The HINDU Notes – 26th November 2021 - VISION

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Friday, November 26, 2021

The HINDU Notes – 26th November 2021


📰 Fourth Scorpene class submarine INS Vela joins Navy

With this, the Navy currently has 16 conventional and one nuclear submarine in service.

•The fourth Scorpene class conventional submarine, INS Vela, was commissioned into the Navy in the presence of Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh at a ceremony in Mumbai on Thursday.

•“Vela has taken the ‘Make in India’ spirit a notch higher with the fitment indigenised battery cells, which power a very silent permanently magnetised propulsion motor,” the Navy said in a statement.

•Construction of the submarine commenced with the first cutting of steel on July 14, 2009 and it was launched and named Vela on May 6, 2019.

•With this, the Navy currently has 16 conventional and one nuclear submarine in service. It includes eight Russian Kilo class submarines, four German HDW submarines, four French Scorpene submarines and the indigenous nuclear ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant.

•Vela, being named after a type of Indian fish belonging to the stingray family, the crest depicts the fish swimming across the blue seas. The submarine’s mascot is the Sub-ray which is an amalgamation of the submarine and the stingray which symbolises the metamorphosis of the submarine’s character with the qualities of a stingray, the Navy said.

•The new INS Vela carries forward the legacy of its namesake, the erstwhile Vela which was commissioned on August 31, 1973 as the lead boat of Vela class submarines and was decommissioned on January 25, 2010.

•Six Scorpene submarines are being built under Project-75 by Mazgaon Dock Limited (MDL), Mumbai, under technology transfer from Naval Group of France under a $3.75 bn deal signed in October 2005.

•The first submarine INS Kalvari was commissioned in December 2017, second submarine INS Khanderi in September 2019 and third one INS Karanj in March 2021. The fifth submarine, Vagir, was launched in November 2020 and is undergoing sea trails while the sixth one Vagsheer is in advanced stage of outfitting.

•The Navy has drawn up plans to install Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) modules on all Scorpene submarines as they go for their refit beginning with INS Kulvari in 2023 to enhance their endurance. That hinges on the successful fitment of the indigenous AIP module developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation on board a submarine. The land-based prototype has recently undergone successful trials.

•Parallely, the Navy recently issued the Request For Proposal for procurement of six advanced submarines under Project-75I.

•The Navy has a 30-year submarine building programme and after the P-75I the Navy intends to design and build conventional submarines indigenously. “This is going to be maybe the last time (P-75I) that we will take any outside assistance; henceforth we will design and build our own submarines,” Navy Chief Adm Singh told The Hindu recently.

•With delays in submarine induction, the SSKs-209s (German HDWs) and EKMs (Russian Kilo’s) are being put through the Medium Refit Life Certification process which will give them additional life of 10 to 15 years.

📰 Group of 8 Food secretaries to create national policy for community kitchens

No food shortages, starvation deaths during COVID: Piyush Goyal

•With the Supreme Court’s three week deadline looming, the Food Ministry on Thursday formed a group of eight State Food Secretaries to create the framework for a community kitchens scheme.

•At its last hearing on November 16 on a petition regarding starvation deaths, the apex court had questioned the government’s commitment to run community kitchens, saying the first responsibility of every welfare state should be to provide food to people dying of hunger.

•The petition had urged the formation of a national food grid as well as a community kitchens scheme to ensure that “no person should sleep on an empty stomach” and rued that there is no official data available on death of persons owing to starvation although India accounts for almost a quarter of the world’s hungry people. The court pulled up the Centre for its lack of progress in framing a national policy to run community kitchens in consultation with State governments, including funds required, and gave it a three week deadline to do so.

•Addressing a meeting of State Food Ministers, Food Minister Piyush Goyal said “it was a huge achievement that even during the peak of COVID-19, [the government] did not allow any food shortages to occur”, crediting the success of the Centre’s free ration scheme. According to an official statement, he added that as a result of collective efforts, no case of death due to starvation has been reported during the pandemic.

•Setting up the group of Food Secretaries, Mr. Goyal said a new community kitchen scheme needed to be simple and transparent and build on the four pillars of quality, hygiene, reliability and the spirit of service. The group will be headed by the Food Secretary of Madhya Pradesh and also include the Food Secretaries of Kerala, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Assam, Bihar, and West Bengal. It will next meet virtually on November 29 to deliberate on the proposal.

•The Minister emphasised the need to distribute quality food grain to deserving beneficiaries on the basis of need, for “a focused and identified set of people who are vulnerable especially women and children including homeless, slum dwellers, workers on industrial and construction sites”.

📰 Centre mulls new testing modes after anaemia surge

NFHS-5 found rise in cases across spectrum of population

•Concerned at the rise in cases of anaemia in India across the spectrum of its population, as revealed by the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5), the Centre plans to change the mode of testing for it, along with initiating discussions with the World Health Organization (WHO) on whether “racial characteristics” ought to be accounted for in determining anaemia levels in India.

•The survey, the full findings of which were made public on Wednesday, found that anaemia in children had increased from 58.6% in the NFHS-4 to 67% in the NFHS-5. The NFHS-4 was conducted in 2015-16 and NFHS-5 in 2019-21.

•Anaemia in pregnant women increased to 52.2% from 50.4%, and the percentage of women (15-49 years) who were anaemic also increased from 53% to 57%. The percentage of men aged 15-49 who were anaemic also rose from 22.7% to 25%.

•The Centre has an ongoing programme called Anaemia Mukt Bharat (Anaemia-free India) to reduce the proportion of anaemia among children to 40%, pregnant women to 32% and lactating women to 40% by 2022. The current NFHS shows a lack of progress towards these goals.

•Anaemia is commonly characterised by low levels of iron in the body. Anaemia is also believed to result from a lack of nutrition and inadequate intake of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as a deficiency of vitamin B-12. “It was surprising that the proportion of the anaemic increased so significantly between the two editions of the NFHS,” said a senior Health Ministry official.

•The official said the Government would work with States that showed the most serious deterioration to determine if its ongoing programme of providing folic acid tablets and deworming pills was inadequate. “In the forthcoming NFHS that will begin in 2022 end, we will employ the venous blood extraction method and analyse the results. While our focus will be on improving nutrition and achieving WHO standards, we will also have to see if other factors determine anaemia levels,” the official added.

📰 National Family Health Survey says women outnumber men

The fifth edition of the National Family Health Survey confirmed signs of a demographic shift in the country.

•The fifth edition of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) confirmed signs of a demographic shift in India. For the first time since the NFHS began in 1992, the proportion of women exceeded men: there were 1,020 women for 1,000 men. In the last edition of the survey in 2015-16, there were 991 women for every 1,000 men.

•Only the decadal census is considered the official marker of population trends in India and have a wider surveillance programme. The NFHS surveys are smaller but are conducted at the district level and are a pointer to the future.

•However, sex ratio at birth for children born in the last five years only improved from 919 per 1,000 males in 2015-16 to 929 per 1,000, underscoring that boys, on average, continued to have better odds of survival than girls.

•Most States and Union Territories (UTs) had more women than men, the NFHS-5 shows. States that had fewer women than men included Gujarat, Maharashtra, Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Union territories such as Jammu & Kashmir, Chandigarh, Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Ladakh.

•All of these States and UTs, however, showed improvements in the population increase of women.

•A State-wise breakup of the NFHS data also shows that India is on its way to stabilising its population, with most States and UTs having a Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of less than two. A TFR of less than 2.1, or a woman on average bearing two children over a lifetime, suggests that an existing generation of a people will be exactly replaced. Anything less than two suggests an eventual decline in population over time. Only six States: Bihar, Meghalaya, Manipur, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh have a TFR above two. Bihar has a TFR of three which, however, is an improvement from the 3.4 of the NFHS-4. Again, much like the broader trend towards feminisation, the TFR in all States has improved in the last five years.

•India is still poised to be the most populous country in the world with the current projection by the United Nations population division forecasting that India's population will peak around 1.6 to 1.8 billion from 2040-2050.

•A Government report last year projected that India would overtake China as the world’s most populous country around 2031 — almost a decade later than the United Nations projection of 2022.

•A notable exception is Kerala, a State with among the highest ratios of women to men at 1,121 and improvement over 1,049 recorded in the NFHS-4. However the TFR in Kerala has increased to 1.8 from 1.6. The State has also reported a decline in the sex ratio of children born in the last five years. There are 1,047 females per 1,000 males in 2015-16 that has now declined to 951 per 1,000 males.

•The findings of NFHS-5 from 22 States & UTs covered in Phase-I were released in December 2020 and the remaining comprising Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, NCT of Delhi, Odisha, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand were made public on Wednesday.

•The NFHS-5 survey work has been conducted in around 6.1 lakh sample households from 707 districts (as on March, 2017) of the country; covering 724,115 women and 101,839 men to provide disaggregated estimates up to district level.

📰 Bring in three-rate GST structure, says study by Finance Ministry-backed think-tank

National Institute of Public Finance and Policy study says Government can rationalise the rates without losing revenues.

•The Government can rationalise the GST rate structure without losing revenues by rejigging the four major rates of 5%, 12%, 18% and 28% with a three-rate framework of 8%, 15% and 30%, as per a National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) study.

•The findings of the NIPFP, an autonomous think tank backed by the Finance Ministry, assume significance as the GST Council has tasked a Group of Ministers, headed by Karnataka CM Basavaraj S. Bommai, to propose a rationalisation of tax rates and a possible merger of different tax slabs by December to shore up revenues.

•Multiple rate changes since the introduction of the GST regime in July 2017 have brought the effective GST rate to 11.6% from the original revenue neutral rate of 15.5%, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman pointed out at the last Council meeting in September.

•“Merging the 12% and 18% GST rates into any tax rate lower than 18% may result in revenue loss. Our study proposes that the GST Council may consider a three-rate structure by adopting 8%, 15% and 30% for revenue neutrality,” NIPFP associate professor Sacchidananda Mukherjee told The Hindu.

•The nature of rate changes has also meant that over 40% of taxable turnover value now falls in the 18% tax slab, thus any move to dovetail that slab with a lower rate will trigger losses to the tax kitty that need to be offset by marginal hikes in other remaining major rates — 5% and 28%.

•The 28% rate is levied on demerit goods such as tobacco products, automobiles and aerated drinks, along with additional GST compensation cess.

•If the revenue loss from merging the 12% and 18% slabs were to be met by just hiking the rate on demerit or sin goods, the highest GST rate would have to be raised to almost 38%. Alternatively, the lowest standard rate will have to be raised from 5% to about 9%.

‘Revenue leakages’

•Currently, the GST regime levies eight different rates, including zero for essential goods and special rates of 0.25% on diamonds, precious stones and 3% on gems and jewellery. The NIPFP paper assumes these rates remain unchanged after noting that raising rates on ‘high-value low volume goods’ like precious stones and jewellery ‘may encourage unaccounted (undisclosed) transactions and therefore revenue leakages’.

•Restructuring GST rates is a timely idea to improve revenues, Mr. Mukherjee said, adding that it was important to sequence the transition to the new rate structure so as to minimise the costs associated with tax compliance, administration and economic distortions.

•If the GST rate structure prevailing at its onset in July 2017 was restored last year, additional GST revenues of nearly ₹1.25 lakh crore could have accrued in 2020-21, estimates the NIPFP paper titled, Revenue Implications of GST Rates Restructuring in India: An Analysis.

‘Useful methodology’

•“The results are indicative given the limitations of data, but the methodology developed in this paper could be useful for any future analysis of restructuring of the GST rate structure,” Mr. Mukherjee said.

•“The GST Council may consider placing some aggregate data in the public domain to help policy research as binding data limitations hinder meaningful research of the GST regime,” he averred.

📰 Measuring progress: On the lessons of National Family Health Survey-5

The lessons of NFHS-5 must be used to improve social development indices

•A periodic assessment of health and social development indicators is crucial for any country that is still clawing its way towards achieving ideal standards in the Human Development Index. While the results of the NFHS are usually mixed, and improvements in certain sectors ride along with stagnation and deterioration in other sectors, this year, there have been radical improvements in maternal and child health, sex ratio and population control. A greater proportion of births than ever before is now happening in institutions, more children in the 12-23 months age group have received their vaccinations, and, most interestingly, India has achieved a total fertility rate of 2.0, dropping further from the figure of 2.2 during NFHS-4, indicating that India has contained the population explosion. Policies, some even coercive, as in the case of the family planning sector, seem to have borne fruit, years after they were implemented. While gender ratio has, for the first time, recorded more women per 1,000 men, gender ratio at birth in the last five years still underlines the persistence of a deep-rooted son preference, one that has to be countered, through policy and law. There are other areas too, specially in the case of childhood nutrition where marginal gains in say, wasting and severe wasting, are deemed insufficient, and require renewed corrective efforts. The impact of the pandemic may also be noted, the disruption it caused to services such as balanced nutrition for children must be acknowledged, while this set of circumstances underscores the need for building resilient and fortified systems capable of delivering in the most trying circumstances. Having measured blood sugar and hypertension in the population for the first time, NFHS-5 highlighted the looming threat from lifestyle diseases.

•This massive exercise that covered, this year, over six lakh households across the country, aims at providing data that will help shape the policies in a manner that will correct deficiencies, and ensure equitable access to services, particularly those with impact on social determinants that improve the quality of life. State-level indices are also released, to provide comparisons, but also to allow States to launch course correction, or to be inspired by success stories in other regions. Inputs on marriage and fertility, family planning, access to education and health services are provided by the NFHS, arguably second only to the exhaustive data that the decennial population census throws up. States need to treat it as such, and while they might dispute some assessments, the greater idea is to recognise it as a matrix to work on, to improve the development indicators further. Meanwhile, the Centre too must not treat it as a mere stocktaking exercise, but harness the opportunities the NFHS provides for launching reform or re-assessing certain policies without using it as a political tool in a federal set up.

📰 Setting the tone at Glasgow, the job ahead in Delhi

India, while moving to renewable energy, e-vehicle use, and a digital economy, needs to focus on sustainable well-being

•With current per capita emissions that are less than half the global average, India’s pledge to reach ‘net zero’ emissions by 2070 has cemented India’s credentials as a global leader. The emissions of all others who have pledged “net zero’ by 2050 are above the global average.

•At COP26 in Glasgow (October 31-November 12, 2021), India successfully challenged the 40-year-old frame of global climate policy that pointed a finger at developing countries with the alternate frame of ‘climate justice’, that unsustainable lifestyles and wasteful consumption patterns are to blame. The political implication of the date 2070 is that the world should get to ‘net-zero’ by 2050. For that, the rich countries will need to do more and step up closer to their share of the carbon budget. India’s stand also signals that it will not act under external pressure, as requiring equal treatment is the hallmark of a global power, and will have an impact on other issues.

G7 no longer a rule setter

•The problem, as Gandhiji had also observed, is really western civilisation; it also accounts for the spate of criticism of India’s open challenge in the plenary, and getting global agreement on a “just” transition to phase down, and not phase out, coal. The subject of oil was not touched, even as automobile emissions are the fastest growing emissions, because it is a defining feature of western civilisation. Coal is the most abundant energy source, essential for base load in electrification, and the production of steel and cement. Its use declines after the saturation level of infrastructure is reached. The irony of the host country pushing other nations to stop using coal — an energy resource which powered its own Industrial Revolution — was not lost on the poor countries who called out “carbon colonialism”. That India and China working together forced the G7 to make a retraction has signalled the coming of a world order in which the G7 no longer sets the rules.

•The Prime Minister’s stand in the opening plenary, pushing ‘climate justice’, and the Environment Minister, Bhupender Yadav’s constant reminder that the negotiating text is not balanced as there is little advance on financial and other support, gave courage to the others to also successfully question the negotiating frame which focused on emissions reduction. After 40 years there is more specific language on both finance and adaptation finally recognising that costs and near-term effects of climate change will hit the poorest countries hardest.

India will be investing

•The debate has now shifted to the national level, with questions on the feasibility of the goal of ‘net-zero’ by 2070. Here again, most of the concerns mirror those raised in the West without appreciating the significance of ‘climate justice’. Seeing the challenge in terms of the scale and the speed of the transformation of the energy system assumes that India will follow the pathway of western civilisation where the energy system and lifestyles that evolved over a century have to be transformed over the next 30 years.

•India is urbanising as it is industrialising, moving directly to electrification, renewable energy and electric vehicles, and a digital economy instead of a focus on the internal combustion engine. Most of the infrastructure required has still to be built and automobiles are yet to be bought. India will not be replacing current systems and will be making investments, not incurring costs.

West must cut consumption

•There is sufficient evidence in the literature that the consumption of affluent households both determines and accelerates an increase of emissions of carbon dioxide. This is followed by socio-economic factors such as mobility and dwelling size. In the West, these drivers have overridden the beneficial effects of changes in technology reflected in the material footprint and related greenhouse-gas emissions. Climate change has to be addressed by the West by reducing consumption, not just greening it.

•For India, in parallel with the infrastructure and clean technology thrust, the focus on a decent living standard leads to behavioural change in the end-use service, such as mobility, shelter and nutrition — for change modifying wasteful trends.

•First, consumption patterns need to be ‘shifted away from resource and carbon-intensive goods and services, e.g. mobility from cars and aircraft to buses and trains, and nutrition from animal and processed food to a seasonal plant-based diet’.

•Second, along with’ reducing demand, resource and carbon intensity of consumption has to decrease, e.g. expanding renewable energy, electrifying cars and public transport and increasing energy and material efficiency’.

This should be the focus

•Third, equally important, will be achieving a’ more equal distribution of wealth with a minimum level of prosperity and affordable energy use for all’, e.g., housing and doing away with biomass for cooking. Indian civilisational values already lay stress on vegetarianism, frown on wastage; mobility-related consumption is not disproportionately increasing with income. National acceptance of a ‘floor’ as well as ‘ceiling’ of sustainable well-being is feasible.

•The Government now needs to set up focused research groups for the conceptual frame of sustainable well-being. It should analyse the drivers of affluent overconsumption and circulate synthesis of the literature identifying reforms of the economic systems as well as studies that show how much energy we really need for a decent level of well-being.

•The West has yet to come out with a clear strategy of how it will remain within the broad contours of its carbon budget. The political problems of a scaling-down of economic production and lifestyles will provide useful lessons. It is becoming difficult for the West to use international trade that is shifting manufacturing and the burden of emissions to developing countries with the rise of a digital economy. And increasing inequality and a rise of protectionism and trade barriers imposing new standards need to be anticipated. This knowledge is essential for national policy as well as the next round of climate negotiations.

Work for Parliament

•After the Stockholm Declaration on the Global Environment, the Constitution was amended in 1976 to include Protection and Improvement of Environment as a fundamental duty. Under Article 253, Parliament has the power to make laws for implementing international treaties and agreements and can legislate on the preservation of the natural environment. Parliament used Article 253 to enact the Environment Protection Act to implement the decisions reached at the Stockholm Conference. The decisions at COP26 enable a new set of legislation around ecological limits, energy and land use, including the efficient distribution and use of electricity, urban design and a statistical system providing inputs for sustainable well-being.