GS Paper III – Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Sea ice hits record winter low
The sea ice cover in the Arctic and the Antarctic hit new record lows for this time of year, marking the smallest polar ice caps in the 38-year satellite record, U.S. government scientists.
Key Points discussed were:
- In March, the Arctic ice sheet should be at its biggest, but on March 7 the ice cover reached “a record low wintertime maximum extent”.
- Data from the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado, also showed that on March 3, “sea ice around Antarctica hit its lowest extent ever recorded by satellites at the end of summer in the Southern Hemisphere”.
Main Issue & Concerns:
- Seasonal cycle:
- The disappearing sea ice comes as the planet has marked three years in a row of record-breaking heat.
- Leading to new concerns about the accelerating pace of global warming and the need to curb burning of fossil fuels which spew heat-trapping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.
- The ice in the Antarctic also follows a seasonal cycle but its maximum comes in September and its minimum around February.
- Since November, daily Antarctic sea ice extent has continuously been at its lowest levels in the satellite record,” said the U.S. space agency.
- “There’s a lot of year-to-year variability in both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, but overall, until last year, the trends in the Antarctic for every single month were toward more sea ice,” NASA.
GS Paper III – Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, Nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
The compulsive patent hoarding disorder
- The current model of commercialisation does not work for publicly funded research.
Key Points discussed were:
- CSIR-Tech, the commercialisation arm of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), realised this the hard way when it had to shut down its operations for lack of funds.
- CSIR has filed more than 13,000 patents — 4,500 in India and 8,800 abroad — at a cost of ₹50 crore over the last three years.
- Across years, that’s a lot of taxpayers’ money, which in turn means that the closing of CSIR-Tech is a tacit admission that its work has been an expensive mistake — a mistake that we tax-paying citizens have paid for.
- Recently, CSIR’s Director-General Girish Sahni claimed that most of CSIR’s patents were “bio-data patents”, filed solely to enhance the value of a scientist’s resume and that the extensive expenditure of public funds spent in filing and maintaining patents was unviable.
- CSIR claims to have licensed a percentage of its patents, but has so far failed to show any revenue earned from the licences.
- This compulsive hoarding of patents has come at a huge cost.
- If CSIR-Tech was privately run, it would have been shut down long ago. Acquiring Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) comes out of our blind adherence to the idea of patenting as an index of innovation.
- The private sector commercialises patents through the licensing of technology and the sale of patented products to recover the money spent in R&D. But when the funds for R&D come from public sources, mimicking the private sector may not be the best option.
Patents and moral hazard:
- It’s true that it costs lakhs of rupees to get a patent in India, government-funded research organisations are likely to spend more money on patents so long as they are not asked to bear the risk.
- Reckless filing of patents using public funds may be explained by the economic concept of moral hazard.
- In the insurance sector, moral hazard refers to the loss-increasing behaviour of the insured who acts recklessly when the loss is covered by another.
- Insurance companies check moral hazard by introducing co-payment from the insured.
- Dr. Sahni’s statement that CSIR laboratories need to bear 25% of expenses for their patents acknowledges the moral hazard.
- The fate of CSIR-Tech is proof that the current model of commercialisation does not work with respect to publicly-funded research.
- So, we should ensure that public-funded research reaches the masses and check the excessive filing of patents without due diligence.
- A possible solution to preserve the objective of publicly funded research is to devise an IPR policy wherein patents are initially offered on an open royalty-free licence to start-ups.
- Once start-ups commercialise the inventions successfully, the royalty-free licence could be converted into a revenue-sharing model.
- It is predominantly taxpayers’ money that goes into public-funded research. When research is commercialised by private entities, it tends to be sold back to the public at a price.
- America is in the midst of such a conundrum, where talks are going on of granting French pharmaceutical company Sanofi exclusive licence for the drug against the Zika virus — a drug which has already cost the American exchequer $43 million in R&D.
- Granting Sanofi this would defeat the purpose of public funds expended on research as the company would charge the American public again for the life-saving drug.
- Putting granted patents on an open licence can be testimony to the commercial viability of the things we are patenting using public money. Not only would it bring a sense of accountability to the managers who run the system but it would also open up publicly-funded research to a whole lot of people, especially start-ups, who can now test, verify, work and put the patented technology into the market.
Sources- The Indian Express, The Hindu. Page 35
GS Paper II – INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS.
New platform seeks to unify Hindus in U.S.
- A new organisation, launched by a group of influential American Hindus, most of them of Indian descent, aspires to emerge as the political platform for all Hindus in the country regardless of their ethnic origin.
Key Points discussed were:
- The American Hindu Coalition (AHC) will be formally inaugurated in May but the group has launched a website and started raising funds online and from selected donors.
- Though led by Republicans, AHC is a bipartisan platform that will bring together Democrats, independents and anyone who believes in “Hindu enlightenment principles”.
- The primary aim of the AHC is to represent Hindus in America who are U.S. citizens. Hindu Americans are from all nationalities. Americans who have been here for five or 10 generations also convert to Hinduism. AHC want to represent them as well.
- Mr. Tewari has been an active member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) said as he has learnt from his experience that the notion of ‘Indian’ American does not go well with the American mainstream. “For the Hindus to be part of the mainstream of American politics, they have to give up this notion of being ‘Indian’ Americans. That signals mixed loyalties. Religion is constitutionally protected in America and that can be the legitimate the basis of organisation,”.
Making America great:
- There’s already an organisation called the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC) that claims to speak for Hindus, but leaders of AHC said the new platform would be unique because of the bipartisan character that they plan to bring.
- “The RHC is limited to the Republican Party. We will reach out to Democrats and independents, whoever is willing to support our platform,”
AHC Organisation plans:
- “Limited governance and strong national defence are priority.
- Belief in economic nationalism and want to invest in America and make America strong.
- On the other side, AHC support strong national defence based on the principle of peace through strength.
- The AHC will advocate strong strategic relations between the U.S. and India. There is a convergence between the two countries, both in terms of threats and interests.
- Main idea is to convince American policymakers that good relations with India are in the interests of America.