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CURRENT AFFAIRS | 22 FEBRUARY 2016

India, Nepal ink seven MoUs spanning health, education and cultural heritage


India and Nepal on Saturday inked seven memorandums of understanding (MoU)s. An MoU on utilization of USD 250 million Grant component of GOI's Assistance package for post-earthquake reconstruction assistance was signed the two countries. The signatories for this MoU were External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Nepalese counterpart Kamal Thapa. Under this agreement, four sectors, i.e., housing, health, education and cultural heritage have been identified. In housing, 100 million USD would be utilised for construction of 50,000 houses in 14 severely earthquake affected districts.



50 million USD each would be utilised in health, education and cultural heritage sectors in 31 earthquake affected districts of Nepal.



The second MoU was strengthening of road infrastructure in the Terai area of Nepal, was signed between Ranjit Rae, Ambassador of India and Arjun Kumar Karki, Secretary, Ministry of Physical Transport of Nepal.



This MoU will enable speedy implementation of remaining work on 17 Roads in Package 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Terai Road Phase-I project, totalling 518 kms. Two roads in Package 1 totalling 87 kms have already been completed.



The third MoU was signed between Nepal Academy of Music and Drama and Sangeet Natak Academy, India which aims to enhance relations between India and Nepal in the field of performing arts through exchanges of experts, exponents, dancers, scholars and intellectuals. The signatories for this MoU were Helen Acharya, Secretary, Sangeet Natak Academy and Deep Kumar Upadhyay, Ambassador of Nepal.



Then there were two letters of exchange on Transit Routes, one on transit between Nepal and Bangladesh through Kakarbitta-Banglabandh corridor and the second on operationalization of Vishakhapatnam Port.



The first exchange of letters between would result in simplification of modalities for traffic of goods between Nepal and Bangladesh while transiting through India, through the Kakarbhitta (Nepal) and Banglabandha (Bangladesh) corridor. The second one would provide for transit facilities for Nepal through the Vishakhapatnam port.



There was also letters of exchange on Rail Transport, one on rail transport to/from Vishakhapatnam and the second on rail transit facility through Singhabad for Nepal's Trade with and through Bangladesh.



The first exchange of letters would allow for rail transport to and from Vishakhapatnam to Nepal while the second one would help operationalise rail transit facility through Singabad in India for Nepal's trade with and through Bangladesh.



The sixth MoU, which was the inauguration of Muzaffarpur-Dhalkebar transmission line was done by both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepalese counterpart.



The Nepal portion of the 400 KV Muzaffarpur-Dhalkebar transmission line is being implemented by Government of Nepal, under an LoC of USD 13.5 million.



80 MW power would flow immediately through this line, with an initial charge of 132 KV. Thereafter, it will be augmented to 200 MW in October 2016 at 220 KV, and then to 600 MW by December 2017 at 400 KV.





The initial supply of 80 MW would be augmented to 200 MW by October 2016 and 600 MW by December 2017.



The seventh agreement was the establishment of Eminent Persons Group which was decided to be established at the third meeting of the India- Nepal Joint Commission held at Kathmandu in July 2014.



The EPG comprises eight members with each country nominating four members, preferably a parliamentarian, a lawyer, an economist and a civil society activist. The EPG has now been constituted. Its mandate would be to comprehensively review bilateral relations and recommend measures including institutional frameworks to further enhance bilateral ties.

Govt. may penalise higher PF savings


Budget 2016-17 could penalise voluntary investments over Rs 1.5 lakh into Employees' PF and General PF accounts, in a bid to prod people into investing their savings in other alternatives such as the National Pension System.



While investments into tax-saving small saving schemes like the Public Provident Fund are restricted to Rs 1.5 lakh a year, it is possible for employees to top up their EPF and GPF contributions beyond that limit. Though such investments don't lower an individual’s taxable income beyond the Rs 1,50,000 allowed annually under Section 80 C of the Income Tax Act, the interest earned on them remains tax-free.



The GPF is offered to government employees, while EPF benefits are mandatory for all organisations with 20 or more employees earning upto Rs 15,000 a month. Those earning over the Rs 15,000 ceiling can contribute to EPF on a voluntary basis.

Cipla completes $550 million acquisition of 2 US generic drug companies


Cipla Ltd., acquired two U.S. generic drug companies, InvaGen Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Exelan Pharmaceuticals Inc., to increase its revenue and introduce new products for oncology and diabetes in the world’s largest pharmaceutical market, according to a company statement. The Mumbai-headquartered Cipla closed the transaction through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Cipla (EU) Ltd., according to the statement.



The combined revenue for the two companies for the year-ended 2015 was over $230 million.



“The acquisition will further strengthen Cipla’s presence in the U.S. pharmaceutical market. InvaGen’s balanced portfolio, robust manufacturing base and strong R&D capabilities will act as lever to expand Cipla’s reach in the U.S. market,” Umang Vohra, Global Chief Operating Officer, Cipla Ltd said in the statement.



The acquisitions will give scale to Cipla’s US business — currently 8 per cent of total revenue — as well as providing a launch pad to introduce Cipla’s pipeline of products in respiratory and injectables, among others, in the coming years, according to the statement. This is the second large scale acquisition in Cipla’s 80 year history — the first was Cipla Medpro, South Africa.



“Combined with the pipeline of InvaGen products, the overall portfolio will be wide-ranging and will cover chronic therapies like CVS, CNS, respiratory, oncology and diabetes among others,” according to the company.



The acquisition of InvaGen pharmaceuticals also provides Cipla with about 40 approved Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA), a U.S. generic drug approval for an existing licensed medication or approved drug., 32 marketed products, and 30 pipeline products which are expected to be approved over the next four years. In addition, InvaGen has filed five first-to-file products.

Dosage forms include immediate release, modified release and extended release tablets and capsule



Prasar Bharati signs historical MoU with EBC




Prasar Bharati has signed a MoU with Empressa de Brazil Communicacao (EBC) in connection with several broadcast related activities including exchange of news, programmes and co-production. This MoU is being described as historical as it is the first agreement that Prasar Bharati has signed with any South American country. It was signed between Prasar Bharati.

Government clears eight highway projects worth Rs 6,000 crore


The government on Friday cleared eight highway projects worth Rs 6000 crore. The total length of the projects is around 350 km.



Of the eight projects, two will be undertaken on the newly-conceived hybrid annuity model. Six will be taken up on government-funded engineering, procurement and construction ( EPC) model.



These projects won't require cabinet clearance as their construction cost is less than Rs 1,000 crore, the limit up to which the road transport and highways ministry can approve projects on its own.



Most of these projects are in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Under the hybrid annuity model, 40 per cent of the project cost is to be provided by the government as construction support to the private developer during the construction period and balance 60 per cent as annuity payments over the concession period along with interest on outstanding amount to the concessionaire.



This year government has a target of awarding road contracts for 10,000 km. The government now has a target of increasing the country's highway length to 200,000 km in coming years from the current 96,000 km.





Arunachal Pradesh gets a new CM, Kalikho Pul sworn in at night


A few hours after President’s Rule was revoked in Arunachal Pradesh on Friday, the dissident Congress leader, Kalikho Pul, was sworn in as Chief Minister in the night.



Prior to this, both factions of the Congress, one headed by Mr.Pul and the other by former Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, staked their claim to form a new government in the State.



Dissident Congress leaders told The Hindu that the swearing-in was held at the Governor’s house. “We have 32 MLAs with us, including 11 MLAs of the BJP, and have the requisite numbers to form the government”, said one of the leaders.



The total strength of the Arunachal Pradesh Assembly is 50 seats.



Mr. Tuki, whose authority was challenged by the party rebels, however, questioned the formation of a government without his approval. He said that with the revocation of President’s Rule, power would have to be restored to him and the former government should be reinstalled.



Mr. Tuki pointed out that 14 rebel MLAs had been disqualified by the Assembly Speaker.



The Congress rebels, however, disputed Mr. Tuki’s argument. A dissident leader Chowna Mein said that the Gauhati High Court had stayed the disqualification of 14 MLAs, so they could support the new government.



At present, the dissenting Congress faction consists of 21 leaders. Since they have the support of 11 BJP MLAs, they have the numerical majority in the 50-member Assembly.



On Wednesday, the Congress had appealed in the Supreme Court for maintenance of the status quo. The court, however, refused to intervene, clearing the way for the government formation.


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