Q.1) Biofuels are an essential component towards ensuring Aatmanirbhar Bharat. Comment (15 marks - 250 words)
Why this question? - A webinar on the occasion of the World Biofuel day (10th August) was organized by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, with the theme “Biofuels towards Atmanirbhar Bharat”.
Intro - A brief about Biofuels.
- Importance of Biofuels towards ensuring Aatmanirbhar Bharat.
- Initiatives taken by the government of India - The Government of India has taken a number of initiatives to increase blending of biofuels. The major interventions include
- Administrative price mechanism for ethanol,
- Simplifying the procurement procedures of OMCs,
- Amending the provisions of Industries (Development & Regulation) Act, 1951 and
- Enabling lignocellulosic route for ethanol procurement.
- Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP): Launched in 2003, the programme sought to promote the use of alternative and environment friendly fuels and to reduce import dependency for energy requirements by supply of 5% ethanol blended Petrol.
- National Policy on Biofuels-2018: The policy has the objective of reaching 20% ethanol-blending and 5% biodiesel-blending by the year 2030.
- Among other things, the policy expands the scope of feedstock for ethanol production and has provided for incentives for production of advanced biofuels.
Way ahead - What more needs to be done.
Conclusion - Summarize based on above discussion.
Q.2) Assess the challenges to the GST regime. Also suggest a way forward for GST reforms. (15 M, 250 Words)
Why the question?
The Attorney General of India’s legal opinion is that the Centre does not have an obligation to pay for a GST revenue shortfall. The Centre and the states are in a tussle over delayed compensation payments under GST.
Write in brief about GST and its achievements like ending cascading of taxes, establishing uniform tax regime, etc.
Body: Mention the challenges that still remain in smooth implementation of GST regime like
- Delayed compensation to states:Compensation payments to states started getting delayed since October last year as GST revenues started to slow down.
- The bureaucratic tinkering with rates: The most recent example is that of packaged parotta being levied 18% GST, whereas its north Indian cousin, the parantha, is taxed at 5%. Such arbitrariness has resulted in confusion, uncertainty and litigation.
- Uninformed decisions: The pre-election sharp reductions in tax rates without serious examination of the revenue implications have also contributed to the fall in revenue. The current rates are not revenue neutral.
- Alcohol and petroleum: The states remain addicted to special levies on these to fill their coffers. It creates hindrances in achieving single GST slab.
- Multiple slab rates
Conclusion: Mention ways in which we can address these challenges.
- GST reforms:
- A restructuring of the GST model should be considered if the losses for states continue.
- Review of complex structure of Integrated GST
- Inclusion of petroleum products under GST
- Simplification of GST rates and minimising exemptions,
- Independent GST Council Secretariat:
- GST Council’s decisions should be based on an estimate of the tax base, the tax elasticity of the commercially important goods, the loss anticipated by such reduction and the anticipated increase in buoyancy through reform measures.
Q.3) An early warning and timely policy measures by the WHO regarding COVID-19 would have helped countries to set their preparatory efforts in motion for mounting a decisive response strategy. Comment (250 words)
Why this question?
As the pandemic transcends geopolitical boundaries the role played by WHO is questioned.
Mention the unprecedented threat of the COVID-19
- Mandate of the WHO
- Role played by WHO for containing the pandemic
- Criticism of the role amid the COVID-19
- Slow response:
- Ignoring the hints by various countries
- No proactive role
- Other dimensions
- Functional efficiency of WHO has been disadvantaged with
- Organisational lethargy,
- Absence of decisive leadership,
- Bureaucratic indolence,
- Underfunded programmes, and
- Inability to evolve to meet the needs of the 21st century.
- Favouring a donor-driven agenda etc
- Need for reforms in the organisation
- Suggest few measures for improvements
Highlight the importance of the role of such a worldwide body.
Q.4) Experts have cautioned against the possibility of Atmanirbhar Bharat turning the clock back to a period of licence-quota raj because of the increase in tariffs and import bans. Discuss. (10M, 150 Words)
Why this question?
- The defence ministry announced a ban on import of 101 defence items to create domestic manufacturing of ₹4 trillion in six to seven years to protect local industries.
Introduction: Mention in brief about the outlines and objectives of the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Mission.
Body: Mention the following concerns associated with the Mission.
- Return to license raj: Experts have cautioned against the possibility of Atmanirbhar Bharat turning the clock back to a period of licence-quota raj because of the increase in tariffs and import bans.
- Return to import substitution: The License Raj was established based on the Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI), a trade policy that advocates replacing foreign imports with domestic production, with an aim to spur up the local production by reducing foreign and private competition.
- Minimal results: India has tried various forms of protectionism in the past to assist domestic manufacturers, from import tariffs to quotas, but these did not have the desired impact.
- The key issues are land laws, labour laws, availability of affordable electricity for industries, high cost .
Conclusion: Provide a way forward for addressing the above challenges.