- Rare earth metals
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Kavach
Context: East Coast Railway officials indicated that the indigenously developed Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems (TCAS )called ‘Kavach,’ was not installed on the route where the Visakhapatnam-Palasa and Visakhapatnam-Rayagada trains collided.
About TCAS- Kavach
- Kavach is a train control system with anti-collision features, acting as a safeguard for the existing railway signaling system.
- It was developed over a decade from 2012 by the Indian Railways Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO).
- It serves the purpose of alerting the train’s driver in case they miss a ‘red signal’ and are at risk of overshooting it.
- It issues warnings on the driver’s display, and if the train’s speed doesn’t drop below 15 kilometers per hour after these alerts, the Kavach system automatically applies brakes to stop the train.
Deployment of the system:
- In the Kavach system, railway stations authorized to use this technology are equipped with three key components.
- The first component involves the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology embedded in the railway tracks. RFID technology utilizes radio waves to identify and track individuals or objects. It operates by using electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and retrieve information from wireless devices without the need for physical contact or a direct line of sight.
- The second component is the locomotive’s driver cabin, which is equipped with RFID readers, a computer, and brake control equipment.
- Lastly, there is the installation of radio infrastructure, including towers and modems, at railway stations.
- The Kavach system’s three elements on rail tracks, locomotives, and at railway stations communicate with each other to oversee train movements and send signals ahead to the locomotives.
- These operations remain unaffected by visual obstacles like hilly terrain or haze.
- It involves direct communication between locomotives, exchanging information about their location and track identifiers when they are both detected on the same track.
- Locomotives are equipped with antennas that establish communication with the towers at railway stations and display warnings to the driver on their monitor.
Cost of Kavach
- Deployment of Kavach costs ₹50 lakh per kilometre for the Indian Railway.
- Experts say present coverage for Kavach is only 1,500 km and at this rate, it may take many years to ensure Kavach even on high-density routes as Railways has a total route length of 68,000 kms.
- Currently the Indian Railways has allotted ₹4,000 crore under the Signalling and Telecom budget head which includes ₹2,000 crore under the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) fund which implements Kavach.
2 . PMGKAY
Context: The Union government’s scheme to provide 5 kg of free foodgrains every month to 80 crore Indians, which is slated to end this December, will be extended for another five years.
- Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY) is a scheme as part of Atmanirbhar Bharat to supply free food grains to migrants and poor.
- Under this scheme, the center provides 5kg of free food grains per month to the poor. This is in addition to the subsidized (Rs 2-3 per kg) ration provided under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) to families covered under the Public Distribution System (PDS).
- The food grain and the amount may be variable. Wheat has been allocated to 6 States/UTs, – Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Chandigarh, Delhi, and Gujarat, and rice has been provided to the remaining States/UTs.
- It is implemented by the Ministry of Finance.
- Families belonging to Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and Priority Households (PHH) categories will be eligible for the scheme. PHH are to be identified by State Governments/Union Territory Administrations as per criteria evolved by them. AAY families are to be identified by States/UTs as per the criteria prescribed by the Central Government:
- Households headed by widows or terminally ill persons or disabled persons or persons aged 60 years or more with no assured means of subsistence or societal support.
- Widows or terminally ill persons or disabled persons or persons aged 60 years or more or single women or single men with no family or societal support or assured means of subsistence.
- All primitive tribal households.
- Landless agriculture labourers, marginal farmers, rural artisans/craftsmen such as potters, tanners, weavers, blacksmiths, carpenters, slum dwellers, and persons earning their livelihood on daily basis in the informal sector like porters, coolies, rickshaw pullers, hand cart pullers, fruit and flower sellers, snake charmers, rag pickers, cobblers, destitutes and other similar categories in both rural and urban areas.
- All eligible Below Poverty Line families of HIV positive persons.
- Free Food Grains: Under this scheme, eligible beneficiaries receive free food grains, primarily rice and wheat, in addition to their regular entitlements from the Public Distribution System (PDS). This extra allocation is provided to ensure that people do not go hungry, especially during emergencies.
- Nutritional Support: PMGKAY helps in ensuring food and nutritional security for economically weaker sections of society. It enables vulnerable populations to access essential food items, promoting better health and well-being.
- Mitigating Hunger: The scheme plays a crucial role in mitigating hunger and food insecurity, particularly in times of crisis, natural disasters, or economic hardships. It helps prevent malnutrition and starvation among marginalized communities.
- Social Safety Net: PMGKAY acts as a social safety net by providing additional food support to those in need. It helps reduce the financial burden on vulnerable families, ensuring they have access to basic food items.
- Increased Food Accessibility: PMGKAY increases the accessibility of food grains to those who may not be able to afford them otherwise. This supports poverty alleviation efforts and reduces food-related disparities.
- Costly: Sustaining the program places a significant financial burden on the government and necessitates a steady supply of affordable grains.
- Fiscal Deficit Impact: The program’s continuation may jeopardize the government’s efforts to further reduce the fiscal deficit, which is targeted to be at 6.4% of the gross domestic product.
- Inflation Concerns: The government’s decision regarding the program could also influence inflation. Rising prices of rice and wheat, which collectively account for approximately 10% of India’s retail inflation, are attributed to reduced production caused by factors like heatwaves and an inconsistent monsoon.
3 . Rare earth metals
Context: Countries’ energy transition efforts face significant uncertainty due to the oligopolistic control over mining and processing of rare earth elements that were critical to scale up green technologies, Chief Economic Advisor V. Anantha Nageswaran observed.
What are Rare Earth Metals ?
- Rare earth metals, often referred to as rare earth elements (REEs), are a group of 17 chemical elements found in the Earth’s crust.
- They are relatively abundant in terms of their presence in the Earth’s crust but are often dispersed in low concentrations, making their extraction and processing challenging.
- The 17 rare earth elements include: Lanthanides:Cerium (Ce), Praseodymium (Pr), Neodymium (Nd), Promethium (Pm), Samarium (Sm), Europium (Eu), Gadolinium (Gd), Terbium (Tb), Dysprosium (Dy), Holmium (Ho), Erbium (Er), Thulium , Ytterbium (Yb), Lutetium (Lu), Scandium (Sc), Yttrium (Y).
- Rare-earth ore deposits can be found worldwide, with significant sources located in China, the United States, Australia, and Russia.
- Other viable deposits exist in countries such as Canada, India, South Africa, and parts of Southeast Asia. These deposits contain minerals like bastnasite (fluorocarbonate), monazite (phosphate), loparite, and laterite clays rich in silicon dioxide, aluminum oxide, and iron oxide.
- In 2017, China dominated the global rare earth mining industry, contributing approximately 80 percent of the world’s production, which amounted to 105,000 tons of rare-earth oxide. The majority of rare earths mined in China, approximately 94 percent, are sourced from bastnasite deposits.
- The primary deposit is situated in Bayan Obo, Inner Mongolia (accounting for 83 percent of production), with smaller deposits in Shandong (8 percent) and Sichuan (3 percent) provinces. Around 3 percent of China’s production comes from laterite clays with ion absorption properties located in Jiangxi and Guangdong provinces in southern China, while the remaining 3 percent is obtained from various locations.
- India is home to the fifth-largest reserves of rare earth minerals globally. Because of the radioactivity found in monazite sands, the exclusive production of rare earth compounds is carried out by Indian Rare Earths Ltd, which operates under the Department of Atomic Energy.
- Some REEs are available in India , such as Lanthanum, Cerium, Neodymium, Praseodymium and Samarium, etc. Others such as Dysprosium, Terbium, and Europium, which are classified as Heavy REEs, 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 per cent share of the global production.
- Advanced Technology: Rare earth metals are integral to the manufacturing of high-tech products, including smartphones, electric vehicles, wind turbines, and advanced electronics. Their magnetic, luminescent, and superconductive properties make them essential in modern technology.
- Clean Energy: REEs play a crucial role in renewable energy technologies. Neodymium and praseodymium, for example, are used in the production of powerful magnets for wind turbine generators and electric vehicle motors, promoting sustainable energy solutions.
- Environmental Protection: Cerium and other REEs are utilized in catalytic converters, which reduce emissions from vehicles and help combat air pollution. They facilitate the conversion of harmful exhaust gases into less harmful compounds.
- Medical Applications: Gadolinium, a rare earth element, is employed as a contrast agent in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. This enhances the visibility of certain body tissues and improves diagnostic accuracy.
- Defense and Aerospace: REEs are crucial in the manufacturing of defense equipment, including missile guidance systems, radar technology, and advanced materials used in aerospace applications. Their unique properties contribute to national security.
- Superconductors: Yttrium and other rare earth elements are employed in the development of superconductors, which have near-zero electrical resistance. Superconductors are used in various applications, including MRI machines and particle accelerators.
- Dependence on China: 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
- Lack of Technology : India did not initially find a place in the Minerals Security Partnership grouping is because it 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.
- Environmental Impact: The extraction and processing of rare earth metals can have significant environmental consequences. Ensuring responsible and sustainable mining practices is a concern for India.
4 . FATF
Context: Ahead of India’s mutual evaluations by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Union government has taken several measures to implement the intergovernmental body’s recommendations, made following the 2010 review, which includes notification of practising chartered accountants, company secretaries, and cost and management accountants as reporting entities.
About the news
- The FATF carries out the review to determine whether its recommended measures to curb money laundering and terror financing have been taken by the member country and if they are effective.
- India’s on-site assessment is expected to be carried out in November, 2023.
- The Financial Action Task Force (on Money Laundering) (FATF) is an intergovernmental organisation founded in 1989 on the initiative of the G7 to develop policies to combat money laundering.
- It leads global action to tackle money laundering, terrorist and proliferation financing.
- It researches how money is laundered and terrorism is funded, promotes global standards to mitigate the risks, and assesses whether countries are taking effective action.
- FATF continuously monitors how criminals and terrorists raise, use and move funds. As countries put in place effective measures to disrupt illicit financial flows, criminals must find alternative ways to launder their dirty money.
- FATF regularly publishes reports that raise awareness about the latest money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing techniques so that countries and private sector can take the necessary steps to mitigate these risks.
- The FATF holds countries to account that do not comply with the FATF Standards. If a country repeatedly fails to implement FATF Standards then it can be named a Jurisdiction under Increased Monitoring or a High Risk Jurisdiction. These are often externally referred to as “the grey and black lists”.
- As of 2023 The FATF currently comprises 38 member jurisdictions and two regional organisations, representing most major financial centres in all parts of the globe:
- Regional organisations: European Commission and Gulf Cooperation Council
- Countries and other jurisdictions: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, China (originally joined under the designation British Hong Kong in 1991), Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands (comprises the Netherlands, Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten), New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea,Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States
- Russia was suspended in 2023.
- The FATF Secretariat is located at the OECD headquarters in Paris.
- The Secretariat supports the substantive work of the FATF membership and global network.
- The funding for the FATF Secretariat and other services is provided by the FATF annual budget to which members contribute.
- FATF mutual evaluations are in-depth country reports analysing the implementation and effectiveness of measures to combat money laundering, terrorist and proliferation financing.
- The reports are peer reviews, where members from different countries assess another country. Mutual evaluations provide an in-depth description and analysis of a country’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing system, as well as focused recommendations to further strengthen its system.
- During a mutual evaluation, the assessed country must demonstrate that it has an effective framework to protect the financial system from abuse.
5 . Facts for Prelims
- Lucknow’s grand three-storeyed Butler Palace will soon see a facelift.
- The palace, originally built as the official residence of the commissioner of Avadh, Harcourt Bulter, in 1915, was owned by the family of rajas of Mahmudabad.
- After the Indo-Pak war in 1965, Butler Palace was declared “enemy property” by the Government of India.
- It is built on the banks of the Gomti river almost a century ago, in a mix of Rajasthani and Indo-Mughal styles.
- The Ilyushin Il-38 “Dolphin” is a maritime patrol aircraft and anti-submarine warfare aircraft designed in the Soviet Union. It was a development of the Ilyushin Il-18 turboprop transport.
- The IL-38, a maritime reconnaissance aircraft, joined the Indian Navy’s fleet in 1977 and served as a significant aerial resource for nearly 44 years.
- With the introduction of IL-38 aircraft, the Navy entered the domain of extensive Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR), encompassing long-range anti-submarine search and attack capabilities, anti-ship operations, electronic signal intelligence, and distant Search and Rescue (SAR) missions.
- The IL-38 is an all-weather aircraft known for its extended endurance and substantial operational range, having accumulated approximately 10,000 hours of operational flight time.
Significance of Malerkotla:
- Malerkotla district in Punjab takes its name from the erstwhile princely state of ‘Maler Kotla’. Its history can be traced back to the 15th century and to Haider Shaikh commonly called Shaikh Sadr-ud-din, Sadr-i- Jahan, a Sarani Afghan of Daraband in Khurasan.
- Malerkotla’s significance in Sikh history has been immense as people, especially Sikhs, revered Sher Mohammed Khan, former Nawab of Malerkotla, who raised his voice of protest against the execution (bricking alive) of the younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh – Sahibzada Zorawar Singh (nine years) and Sahibzada Fateh Singh (seven years) by Wazir Khan the then Governor of Sirhind region in the year 1705. According to local legend, Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, had blessed Nawab Sher Mohammed Khan and the people of Malerkotla that the town would live in peace.
- Malerkotla is historically recognized for being a rare scene of communal harmony during the partition in 1947. In the darkest hour of partition, when the whole of East Punjab, including the princely states of Nabha, Jind and Patiala, was engulfed in a frenzy of communal violence, Malerkotla remained calm.
- In the popular imagination, Guru Gobind Singh’s blessings ensured that the princely state remained virtually untouched by the communal violence that engulfed the neighbouring areas.
- Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus first identified in Uganda in 1947 in a Rhesus macaque monkey followed by evidence of infection and disease in humans in other African countries in the 1950s.
- Zika virus is transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes, which bite mostly during the day.
- Most people with Zika virus infection do not develop symptoms; those who do typically have symptoms including rash, fever, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise and headache that last for 2–7 days.
- Zika virus infection is associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome, neuropathy and myelitis in adults and children.