Polity & Governance
- Parliamentary panel reaches consensus on NCBC bill
- CVC can now probe corruption cases in private sector banks
Issues related to Health & Education
- FSSAI issues draft regulations for organic food products
- K Kasturirangan, to head drafting committee of National Education Policy
Science & Technology
- Scorpenes to gain in endurance
- ISRO-made system to alert users at unmanned level crossings
For IASToppers’ Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here
Polity & Governance
Parliamentary panel reaches consensus on NCBC bill
A parliamentary panel examining a bill, which seeks to accord constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes, has reached a consensus.
- The consensus has paved the way for its likely passage in Rajya Sabha in the monsoon session.
- With the passage of the bill, the NCBC, a statutory body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, will get a constitutional status.
- Set up in 1993, the NCBC was entrusted with examining requests for inclusion of any class of citizens as a backward class in the lists and hear complaints of over-inclusion or under-inclusion of any backward class in such lists and advice central government on the matter.
- The bill was referred to the Rajya Sabha’s select committee after the opposition prevailed on the government to do so. It was passed by the Lok Sabha in April this year, but the opposition blocked its consideration in the upper house.
- There have been demands in the Parliament and by the general public for grant of constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes to enable it to hear the grievances of OBCs in the same manner that a National Commission for Scheduled Castes (constituted under Article 338) and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (constituted under Article 338A) hear the grievances of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
CVC can now probe corruption cases in private sector banks
The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) can now probe allegations of corruption in private sector banks and against their employees.
- In this regard, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has given the necessary approval to the CVC.
What’s the issue?
- The move comes after the Supreme Court last year ruled that the chairman, managing directors and other officers of a private bank could be seen as public servants when it came to the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act, 1988.
- The apex court had said all officials working in banks operating under an RBI licence would be defined as public servants under the PC Act. It had said bank employees, private or public, were on public duty and therefore came under the law.
- The Supreme Court had also referred to Section 46A of the Banking Regulation Act and said that such bank officials were considered public officials.
Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is an apex Indian governmental body created in 1964 to address governmental corruption.
- It has the status of an autonomous body, free of control from any executive authority.
- It is charged with monitoring all vigilance activity under the Central Government of India, advising various authorities in central Government organizations in planning, executing, reviewing and reforming their vigilance work.
- It was set up by the Government in February,1964 on the recommendations of the Committee on Prevention of Corruption, headed by Shri K. Santhanam, to advise and guide Central Government agencies in the field of vigilance.
- It submits its report to the President of India.
- CVC is advisory body.
- The Commission shall consist of:
- A Central Vigilance Commissioner – Chairperson;
- Not more than two Vigilance Commissioners – Members;
- The Central Vigilance Commissioner and the Vigilance Commissioners shall be appointed by the President on recommendation of a Committee consisting of the Prime Minister (Chairperson), the Minister of Home Affairs (Member) and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of the People (Member).
- Their term is 4 years or 65 years, whichever is earlier.
- The Central Vigilance Commissioner or any Vigilance Commissioner can be removed from his office only by order of the President on the ground of proved misbehavior or incapacity after the Supreme Court, on a reference made to it by the President, has, on inquiry, reported that the Central Vigilance Commissioner or any Vigilance Commissioner, as the case may be, ought to be removed.
Issues related to Health & Education
FSSAI issues draft regulations for organic food products
Food regulator FSSAI has come out with a draft regulation for organic food products, seeking to ensure that these food items are actually organic.
- FSSAI’s guidelines have been prepared in view of rising demand for organic food products.
Objective behind this the draft regulation:
- Currently, a number of food products are being marketed as organic. However, consumers do not have any way to check the authenticity of organic food products due to lack of a regulatory framework. The draft regulation on organic food is aimed at overcoming this problem and ensuring that what is sold as organic food is really organic.
Key facts of the draft regulations:
- Organic foods will have to comply with the provisions under the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) administered by the government or the Participatory Guarantee System for India (PGS-India) run by the Agriculture Ministry or any other standards notified by the food authority.
- The draft regulation mandates that labelling of organic foods should convey full and accurate information on the organic status of the product.
- Organic food products should also carry a certification mark or a quality assurance mark given by any of the notified certification bodies.
- The FSSAI’s draft has exempted organic food marketed through direct sale by the original producer or producer organisation to the end consumer from verification compliance. However, this exemption does not apply to processed organic products.
Various definitions under the draft regulations:
- The FSSAI has defined ‘organic agriculture’ as a system of farm design and management to create an eco system of agriculture production without the use of synthetic external inputs such as chemicals, fertilisers, pesticides and synthetic hormones or genetically modified organisms.
Organic food products:
- Organic farm produce means the produce obtained from organic agriculture, while organic food means food products that have been produced in accordance with specified standards for organic production.
- Organic food products are either those grown under a system of agriculture without the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides or made from organically produced raw materials.
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, 2006 which 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.
Functions of FSSAI:
- 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.
- Contribute to the development of international technical standards for food, sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards.
- Promote general awareness about food safety and food standards.
K Kasturirangan, to head drafting committee of National Education Policy
Eminent scientist and Padma Vibhushan awardee K. Kasturirangan has been appointed the Chairman of the committee to prepare the final draft of the National Education Policy.
- The HRD ministry has chosen experts and educationists from wide-ranging backgrounds to be part of the panel that is expected to recast India’s education policy.
- The HRD ministry had a couple of years ago formed a panel under former cabinet secretary T S R Subramanian on the New Education Policy.
- Some of the important commissions on education formed after independence include Radhakrishnan Commission (1948-49) on higher education; Mudaliyar Commission (1952) on secondary education and the Kothari Commission (1964-66).
Science & Technology
Scorpenes to gain in endurance
The Navy is planning to install Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) modules on all six Scorpene submarines to extend their endurance.
- An AIP module is being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
What is Air-independent propulsion (AIP)?
Air-independent propulsion (AIP) is any marine propulsion technology that allows a non-nuclear submarine to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen (by surfacing or using a snorkel).
- AIP can augment or replace the diesel-electric propulsion system of non-nuclear vessels.
- It converts methanol-like substances to produce hydrogen, which is the fuel that runs the cell in producing electricity.
- While diesel engines need oxygen to function, these cells are air independent.
Significance of AIP:
- AIP is a breakthrough technology for conventional submarines, enabling them to remain underwater three or four times a vessel’s standard capacity.
- Notably, a submarine is about stealth. It is a weapons platform not visible to the naked eye. AIP significantly improves stealth because it enables a submarine to generate electricity for services and battery charging and propulsion while completely submerged.
- They enable conventional diesel-electric submarines to remain submerged for two to three weeks at a time.
- They generate electricity, powering a submarine’s to operate and also generate oxygen, lighting and amenities for crew.
- The system also emits less noise, increasing its stealth – the most critical feature of a submarine.
About the Scorpene submarines:
- The Scorpene submarines are designed to operate in all theatres, including the tropics.
- They can undertake various types of missions like anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, mine laying, intelligence gathering and surveillance.
ISRO-made system to alert users at unmanned level crossings
Satellite-based chip systems will now alert road users at unmanned level crossings about approaching trains and also help in tracking train movement on a real-time basis.
- On a pilot basis, the Mumbai and Guwahati Rajdhani trains will be equipped with this system.
- According to the plan, more trains will be equipped with such technology in a phase-wise manner.
How will it work?
- Road users will be warned by hooters once a train approaches an unmanned level crossing as railways are installing ISRO-developed integrated circuit (IC) chips on locomotives of trains.
- There will be hooters at 20 unmanned level crossings on Rajdhani routes for Guwahati and Mumbai.
- About 500 metres before the level crossings, the hooter will be activated through the IC chip, warning road users as well as the train driver near the crossing.
- The hooter will be louder as the level crossing nears, and finally it will be silent after the train passes by.
- Besides alerting road users, the satellite-based system will also be used for tracking trains for disseminating information about their movement on real time basis. This will be of great help to passengers as currently train movements are tracked manually.
- The satellite-based system will also help railways in mapping the area and the technology will come in handy at the time of accidents when it can be used to ascertain the exact location of trains and topography.
Need for the system:
- Safety at unmanned level crossings is a cause of serious concern for railways and the public transporter is exploring various ways to address the issue.
- There are about 10,000 unmanned railway crossings in the country which account for around 40 per cent of accidents involving the railways.
- While the Railways have eliminated 1,148 unmanned crossings in 2014-15 and 1,253 in 2015-16, it has scaled up its target and now plans to eliminate all such crossings in the next 2 to 3 years.