Insights Daily Current Affairs, 04 November 2016
Paper 2 Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.
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, 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.
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.
Paper 3 Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
Bidding Guidelines for setting up 1000 MW Wind Power Projects
Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has 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).
- 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.
- Provision relating to pass through of GST impact, part commissioning, efficiency in generation, performance monitoring have also been stipulated in the guidelines.
MNRE sanctioned a Scheme for setting up of 1000 MW ISTS connected Wind Power Project in 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.
Paper 3 Topic: Disaster and disaster management.
Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction
The three-day Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction was recently inaugurated by PM Modi.
- The conference will adopt the New Delhi Declaration on the closing day which will be a political commitment by 61 participating governments towards preventing and reducing disaster risk reduction.
- This is the first AMCDRR after the advent of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRRR), adopted at the third UN World Conference in Sendai, Japan in March, 2015. It will set the direction of Sendai Framework implementation in the region.
- AMCDRR 2016 will focus on collaboration, consultation and partnership with governments and stakeholders to mainstream DRR in the region’s development narrative.
- The Conference will adopt the ‘Asian Regional Plan for Implementation of the Sendai Framework’ endorsed by the Asian countries.
- It will also consolidate the political commitment of governments towards preventing and reducing risk as well as strengthening resilience in the form of a political declaration.
- Voluntary statements of action of stakeholder groups towards a ‘shared responsibility’ approach in implementation of the SFDRR would also be adopted.
- 61 countries from Asia and Pacific region with nearly 4,000 delegates, including 1,100 foreign representatives, are participating in the conference.
Established in 2005, AMCDRR is a biennial conference jointly organized by different Asian countries and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). So far, six AMCDRR conferences have been organised. India had also hosted the second AMCDRR in New Delhi in 2007.
About Sendai Framework:
- It is the first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda, with seven targets and four priorities for action.
- It was endorsed by the UN General Assembly following the 2015 Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR).
- The Framework is for 15-year. It is a voluntary and non-binding agreement which recognizes that the State has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders.
- The new Framework is the successor instrument to the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters.
- The implementation of the Sendai Framework involves adopting integrated and inclusive institutional measures so as to work towards preventing vulnerability to disaster, increase preparedness for response and recovery and strengthen resilience.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Council fixes 4-level GST rate structure
In a step towards realising the Goods and Services Tax, the GST council has finalised a 4-tier tax structure of 5, 12, 18 and 28%, with lower rates for essential items and the highest for luxury and de-merits goods.
- The multiple rates have been fixed on lines of some European countries. The IMF has lauded India for adopting GST saying it would boost economic growth.
- Apart from the four fixed GST rates, a cess between 40% and 65% will be imposed on goods like high-end cars, pan masala, aerated drinks and tobacco products.
- The cess on demerit and sin goods ranging between 40 to 65% will create a revenue pool of Rs 5,000 crore to compensate the states for their revenue loss for the first five years of implementation of the GST.
- The cess will be lapsable after the first five years.
- Food grains will have a zero rate to protect people from pressure of inflation.
- 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%.
- Heavy consumer durables like washing machines and refrigerators will be taxed at 28% with riders. These riders have been set because these goods are purchased by lower middle class too. The new tax would also include a separate central “cess” that will be levied on tobacco products, luxury cars and aerated drinks, charged on top of the 28% tax bracket.
- There has been no decision on a tax rate for gold.
- The standard rate of GST has been fixed at 18%.
Industry bodies and business leaders have expressed their concerns about the complexity of the final rate structure of the Goods and Services Tax.
- The main issues of concern seem to be the complexity brought on by the multiple rates and the uncertainty about the additional cess that will be levied on luxury goods and tobacco products.
- Another area of concern is the requirement for multiple registrations in each state for the supply of goods and services.
Next, the Parliament has to pass the tax rates agreed upon by the council.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims
- It is a 14-day joint military exercise by Bangladesh and India.
- It is to practise counter-terrorism and disaster-management operations.
- The exercise 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.
James webb space telescope:
- The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the largest space telescope ever built.
- It is an international collaboration between of about 17 countries including NASA, European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
- When it is launched into space it will be able to peer back in time 3.5 billion years, teaching us more than ever before about the start of the universe.
- The telescope is 100 times more potent than its predecessor, Hubble, and three times larger.
- The telescope is set to go through a series of tests to make sure it can stand up to the conditions during lift off and the frigid conditions of space, ahead of its launch in 2018.
- The main component of the telescope is the primary mirror, which consists of 18 hexagonal mirrors and looks like a giant puzzle piece.
- The telescope will be used to look back to the first galaxies born in the early universe more than 13.5 billion years ago, and observe the sources of stars, exoplanets, and even the moons and planets of our solar system.