According to Kirit Parikh, for normal cars, the road tax can be higher by between Rs10,000 and Rs20,000 for diesel version and for SUVs, it should be higher by up to Rs50,000
New Delhi: A proposal to levy an annual road tax -- higher by up to Rs 50,000 for diesel sports utility vehicles (SUVs) than petrol driven ones -- has been made to the Finance Ministry to help reduce the fuel subsidy burden, reports PTI quoting Kirit Parikh, who heads a think-tank.
The auto industry, however, said any such step to impose additional taxes on the sector will not "make sense".
Parikh, who was roped in by the government to check the mounting fuel subsidy burden, said diesel prices should be made market-driven after fixing the subsidy cap at Rs9 per litre.
A former Planning Commission member Parikh now heads the think-tank Integrated Research and Action for Development (IRAD).
"Instead of looking at a one-time diesel tax on new purchases, the alternative could be to abolish the existing one-time road tax and make it annual and apply a differential between petrol and diesel vehicles," Parikh told reporters on the sidelines of a SIAM event.
Asked what could be the difference on road taxes between diesel and petrol-driven vehicles, he said: "For normal cars, it can be higher by between Rs10,000 and Rs20,000 for diesel version and for SUVs, it should be higher by up to Rs50,000."
Parikh said the proposal has been submitted to the Finance Ministry.
Reacting to the development, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) Vice-President Vikram Kirloskar, who is also the Vice- Chairman of Toyota Kirloskar Motor, said: "Today, 45% of selling price of a vehicle is tax and any additional tax does not make sense."
Calling for deregulation of diesel, he said: "We don't want diesel vehicles to be over-taxed. We would rather have market pricing of diesel."
The records of over flight requests show more than 200 tons of "bank notes" from Moscow to Damascus
This past summer, as the Syrian economy began to unravel and the military pressed hard against an armed rebellion, a Syrian government plane ferried what flight records describe as more than 200 tons of “bank notes” from Moscow.
The records of overflight requests were obtained by ProPublica. The flights occurred during a period of escalating violence in a conflict that has left tens of thousands of people dead since fighting broke out in March 2011.
The regime of Bashar al-Assad is increasingly in need of cash to stay afloat and continue financing the military’s efforts to crush the uprising. U.S. and European sanctions, including a ban on minting Syrian currency, have damaged the country’s economy. As a result, Syria lost access to an Austrian bank that had printed its bank notes.
“Having currency that you can put into circulation is certainly something that is important in terms of running an economy and more so in an economy that is become more cash-based as things deteriorate,” said Daniel Glaser, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes. “It is certainly something the Syrian government wants to do, to pay soldiers or pay anybody anything."
According to the flight records, eight round-trip flights between Damascus International Airport and Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport each carried 30 tons of bank notes back to Syria. There are records relating to the flights in Arabic and English as well as copies of over-flight requests sent to Iran, which are in Farsi.
Syrian and Russian officials did not respond to ProPublica's questions about the authenticity and accuracy of the flight records. It is not possible to know whether the logs accurately described the cargo or what else might have been on board the flights. Nor do the logs specify the type of currency.
But ProPublica confirmed nearly all of the flights took place through international plane-tracking services, photos by aviation enthusiasts, and air traffic control recordings.
Each time the manifest listed “Bank Notes” as its cargo, the plane traveled a circuitous route. Instead of flying directly over Turkish airspace, as civilian planes have, the Ilyushin-76 cargo plane, operated by the Syrian Air Force, avoided Turkey and flew over Iraq, Iran, and Azerbaijan.
Tensions have been rising between Syria and Turkey since the spring. Last month, Turkey forced down a Syrian passenger plane traveling from Moscow. Turkey suspected the flight of carrying military cargo but officials have not said what, if anything, was confiscated.
If the flight manifests are accurate, a total of 240 tons of bank notes moved from Moscow to Damascus over a 10-week period beginning July 9th and ending on September 15th.
U.S. officials interviewed said evidence of monetary assistance, like military cooperation, point to a pattern of Russian support for Assad that extends from concrete aid to protecting Syria from U.N. sanctions.
In September, 2011, six months into the violence, the European Union imposed sanctions that prohibited its members from minting or supplying new Syrian coinage or banknotes. In a statement, the EU said the sanctions aimed “to obstruct those who are leading the crackdown in Syria and to restrict the funding being used to perpetrate violence against the Syrian people.” At the time, Syria’s currency was being minted by Oesterreichische Banknoten- und Sicherheitsdruck GmbH, a subsidiary of Austria’s Central Bank.
President Obama has issued five Executive Orders that prevent members of the Assad regime from entering the United States and accessing the U.S. financial system.
“Increasingly, it is more difficult to finance the war machine and the cost of the war is becoming more expensive for the Assad regime,” said one U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Targeted sanctions on those leading the violence are working and start to bite into their pocket books.”
Russia appears to be helping Syria blunt the impact of the sanctions.
This past June, Reuters reported that Russia had begun printing new Syrian pounds and that an initial shipment of bank notes had already arrived. The report was denied by the Syrian Central Bank, which claimed the only new money in circulation were bills that had replaced damaged or worn bank notes. Such a swap, the bank contended, would have no effect on the economy.
On August 3rd, the official Syrian news agency SANA, reporting from a news conference in Moscow with Syrian and Russian economic officials, quoted Syrian officials acknowledging that Russia is printing money. Qadr Jamil, Syria’s deputy prime minister for Economic Affairs, was quoted by SANA as calling the deal with Russia a “triumph,” over sanctions.
Syrian Finance Minister Mohammad al-Jleilati said that Russia was providing both replacement notes and additional currency to, as SANA put it, “reflect the country’s changing GDP.”
Al-Jleilati said the money would have no effect on inflation. Printing new notes beyond simply replacing old ones could undermine Syria’s already battered currency.
At the time of the meeting, at least 30 tons of currency had already been delivered, according to the flight records, and another 210 tons would be delivered in subsequent flights.
In its regional economic outlook released earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund noted that Syria’s currency has lost 44 percent of its value since March 2011, trading for about 70 pounds to the dollar compared with about 47 pounds when the conflict began.
Ibrahim Saif, a political economist based in Jordan and a resident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center said 30 tons of bank notes twice a week is a significant amount for a country like Syria.
“I truly believe it’s not only that they’re exchanging old money for new notes. They are printing money because they need new notes,” Saif said.
“Most of the government revenue that comes from taxes, in terms of other services, it’s almost now dried up,” noted Saif. Yet, “they continue to pay salaries. They have not shown any signs of weakness in fulfilling their domestic obligations. The only way they can do this is to get some sort of cash in the market.”
Before the unrest broke out, Syria had about $17 billion in foreign currency reserves. Saif said he and other economists in the region estimate they now have about $6-8 billion in reserves, dwindling about $500 million a month for salaries and supplies to keep the government running.
In Moscow, the Syrian finance minister had said that his country required additional foreign currency reserves, which Russia may provide in the form of loans.
“It’s possible the Syrians are acquiring foreign currency reserves, either Euros or US dollars, which they would need to conduct any serious commerce,” said Juan Zarate, who served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes during the Bush administration.
Zarate noted that other countries, when faced with economic sanctions, have leaned on allies for foreign currency reserves. China supplied North Korea with such funds in the past and Venezuela agreed to sell reserves to Iran.
Syria’s currency is still traded on open markets, but there is limited on-the-ground information about the economy, including inflation.
Officials at the IMF “have not been able to get direct information about Syria for at least a year,” Masood Ahmed, director of the group’s Middle East and Central Asia department, told reporters at a conference in Tokyo last month.
Glaser, at Treasury, declined to put a figure on Syria’s current reserves but said the Syrian economy is suffering in part from a lack of tourism and a ban on oil sales, both of which provided Damascus with foreign currency. “There is significant inflation in the country. It can be caused by adding new currency or not having foreign reserves to prop up the existing currency.”
Quinn Norton contributed to this story.
A gathering of Mumbai's leading activists with interests in a wide range of social issues gathered today at Moneylife Foundation to mark the birth anniversary of Dr Verghese Kurien. In line with Dr Kurien's ideals, it was decided to commemorate the day by pledging to cooperate for positive change or as “Sahakarya Kranti Diwas”. Over 12,000 people have signed a petition asking the government to confer the Bharat Ratna on India's milkman
Several activists gathered at the Moneylife Foundation Centre on Monday to celebrate 26th November, the birth anniversary of Dr Verghese Kurien, and to appeal that his day be recognised as Sahakarya Kranti Diwas or a movement for positive change. A petition demanding a Bharat Ratna for Dr Kurien was signed on www.change.org by over 12,000 people. Many of those who supported the movement have also been writing to the Padma awards committee to bring to their attention the wishes of ordinary Indians. The petition, which has been sent to the President of India as well as all those who are part of the decision-making hierarchy in the government, has already been sent electronically. A print copy will also be sent to them shortly.
Anand Halve, co-founder of Chlorophyll, came up with the idea that the best way to honour Dr Kurien’s memory would be to recognise his birth anniversary as “Sahakarya Kranti Diwas”. The idea for a movement for positive change found quick acceptability and the meeting of activists and others at Moneylife Foundation today reflected exactly that spirit.
The meeting started with Moneylife Foundation’s founder, Sucheta Dalal providing statistics to show how only one Bharat Ratna so far has been awarded to a person who has worked with India's poor and needy, and that was to Mother Theresa. The majority of Bharat Ratna awardees have been freedom fighters, artists or political leaders. Also, plenty of Bharat Ratna awards have been bestowed posthumously. Ms Dalal made the point that a Bharat Ratna will mean nothing to Dr Kurien when he is no more. But it will be an acknowledgement that someone who pledged his life for the upliftment of poor farmers and achieved transformational change that benefitted millions of people gets due recognition in India.
Vinay Somani, founder of Karmayog.org which is probably India’s largest platform for connecting NGOs across India, provided many insights from the interactions and experience at Karmayog. He said the first step to being a socially conscious citizen was to be honest about oneself and about one’s interactions. He added there was a great need for NGOs to support one another by rising above personal egos. Mr Somani, an engineer and a Harvard Business School alumnus, then went on to provide several tips on what leads to effective action. One of these was the need to write and document various interactions—he urged people to write about issues, write letters to editors, write letters of protest and petition for various kinds of change. Putting things in writing, he said, often yields better and faster results.
Anand Halve, spoke about his interactions and learnings about what motivates people to work for change. He pointed out that people don’t react to intellect, they react to emotions. If you cannot reach a person emotionally, it invariably leads to a cop-out. In an engaging talk that drew from the experiences of those involved in the Arab Spring revolution, he pointed out that social media and visual images (through the easy reach of photographs and videos available on smart phones) had helped spread the message and galvanised people into action. But none of it would have happened if they didn’t feel emotionally charged. Mr Halve as well as several other activists spoke of similar challenges in getting their issues to be discussed and debated by mainstream media.
N Venkat Krishnan, the IIM Ahmedabad alumnus who opted out of the corporate rat-race to start GiveIndia, an NGO that provides a platform for individual and payroll giving, also related his experiences. Dr Sadanand Nadkarni, former dean of Sion Hospital, explained how the government medical system, through faulty processes is creating badly trained doctors and this has serious implications for society. Dr Nadkarni, who is 80, is a tireless fighter for improvement in medical administration and policies and his talk charged many activists to pledge support for this cause.
Another activist who drew loud applause was Samir Zaveri, an untiring fighter for the cause of railway passengers. Mr Zaveri, who lost both his legs in a railway accident at the age of 16, has been a champion for a vast array of railway passenger safety issues, medical care, ambulances and compensation. He uses the RTI (Right to Information) Act as well as the legal system most effectively.
SV (Bobby) Sista, founder and executive trustee of Population First and Nanhi Kali—two NGOs involved in population control and the girl child respectively, spoke about the vast challenges involved in his mission and the effort and strategies involved in getting these issues discussed by the mainstream media.
Also present was SD Israni, senior advocate and Moneylife columnist whose talk was peppered with anecdotes about how writing letters of complaint led to positive consequences.
Anil Kohli, an entrepreneur who has become an enthusiastic Twitter activist, provided examples of how this micro-blogging network has the power and reach to provide unexpected results. He is involved in a movement to transition from Twitter into multiple activities on the ground led by individual teams who are networked through the social media. Jemin Panchal and several other activists who were part of the move from social-media to on-the-ground activism were present at the meeting.
Justine Leigh-Bell, a project leader at Vanashakti an NGO engaged in environment protection, spoke about the effort in launching a value-based environmental education programme through schools in India, which plans an ambitious nationwide rollout.
Indrani Malkani, trustee of vCAN, spoke about how working with the administration had helped several of her causes. An important one, after the 24 July 2006 cloudburst in Mumbai was to get HAM radio operators officially inducted into Mumbai’s Disaster Management Plan. A second was the school bus project, which happened through Cathedral School and the third was the clean up of Girgaum Chowpatty.
Interestingly, the entire programme was recorded and will be uploaded on Moneylife and YouTube, due to the efforts and cooperation of another activist-volunteer Suvendu Haddar, an IT expert. Other prominent activists present at the meeting included Gaurang Damani, Ashok Ravat and Rajesh Gada.