DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS MAINS UPSC |11 Nov 2020| RaghukulCS

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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS  MAINS UPSC |11 Nov 2020| RaghukulCS

UPSC Online Editorial Analysis


Editorial – 1

Title of the editorial: Road bumps

Topic in syllabus: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges
therein. (GS-2) | Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth,
development and employment. (GS-3)

Analysis about: This editorial talks about how the Finance Commission’s future road map in its report will be critical amid a stand­off between Centre and States (the issue of pending GST dues).

Basics:

Finance commission: –

  • It is constituted by the President of India under Article 280 of the Indian Constitution.
  • Role –
    • To define the financial relations between the central government and the state governments.
    • To determine factors governing Grants-in-Aid to the states.
    • To determine distribution of ‘net proceeds’ of taxes between Center and the States.
  • It is a constitutional & autonomous body.
  • As per the Constitution, the Commission is appointed every five years.

Introduction:

  • The Fifteenth Finance Commission tax submitted its report with recommendations on the formula for sharing the divisible pool of revenues between the Centre and the States for the next five years to the President.
  • The panel’s proposed fiscal road map, up to 2025­-26, will only come into the public domain once it is tabled in Parliament.

Why 14th finance commission’s recommendations on revenue sharing were not beneficial for states?

  • The Fourteenth Finance Commission recommended a sharp increase in their take­-home cut from 32% to 42% of the divisible pool of revenues and the Centre accepted it, States had obvious cause to be upbeat.
  • However, their actual shares of total taxes mopped up have turned out to be far lower as the Centre deployed more cesses and surcharges to garner additional revenues in recent years.

Why states are being anxious about the Commission’s revenue sharing recommendations?

  • States are unsure about when will they get GST compensation dues.
  • The Centre had tasked the Commission with assessing a few unusual ideas, including
    • The creation of a non­-lapsable fund for defence and security spending,
    • Incentivising States for performance on reforms considered desirable by the Centre such as
      adoption of direct benefits transfer.
  • Southern States are worried that the use of 2011 population data, instead of 1971, will penalise them for managing population growth better.
  • All these have the potential to impact States’ actual share.
  • State finances were already hurting from the slowing economy. The pandemic and the lockdowns have made things worse.

What is the good thing about this report? – The panel has dedicated a volume entirely to States, analysing the development needs of each.

Editorial – 2

Title of the editorial: Strengthening public health capacities in disasters.

Written by: Dr. Soham D. Bhaduri- He is a Mumbai-basedphysician, public health commentator,and editor of ‘The Indian Practitioner’

Topic in syllabus: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health (GS-2).

Analysis about: This editorial talks about how disaster legislation can help in strengthening public health capacities & why private sector services are not a dependable option in the Indian context.

Basics:

The Disaster Management Act, 2005-

  • The Act provides for “the effective management of disasters and for matters connected there with or incidental thereto.”
  • The Act calls for the establishment of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), with the Prime Minister of India as chairperson.
  • The NDMA may have no more than nine members including a Vice-Chairperson.
  • The Act under Section 8 enjoins the Central Government to Constitute a National Executive Committee (NEC) to assist the National Authority.
  • All State Governments are mandated under Section 14 of the act to establish a State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA).
  • The Chairperson of District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) will be the Collector or District Magistrate or Deputy Commissioner of the district.
  • The Section 44–45 of the Act provides for constituting a National Disaster Response Force “for the purpose of specialist response to a threatening disaster situation or disaster” under a Director General to be appointed by the Central Government.

Introduction:

  • There are chances of second wave of COVID 19 in winter. But living with the pandemic for months together has had a desensitising effect on the collective psyche. Unfortunately, the same has characterised India’s disaster management framework in writing off many pressing public health issues.

How central government used DMA,2005?

  • The Disaster Management Act is one of the few laws invoked since the early days of COVID­19 to
    further a range of measures — from imposing lockdowns to price control of masks and medical
    services.

Issues associated with the disaster management (particularly in relation to health sector)?

  • Disaster management considerations were to be incorporated into every aspect of development and the activities of different sectors, including health.
  • While some headway has indeed been achieved, the approach continues to be largely reactive.
  • Significant gaps remain particularly in terms of medical preparedness for disasters.
  • The public health angle in disasters and disaster management has been under­emphasised.
  • The Disaster Management Act does require States and hospitals to have emergency plans (but they do not have) therefore the medical preparedness is de facto a matter of policy, and, hence, gaps are pervasive.
  • The Disaster Management Act fails to identify progressive events (which nevertheless cause substantial damage, often more than sudden catastrophes) as disasters, thus neglecting pressing public health issues such as tuberculosis and recurrent dengue outbreaks.
  • Had they been identified as disasters, they would have attracted stronger action in terms of prevention,
    preparedness, and response.

Why private sector services are not a dependable option?

  • Since the capping of treatment prices in private hospitals in May, many instances of overcharging by
    hospitals in Maharashtra have surfaced, in some cases even leading to suspension of licences.
  • It illustrates how requisitioning of private sector services during disasters can hardly be a dependable
    option in the Indian context. (This is particularly important since the future development of hospital care services is being envisaged chiefly under publicly financed health insurance, which would very likely be private­ sector led.)
  • Health systems with large private sectors do not necessarily flounder during disasters. But the Indian private sector landscape, characterised by weak regulation and poor organisation, is particularly infelicitous for mounting a strong and coordinated response to disasters.
  • Many hospitals are also unsuitable for meeting disaster-­related care needs. And while requisitioning
    can be done under law, punitive action against non­compliant hospitals becomes tricky during disasters since health services are already inadequate.
  • Private hospitals are known to prefer lucrative and high­-end ‘cold’ cases, especially under insurance, and are generally averse to infectious diseases and critical cases with unpredictable profiles.
  • Disaster preparedness does not make a strong “business case” for hospitals, which prefer to invest in more profitable areas.

What is the need?

  • Health services and their continuing development should not be oblivious to the possibility of disaster-imposed pressures.
  • The legal framework for disaster management must push a legal mandate for strengthening the public
    health system.
  • Strong public sector capacities are imperative for dealing with disasters.
  • There is a strong case for introducing a legal mandate to strengthen public sector capacities via disaster legislation, including relevant facets such as capacity ­building of staff. (it will also serve us well during normal times.)
  • Making primary health care central to disaster management can be a significant step towards building health system and community resilience to disasters. (Primary care stands for things such as multi-sectoral action, community engagement, disease surveillance, and essential health­care provision, all of which are central to disaster management.)
  • Synergies with the National Health Mission, the flagship primary-­care programme which began as the ‘National Rural Health Mission’ concurrently with the Disaster Management Act in 2005, could be worth exploring.

Conclusion:

  • While the novel coronavirus pandemic has waned both in objective severity and subjective seriousness, valuable messages and lessons lie scattered around. It is for us to not lose sight and pick them up.

Editorial – 3

Title of the editorial: Dose of optimism.

Topic in syllabus: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health (GS-2).

Analysis about: This editorial emphasises on why India must improve its cold chain infrastructure to avail benefits of new vaccines

Introduction: Multinational drug company Pfizer has announced promising results from his ongoing­ phase­3 trial of a potential COVID­19 vaccine.

Basics:

About Pfizer vaccine for COVID19:

  • This is a vaccine that was developed using mRNA technology — it makes use of the messenger RNA molecules that tell cells what proteins to build.
  • The mRNA, in this case, is coded to tell the cells to recreate the spike protein of the novel coronavirus.
  • Once the mRNA is injected into the body, the cells will use its instructions, creating copies of the spike protein, which is in return expected to prompt the immune cells to create antibodies to fight it.
  • Unlike several other vaccine candidates, mRNA vaccines are synthetically developed — they don’t need the virus to be cultivated and replicated, just the code for the most crucial part that the body’s immune system is to target.

What is the impact on India?

  • Pfizer’s announcement may not have an immediate impact for India.
  • There is as yet no confirmation on whether India can be assured of early access to even a fraction of the vaccine output in the event it is readied.

Why this vaccine would be safe & can be made faster?

  • The vaccine candidate is based on an m­RNA technology, which eschews the use of an infectious particle, such as a portion of the virus, and uses a piece of RNA that is then made into an antigen by the body’s own machinery. This reduces the odds of untoward reactions.
  • It also does not need to be cultured in chicken eggs or other mammalian cells, allowing it be made faster and more inexpensively.

Issue with India & what must be the future approach?

  • The vaccine need to be refrigerated to nearly minus 70°C and India, with its limited cold chain infrastructure, lacks efficient vaccine storage capacity.
  • India must keep a close watch on such platform ­technology and develop expertise. It must also not lose an opportunity to improve its cold chain infrastructure which currently is developed only for rudimentary vaccines.

Editorial – 4

Title of the editorial: Without empowered foot soldiers, India cannot beat back air emergency.

Topic in syllabus: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment. (GS-3).

Analysis about: This editorial talks about the issue of less empowered state pollution control boards with greater responsibility.

[We will discuss directly the issues which are important for your answers]

Issues which are hindering the resolution of problem of air pollution in India (Particularly in relation to SPCB):

  • We often focus on legislation, legal battles and politics of air pollution, the ones quietly toiling away behind the scenes are pollution control board professionals who don’t have adequate resources, necessary specialisation, skills, tools or focus to do their job efficiently.
  • The field officer at a SPCB are in charge of inspections of a wide range of infrastructure and activities. They also have additional duties of conducting awareness programmes, such as those directed at farmers in the case of stubble-burning.
  • There is a critical shortage of staff in most SPCBs.
  • Officers at the SPCBs do not get to develop any specialisation.
  • SPCBs don’t have a stratified system, and the same officer is in charge of all these pollution categories, making it impossible to gain expertise and excel in any one area.
  • SPCBs lack the necessary legal skills to take on polluters. While a legal cell may exist at the head office of a SPCB, they have few full-time public prosecutors there.
  • SPCBs are chronically underfunded.
  • SPCB officials are at times given additional responsibilities that are unrelated to pollution control. E.g. Haryana’s SPCB, for instance, has poultry farms under its ambit.

The way forward:

  • Our fight on air pollution rests on the shoulders of these overworked, underfunded, multitasking professionals, who would be successful only if they were given a chance.
  • ·        India must empower SPCBs to act by giving them the necessary funds, human resources, tools and technologies.

Explained-1

Title: GST compensation: how some states are borrowing, and which ones aren’t.

Topic in syllabus: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges
therein (GS-2). | Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth,
development and employment (GS-3).

Basics:

What is GST?

  • Goods and Services Tax is an indirect tax on the supply of goods and services.
  • It is a destination-based tax.

What are states’ dues of GST?

  • Under the GST (Compensation to States) Act, states are assured compensation for the gap between revenues at a compounded growth rate of 14 per cent over the base year revenue of 2015-16 and the actual revenues from GST for five years ending June 2022 through levy of cess on demerit and sin goods.

Introduction: After Puducherry, Rajasthan last week became the latest Opposition-ruled state to opt for a special borrowing window for meeting its compensation shortfall under Goods and Services Tax (GST).

What did government say on borrowing window?

  • “The central government has tried to be as accommodative as possible because states and Centre have to work together. Borrowing has been made very simple. States are not being burdened, interest rate is low. – Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey had said in an interview.

What is the special window for borrowing?

  • The Finance Ministry had said last month that the Centre would borrow from the market and then act as an intermediary to arrange back-to-back loans to pay the GST compensation shortfall of Rs 1.1 lakh crore to state governments.
  • This arrangement will not reflect in the fiscal deficit of the Centre, and will appear as capital receipts for state governments.

How the amount has been estimated?

  • The total GST revenue shortfall for the current fiscal was estimated at Rs 3 lakh crore, of which compensation cess collection was estimated at Rs 65,000 crore, leaving a compensation deficit of Rs 2.35 lakh crore.
  • Of this Rs 2.35 lakh crore, Rs 1.1 lakh crore has been estimated as shortfall on account of GST implementation, while the rest is being estimated as the impact of the pandemic.
  • In August, the Centre gave two options to the states — either borrow Rs 97,000 crore from a special window facilitated by the RBI, or borrow Rs 2.35 lakh crore from the market. The options have since been revised to Rs 1.10 lakh crore and Rs 1.8 lakh crore, respectively.

Why could states not borrow instead of the Centre enabling the borrowing?

  • The earlier proposal was for a special window to be facilitated by the RBI and the Centre, but states would have tapped the market for borrowing separately, leading to differential rates with a wide variance in interest rates between the states with more debt and those with less debt.
  • The yields for state development loans (SDLs), which is the tool for market borrowing by states, are generally at a premium, higher than the yield on the central government’s government securities.
  • So, it would have been costlier for states to borrow rather than the Centre borrowing at a uniform rate and then passing it on to them as a back-to-back loan.

What is the concern?

  • Economists say the borrowing issue has only been resolved for the compensation shortfall for this fiscal and it remains to be seen how this issue will be resolved for the next fiscal, given that tax revenues are expected to grow at a lower rate than the 14% growth guaranteed to states under the compensation mechanism of GST.
  • Bigger question is what is going to happen in FY2022. Whether the Finance Commission will come out with some roadmap such that cess collection is not sufficient for 14% compensation.

Explained-2

Title: What does FTC settling with Zoom mean for users?

Topic in syllabus: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social
networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security (GS-3).

Basics:

  • End-to-end encryption: It means other than the hosts and the attendees, no one else would be able to access the details of the meeting or attend it without permission from the host.
  • Cryptographic keys: It is used to make communication safe and secure between two parties by encrypting the plain text into texts, numbers and symbols. If a company or an individual has access to the cryptographic keys of a private communication, the text of the said communication can be easily decrypted and accessed by them.
  • Zoom: It is a US-based video calling software solution provider came into sudden limelight after lockdowns in various parts of the world forced people to work from home, and opt for video calling solutions to conduct their daily meetings.

Introduction:

  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had filed a complaint that Zoom had knowingly misled its users about the level of security it used on the video calls.

What are the charges against Zoom?

  • Failure to conduct adequate training programmes on secure software development principles and lack of security audits before updates to the software were released, among others.
  • Although the company offered to store the meetings of its clients on secured cloud servers, these meetings remained on unsecured cloud servers for more than 60 days before they were moved on to secure locations. Most of these cloud servers are located in China.
  • Zoom had lied about having a better ‘end-to-end’ encryption for its users, whereas in reality the company stored “cryptographic keys”, which meant that it could access these meeting anytime it wanted.
  • Any user, which did not use its paid ‘Connecter’ product was not provided with the end-to-end encryption. The data of most of such users were stored on servers based in China.
  • It bypassed user consent in the case of customers using Apple’s operating systems. This meant that Zoom could have been functioning in the background, listening to all the conversations of the user, without the said user ever being alerted about it.

How does it impact India?

  • Soon after a large number of Indian users joined the platform, several meetings began to be hacked or interrupted.
  • Following this, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a directive that the meeting of the ministries must not be conducted on Zoom due to the various security vulnerabilities.
  • Though the conditions imposed by FTC will be applicable on the company’s operations worldwide, it will also be pertinent for Indian regulators to seek a status report from Zoom on its domestic operations and see whether any data was unknowingly kept stored on Chinese servers without the permission of the users.

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