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Daily Current Affairs by civils360

Guardian UAV deal with U.S. still a work in progress

In News:

  • An American approval for the sale of 22 Guardian maritime surveillance has come India’s way, but defence sources say the actual deal is a long way off as New Delhi is evaluating the options available.
  • The U.S.-India joint statement issued at the end of the visit said Washington had “offered for India’s consideration the sale of Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial Systems” which would enhance India’s capabilities and promote shared security interests.
  • This represents tangible implementation of U.S. Congress’ designation of India as a Major Defence Partner.

Boosting capabilities

  • The Navy currently operates Israeli Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs and is keen on acquiring High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) to augment its maritime surveillance capabilities. The other option is to go for Israeli HALE drones, which India is quite familiar with. Last year, the Navy asked General Atomics for the details of the Guardian, following which company officials made presentations on its capabilities.


GM mustard release faces another hurdle

In News:

  • Dissent has crept in among agricultural scientists of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) over the possible release of genetically modified mustard.
  • In May, NAAS President Panjab Singh wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, endorsing DMH-11, a variety of mustard developed by Deepak Pental of Delhi University, a NAAS Fellow, that employs genes from soil bacterium.
  • Kesavan, a senior fellow of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, said DMH-11 did not perform as well as several other varieties and mustard hybridsand that the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the Environment Ministry body that cleared DMH-11, was riddled by a “conflict of interest.”
  • DMH-11 is a hybrid variety of mustard developed by crossing a traditional variety of mustard, called Varuna, and an East European variety.
  • The GEAC, India’s apex regulator for genetically modified seeds, had cleared GM mustard for environmental release and use in farmer fields on May 11 this year.


Govt. clears three export infra plans

In News:

  • With deficient infrastructure severely hurting the competitiveness of India’s exports, the Centre – for the first time under a new scheme launched in March to address the problem — has given its approval for three proposals including one to establish an Integrated Cargo Terminal (ICT) at the Imphal International Airport.
  • The EC on ‘Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES)’ — in its first ever meeting that was held on June 9 — deferred on technical grounds an application to set up “the first dedicated facility” in India to test medical devices.
  • According to a March 2016 report on ‘Export Infrastructure in India’ by the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce, “deficient infrastructure and the manner in which infrastructure is being operated (in India) are the major obstacles to ensure competitiveness in manufacturing of goods and exports thereof.”
  • The report said Indian exports lose competitiveness on account of huge logistics costs. It noted that “the logistic cost in India is about 14% of the GDP whereas in advanced economies like the U.S. and the European Union, it is 8% and 10% of the GDP respectively.”
  • An ASSOCHAM study conducted a few years ago shows that India runs against a disadvantage of about 11% of its trade due to deficient infrastructure.”
  • As per the Commerce Ministry, the objective of the TIES is to “enhance export competitiveness by bridging gaps in export infrastructure, creating focused export infrastructure and first-mile and last-mile connectivity.”


IBBI notifies rules for bankruptcy probe 

In News:

  • The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) has powers to start probes against service providers registered with it without intimating them, according to new regulations.
  • IBBI, which is implementing the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), has notified the regulations for inspection and investigation of service providers registered with it.
  • Insolvency professional agencies, professionals, entities and information utilities are considered as service providers under the Code.
  • As per the regulations, the investigation authority has to serve a notice intimating the entity concerned about the probe at least ten days in advance.
  • However, the requirement could be done away with on grounds such as apprehensions that the records of the particular service provider might be destroyed before the probe starts.


‘RBI push to resolve Rs. 8 lakh cr. bad loans’

In News:

  • Emboldened by the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is expected to push for resolution of bad loans worth about Rs. 8 lakh crore by March 2019, a move that could bring down the non-performing assets and improve the financial health of banks, a study by Assocham said.
  • Although entire NPAs could be put on the altar of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) resolution mechanism, it has to be seen how much and how fast they actually go out from the balance sheets of banks, which, at this point in time, seem very stressed
  • NPAs are a big drain on the financial health of banks especially public sector banks (PSBs).

Corporate lending

  • If balance sheet numbers are anything to go by, it simply brings home the fact that banks have no capacity to do fresh corporate lending that is necessary for pushing subdued private sector investment.
  • Soon after the notification of the ordinance amending the Banking Resolution Act 1949, the RBI eased the decision-making process in the Joint Lenders’ Forum (JLF) and Corrective Action Plan (CAP) under the ‘Framework for Revitalising Distressed Assets in the Economy.’


‘It’s time to roll the dice above the board’ 

  • The All India Gaming Federation has presented a white paper to the National Law Commission in which it proposes the creation of a central gaming and betting law, and also making betting on sports such as cricket legal, both in order to bring it out of the shadows, as well as to earn the government more revenue.

Central Act proposed

  • The White Paper says that due to the nature of the Internet and online gaming, it would make best legislative sense if the proposed gaming law is a central enactment for online activities, adding that such a central law will also help with the ‘one-nation, one-tax’ aspect of the Goods and Services Tax regime.
  • However, the Federation also says that brick and mortar gaming set-ups, like casinos, should be under the jurisdiction of the States.

‘Huge revenues’

  • It goes on to calculate that the 3% tax deducted at source of such an amount comes to Rs. 4,500 crore, and that GST at 18% on the Rs. 15,000 crore of operator fees comes to Rs. 2,700 crore. That is a total of Rs. 7,200 crore from just half the current industry.
  • Another important issue the Federation is trying to resolve is that varied definitions of what constitutes a skilled game or sport, and their treatment by the various state laws.
    • There are certain games the Supreme Court has deemed to be games of skill, such as online rummy, horse racing, chess, darts, and bridge. Betting on these games is also allowed.
    • In 1996, the Supreme Court had said that not only is horse racing a game of skill, but betting on it is also a game of skill.
    • The White Paper calls for this treatment to be extended to all other sports, including cricket, arguing that the legalisation of these activities would bring them into the light and also earn the government substantial revenue.
    • “If you see, Justice Lodha has already recommended to the BCCI that they should start cricket betting to stop match fixing,” Mr. Landers added. “That’s actually a remedy for the problem, to do it legally.”

Gaming council pitch

  • The AIGF has also proposed the creation of a National Gaming Council made up of a cross-section of people from the judiciary, investigative agencies and sport federations, among others.
  • The body would be the one deciding which are skill-based games and which are not, and the central law would then set down the rules that regulate the skill games.
  • The White Paper calls for ‘responsible gaming’ wherein customers are given a fair and safe experience of gaming, responsible gaming guidelines for the gaming operators are in place to protect gamers from irrational behaviour and addiction, age verification to ensure the gamer is above 18 years of age, and regular audits by the National Gaming Council.




Super-flexible and strong artificial silk developed

In News:

  • Scientists from the University of Cambridge have developed super-stretchy and strong artificial silk, composed almost entirely of water, which may be used to make eco-friendly textiles and sensors.
  • The fibres, which resemble miniature bungee cords as they can absorb large amounts of energy, are sustainable, non-toxic and can be made at room temperature, researchers said.
  • The fibres are spun from a soupy material called a hydrogel, which is 98% water.
  • The remaining 2% of the hydrogel is made of silica and cellulose, both naturally available materials, held together in a network by barrel-shaped molecular “handcuffs” known as cucurbiturils. The chemical interactions between the different components enable long fibres to be pulled from the gel, said the researchers.


A smart glove that can translate sign language

In News:

  • Scientists have created a low-cost smart glove that can wirelessly translate sign language into text and control objects in virtual reality games.
  • The device, called “The Language of Glove”, was built for less than $100 using stretchable and printable electronics that are inexpensive, commercially available and easy to assemble.

Serial-numbered pens for voting

In News:

  • MPs and MLAs have been barred from carrying their own pens to the voting chamber for the presidential election on Monday.
  • They will have to mark the ballot with a specially designed marker, the Election Commission said on Sunday.
  • Following the ink controversy in the Rajya Sabha election in Haryana last year, the commission decided to use special pens for the electors to mark their votes in the presidential and vice-presidential polls.
  • The commission has issued serial-numbered pens with violet ink to ensure that only these are used to mark their votes.
  • Before entering the voting chamber, a polling official will collect personal pens from the voters and hand over the special pen.


3D-printed, functional heart made

In News:

  • Scientists have developed a 3D-printed soft silicone heart that closely resembles and functions like the human organ, and could help save lives of people who suffer from cardiac failure.
  • The artificial heart has a right and a left ventricle, though they are not separated by a septum but by an additional chamber.
  • This chamber is inflated and deflated by pressurised air and is required to pump fluid from the blood chambers.