Science in the Service of Villages
A substantial section of Indian scientific community comes from rural and poor background. But they are seldom able to serve the villages and villagers in their own country.

Even if they look forward to do so, the dynamics of their lives come to stand in their way. Eventually, they become estranged from ground realities of poverty and backwardness.

Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray was a scientist-pioneer who, against all odds demonstrated ways to serve India and its people in education, research, industry and social improvement.

The “Acharya PrafullaChandra Rural Science Centre” has been organised under a Voluntary Organisation, in a rural area in the district of Bankura in West Bengal.

Programmes of rural health, sustainable agriculture, children’s education etc. are already being pursued there. The Science Centre also wishes to join hands with these efforts and bring a touch of science in rural life.

We are looking for scientific social worker/s inclined towards such activities and at least somewhat familiar with the functioning of laboratory-based science education. There are modest provisions of food and shelter. For those who need.

it, a modest monthly allowance may also be arranged, the amount depending on availability of funds. Retired persons are also most welcome. Interested persons are invited to contact:
Dr Pijush Kanti Sarkar
Amader Haspatal,
Phulberia, PO: Nishchintopur
Chhatna, Bankura-722136
Rabin Majumdar, M: 9874622025
Debapriyo Mukherji, M: 9432370163

Relief is no Answer
People have no equality and justice, even after 75 years of independence. They have only one equal right—the right to vote. It is very much a constitutional matter. In practice, all have no free right to vote because of several political parties’ influences and so-called scientific rigging. In spite of this, all have an equal share in the democratic government. At the same time, people have to struggle for equity and justice. But the government works for the rich to make them richer and the majority of its population is deprived of their democratic demand for survival at their own feet. The government of India is celebrating the "Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsab". Are the people of India really "Azad" (free)?

The governments (central and states) have formed National and States Human Rights Commissions, Women’s Right Commission, Organi-sations for SCs/STs/OBCs etc, with the object of ensuring equal rights and justice. But all is under the control of the ruling political party in the government. These organisations have failed to bridge the gap between rich and poor, higher and lower classes, and so forth.

Social services and relief are prioritised measures for the disadvantaged. Unfortunately, these measures are also politicalised in their distribution to the ultimate beneficiaries. That’s why about 38.4% of the population is hungry. Different government and non-government organi-sations, corporate and individuals are greatly involved in serving the underprivileged. But the ground reality remains unchanged. No doubt social services and relief work are impressive image-building factors in society. It's a show-off deal. They rarely consider the dignity of the underprivileged. Is it not an effort to make them dependent? Is it not discrimination against human beings by human beings? Is it their inherited stigma to be born as poor so that they have to die in poverty?

Are social services and relief efforts being used to glorify political parties, corporate, and some individuals? The government states in its long list on August 15th or January 26th every year how much it is concerned about serving the majority (poor). Each and every political party declares its manifesto during the election, which is an assurance of some social service measures or relief works. There is no effort taken for people’s sustainable living.

For example, the government makes no serious effort to create jobs for educated or non-degree holders. No new employment venue has been created. But the government is very strict about privatising the public sectors. Is the younger generation social waste in this nation? They have huge potential at the time of the election? Is job guarantee under MGNEGRA a long-term policy to reduce unemployment and hunger among people? Is it not a policy of begging for 100 days of work with lower than minimum wages? It is an irresponsible policy to keep the poor in poverty. It will never be a supplement or complement to (self-relaint) "Atmanirvar Bharat”.
Equality, justice, and sustainable self-dependent living are a dream for the common people of India.
Harasankar Adhikari, Kolkata

Forced Labour
Samuel (42) is among tens of thousands of migrants and refugees who have been held in dire conditions in Libyan detention centres and subjected to forced labour and torture. Despite acknowledging the abhorrent abuse they face, the EU continues to support the Libyan Coast Guard to return people intercepted in the Mediterranean to Libya.

Libya’s migrant detention centres are notoriously horrendous. Guards systematically torture and abuse detainees to extort money from their friends and families abroad.

Samuel spoke of frequent beatings with metal pipes: “If I take off my T-shirt, you will see the marks”.

Many survivors have reported that guards force detainees to carry out unpaid manual labour.

Seventeen-year-old Mohammed from Gambia was a victim of forced labour at a centre. He had been picked up by a Libyan group on the street who demanded money from him. When he couldn’t pay, they made him work—he was not allowed to leave until he completed a year of unpaid labour.

“If you try to escape because you don’t have money, they even shoot you”.

The EU is complicit in the trafficking of people on the move in Libya. With a budget of €84.85m (around $86.32m) for the period from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2023, the bloc provides capacity building for the Libyan Coast Guard as well as “strategic and operational” assistance for wider Libyan border management efforts.

Activists and organisations are urging the EUto stop facilitating the enslavement of people in Libya.
Freedom United

Peaceful Protests in Sri Lanka
Sri Lankans had been protesting for months over the country’s economic crisis that has led to a severe shortage of many essential imported items like medicines, fuel and cooking gas. Wickremesinghe’s predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country after protesters stormed his official residence and occupied many key state buildings including the president’s office and prime minister’s office and official residence. Wickremesinghe was elected by Parliament to complete Rajapaksa’s term, which ends in 2024.

The untiring efforts of the peaceful protesters succeeded in forcing the resignation of three Rajapaksha brothers; first it was Mahinda Rajapaksha who resigned the post of Prime Minister on May 09, 2022. Finance Minister Basil Rajapakshe on June 09, 2022. But the objective of the protesters was the removal of President Gotabaya Rajapaksha. Due to the siege of the President’s house he was forced to go on exile to Maldives and then secured a 14 day visa to Singapore.

Sri Lanka is the first country to succeed by the protests for a “Regime Change”. The country is riding the waves of revolutionary change for the first time in history. The mass protests irrespective of race, religion or social class, Sri Lankans, Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims collectively protesting against the growing hardships influenced by the economic crisis the country has faced since independence. The country is desperately struggling to meet the fuel, food and financial commitments.

An essential part of this struggle is peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and communication as well as the freedom of mobility. These rights and their use by an informed, youthful protest leadership was able to shake the foundations of the government pushing it to change the President, cabinet and important office holders in the government bureaucracy.
Kumarathasan Rasingam, Sri Lanka

GST on Rent
A GST-registered tenant needs to pay a goods and services tax of 18 per cent for renting a residential property, according to the new GST rules effective from July 18. Earlier, only commercial properties like offices or retail spaces given on rent attracted GST. However, the tenant can claim the GST paid under input tax credit as a deduction.

According to the recommendations of the 47th GST Council meeting, tenants should pay an 18 per cent GST on a reverse charge basis (RCM) and they can later claim it as a deduction under the input tax credit.

Abhishek Jain, partner (indirect tax) at KPMG in India, said, “The new GST rule will increase the cost of every residential rent agreement where the transaction involves a registered person, such as a company or a corporate. The 18 per cent additional cost on the rent could either be borne by the company or the landlord, depending upon the commercial arrangement thereof. Further, input tax credit in respect of such transactions may be sought…on the ground of the said services being for the personal use of the employees.”

The 47th GST Council meeting at June-end decided to accept the group of ministers’ interim reports on the correction of duty inversion and exemption. Pre-packaged and pre-labelled retail packs, including curd, lassi and butter milk, were brought under GST, effective July 18.

The Council also decided to impose a GST of 18 per cent on the fees charged by banks for the issue of cheques (loose or in book form); bring hotel rooms under Rs 1,000 per day under the 12 per cent GST slab as opposed to tax exemption category currently.

Hospital room rent, excluding intensive care unit (ICU), exceeding Rs 5,000 per day per patient will also be taxed at 5 per cent, without input tax credit. The Council also decided to impose a 12 per cent GST on maps and hydrographic or similar charts of all kinds, including atlases, wall maps, topographical plans and globes.

GST on petroleum/ coalbed methane has been increased to 12 per cent, from 5 per cent earlier. The tax on e-waste has also been raised from 5 per cent to 18 per cent. GST exemption on services extended by RBI, Irdai, Sebi, FSSAI and GST has also been withdrawn. The tax on scientific and technical instruments supplied to public funded research institutes has been raised from 5 per cent to the "applicable rate”.

The GST Council also reduced the tax rate on ostomy appliances (including pouch or flange, barrier cream, sleeves, irrigator kit, micro-pore tapes, stoma adhesive paste, belt) from 12 per cent to 5 per cent. It also cut GST from 12 per cent to 5 per cent on orthopedic appliance (splints and other fracture appliances); artificial parts of the body; other appliances which are worn or carried, or implanted in the body, to compensate for a defect or disability; and intraocular lens.
A Reader

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Vol 55, No. 9, Aug 28 - Sep 3, 2022