PM interacts through PRAGATI

News:Prime Minister has chaired the 31st interaction through the PRAGATI platform.

Facts:

About PRAGATI:

  • PRAGATI stands for Pro-Active Governance And Timely Implementation. The platform was launched in 2015.
  • The platform is aimed at addressing common man’s grievances and simultaneously monitoring and reviewing important programmes and projects of the Government of India as well as projects flagged by State Governments.
  • The major objectives of the program are (a) Grievance redressal (b) Project implementation (c) Project monitoring.

Key features of the platform:

  • The platform uniquely bundles three latest technologies: Digital data management, video-conferencing and geo-spatial technology. 
  • It is a three-tier system (PMO, Union Government Secretaries and Chief Secretaries of the States)
  • Prime Minister will hold a monthly programme where he will interact with the Government of India Secretaries and Chief Secretaries through Video-conferencing enabled by data and geo-informatics visuals;
  • The issues flagged before the PM are picked up from the available database regarding Public Grievances, on-going Programmes and pending Projects.

Khadi gets separate HS code

News:The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has allocated separate HS code for Khadi to boost exports of this signature fabric of India.

Facts:

About HS Code:

  • HS stands for Harmonized System and was developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO). 
  • The code is used by customs officers to clear commodities entering or crossing international borders.
  • The code aids countries in the collection of international trade statistics and forms a basis for customs tariffs.This helps in better reach of the product and increases its global popularity.

Additional information:

About WCO:

  • The WCO is an inter governmental organization headquartered in Brussels,Belgium.It was founded in 1952. 
  • It administers the technical aspects of WTO, agreements on customs valuation and rules of origin
  • WCO represents 182 Customs administrations across the globe that collectively process approximately 98% of world trade.

About Khadi:

  • Khadi refers to hand-spun and hand-woven cloth.The raw materials may be cotton, silk, or wool, which are spun into threads on a charkha.
  • Khadi was launched in 1920 as a political weapon in the Swadeshi movement of Mahatma Gandhi.

Freedom on Net 2019 report

News:The Freedom of Net report 2019 titled “The Crisis of Social Media” was released by the The Freedom House, an international watchdog.

Facts:

About Freedom on the Net:

  • Freedom on the Net is a comprehensive study of internet freedom in 65 nations across the globe.The report covers 87% of the world’s total internet users.
  • The annual report tracks declines and improvement in internet freedom.It has chosen specific countries to represent diverse geographical regions.
  • The report provides the overall scores to countries using a 21-question research methodology which addresses freedom of expression, internet access and privacy issues.

Key takeaways from the report:

  • The report assessed 65 countries and 33 among them showed an overall decline in internet freedom since June 2018.Only 16 countries showed improvements in their internet freedom status.
  • Some of the countries that showed the biggest decline in internet freedom include Sudan, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
  • India was given an overall score of 55 in the report and the internet freedom status in the country was reported to be ‘partly free’.
  • Iceland ranked the highest with an overall score of 95 as it had no civil or criminal cases registered against users for online expression during the coverage period. 
  • China with an overall score of 10 was adjudged ‘not free’ and as the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom for the fourth consecutive year.
  • Pakistan was given a score of 26 and was declared ‘not free’ in internet freedom status for the 9th consecutive year. 

Asset Liability management(ALM) Framework for NBFC’s

News:The Reserve Bank of India(RBI) has introduced ‘liquidity management framework’ for Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs).

Facts:

Why this framework?

  • This framework is introduced due to liquidity crunch faced by some NBFCs after the collapse of the Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services(IL&FS) group.

About the framework:

  • The framework has introduced the liquid­ity coverage ratio(LCR) for Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs).
  • It says that all non deposit taking NBFCs with an asset size of ₹10,000 crore and above and all deposit taking NBFCs irrespective of their asset size have to maintain LCR at 50% starting from December 2020 which will be gradually increased to 100 per cent by December 2024.
  • For all non deposit taking NBFCs with asset size between ₹5,000­-10,000 crore,the LCR requirement will start at 30 per cent in December 2020 and reach 100 per cent by December 2024.
  • However,these guidelines will not apply to Type 1 NBFC-NDs, non-operating financial holding companies and standalone primary dealers.
  • Type I – NBFC-ND entities are those which do not accept public funds and do not have customer interface and do not intend to engage in such activities.

Additional information:

About liquidity coverage ratio:

  • LCR refers to the proportion of highly liquid assets held by companies to ensure their ongoing ability to meet short-term obligations.
  • It promotes resilience of banks to potential liquidity disruptions by ensuring that they have sufficient High Quality Liquid Asset(HQLA) to survive any acute liquidity stress scenario lasting for 30 days.
  • HQLAs mean liquid assets that can be readily sold or immediately converted into cash at little or no loss of value or used as collateral to obtain funds in a range of stress scenarios.

About NBFCs:

  • An NBFC is a company registered under the Companies Act,1956.It engages in the business of (a)loans and advances (b)acquisition of shares /stocks/ bonds/ debentures/securities issued by Government or local authority or other marketable securities of a like nature leasing and (c)hire-purchase,insurance business,chit business.
  • However,it does not include any institution whose principal business is that of  (a)agriculture activity (b)industrial activity (c)purchase or sale of any goods (other than securities) and (d)providing any services and sale/purchase/construction of immovable property.

Union minister inaugurates Mission Innovation(MI) Face-to-Face Meeting of Innovation Challenges

News:Union Minister of Science & Technology, Earth Sciences, Health and Family Welfare has inaugurated the Mission Innovation(MI) Face to Face meeting of Innovation Challenges(IC).

Facts:

About Mission innovation:

  • Mission Innovation(MI) is a global initiative of 24 countries and the European Commission (on behalf of the European Union).
  • The mission aims to accelerate public and private clean energy innovation to address climate change, make clean energy affordable to consumers and create green jobs and commercial opportunities.
  • The mission was announced at the COP21 on November 30,2015 as world leaders came together in Paris,France to commit to ambitious efforts to combat climate change.
  • India is a founding member of the Mission Innovation.

Goal of the mission:At the the 3rd MI Ministerial in 2018,the countries endorsed a number of key initiatives and activities to deliver the Action Plan by 2021.The initiatives are:

  • Substantial boost in public sector investment
  • Increased private sector engagement and investment
  • Increasing international collaboration
  • Raising awareness.

Real-time Train Information System(RTIS)

News:Recently,500 passenger locomotives of the South Central Railway (SCR) have been fitted with the newly developed Real-time Train Information System (RTIS).

Facts:

About Real-time Train Information System(RTIS):

  • The system has been developed by the Centre for Railway Information Systems(CIRE) with the help of ISRO-Airports Authority of India’s GAGAN-Global Positioning System(GPS) aided geo-augmented navigation.
  • The system is aimed at automatic transmission of speed and movement of trains to the central control office for improving the train control functions.
  • The RTIS device uses GAGAN to transmit a signal to the control hubs. 

Significance of RTIS:

  • Passengers and freight customers will receive a more accurate information on train status when the train concerned is connected to a locomotive equipped with RTIS 
  • Low speed can be detected and intervention can be made to improve punctuality.
  • Locomotor can send emergency messages to the control room with the push of a button.
  • Unscheduled stoppages between the stations can be identified.

Additional information:

About GAGAN:

  • GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation(GAGAN) is a step by the Indian Government towards initial Satellite-based Navigation Services in India. 
  • It is a system to improve the accuracy of a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) receiver by providing reference signals. 
  • The Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) have collaborated to develop GAGAN as a regional Satellite Based Augmentation System(SBAS). 
  • GAGAN’s goal is to provide a navigation system to assist aircraft in accurate landing over the Indian airspace and in the adjoining area and applicable to safety-to-life civil operations.
  • GAGAN covers the area from Africa to Australia and has expansion capability for seamless navigation services across the region.

RBI’s panel suggests measures to strengthen core investment companies

News:The Reserve Bank of India(RBI) panel to review the regulatory and Supervisory Framework for Core Investment Companies headed by Tapan Ray has submitted its report.

Facts:

About CIC’s:

  • Core Investment Companies (CICs) are Non-Banking Financial Companies(NBFCs) having asset size of Rs 100 crore and above.
  • The main business of CIC is of acquisition of shares and securities with certain conditions.
  • It holds not less than 90% of its net assets in the form of investment in equity shares, preference shares, bonds, debentures, debt or loans in group companies.
  • Further, investments in equity shares in group companies constitute not less than 60% of its net assets. 

Key Recommendations of the panel:

  • Every conglomerate with a CIC should have a Group Risk Management Committee.This committee should be responsible to monitor group-level leverage. 
  • One-third of the board should comprise of independent members if the chairperson of the CIC is a non-executive member, otherwise at least half of the board should comprise of independent members. 
  • Audit committee of the board should be chaired by an independent director who has oversight over the CIC’s financial reporting process and policies.
  • The current threshold of Rs 100 crore asset size and access to public funds for registration as CIC should be retained.
  • There is a need for ring fencing boards of CICs by excluding employees or executive directors of group firms from its board.
  • The number of layers of CICs in a group should be restricted to two.As such,any CIC within a group shall not make investments through more than a total of two layers of CICs.The word layer means subsidiary or subsidiaries of the holding company.

Government approves Rs 25,000 crore alternate fund for stalled housing projects

News:Government has approved a Rs 25,000-crore special window to provide funding to stalled housing projects.

Facts:

Why this fund?

  • The government expects this fund to revive the real estate sector, generate employment and provide a boost to the economy through demand for materials like cement.

About the fund:

  • The fundwill be set up as a category-II Alternative Investment Fund which will pool investments from the government and other investors. 
  • The government will contribute Rs 10,000 crore while the remaining amount will be put up by the State Bank of India and the Life Insurance Corporation of India.
  • SBICAP Ventures Limited will be the investment manager for the fund and decide on which projects are eligible for the funding.
  • The fund will not be available for the projects that have entered liquidation.

Eligibility for the fund:

  • If the project’s Net-worth is positive.
  • Affordable and middle-income housing project.
  • On-going projects registered with the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act (RERA).
  • Include stressed projects classified as non-performing assets or those stuck in the National Company Law Tribunal.

Additional information:

About Alternate investment fund:

  • Alternate investment funds(AIFs) are defined under the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Alternative Investment Funds) Regulations, 2012.
  • It refers to any fund established or incorporated in India which is a privately pooled investment vehicle which collects funds from sophisticated investors whether Indian or foreign for investing it in accordance with a defined investment policy for the benefit of its investors.

Categories of AIF:

  • Category I: Mainly invests in start- ups, SMEs or any other sector which Govt. considers economically and socially viable.
  • Category II: These include Alternative Investment Funds such as private equity funds or debt funds for which no specific incentives or concessions are given by the government or any other Regulator.
  • Category III : Alternative Investment Funds such as hedge funds or funds which trade with a view to make short term returns or such other funds which are open ended and for which no specific incentives or concessions are given by the government or any other Regulator.

Explained:What is trade deficit and what does it signify

News:India has decided not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership(RCEP) Agreement as India’s core issues remained unresolved during the negotiations.One of the reason for not joining is the massive trade deficits India has with almost all of the RCEP countries.

Facts:

About Trade deficit:

  • The trade balance of a country shows the difference between what it earns from its exports and what it pays for its imports. 
  • If this number is negative which means the total value of goods imported by a country is more than the total value of goods exported by that country then it is referred to as a trade deficit.

Implication of Trade Deficit:A trade deficit can mean two things: 

  • Firstly,the demand in the domestic economy is not being met by the domestic producers.
  • Secondly,many a time a trade deficit signifies the lack of competitiveness of the domestic industry.

Is trade deficit a bad thing?

  • No trade is ever balanced.This is because all countries have different strengths and weaknesses.
  • India may have a trade deficit with China but a surplus with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.It all depends on whether a country is playing to its strength or not.
  • Trade typically enhances well being all across the world by forcing countries to do what they can do most efficiently and procure (import) from the rest of the world what they cannot produce efficiently.

Way forward:

  • Trade does have elements that compromises the country’s strategic interests and that is why there are some commodities in which every country wants to maintain self-sufficiency.
  • But merely levying higher tariffs or not choosing to trade do not bring about self-sufficiency.
  • For attaining self-reliance,a country’s domestic industry has to improve and the best of this happening is when one learns from the competition.