Citizens' Issues
Smart cities' selection to start by month-end: Venkaiah Naidu

The key focus of the government would be to reinforce transparency and accountability in the system, the minister said

 

The Narendra Modi government's plan to set up smart cities in the country will get off the ground by the end of this month with the start of the selection process, Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said on Monday.
 
Observing that the smart cities are envisaged to be created under the public-private partnership (PPP) model, he told the national convention of the Confederation of Indian Industry that he looked forward to working with industry once the smart city concept was rolled out by next month.
 
"A Smart Cities Challenge system will be approved by the cabinet anytime this month. Cities must qualify themselves through city-challenge criteria like sanitation, clean water, power, greenery quotient and ratio between revenue and expenditure on municipal salaries," Naidu said.
 
Pointing to recent studies that showed urban local bodies to be spending up to 84 percent of revenues on employees' salaries, Naidu said the municipal corporations in Delhi have claimed they have no money to pay wages.
 
The key focus of the government would be to reinforce transparency and accountability in the system, the minister said.
 
"We'll go for open offer, technical and financial bids," he said, adding that many foreign companies are showing interest in the project.
 
He said the government's role will be that of facilitator or "handholding", for the project of regeneration of urban local bodies through the initiative.
 

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Trinamool denies getting CBI notice, opposition seeks Mamata's reply

A section of the media has reported that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), probing the multi-crore-rupee Saradha scam, has sent notice and sought a detailed report of Trinamool Congress's accounts from 2010 to 2014

 

The Trinamool Congress on Tuesday denied having received any CBI notice seeking details of its accounts of four years, but the opposition put the onus on party chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to come clean on the issue.
 
"We have not received any such notice. We will respond if we receive it," Trinamool secretary general and state education minister Partha Chatterjee told media persons in reply to queries whether the agency has sent such a notice.
 
A section of the media has reported that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), probing the multi-crore-rupee Saradha scam, has sent notice and sought a detailed report of Trinamool Congress's accounts from 2010 to 2014.
 
The development comes in the wake of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleging that the Trinamool has received donations from a dubious company involved in money laundering.
 
BJP national secretary Siddharth Nath Singh last week alleged that despite recording a profit of just Rs.33,000, "Trinetra Consultant Private Limited had donated Rs.1.4 crore to Trinamool in 2013-14 and again donated Rs.3.5 crore in 2014-15".
 
BJP state unit chief Rahul Sinha and Communist Party of India-Marxist(CPI-M) MP Mohammad Salim said the onus was on Banerjee to come clean on the issue.
 
"Mukul Roy was recently removed as the Trinamool's general secretary. He has shirked off his responsibility saying he is no more occupying the post. Similarly, the new incumbent (Subrata Bakshi) will say he was not the general secretary during that period.
 
"Therefore, the entire responsibility lies with the party supremo and the chief minister and she must give an answer," the BJP leader said.
 
Echoing Sinha's views, CPI-M leader Salim said: "The investigation must reach the doorstep of Mamata Banerjee. The general secretaries are mere appointees; it is she who is answerable."
 

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Neither tax terrorism, nor tax haven: Arun Jaitley

India isn't so vulnerable that every demand is termed tax terrorism

 

 India will neither promote tax terrorism nor can it become a tax haven, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Monday, assuring a fair compliance window to those with ill-gotten money overseas to come clean, and a moderate tax regime to obviate such practices.
 
Addressing the annual session of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the finance minister also promised to introduce the bill on pan-India goods and services tax in the ensuing parliament session and a recast of laws that were preventing decision-making process in bureaucracy.
 
In the speech that addressed a host of issues pertaining to the corporate sector, as also some of the contemporary matters faced by his government, Jaitley conceded that the present Companies Act was posing irritants and that the previous law proposed on land acquisition was anti-rural India.
 
"We're not a tax haven. We don’t expect to be one. India isn't so vulnerable that every demand is termed tax terrorism,” Jaitley said with his comments coming in the wake of tax notices served on foreign funds for periods before 2012-13 and on companies for acquisition deals made overseas.
 
On the issue of black money stashed by Indians abroad, the finance minister said even though the Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets (Imposition of Tax) Bill of 2015 had been tabled by him in the Lok Sabha last month, there was room for changes and welcomed suggestions in this regard.
 
"A very reasonable compliance window will come for those who indulged in such misadventure in the past." The new bill calls for 300-percent penalty on the quantum of black money abroad along with rigorous imprisonment of up to 3-10 years for perpetrators.
 
At the same time, the bill also has some amnesty provisions to bring such money back from abroad, allowing people to declare such assets within a prescribed time period, pay tax on it and retain the remaining amount.
 
It provides for tax to be charged at 30 percent of the undisclosed assets outside India as also a penalty of 100 percent of such tax, taking the effective rate of tax and penalty to 60 percent, leaving room for people to retain 40 percent of such declared assets.
 
The finance minister said India has also agreed to become a signatory to the US global tax evasion law -- Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act of 2010 -- that seeks to deal with evasion by its nationals wherein authorities and institutions on both sides will share information on money laundering.
 
Jaitley also spoke about the proposed new bill to facilitate acquisition of land for development and said the one proposed in 2013 by the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was clearly anti-rural India.
 
On the Companies Bill, 2013, Jaitley said it was rare that a new law required a series of amendments as many procedural difficulties had surfaced which were hurting the corporate sector. "We will see where the shoe pinches."
 
Alluding to numerous cases of corruption against retired bureaucrats by probe agencies, Jaitley said a different yardstick is needed to look at errors or corruption in decision-making. But he felt in the absence of such a prism, decision-making was suffering.
 
"The language of the Prevention of Corruption Act is deterring a large number of civil servants from taking decisions," Jaitley said, adding that a similar exercise was needed to recast the Companies Act for which the Law Commission has given its recommendations.
 
On the pan-India goods and services regime, the finance minister said the relevant Constitution amendment bill will be tabled in the upcoming budget session of parliament, after the current recess, while maintaining that the land acquisition bill of 2013 was flawed.
 
"The 2013 land law is hugely detrimental to rural India," he said. "It has no provision for rural infrastructure. Even acquiring of land for irrigation has been left out, and no land can be made available for rural electrification."
 
His reference was to the new legislation proposed by his government which has been passed by the Lok Sabha, but still faces opposition in the Rajya Sabha, following which an ordinance was re-promulgated with a presidential order.
 

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