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19th October – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. An incomplete solution: On Centre borrowing for States
  2. No great escape
  3. The hues in the green tribunal’s resilient journey
  4. Why Delhi air pollution rise in October?

An incomplete solution: On Centre borrowing for States

Context: There have been landmark changes in the framework for centre-state fiscal relations in recent years. What do these hold out for the future of relations between the union and the states?

Relevance:

  1. GS Paper 2: Devolution of powers and finances to local levels; challenges therein. Functions & responsibilities of the Union and the States; issues and challenges of federal structure;

Mains questions:

  1. How is the Finance Commission of India constituted? What do you about the terms of reference of the recently constituted Finance Commission? Discuss. 15 marks
  2. Though the federal principle is dominant in our Constitution and that principle is one of its basic features, but it is equally true that federalism under the Indian Constitution leans in favour of a strong Centre, a feature that militates against the concept of strong federalism. Discuss. 15 marks
  3. Enumerate the indirect taxes which have been subsumed in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in India. Also, comment on the revenue implications of the GST introduced in India since July 2017

What is fiscal federalism?

Fiscal federalism is financial relationship between centre and states, it deals with the division of governmental functions and financial relations among levels of government.

Structure of fiscal federalism in India:

The Seventh Schedule to the constitution of India  defines and specifies allocation of powers and functions between Union & States. It contains three lists; i.e. 1) Union List, 2) State List and 3) Concurrent List.

  • Union list: The Union Government or Parliament of India has exclusive power to legislate on matters relating to these items.
  • State list: The respective state governments have exclusive power to legislate on matters relating to these items.
  • Concurrent list: This includes items which are under joint domain of the Union as well as the respective States
  • Article 268 to 293 in Part XII deal with the financial relations.

Recent development related to fiscal federalism?

Three landmark changes in union-state fiscal relations since 2015-16 have been:

  1. The abolition of the Planning Commission in January 2015 and the subsequent creation of the NITI Aayog.
  2. Fundamental changes in the system of revenue transfers from the centre to the states by providing higher tax devolution to the states from the fiscal year 2015-16 onwards based on the recommendations of the Fourteenth Finance Commission (14th FC).
  3. The Constitutional amendment to introduce the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the establishment of the GST Council for the central and state governments to deliberate and jointly take decisions.

Finance commission of India: The Finance Commission is a Constitutionally mandated body that is at the centre of fiscal federalism. Set up under Article 280 of the Constitution, its core responsibility is to evaluate the state of finances of the Union and State Governments, recommend the sharing of taxes between them, lay down the principles determining the distribution of these taxes among States.

HOW THE BOOTY IS DIVIDED 
FORMULA THAT DECIDES A STATE'S SHARE 
weight in 15th FC 
2.5 
Population 
Area 
• Forest & ecology 
• Income distance 
Demographic 
performance 
• Tax effort 
Weight in 14th FC 
17.5% according to 1971 population, 
10% by 2011 population 
STATES' SHARE IN DIVISIBLE POOL (0/0)

Goods and Services Tax: GST is a single tax that has subsumed several indirect taxes that were previously levied on the sale of goods and services. It is applicable to the manufacture, sale, and consumption of all goods and services in India.

See the source image

Advantages of GST

See the source image
See the source image

Challenges to fiscal federalism in India:

  1. Horizontal imbalances: The horizontal imbalances arise because of differing levels of attainment by the states due to differential growth rates and their developmental status in terms of the state of social or infrastructure capital. However Replacing the Planning Commission  with NITI Aayog has reduced the policy outreach of government by relying only on single instrument of fiscal federalism i.e Finance commission. This approach if not reviewed can lead to a serious problem of increasing regional and sub regional inequalities.
  2. Vertical imbalance arises due to the fiscal asymmetry in powers of taxation vested with the different levels of government in relation to their expenditure responsibilities prescribed by the constitution.
  • Central Government collects around 60% of the total taxes, while its expenditure responsibility (for carrying out its constitutionally mandated responsibility such as defence, etc.) is only 40% of the total public expenditure.
  • Such vertical imbalances are even sharper in the case of the third tier consisting of elected local bodies and panchayats.
  • Vertical imbalances can adversely affect India’s urbanization, the quality of local public goods and thus further aggravating the negative externalities for the environment and climate change.

Restructuring the fiscal federalism: India’s Fiscal Federalism needs to be restructured around the four pillars namely Finance Commission, NITI Aayog, GST and decentralization in order to eliminate the inadequacies of vertical and horizontal imbalances.

  1. Finance commission: it should be relieved from the dual task of dealing with provision of basic public goods and services and capital deficits. It should be confined to focussing on removal of basic public goods imbalance
  2. NITI Aayog: it should deal with infrastructure and capital deficit.
  3. Decentralisation can serve as the third pillars of the new fiscal federalism by strengthening local finances and state finance commission.
  4. GST should be simplified in its structure and can serve as the fourth pillar of our fiscal federalism, by ensuring.

Way forward: Treating the new fiscal federal architecture based on the effective decentralization, transparent GST regime, independent Finance commission and effective NITI Aayog can strengthen India’s unique cooperative federalism.


No great escape

Context: India’s low global rank in tackling nutritional deficits calls for a revamped PDS.

Relevance:

  1. GS Paper 2: Poverty and hunger issues
  2. GS Paper 3: PDS (objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping, issues of buffer stocks & food security)

Mains questions:

  1. The right to food would be meaningless if it leaves  a large section of Indian hungry, stunted and wasted. Examine this statement in the context of recent released Global Hunger Index. 15 marks.
  2. What are the reformative steps taken by the government to make food grain distribution system more effective? 15 marks

India’s status on Global Hunger Index:

  • India ranks 94 among 107 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2020.
  • The country’s score of 27.2 is the worst among BRICS countries, and inferior to Pakistan, Sri Lnaka, Bangladesh and Nepal.
  • India has highest prevalence of wasted children.
  • 14 percent of Indian population is undernourished.
Where India stands 
The Global Hunger Index score is computed using four indicators 
— undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child 
mortality. A country's GHI score is classified by severity — low 
(—) , moderate 
.1 
) and serious 
RANK 
64 
73 
75 
78 
88 
94 
99 
COUNTRY 
China 
Sri Lanka 
Ne al 
Ban ladesh 
M anmar 
Pakistan 
India 
Afghanistan 
2020 SCORE 
5 
16.3 
19.5 
20.4 
20.9 
24.6 
27.2 
0.3 
*17 countries have scores of less than 5 
and are collectively ranked 1-17

What is global hunger index?

  • The GHI has been brought out almost every year by Welthungerhilfe (lately in partnerships with Concern Worldwide) since 2000; this year’s report is the 14th one. A low score gets a country a higher ranking and implies a better performance.
  • The reason for mapping hunger is to ensure that the world achieves “Zero Hunger by 2030” — one of the Sustainable Development Goals laid out by the United Nations

How does Global hunger Index measure the hunger?

  • Undernourishment (which reflects inadequate food availability): calculated by the share of the population that is undernourished (that is, whose caloric intake is insufficient)
  • Child Wasting (which reflects acute undernutrition): calculated by the share of children under the age of five who are wasted (that is, those who have low weight for their height)
  • Child Stunting (which reflects chronic undernutrition): calculated by the share of children under the age of five who are stunted (that is, those who have low height for their age)
  • Child Mortality (which reflects both inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environment): calculated by the mortality rate of children under the age of five (in part, a reflection of the fatal mix of inadequate nutrition.
See the source image
See the source image

Causes of poor performance of India?

  • The national policy does not give adequate emphasis on delivery of nutrition to children and women.
  • The poor implementation processes, lack of effective monitoring and siloed approaches to tackling malnutrition often result in poor nutrition indices.

Measures to improve the nutritious status in India:

  • Safeguard and promote access to nutritious, safe and affordable diets.
  • Invest in improving maternal and child nutrition through pregnancy, infancy, and early childhood.
  • Re-activate and scale-up services for the early detection and treatment of child wasting.
  • Maintain the provision of nutritious and safe school meals for vulnerable children.
  • Expand social protection to safeguard access to nutritious diets and essential service.
  • It is important to aim at curbing multiple forms of malnutrition holistically in a concerted manner rather than single short-sighted fixes.

Way forward: “Hunger and undernutrition cannot and should not be fixed by mere calorie provision. All stakeholders steered by robust leadership must pay attention to making balanced healthy diets which are climate-friendly, affordable and accessible to all.”


The hues in the green tribunal’s resilient journey

Context: in last 10 year, the NGT played crucial role to protect environment and provide justice to tribal and other stakeholders which depend upon environment.

Relevance:

  1. GS Paper 3: Environmental conservation; Environmental pollution and degradation; Environmental Impact Assessment.
  2. GS Paper 2:  Statutory, Regulatory and Quasi-judicial bodies

Mains questions:

  1. How far do you agree with the view that tribunals curtail the jurisdiction of ordinary courts? In view of the above, discuss the constitutional validity and competency of the tribunals in India. 15 marks
  2. National green tribunal is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues. Explain 15 marks

What is national green tribunal?

  • The National Green Tribunal has been established in 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
See the source image

Idea of environmental court?

  • The Supreme Court in its judgement M.C. Mehta and Anr.Etc vs Union of India gave the direction to central government to established Environmental Court which will deal the cases related to environmental issues.
See the source image

Structure of NGT:

  • The Tribunal comprises of the Chairperson, the Judicial Members and Expert Members. They shall hold office for term of five years and are not eligible for reappointment.
  • The Chairperson is appointed by the Central Government in consultation with Chief Justice of India (CJI).
  • There are to be least 10 and maximum 20 full time Judicial members and Expert Members in the tribunal.
See the source image

Power and jurisdiction of NGT:

  • It looks the cases related forests, wildlife, environment, climate change and coastal protection.
  • The Tribunal has jurisdiction over all civil cases involving substantial question relating to environment (including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment)
  • The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure 1908, but shall be guided by principles of ‘natural justice’.
  • While passing any order/decision/ award, it shall apply the principles of sustainable development, the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle.

Significance of NGT:

  • It protected vast acres of forest land, halted polluting construction activities in metros and smaller towns.
  • It has penalised errant officials who have turned a blind eye toward enforcing the laws, and held large corporate entities to account.
  • It protected the rights of tribal communities and ensure the enforcement of the “polluter pays” principle in letter and spirit.
  • Over the years NGT has emerged as a critical player in environmental regulation, passing strict orders on issues ranging from pollution to deforestation to waste management.
  • It helps reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts on environmental matters.
  • The Chairperson and members are not eligible for reappointment, hence they are likely to deliver judgements independently, without succumbing to pressure from any quarter.
  • The NGT has been instrumental in ensuring that the Environment Impact Assessment process is strictly observed.

Challenges related NGT:

  • Two important acts – Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 have been kept out of NGT’s jurisdiction. This restricts the jurisdiction area of NGT and at times hampers its functioning as crucial forest rights issue is linked directly to environment.
  • Decisions of NGT have also been criticised and challenged due to their repercussions on economic growth and development.
  • The absence of a formula based mechanism in determining the compensation has also brought criticism to the tribunal.
  • The lack of human and financial resources has led to high pendency of cases – which undermines NGT’s very objective of disposal of appeals within 6 months.

Way forward: the NGT must continue to remain a proactive ‘inconvenience’ to all those who, while pontificating grandiloquently on the need for environmental protection, take actions that make economic growth ecologically sustainable.


Why Delhi air pollution rise in October?

Context: Air pollution in Delhi worsens to ‘very poor’ category, first time this season.

Relevance:

  1. GS Paper 1: Critical geographical features, flora, fauna (changes and effects thereof)
  2. GS paper 3: Environmental conservation; Environmental pollution and degradation; Environmental Impact Assessment

Mains questions:

  1. Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata are the three mega cities of the country but the air pollution is much more serious problem in Delhi as compared to the other two. Why is this so? 15 marks

What is air pollution?

  • Air pollution can be defined as the presence of toxic chemicals or compounds (including those of biological origin) in the air, at levels that pose a health risk.

Why does air pollution rise in october each year?

Geographical reasons:

  • October usually marks the withdrawal of monsoons in Northwest India. During monsoons, the prevalent direction of wind is easterly. These winds, which travel from over the Bay of Bengal, carry moisture and bring rains to this part of the country. Once monsoon withdraws, the predominant direction of winds changes to north westerly. During summers, too, the direction of wind is north westerly and storms carrying dust from Rajasthan and sometimes Pakistan and Afghanistan. As per National Physical Laboratory, 72 per cent of Delhi’s wind in winters comes from the northwest, while the remaining 28 per cent comes from the Indo-Gangetic plains.
  • See the source image
  • Along with the change in wind direction, the dip in temperatures is also behind the increased pollution levels. As temperature dips, the inversion height — which is the layer beyond which pollutants cannot disperse into the upper layer of the atmosphere – is lowered. The concentration of pollutants in the air increases when this happens.
  • High-speed winds are very effective at dispersing pollutants, but winters bring a dip in wind speed over all as compared to in summers. The combination of these meteorological factors makes the region prone to pollution. 

Role of farms fire?

  • A 2015 source-apportionment study on Delhi’s air pollution conducted by IIT-Kanpur also states that 17-26% of all particulate matter in Delhi in winters is because of biomass burning. Over the years, the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) has developed a system to calculate the contribution of stubble burning to Delhi’s pollution.

Others sources of pollution in Delhi: Dust and vehicular pollution are the two biggest causes of dipping air quality in Delhi in winters:-

  • Dust pollution contributes to 56% of PM 10 and and the PM2.5 load at 59 t/d, the top contributors being road 38 % of PM 2.5 concentration, the IIT Kanpur study said.
  • Vehicular pollution is the second biggest cause of pollution in winters. According to the IIT Kanpur study, 20 % of PM 2.5 in winters comes from vehicular pollution.
See the source image
See the source image

Consequences of air pollution:

  • Health impact: The US Environmental Protection Agency has determined in the Air Quality Index that pollutants directly affect lung function and increase heart attack statistics leading to serious respiratory conditions and life-threatening diseases such as lung cancer.
  • Acid rain: The accumulation of toxic vapors and gases in the air causes the formation of acids that fall with the water of the rains, damaging the crops, eroding the soil, buildings, sculptures and natural monuments, altering the animal and vegetal population, and of course the man .
  • It is responsible for green house effect.
  • Irreversible damage to the skin.
  • It creates the smog effect.
See the source image

Measures to curb air pollution:

  • Stubble burning: the central and state governments should give incentives to farmers to curb the stubble burning. ‘Bio Decomposer’ i.e. PUSA Decomposer technique will also curb stubble burning problem.
  • The construction activities should be regulated strictly to curb the dust pollution which is a measure source of air pollution.
  • The vehicular pollution should be regulated through implementing even odd system and others measures.
  • As suggested by Indian geneticist M S Swaminathan to open the Rice BioPark’s to curb the menace of stubble burning.
  • Another thing is India recently tested the Swedish technology “Torre faction” to curb stubble burning.
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