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FM announces ₹50,000 cr. incentive scheme in third set of stimulus measures

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday announced a third set of government decisions to revive the economy, including a ₹50,000 crore export incentive scheme and a ₹10,000 crore special window to provide last mile funding for unfinished housing projects.

The decisions, announced by the Minister at a press conference on Saturday, follow two previous mega announcements designed to encourage private sector investment, and bring further stability into the banking system through several public sector bank mergers.

The third set of announcements focussed on giving a fillip to exports, which contracted 6.05% in August, and easing the plight of home buyers.

Last-mile funding

For the housing sector, the most notable decision was the setting up of a special fund that would provide last-mile funding for housing projects that are not categorised as non-performing assets and are not undergoing National Company Law Tribunal proceedings.

“The objective is to focus on construction of unfinished units,” Ms. Sitharaman said. “The government, on the lines of the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund, can contribute to the fund, while the rest of the investors would be LIC and other institutions and private capital from banks, sovereign funds, etc.”

The Minister said the government’s contribution to the fund would be ₹10,000 crore and the other investors would contribute “roughly the same amount”. The fund is to be professionally run with experts from the housing and banking sectors.

Duty remission

On exports, Ms. Sitharaman said, “One major decision is the setting up of the Scheme for Remission of Duties or Taxes on Export Product (RoDTEP), which would replace the Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS).” “The existing dispensation in textiles of MEIS and the old ROSL [Rebate of State Levies] will continue up to December 31, 2019,” she added.

‘One common language vital for nation’s global identity’

In remarks that sparked angry reactions from some southern States, Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday said Hindi is the only language that can unify the country and steps should be taken to promote it.

“India is a country of different languages, and every language has its own importance but it is very important to have a language of the whole country which should become the identity of India globally,” he said on Twitter, writing in Hindi. “Today, if one language can do the work of uniting the country, then it is the most spoken language, Hindi.”

Gandhi’s dream

Appealing to citizens to increase the use of the mother tongue and Hindi, Mr. Shah equated it to realising the dream of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel of one language for the country.

Later, at a Hindi Diwas event in Delhi, he said, “Today if you ask a Hindi-medium student to speak for 40 minutes in Hindi, he won’t be able to do so.”

“There is so much influence of English on us that we cannot talk in Hindi without its help. School students should be asked to speak in Hindi,” Mr. Shah said.

Pointing out that the nation was home to 122 languages and over 19,500 dialects, he said people should realise that if languages were lost to foreign influence, “we will be severed from our culture”. He said Hindi had to be taken to areas such as law and science and technology, and the “battle was only half won.”

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group on Saturday attacked two Saudi Aramco plants at the heart of the kingdom’s oil industry, including the world’s biggest petroleum processing facility in Abqaiq, and Khurais, sparking fires in the latest flare-up in the Gulf.

Saudi Arabia said it had brought the blazes under control, but three sources said oil production and exports had been disrupted.

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