ias-toppers-nitro-food
Current Affairs Analysis

1st August 2017 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Liquid Nitrogen Used in Food; Heavy metals in firecrackers; National Commission for Backward Classes (Repeal) Bill, 2017; Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO); Composition scheme; Methanol as an alternative fuel; National Mission for Clean Ganga; Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status; Chemical from turmeric helps treat cancer in children; What is Neuroblastoma?
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
August 01, 2017

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • National Commission for Backward Classes (Repeal) Bill, 2017

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Govt will investigate restaurants serving foods with liquid nitrogen
  • SC bans use of five heavy metals in firecrackers

Economy

  • Over 5 lakh businesses opt for GST Composition Scheme

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Methanol a clean, cheaper fuel
  • Projects worth Rs 425 crore approved by NMCG

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Pakistan yet to transition fully to MFN status for India

Science & Technology

  • Chemical from turmeric helps treat cancer in children

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Polity & Governance

National Commission for Backward Classes (Repeal) Bill, 2017

Rajya Sabha has recently passed the Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017, providing for setting up of a National Commission for Backward Classes.

ias toppers Rajya Sabha

  • The Bill was passed after dropping Clause 3.

What is Clause 3?

  • Clause 3 pertains to the insertion of a new article 338B about the constitution and powers of the National Commission for Backward Classes.

Background:

  • The bill is meant to upgrade the Backward Classes Commission from a statutory body to a constitutional body, which will give it powers equal to a court to summon people and inquire into incidents of violence and discrimination against backward classes.

What’s next?

  • The amended bill will now have to be returned to the Lok Sabha for its fresh approval.
  • The Lower House had already passed the bill but in the Upper House it had been referred to a Select Committee as the Opposition had wanted more scrutiny.
  • The Constituent amendment bill’s passage requires two-third majority of those present and voting.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Issues related to Health & Education

Govt will investigate restaurants serving foods with liquid nitrogen

The government will soon start investigating the issue of restaurants serving food and drinks with liquid nitrogen in it.

ias-toppers-Liquid-Nitrogen

Why in news?

  • The Haryana government had recently banned the use of liquid nitrogen, after a man had ended up with a hole in his stomach after consuming a drink.
  • The Haryana food and drugs administration department issued an order under section 34 of Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (Central Act 34 of 2006).

What is Liquid Nitrogen?

  • It is scientifically known as LN2 and is a coloured, odourless, non-inflammable gas.
  • It is a cryogen, which means it is used to create extremely low temperatures. It has a low boiling point of -196 degree Celsius.
  • The gas is so cold that it is capable of rapid freezing any living tissue coming in contact with it.

How and Why Liquid Nitrogen Used in Food?

  • Since past few years, liquid nitrogen is being extensively used by restaurants and food industries to prepare frozen desserts like ice creams, which can be created a moment before serving on the table. It cools any substance immediately.
  • The rapidity of cooling is also responsible for smaller ice crystals which gives a smooth texture to the ice cream.
  • Recently, it is also being popular in preparing cocktails, as it can immediately chills glasses of ingredients. It also adds a smoking effect to the drink.

Is It Safe?

  • The liquid nitrogen is extremely low in temperature and hence requires careful handling. Special gloves are used while handling the gas. A small splash is not lethal, but at large quantities it can cause severe burns.
  • Liquid nitrogen, which has a boiling point of -195.8 degree Celsius, is used by molecular gastronomy chefs to instantly freeze food and drinks. As it evaporates, liquid nitrogen freezes everything around it, including tissues that come in contact with it.
  • According to experts, food and drinks that are prepared with liquid nitrogen should be consumed only after all the gas has bubbled off.
  • Liquid nitrogen also has an expansion ratio of 1:694 at 20 degree Celsius, meaning one litre of liquid nitrogen at 20 degree Celsius can expand to 694 litres of nitrogen gas.

Regulations:

  • Liquid nitrogen is permitted as an additive in frozen food as per the guidelines of the national regulatory body Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
  • However, when it comes to the use of liquid nitrogen it is a gray area. There is no clear-cut guideline for it and generally it is considered to be a novel technique, which can be used by food business operators.
[Ref: PIB]

 

SC bans use of five heavy metals in firecrackers

The Supreme Court has imposed ban on use of five harmful heavy metals like lithium, antimony, mercury, arsenic and lead in the manufacturing of firecrackers as they cause air pollution.

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  • The banned chemicals include antimony, lithium, mercury, arsenic and lead in any form whatsoever.

Heavy metals in firecrackers:

  • Lithium is a metal used to impart red colour to fireworks.
  • Antimony is used to create glitter effects.
  • Lead oxide provides a special crackling effect which, if inhaled, in high concentration can cause damage to the nervous system.

Background:

  • The order came after the court heard the submissions from officials of the CPCB and Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation’s (PESO) Firework Research and Development Centre at Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu.
  • The responsibility to ensure compliance particularly in Sivakasi is given to the Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation (PESO).

About Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO):

  • PESO was formed to control and administer the usage of explosives, petrol stations in India.
  • The Department is headed by Chief Controller of Explosives and is headquartered at Nagpur, Maharashtra.
  • It functions under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • The agency issues licenses for Operation of Petrol Stations, Licenses to operate Petroleum Product Transportation vehicles, Licenses for Refineries, Petrochemical Complexes, etc.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Economy

Over 5 lakh businesses opt for GST Composition Scheme

Over five lakh businesses have opted for the GST composition scheme, which allows them to pay taxes at a concessional rate and makes compliance easy.

ias-toppers-Composition-scheme

About the Composition scheme:

The composition scheme is an alternative method of levy of tax designed for small taxpayers whose turnover is up to Rs 75 lakh — Rs 50 lakh in the case of eight north-eastern states and the hilly state of Himachal Pradesh.

  • The objective behind it is to bring simplicity and reduce the compliance cost for small taxpayers.
  • The scheme is optional under which manufacturers other than those of ice cream, pan masala and tobacco products have to pay a 2% tax on their annual turnover. The tax rate is 5% for restaurant services and 1% for traders.
  • As per the Central GST Act, businesses are eligible to opt for the composition scheme if a person is not engaged in any inter-state outward supplies of goods and not into making any supply of goods through an electronic commerce operator who is required to collect tax at source.
  • While a regular taxpayer has to pay taxes on a monthly basis, a composition supplier is required to file only one return and pay taxes on a quarterly basis. Also, a composition taxpayer is not required to keep detailed records that a normal taxpayer is supposed to maintain.
[Ref: ET]

 

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Methanol a clean, cheaper fuel

The government has asked the think-tank NITI Aayog to study the automobile standards developed in China to use methanol as an alternative fuel.

ias toppers Methanol

  • Experts believe that Methanol economy will help India use its vast reserves of coal while driving import substitution.

About Methanol:

  • Methanol is a clean-burning fuel that produces fewer smog-causing emissions — such as sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter — and can improve air quality and related human health issues.
  • Methanol is most commonly produced on a commercial scale from natural gas. It can also be produced from renewable sources such as biomass and recycled carbon dioxide.
  • As a high-octane vehicle fuel, methanol offers excellent acceleration and power. It also improves vehicle efficiency.

Methanol as an alternative fuel:

  • Methanol is a promising fuel for waterways as it is clean, cheaper than fossil fuels and a good substitute for heavy fuels.
  • Methanol can be blended with gasoline in low-quantities and used in existing road vehicles, or it can be used in high-proportion blends such as M85-M100 in flex-fuel or dedicated methanol-fueled vehicles. Technology is also being commercialized to use methanol as a diesel substitute.
  • India imports methanol from Saudi Arabia and Iran at present. Across the world, methanol is emerging as a clean, sustainable transportation fuel of the future.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Projects worth Rs 425 crore approved by NMCG

The Executive Committee of National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) in its 4th meeting has approved seven projects in the sector of sewage infrastructure, ghat development and research.

iastoppers-National-Mission-for-Clean-Ganga

  • Central Government will provide operation and maintenance cost for 15 years to all these six projects along with 100% central assistance.
  • Three projects each were approved in sewage sector in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

About National Mission for Clean Ganga:

National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) was registered as a society on 12th August 2011 under the Societies Registration Act 1860.

  • It acted as implementation arm of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) which was constituted under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA), 1986. NGRBA has since been dissolved with effect from the 7th October 2016, consequent to constitution of National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga (referred as National Ganga Council).
  • It now works under the control of Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
  • Its aim is to clean Ganga and its tributaries in a comprehensive manner.
  • NMCG has a two tier management structure and comprises of Governing Council and Executive Committee. Both of them are headed by Director General, NMCG. Executive Committee has been authorized to accord approval for all projects up to Rs.1000 crore.
  • Similar to structure at national level, State Programme Management Groups (SPMGs) acts as implementing arm of State Ganga Committees.
  • The Director General (DG) of NMCG is a Additional Secretary in Government of India.
  • For effective implementation of the projects under the overall supervision of NMCG, the State Level Program Management Groups (SPMGs) are, also headed by senior officers of the concerned States.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Bilateral & International Relations

Pakistan yet to transition fully to MFN status for India

Pakistan is yet to award the most favoured nation (MFN) status to India and it maintains a negative list of 1,209 items which are not permitted to be imported from India.

ias toppers Pakistan MFN Status

  • The neighbouring country allows only 137 products to be exported from India through Wagah/Attari border land route.

What is MFN principle?

  • According to the WTO, though the term ‘MFN’ “suggests special treatment, it actually means non-discrimination.”
  • According to the MFN principle of the WTO’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) — to which India is a signatory/contracting party — each of the WTO member countries should “treat all the other members equally as ‘most-favoured’ trading partners.”
  • The importance of MFN is shown in the fact that it is the first clause in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Under WTO rules, a member country cannot discriminate between its trade partners. If a special status is granted to a trade partner, it must be extended to all members of the WTO.
  • MFN essentially guarantees the most favourable trade conditions between two countries. These terms include the lowest possible trade tariffs, the least possible trade barriers and very crucial to trade relations– highest import quotas. The disclaimer only requires equal treatment to all Most Favoured Nations.

India has already granted MFN status to all WTO members including Pakistan.

Exceptions for MFN:

  • One such exemption is the right to engage in Free Trade Agreements. This means members can participate in regional trade agreements or free trade agreements where there is discrimination between member countries and non member countries.
  • Another exemption is that members can give developing countries special and differential treatment like greater market access. These special concessions are in different forms like reduced tariff rates from developing country imports, concessions that allows developing countries to give subsidies to their production sectors etc.
  • All these exceptions are subjected to strict conditions.

ias-toppers-mfn-status-and-trade-between-pakistan-and-india-15-638

Does MFN mean preferential treatment?

  • In literal explanation, MFN doesn’t mean preferential treatment. Instead it means non-discriminatory trade that ensures that the country receiving MFN status will not be in a disadvantageous situation compared to the granter’s other trade partners. When a country receives MFN status, it is expected to raise trade barriers and decrease tariffs. It is also expected to open up the market to trade in more commodities and free flow of goods.
  • MFN essentially guarantees the most favourable trade conditions between two countries. These terms include the lowest possible trade tariffs, the least possible trade barriers and very crucial to trade relations– highest import quotas. The disclaimer only requires equal treatment to all Most Favoured Nations.
  • The WTO rules allow discrimination in certain cases like in cases when a country signs free trade agreements in a region. In that situation, a country may grant special favours and trade concessions to a country as compared to non-member countries of that group.

What are the pros of MFN?

  • MFN status is extremely gainful to developing countries. The clear upsides are access to a wider market for trade goods, reduced cost of export items owing to highly reduced tariffs and trade barriers. These essentially lead to more competitive trade.
  • MFN also cuts down bureaucratic hurdles and various kinds of tariffs are set at par for all imports. It then increases demands for the goods and giving a boost to the economy and export sector.
  • It also heals the negative impact caused to the economy due to trade protectionism. This irks the domestic industry. However, in the long run, it makes them more competitive and robust.

What are the disadvantages of MFN?

  • The main disadvantage is that the country has to give the same treatment to all other trade partners who are members of the WTO. This translates into a price war and vulnerability of the domestic industry as a result.
  • The country is not able to protect domestic industry from the cheaper imports and in this price war, some domestic players have to face heavy losses or growth restrictions.
[Ref: Indian Express, Economic Times]

 

Science & Technology

Chemical from turmeric helps treat cancer in children

Scientists from United States have found that curcumin, the bioactive component of turmeric that is widely used in Indian cuisine can treat cancer in children.

ias-toppers-Chemical-from-turmeric

  • They have found that nanoparticles loaded with curcumin can target and destroy neuroblastoma tumour cells, which commonly affects children aged five or less.

Key Facts:

  • In their study, scientist had attached curcumin to cerium oxide nanoparticles and tested the formulation in cell lines of a high-risk form of neuroblastoma.
  • It was found that curcumin-cerium formulation induced substantial cell death in neuroblastoma cells while producing no or only minor toxicity in healthy cells.

Significance:

  • The study demonstrates cancer treatment method without the toxicity of agressive therapy.
  • It also shows that nanoparticles can be an effective delivery vehicle for cancer drugs.
  • The use of cerium oxide nanoparticles also help to remove curcumin’s low solubility and poor stability which had earlier restricted its use in therapeutic applications

What is Neuroblastoma?

ias-toppers-infographic_neuroblastomasml

  • Neuroblastoma is a type of cancer that forms in certain types of nerve tissue.
  • It most frequently starts from one of the adrenal glands normally near the kidneys.
  • But it can also develop in the neck, abdomen, chest or spine. Its symptoms may include bone pain, lump in the abdomen, neck or chest, or painless bluish lump under the skin.
  • It is mostly resistant to anti-cancer drugs, and is known to cause health problems, such as hearing loss and disabilities, even after successful treatment.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

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