Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]
. Confusion reigns on CAG audit of GST data
. Dalai Lama’s Arunachal visit purely religious
. Liquor drives State Highways to turn local
Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]
. The right to recall legislators
. My way on the highway
. Sting in the tale
Economy [The Hindu]
. Brexit’s shadow: India vows to deepen ties
. Evidence no bar
Front Page / NATIONAL
CAG is denied access to GST Network.
What is GST Network (GSTN)?
GSTN is the nationwide electronic backbone of the tax regime. It is a private limited company set up to provide IT infrastructure and services to Central and State Governments, tax payers and other stakeholders for implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Problems in implementing GST regime
Auditors of the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) require access to two datasets:
- Data pertaining to revenue that would accrue to States from alcohol and petrochemicals, both of which are outside GST
- GST data
Why can’t CAG audit GSTN?
GSTN has refused to give the CAG access to its network.
- GSTN is holding data in a fiduciary capacity since the tax data belongs to Centre and States.
- GSTN is owned by a private company, and thus cannot be audited by CAG.
Stand of CAG
- CAG says: GSTN can be counted as a government-controlled company since its strategic control will be with the government, under the new Companies Act.
- The real issue is auditors getting access to the massive amount of data that GSTN will contain.
China should not interfere in India’s internal affairs.
Stand of India
- The visit of Tibetan spiritual leader is “purely religious” and “China shouldn’t interfere in India’s internal matters.”
- Dalai Lama is considered as a religious leader by Indians.
- For India, it is not a disputed territory. In a sovereign country like India, one cannot stop the movement of a religious leader.
Objection by China
- Beijing considers Arunachal Pradesh its territory.
- It refers to the Dalai Lama as a “separatist leader.”
Recent Supreme Court order on the ban of liquor outlets located within 500 meters of National and State highways has led to States re-classifying State Highways into local roads.
About the Supreme Court Order
Judiciary has ordered shutdown of pubs and restaurants, and retail outlets selling alcohol, along national highways and state highways.
The Supreme Court in its March 31 order had said that “liquor vends within 500 metres of National and State highways would shut down from April 1”.
Problem with converting State Highways into district roads
- De-notification of national highways can be done by the Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry, and not by state.
- Implications of converting National Highways into State Highways would be drastic. The maintenance responsibility will shift to the States, which lacks the capacity compared to Central government.
To have right to recall along with right to vote to deepen our democratic roots.
What is a Recall Election?
A recall election or representative recall is a procedure by which voters can remove an elected official from office through a direct vote before their term has ended.
How does a Recall Election work?
The recall process provides a check on the sovereign power of elected officials. If officials fail to represent the will of their constituency, then the voters have the power to take back their vote through a recall election.
Reason to have Right to Recall in India
- If people have the power to elect their representatives, they should also have the power to remove these representatives when they engage in misdeeds or fail to fulfill their duties.
- The Representation of the People Act, 1951, only provides for “vacation of office upon the commission of certain offences and does not account for general incompetence of the representatives or dissatisfaction of the electorate as a ground for vacation”.
- Having such a right offers a mechanism to ensure vertical accountability of elected representatives in a democracy.
Legislative change is needed which seeks to introduce recall petitions, for elected representatives in the Lok Sabha and in respective Legislative Assemblies.
- The process should have built-in safeguards such as initial recall petition to kick-start the process and electronic-based voting to decide its outcome.
- it should ensure that a representative cannot be recalled by a small margin of voters and that the recall procedure represents the mandate of the people.
A free and fair election is a right of the citizens of a democratic country. When their elected representatives no longer enjoy the confidence of the people, the people must have a right to remove them.
Supreme Court’s order banning liquor sale on highways is encroaching upon policymaking of the executive.
The Supreme Court Order and Reasoning
- The Supreme Court’s order prohibited the sale of alcohol within 500 meters of national and State highways.
- The stated reason for the order is preventing road accidents due to drunken driving.
Dispute between Judiciary and Executive
- Separation of powers between the executive, legislature, and judiciary puts policymaking under the executive.
- Another argument is: banning alcohol and micromanaging distance from the highways where alcohol cannot be sold is an example of policymaking. Supreme Court has thus indulged in “judicial overreach”.
Defence of Judiciary
- The court has referred to a number of government policy documents that drew a correlation between alcohol consumption and road accidents.
- The issue is whether such liquor licences should be granted on national and state highways at the cost of endangering human lives and safety
- Supreme Court justifies its order under Article 21 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to life and personal liberty.
- Article 21 of the Indian Constitution says that, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”
- Article 21 is not merely a right against state action that deprives an individual of her life, but also against state inaction that results in loss of life.
The Supreme Court has failed to make a strong case for why its orders do not encroach upon executive’s domain of policymaking. There is thus a view that the court has overreached its power.
A recent Sting Operation in Kerala has opened up a debate on privacy and public interest.
What are Sting Operations?
A Sting Operation is a design concocted in collaboration with the editor, perhaps the publisher with vested interests, a journalist, and a videographer.
Ethics of Sting Operations
- Ethics of Sting Operations is one of the controversial issues in journalism. Sting operations are fraught with ethical concerns over whether they constitute entrapment.
- Any operation that uses false pretences, with necessary violation of interviewee’s trust and privacy should serve a larger public interest. It must be used as a last resort, when there is no other means of acquiring the information.
- Stings were never meant to entrap or induce people into committing wrongdoing or embarrassing themselves badly.
- Stings are an ethical subject/minefield and it is important that publications and broadcasters explain the vital public interest for conducting them.
- A sting cannot be an excuse to grab eyeballs with private content.
Bilateral agreement on fighting tax evasion between India and UK.
Result of the Meet
- Strengthening economic cooperation and collaborating on cross-border tax evasion and avoidance between India and UK.
- Proposal to issue Masala bond in London and list its Masala bonds on the London Stock Exchange.
- Encourage sustainable bilateral investment.
- Fast-track investment promotion mechanism.
- Implementation of G20/OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Project outputs.
Knowledge Byte: Masala bonds
- Masala bonds are bonds issued outside India but denominated in Indian Rupees, rather than local currency.
- They are issued to foreign investors. Hence, the currency risk lies with the investor and not the issuer, unlike external commercial borrowings (ECBs), where Indian companies raise money in foreign currency loans.
- Masala bonds are a good way to protect corporate balance sheets from exchange rate risks.
Discussion and Analysis of Universal Basic Income.
What is Universal Basic Income?
A Universal Basic Income (also called basic income guarantee or unconditional basic income) is a form of social security in which all citizens or residents of a country regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, either from government or some other public institution, in addition to income received from elsewhere.
Characteristics of Universal Basic Income
A Basic Income has the following characteristics:
- Periodic: it is paid at regular intervals.
- Cash payment: it is paid in an appropriate medium of exchange, allowing those who receive it to decide what they spend it on.
- Individual: it is paid on an individual basis and not to households.
- Universal: it is paid to all.
- Unconditional: it is paid without a requirement to work.
Key Principles of Universal Basic Income
- Universality (so all citizens are covered).
- Entitlement to a “basic income” (that allows dignified living even in the absence of other earnings).
Issues with the implantation of Universal Basic Income
- Question of Affordability
- Social spending (like in MGNREGA, PDS and MDM) being poorly targeted
- Cash transfers (like DBT-PDS) have not shown great success.
- Universalized social security pensions at Rs 1,000 per month
- Implementation of universal maternity entitlements
These two will cost less than 1.5 per cent of the GDP.
These programs can work well. But, issues of affordability and good performance are unsuitable evidences and act as hindrance.