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AUGUST 8, 2017

GST ties Bengal’s traditional weavers in knots

  • With the confusion on whether GST would be levied on taant saris (traditional cotton saris), business for the weavers has almost stopped over the past month. However, five per cent GST has been imposed on cotton and yarn, raw materials for taant saris.
  • According to the Handloom Census of India (2009-10) there are 4.07 lakh households in Bengal involved in the sector.
  • “The producers (sari merchants) — who provide the weavers with cotton yarn and other raw materials for the sari and then sell the finished product — have nearly stopped giving us any work due to the confusion over GST,”
  • According to the producers they are yet to get any idea on whether there is any GST imposed on taant saris. Moreover, they do not have the required infrastructure for the billing process under GST norms.

Govt mulls restarting tonga race

  • Despite a ban imposed by the Rajasthan High Court on the traditional tonga race organised annually in Nagaur district, the BJP government in the State has initiated a move to revive the controversial custom on the pretext of “public sentiments” attached to it.

Last race in 2014

  • The last race at Mundiad in Nagaur took place in 2014, as the High Court’s direction came shortly after the Supreme Court’s ban on Jallikattu (bull racing) in Tamil Nadu.
  • The court took into account a study submitted by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and directed the State authorities to ensure the well-being of animals and adhere to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
  • The AWBI’s report had pointed out that the cruelty to horses was inherent when they were forced to run for 36 kilometres on hard concrete or tarred roads on the Mundiad-Kharnal-Nagaur route on the occasion of fairs dedicated to Lord Ganesha and Lord Tejaji. The tongas ran amid heavy traffic with thousands of spectators shouting by the roadside.

Matter in SC

  • The State government is finding it difficult to resolve the matter mainly because it is pending in the Supreme Court. The apex court is examining the question of whether the tonga races can be banned and whether horses can be equated with bulls. The High Court’s judgment has been challenged on the grounds that it had erroneously followed the ban on Jallikattu.

Poor care

  • At a meeting convened in Nagaur over the weekend, the elected representatives said the matter would be represented appropriately with facts and documents in the Supreme Court, along with the plea for early hearing, and the AWBI would be requested to reconsider its stand.
  • The AWBI had contended in the High Court that the horses used for the race in Nagaur were not only finding it frightening and distressing, but were also suffering from faulty conformation and pathological abnormalities of the foot as a result of poor care and farriery practices.

States cold to stricter anti-racial law

  • The official explained that since the proposed amendment fell under the concurrent list of the Constitution, the opinion of majority of the States was required to push through the legislation.

Panel recommendations

  • Another official said that the amendments were based on the recommendations of the Bezbaruah Committee, constituted by the Centre in February 2014 in the wake of a series of racial attacks on persons belonging to the northeast.
  • The draft 153 C IPC provision proposed by the Ministry says, “whoever promotes or attempts to promote, on the ground of race, racial features, behaviour, culture, customs or way of living, any act which is prejudicial to human dignity or dignity of members belonging to particular race and uses criminal force or violence in furtherance of such act, or, participates in such act intending to use criminal force or violence or knowing that participants in such act is likely to use criminal force or violence against the member of a race or cause or likely to cause fear or feeling of insecurity amongst the members of such race, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years and fine.”

Food security: SC raps Centre, States

  • “We can only feel sorry for the people of Haryana,” the Supreme Court noted in a judgment on how the State Food Commission, set up under the National Food Security Act in Haryana, sits jobless and without proper infrastructure owing to the State government’s lacklustre response to the four-year-old welfare legislation.
  • The Supreme Court said the Centre cannot look the other way, passing the buck on to the States for not implementing the law. Referring to Article 256 of the Constitution, the judgment said the “Government of India cannot plead helplessness in requiring State Governments to implement parliamentary laws”.

No recourse for citizens

  • He wrote that States cannot ignore the “plight of the common man”. It was time to start a “meaningful dialogue” between the Centre and the State governments to save people, especially living in the drought-affected areas from abject poverty.
  • At one point, the judgment asks itself an open-ended question: “What remedy does a citizen of India have if the Government of India does not issue a direction and the State Government or the Union Territory does not implement a law passed by Parliament?”
  • In a series of directions, the court ordered the Secretary in the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution to meet with State Chief Secretaries by August 31 and brainstorm ways and means to implement the food security law.

Frame rules

  • The court directed the government to frame rules and designate independent officials for a grievance redressal mechanism under the Act within a year. It directed the States to set up State Food Commissions and vigilance committees in every state by the end of the year and set up a social audit machinery.
  • The National Food Security Bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament and received the assent of the President on September 10, 2013. Almost four years have gone by but the authorities and bodies mandated to be set up under the National Food Security Act, 2013 have not yet been made functional in some States.
  • The court expresses it its disappointment when the Haryana government blatantly said there is “hardly any work for the State Food Commission”.

Number of income tax returns filed goes up 24.7%

  • The number of income tax returns filed this financial year up to August 5 increased by almost 25% and the advance tax collections during that period has risen 41.8% over the year-earlier period, according to the Centre.
  • “As a result of demonetisation and ‘Operation Clean Money,’ there is a substantial increase in the number of Income Tax Returns (ITRs) filed,” the Centre said in a statement.

Advance tax

  • “Advance tax collections of personal income tax (i.e. other than corporate tax) as on August 5, 2017 showed a growth of about 41.79% over the corresponding period in FY 2016-2017,” the statement said. “Personal income tax under self assessment tax (SAT) grew at 34.25% over the corresponding period in FY 2016-2017.”

Profit petroleum may be exempt from levy of GST

  • The oil and gas exploration and production business is likely to get a boost following a proposal to exempt the profit petroleum paid to the Centre from the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  • The production sharing contracts (PSCs) signed for exploration and development of oil fields require operators to pay a pre-determined share of the surplus petroleum output to the Centre as a form of royalty. Currently, such profit petroleum is subject to GST as it has been construed as a payment made by firms for a service.
  • Though profit petroleum is legally taxable, the levy of GST doesn’t appear to be in sync with the PSCs signed under the New Exploration Licensing Policy or NELP, said officials aware of the development, adding that the proposal to rectify this is likely to be taken up by the GST Council at its next meeting in September.