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Address Concerns Of India Inc.

Address our concerns, Says corporate India; No end in sight to FM’s stand-off with the Press ; Defence Secretary leads team to Washington to pow-wow on areas of cooperation; & more

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Address Concerns Of India Inc.

The first rustle in the corporate woods was heard when CII’s new president,  Vikram Kirloskar, said that there was a trust deficit between the government and businesses. Then came the tell-tale signs of an economic slowdown. Of course, there are a number of things that the government expects India Inc. to do. India Inc. too has a host of concerns. As L&T Group chief A. M. Naik said, the slowdown is for real, and we will be lucky if we grow at 6.5 per cent this year. Deepak Parekh, Chairman HDFC, made similar suggestions. Bajaj Group Chairman, Rahul Bajaj, lamented only recently, “Like any other government, they would like to show a happy face, but the reality is reality”. In the midst of it all, Café Coffee Day Founder V. G.  Siddhartha’s suicide came as a jolt. 

Biocon chief, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, was among the first to speak out about the income tax raj. Even those who have been sympathetic to the government, like Manipal Global Education Chairman, T. Mohandas Pai, have expressed concern.

Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, addressed India Inc. as ‘wealth creators’ in her Budget speech. India must be a top nation in the ease of doing business and to be there, the government must address the concerns of India Inc. — Team BW

The FM's Faceoff With Scribes 

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been an excellent party spokesperson in the past. Many were taken aback, therefore,  by the ministry’s diktat to limit media access to ministry officials. In a deviation from the norm, journalists who habitually cover the finance ministry, were asked to take appointments from ministry officials they intended to call on. Predictably, protests erupted from among the Fourth Estate. Edits were written. The Editors Guild intervened. All this, however, resulted in precious little – if the latest signs are anything to go by.

Now the ministry has decided to hold weekly briefings where statements will be read out.  Should journalists have questions, they will have to email them to the ministry. This has led to more protests and no end to the stalemate seems in sight. — Team BW

More Horse Power

The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2019, approved by the Rajya Sabha, ushers in a myriad new rules.  Cab aggregators will, for instance, now be defined as marketplaces that can be used by passengers to connect with drivers. Aggregators violating driving licence rules will be fined anything between Rs 25,000 to Rs 1 lakh. Any violation of the IT Act (including storing user data safely) will attract fines between Rs 5,000 and Rs 1.5 lakh. 

In hit-and-run cases, the compensation to the family of the dead, now rises to Rs 2 lakh or more from Rs 25,000 earlier. The minimum fine for drunk driving has been raised from Rs 2,000 earlier to Rs 10,000. The fine for rash driving goes up to Rs 5,000 from Rs 1,000 earlier. 

The best part of the Bill are the penalties that it now imposes on those accountable for infrastructure conditions. For instance, contractors, consultants and civic agencies will be accountable for faulty design, construction or poor maintenance of accident-prone roads. A time limit of six months has been specified for an application of compensation to the Claims Tribunal in case of road accidents. Now, that is fast driving! —  Prabodh Krishna

Beyond The S-400

India has sent a Secretary-level delegation headed by Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra, to Washington for a pow-wow on defence cooperation. India is expected to raise objection to the proposed sale and assistance to the Pakistan Air Force’s   F-16 fighter aircraft fleet. It is also expected to address the objection the United States has raised to India purchasing the S-400 air defence missile system from Russia.  Another buyer, Turkey, has been pushed out of the F 35 fighter programme, despite being a contributor and a member of the consortium with other key US allies. 

India is also likely to make its position clear on the Kashmir issue in view of President Trump’s statement on Prime Minister Modi’s purported request to him to meditate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir.  India has categorically denied the claims made by President Trump and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. Meanwhile, India - US bilateral defence ties are progressing well, with multi-billion-dollar deals like that for the Apache Helicopters. The United States has put India under the STA 1 provision, which puts India on par with other allies. Even as the fracas over tariff reduction hangs heavy over bilateral ties, defence cooperation is advancing on a much faster scale. — Manish Kumar Jha

Consumption will  spur growth

The Global Agriculture Information Network of the USDA sees India as the second fastest growing major economy in the world and among the top three economic powers by 2025. It pegs its estimates on India’s strong institutions, trade partnerships, vast population and the average age factor. Food processors, importers, wholesalers, retailers, food service operators in India, are all part of a developing agribusiness sector.  India is not just a large food producer,  but a mega consumer too. India’s bulk, intermediate, consumer-oriented and agriculture - related imports jumped 10 per cent from $22 billion in 2013 to $25 billion in 2018.  

The Indian economy is expected to grow at 6.9 per cent during FY 2019, from an estimated 7.1 per cent in FY 2018. Private consumption of India’s 1.37 billion people already  account for almost 60 per cent of the GDP.  And the purchasing power  of the Indian consumer is expected to get stronger, buttressed by a  strong rupee. — Prabodh Krishna

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