Essential key terms from the last week’s news categorised as per the relevance in the UPSC-CSE syllabus. Solve the MCQs below.
Why in news?
— A group of western nations are cooperating and coming together to develop alternatives to China to ensure key industrial supplies.
— It is a part of a global ‘China-plus-one’ strategy adopted post the Covid-19 pandemic that caused massive supply-chain disruptions all over the world.
— A new US-led partnership initiative of 11 nations called Mineral Security Partnership aims to bolster critical mineral supply chains.
— ‘China Plus One’ is the business strategy to avoid investing only in China and diversify the business into other countries.
What is the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP)?
— The US and 10 partners — Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the European Commission — have come together to form the MSP.
— The new grouping is aimed at catalysing investment from governments and the private sector to develop strategic opportunities.
— According to the US State Department’s statement on June 14.
“Demand for critical minerals, which are essential for clean energy and other technologies, is projected to expand significantly in the coming decades. The MSP will help catalyse investment from governments and the private sector for strategic opportunities — across the full value chain — that adhere to the highest environmental, social, and governance standards.”
— The new grouping, industry insiders say, could focus on the supply chains of minerals such as Cobalt, Nickel, Lithium, and also the 17 ‘rare earth’ minerals.
— The alliance is seen as primarily focused on evolving an alternative to China, which has created a processing infrastructure in rare earth minerals and has acquired mines in Africa for elements such as Cobalt.
What are rare earth elements?
— The 17 rare earth elements (REE) include the 15 Lanthanides (atomic numbers 57 — which is Lanthanum — to 71 in the periodic table) plus Scandium (atomic number 21) and Yttrium (39).
— REEs are classified as light RE elements (LREE) and heavy RE elements (HREE).
— Some REEs are available in India but some which are classified as HREEs, are not available in Indian deposits in extractable quantities.
— Hence, there is a dependence on countries such as China for HREEs, which is one of the leading producers of REEs, with an estimated 70 percent share of the global production.
— According to the US Geological Survey, supplies from China had started to become erratic as early as 1990, as Beijing kept changing the amounts that it would allow to be produced and exported. Also, according to the USGS, the Chinese government began to limit the number of companies, both Chinese and Sino-foreign joint ventures, that could export REEs from China.
Why are rare earth elements important?
— Minerals such as Cobalt, Nickel, and Lithium are required for batteries used in electric vehicles.
— REEs are an essential — although often tiny — component of more than 200 consumer products, including mobile phones, computer hard drives, electric and hybrid vehicles, semiconductors, flatscreen TVs and monitors, and high-end electronics.
— India is seen as a late mover in attempts to enter the lithium value chain, coming at a time when EVs are predicted to be a sector ripe for disruption.
— The year 2022 is likely to be an inflection point for battery technology — with several potential improvements to the Li-ion technology, with alternatives to this tried-and-tested formulation being in advanced stages of commercialisation.
— India has an ambitious plan to convert a large percentage of its transport to electric, and would require these minerals. According to the plan, 80 percent of the country’s two- and three-wheeler fleet, 40 percent of buses, and 30 to 70 percent of cars will be EVs by 2030.
What is India’s major concern at this moment?
According to experts,
— If India is not able to explore and produce these minerals, it will have to depend on a handful of countries, including China, to power its energy transition plans to electric vehicles.
— That will be similar to our dependence on a few countries for oil.
— Industry watchers say that the reason India would not have found a place in the MSP grouping is that the country does not bring any expertise to the table.
— In the group, countries like Australia and Canada have reserves and also the technology to extract them, and countries like Japan have the technology to process REEs.
Point to ponder: India’s ambitious plan to convert a large percentage of its transport to electric requires comes with challenges. What are some of the initiatives by the Government of India and challenges?
Which of the following statements is/are not true with respect to rare earth elements?
1. REEs are essential components of consumer products, including mobile phones, computer hard drives, electric and hybrid vehicles etc.
2. China is one of the leading producers of REEs, with an estimated 70 percent share of the global production.
3. The Minerals Security Partnership (MSP) is an ambitious new US-led initiative to bolster critical mineral supply chains.
a) only 3 b) 1 and 3
c) 2 and 3 d) 1, 2 and 3
Why in news?
— The government has withdrawn the Personal Data Protection Bill from Parliament as it considers a “comprehensive legal framework” to regulate the online space, including bringing separate laws on data privacy, the overall Internet ecosystem, cybersecurity, telecom regulations, and harnessing non-personal data to boost innovation in the country.
— The government has taken this step after nearly four years of the Bill being in the works. It had gone through multiple iterations, including a review by a Joint Committee of Parliament (JCP), and faced major pushback from a range of stakeholders including big tech companies such as Facebook and Google, and privacy and civil society activists.
— Data protection protects data as it involves the relationship between the collection and dissemination of data and technology, the public perception and expectation of privacy and the political and legal underpinnings surrounding that data. It attempts to balance individual privacy rights while still allowing data to be used for business purposes. Data protection is also known as data privacy or information privacy
— The tech companies had, in particular, questioned a proposed provision in the Bill called data localisation, under which it would have been mandatory for companies to store a copy of certain sensitive personal data within India, and the export of undefined “critical” personal data from the country would be prohibited. The activists had criticised, in particular, a provision that allowed the central government and its agencies blanket exemptions from adhering to any and all provisions of the Bill.
— The delays in the Bill had been criticised by several stakeholders, who had pointed out that it was a matter of grave concern that India, one of the world’s largest Internet markets, did not have a basic framework to protect people’s privacy.
— A data protection law for India has been in the works since 2018, when a panel led by Justice Srikrishna, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, drew up a draft version of a Bill. The draft was reviewed by the JCP, which submitted its recommendations along with a draft Bill in November 2021.
— In a note circulated to Members of Parliament, Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw explained the reason behind the withdrawal of the Bill: “The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 was deliberated in great detail by the Joint Committee of Parliament. 81 amendments were proposed and 12 recommendations were made towards a comprehensive legal framework on the digital ecosystem.
— Considering the report of the JCP, a comprehensive legal framework is being worked upon. Hence, in the circumstances, it is proposed to withdraw ‘The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019’ and present a new Bill that fits into the comprehensive legal framework.”
Which of the following statements is/are true?
1) Right to privacy is an intrinsic part of life and liberty under Article 21 as per K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd) Vs the Union of India.
2) A data protection law for India has been in the works since 2018, when a panel led by Justice Srikrishna drew up a draft version of a Bill.
a) 1 only b) 2 only
c) both 1 and 2 d) Neither 1 nor 2
Why in news?
—India’s trade deficit widened to a record $31.02 billion in July thanks to contracting merchandise exports and a rise in imports. This is a three-times increase from the $10.63 billion trade deficit reported in July last year.
— Simply put, a trade deficit or negative balance of trade (BOT) is the gap between exports and imports. When money spent on imports exceeds that spent on exports in a country, a trade deficit occurs.
— It can be calculated for different goods and services and also for international transactions. The opposite of a trade deficit is a trade surplus.
— There are multiple factors that can be responsible. One of them is some goods not being produced domestically. In that case, they have to be imported. This leads to an imbalance in their trade. A weak currency can also be a cause as it makes trade expensive.
— If the trade deficit increases, a country’s GDP decreases. A higher trade deficit can decrease the local currency’s value.
— More imports than exports, according to economists, impact the jobs market and lead to an increase in unemployment. If more mobiles are imported and less produced locally, then there will be fewer local jobs in that sector.
Point to ponder: What RBI’s surveys tell about India’s economy?
Which of the following statements is/are not true?
1. A trade deficit is an amount by which the cost of a country’s exports exceeds its imports.
2. More exports than imports impact the jobs market and lead to an increase in unemployment.
3. A weak currency can be a cause of a trade deficit.
a) only 2 b) 1 and 2
c) 1, 2 and 3 d) only 3
Why in news?
—O ver the last few weeks, nearly 3,000 cattle have died in Rajasthan and Gujarat due to a viral infection called the Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) that has spread across the states.
— According to a report by GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, the Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) disease is caused by a virus called the Capripoxvirus and is “an emerging threat to livestock worldwide”. It is genetically related to the goatpox and sheeppox virus family.
— LSD infects cattle and water buffalo mainly through vectors such as blood-feeding insects. Signs of infection include the appearance of circular, firm nodes on the animal’s hide or skin that look similar to lumps.
— Infected animals immediately start losing weight and may have fever and lesions in the mouth, along with a reduced milk yield. Other symptoms include excessive nasal and salivary secretion. Pregnant cows and buffaloes often suffer miscarriage and in some cases, diseased animals can die due to it as well.
— In September 2020, a strain of the virus was discovered in Maharashtra. Gujarat too has reported cases over the last few years sporadically, but currently, the point of concern is the number of deaths being reported, and whether vaccination catches up to the rate at which the disease is spreading.
— According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), of which India is a member, mortality rates of 1 to 5 percent are considered usual. The disease is not zoonotic, meaning it does not spread from animals to humans, and humans cannot get infected with it.
— While the virus does not spread to humans, “milk produced by an infected animal will be fit for human consumption after boiling or pasteurisation as these processes will kill the viruses, if any, in the milk”, said Prof J B Kathiriya of Kamdhenu University’s College of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry in Junagadh.
Point to ponder: What are the importance, challenges and government initiatives in the area of animal husbandry in India?
Select the incorrect statements from below:
a) National Animal Disease Control Programme (NADCP) is a flagship scheme launched to control of Foot & Mouth Disease and Brucellosis by vaccinating 100% cattle, buffalo, sheep, goat and pig population.
b) Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) is the first major fund launched by the government that includes a diverse set of stakeholders such as Farmer Producer Organizations (FPO), private dairy players, individual entrepreneurs, and non-profits within its ambit.
c) As per the 20th Livestock Census, the total Livestock shows a decrease of 4.6 percent over Livestock Census-2012.
d) India is a member of World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH).
Why in news?
— In order to facilitate the achievement of more ambitious climate change targets and ensure a faster transition to a low-carbon economy, the government is seeking to strengthen a 20-year law, called the Energy Conservation Act of 2001, which has powered the first phase of India’s shift to a more energy-efficient future.
— The Bill to amend the Energy Conservation Act, 2001, which was introduced in Parliament on Wednesday, has two main objectives. First, it seeks to make it compulsory for a select group of industrial, commercial and even residential consumers to use green energy. A prescribed minimum proportion of the energy they use must come from renewable or non-fossil fuel sources.
— Second, it seeks to establish a domestic carbon market and facilitate trade in carbon credits.
— The creation of a domestic carbon market is one of the most significant provisions of the proposed amendment Bill. Carbon markets allow the trade of carbon credits with the overall objective of bringing down emissions. These markets create incentives to reduce emissions or improve energy efficiency.
— For example, an industrial unit which outperforms the emission standards stands to gain credits. Another unit which is struggling to attain the prescribed standards can buy these credits and show compliance to these standards. The unit that did better on the standards earns money by selling credits, while the buying unit is able to fulfill its operating obligations.
— Under the Kyoto Protocol, the predecessor to the Paris Agreement, carbon markets have worked at the international level as well. The Kyoto Protocol had prescribed emission reduction targets for a group of developed countries. Other countries did not have such targets, but if they did reduce their emissions, they could earn carbon credits.
— These carbon credits could then be sold off to those developed countries which had an obligation to reduce emissions but were unable to. This system functioned well for a few years. But the market collapsed because of the lack of demand for carbon credits.
— As the world negotiated a new climate treaty in place of the Kyoto Protocol, the developed countries no longer felt the need to adhere to their targets under the Kyoto Protocol. A similar carbon market is envisaged to work under the successor Paris Agreement, but its details are still being worked out.
— Domestic or regional carbon markets are already functioning in several places, most notably in Europe, where an emission trading scheme (ETS) works on similar principles. Industrial units in Europe have prescribed emission standards to adhere to, and they buy and sell credits based on their performance. China, too, has a domestic carbon market.
— A similar scheme for incentivising energy efficiency has been running in India for over a decade now. This BEE scheme, called PAT, (or perform, achieve and trade) allows units to earn efficiency certificates if they outperform the prescribed efficiency standards. The laggards can buy these certificates to continue operating.
— However, the new carbon market that is proposed to be created through this amendment to the Energy Conservation Act, would be much wider in scope. Although the details of this carbon market are not yet known, it is likely to be on the lines of the European ETS, facilitating the buying and selling of carbon credits.
Which of the following statements is/are correct?
1. Carbon markets allow the trade of carbon credits with the overall objective of bringing down emissions.
2. The star ratings on various household appliances and the largescale shift to LED bulbs were some of the successful initiatives of BEE.
a) Only 1 b) only 2
c) Both 1 and 2 d) Neither 1 nor 2
Answers to the MCQ: 1 (c) , 2 (c) , 3 (b) , 4 (c) , 5 (c)