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Cabinet approves signing of an Agreement between India and Poland on cooperation in the field of agriculture and allied sectors
Feb 22,2017

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for signing of an Agreement between India and Poland on cooperation in the field of agriculture and allied sectors.

The agreement covers various activities in the field of agriculture and allied sector including exchange of information on the current situation in agriculture, the phytosanitary conditions of crops, threats posed by harmful organisms and the threats posed by animal infectious diseases. It also covers the participation in fairs, exhibitions, seminars and conferences related to agriculture and agri-food processing; undertaking and developing joint economic initiatives including the support or agrifood trade between the states of the Contracting Parties.

The Agreement provides for constitution of a Joint Wording Group (JWG) comprising of representatives from both countries. The JWG will prepare plans of cooperation and to provide solutions to the problems arising during the implementation of the Agreement.

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Cabinet approves signing of Air Services Agreement between India and Greece
Feb 22,2017

Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the signing of Air Services Agreement (ASA) between India and Greece.

The Agreement has the potential to spur greater trade, investment, tourism and cultural exchange between the two countries bringing it in tune with the developments in the civil aviation sector. It will provide enabling environment for enhanced and seamless connectivity while providing commercial opportunities to the carriers of both the sides ensuring greater safety and security.

The essential features of the ASA are as follows:

i. Both countries shall be entitled to designate one or more airline.

ii. The designated airlines of either country shall have the right to establish offices in the territory of the other country for the promotion end sale of air services.

iii. The designated airlines of the two countries shall have fair and equal opportunity to operate the agreed services on specified routes.

iv. The designated Airline of each party can enter into cooperative marketing arrangements with the designated carriers of same party, other party and third country,

v. As per the Route Schedule, the Indian carriers can operate to Athens, Thessaloniki, HerakIion and any 3 points to be specified later in Greece from points in India, whereas the carriers of Hellenic Republic can establish direct operation to 6 metros viz. New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennal. Any points shall be available as intermediate and beyond point for the designated carriers of India as well as the designated carriers of Greece.

At present there is no ASA between India and Greece. The delegations of two sides met in New Delhi on 6-7th September, 2016 and finalized the text of ASA. The agreement is as per latest International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) template keeping in view the latest developments in civil aviation sector and with an objective to improve the air connectivity between the two countries.

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Cabinet approves MoU between India and Australia for promotion and development of cooperation in civil aviation security
Feb 22,2017

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Australia for promotion and development of cooperation in civil aviation security.

The MoU will provide an opportunity to Indian aviation security authorities to share the expertise of their Australian counterparts and enhance the overall aviation security environment in India.

The MoU will provide compliance of international obligation as well as enhance promotion in the area of security cooperation between the two countries.

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Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) launches Cyber Swachhta Kendra - Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre
Feb 22,2017

Extending the Swachh Bharat campaign to the cyber world, the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, Shri. Ravi Shankar Prasad, launched the Cyber Swachhta Kendra-Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre for analysis of malware and botnets that affect networks and systems. This is a part of MeitYs Digital India initiative aimed at creating a secure cyber space by detecting botnet infections in India and to notify, enable cleaning and securing systems of end-users to prevent further infections. The centre is operated by the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In).The Centre aims to enhance coordination between the Government and industry in order to encourage cyber hygiene among all end-users and to create a secure and safe internet ecosystem in India.

Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Honble Minister of Electronics and Information Technology said, n++India is going to take a lead in the digitization process of the world. India today joined the distinguished club of countries that have malware cleaning systems for the use of its citizens. As of now, we have 13 Banks & internet service providers using this facility. With the expanding digital footprint in the country, I see a surge in start-ups in the area of cyber security by the end of the yearn++

n++With the expanding role of Information and Communication technology across sectors and growth in volume of transactions and data exchange via internet, Cyber Security as reiterated by Honble Prime Minister, has emerged as the most critical factor when we move towards Digital India. Combating cyber threats is not something that can be done just by the government or an organisation or an individual alone. It requires a partnership approach. This centre being launched today will work in coordination with the Internet Service Providers and Industry. This Kendra will also enhance awareness among citizens regarding botnet and malware infection along with measures to be taken to secure their devicesn++, added Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad.

The Honble Minister made the following announcement at the launch of Cyber Swachhta Kendra:

n++ The National Cyber Coordination Centre to be operational by June 2017

n++ Sectoral CERTs to be created, that would operate under CERT-In

n++ CERTs are to be set up in the state level as well

n++ 10 more STQC (Standardisation Testing and Quality Certification) Testing Facilities to be set up

n++ Testing fee for any star-up that comes up with a digital technology in the quest of cyber security, to be reduced by 50%

n++ Empower designated Forensic Labs to work as the certified authority to establish cyber crime

The Centre will operate in close co-ordination and collaboration with Internet Service Providers (ISP) and Anti-Virus companies. Whenever an infection is detected, the Centre will send alerts on the infected IP addresses to the Internet Service Providers, who in turn will inform the end-user about the malware and botnet infections on their system. The Centre will also work in close collaboration with the Banks to detect malware infections in their banking network and enable remedial actions. The launch of the Centre will help the Internet service providers and the banks to keep their networks clean and prevent cases of cyber fraud and theft.

Ms. Aruna Sundararajan, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said, n++With the increased penetration of ICT infrastructure in our country, the threat of cyber security has become more serious and visible. Today, the common man is confronted with hacking, spamming, malware and loss of data, yet public awareness about these issues and how to protect themselves is extremely low. There is a need to collaborate and come forth with solutions like the Cyber Swachhta Kendra in order to ensure a safe and secure cyber world for the citizens of India.n++

With the growth in digitalization and proliferation of broadband and mobile internet, security of end users systems is vital for enhancing their trust in ICT and online transactions. User information from the computer and the mobile devices can be compromised if systems get affected with Bots. Users therefore need to practice a rigid cyber hygiene regimen to prevent malware infections on their systems and to ensure security of their systems through suitable anti-malware tools. The Cyber Swachhta Kendra will provide free tools for detection and removal of malicious programmes. More than 3500 users have currently downloaded and tried the free bot removal tools till date. The end-user can log on to the Cyber Swachhta Kendra Portal (www.cyberswachhtakendra.gov.in) and clean their systems using the free cleaning tools. Users can also educate themselves about the various cyber threats and get information on the security tips in order to secure their computers, mobiles and prevent infections in their systems.

Given below are details of some of the tools released for citizens:

n++ USB Pratirodh -A desktop security solution, which protects from USB mass storage device threats.

n++ AppSamvid - A desktop solution which protects systems by allowing installation of genuine applications through white listing. This helps in preventing threats from malicious applications.

n++ M-Kavach - An indigenously developed solution to address the security threats in mobiles.

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AYUSH Minister to inaugurate the World Integrated Medicine Forum on Regulation of Homeopathic Medicine
Feb 22,2017

Minister of State (Independent Charge) for AYUSH, Shri Shripad Yesso Naik will inaugurate the World Integrated Medicine Forum on Regulation of Homeopathic Medicinal Products: National and Global strategies. This is the first-of-its-kind forum considering the increased perception of the international world towards India as a key player in the progress of the homoeopathy drug industry,. Drug lawmakers, regulators, manufacturers and pharmacopeial experts from various regulatory authorities, eminent scientific organisations and pharmaceutical industries from 25 countries, are participating in the two days forum to strategize the actionable aspects in the homoeopathic drug industry, which, in turn, will promote global harmonisation in the sector.

The event is organised by Ministry of AYUSH and Central Council for Research in Homeopathy (CCRH) and supported by Pharmacopoeia Commission for Indian Medicine & Homoeopathy (PCIMH) & Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO).

Major points of discussion will include current regulatory status in different countries; practices and possible trade opportunities in key countries worldwide; possible solutions to regulatory challenges; building knowledge and network to deal more efficiently with challenges at national and global level and a strategic perspective on the possibilities and limitations of what can be achieved at a national level via further international collaboration and harmonization. One of the highlights of the forum will be exchange of Memorandum of Understanding among Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia Convention of the United States (HPCUS) and Indian bodies - Pharmacopoeia Commission for Indian Medicine & Homoeopathy (PCIM&H) and Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH) on cooperation in the field of Homoeopathic Medicine. It is hoped that this agreement will be a benchmark for many more agreements to follow with the aim to develop and harmonise homoeopathic pharmacopoeias and to strengthen regulatory provisions for homoeopathy in the whole world.

In India, homoeopathic medicines are regulated by Drugs & Cosmetics Act & Rules. All pharmaceutical industries are legally bound to comply with these rules, which, in turn, assures safety and quality of homoeopathic medicines. Further, these industries adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) that further assure accredited production, packaging and distribution. In that sense, India has a relatively well-established regulatory framework for Homoeopathy. However, the implementation of these Acts and Rules are sometimes challenging at the end of the pharmaceutical industries, and despite their best efforts to comply, some practical challenges remain that come in their way.

On the other hand, the international scenario of regulations of homoeopathic medicinal products is also varied and in many countries, the regulatory provisions are either non-existent or minimalist, thereby advocating reforms in policies for wider accessibility of quality homoeopathic products.

Homoeopathy is one of the most followed medical systems in India and its strength lies in the fact that its medicines are gentle, safe as well as cost-effective. In the era of growing adverse drug reactions and auto-immune and lifestyle-related illnesses, Homeopathy has a crucial role to play in the well-being of mankind. The use of homoeopathy is steadily growing in India and as per an analysis by Ministry of AYUSH, this sector exhibited an annual growth rate of 26.3% in the past year, the highest among the other AYUSH modalities.

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Ministry of External affairs enquire missions to promote Ayush, Ayurveda: V.K. Singh
Feb 22,2017

Ministry of External affairs (MEA) have asked all chairs and missions to take a serious look to promote Ayush and Ayurveda, said (Dr) V.K. Singh (Retd), Minister of State, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India at an ASSOCHAM event.

n++On part of Ministry of External affairs (MEA), we have asked all our chairs and missions to promote Ayush and Ayurveda because 25 missions have got Ayush facilitation centers and these are being managed in a manner in which we would like them to become much greater facilitation center then what they are today,n++ said Mr Singh.

He said that Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is aware of need for simplifying VISA procedures and open for the suggestions and recommendations to make things better for people who are coming.

n++Misuse and abuse creates problems for any new initiative,n++ he added. To ensure that things are made as transparent as possible and things are made in this manner in which they cannot be misused, said Mr. Singh.

n++This is field got tremendous potential which can make India the hub of medical facilities which will help India as well as allow rest of the world to depend on Indian++, said Mr. Singh.

Mr Singh also said that we have treatments both traditional medical field and as well as alternative therapies that are perfected and cause the traditional Indian medicinal practices. There are people in continents that look towards India as a country which gives affordable medical care.

The tourist looks for the facility which is at par best in the world that is hygiene, friendly staff who can guide you correctly and the doctors who are not going to overcharge you, added Mr. Singh.

In his address at the ASSOCHAM summit, Mr Amarendra Khatua, Secretary (Special Assignment), MEA and DG, ICCR, said that today, today, the pharma market is about US$ 40 billion in 2017-18, the average growth rate is 14% per year at CAGR and in real terms medical visa arrivals are increased almost at the rate of 80% every year since 2010. The MEDiTravel industry now needs concentrated and coordinated approach for growth, revenue generation and quality service.

Medical tourism in exports not only results in increased foreign exchange earnings, increased tourism revenue earning, attracts tourism investment in the sector, creation of employment, improves standard and accountability in the local health services and facilities and growing awareness, added Mr. Khatua.

n++It also creates great India brand. The brand properly packaged and marketed by a study, is estimated to have a market size of a US $ 60 billion per yearn++.

He also highlighted the action plan like we must have a focussed market development programme in the target countries through regional insurance product and cross border payment arrangements.

Introduction of polit schemes for specialised electric treatments and procedures and sell them specialised trade fairs or promotional events abroad. Need to have a study of setting up medi-value EPZs in different parts of India, said Khatua.

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Ministry of Road Transports New Format for Reporting Accidents
Feb 22,2017

An expert committee was constituted by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to review the format for reporting of road accidents. The committee headed by Senior Adviser of the Transport Research Wing and consisting of experts from IIT Delhi, IIT Kharagpur, WHO, senior officers from the Police and Transport Departments of States, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, submitted its recommendations, which have also been accepted by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. Briefing the media in the capital today, Mrs Kirti Saxena, Senior Adviser of Transport Research Wing and Chairperson of the committee said that FIRs at police station suffer from under reporting of data from the accident site, which are therefore inaccurate and incomplete. She informed that the committee met a number of times to look into the weaknesses of the existing format for reporting accidents. After studying the way accidents are reported in various states and also in other countries, the new format was recommended to the Ministry. She also stated that the main role would be that of the police for whom workshops would have to be held. Prof. Geetam Tiwari from IIT Delhi and member of the committee elaborated on the salient features of the new format. She informed that at present reports are collected from police stations and State Governments send their report to the Centre. She expressed the hope that the new format would fill in gaps in reporting of accidents by minimizing subjectivity. Prof. Sudeshna Mitra of IIT Kharagpur and member of the committee said that recording of the accident site will play crucial role in the task of reporting. She added that the GPS detail will enable to understand the road design at site. Besides, vehicle analysis and also person related details would help in analyzing the accidents. The recording of accident data is done in FIRs at police stations. These records are liable to be subjective as the police personnel fill it up according to their understanding and assign reasons for accidents as per their interpretation. There are apprehensions that due to limited technical understanding, the police persons recording the data are not able to recognize the role of road engineering defects, the nature of impacting vehicles and other such technical details that may have caused the accident. As a result, these aspects that are so vital for ensuring road safety but remain unreported or under reported.

After a series of deliberations the committee has developed a uniform accident Recording Format to be adopted by the police in all states and UTs. The accident Recording Form has five sections designed to capture all relevant information like accident identification/location, road condition, vehicles involved and victim details. Section A contains accident identification details like location, vehicle type etc. Section B captures road conditions and features like culvert, gradient, pothole etc. Section C would capture details about vehicle - both motorized and non motorized, overloading etc. Section D would capture traffic violations by drivers and Section E would capture details about persons other than drivers involved in the accident. The form is simple and would be easy for the police persons at thana levels to understand and fill up. It also minimizes subjective elements.

In addition to the above, the committee has also developed a set of corresponding annual road accident data Reporting Format consisting of 17 forms in which the states/ UTs would be required to furnish the annual road accident data to TRW of the Ministry within one month of the completion of a calendar year.

This development is important as the data forms the basis for analyzing the cause of accidents, identifying black spots and taking corrective steps to eliminate the same. This is also the data that gets compiled by the Transport Research Wing of the Ministry in its annual publication Road Accidents in India. Over a period of time the data will reveal patterns which will provide solutions and enable action to be taken.

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Government to Come up With its own Study to Assess Impact of Pollution on Human Health: Environment Minister
Feb 22,2017

The Government is to come up with its own study with the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare to assess the trends and impact of pollution on human health. Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri Anil Madhav Dave, said that the Government is taking all necessary steps to mitigate air pollution. He gave a detailed account of various sources of pollution and actions taken by the Government for their management. Giving an account of recent steps taken by the Government, the Minister referred to the notification on Graded Response Action Plan to address different levels of air pollution in National Capital Region. Referring to several media reports, linking air pollution specifically to deaths, Mr. Dave said there is a need to exercise caution in interpretation of these studies.

The Government is closely monitoring the trend of various air pollutants across the country under the National Air Quality Monitoring Programme. The Monitoring network comprises manual stations spread over 300 cities in 29 States and 6 Union territories. Apart from manual stations, there are 54 Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations that cover 33 cities in 12 states. The monitoring network is being expanded to cover all metro cities and capital towns.

The result of the monitoring shows that, while the levels of Particulate Matters have a fluctuating trend, the value of SO2 is generally within permissible limits, while the value of NO2 is fluctuating and slightly above the permissible limits. The value of Particulate Matter is the main concern and the Government has been taking all necessary measures to mitigate this problem in a systematic manner.

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Government Issued Dated Securities Worth Rs.161,000 Crore Taking the Gross Borrowings in April-December of FY17 to Rs. 5,02,000 Crore or 83.7 Per Cent
Feb 21,2017

During Q3 of FY17, the Government issued dated securities worth Rs.161,000 crore taking the Gross Borrowings in April-December of FY17 to Rs. 5,02,000 crore or 83.7 per cent of BE, vis-a-vis 85.6 per cent of BE in April-December of FY 16. Net market borrowings from April-December of FY17 were at Rs.362,012 crore, 85.1 per cent of BE. Auctions of both Government dated Securities and Treasury Bills, during Q3 of FY17 were held in accordance with the pre-announced issuance calendar. In the 11 tranches of G-securities auction, five new securities, namely 7.06% GS 2046, 6.51% FRB 2024, 6.62% GS 2051, 6.57%GS 2033 and 6.79% GS 2029 were issued during the Quarter on October 10, November 7, November 28, December 5 and December 26, 2016, respectively. The Weighted Average Maturity (WAM) and Weighted Average Yield (WAY) issued during Q3 FY17 was 15.59 years and 6.78 per cent. The liquidity condition in the economy continued to improve during the quarter. The cash position of the Government during Q3 of FY17 was comfortable and remained in surplus mode.

The Public Debt (excluding liabilities under the Public Account) of the Central Government provisionally increased by 2.4 per cent in Q3 of FY 17 on Q-o-Q basis. Internal debt constituted 92.6 per cent of Public Debt as at end-December 2016, while marketable securities accounted for 83.6 per cent of Public Debt. About 26.6 per cent of outstanding stock has a residual maturity of up to 5 years at end - December 2016, which implies that over the next five years, on an average, around 5.3 per cent of outstanding stock needs to be repaid every year. Thus, rollover risk in the debt portfolio continues to be low. The implementation of budgeted buy back/ switches in coming period is expected to further reduce roll over risk.

G-sec yields declined sharply across the curve during the quarter, post the Governments decision on November 8, 2016 to demonetize high denomination value notes which was viewed positively by market as deposits were expected to surge in banks and led to bullish market sentiment, particularly for short end bonds. The bullish market sentiment was however, restrained to a certain extent with rise in global crude prices on OPEC agreement with Russia in its meeting to cut oil output, hiking by US Fed of key policy rate by 25 bps and FOMC commentary suggesting further rate hikes at a faster pace. The trading volume of Government Securities on an outright basis during Q3 FY 17 decreased by 11.87 per cent over the previous quarter.

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Record 444 LMT of paddy procured during ongoing Kharif Marketing Season: Shri Ram Vilas Paswan
Feb 21,2017

The Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution expressed satisfaction over the production figures as per the 2nd advance estimates released by the Agriculture Ministry. The expected record output proves that the farmers are responding positively towards the measures taken by the Central Government. Shri Paswan congratulated the Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Shri Radha Mohan Singh on the record production of foodgrains which he shared with the media on 16th February, 2017. According to the 2nd advance production estimates, the production of major crops is expected to be 271.98 mMT.

Shri Paswan said that soon after the NDA Government took-over, the country faced drought like situation continuously for two years and this is for the first time that monsoon was good. Now farmers and consumers will reap the benefits of pro-farmer policies of the Union Government. The Minister said that sowing of wheat grew by 7%, while the increase in pulses was 11% and in oilseeds it was 6% as compared to last year. As a result, we are expecting 221.4 LMT record production in pulses. Similarly the wheat production is expected to be 965 LMT. Union Government has framed a policy to transfer the MSP directly to the accounts of farmers in a transparent manner. Government has increased the MSP of pulses and oilseeds considerably and there is steady increase in the MSP of paddy and wheat. Shri Paswan told that during the ongoing Kharif Marketing Season a record 444 LMT of paddy has been procured from the farmers. Shri Paswan said that farmers have produced record pulses, however, there were complaints that they were not getting even then MSP for Moong and Arhar. The Government immediately responded, first, by increasing the buffer stock of pulses from 1.5 MT to 20 LMT in order to protect farmers interests. Further the Government has engaged 3 central agencies viz. FCI, NAFED and SFAC to procure pulses directly from farmers which is still going on.

As per the data released by the Agriculture Ministry, wheat production will be around 965 LMT. Going by the sowing area and favourable weather conditions, the country will have good yield of wheat. The Food Department held a meeting with wheat producing States on 15th February, 2017 and has set the procurement target at 330 LMT for the ensuing Rabi Marketing Season 2017-18. Extensive preparations have been made for procurement operations and Government will make necessary arrangements for payment of MSP to farmers. Special attention has been given to the farmers of Eastern States. Government has recently removed import duty on wheat to increase its availability in domestic market. In a span of around 2 months, 40 LMT Wheat has been imported and this year more than 55 LMT wheat imports have happened in total. Fresh wheat crop is expected to come by mid-March. It has been experienced when there is price-rise the benefit is taken by the traders and consumers are exploited. However, when fresh crop hits the market prices fall and the farmers have to take the loss. Shri Paswan assured that the Government will take all necessary steps to ensure payment of MSP to farmers and may review the import duty on wheat if required.

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Future of real estate sector is in affordable housing, says Shri M.Venkaiah Naidu
Feb 21,2017

Minister of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu urged real estate developers to take up affordable housing projects in a big way while stressing that therein lies the future of the real estate sector. Elaborating on his statement, the Minister said that n++ The Governments focus on ensuring Housing for All including the Middle Income Groups offered immense opportunities both at the bottom and the middle of the pyramid which needs to be seized by the developers who have seen ups and downs in recent yearn++. He spoke at a Conference on n++Real Estate Sector-Post Remonetisation and RERAn++ organized by PHD Chambers.

Shri Venkaiah Naidu further said that the Government has paid more attention to the real sector than any other sector by announcing more than 20 supporting measures to revive real estate sector over the last two years including announcing the long awaited infrastructure status for affordable housing besides several tax concessions and exemptions. He further said that under Prime Ministers Awas Yojana (Urban), people belonging to Economically Weaker Sections, Low Income Groups and Middle Income Groups with incomes up to Rs.18 lakh per year have been made eligible for central assistance up to Rs.2.35 lakh per each beneficiary. n++Low cost long term financing under infrastructure status, tax concessions and central assistance under PMAY and the scale of housing needs of these sections make affordable housing the best investment opportunity and developers are left with no further excuses for not seizing this opportunityn++ Shri Naidu stressed.

Shri Naidu said that various initiatives of the Government including the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016, the Benami Properties Act and note withdrawal have enabled a new real estate eco-system based on 4 Cs viz., Character, Credibility, Confidence and Cash that would help revive the sector. He said that while the Real Estate Act removes the taint restoring the character of the sector leading to credibility and enhanced confidence of buyers, central assistance, reduced interest rates and tax concessions keep more cash in the hands of buyers.

Stating that the Ministry of HUPA has so far approved construction of over 16 lakh affordable houses for urban poor with an investment of about Rs.90,000 cr and central assistance of about Rs.25,000 cr, Shri Naidu expressed concern over private developers not taking up any projects so far. He urged them to change their mindsets and outlook and take up affordable housing projects given the business logic that goes with it in the changing context.

Shri Naidu said that his Ministry would soon convene a Round Table with real estate bodies and representatives of banks and Housing Financing Companies and others concerned to deliberate on the road ahead for promoting affordable housing so that the target of ensuring Housing for All by 2022 would be met.

On the effects of note withdrawal, the Minister noted that it was only a temporary interlude and the process of remonetisation is almost completed. Shri Naidu noted that n++For various reasons, real estate sector over the years has come to be seen as the villain in the theatre of corruption and note withdrawal was expected to address flow of unaccounted for money in to the sector by about 20% to 30% which in turn would bring down prices substantiallyn++.

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Standard Operating Procedure for protection and care of children in street situations launched
Feb 21,2017

A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Care and Protection of Children in Street Situations for their rehabilitation and safeguarding was released by Minister for Women & Child Development, Smt Maneka Sanjay Gandhi.

The NCPCR decided to outline a detailed intervention framework for care and protection of children living in street situation as the problems faced by these children are multi-dimensional and complex. The SOP aims at streamlining the interventions within the current legal and policy framework. The purpose of the SOP is to identify processes that should be set in motion once a child on the street has been identified as a child in need. These processes would be within the existing framework of rules and policies and would create a convergence of the various agencies. Besides it also provides a step-by-step guideline for all the stakeholders for care, protection and rehabilitation of these children.

Speaking about the release of the SOP, Smt. Maneka Gandhi said, n++Our government is committed to the well-being of every child in India. This initiative will help the Government to ensure that health education and protection mechanisms are made available to children living on the streets.

The SOP was drafted after taking into consideration a detailed field research study with inputs received from regional consultations held at Patna, Lucknow, Hyderabad and Mumbai from 35 NGOs. Children who survived from the street were also consulted in Delhi at NCPCR before drafting of the SOP.

Children living in the streets are among the most vulnerable groups. Most of these children have little or no adult supervision and protection. They also do not have access to education and basic health care living a life of struggle for survival. The lack of basic care and protection exposes them to abuse, exploitation and neglect depriving them of the most basic human rights.

Cities in India are witnessing rapid urbanization. By 2030, 40% of Indias population is expected to be living in urban areas which mean that child population in streets will continue to grow. Therefore, it is important to integrate the needs of children in street situations into urban policies and planning. A 2016 survey by Save the Children in Lucknow, Mughalsarai, Kolkata- Howrah, Patna and Hyderabad found 84,563 children living on the streets. An older study by the same organization in Delhi put their number at 50,000.

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OECD GDP growth slows to 0.4% in fourth quarter of 2016
Feb 21,2017

Real growth of gross domestic product (GDP) in the OECD area decelerated slightly to 0.4% in the fourth quarter of 2016, compared with 0.5% in the previous quarter, according to provisional estimates.

Among Major Seven economies, growth picked up in Germany and France in the fourth quarter of 2016, to 0.4%, compared with 0.1% and 0.2% respectively in the previous quarter, and remained stable in the United Kingdom, at 0.6%. However, growth slowed sharply in the United States (to 0.5%, down from 0.9%) and also, albeit slightly, in Japan and Italy (to 0.2%, compared with 0.3% in the previous quarter).

In the European Union and in the euro area, growth was stable at 0.5% and 0.4%, respectively.

Year-on-year GDP growth for the OECD area was stable at 1.7% for the fourth straight quarter. Among Major Seven economies, the United Kingdom (2.2%) recorded the highest annual growth rate (for the fourth consecutive quarter), while Italy and France registered the lowest (1.1%).

For 2016 as a whole, GDP rose by 1.7% in the OECD area, down from 2.4% in 2015.

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Vice President Hamid Ansari launches India - Rwanda Innovation Growth Program during his visit to Africa
Feb 21,2017

Vice President of India, Shri Hamid Ansari, launched the India- Rwanda Innovation Growth Programme as one of the major Science and Technology initiatives between India and Rwanda. The Program was launched in presence of the Prime Minister of Rwanda, Anastase Murekezi and is a key announcement made during the high level visit of the Indian Vice President.

India-Rwanda Innovation Growth Program is a first of its kind initiative to be launched and piloted between India and Rwanda to strengthen the bilateral relationship purely based on Science, Technology and Innovation. The objective of the Program is to match the socio-economic needs of Rwanda by linking the Rwandan industry with leading edge Indian technologies and innovations. The Program will deploy 20 demonstrated and validated Indian technologies and innovations over a period of two years. The joint programs/ventures created with Rwandan partners will deliver at least 20 sustainable social enterprises that will stimulate economic impact development in Rwanda.

As a prelude to the Program, fifteen Indian techno-entrepreneurs also showcased their innovative solutions at the prestigious Kigali Convention Centre, Kigali. The Showcase and Business to Business interaction were inaugurated by the Vice President of India and the Prime Minister of Rwanda. More than 100 interested private and public sector attendees from Rwanda attended and interacted with Indian innovators and business delegates. The showcased Indian Innovations included CassavaTech, a patented technology that brings down capital cost of processing Cassava from USD 15,000 to USD 200 and reduces operating cost from USD 20 to USD 2 for 200 kg processing capacity. The technology further reduces drying time for Cassava from 10 days to 10 hours producing high quality Cassava flour. Another technology showcased was a ~100% compostable menstrual hygiene solution providing affordable pads to adolescent girls and women. This is done using a unique low cost, low electricity consuming machine that produces 1200-2400pads/8-10 hrs through community participation from 12-16 women (no specific skills required) as production workforce.

The India-Rwanda Innovation Growth Program is a joint initiative of the Department of Science and Technology and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry supported by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.

Shri Hamid Ansari, Vice President of India stated n++I am happy to learn of the initiative jointly taken by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Ministry of Science and Technology for organizing the India-Rwanda Innovation Growth Program and a Technology & Innovation Showcase at Kigali. Science and Technology are powerful drivers of growth and development all over the world. The solution of our myriad problems lies in a deeper understanding of science and more judicious use of technology. I am sure the joint programs/ventures foreseen with Rwandan partners will play an important role in fostering sustainable development and progress in both the countries.n++

Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Science and Technology stated n++Indio-Rwanda joint initiative in field of Science and Technology and its commercial exploration is indeed a welcome step and goes a long way in further cementing Indio-Africa relationship. Visit of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to Africa and India hosting 40 head of states/government during indo-Africa Forum Summit III speaks of our mutual desire for engagement in diversified fields for benefit of people of two region. I wish this initiative will go a long way in establishing everlasting mutually beneficial partnership leading to inclusive growth of people of two region.n++

Prof. Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science & Technology shared n++We are proud to carry forward the vision and announcement of our Honble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, to share our validated technologies and innovations with Rwanda soon to start India - Rwanda Innovation Growth Program. This Program has been conceived to bridge Rwandas assessed needs for impact development by bringing together Rwandan entrepreneurs and public sector with Indian innovators. India is proud to partner with Rwanda in this first pilot to establish a technology transfer and enterprise creation which can then be replicated in East African nations and across the African continentn++.

On the launch of the program, Dr. A. Didar Singh, Secretary General, FICCI said n++India and Africa share a common historical background and have been long term partners in their journey of growth and development. FICCI has been working with the Department of Science and Technology over the last decade to identify, nurture and scale innovative solutions that address global development challenges. We now look forward to sharing and transferring such technological solutions to our friends in Africa and deeply engage with the entrepreneurial fraternity in Africa.n++

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India Ratings Maintains Negative Outlook on Infrastructure Sector for FY18
Feb 21,2017

India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) has maintained a negative outlook on the infrastructure sector for FY18, albeit with revised outlooks for a couple of sub-sectors.

The increase in receivables position of wind power plants limited the headroom available to handle low wind patterns; hence, Ind-Ra has revised wind energys outlook to negative for FY18 from stable for FY17. With little improvements in the issues facing the toll roads sector (low inflation, slower ramp up, lower toll rate growth) and coal-based thermal power (demand-supply mismatch, increased thrust on renewables), Ind-Ra continues with its negative outlook on these two sectors. Favourable policy actions and strong passenger growth drive the outlook revision to positive for airports for FY18 from stable, while other subsectors (solar, ports, transmission) have been maintained on a stable outlook on the back of performances largely in line with Ind-Ras expectations.

Roads: Ind-Ra has maintained a negative outlook on toll roads for FY18, on the expectation of sluggish traffic growth compounded by a subdued Wholesale Price Index. Ind-Ras analysis reveals the vulnerability of projects, especially the ones with a short operational track record (less than three years), to a 200bp reduction in base case growth rates, which would lead to impairment in debt serviceability. Road developers have found a penchant for infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs) - 75% of the InvITs in the listing stage are from the highway sector. Though prima facie traction in InvITs seems positive, the actual trimming of debt to the desired levels would be clear by 1HFY18, and discord over valuation may be a major stumbling block for InvITs. The pace of financial closures under the hybrid annuity model is marred, due to low termination payments and less equity contributions; consequently, lenders exercise caution before lending.

Thermal Power: The negative outlook on thermal power is mainly due to suboptimal plant load factors, lack of interest for long-term power purchase agreements which has been compounded by low priority in power scheduling, and added uncertainty in awarding compensatory tariffs. Slow demand growth and abundant options for state distribution companies to tap into short-term market for meeting any temporary demand spikes have led to the lack of interest for long-term power purchase agreements. Although steps have been taken at the policy level by the introduction of measures such as Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana, Ind-Ra believes that reliance on state distribution companies errant payment cycle places issuers at a disadvantage for tapping capital markets.

Solar Power: Ind-Ra maintains a stable outlook for the solar power sector on the back of a stable performance, predictable nature of cash flows based on long-term power purchase agreements, decreasing panel prices, favourable debtor days, albeit with a limited operational track record. Ind-Ra believes that a combination of evolving payment security mechanism (such as creation of a payment security fund and state government guarantee) and a fall in panel prices (November 2017 yoy about 28%) will not only reduce the funding costs but also drive low solar tariffs.

Availability-based Assets: Ind-Ra has maintained a stable outlook on availability-based assets, both annuity and transmission projects, primarily on the back of strong counterparty credit profiles and demonstrated records of timely receipts of availability payments. Most of the annuity-based road projects and transmission assets continue to demonstrated availability in line with empirical evidence, reiterating Ind-Ras expectation of above normative level availability in case of transmission assets.

Airports: Despite global macroeconomic headwinds, the airport sector recorded yet another year of a robust traffic throughput and was aided by government measures, resulting in the revision of the sectors outlook to positive for FY18. With better-than-expected improvement in throughput levels, the capex plans of couple of airports are likely to be advanced. Delay in real estate monetisation continues to be an overhang on the Mumbai and Delhi airports. However, strong growth in aero-related revenues has negated the possible impact on revenues. Airports are well poised to refinance their debt and the agency expects issuances with elongated tenors and bullet repayments.

Seaports: The outlook for seaports is maintained at stable for FY18, due to continued throughput volumes growth in line with overall economic growth. Most of the major ports recorded year-on-year growth in traffic and there were no surprises in the top commodities traded across ports compared to the previous year.

OUTLOOK SENSITIVITIES

A reduction in interest rates and the stability of the Indian rupee can help ease the overall pressure on projects cash flow while a pick-up in economic activity will have a salutary effect on traffic volumes and energy demand, leading to portfolio-wide increases in coverage metrics.

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