Daily Current Affairs : 8th August 2023

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. How to tell if material is a superconductor
  2. India’s mining Policy
  3. Citizenship Amendment Act
  4. Facts for Prelims

1 . How to tell if a material is Semiconductor

Context: Researchers in South Korea said they had discovered that a material called LK-99 is a room-temperature superconductor. Scientists have been looking for such materials for several decades now for their ability to transport heavy currents without any loss – a property that could revolutionise a variety of industrial and medical applications.

How to tell if a material is Semiconductor

  • When a material becomes a superconductor, the superconducting state will induce four changes in the material. They are
  • Electronic effect – The material will transport an electric current with zero resistance. This is hard to check when the sample of the material is very small, and requires sophisticated equipment.
  • Magnetic effect – A type I superconductor (a material that, in the right conditions, becomes a superconductor throughout its bulk) will expel a magnetic field from its body as long as the field strength is below a critical value. This is the Meissner effect: a magnet placed near the material will be pushed away as the material transitions to a superconducting state. A type II superconductor – which transitions through a mix of superconducting and non-superconducting states en route to becoming fully superconducting – won’t expel magnetic fields but will prevent them from moving through its bulk. This phenomenon is called flux pinning. When a flux-pinned superconductor is taken away from a particular part of the magnetic field and put back in, it will snap back to its original relative position.
  • 3: Thermodynamic effect – The electronic specific heat changes drastically at the superconducting transition temperature. The specific heat is the heat required to increase the temperature of the electrons in the material by 1 degree Celsius. As the material transitions to its superconducting state, the electronic specific heat drops. Upon warming the material back up to the critical temperature (below which the material is a superconductor), it jumps back to the value it was when the material was not superconducting.
  • 4: Spectroscopic effect – The electrons in the material are forbidden from attaining certain energy levels, even if they could when the material wasn’t a superconductor. When scientists create a map of all possible energy levels in a superconductor, they should see this as a ‘gap’.

2 . India’s Mining Policy

Context: Parliament passed the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2023, in a bid to attract private sector investment in the exploration of critical and deep-seated minerals in the country.  

India’s mineral potential

  • Studies by organisations such as the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research and the Centre for Social and Economic Progress (CSEP) note that India’s unique geological and tectonic setting is conducive to hosting potential mineral resources and that its geological history is similar to the mining-rich regions of Western Australia and Eastern Africa.
  • The primary step to discovering mineral resources and eventually finding economically viable reserves is mineral exploration, which comes in various stages before mining.
    • The stages of exploration are divided as per the United Nations Framework for Classification of Resources into G4 (Reconnaissance), G3 (Prospecting), G2 (General Exploration), and G1 (Detailed Exploration).
  • It is estimated that India has explored just 10% of its Obvious Geological Potential (OGP), less than 2% of which is mined and the country spends less than 1% of the global mineral exploration budget.
  • Not many significant mineral discoveries have taken place in the country in the last couple of decades and a majority of exploration projects have been carried out by the government agency Geological Survey of India and other Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) like Mineral Exploration Corporation Limited (MECL), with very little private sector participation.

What are the needs of minerals?

  • A variety of minerals, besides those used in creating fuel, are crucial to a country’s manufacturing, infrastructure, and advancement.
  • Moreover, the clean energy transitions of countries including India, seeking to meet their net-zero emission goals, are contingent on the availability of critical minerals such as lithium, which has also been called ‘white gold’, and others including cobalt, graphite, and rare earth elements (REEs). These are also crucial for the manufacture of semiconductors used in smart electronics; defence and aerospace equipment; telecommunication technologies and so on.
  • The lack of availability of such minerals or the concentration of their extraction or processing in a few geographical locations leads to import dependency, supply chain vulnerabilities, and even disruption of their supplies.

Current Status of Minerals

  • India is highly dependent on imports for a majority of minerals. For instance, as per figures quoted by the Ministry, India is 100% import-dependent on countries including China, Russia, Australia, South Africa, and the U.S. for the supply of critical minerals like lithium, cobalt, nickel, niobium, beryllium, and tantalum.
  • Also, for deep-seated minerals like gold, silver, copper, zinc, lead, nickel, cobalt, platinum group elements (PGEs) and diamonds, which are difficult and expensive to explore and mine as compared to surficial or bulk minerals, India depends largely on imports.  

Participation of private sectors in Mining Industry

  • India’s mining policy had kept greenfield exploration of minerals out of the purview of private-sector explorers for some years which meant they could only get licences to further prospect and mine resources that had been explored by a government entity. Companies also saw a lack of adequate incentives.
  • Exploration requires techniques like aerial surveys, geological mapping, and geochemical analyses and is a highly specialised, time-intensive and monetarily risky operation with less than 1% of explored projects becoming commercially viable mines.
  • while Indian PSUs were in a relatively better position to explore surficial and bulk minerals like coal and iron ore, they had not fared well when it came to deep-seated and critical minerals owing to the high expenditure and long duration of risky projects while being under pressure to increase the supply of bulk minerals.  

Is India’s mining policy conducive to private participation?

  • The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act (MMDR Act), 1957, the primary legislation governing mining in the country has been amended several times since its enactment including recently in 2015, 2020, and 2021. India recognised the need for private and foreign investment in the mining sector including mineral exploration back in 1993, amending the Act next year to allow interested parties to apply for mineral concessions through a First Come First Served (FCFS) basis. Later, private companies could also get Prospecting Licences (PL) or Mining Leases (ML), and could even apply for early-stage or greenfield exploration through Reconnaissance Permits (RPs).
  • In the early 2010s, as the mining industry seemed to be gathering momentum, concerns about favouritism and misuse started coming up in the allocation of 2G spectrum and natural resources like coal blocks and the Supreme Court intervened.
  • In 2015, the MMDR Act was amended to allow private companies to participate in government auctions for Mining Leases and Composite Licences (CLs). However, due to the Evidence of Mineral content (EMT) rule, only government-explored projects were auctioned, limiting private sector involvement. The amendment also permitted private firms to register as exploration agencies, with the National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET) funding for G4 to G1 exploration, but private participation remained limited.

How does the Mines and Minerals Bill 2023 aim to encourage private players?

  • The Bill omits at least six previously mentioned atomic minerals from a list of 12 which cannot be commercially mined. Being on the atomic minerals list, the exploration and mining of these six — lithium, beryllium, niobium, titanium, tantalum and zirconium, was previously reserved for government entities.  
  • the Act prohibits pitting, trenching, drilling, and sub-surface excavation as part of reconnaissance, which included mapping and surveys. The Bill allows these prohibited activities.
  • The Bill also proposes a new type of licence to encourage reconnaissance — level and or prospective stage exploration by the private sector.
  • It also specifies the maximum area for exploration; activities in up to 1,000 sq km will be allowed under a single exploration license. It also states that the licensee will be allowed to retain up to 25% of the originally authorized area after the first three years after submitting a report to the State government stating reasons for retention of the area.
  • While most auctions are reserved for State governments in the Act, the Bill also reserves the conduct of auctions for composite licence and mining lease for specified critical and strategic minerals for the central government.

What are some of the possible issues with the Bill’s proposals?

  • Industry experts and organisations like CSEP had pointed out certain issues and made recommendations on the proposed amendments.
  • The primary way of generating revenue for a private company that has an exploration licence would be a share of the premium paid by the miner, which would come only after a successfully discovered mine is auctioned and operationalised. Trends show that such a process could take years to materialise owing to government timelines for clearances or may not happen at all considering depending on the complexity of the deposit and geography.
  • The explorer would not know how much revenue they will receive as the auction premium would be known only when a mine is successfully auctioned.
  • Another issue with the auction method of allocation is that while it’s feasible to auction something that has a known value (like a spectrum or a discovered mineral deposit), it is difficult to auction something for which exploration has not begun.
  • In the new policy, only the government can auction what an explorer has discovered, and the latter would only get a share of the premium at an unknown stage. This is unlike other global jurisdictions where private explorers can sell their discoveries to miners.

3 . Citizenship Amendment Act

Context: The Union Home Ministry has sought yet another extension to frame the rules of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA).

About the News

  • The Ministry has written to the parliament committee on subordinate legislation in the Lok Sabha, seeking time till September-end to frame the CAA rules, a government official said, adding that the committee had granted the extension. This is the eighth extension sought by the government.
  • The Act was passed on December 11, 2019, and received assent from the President on December 12 the same year. The Manual on Parliamentary Work says that if a Ministry is not able to frame the rules governing legislation within the prescribed period of six months after the law is passed, “they should seek extension of time from the Committee on Subordinate Legislation stating reasons for such extension”.

About citizenship Amendment Act 2019

  • The Citizenship Act, 1955 regulates who may acquire Indian citizenship and on what grounds.  A person may become an Indian citizen if they are born in India or have Indian parentage or have resided in the country for a period of time, etc.  However, illegal migrants are prohibited from acquiring Indian citizenship.  An illegal migrant is a foreigner who: (i) enters the country without valid travel documents, like a passport and visa, or (ii) enters with valid documents, but stays beyond the permitted time period.
  • Illegal migrants may be imprisoned or deported under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920.  The 1946 and the 1920 Acts empower the central government to regulate the entry, exit and residence of foreigners within India.
  • The 2019 Bill seeks to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship.  It exempts certain areas in the North-East from this provision.  The Bill also makes amendments to provisions related to OCI cardholders.  A foreigner may register as an OCI under the 1955 Act if they are of Indian origin (e.g., former citizen of India or their descendants) or the spouse of a person of Indian origin.  This will entitle them to benefits such as the right to travel to India, and to work and study in the country.  The Bill amends the Act to allow cancellation of OCI registration if the person has violated any law notified by the central government.

What are the key features of the Act?

  • Definition of illegal migrants: The Act prohibits illegal migrants from acquiring Indian citizenship. It defines an illegal migrant as a foreigner: (i) who enters India without a valid passport or travel documents, or (ii) stays beyond the permitted time.  The Bill amends the Act to provide that that the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, will not be treated as illegal migrants.  In order to get this benefit, they must have also been exempted from the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 by the central government.  The 1920 Act mandates foreigners to carry passport, while the1946 Act regulates the entry and departure of foreigners in India. 
  • Citizenship by registration or naturalisation: The Act allows a person to apply for citizenship by registration or naturalisation, if the person meets certain qualifications.  For instance, if a person resides in India for a year and if one of his parents is a former Indian citizen, he may apply for citizenship by registration.
    • To obtain citizenship by naturalisation, one of the qualifications is that the person must have resided in India or have been in service of the central government for at least 11 years before applying for citizenship.
    • The Bill creates an exception for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, with regard to this qualification.  For these groups of persons, the 11 years’ requirement will be reduced to five years.
  • On acquiring citizenship: (i) such persons will be deemed to be citizens of India from the date of their entry into India, and (ii) all legal proceedings against them in respect of their illegal migration or citizenship will be closed. 
    • These provisions on citizenship for illegal migrants will not apply to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution. 
    • These tribal areas include Karbi Anglong (in Assam), Garo Hills (in Meghalaya), Chakma District (in Mizoram), and Tripura Tribal Areas District. 
    • Further, it will not apply to the “Inner Line” areas notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.  In these areas, visits by Indians are regulated through the Inner Line Permit.  Currently, this permit system is applicable to Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland.  
  • Cancellation of registration of OCIs: The Act provides that the central government may cancel registration of OCIs on certain grounds. These include: (i) if the OCI has registered through fraud, or (ii) if within five years of registration, the OCI has been sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more, or (iii) if it becomes necessary in the interest of sovereignty and security of India.  The Bill adds one more ground for cancelling registration, that is, if the OCI has violated the provisions of the Act or of any other law as notified by the central government.  The orders for cancellation of OCI should not be passed till the OCI cardholder is given an opportunity to be heard

4 . Facts for Prelims

Havana Syndrome

  • Havana Syndrome refers to a set of mental health symptoms that are said to be experienced by United States intelligence and embassy officials in various countries. It is worth noting that in general, the word ‘syndrome’ simply means a set of symptoms. It does not mean a unique medical condition, but rather a set of symptoms that are usually experienced together whose origins may be difficult to confirm.
  • It involves symptoms such as hearing certain sounds without any outside noise, nausea, vertigo and headaches, memory loss and balance issues.
  • Causes- A study by scientists in the US and medical examination of the victims began to suggest that they may have been subjected to high-powered microwaves that either damaged or interfered with the nervous system. It was said to have built pressure inside the brain that generated the feeling of a sound being heard. Greater exposure to high-powered microwaves is said not only to interfere with the body’s sense of balance but also to impact memory and cause permanent brain damage. Low levels of microwaves are also emitted from mobile phones but they are not targeted.

Ethylene glycol and Di Ethylene Glycol (DEG)

  • Ethylene glycol and Di Ethylene Glycol (DEG) are colourless, odourless, sweetish-tasting substances that are mostly used for industrial purposes ranging from antifreeze formulations to brake fluids, paints, plastics etc. The pharmaceutical grade can be used for medicines and consumer products in the quantity that is recommended.
  • These two substances can be toxic if there is any contamination to the pharma grade and if it is consumed beyond recommended levels. In fact, there are safer alternatives to these substances such as glycerine and propylene glycol for drugs.

State Human Rights Commission

  • State Human Rights commission is a Statutory body was constituted in accordance with the powers conferred on the State under section-21 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 (Central Act 10 of 1994) the exercise the powers conferred upon and perform the functions assigned to it provided under this Act.
  • State Human Rights commission consists of three members
    • Chairperson who has been a Chief Justice of a High Court;
    • one Member who is, or has been, a Judge of a High Court or District Judge in the State with a minimum of seven years experience as District Judge;
    • one Member to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights
  • Appoinment of chairperson and members– The Chairperson and Members shall be appointed by the Governor by warrant under his hand and seal: Provided that every appointment under this sub-section shall be made after obtaining the recommendation of a Committee consisting of :
    • the Chief Minister — Chairperson
    • Speaker of the Legislative Assembly — Member
    • Minister in-charge of the Department of Home, in that State —Member
    • Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly — Member
    • Provided further that where there is a Legislative Council in a State, the Chairman of that Council and the Leader of the Opposition in that Council shall also be members of the Committee.
    • Provided also that no sitting Judge of a High Court or a sitting District Judge shall be appointed except after consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court of the concerned State
  • Tenure– The chairperson and members are elected for a three-year term or until they reach the age of 70, whichever comes first
  • Removal– Though chairperson and members are appointed  by the Governor they are removed by the president
  • Salary and allowances of the chairperson and members are determined by the concern State Government

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