“Visa facilitators, while providing visa assistance directly to individuals do not act on behalf of the embassies as agents of the principal and hence service tax is not leviable within the meaning of business auxiliary service,” CBEC said in a circular
The Finance Ministry said the assistance provided by visa facilitators to applicants does not come under the purview of service tax.
"Visa facilitators, while providing visa assistance directly to individuals do not act on behalf of the embassies as agents of the principal and hence service tax is not leviable within the meaning of business auxiliary service," Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) said in a circular.
These facilitators help procure visas and directly assist individuals in completing immigration formalities.
CBEC said they collect from applicants certain statutory charges like visa fee, certification fee, attestation fee and emigration fee, which are remitted to the authorities.
"Such a service provided by a visa facilitator, in the form of assistance to individuals directly, to obtain a visa, does not fall under any of the taxable services... Hence service tax is not attracted," the circular said.
However, it said, service tax is leviable on any other services provided directly to individuals for obtaining visa would attract the levy.
It is good to plan for the future. But why don’t we address the immediate problems with doable solutions, instead of giving priority to projects that will most likely be ineffective and might even cause damage to society and the environment in the long term?
In these columns we have examined the Concept Plan 2052 prepared by Surbana International for the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). It talks of decongesting Greater Mumbai (areas under the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai) by (i) providing additional residential, commercial and industrial areas in the MMR and (ii) providing commensurate physical and social infrastructure. It takes a conventional model of an urban setting with ring roads as high-speed corridors for travel, and it fixes a central business district (CBD) in South Mumbai to begin with, then locating multiple smaller CBDs in different zones, to make the process of redevelopment financially viable. It does this by almost uniformly increasing the FSI four-fold all over. While in the Island City the FSI increases from 1.33 to 5, in South Mumbai (Nariman Point) it goes up to 14. To enable so many more people to come to this location, it has proposed the concept of Garland Roads. The idea is that from any point in the MMR, Nariman Point should be reachable within an hour.
The Concept Plan 2052 envisages that the densities in the Island City or 'inner city' will stabilise at 300 p/Ha (per hectare), in the city fringe areas (western and eastern suburbs) 250 p/Ha, and suburban areas (in the rest of MMR, presumably existing urban areas) at 200 p/Ha. As of 2001, the respective densities were 458 p/Ha, 218 p/Ha and 139 p/Ha (in the urban MMR). My projections for 2031 are 528 p/Ha, 487 p/Ha and 320 p/Ha, respectively, going by the current trend. As per my analysis, Mumbai will reach the Surbana estimated population figures for 2052 in 2031 itself.
The Vision Plan to make Mumbai a 'World Class City' by 2031, and thereafter a 'Global City' by 2052, is flawed, in my opinion. It projects desired population densities which, if achieved, will decongest largely the 'inner city', marginally densify the suburbs of Greater Mumbai and significantly densify the urban MMR. What would that mean? The Concept Plan 2052 renders the region as 'slum-less'. This means that 50%-55% of the population of Greater Mumbai that currently lives in slums, will be relocated in MMR and that large numbers of them will have to travel long distances to their work places by affordable means, which has necessarily to be the public transport. With the growth engine, the CBD, given an FSI of 14, the number of artisans required to build the CBD will be so large, that the current inadequate public transport system will be absolutely inadequate-whether it is the suburban railway, or the much-desired Metro needed for image-building of a Global City, or for that matter the bus system. Add to this the growing population that will come to reside in the MMR and travel to South Mumbai for work, other than construction, just because work space is created through the enormous increase in FSI.
The Surbana Concept Plan 2052 also looks at the current trend of growth in ownership and use of personal motor vehicles and makes projections for 2052, and it accordingly plans for increased commute by personal motorised vehicles. It endorses the concept of Garland Roads suggested by "Bombay First and McKinsey Vision Mumbai 2003" and "Transforming Mumbai into a World Class City" by the Maharashtra government.
Highways and Arteries in MMR
Of about 300 km of Garland Roads, only about 60 km, or one-fifth serve MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai) areas and rightly so. But investment wise it gets about Rs12,000 crore, or about one-third from the approximately Rs36,000 crore investment in the entire MMR.
It is well known that in its current state, overcrowding on the suburban rail system is so severe that about 4,000 people die every year; the proposed capacity of the Metro is terribly short of the required capacity of public transport; only 2.9% of the population use personal cars; 44% of the population walks to work and 3.1% use bicycles; nearly 57% of the people work within a 3km distance from their place of residence and only 11% work beyond 15 km from their residence.
One must also give considerable weightage to the transportation sector's worsening global warming and climate change, towards minimizing travel demand in the planned mega city, whatever be the model adopted for 'economic and financial' considerations. It is clear that it is not just a reduction in travel, but a reduction in the extensive use of personal mode of transport that needs to be given weightage; it is not how quickly a few people can travel across the MMR, but how a large number of people can travel as quickly, and preferably over shorter distances.
Seismic Zoning Map of India
There is one aspect that has apparently not been given adequate thought and that's about going high-rise. Mumbai is on the fringes of Seismic Zone IV, although it has been put under Zone III. There are three distinct fault lines passing through Greater Mumbai and MMR. This is not to say that we cannot design buildings to withstand the forces of Zone III, or for that matter Zone IV. But should there be an earthquake of great severity, the enormity of the disaster that we may have to cope with is for each one to imagine. The cost to human life and the economy would be enormous, nullifying even the current state of Mumbai's economic wellness.
The question to be asked is, for whom is the Garland Road in Mumbai being proposed and which sections are being prioritised for completion; why is the immediate problem of mobility in Greater Mumbai not addressed with solutions that are feasible and quickly implementable, and why are these not even mentioned in the plans; and then the damage the Concept Plan 2052 can cause in terms of environment and hardship to the aam janta. I leave you to ponder over these aspects and to decide about whether we should accept such changes as inevitable, even in a democratic society, or voice our disapproval.
[Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on the Government of Maharashtra's Steering Committee on Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) for Mumbai and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority's (MMRDA) technical advisory committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of the Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMMTA). He was a member of the Bombay High Court-appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). He has been an active campaigner against noise pollution for over a decade and he is a strong believer in a functioning democracy. He can be contacted on email at [email protected]]
BNP Paribas Mutual Fund new issue closes on 25th April
BNP Paribas Mutual Fund has launched BNP Paribas Fixed Term Fund-Series 21 J, a close-ended income scheme.
The investment objective of the scheme would be to achieve growth of capital through investments made in a basket of fixed income securities maturing on or before the maturity of the scheme. The tenor of the scheme is 181 days.
The new issue closes on 25th April. The minimum investment amount is Rs5,000.
CRISIL Short Term Bond Fund Index is the benchmark index. Alok Singh, fund head-fixed income & structured products, is the fund manager.