ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Task Force Reports on Direct and Indirect Taxes

In spite of some limitations and weaknesses, the Task Force reports on direct and indirect taxes have covered the large and highly complex canvas of tax administration competently. Their comprehensive treatment of issues, within the very short time given for their deliberations, is commendable. As the reports have underlined, the efficiency of the recommendations is likely to be seriously vitiated if individual components are selectively accepted or rejected and reforms continue in a piecemeal manner. Success of tax reform efforts depends on their implementation as an integral package.

Maharashtra: Human Development: Some Issues

Unless some definite and perceptible reorientation of policies and reordering of priorities emerge from a crucial study such as Human Development Report, it will be nothing more than a futile statistical exercise. The main merit of the Maharashtra report is that it focuses on the district as the main unit of development. But it would have been more useful if it had offered a range of development options that would make a perceptible impact on the human development index.

Report of Constitution Review Commission

The issues dealt with by the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution are of the utmost importance and it is necessary that they are seriously debated nationwide with a sense of urgency but without the trappings of political posturing and rhetoric. In the absence of such an effort the commission's report is likely to meet with the same fate as the report of the Sarkaria Commission on centre-state relations which, again despite the importance of the subject dealt with, has been lying in the record rooms of the home ministry without any worthwhile action.

Corporate Governance: Myth and Reality

Free markets are not free-for-all markets. And while the contours of corporate governance are not perfect even in the west, there exist in most developed countries well developed legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks for corporates with a critical degree of activism of shareholders and institutional investors. Indian corporates need to regard the issue of governance not as an irritant or impediment but as an essential tool and mechanism for their very survival in the new economic environment.

Electricity Regulatory Commissions

Rationalisation of tariffs is perhaps the most important prerequisite of viability of the power sector. An important step was taken in this behalf in 1998 by enactment of a legislation for the setting up of the electricity regulatory commissions (ERCs) at the centre and in the states. But the experience of the functioning of the ERCs so far is far from satisfactory. It is now imperative that ERCs take a strong position and refuse to entertain the submissions of SEBs and licensees for tariff revisions till their reasonable directives are complied with. It is time the ERCs made full use of the penal powers available under the concerned legislation. For what is at stake is not only the viability and the future of the power sector but also the credibility of the ERCs

Electricity Bill, 2001: Need for a Fresh Look

The Electricity Bill 2001 claims that it has taken account of the current realities of the power sector in India. Unfortunately, there is little reflection of this in the bill. In fact, in its present form, it will be another futile legislative exercise to show progress where there is none and, like many other laws in the country, is likely to largely remain as a showpiece on paper. In the circumstances, the government will do well to withdraw the bill for further examination and consultations.

Reading between the Lines

While presenting his government's budget for 2002-03, the Maharashtra finance minister has made a number of major policy pronouncements intended to set the finances of the state in order. This may be music to the ears of reformers, but two things need to be kept in mind. One, similar pronouncements have been made in the past on some matters, but the government has failed to carry them out. Two, one must look at the fine print before rushing to judgment.

Reform Fatigue

The unfinished agenda of economic reforms is truly large, overwhelming and in a sense daunting, but effort must be made to move forward at least in a few critical areas. The Budget for 2002-03 fails to deliver on this score.

Power Sector Reforms: If Wishes Were Horses

Comprehensive power sector reforms, particularly in the transmission and distribution segments, have been discussed at least since 1993 when a Committee of the National Development Council comprising six chief ministers was set up. Conferences of chief ministers/power ministers were held in 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2001. However, in spite of the hardy ritual of conferences and resolutions without any seriousness of purpose - just to give the appearance of progress where there is in fact none - there is no light at the end of the tunnel. In fact the tunnel seems to get darker and longer each year.

Withering Away of Canons of Financial Propriety

It is a matter for concern that in Maharashtra, a state which was once considered among the best governed in the country with sound financial management, serious questions are being raised whether a state of financial emergency needs to be declared under Article 360 of the Constitution which would be the first instance of its kind after independence. Why has the situation come to this pass and what needs to be done to set it right?

Elementary Education as a Fundamental Right

The backdrop to the proposal to make elementary education a fundamental right is provided by the country's dismal record in primary education and general literacy. Nor will mere amendment of the Constitution take us very far, as we know from the record of several other equally crucial constitutional amendments. Some issues for consideration if the fate of the move to make elementary education a fundamental right is to be different.

Management of India's International Borders

It is imperative that the challenges facing the coutnry in the management of its international borders are properly understood and widely debated so that pressure is brought on all political parties not to take actions which would compromise national security.


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