Current Affairs 2017 - March

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GST Council approves States and UTs GST Bills

GST Council meeting presided by Finance Minister Arun Gaitley has approved draft Bills for implementing the goods and services tax (GST) in States and Union Territories (UTs). It was the 12th meeting of the GST Council.

The Council already has approved three other GST Bills pertaining to central GST, integrated GST and the compensation to be paid to States for loss of revenue.

The approval of these bills paves the way for the Centre and the States to pilot GST, the new indirect tax system, proposed to be introduced from July 1, 2017 through Parliament and the state assemblies.

Key Facts
  • The Council also approved the ceiling rates for the cess to be levied on top of the maximum GST rate of 28% on demerit or sin goods. Four tax rates (ceilings) 5%, 12%, 18% and 28% have been proposed under the GST.
  • It also proposed 15% ceiling on the cess to be levied on aerated drinks and luxury cars over and above the maximum proposed GST rate of 28%.
  • It also proposed separate cess ceilings for pan masala and tobacco products, including chewing tobacco and cigarettes. However, Beedis have been kept out of the GST net.
  • It also decided to make the tax treatment of items produced in special economic zones (SEZs) similar to that on exports. Procurement of supplies by SEZs will be zero-rated.

About Goods and Services Tax (GST)

GST is proposed uniform indirect taxation regime throughout the country. It was approved by The Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act, 2016. It will merge most of the existing indirect taxes into single system of taxation. It is consumption based tax levied on the supply of Goods and Services which will be levied and collected at each stage of sale or purchase of goods or services based on the input tax credit method.

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Government releases Draft Labour Code on Social Security & Welfare

The Union Labour Ministry has proposed a labour code which will provide social security cover to the entire workforce in the country, including self-employed and agricultural workers.

In this regard, it has proposed a draft code on Social Security and Welfare with an aim to provide social security cover to the entire workforce in the country of about 45 crore workers. 

Features of Draft code
  • It will cover every working person whether he/she belongs to the organised sector or the unorganised sector in the country under it.
  • Thus, for the first time, agricultural workers along with self-employed people will be covered under the social security cover. Even factories employing single worker will have to contribute towards social security benefits.
  • It will cover any factory, mine, shop, plantation, charitable organisations and all establishments or households employing casual, fixed-term, part-time, informal, apprentice, domestic and home-based workers.
  • If such establishments or factories fail to contribute towards the social security schemes of the workers, they will be liable to pay compensation.
  • It even covers households employing domestic help and they will also have contribute towards schemes, including gratuity for the worker and provident fund.
  • It proposes, National Social Security Council (NSSC), chaired by the Prime Minister to streamline and make policy on social security schemes related to all the Ministries.
  • NSSC’s other members will include Union Finance Minister, Labour Minister, Health and Family Welfare Minister along with employer and employees’ representatives.
  • It will co-ordinate between central and State governments, monitor the implementation of social security schemes, regulate funds collected under various social security schemes, among others.

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ICRISAT, ICAR join hands for crop improvement

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) have signed an agreement to work together

They will work together on crop improvement and agronomy programmes for grain legumes and dryland cereals. It will benefit small farmers in India and globally.

Key Facts
  • The agreement has identified climate smart crops, smart food and digitalisation of breeding database as some of the core areas of research.
  • The other areas of focus include developing genetic and genomic resources of finger millet and enhancing genetic gains for priority traits, integrating systems modelling tools for upscaling climate resilient agriculture.
  • On crop improvement front, it will facilitate research on pigeonpea and chickpea for insect resistance. Dryland cereals and grain legumes are branded as smart foods.

About International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid-Tropics (ICRISAT)

  • ICRISAT is a non-profit agricultural research organization headquartered in Patancheru in Hyderabad, Telangana.
  • It was founded in 1972 by a consortium of organizations convened by the Ford and the Rockefeller Foundations.
  • Its charter was signed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  • It has several regional centres around globe- Niamey (Nigeria), Nairobi (Kenya) and research stations Bamako (Mali), Bulawayo (Zimbabwe).
  • Since its inception, India has granted special status to ICRISAT as a UN Organization operating in the Indian Territory making it eligible for special immunities and tax privileges. 

About Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)

  • ICAR is an autonomous body responsible for co-ordinating agricultural education and research in India. It is the largest network of agricultural research and education institutes in the world.
  • It reports to the Department of Agricultural Research and Education under the Union Ministry of Agriculture. The Union Minister of Agriculture serves as its president.

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