Tax rates for companies in India are among the highest in
the world and the number of payments is also more than the global average,
putting the country at a low 158th rank on the ‘Paying Taxes 2014’ list.
However, the time taken for tax payments is relatively
less in India, which is rated ahead of China and Japan where it takes 318
hours and 330 hours, respectively, to comply with tax regulations, according
to a World Bank and PwC report.
According to the report, the total tax rate in India can
be as high as 62.8 per cent, there are as many as 33 payments under the head
of profit, labour and other taxes, and the time taken to comply with
taxation requirements could be as much as 243 hours.
India was placed 158th position in the overall ranking of
paying taxes, above Brazil (159th) and below the Russian Federation (56th)
and China, which was ranked 120th.
The United Arab Emirates was in first place, followed by
Qatar and Saudi Arabia in second and third positions in the overall
ranking.The report noted that in South Asia, India is the only economy (of
eight) with a complete online system for fling and paying taxes.
‘’Paying Taxes 2014’’ investigates and compares tax
regimes across 189 economies worldwide, ranking them according to the
relative ease of paying taxes. The period covered by the study was 2004 to
The long-delayed and much-awaited $2.3 billion aircraft
carrier INS Vikramaditya was inducted into the Indian Navy in a strategic
boost to India's maritime warfare capabilities.
The mammoth 44,500-tonne warship was commissioned into
the Indian Navy at the Sevmash Shipyard in the northern Arctic port at a
handing over ceremony attended by defence minister AK Antony and Russian
deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin and senior government and naval
officials of the two countries.
During the several weeks that the Vikramaditya aircraft
carrier underwent trials, a Norwegian NATO intelligence vessel kept company,
steadily building up an electronic dossier.This was a follow-up to last year
when a NATO maritime surveillance aircraft heavily buzzed the same ship,
dropping buoys to pick up an acoustic profile.
The game is not just old, it is one that Vikramaditya has
played in an earlier avatar — as Soviet aircraft cruiser Baku, patrolling
the Mediterranean in the late 1980s. However, the intense interest
inVikramaditya — whose name literally translates as Strong as the Sun — now
comes from the extensive refit and modernisation it has gone through.
For a Navy that is proud of its legacy of operating
aircraft carriers, the Vikramaditya is like no other ship it has had in the
fleet before. It is the Navy's biggest ship for one — surpassing INS Viraat
by 10,000 tonnes — and one of the most potent aircraft carriers in this side
of the world, in fact the first 'new' ship of its class to be based in the
Indian Ocean in over two decades. While India had to acquire older
technology often in the past due to non-willingness of nations to share
strategic assets, the Vikramaditya with its MiG-29K fighters is top of its
The Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry asked the
Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA), the national
insurance regulator, to remove, from its draft circular, provisions that
exclude people living with HIV (PLHIV) from purchasing health insurance
The Department of AIDS Control (DAC), formerly the
National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), told in a letter to the IRDA,
that the draft circular’s standard underwriting guidelines for life
insurance products perpetuated the exclusion of PLHIV from current and new
products, as well as the standard waiting period for PLHIV.
Approximately 21 lakh people are living with HIV in the
country who are denied health and life insurance for other diseases if they
test HIV-positive. According to the proposal , insurance products of both
group and individual type should also be available for widows and children
and they should be able to purchase it without getting excluded. Since
widows and children are more vulnerable, special efforts should be made so
that they are not excluded.
The DAC had set up a technical working group to work out
the means of including PLHIV under insurance products. The technical working
group had recommended that there should be at least one health insurance
product offered by each insurance company where HIV/AIDS is removed from the
PLHIV shall not be excluded from the group health
insurance plans, which are generally offered by insurance companies to
employers and must be included in the government-funded mass health
insurance schemes targeted at the poor and other vulnerable sections of
The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, will be
hosting the highest level global summit to date on combating the illegal
wildlife trade in London.The summit next February, to which 50 heads of
state have been invited, aims to tackle the $19 billion-a-year illegal trade
in endangered animals, such as elephants and rhinos, by delivering an
unprecedented political commitment along with an action plan and the
mobilisation of resources.
Elephant ivory and rhino horn are worth more than illegal
diamonds or gold, and the proceeds have been used by rebel groups in African
countries, such as al-Shabaab in Somalia and the Lords Resistance Army in
the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Heads of state from many African countries are expected
to attend and the countries where the products are sold, including China and
Vietnam, will be represented, though the level of representation is not yet
The summit will be chaired by Foreign Secretary William
Hague and Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.
The level of wildlife crime has soared in recent years,
driven by demand form the rapidly expanding middle classes in Asia who value
tiger, elephant and rhino products as status symbols. In South Africa 13
rhinos were killed in 2007, but the tally to date in 2013 is 860. 2012 was
the worst year for ivory seizures, with the equivalent of the tusks of
30,000 elephants confiscated.
There have also been efforts to tackle the popularity of
shark fin soup in Asia, which is one of the reasons that around 100 million
sharks are killed annually. Wildaid, a group that uses donated advertising
to change public attitudes, has run a campaign on state TV in China
featuring movie star Jackie Chan and basketball legend Yao Ming, against
shark fin soup.
The Italian Senate expelled Silvio Berlusconi over his
tax fraud conviction , drawing a defiant response from the veteran
centre-right leader who vowed to continue leading his party and fight on
The vote, after months of political wrangling, opens an
uncertain new phase in Italian politics, with the 77-year-old media billionaire
preparing to use all his extensive resources to attack Prime Minister Enrico
Letta's coalition government.
Berlusconi, who has dominated politics in Italy for two
decades, has already pulled his party out of Letta's coalition after seven
months in government, accusing leftwing opponents of mounting a "coup d'etat" to
Stripped of his parliamentary immunity from arrest, he is
more vulnerable in a series of other cases, where he is accused of offences
including political bribery and paying for sex with a minor.
However he no longer commands enough support in parliament to
bring down the government, which easily won a confidence vote on the 2014 budget
late on Tuesday with the support of around 30 dissidents who split off from
Forza Italia .
The Senate declared Berlusconi ineligible for parliament
after he was convicted of masterminding a complex system of illegally inflated
invoices to cut the tax bill for his Mediaset television empire.
Career infantry officer Gen Raheel Sharif, considered to
be a moderate and an old India hand, has taken over the command of the
600,000-strong Pakistan Army from Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Gen Kayani, the longest serving army chief under a civilian
government, passed the baton of command to 57-year- old Gen Sharif at an
impressive ceremony held at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi.
Gen Sharif was chosen by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as the
15th chief of the Pakistan Army .
The army chief is considered to be the most powerful person
in Pakistan, with the military having ruled the country for more than half its
Gen Sharif, who holds the Hilal-i-Imtiaz award, is the
younger brother of highly decorated Major Shabbir Sharif, who was killed in the
1971 war with India.
He had superseded senior most military officer Lt Gen Haroon
Aslam to the post. Aslam took early retirement .
Before his last posting as a Principal Staff Officer in
General Headquarters, Sharif commanded the Gujranwala-based XXX Corps, which is
responsible for the Line of Control and the international border in Punjab,
between 2010 and 2012.
He is considered an old India hand and played a key role in
framing Pakistan's response to the Indian Army's new doctrines.
Sebastian Vettel won Formula One’s season-ending
Brazilian Grand Prix , matching Michael Schumacher’s record of 13 victories
in a year and equalling the nine consecutive wins of Alberto Ascari.
Vettel’s Red Bull teammate Mark Webber was second in his
final F1 race. Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was third.
Vettel, who had already wrapped up a fourth straight F1
title, was overtaken by Nico Rosberg of Mercedes at the start but regained
the lead on the second lap and cruised to his second victory in Brazil, and
39th of his career. He crossed the line 10.4 seconds in front of Webber.
Jenson Button was fourth for McLaren’s best finish of the
season. Rosberg was fifth.
The win capped an impressive season by Vettel, who had
already broken Schumacher’s 2004 mark of seven straight wins in the same
season last week at the United States GP. Vettel matched the 13 wins by
Schumacher that same year, and equaled Ascari’s record of straight victories
from 1952-53. The 26-year-old Vettel clinched the title at the Indian GP,
becoming the youngest driver to win four world championships.
Webber, who had won two of the last four races in Brazil,
will be joining Porsche in a sports car series in 2014. The 37-year-old
Australian spent 12 seasons in F1, winning nine times and reaching the
podium 33 times in 216 races.
One of the worst- kept secrets of the human resource
development ministry is the fact that education in India is in a mess.
Explosive expansion over the last two decades has failed to mask appalling
standards of quality: in this, indeed, we are now at the very bottom of the
In 2011, India first participated in world- wide tests of
the reading and arithmetical ability of school children. In every test, in
every grade tested, India competed desperately with Kyrgyzstan for the last
two places. These tests confirmed the results obtained earlier by another
organization: in schoollearning outcomes, in 2003, India was among the five
worst countries in the world. In the eight years between the tests, we had
The reactions of the government were entirely
predictable. It did nothing about the facts revealed. Claiming that the
tests were biased against us, it withdrew India from future world- wide
testing. Unfortunately for the government, a very Indian NGO, Pratham, was
also testing educational outcomes.
Its revelations were every bit as shocking. To cite just
one, less than 20 per cent of Vadodara fourth graders could do sums required
for average first- grade competency. We had flunked at the primary level.
Our performance at the other end of the spectrum was reflected in the recent
QS rankings of universities world- wide. No Indian university figured in the
top 200. Some IITs appeared in the 200- 350 range, but the only other Indian
institutions in the top 800 were the Universities of Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta
and Pune, which sneaked in near the bottom of the distribution. The rankings
done by the Times Higher Education Supplement, the US News and World Report
and the Shanghai- based Centre for World Class Universities were similar.
Our ranks were abysmal — not because these rankings were dominated by the
affluent West or Japan or the ' tiger economies'. Kazakhstan alone had 9
universities in the top 800. We were outranked by dozens of universities
from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, South Africa and
— yes — Pakistan. Nor did our predicament reflect the overwhelming pressure
Jawaharlal Nehru University ranked among the top 50
universities of the world in faculty- student ratio ( the inverse of
overcrowding), yet had little else to show for it. In academic
accomplishment, as in sports, India, for all its 1.2 billion people, was a
But while in sports the reasons are in part genetic,
there is no genetic explanation of our pathetic scholastic achievements.
Children of Indian ( and Chinese) immigrants are the highest performers in
American schools. And while immigrants naturally constitute a biased sample,
a genetically handicapped group cannot possibly register such spectacular
success. The problem lies not in us but in our educational system.
Innumerable deficiencies of the latter have been highlighted — from mass
teacher absenteeism to lack of infrastructure and of teaching and study
Pratham's studies, however, suggest that, while
absenteeism certainly affects outcomes, infrastructural expenditure does
not. The crucial factor is the match between the student's absorptive
capacity and the level at which he or she is taught. Pratham's tests
conclusively establish that when weaker students are taught separately ( as
in Pratham's Balsakhi programme), their scores improve dramatically.
Teaching needs to be tailored to the ability of the
specific student. A heterogeneous class needs to be stratified according to
ability levels with those at each level being taught separately.
This elementary educational principle has eluded the
authors of the Right to Education Act and its judicial interpreters. If
resource constraints preclude several teachers teaching at different levels
in each class, the class must itself be homogenized. The only way of doing
so is to deny promotion from lower classes to those who have not attained
the minimum standard required.
Instead, the act mandates automatic promotion up to Class
VIII. In consequence, laggards learn nothing at all: they fall further and
further behind the general level with each successive promotion and reach
Class VIII with an educational backlog of many wasted years. En route , they
enact shockers like the Vadodara drama that Pratham recorded. Teachers who
are sensitive to the plight of laggards have to reduce their teaching
standards; the better students are then no longer intellectually stimulated
so that their intellectual potential is undermined.
Our passion for political correctness, for the symbols,
not the substance, of equal opportunity perpetuates mass ignorance under the
garb of the right to education. We establish our egalitarian credentials by
giving educationally backward children access to an educational process
that, we have ensured (again in the name of equality), is completely opaque
Precisely the same problem bedevils our universities. The
gradual expansion of reservations has increased diversity in each class, not
only in student backgrounds but also in their academic preparedness — with
no provision however for parallel teaching at different levels.
The teacher therefore faces an invidious choice: he can
teach at a level commensurate with proclaimed course content and confront
the blank, uncomprehending stares of half the class or pitch his teaching
several levels lower, inducing boredom in the other half and ensuring that
they cannot compete with students of their own age educated in university
systems less pseudo- egalitarian than ours. The politician's solution:
dilute standards of evaluation and admission everywhere, turning
universities into factories for mass production of degrees not worth the
paper they are written on. Meanwhile, as education expands, semi- literate
degree- holders become teachers, transmitting their ignorance to posterity.
Israel, with its inflow of Jewish immigrants from quite
incredibly diversified backgrounds, not only the affluent US and western
Europe, but regions like Yemen, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Mizoram, has
heterogeneity problems as complex, though not as numerous, as ours. Unlike
us, however, Israel has a solution. Students below minimum general standards
are allowed an additional year for their degrees.
This is a preliminary year of compulsory intensive
preparation to catch up with the general average. At year- end, they take
next year's admission tests and join the general stream if they reach the
minimum standards required — and 95 per cent of them do. Could we, for the
sake of the future of our education, implement such a scheme? One doubts
that the politicians in government and in education will permit it: it
offers no electoral dividend.
The interim nuclear accord between Iran and the
international community, announced after tense negotiations in Geneva, is
historic for two reasons. Taken to its logical conclusion in the coming
months, the deal promises to end Iran's prolonged nuclear confrontation with
the world, strengthen the global non-proliferation regime and reduce the
dangers of war in the Middle East. Second, emerging from secret talks
between Washington and Tehran over the last many months, the deal lays the
foundation for a long overdue rapprochement between America and Iran.
As it creates possibilities for new geopolitical
equations in a very critical region, the nuclear agreement has already
stirred a big backlash in the United States and the Middle East. Hardliners
and ideologues in America and Iran will accuse their governments of giving
away too many concessions. Some of the predictable hostility is rooted in
the demonisation of each other over many decades. But a close look at the
terms of what is being called the "first step" nuclear agreement suggests
sensible give and take that would instil mutual confidence and facilitate
talks for a final resolution of the nuclear dispute. For its part, Iran has
agreed to freeze some of the sensitive activities of its nuclear programme
and roll back others. Iran is now open to unprecedented international
inspections to verify its commitments under the accord. The international
community, in turn, has given modest relief from the massive sanctions
regime that has been constructed in recent years against Iran. To be sure,
the terms of the deal are reversible in practice. The deal, however, opens
the door to a comprehensive settlement which would ensure that Iran's
nuclear programme remains peaceful, in return for an end to the
international economic blockade against Tehran.
Time is of the essence for Iran's President Hassan
Rouhani, who is acutely aware that the present window of political
opportunity at home to negotiate with the US will not last too long.
President Barack Obama is under fire from Israel and the Gulf Arab states,
especially Saudi Arabia, who fear that a US-Iran détente will make them
vulnerable to Tehran's rising regional clout. Meanwhile, the US Congress
threatens to undermine the deal by pushing for more sanctions against Iran.
As Obama and Rouhani move forward in a political minefield, India has a
major opportunity to raise its diplomatic profile in the region, where it
has so much at stake. Delhi, which has welcomed the nuclear deal, must step
up its engagement with all the major players in the region, for the Middle
East will not be the same as the prospects for Iran's reconciliation with
The story of Rajesh Talwar and his wife Nupur Talwar is a
modern-day tragedy: from a successful professional couple who doted on their
teenage daughter, they have now come to be described as filicidal freaks who
“extirpated” their own progeny. The two dental surgeons have been sentenced
to life terms for murdering their 14-year-old daughter Aarushi, and domestic
worker Hemraj, in May 2008 after detecting a sexual liaison between the girl
and the live-in help. And, according to the verdict, they hid the servant’s
body on the terrace, dressed up the crime scene, secreted the weapons used —
a golf club and a surgical scalpel that surfaced long after the probe began
— and misled the police by giving a complaint that Hemraj was missing and
was therefore the culprit. The investigation begun by the local police was
widely seen as a botch-up: it took them a whole day to come to know that the
body of the ‘suspect’, Hemraj, had been lying on the terrace all along; the
crime scene was largely unprotected. The judgment caps a see-saw
investigation in which more than one theory was probed and none could be
confirmed with cogent evidence. At one stage, the Central Bureau of
Investigation, which took over the probe from the Noida police, gave other
suspects a clean chit and said the Talwars were indeed involved, but it had
no prosecutable evidence against them. It filed a closure report, but the
court rejected it and went ahead with the trial based on available
The defence raised several doubts about the prosecution
version, including the absence of a motive, and claimed that alternative
possibilities were ruled out without adequate investigation. Ultimately, the
court went by the fact that they had no explanation for the “incriminating
circumstances” in which they found themselves. They were the only ones in
the house at the relevant time, as the two remaining occupants were dead.
And there was no sign of a forced entry. The trial court’s conclusions will
be tested in the High Court on appeal. Like other sensational cases — a term
that invariably refers to ones on which the media bestow extra attention —
this case too saw the mainstream and social media resorting to wild
speculation and heated discussions. Normally, trial court judgments are
expected to give a quietus to all doubts about the guilt or innocence of
suspects, but given the media frenzy, it is doubtful whether the outcome
turns only on evidence in such cases. Alternative theories abound in the
public domain, making it difficult for investigators and judges to go solely
by the quality and adequacy of the evidence, and not be influenced by public
opinion. They have a duty to convince the public at the end of the trial
that they have allayed all reasonable doubts.