The First Forum is an initiative that focuses on covering the latest happenings in a brief format. This is in lieu of the importance of knowledge about current happenings in this fast-changing world.
In the Sixty Fifth Edition of The First Forum we would be covering the following topics:
1. Politics
2. Science and Technology
3. Business
4. Economics
5. Finance

(By Divyansh Gupta, Ayush Harlalka, Creamy Garg)

Politics

Donald Trump refuses to commit to peaceful transfer of power
After the death of SC Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Donald Trump is on lookout for a woman to fill up her vacant position. While providing comments for the same, he gave out a hint that he may not commit peaceful transfer of power after the November elections. President Trump has already expressed its reservations a number of times against the mail- voting and the resultant skewed election results. Read MoreWith this, he declared that ‘’we are going to see what happens’’ about transfer of office. He also said that things may land up in Supreme Court after the elections. The recent claims of Donald Trump, thus point out that USA could see a massive political struggle if Democrats win in the upcoming elections.

 

Scholars, writers, artists call for Umar Khalid’s release
Umar Khalid, a former JNU student’s leader and activist, was arrested by Delhi Police on 14th September for his alleged connection in East-Delhi riots that erupted in February. He had been charged with sedition, conspiracy to murder, and under sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). To demand release of Khalid from prison, a number of eminent academics, writers, filmmakers and artists from around the world, including Noam Chomsky, Salman Rushdie and Mira Nair, on Thursday have stood in solidarity with him. Read MoreThey claim that the administration is trying to suppress dissent by muting the young voices and is inactive in proceedings against those in govt. who were involved in hate speech. A statement issued by group also mentioned that the Umar was right in protesting against the CAA which should have no place in the secular nation.

G4 countries call for urgent steps for reform in UN and the Security Council
The G4 countries- Brazil, India, Japan and Germany expressed their disappointment at attempts to undo the reforms of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and called for a revamp of world body in a fixed time period. They highlighted the urgency of reforming the world body and updating its main decision-making bodies to better reflect contemporary realities. The body also seeks the expansion of permanent and non-permanent membership in the Council to ensure equal and proportionate representation. Read MoreThey also expressed concern over lack any meaningful movement forward in the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) as these lack transparency and necessary openness and include inherently flawed methods. The decision of G4 nations has been backed by P5 countries as well which include the US, the UK, France and Russia. However, China has come out with a stance which is not favourable to this call by G4 nations and thus opposed the move

Shiromani Akali Dal quits BJP-led NDA over farm bills
Shiromani Akali Dal ended its 24-year-old alliance with BJP-led NDA on Saturday night. This comes after a move where it pulled out from the Modi government with the resignation of Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal over the passage of three “anti-farmer” bills in the Parliament. The decision was taken unanimously at an emergency meeting and was later made public by SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal. Read MoreAccording to him, the Modi government ignored their stance on honoring the farmer sentiments and refused to give a guarantee of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops. He also described the bills as lethal and disastrous. SAD was facing extreme pressure in recent time to cut ties with the BJP from its major vote bank- farmers. SAD had asked to center to send the farms bills to a Select Committee which was rejected.

Pakistan opposition parties form alliance to challenge army and govt
Six major Pakistani opposition parties have formed an alliance named, “Pakistan Democratic Movement” to condemn the army of interfering in 2018 elections for the formation of the government led by PM Imran Khan. The alliance claims that PM Imran Khan failed on several fronts from foreign policy to the economy. The opposition parties have reached a 26-point joint resolution and plan to launch nationwide protests in three phases from October. Read MoreThe first phase will witness joint rallies in October, the second will have huge rallies across the country in December and the third will have a long march towards Islamabad in January to oust the government. PDM also declared that the opposition will not cooperate in the legislative process with the government. The resolution alleged that the army has interfered in the election and internal affairs. It also grants fake stability to the government.

Science and Technology

Algal boom and rodent virus behind death of Botswana elephants
In the months of May and June, nearly 330 carcasses of dead elephants were spotted in the Okavango Delta of Botswana in Africa. Amongst many suspicions relating to the cause of their deaths, it has been revealed that it was due to ingestion of Cyanobacteria by the elephants. Cyanobacteria are toxic bacteria which can occur naturally in standing water and sometimes grow into large blooms known as blue-green algae. This bacteria, thus, was consumed by elephants which led to their death. Read MoreMoreover, the deaths stopped towards the end of June coinciding with the drying up of water pans. Scientists has warned that climate change may be making these incidents – known as toxic blooms – more likely, because they favour warm water. However, investigations are still going on regarding the specifications of time and place of the event.

Rising temperatures shrink Arctic sea ice to second-lowest level on record
Witnessing the perils of climate crisis, the satellites have recorded that the ice covering the polar ocean has shrank to its second lowest levels this year since the last four decades. Scientists declare that such a low sea ice cover is unfortunate and disturbing, although, not surprising. The lowest cover was recorded in 2012 when it slipped to 3.41 square km due to a cyclonic storm. Read MoreThis year, this area is 3.74 sq km which has been the result of warm airwaves coming from Siberia resulting from human activities. The loss of sea ice also threatens Arctic wildlife, from polar bears and seals to plankton and algae, as the vanishing sea further amplifies the warm temperature by absorbing greater solar radiation through the green patches left behind. The subsequent loss of ice cover is leading to rise in sea levels every year which can pose a great threat to the ecological balance.

US probe to touch down on asteroid Bennu on October 20
NASA’s robotic spacecraft OSIRIS-REx will land on asteroid Bennu’s boulder-strewn surface on October 20 after the four year long journey. It is expected to touch the surface for few seconds when it will collect the rock and dust samples which will be used to measure impact of astroids on earth and solve mysteries about beginning of life. Read MoreThe site called Nightingale has been chosen for the collection which is a rocky area of about 52 feet in diameter which holds huge reserve of fine-grained material. Considering the distance of earth from the asteroid, it will take 18.5 minutes for signals to travel to the planet. The final payload will be delivered to earth by September 24, 2023.

In a first, researchers claim to find extragalactic planet
In a first, researchers from the US and China claim to find evidence of planet outside our galaxy. The supposed planet (that will be named M51-ULS-1b) is 23 million light-years from Earth and is present in the M51 Whirlpool Galaxy which is close to Ursa Major. The object is present in a binary system that has the presence of a neutron star or black hole at the center which is emitting huge X-ray signal in process of consuming another star. Read MoreThe X-rays are so small that object passing between researchers and it would block the X-rays. This has made it easier to track the candidate planet. The possible planet is approximately the size of Saturn and it orbits the binary system at ten times of Earth’s distance from the Sun. Further study is required to confirm the object as a planet in the future.

Radiation on moon is 200 times higher than on Earth: Study
Scientists say that the radiation to which astronauts will be exposed on the moon maybe 200 times more than that on earth. This comes after the Chinese-German team published the results of experiments conducted by China’s Chang’E 4 lander in 2019 on Friday. According to co-author Robert Wimmer-Scgweingruber, radiation on the moon is 1369 micro Sieverts per day, which is about 2.6 times more than that on International Service Station (ISS). This limits our stay on the surface of the Moon to approximately two months. Read MoreThe sources of radiation exposure include galactic cosmic rays, neutrons and sporadic solar particles. The radiation levels are nearly the same throughout the surface of the moon except for walls of deep craters and this increases risk of cancer. The finding is very crucial considering NASA’s Artemis mission where it is planning to send “the first woman and the next man” on south pole region of the moon in 2024 for a long term stay.

Business

Lok Sabha passes Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code Amendment Bill.
In the monsoon session of Parliament, govt. has passed Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code Amendment Bill among many others. Govt. had earlier suspended all fresh insolvency proceedings for defaults arising on and after March 22, 2020 for the period of six months. Govt. has now issued a fresh notification extending this suspension by another 3 months ending in December 2020. This entails the suspension of sections 7,9 and 10 of IBC code under which no fresh insolvency proceedings can be initiated by financial creditors, operations creditors or even the company itself. Read MoreThis effectively shut down all insolvency filings against any company that defaults on a debt or payment post March 25. Another clause of the Bill gives govt. the power to extend the same upto 1 year. The govt. views this amendment as a positive step towards providing relief to companies who are struggling under the impact of Covid-19 and gives them a breathing time to recover from the financial stress.

Harley-Davidson exits India, shuts production
Harley-Davidson has declared to discontinue its sales and manufacturing operations in India because of its unsuccessful efforts to gain a foothold in India. This is indicated by the sales as low as 2500 units in the FY20. Despite the commitment of investing heavily in India under the ‘Rewire’ of company, the country has proven inhospitable for it in the auto sector. Read MoreWith this, there will be a job cut of 70 employees as well from the company’s side. This announcement poses a huge setback to recent reforms by the central govt. under which it aims to boost investment in the economy by attracting FDI, especially to the businesses leaving China.

India and Denmark pact to increase cooperation on Intellectual Property Rights
To increase cooperation in Intellectual Property Rights (ITRs), India and Denmark have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by indulging in collaborating in training programs and exchange of best practices and. It was signed between DPIIT and Danish Patent and Trademark Office, Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs, Kingdom of Denmark. The two sides agreed to formulate a half-yearly plan to implement the MoU, which shall include a detailed plan of action for carrying out co-operation activities. Read MoreThey have agreed on exchanging information and best practices on processes for the disposal of applications for patents, trademarks and Geographical Indications. The main purpose of MoU is protection, enforcement and the use of Intellectual Property Rights. The Commerce and Industry Ministry said that this MoU will not only foster bilateral cooperation but also provide opportunities to learn from each other’s experience.

Vodafone wins Rs. 20000 Cr retrospective tax battle in arbitration against govt
Vodafone Group Plc on Friday won a decade long battle against Indian government over Rs. 22,100 Crore retrospective tax legislation for acquiring Hutchinson Whampoa’s stake in 2007. The Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled that the demand for past taxes is a breach of fair treatment under investment protection pact between India and Netherlands. Read MoreThe government is expected to examine the decision and then decide upon whether to challenge the decision in and appropriate court in Singapore or not. The tribunal has also accepted Vodafone’s demand for compensation for damages and directed the government to pay US$ 5.47 Million. The Vodafone Idea share price rose 13.6% to this news on close on Friday on BSE. India is entangled in several similar cases with companies like Cairn Energy which may see quick decisions in future on the same line.

Scrip-wise info not necessary in ITR for day trading, short-term capital gains
Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on Saturday issued a clarification in a press release stating that for the assessment year 2020-21, scrip wise reporting for day trading and short-term sale/purchase of listed shares will not be required in Income Tax Returns (ITRs). The board added that the scrip wise details are required to be filled up only for long term capital gains that are considered eligible for the benefit of grandfathering.Read More The main purpose is that the scrip wise detail facilitates the taxpayer in computing the long term capital gains on these shares correctly. CBTD also denied reports that stock traders would have to furnish scrip wise details in the income tax returns for the AY 2020-21. The Finance Act, 2018 provided an exemption to the gains that were made on the listed shares up to January 1, 2018, by forming grandfathering mechanism that will compute its long term gains for these shares.

Economics

Audit of Union Govt. accounts reveal discrepancies in allocation
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) told the Parliament on Wednesday that only 60% or Rs 1.64 lakh crore of the revenue collected from cess and levies in FY19 to the relevant reserve funds and has retained the rest of balance in Consolidated Fund of India (CFI). The total cess/levies collection in the FY19 was  Rs 2.75 lakh crore and this collection is required to be transferred to designated Reserve Funds and specific purposes intended by Parliament in the first place. Read MoreMost of the funds were not either created or operated and thus the exact money was not transferred to such finds for which the cess was levies for. It is also noteworthy that the total cess collections has been risen in recent years due to increase in rates and new impositions and has provided a cushion to increased transfers to states from the pool. Non- transfer to 40% of revenues to the delegated funds points out to the lack of transparency and accountability of govt. and also impacts the trust building between public and government.

Parliament passes Labour Bills, making it easier for employers to hire and fire workers
Amidst the boycott of Parliament by opposition members, Upper House passed three Labour bills which include- Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions, Industrial Relations Code and Social Security Code. Under this bill, the govt. has tried to make it easy for the firms to have a relaxed labour policy but at the same time, certain conclusions can act to be detrimental in interest of workers. The the lower limit for firms to retrench workers without permission of govt. has been increased to 300 from 100.Read MoreThere has been provisions for re-skilling fund which will involve contribution by employers as well. One of Codes aims at improving social security benefits in unorganised sector. Moreover, the provisions of accommodation of inter-state workers and journey allowances are also present in the Code.

S&P says Indian Banking System to be among last to recover
According to Standard and Poor’s rating agency, the Indian banking system will be among the last to recover compared to the world from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Along with India, the banking system of Mexico and South Africa will also rebound to 2019 pre-COVID levels only post 2023 in a slow and uncertain manner. The global rating agency said that recovery to profitability ratios and long term averages for key asset quality will take years. Read MoreIt noted that India entered the pandemic with an excess of non-performing assets. It has also taken negative rating actions on Indian banks as conditions have deteriorated due to the current crisis. China, South Korea, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Canada are among the banking systems expected to recover by the end of 2022. It has already forecasted credit loss of close to US$ 2.1 Trillion for the global banking sector in 2020 and 2021.

Citi says racial discrimination cost US GDP $16 Trillion in two decades
According to an analysis published by Citigroup, racial inequality in the United States has cost its economy US$16 Trillion over the last two decades. The findings are particularly based on wages, education, housing and investments that underlines the existing racial tensions encouraging unrest in the country. It has been noticed that this pandemic has worsened America’s racism and inequality issue by dealing a heavy blow to minorities.Read More Citi economics added in the report that despite several legislations enforced for equal access to Americans, the 400 years of enslavement of Black populations endures to date. The report addresses the huge gap that still exists between white and black and also pointed out the long-lasting impact of discriminatory housing practices. The analysis laid out a blueprint on how the US government can deal with increasing inequality and add US$ 5 Trillion to the economy in the next five years. The total wealth by the US Billionaires is 3/4th of all wealth held by Blacks.

Govt in plans for $4.6 Billion incentives for battery makers: Reports
According to a government proposal seen by Reuters, Indian government is planning to offer US$ 4.6 Billion incentives by 2030 to reduce dependence on oil and push electric vehicles. Close to US$ 122 Million will be given in the next financial year and the amount will be increased annually. The government want companies to set up advanced facilities for battery manufacturing. India could reduce its oil imports by US$ 40 Billion till 2030 if electric vehicles gain market share according to NITI Aayog. Read MoreThe document said that India is planning to retain import tax of 5% on some batteries till 2022 and thereby increase it to 15% to promote local manufacturing. The proposal is likely to be reviewed in coming months by the Modi Cabinet according to a senior government official. Currently battery energy storage industry is just emerging and investors are apprehensive to invest. 

Finance

Eurozone PMI surveys point to broad services sector slowdown
According to data, the IHS Markit flash eurozone purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for services fell to 47.6 in September, from 50.5 in the previous month. The index has fell below the mark of 50 for the first time since May. The survey indicates that majority of businesses indicate contraction in activity compared with previous month in the eurozone countries. Read MoreThe index has fallen down to lowest levels in eurozone’s two largest economies- France and Germany. In contrast to services index, manufacturing sector has continued to show improvement as the eurozone manufacturing PMI stood at 53.7 in September, which is highest in two years. The rising number of Covid-10 cases, thus, has stalled the process of recovery, especially in the services sector.

Govt operationalizes ‘Faceless Income Tax Appeals’ system
The platform for ‘Transparent Taxation – Honouring the Honest’ had been issued by Govt. on August 31. The govt. has now issued a notification operationalising the charter of Faceless Income Tax Appeals. Under this, all Income Tax appeals will be finalised in a faceless manner under the faceless ecosystem with the exception of appeals relating to serious frauds, major tax evasion, sensitive and search matters, international tax and Black Money. Read MoreThe entire process including e-allocation of appeal, e-communication of notice/questionnaire, e-verification/e-enquiry to e-hearing and finally e-communication of the appellate order will be online, thus, eliminating the need for physical interaction between taxpayer and the official. According to Finance Ministry, the new system will be instrumental in imparting greater efficiency, transparency and accountability in the functioning of the Income Tax Department.

Around 3,500 US companies including Tesla and Ford sue the govt over Trump-imposed Chinese tariffs
Around 3,500 companies including Ford, Tesla, Home Depot and Target have sued the US government in the past two weeks over Chinese tariffs imposed on goods worth more than US$ 300 Billion by President Donald Trump. The suits were filed in U.S. Court of International Trade and argue the unlawful escalation of the trade war with China through the third and fourth round of tariffs. Read MoreThe legal challenges arguing that the administration did not comply with administrative procedures and failed to impose the required tariffs with a stipulated period of 12 months. Several companies challenge the unlimited trade war that is impacting imports of billions of dollars from China. Carmaker Tesla wants the court to order a refund with interest and declare duties as unlawful. WTO on 15th Sep said that the US breached global trading rules through imposing tariff on China to which the administration said it was justified on grounds of safety

IRDAI lists LIC, GIC, and New India as systematically important and too big to fail
Insurance regulator IRDAI has identified Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), General Insurance Corporation of India and The New India Assurance Co. as Domestic Systemically Important Insurers (D-SIIs). Considering the three insurers are too big to fail due to their size, importance and global interconnectedness, they have been asked to maintain and promote sound risk management culture, identify relevant risk and raise the level of corporate governance. Read MoreTheir continuous functioning is important for regular availability of insurance services. D-SIIs will be subjected to enhanced regulatory supervision to deal with moral hazard issues and systematic risks said IRDAI. The authority said that such identification of D-SIIs will be done annually and disclosed to the public. The committee for such identification was made in January 2019 as the International Association of Insurance Supervisors asked all its members to have a framework to protect D-SIIs.

Paytm Mall losses down by 60% to Rs. 479 Crore
Paytm Mall on Friday said that its losses have reduced 60% in fiscal year 2019-20 to Rs. 479 crore in contrast to Rs. 1171 crore loss posted in 2018-19. This comes due to reduction in promotions, cashback and assortment size. However, total revenue of the E-Commerce firm declined by 27% to Rs. 703 crore from Rs. 968 crore in 2018-19. According to a statement, its hyperlocal outreach and initiatives have shown positive results and would drive the revenue up in coming quarters. Read MorePaytm Mall reduced its logistics cost through third party network of delivery firms. The company has done a deep analysis and concluded that promotional campaigns and cashbacks have led to rise in cost and reduced resources. The company is promoting high margin products and is planning to become a profitable in the coming future.

 

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