News Feed 22-Aug ‘2016

Kamal Haasan to Get Prestigious French Honour

  • The French government will honor actor Kamal Haasan with the Chevalier de L’Ordre Arts et Lettres (The Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) which is part of France’s premier award The Legion of Honour. The French government honor excellence in arts by conferring the Chevalier award on 200 artists every year.
  • The French order of merit has three ranks chevalier (knight), officier (officer), commandeur (commander) and two high offices. The order of merit is awarded “to recognise eminent artists and writers, as well as people who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world.”
  • Haasan made his film debut at four as a child artist in ‘Kalathur Kannamma’ (1959). Till date, he has won four national awards, 19 Filmfare awards besides being honoured by the Centre with ‘Padmashree’ and ‘Padmabhushan’.
  • The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) is an Order of France, established on 2 May 1957 by the Minister of Culture, and its supplementary status to the Ordre national du Mérite was confirmed by President Charles de Gaulle in 1963. Its purpose is the recognition of significant contributions to the arts, literature, or the propagation of these fields.

China’s High Speed Train Maker Launches Operations in India

  • China’s largest high speed train maker has announced that its first USD 63.4 million combined venture plant in India to renovate and manufacture railway locomotive engines has started operations.
  • The state-run China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) is the first foreign company to set up assembly line of rail transportation equipment in India after Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled his ambitious ‘Make in India’ campaign in 2014.
  • The joint venture named CRRC Pioneer (India) Electric Co. Ltd. is housed in Haryana.
  • The plant was set up with an investment USD 63.4 million and the Chinese side holds 51 per cent of the share. The Indian plant will repair and manufacture railway locomotive engines.
  • It will also provide technology support to India’s rail system and supply electric transmission systems to oil drilling, wind power generation and mining equipment making in India.
  • This is China’s first major investment in Indian Railways after the two worked out a multi-pronged collaboration for Chinese participation in the modernisation of Indian railway systems.
  • While Indian Railway engineers are getting trained in China in heavy hauling, China is also cooperating with India to set up a railway university similar to the one it developed.
  • Besides the high speed train, India and China have agreed to cooperate to identify the technical inputs required to increase speed on the existing railway line from Chennai to Mysore via Bangalore.
  • China is also conducting feasibility study to build a high speed railway line between Chennai and New Delhi.
  • Japan has bagged the first bullet train project to build a high speed rail line between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.
  • In a statement by CRRC Vice President Yu Weiping, the new plant will create jobs and tax revenue for local people and help improve infrastructure.
  • It will advance cooperation in industrial capacity and local equipment manufacturing, he said.
  • India has one of the world’s largest railway networks spanning about 64,000 kilometres.
  • Since its presence in the Indian market in 2007, CRRC has supplied it with subway trains, locomotive engines and other railway vehicles and parts.
  • CRRC, formed from the merger of former rivals CNR Corp. and China CSR, has been aggressively reaching out to overseas markets, exporting rail transportation equipment to 101 countries and regions.
  • Its first plant in North America started operations in September 2015 in Massachusetts.

End of British-era Legacy? Next Budget May be Presented in January

  • The government is looking to change the British-era legacy of presenting the Union Budget on the last day of February and may advance the date by a month.
  • While a final decision is yet to be taken, sources said the government is considering completing the budget exercise before the end of the financial year on March 31 so that policy transmission is faster and departments are able to spend the funds from the start of the year instead of waiting until May for money to be actually allocated.
  • Currently, the budget process — including passage of the Appropriations Bill for expenditure and the Finance Bill for tax changes — are cleared by the Parliament in the first or second week of May.
  • Along with the Budget, the government seeks parliamentary approval for undertaking spending during the few weeks of new financial year. The move comes at a time when the Centre has decided upon introducing a slew of changes in economic policy from next financial year, along with changes in the way the budget has been presented.
  • The Constitution does not stipulate a date for presentation of the Budget. Until 1999, the Budget was presented at 5 pm, in keeping with the British tradition. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, however, changed the time to 11 am, snapping its links with colonial legacy. The review comes ahead of UP polls, which in 2012 had forced the UPA regime to defer the Budget to March.
  • Separately, the government has set up a panel to review the financial year and the committee is expected to present its report later in the year. A change in the date will also force finance ministry to rework budget calendar with review meetings starting in September or early October.

To Clamp Down on Black Money, Government Set to Ban Cash Transactions Over Rs 3 Lakh

  • The government is set to ban cash transactions over Rs 3 lakh as it seeks to clamp down on black money in the economy following recommendations from the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team.
  • The government, however, is yet to decide on the SIT’s other proposal to bar cash holdings over Rs 15 lakh due to opposition from trade and industry.
  • The Rs 3 lakh-limit is aimed to ensure that transactions are made using credit or debit cards, cheques or drafts which can be easily tracked. Despite the crackdown on unaccounted money, authorities continue to unearth several transactions involving purchase of jewellery or even cars in all-cash deals.
  • The finance ministry is also trying to promote use of plastic money and recently did away with transaction charges for government services. In the past, businesses have cited payments to workers, especially smaller players, to justify large cash holdings. But the argument is seen to have become weak in the wake of a spurt in number of bank accounts, especially after Jan Dhan was launched two years ago.
  • The government has already initiated several steps, including banning cash advance of more than Rs 20,000 for property transactions. The move came after income tax raids revealed unaccounted cash was often attributed to “recently concluded property transactions”. A similar limit has been placed on repayment of bank loans. The SIT had suggested the twin moves citing examples of countries such as France and Italy, which allow transactions up to a certain limit.
  • The panel argued that cash transactions of over Rs 20,000 were rampant and often tax was not being deducted at source as prescribed under the law.


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