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February 28, 2001 - March 1, 2001

Budget reforms excise duty structure, widens service tax Thursday, March 1, 2001

New Delhi, Feb 28 (PTI) The 2001-02 Indian Budget on Wednesday drastically reformed the excise duty structure by bringing in single CENVAT rate, widened the service tax net to 14 more items, removed all Income tax surcharge except two per cent Gujarat levy, attempted major labour reforms and dereserved 14 small-scale sectors.
Blending income tax sops with increased excise duty on several items by moving on to a single rate 16 per cent Central Value Added Tax (CENVAT) excise duty, Federal Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha slapped a 15 per cent special surcharge on cigarettes, bidis and Pan Masalas to replenish the National Calamity Fund in the wake of Gujarat Earthquake.

While personal and corporate income tax rates have not been changed, some sops have been given to lower salaried people in the form of reliefs under section 88 and a hike in the deduction of interests on housing loans for self-occupied property from Rs 100,000 to 1,50,000.

Presenting his fourth Budget in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament), Sinha brought up all eight per cent excise duty items excepting LPG, Kerosene, diesel engines upto 10 hp and cotton yarn to 16 per cent single rate CENVAT.

Diesel and petrol will attract higher 16 per cent excise duty but consumers have been promised that the burden would not be passed on to them.

Pegging the coming year's fiscal deficit at 4.7 per cent of GDP in line with the Fiscal Responsibility legislation, Sinha has rationalised subsidies by decontrolling urea and announced plans for restructuring state electricity boards.

The Finance Minister hiked the Defence outlay by Rs 75.39 billion, provided for interest payment of Rs 116.33 billion and grants to state governments of Rs 22.21 billion which in all would carry non-plan expenditure to a level of Rs 2751.23 billion against Rs 2492.84 billion in revised estimate for the current year.

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Opposition calls this Budget as 'anti poor' Thursday, March 1, 2001

NEW DELHI, Feb 28 (Narad Online): The Union government earns major part of every rupee through borrowings and spends biggest portion of every rupee towards interest payment.

27 paise of every rupee earned come from Borrowings whereas Excise brings 19 paise, Customs 12 paise and Non-tax Revenue 16 paise, according to the Union Budget for 2001-02 which the Union Finance Minister presented in Parliament today.

On the other hand, Interest Payments account for 26 paise of every rupee spent followed by expenditure on Defence at 14 paise, Central Plan at 14 paise and States' share of taxes and duties again at 14 paise of every rupee spent.

State's share of taxes, duties and assistance provided to them together account for 23 per cent of the government's expenditure, with nine paise of every rupee earned going into State and Union Territory Plan Assistance.

While corporate tax accounted for 10 paise of every rupee earned this fiscal, income tax collections accounted for nine per cent of the country's earnings in 2001-02.

The government spent up to 12 per cent of its revenue generated on `other non-plan expenditure' in 2000-01 whereas non-plan assistance to states and Union Territories accounted for four paise of every rupee spent during the year.

The subsidy bill accounts for only seven paise of every rupee earned, according to the Union Budget for 2001-02.

On the earnings side, the government mopped up a mere one paisa for every rupee earned under the head of other taxes while non-debt capital receipts accounted for six paise of every rupee earned during the fiscal under review.

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Cigarette, tea, coffee up; gold, cement, soft drink cheaper Thursday, March 1, 2001

New Delhi, Feb 28 (PTI) Cigarette, pan masala and commonman's beverages tea and coffee will now cost more while soft drinks and gold will be cheaper thanks to the new tax proposals announced by Federal Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha in his Budget on Wednesday.
Sinha announced wideranging changes in the existing duty rates to fulfill the twin objective of simplifying the tax procedure and increasing revenue both in direct and indirect taxes, including customs and excise.

Guided by the pressures of earthquake in western state of Gujarat and his concern for the health of the economy, Sinha came heavily on tobacco and tobacco-products and levied a 15 per cent surcharge to support the national calamity contingency fund.

Although the Finance Minister increased the excise duty on motor spirit and high speed diesel oil to 16 per cent, Sinha pointed out that the burden of the duty hike would not be passed on to the consumers.

The custom duty on tea, coffee, copra and coconut has been raised from 35 to 70 per cent, while in the refined oil the custom duty has been hiked upto 85 per cent across the board excpet for soyabean oil at 45 per cent.

To allay the fears of surge in imports of second hand cars in the country after abolition of quantitative restrictions in April this year, the government raised the basic import duty to 105 per cent taking the total duty to over 180 per cent.

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INN national convention on HIV and AIDS concludes Wednesday, February 28, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The fifth National Convention of Indian Network of NGOs (INN) on HIV/AIDS was held at the Gandhi Labour Institute in Ahmedabad between February 23 and February 25.

Over 102 participants from eight countries attended the meet which was hosted by the Gujarat AIDS Awareness and Prevention (GAP) unit of ISRCDE.

A series of recommendations emerged including the decision to formulate a policy paper within a year that should have major implications on both the national and state levels and allow for more effective co-ordination and co-operation between the government and NGOs.

Another area of concern was that progress by Indian pharmaceutical companies in making new medical developments available to people living with HIV/AIDS, the drugs were still within the reach of the more affluent only. This despite the cost being well below international prices. It was felt that this problem would worsen once the manufacturing cost advantage was lost on the TRIPPS patent regime coming into force in 2005. Steps to work with the government towards providing facilities by the government hospitals, similar to those provided for TB and cancer patients and insuring access of drugs to all HIV/AIDS affected persons were discussed by INN.

This included the removal of the excise and customs burden from indigenously produced and sold HIV drugs. The CERC (Ahmedabad) and Lawyers Collective (New Delhi) offered its resources towards protecting Indian consumer interests in the HIV/AIDS sector.

An initiative that has been successfully implemented in South Africa by the Indian pharmaceutical company, CIPLA, is a subsidised drug therapy package that is distributed through both local government assistance and qualified NGOs. A similar scheme is being offered by the company in India if supervised, distribution, monitoring and medical follow-up is provided. INN will work with CIPLA to see how best the idea can be materialised in India.

A major objective of the convention was to discuss the empowerment of women for their sexual safety and access to related drugs. Megan Gottemoeller of the CHANGE programme (USA) stressed on the need for developing research on Topical Microbicides that could substantially reduce transmission of sexually transmitted infections. Use of the female condom combined with the male condom and various other contraceptives were discussed. With awareness that this can be an effective tool for women in controlling their sexual and reproductive health, this contraceptive method is gradually gaining ground. Mitchell Warren of the Female Health Company (UK) discussed the implications following a presentation.

The need for information and lacunae in available data was addressed and it was decided that a website by INN with the assistance of UNAIDS would be a useful point of referral and reference.

Other areas, particularly the more sensitive issues concerning human rights and social and political implications were also discussed.

The three-day meet was inaugurated by Governor Sundar Singh Bhandari. In his opening address Ashok Bhatt (chairman - voluntary organisations, GoG) called for a return to traditional values in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

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Case against Hare Krishna Apartment builders Wednesday, February 28, 2001

SURAT: Exactly a month after the collapse of the multi-storeyed Hare Krishna apartment near Bhatar Road in the killer quake, a case was registered against the builders with the city police on Monday. The Hare Krishna apartment crumbled like a pack of cards, claiming 23 lives, in the January 26 quake.

Deputy commissioner of police (south) PK Roushan told The Times of India that a case has been registered by one resident of the Hare Krishna apartment against the builders under charges of causing death due to negligence.

An official at Umra police station said that one Shyam Kumar Chimanlal Khana, a resident of Hare Krishna apartment, lodged a complaint against the builders Kishore Sohanlal Telwala, Mahavir Prasad Jain, Rajendra Khaitan, Naresh Aggrawal, Mangatu Ram Narsinnhlal, Shankar Lal Goyal, Sudash Jain, Sunilbhai Kapadia, contractor Madhubhai and all those associated with the construction of the building.

When asked for the delay in filing the complaint by the aggrieved party, sources said that there were attempts on the part of both the builders and the survivors to go for an out of court settlement. Failing to strike a deal, the complainant got the case registered with the local police, sources informed.

Meanwhile, the examination report of the sample building materials of the apartment was still awaited by the city police. A senior police official said that it would take another two weeks to get the final report on the quality of the construction materials used in that building.

Based on the report, the nature of the case would be established as to whether any sub-standard construction materials were used or not.

The city police is still waiting for some concrete evidence to frame a case so that the accused is not able to escape from the legal net, said a senior police officer.

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