New Delhi: On Friday railway minister Mamata Banerjee unveiled a populist budget without tinkering passenger fares or freight rates. The minister announced a dozen of non-stop trains, 50 world-class platforms and special trains for women and youth apart from concession passes for economically weaker sections and minorities.
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On Thursday, the government tabled its annual Economic Survey 2009, which predicted 7% growth in the current fiscal but cautioned that much depended on the progress of the monsoon and recovery of the US economy.
The survey recommended major reforms, some of them contentious. These include deregulating sugar and fertilizers by eliminating price controls and phasing out all cesses along with the securities transaction tax, the commodities transaction tax and the fringe benefit tax.
The department of telecommunications has asked the finance ministry to let winners of the upcoming auction of spectrum for 3G phones to treat their bid amounts as expenses. Even as the bids for spectrum are expected to run into billions of rupees, the proposal may not save telecom companies much tax.
Earlier this week, the finance ministry said it had made it easier for developers and non-banking financial corporations involved in some infrastructure projects to borrow overseas.
Gay rights activists broke out in celebration on Thursday after the Delhi high court decriminalized homosexuality. The historic judgment read down a provision in the 150 year-old Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Both activists and HIV/AIDS organizations say the move will make it easier to deal with health problems.