List of Contents
- “IIT Council” sets up panels for more autonomy
- NITI Aayog’s “Governing Council” reconstituted.
- Issues in 15th Finance Commission Recommendation
- Misuse of Specialised agencies
- Recommendation of 15th Finance Commission and challenges faced by Local Bodies
- Law Commission of India as a statutory body
- NIXI Offers free Domain in Local Indian Languages
- Bureau of Indian Standards celebrates the 74th foundation day
- Future of the federal framework
- 15th Finance commission report
- Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India
- Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)
- About Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC)
Constitutional Bodies are those bodies which are constituted based on the provisions given in the constitution of India and derive their power from it. Whereas Non-constitutional bodies can be Statutory, regulatory, executive or Quasi-judicial bodies.
Statutory Bodies are Non-constitutional bodies created by an Act of Parliament and do not find their mention in the constitution.
Following are the Bodies appeared in news in 2020-21:
Constitutional and Non-constitutional bodies news
“IIT Council” sets up panels for more autonomy
What is the News?
The Union Education Minister has chaired the 54th meeting of the IIT Council. The council discussed the implementation of the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020.
About IIT Council:
- Headed by: The IIT Council is headed by the Union Education Minister. It also includes the directors of all IITs and the chairman of each IIT’s Board of Governors.
- Purpose: IIT Council advises on admission standards, duration of courses, degrees, and other academic distinctions. It also lays down policy regarding cadre, methods of recruitment, and conditions of service of employees.
Key Recommendations by IIT Council:
It has set up 4 committees to look into the issue of greater autonomy for the IITs, as recommended by NEP, 2020. Moreover, these committees will look into the issues like reform of the academic Senate, grooming faculty to head the IITs, and innovative funding mechanisms.
- Reducing staff strength: It has recommended a reduction in staff strength of IITs, especially non-teaching manpower. It is due to the increasing digitization and outsourcing.
- Currently, IITs have one faculty member for every 10 students. Whereas, for every 10 faculty, there are 11 staff members.
- IIT R&D Fair: The council has suggested arranging an Online IIT Research and Development (R&D) fair. It will showcase the quality research work of IITs to the industry.
- Mobility of Faculty: The IITs should develop an Institute Development Plan to improve the mobility of faculty between institution and industry.
- One IIT – One Thrust Area approach: IITs were urged to adopt ‘One IIT – One Thrust Area’ approach based on local needs.
Source: The Hindu
NITI Aayog’s “Governing Council” reconstituted.
What is the News?
The Centre has reconstituted the governing council of the NITI Aayog to include the Union Territory of Ladakh for the first time.
About Niti Aayog:
- National Institution for Transforming India also called NITI Aayog was formed through cabinet resolution in 2015. It had replaced the erstwhile Planning Commission.
- NITI Aayog is the premier policy ‘Think Tank’ of the Government of India. It provides both directional and policy inputs.
NITI Aayog’s Governing Council:
- It is the premier body tasked with a shared vision of national development priorities, sectors and strategies with the active involvement of States.
- The governing council presents a platform to discuss inter-sectoral, inter-departmental and federal issues.
- Chairperson: Prime Minister.
- Full-Time Members: The full-time members to the council are Chief ministers of all states and of the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi and Puducherry
- Special Invitees: The Lieutenant Governors of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Ladakh, and the administrators of Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu and Lakshadweep are the special invitees of the governing council.
Issues in 15th Finance Commission Recommendation
Synopsis: The recent 15th FC report recommendations criticised on the basis of two grounds. One, the recommendations will impact co-operative federalism. Two, the recommendations are not aligned with the changing federal structure in India.
- Recently, the 15th Finance commission (FC) report tabled in the parliament. It’s following key recommendations accepted by the government.
- The Commission has recommended a total devolution of Rs 8,55,176 crore to the states, which is 41% of the divisible pool of taxes.
- It also recommended for revenue deficit grants of Rs 1.18 lakh crore to the states.
- Furthermore, It recommended a non-lapsable defence fund. The grants component of the states has been reduced by 1 per cent (from 42% to 41%). It will be used to set up special funds for defence.
- The FC’s recommendation for the vertical devolution at 41% is pragmatic. However, some of its recommendations will have an implication on the co-operative federalism.
What are the issues in the 15th FC recommendations?
- First, the 1% cut in the devolution is for special funding on defence. It means states are paying Rs 7,000 crore for defence and internal security. But, Defence and National Security are the centre’s responsibility as per the 7th Schedule of the Constitution. This use of funds from states to finance the Centre’s expenditure is against the spirit of cooperative federalism.
- Second, the issues in the horizontal distribution of funds. Successive finance commissions have used the criteria of need, equity for devolving 92.5 per cent of funds to a state. Whereas 15th FC has reduced this to 75%. And the remaining 25% will be based on efficiency and performance. This is the lowest weightage for equity, making the 15th FC transfers the least progressive.
- Third, 15th FC recommendations do not depict the changed fiscal conditions. For example, after GST, the tax collection method has changed from a production-based tax system to a consumption-based tax system.
- This structural change has a significant impact on the interstate distribution of tax. It is not taken into account by the 15th FC report.
- Fourth, the approach for distributing revenue deficit grants is not changed. The 15th FC could have recommended a minimum-guaranteed revenue of 14 per cent to every state.
- This unchanged policy approach has resulted in an increase of statutory and non-statutory grants to almost 55 per cent of the total transfers. Whereas the aggregate transfers have dropped to 45 per cent. This makes the devolution process more discretionary.
Misuse of Specialised agencies
Source: The Hindu
Gs2: Statutory, Regulatory and various Quasi-judicial Bodies.
Synopsis: Governments’ actions against journalists have raised suspicion. Specialised agencies are being used to curb dissent.
- Recently, the Enforcement Directorate raided the office of independent digital news platform News Click.
- The ED is investigating the involvement of the digital news platform in the alleged money-laundering of ₹30 crores.
- It is unclear that News Click in any way is related to the alleged money laundering.
- However, critics alleged that this operation is in response to the in-depth coverage of ongoing farmer protests and country-wide protests against the CAA, earlier.
- Organizations representing the media have raised their concerns over this action.
Why the ED’s raid has raised suspicion?
The following arguments will explain the reason for rising suspicion on government actions.
- In many instances, the government has used central agencies such as the CBI, ED, IT, and even the NIA to attack its critics. For example, Journalists who are reporting on farmer protests are facing repressive action.
- It is also a fault on specialized agencies to be politically involved. It is against the principles of non-partisanship.
- Laws that are used against critics on a regular basis, should be used in extreme offenses that too as a last resort. For example,
- Law of Sedition, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act based on the allegation of anti-national activity, Promotion of social enmity or outraging religious sentiments laws.
- Some relief has been provided from the Supreme Court in the past. However, it is also cannot happen in every case.
A responsible and responsive government should be open to the voices of critics. Indeed, dissent is an essential part of Democracy.
Recommendation of 15th Finance Commission and challenges faced by Local Bodies
Recently, 15th Finance Commission report has provided many recommendations for improving the functioning of Local Bodies. The challenges faced by local bodies in India are manyfolds and there is no one-stop solution to them.
Approach of previous Finance Commissions with respect to Local Bodies:
So far four Finance Commissions (11th FC to 14th FC) have given their recommendations for local bodies. Overall they provided for,
First, the increase in quantum of Funds: In recent years, the grants recommended by successive Finance Commissions in absolute terms have increased. For example, the combined grants for rural and urban local bodies recommended by the 14th FC were three times the amount recommended by the 13th FC.
Second, different Commissions followed distinct criteria while recommending resources for local governments. The only common criteria considered by all of them were population and geographical area.
Recommendations of Fifteenth Finance Commission:
First, the 15th FC suggested strict adherence to its recommendation for the constitution of State Finance Commissions(SFCs).
- It recommends “All States must constitute SFCs and also act upon their recommendations”.
- States also need to place the action taken report before the State legislature on or before March 2024.
- No grants should be released to the States that have not constituted SFC.
- MoPR(Ministry of Panchayati Raj) will certify the compliance of the State in this respect before the release of their share of grants.
Second, with respect to the Grants to Local Governments, the commission earmarked 60 per cent of funds for national priorities. These priorities include drinking water supply, rainwater harvesting and sanitation etc. The other recommendations include,
- The report favours a fixed amount rather than a proportion of the divisible pool of taxes. This is to ensure greater predictability of the quantum and timing of fund flow
- The report provides entry-level condition to local bodies to avail grants. These conditions will include online availability of both provisional accounts of the previous year and audited accounts of the year before that.
Third, the report calls for the Integration of the Financial Management Systems for transparency in the audit and functioning of local bodies.
Fourth, the report recognises Urbanisation as the Engine of Growth. It mentions few important recommendations like,
- Establishment of Million-Plus Cities Challenge Fund for cities having million-plus population. The devolution of the fund will be linked to the performance of these cities in improving their air quality and meeting the service level benchmarks for urban drinking water supply, sanitation, and solid waste management, etc.
- It also mentions that informal burning, as well as spontaneous combustion at landfills in Urban areas, should be monitored carefully.
- The report calls for basic grants for urban local bodies in the non-Million-Plus cities category.
- The report also asks for allocating grants on the basis of population for the Cantonment Boards falling within the State’s territory.
Fifth, the 15th FC’s other recommendations include:
- Involving Panchayati Raj Institutions as supervising agencies in primary health care institutions. The Commission believes, it would strengthen the overall primary health care system.
- The commission provided for a performance-based challenge fund of Rs. 8,000 crore to States for incubation of new cities.
- The commission recommends an amendment to the Constitution to revise the professions tax.
Various challenges faced by the local bodies:
Challenges with respect to functions:
First, there is an Excessive control of State government in the functions of PRIs. For example, state government approval is needed in project finalization, Local bodies Budget, Loan requirement, etc. States, instead of guiding PRIs, are restricting the functions of local bodies.
Second, local bodies lack adequate data on essential services and cannot involve in Urban and Rural planning. Though data on Census is available, it consists of data of previous years and not the current data. For example, they do not have data on local traffic, urban sewage, migration of people, etc.
Challenges with respect to funding:
First, Article 243-I of the Constitution requires SFCs(State Finance Commission) to be appointed at the ‘expiration of every fifth year’. Several States have still not moved beyond the second or third SFC. Even if formed they face challenges like inadequate resources, poor administrative support and the delayed placement of action taken reports(ATR), etc.
Second, the tax base of Urban and Rural local bodies is very narrow. For example, Urban Local bodies cannot levy a profession tax of more than 2500. They also have a problem in levying entertainment taxes and property taxes.
Third, the Majority of the local bodies do not have access to the Capital market to raise required funds except few Urban local Bodies such as Pune, Chennai, etc
Challenges with respect to the Functionaries:
Role of women elected members. There are many instances where, in the name of elected women representative their husband operates and takes the decision on her behalf. This undermines the agenda to empower women by providing 33% reservation to them.
Suggestions with respect to functions:
First, the Second ARC has recommended a special problem-solving body to resolve the issue of disqualification of elected members. It also suggested an unbiased approval of Local body budgets, projects, etc. State governments need to implement this.
Second, State Governments should provide local bodies with the power to recruit personnel to fulfil their functions properly. Apart from that the State governments also have to allow the local bodies to collect the local data for future use and preliminary planning.
Suggestions with respect to funding:
First, States should implement 15th FC recommendation to appoint SFCs or else grants released to the respective State can be halted.
Second, the power to levy taxes on the Union and State Government properties can be provided to local governments. Apart from that, they should be empowered to levy taxes on wealthy people in their locality, impose water cess, irrigation cess etc. For example, a case study in Karnataka has proved that the levy of water cess is a feasible alternative for local bodies.
Third, separate grants may be allocated to local bodies for creating public health infrastructure and primary health care clinics.
Suggestions with respect to the functionaries:
To improve the performance of functionaries, the timely election is the need of the hour. Apart from that, the State can encourage Public-Private Partnerships. It will improve the skills of elected local representatives with market expertise and modern methods.
The state government can form strict guidelines for the active involvement of elected women representatives in all spheres of the functioning of local bodies.
Apart from implementing the recommendations of the 15th FC, the voluntary contribution of States is also the need of the hour. The States have to understand that empowerment of local bodies is needed to find solutions to the number of issues faced by them like enhancing tax base, providing adequate primary health and education services, etc.
Law Commission of India as a statutory body
Why in News?
The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Centre on a PIL. It is to declare the Law Commission of India as a “statutory body”. And also, to appoint a chairperson and members for the body within a month.
About Law Commission of India
- Status: It is a non-statutory body. The government of India constitutes it, from time to time.
- The commission is established for a fixed tenure. It works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice.
- It identifies obsolete laws. The laws which are no longer relevant, not in harmony with the existing climate and laws which require change.
- It suggests suitable measures for quick redressal of citizens’ grievances in the field of law.
- It enables poors, to take benefit out of the legal process.
- Likewise, it examines the laws for promoting gender equality.
- However, The recommendations of the commission are not binding on the government. They are recommendations only. The government or concerned department may accept or reject these recommendations.
Establishment of Law Commission
- The first Law Commission was established during the British Raj era in 1834. It was established by the Charter Act of 1833 and was chaired by Lord Macaulay.
- In 1955, the first Law Commission of independent India was established for a three-year term. Since then, twenty-one more Commissions have been established.
- In 2015, The 21st Law Commission of India was established. Its tenure was up to 31st August 2018. In 2020, the Union Cabinet approved the creation of the 22nd Law Commission.
Source: Indian Express
NIXI Offers free Domain in Local Indian Languages
News: The National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) has announced that it will offer a free IDN (Internationalized Domain Name) in any of their preferred 22 official Indian languages along with every IN domain booked by the registrar.
- NIXI: It is a not for profit Organization established under section 8 of the Companies Act 2013 in 2003.
- Purpose: It was set up for peering of ISPs among themselves for the purpose of routing the domestic traffic within the country, instead of taking it all the way to US/Abroad thereby resulting in better quality of service (reduced latency) and reduced bandwidth charges.
- To promote the Internet.
- To set up, when needed, in select location(s)/parts/regions of India Internet Exchanges/Peering Points.
- To enable effective and efficient routing, peering, transit and exchange of the Internet traffic within India.
- To continuously work for enhancing and improving the quality of Internet and Broadband services.
- Set up. Internet Domain Name Operations and related activities.
- Managed by: NIXI is managed and operated on a Neutral basis, in line with the best practices for such initiatives globally.
- India’s Country Code: “.IN” is India’s Country Code Top Level domain (ccTLD).The Govt. of India delegated the operations of INRegistry to NIXI in 2004.
Bureau of Indian Standards celebrates the 74th foundation day
News: Union Minister for Consumer Affairs has attended the 74th foundation day celebration of the Bureau of Indian Standards(BIS).
Initiative launched during the event:
- Toy Testing facilities: Government has recently brought “Toys” under mandatory BIS certification. Hence, the test facilities will act as an enabler for about 5000 industrial units including micro & small ones for implementing the standards.
Bureau of Indian Standards(BIS):
- BIS: It came into existence in 1986 under BIS Act,1986 and was established as the National Standard Body of India under the BIS Act 2016.
- The organisation was formerly the Indian Standards Institution (ISI) set up under the Department of Industries and Supplies and was registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
- Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution.
- Mandate: BIS has been providing traceability and tangibility benefits to the national economy in a number of ways: providing safe reliable quality goods; minimizing health hazards to consumers; promoting exports and control over proliferation of varieties through standardization, certification and testing.
- Governing Council: The Bureau is a Body Corporate consisting of 25 members representing both Central and State governments, Members of Parliament, industry, scientific and research institutions, consumer organizations and professional bodies with Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution as its President.
- Headquarters: New Delhi
- Collaboration with international standards bodies: BIS is a founder member of International Organisation for Standardization(ISO). It represents India in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the World Standards Service Network (WSSN).
Future of the federal framework
Context- The role of the Finance Commission as a neutral arbiter in the Centre-state relation in achieving the delicate balance.
What are the key highlights of the latest report?
The Fifteenth Finance Commission led by Chairman N. K. Singh submitted its report for the period 2021-2026 to President of India.
Title of the report – ‘Finance Commission in COVID Time’s and the scales are used to represent the balance between the States and the Union.
Significance of report-
- The report will determine how India’s fiscal architecture is reshaped.
- And how Centre-state relations are reset as the country attempts to recover from the COVID-19 shock
What are the key points in the report that can impact states revenue share?
- The 15th Finance Commission, in its interim report had said, ‘There is merit in ensuring funds for defence and internal security and this will receive appropriate consideration in our final report.’
- This had led to speculation that states will have to contribute to such a fund, in turn leading to a drop in their share of central government’s taxes.
- Southern Indian states complaining their efforts to control population would go against them. This is because the terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission included using the 2011 census to suggest devolution of taxes to states.
- The 15th FC has considered the 2011 population along with forest cover, tax effort, area of the state, and “demographic performance” to arrive at the states’ share in the divisible pool.
What are the States issues?
Recommendation of 14th Finance commission– The commission had recommended for an increase in the share of the States in total tax revenues from 32% to 42%. However, states’ share never touched 42 per cent of tax collections due to-
- Dominance of Centre– The Centre is trying to claw back the fiscal space ceded to the states and assert its dominance over the country’s fiscal architecture. Central government spending has risen on items that lie in the state and concurrent lists.
- Shrinking of divisible pool– Centre has reduced the pool of funds to be shared with the States by shifting from taxes to cesses and surcharges, revenue from which is not shared with the states.
- Finance Commission has to play an important role in achieving the delicate balance in the conflicting domain of finance by addressing the concerns of both the players.
- The Centre can reduce States’ fears by tabling the report without delay, and address any apprehensions it may give rise to.
15th Finance commission report
Context – The Fifteenth Finance Commission led by Chairman N K Singh, submitted its Report to the President of India.
What are the key highlights of the latest report?
The Fifteenth Finance Commission led by Chairman N. K. Singh submitted its report for the period 2021-2026 to President of India. As per the Terms of Reference (ToR), the Commission was mandated to give its recommendations for five years, i.e., 2021-2026.
- Title of the report – ‘Finance Commission in COVID Times’and the scales are used to represent the balance between the States and the Union.
- The report is divided into four volumes.
- The Report is devoted to the Union Government and contains key departments in greater depth, with the medium-term challenges and the roadmap ahead.
- After the report is tabled in the Parliament, it will be available in the public domain.
Which issues are addressed in the report?
- The Commission submitted its report on vertical and horizontal tax devolution, local government grants, disaster management grant, incentives for States in many areas such as power sector, adoption of DBT, solid waste management etc.
- The Commission also submitted its report on whether a separate mechanism for funding of defence and internal security ought to be set up and if so how such a mechanism could be operationalized.
What are the key points in the report that can impact states revenue share?
- The Commission has addressed all its unique terms of reference such as considering a new non-lapsable fund for financing national security and defence spending, and offering performance incentives for States that deliver on reforms.
- The Fifteenth Finance Commission has considered the 2011 population along with forest cover, tax effort, area of the state, and “demographic performance” to arrive at the states’ share in the divisible pool of taxes.
- Cutbacks in devolution – Centre has systematically cut the share of States in taxes raised by the Union government.
- Shrinking of divisible pool- Centre has reduced the pool of funds to be shared with the States by shifting from taxes to cesses and surcharges.
The Centre can reduce States’ fears further by tabling the report soon so that any anxieties can be debated and laid to rest, and States can also plan upcoming Budgets with less uncertainty.
Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India
Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)
- It is a constitutional body established under Article 148 of the Constitution of India.
- Purpose: CAG audits all receipts and expenditure of the Government of India and the state governments, including those of bodies and authorities substantially financed by the government.
- Appointment: CAG is appointed by the President of India following a recommendation by the Prime Minister.
About Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC)
BARC was established as an autonomous ‘not for profit’ body duly registered under the Companies Act, 2013.
BARC was constituted comprising representatives from all relevant industry associations being Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) and Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI).
BARC India owns and manages a transparent, accurate, and inclusive TV audience measurement system.
Whereas Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) has 60% stake holding, Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) and Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) both have 20%-20% stake holding.
How BARC came into existence?
In 2000s, there were two rating agencies Television Audience Measurement (TAM) and INTAM in India providing data for TRPs. There were major mismatch and disputes in the data provided by both agencies.
TAM bought over the INTAM in 2001, leading to cartelisation in the TRP system, killing any possibility of scrutiny of the figures provided by TAM.
As a result, despite having 35 out of the top 50 programmes in all TV homes, none of the Door darshan channels was present in the top 50 slots in the C&S (Cable & Satellite) homes category, as per the data of TAM.
In another such controversy, a news channel with just 4 per cent prime time news was declared as number 1(“sab se Tez”) by TAM instead of DD National with 92 per cent share in prime-time news.
Data was collected on the basis of 2,000 “BAR-O-meters” installed one each in a house, on the back cover of the TVs.
The controversy was raised in the parliament in 2008. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRAI) to frame policy guidelines for rating agencies.
TRAI recommended for self-regulation through an industry-led body, the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC). Thus, BARC came into existence.
In Jan. 2014, MIB notified Policy Guidelines for Television Rating Agencies and in 2015 BARC was accredited to television ratings in India. In 2016, TAM exited TV viewership measurement, not BARC is the sole TV rating service provider.