RBI puts Dena Bank under Prompt Corrective Action

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has initiated prompt corrective action against public sector lender Dena Bank in view of high non-performing loans, restricting the bank from giving fresh credit and new hiring.

The public sector lender yesterday reported widening of its net loss to Rs.1,225.42 crore in the March quarter on mounting bad loans and higher provisioning to cover them. The net loss stood at Rs.575.26 crore in the January-March quarter of 2016-17.

Sequentially, the loss widened from Rs.380.07 crore in December quarter of 2017-18.

PCA norms allow the regulator to place certain restrictions such as halting branch expansion and stopping dividend payment. It can even cap a bank’s lending limit to one entity or sector. Other corrective actions that can be imposed on banks include special audit, restructuring operations and activation of the recovery plan. Banks’ promoters can be asked to bring in new management, too. The RBI can also supersede the bank’s board, under PCA.

The PCA is invoked when certain risk thresholds are breached. There are three risk thresholds which are based on certain levels of asset quality, profitability, capital and the like. The third such threshold, which is maximum tolerance limit, sets net NPA at over 12% and negative return on assets for four consecutive years.

There is two type of restrictions, mandatory and discretionary. Restrictions on the dividend, branch expansion, directors compensation, are mandatory while discretionary restrictions could include curbs on lending and deposit. In the cases of two banks where PCA was invoked after the revised guidelines were issued — IDBI Bank and UCO Bank — only mandatory restrictions were imposed. Both the banks breached risk threshold 2.

Banks are not allowed to renew or access costly deposits or take steps to increase their fee-based income. Banks will also have to launch a special drive to reduce the stock of NPAs and contain generation of fresh NPAs. They will also not be allowed to enter into new lines of business. RBI will also impose restrictions on the bank on borrowings from the interbank market.

Small and medium enterprises will have to bear the brunt due to this move by RBI. Since the PCA framework restricts the amount of loans banks can extend, this will definitely put pressure on credit being made available to companies especially the MSMEs. Large companies have access to the corporate bond market so they may not be impacted immediately. It has been predicted that if more state-owned banks are brought under PCA, it will impact the credit availability for the MSME segment.

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World Migratory Bird Day 2018

World Migratory Bird Day 2018 is being celebrated on May 12th this year.

World Migratory Bird Day 2018 theme: “Unifying Our Voices for Bird Conservation”.

World Migratory Bird Day is celebrated each year to highlight the need for the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats. More than 300 events in more than 60 countries to mark World Migratory Bird Day 2018 will include bird festivals, education programmes, media events, bird watching trips, presentations, film screenings and a benefit concert to raise funds for international nature conservation.

Forty percent of all migratory birds are seeing their number in decline, with one in eight being threatened with global extinction. Major threats include habitat loss and degradation, collision with badly placed wind turbines and power lines, unsustainable harvesting and the illegal killing and taking of birds.

Efforts to conserve migratory birds both globally and regionally are internationally coordinated by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS, also known as the Bonn Convention) and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA). The two UN Environment-administered treaties have been spearheading World Migratory Bird Day since 2006.

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals aims to conserve terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory species throughout their range. CMS and its related Agreements on migratory birds bring together governments and other stakeholders to coordinate and further develop conservation policies, to ensure that all flyways in the world benefit from coordination mechanisms that promote cooperation at ground level among the countries involved. It is under aegis of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) is an intergovernmental treaty dedicated to the conservation of migratory waterbirds that migrate along the African-Eurasian Flyway. The Agreement covers 254 species of birds ecologically dependent on wetlands for at least part of their annual cycle.

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UNGA sets up team for negotiations on Global Environment Compact

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to set up a working group for negotiations aimed at creating a Global Pact for the Environment, a legally binding international instrument.

The resolution sponsored by France won the support of 143 countries. Iran, the Philippines, Russia, Syria, Turkey and the United States voted against it. Six other countries abstained while several states did not vote.

The resolution requests UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to submit to the General Assembly a report that identifies and assesses possible gaps in international environmental law and environment-related instruments with a view to strengthening their implementation.

The resolution requests UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to submit to the General Assembly a report that identifies and assesses possible gaps in international environmental law and environment-related instruments with a view to strengthening their implementation.

It decides to establish an ad hoc open-ended working group to consider the report, and if deemed necessary, to consider the scope, parameters, and feasibility of a Global Pact for the Environment.

The resolution requests the current president of the General Assembly to appoint two co-chairs of the working group — one from a developing country and one from a developed country — to oversee its consultations.

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U.S. Cancels Carbon Monitoring Project

A NASA programme that cost $10 million per year to track carbon and methane, key greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, has been canceled.

The end of the programme — called the Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) — which tracked sources and sinks for carbon and made high-resolution models of the planet’s flows of carbon — was first reported by the journal Science.

The journal said NASA “declined to provide a reason for the cancellation beyond ‘budget constraints and higher priorities within the science budget’.”

After much deliberation, Congress decided they wanted those four space missions to be funded, writing them into the budget bill they passed in March 2018, he said

But since CMS was not among them, it was cut as proposed, Mr. Cole said, describing the entire process as a joint effort by lawmakers and the executive branch.

Existing grants would be allowed to finish but no new research would be supported, he said.

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NAFTA Deal

Senior American, Canadian and Mexican officials  ended a week of talks without a deal to modernize NAFTA, agreeing instead to resume negotiations soon, ahead of a deadline next week issued by U.S House of Representatives

President Donald Trump has pledged to begin renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in upcoming talks with the leaders of Mexico and Canada. Trump has called NAFTA the “worst trade deal in history,”

NAFTA is the initialism for the North American Free Trade Agreement, an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States that reduced or eliminated trade barriers in North America. (Since the U.S. and Canada already had a free trade agreement (signed in 1988), NAFTA merely brought Mexico into the trade bloc.)

Negotiations for the trade agreement began in 1990 under the administration of George H.W. Bush and were finalized under Bill Clinton’s presidency in 1993. The agreement went into effect on January 1, 1994.

In 1993 the European Union (EU) created a “single market”—one territory without any internal borders or other regulatory obstacles to the free movement of goods and services. This allowed every country and business in the EU to have access to more than 500 million consumers.

NAFTA, which was approved that same year, was designed to have a similar effect, providing a way to allow the exchange of goods and services to flow more freely across national borders without the artificial restrictions.

NAFTA provided for the progressive elimination of all tariffs on any goods qualifying as North American. The deal also sought to protect intellectual property, establish dispute-resolution mechanisms, and, through corollary agreements, implement labor and environmental safeguards.

NAFTA was controversial when first proposed, mostly because it was the first [free trade agreement] involving two wealthy, developed countries and a developing country. Some people felt that allowing free trade with a developing country provides an incentive for U.S-based business to move their operations to that country.

Since its implementation, NAFTA has remained a prime target of trade protectionists (those who advocate taking measures such as taxing imports to “protect” domestic industries from foreign competition).

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Buddhist Tourism Circuit -Swadesh Darshan Scheme

EARLIER envisaged by the government as mainly comprising seven major Buddhist pilgrimage sites, in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the ‘Buddhist Circuit’ will now be expanded to 21 other states.

The Ministry of Tourism has identified stupas and viharas in these states, around which small intra-state Buddhist zones will be developed. These include the election-bound states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, as also Kerala, West Bengal, Goa, Gujarat and Jammu & Kashmir.

A total of Rs 362 crore has been sanctioned so far, of which Rs 75 crore has been cleared for Madhya Pradesh under the Ministry’s Swadesh Darshan scheme, for the development of Sanchi, Satna, Rewa, Mandsaur, and Dhar. The plan is to create a Buddhist theme park, light and sound show, interpretation centre, wayside amenities and sanitation facilities, an official in the ministry said. Besides, Rs 36 crore and Rs 52 crore has been sanctioned for Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh respectively.

Buddhist circuit is being imagined as India’s first trans-national tourist circuit, with efforts to promote tourism starting from Lumbini in Nepal, where Buddha was born, to the sites in India he traversed, including Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, Kushinagar, Rajgir, Vaishali, Sravasti and Sankasia (in UP and Bihar). The ministry is also in talks with the World Bank and the Japanese government for funding of infrastructure projects connected with these sites.

The ministry also plans to involve the private sector in building tourism infrastructure pertaining to the circuit, with Alphons pointing out that “huge money” is required. To showcase Buddhist heritage and pilgrim sites in India, the government organises the International Buddhist Conclave every alternate year. In 2016, the conclave was held in Sarnath, where delegates from 39 countries participated. This year, the conclave is scheduled for October, and the location is still being finalised.

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NASA Spacecraft discovers New Magnetic Process in Space

Scientists have discovered a new type of magnetic event in our near-Earth environment, by using data provided by a NASA spacecraft. Magnetic reconnection is one of the most important processes in the space – filled with charged particles known as plasma – around Earth, said researchers at the University of California, Berkeley in the US.

This fundamental process dissipates magnetic energy and propels charged particles, both of which contribute to a dynamic space weather system that scientists want to better understand, and even someday predict, as we do terrestrial weather.

Magnetic reconnection is one of the most important processes in the space — filled with charged particles known as plasma — around Earth. This fundamental process dissipates magnetic energy and propels charged particles, both of which contribute to a dynamic space weather system that scientists want to better understand, and even someday predict, as we do terrestrial weather.  Reconnection occurs when crossed magnetic field lines snap, explosively flinging away nearby particles at high speeds

Magnetic reconnection has been observed innumerable times in the magnetosphere — the magnetic environment around Earth — but usually under calm conditions. The new event occurred in a region called the magnetosheath, just outside the outer boundary of the magnetosphere, where the solar wind is extremely turbulent. Previously, scientists didn’t know if reconnection even could occur there, as the plasma is highly chaotic in that region. MMS found it does, but on scales much smaller than the previous spacecraft could probe.

MMS investigates how the Sun’s and Earth’s magnetic fields connect and disconnect, explosively transferring energy from one to the other in a process that is important at the Sun, other planets, and everywhere in the universe, known as magnetic reconnection. Four identically instrumented spacecraft measure plasmas, fields, and particles in a near-equatorial orbit that will frequently encounter reconnection in action.

Reconnection limits the performance of fusion reactors and is the final governor of geospace weather that affects modern technological systems such as telecommunications networks, GPS navigation, and electrical power grids.

MMS reveals, for the first time, the small-scale three-dimensional structure and dynamics of the elusively thin and fast-moving electron diffusion region. It does this in both of the key reconnection regions near Earth, where the most energetic events originate.

By observing magnetic reconnection in nature, MMS provides access to predictive knowledge of a universal process that is the final governor of space weather, affecting modern technological systems such as communications networks, GPS navigation, and electrical power grids. MMS will establish knowledge, methods, and technologies applicable to future space weather missions and the future growth and development of space weather forecasting.

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SpaceX to launch Bangabandhu-1

The Bangabandhu Satellite-1 mission will be the first to utilize Falcon 9 Block 5, the final substantial upgrade to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Falcon 9 Block 5 is designed to be capable of 10 or more flights with very limited refurbishment as SpaceX continues to strive for rapid reusability and extremely high reliability.

Bangabandhu is Bangladesh’s first communications satellite. Built by Thales Alenia Space, a Franco-Italian aerospace manufacturer, it is designed to provide a wide range of broadcast and communication services throughout the country for the next 15 years. It is named after Bangladesh’s “Father of the Nation”- Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Applications: Once operational, citizens of Bangladesh will gain access to the Internet, phone services, radio, backhaul, direct-to-home TV, and other related services.

The satellite could open up a lot of opportunities for the country in terms of revenue generation. So far, a majority of Bangladesh’s communications was based on rented transponders from neighboring countries and this satellite will make the country autonomous, in terms of telecommunications and broadcasting services.

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National Technology Day

On May 11, 1998, India successfully test fired the Shakti-I nuclear missile at the Indian Army’s Pokhran Test Range in Rajasthan in an operation led by aerospace engineer and late President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. Two days later, the country successfully tested two more nuclear weapons as a part of the same Pokhran-II/Operation Shakti initiative (Pokhran-I was the 1974 test firing of the ‘Smiling Buddha’ missile). Following this, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared India a nuclear state, making it the sixth country to join the ‘nuclear club’ of nations and the first one that was not party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) – an international treaty signed by the US, Russia, the UK, France, and China which aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and hopes to achieve nuclear disarmament.

Becoming the world’s sixth nuclear state wasn’t the only feat India achieved on that day. The country’s first indigenous aircraft, the Hansa-3, was flown in Bengaluru while the nuclear tests were being conducted in Rajasthan. Developed by the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), a Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) lab, the Hansa-3 was a light two-seater general aviation plane used in flying institutes for pilot training, sports, surveillance, aerial photography, and environment-related projects.

That isn’t all. May 11, 1998, was also the day on which the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) completed the final test-fire of the Trishul missile after which it was inducted into service by the Indian Army and Indian Airforce. A short-range, quick-reaction, surface-to-air (SAM) missile, Trishul was a part of India’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme – a Ministry of Defence initiative that has resulted in the creation of the Agni, Prithvi, and Akash missile systems.

Based on these tremendous breakthrough achievements by the country’s scientists, engineers, and technicians, Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared May 11 as the National Technology Day. Every year since 1999, the Technology Development Board (TDB) commemorates the day by honoring technological innovations that have positively impacted the nation. The TDB also selects a theme for each year’s event, and the 2017 National Technology Day theme is ‘Technology for inclusive and sustainable growth’.

Celebrated as a symbol of the quest for scientific inquiry and technological creativity, and their translation into the integration of science, society, and industry, the National Technology Day sees the TDB confer National Awards to the most noteworthy individuals, institutions, and businesses of the year. It is a large-scale event which sees the Department of Science and Technology, Department of Bio-Technology, the Ministry of Earth Sciences, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, and several other scientific departments in attendance. The event, conducted in New Delhi, also sees India’s President give out the National Awards and launch a range of innovative products as the Chief Guest. Furthermore, several state governments organize local events that see academic institutions, research organizations, and NGOs come together to generate awareness about the latest technological advancements in the country.

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Pacific Islands Forum granted permanent Observer status

The Pacific Islands Forum has been granted approval to establish a Permanent Observer Office at the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG).

Mere Falemaka, the Permanent Representative in the Permanent Delegation of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) presented her letter of appointment as Observer to the UNOG in Geneva Tuesday to the UNOG Director-General Michael Moller.

Pacific Islands Forum, formerly (1971–2000) South Pacific Forum, organization established in 1971 to provide a setting for heads of government to discuss common issues and problems facing the independent and self-governing states of the South Pacific.

It comprises 18 members: Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

In 2000 Forum leaders adopted the Biketawa Declaration, which was a response to regional political instability and which put forward a set of principles and actions for members to take to promote open, democratic, and clean government, as well as equal rights for citizens regardless of gender, race, colour, creed, or political belief.

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