- Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]
- GST stalemate resolved, rollout deferred to July 1
- SC-appointed panel to tackle air pollution
- Centre notifies green action plan for Delhi
- Supreme Court revives hearing on Andhra Pradesh bifurcation
- SC slams States’ stance on PILs
- Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]
- The pragmatist’s pivot to India
- Vagaries of the job market
- ‘Serious job losses are taking place’
- Demonetisation has hit India’s growth: IMF
- Richest 1% own 58% of total wealth in India
- Defining The Beneficiary
- Who will judge the judges?
- A time of change for the oil industry
- A role for India in rebuilding Syria
Front Page / NATIONAL [The Hindu]
 GST stalemate resolved, rollout deferred to July 1
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council arrived at a consensus on contentious issues such as administrative control over tax payers in the new indirect tax regime.
What has happened?
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council has arrived at a consensus on contentious issues such as administrative control over tax payers in the new indirect tax regime, thus paving the way for GST to be introduced this year, although three months after the Centre’s original rollout deadline of April 1, 2017.
- A shared taxation base: The entire taxation base will be shared between the assessment machinery of the Centre and the States
- Who would get to collect tax on the economic activities taking place in Indian territorial waters?
- As far as the area of 12 nautical miles into the territorial waters is concerned, it’s a part of the Centre’s territory. But as per convention, the States will be empowered to collect tax on any economic activity there
- Dual control of assessees: As per the formula for dual control of assessees, 90 per cent of those with a GST turnover of Rs. 1.5 crore or less will be assessed for the purposes of scrutiny and audit by the States, and 10 per cent by the administrative machinery of the Centre.
- Those above a turnover of Rs. 1.5 crore would be assessed in the ratio of 50:50 between the Centre and the States
- Power to collect IGST: while the power to levy and collect the Interstate GST (IGST) will lie with the Central government, a special provision would cross-empower the States in the same ratio agreed upon for tax assessees.
This consensus would have to be incorporated into the draft legislation, following which all the four draft laws — the Central GST, State GST, Interstate GST, and the Compensation Law — would have to be tabled for approval in front of the GST Council during its next meeting on February 18
- Following this, the laws would have to be tabled for approval in the legislative bodies of the Centre and the States.
 SC-appointed panel to tackle air pollution
Concerned over the deteriorating air quality in Delhi and the NCR, the Environment Ministry has amended laws and formally tasked a Supreme Court-appointed panel with implementing a graded action plan for pollution control.
The comprehensive plan, prepared by the CPCB, focussing on Delhi was submitted to the Supreme Court on December 2. The court had accepted the plan and asked the Centre to notify it.
Once the plan is notified, measures like odd-even car rationing scheme and ban on construction activities will be enforced if level of PM 2.5 breaches 300 micrograms per cubic metre and PM 10 levels stay above 500 micrograms per cubic metre for two consecutive days.
 Centre notifies green action plan for Delhi
Odd-even scheme, halt on construction activities among desperate measures planned to control pollution
What has happened?
Concerned over the deteriorating air quality in Delhi and the National Capital Region, the Environment Ministry has amended laws and formally tasked a Supreme Court-appointed panel with implementing a graded action plan for pollution control.
The comprehensive plan, prepared by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), focussing on Delhi was submitted to the Supreme Court on December 2. The court had accepted the plan and asked the Centre to notify it.
How will the plan work?
Once the plan is notified, emergency measures like odd-even car rationing scheme and ban on construction activities will be automatically enforced in the city if level of PM2.5 breaches 300 micrograms per cubic metre and PM10 levels stay above 500 micrograms per cubic metre for two consecutive days.
Whose responsibility to implement the graded action plan?
Central government has assigned the task of implementing the Graded Action Plan to EPCA (Environmental Pollution Control Authority)
Various provisions of the plan
- Banning Diesel gensets: The plan recommends that during ‘very poor’ air quality, diesel generators must be banned and parking fee increased by three to four times.
- Other measures: The plan lists a number of other measures such as closing brick kilns, hot mix plants, stone crushers and intensifying public transport services besides increasing the frequency of mechanized cleaning and sprinkling of water on roads.
Reactions to the plan
NGOs and social activists have welcomed the plan
 Supreme Court revives hearing on Andhra Pradesh bifurcation
What better “index” to ascertain whether a State is to be divided or not other than public demand, the Supreme Court said
What has happened?
SC bench has revived a bunch of petitions that were filed by leading Telugu politicians across parties, challenging the bifurcation of the erstwhile State of Andhra Pradesh in 2014. They had wanted the apex court to declare the bifurcation as an illegal and unconstitutional act
- The petitions claimed that the Centre had introduced the Bill when it was rejected by the Andhra Pradesh State Legislature. It had contended the legality of the provision in the 2014 Act for a common Capital for Telangana and Andhra for a whole decade.
SC issued a notice to centre
Though SC issued a notice to the Centre in 2014, it refused to stay the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act of 2014, leading to the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and the formation of new State Telangana
Petitioners demanded that there should be a “federal index” for State formation. The Centre cannot be allowed to ride over the federal structure of democracy and divide States into bits.
- It was then that the CJI asked that “What can be a better index than the entire State (people not the state govt) demanding it [bifurcation],”
- Sufferings due to bifurcation: Telangana lost 140 of its villages due to the bifurcation, and this was not the first time the people had experienced the sufferings of bifurcation and new State formations.The first time was when Andhra was separated from Madras
- Violation of basic structure: The petitions said the bifurcation was a violation of the Basic Structure of the Indian Constitution.
- Against federalism: Petitions further contended that the bifurcation also violated the basic provisions of federalism. The Centre had to first consult the State legislature before passing any law to merge or divide it.
Centre submitted that a committee had held detailed hearings and filed a report that the people living in parts of the present Telangana wanted a new State.
 SC slams States’ stance on PILs
The Supreme Court has slammed several States for their casual attitude towards crucial public interest matters
A fairly simple article.
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Editorial/OPINION [The Hindu]
 The pragmatist’s pivot to India
Article deals with the impact the death of Iranian leader Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on January 8 might have on Indo-Iran ties & his role in laying the groundwork for co-operation b/w the two countries
Transforming ties with India
- Turning point: In September 1993, P.V. Narasimha Rao became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Iran since the revolution. This, President Rafsanjani noted, was “a turning point”
- Bailing out India: In March 1994, Iran bailed out India in the UN Commission on Human Rights, blocking a consensus on Kashmir
- Bonhomie interrupted: 5 months later Mr. Rouhani, then secretary of Iran’s powerful Supreme National Security Council and deputy speaker of parliament, paid a visit to India. He spoke about persecution of minorities, on Babri masjid and the importance of India-Pakistan talks including “true” representatives of Kashmiris, such as the Hurriyat Conference, to resolve the conflict in the Valley. This “unfortunate departure from diplomatic norms”, cast a shadow over relations
- Rafsanjani cancels his visit: Rafsanjani cancelled his visit to India concerned at being associated too closely with India while the then Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) was preparing once more to censure India on Kashmir. This was taken badly in India
- Change in Iran’s stand: In April 1995, Rafsanjani finally arrived in New Delhi, to be greeted by Prime Minister Rao himself. It turned out to be a landmark visit. Speaking to over 10,000 Shias at Lucknow’s Bara Imambaraand promising ₹10 million for its upkeep — Rafsanjani gave an unexpected endorsement of Indian secularism
- Three way deal: Rafsanjani signed a three-way India-Iran-Turkmenistan transit agreement, allowing India to avoid Russian or Ukrainian ports
- Rafsanjani’s trip marked several themes that would shape India-Iranian relations for the next two decades. One was economic diplomacy focussed on connectivity, energy, and trade. Another was mutual concern over the future of Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s role there
Author states that it was not merely Rafsanjani who singlehandedly changed relationship with India. Structural factors, such as India’s economic liberalisation and the situation in Afghanistan, were more important
- Chabahar deal: Taking economic diplomacy to new levels, both countries signed agreement on Chabahar port in May 2016
- Oil Trade: In 2016, India’s oil imports from Iran trebled from the previous year, pushing it into fourth place in the ranking of Indian suppliers, and there is pressure on the Reserve Bank of India to allow Iranian banks to open branches in India, which would boost the relatively modest amount of bilateral trade
- Tehran’s relation with Taliban: Author states that Taliban delegations have been coming to Iran for years and they openly attended December’s International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran
- Iran and US: President-elect Trump has time and again called the Iran nuclear deal as amongst the worst ones ever made
 Vagaries of the job market
At the onset author states that the mismatch between the number of people reaching the working age and the number of jobs available is matter of global concern
- In any case, with the growth in global gross domestic product registering a six-year low in 2016, expectations of generation of new jobs were always going to be low
A serious concern
Author directs our attention towards the World Employment and Social Outlook 2017 as per which about 42 per cent of the total working population is affected by a vulnerability. What is the vulnerability?
- It refers to lack of access to contributory social protection schemes among the self-employed and allied categories, unlike their counterparts in the wage-earning and salaried classes
- The former segment accounts for nearly 50 per cent of workers in the emerging economies and 80 per cent in developing countries
The other implication of an increase in the number of people facing vulnerable working conditions is the real danger this poses of a slowdown in reducing the incidence of working poverty.
- It is this celebrated rise in income levels in the lowest rungs of the population that lent the current phase of globalization the social and political legitimacy, a phase that has otherwise posed the risks of economic dislocation and unprecedented mass migration
Challenge for policymakers
The challenge for policymakers worldwide is to ensure that incomes do not fall below the levels of basic subsistence as the world marches towards the poverty reduction targets under the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals
 ‘Serious job losses are taking place’
Article presents an interview with Nobel laureate Amartya Sen wrt demonetization
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ECONOMY [The Hindu]
 Demonetisation has hit India’s growth: IMF
The demonetisation move could dampen India’s growth by one percentage point in the current fiscal year and 0.4 percentage point next year, compared to its earlier projections, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said
As per the IMF World Economic Outlook (WEO) update
- There is marginal upward shift in prospects of growth the U.S and China until 2018, but India, Brazil, and Mexico are among the large economies that have their projections revised downwards
- Growth estimates: The IMF now expects India to record a growth of 6.6 percent for the current year, and 7.2 percent next year. Earlier, IMF had projected 7.6 percent this year and next year
- Impact of Demonetization: The downshift is primarily due to the temporary negative consumption shock induced by cash shortages and payment disruptions associated with the recent currency note withdrawal and exchange initiative
 Richest 1% own 58% of total wealth in India
Article focusses on the findings of the latest Oxfam Study titled “An economy for the 99 per cent”
Findings of the study
- India’s richest 1 per cent now hold a huge 58 per cent of the country’s total wealth — higher than the global figure of about 50 per cent
- Just 57 billionaires in India now have same wealth (USD 216 billion) as that of the bottom 70 per cent population of the country
- Globally, just 8 billionaires have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50 per cent of the world population
- 84 billionaires in India: there are 84 billionaires in India, with a collective wealth of USD 248 billion, led by MukeshAmbani (USD 19.3 billion), Dilip Shanghvi (USD 16.7 billion) and Azim Premji (USD 15 billion). The total Indian wealth in the country stood at USD 3.1 trillion
- It is time to build a human economy that benefits everyone, not just the privileged few
- Since 2015, the richest 1 per cent has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet
- Over the next 20 years, 500 people will hand over USD 2.1 trillion to their heirs — a sum larger than the GDP of India, a country of 1.3 billion people
- Gender wage gap: Due to a combination of discrimination and working in low-pay sectors, women’s wages across Asia are between 70-90 per cent of men’s
What does the findings show?
- The poorest half of the world has less wealth than had been previously thought while over the last two decades, the richest 10 per cent of the population in China, Indonesia, Laos, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have seen their share of income increase by more than 15 per cent
- The poorest 10 per cent have seen their share of income fall by more than 15 per cent
Gender wage gap in India
Oxfam study referred to the recently released Global Wage report and said that,
- Huge gender wage gap: India suffers from huge gender pay gap and has among the worst levels of gender wage disparity — men earning more than women in similar jobs — with the gap exceeding 30 per cent
- Poor representation in wage earning category: In India, women form 60 per cent of the lowest paid wage labour, but only 15 per cent of the highest wage-earners. It means that in India women are not only poorly represented in the top bracket of wage-earners, but also experience wide gender pay gap at the bottom
- Limited agricultural productivity: It also said that more than 40 per cent of the 400 million women who live in rural India are involved in agriculture and related activities. However, as women are not recognised as farmers and do not own land, they have limited access to government schemes and credit, restricting their agricultural productivity.
Read More: You can find the Oxfam study here
 Defining The Beneficiary
As the Union budget approaches, debates over welfare grow intense
Give it a go-through once
 Who will judge the judges?
In both cases, the Supreme Court reversed its own judgment given a couple of years ago, citing “grave error in justice” as the reason for entertaining respective appeals.
Article is a brief commentary about two recent judgements by Supreme Court of Nepal.
Give it a light read
 A time of change for the oil industry
Factors that could shape up the future of oil industry in medium to long term
Author lists out the structural factors that that will shape the industry’s medium to long term future.
- US Shale industry: Only a decade old it forced Saudi Arabia to scale up its production to the levels of oversupply. Author says that shale industry responds actively to market fluctuations. According to Barclays, capital spending in the US this year will rise 27%, faster than spending by international oil groups. Whatever market demand gap is left open by reduced supply of oil as per recent OECD deal, shale industry will fill it up
- Diminishing of OPEC: Author points at the lack of unity amongst OPEC nations which means that the compliance of OPEC deal over an extended period of time can be an issue. In condition of non-compliance by a member country, OPEC would need a member which can respond accordingly meaning which can ramp up or scale down the production over and above the OPEC deal commitment. Saudi Arabia has indicated that it might cut production by more than the agreed-upon quantum if needed.
- Will Saudi Arabia beable to manage the situation?:There is a reasonable chance it will need to do this, given the US shale situation and the possible reneging of other parties to the deal on their commitments. But to what extent will it be able to manage the pain, and for how long, given that it is under considerable economic strain? And if it fails to hold the deal together, what does that signal about Opec’s ability to control the oil market?
- Steady rise in renewables: In 2015, renewable energy overtook conventional energy in term of new installations for the first time, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA)
- Can it grow without subsidies?: Author states that this is still new territory and industry’s ability to grow absent subsidies and policy support is suspect; in Europe, investment fell sharply by 21% after clean energy subsidies were withdrawn
 A role for India in rebuilding Syria
New Delhi has renewed its pre-war Tishreen power plant commitment but steered clear of any new proposals
Article is a brief commentary about India’s development commitments in Syria, its outlook on Syrian conflict and how it should proceed to help formulate its resolution
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