Daily Current Affairs News For UPSC Prelims & Mains (July 11-14): Tax Devolution To States; China’s Security Law, Malabar Exercise And More…

Huge Gap Between What The 14th Finance Commission Promised To States And What They Have Received

The 14th Finance Commission report was accepted in 2015 with the promise that it would devolve more finances to the States. As part of the process, States would have new responsibilities, especially in the social sector. Two years later, the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime was also justified as a grand bargain that would eventually leave all States better off.

  • In reality, tax devolution to States has been consistently below 14th Finance Commission projections. One reason for this has been the economic slowdown, caused primarily by the Central government, and lower-than-expected GST collections.
  • According to a study by the Centre for Policy Research, there is a ₹6.84 lakh crore gap between what the 14th Finance Commission promised to States and what they have received.
  • And while this has happened, the nature of public spending in India has undergone a massive shift.
  • In 2014-2015, States undertook programmes and projects spending 46% more than the Central Government; today the figure is 64%. Despite this, the Centre’s fiscal deficit exceeds the consolidated State deficit by 14%! India is paying for a profligate Centre.
  • The COVID-19 situation has deepened the crisis.

Source: The Hindu (In the name of ‘cooperative federalism’)

China’s Security Law

China recently passed a national security law giving it a wide-ranging powers over Hong Kong.

  • Hong Kong was under British rule until 1997, when the territory was given to China under the condition that it retains some autonomy.
  • The system is called “one country, two systems”.
  • As the Chinese firewall took hold, several technology companies were shut out, including Google and Facebook.
  • But with the quasi-independence afforded by “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong was integrated into the global Internet. Global technology companies were able to operate close to China without being subject to the country’s laws.

What is the new national security law?

  • Announced by China In May, it was put into effect on July 1.
  • On the technology front, the new surveillance and censorship rules could subsume the territory into China’s Great Firewall. Indeed, experts have found the new law reminiscent of the mainland’s own cybersecurity laws.
  • The law criminalises four activities: “secession, subversion, organization and perpetration of terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security”.

Source: The Indian Express Explained: What China security law means for Hong Kong and the global Internet

Cool Roofs & Energy Conservation

The exponential growth in urbanisation implies using up most of the open spaces in urban and semi-urban areas and creating more of paved surface cover, heat-trapping roofs, buildings and roads.

  • Often, buildings are one of the major contributors to incremental heat generation. More than 60 per cent of the roofs are made of concrete, metal and asbestos, all of which tend to trap heat.
  • Over time, these hot surfaces worsen the heat island effect and drive temperatures higher.
  • It is thus imperative that any effort towards energy conservation must include a focused approach to urban areas and more specifically on buildings and built-up areas.
  • Telangana has taken steps to ensure energy efficiency in its buildings by incorporating the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE)’s Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC), which sets minimum energy efficiency standards for all commercial buildings, including categories such as multiplexes, hospitals, hotels and convention centres which have a plot size of 1,000 sq meters or a built-up area of 2,000 sq meters or more.
  • Additionally, the state has included mandatory ECBC and green building codes, under section 176(4) in the newly promulgated Telangana Municipality Act 2019. This will go a long way in ensuring the environmental footprint of the sector is controlled.
  • Cool roofs, for example, offer a simple and a cost-effective answer to urbanisation challenges. Cool roofs reflect sunlight and absorb less heat.

Source: Indian Express (Cool roofs and other solutions: Pandemic has sharpened need to make right choices for sustainable urban growth)

India Must Include Australia into Malabar Exercise

Delhi’s reported openness to Australia’s participation in India’s annual naval exercises with the US and Japan hopefully marks the end of its incredibly slow adaptation to a rapidly changing maritime environment in the Indo-Pacific littoral. In inviting Australia, Delhi is also hopefully putting away its needless defensiveness on choosing its partners for security cooperation.

  • China is far more powerful in Bay of Bengal region than India.
  • India has lost much valuable time in the 13 years.
  • China acquired its first military base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. Karachi and Gwadar are already de-facto naval facilities for the PLA Navy.
  • Iran is likely to allow China develop port facilities at the mouth of the strategic Hormuz Strait in the Gulf.
  • China’s political and military influence is growing in the island states of the Indian Ocean.
  • The decision to invite Australia into the Malabar exercise should be a part of strategy to counter China’s rise in Bay of Bengal region.

Source: Indian Express Editorial (Malabar moment)

The Lancet Global Health Report

Some low and middle income countries (LMICs) could see a surge in HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria deaths by as much as 10, 20, and 36 per cent, respectively, over the next five years due to the Covid-19 outbreak’s impact on health services, a new study published in The Lancet Global Health on Monday has found.

  • Researchers estimate that in areas heavily affected by these major infectious diseases, the public health impact of Covid-19 on years of life lost (the number of years a person would have lived had he or she not died of a particular disease) could, in the worst case, be on a similar scale to the direct impact of the pandemic itself.
  • According to health data, malaria deaths worldwide have reduced by half since 2000, but progress has stalled as mosquitoes and parasites gain resistance to treatment. As many as 94 per cent of deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria claimed an estimated 380,000 lives in 2018.
  • Similarly, global HIV/AIDS deaths have halved in a decade driven by the availability of antiretroviral therapy (ART). In 2019, at least 690,000 people died from the disease worldwide, the vast majority in LMICs.

Source: The Indian Express

Nepotism and Inequality: A Correlation

Deep historical inequalities and a dwindling welfare state have made India one of the most unequal societies in the world, with the richest 1% holding more than four times the wealth of the bottom 70%.

  • It stands to reason, therefore, that anyone concerned about nepotism would want to attack the cause of which nepotism is the symptom: the reproduction of inequality.
  • After all, the more unequal a society, the greater the scope and incentive for nepotism.
  • In a hypothetical society of perfect socio-economic equality, each individual’s nepotistic reserves would cancel out that of everyone else’s.
  • So, tackling nepotism calls for political mobilisation against socio-economic inequality.
  • The most effective means of reducing such inequality are social justice measures such as affirmative action, universal access to public health and education, and redistributive policies such as an inheritance tax.

Source: The Hindu (The politics of nepotism)