Taxing clunkers: On raising tax on older vehicles

The Centre’s proposed policy to raise road tax on vehicles of a certain age from April 1 next year has the potential to renew a big part of India’s vehicular fleet, reducing air pollution, raising fuel efficiency, and improving safety standards. It has taken the government years to finalise a “tax on clunkers” proposal, under which commercial transport vehicles will have to pay 10%-25% extra on road tax after eight years when renewing the fitness certificate, and, similarly, personal vehicles after 15 years; public transport is given concessions, while hybrids, electrics and farm vehicles are exempt. A higher tax in the most polluted cities, and on diesel engines is also on the cards. States, which enforce motor vehicles law, now have to weigh in on the proposed changes. Unlike similar programmes, such as the post-2008 recession CARS rebate plan in the U.S., India’s scheme relies on penal taxation to persuade owners to scrap their old vehicles, with no cash-for-trade-in arrangement.

Many vulnerabilities: On using blockchains in electronic voting

The much discussed and debated Electronic Voting Machine in India has survived intense scrutiny over its use largely because of one strong reason — the fact that this standalone single-chip device is not connected to any network. This is besides several technological and administrative safeguards to ensure that the machine is not tampered with. With the addition of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) to the EVM, “audit-ability” was added to the process even as the machine has suffered glitches, which the Election Commission of India (ECI) has managed to tackle reasonably well. The ECI should definitely seek solutions to make the EVM more robust even as it must reject calls for a return to paper balloting — which experienced malpractices such as ballot stuffing and booth capturing. That being said, the announcement by Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora that the ECI is commencing trials of a “remote voting project” is sure to bring back scrutiny. ECI officials have not

Overzealous threat: on Bihar police circular on social media posts

The warning by the Bihar police of legal action being taken against users of social media for “offensive” posts targeting the government, its Ministers and officials, betrays both hypersensitivity and ignorance of the law. It represents an unacceptable combination of low tolerance for criticism and a zeal to cow down the public. The Economic Offences Wing, which also deals with cyber-crime, has sent a circular to the department secretaries that they could inform the wing about such “offensive posts” so that it could act against them, terming such actions as “against prescribed law”. Presumably, the action contemplated is for an alleged cyber-crime. Even though the letter from the Inspector General of Police concerned makes no mention of any specific penal provision, it is a possible reference to Section 66A of the IT Act, as there is no other section that deals with “offensive” remarks. Section 66A, which dealt with “Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication


Split in the middle: on Nepal's political crisis

The political crisis triggered by Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s decision to dissolve Nepal’s Parliament and call fresh elections led to a vertical split in the ruling party, with the rival faction led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ sacking Mr. Oli from its general membership. The Prachanda faction of the Nepal Communist Party had removed Mr. Oli as the party’s chairman earlier. It had issued a notice to him seeking an explanation for his decision to recommend Parliament’s dissolution, to which he did not respond. Following this, the central committee of the Prachanda bloc met on Sunday and decided to expel Mr. Oli. His aides have rejected this, saying their leader remains the PM. This puts Nepal and its fractious communist movement in limbo. Mr. Oli has claimed that he represents the party, while Mr. Prachanda and Madhav Kumar Nepal, a former PM and leader of Mr. Oli’s erstwhile Communist Party of Nepal (UML), have ruled out any future compromise with the PM. The constitutional


Troubled waters: On Palk Bay fishing conflict

The tragic death of four fishermen from Tamil Nadu — one of them a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee living in India — allegedly when the Sri Lankan Navy was about to arrest them last week, is yet another instance of the unresolved fisheries conflict in the Palk Bay taking an unacceptable toll of lives. While fishermen in Tamil Nadu say the four were killed in an attack by the Sri Lankan Navy, the latter maintains that they died when their trawler collided with a naval vessel while trying to avoid being apprehended. India has lodged a strong protest with the Sri Lankan authorities, who have set up a committee to find a permanent solution to the incursions by Indian fishermen. It was less than a month ago that the two countries resumed discussions through their Joint Working Group on fisheries after a three-year gap. India sought the early release of fishermen arrested in Sri Lankan waters, as well as the boats in Sri Lankan custody. Sri Lanka underscored the need to curb the illegal fishing,

After the storm: On tightening scrutiny of large NBFCs

Helpful pause: On Centre’s offer to suspend farm laws

Fire warning: On Serum Institute blaze

Managing the rollout: On addressing vaccine hesitancy

Polls apart: On Uganda under Museveni

In bad faith: On the ongoing farmers agitation

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