Polity & Governance
- FSSAI launches online platform for food inspection, sampling
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Uttarakhand ropes in HNB Garhwal University students to clean Ganga
Bilateral & International Relations
- UN Security Council Unanimously Steps Up Sanctions Against North Korea
- 2nd India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Council held in New Delhi
Science & Technology
- CARB-X (Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator)
- Ultra-thin craft may wrap and destroy space junk
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Polity & Governance
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’.
- FSSAI has asked states to adopt this system as it would help eliminate discrepancy and make food safety officers accountable.
About ‘FoSCoRIS’ system:
- 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.
How will it be implemented?
- 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.
About Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI):
- The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is an agency of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.
- The FSSAI has been established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006which is a consolidating statute related to food safety and regulation in India.
- The FSSAI is led by a non-executive Chairperson, appointed by the Central Government.
- The Chairperson is in the rank of Secretary to Government of India.
- The agency also has 8 regional offices, 4 referral laboratories and 72 local laboratories located throughout India.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
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.
About Namami Gange Programme:
‘Namami Gange’ Programme, is a flagship programme of Government of India with a renewed impetus to decrease river pollution and conserve the revered river ‘Ganga’.
- The Union government approved “Namami Gange” Program in May 2015.
- In this connection, the Indian Government solicited support from various countries to rejuvenate the Ganga.
- 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).
- According to the program, 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.
- 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.
- Under this programme, the focus of the Government is to involve people living on the banks of the river to attain sustainable results.
- The programme also focuses on involving the States and grassroots level institutions such as Urban Local Bodies and Panchayati Raj Institutions in implementation.
Bilateral & International Relations
UN Security Council Unanimously Steps Up Sanctions Against North Korea
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has unanimously passed new set of tougher sanctions against North Korea over its sixth and most powerful nuclear test (claimed to be Hydrogen bomb).
- It was overall the ninth sanctions resolution unanimously adopted by UNSC since 2006 over North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
- The new sanctions imposes ban on North Korea’s textile exports and capping imports of crude oil.
New sanctions include:
- Limits on imports of crude oil and oil products. China, Pyongyang’s main economically, 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.
How will these new sanctions affect North Korea?
- The ban on all textile exports and prohibition of any country from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers are the two key sources of hard currency for the North Korea.
- The textile ban is significant as textiles are North Korea’s main source of export revenue after coal, iron, seafood and other minerals that have already been severely restricted by previous UN resolutions.
- As per the US mission, a cut-off on new work permits will eventually cost North Korea about USD 500 million a year once current work permits expire.
- In recent months, North Korea under the leadership of Kim Jong-un had staged series of missile tests including ICBMs that appeared to bring much of US mainland into range. It was followed up with sixth nuclear test on September 3, 2017 which was the largest to date, was claimed to be a miniaturized hydrogen bomb.
- The US and its Asian allies argue that tougher sanctions will put pressure on North Korea to come to the negotiation table to discuss end to its nuclear and missile tests.
- Russia and China, which are close allies of North Korea also are pushing for talks. They have proposed suspension of US-South Korean military drills for freezing North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests.
About United Nations Security Council (UNSC):
UNSC is one of six principal organs of the United Nations Organisation (UNO).
- Its mandate is to maintain international peace and security.
- UNSC has 15 members, including five permanent viz. China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States. Each of the five permanent members has veto power.
- 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.
- Its powers include establishment of peacekeeping operations, imposing international sanctions, and authorization of collective military action against through resolutions.
- 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.
- It is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
2nd India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Council held in New Delhi
The 2nd meeting of the Strategic Partnership Council between India and Afghanistan, set up under the aegis of bilateral Strategic Partnership Agreement 2011, was held in New Delhi.
- During the meeting, India and Afghanistan exchanged four pacts in areas of health, transport, space and new development partnership.
Important Agreement signed:
- Motor Vehicles Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger, Personal and Cargo Vehicular Traffic.
- Memorandum of Understanding for mutual cooperation in the field of pharmaceutical products regulation. This MoU was signed and exchanged between the National Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority of Afghanistan and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
- The Orbit Frequency Coordination Agreement between India and Afghanistan on South Asia Satellite (SAS).
- Letters establishing the New Development Partnership and launching 116 High Impact Community Development Projects.
- In addition, the two nations agreed to expeditiously conclude the agreements/MoUs related to technical cooperation on police training and development, as well as technical cooperation between railway authorities; mutual legal assistance; and cooperation in the areas of food safety among others.
Science & Technology
CARB-X (Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator)
Bugworks Research, a Bengaluru firm has become India’s first to receive the international CARB-X grant to develop antibiotics to treat hospital-acquired infections.
What is CARB X?
CARB-X is a public-private international partnership set up in 2016 to focus on innovations to improve diagnosis and treatment of drug-resistant infections.
- It had grown out of US President Barack Obama’s 2015 Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (CARB) initiative.
- It is funded by London-based biomedical research charity Wellcome Trust and US Health Department’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).
- The purpose of CARB X is to provide a new, collaborative approach to speed R&D and delivery of new antibiotics, vaccines, diagnostics, and other innovative products to address urgent global problem of drug-resistant bacterial infections.
- It will provide grants up to $455 million over a five-year period to firms across globe for antibiotics R&D.
- All of its funding so far is focused on projects to address most resistant “Gram-negative” bacteria.
What are Gram-negative bacteria?
- Bacteria are classified as Gram-positive and Gram-negative, based on a structural difference in their cell walls.
- Gram-negative bacteria are responsible for 20-25% of bacterial infections and are multi drug resistant i.e. have ability to defend themselves against drugs that try to kill them.
- Antibiotic resistance has become global crisis that threatens management of infections, both in community and in hospital practice.
- The major reasons are indiscriminate use of antibiotics, including against viral infections, prolonged use in patients admitted to hospitals and their abuse in animal husbandry as growth promoters.
- In hospital critical care units, more than 50% organisms are now resistant even to these drugs.
Ultra-thin craft may wrap and destroy space junk
Scientists at US-based Aerospace Corporation are developing an ultra-thin spacecraft, ‘Brane Craft’ 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 project received funding from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts programme, which focuses on space research that are in early stages.
Key features of the spacecraft:
- The Brane Craft 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.
- 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.
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.
In 2013, Russian satellite, Blits, was damaged after colliding with debris created when China shot down an old weather satellite in 2007.[Ref: The Hindu]