#India – Govt okays amendments to manual scavenging eradication bill


May 1, 2013New Delhi: The government today approved amendments to a bill that seeks to eradicate manual scavenging.

The Union cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved official amendments to The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012.

End to manual scavenging. AFP

End to manual scavenging. AFP

The amendments include provisions like mandatory inclusion of women in vigilance committees at district, state and national level and a survey to identify manual scavengers.

“The words insanitary latrines and manual scavengers define taking into account real situation on the ground,” Finance Minister P Chidambaram told reporters in New Delhi.

The bill was introduced on 3 September 2012 and it was referred to the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment.

The Standing Committee reported to the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in March 2013 and this bill will now be introduced in Parliament.

Chidambaram said the Bill was introduced in Parliament last year and now officials amendments will be included in it.

The bill also has the provision for setting up committees at various levels.

“The provision for constitution of vigilance committee in each district and sub-divisions and a state level monitoring committee and a central-level monitoring committee, it is mandatory to have representation of women in these committees,” he said.

PTI

 

 

#India -The feeding frenzy of kleptocracy #mustread


P. SAINATH, The Hindu 

orbes has just added an “errata” to Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s budget speech. The Minister had found a mere 42,800 people in the country with a taxable income in excess of Rs.1 crore a year. Or $184,000 a year. Forbes , the Oracle of Business Journalism, does not list taxable incomes. But it does put up a list each year of billionaires the world over. And in 2013, 55 Indians figure on that list, (up from 48 last year) with an average net worth of around Rs.190.8 billion. ( See:http://www.forbes.com/billionaires/)Their total net worth is $ 193.6 billion. That’s…er, Rs.10.5 trillion. Chidambaram might want to compare notes with Steve Forbes. They could come up with a lot more names falling within his narrow super-rich spectrum.

The 55 wonder-wallets give India fifth rank in the world of billionaires on the Forbes List. Behind only the U.S., China, Russia and Germany. Our rank in the 2013 United Nations Human Development Index, though, is 136 out of 186 nations. With almost all of Latin America and the Caribbean, bar Haiti, ahead of us. (We have, though, elsewhere managed to tie with Equatorial Guinea.)

Class divide

Well, okay, the total worth of our megabucks mob comes to just over $193 billion. But a glance within reveals a grim class divide. At the bottom are the aam aadmi tycoons, barely scraping past the one billion-dollar mark. There are four of them, inches away from plutocrat penury, with only a mere billion to their names. There are 17 in all below the BPL (Billionaire Permanency Line), which seems to be $1.5 billion. Once you cross that threshold, you tend to be a permanent member of the club.

There’s another 12 in the magnate middle classes, between $1.5 and $2 billion. Next, the deluxe segment: 16 of them — above $2 billion, below $5.5 billion. And finally, the big boys — above $6 billion each. The top 10 are worth $102.2 billion. (A bit more than our fiscal deficit of $96 billion.) There is also a platinum tier. The top three account for a quarter of our total billionaire wealth, if Forbes is to be believed.

I’m not sure Forbes is to be believed. All these sound like grave underestimates. Meanwhile the Chinese and Russians have forged ahead of us on the List. (Steve, I demand a recount). Either the Chinese and Russians are up to no good, or Indian creative accounting is keeping our numbers down. This fiasco becomes particularly galling when we’ve all been investing so heavily in the growth of our super-rich and better-off. Some $97 billion in this year’s budget. You can express that as Rs.5.28 lakh crore (as our tables do). Or, as Rs.5.28 trillion. It’s just as obscene either way. ( See: Statement of Revenue Foregone http://indiabudget.nic.in/ub2013-14/statrevfor/annex12.pdf). Heck, we deserve a better performance from our billionaires.

One of the biggest write-offs in this year’s budget is the customs duty on gold, diamonds and jewellery — Rs.61,035 crore. That’s more than what’s been written off on “crude oil & mineral oils.” Or even on “machinery.” The waiver on gold and diamonds in just the last 36 months is Rs.1.76 trillion. (Or what we lost in the 2G scam). I guess we shouldn’t be surprised, then, that three new Indian entrants to this year’s Forbes Billionaires List are in the field of jewellery.

It’s not as if we haven’t been generous with them in other sectors, though. The latest write-off in corporate income tax is even higher at Rs.68,006 crore. The total revenue foregone this year (Rs.5.28 trillion), as others have pointed out, is greater than the fiscal deficit. But just look at what the write-offs on corporate tax, excise and customs duties add up to since 2005-06, from when the data begins: Rs.31.11 trillion. (That’s well over half a trillion dollars). It also means we’re writing off taxes and duties for the corporate mob and rich at a rate of over Rs.7 million every single minute on average.

But the budget has almost nothing worthwhile for, say, health or education where there’s a decline compared to allocations last year (in proportion to GDP). Ditto for rural development. And a micro-rise for food that will quickly be taken care of by prices.

Gee. It seems there’s no need for the super-rich to commit half their fortunes to charity. They are the charity we all of us support. End the lavish waivers, pay your taxes and we’d be in glowing fiscal health. Every other economic survey and/or budget has noted the obscene write-offs as a source of worry and said so. Recall that the Prime Minister and Finance Minister have both in the past promised to end this corporate feeding frenzy at the public trough. But it only gets bigger.

What gets smaller is India’s tax to GDP ratio. In Mr. Chidambaram’s own words: “In 2011-12, the tax-GDP ratio was 5.5 per cent for direct taxes and 4.4 per cent for indirect taxes. These ratios are one of the lowest for any large developing country and will not garner adequate resources for inclusive and sustainable development.” ( Emphasis added ) But he does nothing to correct that by way of raising revenue. Only by curbing expenditures in the social sector. He’s nostalgic, though, for a time when “in 2007-08, the tax GDP ratio touched a peak of 11.9 per cent.” That was when the write-off trough was much smaller.

Food security

What also gets smaller is the idea of food security in a nation where the percentage of malnourished children is nearly double that of sub-Saharan Africa. How do they get past the porcine gridlock at the budget trough?

Also getting smaller is the average per capita net availability of foodgrain. And that’s despite showing an improved figure of 462.9 grams daily for 2011. (Caution: that’s a provisional number). Even then, the five-year average for 2007-11 comes to 444.6 grams. Still lower than the 2002-06 figure of 452.4 grams.

It’s scary: as we warned last year — average per capita net availability of foodgrain declined in every five-year period of the ‘reforms’ without exception. In the 20 years preceding the reforms — 1972-1991 — it rose every five-year period without exception ( see: Table 3).

Ah, but they’re eating a lot of better stuff, hence the decline in cereals and pulses.

So drone on the Marie Antoinette School of Economics and assorted other clowns. Eating a lot better? Tell that to the nation’s children — for whom sub-Saharan standards would be an improvement. Tell that to the famished in a country ranking 65 in the 79 hungriest nations in the Global Hunger Index (GHI). (Eight slots below Rwanda.) India’s GHI score in 2012 was worse than it was 15 years earlier in 1996. Tell it to Forbes . Maybe they could do a list of the most insensitive elites in the world. You know who’d top that one.

sainath.p@thehindu.co.in

 

Since 2005-06, taxes and duties for the corporate world and the rich have been written off at the rate of Rs.7 million a minute on average. Duties waived on gold and diamonds in the last 36 months equal the 2G scam amount

#India- Budgeting Out Adivasis #Tribals #Indigenous


The finance minister’s package falls far too short of the basic needs of tribals

Brinda Karat

It is budget time once again. Far away from the talk of lakhs and crores of rupees echoing from Parliament to television studios, a thin adivasi teenage girl stands in a queue at her hostel, her plate in her hand, waiting for her share of the gruel that she is given for lunch every day. Her family depends on the money from the minor forest produce her mother gathers from the forest. Her father has lost the money invested to till the two acres of land they own. The family is now in debt. When the child looks around she sees girls who tell the same stories.
What does the budget have for her? She is a beneficiary of a scheme called the pre-matric scholarship scheme. Run by the central government and followed by most state governments the scheme is to fund an adivasi child living in a hostel, her food and other expenses. The money goes directly into the hostel fund. Pre-budget, the amount paid per child was Rs 525. This works out to around Rs 17 a day or, if the child is fed three times a day, less than Rs 6 a meal. That is, assuming that the entire amount is honestly used for the child’s food.
With food inflation relentlessly increasing, the child makes do with a gruel in the morning, a mixture of very watery dal and rice for lunch and dinner, sometimes with vegetables or an occasional egg – which has stopped in many hostels for the last several months. Sadly for this child, P Chidambaram’s budget does not envisage any stipend increase. The increase in the midday meal scheme will not help her as it is mainly for day schools. Since substantial numbers of adivasi children have to live in hostels as there are few secondary schools near their villages, they do not benefit.
The child’s father was at the moneylender’s when the finance minister enhanced the target for agricultural credit to Rs 7 lakh crore. Her father had heard of farmers’ loan waiver schemes. But every time he had been
turned away from the bank. For generations his family has lived on the land, and there was never a question of ownership. But following colonial British policies, the newly independent Indian state had declared itself owner of all forest land, turning adivasis overnight into encroachers. Without the ownership papers he was not eligible for the loan waiver. So he was forced to go to the moneylender for loans with a high interest rate. The loan waiver scheme means little to him or millions of adivasi farmers unless moneylender loans are included.
Near the child’s village, about 20 km away from the hostel, her mother stops in the forest, just as the finance minister is announcing how his heart beats for her community. In this season she and all those able to work are out in the forest, the men climbing the trees to shake and cut while the women wait below to collect the tamarind. She will spend the next day processing it. It takes four people a day to collect about 50 kg of tamarind. The trader will give her Rs 15 for her two days’ labour of collection and processing, and sell it in the market for Rs 80 a kg. She knows the tendu season is going to start soon. For every 50 leaves she collects, she can hope to receive between 50p and 65p (this varies from state to state and can be as low as 40p) though the trader who buys it from her will get not less than between Rs 1.20 and Rs 2 depending on the quality. Does the budget help her?
The Haque committee set up by the panchayati raj ministry, estimated in its May 2011 report that 275 million adivasi women and men depend on minor forest produce (MFP). The report detailed the rampant exploitation in MFP trade and strongly recommended that the government set up a commission to ensure a minimum support price (MSP) for MFP on the lines of MSP for foodgrains. The estimated cost of procurement according to the committee was between Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,000 crore a year.
The Planning Commission in its 12th five-year plan brought down the cost to Rs 2,000 crore for the entire Plan period, or just Rs 400 crore a year. But in this budget, the second year of the Plan, not a single paisa is allocated for MSP for minor forest produce. Nor is there even a mention of setting up a commission.
The finance minister’s claims sound hollow, judged against the needs of adivasi communities – a decent scholarship programme for adivasi children, special credit for adivasi farmers and minimum support price for minor forest produce.
Statistics of increased expenditure bandied about need to factor in not just the almost 8% inflation rate, but also compare the expenditure as a proportion of the GDP. The expenditure on the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) is 0.22% of GDP this year, which is exactly the proportion it was last year.
Even taking the ST population as 8.2%, which is on the lower side, the allocations for the TSP are short by Rs 20,938 crore. Even today only one-third of the 21 central ministries and departments charged to allocate funds for the TSP are doing so. But the trimurti of the prime minister, the finance minister and the Planning Commission chairman, keen to cut expenditures in order to manage the deficit created because of their own flawed policies, think it better to ignore this violation.
The writer is a member of the CPM politburo.

Falling through the cracks

 

#India- The Vanishing Crores- massive swindling in the Rs74,000-crore farm loan waiver


Finance

 

 

 

Devinder Sharma, March 7, 2013:

 

The financial outlay is not matching the outcome. If institutional credit is not reaching the farmers, where is it going?

 

 

Following the disclosure by the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) of the massive swindling in the Rs74,000-crore farm loan waiver, announced in the 2009 budget with a lot of fanfare, the entire provisioning of the farm credit allocations have come under a cloud.

Roughly 8-10 per cent of the beneficiary farmers, which means no less than 35.5 lakh farmers did not get any advantage of the loan waiver, and similarly a large number of undeserving farmers walked away with the exemption to repay.

This exposure comes at a time when questions are being asked about who benefits from the significant increases in farm credit being provided for in every budget. In 2012-13, a budgetary provision of Rs 5,75,000-crore for farm credit was made. A year earlier, in 2011-12, Rs 4,75,000-crore was provided. According to Reserve Bank of India, between 2000 and 2010, farm loans increased by 755 per cent. Certainly this is a mammoth growth, and it provides all the reasons to cheer.

This year, finance minister P Chidambaram further enhanced the budgetary allocation for farm credit to Rs 700,000-crore. This is certainly a quantum jump. It gives an impression as if such large availability of farm credit is serving the small and marginal farmers very well, and that all is well on the farm front.

But somehow the growth in the disbursement of farm loans does not match with the real performance on the ground. With over 2.90 lakh farmers committing suicide in the past 15 years, and with another 42 per cent farmers wanting to quit agriculture if given a choice, the continuing agrarian crisis on the farm front is a clear indication that the massive farm credit year after year is either not reaching the beneficiaries or being thoroughly misutilised.

The outlay is not matching the outcome. If institutional credit is not reaching the farmers, where is it going? Time and again we have heard that agricultural credit plays an important role in improving farm production, productivity and mitigating farmer’s distress. Such exuberance in loan disbursal comes at a time when in a recent study on ‘Farm Credit’, the industry association Assocham analysing the disbursement of credit over the last decade, has listed misdirection in farm loans, increase in proportion of indirect credit by banks, misuse of interest rate subvention for diverting credit to other sectors, imbalances in quantity of credit in relation to size of the farm and crops they raise, and virtual exclusion of small and marginal farmers from institutional credit as some of the major problems besetting this sector.

Mute spectator

If you have underlined the last point in Assocham report, it tells us very clearly where institutional credit has failed to deliver. By excluding small and marginal farmers, which forms nearly 80 per cent of the agricultural workforce, hasn’t the government actually failed to reach the benefits to those who need it more? How can the Reserve Bank of India be a mute spectator to the visible misdirection, which in reality should be more visible to them, all these years? Isn’t it a callous oversight or is it deliberate?

A damming news report in a Hindi daily brought out startling reality. According to the report, a confidential document available with the ministry of finance categorically states that despite the increase in farm credit by over 2.5 times in past five years, less than 6 per cent of the total institutional credit is made available to small and marginal farmers. Ironically, the prime minister, the finance minister, the agriculture minister and the ruling party along with its army of economists and planners never get tired of telling the nation of the remarkable strides taken in reaching credit to small and marginal farmers.

In other words, less than Rs 50,000-crore of the Rs 7 lakh crore provided for farm credit will actually benefit small farmers. Remaining amount of Rs 6.5 lakh crore at 4 per cent interest will be misappropriated by agribusiness companies, warehousing corporations and state electricity boards. Why can’t the finance minister therefore segregate the farm credit to tell us how much of it actually goes to farmers, and how much in the name of farmers to other allied activities?

In 2007, of the total credit of Rs 2,29,400-crore advanced by banks, small farmers share was a mere 3.77 per cent. In other words, 96.23 per cent of the farm credit disbursed in 2007 was actually cornered by big farmers or agribusiness companies. In 2011-12, while total farm credit had swelled to Rs 5,09,000-crore (against a target of 4,75,000-crore) small and marginal farmers got only 5.71 per cent. It is therefore obvious that despite knowing where the fault lies the government had deliberately supported agribusiness companies (an increase in indirect credit by banks by enlarging the definition of agriculture) in the name of small and marginal farmers.

It is primarily for this reason that small farmers have been left high and dry. They are left with no choice but to depend on the money lenders who charge exorbitant interests. No wonder, the serial death dance on the farms in the form of suicides show no signs of ending. It has a lot to do with the non-availability of institutional credit.
(The writer is a noted food and agricultural policy expert)

 

 

 

 

Pakistan releases 10 indian prisoners inlcuding 7 Fiishermen #goodnews


Yudhvir Rana, TNN
AMRITSAR: Pakistan government has released 10 Indian prisoners including 7 fishermen from Karachi‘s Landhi jail and from other jails of Punjab on Thursday. The released prisoners would reach Wagah(Pakistan) border on Friday from where they will be handed over to Indian authorities, informed Pakistan’s former federal minister for human rights Ansar Burney on Thursday.

Providing details, vice chairman of the Ansar Burney International Trust, Syed Fahad Burney said that they would receive the Indian prisoners from jail and would take them to Wagah(Pakistan) border in the trusts’ vehicles and handover them to Pakistan Rangers.

Indian fishermen who are being released by Pakistan are Mansingh Bhagwan , Khema , Shivdas, Manno, Bharat Dheeru, Govind Bamaniya and Lala Pansa Pansa Bhika Belu. The trust had taken up the cases of these 7 Indian fishermen with Pakistan government . “Still there are around 100 Indian fisherman are lodged in jails and the trust would also take up their case and appeal for their early release on humanitarian grounds” said Burney.

Burney informed that Ansar Burney International Trust had also planned to initiate a movement for the release of Indian condemned prisoners Sarabjit Singh and Kirpal Singh seeking their release on technical and humanitarian grounds.

The Trust would begin a nation wide movement for the release of Indian prisoners on death row Sarabjit Singh and Kirpal Singh. “Both of them have spend more than two decades in jail waiting to be hanged every day even as living a in the death cell is horrible” he said.

“Their release from Pakistan jail will help to ease tension between two nations and bring trust” he said. He said he had convened a meeting of Trust office bearers and other like minded associations to chalk out their future course of action for the release of Sarabjit and KirpalSingh.

 

#Budget2013 high on rhetoric, low on funds for food security


Buisnesstoday

Sebastian P.T.
Sebastian P.T.

For all the talk of the United Progressive Alliance government about the seminal step the proposed National Food Security Bill will be in eradicating hunger and malnutrition, Finance Minister P Chidambaram‘s budgetary allocation for it is paltry. In his Budget speech , the Finance Minister said he was setting aside an extra Rs 10,000 crore, apart from the usual provision for  food subsidy, toward the “incremental cost” likely once the legislation is passed.

How much has Chidambaram provided? Part two of the Expenditure Budget documents shows it is Rs 90,000 crore. The document clarifies: “The provision of Rs 90,000 core for food subsidy also includes a provision of Rs 10,000 crore for implementing the National Food Security Act.”

How much was the food subsidy envisioned in the last Budget (2012/13) for the current financial year? It was Rs 75,000 crore, and the revised estimate was above Rs 85,000. But this estimate – as the government itself has said – was based on population numbers of year 2000. Had this figure been updated to the 2011 census, the food subsidy would have been above Rs 1,10,000 crore (as per Food Ministry’s estimates).

And, if the 2011 census figures are used to estimate the food subsidy bill for 2013/14, it rises, by the food ministry’s own calculations, to Rs 124,000 crore – even without the Food Security Bill becoming law. If it is passed the subsidy will be even higher. Of course, all these estimates are based on the Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2011.

So how does Chidambaram’s allocation of Rs 90,000 crore amount to an additional outlay?  “I don’t know the Bill yet,” said Chidambaram at his press conference after the Budget announcement. “There is no Food Security Bill at the moment. We only have the Standing Committee’s report on an earlier version of the Bill. It is only when the (revised) Bill is presented to the Cabinet, that we can do an assessment of its cost. I cannot put a number today. However, in anticipation that a Bill will carry an incremental cost, I have provided Rs 10,000 crore.”

But he should have had an idea. The estimates of the food ministry, based on the original provisions of the Bill, are public knowledge. The original bill intended to include up to three-fourths of the rural population and half the urban population as beneficiaries, with 46 per cent of the former and 28 per cent of the latter being ‘priority households’, which would be entitled to seven kilos of foodgrain per person per month, at prices of one rupee per kg for coarse grain, two rupees for wheat and three rupees for rice. (Distinct from them would be the ‘general households’, which would get three kilos or less at half the price the government paid farmers to procure the grain.) The ministry estimated the subsidy at Rs 1,26,000 crore a year.

How can Rs 90,000 crore then be called an enhanced allocation? “This is a big letdown,” said N.C. Saxena, member of the Sonia Gandhi headed National Advisory Council (NAC). “The meagre Rs. 10,000 crore set aside for the implementation of the Food Security bill not only implies the lack of urgency on the government’s part to enact it but also the gross underestimation of the additional resources required,” says Subrat Das, Executive Director, Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability.

Examining the original Bill,the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution has recommended removing the distinction between priority and general households, among other things. But no final decision has been taken. Whatever is decided, however, even if the final cost is less than Rs 126,000 crore, it certainly will be much more than what the finance minister has provided for. He certainly will have to loosen his wallet or the outcome could well be a diluted Bill, hardly serving the noble intent.

 

NAC members raise concerns over direct benefit transfer scheme #Aadhaar #UID


Concerns raised over the efficiency of banking networks and on-the-ground preparations for the schemeAnuja & Liz Mathew   Liz Mathew , livemint.com
First Published: Tue, Feb 26 2013. 09 52 PM IST
NAC members argue that public services should not be denied to those who do not have an Aadhaar number. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint<br />
” src=”<a href=http://www.livemint.com/rf/Image-621×414/LiveMint/Period1/2013/02/27/Photos/uid–621×414.jpg&#8221; />
NAC members argue that public services should not be denied to those who do not have an Aadhaar number.
Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

ALSO READ

Updated: Tue, Feb 26 2013. 09 59 PM IST
New DelhiA section of the Sonia Gandhi -led National Advisory Council (NAC) is not happy with the government “rushing into” the direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme, expected to be the flagship programme of the ruling Congress party in the national election scheduled for next year.
At a meeting of the NAC on Tuesday, where Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) chairmanNandan Nilekani made a presentation on Aadhaar and DBT, some members flagged concerns on the efficiency of banking networks and on-the-ground preparations for the scheme. They argued that no public services should be denied to those who do not have an Aadhaar number.
According to five members in the 11-member committee, the members warned the scheme cannot be implemented in a hurried manner without proper mechanism and preparations.
State governments, ministries and departments should not rush into direct cash transfers without assessing whether or not they are appropriate and whether the preconditions are in place,” said A.K. Shivakumar, NAC member, adding that a legal framework within which the identity numbers are being issued needs to be in place.
The United Progressive Alliance government, which has been in election mode for some time now, recently launched the DBT, which aims to directly transfer cash subsidies using Aadhaar to beneficiaries of several government welfare schemes. A pilot was rolled out in 20 districts for 26 schemes on 1 January. Finance minister P. Chidambaram and rural development minister Jairam Ramesh announced that programme from a party platform, which indicated the Congress’ intention to use it as an election plank. Party leaders also coined a slogan for the scheme, “Aapka paisa aapke haath” (your money in your hands), an indirect reference to Congress’ election symbol.
Nilekani told the members that 280 million Aadhaar numbers have been issued so far and by 2014, the authority expects to enrol 600 million people. DBT is expected to plug leakages, reduce wastage and bring down discrepancies in the beneficiary list. However, the members also raised questions about making Aadhaar compulsory. “The council appreciated UID as a concept but some issues were raised. The main concern was that while UID was voluntary, the interpretation made at the state level was that it was mandatory for access to certain social service schemes. While it is not intentional, it is playing out differently on the ground,” said Mirai Chatterjee, member of the council.
Another NAC member N.C. Saxena said that while in general there was a view that Aadhaar was a “good scheme”, there were transition problems and the ministries should not be in a hurry to make it compulsory.
Another member who did not want to be identified said that concerns over the banking network and linkages to it were also raised.
NAC member Aruna Roy was critical of the scheme, saying in the meeting that the idea of DBT was an “experiment on the poor” and a “failed experiment being pushed through”. “The new architecture of using the UID to access existing cash benefits through the bank has only added an extra layer of complicated and complex procedures and has burdened both the programme as well as the beneficiary with little apparent advantage,” a release from Roy’s office quoted her as saying.
In response to concerns that UIDAI had not been given legal sanction by Parliament, Nilekani’s presentation highlighted that the authority has been functioning under executive notification issued by the Planning Commission in 2009, which is valid under law, the same member said. The Bill pending before Parliament is just to strengthen the authority by giving it statutory status in order to impose obligations and penalties, Nilekani said in his presentation.
A senior government official aware of the development, who did not want to be identified, said most of the NAC members were supportive. However, concerns raised by some on operational issues related to cash transfer were legitimate. “They are being addressed,” the official said.
The Congress is pushing the DBT scheme as one of its key achievements. In the presidential address last week listing the government’s agenda for the coming year, Pranab Mukherjee said it will be a “trendsetter” and will “cut leakages, bring millions of people into the financial system and lead to better targeting of beneficiaries”.
Surabhi Agarwal contributed to this story.
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First Published: Tue, Feb 26 2013. 09 52 PM IST

 

#India – It’s time to give women more tax sops #budget


Women & The Budget

It’s time to give women more tax sops

Prabhakar Sinha TNN

New Delhi: It isn’t just foreign investors who would have remembered the last Budget as a tough one. Even women lost out as the government withdrew tax benefits that were introduced in the form of higher tax exemption limit in 2000-2001.
In 2000-01, Yashwant Sinha, the then finance minister, had introduced a special provision under which the basic tax exemption limit for women was pegged higher than that for men. This resulted in lower tax liability of up to Rs 5,000.
While P Chidambaram retained the provision in 2004-05, his first budget of his second term in North Block, in 2005-06, he reduced the benefit to a maximum of Rs 3,927, including surcharge and cess. Chidambaram reduced the differential benefit further before Pranab Mukherjee finally withdrew it.
While introducing the provision, Sinha had said that the additional rebate of Rs 5,000 for women tax-payers “is equivalent to increase in the exemption limit by Rs 50,000 over that of men”. However, tax experts say that a preferential treatment for women is needed to encourage them.
Kuldeep Kumar, executive director (tax and regulatory practices) PWC India, said a preferential tax treatment to women is highly desirable as it helps in empowering them. At a time when government is giving financial help to girl child, a preferential tax treatment to them will not be off the mark. When the government has given reservations to women in Panchayats and is trying to extend the same in
Parliament, why is it shying away in giving special treatment in taxes to them, he added. In fact, the government should increase the exemption limit for women. This will certainly help women in acquiring productive assets. In fact, if the differential tax benefit is increased substantially, say up to Rs 20,000, a number of families will like to transfer fixed assets on their women members’ name to bring down their tax liability on their income.
A senior tax consultant, who do not wanted to be quoted, said even if such provision might lead to misuse to save taxes, it’s worth trying. She said in the short term, the misuse of the provision would be more pronounced than its benefit, but in the long term it will certainly help women empowerment. Another tax consultant said any move to give special treatment to women in taxing their income would be welcomed as it will ultimately help society. Kumar pointed out that such special treatment should be increased for single woman parent as a separate category. As it has become an accepted norms in cities, the government must give them concession to enable them to meet various challenges which they face as single parent.

 

#India- Tribal Affairs Minister Deo opposes bauxite mining in Vizag agency area


Our Bureau

Our state: A tribal points to the Galikonda hill range in Visakhapatnam district, the hub for the proposed mining of bauxite ore, in this file photo.
Our state: A tribal points to the Galikonda hill range in Visakhapatnam district, the hub for the proposed mining of bauxite ore, in this file photo.
Visakhapatnam, Feb. 14:

Union Minister of Tribal Affairs Kishore Chandra Deo is firm on bringing down the curtains on the bauxite controversy in the agency (tribal) area of Visakhapatnam district, which he represents, by getting the mining leases cancelled.

At a meeting convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on February 4 on the issue, he made his stand clear and wanted quick action by the Union Mining Minister Dinsha J. Patel.

Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Dinsha J Patel, Minister of Environment and Forests Jayanti Natarajan and Law Minister Ashwin Kumar also participated in the meeting, it is learnt.

Firm stand

The Union Mines Ministry has already given its permission to the AP Government, while the Ministry of Environment and Forests is in the process of clearing the proposal. Sources said that the Home Minister and Finance Minister were called for the meeting as the Tribal Affairs Minister had hinted to the Prime Minister that if mining was allowed it would alienate the tribals in the region, which may result in a major law and order problem.

The Finance Minister explained how the Centre was pumping in funds for development of tribal areas to combat the Maoist influence in the region, sources added.

Deo took a firm stand against mining and justified his intervention to protect the rights of the tribals enshrined in the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, sources said.

On February 10, the Tribal Affairs Minister wrote a letter to the Minister of Mines to direct his ministry to issue a communication revoking permission to the State Government to mine bauxite in the Scheduled areas.

In the letter, he pointed out that the agreement/MoU entered into by the State Government did not flow out of an enactment of the State Legislature or Parliament and could be cancelled. The agreement was in violation of the land transfer regulations of the State Government which prohibits non-tribals from purchasing or taking on lease land in the Scheduled Areas.

sarma.rs@thehindu.co.in 

 

#India-Court orders probe into ‘cheating’ charges against Chidambaram, Shinde


 

 

Palaniappan Chidambaram (1)

Palaniappan Chidambaram (1) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

P Pavan, Bangalore Mirror

Posted On Monday, January 28, 2013

 

A local court on Monday directed police to probe allegations that Union Ministers Sushilkumar Shinde and P Chidambaram had “cheated” the people of Telangana region by their statements on the statehood issue.

The move was based on a complaint by Naresh Kumar, president of the Telangana Junior Advocates’ Association, who filed a petition in LB Nagar court complaining that the ministers had cheated the people of Telangana by going back on their word to announce the decision on the demand for a separate Telangana state.
In his petition, Kumar sought the court’s directions to refer the matter to police under section 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code. “As evidence to substantiate my charge, I have attached the official statements made by P Chidambaram and Sushilkumar Shinde. I also attached the statement of AICC general secretary-in-charge of Andhra Pradesh, Ghulam Nabi Azad of January 27, 2013 that one month does not mean 30 days,” said Pradeep.
A month ago, Shinde had said the Telangana issue would be resolved within a month. On December 9, 2009, then Home Minister Chidambaram had made an announcement to initiate the process to create Telangana state. However, he modified the statement on December 23, 2009.
Second Metropolitan Magistrate Court directed the L B Nagar Police to file a status report by February 14.
7 CONG MPS TO RESIGN FOR TELANGANA
Furious with the delay in formation of a separate Telangana state, seven Congress MPs from the region on Monday decided to resign both from parliament and the party.
After a meeting, the MPs said they would send their resignation letters to party president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday. They said they would ask the party leadership to take a decision to carve out a separate state in a week or forward their resignations to the speaker. The MPs who attended the meeting are K Rajagopal Reddy, Ponnam Prabhakar, Madhu Yaskhi, S Rajaiah, G Vivekanand, Gutha Sukender Reddy and Manda Jaganath.
 
‘Sonia is torturing the people of !Telangana’: trs chief
!For the first time, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) president K Chandrasekhara Rao directly criticised Congress President Sonia Gandhi and the Gandhi family on the Telangana issue. “Sonia is torturing the people of Telangana. Congress has been cheating them for three generations from Nehru to Indira to Sonia. They have become a curse for Telangana,” he said, at a Samara Deeksha held by Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC).
Rao had once referred to Sonia Gandhi as ‘goddess’ who would give them Telangana. TJAC has announced a social boycott of Congress leaders in the region.