20-3-2017

 The Indian newspapers have commented on the final stages of the ‘one nation one tax’, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) that is scheduled to come into effect from 1st of July. The last minute parleys are being keenly watched by the observers. The integration of the disputed territory of Gilgit-Baltistan as a province of Pakistan has been commented upon by the dailies. It is felt that status quo must be maintained as the area is a disputed one. The new National Health Policy has also been discussed by the Indian press.
THE HINDU in an editorial LAST GASP TASKS writes that at its twelfth meeting last Friday, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council cleared all the requisite State and Central-level legislative measures to implement the indirect tax regime. The State and Union Territories’ GST bills were approved along with necessary corrections to the three other GST Bills the Council had cleared previously — for Central GST, Integrated GST and compensation to States through a cess. This paves the way for State Assemblies and Parliament to ratify these laws quickly in order to meet the proposed July 1 rollout date for the system. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said the Union Cabinet will soon take up the four laws that the Centre has to steer through Parliament, while the respective State governments will take up the State GST law. Separately, officers from the States and the Centre are expected to finalise, drafts for four pending regulations out of a total of nine that lay down the administrative procedures and processes to be followed by taxpayers under the GST regime. The Council will meet again on March 31 to consider those drafts. This will give the Centre enough buffers to make the transition to the new system.
THE INDIAN EXPRESS in an editorial THE FIFTH PROVINCE says, Pakistan is said to be considering the integration of the Gilgit-Baltistan region as part of its federation by giving it the constitutional status of a province. The move is apparently aimed at securing arrangements for the proposed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that will cut through the region. But the Nawaz Sharif government cannot be unaware of the fallout on
the Kashmir issue as a whole. The region is a part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir that acceded to India in 1947, but G-B separately opted to accede to Pakistan. All these years, G-B has been ruled from Islamabad by executive fiat and in real terms by the Pakistan military. Its status is different from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), which has its own dealing with Pakistan. In 2009, Pakistan made the first move towards changing G-B’s constitutional status by giving it an elected legislative assembly, but with no real powers. Though there is a small but vocal demand for independence, Pakistan’s latest plan will be detrimental to regional peace. India has protested the move and termed it as “unacceptable”.
THE PIONEER in an editorial A NEW HEALTH TEMPLATE observes, coming after more than a decade, the National Health Policy 2017, unveiled by the Union Government on Thursday, is undoubtedly a milestone in the history of public health in the sense that it lays down the foundation for a new, bold roadmap to provide for improved, affordable, and qualitative healthcare for the citizens of this country in an assured manner. Given the rise of both communicable and non-communicable diseases like tuberculosis, typhoid, diabetes, malaria etc, and also India’s poor ranking — 143rd among 188 countries — in a global health study, the new policy offers fresh hopes and an opportunity for the Government to rectify past inadequacies, improve India’s poor health standing and also eliminate well-known diseases through a stronger national health mission. However, problems are aplenty. At the very outset, the Government has appreciated that there must be universal health coverage, and for that it has given an estimate to spend about 2.5 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025. Though the GDP estimates are nowhere close to the World Health Organisation’s recommended standards of five per cent of the GDP, the figures are better as compared to the earlier times.