The important policy announcements by the Government in the month of November-December 2016 are covered in
this month’s Policy Focus. Our endeavor through this section is to keep our readers abreast of the latest happenings
on the policy front so that they can take an informed decision accordingly.
1. Lok Sabha Passes Disabilities Bill
The Lok Sabha passed on 16th December, 2016 “The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill – 2016”. The Bill will replace the existing Persons with Disabilities (PwD) Act, 1995, which was enacted 21 years back. The Rajya Sabha has already passed the Bill on 14.12.2016.
The salient features of the Bill are:
i. Disability has been defined based on an evolving and dynamic concept.
ii. The types of disabilities have been increased from existing 7 to 21 and the Central Government will have the power to add more types of disabilities.
iii. Speech and Language Disability and Specific Learning Disability have been added for the first time. Acid attack victims have been included. Dwarfism, muscular dystrophy have has been indicated as separate class of specified disability. The New categories of disabilities also included three blood disorders, Thalassemia, Hemophilia and Sickle Cell disease.
iv. In addition, the Government has been authorized to notify any other category of specified disability.
v. Responsibility has been cast upon the appropriate governments to take effective measures to ensure that the persons with disabilities enjoy their rights equally with others.
vi. Additional benefits such as reservation in higher education, government jobs, reservation in allocation of land, poverty alleviation schemes etc. have been provided for persons with benchmark disabilities and those with high support needs.
vii. Every child with benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years shall have the right to free education.
viii. Government funded educational institutions as well as the government recognized institutions will have to provide inclusive education to the children with disabilities.
ix. For strengthening the Prime Minister’s Accessible India Campaign, stress has been given to ensure accessibility in public buildings (both Government and private) in a prescribed time-frame.
x. Reservation in vacancies in government establishments has been increased from 3 per cent to 4 per cent for certain persons or class of persons with benchmark disability.
xi. The Bill provides for grant of guardianship by District Court under which there will be joint decision – making between the guardian and the persons with disabilities.
xii. Broad based Central & State Advisory Boards on Disability are to be set up to serve as apex policy making bodies at the Central and State level.
xiii. Office of Chief Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities has been strengthened who will now be assisted by 2 Commissioners and an Advisory Committee comprising of not more than 11 members drawn from experts in various disabilities.
xiv. Similarly, the office of State Commissioners of Disabilities has been strengthened who will be assisted by an Advisory Committee comprising of not more than 5 members drawn from experts in various disabilities.
xv. The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities and the State Commissioners will act as regulatory bodies and Grievance Redressal agencies and also monitor implementation of the Act.
xvi. District level committees will be constituted by the State Governments to address local concerns of PwDs. Details of their constitution and the functions of such committees would be prescribed by the State Governments in the rules.
xvii. Creation of National and State Fund will be created to provide financial support to the persons with disabilities. The existing National Fund for Persons with Disabilities and the Trust Fund for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities will be subsumed with the National Fund.
xviii. The Bill provides for penalties for offences committed against persons with disabilities and also violation of the provisions of the new law.
xix. Special courts will be designated in each district to handle cases concerning violation of rights of PwDs.
The New Act will bring our law in line with the United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which India is a signatory. This will fulfill the obligations on the part of India in terms of UNCRD. Further, the new law will not only enhance the Rights and Entitlements of Divyangjan but also provide effective mechanism for ensuring their empowerment and true inclusion into the Society in a satisfactory manner.
The Rights of persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014 passed by both the houses is a landmark decision towards ensuring
equal opportunities and accessibility to the Persons with Disabilities and will go a long way in creating inclusive
society. The bill takes into fold the Corporate sector to ensure that persons with disabilities are provided with
barrier-free access in buildings, transport systems and all kinds of public infrastructure, and are not discriminated
against in matters of employment.
Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) has been an important part of CII’s agenda for promoting and
enabling inclusion. CII has been working towards mainstreaming PwDs into the workforce, by sensitizing members
through a ‘Corporate Code on Disability’, manuals to assist companies with hiring processes, sensitization films to
encourage companies; facilitating employment through dedicated recruitment drives across India; and promoting
barrier free workplaces to enable access to services and facilities.
“CII is highly committed to bring in transformational change in the society and welcomes the Disability Bill. CII looks forward to further engagement with the government on the new bill. We hope that the guidelines will emerge
through a consultative process with all stakeholders and will create a facilitative environment for industry to create
disabled friendly policies, infrastructure and services” Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of
2. GST Council approves most of draft model Bill
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council, comprising the Union finance minister and state representatives, mainly their finance ministers met for two days on 23- 24 December, 2016. The Council approved structure of Central Goods & Services Tax (CGST) and State Goods & Services Tax (SGST) laws. The Council also cleared most of the draft model GST Bill. With the sharing of administrative powers a tough nut to crack, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council sidestepped it and devoted productive time to make the principal Bill of 195 sections, defining the comprehensive indirect tax, foolproof and ready for tabling in Parliament and state assemblies.
3. Government of India Rescinds Classification of Cyprus as ”notified jurisdictional area”
Recently, on 18 November 2016, a revised double taxation avoidance agreement (DTAA) was signed between India and Cyprus (2016 DTAA), which replaced the earlier DTAA of 1994. Subsequent to the above, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) of the Government of India (GoI) has now published Notification No. 114 of 2016 dated 14 December 2016 (2016 Notification) in the Gazette of India rescinding Cyprus’ classification as a “Notified Jurisdictional Area” (NJA) under the Indian Tax Laws (ITL). The 2016 Notification rescinds the NJA classification of Cyprus from 1 November 2013, except as respects things done or omitted to be done before such rescission.
4. Cabinet Approves Replacement of ‘Major Port Trusts Act, 1963’
The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has approved the proposal of Ministry of Shipping to replace the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963 by the Major Port Authorities Bill, 2016. This will empower the Major Ports to perform with greater efficiency on account of full autonomy in decision making and by modernizing the Institutional structure of Major Ports. With a view to promote the expansion of port infrastructure and facilitate trade and commerce, the proposed bill aims at decentralizing decision making and to infuse professionalism in governance of ports. The new Major Ports Authority Bill, 2016 would help to impart faster and transparent decision making benefiting the stakeholders and better project execution capability. The Bill is aimed at reorienting the governance model in central Ports to landlord port model in line with the successful global practice. This will also help in bringing transparency in operations of Major Ports.
The salient features of the Major Ports Authority Bill are as under:
a. The Bill is more compact in comparison to the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963 as the number of sections has been reduced to 65 from 134 by eliminating overlapping and obsolete Sections.
b. The new Bill has proposed a simplified composition of the Board of Port Authority which will comprise of 11 members from the present 17 to 19 Members representing various interests.
c. The role of Tariff Authority for Major Ports [TAMP] has been redefined. Port Authority has now been given powers to fix tariff which will act as a reference tariff for purposes of bidding for PPP projects. PPP operators will be free to fix tariff based on market conditions. The Board of the Port Authority has been delegated the power to fix the scale of rates for other port services and assets including land.
d. An independent Review Board has been proposed to be created to carry out the residual function of the erstwhile TAMP for Major Ports, to look into disputes between ports and PPP concessionaires, to review stressed PPP projects and suggest measures to review stressed PPP projects and suggest measures to revive such projects and to look into complaints regarding services rendered by the ports/ private operators operating within the ports would be constituted.
e. The Boards of the Port Authority have been delegated full powers to enter into contracts, planning and development, fixing of tariff except in national interest, security and emergency arising out of inaction and default. In the present MPT Act, 1963 prior approval of the Central Government was required in 22 cases.
f. Empowers the Board to make its own Master Plan in respect of the area within the port limits and to construct within port limits Pipelines, Telephones, Communication towers, electricity supply or transmission equipment. The Board is empowered to lease land for Port related use for upto 40 years and for any purpose other than the purposes specified in section 22 for upto 20 years beyond which the approval of the Central Government is required.
g. Provisions of CSR & development of infrastructure by Port Authority have been introduced.