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Government of India

How Bapu united India: Today we have a similar opportunity to build the India of Gandhiji’s dreams

Today we mark the beginning of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of our beloved Bapu. He remains a shining beacon of hope for millions of people across the world who seek a life of equality, dignity, inclusion and empowerment. The impact he left on human society has few parallels.


Mahatma Gandhi connected India, in letter and spirit, in thought and action. As Sardar Patel rightly said, “India is a land of diversity. If there was one person who brought everyone together, made people rise above differences, to fight colonialism and enhanced India’s stature at the world stage, it was Mahatma Gandhi.” In the 21st century, the thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi remain as essential as they were in his time and offer solutions to several problems the world faces. In a world where terrorism, radicalisation, extremism and mindless hate are dividing nations as well as societies, his clarion calls of peace and ahimsa have the power to unite humanity.


At a time when inequalities are not uncommon, Bapu’s emphasis on equal and inclusive growth can herald an era of prosperity for the millions on the margins. In an era where climate change and environmental degradation have become central issues of discussion, the world can refer to the thoughts of Gandhiji. More than a century ago, in 1909 he differentiated between human wants and human greed. He urged both restraint and compassion while utilising natural resources and, he himself led by example in doing this. He cleaned his own toilets, ensuring clean surroundings. He also ensured minimal wastage of water and when he was in Ahmedabad, he took great care to ensure that unclean water did not merge with the Sabarmati.



Sometime back, a crisp, comprehensive and concise document caught my attention. In 1941, Bapu wrote the ‘Constructive Programme: Its meaning and place’, which he subsequently modified in 1945, when there was renewed fervour around the freedom movement. In that document, Bapu has talked about a wide range of topics ranging across rural development, strengthening agriculture, enhancing sanitation, promoting Khadi, empowerment of women, economic equality among other issues.

I would urge my fellow Indians to have a look at Gandhiji’s ‘Constructive Programme’ and make it a guiding light on how we can build the India of Bapu’s dreams. Many topics are absolutely relevant today and the government of India is fulfilling many of the points venerable Bapu raised seven decades ago but remain unfulfilled even today.

One of the most beautiful aspects of Gandhiji’s personality was that he made every Indian feel that he or she is working for India’s freedom. He instilled the spirit of self-belief that a teacher, lawyer, doctor, farmer, labourer, entrepreneur, in whatever they were doing they were contributing to India’s freedom struggle. In the same light, today, let us embrace those aspects we think we can act upon that will fulfil Gandhiji’s vision. It can start with something as simple as ensuring zero waste of food to imbibing values of non-violence and togetherness.

Let us think about how our actions can contribute to a cleaner and greener environment for the future generations. Almost eight decades ago, when the threats of pollution were not as much, Gandhiji took to cycling. Those in Ahmedabad recall him cycling from Gujarat Vidyapith to Sabarmati Ashram. In fact, I read that one of Gandhiji’s first protests in South Africa was against a set of laws that prevented people from cycling. Despite a prosperous legal career, Gandhiji would use the bicycle to travel in Johannesburg. Can we emulate this same spirit today?

The festive season is here and people across India would be shopping for new clothes, gifts, food items and more. While doing so, remember the wise thoughts Gandhiji gave us in the form of his talisman. Let us think about how our actions can light the lamp of prosperity in the lives of our fellow Indians. By buying what they make, be it a khadi product, or a gift item or foodstuffs, we are helping our fellow Indians in pursuit of a better life. We may never have seen them or may not do so for the rest of our lives. However, Bapu would be proud of us that in our actions we are helping fellow Indians.

Over the last four years, 130 crore Indians have paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi in the form of the Swachh Bharat Mission. Completing four years today, it has emerged as a vibrant mass movement with commendable outcomes. Over 85 million households now have access to toilets for the first time. Over 400 million Indians no longer have to defecate in the open. In a short span of four years, sanitation coverage is up from 39% to 95%. Twenty-one states, Union territories and 4.5 lakh villages are now open defecation free.


An overwhelming majority of Indians today did not have the good fortune of being a part of the freedom struggle. We could not die for the nation then but now, we must live for the nation and do everything possible to build the India our freedom fighters envisioned. Today we have a great opportunity to fulfil Bapu’s dream. We have covered substantial ground and I am confident we will cover a lot more in the times to come.

One of Bapu’s favourite hymns was “vaishnav jan to tene kahiye je, peer parayee jaane re,” which means “a good soul is one who feels the pain of others.” It was this spirit that made him live for others. Today, we, the 1.3 billion Indians are committed to working together to fulfil the dreams Bapu saw for a country for which he gave his life.


Surgical Strikes – September 2016

Officially released statement by DGMO on Surgical Strikes – September 2016

It has been a matter of serious concern that there has been continuing and increasing infiltration by terrorists across Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. This is reflected, amongst others, in the terrorist attacks on 11 and 18 September 16 in Punch and Uri respectively. Almost 20 infiltration attempts have also been foiled by the Army at or close to the Line of Control during this year.


During these terrorist attacks and infiltration attempts, we have recovered various stores including GPS and items that clearly indicate their origins in Pakistan. Furthermore, captured terrorists hailing from Pakistan or Pakistan Occupied Kashmir have confessed to their training and arming in Pakistan or territory under its control. The matter had been taken up at highest diplomatic levels and through military channels. India has also offered consular access to these apprehended terrorists for Pakistan to verify their confessions. Furthermore, we had proposed that fingerprints and DNA samples of terrorists killed in Punch and Uri could be made available to Pakistan for investigation.

Despite our persistent urging that Pakistan respect its January 2004 commitment for not allowing its soil or territory under its control to be used for terrorism against India, there has been no let up in infiltration and terrorist actions from across the Line of Control. If damage was limited, this was primarily due to the efforts of our soldiers deployed in our multi-tiered counter-infiltration grid that has been effective in neutralizing infiltrating terrorists. The Indian Armed Forces have been extremely vigilant in the face of this continuing threat.


Based on receiving specific and credible inputs that some terrorist teams had positioned themselves at launch pads along Line of Control to carryout infiltration and conduct terrorist strikes inside Jammu and Kashmir and in various metros in other states, the Indian Army conducted surgical strikes at several of these launch pads to pre-empt infiltration by terrorists. The operations were focussed on ensuring that these terrorists do not succeed in their design to cause destruction and endanger the lives of our citizens.

During these counter terrorist operations significant casualties were caused to terrorists and those providing support to them. The operations aimed at neutralizing terrorists have since ceased. We do not have any plans for further continuation. However, the Indian Armed Forces are fully prepared for any contingency that may arise.

I have been in touch with Pakistan Army DGMO and have informed him of our actions. It is India’s intention to maintain peace and tranquillity in the region. But we cannot allow the terrorists to operate across the Line of Control with impunity and attack citizens of our country at will. In line with Pakistan’s commitment in January 2004 not to allow its soil or territory under its control to be used for attacks against India, we expect the Pakistani army to cooperate with us to erase the menace of terrorism from the region.

WATCH: More visuals of Surgical strike footage of 29/9/2016 from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK)



Success of Swachh Bharat

Amitabh-Kant.jpg Amitabh Kant , CEO NITI Aayog

We are almost at the fourth anniversary of the Swachh Bharat Mission, which makes this an opportune time to look at what makes it tick. The numbers speak for themselves, including the unprecedented increase in toilet coverage, and the resultant health and financial gains. Sanitation coverage in rural India increased from 38 per cent in 2014 to over 92 per cent in 2018 and 8.5 crore toilets have been constructed in rural India since the Mission began. Usage of toilets as per a recent, large-scale survey under the World Bank support project is also above 90 per cent. More than 4.5 lakh villages and over 450 districts have been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF).

Big impact


These notable achievements of the Mission are expected to result in significant health, economic and social benefits. As per a recent WHO report, it is estimated that SBM will account for over 3 lakh avoided diarrhoeal deaths by the time India becomes free from open defecation – a milestone not too far from us today. UNICEF (2017) has estimated that each family in an ODF village in India saves Rs 50,000 per year on account of avoided medical costs, less sick days and value of lives saved.

How Swachh Bharat is different

While India has had schemes for sanitation for decades now, Swachh Bharat has surged ahead due to reasons that make the Mission unique. Primary among these is the strong political will and inspiring leadership behind the programme, with the Prime Minister of the country championing the cause at national and international levels. Swachh Bharat Mission has always found references in his monthly Mann ki Baat addresses and other public speeches, inspiring the masses to be part of this Jan Andolan. It is his personal drive towards this Mission that has further encouraged other senior political leaders including Union Ministers, State CMs, MPs, MLAs to spread the message of Swachhata in their region. Subsequently, government officers have put the sanitation agenda on priority.


The Mission’s emphasis on behaviour change, and focus on outputs rather than outcomes also makes it stand ahead of its previous counterparts, which focussed primarily on the construction of toilets and bathrooms, mistakenly assuming use of toilets as a given. The Swachh Bharat Mission has followed the demand-driven approach as opposed to the supply-driven outlook.


Decentralised monitoring and use of technology

The Swachh Bharat Mission also focuses heavily on measuring outputs in terms of monitoring progress of ODF villages and districts. The guidelines for declaring a village and district ODF are well-defined and communicated to all States. Villages declared ODF are verified within three months of a declaration by block and district officials. More than 80 per cent of villages declared ODF has been verified successfully. In case of any gaps identified during verification, block officials are informed and asked to take corrective measures in a timely manner. Even toilets constructed are to be geotagged mandatorily so as to ensure the quality and usage of toilets. Verification and geotagging are also linked to funding release of funds to States so as to safeguard against slippages in verification and geotagging protocols. Technology is also being used heavily for capacity building at scale through virtual learning and a master trainer ecosystem.

Progress in aspirational districts


The Government of India has launched the Aspirational Districts programme to improve the socio-economic conditions in 117 backward districts in the country. The programme, led by NITI Aayog, focuses on five key themes including water and sanitation infrastructure. All themes these have a direct bearing on the quality of life and economic productivity of citizens. Swachh Bharat Mission has been able to deliver successfully deliver in these challenging districts as well. The rural sanitation coverage in these districts is almost at par with the national sanitation coverage, which speaks volumes about the program’s overarching impact across the entire nation.

The way forward: Sustaining the progress

Based on the current rate of progress, the entire country will achieve ODF status well before the end of the programme. Unfair criticisms notwithstanding, a fair question to ask is, what next? The country has once experienced the pitfalls of considering sanitation a one-time exercise. Many villages in the country were handed Nirmal Gram Puraskars with great fanfare a few years back. Yet, a few years down the line, it was found that many of these had slipped back to old ways. The country was littered with dysfunctional toilets which the government had built, but the people had not used. To ensure the sustainability of the programme, the SBM guidelines incentivise on-ground Swachhagrahis to continue their door-to-door messaging, regular verifications and early morning nigrani visits to open defecation hotspots in the village long after it has been declared ODF. A long-term strategy is also being developed by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation to ensure that the gains made will be sustained and also to transition from ODF to ODF Plus.


Lately, I have been reading a few articles poking holes in the success of the Mission. To all the friends writing these pieces, for a massive developmental programme being implemented at this large-scale, there are bound to be gaps in isolated cases. The responsibility of the fourth pillar of democracy is to highlight these gaps in a productive manner to help the government address them. To those criticising the drive based on isolated incidents, without sound evidence, I say, reflected glory is a powerful driving force. And nothing gives you access to reflected glory in our times than criticising the most successful sanitation programme in the history of not just our country, but the world.



In the Wellness of All Things

By Amitabh Kant & Dr. Indu Bhushan

The sight of a family teetering on the brink of hope and despondency, surviving and falling into economic ruin on account of ill health is distressingly common. GoI’s health expenditure at 1.13% of its GDP is the lowest among the emerging developing countries. China’s expenditure is 2.45%, and Thailand’s 2.90% of its GDP.

Out-of-pocket expenses push nearly 66 lakh Indian households into poverty every year. About 24.9% of households in rural areas and 18.2% in urban areas meet medical expenditures through borrowings, and 17.3% of India’s population spend more than 10% of their household budget for accessing health services. The poorest of the poor are the worst impacted.


Ayushman Bharat demonstrates GoI’s strong resolve to address this issue by ensuring primary healthcare through the establishment of 1,50,000 health and wellness centres, the first of which was launched in Bijapur, Chhattisgarh, in May. Digitally linked to district hospitals, these will provide comprehensive healthcare and will be responsible for providing essential drugs and diagnostic services. They will also have convergence with yoga and Ayurveda.

The second key component of Ayushman Bharat is the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) that will provide. Rs 5 lakh cover to around 50 crore economically weaker citizens and will be launched on September 25. This will be the world’s largest government-sponsored healthcare scheme covering a populationthe size of the US, Canada and Mexico.


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The mission will provide inpatient care in an empanelled network of healthcare providers (secondary and tertiary care) for more than 1,300 packages in specialties, ranging from general medical and surgical procedures to cardiovascular and oncological ones. The benefits shall be available to all those entitled and be cashless, paperless, portable, and backed by an IT infrastructure that will provide seamless service delivery at all points of care.


PMJAY will leverage capacities available in both public and private sector hospitals, while providing standardised high-quality care, with strong fraud protection mechanisms and an efficient, service-driven architecture that will transform India’s healthcare systems in the years to come.

The National Health Agency (NHA) and the State Health Agencies (SHAs) are the keystone for the strategic purchasing of medical services at such a massive scale. NHA will be the instrumentality to expand coverage, benefits and financial protection.

As a substantive purchaser implementing PMJAY, NHA and SHAs will use the tools of pricing and incentives to drive down costs of services in the healthcare sector. The rates that have been fixed for the procedures have undergone a rigorous vetting mechanism in more than 50 cities in the country.

PMJAY will rely heavily on fraud detection and monitoring and building complex, intelligent systems that trigger and raise red flags on suspicious transactions, built upon extensive diagnostic guidelines and self-learning pattern-recognition algorithms.

The aim is to build a world-class intelligent system for fraud mitigation, grievance redressal, monitoring and evaluation, and research that allows the programme to scientifically evolve. Pre-authorisation protocols have been defined for 621fraud-prone and high-cost procedures for ensuring discipline in the provider network.

The states are the key partners in this alliance. The scheme architecture allows the states freedom for innovations and context-specific customisations. Till date, 29 of the 36 states and Union territories are on board. The states have been given flexibility to push for providing greater inpatient department (IPD) care through public institutions, as well as a framework for upgrading their infrastructure. The portability of services across a pan-India network provides beneficiaries in the migrant community to access services without hindrances.


PMJAY will be a truly disruptive influence over India’s healthcare system. It presents India an opportunity to move towards a mature, data-driven, intelligent and predictive health systems built on top of individualised, secure and access-controlled health records, a verified provider registry and tech-enabled drugs and diagnostics supply chains.


India, through health and wellness centres, is finally shifting the focus of healthcare provision towards providing primary healthcare to its citizens. The care on prevention and early management of healthcare will reduce the need for complicated specialist care and outof-pocket expenses.

While catering to 50 crore beneficiaries, PMJAY will leverage facilities in both private and public hospitals. This comprehensive healthcare system linking primary, secondary and tertiary care has the potential to transform the health delivery system in India.

Union Minister J P Nadda launches the official logo of Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, in New Delhi on August 27, 2018.





*Amitabh Kant is CEO, NITI Aayog, and Dr. Indu Bhushan is CEO, Ayushman Bharat-National Health Protection Mission (AB-NHPM) and the National Health Agency (NHA).

Demonetisation and its impact on Tax collection and Formalisation of the Economy – Arun Jaitley


The Reserve Bank has twice released its reports stating that the demonetised Notes of `500 and `1000 have been substantially deposited in the Banks.  A widely stated comment has been that just because most of the currency came back into the Banks, the object of Demonetisation has not succeeded.  Was the invalidation of the Non-deposited currency the only object of demonetisation?  Certainly Not.  The larger purpose of demonetisation was to move INDIA from a Tax Non-compliant society to a compliant society.  This necessarily involved the formalisation of the Economy and a blow to the black money.  How has this been achieved?


  • WHEN cash is deposited in the Banks, the anonymity about the owner of the cash disappears.  The deposited cash is now identified with its owner giving rise to an inquiry, whether the amount deposited is in consonance with the depositor’s income.  Accordingly, post demonetisation about 1.8 million depositors have been identified for this enquiry.  Many of them are being fastened with Tax and Penalties.  Mere deposit of cash in a bank does not lead to a presumption that it is Tax paid Money.

  • In March 2014, the number of Income Tax returns filed was 3.8 crores.  In 2017-18, this figure has grown to 6.86 crores.  In the last two years, when the impact of demonetisation and other steps is analysed, the Income Tax returns have increased by 19% and 25%.  This is a phenomenal increase.

  • The number of New Returns filed post demonetisation increased in the past two years by 85.51 Lakhs and 1.07 crores.

  • For 2018-19, advance Tax in the first quarter has increased for personal Income Tax Assesses by 44.1% and in the Corporate Tax category by 17.4%.

  • The Income Tax collections have increased from the 2013-14 figure of `6.38 Lakh crores to the 2017-18 figure of `10.02 Lakh crores.

  • The growth of Income Tax collections in the Pre-demonetisation two years was 6.6% and 9%.  Post-demonetisation, the collections increased by 15% and 18% in the next two years.  The same trend is visible in the third year.

  • The GST was implemented from 1st July, 2017 i.e. Post demonetisation.  In the very first year, the number of registered assesses has increased by 72.5%.  The original 66.17 Lakh assesses has increased to 114.17 Lakhs.


This is the positive impact of the Demonetisation.  More formalisation  of the Economy, More Money in the System, Higher Tax Revenue, Higher Expenditure, Higher Growth after the first two quarters.


Ayushman Bharat off to a good start

As many as 28 state governments have signed MoUs with the NHA to implement NHPM. Over 8,000 hospitals have offered to join the network of empanelled facilities that would provide inpatient care to the identified beneficiaries, and 1,350 medical packages—covering surgery, medical and daycare treatments—have already been identified.


Nearly 3,000 years ago, one of ancient India’s great sages Yajnavalkya composed the Shanti Sukta: “Sarve bhavantu sukhinah; Sarve santu niramayah” (May all be happy, may everyone be free of diseases). What is striking is not only the prescience and universality of this invocation, but also the insight that happiness and health in a populace are inextricably intertwined.

Today, as we reflect upon the journey of India as an independent nation over the last seven decades, the achievements on the health front have not been insubstantial. The life expectancy has more than doubled, and infant and maternal mortality rates are a fraction of what prevailed in 1947. However, there can be no denying the fact that a lot of potential in this sector remains unharnessed—and ill-health is one of the leading causes of Indians falling into poverty. The government spends barely 1% of the GDP on health even as we are confronted with a two-front war—containing the rising burden of non-communicable diseases (NCD), even as we continue grappling with the control of communicable diseases and reproductive and child health issues. As a result, the citizens’ out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditure on health constitutes 62% of the total expenditure on health, placing India at 182nd position out of 191 countries on this indicator.

In fact, over 55% of this expenditure is on outpatient care, of which drugs constitute the biggest component. Expectedly, this structure of health financing places a disproportionate burden on the poor families and catastrophic health expenses have contributed to an increase in poverty levels in rural and urban areas by 3.6% and 2.9%, respectively.

Mindful of this reality and to plug the existing gaps in our health system, the government announced a new flagship scheme called the Ayushman Bharat in the Union Budget of 2018-19. One component of the scheme—the National Health Protection Mission (NHPM)—was to provide a financial cover of up to `5 lakh per family per annum to enable them increased access to secondary and tertiary healthcare, for the poor and lower middle class families, in a facility of their choice, irrespective of whether the ownership is public or private. As an initial measure, the plan is to cover 10.74 crore families, or about 50 crore individuals (roughly 40% of the total population), at the bottom of the pyramid as identified through a comprehensive Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) database.

The other component is to build a next-generation primary healthcare system, which would be publicly provided at locations close to the community. It sought to expand the reach and broaden the scope of our primary, preventive and promotive care through a network of 1.5 lakh Health & Wellness Centres (HWCs). It envisages population-level screening to detect diseases early and initiate timely treatment—which is especially critical in the context of India’s rising NCD burden. As an added measure, provision of free drug and diagnostics at these HWCs was expected to take care of that part of the OOP expenses borne by our poorest citizens for accessing outpatient care. The first of such HWCs has already been launched in the Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh, by the Prime Minister on April 14, and as we write this, work is going on in hundreds of others in the 117 ‘aspirational districts’ to provide meaningful and comprehensive primary care to our citizens.Image result for ayushman bharat pib

When the Ayushman Bharat was announced, critics argued that the scheme has been insufficiently imagined, that there was a lack of preparation, that it was not backed by adequate budgetary resources, and that the government lacked the techno-managerial wherewithal for its implementation. The Prime Minister, during his Independence Day address, gave a befitting response to the scepticism and to the naysayers by announcing the soft launch of NHPM, christened the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Abhiyan. This clarion call from the ramparts of the Red Fort is a clear indication that the teams at the National Health Agency (NHA) and the ministry of health & family welfare (MoHFW) have been able to successfully surmount the significant challenges in terms of creating an IT backbone, cleaning up the beneficiary database, setting in place the guidelines and procedures, negotiating with state governments, while simultaneously building capacities for its implementation. The fact that all this has been achieved in a relatively short span of just six months is a glowing testimony to the hard work and speedy execution by Indu Bhushan and his team at the NHA.

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In addition, as many as 28 state governments have signed a memorandum of understanding with the NHA to implement NHPM, and are in the final stages of preparation for a formal launch. Over 8,000 hospitals have offered to join the network of empanelled facilities that would provide inpatient care to the identified beneficiaries. To ensure that no one is left out, there is no cap on family size or age. Similarly, there can be no exclusion on account of pre-existing disease conditions, among those who are eligible for benefits from day one of the roll-out of the scheme. As many as 1,350 medical packages—covering surgery, medical and daycare treatments—have been identified so that the coverage includes most of the common medical conditions. The software application driving the scheme is designed in such a way that an individual can avail of the benefits anywhere in the country irrespective of her place of origin, and it is cashless for the beneficiary and the claim settlement is paperless for the hospitals participating in the scheme.


The NITI Aayog’s Three-Year Action Agenda highlights the need for creating a wave of new institutions to build a 21st century health system that every citizen of the country would be proud of. Setting up of HWCs and the NHA are steps in the right direction, which were long overdue. The government’s active stewardship in leveraging the potential of the mixed health system is a very welcome development. It is all the more heartening to note the political commitment at the highest levels to transform India’s health system into an affordable, accessible, inclusive and efficient system.

The Ayushman Bharat has the potential to protect millions who are pushed into poverty every year due to catastrophic health expenses. Building a well-functioning health system is a work of decades—it took Germany, for example, 127 years to accomplish universal coverage. Thailand undertook reforms over a period of 30 years prior to announcing its universal health policy in 2002. Now that we have unprecedented political backing for the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Abhiyan, the stage is set for its execution. Needless to say, in a country as large and complex as India, we will be faced with many implementation challenges. It is well worth recounting the Bhagavad Gita dictum of “Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam” (the path to redemption/salvation lies in the skilful execution of the job at hand). Thus, it is imperative we stay the course and pursue these ambitious initiatives with utmost vigour and determination.

4GG8U3jG_400x400.jpgAlok Kumar is Advisor and Vinod Paul is Member (Health), NITI Aayog.

Science City, Kolkata becomes the new insignia of Digital India with its state of the art hi-tech acquisitions

*Sh. Samrat Bandopadhyay

Nestled in the throbbing business arterial route of EM Bypass in Kolkata, the Science City of Kolkata is the largest science center of the Indian subcontinent and one of the finest in the world. Managed by National Council of Science Museums (NCSM), Ministry of Culture, Government of India, the first phase of the centre was thrown open to public in 1997 and the second phase in 2010. The sprawling green campus presenting Science and Technology in a stimulating and engaging manner to visitors of all age groups, including children, is actually built on a previous landfill area of the city. The environment conscious institute today is a place to experience and relive the living history and traditional culture of bygone days. The solid waste management here is also an example for building structures on an eco-friendly and environmentally sustainable basis.


Science City is the place where visitors throng to cherish and relive the ambience of excitement of dinosaur era in the ‘Evolution Park’ as one walks through the evolutionary phases of life and has a glimpse of those gigantic extinct animals of the past.

The Age of Science and Technology has grown by leaps and bounds. Central Government’s tremendous efforts towards a ‘DIGITAL INDIA’ find a living example in this vibrant learning campus. The digital technology opens a plethora of opportunities for visitors to experience living moments, expositions and immersive images with extraordinary variety.


The decision of the Culture Ministry to provide a facelift to the existing 2D theatre replacing it with a 3D full dome space theatre system with a particularly high resolution imagery and state-of-art LED dome lighting, sound system along with comfortable seating arrangement, will provide an enthralling and vivid experience that will be etched in visitors’ minds even after leaving the campus of Science City. Scientific phenomena explained through a narrative are set to appeal to the young minds of the country. The erstwhile Space Theatre was first of its kind facility in the country that attracted around 7.2 million footfalls during its operation for two decades. The Ministry of Culture’s plan to fund about 20 cr for the switch from existing 2D celluloid based film projection system to a 3D digital immersive projection system for the theatre will augment a new chapter in its modernization approach and capture the eyeballs of the visitors to a new unprecedented level. The fully built technologically advanced dome will have the scope to display wide range of topics from astronomy, geosciences to other natural scientific phenomena. The Facility which will be ready for visitors by December of 2018 will certainly be a milestone in the field of scientific explorations.


The renovation of the Science City will be a value add-on to the learning experience for sightseers with a scientific temper and an enduring appreciation for the innovativeness of engineering marvels by architecture professionals and civil engineers of the region. A case in point is the ‘DYNAMOTION’ building architecture, which houses a plethora of interactive exhibits on physical science, along with a unique experience of walking on the floor piano and creating mesmerizing music as one walk past the space.

In the Science Park, people come close to nature with flora and fauna in an environment friendly surrounding and help learn and synergize the basic tenets of science in an all-inclusive manner. The Park’s interactive exhibits are simulative to that learning experience of our age old tradition and interactive kiosks with multimedia facility are an add-on to the learning experience.

Another striking section of Science City is the ‘Digital Panorama on Human Evolution’ which provides a 360 degree view of a narrative in a video format in a huge cylindrical screen. Started in 2016 it is the first of its kind in the country. The presentation hall presents exhibits and mannequins depicting pre-historic human species with varied flora and fauna of those times. There is an awe-inspiring feeling of moving in a space ship as one gazes at the screen unfolding all around. The Science and Technology Heritage of India exhibition gallery houses dioramas exhibiting emerging technologies over the ages with a special focus on mathematics, basic science and scientific development of Metallurgy, Information Technology, Medical Science and town planning of ancient India. The curator of this fascinating exhibition put special emphasis on the fact that the Indian Civilization dated back more than 7000 years while all other civilizations of the world are less than 5000 years old.

The Science City of Kolkata resembles a living architecture of a modern era, typifying a blend of ‘SMART CITY’ with ‘DIGITAL INDIA’ and ethos of ‘MAKE IN INDIA’ built and weaved on the fabric of culture and tradition of the rich and diverse heritage of modern ‘NEW INDIA’!!

*Sh. Samrat Bandopadhyay is Deputy Director (M&C), PIB, Kolkata


Why I Pushed For The Passing of the Anti-Trafficking Bill 2018

B-A7Z8BM_400x400 Maneka Gandhi Union Minister for Women and Child Development

On 26th July 2018, the Lok Sabha successfully passed the landmark Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018. There was an intensive debate on a wide range of issues around the subject of trafficking took place. I welcomed the debate wholeheartedly since it is representative of the priority we as Members of Parliament have placed on the issue of protection of vulnerable persons, especially the women and children of our country.

Every day, women and children are bought and sold in our villages and cities, as part of what is now the largest organised crime in the world- the trafficking of persons. They are mercilessly exploited for sex work, bonded labour, forced marriage, begging and other severe forms of violence. As per the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2016, a total of 15379 victims were trafficked for exploitative purposes, out of which 10150 were women and 6345 were children. And 63407 children went missing during the year. These numbers will be much higher in reality as many many cases go unreported.


With eight children going missing every hour, and one woman being trafficked every hour, we are morally and constitutionally bound to act with utmost urgency. For the first time, the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 responds to this urgent need with a comprehensive and structured solution through a robust, responsive and accountable institutional framework of prevention, protection and rehabilitation. The Bill seeks to combat trafficking at all levels through-

  1. A centralized body to oversee issues of inter-state and international trafficking of persons including matters of intelligence, investigation, capacity building and convergence.
  2. A survivor-centric protection mechanism that ensures the rescue of victims from places of exploitation and their immediate relief; while extending the choice of long-term rehabilitation to adults that is not contingent upon the status of prosecution.

iii. A guarantee to the right to statutory rehabilitation in the form of a dedicated rehabilitation fund, protection and rehabilitation homes along with psychological, social, and economic rehabilitation as well as education, skill development and infrastructure for social reintegration.


Economic deterrence that targets the trafficking as an organised crime by attachment and forfeiture of property and freezing of bank account that are used for the purpose of trafficking. Any funds recovered hereunder, will be transferred to the rehabilitation fund to ultimately benefit survivors.

  1. Aggravated forms of trafficking that are more severe, complex and long-term in nature including trafficking for begging or by administering any chemical substance or hormones on a person for the purpose of early sexual maturity, by causing or exposing the person to a life-threatening illness including acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or human immunodeficiency virus or by causing serious injury resulting in grievous hurt or death of any person, amongst others. Additional offences include online trafficking, the disclosure of identity, abetment and offences by the media. Importantly, the Bill also establishes accountability of officers under the Act by criminalising an omission of duty of their behalf.
  2. It strengthens prosecution of offenders through designated courts, and special public prosecutors for speedy trial while protecting the identity and confidentiality of victims and witnesses through-camera trial, video conferencing and victim and witness protection.

These provisions have been carefully harmonized and synchronized with all existing and linked provisions of law and structures created thereunder. The Bill has been drafted after in-depth study and research and after extensive consultation with a range of stakeholders over a period of three years. We received hundreds of from civil society, representatives of sex workers as well as victims of trafficking, police organizations, state governments, labour unions. We also received valuable guidance from Members of Parliament and all this was incorporated to strengthen to provisions of the Bill.

The Bill was thus formulated with care, after thorough research, consultation and due diligence. I would like to clear the air around some of the concerns that are being expressed, which are primarily arising from the absence of a clear understanding of the provisions of the Bill. Firstly, there is an apprehension that the Bill will criminalise voluntary sex work. This is completely false. On the contrary, the Bill provides safeguards to voluntary sex workers against persecution and prosecution, while giving them the option to approach the Magistrate for long-term institutional, psychological, social and economic support if she wishes to discontinue. I urge those representing the rights of sex workers to recognize the value of this choice in the lives of the people they work so hard to defend.

Secondly, there are concerns that the Bill will raise a conflict with an existing set of legislation further confusing and complicating the delivery of justice. I would like to reiterate here, that the Bill clearly states that it is in addition to and not in derogation of any existing laws for the time being in force. The Bill will tie together various legislations through a single system of institutional framework dedicated to addressing trafficking of persons and related crimes. This will bring accountability and convergence within the overall trafficking response mechanism.

Legislation word cloud

Thirdly, many valuable suggestions regarding the strengthening of the enforcement of the law have been provided. These suggestions are wholeheartedly welcomed and I will ensure that each of the suggestion will be suitably incorporated in the Rules. Rules are the instruments through which the objectives and provisions of the Act get implemented. We have already started the process of drafting these rules and will again be taking inputs and guidance from stakeholders.

I am sure there will be many more lessons we will learn together as we roll out this law to protect the last woman, child, man and transgender from the most horrific forms of exploitation. And as we have arrived here today, we will continue to push the boundaries of justice to collaboratively protect and empower the most vulnerable persons of our society. But today, a child in sexual exploitation and a woman in slavery are looking up to us and questioning us on what we are doing as a civilized society and a welfare State. We need to take this step together because our children and women cannot wait.




The Impact of the Government Policies on Direct Tax Collections

1.PNG  Union Minister Arun Jaitley

The first sixty-seven years after Independence from 1947 to 2014 saw a total number of 3.82 crores assesses filing tax returns.  Obviously, in comparison to a total population of almost 1.3 billion, this figure appears highly inadequate.  The total direct tax collection (income tax) in 2013-14 was Rs.6.38 lakh crore.

Prime Minister Modi led NDA Government had a multi-pronged strategy to increase the tax base.  A campaign involving various steps to flush out black-money, including black-money outside the country, was initiated.  The demonetisation led to a lot of people in possession of undeclared cash depositing the same in the banking system.  The source of the money was now questioned.  Almost 18 lakh people were identified who had made deposits disproportionate to their returned incomes.  The use of technology helped the tax department significantly.  Most of the functioning of the Income-tax Department is now online, returns are filed online, queries are addressed online, assessment orders are handled online and refunds are also made online.  Technology is also used for reconciliation purposes in order to detect those who should be filing returns but are non-filers.

GST English (33x20cm)

The implementation of the Goods and Services Tax as a single consolidated tax has had a significant impact even on direct taxes.   Those who have disclosed a business turnover for the GST now find it difficult not to disclose their net income for the purposes of income tax.

What would be the combined impact of all these measures on India’s direct taxation base? We had targeted to optimise the base increase without any increase on the tax liability.  India’s tax to GDP ratio in four years increased by almost 1.5%.  On the contrary, a large number of taxpayers in each of the four Budgets of the present Government has benefitted from relief given.  Today a medium-term assessment of the impact of these steps can be made.  In four years, the number of assesses has increased by 64.6%.  The total number of returns filed was 6.86 crores in FY 2017-18.  The number of new assesses who filed returns in FY 2017-18 were 1.06 crore. I hope that the percentage increase when the Government completes its first five years would be significantly higher.  The total income tax collection for the year 2017-18 is Rs.10.02 lakh crore, a four year increase of 57%.  Last year, despite formidable economic challenges, the income tax collection managed to grow by over 18 percent.


Last year, the impact of the GST on direct tax collection was not visible.  Since GST had been imposed in the middle of the year, it will be more apparent this year.  The first big news for this year is that the advance tax deposit during the first quarter of this year has seen a gross increase of 44% in the personal income tax category and 17% in the corporate tax category.  After repayment of refunds due to some excess tax paid in earlier years, which are usually paid back in the first quarter, the net amount would be somewhat lesser.  But if the same trend continues in the next three quarters, one expects a significant increase in the direct tax collection this year.  The first indication is that the spending is higher, consumption is higher and corporates are seeing increased sales and a greater prospect of profitability.  But increase in the amount of collections in category of personal income tax is also due to more people coming within the tax net.  There is also the impact of the GST visible this year.  This unprecedented taxation growth is a result of the anti-black money measures, use of technology, demonetisation and the GST.  Most of these measures were severely criticized by the Congress Party.  This is just the medium-term impact of some of these measures.  The long-term impact would be significantly higher.  Higher tax collection would enable us to continue with the developmental programmes in the country, not to impose any extra burden on the taxpayers and yet maintain the targeted fiscal deficit.

Money in Swiss-Banks

A news item has appeared today indicating an increase of money by ‘Indians’ in the Swiss banking system.  This has led to misinformed reaction in certain circles raising a query whether the Government’s anti-black money steps have yielded results.


Switzerland in financial disclosures was always a reluctant state.  Of late it was subjected to a lot of international pressures which favoured disclosures and Switzerland ran the risk of being a ‘non-compliant’ State by the FATF.  It has, therefore, entered into several bilateral treaties for making disclosures to requesting States.  It has amended its domestic laws involving all disclosures and entered into a treaty even with India and real time flow of information with regard to Indians will be made.  The flow of information is starting in January, 2019.  Any illegal depositor knows that it is a matter of months before his name becomes public and he will be subjected to the harsh penal provisions of the Black money law in India.  Assuming this information to be correct, what does past experience show?  When disclosures have been made with regard to ‘Indians’, including in the Panama Papers, certainly some of them have held illegal accounts.  ‘Indian’ money outside the country is of various categories.  Past investigation by CBDT have shown that this includes many held by persons of Indian origin who now hold foreign passport, monies belonging to Non-Resident Indians, as also monies belonging to resident Indians who have made legitimate investments abroad, including transfer of money under the liberalised remittance schemes.  It is only monies kept by resident Indian outside these categories which become actionable.  The first two categories are within the jurisdiction of those countries where these persons are residents and the third category can easily be checked up in India.  If the deposit does not fall in any of these categories, it is per se illegal for which investigations are undertaken, arrests are made and criminal prosecutions are launched.  Switzerland has taken significant efforts to get out of the image of being a tax haven and a non-compliant State.  It is on the verge of making disclosures in real time and, therefore, is no longer an ideal destination for tax evaders.  Those who participate in a public discourse must understand these basic facts before expressing an opinion which may be ill-informed.  To assume that all the deposits are per se tax evaded money or that Switzerland in the matter of illegal deposits is what it was decades ago, is to start on a shaky presumption.






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