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Paper 4-GS-III, Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievement of Indians in science & technology;

IISc makes two potent molecules to fight TB

Important points:

  • Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru have developed two new, potent molecules that can severely impact the survival of mycobacteria, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis that causes TB.
  • Unlike antibiotics that target the bacterial metabolism by aiming at the cellular components, the novel molecules inhibit the stress response pathway of mycobacteria.
  • The stress response pathway is crucial for bacteria to survive during hostile conditions such as lack of nutrients and the presence of antibiotics.
  • So any inhibition of this pathway will lead to bacteria’s death.
  • The master regulator of stress pathway in the case of mycobacteria is (p)ppGpp (Guanosine pentaphospahte or Guanosine tetraphosphate). Though a molecule that inhibits the (p)ppGpp formation has already been synthesised, the efficacy is not much.
  • So scientists synthesised two new molecules, acetylated compound (AC compound) and acetylated benzoylated compound (AB compound).
  • Laboratory studies found both the molecules to be very good inhibitors of stress response. The two compounds affected the rate of synthesis of (p)ppGpp and also reduced the cell survival.
  • The two molecules were not toxic to human cells and were able to penetrate the human lung epithelial cells.
  • Compounds were targeting the Rel gene. The Rel gene makes Rel protein, which in turn synthesises (p)ppGpp. When the Rel gene is knocked out, the long-term survival of Mycobacterium smegmatis decreases.
  • The major reason for prolonged treatment of TB is the bacterium’s ability to persist in dormant form, which is tolerant to most antibiotics used in the treatment regimen.
  • So inhibition of (p)ppGpp-mediated persistence could help in shortening the treatment regime, dealing with the emergence of multiple drug resistance and treatment of chronic infections.
  • Since there are very few antibiotics that target the stress response pathway of the bacteria, the two molecules offer great promise.
  • The next step is to test the molecules on animals.

Source: Indian Express

Paper 3-GS-II, Topic: Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

Erroneous ‘caution-listing’ of exporters hurts shipments

Highlights:

  • The commerce ministry and Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) have warned the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) that erroneously ‘caution-listing’ exporters will severely hurt the country’s shipments.
  • They asked the banking regulator to soon address the genuine concerns of the exporting community in this regard.
  • As per RBI norms, exporters would be caution listed if any shipping bill against them remains open for more than two years (from the date of shipment) in the computerised system called Export Data Processing & Monitoring System (EDPMS).
  • The EDPMS, launched by the RBI in February 2014, is a computerised system for effective monitoring of exports transactions.
  • Since EDPMS eliminates paper reporting requirement to a great extent, it is considered an ‘ease of doing business’ reform.
  • For the financial year 2014-15 deadline currently falls on April 20, 2017. As per official estimates, about nearly 8% of the country’s overall (goods & services) export proceeds in FY15 have not been realised so far – meaning, there was no realisation of export proceeds to the tune of $37.5 billion out of India’s goods and services exports in FY15 worth $468.45 billion.
  • The issue was discussed on April 13 by the commerce ministry, RBI, FIEO, Indian Banks’ Association, Directorate General of Foreign Trade as well as the industry bodies CII and FICCI.

  • The FIEO said caution-listed exporters are denied packing credit, in turn affecting their exports. Also, caution-listing results in ‘non-letter of credit bills’ (non-LC bills) not being negotiated.

  • As a result, though goods reach the buyer on time, they have to wait for banking documents (due to the exporter being caution-listed). This leads to delays and huge demurrage charges that have to be paid by the exporters, the FIEO said.
  • Besides, the caution-list is accessed by regulatory and investigating agencies who in turn issue notices/letters to exporters adding to the latter’s paper work of exporters.

  • Pointing out that caution-listing has also happened due to data errors such as wrong entries of shipping bill number and date, as well as port code – in turn resulting in mismatch of actual exports and their realization.
  • The FIEO said the deadline of April 20, 2017 should hence be extended for genuine cases by the RBI in consultation with banks.

Source: Times of India

Paper 3-GS-II, Topic: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security

Hacked: How $171 mn stolen from Union Bank was recovered

Point to note:

  • Even as the government marked Digital India Day, encouraging more Indians to move to banking online, investigators and cyber security agencies are battling more breaches of banking transfer security, admitting that non-state actors are increasingly targeting India.
  • Details are only just emerging of the biggest such hack of $171 million in July 2016, which necessitated a seven-country hunt that had to be spearheaded at the top levels of government to reverse the theft.
  • The hack involved a transfer double the size of the Bangladesh Central Bank that lost $81 million in February 2016, but most details have been kept under wraps so far.
  • Chairman of the Union Bank of India as well as India’s cyber security chief who were involved in the operation.

How it happened:

  • Events unfolded on the evening of July 20, towards the end of the bank-week, officials said, piecing together the sequence.
  • A Union Bank of India official in the treasury department looking at SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) payments was checking statements for the day from their dollar account, when he noticed a startling discrepancy.
  • An amount of $171 million had been debited from the bank without his authorisation. He quickly raised a red flag to the bank’s top management about the transaction.
  • By then the money had found its way to at least five locations, including accounts in Cambodia’s Canadia Bank and RHB IndoChina Bank, Thailand’s Siam Commercial Bank, Bank Sinopac in Taiwan, and a bank in Australia.
  • These funds were routed by Citibank New York and JP Morgan Chase New York, which hold UBI’s foreign exchange accounts.
  • According to cybersleuths, who were brought into the investigation, the hacking had occurred by sending malware to a bank official, who mistakenly opened an email that enabled the robbery.
  • By the next day, when the extent of the loss was known, senior officials of the Ministry of External Affairs and other offices in South Block were pressed into action to retrieve the money.
  • One tricky negotiation was with the Taiwanese government with which India doesn’t have diplomatic ties, particularly as a court order was needed to secure the banking reversal instruction. With some pushing from U.S. officials, the entire $171 million was traced.

Source: The Hindu