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India Asks Vodafone to Pay $2.1 Billion Tax Bill or It May Face Asset Seizures

The income tax (I-T) department’s “pay up or we seize your assets” notice to British telecom giant Vodafone has raised questions on whether the NDA government’s top functionaries and the bureaucracy are speaking in different languages. Only last month Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assured foreign investors that India’s controversial retrospective tax, which had unnerved businesses at home and abroad, was “a thing of the past”— a measure that would not be reintroduced by his or any other future government. The fact that the assurance came on the first day of French President Francois Hollande’s visit to India did help soothe some fevered brows.But now the I-T department has again asked Vodafone to pay Rs 14,300 crore in tax dues and threatened to seize assets in the case of non-payment, potentially derailing the goodwill generated by Mr Modi’s promises of an investor-friendly environment. The department says the tax is due on Vodafone International Holdings BV’s $11 billion acquisition of Hutchison Whampoa’s India telecom business in 2007. Vodafone India has argued that no tax was due as the transaction was conducted offshore, but the tax department’s contention is that capital gains were made on assets in India. Vodafone’s troubles began in 2012, when India changed its laws to impose taxes on older corporate deals such as Vodafone’s acquisition of Hutchison Whampoa’s telecom assets in India. The British firm’s repeated run-ins with the taxman have again stoked fears about the country’s high-handedness in dealing with foreign investors.
In an atmosphere dominated by many known and unknowns, ushering in the promised ‘achche din’ is proving infinitely more complicated than coining the catchy slogan was. That’s because the government often needs to wind its way through a legal labyrinth to deliver on its promise. Foreign investors, both strategic and stock market, have once again shown a penchant for the India story. The tax disputes pertaining to Vodafone and energy major Cairn have become emblematic of some of the trenchant rigidities that have come to characterise the country. India would do well if it gets such policy irritants out of the way to cement its place as a potential epicentre of economic activity in a shaky world.

Nitin Seth to join Flipkart as Chief People Officer

Nitin Seth was today named the Chief People Officer of Flipkart. Nitin, who brings with him over two decades of experience in entrepreneurship, strategy, consulting, operations management and business process redesign, will lead the human resource function at Flipkart, India’s largest online marketplace. He will partner with the leadership team to build an organization for the future that is versatile and adaptable. Further, he will foster a distinctive culture to fuel business performance.
Nitin Seth will report to Binny Bansal, CEO & Co-founder of Flipkart.

Fashion designer Manish Arora to get highest French honor

Fashion designer Manish Arora will be conferred with the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour), France's highest civilian honour.
This award comes in recognition of his inspired creations and significant contribution to the fashion world as well as his longstanding ties with France.
On behalf of the President of the French Republic, the Ambassador of France to India, H.E. Mr Fran├žois Richier, will confer the distinction on Arora, at a ceremony on 16.2.2016 evening at his residence in New Delhi.
Created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, the Legion of Honour is the highest civilian award given by the French Republic for outstanding service, regardless of the nationality of the recipients.
The President of the French Republic is the Grand Master of the Order of the Legion of Honour.
In past Indian personalities like Satyajit Ray, Sivaji Ganesan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Zubin Mehta, Amitabh Bachchan, and Shah Rukh Khan have been honoured by the French government.

Make in India week: Uber signs MoU with Maharashtra govt to create 75,000 new jobs

Taxi-hailing app Uber Tuesday signed an agreement with the Maharashtra government to help create 75,000 jobs across the state.Through this memorandum of understanding (MoU), Uber will focus on training women and people from marginalised sectors of society.
"This is to promote equal and fair opportunity for all sectors of society to earn sufficient fares as independent entrepreneurs on the platform," Uber said in a statement.
The move would train and provide 75,000 new job opportunities across Maharashtra over the next 5 years, the company added.
The MoU was formalised by Uber through the Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Department (SDED) of the Maharashtra government here.
"We are happy to be part of the Make in India initiative through this MoU with SDED, Maharashtra Government, to encourage and give women and persons from marginalised societies an opportunity to become micro-entrepreneurs through our platform," Uber West GM Shailesh Sawlani said.
Principal Secretary (SDED) S S Sandhu said, "We are pleased to partner with Uber to create more economic opportunities in Maharashtra and mobilise women and persons from marginalised sectors of society to become micro entrepreneurs."
Uber was launched in 2009 and has presence in over 361 cities in 66 countries Tuesday.

Writer Akbar Kakkattil passes away

Akbar Kakkattil, renowned writer and vice-president of the Kerala Sahithya Academy , died at a pri vate hospital here on Wednesday morning. He was 62. He was undergoing treatment for a lung disease for the past one year. He was admitted to the hospital a week ago.

Born to P Abdulla and C K Kunhamina in 1954 at Kak kattil, Akbar studied at the Parayil LP School and Vattoli Sanskrit High School before joining the Government College, Madappally . He obtained his post-graduation from the Government Brennen College, Thalassery and BEd from the Government Teacher Training College, Thalassery . Akbar started his career as a teacher at Vattoli National Higher Secondary School.
The Kerala Sahithya Academy award winner's main works are Vadakkuninnoru Kudumba Vruthantham, Mruthyu Yogam, Sthrainam and Harithabhakalkkappuram, among others.

India joins China and Pakistan in multi-lateral exercises

A 12-member team of the Indian Army is participating in the “Cobra Gold” multilateral exercises being hosted by Thailand, along with its counterparts from China and Pakistan. India has been invited to the exercises as an “observer plus” country. This is in keeping with the recent trend of India’s increasing regional interoperability with a series of multi-lateral exercises on land and sea.
The theme of the exercise, involving 35 countries, is humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The 35th edition of the exercises, considered Asia’s largest multinational drill, started on January 20 and will end on February 18.
“Twelve personnel from the engineering and service corps are taking part in the exercises as observers,” a senior official of the Defence Ministry told The Hindu.
The decision on Indian participation was conveyed to Thailand during Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s visit there recently. The Thai government has said that this year, 8,564 personnel from Thailand, the U.S., Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea and other nations are playing various roles in the exercises.
These exercises come in the backdrop of increased tensions over China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea and informal discussions between India and the U.S. over joint naval patrols as reported by The Hindu.
Disaster relief tops agenda
Interestingly, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief has emerged as the unifying theme among the Indian Ocean littoral states which otherwise have been at odds recently. After the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, India, along with the U.S., Japan and Australia, formed a “core group” to coordinate disaster relief in the region.

Jharkhand gets first mega food park

Union Food Processing and Industry Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Chief Minister Raghubar Das inaugurated the first mega food park in Jharkhand here on Monday.

Speaking on the occasion, she said the food park will create employment and ensure remunerative prices to farmers for their produce.

The food park costing Rs.114.73 crore is spread over 51.50 acres. It will have the facilities of multi-chamber cold storage, dry warehouse, vegetable dehydration line, modern quality control and testing laboratory and other processing facilities for fruit and vegetables.

The chief minister said such food parks will also be set up in Bokaro, Hazaribag and Sahebganj in the state.

Das said his government had formulated a food processing policy. Memorandums of understanding entailing investment of more than Rs.800 crore have been signed, he added.

Government unveils first-ever national Capital goods policy

Addressing the need of the Capital Goods sector, the government has unveiled the first-ever policy for the country's capital goods sector which envisions increasing the share of capital goods in total manufacturing activity from 12 per cent at present to 20 per cent by 2025. The policy envisages increasing exports from the current 27% to 40% of production while increasing share of domestic production in India's demand from 60% to 80%, thus making India a net exporter of capital goods. The policy also aims to facilitate improvement in technology depth across sub-sectors, increase skill availability, ensure mandatory standards and promote growth and capacity building of MSMEs.

Union Minister of Heavy Industry and Public Enterprises Shri Anant Ganga Ram Geete said that realising the strategic importance of Capital Goods and the pivotal role played by it in the overall manufacturing, as the pillar of strength to the vision of “Make in India”, the government has now come out with this policy. He added that this is a  first time ever policy of this sector, with a clear objective of increasing production of capital goods from around Rs 230,000 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 750,000 Crore in 2025 and raising direct and indirect employment from the current 8.4 million to around 30 million.

The Department of Heavy Industry had set up a Joint Taskforce with Confederation of Indian industry (CII) as an attempt to ensure that the formulation of the Capital Goods Policy is done in the most democratic manner and the recommendations would carve out a roadmap for Capital Goods sector to become a part of global value chains apart from mere supply chains.

The policy has been framed after extensive stakeholders’ consultations with industry, academia, different ministries etc. Earlier, the government had put out the draft national capital goods policy, seeking comments and suggestions on the various proposals. The aim of the policy is to create game changing strategies for the capital goods sector. Some of the key issues addressed include availability of Finance, Raw Material, Innovation and Technology, Productivity, Quality and Environment Friendly Manufacturing Practices, Promoting Exports and Creating Domestic Demand. Key policy recommendations include strengthening the existing scheme of the DHI on enhancement of competitiveness of Capital Goods Sector by increasing budgetary allocation for increasing scope to further boost global competitiveness in various sub sectors of CG.

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