Arrangement for the establishment of an Indo-French Joint Committee on Science & Technology Cooperation



Arrangement for the establishment of an Indo-French Joint Committee on Science & Technology Cooperation 


The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi today was apprised about signing ofan arrangement forthe establishment of an Indo-French Joint Committee on Science & Technology Cooperation.India and France have signed the arrangement for establishment of this apex level Joint Committee on 25th January 2016 in New Delhi. 

Under the Arrangement, the Joint Committee would identify, synergise and define priorities for Indo-French cooperation in science, technology and innovation aimed to achieve economic and social development through research, development and innovation. 

The Joint Committee will be co-chaired for the Indian side by the Minister of Science & Technology and for the French side by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, or an official of the rank of Secretary in the Indian system and Director General in French system as designated by the respective countries. 

The agreement comes in the backdrop of enhanced scientific and technological cooperation between the two countries, and the role played by multiple national science and technology agencies of both countries in promoting this partnership. 

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Promotion of Payments through cards and digital means 

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for introduction of steps for promotion of payments through cards and digital means. The move aims at reducing cash transactions. Several short term (to be implemented within one year) and medium term measures (to be implemented within two years) have been approved for implementation by the Government Ministries/ Departments/ Organisations. 

Promotion of payments through cards and digital means will be instrumental in reducing tax avoidance, migration of Government payments and collections to cashless mode, discourage transactions in cash by providing access to financial payment services to the citizens to conduct transactions through card/ digital means and shifting payment ecosystem from cash dominated to non-cash/less cash payments. 

The essential features of the proposals for promotion of payments through cards and digital means include steps for withdrawal of surcharge/service charge/ convenience fee on card/ digital payments currently imposed by various Government Departments/organisations and introduction of appropriate acceptance infrastructure in Government Departments/ organisations; rationalization of Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) on card transactions and a differentiated MDR framework for some key transaction segments; mandating payments beyond a prescribed threshold only in card/ digital mode; introduction of formulae linked acceptance infrastructure by the stakeholders of certain card products; rationalisation of telecom service charges for digital financial transactions; promotion of mobile banking; and creation of necessary assurance mechanisms for quick resolution of fraudulent transactions and review the payments ecosystem in the country. 

Background: 

The infrastructure of card/ digital payments is growing, but remains modest in comparison to cash payments. For card/ digital payments to increase, they should be easy to use, readily available and accepted, should not impose any undue financial burden on the merchant and user, and should offer an appropriate level of security. 

While the payment system initiatives taken in the form of Electronic Clearing Service Scheme, National Electronic Funds Transfer, Real Time Gross Settlement Scheme etc. have been impressive, the benefits of modern card/ digital payment systems are yet to reach all sections of the society and be accepted across the length and breadth of the country. Current experience and evidence indicates that the penetration and success of modern card/ digital payment products and services is concentrated to a large extent in the tier-l and tier-ll locations of the country and mostly to those citizens who have access to the formal banking channels. 

The introduction of the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 has resulted in deeper acceptance and penetration of modern card/ digital payment systems in the country, Aadhaar Enabled Payment Systems (AEPS) has been brought to effect to leverage upon biometric verification and a domestic card network namely, RuPay. 

The Reserve Bank of India has also recently approved licences for setting up of Payments Banks with the objective of greater financial inclusion by the Payments Banks by providing small savings accounts and payments/ remittance services to migrant labour workforce, low income households, small businesses, other unorganised sector entities. 

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Establishment of Atal Innovation Mission and Self Employment and Talent Utilisation in NITI Aayog 

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for establishment of Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) and Self Employment and Talent Utilisation (SETU) in NITI Aayog with appropriate manpower. 

Establishment of AIM and AIM Directorate would result in implementation of Mission activities in a focussed manner. This would be a focal point for innovation and entrepreneurship in the country. 

The details are as follows:- 

(i) The Mission would be guided by a Mission High Level Committee (MHLC) which will take all decisions relating to approval of requisite guidelines including Grand Challenge areas, prize money and implementation of various elements of AIM and SETU. 

(ii) NITI Aayog will hire Mission Director and other appropriate manpower. 

(iii) The headquarter of the Mission will be New Delhi. 

Background: 

With a view to give substantial boost to the innovation ecosystem and to catalyse the entrepreneurial spirit in the country, Finance Minister in his Budget Speech 2015-16 announced the Government's intention to establish the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) and a mechanism to be known as SETU in NITI with an initial sum of Rs. 500 crore and Rs. 1000 crore respectively. As a follow up of Budget announcement, NITI Aayog constituted an Expert Committee on Innovation and Entrepreneurship under the Chairmanship of Prof. Tarun Khanna, Director, South Asia Institute, Harvard University, USA to work out detailed contours of AIM and SETU. The Committee in its report made wide ranging recommendations for the short-term (where action can be taken relatively quickly to deliver almost immediate payoffs), medium-term (that can be addressed within a 5-7 years time frame) and long-term, which are likely to have long gestation period, but will lead to a profound transformation in the entrepreneurial fabric of the country. The Committee also emphasized the need to establish clear systems to monitor implementation, execution, and impact. 

The AIM and SETU are being initiated as a follow up of Union Budget 2015-16 announcements. The proposal was considered by EFC on 28th August, 2015, and it was observed that AIM is a Mission and SETU is an approach. Therefore, there should be one umbrella scheme titled as 'AIM' which will have two sub-components - i) Innovation; and ii) SETU, wherein the innovators would be supported and mentored as successful entrepreneurs. 

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Agreement between India and Maldives for avoidance of double taxation of income from International air transport 

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval forsigning of an Agreement between India and Maldives for the avoidance of double taxation of income from international air transport. 

The Agreement provides for relief from double taxation for airline enterprises of India and Maldives by way of exemption of income derived by the enterprise of India from the operation of aircraft in international traffic, from Maldivian tax and vice-versa. Under the agreement, profits from the operation of aircraft in international traffic will be taxed in one country alone.Accordingly the taxing right is conferred upon the country to which the enterprise belongs. The Agreement will provide tax certainty for airline enterprises of India and Maldives. 

The Agreement further provides for Mutual Agreement Procedure for resolving any difficulties or doubts arising as to the interpretation or application of the Agreement. 

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Cabinet approves provision of Credit of 150 Million USD to Islamic Republic of Iran for Chabahar Port Development 

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval to the proposal of the Ministry of Shipping for provision and operationalization of credit of 150 million USD from EXIM Bank for development of Chabahar Port in Iran. 

Chabahar Port lies outside the Persian Gulf in Iran and will help in expanding maritime commerce in the region. India is negotiating this project to facilitate the growing trade and investment with Iran and other countries in the region, notably Afghanistan and also to provide opportunities to Indian companies to penetrate and enhance their footprint in the region. 

An MoU was signed between India and Iran on 06.05.2015 by Shri Nitin Gadkari. Minister of Shipping, Road Transport & Highways and his Iranian counterpart. As per the MoU, India is to equip and operate two berths in Chabahar Port Phase-I with capital investment of USD 85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of USD 22.95 million on a ten year lease. Ownership of equipment will be transferred to Iranian side on completion of 10 year period or for an extended period, based on mutual agreement. The Iranian side had requested for provision of a credit of USD 150 million in accordance with the MoU. As per the MoU, operation of two berths will commence within a period of maximum 18 months after the signing of the Contract. 

The two berths will be operated by the India Ports Global Private Limited, a Company promoted by the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and Kandla Port Trust - two major ports working under the Ministry of Shipping. 

The Union Cabinet has now authorized the Ministers of Finance, External Affairs and Shipping to approve the final contract with Iran and for resolution of any issue arising in implementation of the project. 

The Union Cabinet has also authorized the Ministry of Shipping to form a Company in Iran for implementing the Chabahar Port Development Project and related activities. 

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