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 Fifty-ninth 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 Mehak Gupta, Nikunj Gulati, and Kanika Meena)

Politics

Rajasthan political crisis is over

Congress’s Sachin Pilot is back in Rajasthan after ending his month-long revolt against CM Ashok Gehlot to whom Pilot had rebelled. He said that he had no hard feelings and was no longer part of the state government, but he expected the head of the family to resolve disputes and take everyone. Pilot met Rahul Gandhi, and Priyanka Vadra said the party had formed a three-member committee to look into the issues raised by him and some other MLA’s. Read MoreHe also said his issues and grievances were valid and heard by the committee. He went on to say that while he might be patching up with the party, he is not coming back to get any post. But now even Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot said he would address grievances of MLA’s, a day after the Congress set up the committee.

 Narendra Modi becomes the longest serving non-Congress PM
PM Narendra Modi becomes the fourth-largest serving Prime Minister of India suppressing Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s term. He has completed 2,272 days in Prime Minister Office(PMO), making him the longest-serving non-congress prime minister that India has ever had, joint with late Atal Bihari Vajpayee.Read More Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and Manmohan Singh all from the congress are the three longest-serving Prime Ministers. Narendra Modi, who first took the oath of the PM’s office in 2014, is all set to reach the historic landmark in terms of days in office. He won the 2014 elections with a historic mandate to bring back the NDA in power after eight years of Congress rule. He got an even bigger appointment by the people, paving the way for another step of prime ministership.

Philippines President Duterte will be vaccinated with Russia’s vaccine

The Philippines is looking to start clinical trials for a Russian coronavirus vaccine in October, President Rodrigo Duterte said. Russia has registered the world’s first vaccine for the fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic. Duterte lauded Russia’s efforts to develop the coronavirus vaccine speedily. Duterte had volunteered to participate in trials for the Russian vaccine, even as scientists and health experts questioned the safety and effectiveness of the drug that has not been extensively tested. Read MoreThe Philippines is among a handful of countries that will take part in a more extensive “phase three” trial for the vaccine. To allay public fears, Duterte said he can be the first they can experiment on. He also said that when the vaccine arrives, he will inject it publicly. Experiment with him, and if it works on him, it will work on everyone.

Kamala Harris hitting hard on the Trump Administration 

The presumptive Democratic party’s vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris has said that once elected, Joe Biden’s administration will create millions of jobs, fight climate change, and build an affordable care act among various other vital initiatives for the welfare of Americans. During her speech, She mentioned a lot of sectors where the current administration has created a complete mess. Read MoreShe said it was due to the fault of the Trump administration that the US had to shut down various of its regions again while other countries were opening up. It was hitting hard on the three and half years of the Trump administration during her first appearance after being picked as the vice-presidential nominee of the Democratic party. Harris, 55, presented a long list of missteps taken by the current US government.

Supreme Court finds Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt of court

The court had registered its verdict in the suo motu contempt case against senior advocate Prashant Bhushan for his two tweets allegedly against the judiciary. A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai, and Krishna Murai rendered the verdict. The contempt proceedings were started against Bhushan last month after the senior lawyer had put on a tweet critical of the Chief Justice of India and the apex court. The two tweets in question were posted in June this year.Read More The first tweet pertained to Bhushan’s commentary on a picture of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde on a high-end motorcycle. In contrast, in the second, Bhushan expressed his opinion on the role of the last four CJIs of the country. The hearing on the quantum of punishment to be held on 20 August.

Science and Technology

Using Air to Amplify Light in Hollow-Core Optical Fibers

Today’s optical fibers usually have a solid glass core, so there’s no air inside. Light can travel along the fibers but loses half of its intensity after 15 kilometers. It keeps weakening until it can hardly be detected at 300 kilometers. So to keep the light moving, it has to be amplified at regular intervals. The new approach is based on new hollow- core optical fibers that are filled with either air or gas. Read MoreThe researchers added pressure to the air in the fiber to give some controlled resistance. It works in a similar way to optical tweezers; the air molecules are compressed and form into regularly spaced clusters. This creates a sound wave that increases in amplitude and effectively diffracts the light from a powerful source towards the weakened beam so that it is amplified up to 100,000 times.

NASA Launched Laser Beams at the Moon – For the First Time, They Received a Signal Back

Dozens of times over the last decade NASA scientists have launched laser beams at a reflector the size of a paperback novel about 240,000 miles (385,000 kilometers) away from Earth. They announced on 12th August, in collaboration with their French colleagues, that they received a signal back for the first time, an encouraging result that could enhance laser experiments used to study the physics of the universe. Read MoreThe reflector NASA scientists aimed for is mounted on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), a spacecraft that has been studying the Moon from its orbit since 2009. One reason engineers placed the reflector on LRO was so it could serve as a pristine target to help test the reflecting power of panels left on the Moon’s surface about 50 years ago. These older reflectors are returning a weak signal, which is making it harder to use them for Science.

Scientists Build a Better Nanoscale LED – A Tiny, Bright Light That Can Transform Into a Laser

A new design for LEDs developed by a team including scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) may hold the key to overcoming a limitation in the light sources’ efficiency. The concept, demonstrated with microscopic LEDs in the lab, achieves a dramatic increase in brightness as well as the ability to create laser light; all characteristics that could make it valuable in a range of large-scale and miniaturized applications. Read MoreModern LEDs have a limitation that frustrates their designers. Up to a point, feeding an LED more electricity makes it shine more brightly, but soon the brightness drops off, making the LED highly inefficient. Unlike the flat, planar design used in conventional LEDs, the researchers built a light source out of long, thin zinc oxide strands. Their novel design shone brilliantly generating about 100 to 1,000 times as much power as typical tiny LEDs do.

Helium Structures Found in Sun’s Atmosphere by NASA Sounding Rocket

In 2009, NASA launched a sounding rocket investigation to measure helium in the extended solar atmosphere – the first time we’ve gathered a full global map. Previously, when measuring ratios of helium to hydrogen in the solar wind as it reaches Earth, observations have found much lower ratios than expected. Scientists suspected the missing helium might have been left behind in the Sun’s outermost atmospheric layer or perhaps in a deeper layer. Read MoreDiscovering how this happens is key to understanding how the solar wind is accelerated. To measure the amount of atmospheric helium and hydrogen, NASA’s HERSCHEL, the sounding rocket took images of the solar corona. HERSCHEL’s observations showed the equatorial region had almost no helium while the areas at mid-latitudes had the most. This shows that the ratio of helium to hydrogen is strongly connected with the magnetic field and the speed of the solar wind in the corona.

Scientists Monitor Brains Replaying Memories in Real-Time

In a study of epilepsy patients, researchers at the National Institutes of Health monitored the electrical activity of thousands of individual brain cells, called neurons, as patients took memory tests. They found that the firing patterns of the cells that occurred when patients learned a word pair were replayed fractions of a second before they successfully remembered the pair. The researchers analyzed the firing patterns of individual neurons located in the anterior temporal lobe, a brain language center. Read More Currents were recorded as patients sat in front of a screen and were asked to learn word pairs such as “cake” and “fox.” The researchers discovered that unique firing patterns of individual neurons were associated with learning each new word pattern. Later, when a patient was shown one of the words, such as “cake,” a very similar firing pattern was replayed just milliseconds before the patient correctly recalled the paired word “fox.”

Business

Amazon, Flipkart see increased participation of small-town SMEs in 1st sale post lockdown

Both large e-commerce companies in India – Amazon, and Flipkart recently concluded their first major sale since the beginning of the financial season. While Flipkart had a five-day-long Independence Day Sale from August 6-10, ahead of other geographies, Amazon had a two-day Prime Day Sale between August 6-7. Read MoreBoth companies said they saw a record participation of small and medium scale enterprises on the platform. Flipkart said that it onboarded nearly 8,000 sellers post lockdown with more than 70% of them coming from smaller towns. Amazon, on the other hand, saw over 91,000 SMBs, artisans, weavers, and women entrepreneurs participating during Prime Day Sale 2020.

Fortis to be renamed Parkway to distance itself from Singh brothers

Leading hospital chain Fortis Healthcare will now have a new name — Parkway, a brand that Malaysian health care major IHH owns. Its diagnostic arm SRL will also look for a new brand name and logo. The current brand license agreements will expire in April-May 2021. The company clarified that the change of name would be subject to requisite approvals and directions from the Supreme Court and other regulatory authorities. FHL aims to complete this process before next April. Read MoreThe stock went up 2.4% on the BSE after the announcement came in. As part of its commercial strategy, the company plans to obtain a license to use Parkway as its corporate name, brand, and logo and that of its subsidiaries (excluding SRL and its arms and joint ventures) in relation to the hospital business.

Make in India boost: 2.3 mn PPEs exported to 5 nations in July, says govt

India exported 2.3 million personal protection equipment to five countries including the US, the UK, and the UAE in July after the government relaxed export norms and this has substantially helped the country to position itself in the global market of these kits, the Union Health Ministry said. According to the ministry, the Make in India spirit embedded in the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan has resulted in providing resilience and self-sufficiency” to the country for various medical equipment including PPE. Read MoreWhile the Union government is supplying PPE kits, N95 masks, ventilators, etc., to the state governments and union territories administrations, states are also procuring these items directly.

AirAsia India offers 50,000 seats without base fares to armed forces

AirAsia India on Friday offered 50,000 seats without base fares to the armed forces personnel for the travel period between September 25 and December 31. On the eve of Independence Day, the airline said the travelers can submit their details online between August 15 and August 21 to avail of the offer. While the base fare will be waived off under the “RedPass” offer, airport fees, charges, and taxes would be borne by the personnel, it stated in a press release.Read More The AirAsia RedPass will be valid for a one-way flight for which the reservation is required to be made at least 21 days prior to the date of departure, it mentioned. In addition to the base fare discount, the personnel will also enjoy priority while boarding and depositing check-in luggage, the low-cost carrier noted.

Flipkart eyes alcohol delivery with Diageo-backed startup

Walmart’s e-commerce platform Flipkart has partnered with a startup backed by spirits giant Diageo to deliver alcohol in two Indian cities, according to government letters seen by Reuters, months after Amazon planned a similar foray. Flipkart and Amazon’s interest in delivering alcohol in India marks a bold move to make inroads into an alcohol market that is worth $27.2 billion, according to estimates by IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.Read More Under the arrangement, Flipkart customers will be able to place orders for their favorite tipple, which HipBar will then deliver after collecting products from retail outlets. India’s top two food-delivery startups, Swiggy and Zomato, have also started delivering alcohol in some cities, as companies look to cash in on the high demand for booze from people staying at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Economics

Dutch economy shrinks by ‘unprecedented’ 8.5% as virus hits
The Dutch Central bureau for Statistics said that the economy suffered an unprecedented 8.5% contraction in the second quarter as the coronavirus pandemic slammed the brakes on spending, exports and investments. While the Dutch contraction compared to the first quarter was bad, it was not as severe as other major European countries like France and Germany. The 19-country eurozone, which the Netherlands is a part of, dropped by quarterly 12.1% while the U.K. reported a 20.4% decline Corona has caused unprecedented economic damage. Read MoreIt is an economic catastrophe of exceptional proportions, the head of statistics of the country said.  Consumer spending slumped by 11.8% compared with the same threemonths last year as lockdown measures hit sales at bars, restaurants, clothes stores and gas stations. Quarantine restrictions further is damaging the Dutch tourism industry that is already reeling after months of coronavirus travel bans around the world.

 India to take equal, proportional measures if other countries impose trade barriers: Goyal

India will take “equal and proportional measures” to protect domestic manufacturing if other countries continue imposing restrictions or barriers on Indian goods, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said. Many FTA countries do not allow access to Indian goods, even though they are part of FTA protocols. They put non-tariff barriers or other restrictive measures and Indian is no longer going to take this. He said India will have to plan its own measures whether it is by way of antidumping duty or some restrictions. Read MoreIndia will have to take equal and proportional measures to protect India’s domestic manufacturing, the minister said that while addressing the 10th meeting of Finland Chambers of Commerce in India. Goyal also said that the government is looking at providing ‘plug and play’ infrastructure, faster clearances, more affordable finance and lower logistics cost to invite businesses to India. He said that companies should do Make in India in true sense so that it adds significant value in the Indian manufacturing ecosystem.

July sees trade back in deficit as gold, pharma imports rise

India returned in July to a trade deficit of $4.83 billion, after posting a monthly trade surplus for the first time in 18 years in June. The flip was propelled by year-on-year growth in imports of gold, fertilisers, edible oil and medicinal and pharmaceutical products, according to data by the Commerce Ministry. Overall, merchandise imports declined more than 28%, a recovery from the June decline of 48%. Read MoreIn an encouraging trend, exports excluding petroleum products and gems and jewellery recorded a YoY rise in July and domestic demand appeared to be re-emerging.  July’s growth in gold imports may signal that investors are looking for a safe haven amid the continuing economic uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as expectations of a pick up in retail demand in the upcoming festival season. Non-oil, non-gold imports fell 29%, but the contraction narrowed from June’s 41%.

Despite jobless claims milestone, US economic holes remain deep

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell below 1 million for the first time since the pandemic began in March, a milestone that underscores both the depth of economic damage and long road to recovery from the sharpest downturn since the Great Depression. The latest figure of 963,000 capped a steep two-week decline and is a fraction of the nearly 7 million filing. Read MoreThe head of U.S. economics at Bank of America Corp., Michelle Meyer who highlighted that the labor market may be catching up to other more positive indicators said that the direction is encouraging but the level is still high  and thus more work needs to be done. After five months of the initial shock in March, and claims at 963,000 are still very much in recessionary territory.

 RBI to transfer Rs 57000 crore surplus to Centre for FY20

Amid falling tax collections and burgeoning fiscal deficit,  the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has approved the transfer of Rs57,128 crore as surplus to the government for the accountear 2019-20, while deciding to maintain the Contingency Risk Buffer at 5.5%, the RBI said in a statement. The payout, will only partly bolster the Centre’s pandemic hit finances as it is lower than the government’s estimate of Rs60,000 crore and may not be of much help to the government, whose finances have been battered by the heavy-lifting needed to support the economy to tide over the economic crisis caused by COVID. Read MoreMany experts believe that the fiscal deficit will more than double to about 7.5% as the country’s GDP is expected to contract the first time in four decades. Studies have estimated that the economy will shrink by about 5.3%. Last year, the central bank had paid a record ₹1.76 lakh crore after it adopted a new capital framework

 

Finance

Mahindra Finance rights issue subscribed 1.3 times.

Mahindra and Mahindra Financial Services (Mahindra Finance), the NBFC arm of Mahindra Group, raised Rs. 3,089 crore through a rights issue. The issue was subscribed approximately 1.3 times resulting in a demand generation of over Rs. 4,000 crores said the company. The rights issue saw investor interest, including from small investors and institutional investors, both Indian and foreign, it said. Read MoreSeveral companies have tapped the rights issue route in recent months to raise capital, such as Reliance Industries Ltd to bolster its capital reserves to deal with disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as to take advantage of the opportunities arising out of the pandemic. The allotment of equity shares offered pursuant to the rights issue will happen on or about August 21.

New appointments in Indiabulls Housing

In board-level changes at Indiabulls Housing Finance Ltd (IBHFL), Sameer Gehlaut, co-founder and chairman of Indiabulls Housing Finance Ltd (IBHFL), stepped down from his current position in the mortgage lender. In a regulatory filing, IBHFL said that Gehlaut would be replaced by SS Mundra, former deputy governor of Reserve Bank of India, while Gehlaut will remain on the board as a non-executive, non-independent director. Read MoreAlso, he has taken over as the CEO of another group company, Indiabulls Ventures Ltd, and will focus on growing its consumer business in finance and healthcare. Former RBI Deputy Governor Subhash Sheoratan Mundra has been appointed to the company’s board as a non-executive chairman with immediate effect.

 Standard Chartered and Airtel Africa entered into the partnership to drive financial inclusion in Africa

Standard Chartered Bank and Airtel Africa have entered into the collaboration to drive financial inclusion across key markets in Africa by providing customers with increased access to mobile financial services. Through the collaboration, both Standard Chartered and Airtel Africa will work together to co-create new and innovative products aimed at enhancing the accessibility of financial services and serve people across Africa better. Read MoreBesides, Airtel Money’s customers will be able to leverage Standard Chartered bank accounts to make real-time online deposits and withdrawals and receive international money transfers directly to their wallets and access savings products, amongst other services. The alliance will also help Standard Chartered’s corporate to make rapid and secure bulk disbursements, such as payroll payments, directly into the Airtel Money customers wallet, reducing the risks associated with traveling long distances for cash payments and instead use any Airtel Money agent, kiosk, or branch to cash-out their funds.

Banks have plans to raise $14 billion

SBI, ICICI banks, Axis, Kotak, and others are on the hunt for capital, having raised $7 billion so far with plans to bring in another $7 billion in the coming days. Public and private banks alike are shoring up capital as the economy fears a fresh cycle of bad loans resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Read MoreThe Reserve Bank of India (RBI) may have delayed the onslaught of bad loans by putting a six-month moratorium on loan repayments in place, but that is set to end on August 31. The more bad loans the bank has, the more capital it will need to cover the risk. Furthermore, if bad loans cross a certain threshold, banks may not have enough capital to cover the minimum risk requirement. Analysts estimate that in the worst-case scenario, Indian banks will need nearly three times that amount.

Second largest private sector lender closes QIP

The country’s second-largest private sector lender ICICI Bank has completed the allotment of equity shares under its qualified institutional placement (QIP) and raised approximately Rs15,000 crores through the issuance of 41.89 crore equity shares at an issue price of Rs358 per unit to fund its business growth and meet regulatory capital requirement. Read MoreThe issue opened on August 10 and closed on August 14. The private sector lender said it is well-positioned to serve the market and benefit from the opportunities that will arise going forward.”In these extraordinary times of coronavirus pandemic, the bank will continue to strive to serve its customers and also emerge stronger as an institution,” it said.

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