Union Budget 2016-17
This is with regard to the Union Budget 2016-17 and its impact. I call it a mischievous Budget, on the following 
I. Tax rebate on contributions to provident fund (PF), life insurance, housing loan, etc, is already restricted to Rs1.5 lakh. Private sector executives, who draw more salary and are contributing larger sums, are already paying tax on their contributions. Employees look for savings to fund their retirement corpus. If the amount is taxed, one can imagine their plight. These deposits earn low rate of interest compounded on half-yearly or yearly rests. The returns are not very high. This provision only indicated that policy-makers want to collect more revenue at the cost of small people.
II. This feeling gains credence, especially since the period of capital gains exemption on unlisted securities was brought down to two years from three years. Everyone knows who invests in these unlisted securities. Policy-makers are bestowing benefits on themselves and taxing the salary-earners who contribute to PF that goes into government bonds.
III. Everyone is praising the Budget as being rural-oriented, agriculture supportive, etc. The allocations to this sector will come from the taxes imposed on disclosures of tax-evaders. If the disclosures are |not substantial, from where are the resources coming?
IV. Farmers suffer for various reasons: (a) increased input and labour costs; (b) untimely rains; (c) poor remunerative prices for their produce; and (d) poor-quality seeds and fertilisers. Almost all reservoirs in a majority of the states are already dry. Groundwater levels are already precarious. Getting drinking water is posing a big problem. If the government is really interested in the agriculturists, they would have talked about the linking of the rivers and not about building four- or six- or eight-lane highways. In this context, we have to understand the behaviour of the people residing in various states. Eastern parts of the country, say, West Bengal and Orissa, with good water resources, agricultural fields and mineral resources, remain poor. We do not come across people with capitalist ideologies in these areas. Western parts, like Rajasthan and Gujarat, with large sandy terrain and not very fertile soil, exhibit more affluence. We rarely come across persons from these regions with a leftist attitude or concern for downtrodden.
The Budget is for the development of only a few and not for overall development of the public.
SM Ravipati, by email 




This is with regard to infringement of the principle of free competition in bank salary accounts of employees. Now, in theory at least, customers have a lot of choice in Indian banking industry. However, in reality, this choice exists only for the self-employed, the retired, the housewives and the like. 
‘Employees’, as a category, do not have much of a choice. In much of the private sector, the employer implicitly makes the choice for the employee through salary accounts. This limits competition in banking; it also discriminates against ‘employees’ as a group compared to others. 
Moreover, these days, there is frequent turnover in the job market and, as a consequence, many have been forced to migrate from one bank to another as far as their primary account is concerned. This matter now probably needs the intervention of the Reserve Bank of India and the Competition Commission of India so that the basic nature of banking service, as a utility, is maintained.
Sudip Kumar Ghose, by email




This is with regard to the Union Budget 2016-17 and the tax policy on employees’ provident fund (EPF). “Okay, let’s get the PF (provident fund) issue out of the way. We have received a lot of complaints about the proposal to tax PF,” says Jayant Sinha, Union minister of state for finance! “Honestly, we were doing them a ‘favour’ by keeping PF tax-free. If you had taken the same money and put it in a bank fixed deposit, you would first have to pay tax on it and then pay tax on the interest. We want to keep provident fund and pension fund on the same page.”
Note the language of the minister... He is doing them a favour. 
Clearly, no one in the government uses the EPF/PPF (public provident fund) as an option for saving, tax-savings or retirement-savings. Is the minister implying that all ministers have so much money that PF is not a useful scheme for them? Is PF used only by others—those poor, ordinary citizens who live on salaries?
Subrahmanian SH, by email



This is with regard to “Roadblocks to Road Building” by Sucheta Dalal. My experience is that positive change of scope happens more often than negative change of scope. Positive change of scope means addition by NHAI (National Highways Authority of India) of certain items.  Items that get added often include junctions, culverts, minor bridges, etc. These arise due to local requests, safety considerations and, at times, because it was missed earlier by the estimators. Beyond a certain percentage of cost, the expense for such extra work is reimbursable by NHAI. The developer incurs the expense and waits for months or years to get this reimbursement; also, one should not forget that these items are estimated lower by NHAI vis-à-vis the cost incurred. 
On the other hand, negative change of scope is very useful where a large part of land is not available, due to environment or other issues. However, 80% of the cost saved due to this negative change of scope needs to be paid to NHAI.
The provisional certificate of completion (PCC) is a very important provision in the agreement. Due to land issues, 100% completion of a road is near impossible. So, if only a small percentage of land acquisition is pending and the project is complete in all other respects, PCC is issued. 
In the absence of such a provision, even when 90% of the project is complete, the developer will be unable to make any revenue for several years beyond the due date. It may be noted that the toll collection, in such cases, is partial, i.e., linked to the road length completed.
Sonica Agarwal, online comment



This is with regard to “Wilful Defaulters Are a Result of Wilful Blindness” by Sucheta Dalal. Thank you for this article. When many are asking questions, Moneylife has shown the courage to answer some of the questions, including those raised by Mr Mallya. On 13 March 2016, I was reading an article by TV Mohandas Pai and wondering why authorities are after Mr Mallya whose Kingfisher Airlines’ default is a small amount compared to the Rs30,000-crore loss suffered by Air India. 
I suggest that Mr Pai, too, can take the initiative in exposing the squandering of public funds which include bank deposits, money raised by corporates and so on. 
Of late, every allegation is countered by another bigger allegation against someone else. The interests of the taxpayer, depositor and every citizen, who adds value to India’s GDP, need to be protected. Now is the time when authorities have woken up and the government is in no position to bail out wilful defaulters or anyone who is mismanaging ‘public funds’. Mr Mallya may be a member of the Rajya Sabha owing his position to the support of political parties. Even those political parties cannot rescue him from the present predicament in which he has landed.
MG Warrier



This is with regard to “I’m Back!” by Debashis Basu and Jason Monteiro. I completely disagree with this article. The movement of the Indian stock market matches completely with the Indonesian stock market. There was no Narendra Modi in Indonesia. But FIIs (foreign institutional investors) had a presence in both countries. When FIIs were set to exit EMs (emerging markets) in the wake of tapering of quantitative easing by the US Federal Reserve in August 2013, most EMs were affected. In January 2015, when the Fed indicated its intention to tighten rates, fund outflows from EMs started immediately. The US Fed is the game-changer and not Mr Modi. They are the masters of this universe. Anyone who misses this point misses the plot altogether.
Mohan Krishnan


Trial and Error: Report Says Prosecutors Rarely Pay Price for Mistakes and Misconduct

The Innocence Project released a report alleging that prosecutors are almost never punished when they withhold evidence or commit other forms of misconduct that land innocent people in prison


The Innocence Project released a report Tuesday alleging that prosecutors across the country are almost never punished when they withhold evidence or commit other forms of misconduct that land innocent people in prison.


The Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal group that represents people seeking exonerations, examined records in Arizona, California, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania, and interviewed a wide assortment of defense lawyers, prosecutors and legal experts.


In each state, researchers examined court rulings from 2004 through 2008 in which judges found that prosecutors had committed violations such as mischaracterizing evidence or suborning perjury. All told, the researchers discovered 660 findings of prosecutorial error or misconduct. In the overwhelming majority of cases, 527, judges upheld the convictions, finding that the prosecutorial lapse did not impact the fairness of the defendant's original trial. In 133 cases, convictions were thrown out.


Only one prosecutor was disciplined by any oversight authorities, the report asserts.


The report was issued on the anniversary of a controversial Supreme Court ruling for those trying to achieve justice in the wake of wrongful convictions. In a 520134 decision in the case known as Connick v. Thompson, the court tossed out a $14-million dollar award by a Louisiana jury to John Thompson, a New Orleans man who served 18 years in prison for a murder and robbery he did not commit.


The majority ruled that while the trial prosecutors had withheld critical evidence of Thompson's likely innocence 2013 blood samples from the crime scene 2013 the Orleans Parish District Attorney's office could not be found civilly liable for what the justices essentially determined was the mistake of a handful of employees. The decision hinged on a critical finding: that the District Attorney's office, and the legal profession in general, provides sufficient training and oversight for all prosecutors.


The Innocence Project study echoes a 2013 ProPublica examination focused on New York City prosecutors. In 2013, ProPublica used a similar methodology to analyze more than a decade's worth of state and federal court rulings. We found more than two dozen instances in which judges explicitly concluded that city prosecutors had committed harmful misconduct.


Several of the wrongfully convicted people in these cases successfully sued New York City. In recent years, New York City and state have doled out tens of million dollars in settlements stemming from such lawsuits. Former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes was voted out of office, in part because of wrongful convictions gained through misconduct on the part of his prosecutors or police detectives working with them.


But only one New York City prosecutor, ProPublica's analysis found, was formally disciplined: Claude Stuart, a former low-level Queens Assistant District Attorney, lost his license. He was involved in three separate conviction reversals.


Just as we found in New York, the Innocence Project's report found that appellate judges and others almost never report findings of misconduct to state panels and bar associations that are authorized to investigate them.


"In the handful of situations where an investigation is launched," the report found, "The committees generally failed to properly discipline the prosecutor who committed the misconduct."


The report concludes with several recommendations on how to improve accountability for prosecutors. It suggests, among other things, that judges ought to mandatorily report all findings of misconduct or error and that state legislatures pass laws requiring prosecutors to turn over all law enforcement material well before trial.


But perhaps most powerful is the report's introduction, a 2011 letter to then-Attorney General Eric Holder and two national prosecutor associations. It was written in response to the Connick ruling and signed by 19 people whose wrongful convictions were secured in part by prosecutorial misconduct.


"We, the undersigned and our families, have suffered profound harm at the hands of careless, overzealous and unethical prosecutors," the letter said. "Now that the wrongfully convicted have virtually no meaningful access to the courts to hold prosecutors liable for their misdeeds, we demand to know what you intend to do to put a check on the otherwise unchecked and enormous power that prosecutors wield over the justice system."


According to the Innocence Project, the Justice Department never responded to the letter.


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Potatoes, tomatoes help in keeping sweat at bay
New Delhi : With summer around the corner, sweat is a major problem and it is just no fun. Though it is a natural phenomenon, it can be quite embarrassing and problematic when you are out with someone or have to go for an important meeting.
Home hacks like putting potatoes slices under your arms and drinking a glass of tomato juice every day will help you in getting rid of this excessive sweat. 
Rahul Aggarwal, CEO, Organic Harvest, an organic beauty care range company, has shared some easy tips on how to keep sweat at bay this summer season.
* Coconut oil: Infuse about 10 grams of camphor in a bowl of coconut oil and apply on the sweat prone areas after bath. Leave it on for 45-60 minutes. Wash it off with clean water to give you desired results.
* Salt: To cure excessive sweating this summer, mix a tablespoon of salt with lime juice. Massaging your hands with this mix will decelerate the activities of sweat glands.
* Tea tree oil: Tea tree oil can be applied to the high perspiring areas. Desired results can be seen if regularly used. It is also excellent for oily skin.
* Potato: These will help in getting rid of sweat. Simply cut slices of potato and rub them under your arms and the areas prone to sweat. Allow the slices to dry before wearing your clothes.
* Tomato juice: Drinking a glass of tomato juice every day will help you in getting rid of this excessive sweat during summer.
* Grapes: A natural anti-oxidant, grapes help you balance the temperature of the body. So eating grapes daily can help you soothe out the problem of this excessive sweating.
* Vinegar: Intake of two teaspoons of natural vinegar and one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar is an excellent remedy to cure the excessive sweating. Taking this mixture thrice a day on an empty stomach half an hour before or after meals will give you the desired results.
* Cornstarch and baking soda: If you sweat profusely, applying the mixture of cornstarch and baking soda under the arms will help you get rid of this problem. After applying the mixture let it stay for half an hour till it dries up and later wash it off with clean water.
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.


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