Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 20 August 2023

India’s first 3D-printed post office inaugurated

GS Paper - 3 (Science and Technology)

India’s first 3D-printed post office was virtually inaugurated by Union Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw in Bengaluru’s Cambridge Layout. Its construction was completed in just 43 days — two days ahead of the deadline. Multinational company Larsen & Toubro Limited built the post office with technological support from IIT Madras under the guidance of Professor Manu Santhanam, Building Technology and Construction Management Division, Department of Civil Engineering.

What is 3D printing?

  • 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process that uses computer-created design to make three-dimensional objects layer by layer.
  • It is an additive process, in which layers of a material like plasticcomposites or bio-materials are built up to construct objects that range in shapesizerigidity and colour.
  • Invented in the 1980s, 3D printing burst into the mainstream around the 2010s, when many thought it would take over the world.
  • The technology, however, at the time was expensiveslow and prone to making errors.
  • In recent years, some of these flaws have been done away with, making 3D printing more prevalent than ever before.
  • For instance, it’s being used in automotive and aerospace sectors to make parts of cars and rockets respectively.

How is 3D printing done?

  • To carry out 3D printing, one needs a personal computer connected to a 3D printer. All they need to do is design a 3D model of the required object on computer-aid design (CAD) software and press ‘print’. The 3D printer does the rest of the job.
  • 3D printers construct the desired object by using a layering method, which is the complete opposite of the subtractive manufacturing processes.
  • 3D printers, on the other hand, build from the bottom up by piling on layer after layer until the object looks exactly like it was envisioned.
  • The (3D) printer acts generally the same as a traditional inkjet printer in the direct 3D printing process, where a nozzle moves back and forth while dispensing a wax or plastic-like polymer layer-by-layer, waiting for that layer to dry, then adding the next level.

What are some of the notable examples of 3D printing?

  • As mentioned before, 3D printing is being used in a host of different industries like healthcareautomobile and aerospace.
  • In May this year, aerospace manufacturing company Relativity Space launched a test rocket made entirely from 3D-printed parts, measuring 100 feet tall and 7.5 feet wide. Shortly after its take off, however, it suffered a failure.
  • At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the healthcare industry used 3D printers to make much-needed medical equipment, like swabsface shields, and masks, as well as the parts to fix their ventilators.


New Covid variant EG.5

GS Paper - 3 (Health and Disease)

After more than three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization ended the global public health emergency on 5 May 2023. The WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that leads to COVID, had not been fully defeated, that it continued to circulate in the world and that we could still see the emergence of new and more dangerous variants. And that’s where we are now: there is a new COVID variant: EG.5, also known as Eris.

More about Eris

  • The WHO has classified the EG.5 as a Variant of Interest (VOI). It is not a Variant of Concern (VOC), which is one step worse than a Variant of Interest.
  • Variants of Concern are those whose characteristics have a significant influence on the spread of the virus — because of higher rates of contagion and rising infection rates, or an increase in severe cases of the illness and COVID mortality rates.
  • EG.5 is one of three variants on the WHO’s watchlist. The other two are XBB.1.5, which is largely circulating in Europe and the Americas, and XBB.1.16, which is predominant in Asia.

How has EG.5 spread so far?

  • The WHO classified EG.5 as a VOI due to rising infection rates attributed to the variant, the fact that it spreads fast and its ability of so-called “immune escape”.
  • EG.5 is a descendent lineage of XBB. 1.9.2. It has an additional spike mutation that may explain why it can escape the human immune system’s response.
  • EG.5 was already described as the “fastest growing lineage with significant circulation” in the world.
  • EG.5 was also on the agenda of a virtual press conference hosted by the WHO on 27 July 2023.
  • In its EG.5 Initial Risk Evaluation report, the WHO said the variant had been sequenced more than 7,350 times, with samples from 51 countries.
  • Most of the variant sequences were from China, with 30.6%, or 2247 sequences. Other countries listed with at least 100 sequences included the USASouth Korea, Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore, the UK, France, Portugal and Spain.


Floating to fixed rate regime allowed

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) asked all regulated entities (REs), including banks and NBFCs, to give personal loan borrowers an option to switch over from a floating rate to a fixed rate regime at the time of resetting interest rates. In a circular on ‘Reset of floating interest rate on equated monthly instalments (EMI) based personal loans’, the central bank said the borrowers will also be given the choice to opt for enhancement in EMI or elongation of the tenor.

What are the new changes?

  • At the time of sanction, REs will have to clearly communicate to the borrowers about the possible impact of a change in benchmark interest rate on the loan leading to changes in EMI and/or tenor or both.
  • Any increase in the EMI/ tenor or both will have to be communicated to the borrower immediately through appropriate channels.
  • SWITCHOVER: At the time of reset of interest rates, REs will have to give the option to borrowers to switch over to a fixed rate as per their board-approved policy. The policy will also specify the number of times a borrower will be allowed to switch during the tenor of the loan.
  • REs will have to disclose all applicable charges for switching loans from floating to fixed rate and any other service charges/ administrative costs in the sanction letter and also at the time of revision of charges or costs from time to time.
  • ELONGATION: The borrowers will also be given the choice to opt for enhancement in EMI or elongation of tenor or for a combination of both options, and to prepay, either in part or in full, at any point during the tenor of the loan, with foreclosure charges.
  • REs should ensure that the elongation of tenor in case of a floating rate loan does not result in negative amortisation. REs will have to share or make accessible to the borrowers, through appropriate channels, a statement at the end of each quarter which will enumerate the principal and interest recovered till date, EMI amount, the number of EMIs left and annualized rate of interest.
  • The RBI said REs will have to ensure that these instructions are extended to the existing as well as new loans by 31 December 2023.

Why has RBI issued new regulations?

  • The supervisory reviews undertaken by the RBI and the feedback and references from members of the public have revealed several instances of unreasonable elongation of tenor of floating rate loans by lenders without proper consent and communication to the borrowers.
  • Banks can change the interest rate by changing the internal benchmark rate and the spread during the term of the loan which could harm the interest of the borrower and also impair monetary transmission.
  • Borrowers have complained that banks normally change or reset the EMIs in an arbitrary manner and tenors are extended without informing the borrowers. Further, borrowers are not informed about the foreclosure charges.
  • The RBI has also observed that unduly long elongation of tenor has camouflaged stress in banks.

What are personal loans?

  • As per the RBI definition, personal loans are the loans given to individuals and consist of consumer crediteducation loanloans given for the creation or enhancement of immovable assets (such as housing loans), and loans given for investment in financial assets (shares and debentures).
  • The total outstanding under the personal loan category was Rs 42.60 lakh crore as of June 2023, which is almost 30 per cent of the non-food bank credit.

What’s the interest rate reset?

  • When a customer takes a home loan, the interest rate reset clause in the loan agreement allows the lender to review the interest rate after a certain period, as per the occurrence of a scheduled reset date of the loan.
  • The reset rate is the new interest rate that a borrower must pay effective from the scheduled reset date. EMI of a floating rate loan changes with periodical changes in reset interest rates.
  • These rates and the calculation are not uniform for all the banks as the cost of funds differs from banks.

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