Presiding officers told to press close button at the end of poll

In a bid to prevent manipulation of EVMs, the Election Commission recently directed all presiding officers in Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar Assembly Constituency, Chennai to press the close button after the end of poll.

What else has the EC said?

  • All presiding officers should draw a line at the end of poll after the last entry in Form 17-A, and should record the signed statement, obtaining the signatures of all polling agents, as may be present.
  • They should also give an attested copy of the Account of Votes Recorded (in Form 17C) at the end of poll to all such polling agents as may be present, irrespective of their asking for it or not.

These set of directions were issued following complaints in the previous elections that the presiding officers have failed to close the EVMs by pressing the ‘close button’ at the end of poll. Candidates have said the failure to close EVM is likely to lead to suspicion about manipulation.

Sources: The Hindu.

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U.S. to curb trans fats by 2018

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that it will seek to eliminate majority of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) from the country’s food supply by 2018. The decision comes after years of lobbying by health advocates and scientists that artificial oils, commonly called “trans fats”, clog arteries and raise the risk of heart disease.

  • The FDA aims to revoke the current status of PHOs as a “generally recognised as safe” food product and reclassify it as a “food additive.” This implies that manufacturers would no longer be able to use the oils in other foods without prior regulator approval.
  • The new policy could prevent as many as 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year in the country.

Trans fats:

Trans fatty acids (TFAs) or Trans fats are the most harmful type of fats which can have much more adverse effects on our body than any other dietary constituent. These fats are largely produced artificially but a small amount also occurs naturally. Thus in our diet, these may be present as Artificial TFAs and/ or Natural TFAs.

  • Artificial TFAs are formed when hydrogen is made to react with the oil to produce fats resembling pure ghee/butter.
  • In our diet the major sources of artificial TFAs are the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVO)/vanaspati/ margarine while the natural TFAs are present in meats and dairy products, though in small amounts.
  • The most common dietary source of Trans fats is the partially hydrogenated vegetable fat commonly known as ‘Vanaspati Ghee’/Margarine.
  • Since partially hydrogenated vegetable fat (Vanaspati/Margarine) is rather high in TFA, all food items prepared, baked or fried by using Vanaspati/Margarine contain TFA. These include: Cakes and Pastries; Patty, Rusk; Fried Aloo Chaat , AlooTikki (prepared in ‘Vanaspati’), Sweets (Mithai) (prepared in ‘Vanaspati’), Cookies / biscuits, French fries, Potato chips, Bhatura, Samosa, Parantha, etc.

Harmful effects:

  • TFAs pose a higher risk of heart disease than saturated fats. While saturated fats raise total cholesterol levels, TFAs not only raise total cholesterol levels but also reduce the good cholesterol (HDL), which helps to protect us against heart disease.
  • Trans fats consumption increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
  • It is also associated with a higher risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, infertility, certain types of cancers and can also lead to compromised fetal development causing harm to the yet to be born baby.

Why they are increasingly being used?

  • TFA containing oils can be preserved longer, they give the food the desired shape and texture and can easily substitute ‘Pure ghee’. F
  • These are comparatively far lower in cost and thus add to profit/saving.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, Wiki.

SEBI issues detailed ESOP disclosure norms

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has come out with detailed disclosure norms for listed firms while exercising employee stock options programmes (ESOP) to address concerns regarding potential market abuse.

  • As per the norms, the compensation committee constituted by companies for ESOP schemes will be required to formulate detailed terms and conditions.
  • In addition, they have to disclose information about the trust, powers and duties of trustee. These disclosures are part of SEBI’s efforts to improve governance and transparency of such schemes.

About SEBI:

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is the regulator for the securities market in India. It was established in the year 1988 and given statutory powers on 12 April 1992 through the SEBI Act, 1992.

Composition:

SEBI is composed of-

  • The chairman who is nominated by Union Government of India.
  • Two members, i.e., Officers from Union Finance Ministry.
  • One member from the Reserve Bank of India.
  • The remaining five members are nominated by Union Government of India, out of them at least three shall be whole-time members.

For the discharge of its functions efficiently, SEBI has been vested with the following powers:

  • To approve by−laws of stock exchanges.
  • To require the stock exchange to amend their by−laws.
  • Inspect the books of accounts and call for periodical returns from recognized stock exchanges.
  • Inspect the books of accounts of financial intermediaries.
  • Compel certain companies to list their shares in one or more stock exchanges.
  • Registration of brokers.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

U.N. envoy hails 19th amendment

The 19th Constitutional Amendment, envisaging the dilution of powers of the Executive Presidency and other constitutional reforms in Sri Lanka, has come in for appreciation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. He appreciated the amendment during his opening statement to the 29th session of the Human Rights Council, which was held in Geneva recently.

The Sri Lankan Parliament had recently adopted the 19th Constitutional Amendment Bill with an overwhelming majority.

What is it about?

The legislation envisages the dilution of many powers of Executive Presidency, which had been in force since 1978.

Important features of the Bill:

  • The reduction in the terms of President and Parliament from six years to five years.
  • Re-introduction of a two-term limit that a person can have as President.
  • The power of President to dissolve Parliament only after four and a half years [unlike one year, as prevalent now].
  • The revival of Constitutional Council and the establishment of independent commissions.
  • The President remains the head of Cabinet and he can appoint Ministers on the advice of Prime Minister.

Sources: The Hindu.

ADB to increase India lending by 50 % to $12 b by 2018

Asian Development Bank has proposed to increase lending to India by almost 50% to $12 billion by 2018. This was stated by ADB President Takehiko Nakao recently.

  • He also said that India’s growth rate was expected to exceed that of China in this year. India’s projected growth rate of 7.8% for the 2015-16 fiscal was higher than China’s estimated 7.2% in 2015 calendar year.

Asian Development Bank:

It is a regional development bank established on 22 August 1966 and is headquartered in Philippines.

Aim: to facilitate economic development of countries in Asia. It also aims for an Asia and Pacific free from poverty.

Membership:

  • The bank admits the members of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP, formerly known as the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East) and non-regional developed countries.
  • Currently, it has 67 members – of which 48 are from within Asia and the Pacific and 19 outside.

ADB was modeled closely on the World Bank, and has a similar weighted voting system where votes are distributed in proportion with member’s capital subscriptions.

Funding:

  • ADB raises funds through bond issues on the world’s capital markets.
  • ADB also rely on its members’ contributions, retained earnings from its lending operations, and the repayment of loans.
  • Japan holds the largest proportions of shares at 15.67%. The United States holds 15.56%, China holds 6.47%, India holds 6.36%, and Australia holds 5.81%.

Board of Governors:

  • It is the highest policy-making body of the bank.
  • It is composed of one representative from each member state.
  • The Board of Governors also elect the bank’s President who is the chairperson of the Board of Directors and manages ADB.

The Alternate Board of Governors are nominated by Board of Governors of ADB’s 67 to represent them at the Annual Meeting that meets formally once year to be held in a member country.

Loans:

  • It offers both Hard Loans and Soft loans.
  • The ADB offers “hard” loans from ordinary capital resources (OCR) on commercial terms, and the Asian Development Fund (ADF) affiliated with the ADB extends “soft” loans from special fund resources with concessional conditions.

ADB focuses on five core areas of operations: infrastructure; the environment, including climate change; regional cooperation and integration; finance sector development; and education.

Sources: The Hindu, ADB, Wiki.