Economy round-up: Drought plan in offing; Parliament may meet sooner to pass GST bills

The central government will next month unveil a plan to fight drought that will involve the ministries of rural development, agriculture and water resources joining hands, according to a report.

The Economic Times said the three ministries will converge their flagship schemes—the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchaee Yojana and the Integrated Watershed Management Programme—to conserve water as part of a plan to be announced on 2 October.

Although monsoon rainfall this year has been relatively good, the last two years saw India fight drought-like conditions across most parts, leading to an increase in agricultural prices, especially those of pulses, which contributed toward inflation.

In another report, the Mint newspaper said the Reserve Bank of India and the central government are at loggerheads over a proposed data warehousing body, the Financial Data Management Centre (FDMC). RBI officials are of the view that not only will the FDMC reduce the independence of the regulator, it will also hamper its ability to take action in cases of market manipulation, the report said.

Meanwhile, even as the government prepares to roll out the Goods and Services Tax (GST), it is putting together a strategy to resolve all the pending service tax and central excise cases quickly, Business Standard reported. Powers of officers at various levels will be enhanced to make this happen, it said.

Separately, a Press Trust of India report said that the government is mulling advancing the winter session of parliament to pass the necessary legislation for the GST, to make it feasible to implement the new tax system from 1 April. This could mean bringing the winter session forward to the first fortnight of November from the third or fourth week, when it is generally convened.

In a separate report, Mint said that the government will on Monday clarify the position on the notification on GST, which may have inadvertently taken away its right to levy excise duty and service tax with effect from 16 September. “Some questions are raised about the notifications issued recently in respect of GST constitutional amendment. We will be clarifying the correct legal position tomorrow and we will issue amendments if the need be,” revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia tweeted on Sunday.

The government is reportedly also planning a Rs 4,000 crore overhaul of 80 border check posts across the country to ensure seamless flow of goods once the GST is implemented. The road transport ministry is working on an app to link check posts under the state and central governments.

Meanwhile, the government is set to expand the scope of the direct benefit transfer (DBT) of subsidy to 147 more schemes by March 2017, finance secretary Ashok Lavasa said on Sunday. At present, the DBT covers 74 schemes, whose benefits are directly paid to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.

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