Morning Scan: All the big stories to get you started for the day


Bharatiya Janata Party smashes record in Gujarat, Congress wins in Himachal

The Bharatiya Janata Party has returned to power for the record seventh term in Gujarat with the highest tally yet of 156 seats in the state legislative assembly. The Congress scripted a win in Himachal Pradesh by winning 40 of 68 seats. The Himalayan state maintained its tradition of ousting the incumbent party in every state election. The BJP’s seventh win in Gujarat equaled the Left Front’s similar dominance in West Bengal. The Aam Aadmi Party failed to make a dent in the state but swept to victory in the Delhi Municipal Corporation polls.

Why it’s important: The BJP’s Hindutva and development agenda continues to hold sway in the western state. By winning a few seats there, the Aam Aadmi has emerged as the ninth national party in the country.

Revised telecom draft bill to offer clarity on OTT apps and DTH services

The department of telecommunications will probably a revised draft of the telecommunications bill in less than a month to address issues raised by the information and broadcasting ministry and others around regulating content of over-the-top apps and broadcasting services such as direct-to-home. The revised draft would clearly state that its aim is to regulate only communication apps that give the same services as telecom operators, officials said. It will remove ambiguity on the category of apps that DoT will regulate.

Why it’s important: A lack of well-defined definition of apps had raised concerns that all apps, including streaming platforms such as Netflix and food aggregators like Zomato, may be regulated. There was also concern on defining broadcasting as telecom services.

GST council to discuss ways to stop tax evasion by gutka firms

The GST Council is likely to discuss a report of a group of ministers that has proposed strict measures to trace and curb tax evasion by pan masala and gutkha companies. The council had tasked the panel of state finance ministers, headed by Odisha finance minister Niranjan Pujari, with examining the feasibility of levying GST on some evasion-prone commodities based on the installed capacity rather than actual production. The panel, constituted in May 2021, has submitted its report. It is expected to be tabled in the council’s meeting in New Delhi on December 17.

Why it’s important: The suggestion of levying tax on the basis of manufacturing capacity might not hold water because it would lead to a basic alteration of the GST, which is essentially a supply-based and not a production-based tax.

Budget to propose laying of record 100,000km of railways tracks in 25 years

The upcoming railway budget may propose laying a record 100,000km of new train tracks over the next 25 years to modernize the network and boost train speeds. The railway budget will be presented along with the Union budget on 1 February.

The budget may also set aside Rs 10,000 crore to electrify 7,000km of broad-gauge line in 2023-24, which will complete the electrification of its entire rail network in the country. The budget for new tracks may be doubled to over Rs 50,000 crore. At current costs, laying 100,000km tracks will cost Rs 15-20 lakh crore.

Why it’s important: Laying new tracks is essential to increase the speed of trains that continue to run at low average speeds of less than 60kmph. Electrification of the rail network will reduce dependence of diesel.

Proposed modifications to competition law to ease international M&As

The Indian government’s plan to regulate global transactions, especially among tech firms with a local presence, as proposed in the Competition Amendment Bill, is likely to be modified so that deals that do not stifle competition aren’t bogged down in merger control rules. The proposal to require approval of the Competition Commission of India for global transactions valued above Rs 2,000 crore is part of the amendment bill that is making its way through Parliament. The standing committee on finance is expected to soon finalize its report.

Why it’s important: While antitrust oversight is required, care might be taken that there is no increase in red tape. Businesses should have clarity on the provisions and unnecessary litigation should be avoided.

US drugs regulator issues import alert for Sun Pharma’s Halol factory

The Halol factory of Sun Pharmaceuticals, the eighth-largest pharma firm in the US generics market, has received an import alert by the US Food and Drug Administration. Analysts expect a 2-3 per cent hit to the firm’s revenue and a 5-6 per cent impact on its gross earnings. The company’s stock price has taken a beating as a result, declining 3.57 per cent on the BSE. The drugs regulator had imposed an import ban on the Halol plant in December 2015 as well.

Why it’s important: The US is the single-largest export market for Sun Pharma. An import ban to the country could result in shipments from the Gujarat factory being refused entry. This will deal a sever blow to the firm.

BharatPe accuses former managing director Ashneer Grover of fraud

Fintech unicorn BharatPe has accused its former managing director Ashneer Grover and his family of embezzling company funds to pay for personal expenses, including rent, plane tickets and skincare products, as well as funneling money to fake vendors and recruitment services. In a civil lawsuit filed in the Delhi high court, BharatPe has sought Rs 88.67 crore in damages. It also filed a criminal complaint against Grover and his family, including Deepak Gupta, Suresh Jain and Shwetank Jain, with Delhi Police.

Why it’s important: The acrimony between BharatPe and its ousted managing director shows no signs of abating. The civil and criminal suits will take a further toll on the fintech start-up.

Central government unlikely to conduct Census before 2024 general elections

The central government is unlikely to conduct the decadal Census before the Lok Sabha elections in April-May 2024. The massive exercise involves training 3 million enumerators who visit houses in two phases to collect the data. No preparation has begun to conduct the Census. Fieldwork started in April 2020. There is little time left to conduct the Census in April. If the Census is not done in 2023, it is unlikely to be conducted in 2024 because it will clash with the schedule for the Lok Sabha polls.

Why it’s important: For the first time it started more than a hundred years ago, the Census exercise was deferred in 2021 due to the covid pandemic. A further delay will push it down the road even further. The government’s inaction in this matter is inexplicable.

Air India to spend $ 400 million to refurbish its fleet of Boeing aircraft

Tata Group-owned carrier Air India will spend upwards of $ 400 million to overhaul the cabins of its Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft and introduce a premium economy service on medium- and long-haul routes. The refurbishment will overhaul cabin interiors, a task that will include adding new seats and the best in-flight entertainment across all classes in 27 Boeing 787 and 13 Boeing 777 aircraft. In addition, it will introduce a premium economy cabin on both fleets. The first-class cabins will be retained on the 777s.

Why it’s important: Air India’s refurbishment plan and capacity expansion will help the carrier grow overseas market share in the face of stiff competition from European and West Asian carriers.

Government plans to set up national co-operative export society to boost shipments

The federal government is planning to set up a National Cooperative Export Society to boost India’s exports. The ministry of cooperation has circulated a proposal to central ministries and departments for consultation in this regard. This comes in the backdrop of India’s exports contracting 16.65% to $ 29.78 billion in October 2022 from a year ago.

Why it’s important: India has some 800,000 industrial units run by rural producers. If they can be harnessed to cater to the overseas as well as the domestic markets, it’ll be a win-win situation for all concerned.