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Government of India

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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*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?

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  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Happy and Healthy Pregnancy through Yoga

Smt. Maneka Sanjay Gandhi  mgandhui

Union Minister for Women and Child Development 

Pregnancy is an odd time for the mother. On the one hand one is filled with joy and anticipation, on the other there are worries about whether the baby will be normal and healthy.  As the mother’s body changes, there are mood swings, fatigue, cramps, difficult breathing.

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Being physically fit and emotionally strong directly affects the baby’s physical, neurological & psychological development. Practicing Prenatal Yoga during pregnancy gives you the ability to stay calm and eases most physical problems during these nine months.

Pregnant-Exercise

Prenatal yoga experts and medical professionals emphasise that prenatal yoga paired with cardiovascular exercises (such as walking) can ease the discomforts of pregnancy and help you prepare for the rigors of labour.

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Pranayama, or the group of several breathing exercises, have been found to have exceptional benefits during pregnancy. It must be incorporated in the daily regime all through the three trimesters as it helps release negative emotions.

Two most useful forms of pranayama or breathing exercises are: Ujjayi, a long, strong, deep breath that helps women redirect their concentration to the present moment and maintain calm; and Nadi Shodhana, (alternate nostril breathing), which helps to balance the body’s energy flows. However, avoid any kind of breath retention or hyperventilation that could limit the baby’s oxygen supply.  The postures and exercises differ for each of the three trimesters of pregnancy.

First Trimester (0 to 13 weeks)

The first trimester brings nausea and fatigue. Severe biological and musculoskeletal alterations take place in the body. Yoga experts advise that one must be extremely cautious while practicing yoga in this trimester as a wrong posture can obstruct the implantation of the fetus and placenta.

The following asanas are ideal for this trimester:

  • Marjariasana(cat stretch): Stretches the neck and shoulders, lessening body stiffness and keeps the spine flexible because the back has to support more body weight as the pregnancy advances.
  • Konasana(standing sideways bending arm): Keeps the spine flexible and helps alleviate constipation, a common symptom of pregnancy.
  • Badhakonasana(butterfly pose): Improves flexibility in the hip and groin region, stretches the thighs and knees, relieving pain, alleviates fatigue and helps facilitate smooth delivery when practiced until late pregnancy.
  • Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep): Reduces tension and anxiety, helps regulate blood pressure and relaxes every cell in the body.

Second Trimester (14 to 28 weeks)

During the second trimester, the volume of blood in the body expands 50-60% to support the fetus and placenta, the blood circulates faster, the rate of metabolism increases and heart rate rises. The body’s sugar gets used up faster and important reserves are used to support the placenta and fetus.

The following asanas are beneficial during this trimester:

  • Vajrasana(diamond pose) –Enhances digestion and can be done directly after meal.It also helps strengthen the pelvic muscles and assist women in labour too.
  • Kati Chakrasana(spinal twist pose) – Relieves physical and mental tension and tones waist, hip and back.
  • Tadasana (mountain pose)– Helps stretch and loosen the entire spine and also helps in developing mental and physical balance.
  • Uthanasana(standing forward fold)– Strengthens muscles of uterus, thighs, back and ankles.

Third Trimester (29 to 40 weeks)

By the third trimester, the body has already undergone drastic physical and biological changes and also the movement of the baby is strong now. The protruding belly and additional weight are likely to challenge one’s balance. Simple balancing postures can make women feel lighter and more aligned. It is advisable to practice yoga with a prenatal teacher at this stage. If you ever feel uncomfortable doing any posture, stop.

Basic balancing postures like Utthita Trikonasana (extended triangle pose), Utthita Parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose), Virabhadrasana (hero pose) and Vrksasana (tree pose) are ideal for building strength in the legs, for proper alignment in the spine and for easing blood circulation.

According to a review of recent research studies, prenatal yoga drastically lowers the chances of pregnancy complications, stress levels and pain, and possibly even the risk of the baby being small for her gestational age.

As we mark the 4th International Day of Yoga, I urge all expecting mothers to join prenatal yoga classes. Not only will you feel better but you will probably make friends with other soon-to–be mothers and your children can become friends!

Cherish this time.

Celebration of International Yoga Day 2018

Glimpses of  4th International Day of Yoga at FRI, Dehradun

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Development Trajectories and Wasted Plastics

Author: J R Bhatt and Ashish Chaturvedi

A cursory look at the history of development shows that economic growth invariably comes at the cost of environmental degradation. Beginning from the Industrial Revolution in England to the present day, most countries around the world have gained economic prosperity by putting an excessive burden on natural resources or ecosystems. These natural resources and ecosystems, either located in-country or abroad, served as a source of raw materials and sink for all kinds of environmentally burdensome effluents generated in pursuit of rapid growth.

The global experience also shows another trend – grow first and then manage the environmental degradation. For instance, the air quality in the already developed countries such as England and Germany suffered immensely in the pursuit of economic development. With sustained growth, there was enhanced economic space for investing in environmental policies and infrastructure to tackle degradation. Of course, citizens who had achieved the economic prosperity were also desirous of a better quality of life and put pressure on the policymakers to clean up the damages due to a single-minded pursuit of economic growth.

However, the experience of the already developed countries does not have to serve as the blueprint for countries that are still developing and trying to enhance the quality of life for their citizens. In fact, growth first and then clean-up later would be catastrophic for least-developed and developing countries for three reasons.

First, a majority of their citizens are dependent on natural resources for livelihoods and the opportunities in the manufacturing and service sector are still at a nascent stage. The costs of following models of growth of the already developed countries would be disproportionately borne by the most vulnerable and marginalized communities.

Second, the very idea of generating waste is antithetical to progress. It makes economic and ecological sense to not create waste. While this idea of not creating waste is currently gaining currency around the world under the broad rubric of “circular economy/ zero waste/ resource efficiency”, it has been a way of life for several generations in rural India.

Third, the experiences of the already developed countries are already before us. The same path does not have to be followed by the developing countries. Thus, sharing of experiences, institutional learning and technologies would be in the global best interest.

A case in point is the management of plastics in our life and environment. Plastics are symptomatic of a modern life. It is impossible to imagine life in any part of the world without plastics.

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We eat in plastics, drink in plastics, wear plastics and to a certain extent live in (or with) plastics. Part of the reason for the ubiquity of plastics is the versatility of the material – it can be molded into any shape, can be as thin as cling film or as sturdy as the bumper of a car. It is lightweight and above all, it is available in abundance because our economies are still fossil fuel dependent and plastics are an innocent by-product.

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However, there are significant challenges due to the widespread use of plastics. Our land, water, and even air are getting significantly polluted. Plastic waste is disposed of indiscriminately on land and water and often burnt in the uncontrolled environment leading to emissions of greenhouse gases as well as persistent organic pollutants. As the National Geographic points out, nearly 700 marine species, including endangered ones are affected by plastics in our oceans. Marine species of all sizes, from zooplankton to whales, now eat microplastics.

Global per capita consumption of plastics annually is 28kg. The Europeans consume more than double (65 kg) while the Indian consume less than half (11 kg) of the world average. One possibility would be to wait till the Indian consumption reaches the European levels before we start worrying about the challenges of plastic waste. The other would be to join hands with the global community to tackle the challenge of plastic waste management while consumption levels are low.

The latter is precisely the spirit with which India is hosting the World Environment Day. This year’s theme, Beat Plastic Pollution, gives a clarion call for collaboration amongst countries all over the globe to come together to arrive at solutions for plastic waste management.

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As we embark on this global challenge, we recommend following forms of cooperation at the global level. First, we must work together to regulate international flows of plastic waste. It is clear that significant flows of plastics happen from the global north to global south. Some of it is warranted by the relocation of plastic industry and the needs of raw materials. But at the same time, the flows of waste plastics also happen in the direction of least costs incurred – environment, social and economic.

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Second, we must create an international exchange platform for sharing of global experiences on policies, business models as well as citizen initiatives. A lot of action is already happening. Initiatives that have been successful in different parts of the world need to be upscaled rather than reinventing the wheel. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is documenting some of the best practices in India. Similar initiatives need to be documented and shared widely – there is no better incentive or nudge for good behavior.

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Third, we must establish global partnerships with the private sector which is also working across national boundaries. The innovations for recycling and disposing of plastics, finding substitutes for packaging material as well as developing innovative communication drives would necessarily require the skills of the private sector. For instance, a recent report by FICCI and Accenture points out that approximately 40% of India’s plastic waste goes uncollected (ending up in landfills). Diverting this to recyclers has the potential to create 1.4 million additional jobs in India’s recycling industry.

If we manage to do that successfully, we would be able to leave a planet worth living not only for our children but also for any form of life on our planet. Such resolve is crucial every day, not only on the World Environment Day.

At the national level, we must foster partnerships amongst actors that have hitherto not engaged closely together. That would be the only way for a transformative agenda for managing plastics. Further, we should celebrate successes and individual achievements, and there are already quite a few. From Afroz Shah cleaning the Versova Beach mobilising citizen participation, to Aditya Mukarji replacing 50,000 plastic straws, to Ukhrul in Manipur becoming a plastic-free district, to Vengurla taluka banning plastic bags and using plastics to make roads, to the start-up Banyan Nation helping global brands using more recycled plastic, to more than 5 million Bharat Scouts and Guides (BSG) pledging to give up their plastic woggles, a signature element of the BSG uniform, replacing it with more sustainable and eco-friendly options – the list is growing and rapidly. We need to celebrate these initiatives and spread the Good News from India.

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**J R Bhatt is Advisor in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. Ashish Chaturvedi is Director, Climate Change at the German Development Agency, GIZ. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect those of their organizations.

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