Tuesday, 28 June 2016 08:25


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26- JUNE - 2016




The Union Cabinet gave its ex-post facto approval to the MoU for the cooperation in the field of agriculture and allied sector. Besides, the cabinet also gave its nod to the signing of Air Services Agreement between both the countries.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Taipei Economic and Cultural Centre in India and India Taipei Association in Taipei, Taiwan.

Features of the MoU

• It provides for cooperation in the fields of Agriculture, Horticulture, Animal Husbandry, Fisheries, Aquaculture and Food Processing, Genetic Resources as well as Environmental Sustainability.

• Both the signatories will encourage the private sector in both countries to enter into cooperation in these areas.

• The cooperation between the two sides involves exchange of visits, information, technology and training and also expansion of agricultural trade while reducing trade barriers.

• A Joint Working Committee will be constituted to identify priority areas of mutual interest and follow up on the progress of implementation of the activities identified by both sides.

• The MoU will be initially signed for a period of five years and shall be automatically renewed for a subsequent periods of five years unless either party expresses its desire/intention to terminate it.

Features of the Agreement on Air Services

• It will signed by India-Taipei Association in Taipei (India’s representative office in Taiwan) and Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in India (Taiwan’s representative office in India).

• The agreement signifies an important landmark in the civil aviation relations between India and Taiwan.

• It has the potential to spur greater trade, investment, tourism and cultural exchanges between the two parties.

• At present, there is no formal air services agreement between both the countries.

• The air services are governed by an MoU exchanged between Air India Charters Limited (AIRL) and Taipei Airlines Associations (TAA).


The Union Cabinet 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.

How India will benefit from the ICDP membership?

• 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.

About International Continental Scientific Drilling Program

• 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.


President Pranab Mukherjee was accorded with Grand Cross National Order of the Republic of Cote D'Ivoirie in a simple ceremony at the President's Palace inAbidjan. 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.

Highlights of President’s Visit

• 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.


Pune-based diabetes specialist Shashank S Shah was conferred with the Vivian Fonseca Scholar Award 2016. He was awarded at the ADA’s 76th Scientific Sessions in New Orleans.

The award was given by American Diabetes Association (ADA) for his pioneering research on diabetes in South Asia.

He was selected for his research  titled Gastric Bypass vs. Medical/Lifestyle Care for Type 2 Diabetes in South Asia with BMI 25-40 kg/m2 — The COSMID Randomised. It is one of the pioneering bariatric surgeons in India and laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy in Asia.

The first Vivian Fonseca Scholar Award was awarded to Dr Vijay Viswanathan who was Diabetologist and Director of MV Hospital for Diabetes, Chennai in June 2014

About Shashank S Shah

• He was born in Solapur, Maharashtra and is the current director of Laparo-Obeso Centre in Pune.

• He is the first and only Indian to head three major international societies on diabetes, namely AIAARO (All India Association for Advancing Research in Obesity), Obesity Surgery Society of India (OSSI) and IEF (International Excellence Federation, India Chapter).

• He also holds a world record for conducting 45 hernia surgeries in 10 hours.

About ADA’s meetings

• This is the world’s largest medical conference in which more than 2500 original research presentations by the participants around the world and also gives them an opportunity to interact with leading diabetes experts and other join academic sessions.

• ADA is leading the fight to combat the diabetes since 1940 through research, managing and curing the lifestyle disease, community services, awareness programmes and prevention.


Canadian poet, novelist and environmental activist Margaret Atwood was awarded the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize.

Atwood will receive her award at a public event at the British Library on 13 October 2016.

Atwood was chosen by judges Vicky Featherstone, Zia Haider Rahman, Peter Stothard, Antonia Fraser and President of English PEN and Chair of Judges, Maureen Freely.

Who is Margaret Atwood?

Margaret Atwood is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist.

She is also the inventor and developer of the LongPen and associated technologies that facilitate the remote robotic writing of documents.

She is a winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and Prince of Asturias Award for Literature.

She has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, winning once for her novel The Blind Assassin.

In 2001, she was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.

A few of her best novels are The Handmaid's TaleThe Robber Bride,The Year of the Flood among others.

About PEN Pinter Prize

The PEN Pinter Prize is an annual literary award launched in 2009 by English PEN.

It was launched in honour of the late Nobel Literature Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter.

The award is given to a British writer or a writer resident in Britain of outstanding literary merit who casts an unflinching, unswerving gaze upon the world.

The PEN Pinter Prize is one of the many PEN literary awards sponsored by PEN International affiliates.

The 2015 PEN Pinter Prize was awarded to James Fenton, who shared the prize with Raif Badawi as the International Writer of Courage.


The Union cabinet approved the merger of the State Bank of India (SBI) with the five subsidiaries of Bank.

The cabinet approved the merger of the following subsidiaries-

• State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur

• State Bank of Hyderabad

• State Bank of Mysore

• State Bank of Patiala

• State Bank of Travancore

Apart from this, the Bharatiya Mahila Bank will also be merged with the SBI and the cabinet had cleared this proposal too.

Highlights of the merger

• The merger will create a behemoth with an asset base of 37 lakh crore rupees with 22500 branches and nearly 60000 automated teller machines.

• The merger necessitates changes in various acts that govern the functioning of the SBI and its subsidiary banks - which require further cabinet approval.

• The merger will make SBI as one of the top 50 banks in the world as currently no Indian bank features in the top 50 banks of the world.

SBI had seven associate banks, of which it has merged State Bank of Saurashtra and State Bank of Indore with itself over the last 10 years. The parent bank had advances of 15.09 trillion rupees and deposits of 17.31 trillion rupees as of the end of the March quarter.

Bank consolidation was proposed by the Union Government in March 2016 at a congregation of bankers and government officials where various issues pertaining to banks were discussed.


  • India’s efforts for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group will come to a head, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on the sidelines of the SCO summit.
  • Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar rushed to Seoul for a last-mile push at the NSG plenary, as India received more support for its case from France.
  • In public statements neither India nor China, that has opposed India’s bid on the ground that it is a non-signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, indicated that they are any closer to a breakthrough in the next two days.
  • Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said for the third consecutive day that the issue of non-NPT state membership was not on the agenda at Seoul.
  • Even so, China admitted for the first time that unofficial discussions on the applications from India and Pakistan had been taking place.


  • Expanding its horizons, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched 20 satellites through a single rocket, surpassing its 2008 record of launching 10 satellites in a single mission.
  • Besides the primary Cartosat-2 Series satellite, the PSLV C-34 rocket launched two satellites from Indian universities and 17 foreign satellites, including one for a Google company.
  • ISRO chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar announced the success of the launch.
  • Satish Dhawan Space Centre Director termed the launch of the 20 satellites, weighing about 1,288 kg in total, a “major milestone” for the national space agency.
  • ISRO also ignited the fourth stage of the PSLV rocket twice after the separation of satellites in an experiment, scientists said.
  • Sathyabamasat, the satellite of Sathyabama University in Chennai, the Swayam satellite of the College of Engineering in Pune, LAPAN-A3 (Indonesia), BIROS (Germany), M3MSat (Canada), SkySat Gen2-1 (USA) of Terra Bela (Google company), GHGSat-D (Canada) and 12 Dove Satellites (USA) were the other satellites that were launched.
  • The 725.5-kg Cartosat-2 series satellite would be for Earth observation and its imagery would be useful for cartographic applications, urban and rural applications, coastal land use and regulation, and utility management like road networking, ISRO said.
  • In 2014, Russian Dnepr rocket launched a record 37 satellites in a single mission.


  • A long-drawn process lies ahead for India to complete its entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) which will begin its annual summit on June 23-24 at Tashkent, confirmed the MEA.
  • The Memorandum of Obligations, however, will begin a process of more intense engagement.
  • The memorandum which India will sign on June 24 will also provide opportunity to intensify anti-terror cooperation between India and China.
  • However, unlike the last SCO summit at Ufa, where the bilateral between PM and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif was the highlight, this year Pakistan has not yet “formally communicated” to India about its representation at the SCO.


  • Colombia’s government and the FARC guerrilla group reached agreement on a definitive ceasefire in Latin America’s longest civil war, they said in a joint statement.
  • The national government and FARC delegations inform the public that we have successfully reached an agreement for a definitive bilateral ceasefire and end to hostilities.
  • The announcement heralds an end to a half-century conflict that has seen hundreds of thousands of people getting killed.
  • The deal would all but end the conflict by resolving one of the final points at peace talks between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s biggest rebel group.
  • The Colombian conflict started as a rural uprising in the 1960s. It has left 260,000 people dead, 45,000 missing and nearly seven million displaced, according to official figures.
  • Peace talks have been under way in Havana since 2012. They got a boost when the FARC declared a unilateral ceasefire a year ago.


  • Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina re-affirmed the country’s ‘zero tolerance approach’ to terrorism.
  • “Bangladesh will do everything necessary to fight the twin demons — terrorism and militancy. We have adopted a zero tolerance policy in this regard,” she told the Parliament, affirming that radicalism and terrorism “will not be tolerated”.
  • Her firm assertion comes amid the recent targeted killings of people from religious minority groups and secular bloggers by suspected Islamists and the nationwide anti-terror crackdown by the police.
  • During the question and answer session, Ms. Hasina explained that the country has joined the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in keeping with her commitment to fight militancy and terrorism .
  • She said the Muslim Ummah had a chance to jointly fight terror as 40 nations were part of the Saudi Arabia-led alliance.


  • A huge cattle station that pours sediment into the Great Barrier Reef was bought by the government as efforts are stepped up to help the World Heritage site bounce back from mass bleaching.
  • Global warming has been wreaking havoc on the reef, contributing to an unprecedented bleaching event this year that saw much of it whiten and almost a quarter of corals die.
  • The reef, which teems with marine life, is also under pressure from farming run-off, with the 560 square kilometre Springvale Station near Cooktown in northern Queensland one of the worst culprits.
  • Sediment and the attached nutrients have a range of impacts on the reef, so this 56,000 hectare land purchase was critical.
  • Run-off from the land carries sediment to the reef where it blocks light, smothers marine organisms and reduces coral and seagrass growth.
  • The government said it planned to remove all cattle from Springvale before rehabilitating the land to reduce erosion.
  • Scientists have said parts of the 2,300-kilometre long reef will take at least a decade to recover, and the World Wide Fund said good water quality was key to its survival.


  • The Cabinet approved an extension in the deadline for implementing the Ujjwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) by a year to March 31, 2017.
  • The UDAY scheme is aimed at bringing ailing power distribution companies (discoms) to a state of operational efficiency, with state governments taking over up to 75 per cent of their respective discoms’ debt and issuing sovereign bonds to pay back the lenders.
  • The Cabinet decision extends this provision from the earlier deadline of March 31, 2016.
  • The extension of the timeline is also to give states that have given their in-principle approval a little more time to order their finances before signing the official document, according to experts.
  • UDAY envisages a permanent resolution of past as well as potential future issues of the sector. It empowers discoms with the opportunity to break even in the next 2-3 years.
  • The scheme seeks to achieve this through several simultaneous steps including reducing the interest burden on the discoms by allowing the states to take over the bulk of their debt, reducing the cost of power, and increasing the operational efficiencies of the discoms by providing capital and infrastructure like coal linkages.
  • So far, 19 States have given in-principle approval to join the scheme, out of which 10 states—Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Punjab, Bihar, Haryana, Gujarat, Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir—have signed MoUs with the Centre.


  • The Cabinet approved the setting up of a Rs.10,000 crore fund to support start-ups in becoming full fledged business entities.
  • The fund is expected to generate employment for 18 lakh persons.
  • The approval will pave the way for setting up “Fund of Funds for Startups” at the Small Industries Development Bank of India for contributions to various Alternative Investment Funds registered with the Securities and Exchange Board of India.
  • The Rs.10,000 crore-corpus will be built up over the 14th and 15th Finance Commission cycles subject to progress of the scheme and availability of funds. Already Rs.500 crore has been provided.


  • Paving the way for the largest-ever spectrum auction in the country, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the sale of all available spectrum.
  • This move could potentially fetch the exchequer about Rs.5.5 lakh crore going by the reserve price.
  • The auction in which about 2000 MHz of airwaves will be put up for sale is likely to be conducted in September. The government had earned revenues of Rs 1.1 lakh crore from the auctions held last year.
  • This is the first time that the 700 MHz band that is preferred for offering high-speed broadband services will be put on offer at a reserve price of Rs11,485 crore per MHz pan-India.
  • However, the operators had asked the sale to be held back till the device ecosystem was put in place. The cost of delivering mobile services in the 700 MHz band is also approximately 70 per cent cheaper than in the 2100 MHz band.
  • For 2016-17, the Centre has estimated revenues from communication services at Rs 98,995 crore, of which Rs 55,000 crore is expected from the auction of spectrum.
  • Companies winning spectrum above 1GHz will need to pay 50 per cent upfront against the 33 per cent earlier.
  • For the remaining spectrum, 25 per cent would be upfront payment. The balance for both categories will be paid in 10 years after a two-year moratorium.

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