Leisure, Lifestyle & Wellness
Pulse Beat

Industry-Funded Studies in Medical Research
First came the great revelation that the sugar lobby had funded studies in the 1960s, to shift the glare from sugar to saturated fat as the main culprit for heart disease. Now, comes the proof that, in the 1990s, the tobacco industry funded many studies to show that secondary smoke is harmless. They did succeed in their nefarious game. Now, newer studies funded by soft drink majors have surfaced that are trying to shift the spotlight on sugary drinks as the leading cause of the obesity epidemic in the USA to sedentary living. All of them systematically succeed in their game of making money at the cost of human misery and we have been watching this drama silently. My question is: Why do we need industry funding for research and why do we need industry funding for running the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the watchdog body of drug control? My efforts did not get me any satisfactory answers! Come to think of it, it is an easy decision to ban industry research. In fact, in the area of cancer research, 85% of the studies are industry-funded and cannot be replicated. Yet, the rich cancer industry plays with people’s lives, day in and day out. Doctors, I understand, are trained to look after people’s health but what we do is to connive with the industry for our personal gains. 
 
Cognitive Defects due to Poverty Even in Younger Age Group
Poverty is a curse. Now, new studies have shown that poverty in young people could adversely affect their cognitive functions. Even earlier studies, in the UK and USA, had shown that “not knowing where your next meal comes from could be the greatest risk factor for heart attacks.” The present studies are pointing to the possibilities of poverty adversely affecting one’s cognitive state. There needs to be a caveat here. The small studies (3,500 black and white men and women), by themselves, are not conclusive; but they could act as pointers. The second problem is the difficulty in long-term studies of poverty in the marginally poor segment of American public where these studies are done. The income levels fluctuate quite a bit and cast doubts on their reliability.
Be that as it may, the very foundation of these RCTs (randomised controlled trials) is now being seriously questioned. Human beings are not like molecules in a chemistry laboratory that can be compared. They are so disparate that comparing two cohorts by the simple initial parameters might not hold water, as time evolves. Most of these studies are done to write papers and fatten the CVs and not to find the truth. Sir Michael Rawlins, the chief of NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) in his Harvey oration to the Royal College of Physicians, in London in 2008, did say that “the RCTs have been given an undeservedly high pedestal.” That was quite a bold statement; but is true. 
 
With all this hype, RCTs can, at best, only be indicators of association and not cause & effect relationships. For our convenience, we have been attributing to them a cause & effect relationship. There is now demand for N-of-1 studies (single subject clinical trials) of outcomes which, in the long run, could give better directions for patient care.
 
NSAID Pain-Killers and Risk of Heart Failure
According to the research team led by Giovanni Corrao of the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy, research has provided strong evidence that NSAIDs—including COX-2 inhibitors, a new generation of NSAIDs—can raise the risk of heart failure. A new study published in The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has uncovered a dose-response relationship between the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and increased risk of hospital admission for heart failure (published online 27 September 2016). As I had written several times in the past four decades, pain-killers are true killers—of the pain and the owner together, to get rid of pain for ever. The interesting part of the story is that new studies in animals are going on to find out newer pain-killers as anti-inflammatory drugs to prevent heart attacks! 

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Will the Success of IDS Mark a Big Change in Tax Compliance in India?
The revenue department of the Modi government deserves a big hand for persuading people to declare a massive Rs65,000 crore of undisclosed income under its Income Declaration Scheme (IDS). But what should gladden the hearts of honest taxpayers is the quality of disclosure. IDS has not been about providing yet another amnesty to habitual tax-evaders; the focus seems to have been on nailing those who skilfully remained under the tax radar by dealing only in cash, although their daily revenues were in lakhs of rupees. In fact, there is a parallel effort to ensure that regular taxpayers are not needlessly harassed.
 
Both efforts require a lot more work, but as Shah Rukh Khan would say, ‘Picture abhi aur baki hai mere dost’. Remember, prime minister Narendra Modi has asserted that “No one should blame me if I take tough decisions after the 30th (of September).” We expect this to kick into action soon. Assuming that the government continues with the good work that went into ‘persuading’ thousands of new people to disclose taxable income, this could be a turning point in tax compliance in India. 
 
It is now believed that the final disclosure figures may surpass Rs70,000 crore; and, yet, it wasn’t until the last few days that people finally got the message and realised that this ‘amnesty’ is different and rushed to catch the 30th September deadline. With a tax rate of 45% to get immunity from prosecution under the Income-tax Act, Wealth Tax Act and Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, the government will net close to Rs35,000 crore as tax from the declaration. 
 
In 1997, an outrageous Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme (VDIS) managed to get declaration of around Rs33,000 crore after providing a massive bonanza to tax-evaders in assessment of ‘inherited’ jewellery, if certified by shady chartered accountants. The VDIS did nothing to enlarge the tax base, as it seems to have done this time. 
 
How did all this come about? The government did all the usual stuff—like launching a massive advertising campaign urging people to take advantage of IDS. Every single taxpayer received text messages. But the more significant persuasion was in the form of letters to 900,000 individual tax-evaders, based on information collated through annual information reports (AIRs) and other sources, to signal that the taxman was watching. A week before 30th September, hundreds of doctors, business persons, beauty parlours, etc, were contacted and told that the tax department has information on them and action would be initiated if they did not avail the IDS amnesty window. 
 
The tipping point, however, was the broad spectrum of raids, searches and seizures that did not spare the rich, the powerful political class or the millionaire street-side hawkers and vendors who have evaded taxes all these years. A quick net search shows that action began in early 2016, but nobody guessed how it would all come together at the end of September. Consider these events:
  • In January, the income-tax (I-T) department raided Apollo Hospitals, a chain of high-end hospitals. 
  • February 2016 saw the first raids/searches on street-side dosa vendors, paanwallahs and juice vendors operating in the posh Banjara Hills area of Hyderabad. 
  • In March, action was taken by the anti-corruption bureau and enforcement directorate against the Chaggan Bhujbal, the heavyweight Nationalist Congress Party leader. He was later arrested. Over time, leading construction companies, reputed to be close to him, were raided by the tax department. 
  • In April 2016, traders of pulses were raided across India. According to The Hindustan Times, tax evasion of around Rs700 crore, through speculation and hoarding, was detected. There were also tax raids and seizures on beleaguered god-man Aasaram Bapu’s ashram. The god-man remains in jail. In the same month, construction companies, known to be close to powerful politicians, were raided.
  • At the end of June, tax officials searched the offices and homes of senior employees of the Delhi International Airport (P) Limited (DIAL), which is part of the powerful GMR group, on tax-evasion charges.
  • In July, raids were conducted all over Maharashtra on the large education institutions and family of former governor of Tripura DY Patil. The I-T also raided several large and politically powerful contractors and listed entities, such as Ashok Buildcon and Indiabulls, signalling that big industry would not be spared either.
  • On 30th August, PTI reported a 300% rise in raids, searches and surveys in 2016 over those in the previous year. This led to the seizure of over Rs330 crore in cash, jewellery and other undisclosed assets. Action was further stepped up in August and September. 
  • On 18th September, The Hindu reported I-T raids on various properties and several businesses of a former minister in Tamil Nadu leading to the discovery of over Rs100 crore of tax-evasion. 
  • On 19th September the Times News Network reported searches on major builders and educational institutions in Raipur and seizure of documents and assets. 
  • On 20th September, The Indian Express reported that the I-T raided/ surveyed over 150 jewellers and bullion traders across India and, in almost every case, directed them to declare undisclosed income under the IDS. The action is significant because jewellers, who are seen as a important voter base of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have been protesting against various efforts by the government to force more transparency in their dealings (quoting PAN for transactions above Rs 2 lakh) and have even gone on a nationwide strike to demand withdrawal of 1% excise duty on gold and diamond jewellery. 
  • On 22nd September, it was the turn of 200-odd roadside eateries in Mumbai to be raided. These included famous vada-pav and dosa vendors, fruit juice and jalebi-sellers. By 1st October, The Economic Times reported that they had collectively declared Rs50 crore in cash and properties under the IDS, after being told to opt for amnesty or face action after the deadline expired. 
These reports make it clear that I-T action was planned well in advance and covered a broad spectrum of persons who ought to be paying tax. Nearly 28% of the declarants are understood to be from rural and semi-urban areas. Importantly, tax officials themselves were under scrutiny. The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has also asked all tax offices to display the numbers of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to be reached, if tax officials demand a bribe. The CBI has been hyperactive against corrupt government officials and tax officials in the past few months, although this effort has received a blow after the tragic BK Bansal case, where his entire family committed suicide after the senior bureaucrat was arrested.
 
While a large chunk of income declarations happened due to a fear of prosecution, many evaders have missed the bus because of wrong advice from their legal experts. A report in The Economic Times quoted lawyers (without naming them) who had discouraged clients from making declarations for fear of harassment. Some made the excuse that four months was too short a time to sell assets and raise funds to pay the taxes. One expects that they will have to face the music soon. 
 
 
As for new entrants into the taxpayers’ list, like roadside food-vendors, they have been bribing the police, municipal officials and small-time politicians, to ply their trade. Turning into legitimate taxpayers will, hopefully, encourage them to move away from illegally-occupied and hafta-paid public spaces. 
 
In a country where only 5.5% of the people, who earn, pay tax and only 15.5% of the net national income is reported to the tax authorities, this is a good beginning and a boost to honest taxpayers who have been harassed and made to feel foolish for far too many decades after Independence.

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COMMENTS

Gupta

2 months ago

Excellent research. Most people don't know all the above facts. It is heartening to see the good work being communicated.

PRAMOD DHOKALE

2 months ago

Move to collect tax from small vendors and semi urban cities is laudable. Feel it is high time to plug the loopsholes of it act that gives easy opprtunity to high loopholes allowing high net worth people to dodge tax showing it as agricultural income must be plugged.

svgopal

2 months ago

It is again 64000 citizens of mostly unorganized sector (paan wallas/ milk vendors/ food stall wallas )who have contributed to this scheme. The key players have not contributed. Why cant we stop/ withdraw the currency of higher denomination say Rs 500/1000 etc.

REPLY

Gupta

In Reply to svgopal 2 months ago

You are right, but the key player's time will also come. Wait and watch... these are not easy things to do. It takes time and steps are being taken, this is just step 1. I just hope we give this government longer than 5 years and not expect them to do magic in one term with no majority in Rajya Sabha and rotten institutions all around to cure first before you can implement a new style of policy

R Rangan

2 months ago

Very good move by the Modi government. It shows how different the administration is, as people manning it at the top starting with our Hon'ble PM are clean personally and mean business.

R Rangan

2 months ago

Very good move by the Modi government. It shows how different the administration is, as people manning it at the top starting with our Hon'ble PM are clean personally and mean business.

Suketu Shah

2 months ago

Very very good article.I have heard that nowadays black to white is almost impossible.All credit to NaMo himself:)

Ravindra Shetye

2 months ago

For the Black Money people ACCHE DIN are a story of the past. Commendable operation by the Government.

Akshay Kini

2 months ago

The bureaucrats suicide must be investigated as murder. He might have been silenced because everyone knows that corruption isn't a one man operation.

Rajgopal

2 months ago

Let us hope that the Govt follows up with the same enthusiasm and get after those who still continue to evade taxes. A ban on currency notes of the denomination of Rs. 500/- and Rs. 1000/- should be considered. Net banking and plastic money facility is easily available. Poor people do not have the kind of cash that needs these notes and the richer ones have good access to banking and plastic money.

Ganesh V

2 months ago

An excellent and wonderfully articulated fact-laden article. This step
is definitely ushering a new phase in terms of Tax Compliance in our country.

Sucheta Dalal

2 months ago

Mr Ameet Patel has pointed me to this link -- do read and see what may come http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/income-tax-department-slams-notice-on-five-mumbai-based-exporters-over-offshore-accounts/articleshow/54802723.cms

REPLY

Suketu Shah

In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 2 months ago

A few fraud cheat unable to earn people in the alibi of "CA's" lure their clients(if they are gullible and "bakras") into illegally keeping money abroad so they can blackmail clients later on(vew few,otherwise CA community is very very good).They are the root cause of this.They shd be arrested and their CA license shd be cancelled before such clients are arrested.

shashi kiran

In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 2 months ago

Ban on High Value Currency like Rs.500 & Rs.1000 : A step towards eradicating corruption
Every day cash of higher denominations (Rs.500 & Rs.1000 denominations) are used to settle unaccounted High value transactions , which are out of the Income Tax Net and Banking System, thus evading Tax and avoiding legal scrutiny. Apart from above mentioned reasons, these transactions lead to increasing Crime,Terrorism, artificially raise prices making Citizen’s lives miserable. Everyday huge amount of cash is moved from all Bank’s currency chest to bank branches and also filling ATM’s across the country. Reports of gangs attacking the vehicles carrying huge cash ( in crores), vehicle personnel running away with cash, Thieves attacking ATM users (like Bangalore 19.11.2013 assailant still at large), Thieves carrying away ATM units after fatally attacking ATM security guards are a recurrent phenomenon. Counterfeit notes of these higher denominations also cause huge financial loss to our country and our gullible citizens. The reason for such cases is due to the reward of cheating the system as the higher denominations involve huge undue gains. The rise of electronic fund transfer negates the use of such high risk transactions in physical cash. Request the FM to ban these higher denominations of Rs.500 & Rs.1000 notes , of course in a planned and phase wise schedule (say within 6 months to 9 months), so that all high value transactions are done through proper banking channels, which in turn will help our economy and we walk the first step towards corruption free nation

2 months ago

The media, as usual, has gone on an overdrive, highlighting the success of the scheme. One of the comparisons that has been made is with the Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme(VDIS) of 1997, the last black money declaration scheme offered by the government. The October 2, 2016, Mumbai edition of The Times of India ran a graphic around this on its front page (given the number of advertisements that appear before the front page these days, one can hardly call the front page a front page these days). This graphic essentially said that the Income Declaration Scheme of 2016 has been 3 times bigger than VDIS of 1997. The logic for this is very straightforward. The total amount of black money declared under the VDIS 1997 was around Rs 33,000 crore. The tax collected on this at the rate of 30 per cent amounted to around Rs 10,000 crore. The tax to be collected in the Income Declaration Scheme is three times at close to Rs 30,000 crorer. An editorial in The Economic Times published on October 3, 2016, states: "This is three times as much as the revenue garnered from the amnesty scheme of 1997."

The trouble with this analysis is that it is very simplistic. The Indian economy now is significantly bigger than what it was in 1997-1998. The nominal GDP (a measure of the size of the economy) was 9.4 times bigger in 2015-2016 in comparison to 1997-1998. But, the total amount black money declared is only 2 times more (Rs 65,250 crore now in comparison to Rs 33,000 crore then). The tax collected is likely to be three times bigger.

Shouldn't these basic factors be taken into account before declaring that tax collections are likely to be three times bigger? Also, the total number of declarants of black money in 2016 are 64,275. As per this Outlook story, the total number of declarants of black money in 1997 were 4.7 lakh.

The number of declarants in 2016 are way fewer than 1997, primarily because the black money declarations are now being taxed at 45 per cent against 30 per cent earlier. If the tax on the black money had been fixed at 30 per cent, the total number of declarants would have been more.

REPLY

Sucheta Dalal

In Reply to 2 months ago

you seem to be hung up on a very dubious VDIS scheme that resulted in a supreme court case. Essentially, people got away by converting massive sums into jewellery and passing it off as an inheritance by getting a CA to certify it. This was a dubious , scandalous trick on the Indian tax payer. Curious why you are banging on about numbers and comparisons where there was none. No such mis-declaration happened this time.

Sucheta Dalal

In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 2 months ago

It is a positive thing that people were taxed at 45% and it will be even better if non-tax payers are made to pay. Allowing evaders to get away with 30% when honest taxpayers are paying 33% + as well as massive service taxes, professional tax etc is bizarre and unfair. We the taxpayers ought to have taken to the streets to protest -- thank god someone went to the Supreme Court and the govt of that time had to make a commitment not to have a similar bonanza for TAX EVADERS

Ameet Patel

In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 2 months ago

I fully agree with you. In addition, I may add that its not only the absolute numbers that matter this time. What is more important is the fact that the government had warned the evaders of serious consequences if they don't come clean and it is now carefully carrying out that threat by taking action without being vindictive. This is the right approach to force evaders to come into the mainstream. Most people initially felt that 45% was too high a price to pay and therefore, the scheme would fail. But finally, the faith that the PM & FM had in the scheme seems to have worked. Another very important positive outcome is that the tax collected through the IDS was NOT accounted for in the Budget. This means that the entire 30+k crores collected is a bonanza in terms of the revenue deficit. The common man would not have much idea of what this really means for our economy.

Amit Jain

2 months ago

Whoa. That's some excellent research you have put together. These steps are indeed very impressive and if followed through properly (the next step should be an equally strong attempt at cutting wasteful expenditure), will make a lot of difference to the economy. The most heartening thing here has been the Modi does not seem to risk antagonising his core voter-base.

Ameet Patel

2 months ago

Excellent article. You have nicely brought out the systematic manner in which the government has gone about its task. For far too long, skeptics have, rightly, been asking when the tax department would pursue the government servants and the politicians. Your article provides some answers to these questions. All in all, its very heartening to see concrete action to unearth black money without being too lenient to the evaders.

Repco Home Finance: CBI files cheating cases against MD, ED
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered a case of conspiracy, cheating and corruption against Managing Director (MD), Executive Director, Chief Manager and Deputy General Manager (DGM) of Repco Home Finance. R Varadarajan, the MD of Repco Home Finance was former MD of Repco Bank. 
 
Earlier, the CBI carried out raids on residences and offices of top executives of Repco Home Finance Ltd. In a release, the agency said it filed a case of corruption, cheating and conspiracy against the managing director and two other senior officials of the home finance company.
 
In a regulatory filing, Repco Home Finance, says, “As per press reports the company has come to know that, the CBI conducted searches at the residence of R Varadarajan, Managing Director, V Ragu, Executive Director and KS Kannan, the then Chief Manager of the company with regard to waiver of pre-closure charges on 8 October 2016."
 
There is no material impact on the company, Repco Home Finance added.
 
Repco Home Finance shares ended Monday 5.6% down at Rs777.80 on the BSE, while the 30-share benchmark Sensex closed marginally higher at 28,082 points.
 
 
Besides these three top executives, the CBI also registered cases against, Sekar, who is deputy general manager of Repco Bank and Shanthamani alias Shanthi, and Thirumalaisamy alias Thambu, both partners of a Coimbatore based entity that deals in textile machinery spare parts and real estate.
 
CBI said it conducted searches at various places at Chennai and Coimbatore and seized incriminating documents and the investigation is in progress. 
 
According to CBI, during 2005 and 2008, the firm belonging to Shanthi and Thambu obtained a loan of Rs3.70 crore from Repco Bank, which became a non-performing asset (NPA) and was closed during 2010. While closing the loan, Varadarajan and others favoured Shanthi and Thambu's partnership firm by waiving off penalty of Rs24.31 lakh. 
 
Again in 2013, these officials waived of pre-closure charges of Rs22.64 lakh for another loan account of Shanthi and Thambu, leading to losses to the Bank, the CBI said.
 
Repco Bank (Repatriates Cooperative and Finance and Development Bank) is a cooperative bank established by the Indian Government in 1969 to improve financial needs of repatriates from Sri Lanka and Burma. Indian government owns 52.65% stake in Repco Bank, while four states, Tamil Nadu (4.92%), Andhra Pradesh (1.24%), Kerala (0.42%), Karnataka (0.12) and repatriates hold 40.65% shares in the Bank as on 31 March 2016.

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COMMENTS

Ashok Bhatia

2 months ago

I am new to investing. I feel that we should stay clear of any entity which has a whiff of impropriety but its senior managers.

karthik s

2 months ago

The image used is not about the company..

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