Mitras Analysis of News : 29-6-2017

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1.Finding an old battle: GST rates? (The Hindu)

2.Fighting malaria with its evolution (Down to Earth)

 

1.Finding an old battle: GST rates? (The Hindu)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the proposed tax rates on disabled friendly accessories under GST regime. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • With articles essential for people with disabilities set to be taxed under the new GST regime, organisations representing such people are incensed.
  • The organisations argue that for a person with a hearing impairment, a hearing aid is essential, for someone with a locomotor disability, a wheelchair is indispensable, and for the visually impaired, books in Braille are part of daily life.

GST on disabled

  • Under the GST, taxes ranging from 5-18% on goods used by people with disabilities have been approved. So far, these goods were exempt from any form of excise and customs duty.
  • As per rates approved by the GST council, 18 per cent tax has been imposed on Braille typewriters, 12 per cent on Braille paper, 5 per cent on carriages for the disabled, wheelchairs and assistive devices, and 12 per cent on hearing aids.
  • So, even 5% GST, let alone 12% or 18%, will make life that much more difficult for persons with disabilities. It is already extremely difficult for the average disabled person in India with accessibility issues and additional costs of living.
  • Now with the GST, things of daily use/necessity which are already beyond their reach, will become even more expensive.
  • While items such as kajalare being taxed at 0% and rough precious and semi-precious stones are being taxed at a mere 0.25%, most disability goods are being charged at 5% — the same as kites (patang) and agarbattis and cashew nuts. This decision of the Council blatantly violates the provisions of the newly passed Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016.
  • Several people with disabilities come from the economically weaker sections, and the government decision would be an impediment in their education and employability.
  • Several people with disabilities come from the economically weaker sections, and the government decision would be an impediment in their education and employability.

Sub optimal quality of products for disabled

  • Around 5 per cent of the population has some sort of disability. Apart from an increase in prices, activist worry that it will force people to use poor quality devices.
  • Wheelchairs and other devices produced in the country are of poor quality. So most of the materials used by the disabled are imported. For wheelchairs made in India, if one part breaks, we have to replace it entirely and that is expensive. This is unfair because most people with disabilities are unemployed.

Way ahead

  • According to the 2011 census, 2.21% of India’s population is disabled. But other estimates hint at the disabled population being somewhere between 10 and 15%. It is time India starts looking at the disabled as a resource.
  • India must invest in its disabled population — there are 70 million of us. If the disabled are able to step out of their homes; go to schools and colleges; get jobs on merit; and go to their workplaces and perform, they will obviously contribute to the nation’s growth and its economic progress. Good quality and affordable aids and appliances are an essential prerequisite to this dream story of the disability sector.
  • Let’s not drain this resource by making the mobility aids unaffordable. Instead, let’s nurture this resource by giving PwDs opportunities to avail the best education and health care and provide them jobs. An income-tax paying disabled person could add substantially to India’s GDP.

Question: What are the implications of GST on disabled friendly accessories. Why it is a breach of creating a disabled friendly society?

 

2.Fighting malaria with its evolution (Down to Earth)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on an evolutionary approach to fight malaria cases. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Building resistance against insecticides is an evolutionary problem affecting progress in the fields of health and agriculture, among others.
  • Scientists have proposed a new strategy to select mosquitoes which can be checked by repellents, thereby less likely to transmit malaria.

Checking the breakdown

  • Malaria is one of the most widespread vector-borne diseases with 3.2 billion people almost half the world’s population at risk of acquiring it. According to the latest WHO estimates, released in December 2015, there were 214 million cases of malaria in 2015 and 438 000 deaths. Fifteen countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, account for 80 per cent of malaria cases and 78 per cent deaths globally.
  • As per the WHO, mosquito resistance to pyrethroids has emerged in many countries. In some areas, resistance to all 4 classes of insecticides used for public health has been detected.
  • Scientists at the University of Exeter and University of California have suggested a strategy to use evolution of mosquitoes to our advantage, for fighting malaria.
  • They have proposed that insect repellents and insecticides be used in coordination to act against malaria-transmitting mosquitoes the ones that have evolved to bite humans indoors, at night.

How it will work?

  • Indoor residual spraying with insecticides is a common tool in public health campaigns against malaria. The new strategy suggests that insect repellents should also be sprayed in indoor areas treated with insecticides.
  • As a response, mosquitoes that are not repelled enter the premise, get exposed to the insecticide (and killed, most likely). Mosquitoes that are repelled become more likely to survive and reproduce. Their offspring can inherit the same trait of repellence, which is desirable to humans.
  • With each generation, therefore, the proportion of mosquitoes repelled will increase, and a mediocre repellent which initially affected only a small proportion of mosquitoes will become increasingly effective against the local mosquito population.

Importance of such a strategy

  • Malaria is one of the most widespread vector-borne diseases with 3.2 billion people—almost half the world’s population at risk of acquiring it. According to the latest WHO estimates, released in December 2015, there were 214 million cases of malaria in 2015 and 438 000 deaths.
  • Fifteen countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, account for 80 per cent of malaria cases and 78 per cent deaths globally. As per the WHO, mosquito resistance to pyrethroids has emerged in many countries.
  • In some areas, resistance to all 4 classes of insecticides used for public health has been detected.

Way ahead

  • Some unintended operations of such mechanisms have been observed: mosquito in areas where indoor insecticides are heavily used, have evolved to avoid proximity with insecticides, and in some cases to move to outdoor biting.
  • This has been characterised as ‘behavioural resistance’. Hence it will use the same processes to drive the inevitable evolution of resistance in order to generate change which will actually help rather than hurt public health efforts to combat malaria.

Question: Scientists have found the strategy to fight malaria by evolution. What are merits of such an approach?

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