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28 January Current Affairs

Niti Aayog 2.0

In News:

In a paper titled ‘Towards India’s New Fiscal Federalism’, former Finance Commission chairman Vijay Kelkar has pitched for setting up of a ‘new Niti Aayog’ and giving it responsibility for allocating capital and revenue grants to the states.

Need for setting up of ‘Niti Aayog 2.0’:

Replacing the Planning Commission, which was promoting regionally balanced growth in India, by the Niti Aayog, a think tank, has reduced the government’s policy reach. Therefore, the need has arisen for an institution to do the job at hand related to the structural issues including removal of regional imbalances in the economy.

Few suggestions related to composition and functions of the revamped Niti Aayog:

It will be responsible for allocating development or transformational capital or revenue grants to the states.

In order to make the new Niti Aayog more effective, it is essential to ensure that the institution is at the ‘High Table’ of decision making of the government. This means the vice-chairman of the new Niti Aayog will need to be a permanent invitee of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).

It need not be involved with the approval of the state’s annual expenditure programmes. It should rather strive to be a think-tank with ‘praxis’ possessing considerable financial muscle and devote its energies to outline coherent medium and long term strategy and corresponding investment resources for transforming India.

New Niti Aayog will annually need the resources of around 1.5 to 2% of the GDP to provide suitable grants to the states for mitigating the development imbalances.

Other arguments supporting the revamp of Niti Aayog:

NITI Aayog cannot transform a deeply unequal society into a modern economy that ensures the welfare of all its citizens, irrespective of their social identity.

It has no role in influencing public or private investment. It does not seem to have influence in policymaking with long-term consequences. For instance, demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax.

NITI Aayog is supposed to be a think tank. This implies that while generating new ideas, it maintains a respectable intellectual distance from the government of the day. Instead, we see uncritical praise of the Govt-sponsored schemes / programmes.

Source: The Hindu

Input Credit under GST

In News:

Concerned over a decline in GST revenues, tax officials are likely to examine the high usage of input tax credit (ITC) to set off tax liability by businesses.

Details:

It is the tax that a business pays on a purchase and that it can use to reduce its tax liability when it makes a sale. In other words, businesses can reduce their tax liability by claiming credit to the extent of GST paid on purchases.

A business under composition scheme cannot avail of input tax credit. ITC cannot be claimed for personal use or for goods that are exempt.

Significance of ITC:

One of the positive features of GST is that it helps to avoid the undesirable cost cascading effect (or tax on tax) that existed previously. Now, in the case of GST, there is the mechanism of Input Tax Credit (ITC) which helps to eliminate the cost cascading effect of the pre-GST tax regime. Under GST, there is not cost cascading effect because of two facts. First, most of the taxes are merged under a single tax, and second, the input tax credit.

Concerns over its misuse:

There could be possibility of misuse of the provision by unscrupulous businesses by generating fake invoices just to claim tax credit.

As much as 80% of the total GST liability is being settled by ITC and only 20% is deposited as cash.

Under the present dispensation, there is no provision for real time matching of ITC claims with the taxes already paid by suppliers of inputs.

The matching is done on the basis of system generated GSTR-2A, after the credit has been claimed. Based on the mismatch highlighted by GSTR-2A and ITC claims, the revenue department sends notices to businesses.

Currently there is a time gap between ITC claim and matching them with the taxes paid by suppliers. Hence there is a possibility of ITC being claimed on the basis of fake invoices.

Need of the hour- real time updates:

To fill the gap, a new return filing system has been proposed. Once it becomes operational, it would become possible for the department to match the ITC claims and taxes paid on a real time basis. The revenue department would then analyse the large number of ITC claims to find out if they are genuine or based on fake invoices and take corrective action.

Sourc: The Hindu

Zearalenone in cereals

In News:

While numerous studies document this toxin in cereals across the world, no data existed for India until now. This month, a Journal of Food Science study detected zearalenone in wheat, rice, corn and oats from markets in Uttar Pradesh.

Details:

Zearalenone is a fungal toxin infesting cereals such as wheat, maize and barley. It attacks crops while they are growing, but can also develop when cereals are stored without being dried fully.

Are there any guidelines on its usage?

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India does not impose maximum limits for zearalenone, though the European Union (EU) does.

Why worry about this?

Fungal toxins are commonly found in food, and can be a public health concern. India regulates the levels of some of these, including aflatoxin, deoxynivalenol, ergot and patulin. The first three infest cereals, while patulin is found in apples. Each of these toxins has been associated with disease outbreaks.

For example, in 1974, a hepatitis outbreak in Rajasthan and Gujarat, which made 398 people sick and killed 106, was linked to aflatoxin in maize. Meanwhile, chronic aflatoxin consumption has been shown to cause liver cancer.

Given this, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies aflatoxin as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning there is enough evidence for its carcinogenicity.

In zearalenone’s case, there is no strong evidence of toxicity in humans so far, though several research groups are investigating. As a result, the IARC classifies it as a Group 3 carcinogen, which means evidence is not sufficient for an evaluation yet.

How Zearalenone affects?

Zearalenone behaves like oestrogen, the female sex hormone, and could cause endocrine disturbances in humans. Its nasty effects in animals, such as pigs, are documented. When fed with mouldy corn, pigs develop inflamed vaginas, infertility and other symptoms. This is why countries like Brazil regulate zearalenone levels in animal feed. In humans, the data are fuzzier.

What next?

More data are needed from cereals in other States, and from other storage conditions, before India decides to set limits. Since zearalenone favours cool climates, such contamination could be limited to a few States. Also, strong epidemiological data linking human zearalenone levels with diseases such as breast cancer are important. The latest findings are an excellent starting point, since nothing was known about the chemical in India so far. It is time to build upon it.

Source: The Hindu

World Malaria Report of 2018

In News:

As per World Health Organisation’s World Malaria Report of 2018, India is the only country among the 11 highest-burden countries that saw substantial progress in reducing disease burden: it saw a 24% decrease in 2017 compared to 2016.

Significance:

This shows that India has assumed a leadership role in advancing global efforts to end malaria. The country’s success provides hope to the other highest-burden countries to tackle malaria head-on.

India’s efforts in this regard:

India’s progress in fighting malaria is an outcome of concerted efforts to ensure that its malaria programme is country-owned and country-led, even as it is in alignment with globally accepted strategies.

At the East Asia Summit in 2015, India pledged to eliminate the disease by 2030. Following this public declaration, India launched the five-year National Strategic Plan for Malaria Elimination. This marked a shift in focus from malaria “control” to “elimination”. The plan provides a roadmap to achieve the target of ending malaria in 571 districts out of India’s 678 districts by 2022.

Way ahead:

The plan requires more than ₹10,000 crore. Adequate investment combined with coordinated action between governments, civil society and philanthropic donors is imperative to achieve this goal. Since health is a State subject, State governments across the country shoulder a special responsibility in tackling the disease.

Durgama Anchalare Malaria Nirakaran (DAMaN) initiative:

Among states, Odisha’s Durgama Anchalare Malaria Nirakaran (DAMaN) initiative is significant.

The initiative aims to deliver services to the most inaccessible and hardest hit people of the State. The initiative has in-built innovative strategies to combat asymptomatic malaria.

The programme is jointly implemented by Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Malaria Research (ICMR-NIMR), National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), Odisha and Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV).

Source: The Hindu

Charter of Patients’ Rights

In News:

The Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA), a national platform working on health and healthcare services, urged the Ministry of Health to immediately implement the Charter of Patients’ Rights and ensure the inclusion of the entire range of patients’ rights without any dilution.

Background:

In August 2018, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare announced its plans to implement this Charter, which was placed in the public domain for inviting comments up to 30th September, 2018. Although nearly 4 months have elapsed since this declaration of intent, there seems to have been no further progress on finalisation and adoption of the charter.

Need of Charter of Patients’ Rights:

Right to non-discrimination is an important right. Every patient has the right to receive treatment without any discrimination based on his or her illnesses or conditions, including HIV status or other health condition, religion, caste, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

The charter assumes significance as India does not have a dedicated regulator like other countries. Existing regulations in the interest of patients and governing healthcare delivery systems are still on the anvil.

The draft Charter of Patients’ Rights:

It has been prepared by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

The draft charter includes 17 rights with description, inspired by international charters and guided by national level provisions, with the objective of consolidating these into a single document.

The proposed Charter draws upon all the existing relevant provisions, thereby making them publicly known in a coherent manner.

The charter also prescribes certain responsibilities that the patient must adhere to. These include:

Providing all required information to their doctor, without concealing relevant facts, so as to ensure a correct diagnosis and treatment.

Patients are also expected to follow all instructions regarding appointment time, co-operate with hospital staff and fellow patients, avoid creating disturbance to other patients, and maintain cleanliness in the hospital.

Patients should respect the dignity of the doctor and other hospital staff. Whatever the grievance may be, patient or caregivers should not resort to violence in any form.

The patients should also take responsibility for their actions based on choices made regarding treatment options and in case they refuse treatment.

Source: The Hindu

Jiban Sampark Project of Odisha

In News:

Odisha has launched Jiban Sampark project for the welfare of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups.

Key features:

The Project is being undertaken in association with UNICEF.

It aims to generate awareness among Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG) in Odisha on various development and welfare initiatives of State Government, especially on women and child welfare.

The focus areas of the Project are skill development, empowering communities, cooperation and innovation among the groups.

About ‘Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)’:

PVTGs are more vulnerable among the tribal groups. In 1975, the Government of India initiated to identify the most vulnerable tribal groups as a separate category called PVTGs and declared 52 such groups, while in 1993 an additional 23 groups were added to the category, making it a total of 75 PVTGs out of 705 Scheduled Tribes, spread over 17 states and one Union Territory(UT), in the country (2011 census).

Among the 75 listed PVTG’s the highest number are found in Odisha (13), followed by Andhra Pradesh (12).

Source: The Hindu

Jan Shikshan Sansthans (JSS)

In News:

The government has unveiled new guidelines for Jan Shikshan Sansthans (JSS) aligning them to the National Skills Qualification Framework with an aim to providing standardised training across sectors.

New guidelines:

Alignment of JSS course and curriculum with National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) to standardize training.

Decentralization of powers for JSSs by providing accountability and independence to district administration.

To identify and promote traditional skills in the district through skilling / upskilling.

Evidence-based assessment system.

Easy Online certification.

Linking JSS to Public Finance Management system to maintain transparency and accountability of the ecosystem.

Creating livelihood linkages.

Training of Trainers to develop the capacity through National Skills Training Institutes.

About Jan Shikshan Sansthans (JSS):

Formerly under the Ministry of Human Resources Development, Jan Shikshan Sansthan was transferred to the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship in 2018.

Jan Shikshan Sansthans (JSS) were established to provide vocational training to non-literate, neo-literate, as well as school dropouts by identifying skills as would have a market in the region of their establishment.

Source: PIB

Indus Waters Treaty

In News:

Pak delegation has arrived in Delhi for Chenab under Indus Waters Treaty project inspection.

Need:

This tour is an obligation imposed on both the countries by the Indus Waters Treaty 1960 between India and Pakistan. Under the treaty, both the commissioners are mandated to inspect sites and works on both the sides of Indus basin in a block of five years.

Is it the first time?

No. Since signing of the treaty, a total of 118 such tours on both the sides have been undertaken by the commission.

Indus Water treaty:

Signed in 1960 by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and then Pakistan President Ayub Khan, the treaty allocates 80% of water from the six-river Indus water system to Pakistan.

Under the treaty, control over six north Indian rivers were divided between the two countries. India got control over the rivers Beas, Ravi and Sutlej whereas Pakistan got control over Indus, Chenab and Jhelum.

This is a unique treaty involving a third party. It was brokered by the World Bank.

A Permanent Indus Commission was set up as a bilateral commission to implement and manage the Treaty. The Commission solves disputes arising over water sharing.

The Treaty also provides arbitration mechanism to solve disputes amicably.

Source: The Hindu