The NSEL scam is a systematic and premeditated fraud perpetrated in the commodity market by National Spot Exchange Ltd based in Mumbai, India. NSEL is a company promoted by Financial Technologies India Ltd and NAFED
NSEL scam is a 5600 Crore Rs (About US$ 0.9 Billion) fraud which came out in the public domain after the National Spot Exchange Ltd failed to pay out its investors in commodity pair contracts after 31 July 2013. It was subsequently found out that the most of underlying commodities never existed and buying and selling of commodities like Steel, Paddy, Sugar, Ferrochrome etc. was being conducted only on paper.
More about Forward Markets Commission (FMC):
Forward Markets Commission (FMC) headquartered at Mumbai, is a regulatory authority which is overseen by the Ministry of Finance, Govt. of India. It is a statutory body set up in 1953 under the Forward Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1952.
to advise the Central Government in respect of recognition or withdrawal of recognition of any association and other matters arising out of the administration of the Act;
to keep forward markets under observation and take appropriate action in relation to them;
to collect and publish information regarding trading conditions in respect of goods to which any of the provisions of the Act is made applicable including information regarding supply, demand and prices and to submit to Central Government periodical reports on the operation of this Act and on the working of the forward markets relating to such goods;
to make recommendations to improve the organisation and working of forward markets;
to undertake inspection of the accounts of recognised associations and/or any members thereof;
to perform other duties prescribed by the Central Government.
Courtesy – http://consumeraffairs.nic.in
SEBI to take up proposal to allow Mutual Fund Company’s to offer Pension plans
In 2014, a new pensions system would be introduced in India that would offer retirement savers the option of tapping the high-risk-high-return equity markets. Stock market regulator, SEBI will in its next board meeting in January, 2014 would take up the proposal to allow mutual fund companies to offer pension plans.
The proposed Pension plans & National Pension Scheme (NPS):
If the SEBI board approved the proposal, it could then request the government to extend to these mutual funds-run pension plans the same tax breaks that were now available to retirement savings in the government-run National Pension Scheme (NPS).This would need Parliament approval.
Section 80 CCD of the Income Tax Act of NPS allows employers to deduct from their taxable income the contributions made on behalf of their employees to the NPS. The contributions to NPS schemes by employees, too, are treated tax-free. The tax benefit is over and above the Rs.1 lakh tax-free savings Section 80C of the Income Tax Act allows to individuals.
Contributions to the proposed pension scheme will be discretionary. The NPS is the mandatory pension scheme for government employees hired after May 1, 2004, though it is open to private individuals too. The NPS does not give government employees the option of investing more than 8% of their retirement savings into equity markets. Private sector employers with more than 10 employees statutorily contribute on their behalf to the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).
The difference between existing mutual fund schemes and the proposed pension plans will be that withdrawals will ‘not’ be allowed before retirement unless in the case of specific exceptional circumstances.
According to the proposal, the pension plans will offer retirement savers flexi-choices on the mix of fixed income and equity investment options. The NPS offers savers only three options and the EPFO offers none at all. The wider investor reach of mutual fund companies, it is expected, will give retirement savings a big push.
In August, 2013 Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had proposed that the EPFO and the NPS be merged to make them viable, a proposal that has not progressed. India has one of the largest young populations in the world, but no viable pensions saving mechanism and this is a cause of concern.
At present, India does not have a universal social security system to protect its older population from economic deprivation.
More about National Pension System (NPS):
Government of India established Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) – External website that opens in a new window on 10th October, 2003 to develop and regulate pension sector in the country. The NPS was launched on 1st January, 2004 with the objective of providing retirement income to all the citizens. NPS aims to institute pension reforms and to inculcate the habit of saving for retirement amongst the citizens.
Initially, NPS was introduced for the new government recruits (except armed forces). With effect from 1st May, 2009, NPS has been provided for all citizens of the country including the unorganised sector workers on voluntary basis.
Additionally, to encourage people from the unorganised sector to voluntarily save for their retirement the Central Government launched a co-contributory pension scheme, ‘Swavalamban Scheme – External website that opens in a new window’ in the Union Budget of 2010-11.
Under Swavalamban Scheme – External website that opens in a new window, the government will contribute a sum of Rs.1,000 to each eligible NPS subscriber who contributes a minimum of Rs.1,000 and maximum Rs.12,000 per annum. This scheme is presently applicable upto F.Y.2016-17.
NPS offers following important features to help subscriber save for retirement:
The subscriber will be allotted a unique Permanent Retirement Account Number (PRAN). This unique account number will remain the same for the rest of subscriber’s life. This unique PRAN can be used from any location in India.
PRAN will provide access to two personal accounts:
Tier I Account: This is a non-withdrawable account meant for savings for retirement.
Tier II Account: This is simply a voluntary savings facility. The subscriber is free to withdraw savings from this account whenever subscriber wishes. No tax benefit is available on this account.
More about Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO):
EPFO is a statutory body of the Government of India under the Ministry of Labour and Employment. It administers a compulsory contributory Provident Fund Scheme, Pension Scheme and an Insurance Scheme.
The Employees’ Provident Fund came into existence with the promulgation of the Employees’ Provident Funds Ordinance on the 15th November, 1951. It was replaced by the Employees’ Provident Funds Act, 1952. It is now referred as the Employees’ Provident Funds & Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 which extends to the whole of Indian except Jammu and Kashmir.
It is one of the largest social security organisations in the India in terms of the number of covered beneficiaries and the volume of financial transactions undertaken. The EPFO’s apex decision making body is the Central Board of Trustee (CBT).
To extend the reach and Quality of publicly managed old-age Income security programs through consistent and ever-improving standards of compliance and benefit delivery in a manner that wins the approval and confidence of members in our methods, fairness, honesty and integrity, thereby contributing to the economic and social well-being of members.
Courtesy – http://www.epfindia.com & Wikipedia
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Nobel laureate backs genetically-modified crops
Scientists and others, who are in favour of genetically-modified (GM) food crops, have got support from an unexpected quarter – a Nobel laureate.
Richard J. Roberts, who won the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine in 1993, made a forceful case for promoting research on GM food crops and their use for public consumption, saying they were needed to at least take care of vitamin and other deficiencies in the developing world.
Describing the protest by “green” parties in Europe against GM crops as a “crime against humanity,” he particularly drew attention to the project to produce a GM rice variety for tackling the problem of Vitamin A deficiency in India and other countries.
According to Roberts, ‘The green parties are playing politics. About one-and-a-half (million) to two million children are affected by Vitamin A deficiency. It’s a crime against humanity.’
The professor also stressed the need for scientists to create awareness among the public and politicians on the scientific facts behind GM crops and other such contentious issues. ‘There is need for more science in politics and less politics in science.’ The science conclave is being organised since 2008 by the Ministries of Human Resource Development and Science and Technology, as part of an exercise to promote science and technology as a viable career for bright youngsters. Participants include science leaders from India and abroad, and school and college students.
Genetically modified (GM) foods:
Genetically modified (GM) foods are foods derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally, e.g. through the introduction of a gene from a different organism.
Currently available GM foods stem mostly from plants, but in the future foods derived from GM microorganisms or GM animals are likely to be introduced on the market.
Most existing genetically modified crops have been developed to improve yield, through the introduction of resistance to plant diseases or of increased tolerance of herbicides.
In the future, genetic modification could be aimed at altering the nutrient content of food, reducing its allergenic potential, or improving the efficiency of food production systems. All GM foods should be assessed before being allowed on the market. FAO/WHO Codex guidelines exist for risk analysis of GM food.
These “first generation” crops have proven their ability to lower farm-level production costs. Now, research is focused on “second-generation” GM crops that will feature increased nutritional and/or industrial traits. These crops will have more direct benefits to consumers. Examples include:
Rice enriched with iron, vitamin A and E, and lysine
Potatoes with higher starch content, and inulin
Edible vaccines in maize, banana and potatoes
Maize varieties with low phytic acid and increased essential amino acids
The danger of unintentionally introducing allergens and other anti-nutrition factors in foods
The likelihood of transgenes escaping from cultivated crops into wild relatives
The potential for pests to evolve resistance to the toxins produced by GM crops. The risk of these toxins affecting non-target organisms.
There are also those risks that are neither caused nor preventable by the technology itself.
An example of this type of risk is the further widening of the economic gap between developed countries (technology users) versus developing countries (nonusers). These risks, however, can be managed by developing technologies tailor made for the needs of the poor and by instituting measures so that the poor will have access to the new technologies.
Are GM crops appropriate for developing countries?
Although the potential benefits of GM crops are large in developing countries, they would require some investments.
Most developing countries lack the scientific capacity to assess the biosafety of GM crops, the economic expertise to evaluate their worth, the regulatory capacity to implement guidelines for safe deployment, and the legal systems to enforce and punish transgressions in law.
Fortunately, several organizations are working to build local capacity to manage the acquisition, deployment, and monitoring of GM crops.
Indian scientists identify genes behind oral cancer
A team of Indian scientists has identified new genes and new biological pathways that are specific to driving oral cancer associated predominantly with smokeless tobacco consumption in India. Further detailed study on these discoveries might lead to finding better therapies for oral cancer.
The Indian group is part of the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC), an initiative started in 2009, to understand the genomic basis of 50 different types of cancer with clinical and societal importance around the globe.
This is the first set of results to come out of the India Project, which has been noted as an important contribution to cancer genomics.
Oral cancer is the eighth most common cancer worldwide and is the leading cancer among males in India. Unlike in the West, where 65% of oral cancers are tongue cancer, in India, oral cancer predominantly (60%) is of the lining of the mouth, lower gum and other mucosal regions of the oral cavity, termed the Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the gingivo-buccal region (OSCC-GB). Tobacco chewing is a major cause of OSCC-GB, which accounts for over half of the oral cancers in India.
Cancer is known to be associated with changes in the DNA contained in the cells of the tumour tissues. However, these genetic changes triggered by lifestyle or other environmental factors such as exposure to tobacco, chemicals and radiation occur only in non-reproductive cells and are called somatic alterations.
Also you can follow this link regarding ‘Exploring cinema, censorship and its impact’ (This might help you in Essay or in GS paper)
(This is in regard to Achievements of Indian’s in S & T)
CCMB scientists throw new light on evolution of life
Indian scientists have solved one of nature’s mysteries related to evolution of life on earth.
Scientists from the Structural Biology Laboratory of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) have shown the precise mechanism through which all organisms, including human beings, exclude D-amino acids from protein synthesis.
This finding has far-reaching implications both in terms of understanding the evolution of life and also in designing better synthetic biology strategies for making more diverse engineered proteins.
Proteins carry out most of the biological processes in a living cell from the simplest bacteria to complex humans. Consisting of the basic building blocks known as amino acids which are linked together like a chain which in turn folds to perform specific cellular tasks like metabolic reactions, regulation of genes and providing defence against pathogens. And the manner in which most of the biological processes are carried out depends on the way the amino acids are assembled to form proteins.
An enzyme called DTD was responsible for excluding D-amino acids from infiltrating into proteins during their synthesis. The study revealed one of the fundamental processes in evolution of life.
In a first for an Indian spacecraft, Mars orbiter now in interplanetary space
India’s spacecraft to Mars is now coasting in the interplanetary space. In its epic voyage towards the Red Planet, it broke out of the Sphere of Influence (SOI) of the Earth traversing beyond 9.25 lakh km. Chandrayaan-1 had travelled up to 4 lakh km.
The Mars orbiter crossed the SOI, 72 hours after it was cannoned out of its Earth-bound orbit. It is now in a proper Sun-centric orbit.
This is the first time that an Indian spacecraft has crossed this distance of 9.25 lakh km. The spacecraft is no longer under the Earth’s influence now, it is in interplanetary space.
The spacecraft will now coast around the Sun for about 300 days. This helio-centric flight will total 68-crore km before it has its tryst with Mars on September 24, 2014.
Agni V’s next trial will be canister-based
In a crucial technological accomplishment, a simulated canister-based launch of a dummy missile weighing 50 tonnes was successfully carried out by scientists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) recently.
With the success of the “Missile Ejection Test” (MET), DRDO missile technologists are gearing up to conduct the first canister-based test-firing of 5,000-plus km range nuclear weapons-capable Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Agni-V (The indigenously developed, nuclear-capable missile has a strike range of 5,000 kms) in March-April, 2014.
The MET success has been hailed as a very important milestone and a prelude to the main launch. It laid the foundation and provided core competence to the DRDO for the canister launch system.
India has joined an elite club of nations that possess the ICBM launch capability when the maiden test-firing of Agni-V was successfully conducted in April, 2012.
Soon after the resounding success of the second Agni V mission in September, 2013, it was decided that the next trial would be canister based.
What is an Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM)?
An Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) is a ballistic missile with a maximum range of more than 5,500 kilometres typically designed for nuclear weapons delivery (delivering one or more nuclear warheads).
Most modern designs support multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs), allowing a single missile to carry several warheads, each of which can strike a different target.
ICBMs are differentiated by having greater range and speed than other ballistic missiles: intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs), short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs)—these shorter range ballistic missiles are known collectively as theatre ballistic missiles.
Importance of the successful launch of Agni V:
Only the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – China, France, Russia, the United States and Britain, along with Israel, have so far possessed such long-range missiles.
Tipped to be a “game changer” by experts, Agni V will extend India’s reach all over Asia, parts of Africa and parts of Europe. The Agni series of missiles, including Agni V, is crucial for India’s defence vis-a-vis China since Beijing has upped the ante in recent times by deploying missiles in Tibet Autonomous Region bordering India.
Agni V can be configured to launch small satellites. It can also be used to shoot down enemy satellites in orbits. Once fired, it cannot be stopped. It can, however, be launched only after a decision by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a space telescope that was carried into orbit by a Space Shuttle in 1990 and remains in operation. (Hubble is the only telescope designed to be serviced in space by astronauts).
Hubble’s orbit outside the distortion of Earth’s atmosphere allows it to take extremely high-resolution images with almost no background light.
Many Hubble observations have led to breakthroughs in astrophysics, such as accurately determining the rate of expansion of the universe.
Recently it has helped in identifying faint signatures of water in the atmospheres of five distant planets.
For Malnourishment and TB drugs in children, refer the below article-
GPS aided geo augmented navigation or GPS and Geo-Augmented Navigation system (Gagan), a regional satellite-based augmentation system.
More about GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation (GAGAN):
GAGAN is a Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS) implemented jointly with Airport Authority of India (AAI).
The main objectives of GAGAN are-
to provide Satellite-based Navigation services with accuracy and integrity required for civil aviation applications and to provide better Air Traffic Management over Indian Airspace.
The system will be interoperable with other international SBAS systems and provide seamless navigation across regional boundaries. The first GAGAN navigation payload was flown on GSAT-8 which was launched on May 21, 2011 and the second on GSAT-10 launched on Sep 29, 2012.
Courtesy – http://www.isro.org
New, long-lived greenhouse gas found
Perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA) a novel chemical lurking in the atmosphere, is the most radioactively efficient chemical found to date, breaking all other chemical records for its potential to impact climate.
More about Perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA) – ‘application & its impact’:
PFTBA has been in use since the mid-20th century for various applications in electrical equipment and is currently used in thermally and chemically stable liquids marketed for use in electronic testing and as heat transfer agents.
It does not occur naturally, that is, it is produced by humans. There are no known processes that would destroy or remove PFTBA in the lower atmosphere so it has a very long lifetime, possibly hundreds of years, and is destroyed in the upper atmosphere.
It is the most radioactively efficient chemical found to date, the result of this is a very high global warming potential. It was found to be 7,100 times more powerful at warming the Earth over 100 years than carbon dioxide.
Researchers found PFTBA is present in small amounts but can remain in the atmosphere for about 500 years. Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, is absorbed by forests and oceans.
Today, concentrations of PFTBA are low with 0.18 parts per trillion in the Toronto area – compared to 400 parts per million for carbon dioxide.
Biotechnology major Biocon has inked a pact with Quark Pharmaceuticals, Inc to develop a range of siRNA (small interfering RNA) based novel therapeutics. This collaboration will enable Biocon to co-develop, manufacture and commercialise QPI-1007, a novel siRNA drug candidate for ophthalmic conditions, for India and other key markets.
What is RNA interference (RNAi)?
It is a recently discovered process in cells that stops the action of specific genes by destroying mRNA and thus preventing translation of the gene product.
Two types of small ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules – microRNA (miRNA) and small interfering RNA (siRNA) – are central to RNA interference. RNAs are the direct products of genes, and these small RNAs can bind to other specific messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules and either increase or decrease their activity, for example by preventing an mRNA from producing a protein. RNA interference has an important role in defending cells against parasitic nucleotide sequences – viruses and transposons – but also in directing development as well as gene expression in general.
RNAi has become a valuable research tool, both in cell culture and in living organisms, because synthetic dsRNA introduced into cells can selectively and robustly induce suppression of specific genes of interest. RNAi may be used for large-scale screens that systematically shut down each gene in the cell, which can help to identify the components necessary for a particular cellular process or an event such as cell division. The pathway is also used as a practical tool in biotechnology and medicine.
>Courtesy- http://www.theapprofessor.org/RNAinterference.html & Wikipedia
An article on ‘Poverty and Employment’ had come in Today’s newspaper. The facts can be used in your GS answers and Essay-writing .
Scientists say they have discovered compelling evidence that diamonds exist in the icy mountains of Antarctica. The researchers have identified a type of rock in the permanently frozen region that is known to contain the precious stones. However, recovering any Antarctic mineral resources for commercial purposes is currently forbidden.
Diamonds are formed from pure carbon under extreme heat and pressure at depths of about 150 km in the Earth’s crust. Volcanic eruptions bring the valuable crystals to the surface, usually preserved in another type of bluish rock called kimberlite.
The presence of kimberlite has been a clue to significant deposits of diamonds in several parts of the world, including Africa, Siberia and Australia.
Now researchers have, for the first time, found evidence of kimberlite in Antarctica.
Even if diamonds were plentiful in this inhospitable region, there are still some significant legal barriers to their extraction.
The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, added in 1991, explicitly bans any extraction activity relating to mineral resources, except for scientific purposes. However it is up for review in 2041 and could be subject to change.
Any diamond resource sites in India? Indian presence in Antarctica.
Research potential of the region. Some info on Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.