Daily Current Affairs - 12th Mar 2020

70% of Germans at risk: Merkel

  • Chancellor Angela Merkel, citing expert estimates, said that up to 70% of German population could be infected by SARS-CoV-2. Germany had confirmed some 1,300 infections, with two deaths. The government has recommended the cancellation of all events with over 1,000 people.

All England Open: PV Sindhu beats Beiwen Zhang in straight games

  • Indian badminton star PV Sindhu made a confident start at the All England Open, beating American Beiwin Zhang in straight games, but Kidambi Srikanth bowed out with a first round defeat at Arena Birmingham. Sindhu will next clash with Korean Sung Ji Hyun for a place in the quarterfinals.
  • The mixed doubles pair of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy lost 13-21, 21-11, 17-21 to top-seeded Chinese pair of Si Wei Zheng and Ya Qiong Huang.

Commerce ministry calls meeting of stakeholders on Mar 16 on new foreign trade policy

  • Commerce and Industry Ministry has called a meeting of all stakeholders to discuss issues related to the forthcoming foreign trade policy (FTP) for 2020-25. The meeting will be attended by industry chambers and exporters from various sectors such as textiles, chemicals, agriculture, capital goods, electronics, engineering, pharmaceuticals, leather, higher education, hospitality, e-commerce, and entertainment.
  • All exports and import-related activities are governed by the foreign trade policy, which is mainly aimed at enhancing the country's exports and use trade expansion as an effective instrument of economic growth and employment generation.
  • The meeting assumes significance as the commerce ministry is likely to soon come out with the policy for the next five financial years 2020-25. The validity for the old one will end on March 31, 2020.

COVID-19: Govt calls for invoking provisions of Epidemic Act; GoM reviews preparations

  • Health and Family Welfare Special secretary Sanjeeva Kumar has said that union government has decided to invoke the provisions of Section 2 of Epidemic Desease Act, 1897 for efficient enforcement of advisories on Novel Coronavirus Disease management, by the State governments.
  • Mr. Kumar said, over 10 and half lakh international passengers from 9862 flights have undergone screening at various airports, and 35,971 passengers are under observation.

COVID-19: Supply chain distribution to hamper auto production

  • The auto part supply chain disruption due to the lockdown in China over the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is expected to critically hamper India's automobile production across all segments, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) said.
  • Many automakers in India import about 10 per cent of their raw materials from China. Consequently, the disruption in availability of these parts are likely to critically hamper production across all segments, namely passenger vehicles (PV), commercial vehicles (CV), three-wheelers (3W), two-wheelers (2W) and electric vehicles (EVs).
  • The industry had maintained an inventory at the beginning of the year, but with the current lockdown in China, supply for BSVI vehicles is likely to get impacted.

FDI inflows recorded highest ever for fiscal year 2018-19

  • The total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflow was over 318 billion US dollars between 2014 and September 2019 representing nearly 50 percent of the cumulative FDI in India since April 2000. In 2018-19, the FDI inflow stood at a record 62 billion US dollars, highest ever recorded for a fiscal year. This information was given in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha by Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal.

Gems, jewellery exports drop

  • India's gems and jewellery exports declined by 20.26 percent to Rs 20,763.28 crore in February, hit by the global outbreak of Covid-19, credit crunch and customs issues, according to industry body GJEPC. Gems and jewellery exports stood at Rs 26,039.32 crore in February 2019.
  • The overall exports declined by 6.38 percent to Rs 2,36,839.34 crore during April 2019 to February 2020, compared to Rs 2,52,973.24 crore during the same period last year.
  • Meanwhile, shipments of cut and polished diamonds (CPD) in February fell by 40.66 percent to Rs 9,897.14 crore, compared to Rs 16,679.94 crore in the same month last year.
  • Meanwhile, the overall gems and jewellery imports during April 2019 to February 2020 declined by 3.33 percent to $23.03 billion, from $23.83 billion registered during April 2018 to February 2019.
  • The overall gross import of rough diamonds during April 2019 to February 2020 showed a decline 13.43 percent to $12.39 billion from $14.31 billion earlier.

Govt suspends all tourist visas till April 15 to contain spread of novel coronavirus

  • The Centre has suspended all tourist visas till April 15 in a bid to contain spread of novel coronavirus. The suspension will come into effect from March 13 at the port of departure. All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/International organisations, employment and project visas stand suspended till 15th April 2020. Visa-free travel facility granted to OCI card holders is also kept in abeyance till April 15.
  • Any foreign national who intends to travel to India for compelling reason may contact the nearest Indian Mission. All incoming travellers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after February 15 will be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.
  • Indian nationals are strongly advised to avoid all non-essential travel abroad. On their return, they can be subjected to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days.

India 2nd most promising source of disruptive technology: Survey

  • According to KPMG's "2020 Global Technology Industry Innovation Survey", India shares the second position with China as the most promising source of disruptive technology in the world.
  • In terms of the world cities that are likely to be leading technology innovation hubs over the next four years, apart from presumed global leader San Francisco, Bengaluru entered the top 10 list, ranked ninth, and Mumbai was ranked 16th.

India the second largest arms importer in the world

  • According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Worldwide major arms exports have increased on growing demand from countries in conflict, with top exporter the United States widening its lead over Russia. Over five years from 2015 to 2019, international arms exports grew by 5.5 per cent from the 2010-2014 period.
  • India was the second-largest arms importer in the world over the past five years, with its neighbour Pakistan ranking 11th.
  • According to the report, major arms exports by Russia decreased by 18 per cent between 2010–14 and 2015–19 given that the country has lost traction in India—the main long-term recipient of Russian major arms.
  • With Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Mauritius as main clients, India now ranks 23rd in the exporter list, a slight increase from earlier.
  • Shipments from the US grew by 23 per cent, raising its share of total global arms exports to 36 per cent. Between 2015 and 2019, the US delivered major arms to 96 countries. Half of US arms exports went to the Middle East, and half of that to Saudi Arabia, the world's number one importer of major arms.

Karnataka Bank allays depositors concerns, says well capitalised

  • Mangaluru head-quartered Karnataka Bank said it is well capitalised, fundamentally strong bank and depositors need not worry about safety of their money.
  • As per the audited balance sheet as on 31 March 2019, Capital to Risk Weighted Assets Ratio (CRAR) of Karnataka Bank stood at 13.17 per cent which is well above the minimum regulatory prescription," Karnataka Bank Managing Director and CEO Mahabaleshwara M S said in a statement.
  • Karnataka Bank was the third private sector lender that came up with statements on its financial position. Earlier in the day, RBL Bank and Karur Vysya Bank (KVB) had also issued statements, urging depositors not to fall prey to unfounded rumours in the aftermath of the Yes Bank crisis that has shaken customers confidence in the banking system.

Pakistan tops in holding biases against women: UN Report

  • Pakistan tops a list of countries of people holding prejudiced views against women, a United Nations report has said. According to the findings of the Gender Social Norms Index report, released recently by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the percentage of those holding at least one sexist bias was the most in Pakistan, at 99.81%. Qatar and Nigeria followed with 99.73%.
  • The index measured how social beliefs act as a hindrance to gender equality in areas like politics, work and education.

RBI invites applications for Deputy Governor’s post

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has invited applications from its Executive Directors for the Deputy Governor’s post as B.P. Kanungo, one of the four Deputy Governors, is scheduled to complete his three-year term in April. There are 12 Executive Directors in the RBI at present.

SBI cuts fixed deposit rates, MCLRs in 2nd reduction in a month

  • Country's largest lender State Bank of India (SBI) has announced a reduction in its MCLR or marginal cost of funding-based lending rates by 10-15 basis points across tenors, and a cut in its fixed deposit interest rates. Making it a second reduction in a month and the tenth cut in the current fiscal year, the public sector bank has reduced retail term deposits (less than Rs 2 crore) by 10 to 50 basis points for a few tenors.
  • The bank said the new rates for home loans and fixed deposits will take effect from March 10.

South Central Railway plans trip from Tirupati to Kashmir

  • The Indian Railway Catering Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) is planning to run a train to Kashmir under its flagship ‘Bharat Darshan’ programme directly from the temple city. The idea is to promote Tirupati, currently a tourist destination, as an originating point for national tourism.

Taliban rejects Afghan President's offer to release 1,500 insurgent prisoners ahead of peace talks

  • The Taliban rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's offer to release 1,500 insurgent prisoners ahead of peace talks, saying it wanted 5,000 captives freed before opening negotiations. Taliban political spokesman told media that the prisoners should be released as a trust-building measure before intra-Afghan talks. He said any changes would amount to a violation of the deal struck between the Taliban and the US in Doha last month.

World bronze-medallist Manish Kaushik in 63kg category becomes 9th Indian boxer to qualify for Tokyo Olympics

  • World bronze-medallist Manish Kaushik in 63kg category has became the ninth Indian boxer to qualify for Tokyo Olympics after a win at the Asian Qualifiers in Amman, Jordan. He beat Commonwealth Games champion, Harrison Garside of Australia, 4-1 to book his maiden ticket to the quadrennial showpiece.
  • The other Indians to have qualified for the Olympics are MC Mary Kom (51kg), Simranjit Kaur (60kg), Lovlina Borgohain (69kg), Pooja Rani (75kg), Amit Panghal (52kg), Ashish Kumar (75kg) and Satish Kumar (91kg).

World Health Organization declares Covid-19 as a pandemic

  • World Health Organization (WHO) has characterised the new coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told that he is alarmed by the spread and severity of the outbreak, along with a lack of action taken to combat it. WHO chief said the number of cases and deaths are likely to rise in the coming days and weeks. He said, WHO has never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus.
  • UN chief Antonio Guterres has urged world governments to urgently scale up their response to the novel coronavirus if they are to stand a chance of stemming its spread.