Tuesday, 29 December 2015

No LPG subsidy for families earning Rs 10 lakh plus: Govt

The government decided that consumers with taxable income above Rs 10 lakh per year will not get LPG subsidy from January 2016.

The benefit of the LPG subsidy will not be available for LPG consumers if the consumer or his/her spouse had taxable income of more than Rs 10 lakh during the previous financial year computed as per the Income Tax Act, 1961, Oil Ministry said in a statement today.

In keeping with the approach of trusting the citizens, this will be given effect to initially on self-declaration basis while booking cylinders from January 2016 onwards.

At present, all households are entitled to get 12 cylinders of 14.2-kg each at subsidised rate of Rs 419.26, while the market price is Rs 608.

The government had earlier asked well-off people to voluntarily give up using subsidised LPG and instead buy cooking fuel at market price.

So far, over 57.5 lakh LPG consumers, out of nearly 15 crore customers, have given up subsidies.

"While many consumers have given up subsidy voluntarily, it is felt that consumers in the higher income bracket should get LPG cylinders at the market price," the statement said.

To cut subsidy bill and reduce fiscal deficit, the previous UPA government had restricted the number of subsidized domestic cylinders per household to six every year in September 2012, revising it to nine the following January.

The cap was revised in January 2014 to 12 cylinders a year, starting April 1.

The subsidy for 12 cylinders in a year is paid directly in the bank account of consumers which they use to buy LPG at market rate.

The subsidy payout on LPG in 2014-15 was Rs 40,551 crore, which this fiscal will be less than half as oil prices have slumped to six year low. During April-September, the subsidy outgo was Rs 8,814 crore.

There are no estimates of how many LPG customers would have a taxable income of Rs 10 lakh or more.

Presently, there are 16.35 crore LPG consumers in the country. This number fell to 14.78 crore after the start of Direct Benefit Transfer on LPG (DBTL) scheme which eliminated duplicate and inactive customers.

"The objective of the scheme was to ensure that the subsidy benefits go to the targeted group," the statement said.

The government had also given a call to the well-to-do households for voluntarily giving up LPG subsidy.

"So far, 57.50 lakh LPG consumers have opted out of LPG subsidy voluntarily heeding the call given by the Prime Minister," it said.

The subsidy saved from the 'GiveitUp' campaign is being utilized for providing new connections to the BPL families under the 'Giveback' campaign.

This enables provision of LPG, a clean fuel, to poor households by replacing the conventional fuels such as kerosene, coal, fuel wood, cow dung, etc, relieving the poor of the hardships and health hazards from such fuels.

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Friday, 18 December 2015

ULFA leader Anup Chetia granted bail by TADA Court

United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) 'general secretary' Anup Chetia, recently extradited by Bangladesh, was today granted bail by a court in two Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act or TADA cases, but will remain in jail as some other cases against him are pending.

Special judge Alokesh Bhattacharya allowed Chetia, alias Golap Baruah, to go on bail by submitting a bail bond of Rs. five lakh and security of the same amount.

The plea was made for Chetia's bail for facilitating his trial and for him to participate in the ongoing peace process. Additional Public Prosecutor said the Assam government had no objection to Chetia being granted bail.

He will, however, not walk out as there are a number of cases against him. Another TADA case related to the ULFA leader would be heard tomorrow followed by an Indian Penal Court (IPC) case the day after.

Chetia had in his first interaction with the media earlier this month said that he was for peace talks between ULFA and the Centre.

Following his extradition by Bangladesh on November 11, Chetia was arrested by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in Delhi in connection with a murder incident at Golaghat in Assam.

Chetia was in Bangladesh jail since his arrest by that country's police in 1997 on charges of cross-border intrusion, carrying fake passports and illegally keeping foreign currencies.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had said that the state government has all along been pursuing with the Centre for repatriation of Chetia and now since he has been repatriated he should be associated with the ongoing peace talks.

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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

ISRO to launch six Singapore satellites today

Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will launch six Singapore satellites this evening from its spaceport at Sriharikotta in Andhra Pradesh, some 90 kilometre north of Chennai. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C29 with the payloads on-board is set to take off at 6 pm today and insert them into near-earth orbits from about 20 minutes after the ignition.

The 59 hour countdown that began on Monday morning for the launch is going on systematically as planned. The main payload in today’s commercial launch is the remote sensing satellite TeLEOS-One, and the other five co-passengers are smaller experimental satellites developed by two educational institutions of Singapore.

Singapore takes a significant leap into space with today’s launch that is set to place the 400 kilogram TeLEOS-One remote sensing satellite into a circular orbit at 550-kilometer altitude above the equatorial region using the highly reliable launch vehicle PSLV-C29 of Indian space agency ISRO.

Singapore has launched two payloads earlier using the PSLV, though they were smaller ones with limited operational life. This is ISRO’s sixth exclusive commercial launch. PSLV’s last 31 flights have been flawlessly successful missions with textbook precision, and the scientists are gearing up for its 32nd flight this evening.

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Friday, 11 December 2015

Salman Khan acquitted of all charges in hit-and-run case

Bollywood star actor Salman Khan has been acquitted by the Bombay high court on Thursday in a hit-and-run case in which a man was killed after his Toyota Land Cruiser ran over five people sleeping on a Bandra footpath in September 2002.

Justice AR Joshi said the 49-year-old actor cannot be convicted because the “prosecution has failed to prove the charges on all counts”.

The judgment quashed a sessions court order in May that held Salman guilty and sentenced him to five years of rigorous imprisonment. The actor appealed to the high court to overturn the sessions court verdict.

Acquitting Salman of all charges soon after he reached the court, Justice Joshi observed he cannot be convicted on the basis of evidence submitted by the prosecution. He also pointed out “various shortcomings in investigations and the prosecution’s evidence”.

“Doubt arises over involvement of appellant on charges … Investigation was conducted in faulty manner with scant regard to procedure,” he said after seeking Salman’s presence in court at the time of pronouncing the verdict.

On Wednesday, the high court opened a window of hope for the popular actor when it had observed that the prosecution had not convincingly proved he was drunk or at the wheel of his SUV when the vehicle ran over five people in Bandra West on September 28, 2002.

Justice Joshi said it was difficult to rely on the testimony of Ravindra Patil, the police guard who was in the vehicle at the time of the accident.

He observed that Patil, who died of tuberculosis in 2007, was not a “wholly reliable witness” because of the numerous changes in his statements during the course of the trial, although he was the lone witness to testify that Salman was drunk at the wheel.

“Even if Patil’s statement has to be considered as partially reliable, there has to be corroboration in evidence which does not exist in this case,” Joshi said.

The drunk-driving charge looked doubtful since Patil didn’t mention it in the FIR filed hours after the accident but said so a few days later after Salman’s blood test reports came in. Later, he turned hostile and retracted his statement.

Justice Joshi also made crucial observations on the defence witness, Salman’s family driver Ashok Singh, as well as singer-friend Kamaal Khan, who was with the actor in the car but the prosecution never examined him in court.

The loyal driver took the blame for the accident after Salman was held guilty in May, saying he was driving the car on that fateful night. The prosecution dismissed his confession as 13 years too late.

Justice Joshi didn’t agree with the prosecution’s argument.

He also took a strong stand against the prosecution for its failure to examine Kamaal Khan, who was in the country till 2007 before he settled abroad. “The examination of an eyewitness, especially when the case has very limited number of eyewitnesses, is incremental. But the conduct of the investigating agencies leads to the conclusion that they were not desirous of bringing Kamaal Khan before the court. It is thus, necessary to draw an adverse inference against the prosecution.”

The court said the prosecution had failed to prove that the left front tyre of Salman’s car burst after the accident that night. The actor had maintained all along that the car swung out of control and jumped onto the pavement following a tyre burst on Hill Road in Bandra.

He made these observations while dwelling upon citations of the Bombay high court and the Supreme Court in a similar case pertaining to Alistair Pereira and the applicability of Section 304, Part II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) under which Salman was convicted.

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Monday, 7 December 2015

CM Tarun Gogoi announces Rs 1000 crore special package for SC community

Just few months ahead of the Assembly Elections, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has announced a special package of Rs 1,000 crore for the development of Scheduled Caste (SC) community in Assam.

Announcing the special package at a public meeting held on the occasion of 60th death anniversary of B R Ambedkar, Gogoi said his government has all along given thrust on the development of SC and other communities.

"If the SC and other communities lag behind, then how can Assam march on the path of growth and development? With this in mind, we constituted the Development Councils so that the different communities can take part in the development process and reap the benefits," he said.

The chief minister also announced that an Institute of Social Justice will be set up in the name of Ambedkar and additional grants would be given to the SC Development Council.

Paying tribute to Ambedkar, Gogoi said he was a freedom fighter, a jurist, economist, politician and social reformer - all rolled into one.

"The principal architect of the Indian Constitution, Dr Ambedkar fought untiringly for the downtrodden, against social discrimination, injustice and oppression. He devoted his entire life to the cause of social justice, gender equality and promotion of education," he added.

Following the footsteps of Ambedkar, Gogoi said his government is giving emphasis to gender equality by empowering women through education and formation of Self Help Groups to bring about economic transformation.

Advocating for continuation of reservation for backward communities, Gogoi said he will oppose the decision of the Centre to review the policy of reservation on the ground that these communities are still trailing behind and need support to be on par with other advanced communities.

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