IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 12th December 2017
Part of: Mains GS Paper II- Cyber security issues
- The NIC-CERT centre has been set up by the government. It would monitor and help in early detection and mitigation of cyberattacks on government networks.
- NIC-CERT currently has a team of about 30 cybersecurity professionals.
- NIC-CERT will operate in close co-ordination and collaboration with other sectoral CERTs and more so with CERT-In.
- The government had already announced setting up of sectoral CERTs (computer emergency response teams) for sectors such as finance and power.
- Using various tools, the team at NIC-CERT will be able to identify vulnerabilities and possible exploits and the intelligence gathered will give CERT the ability to predict and prevent attacks.
- NIC’s (National Informatics Centre) networks handle about 500 GB of data at any given point in time.
- All communications between government departments — Centre, State and district, as well as interactions between the government and the citizens takes place through NIC’s network.
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Part of: Mains GS Paper II- Regional groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
- The India-China-Russia trilateral, for the first time, called for cooperation to take decisive and concerted action against globally-proscribed terrorists and terror entities on Monday.
- Significant rise in acts of terrorism by terrorist organisations like Taliban, Daesh (Islamic State), al-Qaeda, and LeT directly undermine international peace and security, and endanger ongoing efforts to strengthen the global economy and ensure sustainable growth and development.
- A comprehensive policy for dealing with global terrorism is required. The policy should include dealing with extremism, countering religious fanaticism, preventing recruitment of terrorists, disrupting terrorist movements, stopping all sources for financing of terrorism, stopping the flow of FTFs (foreign terrorist fighters), dismantling terrorist infrastructure, and countering terrorist propaganda through the Internet, but we should not limit ourselves to these only.
Joint statements at RIC meeting:
- We call for the swift and effective implementation of existing international commitments on countering terrorism, including the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and targeted sanctions relating to terrorism and the FATF International Standards worldwide.
- We agree to strengthen cooperation to take decisive and concerted actions against globally proscribed terrorists and terror entities. We condemn all forms of terrorism and all terrorists, terror entities and organisations listed by the UN Security Council.
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Low-cost small satellite launcher by ISRO
Part of: Mains GS Paper III- Science & Technology
- A low-cost small satellite launcher is being developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation.
- The launcher will be capable of putting 500-600 kg satellites in orbits close to the earth.
- The development cost will be kept low at a few crore as the new launcher’s requirement of advanced electronics is considerably lower.
- It could also tremendously cut the launch fee that customers would have to pay. Which is what all space agencies aim at: low-cost access to space, as they call it.
- Today, it takes 300-plus engineers and about 40 days to assemble a PSLV. A small launcher that can be got up perhaps in three days by a small team would make a big difference in the market as well as to the launch provider.
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TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
Regulating the private healthcare
Private healthcare in India in recent times has seen a series of scandals. Recent one being a private hospital handing over a dead infant who was thereafter discovered to be still alive.
- Costly private healthcare in a poor country where public health service is totally inadequate is a worrying issue.
- High commission rates. Reportedly, doctors get a referral fee of 35 per cent for MRI tests and 20 per cent for CT scans and other diagnostic tests.
- Private healthcare is fighting back too. Doctors in Karnataka organised public protests and changes were made in the final legislation removing the provision for imprisonment as a punishment.
Steps being taken by the governments:
- West Bengal has instituted a regulatory commission.
- Karnataka has amended and strengthened its 2007 regulation.
- The union health ministry has written to all States asking them to adopt its 2010 framework, which many have not till now.
- A few months ago the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority imposed price ceilings on stents and knee replacements which brought down their costs to patients by over half.
Regulating the sector:
- Regulation of private healthcare, when it is the mainstay, is a must. But India is notorious for bureaucratic and rent-seeking regulation. Even the best doctors with enormous experience make mistakes. The system can hardly work if they begin to play safe.
- For regulation to work, it has to have a light touch, be quick with findings and give the benefit of doubt where due.
- The regulatory body has to be high-powered, politically independent and represent all sections of stakeholders, particularly patients and NGOs active in the field.
- The regulator should insist on transparency — hospitals clearly publicising their rates for standard treatments and procedures.
- There should be normative rates for different types of hospitals as not all private hospitals are posh or located in costly cities.
- Hospitals should publicise standard packages and rationale for additional charges levied recorded. The regulator should get regular data on the percentage of deviation from standard packages.
Doctors are the anchors of the healthcare system and most societies hold doctors in high esteem. Conversely, unethical practices cannot be widespread without the active participation of doctors. The foremost job of regulators should be to ensure that doctors are not paid commissions for referring patients to diagnostic centres or bringing them to hospitals.
- Many hospitals pay a commission to consultants on the bills run up by patients who are under their supervision.
- While inducements offered by pharma companies are easier to track and prevent, commissions paid by diagnostic centres and hospitals are more difficult to track. The code of ethics of the Medical Council of India for professionals disallows this but it seems a dead letter.
- The payment of commission to doctors creates adverse incentives. The more a doctor recommends diagnostic tests or that a patient should be kept longer in the ICU, the more he earns.
- One way in which hospitals can avoid paying commission to consultants is not to have outside consultants, engage them full time and pay them a salary.
Solving information asymmetry:
- In healthcare there is an asymmetry of information.
- Across the world religious and secular nonprofit hospitals carry a big healthcare load. They seek to function professionally, relying mostly on philanthropy to meet their deficits. Getting global funding for healthcare related NGOs is becoming difficult as the economy booms and India is no longer seen as very poor. The central government’s policy on foreign funding for NGOs is another hurdle.
Poor private healthcare sector in a country where public healthcare system has terribly failed is a serious issue in India. Regulating private sector is thus the need of the hour.
Connecting the dots:
- Private healthcare sector must be regulated. Critically analyze.
TOPIC: General Studies 3:
- Environment and Ecology, Bio diversity – Conservation, environmental degradation, environmental impact assessment, Environment versus Development.
- Climate Change implications and mitigation strategies.
Carbon Tax Policy/Cap-and-Trade Policy/Tax-and-Dividend Policy
Air pollution has become one of the biggest public concerns in India today.
- Around 19 lakh people die prematurely every year from diseases caused by outdoor and indoor air pollution – Lancet Report
- Lungs of children who grow up in polluted environments like Delhi are 10% smaller compared to the lungs of children who grow up in the U.S. – Indian Journal of Pediatrics
This is nothing short of a public health emergency. Therefore, there is urgent need for a comprehensive policy to curb pollution.
Carbon Dioxide A Necessary Evil
At the heart of the problem of pollution are carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
- About 75% of all greenhouse gas emissions are CO2 emissions produced through burning fossil fuels — oil, coal and natural gas — to generate energy.
- Since the early 2000s, carbon emissions have increased because of high growth in the Indian economy.
- In 2014, India’s total carbon emissions were more than three times the levels in 1990, as per World Bank data.
This is because of India’s –
- heavy dependence on fossil fuels and
- dramatically low level of energy efficiency
The way ahead: Tax Carbon
Emissions can be curbed only if people are persuaded to move away from fossil fuels and adopt greener forms of energy. And the best way to achieve this is through ‘taxing carbon’.
Carbon tax is one of two major market-based options to lower emissions, the other being ‘cap-and-trade schemes’.
Concept of Carbon Tax
Pricing carbon emissions through a carbon fee is one of the most powerful incentives that governments have to encourage companies and households to pollute less by investing in cleaner technologies and adopting greener practices.
- A carbon tax is a way to make users of carbon fuels pay for the climate damage caused by releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. If set high enough, it becomes a powerful monetary disincentive that motivates switches to clean energy across the economy, simply by making it more economically rewarding to move to non-carbon fuels and energy efficiency.
- A shift by households, businesses and industry to cleaner technologies increases the demand for energy-efficient products and helps spur innovation and investment in green solutions.
Under this system, the price to pollute sets the strength of the economic signal and determines the extent to which green choices are encouraged.
For example, a stronger price on emissions will lead to more investment in cleaner energy sources such as solar and wind power. And although a carbon fee makes polluting activities more expensive, it makes green technologies more affordable as the price signal increases over time. Most importantly, a carbon tax gets green solutions into use.
Therefore, carbon tax must be a central part of our strategy for dramatically reducing carbon pollution, a view shared by economists and ecologists.
Concept of Cap-and-trade system:
- In a cap-and-trade system, government puts a firm limit, or cap, on the overall level of carbon pollution from industry and reduces that cap year after year to reach a set pollution target. As the cap decreases each year, it cuts industry’s total greenhouse gas emissions to the limit set by regulation, and then forces polluters that exceed their emissions quota to buy unused quota from other companies.
Remodeling India’s Energy Mix
The Indian economy’s energy mix needs to be remodelled through investments in clean renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and low-emissions bioenergy, and by raising the level of energy efficiency through investments in building retrofits, grid upgrades, and industrial efficiency.
According to an estimate, this energy mix overhaul requires an additional 1.5% of GDP (to the current annual level of 0.6%) annually over the next two decades.
- A part of the carbon revenue generated from Carbon Tax can be used for a systemic overhaul of the energy mix, which, to a large extent, would address the pressing problem of environmental degradation.
- Since the expenditure will be financed by the carbon tax revenue, it will be a revenue-neutral policy with no implications on the fiscal deficit.
- This policy not only curbs emissions but also delivers on providing more employment since the employment elasticity in greener forms of energy is higher than those in fossil fuel-based energy.
- A significant part of more than 3% of India’s GDP currently spent on pollution-induced diseases will surely come down. If we want to breathe to live, India needs to make such a policy leap.
Concern with Carbon Tax:
- Carbon Tax is regressive in nature — i.e., it affects the poor more than the rich.
- This problem can be solved using a new policy – ‘tax and dividend’
- According to this ‘tax and dividend’ policy, the revenue thus generated is distributed equally across its citizens and as a result, the poor are more than compensated for the loss, since in absolute amounts the rich pay more carbon tax than the poor.
- Or instead of a cash transfer, the other part of the carbon revenue can be used for an in-kind transfer of free electricity to the population that contributes less carbon than the economy average, and universal travel passes to compensate for the rise in transport costs and to encourage the use of green public transport.
- Such a policy will justly addresses the widening schism/rift between Bharat, which bears the climate impact burden, and India, which is imposing that burden because of its lifestyle choices.
- Prices of almost all the commodities will rise – Prices of all commodities (esp fuel and energy which has highest carbon content) will rise. For eg. the average price of electricity will rise from its current value of Rs. 3.73 to Rs. 4.67 per kWh.
Connecting the dots:
- What is a carbon tax? Examine how carbon tax can give a fillip to Climate Change mitigation.
- Is there a need to incorporate carbon tax or cap-and-tax system in our climate change mitigation strategy? Discuss.
- What is a carbon tax? What are the problems faced by India in adopting a high carbon tax regime in India?
- ‘The future of climate change mitigation rests on successfully enacting comprehensive carbon tax or cap-and-tax system’. Do you agree? Examine.
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