Comprehensive News Analysis

UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis. Dec 20th, 2023 CNA. Download PDF l www.insightdaily.in


D. GS 4 Related

E. Editorials


Category: ECONOMY

1. Telecommunications Bill, 2023

Syllabus: Infrastructure

Mains: Provisions of Telecommunications Bill and issues associated with it

Context: The Telecommunications Bill, 2023 aims to consolidate laws for wireless networks, simplify procedures, and address challenges in the digital landscape.

Provisions under the Telecommunications Bill:

  • Consolidation and Digitization: The bill consolidates laws for wireless networks, emphasising digitised licensing processes for telecom operators.
  • Empowering Telecom Operators: Operators gain a new approach to handle non-compliance, access to district- and State-level authorities for permissions, and dispute resolution.
  • Satellite Internet Industry: The bill provides clarity that the satellite Internet industry won’t need to bid for spectrum, aligning India with global practices.
  • Industry Support: Industry bodies applaud the bill for streamlining regulations, promoting ease of doing business, and offering stability for the telecom expansion phase.

Issues in the Present Bill:

  • Expansive Definition: The broad definition of telecom services raises concerns over state authority, inviting worries about privacy and surveillance.
  • Privacy Compromises: Proposed solutions for spamming concerns entail compromises to privacy, necessitating careful consideration given the potential for state-sponsored snooping.
  • Transparency Concerns: Lack of transparency in the consultation process during the last draft’s public floatation raises questions about the government’s motives.
  • Unaddressed Surveillance and Shutdown Issues: Critical concerns related to surveillance reform and Internet shutdowns need attention, considering their significant implications.

Way Forward:

  • Open-Minded Approach: The government should address privacy concerns with an open mind, acknowledging the significant powers granted by the bill.
  • Transparent Rule-Making: To reassure the public, the government must conduct rule-making with absolute transparency and consultation, especially for subordinate legislation by the Department of Telecommunications.
  • Comprehensive Regulation: Given the digital evolution since the 19th century, regulations must comprehensively address issues arising from the Internet’s dramatic growth.
  • Public Reassurance: The government must ensure public trust by actively involving industry bodies and the public in the rule-making process, acknowledging the evolving telecommunications landscape.

Nut Graf: The Telecommunications Bill, 2023 aims to streamline regulations and simplify procedures in the digital sphere. While lauded for its advancements, concerns over privacy, surveillance, and transparency in rule-making require urgent government attention for comprehensive and trustworthy legislation.


Category: GOVERNANCE

1. Tax ‘HFSS’ foods, view it as a public health imperative

Syllabus: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation

Mains: Health implications with higher consumption of HFSS foods and way to tackle it

Context :

  • HFSS (High Fat Sugar Salt) foods contribute to major health issues: obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
  • Global concern, as 70% of overweight people are in Low- and Middle-Income Countries.

The gravity of the Issues :

  • Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) burden in India rose from 38% (1990) to 65% (2019).
  • Annual deaths in India due to dietary risks: 1.2 million.
  • Economic impact of overweight and obesity in India: $23 billion (2017) rising to a projected $480 billion by 2060.

India’s Shift in Dietary Habits:

  • Ultra-processed food sector growth: 13.4% CAGR (2011-2021) in India.
  • India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of sugar (2022).
  • Alarming surge in HFSS consumption; 50%-60% of edible sugar, salt, and fat used in processed foods.
  • Sales of snacks and soft drinks tripled, exceeding $30 billion in the last decade.

Rationale for High HFSS Tax:

  • Global trend: Fiscal measures to combat obesity, with taxation as an effective tool.
  • HFSS taxation in various countries (Denmark, France, Hungary, Mexico, etc.).
  • Market failures associated with HFSS consumption, lead to negative externalities (increased healthcare costs) and internalities (consumer harm).
  • Taxes can reduce societal burdens and demonstrate promise in curbing unhealthy purchases.

GST and Nutritional Content:

  • HFSS taxation is not for revenue generation but as a tool to incentivize industry reformulation and promote healthier choices.
  • Possibility of a non-regressive and fiscally neutral HFSS tax.
  • Differentiated tax rates based on nutritional quality to encourage product reformulation.
  • Current GST rates do not align with nutritional content, overlooking variations in sugar, salt, and other components.
  • Proposed GST system with higher rates for HFSS foods and minimal rates for healthier alternatives to create a level-playing field.
  • HFSS taxation is seen as a public health imperative, combined with nutrition literacy promotion and effective food labelling for a comprehensive approach.

Nut Graf: Amidst rising global health concerns, the consumption of High Fat Sugar Salt (HFSS) foods, particularly in India, demands urgent attention. With a staggering economic impact and shifting dietary habits, a compelling case is made for implementing high HFSS taxes, aligning with global efforts to combat obesity. The current GST framework falls short in addressing nutritional nuances, emphasizing the need for a more health-centric approach to taxation.


Category: ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY

1. India’s ethanol conundrum

Syllabus: Environmental Pollution and Degradation

Mains: Dilemma of Food Inflation vs Energy Security in achieving Ethanol blending target

Context: Over 100 nations at COP28 aimed to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030.

EBP Target in India:

Raw Materials for EBP: Sugarcane (Brazil) and corn (U.S.) are major feedstocks for ethanol.

  • Sugarcane:
    • Source: Widely used in tropical countries like India and Brazil for ethanol production.
    • Derivation Process: Ethanol is obtained from sugarcane primarily through processing its by-products, notably molasses.
    • Ethanol Production: Molasses, a by-product of sugar production, undergoes fermentation and distillation to produce ethanol.
    • Impact: Sugarcane-based ethanol production typically has a lower impact on sugar output, as both sugar and ethanol are simultaneously produced.
  • Corn (Maize):
    • Source: A significant raw material extensively used, especially in the United States, for ethanol production.
    • Ethanol Production: Corn-based ethanol production involves directly utilizing the grain itself, leading to a more direct competition between food and fuel usage.
    • Impact on Food Prices: The use of corn for ethanol production affects food prices and livestock feed availability due to competition for grain resources.
    • Market Dynamics: Corn-based ethanol production can impact broader grain markets, potentially redirecting other grains like wheat or barley to substitute corn in the livestock industry during periods of high corn prices.

Binary of Crude and Food Prices:

  • The link between high crude prices and food prices is emphasized by ethanol production from corn and its impact on other grain markets.
  • Food prices remained high post-2008 financial crisis until global crude prices fell below $80 per barrel in 2014.
  • Post-pandemic oil price recovery escalated food prices, breaching 2021 levels.

Situation in India and New Order:

  • India faces challenges in achieving the 2025 EBP target, transitioning towards grains-based ethanol, particularly maize.
  • Govt. authorized NAFED and NCCF to procure maize for ethanol, risking potential economic challenges.
  • Differential pricing incentivized cane juice for ethanol, reducing sugar stocks; the Ministry’s order banned cane juice for ethanol.
  • Transition to grains-based ethanol for the 2025 target may lead to potential food inflation due to the need for 16.5 million tonnes of grains annually.
  • India’s renewables strategy faces a food-fuel trade-off; options include revisiting EBP targets or investing more in infrastructure, urban design, and renewable energy sources like solar power.

Nut Graf: India grapples with escalating ethanol blending targets amidst raw material challenges. Transitioning to maize-based ethanol risks food inflation. The complex trade-off between fuel needs and food security demands a reevaluation of targets or heightened investment in alternative energy sources and infrastructure.

F. Prelims Facts

1. U.S. launches multinational push to protect Red Sea from Houthi strikes

U.S. launches multinational push to protect Red Sea from Houthi strikes

Syllabus: GS 2- International Relations

Prelims: About Operation Prosperity Guardian

Introduction

  • U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announces the establishment of Operation Prosperity Guardian aimed at securing commerce in the Red Sea amidst missile and drone attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
  • Participating nations include the U.K., Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles, and Spain.
  • The coalition will conduct joint patrols in the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden to counter threats posed by Houthi rebels.

Houthi Response

  • The Houthi rebels, aligned with Iran, declare their intent to continue attacks on Red Sea shipping in solidarity with Gaza.
  • They emphasise that military operations will persist despite international mobilisation, viewing the coalition as an effort to protect Israel and militarise the sea.

Operation Prosperity Guardian

  • Operation Prosperity Guardian is characterised as a critical multinational security effort to address an international challenge.
  • Austin condemned Houthi actions as reckless and called for collective action to ensure the safety of strategic waterways.

Multinational Cooperation

  • The coalition aims to secure vital waterways collectively, highlighting the need for international cooperation to counter common security threats.
  • Austin urged other countries to contribute to the coalition during a virtual meeting with ministers from over 40 nations.

G. Tidbits

1. House panel doubts Centre’s data on lumpy skin disease

  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, and Food Processing questioned the accuracy of the Union Animal Husbandry Ministry’s data on lumpy skin disease (LSD) affecting cattle and buffaloes.
  • The committee noted a gap/mismatch in the number of cattle affected and dead, raising concerns about the actual situation. Accurate data is crucial for understanding the gravity of the disease and implementing effective control measures.
  • The panel recommended that the Centre ensure proper compilation of data related to the spread of LSD and cattle mortality. It emphasised the need for compensation schemes for farmers and cattle owners facing economic hardship due to cattle losses.
  • LSD affected 23 states, with Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and Karnataka witnessing the highest number of deaths.
  • The committee highlighted that several companies had acquired the technology to manufacture an indigenous live attenuated LSD vaccine from the National Research Centre on Equines.





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