Nation
Amid opposition uproar, Centre denies snooping on Rahul

Finance Minister Jaitley said it was a routine drill that police have to undertake to ensure security of the VIPs active in Lutyens' Delhi

 

The union government on Monday dismissed the charges of snooping on Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi as the party members, supported by other political parties, created an uproar in the Parliament.
 
In the Rajya Sabha, Leader of the House and union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley called information gathering by Delhi Police on VIPs a routine drill and urged the members not to act as security experts.
 
Raising the issue in the Rajya Sabha, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said religious freedom and political freedom was "going down" in the country.
 
Azad said he has been a Member of Parliament (MP) for years but has never come across a questionnaire like this.
 
"Police said it is for the protectees. I do not understand, I have Z-plus security for so many years, no one has ever asked me for such details. Police asked what is his shoe size, what are his habits, who are his associates and asked for their numbers...I cannot understand such proforma," said Azad.
 
"Is the government trying to threaten political parties by such spying? Are they trying to say if we raise our voice, inside or outside parliament, the central government will use any tactic to suppress their political rivals," Azad asked.
 
"Religious freedom is going down, and now political freedom is going down. The home minister should make a statement," he said.
 
He was joined by other opposition parties like Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and Samajwadi Party (SP).
 
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley said it was a routine drill that police have to undertake to ensure security of the VIPs active in Lutyens' Delhi. He said the practice was started in 1987 under the then Congress government.
 
"The issue you have raised is making mountain of what is not even molehill. Snooping is keeping a watch on someone silently, asking staff to fill in a proforma is not snooping," Jaitley said.
 
"This practice was started by the Congress government in 1987... In 1990, the proforma was changed."
 
Responding to a question by members why police asked for Rahul Gandhi's shoe size, the minister said: "A former prime minister when he was assassinated, because of the shoe his body was identified."
 
"We are MPs, let us confine ourselves to that. What information experts need to provide security, let us leave it on them. A shoe can be relevant in security," he said rebutting opposition charges.
 
The minister said such proforma has been sent to all VIPs from time to time, including former prime ministers HD Deve Gowda, Manmohan Singh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as well as Congress President Sonia Gandhi, BJP leader LK Advani and others.
 
As opposition members continued to raise the issue, Jaitley said members can check the police records.
 
"It has not started in last eight months, let the leader of opposition check police records and the forms filled during the UPA government. Will that put an end to the issue?" he said.
 
In the Lok Sabha, the issue was raised by Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge who demanded an official response from Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as the home minister.
 
Police last week visited Rahul Gandhi's office and inquired about his physical appearance, his height, colour of eyes and hair, among other things, sparking a political controversy.
 
Delhi Police said this was a "routine" exercise, while the Congress and other opposition parties termed it "political espionage".
 

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Online Shopping? Beware about the 'hidden' delivery charges
Do not get tempted at huge discount offers at online portals. The devil is in the delivery charges, as I found out. An item was being sold at 82% discount for Rs68 with delivery charges of Rs100!
 
There is no doubt that online shopping has picked up in India and the trend is showing phenomenal growth. Almost everything that you can think of is now becoming available on online shopping portals, like Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal. However, several times, customers are taken for a ride, when there is a huge difference between the price of the item shown and its actual cost, including delivery charges.
 
For example, last week I came across an item sold on Flipkart with a price tag of Rs68. On checking, I found the delivery charge (hidden on the home page and disclosed on product page) was Rs100, more than the product price. Surprisingly, the seller was selling the item at a whopping discount of 82% as against a maximum retail price (MRP) of Rs399! Most of the visitors to the online shopping portals preferably click on an item displayed on the home page itself, especially, those items offering bigger discounts. This may be misleading, but there is no answer to this question.
 
See the images below...
 
 
When asked, the support team at Flipkart replied on Twitter that it is the seller who decides the delivery charges. According to a Flipkart spokesperson, the delivery charges depend on location of seller inventory and delivery partners. Perfectly fine.
 
Now comes the twist. Most of the items sold by Flipkart (I am sure other online shopping portals also use the same system) are couriered through its in-house agency, like eKart Logistics. In that case, I asked Flipkart, how the seller could decide exorbitant charges and there should be some standard tariff offered by, let us say by eKart.
 
"While items that sellers store in our warehouses have a flat delivery charge, those that are picked up and shipped directly from seller locations have charges that are decided by sellers based on various business metrics," the spokesperson for Flipkart replied.
 
In addition, there is the contentious issue of sales tax or value added tax. Since different states have different tax structures, online shopping portals prefer to sell items from location where the tax is lowest. For example, most of electronic items, mobiles sold by Flipkart are dispatched from Bengaluru, as there is a lower VAT in Karnataka compared with over 12% in Maharashtra. 
 
However, when the seller is selling an item at 82% discount, it helps him in terms of lower sales tax. In the above example, for a selling price of Rs68, the seller would pay only Rs3.5 as tax instead of a tax of Rs20 on the MRP of Rs399. However, when he is charging Rs100 as delivery charges, there is no sales tax and after paying for the courier charges (around Rs40) and service tax, if applicable, he can pocket the rest. In short, the seller would be earning about Rs125 from the sale, while the state would be earning only Rs3.5 as against Rs20 in taxation and the buyer would end up paying Rs168.
 
Online shopping portals are not responsible in the taxation and according to Flipkart, the VAT is charged by the seller on the selling price of the item.
 
Coming back to our main issue of buying an item at lower rates online, always do check the cost, which includes price and delivery charges, if any. If the total cost is more than the actual price at which it will be available at your next-door shop, then buy it locally. If the difference is about 20%-30% (cheaper at local shop) then also buy it locally. Only if the difference is more than 50% or the item that you are looking for is not available at local shop, then order it online. 
 

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COMMENTS

Sanchit Arora

2 years ago

On an invoice generated on behalf of flipkart. I can verify that VAT was charged (at the same rate as the item) on the shipping charges too. Does that still leave the room for tax evasion ?

Vimal Jain

2 years ago

Nice one. Eye opener story.
Good luck, keep it up.

Veeresh Malik

2 years ago

Online retailers also need to standardise elements like quantity, size, volume, weight as well as what you see in the photo is what you get.

To give an example - a garden hose with a sprinkler head is what is shown in a photo but in the fine print you may spot that the product is only the hose or the sprinkler.

Likewise, packaging may be for a larger weight shown in a photo but product may be for a lesser weight.

Online shopping is totally "buyer beware" right upto the payment part.

MOHAN SIROYA

2 years ago

While agreeing with Yogesh Sapkale about eh hidden charges or non -transparent things on website of online sellers; I would like to add that ,besides TOTAL COST at the time of payment, buyers should also be cautious if the WARRANTY OR AFTER SALES SERVICE IS attached to the product or not and where it is available.
AS for the unfair practice of artificially under pricing and charging exorbitant Delivery charges; let me mention that compared to other online sellers, FLIPCART OR AMAZON are better. Snap deal is unreliable as it only stand guarantee upto seven days only. Thereafter it does not entertain any After sales service deficiency. Naaptol is worst as they normally sell , grey market products. Indiatimes shopping always charge Rs. 300 to 400 as SHIPPING charge unrelated to the weight or price of the product.
Many such examples are available. Therefore, the 'Mantra' for online buyer is be careful and cautious before final click on the payment page.

Prem Bajaj

2 years ago

well, buy from the best i.e. Amazon. they have clarity in the pricing incl from the different sources. further, always prefer to buy 'fulfilled by amazon' for assurances on product and returns/exchanges.

flipkart is known to be cannibalising competing e-stores and in the nam of disruption is actually providing a dis-service to customers and trying to exempt its liability on taxes.

REPLY

vpb

In Reply to Prem Bajaj 2 years ago

I agree,Amazon i far better than flipkart.Amazon fulfilled orders will be delivered free of cost.

Anil Agashe

2 years ago

On what price does the manufacturer pays the Excise duty? is there a massive tax evasion on?

Anil Agashe

2 years ago

On what price does the manufacturer pays the Excise duty? is there a massive tax evasion on?

REPLY

MOHAN SIROYA

In Reply to Anil Agashe 2 years ago

Yes, there may be. Corruption is rampant in Excise department, besides lack of manpower to have regular monitoring of MRP of lakhs of products.
Mohan Siroya

Banking: Axis Bank Customer Approaches Police for ATM Fraud
An Axis Bank customer was at her Mazgaon home (Mumbai) and her debit card was in her purse, when she received alerts on her mobile phone for four withdrawals from ATMs in Thane (a Mumbai suburb).  She complained to the Bank and the police, according to a Times of India report.
 
The police said they will get in touch with the Bank to get CCTV records from the ATMs to track the accused. The first withdrawal for Rs10,000 was done at 3:26am on Sunday, 22 February 2015 followed by two transactions for the same amount at 3:27am and 3:28am. The fourth withdrawal for Rs20,000 was done three minutes later. The victim then blocked her card with Axis Bank for further withdrawals by the accused.

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