Finance Commission of India
Shri Ajay Narayan Jha recently joined the Fifteenth Finance Commission as its Member.
The Fifteenth Finance Commission was constituted by a Presidential Order in November, 2017 under the Chairmanship of Shri N. K. Singh to decide the formula for devolution of revenue between Centre and States, for a period of 5 years – April, 2020 to March, 2025.
About Finance Commission:
The Finance Commission is constituted by the President under article 280 of the Constitution, mainly to give its recommendations on distribution of tax revenues between the Union and the States and amongst the States themselves.
Two distinctive features of the Commission’s work involve redressing the vertical imbalances between the taxation powers and expenditure responsibilities of the centre and the States respectively and equalization of all public services across the States.
Functions of the Finance Commission:
It is the duty of the Commission to make recommendations to the President as to:
The Commission determines its procedure and have such powers in the performance of their functions as Parliament may by law confer on them.
Who appoints the Finance Commission and what are the qualifications for Members?
The Finance Commission is appointed by the President under Article 280 of the Constitution. As per the provisions contained in the Finance Commission [Miscellaneous Provisions] Act, 1951 and The Finance Commission (Salaries & Allowances) Rules, 1951, the Chairman of the Commission is selected from among persons who have had experience in public affairs, and the four other members are selected from among persons who:
The recommendations of the Finance Commission are implemented as under:
Those to be implemented by an order of the President:
When was the first Commission Constituted and how many Commissions have been Constituted so far?
The First Finance Commission was constituted vide Presidential Order dated 22.11.1951 under the chairmanship of Shri K.C. Neogy on 6th April, 1952. Fifteenth Finance Commissions have been Constituted so far at intervals of every five years.
Why is there a need for a Finance Commission?
The Indian federal system allows for the division of power and responsibilities between the centre and states. Correspondingly, the taxation powers are also broadly divided between the centre and states. State legislatures may devolve some of their taxation powers to local bodies.
Formula used for distribution:
The share in central taxes is distributed among states based on a formula. Previous Finance Commissions have considered various factors to determine the criteria such as the population and income needs of states, their area and infrastructure, etc. Further, the weightage assigned to each criterion has varied with each Finance Commission.
The criteria used by the 11th to 14thFinance Commissions are:
Population is an indicator of the expenditure needs of a state. Over the years, Finance Commissions have used population data of the 1971 Census. The 14th Finance Commission used the 2011 population data, in addition to the 1971 data. The 15th Finance Commission has been mandated to use data from the 2011 Census.
Area is used as a criterion as a state with larger area has to incur additional administrative costs to deliver services.
Income distance is the difference between the per capita income of a state with the average per capita income of all states. States with lower per capita income may be given a higher share to maintain equity among states.
Forest cover indicates that states with large forest covers bear the cost of not having area available for other economic activities. Therefore, the rationale is that these states may be given a higher share.
Besides the taxes devolved to states, another source of transfers from the centre to states is grants-in-aid. As per the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission, grants-in-aid constitute 12% of the central transfers to states. The 14th Finance Commission had recommended grants to states for three purposes: (i) disaster relief, (ii) local bodies, and (iii) revenue deficit.
Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme
A National Conference on “Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS)” was recently inaugurated at New Delhi.
The Conference was organised by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
The objective of the conference was to sensitize the stakeholders of the scheme i.e. Programme Implementing Agencies (PIAs), District level officers & State Government officers.
About Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS):
“Scheme to Promote Voluntary Action for Persons with Disabilities” was revised and renamed as the “Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS)”.
The objectives of the scheme are:
Approach and Strategy:
The approach of this Scheme is to provide financial assistance to voluntary organizations to make available the whole range of services necessary for rehabilitation of persons with disabilities including early intervention, development of daily living skills, education, skill-development oriented towards employability, training and awareness generation.
With a view to inclusion of persons with disabilities in the mainstream of society and actualizing their potential, the thrust would be on education and training programmes.
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
7th RCEP Inter-Sessional Ministerial Meeting is being held in Cambodia.
RCEP is proposed between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing FTAs (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).
RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.
Aim: RCEP aims to boost goods trade by eliminating most tariff and non-tariff barriers — a move that is expected to provide the region’s consumers greater choice of quality products at affordable rates. It also seeks to liberalise investment norms and do away with services trade restrictions.
Why has it assumed so much significance in recent times?
When inked, it would become the world’s biggest free trade pact. This is because the 16 nations account for a total GDP of about $50 trillion and house close to 3.5 billion people. India (GDP-PPP worth $9.5 trillion and population of 1.3 billion) and China (GDP-PPP of $23.2 trillion and population of 1.4 billion) together comprise the RCEP’s biggest component in terms of market size.
Why is India concerned?
Greater access to Chinese goods may have impact on the Indian manufacturing sector. India has got massive trade deficit with China. Under these circumstances, India proposed differential market access strategy for China.
There are demands by other RCEP countries for lowering customs duties on a number of products and greater access to the market than India has been willing to provide.
Why India should not miss RCEP?
If India is out of the RCEP, it would make its exports price uncompetitive with other RCEP members’ exports in each RCEP market, and the ensuing export-losses contributing to foreign exchange shortages and the subsequent extent of depreciation of the rupee can only be left to imagination. Some of the sectors that have been identified as potential sources of India’s export growth impulses under RCEP to the tune of approximately $200 billion.
There are more compelling trade and economic reasons for RCEP to become India-led in future, than otherwise. India would get greater market access in other countries not only in terms of goods, but in services and investments also.
IRCTC Launches Payment Aggregator iPay
In a bid to promote digital transactions, the Indian Rail Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has launched its much awaited payment aggregator system ‘IRCTC iPay’.
About ‘IRCTC iPay’:
The exclusive digital payment gateway will provide better digital experience and improved online digital payment convenience to rail passengers availing online travel-related services through the website.
With the launch of IRCTC iPay, the passengers will not need any third-party platforms.
EASE (Enhanced Access and Service Excellence) reform index
Government’s EASE (Enhanced Access and Service Excellence) reform index has been released.
EASE index is prepared by the Indian Banking Association (IBA) and Boston Consulting Group.
It is commissioned by the Finance Ministry.
It is a framework that was adopted last year to strengthen public sector banks, and rank them on metrics such as responsible banking, financial inclusion, credit offtake and digitisation.
Findings of the report:
Punjab National Bank has topped the list. It is followed by Bank of Baroda, State Bank of India (SBI), and Oriental Bank of Commerce.
The EASE Index report also noted PSU banks’ strengthening of the bad-loan recovery process, pointing to the success of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) in fast-tracking the resolution process.
Scientists used NASA’s ARTEMIS mission and suggest that the solar wind and the Moon’s crustal magnetic fields work together to give the Moon a distinctive pattern of darker and lighter swirls.
Every object, planet or person travelling through space has to contend with the Sun’s damaging radiation.
The Sun releases a continuous outflow of particles and radiation called the solar wind.
Because the solar wind is magnetised, Earth’s natural magnetic field deflects the solar wind particles so that only a small fraction of them reach the planet’s atmosphere.
But the Moon has no global magnetic field; magnetised rocks near the lunar surface do create small, localised spots of magnetic field.
The magnetic fields in some regions are locally acting as this magnetic sunscreen. Under these miniature magnetic umbrellas, the material that makes up the Moon’s surface, called regolith, is shielded from the Sun’s particles.
As those particles flow toward the Moon, they are deflected to the areas just around the magnetic bubbles, where chemical reactions with the regolith darken the surface. This creates the distinctive swirls of darker and lighter material.
ARTEMIS stands for “Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun”.
ARTEMIS is made up of two probes P1 and P2. They were originally members of the successful mission THEMIS in Earth orbit studying Earth’s aurora, but were redirected to the moon in an effort to save the two probes from losing power in Earth’s shade.
Through this new mission scientists look to learn more about the Earth-moon Lagrange points, the solar wind, the Moon’s plasma wake and how the Earth’s magnetotail and the moon’s own weak magnetism interact with the solar wind.
Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE)
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has selected a new mission- Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE)- that will help scientists understand and ultimately, forecast the vast space weather system around the Earth.
About Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE):
It will be launched in August 2022 and will be attached to exterior of Earth-orbiting International Space Station (ISS).
Objective of AWE is to study and focus on airglow, a colourful bands of light in Earth’s atmosphere to determine what combination of forces drive space weather in upper atmosphere.
It will be the first such experiment to obtain global observations of important driver of space weather in dynamic region of Earth’s upper atmosphere that can cause interference with radio and GPS communications.
AWE is a Mission of Opportunity under NASA’s Heliophysics Explorers Program, which conducts focused scientific research and develops instrumentation to fill the scientific gaps between the agency’s larger missions.
Need for this mission:
Studying space weather is significant as it can have profound impacts, affecting technology and astronauts in space, disrupting radio communications and at its most severe, overwhelming power grids.
It was earlier thought that only Sun’s constant outflow of ultraviolet (UV) light and particles, solar wind, could affect airglow region. However, now researchers have learned that solar variability is not enough to drive changes observed at this region and Earth’s weather also having effect on it.
Hence to understand this deeper, AWE mission will investigate how waves in lower atmosphere, caused by variations in densities of different packets of air, impact upper atmosphere.
Source: The Hindu
Order on surveillance meant to protect privacy, govt. tells SC
The Centre, in response to a PIL, has told the Supreme Court that its December 20, 2018 notification allowing 10 central agencies to snoop on people is in fact a measure to protect citizens’ privacy.
The order aims to restrict the exercise of powers, removing a possible vagueness and specifying the agencies/organisations who only would have the powers to utilise the powers of section 69 of the Act.
The very purpose of the order is to ensure that surveillance is done as per due process of law; that any interception, monitoring, decryption of computer resource is done only by authorised agencies and with approval of competent authority; to prevent unauthorised use of these powers by any agency, individual or intermediary so that the right to privacy of citizen is not violated.
Need for surveillance:
Surveillance is necessary in the modern world where modern tools of information communication, including encryption are used. Surveillance is done only in the defence of India, to maintain public order, etc.
There are grave threats to the country from terrorism, radicalisation, cross border terrorism, cyber crime, drug cartels”, and these cannot be ignored or under-stated. There is a need for “speedy collection of actionable intelligence” to counter threat to national interests.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in December 2018, issued an order authorising ten security and intelligence agencies of the country to access any information stored in any computer for the purpose of monitoring, decrypting and interception.
Who are these agencies?
The 10 agencies include Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence;, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency Cabinet Secretariat (RAW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (For service areas of Jammu & Kashmir, North-East and Assam only), and Commissioner of Police, Delhi.
Highlights of the Order:
The ministry has vested the authority on the agencies under Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Rule 4 of the Information Technology Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009.
The order mandates for a subscriber or service provider or any person in charge of the computer resource to extend technical assistance to the agencies.
Non-compliance will invite seven-year imprisonment and fine.
Only data in motion could be intercepted earlier. But now data revived, stored and generated can also be intercepted as powers of seizure have been given. This means not just calls or emails, but any data found on a computer can be intercepted. The agencies will also have powers to seize the devices. The sweeping powers given to agencies to snoop phone calls and computers without any checks and balances is extremely worrisome. This is likely to be misused.
How is it against the judgement of Supreme Court’s right to privacy?
SC in Puttuswamy judgment had asked the government to always carefully and sensitively balance individual privacy and the legitimate concerns of the state.
However, the recent order does not provide the procedure or the object for such an exercise or the quantum of period for which a person’s private data could be intercepted.
Government has clarified that existing processes will be followed and every case of interception would continue to require permission from the home secretary and review by a panel headed by the cabinet secretary. However, even these processes do not have adequate safeguards against misuse.
An individual may not even know if her electronic communications are being intercepted/monitored. If such surveillance comes within the person’s knowledge, due to the obligation to maintain confidentiality and provisions in the Official Secrets Act, the person would not be able to know the reasons for such surveillance. This can make surveillance provisions prone to misuse.
Source: The Hindu
Usha Thorat Panel on offshore rupee markets
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has constituted a panel under the former deputy governor Usha Thorat to examine issues related to offshore rupee markets and recommend policy measures to ensure the stability of the external value of the domestic currency.
Mandate for the Panel:
Study the causes behind the development of the offshore rupee market and examine the effects of the offshore markets on the rupee exchange rate and market liquidity in the domestic market.
Recommend measures to address concerns, if any, arising out of offshore rupee trading besides proposing measures to generate incentives for non-residents to access the domestic market.
Recommend measures to generate incentives for non-residents to access the domestic market and examine the role if any, International Financial Services Centres (IFSCs) can play in addressing these concerns.
Mainamati Maitree Exercise 2019
Border Security Force (BSF) and Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) recently concluded a three-day ‘Mainamati Maitree Exercise 2019’ as a part of ‘Confidence Building Measures’ between the two border guards.
The exercise was named after Mainamati hill range situated 8 km west of Comilla Township in Bangladesh, which is home to an ancient Buddhist archaeological site in the region.
The objective of Mainamati Maitree Exercise 2019 was to plan and conduct anti-smuggling and anti-criminal activity related operations with an aim to achieve better joint operational efficiency and border management in the area.