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5th Feb Current Affairs

Green tax

In News:

The Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways has approved the following proposals:

To levy a “Green Tax” on old vehicles which are polluting the environment.

The policy of deregistration and scrapping of vehicles owned by Government department and PSU, which are above 15 years in age.

Revenue collected from the Green Tax to be kept in a separate account and used for tackling pollution, and for States to set up state of-art facilities for emission monitoring.

Applicability of green tax:

  • Transport vehicles older than 8 years could be charged Green Tax at the time of renewal of fitness certificate, at the rate of 10 to 25 % of road tax;
  • Personal vehicles to be charged Green Tax at the time of renewal of Registration Certification after 15 years.
  • Public transport vehicles, such as city buses, to be charged lower Green tax.
  • Higher Green tax (50% of Road Tax) for vehicles being registered in highly polluted cities.
  • Differential tax, depending on fuel (petrol/diesel) and type of vehicle.

Exemptions:

Vehicles like strong hybrids, electric vehicles and alternate fuels like CNG, ethanol, LPG etc.

Vehicles used in farming, such as tractor, harvester, tiller etc.

The benefits of the “Green Tax” could be:

  • To dissuade people from using vehicles which damage the environment.
  • To motivate people to switch to newer, less polluting vehicles.
  • Reduce the pollution level, and make the polluter pay for pollution.

Need for:

It is estimated that commercial vehicles, which constitute about 5% of the total vehicle fleet, contribute about 65-70% of total vehicular pollution.

The older fleet, typically manufactured before the year 2000 constitute less that 1 % of the total fleet but contributes around 15% of total vehicular pollution. These older vehicles pollute 10-25 times more than modern vehicles.

‘Off-budget borrowing’

In News:

One of the most sought after details in any Union Budget is the level of fiscal deficit. As such, it is keenly watched by rating agencies — both inside and outside the country. That is why most governments want to restrict their fiscal deficit to a respectable number.

Details:

One of the ways to do this is by resorting to “off-budget borrowings”.

Such borrowings are a way for the Centre to finance its expenditures while keeping the debt off the books — so that it is not counted in the calculation of fiscal deficit.

What is the fiscal deficit?

It is essentially the gap between what the central government spends and what it earns. In other words, it is the level of borrowings by the Union government. This fiscal deficit is the most important metric to understand the financial health of any government’s finances.

What are off-budget borrowings?

Off-budget borrowings are loans that are taken not by the Centre directly, but by another public institution which borrows on the directions of the central government.

Such borrowings are used to fulfil the government’s expenditure needs.

But since the liability of the loan is not formally on the Centre, the loan is not included in the national fiscal deficit.

This helps keep the country’s fiscal deficit within acceptable limits.

Manufactured sand

In News:

The Rajasthan government has brought a policy on manufactured sand (M-sand), giving industry status to the units producing it for construction work and reducing the dependence on bajri (riverbed sand).

Highlights of the new Policy:

The policy will enable the investors to set up M-sand units by utilising the incentives offered by the State government.

It will also help in environmental protection and generate faith among the public in the efficacy of M-sand for construction works.

The policy would help create employment opportunities through new units and resolve the issue of huge quantities of waste generated in the mining areas.

Background:

The Supreme Court had banned illegal mining on riverbeds in 2017.

What is M-Sand?

  • M-sand is a substitute of river sand for concrete construction.
  • Manufactured sand is produced from hard granite stone by crushing.
  • The crushed sand is of cubical shape with grounded edges, washed and graded to as a construction material.
  • The size of manufactured sand (M-Sand) is less than 4.75mm.

Its significance:

  • It can be dust free, the sizes of m-sand can be controlled easily so that it meets the required grading for the given construction.
  • It is well graded in the required proportion.
  • It does not contain organic and soluble compounds that affect the setting time and properties of cement, thus the required strength of concrete can be maintained.
  • It does not have the presence of impurities such as clay, dust and silt coatings.

BBV154, Bharat Biotech’s single-dose intranasal vaccine for Covid-19

In News:

Bharat Biotech’s BBV154 is the first publicised attempt at getting an intranasal Covid-19 vaccine.

What is an intranasal vaccine?

Vaccines are most commonly administered as injectable shots into the muscles (intramuscular) or the tissue just between the skin and the muscles (subcutaneous).

However, with intranasal vaccines, the solution is squirted or sprayed into the nostrils and inhaled instead of injecting it.

What are the benefits to an intranasal vaccine during a pandemic?

Such vaccines not only aim to overcome barriers to delivery and administration that come with producing and distributing injectable vaccines, they also may be able to tap an additional set of immune cells found in the tissues lining the nose, mouth and lungs.

Intranasal vaccines cut down on the need for syringes, needles and other components like alcohol swabs, as they are not injected.

Eliminates needle-associated injuries and infections and is easy to administer, as it also does not require trained healthcare workers.

It is also a single-dose, making it easier for those receiving the vaccine as well–they would not have to schedule revisits for booster shots the way they would have to with existing, injectable Covid-19 vaccines.

What are the potential setbacks?

Past attempts to develop intranasal vaccines, including for measles flu, have not been very successful.

These vaccines have mostly been made using live, weakened viruses, but have never cleared clinical trials.

Only a live attenuated influenza flu vaccine has been licenced through this route of delivery.