Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Doordarshan's farmer-centric Kisan TV Channel
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 26 May 2015 launched Doordarshan’s farmer-centric channel named DD Kisan from Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi. The 24-hour channel will air information on farmer-related issues.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has included DD Kisan channel under the genre Infotainment (Hindi). With this, DD Kisan has become a must carry channel making it mandatory for every cable and Direct to Home (DTH) operators to provide DD Kisan to their subscribers.
The channel programmes would be primarily for agriculture sector and rural India and would help in revitalizing agriculture sector which in turn would aid the development of rural India.
20th Law Commission submitted report on Guardianship and Custody Laws to the Union Law Ministry
The 20th Law Commission of India on 22 May 2015 submitted the 257th report titled Reforms in Guardianship and Custody Laws in India to DV Sadananda Gowda, the Union Minister of Law and Justice.
The report reviewed the current laws dealing with custody and guardianship and came up with draft legislative amendments in the form of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship (Amendment) Bill, 2015 and the Guardians and Wards (Amendment) Bill, 2015 to the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 and the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 respectively.
Major amendments deal with the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 by introducing a new chapter (Chapter IIA) on custody and visitation arrangements including the concept of joint custody.
Key Aspects of the Draft Legislation
Welfare principle: The welfare principle in the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 was strengthened with a continuous emphasis on its relevance in each aspect of guardianship and custody related decision-making.
Abolition of preference: Preference for the father as the natural guardian under Hindu law was removed and both parents are granted equal legal status with respect to guardianship and custody.
Joint custody: Courts are empowered to award joint custody to both parents in circumstances conducive to the welfare of the child or award sole custody to one parent with visitation rights to the other.
Mediation: Parties to a custody matter must ordinarily consider expert-led and time-bound mediation, which can not only promote better outcomes for parents and children, but also reduce the strain on the overburdened court system.
Financial resources of parents and the standard of living of the child must be considered when fixing such amounts. Child support must continue till the child turns 18, but may be extended till 25; or longer, in case of a child with mental or physical disability.
Guidelines: Detailed guidelines were evolved to help courts, parents and other stakeholders arrive at the best arrangement to serve the welfare of the child. Several new concepts in this regard, including parenting plans, grand parenting time, visitation rights, and relocation of parents were also mentioned in the report.
The revision of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 and the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 has become necessary to ensure these laws are in tune with changes in the social considerations. As per an estimate, divorce rate increased to 13 per 1000 in 2014 as compared to that of 1 in 1000 in 2004.
Additionally, in most of the proceedings of divorce and family breakdowns parents use children as pawns to strike their own bargains without considering the emotional, social and mental upheavals that the children may face.
Hence, in order to protect interest of the children, the commission has recommended amendments to laws by giving substantial powers to courts in dealing with such cases.
Union Government decided to impose 0.5% Swachh Bharat Cess on all services
Union Ministry of Finance on 6 November 2015 decided to impose 0.5 percent Swachh Bharat Cess (SBC) on all taxable services. It will be levied in addition to the 14 percent service tax that is in force now.
The SBC will come into force on 15 November 2015. Its proceeds will be exclusively used to support Swachh Bharat initiative.
The decision to impose SBC is in tune with the announcement made by the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his budget 2015-16 budget speech advocating for 2 percent additional cess to fund Swachh Bharat.
As per an estimate, the SBC is expected to fetch additional 4000 crore rupees per annum in tax revenues to the government.
The Union Government under the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) is planning to spend around 134000 crore rupees by 2019 to construct 11 crore 11 lakh toilets in the country.
Union Cabinet approved UDAY for financial turnaround and revival of DISCOMS
The Union Cabinet on 5 November 2015 gave its nod to Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojna (UDAY), a new scheme proposed by the Ministry of Power.
The scheme aims at alleviating the financial crunch faced by Power Distribution companies (DISCOMs) that has impaired their ability to buy electricity. The scheme targets the revival of DISCOMs. It will also ensure a sustainable permanent solution to the problem.
The debt on DISCOMs
• As on March 2015, the country’s DISCOMs have accumulated losses of approximately 3.8 lakh crore rupees and outstanding debt of approximately 4.3 lakh crore rupees.
• Outstanding debt of DISCOMs increased from about 2.4 lakh crore rupees in 2011-12 to about 4.3 lakh crore rupees in 2014-15, with interest rates of upto 14-15 percent.
• Due to the financial hassles, DISCOMs are not able to supply adequate power at affordable rates, which turned out to be one of the hurdles in the overall economic growth and development.
How UDAY will revive the DISCOMS?
UDAY will empower DISCOMs with the opportunity to break even in the next 2-3 years through four initiatives:
• Improving operational efficiencies of DISCOMs.
• Reduction of cost of power.
• Reduction in interest cost of DISCOMs.
• Enforcing financial discipline on DISCOMs through alignment with state finances.
Key features of UDAY
• States will take over 75 percent of DISCOM debt as on 30 September 2015 over two years.
• Union Government will not include the debt taken over by the states n the calculation of fiscal deficit of respective states in the financial years 2015-16 and 2016-17.
• States will issue non-SLR including SDL bonds in the market or directly to the respective financial institutions holding the DISCOM debt to the appropriate extent.
• States will take over the future losses of DISCOMs in a graded manner.
• States accepting UDAY and performing as per operational milestones will be given additional/priority funding through schemes of Ministry of Power and Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
• States not meeting operational milestones will be liable to forfeit their claim on IPDS and DDUGJY grants.
CCEA hiked Minimum Support Prices for Rabi Crops of 2015-16 season
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on 5 November 2015 hiked the Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) for Rabi Crops of 2015-16 season to be marketed in 2016-17.
The decision was based on recommendations of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) for the price policy for rabi crops for the marketing season 2016-17.
The Cabinet also decided to give a bonus of 75 rupees per quintal for rabi pulses over and above the recommendations of the CACP.
MSP for 2014-15 season (Rupees per quintal)
MSP for 2015-16 season (Rupees per quintal)
Increase in MSP (Rupees)
The prices would be effective from the Rabi marketing season 2016-17. The Food Corporation of India (FCI) will be the Central Nodal Agency for procurement of pulses and oilseeds.
To supplement the efforts of FCI, the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited (NAFED), National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation (NCCF), Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) and Small Farmers Agri–Business Consortium (SFAC) may also undertake procurement of oilseeds and pulses as per their capacity.
About Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) The Commission came into existence in January 1965 with the mandate to recommend MSPs to incentivize the cultivators to adopt modern technology and raise productivity in line with the emerging demand patterns in the country.
CACP recommends MSPs of 23 commodities including 7 cereals (paddy, wheat, maize, sorghum, pearl millet, barley and ragi), 5 pulses (gram, tur, moong, urad, lentil), 7 oilseeds (groundnut, rapeseed-mustard, soyabean, seasmum, sunflower, safflower, nigerseed) and 4 commercial crops (copra, sugarcane, cotton and raw jute).
It comprises a Chairman, Member Secretary, one Member (Official) and two Members (Non-Official).
PM Narendra Modi launched three gold related schemes
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 5 November 2015 launched three gold related schemes. The schemes are – Gold Monetization Scheme, Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme and Indian Gold Coins.
The three schemes were announced by the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his 2015-16 budget speech in February 2015.
The primary purpose of the schemes is to reduce dependence on imported gold, recycle the unutilized gold in the country and most importantly, streamline the gold business in the country. At present, India is the largest consumer of gold in the world.
Gold Monetization Scheme (GMS)
Its objective is to mobilize unutilized gold from individuals, households and institutions and make them available to gold-base industries including jewellers.
Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme
The purpose of the scheme is to reduce the demand for physical gold and to shift part of the estimated 300 tons of physical bars and coins purchased every year for investment into Demat (Dematerialised) gold bonds.
Indian Gold Coins
• Its purpose is to revive investment and reduce dependence on imports of gold coins. At present, India has been importing about 60 tonnes of gold coins annually that are sold at a premium of 8-10 per cent.
• Under the scheme, gold coins bearing the Ashok Chakra and Mahatma Gandhi will be minted by the Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India.
• Initially, the coins will be available in denominations of 5 gm and 10 gm.
• They will be sold through banks, post offices and state-run MMTC Ltd. (Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation of India) which will sell them through the World Gold Council (WGC).
RBI notified Operational Guidelines of Sovereign Gold Bonds 2015-16
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on 4 November 2015 notified the Operational Guidelines of the Sovereign Gold Bonds 2015-16. These bonds will be issued by the RBI from 5 November – 20 November 2015.
Main Operational Guidelines
• Joint holding and nomination: Multiple joint holders and nominees (of first holder) are permitted. Necessary details may be obtained from the applicants as per practice.
• Interest on application money: Applicants will be paid interest at prevailing savings bank rate from the date of realization of payment to the settlement date that is the period for which they are out of funds.
• Lien marking: As the bonds are government securities, lien marking will be as per the extant legal provisions of Government Securities Act, 2006 and rules framed there under.
• Agency arrangement: Scheduled commercial banks may engage NBFCs, NSC agents and others to collect application forms on their behalf. Banks may enter into arrangements or tie-ups with such entities.
• Processing through RBI’s e-kuber system: Sovereign Gold Bonds will be available for subscription at the branches of scheduled commercial banks and designated post offices through RBI’s e-kuber system.
• Servicing and follow up: Receiving offices like branches of the scheduled commercial banks and designated post offices will own the customer and provide necessary services with regards to this bond. Receiving offices will be required to preserve applications till the bonds are matured and are repaid.
Earlier on 30 October 2015, RBI decided to issue Sovereign Gold Bonds, 2015 with effect from 5 November 2015 to 20 November 2015.
Dr T K Viswanathan Committee on Bankruptacy Law Reforms submitted its report
The Bankruptcy Law Reforms Committee (BLRC) headed by Dr T K Viswanathan on 4 November 2015 submitted its report to the Union Ministry of Finance.
The Report of the BLRC is in two parts-
• Rationale and Design/Recommendations
• A comprehensive draft Insolvency and Bankruptcy Bill covering all entities
Key recommendations of the report
• Insolvency Regulator: The Bill proposes to establish an Insolvency Regulator to exercise regulatory oversight over insolvency professionals, insolvency professional agencies and informational utilities.
• Insolvency Adjudicating Authority: The Adjudicating Authority will have the jurisdiction to hear and dispose of cases by or against the debtor.
• The Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) and the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) shall be adjudicating authorities over individuals and unlimited liability partnership firms and companies and limited liability entities respectively.
• NCLAT shall be the appellate authority to hear appeals arising out of the orders passed by the Regulator in respect of insolvency professionals or information utilities.
• Insolvency Professionals: The draft Bill proposes to regulate insolvency professionals and insolvency professional agencies. Under Regulator’s oversight, these agencies will develop professional standards, codes of ethics and exercise a disciplinary role over errant members leading to the development of a competitive industry for insolvency professionals.
• Insolvency Information Utilities: The draft Bill proposes for information utilities which would collect, collate, authenticate and disseminate financial information from listed companies and financial and operational creditors of companies.
Significance Draft Insolvency and Bankruptcy bill
• The draft Bill has consolidated the existing laws relating to insolvency of companies, limited liability entities, unlimited liability partnerships and individuals which are presently scattered in a number of legislations, into a single legislation.
• The proposed Bill will provide greater clarity in the law and facilitate the application of consistent and coherent provisions to different stakeholders affected by business failure or inability to pay debt.
• The bill further seeks to improve the handling of conflicts between creditors and debtors, avoid destruction of value, distinguish malfeasance vis-a-vis business failure and clearly allocate losses in macroeconomic downturns.
India ranked 130 in ease of doing business: World Bank
World Bank on 27 October 2015 announced that India ranked 130 out of the 189 countries surveyed in terms of ease of doing business for domestic firms. It was revealed in the report entitled Doing Business 2016: Measuring Regulatory Quality and Efficiency.
As per the report, India could improve its ranking by 12 places from the 142nd position of the 2015 report by undertaking significant improvements in the regulatory framework for starting new businesses.
The findings of the report were based on collection of data in Mumbai and Delhi between June 2014 and May 2015.
India’s performance in 4 key areas
Starting a business: India was placed at the 155th position overall in this segment. However, it is still one of the areas of greatest improvement for India, as the number of days to start a business was cut down to 29 days in 2015 from much longer 127 days in 2014.
The progress is in this segment was attributed to business friendly initiatives like speeding up the process for obtaining a tax registration number, introducing online system for value added tax registration, replacing the physical stamp with an online version, etc.
Further, more recent initiatives like amending the Companies Act, 2013 to eliminate the minimum capital requirement and requirement to obtain a certificate to commence business operations also helped for this cause.
Dealing with construction permits: India showed very poor performance in this segment as it was placed at the 183rd position overall. However, the report pointed out that recent initiatives like introducing single window procedures to obtain construction permits in local bodies like Mumbai are expected to improve the performance.
Getting electricity: India ranked overall 70 among the surveyed countries as now companies can get connected to the grid and get on with their business in 14 days sooner than before in Delhi and Mumbai.
Registering property: India ranked 138. To improve performance in this segment, the report suggested for undertaking digitization of land records across the country, taking Karnataka as an example, to make records more easily accessible and more open for collaboration with external stakeholders.
Other findings of the report
• India was placed at the top 7th position in the Shareholder Protection Index out of the select group of 30 countries between 1990 and 2013.
• India is one of the top five countries in the world that showed higher level of worker as well as shareholder protection between 1970 and 2005.
• India is a fine example to demonstrate the linkage between faster processing of debt recovery cases and reduction in the cost of credit. Reduction in nonperforming loans (NPA) by 28 percent and consequently, lowering interest rates on larger loans was achieved by the establishment of debt recovery panels in India.
India is World’s largest remittance recipient: World Bank
World Bank on 22 October 2015 announced that India is the World’s largest remittance recipient. It was revealed in the Migration and Development Brief that conveyed recent trends in remittance flows and migration across the world.
As per the report, remittances to India are projected to increase by 2.5 percent in 2015, well above the 0.6 percent increase in 2014.
Stronger remittance growth in India reflects improving economic prospects in the United States and continued fiscally-supported economic resilience in the GCC countries that contribute 35 percent of remittances each.
However, on the flip side, Japan-India is one of the three high remittance cost corridors that have well above 10 percent. The situation is due to low volumes, lack of competition in the remittance markets in some sending countries, and policy rigidities that limit competition in some market segments.
As a result, it is estimated that around 70 percent of total domestic remittances are transmitted through informal channels.
Still, it is hoped that Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) recent initiative-granting in-principle approval to 11 entities to start payment banks-is expected to transform the remittance market especially in the underserved rural areas.
Department of Heavy Industries drafted National Policy on Capital Goods
The Department of Heavy Industries (DHI) on 26 October 2015 came out with draft national policy on capital goods. This is the first time that such a policy is being framed after active consultation with industry associations.
The Policy on Capital Goods is focused on the most critical sector for achieving the vision of Make in India and also is envisages unlocking the potential for this promising sector and establish India as a global manufacturing hub.
• To increase the share of capital goods contribution from present 12% to 20% of total manufacturing activity by 2025
• To become one of the top capital goods producing nations of the world by raising the total production to over twice the current level
• To raise exports to a significant level of at least 40% of total production and thus gain 2.5% share in global exports of capital goods
• To improve technology depth in Indian capital goods from the current basic and intermediate levels to advanced levels
• Increase total production to achieve total production in excess of 5 lakh crore rupees by 2025 from the current 2.2 lakh crore rupees
• To increase domestic employment from the current 15 lakhs to at least 50 lakhs by 2025 thus providing additional employment to over 35 lakhs people
• To increase the share of domestic production in India's capital goods demand from 56% to 80% by 2025 and in the process improve domestic capacity utilization to 80-90%
• To improve skill availability by training 50 lakhs people by 2025
• To improve 'technology depth' in capital goods sub-sectors by increasing research intensity in India from 0.9% to at least 2.8% of GDP
Proposed nine-point action plan
The policy has proposed a comprehensive set of policy actions which would enable the achievement of the objectives for the sector and had recommended a set of nine new initiatives and policy actions and they are:
• Devising a long term, stable and rationalized tax and duty structure to ensure cost competitiveness of the sector
• Drafting a comprehensive public procurement policy with amended qualifying criteria and introducing special provisions in contracts for domestic value addition
• Promoting development of new technology through indigenous sources
• Providing Technology Upgrade Fund Support across all capital goods sub-sectors
• Creating a level playing field vis-à-vis imports by restricting imports of second hand machinery and mitigating duty disadvantages
• Supporting availability of short and long term of financing at competitive rates to capital goods manufacturers
• Enabling skill development by setting up sub-sector specific Skill Councils.
• Enabling higher participation of India in standard creation and developing support system to improve compliance.
• Developing manufacturing clusters with shared facilities especially for SMEs