Some tax proposals under examination: FM tells Lok Sabha

Tax proposals including those on hospitals announced in the Budget are likely to be reviewed, even as finance minister Pranab Mukherjee today announced extension of interest subsidy to fishermen and fish farmers and concessions for education and healthcare sectors

New Delhi: Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee today appeared to hint at a review of some tax proposals including those on hospitals while he announced extension of interest subsidy to fishermen and fish farmers and concessions for education and healthcare sectors, reports PTI.

Replying to the general discussion in the Lok Sabha on the Budget for 2011-12, he also announced a Rs2,370-crore bonanza for MPs by raising allocations under MPLAD scheme from Rs2 crore to Rs5 crore.

"Since the presentation of the Budget 2011-12, I have received several suggestions and representations, including valuable feedback from members on taxation proposals.

"These are under examination. I shall respond to these issues in my reply to the discussion on the Finance Bill, 2011 later during this session," Mr Mukherjee said in his hour-long reply to the two-day debate on the Budget.

After the presentation of the Budget, there have been demands made both inside and outside Parliament for rollback of the 5% service tax on centrally air-conditioned private hospitals of 25 beds or more and diagnostic services provided by them.

There was also a demand for withdrawal of Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) of 18.5% on book profit on special economic zone (SEZ) units and developers.

Maintaining that UPA government is sensitive to the problems faced by 20 lakh fish farmers and fishermen, the finance minister announced the extension of the existing interest subvention scheme of providing short-term loans to farmers at 7% interest with additional interest subvention for timely repayment to fish farmers and fishermen.

He said investment in education and health sectors has a high priority in the government's policy framework and there is a need to further accelerate the creation of infrastructure in this domain.

Mr Mukherjee announced that henceforth capital stock in educational institutions and hospitals will be treated as infrastructure sub-sectors. Accordingly, capital investment for these sub-sectors will be eligible for the viability gap funding scheme of the finance ministry.

After the minister's reply, the House passed the supplementary demands for 2010-11 and relevant appropriation bills, completing the first phase of the three-stage budgetary exercise.

There will be no vote-on-account this year as Parliament proposes to complete the entire budgetary exercise, including the voting on demands for grants of various ministries, this month end itself.

Referring to the issue of rising food prices, Mr Mukherjee took some comfort from the fact that food inflation rise came down from over 20% in February 2010 to around 9%.

"It is unacceptable. This figure is equally unacceptable," the minister said, adding the government was making efforts to increase supply to tame the rising price of essential food items.

"At the beginning of last year, food inflation was 20.2%, and now it is 9.5%. However, this figure is equally unacceptable," he said.

Mr Mukherjee said the high inflationary pressure, especially in food and some non-food articles, existed in other emerging economies also.

"I am not making any plea. This is not an excuse that because there is inflation in other areas there should be inflation in India also. It is not. But the fact of the matter is inflationary pressure is visible all over the world. It is not merely in our country," he said.

Linking food inflation to global developments, the minister pointed out that the surplus liquidity is being converted into commodity.

"There are apprehensions. It appears to be the ground reality that surplus liquidity has been converted into commodity such as oil and foodgrain," he said.

Mr Mukherjee said such a trend was also noticed in other essential commodities. "These are the economic factors. We may try to wish them away but we cannot because the global linkage is here..," he said.

The government has taken various steps in the Budget like special initiative for agriculture, supply chain management, promotion of coal chains among others, Mukherjee said. "These are intended to address issues of demand and supply constraints'," he said.

He also expressed concern over the state of distribution network in the country including the PDS (Public Distribution System) for below poverty line (BPL) families saying it was not up to the mark.

The minister said the government has received a number of suggestions from the expert group headed by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on revamping the PDS and added "there are some suggestions which could be implemented."

Mr Mukherjee allayed apprehensions that global events like high oil prices may impact growth and exuded confidence that the economy would return to 9% growth in 2011-12.

On black money, Mr Mukherjee said, the government was revising the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with several countries and signing Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) with tax havens.



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Court rejects ED plea for Hassan Ali’s remand; grants bail

The court, however, set some conditions for enlarging 53-year-old businessman on bail, including barring the Pune-based stud farm owner, from leaving Mumbai for five days and directing him to appear before the ED officials every day

Mumbai: In a huge embarrassment for the Enforcement Directorate (ED), a local court today rejected its plea seeking remand of Hassan Ali Khan for his custodial interrogation in a money laundering case and granted bail to the controversial businessman, reports PTI.

"No material evidence has been presented by the ED that shows any scheduled offence has been committed by Khan," principal sessions court judge ML Tahaliyani observed while rejecting the agency's remand application.

The judge, however, set some conditions for enlarging 53-year-old Mr Khan on bail, including barring the Pune-based stud farm owner, from leaving Mumbai for five days and directing him to appear before the ED officials every day.

The ED said it will challenge the order and move a superior court.

Mr Khan, alleged to have stashed over $8 billion in UBS Bank in Switzerland and made other illegal transactions abroad, was arrested on Monday midnight under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and has been in ED custody since then.

Mr Khan is facing charges of massive money laundering and tax evasion.

Soon after the court dismissed ED's plea and ordered Mr Khan to be released on bail, the investigative agency's counsel Rajiv Awasthi said they would move a superior court against the order after going through the full text of the judgement.

"We have overwhelming evidence (to show Mr Khan's culpability in money laundering) but probably the court failed to appreciate those. We will appeal before a superior court," Mr Awasthi told reporters.

Asserting that ED's investigation in the case was proceeding "effectively", Mr Awasthi said, "We have received some links....Hasan Ali's remand was needed to bridge some gaps in the probe."

The court had on Wednesday severely rebuked the Enforcement Directorate over its handling of the money laundering case, observing it had not been able to make out even a single case against the businessman to seek his custody and asked the agency to do its 'homework".

"You people are not able to make out even a single case against him (Mr Khan), so what do you want his custody for? What do you want to investigate him for? You people show one offence against him and then we can talk of custody," justice Tahaliyani had said pulling up the ED.

"You can't keep any person in custody unless you make a case (against him)," the judge had said.

In its application seeking Mr Khan's remand, the ED had referred to the huge amounts allegedly stashed away by him abroad and links to international arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi.

The application also spoke about the multiple passports he had acquired using forged documents. Mr Khan had been arrested by Mumbai police in this connection after the Regional Passport Office filed a complaint against him in 2008. He was later enlarged on bail.

The ED application said Mr Khan had given instructions to transfer funds from his foreign bank accounts to various accounts outside India. It said that $700,000 was allegedly transferred from Mr Khan's account in Sarasin Bank in Switzerland to the account of SK Financial Services based in the UK maintained by Barclays Bank, London through Citi Bank, New York.

The ED accused Khan of dealing in, acquiring and holding foreign exchange equivalent to Rs36,000 crore.

On his Khashoggi links, it said, "This requires intensive probe as it has a bearing on national security as well."

While taking note of accusations of Mr Khan's links with Mr Khashoggi and those involved in terror activities, the Supreme Court had on Tuesday asked the probe agencies to weigh the option of booking him under anti-terror law.

The ED also said that it had seized laptops and incriminating documents during the searches conducted at Khan's premises.

While accusing Mr Khan of not cooperating in the investigations, ED said it apprehended that he may tamper with evidence and dispose of the money lying in his bank accounts.

The Supreme Court had last week come down heavily on the ED for not being able to go after Mr Khan and other alleged black money hoarders.


Bajaj Electricals eyes 20% profit growth by revamping supply chain

Bajaj Electricals is expecting about 60% growth in revenue in FY12 at Rs40 crore from Rs25 crore estimated in FY11

To usher in greater efficiency and increase its profitability, consumer durable company Bajaj Electricals Ltd is revamping its supply chain.

"We are in the path of transformation and we are now in the process of revamping our entire supply chain in multi-year partnership with Vector Consulting Group using the Theory of Constraints (TOC) principles," Bajaj Electricals executive director R Ramakrishnan said.

This will help in strengthening the entire supply chain and is expected to add 10% to the company's revenue and 20% to its overall profit in next two years, he said.

Using TOC principle, the company aims to improve fill rates, reduce stock outs, reduce inventories, and improve dealer and vendor Return On Investment (ROI), he said.

TOC solution will help all the suppliers and channel partners substantially improve their inventory turns.

Vector Consulting Group has 21 clients like Raymonds, Westside and Landmark.

"At present, we are in talks with 7-8 companies and are likely to add two clients to the client list in FY12," Vector Consulting Group founding director Puneet Kulraj said.

The company is expecting about 60% growth in revenue in FY12 at Rs40 crore from Rs25 crore estimated in FY11, he said.

On Friday, Bajaj Electricals ended 1.61% up at Rs227.65 on the Bombay Stock Exchange, while the benchmark Sensex declined 0.84% to 18,174.09.


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