17, March 2017

1.GST closer to July 1 rollout

Source: Indian Express

The Central government moved another step closer towards the implementation of the country’s most ambitious indirect tax reform of Goods and Services Tax which is set to roll out from July 1 this fiscal.

  • The GST Council gave its approval to the State GST and the Union Territories GST laws and cleared the revised drafts of three other crucial bills.
  • Some changes were required in Central GST bill, Interstate GST bill and the Compensation law that were approved earlier, and those were also discussed and the changes were approved by the council.

Key facts

  • With all the five enabling draft laws having been approved by the GST Council, the government is hopeful of the likely rollout of the new indirect tax regime from July 1 this year. That the supporting GST laws will now be taken to the Union Cabinet and then to Parliament for approval.
  • Four of these laws, CGST, IGST, UTGST and Compensation law, will be required to be passed by parliament. The SGST law now will be taken by the respective state governments through its cabinets to the respective state assemblies.
  • Apart from zero-rated goods, four tax rates of 5%, 12%, 18% and 28% have been proposed under the GST. The Council approved the ceiling rates for the cess to be levied on top of the maximum GST rate of 28% on demerit or sin goods.
  • The environment cess on coal, lignite and peat has been capped at the existing rate of Rs 400 per tonne.
  • For pan masala, which currently face an effective tax rate of about 135 per cent, the ceiling on cess has been kept at 135 per cent on an ad valorem basis (value of the product). For cigarettes, which currently face a specific duty of Rs 4,170 for every 1,000 sticks apart from VAT and other taxes, the ceiling has been kept at 4,170 for every 1,000 sticks and 290 per cent on an ad valorem basis, with the option to levy a combination of both.

Cess will be imposed on these products in addition to GST to raise resources for paying compensation to states for any revenue loss from GST implementation.

2.Start-up firms may soon find it easy to wind up

Source: The Hindu

To enable faster exit for start-ups and to bring the winding up process in line with global best practices, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has written to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) to notify start-ups as ‘Fast Track firms.

Key facts

  • Once this is notified, start-ups shall be able to wind up their business within a period of 90 days from making an application for the same,” according to a government report (dated March 15) on start-ups.
  • The DIPP is the nodal Central government body for the Start-up India initiative, while the MCA is the concerned authority for notifications on winding up of companies. Fast Track firms will be start-ups with simple debt structures or those meeting certain criteria that will be specified.
  • The ‘Bharat Navodaya: Start-Up India Reform Report’, released on March 6, had recommended expediting the company winding up process in India, “which is currently long-drawn and requires substantial documentation.”
  • The Report was prepared by the Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy-chaired Alternative Investment Policy Advisory Committee (AIPAC) following a request from capital markets regulator SEBI.

Notification

The report said expediting the company winding up process in India would require the notification of Sections 304-323 of the Companies Act, 2013, relating to voluntary winding up. “The benefits of voluntary winding up operations involve no court supervision,”.

It is more economical than following this same process in a tribunal. Given the high risks of start-ups, some of them fail, the AIPAC report said, adding:

  • “Often the entrepreneur leaves from his previous venture and starts a new venture. There should be a provision to carry forward the losses of the failed venture to the new venture.”
  • Therefore, it recommended that the unutilised losses of an eligible start-up, which is being wound up, should be allowed to be carried forward and set off by the founder of that start-up, against the profits of a new eligible start-up set up within a period of three years from date of winding up of the failed start-up.

The SEBI had asked AIPAC to spell out the issues being faced by start-ups in India and recommend reform measures. The 24 members of AIPAC, chaired by, included top officials from finance ministry, the RBI, the SEBI and SIDBI, besides representatives from the venture capital sector and leading consultancy firms.

3.Draft Bill against Human Trafficking

Source: PIB

The upcoming Draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill’ 2017, aims to prevent trafficking of persons, to provide care, protection and rehabilitation to the victims of trafficking, to prosecute offenders and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Key facts:

  • The proposed legislation defines “child” as a person who has not completed the age of eighteen years.
  • It provides for care, protection and rehabilitation of victims and in case of child victim, the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act’ 2015 shall apply.
  • In addition, it defines some new forms of trafficking as aggravated or otherwise and prescribes stringent punishment to persons committing the offence of trafficking for the purposes of forced or bonded labour, administering chemical substance or hormone for the purposes of attaining sexual maturity in victims etc.
  • It envisages establishment of well-coordinated institutional mechanisms at District, State and National level for prevention and investigation of offences and rehabilitation of victims of trafficking.
  • At the grass root level, the District Anti Trafficking Committee have been entrusted with various functions including creating awareness generation programs, community mobilization and empowerment of vulnerable social groups against Trafficking of Persons.
  • The Rehabilitation Fund so constituted also provides for awareness generation programmes for prevention of Trafficking of Persons.

4.Giant algae bloom in Arabian Sea caused by climate change

Source: The Hindu

A giant algae bloom – roughly the size of Mexico – takes over the Arabian Sea twice a year and this massive green patch from Gulf of Oman all the way to India has been attributed to climate change.

Key facts:

  • Scientists say that this bloom is caused by new conditions that enable the microorganisms to thrive. Climate change has been blamed for these conditions and displacing the zooplankton that underpin the local food chain, threatening the entire marine ecosystem.
  • The algae bloom was all invisible 30 years ago in the Gulf of Oman, but the bloom have increased substantially over the last three decades to the extent that they are now even visible from satellites.
  • Algal blooms aren’t rare occurrence and they have been wreaking havoc across the planet.
  • Algae can paralyze fish, clog their gills, and absorb enough oxygen to suffocate them. Whales, turtles, dolphins and manatees have died, poisoned by algal toxins, in the Atlantic and Pacific. These toxins have infiltrated whole marine food chains and have, in rare cases, killed people, according to the U.N. science agency.
    1. In the Great Lakes of North America, Thailand and the Seychelles, the algae bloom green.
    2. In Florida they are red, in the North Atlantic they are chalky white, and in Puget Sound they are orange.
    3. The Irish call it the “sea ghost,” and
    4. The Taiwanese refer to the blooms as “blue tears.”

Studies report:

  • Scientists based at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University trace Oman’s blooms to melting ice in the Himalayas.
  • Less ice has raised temperatures in South Asia and strengthened the Indian Ocean’s southwest monsoon.
  • As this weather front moves across the Arabian Sea every year, it churned up oxygen-poor water thick with nutrients that have fueled the rise of a 1.2-billion-year-old algae called noctiluca scintillans.
  • The algae blooms can also clog the intake pipes of the desalinization plants that produce up to 90 percent of the Oman’s fresh water.

5.India ranks 148 in 2017 UN Women in Politics Map

Source: Indian Express

In recently released 2017 Women in Politics Map report, India was ranked low at 148th position in representation of women in executive government.

It was released by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women.

Key facts

  • The report was launched on sidelines of 61st Commission on Status of Women, the largest inter-governmental forum on women’s rights and gender equality. The theme for this year event is on women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work.
  • India related facts: Women make up 11.8% of the Lok Sabha i.e. 64 were elected to the 542-member house and 11% of the Rajya Sabha with 27 of the 245 members. India ranked 88 in the number of women ministers with five or 18.5% in the cabinet.
  • Globally, the number of women in executive government and in Parliament has stagnated, with only marginal improvements since 2015. Top 10 countries with highest women in parliament: Rwanda, Bolivia, Cuba, Iceland, Nicaragua, Sweden, Senegal, Mexico, Finland and South Africa.

This report shows that progress in gender equality remains slow in all structures of power and types of decision-making. Power is still firmly in men’s hands. Equal representation for women in par with men in positions of power is a fundamental precondition for truly effective and accountable democracy.

6.India signs WHO’s Call To End TB by 2030 in South East Asian region

Source: The Hindu

India along with other countries in the South East Asian Region have signed World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Call To end Tuberculosis (TB) by 2030 in the region.

It was signed by Health ministers from countries in WHO South-East Asia Region (WHO SEARO) during two-day ministerial meeting towards ending TB in the region held in New Delhi.

Key facts

  • Call To End TB by 2030 initiative also stresses on increasing government and partner budgetary allocations to enable national TB plans to be fully funded.
  • WHO SEARO countries have pledged to scale-up efforts and implement adequately funded, innovative, multi-sectoral and comprehensive measures to achieve the global target to end the disease by 2030.
  • They also agreed to set up of a ‘regional innovation to implementation fund’ for accelerated sharing of knowledge, intellectual resources and innovations to reach out and treat all cases.
  • The WHO global targets seek to reduce TB mortality by 90% and incidence by 80% by 2030.

Background

  • WHO South East Asian Region bears half of the global tuberculosis burden.
  • Six of the region’s countries Bangladesh, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand are among the 30 high TB burden nations globally.
  • In 2015, TB caused estimated 4.74 million new TB cases were reported in the region and nearly 8,00,000 deaths.
  • India represents the single highest number of TB cases in the world reporting 2.8 million new TB cases annually and nearly half a million deaths due to the disease.

WHO’s South-East Asia Region comprises Bhutan, Bangladesh, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

Tuberculosis is an infectious, airborne disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

It mainly affects the lungs. It can be transmitted from person to person through the air when people with TB cough, sneeze, laugh or speak, spit, propelling the germs into the atmosphere.



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