June 2018
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[op-ed snap] GST, a buoyant force

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GST

Mains level: Impact of GST implementation on economy


Context

Performance of GST

  1. One fiscal year into the implementation of the GST, it is worth asking how it has performed in terms of revenue generation both for the country and for individual states

Three important findings:

Aggregate revenues are highly buoyant

  • This year’s Economic Survey had argued that confusion reigns in understanding GST performance because of focusing on one or more of the bewildering sub-categories of the GST (CGST, SGST, IGST, cess etc)
  • A revenue growth of 11.9 percent has been observed, compared with the relevant pre-GST numbers
  • The implied tax buoyancy (responsiveness of tax growth to nominal GDP growth) is 1.2, which is high by the historical standards for indirect taxes

“True” compensation requirements are minimal

  • The government produces estimates which show that compensation, although financeable from within the GST, has been substantial
  • Nearly all the states have seen their revenues grow by at least 14 percent
  • There will be likely improvements in compliance with the introduction of e-way bills and invoice matching
  • There are very few states where there is a significant decline in the post-GST share compared to the pre-GST share

GST is boosting revenues of consuming states

  • Evidence from the first nine months suggests this
  • Many of the net consuming states, such as nearly all the North-eastern states as well as UP, Rajasthan, MP, Delhi, Kerala, and West Bengal, have indeed increased their post-GST shares
  • States that have seen a small decline in their shares are states that had special tax regimes in terms of incentives or in agriculture

Further reforms 

  1. Simplifying the rate structure
  2. Widening the base to include currently exempted sectors
  3. Streamlining procedures for filing and refunds

Way Forward

  1. From a revenue perspective, and especially considering the headwinds, the GST has been a positive development
  2. The GST appears to be a force for fiscal convergence
Goods and Services Tax (GST)

[op-ed snap] India’s pivot to Eurasia

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), G-7, Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS)

Mains level:  U.S.-North Korea summit, Trade wars and its impact on India’s interests


Context

Dichotomy for India

  1. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Qingdao, China (June 9-10) attracted little international attention
  2. This was majorly due to U.S. President Donald Trump’s acrimonious public exchanges with other leaders at the G-7 (group of seven industrialized countries) summit (June 7-8) and the headline-hogging U.S.-North Korea summit (June 12)

SCO-Background

  1. The SCO grew out of the Shanghai Five grouping — of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan — which was set up in 1996 to resolve boundary disputes between China and each of the four other members
  2. It admitted Uzbekistan in 2001, re-christened itself the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and broadened its agenda to include political, economic and security cooperation
  3. It admitted India and Pakistan as full members in 2017

Opportunities at SCO

  1. The admission of India and Pakistan has expanded the geographical, demographic and economic profile of the SCO
  2. It now has about half the world’s population and a quarter of its GDP
  3. Its boundary extends southwards to the Indian Ocean
  4. The SCO’s relevance for India lies in geography, economics and geopolitics

How can SCO help?

  1. Its members occupy a huge landmass adjacent to India’s extended neighborhood, where India has important economic and security interests
  2. A narrow sliver of land separates southern Tajikistan from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir
  3. It makes sense to strengthen relations with your neighbors’ neighbors if you have complicated relations with your neighbours
  4. With Pakistan joining the Organisation and Afghanistan and Iran knocking on the doors for membership, the logic of India’s membership becomes stronger
  5. India has to carve out a political and economic space for itself in Central Asia, alongside Russia’s role as a net security provider and China’s dominating economic presence
  6. The Central Asian countries would welcome India breaking into this Russia-China duopoly

India-Pak rapprochement

  1. The SCO will nudge both countries to cooperate in sensitive areas
  2. One example is the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) of the SCO, which coordinates cooperation for security and stability, through intelligence-sharing on criminal and terrorist activities
  3. India has agreed to participate in the SCO’s counter-terrorism military exercises in Russia later this year, when Indian and Pakistani troops will operate together
  4. Tacitly accepting the fact that India and Pakistan are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Qingdao declaration confirms the compliance of the SCO’s NPT signatories to its provisions

Non-Western Perspective on Global Issues

  1. Besides expanding opportunities for India in Central Asia, the SCO is a platform for articulating a non-Western perspective on global issues which distinct from an anti-Western one
  2. This includes opposition to the selective advocacy of regime change, self-serving homilies on human rights and intrusive advice on domestic policies

Challenges

  1. Security and defense cooperation with Pakistan
  2. Increasing Chinese dominance of the SCO
  3. Another possible game-changer could be the fallout of the much-heralded U.S.-North Korea summit
  4. If peace in the Korean peninsula leads to reduced American military presence in the region, it would dramatically change the balance of forces in the Asia-Pacific in favor of China

Way Forward

  1. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, the optimal development of India’s relations with Central Asian countries has been constrained by lack of overland access through Pakistan and Afghanistan/Iran, because of political and/or security reasons
  2. With new multimodal transport corridors now envisaged through Iran, there are again prospects of invigorating trade and investment links with this region
Foreign Policy Watch- India-Central Asia

Database on unorganised workers gets underway

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development & employment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UWIN — Unorganised Workers Identification Number, Socio-Economic and Caste Census 2011, Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008

Mains level: Schemes for the welfare of people working in unorganized sector


News

Portable smart ID for workers

  1. The Centre has started work to create a national database and Aadhaar-seeded identification number system to facilitate welfare delivery to 40 crore workers in the unorganized sector
  2. This comes ten years after passing a law that envisaged a portable smart ID card for unorganized sector workers

Unorganised Workers Identification Number

  1. The Union Ministry of Labour has called for tenders to design, develop and run the new UWIN — Unorganised Workers Identification Number — Platform
  2. The “single unified sanitized database” will assign a ten-digit UWIN to every worker and include details of both nuclear and extended families of unorganized workers
  3. The Centre will create and maintain the platform and it is up to the states to identify and register unorganized workers
  4. The Socio-Economic and Caste Census 2011 will be used as the base for the platform, and other worker databases — from the states as well as other Central ministries such as Textiles and Health — will also be incorporated into UWIN
  5. The Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008 had first mandated that every worker be registered and issued a smart ID card

Aadhar Mandatory

  1. Those who have enrolled for Aadhaar but have not yet received it can provisionally enroll themselves into the UWIN system with their Aadhaar Enrollment ID
  2. They will be assigned a UWIN number only when they are able to link Aadhaar with their dataset at a later stage
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

Rajya Sabha fault lines clear for Deputy Chairman poll

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Parliament & State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges & issues arising out of these.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Election process for VC of Rajya Sabha

Mains level: Importance and special powers of Rajya Sabha


News

Election for VC of Rajya Sabha

  1. Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu has set in motion the process of election of Deputy Chairman of the Upper House

The process of election

  1. Under the procedure prescribed, any member may give notice in writing addressed to the Secretary-General, before noon on the day before the election date, of a motion that another member may be chosen as Deputy Chairman
  2. This notice shall be accompanied by a statement by the member whose name is proposed in the notice that he is willing to serve as Deputy Chairman if elected
  3. The motions which have been moved and duly seconded will be put one by one in the order in which they have been moved and decided if necessary by division

[op-ed snap] For POCSO Act to effectively protect children, it should go beyond death penalty

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.  

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: POCSO Act and new proposed amendments, Vishakha Guidelines

Mains level:  The editorial highlights the demerits of reactionary lawmaking which should rather be a preventive one.


Context

Amended POCSO Act

  1. India made world news with the introduction of the death penalty for child rapists.
  2. It is unfortunate how it takes tragic incidents such as the rape of minors to remind us that the laws of the country need serious reconsideration.

Reactionary Lawmaking is ineffective

  1. The ineffectiveness of reactionary lawmaking can be seen in the recently proposed amendments in the Criminal Law and POCSO Act, 2012, that were a result of the Unnao and the Kathua cases which shook the country’s conscience.
  2. The last time a major overhaul in the rape law was thought of was as a consequence of the Delhi 2012 rape and murder case.
  3. Before that, the Vishakha incident was a catalyst for the law on sexual harassment.

What are the new Reforms for minors?

The new reforms that have been proposed to the Indian Penal Code, which shall further apply to the POCSO are:

  • If a person rapes a minor girl below the age of 12 years then the punishment shall be rigorous imprisonment of at least 20 years which, shall be extendable to life imprisonment or death.
  • Previously the punishment for the same was rigorous imprisonment for at 10 years or life imprisonment, along with fine.
  • If a person rapes a girl who is below 16 years, then the punishment is rigorous imprisonment of at least 20 years, extendable to life imprisonment.
  • The punishment for this as per the 2013 criminal amendment is rigorous imprisonment, not less than 10 years and which may extend to life imprisonment.
  1. The ordinance has suggested a few more changes, such as time-bound investigations, appeals and prior sanction from the courts for prosecution of government servants.
  2. However, the main change it suggests is in introducing the death penalty for the rape of a minor below the age of 12.

Special Juvenile Police Unit on paper only

  1. A major provision in the POCSO is that of setting up a Special Juvenile Police unit in-charge of investigating cases of child abuse.
  2. This was conceived of as a protection against the police intimidating children, either intentionally or unintentionally.
  3. Yet, no mention of a special juvenile police unit can be found in many cases.
  4. Similarly, with various provisions for the security and the care of the victim under the POCSO — such as the statement of a child should be taken at the residence of a child or a place where he or she is comfortable, by a lady police officer — there’s massive oversight when it comes to enforcement.
  5. In the Kathua case, for instance, the name of the victim was highlighted and essentially advertised on all the media channels even though this is strictly prohibited both under the POCSO Act as well as the IPC under section 228 A.

Death Penalty for Convict is more threat to Victim

  1. The prospect of harsh punishments, such as the death penalty, can, in fact, be a threat to the victim.
  2. NCRB data reveals that in more than 96 per cent of child sex abuse cases, the perpetrator is a close relative or a member of the family. This is why children often find it difficult to confess.
  3. Parents often try to resolve matters of abuse themselves due to the stigma that is associated with such crimes.
  4. Harsher punishments for the perpetrator can quickly become harsher threats for the victim, as the accused may go to any extent to protect themselves like murdering him/her.
  5. Worried for their own safety, children may choose not to provide testimony.

Way Forward

  1. For the POCSO Act to be effective in protecting children who are sexually abused, it should go beyond relying on the death penalty as a deterrent.
  2. It should focus on stricter enforcement of protections for the abused children, punish half-hearted investigations, do away with intimidating procedures and improve the overall sluggishness in the legal system.
  3. Justice is more than a punitive, knee-jerk reaction to the perpetrator of injustice. The child abuse law as it stands has multiple problems, mostly stemming from its focus on the abuser.
  4. It’s important to look at the systemic failures that allow child abuse to happen, prevent children who are abused from speaking up.
  5. Punishment alone is not a complete solution by any means
Child Rights – POSCO, Child Labour Laws, NAPC, etc.

India launches its first National Healthcare Facility Registry

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Registry and other stakeholders involved, National Health Profile

Mains level: Read the attached story


News

National Health Resource Repository (NHRR)

  1. The Union ministry of health and family welfare has launched the first ever registry in the country registry of authentic, standardised and updated geo-spatial data of all public and private healthcare.
  2. Objective: “to create a reliable, unified registry of country’s healthcare resources showing the distribution pattern of health facilities and services between cities and rural areas”
  3. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is the project technology partner for providing data security.
  4. It will now be possible to provide comprehensive data on all private and public health establishments and other resources, including Railways, Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC), defense and petroleum healthcare establishments.
  5. Under the Collection of Statistics Act 2008, more than 20 lakh healthcare establishments such as hospitals, doctors, clinics, diagnostic labs, pharmacies and nursing homes would be enumerated under this census, which will capture data on more than 1,400 variables.
  6. The Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI) has looped in key stakeholders, including leading associations, allied ministries, and several private healthcare service providers.

What is it going to provide?

  1. This resource repository shall enable advanced research towards ongoing and forthcoming healthcare challenges arising from other determinants of health such as disease and the environment.
  2. Approximately 4,000 trained professionals are working with dedication to approach every healthcare establishment to collect information.
  3. It shall also enhance the coordination between central and state government for optimisation of health resources, making ‘live’ and realistic state project implementation plans (PIPs) and improving accessibility of data at all levels, including state heads of departments, and thus decentralise the decision making at district and state level.
  4. Additionally, it shall generate real-world intelligence to identify gaps in health and service ratios, and ensure judicious health resource allocation and management.
  5. It shall identify key areas of improvement by upgrading existing health facilities or establishing new health facilities keeping in view the population density, geographic nature, health condition, distance,” he said.
  6. The NHRR project aims to strengthen evidence-based decision making and develop a platform for citizens and provider-centric services by creating a robust, standardised and secured Information Technology (IT)-enabled repository of India’s healthcare resources.

National Health Profile (NHP)-2018

  1. The health minister also released the National Health Profile (NHP)-2018, prepared by CBHI.
  2. The National Health Profile covers demographic, socio-economic, health status and health finance indicators, along with comprehensive information on health infrastructure and human resources in health.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

How to make affordable housing more attractive

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Urbanization , their problems & remedies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: PMAY, Floor Space Index, PMAY

Mains level: Measures for increasing affordability of Housing for all initiative


News

Carpet (floor) Area has been increased by 33% to qualify for Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) Subsidies

  1. The initiative, ‘Housing for All by 2022’ is the central pivot around which the government’s efforts are concentrated. This, in turn, covers different aspects like rental and affordable housing.
  2. Roping in the private sector under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model is the key solution.

What more is needed to increase affordability?

Among other initiatives, the government needs:

  • to grant infrastructure status to the entire real estate industry making long-term financing easy for the industry
  • fix GST rate for all types of housing at 6%
  • revise carpet area to 60 sq. mt including in metro cities (to qualify for subsidy)
  • make land available at subsidized rates in metros and tier 1 cities so that the projects can be viable
  • reduce premium on additional FSI (floor space index) to encourage affordable housing within metro cities and
  • also reduce time taken and cost of permissions and clearances.

Permitting higher Floor Space Index

  1. Land in metros forms a significant proportion of the project cost and renders such projects unviable for the affordable segment.
  2. Policies should be formulated wherein land can be provided at rates that make the affordable projects viable.
  3. Land can be provided to develop composite projects where one segment, say, LIG (lower income group) is cross-subsidised by the revenues earned from the other segment, say HIG (higher income group).
  4. If such corridors allow for high density development, a higher FSI can be permitted, with an incremental benefit of FSI being applied towards affordable housing.
  5. The government should provide incentives to private players who use technology to deliver quality product.
  6. Such standardisation may further improve efficiency and make construction of homes like a manufacturing set-up.

Rewarding developers for last mile connect

  1. Availability of land in cities at affordable pricing is one of the major challenges.
  2. The government could facilitate the development of affordable housing by making surplus land held by PSUs (Public Sector Undertakings) available for affordable housing projects.
  3. Land is a state subject and that adds another layer of complexity.
  4. The central government should guide the states on programmes to allocate and incentivise the usage of land for affordable housing, while also incentivising state governments to facilitate engagement and implementation.
  5. It is also recommended to incentivise developers for infrastructure and last mile connectivity development in semi-urban centres.

Allotting land parcels at subsidized costs

  1. The recent move to raise the carpet area and the RBI’s revision of housing loan limits for priority sector lending (PSL) eligibility will help bring most of the under-construction dwelling units in urban India under the purview of the CLSS.
  2. This will not only bolster homebuyer sentiments, but also further propel construction activity in the affordable housing sector. However, the next steps for the government should be:
  • Look at the benefits for developers. Elements like reduction in construction inputs should now be a priority.
  • To make optimum use of the initiative from a consumer’s standpoint, the land allotment should be at better locations and subsidized costs.
  • Focus should be on building a holistic environment that incorporates infrastructure and social facilities. Access to holistic livelihood facilities will be key in determining the success of the initiative
Housing for all – PMAY, etc.