- Centre may raise loan to pay GST dues to States
- MGNREGA jobs crash to 1% of normal
- Floor test is Governor’s discretion
- Online child porn traffic rises by 95%
- Water from Ganga, Yamuna being tested
- Retail inflation eases to 5.91%
CENTRE MAY RAISE LOAN TO PAY GST DUES TO STATES
Focus: GS-III Indian Economy
Why in news?
The Union government is exploring raising a loan to pay the shortfall of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) compensation amount to States as the latter have had to ramp up spending to combat the outbreak of COVID-19.
- The idea has been circulated and since the GST Act prohibits withdrawal of funds from the Consolidated Fund, raising loans is being seen as a way out.
- Given the extraordinary situation we are in, the government can invoke the provision made in law and raise a loan.
- In the last GST Council meeting, in fact, the idea of the Council itself raising loans was floated. However, the Council as an entity cannot do that.
- Goods & Services Tax Council is a constitutional body for making recommendations to the Union and State Government on issues related to Goods and Service Tax.
- As per Article 279A (1) of the amended Constitution, the GST Council has to be constituted by the President within 60 days of the commencement of Article 279A.
- The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Second Amendment) Bill, 2016, for introduction of Goods and Services tax in the country was introduced in the Parliament and passed by Rajya Sabha on 3rd August, 2016 and by Lok Sabha on 8th August, 2016.
- GST Council is an apex member committee to modify, reconcile or to procure any law or regulation based on the context of goods and services tax in India.
- The GST council is responsible for any revision or enactment of rule or any rate changes of the goods and services in India.
The council contains the following members:
- Union Finance Minister (as chairperson)
- Union Minister of States in charge of revenue or finance (as member)
- The ministers of states in charge of finance or taxation or other ministers as nominated by each states government (as member).
GST Council makes recommendations on:
- Taxes, cesses, and surcharges levied by the Centre, States and local bodies which may be subsumed in the GST;
- Goods and services which may be subjected to or exempted from GST;
- Model GST laws, principles of levy, apportionment of IGST and principles that govern the place of supply;
- Threshold limit of turnover below which goods and services may be exempted from GST;
- Rates including floor rates with bands of GST;
- Special rates to raise additional resources during any natural calamity;
- Special provision with respect to Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand; and
- Any other matter relating to the goods and services tax, as the Council may decide.
- Goods and Services Tax (GST) Act came into effect in 2017.
- Goods and Services Tax (GST) was introduced by the Government of India to boost the economic growth of India. GST is considered to be the biggest taxation reform in the history of Indian economy.
- The power to make any changes in the GST law is in the hands of GST Council. GST Council is headed by the Finance Minister. One hundred and first amendment act, 2016 introduced the GST in India from July 2017.
The Government introduced 3 types of GST which are given below.
- CGST (Central Goods and Service Tax)
- SGST( State Goods and Service Tax)
- IGST(Integrated Goods and Services Tax)
Revenue under CGST is collected by the Central Government.
CGST subsumes the below given central taxations and levies:
- Central Excise Duty
- Services Tax
- Central Sales Tax
- Excise Duty
- Additional Excise Duties Countervailing Duty (CVD)
Revenue under SGST is collected by the State Government.
SGST subsumed the following state taxations:
- Luxury Tax
- State Sales Tax
- Entry tax
- Entertainment Tax
- Levies on Lottery
- IGST is charged when there is movement of goods from one state to another state.
- The revenue will be collected by the central government and accordingly will be shared between the Union and states in the manner prescribed by Parliament or GST Council.
MGNREGA JOBS CRASH TO 1% OF NORMAL
Focus: GS-III Indian Economy
Why in news?
Employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has collapsed to just over 1% of the usual rate in April, due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
How many are affected?
- Data from the MGNREGA website show that less than 1.9 lakh families have been provided work under the scheme so far in April 2020, in comparison to almost 1.6 crore households which were provided work in March, and the 1.8 crore households employed under the scheme in February before the lockdown began.
- The scheme, which guarantees 100 days of work per year at an average daily wage of ₹209, is key to providing livelihoods to poor villagers and is a backbone of the rural economy in difficult times.
- Overall, 7.6 crore families hold active job cards under the scheme, and almost 5.5 crore families found work under the scheme last year.
- The crash in employment rates under the scheme is despite the fact that migrant workers returning to villages should have increased demand in rural areas.
- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, MGNREGA, is an Indian labour law and social security measure that aims to guarantee the ‘right to work’. This act was passed in September 2005.
- It aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
- It covers all districts of India except the ones with 100% urban population.
- MGNREGA is to be implemented mainly by gram panchayats (GPs). The involvement of contractors is banned.
- Apart from providing economic security and creating rural assets, NREGA can help in protecting the environment, empowering rural women, reducing rural-urban migration and fostering social equity, among others.
How MGNREGA came to be?
In 1991, the P.V Narashima Rao government proposed a pilot scheme for generating employment in rural areas with the following goals:
- Employment Generation for agricultural labour during the lean season.
- Infrastructure Development
- Enhanced Food Security
This scheme was called the Employment Assurance Scheme which later evolved into the MGNREGA after the merger with the Food for Work Programme in the early 2000s.
Features of MGNREGA
- It gives a significant amount of control to the Gram Panchayats for managing public works, strengthening Panchayati Raj Institutions.
- Gram Sabhas are free to accept or reject recommendations from Intermediate and District Panchayats.
- It incorporates accountability in its operational guidelines and ensures compliance and transparency at all levels.
Objectives of MGNREGA
- Provide 100 days of guaranteed wage employment to rural unskilled labour
- Increase economic security
- Decrease migration of labour from rural to urban areas
FLOOR TEST IS GOVERNOR’S DISCRETION
Focus: GS-II Polity, Governance
Why in news?
A Governor can call for a floor test any time he objectively feels a government in power has lost the confidence of the House and is on shaky ground, the Supreme Court held in its judgement on 13th March 2020.
Highlights of the Judgement
- A Governor can call for a trust vote if he has arrived at a prima facie opinion, based on objective material, that the incumbent State government has lost its majority in the Assembly.
- The idea underlying the trust vote is to uphold the political accountability of the elected government to the State legislature.
- In directing a trust vote, the Governor does not favour a particular political party. It is inevitable that the specific timing of a trust vote may tilt the balance towards the party possessing a majority at the time the trust vote is directed.
- All political parties are equally at risk of losing the support of their elected legislators, just as the legislators are at risk of losing the vote of the electorate. This is how the system of parliamentary governance operates.
SC on Intention of a Trust vote Restriction on Governor
- The intention behind a trust vote was to enable the elected representatives to determine whether the Council of Ministers commanded the confidence of the House.
- It was the MLAs, and not the Governor, who made the ultimate call whether a government should stay in power or not.
- A Governor’s power to call for a floor test is not restricted only before the inception of a State government immediately after elections, but would continue throughout its five-year term.
When can the Governor call for the trust vote?
- The court clarified that the Governor’s requirement to have a trust vote does not “short-circuit” any disqualification proceedings pending before the Speaker.
- It said a Governor need not wait for the Speaker’s decision on the resignation of rebel MLAs before calling for a trust vote in the House.
- But Governors cannot misuse their wide powers to call for a floor test to displace elected governments for political reasons
What is a no-confidence motion?
- A government can function only when it has majority support in the Lok Sabha.
- The party can remain in power when it shows its strength through a floor test which is primarily taken to know whether the executive enjoys the confidence of the legislature.
- If any member of the House feels that the government in power does not have a majority then he/she can move a no-confidence motion.
- If the motion is accepted, then the party in power has to prove its majority in the House.
- The member need NOT give a reason for moving the no-confidence motion.
- According to rule 198 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of the Lok Sabha, a no-confidence motion is “a motion expressing want of confidence in the Council of Ministers.”
- This motion can be moved when “the Member asking for leave shall, by 10.00 hours on that day give to the Secretary-General a written notice of the motion which such member proposes to move.”
- The Speaker then, once satisfied that the motion is in order, will ask the House if the motion can be adopted.
How is the No-confidence Motion passed?
- Those Members that support the motion will have to rise in their seats, and with a minimum of 50 Members’ approval, the motion can be moved.
- A no-confidence motion needs a simple majority vote to pass the House (i.e., 50% of members present and voting).
- If individuals or parties abstain from voting, those numbers will be removed from the overall strength of the House and then the majority will be taken into account.
- If the government is not able to prove its majority in the House, then the government of the day has to resign.
ONLINE CHILD PORN TRAFFIC RISES BY 95%
Focus: GS-II Social Justice
Why in news?
- Consumption of child pornography after the lockdown in the country has gone up by 95% with online data monitoring websites.
- the India Child Protection Fund (ICPF) said in a statement that Traffic from India increased by 95% between March 24 and 26, as compared to average traffic before the lockdown.
- The ICPF was set up in January 2020 and aims to support NGOs with funding resources for curbing exploitation of children.
What ICPF said?
- The spike in consumption indicates millions of paedophiles, child rapists and child pornography addicts have migrated online, making the Internet extremely unsafe for children.
- Without stringent action, this could result in a drastic rise in sexual crimes against children.
- As children spend more time online during the lockdown, international agencies like Europol, the United Nations and ECPAT (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking) have reported that paedophiles and child pornography addicts have increased activity to target children online to ‘groom’ them — befriending them on social media, building an emotional connection and luring them to perform sexual activities through photos and videos.
- It also pointed out there was an increase in demand for violent content involving children.
- It demands an urgent crackdown on child pornography through a pan-India tracker through the use of artificial intelligence which can monitor hosting, sharing, viewing and downloading of child sexual abuse material and provide the information to the government agencies.
All About Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012
- The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 was enacted to provide a robust legal framework for the protection of children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography, while safeguarding the interest of the child at every stage of the judicial process.
- The framing of the Act seeks to put children first by making it easy to use by including mechanisms for child-friendly reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and speedy trial of offences through designated Special Courts.
- The Act provides for a variety of offences under which an accused can be punished. It recognises forms of penetration other than penile-vaginal penetration and criminalises acts of immodesty against children too.
Offences under the act include:
- Penetrative Sexual Assault: Insertion of penis/object/another body part in child’s vagina/urethra/anus/mouth, or asking the child to do so with them or some other person
- Sexual Assault: When a person touches the child, or makes the child touch them or someone else
- Sexual Harassment: passing sexually coloured remark, sexual gesture/noise, repeatedly following, flashing, etc.
- Child Pornography
- Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assault/ Aggravated Sexual Assault
- The act is gender-neutral for both children and for the accused.
- With respect to pornography, the Act criminalises even watching or collection of pornographic content involving children.
- The Act makes abetment of child sexual abuse an offence.
WATER FROM GANGA, YAMUNA BEING TESTED
Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology
Why in news?
- The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) — the arm of the Water Ministry tasked with directing the ₹20,000 crore clean-up of the Ganga — and the Central Pollution Control Board are expected to find out if the lockdown had a measurable impact on the water quality of the Ganga and Yamuna, rivers that have a history of battling pollution.
- Water samples have been collected from Delhi (Yamuna) and all Ganga basin States, and are in the process of being analysed. While this was also part of the routine water quality monitoring in the river, there was a “special focus” on the impact of lockdown.
- Measuring the degree of chemical oxygen demand (COD) and ammonium nitrate would point to whether the lockdown has had an impact. Effluents from industries as well as sewage discharge would impact COD levels.
National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG)
The government had set up the Clean Ganga Fund in 2014 – Using the funded money to finance NMCG (National Mission for Clean Ganga 2011), cleaning the river, setting up Waste Treatment Plants, Conservation of river biodiversity and related R&D projects.
Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)
- The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India is a statutory organisation under the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
- It was established in 1974
under the Water (Prevention and Control of pollution) Act, 1974.
CPCB is also entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
- It serves as a field formation and also provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
- It Co-ordinates the activities of the State Pollution Control Boards by providing technical assistance and guidance and also resolves disputes among them.
- It is the apex organisation in country in the field of pollution control, as a technical wing of MoEF
RETAIL INFLATION EASES TO 5.91%
Focus: GS-III Indian Economy
Why in news?
Retail inflation dropped to 5.91% in March from the 6.58% in February, mostly on a drop in food prices, according to the Consumer Price Index data released by the National Statistical Office on 13th April 2020.
- Food inflation fell to 8.76% in March, in comparison with the 10.81% in February.
- Vegetable price inflation saw the sharpest fall, dropping from 32% to 19% over the course of a month. Spices and prepared food, snacks and sweets were the only food categories that saw a slight increase in prices.
- Retail inflation has been easing off since hitting an almost six-year high of 7.59% in January, and analysts expect the trend to continue over the next few months.
- The COVID-19 crisis has also affected field data collection used to calculate inflation, although the NSO said the overall impact of missing price data on CPI estimates was within acceptable limits.
National Statistical Office (NSO)
- When the government passed the order for the merger of NSSO and CSO, it didn’t mention any role of the National Statistical Office (NSO), reinforcing the long-held belief that the government was undermining it.
- This merger will lead to depriving the Autonomy of NSSO as it will be a part of the MoSPI.
- This order from the government clearly puts the merged entity under MoSPI Secretary, raising questions about the independence of the process through which official survey data is collected and published.
- The National Sample Survey Office used to work under the Ministry of Statistics of the Indian government until May 2019. On 23rd May 2019, the NSSO merged with the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to form the National Statistical Office (NSO). The Government stated that the NSO will be headed by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI).