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24 December Current Affairs

Buddhist site museum at Lalitgiri in Odisha

In News:

Buddhist site museum has been inaugurated at Lalitgiri in Odisha. Excavations at Lalitgiri have yielded ancient seals and inscriptions.

Details:

Located in Cuttack district, it will be the third site museum of the Bhubaneswar circle of the Archaeological Survey of India after Ratnagiri and Konrak.

About Lalitgiri:

It is a major Buddhist complex in the Indian state of Odisha comprising major stupas, ‘esoteric’ Buddha images, and monasteries (viharas), one of the oldest sites in the region.

Together with the Ratnagiri and Udayagiri sites, Lalitagiri is part of Puspagiri University located on top of hills of the same names. The three complexes are known as the “Diamond Triangle”. Tantric Buddhism was practiced at this site.

Excavations at Lalitgiri have yielded the remains of four monasteries, showing cultural continuity from the post-Mauryan period till the 13th century CE. The centre of attraction is a relic casket containing corporal remains found inside the Mahastupta.

Location: It is hemmed between the Parabhadi and Landa sandstone hills in the standalone Assian hill range. It is situated in the Mahanga Tahsil in Cuttack district.

Source: The Hindu

Public Credit Registry

In News:

The Reserve Bank of India has shortlisted six major IT companies, including TCS, Wipro and IBM India, to set up a wide-based digital Public Credit Registry (PCR) to capture details of all borrowers and wilful defaulters. The RBI will soon seek request for proposal from the six vendors.

About Public Credit Registry:

The PCR will be an extensive database of credit information for India that is accessible to all stakeholders. The idea is to capture all relevant information in one large database on the borrower and, in particular, the borrower’s entire set of borrowing contracts and outcomes.

The proposed PCR will also include data from entities like market regulator Sebi, the corporate affairs ministry, Goods and Service Tax Network (GSTN) and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) to enable banks and financial institutions to get a 360-degree profile of the existing as well as prospective borrowers on a real-time basis.

Management of PCR:

Generally, a PCR is managed by a public authority like the central bank or the banking supervisor, and reporting of loan details to the PCR by lenders and/or borrowers is mandated by law. The contractual terms and outcomes covered and the threshold above which the contracts are to be reported vary in different jurisdictions, but the idea is to capture all relevant information in one large database on the borrower, in particular, the borrower’s entire set of borrowing contracts and outcomes.

Need for a PCR:

A central repository, which, for instance, captures and certifies the details of collaterals, can enable the writing of contracts that prevent over-pledging of collateral by a borrower. In absence of the repository, the lender may not trust its first right on the collateral and either charge a high cost on the loan or ask for more collateral than necessary to prevent being diluted by other lenders. This leads to, what in economics is termed as, pecuniary externality – in this case, a spillover of one loan contract onto outcomes and terms of other loan contracts.

Furthermore, absent a public credit registry, the ‘good’ borrowers are disadvantaged in not being able to distinguish themselves from the rest in opaque credit markets; they could potentially be subjected to a rent being extracted from their existing lenders who enjoy an information monopoly over them. The lenders may also end up picking up fresh clients who have a history of delinquency that is unknown to all lenders and this way face greater overall credit risk.

Benefits of having a PCR:

A PCR can potentially help banks in credit assessment and pricing of credit as well as in making risk-based, dynamic and counter-cyclical provisioning.

The PCR can also help the RBI in understanding if transmission of monetary policy is working, and if not, where are the bottlenecks.

Further, it can help supervisors, regulators and banks in early intervention and effective restructuring of stressed bank credits.

A PCR will also help banks and regulators as credit information is a ‘public good’ and its utility is to the credit market at large and to society in general.

Task force on PCR:

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had formed a high-level task force on public credit registry (PCR) for India. The task force was chaired by Y M Deosthalee.

The task force has suggested the registry should capture all loan information and borrowers be able to access their own history. Data is to be made available to stakeholders such as banks, on a need-to-know basis. Data privacy will be protected.

Source: The Hindu

‘Angel Tax’ Controversy

In News:

Over the past few weeks, several startups have reportedly been receiving notices from the I-T department asking them to clear taxes on the angel funding they raised, and in some cases, levying a penalty for not paying Angel Tax.

Details:

However, this is not the first time that this issue has come up. Startups have been raising the issue of Angel Tax for years, requesting the government to do away with it.

What is Angel Tax?

Angel Tax is a 30% tax that is levied on the funding received by startups from an external investor. However, this 30% tax is levied when startups receive angel funding at a valuation higher than its ‘fair market value’. It is counted as income to the company and is taxed.

The tax, under section 56(2)(viib), was introduced by in 2012 to fight money laundering. The stated rationale was that bribes and commissions could be disguised as angel investments to escape taxes. But given the possibility of this section being used to harass genuine startups, it was rarely invoked.

Why is Angel tax problematic?

There is no definitive or objective way to measure the ‘fair market value’ of a startup. Investors pay a premium for the idea and the business potential at the angel funding stage. However, tax officials seem to be assessing the value of the startups based on their net asset value at one point. Several startups say that they find it difficult to justify the higher valuation to tax officials.

In a notification dated May 24, 2018, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) had exempted angel investors from the Angel Tax clause subject to fulfilment of certain terms and conditions, as specified by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP). However, despite the exemption notification, there are a host of challenges that startups are still faced with, in order to get this exemption.

Source: The Hindu

Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme

In News:

Odisha cabinet has approved the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme, worth over Rs. 10,000 crore, for the development of farmers in the state.

Key features of the scheme:

As per the scheme, an amount of Rs. 10,000 per family at the rate of Rs. 5,000 each for Kharif and Rabi seasons shall be provided as financial assistance for taking up cultivation.

The assistance will be provided to take care of sustenance of farmers not able to take up cultivation due to old age, disability, disease or other reasons.

The scheme also has a component for livelihood support for landless households. The landless households will have the option of selecting any of the units. The scheme, among others, will particularly benefit scheduled caste and scheduled tribe households.

Deserving families will be identified and selected by gram panchayats. About 10 lakh households will be covered over two years under this scheme at a cost of Rs. 100 crore.

The scheme also include life insurance cover of Rs. 2 lakh and additional personal accident cover of Rs. 2 lakh will be provided to both cultivators and landless agriculture labourers covering about 74 lakh households.

Significance of the scheme:

The KALIA is historic and it will further accelerate agricultural prosperity in the state and reduce poverty. It is a progressive and inclusive scheme and will make a direct attack on poverty by way of massive investment in this sector and making benefits reach the most needy through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) mode.

Ten lakh landless households will be supported with a unit cost of Rs. 12,500 to take up activities like goat rearing units, mini layer units, duckery units, fishery kits for fishermen and women, mushroom cultivation and bee keeping.

Source: The Hindu

National Mathematics Day 2018

In News:

National Mathematics Day is celebrated every year on December 22.

Details:

It is observed to honor the birth anniversary of the famous mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan who greatly contributed towards mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series and continued fractions.

National Mathematics Day:

In 2011, on the 125th anniversary of his birth, the Indian Government declared that 22 December will be celebrated every year as National Mathematics Day.

Highlights of Srinivasa Ramanujan’s life:

In 1911, Ramanujan published the first of his papers in the Journal of the Indian Mathematical Society.

Ramanujan traveled to England in 1914, where Hardy tutored him and collaborated with him in some research.

He worked out the Riemann series, the elliptic integrals, hypergeometric series, the functional equations of the zeta function, and his own theory of divergent series.

The number 1729 is known as the Hardy-Ramanujan number after a famous visit by Hardy to see Ramanujan at a hospital.

Hardy observed Ramanujan’s work primarily involved fields less known even amongst other pure mathematicians.

Ramanujan’s home state of Tamil Nadu celebrates 22 December as ‘State IT Day’, memorialising both the man and his achievements, as a native of Tamil Nadu.

Source: The Hindu

Ultima Thule

In News:

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, the same craft that made humanity’s first-ever visit to Pluto in 2015, is approaching its next target, a Kuiper Belt object a billion miles beyond Pluto, nicknamed Ultima Thule. It will be another first for New Horizons, the farthest planetary flyby in human history.

Key facts- Ultima Thule:

Ultima Thule is located in the Kuiper belt in the outermost regions of the Solar System, beyond the orbit of Neptune.

It measures approximately 30 km in diameter, and is irregularly shaped.

Ultima Thule has a reddish color, probably caused by exposure of hydrocarbons to sunlight over billions of years.

Ultima Thule belongs to a class of Kuiper belt objects called the “cold classicals”, which have nearly circular orbits with low inclinations to the solar plane.

Background:

New Horizons was launched on 19 January 2006, and has been travelling through space for the past nine years. New Horizon’s core science mission is to map the surfaces of Pluto and Charon, to study Pluto’s atmosphere and to take temperature readings.

Source: The Hindu

‘Super-Earth’ in constellation Cassiopeia

In News:

Researchers have discovered a new exotic planet outside our solar system in the constellation Cassiopeia. Located 21 light years away from us, this planet, dubbed HD219134 b, has a mass almost five times that of Earth, which is considered a so-called “super-Earth”. Unlike the Earth, however, it most likely does not have a massive core of iron, but is rich in calcium and aluminium alongside magnesium and silicon.

Details:

A super-Earth is an extrasolar planet with a mass higher than Earth’s, but substantially below those of the Solar System’s ice giants, Uranus and Neptune, which are 15 and 17 times Earth’s, respectively.

The term “super-Earth” refers only to the mass of the planet, and so does not imply anything about the surface conditions or habitability.

Source: The Hindu

Hongyun project

In News:

China has launched its first communication satellite to provide broadband internet services worldwide. The satellite is the first in the Hongyun project planned by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC).

Details:

The spacecraft is tasked with verifying basic designs of Hongyun satellite and demonstrating low-orbit broadband communications technologies.

About Hongyun project:

The Hongyun project, started in September 2016, aims to build a space-based communications network to provide broadband internet connectivity to users around the world, especially those in the underserved regions.

When the Hongyun project is complete, it will cover the whole world and offer round-the-clock communication services to users in polar regions, who now have difficulties accessing telecommunication and internet services, even from on board an aircraft or a ship or in a remote area.

The Hongyun system will feature lower production and operational costs and fewer occurrences of data transmission delays compared with existing communication satellite networks.

Source: The Hindu

Korolev Crater

It is an icy- crater on Mars found recently. It was captured by European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express mission. The crater floor can reach depths of two kilometers (1.2 miles) below its rim, deeper than Earth’s Grand Canyon.

Mars Express Mission was launched back in June 2003 and entered orbit around the red planet in December of the same year. Since then, the probe has been surveying the surface of Mars using a high resolution camera as well as other tools like radars and spectrometers.

National Unity award

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced the institution of a new national honour for National Unity on the pattern of Padma Awards. The annual award would be given to any Indian who has contributed to national unity in any manner.

Mount Anak Krakatau

Both sides of Indonesia’s Sunda Strait – Java on the east and Sumatra on the west – have been hit by a tsunami. The tsunami is believed to have been caused by undersea landslides from volcanic activity.

What might have triggered the tsunami?

Indonesia’s climatology agency (BMKG) said undersea landslides triggered by an eruption of the Mount Anak Krakatau volcano, located about 50km offshore in the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra, may have triggered the tsunami.

Successful Flight Test of Agni – IV

Agni-IV, the Long Range Surface to Surface Ballistic Missile with a range of 4,000 kms was successfully flight tested recently.

The missile is developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program.

Agni IV is nuclear capable, with a payload capacity of one tonne of high-explosive warhead.

The sophisticated surface-to-surface missile is equipped with modern and compact avionics to provide high level of reliability.

The most accurate Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System (RINS) and supported by highly reliable redundant Micro Navigation System (MINGS), ensures the vehicle reaches the target within two digit accuracy.

Pokkali Paddy

  • Pokkali paddy variety is a saltwater-tolerant paddy grown in the coastal fields of Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Thrissur districts of Kerala.
  • It is endemic to Kerala and was given Geographical Indication (GI) tag.
  • It grows to a height of up to 2 m and it survived the recent devastating floods in farmlands across the State.
  • The single-season paddy is raised in saltwater fields between June and November followed by a season of fish-farming.
  • After the harvest, the paddy stubble in the fields acts as food and shelter for shrimp and small fish.
  • Fish excreta and scales, along with the decomposed stubble, provide excellent natural manure for another season of Pokkali.
  • The cultivation is labour intensive and this farming tradition is under threat due to lack of labour.

States’ Startup Ranking

  • The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) announced results of the first ever States’ Start-up Ranking 2018 recently.
  • The key objective of the exercise was to encourage States/UT to take proactive steps towards strengthening the Start-up ecosystems in their states.
  • The States have been identified under different categories – Start-up policy leaders, incubation hubs, seeding innovation, scaling innovation, regulatory change champions, procurement leaders, communication champions, North-Eastern leader, and hill state leader.
  • Based on these categories, the States have been recognised as the Best Performer, Top Performers, Leaders, Aspiring Leaders, Emerging States and Beginners.
  • Gujarat has been identified as the best performer.
  • Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha, and Rajasthan have been identified as the top performers.
  • Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana have been identified as leaders.

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