On a day the Election Commission announced poll dates for Bihar, Union cabinet approved six percent increase in DA for central government employees, making the total to 119 percent, a move that would benefit 48 lakh employees and 55 lakh pensioners.
In a significant political step, the CCPA which met today, decided to recommend proroguing of Monsoon session, dashing hopes on an immediate clearance of key GST bill. Accusing the Congress party of using parliament disturbance as a tool delay the passage of GST bill, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government will continue its efforts to “convince” the Opposition.
Jaitley said majority of both houses and state governments are already on board for the GST. The Congress-led opposition disruptions demanding resignation of Union Minister Sushma Swaraj and BJP chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan had blocked the GST pending before the Rajya Sabha.
“Since the session was concluded, we have been talking to the Congress Party…It was time to display element of statesmanship particularly when India is trying to emerge as an economic force in the midst of a global slow down..,” Jaitley said adding that the Congress ‘ main weapon is not to let the House run… The Congress’ anger is against the people who have voted them out of power.”
The Union Cabinet also cleared the Gold Monetisation Scheme that would allows gold depositors earn interest on their gold – bullion or jewellery – by depositing it. Jaitley said the scheme will help those who have idle gold for depositing on short, medium, long term basis and earn interest on it. The RBI can use it for replenishing its gold reserve. The Finance Minister said RBI will issue sovereign gold bonds on behalf of the government and the interest rate will be decided from time to time on the basis of the market rates.
Other cabinet decision taken today was the approval of the gold bonds, a move to reduce the gold imports, would enable individuals to buy gold bonds of up to 500 grams in a year.
The Cabinet also cleared the telecom spectrum trading norms today, allowing telecom firms to buy or sell spectrum from each other. The telecom companies will now be able to trade un-utilised spectrum, in all bands, thereby consolidating the sector. According to Telecom Minister Ravishankar Prasad, the spectrum, owned by the government, can now be traded between companies, given they comply with all the rules and regulations. “There will be no need for permission. Companies will only have to intimate the government 45 days in advance,” he explained.
The cabinet also approved a new policy framework and guidelines for offshore wind energy in the country. “The policy framework will provide a roadmap for mapping the off-shore wind energy potential. Based on this, we will locate and identify the areas which have the potential for offshore wind energy. Government will get all approvals for these areas and offer it to developers by way of bidding,” Piyush Goyal, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power, Coal and New & Renewable Energy, said. He said the initial studies have indicated that the offshore energy capacity at the Gujarat coast is 1, 06000 MW and Tamil Nadu’s is 60000MW.