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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 29th March, 2016

  • March 29, 2016
  • 2
IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis, IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs March 2016, Science and Technology, UPSC
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 29th March, 2016

 

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

 

TOPIC:   General Studies 3

  • Issues relating to intellectual property rights (IPR)
  • Science and Technology – developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology. 

India lagging behind in Innovation

Data-

  • International patent applications filed from India dropped to 1,423 last year
  • Make in India initiative: Has notched up overseas investment commitments of more than $400 billion over the past two years
  • Government-
    • Plans to create 100 million new factory jobs by 2022
    • Increase manufacturing’s share in the economy to 25% during the next six years

Lagging area of “incidence and location of innovation”—

Innovation: Pre-requisite for generating new knowledge in science and technology

  • International patent applications filed from India to assess the innovative activity: Dropped to 1,423 last year
  • 2014: Indian research and manufacturing entities, both in the private and public sector, filed 1,428 international patent applications as compared to 42,381 by Japan, 25,548 by China, and 13,117 by South Korea
  • The filing of patent applications by Indian firms and research departments over the past three years remained almost flat with 1,320 in 2013, 1,428 in 2014 and 1,423 in 2015.

Issues:

At a time when India has eclipsed China as the world’s fastest growing major economy with its gross domestic product forecast to increase to 7.6% in the fiscal year through March, it has performed poorly in generating measurable innovative activity.

  • Saffronization of Ancient claims: of landmark scientific discoveries (the Pythagorean theorem, zero, genetics and plastic surgery, among others), thereby undermining the need for fresh research on the ground that everything is already there in the Vedas; problem of demarcation between science and pseudoscience (vital social and political relevance)
  • Lack of investment in basic and applied science and technology that is essential for innovation which, in turn, accelerates the pace of intellectual property activities
  • No transmission of existing knowledge, which is the basis for the generation of new knowledge
    • Lack of rigorous scientific study
    • Lack of perspective building and prioritising (solar energy)
    • Religious system of beliefs
    • Climate fostering “un-questioning” undermining scientific inquiry and questioning
  • ‘Costly’ Affair impeding Innovation: Diversion of funds from productive R&D towards litigation and discovery/licenses
  • Monopoly: Little choice and no incentive to work on the complaints as the market is capture, damaging society’s development
  • Restriction on Technological Progress& Legal Risks: More number of false claims, thereby diverting energy of innovators towards defending and not producing/discovering which, in turn, affects their creativity.
  • Low Inclusion of Indians: World Intellectual Property Organisation statistics states that only about 22 per cent of all patents granted by the Indian Patent Office were granted to Indian residents thus, questioning the strategic as well as economic sense behind the protection that excludes Indians from benefiting from it.

Way Ahead

  • Improve conditions and incentives for business R&D and innovation, and move towards a business centred innovation system
  • Reform the public R&D system by introducing competitive funding mechanisms, efficiency and relevance-enhancing measures as well as incentives for science-industry cooperation
  • Improve framework conditions for innovation, including essentially the provision of highly skilled labour force and the public support for entrepreneurship
  • Work on the methods and ways in which existing knowledge is being transmitted as well as priority should be given more on the concept-building and application of knowledge
  • Enhance international openness
  • Ensure steady increase in investments in R&D and innovation as a share of GDP

 

Connecting the Dots

  • Science is the cognition of necessity; freedom is the recognition of necessity. Discuss.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

TOPIC:  

General Studies 2

  • India and its neighborhood- relations.

General Studies 3

  • Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

 

Come clean on Nuclear Security

Background:

  • This week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will touch down in Washington, DC for the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit, a biennial conference series initiated in 2010 by the Barack Obama administration. 
  • Modi will no doubt seek to showcase India’s nuclear regime as one that adheres to the highest standards of transparency and safety through rigorous regulation of nuclear products and institutions.

Interlocutors in the U.S. may be hoping for a break with India’s tradition of maintaining a masterful silence on two questions surrounding its nuclear policy.

  • First, growing concerns over the security of its nuclear materials
  • Second, at a time when India’s macro strategy of rapid economic development is premised on a climate of neighbourly peace and stability in the region, need for the hour is that call for an end to the nuclear arms race in Asia and address environmental risks of India’s covert weapons plants

 

India’s nuclear security

First, the need for heightened nuclear security has now become urgent, especially with the emergence of global jihadi threats such as the Islamic State.

 In this context, three potential nuclear terrorist threats relate to

  • Extremists making or acquiring and exploding a nuclear bomb
  • Danger of radioactive material being fashioned into a “dirty bomb”
  • Risk of nuclear reactor sabotage.

First and second scenarios are vectors of imminent concern in Pakistan, with analysts citing as examples a series of terrorist attacks in 2007 on nuclear weapons facilities in that country, including a nuclear missile storage facility at Sargodha and a nuclear airbase at Kamra.

 

Assessment of India’s nuclear security:

  • Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government cautioned that U.S. officials ranked Indian nuclear security measures as weaker than those of Pakistan and Russia.
  • S. experts visiting the sensitive Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in 2008 described the security arrangements there as extraordinarily low key.
  • Harvard report notes, there are concerns about threats within Indian nuclear facilities stemming in part from “significant insider corruption”, and what appears to be inconsistent strength of regulation.
  • An example that the report cites relates to the 2014 case of Vijay Singh, head constable at the Madras Atomic Power Station at Kalpakkam, who shot and killed three people with his service rifle.
  • Event may have been avoided had the Central Industrial Security Force’s personnel reliability programme been able to detect Mr. Singh’s deteriorating mental health, which it failed to do despite multiple complaints raised by his colleagues that he was about to explode like a firecracker.
  • With a scarcity of data points on insider threats and the attendant concerns about sabotage and nuclear accidents, the unsurprising conclusion of the report was: Given the limited information available about India’s nuclear security measures, it is difficult to judge whether India’s nuclear security is capable of protecting against the threats it faces.

 

India’s clandestine weapons development programme:

Recent evidence that this shadowy realm of government activity has been proceeding apace beyond the scrutiny of the media and public surfaced in June 2014

  • IHS Jane’s, a U.S.-based military intelligence think tank, discovered satellite imagery showing efforts underway to extend a Mysore nuclear centrifuge plant constructed in 1992 at the Rare Metals Plant at that location.
  • According to Jane’s, the purpose behind this extension may have been the covert production of uranium hexafluoride, which could be channelled towards the manufacture of hydrogen bombs or naval reactors to power India’s nuclear submarine fleet.
  • Institute for Science and International Security, revealed additional satellite imagery suggesting that India was building a Special Material Enrichment Facility, including constructing an industrial-scale centrifuge complex in Chitradurga district in Karnataka.
  • Centre for Public Integrity (CPI), reported inForeign Policy magazine, confirmed that India’s under-radar ambition to acquire thermonuclear weapons at the Chitradurga site had advanced much further than many had suspected.

There are likely to be a number of other such walled-off weapons development zones across the breadth of the country posing two critical questions:

Firstly, what are the broader implications of India’s covert nuclear programme for the triangular standoff vis-à-vis Pakistan and China? 

  • India’s search for thermonuclear weapons certainly exacerbates the nuclear arms race with its neighbours, specifically by sparking dangerous games of tit-for-tat weaponisation, loose talk about tactical superiority and theatre nukes, and growing doubts about deterrence stability.
  • The region is already a potential hothouse of nuclear posturing — a fact advocated by the independent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s estimates that India has something in the range 90-110 nuclear weapons, Pakistan has around 120, and China has close to 260.

Secondly, while the Nuclear Liability Law protects its citizenry from the potentially catastrophic fallout of a nuclear accident in the civilian nuclear sector, what guarantees do we have that India’s nuclear black sites do not endanger the health of the people and the environment?

  • Evidence suggests that the Chitradurga and Khudapura sites may be degrading the surrounding grassland ecosystems called kavals, which are habitats for critically endangered local species such as the Great Indian Bustard, the Lesser Florican and the Black Buck, not to mention the livelihoods source for thousands of pastoral communities.
  • In February 2014, NGOs in Karnataka including the Environment Support Group complained about government land acquisitions for DRDO and BARC in the Challakere in Chitradurga, and obtained a direction from the National Green Tribunal to halt construction activity that had commenced without securing permission from the Karnataka Forest Department and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

 

Note:

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010

Highlights of the Bill

  • The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010 fixes liability for nuclear damage and specifies procedures for compensating victims.
  • The Bill fixes no-fault liability on operators and gives them a right of recourse against certain persons.  It caps the liability of the operator at Rs 500 crore.  For damage exceeding this amount, and up to 300 million SDR, the central government will be liable.
  • All operators (except the central government) need to take insurance or provide financial security to cover their liability.
  • For facilities owned by the government, the entire liability up to 300 million SDR will be borne by the government.
  • The Bill specifies who can claim compensation and the authorities who will assess and award compensation for nuclear damage.
  • Those not complying with the provisions of the Bill can be penalised.

Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)

  • It is a formal process used to predict the environmental consequences of any development project.
  • Environment Impact Assessment in India is statutory backed by the Environment Protection Act in 1986, which contains various provisions on EIA methodology and process.

Way ahead:

If India is willing to be more open about discussing its nuclear weapons programme with a view to ultimately denuclearising the neighbourhood, it would by far be one of the most courageous contributions that India could make towards a lasting sub-continental security.

Connecting the dots:

  • India’s search for thermonuclear weapons certainly exacerbates the nuclear arms race with its neighbours. Discuss.

 

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