The period between September and mid-November recorded around 35% increase in property registrations in Maharashtra as compared to the same period last year.
This gravity defying performance in the midst of a contraction in overall economic growth holds lessons for all states and the Centre.
The Maharashtra government reduced stamp duty on the purchase and sale of property.
The state government deserves credit for initiating a bold measure in the backdrop of a severe resource crunch.
This measure synchronised with the monetary stimulus unleashed by RBI and created a favourable environment for real estate transactions.
Stamp duty in Maharashtra, which is levied when the relevant documents are registered with the state, was lowered from 5% to 2% for the period between September and December.
It is to go up by a percentage point in the subsequent quarter.
When transaction costs are high, it dampens business.
High transaction costs encourage - black money
Ease of tax compliance and reasonable rates are non-disruptive ways to achieve multiple goals.
The reduction in stamp duty also nudged potential buyers to go ahead with their plans instead of postponing them.
State Govt’s measure was in sync with Centre
A reform can deliver only if everyone is on the same page
Faster growth automatically translates into greater revenue for the state.
Moreover, an increase in construction activity will ripple out into the larger economy.
Pattanam site | ToI
Archaeological excavations at Pattanam, a small village an hour’s drive from Kochi, tell a fascinating story of a cosmopolitan people who traded with the Roman Empire around two millennia ago.
The finds point to the fabled port town of Muziris mentioned in the Greek text Periplus of the Erythraean Sea and Muciripattanam in the Tamil Sangam literature.
What led you to Pattanam?
Before a successful trial dig in 2004, we knew this could be an archaeological site with frequent reports of local people finding antiques. We visited the village and found the place was full of beads and potsherds.
In 2001, a British museologist friend concluded after visiting the area that one pottery could be Italian because of its Vesuvius volcanic material.
Many such factors, including ancient literary sources, prodded us to investigate further.
How do you conclude this village is Muziris?
There is clinching evidence.
The only question is whether Muziris is confined to the 70 hectares identified as an archaeological mound or goes beyond it. Definitely it goes beyond.
DNA extract analysis of human skeletal fragments conveys a cosmopolitan society.
Of 11 samples, four suggested South Asian, four West Asian and three Mediterranean origin.
We found material from Gibraltar to Catalonia to Southern China; Pattanam artefacts were discovered at sites like Hepu in China and Khor Rori in Jordan.
Pattanam has the Indian Ocean region’s largest cache of Meditteranean amphora jar sherds.
Such culturally diverse material pointed to a port site.
Typology of materials like pottery, jewellery, points to extensive foreign contacts.
Literary sources say the port was inland and it was a riverine island, 25 stades away from the sea (4.5 kms), nearly same as today.
Do the finds align with knowledge of that age?
The area that is Kerala today was part of the larger Thamizhagam (area inhabited by Tamil speakers) when Muziris existed.
Sangam literature portrays Thamizhagam as a beautiful people in the humanist sense, as very rational, not too much into religion or warfare.
They were open minded, believed in technology, welcomed foreign trade and contacts.
Pattanam society was very organised, there was urbanisation and adeptness in technology.
Despite digging just 1% of the 70-hectare mound, we have retrieved 1.3 lakh artefacts made of precious stones and metals like gold, iron, copper, lead, around one lakh beads and 45 lakh potsherds, and numerous terracotta works like ornaments.
The variety of pottery, burned bricks and structures resembling warehouses, tiled roofs, toilets, ring wells, besides the wharf implies a very urban, organised society.
The site’s importance isn’t confined to Kerala or India. It is beyond our imagination that people from 30 cultures were coming and going with their goods, technology, ideas and languages.
Pattanam tells us the world was here and we went out into the world.
The Muziris papyrus agreement between the Alexandria banker and local merchant reveals sophisticated understanding of trade.
The period till the Roman empire’s fall was critical, but trade continued even afterwards.
How did the Pattanam settlement end?
We have no indications how the site declined and the port disappeared.
Geomorphic studies indicate Pattanam 2,000 years back was some sort of riverine island with water bodies crisscrossing it.
However, many water channels are incapable of surviving beyond a few centuries because of silting.
Border on the boil
With a series of ceasefire violations by the Pakistan Army that targeted civilians, and heavy artillery fire by the Indian Army, the LoC is once again on the boil.
Six civilians, four Indian Army personnel and a BSF jawan were killed in the firing from Pakistan across three sectors, and official Pakistani media said one Pakistani soldier and five civilians were killed by Indian cross-border shelling.
The temperature has been further raised by political words from the highest level.
Prime Minister Modi’s speech, as he stood atop a tank during a Deepavali visit to the Longewala post, warned of a “prachand jawab” (fierce reply) to Pakistan, and criticised China’s “expansionist mindset”, albeit without naming either neighbour.
In a new diplomatic tactic, its Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi appeared at a press conference along with Pakistan’s military spokesperson, claiming to have a “dossier” on Indian involvement in terror attacks inside Pakistan that he said primarily targeted China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure projects.
Army officials now say 2020 has seen the highest levels of firing since the 2003 India-Pakistan ceasefire agreement, with a record number of 4,052 ceasefire violations by Pakistan since January.
Pakistan’s intentions are to provoke India ahead of its two-year term at the UN Security Council from January 2021, as well as to rake up trouble before the Financial Action Task Force review in February.
Studied with the escalation by Pakistan at this time, it should be evident that India’s threat matrix includes the very real possibility of a two-front situation where the Army will be engaged at the LoC and the LAC simultaneously, along with a possible spike in terrorist activity in Jammu and Kashmir.
Suu Kyi again
The National League for Democracy’s landslide victory in the November 8 general election in Myanmar indicates that a vast majority of its nearly 38 million voters continue to think that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is a bulwark against the military, which ruled the nation with an iron fist for about half a century.
While full results are yet to be announced, the Election Commission has stated that her party has won at least 346 of the 476 elected seats in Parliament, well past the 322-mark needed to stay in power.
The military-linked main opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party has won 25 seats so far.
When Ms. Suu Kyi’s NLD came to power after winning Myanmar’s first truly contested election in 2015, hopes were high that the pro-democracy icon would spearhead the transition into full democracy.
Her public defence of the Generals’ handling of the operations in Rakhine State that led to the exodus of at least 740,000 Rohingya Muslims dented her image as a pro-democracy fighter and raised questions about her commitment to the country’s transition.
Those who support Ms. Suu Kyi say her critics outside the country do not understand the complexities of Myanmar’s power dynamics.
Even though the military allowed free elections, it made sure that its interests were preserved.
A bloc of seats in Parliament is reserved for soldiers, which would prevent any amendment to the Constitution.
And the military would control three key government ministries, including the Defence Ministry.
All these suggest that the power struggle between the popular civilian leadership and the powerful military establishment is an ongoing reality despite the elections.
In a country where the memories of the military dictatorship are still fresh, it is unsurprising that Ms. Suu Kyi, who built her moral and political capital in the long fight against the junta, remains the most popular leader.
As the elected ruler, she will also have to address allegations of genocide and walk her talk of making peace with the ethnic minority groups.
How to end pollution? | Ind Exp
Every year as air pollution spikes in northern India around Diwali, the media is full of it.
Various arms of the government and judiciary take notice and announce a flurry of activity.
By February, the media attention disappears.
It seems that nothing is achieved, pollution gets worse every year, and is not a solvable problem.
Actually, some progress has been made as a result of public and media attention and government actions, just not enough yet.
And pollution is very much a solvable problem.
It just cannot be solved on an emergency basis. It has to be dealt with firmly and gradually.
If this is done, it can be brought down to developed-country levels within a few years.
Why gradually? Because there are many sources of pollution and it would be prohibitively costly to stop them or even significantly reduce them all at once.
Although crop-burning and fireworks grab attention at this time of year, they are seasonal phenomena.
The pollution during the entire winter and the lower but still deadly levels that persist through the summer are due to less seasonal sources.
According to a comprehensive study by Chandra Venkataraman of IIT-Mumbai and other scientists, the biggest sources nationally are cooking fires, coal-fired power plants, various industries, crop residue burning, and construction and road dust.
Vehicles are further down on the list.
Since particles diffuse with the air and are carried by winds, they do not stay in kitchens; they contribute to pollution throughout the country.
Smoky firewood, dung and crop residues that are burnt in kitchens all over rural India and some urban slums must be replaced with LPG, induction stoves, and other electric cooking appliances.
Old coal power plants must be closed and replaced with wind and solar power and batteries or other forms of energy storage, while newer plants must install new pollution control equipment.
No new coal-fired power plants should be built — with renewables being cheaper, coal is obsolete for power generation.
Other industries that use coal will have to gradually switch over to cleaner fuel sources such as gas or hydrogen while becoming more energy efficient at the same time.
Farmers will have to switch crops or adopt alternative methods of residue management.
Diesel and petrol vehicles must gradually be replaced by electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles running on power generated from renewables.
The problem is that investments in all these technological changes, although hugely beneficial for the country as a whole, are often not privately profitable at present.
All that needs to be done is to tax polluting activities and subsidise clean investments.
Our existing laws do not allow the central and state pollution boards to levy pollution fee or cess based on pollution emissions.
The judiciary is more powerful but has far less scientific and technical competence.
One great advantage of having a regulatory agency (let us call it an Environmental Protection Agency or EPA) that can levy pollution fee or cess, is that the regulatory decision need not be an all-or-nothing decision.
Pollution fees can start small, and the EPA can announce that they will rise by a certain percentage every year.
This gives businesses time to adjust — they will then find it profitable to make new investments in non-polluting technologies.
Fees should be levied where the production chain is most concentrated.
The EPA has to be given some independence — a head appointed for a five-year term removable only by impeachment, a guaranteed budget funded by a small percentage tax on all industries, and autonomy to hire staff and to set pollution fees after justification through scientific studies.
A major attraction of an independent EPA for politicians in power is that they can pass on the blame for decisions on pollution fees to the EPA.
A second major attraction is that pollution fees raise revenue for the government.
We need the scientific and technical capacity that only a securely funded independent EPA can bring to shrink pollution down to nothing.
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