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Cabinet clears bill for speedy recovery of bad loans

The Union Cabinet has approved a bill seeking to amend the debt recovery laws with an overall objective of improving the ease of doing business.
•    Cabinet approves ex facto 'The Enforcement of Security Interest and Recovery of Debts Laws and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill, 2016.
•    The bill aims to improve ease of doing business, facilitate investment leading to higher economic growth and development, it added.
•    Introduced in Lok Sabha last month, the bill seeks to amend four legislations — Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (Sarfaesi) Act, 2002, the Recovery of Debts due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993, the Indian Stamp Act, 1899 and the Depositories Act, 1996.
•    A parliamentary joint committee has invited views and suggestions from various stakeholders and public on the provisions of the bill by June 22.
•    Around 70,000 cases are pending in debt recovery tribunals (DRT) and the proposed amendments would facilitate expeditious disposal of recovery applications

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The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing of 15 years contract for undertaking exploration and other developmental activities related to Poly-Metallic Sulphides (PMS)

The Union Cabinet on 15 June 2016 gave its approval for signing of a 15 years contract by the Ministry of Earth Sciences with the International Seabed Authority (ISA).
•    The contract seeks to undertake exploration and other developmental activities related to Polymetallic Sulphides in the allotted area of 10000 sq km.
•    Under the contract, exploration will be done in parts of Central and South - West Indian Ridges (SWIR), located in the Indian Ocean.
•    India's exclusive rights for exploration of Polymetallic Sulphides in the allotted area will be formalized.
•    It will enhance India's presence in the Indian Ocean where other players like China, Korea and Germany are active.
•    The exploration program will be implemented by the Ministry of Earth Sciences with the participation from various national institutes and research laboratories and scientific establishments.
•    Deep seabed Poly-Metallic Sulphides (PMS) contain iron, copper, zinc, silver, gold, platinum in variable constitutions.
•    They are precipitates of hot fluids from upwelling hot magma from deep interior of the oceanic crust discharged through mineralized chimneys.
•    PMS in the Ocean Ridges have attracted worldwide attention for their long term commercial as well as strategic values.
•    It is an autonomous international organization that governs non-¬living resources of seabed lying in international waters.
•    It was set up under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1994 Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
•    It primarily regulates deep seabed mining and gives special emphasis to ensuring that the marine environment is protected from any harmful effects which may arise during mining activities, including exploration.
•    It formulates regulations for prospecting and exploration for Polymetallic Nodules in order to ensure environmentally sustainable development of the precious resources.
•    Its headquarters is located in Kingston, Jamaica. Nii Allotey Odunton of Ghana is the Secretary-General of the authority.
•    It encourages marine scientific research in the international seabed area through its Endowment Fund. The fund supports the participation of qualified scientists and technical personnel from developing countries.

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President Pranab Mukherjee has been presented National Order of the Republic of Ivory Coast, the highest civilian award

President Pranab Mukherjee on 14 June 2016 was accorded with Grand Cross National Order of the Republic of Cote D'Ivoirie in a simple ceremony at the President's Palace in Abidjan. It is the highest civilian award of Ivory Coast.
•    He received many honorary degrees but, it is the first such honour accorded to him by a country.
•    The President was honoured during his two days visit to the Country from 14 June to 15 June 2016.
•    It was the first visit of any Indian President to Ivory Coast. In fact, it is the first ever high level visit from India to Ivory Coast.
•    Both the countries signed headquarters agreement for re-establishment of Exim bank regional head quarters in the Ivory Coast.
•    The Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces highlighted the common concerns of both the countries to combat international terrorism and other key issues including disarmament, climate change and sustainable development.
•    The Head of the State reiterated the commitment of India towards the South-South Cooperation through developmental assistance and sharing resources for the development in Africa.
•    He appreciated the naming of an information technology park in Abidjan after Mahatma Gandhi calling him as a true son of India as well as Africa.
•    The President also promised that India will remain a steadfast partner in assisting Cote D'Ivoirie (Ivory Coast) in its economic development and growth and trade between the two nations is expected to touch 1 billion US dollars in few years.

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India’s membership of the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program approved

The Union Cabinet on 15 June 2016 gave its approval for Indian membership of the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) consortium.
The approval clears the path for signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the GFZ - Helmholtz Centre Potsdam (German Research Centre for geosciences). The GFZ is a government-funded, Public Law Foundation of the State of Brandenburg, Germany.
•    The MoU, which will be in force for 5 years, will enable India in engaging internationally renowned experts with profound expertise in different aspects of scientific drilling.
•    The deep drilling and associated investigations will be conducted in Koyna region in Maharashtra.
•    As a part of the membership agreement, India will get a seat on two ICDP panels - Executive Committee (EC) and Assembly of Governors (AOG).
•    ICDP will provide technical / operational support, facilitate capacity building in terms of manpower training in key scientific areas, sample and data management
•    The ICDP will also support workshops for the Koyna scientific deep drilling project undertaken by Ministry of Earth Sciences.
•    As a member of ICDP, scientists/engineers from India would have right to submit proposals, to participate in all ICDP co-funded workshops and drilling projects.
•    They will get access to all data results from ICDP projects. This will shed new light on the genesis of seismicity and better understanding of earthquake processes.
•    It was founded in February 1996 in the German Embassy in Tokyo as a result of the German Continental Deep Drilling Program.
•    It is a multinational program to further and fund geosciences in the field of Continental Scientific Drilling.
•    The research findings will provide direct insight into Earth processes by testing geological models.
•    The GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences serves as the headquarters for the ICDP.
•    Members of ICDP: Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the UK, the USA and UNESCO.

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National Civil Aviation Policy 2016 released

The Union Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) released National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) 2016 on 15 June 2016. The policy’s mission is to  provide  safe,  secure,  affordable  and  sustainable air travel  for passengers  and  air  transportation  of  cargo  with  access to various parts of India and the world.
•    Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS): It will not allow the airlines to charge more than 2500 rupees for one hour flight between two small cities. The RCS will come into effect in the second quarter of 2016-17.
•    Code-share agreements: Indian carriers will be free to enter into code-share agreements with foreign carriers for any destination within India on a reciprocal basis. Indian carriers need to simply inform Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA)30 days prior to starting the code-share flights.
•    Encourage Private Security: The Government will encourage use of private security agencies at airports for non-core security functions. The private security agencies will comprise retired personnel from military and para-military forces.
•    No-Frills Airports: They will be built at an indicative cost of 50 crore to 100 crore rupees.
•    Viability Gap Funding (VGF): It will be shared between MoCA and the State Government in the ratio of 80:20 while it is 90:10 for the North Eastern States.
•    The payment of the full amount of VGF will be made to the airline operator from the Regional Connectivity Fund (RCF) and the State Governments will be subsequently asked reimbursement.
•    MoCA’s share of VGF will be provided through the RCF, which will be collected and operated by Airport Authority of India (AAI) or any other entity identified by MoCA.
•    MoCA will persuade State Governments to make Value Added Tax (VAT) zero-rated on MRO activities to develop India asan MRO hub in Asia.
•    5/20 Rule: The requirement for 5/20 is modified and all airlines can commence international operations provided that they deploy 20 aircraft or 20 percent of total capacity (in term of average number of seats on all epartures put together), whichever is higher for domestic operations.
•    Bilateral Traffic Rights: Under this, government will enter into an ‘Open sky’ ASA on a reciprocal basis with SAARC countries and countries with territory located entirely beyond a 5000 kilometers radius from New Delhi.
•    India has Air Service Agreements (ASA) with 109 countries covering aspects relating to the number of flights, seats, landing points and code-share.  
•    • Upgradation of Airports: Airport Authority of India (AAI) will continue to modernize the existing airports and upgrade quality of services.    It will also maintain an ASQ  rating  of  4.5  or  more  across all airports  which  have  a throughput above 1.5  mppa and ASQ rating  of 4.0 or more for the rest.
•    Ground Handling Agencies (GHA): The airport operator will ensure that there will be three Ground Handling Agencies (GHA) including Air India's subsidiary/JV at all major airports as defined in AERA Act 2008 to ensure fair competition. 
•    Advanced Cargo Information system: It will be implemented in a phased manner after a universally accepted international template has emerged.
•    MoCA will be nodal agency for developing commercial aero-related manufacturing and its eco-system in India in line with Aeronautical Make in India.
•    Growth of helicopters: Government will support growth of helicopters for remote area connectivity and separate regulations for helicopters will be notified by DGCA.

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Indian Railways launches Janani Sewa, optional catering Scheme on pilot basis

Railways minister Suresh Prabhu on Wednesday launched three passenger service initiatives—a Janani Sewa for mothers, optional catering in Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains on a pilot basis and a children’s menu on trains.
•    Under Janani Sewa, hot milk, hot water and baby food—to begin with—will be available at 25 railway stations including New Delhi, Mumbai, Howrah, Chennai, Surat and Lucknow. 
•    Originally, the service was meant to have been introduced on trains.
•    The decision to introduce this facility was taken after a mother last year tweeted to the minister that due to a delayed train service she was facing a lot of problems feeding her child as she was unable to find milk on the train.
•    The Indian Railways also launched an optional catering services project. 
•    To begin with the project will be taken up on a pilot basis for 45 days and will be available only on the Secunderabad-Pune Shatabdi Express and Mumbai Central-Hazrat Nizammudin Rajdhani Express.
•    The catering charges of Rs.340 for 1 AC and Rs.295 on 2AC/3AC would be deducted from the cost of the Rajdhani ticket if a passenger opts out of the catering service. 
•    Similarly a Shatabdi ticket would be cheaper by Rs.260 and Rs.220 for executive and chair car categories, respectively.
•    To make train travel a happier experience for children, the railways has launched items like French fries, noodles, burgers and meal combos through IRCTC. 
•    These items can be ordered by the passengers through the e-catering website of IRCTC, a specified phone number, SMS, mobile app or a four digit all-India toll free number—1323.

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India Post launches logo and tagline design contest for India Post Payments Bank

India Post launched a logo and tagline design contest for the soon to be set up India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) on the MyGov website.
Union Cabinet gave its approval 1 June 2016 to set up the IPPB under the Department of Posts to further financial inclusion in India.
India Post wants to involve the people of India in designing the DNA of the India Post Payments Bank. So, it is conducting a contest for the design.
It has also initiated a nationwide survey to understand the needs of different segments of customers.
• IPPB will offer digitally enabled payments, banking and remittance services of all kinds between entities and individuals.
• It also provides access to insurance, mutual funds, pension and credit products in partnership with third party financial service providers and Banks.
• Cocreating value propositions and products with its customers and other stakeholders is one of the guiding principles of IPPB.
• It is poised to emerge as the main vehicle of financial inclusion in the country by bringing the physical reach of 1.55 lakh post offices.
• It will be a modern payments platform powered by ubiquitous information and communication technologies together to create a national payments architecture that can be accessed by all users like never before.
• The roll out of the IPPB is to be completed by September 2017.
contest is open to all Indian citizens, institutions, agencies and entities for a period of one month, until 9 July 2016.
• The best entry will be awarded 50000 rupees.
• A panel of eminent designers/ experts will help shortlist 20 best entries which will thereafter be put up for voting on the MyGov platform for the final selection of the winner.

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Union Railway Minister dedicates Champaran Satyagrah Express at Motihari

Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu flagged off the weekly Champaran Satyagrah Express at Motihari, Bihar.
He inaugurated six rail facilities in Bihar on the occasion which includes three Road Over Bridges (ROBs) at Danapur (Patna), Motihari and Begusarai railway stations, the broad guage conversion work of Banmankhi-Purnea rail section, besides converting Piprahan station into a crossing station.
• It was introduced to mark 100 years of the historic Champaran Satyagraha (movement) that was launched by Mahatma Gandhi in 1917.
• The train will run between Bapudham, Motihari and Anand Vihar, Delhi.
The Champaran Satyagraha was first Satyagraha in India;
Mahatma Gandhi led the movement in 1917 against the oppressive policies European indigo planters that led to exploitation of tens of thousands of landless serfs, indentured labourers and poor farmers in Champaran and neighbouring areas.

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The Union Information and Broadcasting ministry has framed a New Print Media Advertisement Policy

The Union Information and Broadcasting ministry has framed a New Print Media Advertisement Policy for Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP). 
•    It has been done to promote transparency and accountability in issuing of advertisements in print media. 
•    It focuses on streamlining release of Government advertisements and to also promote equity and fairness among various categories of newspapers and periodicals. 
•    It has introduced a New Marking System for newspapers to incentivize Newspapers. 
•    The system is based on 6 objective criteria with different marks each of them.
•    The newspapers will be able get benefit from new system who have better professional standing and get their circulation verified Audit Bureau of Circulations or Registrar of Newspapers for India. 
•    DAVP will release advertisements to newspapers based on marks obtained by each newspaper. 
•    This will also ensure transparency and accountability in the release of advertisements by DAVP. 
•    For payment and adjustment of Bills, it mandates that DAVP will release payment of advertisement bills in the name of newspaper or company account directly through ECS or NEFT. 

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Indian Reserve Battalion to be named after Maharana Pratap

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on 8 June 2016 announced that a new Indian Reserve Battalion in Rajasthan will be named after Maharana Pratap. 
The battalion will be named as Maharana Pratap reserve battalion.
•    Maharana Pratap, a Rajput ruler who had fought against the Mughals and never bowed before them, is attributed as the greatest warrior of the Mewar region.
•    The announcement was made at a programme attended by Rajnath Singh during his two-day visit to the state.  
•    The decision was taken on the request of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.
•    The government introduced the scheme of Indian Reserve Battalions in 1971 and so far, 153 battalions have been sanctioned to various states.
•    Besides, the union government also announced setting up of a global center for counter terrorism at Sardar Patel University of Police, Security and Criminal Justice at Jodhpur.

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