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May 28, 2020

Meet the new President of New Development Bank (NDB) - Marcos Troyjo

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India's KV Kamath's five-year term as the president of the New Development Bank (NDB) came to an end today. He is going to be replaced by Marcos Troyjo of Brazil, as the new President of NDB. Elections for the post were held during a special meeting of the bank’s board of governors today. Marcos is currently working as Brazil's Deputy Minister of the Economy and also in charge of Foreign Trade & International Affairs. He is Brazil's Alternate Governor at the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and a representative at board level in many other multilateral development institutions.

India’s Anil Kishora has been appointed as NDB’s new Vice-President and Chief Risk Officer. Kamath, who took over in 2015, was responsible for the bank’s swift response in launching the Covid-19 Emergency Programme Loan product. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who attended the meeting, commended the NDB on funding infrastructure and other projects that positively impacted the development agenda of its member-nations, including India. 

About NDB
The New Development Bank, which was earlier BRICS Development Bank, was established by the BRICS States (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Since its establishment in 2014, the NDB has approved an amount of $16.6 billion for 55 projects. The idea for setting up the bank was proposed by India to the BRICS nations in 2012, after which it was set up with headquarters in Shanghai. 

Note : India's Anil Kishora will be the new vice-president of NDB.

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May 22, 2020

RBI cuts Repo Rate by 40 basis points to 4% : Highlights

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The Monetary Policy Committee of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) headed by Governor Shaktikanta Das has cut the Repo rate by 40 basis points to 4% from 4.40%.  Repo rate is the rate at which banks borrow from the RBI. RBI last reduced the repo rate by 75 bps on 22nd March 2020 as the lockdown started. The Reverse repo rate is now at 3.35% and the Bank rate stands reduced to 4.25%. The MPC was forced to meet ahead of its 3-5 June scheduled meeting as liquidity continued to be tight in the money market, despite the central banks' previous steps of cutting interest rates and various policy measures. Here are the major highlights of Today's RBI Governor Press Conference.

  • Repo rate cut by 40 basis points
  • Reverse Repo gets adjusted to 3.35 percent.
  • Loan moratorium extended for 3 months
  • Headline inflation could stay firm in first half of 2020, but soften thereafter. If inflation trajectory evolves as expected, space will open up for more rate cuts.
  • India GDP growth in 2020-21 is estimated to remain in negative territory.
  • Regulatory measures to support exports, imports, states.
  • Term loan moratorium extension for another three months till August 31.
  • Accumulated interest for moratorium period can be converted into a term loan. It does not have to be repaid immediately after moratorium ends
  • Group exposure limit for lenders increased to 30 percent from 25 percent
  • Note : 1 bps is one hundredth of a percentage point.

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May 19, 2020

Attackers target Co-operative Banks using Covid 19 Trojan Malware

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Researchers at Seqrite, the enterprise arm of IT security firm Quick Heal Technologies, have warned that the attackers have launched a Trojan Malware campaign titled Adwind Java Remote Access Trojan (RAT) Campaign to target Co-Operative Banks in India.  If attackers are successful, they can take over the victim’s device to steal sensitive data like SWIFT logins and customer details and move laterally to launch large scale cyberattacks and financial frauds.

What is Adwind Java Remote Access Trojan (RAT) campaign and How they Hack Bank's Computers ?

Attackers are sending phishing emails using COVID-19 as a decoy. Those emails claiming to be from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) or any other Nationalised bank with the title consisting "COVID-19 guidelines or a Financial Transaction" with an attachment zip file containing a JAR based malware. The malware can take over users' devices, steal their information and carry out financial fraud.  The JAR based malware is a Remote Access Trojan that can run on any machine which has Java runtime enabled and hence it can impact a variety of endpoints, irrespective of their base operating system.

Once the Remote Access Trojan (RAT) is installed, the attacker can take over the victim’s device, send commands from a remote machine, and spread laterally in the network. In addition, this malware can also log keystrokes, capture screenshots, download additional payloads, and extract sensitive user information, Seqrite said, adding that such attack campaigns can effectively jeopardize the privacy and security of sensitive data at the co-operative banks and result in large scale attacks and financial frauds.

How to Prevent These Malware Attacks ?

To prevent such attacks, users need to exercise ample caution and avoid opening attachments and clicking on web links in unsolicited emails.  Banks should also keep their operating systems updated and have a full-fledged security solution installed on all the devices. They need to check the email of the sender properly (whether it is from the official sender who claims to be) before clicking on them.

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May 13, 2020

Atmanirbhar Bharat : Indian Govt's measures to support Indian Economy against COVID-19 with Rs 20 lakh crore package

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday announced a Special economic and comprehensive package of Rs 20 lakh crores - equivalent to 10% of India’s GDP amid the coronavirus pandemic. He gave a clarion call for आत्मनिर्भर भारत अभियान or Self-Reliant India Movement.  He also outlined 5 pillars of Aatmanirbhar Bharat :
  1. Economy
  2. Infrastructure
  3. System
  4. Vibrant Demography 
  5. Demand
During the press conference today, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the definition of MSMEs has been revised. Investment limit has been revised upwards and additional criteria of turnover has been introduced. Further, the distinction between manufacturing and service sector has been eliminated.

The investment limit of ₹25 lakh for micro units has been increased to ₹1 crore. To provide more funds at the disposal of taxpayers, the Government has also reduced TDS rates for non-salaried payments and TCS rates by 25% till March 31, 2021.  Due date of all income tax returns for the Financial Year 2019-20 will be extended from July 31, 2020 and October 31, 2020 to November 30, 2020. Furthermore, tax audit getting barred on September 30, 2020 has been extended to October 31, 2020. Date of those assessments getting barred on March 31, 2021 will be extended to September 30, 2021. 

Sitharaman announced a Special Liquidity Scheme worth ₹30,000 crore for NBFCs, HFCs and MFIs as they have been struggling to raise capital amid COVID-19. Here are some important measures taken by government for relief and credit support related to businesses, especially MSMEs to support Indian Economy’s fight against COVID-19
  • Due Dates for various tax relatedcompliances extended
  • EPF Contribution to be reduced for Employers and Employees for 3 months to 10% from 12% for all establishments covered by EPFO for next 3 months
  • Extending the Employees Provident Fund Support for business and organised workers for another 3 months for salary months of June, July and August 2020
  • New Definition of MSME and other Measures for MSME
  • No Global tenders for Government tenders of uptoRs 200 crore
  • Reduction in Rates of ‘Tax Deduction at Source’ and ‘Tax Collected at Source” by 25% for the remaining period of FY 20-21
  • Relief to Contractors given by extension of up to six months for completion of contractual obligations, including in respect of EPC and concession agreements
  • Relief to Real Estate Projects the registration and completion date for all registered projects will be extended up to six months.
  • Rs 20,000 crore Subordinate Debt for Stressed MSMEs
  • Rs 3 lakh crore Emergency Working Capital Facility for Businesses, including MSMEs
  • Rs 50,000 crore equity infusion through MSME Fund of Funds
  • Rs 90,000 crore Liquidity Injection for DISCOMs
  • Rs. 30,000 crore Special Liquidity Scheme for NBFC/HFC/MFIs
  • Rs. 45,000 crore Partial credit guarantee Scheme 2.0 for Liabilities of NBFCs/MFIs
  • Tax relief to business as pending income tax refunds to charitable trusts and non-corporate businesses and professions to be issued immediately
Download the Presentation made by Finance Minister under Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan to support Indian economy in fight against COVID-19 from HERE

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May 05, 2020

Indian Navy launches Operation “Samudra Setu” : Important Details you should know

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To repatriate citizens who have stuck overseas due to Covid 19 outbreak, the Indian Navy today launched a new operation titled "Operation Samudra Setu" (meaning 'Sea Bridge'). As part of this operation (Phase I), the navy already sent Indian Naval Ships Jalashwa and Magar to the port of Malè, Republic of Maldives. These ships will start evacuation operations from 8th May 2020.

The Indian Mission in Republic of Maldives is preparing a list of Indian nationals to be evacuated by Naval ships and will facilitate their embarkation after requisite medical screening. A total of 1000 persons are planned to be evacuated during the first trip, catering for COVID- related social distancing norms vis-a-vis the carrying capacity and medical facilities available onboard.

The ships have been suitably provisioned for the evacuation operation. The evacuated personnel would be provided the basic amenities and medical facilities during the sea-passage. In view of the unique challenges associated with COVID-19 stringent protocols have also been stipulated.The evacuated personnel will be disembarked at Kochi, Kerala and entrusted to the care of State authorities. 

The name 'Operation Samudra Setu' comes from the ancient Indian Sanskrit epic Ramayana where lord Rama and his Vanara army construct Setu (Bridge) to reach Lanka and rescue Sita. The Operation Samudra Setu is being progressed in close coordination with Ministries of Defence, External Affairs, Home Affairs, Health and various other agencies of the Government of India and State governments.

About INS Jalashwa :

  • Meaning 'Hippopotamus', INS Jalashwa is Indian Navy's amphibious transport dock.
  • INS  Jalashwa is the only Indian naval ship to be acquired from the United States.
  • It is based in Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) under the Eastern Naval Command.
  • Acquired on : 17th January 2007
  • Commissioned on : 22nd June 2007

About INS Magar

  • Meaning 'Crocodile', INS Magar is Indian Navy's amphibious warfare ship.
  • It was built by Hindustan Shipyard Limited, Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, Kolkata.
  • It is based in Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) under the Eastern Naval Command.
  • Commissioned on : 15th July 1987
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Complete Pulitzer Prize 2020 Winners List

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American novelist Colson Whitehead has won the 2020 Pultizer Prize in Fiction category for his book titled "The Nickel Boys". With this, the 50 year old became only the 4th writer ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction twice. Earlier, he won the prestegious prize in the year 2017 for his book 'Underground Railroad' in same category (fiction). Before him, only Booth Tarkington, William Faulkner and John Updike had won the Pulitzer for fiction twice. Indian photographers Channi Anand, Mukhtar Khan and Dar Yasin of The Associated Press have also won the prize for Feature Photography for their coverage of Jammu and Kashmir lockdown after Article 370 was revoked. Here is the complete list of winners for the year 2020.

Pulitzer Prize Winners Full List

2020 Pulitzer Prize for Letters, Drama and Music Winners

  • Biography - Sontag: Her Life and Work, by Benjamin Moser
  • Drama - A Strange Loop, by Michael R. Jackson
  • Fiction - The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead
  • General Nonfiction - The Undying: Pain, Vulnerability, Mortality, Medicine, Art, Time, Dreams, Data, Exhaustion, Cancer, and Care, by Anne Boyer and The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America, by Greg Grandin
  • History - Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America, by W. Caleb McDaniel
  • Music - The Central Park Five, by Anthony Davis
  • Poetry - The Tradition, by Jericho Brown
  • Special Citation - Ida B. Wells

Pulitzer Prize 2020 Winners for Journalism Winners

  • Audio Reporting  - This American Life
  • Breaking News Photography  - The photography staff of Reuters
  • Breaking News Reporting  - Staff of The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.
  • Commentary  - Nikole Hannah-Jones of The New York Times
  • Criticism  - Christopher Knight of the Los Angeles Times
  • Editorial Cartooning  - Barry Blitt, contributor, The New Yorker
  • Editorial Writing  - Jeffery Gerritt of the Palestine (Tx.) Herald Press
  • Explanatory Reporting  - Staff of The Washington Post
  • Feature Photography  - Channi Anand, Mukhtar Khan and Dar Yasin, The Associated Press
  • Feature Writing  - Ben Taub of The New Yorker
  • International Reporting  - Staff of The New York Times
  • Investigative Reporting  - Brian M. Rosenthal of The New York Times
  • Local Reporting  - Staff of The Baltimore Sun
  • National Reporting  -  T. Christian Miller, Megan Rose and Robert Faturechi of ProPublica; Dominic Gates, Steve Miletich, Mike Baker and Lewis Kamb of The Seattle Times
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May 04, 2020

To fight Covid 19 pandemic DRDO develops UV Disinfection Tower

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To fight Covid 19 pandemic, India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed an equipment titled UV Blaster. This is an Ultra Violet (UV) Disinfection Tower used for rapid and chemical free disinfection of high infection prone areas. 

The UV Blaster is useful for high tech surfaces like electronic equipment, computers and other gadgets in laboratories and offices that are not suitable for disinfection with chemical methods. The product is also effective for areas with large flow of people such as airports, shopping malls, metros, hotels, factories, offices, etc.

This UV based area sanitiser has been designed and developed by the Laser Science & Technology Centre (LASTEC), one of the cluster laboratories of DRDO with the help of M/s New Age Instruments and Materials Private Limited, Gurugram.

The UV based area sanitiser may be used by remote operation through laptop/mobile phone using wifi link. The equipment has six lamps each with 43 watts of UV-C power at 254 nm wavelength for 360 degree illumination. For a room of about 12 x 12 feet dimension, the disinfection time is about 10 minutes and 30 minutes for 400 square feet area by positioning the equipment at different places within the room.

This sanitiser switches off on accidental opening of room or human intervention. One more salient safety feature of the product is the key to arm operation.

About DRDO :
  • Full Form : Defence Research and Development Organisation
  • Headquarters : New Delhi
  • Formation Year : 1958
  • Motto : Strength's Origin is in Science
  • Chairman : G. Satheesh Reddy
  • Responsible Minister : Rajnath Singh (Defence)
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May 03, 2020

Important Details you should know about Lifeline Udan initiative

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After PM Modi announced the Nationwide Lockdown on 24th March 2020 the Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep S. Puri has launched an initiative titled 'Lifeline Udan'. The main aim of Lifeline Udan is to ensure the steady supply of essentials, even in the most remote locations.

Under Lifeline Udan initiative, 430 flights have been operated by Air India, Alliance Air, IAF and private carriers. 252 of these flights have been operated by Air India and Alliance Air. Cargo transported till date is around 795.86 tons.  Aerial distance covered by Lifeline Udan flights till date is over 4,21,790 km.‘Lifeline Udan’ flights are being operated by MoCA to transport essential medical cargo to remote parts of the country to support India’s war against COVID-19.

Helicopter services including Pawan Hans Ltd have been operating in remote locations like J&K, Ladakh, Islands and North East region transporting critical medical cargo and patients. Till date it has carried 2.27 tons of cargo covering a distance of 7,729 kms.  Special focus has been on the North East Region, island territories and the hill states.  

Domestic Cargo Operators SpiceJet, Blue Dart, Indigo and Vistara are operating cargo flights on a commercial basis.

Under Lifeline Udan, a cargo air-bridge was also established with East Asia for transportation of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and Covid-19 relief material. 899 tons of medical cargo was brought in by Air India from East Asia. 

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