Polity & Governance
- FSSAI Strengthens the Food Testing Infrastructure in the Country
- GST Council fixes 4-rate structure
- MNRE issues bidding Guidelines for setting up 1000 MW Wind Power Projects
Art & Culture
- Xuan Zang stayed in Vijayawada to study Buddhist scriptures
Science & Technology
- James webb space telescope: World’s biggest space telescope is ready to launch
Key Facts for Prelims
- India’s first titanium plant
- Exercise Sampriti-7
- Cyber Police Stations
Polity & Governance
FSSAI Strengthens the Food Testing Infrastructure in the Country
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has rolled out a major scheme for strengthening of Food Testing Infrastructure in the country at an estimated cost of Rs. 482-crore.
- The decision has been taken in the light of the recent observations by Mumbai High Court regarding the urgent need to upgrade Food Testing Laboratories in India.
- In this regard, a meeting was recently held by the Empowered Committee constituted for implementing this scheme.
- Proposals from 7 States/UTs, namely, Goa, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Punjab were considered for strengthening their food Testing infrastructure.
- Two proposals, from Chandigarh (Punjab) and Calicut (Kerala), were approved in principle. The other States were requested to revise and resubmit their proposals according to the scheme guidelines with mentorship support from FSSAI.
- The Committee also approved the proposal for strengthening the Referral Food Laboratory at Central Food Technology Research Institute (CFTRI) through provision of state-of-the-art equipment and facilities.
Key features of the scheme:
- Under this scheme, 45 State/UT Food Testing labs (at least one in each State/UT with a provision of two labs in larger states) and 14 Referral Food Testing labs will be upgraded to enable them to obtain NABL accreditation.
- 62 Mobile Testing labs will also be established across all States/UTs. There are currently 4 Mobile food Testing labs in Punjab, Gujarat, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, which will serve as a model for these Mobile Testing labs.
- Capacity building of the Food Testing labs is also an important component of this scheme. In addition, a School Food and Hygiene Programme has been envisaged under which basic Food Testing labs will be set up in 1500 schools/colleges across the country to promote a culture of safe and wholesome food.
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.
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.
GST Council fixes 4-rate structure
The GST Council has finalised 4 tier Goods and Services Tax (GST) rate structure with a multiple-slab rates, including the cess for the new indirect tax regime.
- Thus, GST will be levied at multiple rates ranging from 0% to 28%.
- Decision in this regard was taken by the GST Council meeting chaired by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in New Delhi.
What will be the rates under GST regime?
- The four bands of tax rates have been fixed at 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%.
- Besides, another category of tax between 40% and 65% will be imposed on luxury goods like pan masala, tobacco products, aerated drinks and high-end cars.
- Nearly half of the consumer inflation basket goods including food grains, will be zero-rated (i.e. 0% GST) to insulate people from inflationary pressures.
- The lowest slab of 5% will be for items of common consumption.
- The bulk of the goods and services including fast-moving consumer goods will be included in two standard rates of 12% and 18%.
- The highest slab of 28% will include white goods and all those items on which current rate of incidence varies from 30-31%. Ultra-luxuries, demerit and sin goods, will attract 28% GST along with a GST cess for a period of 5 years.
Other key decisions taken at the GST council meeting:
- The quantum of cess on each of these will depend on current incidence of tax. The revenue raised from the cess will be used to finance the compensations to States for the losses. This cess will have a sunset clause of five years.
- If the revenue raised from the cess is found to be in excess of the sums, then GST Council will decide where to use the surpluses.
- The GST will subsume the multitude of cesses currently in place, including the Swachh Bharat Cess, Krishi Kalyan Cess and the Education Cess.
- Only the Clean Environment Cess will be retained and revenues from it will also fund the compensations.
[Ref: Economic Times, The Hindu]
MNRE issues bidding Guidelines for setting up 1000 MW Wind Power Projects
Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) issued Guidelines for transparent bidding process for implementation of Scheme for setting up of 1000 MW Wind Power Project connected to inter-state transmission system (ISTS).
Highlights of the guidelines:
- As per Guidelines, the Wind Power Projects will be selected through open and transparent competitive bidding followed by e-reverse auction and the capacity may go higher than 1000 MW, if there is demand from Buying Entities.
- Discoms of non-windy State and UTs and also the bulk consumers of any State/UTs who intend to buy 10 MW or more can buy wind power under the Scheme.
- PTC India Ltd, trading company, will sign Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with wind projects at bidded tariff and back-to-back Power Sale Agreement (PSA) with Buying Entities at a pooled price of the total bids selected. The term of PPA and PSA will be 25 years.
- Bidder can bid for a minimum capacity of 50 MW and maximum up to 250 MW. The selected bidder is required to injected wind power at ISTS interconnection point. Bidder is allowed to install 5% of additional rated capacity that will compensate auxiliary consumption and system losses up to interconnection point.
- Provisions relating to pass through of GST impact, part commissioning, efficiency in generation, performance monitoring have also been stipulated in the guidelines.
- Ministry sanctioned a Scheme for setting up of 1000 MW ISTS connected Wind Power Project on 14 June 2016.
- The objective of the Scheme is to encourage competitiveness through scaling up of project sizes and introduction of efficient and transparent e-bidding and e-auctioning processes.
- It will also facilitate fulfilment of Non-Solar Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) requirement of non-windy states.
- In order to facilitate transmission of wind power from these windy states to non-windy states provisions have been made in the Tariff Policy to waive the inter-state transmission charges and losses for wind power projects and Ministry of Power has already issued order in this regard.
Art & Culture
Xuan Zang stayed in Vijayawada to study Buddhist scriptures
Chinese Buddhist pilgrim and scholar Xuan Zang (also spelled Hsuan Tsang or Hiuen Tsang) stayed a couple of years in Bezawada (the old name of Vijayawada) to copy and study Buddhist scriptures.
- During his stay, he had studied and copied the Abhidhammapitakam, the last of the three pitakas (Pali for baskets) constituting the Pali canon, the scriptures of Theravada Buddhism.
- Xuan Zang travelled to Andhradesa to visit the Viharas at Amaravathi and Nagarjunakonda around 640 C.E. It is popularly believed that he stayed at Amaravathi for a couple of years to study the Abhidhammapitakam.
- Gordon Mackenzie, the British chronicler and the Collector, recorded in his manual written in 1883 that Xuan Zang in his writing “spoke about the kingdom of Anta-lo (Andhra) with its capital Ping-ki-lo (Vengi) and in Dhanakacheka (Dharani Kota?)”.
Significance of his visit to India:
- The writings of Xuan Zang about his travels in India are detailed accounts of the life of the people in the 7th century.
- The Chinese government has used his work to establish that the relationship between India and China is 1,400 years old.
Science & Technology
James webb space telescope: World’s biggest space telescope is ready to launch
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has completed the construction of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) after more than 20 years of work.
- JWST is the largest-ever space telescope is expected to launch in 2018 following the in-depth testing.
- It is bigger and more powerful than NASA’s operational Hubble Space Telescope. It is 100 times more potent than its predecessor, Hubble, and three times larger.
- JWST is a space telescope optimized for observations in the infrared.
- It is a planned to be launched in 2018 on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana.
- It is the formal successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope.
- After its launch, it will be the premier observatory of the next decade.
- It was formerly known as the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST).
- It is an international collaboration between of about 17 countries including NASA, European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
- The main component of the telescope is the primary mirror, which consists of 18 hexagonal mirrors and looks like a giant puzzle piece.
- It will help in broad range of investigations across the fields of astronomy and cosmology.
- It will help to understand the origins of the universe, evolution of our own Solar System, search for signs of life on faraway planets.
- It can also analyze the atmospheres of exoplanets that pass in front of their stars.
Key Facts for Prelims
India’s first titanium plant
- The only one in the country and the first of its kind titanium plant of India has started its test production in the Ganjam district of Odisha.
- The project has been established by Saraf Group.
- The raw material of the plant ilmenite would be procured from Odisha Sands Complex (OSCOM), a unit of Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL) in Ganjam district of Odisha as well as a private company which has its unit in Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh.
- Earlier in August 2015, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had fully commissioned and started commercial production at the first indigenous Titanium Sponge Plant at Chavara in Kerala. This plant had commercially started producing Titanium Sponge exclusively for the space programme and strategic areas especially in aerospace and defence areas. With this commissioning India became the seventh country in the world producing Titanium sponge commercially.
- Bangladesh and India will hold a 14-day joint military exercise, code-named “Sampriti-7” to practise counter-terrorism and disaster-management operations.
- The exercise hosted alternately by both countries, is into its seventh edition.
- It will be held at Shaheed Salauddin Cantonment in Bangladesh’s Ghatail, Tangail.
- The joint exercise will simulate a scenario where both nations are working together in a counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism environment under the U.N. Charter.
- With this exercise, personnel from both countries would be “familiarised” with each other’s organisational structure and tactical drills.
- The first exercise in this series was held at Jorhat in Assam in 2010.
Cyber Police Stations
- Maharashtra has become the first state in the country to have a cyber-police station in each district to take on cyber criminals.
- In this regard, state government is converting 42 state-of-the-art cybercrime labs into cyber police stations simultaneously.
- Any offence related to cybercrime will be registered in these police stations at district level.