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[op-ed snap] India’s Goods and Services Tax regime isn’t the disaster it is made out to be

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy |Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basics aspects of FDI in e-commerce.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues of Indian e-commerce industry, in a brief manner.


Context

  • India’s earlier indirect tax regime was often said to be fraught with problems.
  • The task force set up by the 13th Finance Commissionconcluded that the system was “distortionary and inhibited voluntary compliance”.
  • It was to address such concerns that the Goods and Services Tax was envisaged.

Background

  • GST had long appeared inevitable; the only question was about the timing of its implementation.
  • The government was faced with the onerous task of subsuming 17 taxes under the GST.
  • Given the number of taxes to be collapsed into a single regime, across states and the Centre, it was widely expected that the transition would not be effortless, or seamless.
  • It would require a massive effort not only to garner consensus given India’s federal structure but also to reorient administrative and business practices.

Analysis

Complexity of the previous regime

  • The Value added Tax is one of the main levies subsumed under the GST. As now, a multi-state business then was required to register and comply with the processes for filing VAT in each of the states.
  • But the VAT regime was not entirely similar across states – time limit for filing returns, the rates of tax and penalties varied.
  • Thus, a business operating across states had to keep track of the differing filing requirements.
  • A business with diversified operations – producing goods and providing services – had to file separate returns for goods and services.
  • By doing away with this multiplicity, the GST regime has visibly improved the compliance process.

Concerns with GST

  • Today, a year and a half after it was rolled out, the GST is often criticised for its complex filing processes and uncertainty.
  • The GST is also criticised for being uncertain as it has been frequently changed.
  • However no tax system is bereft of some degree of uncertainty. Frequent alterations are expected since the GST replaced another system.

Government’s response to these concerns

  • Responding to the demands of the taxpayers, the government has eased some of the compliance requirements – refund process for a certain category of taxpayers, deadlines for filing and rectification of returns.
  • An iterative process of change is a feature of any nascent tax system. It is hoped that as the GST system matures these concerns will no longer remain.

Increasing compliance

  • The GST was also meant to encourage voluntary compliance.
  • By rationalising tax rates and simplifying the process, the new regime sought to bring in those outside the system.
  • It was expected that through a seamlessly integrated process of claiming input credits, matching detailed invoices and generating e-way bills, those in the supply chain would be persuaded to shift to the formal taxation system.
  • There is now evidence of new entrants to the system. In 2018, it was reported that in addition to the 66 lakh crore entities that migrated from the old system, the GST Network had recorded 58 lakh new registrations.
  • This despite the fact that the threshold for registering on the GST Network (Rs 20 lakh) is much higher than it was for the VAT regime (Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh).
  • However, some critics have pointed out that many entities registered on the GST Network do not actually file their returns.

Way Forward

  • Simplicity and ease of compliance are what taxpayers primarily demand from a taxation system.
  • For a system that encourages compliance, directly or through network effects, is expected to yield greater revenue in the long run as economic activity picks up for the units reporting minimal activity.
  • The GST will impose transition costs in the short term but will increase the number of taxpayers in the long run and boost tax revenue.
Goods and Services Tax (GST)

[op-ed snap] Policy must tackle not just dissatisfaction of large farmers, but distress of most vulnerable

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basics knowledge of Farmer’s distress.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the prevailing issue of farmer distress, in a brief manner.


Context

  • Recently, the two main policy interventions repeatedly discussed to tackle farmer distress — loan waivers and minimum support prices (MSP) — treat all farmers (large/small, male/female) alike.
  • But farmers are heterogeneous. They differ especially by income, land owned and gender.

Farmer dissatisfaction is not the same as farmer distress.

  • Better-off farmers are dissatisfied but politically vocal.
  • Poor farmers are distressed and many kill themselves in silence.
  • It is the truly distressed the government need to reach, but their policies only address the dissatisfied.

How Government’s policy measures fails to address distress of small & marginal farmers

  1. Loan waivers
  • Today, most economists agree that waivers are a bad idea. They deplete state finances, undermine bank culture, and barely reach 20-25 per cent farmers who have access to institutional credit, but not the marginal farmers or labourers who depend on moneylenders, or get no credit at all.
  • Having a bank debt is not, in itself, a sign of distress.
  • Farming, like other businesses, needs loans, and access to formal credit signifies credit worthiness.
  • It is the marginal and small farmers who depend mainly on private lenders, and whose loans don’t get waived, who are in distress.
  1. Raising MSPs
  • Raising MSPs will help surplus producing farmers, but not net buyers of farm produce — marginal farmers, farm labourers and urban consumers.
  • A 2015 IIM-A report on Marketed and Marketable Surplus found that marginal farmers (up to one hectare land) contributed only 5 per cent of marketed surplus rice and 4 per cent of wheat, even in the major rice and wheat surplus states.
  • And they sold only 39 per cent and 25 per cent of their marketed rice and wheat to government agencies, compared with the 70 per cent and 90 per cent sold by large farmers.
  • Further, the Shanta Kumar Committee reports that only 6 per cent of farmers gained from selling these crops to any procurement agency.
  1. Policy of direct transfers to farmers
  • The policy of direct transfers to farmers also ignores the inequality between farmers.
  • Telangana gave Rs 9,900/ha/season to all landowning farmers. Hence, the very large landowners gained — not only from owning large tracts, but in both seasons, since with irrigation they can cultivate in both kharif and rabi seasons; while pure-tenants and labourers got nothing.
  • Nor did women farmers get anything, few of whom own land.
  • Odisha recently announced that it will pay both farmers and labourers, but like Telangana, it will pay per household and not per person.
  • Both states thus ignore women’s claims, and also the substantial evidence that it is income in a mother’s hands that greatly improves child nutrition and education, rather than income only in the father’s hands.
  • Neither state has recognised intra-household inequalities, or paid heed to the large proportion of women farmers who are either principal cultivators or de-facto responsible for farms with male out-migration.

 

How to address small & marginal  Farmers distress ?

A multi-pronged strategy of income support, government investment, and institutional innovations, and not a one-size-fits-all approach is need of the hour.

  • Direct transfer for small farmers: To overcome immediate distress, direct transfers are preferable to loan waivers, but transfers should be limited to smallholders (those owning 2 ha or less), pure-tenants and agricultural labourers. The funds should go to women in the family for best results.
  • Investment in Agriculture: To reduce the long-term distress of poor farmers, agricultural investment in priority areas is imperative such as irrigation, water conservation, and storage for surplus produce.
  • Even 70 years after Independence, only 44 per cent of our irrigable area is irrigated. This must increase, but not via groundwater mining, which is unsustainable.
  • Water use efficiency by farmers is also essential: Low-cost techniques of drip irrigation could be one method.
  • Land and labour pooling: Some 70 per cent of farmers cultivate one hectare or less, in scattered plots which is non-viable. In a recent study, it was found that as farm size in India increases from very small to eight ha, profits/ha rise substantially. Therefore, we must encourage land and labour pooling.
  • Institutional reform has long been a blind spot in India’s farm policy. Groups help increase farm size, brought scale economies, saved on hired labour, improved credit access and enhanced bargaining power in input and output markets. Groups can also reduce farmer isolation and the likelihood of suicides.
  • Dietary changes require more focus on non-food-grains for food security, including vegetables which are more profitable and inland fisheries, a key source of protein.

Way Forward

  • Both to overcome farmer distress and farmer dissatisfaction, creating jobs for farmers’ children in their vicinity, not in cities, is essential, through ancillary industries, food processing, SMEs, and so on.
  • This would provide much needed supplementary income for farmers in distress. Doubling farmers’ incomes does not need doubling farm incomes.
  • It needs increasing their incomes from both farm and non-farm sources.
Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Produce

[op-ed snap] Slogans, critical of govt, are not anti-national and do not amount to sedition

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Polity | Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basics aspects of sedition law in India.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues of sedition law in India, in a brief manner.


Context

  • Recently, sedition charges are filed against an ex-president of the JNU Student’s Union and former students for allegedly “raising and supporting anti-national slogans”.

What is sedition, enacted by Section 124-A of the IPC?

  • According to the Privy Council, it meant any statement that caused “disaffection”, namely, exciting in others certain bad feelings towards the government, even though there was no element of incitement to violence or rebellion.

Constituent Assembly debates on the subject of sedition

  • In the Draft Constitution, one of the heads of restrictions proposed on freedom of speech and expression was “sedition”.
  • In the heyday of British colonialism, the sedition law was frequently invoked to crush the freedom movement and to incarcerate prominent nationalist leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Gandhiji, Jawaharlal Nehru and others. K M Munshi opposed the inclusion of “sedition” as a head of restriction and moved an amendment for its deletion.
  • In the course of the debates, Munshi urged that “now that we have a democratic government, a line must be drawn between criticism of government which should be welcome and incitement to violence which would undermine security or order on which civilised life is based.
  • As a matter of fact the essence of democracy is criticism of government.
  • The party system, which necessarily involves advocacy for the replacement of one government by another is its only bulwark; the advocacy of a different system of government should be welcome because that gives vitality to democracy.”
  • The founding fathers agreed with Munshi and deliberately omitted “sedition” as one of the permissible grounds of restriction on freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(2).
  • However, Sedition remained as a criminal offence in the IPC and provides inter alia for a sentence of life imprisonment and fine upon conviction.

 How did courts in India construe ‘sedition’?

  • The Federal Court of India presided over by the distinguished chief justice, Maurice Gwyer, ruled that the sedition law is not to be invoked “to minister to the wounded vanity of government .
  • The acts or words complained of must either incite disorder or must be such as to satisfy reasonable men that is their intention or tendency”.

I.Kedarnath vs. State of Bihar

  • Supreme Court in its landmark decision pronounced in 1962 in Kedarnath vs. State of Bihar dissented from the view of the Privy Council and adopted the view of the Federal Court.
  • The Court ruled that mere criticism of the government or comments on the administration, however vigorous or pungent or even ill-informed, did not constitute sedition.
  • The Supreme Court limited the application of Section 124A (sedition) to acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order, or incitement to violence.
  • Therefore, incitement to violence is the essential ingredient of the offence of sedition (emphasis added).

ii.Balwant Singh vs. State of Punjab

  • In 1995, the Supreme Court in the case of Balwant Singh vs. State of Punjab applied the principle in Kedarnath’s case to the prosecution of certain persons who raised the certain slogans.
  • The Court ruled that in view of the prosecution evidence that the slogans were raised a couple of times and that the slogans did not evoke any response from any other person of the Sikh community or reaction from people of other communities, raising of such casual slogans a couple of times without any other act whatsoever, did not justify prosecution for sedition and Section 124-A could not be invoked.

iii.Nazir Khan vs. State of Delhi

  • In 2003, in the case of Nazir Khan vs. State of Delhi the Supreme Court emphasised that: “It is the fundamental right of every citizen to have his own political theories and ideas and to propagate them and work for their establishment so long as he does not seek to do so by force and violence or contravene any provision of law.
  • The mere use of the words ‘fight’ and ‘war’ in their pledge did not necessarily mean that the society planned to achieve its object by force and violence.”

Anti-national slogans and sedition

  • Slogans, however critical or censorious of government, are not anti-national and per se do not amount to sedition.
  • If the slogans had stated that the Indian state is tyrannical and it is necessary to overthrow it, that could possibly attract Section 124-A.
  • However, Section 124-A has often been misused by ill-informed and over-enthusiastic prosecuting agencies. But, that is no ground for repealing Section 124-A.

Way Forward

  • Invocation of the section should only be in cases of slogans or statements which incite violence and have a manifest tendency to create public disorder.
  • The right remedy is to educate our law enforcement agencies and impress upon them that incitement to violence is the indispensable pre-requisite for invoking Section 124-A.
  • Our state rests on solid foundations, which cannot be disturbed by ill-tempered or pungent or stupid slogans.
  • Misuse of the sedition law should attract appropriate penalties for law enforcement agencies coupled with a provision for compensation to the injured party.
Judiciary Institutional Issues

What ASER says about quality of learning in India

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: Annual Status of Education Report

Mains level: State of Indian education system and measures required for improvisation


News

  • The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018 published by education non-profit Pratham shows the prevalence of learning deficit and the poverty of basic reading and arithmetic skills among students in Indian schools.

What does the ASER 2018 report say?

  1. The report shows that Indian students, especially those in elementary school (Classes I-VIII), are not learning enough.
  2. To cite a metric, only half (50.3%) of all students in Class V can read texts meant for Class II students.
  3. There seems to have been some improvement in learning levels, especially among students of Class III and Class V, in 2018 compared with those of the previous five years.
  4. However, the improvement is not visible at a higher level, for example among students of Class VIII.
  5. The latest report collected data from 596 districts by surveying 546,527 students from 354,944 homes.

Is this learning deficit prevalent only in government schools?

  1. The deficit is across government and private schools.
  2. Traditionally, students in private schools have fared better than their government school counterparts, but that’s a relative situation.
  3. For example, while 40% of Class VIII students in government schools can do simple division, the figure is 54.2% in private schools.
  4. But this success rate is three percentage points below that of 2012 and the same as in 2014.
  5. Private school students are believed to have better family background, both in economic and education front.

Why is learning level in schools important?

  1. The quality of the learning level bears directly on India’s future workforce, its competitiveness and the economy.
  2. India’s demographic dividend depends on the learning level of students.

Are learning levels improving in government schools?

  1. There is gradual improvement in some segments and in some states.
  2. The reading ability among Class V students in Kerala jumped 10 percentage points in 2018 from that in 2016.
  3. In Himachal Pradesh, the growth is nearly 8 percentage points and in Chhattisgarh and Odisha it is around 7 percentage points between 2016 and 2018.
  4. Still, data from states such as Jharkhand, West Bengal, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu shows a marginal dip in the same criterion for the same cohort.

Do private schools have more students?

  1. The situation has been almost static in the last five years.
  2. While 30.9% of students in the 6-14 age group were in private schools in 2018, the figure was 30.6% in 2016 and 30.8% in 2014.
  3. This is less than a percentage point growth since 2014.
Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[pib] Saksham 2019

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Saksham 2019

Mains level:  Read the attached story


News

Saksham 2019

  1. Saksham (Sanrakshan Kshamta Mahotsav) is a campaign organised by Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA).
  2. It is an annual high intensity one-month long people-centric mega campaign under the aegis of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.

Aims and Objectives

  1. It aims to sensitize the masses about conservation and efficient use of petroleum products which will lead towards better health and environment.
  2. This campaign is aimed at showing the way forward for making a change and enhancing the conservation capabilities of people.
  3. It helps understand the need for fuel conservation and find solutions thereof.
  4. The campaign seeks to promote effective utilization of petroleum products, something that will lead to environmental protection.

About PCRA

  1. The Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) is an organization established in India in 1978, under the aegis of the Indian Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
  2. It is engaged in promoting energy efficiency in various sectors of the economy.
  3. It helps the government in proposing policies and strategies aimed at reducing India’s dependency on oil, in order to save money, reduce the environmental impact of oil use and also conserve fossil fuel.
Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

Womaniya on GeM initiative

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Ministries & Departments of the Government

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Government e Marketplace (GeM), Womaniya on GeM

Mains level: Benefits of centralised procurement in online mode


News

  • The commerce ministry has said Government eMarketplace (GeM) has launched an initiative to enable women entrepreneurs and self-help groups to sell different products on the platform.

Womaniya on GeM

  1. The initiative – Womaniya on GeM – seeks to develop women entrepreneurship on the margins of society to achieve gender-inclusive economic growth.
  2. The initiative would enable women entrepreneurs and women SHGs to sell handicrafts and handloom, jute and coir products, home décor and office furnishings, directly to various government ministries, departments and institutions.
  3. Womaniya homepage [https://gem.gov.in/womaniya] will inform procurement officers in various government ministries, departments and CPSEs about the drive to promote procurement of common use goods and services from women entrepreneurs.

Back2Basics

Government eMarketplace

  1. Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Commerce & Industry
  2. Government e-Marketplace (GeM) is a one stop portal to facilitate online procurement of common use Goods & Services required by various Government Departments / Organizations / PSUs.
  3. GeM aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement.
  4. It provides the tools of e-bidding, reverse e-auction and demand aggregation to facilitate the government users achieve the best value for their money.
  5. The purchases through GeM by Government users have been authorized and made mandatory by Ministry of Finance by adding a new Rule No. 149 in the General Financial Rules, 2017.
Digital India Initiatives

CCHS: What makes sleep deadly in this rare disease?

Note4students

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CCHS & associated facts

Mains level: Not Much


News

  • An infant under treatment in Delhi’s is suffering from a rare disease with less than 1,000 known cases all over the world.
  • Those suffering from the disease, called Congenital Central Hypoventilation Syndrome (CCHS), can lose their life if they fall into deep sleep.

A look at how it affects the body:

The disease

  1. CCHS is a disorder of the nervous system in which the cue to breathe is lost when the patient goes to sleep.
  2. This results in a lack of oxygen and a build-up of carbon dioxide in the body, which can sometimes turn fatal.
  3. A typical presentation of the lack of breathing is when the lips start turning blue.
  4. This, in turn, is a typical feature of a carbon dioxide build-up, and is also seen in babies with congenital heart problems when the extremities of the body are deprived of oxygen.
  5. Though the name describes the disorder as congenital, some forms of the disease may also be present in adults.
  6. The disease is also known as Ondine’s Curse.
  7. Ondine, a nymph in French mythology, had cursed her unfaithful husband that he would forget to breathe the moment he fell asleep.

Causes

  1. The mutation of a gene called PHOX2B, which is crucial for the maturation of nerve cells in the body, can cause CCHS.
  2. The mutation is of a dominant trait — if just one of the gene pair changes, the effects would show. It can also be genetically acquired, which is when it is congenital.
  3. However, sudden mutation is more common than a transmission of the mutated gene from parent to child.
  4. The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that 90% of all known cases of CCHS are actually not inherited from a parent.

Symptoms

  1. Apart from the apparent signs of oxygen deficiency, CCHS patients also have problems in regulation of heart rate and blood pressure, sweat profusely, often have constipation and cannot always feel pain.
  2. Many of them suffer from neural tumours.
  3. In some patients, there is a deficiency of the growth hormone and a propensity of the body to produce much more insulin than is normal.

Treatment

  1. Treatment typically includes mechanical ventilation or use of a diaphragm pacemaker.
  2. People who have been diagnosed as newborns and adequately ventilated throughout childhood may reach the age of 20 to 30 years, and can live independently.
  3. In the later-onset form, people who were diagnosed when they were 20 years or older have now reached the age of 30 to 55 years.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Ministry of Civil Aviation releases Vision 2040 document

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Aviation related stats

Mains level: The potential of the aviation sector and dealing with various issues associated with it


News

  • The Ministry of Civil Aviation has unveiled the Vision 2040 document, which highlights the growth potential in different sub-sectors of Indian aviation and the key action steps are required to be taken to achieve the desired objective.

Highlights of Vision 2040

  1. As per the document the total passenger traffic (to, from and within India) in India is expected to rise nearly six-fold from 187 million in FY 2018 to around 1124 million in FY 2040.
  2. This includes around 821 million domestic passengers and around 303 million international passengers (to and from India).
  3. The overall CAGR (compound annual growth rate) works out to around 9% in domestic and 7% in international traffic during FY 2018-2040.

Why such long-term plan?

  1. Rather than having five-year plans, the document talks about India having a robust 20-year plan that lays out the targets and the path to get there along with time lines and clear accountability.
  2. Since aviation is a longterm plan, aircraft procurement, airport development, air navigation system changes and skill development should be done in a cohesive manner.
  3. It said technology developments like artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, composites, super-alloys, biofuels etc. are changing the face of aviation.
  4. It is humanly impossible to predict the oil price or the exchange rate a month down the line, much less the impact of technology 10 years hence.

A high growth path

  1. Total passenger traffic to, from and within India, during Apr-Nov 2018 grew by around 15% year on year as compared to around 6% globally.
  2. India is now the seventh largest aviation market with 187 million passengers (to, from and within India)inFY2017-18.
  3. It is expected to be third largest by 2022.

Various Initiatives

  1. As per the document initiatives like Nabh Nirman (for airport capacity augmentation), Digi Yatra (for paperless travel) and AirSewa (for online passenger grievance redressal) are bringing in radical changes.

Policy Suggestions

  1. It said that the government may consider establishing a Nabh Nirman Fund (NNF) with a starting corpus of around $2 billion to support low traffic airports in their initial phases.
  2. The tax structure for Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF), Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) and aircraft leasing may be gradually aligned with leading global jurisdictions.
  3. The concept of land pooling may be used to keep land acquisition costs low and to provide landowners with high value developed plots in the vicinity of the airport.
  4. It also said DGCA may be converted into a fully-independent Civil Aviation Authority, with its own sources of funding and freedom to recruit professionals at market-linked salaries.
  5. Most transactions with DGCA will be automated with minimal human interface.
Civil Aviation Sector – CA Policy 2016, UDAN, Open Skies, etc.

DD Science and India Science channels launched

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Developments & their applications and effects in everyday life

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: DD Science and DD India

Mains level: National Science channel for India and its implications


News

  • Two new science communication platforms DD Science and India Science were launched by Minister for Science and Technology.

DD Science

  1. DD Science is a joint initiative of Vigyan Prasar, an autonomous organisation under the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and public broadcaster, Doordarshan.
  2. It is a one-hour slot on Doordarshan National channel, which will be telecast from Monday to Saturday from 5 pm to 6 pm.
  3. DD Science service would be in Hindi in the beginning and efforts would be made to gradually expand its scope to have the programme telecast in other Indian languages as well.

India Science

  1. India Science is an Internet-based science Over-The-Top (OTT) TV channel.
  2. This 24×7 video platform is dedicated to science & technology knowledge dissemination, with a strong commitment to spreading scientific awareness.
  3. It will be available on all internet-enabled devices.
  4. It offers live, scheduled play and video-on-demand science programming.

Aims and Objectives

  1. The two channels will have science-based documentaries, studio-based discussions, virtual walkthroughs of scientific institutions, interviews and short films and will be free to access.
  2. The new initiatives are expected to be the first step in creating a national science channel for India.
  3. It would help people understand the benefits of science and integrate it in their daily lives.

About Vigyan Prasar

  1. Vigyan Prasar (VP) is an autonomous organization under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India.
  2. The principal objective of VP is to serve India’s science popularization agenda.
  3. This is achieved through several strategically important two – way stakeholder specific approaches to communicate about principles and practice of science and technology and implications for development and quality of life.
  4. It publishes a magazine “Dream 2047”.
Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes