Current Affairs Choiciest Blogs September week 2

Welcome to the Endeavor Editors’ Weekly 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 September 2021 – Week 2

1. Current Affairs – International News and Global Economy

BRICS leaders call for settling Afghan situation by peaceful means

The five-nation BRICS summit chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for settling the situation in Afghanistan through peaceful means. The declaration at the summit said the leaders also sought an “inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue so as to ensure stability, civil peace, law and order”. While the theme for the summit is “cooperation for continuity, consolidation and consensus”, the focus remained on Afghanistan. The “New Delhi Declaration” adopted at the end of the summit also emphasized the need to “address the humanitarian situation and to uphold human rights, including those of women, children and minorities”. Very strong comments on the subject during the summit came from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who spoke of the possible threats an unstable Afghanistan might pose to neighbouring countries.

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PM Modi addresses virtual BRICS meet, calls for cooperation and productivity

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Mullah Hassan Akhund to lead Taliban’s interim govt, Abdul Ghani Baradar to be deputy

Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund will lead the new Taliban government in Afghanistan and the group co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar will be one of the two deputies, spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said. The Taliban announced the first members of their new Afghanistan government after delaying it twice. Mullah Hasan Akhund headed the last Taliban government in the final years of its rule that ended after the US-led invasion. Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the Taliban’s political office in Doha, had led talks with the US which resulted in signing a deal between them and eventually America’s final withdrawal from Afghanistan. Although the group has announced the first names of its interim government after a lot of speculations, its recognition by the international community remains a worry for the insurgents. White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said the recognition will be dependent on what steps the Islamist hardliners take.

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Explained | Who is Mullah Hasan Akhund? What does the Taliban’s choice of interim prime minister mean for Afghanistan?

Mullah Akhund is a fascinating but relatively enigmatic figure in the Taliban. He has been an influential figure in Afghanistan since the inception of the militant group in the 1990s. But unlike other Taliban leaders from that period, he was not involved in the Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980s. While Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar and his deputies fought with the mujahedeen — a loose network of anti-Soviet Afghan fighters — Akhund did not. Instead, he is seen much more as a religious influence in the Taliban. He served on the Taliban’s shura councils, the traditional decision-making body made up of religious scholars and mullahs — an honorific given to those trained in Islamic theology. Akhund is probably best known as one of the architects of the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the giant cliff statues destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

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Drones target northern Iraqi airport after 2-month lull

Explosives-laden drones targeted Irbil international airport in northern Iraq where U.S.-led coalition troops are stationed with no reports of casualties, according to security forces and officials in Kurdish-run region. The attack is the first following a two-month lull in drone and rocket attacks to target the U.S. presence in Baghdad and military bases across Iraq. On July 8, rockets landed in and around the heavily fortified Green Zone in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, which houses the U.S. Embassy. It caused material damage but no casualties. Until recently the attacks were a frequent occurrence. The U.S. has blamed Iran-backed militias for attacks. More recently, the attacks have become more sophisticated, with militants using drones instead of Katyusha rockets.

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Pakistan expanding its nuclear arsenal: Report

According to the Chicago-based independent non-profit publication in the journal Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “Pakistan continues to expand its nuclear arsenal with more warheads, more delivery systems, and a growing fissile material production industry.” Prepared by Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project (NIP) at the Federation of American Scientists, and Matt Korda, research associate for the NIP, the publication argues that Pakistan is likely to continue expanding its nuclear capabilities over the next few years. “We estimate that the country’s stockpile could more realistically grow to around 200 warheads by 2025 if the current trend continues.” The government of Pakistan has never publicly disclosed the size of its nuclear arsenal.

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Pakistan & China have expanded their nuclear warheads but India is not worried

According to a Swedish think tank, Countries around the world are increasing their nuclear stockpiles. China and Pakistan have also expanded their nuclear warhead numbers this year. Although India lags behind the two bordering neighbours, it is confident of its strategic deterrence capability.

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China building 30 airports in Tibet, Xinjiang provinces to boost civil & military transport: Report

About 30 airports have been either built or under construction in Tibet and Xinjiang provinces, which will boost China’s civil and military infrastructure in the remote regions bordering India, the country’s official media reported. China has been ramping up infrastructure in Tibet. Recently, it launched a high-speed bullet train connecting the provincial capital Lhasa with Nyingchi, the Tibetan border town close to Arunachal Pradesh. The massive development of rail, road and airport infrastructure was expected to vastly improve the Chinese military’s ability to move men, materials and weapons to the border areas at a faster pace.

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2. Current Affairs – India

COVID update

Covid death certificate rules out after Supreme Court’s “3rd Wave” rebuke

The government has informed the Supreme Court that the Health Ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have come out with guidelines for issuing an “official document” for Covid-related deaths. The affidavit in the top court has been submitted nearly 10 days after the top court rapped the central government over the delay in issuing guidelines for the issuance of Covid death certificates. Only those COVID-19 cases will be considered, say the guidelines, which have been diagnosed through RT-PCR test, molecular test, rapid-antigen test or clinically determined through investigations at a hospital or in-patient facility by a treating physician, while admitted at hospital or in-patient facility.

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Rise in Covid-19 cases in India: Expert explains the reasons and consequences

Amid the fear of the third wave that has already hit the other nations, the govt has stated that mass gatherings have to be discouraged during the festival season. The financial capital has reported over 28 per cent of the total COVID-19 cases it had recorded in the entire month of August in the first six days of this month, as per the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) data. Earlier, Head of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Dr Samiran Panda, said that the states which did not face an intense second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic are now with the increasing trend of COVID-19 cases, showing early signs of the third wave.

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Data | ‘Excess deaths’ during the pandemic in India was 5.8 times the official COVID-19 death toll

The “excess deaths” registered during the pandemic period was 5.8 times the official COVID-19 death toll in 11 Indian States/Union Territories put together, whose Civil Registration System (CRS) data was accessed by The Hindu. The undercount factor of 5.8 was the highest among nations with the most recorded fatalities due to the virus. Moreover, the share of registered deaths in India was about 92%, and only 20.7% were medically certified in 2019. Hence, the undercount is a conservative estimate. Excess deaths were calculated as the difference between the registered deaths in the pandemic period and the average number of deaths registered in 2018 and 2019 for the same months.

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Other updates

Cairn Energy to drop cases against India, accepts $1-billion offer

Cairn Energy Plc said it was ready to withdraw all cases it had slapped against the Indian government for enforcing a $1.2-billion arbitration award the company had won in December 2020. This is part of the settlement under recent legislation by Parliament. Also, Vedanta, which had bought Cairn Energy’s erstwhile subsidiary Cairn India in 2011, is likely to withdraw arbitration it had filed in Singapore seeking around Rs 5,000 crore as damages from the government. London Stock Exchange-listed Cairn Energy will enter into “statutory undertakings” with the government. This will enable a refund of retrospective taxes collected from it by way of asset seizures since 2014. It will get a refund totalling Rs 7,900 crore (approximately $1.06 billion) once it withdraws litigation and enters into an agreement with the government.

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Mizoram braces for second refugee wave from Myanmar as clashes break out between military and civilians

Mizoram is bracing for a second wave of refugees from Myanmar as supporters of the Burmese government-in-exile, National Unity Government, which called for a nationwide uprising earlier this week, clashed with the military junta’s forces. Mizoram, which shares a 510 km long international border with Myanmar, is already home to thousands of Myanmar nationals, who fled their country after the Myanmar Army (Tatmadaw) seized power from a democratically elected government on February first this year.

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How are Mizos dealing with Burmese refugees fleeing the coup?

Over 15,000 people fleeing the February 2021 coup in Myanmar have taken refuge in Mizoram. They have largely been met with warmth and a helping hand in the Northeast Indian state, with a host of NGOs and civil society groups providing food and shelter, despite the Indian government’s refusal to take in and help the refugees for fear it would damage the trade and political deals with the Burmese military junta.

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3) Economy

India’s resilient V-shaped recovery still intact despite Covid 2nd wave: Finance Ministry

The V-shaped recovery in the first quarter of 2021-22, despite the brutal second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, is a testimony to India’s strong macroeconomic fundamentals, according to the Finance Ministry. In its latest Monthly Economic Review, the Finance Ministry also expressed concern over high incidence of COVID-19 cases in Kerala and Maharashtra and underlined the need for strengthening pandemic control and management in these two states. The Indian economy grew by 20.1 per cent in the first quarter of the current financial year reaffirming, “India’s resilient V-shaped recovery despite an intense second wave,” it said.

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Is Indian economy back on track?

The 20.1% growth in Q1 FY22 was largely driven by the base effect. Structural reforms including disinvestment and bank privatisation needed to ensure a sustained growth path. In this episode, The Print’s contributing editor Ila Patnaik and Managing Editor YP Rajesh discuss if the Indian economy is back on track.

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4) Markets, Banking and Finance

Zerodha gets Sebi’s approval to set up an AMC

Zerodha has received a licence from capital markets regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), to set up an Asset Management Company (AMC). The in-principle approval from Sebi will allow the Bengaluru-based start-up to launch its own mutual funds, founder and chief executive Nithin Kamath tweeted. Zerodha is India’s largest retail broker by registered users. Zerodha had applied to the capital market regulator in February 2020, just months after Sebi allowed fintech firms to enter the MF business. Flipkart cofounder Sachin Bansal’s fintech venture Navi has also received regulatory approval to launch its own AMC. In December 2019, Sebi eased regulations for fintech start-ups planning to enter the MF industry. It said entities with a net worth of Rs 100 crore and five years of being profitable were eligible to sponsor MFs.

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5) Business

Ford Motor to close manufacturing plants in India after $2 billion loss

American auto major Ford Motor Company on September 9 said it is “forced” to end manufacturing operations in India and close plants at Sanand and Chennai, due to “huge accumulated losses and lack of growth in a difficult market”. Ford will wind down the manufacturing of vehicle for exports in Sanand, Gujarat by the fourth quarter of 2021 and vehicle and engine manufacturing in Chennai by the second quarter of 2022, a statement read. This is the second major exit of local manufacturing operations in India by a global automotive brand. US giant General Motors, which entered India just a few years before Ford, stopped selling cars in India in 2017. Following accumulated operating losses of more than $2 billion over the past 10 years and a $0.8 billion non-operating write-down of assets in 2019, Ford is forced to do a restructuring to create a sustainably profitable business in India, the company further added.

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Ford shuts India plants: Why do MNC’s find it tough to thrive in India?

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Zomato pulls the plug on grocery delivery, banks on Grofers to crack express delivery

Food tech platform Zomato has pulled the plug on its nascent grocery delivery service due to gaps in order fulfilment, poor customer experience and increasing competition from rivals that are promising express delivery in 15 minutes. The company said its investment in Grofers will generate better outcomes than its in-house grocery effort. Zomato had forayed into the grocery delivery service in July through a marketplace model where it enabled its customers to shop from their neighbourhood stores. Its rivals such as Swiggy, Dunzo, however, have a different model, where they set up dedicated dark stores to service grocery orders within 15-30 minutes.

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IAF to get 56 C-295 Airbus aircraft as Modi govt clears ‘Make in India’ deal

In a major ‘Make in India’ step, the government cleared the long pending, nearly USD 3 billion-deal for procuring 56 C-295MW transport aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF). The aircraft will replace the ageing IAF fleet of Avro 748 transport aircraft that first flew in 1961.

The Cabinet Committee on Security, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cleared the procurement, which will see 16 aircraft being delivered in flyaway condition from Spain within 48 months of signing of the contract. The remaining 48 aircraft will be manufactured in India by the TATA Consortium within 10 years of signing the contract. Incidentally, this is the first defence contract the European firm Airbus has signed with India since the 1960s despite being in the country for over five decades. It is also the first project in India in which a military aircraft will be manufactured by a private company.

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Cabinet approves ?10,683 crore PLI scheme for textiles sector

Union Ministers Anurag Thakur and Piyush Goyal while addressing the cabinet briefing, announced that the cabinet has approved the proposal for production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for specific segments in the textiles sector. The cabinet has approved the PLI scheme for textiles for MMF (man-made fibre) apparel, MMF fabrics and ten segments/products of technical textiles with a budgetary outlay of ?10,683 crore that will be provided over 5 years. The scheme, part of 13 identified sectors some of which have already been approved by the Union cabinet, is expected to boost manufacturing activities, add jobs and help scale up exports.

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‘Will create 7.5 lakh new jobs’: Modi govt’s Rs 10,000 crore PLI booster for textile sector

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Hughes, OneWeb ink pact for Low Earth Orbit satellite service in US, India

Hughes Network Systems and OneWeb have announced agreements for Low Earth Orbit satellite service in the US and India. Hughes Network Systems, which focuses on satellite and multi-transport technologies and networks, and OneWeb, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications company backed by Bharti, said that they have signed a distribution agreement in the US, for enterprise services. Hughes Network Systems, which focuses on satellite and multi-transport technologies and networks, and OneWeb, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications company backed by Bharti, said that they have signed a distribution agreement in the US, for enterprise services.

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Semiconductor shortage hits domestic automobile wholesales in Aug; dispatches dip 11%

Automobile wholesales in India declined 11 percent year-on-year in August, as the semiconductor shortage hit production processes across the industry, SIAM said. Commenting on the August sales, SIAM Director General Rajesh Menon said the Indian automobile industry is reeling under pressure due to supply chain challenges. “The global semiconductor shortage continues and now it is having an acute impact on output across the auto industry,” he added. The usage of semiconductors in the auto industry has gone up globally in recent times, with technological advancements and new models coming with more and more electronic features such as Bluetooth connectivity and driver-assist, navigation and hybrid-electric systems, besides the engine control unit.

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6) Technology

India’s fintech market to triple to Rs 6.2 lakh crore by 2025: MoS Finance Bhagwat Karad

The government’s various initiatives have led to fast growth in the fintech sector, which is likely to triple to Rs 6,20,700 crore in value terms by 2025, Minister of State for Finance Bhagwat K Karad said. Highlighting that India is a leader in adopting financial technology among emerging markets, he said, the country had an adoption rate of 87 per cent in March 2020, as compared to the global average of 64 per cent. “In 2019 India’s fintech market was valued at Rs 1,920 billion. By 2025, it is expected to grow into Rs 6,207 billion market. Skilled workforce and technological enormity in India make it a great destination to develop financial technology,” he said while addressing a virtual event organised by Assocham.

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Here’s how Fintech is revolutionising lending in India | Young Turks | CNBC-TV18

India is now one of the largest and successful fintech markets in the world. Digital lenders may capture nearly half of the total lending market and disburse loans worth $350bn by 2023 according to a report by Research and Markets. Here we discuss how fintech is revolutionising lending in India.

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Crypto not currency; needs to be regulated as asset: Former RBI deputy governor R Gandhi

Former RBI deputy governor R Gandhi made a case for treating and regulating crypto as a separate asset class with a view to enabling governments around the world to effectively deal with illegal activities associated with virtual currencies. After quite a lot of debate over the years, he said, people have fully understood that crypto cannot be a currency because the fundamental element of a currency- that it should be a legal tender- is missing in this case. The general consensus among many policymakers is that it should be deemed as an asset, not as a currency, not as a payment instrument and not as a financial instrument as there is no clear identified issuer, he said.

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7) Politics

New Gujarat CM Bhupendra Patel: 1st-time MLA, Builder by Profession, Who Never Held Ministerial Post

Bhupendra Patel has been chosen by the BJP as the new chief minister of Gujarat, succeeding Vijay Rupani. He is a first-time MLA from Ghatlodia constituency in Ahmedabad. An engineer by education and builder by profession, Patel comes from the Kadva Patidar community, which is considered key to electoral success in Gujarat. It has been a significant contributor to the BJP’s many successive victories in the state. Patel, a trusted lieutenant home minister of Amit Shah, was elected MLA in 2017 from the seat that was earlier held by former chief minister Anandiben Patel, who is the currently the governor of Uttar Pradesh. The Gujarat BJP legislature party met on Sunday to choose the new chief minister following Vijay Rupani’s resignation.

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Marathon meeting, 114 leaders, 55 issues — NCP starts civic poll prep, says no blanket tie-up

With a marathon meeting of 5.5 hours, attended by all of its 114 candidates in the 2019 assembly polls, former MLAs, and 55 suggestions from party leaders to discuss, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) kicked off its preparation for next year’s civic polls across Maharashtra. At the meeting chaired by NCP president Sharad Pawar at Mumbai’s Y.B. Chavan Centre in Nariman Point, the party decided not to have a “blanket alliance” with any party for the local polls — seen as a mini-assembly election — and take decisions for local tie-ups based on the situation on the ground. The Shiv Sena, an ally of the NCP within the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance, is, however keen to continue the alliance for the civic polls, together with the NCP and Congress. Congress leaders in Maharashtra have repeatedly said that they want to contest the polls independently.

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8) Sports

US Open: Emma Raducanu scripts history, beats Leylah Fernandez to win Women’s Singles Title

Britain’s 18-year-old Emma Raducanu became the first qualifier to capture a Grand Slam title by defeating Canada’s 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez on Saturday in the US Open women’s final. Raducanu, ranked 150th, was the first British woman in 44 years to win a Slam crown after dispatching 73rd-ranked left-hander Fernandez 6-4, 6-3. Not since Virginia Wade in 1977 at Wimbledon had a British woman taken a Slam singles title, with Raducanu the first Briton to claim the US Open crown since Wade in 1968.

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Cristiano Ronaldo debut double as Manchester United overwhelm Newcastle

After all the hype, the build-up and expectation, Cristiano Ronaldo delivered in almost inevitable fashion on his return to Manchester United scoring twice to send his side top of the Premier League with a 4-1 win over Newcastle United at Old Trafford. Ronaldo has broken all the major goalscoring records in the game and perhaps the only surprise was that it took him until almost halftime to score the first of his second spell in English football.

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India-England 5th test cancelled due to Covid concerns

The fifth Test match between India and England was cancelled on 10th after an “outbreak of COVID-19 in the Indian team contingent”. On the eve of the Test, a staff member in the Indian team contracted the virus. The evening before, it had appeared the match was going ahead when a fresh round of tests within the Indian camp produced a set of negative results. But just hours before the toss, the England and Wales Cricket Board said fears over the coronavirus, related to an outbreak among backroom staff, had left India unable to field a team at Old Trafford.

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9) Opinion

Why is there a food emergency in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka is grappling with a depreciating currency, inflation and a crippling foreign debt burden. Shelves at government-run supermarkets have been running low – some even empty – with very little stock remaining of imported goods like milk powder, cereal and rice. The government denies there are shortages and blames the media for stoking fears. It follows the government declaring a state of emergency and Sri Lanka’s Central Bank chief stepping down amid a foreign exchange crisis. The economic slowdown is of particular concern as until recently, Sri Lanka had one of the strongest economies in South Asia. In April, the government banned imports of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides, to encourage organic farming. But the move and its implementation have been criticised. Prof Sabine Zikeli, of the Centre for Organic Farming at the University of Hohenheim in Germany, says a rapid transition to organic could threaten a country’s food security. In 2008, Bhutan introduced a policy of going 100% organic by 2020. But it fell a long way short of achieving this target and a recent study shows yields from the organic farming it has introduced have been substantially lower, leading to a rise in dependence on imports. Sri Lanka could now face a similar situation, Prof Zikeli says.

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The ‘other’ oil price rise —Modi govt’s big edible oil plan. Also note big change in Indian cricket

Edible oil prices hit all time high as global prices rise & India remains import-dependant as for petroleum. Shekhar Gupta explains the how, why and what-next of the scourge ruining middle class and poor household budgets & Modi government’s 11,000 cr national mission on oil palms. Also, a post-Oval As a new phenomenon in Indian cricket led by ‘marauding pace cavalry’.

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Stringent draft e-commerce rules are not in best interest of consumers, survey finds

According to the survey by New Indian Consumer Initiate (NICI), a community-owned platform on the new economy, Indian consumers will face restrictions as the recently proposed amendments to the e-commerce rules 2020 directly target services like ‘flash sales’ that various platforms offer. In its assessment, NICI said the draft amendments will have an adverse impact on consumers if they are implemented without revision. NICI assessment said the new rules might result in higher compliance costs for small businesses, which will result in either burden being passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices or inability of such businesses to engage in e-commerce activities — both restricting consumer choice. The constraints on curating searches, as the proposed rules call for, will inconvenience consumers while forcing them to spend hours to find relevant products. E-commerce platforms also won’t be able to list products based on seller’s ratings making consumers apprehensive about the product quality they are purchasing.

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How companies can build a smart supply chain using an AI-powered CPG model

The consumer-packaged goods industry has found itself at a crossroads where new strategies are needed. With an AI-powered supply chain, day-to-day decisions can be automated, leaving planners and stakeholders free to focus on more significant issues in a collaborative planning and execution environment, informed by outcome-led scenarios. The pandemic has shown us that resilience needs to balance with digital agility. The future is about creating seamlessly synchronized enterprises, connected to their customers, operating at scale and speed to create personalized and authentic customer experiences.

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Why BJP decided to remove Vijay Rupani as Gujarat CM 15 months ahead of assembly polls?

Rupani’s resignation, fifteen months ahead of assembly polls, did not come all of a sudden. The BJP, sources said, was contemplating a change of guard in Gujarat ahead of polls considering the criticism Rupani’s government faced, especially regarding the COVID-19 management. Party’s Gujarat in-charge Bhupender Yadav and general secretary BL Santhosh had been holding review meetings regarding Gujarat for quite some time now. Rupani is the fourth BJP chief minister to resign since March. He resigned as the party leadership was not happy with him, according to the sources. The resignation, and the smooth transition that is likely to follow, is part of the ruling party’s strategy to sort out resentments before it is too late. It is, in fact, this strategy that BJP adopted in Karnataka and Uttarakhand, where chief ministers were replaced in recent months.

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Will Messi and Ronaldo help or hinder their new clubs?

In the twilight of their careers, the two footballers who have dominated the game for over a decade, have now entered the final, and slightly strange, of their rivalry. Despite their decorated careers, both feel that they have unfinished agendas, and with PSG and United, they seek a final flourish, a golden coda. This can basically be boiled down to winning the Champions League one final time. Even though Messi and Ronaldo have won football’s greatest prize nine times between them (Messi 4, Ronaldo 5), it has been a while since they last tasted success in the tournament. Messi last won it in 2015, and Ronaldo in 2018. A final, triumphant lift of the trophy with the big ears would serve as a satisfying end for both footballers. PSG and Messi are arguably a better fit right now. Both club and player have a burning desire to win the Champions League, so in that context they’re perfectly in sync. With Ronaldo and United it’s a less straightforward arrangement. CR7’s move to United seems to be a purely sentimental piece of business. Tactically, no one is really sure where Ronaldo fits into the squad.

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With that, we come to an end for our Weekly Current Affairs September 2021 -Week 2. 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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