9 PM Current Affairs Brief – June 8, 2019

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SEBI, MCA sign pact for more data scrutiny

  1. Ministry of Corporate Affairs(MCA) and the Securities and Exchange Board of India(SEBI) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for data exchange between the two regulatory organizations.
  2. The MoU comes in the backdrop of increasing need for surveillance in the context of Corporate Frauds affecting important sectors of the economy.
  3. The MoU will facilitate the sharing of data and information between SEBI and MCA on an automatic and regular basis.It will enable sharing of specific information such as (a)details of suspended companies (b) delisted companies (c)shareholding pattern from SEBI (d)returns of allotment of shares and (e)audit reports relating to the corporates.
  4. SEBI and MCA will also exchange with each other any information available in their respective databases for the purpose of carrying out scrutiny, inspection, investigation and prosecution.
  5. Further,a data exchange steering group has also been constituted which will meet periodically to review the data exchange status and take steps to further improve the effectiveness of the data sharing mechanism.
  6. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is the regulator for the securities market in India.It was established in 1988 and given statutory powers in 1992 through the SEBI Act,1992.

Denial of LoP status to Congress illegal, can be challenged in court: Abhishek Singhvi

  1. Congress leader has said that the single largest party in Lok Sabha deserves the post of Leader of Opposition(LoP).He alleged that the rule cited to deny the LoP post to Congress was unconstitutional.
  2. Leader of Opposition is a statutory office provided for in the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act,1977.
  3. The act says that (a)the leader of the party in opposition to the government which has the greatest number becomes the Leader of the Opposition and (b)Speaker needs to recognise him/her as the Leader of the Opposition.
  4. But the rule that a party should have at least 10% of the members of the House for the Speaker to recognise someone as the Leader of the Opposition is not part of this act.
  5. However,G V Mavalankar who is the first Lok Sabha Speaker had said that the main opposition party’s strength must equal the quorum which is 10% of the total strength.
  6. This point was later incorporated in Direction 121(1) of the Directions by the Speaker, Lok Sabha and Leaders and Chief Whips of Recognised Parties and Groups in Parliament (Facilities) Act of 1998.

Dissenting view not part of final order, says EC

  1. The Election Commission has issued a formal order stating that dissent views will not be made part of orders relating to model code of Conduct (MCC) violation cases.
  2. This decision was taken as MCC matters were not quasi-judicial proceedings and hence did not require dissent or minority views to be conveyed as part of the final order.
  3. Recently,one of the Election Commissioner had dissented with the opinion of other Election Commissioners in five different matters pertaining to alleged violations of the MCC.
  4. The Election Commissioner has also recused himself from all meetings on MCC violations in protest over inaction on his suggestion seeking quick disposal of MCC complaints and his minority decisions going unrecorded in the EC’s final orders.
  5. Section 10(Disposal of business by Election Commission) of The Election Commission(Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act,1991 lays down that all business of the Commission shall as far as possible be transacted unanimously.
  6. However,If the Chief Election Commissioner(CEC) and other Election Commissioners (ECs) differ in opinion on any matter,such matter shall be decided according to the opinion of the majority.
  7. Model code of Conduct(MCC) are the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for conduct of political parties and candidates during elections.

Bill: Ease green card cap on STEM students

  1. The US Democratic Party senators have introduced a bill called “Keep STEM Talent Act of 2019”.
  2. The bill aims at removing unfair barriers for science, technology, engineering and maths-educated international students who want to work in the US after completing their degrees.
  3. The bill provides that STEM graduates could obtain green card if two conditions are met.First, he or she has to obtain a job offer or employment from a US employer in a field related to his/her degree.The pay for this position should be above the media wage level in that particular geographic area
  4. Second, the concerned employer must have obtained an approved labor certification for this job position.This certificate requires the Secretary of Labor to determine and certify that no qualified US workers are available for the position and that the wages and working conditions of US workers are  not adversely affected by the hiring of the foreign worker.
  5. US issues 1.40 lakh employment based green cards annually.However, not more than 7% can go to nationals of any one country.With a high influx of the Indian diaspora in the US,it has resulted in a heavy backlog.
  6. Further,a recent study has shown that due to per-country limit for a green card and the heavy influx of the Indian diaspora in the US,Indians with advanced degrees have to wait for Green card as high as 151 years.
  7. Green Card is an identification card which gives one the status of a permanent resident along with legal rights to work in the USA.

SBI to offer home loan linked to repo rate

  1. State Bank of India(SBI) has announced to introduce a repo rate-linked home loan product from July 1,2019.This move seems to be in line with the RBI ‘s direction to the banks to link home loans to an external benchmark.
  2. SBI had taken this decision even though RBI had deferred the plan to link the rate of interest to external benchmarks like the repo rate or Treasury Bill rate following opposition from other banks.
  3. Repo stands for ‘Repurchasing Option’.It refers to the rate at which commercial banks borrow money from the RBI.It is one of the main tools of RBI to keep inflation under control.
  4. Recently,the Reserve Bank of India(RBI) had proposed a major change in the way banks price their loans.It had said that banks will now have to link the interest rates charged by them on different categories of loans to the external benchmark like Repo rate or Treasury Bill rate instead of the used internal benchmark like marginal cost of fund based lending rate (MCLR).
  5. MCLR is an internal benchmark rate that depends on various factors such as fixed deposit rates,source of funds and savings rate.The price of loan comprises the MCLR and the spread or the bank’s profit margin.Spread refers to the difference in borrowing rates and lending rates of financial institutions.
  6. The biggest problem with the MCLR system was lack of required transmission of policy rates to the borrowers.The new system of linking interest rate to repo rate is expected to bring in more transparency in fixing rates and faster transmission of rates

Indians turn pessimistic as job worries weigh on confidence :survey

  1. The Reserve Bank of India has released the results of the May,2019 round of its Consumer Confidence Survey (CCS).
  2. The survey was conducted in 13 Indian cities and was based on responses from several households.The survey indicates optimism above 100 and pessimism below that mark.
  3. The survey seeks qualitative responses from households regarding their sentiments on (a)general economic conditions (b)overall price situation, (c)employment (d)income and (e)spending scenario.
  4. The survey found that consumer confidence index has fallen to 97.3 from 104.6 in March,2019.The consumer confidence has dropped down due to the deterioration in sentiments on the economic situation and employment.
  5. Further,sentiments returning to pessimistic category adds to the challenge of government which is trying to boost consumption and investments in the economy.

Ai-Da, the robot, charms with her art

  1. The exhibition of art created by a humanoid Artificial intelligence (AI) robot named as Ai-Da was unveiled recently at the University of Oxford.
  2. Aida is the world’s first ultra-realistic humanoid artist able to draw creatively due to an in-built AI technology.
  3. Ai-Da is named after British mathematician and computer pioneer Ada Lovelace.The collection of art aims to explore the boundaries between AI, technology and organic life.
  4. Ai-Da can draw from sight due to the cameras in her eyeballs and AI algorithms created by scientists that help produce co-ordinates for her arm to create art.
  5. Artificial Intelligence is a way of making a computer-controlled robot or software perform human-like tasks.It refers to the ability of machines to perform cognitive tasks like thinking,perceiving, learning, problem solving and decision making.

In a first, trains services opened in Arctic

  1. Russia has launched the first tourist train to Arctic region.The train will travel through Russia’s Arctic region on to Norway. It set off from St. Petersburg station with passengers aboard.
  2. The train has been named as Zarengold.It has two restaurant cars and the whole trip is expected to take 11 days and will allow passengers to discover areas difficult to access by other means.
  3. The tourists came from seven countries including the US, Germany, Norway and Russia.
  4. Russia hopes to become the top economic and military power in the Arctic region foreseeing new trading routes as global warming breaks up glaciers.
  5. According to the U.S Geological Survey,Arctic region holds oil and gas reserves equivalent to 412 billion barrels of oil and about 22% of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas.

Draft National Education Policy moots all-India entrance tests for UG courses in public colleges

  1. The Draft national Education Policy, 2019 has recommended that there should be common (all-India) entrance examinations for admissions to undergraduate courses in all government-funded universities and colleges, w.e.f. 2020. Further, private universities should also be encouraged to make use of the common admission tests.
  2. It has suggested that the National Testing Agency (NTA) should conduct common entrance tests multiple times each year for admissions and fellowships in higher educational institutions.
  3. Tests should be conducted in various aptitude based subjects like logic, quantitative reasoning, and languages, to more specialised subject examinations in the sciences, arts, and vocational subjects. The preferred modality will be computer-based testing.
  4. The draft policy has advocated that such a system would reduce burden on students by eliminating the stress of overemphasis on 12th board grades and that of appearing in multiple university examinations.
  5. Further, it would eliminate the need of the universities to devise their own examinations. University will be able to assess each student’s individual subject portfolio, and admit students into their programmes based on individual interests and talents.
  6. Established in 2018, the National Testing Agency (NTA) is an autonomous, specialist and self-sustained testing organization. It has been established to conduct entrance examinations for admission/fellowship in higher educational institutions.

Bhutan’s lower house of parliament votes to decriminalise homosexuality

  1. Bhutan’s lower house of parliament has voted to scrap laws criminalising homosexuality.
  2. The lower house scrapped Sections 213 and 214 of the penal code, which criminalised unnatural sex.However,the amendment is yet to be ratified by the upper House of Parliament.
  3. Currently,LGBT+ people are not recognised under Bhutanese law and as such aren’t protected from employment or housing discrimination and can’t marry or adopt.
  4. In 2018,Indian Supreme Court had also decriminalised same-sex relationships by partially striking down the provisions of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code(IPC).
  5. Section 377 criminalised voluntary carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal.Though the law did not explicitly mention LGBTQI community,the phrase against the order of nature came to be referred for same-sex sexual relations.
  6. Further,Bhutan which is famous for its gross national happiness index formulates government policy based on the perceived happiness of citizens rather than potential economic development.Bhutan had first held elections in 2008.Before that,it was an absolute monarchy.

India to hold first simulated space warfare exercise next month

  1. India is planning to conduct its first ever simulated space warfare exercise titled ‘IndSpaceEx’.
  2. The exercise will basically be a table-top war-game with all stakeholders from the military and scientific community taking part in it.
  3. The main aim of ‘IndSpaceEx’ exercise is to assess the requisite space and counter-space capabilities that are needed by India.The exercise will also help India better grasp the strategic challenges in space that need to be handled.
  4. This exercise comes in the backdrop of India successfully testing an anti-satellite(A-Sat) missile and initiating the establishment of a new tri-service Defence Space Agency.
  5. Recently,India had successfully conducted Mission Shakti.Mission Shakti is an anti-Satellite(ASAT) missile test.ASAT are missile-based systems to attack moving satellites.The ASAT test has been carried out by bringing down one of the Indian satellites in the low earth orbit.The test was aimed at strengthening the capability to safeguard space assets and India’s overall security.

Draft bill moots 10-year jail for crypto dealing

  1. Government has introduced a draft bill on Banning of Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2019.
  2. The draft bill says that anybody who mine, hold, transact or deal with cryptocurrencies in any form whether directly or indirectly through an exchange or trading can attract a jail term of one to 10 years.
  3. The draft also proposes a monetary penalty of up to three times the loss caused to the exchequer or gains made by the cryptocurrency user whichever is higher.
  4. The bill also proposed that any person holding cryptocurrencies will be required to declare and dispose of it within 90 days from the date of commencement of the act.Further,a regulator may also be appointed under the act to monitor activity.
  5. The draft bill has also proposed the introduction of an official digital rupee in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  6. Crypto currency is a digital currency.It allows transacting parties to remain anonymous while confirming that the transaction is valid one.It is not owned or controlled by any institution including both government institutions and private institutions.Various cryptocurrencies used globally are Bitcoin,Ethereum and Ripple.
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