In a decision with far-reaching consequences,
the Supreme Court directed that vehicles without valid pollution under
control (PUC) certificates would not be eligible for the annual insurance.
A Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta
accepted the recommendations of the Environment Pollution (Prevention and
Control) Authority (EPCA) for mandatory linking of PUC certificates with annual
This recommendation was made by the EPCA in its
report on assessment of the Pollution Under Control programme in Delhi and the
National Capital Region. This report was submitted in the Supreme Court in April
The court passed the order on a petition for
stringent steps to curb air pollution.
The Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways
was a party in the case and had responded positively to the EPCA report.
The court agreed with the EPCA that the linkage
between PUC certificates and vehicle insurance would go a long way in ensuring
compliance and a subsequent dip in vehicular emission levels.
The EPCA investigation has shown very poor level of
compliance with the PUC programme. In Delhi, only 23% of vehicles come for PUC
With mandatory linking of annual vehicle insurance
with valid PUC certificate, the compliance level can improve significantly —
especially as the Supreme Court has directed its enforcement nationwide.
The court also directed the linking of PUC centres
with an online network and data centres to prevent manual tampering. It asked
the State governments to audit PUC centres and set up a strong oversight system
to ensure credible tests and emission results
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said
Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s experience as a “career diplomat” had come in
handy while dealing with his responsibility in the Rajya Sabha.
Mr. Modi said he got to know the “real meaning” of
career diplomats only after he became Prime Minister “as it was difficult to
immediately interpret the meaning of a diplomat’s handshake or smile.”
He said Mr. Ansari came from a family that had been
in public life for over 100 years, with a long association with the Congress and
an active participation in the Khilafat movement.
He extensively quoted former Vice-President S.
Radhakrishnan and said “a democracy is likely to degenerate into a tyranny if it
does not allow opposition groups to criticise fairly, freely and frankly the
policies of the government.”
He also said that “a democracy is distinguished by
the protection it gives to minorities. .... But at the same time the minorities
have also their responsibilities. This House is a creation of the Constitution
and reflective of the wisdom and foresight of the founding fathers who wished it
to portray India's diversity and to be a calibrated restraint on hasty
Mr. Ansari hoped that all sections of the House
would seek to achieve this laudable objective, as the manner in which they
conduct business is watched by the citizens with a discerning eye.
“Your work remained limited in a particular area.
But during these 10 years, you had to deal with a different kind of
responsibility (in running the House). Each moment, you had to remain confined
to the Constitution and you made a good effort. There may have been some
struggle within you (all these years) but from now onwards, you won’t have to
face this dilemma. You will have a feeling of freedom and you will get an
opportunity to work, think and talk according to your ideology,” Mr. Modi told
the outgoing Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
It empowers the Reserve Bank of India to issue
instructions to PSBs to act against major defaulters
The Rajya Sabha passed the Banking Regulation
(Amendment) Bill, which empowers the Reserve Bank of India to issue instructions
to the banks to act against major defaulters.
The Bill, earlier passed by the Lok Sabha, will
replace the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017.
Replying to a debate on the Bill, Finance Minister
Arun Jaitley said there was nothing wrong in banks giving out loans and trying
to recover them. It was only on the strength of the banking finance that
businesses expanded, jobs were created and the economy moved on.
Responding to demands for making the names of big
defaulters public, Mr. Jaitley said it was being done in the case of wilful
defaulters. Only in cases of normal commercial transactions were the names not
On the concerns raised by Congress member Jairam
Ramesh about rising non-performing assets (NPA), Mr. Jaitley said they stood at
Rs. 6.41 lakh crore by March this year. They were growing because of accumulated
interests. Along with the stressed assets, they amounted to over Rs. 8 lakh
Some members wondered why the government was
extending such powers to the RBI, to which the Finance Minister said the RBI was
not merely a regulator.
It also performed other functions like public debt
Mr. Jaitley said after the insolvency law, which
provides for a window of 180 days for debtors to settle the matter or face
eviction and subsequent takeover of management by debt reconstruction companies,
things had started improving. Debtors were now coming forward to settle
unresolved issues with lenders.
Earlier, in his opening remarks, the Finance
Minister identified Steel, Infrastructure, Power and Textiles as the sectors
with the most NPAs. Public sector banks were hit the most as big industrial and
infrastructure programmes were supported by them in the hope that there would be
Due to the import of steel from China, domestic
businesses had suffered. However, things were now looking up with the government
introducing customs duty and minimum import price. The road sector had also
started showing good results. Mr. Jaitley said the earlier rules for debt
recovery were time-consuming. The new parallel mechanism was more effective.
Guam, a slice of America in the middle of
Pacific, goes about as usual despite N. Korea’s sabre-rattling
It is a small slice of America, and it just happens
to be in the middle of the Pacific. And within striking range of North Korean
That’s why the island of Guam was thrust into the
spotlight after North Korea threatened a strike that would create “an enveloping
fire” around it and said an attack would come this month.
But on the island, home to a strategic U.S. air
base, life continued as normal. Patrons packed local restaurants, barely
glancing at televisions bearing news of Pyongyang’s latest threat against their
Residents of the tiny territory just 19 km at its
widest point and circled with beautiful beaches find themselves again caught in
the middle of a war of words as a volley of hostile rhetoric was launched
between North Korea and the United States, including pointed threats of nuclear
Guam has been a U.S. territory since 1898, when
Spain ceded it in the wake of the Spanish-American War. It has a population of
around 1,63,000 comparable to a small city in the Midwest.
The island has been the focus of North Korean
threats in the past, as the home base for nuclear-equipped bombers that have the
capacity to strike the reclusive nation. Tests of North Korea’s own missile
suggest that now, the island is within the range of Pyongyang.
Guam is about 3,380 km southeast of Pyongyang, and
6,115 km west of Honolulu. But it is as steeped in U.S. culture as any small
city on the mainland — even if shoppers at its Kmart (the biggest in the world)
can look outside and see a lush Pacific island setting.
The majority of islanders are ethnically Chamorro
the indigenous group that has lived on the island for thousands of years and
their culture is a touchstone for the islander’s way of life.
Life on Guam is also deeply tied the military bases
and the service members stationed at them. Andersen Air Force Base and Naval
Base Guam house an estimated 13,000 military members and their dependents. One
third of the island is owned by the U.S. military.
The church is an influential force on the island,
where the vast majority of residents are Catholic, and the Archdiocese of Agana
— the capital of Guam, also known as Hagatna — has advised residents to “look to
God during these difficult times when world peace is threatened.”
The government expects to more than halve its
petroleum subsidy bill over the next three years, from Rs. 25,000 crore this
year to just Rs. 10,000 crore by 2019-20. While fertiliser subsidies are
expected to stay flat, the food subsidy bill is estimated to shoot up
sharply from Rs. 1.45 lakh crore this year to Rs. 2,00,000 crore by 2019-20,
as per the medium-term expenditure framework tabled by the finance ministry
Indicating a continued thrust on public spending to
spur the economy, the finance ministry expects government’s capex to rise by 25%
to Rs. 3.9 lakh crore by 2019-20, driven largely by greater spending on defence,
Railways, road transport and urban development.
Significantly, the finance ministry has asserted
that any shocks to tax collections due to the introduction of the Goods and
Services Tax (GST) will be absorbed in the current financial year itself, so the
tax to GDP ratio may persist at the same level this year as last year — 11.3%.
But in the next two years, the government is
betting on an expansion of the tax base, citing gains from GST and increased
surveillance efforts post-demonetisation.
The tax-GDP ratios are projected to be 11.6% and
11.9%, in 2018-19 and 2019-20, respectively.
Food, fertiliser and fuel subsidies for which the
Centre has budgeted over Rs. 2.4 lakh crore are expected to rise to Rs. 2.8 lakh
crore by 2019-20, but the government expects the overall proportion of subsidies
to GDP to come down from 1.4% to 1.3% over the same period.
Following the abolition of price controls over
diesel and petrol prices, the government has set its eye on rationalising
kerosene and LPG subsidies, with a March 2018 target for eliminating the LPG
cylinder subsidy altogether by raising prices by Rs. 4 each month.
Efforts are also underway to bring kerosene
subsidies under the direct benefit transfer regime or while making some States
On the food subsidy due to about 80 crore
beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act, the government said reforms
have been initiated with six States automating all fair price shops and 72% of
Ration cards being seeded with Aadhaar numbers.
“One of the main reasons for an increase in food
subsidy is to meet the repayment obligations of FCI (Food Corporation of India)
to the National Small Savings Fund,” the statement explained.
Interest payments amounting to Rs. 5.23 lakh crore
this year, which constitute the largest component of the government’s revenue
expenditure, are expected to rise nominally to Rs. 6.15 lakh crore by 2019-20,
but the government is confident that there will not be any ‘upward pressure on
interest rates’ owing to its borrowings.
Citing a substantial Rs. 12,000 crore saving from
interest payments estimated for 2016-17, it said this is indicative of ‘the
economy moving towards a more benign interest rate cycle.’
Costs incurred due to the demonetisation
exercise dented the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) income resulting in the
central bank transferring less than half the funds — known as surplus to the
government compared with the previous year.
For the 12 months ended June 30, 2017, the RBI will
transfer a surplus of Rs. 30,659 crore to the Government of India, sharply lower
than the previous year’s Rs. 65,876 crore. The RBI’s central board, which met on
Thursday, approved the amount to be transferred.
This is the lowest-ever surplus transfer by the RBI
to the Centre since 2011-12 when it transferred Rs. 16,010 crore. RBI
transferred about 80% of its income as surplus in the previous three years.
There were costs of printing a huge amount of new
notes to replace the notes rendered invalid following demonetisation.
In November, the Centre had announced that Rs. 500
and Rs. 1,000 denomination currency notes were invalid and subsequently issued a
new series of Rs. 500 notes and Rs. 2,000 notes.