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 Eighty First- 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 Ashika Deb, Shitij Goyal and Gunika Vij)

Politics

Political leaders’ solidarity for flood-affected people in Chamoli

Political leaders across parties expressed concern over the situation arising from the glacier burst and floods in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli. Arwind Kejriwal said that the government is ready to provide all possible help and Rahul Gandhi urged workers to help the affected people. Read MoreMember of Telangana Legislative Council expressed concern over the destruction. Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh also expressed that instructions have been given for relief and rescue. At least 9 bodies have been recovered from the National Thermal Power Corporation site in the Tapovan area.

Nepal’s political crisis deepens

Tensions among state organs are increasing with prolonged hearings in the Supreme Court on a writ petition filed against Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s move to dissolve the House of Representatives and parties are competing to amass people in the street to influence the judiciary and other constitutional bodies in their favour. Oli’s move to dissolve parliament led to the split of the ruling Nepal Communist Party. Politically, the NCP is already divided but the Election Commission (EC) is yet to take legal decisions. Opposition parties, Nepali Congress and Janata Samajbadi party, are organising street protests against the Parliament dissolution. Read MoreThe NC, however, is of the view that there should not be attempts to influence court proceedings and everyone should abide by what the Supreme Court decides. Meanwhile, Speaker of the House of Representatives Agni Sapkota is in a confrontation with Oli and the President’s Office, objecting to the decision made by Constitutional Council regarding appointments to constitutional bodies which clearly indicates a possible confrontation between key state actors. The Supreme Court will deliver the verdict on Parliament dissolution, while the Election Commission will determine which faction is the official NCP.

Trade unions and political parties oppose privatisation of RINL

Hundreds of employees of Vishakhapatnam Steel Plant on Friday rallied to protest against the proposed disinvestment of the corporate entity of the steel-maker, Rashtriya Ishpat Nigam Limited (RINL). Read MoreThe parties supported the agitation. RINL is one of the biggest and profitable public sector undertakings in the state. The Union Cabinet had cleared the privatisation of RINL and the strategic sale proceeds would be part of the disinvestment target for next fiscal. Assistant Secretary of the CPI, Andhra Pradesh said the plant had increased steel productions with its own funds and with bank loans, and demanded that the Central government allocate captive iron ore mines to Vizag Steel to make it profitable.

Ahead of Assembly polls, 52 new political parties

Ahead of the Assembly polls due in five States in April-May, 2021, at least 52 political outfits are knocking at the door of the Election Commission for registration since the past 3 months, over a dozen of which are from those states where assembly polls are due. Read MoreSome of the political parties which applied for registration include: Makkal Munnetra Peravai, Nava Kerala People’s Party, Makkal Rajjiyam Katchi, Bhartiya Hind Party, Praja Shakti Democratic Party,  Bhagidari Party (P), Sarvlokhit Samaj Party, Apni Janta Party, Makkal Thilagam Munnetra Kazhagam, Vastavik Bharat Party, Sudharvadi Party, Kisan Vishwa party, Majaloom Samaj Party, Bahujan Lokrajya Party. The number of registered unrecognised political parties has increased two-fold from 2010 to 2019. Either newly registered parties or those which have not secured enough percentage of votes in the assembly or general elections to become a state party, or those which have never contested elections since being registered are considered unrecognised parties. Although there different reasons for the mushrooming of such parties, these parties might also be used for money laundering as they are exempted from income tax.

Germany to support Belarusian opposition

Germany has allocated 21 million euros to implement the Action Plan Civil Society Belarus initiative aimed at providing support to the Belarusian opposition. The action plan provides asylum assistance and psychological care to Belarusian victims of torture and that fleeing persecution, supports independent media and offers scholarships to students who were expelled for participating in anti-government demonstrations and they are setting up a mechanism to collect evidence against those who violate human rightsRead MoreBelarus entered a prolonged political crisis after Lukashenko secured his sixth term during the August 9 presidential election.

Science and Technology

SpaceX Starship prototype rocket explodes on landing after test launch

A prototype of SpaceX’s Starship rocket exploded during a landing attempt minutes after a high-altitude experimental launch from Boca Chica, Texas in a repeat of an accident that destroyed a previous test rocket. Read MoreThe Starship SN9 that blew up on its final descent, like the SN8 before it, was a test model of the heavy-lift rocket being developed by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s private space company to carry humans and 100 tons of cargo on future missions to the moon and Mars. The self-guided, 16-story-tall rocket initially soared into the clear, blue South Texas sky from its Gulf Coast launch pad on what appeared from SpaceX’s Livestream coverage to be a flawless liftoff.

NASA’s TESS Mission discovers exoplanet in our galaxy older than Sun

National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered an exoplanet in the Milky Way galaxy. Researchers believe it is 10 billion years old, more than twice as old as our Sun. Read MoreThe planet named TOI-561b orbiting outside our solar system is 1.5 times the size of the Earth, has more mass than Earth, but almost the same density. The planet orbits around its sun, which is located in the galactic thick disk, very quickly and completes it in about 12 hours.

Telegram is now the most downloaded app on Google Play Store

WhatsApp’s loss is Telegram’s gain. Ever since WhatsApp has announced its new privacy policy, users have found peace in other messaging apps including Telegram and Signal. Read MoreWhile there were a lot of conjectures of WhatsApp’s privacy policy, users found the other apps more reliable and safer even before WhatsApp could explain its case. However, Telegram seems to have really benefitted due to this sudden shift of users from WhatsApp.

FAU-G makes global debut, now available for download worldwide on Google Play Store

Home-grown war game FAU-G, which was recently launched in India, has gone global and is now available for download worldwide on Google Play Store. ‘FAU-G: Fearless and United Guards’, which is considered as an alternative for PUB-G, was launched in India on January 26, 2021, but the game was only available for Android devices. Read MoreThe iOS version of the game is yet to be released and there’s currently no update as to when it will be available for iOS users.

UPI logs 2.3 bn digital transactions worth Rs 4.2 lakh crore in Jan, says NITI

NITI Aayog CEO said that as many as 2.3 billion transactions amounting to Rs 4.2 lakh crore were registered via Unified Payment Interface (UPI) in January this year. He added that “UPIs transaction value jumped 76.5% while transaction value jumped nearly 100%.” The digital payments system, built by the National Payments Corporation of India, is regulated by the Reserve Bank of India. Read MoreOver Rs 4 lakh crore worth of digital transactions were facilitated by UPI in December 2020 and more than 200 banks are linked to the UPI system, President Ram Nath Kovind has said earlier.

Business

ITC sets up Young Digital Innovators Lab
Cigarettes-to-hotels conglomerate ITC Ltd said it has set up an internal ‘Young Digital Innovators Lab’ to crowd-source digital strategies and identify emerging technologies. Read MoreThe company, which sells Sunfeast biscuits and Aashirvaad flour, is also forming a digital council comprising senior managers that will work on “high impact digital interventions”, as covid prompts firms to step up digital transformation.

PNB expects ₹3,800 crore recovery from Bhushan Power resolution

State-owned Punjab National Bank (PNB) is expecting to recover a substantial ₹3,800 crore from Bhushan Power and Steel under debt resolution in NCLT, which will help it achieve the target of ₹8,000 crore cash recoveries during this fiscal, its managing director and CEO said.
Read MoreBesides, the city-based lender also hopes to make good recovery of its exposure in crisis-hit DHFL, which is undergoing a resolution process currently.

Business confidence improves with rollout of vaccines: Think tank NCAER

The Business Confidence Index (BCI) developed by the Delhi-based economic think tank NCAER rose 29.6 per cent between the second and third quarter of the current financial year on the back of rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in different countries, including India. Read MoreThe proportion of respondents expecting that ‘overall economic conditions will improve in the next six months’ increased by 4.8 percentage points, from 29.8 per cent in 202021:Q2 to 34.6 per cent in 202021:Q3, said the NCAER’s Business Expectations Survey (BES).

FDI cap hike will help attract overseas funds: Experts

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget Speech 2021 proposed to amend the Insurance Act, 1938, to increase the permissible FDI limit from 49 per cent to 74 per cent in insurance companies and allow foreign ownership and control with safeguards. Read MoreImplementation of the Budget proposal to raise the foreign direct investment (FDI) limit in the insurance sector to 74 per cent will help attract overseas capital and enhance insurance penetration in the country, according to experts.

Stove Kraft shares list with over 29% premium

Shares of kitchen appliances manufacturer Stove Kraft on Friday listed on the bourses with a premium of over 29 per cent against its issue price of Rs 385. The stock made a debut at Rs 467, recording a gain of 21.29 per cent from the issue price on the BSE. Read MoreLater, it jumped 28.71 per cent to Rs 495.55. In tandem, at the NSE, it listed at Rs 498, jumping 29.35 per cent against the issue price.

 

Economics

MoS Thakur:  India now “net creditor”
India now has forex reserves of over USD 590 billion while the external debt is USD 554 billion, making the country a “net creditor”. India is witnessing a ‘V’ shaped recovery post COVID-19 pandemic, which is evident by the GST collection during the past four months. Read MoreThe GST collections indicate that the economy is in. India received the highest Foreign Direct Investments even during COVID-19 times and in the month of January the total collection was close to Rs 1.20 lakh crore. The budget estimates for the current fiscal was Rs 30.42 lakh crore, while it was increased by over Rs four lakh crore to Rs 34.50 lakh crore for the next fiscal. It is hoped that India would become a USD five trillion economies in the next four or five years.

Centre decides to induct more private sector specialists
The Centre has decided to induct more private sector specialists into different government departments at the crucial decision-making level of Joint Secretaries and Directors. Read MoreAs per the requisitions received from the Department of Personnel & Training, Indian nationals willing to contribute towards nation-building are being invited to join the government at the level of Joint Secretary on contract basis in the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, a statement issued by the Personnel Ministry said. Private sector individuals would be appointed at the level of Director on a contract basis.

Union Budget focuses on spending to boost economic growth, strengthen health sector
Union Minister, on 6th February, said the central budget for 2021-22 fiscal has focused on spending to build infrastructure and boost the economic growth of the country. Union Finance Minister emphasised on the health sector and increased its allocation by 137%. Union Minister said that the budget should be seen in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the announcement of Rs 27 lakh crore Atma Nirbhar Bharat scheme. Read MoreThe Centre has increased the budgetary outlay for health and wellbeing to over Rs 2.23 lakh crore in the current fiscal. The allocation of Rs 64,180 crore for Atma Nirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana will help open new critical care hospitals and medical facilities across the country. The budget focused on providing safe drinking water, cleanliness and addressing the issue of malnutrition. The government has also allocated Rs 35,000 crore for COVID vaccination programme. Rs 2.87 lakh crore has been allocated to the Jal Jeevan Mission. The budget has arranged for disbursement of Rs 16.05 lakh crore as farm loan.

The government may increase MGNREGA spend if the need arises
The government would not hesitate to increase the spend under MGNREGA Programme if the need arises in the future. Taking on the criticism by the Congress on the lowering of the MGNREGA expenditure in the Budget for 2021-22, the Minister of State for Finance said this government has been increasing expenditure. Read MoreIn the current fiscal, it has been raised massively from Rs 61,500 crore to Rs 1,11,500 crore to create additional jobs in the rural areas. For 2021-22, the spending has been increased to Rs 73,000 crore as against the Budget Estimate of Rs 61,500 crore for the financial year ending March. On the higher fiscal deficit number of 9.5 % for the current fiscal, the minister said for this fiscal it may look more but the government has indicated a glide path to bring it down to 4.5 % by 20 25-26.

Oil prices reach highest levels since 2020

Oil prices climbed on 5th February to their highest levels in a year, extending a run of strong gains on signs of economic growth in the United States and a continued commitment by producers to hold back crude supply. Brent crude futures climbed 0.7%by after hitting a high of $59.41 – its highest since February 20 last year. Brent is on track to rise 6% this week. Read MoreUS West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures jumped 0.8 after touching a high of $56.84, it’s top since January 22 last year. The benchmark contract is on track for a weekly gain of nearly 9%, which would be its biggest weekly gain since October. In a sign of tightening crude oil supplies, the six-month backwardation in Brent and WTI futures jumped to 13-month highs for both contracts at $2.41 and $2.30 a barrel, respectively. Markets were encouraged by stronger-than-expected orders for U.S. goods in December, pointing to strength in manufacturing, and hopes for swift approval by lawmakers of President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid plan.

Finance

Government to sell stakes in BHEL

The Indian government may consider selling its stake in BHEL, Andrew Yule and Mecon Ltd in the next round of disinvestment. SBI Capital Markets Ltd, the adviser to the proposed stake sale in Bhel, recently submitted its report to the department of investment and public asset management (Dipam) on the plan. Read MoreThis will help the government’s thinking on whether to proceed with the stake sale in India’s largest power equipment maker and the amount of stake that would be sold. SBI Capital is also advising Dipam on the proposed stake sales in Mecon and Andrew Yule. The department of heavy industry is the nodal ministry for both Bhel and Andrew Yule, while Mecon falls under the steel ministry.

FinMin permits additional borrowing to 4 states

The Finance Ministry has granted permission to four states of Assam, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab to borrow an additional Rs 5,034 crore for undertaking ease of doing business reforms. In a statement, the ministry said four more states namely, Assam, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab have undertaken ‘Ease of Doing Business’ reforms stipulated by the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance. Read MoreWith this, 12 states, including Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, have undertaken the stipulated reforms to facilitate ease of doing business. On completion of reforms facilitating ease of doing business, these 12 states have been granted additional borrowing permission of Rs 28,183 crore, the statement added.

Government’s bank privatisation plan

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday said the government will work with the Reserve Bank for the execution of the bank privatisation plan announced in the budget. Read MoreIn the union budget presented last week, Sitharaman had announced the privatisation of two banks as part of its disinvestment plan. Bank unions have opposed the move.

Retail Investors can invest in GSec with RBI

In the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) monetary policy announcement made earlier, the RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said that retail investors will be given online access to the government securities market – both primary and secondary- along with the facility to open their gilt securities accounts –with the RBI. This facility will be called Retail Direct. Read MoreThe details of the facility will be announced later. This is not the first time that the RBI has encouraged retail investors to invest in g-secs. So far, there has been a lukewarm response. But experts predict that the latest move ought to bring in more retail investors in the g-secs market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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