India – Singapore CEO Forum, that was launched in November 2018, again held their meeting. The meeting was organized by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) and FICCI on February 18, 2021.
During the meeting, Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has stated that, both the countries can work together in the arena of e-commerce, smart manufacturing, fintech and healthcare.
In these areas, the countries offer a large market.
The minister further said that if the countries will work together in these areas, it will transform India’s own effort to give best to the people.
Members of India- Singapore CEO Forum have also agreed to work for resolving the regulatory issues and processes that is affecting the bilateral trade and investment relations of the countries.
The Minister also highlighted that, India is looking to expand its ties with Singapore on the basis of three B’s namely, Buddhism, Bollywood and Business.
The Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations of Singapore, S Iswaran, also emphasized for the greater engagement between businesses from both the countries.
He also emphasized on 3 D’s namely, Development, Diversification and Digital Economy. These 3 D’s would help in building a partnership which in turn will benefit both the countries.
Both the countries work together in the fields of cyber security, disaster relief, education and skill development. These are the pillars where India can learn from Singapore. This partnership will also help India to become Aatmanirbhar. It will provide opportunities to India in order to increase its global footprint. India had recognized Singapore as an important member of the ASEAN grouping. Singapore is also the largest trade partner of India among the ASEAN countries. Singapore exchange has also partnered with the GIFT city which is India’s first operational smart city.
The Reserve Bank of India has approved the takeover of Dewan Housing Finance Corporation Ltd (DHFL) by Piramal Group on February 18, 2021.
The decision was taken by RBI after a month a Committee of Creditors of DHFL voted in favor of Piramal’s bid.
The bid got the 94 per cent votes.
Following this, the resolution plan of the company has been approved by the RBI.
Now, the Piramal Group will require to take permission of National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to take over the DHFL.
Apart from the Piramal Group, another major contender for the debt-ridden NBFC was US-based Oaktree Capital.
Oaktree capital had secured 45 per cent of votes from the lenders.
Piramal Group has offered Rupees 37,250 crore while the Oaktree has offered Rupees 38,400 crore offered by Oaktree.
But, the Piramal group had offered high upfront cash payment. Thus, the company has won the bid.
Dewan Housing Finance Corporation Ltd. (DHFL)
It is a deposit-taking housing finance company. The company is headquartered in Mumbai. It was established in order to enable the access to the economical housing finance for the lower- and middle-income groups in the semi-urban and rural India. The company is the second housing finance company of India.
What is the issue?
The DHFL had stopped payment of bonds in 2019 and it also defaulted on its loan obligations. Reason being this, the stock of the company fell over 97%. Thus, the government intervene in the company.
Following this, a resolution plan was made. In order to restructure the debt into equity in the company, some of the bond holders moved to the debt recovery tribunal. But the company offered to repay all investors in full through an inter-creditor-agreement.
But, in 2019 itself, Enforcement Directorate conducted raided the company and found links of money laundering activity with respect to the loans given to closely linked firms.
Following this, in accordance with the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, central bank removed the board of directors DHFL alleging inadequate governance in the company.
Now this company stands bankrupt.
The tech-giant Facebook has recently blocked the Australian users from reading and sharing any local and international news. Facebook has initiated this move in the backdrop of the dispute over new media payment law that Australia has initiated.
The Facebook has retaliated over the new legislation that was brought by Australian government. This legislation pushes the tech companies to pay publishers for the news content they share.
With this act, the Australian government wants the tech giants like Google and Facebook to pay for the news which is shared on their platform.
The government had reported that the advertising revenue that earlier supported the publishers is now depleting.
So, this new legislation forces them to make deals with media companies separately or to set fees for them.
But Facebook has initiated this move to oppose the legislation stating that the proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between Facebook and publishers who use the platform to share news content.
Facebook has also dealt with the Google to challenge Australian parliament for the proposed law.
On the other hand, Google has also started to sign agreements on revenue-sharing with the publishers.
Implication of the move
This move by Facebook has sparked outrage in the country. Because, with this move several government and emergency response pages such as fire services, health authorities and police were removed from platform.
Now, the users in Australian will not have access on the news content on Facebook coming from the Australian and international media.
Also, the international users will not have the access news content coming from Australia on Facebook.
The media houses and Independent publishers from Australia will be restricted from sharing or posting their content on Facebook Pages.
The Parliament in Australia has proposed a legislation following which the Google and Facebook will require to make payment negotiations with the media companies for using their content. However, the Facebook & Google have argued that these media industry were already benefiting from traffic routed to them through the digital platforms. The tech giants also stated that, this legislation result into “unmanageable levels of financial risks as well as the operational risk” for them.
The Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ said that the annual interaction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the students called the ‘Pariksha Pe Charcha’ will be held online is the backdrop of ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The interaction will be held with the students from classes 9 to 12 before their exams in March.
The registration for the programe will start from February 18, 2021 and it will be concluded on March 14, 2021.
Selection of the students who will get to ask questions will be done through a competition.
The first edition of the interaction programe with school and college students was held on February 16, 2018 at Talkatora Stadium, New Delhi.
Pariksha Pe Charcha
It is a contest for students. This initiative was started by the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi in 2018. During the event, the Prime Minister interacts with several students, parents and teachers from entire India. PM share his personal experiences with the young students. During the interaction, he responds to the queries of students, parents as well as teachers. The questions are selected through a competition on a variety of subjects related to examinations in particular. The interaction helps the students to deal with the exam-centric anxiety.
The Scientists have recovered the oldest DNA on record from the teeth of Siberian Mammoths.
The DNA was extracted from the molars of mammoths.
These mammoths were found in the north-eastern Siberia some 1.2 million years ago.
DNA was recovered and sequenced from the remains of three individual mammoths.
The mammoths were among the large mammals who dominated Ice Age landscapes.
The remains of the mammoths were discovered in the early 1970s. However, since then, new scientific methods were required to extract the DNA.
The oldest of the three mammoths was discovered near Krestovka river.
This mammoth was 1.2 million years old.
Another mammoth was discovered near the Adycha river and is 1 to 1.2 million years old.
While, the third mammoth was recovered from Chukochya river. It is around 7,00,000 years old.
It is the species of extinct elephantid of genus Mammuthus. The mammoth was equipped with the long, curved tusks and a covering of long hair. They were found from the Pliocene epoch to the Holocene some 4,000 years ago. The species existed in Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. They belonged to the family Elephantidae. The family also comprises of two genera of modern elephants and their ancestors.
What is DNA?
It is Deoxyribonucleic acid which is composed of two polynucleotide chains. These chains are coil around each other and form the double helix. The helix carries the genetic instructions for the growth, development, functioning, and reproduction of organisms and viruses. It is a self-replicating material carrying the genetic information of the living organisms.
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) will hold its 3rd ministerial meeting on February 18, 2021.
The meeting will be held to exchange their views on global and regional issues.
It will focus on the practical areas of cooperation in order to maintain an open, free and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.
The 3rd ministerial meeting of the Quad members namely, India-Australia-Japan-US will involve the participation of their foreign ministers. They all will be presenting different agendas during the meeting.
This meeting is the continuation of the views that were exchanged in the 2nd QUAD meeting of October 6, 2020 that was held in Tokyo.
The first meeting of Quad was organized in the year 2019 in New York.
Agenda of the meeting
The Foreign Ministers of Australia, India, the USA, and Japan will exchange their views on the global and regional issues during the meeting.
They will also discuss the ongoing efforts of combating the Covid-19 pandemic.
The ministers will also be discussing and addressing the global climate change and other issues of mutual interest.
It is expected that, the initiative would put an end to growing economic influence of China.
The cooperation with Japan and other allies will help in countering the Chinese development assistance and its domination in the region including the Indo-Pacific.
During the second meeting of Quad in October 2020 former US-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had disapproved China for using the economic power so as to increase its domination in the neighboring countries across South China. He also bought the attention of the grouping to China’s corruption, exploitation and coercion in the neighboring countries.
Quadrilateral Security Dialogue
This grouping is also called as Quad or Asian NATO. It is an informal strategic forum comprising of Japan, United States, Australia and India. The grouping held semi-regular summits, military drills and military information exchanges between the member countries.
The International Solar Alliance (ISA) have planned to launch the World Solar Bank (WSB) at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow that is scheduled for November 2021.
The development of the World Solar Bank will support India’s attempt to secure its leadership in the climate arena.
The development of the bank is significance because the green finance will be one of the priority themes at the climate meet called COP-26.
COP-26 will be organised in the backdrop of US re-joining the Paris climate accord.
The headquarter of the World Solar Bank is expected to be set up in India. It will be first multilateral development bank (MDB) that will be set up in India.
The WSB have planned to disburse around $50 billion to the member countries of ISA over next 10 years.
Why WSB will be launched?
The WSB will be launched because many member countries of the ISA face the challenge of raising finances on their own. Further, it was launched to assist the 800 million people who do not have access to power.
International Solar Alliance
The ISA was co-founded by India. It was founded at 2015 climate change conference in Paris. It is the first treaty-based international government organization which is headquartered in India. It is the nodal agency to implement the global electricity grid plan of India called “One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG)”.
One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG)
This plan was launched with the objective of transferring the solar power generated in one region to feed the electricity demands of another region. Under the OSOWOG vision, India aims to replicate its global solar leadership through phased development of a single globally connected solar electricity grid. This would have multiple benefits such as Low cost, Zero pollution.
The Secretary-General of United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has asked the G20 nations to prepare a “Global Covid-19 Vaccination Plan” on February 17, 2020.
The UN asked do so while it condemned the wildly uneven and unfair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines across the countries.
He stated that, the 10 wealthier countries have administered 75 percent of global vaccinations across the world.
He emphasized that, this is a critical moment, thus, the vaccine equity is the biggest moral test for the global community.
He stated that, 130 poorer countries of the world have not received even a single dose of the vaccine.
Thus, he emphasized the need of the global cooperation in order to make the equitable distribution and access of the coronavirus vaccine possible.
He called for an immediate Global Vaccination Plan including the world leaders, scientists and the vaccine manufacturers.
The plan would also include those that can fund the effort for citizens of poor nations in order to combat global health crisis.
He also announced to set up an ‘Emergency Task Force’ and said, that it must be ensured that everybody, everywhere, can be vaccinated.
The secretary general further said that under the WHO’s COVAX facility, the low-income and middle-income countries can procure vaccines. But there is a need to fully fund this initiative.
WHO’s COVAX Scheme
Amid the COVID-19 infections crossing 100 million cases, the World Health Organisation’s COVAX scheme has signed the deal with Pfizer-BioNTech for 40 million doses of coronavirus vaccine for the poorer countries. The chief of WHO also stated that 150 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine will be delivered under COVAX in the first quarter of 2021 after getting clearance from WHO. However, under the COVAX initiative, vaccinations will begin delivering if the UN health agency can make a supply agreement for the vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and emergency use listing of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine candidate with this pace, this COVAX initiative would deliver at least two billion doses by the end of 2021.
The Institute of International Finance (IIF) has reported that, the world has never been more indebted before and the debt will further rise in the year 2021 with more borrowing ahead amid the covid-19 led economic crisis.
Key Findings of IIF
As per the IIF, governments, companies and households have raised $24 trillion in 2020 in order to offset the economic toll.
This has resulted into the all-time high increase in the global debt.
As of year, 2020, the World’s debt stands at $281 trillion.
This accounts for more than 355 per cent of global GDP.
The IIF further stated that, this debt will increase as a result of more borrowings.
IIF also estimates that, governments are facing the challenge of big budget deficits.
This will increase by another $10 trillion in the year 2021 since the political and social pressures pushes for more spending. This in turn will increase the debt load past $92 trillion with the end of 2021.
IIF also states that, both mature and emerging markets will look for a perfect balance. The economic recovery may push the governments to start developing strategies in order to roll back the stimulus. This could increase the default and bankruptcy risk.
Institute of International Finance (IIF)
It is the trade group for global financial services industry. IIF was established in the year 1983 by 38 banks of leading industrialized countries. It was created in the aftermath of the international debt crisis of 1980s. The group now represent around 450 firms across 70 countries. The members of the IIF include asset managers, commercial & investment banks, sovereign wealth funds, insurance companies, central banks, hedge funds and development banks. The group supports the financial industry in managing the risks.
The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has approved the signing of a comprehensive economic cooperation and partnership agreement (CECPA) between India and Mauritius. This approval was given on February 17, 2021.
Comprehensive Economic Cooperation agreement
It is a kind of a free trade agreement between India and Mauritius.
This agreement was signed with the aim of liberalising the norms to boost a two-way commerce.
This agreement will cover 310 export items for India such as foodstuff & beverages, textile & textile articles, base metals, agricultural products, electricals & electronic items, plastics & chemicals, wood & its articles.
Mauritius will also get preferential market access into India for some 615 products. These products would range from specialty sugar, biscuits, frozen fish, mineral water, fresh fruits, juices, beer, alcoholic drinks, medical & surgical equipment, soaps, bags and apparel.
This agreement is India’s first such trade agreement with any African nation.
Significance of the agreement
In the comprehensive economic cooperation agreement, the two trading countries cut or eliminate the duties on the products and liberalize the norms to promote the services trade.
Under the agreement, a mutually convenient date will be finalized in order to sign the agreement.
It will cover trade in goods, trade in services, rules of origin, sanitary & phytosanitary measures, Technical Barriers to Trade, dispute settlement, financial services, telecom, customs procedures and movement of natural persons.
India-Mauritius Trade Relation
India exports cereals, cotton, petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, electrical machinery, and clothing accessories to Mauritius currently. While, Mauritius export pearls, iron & steel, precious or semi-precious stones, optical instruments, photographic instruments and precision instruments. The bilateral trade between both the countries has reduced to USD 690 million in 2019-20. In the year 2018-19 the trade stood at USD 1.2 billion in 2018-19.
It is an island nation in the Indian Ocean with its capital at Port Louis. Its distance is about 2,000 kilometers off the southeast coast of African continent in the east of Madagascar. It comprises of the main island that is Mauritius, Agalega, Rodrigues, and St. Brandon. The islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues along with the Reunion island makes the part of Mascarene Islands.
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi will virtually launch ‘Mahabahu-Brahmaputra’ initiative in Assam on February 18, 2021.
He will lay the foundation stone for the Dhubri Phulbari bridge.
PM will also perform the bhumi pujan for the construction of Majuli Bridge in Assam.
PM while announcing the details stated that, it will be a landmark day in the development journey for Assam as Mahabahu-Brahmaputra initiative is going to be launched.
Launch of the Mahabahu-Brahmaputra initiative is going to be marked with the inauguration of the Ro-Pax vessel operations.
The Ro-Pax vessel operations will be launched in between the Neamatighat & Majuli, Dhubri-Hatsingimari and North-South Guwahati.
This initiative also includes the inauguration of the Inland Water Transport Terminal at Jogighopa.
Initiative will also be marked with the inauguration of various tourist jetties at four locations in order to promote the river tourism and employment across the state.
This initiative is being started with the aim to provide a seamless connectivity to Eastern Parts of India.
It also comprises of various development activities for people living across the Barak and Brahmaputra rivers.
The Ro-Pax services will the launched in the state under the Mahabahu-Brahmaputra initiative. The RO-Pax Vessel operations will help in reducing the travel time. It will also facilitate the connectivity between banks. It will also reduce the distance travelled by road.
Dhubri Phulbari Bridge
The PM will also lay the foundation stone for a four lane Dhubari Phulbari bridge. This bridge will be constructed on NH-127B. The bridge will start from the Srirampur on NH-27 which is the East-West Corridor. It will terminate at Nongstoin on NH-106 in the state of Meghalaya. It will be constructed over the Brahmaputra River connecting Dhubri in Assam to Phulbari, Tura, Rongram, and Rongjeng in Meghalaya. Total cost of the project would be 4997 crores.
India is all set to host the virtual health secretary-level meeting with the member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The virtual meeting will be held on February 18, 2021. During the meeting the members will discuss the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Pakistan has also been invited to attend the meeting.
The virtual meeting will discuss the challenges and development associated with the COVID-19 management and response to the pandemic.
The members will exchange the best practices with respect to the ongoing pandemic.
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also proposed a Coronavirus Emergency Fund COVID-19 crisis. for the SAARC region in March 2020 during a video conference of the SAARC Heads of State.
Coronavirus Emergency Fund
The Coronavirus Emergency Fund was set up by the SAARC members in order to response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The emergency fund was created with the aim of mitigating the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in the South Asian region.
India had proposed to contribute USD10 million for the fund.
Other member countries of the SAARC also supported this move of creating the fund proposed by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
India’s Support to the neighbors
India was and is still at the forefront in the fight against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. India has also emerged as the country with the highest number of vaccinations. So, India is also at the forefront in providing the indigenously developed COVID-19 vaccines to the countries either as gift or on commercial line. India has recently gifted five lakh doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Afghanistan, 20 lakh doses to Bangladesh, 17 lakh doses to Myanmar, Five lakh doses to Sri Lanka, 1.5 lakh doses to Bhutan, one lakh doses to each of Mauritius & Maldives, ten lakh doses to Nepal and fifty thousand doses to Seychelles.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) grouping comprises of the countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Maldives, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Nepal. It was founded on December 8, 1985. It is headquartered at Kathmandu, Nepal. It comprises of 3% of world’s area.
The Hyundai Motor Group have designed a walking car concept robot. It is being called as TIGER which stands for transforming intelligent ground excursion robot. The robot comprises of the wheels having capability to adapt to navigate in the challenging terrain. The ultimate mobility vehicle (UMV) uses its ability to walk when it gets stuck or when required to travel in the difficult terrain not only on Earth but on other planets as well.
About TIGER X-1
This is the first version of TIGER. The robot is based on the modular platform architecture.
The robot has 360-degree directional control which helps in surface evaluation in disaster prone areas.
The vehicle does not carry passengers but it can carry cargo and sensors to remotely observe the surroundings.
TIGER has been designed to operate autonomously.
It comprises of a sophisticated leg and wheel locomotion system.
This UMV have the features of both the robotic technology and the wheeled locomotion technology. Thus, the vehicle is capable of traversing the difficult terrain.
Further, it can connect with the drones. Drones can help in charging the UMVs and delivering it to inaccessible locations.
TIGER can be used to carry goods for the delivery or delivery of the aid packages in emergency situations.
TIGER is the second UMV by Hyundai Motor Group.
The first UMV by the Hyundai Motor Group was launched at the 2019 consumer electronics show. It comprises of the features like moveable legs. It could Elevate and was designed to carry the passengers.
Hyundai Motor Company
It is a South Korean multinational automotive manufacturer. It is headquartered in Seoul. The company was established in 1967.