Rs. 1,500-cr. nuclear insurance pool set up

The Union government has launched an insurance pool of Rs. 1,500 crore, mandatory under the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act to offset the financial burden on foreign nuclear suppliers in case of an accident.

  • With this, several projects such as the long-pending Gorakhpur Haryana Anu Vidyut Pariyojna held up in the absence of the pool are now expected to move forward.

About the Indian Nuclear Insurance Pool (INIP):

The pool has been set up by General Insurance Corporation of India and 11 other non-life insurers, including New India, Oriental Insurance, National Insurance and United India Insurance, from the public sector, apart from private insurance companies.

  • Under the pool, nuclear operators’ liability and suppliers’ special contingency insurance policies will be offered.
  • With this launch, India has joined an exclusive list of countries having nuclear pools and the INIP will be 27th nuclear insurance pool in the world managing nuclear liabilities.
  • The pool will address third party liability insurance under Civil Liability of Nuclear Damage Act (CLNDA) 2010 to begin with and later expand into property and other hot zone risk for which it will work in close co-ordination with nuclear power industry.
  • This pool will provide the risk transfer mechanism to the operators and suppliers to meet their obligations under the CLND Act. At a later stage, this pool also looks to provide reinsurance support to other such international pools.

Background:

The idea of forming a pool was mooted in early 2013 and got stuck due to differences among stakeholders on certain clauses. In 2010, Parliament passed the Civil Liability of Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act, which creates a liability cap for nuclear plant operators for economic damage in the event of an accident.

  • The CLND Act provides for Rs 1,500 crore as maximum liability for nuclear damage.
  • Clauses in the Act, which give the operator the right to legal recourse and allow it to sue the suppliers in case of any accident, were seen as being a major hindrance to the growth of the nuclear industry. These concerns led to the formation of the Indian nuclear insurance pool.
  • The CLND Act also provides for state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India, which operates all atomic power plants in India, to seek compensation from suppliers in an accident due to faulty equipment.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, BS, TOI.

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OROP : Ex-servicemen to intensify stir

Continuing their pressure on the government over the delay in implementing the long-pending One-Rank, One-Pension (OROP) scheme, ex-servicemen recently took out a massive rally in the national capital and across the country to express their displeasure.

  • They have also announced to carry out indefinite relay hunger strike.
  • The rally comes after several rounds of official and backchannel talks failed to make any headway. The veterans had been demanding that the government announce a timeline for implementation of OROP.

One-rank one-pension scheme:

This is a scheme which will ensure that soldiers of the same rank and the same length of service receive the same pension, irrespective of their retirement date. In simple words, it demands equal pensions for those who have retired in one particular year, as those who retire in another year at the same position, and for the same duration of services rendered.

  • The difference in the pension of present and past pensioners in the same rank occurs on account of the number of increments earned by the defence personnel in that rank.
  • So far, there was no such rule. While every pay commission bumps the salaries of government servants, pensions of ex-servicemen remain the same.

The implementation of one rank, one pension is also expected to push up the Centre’s defence pension payments by a record 40%, posing fresh challenges to keep the Centre’s fiscal deficit within the budgetary target of 4.1% of the Gross Domestic Product.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB.

Comet probe Philae wakes up

Europe’s tiny robot lab Philae, hurtling through space on the back of a comet, has sent home its first message in nearly seven months. Scientists have said that Philae may soon resume science work, opening up a new chapter in its exhilarating voyage.

  • Philae touched down on the comet on November 12 after an epic 10-year trek piggybacking on Rosetta.

Philae:

Philae ’​s mission was to land successfully on the surface of a comet, attach itself, and transmit data from the surface about the comet’s composition. It is a robotic European Space Agency lander.
It landed on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, more than ten years after departing Earth.

  • The mission seeks to unlock the long-held secrets of comets — primordial clusters of ice and dust that scientists believe may reveal how the Solar System was formed.
  • The scientific goals of the mission focus on “elemental, isotopic, molecular and mineralogical composition of the cometary material, the characterization of physical properties of the surface and subsurface material, the large-scale structure and the magnetic and plasma environment of the nucleus.”
  • Sensors on the lander will measure the density and thermal properties of the surface, gas analyzers will help detect and identify any complex organic chemicals that might be present, while other tests will measure the magnetic field and interaction between the comet and solar wind.
  • Philae is equipped with an array of experiments to photograph and test the surface of Comet 67P as well as to find out what happens when the roasting effect of the sun drives off gas and dust.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, http://static.guim.co.uk/.

More housewives committing suicide, NCRB records show

Recently released data by the National Crime Records Bureau shows that fifteen people commit suicide every hour in India. Of these, around 17% are housewives.

  • The NCRB divides the total suicides into 10 professional categories — housewife, service (government), service (private), public sector undertaking, student, unemployed, self-employed (business activity), farming/agriculture activity, retired and others.

Other details:

  • The data shows that 1.3 lakh people committed suicide in 2013. Among suicides by women, a whopping 51.4% are committed by housewives (almost 23,000).
  • The previous Census in 2011 recorded that 52% of India’s population married at least once. The 2013 NCRB data shows that a whopping 76 per cent of all suicides are by people who have married at least once.
  • According to some experts, the stress and pressures faced by housewives are a leading cause of suicide. This problem is exacerbated by modern lifestyles and occupations. To compound this problem, social stigma surrounding mental illness, or even the perception of mental illness, makes it next to impossible for the women to seek professional help.
  • Suicide by farmers makes up 3% of all suicides.

Sources: The Hindu.

4 Indian languages for Dubai driving tests

Four indian languages have found place in dubai driving tests. These can be chosen while appearing for driving tests in Dubai in the UAE from September.

  • Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Bengali, Chinese, Russian and Persian languages can be opted by aspiring drivers besides the three existing languages for both theory tests as well as eight mandatory lectures.

The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), which currently conducts tests in three languages – English, Urdu and Arabic, will offer knowledge tests and lectures in seven more languages from September.

Sources: The Hindu.

‘Mandatory warning won’t make alcohol unsafe’

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has come out with the draft norms amid safety concerns over Maggi recall.

Details of the proposals:

  • FSSAI has proposed that alcoholic beverages, pan masala and supari need not be treated as unsafe food for recall just because they carry the mandatory warning that their consumption is injurious to health. It said the mandatory warning ‘consumption of alcohol/pan masala/supari is injurious to health’ may not make them liable for recall, “unless the beverage or food is determined unsafe as per the classification of recall making it injurious to health or even causing death.”
  • FSSAI has proposed regulations for recall process with the objective to guide the food business operators on how to carry out a recall process. ‘Food under recall’ means the specific lot or batch or code number of food item, which has been determined by the food authority or food safety commissioners of States/UTs as unsafe food causing injury or liable to cause injury to health or even death.
  • FSSAI has said that the primary responsibility of recalling the unsafe food lies with the manufacturer, importer or company engaged in wholesale supply or the brand owner of the food product. A food business operator engaged in the manufacturing, importation and wholesale supply of food shall initiate a recall process at any time to fulfil its responsibility to protect public health from food that is unsafe for the consumer.
  • In case of a recall, the food business operator also need to submit the plan for that unsafe product. A recall plan must be available in writing and shall be made available to the Food Authority or the commissioner of Food Safety of the State/UT, as the case may be, on request.
  • The food business operator shall comply with the plan it has developed when it recalls food and the recall plan shall be integrated into his business. It shall also be part of the annual audit of the food business.

About FSSAI:

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been established under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 which consolidates various acts & orders that have hitherto handled food related issues in various Ministries and Departments.

  • It was created for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.
  • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the Administrative Ministry for the implementation of FSSAI.
  • The Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) are appointed by Government of India.
  • The Chairperson is in the rank of Secretary to Government of India.

Important functions performed by the authority:

  • Framing of Regulations to lay down the Standards and guidelines in relation to articles of food and specifying appropriate system of enforcing various standards thus notified.
  • 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.

Sources: The Hindu, BS, FSSAI.

4,300 from Afghan, Pak get citizenship

The central government recently said that it had granted citizenship to about 4,300 Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan and Afghanistan in the last one year.
This is
nearly four times the number granted to such persons in the preceding five years under UPA-II.

  • Officials say there are about two lakh Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan living in India.
    During the entire tenure of UPA-II, they said the total number of citizenships granted to such persons was only 1,023.

Other details:

  • In the last one year, nearly 19,000 refugees have been given long-term visas in Madhya Pradesh. Around 11,000 long-term visas were given in Rajasthan and 4,000 long-term visas were given in Gujarat.
  • There are about 400 Pakistani Hindu refugee settlements in cities like Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jaipur. Hindu refugees from Bangladesh mostly live in West Bengal and north-eastern States. Sikh refugees mostly live in Punjab, Delhi and Chandigarh.
  • In April, the Home Ministry had rolled out an online system for submission of Long Term Visa applications and for its processing by various agencies. The decision has been taken to address the difficulty being faced by Hindu and Sikh minorities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who had come with the intention of settling permanently in India.

The government had, in july 2014, relaxed the norm mandating online submission of applications in view of the difficulties faced by such applicants.
Under the simplified process, the centre had allowed those who had fled Pakistan or Afghanistan, citing religious persecution, prior to 31 December 2009, to apply for Indian citizenship.
And, children belonging to minority communities, who entered India on their parents’ passport, were also allowed to apply without a passport for grant of the Indian citizenship after regularisation of their stay in India.

The Centre had also set up a task force to expedite pending citizenship requests from nearly one lakh Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan and Bangladesh in september 2014.

Indian citizenship can be acquired by birth, descent, registration and naturalization. For conditions and procedure for acquisition of Indian citizenship, refer: http://indiancitizenshiponline.nic.in/acquisition1.htm.

Sources: The Hindu, MHA.