Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 17 July 2017


Daily Current Affairs for IAS Exams

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 17 July 2017

::National::

Scientists developed super-stretchy and strong artificial silk

  • Scientists from the University of Cambridge have developed super-stretchy and strong artificial silk, composed almost entirely of water, which may be used to make eco-friendly textiles and sensors.
  • The fibres, which resemble miniature bungee cords as they can absorb large amounts of energy, are sustainable, non-toxic and can be made at room temp. The fibres are spun from a soupy material called a hydrogel, which is 98% water.
  • The remaining 2% of the hydrogel is made of silica and cellulose, both naturally available materials, held together in a network by barrel-shaped molecular “handcuffs” known as cucurbiturils. 
  • The chemical interactions between the different components enable long fibres to be pulled from the gel.
  • The extremely thin threads are a few millionths of a metre in diameter. After the hydrogel is stretched for roughly 30 seconds, the water evaporates, leaving a strong fibre.
  • The fibres are capable of self-assembly at room temperature, and are held together by supramolecular host, where atoms share electrons.

US has approved sale of 22 Guardian maritime surveillance UAV to India

  • An American approval for the sale of 22 Guardian maritime surveillance has come India’s way, but defence sources say the actual deal is a long way off as New Delhi is evaluating the options available.
  • Government-to-government discussions were under way but declined to put any timeline as to when it could be concluded. There was much speculation that the deal, likely between $2-2.5 billion, would be announced during PM Modi’s visit. 
  • The Navy currently operates Israeli Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs and is keen on acquiring High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) to augment its maritime surveillance capabilities. 
  • The other option is to go for Israeli HALE drones, which India is quite familiar with. Last year, the Navy asked General Atomics for the details of the Guardian, following which company officials made presentations on its capabilities.

PM targets corruption and cow vigilantes during all party meeting

  • Opposition leaders expressed concern over the Sino-Indian stand-off, expressing the hope that the matter would be resolved soon. They also expressed concern over the disturbed situation in Kashmir.
  •  “Farm distress” and the “economic burdens” on the people were also taken up. Opposition leaders took up the issue of recent attacks on minorities and Dalits.
  • The issue of cow vigilantism and political corruption apart, Mr. Modi commended both sides on the dignified nature of the presidential campaign, adding that it would have been good if a consensus had been arrived at.
  • Mr. Modi also called upon all parties to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Quit India movement, which falls on August 9.

::Science and Tech::

Low-cost smart glove that can wirelessly translate sign language

  • Scientists have created a low-cost smart glove that can wirelessly translate sign language into text and control objects in virtual reality games.
  • The device, called “The Language of Glove”, was built for less than $100 using stretchable and printable electronics that are inexpensive, commercially available and easy to assemble.
  • The team built the device using a leather athletic glove and adhered nine stretchable sensors to the back at the knuckles — two on each finger and one on the thumb.
  • Stainless steel thread connects each of the sensors to a low power, custom-made printed circuit board that’s attached to the back of the wrist. The sensors change their electrical resistance when stretched or bent. 
  • This allows them to code for different letters of the American Sign Language alphabet based on the positions of all nine knuckles.
  • A straight or relaxed knuckle is encoded as “0” and a bent knuckle is encoded as “1.” When signing a letter, the glove creates a nine-digit binary key that translates into that letter.
  • For example, the code for the letter “A” (thumb straight, all other fingers curled) is “011111111” while the code for “B” (thumb bent, all other fingers straight) is “100000000.”
  • The low-power printed circuit board on the glove converts the nine-digit key into a letter and then transmits the signals via Bluetooth to a smartphone or computer screen.

::Business and Economy::

Centre has given approval for three infrastructure proposals 

  • With deficient infrastructure severely hurting the competitiveness of India’s exports, the Centre has given its approval for three proposals including one to establish an Integrated Cargo Terminal (ICT) at the Imphal International Airport.
  • The other applications that received the green signal were: modernisation of infrastructure facility in Karnataka for marine exports; and construction of a new ‘Standard Design Factory’ building at Cochin SEZ.
  • The EC on ‘Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES)’ — in its first ever meeting that was held on June 9 — deferred on technical grounds an application to set up “the first dedicated facility” in India to test medical devices.
  • This is proposed to be established at the Andhra Pradesh Med Tech Zone in Visakhapatnam – with four separate facilities at a total cost of about Rs. 169 crore.
  • The Indian medical device market was worth about $4 billion in 2015 and exports of these items from India were close to $1 billion (in 2016).
  • The EC has, however, granted an in-principle nod for a proposal to establish a ‘Coastal Cashew Research and Development Foundation’ in Karnataka, for which the total cost estimated is Rs. 10 crore.
  • The cost of building the ICT at Imphal is Rs. 16.2 crore, of which the share of TIES is Rs. 12.96 crore and that of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) is Rs. 3.24 crore. 
  • The AAI is learnt to have informed the EC that there was no cargo facility at the Imphal airport, and that the proposed ICT “would act as a hub for air cargo movement and air connectivity to South-East Asian countries.”
  • The TIES, which is being implemented from FY18 till FY20, has a budgetary allocation of Rs. 600 crore. The scheme’s annual outlay is Rs. 200 crore.
  • According to a March 2016 report on ‘Export Infrastructure in India’“deficient infrastructure and the manner in which infrastructure is being operated (in India) are the major obstacles to ensure competitiveness in manufacturing of goods and exports thereof.”
  • The report said Indian exports lose competitiveness on account of huge logistics costs. It noted that “the logistic cost in India is about 14% of the GDP whereas in advanced economies like the U.S. and the European Union, it is 8% and 10% of the GDP respectively.”
  • According to an ASSOCHAM-Resurgent India joint study, “India can save up to $50 billion if logistics costs are brought down from 14% to 9% of country’s GDP thereby making domestic goods more competitive in global markets.” 
  • As per the Commerce Ministry, the objective of the TIES is to “enhance export competitiveness by bridging gaps in export infrastructure, creating focused export infrastructure and first-mile and last-mile connectivity.”

IBBI has powers to start probes against service providers

  • The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) has powers to start probes against service providers registered with it without intimating them, according to new regulations.
  • IBBI, which is implementing the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), has notified the regulations for inspection and investigation of service providers registered with it.
  • Insolvency professional agencies, professionals, entities and information utilities are considered as service providers under the Code.
  • The Code, which provides for a market-determined and time-bound resolution of insolvency proceedings, became operational in December 2016.
  • As per the regulations, the investigation authority has to serve a notice intimating the entity concerned about the probe at least ten days in advance. 
  • However, the requirement could be done away with on grounds such as apprehensions that the records of the particular service provider might be destroyed before the probe starts.

RBI is expected to push for resolution of bad loans

  • Emboldened by the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is expected to push for resolution of bad loans worth about Rs. 8 lakh crore by March 2019, a move that could bring down the non-performing assets and improve the financial health of banks.
  • This would be helped by a combination of several factors — turnaround in the economic cycle and some resolute steps by the government and the RBI to fix the issue, it said. 
  • Although entire NPAs could be put on the altar of IBC resolution mechanism, it has to be seen how much and how fast they actually go out from the balance sheets of banks, which, at this point in time, seem very stressed, it said.
  • NPAs are a big drain on the financial health of banks especially public sector banks (PSBs).
  • For example, 27 PSBs collectively made an operating profit of Rs. 1.5 lakh crore in 2016-17, but after allowing for the provisioning for bad loans, among others, net operating profit slipped to a paltry Rs. 574 crore.
  • If balance sheet numbers are anything to go by, it simply brings home the fact that banks have no capacity to do fresh corporate lending that is necessary for pushing subdued private sector investment. 
  • The government gave wide-ranging legislative powers to the Reserve Bank of India to issue directions to lenders to initiate insolvency proceedings for the recovery of bad loans that have reached unacceptably high levels,” he said.
  • Soon after the notification of the ordinance amending the Banking Resolution Act 1949, the RBI eased the decision-making process in the Joint Lenders’ Forum (JLF) and CAP under the ‘Framework for Revitalising Distressed Assets in the Economy.’
  • To begin with, the RBI, empowered by the ordinance initiated the process of resolution and identified 12 accounts each having more than Rs. 5,000 crore of outstanding loans and which accounting for 25% or nearly Rs. 2 lakh crore of total NPAs.

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