category of individual taxpayers proposed to be enhanced from 180000 rupees to 200000 rupees giving tax relief of 2000 rupees.
• Upper limit of 20 per cent tax slab proposed to be raised from 8 lakh rupees to 10 lakh rupees.
• Proposal to allow individual tax payers, a deduction of upto 10000 rupees for interest from savings bank accounts.
• Proposal to allow deduction of upto 5000 rupees for preventive health check up.
• Senior citizens not having income from business proposed to be exempted from payment of advance tax.
• To provide low cost funds to stressed infrastructure sectors, rate of withholding tax on interest payment on ECBs proposed to be reduced from 20 per cent to 5 per cent for 3 years for certain sectors.
• Restriction on Venture Capital Funds to invest only in 9 specified sectors proposed to be removed.
• Proposal to continue to allow repatriation of dividends from foreign subsidiaries of Indian companies at a lower tax rate of 15 per cent upto 31.3.2013.
• Investment link deduction of capital expenditure for certain businesses proposed to be provided at the enhanced rate of 150 per cent.
• New sectors to be added for the purposes of investment linked deduction.
• Proposal to extend weighted deduction of 200 per cent for R&D expenditure in an in house facility for a further period of 5 years beyond 31 March 2012.
• Proposal to provide weighted deduction of 150 per cent on expenditure incurred for agri-extension services.
• Proposal to extend the sunset date for setting up power sector undertakings by one year for claiming 100 per cent deduction of profits for 10 years.
• Turnover limit for compulsory tax audit of account and presumptive taxation of SMEs to be raised from 60 lakhs rupees to 1 crore rupees .
• Exemption from Capital Gains tax on sale of residential property, if sale consideration is used for subscription in equity of a manufacturing SME for purchase of new plant and machinery.
• Proposal to provide weighted deduction at 150 per cent of expenditure incurred on skill development in manufacturing sector.
• Reduction in securities transaction tax by 20 per cent on cash delivery transactions.
• Proposal to extend the levy of Alternate Minimum Tax to all persons, other than companies, claiming profit linked deductions.
• Proposal to introduce General Anti Avoidance Rule to counter aggressive tax avoidance scheme.
• Measures proposed to deter the generation and use of unaccounted money.
• A net revenue loss of 4500 crore rupees estimated as a result of Direct Tax proposals.
Given below are the major provisions under the Indirect Taxes
• Sevice tax confronts challenges of its share being below its potential, complexity in tax law, and need to bring it closer to Central Excise Law for eventual transition to GST.
• Overwhelming response to the new concept of taxing services based on negative list.
• Proposal to tax all services except those in the negative list comprising of 17 heads.
• Exemption from service tax is proposed for some sectors.
• Service tax law to be shorter by nearly 40 per cent.
• Number of alignment made to harmonise Central Excise and Service Tax. A common simplified registration form and a common return comprising of one page are steps in this direction.
• Revision Application Authority and Settlement Commission being introduced in Service Tax for dispute resolution.
• Utilization of input tax credit permitted in number of services to reduce cascading of taxes.
• Place of Supply Rules for determining the location of service to be put in public domain for stakeholders’ comments.
• Study team to examine the possibility of common tax code for Central Excise and Service Tax.
• New scheme announced for simplification of refunds.
• Rules pertaining to point of taxation are being rationalised.
• To maintain a healthy fiscal situation proposal to raise service tax rate from 10 per cent to 12 per cent, with corresponding changes in rates for individual services.
• Proposals from service tax expected to yield additional revenue of 18660 crore rupees.
Other proposals for Indirect Taxes
• Given the imperative for fiscal correction, standard rate of excise duty to be raised from 10 per cent to 12 per cent, merit rate from 5 per cent to 6 per cent and the lower merit rate from 1 per cent to 2 per cent with few exemptions.
• Excise duty on large cars also proposed to be enhanced.
• No change proposed in the peak rate of customs duty of 10 per cent on nonagricultural goods.
• To stimulate investment relief proposals for specific sectors - especially those under stress.
Agriculture and Related Sectors
• Basic customs duty reduced for certain agricultural equipment and their parts;
• Full exemption from basic customs duty for import of equipment for expansion or setting up of fertiliser projects upto 31 March 2015.
• Proposal for full exemption from basic customs duty and a concessional CVD of
• 1 per cent to steam coal till 31 March, 2014.
• Full exemption from basic duty provided to certain fuels for power generation.
• Full exemption from basic customs duty to coal mining project imports.
• Basic custom duty proposed to be reduced for machinery and instruments needed for surveying and prospecting for minerals.
• Basic custom duty proposed to be reduced for equipments required for installation of train protection and warning system and upgradation of track structure for high speed trains.
• Full exemption from import duty on certain categories of specified equipments needed for road construction, tunnel boring machines and parts of their assembly.
• Tax concessions proposed for parts of aircraft and testing equipment for third party maintenance, repair and overhaul of civilian aircraft.
• Relief proposed to be extended to sectors such as steel, textiles, branded readymade garments, low-cost medical devices, labour-intensive sectors producing items of mass consumption and matches produced by semi-mechanised units.
Health and Nutrition
• Proposal to extend concessional basic customs duty of 5 per cent with full exemption from excise duty/CVD to 6 specified life saving drugs/vaccines.
• Basic customs duty and excise duty reduced on Soya products to address protein deficiency among women and children.
• Basic customs duty and excise duty reduced on Iodine.
• Basic customs duty reduced on Probiotics.
• Concessions and exemptions proposed for encouraging the consumption of energy-saving devices, plant and equipment needed for solar thermal projects.
• Concession from basic customs duty and special CVD being extended to certain items imported for manufacture for hybrid or electric vehicle and battery packs for such vehicles.
• Proposal to increase basic customs duty on imports of gold and other precious metals.