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Insights Daily Current Events, 23 December 2015

Insights Daily Current Events, 23 December 2015


Paper 2 Topic: Indian diaspora.

Government To Expand Visa-Free Diplomatic Travel To More Countries

Seeking to expand the envelope of visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic and official passports to other countries, the Union Cabinet has approved a model agreement on exemption from visa requirements for such people.

  • This would facilitate visa-free entry, transit and stay up to 90 days (or less) in any period of 180 days (or more) in the territory of India or signatory country for holders of diplomatic and official passports of either country.
  • This is part of India’s ongoing efforts to expand the envelope of visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic and official passports to other countries of the world.

India has already signed Visa free agreements with 69 countries. There are still more than 130 countries with which India is yet to enter into or sign similar agreements.

sources: pib.


Paper 3 Topic: conservation.

Emission norms for thermal power plants made stricter

Moving towards stricter emission norms to minimise pollution, the Union environment ministry has notified revised norms of emission standards for coal-based thermal power plants in the country and made it mandatory for the existing plants to meet those parameters within two years.

  • The new standards are aimed at reducing emission of PM10 (particulate matter), Sulphur Dioxide, and Oxide of Nitrogen, which will in turn help in bringing about an improvement in the Ambient Air Quality (AAQ) in and around thermal power plants.


  • Under the revised norms, the new power plants (to be commissioned from January 1, 2017 onwards) will have to achieve “zero waste water discharge” standard through putting up adequate captive infrastructure.
  • Limiting the use of water in thermal power plant will lead to water conservation as thermal power plant is a water-intensive industry. This will also lead to a reduction in energy requirement for drawl of water.
  • In case of SO2 and NOx, the new plants will have to restrict the emission at 100 mg per cubic meter as compared to 600 mg per cubic meter of the older plants, irrespective of the installed capacity of the power generating unit.
  • New standards pertaining to Mercury will help in control of mercury emission (at about 70-90%).
  • All the upcoming power plants will be given environmental clearance only after getting such commitments under the new norms.
  • According to the Ministry, the newer power plants will eventually be much cleaner as the revised norms will help keep strict tabs on emission of all pollutants. In case of PM10, the new plants will have to restrict the emission to 30 mg per cubic meter as compared to 100 mg per cubic meter in older plants.
  • These standards are based on the recommendation of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) after consultations with stakeholders.

sources: pib.


Paper 2 Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

FSSAI sets up 9 panels to strengthen food regulatory mechanism: Govt

FSSAI has set up nine new panels for expediting work relating to strengthen the food regulatory mechanism in the country.

  • The FSSAI has also notified 12 referral laboratories and 82 National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories-accredited private laboratories.

About FSSAI:

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been established under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 which consolidates various acts & orders that have hitherto handled food related issues in various Ministries and Departments.

  • It was created for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.
  • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the Administrative Ministry for the implementation of FSSAI.
  • The Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) are appointed by Government of India.
  • The Chairperson is in the rank of Secretary to Government of India.

Important functions performed by the authority:

  • Framing of Regulations to lay down the Standards and guidelines in relation to articles of food and specifying appropriate system of enforcing various standards thus notified.
  • Laying down mechanisms and guidelines for accreditation of certification bodies engaged in certification of food safety management system for food businesses.
  • Laying down procedure and guidelines for accreditation of laboratories and notification of the accredited laboratories.
  • To provide scientific advice and technical support to Central Government and State Governments in the matters of framing the policy and rules in areas which have a direct or indirect bearing of food safety and nutrition .
  • Collect and collate data regarding food consumption, incidence and prevalence of biological risk, contaminants in food, residues of various, contaminants in foods products, identification of emerging risks and introduction of rapid alert system.
  • Creating an information network across the country so that the public, consumers, Panchayats etc receive rapid, reliable and objective information about food safety and issues of concern.
  • Provide training programmes for persons who are involved or intend to get involved in food businesses.

sources: bs, fssai.


Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

LS passes Bill to hike bonus limit

The Lok Sabha has passed the Payment of Bonus (Amendment) Bill, 2015which allows doubling of wage ceiling for calculating bonus of factory workers and establishments with 20 or more workers.

Highlights of the Bill:

  • The Bill seeks to amend the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965.
  • The Bill provides for enhancing monthly bonus calculation ceiling to Rs 7,000 per month from the existing Rs 3,500.
  • It seeks to enhance the eligibility limit for payment of bonus from Rs 10,000 per month to Rs 21,000 per month.
  • It seeks to mandate prior publication of rules made by the central government to allow for more public consultation.
  • The bill also provides for a new proviso in Section 12 which empowers the central government to vary the basis of computing bonus. At present, under Section 12, where the salary or wage of an employee exceeds Rs. 3,500 per month, the minimum or maximum bonus payable to employees are calculated as if his salary or wage were Rs. 3,500 per month.

The amendment bill will be made effective from April 1, 2015. The Bill would benefit crores of organised sector worker.

The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, is applicable to every factory and other establishment in which 20 or more persons are employed on any day during an accounting year. The last amendment to the eligibility limit and the calculation ceiling was carried out in 2007 and made effective from April 1, 2006.

sources: bs, pib.


Paper 2 Topic: India and its neighborhood- relations.

Revised cost estimates of Salma Dam Project in Afghanistan

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved the reconstruction and completion of Salma Dam Project in Afghanistan at the Revised Cost Estimates (RCE) of Rs.1775.69 crore.

What necessitated this revision?

The foreign exchange rate variation between Indian rupee and US dollar, increase in consultancy charges due to extended period of project completion, escalation, training of Afghan personnel etc. have necessitated revision in the project cost.

Salma Dam:

  • Salma Dam is situated on the upper reaches of Hari Rud River in Herat province.
  • The project involves construction of a 107.5 meter high earth and rock – fill dam and a 42 MW power House with three units of 14 MW each.
  • It also has a provision for releasing water for irrigation of 75,000 hectares of land.
  • The availability of power and water through the project, upon its successful completion, is expected to contribute to the overall economic development of the western region of Afghanistan and generate goodwill for India in Afghanistan.
  • The completion of this project will also address the energy requirements and irrigation needs of western Afghanistan.
  • The project is scheduled to be completed by June, 2016. M/s. WAPCOS, a central Public Sector Unit under the Ministry of Water Resources, is executing the project.

sources: pib.