Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

Why Amit Shah, Smriti Irani Campaigned in Amethi

Amit Shah in AmethisOn Tuesday, even as Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was busy campaigning in Gujarat, BJP president Amit Shah and I&B Minister Smriti Irani addressed a rally in Amethi, Rahul’s constituency. Amethi and Rae Bareli have been Congress strongholds for decades. Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi have been consistently winning Lok Sabha elections from Amethi and Rae Bareli respectively. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP lost both, but in this year’s UP assembly elections, the BJP won six out of the total 10 assembly seats. Four of these seats fall within Amethi. BJP has correctly gauged the mood of the voters here. Secondly, there are speculations in political circles that Rahul Gandhi may change his constituency from Amethi to Rae Bareli in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, and his mother may opt for a Rajya Sabha seat.

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Supreme Court Ban on Sale of Crackers in NCR

Aaj Ki Baat 9 octThe Supreme Court on Monday reimposed the ban on the sale of crackers in the entire National Capital Region till October 31 in view of concerns relating to pollution caused by the release of smoke and chemicals in the air. I feel the timing of this SC order is wrong. Diwali falls on October 19 this year, and most of the wholesale and retail vendors of firecrackers had already made big plans to sell their wares. In recent weeks, the sale has been brisk, but the SC ban has spoiled festivity cheer. A large section is questioning why Hindu festivals are being targeted every time. It is surprising that the SC order has come on the basis of a petition filed two years ago by three children, of whom two were kids, hardly six months old, and the third child was then 14 months old. On behalf of this, it was argued before the apex court that firecrackers cause air pollution and adversely affect the health of young children and the aged. The apex court had given its first order on November 11, 2016 banning the sale of firecrackers till further orders. Licences issued to shopkeepers were suspended. The shopkeepers went to the Supreme Court, and on September 12 this year, it made changes, allowed controlled sale of crackers and nearly 500 shopkeepers got licences. But on Monday, the apex court reversed its decision, ordered a ban on sale till October 31, and said that the Sept 12 order allowing controlled sale of firecrackers will be effective from November 1. A large number of shopkeepers selling firecrackers has been adversely impacted by this order, coming in the wake of Delhi, as they had made big investments. I think this will be an injustice to them.

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A Welcome Step on the GST front

GST picOn Friday, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced a slew of concessions under Goods & Services Tax (GST) for many sectors in order to give a boost to business. GST rates were cut for as many as 27 goods. Traders with a turnover of Rs 1.5 crore will now have to file quarterly instead of monthly returns under composition scheme. The earlier notification making PAN cards mandatory for purchase of jewellery worth more than Rs 50,000 under Prevention of Money Laundering Act has been withdrawn. These are timely and welcome steps because the jewellers were facing a big slump in business for the last several months. Those working on contract in the construction industry were facing problems, and exporters had run out of cash. Small and medium traders were finding it difficult in filing GST returns every month. Along with this, traders who were not passing on the benefits of GST to consumers will now have to face problems. The Finance Minister has clearly said that traders will now have to pass over the GST concessions to the consumers. All these welcome steps are in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assertion two days ago that the government has no straightjacket mind (‘lakeer ke faqeer nahin’). What the Finance Minister and the GST council have done on Friday is in line with this thinking, and should be welcomed.

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Petroleum Products Should be Brought Under GST

6 Oct Aaj Ki BaatAfter reducing the basic excise duty on petrol and diesel by Rs 2 a litre, the Centre has requested state governments to lower tax on petrol and diesel in a similar manner, so that the common man is benefitted. At present, prices of petrol and diesel are completely decontrolled. The oil marketing companies fix the prices on a daily basis. Petrol and diesel constitute a major part of the revenue earnings of state governments. Each state government levies tax on petrol and diesel according to its requirements. That is why the states did not agree to bring petrol and diesel under the purview of GST. One must understand that asking states to lower tax on petrol and diesel is not a permanent solution. The step that needs to be taken is: petroleum products should be brought under GST, so that prices of petroleum products should be the same across all states.

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How PM Modi Demolished His Critics’ Charges on Economy


Aaj Ki Baat 5th OctWhen senior BJP leader and former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha wrote a column to mount a frontal attack on Modi government’s management of the economy, it created political ripples. He was promptly supported by Congress stalwarts like P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Dr. Manmohan Singh. Several experts wrote articles in newspapers on the current state of our economy. Allegations were levelled to say that Prime Minister Modi and his Finance Minister Arun Jaitley are unable to manage the economy. The articles mentioned about falling GDP rates, small and medium businessmen facing the crisis, workers losing their jobs, GST regulations making life hell for traders and businessmen, no tangible benefit accruing from demonetization, and the like. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Modi, while addressing company secretaries, clearly addressed these critical issues. He had come fully prepared for his speech. He had facts and figures ready with him, to buttress his arguments and reasons. The Prime Minister made it clear that he was in full control of the economy, and was keeping a watchful eye on shortcomings. It is in the fittest of things that he admitted to some shortcomings. He also said some criticisms were justified, and the government was ready for another set of reforms. I personally feel that we should trust our Prime Minister’s words and wait for another four to six months to see in which direction our economy is heading, and how much improvement has taken place.


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The Questions Honeypreet May Have to Answer

3rd Oct Aaj ki BaatFor the last 38 days, Honeypreet Insaan, the close associate of Dera Sachha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, had been in hiding. She was being hunted by the police of Haryana and six other states. She was at the centre of most of the allegations levelled against Gurmeet. Her ex-husband Vishwas Gupta alleged that Honeypreet and Gurmeet Ram Rahim had an illicit relationship. The former sevadars of the Dera, Khatta Singh and Gurdas Toor had alleged that it was Honeypreet who brought Gurmeet Ram Rahim into movies. They alleged, it was Honeypreet who distanced Gurmeet from his family members and tried to grab the finances and operations of the dera. Former sadhvis of the Dera alleged that it was Honeypreet who used to send women to Gurmeet’s ‘gufaa’ (cave), which turned out to be a plush bedroom. Dozens of such allegations were made. The society at large may be interested in these allegations, but in the eyes of police, these are not culpable or cognisable charges. The Haryana police is more interested in finding out what role Honeypreet had played in the instigation of violence by Gurmeet’s supporters in Panchkula and other parts after the fake godman was convicted by the CBI court. The police is also interested in knowing whether Honeypreet had planned to whisk away Gurmeet after he was convicted by the Panchkula court. Police is trying to figure out whether charges of sedition can be levelled against her. It will all depend on the line of questioning and investigation that the police will undertake.
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Why Did the Assassin Carry Out Such a Massacre in Las Vegas?

aaj ki baat 2nd OctOn Monday, almost everybody had this question: why did a 64-year-old American carry out the bloody massacre in Las Vegas? As federal investigators rummage through his residence and try to find out clues, nothing concrete has come out. It has been reported that he carried 28 guns to the 32nd-floor hotel room, along with thousands of bullets. He had been planning this for several days. He had placed two tripods to spray bullets from his guns on the crowd below. Normally, there may be three main reasons behind his motive: One, it could be because of terror leanings. Though the ISIS has taken responsibility and has claimed that the assassin converted to Islam several months ago, anything concrete is yet to emerge. Two, bipolar mental disorder, but there was no such background related to this killer. Three, immediate provocation. Unconfirmed reports say, he had a female companion with him. It could be that they had a quarrel with some people, and the assassin may have made up his mind to kill all. Yet nothing concrete has emerged on this front too. The horrible massacre raises questions about the dangers that emanate from the easy availability of guns in the US.

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A tragedy that could have been averted

mumbaiIt is really difficult to believe that Indian Railways today has overbridges that were built a century ago. Overbridges and bridges that were built by the British more than a hundred years ago. There is hardly a big country in the world where such outdated overbridges and bridges exist. The Elphinstone overbridge was narrow and was being used by nearly 300,000 passengers daily who travel in Mumbai’s suburban trains. Where do we stand, even after 70 years of independence? This is a frightening picture of the reality that exists today. It is the picture that points out to the fact that the life of a common Indian has become cheap. What was the crime of these passengers? Was it a crime that they were common people? Was it their crime to travel daily in jampacked suburban trains? Was it their crime that the stairs of the overbridge were so narrow that there was hardly any space for people to pass? Was it their crime that they were going to their offices despite rains? And now, even if a new overbridge is built, these unfortunate passengers will not get back their lives. Their deaths will constantly remind others that the life of a common Indian today is cheap. Questions have been raised as to why a new overbridge was not built despite prior warnings. Railway is an important part of our economy. Railway exists in a separate world. We are often told that the number of passengers who travel daily on our trains equals the population of Australia. Today’s stampede and the two recent train derailments clearly show that Indian Railway has been misused and mismanaged for the last 70 years because of political expediency. Issues like safety and restructuring were ignored. Most of the attention of Railway Ministers was devoted to running of new trains, and train halts in the constituencies of MPs. Former Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu claims he did much work in the last three years, but these three incidents prove otherwise.

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