Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Concerns over Lithium Deposits
- WMO Report on rising sea level
- Deputy Speaker
- Whole sale Price inflation
- Facts for Prelims – LCH & LUH, HELINA
1 . Lithium Reserve Significance and Environmental Concerns
Context: News of the discovery of “5.9 million tonnes inferred resources of lithium” in the Salal-Haimana area of Reasi district, Jammu & Kashmir, by the Geological Survey of India has been received as a game-changer in India’s impending transition to a green economy.
What is the significance of the findings?
- Lithium-ion batteries are used in wind turbines, solar panels, and electric vehicles, all of which are crucial in a green economy
- A World Bank study suggests that the demand for critical metals such as lithium (Li) and cobalt is expected to rise by nearly 500% by 2050.
- India’s global electric vehicle market is projected to register a CAGR of 23.76% by 2028 . As India currently imports all of its Li from Australia and Argentina and 70% of its Li-ion cell requirement from China and Hong Kong, the lithium reserves in J&K could boost the domestic battery-manufacturing industry.
- The J&K reserves will also help advance the Indian government’s ambitious plan of “30% EV penetration in private cars, 70% for commercial vehicles, and 80% for two and three-wheelers by 2030 for the automobile industry.
What are the geostrategic concerns?
- Critical mineral dependencies constitute a major geostrategic concern in the transition to net-zero carbon energy systems
- A high level of dependence on China for Li and other crucial metals and their derivatives are perceived to be sources of energy security risks.
- China currently controls 77% of the global lithium-ion battery manufacturing capacity and is home to six of the world’s 10 manufacturing companies. As a result, the E.U., the U.S., Canada, India, and other major economies have been trying to leverage alternative supplies that can challenge China’s geopolitical dominance in this area.
- To reduce dependence on China, the Indian government and industry are pushing for a ‘Rare Earths Mission’ to exploit the country’s critical mineral reserves, which account for 6% of the world’s rare earths’ reserves prior to the discovery of Li in J&K.
- The new discovery has more geostrategic implications considering the geopolitical sensitivity of its wider location. Although Reasi is in the relatively more stable Jammu region, the Union territory of J&K (previously a state) has been the site of historical cross-border tensions between India and Pakistan, domestic insurgency, and terrorism. If the local populace isn’t meaningfully engaged in the impending Li extraction project, the resulting tension could introduce new frontiers of socio-environmental conflict.
What are the environmental effects of Li mining?
- The applications of Li in renewable energy infrastructure often obscures its significant environmental consequences, which vary according to the source.
- Industry estimates suggest that this process consumes 170 cubic metres of water and releases 15 tonnes of CO2 for every tonne of Li extracted.
- Open-pit-mining, refining, and waste disposal from these processes substantially degrades the environment, including depletes and contaminates waterways and groundwater, diminishes biodiversity, and releases considerable air pollution.
- The Himalaya is the youngest mountain range in the world and is much more unstable. Incidents of land sinking have also been reported from a village in Doda district in Chenab valley, which extends to some parts of Reasi.
- In the densely populated context of India, the socio-environmental effects of mining are likely to be far worse than they have been in Australia and likely comparable to lithium extraction in South
What can we learn from South America?
- As India embarks on this new journey, it could learn from the experiences of South American countries, especially the ‘lithium triangle’ of Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina, which contain roughly half the world’s known Li.
- In Bolivia and Chile, Li extraction has been either in the hands of the state or requires mining companies to enter into a contract with state-owned companies.
- In April 2022, Mexican lawmakers introduced reforms to create a state-owned entity to extract, process and sell Li and outlaw all direct private investment and production in the Li sector. Even so, Li mining has had adverse socio-environmental consequences in the region, testing its laws meant to protect Indigenous peoples.
- While such comparisons must account for inter-regional differences, these developments point to the importance of a strong regulatory apparatus that can address both the environmental and the social consequences of Li mining.
What safeguards does India’s mining sector have?
- Li exploration will involve local communities, who will also be prioritised for jobs in exploration and mines development. Yet employment in mining may not fully offset the consequences on local agriculture, animal husbandry, and tourism.
- In recognition of the local effects of mining, in 2015, Lok Sabha amended the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act 1957 to establish the ‘District Mineral Foundation’ (DMF).
- The DMF is a non-profit statutory ‘trust’ for every Indian district affected by mining-related operations that should “work for the interest and benefit of persons, and areas affected by mining-related operations”. In practice, the DMFs have become sites of centralised bureaucratic control, without meaningful public participation or accountability.
- The general failure of DMFs adds to concerns expressed by environmentalists and concerned citizens about the recent history of weakening of the environmental impact assessment framework.
- The geostrategic importance of Li exploration and extraction makes it even more important that the exploration and extraction of resources should be done in the public interest and must pre-empt any serious environmental and social problems.
- Equally importantly, the most effective use of Li reserves should be for the most important parts of the renewable-energy transition, which would also aid the goals of addressing energy poverty and sustainable development.
2 . WMO Report on rising sea level
Context: India, China, Bangladesh and the Netherlands face the highest threat of sea-level rise globally, according to a new report by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO)
About World Meteorological Organisation
- The World Meteorological Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for promoting international cooperation on atmospheric science, climatology, hydrology and geophysics.
- WMO provides world leadership and expertise in international cooperation in the delivery and use of high-quality, authoritative weather, climate, hydrological and related environmental services by its Members, for the improvement of the well-being of societies of all nations.
- The WMO State of the Global Climate report is produced annually. It provides an authoritative voice on the current state of the climate using key climate indicators and reporting on extreme events and their impacts.
Findings of the Report
- The report “Global Sea-level Rise and Implications” stated that several big cities in all continents are threatened by the rise in sea level. These include Shanghai, Dhaka, Bangkok, Jakarta, Mumbai, Maputo, Lagos, Cairo, London, Copenhagen, New York, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires and Santiago.
- The report states that Sea level rise is a major economic, social and humanitarian challenge. Sea-level rise threatens coastal farmlands and water reserves and resilience of infrastructures as well as human lives and livelihoods
- The impacts of average sea-level rise are boosted by storm surges and tidal variations.
- According to future estimates based on climate models and ocean-atmosphere physics, the WMO reported that the speed of melting of the largest global ice mass in Antarctica is uncertain.
- While sea-level rise is not globally uniform and varies regionally, continued and accelerating sea-level rise will “encroach on coastal settlements and infrastructure and commit low-lying coastal ecosystems to submergence and loss.
- If trends in urbanisation in exposed areas continue, this will exacerbate the impacts, with more challenges where energy, water and other services are constrained,
- Climate change will increasingly put pressure on food production and access, especially in vulnerable regions, undermining food security and nutrition and increases in frequency, intensity and severity of droughts, floods and heatwaves, and continued sea level rise will increase risks to food security in vulnerable regions.
- According to WMO, the population potentially exposed to a 100-year coastal flood is projected to increase by about 20% if global mean sea level rises by 0.15 metres relative to 2020 levels. This exposed population doubles at a 0.75-metre rise in mean sea level and triples at 1.4 metres rise without population change.
- Urban systems are critical, interconnected sites for enabling climate resilient development, especially at the coast. Coastal cities and settlements play a key role in moving toward higher climate resilient development given firstly, almost 11% of the global population — 896 million people — lived within the Low Elevation Coastal Zone in 2020, potentially increasing to beyond 1 billion people by 2050, and these people, and associated development and coastal ecosystems, face escalating climate compounded risks, including sea level rise.
3 . Deputy Speaker
Context: The Supreme Court issued notices to the Centre and five states — Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand — over the failure to elect a Deputy Speaker.
What does the Constitution say about the Deputy Speaker?
- According tot Article 93 the House of the People shall, as soon as may be, choose two members…to be…Speaker and Deputy Speaker…and, so often as the office of Speaker or Deputy Speaker becomes vacant, the House shall choose another member…”
- Article 178 contains the corresponding position for Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of a state.
- Constitutional experts point out that both Articles 93 and 178 use the word “shall”, indicating that the election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker is mandatory under the Constitution.
How soon must the Deputy Speaker be elected?
- “As soon as may be”, say Articles 93 and 178. But they do not lay down a specific time frame
- In general, the practice in both Lok Sabha and the state Assemblies has been to elect the Speaker during the (mostly short) first session of the new House — usually on the third day after the oath-taking and affirmations over the first two days.
- The election of the Deputy Speaker usually takes place in the second session — and is generally not delayed further in the absence of genuine and unavoidable constraints.
- Rule 8 of The Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha says the election of Deputy Speaker “shall be held on such date as the Speaker may fix”. The Deputy Speaker is elected once a motion proposing his name is carried in the House.
- Once elected, the Deputy Speaker usually continues in office for the entire duration of the House.
- Like the speaker, the deputy speaker remains in the office usually during the life of the Lok sabha . However, he may vacate his office earlier in any of the following three cases:
- If he ceases to be a member of the Lok Sabha
- If he resigns by writing to the speaker and
- If he is removed by a resolution passed by a majority of all the members of the Lok Sabha. Such resolutions can be moved only after giving 14 day advance notice
But what happens if the post of Deputy Speaker is vacant?
- “The House is informed of the resignation of the Speaker by the Deputy Speaker and if the office of the Deputy Speaker is vacant, by the Secretary-General who receives the letter of resignation in that House. The resignation is notified in the Gazette and the Bulletin,” say the Rules for Presiding Officers of Lok Sabha.
Duties of the deputy speaker as speaker
- The deputy speaker performs the duties of the speaker’s office when it is vacant. He also acts as the speaker when the latter is absent from the sitting of the house. In both the cases, he assumes all the power of the speaker.
- He also presides over the joint sitting of both the houses of parliament in case the speaker is absent from such a meeting.
- In general, the Deputy Speaker has the same powers as the Speaker when presiding over a sitting of the House. All references to the Speaker in the Rules are deemed to be references to the Deputy Speaker when he presides.
- It has been repeatedly held that no appeal lies to the Speaker against a ruling given by the Deputy Speaker or any person presiding over the House in the absence of the Speaker.
Can the courts intervene in cases of a delay in electing the Deputy Speaker?
- In September 2021, a petition was filed before the Delhi High Court, which argued that delay in the election of the Deputy Speaker violated Article 93 (Pawan Reley v. Speaker, Lok Sabha & Ors). However, there is no precedent of a court forcing the legislature to elect the Deputy Speaker.
- Courts usually don’t intervene in the procedural conduct of Parliament. Article 122(1) says: “The validity of any proceedings in Parliament shall not be called in question on the ground of any alleged irregularity of procedure.”
- However, experts said that the courts do have jurisdiction to at least inquire into why there has been no election to the post of Deputy Speaker since the Constitution does envisage an election “as soon as may be”.
4 . Wholesale price inflation
Context: India’s wholesale price inflation cooled further in January to a two-year low of 4.73% from 4.95% in December. The slight decline in manufactured products’ price rise as well as fuel and power inflation, even as the pace of inflation in food and primary articles hardened sequentially.
About Wholesale Price Index (WPI)?
- A wholesale price index (WPI) is an index that measures and tracks the changes in the price of goods in the stages before the retail level. This refers to goods that are sold in bulk and traded between entities or businesses (instead of between consumers).
- Usually expressed as a ratio or percentage, the WPI shows the included goods’ average price change; it is often seen as one indicator of a country’s level of inflation.
- In India WPI is also known as the headline inflation rate .
Who publishes WPI in India and what does it show?
- The WPI is published by the Economic Adviser in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
- Analysts use the numbers to track the supply and demand dynamics in industry, manufacturing and construction.
- In India, Office of Economic Advisor (OEA), Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry calculates the WPI.
- An upward surge in the WPI indicates inflationary pressure in the economy and vice versa.
- The quantum of rise in the WPI month after-month is used to measure the level of wholesale inflation in the economy.
What is the difference between WPI and CPI inflation?
- While WPI keeps track of the wholesale price of goods, the CPI measures the average price that households pay for a basket of different goods and services.
- Even as the WPI is used as a key measure of inflation in some economies, the RBI no longer uses it for policy purposes, including setting repo rates.
- The central bank currently uses CPI or retail inflation as a key measure of inflation to set the monetary and credit policy.
Base year of calculation
- With an aim to align the index with the base year of other important economic indicators
- such as GDP and IIP, the base year was updated to 2011-12 from 2004-05 for the new series of Wholesale Price Index (WPI), effective from April 2017.
Calculation of Wholesale Price Index?
- The monthly WPI number shows the average price changes of goods usually expressed in ratios or percentages.
- The index is based on the wholesale prices of a few relevant commodities available.
- The commodities are chosen based on their significance in the region. These represent different strata of the economy and are expected to provide a comprehensive WPI value.
- The advanced base year 2011-12 adopted recently uses 697 items.
Major components of WPI
- The index basket of the WPI covers commodities falling under the three major groups namely Primary Articles, Fuel and Power and Manufactured products
- The prices tracked are ex- factory price for manufactured products, mandi price for agricultural commodities and ex-mines prices for minerals.
- Weights given to each commodity covered in the WPI basket is based on the value of production adjusted for net imports.
- Primary articles is a major component of WPI, further subdivided into Food Articles and Non-Food Articles.
- Food Articles include items such as Cereals, Paddy, Wheat, Pulses, Vegetables, Fruits, Milk, Eggs, Meat & Fish, etc.
- Non-Food Articles include Oil Seeds, Minerals and Crude Petroleum
- The next major basket in WPI is Fuel & Power, which tracks price movements in Petrol, Diesel and LPG
- The biggest basket is Manufactured Goods. It spans across a variety of manufactured products such as Textiles, Apparels, Paper, Chemicals, Plastic, Cement, Metals, and more.
- Manufactured Goods basket also includes manufactured food products such as Sugar, Tobacco Products, Vegetable and Animal Oils, and Fats.
- WPI has a sub-index called WPI Food Index, which is a combination of the Food Articles from the Primary Articles basket, and the food products from the Manufactured Products basket.
- WPI basket does not cover services
Main uses of WPI
- To provide estimates of inflation at the wholesale transaction level for the economy as a whole. This helps in timely intervention by the Government to check inflation in particular, in essential commodities, before the price increase spill over to retail prices.
- WPI is used as deflator for many sectors of the economy including for estimating GDP by Central Statistical Organisation (CSO).
- WPI is also used for indexation by users in business contracts.
- Global investors also track WPI as one of the key macro indicators for their investment decisions
WPI Based Inflation
- Inflation is the rate of increase in prices over a given period of time.
- Inflation is typically a broad measure, such as the overall increase in prices or the increase in the cost of living in a country.
- There are certain limitations in using WPI as a measure for inflation, as WPI does not consider the price of services, and it does not reflect the consumer price situation in the country.
- WPI provides estimates of inflation at the wholesale transaction level for the economy overall.
- It also helps in timely intervention by the government to monitor inflation before the price hike spills over to retail prices.
- The WPI-based inflation is used by the government in preparation of fiscal, trade, and other economic policies.
- Business organisations, policymakers, accountants, and statisticians use WPI as an indexing tool to formulate price adjustment clauses.
- Rise in WPI indicates inflationary pressure in the economy, and vice versa.
- The extent of rise in WPI is used to measure the level of wholesale inflation in the economy.
5 . Facts for prelims
Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) and Light Utility Helicopter (LUH)
Light Combat Helicopter (LCH)
- The HAL Prachand is an Indian multi-role, light attack helicopter designed and manufactured by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) under project LCH.
- LCH is the only attack helicopter in the world which can land and take off at an altitude of 5,000 meters with a considerable load of weapons and fuel, meeting the specific requirements laid out by the Indian Armed Forces.
- LCH has the maximum take-off weight of 5.8 tonnes, maximum speed of 268 kilometers per hour, range of 550 kilometers, endurance of over three hours and service ceiling — the maximum density altitude to which it can fly — of 6.5 kilometres.
- The helicopter uses radar-absorbing material to lower radar signature and has a significantly crash-proof structure and landing gear.
- A pressurised cabin offers protection from nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) contingencies.
- The helicopter is equipped with a countermeasure dispensing system that protects it from enemy radars or infrared seekers of the enemy missiles.
- As far as weapons systems are concerned, a 20 mm turret gun, 70 mm rockets and air-to-air missile systems are onboard.
- LCH is powered by two French-origin Shakti engines manufactured by the HAL.
- With these features, the LCH has the capabilities of combat roles such as destruction of enemy air defence, counter insurgency warfare, combat search and rescue, anti-tank, and counter surface force operations.
Light Utility Helicopter (LUH)
- LUH is designed and developed as a replacement for Cheetah & Chetak helicopters which are being operated by Indian Armed forces.
- LUH is a new generation helicopter in the 3-Ton class incorporating the state-of-the-art technology features like Glass cockpit with Multi-Function Displays (MFD) and powered by single Turbo Shaft engine with sufficient power margin to cater to demanding high altitude missions.
- The LUH is a versatile aircraft that is designed to perform a wide range of missions, including reconnaissance, surveillance, transportation, and medical evacuation.
- LUH boasts high-performance characteristics, including low operational and maintenance costs, high reliability and safety, and good maneuverability.
- The LUH has a maximum take-off weight of 3,100 kg, allowing it to carry a useful load of 1,500 kg, and can reach a maximum speed of 220 km/h and a cruise speed of 200 km/h.
- With a service ceiling of 6,500 m and a range of approximately 500 km, the LUH is equipped with a 3-axis autopilot which allows for stable and controlled flight in a variety of conditions.
- The LUH’s glass cockpit features digital avionics and a modern instrumentation suite, as well as a weather radar system that provides pilots with real-time information on weather conditions. Additionally, the LUH’s cockpit lighting system is compatible with night-vision goggles, allowing for operation in low visibility conditions.
- The LUH can also be fitted with a range of weapons and equipment, including gun pods, rocket launchers and surveillance systems
- LUH will meet the emerging needs in this class of helicopters in the coming decades.
- HELINA (Helicopter based NAG) is a third-generation fire and forget class anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) system mounted on the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH).
- The missile carries an 8-kilogram warhead and is able to engage targets in all weather conditions, both during the day and at night and can defeat battle tanks with conventional armour as well as explosive reactive armour.
- The HELINA missile can engage targets both in direct hit mode as well as top attack mode.
- HELINA Weapon Systems is being inducted into the Indian Army (IA). A variant of HELINA Weapon System called DHRUVASTRA is being inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF)
- The Nag missile is a Indian third-generation, all-weather, fire-and-forget, lock-on after launch, top-attack, anti-tank guided missile with an operational range of 500 metres to 7000 metres km with the potential of being developed in future versions to 20,000 metres.
- It is said to possess a single-shot hit probability of 90% and a ten-year, maintenance-free shelf life.