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    ...Only 41 per cent of the 2,353 MHz of spectrum offered could be sold. The reason is not far to seek. This self-inflicted blow to fiscal health is the direct result of the government setting too high a reserve price for the 700, 800 and 900 MHz bands, which remained unsold except for 15 per cent of the offer in 800. The reserve price was several times the price of 1MHz of like spectrum per capita in rich countries. The government must learn from this experience and not make the mistake of setting high reserve prices in future spectrum auctions. A high base price is an unwarranted distortion. A reason often cited to justify high base prices in auctions is possible indictment by the CAG à la the so-called 2G scam report by CAG Vinod Rai, which used the results of the 2010 auctions to estimate the fair value of spectrum. This excuse does not wash. ...

    TOI on Oct. 8, 2016, 1:02 a.m.

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    ...These are not essential parts of the religion, the Centre has told the court and further asserted that these provisions violate gender justice, equality and women’s dignity. The latter is the core of the issue. The country’s Constitution upholds fundamental democratic rights and counts rights of minorities to profess, practise and propagate their religion as part of democratic rights. Minority rights are not patronage, as they were under many kings in the past. These are part and parcel of democratic rights. ...

    TOI on Oct. 8, 2016, 12:57 a.m.

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    ...The soap opera unfolding in Uttar Pradesh’s Samajwadi Party (SP), whose main rival is Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), is a warning to all such parties. SP is torn by an intergenerational feud: chief minister Akhilesh Yadav wants cronies of father Mulayam, including uncle Shivpal, out. Mulayam will have none of this. Shivpal has replaced the chief minister as head of the party, Akhilesh has sacked uncle Shivpal from all ministerial jobs. The only loser in this game of thrones, the SP, will have to face the electorate in five months, or less. Apart from the Left parties, the BJP and, to some extent, the Congress, no political party in India has internal democracy, institutional structure and ideological cohesion. Apart from the whims of Mamata Banerjee or Jayalalithaa or Naveen Patnaik, no ideological glue binds TMC, AIADMK or BJD, respectively. ...

    TOI on Sept. 15, 2016, 6:08 a.m.

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    ...For the world as a whole, total healthcare expenditure as a proportion of GDP is 9.94 per cent. In India, the figure is less than half that, at 4.7 per cent. Out of that healthcare expenditure, the global average for the state’s share is 61 per cent. In India, the figure is half that: 30 per cent. Which means that government spends a measly 1.4 per cent of GDP on healthcare. Another crucial measure, which determines the impact of a health emergency on a family’s welfare is what proportion of health expenditure is borne out of pocket, as opposed to out of some pooling arrangement like insurance or state provided healthcare. In India, that figure is 62.4 per cent, against a world average of 18.2 per cent. One health emergency is all it takes to push a family that has pulled itself out of poverty back into the abyss. India cannot become a knowledge economy or a global power with its current quality of healthcare. Governments at the state and the Centre must spend more. ...

    TOI on Sept. 15, 2016, 5:57 a.m.

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    ...Now comes the hard part: fixing the rates of tax, deciding the precise nature of the Central GST Act, the Integrated GST Act and the State GST Act, figuring out how to settle disputes and how to prevent taxpayers having to interact with multiple levels of the government in order to comply with the tax. Finalising the central GST law in a sensible fashion is not easy. Industrial states are still bent upon getting their pound of flesh from the manufacturing that takes place in their territory. While the 1% tax on interstate sales has sensibly been dropped, some states are lobbying to retain that tax on consignment transfers across state boundaries. This is a bad idea. Especially when it comes to services. ...

    TOI on Sept. 14, 2016, 6:56 a.m.

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    ...However, while the Sebi paper does seek to reduce the allotment for institutional investors, it simply does not go far enough. At present, the norms stipulate that 75 per cent of the net offer needs to be allocated to institutional investors, with remaining 25 per cent earmarked for the non-institutional type. Sebi has sought to revise this to ‘not less than 50 per cent’ for institutional investors, and ‘not more than 50 per cent’ for non-institutional investors. The quotas really make no sense. They are barriers that distort valuation. ...

    TOI on Sept. 14, 2016, 6:51 a.m.

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    ...Clarity on rules would draw people in. But that remains elusive. If no questions will be asked, as a circular said, about the money used to pay tax and penalty on the declared income, is the effective tax rate 45% or less than 33%? Clarity in the IDS provisions is a must. The earlier scheme offering amnesty to people with undisclosed assets overseas failed due to the lack of trust on penalties after coming clean on concealed incomes. Such lack of trust in the assurance that no penal action would follow in the wake of declaration of unaccounted past income cannot be ruled out even now. Then again, there is little conviction that non-disclosure would lead to punitive action. So long as Indian democracy is funded by black money and politicians are perceived to be sitting on huge war chests of black money, this lack of conviction will remain. ...

    TOI on Sept. 13, 2016, 5:38 a.m.

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    ...A tariff battle between the new entrant and incumbent operators will bring the cost of data services down — we have seen just the first round and there would be several more. But just as important as the cost of data services is the cost and quality of handsets. Here, too, the ongoing developments promise remarkable change. High-end phones that allow 4G communications are available at ever lower prices, with a new breed of Chinese phones redefining the value proposition in the category. Politicians are now making smartphones part of their poll promises. A banking system that is unable to lend to the corporate sector can easily be tempted to expand consumer financing, to make smartphones affordable by anyone. Youth culture, new payment interfaces and governance services such as storing driving licences in the cloud, all drive the adoption of smartphones. ...

    TOI on Sept. 13, 2016, 5:34 a.m.