FINANCE COMMISSION: Govt extends 15th Finance Commission’s term

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The government on July 17 extended the 15th Finance Commission’s term by a month till November 30 and mandated the panel to suggest ways for allocation of non-lapsable funds for defense and internal security.

On November 27, 2017, the Centre had notified the commission, headed by N.K. Singh, to suggest, among other things, a formula for devolution of central funds to states for five years starting from April 1, 2020.

The commission, which has been mandated to use 2011 census data, rather than the one of 1971 for resource allocation, was to submit its report by October 30.

The Union Cabinet approved the changes to the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the 15th Finance Commission to address “serious concerns” regarding the allocation of adequate, secure and non-lapsable funds for defense and internal security of India.

“The amendment provides that 15th Finance Commission shall also examine whether a separate mechanism for funding of defense and internal security ought to be set up and if so how such a mechanism could be operationalized,” an official statement said.

Also, the Cabinet approved the extension of the term of the commission up to November 30. “It will enable the commission to examine various comparable estimates for financial projections in view of reforms and the new realities to finalize its recommendations for the period 2020-25,” the statement added.

 

 

 

What is the Finance Commission?

The Finance Commission is constituted by the President under Article 280 of the Constitution, mainly to give its recommendations on the distribution of tax revenues between the Union and the states and among the states themselves.

What are its functions?

Two distinctive features of the commission’s work involve redressing the vertical imbalances between the taxation powers and expenditure responsibilities of the Centre and the states respectively and equalization of all public services across the states.

It makes recommendations on…

* The distribution between the Union and the states of the net proceeds of taxes that are to be, or maybe, divided between them and the allocation between the states of the respective shares of such proceeds.

* The principles that should govern the grants-in-aid of the revenues of the states out of the Consolidated Fund of India.

* The measures needed to augment the consolidated fund of the state to supplement the resources of the panchayats in the state on the basis of the recommendations made by the Finance Commission of the state.

* The measures needed to augment the consolidated fund of the state to supplement the resources of the municipalities on the basis of the recommendations made by the Finance Commission of the state.

What are the qualifications required for its members?

As per the provisions contained in the Finance Commission (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1951, and The Finance Commission (Salaries & Allowances) Rules, 1951, the chairman of the commission is selected from among persons who have had experience in public affairs, and the four other members are selected from among persons who...

(a) are, or have been, or are qualified to be appointed as judges of the High Court or

(b) have special knowledge of the finances and accounts of government or

(c) have had wide experience in financial matters and in administration or

(d) have special knowledge of economics

When was the first commission constituted?

The First Finance Commission was constituted by a presidential order under the chairmanship of K.C. Neogy on April 6, 1952.

Do other countries have such commissions?

Most federal systems resolve the vertical and horizontal imbalances through mechanisms similar to the Finance Commission. For example, Australia and Canada.

 

Internet Saathi expanded to Punjab, Odisha

Google India and Tata Trusts said on July 16 that their Internet Saathi initiative, which aims to facilitate digital literacy among women in rural India, will be expanded to villages in Punjab and Odisha.

The program has so far trained 70,000 Internet Saathi's, who have in turn impacted 2.6 crores million women in the country.

 

How does the program work?

In 2015, only one out of every 10 Internet users in rural India was a woman. Tata Trusts and Google came together to address this huge gender gap and introduced a digital literacy program, based on ‘train the trainer’ model.

Women from villages are trained on using the Internet and are made equipped with data-enabled devices. These women are known as Internet Saathi and work as trainers, to help other women in their village to get started on their Internet journey and benefit from it.

The program started as a pilot in Rajasthan and has been expanded to Gujarat, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, Tripura, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana.

“The program now reaches 2.6 lakh villages across 18 states and we are adding two more - Punjab and Odisha. Internet Saathi has contributed towards bridging the digital gender divide in rural India. Female to male ratio has increased to 4 in 10,” Google India said.

In Punjab, the program will cover around 5,000 villages such as Paras Rampur, Kotli Than Singh, Burj, Vehra and from Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala districts. In Odisha, the programme has been kicked off from Sindhia in Baleshwar, Parakana in Puri, Bhuinpur in Kendrapara, and will cover 16,000 villages.

 

Atal Bimit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana

The ESI Corporation has launched a scheme named Atal Bimit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana (ABVKY) to give relief to a person who is rendered unemployed while they search for new engagement.

The scheme provides relief to the extent of 25 percent of the average per day earning during the previous four contribution periods, to be paid up to a maximum of 90 days of unemployment once, in a lifetime, Minister of State Santosh Kumar Gangwar said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.

The scheme has been made effective from July 1, 2018, and is implemented on a pilot basis for a period of two years.

The eligibility conditions and other features of the scheme are…

* The insured person should have been rendered unemployed during the period the relief is claimed.

* The insured person should have been in insurable employment for a minimum period of two years.

* The insured person should have contributed not less than 78 days during each of the preceding four contribution periods.

* The contingency of unemployment should not have been as a result of any punishment for misconduct or superannuation or voluntary retirement.

* Aadhaar and bank account of the insured person should be linked with insured person database.

* In case the person is working for more than one employer and is covered under the ESI scheme, he will be considered unemployed only in case he is rendered unemployed with all employers.

* As specified in Section 65 of the ESI Act, an insured person shall not be entitled to any other cash compensation and the relief under ABV KY simultaneously for the same period. However, periodical payments of Permanent Disability Benefit (PDB) under the ESI Act and Regulations shall continue.

* As specified under Section 61 of the ESI Act, an insured person who is in receipt of relief under ABV KY shall not be entitled to receive any similar benefit admissible under the provisions of any other enactment.

* The insured person will be eligible for medical benefits as provided under the Act for the period he is availing this relief.

* The relief under ABOVE shall be paid through bank account only.