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- India and Uzbekistan are set to route their trade through the Iranian port of Chabahar as part of India’s growing engagement with resource-rich Central Asia.
- On the sidelines of the summit of the eight-nation Shanghai CooperationOrganisation (SCO), both nations hoped to supplement their connectivity through the establishment of industrial parks and an investment zone in Uzbekistan.
India keen on Central Asian ties
- India has gone the extra mile to engage with the four Central Asian Republics at the ongoing SCO summit, highlighting the critical importance of this resource-rich region in shaping Eurasia.
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
- The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a Eurasian political, economic, and security organization
- The organization, formed in 2001, aims to boost cooperation in economic and security matters between China, Pakistan, India, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan
- India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members on 9 June 2017 at a summit in Astana, Kazakhstan
- Iran, Mongolia, Afghanistan, and Belarus have been granted observer status in SCO
- In 2017, SCO’s eight full members account for approximately half of the world’s population, a quarter of the world’s GDP, and about 80% of Eurasia’s landmass
- On the Western Hemisphere, seven of the world’s most industrialised countries met for the 44th Group of Seven (G7) summit in Quebec
- G7 nations (Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, France, UK, USA),
- on the Eastern Hemisphere, the 18th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) happened and for first time, in its expanded form after India and Pakistan joining it as full members
- The SCO did not comprise the world’s most developed nations but had a bigger quantity – in terms of size and population and also an impressive GDP.
- The G7 was walking just to the opposite direction with a serious fault line emerging between the United States and the rest of the members over trade tariffs.
- The joint statement takes on issues such as jobs, climate change, advancing gender equality, building a peaceful world and investing in growth “that works for everyone.”
Optimism Vs Pessimism
- when it comes to the issue of peace in Korea, China along with fellow SCO partner Russia has many more positive contributions
- G7 who in the case of the EU and Canada remain remote from the issue.
- The SCO has reiterated the opinion that the 21stcentury belongs to Asia and the convergence of some of the world’s top economies of Asia and Eurasia raises more hope about the future path of development of the international community.
- In case of the G7, the exact opposite scene has unfolded with the industrialized countries engaging them more in personality clashes and focusing less on global problems.
- The SCO is perhaps the most happening international grouping at the moment because its scope of functioning is outgoing and big. Be it in connection with China’s Belt and Road Initiative or India’s pressing problems with Pakistan or laying out a map for reconstruction of Afghanistan, the SCO offers hope for a better world order and the credit primarily goes to its members’ openness to reaching out to each other.
- This mentality is clearly absent in case of G7 whose members are struggling to deal with Trump and finding no better ways than retaliating against him.
- The build-up to the SCO’s biggest summit so far has generated much optimism about internationalism – be it cooperation in fields of trade and security, counter drug trafficking and overall regional cooperation.
- Particularly important has been the growth in interpersonal relations between world leaders like Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin or Narendra Modi who have met on a number of occasions in recent times and come closer to each other – the growing protectionism of the US being one gluing factor.
- NDA government has invited “outstanding individuals” to join the government at the joint secretary level at the Centre to bring in expertise from the private sector individuals and infuse talent into the country’s bureaucracy,
- As per the notification, the eligibility criteria includes “Individuals working at comparable levels in Private Sector Companies, Consultancy Organisations, International/Multinational Organisations with a minimum of 15 years’ experience” besides those working in central public sector undertakings, autonomous bodies, statutory organisations, research bodies and universities.
- the recruitment will be on contract basis for three to five years.
- The intake will be made in 10 departments initially but will expand to other categories in the second phase.
- The departments for which applicants are sought include Revenue, Financial Services, Economic Affairs, Commerce and Civil Aviation, Agriculture and Cooperation, Highways and Shipping and Environment and Climate Change.
- The notification specifies a minimum age of 40 years and minimum qualification of graduation from a recognised university or institute while higher qualification will be an added advantage.
- Union Finance Ministry has announced the formation of a committee to assess the idea of special asset reconstruction companies or asset management companies to take over bad loans from banks.
- Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian had suggested the creation of a Public Sector Asset Rehabilitation Agency (PARA) to deal with India’s festering twin balance sheet problem.
- A bad bank is essentially the government’s financial help to banks.
- A bad bank can help PSU banks saddled with huge non-performing assets (NPAs)
- The idea of bad bank gained currency when the Economic Survey 2017 suggested creation of a ‘Public Asset Rehabilitation Agency’ (PARA) to help tide over the enormous problem of stressed assets.
Twin Balance Sheet Problem
- A balance sheet is a financial statement that summarises a company/institution’s assets, liabilities and shareholder’s equity at a specific point of a time.
- Twin Balance Sheet Problem (TBS) deals with two balance sheet problems. One with Indian companies and the other with Indian Banks.
- Over-leveraged corporates unable to service debt or invest afresh, and banks hit by non-performing assets (NPAs) .
- This hurts new investments and continues to dent India’s medium-term growth and job creation prospects.
How will PARA help?
- A professionally-run PARA, or the so-called ‘bad bank’, could assume custody of the largest and most difficult-to-resolve NPAs from lenders’ balance sheets.
- This would allow banks to focus on extending fresh credit and supporting the pick-up in growth. More importantly, a bad bank taking tough decisions on borrowers-gone-bad, could free bankers from the risks entailed in large loan write-downs.
Challenges with Bad Bank/PARA
- PARA by itself would not be able to deploy dramatically different tools to extract better value from underlying assets and would, at best, amount to window-dressing bank books to attract investors.
- A government-owned bad bank could still face scrutiny from the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Central Vigilance Commissioner.
Other measures to deal with NPAs
- The government should focus on other reforms as well.
- One, amend the Prevention of Corruption Act to shield bankers and officers from investigative witch-hunts.
- Two, back bankers to take demonstrable action against wilful defaulters.
- And three, take a hard look at what ails the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.
Nodal Ministry: The Ministry of Culture, Government of India
Total Outlay: Rs. 325.00 Crores for Financial Years 2018-19 and 2019-20.
Criteria for Charitable Religious Institutions
- These includes Temples, Gurudwara, Mosque, Church, Dharmik Ashram, Dargah, Matth, Monasteries etc. which have been in existence for at least five years before applying for financial assistance/grant.
- These should serve free food to at least 5000 people in a month and
- Such institutions are covered under:
- Section 10( 23BBA) of the Income Tax Act or
- Institutions registered as Society under Societies Registration Act ( XXI of 1860) or as a
- Public Trust under any law for the time being in force of statuary religious bodies constituted under any Act or
- Institutions registered under Section 12AA of Income Tax Act shall be eligible for a grant under the scheme.
Execution of the Scheme
- Ministry of Culture will register the eligible charitable religious institutions for a time period ending with finance commission period and subsequently the registration may be renewed by the Ministry, subject to the performance evaluation of the institutions.
- The details of registered institutions will be available on an online portal for the viewership of public, GST authorities and entity / institution itself.
- The entity / institution will be permitted to submit the reimbursement claim of the GST and Central Government share of IGST to designated authority of GST Department at State level in the prescribed format during the validity of registration.
- All the eligible institutions should be registered with Darpan portal
India in elite planet-spotting club
- A team from the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, has spotted for the first time a distant planet six times bigger than Earth and revolving around a Sun-like star about 600 light years away.
- EPIC 211945201b (or K2-236b) is the name given to the planet by the discovery team. The host star is named EPIC 211945201 or K2-236.
- With this discovery India has joined a handful of countries which have discovered planets around stars,” PRL’s parent ISRO has announced.
- The discovery was made using a PRL-designed spectrograph, PARAS, to measure and confirm the mass of the new planet.
- EPIC was found circling very close to the Sun-like star, going around it once in about 19.5 days and unlikely to be inhabitable because of its high surface temperature of around 600°C.
- The team found the planet to be smaller in size than Saturn and bigger than Neptune.
- Its mass is about 27 times Earth’s and six times that of Earth at radius.
- The scientists estimate that over 60% of its mass could be made up of heavy elements like ice, silicates and iron.
Spectrograph Studies at PRL
- The spectrograph is the first of its kind in the country which can measure the mass of a planet going around a star.
- Very few such spectrographs exist around the world (mostly in the USA and in the Europe) that can do such precise measurements.
- They measured the mass of the planet using the indigenously designed PARAS(PRL Advance Radial-velocity Abu-sky Search).
- This spectrograph is integrated with the 1.2-metre telescope located at PRL’s Gurushikhar Observatory in Mount Abu, Rajasthan.
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