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 Seventy Fourth – 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)


Suppressing democratic rights of farmers to protest

Farmers are standing resolutely in the face of “cruelty”, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said as he hit out at the Modi government after Haryana Police used water cannons and teargas to disperse hundreds of farmers marching towards Delhi to protest the Centre’s farm laws. Read MoreThe Delhi Chief Minister criticizes this move wrong from holding peaceful demonstrations against the farm bills. The government claims the new laws would give farmers the freedom to sell in the open market. But the farmers say the laws will weaken the minimum support price mechanism and leave them at the mercy of private players.

Trump inching towards exiting the White House

U.S. President Donald Trump said he will leave the White House if the Electoral College votes for Democratic President-elect Joe Biden. Speaking to reporters on the Thanksgiving holiday, Republican Trump said if Democrat Biden – who is due to be sworn in on Jan. 20 – is formally declared the winner by the Electoral College, he will depart the White House. Read MoreTrump has so far refused to concede the election and continues to claim without evidence that the election was marred by widespread fraud, and that he and not Biden won it. The Electoral College is due to meet on Dec. 14.

China’s Xi congratulates Biden, hope for win-win ties

Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and expressed hope for win-win cooperation” amid conflicts over trade, technology, and security. China became one of the last major governments to congratulate Biden.  In a congratulatory message, Xi told Biden that we hope the two sides will uphold the spirit of non-conflict and non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, will focus on cooperation, control differences, and promote the healthy and stable development of Chinese-U.S. relations. Read MoreBiden is expected to resume cooperation with China on North Korea, climate change, and the coronavirus following the confrontational approach of President Donald Trump. 

India sees itself as Nepal’s foremost friend and development partner: Foreign Secretary

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said that India sees itself as Nepal’s “foremost friend and development partner” as he stressed the need for strong cooperative relations between the two neighbours as he is on a two-day maiden visit to Nepal.  Delivering a talk hosted by the Asian Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs – a Kathmandu-based non-partisan foreign policy think-tank, Shringla said the relation between Nepal and India is “intricate” and they share the same geography, civilisational heritage, culture, and customs.Read More “India’s development and modernisation are incomplete and intrinsically and symbiotically linked to the development and modernisation of neighbouring countries such as Nepal,” he said.

‘One Nation, One Election’ as need of India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the pitch for “One Nation, One Election” and a single voter list for all polls to prevent the impact of the model code of conduct on development works every few months due to frequent spread-out polls. One Nation, One Election’ isn’t just an issue of deliberation but also a need of the country. Read More Emphasising the need for coordination between all three wings of the state – Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary, he stated that everything, from their role to their decorum, was described in the Constitution itself. These remarks were made while addressing the concluding session of the 80th All India Presiding Officers Conference via video conference.

Science and Technology

Scientists create world’s thinnest memory storage device

Faster, smaller, smarter and more energy-efficient chips for everything could soon be on the way after engineers at The University of Texas created the smallest memory device yet based on a discovery from two years ago. Using the physics that pack dense memory storage capability into these devices enabled the ability to make them much smaller. Read MoreDefects, or holes in the material, provide the key to unlocking the high-density memory storage capability. Though in their study they used molybdenum disulfide also known as MoS2, as the primary nanomaterial, the researchers think the discovery could apply to hundreds of related atomically thin materials.

China launches a mission to collect first moon samples

China’s latest lunar mission, called Chang’e-5, is on its way to the Moon after a successful launch from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on Hainan Island. Assuming everything goes to plan, Chang’e-5 will touch down on the Moon within the next two weeks, scoop up a few kilograms of lunar dust and rocks, and haul them back to Earth next month. Read MoreIf it completes these tasks, it will be the first mission to deliver Moon samples to Earth since the Soviet probe Luna 24 in 1976.  China is attempting its most complex and ambitious space mission which will attempt to do something that has not been done since the 1970s. 

Diabetes set to devastate India’s metropolitan cities

Research shows that more than half of men (55%) and some two thirds (65%) of women currently aged 20 years in India will likely develop diabetes in their lifetime, with most of those cases (around 95%) likely to be type 2 diabetes (T2D). Obesity had a substantial impact on these projections. Lifetime risk was highest among obese metropolitan Indians. Read MoreThey note that metropolitan Indians at every age and BMI have an alarmingly high probability of developing diabetes compared with results from high income countries, and that proactive efforts to prevent diabetes in metropolitan cities are urgently needed, given the rapid increase in urban obesogenic environments across the country.

ISRO to launch Bhutan’s satellite next year

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India will soon be sending Bhutanese satellite to space. “India opened its space sector for private enterprises. It will boost innovation, capacity, and skills. ISRO will be sending Bhutan’s satellite next year and work on that is progressing fast,” he said. Read More“From my visit to Bhutan, in the phase-1 of RuPay card launch, till now, 11,000 successful RuPay transactions have taken place in Bhutan. Today with the launch of phase 2, we welcome Bhutan as a full-time partner in the RuPay network,” Modi said. He added that India and Bhutan have signed an agreement to increase cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.


Google India FY20 revenue rises 35% to Rs 5,594 cr, profit up 24%

Google India Private Limited, reported a 24% increase in profit to Rs 586 crore for financial year 2019-20. The tech giant reported Rs 5,594 crore in revenues for 2019-20 which was 35% higher than the previous year. The company reported total expenses as Rs 4,455 crore in the period. Read More73% of its revenues is from IT and IT-enabled Services and 27% from advertising. Headquartered firm said it considers social responsibility as an integral part of its business activities and is allocating funds for corporate social responsibility budget. Accordingly, Rs 12.25 crore was allocated for CSR activities for the financial year ending March 31, 2020.

Big Basket lost 80% of workforce within 2 days of lockdown, but bounced back with resilience: CEO Menon

Online grocery service provider BigBasket lost 80% of their workforce in the first two days of India’s nationwide lockdown owing to the fear and uncertainty of COVID-19 pandemic, said the company’s co-founder and CEO, Hari Menon. He also said that BigBasket had to recruit over 12,300 people in 16 days.
Menon said that an organisation needs to be a learning organization and the first at Big Basket was to set up an excellent training and innovation function. Read MoreLearning elements of culture and managing people is more critical than being a technocrat and understanding technology, since that can be outsourced as long as you know where your organisation is headed.

France resumes digital tax on US technology giants

France authorities have begun demanding millions of euros from Big Tech companies like Amazon and Facebook as they are resuming collection of a special digital tax despite the threat of U.S. retaliatory tariffs on French Champagne, cheese, handbags and other goods. Read MoreThe tax brought about 400 million euros to the French budget last year, but the government agreed to suspend it in 2020, in exchange for an American promise to drop the tariff threat. However, the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak has left finance ministries most focused on saving their economies, potentially jeopardising the end of the year deadline.

Amazon to spend $500 million in holiday bonus to frontline workers

E-retail giant Amazon will pay the employees who pack and deliver its goods a one-time bonus of up to $300, extra compensation that comes as the company faces a union drive and criticism from others for rolling back pandemic hazard pay. The cost to Amazon will amount to about $500 million, logistics chief Dave Clark said.Read MoreRecently Amazon has faced criticism for trying to attract new hires with a $3,000 bonus to ensure sufficient staffing to cover the holiday rush while only offering existing workers vouchers toward Thanksgiving turkeys. So, the company has introduced a bonus for full-time operations workers $300 and part-time employees $150 so long as they are employed at the company for the whole month of December.


PSUs put in more efforts to meet CAPEX targets

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the capital expenditure by PSUs is a critical driver of economic growth, and need to be scaled up for the current and the next financial year. Appreciating the efforts of the ministries and PSUs for making visible efforts to meet out the CAPEX targets, she said that more efforts are still required to achieve the target of 75 percent CAPEX by Q3 and more than 100 percent by Q4 of this fiscal year. Read MoreThe combined CAPEX target for FY 2020-21 for the 10 PSUs is Rs 61,483 crore. So far, the overall achievement as of November is Rs 24,227 crore, which is 39.4 percent of the target.

Indian economy recession to end soon

The recent vaccine news has boosted Indian stocks to repeated record highs and fueled hopes of a pick-up in economic activity. India’s economy is expected to recover early next year from the recession, but at a modest pace, according to a majority of economists in a Reuters poll who said their upgraded growth predictions were based on the progress of COVID-19 vaccines. Read MoreBut the recovery can still face several downside risks, including the availability and the distribution of vaccines to over 1.3 billion people in the country. A resurgence in coronavirus cases in some cities is likely to further damage the ongoing supply-side disruptions such as transport, risk of high inflation for a prolonged period.

Economy emergency has just begun with Spending Review

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a  Spending Review to lay out expenditure plans for the next year in the House of Commons, the finance minister told the parliamentarians the UK’s Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) expects unemployment to rise to a peak of 2.6 million people next year.
Read MoreThe ORB’s sobering forecast also shows an 11.3 percent contraction in the UK economy this year, the largest fall in output for more than 300 years. Our health emergency is not yet over, and the economic emergency has only just begun, so our immediate priority is to protect people’s lives and livelihoods, said Sunak. 

India cuts import tax on crude palm oil

The government slashed import tax on crude palm oil to 27.5% from 37.5% , aiming to bring down rising food prices with the measure. India is the world’s biggest importer of palm oil. It imports around 9 million tonnes of palm oil annually, mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia. Read MoreEdible Oils trade groups Solvent Extractors Association (SEA) and Soybean Processors Association of India (SOPA) had earlier urged the government not to tamper with the import duties or encourage state-owned companies to import edible oils at concessional duties in a move to contain domestic prices. 

US economy surges by record 33.1% in Q3

The US economy rebounded at a record pace of 33.1% in the July-September quarter, unchanged from the first estimate a month ago. But a resurgence in the coronavirus is expected to slow growth sharply in the current quarter with some economists even raising the spectre of a double-dip recession. The overall increase in the gross domestic product, the country’s total output of goods and services, remained the same as its first estimate. Read MoreThe 33.1% gain was the largest quarterly gain on records going back to 1947 and surpassed the old mark of a 16.7% surge in 1950. Still, even with the big increase, the economy has not gained back all the output that was lost in the first six months of the year. 


Burger King India IPO to open on December 2

Quick service restaurant chain Burger King India is all set to open its initial public offer (IPO) on December 2. Shares are available at a premium of Rs 20-25 in the grey market against issue price of Rs 59-60 per share. Post the IPO, the promoter entity will hold 52.9% in the company.Read MoreThe ₹810 crore offer would comprise of Rs 450 crore of fresh issue and offer for sale of up to 6 crore equity shares by promoter QSR Asia and would be sold in Rs 59-60 price range. At the upper price band, OFS is valued at Rs 360 crore. 

Facebook crypto Libra to launch as early as Jan

Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency is readying to launch as early as January, a report stated. The Geneva-based Libra Association that will issue and govern Libra plans to launch a single digital coin backed by the dollar. Libra was originally meant to be backed by a wide mix of currencies and government debt.
But regulators feared Facebook’s plan to create one single coin could destabilize monetary policy and erode user privacy. Read MoreSo, the Libra Association, of which Facebook is one of 27 members, is seeking the go-ahead from Switzerland’s markets watchdog to issue a series of stablecoins backed by individual traditional currencies, and a token based on the currency-pegged stablecoins.

Union Bank of India Plans To Raise Up To Rs 6,800 Crore

State-owned Union Bank of India said it proposes to raise up to Rs 6,800 crore during this fiscal to fund business growth. The board has approved raising of equity capital during 2020-21 by way of various modes such as Public issue and/or Rights Issue and/or Private Placements, including Qualified Institutions Placement and/or Preferential Allotment to the Government of India, the bank said.
Read MoreThe bank has convened an extraordinary general meeting of its shareholders on 30 December 2020 to seek their approval for the proposed fund raising. Union Bank of India reported a standalone net profit of Rs 516.62 crore in Q2 FY21 as against a net loss of Rs 1193.61 crore in Q2 FY20. 

BSE, NSE declares Anugrah Stock & Broking as defaulter, expels from memberships

BSE and NSE have declared Anugrah Stock & Broking as a defaulter and have expelled the brokerage house from respective memberships. Markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) had ordered the scam-tainted broking firm to stop its operations and barred the two promoters from the markets. Read MoreThe matter pertains to involvement of ASBPL in activities other than securities, collecting funds from clients under assured return schemes, misappropriation of clients’ funds and securities, among others. This comes two days after BSE and NSE declared Karvy Stock Broking as a defaulter and expelled the brokerage house from membership.

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