Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 05 February 2023

Sickle Cell anaemia Budget 2023

GS Paper - 3 (Health and Diseases)

A Mission to eliminate Sickle Cell Anaemia by 2047 will be launched in the budget 2023. It will entail awareness creation, universal screening of 7 crore people in the age group of 0-40 years in affected tribal areas, and counselling through collaborative efforts of central ministries and state governments.

What is sickle cell anaemia?

  1. It is an inherited genetic disease where a point mutation in haemoglobin makes it abnormal and prone to structure change.
  2. This causes the red blood cells to take an abnormal “sickle” shape, which obstructs blood flow.
  3. This can lead to severe haemolysispersistent anaemia and affects the functioning of other organs in the later stages.
  4. Common symptoms are anaemiajaundiceliver and spleen enlargement. In severe cases, patients have debilitating orthopaedic conditions called avascular necrosis of femur.
  5. The disease can be very severe and reduces quality of life. Patients have very painful conditions called “crisis.” There is no complete cure.
  6. The only way we can help the patient is by providing symptomatic treatment and pain managementImprove nutritional status.
  7. There is a drug called Hydroxyurea that has been shown to reduce morbidity. Currently, my organisation, Sudam Kate Research Foundation, is conducting a clinical trial of this drug on patients in collaboration with ICMR to see its efficacy in Indian Sickle Cell patients.

What is the burden of disease?

  1. The disease burden from Sickle Cell Anaemia in India is prevalent in tribal populations, especially in Maharashtra.
  2. The disease burden figures may exceed 14 lakh across India, but with intensified screening, the numbers are likely to increase.
  3. Tribes like Pawara, Bhil, Madia , Gond and Pardhan from Maharashtra have a very high prevalence.
  4. Approximately more than three lakh patients in the tribal areas are affected. Sickle cell anaemia is most prevalent in the central India belt covering states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and parts of Bengal. There are pockets in the south, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and parts of Telangana.

Proposed change in Angel Tax

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

A recently proposed detail has Indian start-ups worried. These new age firms, that offer their shares to foreign investors, may have to pay ‘angel tax’, which was earlier only supposed to be paid for investments raised by resident Indian investors, as per a motion made in the Finance Bill, 2023.

What exactly is the proposed change?

  1. The Finance Bill, 2023, unveiled by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on 1 February 2023, has proposed to amend Section 56(2) VII B of the Income Tax Act.
  2. The provision states that when an unlisted company, such as a start-up, receives equity investment from a resident for issue of shares that exceeds the face value of such shares, it will be counted as income for the start-up and be subject to income tax under the head ‘Income from other Sources’ for the relevant financial year.
  3. However, with the latest amendment, the government has proposed to also include foreign investors in the ambit, meaning that when a start-up raises funding from a foreign investor, that too will now be counted as income and be taxable.
  4. For instance, if the fair market value of a start-up share is Rs 10 apiece, and in a subsequent funding round they offer it to an investor for Rs 20, then the difference of Rs 10 would be taxed as income.
  5. Section 56(2) VII B of the Income Tax Act, colloquially known as the ‘angel tax’ was first introduced in 2012 to deter the generation and use of unaccounted money through the subscription of shares of a closely held company at a value that is higher than the fair market value of the firm’s shares.

Why are start-ups concerned?

  1. The change comes as the funding for India’s startups dropped by 33 per cent to $24 billion in 2022 as compared to the previous year, according to a PwC India report released in January.
  2. Foreign investors are a key source of funding for the start-ups and have played a big role in increasing the valuation.
  3. For instance, Tiger Global, one of the most prolific foreign investors in India, has invested in over a third of the start-ups that have turned unicorn, with a valuation of at least $1 billion.
  4. This could compel more startups to flip overseas, as foreign investors may not want to deal with additional tax liability by virtue of their investment in the startup.

 

EU unveils its ‘Green Deal Industrial Plan’

GS Paper -3 (International Organization)

In a bid to support and expand its green industry, the European Union (EU) revealed the “Green Deal Industrial Plan” that aims to cut red tape and provide massive subsidies.

More about the news

  1. The move has come just a few months after the United States announced its Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which contains billions of dollars of tax cuts for clean energy and climate change programs with incentives for US-based manufacturing.
  2. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said, it’s a once in a generation opportunity to show the way with speed, ambition and a sense of purpose to secure the EU’s industrial lead in the fast-growing net-zero technology sector.
  3. Europe is determined to lead the clean tech revolution. The 27 national governments must approve the initiative for its implementation.

What is the ‘Green Deal Industrial Plan’?

According to the European Commission, which oversees trade policy of the EU, the proposal involves building a simpler regulatory framework, providing faster access to funds, enhancing skills and improving the EU’s trade network.

Simpler regulatory framework:

  1. The plan seeks to formulate a “Net-Zero Industry Act”, which will not only simplify rules but also speed up the issuance of permits for green projects, such as renewable energy generation arrays, carbon capture and renewable hydrogen production facilities.
  2. It also includes a “Critical Raw Materials Act”, which will provide access to materials like rare earths that are crucial for developing net-zero technology.

Providing faster access to funds:

  1. According to the proposal, state aid rules will be loosened in order to help EU’s 27 governments with investing in the clean energy projects.
  2. The plan allows countries to take money from existing EU funds.
  3. The proposal doesn’t involve any fresh crash and seeks to direct €250 billion to serve the green industry from the existing EU money, which is around €800 billion.
  4. There is also a provision for setting up a “European Sovereignty Fund” in the future to “give a structural answer to the investment needs”.

Enhancing skills:

  1. The plan aims to establish “Net-Zero Industry Academies” that will provide up-skilling and re-skilling programmes in strategic industries.
  2. According to the European Commission’s, 30 to 40 per cent of the existing jobs might get affected due to green transition. The “Green Deal Industrial Plan” focuses on developing the skills needed for well-paid quality jobs.

Improving the trade network:

  1. The plan underlines the importance of open trade and seeks to further “develop the EU’s network of Free Trade Agreements and other forms of cooperation with partners to support the green transition.”
  2. The European Commission wants to establish trade deals for raw materials and clean tech with “like-minded partners”.

Counter to the USA’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)

  1. In August 2022, President Joe Biden’s administration unveiled its climate change legislation, which will direct $390 billion towards clean energy projects.
  2. The IRA provides huge tax breaks and incentives to both customers and manufacturers.

 

SC directs to protect the Great Indian Bustard

GS Paper - 2 (Judiciary)

Supreme Court appointed-committee has recommended that, in order to protect the endangered Great Indian Bustard, close to 800 km, or about 10% of the length of proposed power lines in the Thar and Kutch deserts of Rajasthan and Gujarat should be re-routed or made to go underground.

More about the news:

  1. The nearly 7,200 km of overhead lines are meant to transfer solar power into the grid but existing lines have been harming Great Indian Bustards, which have been dying by colliding into them or getting electrocuted.
  2. Only about 150 of these birds are still left, most of them in Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.

Bird conservation and solar development:

  1. The deaths of these birds, and the danger to them from power lines and renewable energy projects, triggered a petition in the Supreme Court in 2019, by environmentalists who asked that all overhead lines existing and prospective be made to go underground.
  2. Private and public power companies, supported by the Centre’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), contended that shifting all overhead lines underground would be expensive and impractical, and would significantly hike the cost of solar power, undermining India’s commitment to green growth.
  3. The Centre has so far sanctioned the development of solar projects with a capacity of nearly 39,000 MW, but only a fourth has actually been commissioned.
  4. In April 2021, the court directed that all low-voltage power lines in areas demarcated as “priority and potential habitats of the Great Indian Bustard” in the Thar and Kutch deserts be pushed underground.
  5. “Priority zones” are areas where the birds are known to live and “potential regions” are those where conservation programmes, such as breeding the birds in captivity, are on-going.

Bird diverters: stop-gap solution:

  1. High-voltage lines in these zones were also expected to follow suit. However, if power companies found undergrounding technically infeasible, they could approach a Supreme Court-appointed three-member committee for permission to go ahead with overhead lines with modifications.
  2. These modifications include installing “bird diverters”, which are flaps installed on power lines that work like reflectors and are visible to the flying birds from about 50 metres away, giving them a chance to swerve out of the path of a power line.
  3. The Great Indian Bustard is a relatively heavy bird, nearly a metre in height, and with frontal vision that makes it hard to avoid collisions.
  4. Bird diverters are, however, considered a stop-gap measure, as they cannot entirely guarantee an end to bird hits.

Most of overhead lines cleared:

  1. The SC-appointed perused applications for about 3,260 km of prospective power lines in the area of Rajasthan where the endangered birds live, and made decisions on the fate of 2,356 km.
  2. The committee ratified plans to build 98% of the length as overhead lines with modifications, and denied ratification of 2% of the line in areas which passed through “priority zones” and where recent bird mortalities have been reported.

Flashback

  1. This is a large bird,found mainly in Rajasthan and Gujarat, has been categorised as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  2. These are among the heaviest birds with flight; they prefer grasslands as their habitats.

 

  1. Its historic range included much of the Indian sub-continent, it has now shrunk to just 10 per cent of that. The terrestrial birds spend most of their time on the ground, feeding on insects, lizards, grass seeds, etc.

 

  1. They are considered the flagship bird species of grassland and hence barometers of the health of grassland ecosystems

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