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India, Papua New Guinea signed four agreements

On 29 April 2016 India and Papua New Guinea signed four agreements/MoUs.These agreements have been done to boost the bilateral relations.
These MoUs were inked during the two-day visit (28 to 29 April 2016) of President Pranab Mukhrejee to Papua New Guinea. 
This visit was the first ever presidential visit from India to Papua New Guinea.
• MoU between the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Health and HIV/AIDS of Papua New Guinea has been signed
• MoU for a USD 100 Million Credit Line was signed for development of infrastructure in the island-nation between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Export Import Bank of India.
• MoU for cooperation in agricultural research was signed between the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and PNG University of Technology, Lae, Papua New Guinea.
Papua is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world.
852 languages are spoken in country
• Over 7 million people lives in customary communities, which are as diverse as the languages.
• Only 18 percent of its people live in urban centres.
• It is one of the world’s least explored nations, culturally and geographically.

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Railways launch 'Indrail Pass' for foreigners

Indrail Pass makes it easier for tourists, from abroad, to buy this pass and travel to any part of the country without any limitation. 
•    The pass will be valid for a fixed period of time. 
•    there would be No reservation fee for berths or seats.
•    Rail reservations can be arranged from the UK, if the Indrail pass is purchased well in advance. 
•    Rail reservations are arranged FREE of cost, thus saving time by avoiding lengthy queues at railway stations for rail bookings. 
•    No sleeper berth surcharge for night journeys for any class of accommodation (indirect saving of hotel cost).
•    No extra charge for travelling by faster trains.
•    Free meals on Rajdhani & Shatabdi expresses.
•    Railway retiring rooms at nominal rates (subject to availability).
•    Access to waiting halls at stations.
•    Usage of left luggage offices for storage of luggage at nominal rates.
•    The Indrail pass is non-transferable. It should always be carried along with your passport.

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BSF to unveil tallest national flag

The Border Security Force (BSF) has announced plans to unveil a 350-feet-high national flag, the tallest in the country, near the Attari-Wagah border by January 2017. 
•    It can be seen both from Lahore as well as Amritsar. 
•    The current record is held by the flag on top of a 293-feet-high mast in Jharkhand’s Ranchi.
•    Apart from that various new high altitude flags have been put across the nation. 
•    one such flag is also situated in New Delhi central park which is now a great tourist attracttion
•    Such initiatives raise the patriotism and respect for the country into the hearts of people.

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The small Industries Development Bank of India has inked with SAARC Development Bank (SDF)

•    The Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) has inked MoU with SAARC Development Fund (SDF) 
•    This has been done to promotte for mutual cooperation and collaboration. 
•    The MoU was signed by Deputy Managing Director of SIDBI A K Kapur and SDF CEO Sunil Motiwal. 
•    MoU initiates SDF and SIDBI to work together in co-funding of projects in Indian MSMEs on risk sharing basis in identified sectors. 
•    Development of suitable financial products for SME financing for MSMEs of other Saarc states, the Finance Ministry said in a statement.
•    Technology transfer and making available software to MFIs regarding loan tracking systems in other SAARC states. 
•    Capacity development of SDF, SIDBI and SME funding institutions in SAARC countries. 
•    SIDBI is an independent financial institution aimed to aid the growth and development of micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs).
•    In 1996, a first funding mechanism was created in SAARC, ‘South Asian Development Fund (SADF), merging the SAARC Fund for Regional Projects (SFRP) and the SAARC Regional Fund. 
•    SADF objectives were to support industrial development, poverty alleviation, protection of environment, institutional/human resource development and promotion of social and infrastructure development projects in the SAARC region. 

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'Laser walls' activated along India-Pakistan border to plug gaps in vigil

A dozen "laser walls" have been made operational along the India-Pakistan international border in Punjab to plug the porous reverie and treacherous terrain and keep an effective vigil against intruders and terrorists exploiting the frontier areas to cross over.
•    A total of 45 such laser walls will be installed in these areas along the international border in Punjab and Jammu, a blueprint prepared in this regard and accessed 
•    In September last year, Pakistan complained UN Security Council (UNSC) about India’s plans to construct a wall along the Line of Control.
•    BSF is also considering deploying at least four more battalions in Punjab and Jammu border areas.
•    Pakistan has considered this work as a threat to its national security and has planned to move to UN yet once again.
•    This step has been taken quickly after the incident of pathankot happened because this was being planned since last 2 years but location marking was being done at initial stage so that this technology can e used very effectively 

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Union Railway Ministry to set up Rs 1 lakh crore Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh

The Union Railway Ministry has decided to create a 1 lakh crore rupees safety fund named Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh to strengthen safety measures on the rail network to prevent accidents. 

•    It was announced by Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in the Lok Sabha while replying to a debate on Demands for Grants for Railways for 2016-17. In this regard Union Railway Ministry has forwarded a proposal to the Union Finance Ministry for approval. 
•    The Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh will be a non-lapsable fund which will be utilised for safety measures. 
•    The fund will help Indian Railways to accomplish its zero-accident mission by strengthening the safety measures on the rail network in a comprehensive way. 
•    Under this fund, envisaged works like track renewal and upgradation, bridge rehabilitation, elimination of level-crossings, construction of road over bridges/road under bridges will be under taken. 
•    It will be also used for replacement and improvement of signalling system, improvement and upgradation of rolling stock, replacement of electrical assets and human resource development.

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Union Tourism Ministry launched NOAPS web portal of National Monuments Authority


Union Tourism Ministry on 26 April 2016 launched NOC Online Application and Processing System (NOAPS) Web Portal of National Monuments Authority. 

The Portal was developed through the technology and expertise of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), who are in the process of mapping of 3686 ASI protected monuments and sites.
• In the initial phase, the web portal integrates NMA’s portal with the online portal of local bodies of Delhi and Mumbai viz. NDMC, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) and MCDs to facilitate single window clearance for construction on a common application form. 
• The applicant need to fill up a single form which will be sent to the concerned agencies by the local body, from whom No Objection Certificate (NOC) is required. 
• NMA on its part will communicate its decision to the local body within six working day, bringing down the time limit from ninety days, as prescribed in Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act, 1958.
• The applicant is not required to visit NMA in connection with his/her application but can track the progress of the application    online.

However, large projects involving construction of building beyond 2000 square metres have been kept out of the purview of Single Window Clearance System, keeping in view their possible impact on the Monument or the site.

Under the present rules of Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act, 1958, hundred meters area around the monument is a prohibited zone.While the area between 100 to 300 metres is regulated zone for which no-objection certificate is needed for construction-related works. The time limit for availing NoC was 90 days.

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Shyam Benegal panel submitted report on Censor Board functioning

The Shyam Benegal-headed committee constituted to revamp Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) on 26 April 2016 submitted its report to Information & Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley.
The committee has recommended that CBFC should only be a film certification body whose scope should be restricted to categorizing the suitability of the film to audience groups on the basis of age and maturity.
a) Children and adults are protected from potentially harmful or unsuitable content
b) Audiences, particularly parents are empowered to make informed viewing decisions
c) Artistic expression and creative freedom are not unduly curbed in the process of classification of films
d) The process of certification by CBFC is responsive, at all times, to social change
e) The certification by CBFC keeps within the rights and obligations as laid down in the Indian Constitution.
• The certification of films shall be carried out in accordance with the Guidelines proposed for certification that have been split into three sections, with each section required to be read with the other two – General Guidelines, Issue Related Guidelines and Category Specific Guidelines.
• Recertification of a film for purposes of telecast on television or for any other purpose should be permitted.
• Out-of-turn certification may be permitted for which the applicant would have to pay five times the fee that would have to be paid if the certification were done in the normal course.
• The board can refuse certification under certain cases like
a) When a film contains anything that contravenes the provisions of Section 5B (1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
b) Certification can also be refused, when content in a film crosses the ceiling laid down in the highest category of certification.
• The applicant must specify the category of certification being sought and the target audience
Regarding the categorisation of films, the committee recommends that it should be more specific and apart from U category, the UA Category can be broken up into further sub-categories – UA12+ & UA15+. The A category should also be sub-divided into A and AC (Adult with Caution) categories.
All nine regions will have advisory panels comprising persons who are acquainted with the languages being certified by that regional office.
a) Members from all walks of life, recommended by the National Film Development Corporation to the Central Government – 25%
b) Members of the general public recommended by the FFSI (Federation of Film Societies of India) - 25%
c) Members recommended by the National Council for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and National Commission of Women (NCW)- 25%
d) Representatives of the local film industry, as recommended by FFI (Film Federation of India) – 25%
e) Women to have 50% representation on each Panel.
• The Board, including Chairman, should only play the role of a guiding mechanism for the CBFC, and not be involved in the day-to-day affairs of certification of films.
• The functions of the Board shall be confined to the duties defined in the existing CBFC rules, which inter alia include an annual review of CBFC work, submission of annual report to the government, review of public reactions to films, and periodic recommendations for revision of guidelines.
• Given these limited functions, the size of the Board should be compact with one member representing each Regional Office. Therefore, the total composition of the Board should not be more than nine members and one Chairman.
• In order to preserve Indian Cinema, the committee recommends that every applicant be asked to deposit the Director’s Cut in the NFAI for preservation of Indian Cinema, instead of the certified version, in order to truly reflect the cinematic history of Indian cinema.
• Also recommended steps for issues of certification relating to clearances to be obtained from the Animal Welfare Board under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act
• Also recommended steps for issues relating to depiction of smoking in films wherein films are required to show a disclaimer in every scene that involves smoking, as per a directive from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The Shyam Benegal committee was constituted on 1 January 2016 by the Information and Broadcasting ministry for holistic interpretation of the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, 1952. The committee was asked to take note of the best practices in other parts of the world, especially where the film industry is given sufficient and adequate space for creative and aesthetic expression.
The panel also included actor-filmmaker Kamal Hassan, filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, adman Piyush Pandey and film journalist Bhawana Somayaa, Nina Lath Gupta and Joint Secretary (Films) as Member Convenor.

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Naval Detachment Inaugurated at Androth Island of Lakshadweep

A Naval Detachment (NAVDET) was on 26 April 2016 inaugurated at the Androth Island of Lakshadweep Vice Admiral Girish Luthra, AVSM, VSM, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command.
The Officer-In-Charge of the Detachment is Lt Cdr Angom B Singh who will function under the Naval Officer-in-Charge (Lakshadweep and Minicoy Island). 

• The setting up of this naval detachment will extend Indian naval presence at Androth Island.
• It will provide communication network connectivity with mainland.
• It will enable Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC) monitoring
• It will function as an Observance and reporting organisation, besides radar surveillance. 

The setting up of a Naval Detachment at Androth Island will enhance the Navy’s reach and surveillance, and contribute significantly to strengthen maritime security and stability. Lakshadweep and Mnicoy Islands occupy a strategic location in the Arabian Sea. A number of shipping lanes pass close to these islands. A number of infrastructure facilities at naval units located on Kavaratti, Minicoy, Agatti and Androth islands are also being progressively upgraded.The Naval Detachment at Kavaratti was commissioned as a naval establishment, INS Dweeprakshak in 2012. Suitable ships are also being based at the Islands to provide enhanced surveillance and immediate response capability.

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Heart of Asia conference begins in New Delhi

The Heart of Asia (HoA) conference began in New Delhi with the objective of bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan. 
The conference was attended by officials of a number of countries and is likely to deliberate on a host of issues like combating challenge of extremism and terrorism. 
•    HoA process have been to devise a sustained, incremental approach to implementation of the confidence building measures (CBM) in Afghanistan/ It will also seek to speed up reconstruction in Afghanistan with a focus on enhancing investment and connectivity to the country. 
•    Energy, infrastructure and investment deals to shore up economic growth of Afghanistan may figure in the talks. 
•    HoA conference is a part of the Istanbul Process established 2011 which provides a platform to discuss an agenda of regional cooperation with Afghanistan at its centre. 
•    The 14 member countries of HoA engage in result-oriented cooperation for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and, by extension, a secure and prosperous region as a whole. 
•    14 participating countries: Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Supporting countries: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Iraq, Japan, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, UK and US. Supporting Organisations: UN, NATO, SAARC, SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) and OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation).

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