Polity & Governance
- Union Cabinet approves establishment of Higher Education Financing Agency
- CCEA approves proposal for initiation of 3rd phase of TEQIP
- Union Government issues model guidelines for states to curb Ponzi schemes
- CCEA approves enhancing the buffer stock of pulses up to 20 lakh tonnes
Bilateral & International Relations
- Union Cabinet approves extension of contract with ISA for exploration of Polymetallic Nodules
- Union Cabinet approves Bilateral Technical Arrangement between India and Switzerland
- Cabinet approves MoU between India and Kenya on cooperation in the field of National Housing Policy Development and Management
- Cabinet apprised of MoU between India and South Africa in ICT
- Exchange of Tariff concessions under the Fourth Round of Negotiations APTA
Key Facts for Prelims
- BRICS Wellness Workshop
- Extradition Treaty
Polity & Governance
Union Cabinet approves establishment of Higher Education Financing Agency
The Union Cabinet has approved the creation of the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) to give a major push for creation of high quality infrastructure in premier educational institutions.
What will be the features of the HEFA?
- The HEFA would be jointly promoted by the identified Promoter and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) with an authorised capital of Rs. 2,000 crore. The Government equity would be Rs. 1,000 crore.
- The HEFA would be formed as a SPV within a PSU Bank/ Government-owned-NBFC (Promoter). It would leverage the equity to raise up to Rs. 20,000 crore for funding projects for infrastructure and development of world class Labs in IITs/IIMs/NITs and such other institutions.
- The HEFA would also mobilise CSR funds from PSUs/Corporates, which would in turn be released for promoting research and innovation in these institutions on grant basis.
- 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 the regular Plan assistance.
- All the Centrally Funded Higher Educational Institutions would be eligible for joining as members of the HEFA.
- For joining as members, 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 securitised by the HEFA for mobilising 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.
CCEA approves proposal for initiation of 3rd phase of TEQIP
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, 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.
- External assistance from the World Bank through International Development Association (IDA) is also being given.
- The project will be implemented with the facility of Direct Funds Transfer to the accounts of beneficiary institutes.
Focus States in 3rd Phase of TEOIP:
3 Hill States:
- Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand.
6 Low Income States:
- Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh
8 North-Eastern States:
- It includes seven sisters plus Sikkim.
- Besides, Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is also focused UT under the 3rd Phase of the Programme.
About the Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP):
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.
- The first phase of TEQIP commenced in 2003 and ended on March 31st, 2009. It had covered 127 institutes across 13 States including 18 Centrally Funded Technical Institutions (CFTIs).
- The second phase of TEQIP (TEQIP-II) commenced in August 2010. It had covered 23 States/Union Territories (UTs) and 191 Institutes (including 26 CFTIs). TEQIP-II is scheduled to conclude in October, 2016.
The major outcomes of TEQIP:
- Better academic standards, through filling up faculty positions, training faculty in better teaching methods, accreditation, improved research outputs in institution in Focus States/UTs.
- Better administration of the institutions with improved financial and academic autonomy.
- Better systems for assessment of higher transition rates and student learning.
- Expeditious and transparent release of funds to institutes by way of Direct Funds Transfer (DFT) System.
Union Government issues model guidelines for states to curb Ponzi schemes
The Union Government has issued model guidelines titled the Direct Selling Guidelines 2016 framework for states to regulate direct selling and multi-level marketing businesses while prohibiting pyramid structures as well as money circulation schemes.
- The guidelines were issued to protect consumers from Ponzi frauds.
Key features of the guidelines:
- The direct selling has been clearly defined as marketing, distribution and sale of goods or providing of services as a part of network of direct selling.
- The legitimate direct selling is differentiated from pyramid and money circulation schemes in order to help investigating agencies identify fraudulent players.
- Money Circulation Scheme has the same meaning as defined under Prize Chits and Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act, 1978.
- It bars 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.
- It also mandates direct sellers to constitute a grievance redressal committee to protect consumers’ right.
- It lays down remuneration system for the person engaged in direct selling firms on sharing of incentives, profit and commission.
- Adds provision for appointment of monitoring authority at both Union and state level to deal with the issues related to direct selling.
What is the meaning of Ponzi schemes?
A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investing scam promising high rates of return with little risk to investors.
- The scheme is named after Charles Ponzi, who became notorious for using the technique in 1920.
- The Ponzi scheme generates returns for older investors by acquiring new investors.
- This is similar to a pyramid scheme in that both are based on using new investors’ funds to pay the earlier backers.
Why do Ponzi schemes collapse?
- With little or no legitimate earnings, Ponzi schemes require a consistent flow of money from new investors to continue. Ponzi schemes tend to collapse when it becomes difficult to recruit new investors or when a large number of investors ask to cash out.
CCEA approves enhancing the buffer stock of pulses up to 20 lakh tonnes
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved the proposal of Department of Consumer Affairs on enhancing the buffer stock for pulses up to 20 lakh tonnes.
- The buffer stock will be built through domestic procurement and imports of 10 lakh tonnes each.
- Depending upon price and availability position both domestic and global the specific variety of pulses and their respective quantities for the buffer stock will be decided.
- Requisite funds for this operation will be provided to the ‘Price Stabilisation Fund’ Scheme of the Department of Consumer Affairs.
- For creating the buffer stock, the domestic procurement operations will be undertaken by the Central Agencies namely FCI, NAFED and SFAC or any other agency as decided by PSFMC.
- The procurement will be done at the prevailing market prices if these prices are above Minimum Support Prices (MSP) and at MSP, if otherwise.
- In addition, State Governments may also be authorized, wherever possible, to undertake the procurement in a manner similar to decentralized procurement of food-grains.
- Import of pulses would be undertaken through G2G contract or through spot purchase from the global market through designated Public Sector Enterprise.
Bilateral & International Relations
Union Cabinet approves extension of contract with ISA for exploration of Polymetallic Nodules
The Union Cabinet has approved the extension of contract with and International Seabed Authority (ISA) for exploration of Polymetallic Nodules (PMS).
- The contract is between Union Ministry of Earth Sciences and ISA.
- It has been extended for a further period of 5 years (2017-22)
- The earlier contract is expiring on 24th March 2017.
Significance of the move:
- It would open up new opportunities for resources of commercial and strategic value in area beyond national jurisdiction.
- It would also provide strategic importance for India in terms of enhanced presence in Indian Ocean where other international: players are also active.
What does the extension of Contract mean?
- By extending the contract, India’s exclusive rights for exploration of PMN in the allotted Area in the Central Indian Ocean Basin will continue.
- India had signed a 15-year contract for exploration of PMN in Central Indian Ocean Basin with the ISA in March, 2002 with the approval of the Union Cabinet.
- Under this contract, India is having an area of 75,000 sq km located about 2000 km away from her southern tip for exploration of PMN.
- The Union Ministry of Earth Sciences is carrying out Survey and Exploration, Technology Development (Mining and Extractive Metallurgy) under PNS program through various national institutes.
What are Polymetallic Nodules?
- Polymetallic nodules (PMN) are also known as manganese nodules.
- They are potato-shaped, largely porous nodules found in abundance carpeting the sea floor in the deep sea of the world oceans.
Polymetallic Nodules contain:
- Besides manganese and iron, they contain nickel, copper, cobalt, lead, molybdenum, cadmium, vanadium, titanium.
- Of these metals nickel, cobalt and copper are considered to be of economic and strategic importance.
The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is an autonomous international organization established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
- ISA governs non-living resources of the seabed lying in international waters.
- It was established to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, an area underlying most of the world’s oceans.
Union Cabinet approves Bilateral Technical Arrangement between India and Switzerland
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing of the Technical Arrangement between India and Switzerland on the identification and return of Swiss and Indian Nationals and its implementation.
- Conclusion of the Bilateral Technical Arrangement (BTA) has been linked to the Visa Free Agreement for holders of Diplomatic passports as a package deal.
- The BTA essentially aims to formalise the existing procedure for cooperation on the return of irregular migrants between the two countries without introducing any additional obligations or exacting timeframes.
- It is noteworthy that the estimated number of irregular migrants in Switzerland who are thought to be from India is less than 100.
- If the BTA with Switzerland is approved as proposed, it would offer an opportunity to use the same as a model template for negotiations on the subject with other EU countries, which have been raising the issue regularly with us.
- It would also help to leverage the Readmission Agreement to liberalise visa and work permit regimes for legitimate Indian travellers. This has been envisaged as a key goal in the recently concluded India-EU Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility (CAMM).
Cabinet approves MoU between India and Kenya on cooperation in the field of National Housing Policy Development and Management
The Union Cabinet has given its ex post-facto approval for the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Kenya on cooperation in the field of National Housing Policy Development and Management (NHPDM).
- The MoU was signed on 11th July, 2016 at Nairobi during the visit of the Prime Minister of India.
- Under the MoU, both the sides will collaborate on all matters relating to housing and human settlements through various strategies including training of personnel, exchange visits, expos/exhibitions, conferences and workshops.
- The cooperation between the two countries will focus on upscaling slum upgradation and prevention initiatives based on the experience and implementation process of each country.
- They will collaborate on development and sharing of information on housing and real estate data base including market trends, best practices and investment opportunities.
Significance of the MoU:
- It will encourage technical cooperation in facilitating access to affordable housing from locally available building materials.
- It will also encourage technical cooperation in development of Government/Public employee facilitated housing.
- This would be useful to explore ways of a delivery model towards Government employees housing scheme by private sector players.
Cabinet apprised of MoU between India and South Africa in ICT
The Union Cabinet has apprised of the MoU between India and South Africa for promoting bilateral cooperation in the field of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).
Significance of the MoU:
- The MoU will help to establish inter-institutional cooperation and relations between India and South Africa in order to promote cooperation in the field of ICT.
- It will also result in active cooperation and exchanges between the capacity building institutions, private entities, Governments and other public organizations of the two countries in the field of ICT.
- The MoU was signed between both countries in July 2016 during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to 5 African nations in July 2016.
Exchange of Tariff concessions under the Fourth Round of Negotiations APTA
Government today approved the exchange of duty concessions under the Fourth Round of Negotiations under the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), a move aimed at enhancing commerce among six member countries including India and China.
What has been approved?
- The Cabinet has approved India’s offer 28.01% of dutiable national tariff lines with an average MoP of 33.45%. This will deepen the concessions being offered under this Agreement.
- Approval was also given to amend the preamble of APTA to effect accession of Mongolia as the 7th APTA 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 above decisions.
About Asia Pacific Trade Agreement:
The Asia Pacific Trade Agreement or APTA (formerly the Bangkok Agreement) is an initiative under the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) for trade expansion through exchange of tariff concessions among developing country members of the Asia Pacific Region.
- The current membership of APTA consists of six countries or Participating States (PSs), namely, Bangladesh, China, India, Lao PDR, Republic of Korea, and Sri Lanka.
- 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.
- Till date, three rounds of trade negotiations have taken place.
Key Facts for Prelims
BRICS Wellness Workshop
The Ministry of AYUSH, in collaboration with Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), has organized a two days BRICS Wellness Workshop at Bengaluru.
Simultaneously, the Ministry of AYUSH has also organized a four-day National Fair on comprehensive Indian Medicine system (AROGYA) Fair.
AROGYA Fair is a comprehensive Health and Wellness Fair showcasing strengths of Traditional Systems/Wellness sector in India as well as other BRICS partner countries.
Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has launched the ambitious ‘e-nivaran’ facility for online redressal of taxpayers’ grievances related to refunds, ITRs and PAN among others as part of its initiative to reduce instances of harassment of the public when it comes to complaints related to the I-T department.
The Union Cabinet has approved the signing and ratification of the Extradition Treaty between India and Afghanistan.
The treaty would provide a legal framework for seeking extradition of terrorists, economic offenders and other criminals from and to the Afghanistan.