President Mukherjee's address is the political, economic and foreign policy roadmap of the Narendra Modi Government and covers virtually all the crucial areas, including the need to address the difficult economic situation
Here are the highlights of the President's speech...
• The government will function on the mantra of ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’.
• The government will be committed to the goal of ‘poverty elimination’ rather than ‘poverty alleviation
• The government will stress on putting in place transparent systems and time-bound delivery of government services. Obsolete laws, regulations, administrative structures and practices to be modified to improve efficiency.
• Information Technology will be used to drive re-engineering of government processes to improve service delivery and programme implementation. Wi-Fi zones in critical public areas to be set up in the next five years.
• A multi-pronged approach to be adopted to address the problem of high pendency of cases in our judicial system.
• Vacancies in judiciary to be filled up on priority; number of courts and judges in the subordinate judiciary to be doubled in a phased manner.
• Containing food inflation will be the topmost priority with an emphasis on improving the supply side of various agro and agro-based products.
• Public Distribution System will be reformed incorporating best practices from the States.
• Agriculture & Rural Development
• Amenities to be provided in rural areas through empowered Panchayati Raj institutions.
• Investment in agriculture, both public and private, to be stepped up especially in Agri-infrastructure.
• The government to address issues pertaining to pricing and procurement of agricultural produce, crop insurance and post-harvest management.
• The government will also incentivise the setting up of food processing industries
a National Land Use Policy which will facilitate scientific identification of non-cultivable land and its strategic development will be adopted.
• ‘Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana’ will be launched to complete the long pending irrigation projects.
• Micro irrigation to be popularised to ensure ‘Per drop-More crop’.
Policies to revive the economy
•Predictable, transparent and fair policy environment to be adopted to revive economic growth.
• The government will embark upon rationalisation and simplification of the tax regime to make it non-adversarial and conducive to investment, enterprise and growth.
• Reforms to be undertaken to enhance the ease of doing business. It will follow a policy of encouraging investments, including through FDI; which will be allowed in sectors that help create jobs and assets.
• The government will make every effort to introduce the GST while addressing the concerns of States.
• For rapid creation of jobs in the manufacturing sector, the government will strategically promote labour-intensive manufacturing.
• A fast-track, investment friendly and predictable PPP mechanism will be put in place.
• Modernization and revamping of Railways is on top of the infrastructure agenda. The government will launch a Diamond Quadrilateral project of high speed trains.
• A time-bound and well monitored programme for execution of the National Highways programme to be initiated, to overcome the stagnancy of the past few years.
• Low cost airports to be developed to promote air connectivity to smaller towns.
• The government will facilitate modernization of existing ports on one hand, and development of new world class ports on the other.
• Inland and coastal waterways to be developed as major transport routes.
• The government will build 100 Cities focussed on specialized domains and equipped with world class amenities
• The government will initiate a mission mode project to create 50 tourist circuits that are built around specific themes.
• The government will soon come out with a comprehensive National Energy Policy.
• The national solar mission to be expanded.
• The international civil nuclear agreements to be operationalised and nuclear power projects for civilian purposes will be developed.
• Reforms in the coal sector will be pursued with urgency for attracting private investment in a transparent manner.
• The government strongly believes that environmental conservation can go hand in hand with development.
• Environment and forest clearance systems will be made more predictable, transparent and time-bound. Simultaneously, an effective system will be developed for sound appraisal processes and strict compliance of clearance conditions.
HRD and Skill development
• The government will set up Massive Open Online Courses and virtual classrooms in order to break the barriers between formal education and skill development.
• IITs and IIMs will be set up in every state.
• In order to empower school teachers and students, a national e-library will be established.
• World class research centres to be built in the fields of nanotechnology, material sciences, thorium technology, brain research, stem cells, etc.
• The government will also establish Institutes of Technology for Rural Development and a Central University of Himalayan Studies.
• The government will formulate a New Health Policy and roll out a National Health Assurance Mission. AIIMS like institutes will be established in every State in a phased manner.
• For ensuring hygiene, waste management and sanitation across the nation a “Swachh Bharat Mission” will be launched.
Welfare & Empowerment
• For the Scheduled Tribes, a dedicated “Van Bandhu Kalyan Yojana” will be launched.
• Electrification of tribal hamlets and connecting them with all-weather roads will be given priority.
• The government will especially strengthen measures to spread modern and technical education among minority communities and a National Madarsa Modernization Programme will be initiated.
• To promote empowerment of girl-child the government will launch a mass campaign ‘Beti Bachao – Beti Padhao” for saving the girl child and enabling her education.
• The government will pursue a policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism, extremism, riots and crime will be pursued.
• States will be assisted for modernizing police infrastructure and equipment to tackle new forms of terrorism including Narco terrorism and cyber threats.
• Government will carry out reforms in defence procurement to increase efficiency and economy. It will also encourage domestic industry, including the private sector; to have a larger share in design and production of defence equipment.
• The government will be committed to strengthening defence preparedness by modernising our Armed Forces and addressing the shortage of manpower on priority.
• A Veterans Commission to be appointed to address the grievances of retired defence personnel.
• The government will build a National War Memorial to honour the gallantry of our soldiers.
• One Rank, One Pension scheme to be implemented.
International Relations :
• The Government will engage energetically with other neighbours in our region, including China, with whom we will work to further develop our Strategic and Cooperative Partnership
• India-US relationship to be given a boost to intensify engagements in the areas of trade, investment, science and technology, energy and education.
SEBI has barred Aspen Projects from collecting money from investors and asked it to stop mobilising any funds, sell properties or raise any money from public
Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has barred Kolkata based Aspen Projects India Ltd (Aspen Projects) and its directors from collecting any more money from the investors and directed them to stop mobilising or diverting any funds raised from public. Aspen has also been ordered not to sell off any properties of the company.
SEBI during its investigation found that the company was engaged in fund mobilising activity through issue of 'Secured Redeemable Debentures' and 'Preference Shares' to more than 49 persons without complying with the relevant provisions of the Companies Act, 1956 and provisions of the SEBI (Issue and listing of Debt Securities) Regulations, 2008.
SEBI prohibited the company and its directors Abhijit Dasgupta, Bhaskar Saha, Ashim Maitra, Ujjal Kumar Roy, Avijit Kumar Ganguly, Debopam Sur and Goutam Sarkar from issuing any new prospectuses, offer documents and advertisements to collect more money from the public till further directions.
SEBI also prohibited Ram Sunder Bhattacharya and Mita Roy from continuing as debenture trustees in respect of the issue of Secured Redeemable Debentures of the company and also from taking up any new assignments or involvement in any new issue of debentures till further directions.
Our constitutional bodies can be leveraged to drive systemic change for the future and here are a few ideas in that direction
India's constitutional bodies have had a chequered past. Some, like the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), have been recent stars; the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has had a subdued past; the Election Commission (EC) has done a stellar job for the most part; the Planning Commission has been termed a colossal white elephant.
1. A Commission should be set up for selection and nomination of eminent citizens as members of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, State assemblies and civic bodies.
2. Judicial & Law Commission of India – The existing Law Commission should be subsumed into this new commission.
3. Police Commission of India – A healthy executive is one of India's most urgent needs and the Police commission can look into both, reforms and dealing with continuing issues with the Police.
4. Agricultural Commission of India - It shall subsume the existing ‘commission for agriculture costs and prices’, with main objective of fixing the procurement prices of major crops like wheat, rice and sugarcane etc after taking a holistic and practical view of all aspects and interest of all stake-holders. This extremely important function should be de-politicised.
5. Minerals Commission of India - To develop, regulate and control all important minerals like coal, iron ore, crude oil, gas etc except sand and stone chips. The latter two should cease to be treated as minor minerals and allowed free extraction/collection/sale as used to be the case earlier. Vested interests of politicians of several state govternments have encroached upon sand and stone chips to make big money in collusion with organised gangs but with minimal revenue to the state exchequer.
6. Competition & Monopolies Regulation Commission of India - To take over the existing Competition commission of India in order to take independent, unbiased and fair decisions to check the monopolistic practices, cartels, mergers and amalgamations with a view to ensure healthy competition and protect the interest of consumers. Monopoly and restrictive trade practices act 1969 and Competition Act 2002 to be redrafted and merged.
7. Health commission of India
8. Commission for selection, recruitment and regulation of officers of Central Govt. To take over the responsibility of selection, recruitment and fixation of remuneration of officers of IAS, IPS, IRS, IFS and other class –A & B of Indian civil services by abrogating/subsuming the existing Union public service commission.
9. Revenue Distribution Commission of India - In its present form the existing Finance Commission is only a statutory authority, but once given constitutional validity, it will take unbiased and apolitical decisions and its report and recommendations will be binding both on central and state governments in respect of revenue distribution.
10. Monetary Policy Regulation Commission of India - The RBI has had a role to play in the sharp downturn of Indian economy by following text book decisions of tight monetary policy and high interest rates to tame inflation. The Monetary policy committee proposed to be formed by RBI for this purpose is not expected to be free and autonomous though it is a first right step in this direction.
11. Pay Commission of India - To decide, fix and review in an unbiased manner the remuneration and pension of 35 lakh central govt staff, 15 lakh Armed forces and 30 lakh pensioners. States should have own independent pay commissions for state govt employees. Let these vital decisions be de-politicised. The pay commissions are presently appointed temporarily once in 10 years. Let this institution become permanent and an autonomous body. Unimaginable but true is the fact that the govt has most irresponsibly hiked DA of central staff thrice, first by 8% in April 2013, next 10% on 20.9.2013 and again by 10% on 28.2.2013 and raising it now to 100%; purely election centric hara-kiri decisions.
12. Railway Commission of India - To fix passenger fares and goods freight prices, keeping in view the best interests of stakeholders, giving sanction to new trains and railway projects taking in to consideration the recommendations of Ministry of Railway, Railway Board and state governments but without being bound by the same.
Historically, most Railway Ministers have hijacked the Indian railways to their home state with undue favours making other states suffer. Creating this constitutional body is the only way to end this arbitrary practise.
13. National Disaster Management Commission (NDMC) - The recent disaster and natural calamity at Kedarnath has once again exposed that multiple relief agencies work at cross-ends, with no coordination, utter confusion and chaos. Central command is crucial in crisis times and helps in saving precious hours and minutes.
14. Central Anti-Corruption Commission (CACC) - Having all India jurisdictions will completely replace the following agencies dealing with corruption:-
• CBI’S Anti-corruption wing formed under Delhi police act.
• State lokayuktas.
• Jan lokpal created recently.
Success of this new institution (Lokpal) is doubtful as it does not enjoy constitutional status, and secondly by and large the CBI will still remain under the control of the ruling govt. Multiple anti-corruption agencies create more confusion and work at cross-ends with little coordination. It will be better to have one single agency with constitutional powers, effective and independent and free from political pressures and external influences to firmly deal with the menace and crime of corruption. CACC‘s head office should be at Delhi under the command of an executive chairman and it should have full fledged branch offices in every state capital to be headed by a director.
15. Financial Instruments Commission of India - It should ideally subsume SEBI, IRDA and, PFRDA or become a super regulator cum advisor for them.
16. Telecom and Broadcasting Commission of India - It will take over the functions of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Telecom Commission and DOT .These three different institutions are creating more problems and confusion, and delaying vital decisions. Besides, this commission will also regulate television and radio broadcasting, cable TV and also act as a super regulator for CBFC and new media.
17. Electricity Commission of India - To clear the existing mess of the vital power sector and to streamline, standardise and harmonise it’s all India production, transmission and distribution.
18. Defence Production and Procurement Commission of India - This independent board comprising of members drawn from serving and retired defence officers, nominees of government and technical experts will be able to take quick and fast procurement decisions which are vital for the security of the nation. At present procurement decisions are unnecessarily and inordinately delayed due to complex and multiple layers of decision making process and caution/fear on the part of the government to avoid allegations of corruption.
This commission’s decisions shall be implemented by a separate new Ministry called “Ministry of Defence Requirements” which should always be under the direct control of Prime Minister
The existing constitutional bodies should be further strengthened and following new Bodies should be created to restrict the powers of politicians and bureaucrats and also to enable them have more time to devote on their main task of efficient and good governance and to take quick and timely decisions for speedier development. But just like the Election Commission and CAG; the success of these new constitutional bodies will depend how their members are selected and more importantly on their honesty, integrity, knowledge, experience and impartiality.
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(Kolkata-based Dalbir Chhibbar practised as a CA till 1990 and later started his own buinsess)