Monday, February 3, 2020

Number of the day: 33.4

It’s getting hot in Bengaluru. The city recorded its hottest ever day in January on Friday. The temperature: 33.4 degrees Celsius. The previous record: 32.8 degrees Celsius on January 24, 2000. And it confirms the meteorological department’s prediction of a “harsher” summer across the country. One official said: “Even though it is normal to witness a rise in temperature after Makar Sankranti, this time, the temperature has shot up drastically. There has practically been no winter this time.”

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The big-ass union budget tamasha

Every year, the government unveils its spending plan for the year ahead. There’s huge media coverage. But most of us have no clue WTF just happened. We decode the must-know details for you.


Your tax bill: So the government sorta, kinda gave us aam taxpayers a break. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman rolled out an optional income tax rate which goes kinda like this:

  • Up to Rs 5 lakh: 0%
  • Rs 5 lakh to Rs 7.5 lakh: 10% (down from 20%)
  • Rs 7.5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh: 15% (down from 20%) 
  • Rs 10 lakh to Rs 12.5 lakh: 20% (down from 30%) 
  • Rs 12.5 lakh to Rs 15 lakh: 25% (down from 30%) 


Yaaay! Umm, not so fast. You are only eligible for the above rates if you sacrifice all the exemptions your CA currently claims. And you may end up saving or losing money based on what exemptions you can claim. As Finshots explains: “Imagine you made 5,40,000 this year. But then you claim that you paid 60,000 in rent that ought to be excluded from the total taxable income. And immediately the number drops from 5.4 Lakhs to 4.8 lakhs. And since your total taxable income is now less than 5 lakhs, you don’t pay any tax. However, if you choose to forego the exemptions and opt for the new tax regime, you pay 10% tax on a total income of 5,40,000.” Economic Times has more examples on why the new system isn’t quite as awesome as it looks. And this funny doggo clip is the perfect metaphor.


So what does that mean? Taxpayers will now have to do extra math. Calculate what exemptions they are eligible for, then figure out what they would owe with and without exemptions. You can switch from one system to another at will—except if you make money from your own business.


If you’re getting a fat cat salary: you will have to pay tax on any employer contribution to your funds—provident fund (EPF), National Pension System (NPS) and superannuation fund—if the annual amount crosses Rs 7.5 lakh. 


Your shopping bill: Anything phoren is gonna cost you more. The budget raised taxes on imports of goods such as electronic items, toys and furniture. So that IKEA table just got a whole lot more expensive. Also more expensive: cigarettes, tobacco products, mobile phones. But hey, raw sugar and skimmed milk are cheaper now. Here’s a shortlist of what went up or down.


Sending money abroad: is also going to get more expensive—and attract a 5% tax beyond Rs 7 lakh. That’s whether you pay for a foreign tour package or pay your kid’s college fees. This Twitter thread explains why this screws over Indian tour operators.


Also getting more expensive: Your Amazon order or Uber ride. All e-commerce businesses will now deduct a 1% tax at source. 


Your stock options are prettier: Until now, you had to pay tax twice to the government on your ESOPs. First, when you exercised your option and bought the shares—which you had to do within three years. Then you’d be taxed again when you sold them—on any capital gains you made due to a higher selling price. But now you have five tax-free years from the time of allotment.  


If you are an NRI: get ready to spend more time abroad to establish your status. Until now, NRI status was available to those who stayed outside the country for 182 days. That period has now been upped to 240 days. And non-residents have to pay tax on any income generated in India. For example, rent on that gated community flat you bought just in case. No, you don’t owe a paisa on any money you make outside the country… as yet.


Last bit of good news: Your saving in the bank is a little safer. If your bank goes belly up, you will at least get back Rs 5 lakh of your money. Until now, only Rs 1 lakh was insured.


Learn more: For more and a macro view of the budget:

  • Quint explains which tax option you should pick.
  • Mint has the best analysis.
  • Tired of reading? Watch Business Standard’s TN Ninan and A K Bhattacharya offer an insightful overview of the budget.
  • Indian Express explains whether the budget actually addresses the economic slowdown. TLDR: No. 
  • Capital Mind on why the lower tax slabs are just an eyewash 
  • Sitharaman’s 16-point plan to help farmers—and why some critics are skeptical.
  • Times of India has more on the plans to sell Life Insurance Corporation of India  and other public companies. 
  • India Spend has more on the Rs 4400 crore ($619.11 million) allocated for clean air incentives in cities with over 1 million people 
  • Indian Express explains why the stock markets tanked soon after the budget was announced. 
  • Mint has more on the boost for affordable housing. 
  • Economic Times has the Rs 100 lakh crore ($1.4 trillion) spend on infrastructure.
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pounding away at the treadmill to 'Taki Taki'

Shots fired at Jamia and Shaheen Bagh: Things are getting seriously effed up in our country. 

  • First, a 25-year-old man fired shots at protesters in Shaheen Bagh—standing right next to policemen. He was yelling “Humare desh mein sirf Hinduon ki chalegi aur kisi ki nahi” (in our country only Hindus will prevail) and “Jai Sri Ram!”
  • Also: a massive mob marched into Shaheen Bagh chanting, ‘Desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maaro saalon ko’. Watch the clip here. The women’s reply: “Desh ke in pyaron ko, phool barsaon saaron par” (Shower flowers on these beloved compatriots).
  • Two people on a scooter fired shots during a protest outside the gate of Jamia Milia. 
  • Better news: The Election Commission has “relieved” the Deputy Commissioner of Police of South East Delhi—in charge of the area that includes Shaheen Bagh and Jamia—from his post.


Your viral outbreak update is here: Here’s the latest on the new coronavirus sweeping across the globe (FYI, our explainer is here):

  • The latest tally: The number of deaths: 360. The total number of cases: 14,557. More than 2000 cases were reported within 24 hours over the weekend. In India, there are two confirmed cases, both in Kerala. The Philippines reported the first death outside China.
  • It’s a pandemic: which is defined as an ongoing epidemic on two or more continents. The reason: “The Wuhan coronavirus is spreading more like influenza, which is highly transmissible, than like its slow-moving viral cousins, SARS and MERS, scientists have found.”
  • The India angle: The government has airlifted 647 out of Wuhan. Watch them dancing in delight. But ten have been left behind because their body temperature is too high. The News Minute has that story. Also: India has suspended e-visas for anyone residing in China.
  • Stranded Americans: A number of US citizens are being left behind by their own government, and for a number of reasons. One: diplomats and their families received priorities. Two: the remaining tickets were selling for $1000. Finally: Chinese spouses and family members not registered as US citizens are not eligible.
  • Drone patrol: China is using drones to monitor whether or not people are using masks—and to scold those who don’t. Watch an example.


Kunal Kamra flies again: Yup, Mr Kamra finally got on a plane thanks to Vistara. See his ‘airport look’ here.


Djokovic wins again! Novak Djokovic won his eighth men’s singles title with a 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Dominic Thiem—and he reclaimed the No. 1 ranking from Rafael Nadal. But that excellent win was marred by certain er, foot-tapping incidents. As in: Djoko tapped the umpire’s foot (twice!) to express his anger at two penalties. He may face a $20,000 fine, though he doesn’t think he deserves it: “I thought it was a nice, really friendly touch. I wasn’t aggressive with him in terms of physical abuse. I just couldn’t believe that I got the time violation. It kind of disturbed me. That’s all there is to it.” (The Guardian)


Swapan Dasgupta’s son accused of sexual assault: A woman on the St Stephen’s alumni group posted a message claiming that she had been assaulted as a student by the BJP MP and popular columnist’s son, Soumya Srijan Dasgupta. She claimed that five others were molested as well. At least two of them have since spoken up: “I stand with Ananya as one of the other five victims. Soumya Dasgupta molested and forcibly tried to have sex with me in London, 2017.” Irony to note: Dasgupta is a lawyer at the Supreme Court. (Quint)


‘Thappad’ looks like a must-watch: The director of ‘Article 15’ is taking on domestic violence. The trailer starring Taapsee Pannu looks very promising—precisely because it takes on ‘routine’ and normalised violence that Indian women face in their closest relationships. 


Speaking of domestic violence and movies: An audio clip reveals that Johnny Depp’s ex-wife Amber Heard may have hit him—though she appears to have a problem defining the exact nature of her assault: “I'm sorry that I didn't, uh, uh, hit you across the face in a proper slap, but I was hitting you, it was not punching you. Babe, you're not punched… I don't know what the motion of my actual hand was, but you're fine, I did not hurt you, I did not punch you, I was hitting you." Her lawyer’s comeback: “The fact that a woman fights or talks back does not mean that she has not been the subject of repeated domestic violence and abuse.” Hear the clip here. USA Today has the story.


Music makes working out better: A new study found that listening to the right kind of music can make your gym sessions more effective—and far less painful: "We found that listening to high-tempo music while exercising resulted in the highest heart rate and lowest perceived exertion compared with not listening to music." What’s high tempo music? The kind that equates to about 170 heartbeats per minute. Think Eminem's "Lose Yourself" (171 BPM), Beyonce's "Naughty Girl" (199 BPM) and Taylor Swift's "Untouchable" (200 BPM). (CNN)


Yes, quitting smoking can save you: Once a smoker, doomed forever. That’s been the message of previous studies that claim even giving up cigs won’t protect smokers from cancer. But new research finds that quitting actually helps: “Our latest research has uncovered that in people who quit smoking, the body actually replenishes the airways with normal, non-cancerous cells that help protect the lungs, in turn reducing their risk of getting cancer.” (The Conversation)


Weekend reads you may have missed: include the following: 


  • It’s lit fest time. Here are some very good reads. Sandip Roy in Mint calls out the hubris of speakers on the stage at Jaipur lit fest: “Writers like to think that their role at lit fests is to inspire, even if they don’t sell as many books as they would like.” But it is actually those who are off stage and in the streets who offer true inspiration.
  • Also: The Telegraph on the infestation proliferation of lit fests.
  • We don’t just acquire family and friends when we marry. We also acquire enemies! The Cut has an excellent must-read. 
  • Mumbai Mirror has a must read on Halima Khatoon who spent 11 years in a detention centre—all because someone decided she is Bangladeshi. 
  • Indian Express looks at the transformation of video games into big budget blockbusters starring Hollywood A-listers.
  • We greatly enjoyed reading this interview with architect Hafeez Contractor and his vision of a future India: “Take about 10-12 acres each and have high density developments, with 60-80 floors, where you have underground stations, offices on the top, gardens on the deck and residences above them. These four to five nodes, that can house a million people each, can be linked by underground transport and you leave the rest of the land free to grow your food. ”
  • Yes, men also suffer from postpartum depression. Indian Express has a handy explainer.
  • Forge over at Medium has a fascinating piece on how US apps are trying to solve that universal human problem: What to do when you break up?
  • Does your pet really need cat tv or a dog playlist? The answer as per the New York Times: nope.
  • In White Review, Mary South answers FAQs about craniotomy—i.e. brain surgery. It was horrifying, but we couldn’t stop reading either. 


Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:


  • The excellent news that India delivered a 5-0 in its T-20 series against New Zealand in the T20 series  
  • This lovely clip of a man singing Bon Jovi's ‘Living on a Prayer’ by himself—until the entire park joins in.
  • This Tik Tok video of a little kid that is… well, insanely and quintessentially Tik Tok. We can’t stop looking. 
  • If BMW created a Transformer, it would look insanely cool like this.  
  • Best ‘caught red-handed’ look, courtesy this pooch.
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