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PM’s nod must for suspending IAS officers ... -...

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MHA declares AAP government order to suspend officers as 'non-est'

NEW DELHI: Amid the fresh round of confrontation with the AAP government, the Centre today termed its decision to suspend two DANICS-cadre officers as 'non est' (does not exist) and said the two officers should be considered deemed to be on duty.

The Home Ministry is issuing a formal order terming the suspension order of the two DANICS cadre officers by the Arvind Kejriwal government as null and void.

The Home Ministry has received a reference from the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi on the suspension of two DANICS officers. It declares the suspension order is 'non est' (mistake or does not exist) and the two officers should be considered deemed to be on duty," a Home Ministry spokesperson said.

The two officers - Subhash Chandra and Yashpal Garg - belonging to Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Civil Services were suspended after they allegedly refused to sign Delhi government cabinet notes pertaining to a salary hike for public prosecutors and prison staff.

After their suspension, the DANICS officers have decided to go on mass leave today protesting the "illegal" suspension of their two colleagues by the AAP government.

The DANICS officers have maintained that the appointing and disciplinary authority of DANICS officers is the President of India, who acts through the aid and advice of the Union Home Ministry.

They said the Home Minister of the Delhi government has no authority to take any disciplinary action against DANICS officers as specified under the existing rules.


200 bureacrats on protest leave

At least 200 bureaucrats of the Delhi government went on a day's protest leave here on Thursday over the suspension of two officialseven as the Union Home Ministry declared the suspension as null and void.

The protesting DANICS officers went on mass leave while 70 IAS officers have gone on half-day leave, showing solidarity with the suspended officers, a day after two senior civil service officers of the Home Department were suspended by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government for refusing to sign on a Cabinet decision file.

The action was taken against Yashpal Garg, special secretary (Prosecution), and Subhash Chandra, after they refused to sign a file pertaining to the Cabinet decision to increase salary of public prosecutors.

However, the Union Home Ministry termed the suspension as null and void.

Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Civil Service (DANICS) are selected through civil service exams conducted by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

Only the Delhi Lt Governor can suspend DANICS-cadre officers with permission from the Union Home Ministry.

Reacting to the protest, Delhi Home Minister Satyendra Jain said DANICS and IAS officers do not have the right to go on strike as it is against their service rule.

Unfazed by IAS and DANICS officers associations' decision to skip work today, he said, "People will be happy if they go on strike. All system pertaining to governance is based online today and government will not suffer."

The Delhi Home Minister further said that Delhi government was ready to grant all officers even one month or 15-day leave if they apply for the same.

Jain said that if officers working in the Delhi government have any problem, they can get themselves transferred to the LG office, adding that government will not tolerate "disobedience".

Jain also alleged that BJP is provoking Delhi Government officers to go on strike.

The DANICS Officers' Association comprise around 200 members who hold crucial posts including that of SDM, Secretary to minister and special secretary.

"Delhi Government does not have power to suspend any DANICS officer and it can only recommend suspension of DANICS officer and on this, LG can suspend him or her with permission from MHA," a representative of the association said.

Earlier this month, Kejriwal had also suspended two sub-divisional magistrates for failing to provide instant relief to victims whose shanties were demolished by Railways in West Delhi's Shakur Basti area.

However, these two SDMs are still holding their posts and doing their work.


Modi to meet top bureacrats

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold a meeting with secretaries of all government departments on Thursday.

Official sources said performance of various departments and development works being undertaken by them will be reviewed at the meeting.

In another first, Modi had met the secretaries of all departments on June four where he outlined his agenda of governance and his expectations from them.

He had also held a meeting of his Council of Ministrs on December 18.


PMs nod must for suspending IAS officers working under CentreThe move assumes significance as officers such as Ashok Khemka, Durga Shakti Nagpal and Kuldip Narayan, among others, have allegedly been victims of arbitrary suspensions and transfers. (Reuters File Photo)

Any Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer working under the central government can be suspended only with approval from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, new service rules said on Wednesday, a move aimed at allowing bureaucrats to work without fear of political backlash.

The amended norms also provided relief to all-India service IAS, IPS and IFoS personnel working with state governments, saying the Centre needed to be informed within 48 hours of the suspension of any officer, and a detailed report has to be submitted within a fortnight.

The changes assume significance in the light of a slew of allegations by officers such as Ashok Khemka, Durga Shakti Nagpal and Kuldip Narayan that they have been targeted with arbitrary suspensions and transfers by political regimes for discharging their duty.

The governments aim is to eradicate corruption from the bureaucracy and we also wish to provide officer-friendly environment so that none of the officers is intimidated by any of the government rules and give their performance, minister of state for personnel, public grievances and pensions Jitendra Singh told PTI.

The new rules will also encourage honest officers and ensure justice for all.

The new rules also cut short to two months -- from three months -- the period of suspension of an officer by the Centre and states. The order of suspension, if extended, will now be valid for four months as against the existing six months period.

IAS officers working under central government shall only be suspended on the recommendations of the central review committee as amended with the approval of minister-in-charge, department of personnel and training (DoPT), the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Amendment Rules, 2015 said.

The PM is in charge of the ministry of personnel, public grievances and pensions, under which the DoPT is a department.

The three-member central review committee will be headed by DoPT secretary and will have establishment officer and another secretary of the ministry concerned, as its members.

The new rules said as soon as a civil servant is placed or deemed to have been placed under suspension, the information has to be communicated to the government of India expeditiously.

A copy of the suspension order along with the reasons or grounds of suspension should be communicated to the cadre-controlling authority (DoPT for IAS, home ministry for IPS and environment ministry for IFoS) in the central government not later than forty eight hours, the fresh norms added.

There was no such time-limit in the existing rules.

An order of suspension, which has not been extended, shall be valid for a period not exceeding sixty days and an order of suspension which has been extended shall remain valid for a further period not exceeding 120 days, at a time, unless revoked earlier, the new rules said.


Delhi govt Vs IAS officers: AAP says strike a conspiracy

The Delhi government alleged a conspiracy by the lieutenant governor and the BJP-led Central government behind the decision of its senior bureaucrats to skip work on Thursday protesting the suspension of two of their colleagues.

This comes after the Centre struck down the Aam Aadmi Party governments decision to suspend two DANICS-cadre officers for not signing on a file pertaining to a cabinet decision.

Its clear, there is a conspiracy, if officers had grievances they should have gone to the chief minister and not the LG....LG has power to stay some orders, but a blanket order saying no order of Delhi government is to be seen through, cant be followed, Delhi home minister Satyendra Jain said.

Yashpal Garg, special secretary (prosecution), and Subhash Chandra, special secretary (prisons) were suspended on Wednesday after they refused to sign a file on the cabinet decision to increase the salary of public prosecutors.

Following this, officers from the DANICS cadre (acronym for NCT of Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Civil Service) have gone on leave on Thursday in solidarity with the suspended officers.

Jain taunted the protesting officers saying they should go for a month-long leave instead of skipping work for a day.

We can show how their absence will not affect governance, he told reporters at his residence in the morning.

Officers of DANICS are recruited directly through the Civil Services Examination and are responsible for the administrative functions of the national capital region and union territories.

The Congress hit out at both the BJP and AAP over the controversy, saying their ego fight was affecting the people of Delhi.

Earlier, there was confusion whether the files will go to the LG or not. Now, he is saying he wont sign on the cabinet decisions. So, somewhere there is a conspiracy, Congress leader JP Aggarwal told ANI.


Seventh Pay Commission: Delay salary hikes, five states tellCentreSeventh Pay Commission: While salary revisions are due in these five states, the states which follow a different wage revision cycle, such as Andhra Pradesh, will not be impacted by the report.

Written by Sunny Verma ,Shruti Srivastava

AT LEAST five fiscally-stressed states have asked the Centre to go slow on implementation of the Seventh Pay Commissions recommendations, seeking extra time to be able to absorb similar pay hikes, government officials said.

States usually follow the Central Pay Commissions recommendations, and, with some modifications, announce roughly similar salary hikes for state government employees.

There are several states who have approached the Prime Ministers Office, Cabinet Secretary and Niti Aayog, seeking more time in implementation of the Seventh Pay Commissions report, said a government official familiar with the matter.

The five states are West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha. The suggested delay will give the states more time to equip themselves with resources to meet higher salary bills.

The Seventh Pay Commission, headed by Justice A K Mathur, submitted its report to the government last month, recommending 23.55 per cent overall hike in pay, allowances and pensions of government employees with effect from January 1, 2016. This means the Centres salary bill will increase by Rs 1,02,100 crore in 2016-17.

Punjabs finances are under stress and the burden of the Pay Commissions recommendations will certainly have an impact Our officials have informally taken up the matter with the Centre, confirmed Punjab Finance Minister P S Dhindsa.

Normally they (states) adopt the Centres recommendations. This is the normal procedure, but it certainly depends upon their (states) financial health. Some of the states have not even implemented the Sixth Pay Commissions recommendation, Justice Mathur toldThe Indian Express.

Some of the states may have suggested (delayed implementation) to the government, but I dont think the Government of India is in a bad position, he said.

When contacted, Odishas Additional Chief Secretary (Finance Department), R Balakrishnan said: At this stage, we dont want to comment on it.

Despite repeated calls and emails, West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitras office did not comment on the report. In September, the West Bengal government set up its Pay Commission to suggest a salary revision plan. The state commission is expected to follow on the Seventh Pay Commissions recommendations.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary Alok Ranjan said the state was yet to assess the fiscal implication of the Seventh Pay Commissions recommendations. The Indian Express could not reach the Tamil Nadu government.

While salary revisions are due in these five states, the states which follow a different wage revision cycle, such as Andhra Pradesh, will not be impacted by the Seventh Pay Commissions report.

Andhra Pradesh Principal Secretary, Dr P V Ramesh, said the state had revised salaries with effect from April 1, 2015, and the next revision is due only in 2019. We follow a five-year pay revision cycle, which is not linked with the central cycle. The Seventh Pay Commission, therefore, will not have an impact on us, he said.

Meanwhile, the Union finance ministry has set up an implementation cell for processing and implementing accepted recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission.


Application for govt services to be simplifiedBirth, death certificates to have 1-page form

Applications for majority of services like birth ordeath certificateswill soon be simplified and converted into one-page form format, the government announced on Friday.

Union MinisterJitendra Singhalso unveiled a one-page application form for pensioners on 'good governance day', coinciding with the birthday of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Singh said the aim behind this initiative is to make the forms as simple and small as possible for the beneficiary.

"There should be relevant and minimum information asked for in an application form for government services and not repetitive ones," he said.

Singh, minister of state for personnel, public grievances and pensions, said he was coordinating with state governments and Union territories to replicate the same process.

"Every month, we will be holding meetings with at least two central government departments and reviewing forms available for different services under them. Efforts will be to simplify the whole procedure, and we hope to achieve the target of single-page form for all government services within a year's time," the minister said.

Currently, one has to fill lengthy forms for getting birth, death and other certificates. Secretary in personnel ministry, Sanjay Kothari, said the government planned to integrated Aadhaar number with government services, so that people do not have to fill out whole details.

"We will be integrating Aadhaar data base for the services. But this will be possible only when all the people have Aadhaar numbers. It will further benefit people as they will not be required to fill out basic details like their residential address, among other things," he said.


Babus have to declare outcome of foreign trips

Dipak Dash

Government officials undertaking foreign trips will now have to clearly spell out what these visits achieved.All those who have travelled since 2013-14 have been directed to submit details of the outcome of their official foreign visits in the next few days.

Sources said Cabinet secretary P K Sinha recently called a meeting to ensure officials and departments comply with the decision.

The move comes against the backdrop of the impression that the trips, to gain experience and insight, often turn into pleasure jaunts. There have been cases of officials travelling in more numbers than needed, extending their stay and visiting places irrelevant to the purpose of the trip. In keeping with the new work culture, the NDA government has created a website under its Software Management Information System for uploading details of foreign tours and visits by officials. Ministries and departments have set a December-end deadline for officials to upload details on this portal.

Moreover, every ministry and department has been directed to prepare a rolling plan for future foreign visits to be undertaken by officials. The idea behind the rolling plan is to submit the proposed trips of officials in the next quarter. This can be updated and amended. The government wants foreign trips by officials on govern ment expenditure to be result-oriented, said a senior government official.

In certain cases, it's difficult to get the details of foreign visits by officials, who have already gone back to the states or are retired. But the message has gone to one and all to provide the outcomes of their visits since they must be keeping some details. We are also trying to get the records kept in departments so that some details can be uploaded, said a government source.

ASIAN AGE, DEC 30, 2015

Now DoPT approval must to suspend IAS officers; rule aimed to protect civil servants

ByAman Sharma

IAS officers working with the Centre can now be suspended only with the approval of the minister in charge of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).

NEW DELHI: IAS officers working with the Centre can now be suspended only with the approval of the minister in charge of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), according to new rules that are aimed at protecting them.

Until now, the Centre could suspend anIAS officerand aCentral Review Committeeof bureaucrats would step into the picture only if the suspension was to be continued beyond a year.

TheDoPTnotified the new rules on December 21, saying IAS officers working with the Centre can now be suspended only on the recommendation of the Central Review Committee and with the approval of the DoPT minister in charge, who is currently minister of state Jitendra Singh.

Prime MinisterNarendra Modi, the administrative head of the DoPT, has spoken in the past about protecting honest officers. The new rules have kicked in after almost year-long deliberations with the states in the backdrop of suspensions of IAS officers including Ashok Khemka and Durga Shakti Nagpal. States will now have to inform the Centre within 48 hours of suspending any all-India services officer (IAS, IPS and IFS) working for them.

"Copy of the suspension order and reasons for the suspension have to be communicated," the new rules say. There was no time limit earlier. Also, the state cannot keep an officer suspended beyond 30 days if the Centre does not confirm the suspension or if disciplinary proceedings are not initiated. The earlier period was 45 days.

The Central Review Committee will now have the secretary of the DoPT as chairperson and its members will be the DoPT's establishment officer and the secretary of the ministry where the IAS officer is posted. Previously, the committee was headed by the secretary of the ministry concerned and it was optional to co-opt a DoPT officer.

The draft rules circulated in April proposed that the Centre would need the recommendations of this committee to continue the suspension of its officer beyond a week - a proposal that's now been dropped. Suspension in the first place now would require the committee and the minister's nod. This is aimed at checking any arbitrary suspension at the Centre's level as well. These All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Amendment Rules, 2015, replace the rules of 1969.

The new rules also stipulate that any appeals or memorials against disciplinary action taken by the state government or a central ministry against an all-India service officer must be forwarded to the Centre with the ministry or state's comments within 30 days of receipt "or the Central government will take a decision on the advance copy of the appeal received by them."


Babus wary of postings in UP, Delhi and J&K

Union minister of state for personnel Jitendra Singh on Friday sought to dis miss the perception that not many IAS officers were willing to work on Central deputation, saying there is an equal number of officials who are not keen to go back to their respective state cadres.

I think it works both ways. There are almost equal numbers of officials who are not interested in going back to their state cadres. I won't name the states as it would not be proper. But there are a number of states where we literally have to coax the officers to go back for postings. Some other states are more acceptable (for postings), for a variety of reasons, Singh said.

Incidentally , even as Singh remained tightlipped on the popular or unpopular state cadres for postings, sources in the government claimed Delhi, UP and J&K were some states where IAS officials were not keen to accept postings. On the other hand, Gujarat and Maharashtra are two states where the IAS officials are happy to stay back.

While union territorycadre bureaucrats shy from postings in the Delhi government lest they get caught by the constant tussle between the Centre and Kejriwal government, UP is unpopular due to alleged political inter ference and the state government's approach to postings and transfers, sources said.There have been cases in the past where officers like Durga Shakti Nagpal and Amitabh Thakur were targeted by the state government, allegedly for not being pliable.

Gujarat, which is often touted as an example of good governance, remains a favoured choice for IAS officials, claimed a government functionary . As many as 59 officers have been repatriated to parent cadres before completing their Central deputation terms, after the Modi government came to power in May 2014.

Singh had, in written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday , said between May 26, 2014 and December 17, 2015, 59 IAS officials appointed under the Central Staffing Scheme were prematurely repatriated to their respective cadres.

The repatriations have mainly been for availing the benefits of promotion; on the requests of state governments; and some on personal grounds, Singh said. He said the government had also relaxed the condition of extended cooling off period where the IAS officer was going back to the state cadre as chief secretary .

As on January 1, 2015, the total number of IAS officers in position was 4,802, against a authorized strength of 6,375.

There were 3,848 IPS officers in position as compared to their authorized strength of 4,754.(COURSTEY THE TIMES OF INDIA DEC 26)


Ministry of Labour to mandate creches inofficesWomen who adopt infants, opt for surrogacy may get three months leave.

Written byShalini Nair

The crche facility would be universally applicable to all establishments, whether public or private, such as call centres, media houses, IT firms and shops.

Employers in both government and private sectors will soon be required to provide crche facilities for employees, either on the office premises or within a 500-metre distance.

The Ministry of Labour is expected to introduce a new provision in the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, which will mandate all establishments with 30 women or 50 employees, whichever is less, to ensure employees have access to crches in the vicinity.

The crche facility would be universally applicable to all establishments, whether public or private, such as call centres, media houses, IT firms and shops. These crches can be created either on a firms premises or two or more firms within 500 metres can pool their resources and create a community crche, said sources. Officials said the proposed move is aimed at increasing womens participation in the workforce post childbirth. We are hoping to bring in the amended Bill in the budget session of Parliament, said an official.

The ministry has also proposed that women adopting children aged less than three months as well as those who opt for having a child through a surrogate should be eligible for 12 weeks of paid leave.

The ministry is expected to seek cabinet approval for the amendments soon.

Until now, it was only the Factories Act, 1948, which made having a crche compulsory in factories.

Labour ministry sources said they have deliberately kept their provision gender-neutral by using the word employees instead of women. There might be situations where the mothers workplace is further away from home.

In such cases, fathers can take their children to the crche at the workplace. Moreover, we want to promote a culture where childcare is as much as a fathers responsibility as it is the mothers, said an official.

As is the case in the Factories Act, it will be the responsibility of labour inspectors to ensure compliance. However, even within the limited scope of the Factories Act, not only has enforcement been poor, there is no consolidated data available with the central labour commissioner on compliance. Labour ministry officials said they will make it mandatory for labour inspectors to file inspection reports online on a quarterly basis.

The Maternity Benefit Act states that every woman who returns to work post-delivery should be allowed two breaks in the course of her day for nursing her child until he or she is 15 months old. However, a 2012 study showed that of all the women interviewed, a mere 4 per cent said they received the nursing breaks.


Govt asks ministries to stop conducting interviews for juniorposts

From January 1, 2016, there will be no recruitment with interview at the junior level posts in government of India ministries, departments, attached and subordinate offices, autonomous bodies and PSUs.

In line with PM Narendra Modis announcement, the government Tuesday asked all ministries and departments to not conduct interviews for recruitment to various junior-level posts starting January 1, 2016. The government, however, has allowed these ministries and departments to continue with skill tests or physical tests.

From 1st January, 2016, there will be no recruitment with interview at the junior level posts, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) stated in its direction. The decision to discontinue interview for recruitments is for all Group C, Group D (now reclassified as Group C) Posts and for non-gazetted posts of Group B Category and all such equivalent posts, the DoPT has stated.

The Centre has also stated that the proposal has to be implemented for all the junior level posts in ministries, government departments, attached and subordinate offices, autonomous bodies and PSUs.

Ministries and departments have been told that if they want to continue undertaking interviews, a detailed proposal seeking exemption will have to be sent to the DoPT with minister/minister in-charges approval.


Two senior officials suspended for refusing to sign cabinetnotesThe officials have been identified as Subhash Chandra, special secretary, prisons, and Yashpal Garg, special secretary, prosecution.

Written byPragya Kaushika

The Delhi government has suspended two of its senior-most DANICS officials posted as special secretaries with the Home department late Tuesday, as they had allegedly refused to sign two cabinet notes.

The move could lead to yet another tussle between the government and the Lieutenant Governor, as only the Lt Governor can suspend senior DANICS officials with permission from the Home Ministry. In that case, sources said, the suspension could be deemed invalid.

The officials have been identified as Subhash Chandra, special secretary, prisons, and Yashpal Garg, special secretary, prosecution. They belonged to the senior administrative grade, the highest grade in DANICS.

The cabinet notes reportedly pertain to the raise in the salary of public prosecutors and prison staff.

The matter has become a bone of contention as the officials cited a letter from the Lt Governor asking government officials not to sign any document that does not come under their jurisdiction, said the source.

Home minister Satyendar Jain confirmed that the officials have been suspended but refused to divulge more details in the matter.

This is not the first time that the government has taken action against its officials for siding with the Lt Governor.

Earlier, former home secretary Dharampal was sidelined for following the Lt Governors orders to remain at his post despite the government appointing Rajendra Kumar as the home secretary.


Babus on foreign jaunts need to spell out outcome of such tours

Dipak K Dash

NEW DELHI: Government officials undertaking foreign trips will have to clearly spell out the outcome of such tours. All those who undertook official foreign visits since 2013-14 need to submit details of the outcome of such tours in the next few days.

The move comes against the backdrop of persistent feeling in many quarters that the trips, ostensibly for gaining experience and insights, often turn into pleasure jaunts. There have been cases of officials traveling abroad in numbers more than necessary, stretching the duration of stay and visiting and stopping at places irrelevant to the stated purpose of the trip.

In keeping with the new work culture, the NDA government has created a website under its Software Management Information System for uploading details of foreign tours and visits by officials. Ministries and departments have set a December-end deadline for its officials to upload details on this portal.

Moreover, every ministry and department has been directed to prepare a "rolling plan" for future foreign visits to be undertaken by officials. "The idea behind the rolling plan is to submit the proposed trips of officials in the next quarter. This can be updated and amended. Government wants foreign trips by officials on government expenditure to be result-oriented," said a senior government official.

According to sources, cabinet secretary P K Sinha recently called a meeting to ensure that officials and departments comply with the decision.

"In certain cases, it's difficult to get the details of foreign visits by officials, who have already gone back to the states or are retired. But the message has gone to one and all to provide the outcomes of their visits since they must be keeping some details. We are also trying to get the records kept in departments so that some details can be uploaded," said a government source.


Cabinet may give go-ahead to labour ministry proposal of extending maternity leave to 26 weeks

ByYogima Sharma

NEW DELHI:The Union Cabinet may soon give its go-ahead to a labour ministry proposal to extend maternity leave to 26 weeks from 12 weeks. Mothers who use surrogates to bear a child and women adopting a baby could also get 12 weeks of maternity leave.

Extending maternity leave is in sync with benefits available to central government employees and has been done to enable mothers breastfeed their child for at least six months and help reduce high rates of child malnutrition in the country, a senior government official told ET.

"We have substantially enhanced benefits under the Maternity Act. This is likely to be approved by the Cabinet soon, after which it will go to Parliament as it requires amendment in the Act," the official told ET on condition of anonymity. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, presently entitles women to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave.

According to the official, the amendment bill is unlikely to face resistance in Parliament as the ministry has held consultations with stakeholders for such sweeping changes that would benefit a large number of working women.

Women with government jobs in India get a six-month maternity leave, as per the Central Civil Service (Leave) Rules, 1972. The last circular in this regard was issued in 2008, when it was increased from four-and-a-half months.

The International Labour Organisation recommends a standard maternity leave of 14 weeks or more, though it encourages member states to increase it to at least 18 weeks. At 26 weeks, India is set to join a league of 42 countries where maternity leave exceeds 18 weeks. It, however, falls behind several East European, Central Asian and Scandinavian countries, which have more generous paid maternity leave.

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for babies up to six months old, saying it reduces child mortality and has proven health benefits that extend into adulthood. Yet, only 47% of Indian mothers exclusively breastfeed for the first six months, compared with 70% in neighbouring Nepal and 76% in Sri Lanka.

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for babies up to six months old, saying it reduces child mortality and has proven health benefits that extend into adulthood. Yet, only 47% of Indian mothers exclusively breastfeed for the first six months, compared with 70% in neighbouring Nepal and 76% in Sri Lanka.



Pay for your lunch

The muted political response, and comparatively limited public quibbling over where the affluence line should be drawn, would point to the success of the governments rather bold decision to withdraw the subsidy on LPG to well-heeled people. There are varying calculations of the quantum of savings expected, some say it would be minimal given the prevailing slump in the global oil market. Yet a larger point is being made. An obsolete mindset is slowly being abandoned, people must learn to pay their own way, at least those sections who had enjoyed undue benefits from the carcinogenic garibi hatao myth. The decision was politically courageous, well-timed too since Tamil Nadu apart (where the BJP does not have even a walk-by role) there are no elections in the offing. Hence there were none of the negatives that thwarted the UPAs bid to reduce from 12 to six the number of subsidised cylinders made available each year. This would be one instance, albeit exceptionally rare, of the Modi government putting to positive use the advantage accruing from its 282 Lok Sabha seats. And should populist opposition emerge from state governments a financial mechanism could be found by which they would foot the subsidy bill -should they opt to play fairy-godmother. Politics apart, it would do no harm if the government provided authentic information of the subsidy savings expected, an estimate of how many households would be impacted, how many would continue to get cheaper gas, and at what cost to the exchequer. A clear picture would help clear misgivings.

As in all such moves the key lies in implementation. To expect voluntary compliance would be wishful thinking -note the way automobile licence plates are being doctored in Delhi to beat the odd-even experiment -and some of the measures being mentioned raise apprehensions that Big Brother is watching you. The government, for once, could take a lead and prohibit the supply of subsidised cylinders to the homes of ministers, MPs, judges of the Supreme and High Courts, senior civil, police and military officials. The Type of government housing provided could serve as a yardstick. From both a social and a green perspective an effort could be considered to divert the subsidy savings to provide the very poor affordable LPG (some still find even the subsidised rate beyond their means) to wean them away from polluting firewood. Since electricity is not a viable kitchen option a major effort must be mounted -in urban centres anyway -to expand the supply of piped natural gas: cheaper and more efficiently delivered than LPG. When dealing with matters of home and hearth the government needs to be guided by heart -go beyond what economists and accountants advise.


No LPG subsidy for taxpayers who earn over Rs 10 lakh annually:GovtTax payers with an annual income of more than Rs 10 lakh will not get subsidised LPG anymore, the government announced on Monday.

At present, all households are entitled to get 12 cylinders of 14.2-kg each at subsidised rate of Rs 419.26, while the market price is Rs 608.

IN ITS first decisive move towards curbing the supply of subsidised cooking gas, the NDA government today announced that taxpayers with an annual income of more than Rs 10 lakh will not get subsidised LPG cylinders from the new year.

At present, all households are entitled to 12 cylinders of 14.2-kg each at subsidised rate of Rs 419.26, while the market price of each cylinder is Rs 608. In the assessment year 2014-15, a total of 20.26 lakh assesses were reported as having a taxable income above Rs 10 lakh, according to the Central Board of Direct Taxes data.

Justifying the latest move, a statement issued by the Union Petroleum Ministry said the government has decided that the benefit of the LPG subsidy will not be available for LPG consumers if the consumer or his/her spouse had taxable income of more than Rs 10 lakh during the previous financial year computed as per the Income Tax Act, 1961.

This would, however, be done initially on self-declaration basis while booking cylinders from January 2016 onwards, it added.

On March 27 this year, the government had asked well-off people to voluntarily give up using subsidised LPG and insteadbuy cooking fuel at market price. So far, of the estimated 14.78 crore LPG consumers in the country, over 52 lakh are reported to have given up access to subsidised fuel voluntarily.

While many consumers have given up subsidy voluntarily, it is felt that consumers in the higher income bracket should get LPG cylinders at the market price, the statement said.

In September 2012, the UPA government had restricted the number of subsidised domestic cylinders per household on an annual basis to six, and then revised it to nine. The cap was subsequently revised in January 2014 to 12 cylinders a year, starting April 1.

During fiscal 2014-15, the subsidy payout on LPG was estimated at Rs 40,551 crore. During April-September this fiscal, the subsidy outgo was Rs 8,814 crore. The total payout this fiscal is expected to be far lower than last year as oil prices have receded sharply.

The number of LPG consumers in the country fell from 16.35 crore to 14.78 crore after the start of Direct Benefit Transfer on LPG (DBTL) scheme that eliminated inactive customers and duplication in the rolls.

The subsidy saved from the Give it Up campaign, the Ministry said, is being used for providing new connections to the BPL families. This, according to the ministry, enables the allocation of LPG to poor households and ensures that they replace the use of fuels such as kerosene, coal, fuel wood.

According to a Petroleum Ministry official, every LPG consumer who surrenders cooking gas subsidy is linked to a BPL household that gets the LPG connection in turn.

As on December 7, according to Ministry statistics, a total of 52,58,841 consumers have given up or surrendered their subsidy. Taking into account the quota of 12 cylinders per consumer and the average LPG subsidy of Rs 184.93 per cylinder (in the Delhi market) for the period from April to September, 2015, the annual saving would be approximately Rs 1,167 crore.



Column: OROP, pay panel no real problem forFMIn FY17, govt revenues could increase by 0.8% of GDP, helping meet wage burden and contain fiscal deficit.

By:Gautam Mehta

It is conventional wisdom now that the finance minister cannot meet the pay commission and one-rank-one-pension (OROP) expenditure obligations as well as continue the higher infrastructure spending while sticking to the fiscal consolidation commitment. In the mid-year economic analysis, the chief economic advisor even suggested that, given the continued sluggishness in private investments, the magnitude of fiscal consolidation for next fiscal year (i.e. FY17) needs to be reassessed. But a higher wage bill, continued infrastructure spending and fiscal consolidation need not be an impossible trinity if the government steps up asset sales in the next year.

The net (i.e., post income-tax) pay commission and OROP obligations are estimated to be approximately Rs 60,000 crore (0.5% of GDP). In addition, as a recent report in The Financial Express suggests, the government may have to bear a part of the obligations ofIndian Railways, which would could cost 0.1% of GDP. But the government will receive a windfall from lower commodity prices. Modest hikes in minimum support prices for foodgrains and lower crude prices mean that the subsidy bill will be lower next year by around 0.1% of GDP (i.e., subsidies will stay constant in rupee terms in FY17). As such, the net increase in governments expenditure will be only 0.4% of GDP in FY17. Under this scenario, increase in public investment will be in line with nominal GDP growth (10-11%).

On the revenue side, the two recent hikes in excise duty on petrol and diesel excise duty will generate additional tax revenues worth 0.14% of GDP. As the government prepares to transition to the goods-and-service tax (GST), the service tax rates would have to be increased in order to bring them closer to the revenue neutral GST rate suggested by the Subramanian committee. If media reports are to be believed the government is indeed planning to increase the service tax rate from current 14.5% (including the Swachh Bharat cess) to 16.5%. In FY17, services taxes, according to my estimates, can generate additional revenues worth 0.3% of GDP. The Subramanian committee has also recommended a pruning of goods exempted from central excise duty in preparation for a transition to the GST. A recent report in the Business Standard suggests that goods eligible for excise exemptions will be pruned to from the current 300 around 90, which will also generate additional revenues.

The mid-year review estimates that the buoyancy of direct and indirect taxes (the latter after stripping out tax hikes) was 1.5x and 1.7x, respectively, in the first half of fiscal FY16. So conservatively assuming that, despite an acceleration in GDP growth rate, tax buoyancy declines next year, the government can increase tax revenues by around 0.65% of GDP. But after devolution to the states, the tax revenue left with the central government would be around 0.4% of GDP.

Despite budgeting for it, the government will not generate any revenues from strategic divestment in FY16. But, if the government gets its act together, revenues from asset sales can sharply increase next year. The government can sell a part of the SUUTI holdings and dispose off its residual shareholding in Hindustan Zinc and Balco to generate revenues. Stable market conditions would also allow the government to step up disinvestments. Spectrum auctions have been delayed because of a lack of agreement on floor price and delay in spectrum harmonization. But, if the recent statements of Trai chairman are to be believed, these issues will be resolved soon, opening the door for spectrum auctions in FY17. As such, with a concerted effort, it should be possible for the government to generate an additional revenue of R60,000-65,000 crore (i.e, 0.4% of GDP) from asset sales in FY17.

To sum-up, in the next fiscal year, the government can increase revenues by 0.8% of GDP, allowing it to both meet the higher expenditure obligations of 0.4% of GDP and reduce the fiscal deficit by 0.4% of GDP.

In the near term, Indias attractiveness to foreign investors is largely premised on reforms and macroeconomic stability. As the winter session demonstrated, prospects of meaningful structural reforms next year are weak. Arguably, the need for fiscal stimulus will be lower next year because the economy will experience a gradual recovery and headwinds from poor monsoons as well as weak exports will dissipate. But, if the government risks macroeconomic stability by abandoning its commitment to fiscal consolidation, the India story will weaken considerably and India may no longer be insulated if emerging markets experience another round of turmoil in 2016.

The author is a Masters student at Johns Hopkins University


HINDU, DEC 30, 2015

Will the GATS close on higher education?


After extended talks in Nairobi, India and other member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) signed the ministerial agreement on December 19. At the forefront of the talks was Indias struggle to get developed countries to agree to reduce their food subsidies, which are perceived to be adversely affecting farmers from developing nations. India and the U.S. resolved differences over public stockholding of foodgrains, with the U.S. agreeing to an indefinite peace clause which protects member countries from being challenged under other WTO agreements. The document released by the WTO also states that developed countries will remove export subsidies immediately, while developing nations will do so by 2018. Almost everything that has been agreed upon has qualifiers and is time-bound, and all this will be discussed by experts. But what has been stunning in the agreement is the lack of dialogue and social concern about the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) agenda of offering for global trade, as commodities, services such as higher education; health; life insurance; research and development in the physical sciences, social sciences, humanities; and so on.

The WTO document refers to a waiver, according to which the non-least developed country (LDC) members can give preference to services and service providers from LDCs. This will be in place for another 15 years. India is categorised as a developing country, a non-LDC. As of now, 35 countries which have been classified as LDCs by the United Nations have become members of the WTO, with Afghanistan being the latest to join as a member during the Nairobi conference. Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that India has negotiated hard to ensure that the interests of the LDCs and the developing countries are kept at the centre of the WTO agenda. With India looking to play a greater role in the South Asian region, this might be a persuasive argument. But while this is laudable, there are other pieces to the puzzle that do not add up.

India has the youngest population in the world. With half its people below the age of 25, it faces the challenge of educating its youth and preparing them for taking up employment both within the country and outside. In this context, it has been mooted that the entry of foreign education providers would help in a big way. Also, while such educational exchanges have already been happening, they have largely been unregulated. The usual argument favouring entry into the GATS rests on the need for foreign support in educating Indian youth and for regulating this as a trade. But much lies beneath these simple arguments. Talk of increasing the Gross Enrolment Ratio in Higher Education from the present 13 per cent to 30 per cent by 2020 may, for instance, remain a pipe dream.

A level playing field is what the GATS would enforce, but the field would be level only for the traders, not for society at large. In a country like India where a large fraction of people are still first-generation learners, ensuring equitable development is paramount. Yet, when education is treated as a tradable commodity, there can be no concessions on social justice mores. The government cannot even continue to subsidise its own institutions or support needy students through scholarships or reservation policies, as those would be interpreted as unfair trade practices. Hard-won policies of equity and constitutional guarantees would be reduced to mere rhetoric. Any disputes that arise in this regime would have to be referred not to the judiciary but to the WTOs Dispute Settlement Body.

A horror story

The middle class cannot be too overjoyed either that the flouting of reservation norms would mean greater opportunities for them. In a GATS regime, there would be no means of ensuring that only high-quality universities enter the fray to set up shop, nor would there be any means of controlling the cost of education they provide. This has all the makings of a horror story in a country where education loans have become morale-sapping burdens in the process of acquiring the advantage of higher education, and student suicides happen frequently.

Developed countries with ageing populations, and which thus have a growing skill crunch, may try to succeed in siphoning away students from the affluent section, who manage to acquire skills, for employment. This will come at a cost, as it would also exacerbate the brain drain issue.

These offers are not new; they were made in 2005. However, these issues have not been taken up for re-examination, and, as a result, they have slowly been relegated to the back seat of public discourse. To be sure, the GATS works on the principle of progressive liberalisation. It is unlikely that once an offer is made, it can be withdrawn in the next round of negotiations. Any withdrawal of, say, a sector or sub-sector, can only be compensated by making a comparable offer involving another sector.

The government has already been trying to introduce education reforms that indicate its own willingness to adopt the GATS agenda in education. These include the four-year undergraduate programme, the choice-based credit system, cutting down on the non-National Eligibility Test fellowships, and research funding. All of this has been met with opposition from the student community and educationists. But that was at a time when there was no international agreement binding the government from acting, or even rolling back decisions not popular with the stakeholders. All this leaves us with the big question: how can a democracy protest for its rights when its government has relinquished its power to concede?

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In a GATS regime, there would be no means of ensuring that only high-quality universities enter the fray to set up shop, nor would there be any means of controlling the cost of education they provide


TRIBUNE, DEC 25, 2015

S. Subramanian

Chennai: After the flood

Lessons for governance and state policy

and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged Genesis 8

As soon as the idea of the Deluge had subsided,/A hare stopped in the clover and swaying flowerbells, /and said a prayer to the rainbow,/through the spider's web. Gush, pond,-- foam, roll on the bridge and over the woods; /black palls and organs, lightning and thunder, rise and roll; /waters and sorrows rise and launch the floods again. Arthur Rimbaud: After The Flood

There is a gentle calmness, and great sense of relief that presides over the simple statement concluding the Genesis account of the Flood. God, we are told, made a covenant with man after the Flood, undertaking never again to visit such a cataclysm upon him in punishment for his sins, and the rainbow was the symbol, and the reminder, of this compact. The understanding, of course, was that, for his part, man would have learnt never again to give cause for another Flood. But in Rimbauds poem, it is an animal and not man that expresses gratitude to the rainbow, while the latter returns to his own old ways, causing the poet to invite Nature to unleash her fury again upon the earth. There is a frightening contrast between the soothing Genesis account of the end of the Flood and the violence of Rimbauds imagery of what might come to pass after the idea of the deluge has subsided. It is a warning to be constantly conscious of what led up to the Flood and of the pain and suffering it caused; an invitation to introspection and stock-taking; and an injunction against easy forgetfulness of both cause and effect.

There is then a case for such introspection now, after the flood in Chennai, in a mood of some humility and soberness that abjures edgy defensiveness toward, and angry rejection of, criticism in favour of receptivity toward messages of lessons that must be learned and warnings of mistakes that must not be repeated. The worst and most self-defeatingly insensitive response would be one that seeks a punitive insistence on the court-room requirements of impeccable proof and evidence for every adverse assessment made, as opposed to a patient allowance of criticism, or even recrimination, from a citizenry that has lived through a hellish experience. The state and society alike must accept the wisdom of a stock-taking one that covers aspects of both state functioning and societal response that is informed by such an attitude of patient objectivity. It is in this spirit that the following comments on governance and social behaviour in a time of crisis are offered.

Casualties directly attributable to the flood in southern India and Sri Lanka are estimated to be in the region of 400 deaths, the destruction of a hundred thousand structures, and losses amounting to Rs.20,000 crore. This is a crushing blow for any region in a country in the low-to-middle-income range. A further major human loss is that due to morbidity - principally in the form of gastro-intestinal disease unleashed by the impact of the flood on public hygiene and sanitation, a situation compounded by the damages suffered in the flood by the public and private health facilities.

There are obvious lessons in this for governance and state policy. The state cannot embark too soon on efforts aimed at the systematic maintenance of tanks and canals, the prevention of deforestation, the regular repair and cleaning up of drainage outlets, the upkeep of roads that should be built to withstand the routine phenomenon of rains in a tropical country, the clearance of structures that are unauthorised (or ought never to have been authorised) standing on water-ways and flood outlets, and attentiveness to environmentalists who have for long been warning against compromising the ecological status of marshlands. These are aspects of long-term policy.

In the short term, it would appear that the official machinery was found wanting in its ability to deal quickly and effectively with the flood crisis. Indeed, a major issue that has arisen is the manner and timing of the release of water from the Chembarambakkam tank in Chennai. A substantial body of opinion maintains that the water should have been released in stages over time, in manageable quantities, and not all at once in a crisis response to the possibility of a breaching of the reservoir's walls, with little warning to the citizenry or regard for the carrying capacity of the reservoir's flood outlets. With more considered state action, Chennai might well have been spared the drowning it actually ended up experiencing. It is just as well that the written, visual and social media, and political parties, were on the spot to facilitate the flow of information and opinion on the rains and how they were dealt with. What Amartya Sen said in the context of famine is clearly valid also for other natural disasters which are aided by human intervention: the role of parliamentary democracy and a free Press cannot be overemphasised.

Amartya Sen also pointed out, in the context of famine, that starvation is largely a matter of what he called entitlement-failure. In a time of floods or famine or cyclones, the most vulnerable are those equipped with the poorest entitlement structures. In Chennai, the greatest suffering was visited upon those without access to even semi-pucca dwelling units (an aspect of capability-failure that is seldom taken into account in assessments of money-metric poverty). Our favourite pathology, caste, again raised its ugly head as an aspect of societal response to the floods. In parts of the state, upper-caste people diverted relief supplies intended for Dalits, thus ensuring for them exposure to both the greatest initial vulnerability and the least subsequent redress. Tellingly, the job of cleaning up the garbage ranging from animal carcasses to human excrement - was left to safai-karmacharis of predictable caste affiliation: these have been requisitioned from other parts of the state to clean up Chennai, with apparently little attention paid to the amenities of gloves, boots, masks, or even proper arrangements of accommodation and food for the workers.

Religion, too, has had an interesting part to play in the sociology of the flood. By all accounts, the Muslim community has quietly and unflamboyantly played a magnificent role in rescue and relief operations conducted in Chennai, with countless accounts related of mosques offering shelter and food to thousands of people rendered homeless in the floods. It bears particular mention that the flooded temple in the Kotturpuram area of Chennai was restored by Muslim volunteers. Christian churches, too, played a stellar role in throwing their doors open to men, women and children in need.

Amongst the many lessons to be learnt after the flood, surely one signal lesson should be that of calling into question the ambition that some of us harbour of sending certain people off to Pakistan!



Investigating investment - Investors may avoid Bengal but its disadvantage is relative

Dipankar Dasgupta

Listening to the acrimonious debates surrounding West Bengal's inability to attract high profile investments, an economist ought to ask two important questions; questions which might even appear to contradict one another. First, why are investors reluctant, if they indeed are, to invest in the state? Second, will a surfeit of investment help to eradicate the scourge of unemployment afflicting this economy?

Before proceeding to address these questions in turn, it is worthwhile to ask a third investigative question pertaining to the factual scenario. Is West Bengal truly lagging in terms of investment? The annual reports of the department of industrial policy and promotion published by the ministry of commerce and industry can help resolve this issue. The latest report for 2014-15 throws up data on investment expenditure in the country during the period 2009 through December, 2014, listing in detail the number of investors and the corresponding total investments undertaken annually in the different states as well as in the country as a whole. For the sake of simplicity, however, it is helpful to study an average figure, investment per project, for the entire economy and that for the state of West Bengal. As the graph illustrates, West Bengal trails behind the country in terms of this average and the gap appears to be increasing. The figures are not corrected for inflation of course, but the character of the picture is unlikely to change even if the calculations were to be carried out at constant prices.

Although West Bengal is worse off, it is suffering from a relative disadvantage at worst. In absolute terms, all parties are affected. It is in this context that the first question assumes relevance. Why are potential investors shy at all, of investing not merely in West Bengal, but elsewhere as well? The science of economics, sadly, has no straightforward answer to the question, except to point out that entrepreneurs as a class cannot foresee with clarity whether the potential produce flowing out of the factories and machineries they set up will be matched by a demand for it. An unwillingness to install equipment results, then, from gloomy expectations about the future. And this, irrespective of the availability or otherwise of adequate infrastructure, cheap labour or what have you. Indeed, a shortage of infrastructure could not possibly have unleashed the sub-prime crisis in the United States of America or the financial crisis of the far east in the late 1990s. Infrastructure, such as electricity, roadways and ports are surely necessary to attract investment, but they cannot guarantee that investment will actually arrive.

Of course, one need not consult a trained economist to come up with this conclusion. However, the converse question is less easy to answer. What is it that does induce entrepreneurs to invest? It is interesting to recall John Maynard Kenyes's views on the subject. In his classic,The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, he observed that the uncertainty facing an investor is hard to resolve by means of a mathematical calculation of probabilities. To quote from Chapter 12 of the book, "... a large proportion of our positive activities depend on spontaneous optimism rather than on a mathematical expectation, whether moral or hedonistic or economic. Most, probably, of our decisions to do something positive, the full consequences of which will be drawn out over many days to come, can only be taken as a result of animal spirits... Enterprise only pretends to itself to be... actuated by the statements in its own prospectus... Only a little more than an expedition to the South Pole, is it based on an exact calculation of benefits to come... This means, unfortunately... that economic prosperity is excessively dependent on a political and social atmosphere which is congenial to the average business man."

If Keynes was right, and nothing noteworthy has happened to the world's economies in the course of the 80 years or so since the publication of the book to prove him wrong, then large entrepreneurs, foreign or local, are possibly viewing the prospect of setting up shop in West Bengal (as well as in a few other parts of India) no differently from arranging a cricket match in Antarctica. Politicians travel far and they travel wide, governments create single windows, hold business summits and rope in stalwarts from the world of entertainment or sports to anchor reality shows, and ministries are said to be at their wits' end to convince central banks to lower interest rates. But whether these campaigns will touch the right chords in entrepreneurial hearts and arouse their animal spirits remains as obfuscating a query as the mystery of the Holy Grail. So much then for the colour of the carpets being rolled out to invite private investment.

The stage is ready now to face up to the second question. Can a growing investment expenditure path serve as a panacea for every possible economic malady, in particular one as painful as unemployment? Although it is generally believed that investment cures unemployment problems, modern technology, which is moving rapidly towards automation, appears to suggest otherwise. Except for the super-skilled, labour is being relegated progressively to the status of a superfluous factor of production. Uninterrupted growth of investment in modern technology may then be accompanied by a concomitant growth in traditional labour intensive production processes. This is apparent from the way unregistered manufacture has been behaving in West Bengal for the last few years, its annual rate of growth being consistently higher than that of registered manufacture.

Quite apart from the automation question, a steady rise in investment expenditure, as Evesy D. Domar had pointed out in the distant past (1947), impacts the economy in two distinct ways. First, the expenditure creates incomes, and expenditure out of incomes create further incomes and expenditure. The total expenditure so generated represents a growth in demand for produced commoditiesviathe so-called Keynesian multiplier channel. Second, investment in plant and machinery brings about an expansion in the capacity to produce more commodities. The stream of demand is determined by the propensity to spend out of investment-led income growth. The second effect, namely, the expansion in capacity, is a technology-driven matter. There is no reason why capacity expansion should be matched by the demand expansion. If the former should exceed the latter, then excess capacity would emerge, which in turn may dampen the flow of investment. And the latter could end up throttling the growth in demand too.

Needless to say, an open economy will not depend on investment generated domestic demand alone. A surge in investment and capacity growth in China, for example, catered to large scale exports. Not that the multiplier led improvement in domestic demand was a silent bystander in China's success story; but the fact that few or no commodities that do not display a "Made in China" stamp are sold in the US (or even in India, if one restricts attention to specified groups of commodities), proves that exports played a major role in lifting up the Chinese economy. And now that Chinese exports have weakened following the indifferent performance of world markets, even crude oil prices have assumed a wistful weeping willow appearance. China's domestic demand has not been able to save the situation.

There is yet another major factor that needs to be borne in mind in the Chinese context. Keynes's overt reference to political and social atmosphere is soaked in wisdom. One hears of incidents in China, such as waking up workers for Apple Industries in the middle of the night to ensure that a sudden arrival of order may be attended to with alacrity. A democratic society, however corruption ridden it may be, can hardly hope to replicate such tales.

Investment therefore, even if indispensable, can bounce back as well.

The author is former professor of economics, Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta



From January 1, UK to stop financial aid to India

ByIndrani Bagchi

NEW DELHI: From January 1, 2016, India will no longer receive financial aid from the UK, a decision which was taken by the British government in 2012 after a domestic outcry about India's growing economic status.

The transition has taken three years during which the existing financial grant projects were completed and the unutilized funds moved into what are called "technical assistance" projects. The MEA informed Parliament last week that "it was agreed that the existing financial grant projects will be completed responsibly as planned and technical cooperation would continue by sharing skills and expertise or in investments in private sector projects".

In 2012, then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had famously said British aid was "a peanut" (sic) in India's total development spend and that the country could very well do without it. This followed loud voices in the UK protesting against British aid to India, a country which, they said, has a robust space and defence programme. Aid activists, however, pointed to India's poor millions to make a case for retaining the programme.

The MEA said, "The new component Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI), introduced in 2011 to promote private sector investment in eight low income states of Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, UP and Rajasthan, will continue."

The government said UK had provided financial aid for government programmes between 2013-2015 (Rs 855.01 cr in 2013-14, Rs 601.77 cr in 2014-15 and 190.06 cr in 2015-16). At present, there are 26 government sector projects with DFID assistance at the Centre and in MP, Odisha, West Bengal and Bihar-- primarily in health, education, governance and urban reforms sectors.

However, British media reported in early December that fresh Whitehall statistics showed that despite the UK promise to cut aid to India, there appeared to be a spike in development spending which rose to 279 million in 2014 from 268 million in the previous year. The only other country, the report said, which received more than India was Ethiopia, but that showed a dip of 8million from 2013.

The Indian government said in 2014-15 and 2015-16, five new agreements have been signed for technical assistance projects in the areas of agricultural reforms, urban infrastructure, energy access, etc. Under the new parameters technical cooperation will focus on policy and skills.



A Question ForParliamentCan the House deal with disruption instead of being held hostage to it?

Written byChakshu Roy

In the winter session, both Houses met for 20 days. However the Rajya Sabha only had 19 days available for functioning.

At the end of every session of Parliament, the chairman of the Rajya Sabha and speaker of theLok Sabhamake observations about the functioning and work done during the session. Statistics about working hours, bills passed, discussions undertaken and time lost are made available to MPs and the media. However, these numbers are about the output of the session rather than the outcome of parliamentary functioning. The institution of Parliament is about more than time-keeping or going through the motions of passing a bill. The end of the session is a good time to analyse the numbers, the story behind the numbers, and its implications.

In the winter session, both Houses met for 20 days. However the Rajya Sabha only had 19 days available for functioning. This is because the proceedings of the first day were adjourned as a mark of respect to the memory of a sitting member of the Upper House who had passed away that morning. Adjourning proceedings on the demise ofa sitting MP is a tradition that is followed by both Houses. The earlier convention of the Rajya Sabha was that the House would be adjourned to enable fellow MPs to participate in the funeral if a sitting member had died in Delhi.

During the session, the Lok Sabha was able to work for 98 per cent of the scheduled time. The Rajya Sabha lagged behind, utilising only 51 per cent of the time available to it for conducting business. Even this was possible only because the House spent the first three days debating commitment to Indias Constitution. This debate later rang hollow as the proceedings of the Upper House were disrupted for the major part of the session.

For the Lok Sabha, the majority of its productive time was spent discussing non-legislative business. This included discussions on issues related to price rise, drought and floods. However, discussions on these issues are a matter of routine in Parliament. The issue of price rise has been discussed almost every year for the last decade sometimes multiple times during the year. The same is the case with the debate on natural calamities. Our representatives need to hold the government accountable on these issues rather than just going through the motions of debate.

This session also saw the passage of eight bills by both Houses. Thirteen were passed by the Lok Sabha after discussions lasting approximately 28 hours. The Rajya Sabha went on a bill-passing spree in the last three days of the session, passing six of seven non-financial bills without any debate.

This session also saw 71 per cent of the bills being introduced and passed in the same session the highest in the last decade. Five bills were passed in the session without being referred to a parliamentary committee for scrutiny. While this makes the legislative output look better, it dilutes the lawmaking process.

The depth of scrutiny of bills by the legislature impacts the quality of laws. Earlier this year, the apex court struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act.

The amendment bill that inserted this section was passed in 2008 by Parliament without any debate. The frequency with which newly passed laws come up for amendment (Companies Act, land acquisition act, etc) and ordinances are promulgated also points towards a weakening of the legislative process.

Accountability of government functioning, which is partly done through question hour, also took a hit during the session. Question Hour was completely disrupted in the Rajya Sabha working for only 14 per cent of the scheduled time. In the Lok Sabha, the situation was a lot better, with 87 per cent of the time allotted for Question Hour being utilised amidst disruptions. What it meant was that 14 ministries did not have to answer any oral questions, whichincluded ministries like commerce, defence and mines.

With disruptions becoming a way of life in our parliamentary system, this session raises important questions. Political parties need to answer whether they will continue to prioritise their political interests over the national interest. Parliament needs to come up with answers about ways of dealing with disruptions and ensuring its working is not subverted by political disagreements.


MPs' domestic travel bill in FY15: Rs 135.8 crore

Dipak K Dash

NEW DELHI: The government spent about Rs 147.38 crore for "domestic travel expenses" of Members of Parliament (MPs) during 2013-14 and it was Rs 135.8 crore during 2014-15.

In response to an RTI application regarding the annual expenditure incurred by government in air and rail journeys, government has said the domestic travel expenses not only includes expenses of air fare but it also rail and road journeys and daily allowances. "I had sought the exact information to find how much from public exchequer is spent annually for MPs for their travelling since now they want their salary and allowances should be increased further," said RTI applicant Ved Pal.

Citing the legal provisions regarding such entitlement of MPs, the RTI reply said, "A member is entitled to an amount equal to the fare by air for 34 single air journeys during a year performed by him/ her spouse or any number of companions or relatives."

While the government has provided the domestic travel expenses for Lok Sabha MPs for two years - 2013-14 and 2014-15 - in the case of Rajya Sabha members, the details are available from 2010-11. The reply mentions how the expenditure under this head was about Rs 42.94 crore in 2010-11, Rs 44.96 crore the next year and nearly Rs 51 crore during 2012-13 for members of the Upper House.


Every Friday they go back to home constituency and come back on Monday to disrupt the parliament and enjoy holiday at ta...Read MoreNita Agarwal

On July 2, TOI had first reported how a panel of MPs from both the Houses had recommended for doubling the pay package for MPs and automatic pay revision as well.

Five years after parliamentarians gave themselves more than 300% salary hike, the NDA government seems to be inclined for another rise in the lawmakers' salary.

There were recent reports of a proposal lying with the finance ministry to double the basic salary of MPs from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh per month, constituency allowance from Rs 45,000 to Rs 90,000 and secretarial assistance plus office allowance from Rs 45,000 to Rs 90,000.


MP salaries to double? Parliamentarians set for a massive pay hike

Five years after parliamentarians gave themselves more than 300% salary hike, the NDA government seems to be inclined for another steep rise in the lawmakers salary.

Sources said the government is considering a proposal to provide MPs a basic salary of Rs 1 lakh per month, a 100% hike from the current Rs 50,000. A proposal of the parliamentary affairs ministry suggests that their constituency allowance and office allowance toocurrently Rs 45,000 each may be doubled.

Ironically, the government, a few months ago, had rejected a parliamentary panels proposal to give a 70% hike to the MPs salary. The panel, led by BJP MP Yogi Adityanath, had also demanded a slew of benefits like more air tickets and soft loans for cars.

The proposal also comes amid criticism in the social media about the disruptions and nonfunctioning of Parliament.

Recently, Delhi government gave the MLAs of the national capital a steep hike in salaries and allowances. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal had justified the hike and even said that Prime Minister and other MPs too, must get a salary hike.



CPI-M revives plank

Shorn of the customary electoral rhetoric, there are two striking features about Sundays rally of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), indeed the prologue to the Kolkata Plenum. The first is the signal of intent to vigorously pursue the high-voltage industrialisation that did the party in during the last assembly election. It is Bengals tragedy that Singur (Hooghly), Nayachar (Midnapore) and Raghunathpur (Purulia) remain deserted villages. We will be able to restart factories there, get smoke to billow from there, was the general refrain, almost in chorus. Nayachar is a different kettle of fish; the impediment is essentially ecological, one that both the CPI-M (when in power) and Trinamul have ignored. Five months before the scheduled election, the party is seemingly intent on working on the issue that had propelled the Trinamul Congress to power in 2011. It is a paradox of the political scenario that close to five years later, the present dispensation has little or nothing to show in terms of economic development in these three regions.

There are contretemps along the trail, chiefly relating to the law and the acquisition and distribution of land - lectoral promises that have not been kept by the successor dispensation. Markedly, the Marxists have excluded Nandigram - where many died and more suffered barbarous injuries and eviction in 2007 - from its resurrected development model. While there is nothing to suggest the CPI-M has crafted a fresh plan of action, the party seems determined to exploit the failures of the present dispensation, most importantly the fact that the rural economy is on the downslide, according to economists. As much is clear from Sundays public presentations, notably Mohammed Selims lament that companies that had shown interest during Left rule were now leaving in haste.

The other critical issue that was highlighted at the rally was the imperative to reach out to other political parties if they despised the Trinamul regime. It is a quest for support beyond the party. The allusion quite obviously was to the Congress, and the leadership is expected to spell out in the New Year its stand on an alliance.

Yet it is significant that the reaching out exercise will cover disenchanted elements in Trinamul and its undemocratic ways. The party has advanced a war-cry to weed out unwanted elements in what appears to be a public warning to the deviant and the corrupt, verily a segment that turned out to be a liability in 2011. It would be presumptuous quite yet to imagine that the huge presence of youth reaffirmed disgust with Trinamul. Crowds do not mean votes. Youth power must get reflected in the partys leadership.



Postmen to carry GPS devices from next weekThese handheld devices will enable real-time money transactions

Mansi Taneja

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TheDepartment of posts(DoP) plans to roll out its ambitious project of giving global positioning system (GPS)-enabled handheld devices topostmenfrom next week. This will make possible real-time transactions of e-money orders, booking of Speed Post, payments of insurance premium and other related services.

This is part of India Post's modernisation programme, beside cashing on the rising e-commerce boom in small towns and rural areas.

Also, deposits and withdrawals of savings bank and other equated monthly instalments and claim payments would be done electronically through these devices, which will to be connected through a network. Money would be credited on a real-time basis to a firm's or individual's account. For instance, cash on delivery (CoD) collected for parcels will be immediately sent to the account of e-commerce companies, whilee-money orderswill reach the destination post office instantly. Currently, the money order is digitised at the nearest computerised post office and then delivered.

Initially, the solar-powered, biometric device will be given to postmen in three circles - Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Subsequently, this will be expanded across the country. The plan is to have 130,000 such devices, aimed at promoting financial inclusion in small towns and rural areas, a seniorDoPofficial told Business Standard.

The biometric module will authenticate an individual's identity using the Aadhaar number, while GPS will enable tracking of the postmen. The project, valued at Rs 1,300 crore, has been in the pipeline for some years and will be formally launched by Communications & Information Technology MinisterRavi Shankar Prasadnext week.

Receipts for all the transactions will be generated instantly via these devices.

The data of the transactions of the users will also be immediately uploaded, using mobile network of state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) to DoP's main server.

The parcel revenues of India Posts, which registered a two per cent decline in 2013-14, grew 37 per cent in 2014-15 and 107 per cent in the first quarter of 2015-16, on a year-on-year basis. CoD from e-commerce is expected to touch Rs 1,000 crore by March 2016 from Rs 500 crore a year ago. India Posts is eyeing revenue of Rs 200 crore by 2015-16 from e-commerce. The five-year target is Rs 5,000 crore.



Soon, just one-page form to avail of government services

Bharti Jain

NEW DELHI: Citizens can avail of various government schemes and services such as issue of birth and death certificates by filling up simplified forms that may be compressed to a single-page format within the next one year.

Announcing the initiative on 'Good Governance Day', observed by the Modi government to mark former Prime Minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee's birthday, minister of state for personnel Jitendra Singh said the government, as part of its effort to make the service delivery mechanism citizen-centric, would be talking to and guiding all government departments/ministries to make their procedures and forms for accessing citizens services, less cumbersome.


Govt is trying hard to make the thing easy and simple, but corruption has blocked online facilities. Such as web sites d...Read MoreHarsh Kaul

"Today when a beneficiary has to access government schemes, he/she has to fill up lengthy, often complicated forms and give a lot of information repeatedly. There is a need to have a critical look at the current procedures and forms in use in various departments and ministries in the government. There is a need to eliminate layers of decision making for adding speed to the disposal mechanism. There is a need to specify one page forms seeking essential information for upholding the dignity of our citizens," Singh told a press conference here on Friday.

Secretary (personnel) Sanjay Kothari said some of the forms that could be made simpler are those for issue of birth certificate and death certificate. DoPT, he said, has introduced simpler forms for Central pensioners and those availing of disability pension and other services. "National Centre for Good Governance, which comes under DoPT, will be holding workshops under its initiative 'Saral Avedan, Sugam Prakriya, Swachh Prashasan' with at least two government departments every month to discuss simpler, preferably single-page forms. We have already held workshops with the rural development ministry, DIPP and some labour ministry deptts, in this regard," he said.

The review of the forms and procedures by NCGG in consultation with various ministries and departments seeks to put convenience of the beneficiaries over that of the department administering the scheme. Also, the underlying principles are that the approach of the department towards beneficiaries should be based on trust; the forms should be made as simple and small ( a single A 4 size page) as possible for the beneficiary; contents of the forms should be easy to understand and fill in; the documents to be attached with the form should be easy for the beneficiary to obtain; and the intended benefit must reach the eligible beneficiary quickly with dignity.



Upside down stateWe seem happy to hollow out the public sector where we shouldnt and regulate the private in harmful ways.

Written byPratap Bhanu Mehta

Much of the energy of the debate has shifted from a concern about the role of the public and private to a concern about proper regulation of the private.

The debate about reforms pivoted on one central axis. What should be the role of the public and private sectors in development? This debate is not as simple as ideological purists think. And the mere rolling back of the licence-permit raj in areas of industrial production was only a small part of this debate. Admittedly, much of the energy of the debate has shifted from a concern about the role of the public and private to a concern about proper regulation of the private. This is all for the good. But you get the sense that thinking about the role of the public and private has become extremely ad hoc.

Just take one example, in the apparent ideological moorings of this government. It should be obvious to most that this government, contrary to the myth supporters had created, does not believe in disinvestment of state-owned companies. It has no intent of meeting even the disinvestment targets it had set itself for fiscal reasons. Quite the contrary, it seems to believe that with the right bureaucratic intervention, public-sector companies can be turned around. Certainly, some companies can. But it would take a peculiar obtuseness to argue that in some areas, disinvestment cannot be a good thing. The opportunity cost in terms of finances and human capital of the state running things that are unnecessary for it to run are still huge. Yet there remains an immense 1970s-style commitment to the public sector in areas of production.

On the other hand, the two areas where you would expect the public to take a lead role, health and education, are on a galloping privatisation trajectory. Much of this is due to state failure. But a lot of the failure was almost deliberately induced to create opportunities for politically connected education entrepreneurs. Just th