Weekly Current Affairs May 2021

Welcome to the Endeavor Editors Current Affairs Choicest Blog series. Get a  weekly roundup -on news from business, economy, markets, policy, and more. A quick capsule format news summary and update to keep you abreast with all the latest current affairs.

Current Affairs May 2021 – Week 4

1. Current Affairs – International News & Global Economy

Joe Biden vows to help ‘rebuild’ Gaza, insists on a two-state solution

President Joe Biden pledged to help organize efforts to rebuild Gaza and said creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel is the “only answer” to the conflict. Biden also said he had told the Israelis to stop “inter-communal fighting” in the flashpoint city of Jerusalem. However, he stressed “there is no shift in my commitment, commitment to the security of Israel” and added that until the region “unequivocally” acknowledges Israel’s existence “there will be no peace”. The idea of a two-state solution — with a sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel and Jerusalem as their shared capital — has been the cornerstone of decades of international diplomacy aimed at ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For details visit.

Israel-Gaza crisis: What is Hamas, its place in Palestinian politics & conflict with Israel

As the Israel-Palestine conflict continues in the worst round of violence since 2014, Shekhar Gupta tells you everything you need to know about Hamas, the group that governs part of the Gaza Strip, its ideology, and its involvement in the conflict ever since it came to power in the 2006 Palestinian elections.
Watch video:

G7 countries agree to stop international funding for coal-fired power

The Group of Seven (G7) rich countries have agreed to stop international funding for the construction of coal-fired power stations that emit carbon, a document summarising a G7 environment ministers’ meeting showed. “We stress that international investments in unabated coal must stop now and commit to taking concrete steps towards an absolute end to new direct government support for unabated international thermal coal power generation by the end of 2021,” said the document, reviewed by Reuters. The agreement comes in the context of aligning international financing with the goals under the Paris Agreement to combat climate change, by reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050, including deep reductions this decade. For details visit.

Nepal president dissolves parliament; announces mid-term polls in November

In a dramatic turn of events, Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari has dissolved the parliament and announced mid-term polls on November 12 and 19. Bhandari’s announcement came after she endorsed the recommendation to dissolve the parliament made by Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli. Nepal’s political crisis had taken a dramatic turn after embattled Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli and the Opposition parties staked separate claims for the formation of a new government by submitting letters of support from lawmakers to the President. For details visit. 

Nepal’s latest crisis, its complexities & legacy of political instability with 49 PMs in 58 years

Shekhar Gupta takes a closer look at the reasons behind the crisis, Nepal’s complex political system, and its legacy of instability.
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IMF says ending COVID-19 pandemic possible at cost of some $50 billion

The International Monetary Fund unveiled a $50 billion proposal to end the COVID-19 pandemic by vaccinating at least 40% of the population in all countries by the end of 2021 and at least 60% by the first half of 2022. Doing so, IMF officials say, would inject the equivalent of $9 trillion into the global economy by 2025 due to a faster resumption of economic activity, with rich countries potentially benefiting the most. The proposal, drafted by IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath and staff economist Ruchir Agarwal, builds on efforts already underway by the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, United Nations, World Health Organization, and other groups. G20 countries had already recognized the need for some $22 billion in grants to tackle the crisis, leaving some $13 billion in additional grants needed to reach the $50 billion, the IMF authors said. For details visit.

2. Current Affairs – India

India COVID update

From one doctor to another: An open letter to AIIMS director Dr. Randeep Guleria

Dr. VK Sinha, former Professor & Head of Orthopaedics, AFMC, Pune in an open letter to AIIMS director Dr. Randeep Guleria questions AIIMS prescription of plasma therapy, Remdesivir, Ivermectin, and steroids without a timeline for Covid treatment before backtracking on each and without explaining why they figured in the guidelines. For details visit.

Quixplained: What is mucormycosis or black fungus in Covid-19 patients?

Mucormycosis, a rare but serious fungal infection, is being detected relatively frequently in Covid-19 patients across India. The disease, also known colloquially as “black fungus”, was made notifiable by the government, making it mandatory for states to report both suspected and confirmed cases to the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP). Read to know- What is mucormycosis or ‘black fungus’? Who is at risk? What are the symptoms and treatment? For details visit.

Black fungus: These 3 states account for nearly 60% of mucormycosis cases in India

Cases of mucormycosis, or “black fungus,” a potentially serious condition that causes blurred or double vision, chest pain, and breathing difficulties, have surged in India, mostly among COVID-19 patients. At least 8,848 such cases have been found across the country as of May 21, according to the govt. Gujarat has the highest number of black fungus cases with 2281 infected patients. Maharashtra has 2000 black fungus cases. Andhra Pradesh has 910 Mucormycosis patients. These three states account for 58.66% of total cases in the country. For details visit.

COVID-19 could become like common cold in the future, study suggests

The novel coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 could cause no more than common cold-like coughs and sniffles within the next decade, according to a study. The research, published in the journal Viruses, makes this likely prediction based on mathematical models that incorporate lessons learned from the current pandemic on how our body’s immunity changes over time. The study suggests that changes in the disease could be driven by adaptations of our immune response rather than by changes in the virus itself. For details visit.

IMA demands action against Ramdev for remarks on modern medicine, threatens to move court

Indian Medical Association (IMA), the body that represents doctors in India, has threatened to move court if the Union Health Ministry does not take suo motu cognisance of “false and baseless” statements made by yoga guru Ramdev. In a statement issued on May 22, IMA said, “Union Health Minister either accept accusation and dissolve modern medical facility or prosecute him and book him under Epidemic Diseases Act.” According to IMA, Ramdev is a “corporate giant of pharmaceutical units and has made several false accusations about his company products to mislead the public.” “All this is done by Swami Ramdev to take advantage of the situation and create a false sense of fear and frustration within the public at large so that he can sell his illegal and unapproved so-called medicines and make money at the cost of the public at large,” IMA contended. For details visit.

India – Other News

Cyclone Yaas likely to intensify into very severe cyclonic storm: IMD

Cyclone Yaas is likely to intensify into a “very severe cyclonic storm” and cross the Odisha and the West Bengal coasts on May 26, the India Meteorological Department (IMD). A low-pressure area formed over the east-central Bay of Bengal and the adjoining north Andaman Sea on May 22. Last week, extremely severe cyclone Tauktae hit the Gujarat coast and left a trail of destruction all over the western coast. As it weakened further, its impact was felt across the north Indian plains and even in the hill states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. The April-May and the October-December periods are known to witness cyclones. For details visit.

ONGC tragedy: Barge toll hits 60 as 11 more bodies found, search on for 15 men

Navy warships have recovered bodies of 11 more personnel of barge Papaa (P-305) that sank 70km off the Mumbai coast after cyclone Tauktae stormed past the western coast, taking the total number of crew casualties to 60. The Navy is looking for 15 barge staffers still missing and has also initiated an underwater search to locate the wrecks of P305 and a tug, Varaprada, whose 11 members also remain untraced. For details visit.

Cyclone Tauktae & a worrying new trend in the Arabian Sea

While historically cyclones are much more common and more intense in the Bay of Bengal, data shows that in the past few years, they’ve started to increasingly strike the Arabian Sea as well. ThePrint’s Sandhya Ramesh explains what is driving the anomalous numbers behind cyclones in this part of the Indian Ocean. Watch video:

Farmer unions seek PM Modi’s intervention to resume talks, vow to intensify protests from May 26

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of over 40 farmer unions, on May 21 wrote to PM Modi urging him to resume talks with the farmers over the Centre’s three farm laws they have been agitating against at Delhi borders since November last year. Hundreds of farmers have been camping at Delhi’s borders since November 2020 demanding that the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 be rolled back and a new law be made to guarantee minimum support price for crops. However, the government, which has held multiple rounds of formal dialogue with the protestors, has maintained that the laws are pro-farmer. On May 14, the SKM had announced that it will observe May 26 as ‘black day’, marking six months of their protest at Delhi’s borders against the Centre’s three farm laws. For details visit.

Chipko movement pioneer, Sunderlal Bahuguna dies due to COVID-19

Environmental activist, Sunderlal Bahuguna passed away on, May 21, 2021 due to COVID-19. 94-year old Sundarlal Bahuguna was admitted to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Rishikesh on May 8 after testing positive for COVID-19. Bahuguna was one of the best-known activists in India and pioneered the Chipko movement in the 1970s. Meaning ‘to hug’, the Chipko movement began in the Chamoli village of Uttarakhand when reckless deforestation started affecting the lives of the locals. In 1974, women from the village came out in large numbers and hugged trees to protest against lumberjacks who had arrived after the auction of 2,500 trees along the Alakananda river. For details visit.

3. Current Affairs – Economy 

Economic activity will return with a vengeance, says SBI Chairman

India’s largest lender State Bank of India is expecting a resurgence in demand and economic activity after June, once the pace of vaccinations picks up. The bank, which reported an 81% rise in fourth-quarter profit, guided towards 10% growth in its loan book in the current financial year. According to SBI’s Chairman, Mr. Khara, well-rated borrowers are moving to the debt market for cheaper financing. However, once liquidity normalizes, companies will return to banks for funding, he said. Asset quality, Khara said, isn’t a concern for the bank despite worries surrounding the economy. For details visit.

4. Current Affairs – Markets, Banking, and Finance

Explained | How you can trade gold under SEBI’s proposed gold exchange framework

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has issued a consultation paper proposing draft regulations for exchanges that permit trading in gold. It has proposed an elaborate framework wherein one can convert physical gold into ‘Electronic Gold Receipts’ and even convert those back into physical gold. As the name suggests, this bourse would offer trading facilities in the precious metal. Entities like retail investors, banks, foreign portfolio investors (FPIs), jewelers, and bullion dealers among others would be allowed to trade on the exchange. While there are existing commodity exchanges that offer trading in gold contracts, those are derivative instruments while the proposed gold exchange would allow trading akin to the spot market. This move assumes significance as India is the second-largest consumer of gold – after China – with an annual demand of around 800-900 tonnes. According to SEBI, the proposed exchange would bring in more transparency in the gold trading market in terms of spot price discovery, quality of the gold and enable greater integration with the financial markets. For details visit.

SEBI proposes a framework for Gold Exchange, to be traded as E-Receipt

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RBI under pressure from BFSI industry to defer new auditors’ norms for a year

Pressure is building upon the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) from the banking and financial services industry (BFSI) to defer the new auditors’ guidelines for a year, which restricts the appointment of auditors for a period of three years and also allows only four banks for audit as against eight previously. After the debacle of banks and NBFCs like Yes Bank, IL&FS, and Dewan Housing, where the big four auditors were present, RBI came out with new guidelines last month. The new guidelines cover rules regarding the appointment of auditors and joint auditors, the number of auditors, eligibility criteria, tenure, and compulsory rotation period. The BFSI industry faced with restructuring and asset quality issues is insisting that they need time as they are preoccupied with other business issues due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In fact, the companies are finding it challenging to get the right pool of auditors as many big firms are out of the reckoning because of the three-year rule. For details visit.

SC upholds IBC provisions on the insolvency of Personal Guarantors; Big victory for Banks

Supreme Court upheld provisions of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) allowing lenders to pursue insolvency proceedings against promoter guarantors of companies facing the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process. The ruling would allow banks to file personal bankruptcies against guarantors, even when the insolvency of firms is yet to be resolved. In 2019, the Centre introduced a new provision in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016, that allowed the banks to move an application for initiation of insolvency against personal guarantors to corporate debtors. The intention was to hold the promoters of the defaulter companies who had furnished personal guarantees for the loans taken by their firms, liable. The new provisions were challenged by many promoters before different high courts, claiming that the promoters alone should not be held liable for the default on debt repayment. For details visit.

5. Current Affairs – Business

BigBasket Claims $1 Bn Gross Sales in FY21; Expects FY22 to be even bigger

Online grocery startup BigBasket, which will be acquired by Tata Group soon, has clocked gross sales of $1.1 Bn or Rs 8,000 Cr in the financial year 2021 that ended in March this year. The company is now expecting to garner gross sales of $125 Mn (Rs 910 Cr) in the month of May, on the road to clock gross sales of around $1.6-$1.7 Bn in FY22, CEO Hari Menon has said. Meanwhile, Tata Group is all set to acquire BigBasket to aid its Super App ambition, which will allow the company to offer several consumer-focused services under one umbrella platform. Tata Group had received Competition Controller of India’s (CII) final nod on this acquisition earlier this month. Though the exact value of the transaction has not been disclosed yet, market estimates peg it at $1.8-2 Bn. For details visit.

Air India Reports Data Breach; 45 Lakh Passengers’ Data Compromised

A cyber-attack on the servers of national air carrier Air India resulted in a massive data breach and affected around 45 Lakh customers of the airline, it informed on May 21. Leaked details, including passport and credit card information of these passengers, were compromised in the attack, Air India said in a statement. The Air India data breach is the second such incident in recent times. Some data servers of Indigo airlines were hacked in December. Recently, India stood 19th on the ranking of 21 countries in the National Privacy Test, according to the recent survey by virtual private network (VPN) provider NordVPN. For details visit.

Revised MSME definition a welcome move but challenges persist, say experts

Last year, as part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat stimulus package, the Indian government rolled out a slew of policies to uplift the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) sector from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic. One of the changes that managed to grab attention apart from the Rs 3 lakh-crore collateral-free loan was the revision in the definition of MSMEs. According to the new classification, a single criterion will be used to define and bifurcate companies operating in the manufacturing and services sector. Apart from this, earlier, the MSMEs were defined on the basis of investments put in, but the revised definition will include the turnover of the company. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said the new definition will ensure MSMEs can exhaust benefits without the fear of outgrowing. The objective of this was to provide ease in doing business, attract investments, and create more jobs in the MSME sector. For details visit.

6. Current Affairs – Technology

Bitcoin price falls after China calls for crackdown on bitcoin mining and trading behavior

Bitcoin’s price tumbled following an intensified call from Chinese authorities to crack down on mining and trading of the cryptocurrency. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and the State Council said in a statement that tighter regulation is needed to protect the financial system. Concerns in China centered on a number of issues. Much of bitcoin mining is done there by a computer that uses massive amounts of energy to solve complex math problems to unlock the cryptocurrency. Authorities around the world have expressed worries over how bitcoin and its counterparts are used in illicit ways. For details visit. 

Crypto collapses as bitcoin faces regulatory pressure from China

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The U.S. vs China: The Battle for Bitcoin Mining Supremacy | WSJ

Chinese bitcoin miners have long dominated the global processing power that runs the bitcoin network with sophisticated equipment and access to cheap electricity. But now, a group of U.S. miners with deep pockets wants to conquer a greater share of the industry.

Watch video:

Rise of the Indian SpaceTech: Skyroot and Agnikul raise $11 Mn each for their Satellite Projects

Ever since the Indian government has decided to open up the space sector for private players, there have been a lot of expectations from the Indian space tech startups to bring in more innovations to the table. With this, two of India’s space tech startups Skyroot Aerospace and Agnikul have bagged $11 Mn Series A funding each, which is the highest ever amount of funding in a single round closed by private Indian space tech players. Other major startups operating in the space tech segment are Bengaluru-based Pixxel that has joined hands with NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the commercial arm of ISRO; and Kawa Space, whose earth observation satellites are used by customers in financial services, government departments, strategic risk management, and agriculture. For details visit. 

Top 10 Most ambitious space tech startups in India

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7. Current Affairs – Politics

The majority mark in Rajya Sabha to remain elusive for BJP in the second term of the Modi government

The majority mark in the Rajya Sabha will remain elusive for the BJP in the second term of the Narendra Modi government, and its performance in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly poll slated for early next year is crucial for it to maintain its current tally in the Upper House. At 93, the BJP is 30 members short of the majority mark of 123 in a House of 245 MPs. In the second term, with more than half a dozen Opposition MPs changing loyalty to the BJP, the ruling party had managed to pass controversial Bills, beginning with the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriage) Bill, 2019 or Triple Talaq Act, along with J&K Re-organisation Bill and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. Three rounds of retirements in the year 2022 – April (18 members), June (20 members), and July (33 members) – will bring the last change in the political arithmetic of the Rajya Sabha in the second term of the Modi government. For details visit. 

Vijayan defends dropping Shailaja: all-new Cabinet to ‘face future challenges’

With the historic return to power of the CPI(M)-led LDF in Kerala being overshadowed by the exclusion of KK Shailaja from the new government after her acclaimed performance as Health Minister amid the Covid crisis, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the decision to form an all-new Cabinet was long-pending but could not be implemented “due to various factors” — it has been done now considering the “conducive political situation”. The decision to exclude Shailaja and the inclusion of Vijayan’s son-in-law and first-time legislator P A Mohammed Riyas, who is the national president of the CPI(M)’s youth wing DYFI, had triggered disquiet even among Left sympathizers and the party’s central leadership. For details visit. 

8. Current Affairs – Sports

Olympics Games will go ahead even under a state of emergency- IOC official

The Tokyo Olympics will go ahead even if the city is under a state of emergency due to COVID-19, a top Olympic official said, underscoring the challenges facing organizers of the pandemic-hit Games. With just nine weeks until the Games get underway, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) sought to calm fears in Japan that the event would present a burden to a medical system already under strain from the pandemic at the end of a three-day virtual meeting to discuss preparations. The global sporting event faces mounting opposition from the public, and in a Reuters company survey, nearly 70% of respondents said they wanted a cancellation or further postponement. For details visit. 

Explained: Why Football World Cup might be held after every 2 years now

Since 1930, when the first edition was held in Uruguay, the football World Cup has been staged every four years. The women’s competition, launched in 1991, followed the same time gap between the two editions. Soon, however, that could change. In a move that could have a profound impact on the global football structure, FIFA is considering conducting its flagship tournament every two years instead of four. During its annual congress, an overwhelming majority of nations voted in favor of carrying out a feasibility study on changing the current four-year cycle. FIFA president Gianni Infantino, while claiming there was room to make changes to the international calendar after 2024, said having a biennial World Cup will help countries outside Europe to play more meaningful games. For details visit. 

9. Current Affairs – Opinion

What India can learn from China’s population statistics

The recently released Chinese national census revealed a fall in its average annual population growth rate and a growing elderly population which may slow economic growth. This is a challenge that India might face in the near future as well, say experts. China’s average annual population growth rate has receded to 0.53 percent from 2010 to 2020, lower than 0.57 percent during the previous decade (2000 to 2010), according to the country’s seventh national census. It is still the most populous nation in the world with 1.41 billion denizens in 2020. “The harsh family planning policies of China in the past had many unexpected adverse outcomes,” said Dr. T.V. Sekher, Professor & Head at Department of Population Policies and Programs, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai. The Chinese experience holds some lessons for India as well. While India’s next decadal population census for 2021 is awaited, policymakers need to be aware and well equipped to address such challenges given the similar population profile. For details visit. 

Unscrambling diabolical conspiracy, deceit & brutality behind Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination 30 yEArs on

On the 30th death anniversary of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, Shekhar Gupta talks about the web of subterfuge and the LTTE’s ideological violence behind the assassination, the role of Sri Lanka’s prominent political leaders, and the accuracy of Shoojit Sircar’s film ‘Madras Cafe’. Watch video:

How this crypto exchange has seen unexpected growth in India despite regulations

In March 2020, when the Supreme Court of India lifted the ban on Cryptocurrency exchanges, it could not have come at a better time for the crypto-coin industry. Since then, Cryptos have witnessed a bull run with several currencies witnessing an 80 percent growth in value. Their value received a further boost when global giants like Tesla, PayPal, JP Morgan, and Visa all gave credence to the crypto industry. According to Coinmarketcap.com, the daily trading volume in the CoinDCX exchange is around $96 million as of May 15th. CoinDCX founders Sumit Gupta and Neeraj Khandelwal say that the platform has crossed a total of $10 billion in trading volumes cumulatively, and hit that figure in February 2021. They also say that the platform clocks a monthly trading volume of close to $1.5 billion. For details visit. 

Martech: The changing marketing dynamics in a data-driven world

With the rise of digitization, marketing and technology have fused together to create martech — the newest kid on the marketing strategies’ block, and it has become quite the favorite. According to a NASSCOM report, brands are investing a large percentage of their marketing budgets in technology, and 52 percent of enterprises plan to continue increasing their martech expenditure in 2021. The reality today is that over 40 percent of organizations are at a nascent stage in the martech capabilities, while 30 percent are at an emerging level where enterprise-level coordination is happening, and standards are put in place. Almost 80 percent of businesses in e-commerce and over 50 percent in BFSI have an emerging level of Martech capabilities, showing signs of early adopters. As reported by a Martech Maturity Survey by MMA, these are good indicators reflecting that many organizations in India have kick-started their martech journey. Take a look at some of the key ingredients of a good martech stack. For details visit. 

With that, we come to an end for our Weekly Current Affairs May 2021 -Week 4. Hope you have liked it. Write your feedback in the comments below and let us know if there is anything else you would like us to cover.

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