|101.||Government notifies Banking Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2017|
The Union Government has notified the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2017. The Parliament had approved the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2017 which replaced an ordinance in this regard.
It amended the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 by adding provisions for handling cases related to stressed assets or non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks.
The Act empowers the Central government to authorize the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to direct banking companies to resolve specific stressed assets by initiating insolvency resolution process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016. The RBI can specify authorities or committees to advise banks on resolution of stressed assets. The members on the committees will be appointed or approved by the RBI. The Act also make these provisions applicable to the SBI and its subsidiaries and also Regional Rural Banks (RRBs).
The banking sector in India is saddled with non-performing assets (NPAs) of over Rs.8 lakh crore, of which, Rs. 6 lakh crore are with public sector banks (PSBs). The Union Government in May 2017 had promulgated an ordinance authorising the RBI to issue directions to banks to initiate insolvency resolution process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016. The RBI had identified 12 accounts each having more than Rs. 5000 crore of outstanding loans and accounting for 25% of total NPAs of banks for immediate referral for resolution under the bankruptcy law. The bulk of the NPAs are in various sectors including power, steel, road infrastructure and textiles.
|102.||Government imposes anti-dumping duty on sodium nitrate imports from China|
The Union Finance Ministry’s Revenue Department has imposed a five year anti-dumping duty on Sodium Nitrite imports from China. It was imposed based on recommendations of Directorate General of Antidumping and Allied Duties (DGAD).
In its sunset review, the DGAD concluded that there is “continued dumping” of the ‘sodium nitrite’ from China and it is causing injury to the domestic industry.
Sodium Nitrite is a white crystalline powder. It is an oxidising and also a reducing agent. It is mostly used in the pharmaceutical and dye industries, lubricants, construction chemicals, rubber blowing agent, meat processing, and textiles.
Countries impose anti-dumping duties to safeguard domestic industry from surge in below-cost imports. It is not a measure to restrict import or cause an unjustified increase in cost of products. Anti-dumping duty is imposed inorder to ensure fair trade and provide a level-playing field to the domestic industry.
It is protectionist and counter import measure used by a country under the multilateral World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime. The DGAD, under the Union Commerce Ministry, recommends the duty, while the Union Finance Ministry imposes the same. India so far has also imposed similar anti-dumping duties on import of several other products including steel, fabrics and chemicals from different countries including China.
|103.||NPCI approves Spice Digitals operation under Bharat Bill Payment System|
The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has given a nod to Spice Digital Ltd. for processing bill payments under the Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS) as a Bharat Bill Payment Operating Unit (BBPOU).
Spice Money Ltd, a fintech company had received an in-principle approval to set-up as a BBPOU under the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 in May 2016. In August 2016, NPCI had launched a pilot project for BBPS with eight BBPS operating unit, Spice Digital was one of them
Bill payments is a major component of the retail payment transactions in India. It is characterized by the presence of large number of billers and aggregators who provide a variety of payment options to customers. According to the Digital Payments 2020 report by Google and Boston Consulting Group, cashless payments contribution in the consumer payments segment will double to 40%.
Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS)
BBPS is an integrated bill payment system offering interoperable and accessible bill payment service to customers through a network of agents, enabling multiple payment modes and providing instant confirmation of payment. The BBPS initiative aims to provide a major push to digital payments as it is a big step forward in formalizing the bill payment system in the country.
Under the BBPS framework, a customer will be able to pay several bills such as electricity, telephone, water, gas, and DTH television at a single location—physical or electronic—and receive instant confirmation once the payment is made.
National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)
NPCI is the umbrella organisation for all retail payments system in India. It is being promoted the Reserve Bank of India. It was founded in 2008 as a not-for-profit organisation registered under section 25 of the Companies Act, 2013.
|104.||Government bans import of gold, silver items from South Korea|
The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) in the Union Commerce Ministry has banned duty free imports of gold, silver items from South Korea.
These restrictions were imposed against the backdrop of sudden surge in imports of precious metals from South Korea, with which India has a free trade agreement (FTA) since January 2010. Now, importers will now have to obtain a license from the DGFT for importing gold and silver from South Korea.
Under the India-South Korea FTA, India has allowed duty free import of gold and silver items. However, 12.5% countervailing duty was imposed to offset equal level of excise duty on gold and silver jewellery items produced domestically.
After goods and services tax (GST) regime was implemented from 1 July 2017, countervailing duty was abolished as it subsumed excise duty and only 3% GST was imposed on gold. This created a situation where importing gold via South Korea became profitable due to its duty free status with India even as government continued to impose 10% basic customs duty on gold imports from other countries. Between 1 July and 3 August 2017, gold imports from South Korea surged to $339 million against import of only $70.5 million in 2016-17.
India is the world’s second largest gold consumer after China, with consumption of 674 tonnes in 2016. According to the World Gold Council (WGC), India’s gold demand is projected to rise to between 850 tonnes and 950 tonnes by 2020 from an estimated 650-750 tonnes in 2017.
Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT)
The DGFT is the nodal agency responsible for execution of the import and export Policies of India. It is entrusted with responsibilities for formulating and implementing the foreign trade policy with the main objective of promoting India’s exports.
|105.||Government constitutes task force on artificial intelligence|
The Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry has constituted a Task Force on Artificial Intelligence (AI) for India’s Economic Transformation.
The 18-member panel will be headed by Dr. V. Kamakoti of IIT Madras. It will comprise of experts, academics, researchers and industry leaders.
The Task force will explore the possibilities to leverage AI for development across various fields. It will submit concrete and implementable recommendations for government, industry and research institutions.
In addition to regular members, official participation from the following organizations such as NITI Aayog, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Department of Science & Technology, UIDAI and DRDO will be also requested.
With rapid development in the fields of information technology and hardware, the world is about to witness a fourth industrial revolution. It will be driven by the power of big data, high computing capacity, artificial intelligence and analytics. It is going to digitise the manufacturing sector.
|106.||GM crops only after biosafety, socio-economic evaluation: Parliamentary Committee|
The Parliamentary Standing Committee has recommended that no genetically modified (GM) crop should be introduced unless the biosafety and socio-economic desirability is evaluated in a transparent process. It also called for placing an accountable regime in this regard.
The recommendation was made by department-related parliamentary standing committee on science and technology and environment and forest in its 301st report on “GM crop and its impact on environment”.
The Committee has also recommended that the Environment Ministry (MoEFCC) should examine the impact of GM crops on the environment thoroughly, in consultation with all stakeholders, so that all its probable effects are very clear.
It also noted that the GM crop regulator GEAC (Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee) gave its approval for commercialisation of GM mustard inspite of matter pending for decision in Supreme Court. It held that GM mustard being herbicide-tolerant GM organism (GMO), there are evidences on adverse impacts of such GMOs elsewhere in world.
The Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), Delhi University, had submitted an application to the GEAC for the environmental release of GM mustard hybrid DMH-11 and the use of parental events (EH2 mod bs 2.99 and varuna bn 3.6) for the development of a new generation of hybrids. The MoEFCC had received over 700 comments from various stakeholders, including farmers and researchers, on the Assessment of Food and Environmental Safety (AFES) report on GM Mustard.
|107.||IIT Researchers develop biosensor to detect kidney disorders|
Researchers from Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), Bombay and Indore, have jointly developed a biosensor that makes it possible to detect kidney disorders in less than eight minutes.
The biosensor can accurately measure both the pH and urea concentration with a single drop of urine. It will help make a point-of-care test to determine whether the kidneys are functioning normally.
Drawbacks of conventional tests
For conventional kidney function test, doctors estimate pH and urea contents in urine as most kidney disorders result in reduced pH and higher concentration of urea. In current available methods to detect urea, patients need to undergo two tests for accuracy. In addition, these methods have accuracy problem due to contaminations components in urine such as calcium, chloride, ascorbic acid, sodium and potassium.
The newly developed biosensor can detect both pH and urea contents in urine. It is made by encapsulating an enzyme urease and molecule FITC-dextran in alginate microspheres. The combination glows in fluorescence colour in response to chemical reaction with urea and changes in pH when urine is added. The fluorescence reduces when the pH is acidic and increases when it is alkaline. The change in intensity of fluorescence helps to calculate the values of pH and urea.
The biosensor made using alginate is safe and non-toxic to handle. It can work in the ideal pH range of 4-8. It is able detect even low concentrations of urea up to 50 millimolar. It has showed accuracy of more than 97%. Moreover, it is stable for up to a month in a refrigerator and gives results unaffected by other components in urine samples. It can help to make rapid and accurate point-of-care diagnostic test for kidney disorders.
|108.||CSIR-NIIST develop new technique to produce bioethanol from cotton-stalks|
Scientists from CSIR’s National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (CSIR-NIIST), Thiruvananthapuram have developed new technique to produce bioethanol from discarded cotton-stalks. The technique uses combination of chemical and biological techniques.
The new technique will help to produce bioethanol, a clean fuel from cotton stalk wastes. Converting the agro-residues such as cotton stalks and wheat and rice husks etc to ethanol reduces the food vs fuel competition.
India has about 9.4 million hectares under cotton cultivation and every hectare generates 2 million tonnes of cotton stalk wastes.
In new technique, cotton stalks first are treated with acid, alkali and different enzymes to breakdown its complex organic polymers. The acid treatment remove hemicellulose, a polymer of cell wall and alkali makes easier to extract lignin, a binding matrix in cell wall, made of complex phenolics.
These treatments exposes cellulose of cotton stalks made of glucose to the action of enzymes. It converts glucose into final product bioethanol by the process of fermentation using a novel yeast strain.
The novel yeast strain used was Saccharomycescerevisiae-RRP-03N, obtained from a rotting wild fruit we found in the Silent Valley National Park, Kerala.
The Saccharomycescerevisiae-RRP-03N yeast performs better than distiller’s yeast strains commonly used in fermenting the cotton stalk hydrolysate. It has glucose conversion efficiency of 76% and it utilised entire glucose in just 24 hours and converted into alcohol. The final alcohol obtained after distillation can be made to fuel grade bioethanol (>99% purity).
|109.||Government eases norms under UDAN Scheme|
The Union Civil Aviation Ministry has eased several norms of Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN), a flagship regional flying scheme to attract more airlines and helicopter operators to participate in regional connectivity scheme (RCS).
The new norms were announced when the process for second round of bidding for the RCS were announced. . The winners of the second round of bidding will be announced by November 2017.
The relaxations of the norms include dilution of the exclusivity clause mandating that only one airline may fly on one route in the initial years. It will allow selected airline operator of a particular route may issue no-objection certificate (NOC) to other airlines who want to operate on the selected RCS route.
The norms restricting two airports in close proximity from participating in the bidding also has been relaxed. It will allow routes with a stage length less than 150 km for operations through fixed wing aircraft.
About Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) Scheme
The UDAN Scheme aims at providing connectivity to un-served and under-served airports of the country through revival of existing airstrips and airports. It aims to develop the regional aviation market and make flying affordable. It is applicable on flights which cover between 200 km and 800 km. The distance limit is lower limit for hilly, remote, island and security sensitive regions. It reserves minimum number of UDAN seats i.e. seats at subsidized rates and also cap the fare for short distance flights. It has a unique market-based model to develop regional connectivity.
|110.||Microsoft launches Project Brainwave for real-time Artificial Intelligence|
Software giant Microsoft has launched Project Brainwave, a deep learning acceleration platform for real-time artificial intelligence (AI).
Its launch is important as the real-time AI has increasingly became important as cloud infrastructures process live data streams, whether they be videos, sensor streams, search queries or interactions with users.
The ‘Project Brainwave’ uses the massive field-programmable gate array (FPGA) infrastructure which has been deployed by Microsoft over the past few years. It can processes requests as fast as it receives them with the help of ultra-low latency.
The Project Brainwave system architecture reduces latency, since its Central Processing Unit (CPU) does not need to process incoming requests. It als allows very high throughput, with the FPGA processing requests as fast as the network can stream them.
The system has been architected to yield high actual performance across a wide range of complex models, with batch-free execution. It can handle complex, memory-intensive models such as Long Short Term Memories (LSTM), without using batching to juice throughput.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence is branch of computer science concerned with making computers behave like humans. In contrast to normal hardware and software, AI enables a machine to perceive and respond to its changing environment.