Saturday, June 30, 2012

All services, except those under a ‘negative list’, will cost more

Starting today, most services will be taxed 
Negative list of 38 will escape levy  

All services, except those under a  ‘negative list’, will cost more
Except 38 services under the negative list, all others will  be taxed at 12 per cent under the new service tax regime that kicks in on July 1.  
The Government had said earlier it would implement the negative list from July 1.
 Metered taxis, auto-rickshaws, betting, gambling, lottery, entry into amusement parks, transport of goods or passengers and electricity transmission or distribution  are in  the negative list. Other important services that will not be taxed include  funeral and burial, and  transport of the deceased.
 Coaching classes and training institutions will come under the net, though the tax will not be levied on school, university education and approved vocational courses.
Services provided to the Government, local authorities or a Government authority to  repair or maintain  aircraft would also fall under the negative list.
 Services that advocates provide to other advocates, or business entities — up to a turnover of Rs. 10 lakh in the preceding financial year — are exempt. Service providers offering facilities for  public convenience, such as bathrooms, washrooms, urinals or toilets, will not be  taxed .

Rail fares

 There is, however, no clarity  on whether the tax would apply to  rail freight and passenger fares .
 The Union Minister of Railways, Mr Mukul Roy  said  the rail transporter  will not impose tax  on freight movement and  passenger fares from July 1. 
He  has written to Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, who now holds  the Finance portfolio, in this regard.

Negative to positive

The Government has widened the definition of ‘services’ to  tax more business activity. 
As of now, 119 services that come under the ‘positive list’ will attract the levy. 
This new approach to taxation of services is intended to take  the economy a step closer to   the proposed Goods and Service Tax  regime. 
 The finance ministry is aiming to mop up  Rs. 1.24 lakh crore by taxing services  during the current fiscal. 
Last fiscal,  the collections were Rs. 97,000 crore . 

Details revealed in Kalam's book--Kalam was ready to make Sonia PM

A difficult journey, some difficult decisions

My visit to Gujarat

One of the pillars of development that I have thought a lot about is that we have to create a nation where poverty has been totally eradicated and illiteracy removed. Alongside, we need to evolve a society where crimes against women and children are absent and none in the society feels alienated. These thoughts were prominent in my mind during my visit to Gujarat in August 2002, which I took up as my first major task immediately after becoming President.
The State had been hit by riots a few months earlier, and their impact had left thousands of lives in disarray. It was an important and sensitive task, because it took place under unique circumstances, in a politically charged atmosphere. I decided that my mission was not to look at what had happened, not to look at what was happening, but to focus on what should be done. What had happened was already a point of discussion by the judiciary and the Parliament and continues to be discussed even now.
As no President had ever visited an area under such circumstances, many questioned the necessity of my visit to the state at this juncture. At the ministry and bureaucratic level, it was suggested that I should not venture into Gujarat at that point of time. One of the main reasons was political. However, I made up my mind that I would go and preparations were in full swing at Rashtrapati Bhavan for my first visit as President.
The Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, asked me only one question, ‘Do you consider going to Gujarat at this time essential?’ I told the PM, ‘I consider it an important duty so that I can be of some use to remove the pain, and also accelerate the relief activities, and bring about a unity of minds, which is my mission, as I stressed in my address during the swearing-in ceremony.’…
I visited twelve areas — three relief camps and nine riot-hit locations where the losses had been high... I remember one scene, when I visited a relief camp. A six-year-old boy came up to me, held both my hands and said, ‘Rashtrapatiji, I want my mother and father.’ I was speechless. There itself, I held a quick meeting with the District Collector. The Chief Minister also assured me that the boy’s education and welfare would be taken care of by the government.
All through my visit only one thought occupied my mind… Should not development be our only agenda? Any citizen following any faith has the fundamental right to live happily. No one has the right to endanger the unity of minds, because unity of minds is the lifeline of our country, and makes our country truly unique.
After all what is justice, what is democracy? Every citizen in the country has a right to live with dignity; every citizen has a right to aspire for distinction. To access the large number of opportunities, through just and fair means, in order to attain that dignity and distinction is what democracy is all about. That is what our Constitution is all about. And that is what makes life wholesome and worth living in a true and vibrant democracy, the essence of which is tolerance for people’s belief systems and lifestyles…
The increasing intolerance for the views of others and increasing contempt for the way of life or religion of others, or the expression of these differences through lawless violence against people cannot be justified in any context. All of us have to work hard and do everything to protect the rights of every individual …

Returning the Office of Profit Bill

Broadly, the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act 1959, stipulates that certain offices of profit under the government shall not disqualify the holders thereof for being chosen as, or for being, Members of Parliament. During mid 2006, I received a number of complaints from MPs about certain fellow members holding office of profit. I had to deal with these complaints. I sent these to the Chief Election Commissioner to study and conduct an inquiry wherever considered essential … Meanwhile I received the Office of Profit Bill from the Parliament for approval.
I studied the Bill and found that it had many anomalies. In the proposed Office of Profit Bill, I did not find a systematic approach towards deciding the question of what constituted an office of profit. Instead exemption was given to only the existing offices which were occupied by MPs. I also discussed the anomalies and my concerns with three former Chief Justices of the Supreme Court. I prepared a letter in consultation with my team and the three CJIs …
The Office of Profit Bill was not sent by the Cabinet for my approval but by Parliament. Hence, I returned the Bill to the Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha for reconsideration by both the Houses of Parliament. This was the first time in the history of Parliament or Rashtrapati Bhavan that a President returned a Bill for reconsideration….
The Bill was reconsidered and sent back for my approval. The Prime Minister met me and he was surprised, as I normally send the approved Bill the next day. Why were weeks rolling by with no action taken, he  wondered. I said some action is needed from Parliament and I have not heard anything about it. The Prime Minister said the Parliament has already decided on the constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) for going into all aspects of the Office of Profit Bill as per my suggestions. …
I was on tour to the North-East and … received a message that the formation of a JPC on the Office of Profit Bill had been approved by Parliament. Once I got the confirmation about the action by Parliament, I immediately signed the Office of Profit Bill. After a few months, Parliament approved the JPC report which was not complete and did not address the problem which I had suggested. Parliament has to deal with such issues with care, otherwise it would be construed that the highest body of the nation is promoting wrong practices which may set a national trend in different echelons of the government…
Recently, we saw two fasting movements against corruption and many more may get inspired. I was asking myself, why are such movements taking place in our democratic country. This is basically due to the dilution of standards by Parliament itself …

On the death penalty

One of the more difficult tasks for me as President was to decide on the issue of confirming capital punishment awarded by the courts after exhausting all processes of appeals. As a substantial number of cases have been pending in Rashtrapati Bhavan for many years, it is one inherited task that no President would feel happy about. I thought I should get all these cases examined from a normal citizen’s point of view in terms of the crime, intensity of the crime and the social and financial status of the individuals who were convicted and awarded capital punishment. This study revealed to my surprise that almost all the cases which were pending had a social and economic bias. This gave me an impression that we were punishing the person who was least involved in the enmity and who did not have a direct motive for committing the crime. Of course there was one case where I found that the lift operator had in fact committed the crime of raping and killing the girl without doubt. In that case I affirmed the sentence…
We are all the creations of God. I am not sure a human system or a human being is competent to take away a life based on artificial and created evidence.

On Sonia Gandhi as Prime Minister

One of the responsibilities of the President is to appoint the Prime Minister after every general election or whenever an occasion arises for change of the incumbent. On these occasions the President has to satisfy himself there is a party or a coalition which has the required number of members to form a stable government. The process of selection becomes more complex when there is more than one contender laying claim to government in view of none of the parties having a clear majority in the House. In this context, the 2004 election was an interesting event. The elections were over, the results had been announced and none of the parties had the strength to form the government on their own.
The Congress party had the largest number of members elected. In spite of that, three days had passed and no party or coalition came forward to form the government. It was a cause of concern for me and I asked my secretaries and rushed a letter to the leader of the largest party — in this case the Congress — to come forward and stake the claim for forming the government.
I was told that Sonia Gandhi was meeting me at 12.15 in the afternoon of 18 May. She came in time but instead of coming alone she came with Dr. Manmohan Singh and had a discussion with me. She said that she had the requisite numbers but she did not bring the letter of support signed by party functionaries. She would come with the letters of support on the 19th, she said. I asked her why do you postpone. We can even finish it this afternoon. She went away. Later I received a message that she would meet me in the evening, at 8.15 p.m.
While this communication was in progress, I had a number of emails and letters coming from individuals, organisations and parties that I should not allow Mrs Sonia Gandhi to become the Prime Minister of our country. I had passed on these mails and letters to various agencies in the government for their information without making any remarks. During this time there were many political leaders who came to meet me to request me not to succumb to any pressure and appoint Mrs Gandhi as the Prime Minister, a request that would not have been constitutionally tenable. If she had made any claim for herself I would have had no option but to appoint her.
At the allotted time, 8.15 p.m., Mrs Gandhi came to Rashtrapati Bhavan along with Dr. Manmohan Singh. In this meeting after exchanging pleasantries, she showed me the letters of support from various parties. Thereupon, I said that is welcome. The Rashtrapati Bhavan is ready for the swearing-in ceremony at the time of your choice. That is when she told me that she would like to nominate Dr. Manmohan Singh, who was the architect of economic reforms in 1991 and a trusted lieutenant of the Congress party with an impeccable image, as the Prime Minister. This was definitely a surprise to me and the Rashtrapati Bhavan Secretariat had to rework the letter appointing Dr. Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister and inviting him to form the government at the earliest.
Finally, the swearing-in took place on 22 May with Dr. Manmohan Singh and sixty-seven Ministers in the splendid Ashoka Hall.
I breathed a sigh of relief that this important task had finally been done. However, I did puzzle over why no party had staked a claim for three days.
(Excerpted with permission from A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Turning Points: A Journey Through Challenges. Published by HarperCollins, 2012.)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Too much of trouble from Railway agents(tatkal fraud)--Govt takes action

Steps taken by IRCTC to improve working of website.

1.     Capacity constraints:

It may be mentioned that even though capacity has been substantially increased during last few years, the demand window has shrunk to first few minutes at the time of opening of Tatkal i.e. 8AM.  This results in skewed demand where the resources remain under strain at 8 AM and underutilized during rest of the day.
Action taken

Future Plans
1.     High capacity Database servers have been installed,
2.     Internet Bandwidth has been increased from 344 mbps to 450 mbps,
3.     All available resources, including applications servers for the agent booking are diverted for Tatkal and ARP tickets booking by individual users between 8-10 AM,
4.     E-ticketing software licenses have also been augmented for handling extra load between 8-10 AM.
5.     It is proposed to augment further the software and hardware to meet the ever-growing demand.
6.     Four mobile booking service providers are already available and Mobile booking on pilot project basis was also launched by IRCTC on 29.12.2011.
7.     Further, technical evaluation of different types of mobile based technology of all major service providers have been evaluated and process is on to integrate more mobile base service providers.
8.     Single session per user ID check has been implemented w.e.f. 26.5.2012.  With this step, a user on will be able to open his account for booking of e-tickets only ones.  Multiple sessions with single user ID cannot be opened thereby enabling maximum users to access website and reduce congestion at 8 AM.

·     New e-ticketing application is under development in coordination with CRIS. With this it will be able to more than double the existing capacity and address the capacity issues of online demand of tickets.  
2.     Security measures: 

Transactions on are secure and there are zero cases of fraudulent transactions.  The website has never been hacked inspite of repeated attacks.  Multiple checks at hardware, software and network levels have been implemented to ensure IT security.
Action taken

Future Plans
1.     Indian Computer Emergency Response System (CERT-in), Department of Information and Technology, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Government of India, who has professional competence in the area of proactive and preventive security measures, has been requested to assist IRCTC in further strengthening the security of website in preventing automated software.

2.     The Security audit, Process Audit and Functional audit of e-ticketing system has been conducted through STQC (Standardization, Testing and Quality Certification) Department of Information Technology (DIT), Government of India.

3.     STQC has been requested for functional audit of also.

4.     It is proposed to engage best IT security firm to help on the issue.

·     Latest IT security equipments viz., firewalls etc., are proposed to be procured as per the software specifications of the new e-ticketing applications being developed by CRIS.
3.     Agents cornering tickets :

As per Railway Board guidelines, Agents are not given access to e-ticketing between 8-10 AM. Registered Agents cannot book any type of tickets during 8-10 AM including Tatkal, new ARP opening as well as non ARP non Tatkal tickets. Several stringent measures have been taken to regulate registration, booking flow of tickets on website for individual users to ensure that agents do not misuse the facility and genuine individual passengers are able to get tickets.
Action Taken
1.     All payment initiated before 8AM are logged out to eliminate the possibility of scripting with data pre-filled prior 8 AM.
2.     Single user registration on one e-mail ID with email verification has implemented,
3.     Mobile validation of users and single user registration on one mobile number has been implemented w.e.f. 25.5.2011.
4.     Only two tickets can be booked per IP address between 8-10 AM w.e.f. 21.3.2012.  IP address check has helped in preventing multiple bookings from same office complex/internet café etc.  This also helps in facilitating bookings by genuine users and prevents bookings for commercial gains.
5.     Captcha has been put and strengthened for booking in the ‘Plan My Travel’ to check fraudulent booking through automation software.
(CAPTCHAs is a technology used in attempts to prevent automated software from performing actions which degrade the quality of service of a given system)

6.     Quick Book Option* is  removed between 08:00 to 09:00 AM since 01.3.2011.  The timings has further been extended from 08:00 to 10:00 AM w.e.f. 21.11.2011.

*Quick Book option is for users who are well acquainted with the IRCTC Ticket booking Procedure. It provides a mode of booking where in the registered user has an option to populate the form in a single page and proceed to make payments to book the tickets. It is for the user who is well aware of the fare and Route details of his travel.

7.     Cash Cards have been stopped between 08:00 to 09:00 AM since 26.2.2011.  The timings has further been extended from 08:00 AM to 10:00 AM since 21.11.2011.

It is planned to explore that machine ID (computer MAC ID) may also be captured and restriction on booking tickets will be imposed per machine ID accordingly.

UID and PAN no., integration of all individual users for booking Tatkal/ARP. 

Future plans
4.     IT Anti Fraud Team (ITAF):

An IT-Anti Fraud team was formed for cyber space surveillance and pro active analysis and coordination with Railways vigilance and RPF, cyber crime police and other investigating agency.  On the basis of ITAF efforts several measures have been taken for system improvements.
Action Taken
1.     For all customers who have booked tickets between 08.00 to 08.05 AM, telephonic enquiries are being made for cross checking validity of the booking and the travelling passenger.
2.     To prevent alterations in the contents of ERS generated for main site, the necessary technical changes to disable "Copy/selection/right click" on the ERS have been implemented w.e.f. 1/10/11.  
3.     Total 508571 multiple personal User Ids and 44162 IDs created by Agents have been deactivated since 28-Feb-11 till date.

4.     A penalty of Rs.2.5 crores has been recovered from Agents for various violations based on findings by ITAF, passenger complaints, vigilance reports, press/media report etc.

5.     The ITAF is a team comprising personnel from RPF, Ticket Checking Staff and IT Supervisors.

Legal and prosecution measure:

1.     CBI/ACB, Mumbai and CVI, CSTM Western Railway jointly raided agent premises on 30.10.2010.  In March, 2011 this was reported to IT Centre.   On the basis of information provided by ITAF, IRCTC, RPF/Mumbai registered case under section 143 Railway Act against “M/s Mujawar” agent of Done Cash and associated agent M/s Alka Tours & Travel sub agent of ITZ cash card.  Similar case was also registered against M/s Manju Travel, sub agent of ITZ on account of creation of personal user IDs.  All the agent IDs and associated personal user ID were deactivated and blacklisted and penalty was imposed upon the principal agent.
2.     FIR was lodged by IRCTC, West Zone,  with Cyber Crime Police in Mumbai on dated 12.5.2011 against Kalpesh Kirtilal Shah, Mumbai & on dated 13.5.2011 against S.K. Jain (Soft valley) for running software on IRCTC website for booking Tatkal tickets and ARP tickets between 08:00-09:00 AM..  Both  were arrested by Cyber Crime Police.

3.     Internet Ticketing Centre, IRCTC filed FIR on 22.5.2012 against Star Tour Travels at Shahjahanpur, UP on the basis of passenger complaints and TTEs report of ERS manipulation.
Other measures
1.     In its efforts to provide best service to e-tickets customers, IRCTC takes regular help from consultants and industry professionals. IRCTC has appointed Gartner as technology consultant and regular help is taken from Gartner on technology issues.
2.     Close coordination is maintained with CRIS regarding e-ticketing system performance.
3.     In its efforts to provide best service to e-tickets customers, IRCTC takes regular help from Industry professionals in the area of e-commerce, online payment systems, IT Security are also consulted from time to time to implement industry best practices in IRCTC e-ticketing system.
4.     IRCTC has recently inducted IT professionals at various levels. IRCTC now has strong in-house IT team which will help in professional working and reduced dependence on outside agencies.
5.     E-mail verification is complete.  44 lakh multiple user IDs deactivated so far since 30.11.2011.
6.     During Vigilance Awareness Week’ 2011 (2.11.2011 to 14.11.2011) about 1.25 Crore e-mails were sent among the Indian Railway passengers to generate awareness about e-ticketing procedure and rules. 

Maya archaeologists unearth new 2012 monument

Maya archaeologists unearth new 2012 monument

Archaeologists working at the site of La Corona in Guatemala have discovered a 1,300-year-old-year Maya text that provides only the second known reference to the so-called "end date" of the Maya calendar, December 21, 2012. The discovery, one of the most significant hieroglyphic finds in decades, was announced today at the National Palace in Guatemala.
"This text talks about ancient political history rather than prophecy," says Marcello A. Canuto, director of Tulane's Middle American Research Institute and co-director of the excavations at La Corona.
Since 2008, Canuto and Tomás Barrientos of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala have directed excavations at La Corona, a site previously ravaged by looters.
"Last year, we realized that looters of a particular building had discarded some carved stones because they were too eroded to sell on the antiquities black market," said Barrientos, "so we knew they found something important, but we also thought they might have missed something."
What Canuto and Barrientos found was the longest text ever discovered in Guatemala. Carved on staircase steps, it records 200 years of La Corona history, states David Stuart, director of the Mesoamerica Center at The University of Texas at Austin, who was part of a 1997 expedition that first explored the site.
While deciphering these new finds in May, Stuart recognized the 2012 reference on a stairway block bearing 56 delicately carved hieroglyphs. It commemorated a royal visit to La Corona in AD 696 by the most powerful Maya ruler of that time, Yuknoom Yich'aak K'ahk' of Calakmul, only a few months after his defeat by long-standing rival Tikal in AD 695. Thought by scholars to have been killed in this battle, this ruler was visiting allies and allaying their fears after his defeat.
"This was a time of great political turmoil in the Maya region and this king felt compelled to allude to a larger cycle of time that happens to end in 2012," says Stuart.
So, rather than prophesy, the 2012 reference places this king's troubled reign and accomplishments into a larger cosmological framework.
"In times of crisis, the ancient Maya used their calendar to promote continuity and stability rather than predict apocalypse," says Canuto.