Current Affairs summary 21 Aug

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1. Chandrayaan-1 data confirms presence of ice on Moon: NASA

• Scientists have found frozen water deposits in the darkest and coldest parts of the Moon’s polar region using data from the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft that was launched by India 10 years ago, NASA said.

• With enough ice sitting at the surface – within the top few milimetres – water would possibly be accessible as a resource for future expeditions to explore and even stay on the Moon, and potentially easier to access than the water detected beneath the Moon’s surface.

• The ice deposits are patchily distributed and could possibly be ancient, according to the study published in the journal PNAS.

• At the southern pole, most of the ice is concentrated at lunar craters, while the northern pole’s ice is more widely, but sparsely spread.

• Scientists used data from NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument to identify three specific signatures that definitively prove there is water ice at the surface of the Moon.

• M3, aboard the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, launched in 2008 by the Indian Space Research Organization, was uniquely equipped to confirm the presence of solid ice on the Moon.

• It collected data that not only picked up the reflective properties we would expect from ice, but was also able to directly measure the distinctive way its molecules absorb infrared light, so it can differentiate between liquid water or vapour and solid ice.

• Most of the new-found water ice lies in the shadow of craters near the poles, where the warmest temperatures never reach above minus 156 degree Celsius.

• Due to the very small tilt of the Moon’s rotation axis, sunlight never reaches these regions.

• Previous observations indirectly found possible signs of surface ice at the lunar south pole, but these could have been explained by other phenomena, such as unusually reflective lunar soil.

• Learning more about the ice, how it got there, and how it interacts with the larger lunar environment will be a key mission focus for NASA and commercial partners, as humans endeavor to return to and explore the Moon.


2. Credit registry: RBI Act may need tweak

• The Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, may need to be amended to facilitate the setting of a public credit registry (PCR).

• The PCR is planned as an extensive database of credit information for all credit products in the country from point of origination of credit to its termination.

• Its main benefit would be to provide lenders with a 360-degree view of the borrower’s outstanding credits and past performance. This would allow better screening at the time of providing credit and superior monitoring during the life of the borrowing.

• There are some legal issues around setting up the PCR. While the PCR is initially being set up within the existing RBI infrastructure, the fact that the RBI as a statutory corporation can only engage in those activities that are permitted by the RBI Act, or other relevant legislation, creates complications.

• In addition to its core central banking functions, RBI also performs certain promotional functions which is only limited to ‘financial institutions’.

• Since no financing activity is contemplated for the proposed PCR, it might be difficult to label PCR as a ‘financing institutions.’ This takes it out of the purview of a promotion under the Reserve bank of India Act, 1934.

==> Other Options

• Another option, would be to promote an organization for a matter incidental to the functions of RBI – as part of the RBI Act or Banking Regulations Act, 1949.

• Collection of information, including credit information, from regulated entities is an important aspect of the RBI’s regulatory and supervisory functions and hence such an activity could be done by setting up a subsidiary or a department.

• Otherwise, the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, can be suitably amended conferring the Reserve Bank powers to conduct the business of PCR.

• In October 2017, RBI had set up a high-level task force chaired by Y M Deosthalee to review the availability of information on credit and assess the gaps.

• The task force submitted its report on April 4, 2018, recommending that a PCR should be set up by the RBI in a phased and modular manner.


3. BIMSTEC envoys bat for FTA

• BIMSTEC suffers from a ‘lack of visibility’ in the region, said the envoys of seven-member countries who form the ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation,’ who also called for the speedy conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement within the group comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand.

• PM Modi will join the summit of leaders from BIMSTEC countries in Kathmandu on August 30-31 and hold bilateral talks with most of them, including Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina and Nepal PM K P Oli.

• At an event organized by business chamber FICCI just ahead of the summit envoys of BIMSTEC countries said the FTA should be the top priority for them.

• “It is really disappointing that we are yet to finalize and conclude the FTA which was negotiated in 2004. We need to expedite the BIMSTEC FTA to boost our intra-regional trade from its present level of 7% to 21%,” said Bangladesh High Commissioner Syed Muazzem Ali.

• “The visibility of BIMSTEC needs to be enhanced in a region where already a few other regional cooperation groups like ASEAN, SAARC, SASEC are in place,” he added.

• Even for the framework (2004) it took seven years. It is easy to negotiate an FTA between two countries. India and Sri Lanka have it. But when seven countries are involved maybe it is not so easy.

• Others added that at present the negotiations of the 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), due to be completed by the end of 2018, were taking precedence.

• The envoys also spoke about the need for the upcoming summit to promote security issues including ‘terrorism and violent extremism’ in the region.

• “Terrorism is the most significant threat in the Bay of Bengal region as well as South East Asia and we call for more cooperation amongst the member states on this issue,” said Myanmar Ambassador Moe Kyaw Aung.

• Thailand’s Ambassador Chutintorn Gongsakdi pointed out that the India-Myanmar Thailand Trilateral Highway had not been completed, which is crucial to trade movement between the countries.


4. Banks opening accounts using Aadhaar copy without biometric/OTP check will be liable for loss: UIDAI

• A bank account cannot be opened merely on the basis of submission of a physical Aadhaar card or its photocopy without biometric or OTP authentication by the bank, according to the UIDAI.

• Under the PML Rules and RBI circulars, to open a bank account, the bank is required to do biometric or OTP authentication and other due diligence before accepting Aadhaar for banking transaction or KYC.

• So, no one can open a bank account in your name without your verification through biometric/OTP etc., as per FAQs released by the authority today. If however, a bank Account is opened by accepting Aadhaar without biometric or OTP authentication and other verification, then the bank will be held responsible for any loss.

• An Aadhaar holder cannot be held responsible for bank’s fault. It is just like if some fraudster opens a bank account by presenting someone else’s voter card/ Ration Card, it is the bank that would be held responsible not the voter or ration card holder. Till date, no Aadhaar holder has suffered any financial loss on account of such misuse.

• The above clarification was given in response to the question what happened if some fraudster who obtains a copy of my Aadhaar card and tries to open a bank account in my name without my knowledge. Will I not be harmed?

• One must keep in mind that a bank account cannot be opened merely on the presentation or submission of a physical Aadhaar card or its photocopy. Under the PML Rules and RBI circulars, to open a bank account, the bank is required to do biometric or OTP authentication and other due diligence before accepting Aadhaar for banking transaction or KYC. So no one can open a bank account in your name without your verification through biometric/OTP etc.

• If, however, a bank account is opened by accepting Aadhaar without biometric or OTP authentication and other verification, then the bank will be held responsible for any loss. An Aadhaar card holder cannot be held responsible for bank’s fault.


5. MiG to partner with HAL, says will be most cost effective

• Preparing to take another shot at a mega Make in India contest for new fighter jets, Russian manufacturer MiG has said that it will partner with state owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to make an offer and believes that it will be at least 20 percent more cost effective than any of its competitors.

• The Russian aviation giant, which has been the largest supplier of fighter jets to India in the past, is offering its MiG 35 jet for an upcoming contest for 110 combat aircraft. While the fighter jet did not quality in technical trials in a past contest for a medium combat jet by the Indian air force, its manufacturers say that they are offering a ‘completely new aircraft’ with an upgraded radar and 50 percent more combat potential.

• Revealing its Indian partner for the upcoming contest for the first time, senior executive of Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation Victor chernov says that tying up with HAL will help it leverage existing production facilities in Nasik.

• The MiG 35 will compete with jets like the Dassault Rafale, Eurofigher Typhoon, Boeing F/A 18, Lockheed Martin F 16 and Saab Gripen for the upcoming Indian contract that is based on setting up a new fighter jet production line in India with transfer of technology. The plan is to select a foreign manufacturer to produce a jet in India with a local partner that can absorb technology. Companies like Tata, Mahindra, Adani and Reliance Defence are in contention to be local partners for the mega project that is likely to exceed $20 billion.

• MiG says that it has responded to an Indian request for information for the project and is offering an ‘updated aircraft’ that will have a new range of missiles and weapons.

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Hemant Bhatt

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