The big news in today’s papers is the government’s plans to bring 99 per cent of the items under the goods and services tax (GST) to the sub-18 per cent slabs, which would leave only luxury and some other goods eligible to attract the highest one, 28 per cent.
“Govt will bring 99% items in 18% or lower GST slabs: PM” reads the lead headline in The Times of India ahead of the GST Council meeting scheduled for this Saturday.
The anticipated tax slash also makes the front-page lead on The Indian Express, which reports in its ‘Explained’ section that 97 per cent of items are already in the sub-18 per cent slabs.
“Further rationalisation entails a toss-up between the potential revenue loss on the one side and possible political and economical gains due to higher growth in a poll year,” it adds.
Hindustan Times, meanwhile, puts the report in their business section.
For its front-page lead, the paper chooses some international news. Under the headline “US may link IMF’s Pakistan bailout to terror”, it reports, “The US would like to see progress in combating terror financing and more cooperation on Afghanistan as conditions attached to the bailout package Pakistan has sought from the International Monetary Fund.”
In another report, Hindustan Times quotes Congress president Rahul Gandhi as saying “Won’t let PM Modi sleep until all farm loans [are] waived”.
Political parties seem to have taken no note of warnings from economists, also outlined in a recent strategy paper, that loan waivers don’t help the poor.
An interview of new Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel on page 8 of the Express quotes him as saying that he will “study farm loans from commercial banks… (loan waiver) figure can go up”. One of his first decisions as CM was to announce a waiver of just over Rs 6,100 crore.
The front pages of several newspapers carry photographs of Hamid Ansari, the man who was jailed in Pakistan for six years after entering the country to meet a girl, enveloped in his mother’s arms following his release. “…This is a day of celebration,” HT quotes his father as saying. “We will celebrate all festivals today.”
While Sajjan Kumar, the former Congress leader sentenced to life recently for his role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, has retreated from most front pages, Express reports, “What of other cases against Sajjan? In one, last hearing 8 years ago”.
“Unless this pattern of impunity and political patronage is recognised and reversed communal riots, mob violence and lynchings can be expected to go on,” TOI writes in its editorial about Kumar’s conviction.
A Swiggy executive also made it to the TOI front page for his heroic rescue of 10 people from a fire: “Delivery boy saves 10 in Mumbai fire, ends up in hospital himself” reads the headline. A hospital in Mumbai’s Andheri suburb caught fire, resulting in the deaths of eight people. “The devastating fire… is a shocking reminder of the low priority fire safety gets in India,” The Hindu notes in its editorial.
Newspapers also opined on the recently concluded climate change meet at Katowice, Poland, where a 133-page rulebook was devised to put in motion the Paris agreement for 2020.
“India has an opportunity to step up and provide leadership, to help particularly the poor,” writes The Economic Times. “To this end, it must focus on technology that has the potential to exponentially augment the efforts being made to limit global warming.”
HT says, “India must now climate-proof its rural and urban infrastructure by adopting strategies that reduce the impact of droughts, use crop diversification, promote and deliver agriculture and climate insurance, and adopt flood and heat stress control.”
ET Now anchor Supriya Shrinate asked panelists whether farm loan waivers were the real solution for farmers.
Ashok Gulati from thinktank Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) said farm loan waivers were an excuse for not bringing structural reforms.
“Farm loan waivers are the flavour of the season,” Gulati added, “More for political capturing of power.”
Congress leader Gourav Vallabh, meanwhile, defended waivers. “Farm loan waivers will help farmers get out of… indebtedness. And then we will provide the right MSP and focus on improving productivity. Waiver is the first step.”
On India Today, journalist Rajdeep Sardesai interviewed finance minister Arun Jaitley.
Asked whether the banks’ NPA crisis was under control, Jaitley said, “Unsustainable projects under the UPA resulted in NPAs. Though there is not a crisis-like situation, there is problem with liquidity and credit. This is a very complex issue which the media does not understand.”
He also sought assuage concerns about the RBI’s autonomy under the Narendra Modi government. “There is no threat to RBI autonomy,” he said, “We are not taking over the functions of the RBI.”
News it’s just kinda cool to know
What claims to be India’s first all-women national level party, the National Women’s Party, and was launched in New Delhi on Tuesday. On it’s agenda is ensuring “50% reservation for women in Parliament”, reports HT, adding, “Even men who agree with the ideology are welcome”