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 Sixtieth 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

Rahul Gandhi again targeted the Narendra Modi government
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi continued with his attack on the government, this time on the jobs front, that India will not be able to provide employment to youth. “Media made fun of me when I warned the country that there will be heavy loss due to COVID. Today I am saying our country won’t be able to give jobs. If you don’t agree then wait for 6-7 months,” said Rahul Gandhi in a video conference. Read MoreHe said that nearly two crore people became unemployed in the last four months due to the pandemic. The news report cited by Gandhi claimed that around 1.89 crore people lost their jobs in India since April.“The future of two crore families is in the dark,” he added. “The truth about unemployment and destruction of the economy cannot be hidden from the country by peddling fake news and hatred on Facebook.”

Congress writes to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
The Congress party has demanded a high-level inquiry into Facebook India leadership team and their operations by its headquarters after allegations of bias by its executives. The letter by AICC General-Secretary KC Venugopal cited a recent Wall Street Journal article about alleged Facebook India operations favouring the BJP and demanded that the Facebook headquarters should set up a time-bound investigation into the same and make their report public in a month or two. Read MoreThe Congress and other Opposition parties have attacked the social media giant after a Wall Street Journal report alleged that Facebook did not apply its hate speech rules to some BJP leaders. Sharing the letter on his Twitter handle, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said Facebook needs to be questioned by all Indians.

BJP, Congress Leaders criticised the TMC
A group of TMC leaders has been criticised after they were seen cutting a cake that resembled the Indian National Flag on India’s 74th Independence Day. The widely circulated video has been criticised by the Congress and the BJP saying that it amounted to insulting the national flag. TMC leaders Shehnaz Qadri, Sheikh Yasin and Krishna Das were seen in the video among others. Read MoreMalda Congress chief said TMC leaders didn’t respect the national flag. BJP MP Khagen Murmu also condemned the incident. Shehnaz Qadri, on the other hand, called it a conspiracy to malign him. The two-and-a-half-minute video was shot at a public programme in the district’s Ratua area on Independence Day. It found its way to social media and triggered a sharp reaction.

Punjab CM orders imposition of section 144
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on Friday ordered that restrictions under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which bars assembly of more than four people, be imposed in the state amid rising Covid-19 cases. Marriage and ‘bhog’ ceremonies have been exempted from this order. Read MoreIn case of any violation of Section 144, the organisers who are putting people at risk by organising such gatherings or allowing people to gather without masks will be arrested, he said. Making it clear that he would not hesitate to take any harsh steps necessary to save lives, he warned of even more stringent measures after August 31 if needed to check the spread of COVID-19 and save lives of the people of Punjab.

Congress never aspired for power: Shaktisinh Gohil
Congress spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil said that former party chief Rahul Gandhi could have become the prime minister during UPA-II as the PM Manmohan Singh was having health issues and had offered to make way for Gandhi. Still, he declined the request and urged Singh to complete the term. Read MoreHe asserted that the Gandhi family had always shown large-heartedness and never aspired for power. Just like that, Sonia Gandhi refused to become Prime Minister in 1991 and then in 2004, and Rahul Gandhi declined the offer during UPA-II,” Gohil said. The Congress leader’s comment came in the wake of a claim made in the book “India Tomorrow: Conversations with the Next Generation of Political Leaders” by Pradeep Chibber and Harsh Shah.

Science and Technology

 

COVID-19 Coronavirus Breathalyzer Test Developed
Few people who have undergone nasopharyngeal swabs for coronavirus testing would describe it as a pleasant experience. The procedure involves sticking a long swab up the nose to collect a sample from the back of the nose and throat, which is then analyzed for SARS-CoV-2 RNA. In addition to being uncomfortable, the current gold standard for COVID-19 testing requires RT-PCR, a time-consuming laboratory procedure. The researchers made an array of gold nanoparticles linked to molecules that are sensitive to various VOCs. When VOCs interact with the molecules on a nanoparticle, the electrical resistance changes. Read MoreThe researchers trained the sensor to detect COVID-19 by using machine learning to compare the pattern of electrical resistance signals obtained from the breath of 49 confirmed COVID-19 patients. In the test set, the device showed 76% accuracy in distinguishing COVID-19 cases from controls and 95% accuracy in discriminating COVID-19 cases from lung infections. The sensor could also distinguish, with 88% accuracy, between sick and recovered COVID-19 patients.

New Heat Conduction Technology a Game Changer for Server Farms and Aircraft
Jonathan Boreyko, an associate professor in mechanical engineering, has developed an aircraft thermal management technology that stands ready for adaptation into other areas. Boreyko’s team created a diode using two copper plates in a sealed environment, separated by a microscopic gap. The first plate is engineered with a wick structure to hold water, while the opposite plate is coated with a water-repelling (hydrophobic) layer. The water on the wicking surface receives heat, causing evaporation into steam. Read MoreAs the steam moves across the narrow gap, it cools and condenses into dew droplets on the hydrophobic side. These dew droplets grow large enough to “bridge” the gap and get sucked back into the wick, starting the process again. If the source of heat were instead applied to the hydrophobic side, no steam can be produced because the water remains trapped in the wick. This is why the device can only conduct heat in one direction. Boreyko’s team measured a nearly 100-fold increase in heat conduction when the wicked side was heated, compared to the hydrophobic side.

Transparent Solar Panels for Windows Hit New Efficiency Record
In a step closer to skyscrapers that serve as power sources, a team led by University of Michigan researchers has set a new efficiency record for color-neutral, transparent solar cells. The team achieved 8.1% efficiency and 43.3% transparency with an organic, or carbon-based, design rather than conventional silicon. While the cells have a slight green tint, they are much more like the gray of sunglasses and automobile windows. Read MoreWindows, which are on the face of every building, is an ideal location for organic solar cells because they offer something silicon can’t, which is a combination of very high efficiency and very high visible transparency. Rather than throwing that energy away, transparent solar panels could use it to take a bite out of the building’s electricity needs. Transparent solar cells are measured by their light utilization efficiency, which describes how much energy from the light hitting the window is available either as electricity or as transmitted light on the interior side.

Titanate Nanowire Mask Filter Can Kill Bacteria and Viruses Including SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19
Filter “paper” made from titanium oxide nanowires is capable of trapping pathogens and destroying them with light. This discovery by an EPFL laboratory could be put to use in personal protective equipment, as well as in ventilation and air conditioning systems. Their article also states that manufacturing such membranes would be feasible on a large scale: the laboratory’s equipment alone is capable of producing up to 200 m2 of filter paper per week, or enough for up to 80,000 masks per month. Read MoreMoreover, the masks could be sterilized and reused up a thousand times. This would alleviate shortages and substantially reduce the amount of waste created by disposable surgical masks. Finally, the manufacturing process, which involves calcining the titanite nanowires, makes them stable and prevents the risk of nanoparticles being inhaled by the user. A start-up named Swoxid is already preparing to move the technology out of the lab.

New “Cyborg” Technology Could Enable Merger of Humans and AI
Although true “cyborgs” — part human, part robotic beings — are science fiction, researchers are taking steps toward integrating electronics with the body. Such devices could monitor for tumor development or stand-in for damaged tissues. But connecting electronics directly to human tissues in the body is a huge challenge. Now, a team is reporting new coatings for components that could help them more easily fit into this environment. Read MoreTraditional microelectronic materials, such as silicon, gold, stainless steel, and iridium, cause scarring when implanted. For applications in muscle or brain tissue, electrical signals need to flow for them to operate properly, but scars interrupt this activity. The researchers reasoned that a coating could help. After testing, the researchers found that the polymer had the properties necessary for interfacing hardware and human tissue.

Business

Railways cancel the tender for 44 Vande Bharat trains after Chinese JV bids
The railways said on 21st August it has canceled the tender for manufacturing 44 semi-high speed Vande Bharat Express trains, which was floated last year. Last month, when the tender was opened, a Chinese joint venture firm — CRRC Pioneer Electric (India) Private Limited — had emerged as the only foreign player among the six contenders for the supply of electrical equipment and other items for the 44 train sets of 16 coaches each. Read MoreThe JV was formed between the China-based CRRC Yongji Electric Company Limited and the Gurugram-based Pioneer Fil-med Private Limited in 2015. The Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited (DFCCIL) too had terminated a Rs 470-crore contract with a Chinese firm at that time.

AGR case: Supreme Court puts spectrum users in the dock on IBC firms’ dues
In observation with wide ramifications, the Supreme Court on 21st August put the onus of paying dues linked to adjusted gross revenue (AGR) on those telcos which are using the spectrum earlier held by now-bankrupt firms. According to the court proceedings, if bankrupt firms fail to pay their AGR dues, the telecom operators that got a spectrum from them must make the payment. Read MoreBharti Airtel itself owes the government Rs 43,780 crore in AGR dues, according to DoT calculations. Of this, the company has paid Rs 18,004 crore. The SC bench, headed by Justice Arun Mishra, observed that in accordance with the spectrum trading guidelines, past dues need to be cleared before any transfer of spectrum. Videocon’s resolution professional (RP) said during the hearing: “We are not liable to pay anything beyond the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP).”

Zomato raises Rs 184 cr from the existing investor; eyes funds from Temasek
Food delivery firm Zomato has raised Rs 184 crore from existing investor Foodie Bay Employees ESOP Trust. The infusion happened through Foodie Bay’s trustee Akriti Chopra, also the chief financial officer of Zomato, by allotting 12,015 equity shares on preferential allotment through private placement, according to the documents filed by Zomato, which were sourced from business intelligence platforms Tofler and Paper.vc. Read MoreWith this, Foodie Bay now has a 6.77% stake in the company. A special resolution was passed in an extraordinary general meeting on August 19, 2020, for the infusion. The infusion is expected to help Zomato compete with Tencent-backed Swiggy and e-commerce giant Amazon, which recently forayed into food delivery.

Govt to hire Deloitte, SBI Capital Markets to help LIC prepare for IPO
India is poised to hire Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Ltd. and SBI Capital Markets Ltd. to help Life Insurance Corp. of India prepare for an initial share sale. The advisers will help evaluate the capital structure of India’s biggest insurer as well as aid the company is reworking its financial statement, according to a tender document issued in June. Read MorePrime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is keen to go ahead with the initial public offering, potentially India’s biggest – to help plug a widening budget gap. The coronavirus pandemic has prompted the administration to boost market borrowing as revenue slumped following a nationwide lockdown.

Water treatment firms bank on Clean India mission for growth
In spite of increasing awareness about the environment, the implementation of wastewater treatment projects in India becomes economically unviable due to subsidized water tariffs, and low regulatory compliance. SMEs, which dominate the manufacturing landscape in India, often cite ‘high-cost of water treatment technology’ as the reason for not-adopting these solutions.Read More The government has undertaken initiatives such as Swachh Bharat, Clean Ganga, etc as a part of its larger plans to reduce environmental pollution. This some experts believe could trigger the demand for water treatment solutions in the country. From a water treatment solution provider’s point of view, these projects are beneficial as they spread the right message to industry and also generate direct business opportunities for them as these concepts convert into real infrastructure projects on the ground says Vishal Sharma, Managing Director, Nalco Water India Limited.

Economics

UK state debt tops £2 trillion for the first time
British government debt has exceeded £2 trillion for the first time amid heavy spending to support the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic and pushed the UK economy into a record recession. Total debt hit £2.004 trillion ($2.61 trillion, 2.2 trillion euros) in July, £227.6bn more than last year, said the Office for National Statistics (ONS). That equated to more than 100% of the country’s annual gross domestic product or total economic output, the heaviest burden since FY 1960-61. Read MoreOther figures showed retail sales rebounding faster than predicted in July and returning to pre-virus levels. Meanwhile, a broad measure of economic activity jumped to the highest in almost seven years in August. Still, the debt figures reflect a hit to tax revenues due to the lockdown imposed in March, as well as the vast cost of government spending programs deployed to keep businesses and jobs afloat.

India needs to look at ESG factors to attract major FDI investment: Mukesh Aghi
India needs to look at ESG (environmental, social and governmental) factors to attract major investors and get the sustained foreign direct investment of USD 100 billion per annum that the country needs to get back to 8-9% growth, according to Mukesh Aghi, president of US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF), an India-centric American business advocacy group. The investment pool around the world is estimated to be about USD 45 trillion, of this USD 12 trillion comes under ESG, which is the environmental, social and governmental factors.Read More Aghi said that with America’s trade relationship getting more and more stressed out, India can play a helpful role for the US and its companies especially in the healthcare sector and the focus of the India-US ties should also be on technology. Post COVID-19 pandemic, as the realignment takes place, it’s an opportunity for both countries to examine seriously if  they can collaborate on economic or technological fronts and on cultural and agriculture fronts.

Exports to dragon rise 78% even during Boycott China movement
Even as India boycotts China on various fronts after the face-off between soldiers at the Galwan valley, China is buying Indian goods at full force. India’s exports to China rose 78% on-year in June 2020, said a Crisil report. From a contraction of 60.2% on-year in April, exports from India improved to a contraction of 10.2% in July. The reason is a sharp rise in exports to economies that have been able to control the coronavirus pandemic.Read MoreApart from China, the exports surged in other east Asian economies as well, which constitute about 16% of total India’s export. These include Malaysia rose by 76%, Vietnam 43%, and Singapore 37%. Most of these economies had flattened the Covid-19 curve in this period. While the exports to western economies like the United States, Brazil, and the United Kingdom, declined.

U.S. weekly jobless claims jump back above 1 million
Initial weekly jobless benefit claims rose in mid-August and topped 1 million once again, potentially pointing to an increase in layoffs after a summer surge in the coronavirus pandemic or perhaps to more people applying for benefits after President Trump temporarily added $300 in extra federal payouts. New applications for unemployment benefits, a rough gauge of layoffs, climbed to 1.11 million from 971,000 benefits which was greater than expected, raising concern about the state of the economy. Read MoreUnemployment is still extremely high by any measure, however. Jobless claims are almost five times higher now than they were before the pandemic struck. Earlier in the year they were running in the low 200,000s per week and stood near a 50-year low. “It is not entirely clear to me what is happening here. The bottom line is that these data remain extremely noisy and not especially helpful for gauging the health of the labor market”,chief economist Stephen Stanley of Amherst Pierpont Securities said.

Put gender equality at the heart of post-Covid-19 economic recovery : ILO
Given that the coronavirus pandemic is disproportionately affecting women workers, governments should prioritise policies that offset the effects the crisis is having on their jobs, International Labour Organisation (ILO) has said. The lockdown has impacted lakhs of people, but when it comes to job prospects women are the worst hit. Even prior to the onset of the COVID-19 crisis many women were excluded from the labour market, and the pandemic has made things much worse.Read MoreThe ILO, a specialised agency of the United Nations (UN) dedicated to improving labour conditions, has suggested five ways to ensure that women’s job prospects are not damaged long-term by the COVID-19 crisis which include implementing policies to prevent women from losing their jobs, help women find new jobs, promote employment policies that focus on women, avoid cutting health and education subsidies and focus on investments in care services.

 

Finance

Bankruptcy case against Anil Ambani
The court has agreed to hear a petition by the nation’s largest lender seeking to initiate personal bankruptcy against tycoon Anil Ambani after the former billionaire failed to repay debt. State Bank of India (SBI) had moved the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to recover over Rs 1,200 crore from Anil Ambani under the personal guarantee clause of the bankruptcy law.Read MoreThe lender said Ambani had personally guaranteed loans taken by Reliance Communications, currently undergoing insolvency proceedings, which the state-owned lender is trying to recover. Mr Ambani is taking advice on challenging the verdict in an appellate court, his spokesperson said. “The order of the NCLT will have no bearing on the operations of Reliance Infrastructure Ltd., Reliance Power Ltd. and Reliance Capital Ltd.,” Mr Ambani’s spokesperson added, listing out the tycoon’s other companies.

Tata Consultancy Services upholds penalty in EPIC systems case
A US appeals court has upheld the trade-secret theft verdict against India’s largest IT company Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) along with the compensatory damages of $140 million awarded to American medical software firm Epic Systems.US-based medical software firm Epic Systems had accused TCS of stealing its intellectual property in 2014. Read MoreThe US Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit, Chicago, returned a verdict on the appeal filed by TCS, reducing the damages award. Meanwhile, TCS has said that it is exploring the options available to it, as it believes that there is no evidence of misuse of EPIC information by TCS. In May 2020, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) issued a warning to TCS for not adequately disclosing the damages in the 2016 Epic Systems’ case to investors.

Acharya Balkrishna resigned as Managing Director
Patanjali Group firm Ruchi Soya reported a 13% decline in its net profit to Rs. 12.25 crore for the first quarter ended June 30 and announced the resignation of Acharya Balkrishna as a Managing Director citing “pre-occupation” as a reason. However, he will continue to be the chairman of the board. Read MoreRam Bharat, whole-time director of the company, has been designated as Managing Director of the company with effect from August 19, 2020, till December. Ram Bharat, Baba Ramdev’s younger brother will take over the position of Baba Ramdev-led Patanjali Group acquired edible oil firm Ruchi Soya. Last year, Patanjali Ayurved spent Rs4,350 crore to take over the then bankrupt Ruchi Soya through an insolvency process.

Bharti Infratel and Zee Entertainment excluded from the Nifty
The National Stock Exchange (NSE) has decided to include SBI Life Insurance Company and Divi’s Laboratories in the Nifty50. It will remove Bharti Infratel and Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEE) from the benchmark index. These replacements will also be applicable to the Nifty50 Equal Weight index, said IMSC. Divi’s Laboratories, NHPC, Page Industries, SBI Life Insurance Company and Shriram Transport Finance will also be excluded from the Nifty Next 50, the release said. Read MoreAdani Green Energy, Alkem Laboratories, Bharti Infratel, Larsen & Toubro Infotech and Tata Consumer Products will be included in the Nifty Next 50. These changes will be effective September 25 or at the close of trade on September 24, the exchange, which makes a semi-annual review of its indices, said.

Reliance Communications forced to go into liquidation
The SBI-led Committee of Creditors (CoC) for Reliance Communications (RCom) told the Supreme Court that if spectrum sale is not allowed, then the telecom company will be going into liquidation forcefully. Senior advocate Harish Salve, who represents RCom and its committee of creditors, said: “This won’t help anyone”.Read More The CoC told the top court that RCom is not seeking to run away from Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) related dues by hiding itself behind Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) but the telecom company owes over ₹42,000 crores to the banks. The bench observed that sale of spectrum is allowed under trading guidelines but how can it be sold under the IBC. The bench observed that sale of spectrum is allowed under trading guidelines but how can it be sold under the IBC. It said that all resolution transactions must be as per the IBC and trading guidelines provide that dues need to be taken care of before the sale of spectrum.

 

 

 

 

 

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