Current Affairs 23rd December 2020

1. 23 December: National Farmers Day

National Farmers Day is observed on December 23 across the country to praise the farmers as they are the spine of India. The day was chosen to honour the birth anniversary of the fifth Prime Minister of India, Chaudhary Charan Singh. He was born on December 23, 1902. Chaudhary Charan Singh, the Kisan Leader, ved the country for a very short period from July 28, 1979, to January 14, 1980.

2. Apollo Tyres launches a portal

Apollo Tyres has forayed into online sales space with the launch of an e-commerce portal that allows customers in India to buy car and 2-wheeler tyres. It will work on the ‘buy online, fit offline’ model, where consumers can purchase their chosen tyre online and book an appointment with Apollo Tyres’ dealer nearest to their location, to get the tyres fitted and serviced.

3. Hindustan Foods unit to invest ₹125 crore

Hindustan Foods Limited’s subsidiary will invest ₹125 crores to set up a manufacturing facility in north India. The new facility is part of the company’s consolidated plans to expand its footprint in contract manufacturing space for the Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) products. The subsidiary will set up a food and beverages manufacturing facility for a leading FMCG brand.

4. 100 EV battery swap stations in Bengaluru

Electric vehicles (EV) mobility solutions provider Sun Mobility will roll out 100 battery swapping stations called Swap Points across Bengaluru. The swap points will help ease concerns over limited-range issues that EVs face, make up for inadequate charging infrastructure and help increase adoption of green transport mobility solutions that would help bring down costs and carbon footprint.

5. Allowance of doctors, dentists increased

The Karnataka Health Dept has decided to increase the special allowance of specialist doctors, medical officers, and dentists with effect from September 1, 2020, in view of the demand posed by the doctors amid the pandemic. The special allowance was revised in 2015 earlier. The special allowance for MBBS/BDS grads with 0-6 years experience has been increased from Rs 21,000 to Rs 30,500.

6. GIC, ESR form $750 million joint venture

Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte Ltd and ESR Cayman Ltd have entered into an 80:20 partnership. They will set up a $750 million joint venture to develop and acquire industrial and logistics assets in India. The JV will develop and own industrial, logistics facilities as well as acquire core or operational assets, focusing on Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities.

7. Ratan Tata honoured with a title

Veteran industrialist Ratan Tata has been conferred the title of “Global Visionary of Sustainable Business and Peace” by the Federation of Indo-Israel Chambers of Commerce (FIICC). He has been honoured for epitomising “unity, peace and sustainability”. He is also a recipient of two of India’s highest civilian awards — Padma Vibhushan and Padma Bhushan.

8. Central Bank of India ties up with NPCI

Central Bank of India has launched contactless ‘RuPay Select’ debit card in association with the National Payments Corporation of India. Users of RuPay Select debit card can avail complimentary membership and concessional access to golf courses, gyms, spas and restaurants. Additionally, they would be entitled to discounted health check-ups with the National Common Mobility Debit Card (NCMC).

9. Plant-based mock egg gets an award

The innovation of plant-based mock egg by Prof. Kavya Dashora, Centre for Rural Development and Technology, IIT Delhi has secured first prize at Innovate4SDG contest by ‘UNDP (United Nation Development Program) Accelerator Lab India’. The award included a sum of USD 5000. The development of the mock egg meets the protein needs of the diet-specific, vegan, and vegetarian people.

10. ATP Awards 2020

Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Frances Tiafoe were among the winners of the ATP’s top awards for 2020. Djokovic was the year-end No. 1 for a record-equaling sixth time after winning four titles including a record eighth Australian Open. Federer was the singles fans’ favourite for a record-extending 18th straight year. Nadal received the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award.

11. Saudi Aramco teams up with Google Cloud

Saudi Aramco Development Co, a subsidiary of Aramco, has teamed up with Google Cloud to offer cloud services to customers in Saudi Arabia. The collaboration taps into rapidly expanding cloud services demand in Saudi Arabia, which is forecasted to reach a market opportunity up to $10 B by 2030. Currently, Saudi telecom operators are among the cloud service providers in the country.

12. Wipro takes over METRO AG’s IT operations

Wipro has signed a digital and IT partnership deal with Metro AG, that will see over 1,300 employees of the German wholesaler move to the Indian IT major. The estimated deal value for the duration of the first five years is approximately $700 million. Wipro will take over the IT units of Metro AG- Metro-NOM GMBH in Germany and Metro Systems Romania S.R.L.

13. Bharat Biotech inks Lol with Ocugen Inc

Bharat Biotech has inked a binding letter of intent with US-based biopharmaceutical player Ocugen Inc for co-developing India’s first indigenous Covid-19 vaccine candidate Covaxin for the US market. Covaxin, a whole-viron inactivated vaccine candidate developed on the Vero cell manufacturing platform, is currently undergoing Phase lll human clinical trials in India on 26,000 volunteers.

14. PM Modi to address at Visva-Bharati University

PM Narendra Modi will address the centenary celebrations of the Visva-Bharati University, Shantiniketan on 24 Dec 2020 through video conferencing. The Prime Minister is the Chancellor of the University. Founded by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore in 1921, Visva-Bharati was declared to be a central university and an institution of national importance by an Act of Parliament in May 1951.

15. Centre and WB sign USD 500 million project

The Centre and the World Bank signed a USD 500 million project on 22 December 2020. It has been signed to build safe and green national highway corridors in Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh. The project will also enhance the capacity of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in mainstreaming safety and green technologies.

16. 51st DG level talks between BSF India and BGB

51st DG level talks between Border Security Force India and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) began in Guwahati on 22 December 2020. It is for the first time that the bi-annual talks between the two Border Guarding Forces are taking place in Assam. The delegation of Border Guard Bangladesh was led by DG BGB Maj Gen Shafeenul Islam while the BSF delegation was headed by DG Rakesh Asthana.

17. Health Ministry issues SOP

The Govt has issued a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for epidemiological surveillance and response in the context of the new variant of coronavirus detected in the UK. As per the SOP, all international travelers will be required to declare their travel history of the past 14 days and fill up the self-declaration form to be screened for COVID-19.

18. Indian Army and Bank of Baroda enter into MoU

Indian Army and Bank of Baroda have entered into an MoU for Baroda Military Salary Package. The MoU lays down the basis on which banking services would be provided by Bank of Baroda to serving and retired Army personnel. The package offers attractive benefits including free personal accidental insurance cover, permanent total disability cover, partial disability cover, etc.

19. 8 Khelo India State CoE inaugurated

Sports Minister Kiren Riju, on 22 Dec 2020, virtually inaugurated 8 Khelo India State Centres of Excellence across India in the presence of State Sports Ministers. The 8 states include Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Kerala, Telangana, Nagaland, Karnataka, and Odisha. The Khelo India State Centres of Excellence(CoE) are being started in addition to the National Centres of Excellence.

20. Uttarakhand Assembly passes budget

The Utarakhand Assembly passed Rs. 4063 crore supplementary budget on 22 December 2020. The supplementary budget, which was passed with a voice vote, earmarks Rs 2,071.42 crore for revenue expenditure and Rs 1,992.37 crore for capital expenditure. The supplementary budget also has a provision of Rs. 200 crores for Kumbh 2021.

21. TN govt enhances subsidy for construction

Tamil Nadu CM Edappaadi Palani Saamy announced that the state govt subsidy for construction of houses under the Prime Minister Housing Scheme has been increased to Rs 2.75 lakh. An additional fund of Rs 1,800 crore has been allotted by the government for this purpose. The PM Housing Scheme is an initiative that aims at providing affordable housing to the urban poor by the year 2022.

22. Dubai offers free Pfizer-BioNTech virus shots

Dubai started a free vaccination campaign from 23 Dec 2020 using the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE. Pfizer and BioNTech have said their vaccine is 95% effective in preventing the illness. The country has a case-fatality rate of 0.3%, among the lowest globally, according to data from Johns Hopkins.

23. Slurrp Farm raises $2 million

Slurrp Farm, a start-up offering healthy snacks and mealtime options for young children, has raised $2 million in a Series A round from Fireside Ventures. Fireside is a multi-stage venture fund investing across the early growth stages of the business with a focus on consumer brands. Kanwaljit Singh, founder and managing partner, Fireside Ventures has joined Slurrp as a board member.

24. Infosys, Wipro clinch technology contracts

Infosys Ltd and Wipro Ltd have bagged multi-year technology contracts from Germany’s Daimler AG and Metro AG, respectively. Both deals involve absorbing clients’ employees and will require regulatory approval. Infosys will help Daimler upgrade its IT operating model and infrastructure across workplace services, service desk, data center, networks, and SAP (systems applications and products).

25. HyperX launches Blue mechanical switches

HyperX, the gaming division of Kingston Technology, announced the release of the new HyperX Alloy Origins mechanical gaming keyboard featuring HyperX Blue mechanical switches. The company claims that the keyboard is built for performance and longevity. The Hyperx Blue mechanical switches offer a shorter actuation point and an 80 million click rating.

26. Bajaj Auto to set up new unit in Maharashtra

Bajaj Auto has signed an MoU with the Maharashtra government for ₹650 crores to set up a manufacturing unit in Chakan. The facility is expected to commence production in 2023. This facility will be utilised for manufacturing high-end KTM, Husqvarna and Triumph motorcycles as well as for electric vehicles starting with Chetak.

27. SBI Card raises ₹450 crore

SBI Cards and Payment Services Ltd (SBI Card) has raised ₹450 crores by issuing bonds on a private placement basis. The tenure of the debt instruments is five years with the date of maturity as of December 22, 2025. The bonds bear a coupon rate of 6 percent per annum. The bonds will be listed on the Wholesale Debt Market Segment of BSE.

28. EIL shareholders approve a share buyback plan

Shareholders of Engineers India Ltd (EIL) have approved buyback of nearly 7 cr shares for about ₹587 cr with a view to returning surplus cash to shareholders, the largest being the govt of India. EIL will buy back 6.98cr or 11.06% of the fully paid-up equity shares at a price of ₹84 apiece. The govt of India holds a 51.50% stake in the firm that provides engineering consultancy for projects.

29. ClearTax launches investment app “Black”

Tax-filing portal Clear Tax, which has a userbase of five million, is entering the investment space with an app called “Black” The app has been launched with direct mutual funds but will eventually have stocks, a national pension system (NPS), PPF, and potentially, cryptocurrency. The company will charge a flat fee of ₹10,000-₹15,000 per annum for users with income above ₹15 lakh.

30. Oil India signs pact with Assam Hydrocarbon

Oil India Ltd has signed an MoU with Assam Hydrocarbon and Energy Company Ltd (AHECL) for cooperation in oil and gas exploration and development as well as the marketing of natural gas in Assam. The MoU was signed in Guwahati on 21 Dec 2020. Oil India is the country’s 2nd-largest state-owned explorer of oil and gas. AHECL was established in 2006 for the exploration of hydrocarbons.

31. Centre grants Rs 4,898 crore to Andhra and MP

The Centre granted an additional borrowing limit of Rs 4,898 crore to Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh for the implementation of urban local body (ULB) reforms. While Andhra received permission to mobilize Rs 2,525 crore through market borrowings, MP can raise an additional Rs 2,373 crore. The two states have successfully completed the set of reforms required in the functioning of ULBs.

32. Glenmark inks pact with Menarini Group

Glenmark Pharmaceuticals’ subsidiary Glenmark Specialty has inked a licensing pact with Menarini Group for commercializing its nasal spray Ryaltris across 33 countries in Europe. The company’s product is a novel fixed-dose combination nasal spray of an antihistamine and a steroid, indicated for treatmernt of symptoms associated with seasonal allergic rhinitis in patients over 12 yrs of age.

33. 3-month extension of IBC Suspension

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has notified a three-month extension of the suspension on sections 7, 9, and 10 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC). The MCA also notified 45 sections of the amended Companies Act, largely relating to the decriminalization and reduction of fines of various offenses under the law, in an earlier notification on 21 Dec 2020.

34. Economy to register marginal growth: NCAER

The National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) has revised upward its GDP projection for FY21 to 7.3% contraction from the 12.6% dip estimated in September 2020. The Reserve Bank of India expects the economy to post growth of 0.1% in the December quarter and 0.7% in the March quarter to end FY21 with a 7.5% contraction.

35. APEDA organizes virtual Buyer Seller Meeting

APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) organized a virtual Buyer Seller Meet (BSM), in association with the Indian Embassy in Thailand, on 21 December 2020. It was organized in a bid to boost the export potential of India’s agricultural and processed food products. This BSM with Thailand is the 13th in the series of such events organized by APEDA.

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