Insights Daily Current Events, 12 December 2014
Backward Regions Grant Fund for development of 272 districts in the country
The Government has approved the Backward Regions Grant Fund for 272 districts of 27 States, including 35 districts of Uttar Pradesh, to redress regional imbalances in development.
The fund is intended to help coverage and add value to other programs which are explicitly designed to meet rural employment and infrastructural needs but require supplementation to address the critical gaps.
It endeavors at catalyzing development in backward areas by
- providing infrastructure
- promoting good governance and agrarian reforms
- Converging through supplementary infrastructure and capacity building.
Launched in 2007, the fund signifies a new approach to addressing persistent regional imbalances in rural development. The programme subsumed the Rashtriya Sama Vikas Yojana (RSVY), a scheme earlier being administered by the Planning Commission.
How is it done?
- By way of providing financial resources for supplementing and converging existing developmental inflows into the identified backward districts.
Under the scheme, fund is provided to
- Bridge critical gaps in local infrastructure and other development requirements that are not being adequately met through existing inflows
- Strengthen, to this end, Panchayat and Municipality level governance with more appropriate capacity building, to facilitate participatory planning, decision making, implementation and monitoring, to reflect local felt needs
- Provide professional support to local bodies for planning, implementation and monitoring their plans
- Improve the performance and delivery of critical functions assigned to Panchayats, and counter possible efficiency and equity losses on account of inadequate local capacity.
The BRGF programme represents a major shift in approach from top-down plans to participative plans prepared from the grassroots level upwards.
Role played by Local bodies:
- The central role in planning and implementation of the programme is given to Panchayats in rural areas, municipalities in urban areas and District Planning Committees at the district level constituted in accordance with Article 243 ZD of the Constitution to consolidate the plans of the Panchayats and Municipalities into the draft district plan.
- Special provisions have been made in the guidelines for those districts in J&K, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura which do not have Panchayats, where village level bodies and institutions mandated under other frameworks such as the Sixth Schedule are to plan and implement the programme.
What makes the BGRF unique among central initiatives to combat backwardness:
- The approach of putting the Panchayats and the Municipalities at the centre stage of planning and implementation.
- No Central funding stream is as ‘untied’ as the BRGF – the funds can be applied to any preference of the Panchayat/ Municipality, so long as it fills a development gap and the identification of the work is decided with people’s participation.
- No other programme spends as much funds, nearly 11 percent of the total allocation, for capacity building and staff provisioning.
Creation of capacity for effective planning at district and lower level is a key-pre-requisite to participative planning.
The BRGF has adopted the National Capability Building Framework (the NCBF) which envisages strengthening of institutional arrangements, including the infrastructure as well as software support for capacity building of elected representatives, the functionaries and other stakeholders of PRIs and thereby improving the vigour of grassroots level democracy.
Has the fund really helped?
In 2009, the World Bank conducted an independent evaluation of the BRGF programme in 16 districts in 8 States. The key findings of the evaluation were that though the funds allocated under BRGF are small, meaningful investments are made by the communities in projects that are chosen in a decentralised participatory manner. The evaluation report pointed out that the BRGF funds are the single most important source of discretionary funds available to the Panchayats. The study also suggested that outlays should be enhanced in order to be more effective.
It is an online facility launched by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to help the schools affiliated to it.
- It helps the schools to look at their performance in scholastic and co-scholastic areas at an aggregate level, and at the level of each student in the school.
- All the performance metrics are presented through numbers as well as in charts/ graphs for easy understanding.
- It helps schools compare their performance vis-à-vis other schools under various categories i.e., All India, Regional, State and within their school category (Government, Private, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (JNVS), Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS), and Central Tibetan Schools (CTS).
There are plans to extend the same to the parents so that they can also monitor their wards performance over the years. The facility will bring school teachers and parents closer so that they can monitor the progress of the student.
States reject Centre’s Goods & Services Tax Bill
The States have rejected the draft Bill for the Goods and Services Tax (GST), dealing a major blow to the Centre’s resolve to roll it out at the earliest.
At a meeting of the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers, the States opposed the draft Bill and its proposal to extend the GST to petroleum goods and entry tax.
Areas of conflict:
- Consensus eludes the Centre and the States on the three main issues of compensation, petrol tax and entry tax.
Demands by the States:
- The GST will subsume all excise and service taxes. The States want compensation from the Centre for the revenues they will lose over five years from the shift to the GST regime.
- They want a clause on the compensation to be inserted into the Bill. The Centre’s proposed draft does not have such a provision at present.
The Union government has agreed that its share of the revenue from the GST would go to the pool of tax revenues devolved to the States.
The goods and services tax (GST) is a comprehensive value-added tax (VAT) on goods and services. It is an indirect tax levy on manufacture, sale and consumption of goods as well as services at a national level.
GST is essentially a tax on value addition, and there is seamless transfer of input tax credit across the value chain.
Under GST, the taxation burden will be divided equitably between manufacturing and services, through a lower tax rate by increasing the tax base and minimizing exemptions. Currently, a manufacturer needs to pay tax when a finished product moves out from a factory, and it is again taxed at the retail outlet when sold.
- GST will be is levied only at the destination point, and not at various points (from manufacturing to retail outlets).
- It is estimated that India will gain $15 billion a year by implementing the Goods and Services Tax as it would promote exports, raise employment and boost growth.
- It is expected to help build a transparent and corruption-free tax administration.
- In the GST system, both Central and State taxes will be collected at the point of sale. Both components (the Central and State GST) will be charged on the manufacturing cost. This will benefit individuals as prices are likely to come down. Lower prices will lead to more consumption, thereby helping companies.
- It is also expected that introduction of GST will foster a common or seamless Indian market and contribute significantly to the growth of the economy.
- GST will broaden the tax base, and result in better tax compliance due to a robust IT infrastructure. Due to the seamless transfer of input tax credit from one stage to another in the chain of value addition, there is an in-built mechanism in the design of GST that would incentivize tax compliance by traders.
GST around the world:
France was the first country to introduce this system in 1954. Today, it has spread to over 140 countries.
Then, why are the states opposing?
Some States fear that if the uniform tax rate is lower than their existing rates, it will hit their revenues.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.
UN declares June 21 as ‘Yoga Day’
The UN General Assembly has adopted an India-led resolution declaring June 21 as ‘International Day of Yoga’, recognising that “Yoga provides a holistic approach to health and well-being.”
The resolution on ‘International Day of Yoga’ had 177 nations joining as co-sponsors, the highest number ever for any General Assembly resolution.
This will inspire many more people towards Yoga. The Yoga beautifully combines Gyan (knowledge), Karm (work) and Bhakti (devotion)”
Sources: The Hindu.
‘Superbugs can kill 10 million a year’
A report commissioned by British Prime Minister David Cameron has warned that failure to tackle drug-resistant infections will lead to at least 10 million extra deaths a year and cost the global economy up to $100 trillion (£64tn) by 2050.
- There are currently 8.2 million deaths a year from cancer and annual global GDP stands at $70tn to $75tn, with the United Kingdom figure around $3tn.
- The report acknowledges that the human impact should be enough to prompt major intervention but says the economic figures illustrate that the issue “transcends health policy”.
With modern technology and the right focus and right guidance, by trying to leverage the world’s greatest technology for diagnostics, it would probably make significant difference to the pressure for use of antibiotics.
A superbug, also called multiresistant, is a bacterium that carries several resistance genes. These are resistant to multiple antibiotics and are able to survive even after exposure to one or more antibiotics.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.