22 , February 2017

NITI Aayog’s two incentive schemes – Lucky Grahak Yojana and Digi Dhan Vyapar Yojana to promote digital payments.

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1.BharatQR: One step closer to e-payments
Source: The Hindu

India has reached a new milestone in cashless transaction by launching BharatQR. BharatQR is the world’s first interoperable payment acceptance solution. This is the second big ticket initiative from the Centre, after BHIM, towards pushing digital transactions.

About BharatQR code:

  • BharatQR code is an interoperable payment acceptance solution.
  • Even if the merchant and customer are on different payment platforms, BharatQR will enable payment from one to the other.
  • This means that merchants need to display only one QR code instead of multiple ones for different payment platforms.
  • It has been jointly developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), Mastercard, and Visa.
  • All banks associated with the NPCI are already operationally ready to deploy BharatQR.
  • The BharatQR is currently rolled out only for smartphone users.
  • But the NCPI is working on Aadhaar-based and UPI address-based payment services.

About QR code:

Quick Response Code (QRCode) is a two-dimensional machine-readable unique pattern that contains information on a specific task.A common example is QR codes in newspaper advertisements or billboards.When scanned using a smartphone, it will direct you to the advertiser’s website.

How does it work?

  • In case of retail payments, QR code eliminates the need of a Point of Sale (PoS, or card swipe) machine for carrying out electronic transaction
  • If the merchant and the customer are using the same payment application, such as PayTM or a bank’s app, then the customer can scan the merchant’s QR code to make the payment

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2.India signs agreement with Japan on rail safety
Source: The Hindu

India signed an agreement with Japan on enhancing railway safety in the Indian Railways with focus on railway track and rolling stock safety.

Aim: To prevent major rail accidents.

Areas of cooperation: Rail inspection, rail wielding and providing automatic railway track safety inspection, maintenance of rolling stock and any other relevant railway safety matters.

Background:

  • The agreement with Japan comes at a time when the train derailments are on the rise.
  • In 2016-17, the number of consequential train accidents remained the same level as last year at 95.
  • While the unmanned level crossing accidents declined from 27 in 2016-17 to 16 this financial year, the derailments rose from 56 to 74.

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3.Defence Ministry approves expansion of coastal surveillance radar chain
Source: The Hindu

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) gave the nod for the second phase of the static sensor chain. To further strengthen the surveillance of the country’s over 7,500-km-long coastline.

Phase-II: Involves setting up 38 additional radars, four mobile surveillance stations and two Vessel Traffic Management Systems at Kutch and Khambat at a cost of approximately Rs. 800 crore

The project would be executed by Indian companies and the lead integrator would be Bharat Electronics Limited, Bengaluru

Background:

  • India took up a major project to fill gaps in surveillance of the coastline in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks in 2008
  • Under Phase-I, 46 coastal radars had been set up and have been integrated for real-time maritime awareness

Other development: The DAC also gave approval for the setting up of an intermediate engine repair facility for Naval Mig-29K fighter aircraft at Goa.The Navy currently operates 45 Mig-29K carrier aircraft procured from Russia.

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4.Private sector gratuity to soar
Source: The Hindu

Workers in private firms could see maximum payout double to Rs. 20 lakh.

The labour ministry has called a meeting with trade unions, industry and State governments on Thursday to discuss the proposal to increase the gratuity ceiling by amending the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972.

The proposal

Proposal is to increase the present gratuity ceiling from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh.

  • Presently employees are eligible to get gratuity after leaving an organisation after five years of continuous service

Why the move?

The move is aimed at bringing parity between public and private sector workers after the gratuity limit was raised for central government employees from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh as part of the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations accepted by the Centre in July 2016 .

Last revision:

The gratuity ceiling was last revised from Rs 3.5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh in 2010 after the Sixth Pay Commission recommendation had raised the limit for central government employees.

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5.Tiny frog species found in Western Ghats
Source: The Hindu

Scientists have come across four new species of tiny frogs in Western Ghats.These are no bigger than a human thumbnail, which make a distinctive chirping sound comparable to that of a cricket.

  • These species are among the seven new ‘Night Frogs’ discovered by a team of researchers from the University of Delhi and the Kerala Forest Department, who spent five years surveying the global biodiversity hotspot.

Night Frogs: Belong to the Nyctibatrachus genus endemic to the Western Ghats.They represent an ancient group of frogs that diversified on the Indian landmass approximately 70 to 80 million years ago.

Threat:

  • The Athirappilly Night Frog was found close to the Athirappilly waterfalls, the proposed site of a hydroelectric project.
  • The Sabarimala Night Frog was discovered near the hill shrine which receives lakhs of pilgrims every year.
  • The Radcliffe’s Night frog and the Kadalar Night Frog were reported from plantation areas.
  • Over 32% of the frog species in the Western Ghats are already threatened with extinction.
  • Out of the seven new species, five face considerable anthropogenic threats and require immediate conservation.

Restricted range: Because several of the new species have been identified as being range-restricted and impacted by threats, it is important to assess their extinction risks and tailor conservation strategies for both species and habitats.

Background: As many as 103 new amphibian species have been described from biodiversity- rich Western Ghats region between 2006 and 2015.

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6.Withdrawal of funds from EPF to get easier

The Hindu

Banking on your provident fund savings for critical contingencies will now become far simpler with the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) introducing a single page composite form for such withdrawals before retirement age.

What has happened?

Over eight crore Employees’ Provident Fund account holders will no longer be required to submit evidential documents for withdrawing PF for availing housing loans, grant of advances in case of factory closure, marriage, higher education of children, among other things.

  • A single page composite form for such withdrawals before retirement age will now be sufficient.

Present situation:

Till now, employees were required to fill and submit three different forms to EPFO for withdrawing provident fund for various purposes .

Two categories of forms:

The EPFO has introduced forms in two categories –

  • For those whose Aadhaar number is seeded with Universal Account Number (UAN): Employees whose Aadhaar number is seeded will not be required to get employer’s attestation for withdrawing PF.
  • Without an Aadhaar number: Employees without the seeded Aadhaar number will need the employer’s approval on their forms before submitting it to the EPFO.

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7.RBI deputy governor Viral Acharya proposes new steps to tackle bad loans
Source: Indian Express

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) deputy governor Viral Acharya floated two proposals to restructure stressed debt in troubled sectors.

Proposal-I:

  • In cases where there is economic value in the short run, banks could consider a private asset management company (PAMC) structure, with a moderate level of debt forgiveness.
  • Under this plan, banks may be asked to resolve 50 of the most stressed cases by 31 December, with turnaround specialists and private investors called upon to assess the cases.
  • The latter will submit a resolution plan, marking out sustainable debt and debt-for-equity conversions for banks to facilitate the issuance of new equity, and possibly some new debt, to fund investment needs.

Proposal-II:

  • In cases of assets where there is little to no economic value in the medium or short term, Acharya suggested a national asset management company.
  • Such an entity would raise debt for its financing needs; possibly raise some more to pay off banks at a haircut, (likely steep but softened by payment in the form of security receipts against the asset’s cash flows).
  • It would also keep a minority equity stake for the government; and, bring in asset managers such as ARCs and private equity to manage and turn around the assets, individually or as a portfolio.

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8.Green tea-laced capacitor to power wearable devices
Source: The Hindu

  • Scientists have used green tea compounds to develop a new flexible and compact rechargeable energy storage device.
  • The device may power more comfortable wearable electronics such as heart rate monitors.
  • The most prominent versions of wearable electronics are sold in the form of watches or sports bands.
  • More comfortable products could become available in softer materials made in part with an unexpected ingredient — green tea.

Challenge:

Powering soft wearable electronics with a long-lasting source of energy remains a big challenge.

However, most supercapacitors are rigid, and the compressible supercapacitors developed so far have run into roadblocks.

Supercapacitors have been made with carbon-coated polymer sponges, but the coating material tends to bunch up and compromise performance.

The new supercapacitor made from green tea demonstrated power and energy densities of 2,715 watts per kg and 22 watt- hours per kg — enough to operate a heart rate monitor, LEDs or a bluetooth module.

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