CURRENT AFFAIRS – 12/02/2024
A privileged strategic partnership, without a gulf
(General Studies- Paper II)
Source : TH
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to undertake an official visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from February 13-14, 2024.
- This visit includes the inauguration of a temple in Abu Dhabi and marks his seventh visit to the UAE since 2015, demonstrating the evolving and prominent nature of the bilateral relationship.
- The UAE has become one of India’s strategic partners and a crucial player in India’s engagement in the Gulf region.
- Prime Minister Modi shares a close rapport with UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
- The visit involves the inauguration of the Bochasanwasi Shri AksharPurushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) temple in Abu Dhabi.
- This temple, built on a 27-acre plot donated by the UAE President, is the second significant Hindu temple in the UAE, following the Hindu Temple in Dubai opened in October 2022.
- World Government Summit Address:
- On February 14, Prime Minister Modi will address the World Government Summit in Dubai as the ‘Guest of Honour,’ showcasing India’s global role.
- Diverse Pillars of Ties:
- The India-UAE relationship goes beyond religious and cultural aspects.
- The strong economic partnership is highlighted by bilateral trade reaching $85 billion in 2022-23, making the UAE India’s third-largest trading partner.
- The UAE is also the fourth-largest overall investor in India.
- The India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, signed in a record time of 88 days, aims to boost trade in services to $115 billion in five years.
- Additionally, a bilateral investment treaty has been approved by the Indian government on February 1, 2024, further enhancing economic engagement, particularly in manufacturing and foreign direct investment.
- Fintech collaboration is evident, with the acceptance of the RuPay card in the UAE since August 2019 and the rupee being used for transactions at Dubai’s airports since July 2023.
- A rupee-dirham settlement system was operationalized in August 2023 when the Indian Oil Corporation made a rupee payment to the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company for crude oil imports.
- The special relationship is also evident in global initiatives such as the joint launch of the Global Green Credit Initiative, showcasing convergence on global climate issues.
- Energy Security Partnership:
- The UAE plays a crucial role in India’s energy security as the only country in the region with strategic oil reserves stored in India.
- An agreement between Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Ltd (ISPRL) and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company involves a $400 million investment in the strategic crude oil storage facility in Mangaluru.
- Defence and Security Cooperation:
- Defence and security cooperation are significant components of the bilateral relationship, reinforcing the strategic partnership between India and the UAE.
- People-to-People Ties:
- People-to-people ties contribute to the robust nature of the relationship, with cultural exchanges and collaborations evident in various events and initiatives.
- Reciprocal Exceptional Gestures:
- Both countries have demonstrated a willingness to make exceptions for each other.
- In 2019, when the UAE hosted the OIC Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, India’s External Affairs Minister, the late Sushma Swaraj, was invited as a keynote speaker/guest of honor, despite objections from certain nations, including Pakistan.
- Similarly, India was the ‘Guest of Honour’ country at the Abu Dhabi Festival in 2018.
- Mutual Recognition and Honors:
- High-profile visits and recognitions have been exchanged.
- During Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the UAE in August 2019, he was conferred with the UAE’s highest civilian honor, the Order of Zayed.
- The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was the chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade in January 2017.
- International Collaboration:
- Both nations have collaborated on the global stage.
- The UAE was specially invited for the G-20 summit in September 2023, under India’s G-20 presidency, indicating the recognition of its importance in international forums.
- Educational and Diplomatic Establishments:
- The collaboration extends to education and diplomacy, with the establishment of the IIT Delhi Abu Dhabi campus and the opening of a UAE consulate in Hyderabad in June 2023, further fostering ties between the two countries.
- India-UAE Strategic Ties
- Inclusive Regional Partnerships:
- India and the UAE share close coordination within the region and are part of significant groupings such as the I2U2 or West Asian Quad, which includes India, Israel, the United States, and the UAE.
- Their collaboration extends to various regional initiatives, fostering a sense of strategic alignment.
- Participation in Economic Corridor Project:
- The UAE is actively involved in the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEEC) infrastructure project, a major initiative signed during the G-20 summit in Delhi.
- This corridor aims to connect India to Europe via the Arabian Peninsula and is positioned as a potential rival to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, showcasing the strategic depth of their partnership.
- The visit gains additional significance given the ongoing conflict in Gaza, providing Prime Minister Modi and the UAE leadership an opportunity to discuss and confer on this critical regional issue.
- India’s strategic partnership with the UAE stands out globally due to its convergence and mutual respect at all levels.
- Despite being friendly nations, the uniqueness lies in the absence of major issues of divergence.
- Both nations recognize each other’s roles in the region and globally, with India poised for a ‘global leadership’ role.
- This recognition solidifies the belief that their privileged strategic partnership is poised to strengthen further in the years ahead.
- Inclusive Regional Partnerships:
Over 3 lakh ASHAs apply for Centre’s health cover
(General Studies- Paper II)
Source : TH
The Central government has decided to include Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and Anganwadi workers and helpers in the Ayushman Bharat Scheme, providing them with free health treatment.
- The scheme, known as Ayushman Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Jan ArogyaYojana (AB-PMJAY), offers health coverage up to ₹5 lakh per family per year for poor and vulnerable families.
- The Health Ministry has received Aadhaar details of approximately 23 lakh Anganwadi workers and helpers, along with over three lakh ASHA workers from various states.
- The government aims to have their health cards ready by the end of the month, with the scheme set to be effective from March 1, 2024.
- Role and Significance of ASHAs:
- The Health Ministry recognizes the crucial role played by ASHA workers in community processes, evolving over the last decade and a half.
- ASHAs serve as facilitators, mobilizers, and providers of community-level care, contributing significantly to the National Health Mission.
- They are acknowledged for their substantial contribution in improving access to healthcare for communities, and their role extends to various community platforms.
- ASHAs have played a key role in the country’s response to the prevention and management of COVID-19.
- Beyond pandemic-related tasks, they continue to support community members in accessing essential health services.
- Community Health Workforce Statistics:
- As of December 31, 2023, India has over 13 lakh Anganwadi workers and more than 10 lakh Anganwadi helpers, making significant contributions to community health.
- The country also has 9.83 lakh Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs), positioning India’s community volunteer program as the world’s largest.
- Ayushman Bharat Scheme Coverage:
- The Ayushman Bharat scheme covers 55 crore individuals, equivalent to 12 crore families, according to government figures.
- Several States and Union Territories implementing AB-PMJAY have expanded the beneficiary base at their own expense.
- The government has issued approximately 28.45 crore Ayushman cards as of December 20, 2023.
- A total of 6.11 crore hospital admissions, amounting to ₹78,188 crores, have been authorized under the scheme. In 2023 alone (Jan-Dec), 1.7 crore hospital admissions worth over ₹25,000 crores have been authorized.
- A total of 26,901 hospitals, including 11,813 private hospitals, have been empanelled under AB-PMJAY to provide healthcare services to scheme beneficiaries.
- The Ayushman Bharat scheme ensures gender equity in access to healthcare services.
- Women account for approximately 49% of the total Ayushman cards created and approximately 48% of the total authorized hospital admissions.
About Ayushman Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Jan ArogyaYojana (AB-PMJAY)
- Ayushman Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Jan ArogyaYojana (AB-PMJAY) is a flagship health insurance scheme launched by the Government of India.
- It was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 15th August 2018 and officially rolled out on September 23, 2018.
- The primary goal of AB-PMJAY is to ensure that economically disadvantaged families have access to quality healthcare services without facing financial hardships.
- The scheme covers over 10 crore (100 million) families, which translates to approximately 50 crore (500 million) beneficiaries.
- The beneficiaries are identified based on the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data.
- Financial Coverage:
- Under the scheme, eligible families are provided health coverage of up to Rs. 5 lakh per family per year.
- This coverage includes a wide range of medical and hospitalization expenses, including pre-existing conditions.
- Empaneled Hospitals:
- AB-PMJAY includes a network of public and private hospitals that are empaneled to provide services to the beneficiaries.
- Empaneled hospitals must meet specific quality standards to participate in the scheme.
- Cashless Transactions:
- The scheme operates on a cashless basis, meaning that beneficiaries do not have to pay for the covered services at the time of treatment.
- The payments are directly settled between the government and the empaneled hospitals.
- AB-PMJAY is a portable scheme, allowing beneficiaries to access healthcare services across the country without any geographical restrictions.
- Benefit Packages:
- The scheme offers a comprehensive set of benefits, covering a wide range of medical and surgical procedures.
- The packages include expenses related to diagnostics, medicines, pre-hospitalization, post-hospitalization, and more.
- The scheme is implemented by the National Health Authority (NHA) at the national level and State Health Agencies at the state level.
The patterns of global warming are more important than its levels
(General Studies- Paper III)
Source : TH
The public narrative in 2023 has focused on whether the Earth crossed the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming threshold, a figure established in the Paris Agreement.
- This threshold gained significance as a more ambitious target compared to the initially proposed 2 degrees Celsius.
- The 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold was incorporated into the Paris Agreement after negotiations among member countries of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
- It evolved from the originally proposed 2 degrees Celsius, which European politicians found easier to aim for in the 1990s.
- Recent Climate Events and Records:
- In 2023, numerous warming records were broken, accompanied by climate disasters such as wildfires, cyclones, droughts, and floods, prompting discussions on whether the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold had been crossed.
- A study published in Nature on February 5 adds to the controversy.
- The study, conducted by scientists from Australia and the U.S., suggests that the Earth’s surface has already warmed by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius on average over pre-industrial levels.
- However, the study has limitations, relying on warming data from one location and extrapolating it to represent global mean temperature trends.
- Palaeo-thermometry and ‘Palaeo Proxies’:
- The study utilizes palaeo-thermometry, a technique that relies on ‘palaeo proxies’ – chemical evidence stored in various organic matter like corals, stalactites, and stalagmites – to estimate past temperatures.
- While insightful, these proxies provide only indirect evidence of temperature changes compared to a baseline temperature and cannot measure overall temperatures accurately.
- Palaeo proxies, which don’t directly measure temperature, are indicators of past temperature deviations.
- Researchers calibrate the chemical compounds assimilated by species into biogenic materials in modern contexts to establish relationships with local temperature.
- By studying biogenic materials from the past, scientists can estimate local temperature anomalies during specific time periods.
- The results from palaeo proxies provide very local temperature anomaly estimates from the past.
- However, they cannot serve as the basis for scientifically robust claims about small deviations of past temperatures compared to instrumental records.
- Lack of Explanation for Warming Events:
- Claims about crossing the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold lack clear explanations for the exceptional warming that supposedly occurred in 2023.
- Articles and headlines do not provide insights into the causes of this warming or its relation to location-specific disasters.
- Challenges in Understanding Warming Patterns:
- The patterns of global warming, especially in relation to threshold exceedances, remain unexplained.
- The lack of understanding extends to the distribution and amount of the 2023 monsoons.
- The combination of El Niño, its unusual pattern, and global warming contributing to India’s monsoons has not been fully elucidated.
- Spatial Variations and Lessons from El Niños:
- The focus on the extent of global warming, without considering its spatial variations and evolution, overlooks crucial aspects.
- The management of disasters associated with global warming requires a deep understanding of warming patterns.
- Lessons learned from various El Niños and their impacts on global warming and the monsoon emphasize the importance of studying spatial variations.
What is Palaeo-thermometry and ‘Palaeo Proxies’?
- Palaeo-thermometry and ‘Palaeo Proxies’ are terms related to paleoclimatology, a scientific field that investigates past climates and environmental conditions.
- These terms are used to understand ancient climate patterns and changes over geological time scales.
- Palaeo-thermometry refers to the estimation or measurement of past temperatures.
- Scientists use various methods and indicators to reconstruct ancient temperature records.
- Understanding past temperatures is crucial for studying climate change and its effects over long periods.
- Palaeo Proxies:
- ‘Palaeo Proxies’ (short for paleoclimatic proxies) are indicators or substances found in natural archives that can be used to infer past environmental conditions.
- These proxies serve as indirect evidence for conditions such as temperature, precipitation, atmospheric composition, and more.
- Scientists analyze these proxies to reconstruct past climates. Some common palaeo proxies include:
- Ice Cores: Ice cores drilled from glaciers and ice sheets provide information about past atmospheric conditions, including temperature and greenhouse gas concentrations.
- Tree Rings: The width and density of tree rings can indicate variations in climate conditions, including temperature and precipitation, during the time the tree was growing.
- Sediment Layers: Sediment cores from lakes, oceans, and other bodies of water can contain various proxies such as pollen, microfossils, and isotopes, offering insights into past environmental conditions.
- Corals: Coral skeletons can provide information about sea surface temperatures and ocean conditions through the study of isotopes and growth patterns.
- Fossilized Pollen (Pollen Analysis): The distribution of pollen in sediment layers can give clues about past vegetation and climate conditions.
- Foraminifera: Microscopic marine organisms, such as foraminifera, can serve as proxies for ocean temperature and chemistry when their shells are analyzed.
- Stable Isotopes: Isotopic ratios of elements like oxygen and carbon in various substances, such as ice, speleothems (cave formations), and sediments, can indicate past climate conditions.
Direct tax kitty picks up pace, up 20.25% by Feb. 10
(General Studies- Paper III)
Source : TH
India’s net direct tax collections have shown a positive trend, increasing by 20.25% year-on-year by February 10, compared to a 19.4% uptick on the same date in January.
- The data, released by the Finance Ministry, indicates a significant acceleration in tax revenues.
- The growth in Personal Income Tax (PIT) revenues surpasses that of Corporate Income Tax (CIT), with a 26.91% increase in net PIT collections, in contrast to a 13.6% rise in CIT inflows for the current fiscal year.
- Starting from ₹14.7 lakh crore on January 10, net direct tax collections, calculated by deducting refunds from gross tax inflows, reached ₹15.6 lakh crore by February 10.
- This constitutes 80.23% of the revised estimates for direct taxes for the current fiscal year.
- Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in the Interim Budget for 2024-25, raised expectations for direct tax collections, pegging revised estimates at ₹19.5 lakh crore.
- This is an increase from the initially estimated ₹18.23 lakh crore for the fiscal year 2023-24.
- Officials express optimism about meeting the revised estimates, citing a 17% growth target for the next two months.
- The Ministry states that gross collections up to February 10, 2024, stand at ₹18.38 lakh crore, marking a 17.30% increase compared to the corresponding period of the previous year.
What is Direct Tax?
- A direct tax is a type of tax that is levied directly on individuals, businesses, or assets. It is a tax that cannot be shifted to another person or entity.
- The burden of the tax falls directly on the taxpayer, and they are responsible for fulfilling their tax liability.
- Direct taxes are usually based on the ability to pay, meaning that individuals or entities with higher incomes or more significant wealth generally pay more in direct taxes.
- In contrast to indirect taxes, which are imposed on goods and services, direct taxes are imposed on income, profits, and assets.
- Income Tax:
- Income tax is one of the most common types of direct taxes.
- It is levied on the income earned by individuals, businesses, and other entities.
- The income tax rate often varies based on income levels, and there are different tax slabs or brackets.
- Corporate Tax:
- Corporate tax is a direct tax imposed on the profits earned by businesses and corporations.
- The tax rate for corporate tax may vary depending on the size and nature of the business.
- Capital Gains Tax:
- Capital gains tax is levied on the profits gained from the sale of capital assets, such as stocks, real estate, or other investments.
- The tax rate can differ based on the duration for which the asset was held (short-term or long-term).
- Wealth Tax:
- Wealth tax is a tax on an individual’s net wealth or assets.
- However, many countries have moved away from wealth taxes, and it is not as prevalent as income tax or corporate tax in contemporary tax systems.
- Gift Tax:
- Gift tax is levied on the transfer of assets from one person to another without any consideration (monetary or otherwise).
- It is designed to prevent individuals from avoiding other forms of taxation by giving away their wealth.