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A GST Slash On Hybrid CNG Vehicles?

Salute of the lal topi Russi, Renewed Sales Pitch, Pratt & Whitney’s blues, Name’s Bond, James Bond and more.

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Apparently the Union government has more sops in store for the beleaguered automotive sector. This time the shower of manna is likely to befall hybrid vehicles, which now serve as a bridge between the conventional vehicles with engines powered by fossil fuels that the world prepares to phase out, and the fully battery-operated electric ones, that should stand the test of time. The sop is likely to come in the way of a cut in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the medium term, say informed sources. 

The Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, is known to have written to the Union finance ministry, seeking a GST rate cut for vehicles running on hybrid power and compressed natural gas (CNG).  The proposal awaits a nod from Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Speculation is rife about whether or not the proposal will be on the agenda of the next GST Council meeting scheduled for September 19 and September 20 in Goa.  

It may be recalled that hybrids were previously put on a par with battery-operated electric vehicles and were available with incentives. Last year, the government segregated the two categories by withdrawing tax benefits from hybrid vehicles, which resulted in a gross tax rate of 43 per cent (28 per cent GST plus 15 per cent cess). Then at its last meeting the GST Council cut rates on electric vehicles from 12 per cent to five per cent. 

At present all four-wheeled and two-wheeled vehicles, both for commercial and personal use, attract a GST of 28 per cent, barring some exceptions like electric vehicles, bicycles, rickshaws, etc. 

— Avishek Banerjee

Salute of the lal topi Russi

Russia was the first of the Permanent Five (P-5) representatives of the United Nations Security Council to back New Delhi’s decision to abrogate special status for Jammu and Kashmir. Since then, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval has been assured of his Russian counterpart’s faith in India’s territorial integrity. During his visit to Russia, Foreign Minister S.  Jaishankar was convinced that Russia had complete understanding that decisions on Kashmir are India’s internal matter. 

“In the last 40 years the world has changed,” said Jaishankar, who has had a stint at the Indian Mission in Moscow between 1979 and 1981 as a member of the IFS, “ but what has been constant is actually the relationship between India and Russia.” India has a deal with Russia for the S-400 Triumf and aims to induct more Sukhoi 30MKI into the Air Force squadron. India and Russia also have a partnerships in the hydrocarbon sector. As Jaishankar said, the charm of a decades’ old friendship lingers still.  

— Manish Kumar Jha

Renewed Sales Pitch

Two years ago the Modi government’s grand plan to offload 76 per cent stake in debt-laden Air India turned out to be a ‘no show’ for many reasons. Under Modi 2.0, a reconstituted Group of Ministers now intends to sell 100 per cent of Air India by December 2019. “It should be a total privatisation. We have to get the best possible deal in the shortest time possible,” Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said recently. To make the process real, a few things are urgently needed.  Most of  all, the Rs 58,000 crore-plus debt on Air India’s books needs to be transferred to a special purpose vehicle, with clarity on who will inherit or service it, and at what cost. Also an  enabling environment needs to be created to make the potential buyer free of any legacy issues, like the future of Air India’s existing large workforce, closure of non-profitable routes, and the ability to take the best possible business decisions. 

— Ashish Sinha

Pratt & Whitney’s blues

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has issued an urgent warning to Pratt & Whitney (P&W) – makers of the Neo320 aircraft engines, owned by IndiGo and GoAir. 

“It is true that there have been cases of air turn back, in-flight shutdown or engine vibrations beyond the prescribed limits, but with strong mitigation measures in place and strict adherence to SOPs (standard operating procedures) by the airlines, the problem is being contained,” the DGCA said. It has cautioned Pratt & Whitney that the regulator would continue to ground aircraft and seek engine change whenever its engine glitches were detected on A320 neo aircraft. The engine issue has plagued Pratt & Whitney for a while.

 The new engine, though fuel-efficient has some faults, according to the DGCA, like “combustion chamber distress (Block B and Block C)”, “N2 transient vibration”, “low-pressure turbine (LPT) failure”, “gear box failure” and “#3 Bearing Pre Mod and Post Mod failures”. 

It is surprising that the maker of the F135 engines that power fighter jets like F 35 and are known to be among the world’s finest and most advanced engines, should struggle to justify the impeccability of its engine for commercial aircraft. Guess, P&W will just have to fly the loop in India.

— Manish Kumar Jha 

Name’s Bond, James Bond

Super sleuth James Bond’s car, the Aston Martin DB5 sold for $6.4 million on August 15 at RM Sotheby’s auction, ‘An Evening with Aston Martin’ in California. The DB5 first appeared in the 1964 James Bond film, Goldfinger. Known as ‘the most famous car in the world’, it is now also one of the most expensive. 

Introduced in 1963, the DB5 was undoubtedly superior to the DB4 with a host of improvements over the earlier model. Being chosen as James Bond’s preferred ride, turned the DB5 make into an icon too. Known as the quintessential Bond car, it is loved by car enthusiasts the world over. In fact, No Time To Die, the next Bond film set to release in 2020, will feature an Aston Martin DB5 as well. — Jyotsna Sharma

Life-giving water now turns a  threat too  

A World Bank report released on 20 August says an invisible water crisis threatens the globe. The poor quality of water, it says is eliminating a third of the potential economic growth in heavily polluted areas and threatening human and environmental well-being. It calls for immediate global, national, and local-level attention to these threats that loom large over both developed and developing countries. 

Launching the report, World Bank group president, David Malpass said, “Clean water is a key factor for economic growth. Deteriorating water quality is stalling economic growth, worsening health conditions, reducing food production, and exacerbating poverty in many countries”. Focussing particularly on countries expected to suffer most from these economic losses, Malpass said, “Their governments must take urgent actions to help tackle water pollution so that countries can grow faster in equitable and environmentally sustainable ways.”  

— Prabodh Krishna

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