Insights Daily Current Affairs, 12 September 2017
Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
FSSAI launches online platform for food inspection, sampling
To bring in transparency in food safety inspection and sampling, food regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has put in place a nationwide online platform called ‘FoSCoRIS’ and has asked states to adopt this system as it would help eliminate discrepancy and make food safety officers accountable.
- The web-based ‘FoSCoRIS’ system will help verify compliance of food safety and hygiene standards by food businesses as per the government norms.
- The new system will bring together all key stakeholders — food businesses, food safety officers (FSOs), designated officers, state food safety commissioners — on a nation-wide IT platform and data related to inspection, sampling and test result data will be shared seamlessly by all the officials.
- This system will give a clear picture to the FSSAI on the real-time basis and helps eliminate any discrepancy, hence inspection is accountable. The system will ease out the process of sample collection, make it transparent and traceable and controls the quality of compliances.
The new system requires a hand-held device with internet connectivity with FSOs. FSSAI has asked those states that have already provided hand-held devices to FSOs to straightway adopt the system while other states have been asked to provide such devices to FSOs or on rental and even reimburse mobile expenses to them. The states have been told to appoint a nodal officer for this purpose and send the details of the officers of the state food authority for integrating them with FoSCoRIS.
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.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
UN Security Council Unanimously Steps Up Sanctions Against North Korea
The United Nations Security Council unanimously stepped up sanctions against North Korea on Monday over the country’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, imposing a ban on the country’s textile exports and capping imports of crude oil.
- It was the ninth sanctions resolution unanimously adopted by the 15-member council since 2006 over North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
The new sanctions include:
- Limits on imports of crude oil and oil products. China, Pyongyang’s main economic ally, supplies most of North Korea’s crude oil.
- A ban on exports of textiles, which is Pyongyang’s second-biggest export worth more than $700m (£530m) a year.
- Measures to limit North Koreans from working overseas, which the US estimates would cut off $500m of tax revenue per year.
Pyongyang has staged a series of missile tests in recent months that appeared to bring much of the US mainland into range. It followed up with a sixth nuclear test on September 3, its largest to date, which it said was a miniaturized hydrogen bomb.
The United States and its allies argue that tougher sanctions will pile pressure on Kim’s regime to come to the negotiation table to discuss an end to its nuclear and missile tests. Russia and China are pushing for talks with North Korea, but their proposal for a freeze on Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear tests in exchange for suspending US-South Korean military drills has been rejected by the United States.
About the UNSC:
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions; it is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
- The Security Council has 15 members, including five permanent. The five permanent members, each with the power of veto, are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
- The Council’s 10 non-permanent seats are allocated according to a rotation pattern set by the Assembly in 1963, to ensure a proportionate representation over time from the different parts of the world: five from African and Asian States; one from Eastern Europe; two from Latin American States; and two from Western European and Other States.
- The Security Council is also responsible for determining the existence of a threat against peace and to respond to an act of aggression. It is also responsible for finding peaceful means to settle a conflict or a dispute between States.
- In some cases, the Council can resort to sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.
Farm loan waiver may push inflation by 0.2%: RBI paper
In India, farm loan waivers have been announced intermittently by both the central and state governments to provide relief to farmers facing distress due to natural calamities/crop failure. However, according to a recent report by the RBI, farm loan waiver amounting to Rs 88,000 crore likely to be released in 2017-18 by seven states, including Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, may push inflation on permanent basis by 0.2%.
Other associated concerns:
- The total loan waiver amount that is likely to be released in 2017-18 by seven states is around Rs 881 billion (0.5% of Gross Domestic Product, GDP). It is said that Loan waivers could add to the fiscal burden over the medium term as they are essentially a transfer from taxpayers to borrowers.
- Besides, random fiscal policy shocks, such as loan waivers, have an enduring impact on market borrowings, as evident from past episodes of such waivers.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana had announced farm loan waiver in 2014; Tamil Nadu in 2016; and Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Karnataka in 2017.
Drawbacks of loan waivers:
Firstly, it covers only a tiny fraction of farmers. The loan waiver as a concept excludes most of the farm households in dire need of relief and includes some who do not deserve such relief on economic grounds.
Second, it provides only a partial relief to the indebted farmers as about half of the institutional borrowing of a cultivator is for non-farm purposes.
Third, in many cases, one household has multiple loans either from different sources or in the name of different family members, which entitles it to multiple loan waiving.
Fourth, loan waiving excludes agricultural labourers who are even weaker than cultivators in bearing the consequences of economic distress.
Fifth, it severely erodes the credit culture, with dire long-run consequences to the banking business.
Sixth, the scheme is prone to serious exclusion and inclusion errors, as evidenced by the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) findings in the Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme, 2008.
Lastly, schemes have serious implications for other developmental expenditure, having a much larger multiplier effect on the economy.
What needs to be done?
Proper identification: For providing immediate relief to the needy farmers, a more inclusive alternative approach is to identify the vulnerable farmers based on certain criteria and give an equal amount as financial relief to the vulnerable and distressed families.
Enhance non- farm income: The sustainable solution to indebtedness and agrarian distress is to raise income from agricultural activities and enhance access to non-farm sources of income. The low scale of farms necessitates that some cultivators move from agriculture to non-farm jobs.
Improved technology, expansion of irrigation coverage, and crop diversification towards high-value crops are appropriate measures for raising productivity and farmers’ income. All these require more public funding and support.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Uttarakhand ropes in HNB Garhwal University students to clean Ganga
Uttarakhand-based Hemawati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University has signed a MoU with Namami Gange Project for Ganga Conservation.
- Under Namami Gange project, the University will initiate activities like holding events, seminars and conferences to make strong pitch for public outreach and community participation.
Namami Gange Programme:
The Union government approved “Namami Gange” Program in May 2015. It integrates the efforts to clean and protect the Ganga River in a comprehensive manner.
Focus of the programme:
Among other things, the programme will focus on pollution abatement interventions namely Interception, diversion & treatment of wastewater flowing through the open drains through bio-remediation / appropriate in-situ treatment / use of innovative technologies.
- The program would be implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and its state counterpart organizations i.e., State Program Management Groups (SPMGs).
- In order to improve implementation, a three-tier mechanism has been proposed for project monitoring comprising of a) High level task force chaired by Cabinet Secretary assisted by NMCG at national level, b) State level committee chaired by Chief Secretary assisted by SPMG at state level and c) District level committee chaired by the District Magistrate.
- The program emphasizes on improved coordination mechanisms between various Ministries/Agencies of Central and State governments.
What is rejuvenation?
According to the Namami Gange Mission, rejuvenation implies restoring the “wholesomeness” of the river and that includes three things: Aviral dhara (continuous flow), nirmal dhara (unpolluted flow) and ecological and geological integrity.
Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
Ultra-thin craft may wrap and destroy space junk
Scientists are developing an ultra-thin spacecraft that can remove space debris – which potentially threaten satellites or astronauts – by enveloping junk in the Earth’s orbit and dragging it through the atmosphere, causing it to burn up. The Brane Craft, being developed by US-based Aerospace Corporation, is a flexible and less than half the thickness of a human hair.
- The spacecraft is designed to be resilient. Its microprocessor and digital electronics are fabricated in a way to ensure that if one component gets damaged, the others will continue to work.
- The project received funding from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts programme, which focuses on space research that are in early stages.
- Brane Crafts will be powered by ultra-thin solar cells as well as a little bit of propellant.
- After each Brane envelops a piece of space junk, it will navigate back to towards Earth, causing the junk to burn up in the atmosphere.
The menace of space debris:
According to NASA, there are over 50,000 pieces of debris (space junk) traveling at speeds up to 17,500 mph around the Earth, the movements of which are being constantly monitored and tracked.
- The rising population of space debris increases the potential danger to all space vehicles, but especially to the International Space Station (ISS), space shuttles, satellites and other spacecraft.
- In December 2016, Japan sent H-II Transfer Vehicle Kounotori 6 (HTV6) into space to deliver supplies to the ISS. The same cargo ship was also supposed to complete another mission during its return journey – clean up space debris. However, the experimental Japanese probe failed in its mission to clear space junk from the Earth’s orbit.
Incidents so far:
In 2013, Russian satellite, Blits, was damaged after colliding with debris created when China shot down an old weather satellite in 2007.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
Sir Creek is very important for national security: Nirmala Sitharaman
The resolution to the Sir Creek dispute has been considered a low-hanging fruit for sometime now. The demarcation of the 96 km strip of water in the Rann of Kutch marshlands was one of the factors that contributed to the 1965 India-Pakistan war. Therefore, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently said that Sir Creek, located on the Gujarat border with Pakistan, is a “very important place” for national security, particularly Gujarat’s security.
- India and Pakistan have discussed about the land boundary in the Sir Creek area and also delimitation of International Maritime Boundary between India and Pakistan. They have expressed their desire to find an amicable solution of the Sir Creek issue through sustained and result- oriented dialogue.
What is Sir Creek?
Sir Creek is a 96-km strip of water disputed between India and Pakistan in the Rann of Kutch marshlands. Originally named Ban Ganga, Sir Creek is named after a British representative. The Creek opens up in the Arabian Sea and roughly divides the Kutch region of Gujarat from the Sindh Province of Pakistan.
What’s the dispute?
The dispute lies in the interpretation of the maritime boundary line between Kutch and Sindh. Before India’s independence, the provincial region was a part of the Bombay Presidency of British India. But after India’s independence in 1947, Sindh became a part of Pakistan while Kutch remained a part of India.
Pakistan claims the entire creek as per paragraphs 9 and 10 of the Bombay Government Resolution of 1914 signed between then the Government of Sindh and Rao Maharaj of Kutch. The resolution, which demarcated the boundaries between the two territories, included the creek as part of Sindh, thus setting the boundary as the eastern flank of the creek popularly known as Green Line. But India claims that the boundary lies mid-channel as depicted in another map drawn in 1925, and implemented by the installation of mid-channel pillars back in 1924.
What’s the importance of Sir Creek?
Apart from strategic location, Sir Creek’s core importance is fishing resources. Sir Creek is considered to be among the largest fishing grounds in Asia.
Another vital reason for two countries locking horns over this creek is the possible presence of great oil and gas concentration under the sea, which are currently unexploited thanks to the impending deadlock on the issue.