News Update

COVID-19 - Global tally rises to 1.17 lakh - Over 30 lakh in US; 2.2 lakh in India; 6.88 lakh in Russia & 3 lakh in PeruNHAI to go for assessment audit & rank roads for qualityUdhav Govt decides to permit hotels to reopen with 33% capacity from July 8GST - When appeal is provided under statute, writ remedy cannot be invoked by making High Court as middle authority between respondent CTO and appellate authority: HCIndia, China agree to disengage troops in Eastern LadakhGovt denies any move to merge CBDT & CBICNon-payment of consideration within 180 days and ITC reversal in GST (See 'THE INSIGHT' in of economy - 30% firms operating at 70% capacity utilisation: SurveyKerala Customs seizes gold cargo worth Rs 13 CroreAvailability of ITC in respect of duty/tax paid after July 2017 for past transactions under CEA, 1944/FA, 1994/CA, 1962ST - Assessee collects, processes & stores data of MNREGA beneficiaries on behalf of a State Govt entity - such activity entails discharge of sovereign function & no service tax can be demanded thereon: CESTATTaxability of Trusts and InstitutionsSpike in COIVD-19 cases in Gujarat - Ahmedabad Pr CCIT office hunkers down to provide logistics & other support to patients in DepartmentCX - Valuation - Approach of Revenue by disintegrating the wholesale package and determining the value of individual components under separate provisions of the same Act is not permissible: CESTATCOVID-19 impact on Start-ups - 12% down shutters; 70% adversely hurtCX - Construction service was availed for construction of own manufacturing premises - credit admissible: CESTAT140 in race to develop vaccine for Coronavirus; COVAXIN gets official nodCus - Transaction value of imported goods cannot be rejected without showing any contemporaneous evidence of higher price - charges of undervaluation are unsustainable where no evidence exists to show that assessee & overseas buyers are related parties: CESTATProf Raghavan favours use of CSR funds for R&DReceipt of cash gift through banking channels is per se insufficient to establish creditworthiness of donor or genuineness of such gift: HCProvisions of Section 2(22)(e) cannot be invoked where assessee-company maintains running transactions with its subsidiary: ITATExpenses incurred on repair & annual maintenance of computers are revenue expenses & are eligible for deduction: ITATCOVID-19 - Recovery Rate - Five States report over 80% + 9 States between 70-80 per cent + India’s averages about 60.77 per centGenetic risk score to be reliable tool in diagnosing type-1 diabetes in India
Scary Surge in 'fire-spitting' Dragon - Policy Therapists need to work on 'befitting reply'!

TIOL - COB( WEB) - 716
JUNE 18, 2020

By Shailendra Kumar, Founder Editor

AFTER Europe and America, it is now the turn of the Third World to face the wrath of 'fire-spitting' dragon from Wuhan - COVID-19. Given the geopolitical reality that there is no 'official' Second World, the global tally of Corona cases is now dominated by Brazil, second after the USA (9.3 lakh); Russia, third in the ranking (close to 5.5 lakh) and India, 4th with over 3.67 lakh cases and over 12000 deaths. The pandemic has blanketed virtually entire India, in particular, mega cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Pune & Jaipur. India has witnessed belligerent surge in fresh infection in the recent weeks but health advisors to the Central Government are of the opinion that the cliff is still far away! A shade of schizophrenia was recently noticed when Delhi Government's decision to reserve beds for Delhiites only, was binned by the LG and some bellicose politicians uttered that Delhi may record over 5.5 lakhs case by July-end! Though none has credible studies to predict a realistic peak-month but there is a fragile consensus in favour of August-month! Such a time-frame may be surmised to be a possibility if one goes by the ICMR studies rebutting any speculation of community transmission in India so far!

Even as the crest of the contagion continues to be a chimera and a clear-eyed appraisal of India's preparedness is fraught with a raft of accuracy risks, the reports from ground zero reveal that the public health system has already begun to buckle. If one goes by the recent obiter dicta of the Supreme Court of India in Dr Arushi Jain case, our public health infrastructure has visibly collapsed, months before the Coronavirus dances its way to its crescendo! The Three-Judge Bench poignantly noted the 'deplorable' conditions of hospitals treating COVID-19 patients, in particular, LNJP Hospital. Newspapers are replete with instances of patients being treated with dead bodies left uncared on beds abutting the patient-beds or lobbies or waiting areas! Visuals of mortuaries, struck by a deluge, and dead bodies overflowing or being stacked on each other, have become common and disturbing spectacle! Municipal authorities have been quoted citing how big cities have run out of burial space! Non-availability of graveyards has become so acute that people with dead bodies of their loved ones who may have succumbed to other ailments or have died a natural death, have to run from pillar to post to find 'do gaz jamin'! The saga remains equally traumatic for cemeteries and crematoriums! Though there are detailed guidelines from the Ministry of Health but their compliance is more in flagrant violations!

Let's move away from the dead to the living ones! Undoubtedly, the Governments are labouring hard to ramp up capacities but the flare-up is so steep that new patients are not able to access treatment. Hospitals are full; hotlines notified have turned dumb and testing takes several days. The situation is especially grim in the epicenters - Mumbai & Delhi! Close to 100% beds are occupied! The depth of calamity was obviously not measured either by the Centre or the States! Now, to curb the surge in new cases, an ingenuous method has been adopted by many - that is to test less! Such a thinking resonated even in the White House when President Trump was reported caroling - "If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any.”

To build capacity, States have begun to convert stadiums, hotels, banquet halls and railway coaches into isolation facilities. Lack of healthcare infrastructure is fathomable as the Central as well as State Governments in the past did not treat public health as a priority area. Only about 1.2 per cent of GDP was spent on it. As a result, India accounts for only 0.5 bed per 1000 people as compared to 3.2 beds in Italy. COVID-19 is an additional burden!

Besides the lack of beds, more acute is turning out to be the dearth of medical staff and supporting health workers. Mumbai recently took a contingent of medical staff on loan basis from Kerala. India has about 12 lakh registered allopathic doctors - many left India and a good number also retired. Close to 10 lakh is available for service and it works out to 1: 1400 against WHO-prescribed ratio of 1:1000. India has 1.7 nurses per 1000 population against WHO ratio of 3:1000. Shortage is also due to uneven rural-urban distribution. In this backdrop, our 'Corona Warriors' are very scarce and precious. Since the battle against COVID-19 was beguiled quite early as soon as the lockdown commenced, a large number of them appear to be falling to exhaustion and fatigue. Shockingly, a large number of them have also fallen victim to the contagion for lack of PPEs, coveralls and other negligence. Though no regular updates are available on what percentage of them have got infected and many may have also demised but, according to the International Council of Nurses, about 6% of confirmed cases are health workers. Going by this percentage, 6% of 3.6 lakh cases in India works out to be 21000. A good number of health workers have also died of COVID-19.

Now the question is - How should India gear up to confront the peak-surge in the coming weeks? Even if India manages to build make-shift care centres who would supervise and care for the patients? One solution could be to deploy MBBS third year and fourth year students for basic cares at such centres. In first three or four years, they are trained enough to ensure basic treatment under supervision of full-fledged doctors. These students may be given deemed passed benefits after one or two years but with retro effect so that they do not lose their academic years. Such a measure may go a long way in ramping up medical staff requirements in hard-hit districts.

Undoubtedly, the Nation needs to take care of the most valuable resource in the war against Coronavirus. They need to be protected and their motivation sustained to win this war. But, unfortunately, some doctors had to resort to PIL where the Apex Court nicely exhorted - "You do not dissatisfy soldiers during a war. So, travel the extra mile to make the Corona Warriors feel secure." There cannot be a more clearer message for the political leadership and the bureaucracy which have failed to pay their salaries. Worse, they have also reduced them!

In contrast to the pathetic conditions of doctors and other health workers, we have five-star luxury hospitals which have no fear of regulations and they brazenly practice the principle of buccaneering! First, they are selective in choosing patients based on the size of one's purse! Secondly, they collect exorbitantly high charges for beds, nursing, ICU and ventilators! States have failed the citizens in this critical hour when rich or poor both are fighting a common enemy! Although some States have issued order directing obstreperous private hospitals to display charges but again, the compliance is more in violation! A good number of doctors have also resented against such a practice but nothing changes in practice! Given the widespread fear of COVID-19, most patients needing consultation for their persistent illness have been opting for tele-consultation but private hospitals seem to be profiteering even from such cheap and tech-based option. They are charging more than a physical visit fee!

Before I conclude this column, I would like to talk about the soaring number of Corona patients in the tax departments. Recently, a promotee IRS officer in Delhi committed suicide as the fear of Corona mercilessly overpowered his stressed mind. Ironically, his is not an exceptional case! Besides the growing number of COVID-19 patients, many from Settlement Commission of Income Tax, a large number of officers in the Department have been going through stress disorder and depression. They need active counselling. And this is where I recommend, the Directorates of HRD in both the Revenue Boards and also State GST Departments should come forward and organise some webinars to help overcome such fear. The grandees of the Revenue Boards in the North Block need to play the role of a therapist and be creative in organising online sessions for their thousands of field officials who do need such cushions to overcome debilitating effect of Coronavirus fear!

I sincerely hope that Prime Minister Modi and the State Chief Ministers would move away from the head-in-sand strategy and craft realistic rescue packages for both COVID-19 patients as well as the economy. Strangely, the lockdown has been lifted but because of the recent spikes in infections, the citizens have opted for self-imposed confinement. In the initial weeks, some desperate businesses had lifted shutters but they are down again after a few positive cases were found in their premises or vicinity. If such a grim situation is allowed to persist, what were seen as green shoots by Mr Modi which he talked about with the CMs early this week, may finally turn out to be a recipe for economic sclerosis. Unless the people and businessmen see a clear sign of tapering off of infections, the economy would not be back on rail! Secondly, for containment of the ravaging virus, a unified nationwide strategy is the need of the hour! At the moment, unity is seen only in confusion!