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Modi Government Passes GST Bill in Lower House of Parliament

Narendra Modi government has been successful in passing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill in the Lok Sabha after ruling BJP gave whip to all its MPs to be present in the parliament today and vote in favour of the bill. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told lower house of the parliament that Goods and Services Tax will be beneficial in the long run as it will lead to reduction of prices. While vouching for the bill, Jaitley said that GST will lead to economic growth. Union Finance Minister also said that the panel suggested revenue-neutral GST rate of 27 per cent is considerably high but in practice the figure will be diluted.

Sonia Gandhi attacks Modi Government in Lok Sabha

President of Indian National Congress, Sonia Gandhi, today made a scathing attack on the Narendra Modi government, PM’s functioning style, and many other important issues in Lok Sabha. While underlining "failure of institutional mechanism" under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she alleged that it is a one person government. Other than attacking the government on centralisation of union power, Sonia Gandhi accused the government of acting with "obstinate arrogance" in the Lok Sabha. She also condemned the PM for criticising the works of previous union government in a foreign country. While accusing Modi government of downgrading RTI, Sonia said that "deplorable lapse" is being witnessed in not filling up key positions that are lying vacant, including Chief Information Commissioner’s position.

Home Ministry Clears Air on Kashmiri Pandit Settlement Townships in Kashmir Valley

Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary, who yesterday kicked up a storm by saying that Dawood Ibrahim is out of IB radar, has said in the context of settlement of Pandits in Kashmir Valley that his government is not considering creation of exclusive zones or townships for the Pandit community in Kashmir. The government came clear after separatists and many sections of the civil society, including Chief Minister of J&K Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, found similarity of such settlements with “Israeli-type” settlements. However, Mufti led PDP-BJP government has said that creation of such townships will not be exclusive for Hindu Pandits but will have mixed population including Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, and others.

BSE Sensex falls 722.77 points

Strong selling on algorithmic trading platforms led to the steepest fall of BSE Sensex this year. Benchmark BSE Sensex index tanked 722.77 points today, dragging the bourse to close at 26,717.37. NSE Nifty also witnessed bloodbath as this broader index fell to 8,097, a fall of 2.74 percent. Available data shows that this is the lowest level attained by both the indices since 17 December 2014. Analysts believe that the continued offloading of positions by FIIs due to their worries related to retrospective tax is making the bourse perform poorly. They also feel that the continued consolidation of market will end only if there is good news in the GST Bill and Land Acquisition Bill fronts.

Service Growth PMI Data Decreases for Second Month in a Row

HSBC Purchasing Managers Index, wide tracked by the industry, indicates that service sector has increased at a slower rate of growth in April 2015, second month in a row. Available data shows that two sectors that witnessed contraction are hotels and restaurants. HSBC Purchasing Managers Index for service sector decreased from 53 points in March 2015 to 52.4 points in April 2015. HSBC India Composite PMI Output Index also declined to 52.5 in April 2015 from 53.2 points in March 2015. An economist at Markit Economics, Pollyanna De Lima, said that the Indian service sector witnessed continued slowdown even in second month in a row because of “softer demand conditions” that led to weaker growth of activity. He added that this caused the companies to be cost cautious leading to shedding of jobs.

Competition Commission of India rejects allegations against the five eCommerce Behemoths of India

Competition Commission of India has dismissed unfair business practice allegation against five ecommerce giants in India, including Jasper Infotech Pvt Ltd. (run by Snapdeal), Flipkart, Vector E-commerce Pvt Ltd. (company behind Myntra), Xerion Retail Pvt Ltd (owner of Jabong), and Amazon. The commission said that they are dismissing the allegations as no prima facie evidence of cartelization and competition norm violations have been found against these companies. With the increasing trend of exclusive agreement, CCI has observed that entering into such an agreement doesn’t create entry barrier to new entrants in the market.  

Infosys to Invest Heavily in Indian Start-ups under its $500 Million "Innovate in India Fund"

IT giant Infosys is in the process of evaluating early stage start-ups in India for investing $10-25 million per startup that are developing disruptive technologies. Infosys has also announced $250 million investment plan in April under “Innovate in India Fund” for investing in promising start-ups. Head of Infosys’s startup fund, Yusuf Bashir, in an attempt to evaluate the best possible ways of tapping into software product ecosystem of India met M&A team of iSpirt, whose M&A connect programme helps in connecting large companies with their curated list of 100 early stage software firms. Infosys has recently increased its start-up fund to $500 million.  

Telecom Minister Assures House of Providing Internet Connectivity Access in Non-Discriminatory Manner

With all MPs from upper house of the Indian Parliament objecting to the consultation paper issued by Telecom Authority of India, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union IT and Telecom Minister, said that his government is committed to provide internet facility in India to all netizens in a non-discriminating manner, based on the ideals of net neutrality. He assured Rajya Sabha that internet connectivity will be available in an unhindered manner to all, keeping the aspects of national outlook in mind. While addressing the house, IT and Telecom Minister said that the issue of net neutrality is not only ideology neutral but also party neutral. Unlike other issues, the entire house was unanimous on the issue.

Internet.org Opened by Facebook to Outside Applications after Uproar

Facebook has opened Internet.org that now provides connectivity to people in developing countries to outside applications. The move comes after news organisations in India pulled out of the concerned programme sighting net neutrality violation issue. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, said that this will work as a free platform that will enable anybody to build free basic services. He went on to add that he wants to provide people with more free access to services over a period of time. Facebook in a statement said that any developer can use the free internet.org service free of cost.  

India beats Japan in Second Match of Hockey Test Series

India managed to beat Japan by 2-0 during the second match of the four match hockey test series. India scored their first goal at the 27th minute of play. The goal, which was scored by SK Uthappa was followed by a 48th minute goal by Dharamvir Singh. The game started in an interesting manner as both the teams started playing fast paced attacking game. The first quarter of the game was goalless and the first half ended with India leading by one goal to nil, despite the fact that India lost a couple of goal-making opportunities. With strong defence in place Indian hockey team intensified its attack with Pradeep Mor making multiple scoring attempts in the second half, with second and final success coming at 48th minute.     

ATP Rankings: Yuki Bhambri improves; Somdev drops four positions

Rankings released by ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) shows that Somdev Devvarman has dropped four positions and his current ranking is 173. However, another ace Indian tennis player Yuki Bhambri’s ATP ranking has improved by thirty positions, helping him enter the top 200 ranking. His current ATP rank is 186. Bhambri’s current jump in position was possible because for his good performance in the Taipei Challenger, where he entered the semi-final. In the women’s doubles ATP ranking, Sania Mirza held her World No. 1 ranking. In the men’s doubles ATP ranking list, Leander Paes is ranked 23rd followed by Rohan Bopanna at 24th spot.    

President of Boxing India Voted Out by General Body Members

Sandeep Jajodia, President of Boxing India, has been voted out by the general body members during a No Confidence Motion yesterday at a Special General Meeting. Out of the total 64 general body members, 57 turned out for voting. While 55 votes went against him, two went in his favour. However, incumbent President Sandeep Jajodia termed it illegal. Asit Banerjee, representative from West Bengal, said that there has been a turmoil going on in the organisation from the last few months and it took an ugly turn with the resignation of BI Secretary General Jay Kowli. It is learnt that Vice-President Miren Paul is going to be the interim head of the federation.

Relaunched Anti-Corruption 1031 Helpline of Delhi Government Received 1.25 Lakh Calls in one Month

A senior official working at the anti-corruption helpline of Delhi Government said that in a months time since the launch of 1031 helpline, a whooping 1,25,065 calls have been received and most number of complaints are against Jal Board, transport, police and civic body officials. This helpline was re-launched by Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi, on 5 April 2015, after introducing it for the first time during AAP’s 49-day stint in the Delhi government after 2013 assembly election. The official also said that 1,10,380 calls have been answered by the helpline executives, out of which 510 complaints were handled by authorised  and trained facilitators. 252 complaints have so far been referred to Anti-Corruption Branch.  

Sitaraman tells RS that India is working with WTO on Food Subsidy Issue for finding a Permanent Solution

Nirmala Sitharaman, Commerce and Industry Minister, today told upper house of the parliament that Indian officials are working closely with WTO members for ensuring a permanent solution to the contentious issue of food security at the earliest. In a written reply to Rajya Sabha, the minister said that the General Council decision, where WTO acceded to Indian demand back in November 2014 of removing constraints on the issue of the food stockpiling, includes firm commitment of engaging in negotiations through intensified programme of work to reach a permanent solution. She also said that India had proposed allowing of either food security scheme outside subsidy cap purview or amend formula for calculating food subsidy cap of 10 per cent.

Salman Khan Found Guilty in 2002 Hit-and-Run Case

Bollywood actor Salman Khan has been convicted by a sessions court in Mumbai for killing a homeless man and injuring four others, sleeping on a pavement in Bandra outside a bakery, on 28 September 2002, while driving his Toyota Land Cruiser SUV under the influence of alcohol. Sessions judge, DW Deshpande, while pronouncing the judgement said that all charges against Salman have been proved and consequently he has been charged with culpable homicide. While the sentencing can vary from 10 years to life imprisonment, defence lawyers are arguing by sighting SC judgement that the maximum number of years of jail term given by the apex court is three years.