9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – June 7, 2021

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Problems with “one state one vote” structure of GST Council

Source: Indian Express

GS2: Functions and Responsibilities of the Union and the States, Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure

Synopsis:   The “one state one vote” structure under GST Council is a flawed one. It needs to be replaced with a proportional representation of voting in the GST Council. This system should be based on the size of states or their revenue contribution to the GST pool

 Background

  • In the recent GST Council meeting, there is a debate going on, whether to tax or not to tax on products essential to fighting Covid-19.
  • 12 states, representing nearly 70% of India’s population, agree to make such products tax-free.
  • But,19 states, representing the remaining 30% of the population, want to continue to levy GST on these products.
  • The lack of consensus can largely be explained by the distorted design and incentive structure of the GST itself.

What is the distribution methodology for taxes collected under GST?

The GST Council has representatives from all states. According to “one state one vote” all the representative have equal voting rights in GST Council.

  • The taxes collected under GST (from states) are accumulated by the Union government and a portion is transferred back to each state under a formula.

Which states contribute maximum to the GST pool?
Four states — Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Gujarat contribute nearly as much (~45%) of the total GST pool

What is the source of revenue for the states in India?

Every state in India has two major components of revenues. These are,

  1. State’s own revenues
  2. Transfers from the Union government, consisting of both share of taxes collected by the Union and grants.

How the source of revenue differs for bigger and smaller states?

  • Only about 30% of the overall revenue of the 4 big states, namely, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Karnataka, comes from the Union government.
  • But for the remaining 27 states, roughly 60% of their revenues are obtained through transfers from the Union government.
    • For the smaller Northeastern states, these transfers from the Union government constitute 80-90% of their total revenues

Negative trends in the revenue collection & distribution in India

  • Imbalance in collection & distribution of taxes between states: As mentioned above,
    • While four big states contribute around 45% to the GST pool, they are the least dependent on the Union government for their revenue needs.
    • Whereas smaller states which contribute less to the GST pool are more dependent on the Centre’s transfers for their revenues.
    • So,
      • States that are more dependent on transfers from the Union want to maximize GST collections. This is why they are in support of taxation on Covid-related products.
      • Whereas bigger states that are less dependent can afford to be more sensitive to citizens’ concerns and are against taxing Covid related products.
    • With time, net transfers from center should decrease as states come at par in development relative to each other. But in India over the past few years, these net transfers have increased.
  • States are getting a lower share of revenues: States’ revenue has declined owing to unfair taxation practices by the Center. For instance,
    • Increase in cesses: The Union has shifted a large proportion of taxation (roughly 18% of its overall revenues) into cesses. This remains outside the GST pool and hence do not have to be shared with the states
  • So, the GST model based on “one state one vote” causes grave injustice to the developed states.

Way forward
A system of proportional representation, instead of one state one vote model, would not have resulted in this lack of consensus.

  • A proportional representation of voting in the GST Council either as a proportion of the size of a state or by its contribution to the GST revenue pool is the ideal way forward.

Lab leak theory of Coronavirus needs credible investigation

Source: The Hindu

GS3: Disaster and Disaster Management

Synopsis: The theory that Coronavirus could have been man-made from Wuhan Institute of Virology is increasing. So, adequate studies are necessary regarding the Lab leak theory of Coronavirus.

Background

  • When the Covid-19 became a pandemic, China promoted the narrative that the virus had a natural origin, and it got spread from a wet market in Wuhan. This was done to avoid any scrutiny on researches being carried out in the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
  • Soon, the idea of a Lab leak theory of Coronavirus was discredited as a conspiracy theory and most experts embraced the natural spread narrative.
  • Even the findings of the WHO on the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (coronavirus) dismissed the lab leak as “extremely unlikely”.
  • However, recent developments point out the possibility that coronavirus could have originated from a lab leak, either intentionally or unintentionally.
  • Recently, the U.S. President made an appeal to the U.S. intelligence community “to collect and analyse information so that, a definitive conclusion regarding the origin of the virus could be made.
  • Further, the publication by Nicholas Wade, titled the origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?” has laid out a strong case for a fuller investigation into this event.

Arguments in support of lab leak theory of Coronavirus

  • First, advancement in biotechnology had made it possible to genetically engineer existing pathogens to make them more lethal and difficult to treat.
  • Second, in 2019, the head of corona virus-related research at WIV lab, in an interview, talked about the research carried out involving the creation of novel, life-threatening and pandemic-creating viruses.
  • Third, though The WIV operates a Biosafety level-4 (BSL-4) facility, many times the deficient safety standards had been reported by U.S. inspectors but no remedial measures were taken.
  • Fourth, China’s reluctance to share data, covering up facts and impeding investigation raises suspicion.
  • Fifth, the findings of WHO is also being discarded on the account that the inquiry team had persons with vest interests in the WIV experimentation.
  • Sixth, there are instances when Smallpox and other viruses have escaped from secured laboratories before.

Suggestions
To prevent future pandemics or an event of Biowarfare, the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) needs to be strengthened by resolving the following drawbacks. Such as,

    1. The convention has no systems to verify compliance with its prohibitions. So, the global countries have to come together to build such a system
    2. The convention lacks enforcement mechanisms to penalize infringement of its provisions. So, the enforcement system has to be strengthened.

Amending Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act to provide labour rights for sex workers

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes.

Synopsis: The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act needs to be reformed to decriminalise sex work and to guarantee labour rights for sex workers.

Background

  • Sex work in India is governed by the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act.
  • It penalises acts such as keeping a brothel, soliciting in a public place, living off the earnings of sex work and living with or habitually being in the company of a sex worker.
  • The act is archaic and deprives basic labour rights for sex workers and it needs to be reformed.

Why the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act needs to be reformed?

  • One, the Act represents the archaic and regressive view that sex work is morally wrong and that the people involved in it, especially women, never consent to it voluntarily. However, it fails to take account of the rights of ‘consenting adult sex workers.
  • Two, it has led to the stigmatization of sex workers making them more prone to violence, discrimination and harassment.
  • Third, The Act denies an individual their right over their bodies. Further, it imposes the will of the state over adults in making their life choices.
  • Fourth, the act has subjected the sex workers to harassment by the state officials due to a lack of independent agencies.

Way forward

  • In the recent past, the Justice Verma Commission had also acknowledged the distinction between trafficked women for commercial sexual exploitation and consenting women sex worker.
  • Further Judiciary is of the view of recognising sex workers’ right to livelihood. For instance, The Supreme Court, in Budhadev Karmaskar v. State of West Bengal (2011), opined that sex workers have a right to dignity.
  • Sex workers have the right to earn by providing sexual services, live with dignity, and remain free from violence, exploitation, stigma and discrimination.
  • Parliament must reform existing legislation and do away with the ‘victim-rescue-rehabilitation’ narrative. The government should decriminalise sex work at the earliest and provide labour rights for sex workers

How can India tackle the third wave of COVID?

Source: click here

GS 3 – Health

Synopsis: To control the third wave, the decision-making on vaccines should be filled by a spirit of cooperative federalism and guided by scientists.

Introduction 

Vaccines have become the focus of pandemic policy. Effective vaccine policy over the next few months will require huge efforts to boost vaccine supply. Distribution of existing supplies, helped by science, data and cooperation, can also play an important role. 

What are the challenges India is likely to face?

India is going to face major vaccine shortages over the next 6-12 months. However, distributing the limited vaccine supply in a balanced, targeted way could help India save many lives and help prevent a deadly third wave.

  • Vaccine supply and allocation are disordered currently. There are multiple decision-makers, rules are uncertain, messages are contradicting. Such conditions worsen the problem of a vaccine shortage. 
  • Challenges in continuing the current policy: 
    • Serious shortage in vaccine availability. 
    • Higher infections rates in India.
      • At the end-December 2020, the third national seroprevalence survey suggested that the actual infection rate was 21.5 per cent, that is over 1 in 5 people in India had been exposed to the virus by the end-2020. Thus, a possible infection rate of over 50% or above 700 million people in June.

Advanced countries with successful vaccine programmes like Israel, the US and UK had adopted a similar strategy. They first vaccinated essential workers and then used age as parameters to decide vaccination in the initial stages. 

What should India do to prevent the third wave?

Centralization of the vaccine policy is a must. Vaccines should be free for all and the costs must be borne by the Centre. However, these measures may not be sufficient in the short run.

  • Focus on uninfected and vulnerable: Latest research suggests that prior infection offers protection for some time. This immunity increases strongly with at least one dose of the vaccine. This gives the government some time to focus on the uninfected and vulnerable as the immediate priority.
  • Widespread testing: Vaccinating the uninfected will require detailed data on infection rates, demography and vaccination status. Widespread testing needs to be done. 
  • A larger share of the limited vaccines could be devoted to geographies that currently have less infection rates.
  • Partial dosing or vaccine mixing could also be explored.
  • Expert guidance: A technical team of scientists, epidemiologists, statisticians etc should design a plan to decide on the most effective allocation of existing vaccines. 
    • The team should report to a group involving the prime minister and all the chief ministers.

Decision-making on vaccines should be filled with a spirit of cooperative federalism and be guided by scientists. Trust, transparency and technical reason must guide this process.

Conclusion
The government should make efforts to increase the supply of vaccines. Once the supply of vaccines becomes sufficient, the need for allocation and prioritization will decline. Until then, it is vital to use data and science to reduce the magnitude and costs of vaccine shortages 


How COVID -19 can be addressed via COVID-19 appropriate behaviour?

Source- The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

Synopsis- Adoption of COVID-19 appropriate behaviour is the best way to reduce transmission of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Introduction-

  • One of the key causes of COVID-19’s second wave in India has been the carelessness and reckless behaviour of few people. They have consistently violated Covid-19 guidelines of wearing masks and social distancing.
  • According to KAP [knowledge, attitudes and practices] survey, from July 2020 to March 2021, India witnessed a 5% drop in mask-wearing.
  • Relying entirely on medical science, especially treatment, is not a viable strategy for dealing with the epidemic.

Therefore, Covid-19 appropriate behaviour is a must to reduce transmission.

What is behavioural science?

Behavioural science is a field of study that blends findings from social and cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and behavioural economics to make sense of human behaviour.

  • With an evidence-based approach, behavioural scientists unpack what makes individuals tick: from motivations and aspirations to cognitive biases and social influences.

How behavioural science methods can be used in COVID-19 prevention?

  1. Create awareness about masks
    • Provide basic information regarding who should wear them, when and where.
    • Also, provide clarity on what types of masks are most effective, how to wear a mask correctly, and when to double mask.
  2. Information should be tailored accordingly to people-The government has to communicate with each group of people and provide information accordingly. But it should not discount or put down people’s beliefs or misconceptions. The government has to counter them with credible facts.
  3. Need to communicate the benefits of mask-wearing – The state should share testimonials, infographics and statistics that explain how masks have prevented infection transmission.
    • The government can share testimonials from people who wear masks regularly and explaining how they have managed to avoid getting infected could help.
  4. Role model leadership – Leaders at every level should play their role in influencing people for mask-wearing and vaccinations.
  5. Need of responsible media
    • The media needs to maintain a high standard and report on much more than just struggling hospitals, the oxygen crisis and vaccine and drug shortages. Instead, they have to participate in fighting misinformation and disinformation.

Way forward

  • People have to be aware and sensitive about COVID-19 appropriate behaviour. Till everyone will not get vaccinated, behaviour change is the most effective measure to deal with COVID-19.
  • Stringent implementation of public health and social measures remain the key to stop virus transmission.

Role of National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being on India’s Biodiversity

Source:  The Hindu

Gs3: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Synopsis: The pandemic has exposed the dysfunctional relationship between humanity and nature. The National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being will help India to restore that dysfunctional relationship.

Background

  • Globally, there is a decline in biodiversity. Since 2000, 7% of intact forests have been lost.
  • Further, Climate change and the ongoing pandemic will add additional stresses to our natural ecosystems.
  • Protecting Biodiversity loss is critical for India’s development. Effective implementation of The National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being can safeguard and reclaim India’s Biodiversity

Significance of Biodiversity

India is home to nearly 8% of global biodiversity on just 2.3% of the global land area. India contains four of the 36 global biodiversity hotspots. The varied ecosystems across land, rivers, and oceans provide us with the following benefits

  • Food security
  • Enhanced public health security
  • Protection from environmental disasters.
  • Source of spiritual enrichment, catering to our physical and mental well-being.
  • The economic value provided by ecosystem services.

Thus, preserving biodiversity is directly relevant to the social, economic, and environmental well-being of our people

Significance of National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being (NMBHWB)

  • The mission was approved in 2018 by the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC) in consultation with MoEF&CC and other Ministries.
  • The Mission will strengthen the science of restoring, conserving, and sustainably utilising India’s natural heritage.
  • It will enable biodiversity as a key consideration in all developmental programmes, particularly in agriculture, ecosystem services, health, bio-economy, and climate change mitigation.
  • It will establish a citizen and policy-oriented biodiversity information system.
  • The Mission will enhance capacity across all sectors for the realisation of India’s national biodiversity targets and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
  • Furthermore, it will allow India to emerge as a leader in demonstrating the linkage between the conservation of natural assets and societal well-being.
  • Above all, the Mission offers a holistic framework, integrated approaches, and widespread societal participation.

Effective implementation of the mission will benefit India in many ways

  • The Mission’s comprehensive efforts will empower India to restore, and even increase, our natural assets by millions of crores of rupees.
  • It will help in rejuvenating agricultural production systems and increase rural incomes from biodiversity-based agriculture.
  • It will also result in creating millions of green jobs in restoration and nature tourism.
    • For instance, Restoration activities across India’s degraded lands (1/3rd of our land area), alone could generate several million jobs.
  • The Mission will help India to meet its international commitments under the new framework for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and UN SDGs by facilitating poverty alleviation, justice and equity.
  • It will facilitate the creation of climate-resilient communities by offering nature-based solutions to numerous environmental challenges.
  • Further, it will aid in conservation and ecosystem management by gaining from the Scientific inputs related to geospatial informatics and policy.
  • More importantly, it has the potential to curtail future pandemics. Since, the mission encompasses the “One Health” Programme, integrating human health with animal, plant, soil and environmental health.

Way forward

To improve the results of the National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being further, India can implement the following suggestions. Such as

  • India needs to build an extensive cadre of human resources required to meet the enormous and complex environmental challenges of the 21st century.
  • Capacity building of professionals in sustainability and biodiversity science.
  • Investment in civil society outreach.
  • Public engagement, in the exploration, restoration and conservation of biodiversity, is critical.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 7 June, 2021

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