DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 14th July 2021


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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


India’s first Green Hydrogen Mobility Project

Part of: GS Prelims and GS -III – Environment; Conservation; Infrastructure

In news NTPC  recently signed a MoU with UT of Ladakh and Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) to set up India’s first Green Hydrogen Mobility project.

  • Leh will be India’s first city to implement a green hydrogen based mobility project with zero emission. NTPC has planned to ply 5 hydrogen buses in the beginning
  • NTPC’s first solar installations in Leh in form of solar trees and a solar carport were also inaugurated

What is Green Hydrogen?

The sources and processes by which hydrogen is derived, are categorised by colour tabs. 

  • Hydrogen produced from fossil fuels is called grey hydrogen; this constitutes the bulk of the hydrogen produced today. 
  • Hydrogen generated from fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage options is called blue hydrogen
  • Hydrogen generated entirely from renewable power sources is called green hydrogen. Electricity generated from renewable energy is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Green hydrogen has specific advantages

  • Environment Friendly
  • Potential to Decarbonise various sectors such as iron and steel, chemicals, and transportation (advantage over battery based energy)
  • Renewable energy that cannot be stored or used by the grid can be channelled to produce hydrogen.
  • Unlike Batteries, there is no dependence on Rare Minerals as the source material for green hydrogen is easily available
  • Green energy helps reduce import dependency on fossil fuels
  • Green hydrogen energy is vital for India to meet its Nationally Determined Contributions and ensure regional and national energy security, access and availability.

News Source: PIB


Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), Leh

Part of: GS Prelims and GS –II- Polity

In news NTPC  recently signed a MoU with UT of Ladakh and Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) to set up India’s first Green Hydrogen Mobility project.

  • LAHDC, Leh is an autonomous district council that administers the Leh district of Ladakh. 
  • The council was created under the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Act of 1995. 
  • LAHDC-Leh has a total of 30 seats and four councillors are nominated by the government. 
    • The executive arm of the council consists of an executive committee composed of a Chief Executive Councillor and four other executive councillors.
  • The autonomous hill council work with village panchayats to take decisions on economic development, healthcare, education, land use, taxation, and local governance which are further reviewed at the block headquarters in the presence of the chief executive councillor and executive councillors.
    • The administration of Union Territory of Ladakh looks after law and order, communications and the higher education in the districts.
  • Leh, which is a Buddhist-dominated district of Ladakh, has demanded the implementation of the sixth schedule for the Union territory to guard against demographic change and dilution of the unique cultural and tribal identity.
  • The democratic constitution of the Council has heralded democratic decentralization of planning process with the involvement of people at the grass root level. 
  • An Autonomous Hill Council has also been established in neighboring Kargil District. The Hill Council in Kargil came in to existence in July 2003.

India’s single largest solar park

Part of: GS Prelims and GS -III – Energy; Conservation

In news 

  • NTPC Renewable Energy Ltd has received the go-ahead from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) to set up a 4750 MW renewable energy park at Rann of Kutch in Khavada, Gujarat. 
    • NTPC REL, NTPC’s subsidiary was incorporated in October 2020 to accelerate the Renewable Energy business of NTPC.
  • This will be India’s largest solar park to be built.
  • NTPC REL has plans to generate green hydrogen on a commercial scale from this park.

Other initiatives of NTPC

  • It aims to build 60 GW Renewable Energy Capacity by 2032. 
    • Currently, it has an installed capacity of 66 GW across 70 power projects with an additional 18 GW under construction.
  • It has also commissioned India’s largest Floating Solar of 10 MW (ac) on the reservoir of Simhadri Thermal Power Plant, Andhra Pradesh. 
  • 100 MW Floating Solar Project on the reservoir of Ramagundam Thermal Power Plant, Telangana is in the advanced stage of implementation.

Image Source: NTPC

What are floating Solar Plants?

  • It refers to the deployment of photovoltaic panels on the surface of water bodies.
  • Advantages:
    • Address Land Acquisition Issues: Floating solar plants balance high population density and competing uses for available land. 
    • Cooling Effect: The bodies of water exert a cooling effect, which improves the performance of solar photovoltaic panels by 5-10%.
    • Reduced grid interconnection costs, reduced water evaporation, improved water quality, and reduced algal blooming.
  • Challenges:
    • Expensive
    • Degradation and Corrosion: The installation is at risk of degradation and corrosion due to moisture
    • Developing floating solar projects requires a thorough understanding of water-bed topography and its suitability for setting up anchors for floats.

News Source: PIB


BHIM–UPI in Bhutan

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II -International Relations

In news Union Minister of Finance & Corporate Affairs along with the Finance Minister of Bhutan jointly launched BHIM–UPI in Bhutan.

  • India and Bhutan have already enabled interoperability in acceptance of Rupay cards in each other’s countries.

Benefits 

  • Smooth connectivity between two countries will benefit a large number of tourists and businessmen from India who travel to Bhutan each year. 
  • This will enhance the ease of living and ease of travelling through cashless transactions.

Do you know?

  • Bhutan is the first country to adopt UPI standards for its QR deployment, and the first country in our immediate neighbourhood to accept mobile based payments through the BHIM App.

What is Unified Payments Interface (UPI)?

  • UPI is a payment system. launched in April 2016 by National Payments Corporation of India(NPCI), that allows money transfer between any two bank accounts by using a smartphone.
  • UPI allows a customer to pay directly from a bank account to different merchants, both online and offline, without the hassle of typing credit card details, IFSC code, or net banking/wallet passwords.
  • It also caters to the “Peer to Peer” collect request which can be scheduled and paid as per requirement and convenience.
  • More than 100 million UPI QRs have been created in the last 5 years 
  • BHIM UPI in 2020-21 has processed 22 billion transactions worth Rs 41 lakh crore.

What is National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)?

  • It is an umbrella organisation for operating retail payments and settlement systems in India.
  • It is an initiative of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) under the provisions of the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007.
  • It has been incorporated as a “Not for Profit” Company under the provisions of Section 25 of Companies Act 1956 (now Section 8 of Companies Act 2013).
  • In 2016 the shareholding was broad-based to 56 member banks to include more banks representing all sectors.
  • Along with UPI, Other systems include National Automated Clearing House (NACH), Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), Aadhaar enabled Payment System (AePS), Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS), RuPay, FASTag etc.

News Source: PIB


Sunderbans

Part of: GS Prelims and GS -III – Biodiversity

In news The devastation caused by cyclone Yaas in West Bengal led to the huge ingress (entry) of saline water which affected thousands of acres of agricultural land.

  • The West Bengal government has been distributing relief and compensation and also salt tolerant varieties of paddy to farmers.

What are the consequences of the ingress of saline water? 

  • It kills standing crops and increases salinity of the soil 
  • It makes the cultivation of regular high-yielding varieties almost impossible for the next few years which may result in food crisis in the region 

About Sundarbans

  • Sundarbans is a vast contiguous mangrove forest ecosystem in the coastal region of Bay of Bengal spread over India and Bangladesh on the delta (world’s largest) of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers.
  • It contains the world’s largest mangrove forests. 
  • It is the only mangrove forest in the world inhabited by tigers.
  • Sundarbans Tiger Reserve was created in 1973.
  • Sundarbans National Park, established in 1984, constitutes a core region within the tiger reserve.
  • It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.
  • Sunderbans was designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2001.
  • Sundarban Wetland, India was recognised as the ‘Wetland of International Importance’ under the Ramsar Convention in January 2019.

News Source: TH


SC Upheld Authority of Delhi’s Peace and Harmony Committee

Part of: GS Prelims and GS -II – Judiciary

In news Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) upheld the authority of Delhi Legislative Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee to summon Facebook India’s senior official in connection with the February 2020 communal violence.

What is Central Government’s and Facebook’s Claim?

  • The formation of the Peace and Harmony committee was not within the authority of the Delhi Legislative Assembly as law and order and police of Delhi is a central subject.

What was Delhi Government’s Justification?

  • The Delhi Assembly had relied on various entries in the state list and concurrent list, by which the Delhi Assembly derived its power to discuss and debate on the issue in question.
  • It cited entry 1 in the state list dealing with public order, which is distinct from law and order and entry 1 in concurrent list which gives sweeping power to state assemblies to legislate on the subject ‘criminal law’.
  • Entry 39 in the state list that gave assemblies power to enforce the attendance of witnesses for the purpose of recording statements was also relied upon.

What is SC’s recent Ruling?

  • Rejected Facebook’s abstention:
  • Rejected the simplistic approach adopted by Facebook — that it is merely a platform posting third-party information and has no role in generating, controlling or modulating that information.
  • Facebook cannot claim any “exceptional privilege” to abstain from appearing before the Peace Harmony Committee constituted by the Delhi Assembly.

What are the Committee’s Competence/Powers?

  • An “informed deliberation” by the Assembly’s elected representatives on the best measures to combat online mass hate and violence in their geographical jurisdiction was very much within the Committee’s competence.
  • However Facebook representatives appearing before the Committee need not answer any query from the Committee directly regarding law, order and the police, which are subjects on which the Delhi Assembly cannot legislate.

News Source: TH


India’s First Cryptogamic Garden

Part of: GS Prelims and GS – III -Sci and Tech

In news Recently, India’s first cryptogamic garden was inaugurated in the Chakrata town of Dehradun, Uttarakhand.

  • The garden will be housing nearly 50 species of lichens, ferns and fungi (collectively known as Cryptogamae)

What are Cryptogams?

  • A cryptogam is a plant that reproduces with the help of spores.
  • The word “Cryptogamae” implies ‘hidden reproduction’, referring to the fact that they do not produce any reproductive structure, seed, or flower.
  • Due to this, they are called “flowerless” or “seedless plants” or ‘lower plants’.
  • They need a moist environment to survive.
  • These are present in aquatic and terrestrial places.
  • Algae, bryophytes, lichens, ferns and fungi are the best-known groups of cryptogams.

What are the Factors Responsible for Location of this Garden?

  • This garden is at Deoban in Chakrata at a height of 9,000 ft.
  • This site is chosen because of its low pollution levels and moist conditions which are conducive for the growth of these species.
  • Further, Deoban has pristine majestic forests of Deodar and Oak which create a natural habitat for cryptogamic species.

Do you know?

  • Plant kingdom can be divided into two sub-kingdoms viz. Cryptogams and phanerogams.
  • Cryptogams consist of seedless plants and plant-like organisms whereas phanerogams consist of seed-bearing plants.
  • Phanerogams are further divided into two classes i.e. gymnosperms and angiosperms.

News Source: IE


(Mains Focus)


POLITY/ GOVERNANCE

Topic:

  • GS-2: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein

The upcoming crisis in Indian federalism

Context: Post 2026, when the freeze on delimitation of constituencies ends, there will be a seismic shift in national power towards India’s poorest and most populated States, which will create resentment amongst developed & small states.

  • Since 1976, seats in the Lok Sabha have reflected the 1971 census and have not taken into account changes in population

Contradiction between the Democratic & Federal principles, when federal units are unequal in size, population and economics

  • In a democratic set up, all citizens are equal and are thus entitled to equal representation in governance. 
  • This would imply that bigger States are likely to dominate the national conversation over smaller States (UP has 80 seats in LS where Goa has 2 seats)
  • Small States fear that they would get a smaller share of the pie economically, a much reduced say in national issues, and be irrelevant in the political governance of the country (against spirit of Federalism)

How did America, oldest Democracy, deal with such contradictions?

Americans adopted their Constitution, where smaller States are protected in following ways:

  •  First, national powers over the States were limited. 
  • Second, each State regardless of size had two seats in the Senate, giving smaller States an outsized role in national governance. 
  • Third, Presidents are elected by electoral votes, which means they must win States rather than the total national population. 
  • However, America have been accused of essentially facilitating and entrenching minority rule through the Senate, which favours rural, sparsely populated States that are also predominantly white.

What measures can India take to deal with such contradictions?

  • Empowering States:  There is no reason to believe that empowering our States would cause national disintegration. Therefore, the powers of States vis-à-vis the Centre contained in the Lists has to be increased.
  • Expansion of Council of States: The role and composition of the Rajya Sabha, must be expanded. This would allow smaller States a kind of brake over national majoritarian politics that adversely impact them.
  • Constitutional Safeguards: If India is a joint venture between majority and minority shareholders, the minority must be protected by a comprehensive list of “consensus items” that require unanimity — or at least, a super-majority — and not simple majority.
  • Reorganising States: Serious thought must be given to breaking up the biggest States into smaller units that will not by themselves dominate the national conversation.

Conclusion

National bonds of affection and patriotism will not be severed by devolution of powers though they will be at least severely strained when one part of the country is empowered over another. Thus, there is need to have a relook at Federalism

Connecting the dots:


ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

Topic:

  • GS-3: Economy & Agriculture
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Reforms in Sugar Industry

Context: The Indian sugar industry has never stood on its feet. 

Issues

  • Governmental Control distorting free market: The government’s debilitating controls and populist policies, often devoid of economic sense, ensured that Sugar industry was in perpetual crisis requiring support.
  • Extremes in Production Cycle: Mindless sugarcane pricing triggered the sugar cycle which ensured that the country oscillated between massive surplus and severe shortage.
  • Growing Arrears: The government grappled with large cane arrears while the industry survived on periodic government funded bail-outs and subsidies

All these may change soon if some of the recent measures announced by the government are any indication.

  1. Beginning of Decontrol in 2013 
  • The decontrol focussed on the sugar side of the business. It allowed sugar mills to sell whatever quantity they wanted at a time and price of their choice. 
  • Supply of levy sugar at discounted prices to the government for distribution through PDS was also ended.
  • However, the controls on the sugarcane side remained and it continues even today with government fixing the price of sugarcane. 
  1. New variety of sugarcane (CO 238) in 2016-17
  • This was developed for use in Uttar Pradesh (UP) which delivered significantly higher yield (30 tonne per acre against 22 tonne from earlier varieties) and even higher recovery (sucrose content was 11.5 per cent as against earlier 9.5 per cent). C
  • Considering that UP produces bulk of India’s sugarcane, its share in the country’s sugar output rose to 40 per cent from 25 per cent.
  • This made India a consistently surplus sugar producer. 
  1. Surplus Management
  • Today, production exceeds domestic consumption by 60 lakh tonne and the focus has shifted to managing the surplus.
  • This necessitated government to re-introduce monthly sale quota and fixed minimum selling price for sugar to ensure the cash-strapped sugar mills do not flood the domestic market with sugar. 
  • That kept the local prices stable. 
  • To liquidate excess stock of sugar, it announced export subsidies. 
  • Without subsidies Indian exports are unviable as cost of producing sugar (thanks to high cane price) is way above the international sugar price.
  • This was promptly contested by other countries in the WTO. India has been allowed to continue with the subsidies till December 2023. The fear is what will happen post-2023.
  1. Boosting Ethanol Production & using it as tool to manage surplus
  • India’s ethanol programme — blending ethanol with petrol for use as auto fuel, was first announced in 2003.
  • If implemented properly, it offers multiple benefits — 
    • Improve sugar mills’ cash flow
    • Ensure better prices for farmers
    • Enhance India’s energy security 
    • Reduce pollution.
  • It never took off for multiple reasons — 
    • Poor pricing of ethanol supplied for blending 
    • Periodic shortages of sugar 
    • Competing demand from potable alcohol sector
  • The Modi government revived the programme by fixing attractive prices for ethanol that oil marketing companies (OMCs) procured for blending. This motivated the sugar mills to produce ethanol.
  • The government then allowed sugar mills to produce ethanol from earlier stages of sugar production (sugarcane juice & B-Molasses) rather than just C-Molasses.
  • More importantly, it also offered higher prices for ethanol produced from cane juice and B-Molasses (to compensate mills for reduction in sugar output).
  • These measures not only enhanced ethanol availability but also helped in tackling the sugar surplus. 
    • In 2019-20 sugar season (October-September), 8 lakh tonnes of what would have been sugar output was converted into ethanol. The plan is to convert the entire sugar surplus of 60 lakh tonnes into ethanol in the next 2-3 years.
  • In case the sugar production drops in a particular year, the government can reduce direct conversion of sugarcane juice to ethanol by lowering its procurement price. Ethanol, thus, is proving to be a good tool to manage the sugar surplus.

To make the Indian sugar industry truly self-reliant, just one step remains — freeing up cane pricing. 

  • Sugarcane price fixed by the government today has little correlation to the realisation from end products. This inflicts huge losses on the mills and causes cane arrears to build.
  • A solution is available. The Rangarajan Committee has suggested a formula to fix cane price factoring in the price of sugar and other by-products
  • In case the cane price, arrived by the formula, drops below what the government considers as a reasonable payment, it can bridge the gap from a dedicated fund created for the purpose and a cess can be levied to build up the fund.

Conclusion

If the government bites this final bullet, the sector will become globally competitive and financially independent. Cane arrears will be history. There will be no need for the government to subsidise the industry and offer large bail-outs. And Indian sugar industry will finally come of age.

Connecting the dots:


(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Note:

  • Correct answers of today’s questions will be provided in next day’s DNA section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers.
  • Comments Up-voted by IASPuucho are also the “correct answers”.

Q.1 India’s single largest solar park will be established in which of the following state of India?

  1. Gujarat
  2. Kerala
  3. Karnataka
  4. Odisha 

Q.2 Consider the following statements: 

  1. Hydrogen produced from fossil fuels is called grey hydrogen
  2. Hydrogen generated from fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage options is called blue hydrogen

Select the correct statements

  1. 1 Only
  2. 2 Only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.3 India’s first Green Hydrogen Mobility Project will be established in which of the following state/UT?

  1. Telangana
  2. Delhi
  3. Leh
  4. Jammu & Kashmir

ANSWERS FOR 13th July 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)


Must Read

On economy & Income levels:

The Hindu

On misuse of UAPA:

Indian Express

On regulation of digital content:

The Hindu



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