02, March 2018

1.First Mega Food Park

Source: PIB

This is the 12th Mega Food Park operationalized in the country so far and the 10th operationalized during the tenure of present government.

Key facts:

  • Ministry of Food Processing Industries is focusing on boosting the food processing industry so that agriculture sector grows exponentially and becomes a major contributor to doubling the farmer’s income and ‘Make in India’ initiative of the government.
  • To give a major fillip to the food processing sector by adding value and reducing food wastage at each stage of the supply chain with particular focus on perishables, Ministry of Food Processing Industries is implementing Mega Food Park Scheme in the country.
  • Mega Food Parks create modern infrastructure facilities for food processing along the value chain from farm to market with strong forward and backward linkages through a cluster based approach.
  • Common facilities and enabling infrastructure is created at Central Processing Centre and facilities for primary processing and storage is created near the farm in the form of Primary Processing Centers (PPCs) and Collection Centers (CCs).
  • Under the Scheme, Government of India provides financial assistance up to Rs. 50.00 Crore per Mega Food Park project.

Significance:

  • Food processing sector will contribute immensely towards ‘Doubling Farmers income’ in the coming years and the Ministry is working tirelessly to achieving this goal through implementation of projects under the flagship scheme of ‘Pradhan Mantri Kisan SAMPADA Yojana.

Pradhan Mantri Kisan SAMPADA Yojana

  • Government of India (GOI) has approved a new Central Sector Scheme – Pradhan Mantri Kisan SAMPADA Yojana (Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters) with an allocation of Rs. 6,000 crore for the period 2016-20 coterminous with the 14th Finance Commission cycle.
  • The scheme will be implemented by Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI). Pradhan Mantri Kisan SAMPADA Yojana
  • PM Kisan SAMPADA Yojana is a comprehensive package which will result in creation of modern infrastructure with efficient supply chain management from farm gate to retail outlet.
  • It will not only provide a big boost to the growth of food processing sector in the country but also help in providing better returns to farmers and is a big step towards doubling of farmers income, creating huge employment opportunities especially in the rural areas, reducing wastage of agricultural produce, increasing the processing level and enhancing the export of the processed foods.

The following schemes will be implemented under PM Kisan SAMPADA Yojana :

  • Mega Food Parks
  • Integrated Cold Chain and Value Addition Infrastructure
  • Creation / Expansion of Food Processing & Preservation Capacities
  • Infrastructure for Agro-processing Clusters
  • Creation of Backward and Forward Linkages
  • Food Safety and Quality Assurance Infrastructure
  • Human Resources and Institutions

Objective:

The objective of PMKSY is to supplement agriculture, modernize processing and decrease Agri-Waste.

Measures to give a boost to Food Processing Sector:

  • Food Processing Sector has emerged as an important segment of the Indian economy in terms of its contribution to GDP, employment and investment. During 2015-16, the sector constituted as much as 9.1 and 8.6 per cent of GVA in Manufacturing and Agriculture sector respectively.

Government has taken various other measures to boost food processing sector as follows:

  • To provide impetus to investment in food processing and retail sector, govt. has allowed 100% FDI in trading including through e-commerce, in respect of food products manufactured and / or produced in India. This will benefit farmers immensely and will create back – end infrastructure and significant employment opportunities.
  • The govt. has also set up a Special Fund of Rs. 2000 crore in NABARD to make available affordable credit at concessional rate of interest to designated food parks and agro processing units in the designated food parks.
  • Food and agro-based processing units and cold chain infrastructure have been brought under the ambit of Priority Sector Lending (PSL) to provide additional credit for food processing activities and infrastructure thereby, boosting food processing, reducing wastage, create employment and increasing farmers’ income.

2.Cabinet approves Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018

Source: PIB

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved the proposal of the Ministry of Finance to introduce the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018 in Parliament. 

  • The Bill would help in laying down measures to deter economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts.
  • The cases where the total value involved in such offences is Rs.100 crore or more, will come under the purview of this Bill.

Impact:     

  • The Bill is expected to re-establish the rule of law with respect to the fugitive economic offenders as they would be forced to return to India to face trial for scheduled offences. This would also help the banks and other financial institutions to achieve higher recovery from financial defaults committed by such fugitive economic offenders, improving the financial health of such institutions.
  • It is expected that the special forum to be created for expeditious confiscation of the proceeds of crime, in India or abroad, would coerce the fugitive to return to India to submit to the jurisdiction of Courts in India to face the law in respect of scheduled offences.

Salient features of the Bill:

  • Application before the Special Court for a declaration that an individual is a fugitive economic offender;
  • Attachment of the property of a fugitive economic offender;
  • Issue of a notice by the Special Court to the individual alleged to be a fugitive economic offender;
  • Confiscation of the property of an individual declared as a fugitive economic offender resulting from the proceeds of crime;
  • Confiscation of other property belonging to such offender in India and abroad, including benami property;
  • Disentitlement of the fugitive economic offender from defending any civil claim; and
  • An Administrator will be appointed to manage and dispose of the confiscated property under the Act.

Implementation strategy and targets:

  • In order to address the lacunae in the present laws and lay down measures to deter economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts, the Bill is being proposed.
  • The Bill makes provisions for a Court (‘Special Court’ under the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002) to declare a person as a Fugitive Economic Offender. A Fugitive Economic Offender is a person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued in respect of a scheduled offence and who has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution, or being abroad, refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution.
  • A scheduled offence refers to a list of economic offences contained in the Schedule to this Bill.
  • Further, in order to ensure that Courts are not over-burdened with such cases, only those cases where the total value involved in such offences is 100 crore rupees or more, is within the purview of this Bill.

Background:

  • There have been several instances of economic offenders fleeing the jurisdiction of Indian courts, anticipating the commencement, or during the pendency, of criminal proceedings.
  • The absence of such offenders from Indian courts has several deleterious consequences –
  • First, it hampers investigation in criminal cases;
  • Second, it wastes precious time of courts of law,
  • Third, it undermines the rule of law in India. Further, most such cases of economic offences involve non-repayment of bank loans thereby worsening the financial health of the banking sector in India.

Key facts:

  • The existing civil and criminal provisions in law are not entirely adequate to deal with the severity of the problem.
  • It is, therefore, felt necessary to provide an effective, expeditious and constitutionally permissible deterrent to ensure. It may be mentioned that the non-conviction-based asset confiscation for corruption-related cases is enabled under provisions of United Nations Convention against Corruption (ratified by India in 2011). The Bill adopts this principle.
  • In view of the above context, a Budget announcement was made by the Government in the Budget 2017-18 that the Government was considering to introduce legislative changes or even a new law to confiscate the assets of such absconders till they submit to the jurisdiction of the appropriate legal forum.

3.Cabinet approves Establishment of National Financial Reporting Authority- (Ministry of Corporate Affairs)

Source: PIB

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the proposal for establishment of National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA)

  • The decision aims at establishment of NFRA as an independent regulator for the auditing profession which is one of the key changes brought in by the Companies Act, 2013.
  • The inclusion of the provision in the Act was on the specific recommendations of the Standing Committee on Finance (in its 21st report).

Impact:

  • The decision is expected to result in improved foreign/domestic investments, enhancement of economic growth, supporting the globalisation of business by meeting international practices, and assist in further development of audit profession.

Background:

  • The need for establishing NFRA has arisen on account of the need felt across various jurisdictions in the world,
  • In the wake of accounting scams,
  • T0 establish independent regulators,
  • Independent from those it regulates,
  • For enforcement of auditing standards and
  • Ensuring the quality of audits to strengthen the independence of audit firms, quality of audits and,
  • Therefore, enhance investor and public confidence in financial disclosures of companies.

Jurisdiction:

  • The jurisdiction of NFRA for investigation of Chartered Accountants and their firms under section 132 of the Act would extend to listed companies and large unlisted public companies, the thresholds for which shall be prescribed in the Rules. The Central Government can also refer such other entities for investigation where public interest would be involved.
  • The inherent regulatory role of ICAI as provided for in the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949 shall continue in respect of its members in general and specifically with respect to audits pertaining to private limited companies, and public unlisted companies below the threshold limit to be notified in the rules.
  • The Quality Review Board (QRB) will also continue quality audit in respect of private limited companies, public unlisted companies below prescribed threshold and also with respect to audit of those companies that may be delegated to QRB by NFRA.
  • Further, ICAI shall continue to play its advisory role with respect to accounting and auditing standards and policies by making its recommendations to NFRA.

4.National Biodiversity Authority calls for plan to manage import of exotic fish

Source: The Hindu

Expressing concern over the increase in the import of ornamental fishes to the country, which is posing a threat to India’s native fish populations, the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) has urged the government to come up with quarantine facilities at major seaports and airports

  • The government of India has only approved the import of 92 species of ornamental fish but the number of ornamental fish species being imported and in trade is somewhere between 200-300.
  • Economic and Ecological Impacts of Invasive Alien Species organised by Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) and the Asia-Pacific Forest Invasive Species Network (APFISN) from February 21-23

Impacts:

  • In a research paper titled ‘Occurrence of ornamental fishes: A looming danger for inland fish diversity of India’ published in the science journal Current Science, the researcher has pointed out that export of such species has increased at an average annual rate of 14%.
  • The paper states that several studies have disclosed the occurrence of exotic ornamental fish in many inland aquatic systems, including biodiversity-sensitive areas such as the Western Ghats.

Biodiversity policy

  • CEBPOL is a bilateral collaboration between the Indian and Norwegian governments, and focuses on biodiversity policies and laws.
  • While the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) and the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) have come up with some tentative lists for animal and plant.

Centre for Biodiversity Policy and Law

National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) has proposed to start a Centre for Biodiversity Policy and Law (CEBPOL) to deal with emerging and current biodiversity governance and policy related issues.

  • The Government of Norway and India decided to collaborate and a letter of intent for technical and institutional cooperation was signed on 19th November, 2010
  • Establish a Centre of excellence focusing on biodiversity law and policy that caters to the needs of national and international rule-making and subsequent implementation on issues of biodiversity.

Key facts:

  • Collect, collate, analyse and disseminate information relating to biodiversity policy and law at regional, national and international levels
  • To provide professional support, advice and expertise to the Government of India and Norway on a sustained basis on matters relating to biodiversity policies and laws at the national level, as well as in international negotiations relating to biodiversity in multilateral forums.
  • To develop professional expertise in biodiversity related policies and laws, inter alia through encouragement of research, development and training in matters relating to Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as its interface with other multilateral environmental agreements and United Nations bodies.
  • To develop and implement an array of capacity building programmes through multidisciplinary research and customise training programmes for a wide range of stakeholders focusing on human resource development.
  • To facilitate interactive information sharing through web conferencing, web seminars and virtual meetings involving relevant research centres and environmental law associations within India, Norway and other countries where such expertise is available.
  • To help develop India as a regional and international resource Centre for Biodiversity Policy and Law through provision of training and human resource development.

APFISN

  • The Asia-Pacific Forest Invasive Species Network (APFISN) has been established as a response to the immense costs and dangers posed by invasive species to the sustainable management of forests in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • APFISN is a cooperative alliance of the 33 member countries in the Asia- Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC) – a statutory body of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
  • The network focuses on inter-country cooperation that helps to detect, prevent, monitor, eradicate and/or control forest invasive species in the Asia-Pacific region.

Forest Invasive Species:

  • Forest invasive species (FIS) are plants, animals and microorganisms that are non-native to a specific forest ecosystem.
  • Their introduction imposes enormous costs in terms of ecological destruction, economic loss or detrimental social effects including hann to human health.
  • Inadvertent introductions of FIS to non-native areas are primarily through international trade and tourism especially during import of goods and food items.
  • Intentional introductions of invasive plants are mainly for forestry, fuel wood and ornamental purposes.

5.What unleashed ‘The Beast from the East’?

Source: The Hindu

Countries in Europe are grappling with extreme cold weather conditions, with meteorological departments warning of heavy snowfall and further deep-freeze.

  • The temperature is reported to have dropped below -20 degree Celsius in parts of Europe as the Storm Emma is also expected to hit. More blizzards are expected throughout the weekend.
  • The cold weather has been dubbed “The Beast from The East” in Britain, “Siberian bear” by the Dutch, and “snow cannon” by the Swedes.

Why is Europe so cold?

  • It has been triggered by a phenomenon known as Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW).
  • SSW occurs when there is a jump in temperatures in the stratosphere which is often linked to the onset of colder winters.
  • The Arctic Circle is experiencing a much warmer winter compared to Europe over the past few days. The stratospheric warming due to the rise in temperature over the Arctic has ‘wobbled’ the jet stream which brings mild air from the Atlantic to UK. The end result is that cold air from Eastern Europe and Russia (hence, ‘beast from the east’) is driven towards the western parts of the continent, including the UK.
  • When an SSW brings easterly winds this tends to alter the weather patterns slightly in Europe, weakening areas of low pressure and moving the jet stream further south. This leads to high pressure over the North Atlantic, ‘blocking’ that flow of mild Atlantic air and dragging in cold air from the continent to the east.

https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/learn-about-the-weather/how-weather-works/sudden-stratospheric-warming

 



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