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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 21 November 2016



Insights Daily Current Affairs, 21 November 2016


Paper 3 Topic: 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.


Scientists tweak photosynthesis to up crop yield


Scientists have successfully tweaked the process of photosynthesis to make it more efficient and increase plant productivity by raising the level of three proteins involved in the process. Researchers used tobacco plants for this experiment as they can be easily modified.


How this was made possible?

To enhance crop yield, the scientists first had to overcome plants’ natural defense systems. When a plant finds itself taking in more sunlight than it can handle, its cells initiate a process to deal with all this excess light energy. This process, known as non-photochemical quenching of chlorophyll fluorescence (NPQ), enables the plant to release excess light energy as heat so it doesn’t get burned. When the sun moves through the sky and shade covers the plants again, NPQ slows down. But this takes awhile, and during the time that NPQ is relaxing, photosynthesis remains slow.

  • But, scientists found a way to tweak the genes associated with NPQ in Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco) plants so they would relax, or halt, NPQ much more quickly once they’re no longer in the hot sun. The changes resulted in increased production of three proteins involved in slowing down the NPQ process.
  • Researchers suggested that boosting levels of three proteins might speed up the recovery process. To test this concept, they inserted a “cassette” of the three genes — taken from the model plant Arabidopsis — into tobacco. The researchers grew seedlings from multiple experiments.
  • A fluorescence imaging technique allowed the team to determine which of the transformed plants recovered more quickly upon transfer to shade. The researchers selected the three best performers and tested them in several field plots alongside plots of the unchanged tobacco.
  • Two of the modified plant lines consistently showed 20% higher productivity and the third was 14 higher than the unaltered tobacco plants.

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 3 Topic: Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.


RBI proposes ‘Islamic window’ in banks


The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has proposed the opening of “Islamic window” in conventional banks for “gradual” introduction of Sharia-compliant or interest-free banking in the country.

  • In this regard, both the Centre and the RBI have been exploring the possibility of introduction of Islamic banking for a while now to ensure financial inclusion of those sections of society that remain excluded due to religious reasons.


What is Islamic banking?

Islamic or Sharia banking is a finance system based on the principles of not charging interest. The charging of interest is prohibited under Islam.  


Way ahead:

Initially, a few simple products similar to conventional banking products may be considered for introduction through the Islamic window of conventional banks after necessary notification by the government. Introduction of full-fledged Islamic banking with profit-loss sharing complex products may be considered at a later stage on the basis of experience gained in course of time.

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 2 Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.


PM Launches “Housing for All” in Rural Areas


Prime Minister Shri Narendra has formally launched “Housing for All” in rural areas under which the Government proposes to provide an environmentally safe and secure pucca house to every rural household by 2022.


About the scheme:

Named the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (Gramin), in its first phase the target is to complete one crore houses by March 2019.

  • The unit cost for these houses has been significantly increased and now through convergence a minimum support of nearly Rs. 1.5 lakh to Rs. 1.6 lakh to a household is available. There is also a provision of Bank loan upto Rs. 70,000/-, if the beneficiary so desires.
  • The selection of beneficiaries has been through a completely transparent process using the Socio Economic Census 2011 data and validating it through the Gram Sabha.
  • PMAY-G is also a major step forward in bringing together Skill India, Digital India, Make In India, IT/DBT Aadhaar platform and Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY).
  • The programme provides for skilling 5 lakh Rural Masons by 2019 and allows over 200 different housing designs across the country based on a detailed study of housing typologies, environmental hazards and the households’ requirements.
  • A large scale use of local materials is envisaged along with a complete home with cooking space, electricity provision, LPG, toilet and bathing area, drinking water etc through convergence.
  • The programme targets the poor households and uses ICT and space technology to further confirm correct selection of beneficiaries and progress of work. The entire payments are through IT/DBT mode with Aadhaar linked Bank accounts with consent, to ensure complete transparency and accountability.
  • There is a provision for orientation of beneficiaries. A 45 days on site hands-on skill training of Rural Masons helps poor households to move up the skilling ladder.

Sources: pib.


Paper 3 Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.


NASA Weather Satellite Promises ‘Huge Leap’ in Forecasts


NASA has successfully launched for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the first in a series of highly advanced geostationary weather satellites. The satellite is known as Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R).


Key facts:

  • After it reaches its final designated orbit in the next two weeks, GOES-R will be renamed GOES-16.
  • The new satellite will become operational within a year, after undergoing a checkout and validation of its six new instruments, including the first operational lightning mapper in geostationary orbit.
  • GOES-R will strengthen NOAA’s ability to issue life-saving forecasts and warnings and is aimed at make the United States an even stronger, more resilient weather-ready nation.
  • Forecasters will use the lightning mapper to hone in on storms that represent the greatest threats. The satellite’s primary instrument, the Advanced Baseline Imager, will provide images of Earth’s weather, oceans and environment with 16 different spectral bands, including two visible channels, four near-infrared channels, and 10 infrared channels.
  • Improved space weather sensors on GOES-R will monitor the sun and relay crucial information to forecasters so they can issue space weather alerts and warnings.
  • In all, data from GOES-R will result in 34 new or improved meteorological, solar and space weather products.
  • Beyond weather forecasting, GOES-R also will be part of the Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) System, an international satellite-based search and rescue network operated by NOAA. The satellite is carrying a special transponder that can detect distress signals from emergency beacons.
  • There are four satellites in the GOES-R series: –R, –S, –T and –U, which will extend NOAA’s geostationary coverage through 2036.

Sources: the hindu.


Paper 3 Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.


China launches world’s longest quantum communication line


China has launched a 712-km quantum communication line, stated to be the world’s longest secure telecommunications network, which boasts of ultra-high security making it impossible to wiretap, intercept or crack the information transmitted through them.


Key facts:

  • The new quantum communication line links Hefei, capital of Anhui province, to Shanghai, the country’s financial hub. It is part of a 2,000-km quantum communication line connecting Beijing and Shanghai. The 712-km line has 11 stations and it took three years of construction.
  • The Beijing-Shanghai quantum communication line will be connected to the Micius satellite through the line’s station in Beijing, enabling the space-to-Earth quantum communication network. In August, China successfully launched the world’s first quantum satellite. It was nicknamed “Micius” after a fifth century BC Chinese philosopher and scientist.    


Significance of quantum communications:

Quantum communication lines boasts ultra-high security. It is impossible to wiretap, intercept or crack the information transmitted through them.



Quantum communication boasts ultra-high security as a quantum photon can neither be separated nor duplicated. It is hence impossible to wiretap, intercept or crack the information transmitted through it. Quantum communications technology is nearly impossible to hack because any interference to transmission of information destroys it.

Sources: the hindu.