Current affair of 15th August 2019

1. Reconstitution of Inter-State Council; PM Modi is the chairman

The Inter-State Council was reconstituted with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its chairman and 6 Union ministers and chief ministers as members.

Key highlights:
  1. The government reconstituted the standing committee of the Inter-State Council with the chairmanship of Home Minister Amit Shah. 4 Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman, Narendra Singh Tomar, Thaawar Chand Gehlot & Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and 8 chief ministers are the members.
  2. It will have consultation and recommend matters for consideration of the council, process all matters pertaining to Centre-state relations before they are taken up for consideration in the council, monitor the implementation of decisions taken on the recommendations of the council and consider any other matter referred to it by the council. 
  3. If necessary, it may invite experts and persons eminent in specific fields to have the benefit of their views while deliberating upon the related subjects.
2. CORAS of Indian railways launched by railway minister Piyush Goyal

CORAS (Commandos For Railway Security), a special railway unit for the Indian railways  and a new establishment manual for the Railway Protection Force(RPF) was launched by union Railway Minister Shri Piyush Goyal at a function in New Delhi railway station.

Key highlights:
  1. The CORAS induction was planned by the RPF and the CORAS team will be provided with the best modern equipment and world class training.
  2. A state of the art commando training centre is to be established in Jagadhri, Haryana.
  3. Commendable work of the RPF was appreciated by the railway minister and specially lauded the efforts of RPF soldier Shivranjan Gurjar who rescued 8 lives in flood hit Gujarat.
3. First ever space museum of India inaugurated at Hyderabad

The first space museum of India opening new attraction to space enthusiasts, was set up at Hyderabad in association with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The museum is housed in the Birla Science Museum.

Key highlights:
  1. The museum is housed in the Birla Science Museum. It gave Space of 9000 square feet to set up the space museum.
  2. It was inaugurated on the celebration on golden jubilee year of the Birla Archaeological and Cultural Research Institute (BACRI).
  3. The museum which is an initiative of BACRI aims to spread knowledge on science and technology and also as a way to encourage young students to explore the field.
4. Indian Institute of Skills (IIS) will be set up in Mumbai in association with the Tata Trust

Dr. Mahendra Nath Pandey, Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) stated that world-class Indian Institute of Skills (IIS) will be set up in Mumbai, Maharashtra in association with Tata Educational and Development Trust (TEDT) aimed at scaling up of skill training enabling the young generation to acquire skills at par with global standards.

Key highlights:
  1. P-P-P model: The Government has provided 4.5 acres of land for the project, which will be executed on a Public-Private Partnership (P-P-P)basis, where the TEDT will invest around Rs. 300 crore for the construction of IIS ,which will have a capacity to train 10,000 trainees in various areas including security, aerospace, iron and natural gas.
  2. The government also plans to set up 2 more institutes in Ahmedabad and Kanpur by 2022.
  3. Skilling of youth:  The state government of Maharashtra has made remarkable progress in skill development and has set the benchmark for other states by skilling a large number of the youth, farmers in way of skilling programs.
  4. Pandey also praised seven top-performing candidates from Maharashtra, who have made their way to WorldSkills 2019 (known as Olympics of Skills)  will be held in Kazan, Russia from August 21 -27, 2019. He also attended CII (Confederation of Indian Industry ) convention &discussed the role of corporate India in skill development and laid emphasis on increasing engagement with apprentices within the industry.
5.  Japanese defense ship “JS Sazanami“, visits Kochi on a 2-day goodwill visit

Japanese Ship, JS Sazanami, the fourth vessel of the Takanami class destroyers of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) commanded by Commander Shoji Ishkawa visited  Kochi on a 2-day goodwill visit from August 13 to 19, 2019.

Key highlights:
  1. Activities such as the visit of Indian Navy personnel onboard JS Sazanami and professional interaction between the two navies were conducted during the visit. The visiting team was also provided with a conducted tour of the Anti-Submarine Warfare School and the Naval Offshore Patrol Vessel, INS (Indian Navy Ship ) Sunayna.
  2. Shoji Ishkawa was accompanied by Koichiro Maeda , Coast Guard Superintendent, Commanding Officer of the Somalia Dispatch Team of the Japanese Coast Guard, and Captain Taiko Eda, Resident Defence Attaché of Japan at New Delhi, paid a visit with Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command.
  3. On August19,2019, JS Sazanami , which has about 25 officers, 156 sailors and 8 Japanese Coast Guard personnel (3 officers and 5 sailors) on board will depart for Bahrain from Kochi.
6. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar visit to Beijing, China

External Affairs Minister(EAM) of India Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar visited(3-day from August 11 to 13,2019)Beijing, China during which he had bilateral meetings with his counterpart Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi, Vice President Wang Qishan, 4th meeting of the India-China Media Forum on cultural and people-to-people exchanges & signed 5 MoUs(memorandum of understanding) during the visit.

Key highlights:
  1. To focus on the gamut of issues relating to the international situation, regional aspects, and the future India-China bilateral relations.
  2. EAM Jaishankar stated that the leaders of the 2 countries had agreed that “ Differences shouldn’t become disputes”, which come after the china refrained to Ladakh being made a Union Territory and asked the India& Pakistan to avoid action that increases bilateral tension.
  3. The 2nd Meeting of China-India High-Level Mechanism on Cultural and People-to-People Exchanges Held in Beijing, China co-chaired by Jai Shankar and his counterpart Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister.
  4. The meet reviewed the progress in the implementation of decisions on areas of education, culture and cultural relics protection, tourism, media, youth, sports, locality, film, and television, think tank and traditional medicine taken in the inaugural meeting of High-Level Mechanism which was held in New Delhi in 2018.
7. Centre issues guidelines for granting Rs 1 trillion credit guarantee for NBFCs

In a bid to help the Financially sound NBFCs (Non- Banking Financial Companies), including Housing Finance Companies (HFCs), which are facing stress following stocks of defaults, the Central Government has issued guidelines  of partial guarantee  scheme covering a maximum standard asset value of Rs 1 trillion under which state-run public-sector banks(PSBs) can purchase high-rated pooled assets  originated up to March 31, 2019, from NBFCs.

Key highlights:
  1. Guarantee: Central government will provide a one-time 6 months’ partial credit guarantee to PSBs for first loss of up to 10 %( valid for 24 months from the date of purchase).
  2. Reducing the stress:  This credit guarantee will address temporary asset-liability mismatches of NBFCs & help rework the Asset Liability structure within 3 months to have positive Asset Liability Management(ALM) in each bucket for the first 3 months and on cumulative basis for the remaining 3 month period.
  3. Buyback option: NBFCs have the option to buy back the assets after 12 months & at no time during the period for the exercise of the option to buy back the assets.
  4. Criteria: The credit rating of the pool of assets should be at least ‘AA’ or equivalent at fair value. Assets below that rating will not qualify under this guarantee.
  5. Ticket value: NBFCs registered with RBI /HFCs registered with National Housing Bank (NHB)will be only eligible & they should at best liquidate 20% of their standard assets as on March 31, 2019, which otherwise qualify as above subject to a maximum cap value of Rs 5,000 crore.
8. Reserve Bank asks banks not to count failed transactions, balance enquiry as ”free ATM transactions”

The country’s Central Bank, Reserve Bank of India(RBI) has asked banks not to count failed transactions at ATMs due to technical reasons (hardware and software issues, non-availability of cash, and any other reason attributable to the bank), as part of “free ATM transactions” , which are permitted every month.

Key highlights:
  1. Using ATMs (Automated Teller Machine) non-cash withdrawal transactions (such as balance enquiry, cheque book request, payment of taxes, funds transfer), which constitute ‘on-us’ transactions (when a card is used at an ATM of the bank which has issued the card) shall also not be part of the number of free ATM transactions facility given to the bank customer. RBI also notified that charges will not be levied in future.
  2. Background: Banks provide a certain number of free transactions at ATMs permitted every month to their customers and beyond that limit, it imposes charges.
9. AePS crosses milestone of 200 million transactions in July 2019: NPCI

Umbrella organisation for operating retail payments and settlement, National Payments Corporation of India(NPCI) has stated that Aadhaar enabled Payment System (AePS) used by a total of 6.65 crore Indian citizens stood at 220.18 million with transaction value Rs 9,685.35 crore during July 2019 against the transaction count of 194.33 million with  transaction value of Rs 8,867.33 crore in June 2019.

Key highlights:
  1. It allows a bank customer to use Aadhaar as an identity to access respective Aadhaar enabled bank account and perform basic banking transactions like cash withdrawal, intrabank or interbank fund transfer and balance enquiry.
  2. AePS transaction requires the name of the customer’s bank, Aadhaar number, and fingerprint captured during enrollment.
  3. 4As’ for financial inclusion: AePS delivers 4As’ for financial inclusion to a rural part of India which includes, authentication of customer, availability of services, accessibility through AePS channel and affordability as it’s free of cost to the customers.
  4. It also allows basic interoperable banking transactions at the point of sale (PoS)/MicroATM through which the Business Correspondent(BC) of any bank by using Aadhaar authentication.
10. Denmark’s Jyske Bank unveiled world’s first negative interest rate home loan

Denmark’s third-largest bank, Jyske Bank has launched the world’s first negative interest rate mortgage – handing out loans to homeowners where the charge is minus 0.5% a year. It has begun offering borrowers a 10-year deal at -0.5%.

Key highlights:
  1. Under its negative mortgage, Jyske bank borrowers will make a monthly repayment as usual – but the amount still outstanding will be reduced each month by more than the borrower has paid.
  2. Negative interest rates effectively mean that a bank pays a borrower to take money off their hands, so they pay back less than they have been loaned.
  3. Another Danish bank, Nordea will begin offering 20-year fixed-rate deals at 0% and a 30-year mortgage at 0.5%.
11. Assam’s rare variety tea from Dikom Tea Estate makes records for being sold at Rs.75,000 per kg

A rare tea variety of eastern Assam’s Dikom Tea Estate named “Golden Butterfly tea” created a record of being sold at Rs.75,000 per kg at the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC), Assam.

Key highlights:
  1. This golden butterfly tea surpassed previous record of sale of “Maijan Golden Tips” tea just by Rs.4,499. The Maijan Golden Tips was sold at Rs.70,501 per kg.
  2. The tea is actually handcrafted and is made from tender tea leaves and buds which are available only around June-July, thus raising its demand.  It is judged by its aroma, taste, and colour and this tea is characterised by extremely mellow and sweet caramel flavour
  3. The Dikom Tea Estate is situated near Eastern Assam’s Dibrugarh town.
12. IIT Hyderabad, NIT Jalandhar Researchers develop Bone Implant Materials From waste Eggshells

Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Hyderabad and Dr. B R Ambedkar National Institute of Technology (NIT) Jalandhar (Punjab) researchers have developed a process by which bone implant materials can be synthesized from eggshells which are dumped as waste.

Key highlights:
  1. Process: The team synthesized nanopowder, which is a hundred thousand times smaller than the width of a single human hair, from the eggshells, which are made of largely calcium-containing minerals (95.1%) along with small amounts of proteins and water.
  2. Benefits:  This will help people, who are affected in using synthetic chemicals as bone replacement materials because of the presence of chemical residues. Plaster of Paris is commonly used by people to heal bone defects but it is highly toxic.
  3. Publisher: The research work done by the team was published in the March 2019 issue of the journal Ceramics International.
  4. The research paper has been co-authored by Dr. Roopavath Uday Kiran, Dr. Subha Narayan Rath and Dr. Bharat B Panigrahi of IIT Hyderabad and Dr. Mahesh Kumar Sah of NIT Jalandhar.

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