9 PM Daily Brief – December 15, 2020

9 PM DAILY BRIEF

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GS 2

NFHS findings

New technology coalitions

NITI Aayog releases ‘Vision 2035: Public Health Surveillance in India’

GS 3

Modernise India’s archaic tax laws

Agri model

Income support to mitigate income losses

What is Planet Nine?


9 PM for Preliminary examination

FACTLY


NFHS findings

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS-2- Nutrition

Context:  The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has released data fact sheets for 22 States and Union Territories based on the findings of Phase I of the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5).

What are the worrying findings?

  • Malnutrition: Of the 22 States and UTs, there is an increase in the prevalence of severe acute malnutrition in 16 States/UTs (compared to NFHS-4 conducted in 2015-16).
    • The percentage of children under five who are underweight has also increased in 16 out of the 22 States/UTs.
    • There is also an increase in the prevalence of other indicators such as adult malnutrition measured by those having a Body Mass Index of less than 18.5kg/m2 in many States/ UTs.
  • Anaemia: Anaemia levels among children as well as adult women have increased in most of the States with a decline in anaemia among children being seen only in four States/UTs.
  • Obesity: Most States/UTs also see an increase in overweight/obesity prevalence among children and adults, once again drawing attention to the inadequacy of diets in India both in terms of quality and quantity.
  • Stunting: The data report an increase in childhood stunting in 13 of the 22 States/UTs compared to the data of NFHS-4.
    • There was a 10 pp decline in stunting among children under five between 2005-06 (NFHS-3) and 2015-16 (NFHS-4), from 48% to 38%, averaging 1 pp a year. This was considered to be a very slow pace of improvement.
  • Starvation: Volunteers of the Right to Food campaign have listed over 100 starvation deaths based on media and/or verified fact- finding reports since 2015.
  • Food insecurity: Field surveys such as ‘Hunger Watch’ are already showing massive levels of food insecurity and decline in food consumption, especially among the poor and vulnerable households.
    • In the Hunger Watch survey carried out in 11 States, two-thirds of the respondents reported that the nutritional quality and quantity of their diets worsened in September-October compared to before the lockdown.

What are the steps to be taken?

  • Improvements: There are some improvements seen in determinants of malnutrition such as access to sanitation, clean cooking fuels and women’s status, a reduction in spousal violence and greater access of women to bank accounts.
  • Interventions: Direct interventions such as supplementary nutrition, growth monitoring, and behaviour change communication through the ICDS and school meals must be strengthened and given more resources.
  • Progress on maternity entitlements: Universal maternity entitlements and child care services to enable exclusive breastfeeding, appropriate infant and young child feeding, recognising women’s unpaid work burdens have been on the agenda for long, but not much progress has been made on these.
  • Strategy: An employment-centred growth strategy which includes universal provision of basic services for education, health, food and social security is imperative.
  • Expansion in social protection schemes: Such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the Public Distribution System, the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), and school meals have contributed to reduction in absolute poverty as well as previous improvements in nutrition indicators.

Way forward

  • It is hoped that the experience of the pandemic as well as the results of NFHS-5 serve as a wake-up call for serious rethinking of issues related to nutrition and accord these issues priority.

New technology coalitions

Source: Indian Express

Gs2: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Context: India must actively participate in new technology coalitions to secure its geopolitical interests.

Why India needs Tech-coalition?

  • Reducing economic and digital dependence on China.
  • China’s use of newly acquired technological muscle in support of its expansionist aims.
  • To promote and regulate advanced technologies.
  • India is also now a member of the Wassenaar Arrangement that regulates the flow of dual-use technologies and the Missile Technology Control Regime.
  • The size of India’s market as well as technological capabilities make India an attractive partner in the effort to build “technology coalitions of the capable and willing”.
  • Developing trusted global supply chains that are not vulnerable to Beijing’s weaponisation of economic interdependence.

How issue-based coalitions are growing?

  • Biden promised to convene a “Democracy Summit” with multiple objectives, including the promotion of human rights and protection of democracies from new digital technologies.
  • Britain has been discussing the merits of a “Democracy Ten” that brings India, South Korea and Australia with the G-7 to build telecom products to reduce the current global reliance on China.
  • European Union has offered to rebuild the transatlantic alliance with a special focus on technological cooperation.
  • France and Canada launched the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to promote responsible development and use of AI. India was among the 15 founding members.
  • “Digital Nations” that was founded in 2014 by Britain, Estonia, Israel, South Korea and New Zealand to mobilise digital technologies to enhance the quality of life for their citizens.
  • “Artemis Accords” which outline a set of principles for the cooperative and transparent exploration of outer space. The founding members of the Artemis Accords are Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the US.

What are the future prospects for India-USA coalition?

  • New presidency in USA: Restoring multilateralism is among Biden’s top priorities.
  • USA’s technological objectives: for example, the US negotiated arms control agreements with the Soviet Union, during the Cold War. Also,USA worked in multilateral forums to produce the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and exclusive groupings like the Nuclear Suppliers Group to regulate the flows of civil nuclear technology.
  • India’s growing significance: USA devoted much energy to the consolidation of the Quad and idea of a “Quad Plus” to discuss the coordination of national responses to the pandemic.
  • Against China’s assertion: USA mobilised allies and partners to shun China’s telecom companies in the rollout of 5G or “fifth-generation” wireless technology and promoted the idea of a coalition of “clean networks”.
  • Intelligence sharing: USA expanded the ambit of Five Eyes (US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) by initiating consultation with Japan and India on addressing the tension between encryption, privacy and law enforcement.

What is way forward?

  • Appreciate the value of issue-based coalitions in producing more productive outcomes in the technological arena.
  • Coalitions will complement India’s traditional focus on multilateralism. For example, International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.
  • Like-minded countries can come together to cope with emerging global challenges, including the governance of emerging technologies that are reshaping relations within and among societies.

NITI Aayog releases ‘Vision 2035: Public Health Surveillance in India’

Source: Click Here

GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

News: NITI Aayog has released a white paper: Vision 2035: Public Health Surveillance in India.

Facts:

  • The document is a joint effort of Health Vertical, NITI Aayog and Institute for Global Public Health, University of Manitoba,Canada.

Vision of the Paper:

  • To make India’s public health surveillance system more responsive and predictive to enhance preparedness for action at all levels.
  • Citizen-friendly public health surveillance systems will ensure individual privacy and confidentiality, enabled with a client feedback mechanism.
  • Improved data-sharing mechanism between Centre and states for better disease detection, prevention, and control.
  • India aims to provide regional and global leadership in managing events that constitute a public health emergency of international concern.

Key Features of the Vision:

  • The white paper lays out India’s vision 2035 for public health surveillance through the integration of the three-tiered public health system into Ayushman Bharat.

Modernise India’s archaic tax laws

Source: The Hindu

Gs3: Inclusive Growth and issues arising from it.

Context: Need to modernise India’s archaic tax laws.

Background:

  • The Income Tax Act was framed in 1961 and has been amended several times.
  • The government constituted the Akhilesh Ranjan Task Force to suggest reforms to the Income Tax Act.
  • The report has been submitted to the government but has not yet been made public.

People who gained during the Pandemic?

  • India’s super rich: Between January and June 2020, 85 new Indians were added to the list of High Net worth Individuals (with a net worth of more than $50 million).
  • Stock dealers: When the Indian GDP was contracting, some stocks surged to phenomenal heights there by benefitting those dealing in stock exchanges.
  • The corporate houses, Internet service providers, laptop makers and scientists engaged in medical research also gained.
  • The manufacturers of masks and Personal Protective Equipment also gained during the pandemic

What are the problems in taxation?

  • Implementation of Equalisation Levy: Through Digitalisation and e-commerce multilateral corporates have found an easy way to make big money. However, the tax administration is struggling with the implementation of the equalisation levy.
  • Implementation of Anti profiteering rules under GST: As per the Goods and Services Tax (GST) law, any reduction in the rate of tax on the supply of goods or services has to be passed on to the consumer by way of commensurate reduction in prices. Companies are getting benefited from GST rate reduction without passing on the benefits to the end consumers.
  • Tax evasion: Tax avoidance by global web companies has become acute because of Digitalisation.
  • Tax dispute settlement: The International Court of Arbitration ruled that the Indian government’s move to seek taxes from Vodafone using retrospective legislation was against the fairness principle.

What can be done?

  • Digital taxation has to be amended in accordance with the UN Model Convention. There is need for India to act in sync with the OECD.
  • The Anti-Profiteering Rules have to be implemented vigorously wherever there is reduction in the tax rate on any commodity or service
  • Need to find a suitable mechanism to negotiate settlement through mediation or conciliation or, if necessary, arbitration in connection with tax disputes between the tax-paying companies and the Central Board of Direct Taxes.

Our archaic laws should be modernised and made compatible with international tax laws. The suggestions made by Akhilesh Ranjan Task Force needs to be implemented after wide consultation.

Agri model

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-3- Agriculture

Context: The next Green Revolution 2.0 will come through in-depth research, better investment opportunities and access to the market.

What led to the green revolution?

  • Scarcity of grain: After the China war, when India was standing at the cusp of economic destruction, Pakistan attacked India. There was an acute scarcity of food grains in the country.
  • Change in farm sector: Scientist Norman Borlaug brought a revolutionary change in the farm sector in Mexico with his semi-dwarf varieties of rice and wheat. Borlaug analysed the farm sector in Punjab and concluded that production can be doubled.
  • Beginning of green revolution: Subramaniam promised the farmers that if they implement the new farming techniques, the central government will compensate them. This scheme was initially implemented in around 150 farm holdings with the assistance of Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana.
    • The Green Revolution worked on three fronts: better seeds, irrigation and optimum use of fertilisers.

The new laws have set the tone for second green revolution. Discuss.

  • For the rich farmers of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh: Things are different; but for crores of small landholders in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, etc., it is now possible to feed their families.
  • Landholdings in many states have shrunk: In eastern UP, the cultivators are largely marginal farmers now.
    • Farmers with less than an acre of arable land are identified as marginal farmers.
    • Small farmers are those with landholdings between 1 acre and 2.5 acres.
    • It is difficult for a farming family to sustain themselves with just an acre of arable land. The farmer will have to explore other avenues to improve his financial position.
  • Agrarian transition development: The latest farm policy reforms of the government are also called agrarian transition development and were implemented in Europe and the US early on. Today, around 45 per cent of the country’s workforce is involved in agriculture.
  • Agriculture after independence: When India attained Independence, the contribution of agriculture to the country’s GDP was huge, which today has come down to around 15 per cent. The old model has been a drag on the economy as well as the villages.
  • Develop models of contract farming: It is an avenue to develop an organised corporate model of agriculture in the country. This will speed up urbanisation in the villages and the development of industries and the service sector there.
    • These sectors will be able to absorb the excess workforce in the farm sector.
  • Structure and potential of contract farming: For instance, if a village has a thousand farmers who have an acre of arable land, then, through contract farming, someone can sow crops on the entire 1,000 acres of land.
    • The land continues to belong to the farmer, while on the other hand, he/she will earn the profit from the sale of produce generated from his/her part of the landholding. This also frees him/her to pursue other employment opportunities.

Way forward

  • The next revolution: Green Revolution 2.0 will come through in-depth research, better investment opportunities and access to the market. The three farm laws are a revolutionary step in that direction.

Income support to mitigate income losses

Source- The Indian Express

Syllabus- GS 3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

Context- The government’s unusual reluctance in providing adequate support to the economy has purportedly been because of the lack of fiscal space.

Is India in a technical recession?

Technical recession– The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) in the US defines a technical recession to be in progress when real GDP has declined for at least two consecutive quarters.

  • However, the growth rate is measured on a quarter-over-quarter, not year-ago, basis.

According to JP Morgan’s estimates – On quarterly basis, India’s GDP India’s GDP plunged 25 per cent in 2Q20 and recovered by 21 per cent in 3Q20.

  • This implies that India did not suffer two consecutive quarters of negative growth.
  • Therefore, India is not in a technical recession.

What is RBI’s survey suggests to real GDP growth?

RBI latest survey of professional forecasters (SPF) has forecast that real GDP is expected to recover in FY22 to 12 percent from -9 percent in FY21.

  • This implies that six quarters from now it will still be about 7 per cent below the pre-pandemic path, or $300-billion-a-year of income losses across two years.
  • Concern- This can cause great damage to household and SME balance sheets, to income inequality, to poverty, and to women’s employment

What are the issues with government policy?

  1. No income support– The income loss could have been mitigated by budgetary income support. However, the government chose not to provide this.
  • Government consumption declined 22 per cent on a quarterly basis in 3Q.
  1. Limited support to the domestic economy – Despite the apparent lack of fiscal space at home, the RBI has been funding other countries’ fiscal deficits.
  • RBI invested almost 3 per cent of GDP in foreign assets just in the first half of this fiscal year.
  1. India’s huge current account surplus is a bane– This reflected not economic strength but an economy imploding so much faster than others that India’s demand for imports fell faster than foreign demand for Indian exports.
  2. Ongoing recovery led by capital than wages – Indian companies reported a decline in sales. However, operating profits growth was in the double digits. Net profits grew even faster. Large firms achieved this by slashing costs.
  • A recovery led by profits will not lead to higher investment demand as long as there is significant excess capacity in many parts of the Indian economy.
  • As far as the labour market goes, unemployment has dropped below pre-covid levels, but that is partly because of a decrease in the labour participation rate.

What is the way forward?

Government needs to provide extensive income support to mitigate the income losses due to pandemic.

  • Government needs to be ensured that the recovery is not hamstrung by damaged household and SME balance sheets because of the extended loss of wages and incomes.
  • Infrastructure spending and reforms are critical to sustain medium-term growth, neither can boost near-term demand.

Explained: What is Planet Nine?

Source: Click Here

GS-3 Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, biotechnology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

News: A strange exoplanet named HD106906 b orbiting a double-star 336 light years away has caught the interest of astronomers as it can provide clues about our own mysterious Planet Nine — if it exists.

Facts:

  • Planet Nine: It is a hypothetical planet in the outer region of the Solar System.It is said to be 10 times the size of the Earth and orbits far beyond Neptune in a highly eccentric orbit around the Sun.
  • When was it proposed? It was first proposed in 2012 to explain perturbations in the orbits of dwarf planets beyond Neptune’s orbit which are called Kuiper Belt objects.

Additional Facts:

What is the criteria for planet?

INTERNATIONAL ASTRANAUMICAL UNION determines the criteria and vote on the decisions.

3 conditions for a celestial object to be called as a planet

  1. It must orbit the Sun.
  2. It should be massive enough to acquire an approximately spherical shape.
  3. It has to clear its orbit (being the object that exerts maximum gravitational pull within its orbit).

If it satisfies any 2 then it is called as dwarf planet.

Ex. Ceres (in asteroid belt), Xena (in Kuiper belt)

 Dwarf Planet: According to the International Astronomical Union, a dwarf planet is a celestial body that- orbits the sun, has enough mass to assume a nearly round shape, has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit and is not a moon.

Kuiper belt (Edgeworth–Kuiper belt): This is an Icy ring of frozen objects in the shape of circumstellar disc present in the outer Solar System, extending from the orbit of Neptune (at 30 AU) to approximately 50 AU from the Sun.

Exoplanet: It is a planet outside the Solar System.The first confirmation of detection of exoplanet occurred in 1992.

Oort cloud – a shell of objects that surrounds the entire solar system far beyond the Kuiper belt


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