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HP Govt Urges Punjab, Haryana Govts to Ply Common Train for Evacuation of People Stranded in North-Eastern States

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Himachali stranded in north-eastern states

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government has urged the State Governments of Haryana and Punjab to coordinate for plying a common train for the evacuation of people belonging to Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab stranded in the North-Eastern States of India.

In letters written to the Chief Minister of Haryana Manohar Lal Khattar and Chief Minister of Punjab Capt. Amarinder Singh, the Chief Minister Jairam said that as result of COVID-19 pandemic about 250 persons of Himachal Pradesh including migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists and students were stranded in the North Eastern States.

Similarly, people of Haryana and Punjab were also stranded in these States. He said that since the movement by road from the North-Eastern States to Himachal Pradesh is not feasible, the States of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh should make joint efforts to run a common train to evacuate the people of these States. Himachal Pradesh Government is ready to bear the expenses incurred on account of railway fares on a proportionate basis, he said.

The matter should thus be jointly taken up with India Railways for providing train to evacuate the people of the North-Eastern, he said.

According to Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Virender Kanwar, till date five trains have arrived from different parts of the country to bring back stranded Himachalis. 

Misc News/Press Release

Petrol, Diesel Prices Can be Cut, But Lack of ‘Political Will’ Keeping Prices in India Highest in World: SBI Economists

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Decreasing petrol and diesel price under gst sbi ecowrap report 2021

Shimla-Petrol and Diesel prices in India could be brought under control and their price could be reduced to Rs. 75 and Rs. 68, respectively, says the SBI’s Ecowrap report released by its Economic Research Department. The Indian Government can do this simply by brining these fuels under the ambit of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the report said.

However, according to the report, lack of political will is keeping Indian oil product prices at one of the highest in the world. This lack of will arises from the fact that Centre and States are loathe to bring crude oil products under the GST regime as Sales Tax/VAT on petroleum products is a major source of own tax revenue for them. The states, in particular, would face a loss in revenue.

However contrary to this possibility, the government had been maintaining that it doesn’t control fuel prices. On February 17, 2021, on a day when petrol crossed the ₹100 mark, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had blamed it all on the previous governments. 

The report said that one of the unfinished agendas of the current GST regime is bringing petrol and diesel under GST.

Every state has its own tax structure. The states choose to levy a combination of ad valorem tax, cess, extra VAT/Surcharge based on their needs. These taxes are imposed after taking into account the crude price, the transportation charge, the dealer commission and the flat excise duty imposed by the centre. The multiple taxes have made petroleum products prices one of the highest in the world, the report said.

share of states in petrol taxes

The base price of Rs 75 for petrol and Rs 68 for diesel has been calculated on the following assumptions: Crude price at $60/bbl, exchange rate of Rs 73 for a dollar, transportation charges of Rs 7.25 for diesel and Rs 3.82 for petrol, dealer commission of Rs 2.53 for diesel and Rs 3.67 for petrol, cess of Rs 30 for petrol and Rs 20 for diesel, GST rate at 28 per cent and petrol consumption growth rate of 10% y-o-y and 15% for diesel y-o-y.

Using all these assumptions, the researchers have found that the base price for petrol and diesel comes out to be Rs 75 and Rs. 68, respectively at pan India level. At this base price, with multiple simulations Centre and States have a revenue deviation from budget estimates by only Rs. 1 lakh crore 90.4% of the GDP) after adjusting for the increase in consumption with the intended price cut.

The report further said that a dollar increase in the crude oil prices will push up the petrol price by around 50 paisa and diesel prices by around 150 paisa and bring down the overall deviation by around Rs. 1500 crore under the suggested baseline scenario.

If this tax structure is used for the Financial year 2022, when Centre and states taxes are already so high, we see that states which have the highest rates are losing revenue if they shift to this GST regime. But this flat taxation structure brings in uniformity and as per the calculations, it brings down the burden of taxes on the common man by almost Rs. 10-30 depending on the product consumed and the state in which it is consumed, the report said.

Additionally, it benefits some states which do not drastically tax their petroleum products, like Uttar Pradesh.

“Interestingly, our simulation exercise suggests that when crude oil/bbl declines by 10 dollars, Centre and states could save close to Rs 18,000 cres, if they keep the petrol prices at baseline Rs 75 and diesel at Rs 68 and don’t pass on the benefit to consumers,” the report said.

Further, the report recommended that the Government should build up an oil price stabilization fund which can be used in bad times for compensating revenue loss by cross subsiding fund saved from good times, without hurting the consumer.

Further, since November 2020, the prices of non-subsidized cylinders have increased from Rs. 594 to Rs 819 in Delhi, a substantial increase of Rs. 255 er cylinder. The data on DBTL (Direct Benefit Transfer for LPG) indicate that the subsidy amount has sharply plunged to merely Rs. 3,363 crores in April-December 20220 period from Rs 22, 635 in Financial Year 2020. There is negligible or no difference between subsidized and non-subsized cylinder.

Price hike in lpg cylinders by sbi report

The report also said that though the government has announced to give one crore more free connections to the needy over the next two years, affordability barriers still exist. The government should focus on the affordability issue and to achieve this, the SBI researchers have suggested a set of measures.

Separately, for the LPG cylinders, the report proposed an increased and graded subsidy to provide to poor consumers which can be tapered off over a period of, say, five years. For this, the Government can create a comprehensive merged database using database of Ayushman Bharat, PM-KISAN, PMJDY, PMUY and MUDRA and then provide these people with maximum four free cylinders in a year. Even if five crore people are eligible for this then the total cost to exchequer per year will be maximum Rs 16,000 crore.

Besides, the report suggested that the Government might cancel its borrowing planed in the last two weeks of March 2021, totaling Rs. 49,000 crores.

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Foundation Stone of Shiv Dham at Mandi Laid, Will Cost Rs. 150 Crore

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Shiv Dham Mandi model

Mandi: Shiv Dham construction at Mandi would cost over Rs. 150 crores to the State. It was informed during the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Shiv Dham Phase-I to be developed at Kangnidhar. The First Phase of this project would be completed at a cost of Rs. 40 crore, the government said.

The Shiv Dham would be developed in an area of 9.5 hectares. Shiv Dham would have replicas of twelve Jyotirlingam, a statue of Lord Shiva and Ganesh, Museum, Food Court, Herbal Garden, Nakshatra Vatika, Amphi-theatre, Orientation Centre, Car Parking etc. 

Further, it was informed that the foundation stone of multi-storey parking was laid near U-Block. An estimated amount of Rs. 100 crore would be spent on Public-Private Partnership mode, the government informed.

There is also a proposal to construct Rs. 27 crore Anaj Mandi (Grain Market) in Mandi, it was informed.

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New Farm Laws May Sound Death Knell for States like Himachal: 19 Organizations Said While Expressing Solidarity with Farmers Protest

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Himachal PRadesh supports farmers protest

Shimla-More support is pouring in for the farmers protest from Himachal Pradesh. Today, about 19 social organizations, women’s organizations, and farmer groups issued a joint public statement in solidarity with the three-month long farmer’s movement in the country.

The statement demands the repeal of three new farm laws introduced by the central government and calls for strengthening minimum support prices, extending it to crops, especially fruits and vegetables grown for the market in Himachal Pradesh. The statement is critical of the non-democratic manner in which the bills were passed in the parliament in a hurry in the middle of the Covid-led lockdown.

Highlighting the issues with each of the laws the organizations condemned the fact that these are designed to benefit the large corporate houses which would ultimately break the back of the farmers.

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 has the potential of destroying the government-led APMC mandis, the organizations said.

The second law on contract farming puts the farmers in the dock by not just opening them to risks when getting into contracts with companies but also by closing the door of the courts for redressal for farmers, the statement said.

Also Read: Supporters in Himachal Displaying Solidarity With Protesting Farmers, Term Delhi Violence a Failed Conspiracy to Discredit Movement

Further, the statement said that the third law, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, as corporates are allowed to buy, store, sell produce minus regulation and accountability of any sort. It also seeks to restrict the powers of the government with respect to the production, supply, and distribution of certain key commodities. It is now evident that this will have a direct impact on the storage and distribution of subsidized grains by the government. This can turn out to be a direct threat to the food security of the country.

“For a state like Himachal Pradesh where a large section of the population depends heavily on food grains produced by the farmers of the plains and distributed at subsidized rates through the PDS these laws could prove to be a death knell,” the groups said in the statement.

Even for those who are able to procure from the market, the rising prices of commodities would be a direct hit on their pockets. Apart from the consumers, the farmers of the state will also suffer a setback. The absence of MSPs for fruits and off-season vegetables and lack of APMC markets here have already been a cause of concern for the cash croppers of the state, the statement read.

“In fact fruit and vegetable producer unions have been demanding extension of MSPs and better markets so that apple producers for example are not exploited by ‘middlemen’ and private vendors,” the organizations said.

In the Terai region where there is a surplus of maize produce, farmers are forced to sell it at Rs 1000 to 1200 whereas Rs 1850 is the MSP – but the markets are too far for them to access, they said.

The statement has also condemned the manner in which the state and central governments have tried to defame the peaceful protests through various tactics.

“The repression of those coming out in support of the farmer’s movement, be it activists or journalists reporting on the developments is utterly shameful and against the principles of democracy,” the statement said.

The groups said that they are also going to send this statement as a submission to the President of India demanding the repeal of the three laws.

Housing in makeshift camps, tens of thousands of farmers have been protesting on Delhi borders for nearly 100 days now. Though the protests had begun last year, the movement has seen massive growth in recent weeks as it receiving support from environmental activists, opposition parties, and even Western celebrities. Now, this farmer’s movement is spreading to the country’s northern and western farm belts.

The group of organizations that issued this statement include All India Democratic Women’s Association, HP (AIDWA), Bhumiheen Bhumi Adhikar Manch, HP, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, Citizens’ Rights Forum, Kangra, Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan, HP, Ghumantu Pashupalak Mahasabha, Chamba, Himachal Kisan Sabha, Himalaya Niti Abhiyan, Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective, Parvatiya Mahila Adhikar Manch, Right To Education Forum, HP, Samajik Arthik Samanta ke Liye Jan Abhiyan, Save Lahaul Spiti, Spiti Civil Society, Sirmaur Van Adhikar Manch, Sambhaavnaa Institute, SUTRA, Solan,  Tower Line Soshit Jagrukta Manch, Himachal Pradesh, and Zila Van Adhikar Samiti, Kinnaur.

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