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Indian Express

13- January-2024

1. A GREEN FISCAL BLUEPRINT

Topic: GS3 – Environment- Conservations 
This analysis provides a comprehensive understanding of the intersection between fiscal policies, environmental conservation, and climate resilience, making it highly relevant for UPSC for both the prelims and mains examinations.
Context:
  • India has become a major player in international efforts to increase forest cover and fight climate change in recent years.
  • In addition to helping to mitigate the effects of global warming, these initiatives are essential for fostering resilience in ecosystems and communities.
  • Two crucial tactics for storing carbon underground and reducing global warming are the preservation of standing forests and increasing the density of forest cover.
Fiscal Federalism’s Role: Balancing Conservation Costs and Opportunities:
  • Although the needs for state revenues and expenditures are directly impacted by forest protection, there may be significant and often prohibitive opportunity costs involved.
  • The Finance Commission (FC), which is in charge of overseeing fiscal federalism, is crucial to striking this careful balance.
  • Over various FC terms, incentives and resources have been offered to states to encourage the maintenance and improvement of their forest cover.
Evolution of Fiscal Support for Forestry:
  • There was a shift in the financial assistance for forestry between the 12th and the 15th Finance Commissions.
  • 10% of the 15th FC’s divisible central tax pool was set aside for forest protection, up from Rs 1,000 crore in the 12th FC.
  • The fifteenth FC established the largest Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) scheme globally by allocating more over Rs 4.5 lakh crore, taking into account both density and forest cover.
The Challenge and Opportunity Ahead: 16th FC’s Critical Role:
  • The 16th FC’s assumption of power coincides with India’s adherence to the Paris Agreement at a pivotal moment.
  • By 2030, India wants to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 33–35% and contribute another 2.5–3 billion tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere.
  • The Commission bears the ability to determine tax distribution principles for 2026-31, consequently influencing the performance of national projects like the National Carbon Market and National Green Credit Market.
Pivotal Recommendations for Climate Resilience:
  • The inclusion of state emission intensity and climate sensitivity in the tax devolution formula can be a crucial function of the 16th FC.
  • The Commission will then be able to coordinate state initiatives with India’s NDCs, or nationally determined contributions, as per the Paris Agreement.
  • India’s preparedness for climate change can also be strengthened by looking into performance-based grants for industries that are essential to reaching NDCs and SDGs, such as clean energy, creative ways to burn crops, and mangrove restoration.
Harnessing Science and Data for Informed Decision-Making:
  • By utilising data from remote sensing, pollutant inventories, and scientific studies, the 16th FC can create a budget allocation mechanism that is based on performance.
  • A sophisticated budgetary plan that balances environmental requirements with economic growth can be informed by knowledge of the degree of climate sensitivity in various areas and ongoing monitoring of mitigation initiatives.
Conclusion:
  • The 16th FC is in a unique position to become an orchestrator of India’s climate preparation, rather than just a traditional fiscal arbitrator.
  • Acting as a vital institutional tool, the Commission can ensure India’s resilience to the challenges posed by a changing climate by providing a budgetary roadmap that balances economic growth with environmental imperatives.
Practice Question: Discuss the evolving role of fiscal federalism in India, with a specific focus on the Finance Commission’s contributions to climate resilience. (150 words/10 m)

2. HEALTHY NEW YEAR

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice- Health
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of India’s decision to roll out cervical cancer vaccines, examining various aspects such as disease burden, indigenous vaccine development, cost considerations, and the role of existing immunization programs.
Context:
  • India has taken a major step in addressing a critical public health issue with its decision to begin distributing cervical cancer vaccines in the second quarter of this year.
  • This endeavour is opportune, as India bears a significant fifth of the global burden of cervical cancer.
  • After breast cancer, cervical cancer is the second most frequent malignancy among Indian women.
Indigenous Vaccine and Cost Considerations:
  • Cervac is an indigenous vaccine that shows promise in the fight against cervical cancer.
  • It was created by the Serum Institute of India (SII).
  • With a cost of Rs 2,000 for each shot and an annual manufacturing capacity of 20–30 million doses, there are worries regarding accessibility, particularly for a sizable portion of the population.
  • Since the human papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for almost 85% of cases of cervical cancer, the widespread lack of knowledge about the disease highlights the need for mass vaccination.
Game-Changing Vaccination Drive:
  • An immunisation campaign aimed at girls between the ages of nine and fourteen is about to take the world by storm.
  • It is possible to effectively combat the common germ HPV by combining screening with vaccination.
  • Although many industrialised countries have seen success with this technique in reducing HPV virulence, India’s unique situation calls for a vigorous mass immunisation campaign.
Global Strategies vs. Indian Realities:
  • The addition of HPV vaccines in India’s Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) was proposed by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation in 2018.
  • However, widespread acceptance was hampered by the exorbitant costs associated with vaccinations produced by large pharmaceutical corporations.
  • The UIP, which effectively serves over 2.5 crore infants and almost 3 crore expectant mothers each year, has shown resilience in the face of adversity, utilising its ability to rectify shortcomings in public health.
Public Health Success and Learnings from COVID-19 Response:
  • The efficacious COVID-19 immunisation push in India, with its focus on debunking myths and fostering public confidence, provides a strong platform for the impending cervical cancer vaccine campaign.
  • The lessons learned from the pandemic demonstrate the efficacy of the nation’s public health campaigns and the flexibility of the healthcare system to handle extensive immunisation programmes 
SII’s Track Record and Future Expectations:
  • Cervac’s potential as a very successful vaccine is demonstrated by the Drugs Controller General of India’s approval of the vaccine in 2022, which was supported by positive outcomes in clinical trials.
  • Given its excellent performance in producing vaccines during the pandemic, SII may be confident in its capacity to increase production in order to fulfil the expectations of the cervical cancer immunisation effort.
  • In the next months, health officials and the Pune-based institute will be closely observed, presenting optimism for a successful and significant intervention in the fight against cervical cancer.
PYQ: What is the basic principle behind vaccine development? How do vaccines work? What approaches were adopted by the Indian vaccine manufacturers to produce COVID-19 vaccines? (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2022)
Practice Question: Evaluate the role of indigenous vaccines, such as Cervac developed by the Serum Institute of India (SII), in addressing public health challenges. (150 words/10 m)

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