Happy New Year. April Fool joke, right' Wrong.
Ask traders, whose strike enters the third and, hopefully, the last day. Today's the day value added tax takes hold and they will say there's nothing happy about it.
But it's the New Year's Day all right ' the first of the financial year 2005-06. That's one reason, but there's more. Rarely have so many events taken place on the first day of April.
Value added tax, or VAT, is only one but it is also the most controversial. The Planning Commission yesterday gave a handle to protesting traders by saying VAT has 'serious design flaws' that could raise commodity prices by 30 per cent.
Finance minister P. Chidambaram and his Bengal counterpart Asim Dasgupta, the VAT champion, have been saying otherwise. April 1 could be a day of squirming for them as they read about the plan panel's verdict.
Talking of prices, the bad news continues. Steel prices go up from today, by 5 to 10 per cent. (See Business Telegraph)
New power tariff
Still on prices, CESC Ltd, which keeps Calcutta lit up, announced new tariffs that take hold from April 1. CESC is claiming the average tariff is down by 22 paise per unit. But, as the wise say, the taste of the tariff lies in the bill. So wait until the end of the month. (See Metro)
Visa on arrival
Happiness comes from the recently-opened fountain of friendliness on the border. Today is the day Pakistanis above the age of 65 and below the age of 12 will be issued a visa on the spot at the entry point at Wagah.
Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto arrives with husband on this day.
Euro III, or Bharat Stage III as it is know in India that is Bharat, norms are coming into effect from today in 11 cities, Calcutta being one of them.
The norms seek to make vehicular emissions 40 per cent cleaner than what they are till now. Petrol pumps have to start supplying BS III-compliant fuels, which means lower levels of sulphur.
For the first time, an extremely toxic and carcinogenic ingredient that is harmful to babies in wombs will be monitored under these norms.
The regulations attack pollution at both ends ' in the fuel as well as tailpipe emissions by vehicles.
On this morning, shed a tear for Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged American who has been at the centre of a wrenching dispute over whether or not she should be taken off life support. She died yesterday, 13 days after her feeding tube was removed on court order.