Digital India – A revolutionary step of PM Narendra Modi

Digital India

How technology has changed lives in today’s world is confined to no single contextual explanation, and in India, our partnership with IT has grown stronger, as government of India proudly launched “Digital India” campaign on 1st July 2015, Aiming for transformation through Digital Inclusion Of 1.7 Cr. citizens trained for IT, Telecom and Electronics Jobs whipping globally acclaimed IT competence for the benefit of 120 Crore Indians.

We have grown ambitious with an aim to have Broadband in 2.5 lakh villages via National Optical Fibre Network ( NOFN) which proposes seven lakh kilometres of optical fibre to be laid to connect 250 gram panchayats in three years. 400,000 Public Internet Access Points, Wi-fi in 2.5 lakh schools, all universities; Public wi-fi hotspots for citizens, universal phone connectivity and Net Zero Imports in IT sector by 2020. 3 core components of the campaign are:-

Digital Infrastructure Creation: – Creating a strong digital infrastructure is necessary to deploy the various digital services across the country, especially in rural areas. This includes creating Broadband Highways, electronics manufacturing and Digital Locker facility which will help citizens to digitally store their important documents like PAN card, passport, mark sheets and degree certificates.  The scheme will be monitored and controlled by the Digital India Advisory group which will be chaired by the Ministry of Communications and IT. Being an inter-ministerial initiative all ministries shall offer their own services to the public Healthcare, Education, Judicial services etc.

Digital Service Delivery: – “Changing the way of delivering the services from physical to digital.” The government of India digitalized many of its services under Digital India Campaign such as online Aadhar Card, Pan card, Voting card, registration and much more. The way we perform our daily money transactions is also made digital. Making all the money transactions online will help to stop the corruption as it will ensure the transparency in the transactions.

Digital Literacy:provides many services for digital learning, such as using electronic devices such as laptops, computers, tablets and smart-phones for learning. Distance Education enables students from all around the country to learn whatever they want with online courses. Eg. SAWAYAM online courses and National Scholarship Portal. Digital Literacy helps any individual to learn skills from operating digital devices to the advanced learning courses which can be learned online. One of the prominent scheme of government in this regard is the, Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Shaksharta Abhiyan:- With an aim of making 6 cr candidates digitally literate in 2 yrs.

BENAMI PROPERTY – Understanding the concept and the need to eliminate it

Benami Property in India

Transparency in systems and Eradication of Corruption is a key focus of the present government. As the first leg of this drive, Prime Minister Modi announced the demonetisation process in the country in November 2016. The second phase of this anti-corruption, anti-black money is going to be an attack on ‘benami property.’ Although the law to tackle this has existed for the past many years, not much was done about it.

In its recent strike against the illegalities in the real estate sector, the government announced the Benami Transactions Prohibitions Amendment Act on November 1, 2016. An amendment to the earlier Act of 1988, this new enactment is known as the ‘Prohibition of Benami Transactions Act, 1988 or specifically, the PBPT Act. The following is what you need to understand this entire process and the terms involve therein:

“Benami.”

The word “benami” implies ‘not in the own name,’ taken from the Hindi word ‘benaam’ meaning ‘without any name.’ In the context of property, it just means ‘property that is not bought in your name.’ The property so bought is called ‘benami property’; the person in whose name the property has been purchased is called the ‘benamdar.’ Real ownership of the asset remains in the name of the individual who has paid the money for the deal. Naturally, the only person who stands to benefit in the process is the one who has paid for the property. He is the one who keeps both the papers of the document as well as a power of attorney (POA) to sell the particular property as and when he deems fit. His decision to sell would depend on the property prices.

Components of ‘Benami Property.’

As per the old Act of 1988, all property that does NOT stick to the criteria mentioned below would be called benami property

  • Property that is held in the name of your spouse or child and is paid through known and declared sources of income
  • A joint property with a sibling or any other relative and paid with known and reported sources of income
  • Property that someone holds only in a fiduciary capacity – that is, holding an asset in the name of somebody else but not for his benefit. The holding would have been made so more by trust or guardianship.

Under the old Act, therefore, even property that you would buy in the name of your parents could be termed ‘Benami.’

The New Amendment Act, 2016

The Amendment introduced in November 2016, adopts a more strict approach to the definition of Benami property. It also addresses the aspect of fines and punishment. As per the provisions introduced, the Act has

  1. Revised the definition of Benami transactions and added to the already existing one to also include transactions where:
  • the purchase is made in a fictitious name
  • the owner is either not aware of or denies any knowledge of the ownership of the property
  • the person providing the finance for the property can’t be traced

Property transactions that are conducted between family members would not be called benami transaction. ‘Family members’ here mean only those by lineage – father, mother, grandparents and great grandparents or children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren

  1. Stipulated penalty for indulging in benami transactions
  • The penalty that was about one to three years in the earlier Act would now be up to 7. There would also be a strict fine imposed which could go as high as 25% of the market value of the property.
  • Anybody giving false information would end up with imprisonment for up to five years and would also have to pay a fine of 10 percent of the market value of the property.
  1. Set up legal authorities and Appellate Tribunal to deal with these cases.
  • Four authorities will be responsible for investigations and inquiries namely, the Initiating Officer, Approving Authority, Administrator, and Adjudicating Authority.
  • Names of benami property owners would be dug out by the district registrars and the land record departments.
  • The Initiating Officer will issue a notice to the offender. He can hold the property for about 90 days from the notice date after taking permission from the designated Approving authority; at the end of the period, he could just pass an order to extend the holding of the property.
  • In such a scenario, he would then refer the case to the Adjudicating Authority, who would examine all the documents and evidence regarding the matter. It would be up to him to decide whether the property would still be held as benami or not.
  • There would be an Appellate Tribunal formed that would hear any appeal against the orders of the Adjudicating Authority.
  • If any appeal has to be made against the orders of the Appellate Tribunal, it would be made to the High Court.
  • There will be particular Special Courts also designated to try any offenses related to the new Bill
  1. Redefined the concept of benami property and now included the following –
  • All immovable assets like land, an apartment or house
  • Movable assets like gold, stocks, mutual fund holdings, bank deposits, etc.
  • In case the benami property has been sold it would include the money so earned from the sale too.

This Amendment Act comes as part of a series of moves being made to attain greater professionalism as well as transparency in the Real Estate Sector. It is hoped that ownership title risks would also reduce and benami transactions in the agricultural sector would get reduced. Somewhere in the minds of the government is also the fact that this move would make a lot of lands available for better purposes. The coming months will show how far these attempts of the government will be successful.

The next step Indian government is going to take will be identification of benami properties

Big Boss Watching!

Narendra Modi
  • There have been crucial Amendments in taxation rules by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT)
  • Now all transactions for cash deposits of Rs 12.5 lakhs or more between November 9 and December 30, in one or more current accounts of a person will be brought under scrutiny-earlier this amount was Rs 50 lakhs and above, as part of the Annual Information Report (AIR )
  • All such individuals would be asked to submit details of their source of income
  • Banks have been asked to hand over details regarding all these transactions
  • Earlier, in a notification on November 15, the CBDT had mentioned that banks would be asked for details regarding deposits over Rs 2.5 lakhs in saving accounts
  • As a stringent measure, it has also been specified that the permanent account number – PAN – be taken as a compulsory requirement in the case of any deposits more than Rs 50,000 on any single day.
  • The same rule regarding PAN also applies on deposits more than Rs 2.5 lakhs between November 9 and December 30 – this amount was Rs 10 lakh before the announcement of the demonetization process
  • Under normal circumstances, the AIR is submitted by any individual only on certain specific transactions carried out in a financial year
  • Further, banks submit these only once in a year
  • In the current wave of the demonetization, however, all banks would be expected to make reports of this specific period of the changes brought in the economy.
  • The IT department is sparing no effort in nailing down tax evaders – any discrepancy could put the individual in the net of a 200 percent
  • It is known that the extra vigilant IT department has been keeping a strict watch on all transactions being carried out after November 10 – when the banks opened after two days of non-functioning
  • Besides this, all immovable Property transactions over Rs 30 lakhs would also be scrutinized and all sale transactions of Builders are going to be watched, especially the ones carried out post November 9
  • Interestingly, the IT department has even been keeping a close watch on religious institutions and charitable trusts – they have been told to account for all cash proceedings between March 31 and November 8, and then the ones after November 9
  • Raids on Jewellers has been one of the highlights of the past nine days.

All that an NRI needs to know to exchange 500 and 1000 rupee notes

exchange 500 and 1000 rupee notes

They say when you witness change, plunge into it and join the dance – Join the dance by taking care of your own moves first. And just to revise the dance lesson for you, here’s what you need to be careful about-

  • As per the law, NRIs are supposed to reconvert the Indian currency into their foreign currency before they leave India, so they wouldn’t be having much Indian cash with them.
    In case for some reason you were not able to reconvert, the following applies to you….
    You can exchange 500 and 1000 rupee notes till December 30, 2016.
  • If you are not travelling before that, you can still change them until March 31, 2017 by showing identity proof at the RBI offices.This date can be even extended further for person staying outside India after giving the proof of the same.
  • As per RBI guidelines, you could authorise another person in India to deposit the notes in your account – once you have given an authority letter in writing.
  • The authorised person would have to come to the bank branch with the OHD banknotes, the authority letter given by you and a valid identity proof.
  • Valid Identity proof for all such purposes is any of the following: Aadhar Card, Driving License, Voter ID Card, Pass Port, NREGA Card, PAN Card, Identity Card Issued by Government Department, Public Sector Unit to its Staff).
  • Most important, Currency can only be exchanged in India either by personally tendering it or by sending it through an authorized representative.
  • There is no bar on deposit of money as long as you can show source of money/income. Tax is not an issue for an NRI.
  • Remember – you can’t deposit INR cash in the NRE account. This is what can be done-
    a) Make a request for opening of an NRO account with the same customer Identity through the net banking logged in section
    b) Or call the 24×7 customer care
    c) Or placing a request at the particular bank branch in India.
    d) The account opens within 2 working days.
    e) After this, you or your authorized representative may deposit the cash in the NRO account
  • The INR cash cannot be used to create an NRO FD.
    a) For this, deposit the cash in the NRO account and then place a request for NRO FD creation through phone internet banking/ phone banking/ mobile banking/branch.

Indelible Ink, Revision of Withdrawal Limits and Supreme Court Verdict on Demonetisation

indelibel-ink

Exactly a week ago the Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi in a surprise announcement to the nation said within a few hours following his announcement the old currency of 500 and 1,000 denomination would not be valid for any transaction, sending the country into a state of shock. All old currency had to be deposited in banks before the last date of the year. The sudden move was a much required measure to check corruption and black money in the country.

As the opposition parties rallied to confront the government on the recent issue of demonetisation, during the winter session of Parliament, the Economic Affairs Secretary, Shaktikanta Das announced at a press meet on Tuesday that indelible ink would be applied on the right hand finger of those exchanging currency at banks. This would apply to those exchanging bigger denomination notes of 500 and 1,000.

The new rule would be implemented from Wednesday as a measure to prevent repeat exchangers from crowding the banks. This is also to ensure that the quota of new currency assigned to each person does not go bust. This measure has been taken to prevent unscrupulous people from sending others to various banks to exchange notes repeatedly for them. The same people would keep appearing at different bank queues while others were deprived of a chance to collect the new currency.

Even after a week of Mr. Modi’s surprise announcement banks are overflowing and unable to cope with the huge rush for new currency by customers. Serpentine queues stretching for kilometres at some places, are a normal sight. Despite petitions being filed at the Supreme Court against the recent move by the government, the top court has refused to intervene in the matter. Petitioners are blaming the government for the poor timing of the decision saying farmers have been hit hard just ahead of the harvest season and families have had to cancel or postpone weddings till the pressure eases.

The Supreme Court, while reserving its comments on the demonetization issue, urged the government to look for solutions to ease the suffering of the common man with respect to the sudden introduction of new currency. Meanwhile a special task force has been constituted to keep track of the fake notes that are circulating in some vulnerable parts of the country. Prime Minister Modi has been regularly reviewing the supply of currency. Places of worship, which usually are a storehouse of notes in smaller denominations, have been asked to deposit the same at banks so the supply increases.

The Economic Affairs Secretary also urged the people of the country not to fall prey to some rumours doing the rounds, like shortage of certain essential commodities or strikes at prominent institutions. He appealed to the people to support the government’s decision and help cope with the crisis which would be over soon. Opposition parties like the Congress blamed the government for the chaos in the country and said the demonetisation would lead to an adverse effect on the GDP as almost 86% of the bank notes had been frozen in terms of value.

The Finance Minister assured the harrowed citizens that there was no paucity of cash in banks and delivery channels were being increased so as to minimize the inconvenience caused to the public. New measures have also been issued like withdrawal of Rs 500 notes through ATMs. The limits for withdrawal and exchange have also been revised. People can now exchange 4,500 worth of old notes for the new currency per day and cash of Rs. 2,500 / day per card can be withdrawn from the recalibrated ATMs. The earlier cap of 10,000 / day has also been removed. Weekly withdrawal limits from bank accounts have been increased from 20,000 to 24,000.

Banks and post offices have been instructed to ensure that the new currency of all denomination is properly distributed. Banks have been specially asked to stock up on and distribute small denomination notes. Banking Correspondents and mobile banking vans have been deployed to the farthest corners of the country, especially the rural regions where people are facing a crunch of cash availability. Complaints regarding non acceptance of cheques, demand drafts and online payment transfers by hospitals, businesses, caterers etc can be made to the local administrative officers.

Help is also being rendered to the senior citizens and disabled by instructing banks and post offices to have separate queues for them. Supply of new currency has been enhanced at banks and post offices so that the cash strapped citizens can get a bigger quantum of the new notes. The government has extended the deadline for accepting old series of 500 and 1,000 denomination notes till 24th November for limited categories like electricity and water bills, hospitals, petrol pumps, taxes and penalties payable to the government etc.

The old notes of 500 have been replaced with refurbished ones of the same denomination and instead of the Rs 1,000 note, a new Rs 2,000 has been introduced which is still in short supply. The recent move which came like a bolt from the blue, though admirable and praiseworthy, has disrupted daily life especially for the poor. Whether Mr. Modi’s gamble will pay off or not, only time can tell.