Comprehensive News Analysis - 27 July 2016

Table of Contents:

A. GS1 Related:
B. GS2 Related:

1. Lok Sabha passes the Child Labour Amendment Bill

2. Modi to spell out 15-year vision for India

3. The unease over the NGO notifications

4. Tribunal rules against Indian govt.

5. Irom Sharmila to end fast, contest Manipur elections

6. After MCI revamp, high-level panel to recast UGC, AICTE

C. GS3 Related:

1. Four infiltrators killed, one held in Kashmir

2. Climate change worsens conflict, say scientists in new study

3. Scientists work toward storing digital information in DNA

D. GS4 Related
E. Important Editorials : A Quick Glance

The Hindu

1. Back under a doping cloud

2. The crisis of Indian democracy

3. Reforms are here to stay (C. Rangarajan is former Chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister and former Governor, Reserve Bank of India)

4. Of curbs to free speech

The Indian Express

PIB

1. India – US to collaborate for first time in R&D in traditional systems of medicine for various diseases

2. CSIR laboratories develop an anti-diabetic herbal formulation

3. Centre Approves 93 Seed Hubs Under National Food Security Mission With an Outlay of Rs.13981.08 Lakh

4. Subsidies to Farmers under Various Schemes

5. National Agricultural Research System is One of the Largest in the World

6. Government has launched number of web and mobile based applications for dissemination of information on agricultural related activities, free of cost, for the benefit of farmers and other stakeholders.

7. BRICS Policy Planning Dialogue (July 25-26, 2016)

The Financial Express:

1. Stunted growth: India needs to tackle poor access to sanitation for over half the population if it wants to curb stunting

2. Educating India, changing India

3. Cities at Crossroads: A looming crisis

The Business Line:

1. GST is also about trucks moving freely

The Economic Times:

1. Move ahead on GST with an open mind

Quick Bits and News from States

1 Show ‘utmost respect’ for law of seas: India on SCS row

2. Be proactive in monitoring panels: BJP MPs told

3. Despite pings, no breakthrough yet, says Parrikar

4. Mass attack bid foiled in Bangladesh, 9 militants killed

5. Images reveal child abuse in Oz prison

6. Mexico finds water tunnel network under tomb of Pakal

7. Day after protest, Madras HC says rules for lawyers on hold

8. Govt okays additional investment in houses for urban poor

9. Australia announces $250,000 grant for Confluence Festival of India

F. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn:
G. Fun with Practice Questions 🙂
H. Archives

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Useful News Articles

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here today folks!

 

B. GS2 Related


1. Lok Sabha passes the Child Labour Amendment Bill

Topic: Legislation

Category: Polity

Key points:

  • The Bill seeks to amend the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, which prohibits the engagement of children in certain types of occupations and regulates the condition of work of children in other occupations
  • The Bill adds a new category of persons called “adolescent”. An adolescent means a person between 14 and 18 years of age. The Bill prohibits employment of adolescents in hazardous occupations as specified (mines, inflammable substance and hazardous processes)
  • The central government may add or omit any hazardous occupation from the list included in the Bill
  • The Bill is linked with the RTE Act so if the minimum age for compulsory education of 14 years is raised, it will automatically rise in this Bill as well
  • Earlier, there was no rehabilitation fund. The fines used to go to the Labour Department. But with this Bill, the government will have to deposit Rs. 15000 for every child released
  • In the old Bill, the fine was a minimum of Rs. 10000 and a jail term of three months to one year for first time offenders. The fine has been increased to Rs 20000 and a jail term of six months minimum is prescribed
  • MPs debated on the definition of hazardous occupations. Right now, only three industries have been marked as hazardous — mines, inflammable substance and hazardous processes
  • The amendment Bill relaxed the penal provisions for parents or guardians, but penalises an employer from the first offence. Many times the guardian is the employer, says MPs
  • The lawmakers are divided over employing children in family business. The definition of family in the Bill includes extended family of uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews. Parliamentarians fear this clause can be misused
  • An M.P questioned as to what will happen to children between 14 and 18 years.
    “Juvenile Justice Act says a child is 16 years, RTE says child upto 14 years. We need a clear definition for child. Why is Labour Ministry taking up this Bill instead of HRW”, she asked. She also questioned about “child beggers”, “would you call them labourers as well”, she asked

 

2. Modi to spell out 15-year vision for India

Topic: Planning

Category: Polity

Key points:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will share his vision and strategy for India’s development over the next seven to fifteen years with the NITI Aayog, on Thursday
  • At the meeting, the Aayog’s CEO Amitabh Kant will make a presentation on the three, seven and 15-year strategy and vision documents it is preparing to replace the Nehruvian 5-year plans, the last of which will end in 2016-17, an official said. The vision document is expected to be finalised by the year-end
  • Before meeting the Prime Minister, the Aayog will on Wednesday hold consultations on its action plans and strategies with the Chief Secretaries of the States at Vigyan Bhawan

 

3. The unease over the NGO notifications

Topic: Accountability

Category: Governance

Key points:

  • Three notifications from the Department of Personnel dated June 20, 2016, and an official memo on June 24, laid down the procedures and timelines for filing returns of public servants, the definition of which in the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act includes office bearers of NGOs
  • Section 14 (1) of the Act includes directors, managers, secretaries and other officers of societies, trusts and associations of persons that receive more than Rs 10 lakhs under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) under its ambit. It does the same in the case the organisations wholly or partly funded by the Central government if they receive an annual grant above a limit that may be fixed by it. (This has been set at Rs 1 crore.)
  • Refusing to buy the Centre’s argument that it is merely implementing what is prescribed already in the Act, there are some who believe that this is a part of the Centre’s strategy to target NGOs. The Home Ministry’s cancellation of the registration of 10,020 associations for violation of the FCRA is cited as evidence of this

 

4. Tribunal rules against Indian govt.

Topic: ICT

Category: Governance

Key points:

  • The international tribunal of arbitration in The Hague has ruled against Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of India’s space organisation, in the ongoing case with Devas Corporation over sharing of spectrum on satellites. With this, India may likely have to fork out $1 billion as compensation to Devas
  • PCA administers cases under the arbitration rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)
  • In 2005 Antrix and Devas entered into an agreement for the long-term lease of two ISRO satellites operating in the S-band. The deal was for 70 MHz of S-Band frequency used to provide multimedia services by leasing most of the transponders on the GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A satellites for 12 years. Devas was to pay $300 million over the said period. However, after reports of unilateral process and presumptive loss to exchequer due to the deal the then government annulled the contract in August 2011. Following this the U.S. investors in Devas moved a case against Antrix

 

5. Irom Sharmila to end fast, contest Manipur elections

Topic: Federal Relations

Category: Polity

Key points:

  • Sixteen years after starting her hunger strike demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, Irom Chanu Sharmila has decided to end her fast on August 9 and contest the Manipur Assembly elections as an Independent candidate
  • Ms. Sharmila, who has refused to eat or drink anything since November 2000, and is force-fed through a nasal tube in Imphal’s Jawahar Lal Nehru Hospital is in a special ward which serves as her prison(On November 2, 2000, an Assam Rifles battalion allegedly killed 10 civilians in a village near Imphal)

 

6. After MCI revamp, high-level panel to recast UGC, AICTE

Topic: Regulation

Category: Governance

Key points:

  • The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has directed the high-level committee, headed by Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya, to prepare a road map for reforming the two regulatory bodies in the field of education — the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) — as well as the board looking after Homeopathy and Ayurvedic education in the country
  • The panel is already set to recommend the scrapping of the Medical Council of India (MCI) and replacing it with the National Medical Commission (NMC)
  • Four Boards —Under Graduate Medical Board, Post Graduate Medical Board, Accreditation and Assessment Board and a board for registration of medical colleges as well monitoring of the ethics in the profession — will be set up under the Commission
  • For allowing private medical colleges, the reformed system will strive to be more assessment-based, focussing on outcomes rather than relying on the inputs-based eligibility criteria in the present system

 

C. GS3 Related

 

1. Four infiltrators killed, one held in Kashmir

Topic: Insurgency

Category: Security

Key points:

  • Four militants have been killed and one apprehended in an ongoing operation in the frontier district of Kupwara on Tuesday
  • An Army spokesman said soldiers had launched a search operation to flush out militants two days ago near the Line of Control (LoC) in Kupwara district
  • “After two days, contact was established. During the ensuing gunfight, four militants were killed while one militant was apprehended,” said the Army spokesman.
  • The Army said the militant group was intercepted close to the anti-insurgency obstacle system (AIOS) after a suspicious movement was noticed. “The Army maintained a tight cordon around the forest area for the whole night to ensure that the militants don’t escape from the area,” said the spokesman
  • Meanwhile, fresh clashes broke out in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday leaving one civilian dead and 17 injured after the government lifted curfew in eight of 10 districts for the first time in 17 days
  • The spontaneous protests pose fresh challenge to security forces as demonstrators no more heed requests made by the separatists. The separatists later released a joint statement hinting at prolonged street agitation

 

2. Climate change worsens conflict, say scientists in new study

Topic: Climate Change

Category: Environment

Key points:

  • Climate change can worsen ethnic conflict, climate scientists have shown in a research paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of U.S.A
  • The main hypothesis of the paper, that was first published online on Monday, July 25, is that climate-related disaster enhances the risk of armed conflict outbreak in ethnically divided countries
  • Using event coincidence analysis, they tested their hypothesis based on data on armed-conflict outbreaks and climate-related natural disasters for the period 1980–2010. Globally, the researchers found a coincidence rate of 9 per cent regarding armed-conflict outbreak and disaster occurrence such as heat waves or droughts. The analysis also reveals that during the 30-year study period about 23 per cent of conflict outbreaks in ethnically highly divided countries robustly coincided with climatic calamities
  • They conclude that climate change acts as a threat multiplier during conflict, though not a direct trigger
  • The scientists also clarify that there is no evidence that climate-related disasters act as direct triggers of armed conflicts. However, they do warn about increased risk of armed-conflict outbreak for climatological events globally because of a projected drying trend in already drought-prone regions such as Northern Africa and the Levant, which includes Egypt and Syria

 

3. Scientists work toward storing digital information in DNA

Topic: Genetics and IT

Category: S &T

Key points:

  • Companies and institutions archive huge amounts of data for decades or centuries, at a time when the world is generating digital data faster than it can store it. Technology moves on, and data can’t be retrieved if the means to read it is no longer available
  • DNA is by its essence an information-storing molecule; the genes we pass from generation to generation transmit the blueprints for creating the human body. That information is stored in strings of what’s often called the four-letter DNA code. That really refers to sequences of four building blocks abbreviated as A, C, T and G found in the DNA molecule. Specific sequences give the body directions for creating particular proteins
  • Digital devices, on the other hand, store information in a two-letter code that produces strings of ones and zeroes. A capital ‘A’, for example, is 01000001
  • Converting digital information to DNA involves translating between the two codes. In one lab, for example, a capital A can become ATATG. The idea is once that transformation is made, strings of DNA can be custom-made to carry the new code, and hence the information that code contains
  • * One selling point is durability.As a storage medium, “it could last thousands and thousands of years,”
  • * Advocates also stress that DNA crams information into very little space. Almost every cell of your body carries about six feet of it; that adds up to billions of miles in a single person. In terms of information storage, that compactness could mean storing all the publicly accessible data on the Internet in a space the size of a shoebox
  • *DNA storage would avoid the problem of having to repeatedly copy stored information into new formats as the technology for reading it becomes outmoded
  • Getting the information into DNA takes some doing. Once scientists have converted the digital code into the 4-letter DNA code, they have to custom-make DNA
  • Twist Bioscience of San Francisco used a machine to create the strings letter by letter, like snapping together Lego pieces to build a tower. The machine can build up to 1.6 million strings at a time
  • Each string carried just a fragment of information from a digital file, plus a chemical tag to indicate what file the information came from
  • To read a file, scientists use the tags to assemble the relevant strings. A standard lab machine can then reveal the sequence of DNA letters in each string
  • Sri Kosuri of the University of California Los Angeles, who has worked on DNA information storage but has now largely moved on to other pursuits, says one challenge for making the technology practical is making it much cheaper
  • Scientists custom-build fairly short strings DNA now for research, but scaling up enough to handle information storage in bulk would require a “mind-boggling” leap in output, Mr. Kosuri says. With current technology, that would be hugely expensive
D. GS4 Related

Nothing here today folks!

E. Important Editorials: A Quick Glance

The Hindu

 

1. Back under a doping cloud

Topic: Sports

Category: Governance

Key points:

  • World Championship bronze medallist, wrestler Narsingh Yadav, has shaken the Indian sporting community by testing positive for a banned steroid
  • The incident has once again brought to the fore India’s rather lackadaisical approach towards keeping sport clean. It seems the country has forever been playing catch-up in bringing transparency in anti-doping measures
  • India wasn’t even a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code until December 2004. The National Dope Testing Laboratory was established in New Delhi in 1990 but was accredited by WADA only in 2008. In this intervening period, every positive drug test could be contested in court, a convenient alibi for any athlete or administrator to cover up wrongdoing
  • When three women from the victorious 2010 Commonwealth 4x400m relay team tested positive and were handed one-year sentences by NADA, the International Association of Athletics Federations had to intervene against what it perceived as lenient punishment
  • Interestingly, coach Yuri Ogorodnik of Ukraine, who was fired after being accused of providing food supplements that were not sanctioned by the Sports Authority of India, was reappointed last year
  • A WADA report for 2013 had placed India third in the world in terms of doping offences. Now that reports of another athlete, the shot putter Inderjeet Singh, testing positive have emerged, the sense of déjà vu is heavy

 

2. The crisis of Indian democracy

Topic: Participation in Democracy

Category: Polity

Key points:

  • While India’s economy has received periodic attention, mostly during critical moments defined by food shortages and foreign exchange outages, the workings of its democracy have received next to none. This reflects complacency
  • Interestingly, the neglect is evident in every angle from which the country has been approached, applying to observers located both within and without its society. This condition is related to the failings of its democracy, which in one dimension has remained more or less unchanged since 1947. This dimension is that the majority of the population has been left with weak capabilities
  • Capabilities are what enable individuals to pursue the lives that they value. This, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has suggested, is true freedom and should therefore be the focus of all developmental effort. The idea is foundational in that it vaults over narrow economistic or political definitions of development. It is irrelevant to it whether we have more or less of the state or the market or whether we insert ‘socialist’ and ‘secular’ into the Constitution so long as large sections of our people are unfree in the sense that they cannot lead lives that they value
  • He had seen Indian Independence as an opportunity to build a “prosperous, democratic and progressive nation and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman”. B.R. Ambedkar, with legal acumen and a practical bent of mind, had defined democracy as a means to bring about a significant change in the living conditions of the depressed without resorting to bloodshed. These ambitious programmes and the hard work they would have entailed fell by the wayside in the practices of India’s political class and in the discourse of its intellectuals
  • Whatever may have been the vision of India’s founding fathers, Indian democracy has not lived up to their expectations. As a matter of fact, it has done far worse
  • In the past year it appears to have added heightened violence towards the marginalised to its sedentary character. The incident of four Dalit youth being beaten in full public view in Gujarat is only the most recent instance of this. Parliament reportedly heard accusations and defences the next day but it is not yet clear what impact it will have and how civil society will respond. No one could have missed the irony of the Prime Minister earlier this month travelling by train in South Africa where about a century ago M.K. Gandhi was thrown out of a first class carriage because of the colour of his skin
  • The scenes from India come a full century later. And the Dalit youths had, going by public sources, only skinned a dead cow, a task to which Indian society historically confined them. By assaulting them for undertaking it, not only has their dignity been denied but their livelihood snatched away. In any civilised society the perpetrators of this crime would not just be grasped by the long arm of the law but publicly shamed
  • Gujarat is of course only one of the sites of violence against Dalits. It is important to recognise that it has been widespread across northern India and not absent from the south either, with Tamil Nadu featuring prominently. It is also important to recognise that acts of violence against Dalits are not of recent origin. Their oppression is systemic and deeply rooted in India. Parties with leadership drawn from the middle castes have long ruled Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, among India’s most populous States, all of which have witnessed violence against the Dalits for some time. When in power, middle caste-based parties have replaced their criticism of the top of the caste pyramid with suppression of those at its bottom
  • So what can we do now? For those outside the corridors of power the task is to shape the discourse on Indian democracy. Its goal must now be redirected towards human development while ensuring the security of all vulnerable groups. This need not in any way conflict with growing a strong economy. In fact, a strong economy, including a vigorous market, is one element in furthering development as the expansion of freedoms. Opposition to the market, which has in certain contexts come equally from the Right and the Left in India, misses this point entirely. Restriction of private enterprise does nothing to empower the marginalised in a society. Their empowerment can come about only via direct public action to build their capabilities
  • In fact, a genuine commitment to socialism should have helped here. Karl Marx had defended communism as the principle “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. Instead, socialism as the official ideology of the Indian state for close to three decades got trapped into expanding a public sector producing goods regardless of outcome and independent of its consequences for the historically outcast
  • The state prided itself in being interventionist in the economy and laissez faire in the social sphere. The task, envisaged by Nehru, of creating the institutions necessary to support individual freedom, did not materialise. The historically outcast were left to fend for themselves, a stance morally equivalent to allowing the devil to take the hindmost
  • The chickens have finally come to home to roost. India today hosts the world’s largest number of the poorly educated and prone to poor health, a development disaster in spite of being the world’s third-largest economy in purchasing power terms. One need only occasionally travel third class on the Indian Railways in most parts of the country, which, recall, Gandhi did, to comprehend the scale of the deprivation and estimate how close public policy today comes to addressing it. As a quarter century has been spent focussing on India’s economic architecture in the name of ‘economic reforms’, it would be profitable to now devote the next decade to mounting an assault on human deprivation. The development of the capabilities of India’s women and Dalits, by virtue of their being the most deprived, would merit the first draft of attention and resources thus expended
  • For a democracy to be complete, however, something more than just focus on the individual, however deserving they may be, is necessary as members of a democracy must engage with one another lest we remain equal but separated. Here public goods come into the reckoning. Public policy should engineer spaces where Indians meet on the basis of a participatory parity. Widespread public services from schools and hospitals to parks and crematoria are one way to bring individuals together as they struggle from birth to death in this country. Repeated interaction in public spaces would make us realise our common humanity and enable us to see any residual identity for what it really is
  • There has been far too little effort in Indian public policy to create spaces where citizens may interact freely and peacefully. Many other countries have done so. For instance, the provision of public housing in ‘capitalist’ Singapore comes with the proviso that it should be shared between people of all ‘races’, namely Chinese, Indian and Malay
  • The incidents of assault on Dalits in Gujarat, rape of women across the country and intimidation of Muslims in Uttar Pradesh bring home to us the presence of terrorism among us
  • In its inability to contain these forces, India’s democracy can be seen to be flailing. Bertrand Russell had remarked that we can never guarantee our own security if we cannot assure that of others. Tired of oppression the Dalits have finally risen in what was once the land of Gandhi

 

3. Reforms are here to stay (C. Rangarajan is former Chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister and former Governor, Reserve Bank of India)

Topic: Reforms

Category: Economy

Key points:

  • Mid-1991 saw a new dawn in the economic history of India. The country then faced a severe economic crisis, triggered largely by an acute balance of payments problem. The response to the crisis was to put in place a set of policies aimed at stabilisation and structural reform. While the stabilisation polices were aimed at correcting weaknesses that had developed on the fiscal and balance of payment fronts, the structural reforms were meant to remove rigidities that had entered various segments of the Indian economy and to make the system more competitive and efficient. Thus the crisis was turned into an opportunity to effect some fundamental changes in the content and approach to economic policy
  • The break with the past came in three important directions
  • The first was to dismantle the complex regime of licences, permits and controls that dictated almost every facet of production and distribution. Barriers to entry and growth were dismantled
  • The second change in direction was to reverse the strong bias towards state ownership of means of production and proliferation of public sector enterprises in almost every sphere of economic activity. Areas once reserved exclusively for the state were thrown open to private enterprise
  • The third change in direction was to abandon the inward-looking trade policy. By embracing international trade, India signalled it was boldly abandoning its export pessimism and was accepting the challenge and opportunity of integrating into the world economy
  • On the genesis of reforms, some interesting questions have been raised. First, several people have been curious to know the role of P.V. Narasimha Rao in the reform process. Was he an ardent advocate or a reluctant reformer? Second, were the reforms of 1991 a continuation of a process that had already begun in the 1980s or did they truly constitute a break? Third, since the leaders and bureaucrats involved in the reform process were themselves part of the earlier control regime, what compelled them to change their approach? How much of the change was influenced by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other multilateral institutions?
  • Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister spearheaded the new policy. He articulated the need for change and provided not only the broad framework but also the details of the reforms. It was, however, Rao as Prime Minister who provided the valuable political support and shield which were very much needed. It must be noted that as Prime Minister, he also held the Industry portfolio which was directly responsible for initiating changes that led to the dismantling of various types of controls and licences relating to the industrial sector. This was indeed a key element of the reform programme
  • The Eighth Five Year Plan, in the writing of which I had a role, spelt out in some detail the rationale for reforms. Rao, as Chairman of the Planning Commission, had read the draft and approved it fully. However, as a matter of strategy, he couched the reforms in a language which would appeal to the ‘old guard’ of his own party. There is no doubt that reforms could not have moved forward without his solid support and conviction
  • The 1980s saw some important changes in economic policy. A number of committees were set up which recommended changes for improving the functioning of the economy. But most of these recommendations were still within the framework of an overall system of controls. What was attempted was only a relaxation of controls such as raising the threshold for licensing. They were largely incremental in nature. On the other hand, the reforms of 1991 moved away from the control regime and offered a consistent set of measures covering various segments of the economy in line with the new approach
  • What changed the mindset of the people who initiated the reforms was the enormity of the crisis of 1991. India’s foreign exchange resources had fallen to a level equivalent to only three weeks of imports. The possibility of ‘default’ loomed large. It became obvious that ‘business as usual’ would no longer work. We had to move fast and make fundamental changes in our economic policy. It was true that at the time we were negotiating with the IMF and other multilateral institutions. Obviously they had their own bias. They were in favour of a competitive economy with minimal controls. But the decision we took to introduce reforms was entirely our own. The credit goes fully to our leadership
  • In the first three years after reforms were launched, there was a flurry of activity. Reforms covered all key sectors such as industries, external trade, foreign investment, exchange rate system, banking, capital market and fiscal and monetary policies. The impact was quick. Growth started picking up. The balance of payments situation improved and confidence in the economy was restored. It was good that successive governments have adhered to the reform path. The pace of reform has, however, varied over time. Nevertheless, what stands out is that growth since the reforms has been faster. Between 2005-06 and 2010-11, the average annual growth rate was 8.8 per cent. While the decline in growth rate seen in the last few years needs careful analysis, reforms have to be an integral part of any programme aimed at accelerating growth
  • On the progress of reforms itself, two questions from two opposite angles have been raised. First, how far have we come in fulfilling the original goal of liberalisation? How much more needs to be done? The second question is, how much of the benefit of growth has gone to the lower deciles of the population? Has there been a perceptible impact on the vulnerable and weaker groups?
  • As reforms progressed, more and more sectors of the economy were brought within the ambit of liberalisation. However, there are still some segments which are subject to controls reminiscent of the pre-1991 period. A good example is the sugar industry. Agriculture too as a sector needs special attention. Reforms of the agricultural marketing system are overdue. The country is yet to emerge as a single market. Administrative reforms need to be pursued with urgency. Thus the scope for future reforms is still wide
  • Despite faster growth, India still ranks low in the Human Development Index even though the country is classified as a medium human development country. There is, however, evidence that poverty is coming down. Whatever level of private consumption expenditure is used as the cut-off, the poverty ratio is falling. Having said this, one must recognise that the poverty ratio is still high and we are lagging behind in meeting the Millennium Development Goals on several dimensions. Growth does help in reducing poverty because of both the percolation effect and the ability to raise more resources on the part of the government to provide for increased social sector expenditures. Therefore, a twofold strategy is needed: letting the economy grow fast, and focussing on targeted programmes to help the poor and disadvantaged
  • Thus the emphasis on efficiency does not mean ignoring concerns relating to equity. As the role of government as a producer of marketable goods and services goes down, its role as a regulator and provider of public goods and services increases. In fact, even in the provision of public goods, different combinations are possible. Public-private participation can combine the efficiency of the private sector with larger public policy concerns
  • Reforms have come to stay. There is a fair measure of agreement across political parties on the need for reforms. However, individual measures may run into problems. This is inevitable in a democracy when conflicting political pressures are at play. Persuasion and consensus-building are qualities which political parties in power must nurture and cultivate. Reforms are the first important step towards raising the growth rate. But as our experience over the last few years shows, reforms alone are not enough. They must be supplemented by a proactive government which is focused on development and not distracted by other considerations

 

4. Of curbs to free speech

Topic: Free speech

Category: Polity

Key points:

  • July 6 this year marked the 115th birth anniversary of Syama Prasad Mookerjee. A Minister in Jawaharlal Nehru’s Cabinet, Mookerjee had resigned to form the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, to which the Bharatiya Janata Party traces its origins. However, a little known fact about him went unnoticed. Mookerjee was one of the primary targets of the first amendment to the Constitution, by which the words “friendly relations with foreign States” were introduced as an exception to the right to free speech
  • In 1949-50, there were large-scale communal riots in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), which led to a huge exodus of Hindus into West Bengal. In the wake of these riots, the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan, signed an agreement known as the Nehru-Liaquat Pact or Delhi Pact aimed at securing peace and ensuring that both countries would protect their respective minorities. Clause (C)(8) of the pact required the governments of both countries to prohibit propaganda inciting war between the two countries. However, it was felt that this clause in the treaty could not be enforced under Indian law
  • In March 1950, about a month before the pact was signed, Nehru wrote to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel alarmed by the fact that Mookerjee’s Hindu Mahasabha was speaking about “Akhand Bharat” (or unified India), which was “a direct incentive to conflict”. Nehru was worried that war with Pakistan was “openly (being) talked about”. Patel responded by telling Nehru that the Constitution was getting in the government’s way. In a letter to Nehru, he wrote: “We are now faced with a Constitution which guarantees fundamental rights — right of association, right of free movement, free expression and personal liberty — which further circumscribe the action that we can take.”
  • In April 1950, two days before the pact was signed, Mookerjee resigned from the Cabinet, telling Nehru that the policy he was following towards Pakistan was sure to fail, that time alone would prove this. Thereafter, it seems Mookerjee openly started making speeches calling for war between India and Pakistan. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Zafrulla Khan took exception to the speeches
  • Patel sent a telegram to Khan, explaining that the “constitutional position… affects activities of individuals as well as of press and inextricably binds us.”
  • In June 1950, Nehru wrote to Patel and said that the “chief culprit” against the smooth working of the pact was “Hindu Mahasabha propaganda”, “the Calcutta Press as well as Syama Prasad Mookerjee”. It was in this context that Patel wrote a telling letter in July 1950 to Nehru, where he said that the Supreme Court’s “Cross Roads and Organiser cases” (Romesh Thapar v. State of Madras AIR 1950 SC 124 and Brij Bhushan v. State of Delhi AIR 1950 SC 129) had knocked the bottom out of “most of our penal laws for the control and regulation of the Press.” In Romesh Thapar, the Supreme Court had invalidated a ban imposed by the Madras government on a communist publication, Cross Roads, which had been critical of Nehru’s foreign policy. In Brij Bhushan, the court had similarly struck down a prior restraint imposed by the Delhi government on a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh publication. “My own feeling is that very soon we shall have to sit down and consider constitutional amendments,” Patel wrote to Nehru
  • At the time, Article 19(2) of the Constitution contained very limited exceptions to the right to free speech. Broadly, these were defamation, obscenity, contempt of court and the security of state. In June 1951, India’s provisional unicameral Parliament passed the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951. Among other things, it introduced three new exceptions to the right to free speech. Now, citizens did not have the right to speak freely if their words imperilled “public order”, incited the commission of an offence, or affected “friendly relations with foreign States”
  • The “friendly relations with foreign States” restriction seems to have been targeted at Mookerjee and his like. In a speech in Parliament, Nehru said: “If an individual does something which might result in war, it is a very serious matter. No State, in the name of freedom, can submit to actions which may result in wholesale war and destruction.” On the other hand, Mookerjee, in his speech in Parliament against the First Amendment, said that Partition was a mistake and that it should be undone someday, even by force. He said that he did not know whether the “friendly relations with foreign States” exception related to “the demand which is being made in certain quarters about a possible reunion of India and Pakistan”
  • The official explanation for the insertion of “friendly relations with foreign States”, adopted by B.R. Ambedkar in his speech in support of the Bill, was that it was intended merely to prevent the defamation of foreign state heads. However, the anxious correspondence exchanged between Nehru and Patel in 1950 makes it abundantly clear that Mookerjee’s calls for the forcible reunification of India and Pakistan were the chief targets of the insertion. Interestingly, since 1951, this exception to the right to free speech has seldom been used

 

The Indian Express

 

PIB

 

1. India – US to collaborate for first time in R&D in traditional systems of medicine for various diseases

For the first time India has successfully engaged USA in the field of Traditional Medicine. An India-US workshop on Traditional Medicine with special focus on cancer was organized on 3-4 March, 2016 at New Delhi. A US team comprising of experts from National Cancer Institute (NCI) took part in the two day exhaustive deliberations that have resulted into significant leads.

 

2. CSIR laboratories develop an anti-diabetic herbal formulation

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), through its constituent laboratories jointly developed scientifically validated herbal product NBRMAP-DB as anti-diabetic, hypoglycemic formulation with hepato-protective and anti-oxidant properties. The product has shown consistent growth right from the initial promotional phase since Oct, 2015 with the total sales turnover being Rupees 25 crores and about approximately a million diabetic patients benefited

 

3. Centre Approves 93 Seed Hubs Under National Food Security Mission With an Outlay of Rs.13981.08 Lakh

93 seed hubs against a target of 150 at Indian Council of Agriculture Research Institutes (ICAR), State Agriculture Universities (SAUs), Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) have been approved under National Food Security Mission (NFSM) with an outlay of Rs.13981.08 lakh.

15% of the allocation for pulses component of NFSM is earmarked for production of quality seed of pulses seeds through states. An incentive of Rs.25/- per kg is being provided for pulses seed production. 7.85 lakhs seed minikits of newer varieties of pulses have been targeted for distribution to the farmers free of cost during 2016-17. For enhancing the production of breeder seed of pulses, an amount of Rs.2039 lakh has been approved for 12 ICAR institutes and SAUs. Cluster frontline demonstrations of pulses in 31000 ha have been allocated to 534 KVKs for the year 2016-17. The strengthening of production units of bio-fertilizers and bio-control agents has been planned.

 

4. Subsidies to Farmers under Various Schemes

The Government is providing subsidies to farmers under various schemes for improving the infrastructure, marketing facilities and promotional services.

Under Agricultural Marketing Infrastructure (AMI) sub-scheme of Integrated Scheme for Agricultural Marketing (ISAM), subsidy is being provided @ 25% to 33.33% to eligible beneficiaries for creation of storage infrastructure.

Under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) scheme, funds are released to the State Governments as 100% grant on the basis of projects approved in the State Level Sanctioning Committee (SLSC) meeting headed by the Chief Secretary of the State.
Under National Horticulture Mission (NHM) scheme for development of Horticulture, assistance is being provided for development of Post-Harvest Management (PHM) and Marketing infrastructure. The component of market Infrastructure includes rural primary markets, wholesale markets and terminal market complexes.

Under National Food Security Mission (NFSM), financial assistance is being provided to the farmers for farm machineries for improving the infrastructure.

Under Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India scheme (BGREI), assistance is being provided for activities that help in enhanced procurement, creation of storage facilities, marketing and value addition. Assistance is being provided 50% of the project cost for individual beneficiary and 100% for community assets.

At present, there is no proposal under consideration to withdraw the provision of subsidy in respect of above mentioned schemes.

 

5. National Agricultural Research System is One of the Largest in the World

The Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE) coordinates and promotes agricultural research & education in the country. DARE provides the necessary government linkages for the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the premier research organisation for co-ordinating, guiding and managing research, education and extension in agriculture including horticulture, fisheries and animal sciences in the entire country. With 102 research institutes and 73 agricultural universities spread across the country, the National Agricultural Research System (NARS) is one of the largest in the world. While the ICAR Institutes have the Departments of Extension, the Agricultural Universities have the directorates of extension to identify, test and refine the transferable agricultural technologies and other related information emanating from research as well as to establish effective liaison among various departments and other stakeholders both the public and private for their transfer.

To ensure effective transfer of the technologies and scientific information related to the farm sector to the farmers, line departments and other end users at the district level, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has established a network of 645 Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) in the country. The KVKs are mandated to conduct frontline extension through the assessment and demonstration of technologies/products and its dissemination through number of extension programmes including training of farmers through specific training programmes developed by KVKs on improved technologies related to agriculture and allied fields, benefiting the farmers in terms of increased crop production as well as farm income.

To coordinate, monitor and implement the activities by KVKs in their respective zone, 11 Agricultural Technology Application Research Institutes (ATARIs) have been setup at zonal level. At state level, the responsibility of coordination and monitoring is with Directors of Extension of State Agricultural Universities in coordination with ATARI. For effective monitoring of mandated activities of KVKs, a local monitoring committee at State Agricultural University level is formed. The Quarterly review of KVKs is done by Vice-Chancellor of respective SAUs to monitor the technical, administrative, financial and developmental activities. KVKs conduct one Scientific Advisory Committee meeting every year to monitor the progress of technical, administrative, financial and developmental activities.

The KVKs function in close harmony and partnership with all developmental agencies/organizations, farmers and other stakeholders. KVKs also provide technological backstopping to ‘Agriculture Technology Management Agencies’ (ATMA), a scheme funded by the Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare (DAC&FW) and other agencies at the district level. A district level Joint Action Plan for enhancing interface between scientists, extension functionaries and farmers is prepared through a joint meeting of KVK and ATMA officials under the chairmanship of the District Collector. A quarterly interface meeting, involving all line departments of the district, is held by all KVKs to monitor the implementation of the Joint Action Plan and to share new information and technologies for wider dissemination in the district.

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research also maintains effective linkages with other key programs of the Government of India like RKVY, MNREGA and NHM and other extension activities including those related to public sector, farmers’ organizations, NGOs, Commodity Boards and private sector. ICAR contributes through technology backstopping in the National Rabi and Kharif conferences organized every year in which extension agencies from all the states also participate.

Besides, the Agricultural Technology Information Centres (ATIC) are also established at various ICAR Institutes and Agricultural Universities which function as “single window” support system linking various units of a research institution with intermediary users and end users (farmers). They provide advisories, inputs and diagnostic services for soil and water testing, plant and livestock health as well as provide information through published literature and communication materials as well as audio-visual aids.

 

6. Government has launched number of web and mobile based applications for dissemination of information on agricultural related activities, free of cost, for the benefit of farmers and other stakeholders.
Some major mobile applications developed by Government are as under:
(i) Kisan Suvidha: This app has a simple interface and provides information on five critical parameters- weather, input dealers, market price, plant protection and expert advisories.
(ii) Pusha Krishi: This app provides information on latest technologies to farmers.
(iii) Crop Insurance: – Famer can learn of insurance premium, notified area etc. on the mobile.
(iv): Agri Market: – Farmer can learn of the prices of various crops in the mandis near him.
(v): India Weather:- This app provides current weather and 4 days weather forecast across the country for more than 300 cities.
The major Web portals developed by Government are as under:-
(i) Farmers’Portal: Farmers’ Portal is a one stop shop for farmers where a farmer can get information on a range of topics including seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, credit, good practices, dealer network, and availability of inputs, beneficiary list and Agromet advisories.
(ii) mKisan Portal: This is a unified platform from where officials and scientists can send targeted text and voice based advisories to the farmers on a host of issues related to agriculture and allied sectors.
(iii) Crop Insurance Portal: To provide complete information related to Crop Insurance scheme being implemented in the country.
(iv) Participatory Guarantee System of India (PGS) Portal. This is a portal for encouraging participatory approach to certification of organic farming in the country.
These mobile apps and portal are available in the public domain. The web portal and the mobile apps are centrally developed by Government, through the services of NIC and in-house team.

 

7. BRICS Policy Planning Dialogue (July 25-26, 2016)
The BRICS Policy Planning Dialogue was successfully concluded on 26 July 2016 in Patna.
The discussions held in Patna would contribute towards India’s objective as Chair of BRICS for 2016 to further consolidate Intra-BRICS cooperation by adopting a five-pronged approach –

(i) institution building to further deepen and sustain BRICS cooperation;

(ii) implementation of the decisions of previous Summits including Hon’ble PM’s announcements at the Fortaleza and Ufa Summits;

(iii) integrating synergies among the existing cooperation mechanisms;

(iv) innovation, i.e., new cooperation mechanisms; and

(v) continuity, i.e., continuation of mutually agreed existing BRICS cooperation mechanisms.

 

The Financial Express:


1. Stunted growth: India needs to tackle poor access to sanitation for over half the population if it wants to curb stunting

Topic: Health

Category: Governance

Key points:

  • That India has the highest number of children who suffer from stunting—a form of malnutrition in which the ideal physical and cognitive development is impaired irreversibly during the first 1,000 days of a person’s life—is shameful for a nation that aspires to become a top economy, banking on its demographic dividend
  • Globally, 159 million children under the age of five—or one in every four children in the age group—suffer from stunting, of which 48 million are from India, as per a report by Water Aid
  • While malnourishment is one of the primary causes of malnutrition, malabsorption of nutrients—often brought about by diseases such as diarrhoea and intestinal worms—are also responsible for stunting
  • Given how nearly half of all poor child nutrition cases can be linked to diarrhoea, worm infestation and other diseases that spread through poor hygiene and sanitation— a quarter of all stunting cases are linked to chronic diarrhoea, 88% of which, in turn are linked to poor sanitation practices—eliminating the scourge of open defecation becomes a must for India
  • The Lancet estimates that interventions to address malnutrition such as nutrient supplements and encouraging breastfeeding can only reduce stunting in worst-affected countries by 20%, even when 90% of the target population is covered. This means that the maximum gain in reducing stunting can only come from improving sanitation and hygiene standards
  • Even though India has made impressive progress in bringing down stunting—it fell from 48% in 2006 to 39% in 2014—there is still a lot of ground to be covered, given more than half of the country’s population doesn’t have access to proper sanitation

 

2. Educating India, changing India

Topic: Education

Category: Governance

Key points:

  • Change in India is a complex process of introducing new ideas, dealing with multiple interest groups, and trying to reshape institutions through which activities take place. Nowhere is the need for change more urgent than in the education sector, because the lack of adequate human capital may be the biggest constraint that India faces in seeking faster economic growth. Of course, thinking about education leads to concerns about health and nutrition, physical infrastructure and so on, but let us put those aside for the moment
  • What is interesting is how much we have learned in the last decade about the process of education in India. Clearly, the institutional mechanisms work well as screening devices, as well as imparting certain basic skills to a slice of the population. The best products of the system do very well in globally competitive environments, but like many other aspects of Indian life, there is a steep fall off in skills going below the top, much more than the natural distribution of human abilities might predict. As is now clearly understood, national efforts like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) improved access and enrolment numbers, but not necessarily learning outcomes
  • A well-known problem is that of teacher absence, or of teacher incentives in general. Teaching aides may have better incentives, and seem to help, but the deeper problem is one of pedagogical methods. There is a need to change the classroom learning process (as well as documenting deficiencies in traditional delivery mechanisms), with measurable positive results. It has also pioneered supplemental approaches such as expanding access to after-school tuition, or in-school remedial education to help learning laggards catch up before they fall permanently behind
  • Look at recent studies. A paper documented an experiment seeking to establish whether enabling more students to afford after-school tuition improved learning outcomes—it did not—and another paper that measured whether using adaptive learning software for mathematics improved learning outcomes; it did. These were specific additions to our knowledge, based on careful research. A panel on skill development highlighted the breadth of India’s skilling challenge – where and how one should start, beyond simply listing all the needed skills across industries, sectors and jobs
  • What kinds of changes might be cost-effective, improve learning outcomes simultaneously with access, and be implementable without having to battle entrenched interests and getting swallowed in existing institutional dysfunction?
  • Yamini Aiyar, Vincy Davis and Ambrish Dongre conducted a lengthy detailed qualitative study of frontline education administration in Bihar, with over 100 interviews. What emerged was a picture of “organisational design of the education administration which privileges a top-down, rule-based hierarchy that leaves local administrators little by way of authority” and creates “a narrative of powerlessness.” What led to positive change in some locations? This happened when “district leaders encouraged active dialogue and problem-solving” with frontline administrators, instead of “expressing leadership through hierarchy and demands for compliance. This work suggests that marginal changes may never be sustainable, but instead the harder task of modifying institutional structures and attitudes within organisations has to be undertaken for large-scale improvements in education access and outcomes
  • We have seen the germ of this story in case studies where local control of schools in India has led to improved teacher accountability and performance. We can also get a sense of why SSA ultimately did not improve learning outcomes. The study’s authors emphasise changing work culture and management practices, but this may also require decentralising the education bureaucracy, so that it permits local improvements, and focuses on providing support rather than enforcing hierarchical compliance. Of course, this is the change needed within every classroom in India. Children in school do better with tailored support than with blanket rules. So do young adults in university or other training venues. And so do government officials, whether in the education bureaucracy or in any other one of India’s many bureaucratic structures. Beginning this change may therefore be the key to effecting real change in India

 

3. Cities at Crossroads: A looming crisis

Topic: Cities

Category: Governance

Key points:

  • India’s water crisis is even more serious than its energy crisis though this is not generally realised. For energy, alternative sources such as solar and wind energy are becoming more cost-effective. For water, the only major alternative available is desalination and it is far too expensive
  • Until about a decade ago, water was seen as a key requirement for the agricultural sector, and the focus was on the need to invest in infrastructure for irrigation, which would reduce the dependence of our farmers on rains and also meet the rural drinking needs. The Green Revolution accentuated the need for secure water for the high yielding varieties of food grains. However, inadequate investments and poor planning and maintenance of the irrigation infrastructure meant that canal irrigation was much less effective than planned. Farmers turned to groundwater with zeal, and they could do this because groundwater extraction was unregulated
  • Free or cheap electricity also meant that farmers turned to tube wells and electric pumps as preferred instruments for lifting water from underground. About 80% of the addition to the net irrigated area in India since 1970 has come from groundwater. Since water is not economically priced, it is used inefficiently through flood irrigation. For the same reason, water-intensive crops are grown in areas where water is highly scarce, e.g., rice in Punjab and sugarcane in Maharashtra, thereby contributing further to the decline in water tables
  • Over the past decade or so, unplanned urbanisation has highlighted the water problems facing urban India: declining water tables and a serious challenge of water pollution. Urbanisation has been gathering momentum with India’s rapid growth. While only a third or so of India’s population is urban, the share of urban GDP in the total is close to two-thirds. India’s urban population is projected to increase to 600 million and urban share of GDP to 75% by 2031. It is not clear how the resulting increase in urban water demand will be met. Releasing water from agriculture by improving efficiency in water use will certainly help, since agriculture accounts for 80% of the total use of water in the country. Recycling wastewater is another potential source of augmenting water supply for urban areas
  • This requires that drinking water, sewerage and wastewater treatment, storm water drains, and also solid waste management be planned and managed in an integrated manner. These services are actually being managed in silos, in some cases by the urban local governments themselves though they are not sufficiently empowered and in other cases by parastatal institutions (metro boards) of state governments
  • Even the National Missions are encouraging a fragmented approach by separating solid waste management under Swachh Bharat from the rest under Amrut, and even worse, dispensing with the requirement of a City Development Plan in which all projects must be anchored
  • The result is that the state of water delivery in Indian cities is visibly highly deficient. Only 62% of urban households have access to treated tap water and only a little over 50% are directly connected to piped network. The average connected household receives water for approximately 2 hours per day. Only 33% of the urban population is covered by a piped sewer system, while close to 40% is dependent on septic tanks, and 13% still defecate in the open
  • Storm water drains are inadequate and ill-maintained, and even natural drains which provide safe exit to storm water including flood water are either encroached or carrying sewage. Natural recharge zones are typically not taken into account in planning for urban expansion.
  • Wastewater treatment has been a neglected area in India’s urban water planning even though it is crucial to keep our rivers and groundwater clean and also to augment supplies by generating “used water” for gardening, flushing, etc. The capacity to treat sewage or wastewater is only 37% of the total need in the country, and the actual treatment is even less, only 30%
  • The sewage treatment capacity is also sometimes redundantly utilised as in the case of Delhi where treated wastewater is discharged into drains and allowed to mix with untreated sewage flowing into the natural storm water drains, and the unholy mixture finally discharges into the river. No wonder then that the Central Pollution Control Board finds that 75% of the measurable pollution in our rivers is from municipal sewage and 25% from industrial effluents. Surveys of ground water also show high levels of microbiological contamination, clearly suggesting contamination from municipal sewage
  • The implications of polluted and unsafe water and poor sanitation are extremely serious for public health. WHO data shows that half of India’s morbidity is water related, and there is ample evidence to show that water-borne diseases have been on the rise in India
  • When public policy fails to deliver, the gap gets filled by private providers creating markets for water. The solution has been similar to what happened in the case of agriculture: there is increasing but unaccounted use of groundwater by extensive digging of bore wells to meet the demand deficit. The stories of tanker mafia in Delhi are legendary. The result is an accelerated decline in water tables and also increased contamination from fluoride, arsenic, and mercury as efforts are made to dig deeper
  • India is the largest user of groundwater in the world with groundwater abstraction at 251 cubic km per year, which is more than double that of China’s. What is more, India’s use of groundwater is much in excess of the actual recharge being carried out. The states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi fare the worst in this respect. A recent assessment by NASA showed a decline in the water table for these four states at an average rate of 4 cm per annum
  • The 12th Five Year Plan had called for a paradigm shift and proposed a comprehensive programme for the mapping of India’s aquifers as a prerequisite and a precursor to a National Ground Water Management Programme, and some pilot projects have been initiated
  • Ground water use in India is currently governed by the framework of British common law sanctified by the Indian Easement Act of 1882. This provides that a land owner has the absolute right to draw any amount of ground water from under the land owned by him. The attempt at legislative reform in the past focussed mostly on allocation and setting up a public regulatory authority for groundwater regulation and management such that the state government will take the final decision
  • The government of India is currently working on a national water framework bill and also a model groundwater bill which addresses the challenges of equitable access and aquifer protection, moving away from the focus on the link between land ownership and control over groundwater and treating groundwater as a common pool resource to be exploited only for public good
  • State governments could adapt the bill to their specific context. This is a bold step which is long overdue. How easy it would be to enforce such a system given the weak capacity for governance at the local government level remains to be seen, though it is clear that this is the only way to go

 

The Business Line:


1. GST is also about trucks moving freely

Topic: Logistics

Category: Economy

Key points:

  • The generally accepted belief is that roll out of GST would lead to elimination of delays and long queues at checkposts at state borders. It would also lead to the simplification of the documentation required for transporting goods across India. These are important objectives given that India has notoriously high average waiting time and stoppages for trucks transporting goods
  • According to a recent report published by Transport Corporation of India (TCI) and IIM-K, such delays impose transaction costs of around $21 billion annually on India’s businesses. In addition, it increases average transit times and makes supply chains inefficient
  • Enabling seamless movement of goods across India is, in fact, is considered to be one of the most important aspects of GST-related reforms. It would lead to much-needed logistical efficiency in India’s national supply chains. This would require detailed rule-making as well as IT-based systemic solutions acceptable to all stake-holders, especially the State administrations
  • Unlike the political and tax law related debate over GST, rules for transport related documentation and administrative procedures for checking and inspection of trucks have received relatively scant attention
  • At present, State governments maintain a plethora of forms (many but not all online) for both the consignee/consignor of goods and the transporter to file for recording the movement of goods in and out of their jurisdiction. Existing procedures also require transporter to carry hard-copies of invoice and forms along with them
  • This system can easily be replaced by designing single national online documents for the consignee, consignor and transporter. The national document for consignee-consignor will require submission of the same information that is currently captured in a standard invoice. For every transaction, consignee-consignor will have to also provide a corresponding invoice number reference from his books of accounts.
  • This would comply with the legal requirement of the GST model law that transport can only happen after invoicing of goods. Provisions for special types of transactions (for example, imports, repair and return or stock-transfers) or special types of goods (for example, exhibition goods or documents) need to be made. The online system would generate a unique transaction ID for every transaction
  • The transporter would create an online electronic waybill (e-waybill) by simply quoting the transaction IDs generated by consignee-consignor and adding the registration number of the vehicle that would be transporting the shipments quoted in the e-waybill
  • Each e-waybill will be assigned a unique ID, and all the transporter would need to have with him is this number, which he would quote to any official en-route who wishes to establish the bona-fides of goods being carried
  • The GST Network or GSTN should be able to provide this IT architecture, with adequate server capacity. Not only will this make the documentation simple and transparent, it would do away with the need for the government to chase paper-trails (of invoice copies and multiple documents) when it requires to do due diligence and post audits
  • In a truly integrated India, with one national GST, checkposts at State borders need to be completely eliminated. In order to ensure compliance with tax laws, the government can put in place a system of randomised checks by mobile flying squads
  • However, there is concern that such mobile flying squads can become a source of harassment for transporters due to over-zealous or unscrupulous officers. Officers have been given substantive powers under the draft GST law for stoppage and seizure of vehicles which can be potentially abused
  • Thus, a comprehensive system of checks and balances needs to build it. The following specific suggestions for the administration of such mobile check-posts can be considered:
  • All stoppages made by mobile squads would need to be logged in to the system online with specific reason for stoppage. In order to facilitate this, codes for all the reasons a vehicle is stopped should be created;
  • Any stop made for a) greater than 15 minutes, b) for asking for any other information other than contained in e-declaration, or c) actual physical verification of goods, would have to be logged in as an exception, with reason why such exception was made;
  • Any physical verification of actual shipments would be done under digital camera surveillance, the recording of which would kept in a database for 24 hrs, with the option of downloading of recording for the registered transporter and consignee whose vehicle/shipment was stopped;
  • Physical verification of shipment, when undertaken, should be done in a location not further than five kilometres from the place where truck was actually intercepted;
  • Number of stops on specific routes and instances of actual non-compliance found by such stops to be maintained in database;
  • Annual report, reporting stoppage data, sorted by different sections of route, to be published based on the database maintained by the government
  • Finally, a system of registered transporters should be encouraged. Transporters with a good compliance record could be provided a higher level of facilitation and enable authorities to develop a better risk management system targeting less compliant players for higher number of checks
  • Without such comprehensive IT backed documentation, procedural, and administrative reforms, and adequate checks and balances, the benefits of GST would be incomplete, as would the dream of seamless movement of goods and efficient supply-chains in India

 

The Economic Times:


1. Move ahead on GST with an open mind

Topic: Taxation

Category: Economy

Key points:

  • The Centre is reportedly looking at ways to bring petroleum products under the ambit of the goods and services tax (GST). This is most welcome. Ideally, GST should subsume all indirect taxes of the Centre and the states. The GST Constitution Amendment Bill envisages petro-products being brought under GST at a future date. However, excluding petro-products is irrational and raises the tax rate on other products. The Centre’s undertaking to compensate states for any revenue loss should remove objections to excluding any item from GST on grounds of revenue loss. Today, tax paid on petroleum products cannot be availed as input credit, and that, in turn, causes economic distortion
  • India will have a dual GST, with the Centre and states having concurrent powers to tax value added. States will earn huge revenues as they will collect tax on services, which account for more than half of GDP. States also have a blanket assurance of being compensated for revenues losses arising from transition to GST. Should they, then, continue to have the share of central taxes on services they currently have?
  • Ideally, the Centre and the states should share a common tax base for value addition in goods and services and collect their own taxes. That would still leave personal and corporate income tax, and customs duties to be collected by the Centre and shared with the states. It is worth exploring a role for the Inter-State Council to take a view on any disputes that the GST council of the Centre and the states is unable to resolve
  • The success of GST will hinge on the efficiency of the administrative machinery for levy and collection of the tax. The Centre now charges and collects excise duties on goods and service tax, while states charge and collect value added tax on goods. The model GST Act proposes two separate administrators. One option could be to allow the Centre to collect all service tax and give the states their share, while states can collect tax on goods, and give the Centre its share. Both central- and state-level tax personnel can share the information on the GST Network

 

Quick Bits and News from States

 

1 . Show ‘utmost respect’ for law of seas: India on SCS row
“As a State Party to UNCLOS, India urges all parties to show utmost respect for the UNCLOS, which establishes the international legal order of the seas and oceans,” the Minister of State for External Affairs told the 14th ASEAN—India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Vientiane, Laos, referring to the tribunal’s July 12 rejection of Beijing’s claim over the strategic waters.

 

2 . Be proactive in monitoring panels: BJP MPs told
MPs have been asked to ensure their participation in the newly-announced District Infrastructure Scheme Advisory Committees (DISHA), set up to monitor Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) under the aegis of the Rural Development Ministry. The project is headed by local members of Parliament.

 

3 . Despite pings, no breakthrough yet, says Parrikar
Several pings have been picked up over the Bay of Bengal during the search for the missing An-32 but there is no breakthrough yet, the Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said.

 

4 . Mass attack bid foiled in Bangladesh, 9 militants killed
Police on Tuesday foiled another ‘mass attack’ bid in Bangladesh, reeling under a wave of deadly terror assaults, by killing nine Islamist militants during a pre-dawn raid at their hideout here. The militants, aged between 20 and 25 and suspected to be members of Jamatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), opened fire on police during the operation.

 

5 . Images reveal child abuse in Oz prison
Australian PM announced a royal commission hours after the airing of shocking footage showing the treatment of the children at the Don Dale detention facility outside Darwin in the Northern Territory. Indigenous youths make up 96 per cent of the young prison population in the Northern Territory, and Indigenous people are overwhelmingly represented in the NT prison system across the board. Indigenous people make up 30 per cent of the overall population of the NT.

 

6 . Mexico finds water tunnel network under tomb of Pakal

Archaeologists at the Mayan ruin site of Palenque said on Monday they have discovered an underground water tunnel built under the Temple of Inscriptions, which houses the tomb of an ancient ruler named Pakal.

Researchers believe the tomb and pyramid were purposely built atop a spring between AD 683 and 702. The tunnel led water from under the funeral chamber out into the broad esplanade (path near a river) in front of the temple, thus giving Pakal’s spirit a path to the underworld.

 

7 . Day after protest, Madras HC says rules for lawyers on hold
A day after more than 3,000 lawyers from across the State attempted to lay siege to the Madras High Court seeking withdrawal of the amended Advocate Rules, the First Bench of Chief Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice R. Mahadevan by an interim order reiterated the judiciary’s position that implementation of the new Rules was kept in abeyance for all practical purposes.

 

8 . Govt okays additional investment in houses for urban poor
The Centre has approved an additional investment of ₹16,641 crore for affordable housing for construction of nearly 2.44 lakh houses for urban poor under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban). In a statement, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation said that this was done during the first four months of this financial year and will benefit the urban poor in 11 States.
“With these approvals, a total investment of ₹51,568 crore has so far been approved for construction of 9,27,991 houses for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in urban areas in 20 States under PMAY (Urban) which was launched in June last year,” the official statement said.

 

9 . Australia announces $250,000 grant for Confluence Festival of India
Aiming to deepen its cultural ties with India, Australia has announced a grant of 250,000 Australian dollars for supporting the ‘Confluence Festival of India’, the first of its kind and the biggest such event ever to be held in the country.

The 10-week-long festival will be held across seven cities – MELBOURNE, Sydney, Perth, Canberra, Alice Springs, Adelaide and Brisbane from August this year.


F. Concepts-in-News: Related Concepts to Revise/Learn:
  • The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986
  • NITI Aayog
  • The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act
  • FCRA
  • AFSPA
  • Antrix
  • National Medical Commission
  • World Anti-Doping Agency
  • NEP-1991
  • Shyama Prasad Mookherjee
  • RKVY
  • Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

Tags

  • The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986
  • NITI Aayog
  • 5 year plan
  • The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act
  • FCRA
  • AFSPA
  • Antrix
  • National Medical Commission
  • DNA to store data
  • World Anti-Doping Agency
  • NEP-1991
  • Shyama Prasad Mookherjee
  • RKVY
  • BRREI
  • GST Network
  • Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan


G. Fun with Practice Questions 🙂
Question1: Which of the following would be possible advantages if DNA is used to store data?
  1. Durability
  2. Compactness
  3. DNA storage would avoid the problem of having to repeatedly copy stored information into new formats as the technology for reading it becomes outmoded



a) 1 and 2 only

b)2 only

c)2 and 3 only

d)All the Above


Question 2: Which of the following offices come under the jurisdiction of Lokpal under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act,2013?
  1. Members of Parliament
  2. Any person who is or has been in-charge (director / manager/ secretary) of anybody / society set up by central act or any other body financed / controlled by central government
  3. Group C officers



a) 1 only

b)1 and 2 only

c) 2 and 3 only

d) All the Above


Question 3: Which of the following states are covered under Bringing Green Revolution in Eastern India Scheme?
  1. Andhra Pradesh
  2. Orissa
  3. Bihar
  4. Assam



a) 1 and 4 only

b)2 and 3 only

c)1,2 and 3

d) 2,3 and 4


Question 4: Which of the following statements is/are correct about the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012?
  1. According to the amendment, children below the age of 14, cannot be employed anywhere, except in non-hazardous family enterprises or the entertainment industry(except the circus)
  2. A new definition of adolescent has also been introduced in the amendment and employment of adolescents (14 to 18 years of age) has also been prohibited in hazardous occupations and processes
  3. The proposal also provides for the setting up of a Child and Adolescent Labour Rehabilitation Fund for one or more districts for rehabilitation of children or adolescents rescued



a) 1 only

b) 2 only

c) 2 and 3 only

d) All the Above


Question 5: Which of the following is/are correct?
  1. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was a member of the first cabinet of India(of the interim government)
  2. Mukherjee founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1951 became its first President



a) 1 only

b) 2 only

c) Both 1 and 2

d)Neither 1 nor 2


Check Your Answers

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