9 PM Daily Brief – October 13th,2020

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GS-2

  1. Federalism

2.QUAD

GS-3

  1. Reviving consumption and investment
  2. Gene Editing
  3. Air pollution and Delhi

GS-4

  1. Roadmap on vaccine procurement and distribution

9 PM for Preliminary examination

FACTLy

1.Federalism

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure

Context: Cooperative Federalism demands collaborative approach.

What are the structural issues in Federalism?

  • The word Federalism is nowhere mentioned in the constitution.
  • Without explicit recognition of federalism as a governing principle, the distribution of powers and responsibilities between various tiers of the governmental system were made.

What are the recent Issues affecting Federalism in India?

  • Misuse of Cess: The Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) recently revealed that, the cess meant to remedy shortfalls in GST yields, was retained in central government revenues, in violation of all applicable norms.
  • Shifting the borrowing burden on States: It is the priority of centre to compensate for the revenue loss of states in GST regime.But,with centre facing shortfall in Cess collection, has asked the states to borrow from the market whereas many states believe that the onus of borrowing should rest with the central government owing to its  absolute sovereign nature  and enjoys vastly greater taxation rights.
  • Big brother attitude: To meet the unforeseen expense due to the covid 19 pandemic, States were given unconditional access to borrowings but with two conditions, (1) progress in implementing the “one nation, one ration card” scheme, (2) improvements in the “ease of doing business”.
  • Agrarian Reforms: Agriculture is a state subject. Recently, three agriculture bills passed by the centre is seen as an encroachment on the functions of the States, and against the spirit of cooperative federalism.

    2.QUAD

Source: Indian Express

Gs2: Important International Institutions, agencies and fora – their Structure, Mandate.

Context: QUAD and India’s role

What is QUAD?

  • Objective: To check Beijing’s ambition to exercise regional hegemony and to defend and strengthen a liberal international order while focusing on building an Indo-Pacific narrative.
  • QUAD Members: The quadrilateral security dialogue (Quad) consists of India, US, Japan and Australia.
  • Quad Plus: Expansion of QUAD that includes South Korea, Vietnam and New Zealand.

What are the efforts taken by India to tackle china?

  • Economic decoupling from China: For example, withdrawal from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership in 2019, its opposition to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Economic measures: As a response to Ladakh aggression, India has taken up active economic measures against China to limit trade and investment links.
  • Strategic: Has taken part in the economic initiatives of the Quad and its extended format.

What are the challenges in future vis-a-vis QUAD and global economy?

  • New America first policy under Biden: Where he has promised not to sign any new free trade agreements without first investing in American workers.
  • Marginalising WTO: With a vision to rebuild American industry and regain American technological leadership its expected that Biden’s industrial policy will run counter to the rules of the World Trading Organisation.

What is the way forward?

  • With America’s inward-looking policy, India can benefit from “Atmanirbhar America” that will create pro domestic industrial policy in a reformed trading order.
  • Quad’s diplomatic consultations on reorienting supply chains, gives India an oppurtunity to be a key player in reforming the global trading rules, to utilise this India must be ready to reform its own economic policies.

Engaging the Quad partners on reforming the China-centred economic globalisation is a rare geo-economic opportunity for India. But it is also a big challenge, as it involves making much internal change to India’s economic policy.

3. Reviving consumption and investment

Source- The Hindu, The Indian Express and The Indian Express

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

Context- The government has announced a twin set of measures to boost consumption demand and capital expenditure in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

What are the new proposals announced by Union Finance Minister?

  1. Consumer spending proposals– Putting money in the hand of government employees so as to incentivize spending. The consumer spending proposals includes-
  2. LTC cash vouchers scheme– Giving out cash vouchers to central government employees this year in lieu of leave travel concession (LTC) fare which could be spent only on buying non-food GST-rated items.
  • Since travel is difficult to undertake during the pandemic, the government will pay the entitled fare as cash vouchers which have to be spent by March 31, 2021.
  • Government says that LTC voucher scheme will boost the generated demand worth ₹28,000 crore.
  • The tax concessions are available for the State governments and the private sector companies.
  • Specific Conditions-
  1. This must be spent on items that have 12% GST or more.
  2. Can only spend them in digital mode only, no cash payments.
  • And, have to buy only from GST-registered sellers so a GST invoice would be required on the basis of which they will be reimbursed. This spending has to be completed by March 31, 2021.
  1. Three times the amount equivalent to the return air/rail fare would have to be spent to qualify for this.
  2. Special festival advance scheme- Central government employees and officers will get an interest free festival advance of Rs.10000. The repayment of this advance will have to be made in 10 installments by the employee.
  • This ₹10,000 advance will come as a pre-paid RuPay card, which can be availed and spent by March 31, 2021.
  • The government expects to disburse ₹4000 crore under this advance scheme. If given by state governments, another ₹8000 crore is likely to be disbursed.
  • Additional consumer demand generated will be ₹8000 crore.
  1. Capital expenditure- The second set of announcements that aim to spur capital spending include a 50-year interest free loan of Rs 12,000 crore to states, and the enhancement of central government capital expenditure by Rs 25,000 crore.
  • For the 50-year interest-free loans to boost Capex, states have been categorized into three groups:
  1. Group 1 -Which includes the Northeastern states (Rs 1,600 crore) and Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh (Rs 900 crore).
  2. Group 2 -This has other states which will get Rs 7,500 crore in proportion to their share as per the Finance Commission devolution.
  3. Group 3 – Having states which will get a total Rs 2,000 crore if they meet three out of four reforms, including One Nation One Ration, outlined in the government’s Atma-Nirbhar package.
  • This can be used for new or ongoing projects and even to pay existing dues.
  • Increasing capital expenditure by both Central and state government.

What are the critic’s views on this stimulus package?

  1. Denting travel industries- Most employees have not been able to travel after the start of pandemic, the shifting of the LTC benefit is expected to generate demand elsewhere, although it may negatively impact the travel and tourism industry.
  2. Lesser impact- the amount of demand stimulus is underwhelming, and the impact on both fiscal and growth going be quite limited.

Way forward-

  • These announcements should be the first steps of a broader, more ambitious fiscal package, which addresses the needs of stressed segments of the economy.
  • The timing of these announcements is just right, as we are entering the festival season, and this should help improve consumer sentiment and demand in the economy.

4. Gene Editing

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS-3- Science & Technology

Context: India requires guidelines for gene-editing research as the development of a method for genome editing CRISPR-Cas9 came into the limelight.

What is the controversy surrounding the Nobel Prize to CRISPR-Cas 9 technology?

  • The two scientists, who were awarded the Nobel Prize founded the use of CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) – Cas9 (CRISPR-associated protein 9) system as a gene editing tool.
  • 8 years since its discovery, the method has already made a significant impact in biology, medicine, and agriculture. 
  • The exclusion of Siksnys from this year’s Nobel is in the limelight especially when the Nobel Prize can be given to three individuals.
    • Discovery on the use of CRISPR as a gene-editing tool was by a Lithuanian biochemist, Virginijus Šikšnys, in 2012 and he showed that Cas9 could cut purified DNA in a test tube.
  • The Nobel committee recognised Charpentier and Doudna as the sole discoverers for proving the ability of CRISPR-Cas9 to function as a gene-editing tool.
    • Siksnys along with Charpentier and Doudna shared another coveted award, the Kavli Prize for Nanoscience, in 2018.
  • Other notable early contributors to the field that many believe deserve mention are Feng Zhang of Broad Institute of MIT-Harvard and George Church of Harvard. 
  • Dana Carroll, who developed the system of Zinc-finger nucleases in which CRISPR can slice DNA at specific sites, is another notable exclusion from this year’s chemistry prize.

What are some of the other developments with regard to gene editing?

  • In India, there is a long way to go before realising the utility of gene editing for therapeutic applications. However, we cannot be satisfied and wait for a rogue individual or unit to try it out on humans.
  • He Jiankui edited genes in human embryos using the CRISPR-Cas9 system that were subsequently implanted and resulted in the birth of twin girls which left the world alarmed in 2018.
    • Chinese scientists claimed this was apparently to prevent them from contracting HIV, and the incident was known as the case of the first gene-edited babies of the world.
  • The World Health Organization formed a panel of gene-editing experts which said “a central registry of all human genome editing research was needed in order to create an open and transparent database of ongoing work”.

What are the laws available in India?

  • “Rules for the Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells, 1989” notified under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, regulate genetically modified organisms.
  • Environment protection act and the National Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical and Health Research involving human participants, 2017, by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), along with Biomedical and Health Research Regulation Bill involves regulation of the gene-editing process.

Way forward

  • The recognition that Charpentier and Doudna’s work has received will encourage women to take up science as a career, in spite of the hard struggle to balance family life and a difficult life in a scientific career.
  • It is time that India came up with a specific law to ban germline editing and put out guidelines for conducting gene-editing research giving rise to modified organisms.

5. Air pollution and Delhi

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS-3- Environment

Context: The capital launched an anti-pollution campaign in an attempt to curb air pollution levels ahead of winters by controlling emissions, reducing private vehicles and increasing electric vehicles.

What is anti pollution campaign? How are the pollution levels of Delhi?

  • The anti pollution campaign is  focused on cutting the deadly smoke from thermal plants and brick kilns in the National Capital Region as well as on chemical treatment of stubble burning from nearby States.
  • Pollutant concentration: Particulate matter, PM2.5 and PM10, exceed national standards and the more strict World Health Organization limits. Delhi’s toxic air also contains high doses of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide along with the lack of wind.
  • Delhi needs a 65% reduction to meet the national standards for PM2.5. Vehicles, including trucks and two-wheelers, contribute 20%-40% of the PM2.5 concentrations.

What are the steps needed to be taken to control emissions?

  • Enforcement of emission controls: There should be a willingness to impose tougher penalties as emission testing of vehicles under Delhi’s Pollution under Control Policy was only 25%.
  • Two-wheelers and three-wheelers were as important as cars and lorries in Beijing’s experience.
  • Bangkok ramped up inspection and maintenance to cut emissions.
  • The first order of business is to implement the national standards.
  • Strengthening public transport: The Supreme Court’s ruling to increase Delhi’s bus fleet and align it with the Metro network must be carried out as reducing private vehicles on the road would help.
  • The system should reduce exemptions, allow a longer implementation period, and complement it with other measures such as ‘odd-even’ number plate policy.
  • Electric vehicles (EVs): Subsidies and investment will be needed to ensure that EVs are used to a meaningful scale, without fossil fuels for charging them.
  • The Delhi government’s three-year policy aims to make EVs account for a quarter of the new vehicles registered in the capital by 2024.
  • EVs will gain from purchase incentives, scrappage benefits on older vehicles, loans at favourable interest and a contract of road taxes.
  • Citizen participation and the media are vital for sharing the message on pollution and health, using data such as those from the Central Pollution Control Board.
  • Delhi’s own actions will not work if the pollution from neighbouring States is not addressed, and so the issue of stubble burning and industrial pollution also needs to be dealt with.

Way forward

  • Technical solutions need to be underpinned by coordination and transparency across Central, State, and local governments. It is a matter of prioritising people’s health and a brighter future. Once the pandemic is over, Delhi must not stumble into yet another public health emergency and so prior action is required.

6. Roadmap on vaccine procurement and distribution

Source- The Indian Express

Syllabus- GS 4- Ethics and Human Interface: Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in-human actions; dimensions of ethics; ethics – in private and public relationships. Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; role of family society and educational institutions in inculcating values.

Context- Union health minister has announced that by early July 2021 India would receive and utilize 400-500 million doses of COVID vaccine for 20 to 25 crore people.

What are the challenges across distribution of COVID-19 vaccine?

  1. Priority– Within the country, it is certainly not clear who should be treated first or it should be determined by need, affordability, vulnerability or some other criterion or a combination of all.
  2. Guideline – The need of a policy regarding how much of the vaccine produced should go to other countries and at what cost. It must ensure whether agencies funding the research or the researchers or government authorities or citizens decide on a global policy of distribution.
  3. Distributive hierarchy –The cost of the vaccine and its possible loss will have to be borne by the last receiver which likely to be more needy people of the society.
  4. Cost– If open market forces determine the cost of the vaccine and affordability then, the section of society most vulnerable to the disease would get left out.

What are the minutes of discussions held by Union health minister?

  1. Doses count– The Centre is working on plans for building capacities in human resources, training, and supervision on a massive scale and roughly estimates to receive and utilize 400-500 million doses covering approximately 20-25 crore people by July.
  2. Risk group identification– The Centre has asked states to send list of priority population who will be receiving the vaccine shots first. This includes all doctors, nurses, health care staff, ASHA workers etc.
    • Prioritization of groups for the COVID-19 vaccine shall be based on two considerations-
      • Occupational hazards
      • The risk of developing severe disease and increased mortality.
  1. Directions-
    • States have been asked not to sign any deal with manufacturers as Centre is monitoring the entire process.
    • States were also asked to submit details of cold chain facilities and related infrastructure required down to the block level.
    • Centre may also allow corporates to get vaccines directly from manufacturers.
  2. Vaccine tracking and black market– The government also keeping an eye on immunity data with regard to COVID-19 disease while finalizing plans on vaccine distribution. Vaccine procurement was being done centrally and each consignment would be tracked real time until delivery to ensure it reached those who needed it most.
    • Vaccines will be distributed as per pre-decided priority and in a programmed manner. To ensure transparency and accountability.

Way forward-

  1. Immunizing a billion people will be a staggering operational challenge for the country.  It is important, that the government opens the conversation to a variety of specialists like epidemiologists, ethicists, economists, patient groups, social scientists.
  2. If planning for vaccine delivery starts now, India will have a well-thought-through playbook to execute from when a vaccine is ready.

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