Currency Swap Arrangement
- India and Japan has agreed to enter in to currency swap arrangement of $75 billion.
- Currency swap arrangement means one country exchanges its national currency for that of another or even a third currency.
- Under this arrangement, India can acquire dollars from Japan in exchange for rupees.
- So, India can acquire yen or dollars from Japan upto $75 billion in exchange for rupees under a fixed exchange rate.
- This exchange has to be reversed after an agreed period. Conversely, Japan can also seek dollars from India in exchange for yen.
- This facility will serve as a line of defence for our country’s foreign exchange reserve.
- Short –term liquidity mismatches can be met quickly.
- It will help stabilize the rupee, which has witnessed the steepest fall in recent years.
- It improves market sentiment, curbs speculative pressure on the rupee.
- Foreign Investors will draw comfort from the arrangement.
Statue of Unity
- It is located facing the Narmada Dam, at Kevadiya in Gujarat
- The monument along with its surroundings occupies over 20,000 square metres, and is surrounded by a 12 square km artificial lake.
- It is the world’s tallest statue with the height of 182 metres (597 ft) designed by Ram V. Sutar and designed and executed by Larsen & Toubro.
- The total height of the statue from its base will be 240-metre consisting base level of 58 meters and statue of 182 meters.
- It is constructed with steel framing, reinforced cement concrete, and bronze cladding.
- The statue needed 75,000 cubic metres of concrete, 5,700 tonnes of steel structure, 18,500 tonnes of reinforced steel rods, 22,500 tonnes of bronze sheets for construction.
- Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust (SVPRET), a special purpose vehicle was established by the Government of Gujarat for its construction and the outreach programme was carried out across India starting December 2013.
- The Voyage named “Lokayan 18” was flagged off on 10 Apr 18 from Kochi in INS Tarangini.
- During the voyage, the ship has proudly ‘shown the flag’ and highlighted the diverse culture of India across 15 ports in 13 countries.
- The ship sailed across the Arabian Sea, Red Sea, Suez Canal, Mediterranean Sea, Strait of Gibraltar, North Atlantic Ocean, Bay of Biscay, English Channel and North Sea, right up to Norway before commencing her homeward passage back to Kochi.
- The ship also participated in the culminating event of the ‘Three Festival Tall Ships Regatta’ at Bordeaux, France.
- Over the years, INS Tarangini has been extensively deployed for long voyages away from her base port of Kochi, which includes one circumnavigation of the globe (2003-04) and three previous ‘Lokayans’ (2005, 2007 and 2015).
- INS Tarangini is a three masted ‘square rigged’ barque which carries a total of 20 sails.
- She is the First Sail Training Ship in Indian Navy and was commissioned on 11 Nov 1997.
- In her 21 years of glorious service, she has sailed over 2,20,000 nautical miles to date across the world’s oceans.
- She is the first of two Sail Training Ships in the First Training Squadron, the other being INS Sudarshini.
- The primary role of these Sail Training Ships is to develop character and professionalism, as well as inculcate the qualities of initiative, courage, resilience and spirit amongst the Sea Trainees.
- The ship also imparts practical training to them, primarily on navigation, sailing and seamanship.
- It is India’s first engine-less semi-high speed train, rolled out recently by Chennai based Integral Coach Factory (ICF).
- It has been designed to maximum operating speed of 160 kmph.
- It will eventually replace the Shatabdi Express for inter-city travel and it will cut travel time by 15% compared to Shatabdi.
- This fully air-conditioned train is nicknamed “The NextGen Shatabdi”.
- It is driven by a self-propulsion module and it is the first long-distance train without separate locomotive (engine).
- The Shatabdi trains were introduced in 1988 and are presently running on over 20 routes connecting metros with other important cities.
- The Republic of Seychelles has launched the world’s first sovereign blue bond assisted by the World Bank.
- It is a pioneering financial instrument designed to support sustainable marine and fisheries projects.
- The Seychelles blue bond is partially guaranteed by a US $5 million guarantees from the World Bank (IBRD) and further supported by a US$5 million concessional loan from the GEF which will partially cover interest payments for the bond.
- The fisheries sector is the country’s most important industry, contributing significantly to annual GDP and employing 17% of the population.
Dispute Settlement Body
- The World Trade Organisation’s (WTO’s) dispute settlement body has set up a panel to examine the U.S. complaint against certain export-subsidy measures by India.
- This panel has formed when both the sides failed to resolve the issue at the consultation level.
- The General Council convenes as the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) to deal with disputes between WTO members.
- Such disputes may arise with respect to any agreement contained in the Final Act of the Uruguay Round that is subject to the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes (DSU).
- The DSB has authority to establish dispute settlement panels, refer matters to arbitration, adopt panel, Appellate Body and arbitration reports, maintain surveillance over the implementation of recommendations and rulings contained in such reports, and authorize suspension of concessions in the event of non-compliance with those recommendations and rulings.
Samruddhi scheme for SC & ST
- Recently Karnataka has launched Samruddhi scheme for aspiring SC/ST rural entrepreneurs.
- It is a rural entrepreneurship programme for Scheduled Castes (ST) and Scheduled Tribes (SC) in Karnataka.
- Through this rural employment and skill development programme, the government will partner with private organisations to provide training free of cost.
- The industry partners would invest up to 10 percent or more in retail management, taxation policies and GST, inventory management, soft skills, logistics, etc.”
- The government has also set up a seed grant of up to Rs 10 lakh to help the beneficiaries set up their own franchises or retail outlets. It hopes to create 10,000 SC/ST rural entrepreneurs over the next three years.
- As part of the Samruddhi scheme, the government will also provide a seed grant to deserving youth to start their own franchises or retail outlets after they receive the required training and certification.
Financial Stability and Development Council
- The Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) was constituted in December, 2010. The FSDC was set up to strengthen and institutionalise the mechanism for maintaining financial stability, enhancing inter-regulatory coordination and promoting financial sector development.
- The Council is chaired by the Union Finance Minister and its members are Governor, Reserve Bank of India; Finance Secretary and/or Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs; Secretary, Department of Financial Services; Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance; Chairman, Securities and Exchange Board of India; Chairman, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority and Chairman, Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority. It also includes the chairman of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board (IBBI).
- In May, the government through a gazette notification, had included ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) secretary in the FSDC in view of the increased focus of the government on digital economy.
- The Council deals, inter-alia, with issues relating to financial stability, financial sector development, inter–regulatory coordination, financial literacy, financial inclusion and macro prudential supervision of the economy including the functioning of large financial conglomerates. No funds are separately allocated to the Council for undertaking its activities.
Parker Solar Probe
- NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe mission will revolutionize our understanding of the sun, where changing conditions can propagate out into the solar system, affecting Earth and other worlds.
- Parker Solar Probe will travel through the sun’s atmosphere, closer to the surface than any spacecraft before it, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions — and ultimately providing humanity with the closest-ever observations of a star.
- In order to unlock the mysteries of the sun’s atmosphere, Parker Solar Probe will use Venus’ gravity during seven flybys over nearly seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the sun. The spacecraft will fly through the sun’s atmosphere as close as 3.9 million miles to our star’s surface, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before.
- Recently the Parker Solar Probe holds the record for closest approach to the sun by a human-made object. The spacecraft – which launched on August 12, 2018 – passed the current record of 26.55 million miles (43 million km) from the sun’s surface October 29, 2018.
NewsWhip & Media Bias/Fact
- It is a social media engagement tracking firm.
- NewsWhip collects URLs on hundreds of thousands of sites every day and then gathers information on which of those sites have engagements on Facebook and Twitter.
- Iffy Quotient queries NewsWhip for the top 5,000 most popular URLs on the two social media platforms.
- It will check an independent site that classifies various sources based on their reliability and bias.
- Researchers at the University of Michigan in the US had developed a web-based tool to help monitor the prevalence of fake news on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
- This web-based tool use a Platform Health Metric called the Iffy Quotient.
- It will draw data from two external entities: NewsWhip and Media Bias/Fact Checker.
Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF)
- The Cabinet has given its approval for creation of special Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund.
- National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, National Cooperatives Development Corporation and all scheduled Banks shall be the nodal Loaning Entities.
- It will help in the creation of fisheries infrastructure facilities both in marine and inland fisheries sectors.
- To augment fish production to achieve its target of 15 million tonnes by 2020 set under the Blue Revolution.
- The fund also helps to achieve a sustainable growth of 8% -9% thereafter to reach the fish production to the level of about 20 MMT by 2022-23.
- It will provide employment opportunities to lakh of fishers/fishermen/fisherfolk and other entrepreneurs in fishing and allied activities.
- To attract private investment in the creation and management of fisheries infrastructure facilities.
- The funds help these groups of people in the adoption of new technologies.
- It has been prepared by researchers at the Institute for Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine (InStem) Bengaluru from a nucleophilic polymer.
- Indian farmers usually do not wear any protective gear while spraying chemicals in fields.
- This exposes them to harmful toxics contained in pesticides, causing severe health impacts and even death in extreme cases.
- The gel can be applied on the skin and can break down toxic chemicals in pesticides, insecticides and fungicides including the most hazardous and widely used organo phosphorous compounds.
- The gel deactivates these chemicals, preventing them from going deep into the skin and organs like the brain and the lungs.
- Exposure to chemicals contained in pesticides interferes with an enzyme called acetyl cholinesterase (AChE) which is present in the nervous system and is critical for neuromuscular functions.
- When its functioning is disrupted by chemical pesticides entering the body through the skin, it can cause neurotoxicity, cognitive dysfunction and even death in severe cases.
- When the gel was applied on rats and they were exposed to a lethal dose of pesticide MPT, it did not lead to any change in their AChE level, showing it could prevent penetration of the pesticide into the skin.