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India to merge rail, general budgets; end non-plan, plan distinction

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New Delhi: India on Wednesday decided to do away with a 92-year-old legacy of separate general and railway budgets by unifying them and do away with differentiating plan and non-plan expenditure.

“From coming year, the railway and the general budget will be amalgamated. There will be only one budget. And secondly, distinction between plan and non-plan expenditure will be ended from next year,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said here after a Cabinet meeting.

The decision to merge the rail and general budgets was mooted by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and endorsed by NITI Aayog’s member Bibek Debroy, which also proposed the doing away of the distinction between plan and non-plan expenditure.

Both Jaitley and Prabhu clarified that the distinct identity of the Indian Railways will be maintained — including the freedom to raise resources via extra-budgetary means.

“Functional autonomy of the Railways will be maintained,” Jaitley said.

“This is a historic step, matching global benchmark and best. This will help raise capital expenditure in Railways which will enhance connectivity in the country and boost economic growth,” Prabhu said.

“Distinct identity of Railways will be maintained. Our effort to leverage extra budgetary resources will continue,” he added.

While clarifying on the new date of the budget, Jaitley said it will be advanced and the government in-principle wants the Finance Bill to be passed before March 31. But the date of the budget will be decided depending on various state elections dates.

The advancement of the date is to ensure the Finance Bill is passed in the first half of the Budget session than to spill over to the second half after recess.

Non-plan expenditure is what the government spends on the so-called non-productive areas, such as salaries, subsidies, loans and interest, while plan expenditure pertains to the money to be set aside for productive purposes, like the various projects of ministries.

Finance ministry officials said after the abolition of the Planning Commission, the relevance of plan and non-plan expenditure is lost — and a better indicator of productive and general expenditure will be a distinction under the heads of revenue and capital.

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India

Put farm laws on hold or we will do it, Chief Justice Bobde tells government

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New Delhi, 11 Jan : A Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice S. A. Bobde on Monday toughened its stand on the farm laws and said the court has made up its mind to stay the implementation of the three farm laws, which have led to the protest by thousands of farmers at various Delhi borders.

“What is going on? States are rebelling against your laws”, a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde told the Centre. “We are extremely disappointed with the negotiation process,” he said.

“If the Centre does not want to stay the implementation of farm laws, we will put a stay on it,” the CJI added.

“We don’t want to make any stray observations on your negotiations but we are extremely disappointed with the process,” said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

The apex court, which was hearing a clutch of pleas challenging the new farm laws as well as the ones raising issues related to the ongoing agitation at Delhi borders, said it is not talking about the repeal of these farm laws at the moment.

“This is a very delicate situation,” the bench said, adding, “There is not a single petition before us which says that these farm laws are beneficial.”

“We will stay implementation of laws,” the CJI said. “You can carry on the protest. But the question is whether the protest should be held at the same site,” he added.

“Some people have committed suicide, old people and women are a part of the agitation. What is happening?” he said.

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India

Farmer agitation enters 47th day, all eyes on SC hearing pleas on protests

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New Delhi, 11 Jan : The farmer agitation on the borders of the national capital entered the 47th day on Monday as the farmers have taken to the streets protesting against the three central farm laws. But now all eyes are glued on the Supreme Court which would conduct a hearing on various pleas related to the farmers’ agitation and the new farm laws on Monday.

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India

Talks with farmers end without breakthrough, dialogue may resume on Jan 8

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New Delhi, 4 Jan : The crucial seventh round of talks between the government and 41 farmers representatives ended without any breakthrough and the next round of talks is expected on January 8, sources said.

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