'All rumours': Padmavati director stands his ground

In the midst of a raging controversy over his film Padmavati, its director Sanjay Leela Bhansali on Thursday appeared before a Parliamentary committee here and maintained that the row over his yet-to-be released movie was just based on rumours, strongly rejecting criticism that he had distorted historical facts about the 16th century Rajput queen.

Bhansali was grilled for over two hours by members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT as he appeared before it in Parliament House with Prasoon Joshi, who heads the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). Sources said  that the filmmaker was asked why he had screened the movie for a few select journalists even before it was cleared by the censor board. “All the controversy over the film is based on rumours. I have not distorted facts. The film is based on a poem by Malik Muhammad Jayasi,” Bhansali said, referring to the 16th century Indian sufi poet’s epic poem Padmavat. “We don’t intend to hurt anyone’s sentiments,” Bhansali told the 30-member panel headed by BJP MP Anurag Thakur. Among those who attended the meeting included Congress’ Raj Babbar and BJP patriarch L.K. Advani. The director has been given time till December 14 to reply to the panel. The Parliamentary panel had asked him to attend its meeting to explain his point of view as several states have threatened to block the screening of the film, whose release was scheduled for Friday. The film stoked controversy over assumptions that it has a dream sequence depicting romance between Rajput warrior queen Padmini and Delhi sultan Alauddin Khilji. Joshi told the panel that the censor board was yet to take a decision about the movie as it would be shown to regional and central screening committees. Earlier in the day, the censor board chief also appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Petitions to brief its members about the controversy. Joshi told the panel that the film had not yet been approved and the board only cleared the trailer and promos of the period film. The Rajput Karni Sena, an organisation of the Rajput community, has urged a nationwide ban on Bhansali’s Padmavati. Activists of the Sena and some other groups have been protesting against the movie, claiming it “distorts” historical facts. As six states, including Rajasthan, have already announced that they will not release the film, the Supreme Court on Tuesday took exception to people holding official positions making “prejudicial comments” about the movie, saying these breached the principle of rule of law. The apex court asked when the matter was pending for consideration before CBFC, how could persons in public authority comment on whether the censor board should issue certificate or not. (IANS) // ]]>

PC: Is the Chief Economic Advisor stupid too?

Sholay-style warnings, the Goods and Services Tax debate has now entered ‘stupid’ territory with a senior Congress leader invoking the word to lash out at Prime Minister Modi. On Thursday, former finance minister P. Chidambaram went after Prime Minister Narendra Modi for recently calling the Congress demand to cap GST at 18 per cent a “grand stupid thought”, asking if the government considered its Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian also stupid for voicing the same argument. “If it is grand stupid thought to argue for a cap of the tax rate at 18 per cent, then CEA Arvind Subramanian and many other economists are stupid. Is that what the PM is saying,” Chidambaram tweeted. The Congress leader then fired off more tweets to make his point.

At a rally in Gujarat’s Morbi on Wednesday, Modi had mocked “some intellectuals and economists” for misleading the country. “The Congress wants the same 18 per cent tax on something as essential as salt and something as expensive as Rs 5 crore worth car. They want 28 per cent tax on alcohol and costly cigarettes to be reduced to 18 per cent. “Do you want to sell cheap alcohol and spread cancer by selling cheap cigarettes? This is nothing but a grand stupid thought. There can’t be any bigger anti-poor and anti-middle class thought,” Modi had said. Single rate GST not possible, says Jaitley Asserting that a single rate Goods and Services Tax (GST) is not possible in the country, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday it is only applicable in a nation where the purchasing power of the people is uniform. “It is possible only in an economy where there is similarly placed population to have a single rate to start off with. In a highly differentiated society like India, it is not possible. Therefore we started with differential rates,” Jaitley said here at the HT Leadership Summit. “We had an atrocious tax system pre-July 1. These brackets would not have been possible if everyone were not on the same page. Let me make it clear, though, a single rate GST is not possible in India. We cannot have a tax system which has the same rate for a Hawai chappal and Mercedes car,” Jaitley asserted. The finance minister said the country will need a “boom period” like during 2003 to 2008 in order to achieve 10 per cent growth, which is a “challenging figure”. (with IANS) // ]]>

GDP growth rate rises after falling for 5 quarters

#IndiaUnstoppable : India’s GDP grows at 6.3% in second quarter of 2017-18 (July-September), up from 5.7% in previous quarter (April-June), as Modi government sets in the transformational reforms. pic.twitter.com/B0zvPQef7a

— BJP (@BJP4India) November 30, 2017 “The growth in the ‘agriculture, forestry and fishing’, ‘mining and quarrying’, ‘construction’, ‘financial, insurance, real estate and professional services’ and ‘public administration, defence and other services’ is estimated to be 1.7 per cent, 5.5 per cent, 2.6 per cent, 5.7 per cent and 6 per cent respectively, during this period,” the data said. Wait another 3-4 quarters, says Chidambaram

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Thursday said he was happy that the economy has registered a growth of 6.3 per cent in the latest quarter but still one cannot say whether this will mark an upward trend in the growth rate.

“I am happy that the July-Sept quarter has registered a growth rate of 6.3 per cent. This is a pause in the declining trend of the last five quarters. “But we cannot say now whether this will mark an upward trend in the growth rate. We should wait for the growth rates over the next 3-4 quarters before we can reach a definite conclusion,” Chidambaram said in his reaction to the latest GDP figures released by the Central Statistics Organisation (CSO).

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Top-class infrastructure in two decades: Jaitley

Expressing hope that India will be able to create “world class infrastructure” in another 20 years, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday said that his confidence in the timeline was based on how the country has become an “aspirational society” whose energies have been unleashed by the 1991 economic liberalisation.

Delivering the annual Defence Estates Day Lecture here, Jaitley said that in the quest for economic growth which would help improve the Indian state’s resources, the country hoped to gradually come up to the level of a middle-income nation as defined by multilateral agencies. “In the next two decades, hopefully, India will be able to say that it has developed infrastructure, which is as good as anywhere in the world,” Jaitley said. Noting that pre-1991, the country’s regulated economy and the “very modest rate of growth” did not permit much public spending on infrastructure, he said the situation had changed and “India today has the ability to afford world class infrastructure”. “Post the liberalisation of 1991, we were able to unleash the energy and potential of the Indian economy. India has standardised itself to a growth rate of seven to eight per cent and is now a nearly $2.5 trillion economy,” the Finance Minister said. Coupled with this, Indian society has become aspirational and supported reforms such as Aadhaar, demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) — all of which are promoting greater formalisation and digitisation of the economy and, therefore, greater resources for the state, he said. Declaring that investment in infrastructure is essential for growth and attracting foreign investment, Jaitley said that success areas in infrastructure like highways, airports and roads are where private investment has come in and consumers are willing to pay for use of the infrastructure. “It is a virtuous circle… without infrastructure, foreign investors will not come, so there is need to invest in this sector,” he said. “In Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, for instance, private ports have become more efficient and commercially viable than major ports. The Shipping Ministry now lets out berths to major private sector players,” he added. (IANS) // ]]>

India's global influence is growing, says PM Modi

‘Positive change since NDA came to power’

Modi said that there has been a “positive change” in the mindset and self-confidence of the people ever since his government came to power in 2014. “If we see the country as a living entity then the positive attitude that has come to India, was never before,” Modi said while addressing the inaugural session of the Hindutan Times Summit. Earlier the youth, women, farmers and the poor had minimal faith in the country’s resources, Modi said and added that now they trust the government and its resources. Emphasising that the citizens of India in 2014 not just voted to change the government, Modi said that people wanted and therefore voted for “change in system that will be permanent, stable and irreversible”. “Every where in the country, someone had to fight with the system day and night. I am trying and have committed that there will be irreversible change — ease of living will improve,” said Modi.

‘Aadhaar a weapon against benami properties’ Describing Aadhaar as a major “power” to bring about an “irreversible change” in the common man’s life, Modi on Thursday said that the Unique Identification Number will now be used in cases involving benami properties. “By linking Aadhaar to Mobile and Jan Dhan, we have created such a system that could not have been imagined few years back. “In last three years, with the help of Aadhaar, crores of fake names have been removed from the system. Now it is going to be a big weapon against benami properties,” Modi said while addressing the inaugural session of the Hindustan Times Summit. He said that the country saw a “behavioural change” after demonetisation, which helped in converting to a “clean and healthy economy”. “For the first time after Independence the corrupt people are scared of transacting in black money. They are scared of being caught. The black money which was earlier base of parallel economy, has now become part of formal economy,” he said. “Such an irreversible change is getting boost from Aadhaar. Aadhaar is such a power through which this government want to ensure rights of poor. It is also playing a big role in providing subsidised ration, scholarships, medicines, pensions and other government subsidies,” he said. He said the day the country would adopt maximum transactions via digital addresses, “organised crime would come to an end to some extent”. Modi said “big transformations” do not come easily and for it “hauling up of the entire system was needed”. “We can increase our ease of doing business ranking from 142 to 100 only when we take initiatives for big transformation,” Modi said. (IANS) // ]]>