- Scientists in Uganda have found evidence of a drug-resistant form of malaria, which could potentially render the top treatment available for the disease in the country ineffective.
- In a New England Journal of Medicine study, they write that nearly 20 per cent of the 240 samples they tested over a three-year period suggested that the drug artemesinin is no longer effective against malaria.
- Similar results were found in Rwanda earlier this year.
What are drug-resistant infections?
- Infections become drug-resistant when the microbes that cause them adapt and change over time, developing the ability to resist the drugs designed to kill them. One of the most common types of drug resistance is antibiotic resistance. In this process bacteria – not humans or animals – become resistant to antibiotics. These bacteria are sometimes called ‘superbugs’.
- The result is that many drugs, such as antibiotics, are becoming less effective at treating illnesses. Our overuse of antibiotics in humans, animals and plants is speeding up this process.
- Africa already accounts for 90 per cent of the world’s malaria cases, according to the World Health Organization (who).
- Antibiotic strains of other diseases are also spreading at an alarming rate across the continent.
- In late October, researchers from Kenya reported that 97 per cent of children infected with typhoid in the last few years contracted an antibiotic-resistant strain of the disease.
- Meanwhile, who’s “Global Tuberculosis Report 2021” names seven African countries at high risk for multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.
- Prominent space agencies are accelerating efforts to increase knowledge of extraterrestrial objects and strengthen the Earth’s planetary defence systems.
- China on October 25 held its first Planetary Defense Conference to discuss strategies to improve the country’s early warning systems, small-body exploration and space-based monitoring mechanisms.
What is Planetary defence?
- Planetary defense is the term used to encompass all the capabilities needed to detect the possibility and warn of potential asteroid or comet impacts with Earth, and then either prevent them or mitigate their possible effects.
- US space agency NASA on November 4 announced the first ever inter-planetary defence mission, “Double Asteroid Redirection Test (dart)” to be launched on November 23, to deliberately collide with a small asteroid and test the results.
Learn New Terminology
- Cumbre Vieja is a volcano in the island of La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain. It erupted on September 19 this year. As on November 3, lava still flowing and 7,000 people had been evacuated.
Bits Global (One Liner for Prelims)
- Population of North Atlantic right whales, which the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association describes as the world’s most endangered large whale species, further decreased by 8 per cent in 2020. Only 366 whales exist currently, US-based North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium said on October 26. The decline of the species is largely due to increase in fishing activities.
Bits India (One Liner for Prelims)
- The Sundarbans National Park in West Bengal is one of five World Heritage sites that have the highest blue carbon stocks, according to a new assessment by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on October 28. Blue carbon is stored by ocean and coastal ecosystems. UNESCO’s assessment says that all World Heritage forests, including Sundarbans, now sequester more carbon than they store.
- Delhi on October 28 launched a website and a WhatsApp chatbot to promote public measures to curb pollution in the region. While the website, www.delhifightspollution.in, informs people on how to take preventive measures, the chatbot, named Paryavaran Saathi, allows them to list out the measures they are taking on their own for a chance to be recognised and honoured by the government.
- Some 24 villages in Odisha’s Nayagarh district received community forest rights on November 2, under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. The rights allow the communities of these villages to protect, regenerate, conserve or manage any forest resource for traditional or sustainable use. Residents of Nayagarh district have been fighting for ownership of the forests in the region since January last year, in protest against large-scale deforestation by the state.
- On October 31, the heads of the world’s major economies—the Group of 20 (G20) nations—approved a new global minimum corporate tax.
- The deal, announced at the G20 summit in Rome, Italy, is “historic” since this is the first time nearly all nations have agreed to such a system.
- The new regime covers 90 percent of the global economy. Earlier, on October 8, some 136 countries had endorsed the new regime.
The deal has two aims:
- first, to prevent multinationals from paying low taxes (or no tax) by booking their profits in tax havens; and
- second, to make them pay taxes wherever they operate or conduct business in, even if they do not have physical presence in the country.
Under this deal, there are two “pillars” of taxation on corporations.
- Under Pillar-1, which is estimated to affect the world’s top 100 companies, governments would levy tax on profit margins of above 10 per cent,
- While under Pillar-2, there would be a global minimum tax rate of 15 per cent.
- Pillar-1 provisions empower countries to tax companies where they earn their revenue. Under this, companies’ excess profit—defined as in excess of 10 per cent of total revenue—will be taxed at 25 per cent.
- Pillar-2 will be applicable to overseas profits of multinational firms with €750 million (US $866 million) in sales globally. Governments have the power to impose any local corporate tax, and if a company pays less than 15 per cent tax, its home country can levy a tax to bring it to the minimum rate.
- The new deal was a bitterly fought battle over rampant tax evasion by multinational firms. Nations have been competitively adopting low tax regimes to attract investments. This gave rise to what we know as “tax havens”.
- These are the countries/territories where corporate houses are registered in or operate from. In fact, 90 percent of the world’s top 200 companies have a presence in tax havens.
- According to current tax laws, companies pay taxes not at the place of economic activities, but at the tax havens where they are registered.
- The International Monetary Fund estimates that the global revenue loss to governments due to this tax avoidance was between $200 billion and $600 billion in 2019.
- Corporations avoided tax massively by shifting $1.38 trillion worth of profit from the countries where they were generated to tax havens.
- “Private tax evaders paid less tax than they should have by storing a total of over $10 trillion in financial assets offshore,” says the report.
- In 2019, there were 650 million poor people in the world living under the international poverty line of $1.9 per day. If $2 is provided to each of them, one can argue the avoided tax of $500 billion would have eradicated global poverty, even if for a few days or weeks.
- Countries had been negotiating the new tax deal for the past five years. The points discussed or proposed by OECD included “apportionment approaches that assess profits at the level of the multinational group, rather than individual entities, and then apportion it as tax base between countries of operation in proportion to the share of real economic activity in each”.
- In 2013-15, under the “Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Action Plan” plan, OECD aimed at reducing profit sharing between places of registration and the real economic activity. Currently, many companies do report country-wise business activities and profits. This helps track disproportionate tax sharing.
- As details come out, it becomes clear that the deal will barely benefit developing countries and the profits will continue to go to the rich nations.
- Companies might not even have to take the route of tax havens and still continue to evade or avoid tax. Moreover, the deal applies to a very small part of the corporate profits and is also limited to a few companies.
- Effectively, the deal targets 100 top companies in the world. The countries would now have 10 years to roll out the tax, starting 2023, instead of the original five years proposed.
- Experts say the 15 per cent tax rate is not ambitious enough. Earlier this year, UN Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) recommended 20-30 per cent global corporate tax.
- The Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation, an international coalition of intergovernmental, civil society and labor organizations, had called for a 25 per cent global minimum tax to be applied.
- Many developing countries, though signatory to the deal, have expressed concerns about the implementation of these new taxing rules being conditioned upon them removing all unilateral taxes on technology companies.
- As per international non-profit Oxfam, the new tax regime will affect only 69 multinationals and would only apply on “super profits” above 10 per cent.
- Oxfam estimates that 52 developing countries would receive 0.025 percent of their collective GDP in additional annual tax revenue from the Pillar-1 proposal.
- What could have been a historic agreement to end the era of tax havens is rapidly becoming a rich country stitch-up instead. The proposal for a fixed global rate of 15 per cent will overwhelmingly benefit rich countries and increase inequality.
- The G7 and EU will take home two-thirds of the new cash that it will bring in, while the world’s poorest countries will recover less than 3 per cent, despite being home to more than a third of the world’s population.
- Many say the OECD-brokered deal has not been inclusive of developing countries’ concerns and the redistribution of tax has not been fair. There is also a growing call for making the tax regime inclusive.
- The old long-term variety used to leave just 10 days for sowing between kharif paddy to rabi wheat.
- Short-duration varieties, especially PR 126 (the quickest to harvest variety), give a window of over 35 days to farmers, while PR 121 (the most widely cultivated short duration variety) gives around 20 days. The window is now much bigger.
- The government’s efforts in the past decade have borne results and the ratio of land under short duration varieties to the total land under paddy has more than doubled—from 32.6 percent in 2012 to 67.7 per cent in 2021.
- The rise of short-duration varieties should have resulted in a reduction in stubble burning, but the districts where these varieties witnessed a boom have seen a rise in straw burning incidents, as per data collected by Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) on the 11 paddy varieties covered under the minimum support price (MSP) regime.
Low Yield to Blame
- The primary reason behind the rise of straw-burning in districts that grow short-duration varieties is their low yield, due to which farmers are inclined to cultivate an additional set of crops, such as potato, peas, green lentil, between kharif and rabi.
- Therefore, despite the big window to shift between kharif and rabi, they set the stubble on fire to maximize the available time.
- While some farmers resort to straw burning to make up for the losses incurred due to low yield, other do it just to maximise income.
- A Union agriculture ministry review of “Promotion of Agricultural Mechanization for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue in the States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi”, which is a Central scheme implemented in 2018-19, also blames rice mills.
- The government has taken strong steps to dissuade farmers from growing long-duration varieties. In 2017, pau put Pusa44 and Peeli Pusa on the list of unrecommended varieties and even asked the Union government to denotify them.
- There are some 23 popular varieties of paddy in Punjab. These include six short-duration varieties that the government has launched and promoted since 2013 to fight the dual problems of water shortage and straw-burning.
- The trend in Punjab is to sow early to get time for intermediary crops. Delayed sowing would make farmers cultivate short-duration varieties. PR 121 and PR 124 can be transplanted around June 25, while PR 126 can be transplanted as late as July 5 without affecting their yield.
- The changing climate conditions have troubled farmers. It takes them time to get used to new varieties, adjust to the sowing cycles and understand the conditions for optimum yield.
- Compared to Pusa 44, which was launched in 1994, these short-duration varieties are still nascent. Once farmers get used to them, the yield will improve and straw burning should go down,