9 PM Current Affairs Brief – August 24, 2019

San-Sadhan’ Hackathon

  1. The government has invited applications for its latest initiative under the Swachh Bharat Mission called the ‘San-Sadhan’ Hackathon,
  2. The initiative aims to ease the lives of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) by making toilets smarter, more accessible and easier to use.
  3. The initiative is being organized jointly by the Ministry of Jal Shakti and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities in collaboration with Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and 91springboard.
  4. Through this hackathon,the government is looking for smart,scalable and innovative solutions for economical toilets for individual and community use in rural and urban contexts.
  5. As per census 2011,about 2.68 crore people in India fall under the category of Persons with Disabilities(PwD).
  6. The Rights for Persons with Disabilities Act,2016 mandates universal accessibility for PwDs in public-oriented premises and services such as health,transport,educational facilities as well as sanitation.

Centre responds to downturn with steps to boost growth

  1. Government has announced a number of economic measures which seeks to revive economic growth through fiscal stimulus.
  2. These measures were brought in the backdrop of the economic slowdown in India.The measures announced are:-
  3. The surcharge announced in the budget on Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs) has been withdrawn.This will check the outflow of FPI from India.
  4. The violations of Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR) rules will not be treated as criminal offences.
  5. The government has also decided to expedite capital infusion of ₹70,000 crore of capital infusion in public sector banks.This is aimed at increasing private investment by facilitating greater credit disbursal by banks.
  6. The government has also announced an additional ₹20,000 crore of liquidity to the housing finance companies(HFCs) over and above the ₹10,000 crore earlier announced.
  7. The banks will be asked to link their loan rates to the central bank’s repo rate.This will check incomplete transmission of monetary policy and help buyers to get loans cheaper and faster.
  8. The startup’s will also be relieved as the angel tax has been withdrawn. The angel tax had made it difficult to attract new funding for startups.
  9. The government has also revoked its ban on the purchase of new vehicles by its departments to replace old ones.Further,the vehicles bought till March 31,2020 will be eligible for an additional 15% depreciation.

Vice President of India successfully completes visit to the three Baltic nations

  1. Vice President has concluded his visit to the three Baltic nations namely Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
  2. The visit was aimed at strengthening the bilateral engagements with the three nations,besides giving the relationships a fresh impetus in the context of a changing global order.
  3. India established diplomatic relations with Baltic states in 1992 after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
  4. The Baltic states is a geopolitical term typically used to group the three sovereign states in Northern Europe on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea namely Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
  5. The three countries do not form an official union but engage in intergovernmental and parliamentary cooperation.The most important areas of cooperation between the three countries are foreign and security policy, defence, energy and transportation.
  6. The three countries are also members of NATO, the eurozone, the OECD and members of the European Union.They are also classified as high-income economies by the World Bank and maintain a very high Human Development Index(HDI).

24th Meeting of Western Zonal Council

  1. Union Minister for Home Affairs has chaired the 24th meeting of the Western Zonal Council at Panaji,Goa.
  2. The Zonal Councils are statutory bodies.They were established under the States Reorganization Act,1956.
  3. The act divided the country into five zonal councils namely Northern, Central, Eastern, Western and Southern councils.
  4. The objective of setting up Zonal Councils are to (a)bring out national integration (b)arrest the growth of acute State regionalism, linguism and particularistic tendencies (c)enable Centre and the States to co-operate and exchange ideas and experiences and (d)establish a climate of co-operation amongst States for successful execution of development projects.
  5. Each zonal council consists of the following members (a)Chairman – Union Home Minister (b)Vice Chairman are the Chief Ministers of the States included in each zone by each holding office for a period of one year at a time (c)Members are the Chief Minister and two other Ministers as nominated by the Governor from each of the States and two members from Union Territories included in the zone.
  6. In addition to the above Zonal Councils,a North-Eastern Council was also created by a separate Act of Parliament called North-Eastern Council Act of 1971.
  7. The members of North Eastern council includes states such as Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura and Sikkim.

Russia launches floating nuclear reactor in Arctic

  1. Russia has successfully launched the world’s first floating nuclear reactor called Akademik Lomonosov in the Arctic region.
  2. Akademik Lomonosov is a non-self-propelled powership.The reactor will be the northernmost nuclear plant in the world.
  3. The reactor is suited for powering remote areas and island states that require stable, green sources of energy.It will also power the extraction of natural resources in the Arctic region.
  4. However,environmental groups have warned the dangers of the project, dubbing it a potential Chernobyl on ice.
  5. Chernobyl incident refers to the 1986 nuclear power plant meltdown which released large levels of radiation into the atmosphere forcing thousands to flee their homes and sparked long-term fears of health and environmental repercussions.
  6. Floating nuclear power plant is basically a mobile,low-capacity reactor unit operable in remote areas isolated from the main power distribution system or in places hard to access by land.They are designed to maintain both uninterruptible power and plentiful desalinated water supply in remote areas

Development financial institution to fund infrastructure

  1. Government has proposed to set up a development financial institution (DFI).
  2. DFI is expected to solve the infrastructure financing needs of the country as banks do not have the long-term funds to finance such projects.DFI’s will also help in reviving the economic growth of the country.
  3. Development financial institution(DFI) are specialized institutions set up primarily to provide development Project finance especially in developing countries.
  4. DFIs were started by the government of India to give sector-specific loans to various sectors namely to industry, agriculture, housing, infrastructure, export finance among others.
  5. The first DFI was the Industrial Financial Corporation of India(IFC) that was setup in 1948.The IDBI,NABARD, EXIM Bank, SIDBI, NHB are the other major DFIs.Later several of them were converted into banks.

Explained: What is Adratiklit boulahfa?

  1. Scientists from London Natural History Museum(NHM) have described a species named Adratiklit boulahfa as a stegosaurus,a type of dinosaur.
  2. They dated the species back to 168 million years ago which makes it the oldest known member of that group of dinosaurs ever known.
  3. The species is also the first stegosaurus to be found in North Africa.Its remains were discovered in the Middle Atlas mountains of Morocco.
  4. The Adratiklit was armoured and herbivorous species.It lived on the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana,which later split into Africa, South America, Australia and Antarctica.

Sitharaman gives MSME sector a breather

  1. Finance minister has announced several measures to provide some relief to Micro,Small and Medium Enterprises(MSMEs) sector.
  2. Finance Minister has announced that all pending Goods and Services tax(GST) dues for the MSME sector shall be cleared within 30 days.In the future,all such dues would be cleared within 60 days of application.
  3. Further,the banks will issue improved (one-time settlement) OTS policy to help MSME and retail borrowers settle their overdues.This will help in increasing transparency, reduce harassment as well as assist in improving turnaround time for customers.
  4. The government has also planned to amend the MSME Act to provide a single, holistic definition for MSMEs.
  5. The MSMEs are small sized entities defined in terms of their size of investment. Currently, MSMEs are classified in terms of investment made in plant and machinery if they are operating in the manufacturing sector and investment in equipment for service sector companies.
  6. However,MSME (Amendment) Bill,2018 which has not been passed yet proposes a uniform classification for all MSMEs.Under the Bill,all MSMEs whether they are manufacturing or service-providing enterprises will be classified on the basis of their annual turnover.

Escape from angel tax delights start-ups

  1. Finance minister has announced that angel tax will not be applicable on startups that are registered with the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade(DPIIT).
  2. The move is likely to give a long-demanded angel tax relief to start-ups and exempt them from scrutiny.
  3. Further,the government has also decided to set up a dedicated cell under Central Board of direct taxes(CBDT) for addressing the problems faced by startups.
  4. Angel Tax is a 30% tax that is levied on the funding received by startups from an Angel investor.However,this tax is levied when startups receive angel funding at a valuation higher than its ‘fair market value’.It is counted as income to the company and is taxed.
  5. However,the angel tax which was aimed at curbing money-laundering has resulted in a large number of genuine start-ups receiving notices from the tax department.

Terror funding watchdog FATF Asia-Pacific Group ‘blacklists’ Pakistan

  1. Asia Pacific group(APG) has placed Pakistan on its Blacklist for its failure in meeting the required global standards and combating terrorism and money laundering. 
  2. Pakistan was non-compliant in 32 of the 40 Compliance Parameters on Money Laundering & Terror Financing and was low in 10 of the 11 Effectiveness Parameters.
  3. In June 2018,Financial Action Task Force(FATF) had already greylisted Pakistan for failing to curb anti-terror financing.
  4. However,the two processes are separate as APG blacklisting status would impair Pakistan’s chances at removing itself from the FATF greylist.
  5. The APG is the FATF-style regional body for the Asia-Pacific region.APG was founded in Bangkok,Thailand in 1997 as an autonomous regional anti-money laundering body by unanimous agreement among 13 original founding members.
  6. The Asia Pacific Group currently consists of 41 members including India.It is focused on ensuring that its members effectively implement the international standards against money laundering,terrorist financing and proliferation financing related to weapons of mass destruction.

Terror funding watchdog FATF Asia-Pacific Group ‘blacklists’ Pakistan

  1. Asia Pacific group(APG) has placed Pakistan on its Blacklist for its failure in meeting the required global standards and combating terrorism and money laundering. 
  2. Pakistan was non-compliant in 32 of the 40 Compliance Parameters on Money Laundering & Terror Financing and was low in 10 of the 11 Effectiveness Parameters.
  3. In June 2018,Financial Action Task Force(FATF) had already greylisted Pakistan for failing to curb anti-terror financing.
  4. However,the two processes are separate as APG blacklisting status would impair Pakistan’s chances at removing itself from the FATF greylist.
  5. The APG is the FATF-style regional body for the Asia-Pacific region.APG was founded in Bangkok,Thailand in 1997 as an autonomous regional anti-money laundering body by unanimous agreement among 13 original founding members.
  6. The Asia Pacific Group currently consists of 41 members including India.It is focused on ensuring that its members effectively implement the international standards against money laundering,terrorist financing and proliferation financing related to weapons of mass destruction.

SEBI announces reward of Rs 1 crore to insider trading informants

  1. Securities and Exchange Board of India(SEBI) has approved a detailed set of rules for the new ‘Informant Mechanism’ under its Prohibition of Insider Trading Regulations.
  2. However,these rules would only be available to individuals and corporates.But professionals like auditors will not be able to use this route as they are duty-bound to report any wrongdoing.
  3. Insider trading refers to the practice of purchasing or selling a publicly traded company’s securities while in possession of unpublished price sensitive information(UPSI).
  4. UPSI refers to any and all information that may result in a substantial impact on the decision of an investor regarding whether to buy or sell the security.
  5. The rules defines informant as a person voluntarily submitting a form detailing credible, complete and original information relating to an act of insider trading.
  6. The rules also says that an office of Informant Protection(OIP) shall be established by SEBI for receipt  and registration of the Voluntary Information Disclosure Form(VIDF).The confidentiality regarding the identity of the informant and information provided would be protected through the OIP.
  7. The reward would be given in case the information provided leads to a disgorgement  of at least 1 crore rupees.The total amount of reward shall be 10% of the money collected but shall not exceed Rs one crore.
  8. The informant will be rewarded from the Investor Protection and Education Fund (‘IPEF’).Further,the informant shall also be exempted from disclosure under the Right to Information Act,2005.
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