13, September 2016

BRICS Environment Ministers to meet at Goa 

Source: PIB

The Environment Ministers of BRICS countries are meeting on September 16 2016 in Goa, to strengthen mutual cooperation.

What will be discussed?

The meeting is expected to discuss Memorandum of Understanding and the Joint Working Group on environment. The BRICS Ministers are also expected to discuss thematic areas of mutual interest and prioritize actions for cooperation in critical areas like air and water pollution, liquid and solid waste management, climate change and conservation of biodiversity.

What is the Significance of the meet?

The meeting assumes significance after the adoption landmark global environmental agreements like Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Agreement last year. It is one in a series of meetings being organized by various Central Government Ministries, in the run-up to BRICS Heads of States Summit in October 2016 at Goa, after India assumed BRICS Presidency this year from Russia. ‘

Who organizes the meet?

The meeting of BRICS Environment Ministers is being organized by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India.

Who will participate?

The BRICS nations

Government approves exchange of tariff concessions under Asia Pacific Trade Agreement

Source: Business Standard, Economic Times

Government has approved the exchange of duty concessions under the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), a move aimed at enhancing commerce among six member countries including India and China.

Who are the members?

The current membership of APTA consists six countries or participating states – Bangladesh, China, India, Lao PDR, Republic of Korea, and Sri Lanka.

What is Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement?

The APTA (formerly the Bangkok Agreement) is an initiative under the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific for trade expansion through exchange of tariff concessions among developing country members of the Asia Pacific region.

It is the oldest preferential trade agreement between countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

APTA’s key objective is to hasten economic development among the six participating states opting trade and investment liberalization measures that will contribute to intra-regional trade and economic strengthening through the coverage of merchandise goods and services, synchronized investment regime and free flow of technology transfer making all the Participating States to be in equally winsome situation.

Its aim is to promote economic development and cooperation through the adoption of mutually beneficial trade liberalization measures.

APTA is open to all members of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, which serves as the APTA Secretariat.

Background:

Since this is a preferential trade agreement, the basket of items as well as extent of tariff concessions are enlarged during the trade negotiating rounds which are launched from time to time, it said.

Till date, three rounds of trade negotiations have taken place.

Road Ahead:

The Cabinet’s approval was also given to amend the preamble of APTA to effect accession of Mongolia as the 7th participating state.

Other amendments to incorporate the sectoral rule of origin to the agreement were also approved.

The fourth session of the ministerial council of APTA, which is scheduled to be held shortly, will formally implement all the decisions.

Cabinet approves establishment of Higher Education Financing Agency

Source: Business Line

The Cabinet has approved the creation of the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA), taking a step closer to developing high quality infrastructure in premier educational institutions.

Who will promote the Agency?

The HEFA would be jointly promoted by the identified Promoter and the Ministry of Human Resource Development with an authorized capital of 2,000 crore, out of which the Government’s equity would be 1,000 crore.

The agency would be set up as a special purpose vehicle within a PSU bank/ government-owned-NBFC (promoter). It would leverage the equity to raise up to 20,000 crore for funding projects for infrastructure and development of world class labs in IITs/ IIMs/ NITs and such other institutions.

Who will be its members?

All centrally funded higher educational institutions would be eligible for joining as members of the HEFA. The institution should agree to escrow a specific amount from their internal accruals to HEFA for a period of 10 years. “This secured future flows would be securitized by the HEFA for mobilizing the funds from the market. Each member institution would be eligible for a credit limit as decided by HEFA based on the amount agreed to be escrowed from the internal accruals,” it added.

What are the functions of HEFA?

The HEFA would finance the civil and lab infrastructure projects through a 10-year loan. The principal portion of the loan will be repaid through the ‘internal accruals’ (earned through the fee receipts, research earnings etc.) of the institutions.

The Government would service the interest portion through regular Plan assistance.

The agency would also mobilize CSR funds from PSUs/corporates, which would in turn be released for promoting research and innovation in these institutions on grant basis.

Cabinet approves initiation of the Third Phase of Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP):

Source: PIB, Business Standard

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the proposal for initiation of the Third Phase of Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP).

The Project will be implemented as a ‘Central Sector Scheme’ with total project outlay of Rs. 3600 crore.

The project will be implemented with the facility of Direct Funds Transfer to the accounts of beneficiary institutes. The project will be initiated in the current year and will be co-terminus with Fourteenth Finance Commission (FFC) i.e. 2019-20.

Background:

The Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP) commenced in 2003 with World Bank assistance as a long term Programme to be implemented in three phases.

TEQIP- I commenced in 2003 and ended on March 31st, 2009. It covered 127 institutes across 13 States including 18 Centrally Funded Technical Institutions (CFTIs).

TEQIP-II commenced in August 2010, covering 23 States/Union Territories (UTs) and 191 Institutes (including 26 CFTIs). TEQIP-II is scheduled to conclude in October, 2016. Both projects have had a positive impact on the infrastructure and educational standards in the technical institutions where they were taken up. Institutions in the central, eastern and north-eastern region and hill States are at present in need of similar and specific interventions.

The initiation and implementation of the project TEQIP-III will bridge this gap.

What are the Significance and Outcomes of this project?

  • Better academic standards, through accreditation, filling up faculty positions, training faculty in better teaching methods, improved research outputs in institution in Focus States/UTs.
  • Better administration of the institutions with improved financial/academic autonomy.
  • Better systems for assessment of Student Learning, higher transition rates.
  • Transparent and expeditious release of funds to institutes by way of Direct Funds Transfer (DFT) System.
  • An estimated 200 Government / Government aided engineering institutes and Affiliating Technical Universities (ATUs) including the Centrally Funded Technical Institutions (CFTIs) will be selected.
  • The project will cover all Government / Government aided engineering institutes, ATUs and CFTIs from Focus States/UT. High-performing TEQIP-I/ TEQIP-II Government / Government aided institutes/ATUs across the country would be eligible to participate in twinning arrangements for knowledge transfer, exchange of experience, optimizing the use of resources and developing long-term strategic partnerships.
  • The Focus States are 7 Low Income States (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh), 3 Hill States (Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand), 8 North-Eastern States (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura) and Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Devendra Jhajharia wins gold medal in javelin throw at 2016 Rio Paralympics

Source: The Hindu

India’s Devendra Jhajharia bettered his own world record to win Gold in the men’s javelin throw F46 event at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

Devendra won gold in the javelin event at the 2004 Athens Paralympics with a record throw of 62.15 metres, becoming only the second gold medallist at the Paralympics for his country.

The 36-year-old is currently ranked third in the world.

Who is Devendra Jhajharia?

The Rajasthan-born athlete, with an amputated left hand, was awarded the Arjuna award in 2004 and the Padma Shri in 2012, becoming the first Paralympian to receive the honour. He was electrocuted while climbing a tree when he was eight years old and his left hand had to be amputated. But that didn’t deter him from pursuing his dreams. The track and field star won gold at the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Athletics World Championships in Lyon in 2013.

Medals Tally so far in Paralympics 2016:

Shot putter Deepa Malik confirmed India’s third medal at the Paralympic Games. Deepa Malik bagged a silver medal in the women’s shotput F53 event, with a personal best throw of 4.61 metres.

Mariyappan Thangavelu had won gold in the Men’s High Jump T42 category on Friday with fellow Indian Varun Bhati taking bronze at the same event.

Deepa also became the first Indian female medallist in the history of the Paralympic Games.

Three day BRICS Urbanization Forum Meet to begin in Visakhapatnam today

Source: Financial Express

Third Urbanization Forum Meet with the theme- “Building responsive, inclusive and collective solutions for urbanization” which will start.

@ Visakhapatnam:

Centre had selected Visakhapatnam for hosting the summit, wherein delegates will discuss investments, urbanization, formation of new cities and policies and will explore solutions for the challenges.

Agenda of the Forum:

The conference would discuss how to increase the productivity, how to make a separate urban finance system and creation of employment opportunities.

The three-day meet will be inaugurated by Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu in the presence of Union Minister of Urban Development and other dignitaries.  

With an eye on promoting ‘Sunrise Andhra Pradesh’ on the global arena, the state government had also gone all out with convening several high-level meetings as well as forming an array of committees to oversee the proceedings of the meet.

Significance of the meet:

Based on the discussions and deliberations during the three days, ‘Vizag Declaration’ will be prepared, which would play a vital role in the ministers’ conference of BRICS to be held on October 15 and 16 in Goa.  About 70 delegates from Brazil, China, Russia and South Africa will be attending the three-day summit.

Apart from them, there will be over 230 delegates from India. Security has been beefed up in the city with elite forces at the venues of the meetings, while Navy, Coast Guard and Coastal Security Police will augment the security arrangements and check threats from the seaside.

Government issues model guidelines for states to curb Ponzi schemes

Source: Indian Express

To protect consumers from Ponzi frauds, the Centre has issued model guidelines for states to regulate direct selling and multi-level marketing businesses while prohibiting pyramid structures as well as money circulation schemes.

The ‘Direct Selling Guidelines 2016’ framework was released by the Food and Consumer Affairs Minister and has been sent to the states and Union Territories for adoption.

In the guidelines, the government has clearly defined legitimate direct selling and differentiates it from pyramid and money circulation schemes to help investigating agencies identify fraudulent players.

What is direct selling according to the guidelines?

Direct selling means marketing, distribution and sale of goods or providing of services as a part of network of direct selling other than under a pyramid scheme, the guidelines said. They have also defined Pyramid Scheme. Money Circulation Scheme has the same meaning as defined under Prize Chits and Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act, 1978.

What are the provisions of the guidelines?

To conduct direct selling business, prescribed many conditions that need to be complied within 90 days such as direct selling firms should be a registered legal entity.

They bar direct selling companies from charging any entry fee from agents or compelling them to buy back unsold stocks. These entities will have to enter into an agreement with direct sellers or agents, and give full refund or buy-back guarantee for goods and services sold to them.

States can make some change as per their localized requirements. The guidelines were necessary for better growth in the direct selling business.

The guidelines have also made provision for appointment of monitoring authority at both Central and state level to deal with the issues related to direct selling.

The guidelines also prohibit direct selling entities from using misleading and deceptive or unfair recruitment practices.

The guidelines have also put conditions for contract between direct sellers and direct selling entity, saying that all such agreements should be in writing describing the material impact of the participation.

Significance of the guidelines:

The guidelines will help protect consumers as direct sellers can now be identified, and goods exchanged.

The guidelines also mandate direct sellers to constitute a grievance redressal committee to protect consumer’s right.

It has also laid down remuneration system for the person engaged by direct selling firms on sharing of incentives, profit and commission.

4thMeeting of the India Russia Working group on Priority Investment Projects

Source: PIB

Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion led the Indian delegation for the 4th meeting of the India-Russia Working Group on Priority Investment Projects which were held in New Delhi.

Agenda of the meet:

The talks during the meeting were held in a constructive atmosphere and both sides acknowledged their mutual interest in further strengthening and expanding bilateral investment cooperation between Russia and India across the sectors.

The talks during the meeting were held in a forward looking atmosphere. The two sides discussed on the existing as well as proposed projects in two countries in sectors like chemical, automobiles, engineering, aviation, electronics, petroleum, pharmaceutical, highlighting importance and the issues for facilitating the projects. The investment opportunities in Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Project for the Russian companies were also highlighted by the Indian side. Both sides recommended to the Russian and Indian companies to formulate and prepare a road map on the identified priority investment projects.

Both sides have agreed to hold the next meeting of the Working Group in 2017 in Russian Federation.



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