Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Minimum Support Price
- Project 75i
- Quantum physics
- Energy Transition in cities
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Minimum Support Price
Context: The 2023-24 MSPs for 17 kharif crops and variants were approved at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
About the news
- The Centre has set the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for paddy sown in the kharif or monsoon season at ₹2,183 per quintal, a hike of ₹143 per quintal in comparison to last year.
- While the Centre said that its aim was to ensure reasonably fair remuneration for the farmers and to encourage crop diversification, several farmers’ organisations said that the increase was not in tune with rising input costs.
What is Minimum Support Price (MSP)?
- Minimum Support Price (MSP) is a form of market intervention by the Government of India to insure agricultural producers against any sharp fall in farm prices.
- MSP is the minimum price set by the Government at which farmers can expect to sell their produce for the season.
- When market prices fall below the announced MSPs, procurement agencies step in to procure the crop and ‘support’ the prices. Hence minimum support prices are a guarantee price for their produce from the Government.
- The major objectives are to support the farmers from distress sales and to procure food grains for public distribution.
- In case the market price for the commodity falls below the announced minimum price due to bumper production and glut in the market, government agencies purchase the entire quantity offered by the farmers at the announced minimum price.
- The Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs announces MSP for various crops at the beginning of each sowing season based on the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).
- The FCI and NAFED help the Centre procure select food crops with the help of the States. Procured farm products are kept in government warehouses and distributed through the PDS and various food security programmes.
- Currently, there are 20-plus crops that have an MSP announced for them every year before the beginning of the kharif and rabi seasons.
Factors taken into consideration for fixing MSP include:
- In formulating the recommendations in respect of the level of minimum support prices and other non-price measures, the Commission takes into account, apart from a comprehensive view of the entire structure of the economy of a particular commodity or group of commodities, the following factors: –
- Cost of production
- Changes in input prices
- Input-output price parity
- Trends in market prices
- Demand and supply
- Inter-crop price parity
- Effect on industrial cost structure
- Effect on cost of living
- Effect on general price level
- International price situation
- Parity between prices paid and prices received by the farmers.
- Effect on issue prices and implications for subsidy
Cost of Production
- CACP considers both A2+FL and C2 costs while recommending MSPs. CACP reckons only A2+FL cost for return.
- However, C2 costs are used by CACP primarily as benchmark reference costs (opportunity costs) to see if the MSPs recommended by them at least cover these costs in some of the major producing States.
- The Union Budget for 2018-19 had announced the pre-determined principle to keep MSP at levels of one and half times of the cost of production. Accordingly, Government has increased the MSPs for all mandated Kharif, Rabi and other commercial crops with a return of atleast 50 per cent of cost of production for the agricultural year 2018-19.
- During 2019-20 also, Government has increased the MSP of all mandated kharif and rabi crops in line with the principle of fixing the MSP with a return of atleast 50 per cent of the cost of production.
Formulae to arrive at the cost of production
- The CACP has three formulae to arrive at the cost of production: A2, A2+FL and C2.
- A2 costs cover all paid-out expenses, both in cash and kind, incurred by farmers on seeds, fertilisers, chemicals, hired labour, fuel and irrigation, among others.
- A2+FL covers actual paid-out costs plus an imputed value of unpaid family labour.
- C2 costs are more comprehensive, accounting for the rentals and interest forgone on owned land and fixed capital assets respectively, on top of A2 + FL
- Government announces minimum support prices (MSPs) for 22 mandated crops and fair and remunerative price (FRP) for sugarcane.
- The mandated crops are 14 crops of the kharif season, 6 rabi crops and two other commercial crops. In addition, the MSPs of Toria and de-husked coconut are fixed on the basis of the MSPs of rapeseed/mustard and copra, respectively. The list of crops are as follows.
- Cereals (7) – paddy, wheat, barley, jowar, bajra, maize and ragi
- Pulses (5) – gram, arhar/tur, moong, urad and lentil
- Oilseeds (8) – groundnut, rapeseed/mustard, toria, soyabean, sunflower seed, sesamum, safflower seed and Nigerseed
- Raw cotton
- Raw jute
- De-husked coconut
- Sugarcane (Fair and remunerative price)
- Virginia flu cured (VFC) tobacco
- Price volatility makes life difficult for farmers. Though prices of agri commodities may soar while in short supply, during years of bumper production, prices of the very same commodities plummet.
- MSPs ensure that farmers get a minimum price for their produce in adverse markets. MSPs have also been used as a tool by the Government to incentivise farmers to grow crops that are in short supply.
- The Government of India has an MSP for 23 crops, but procurement at the MSP is effectively limited to rice and wheat, and that too concentrated in a few States only.
- Some critics argue that a rise in the MSP will lead to increase in food inflation, while others that it will augment farmers’ income
- Substantial proportion of crops are sold to local private traders and input dealers to whom the resource-poor marginal and small landholders are obligated to sell their crops due to tie-up with credit.
- A vast majority of the farming population is unaware of its existence as per the National Sample Survey’s (NSS) Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural Households 2013, even for paddy and wheat, less than one-third of farmers were aware of the MSP; for other crops, such awareness was negligible.
2 . Project 75I
Context: The public sector defence shipyard Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd. (MDL) and the German original equipment manufacturer Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for partnering in submarine production in the presence of German Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius in Mumbai.
About the News
- ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) has signed an MoU with Mazagon Dock Limited regarding their willingness to supply the Indian Navy (IN) with six Indian-manufactured Project 75I submarines
- Under the terms of the MoU, TKMS is responsible for engineering, design and consultancy support, whereas Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) would perform construction and deliver six air-independent propulsion (AIP) submarines.
- In June 1999,after the Kargil war the Cabinet Committee on Security had approved a plan for the Indian Navy to induct indigenously build and induct submarines by 2030. It was broken down in two phases — the P-75 and P-75I.
- Under the first phase of P-75, signed in 2005, India and France signed a $3.75 billion contract for building six Scorpene class submarines.
- Scorpene is a conventional powered submarine weighing 1,500 tonnes and can go up to depths of 300m.
- The executing company on the Indian side was Mazgaon Docks Ltd, and on the French side, it was DCNS, which is now called Naval Group.
- The first submarine INS Kalvari was commissioned in December 2017, second submarine INS Khanderi in September 2019, third one INS Karanj in March 2021 and the fourth one INS Vela joined service in November 2021 Vagir, the fifth one, was launched into water on November 12, 2020 and commenced sea trials on February 1, 2022 and on 20 April, INS Vagsheer was launched and would be commissioned by 2023.
What is Project 75I?
- The P-75I phase envisages the construction of six conventional submarines with better sensors and weapons and the Air Independent Propulsion System (AIP). The Nirmala Sitharaman-headed Defence Acquisition Council cleared the project in 2019 under the strategic partnership model.
- As per the plan, an Indian shipyard was selected by the government, which would nominate the foreign original equipment manufacturer (OEM). The Ministry of Defence then appointed a high-powered committee to assess the eight Indian shipyards and select the eligible ones for the project. After much deliberation, it was decided that state-run Mazgaon Dockyard Limited and Larsen and Toubro would be the chosen ‘Selected Partner’.
- Besides the Naval Group, there were four companies, who were part of the bidding, including Russia’s Rosoboronexport, Germany’s Thyssenkrupp, Spain’s Navantia and South Korea’s Daewoo.
- Project-75(I) envisages indigenous construction of six modern conventional submarines (including associated shore support, Engineering Support Package, training and spares package) with contemporary equipment, weapons & sensors including Fuel-Cell based AIP (Air Independent Propulsion Plant), advanced torpedoes, modern missiles and state of the art countermeasure systems. This would provide a major boost to the indigenous design and construction capability of submarines in India, in addition to bringing in the latest submarine design and technologies as part of the project.
- The project would not only aid in boosting the core submarine/ship building industry but would also greatly enhance manufacturing /industrial sector, especially the MSME by development of an industrial eco-system for manufacture of associated spares/systems/equipment related to submarines.
- The overall aim would be to progressively build indigenous capabilities in the public/private sector to design, develop and manufacture complex weapon systems for the future needs of the Armed Forces.
- This will be an important step towards meeting broader national objectives, encouraging self-reliance and aligning the defence sector with the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Government.
Importance of the Project
- India has 16 conventional diesel-electric submarines. After the last two Kalvari Class subs are commissioned under P-75, this number will go up to 18. India also has two nuclear ballistic submarines, reports Indian Express.
- On the other hand, Pakistan has nine diesel-electric submarines, as per Global Fire Index — a website that analyses the strength of the armies of countries around the world.
- China, which is also posing a threat to India, boasts of being the largest navy in the world. In 2020, Beijing had six nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) that are armed with nuclear missiles, as well as around 40 attack submarines, of which six are nuclear-powered, according to Military Balance, the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual assessment of military capacity around the world.
3 . Quantum Physics
Context: Thinking of quantum physics in spooky ways overlooks its role in shaping the properties of the objects in our daily lives.
What is Quantum Physics?
- Quantum physics is the study of matter and energy at the most fundamental level. It aims to uncover the properties and behaviors of the very building blocks of nature.
- A central tenet of quantum physics is that energy comes in indivisible packets called quanta. Quanta behave very differently to macroscopic matter: particles can behave like waves, and waves behave as though they are particles.
Significance of Quantum Mechanics
- Quantum discoveries have been incorporated into the foundational understanding of materials, chemistry, biology, and astronomy.
- Quantum discoveries are a valuable resource for innovation, giving rise to devices such as lasers and transistors, and enabling real progress on technologies once considered purely speculative, such as quantum computers.
- Physicists are exploring the potential of quantum science to transform our view of gravity and its connection to space and time.
- Quantum science may even reveal how everything in the universe is connected to everything else through higher dimensions that our senses cannot comprehend.
The Origins of Quantum Physics
- The field of quantum physics arose in the late 1800s and early 1900s from a series of experimental observations of atoms that didn’t make intuitive sense in the context of classical physics.
- Classical physics, the collection of theories that existed before the advent of quantum mechanics, describes many aspects of nature at an ordinary (macroscopic) scale, but is not sufficient for describing them at small (atomic and subatomic) scales.
- Quantum mechanics differs from classical physics in that energy, momentum, angular momentum, and other quantities of a bound system are restricted to discrete values (quantization); objects have characteristics of both particles and waves (wave–particle duality); and there are limits to how accurately the value of a physical quantity can be predicted prior to its measurement, given a complete set of initial conditions (the uncertainty principle).
- Quantum mechanics arose gradually from theories to explain observations that could not be reconciled with classical physics, such as Max Planck’s solution in 1900 to the black-body radiation problem, and the correspondence between energy and frequency in Albert Einstein’s 1905 paper, which explained the photoelectric effect.
- These early attempts to understand microscopic phenomena, now known as the “old quantum theory”, led to the full development of quantum mechanics in the mid-1920s by Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg, Max Born, Paul Dirac and others.
How does the wave Nature matter?
- Quantum physics tells that electrons are not particles but they are treated as waves. A wave is typically drawn like a curvy line. Like all waves, an electron has a wavelength – the distance after which the wavy pattern repeats.
- The shorter an electron’s wavelength, the more energy it holds. So a wave that changes smoothly has less energy than a wave that is more corrugated.
- A bunch of electrons in a metal would like to lower their energy by being waves of larger and larger wavelengths.
- The largest wavelength they can take is however fixed – just about the size of the metal piece.
- Now, it so happens that electrons are fermions, types of particles that are bound by Pauli’s exclusion principle. The principle states that not all electrons in a system can have the same wavelength.
- While they want to lower their energy, they can’t all have the same longest possible wavelength. They need to have different wavelengths. As we increase the number of electrons in a material, every new electron we add has to have a shorter wavelength, and thus more energy. So the more electrons there are, the more energy every additional electron will have.
What is the highest such energy possible
- In a metal such as copper, the copper atoms are about 10-10 m apart – that’s ten-billionth of a metre, or one angstrom. The total human population is about 8 billion.
- This in turn is a humongous number of electrons, which are all also behaving like waves that need to choose different wavelengths. And it turns out that the shortest wavelength they can reach is about one angstrom.
- When electrons have such small wavelengths that they have high energies – a few eV – it translates to an effective temperature of tens of thousands of degrees celsius. This highest energy that the electrons are at is called the Fermi energy.
What does the fermi energy mean physically?
- The Fermi energy and the fermionic behaviour of electrons (i.e. due to the exclusion principle) follows from a basic quantum mechanical principle and is at the heart of all the properties of metals
- All metals have Fermi energies. For example Copper has a Fermi energy of 80,000º C; aluminium, 130,000º C; and silver– about 60,000º C.
- Fermi energy is crucial to understand why metals reflect light, why they conduct electricity , why they heat up easily and so on.
4 . Energy Transition in cities
Context: In 2020, cities dumped a whopping 29 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Therefore, given the significant impact that cities have on the environment, low-carbon cities are crucial to mitigate the effects of climate change
What is sector-coupling approach?
- Sector coupling involves the increased integration of energy end-use and supply sectors with one another. This can improve the efficiency and flexibility of the energy system as well as its reliability and adequacy.
- Transitioning to low-carbon or even net-zero cities required to integrate mitigation and adaptation options in multiple sectors. This is called the ‘sector-coupling approach’, and it is necessary to decarbonise urban systems.
Why are energy-system transitions important?
- An energy-system transition could reduce urban carbon dioxide emissions by around 74%. With rapid advancements in clean energy and related technologies and nosediving prices, have created the economic and technological barriers to implement low-carbon solutions.
How to implement energy system transition?
- The transition must be implemented both on the demand and the supply side.
- On supply side- Mitigation options on the supply side include phasing out fossil fuels and increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix and using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.
- On the demand side- using the ‘avoid, shift, improve’ framework would entail reducing the demand for materials and energy, and substituting the demand for fossil fuels with renewables.
- Secondly, to address residual emissions in the energy sector, it is must to implement carbon-dioxide removal (CDR) technologies.
What are the different strategies to implement energy system transition?
- The strategies to mitigate and adapt to low-carbon varies based on a city’s characteristics.
- Transitioning to renewable energy sources is not as simple as replacing fossil fuels with clean energy. There are multifarious issues of energy justice and social equity to be dealt with. This is a key consideration when we frame energy-transition policies that are socially and environmentally fair. These considerations are a city’s spatial form, land-use pattern, level of development, and the state of urbanisation.
- For example- An established city can retrofit and repurpose its infrastructure to increase energy efficiency and promote public as well as active transport like bicycling and walking.
- A rapidly growing city can try to colocate housing and jobs — by planning the city in a way that brings places of work closer to residential complexes, thus reducing transport energy demand. Such cities can also leapfrog to low-carbon technologies, including renewables and CCS.
- New and emerging cities have the most potential to reduce emissions — using energy-efficient services and infrastructure, and a people-centric urban design. They can also implement building codes that mandate net-zero energy use and retrofit existing buildings, all while gradually shifting to low-emission construction material
How can an energy transition be just?
- Energy systems are directly and indirectly linked to livelihoods, local economic development, and the socio-economic well-being of people engaged in diverse sectors. So a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to ensure a socially and environmentally just transition.
- For example, transitioning to renewable-energy sources could disproportionately affect groups of people or communities in developing economies and sectors that depend on fossil fuels.
- The energy supply needs to be balanced against fast-growing energy demand (due to urbanisation), the needs of energy security, and exports.
- Additional justice concerns include land dispossession related to large-scale renewable energy projects, spatial concentration of poverty, the marginalisation of certain communities, gendered impacts, and the reliance on coal for livelihoods.
- For instance, developing economies, including Nigeria, Angola, and Venezuela, owe a significant fraction of their gross domestic products (GDPs) to fossil-fuel exports. Transitioning away from these industries could devastate their economies, with the consequences landing particularly heavily on the workers employed in the fossil-fuel sector.
Are there any solutions that foreground justice?
- Ensuring a transition to low-carbon energy systems in cities at different stages of urbanisation, national contexts, and institutional capacities requires strategic and bespoke efforts. They must be directed at governance and planning, achieving behavioural shifts, promoting technology and innovation, and building institutional capacity.
- We must also adopt a comprehensive approach to address the root causes of energy and environmental injustices. This includes mitigation and adaptation responses that engage multiple stakeholders in energy governance and decision-making, promoting energy-efficiency, scaling up climate investments, and capturing alternate knowledge streams (including indigenous and local lived experiences).
5 . Facts for Prelims
Nova Kakhovka dam
- Nova Kakhovka dam on the Dnipro River lies about 20 miles (30km) east of the city of Kherson. During the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a significant portion of the dam was destroyed, most likely by an internal explosion, causing significant flooding downstream.
- The dam traverses Ukraine’s enormous Dnipro River, holding back a huge reservoir of water.
- The dam itself is 30 metres tall and hundreds of metres wide. It was built in 1956 as part of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant.
- Water from the reservoir supplies the Crimean Peninsula to the south, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, as well as the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.
- It also helps power the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant. It will also be likely to wreck the canal system that irrigates much of southern Ukraine, including Crimea.
Kerala Fibre Optic Network ( KFON)
- Kerala has become the first state in the country to have its own internet service provider, Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON)
- The project will initially provide internet access to 100 houses in each assembly constituency of the state.
- The KFON project aims to end the digital divide by ensuring internet access for all. KFON has installed IT infrastructure capable of setting up 40 lakh internet connections across the state.
- Consumers can access internet services at a speed starting at 20 mbps and can avail connections at higher speeds based on individual requirements.
- At present, KFON has been installed at 26,492 government offices, of which 17,354 offices have live internet access. According to KFON officials, internet connectivity will be made available to all government offices by the end of June as per the provided list. As of now, KFON has more than 1,000 household subscribers and installation of cables for over 7,000 connections has been completed.
- On completion of the initial phase of the project by August 2023, the project will be expanded to setting up commercial connections. It is estimated that 2,50,000 commercial connections will be provided in the first year, which could facilitate the profitability of the project.