Mumbai: The rupee extended the morning gains and rallied 66 paise to 70.68 against the US dollar on Friday after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced several measures to promote investment and growth. In a major relief to foreign portfolio investors, FM Nirmala Sitharaman said Super-rich tax will not apply on capital gains arising from sale of any security including derivatives in hands of FPIs. The government on Friday also slashed effective corporate tax to 25.17 per cent inclusive of all cess and surcharges for domestic companies. Also Read – Commercial vehicle sales to remain subdued in current fiscal: Icra Following the announcements, the rupee which opened at 71.19 at the interbank foreign exchange, gained ground and touched a high of 70.68, registering a rise of 66 paise over its previous close. Rupee had settled at 71.34 against the US dollar on Thursday. The rupee however could not hold on to the gains and was trading at 70.91 against the US dollar at 1134 hrs. The government has also decided to not levy enhanced surcharge introduced in Budget on capital gain arising from sale of equity shares in a company liable for securities transaction tax (STT). Also Read – Ashok Leyland stock tanks over 5 pc as co plans to suspend production for up to 15 days Domestic equity benchmark BSE Sensex skyrocketed over 1300 points or 3.68 per cent, to 37,420.12 at 1120 hours, while the broader Nifty rose 362.95 points, or 3.39 per cent, to 11,067.75. Brent crude futures, the global oil benchmark, rose 0.43 per cent to trade at USD 64.68 per barrel. The 10-year government bond yield was at 6.79 per cent in morning trade. The dollar index, which gauges the greenback’s strength against a basket of six currencies, fell 0.03 per cent to 98.23. Sitharaman expressed confidence that the tax concessions will bring investments in Make in India, boost employment and economic activity, leading to more revenue.
India has for long lived in denial of the environmental hazards surrounding its citizens. Water levels have risen, flash floods have devasted thousands, earthquakes have become commonplace in hitherto unfamiliar terrains, uncontrolled construction in sensitive zones have brought forth nature’s fury, but we, as a country, have lived in denial followed by acute inaction. Therefore, it was a welcome Independence Day speech from Prime Minister Narendra Modi that pledged to act against single-use plastic from October 2, Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary. Also Read – Hijacking Bapu’s legacyIt is heartening to see the Indian government finally making some much-needed announcements regarding the environment, used to as we are of hearing news of ecological devastation. Whether it is the metro rail car shed construction threatening to wipe out large sections of Mumbai’s green cover in Aarey Colony or intermittent news of destroying the Aravallis, foam-spewing Bengaluru lakes or anti-green industrial activities—much of India’s progress and development has been coming at the cost of nature and our own future. Holding up this bleak prism in front of us, the restriction of single-use plastic is the first of several steps urgently needed for the nation to go green. Corporates such as Goldman Sachs, Infosys, Flipkart, Samsung, RPG Group, Mahindra Group, and Godrej Group have already started efforts to eliminate single-use plastic. Also Read – The future is here!Single-use plastic essentially means plastic that is discarded after it is used once. Those thin, white/transparent grocery bags, bottles, straws, milk packets, plates, cutlery etc. made of plastic qualify as ‘single-use’ according to the United Nations. India is now set to adhere to these strict definitions. It is about time that we start becoming more conscious about sustainable living. Carrying reusable glass or metal bottles in place of plastic, taking cloth or jute bags for grocery shopping, opting for environment-friendly material for packaging and in the F&B industry, would contribute towards sustainable living. While becoming conscious and aware is welcome, there are mixed thoughts on a complete blanket ban on single-use plastic given its ramifications on the Rs 2.25 lakh crore plastic industry that employing 4.5 million (according to the All-India Plastics Manufacturers Association). As per the India Brand Equity Foundation, the industry has 2,000 exporters and over 30,000 processing units, 85-90 per cent of which are small and medium-sized enterprises. A complete ban on single-use plastic would make this labour-intensive industry deeply vulnerable, and that too at a time when the country is already battling slowdown. Forcing yet another industry into crisis when others are already reeling under the after-effects of demonetisation and GST compliances would be imprudent. Reports also indicate that India is hardly the leading culprit in plastic generation contributing only 4.49 million tonnes compared to China’s 59.08 million tonnes and US’ 37.83 million tonnes of plastic waste in 2010. In India, the lacuna lies in the proper segregation, collection, and recycling of waste and this is where proactive action is needed. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India generates 26 metric tonnes of plastic every day but 11 metric tonnes of plastic remains uncollected. Some Gurugram residential colonies, for example, have taken up the task of proper collection and recycling of garbage very seriously and invested in intensive training sessions for residents and domestic help. Ultimately, much more of these efforts will have to be made to ensure that India doesn’t mismanage its plastic waste. The images of dead whales stuffed with plastic are heartrending and there is no denying that plastic poisons the earth. But banning it completely is not as simplistic as it sounds. Plastic obviously, still has enormous practical use. It’s been that necessary evil that brings down the cost of production, packaging, preservation, transportation etc. It’s that cheap material that has since 1957 provided the best economical way of living life, doing business, and indulging in consumerism. As an industry, it provides jobs and livelihood to lakhs of people. Therefore, a more concerted effort needs to be implemented to wean citizens off the use of plastic where ever possible, bring in eco-friendly processes in business (come on, Amazon! You really don’t need that much plastic for packaging) while ensuring that the plastic industry too gets adequately rehabilitated. The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) stated that in 2015-16, the National Rural Road Development Agency laid around 7,500 km of roads utilising plastic waste. Ingenuous ways of using plastic along with better collection and recycling would be a step in the right direction without delivering yet another shock to the already sensitive Indian economy. (The writer is an author and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal)