An inclusive growth policy( GS paper 3 , Inclusive growth ,The Hindu )

( Old article but important for both GS and Essay paper )
The impressive gain by rural households in spite of the favouritism towards non-primary activities appears real
The Indian economy has moved on a high growth path since the mid-1980s. After a blip in growth between 1990-92, liberalisation, initiated for aligning the Indian economy with the world in 1991, not only put the economy back on a higher growth path but also sustained this growth till the 2000s. During the last few years, India has been the second fastest growing economy in the world.

Despite the high growth over the past two decades, concerns have been raised over the growth not being equally distributed. Policy makers responded to these concerns arguing for inclusiveness in the 11th Five Year Plan in 2007. How has the rapid growth during the 11th Five Year Plan period helped in improving the income levels of the most vulnerable Indian households?

*Sharing of growth

The aggregate estimates routinely brought out by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) show a “feel good factor” — that real per capita income has been growing rapidly. But there is little evidence on (a) how this growth has been shared among households in rural India versus urban India and (b) whether households belonging to different socio-religious groups have grown together. Three rounds of the National Sample Survey Consumer Expenditure (NSS CE) surveys carried out between 2004-05 and 2011-12 suggest an unprecedented rise in household expenditure and a consequent decline in poverty. These estimates imply that some benefits of growth have been shared by vulnerable households. But these data do not clarify whether poverty has declined because of new social safety net programmes or because vulnerable households have participated in the general economic growth.

The recently-concluded India Human Development Survey (IHDS) — a nationally representative survey of about 42,000 households conducted by researchers from the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and the University of Maryland examines changes in the incomes of the households during the period of rapid economic growth, 2004-05 and 2011-12. It is the only nationally representative panel survey covering the same households. During the two rounds of IHDS, besides a range of outcome indicators, data on household income and its sources have also been collected.

Though validation of the data is still underway, we present some pointers based on preliminary analysis. The median real income of the households from all sources had been about Rs. 28,200 in 2004-05; this increased to about Rs. 37,500 in 2011-12, which is an average of 4.7 per cent annually. Unlike aggregate growth figures released by the CSO, IHDS data allows calculation of household income by the place of residence of households. Those IHDS calculations show for the first time that the real average household income in rural India has increased 5.0 per cent annually — almost twice the 2.6 per cent annual growth in urban India. This has resulted in a significant narrowing of the gap in household income — from 2.26 times in 2004-05 to 1.97 in 2011-12. These figures are consistent with the growth of per capita expenditure calculated from the respective NSS CE (61st and 68th rounds) monthly per capita expenditure growth in the rural and urban sectors.

When we normalise the household median income by the number of members in the household, the growth of income in rural India is even more impressive — an average annual median per capita income increase of 7.2 per cent, which is more than twice the rate experienced by urban households (3.2 per cent annually). This story of growth at the aggregate level is fascinating in itself because most of the changes during the liberalisation phase have favoured the growth of non-primary activities. But the impressive gain by rural households in spite of the favouritism towards non-primary activities appears real and requires further investigation.

*Further proof of growth

We note similar differences in median income growth across different socio-religious groups that provide further confirmation of the inclusiveness of the recent economic growth. In IHDS surveys, we have defined six social and religious groups — high caste Hindus, Other Backward Classes, Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims and Other Religious Minorities. The highest growth in the median per capita incomes is reported for Dalits (7.8 per cent annually) and OBCs (7.3 per cent), while the real median income of high caste Hindus grew only at 4.6 per cent annually. The average income growth of other vulnerable groups was also higher than that of high caste Hindus. The income of Adivasis grew at 5.7 per cent annually while the income of Muslims grew by 5.4 per cent.

*A working plan

Our preliminary results point towards the largest gains for the traditionally vulnerable households — rural areas, Dalits, OBCs, Adivasis and Muslims. This narrowing of group differences is all the more remarkable in the face of a slightly diverging overall income distribution. Our preliminary calculations of per capita income inequality suggest a small increase from a Gini ratio of 53 in 2004-5 to 55 in 2011-12.

The relatively greater progress of vulnerable sectors despite this growing inequality seems to suggest that the inclusive growth policy implemented during the 11th Five Year Plan may have been working. While a much more rigorous analysis is required to delineate the factors that have led to this, our conjecture is that some of the social sector schemes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Janani Suraksha Yojana, the National Rural Health Mission et al. may have contributed to this inclusive growth.

Source: New feed

Environment Ministry Directs CPCB to Ensure Better Implementation of Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has issued directions under the Water Act and the Air Act to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to ensure better implementation of Public Liability Insurance (PLI) Act, 1991.
What is Public Liability Insurance Act
  • This act to provide insurance for the purpose of providing immediate relief to the persons affected by accident occurring while handling any hazardous substance and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • Act makes it obligatory upon the user industries handling 179 types of chemicals and compounds and other classes of flammable substances to subscribe a special insurance policy to cover the liabilities likely to arise on account of any chemical (industrial) disaster/accident and payable to those affected people who are not the workers on ‘no fault basis’/ ‘absolute liability’.
  • The Act establishes an Environment Relief Fund (ERF), which is subscribed by all such user industries by an amount equal to the annual premium amount of such insurance policies.
Who administer it

PLI Act is administered by the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change.

Objective of act

Main objective of the Public Liability Insurance Act 1991 is to provide for damages to victims of an accident which occurs as a result of handling any hazardous substance. The Act applies to all owners associated with the production or handling of any hazardous chemicals.

What are steps taken to strengthen implementation of act

There are many cases where owners have failed to subscribe PLI policies because of ignorance. In view of the above strengthening the implementation of the provisions of the Act so far, the Ministry has initiated several steps to strengthen the implementation of the Act, some of which includes:

1. All the State Pollution Control Boards(SPCBs)/Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) for UTs have been advised on 16th April, 2015 for including PLI insurance policy as one of the point in the check list before according or renewing CTE or CTO to an industry with a follow up letter on 16th June, 2015.
2. A meeting of general insurance companies had been convened on 29th April, 2015 to sensitizing them.
3. A letter has been written to Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) on 1st July, 2015 to draft a standard PLI policy for uniformity.
4. An advisory has been written in July, 2015 to PSUs, big industry houses and industry associations such as FICCI, CII, CMA, ICC, etc. to subscribe to PLI policy and pay ERF.

About CPCB

Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), statutory organisation, was constituted in September, 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. Further, CPCB was entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

Function of CPCB

  • It serves as a field formation and also provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • It promote cleanliness of streams and wells in different areas of the States by prevention, control and abatement of water pollution, and
  • Work to improve the quality of air and to prevent, control or abate air pollution in the country.
  • It advise the central government to prevent and control water and air pollution. It also advise the Governments of Union Territories about an industry or the pollution source causing water and air pollution.
  • It Co-ordinates the activities of the State Boards by providing technical assistance and guidance and resolve disputes among them.
  • Advise the Central Government on any matter concerning prevention and control of water and air pollution and improvement of the quality of air.

Source: New feed

Visa on arrival and e-Visa : Explained

Can an Indian passport holder travel to 58 countries without Visa ??
Recently a news has been circulated that Indian Passport holder can travel some 58 countries without Visa. But it is somewhat a misleading headline. The issue is taken from a report which defined a  country’s passport power ranking based on the amount of countries it lets you travel to without a visa (including the country itself). According to it India currently ranks at 59 and all Indian passport holders can travel to 58 foreign countries without a visa or via visa on arrival.
Visa is an endorsement on a passport indicating that the holder is allowed to enter, leave, or stay for a specified period of time in a country. There are two types of Visa facility; first is kind of ‘Advance Visa’ and second is ‘Visa on arrival’, one another is ‘e-Visa’ facility also. So for Indian travellers, most countries  are providing ‘Visa on arrival’ rather than ‘Visa not required’ facility. Obviously ‘Visa on arrival’ facility makes the procedure very easy but both are different thing.
For obtaining a visa on arrival, visitors would typically need to furnish return flight tickets, proof of hotel reservations, evidence of sufficient funds to cover their stay, passport sized photographs, a passport with adequate empty pages and the money for fee if required by the country.
India also provides the facility of visa on arrival to many countries and now plan is to extend this to about 180 countries soon. Visa on arrival scheme in other countries allowed tourist to land and then get visa but in Indian case it created a lot of confusion.
Eligible citizens traveling for leisure/tourism purposes have the option to apply for an Indian visa online, and have their visa granted electronically. The applicant has to provide all information online and he/she will receive the authorisation to travel by e-mail within 72 hours. When the Indian government implemented this new electronic process, they called it Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), and because the visa sticker was placed inside the traveler’s passport at the airport upon arrival to India, the application form also referred to this process as ‘Visa on Arrival’. This could be confusing to travelers; it is very important to understand that the visa must be applied for and approved before traveling to India. This cannot be done simply upon arrival.
The nomenclature of the ‘ETA’ scheme in India was misleading. There were several instances of tourists flying into India, only to be asked by the immigration authorities for their e-visa. Of late, the home ministry had even directed the authorities to grant visas to such tourists on the spot and save them unnecessary inconvenience.
So the official name for this process has changed to ‘e-Tourist Visa (eTV). The online process has not changed, and the traveler’s biometric information will still be taken at the airport and the visa stamped inside the passport upon arrival in India.
 (Courtesy: NDTV, Wikipedia,, Ministry of External Affairs )

Source: New feed

The Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Bill, 2015 (Important Bills , GS 2 )

The Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Bill, 2015 was introduced in Rajya Sabha on April 29, 2015 by the Minister of Finance, Mr. Arun Jaitley.

*The Bill enables the creation of commercial divisions in high courts, and commercial courts at the district level. 

Commercial dispute:
A commercial dispute is defined to include any dispute related to transactions between merchants, bankers, financiers, traders, etc.  Such transactions deal with mercantile documents, partnership agreements, intellectual property rights, insurance, etc.Commercial courts: Commercial courts, equivalent to district courts, may be set up in all states and union territories, by the state governments after consulting with their respective high courts.

Commercial divisions in high courts:

Commercial divisions may be set up in those high courts which exercise ordinary original civil jurisdiction, that is, the High Courts of Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras.  They are to be set up by the respective state governments after consulting with their high courts.

Valuation of dispute:

Such commercial divisions in high courts and commercial courts will deal with all matters relating to commercial disputes involving an amount of Rs one crore or more.

Commercial appellate divisions:

Commercial appellate divisions may be set up in all high courts to hear appeals against:
(i) orders of commercial divisions of high courts;
(ii) orders of commercial courts; and
(iii) appeals arising from arbitration matters that are filed before the high courts.Any appeal filed in a high court against the orders of certain tribunals like:
(i) Competition Appellate Tribunal;
(ii) Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunal;
(iii) Intellectual Property Appellate Board;
(iv) Company Law Board or the National Company Law Tribunal;
(v) Securities Appellate Tribunal; and
(vi) Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate tribunal may be heard by the commercial appellate division of the high court if it relates to a commercial dispute.

Time period for filing appeals: 
Such appeals to the commercial appellate division must be made within a period of 60 days of the order of the lower court.

Appointment of judges to the commercial divisions:

The number of high court judges that would be required for a commercial division of a high court would be determined and nominated by the Chief Justice of the High Court.  The judges must have experience in dealing with commercial disputes and the nomination would be for a period of two years, or as determined by the Chief Justice of the concerned high court.

Appointment of commercial court judges:

Judges to a commercial court will be appointed by the Chief Justice of the concerned high court, in a manner to be prescribed.  The senior most judge would be the Principal Judge, and would have the same powers as that of a Principal District Judge of a District Court.

 Transfer of pending suits:
All suits of a value of Rs one crore or more that are pending in the high court shall be transferred to the commercial division, after it is constituted. Similarly, suits currently pending in the district courts, with a value of Rs. one crore or more would be transferred to the commercial court.  However, a suit will not be transferred if a final judgment on the matter is pending.

Source: New feed

The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2015 (Environment and Biodiversity ,GS paper 3,PRS)

The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2015 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Mr. Prakash Javadekar on May 8, 2015.  The Bill seeks to establish funds at the national and state level to receive money collected for compensatory afforestation.
Compensatory afforestation is defined as afforestation done in lieu of the diversion of forest land for non forest use under the Forests (Conservation) Act, 1980.

*Creation of Compensatory Afforestation Funds:

*The Bill seeks to establish a permanent National Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the public account of India.  It also allows states to establish State Compensatory Afforestation Funds. 

*The National Fund will be under the central government, and managed by a National Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA). 

*The central government will appoint a State CAMPA in each state.  The State CAMPA will be responsible for the management of the State Fund.

Sources of funds:

At present, an ad hoc National CAMPA and ad hoc State CAMPAs, established by government orders, receive money collected for compensatory afforestation.  Once the National Fund is created, money collected by state governments which has been placed with the existing National CAMPA will be transferred to the National Fund.  Other sources of funds for the National Fund will be:

(i) 10% of the funds collected for compensatory afforestation by states each year; and
(ii) grants-in-aid/other sums received by, and loans/borrowings taken by the National CAMPA.

The major sources of funds for the State Fund will be:
(i) unspent balances lying with existing State CAMPAs;
(ii) money transferred from the National Fund to the State Funds (90% of the money transferred from the existing National CAMPA to the National Fund);
(iii) money received for compensatory afforestation; and
(iv) grants-in-aid/other sums received by, and loans/borrowings taken by the State CAMPA.
The balance with both funds will be non-lapsable and get interest as per a rate declared by the central government on a yearly basis.

Utilisation of funds:

*The money in the National Fund will be used to meet expenditure for the management of the National CAMPA, and on schemes approved by the National CAMPA.

*The money in the State Fund will be used for the following purposes:
(i) site-specific schemes implemented by the state;
(ii) artificial regeneration, forest management and wildlife protection; and
(iii) protection and conservation activities in protected areas under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.

*If the diversion of forest land affects multiple states, the National CAMPA may order that money be transferred to one of those states.

Composition and functions of Authorities:

*  The National CAMPA will consist of a governing body, an executive committee, and a monitoring group, in addition to an administrative support mechanism.

*The governing body will be responsible for formulating the broad policy framework for the functioning of the National CAMPA.

* The executive committee will be responsible for the approval of annual plans of State CAMPAs and the formulation and implementation of schemes approved by the governing body. 

*The monitoring group will be responsible for the monitoring and evaluation of works implemented by states and fund utilisation by the CAMPAs.

*The State CAMPA will consist of a governing body, a steering committee, and an executive committee.

* The governing body, chaired by the Chief Minister of the state, will be responsible for formulating the broad policy framework for the State CAMPA, within the overall framework laid out by the National CAMPA.  The executive committee will be responsible for formulating the annual plan of operations, after obtaining the approval of the steering committee. 
*The executive committee will also monitor works funded by the State Fund, and invest the surplus amounts available with the State Fund.

Source: New feed

The Consumer Protection Bill, 2015 (Important Bills , GS paper 2)

( Important issue in the light of recent cases such as maggi controversy)

The Consumer Protection Bill, 2015, was introduced in Lok Sabha on August 10, 2015 by the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan.The Bill replaces the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.  The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill states that this is to widen the ambit and modernise the law on consumer protection due to the changes in the markets.

Definition of consumer:
 A consumer is defined as any person who buys a good or hires a service for a consideration.  This includes the user of such good or service, but not one who obtains the good for resale or commercial purposes.  It covers transactions through all modes including offline, online through electronic means, teleshopping, or multi level marketing.

Rights of consumers: 

The rights of consumers include the right to: (i) be protected against marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life and property, (ii) be informed of the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods or services, (iii) be assured of access to a variety of goods or services at competitive prices, and (iv) to seek redressal against unfair or restrictive trade practices. 

Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA): 

The central government will set up the CCPA to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers.  The CCPA will carry out the following functions, among others: (i) inquiring into violations of consumer rights, investigating and launching prosecution at the appropriate forum; (ii) passing orders for recall of goods, or withdrawal of services and reimbursement of the price paid, and pass directions for discontinuation of unfair trade practices; (iii) issuing safety notices and order withdrawal of advertisements; and (iv) declaring contracts that are unfair to a consumer as void.

Product liability: 

If defects in the manufacture, construction, design, testing, service marketing etc. of a product results in any personal injury or property damage to a consumer, the manufacturer is liable in a product liability action.

Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions:

 Consumer Grievance Redressal Commissions are to be set up at the district, state and national levels.  A consumer can file a complaint with these commissions, regarding:  (i) unfair or restrictive trade practices, (ii) defective goods or services, (iii) overcharging or deceptive charging, (iv) the offering of goods or services for sale which may be hazardous to life and safety, and (v) incurring loss due to an unfair contract. 

The District Commission may issue the following orders regarding a complaint:  

remove the defect, replace the good, return the price amount, stop the sale or manufacture of hazardous products, discontinue unfair trade practices or pay compensation for any loss suffered by the consumer.  Appeals from its decisions will be heard by the State Commission.  Further appeals may be filed before the National Commission, and then before the Supreme Court.

Consumer Mediation Cell:

 The Bill introduces mediation as a mode of consumer dispute resolution.   Consumer Mediation Cells will be established and attached to the redressal commissions at the district, state and national levels.

Penalties: Any person who fails to comply with an order of either of the Commissions would be liable for imprisonment from one month to three years, or with a fine from 10,000 rupees to 50,000 rupees.

Source: New feed

Whistleblowers Protection(Amendment) Act, 2015 ( Important amendments, GS paper 2 ,PRS)

*The Bill amends the Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2014.

*The Act provides a mechanism for receiving and inquiring into public interest disclosures against acts of corruption, wilful misuse of power or discretion, or criminal offences by public servants.

*The Bill prohibits the reporting of a corruption related disclosure if it falls under any 10 categories of information.These categories include information related to:
(i) economic, scientific interests and the security of India;
(ii) Cabinet proceedings, (iii) intellectual property; (iv) that received in a fiduciary capacity, etc.

*The Act permits disclosures that are prohibited under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), 1923.The Bill reverses this to disallow disclosures that are covered by the OSA.

*Any public interest disclosure received by a Competent Authority will be referred to a government authorised authority if it falls under any of the above 10 prohibited categories. This authority will take a decision on the matter, which will be binding.

Key Issues and Analysis

> The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill states that the 10 prohibited categories are modelled on those under the RTI Act, 2005. However, this comparison may not be appropriate.

>Unlike the RTI Act, disclosures under the Bill are not made public but in confidence to a high level constitutional or statutory authority.With regard to the 10 prohibited categories, the RTI Act allows (i) the public authority to disclose information if he considers it to be in public interest; and (ii) a two stage appeal process if information is not made available. The Bill does not contain such provisions.

>A Competent Authority is required to refer a prohibited disclosure to a government authority for a final decision.

> However, the Bill does not specify the minimum qualifications required or the process of appointment of this authority.Whistleblower laws in other countries also prohibit the disclosure of certain types of information.

>These include information related to national security and intelligence, received in a fiduciary capacity, and any disclosure specifically prohibited by law.

Source: New feed

Empower, not weaken the CAG ( Constitutional bodies ,GS paper 2 , The Hindu)

A recent proposal to curtail the powers of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India runs contrary to national and international conventions. Rather, it is the duty of both the executive and the legislature to strengthen this constitutional office
A conference of the chairpersons of Public Accounts Committees (PACs) has just been held under the aegis of the Parliament’s PAC. Nishikant Dubey, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha), member PAC, and a convener of the conference, stated that the time has come to make our national auditor, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), accountable to Parliament through a constitutional amendment.

This is a strange demand, given that the CAG’s constitutional mandate, under the CAG (Duties, Powers & Condition of Service) Act or Audit Act, is to hold the executive accountable. Such a demand had never been articulated in the past. On the other hand, there have been demands for strengthening the Audit Act to further empower the CAG.

Gautam Sen
The CAG’s office initiated an amendment to the Audit Act during the tenure of the first United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government (when Pranab Mukherjee was the Union Finance Minister) to enable a comprehensive audit of public funds and bodies rendering public service, and for a structured and time-bound response to the audit reports. CAG did not receive a positive response from the government.
Delayed tabling of CAG reports

Baijayant (Jay) Panda, MP, Biju Janata Dal, had initiated a private member’s bill in the previous Lok Sabha, in 2013, for a similar purpose, to enable the CAG to undertake performance audits without any constraint. There was a view in some quarters of the executive that the CAG needed to restrict his audit primarily to the compliance of rules and regulations, and present the audit reports to the legislature within a specified time frame.

This bill, though eventually withdrawn, was also intended to compulsorily ensure the tabling of CAG reports to the legislature by the executive, within seven days of their receipt from the auditor, thus ensuring response from the executive. The CAG’s reports on quite a few occasions were not being presented to the legislatures concerned on time, as they were deemed inconvenient by the government of the day, aborting the scope for timely legislative scrutiny and follow-up remedial action, including a fixing of responsibility on the functionaries concerned. Thus, there was a clear undermining of the constitutional system, impeding the accountability of the executive to the legislature by not allowing the CAG to perform his or her constitutionally mandated role and serve Parliament adequately in the area of financial oversight.

Therefore, accountability of the executive to the legislature, whose members are representatives of the people, and the legislature’s ability to adequately work on the audit’s outcome was impeded. Such a feedback and accountability mechanism is an essential component of the CAG’s accountability to Parliament.

Greater accountability, less power

Accountability of the CAG to Parliament has many implications. An extreme situation may arise if Parliament, controlled by a majority of members of a single ruling party, prevents an audit scrutiny of transactions prima facie found irregular or deemed injudicious or uneconomical or violative of the statutory canons of financial propriety.

The present constitutional structure ensures independence of the CAG to go into the entire gamut of audit functions where public interest is involved. This view is supported by judicial pronouncements in some cases, including the Supreme Court decision in the Civil Appeal No. 4591 of April 2014 (Association of Unified Tele Services Providers & Others vs. Union of India) case. Therefore, it is the legitimate duty of both the executive and the legislature to uphold the CAG’s ambit, and in no way fetter it by a constitutional amendment. In the present milieu of competing displays of political opportunism, any amendment that has the scope to constrict CAG’s functional role should not be encouraged in the national interest.

“If at all an amendment is necessary, Article 149 of the Constitution can be amended to explicitly indicate the scope of the CAG’s responsibility. The Audit Act, suitably amplified, could supplement the provision.”

It is useful to draw the public’s attention to Article 324 of the Constitution, which fully empowers the Election Commission of India (ECI) to superintend, direct and control the election of the President, the Vice-President and the legislatures, both at the Centre and in the States. Apropos the elections, the powers of the ECI are absolute and even litigation before the judiciary can only come after the completion of the election process.
CAG’s functioning should be similar to that of the ECI. Articles 148 to 151 of the Constitution provide the requisite enabling constitutional framework. Under extreme circumstances, when the CAG does not function in consonance with his or her constitutional role or violates it, a provision for his or her impeachment has been made under Article 148. Therefore, there should be no apprehensions in Parliament or in the PAC on the accountability or non-performance of the CAG. If at all a constitutional amendment is necessary, it could be to amend Article 149 of the Constitution and to explicitly indicate, but in the broadest possible manner, the scope of the CAG’s responsibility. The Audit Act, suitably amplified, could supplement the proposed amended constitutional provision.

In most Commonwealth countries, the legislative auditor is the Auditor-General, whose office is a core element of parliamentary oversight, and he or she reports directly to Parliament and to the PAC. In some instances, the Auditor-General is an officer of Parliament, with the latter guaranteeing him independence from the executive (as in the case of Australia and the U.K.) while in some other instances, he or she is independent of both the executive and the legislature, as in the case of India.

CAG-PAC relationship

Whichever model is followed, the importance of a very close relationship between Parliament’s core financial oversight body, the PAC, and the CAG, cannot be overstated. The Indian Parliament could adopt a charter or convention outlining the broad contours of cooperation between the CAG and the PAC. The purpose may be to adopt a mutually reinforcing approach. However, we have to be cautious to ensure that the parameters do not eventually have the effect of limiting the CAG’s audit powers and thereby prevent a broad appraisal of executive actions.

With the benefit of nearly seven decades of experience since Independence, it may not be inappropriate to conclude that the institution of CAG has stood the test of time. However, there needs to be an enhanced role for the CAG for a comprehensive financial oversight over not only direct government departments, but also over autonomous and statutory entities. This is because, in the present environment of an open economy where there are numerous private-public enterprises, some public entities may not be substantially funded by the government but would, nonetheless, be rendering public service.

As regards the suggestion for making the CAG more accountable to Parliament, there can be no justification for such an amendment. There will be no apparent systemic improvement in making him an officer of Parliament or by making him dependent on it, despite the move ensuring his or her independence from the executive. On the contrary, the possibility of an adverse application of this institutional change cannot be ignored.

If Parliament or its PAC feels that there is a need to look beyond the audit reports of the CAG, there is no institutional or regulatory bar that prevents it from doing so. There has been an instance in the U.K. when its PAC suo motu issued a report — not based on the U.K. National Audit Office and its Auditor General’s report — to highlight departmental failures in financial administration, which the Auditor General appropriately followed up. The CAG in India can similarly be expected to follow up and reinforce the PAC’s efforts in matters of financial governance towards ensuring probity, accountability and transparency. The CAG has only to be provided adequate institutional support in order for him or her to discharge this vital, constitutionally enshrined role.

(The author is a retired Indian Defence Accounts Service officer and former Additional Controller General of Defence Accounts of Government of India.)

Source: New feed

Egyptian vulture finds its nest back in Delhi ( Biodiversity ,Prelims 2016 , The Hindu )

The vulture is a useful scavenger and plays a key role in the environment as ecosystem service provider. It feeds on carrion and keeps the natural environment clean and controls spreading viral diseases from decaying carrions
Amidst spiking pollution levels and reeling under dengue cases, the city has something to cheer about. The Egyptian vulture – which had disappeared from the city – seemed to have made a come back. Also, this time around, ecologists have noted that “two pairs seem to have made permanent residence since April in the Bhatti Mines Forest area.”

According to conservationist T.K. Roy, these birds were previously spotted sporadically in Okhla and Yamuna islands. “This time, we have seen them for a longer period of time and feel that they are residing in the Bhatti Mines Forest area (where they were spotted). Usually, these birds are known to cross over from Uttar Pradesh.”

Ecologists state that during this year, from April to date, the birds were spotted in the forest area. Few species of vulture used to be common in NCR, but have disappeared now except few vagrant sightings of Egyptian Vulture reported in Delhi in the past few years mainly on the Yamuna islands, Okhla Bird Sanctuary and Gazipur Landfill area.

Bhatti Mines Forest area falls under the Forest and Wildlife Dept of NCT of Delhi and is exclusively being developed and protected by Eco-Task Force of Territorial Army in collaboration with Delhi Govt.

“We have spotted two pairs of resident Egyptian Vulture here. It’s good indication that Egyptian Vulture is come back to Delhi,” added Mr. Roy.

The vulture is a useful scavenger and plays a key role in the environment as ecosystem service provider as it feeds on carrion and keeps the natural environment clean and controls spreading viral diseases from decaying carrions.

Overall vulture population has rapidly declined during the last three decades since mid-nineties and rapid population decline recorded in India between 2000 and 2007.

Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), one among nine vulture species available in Indian sub-continent is a large range distributed species in Europe, Africa and Asia but its population has been rapidly declined in India due to facing several major threats as disturbance, poisoning, electrocution, scarcity of food, habitat loss but largely due to toxic effect of veterinary drug i.e. Diclofenac through livestock carcasses.

Continuous awareness and effort by BNHS for vulture conservation, Drug Controller General (India), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Dept of Animal Husbandry, Ministry of Agriculture, Govt of India has banned Diclofenac on veterinary use in the year 2006 and further Gazette Notification of Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Govt of India banned the sale of Diclofenac in multi-dose vials in 2015.

Due to growing vulture awareness people became much aware for vulture conservation and as a result vulture population gradually increases in the country.

As per Birdlife International’s preliminary estimation of global population size of this species 21,000 to 61,000 individuals and roughly 13,000 to 41,000 mature individuals at present.

Due to extremely rapid population decline in India this species has been enlisted as Endangered (EN) vulture species in the IUCN Red-list of Threatened Species in 2012

Source: New feed

Monetary Policy: 125 Not Out ( economy, The Hindu )

In the fourth bi-monthly monetary policy review, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) came out with a masterstroke.

The piéce de résistance was the 50 bps cut in the benchmark repo rate, which in a pleasant surprise, was higher than the 25 bps rate action widely expected by the markets. Cumulatively, the central bank has now lowered its policy rate by 125 bps since the start of 2015. Besides interest rates, the RBI concomitantly continues to focus on market reforms to further its objective of fine-tuning the financial architecture with evolving needs of the economy.

The successful curtailment of inflation over the last two years has been the most important macro accomplishment for the Indian economy. In fact, over January-August 2015, average WPI and CPI inflation fell by 800 bps and 304 bps respectively. While weak demand conditions and soft commodity prices played an enabling role, government’s astute management of the food economy has clearly made the difference despite the unsupportive monsoon backdrop for two straight years.

Going forward, the ongoing tectonic shifts in the global economy will keep disinflationary pressures intact via the channel of excess capacity in certain sectors and a subdued commodity price environment. This in my opinion will provide unbridled support to RBI in navigating from the 6 per cent inflation target for January 2016 to 5 per cent for March 2017.

The half-yearly policy review comes on the heels of RBI making incremental progress in the area of financial market liberalisation.

— With the objective of improving affordability of low cost housing, the central bank has proposed a reduction in current risk weight of 50 per cent applicable on individual housing loans.

— After granting in-principle licence for niche banking earlier, the RBI has now allowed incremental Rs.1,700 billion investment in government debt securities by foreign portfolio investors.

— Indian corporates will now be permitted to issue Rupee denominated bonds in overseas centres. This will help corporates tap additional source of funding without exposing themselves to currency risk.

The Indian economy has started to make structural macro adjustments and now rightfully offers a bright spot in the cloudy global environment. Policy steps in the area of ease of doing business, manufacturing, skill development, digitisation, inclusion, development of institutional architecture, cooperative federalism, etc. will no doubt augment India’s potential economic growth to above 9 per cent in years to come.

In this environment, risks to medium-to-long term inflation would be on the downside as the government steps up supply side reforms, creates capacity in infrastructure, and remains committed to quality fiscal consolidation. Hence, I foresee an opportunity for incremental 75 bps of monetary easing during the second half of 2015-16.

In addition, on the regulatory front, to further improve the systemic provisioning coverage on NPAs and Restructured Assets, RBI could consider allowing banks to dip into their Standard Asset Provisions/Reserves by 15 to 25 bps from the extant maintenance of 40 bps, as a one-time measure, as risks in the system has largely been recognized through NPAs and Restructured Assets

Source: New feed