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Modi pitches for simultaneous parliamentary, state assembly and local body polls across India

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bY S VENKAT NARAYAN,

Our Special Correspondent

 NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, once again pitched his One Nation, One Election idea —- simultaneous parliamentary, state assembly, and local body polls. He said this is not just a matter of debate, but a requirement for India.

Addressing presiding officers of legislatures from across India by video link, Modi also suggested a common voters list for all elections to prevent a waste of resources. He maintained that simultaneous elections at every level should be held using a common voter list.

“Every few months, we see an election in some part of the country. You all know what is the impact of these polls on development. There is a need for a deeper study and discussion on the issue, and I suggest that presiding officers may lead such discussions,” Modi said.

Holding elections in the world’s largest democracy is also possibly the most expensive on the planet. For example, New Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies (CMS) has estimated that the 2019 Lok Sabha elections alone had cost INR 550 billion or $8 billion —- six times more than what the 1998 general election had cost.

Last year’s Lok Sabha polls had involved 900 million voters, went on for 75 days, extravagant rallies, widespread advertising in newspapers, on TV, radio and social media. In quite a few of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies, candidates would have spent as much as INR 400 million! Several thousand security personnel and government employees get involved in conducting the polls. And administration across the country comes to a grinding halt.

Every time there is an election in a state, or local body polls, the same process gets repeated on a smaller scale, and no administrative work gets done because government officials get busy organizing the polls.

The One Nation, One Election idea was first pitched by Modi in 2015. It is also on the agenda of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The idea entails one election every five years for the Lok Sabha, states, even corporations. But it has met stiff resistance from rival parties.

Last year, the main Congress Party had skipped a meeting called by the PM on the issue, and the Left parties dubbed it as a “back-door way of replacing our parliamentary democracy”.

The issue has starkly divided India’s political parties. Its advocates have argued the move will help focus on governance, reduce expenditure, and help channel security forces more efficiently.

Its critics, including the Congress, have alleged that the move will undermine democratic accountability, the federal structure and also pointed to its lack of feasibility within the constitutional scheme.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the Prime Minister has been pushing for simultaneous elections but any such measure requires structural changes in Constitution. “It is also against the very essence of democracy. So, we think it is just a rhetoric,” he added.

Describing the presiding officers as a bridge between the public and the Constitution, Modi hit out indirectly at the Congress for imposing Emergency rule in the 1975. He said it was an attempt to dilute the separation of power of the three wings of the state, but that the Constitution eventually provided a solution.

“After the Emergency, the system of checks and balances kept getting stronger as the legislature, executive and judiciary moved ahead, learning from the episode,” he said.

On Constitution Day, which commemorates the adoption of the Constitution of India, Modi said the national charter had also helped India tackle the challenges posed by Covid-19 by enabling the passage of several laws to help the people. He praised parliamentarians for accepting pay cuts and working more to increase Parliament’s productivity.

The Prime Minister cautioned against a tendency of keeping projects pending, citing the example of the Sardar Sarovar dam in Gujarat, which was stuck for years, delaying the benefits that accrued to the people of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan when it was finally constructed.



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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