News & Events
in this section, we are presenting our readers/aspirants compilation of selected editorials of national daily viz. The Hindu, The live mint,The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, PIB etc. This section caters the requirement of Civil Services Mains (GS + Essay) , PCS, HAS Mains (GS + Essay) & others essay writing competition
1.Model Tenancy Act is a good step but will states bite the reform bullet?
The Model Tenancy Act legislation approved by the Union Cabinet is an opportunity to free locked up residential apartments for the housing market. But the reform is incumbent on state legislatures using the opportunity to pass the law. Nevertheless, Centre has offered a good template for them to replicate.
In mandating a rent agreement between tenant and landlord and proposing a Rent Authority to which the agreement has to be submitted, a good start has been made. Stipulations like a two month limit on security deposit for residential properties is welcome because of the propensity of landlords in some cities to demand up to six months rent as security deposit, which is unfair to tenants. Submission of the rent agreement to the Rent Authority is also a good step in creating a trusted repository for the agreement. Despite state rules that urge registering of rent agreements, this isn’t done because of hesitation to incur stamp duty costs.
The model law proposes that the Rent Authority, Rent Courts and Rent Tribunals set up under the Act dispose of complaints in time bound fashion. This is critical to the success of any legislation. If orders get backlogged these courts will lose their potency as has happened with consumer courts. Setting up the infrastructure and providing adequate staffing will be the true test of the law’s success. Though India is scaling up the World Bank ranking in ease of doing business it is lagging behind in enforcement of contracts. State governments play a critical role here and there is only so much Centre can do.
2.The central answer: GoI should again become sole procurer of domestic vaccines, best way to get bulk supplies fast
India’s vaccination policy is under severe public scrutiny. And that may already be producing better approaches – the Centre booked 30 crore doses of Biological E’s under-trial vaccine with a Rs 1,500 crore advance. Biological E is now incentivised to escalate production. That’s exactly what the Centre should do, and should have done right at the beginning with other vaccine producers. Scarcity is the root of all questions being asked of the vaccination policy.
It’s not too late to reframe overall policy. First, the Centre should again become the sole procurer for all Made-in-India vaccines. That means Covishield and Covaxin, as well as the vaccine from Zydus Cadila, Genova’s mRNA jab and Covavax. These should be the mainstay of the mass vaccination programme, since they will be cheaper. Economies of scale from vast central orders will reduce unit prices even while keeping producers incentivised. Second, advance payments should be made well in advance. Payments were made in April for orders until July. GoI expects 1 crore jabs per day in August, and presumably wants to keep up the tempo till December at least. Payments should begin now for August and beyond.
Third, aside of working out details like providing a version of indemnity for foreign vaccines and, perhaps, helping with customs duties, GoI should allow private parties to import foreign vaccines and sell them at market prices. There should be no price capping. This will segment the vaccine market, which is a good thing when there are enough supplies. The well-off can pay for Pfizer or Moderna. And government can concentrate on mass vaccination. Fourth, on pricing for mass jabs, let there be one system nationally, devised by GoI. A very low price in government hospitals and higher price in private facilities that receive central supplies. States that wish to make vaccines free, can do it at their own cost.
Fifth, no debates about sharing costs of procuring Made-in-India vaccines should happen now. Whether and how the Centre and states divvy up the cost should be decided later. The priority is now fast and bulk procurement. Only the Centre has the heft to do that. Let hair-splitting debates not come in the way of this. Sixth, there should be more data on jabs, as the apex court said. Data on rural vaccination is especially critical. If the Centre and states agree on all this, India can finally have a vaccination policy that produces more answers than questions.
3.Speed over optics: On why Centre should procure and allot vaccines to States
The Centre must act as procurer and allotter of vaccines, and leave distribution to States
The Centre’s ‘liberalised’ policy of allowing vaccine companies to strike deals with States and private hospitals has borne limited fruit. While the age group of 18-44 years accounts for the bulk of vaccines being administered, attempts by States to negotiate deals with international vaccine companies have come to naught. In spite of opening vaccination for all adults, there were fewer doses administered in May — around six crore — as opposed to 7.7 crore doses administered in April. The Health Ministry has said that close to 8 crore doses were available in May (counting wastage and stocks with States) and that 12 crore will be available in June for the Centre, States and private hospitals. Over 22 crore doses have been administered so far. There is large variability within and among States regarding vaccination. It is in this context that State Chief Ministers, cutting across party divisions, are now demanding that the Centre be the sole buyer of vaccines. The Supreme Court too has expressed its dissatisfaction over the existing system that puts States in competition with each other and the Centre, almost like another competitor, for vaccine supplies. The Centre has tried to project that it was the clamour from States that forced it to abstain from being the sole purchaser of vaccines, but it was the Centre’s miscalculation that there would not be frantic public demand this calendar year and that the output from the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech would be sufficient for India.
International arrangements such as COVAX were premised on India being a large supplier to Africa and several countries around the world with no vaccine development facilities. Now that the Government has prevented the Serum Institute of India from honouring its supply commitments, it is unclear if international suppliers would trust India’s demand for large supply. The unpredictability in policy also weakens India’s ambit of negotiations now that it seems desperate to increase short-term vaccine supply. Moreover, given that vaccines are the most sought-after goods, it is unlikely India would be prioritised so late in the day. There is optimism of increased and significant supply from Bharat Biotech and SII by August. At this stage, it appears that the Centre has few options other than waiting for its domestic suppliers to hike production. Increased supply from abroad is unlikely in the near future, even if resources for procurement are not a constraint. It must however heed the States’ core demand that they be given a greater say in deciding how best to distribute the vaccine. The Centre can be a monitor of and an adviser to the process; and if it becomes the sole buyer, it can spell out a transparent distribution policy. But it ought to prioritise speedy administration over optics.
4.Digital tax tussles: On preventing a tariff war
The world cannot afford a tariff war to protect digital sector, which has low-tax operations
The United States announced and then immediately suspended a whopping 25% tariff rate on over $2 billion of imports from six countries including India, signalling Washington’s intent to act punitively on its long-held grouse with these nations for their digital services taxes primarily impacting Silicon Valley tech giants. The office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai said that the tariff proposed on goods from Austria, India, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and the U.K. was approved following a “Section 301” investigation that found these digital taxes to be discriminatory. With the threat of tariffs hanging over these six economies when most of them are limping through a feeble post-COVID-19 recovery, the USTR appeared to project a softening of the blow by adding that the tariffs would be suspended pending ongoing tax negotiations to “provide time for those negotiations to continue to make progress while maintaining the option of imposing tariffs under Section 301 if warranted in the future”. The backstory is that the investigation was initiated by the Trump administration in June 2020, and the deadline for approving tariff action based on the investigation would have lapsed this week. The latest policy action comes a few months after the Biden administration similarly approved, then suspended, tariffs on France retaliating for its tax impacting firms such as Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft.
One thing is clear: if the Biden administration did not subscribe to the notion that taxes on digital services by the titans of Silicon Valley, a significant portion of whose revenues are generated on foreign soil, were discriminatory, it could have distanced itself from the Trump-era investigation into this allegation without any serious political fallout. The fact that Mr. Biden has chosen to use the stick of tariffs to force the pace of negotiations on digital services tax with seven nations suggests that the current White House subscribes strongly to the idea of expanding the global playing field for American tech firms to dominate without fear of being slapped with tax liabilities. In the case of India, that was a mere 2% digital service tax on trade and services by non-resident e-commerce operators with a turnover of over ₹2 crore. Even more, Washington appears to be unafraid to throw serious political heft behind this venture even to the point of risking another tariff war outbreak, compounding the tensions generated by tax skirmishes between the Trump White House and Beijing on this count. The cost for India could be potentially high, as $118 million worth of its exports will fall under this proposed tariff, and a range of sectors could be impacted. At this point in the fragile, post-COVID-19 recovery, the world can hardly afford another tariff war, and that too one waged to protect a sector that has enjoyed low-tax or tax-free operations across the world for decades.