Somesh Arora: Draconian law of DGFT

FTDR Act, 92 can learn a few lessons from Big Brother Customs Act, 62:  The compact  Foreign Trade Development and (Regulation) Act, 1992 having total of 20 sections has only one section i.e. section 11 and only one penalty under that section i.e. in section 11(2) for all kinds of contraventions.

The concerned penalty clause reads: “Where  any  person makes or abets or attempts to make  any export or import in contravention of any provision of this Act or any rules or orders made thereunder or the  export and  import policy, he shall be liable to a  penalty not exceeding  one thousand rupees or five times the value  of the goods in respect of which any contravention is made or attempted to be made, whichever is more.”

For an Act which has the underlying objective of trade and export promotion, this penal provision turns out to be quite a liability as it prescribes a mandatory penalty up to five times of the value of goods. Therefore, all of a sudden we have cases where importers under EPCG license who could not export but had duty liability of a few lakhs are faced with penalties of crores of rupees because of the value of the machines involved.

Even under the Customs Act, 1962, the maximum penalties in most cases are up to 100 per cent of duty or value involved. Who can then say that shocks are mostly delivered by the Revenue Department?

The worst is that the officers of DGFT under law have no choice than to either impose such penalty or to impose no penalty at all. For once, DOR is more trade friendly than DGFT.

Gateman to godman

For Ichhadhari Baba Swami Bhimanand Dwivedi, the journey has indeed been colourful. From guarding  gates of a hotel to dancing to the tunes of filmi songs on Sai sandhya and now cooling his heels in jail. But then Baba has the illustrious company of Nityananda Paramhansa from south to match his deeds. The latter being a darling of the Banglore corporate world and known to be charging Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 per discourse per person (inclusive of service tax, I can vouch for it!). The list of allegations against established babas continues to grow unabated whether it be Baba Ram Rahim Singh or Asaram Bapu. The gullible public and public figures continue to get cheated, time and again after a span of some years, by some new star emerging on the horizon. Came to think of it... Why can`t we have a ‘Baba Regulatory Authority’ with a retired senior bureaucrat on extension  heading the organisation with the entrusted task of regulating the babas and having a ‘Baba Certification Agency’ under its wings giving the ratings to the Babas ranging from one star to five stars—  depending upon heinous nature or otherwise of the  alleged crimes committed by them.

Negative agricultural growth

With the Economic Survey presented just before the Budget indicating that India has after quite some time gone back to negative growth of agriculture sector (mercifully, it was minus.2% only), one really wonders if India`s growth story of the recent years has not been a saga of cars, televisions and refrigerators occupying more space of Mother India and big fours of agriculture ( i.e wheat, rice, pulses and sugar) occupying less on aam aadmi`s platter.

MNIK: Ad services should have ‘publicity through controversy’

With all the publicity generated just before the release of the picture My Name is Khan’ and with all of it dying within days of its release. One seriously wonders whether the definition of ‘Advertising Services’ should not include even the advertisement by generating controversy with in its ambit.

Is pre-1977 position on visas needed?

More than 15 dead in blast. Most of them students who had gone to study in Pune. The ‘Mombati’ crowd as usual, on the streets at night, as if Pakistan is going to be impressed by it. One really wonders at times, if opening of travel ties with Pakistan has helped India in any way or has become a constant headache enabling agents of ISI to penetrate India with consistent ease and indulge in their nefarious designs. Pakistan does not budge and just marks its time whenever any diplomatic pressure is mounted on it. Talks with Pakistan are of no avail because you have to deal with five Pakistans instead of one. Number of Pakistani citizens who come and do not go back after visa is increasing every year. The opposition keeps blaming ruling party of going soft on Pak, when it itself opened doors to its people, providing mechanism for ISI to penetrate . Why can’t revertal to pre-1977 status be considered as one of the options?

Mehangai: How it can be afforded by parties?

Had recently the benefit of talking to a friend in politics, who was kind enough to explain the political maths of why the inflation control is not high on the agenda of most political parties. The explanation was interesting. That`s because, for 30% to 40% rich Indians, the prices of pulses, wheat etc. do not matter even if these are Rs 1,000 per kg and also these people do not matter to political parties because they come to polling booths only if followed by cameras of TV channels or if polling booths are air-conditioned. The other class, which is about 40-45% and being poor comes to vote since voting is incentivised for them, are too happy to vote for the party which gives them BPL card and rations at lower prices.

The disparity and bigger gap between market and ration prices providing to them added reason to cheer. The last and the most affected, i.e. middle class, also does not matter as very little of its 20% to 30%  number actually votes as they are strong believers in Drawing Room Democracy and like more to debate votes than to cast it. Therefore, the winning political mantra is — Ensure BPL supplies and forget the rest.

Innovative betting

With the lottery services, games of chance, Bingo etc. being taxed as a separate service in the latest budget, the lottery can be assured of its survival. Betting, which is till now illegal  but highly prevalent in India, will also be sooner or later legalised. After all better to allow our own government to earn money rather than Dubai-based syndicates to do it. In any case what is the difference between betting and horse racing bets, I have failed to understand. Presuming it is so done, then there will be interesting bets to choose from (being ready mix of politics, sports, finance etc.) :

 Whether SAD refund filed today be sanctioned or India`s first manned mission to moon return, earlier?

 Whether India`s next road policy will be to allow roads with pits to exist or to construct smooth roads with barricades and speed breakers at every 10 mts.?

Whether five or more MPs will be found napping on camera on a particular day  during coverage of parliamentary proceedings?

Whether GST will come first or will Sachin achieve his 100 tons in cricket earlier?