Citizens' Issues
'One Rank, One Pension' matter of faith for me: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday assured ex-servicemen that his government will soon resolve the tangles related to the "One Rank, One Pension" (OROP) issue and that interests of retired defence personnel was a "matter of faith and expression of patriotism" for him.
 
The Congress, however, alleged that the government was "deliberately delaying" the decision, and the criticism of the previous UPA government on the issue was "not valid".
 
Modi, in his radio address "Mann Ki Baat", urged ex-servicemen not to believe those who were politicising the issue.
 
"Interests of the former defence personnel is a matter of faith and expression of patriotism for me," Modi said.
 
Seeking more time from ex-servicemen, Modi said: "This government, and I repeat, this government will give a solution to OROP."
 
"I am not talking as a prime minister. For 40 years, this (OROP) question has been persisting. Nothing has happened so far," he added.
 
He said various departments of the government were working on it, but the issue was very complicated and the 40 years have made it more complicated.
 
"It is not as simple as we thought, it is complicated, and 40 years have added to the complications. The government is finding ways to make it simple and acceptable to all," said Modi.
 
"There is no need to give reports in media about every step. I assure you, this government will bring to you a solution on 'One Rank, One Pension'," he said.
 
Miffed over their long-pending demand of OROP not being met, veterans from the armed forces have said they were ready for a protracted fight with the government and would launch an agitation next month.
 
Modi stressed that officials in the government were engaged to find a solution to the issue and asked the ex-servicemen not to be swayed by politics.
 
"I will request all soldiers, those who are trying to politicise the issue, have been playing with you for 40 years... I don't want to take any steps that make the issue more complicated," he said.
 
"Give me some time, you have been patient for 40 years, give me some time as well, give me a chance to work on it and we will solve all the problems," the prime minister said.
 
Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken told reporters the government was "deliberately delaying the OROP scheme".
 
Soon after the prime minister's address, Maken said: "Modi's criticism of the UPA government on the issue is also not valid."
 
Congress leader Amarinder Singh said: "The prime minister should have announced a date to implement the OROP instead of dishing out vague assurances."
 
"The prime minister either appears to be ignorant, or is deliberately trying to molly-coddle our 25 lakh ex-servicemen by his mere sweet talk," he added.
 
In the radio programme, Modi also expressed satisfaction over the recently launched social security schemes, and said he wants to create an "army of poor against poverty".
 
"Over 8.52 crore people have joined the schemes in just 20 days. This shows people's faith in central government's social uplifting initiatives for them," he said.
 
The schemes -- Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana and Atal Pension Yojana -- were very important initiatives in the direction of ensuring social security, he added.
 
He said it was unthinkable of security schemes at a token payment of Re.1 per month.
 
"The government wants to see the poor self-empowered so that they need not depend on others for self survival."
 
The prime minister also said yoga has become a catalytic agent to connect the world and was very much relevant in the context of 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' (the world is one family).
 
Modi appealed to the countrymen to make the International Yoga Day, to be observed on June 21, a success.
 
He also urged people to become yoga ambassadors and make this important knowledge easily available to the world for the welfare of mankind.
 
Terming the recently launched DD Kisan Channel "an open university of farmers", Modi said: "There is something for everyone engaged in the agriculture and allied sectors."
 
The channel has a lot for fishermen as well and they must take maximum advantage from it in modernising their vocation, he said.
 
Congratulating students who passed the Central Board of Second Education examinations, Modi asked them to pick up the future course of study on the basis of their aptitude.
 
"The students who have not succeeded in their examinations need not be disheartened and take it as an opportunity to find new avenues," Modi said, adding that "success and failure are a part of life. We can learn a lot from failure also".

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New tax forms ease detailing of foreign travel, bank accounts
After complaints by individual income tax payers over the new forms announced in April, the government on Sunday notified a fresh set -- each of no more than three pages -- and did away with the much-resented details sought on foreign travel and bank accounts.
 
Since the process is still on to recast the software to enable e-filing of the returns, the last date for filing has also been extended to August 31, it was announced by the finance ministry on Sunday.
 
Notably, against the details of foreign travel and the expenditure thereon required from some categories of tax payers, the new forms require only the passport number, including that of the old one, if available or issued.
 
Another clause grudged was over the bank accounts details and the balances, in them for both operational and the dormant ones. Now, only the Indian Financial System Code is required for all accounts. Exemption from this has been extended to accounts dormant for over three years.
 
The finance ministry had acknowledged that the new tax forms had caused much concern.
 
"The government has received representation on the new return forms notified on April 15, 2015 and taking into account the concerns raised, the government has decided to modify the return forms," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the Rajya Sabha earlier this month.
 
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) had notified the new norms that required an assessee to furnish all bank details, accounts opened or closed in the year with the closing balance, as also the sources of funds for expenses in an overseas travel.
 
The purpose of asking details relating to foreign travel, according to the finance minister was to tackle the menace of black money. He had further sought to justify the forms by saying fresh details were not required in forms filed by the majority of individual taxpayers.
 
The highlights of the new forms are:
 
- Individuals with income without any ceiling, other than agricultural income exceeding Rs.5,000, can now file Form ITR 1 (Sahaj). Similar simplification for individuals and Hindu undivided families (HUFs) in respect of Form ITR 4S (Sugam).
 
- A new Form, ITR 2A, can be filed by individuals or HUFs who does not have capital gains, income from business or profession, or foreign asset and foreign income.
 
- In lieu of foreign travel details, only passport number, if available, would be required to be given in Forms ITR-2 and ITR-2A. Details of trips or expenditure thereon not required.
 
- On bank account details, only the IFS code and the number of current and savings accounts held during previous year will be required. The balance is not required. Details of dormant accounts, not operational for last three years, not required.
 
- A foreigner in India on a business, employment or studies visa, not mandatorily required to report foreign assets acquired during the previous years in which he/she was non-resident -- if no income is derived from such assets during the relevant previous year.
 
- To simplify further, the main pages of Form ITR 2 and new Form ITR 2A, will not contain more than three pages. Other information will be captured in Schedules, required to be filled only if applicable.
 
"As the software for these forms is under preparation, they are likely to be available for e-filing by the third week of June 2015," a statement issued by the finance ministry said.
 
"Accordingly, the time limit for filing these returns is also proposed to be extended up to August 31, 2015 (31.08.2015). A separate notification will be issued in this regard," the statement added.

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Question mark over central bank cutting rates on Tuesday
Rajan has twice cut the repo rate, at which RBI lends to commercial banks, over two unscheduled monetary policy reviews in January and March, bringing it down to the current 7.50%
 
As the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) prepares for its bi-monthly monetary policy update here on Tuesday, uncertainty remains over Governor Raghuram Rajan cutting interest rates, despite requests to do so from stakeholders -- right from the government to corporates.
 
Rajan has twice cut the repo rate, at which RBI lends to commercial banks, over two unscheduled monetary policy reviews in January and March, bringing it down to the current 7.50 percent. 
 
On the other hand, the scheduled reviews in February and April passed without any changes. He kept interest rates on hold at 7.50 percent in April, saying he was waiting for banks to pass on the previous rate cuts - and dismissed bankers' claims that the cost of funds remained too high.
 
Rajan also said the government's "fiscal consolidation programme, while delayed, may compensate in quality, especially if state governments are cooperative". Announcing the rate cut in January, he had said that "the key to further easing are data that confirm continuing disinflationary pressures and sustained high-quality fiscal consolidation".
 
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had in his first full budget in February extended the target deadline for controlling fiscal deficit to three percent, reasoning that insistence on a timetable to contain this would harm growth prospects. The targets for the next three years have been set at 3.9 percent for 2015-16, 3.5 percent for 2016-17 and 3.0 percent for 2017-18.
 
With the background of unexpected rate cuts this year, the inflation numbers are providing more room for the central bank governor to ease monetary policy and making the clamour for him to do so louder. 
 
The annual rate of wholesale price inflation (WPI) decelerated further to its lowest in six months at (-)2.65 percent in April from (-)2.33 percent in the previous month. The annual rate of inflation based on WPI was 5.5 percent in April 2014. The country's retail inflation based on the consumer prices index (CPI) was also on the downswing in April by 40 basis points to 4.87 percent.
 
The key elements to consider in this situation are the predilections of the governor himself, and the way the government has sought to make changes this year to the very domain of the RBI.
 
Here, it is instructive to hear RBI Deputy Governor Urjit Patel on the thinking of Rajan, who in 2005 had predicted the financial meltdown three years later that is still affecting global economy and feels stronger in his belief that global markets now are at the risk of a crash due to the competitive loose monetary policies being adopted by developed economies.
 
"We are in the midst of the age of competitive depreciation and of a beggar-my-neighbour philosophy. It brings to mind an old African saying that when elephants fight the grass suffers," Patel said at the press conference to announce the February policy review, on the trend of accommodative monetary policies being adopted by developed economies.
 
"While the ECB (European Central Bank) and the Bank of Japan are printing money and devaluing their currencies on one hand, the US economy is reviving on the other. Anyone in the middle is getting crushed," he said.
 
Rajan has been warning that emerging markets are especially vulnerable to big shifts in capital flows triggered by the unprecedented monetary accommodation in rich countries.
 
Jaitley, in his February budget, had announced the fait accompli of a monetary policy committee pact earlier with the RBI that will reduce the governor's power to act alone. The monetary policy committee and an official inflation target for the RBI are going to come about through the biggest post-Independence overhaul of the RBI Act of 1934.
 
However, in what was the biggest backtrack by the government earlier this month, Jaitley withdrew from the Finance Bill the clauses pertaining to setting up of a public debt management agency (PDMA) and the amendments to the RBI Act that would have taken away its powers to regulate government securities.
 
The United Forum of Reserve Bank Officers Employees had earlier written to MPs and chief ministers of various states that the changes, if implemented, would cripple the functions of the central bank. It said the proposed changes would curtail the authority of the RBI and render it totally ineffective in discharging its responsibilities on monetary policy, financial stability and targeting inflation.

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