23, November 2017

1.Cabinet approves India’s Membership for European Bank for Reconstruction & Development

Source: PIB

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved India’s Membership for European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD)

  • Necessary steps will be initiated by the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance to acquire the membership of the EBRD.

Significance:

  • Membership of EBRD would enhance India’s international profile and promote its economic interests. Access to EBRD’s Countries of Operation and sector knowledge.
  • India’s investment opportunities would get a boost.
  • It would increase the scope of cooperation between India and EBRD through co-financing opportunities in manufacturing, services, Information Technology, and Energy.
  • EBRD’s core operations pertain to private sector development in their countries of operation. The membership would help India leverage the technical assistance and sectoral knowledge of the bank for the benefit of development of private sector.
  • This would contribute to an improved investment climate in the country.
  • The membership of EBRD would enhance the competitive strength of the Indian firms, and provide an enhanced access to international markets in terms of business opportunities, procurement activities, consultancy assignments etc.
  • This would open up new vistas for Indian professionals on the one hand, and give a fillip to Indian exports on the other.
  • Increased economic activities would have the employment generating potential.
  • It would also enable Indian nationals to get the employment opportunity in the Bank.

 Financial Implications:

  • The minimum initial investment towards the membership of EBRD will be approximately €1 (one) million.
  • However, this assumption is based on India deciding to buy the minimum number of shares (100) required for obtaining the membership. If India were to buy a higher number of Bank shares, the financial implications could be higher.
  • In-principle approval of the Cabinet at this stage is being obtained for joining the Bank.

Background

  • The issue relating to acquiring the membership of the “European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD)” had been under consideration of the Government.
  • With the country’s impressive economic growth over the years and enhanced international political profile, it was considered appropriate that India should expand its presence on the global developmental landscape beyond its association with the Multi-lateral Development Banks (MDBs) such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and African Development Bank.
  • The decision to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the New Development Bank (NDB) was taken earlier in this backdrop.

EBRD

  • The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was established to help build a new, post-Cold War era in Central and Eastern Europe. It has since played a historic role and gained unique expertise in fostering change in the region – and beyond.
  • The EBRD is committed to furthering progress towards ‘market-oriented economies and the promotion of private and entrepreneurial initiative’. This has been its guiding principle since its creation at the beginning of the 1990s and, new challenges and the welcoming of new countries to the EBRD world notwithstanding, will continue to be its mission in years to come.

The EBRD’s unique mandate

  • Uniquely for a development bank, the EBRD has a political mandate in that it assists only those countries ‘committed to and applying the principles of multi-party democracy [and]pluralism’. Safeguarding the environment and a commitment to sustainable energy are also central to the EBRD’s activity.
  • The EBRD serves the interests of all its shareholders – 66 countries from five continents plus the European Union and the European Investment Bank – not just those countries which receive its investments (€9.4 billion in 2016). We all stand to gain from the EBRD region’s closer and deeper integration into the global economy.

2.Cabinet approves expansion of umbrella scheme “Mission For Protection And Empowerment For Women” and introducing a new scheme ‘ Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra’

Source: PIB

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister has given its approval for expansion of the schemes of Ministry of Women and Child Development under Umbrella Scheme “Mission for Protection and Empowerment for Women” for a period 2017-18 to 2019-20.

  • CCEA has also given approval to the new scheme called ‘Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra’, which will empower rural women through community participation to create an environment in which they realize their full potential.
  • Expansion under Beti Bachao Beti Padhao has also been approved based on the successful implementation in 161 districts.

Benefits of the Scheme:

  • The approved sub-schemes are social sector welfare schemes especially for care, protection and development of women.
  • It will also aim at improvement in declining Child Sex Ratio; ensuring survival. & protection of the girl child; ensuring her education, and empowering her to fulfil her potential.
  • It will provide an interface for rural women to approach the government for availing their entitlements and for empowering them through training and capacity building.
  • Student volunteers will encourage the spirit of voluntary community service and gender equality.
  • These students will serve “agents of change” and have a lasting impact on their communities and the nation.

PMMSK

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs a new scheme called ‘Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra’, which aims at empowering rural women through community participation to create an environment in which they realise their full potential.

  • The new scheme “Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra (PMMSK)” is envisaged to work at various levels. While, National level (domain based knowledge support) and State level (State Resource Centre for Women) structures will provide technical support to the respective government on issues related to women, the District and Block level Centres will provide support to PMMSK and also give a foothold to BBBP in 640 districts to be covered in a phased manner.
  • To provide comprehensive support to women affected by violence, One Stop Centres (OSCs) will be established in 150 additional districts during the period. These one stop Centres will be linked with women helpline and will provide 24 hour emergency and non-emergency response to women affected by violence both in public and private space across the country.

Monitoring and Evaluation of the Scheme:

  • One common Task Force shall be created at National, State and district level for planning, reviewing and monitoring all the sub-schemes in this Umbrella, with the objective of ensuring convergence of action and cost efficiency.
  • Every scheme shall have a set of clear, focussed target set forth in the guidelines, aligned with SDGs. Mechanism for monitoring of outcome based indicators for all the sub-schemes as suggested by NITI Aayog will be put in place.
  • The schemes will be implemented through the States/UTs and Implementing Agencies. All the sub-schemes have inbuilt monitoring structure at the Central Level, State, District and Block level.

BBBP

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by Prime Minister has given its approval for expansion of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao for a Pan India reach covering all the 640 districts (as per census 2011) of the Country to have a deeper positive impact on Child Sex Ratio. Expansion under BBBP has been approved based on the successful implementation in 161 districts.
  • The Government recognized the challenge of declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR), as a telling indicator of gender discrimination towards girl child, requiring immediate attention and action and launched BBBP scheme in 2015.

Background:

  • The Scheme was launched by the Prime Minister on 22nd January, 2015 at Panipat, Haryana as a comprehensive programme to address the declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) and related issues of empowerment of women over a life-cycle continuum.
  • The CSR, defined as number of girls per 1000 boys in the age group of 0-6 years, declined sharply from 976 in 1961 to 918 in Census 2011. However there was no systematic response or comprehensive advocacy strategy to arrest and curb this disturbing trend.
  • The Government recognized the challenge of declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR), as a telling indicator of gender discrimination towards girl child, requiring immediate attention and action and launched BBBP scheme in 2015.

3.Cabinet approves setting up of the 15thFinance Commission

Source: PIB

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister has approved the setting up of the 15thFinance Commission. Under Article 280 (1) of the Constitution, it is a Constitutional obligation.

  • The Terms of Reference for the 15thFinance Commission will be notified in due course of time.

Background:

  • Article 280(1) of the Constitution lays down that a Finance Commission (FC) should be constituted “…within two years from the commencement of this Constitution and thereafter at the expiration of every fifth year or at such earlier time as the President considers necessary…”.In keeping with this requirement, the practice has generally been to set up next Finance Commission within five years of the date of setting up of the previous Finance Commission.
  • Fourteen (14) Finance Commissions have been constituted in the past. The 14thFinance Commission was set up on 02.01.2013 to make recommendations covering the period of five years commencing on 1st April, 2015. The Commission submitted its Report on 15th December, 2014. The recommendations of the 14thFinance Commission are valid up to the financial year 2019-20. In terms of Constitutional provisions, setting up the 15thFinance Commission, the recommendations of which will cover the five years commencing on April 1, 2020, has now become due.

4.Cabinet approves continuation of the scheme on Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs beyond the 12th Plan Period

Source: PIB

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for continuation of the scheme on Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA) for another three financial years (FYs 2017-18 to 2019-20) and providing Grants-in-aid of Rs.18 crore to the Institute.

  • It will make the Institute self-sustainable by the end of FY 2019-20.

Impact:

  • The training programs, research activities and projects conducted by the Institute in partnership with public and private sector in the niche areas of Corporate Governance will enhance the skill sets resulting in increased employability of students as well as professionals.
  • The thrust of the Institute is to become a prestigious Institute in the field of Corporate Laws while enhancing its resources and revenues.
  • It is envisaged that IICA will be an Institute of National importance thereby becoming an engine of growth leading to increased economic activity.
  • The improvement in the professional competence is also expected to help the professionals in tapping employment opportunities in emerging corporate areas including those in overseas.

 Background:

  • The National Foundation for Corporate Social Responsibility (NFCSR) at IICA is responsible for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
  • The Foundation has been designed around the new provisions of Companies Act, 2013. The NFCSR conducts various activities in partnership with Corporates in the field of CSR, oriented towards social inclusion.
  • IICA is a think-tank and repository of data and knowledge to support rational decision-making for the policy makers, regulators as well as other stakeholders working in areas related to the corporate sector.
  • It offers services to stakeholders in the field of corporate laws, corporate governance, CSR, accounting standards, investor education, etc. Various activities of IICA also help first-generation entrepreneurs and small business for imparting multi-disciplinary skills as they are unable to afford to employ separate experts in management, law, accountancy, etc.

5.Brahmos Flight test from IAF’s Su-30MKI fighter aircraft

Source: PIB

In a first, air-launched Brahmos missile test-fired

  • Brahmos, the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile created history on 22nd Nov 2017 after it was successfully flight-tested first time from the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) frontline fighter aircraft Sukhoi-30MKI against a sea based target in the Bay of Bengal.
  • The missile was gravity dropped from the Su-30 from fuselage, and the two stage missile’s engine fired up and straightway propelled towards the intended target at the sea in Bay of Bengal.
  • In a major milestone, the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile has been successfully test fired for the first time from the Indian Air Force’s frontline Sukhoi-30 MKI combat jet, significantly bolstering the country’s aerial prowess.
  • The successful maiden test firing of Brahmos Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) from Su-30MKI will significantly bolster the IAF’s air combat operations capability from stand-off ranges.
  • Brahmos ALCM weighing 2.5 ton is the heaviest weapon to be deployed on India’s Su-30 fighter aircraft modified by HAL to carry weapons.
  • Brahmos, the world-class weapon with multi-platform, multi-mission role is now capable of being launched from Land, Sea and Air, completing the tactical cruise missile triad for India.
  • Brahmos is a joint venture between DRDO of India and NPOM of Russia.

6.What is the Space Activities Bill, 2017?

Source: The Hindu

A Bill pending before the Parliament is to encourage both the public and private sectors to participate in the space programme.

What is it?

  • It is a proposed Bill to promote and regulate the space activities of India. The new Bill encourages the participation of non-governmental/private sector agencies in space activities in India under the guidance and authorisation of the government through the Department of Space.
  • According to the draft, as few start-up companies in India have shown interest in space systems activities and as space activities need participation from private sector agencies, “there is an urgent need for a legal environment for orderly performance and growth of space sector.”

When, where, who?

  • The draft was posted on the website of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on November 21, 2017.

What does the Bill propose?

  • The provisions of this Act shall apply to every citizen of India and to all sectors engaged in any space activity in India or outside India
  • A non-transferable licence shall be provided by the Central Government to any person carrying out commercial space activity
  • The Central Government will formulate the appropriate mechanism for licencing, eligibility criteria, and fees for licence.
  • The government will maintain a register of all space objects (any object launched or intended to be launched around the earth) and develop more space activity plans for the country
  • It will provide professional and technical support for commercial space activity and regulate the procedures for conduct and operation of space activity
  • It will ensure safety requirements and supervise the conduct of every space activity of India and investigate any incident or accident in connection with the operation of a space activity.
  • It will share details about the pricing of products created by space activity and technology with any person or any agency in a prescribed manner.
  • If any person undertakes any commercial space activity without authorisation they shall be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years or fined more than ₹1 crore or both.

7.Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY)

Source: PIB

The Prime Minister recently reviewed the progress in implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY).

The funds accruing to the District Mineral Foundations (DMFs) should be utilized to strategically focus upon and eliminate major development issues or deficits that these districts currently face.

PMKKKY:

  • The programme is meant to provide for the welfare of areas and people affected by mining related operations, using the funds generated by District Mineral Foundations (DMFs).

Objectives of the scheme:

  • To implement various developmental and welfare projects/programs in mining affected areas that complement the existing ongoing schemes/projects of State and Central Government.
  • To minimize/mitigate the adverse impacts, during and after mining, on the environment, health and socio-economics of people in mining districts.
  • To ensure long-term sustainable livelihoods for the affected people in mining areas.
  • High priority areas like drinking water supply, health care, sanitation, education, skill development, women and child care, welfare of aged and disabled people, skill development and environment conservation will get at least 60 % share of the funds.
  • For creating a supportive and conducive living environment, balance funds will be spent on making roads, bridges, railways, waterways projects, irrigation and alternative energy sources.

District Mineral Foundations (DMFs):

  • The Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015, mandated the setting up of District Mineral Foundations (DMFs) in all districts in the country affected by mining related operations.
  • In case of all mining leases executed before 12th January, 2015 (the date of coming into force of the Amendment Act) miners will have to contribute an amount equal to 30% of the royalty payable by them to the DMFs. Where mining leases are granted after 12.01.2015, the rate of contribution would be 10% of the royalty payable.



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