5th January Current Affairs

1.FSSAI’s New Norms on Transfats

News: The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has capped the amount of trans fatty acids (TFA) in oils and fats to 3% for 2021 and 2% by 2022 from the current permissible limit of 5%.

New FSSAI norms

  • FSSAI has acted in response to the amendment to the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations. The country’s food regulatory body notified the amendment on December 29, more than a year after it issued a draft on the subject for consultation with stakeholders.
  • The revised regulation applies to edible refined oils, vanaspati (partially hydrogenated oils), margarine, bakery shortenings, and other mediums of cooking such as vegetable fat spreads and mixed fat spreads.
  • It was in 2011 that India first passed a regulation that set a TFA limit of 10% in oils and fats, which was further reduced to 5% in 2015.

What are Trans Fats?

  • Artificial Trans fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.
  • Since they are easy to use, inexpensive to produce and last a long time, and give foods a desirable taste and texture, they are still widely used despite their harmful effects being well-known.

Why such a regulation?

  • Trans fats are associated with increased risk of heart attacks and death from coronary heart disease.
  • As per the WHO, approximately 5.4 lakh deaths take place each year globally because of intake of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids.
  • The WHO has also called for global elimination of trans fats by 2023.

2.ACROSS Scheme

News: The scheme was recently reviewed by the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

ACROSS Scheme:

  • ACROSS scheme pertains to the atmospheric science programs of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES). It addresses different aspects of weather and climate services, which includes warnings for cyclone, storm surges, heat waves, thunderstorms etc. Each of these aspects is incorporated as nine sub-schemes under the umbrella scheme “ACROSS” and is implemented in an integrated.

Benefits of the Scheme:

  • The scheme will provide improved weather, climate and ocean forecast and services, thereby ensuring transfer of commensurate benefits to the various services.
  • It will also provide a sizable number of scientific and technical staff along with requisite administrative support, thereby generating employment.
  • To ensure last-mile connectivity of the weather-based services to the end -user, a large number of agencies like the Krishi Vigyana Kendras of ICAR, Universities and local municipalities are roped in thus generating employment opportunities to many people.

3.Sagarmala Seaplane Services

 News: Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways is initiating the process of commencing operations of the Seaplane services, on the select routes, under a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) framework through prospective airline operators. The project execution and implementation would be through Sagarmala Development Company Ltd (SDCL), which is under the administrative control of the Ministry.

Details:

  • Several destinations are envisaged for seaplane operations. The proposed Origin-Destination pairs under Hub and Spoke model include various islands of Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep, Guwahati Riverfront & Umranso Reservoir in Assam, Yamuna Riverfront / Delhi (as Hub) to Ayodhaya, Tehri, Srinagar(Uttrakhand), Chandigarh and many other tourist places of Punjab & HP; Mumbai (as Hub) to Shirdi, Lonavala, Ganpatipule; Surat (as Hub) to Dwarka, Mandvi & Kandla; Khindsi Dam, Nagpur & Erai Dam, Chandrapur (in Maharashtra) and/or any other Hub & Spoke suggested by the Operator.
  • One such Seaplane Service is already in operation between Kevadia and Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad, which was inaugurated by Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on 31st October 2020. To run more such services in the coastal areas or proximity to water bodies, SDCL is keen to associate with the interested scheduled / non-scheduled airline operators. The joint development and operation of “Sagarmala Seaplane Services (SSPS)” will be undertaken by forming a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) with Sagarmala Development Company Limited (SDCL).
  • To provide connectivity and easier accessibility to remote locations, SDCL is exploring plans to leverage the potential of the vast coastline and numerous water bodies/rivers across India by commencing seaplane operations. Sea Plane will utilize the nearby water bodies for take-off and landing and thus connect those places in a much economical way as conventional airport infrastructure like a runway and terminal buildings are not required for seaplane operations.

Significance:

  • The seaplanes services will be a game-changer providing a supplementary means of faster and comfortable transportation across the nation. Apart from providing air connectivity to various remote religious/tourist places, it will boost tourism for domestic and international holidaymakers.
  • It will save travel time and stimulate localized short distance travelling especially in the hilly regions or across the rivers/lakes etc. In addition to the infrastructural enhancements at the places of operations, it will enormously boost tourism and business activities.
  • By providing air connectivity to numerous remote, religious/tourist places and unexplored locations near the water bodies will make the journey easier. It will generate employment opportunities and stimulate tourism on these new locations, which will consequently contribute to the country’s GDP in the long run.

4.OECD Data on Agriculture

News: The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has provided five sets of data on the issue of agriculture support and India trails on most counts:

  • The ongoing debate about farmers protest has brought to light some of the key support mechanisms for agriculture in India. And it is being argued that the government has preferred the welfare of Indian consumers over the Indian farmers.
  • Lets’ have a look at various OECD’s parameters:

(1) Producer Support Estimates (PSE)

  • These are transfers to agricultural producers and are measured at the farm gate level.
  • They comprise market price support, budgetary payments and the cost of revenue foregone.

(2) Consumer Support Estimates (CSE)

  • These refer to transfers from consumers of agricultural commodities. They are measured at the farm gate level.
  • If negative, the CSE measures the burden (implicit tax) on consumers through market price support (higher prices), that more than offsets consumer subsidies that lower prices to consumers.

 (3) General Services Support Estimates (GSSE)

  • GSSE transfers are linked to measures creating enabling conditions for the primary agricultural sector through the development of private or public services, institutions and infrastructure.
  • GSSE includes policies where primary agriculture is the main beneficiary but does not include any payments to individual producers.
  • GSSE transfers do not directly alter producer receipts or costs or consumption expenditure.

(4) Total Support Estimate (TSE)

  • The TSE transfers represent the total support granted to the agricultural sector, and consist of producer support (PSE), consumer support (CSE) and general services support (GSSE).

(5) Producer protection

  • Lastly, the OECD also provides data on “producer protection”.
  • The PP is the ratio between the average price received by producers (measured at the farm gate), including net payments per unit of current output, and the border price (measured at the farm gate).
  • For instance, a coefficient of 1.10, which China has, suggests that farmers, overall, received prices that were 10% above international market levels.

5.Patent Issues

 News: A recent amendment to a unique feature in patent law under which patentee / licensee has to disclose information regarding the extent to which they have worked patent in India, could have several implications. The article deals with that issue.

Background:

  • Indian patent law grants a 20-year patent monopoly to an inventor.
  • In exchange for such monopoly, India’s patent law imposes a duty on the patentee to commercially work the invention in India to ensure that its benefits reach the public.
  • Accordingly, section 146(2), a unique provision not found in patent laws of most other countries, requires every patentee and licensee to submit to the Patent Office an annual statement (Form 27 format) explaining the extent to which they have worked the invention in India.
  • This statement is meant to help the Patent Office, potential competitors, etc. to determine whether the patentee has worked the invention in India and made it sufficiently available to the public at reasonable prices. A failure of this duty could trigger compulsory licensing or even subsequent revocation of the patent under the Patents Act, 1970.
  • The central government recently amended the format of a statement that patentees and licensees are required to annually submit to the Patent Office. The amendment has significantly watered down the disclosure format. This could hamper the effectiveness of India’s compulsory licensing regime.
  • This in turn could hinder access to vital inventions including life-saving medicines, thereby impacting public health. There has been significant pressure from multinational corporations and the United States government to do away with this requirement.

What changes were made through the amendment?

  • The recent amendment to the form was made in response to a PIL filed by Shamnad Basheer before the Delhi High Court in 2015. The PIL brought to the Court’s attention the rampant non-filing and defective filing of Form 27 and sought a direction to strictly enforce the patent working disclosure rules and take action against the violators.
  • The PIL also called for a reform of Form 27, arguing that the information it sought was grossly insufficient to ascertain the extent of the working of the patent.
  • However, instead of strengthening the form, the amendment has significantly weakened it further, thereby defeating the entire purpose of the amendment exercise.
  • The amended form has removed the requirement of submitting a lot of important information.
  • It is no longer required to provide any information in respect of the quantum of the invention manufactured/imported into India, the licenses and sub-licenses granted during the year and the meeting of public requirement at a reasonable price.
  • It no longer requires quantum or the total units of the invention manufactured/imported in India. The deletion of this requirement of its disclosure is shocking.
  • This is because, it is the disclosure of this data by Bayer in Form 27 that played a crucial role in grant of India’s first compulsory license to Natco for the anti-cancer drug Sorafenib/Nexavar.
  • The removal of the requirement of submitting any licensing information, including the disclosure of even the existence of licenses means that the patentees/licensees can just self-certify that they’ve worked the patent.
  • The omission to mandate disclosure of details makes it extremely difficult to ascertain whether the invention has been made available to the public in sufficient quantity and at an affordable price.

Conclusion

  • The government has significantly weakened the critical duty imposed by the law on patentees/licensees to disclose patent working information.
  • Therefore, the government must reconsider its amendments to the form taking into account the PIL recommendations and re-amend it to restore as well as strengthen its spirit.