Polity & Governance
- FSSAI performance comes under CAG scanner
- Lok Sabha passes 4 GST Bills
Issues related to Health & Education
- IMD trains states to deal with heatwaves as temperatures rise
- New accident recording format
Environment & Ecology
- Kanha tiger reserve becomes first in India get official mascot
Bilateral & International Relations
- India becomes associate member of IEA
- U.N. picks former U.S. state governor to run World Food Programme
Key Facts for Prelims
- ISRO develops four Lithium Battery Techniques
- SAW (single actuator wave-like robot)
- ISKCON’S Govardhan Eco Village wins Water Award
Polity & Governance
FSSAI performance comes under CAG scanner
In a first, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) is doing a comprehensive performance audit of the country’s food regulator, FSSAI.
- CAG’s audit is looking at issues such as how FSSAI fixes standards, finalizes regulations, approves products, ensures compliance and conducts surveillance.
- This is a fairly comprehensive audit and is being done for the first time since the regulator came into existence.
What was the issue?
- The audit of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) comes against the backdrop of the food regulator’s controversial decision to ban manufacturing and sales of Maggi noodles—a popular snack sold by Swiss company Nestle in India—in 2015.
- After the crackdown on Maggi, questions were raised on FSSAI’s capabilities and operations including things like product approval process, one of the primary things the regulator used to do.
- The Bombay high court in July 2015 asked FSSAI to justify its actions against the noodle brand.
- On 13 August 2015, the Bombay high court set aside the ban imposed by FSSAI on Maggi noodles and asked Nestlé to retest samples at three laboratories certified by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL).
- On 5 November, Nestlé India said its Maggi noodles received clearance from three laboratories certified by NABL and relaunched the popular snack on 9 November 2015.
Significance of this move:
- An audit like this will eventually help the organization enhance its performance.
- It would find out the loopholes, highlight what the regulator should do to cover up those.
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.
Lok Sabha passes 4 GST Bills
Lok Sabha has passed four Bills relating to the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
The four bills passed were:
- Central GST Bill,
- Integrated GST Bill,
- GST Compensation Bill, and
- The Union Territory GST Bill, 2017.
- The passing of the bills paves way for implementing a new, consolidated indirect tax regime from the proposed date of July 1, 2017.
- These Bills were passed as Money Bills, thus eliminates the role of Rajya Sabha.
- The fifth GST legislation, the State GST Bill, needs to be separately passed by the respective legislative assemblies of each of the States and Union Territories with legislature.
Few Key facts about GST:
- The GST laws passed by Parliament will not apply to Jammu and Kashmir, as it will have to legislate its own law and integrate with the GST regime.
- The tax rates under GST regime will be based on the recommendation GST Council. Council has two-thirds voting by States and one-third by Centre.
- There will be no single rate under GST as it will be not possible and it will be highly regressive. So The GST Council has recommended a four-tier tax structure 5, 12, 18 and 28%.
- On top of the highest slab (28%), a cess will be imposed on luxury and demerit goods to compensate the states for revenue loss for five years.
- Essential food articles will not be taxed and those will continue to be zero rated under the GST. All other commodities will be fitted into the nearest tax bracket.
Issues related to Health & Education
IMD trains states to deal with heatwaves as temperatures rise
Anticipating a structural shift in the country’s weather, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) is training state governments to improve their mitigation preparedness to cope with the persistent heatwaves.
- IMD has tied up with state disaster management commissioners and health secretaries to formulate plans in the face of large casualties from heatwave conditions.
- The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), on its part, has prepared a standard operating procedure template and a sequence of actions to be triggered during a severe heatwave.
What necessitates this move?
- Temperatures across India have been rising on an average of 0.7 degrees every decade, according to IMD, with 2016 the hottest so far.
- Heatwave guidelines will facilitate the stakeholders in preparing a heatwave management and action plan by providing insight into the heat-related illnesses and the necessary mitigative and response actions to be taken.
- It will help in mobilizing and coordinating various departments, individuals and communities to protect themselves against avoidable health problems during spells of very hot weather.
IMD’s definition of heatwaves:
The Indian Meteorology Department (IMD) defines a heatwave as an excess of five to six degrees C over the maximum daily temperature (over a 30-year period) of less than 40 degree C or an excess of four to five degree C over a normal historical maximum temperature of over 40 degree C.
The IMD declares a heat wave when the actual maximum temperature is above 45 degree C.
Health impacts of heatwaves:
The health impacts of Heat Waves typically involve dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke.
- Heat Cramps: Ederna (swelling) and Syncope (Fainting) generally accompanied by fever below 39 degree C i.e. 102 degree F.
- Heat Exhaustion: Fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps and sweating.
- Heat Stoke: Body temperatures of 40 degree C i.e. 104 degree F or more along with delirium, seizures or coma. This is a potential fatal condition.
Who will be affected?
- The people most affected by heatwaves are the homeless, farmers, policemen, construction workers, postmen and vegetable vendors—i.e. those who live or work outdoors.
- Severe heatwave conditions in the past have resulted in school and college vacations being extended.
New accident recording format
With a view to moving closer towards an accurate, consistent, and objective road accident database, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has rolled out a new Road Accident Data Recording and Reporting Format.
About the new format:
- The comprehensive recording and reporting format, to be executed by all States and Union Territories, is aimed at bringing out the underlying real cause of the road accident so that stakeholders can take corrective and preventive steps.
- The recording format, to be filled in by the police at the site of the accident, has five sections specifically to record primary data on road accidents (and not to replace the FIR), capturing the actual circumstances of the accident.
- The five sections are: accident identification details, road-related details, vehicles involved in accident, driver’s details, and persons other than drivers involved in accident.
- As many as 55 indices, including weather condition, GPS location, surface condition of road, road type, speed limit, visibility at the time of accident, physical divider, ongoing road works, and use of safety device, have been incorporated in the new recording form.
- The new format will help in finding out real cause, help thorough investigation and implement road safety measures in accident sites.
- Chief secretaries and State Police Chiefs have been asked to take steps to furnish the road accident details in the new format from this calendar year.
Environment & Ecology
Kanha tiger reserve becomes first in India get official mascot
Kanha in Madhya Pradesh became first tiger reserve in India to officially introduce a mascot named Bhoorsingh the Barasingha, to create a better connect with its visitors, especially the younger generation.
- The mascot Bhoorsingh will soon feature in more artwork, posters and merchandise for the park management at Kanha.
Significance of the mascot:
- The mascot aims to present the hard ground swamp deer (Barasingha) as the spirit of the reserve and spread awareness to save it from possible extinction.
- It will also create a unique identity for Kanha, and also spread awareness and allow the younger generation to connect with all wildlife.
- Barasingha, or swamp deer is a deer species distributed in the Indian subcontinent. It is the state animal of Madhya Pradesh.
- The Kanha tiger reserve is the only place in the world where the Barasingha species exists.
- Barasingha differs from all the Indian deer species such that its antlers carry more than three tines. Because of this distinctive character it is designated barasingha, meaning “twelve-tined.
- It has been listed vulnerable in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species.
About Kanha Tiger Reserve:
- It is one of the tiger reserves of India and the largest national park of Madhya Pradesh. Its present-day Kanha area was divided into two sanctuaries, Hallon and Banjar.
- Kanha National Park was created in June 1955 and was made the Kanha Tiger Reserve in 1973. Today it stretches over an area of 940 square km in the two districts Mandla and Balaghat.
- The park has a significant population of Bengal tiger, Indian leopards, sloth bear, barasingha and Indian wild dog.
- It the largest National Park in Central India and was ranked in the top 10 Famous Places for Tourists.
- The park had inspired Rudyard Kipling for his famous novel Jungle Book.
Bilateral & International Relations
India becomes associate member of IEA
India, world’s 3rd largest energy consumer has joined International Energy Association (IAE) as associate member.
- India will also now have a greater say in global energy issues.
- With India as an associate member, IEA now formally covers 70% of the world’s energy consumption, thus increasing its relevance.
How will this membership benefit India?
- India’s participation will enrich the energy efficiency and renewable sectors of IEA members and other countries.
- India will gain from IEA’s data gathering processes, survey methodologies and range of energy data, which will enable India in the near future to set up its own robust integrated database agency.
- It also gives an opportunity to India to be the voice of the developing world and represent the interests of the emerging markets.
- It will enable India to be involved in the key committees and dialogues of the IEA.
About International Energy Association (IEA):
IEA is an inter-governmental organization established in 1974 as per framework of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
- It was established in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis after the OPEC cartel had shocked the world with a steep increase in oil prices.
- Presently it has 29 member countries. India is lone associate member of IAE.
- Its headquarters is at Paris, France.
- Its prime focus is on the “3Es” of effectual energy policy: energy security, economic development and environmental protection.
- It also seeks to promote alternate energy sources (including renewable energy), rational energy policies and multinational energy technology co-operation.
- It acts as energy policy advisor to 29 member countries and also non-member countries like China, India and Russia.
- It publishes World Energy Outlook report.
- Today, IEA is an important part of global dialogue on energy, providing research, statistics/data, analysis and recommendations on the global energy sector.
- Over 70% of world’s energy consumption is now under the IEA umbrella which increases its relevance in global energy governance manifold.
U.N. picks former U.S. state governor to run World Food Programme
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has appointed former South Carolina Governor David Beasley to run the Rome-based World Food Programme (WFP).
- He will replace Etharin Cousin.
About World Food Programme:
The World Food Programme (WFP) is the food assistance branch of the United Nations and the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security.
- The WFP strives to eradicate hunger and malnutrition, with the ultimate goal in mind of eliminating the need for food aid itself.
- It is a member of the United Nations Development Group and part of its Executive Committee.
- Born in 1961, WFP pursues a vision of the world in which every man, woman and child has access at all times to the food needed for an active and healthy life.
- The WFP is governed by an Executive Board which consists of representatives from member states.
- The WFP operations are funded by voluntary donations from world governments, corporations and private donors.
- WFP food aid is also directed to fight micronutrient deficiencies, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, and combat disease, including HIV and AIDS.
Key Facts for Prelims
ISRO develops four Lithium Battery Techniques
- The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has developed four types of lithium ion batteries for satellite and launch vehicle applications.
- These four types of batteries are 1.5Ah, 5Ah, 50Ah and 100Ah.
- Out of these, 1.5Ah & 50Ah have been used for space applications and 5Ah & 100Ah batteries have qualified and are ready for induction in space applications.
- ISRO has supplied 50 Ah lithium-ion cells to Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI).
SAW (single actuator wave-like robot)
- It is a tiny, ingestible 3D-printed snake-like robot that can navigate through the small intestines.
- The robot moves in a wave-like motion and can travel through the extremely squishy environment of the small intestine.
- The external shape of the robot is a 2D projection of a rotating helix. The result is a continuously moving wave.
- The direction of the robot can be reversed by reversing the direction of rotation of the motor.
- It can be used to visualise the digestive system in real time, especially for colonoscopies.
ISKCON’S Govardhan Eco Village wins Water Award
- The Govardhan Eco Village of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) at Wada taluka in Maharashtra has received an award in the “Best Water NGO-Water Education” category instituted by Water Digest.
- The village is a farm community and retreat centre spread over a scenic landscape of 100 acres.
- Since its inception in 2003, it has made steady progress in Organic farming, Cow protection, Rural Education, Rural development, Alternative energy, Eco friendly constructions and Sustainable living etc.
- Started in 2006 in association with UNESCO, the Water Digest Water Awards (WDWA) are given annually to organisations, industry members and NGOs to honour and appreciate their outstanding and exceptional environmental initiatives and achievements.