News Wrap


Union Government of India's 15th Finance Commission was notified on 27 November, 2017, to suggest the formula for devolution of funds to the states by the Union Government, for five years, commencing 01 April, 2020. The commission was to submit its report by 30 October, 2019. The deadline was extended to 30 November, 2019. In July 2019, the Central Government had changed the Commission's terms of reference, and mandated the panel to suggest ways for allocation of non-lapsible funds for defence and internal security. The central government should have consulted the chief ministers of the states, before changing the terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission. The chief Minister's conference is now under the Niti Aayog. There is a strong feeling that the central government is trying to rob the states, of due resources allotment. The central government is yet to evolve a national consensus over certain basic issues like allocations for health, education, environment protection, where all states have a legitimate interest. The introduction of additional terms of reference occurred when most states have already gone to the Commission, with their requirements.

Uttar Pradesh Treasury
As per the Uttar Pradesh Ministers' salaries, allowances and Miscellaneous Act (1981), when VP Singh was Chief Minister Uttar Pradesh, the tax burden of the Chief Minster and his council of ministers is on the UP state exchequer, as they are deemed to be "poor" and "cannot pay tax from their megre earnigs". Many Ministers, going by the affidavits they file during elections, own movable and immovable assets worth crores of rupees.

They love flashing their wealth by acquiring swanky suvs. But it is the state, ranked among the poorer ones, which picks up the tax bill. UP has since then witnessed 19 Chief Ministers up to the incumbent CM Yogi Adityanath, and nearly 1000 ministers from different parties, since 1981. While getting the Bill passed by the state assembly, VP Singh had told the Assembly House, that the state government should bear the Income Tax burden, as most ministers were from poor backgrounds, and had meager incomes. A section of the Act says that every minister and minister of state shall be entitled, throughout terms of his office, to a salary of one thousand rupees per month. In financial year 2018-19, the income tax bill of chief minister Adityanath and his council of ministers was around Rs.86 lacs, and was paid from the state Treasury.

Enenviromental Defenders Of Philippines
Philippines has the reputation of being the deadliest country for environmental defenders in 2018. Thirteen of them were killed in 2018 alone. Forest ranger Bienvinido Veguilla Jr 44 years, was hacked to death in El Nido, Palawan on 04 September 2019, while he was trying to arrest suspected illegal loggers. Palawan is Philippines so-called last frontier, with 692, 288 hectares of forest cover, hosting flora and fauna, of great diversity. Illegal loggers and suspected timber poachers have shot and killed numerous rangers of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The standard operating procedure to have police or army personnel accompany forest rangers is not adequate. The Kalikasan (People's Network for the Environment) has opposed the move for arming DENR personnel with shotguns. The fear that the armed forest guards can be transformed into paramilitary groups, that may end up harassing and repressing local communities. Indigenous people are disproportionately affected by the scramble for land and natural resources. In October 2018, nine sugar cane farmers of Negros Occidental, were massacred in Sagay city, occupying a plot of disputed land. Under president Duterte there were 48 death in 2017 alone. Also in 2017, Mr Duterte announced plans to allocate 1.6 million hectares of land to industrial plantations, most of them in Mindanao.

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Vol. 52, No. 18, Nov 3 - 9, 2019