1.India-Luxembourg (Prelims, GS II-International Relations)
Why in News?
Ø Recently, the Prime Ministers of India and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg have held the first-ever India-Luxembourg Virtual Summit.
Ø Both countries have cordial and friendly relations for over more than seven decades since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1948.
Outcomes of Meet
Ø Strengthening India-Luxembourg relationship in the post-Covid-19 world, especially in the areas of financial technology, green financing, space applications, digital innovations and start-ups.
Ø Strengthen cooperation on realising effective multilateralism and combating global challenges like the Covid-19 pandemic, terrorism and climate change.
Ø India welcomed Luxembourg’s announcement to join the International Solar Alliance (ISA), and also invited it to join the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).
Agreements Signed at the Summit
Ø Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India International Exchange (India INX) and Luxembourg Stock Exchange.
Ø MoU between State Bank of India (SBI) and Luxembourg Stock Exchange.
Ø Both these provide for cooperation in financial services, industry maintenance of orderly markets in securities, ESG (environmental, social and governance) and green finance in the local market.
Ø MoU between Invest India and Luxinnovation.
Ø It provides for support and development of mutual business cooperation, including promotion and facilitation of inbound FDI, coming from or proposed by Indian and Luxembourgish investors.
Ø Both countries have a long-standing cooperation in the steel sector and the leaders called upon businesses, including SMEs and startups, to explore further opportunities for expanding the economic relationship.
Ø Both nations look forward to the 17th Joint Economic Commission (JEC) between India and the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union to review the economic and trade relations.
Ø The proposed agreement between the regulatory authorities Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier (CSSF) and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) would deepen bilateral cooperation in the financial sector.
Ø Luxembourg, as a leading international financial centre in Europe, can act as an important bridge to help connect India’s financial services industry with international markets and reach European and global investors.
Space and Digital Cooperation
Ø Both countries have an ongoing space cooperation, including in the domain of satellite broadcasting and communications.
Ø Luxembourg based space companies have started utilising the services of India for launching their satellites into space.
Ø In November 2020, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched the PSLV-C49 mission, which included 4 satellites from Luxembourg.
Ø A cooperation instrument in the area of exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes is currently under discussion between the two Governments.
Ø In the wake of the pandemic, both India and Luxembourg are promoting digitalisation through the "Digital India” programme and the "Digital Luxembourg” initiative respectively and agree to explore convergences between the two initiatives.
Higher Education and Research
Ø Indian National Brain Research Centre and the Luxembourg Institute of Health and theLuxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine have an ongoing collaboration in the field of neurodegenerative diseases.
Ø Neurodegenerative diseases are a heterogeneous group of disorders that are characterised by the progressive degeneration of the structure and function of the central nervous system or peripheral nervous system.
Ø Examples: Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
Ø IITs in Bombay, Kanpur and Madras and the National Law School of India have links with the University of Luxembourg which will be further expanded for higher education and research in both countries.
Culture and People-to-people Ties
Ø In 2019, Luxembourg issued a commemorative stamp to mark the 150thBirth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
Ø Both countries intend to conclude a Migration and Mobility agreement to further strengthen mobility as well as an agreement on an exemption of visas for holders of diplomatic and official/service passports.
2. Lakshmi Vilas Bank under Moratorium (Prelims, GS III-Banking & Regulations)
Why in News?
Ø Recently, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to impose a 30-day moratorium on Chennai-based Lakshmi Vilas Bank Ltd (LVB).
Ø LVB was placed under the prompt corrective action (PCA) framework in September 2019 considering the breach of PCA thresholds as on 31st March, 2019.
Challenges Faced by LVB
Domino Effect of Yes Bank Crisis
Ø The LVB episode started unfolding after the RBI and banks led by State Bank of India bailed out fraud-hit Yes Bank in March 2020.
Ø Yes Bank illustrated the widening damage from India’s shadow banking crisis, highlighted by the collapse of IL&FS in 2018.
Ø On the same lines, Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank was hit by a loan scam highlighting the riskiness of banks, especially cooperative banks.
Declining Net Worth
Ø The financial position of the LVB has undergone a steady decline, with continuous losses over the last three years eroding the bank’s net worth.
Ø Almost one-fourth of the bank’s advances have turned bad assets.
Ø Inadequacy to Raise Capital: LVB has not been able to raise adequate capital to address the issues and was also experiencing the continuous withdrawal of deposits and low levels of liquidity.
Ø Serious governance issues in recent years have led to a deterioration in the performance of the bank.
Lack of Promoters
Ø The functioning of LVB, along many such banks, has been under scrutiny as most of them do not have strong promoters, making them targets for mergers.
Ø Its gross non-performing assets (NPAs) stood 25.4% of its advances as of June 2020, as against 17.3% in 2019. Due to which, it was unable to raise capital to shore up its balance sheet.
Ø NPAs in the banking sector are expected to increase as the pandemic affects cash flows of people and companies.
Measures Taken by RBI
Ø The RBI monitors the performance of private banks and large Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs).
Ø On LVB, it has imposed a moratorium whose cash withdrawal limit has been capped at Rs. 25,000.
Ø It has also put in place a draft scheme for its amalgamation with DBS Bank India.
Ø One safety net for small depositors is the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC), an RBI subsidiary, which gives insurance cover on up to Rs. 5
lakh deposits in banks.
3. Param Siddhi (Prelims, GS III-Science & Tech)
Why in News?
Ø India’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) supercomputer Param Siddhi ranked 63rd among top 500 most powerful non-distributed computer systems in the world.
More about News
Ø Param Siddhi is a High-Performance Computing-Artificial Intelligence (HPC-AI) supercomputer developed by Department of Science and Technology (DST), Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) under National Supercomputing Mission (NSM) at Centre for Development of Advanced Computing.
Ø The supercomputer has Rpeak of 5.267 Petaflops and 4.6 Petaflops Rmax.
Ø In high-performance computing, Rmax and Rpeak are scores used to rank supercomputers based on their performance using the LINPACK Benchmark.
Ø The LINPACK Benchmarks are a measure of a system's floating-point computing power.
Ø A system's Rmax score describes its maximal achieved performance, the Rpeak score describes its theoretical peak performance. Values for both scores are usually represented in teraFLOPS or petaFLOPS.
Ø A petaflop is the ability of a computer to do one quadrillion floating point operations per second (FLOPS). Additionally, a petaflop can be measured as one thousand teraflops.
National Supercomputing Mission
Ø The Mission envisages empowering our national academic and Research and Development (R&D) institutions spread over the country by installing a vast supercomputing grid comprising more than 70 high-performance computing facilities.
Ø Launched in 2015, this seven-year mission was allocated Rs 4,500-crore.
Ø These supercomputers will also be networked on the National Supercomputing grid over the National Knowledge Network (NKN).
Ø The NKN is another programme of the government which connects academic institutions and R&D labs over a high-speed network.
Ø Academic and R&D institutions as well as key user departments/ministries would participate by using these facilities and develop applications of national relevance.
Ø The Mission also includes development of highly professional High-Performance Computing (HPC) aware human resource for meeting challenges of development of these applications.
Ø The Mission is implemented and steered jointly by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY).
Ø The (C-DAC) has recently launched the second phase of this project wherein more institutions will be supported by supercomputing facilities.
Objective of NSM
Ø To make India one of the world leaders in Supercomputing and to enhance India’s capability in solving grand challenge problems of national and global relevance
Ø To empower our scientists and researchers with state-of-the-art supercomputing facilities and enable them to carry out cutting-edge research in their respective domains
4. Bengaluru Tech Summit (Prelims, GS III-Science & Tech)
Why in News?
Ø Recently, the Prime Minister has inaugurated the Bengaluru Tech Summit via video conference which was also attended by the Prime Minister of Australia.
More about Tech Summit
Ø It is India's flagship event which will deliberate on the key challenges emerging in the post-pandemic world with focus on the impact of prominent technologies.
Ø It will also provide a platform for discussion to encourage disruptive technologies.
Ø Disruptive technology is an innovation that significantly alters the way that consumers, industries, or businesses operate.
Ø It sweeps away the systems or habits it replaces because it has attributes that are recognisably superior.
Ø Examples: e-commerce, online news sites, ride-sharing apps, and Global Positioning System (GPS).
Theme for 2020
Ø Next is Now.
Ø Innovations in the domains of Information Technology and Electronics and Biotechnology.
Ø The Government of Karnataka along with Karnataka Innovation and Technology Society (KITS).
Ø Karnataka government’s Vision Group on Information Technology Software.
Ø Software Technology Parks of India (STPI).
Ø MM Activ Sci-Tech Communications.
Ø With the increasing use of technology in governance and other areas, data protection and cybersecurity become significant.
Ø There is a need to devise robust cybersecurity solutions which can protect digital products against cyber-attacks and viruses.
Government Initiatives to Promote Technology
Digital India Mission
Ø Launched in 2015, it aimed to prepare India for a knowledge future for being transformative that is to realise IT (Indian Talent) + IT (Information Technology) = IT (India Tomorrow) and for making technology central to enabling change.
Unified Payments Interface (UPI)
Ø It is a payment system that allows money transfer between any two bank accounts by using a smartphone.
National Digital Health Mission
Ø It is a complete digital health ecosystem. It is a platform launched with four key features viz. health ID, personal health records, Digi Doctor and health facility registry.
Ø Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas (Swamitva) was launched to provide an integrated property validation solution for rural India.
5. Lilavati Award (Prelims, GS III-Education)
Why in News?
Ø Recently, the Union Minister of Education virtually launched the Lilavati Award-2020.
More about Award
Ø The award has been named after the 12th Century book called “Lilavati”.
Ø The book was written by the mathematician Bhaskara II.
Ø Lilavati was the daughter of Indian Mathematician Bhaskara II.
Ø It is AICTE's (All India Council for Technical Education) Innovative education program to empower women.
Ø All the stakeholders (especially the girl students) in AICTE approved institutions would get an opportunity to present a solution to the prevalent issues of gender discrimination, such as illiteracy, unemployment, economic and nutritional disparities, maternal mortality, human rights, etc.
Ø Women Empowerment
Ø To create awareness about issues like sanitation, hygiene, health, nutrition, literacy, employment, technology, credit, marketing, innovation, skill development, natural resources and rights among women.
Ø Women's health, self-defence, sanitation, literacy, entrepreneurship and legal awareness.
Ø Ensures the participation of women and enables them to hold higher positions in educational institutions.
Ø In each sub-category, the top three winners will be awarded with certificates as well as prize money.
Ø The first prize winner will get Rs 1 lakh, the second winner will get Rs 75,000 and the third winner will get Rs 50,000.
6. New Development Bank (Prelims, GS II-Multilateral Institutions)
Why in News?
Ø Recently, a 500-million-dollar loan agreement was signed between the Union government, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, National Capital Region (NCR) Transport Corporation Limited and the New Development Bank (NDB) for the Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS).
Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut Regional Rapid Transit System.
Ø It is an 82.15 km long, under-construction, semi-high-speed rail corridor connecting Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut.
Ø It is one of the three rapid-rail corridors planned under Phase-I of Regional Rapid Transport System (RRTS) project of National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC).
Ø The Project will provide a fast, reliable, safe and comfortable public transport system in the NCR.
Ø The project will serve as a demonstration for developing high-capacity rapid urban transit corridors in other urban areas of India.
Ø High-speed connectivity will result in balanced economic development across the region, leading to economic benefits to all strata of society and many nodes of development rather than all economic activity happening at one place.
Ø It will help in reducing traffic congestion and total emissions from the transport sector in NCR.
New Development Bank
Ø It is a multilateral development bank jointly founded by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) at the 6th BRICS Summit in Fortaleza, Brazil in 2014.
Ø It was formed to support infrastructure and sustainable development efforts in BRICS and other underserved, emerging economies for faster development through innovation and cutting-edge technology.
Ø It is headquartered at Shanghai, China.
Ø In 2018, the NDB received observer status in the United Nations General Assembly, establishing a firm basis for active and fruitful cooperation with the United Nations.
7. Willow Warbler (Prelims)
Why in News?
Ø Recently, Willow Warbler has been sighted for the first time in India at Vellayani-Punchakkari paddy fields, Kerala.
Ø These paddy fields are a birding hotspot on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram and are known to harbour more than 213 species of birds that include both resident and migratory ones.
More about Willow Warbler
Ø They breed throughout northern and temperate Europe and the Palearctic.
Ø Palearctic ecozone is one the Earth’s 8 ecozones and covers Asia north of the Himalayas, with parts of western Asia and most of East Asia and Africa north of the Sahara.
Ø They migrate to sub-Saharan Africa during early winter.
Ø It is one of the longest migrating small birds.
Ø The bird weighs around 10 grams and its long wing feathers help it fly long distances.
Ø Warblers are generally difficult to identify owing to the small size and change in plumage twice a year.
Ø They are also the most difficult groups of birds to identify in the field for their striking resemblance to each other.
Ø The species is affected by drought conditions in its wintering quarters and habitat alterations due to human population expansion.
IUCN Red List
Ø Least Concern.
8. Booker Prize (Prelims)
Why in News?
Ø Scottish writer Douglas Stuart has won the 2020 Booker Prize for fiction with his debut novel Shuggie Bain, which described a boy growing up in Glasgow in the 1980s with a mother battling addiction.
More about Prize
Ø The Booker Prize for Fiction, formerly known as the Booker–McConnell Prize and the Man Booker Prize, is a literary prize.
Ø The Booker Prize was established in 1969.
Ø To promote the finest in fiction by rewarding the best novel of the year written in English.
Ø The Booker Prize awards any novel originally written in English and published in the UK and Ireland in the year of the prize, regardless of the nationality of their author.
Ø The novel must be an original work in English (not a translation)
Ø It must be published by a registered UK or Irish imprint; self-published novels are not eligible.
Ø The winner receives £50,000 as well as the £2,500 awarded to each of the shortlisted authors. In this case, thanks to the award being shared, the prize money would be split between the two winners.
Ø Man Group is an active investment management firm founded in 1783.
Ø It has sponsored the Man Booker Prize since 2002
The Booker Prize Foundation
Ø It is a registered charity established in 2002.
Ø Since then it has been responsible for the award of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, and for the Man Booker International Prize since its inauguration in 2005.