TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related SOCIAL ISSUES 1. Inclusion of Fishermen in ST List GOVERNANCE 1. Monuments Bill C. GS3 Related ECONOMY 1. FDI and Technology Transfer 2. Reviving Investment in India 3. Budget for Rural India 4. Budget and GST SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 1. New targeted therapies for diseases ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND ECOLOGY 1. Air Pollution and Microalbuminuria D. GS4 Related E. Prelims Fact F. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions G. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
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B. GS2 Related
1. Inclusion of Fishermen in ST List
- The fishermen have been demanding inclusion of their community in the Scheduled Tribe list.
- The demand for inclusion in the ST list has been pending since many decades. Various commissions and committees such as Kaka Kelkar (1955), B.C. Lokur (1965), Anil K Chand (1967) highlighted the need to include the fishermen in the ST list.
- Even former Prime Ministers such as P.V. Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee had talked about including the fishermen in the ST list convener for Fishermen Committee for ST Status.
1. Monuments Bill
- Historians and archaeologists have expressed concern over amendments proposed to the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (1958).
- The Lok Sabha passed the amendments to the Act. But the Bill is yet to be cleared by the Rajya Sabha.
- The Act, which originally instituted conservation measures and banned construction activities near protected monuments, is now sought to be amended so that public works could be allowed within the 100 m prohibited zone.
- Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials told The Hindu that the pressure to bring in this amendment came when the ASI declined permission for a six-lane highway to come up on the Delhi-Kanpur highway near Akbar’s tomb in Sikandra, Uttar Pradesh.
- Recounting an incident, he said that in 2010, when the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010, was passed to ban constructions around monuments, residents living near protected sites in Aurangabad protested against the move, with the ASI having to take the blame for it, while the local MP remained silent.
- The pressures of urban development have meant that more and more historical monuments are coming under threat due to development activities around them.
- Rapid urbanization also threatened many sites of historical importance, for example megalithic sites (Iron Age burials) en route Chengalpattu from Chennai.
- Even a Neolithic site near the Murugan temple in a hillock in Kundrathur is now missing due to urban settlements springing up there.
- In 2013, after a CAG report raised an alarm that 92 historical monuments had gone missing due to development activities around them, the ASI started a ground survey to verify them, and found that 21 had indeed become untraceable.
- Citing a Cabinet note, Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor informed Parliament recently that plans were afoot to construct a railway line next to Rani ki Vaw, an ancient step well in Patan, Gujarat, which had been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014.
B. GS3 Related
1. FDI and Technology Transfer
- The Centre is analysing foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to introduce specific provisions in the new industrial policy and the FDI Policy for ensuring such funds result in enhanced technology transfer, local value-addition and innovation.
- The discussion paper on a future-ready industrial policy had already recommended a review of the current FDI regime.
- The analysis is being done with the help of ‘Invest India’ — the government’s investment promotion and facilitation agency.
- According to the August 2017 discussion paper by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, while the FDI policy had largely aimed at attracting investment, benefits of retaining investments and accessing technology have not been harnessed to the extent possible.
- It said the FDI policy requires a review to ensure that it facilitates greater technology transfer, leverages strategic linkages and innovation. As a long-term measure, the paper pitched for an FDI regime that balances short-term and long-term benefits of inward and outward investments.
- In the current FDI policy, the explicit condition specifying that value addition facilities are set up within India along with transfer of technology is limited to mining and mineral separation of titanium bearing minerals and ores where 100% FDI is allowed through the government-approval route.
Quality of FDI against Quantity of FDI
- There have been concerns regarding an overweening emphasis on the quantum of FDI and not as much focus on the quality of the funds. A recent study initiated by the Institute for Studies in Industrial Development found that it was acquisitions which provided the sustenance for the rise in FDI flows during 2016-17, raising doubts about capacity addition.
- India received record FDI inflows of $60.1 billion during 2016-17. Referring to the Centre’s ‘Make In India’ sectoral achievement reports, the study said they were lacking close scrutiny of the reported (FDI) inflows or the nature of foreign investments — including whether the inflows were for greenfield projects, mergers and acquisitions or for other purposes.
- The study said companies have been allowed to not disclose crucial information on foreign exchange transactions, capacities, production, etc., which limits the ability to analyse corporate performance. Instead, the potential of various filings by the corporates to different official agencies should be exploited fully, it said.
- A report in 2016 by the National Council of Applied Economic Research observed that, the principal data gaps appear to be the lack of information on FDI inflows into individual states, on the universe of foreign firms in particular states and sectors, and their contribution in terms of employment, trade, and overall economic value-addition.
2. Reviving Investment in India
What are the demands of Corporate sector?
- The corporate sector is looking for a reduction in the corporate tax rate. Given the worldwide trend of reduction in corporate tax rates, India may now have to move in that direction too.
- With the applicability of minimum alternate tax (MAT) and dividend distribution tax, the overall tax burden on the Indian corporate sector is one of the highest in the world and a reduction would go a long way in creating a more investment-friendly environment.
Investment: Public or Private?
- Second, it is critical to step up public investment, which acts as an enabler for the private sector — not only in roads, railways and waterways but also in housing and agri-infrastructure.
- Private sector investment should be brought in to sectors and projects where the players are likely to earn returns. They should be encouraged to invest in projects only after securing key sovereign clearances. This would likely reduce the capital which gets locked up in projects stalled awaiting clearance.
- Implementing Kelkar Committee recommendations for stimulating the PPP model in upcoming projects and freeing up capital locked in arbitration swiftly by ensuring contractual sanctity and effective dispute resolution mechanism would help improve the investment climate.
- Another crucial aspect hampering private investment is land availability. Several projects face hurdles and delays due to non-availability of land for initiating planned investment.
- The CII has recommended a ‘Land Bank Corporation’ to act as a definitive repository of central land holdings, which will be publicly available, with all relevant details of each land parcel, including strategic and sovereign clearances.
- Numerous such land parcels owned by public entities like Railways, Defence, Airport Authority etc. exist in urban and semi-urban areas which are often underutilised.
Resolving Stressed assets
- Resolution of stressed assets of the power sector is another area crucial for the overall investment situation in the economy. There is a large amount of thermal power capacity that is stranded due to increased pressure from State-level distribution companies for renegotiation of longer term Power purchase Agreements.
- CII has recommended setting up a ‘National Power Distribution Company’ which would buy power from the stranded assets for distribution across States. It can address strategic concerns around diversification of power besides acting as a market maker and building a national pricing point for power.
- In railways, a major procurement policy for new generation freight wagons from the private sector could be a boon. It will free up public resources for maintenance of railway infrastructure besides reviving wagon manufacturers and boosting the flagship ‘Make In India’ programme. All these would encourage a revival in the investment climate.
3. Budget for Rural India
Why is budget important for rural economy?
- Despite falling contribution to GDP, agriculture and the rural economy remain the foundation for India’s overall growth story. With two of three citizens living in villages, their incomes and consumption patterns are critical to increase demand for industry.
- As per the advance estimates of growth in gross value added for 2017-18, farm output will expand 2.1% compared with 4.9% the previous year. Budget 2018-19 can be expected to have a strong focus on rural India.
- India is already the largest producer of milk and the second-largest of grains, fruits and vegetables and fish.
- However, productivity of crops is often below the global average and much of the farm produce is wasted in the absence of a robust cold chain and warehousing facilities.
- The government has introduced a seven-point strategy for doubling farmer incomes by 2023 and the upcoming budget is likely to action these.
- For industry, policy priorities relate to building rural infrastructure, addressing pricing of major agricultural crops, amending farm policies and inducing greater corporate participation and linkages with industry.
What are the steps that can be taken?
- While minimum support prices are provided for 23 crops, the main procurement takes place for wheat, rice and cotton.
- Farmers must get remunerative prices which can be done through strengthening and expanding e-NAM in all States.
- A single levy of APMC fees across the country can encourage investments. Farmers should be permitted to sell their produce directly to food processing firms, aggregators and retailers.
- A mechanism to involve the private sector in procurement, storage and distribution of food grains at MSP rates may be considered for the Public Distribution System, which can result in huge savings for the Centre.
What are the initiatives in Infrastructure?
- Under infrastructure, irrigation is a key gap, covering less than half of net sown area. The Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Program received a major thrust in the last Budget. Further, drip irrigation and micro irrigation too need focus.
- A chain of post-harvest infrastructure of cold storage and warehouses can effectively link agri-produce with markets and with food processing facilities.
- Currently, less than 10% of produce is processed. The government has initiated mega food parks and provided incentives for creating post-harvest facilities. It may consider setting up cold chains in all districts and leasing them out to food processing and logistics firms.
- One way to encourage greater connect with industry is to boost contract farming and long-term land leasing, as has been done by certain States, without giving tenancy or ownership rights. This would aggregate small land holdings and add to productivity resulting in higher income for the farmers.
- Another way is to create more farmer producer organisations that will augment collective bargaining and help link with processing clusters for direct offtake of produce. The Budget could incentivise this with easier credit availability or subsidised inputs for FPOs.
4. Budget and GST
What is the importance of Budget?
- The Union Budget is a tool which government has long used to make a statement of fiscal policy. Taxation has been one instrument of fiscal policy by which the Central government could determine flows of income, consumption and investment.
Has GST changed the way Budget is presented?
- The introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has brought in a paradigm shift in the manner in which the government can now wield the instrument of taxation.
- As per Article 279A (4), the GST Council has the power to make recommendations to the Union and the States on, inter alia, the GST laws and the rates of goods and services tax.
- There is a corresponding duty cast on the government to consult the Council on all key matters relating to GST, including rates and exemptions, making consultation with the Council mandatory.
- At the core of GST Council functioning is the need for a harmonised structure of GST. Consequently, the Central government’s ability to unilaterally decide rates is severely curtailed.
- It is clear, therefore, that the changes in GST laws or rates that the Union Budget can introduce will have to be as per the recommendations of the GST Council.
- It is in the light of this that the meeting of the GST Council preceding the Union Budget assumes importance as it will likely shape the proposals in the budget document.
- Several pre-budget memorandums have been submitted to the government highlighting the need for changes, both in the law and in the rates of the GST.
- The Central government has the task of getting the acceptable proposals consented to by the GST Council. The council deliberations and decisions may not be as transparent and available in public domain as has been so far.
- Alternately, the changes in rates may be left out of the Union Budget and the cloud of secrecy that is synonymous with budget presentation may remain undiluted.
- Taxation as the traditional influencer of fiscal policy will take a back seat and put immense pressure on the government to balance tax and expenditure and at the same time moderate inflation without sacrificing growth.
- Also, as the changes in law will have to be simultaneously carried out both by the Centre and the States, they would be effective not from the day of budget or the date of Presidential assent, but from a date to be notified thereafter so as to allow the States to legislate their own changes in SGST laws.
- The constraints on the Central government’s ability to dictate the changes do not, however, extend to the areas of Customs and Direct Taxes. Most changes in indirect tax law and rates would pertain to the area of Customs.
- Most of these changes would be structural changes that flow in line with the free trade agreements and direction that the government wishes to follow for protecting Indian industry or setting the ‘Make in India’ agenda on its path.
1. New targeted therapies for diseases.
What is the issue with delivery of drugs presently?
- One of the problems with medicine today is that good drugs often distribute equally into diseased and healthy cells. When drugs accumulate in healthy cells they often cause toxicity.
- Scientists have identified specific receptors or markers on cancer cells and other diseased cells which distinguish them from healthy cells.
How does it work?
- They use these markers to deliver the drug specifically to the diseased cell, thereby avoiding the collateral toxicity to the healthy cells.
- The technology is based on two simple principles: find a molecule that will home in on the diseased cell and then link that to a very effective drug that will treat the disease.
- So the drug piggy-backs on the homing molecule and accumulates in the diseased cell and not in the healthy cell.
- The scientists take advantage of the fact that cancer cells have an enormous appetite for folic acid — which is the Trojan horse that delivers the drug. They need a lot of this vitamin for DNA synthesis.
- They deliver a fluorescent dye to cancer cells using this method. This turns out to be very important because nearly 40% of all cancers tend to recur after surgery as the surgeon has failed to remove all of the malignant tissue. By helping the surgeon see the residual malignant tissue, a lot of lives can be saved.
1. Air Pollution and Microalbuminuria
Is there a connection between Air pollution and Kidney functioning?
- A cross-sectional study of over 400 kitchen workers in Lucknow and Coimbatore showed that almost 50% of them suffered from poor lung functions and microalbuminuria. They also noticed that Coimbatore workers had a higher risk of obstructive lung problems.
- The study conducted by researchers from Indian Institute of Toxicology Research also examined the particulate matter pollution (PM2.5 and PM1) in the kitchen environment and found high concentrations of particulate matter.
- Though air pollution primarily affects the lungs, it can also affect other microvascular functions via systemic circulation. So the workers were first tested for microalbuminuria.
- This is a condition in which there is an excess amount of albumin in urine, and this can be used as a marker for kidney diseases.
- Fine particulate matter can reach the alveolar epithelium of the lungs, enter the circulatory system and increase the risk of kidney dysfunction.
- By conducting various lung function tests, it was found that lung abnormalities were higher in south Indian workers. Apart from exposure to indoor air pollutants, ethnic differences may be the reason. Previous studies have shown south Indians have lower lung function.
- The researchers found significantly increased systolic blood pressure in the kitchen workers with microalbuminuria in both states. But no association was observed between systolic blood pressure and microalbuminuria.
- Different elements like carbon, magnesium, calcium, aluminium, iron in its particulate form in the air were found.
- This study throws light on poor lung function and its inverse relationship with microalbuminuria.
D. GS4 Related
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E. Prelims Fact
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F. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. Consider the following statements about Scheduled Tribes(ST):
- The ST status is granted by the governor of the particular state
- There is no criterion mentioned in the law for granting ST status
- 1 only
- 2 only.
- Both 1 and 2
- None of the above
Question 2. The term Microalbuminuria is recently in news. It is related to :
- A new form of Cancer drug
- A new method of drug delivery
- A new vaccine for TB
- A condition that is an indicator of Kidney disease
Question 3. Consider the following statements about GST Council:
- GST Council is the key decision-making body for GST rates and for inclusion and exemption of goods and services
- The Union Finance Minister is the Chairperson of GST Council
Choose the correct answer using the codes below.
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- None of the above
Question 4. Consider the following statements about Invest India:
- ‘Invest India’ is India’s official agency dedicated to investment promotion and facilitation.
- It is for prospective overseas investors and to those aspiring Indian investors desiring to invest in foreign locations
Select the correct answer using the code given below
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
G. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
GS Paper II
- Justify the demand for inclusion of fishermen in the list of STs. Suggest some measures to improve the condition of fishermen.
GS Paper III
- Discuss the implications of GST on budget making and fiscal policy in India.
Also, check previous Daily News Analysis
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