Polity & Governance
- Effort to make Sabarimala ‘global’
- RBI committee to study Fintech business in India
- India ‘clears final hurdle to join Missile Technology Control Regime’
- India-Japan nuclear deal stuck on technical details
Defence & Security Issues
- Pakistan tops the malware index list, India 8th: Microsoft
Science & Technology
- Centre plans alternative to Bt cotton
- A ‘sweet’ option to fix broken bones
- LISA Pathfinder results boost plans for future detectors
Polity & Governance
Effort to make Sabarimala ‘global’
The Centre has major plans to ‘develop’ Sabarimala into an international pilgrim destination.
- Sabarimala’s sacred grove is in the buffer zone of the sensitive Periyar Tiger Reserve and the government will have to take this into account while initiating any development.
- The centre will set up a joint committee with representatives of the Union Ministries of Forest, Environment and Climate Change, Water Resources, Tourism, Railways, Road Transport, and Highways and Shipping to study prospects for development.
- High security for the temple and visitors, full insurance cover for pilgrims and reliable facilities are major aspects of the Centre’s proposal.
- The temple’s administrative body is the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) and it comprises State government nominees. The Centre will have to constitute a statutory board chaired by a high-ranking civil servant for Sabarimala administration if it is declared a national pilgrim centre.
- Ministry for Road Transport promised to explore the possibility of constructing a ‘Sabarimala highway of international standards’.
RBI committee to study Fintech business in India
The Reserve Bank of India is in the process of setting up a multi-disciplinary committee to study the FinTech business in India.
- The committee, to be headed by Mr. Vishwanathan, will have representatives from other regulators such as Securities and Exchange Commission of India, Insurance Regulatory Authority of India, banks and other stakeholders.
- The committee would see what kind of FinTech business is happening in India, what kind should be ‘allowed to happen’ and how to create an ecosystem to ensure the ‘right kind’ of FinTech is promoted.
What is FinTech?
- FinTech, which means using technology to offer financial services to end customers at a lower cost, has been a buzzword across the world in recent years, with little or no regulation over their functioning.
FinTech market in India:
- The Indian FinTech market is set to double to $2.4 billion in the next four years.
- It is in a nascent stage in the country, and many feel that start-up firms in the space would disrupt the traditional banking and financial services model.
- The RBI is promoting two types of FinTech in India:
- The Unified Payments Interface and
- The Bharat Bill Payments System
- Some areas in which FinTech has emerged include payments, peer-to-peer lending, and the use of automated algorithms to offer financial advice.
India ‘clears final hurdle to join Missile Technology Control Regime’
The members of the Missile Technology Control Regime, a key anti-proliferation grouping, have agreed to admit India.
- Membership into MTCR is a huge boost for India’s ability to procure this capability.
- After MTCR’s announcement, India and the US are expected to fast-track their discussion on sale of predator series of unmanned aircraft for the Indian military. The Predator drone, which recently eliminated the Taliban leader in Afghanistan, is the preferred tool of the CIA.
- The major breakthrough comes days after India announced that it is subscribing to ‘The Hague Code of Conduct’ against ballistic missile proliferation, which is considered to be complementary to the missile technology control regime (MTCR).
- India had applied for its membership last year. But it was facing strong opposition from a few member countries of the MTCR where decisions are based on consensus.
- Since 2008 India has been one of the five countries that are unilateral adherents to the MTCR.
US backs India:
- The United States has strongly backed India’s membership into MTCR and three other export control regime — Australia Group, Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement.
- Established in April 1987, the voluntary MTCR aims to limit the spread of ballistic missiles and other unmanned delivery systems that could be used for chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks.
- The MTCR regime urges its 34 members, which include most of the world’s key missile manufacturers, to restrict their exports of missiles and related technologies capable of carrying a 500-kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers or delivering any type of weapon of mass destruction.
India-Japan nuclear deal stuck on technical details
The India-Japan civil nuclear agreement is likely to have a long waiting period, probably more than a year, before it fructifies.
- This is because, the National Diet (Japan’s Parliament) failed to take up the agreement in the summer legislative session and even the “technical details” of the deal were yet to be finalised.
- The civil nuclear agreement firmed up during the visit of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in December 2015 needs the legislative approval as Japan wants to convince the political parties in the Diet that the “nuclear cooperation by Japan shall be carried out only for peaceful purposes.
- There were growing expectation that Japan would fast track the legislative approval for the agreement which came up after India concluded similar agreements with several major nuclear energy producing countries including the U.S.
Defence & Security Issues
Pakistan tops the malware index list, India 8th: Microsoft
In a recent study by conducted by Microsoft has found that at least four out of ten computers in Asia Pacific countries are likely to be infected with malware.
- While Pakistan tops the list of countries figuring in the Malware Infection Index 2016, India ranks 8th on the list.
- The index identifies the key malware threats in the region and ranks markets in Asia Pacific according to how much they are affected.
- The index has also identified the top three most encountered malware as Gamarue, a malicious computer worm that is commonly distributed via exploit kits and social engineering; and Skeeyah and Peals which are trojans that try to look innocent to convince you to install them, the index reveals.
- These malwares can steal your personal information, download more malware, or give a malicious hacker access to your PC.
- Out of the top five locations across the globe most at risk of infection, a total of four are from the Asia Pacific — Pakistan (1st), Indonesia (2nd), Bangladesh (3rd) and Nepal (4th).
- More than 40% of computers in the 19 countries in Asia Pacific region are infected against the global average being around 20%.
- The Windows Defender Advanced Threat Hunting team in April, 2016 reported the discovery of a group of cybercriminals, dubbed PLATINUM, who have actively been targeting governmental organizations, defence institutes, intelligence agencies, and telecommunication providers in South and Southeast Asia since 2009.
Science & Technology
Centre plans alternative to Bt cotton
The Union government is working to develop a suite of Bt cotton genes that can be integrated into traditional varieties and be made available to farmers as a viable alternative to the current technology of Bt cotton.
- The current technology of Bt cotton is largely sourced from Mahyco Monsanto Biotech India Ltd. (MMB).
- It should be noted here that Maharashtra Hybrid Company (Mahyco) was the company that first brought Bt cotton to India.
- This project would be led by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).
- Cotton is the only genetically-modified seed that’s legally allowed in India. Gm food crops such as brinjal and mustard, which are in advanced stages of regulatory clearances, are yet to become available to farmers due to stringent opposition by anti-GM activist groups.
- The Indian Council of Agricultural Research has for many years unsuccessfully tried to develop Bt cotton, which contains insecticidal genes sourced from a soil bacterium and targeted at key cotton pests.
- While Bt cotton has always been controversial, it is now in the throes of a new controversy with the Agriculture Ministry mooting a change in the way seed companies and seed-technology companies such as the MMB share royalty, technology and determine the price as which farmers buy cotton seed.
A ‘sweet’ option to fix broken bones
A team of scientists from Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has developed an alternative to a bone reconstruction method similar to sutures.
- For this, scientists are using is an unlikely ingredient: Maltitol, derived from maltose, a sweetening agent found in most sugar-free foods such as ice-creams.
For injuries to the bone, there are only two options: a cast for minor fractures, and implants like metal rods for more serious injuries.
What is Maltitol?
- Maltitol, a sweetening agent, is used to fill in the bone gap caused by fracture, instead of the traditional rod.
- Maltitol is combined with other components to make long chain-like structures that become plastic. This is then used to fill in the bone gap caused by fracture, instead of the traditional rod.
- But maltitol also reacts to water. And as the body is primarily made of water, the bonds start breaking slowly, over a course of time. The molecules are soluble in water, and they eventually come out. In other words, once the bone grows back, the structure simply disintegrates.
Significance of the finding:
- This material would be a huge advantage over existing ones, such as metal rods, which do not allow growth of the bone, especially in infants and adolescents.
- The advantage of using maltitol to make the scaffold or structure to be implanted in the bone is that drugs can then be injected into it to hasten healing.
- The other benefit of using maltitol is fewer side-effects.
LISA Pathfinder results boost plans for future detectors
LISA Pathfinder, a mission led by the European Space Agency (ESA) with contributions from NASA, has successfully tested a key technology needed to build a space-based observatory for detecting gravitational waves.
- One experiment that the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) Pathfinder spacecraft has carried out involves two cubical test masses placed at the heart of the spacecraft.
- The experiment has demonstrated that these two masses are almost motionless with respect to each other and show a relative acceleration which is less than one part in ten millionths of a billionth of Earth’s gravity. This is an accuracy about five times better than expected.
- This extraordinary degree of precision is needed by this experiment as the measured strain caused by gravitational waves on their detectors is comparably minute.
- Gravitational Waves, tiny ripples in the fabric of space, predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago, were first seen last year by the ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).
- Lisa Pathfinder was launched by Europe last December.
About LISA Pathfinder:
LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) Pathfinder, formerly Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology-2 (SMART-2), is an ESA spacecraft that was launched on December 3, 2015.
- The mission involves apart from ESA, European space companies and research institutes from France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, UK, and the US space agency NASA.
- LISA is a space-based gravitational wave observatory concept that has been studied in great detail by both NASA and ESA.
- LISA Pathfinder is stationed itself around the L1 point between the Earth and the Sun which is nearly 1.5 million km away from the Earth.
- The aim of the mission is to demonstrate the technology needed to establish a space-based observatory to study gravitational waves.