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Avoid tit-for-tat in trade war, cut duties: Panel
  1. A high-level advisory group constituted by the union commerce ministry on Foreign trade policy has submitted its report to government.
  2. The panel has recommended the centre to cut down corporate tax rate and set a target to double the exports by 2025.Further,centre should create 25-year sovereign bonds where people declaring undisclosed income bound to invest 50% of that income.
  3. The advisory group has also requested the Government to drop tit for tat approach on tariff wars with other countries as it may not be the best option for India.
  4. The panel has also underlined the need for a rationalisation of India’s tariff structure to make it more predictable to encourage participation in global value chains
  5. The suggestions made by the group also includes (a)creating pan India Tourism board and medical tourism campaign (b)modify labour laws to remove the limitation on firm size (c)review existing free trade agreements (FTAs) ,especially with competitors like Bangladesh and (d)establish industrial parks to cater to the needs of electronics manufacturing.
  6. The panel has suggested that an Empowered Investment Promotion Agency needs to be set up and empowered to take quick decisions to identify and attract investors based on predefined criteria.
  7. In April 2015,the government had released the foreign trade policy for 2015-20 which has provided a framework for increasing exports of goods and services.The five-year policy provides guidelines for enhancing exports with the overall objective of pushing economic growth and generating employment.
One billion year old fungi is found to be earth’s oldest
  1. Recently,Scientists have discovered the Oldest-known fossils of a fungus named Ourasphaira giraldae in an Arctic region of northwestern Canada.
  2. The ancient fungus is the ancestor of today’s mushrooms, yeasts and molds and lived in at the mouth of a river mouth of a river between 890 million and 1.1 billion years ago.
  3. The microscopic fossils of ancient fungus dates back to the Proterozoic era before the advent of complex life forms and thus represent the oldest-known fungus.Until now,the oldest-known fungus fossil was one about 410 million years old from Scotland.
  4. Scientists have said that Fungi are the closest relatives to animals in the ‘tree of life’.This means that,if fungi were already present around 1 billion years ago,animals also were present.
  5. Fungi play a crucial role in ecosystems decomposing organic matter and returning nutrients to the ground to help plants grow.The existence of fungi a billion years ago suggests that the organisms laid the groundwork for the first plants to colonise the land about 470 million years ago.
  6. Further,Fungi belong to a broad group of organisms called eukaryotes that possesses a clearly defined nucleus and also includes animals and plants.A fundamental difference between fungi and plants is that fungi are incapable of photosynthesis harnessing sunlight to synthesize nutrients.
RBI plans liquidity buffer at shadow banks to aid stressed sector
  1. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has released the draft circular on Liquidity Risk Management Framework for Non-Banking Financial Companies(NBFCs) and Core Investment Companies (CIC’s) for public comments.
  2. The NBFCs play an important role in delivering credit to the last mile, including the retail as well as MSME sectors.
  3. However,many NBFCs have come under severe liquidity pressure ever since the IL&FS crisis erupted, compelling them to stop deposit renewals and resort to high cost borrowings. There are concerns that NBFCs may run out of money, which will lead to defaults.In the above background,the RBI has released the draft circular.
  4. This draft once finalised, needs to be adopted by all deposit taking NBFCs and non-deposit taking NBFCs with an asset size of ₹ 100 crore and above and all CICs registered with the Reserve Bank.
  5. The draft says that the Liquidity Coverage Ratio(LCR) would be introduced in all deposit taking NBFCs and non-deposit taking NBFCs with an asset size of Rs 5,000 crore and above.
  6. LCR is a requirement under Basel III whereby banks are required to hold an amount of high-quality liquid assets (HQLA) that’s enough to fund cash outflows for 30 days.
  7. The draft also makes it mandatory for NBFCs to hold Government Securities in the form of high quality liquidity assets(HQLA).HQLA are liquid assets that can be readily sold or immediately converted into cash at little or no loss of value or can be used as collateral for borrowing purposes.
  8. The circular says that board of all NBFCs with assets of more than 5,000 crore are required to ensure an (a)Asset liability management committee, (b)asset risk management committee and an (c)asset-liability management support group in NBFCs for implementing Liquidity risk mitigation policies.
  9. Further,the draft says that NBFCs are required to formulate their Contingency Funding Plan as a liquidity crisis management tool that will help them with alternative sources of funding in liquidity crisis and will prevent over reliance on single source of funding.
Golden Rice’ now closer to reality
  1. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and its partners,the Philippines Rice Research Institute and the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute has successfully cultivated Golden Rice in a controlled environment on IRRI campus.
  2. Golden rice is a variety of rice (Oryza sativa) produced through genetic engineering to biosynthesize beta-carotene,a precursor of vitamin A in the edible parts of rice.
  3. It is intended to produce a fortified food to be grown and consumed in areas with a shortage of dietary vitamin A.
  4. Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) or hypovitaminosis A is a lack of vitamin A in blood and tissues.It is common in poorer countries but rarely is seen in more developed countries.Nyctalopia (night blindness) is one of the first signs of VAD.
  5. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is an international agricultural research and training organization with headquarters in Los Baños,Laguna in the Philippines.
  6. IRRI is known for its work in developing rice varieties that contributed to the Green Revolution in the 1960s which preempted the famine in Asia.
  7. Its aim to reduce poverty and hunger, improve the health of rice farmers and consumers, and ensure environmental sustainability of rice farming.
Renewable energy: Centre looking to set up portal to disclose payment delays by Discoms
  1. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy(MNRE) is considering setting up a web portal to publicly disclose payment delays to renewable energy players from power distribution companies (Discoms).This move is expected to usher in more transparency in pending payments.
  2. The industry has demanded that a portal should be similar to Payment Ratification and Analysis in Power procurement for bringing Transparency (PRAAPTI) for the renewable energy sector to make payment process transparent.
  3. PRAAPTI portal was launched by the Ministry of Power in 2018 to capture the invoicing and payment data for various long term Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) from the Generators.
  4. This portal captures the Invoicing and payment data for various long term PPAs from the Generators.This helps the stakeholders in getting month-wise and legacy data on outstanding amounts of Discoms against power purchase.
  5. The app also allows users to know the details related to the payments made by the Discoms to the power generation company and when they were made.
  6. It has also enabled consumers to evaluate financial performance of their Discoms in terms of payments being made to the generation companies.
RBI to infuse ₹15,000 cr. in June via OMO
  1. The Reserve Bank has said it will inject Rs 15,000 crore into the financial system through purchase of government bonds via the auction route.The government securities will be bought under Open Market Operations (OMO).
  2. This decision was taken as financial sector has been facing liquidity crisis ever since the Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Ltd (IL&FS) had defaulted in its payment obligations triggering reluctance among lenders to lend to the Non Banking Financial Company (NBFC) sector.
  3. Open market operations is the sale and purchase of government securities and treasury bills by the Reserve Bank of India(RBI).
  4. The objective of OMO is to regulate the money supply in the economy.When the RBI wants to increase the money supply in the economy, it purchases the government securities from the market and it sells government securities to suck out liquidity from the system.
  5. RBI carries out the OMO through commercial banks and does not directly deal with the public.OMO is one of the tools that RBI uses to smoothen the liquidity conditions through the year and minimise its impact on the interest rate and inflation rate levels.
India relaxes procedure to speed up arms sales to friendly foreign nations
  1. Indian Government has finalised a new standard operating procedure (SOP) to speed up the sale of military equipment to friendly countries through defence lines of credit(LoC) which is similar to the foreign military sales (FMS) programme of the US.
  2. Currently,the SOP will be applied for defence PSUs and Ordnance Factory Board.After its working stabilises,the SOP will be extended to private sector companies producing defence equipment.
  3. Under the new SOP, the Indian defence companies will directly quote the prices of the identified products at the rate they were sold to the Indian armed forces with built-in escalation and exchange costs.This will shorten the negotiations and price discovery process.
  4. However,India cannot match China in terms of arms exports as it continues to suffer with the strategically-vulnerable position of being the world’s second largest arms importer due to a weak indigenous defence industrial base.
  5. China has emerged as the world’s fifth largest arms exporter after the US, Russia, France and Germany by a determined focus on indigenous defence production and reverse-engineering of advanced military technology.
  6. Further,India might not have a robust defence production sector but it does have some weapons systems like the (a)BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles produced in collaboration with Russia (b)indigenous ones like the Akash surface-to-air missile systems (c)Tejas light combat aircraft and (d)Dhruv advanced light helicopters which can be successfully exported to other countries.
  7. LOC is an arrangement between a financial institution usually a bank and a customer that establishes the maximum loan amount the customer can borrow.The borrower can access funds from the line of credit at any time as long as they do not exceed the maximum amount (or credit limit) set in the agreement and meet any other requirements such as making timely minimum payments.
WHO unveils plan to tackle snakebite
  1. The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched its global strategy for prevention and control of snakebite envenoming.
  2. WHO Global Strategy targets 50% reduction in mortality and disability caused by snakebite envenoming by 2030.
  3. This target will be achieved through (a) ensuring access to treatment such as anti-venoms and ancillary medical care by increasing the number of manufacturers by 25% and creating a global antivenom stockpile and (b) encouraging research on new treatments, diagnostics and health device breakthroughs.
  4. Snakebite envenoming is a neglected tropical disease (NTD).In 2017, WHO had formally categorised “snakebite envenoming” as a Neglected Tropical Disease.
  5. Snake bite affects 1.8–2.7 million people each year.It is a neglected public health issue in many tropical and subtropical countries such as Africa, Asia and Latin America.
  6. Further,most deaths and serious consequences from snake bites are entirely preventable by making High quality snake antivenoms accessible.They are included in the WHO List of essential medicines.
NOTA most popular in Bihar, 8 lakh shun parties
  1. According to the Election Commission’s website,Bihar saw the highest number of voters in the country opting for the None of The Above (NOTA) option while exercising their franchise in the Lok Sabha polls.
  2. None Of The Above (NOTA) is a ballot option designed to allow the voter to indicate disapproval of all of the candidates in a voting system.
  3. It was introduced in India following the 2013 Supreme Court directive in the People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs Union of India judgment.
  4. The Supreme Court had justified the inclusion of NOTA by saying that it would force political parties to project clean candidates in an election. The court said that since all citizens have the right to vote,one must also have the right to reject all candidates as part of their fundamental right to speech and expression in the Constitution.
  5. However,NOTA in India does not provide for a ‘right to reject’.The candidate with the maximum votes wins the election irrespective of the number of NOTA votes polled.
Women still under-represented in science, tech
  1. According to a report by UNESCO, women remains considerably under-represented across STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) studies and careers.
  2. The report says that globally only 29% of those in science research and development are women with a lowest in south and west Asia at 19% and the highest in central Asia with 48%.
  3. The reason for low representation is because most women do not identify themselves with STEM and assumes that these subjects won’t align with their desire to be creative and make an impact in the world.
  4. This has further widen the gender gap in the technology world.It has also lead to women missing their contribution to the next generation of technologies and innovation.
  5. The report has recommended that teachers and technologists should take up the responsibility in building a passion for STEM subjects among women students by designing computer science curriculum around societal challenges and giving young women more exposure to female role models.
  6. Microsoft has also launched an initiative for this purpose to encourage women to pursue careers in STEM and the company has been working to get students and young women excited about STEM subjects.
Copper, aluminium sectors may get raw deal if India joins RCEP, warn producers
  1. Ahead of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) meeting,the Aluminium Association of India(AAI) has written to the Government seeking protection from cheap imports.
  2. The AAI has said that if India joins the RCEP then such a move would pave the way for zero duty on imports of copper and aluminium which would cripple the domestic sector and stall further investments.
  3. This statement came in the backdrop of RCEP countries meeting on May 24,2019 where they are trying to conclude a treaty that would eliminate input tariffs on about 90% of traded goods.
  4. RCEP is proposed mega trade pact between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing Free trade agreements(FTA’s)(Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).
  5. It aims to boost goods trade by eliminating most tariff and non-tariff barriers — a move that is expected to provide the region’s consumers greater choice of quality products at affordable rates.It also seeks to liberalise investment norms and do away with services trade restrictions.
  6. India has repeatedly advocated that the agreement needs to be comprehensive in nature.India is concerned about (a)trade pact will allow greater access to Chinese goods which may have an impact on the Indian manufacturing sector (b)There are demands by other RCEP countries for lowering customs duties on a number of products and greater access to foreign goods in the Indian market.
No GST at duty-free shops: HC
  1. Recently,the Allahabad high court has ruled that there shall be no Goods and Services tax(GST) levied in case of purchases made at duty free stores at the arrival or departure terminals.
  2. The court held that tax will not be levied as the goods has not crossed the customs border and passengers carry the items as their personal belongings.
  3. This ruling is similar to the one given by the Karnataka high court where in case of Flemingo Duty Free Shop,it was held that sale or purchase by duty free shops would be a transaction in the course of export or import.
  4. However,Madhya Pradesh high court had ruled that the transactions on duty free shops are liable to pay GST as supply to a duty-free shop by an Indian supplier is not to a place outside India and therefore such supplies do not qualify as exports under GST.
  5. The “duty” in duty-free refers to taxes.The duty-free shop is allowed to sell their materials exempt from various national and local taxes on the condition that the goods will be taken out of the country by international travelers.In the absence of taxes,duty-free shops are able to offer lower prices on their goods.
  6. GST (Goods and Services Tax) is an indirect tax that has replaced many Central and State taxes like excise duty, VAT and service tax.It is a single comprehensive tax levied on all goods and services produced in India as well as those imported from other countries.
Laws not enough to end scavenging: NHRC chief
  1. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairman has said that the government needs to tell what it has done to end manual scavenging and merely putting laws in place will not end the menace.
  2. Manual scavenging is the practice of manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of, or handling human excreta.The International Labour Organization (ILO) distinguishes three forms of manual scavenging: a) Removal of human excrement from public streets and dry latrines, b) Cleaning septic tanks, and c) Cleaning gutters and sewers.
  3. Manual scavenging in India is prohibited under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013. The law intends to eliminate insanitary latrines and prohibit employment as manual scavengers. It also prohibits hazardous manual cleaning of sewer and septic tanks.
  4. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is a statutory body. It was established under the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993.The Act was amended in 2006 (Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2006). NHRC deals with promotion and protection of human rights.
Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh declared a banned terrorist organisation
  1. The Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), has been declared as a banned terrorist organisation by the Indian government. It has been inserted in the First Schedule of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
  2. According to the home ministry, the JMB came into existence in 1998 with the objective of establishing a Caliphate through Jihad. It has committed and promoted acts of terrorism and has been engaged in radicalisation and recruitment of youths for terrorist activities in India. Further, it had been blamed for the terror attack at a cafe in Dhaka in 2016.
  3. Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 is a legislation to provide for the more effective prevention of certain unlawful activities of individuals and associations and for dealing with terrorist activities. The Act defines unlawful activity as any action by an individual or association which is intended to bring about cession/secession or such action as to disrupt or question the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India.
  4. It was amended in 2004 to criminalise the raising of funds for a terrorist act, holding of the proceeds of terrorism, membership of a terrorist organisation, support to a terrorist organisation, and the raising of funds for a terrorist organisation.
  5. It was again amended in 2012 to comply with the guidelines of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The definition of “terrorist act” was expanded to include offences that threaten economic security, counterfeiting Indian currency, and procurement of weapons, etc.