9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – January 8, 2021

9 PM DAILY BRIEF

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GS – Paper 2 

  • How to deal with Avian influenza?
  • Preparing workforce for COVID vaccination

GS – Paper 3 

  • USTR slams India’s Equalisation levy

How to deal with Avian influenza? 

Source: The Hindu 

Syllabus: GS 2 

Synopsis: Avian influenza must be stopped before continuous spread amongst humans. 

Influenza type A viruses cause Bird flu, a highly contagious viral disease. Normally birds are carriers of this virus, takes it across the continent, though unaffected themselves, affect a large population of other birds. 

These viruses mainly affect poultry birds such as chickens and turkeys. Although rare, this virus sometimes also affects mammals such as pigs, horses, cats, and dogs.  

H5N8 and H5N1 are subtypes of avian influenza Virus:  

  • H5N8 has been found in crows in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.  
  • H5N1 strains have been found in ducks in Kerala and migratory birds in Himachal. 

Introduction 

The highly pathogenic avian influenza subtypes named as H5N1 and H5N8, have been reported in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Kerala. 

  • Death count of poultry birds in Haryana is in thousands followed by Jharkhand and Gujarat. The cause of death in these three States is still unidentified.  
  • Crows in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, migratory birds in Himachal Pradesh, and poultry in Kerala have been targeted by the two subtypes of the virus. 
      • Tests have confirmed H5N1 is responsible for the deaths of over 2,000 migratory birds in Himachal Pradesh. 
      • H5N8 has been recognized as the cause of deaths of thousands of poultry in Kerala, and hundreds of crows in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. 

What is the origin of the spread of the virus and its causes? 

A European Food Safety Authority report revealed that 561 avian influenza discoveries were made between August-December in 15 European countries and the U.K.  

  • H5N1 and H5N8 were two of three subtypes found in Europe, these were mainly found in wild birds along with a few poultry and captive birds.  
  • Migratory birds have been largely responsible for spread of the virus into India during winter. It spreads further through movement of local residential birds and poultry. 
  • Genetic analysis suggested that a tenacious transmission of this virus strain is coming from wild birds in Asia to west-central Europe. 
  • Movement of men and material from poultry farms has also been a cause for the further blowout. 

What is being done to stop the spread? 

  • Firstly, more than 69,000 birds which included ducks and chickens were culled in Alappuzha and Kottayam in accordance with India’s 2015 national avian influenza plan, in an attempt to stop the spread. 
  • Secondly, all the states have been asked to be watchful of any unusual deaths or disease outbreak signs amongst birds, particularly migratory ones as they are considered to be one of the causes of the spread. 
  • Thirdly, states have been asked to disinfect and dispose of the dead birds properly, biosecurity of poultry farms needs to be strengthened. 

Conclusion 

  • It is very rare that avian influenza viruses cross the species barrier and directly infect humans but mutations in the virus can create a new avian influenza virus which can result in continuous transmission between humans, leading to genesis of pandemic influenza.  
  • Hence, it is suggested to carry out genome sequencing of virus samples to track the evolution of the virus.

Preparing workforce for COVID vaccination 

Source: The Hindu 

Syllabus: GS 2

Synopsis: India needs to prepare healthcare professionals who are trained for treating and providing vaccines for immunization, to set an example of healthcare infrastructure for the rest of the world. 

Introduction  

With the permission of two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use, a hope of an end to the pandemic is nearing. But for the administration of vaccination and treatment properly and skilfully, a trained and effective workforce is required. 

Present strength of healthcare workers in India 

  • In India, over 4,00,000 frontline workers have been trained to respond to COVID-19. 
  • It includes people with no prior experience also. Thousands have been trained for contact tracing, quarantine strategies, ventilator management, personal protective equipment, and psychological issues. 

What is project ECHO? 

India was a recipient of an effective global innovation called Project ECHO.  

  • ECHO is a low-cost way out for growing the size of health workers in underserved communities to offer patients with the best possible care and facilities.  
  • ECHO was utilised as a strategy for treating Hepatitis C in the beginning but now is bing used for newly trained experts in HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, addiction, mental health, and many other conditions. 
  • Under this project, health workers, nurses and doctors are trained through video conferencing technology. They learn specialty care from subject matter experts and from each other’s community informed knowledge.  
  • ECHO provides the ability to spread healthcare workers in the most remote areas of the country and give them training similar to what a healthcare worker in one of our largest cities would receive. 

What needs to be done before the vaccine arrives? 

India is led by the Serum institute of India which has the largest manufacturing capacity in the world. However, certain aspects need to be figured out and planned before the covid-19 vaccine becomes widely available: 

  • Firstly, real skills need to be cultivated for planning out the following: 
    • Delivery system of these vaccines needs to be figured out. 
    • Storage and handling of the vaccines. 
    • India needs to overcome cultural and religious obstacles for those who are unwilling to accept a vaccine. 
    • People need to be counselled about the side-effects of the vaccine. 
  • Secondly, more trained health experts are required to support vaccine treatment. 
  • Thirdly, further preparation of the ECHO model can be done to identify new healthcare workers who can be trained to be COVID-19 experts.

USTR slams India’s Equalisation levy  

News: US Trade Representative (USTR) has released the findings of the Section 301 report.  

Source: The Hindu 

Syllabus: GS:3 Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth  

The report has said that India’s 2% equalisation levy is unreasonable or discriminatory potentially attracting withdrawal of US trade concessions or duties on Indian exports. 

  What is Equalisation Levy? 

  • When was 2% Equalisation Levy introduced? In the Finance Bill 2020-21 a 2% digital service tax (DST) was imposed on non-resident e-commerce operator in India. 
  • Eligibility: Companies with a turnover of over Rs. 2 crore, will pay this levy on the consideration received for online sales of goods and services.   
  • Purpose: The purpose of the levy is to ensure fair competition, reasonableness and exercise the ability of governments to tax businesses that have a close nexus with the Indian market through their digital operations

Why USTR is concerned? 

  • USTR is mainly concerned as 72% companies that will face the levy are American.  
  • Aggregate tax bill for US companies will exceed US $ 30 Million.  

What does the Special 301 Report say on Equalization levy?  

The USTR report has said that the Equalisation Levy is a violation of international tax principles: 

  1. Firstly, it is discriminatory as the law explicitly exempts Indian companies while targeting non-Indian firms. 
  2. Secondly, levy is contravening the international tax principle that companies absent a territorial connection to a country should not be subject to that country’s corporate tax regime. 
  3. The third issue is of taxing revenue instead of income. This is inconsistent with the international tax principle that income—not revenue—is the appropriate basis for corporate taxation. 
  4. Fourth, levy is discriminating against US companies. As shown above, majority of the affected companies will be American.

What are the justifications by the Indian Government? 

  1. India has said that levy does not discriminate against US companies as it applies equally to all non-resident e-commerce operators irrespective of their country of residence. 
  2. The levy does not have extraterritorial application as it applies only on the income generated from India. 
  3. Government is in its rights to tax digital transactions as the levy is recognition of the principle that in a digital world, a seller can engage in business transactions without any physical presence. 
  4. In addition, Equalisation levy was one of the methods suggested by the 2015 OECD/G20 Report on Action 1 of BEPS Project which was aimed at tackling the taxation challenges arising out of digitization of the economy. 
  5. Equalisation levy is a way to tax foreign digital companies and seen as a temporary alternative to the GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon) tax until such measure is well defined in India. 
Additional Facts: 

  1. Special 301 Report: It is prepared annually by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) that identifies trade barriers to United States companies and products due to the intellectual property laws, such as copyright, patents and trademarks in other countries. 
  2. GAFA Tax: It is a proposed digital tax named after digital giants Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. GAFA tax is levied on large technology companies and Internet companies. Recently France has decided to introduce 3% of GAFA tax on revenues from digital activities within their territory. 

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Jan 08,2021

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