The HINDU Notes – 01st July 2019 - VISION

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Monday, July 01, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 01st July 2019

📰 Nagaland to initiate its own version of NRC from July 10

The drive for collecting information has a 60-day deadline

•Nagaland has decided to start a variant of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) that neighbouring Assam is updating.

•On Saturday, Nagaland Home Commissioner R. Ramakrishnan issued a notification for the setting up of the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN).

Master list

•It is aimed at preparing a master list of all indigenous peoples and checking the issuance of fake indigenous inhabitant certificates.

•Designated teams will fan out to each village and urban ward from July 10, less than a month before Assam is to publish the final NRC.

•To be monitored by the Home Commissioner, Nagaland’s exercise for collecting information on locals and non-locals has a 60-day deadline. The RIIN, according to Mr. Ramakrishnan, will be prepared after an extensive survey with the help of a village-wise and ward-wise list of indigenous inhabitants based on official records.

•It will be prepared under the supervision of each district administration.

•The State government, officials said, had directed all Deputy Commissioners (DCs) to ensure that the teams were constituted by name within a week of the publication of the notification, make the information about the teams public, and communicate to the village council chairmen, Village Development Board secretaries, ward authorities, tribal hohos, church authorities, and NGOs.

•Hoho is the apex body of each Naga group.

•The survey teams have been instructed to visit each house and make a list of indigenous inhabitants living there. Each family member will be listed in the village of their original residence and mention will be made of any member living elsewhere.

•The format for making the list will mention “permanent residence and present residence” separately. Aadhaar number, wherever available, will also be recorded.

•The list will be published in the respective villages and wards which will then be authenticated by village and ward authorities under the supervision of the district administration. Each list will then be signed by the team concerned as also the village and ward authorities.

Deadline for claims, objections

•The provisional lists will then be published in the villages and wards and also on the websites of the district and the State government on September 11. Time will be given till October 10 for any claims and objections after the publication of the provisional lists.

•The DCs will then settle the claims and objections based on official records and evidence produced. The list will be finalised after giving the claimants an opportunity of being heard, and each indigenous inhabitant will be given a unique identity card.

•Opportunity will also be given to the person against whose name an objection has been made, according to the notification.

•Officials said the RIIN process will be completed on or before December 10 and copies of the final list will be provided to every village and ward besides being placed at the district and State levels.

•“No fresh indigenous inhabitant certificate will be issued after the RIIN is completed except for children born to the State’s indigenous inhabitants who will be issued indigenous certificates along with birth certificates. The RIIN database will be updated accordingly,” said an official involved with the exercise.

•The RIIN will also be integrated with the online system for Inner-Line Permit, a temporary document non-inhabitants are required to possess for entry into and travel in Nagaland.

📰 Most see free legal aid as last-ditch option: report

Study says over 16% of respondents claimed legal aid counsel demanded money; feedback from clients cannot be sole methodology to assess quality: NALSA

•A majority of the people who are entitled to the free legal aid system see the service as an option only when they cannot afford a private lawyer.

•First-of-its-kind pan-India research by Prof. Jeet Singh Mann of National Law University, Delhi (NLUD) has found that people don’t have faith over the services of legal aid counsel (LAC) under the free legal aid services due to a variety of factors.

•“The services offered by LAC are absolutely free. But a majority of potential beneficiaries are disinclined towards the option of availing these services,” remarked the research report titled ‘Quality of Legal Representation: An Empirical Analysis of Free Legal Aid Services in India’.


•In 1987, the Legal Services Authorities (LSA) Act was enacted to give free and competent legal services to the poor. The Act paved the way for the constitution of National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) and other legal service institutions at the State, district and taluka level.

•Last year, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) had come out with a report stating that India’s per capita lawyer ratio is better than most countries in the world. There are about 1.8 million lawyers in India which mean there is one lawyer for every 736 people.

•The same report also stated there are 61,593 panel lawyers in the country, which translates to just one legal aid lawyer per 18,609 population or five legal aid lawyers per 1,00,000 population.

•Free legal services under LSA Act are available to a person belonging to Schedule Tribe and Schedule Caste, woman, child, victim of human trafficking, differently abled person, industrial workman, and person in custody in a protective home and the poor.

•According to the statistics provided by NALSA, about 8.22 lakh people across India benefited through legal aid services from April 2017 to June 2018.

Genesis of the research

•Prof. Mann, also the director at Centre for Transparency and Accountability in Governance, NLUD, said his research project has focused on the functioning of LACs as they play a pivotal role in the dissemination of legal aid services.

•His research project was funded by Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), Ministry of Human Resource Development.

•He said the data was collected from 18 States and 36 districts. The primary data was collected from 3,029 legal aid beneficiaries, 609 judicial officers, 1,007 empanelled legal aid advocates, 33 regulators/secretaries, and 3120 women.

Why private lawyers?

•The study demonstrated that beneficiaries opt for free legal aid service due to the dearth of resources to engage a private lawyer. About 75% of beneficiaries responded that they opted for free legal aid because they had no means and resources to hire a paid private practitioner.

•“They would never have approached for the legal aid services if they had resources to engage private legal practitioners,” the study found. Also, 22.6% of the beneficiaries responded that they won’t opt for free legal aid services for the second time.

•The study also found that 60% of women, who were aware of the free legal aid services, chose to opt for private legal practitioner because they could have better control over their lawyer.

•These women have no faith and confidence over the quality of services offered under the legal aid system, the study said.

•The survey found that 56% of LAC spends an average of 1 to 10 hours per week on legal aid cases. On the contrary, around 58% LAC spend on an average of 20 hours and above per week on private cases.

•Although the services offer by LAC are absolutely free, the ground reality is that around 16.30% of beneficiaries claimed their LAC often demand money before or after every court hearing.

•Also, around 33% of the judicial officers said complaints were received against LACs for demanding money from beneficiaries.

Private lawyers Vs LAC

•Majority of judicial officers (52% ) rated the overall skill set of a private legal practitioner as of fairly good quality and that of LAC as of moderately low quality, the report said.

Full-time empanelment

•Currently, the engagement of LAC is usually on an ad-hoc basis. Around 45% of the regulators opined that making them full time will definitely improve the level of commitment among the LAC.

•LAC can withdraw from an aided case by submitting a reason to member-secretary. In this scenario, a beneficiary has to go through the painstaking task of retelling their case history to newly allotted LAC.

•This problem can be tackled by increasing the honorarium given to LAC. The study recommended that making honorarium for a legal aided case at par with private cases, will compel LAC to not withdraw or desert aided cases in middle.

Panel lawyers speak

•Advocate Priya Singh, empanelled as a LAC for juvenile courts in Delhi, said remuneration towards the empanelled lawyers should be increased every year. This is important for those who are serving in juvenile courts as they are not allowed to have their own private practice, she added. “We only do this job. There should be yearly increased in remuneration,” she said. As for making the LAC a permanent post, Ms. Singh said it will impact on the efficiency of the lawyers as there is no impetus to work hard. “Currently, lawyers handling juvenile justice cases are empanelled for three years, once the time is up, they are retained or removed based on their performance,” she added.

•Advocate Umang Mittal, who is at the end of his first stint as a panel lawyer in Delhi, said the problem with most of the beneficiaries is that they are illiterate and don’t have the procedural knowledge of the functioning of courts. “Hence they end up getting irked after three or four dates. Thereafter, they don’t want to come to court,” Mr. Mittal said.

•Quoting from personal experience, he said trust deficit among the beneficiaries towards the panel lawyers was hard to eradicate. “The panel lawyers have not come from a family or acquaintance’s reference or recommendation. They are a stranger to the beneficiaries,” he explained. Mr. Mittal, who also has his private practice in Delhi, favoured the recommendation to increase the remuneration of panel lawyers. “The work we put in for private client or legal service is the same, hence the remuneration should be proportionate,” he said.

NALSA’s view

•NALSA director Sunil Chauhan said the quality of legal aid is one of the prime focus areas of NALSA in 2019. He said a series of steps have been taken in the recent past to enhance the quality of court-based legal aid services.

•Mr. Chauhan said NALSA was improving the selection process of panel lawyers to ensure selection and empanelment of committed lawyers. After periodic assessments, lawyers can be delisted from the panel, he added. Mr. Chauhan said the Structure and Framework of Monitoring Committees have been changed, and now these committees also do the work of mentoring of panel lawyers in legal aided cases.

•“Front offices at the district level are being upgraded to make them one-stop centres for legal aid seekers. They also update the record of legal aided cases. This way, the legal aid seekers are kept updated about the progress of their cases and better monitoring of cases takes place,” Mr. Chauhan said. Lakhs of persons are getting legal advice and other forms of legal services such as drafting of applications etc., the director said, adding that through outreach programmes many are being made aware of the services. “Door-to-door campaigns were successful in this regard,” he said.

Thoughts on report

•On the research report, he said, “The report needs to be studied before commenting on it.”

•“It is important to see as to what indicators were taken by the researcher to examine the quality of legal aid in court matters. This is important as the outcome of a case cannot be the basis for coming to a conclusion about the quality of service rendered,” Mr. Chauhan said.

•“Moreover, has the researcher examined the case files to analyse as to whether the approach of a panel lawyer was correct or not in circumstances and the law,” he said, adding, “Feedback from clients cannot be the sole methodology to assess the quality as clients are generally ignorant about the legal intricacies and their opinion is governed by perception about their cases.”

📰 GWHO launches its first guidelines on self-care interventions for health

This follows an estimate that by 2035 the world will face a shortage of nearly 13 million healthcare workers

•The World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched its first guidelines on self-care interventions for health in response to an estimate that by 2035 the world will face a shortage of nearly 13 million healthcare workers and the fact that currently at least 400 million people worldwide lack access to the most essential health services.

•In its first volume, the guidelines focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Some of the interventions include self-sampling for human papillomavirus (HPV) and sexually transmitted infections, self-injectable contraceptives, home-based ovulation predictor kits, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) self-testing and self-management of medical abortion.

•These guidelines look at the scientific evidence for health benefits of certain interventions that can be done outside the conventional sector, although sometimes with the support of a health-care provider. They do not replace high-quality health services nor are they a shortcut to achieving universal health coverage.

•“We foresee a future where around 1 in 5 of the world’s population will be living in settings that are experiencing humanitarian crises, this when the world is witnessing growth in new diagnostics, devices, drugs and digital innovations which are transforming how people interact with the health sector,’’ notes WHO.

•Explaining what self-care means, the organisation says that it is the “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider”.

Autonomy and engagement

•It adds that self-care interventions represent a significant push towards new and greater self-efficacy, autonomy and engagement in health for self-carers and caregivers.

•“In launching this guideline, WHO recognises how self-care interventions could expand access to health services, including for vulnerable populations. People are increasingly active participants in their own health care and have a right to a greater choice of interventions that meets their needs across their lifetime, but also should be able to access, control, and have affordable options to manage their health and well-being,’’ it said.

•WHO noted that self-care is also a means for people who are negatively affected by gender, political, cultural and power dynamics, including those who are forcibly displaced, to have access to sexual and reproductive health services, as many people are unable to make decisions around sexuality and reproduction.

•The guidelines, meanwhile, will be expanded to include other self-care interventions, including for prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases. WHO is establishing a community of practice for self-care, and will be promoting research and dialogue in this area during the self-care month between June 24 and July 24.

📰 Among members: on G-20 Osaka summit

Glaring bilateral and global issues were highlighted at the G-20 summit

•As a forum, the G-20 is often watched more closely for the meetings the event affords on its sidelines, than for substantive outcomes. The countries that make up the G-20 (19 nations and the European Union) account for 85% of the world’s nominal GDP, and each has pressing issues it wishes to discuss with other members on bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral levels. Prime Minister Narendra Modi used the occasion of the G-20 summit at Osaka for as many as 20 such meetings, including nine bilaterals, eight pull-aside engagements, and of the Russia-India-China, Japan-U.S.-India and Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa groupings. The most anticipated were President Donald Trump’s meetings with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and Mr. Modi, given the escalation in trade tensions. Both ended on a cordial note, but with no breakthrough or “big deals”. The Indian and U.S. Commerce Ministers will sit down again, as they have on at least three occasions in the past year, to try to resolve the impasse over trade issues, and the U.S. and China have called a halt to raising tariffs until they resolve issues. Both come as a relief to India, given the impact of those tensions on the national and global economies. Mr. Modi raised several Indian concerns at the G-20 deliberations, including the need for cooperation on dealing with serious economic offenders and fugitives, as well as climate change funding. This found its way into the final declaration. India sent a tough message by refusing to attend the digital economy summit pushed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as his plan for “data free flow with trust”, included in the G-20 declaration, runs counter to the Reserve Bank of India’s proposed data localisation guidelines. The U.S. wrote in a counter to the paragraph praising the Paris accord, while trade protectionism was not mentioned in the document. On issues such as ocean pollution management, gender equality and concerted efforts to fight corruption, the G-20 found consensus more easily.

•With Saudi Arabia hosting the next G-20 in 2020, followed by Italy in 2021, all eyes will soon turn to the agenda India plans to highlight when it holds the G-20 summit in 2022. Many global challenges, such as climate change and its impact, the balance between the needs for speed and national security with 5G networks being introduced, as well as technology-driven terrorism, will become even more critical for the grouping, and the government must articulate its line. India should lead the exercise in making the G-20 more effective in dealing with some of the inequities in its system. The G-20 is an important platform to discuss pressing issues, and it must not be detracted from its original purpose of promoting sustainable growth and financial stability by grandstanding by one or two members.

📰 It’s time to act, not do more research

The resources spent in drafting educational policies should instead be spent in implementing solutions

•In its first 100 days, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second government has begun yet another rethink of higher education policies through the draft NEP (National Education Policy) and EQUIP (Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme). This is the latest, and seemingly among the most elaborate, in an endless series of official reports and programmes aimed at improving higher education in independent India. The Radhakrishnan Commission of 1949, the National Education Policies of 1968 and 1986, the Yashpal Committee of 2009, the National Knowledge Commission in 2007, and the draft NEP of 2019 have all basically said the same thing.

•While it is always valuable for various government committees to point to the importance of higher education for economy and society, it is not necessary to convene many experts through initiatives such as EQUIP to tell the government and the academic community what they already know. Perhaps the time, energy and resources that EQUIP will require can be better spent implementing the obvious. Everyone agrees that higher education needs significant improvement, especially as India seeks to join the ranks of the world’s premier economies.

Inadequate allocation of funds

•However, central to both quality improvement and increased access is money. Higher education in India has been chronically underfunded — it spends less than most other BRICS countries on higher education. The last Budget allocated only ₹37,461 crore for the higher education sector. Other related ministries and departments such as Space, Scientific and Industrial Research, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Science and Technology, Health Research and Agricultural Research have been allocated only modest support. Inadequate funding is evident at all levels. All State governments, which provide the bulk of higher education money, also fail to adequately support students and institutions.

•The Central government, responsible mostly for the top of the academic system, does not provide sufficient resources. Even the Institutions of Eminence scheme falls short of requirements and is dramatically behind similar programmes in China and several European countries. Funding for basic research, which is largely a Central government responsibility, lags behind peer countries. Apart from Tata Trusts, Infosys Foundation, and Pratiksha Trust, industry provides little support. Thus, India requires substantial additional resources for higher education to improve quality and build a small but important “world class” sector. Massive effort is needed at both State and Central levels — and the private sector must contribute as well.

•A key goal of EQUIP and the NEP is that India must expand the percentage of young people enrolled in post-secondary education significantly. It is interesting to note that while the draft NEP aims at increasing the gross enrolment ratio to at least 50% by 2035, EQUIP targets doubling the gross enrolment ratio to 52% by 2024. At present, India’s gross enrolment ratio is 25.8%, significantly behind China’s 51% or much of Europe and North America, where 80% or more young people enrol in higher education. India’s challenge is even greater because half of the population is under 25 years of age. The challenge is not only to enrol students, but to ensure that they can graduate. Non-completion is a serious problem in the sector.

•And of course, the challenge is not only to enrol students and improve graduation rates but also to ensure that they are provided with a reasonable standard of quality. It is universally recognised that much of Indian higher education is of relatively poor quality. Employers often complain that they cannot hire graduates without additional training. The fact that many engineering colleges even today have to offer “finishing programmes” to their graduates underlines the pathetic state of quality imparted by these institutions.

•India needs a differentiated academic system — institutions with different missions to serve a range of individual and societal needs. Some “world class” research-intensive universities are needed. Colleges and universities that focus on quality teaching and serve large numbers of students are crucial. Distance education enters the mix as well. The draft NEP’s recommendations for a differentiated system of research universities, teaching universities, and colleges are in tune with this. However, the ways suggested to achieve these objectives are impractical.

•The private sector is a key part of the equation. India has the largest number of students in private higher education in the world. But much of private higher education is of poor quality and commercially oriented. Robust quality assurance is needed for all of post-secondary education, but especially for private institutions.

•The structure and governance of the higher education system needs major reform. There is too much bureaucracy at all levels, and in some places, political and other pressures are immense. Professors have little authority and the hand of government and managements is too heavy. At the same time, accountability for performance is generally lacking.


•India needs: (a) dramatically increased funding from diverse sources, and the NEP’s recommendation for a new National Research Foundation is a welcome step in this direction; (b) significantly increased access to post-secondary education, but with careful attention to both quality and affordability, and with better rates of degree completion; (c) longitudinal studies on student outcomes; (d) to develop “world class” research-intensive universities, so that it can compete for the best brains, produce top research, and be fully engaged in the global knowledge economy; (e) to ensure that the private higher education sector works for the public good; (f) to develop a differentiated and integrated higher education system, with institutions serving manifold societal and academic needs; (g) reforms in the governance of college and universities to permit autonomy and innovation at the institutional level; and (h) better coordination between the University Grants Commission and ministries and departments involved in higher education, skill development, and research.

•The latest draft NEP and EQUIP have reiterated the importance of some of these points. There is really no need to spend money and attention on a new review. The needs are clear and have been articulated by earlier commissions and committees. The solutions are largely obvious as well. What is needed is not more research, but rather long-neglected action.

📰 Start with preventive care

Doctors must encourage the continuum-of-care approach among patients

•The medical profession is a calling. It requires sacrifice and grit to become a healer, a clinician, and from then on, it is a responsibility and commitment to a lifetime of service and learning. Beyond the initial years of studying medicine, doctors have to work very hard every single day to upgrade their knowledge and skills.

•What makes the process more challenging is the dynamic nature of the world we live in today. Knowledge and the nature of knowledge are evolving, driven by technological developments. Healthcare challenges have also constantly evolved. Doctors have reduced many feared ailments to stories of the past. But ailments have also remodelled and resurfaced and are posing different tests to doctors today.

•Challenges are not new to doctors; in fact, they are doctors’ companions right from the time he or she decides to enter the medical profession. I would urge every doctor to bear this in mind. No medical professional should be disheartened by the recent incidents of violence against members of the fraternity. I was pleased to see the support of fellow professionals, citizens and the government towards the fraternity’s call for stronger laws to ensure its safety.

Developments in healthcare

•There are fabulous developments taking place in healthcare today. Health is on the national agenda for the first time after Independence. Ayushman Bharat is a game-changer. It will cover the cost of medical care for almost 40% of India’s population, while the 1,50,000 Health and Wellness Centres being developed will strengthen the national focus on preventive healthcare.

•There is a willingness amongst our administrators to hear the perspectives of the sector. Innovative plans are on the anvil to boost medical education and hospital infrastructure. Skilling for healthcare is gaining momentum, and will undoubtedly be a key engine for job creation. Millions of medical value travellers from over a hundred countries are choosing India for medical and surgical treatment. Huge investments are being made to build hospitals, contemporary medical centres and remote healthcare models. As a clinician with over six decades of experience, I am confident that we have all the elements in place for a healthier and happier India. There is no better time to be a doctor than today.

The big challenge today

•Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are a big challenge today and need serious tackling. The World Health Organization has been ringing the warning bells for the last few years on the challenges that NCDs pose. NCDs have been rapidly growing. Cancer, stroke, obesity and diabetes are some of the ailments growing at an alarming pace. They affect people across ages and threaten the younger population a lot more than the older population. But there are only finite manpower and resources to manage the problem. The limited pool of medical professionals, technicians and nurses, equipment and hospital beds will make it very difficult to tackle the onslaught of patients and diseases in the coming decade. The entire medical fraternity must come together to tackle this threat with a disruptive and innovative approach of creating a continuum of care. This will enable healthcare to start from preventive care instead of limiting medical excellence to curative care. Doctors must encourage an attitude of care continuum among patients.

•On the occasion of National Doctors Day, doctors need to pledge again the medical oath. They have to be the harbingers of change in the attitudes and approaches towards healthcare. They need to become role models for their patients to lead healthier lives. They must educate patients about NCDs, and promote preventive care.

📰 Centre to celebrate two years of GST

Anurag Thakur to preside over event

•The Centre will celebrate two years of the Goods and Services Tax on Monday. Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur will preside over the event, the government said on Sunday.

•Monday also marks the first day of the trial run of the new return-filing system, announced by the GST Council at its latest meeting. It is expected to simplify the process.

•It will increase the information available with the government to curb leakages.

•The Centre will also introduce a cash ledger system that will merge the earlier 20 heads into five major heads. There will be only one cash ledger for tax, interest, penalty, fee and others, the government said in a statement.

•“The introduction of the GST is a game changer for the Indian economy as it has replaced a multi-layered, complex indirect tax structure with a simple, transparent and technology-driven tax regime,” the government said.

•It will increase the information available with the government to curb leakages. The Centre will also introduce a cash ledger system that will merge the earlier 20 heads into five major heads. There will be only one cash ledger for tax, interest, penalty, fee and others, the government said in a statement. “The introduction of the GST is a game changer for the Indian economy as it has replaced a multi-layered, complex indirect tax structure with a simple, transparent and technology-driven tax regime,” the government said.

📰 Cooperative helps take tribal crafts to Amazon’s global marketplace

TRIFED’s turnaround: moving from tribal craftsmen and gatherers to entrepreneurs

•From stunning bomkai, kantha and ikat saris to the geometric shapes of an embroidered Toda shawl, from intricately beaded Bhil jewellery to painstaking Dokra metalwork, the artistic riches of India’s Adivasi communities will soon be showcased on the platform of Amazon’s global marketplace. The Centre’s Tribal Cooperative Marketing Federation (TRIFED) signed an agreement on Friday to partner with the e-commerce giant’s Global Selling Programme.

•“The online market has no geographic borders,” Renuka Singh Saruta, Minister of State for Tribal Affairs, said at an event to mark the accord, even as elegant models showcased the latest designs of Tribes India’s saris and shawls. “We want to promote India’s tribal communities beyond our own borders and expand their opportunities for a sustainable livelihood,” she added.

•These traditional textiles are at the heart of TRIFED’s turnaround over the last two years. “Earlier, the focus was on gift items and assorted handicrafts,” said TRIFED managing director Pravir Krishna. “But with urban Indian fashions increasingly embracing our traditional heritage, the market is much bigger for textiles. There has been a 360 degree change, with textiles making up 80% of our products now,” he said, adding that tribal jewellery was also popular.

•The cooperative federation was started in 1987, but for the first two decades of its existence, it bought tribal products in bulk from the market and sold them in its retail outlets. “That was a loss-making proposition. Now we empanel tribal artisans and source directly from them. We pay them a 30% profit, and then sell at an additional mark-up of 10-15% to account for administrative costs,” Mr. Krishna explained.

•The strategy is paying off, with sales rising sevenfold over the last two years. In 2016-17, TRIFED procured and sold almost ₹6 crore worth of tribal products. In 2018-19, procurement shot up to more than ₹41 crore, while sales was ₹35 crore. More satisfying than the sales figures, however, was the generation of income and livelihood for tribal communities, increasing from less than 2 lakh mandays in 2016-17 to more than 13 lakh last year. The number of empanelled artisans has risen to more than three lakh, from 75,000.

•“At the end of the day, our objective is not to grow turnover, but livelihoods for as many tribal people as possible,” said Mr. Krishna. “We hope to double our figures: of sales, procurements and empanelled artisans, every year.”

•Getting on is a small part of that strategy, which would also allow pay-per-use access to the e-commerce firm’s U.S. warehouses. Already, TRIFED’s presence on Amazon India since September 2017 has led to annual sales of ₹50 lakh on that platform. Now eyeing the global marketplace, design consultants work with adivasi master craftsman to create contemporary patterns from traditional skills. They also receive training in the supply-demand mechanisms, marketing and digital transactions of the modern marketplace. “The idea is to work ourselves out of a job, training craftsman to become entrepreneurs in their own right. Look at Bodh Shawls or the Barmer artisan Ruma Devi, they got their initial exposure and training with TRIFED, but have graduated to become major players in the export market now,” said Mr. Krishna.

•The next step for TRIFED is the ambitious Vandhan programme originally announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi a year ago, and finally ready for roll-out now. It aims to transform the ₹50,000 crore market for minor forest produce, ultimately putting control into the hands of Adivasi gatherers. Today, tribal communities who hold the sole rights to gather such produce — such as mahua, imli, chironji, amchur, wild honey — get a meagre 10% share of that pie, with the rest of the money going to middlemen.

•Leveraging the existing self-help groups of the Aajeevika scheme, Vandhan will work through 60,000 SHGs, each with 20 members, who will be trained in value-addition, packaging, distribution and marketing. “Today, forest communities pick up and sell raw imli for ₹30 per kg,” said Mr. Krishna. “If they run a basic processing unit — drying, removing fibres and seeds, and packaging — they can sell it for ₹400 per kg.”

•Vandhan has a proposed ₹1,000 crore annual budget, with a quarter of the amount coming from State governments. The first phase of 600 units will start work by September, as most gathering takes place post-monsoon.

•Mr. Krishna, who spent eight years as a district magistrate in the tribal districts of Bastar and Sarguja in the early phase of his career, is aware of the challenges in moving from a gatherer to entrepreneur mindset. “Think of it as a tribal start-up. We expect a 40% failure rate, like any start-up. But for the 60% who succeed, there has been a transformation in thinking, an acceptance of ownership. That is vital,” he said.

📰 News Analysis: Procedural concerns in focus as GST enters third year

News Analysis: Procedural concerns in focus as GST enters third year
Industry groups seek simplification of registration and return filing to build on the gains; revenue trend in recent months signal turnaround

•As the Goods and Services Tax (GST) enters its third year, tax consultants and industry groups point to the imperative need to ease the complexity surrounding procedures, especially with regard to registration and return filing, in order to build on the gains of the past two years.

•“In the third year of the GST regime, addressing procedural complexities of the GST portal system, implementation concerns and making compliance easier will further accelerate ease of doing business for industry in India,” said Mahendra Singhi, president of the Cement Manufacturers Association (CMA). “GST has been one of the proactive steps by the government and the way the concerns are addressed by the Council makes it one of the most effective mechanisms,” he added.

•A key highlight of the new indirect tax system, according to trade bodies, has been the way the GST Council, the nodal body deciding rates and procedures, has addressed industry’s concerns and modified rules to make the system easier. This, they say, has given Indian business confidence that even in a regularly changing tax system, their difficulties would be eased by the council.

•“Both Central and State governments have taken industry’s concerns into consideration and resolved the same in a timely manner, which gives immense confidence to the business fraternity that we are on the right path,” said Sandip Somany, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI).

•While revenue collections in the first two years were underwhelming, with receipts coming in lower than budgeted and slumping periodically in response to the various rate cuts announced by the GST Council, the trend in the past few months may signal a turnaround.

•The months of March, April, and May have each seen GST revenue crossing ₹1 lakh crore, an elusive milestone that was achieved only rarely earlier. Average annual collections have also steadied, coming in at a little more than ₹89,000 crore in 2017-18 (August-March), touching about ₹98,000 crore for the full year of 2018-19, and averaging ₹1.07 lakh crore in the first two months of 2019-20.

•While the proactive manner in which the GST Council has addressed concerns has put industry at ease, there are still several procedural issues that need resolution. Tax consultants opine that the council’s very willingness to make changes to rules and procedures has rendered the current GST quite different from what was originally envisioned.

‘Significant departures’

•“Looking at it broadly, the initial plan in place for return filing gave way to something else and the reverse charge mechanism took off, then was put on hold, and then came back in different avatars,” Archit Gupta, founder and CEO of Cleartax, said. “There have been significant departures from what the original plan was.”

•One big departure, Mr. Gupta said, was to do with GST registrations and the rules regarding who should register and who need not.

•“Originally, it was very simplistic and was based on the threshold limit of ₹20 lakh turnover a year,” Mr. Gupta said. “But now, the thresholds have changed, and it also depends on whether you are a goods business or a services business, where you are based, whether you are based online. It is not as easy for freelancers or businesses to quickly assess whether they need a GST registration or not.”

•FICCI too stressed the need to simplify the registration process. “To ease the compliance burden for services sector, there is a need to have centralised GST registration similar to the erstwhile service tax law,” FICCI said. “The State-wise registration has increased the cost of compliance... manifold.”

•And the CMA’s Mr. Singhi said tax administrators also needed to consolidate on steps aimed at simplification.

•“We are glad that the government has also partially addressed, recently, amongst our primary concerns relating to credit notes for post-sale discounts to dealers and we would hope that some of the ambiguity that remains is also looked into soon,” he said.

•Traders’ bodies such as the Confederation of All India Traders, however, said that the announcement made after the latest GST Council meeting that only Aadhaar would be required for registration was a welcome move as it would ease the process for small traders.

•“The Indian model of dual GST is unique in the world and represents a paradigm of partnership between Central and State governments and between Government and industry,” Vikram Kirloskar, President of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said.

•“In just two years, GST has consolidated and is delivering notable outcomes for smoother business, lower logistics costs, and easier payment of taxes in digital mode,” Adi Godrej, former president of the CII, said.

📰 New framework: on SEBI's norms for mutual fund investments

The SEBI regulations for mutual funds will help restore investor confidence

•After introducing a new standard framework for credit rating agencies last month, the Securities and Exchange Board of India came up with more stringent regulations to govern the management of mutual funds. The mutual fund industry came under its scrutiny after some mutual funds in the last few months had to postpone redemption of their fixed maturity plans (FMPs). HDFC Mutual Fund and Kotak Mutual Fund came to grief and had to roll over or proportionately reduce redemption of their FMPs in April after some Essel group companies failed to redeem their non-convertible debentures where the funds had invested. According to the new SEBI regulations, liquid mutual fund schemes will have to invest at least 20% of their funds in liquid assets like government securities. They will be barred from investing more than 20% of their total assets in any one sector; the current cap is 25%. When it comes to sectors like housing finance, the limit is down to 10%. These measures are aimed to prevent situations such as the one being witnessed now. While the mandated investment in government securities will ensure a modicum of liquidity, the reduction in sectoral concentration will discipline funds and force them to diversify their risks. Some mutual funds entered into standstill agreements with companies in whose debt instruments the funds had invested. This is not a welcome practice and goes against the interests of investors in the mutual fund. SEBI has done the right thing by banning funds from entering into such standstill agreements. Further, SEBI has required that assets of mutual funds be valued on a mark-to-market basis in order to better reflect the value of their investments.

•While SEBI’s intent to deal with the risks within the financial system is commendable, there could be unintended consequences to the regulator’s actions — which need watching. One of the new regulations introduced by SEBI is to increase the exit load on short-term investments in liquid mutual funds to discourage sudden demands for redemption. This could possibly hinder fund flow into the bond market, which in India is already quite undeveloped when compared to the rest of the world. While SEBI is doing a commendable job in disciplining the markets and intermediaries, the larger question is whether the regulator can really protect investors beyond a certain point. Market investments involve risk, and investors seeking high returns may in fact be willing to assume the increased risk that comes with such investment. That said, what the regulator is probably more concerned about is the ripple effect of defaults and roll-overs on the system. Investor confidence can be shaken by defaults and that will have consequences for the economy. Viewed from this perspective, the regulator’s latest rules should be welcomed.