The HINDU Notes – 15th April 2019 - VISION

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Monday, April 15, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 15th April 2019

πŸ“° Opposition parties to approach SC again to demand verification of 50% votes by VVPATs

•Opposition parties on Sunday held a meeting to discuss the issue of EVM malfunctioning and said they will approach the Supreme Court again to demand that at least 50% of paper trails be verified with EVMs.

•Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, who on Saturday met Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora to raise the issue of EVM malfunctioning, said 21 political parties have demanded verification of VVPAT paper trails of 50% of the EVMs.

•Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi said opposition parties will approach the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the EC for counting of at least 50% of the VVPAT slips with the EVMs in every assembly segment.

•He said the opposition parties will carry out a nationwide campaign on the issue of discrepancies in EVMs.

•“We do not think the EC is doing enough to address issue of EVM malfunctioning,” Singhvi alleged.

•The Supreme Court Monday directed the EC to increase random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs to five polling booths per assembly segment, from one at present, in the Lok Sabha polls, saying it will provide greater satisfaction not just to political parties but the entire electorate.

πŸ“° A tale of two manifestos

The Congress has a deeper understanding of India’s security challenges than the BJP does

•National security has rarely been a poll issue. But, thanks to Masood Azhar, it has become one in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has made the Pulwama attack and Balakot retaliation central to its campaign. The BJP manifesto opens with national security, under the title ‘Nation First’, and many of the points made there overlap with those in the Congress manifesto. For example, speeding up defence acquisitions, modernising the forces, streamlining border and coastal security, rehabilitating veterans and combating left-wing extremism (a term used by the Manmohan Singh administration).

Points of difference

•Yet the two documents have a markedly different approach towards security. The Congress’s does not open with national security, but deals with it in more detail and has an additional focus on the protection and welfare of security forces, an issue the BJP manifesto does not touch upon. The Congress commitment to ensure shorter stints of duty in high altitude areas is especially welcome. Shortening postings in insurgency-affected areas to conform with best practice would be even more welcome. That would reduce the frustrations that often lead to human rights abuse and high rates of suicide among paramilitary troops.

•The most significant markers of difference lie in the two manifestos’ approach towards terrorism and civil conflict. The BJP manifesto proclaims zero tolerance for terrorism, which, it says, means giving the security forces a free hand to counter it. This claim appears overstated. Ordinarily, giving the security forces a free hand would entail the Army preparing a blueprint for the government to approve. No such blueprint has been prepared, to my knowledge, though many from the past exist.

•Indeed, most indications are that the Army is following government instructions rather than formulating the government’s counter-insurgency or national security strategies. The Army knows that setting a population against security forces can only hinder their counter-insurgency tasks, not facilitate them, and has for decades favoured a combined political and military approach that distinguishes between local and foreign militants and incorporates a ‘hearts and minds’ strategy.

•These elements are missing from the policy that the Modi administration has followed over the past five years in our most severely insurgency-affected State, Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, repeated statements by BJP leaders make amply evident that the tactics deployed in the Kashmir Valley are the BJP’s own, not the Army’s. Yet it is the Army that is tarnished with the label ‘military rule’, not the BJP.

•Like the BJP, the Congress manifesto also talks of countering terrorism, but appears to have a far more professional approach, to streamline intelligence-operational coordination through a range of mechanisms, many of which had been set in place during the Singh administration but later discarded by the Modi administration. The failure to take intelligence warnings sufficiently on board when planning the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy’s movement was one factor that allowed the Pulwama attack to be successful, though this in no way detracts from the Jaish-e-Mohammad’s culpability.

•The BJP’s efforts to use Pulwama and Balakot for electoral gain has already attracted protest by former military officials. Shameful as the exploitation of the Pulwama heroes is, abandoning the Air Force to deal with media scepticism over Balakot was equally shameful. Since when does the Air Chief respond to a U.S. journal article? If a response was so important, why was it not made by quietly sharing critical evidence with the media, or by the Ministers who claim Balakot’s debatable successes as their own?

•Worrying as this politicisation of the security forces is, the most significant difference between the two manifestos is the BJP’s inclusion of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) as a security measure, along with revocation of Article 370, which defines J&K’s relation to the Union of India. Why should either of these be regarded as security measures? The former is, purportedly, a measure to deal with illegal immigration, and the latter a political status.

•The NRC has itself become an explosive issue in the Northeast as well as more widely in the rest of India, due to the announcement that Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain or Christian illegal immigrants would be given citizenship, but Muslim immigrants would not. It has added to fears of exacerbating communalism across our country and, in the Northeastern States, to fears that their demographic balance would be further affected. Far from being a security measure, it has already provoked conflict and, if imposed, would provoke more.

•Similarly, Article 370 poses no security threat, since it accepts defence as a Union, not State, portfolio and, on civil strife, puts Jammu and Kashmir on a par with other States, whose governments have to concur with the deployment of security forces for internal security duties. In effect, it codifies the Instrument of Accession that was signed by Kashmir’s Maharaja, and its revocation could open the Union to all sorts of undesirable legal challenges. That apart, the mere threat of revocation has added to conflict in the State and any attempt to follow through on the threat will certainly provoke greater conflict.

Tackling AFSPA

•The Congress manifesto deals with the troubled States of both the North-West and North-East as issues of conflict resolution, not national security. Its promise to review the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act — again — may be unpopular with the security forces, but that is partly because the Singh administration did not work with them to identify amendments that would prevent human rights abuses while safeguarding operational requirements. That is a mistake one hopes the Congress has learned from.

•The popular belief may be that the BJP prioritises security while the Congress does not. But the two manifestos reveal that it is the Congress which has a more serious understanding of India’s security challenges, not the BJP.

πŸ“° India short of 6 lakh doctors, 2 million nurses: U.S. study

Report highlights lack of access to life-saving drugs

•India has a shortage of an estimated 600,000 doctors and 2 million nurses, say scientists who found that the lack of staff who are properly trained in administering antibiotics is preventing patients from accessing live-saving drugs.

•Even when antibiotics are available, patients are often unable to afford them. High out-of-pocket medical costs to the patient are compounded by limited government spending for health services, according to the report by the U.S.-based Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP).

•In India, 65% of health expenditure is out-of-pocket, and such expenditures push some 57 million people into poverty each year.

Mortality burden

•The majority of the world’s annual 5.7 million antibiotic-treatable deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, where the mortality burden from treatable bacterial infections far exceeds the estimated annual 700,000 deaths from antibiotic-resistant infections.

•Researchers at CDDEP in the U.S. conducted stakeholder interviews in Uganda, India, and Germany, and literature reviews to identify key access barriers to antibiotics in low-, middle-, and high-income countries. Health facilities in many of these countries are substandard.

•In India, there is one government doctor for every 10,189 people (the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a ratio of 1:1,000), or there is a deficit of 600,000 doctors, and the nurse:patient ratio is 1:483, implying a shortage of two million nurses.

•“Lack of access to antibiotics kills more people currently than does antibiotic resistance, but we have not had a good handle on why these barriers are created,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, Director, CDDEP.

•“The findings of the report show that even after the discovery of a new antibiotic, regulatory hurdles and substandard health facilities delay or altogether prevent widespread market entry and drug availability,” Dr. Laxminarayan said in a statement.

Drugs not available

•“Our research shows that of 21 new antibiotics entering markets between 1999 and 2014, less than five were registered in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Just the mere existence of an effective antibiotic does not mean that they are available in countries where they are most needed,” he said.

•Worldwide, the irrational use of antibiotics and poor antimicrobial stewardship lead to treatment failure and propagate the spread of drug resistance which, in turn, further narrows the available array of effective antibiotics.

πŸ“° Secrets and agents: arrest of Assange

The arrest of Julian Assange raises fears about suppression of the right to information

•The arrest of Julian Assange, the head of the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, has renewed a global debate on balancing freedom of expression (or the right to information) with considerations towards the national security of a country. After nearly seven years of eluding authorities in the U.S. and the U.K., facing charges related to theft of classified information from government computers, he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on April 11 following Ecuador President LenΓ­n Moreno’s withdrawal of his country’s grant of asylum to Mr. Assange, for “repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols”. Ecuador had earlier limited Mr. Assange’s Internet access. As he sits in jail for up to a year on bail-jumping charges from 2012 in a now-closed case relating to sexual assault allegations by a complainant from Sweden, he will find out whether he will ultimately face the prospect of extradition to the U.S. There, Mr. Assange is looking at a single count of conspiring, with former U.S. Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning, to break into a secret government computer network. Conspiracy charges, rather than those under the Espionage Act, are what he will likely face, given concerns in the U.K. that he should not be extradited to any country where the death penalty is applicable in his case.

•At the heart of the drama is the question whether Mr. Assange is a “journalist” in the traditional sense of the word and whether, following that line of reasoning, freedom of expression is endangered or constrained by the action taken in this case. There is some irony in this debate given that the voices of liberal America are clamouring the loudest for his interrogation for the alleged crime of conspiracy, not so much in the case of the U.S. diplomatic cables or the dissemination of related top-secret U.S. government information — but owing to WikiLeaks being linked to rogue actors in Russia who allegedly purloined Democratic Party documents and handed them over to Mr. Assange for use on his website, thereby tipping the scales in Donald Trump’s favour in the 2016 election. Nevertheless, can WikiLeaks be considered a mainstream media organisation? Perhaps not. However, the arrest highlights troubling facts, including that the indictment against Mr. Assange, revealed only this month, appears to be flimsy, for it relates to a conversation he is alleged to have had nine years ago with Ms. Manning on a computer break-in attempt that ultimately failed. At a time when strongmen-led governments and resurgent nationalism are at the forefront of domestic politics in many countries, the arrest of a prominent anti-secrecy advocate is likely to have a chilling effect on whistle-blowers everywhere. That could ultimately weaken democracy itself.

πŸ“° Politics and the military

Mixing the two arenas, as is common now, does not bode well for Indian democracy

•In a letter dated April 11, more than 150 senior military veterans, including several former service chiefs, wrote a letter to the President expressing their anguish over the ‘politicisation’ of the military. They requested him “to take all necessary steps to urgently direct all political parties that they must forthwith desist from using the military, military uniforms or symbols, and any actions by military formations or personnel, for political purposes or to further their political agendas”. Furthermore, they castigated political leaders for taking credit for military operations such as cross-border strikes, terming it a “totally unacceptable practice”. The senior veterans singled out Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s statement calling the military “Modi ki sena” for special condemnation.

•Using military achievements for electoral gains is dangerous. Even then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi desisted from going down this route after the 1971 war. She did not take excessive credit for that victory despite the fact that her and her advisers’ astute political and diplomatic strategies contributed profoundly in creating an international environment that made the victory possible.

•The current political atmosphere is already vitiated by the use of communally polarising tactics, including the juxtaposition by Mr. Adityanath of ‘Ali’ with ‘Bajrang Bali’. Exploiting India’s military, so far a remarkably politically neutral force, for partisan ends adds to the already morally degraded political environment in which the elections are taking place.

•The use of the armed forces as a political tool is just one side of the coin. Even more dangerous is the fact that it sends the signal to the top brass that there is nothing wrong in intermixing politics with the military. The eventual lesson they will learn is that they can interfere in the political process with impunity since the civilian leadership has already legitimised the military’s use in the political realm. In recent years, many senior serving officers have commented on important domestic and international issues, such as immigration and India-Pakistan relations, that until recently had been off limits for the military brass. This is an unprecedented development that needs to be reversed in order to preserve civilian supremacy over the armed forces and keep the political and military arenas distinct.

•These two trends — the use of the military for short-term political gains and the propensity of serving officers to make politically charged statements — augment each other. This nexus does not bode well for Indian democracy.

πŸ“° C-295 plane deal in final stages

C-295 plane deal in final stages
Clearance for new parameters from Defence Acquisition Council awaited

•The Indian Air Force (IAF) has several proposals to be put up before the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) when it meets in June after the Lok Sabha elections. Among them is the long-delayed deal for C-295 transport aircraft which are meant to replace the ageing Avro fleet.

•“Negotiations for the C-295 deal have been completed. However, the deal needs clearance from the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) as there is a change from earlier parameters,” a senior defence official said.

Election time

•However, there is no DAC meeting scheduled due to the ongoing elections. “The next DAC meeting will be held in June. So we will push the deal at that time,” the official added.

•The other major IAF deals pending approval are the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for 114 fighter jets and the fresh proposal for six mid-air refuellers cancelled earlier.

•The IAF has 56 Avro transport aircraft which are in urgent need of replacement. Under the present deal, 16 will be built by a foreign Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and the remaining 40 to be built in the country by an Indian manufacturer under transfer of technology.

•The sole bid by Airbus and Tata with the C-295 aircraft was approved by the DAC in May 2015, but the contractual negotiations have been repeatedly delayed. The Request For Proposal (RFP) was issued to global firms in May 2013.

•This deal has become even more critical as a separate project to jointly co-develop and produce a Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) of 20 tonnes with Russia to replace the An-32s in service was scrapped after initial design discussions.

•The An-32s which are the workhorse of the IAF are currently being upgraded under a $400 mn deal finalised with Antonov state corporation of Ukraine in 2009.

πŸ“° Necessary steps to ending poverty

The provision of health, education and public services matters more than income support schemes

•It is by now close to 50 years since Indira Gandhi brought the idea of eradicating poverty into the electoral arena in India. ‘Garibi Hatao’ had been her slogan. She actually took the country some distance in the promised direction. Though it had not come close to being eradicated in her time, it was under her leadership that the reduction in poverty commenced, in the late 1960s. And it was under her leadership again that the reduction accelerated, in the early 1980s. This is not surprising for she was a pragmatic politician and took pride in being Indian. While the last attribute motivated her to improve the condition of her people, the first left her aware of the centrality of income generation in poverty eradication.

•The role that income generation actually played in lowering poverty in India may be gauged from the facts that economic growth had surged in the 1980s, and the late 1960s was when agricultural production quickened as the Green Revolution progressed.

Words matter

•So, if there had been a focus on poverty even 50 years ago, why have we not seen it end? This is because the approach of public policy to the problem has been to initiate schemes which could serve as no more than a palliative, as suggested by the very term ‘poverty alleviation’ commonly used in the discourse of this time. These schemes failed to go to the root of poverty, which is capability deprivation that leaves an individual unable to earn sufficient income through work or entrepreneurship. Income poverty is a manifestation of the deprivation, and focussing exclusively on the income shortfall can address only the symptom.

Parties and schemes

•In the run-up to the elections now, schemes guaranteeing income to the poor through budgetary transfers have been announced by both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress. Actually, the BJP’s Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan), paying farm households below a threshold ₹6,000 a year, is already in place. An income-support scheme for any one section of the population is grossly inequitable. We can think of agricultural labourers and urban pavement dwellers as equally deserving of support as poor farmers. While it is the case that at present agricultural subsidies go to farmers alone, these are intended as production subsidies and so channelled due to the criticality of food production to all.

•On the other hand, a welfare programme cannot, ethically speaking, exclude those equally placed. The BJP’s hurried introduction of its scheme also came with an overshooting of the fiscal deficit target, suggesting that it involves borrowing to consume, a fiscally imprudent practice. The PM-Kisan has, however, been dwarfed by the promise of the Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) of the Congress, which envisages an annual transfer 12 times greater to the poorest 20% households. While this scheme is not discriminatory, it is severely challenged by the issue of beneficiary identification in real time.

•Both the schemes on display, but NYAY in particular, have been criticised as running into the absence of fiscal space. This is really neither the case nor of the essence, the latter being the role of income transfers in eradicating as opposed to alleviating poverty in India.

•Consider NYAY. It is estimated to cost ₹3.6 lakh crore per annum at current prices. This comes to approximately 13% of the central budgetary outlay for 2019-20. This expenditure can be incurred without any consequence for the fiscal deficit if all Centrally Sponsored Schemes are taken off and subsidies trimmed just a bit. But the point is that at 13% of outlay, NYAY would amount to more than twice the combined expenditure on health and education and more than capital expenditure in the same budget, they being the items of public expenditure that most impact poverty in the long run. There is an opportunity cost to be acknowledged of an income-support scheme of this magnitude being implemented while there exists a severe deficit of social and physical infrastructure in the country.

•We have already spoken of poverty as capability deprivation. Health, education and physical infrastructure are central to the capabilities of individuals, and the extent of their presence in a society determine whether the poor will remain so or exit poverty permanently. The scale at which these inputs would be required to endow all Indians with the requisite capabilities makes it more than likely that we would have to rely on public provision.

What is needed

•In light of a pitch that has been made for the implementation in India of a publicly-funded universal basic income (UBI) scheme, we can say that from the perspective of eliminating poverty, universal basic services (UBS) from public sources are needed, though not necessarily financed through the budget. The original case for a UBI came from European economists. This is not entirely surprising. Europe is perhaps saturated with publicly provided UBS. Also the state in some of its countries is immensely wealthy. So if a part of the public revenues is paid out as basic income, the project of providing public services there will not be affected. This is not the case in India, where the task of creating the wherewithal for providing public services has not even been seriously initiated.

•There is indirect evidence that the provision of health, education and public services matters more for poverty than the Central government’s poverty alleviation schemes in place for almost half a century. Per capita income levels and poverty vary across India’s States. A discernible pattern is that the southern and western regions of India have lower poverty than the northern, central and eastern ones. This, very likely, is related to higher human development attainment in the former. This indicator is based on the health and education status of a population apart from per capita income, bringing us back to the relevance of income generation to poverty. As the Central government is common across regions, differences in the human development index must arise from policies implemented at the State level. This further implies that a nationwide income support scheme that channels funds from a common pool to households in the poorer States would be tantamount to rewarding lower effort by their governments.

•There is a crucial role for services, of both producer and consumer variety, in eliminating the capability deprivation that is poverty. As these services cannot always be purchased in the market, income support alone cannot be sufficient to eliminate poverty. It is in recognition of the role of services in enabling people to lead a productive and dignified life that the idea of multi-dimensionality has taken hold in the thinking on poverty globally. At a minimum these services would involve the supply of water, sanitation and housing apart from health and education. It has been estimated that if the absence of such services is accounted for, poverty in India would be found to be far higher than recorded at present. The budgetary implication of the scale at which public services would have to be provided if we are to eliminate multi-dimensional poverty may now be imagined. This allows us to appraise the challenge of ending effective poverty and to assess the potential of the income-support schemes proposed by the main political parties. There are no short cuts to ending poverty, but ending it soon is not insurmountable either.

πŸ“° UPI sets searing pace while e-wallets wobble

From just over ₹27,000 crore in April 2018, transactions via the UPI platform vaulted to ₹1.35 lakh crore in March 2019

•While digital payments overall have been growing strongly, people are changing the way they transact, choosing bank-to-bank methods such as the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) over other instruments such as e-wallets.

•An analysis by The Hindu of data from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and some industry players from April 2018 to March 2019 shows that not only is the UPI platform outperforming e-wallets in terms of the value of transactions done, but it is also eating away at e-wallets’ market share in specific areas such as person-to-merchant (P2M) transactions.

•Payments made on the UPI platform saw a remarkable growth of over 400% in the April to March period, from a little more than ₹27,000 crore in April 2018 to ₹1.35 lakh crore in March 2019.

Completely interoperable

•“UPI is completely interoperable and as such, it is unique in the world, where you have an interoperable system on the ‘send’ and ‘receive’ side,” said Hemant Gala, head-payments, banking and financial services at PhonePe.

•“That is, you can send money from different accounts in different banks and receive it in different accounts in different banks. It was a solution designed to be mobile-first, and it shaped that ecosystem because customer adoption of mobile was growing very strongly.”

•The rapid growth of UPI is accompanied by a reasonably strong growth in the value of transactions done using e-wallets, but the latter’s growth has not taken off much following the fillip it received in the aftermath of demonetisation in November 2016. E-wallets saw total transaction value grow 210% in the November 2016 to March 2017 period, but this has since slowed to 123% in the April 2018 to February 2019 period.

•In absolute terms as well, transactions done using e-wallets in February 2019 (₹16,497 crore) are only 15% of the size of the total transaction value on the UPI platform.

•Data from Razorpay — for the percentage share of each payment method in payments made by customers to merchants — also shows that e-wallets are losing ground to UPI. E-wallets accounted for 6.3% of all customer payments made to merchants in 2017-18 and UPI accounted for just 1.6%. In 2018-19, the share of e-wallet transactions fell to 1.87% and the share of UPI rose to 17%.

•The Hindu also contacted Mobikwik, Amazon, Paytm, Truecaller, Freecharge, Ola, and the NPCI but either did not receive a response or the companies declined to comment on record. Those who did comment, even off-the-record, said that UPI was indeed posing a threat to e-wallets, but added that there were some factors that were keeping e-wallets in the game.

•“There is definitely competition coming from UPI, because UPI is something even the government is backing and so the convenience factor is much more,” the payments head of a major e-wallet company said on the condition of anonymity. “Most people would prefer transactions from their bank accounts itself, rather than going on topping up a wallet, but there are some people who are uncomfortable with the idea of money directly going from the account.”

•Others argued that the size of the digital payments market in India was such that various instruments could exist without really eating into each other’s market share.

Diverse use cases

•“If you look at personal consumption expenditure in India, and what percentage of these transactions happen digitally, in India it is about only 3.5-4%,” Mr. Gala said.

•“India is a diverse country in terms of customers and use cases. UPI has certainly grown tremendously, but every instrument has its own space because of the diverse uses.”

•“There would be millions of customers who would want to start their digital payments journey using a wallet,” Mr. Gala added. “UPI is a great solution, but it has some hurdles to adoption such as linking phone numbers, linking bank account, entering debit card number, etc. Many people might want to start with simpler instruments and then transition to more complex ones.”

•While some of the growth can be attributed to the low base, the astronomical increase in transactions has meant that UPI is now competing seriously with the incumbent forms of digital payments such as credit cards and debit cards.

•For example, while credit card transactions in April 2018 (₹45,174 crore) stood at about 1.5 times the UPI transactions by value in that month, by February 2019 the value of credit card transactions (₹48,859 crore) was less than half of those done on the UPI platform.

•Debit cards are far more popular than credit cards as can be seen from the fact that the value of debit card transactions stood at ₹3.05 lakh crore in February 2019. Here too, UPI is fast catching up. The value of UPI transactions was only 8.7% the quantum of debit card transactions in April 2018. This proportion climbed to 35% by February 2019.

πŸ“° KYC: Know everything about it

It will ensure impersonation cannot take place

•One seemingly-onerous prerequisite for making any sort of investment, such as in mutual funds, is to complete the Know Your Customer/Client (KYC) process. This process, mandated by law, is actually easier and more useful than most people think. Here’s how:

What is KYC?

•KYC or Know Your Customer is the mechanism through which banks and other investment destinations verify the identity of the customer to ensure that no fraud, theft, or duplication takes place.

Why is KYC important?

•KYC is important from both a practical and legal standpoint. Practically speaking, a thorough KYC ensures that nobody can impersonate you to access your bank account or alter any of your investments, or even withdraw them. KYC is meant to provide several layers of information to the organisation so that it can easily and quickly verify the identity of the customer even if one data point had been compromised. In most cases, verification can become as simple as confirming your address, or your date of birth.

•Legally speaking, KYC is mandatory for mutual funds investments and also for opening bank accounts. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI) together decided on this in 2012. Prior to 2012, it was compulsory to deposit a PAN (permanent account number) copy to make investments of ₹50,000 and more in one financial year.

What is needed for KYC?

•SEBI had announced a common KYC process to provide uniformity and consistency across all the SEBI-registered investment intermediaries. Not only did this make it easier for customers to comply with KYC procedures, it also helped portfolio managers, mutual fund companies, venture capital funds and stock brokers curb the duplication of documents. The documents needed are for ID proof (any one of PAN card, driving licence, passport copy, voter ID, Aadhaar card or bank photo passbook) and proof of address (recent land line or mobile bill, electricity bill, passport copy, recent demat account statement, latest bank passbook, ration card, voter ID, rental agreement, driving license or Aadhaar card).

•The KYC process can be done either offline with physical submission of copies of the documents or online using Aadhaar and one-time password (OTP) on the phone number linked to the Aadhaar.

πŸ“° World’s largest plane makes first test flight

Stratolaunch is designed to carry and deploy satellites in space

•The world's largest aircraft took off over the Mojave Desert in California on Saturday, the first flight for the carbon-composite plane built by Stratolaunch Systems Corp, started by late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, as the company enters the lucrative private space market.

•The white airplane called Roc, which has a wingspan the length of an American football field and is powered by six engines on a twin fuselage, took to the air shortly before 7 a.m. Pacific time (1400 GMT) and stayed aloft for more than two hours before landing safely back at the Mojave Air and Space Port as a crowd of hundreds of people cheered.

•“What a fantastic first flight,” Stratolaunch Chief Executive Officer Jean Floyd said in a statement posted to the company's website.

•“Todays flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems, Floyd said. “We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, todays flight crew, our partners at Northrup Grummans Scaled Composites and the Mojave Air and Space Port.”

•The plane is designed to drop rockets and other space vehicles weighing up to 500,000 pounds at an altitude of 35,000 feet and has been billed by the company as making satellite deployment as “easy as booking an airline flight.”

•Saturday's flight, which saw the plane reach a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour and altitudes of 17,000 feet, was meant to test its performance and handling qualities, according to Stratolaunch.

•Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, announced in 2011 that he had formed the privately funded Stratolaunch.

•The company seeks to cash in on higher demand in coming years for vessels that can put satellites in orbit, competing in the United States with other space entrepreneurs and industry stalwarts such as Elon Musks SpaceX and United Launch Alliance - a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

•Stratolaunch has said that it intends to launch its first rockets from the Roc in 2020 at the earliest. Allen died in October 2018 while suffering from non-Hodgkins' lymphoma, just months after the plane's development was unveiled.

•“We all know Paul would have been proud to witness todays historic achievement,” said Jody Allen, Chair of Vulcan Inc and Trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust. “The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement and we congratulate everyone involved.”

πŸ“° Oil consuming bacteria found at sea bottom

•Scientists have discovered a unique oil eating bacteria in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the earth’s oceans, a finding that may pave way for sustainable ways to clean up oils spills.

•In an expedition, organised by marine explorer and film director James Cameron, researchers collected samples from the trench. In the samples, they found microorganisms that eat compounds similar to those in oil and then use it for fuel.