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    Nothing ‘simple’ about GST Political temptations complicate resolution

    Nothing ‘simple’ about GST

    THE government’s half-hearted attempt to revamp GST will neither shield it from the ongoing criticism of economic mismanagement nor help the BJP in wooing back its estranged vote bank — the trading community. The decision to cut duties on 27 items, including khakra, on the eve of Prime Minister Modi’s two-day Gujarat visit, is more political than economic. The Friday announcement also exempted jewellers from reporting data on buyers’ purchases worth over Rs 50,000, besides slashing duty on man-made fibre to mainly placate businessmen in Gujarat. This happened despite PM Modi’s emphatic statement last week that he detested the politics of announcing sops before elections. Everyone knows that he can’t afford to lose the political battle in Gujarat, his home turf. Sporadic exemptions to small businessmen and temporary relief to exporters will certainly bring them some cheer but these are not substantial enough to reverse the current economic downturn. The new tax regime is also far away from being called “good and simple tax” because of compliance hassles, technical glitches, uncertainty over refunds and unpredictability. It is feared that multiple tax slabs, exemptions under political pressure, ad hoc institutional arrangements and absence of a clear roadmap will make GST more complex and cumbersome than the previous VAT regime. It seems that officials in the Finance Ministry and members of the GST Council are ignoring the GST concept paper that promises “ease of doing business” by simplifying the tax regime with fewer exemptions, reducing multiplicity of taxes, cutting down compliance costs and so on. The new regime has already gained experience of one quarter. Data shows that out of 54 lakh registered entities, only about 10,000 have contributed two-thirds of the total Rs 94,000 crore mopped up in July. The government must find out the reasons for such a small number of contributors and devise mechanisms for better collection sans coercion. The best way is to keep the regime uncomplicated with one or maximum two tax rates, besides levying cess only on luxury goods and hazardous items. Minimal paperwork, robust IT infrastructure and friendly taxmen would certainly make it “good and simple tax”, not politically-driven tinkering


    SECURING PERMANENT DEFENCES IN PUNJAB

    The unsecured state of the defence line came most glaringly to public notice when a restaurateur sought to boost his business with ‘bunker tourism’

    PERMANENT DITCH­CUM­BUNDH DEFENCES IN PUNJAB NEED TO BE SECURED IN PEACE TIME TOO FROM THE ENEMY’S HUMAN INTELLIGENCE AND SABOTEURS

    General Prem Bhagat who commanded the corps defending Punjab in 1966-70 analysing the lessons of the 1965 war in detail concluded that loss of territory in the strategically important state was politically unacceptable.

    In the absence of any natural defences in the area, he advocated digging of a deep ditch obstacle all along the most vulnerable stretches of the border. This was to be surmounted by a high earthen embankment. At various points concrete emplacements for weapons were embedded in the structure. Water was to be released into the ditch during war. While screen positions protected bridges and vulnerable points ahead of the ditch, strong mobile reserves were held in readiness behind the obstacle to counter-attack any penetration. On certain very vulnerable stretches a dual obstacle system was constructed.

    The Bhagat Line, as I prefer to call it in the memory of a most illustrious general, has protected Punjab well. However, in peace time the ditch-cum-bandh obstacle lies unoccupied open to enemy humint scrutiny and potential sabotage. This unsecured state came most glaringly to public notice when a restaurateur sought to boost his business with ‘bunker tourism’ – trips to the defence line complete with selfies inside defensive positions.

    How are the permanent defences to be kept out of harm’s way in peace time? One solution could be to have them occupied permanently by a militia composed of ex-servicemen and youth from the border areas. These can be posted in penny packets to man intersections and patrol the defence line. When regular troops occupy the defences for training or operational alerts they can be concentrated for training. During war the force can be used for rear-area security, flank protection or manning of gaps.

    40TH NDA ON A CRUISE

    Nothing is quite as strong as the bonds of friendship, camaraderie and affection between officers of the armed forces who have done their pre-commission training together at one of the Service academies – the legendary brotherhood of coursemates. The 40th National Defence Academy (NDA) course is a case in point. Passing out in June 1971 they served to replace the casualties of the war in December and fought in Sri Lanka, Siachen, Kargil and all the no-war, no-peace conflicts through the 70s to the early years of this century. Stalwarts from this course include former Army Chief General Bikram Singh, former Northern Army Commander General KT Parnaik, General DS Chauhan, General Dhruv Katoch, strategic thinker Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal and Sri Lanka warhero Colonel Anil Kaul, Vir Chakra.

    Now the 40th course plans to take an eight-day cruise together on a liner to reaffirm those ties of fellowship. Ninety coursemates and their families will be sailing together in December topped off with a three-day holiday in Singapore. Bon voyage to them! Earlier the 34th and 39th Courses had done a cruise together too.

    SWACHH ARMED FORCES?

    The defence minister’s off the cuff remark that the Army would clear garbage in tourist spots in high-altitude areas has caused consternation among veterans.

    This is a typical example of the unthinking kind of statement which offends both the serving and retired fraternity. The Defence Services maintain a very high degree of cleanliness and sanitation in their cantonments and stations. No special efforts or hygiene drives are required for the purpose. It just comes to them in the natural course of things.

    Please write in with your narratives of war and military life to msbajwa@gmail.com or call/ WhatsApp on 093161­35343


    Army to change intake norms for officers, better deal for SSC Aim: To raise Short Service cadre strength, younger combat forces

    Army to change intake norms for officers, better deal for SSC
    The move will help lower the age profile of combat forces. File photo

    Ajay Banerjee

    Tribune News Service

    New Delhi, October 7

    In a policy shift, the Indian Army has changed the recruitment pattern for its officers. This will positively impact career progression and lower the age profile of Colonel-above ranks.The decision has three dimensions. The University Entry Scheme (UES) that allowed young graduates to gain entry directly has been suspended for now. (Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd)The focus  will be on Short Service Commission (SSC) officers for it is being proposed that the service be ‘sweetened’ with perks to attract more candidates. And last, the Technical Graduate Course (TGC) is being tapered off commensurate with the enhanced intake in the SSC (Technical). Top sources said the move was aimed at meeting the recommendations of the Ajai Vikram Singh Committee (AVSC), envisaging a ratio of 1:1.1 between full-time regular officers and the support cadre, largely from the SSC.The present ratio favours the regular cadre and the Army wants to reverse it to lower the age profile of combat forces. The Cabinet, acting on the AVSC report in October 2008, had approved the proposal to reduce the regular cadre. The Army, till now, allowed SSC officers to serve for 14 years. After halting two types of entries, it has now proposed new norms for the SSC cadre. This will include allowing them to serve for 20 years, making them eligible for pension and ex-servicemen  status. This means the officer will be out of the Army by the age of 40-42 with a pension and ample time for a second career. Once the final policy on a better deal for SSC officers is cleared, it will alter the available ‘selection pool’ above the rank of Colonel, in the long run.The Ministry of Defence had set up AVSC in 2001. The  idea was to achieve “combat effectiveness” by bringing down the age profile of battalion/brigade level commanders.  The  report was implemented in two phases, in 2004 and 2008. The last part on having more SSC officers was pending since then.The move will not affect the conduct of the Combined Defence Services examination through which recruitment is made to the IMA.


    Akhnoor: Terror strike averted

    Akhnoor: Terror strike averted
    Army men carry out a combing operation in Akhnoor sector of Jammu. Tribune photo

    Amir Karim Tantray

    Tribune News Service

    Jammu, October 5

    A day after militants struck at a BSF camp near Srinagar International Airport, a terror strike was averted at an Army camp in Akhnoor with timely detection of explosives on Wednesday.Giving details, Public Relation Officer (PRO) of 16 Corps, Col Hari said the alert Army personnel at Akhnoor helped in averting a major terrorist strike at the camp.“On Wednesday night, sentries observed suspicious movement close to the Army unit, located near the Akhnoor market. Thereafter, the response mechanism was activated wherein the entire area was cordoned off and a search operation was conducted. During the area sanitisation process, the security force with the help of a dog squad, recovered one fully installed improvised explosive device (IED), two mines, Army accoutrements and other incriminating stores,” he said. The combing operations were conducted during today also. Apart from the IED, the Army has also recovered a knife, Army fatigues of the Romeo Force and the Rashtriya Rifles, state maps, local map of Akhnoor, a rope, visiting card of a businessman, Indian currency notes and a book for learning Arabic. The area is very close to the 10 Division of the Army. Akhnoor falls on the western side of Jammu and is very close to the Line of Control (LoC). The area has remained on the target of militants for long.On January 9 this year, three labourers of the General Reserve Engineer Force were killed in a suspected terror attack at Battal village near the LoC in the Khour area of Akhnoor. On July 22, 2003, a Brigadier and seven soldiers were killed when three militants stormed an Army installation in the Tanda area near Akhnoor.On November 29, last year, seven soldiers, including two Majors, were killed at Nagrota when militants stormed an Army camp, three kilometres from 16 Corps headquarters.


    India has lost Kashmir valley emotionally, says Yashwant Sinha

    India has lost Kashmir valley emotionally, says Yashwant Sinha
    Veteran BJP leader Yashwant Sinha.

    New Delhi, October 1

    Having assailed Finance Minister Arun Jaitley over the “mess” in the economy, BJP veteran leader Yashwant Sinha attacked the government on the Kashmir imbroglio, insisting “India has lost people of the valley emotionally”.(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd)In an interview to ‘The Wire’ recorded on Friday, the former Union minister answered questions from journalist Karan Thapar on him being criticised for an article he wrote in a leading English daily on the state of economy that left the BJP embarrassed.Sinha termed as “exaggerated claims” the success of the various reforms and schemes undertaken by the government like the Mudra Bank.”I am looking at the alienation of the masses of people in Jammu and Kashmir. That is something which bothers me the most… We have lost the people emotionally… You just have to visit the valley to realise that they have lost faith in us,” Sinha said.Sinha leads a civil society organisation — Concerned Citizens Group (CCG) — which has visited the troubled Valley several times and interacted with various stakeholders to explore the possibility of finding a lasting solution to the seven-decades-old problem.The group comprises eminent people from different walks of life like Justice (retd) A P Shah, former Mumbai police commissioner J F Ribeiro, Wajahat Habibullah, A S Dulat, Aruna Roy and Ramchandra Guha.Sinha claimed he has sought an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the issue 10 months ago and was “hurt” as it did not materialise.”I am hurt. I am absolutely hurt. That you ask for time, 10 months has gone by…Let me tell you, ever since I have been in public life, no prime minister of India, starting with Rajiv Gandhi, has ever said no to a meeting I have sought… no prime minister has said to Yashwant Sinha, ‘I don’t have time for you.'”And this is my own prime minister who has treated me like this. So if somebody rings me and says please come talk to me—sorry, the time has passed… I have been treated shabbily,” he said.Sinha also took on Jaitley for suggesting that his shifting from the finance to external affairs ministry when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister was a “demotion”.”How can [Jaitley] say that shifting from the ministry of finance to external affairs was a demotion for me? … If Mr Jaitley with the same stroke wants to say that Sushma Swaraj, the external affairs minister of today, is handling a totally insignificant portfolio, nobody is going to believe it.”He debunked claims by several BJP leaders and ministers, including his own son Jayant, Minister of State for Civil Aviation, that the government has made massive structural changes which will help the economy in the long run.Sinha claimed Mudra scheme set up to provide funding to non-corporate, non-farm sector income generating activities of micro and small enterprises, was another name for the Pradhan Mantri Swarozgar Yojana launched by the Vajpayee government.He said the average loan in these accounts was a meagre Rs 11,000.”And you tell me, in today’s day and age, what kind of business can be set up with Rs 25,000 rupees, Rs 50,000. The party president said that all these 80 million people today are self-employed which means we have created 80 million job opportunities. This is absolutely untenable,” he said. — PTI


    Ambala base to be Rafale-ready 78-yr-old IAF station to get major infra push to receive first squadron of the fighter jet

    Ambala base to be Rafale-ready

    Ambala, October 1

    The Indian Air Force has initiated major infrastructure upgrade at its frontline base here for deployment of the first squadron of the Rafale jets, which will give India greater ‘potency’ over Pakistan as these will be capable of carrying nuclear weapons and other missiles.The government has already sanctioned Rs 220 crore to set up 14 shelters, hangers and maintenance facilities at the 78-year-old base for the Rafale jets whose delivery is scheduled to begin from September 2019, a senior IAF official said.(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd)The Ambala base is considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF as the India-Pakistan border is around 220 km from it. Currently, the base has two squadrons of the Jaguar combat aircraft and one squadron of the MiG-21 Bison.Several teams from French defence major Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale, have already visited the Ambala Air Force base and finalised the requirement for the first squadron of combat jets. The IAF is also carrying out infrastructure upgrade at its Hasimara base in West Bengal, which will house the second squadron of the Rafale jets, the official said. The Ambala as well as Hasimara stations will also have simulator-based training facilities for the air crew of Rafale jets. The IAF has already selected a batch of pilots to fly the jets and they are being given training by Dassault Aviation in France.The Rafale squadron to be deployed in Ambala will be known as Golden Arrows which was originally based in Bathinda and was disbanded two years ago.The Rafale combat jets will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording and infra-red search and tracking systems among others.The features that make the Rafale a strategic weapon in the hands of Air Force, which is currently down to 34 squadrons as against a sanctioned strength of 44, includes its Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Meteor air-to-air missile with a range of 150 km. Its integration on the Rafale jets will mean the Air Force can hit targets inside both Pakistan and across the northern and eastern borders while staying within India’s territorial boundary. — PTI


    Strategically vital air force facility

    • Ambala base is 220 km from Pakistan border and, thus, strategically most important
    • Rafale jets can carry nuclear arms, which gives India greater ‘potency’ over Pakistan
    • The delivery of the fighter jets is scheduled to begin from September 2019
    • Hasimara base in West Bengal will house the second squadron of the Rafale jets

     


    CAPT AMARINDER CELEBRATES VIJAYDASHI WITH ESM AT PATHANKOT

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    CM vows to help students of Salaria’s medical college

    Says steps being taken to move them elsewhere

    CM vows to help students of Salaria’s medical college
    CM Capt Amarinder Singh at the Dasehra celebrations in Pathankot on Saturday. Tribune photo

    Ravi Dhaliwal

    Tribune News Service

    Gurdaspur, September 30

    Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh today tried to divide the BJP’s traditional Hindu vote bank by presiding over Dasehra celebrations in Pathankot.Hindus account for 80 per cent of votes in the district, which comprises the Assembly seats of Pathankot city, Bhoa and Sujanpur.Amarinder later also addressed an ex-servicemen’s rally, but even there he did not make any political speech. Former defence personnel have an impressive vote share in all three segments.Amarinder, meanwhile, assured students of Chintpurni Medical College, owned by BJP candidate Swaran Salaria, that his government would not allow their future to be spoiled due to the “mismanagement of the college authorities”.“Steps are being taken to shift them to other medical institutions in the state,” said Amarinder. The CM, who met the students after his arrival here for the ex-servicemen rally, also allayed their fears that Salaria might try to harm the process of their shifting to other colleges.“He is no longer in control of the college and will not be able to harm you in any way,” he told the students.He said the state government had sought permission from the Medical Council of India (MCI) to shift them to other medical colleges.AAP leaders join Cong AAP leader Kulbhushan Singh, who contested the last Assembly poll from Sujanpur, and party general secretary Lakhvir Singh, on Saturday joined the Congress in the presence of Capt Amarinder Singh. The leaders said they had quit AAP as it “failed” to meet the aspirations of the people. PTI

    • Amarinder woos ex-servicemen ahead of Gurdaspur bypoll

    • Pathankot, Sep 30 (PTI) Ahead of the Gurdaspur bypoll, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh today sought to woo ex-servicemen here, promising that he would ensure “justice and respect” for them.The Gurdaspur bypoll, slated to be held on October 11, was necessitated by the death of BJP MP Vinod Khanna in April this year. The Congress has fielded Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar for the seat.Promising all-around development for the region, the chief minister said a vote for Jakhar would be a vote for development.“Your sacrifices for the nation cannot be ever forgotten and the least my government can do is to ensure that you get respect and justice,” he told ex-servicemen at a rally here.

      “Don’t hesitate to approach me directly in case you have any problems,” he said.

      Singh urged the ex-servicemen to support Jakhar in the ensuing by-election. “He is a gem of a person and will fight for the rights of the people of Gurdaspur region in the Lok Sabha,” the CM said.

      Referring to his government’s ‘Guardians of Governance’ scheme, Amarinder said the voluntary force of ex-servicemen would ensure implementation of all government schemes and programmes and see that benefits of these schemes reach the people.

      The chief minister said his government will set up a Sainik school for the children of defence personnel and training institutes in Majha and Malwa regions.

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    New Governors in 5 states Admiral Joshi Andaman L-G; Purohit on Chennai post

    New Governors in 5 states
    Brigadier BD Mishra (retd) has been appointed governor of Arunachal Pradesh. ANI

    New Delhi, September 30

    Former Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi will be the next Lieutenant Governor (L-G) of the strategic Andaman and Nicobar Islands even as President Ram Nath Kovind today appointed new Governors in  five states — Tamil Nadu, Assam, Bihar, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. With Banwarilal Purohit, Tamil Nadu will get a full-time Governor after about a year. As of now, Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao holds the additional charge. There had been demands for a full-time Governor in view of the political crisis in the state following the death of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd)Senior BJP leader Satya Pal Malik will be the new Bihar Governor. He will take charge from West Bengal Governor Kesri Nath Tripathi, who has been holding additional charge since Kovind’s elevation to Rashtrapati Bhawan. Former member of the Bihar Legislative Council Ganga Prasad has been appointed Meghalaya Governor. He will take over from Purohit, who till now was the Governor of Assam and was holding additional charge.With Admiral Joshi appointed L-G, incumbent BJP leader Jagdish Mukhi has been shifted to Assam.Brig BD Mishra (retd) will be the Governor, Arunachal Pradesh. He will take over from Nagaland Governor Padmanabha B Acharya, who was holding dual charge.There is buzz that the next round of appointments may take place after October 12-13. Purohit, the new TN Governor, has been involved in social, political and educational causes in Vidarbha.Malik, the new Bihar Governor, is in charge of the party’s Kisan Morcha and has held important positions at the Centre and in the state. Prasad, the new Governor of Meghalaya, was elected a member of the Bihar Legislative Council for the first time in 1994 and was MLC for 18 years. Mukhi, the new Assam Governor, has won seven times from Delhi’s Janakpuri.Admiral Joshi was Chief of Naval Staff from August 2012 to February 26, 2014. He quit taking moral responsibility for the fire in INS Sindhuratna. Brig Mishra, the new Governor of Arunachal, commanded the NSG Counter Hijack Task Force that played a role in rescuing passengers aboard an Indian Airlines plane hijacked in 1993. — TNS


    Naval officer gives new lease of life to 4 P’kula youth was declared brain dead in Kerala mishap

    Thiruvananthapuram,September 28

    A 24-year-old naval officer, declared brain dead after a road accident, has given a new lease of life to four people, with his family donating his organs.Sub-Lt Atul Kumar Pawar of INS Dronacharya, at the Southern Naval Command in Kochi, had gone to Wayanad on a short trip with friends on September 24.The bachelor from Panchkula in Haryana was seriously injured on his way back when the vehicle he was travelling in hit a road divider at Chalakudy in Thrissur district.Pawar was rushed to a hospital in Kochi where doctors declared him brain dead yesterday. Overcoming their grief, his father Rajbir Singh Pawar and others in the family expressed the wish to donate his heart, liver and two kidneys, a release from Thiruvananthapuram Medical College said today. Pawar’s heart will be harvested on a 50-year-old man at the Kottayam Medical College and Hospital. One kidney will be donated to a patient at the naval hospital in Bengaluru and the other to a patient from Kochi. The liver will be also be transplanted. — PTI


    A soldier should wield the gun, not broom: Veterans

    It’s an idiotic decision (in view of threat we face from two sides). It stems from the notion that armed forces do nothing during peace. COL ANIL RAINA (RETD) Soldiering is all about pride. Such an order will lower self­esteem of soldiers. It’s unfortunate that our chiefs don’t stand up to such diktats. LT GEN HARWANT SINGH (RETD)

    CHANDIGARH: From an online petition collecting signatures against the move to furore on WhatsApp and Twitter, the debate over Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) asking the ministry of defence (MoD) to clean up the waste left behind by tourists in high-altitude locations is only getting more lively.

    The latest argument is that when the Sri Lankan tourism ministry mooted a similar proposal to its armed forces, they refused, saying their soldiers won’t touch garbage.

    A former army commander, who requested anonymity, said he had no bones to pick with the order if it is part of a national effort.

    “In the 1960s, the armed forces used to grow wheat and rice in vacant areas and even the bungalows as part of the ‘grow more food campaign’, but the ministry must clarify whether the army will do it physically or it will get funds for it.”

    But he was quick to add that if the rumour that it was part of the central government’s efforts to get the pilgrim places cleaned was true, he would be very offended.

    Lt Gen Harwant Singh (retd) feels the order is downright humiliating. “Soldiering is all about pride, such an order will lower the self-esteem of a soldier. It is unfortunate that our chiefs don’t stand up to such diktats,” he said, adding that there was a difference between helping out in an emergency and wielding the broom to make up for somebody else’s inefficiency.

    There were others who said the order stemmed from the misplaced notion that the armed forces had nothing to do during peace time.

    Calling it an “idiotic decision” in view of the threat the country faces from two sides, Col Anil Raina (retd) said the army is busy every month of the year. “From January to March, we are doing in-house training and preparing for the next nine months. Then there is field firing, followed by inspections where a unit is told whether it is war ready or not.”

    Agreeing with him, the former army commander said a soldier has to account for every hour in his day. “From training and refresher courses to administrative work, he is kept physically and mentally busy. It is peace time that prepares you for war.”

    Col Raina said a soldier is so busy even during peace that if you were to ask him how many nights he gets to sleep, he will reply “2- 3 nights a week”.

    Brig Baljit Singh (retd) of War Decorated India, however, chose to interpret the order more cautiously. “I think the PMO implies that the army will get the work done, not that it will do it physically.”

    The officer went on to explain that the chief executive officer of the cantonment board, who is an employee of the defence ministry, has both staff and funds at his disposal. “He can use both to clean up areas in high altitude with scanty civil population.”

    But most veterans found the order hard to swallow. Slamming it as “very stupid” Brig Harwant Singh (retd) of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, bristled, “The army does not need any ‘swacchta abhiyan’. They are asking us to clean up. It amounts to gross ill-treatment of the soldier. Don’t reduce him to a safai worker.”

    Seconding him, Brig Onkar Singh Goraya (retd) said the PMO can boost the cleanliness campaign by sending his people to cantonments for a tutorial in cleanliness. “Visit any military station and you won’t find a brick out of place. We do the job with minimum effort. Learn from us, don’t hand us the broom.”