DAILY MAINS NEWSLETTER FOR UPSC | 05 APR 2021 | RaghukulCS

Daily Mains Newsletter For UPSC
| RaghukulCS

03 APRIL 2021

Index

Mains Value Addition

Mains Analysis

Topic No

Topic Name

Source

1

A walk-back

The Hindu

2

GST on fuel: A price vs revenue trade-off

Indian Express

3

Why forest fires break out in the spring, and why they have been so frequent this year

Indian Express

Mains Value Addition

Another batch of Rafale jets to fly in by mid-May

Syllabus – GS 3: Internal Security

Analysis: –

  • India will receive another 8 to 9 Rafale jets from France by mid-May, with some expected later this month, completing the first squadron of the fighters in the Indian Air Force (IAF), according to a defense official.
  • Indian Air Force (IAF) base in Ambala is all set to receive three for French fighter jets from France today.
  • Three Rafale from Dassault Aviation are flying in directly from France with the help of mid air refuellers which have been provided by the UAE as well as France.
  • The fighters which will first land in Gujarat late Wednesday will then head to the Golden Arrows Squadron in Ambala, thus taking the number of the Rafale fighters in the Squadron to 14.
  • Typically a squadron comprises around 18 aircraft and two as standby.

Sukma Attack

Syllabus – GS 3: Internal Security

Analysis: –

  • A day after the encounter between central paramilitary forces and Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma, bodies of 22 personnel were recovered on Sunday; one commando was still missing, Chattisgarh police said.
  • In a major joint offensive, separate joint teams of security forces, comprising over 2,000 personnel, launched an anti-Naxal operation from Bijapur and Sukma districts in the South Bastar forests, considered as a Maoist stronghold, on Friday night.
  • The operation was launched from five places – Tarrem, Usoor and Pamed (in Bijapur), and Minpa and Narsapuram (in Sukma), the official said.
  • When the patrolling team dispatched from Tarrem was advancing through the forest near Jonaguda, around 500 km from the state capital Raipur, it was ambushed by cadres of PLGA (Peoples’ Liberation Guerilla Army) battalion of Maoists and a gun-battle ensued, he said.

India continues to fail its women as Covid-19 made things worse

Syllabus – GS 1: Women and Women Organizations, GS 2: Vulnerable sections

Analysis: –

  • The World Economic Forum in its Global Gender Gap report of 2021 has not just highlighted the sad state of unequal progress of women among the two major genders, but also found evidence that the Covid-19 pandemic affected women more than men. India remains a country with a higher gender gap (GG).
  • It puts India in the same category as West Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Scandinavian and American countries have bridged the GG the most.
  • But what is more concerning is that India’s position has deteriorated on the index.

India continues to fail its women as Covid-19 made things worse

Syllabus –
GS 1: Women and Women Organizations, GS 2: Vulnerable sections

Analysis: –

  • The World Economic Forum in its Global Gender Gap report of 2021 has not just highlighted the sad state of unequal progress of women among the two major genders, but also found evidence that the Covid-19 pandemic affected women more than men. India remains a country with a higher gender gap (GG).
  • It puts India in the same category as West Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Scandinavian and American countries have bridged the GG the most.
  • But what is more concerning is that India’s position has deteriorated on the index.

Mains Analysis

A walk-back

Why in News: –

President Joe Biden allowed a ban on issuance of H-1B visas for skilled workers to lapse at the end of March 2021

Syllabus: -GS 2: International Relation

  • Changing executive orders and policies can be especially easy and quick because the changes do not require any approvals or procedures beyond the consent of the top decision-maker charged with the subject matter administration.
  • For instance, President Biden nullified Trump’s Muslim ban with the stroke of a pen on his first day in office, January 20th, 2021.

President Trump’s Immigration Policy (America First Ideology):

  • President Donald Trump in June 2020, blocked the issuance of non-immigrant work visas of several types, including the skilled worker visa, or H-1B following the tightening immigration policy-aim of the policy was to stop foreign workers from decreasing American jobs.
  • protecting U.S. jobs for Americans, in the context of the economic distress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, was a major immigration reform for President Trump.
  • By some estimates, H-1B visa applications of up to 219,000 workers were likely blocked.

 

Categories of Visas: –

  1. The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
  2. The J-1 visa is an exchange visitor visa for individuals approved to participate in work-and-study-based exchange visitor programmes in the U.S.
  3. The L-1 Visa is reserved for managerial or executive professionals transferring to the US from within the same company, or a subsidiary of it.

“Failing to revoke the Proclamation immediately places these programmes at risk because both workers and employers cannot adequately prepare for the surge season.

Impact on India:

  • Biden’s action will have a significant and favourable impact for Indian nationals seeking employment with U.S. tech firms, as they garnered approximately 70%.of the 65,000 H-1B visas annually made available to private sector applicants other than students
  • Yet, this raised genuine questions about whether such rules would set back the U.S.-India relationship by impacting Indian IT services exported to the U.S.
  • These totalled approximately $29.7 billion in 2019, 3.0% ($864 million) more than 2018, and 143% greater than 2009 levels.
  • Not only did the CEOs of Silicon Valley tech titans protest the clampdown on a key source of skilled labour driving their core operations, but some universities also filed lawsuits challenging a subsequent student visa ban last year, leading to a partial walk-back on the rules for the latter.
  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai had lashed out at the policy, noting that Immigration had contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech.
  • SpaceX founder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Apple CEO Tim Cook have also expressed similar anguish against the policy.

Way Forward: –

  • Biden’s administration has already withdrawn the regulation that was not yet published: the USCIS regulation that redefined employer-employee relationship to a far stricter level than we have ever had before, and required end-clients to be actively involved in the H-1B process.
  • Concomitant with the withdrawal of that regulation, the US Department of Labor withdrew its policies that implemented some of those changes.

 

Question: –

Discuss the H1- B visas regulation and its impact on Indian IT industry.

GST on fuel: A price vs revenue trade-off

Why in News: –

In the backdrop of rapidly rising fuel prices, the Author ( BJP MP) opines that merely bringing petrol and diesel to the ambit of GST will not lower fuel prices unless Union and State governments take revenue cuts

Syllabus: – GS 3: Indian Economy & Resource Mobilisation (GST)

  • When the GST was introduced on July 1, 2017, amalgamating over a dozen central and state levies, five commodities – crude oil, natural gas, petrol, diesel, and aviation turbine fuel (ATF) – were kept out of its purview given the revenue dependence of the central and state governments on this sector.
  • This meant that the central government continued to levy excise duty on them while state governments charged VAT. These taxes, with excise duty, in particular, have been raised periodically.
  • While the taxes haven’t come down, a spike in global oil prices on demand recovery has pushed petrol and diesel to an all-time high, leading to demand for them come under the GST.
  • In the current fiscal year, Centre and states are expected to earn around 5.5 lakh crore by way of revenue from petrol and diesel.
  • Out of the Central levy on Petrol and Diesel, the following two components forms part of divisible pool of taxes between center and states:
    • Basic excise duty
    • Special additional excise duty.
  • The following levies imposed on petrol and Diesel are completely retained by the centre and exclusively used for the purpose behind the cess.
    • Road and infrastructure cess
    • Agriculture Infrastructure and development cess.

Challenges before GST Council

  • The first major hurdle will be to bring all the states on board.
  • The second hurdle would be fixing the GST rate itself.
  • This will be a dicey decision to take since both the central government and States earn a lot of tax revenue from these and may not want to reduce the overall tax collection.
  • The third challenge will be to decide on the compensation mechanism for states since they are likely to incur a shortfall in their revenue collection because of this change, and this won’t be easy either.
  • The Centre has a much higher proportion of tax on these products and the majority of that is in the form of cess and hence non-sharable with the states.
  • In such a situation, the loss of revenue may not go down well with the states.

Way Forward: –

  • Presently, 60 per cent tax is being collected on petroleum products. This would result in a shortfall of Rs 2 lakh crore to 2.5 lakh crore (to both Centre and states).
  • If petrol or diesel price is Rs 100 (per litre) then the tax component is Rs 60 which includes Rs 35 for Centre and Rs 25 for respective states.
  • It is said that tax collected on petrol, diesel goes into the pocket of the government. There is no separate pocket of the government.
  • From where the money will come to provide electricity and tap water to all households.
  • The spending of tax collection on the welfare of the country is being challenged.

Question: –

Critically evaluate the impact of Bringing petrol and diesel under GST.

Why forest fires break out in the spring, and why they have been so frequent this year

Why in News: –

In the past 24 hrs(April 4th ), Uttarakhand witnessed over 45 forest fires & reached out for Centre for help.

Recently forest fires broke out in Simlipal Nation park(Odisha), Bandhavgarh forest reserve (MP).

Syllabus: – GS 3: Disaster & Disaster Management (Forest Fires)

India & Forest fires:   

  • As per Forest Report 2019, India has a total forest & tree cover of 24.56% of the total geographical area.
  • The report indicates that many of the Indian states are highly prone to forest fires ranging from extremely prone(North-Eastern states) to very highly prone(Central & Southern Indian states).
  • The area under forest fire-prone is 26.2% of total forest cover.
  • Himalayan states such as Uttarakhand & Himachal Pradesh are most affected by frequent forest fires annually.
  • Among others, Uttarakhand has a forest cover of over 45% of the geographical area has been witnessed over 1000 forest fire incidents over the last 6 months.

Where have forest fires happened?

  • January saw prolonged fires in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh (Kullu Valley) and Nagaland-Manipur border (Dzukou Valley).
  • The ongoing one in Nainital began in March-end. The Simlipal National Park in Odisha saw a major fire between February-end and early March.
  • Recent fires include those in Bandhavgarh Forest Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, and in sanctuaries for the Asiatic lion and the great Indian bustard in Gujarat.

How prone to fire are India’s forests?

  • As of 2019, about 21.67% (7,12,249 sq km) of the country’s geographical area is identified as forest, according to the India State of Forest Report 2019 (ISFR) released by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), Dehradun. Tree cover makes up another 2.89% (95, 027 sq km).
  • Based on previous fire incidents and recorded events, forests of the Northeast and central India regions are the most vulnerable areas to forest fires, the FSI has said.
  • Forests in Assam, Mizoram and Tripura have been identified as ‘extremely prone’ to forest fire. States with large forest areas under the ‘very highly prone’ category include Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Maharashtra, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Western Maharashtra, Southern Chhattisgarh and areas of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, along with central Odisha, are turning into ‘extremely prone’ forest fire hotspots, the 2020-2021 annual report of the MoEFCC said.
  • Areas under the ‘highly prone’ and ‘moderately prone’ categories make up about 26.2% of the total forest cover — a whopping 1,72,374 sq km.

 

How vulnerable are forests in Uttarakhand?

  • Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are the two states that witness the most frequent forest fires annually. In Uttarkhand, 24,303 sq km (over 45 per cent of the geographical area) is under forest cover.
  • The FSI has identified forests along the south, west and southwest regions of Uttarakhand — comprising Dehradun, Hardwar, Garhwal, Almora, Nainital, Udham Singh Nagar, Champawat districts — as being prone to varying intensities of forest fires.

Why are forest fires difficult to control?

  • The locality of the forest and access to it pose hurdles in initiating firefighting efforts. During peak season, shortage of staff is another challenge in dispatching firefighting teams.
  • Timely mobilisation of forest staff, fuel and equipment, depending on the type of fire, through the thick forests remain challenges.
  • As it is impossible to transport heavy vehicles loaded with water into the thick forests, a majority of fire dousing is initiated manually, using blowers and similar devices. But there have been incidents when forest fires were brought under control using helicopter services.
  • Wind speed and direction play a critical role in bringing a forest fire under control.
  • The fire often spreads in the direction of the winds and towards higher elevations.

What causes forest fires?

  • Forest fires can be caused by a number of natural causes, but officials say many major fires in India are triggered mainly by human activities.
  • Emerging studies link climate change to rising instances of fires globally, especially the massive fires of the Amazon forests in Brazil and in Australia in the last two years.
  • Fires of longer duration, increasing intensity, higher frequency and highly inflammable nature are all being linked to climate change.
  • In India, forest fires are most commonly reported during March and April, when the ground has large quantities of dry wood, logs, dead leaves, stumps, dry grass and weeds that can make forests easily go up in flames if there is a trigger.
  • Under natural circumstances, extreme heat and dryness, friction created by rubbing of branches with each other also have been known to initiate fire.
  • In Uttarakhand, the lack of soil moisture too is being seen as a key factor. In two consecutive monsoon seasons (2019 and 2020), rainfall has been deficient by 18% and 20% of the seasonal average, respectively.
  • But, forest officials say most fires are man-made, sometimes even deliberately caused. Even a small spark from a cigarette butt, or a carelessly discarded lit matchstick can set the fire going.
  • For example, in Odisha, which saw a major fire last month in Simlipal forest, villagers are known to set dry leaves to fire in order to collect mahua flowers, which go into preparation of a local drink.

 

What factors make forest fires a concern?

  • Forests play an important role in mitigation and adaptation to climate change. They act as a sink, reservoir and source of carbon.
  • A healthy forest stores and sequesters more carbon than any other terrestrial ecosystem. In India, with 1.70 lakh villages in close proximity to forests (Census 2011), the livelihood of several crores of people is dependent on fuelwood, bamboo, fodder, and small timber.
  • Forest fires can have multiple adverse effects on the forest cover, soil, tree growth, vegetation, and the overall flora and fauna. Fires render several hectares of forest useless and leave behind ash, making it unfit for any vegetation growth.
  • Heat generated during the fire destroys animal habitats. Soil quality decreases with the alteration in their compositions. Soil moisture and fertility, too, is affected.
  • Thus forests can shrink in size. The trees that survive fire often remain stunted and growth is severely affected.

Way Forward: –

  • Real-time fire information from identified fire hotspots is gathered using MODIS sensors (1km by 1km grid) and electronically transmitted to FSI.
  • This information is then relayed via email at state, district, circle, division, range, beat levels. Users of this system in the locality are issued SMS alerts. The FSI system in January 2019 had over 66,000 users.

Question: –

Discuss the causes and consequences of increasing Forest fires in India. Enlist the innovative solutions that can be used to reduce the number of Forest fires.

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