DeMon – Slugfest Continues
The demonetisation debate; Is the Left right?; The real estate glut; and more
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Is the Narendra Modi government dodging goalposts on demonetisation? The Opposition certainly thinks so. The government contends that DeMon’s larger objective was to make India a tax compliant society. Initially, however, a number of objectives were listed — countering counterfeit currency, tackling the parallel or black economy, countering terror merchants (even stone pelters in the Kashmir Valley), and formalisation of the economy.
The government has now said that the number of income tax returns filed have increased from 38 million in March 2014 to 68.6 million in 2017-18. The Opposition is not impressed with the government’s contention that the direct tax revenue has increased, alleging that the government was choosing the base year rather too conveniently. The Opposition cites the RBI annual report to assert that counterfeit currency abounds even in newer denominations, and that terror financing has not stopped.
Perhaps, demonetisation was a political statement wherein Modi told the poor that if they had to stand in queues, so would the rich and powerful. But then, did anyone see the Ambanis and the Birlas in the queues?
— Suman K. Jha
A Make in India Miss
The controversy over the price and offsets obligations of the 36 Rafale fighter jets being procured from France gets muddier, even as the government sticks to its narrative that the requirement of the Indian Air Force (IAF) could not be ignored anymore. In the off-the-shelf deal for just 36 aircraft from Dassault, the NDA government has missed out on an opportunity for a Make in India element in the inter-government transaction. In his blog on August 29, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said that the Rafale aircraft was being procured at a price that was 20 per cent lower than the one negotiated by the UPA government in 2007. Jaitley has also underscored the absence of middlemen in the deal.
The deal was signed in 2016 and the first Rafale jet will be delivered to the IAF in 2019. The government says it has overcome a five-month delay, but buying all the 126 fighter jets that the IAF needs at one go could have been swifter perhaps. Making fighter jets at home would have been better still.
— Manish Kumar Jha
Simply Washed Away
a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report says that water erodes the top soil of 21 per cent of the total land area in the Indian subcontinent. Wind is the second biggest culprit, responsible for wearing away nine per cent of the top soil in the region. In the “Indian subcontinent the area under threat from water erosion is greater than 90 million hectare,” the report says. In other words, soil erosion by water accounts for 46 per cent of the total degraded area in the Indian subcontinent.
The report, titled Status of the World’s Soil Resources, points out that formation of precious top soil, rich in organic matter and nutrients for vegetation, occurs across a thousand years – or roughly 40 generations. The report is an eye-opener in many ways, crying for urgent intervention by decision-makers.
— Prabodh Krishna
Left Is Right?
The judiciary may have stepped in when five Left-leaning activists were arrested, but for the Opposition, the incident was reminiscent of the era of the Emergency imposed in 1975.
What they conveniently forget is that even the Manmohan Singh government had acted decisively against Maoist backers, triggering an outcry. Freedom of expression must not be threatened, but when it comes to national interest, there should be no compromise. This should be the guiding principle of any government. Here, the Narendra Modi government’s media management leaves a lot to be desired, even if there is a perception that a large section of the media has cosied up to the government. There should have been a better communication strategy to fight this battle of perceptions.
— Suman K. Jha
Still A Long Way Off From Completion
Between the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and Delhi’s National Capital Region (NCR) there are over 4.1 lakh unfinished, under-construction housing units, the maximum among the top seven cities. The still under-construction projects are cumulatively estimated to be worth a whopping Rs 3.6 lakh crore, based on prevailing real estate prices.
These projects were started on or before 2013 and are far from completion. If we set aside the Mumbai Metropolitan Region and the National Capital Region, then Pune and Bengaluru are the next worst performing cities in terms of unfinished housing projects. While Pune is estimated to have an inventory of 95,000 unfinished/delayed housing units, Bengaluru has nearly 39,000 such units, together valued at Rs 85,000 crore.
According to a report by Anarock Property Consultants (APC), a leading real estate consultancy firm, close to 5.76 lakh housing units, valued at Rs 4.64 lakh crore were begun on or before 2013 and are yet to be completed in seven major cities. Hyderabad has the least project delays, with 8,900 units worth Rs 5,500 crore running behind schedule, says Anuj Puri, Chairman, APC. Could the government step in please?
— Ashish Sinha