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 Third- 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

BJP’s plan to counter farmers’ protests

BJP has now decided to step up its political activity against the farmers’ protests. They are now planning to launch a political campaign in states like Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, where it believes people’s consolidation against the farm laws could harm its electoral prospects. On February 16 BJP president and Union home minister met top leaders of the party from these regions dominated by the Jat community, to come up with a plan to control possible damages in the future. Read MoreThe BJP believes that the farmers’ protests may affect the party’s chances in at least 40 seats in north India. The most imminent worry staring at BJP is the way several decidedly anti-government, anti-BJP kisan mahapanchayats in Haryana, western UP and Rajasthan have seen the participation of all communities in recent weeks.

Warnings On China’s Espionage, Political Influence In Democratic Countries

The intelligence agencies in the Netherlands, Finland and Canada have expressed concern about China’s espionage and political influence in democratic countries. According to their report, China’s cyber-espionage poses an “imminent threat” to the economy of The Netherlands, in sectors such as banking, energy and infrastructure. Similarly, the director of the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service, said that the authoritarian countries (referring to China and Russia) are “trying to get hold of Finland’s critical infrastructure” adding that Huawei should not be allowed to build the 5G networks in Finland. Read MoreCanadian Security Intelligence Service Director said that China is “pursuing a strategy for geopolitical advantage on all fronts — economic, technological, political, and military. “ Several countries have refused to allow Huawei for building 5G Network amid continuous human rights abuses by Beijing authorities.

African Union urges Somalia to avoid narrow partisan political interests

The African Union (AU) on February 19 called on the entire Somalia political class to act in the interests of Somalia by avoiding narrow partisan political interests. The current violence poses a serious threat to the Somali Transition Plan (STP). Read MoreThe AU chairperson condemned all forms of violence and called on Somalia stakeholders to refrain from acts that might jeopardize peace and security in the country and urged all relevant Somalia stakeholders to avoid taking unilateral actions that might undermine efforts to effectively confront and degrade al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups.

Harris taps growing political power of women lawmakers

US Vice President met with female Democratic lawmakers and activists on February 18 to boost support for the White House’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill, highlighting the growing political power of women in Congress. The virtual meeting focused on how women have been affected by job losses, small business closures and a lack of childcare as well as how Biden’s plan will address these issues. The Vice President, earlier, met with Black Chambers of Commerce and Black mayors at a meeting convened by the African American Mayors Association to talk about Covid-19 relief, Read Moreand this week held a call with the French President. The Vice President’s meeting occurred as Congress has more female members than ever before, with 27% of all seats, more than double the number in 2001.

Joe Biden’s Indian-American Pick In Political Peril

US Democratic Senator announced on February 19 that he will oppose the confirmation of Neera Tanden, Joe Biden’s pick to lead the budget at the White House, potentially sinking her chances. Tanden, the first woman of Indian descent to be appointed to head the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has been the target of bipartisan criticism since Biden nominated her in November. The OMB is a powerful department responsible for developing the president’s budget and evaluating the projects and expenditures of his department secretaries. Read MoreTanden, chief executive of the Center for American Progress, has been an outspoken critic of the former President. Some supporters of Bernie Sanders accuse Tanden of helping former first lady Hillary Clinton thwart the Vermont senator’s 2016 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Science and Technology

Hubble Captures an Eye in the Sky – “Evil Eye” Galaxy With Strange Internal Motion

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope Picture of the Week features NGC4826 — a spiral galaxy located 17 million light-years away in the constellation of Coma Berenices (Berenice’s Hair). This galaxy is often referred to as the “Black Eye,” or “Evil Eye,” galaxy because of the dark band of dust that sweeps across one side of its bright nucleus. Read MoreNGC4826 is known by astronomers for its strange internal motion. This galaxy was first discovered in 1779 by the English astronomer Edward Pigott.

NASA scientists find outer boundary of solar system, call it hydrogen wall

The scientists working at NASA think that they have found the outer boundary of our solar system. It was earlier thought to be not properly defined. Now, they have said that their New Horizons spacecraft can see that invisible boundary. Read MoreThey have named it the “hydrogen wall.” It is located at the edge of our solar system.

Researchers find world’s first warm-blooded fish

Researchers have discovered a first fully warm-blooded fish that circulates heated blood throughout its body much like mammals and birds.The silvery fish, roughly the size of a large automobile tire, is known from oceans around the world and dwells hundreds of feet beneath the surface in chilly, dimly lit waters. Read MoreThe warm-blooded opah or moonfish swims by rapidly flapping its large, red pectoral fins like wings through the water, giving it a competitive advantage in the cold ocean depths, reported the team from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries (NOAA Fisheries)

YouTube Android App Gets 4K HDR Streaming Support

YouTube Android app has now gained 4K HDR playback support. 4K support has been available on iOS for a while and now Android users can also watch videos in 4K HDR, provided they are uploaded at that resolution or higher, and support HDR. Up until now, Android users could only watch videos on the YouTube app at a maximum 1440p resolution. Read MoreThis was the case even if their display supported higher resolutions on their phones, and the video was uploaded in 4K. However, that has changed with the latest update for 4K HDR support.

Passport Services Integrated With DigiLocker for Paperless Documentation

Inaugurating the “DigiLocker” platform for the “Passport Seva Programme” of the Ministry of External Affairs, Union minister V Muraleedharan on Friday said it would enable citizens to submit the documents required for passport services in a paperless mode and they would not be required to carry the original documents. Read MoreSpeaking at the event, the minister of state for external affairs said the “Passport Seva Programme” has brought in huge transformation towards the delivery of passport services in the country.

Business

Biswamohan Mahapatra resigns as Chairman at Ujjivan Small Finance Bank; Stock dips 2%

Ujjivan Small Finance Bank, an Indian small finance bank has informed the exchange about some changes in the Board of Directors of the company. The Finance Bank informed the resignation of Biswamohan Mahapatra, Part-Time Chairman and Independent Director of the Bank. Read MoreThe Bank has received a letter from Biswamohan Mahapatra tendering his resignation as Part-Time Chairman and Independent Director of the Bank with effect from the close of business hours on 19th February 2021. The Bank has accepted the resignation and has appreciated his valuable contribution to the Board and to the Bank.

Jalan-Kalrock consortium plans to keep Jet listed, brand unchanged

The consortium consisting of asset management firm Kalrock Capital and entrepreneur Murari Lal Jalan, who are currently awaiting an approval from The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to restart operations at Jet Airways (India) Ltd, will continue to operate the airline as a publicly listed company. The consortium hopes to re-start operations within four to six months of getting an approval from the tribunal, which is set to hear the resolution plan. Read MoreThe new promoters will keep the ‘Jet Airways’ brand intact and also induct some of the older staff into the airline. Jet Airways under new promoters will start operations with about 25 aircraft fleet, with a base at New Delhi (NCR) and restart international flights by the end of the year.

Post deleveraging, Reliance has upper hand in Aramco deal talks

In 2020, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) set deal street on fire with large stake sales in its telecom and retail businesses and a rights issue. A news report now suggests that fundraising and deleveraging will continue in 2021, through a deal in the oil-to-chemicals business (O2C). A report said that RIL’s talks with Saudi Aramco for a stake sale in its refining and petrochemcials business are back on track. Read MoreThe deal has been in the works for around two years now, and was the first mega deal announced to shed weight in the RIL balance sheet.

CarDekho plans to raise funds to expand its used car retail business

CarDekho, the online portal for new and used car sales, plans to raise funds to expand its used car retail business in certain metro and non-metro cities, said Amit Jain, co-founder and CEO of the startup. However, CarDekho is yet to decide on an investment bank to conduct the fundraising round. Read MoreAccording to Jain, the amount raised will be more than what CarDekho had managed in the previous rounds.

Ikea gets 50,000 sqm land for Noida’s Sector 51 facility; UP govt gets ₹850 cr

As Ikea plans to open its first shopping centre in India, the furniture giant was  handed over a land parcel measuring nearly 50,000 sq metres in Noida’s Sector 51. The Swedish furniture giant is set to start its first retail outlet in Uttar Pradesh. TRead Morehis project is expected to create more job opportunities, support infrastructure development, and growth of the organised retail and home furnishings sector in the region, the firm stated.

Economics

Infrastructure sector crucial for India’s economic growth

According to the estimates of a recent report – India will require a whopping Rs 50 trillion in infrastructure by 2022 for sustainable development in the country and also showcasing a plethora of opportunities for foreign investors to invest in the country’s infrastructure development. Furthermore, the estimates shared by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade suggest FDIs in the construction development and infrastructure activities stood at US$ 17.22 billion in September 2020. Read MoreThe Indian government plans to spend USD 1.4 trillion during 2019 – 2023 on infrastructure with an investment of USD 750 billion on railways infrastructure by 2030. As per the recent budget, the government has announced the allocation of about Rs 1.07 Lakh crore to the Ministry of Railways and Rs 25,933 crore to the Department of Telecommunications for capital expenditure.

Bihar records 10.5% growth rate in 2019-20

Bihar recorded a 10.5% growth rate in 2019-20, higher than the growth rate of the Indian economy. Constant prices are a way of measuring economic change considering a year as base year(in this case, it is 2011-12), giving the real Gross State Domestic Product growth. Among the three major sectors the tertiary sector(the service sector including retail, financial services, hospitality, real estate, etc.) recorded a noticeable increase in its share—up from 57.3% in 2013-14 to 60.2% in 2019-20, largely due to growth in road transport and other services. Read MoreThe report shows financial management in the state was within the prescribed limits of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act (FRBMA), 2006, with the gross fiscal deficit as a percentage of the GSDP at 2% and the revenue account in surplus during 2019-20, lower than 2.7% in 2018-19.

Health breaks into the economic mainstream

The Economic Survey has two chapters on health which is a first. The shift is undoubtedly shaped by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to contract by 7.5% in 2020-21 due to the impact of the lockdown on jobs and businesses. FFC’s interim report highlighted the centrality of health for productivity and growth-enhancing human capital. There are two key implications of this shift-first, increasing, policy importance will be accorded to health; budgeted expenditure on health increased by 75% to over ₹1.2 lakh crore, even after excluding allocations for drinking water and sanitation and second, there will be greater scrutiny and thinking around how and where funds are spent. There is a broader conception of health and well-being in Budget 2021-22 and this includes drinking water and sanitation. Read MoreThe allocation for drinking water and sanitation has increased from ₹21,000 crore in 2020-21(BE) to ₹96,000 crore in 2021-22(BE), including FFC grants. The finance ministry has accepted FFC’s recommendation for local government grants to improve primary health service provision.

Cash-strapped states threaten India’s double-digit growth goal

Prime Minister’s plan to boost capital expenditure risks being derailed by the nation’s cash-strapped states. The nation’s 28 states, which account for about 60% of total government expenditure on infrastructure and asset creation, are crippled by declining tax revenue and the cost of fighting the pandemic. Modi’s government this month proposed boosting capital expenditure by 26% to 5.54 trillion rupees next fiscal year, hoping the multiplier effect of such spending will result in a world-beating double-digit expansion for the economy that’s headed for its biggest contraction this year. RBI estimates that every one rupee spent by the federal government will lead to an increase in GDP by 3.14 rupees, while similar spending by states will boost output by 2 rupees. But states aren’t spending enough. Capital expenditure of 17 key states contracted 23.5% in the nine months to December from a year ago. Read MoreThat gap can knock off 3.6 trillion rupees from economic output whereas additional spending by the federal government in the current year would add just 848 billion rupees. A cut by states may “dampen” some of the impact of the federal stimulus measures.

FM urges industry to unleash animal spirits

Finance Minister exhorted India Inc to unleash animal spirits and bring in fresh investment to make India one of the fastest growing economies. Speaking to industry leaders at an All India Management Association event, the FM said that the government has taken several steps including reduction in corporate tax rate to facilitate investment. “I would like now, to see private investors and private industry in India coming forward with that, so called animal spirits to show that it is possible for India (to be) one of the fastest growing economies,” she said. Read MoreThe expression ‘animal spirits’ was coined by celebrated economist John Maynard Keynes to refer to investors’ confidence in taking action in terms of investment.

Finance

Petrol, diesel price hike

Fuel prices in India have witnessed a steep climb since the past two weeks. Petrol and diesel prices in India rose for the 12th consecutive day on Saturday – petrol price was hiked by record 39 paise per litre and diesel by 37 paise a litre.Commenting on the hike in fuel price, finance minister said, “It’s a vexatious issue in which no answer except for fall in fuel price will convince anyone.” “Read MoreIt is also a fact that (global) crude rate has been recovering from November,” she added. The OPEC is also likely to cut output, “further aggravating the stress on price”.

Union Bank of India, Syndicate Bank post highest UPI failure rates

Union Bank of India continued to witness the highest failure rate for UPI transactions among India’s top 30 UPI remitter banks due to technical reasons in January – from 10.75% technical decline (TD) in December, the failure rate jumped to 12.89% in January for Union Bank of India. Andhra Bank and Indian Bank recorded the second and third highest TD rate of 10.40% and 9.83% respectively in January. Read MoreAmong the top 30 UPI beneficiary banks as well, Indian Bank recorded the second-highest TD rate of 5.50% while Syndicate Bank topped the tally with 8.65%. State Bank of India, which posted the highest TD rate of 9.08% in December, improved it to 1.52% in January.

Banning cryptocurrencies would be like banning Internet in 1990s and will set India back by years

Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on our economy leaving the majority of once-thriving industries in shambles. Crypto, on the contrary, has been generating jobs across a variety of functions in India and abroad. The Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021 – a bill that contemplates a ban on crypto assets in India – is among the list of bills to be presented in this Parliament session. Read MoreCrypto is the financial internet of the future, and over 1 crore Indians are already saving, earning, and investing in this thriving global crypto economy. Banning it would be like banning the Internet in the 1990s and will set India back by years while the rest of the world moves forward.

No capital infusion by Punjab National Bank in housing finance subsidiary

Punjab National Bank (PNB) will not participate in capital raise plans of its housing finance subsidiary, PNB Housing Finance, but the company will continue to scout for raising equity from other sources, according to a regulatory filing. Read MoreIn August last year, PNB Housing Finance Ltd had informed about its plan to raise tier I capital up to Rs 1,800 crore through various modes including QIP, preferential issue of shares or a rights issue.

About 1,000 Finance Firms Eying Post-Brexit Outposts in U.K.

Around 1,000 European Union finance firms are expected to open their first offices in the U.K. after losing their passporting rights because of Brexit. Roughly two-thirds of the 1,500 money managers, Read Morepayment firms and insurers that have applied for regulatory permission to continue operating in the U.K. previously had no physical operations in Britain, according to Financial Conduct Authority records obtained by Bovill, a financial consultancy.

 

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