Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

UPSC Civils Current Affairs 24th May-2021

Topics 

  • B.1.617.2 Variant:
  • Myanmar Military Coup
  • Eco tax
  • Ayurveda v/s Allopathy
  • Volcano
  • Operation Samudra Setu II

 

1.617.2 Variant:

Context:  A study by various institutions found that a single dose of AstraZeneca  Vaccine is only 33% effective against new B.1.617.2 variant of corona virus.

B.1.617.2  Variant:

  • The variant multiple mutations on the spike protein region, a portion on the coronavirus that helps it to infiltrate the human
  • The B.1.617 variant of SARS-CoV2, feared to be contributing to a surge in coronavirus cases in India, has been designated as the Variants of Interest (VOI) by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
  • “As of 27 April, over 1,200 sequences have been uploaded to GISAID and assigned to lineage B.1.617 (collectively) from at least 17 countries,” it said, adding that most sequences were uploaded from India, the United Kingdom, USA and Singapore. [GISAID is a global science initiative and primary source established in 2008 that provides open-access to genomic data of influenza viruses and the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic

Second wave:

  • Viruses mutate, and mutations that help it survive and circulate better are selected. Biological changes in the virus is one of the reasons for unprecedented surge in infections in the last two months.
  • In the last few months, several new variants of the virus have been found to be circulating in the Indian population.
  • The WHO said that studies have highlighted that the spread of the second wave has been much faster than the first in India. “Preliminary modelling by WHO based on sequences submitted to GISAID suggest that B.1.617 has a higher growth rate than other circulating variants in India, suggesting potential increased transmissibility, with other co-circulating variants also demonstrating increased transmissibility,” the report by the global health body said.

Variants under watch

  • Many new variants are under close watch right now.
  • The government has already classified the B.1.617 as a ‘variant of concern’.
  • This particular variant has undergone further mutations, and at least three different sub-variants, named B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.3, are supposed to have the potential to spread even faster, and cause bigger damage than the parent variant.

Vaccines against new variants:

  • A new study by health officials in England shows for the first time that two doses of COVID-19 vaccines are “highly effective” against the B1.617.2 variant first identified in India.
  • Public Health England (PHE) said that while the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was 88 per cent effective against symptomatic COVID-19 from the B1.617.2 variant of concern (VOC) two weeks after the second dose, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was 60 per cent effective against symptomatic disease from the B1.617.2 VOC.
  • Both vaccines were 33% effective against symptomatic disease from B.1.617.2, 3 weeks after the first dose compared to around 50% effectiveness against the B.1.1.7 variant.

Significance of these findings to India:

  • India is heavily reliant on Covishield -the AstraZeneca vaccine-for about 90%

Of vaccination.

  • 1.617.2 is increasingly becoming the dominant variant in India.

 

2.Myanmar Military Coup:

Context: Upsurge of conflict in parts of Myanmar’s as various rebels groups attacks Myanmar military .

Background:

  • Recently, the Myanmar military has grabbed power in a coup –
  • In a failed transition of power, the military backed the USDP alleges Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party of fraud which swept the polls by winning almost 80% of the vote, while Development Party (USDP) suffered a humiliating defeat.
  • The USDP did not accept the result.
  • A one-year state of emergency has been imposed and democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained.

[ ‘Coup’ is a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government.]

Why Transition of power failed?

  • In 2008, the military had written a new Constitution that made sure the Generals’ interests would be protected even if there is a transition.
  • According to the Constitution, the President must have military experience and the President himself, his spouse or children “shall not be subject of a foreign power or citizen of a foreign country”.
  • The Constitution also mandates that the Defence and Interior Ministries would be controlled by the military.
  • Also, 25% of the total seats in Parliament (166 out of the 664-member house) are reserved for the military, giving it a veto over any move to change the Constitution.
  • Than Shwe, who had been ruling the country since 1992, promoted young soldiers who were loyal to him and conducted elections under the new Constitution.
  • The NLD, which had not recognised the Constitution, boycotted the 2010 election, which the USDP won.
  • In the next five years, the Army loosened its grip on the government and society. Political prisoners, including Ms. Suu Kyi, were released. Media censorship was eased.
  • The NLD won the 2015 election, the country’s first free and fair election participated by multiple parties, and formed the government, raising hopes that the country is on its way to full transition to democracy.
  • So even when the Army allowed power to be transferred to an elected government, it made sure that it would continue to drive defence and internal security policies, and that the USDP, its political vehicle, has an edge over other parties in elections with the reserved seats in Parliament based on its constitution
  • As per constitution , Ms. Suu Kyi, whose two sons are British citizens, cannot become President.

What has the India’s and  international reaction been?

  • USA: The USA President threatened to reimpose sanctions on Myanmar following a coup by the country’s military leaders and called for a concerted international response to press them to relinquish power.
  • UN Secretary-General António Guterres said it was a “serious blow to democratic reforms”.
  • ASEAN Countries: ASEAN’s current chair, Brunei, called for ‘dialogue among parties, reconciliation and the return to normalcy’.
  • Neighbours including Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines, have said it is an “internal matter”.
  • India’s Reaction:
  • India supports the process of democratic transition in Myanmar.
  • Though India has expressed deep concern over recent developments in Myanmar, cutting off from the Myanmar military is not a viable option as India has significant economic and strategic interests in Myanmar and its neighbourhood.

India and Myanmar:

  • India had shown commitment to build robust relationship with Myanmar over the past two decades which intensified after the democratic process began in 2011.
  • India’s military-diplomatic outreach to Myanmar became a cornerstone of its Act East policy.
  • On January 22, India sent 15 lakh doses of the Covishield vaccine to assist Myanmar in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
  • On October 15, 2020, India announced the handing over of a kilo-class submarine INS Sindhuvir to the Myanmar navy.
  • India has cultivated several infrastructure and development projects with Myanmar, which it sees as the “gateway to the East” and ASEAN countries:

For example : Operationalisation of the crucial Sittwe port in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and India’s assistance to other  infrastructure projects such as the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project.

  • Indian needs perpetual support and coordination from Myanmar for the maintenance of security and stability along its North East border areas.
  • Investment: With Indian investments of over USD 1.2 billion, Myanmar holds considerable importance than any other country in South Asia.

Way Forward: What’s next:

  • The Army has promised elections, without offering any time frame. But the NLD has called for protests against the coup.
  • Suu Kyi had tried to buy peace with the Generals in her first term, especially on the Rohingya issue by defending the Army crackdown on the Rohingya, which UN investigators said was executed with “genocidal intent”. But the Generals s
  • But Suu Kyi’s popularity and an energised NLD that was in power for five years would be an impediment for them.
  • India should continue to engage with the present regime in Myanmar working towards mutual development of people of both the countries while it should support sharing experiences in constitutionalism and federalism to assist Myanmar in resolving the prevailing stalemate.

 

3.Eco tax:

Context: Environmental fiscal reforms as a way to reduce pollution and generate resource for health sector:

Background:

  • The fiscal deficit for FY 2020-21 (revised estimates) is projected to be 9.5% of the GDP; for 2021-22, it is pegged at 6.8%. The focus is on maintaining fiscal discipline.
  • The Economic Survey of India 2019-20 has outlined the fact that an increase in public spending from 1% to 2.5-3% of GDP, as envisaged in the National Health Policy of 2017, can decrease out-of-pocket expenditure from 65% to 30% of overall healthcare expenses.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has also forced countries all over the world to rethink climate change and the need for preservation of the environment. Fiscal reforms for managing the environment are important, and India has great potential for revenue generation in this aspect.

Need of Environmental fiscal reforms:

  • Environment regulation, in turn, may take several forms:
  • Command and control
  • Economic planning
  • Environmental tax (eco tax)/subsidies
  • Cap and trade.
  • The success of an eco tax in India would depend on its architecture, that is, how well it is planned and designed
  • It should be credible, transparent and predictable.
  • Ideally, the eco tax rate ought to be equal to the marginal social cost arising from the negative externalities associated with the production, consumption or disposal of goods and services.

Reforms:

  • Environmental tax reforms generally involve three complementary activities:

(a) Eliminating existing subsidies and taxes that have a harmful impact on    the environment.

(b) Restructuring existing taxes in an environmentally supportive manner

(c) Initiating new environmental taxes.

  • In India, eco taxes can target three main areas:
  • Differential taxation on vehicles in the transport sector purely oriented towards fuel efficiency and GPS-based congestion charge
  • In the energy sector, by taxing fuels which feed into energy generation
  • Waste generation and use of natural resources.
  • Tax revenues can be generated through eco taxes. There is also a need to integrate environmental taxes in the Goods and Service Tax framework as highlighted by the Madras School of Economics in its studies.

Advantages of Eco tax:

  • The implementation of an environmental tax in India will have three broad benefits: fiscal, environmental and poverty reduction.
  • Environmental tax reforms can mobilise revenues to finance basic public services when raising revenue through other sources proves to be difficult or burdensome.
  • Revenue from environmental tax reforms can also be used to reduce other distorting taxes such as fiscal dividend.
  • Environmental tax reforms help internalise the externalities, and the said revenue can finance research and the development of new technologies.

Drawbacks:

  • Environmental regulations may have significant costs on the private sector in the form of slow productivity growth and high cost of compliance, resulting in the possible increase in the prices of goods and services.
  • However, the European experience shows that most of the taxes also generate substantial revenue and there is no evidence on green taxes with sustainable development goals leading to a ‘no growth’ economy.
  • Most countries’ experiences suggest negligible impact on the GDP.

Conclusion:

This is the right time for India to adopt environmental fiscal reforms as they will reduce environmental pollution and also generate resources for financing the health sector.

 

4.Ayurveda v/s Allopathy

Context: Indian medical Association [IMA] demanded action against Baba Ramdev for his statements on allopathy (modern medicine) in a video circulating on social media.

Background:

  • A video circulating in social media portraying, the celebrated Yoga Guruji saying that “modern allopathy is a stupid and failed science” .
  • The Indian Medical Association (IMA) on Saturday sent a legal notice to yoga guru Ramdev over his alleged remarks.

Ayurveda :

  • The existence of Ayurveda lies since the ancient era and since then it has shown extremely helpful benefits.
  • The term Ayurveda comprises of two Sanskrit words, ‘Aayu’ meaning ‘Life’ and ‘Veda’ meaning ‘Knowledge’ or ‘Science’.
  • Ayurveda is a comprehensive scientific system of medicine that evolved in India which uses a range of treatments, including panchakarma (‘five actions’), yoga, massage, acupuncture, and herbal medicine, to encourage health and wellbeing. Various Ayurvedic practitioners believe that every person is made up of five elements i.e: space, air, fire, water, and earth.

Allopathy:

  • The word ‘Allopathy’ was coined by Samuel Hahnemann in 1810 which comes from the Greek word “allos” – meaning “opposite” and “pathos” – meaning “to suffer”.
  • Allopathic treatments have emerged as an intense system that is based on tests and evidence.
  • Modern or mainstream medicine not only works to treat symptoms and illness but it also helps to prevent illness and disease.
  • Pharmaceutical drugs play a major role in allopathy. It is developed either to mask the symptoms of the diseases directly or alter the way a body is meant to function.
  • Modern medicine is the perfect tool in cases of serious illnesses.
  • However, allopathic is a disease care system and its job is to manage the disease. Unlike homeopathic medicines, in which like treats like, allopathic drugs stimulate inactive organs or sedate overactive ones.

Ayurveda v/s Allopathy:

  • Since both the medicines have vast applications and have proven very prominent in the field of medicine, both of the kind have their advantages and drawbacks:
  • An Ayurvedic treatment wouldn’t be of any help to you during medical emergencies such as uncontrollable diarrhoea, blood loss, cardiac arrest, jaundice, dengue, shortness of breath, asthma, etc. This is because in many serious cases only injections will provide you quick relief from the pain. These injections are pure chemical solutions which may have several side effects depending upon individual body response.
  • Ayurvedic treatment is well known because it points out the root cause of the issue and then aims to cures it entirely, without any side effects.
  • Allopathy is also very helpful if you are seriously injured or recently had a major surgery which is indeed painful once the effect of anaesthesia wears off.

 

5.Volcano

Context: Mount Nyiragongo: Volcanic eruption in DR Congo leaves people homeless

Background:

  • Mount Nyaragongo which overlooks Goma town, erupted spewing lava, gases and sediments around 6.30 p.m. on Saturday.

( Prelims nugget: DR Congo lies on Equator)

  • The Indian Army contingent under the United Nations peace keeping mission (MONUSCO) assisted in protecting civilians and U.N. officials.

Mount Nyiragongo:

  • Mount Nyiragongo is an active stratovolcano in the Virunga Mountains associated with the Albertine Rift.
  • It is located inside Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, about 12 km (7.5 mi) north of the town of Goma and Lake Kivu and just west of the border with Rwanda.
  • Nyiragongo’s lava lake has at times been the most voluminous known lava lake in recent history.
  • Nyiragongo and nearby Nyamuragira are together responsible for 40 per cent of Africa’s historical volcanic eruptions.
  • Since 1882, it has erupted at least 34 times, including many periods where activity was continuous for years at a time, often in the form of a churning lava lake in the crater.
  • Localized carbon dioxide toxicity, known locally as ‘mazuku’, has killed children even more recently. In locations where the gas seeps from the ground at relatively high levels, without the dispersing effects of wind, its effects can be deadly.

Volcano:

  • A volcano is an opening in the earth’s crust through which gases, molten rocks materials (lava), ash, steam etc. are emitted outward in the course of an eruption.
  • Such vents or openings occur in those parts of the earth’s crust where the rock strata are relatively weak. Volcanic activity is an example of endogenic process.

 

6.Operation Samudra Setu II:

Context: Seven Indian Navy Ships Deployed for Op Samudra Setu II

Background:

  • In support of the nation’s fight against Covid-19 and as part of operation ‘Samudra Setu II’, seven Indian Naval ships viz. Kolkata, Kochi,  Talwar, Tabar, Trikand, Jalashwa and Airavat have been deployed for shipment of liquid medical oxygen-filled cryogenic containers and associated medical equipment from various countries.

Vande Bharath Mission and Operation Samudra setu I :

  • It was launched along with Vande Bharat Mission (VBM).
  • VBM is the biggest civilian evacuation exercise to bring back Indian citizens stranded abroad amidst the coronavirus-induced travel restrictions.
  • It is also considered as the largest exercise to bring back Indian citizens since the evacuation of 177,000 from the Gulf region in the early 1990s at the start of hostilities between Iraq and Kuwait during the first Gulf War.
  • It is also considered as the largest exercise to bring back Indian citizens since the evacuation of 177,000 from the Gulf region in the early 1990s at the start of hostilities between Iraq and Kuwait during the first Gulf War.
  • The entire cost of travel will be borne by the passengers under the mission.
  • Further, the Indian Navy has also launched Operation “Samudra Setu” (sea bridge) to repatriate Indian citizens from overseas.
  • Indian Naval Ships Jalashwa and Airavat, Shardul and Magar participated in this operation.
  • Indian Navy has previously undertaken similar evacuation operations as part of Operation Sukoon in 2006 (Beirut) and Operation Rahat in 2015 (Yemen).

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