IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis
Heatwaves linked to man-made climate change
Part of: Prelims and GS-III: Climate Change
Context: The three millimetre rise in sea level could drive a greater number of extreme climate events such as floods that could devastate coastal India, warns scientist. However, nature-based solutions such as increasing forest area could be done as part of India’s climate adaptation program.
- India is gripped in the throes of a long spell of heatwaves and there is compelling evidence that a significant portion of it is due to human-induced climate change.
Health Impacts of Heat Waves
- The mortality rates for extreme weather events are on a decline but rising significantly for heatwaves and lightning events. Heatwaves have now become the second most disastrous event (after lightning) linked to mortality.
- Heatwaves affect work productivity, by reducing performance and increasing heat-related illness. A decline of 30-40% in the work performance is projected over India by the end of the century due to the elevated heat stress levels
What is causing this?
- Due to an anti-cyclone over the Arabian Sea, winds are moving in the clockwise direction creating an area of subsidence where hot, westerly winds are blowing.
- There are clear skies so there is abundant radiation. This has led to this unusually intense heat wave spell over large parts of the country. This dry, hot weather is likely to impact both quality and yield of wheat in many parts of north India
- During an anti-cyclone, air pressure is high on the surface, causing the air above it to come down. This air warms up as it comes down on account of high pressure. The outward hot winds caused by this are ranging as far as Odisha and West Bengal.
- But early next week, the western disturbance will likely put an end to this anti-cyclone, pushing moisture-laden winds in from both the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, a phenomenon that will likely reduce temperatures through most of the plains.
- In some regions experiencing heatwaves, it is not just about the high temperatures but the accompanying rise in humidity too that matters. Sustained heatwaves can be dangerous, especially when combined with high levels of humidity. If the air has high levels of humidity along with the heat, the body stops sweating and becomes unable to regulate the internal temperature. This can result in a heat stroke leading to multiple organ failure and deaths
First Aid for heat stroke:
While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, initiate first aid with the aim to lower the body temperature.
- Move the person to an air-conditioned environment or at least a cool, shady area and remove any unnecessary clothing.
- Fan air over the patient while wetting his or her skin with water from a sponge or garden hose.
- Apply ice packs to the patient’s armpits, groin, neck, and back because these areas are rich with blood vessels close to the skin, cooling them may reduce body temperature.
- Do not use ice for older patients, young children, patients with chronic illness, or anyone whose heat stroke occurred without vigorous exercise.
Increased exposure to heatwaves needs a policy response, nationally and globally. Long term measures should be taken to address the issue in the wake of global warming and climate change:
- Afforestation drives to increase green cover.
- A further reduction in the share of coal in the energy mix through sustained support for renewable energy, particularly solar photovoltaic, must form the cornerstone of national policy
- It is vital that India gets more ambitious about cutting back on carbon emissions, even as
- This must be matched by a shift away from use of fossil fuels for transport, and the induction of more electric vehicles.
- GS-2: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein
Fuel Friction between States vs Centre
Context: The Centre and the states are at loggerheads over taxes and duties on petrol and diesel.
What is the issue?
- As fuel prices soared in November 2021, the Centre, for the first time in over three years, cut central excise duties on petrol by Rs 5 per litre and diesel by Rs 10 per litre.
- Along with the Centre, 21 states then cut VAT in the range of Rs 1.80-10 per litre for petrol and Rs 2-7 per litre for diesel.
- The revenue loss to states due to this is estimated at 0.08% of GDP, as per the RBI’s State Finances report for 2021-22
- But the relief these moves provided was outweighed by a series of 14 price hikes in 16 days, following the lifting of a 137-day freeze after state elections in March.
- While the Centre feels the states are not reducing VAT in line with the Centre’s cut in excise duty, the states have expressed concerns over their fiscal cushion, especially with the GST compensation regime due to end in June 2022.
What is the importance of fuel taxes?
- Excise duty on fuel makes up about 18.4% of the Centre’s gross tax revenues.
- Petroleum and alcohol, on an average, account for 25-35% of states’ own tax revenue, as per the RBI’s Study of Budgets 2020-21.
- Of the revenue receipts of states, central tax transfers comprise 25-29%, and own tax revenues 45-50%.
- During April-December 2021, taxes on crude oil and petroleum products had yielded Rs 3.10 lakh crore to the central exchequer, including Rs 2.63 lakh crore as excise duty, and Rs 11,661 crore as cess on crude.
- For the same period, Rs 2.07 lakh crore accrued to the states’ exchequer, of which Rs 1.89 lakh crore was through VAT.
- In 2020-21, the total central excise duty (including cesses) collected from petrol and diesel was Rs 3.72 lakh crore.
- The total tax devolved to state governments from the corpus collected under the central excise duty was Rs 19,972 crore.
- Central and state taxes currently account for about 43% and 37% of the retail price of petrol and diesel respectively in Delhi.
Why States are reluctant to centre’s call to cut taxes?
- The levies on fuel and liquor have also become an important source of revenue for states as other indirect tax revenue is routed through the GST regime.
- The switch to GST has severely curtailed the states’ flexibility to adjust revenues according to the situation. So at the moment, the only components which they can adjust are the fuel tax and excise duty on liquor. This is why states are not willing to accept interference from the Centre on these taxes.
How fuel is taxed and shared?
- States apply an ad valorem VAT or sales tax on the base price, freight charges, excise duty and dealer commission on petrol and diesel. Therefore, state collections also rise as the Centre hikes excise duties.
- Prior to the cut in excise duties on November 4, the Centre had increased excise duties by a total of Rs 13 per litre on petrol and Rs 16 per litre on diesel compared to pre-pandemic levels.
- Delhi imposes 19.4% VAT on petrol while Karnataka levies a 25.9% sales tax on petrol and 14.34% on diesel.
- Certain other states impose an ad valorem tax in addition to a flat tax per litre. Andhra Pradesh, for instance, levies Rs 4 per litre VAT and Rs 1 per litre road development cess on autofuels in addition to VAT (31% on petrol; 22.5% on diesel).
- While state VAT collections have risen along with higher fuel prices and previous hikes in excise duties, the states’ share of excise duties on fuel was reduced in the FY2022 Budget.
- It cut the Basic Excise Duty (BED) on petrol and diesel by Rs 1.6 and Rs 3 per litre respectively, cut the special additional excise duty on both by Rs 1 per litre, and introduced an Agriculture Infrastructure and Development Cess (AIDC) of Rs 2.5 per litre on petrol and Rs 4 on diesel.
- While reducing the states’ share, this did not impact pump prices since collections from cesses are not part of the shareable pool.
- Every rupee hike in excise duty roughly yields Rs 13,000-14,000 crore annually, conditional on global prices and consumption levels.
What has been the trend in oil prices?
- Ordinarily, the prices of petrol and diesel are revised daily in line with a 15-day rolling average of benchmark prices.
- However, OMCs had held prices constant starting from the excise cut on November 4, until the end of elections in five states in March.
- Since the revisions began in March, OMCs have hiked petrol prices by Rs 12 per litre and diesel prices by Rs 10 per litre.
- The price of LPG too has increased: a 15 kg cylinder now costs Rs 949.50 (up Rs 50) in Delhi.
- The price of Brent crude has increased by about $25.53 per barrel since November 4 to $106.48 per barrel. India imports about 85% of its crude oil requirements.
Connecting the dots:
- Cess Pool: On CAG report on GST
- Cooperative and Competitive Federalism
- Taxation and Federalism
- Upcoming Crisis in Federalism
- Fresh Stirrings on Federalism as a New Politics
- GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries
China’s security pact with Solomon Islands
Context: A chain of tiny islands located in the South Pacific is at the centre of a major diplomatic tussle between China and the West.
- China and the Solomon Islands finalised a controversial security agreement, an early draft of which was leaked online in March.
- The agreement is likely to have far-reaching consequences for much of the world, particularly since several shipping lanes connecting the US and its allies run through the region.
How has the political situation in Solomon islands evolved and why it matter?
- With a population of less than seven lakh, the chain of hundreds of islands is located near Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean.
- It was here, in the capital city of Honiara on the island of Guadalcanal, that some of the fiercest battles of World War II were fought between the US and Japanese troops.
- Between the late 1990s and early 2000s, the country was rife with ethnic unrest and military conflict between several armed groups, ultimately resulting in a coup that brought present Prime Minister Sogavare to power for the first time.
- With its economy in a state of near-collapse and ethnic clashes still rampant, the Pacific Nation was forced to call in reinforcements to stabilise state affairs.
- In 2003, a multinational Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI), led by Australia, was established. As part of the mission, troops were deployed from Australia and New Zealand and a state of stability was eventually restored.
- But political instability continues to persist, making it difficult for new governments to stick around.
- Despite attempts by Sogavare to expel the RAMSI mission, RAMSI managed to remain in the country for well over a decade.
- Just last year, Australia came to the rescue once again when the nation was rocked by a wave of anti-government protests. The country sent peacekeeping forces to quell riots in Honiara, where protestors stormed parliament in a bid to topple PM Sogavare.
- Solomon islands and Australia normalised a bilateral security treaty in 2017, which allows Australian troops to be deployed in the island nation in the event of an emergency.
What has been the change in Solomon islands’ foreign policy stance in recent years?
- There have been growing concerns about PM Sogavare’s closeness with China in recent years
- Soon after he was elected prime minister once again in 2019, he cut the country’s long-standing diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favour of China.
- The decision, widely known as ‘The Switch’, is said to have been one of the first major indications of China’s expanding influence in the region, which was traditionally an ally of the US and Australia.
- Sogavare’s decision was not popular — several province leaders rejected the switch, and it was also one factor contributing to the riots late last year.
What is in the Solomon Islands-China pact?
- The leaked document explicitly enables China to send its “police, armed police, military personnel and other law enforcement and armed forces” to the islands
- on the Solomon island government’s request, or
- if China sees that the safety of its projects and personnel in the islands are at risk.
- It also provides for China’s naval vessels to utilise the islands for logistics support.
- There have been speculations that China might be building its next overseas naval base in Solomon Islands after Djibouti, which was also incidentally referred to as a logistics support base.
- PM Sogavare explained in Parliament that the deal was guided by national interests and denied allegations that China plans to set up a military base in the country in the long term.
What’s in it for China?
- The fierce competition between the West and China has only escalated in the region in recent years, prompting the Western alliance to form a military pact called AUKUS (Australia, UK and the US) to counter Beijing in the Pacific.
- With the new security agreement, China and its army have a foothold in the island nation, which could be significant for blocking vital shipping lanes.
- The agreement could also potentially help China intervene when its foreign investments and diaspora face threats in the region.
- Over the years, China has entered security and economic pacts with several countries, including Djibouti, Pakistan and Cambodia. China pumps in funds for infrastructural development, while also gaining access to several vital ports.
- Also, getting allegiance of such island states act as potential vote banks for mobilising support in international fora.
- Moreover, these states have disproportionately large maritime Exclusive Economic Zones and have significant reserves of timber and mineral resources, along with fisheries.
What is in it for Solomon Islands?
- Some experts have said that the prime minister timed the signing of the security pact in such a way that he will now have China to lean on if protests break out ahead of the upcoming elections, which he has been trying to delay by rewriting the constitution
- Solomon Island government has stated the diversification of its security partnerships (reducing security dependence on Australia) as one of the reasons for signing this deal.
So why is the West unhappy?
- The agreement has renewed fear among Pacific countries like Australia, New Zealand and the US.
- Australia in particular has been very critical of the new security pact. Australian PM claimed that the pact pointed towards “intense pressure” from China in the Pacific island nation.
- Australia is concerned about the lack of transparency with which this agreement has been developed, noting its potential to undermine stability in our region
- Australia, the US, New Zealand and Japan said they “shared concerns about the security framework and its serious risks to a free and open Indo-Pacific”.
Connecting the dots:
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in the comment section)
Q.1) ‘Justice Malimath Committee’ is associated with
- Criminal Justice System
- All India Judicial Services
- Digital Payments
Select the correct code:
- 1 Only
- 1 and 2
- 2 and 3
- All of the above
Q.3) ‘ADIGRAMS’ is launched by the
- Ministry of Tribal Affairs
- Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment
- Ministry of Panchayati Raj
- Ministry of Corporate Affairs
Q.3) ‘Global Security Initiative’ is associated with which of the following countries?
ANSWERS FOR 30th APRIL 2022 – TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
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